Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Adams County Makes the News - Council Leader #22

World War I
[The World War I section  of the Adams County Makes the News series continues]


On the first of the week, the publisher of this paper received a personal letter from Dr. R.T. Whiteman, who enlisted in the service early last year and is now in charge of a field hospital on the French front.  The letter is characteristic of the big, good-natured "Doc" and contains many things of interest.  Although the regulations forbid an officer to write for publication, a fact to which Dr. Whiteman has called our attention, we assume that to quote portions of the letter is permissible.  This we do on our own responsibility and without permission from the writer.  Among other things he says:

"You will no doubt understand from previous experience that information on the very matters that will interest you most is strictly "taboo," so I will have to keep within the stipulated limitations.  We have seen lots of territory, and our experiences have been many and varied—some pleasant, some otherwise; but most of them new and therefore interesting and of such nature as to be beneficial in more ways than one.  These experiences have enabled us to get the other fellow's, the Frenchman's, viewpoint more completely than would otherwise be possible.

“As for our impressions of France and its people, I cannot say enough in its favor.  It is a beautiful county, much like parts of Idaho, and the people have exerted themselves at every opportunity to make life pleasant for us—nothing is too good for the American boys, and the sole aim of the French as well ourselves is to win the war.  Their economy and the completeness with which everything is utilized has taught us lessons that will go far toward making an impression when we get back home.

"We are all impressed with the natural politeness and gentle manners of the French people.  This applies even among the commonest of them.  Their natural courtesy is quite striking and we have been made to realize that in our ordinary life at home we have been negligent in the little courtesies that are observed here as a matter of habit.  After becoming acquainted with these kindly, home-loving French people it is also easy for one to understand how it is they have fought so courageously to protect their homes from invasion by the Hun.

"Several of our boys are getting clippings from their home papers, which, I must say, are a source of more or less irritation.  The subject of such clippings seems to be an arraignment of the American soldier abroad and, according to these papers, drunkenness, venereal diseases and debauchery in every form is about to prove the ruination of the U.S. Army.  Since these assertions are very unfair to our army as a whole it is but fair that I mention in a general way that—as a doctor who is in a position to know these things—during my entire stay in France, in constant contact with large bodies of men, my observation has been that these evils are NOT as MUCH in evidence HERE as they were in camps of similar character at home and it is not too much to say that the American boy is SAFER right HERE than he is under similar circumstance in his own country.  I do not infer that with our boys all is perfection, but they are a fine, manly lot and that criticism comes with poor grace from people at home, some of whom lack the backbone required to "get into the game", but who are extremely solicitous and critical on the sidelines—far removed from danger.

"Well, Mr. Mike, you are no doubt wondering as to the outcome, etc., and we can dispose of that in few words by saying that we are not READY to come home yet, and by saying that we do not like the idea of the folks at home talking about it so much.  ACTION and PEACE talk will not mix, Mike, and any time taken up with peace prattle is time taken from the business at hand." 

October 4, 1918 

In accordance with instructions from Red Cross Headquarters, this week has been set apart as "Linen Shower Week" throughout America.  Word from the Allied battle front states that hospitals are in urgent need of millions of bath towels, sheets, and other similar material.  Instead of purchasing these products through commercial channels, which would necessitate delay, it has been planned to ask each family to contribute one article or a set of articles of household linen form their reserve stock. 

Those in charge of the work say that the allotment for the Adams county chapter is not large and should be filled without difficulty.  The call for this chapter is as follows:
50 bath towels, 19 x 38.
100 hand towels, 18 x 30.
70 handkerchiefs, 18 x 18.
5 napkins, 14 x 14.
30 sheets, 64 x 102.
The Junior Red Cross has charge of collecting the materials.

October 4, 1918 

We are requested to again call attention to the fact that the Government asks that all fruit pits—peach, plum, apricots, etc., be saved.  That pits are old will not interfere with their value.  They may be left at the Criss store.

October 4, 1918 
Feeding wheat to livestock has been prohibited by the U.S. Food Administration for a year or more, but now, in view of the big 1918 wheat crop in the country, farmers may feed wheat to livestock under certain conditions.  The food administration ruling recites that no wheat within hauling distance of market may be used for feeding, except on permit issued by the county food administrator.  To obtain the permit, the man who wishes to feed the wheat to livestock must submit to the county food administrator a 2-pound sample of the grain in a cloth bag, and state the number of bushels needed for feeding, and to what animals it will be fed.  If the wheat grades less than No. 3, a feeding permit may be issued.

October 25, 1918

The Food Administration has issued a new set of rules for the serving of meals in all public eating places, the same having become effective on Monday of this week.  These general orders prohibit the serving of any bread that does not contain at least twenty percent of flour substitutes, and of this Victory bread, no more than two ounces may be served to a patron at one meal; if no Victory bread is served, four ounces of other breads, such as corn bread, muffins, Boston brown bread etc. may be served.

No bread is to be served until after the first course is on the table, and no bread or toast may be served as a garniture.  Bacon is also barred as a garniture, and only one meat may be served to one person at a meal.  “Double” cream is banned.  No sugar bowls will be allowed on the tables; a teaspoonful is the limit for a meal, and then only when asked for.  No waste food may be burned, but all must be saved to feed animals or reduced to obtain fat.

compiled by Eberle Umbach


  1. Okay, I have to ask. Why were they saving fruit pits?

  2. Hi Roy,
    well, it's not a pretty story, but here it is: fruit pits contain cyanide and can be used to make cyanide gas - which kills a human being fairly quickly when inhaled (by blocking the absorption of oxygen by blood cells.) The gas was used in Germany for mass-murder of Jews in concentration camps. Apparently the U.S. government was producing cyanide as well as mustard gas during WWII.

    (When the John Harvey,a U.S. ship carrying a secret cargo of mustard gas was bombed, many sailors died who could have been easily saved if rescue workers had been made aware that mustard gas was involved - a previous oil spill intensified the effects of the chemical. A cloud of the gas from the ship's explosion also killed hundreds of Italian civilians on the coast because they went untreated. By the end of that month, at least 1,000 had died. That would have been 1/3 of the population of Adams County at that time.)

    Cyanide gas is believed to have been used in the genocide of Kurds in the 80s, as well as mustard gas - the key ingredient was produced by the chemical company Alcolac in Baltimore, Maryland, who supplied both Iran and Iraq.

    Cyanide is one of the lethal substances the U.S. provides to underdeveloped countries in order to increase various kinds of production - in this case, gold mining - in spite of knowing that workers, unaware of the dangers, will die from using it in the conditions allowed by the (U.S.-owned) mine labor managers - as well as causing wide-spread destruction, like the Omai gold-mine disaster in Guyana.

    I won't get started with other examples, lest I ruin anyone's day, including my own.

    BUT - I do think making these connections is worthwhile. The fact that the U.S. government was asking people in Adams County to use the produce of their own land, their own fruit trees, to help produce weapons for chemical warfare is a parable worth pondering in our present day, when we are so often unwitting collaborators in the suffering caused by U.S. military and economic policies.

    I'll try to end on a more positive note (shouldn't be too hard!) We have several "escapees" from the old Mesa orchards on our land - three of these are apple trees, two we can pick from, and one that is way too tall to reach - but the apples fall into the spring that runs through the draw and in late summer smells intoxicatingly of fermented cider when you stand in the circle of flattened grass where a deer has made her bed.


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