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John Early Andrews Collection of Letters
WW 1 Letter to Edward James Early from Walker, February 3, 1918
My Dear Captain:-
It is indeed a pleasure to receive such a letter as you write and your
cheering words deserve a much more speedy reply than I am sending.
However, as you may easily realize we are intensely active about now and
personal pleasures such as writing have to be cast aside.
Since I last wrote several real things have occurred to me up until
recently. I have been doing work on all kinds of trench warfare materiel.
One interesting thing was a visit to a British Trench Mortar school. At
this school I had an opportunity to study not only British guns but also
the various types that make up the British forces. My hat is off to the
Australians and our cousin the Canadians.
But this experience, interesting and exciting as it was, has been put
very far in the background by a more recent trip of mine. As I say I had
been handling trench warfare material in general but it seems that a
letter was received by the General that gave away my past history as an
“expert” on pyrotechnics and now, among other things, I am in full charge
of this interesting phase of the work. As a result when a call was made
for some one to go to the front lines to look into the subject, I was
hurried away and in a few hours stood gazing across “No man’s land” into
the German lines and beyond to their communications trenches. God, man,
it was fascinating and I shall never forget that first glimpse of what we
have all read about for nearly four years. Machine guns and rifles were
spitting away and now and then the big guns would boom. We left the car
in a certain spot in a certain town one day and the next day when we
returned that spot was a big shell hole. The dear little message arrived
during the night. As my work was of a special character and as the place
was not particularly healthy we did not stay long. We just got back to a
safer area when the artillery duel started up.
I learned a good bit about fireworks which I expect to supplement next
week with a visit to a large French factory. In regard to the Rifle Light
fired from the V. B. Tromblon the blank cartridges ought to be attached
to the light by a wire on something with about two extra cartridges to a
box of say thirty lights. The Very Pistol of the ten gauge variety is, I
am afraid, too small for signal, which when the air is full of dust and
smoke. The 25 mm or 1” of the French is better unless the light of your
pistol is more powerful. I would advise trying it out by comparison if
you have the French material. If not get Ragsdale to either wire for some
or send over some pistols and lights right away and I will do it. I wish
you would send me a list of markings on the boxes the different pieces
are packed in and also the markings on the pieces themselves. In regard
to the 35 mm Pistol of which I have cabled several times, it is
absolutely necessary for aviation as the other is too small. Only
yesterday I received your cable on that subject and made arrangements for
all information to be sent to you. It ought to arrive soon after this
See if you can get the real dope on the rifle grenade situation. What I
want to know is whether or not a really exhaustive test was tried to
determine the effect of the firing on the U. S. Rifle. We have had a lot
of trouble with the stocks breaking.
From time to time I may be able to give you information that will aid you
in developing the pyrotechnic game. I wish I might come over for a short
trip but I would want to be sure of returning. Lieutenant Shaw just
Best to all and write again.
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Notes: Edward J. Early was born on September 20, 1888 in Green
Bay, Wisconsin, received his civil engineering degree from Markette
University and was known to read the Engineering News Record in any
leisure time, so it was a great surprise to his daighter Betty that he
could play the piano beautifully. He was an usher at the opera between
1905 and 1910 while he was in college and heard Enrico Caruso sing many
times. His sister Ella attended St. Joseph's Academy in Green Bay and
introduced him to her chemistry teacher, Jessica Agnes O'Keefe, who
bacame his wife. He was called into the Army and served as a Captain and
then a Major in ordinance. He spent most of his Army career in
Washington, D.C. and the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland before
being sent to France.
Read more letters in the John Early Andrews Collection