FIRST LETTER, SPECIAL DELIVERY, ADDRESSED TO HIS MOTHER, FROM PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY, WHERE PAUL HILLS WAS A SENIOR AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY. THE U.S. HAD FORMALLY DECLARED WAR WITH GERMANY ON APRIL, 1917.
Dear Mother -
I am as usual very sorry not to have written before but this time I have the excuse of really having been doing something worthwhile. In fact I have been playing a large game and seem to have won. You remember I perhaps have told you about Hunt Talmage, the possessor of two million in his own. He is going abroad to work in the Harjes Ambulance
and wants me to come along. I first went and saw the Dean who said much to my surprise that it was perfectly fine that I was going and of course I could have my diploma. Then I saw the military authorities at Governors Island who said that it was a good thing to go over especially to learn the ways of the country and I would be worth much more to my own country when the time came for us to send troops over there and incidentally could get a higher commission.
Moreover, the whole business is paid for with the exception of spending money. That is, passage over and back, subsistence while at work, board and room while on furlough in Paris, uniform, all these free. Added to these advantages Hunt’s aunt is a countess at whose chateau we are going to live before we begin work. The danger is absolutely nil as not one person has been killed in the history of this unit. The whole thing is endowed by J.P. Morgan and Harjes, his Paris agent who takes an active and personal interest in the work. (The Morgan bank, through its Paris office, Morgan Harjes, sponsored and financed a volunteer ambulance service serving the French Army in the period before the United States entered the war. Many young men from American colleges served in this and other similar ambulance services in the same period. –Ed.) This I know from Bill Armour who just came back and had the most wonderful time of his life. Mother, it is a chance that I will never get again and like which there will never be another and which, unless you are more averse than words can express, and will not help me at all, I am going to take.
Please don’t delay answering this immediately as I want to sail if possible with several more boys from here who are going to Salonika on May 5. That necessitates some quick work. The stay is for six months which will bring me home just before Christmas. Please, mother, don’t stand in the way on this as I am more keen about it than I ever have been about anything and you can manage it for me very easily by a few carefully chosen, rightly directed words. It will not be expensive at all (not nearly so much so as having me at home) and it is something that can’t be missed. Moreover, I don’t think I could stand staying here much longer. Bill Hump (Bill Humphreys, from Pittsburgh, was a close friend, college roommate and hockey teammate through school and college years.-Ed) has finally left to join the aviation corps and besides being alone in my house there are only three of us out of 22 at the club.
I am enclosing a form for a birth affidavit which I have to have as soon as possible to get my passport – fill it out and send it back quickly.
Good bye now.