By John Hale Chipman, Class of 1919
John Hale Chipman was a Dartmouth alumnus who interrupted his education to serve during the Great War, like so many others of his era. A member of the class of 1919, Chipman enlisted in Hanover in the spring of 1917. By early June, he was in France and driving a munitions supply truck for French artillery, despite initially signing up as an ambulance driver. Over the course of the next two years, Chipman would serve in France, Italy, and Belgium before receiving his discharge papers on March 21, 1919, at Versailles. The entries that follow represent Chipman’s faithful daily communications about his experience in the war from September 16 until November 17 of 1917. We will post one entry per day from Chipman’s letters, along with a photograph from his album, and march through his experiences with him, nearly a hundred years after he first recorded them. The first entry below, although not chronologically in synch, outlines Chipman’s scheme for recording his experiences, and also sets the stage for when we take back up with him nearly three months later, on September 16th, 1917.
June 17, 1917
From June 2, –June 18, 1917
You are undoubtedly wondering what has become of me and where I am, and also what I am doing. Well, I’ll tell you in diary form. Each day I will write my diary and mail it to you probably twice a week. And, I would write you individually if I could but I am going from 6:00 A. M. till 10:00 P. M. daily.
I left new York June 2nd after Breck saw me off and I started talking French right away. Our boat was an old tub but accommodated some 200 boys. But the particulars of the boat you will receive shortly as I mailed you two letters from Bordeaux, June 12th.
We embarked from the boat and marched up the main street of Bordeaux and arrived a la gare (at the railway station) where we were given instructions. We broke ranks at 2:30 and were told to report at 7, so we walked around the town sight-seeing, and we were almost blinded by the queer sights. We first noticed the monotonous grey color of the square four-storied buildings. Most of the buildings had iron-grilled balconies and figures designed and cut in the top corner stones of each building. We saw very few men and they were in uniform, but three women out of four were dressed in black signifying that they had lost a husband, father, brother or son in the cause of France. And so with many wounded,–if you offer words of pity, you receive an earnest reply of,–“C’est la guerre,” or “Pour la Patrie”. All the people I talked with were very interesting, wanting to know all about America, when our armies were coming, etc.–and they were very emphatic in making known that they were heart and soul for America. “Vive l’Amerique!”, their greeting and parting word.”