According to my mother, my grandfather Curtis Shephard lied about his age (he added a year) and volunteered for military service during the First World War. He joined the 42nd Division, the “Rainbow Division,” of the U.S. Army in 1917 and went off to fight the First World War in France. In a vest pocket-sized leather notebook he kept a record of his tour of duty, which lasted until Spring of 1919. A terse narrative with dated entries and place names marks off his experience of the war. He recorded the places his division marched, the hours they marched and where they camped. Sometimes brevity conceals horror: “Entered the trenches. Heavy gas and bombardment attacks.” Towards the end of the notebook there is an entry in capital letters: “HOMEWARD BOUND.” There are lists of what appear to be expenses and pay, meticulously entered in dated columns. There is also a long list of people’s names: I wonder if he sat one evening with nothing more pressing to do than to recall all his friends and acquaintances.
Pasted onto several pages are orders typed on onionskin, some with the names of generals at the bottom. According to my mother, part of his job was writing (or at least typing) letters for officers, so these may be specimens of what he typed. He also had to write letters to families whose sons were killed, probably to be signed by an officer. There is one sheet of “General Orders” that surely did not come from the Army. I think these were his general orders to himself as he left the Army. According to my mother, her father left military duty deeply committed to pacifism. Though he was not politically active as a pacifist, she told me that on Memorial Day or Armistice Day, whenever former soldiers would put on their old uniforms, he too would put on his uniform. He would then make a point of telling the children he met on the streets of Evanston, Wyoming, that war was not a glorious adventure but a horror they could not imagine, and that they should not be fooled into thinking it was any different.
Here are Curtis Shephard’s “General Orders” upon discharge from the U.S. Army.