Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, November 10, 2018

10 November 1918: Capt. Harry Truman's Letter to Bess

Capt. Harry Truman, Battery D., 129th F.A., 35th Division

[Somewhere in France]

Dear Bess:
November 10, 1918

. . . I am still holding down a place in a quiet sector and I'm getting fat on it. Also that helmet is not going to make me baldheaded, at least I don't think so.

The Hun is yelling for peace like a stuck hog, and I hope old daddy Foch makes him yell louder yet or throttles him one. Throttling would be too easy. When you see some of the things those birds did and then hear them put up the talk they do for peace it doesn't impress you at all. A complete and thorough thrashing is all they've got coming and take my word they are getting it and getting it right.

This has been a beautiful Sunday--the sun shining and as warm as summer. It sure made me wish for Lizzie and five gallons of gas with her nose pointed down Blue Ridge Boulevard and me stepping on the throttle to get there quickly. I wonder how long it will be before we do any riding down that road. Easter? Maybe, if not sooner. Heinie seems to be about finished. Just to make the day interesting one of their planes came over and shot down one of our sausage balloons and came near getting shot down himself. I shot away about five hundred rounds of high explosive shells myself. Not at the plane but at some Hun machine guns about seven miles away. I don't know if I hit them, but I have hopes as I laid the guns very carefully. A Hun plane dropped some bombs not far from my back yard last night and sort of shook things up. They made him run home in a hurry too. There is a big railroad gun about a kilometer behind me that shoots about every fifteen minutes and I heard one of the boys remark that "There goes another rolling kitchen over to pulverize Jerry." The projectile makes a noise like a wagon going down the road when it goes through the air, so the remark was very good.

Harry and Bess Were Married the Same Day the
Versailles Treaty Was Signed, 28 June 1919

I have been censoring letters today and it is some job. I had no idea that there were so many accomplished liars in any organization on earth as I have in mine. They are eternally trying to get by the censor with some big tale of their heroism and accomplishments in this war and they do it too, sometimes, especially if they put in something nice about their commanding officer and the part he took in the tale. Usually though I have to tear 'em up or send them back when they tell too much or stretch the truth even beyond literary license. Some of them write very good and very interesting letters and some of them do not. It is a job to censor them and when my lieutenants get too far behind I help them out.

I hope the base censor doesn't laugh at mine as I sometimes have to at theirs.

Hope I get that letter tomorrow. Also hope the Hun signs the peace agreement. Write as often as you can to one who thinks of you,



Source: Truman Presidential Library


  1. I write this this from near the Eiffel Tower on 10 November 2018 where it sprinkled a little this morning. My President couldn't brave it to Chateau Thierry to honor our dead. My father was in Meuse Argonne not too far from Sedan 100 years ago today. Oh, for a Captain Harry who was restrained, courageous and a bit humorous.

  2. As far as I know, Captain Harry never got any medals for WW I
    except probable an overseas ribbon or two. But, he was in the thick of the fight and probably gave the Germans Hell with his 75mm Howitzers. He certainly knew a thing or two about being a combat soldier. Today, he would have been awarded a chest-full of medals.
    T. Morgan

  3. In a momentous autobiography by U.S Navy warrior/scientist RADM. Jack Hayward, there is the. comment that HST rejected the premise that a nuclear weapon was near at hand. Truman, it is alleged Truman argued that his knowledge of explosives, based upon his artilleryman's experience with munitions in The Great War, was such as to cause him to disbelieve the report of the imminent availability of super bombs, by those who involved with the Manhatten project (Hayward was responsible for the design of the aerodynamics of the actual bomb casings). Truman said his artillery service in The Great War gave him an expert POV on matters of munitions and there was no likelyhood of an atomic weapon becoming a reality.