When you are looking back thru your genealogy data do you ever say to yourself, “Wow, I didn’t remember that!” or “Wow, I didn’t give enough details for that!” or even “Wow, that is such a sloppy citation!” Well, that is my case as I’m looking over the facts I have for Paul Mentzer.
That’s when I came across the fact and accompanying sentence:
Paul Emory Mentzer was wounded while serving in Col. E 139th Infantry A.E>F. before 1 Sep 1918.
I don’t have where he was when he was wounded, how he was wounded or even an exact date. Nor, do I know the extent of his wounds.
And then I look at my source and discover that I have almost nothing in the source details.
So I go digging in my notebooks to locate this source and find a newspaper clipping. (Thank you, grandma)
Since this clipping was saved by my grandmother, it is likely from a Kansas newspaper. Since the letter was from Paul Mentzer to his mother, it was likely printed in a Woodson county, Kansas newspaper. Thanks to efforts to digitize Kansas newspapers, I was able to locate a digitized copy on Newspapers.com.
From Paul Mentzer
Sept. 1, 1918
My Dear Mother: — Well I thought I would try to write you a few lines this morning for the first time since I have been wounded. I am feeling pretty well this morning, but I can hardly see to write, my eyes blur so.
I will try to tell you all about my troubles. I was on guard at a strong position on a strong front at the front line when a nine-inch shell came along and bursted about ten feet from me. Well, I didn’t know anything for about four hours, I guess. When I did come to I found I had a piece of shrapnel in my chest which came awful near getting me. It went clean under my ribs. The doctor said it just came a fraction of an inch getting me. There was also one in my left leg, above my knee about four inches. I got another shrapnel which was about four inches long and two inches wide and it went almost tot he bone. I tell you it sure is ore. Then my eyes were nearly put out. I couldn’t see for four days to amount to anything I can’t read yet, only very large print. My face was burned by the powder from the shell, and I was shell shocked also, and gassed. Well, to make a long story short, I had seven wounds, besides some small ones. There were seven wounded by the same shell and two killed. The boy that was standing beside me was blown all to pieces and died instantly. Poor kid, he never knew what struck him. The other boy was also blown up. I tell you mamma it’s terrible. I tell you I had a hard fight for my life, but with God’s help and my strong constitution I pulled through all right. After I was hit I first went to the aid station to have my wounds wrapped up so that I wouldn’t bleed to death before I could get to the field hospital. I was carried on stretchers for about three miles, then putn in an ambulance truck and rode for about 15 miles to a field hospital where I was operated on to get the pieces of shrapnel out of my body. I was wounded at 5 a.m. and I do not know what time I went under the influence of ether, but I do know when I came out from under the influence of it. It was 10 p.m. that night. I stayed there three days until I was able to be taken to the base hospital. It was about 75 miles from the field hospital to the base hospital. I was transferred in an ambulance with beds in it, so I was handled very nicely. When I arrived at the base hospital I was worn out, but I found to my surprise, a big first class hospital with American nurses. I am certainly treated well, better than I expected to be. The nurse comes often; she feeds me with a spoon. If I stay here long enough I will get my mail here, but if I don’t it will be kept for me at my Co.
I have been in the trenches three times. We sure have them on the run now. We are hoping for victory soon and our safe return home — back to the good old U.S.A. I suppose you got the letter the chaplin sent for me?
Well I must close for my eyes will hardly let me write. Don’t worry about me, for I am getting along fine. Good-bye, good luck and God bless you all.
From your loving son.
Paul E. Mentzer
Co. E, 139th Inf. A. E. F.
(From Paul Mentzer’s Chaplin)
A.E.F., Aug. 27, 1918
Mrs. C. O. Mentzer,
Neosho Falls, Kansas
My Dear Mrs. Mentzer
I have just come from the hospital here where I found your son Paul quite badly wounded, but we think he will pull through O.K. He was hit by a high explosive shell last night. His face is badly scalded and several pieces of the shell hit him in the body. He said to tell you not to worry and that he would soon be around all right and would get even with the enemy. It is wonderful the spirit all our boys show in danger or wounded. They are all game to the end, and your son is equal to any of them. I am chaplin in the 139th and shall do all in my power for your son. Rest assured that he will get all the best attention that he would get anywhere, and don’t worry over him.
With sympathy to you, but also in pride of the spirit of our boys, I am
1st Lieut. Chaplin
So, now I have details about how Paul Mentzer was wounded and the ability to create a better citation. I doubt I would have unearthed these details if I hadn’t been reviewing my data.