About Me

Born August 4, 1894 in Auburn, New York to William and Alice Beardsley Woodruff Hills. Younger brother Carroll Beardsley Hills and younger sister Mary Day Hills. Educated at St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire and Princeton University, class of 1917

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Letter written November 19, 1918

Dear Mother-:

My career as a member of the G.H.Q. was to say the least not over long due to the fact that upon the arrival of peace my expert advice was no longer needed and now I am back again once more as a member of the 1st A.T. (ammunition train) and a real fighting man with no one to fight.
There was one thing splendid tho, while I was on the staff. I managed to get in my car which was a wonderful great Cadillac and run up to Paris. That was a couple of days ago and from what I knew of Paris it was a changed city. During the day one great blaze of the tricolor and at night a blaze of light. It was also very gay but so crowded that to get hotel accommodations was practically impossible. We had a regular Ivy (Paul’s club at Princeton) dinner. There were six of us all of whom I knew very well at college although only two of them were in my class. Bill McAdoo was there and on the crest altogether; it was a wonderful celebration. The next day I consecrated to shopping and bought a whole brand new peace time outfit so that now I am one of the snappiest looking young lieutenants you can imagine with the toil and grime of war completely wiped away. The end coming when it did certainly blighted my promising young military career for now promotions have been called off and I understand that my captaincy for which I was recommended about three weeks ago is also called off. However, it is cheap at the price and the end could not have come any too soon.

Were I in your place I would not expect me home too soon for heaven only knows when it will be. Being in the regular army as I am I have a hunch that we will probably stay in France after all the others (units formed for the wartime army) are gone, to fill up the trenches and roll up the barbed wire.The opinion seems to be that we as professional soldiers have no ties or interests while the others, some of whom have been here as long as six months must get back, I suppose to make the world safe for democrats and prohibition. I have taken during the past year two pet aversions, one the Y.M.C.A. and the other the prohibitionists which speaks for itself. As to the latter I am, however, trusting to the care and forethought of my friends so that it will not be necessary to commit any crimes however venial they may be. The States are certainly going to the dogs but after things have settled down a bit we can all come back to France together and do as we want to.

I saw Mildred (Woodruff) for about five minutes while I was in Paris. She was very well and seemed to be enjoying herself immensely as is every one there just now.

There isn’t a great deal more to say just now so I will call things off for the present. Good bye with love

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Letter written November 12, 1918

Dear Mother -:

The war is ended and just in time to let me stop as a soldier and not as what I became a couple of days ago, for then I was transferred from the line to the office of a G.H.Q. (general headquarters) colonel who is an authority on something and who had an idea I might be of some value to him. I had arrived from the front from where I last wrote you only a few days earlier and had not done much of anything when the end came. The way it came was quite remarkable and I suppose quite different from what anyone at home would imagine it would be like. We all knew that the German envoys had arrived and were trying to negotiate but peace has been so far from everyone’s mind for so long that it seemed absolutely incomprehensible that it would end. As soon as I got up yesterday morning tho, the rumor was all about that the armistice had been signed but there was nothing official; later it became more insistent until about 10: 30 it was finally announced and posted all over the city. The bells of the cathedral rang for a while, the children shouted a bit but it was very quiet and this is in a town that has been connected, and that intimately, with the war since it broke out. Among the older people there were more tears and hysterics than anything else, while the soldiers and people who had been actively in things couldn’t seem to realize it at all; they simply wandered aimlessly about, repeating “la guerre est fini, c’est la victoire.” Later in the day there was a band concert in the Place and things let down a little. All the national anthems of the Allies were played and the crowds which were large cheered a little but it was all very solemn. No one can seem to realize that the war is over and we have won. They know it but as yet they can’t feel it. I have heard that in some places there were real joyous affairs but for the most part it was as I told you. Too big an occasion for a frivolous celebration.

I suppose now that we will occupy some German territory for some time and then start coming home. When that will be heaven only knows for just now there is no making plans of any variety for certainly they will be all wrong. Personally, if I have to stay here any length of time what I am doing now would please me as much as anything for about all I have to do is to ride around the country in a marvelous automobile and look things over and then come back and pass out what some people are foolish enough to believe is expert advice. However I want really more than anything else to come home.

This is all now .

With love

Friday, November 7, 2008

Letter written October 26, 1918

Dear Nannoo-:

I received your letter a few days ago and enjoyed it very much in spite of your comments at the end that was a “stupid scribble”; as a matter of fact I think that your letters contain more actual information than any I receive. I also received at about the same time a notification from Morgan Harjes (Paris office of the Morgan Bank –Ed.) that they were authorized to issue me a new letter of credit for 5,000 francs. You made no mention of it but I am sure that it must have been you who sent it to me and I want to thank you more than I can possibly tell you. I do not as a fact need it at all for I am never away from the front and consequently have little or no opportunity of spending anything. If this war keeps up long enough I shall certainly end up a monied man for even during the past year when I lost my complete outfit twice I managed to save nearly 1,500 Frs plus that which I did not draw of the letter of credit you gave me a year ago which is something around 3,500 Frs.

I wrote Mother a few days ago that I had at last managed to be promoted and now am a long-ranking 1st lieutenant with fair prospects of becoming a captain before many moons. However, the future is always uncertain but for the present I am very well satisfied.

Your remark that you did not know what organizations I belong to certainly was a surprise for I thought I had told you dozens of times. Just now I am adjutant for the 1st ammunition train which is part of the 1st field artillery brigade and that in turn is the artillery of the 1st division. You see I am first, at last, in everything, something if I remember correctly you always wanted me to be, tho perhaps this wasn’t quite what you had in mind. It is quite a comfort now that we are getting an army over here to realize that we were the first Americans here and the first to take on the Bosche for any sort of a fight and are now looked upon by the others as more or less veterans, tho getting to be veterans certainly was not all that it might have been.

As for me I am still just the same and not finding my duties as adjutant overly onerous. My office is separated from the (ammunition) train by several miles as I have to live fairly near the guns but equipped with half a dozen orderlies and messengers and a telephone and a splendid Hdqs. (headquarters) mess. I manage to make fairly good times of it tho the hours are uncertain to say the least. More than that I have an automobile and chauffeur to run around with when necessary so things are not altogether disagreeable. Were it not for the Dutch and the certain amount of uncertainty that they add to things, life would be one long pleasant dream.
Things in the war line tho are certainly looking better and more remarkable still is the effect on those engaged. When the first news began to come that we were beginning to go ahead (that was a long time ago) everyone seemed to take on new life. The most impossible things were accomplished in the most terrible conditions.Even the horses seemed to know that it was victory, and where they would have ordinarily dropped they seemed to pick up new life and carry on. Since then we have been going ahead steadily and almost continuously. It has been wonderful. We have lived in Bosche shelters, used any amount of Bosche material and even eatern Bosche food. I would not have missed it for anything tho heaven knows I would like to come home with a soft billet as an instructor for a while. How Nelson Jr. (apparently a friend or relative from Auburn – Ed.) managed it is certainly a mystery to me for good as he may be as an instructor of troops I don’t quite understand how he in one visit to the lines could qualify as a seasoned warrior with the experience of war to draw on. However, as I have often said the ways of the army are stranger indeed than the ways of women and someday I may wake up and find myself military attaché to the Republic of Liberia. This is a very long letter and in it I have not managed to say a great deal tho I have covered a lot of paper, but they say that old age and strange modes of living make people garrulous and perhaps I am suffering from both for I feel that I have in the past two years lived at least 100 years.

This is all now, Nannoo, but I want to thank you again and again for letters of both varieties.

With love,

Letter written October 17, 1918

(Beneath date, a pencil notation by William Hills, Paul’s father: “This letter arrived the morning of Nov. 11, 1918, the day peace was announced. W.H.” )

Dear Mother -:

I am still on the front but with the new work I told you about it is not particularly unpleasant especially considering all that is going on. The Dutch are certainly beaten or at least beginning to be and the results are wonderful. Everyone is willing to and wants to give everything he has in him to keep it up and as you can imagine the work as in all advances is not easy. The weather has been vile and the roads and country a perfect sea of mud but somehow the thing is being managed tho the poor horses are suffering terribly.

I spend about six hours a day at a desk and about six more chasing around the country locating the ammunition that I have directed from my desk. However things are beginning to become a little more easy for me now and someday perhaps I will able to sleep 24 hours a day and know that everything is working OK as it should.

The promotions that were sent in at the same time that mine was are just beginning to materialize so perhaps it will not be a too long time before I begin to amount to something in the way of rank.

You wanted me to write you a letter describing just what I looked like. I don’t really believe that I can, especially considering the fact that I don’t believe that you ever saw anything that looks at all the way I do especially after a day’s or night’s work. About all there is to it is a trench coat with boots sticking out underneath, a gas mask on its chest and topped off by a tin hat covering one eye and half the face of what always has been underneath. Splash the whole variously with different colored mud and you have it or at least all that can be seen of it under ordinary circumstances.

Since I began to write this the long expected promotion did arrive and I am now a full blown 1st lieutenant with the assurance of the commanding officer that at the first possible opportunity I will go up for captain. It is really quite something for you to be proud of that, while others were getting theirs training or at home, etc., P. Hills nailed his on the front. I just happened to be figuring it out the other day that since there have been any American troops in France, there hasn’t been one single fight of any size that there have been any American troops in that I haven’t managed to be in on too.

(As to the foregoing paragraph, it was an abiding source of both pride and frustration to Paul Hills not only then but in future years that, while contemporaries in military service in World War I achieved higher rank in non-combat duty, his promotions and assignments were in the course of extended battlefront duty.)

In some ways, that is from the point of view of leaves, etc., it has been a decided disadvantage, but the experience has been worth anything even tho a little concentrated, and I doubt if anyone has had more advantages, if they may be called such, of seeing real downright war from the best side, which is none too pleasant, to the worst, which is that in all respects and any way you look at it.

This is all now so good bye
With love

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Letter mailed October 10, 1918

Dear Mother-:

I am terribly sorry about not having written more lately but you have no idea how it has been. You have probably seen by the papers all that has been going on (the heavy fighting around Soissons). Well, as usual I haven’t managed to miss a single bit of it. Then I was sent to school and immediately sent back again with the result that I tore from pillar to post and upon returning found myself in the thick of it. I went (this is true but unsanitary) for one whole week without taking off my clothes and four days without even taking off my boots. The great part of it all was, tho, that after I was nearly dead and wished I was and wondered if I would last an hour more I found myself suddenly in a fine new job. To be exact I am now the regimental adjutant and having a great time with prospects of a fairly quick promotion and a very pleasant existence. The commanding officer is a corker and it was thru him that I landed the job, as he was about the first officer I knew in the army over here and I have seen more or less of him ever since. Lately he was put in command of our outfit and here I am. Well, so it goes and tomorrow morning I may wake up and find myself in jail.

Even with it all, tho, I am still pining for quiet and rest. There is no sign yet of any leave and I doubt if there ever will be any. On my hurried trip to school and back which consumed four days I spent one day in Paris and had the good fortune to see Mildred and take dinner with her. We absolutely gorged and then went to the Olympia (a legendary music hall in Paris -.Ed) for a while. The next day on the way to Nevers, I accumulated a new girl. Very homely, very funny and extremely interesting since before the break-up in that realm (the Russian revolution of 1917 -.Ed) she danced in the Imperial Russian ballet. She has taken me on a (illegible ) but due to the fact that I only saw her for four hours and probably never will see her again I fear greatly that nothing will ever come of the affair. Those were the only events worth of interest during the journey and I returned as I said before to the very thick of things where I still am. Somehow I just can’t seem to keep out of war no matter what happens. I have got a great deal more to tell you but just now have no time.

With love

Letter written September 30, 1918

Dear Mother-:

The mail still continues to be lacking and with the exception of the two cablegrams which I wrote you about I am without any news of you or in fact with the exception of a few papers of any news whatsoever of the world outside. We moved away from the front again a few days ago and are now in a pleasant but exceedingly rural rear area without a great deal to do but wait. I still have my company and really enjoy the work a great deal. There is more to do and more responsibility but it is good fun to have your own separate command and to see what you can do with it. Also my recommendation for promotion has gone to G.H.Q. so there is a reasonable chance perhaps after a few months it may come thru tho the affairs of the army are, as I have often said in a terrible semblance to the mills of the gods. People grow old and gray just waiting for some paper of great importance to go thru channels while a small order about the use of soap flies thru with amazing speed. However, due to the fact that the promotion of a mere sous lieutenant isn’t an affair that the fate of the nation depends upon there is some chance of its happening before I am due to have longevity pay.

You should see the place I am living just now. It is quite a splendid billet but its location is unique as it is in the back room of a café and to get to it I have to pass thru all the rooms of the establishment including the bedrooms of M. and Mme. And also that of the not unhandsome two barmaids. My nocturnal habits make, as you can well imagine, some situations that are a scream. The first time that my orderly came to call me he arrived, having run the gauntlet, a trembling wreck.

I am enclosing a little medal I picked up on a walk the other evening so I can vouch for its authenticity. This all now.

With love

Letter written August 21, 1918

Dear Mother -:

My hoped for raise arrived at last and tho the actual rank hasn’t pulled in yet, I am in command of a company and along with other privileges drawing a captain’s pay. When my advancement in actual rank will come heaven only knows since such things having to go to the States and back again take time but I am reasonably sure that I will get a 1st lieutenancy within a couple of months and a captaincy in the not terribly far off future, that is all barring accidents as any day I may make the necessary mistake and shoot the whole business to pot, but c’est la guerre and I am hoping and doing the best I can. Along with other things I inherited my own touring car and chauffeur which is a great relief. We are doing exactly the same work as ordinarily , that is leading rather a sundodging existence delivering ammunition to three batteries and so forth but happily on a less strenuous scale here than elsewhere since, as I told you this is a quiet part of the line and not a great deal of shooting is done.

I also have prospects of a leave, just when I don’t exactly know but I have prospects and they are fairly bright. If they come true I shall certainly go to Cannes and see Cousin Josephine. It will be quite the wrong time of year for Cannes but that is about as far away from the war as any place I can think of, and more than that I long for the flesh pots of Egypt, not, strange to relate, in the sense of a riotous time but more in that of quiet, lazy comfort. I am so sick of eating at messes and cafes that I could weep.

The other day I met Pell Foster, who was in my class at Princeton and in the club and also another boy called Charlie Latrobe whom I knew very well.We met in town and fortunately as I could get hold of the commanding officer we were able to have dinner together and talk for hours.

You see I am just full of good news and afraid to turn around for fear some of it will turn out to be only a pleasant dream. I imagine Mildred (Cousin Mildred Woodruff of Auburn) is in Normandy or Brittany just now. When I saw her she intended going there for her vacation. She has done, I gather, a great deal of work exceptionally well, as she is now the head of the service. Just what the name of that particular service is I never have been able to find out. This is about all now so good by

With love Paul

Letter written August 11, 1918

Dear Mother-:

Yesterday and today have been quite banner days. I had just begun to think that as far as I was concerned the mail service between Auburn N.Y. and the A.E.F. had been permanently discontinued when I received a letter from Nannoo and two telegrams from you. It was great of you to remember me on that day (August 6, his 24th birthday) for tho it was not quite as disheartening a birthday as I had a year ago, I was away from everyone and to say the least did not have a highly cheerful day

I told you in the last letter that we were holding a quiet sector. It continues as such and as a result we have very little to do. Day before yesterday I spent the afternoon in a fair-sized town near by. It was really quite a sight. The city itself is a beautiful old place. The day was not hot but very bright. At about five there was a band concert on the Place. All the allied nations seemed to be represented and the scene as you can well imagine was splendid. All the café terraces which gave out on the square were crowded with brilliant uniforms of all description and apparently all the lovely ladies of the town were present. I forgot to say that it was Sunday and consequently the crowd was extraordinarily large. Under the tunnel of trees which surrounded the open part of the square promenaded all the favored nations of the world. From the black, blue and silver of the chasseur and the blue and scarlet of the infantry officer to the long gown and turban of some Arabs who had drifted in from no where in particular. So it goes on and were it not for little times like that, real flashes of the extraordinary, the war would be quite unbearable. But fortunately there seems to be a sense of balance or proportion behind the whole thing and just about when you are ready to give up, something pleasant happens, you have a day or a few hours off or an extra good time for a few minutes and you are ready to carry on again for a while.

I hope Carroll (younger brother) gets into something good before he finishes and if possible goes to college as long as he possibly can before he comes over. Tell him again for me that there is no hurry in spite of the fact that the gov’t has seen fit to discard age limits for both officers and officers training camps. Also I am more than ever convinced that he would not like and isn’t particularly suited for the infantry.

Give my love to Papa and Day. Also how are the dogs – you have not told me anything of them for some time. This is all I have time for just now so good bye

With love, Paul

Letter written August 6, 1918

Dear Mother -:

I haven’t written you for nearly three weeks and I am very sorry about it but the this time it actually could not be helped. If I remember correctly at that time I was quietly installed in a farm and expecting quite a rest. But somehow or other I can’t keep away from the war and the next day we moved off to this last attack, that beginning July 18 of which you have probably read something by this time. Things went splendidly and although I never did so much work or went thru more it was well worth it all for it set the ball rolling and it hasn’t stopped yet and better than that we advanced. That is the first time we have ever advanced when I was along in the 15 months that I have been here. You really can’t imagine the satisfaction of moving into a territory which the Bosch had recently left and left in a hurry. We stayed in that affair for about a week and then came out with expectations of a little rest at least. The day we got out, however, I received orders to go to absolutely the other end of France to get some material. The trip was wonderful but needless to say not a great deal of rest. I saw some very wonderful country tho, and had, strange to relate, remarkably fine weather all the way. We were gone ten days and I came back yesterday to find the outfit again installed on the front, heaven be praised, tho a very quiet one. On the way back, I stopped for two hours in Paris or a little more and saw Mildred (Cousin Mildred Woodruff of Auburn, living and working in Paris) and had dinner with her. Anna, I think her name is, was there too and we had a perfectly great time just talking. I would have liked to stay longer but I had to leave early the next morning and my convoy was about ten miles out. I told her to write you which I hope she will.

I am beginning to be tremendously cheered up the way America is getting into this thing and there certainly seems to be ground at least for hope. At one time the outlook was certainly poor enough. The fine summer weather too helps. For certainly France in the summer is the most heavenly place I can think of. The mere thought tho, of another winter makes my shiver all over and turn blue. If ever this blooming war ends I am coming back here with all of you some May and stay until October. Then tho, we will go somewhere there is more heat and light.

This is about all now, Mother. If only we will stay in one place for a little while I may begin to get caught up on my writing.

With love

Letter written July 9, 1918

Dear Mother-:

I have at last left the front and I can’t say that I am sorry. It was a long, long seige and that on a sector which was to say the least not noted for its tranquility. Everything, however, went well with me and my affairs especially since I took up with the ammunition work with which I still am. The battery I was with before was over-officered and gave little chance for getting ahead, compared to which this outfit, while still the field artillery, is quite the opposite, and with another action or “show” like the last one I feel tolerably certain that I may get ahead a step. I was sorry as the deuce to leave the old outfit but I see them now whenever I want to, besides having the advantages which I wrote you before. Riding in an automobile and being, or rather trying to be, diplomatic with the French isn’t half bad sport especially considering the fact that I get to the very front line at least once a day and live in comfortable quarters and eat like a prince. The place we are in now is, thank heaven, out of the sound of the guns and last night I had the usual experience of not being able to sleep because of the lack of noise. I woke up about midnight and was really scared because of the lack of sound, no continual grind of wheels, no noise whatsoever of the artillery. Really it was weird. By the way, I forgot to tell you that the wonderful outfit I had in the spring is gone, gone without a trace. I imagine the Bosche have it and it makes me boil to think of some fat Heinie sporting around in my new clothes and boots. However, revenge is sweet and I live in hopes of doing some looting some day on my own hook.

I am sending Day in a little package a real Alpin beret and if I can find it a regulation cor de chasse to put on it. The cor is worn over the left eye and the beret pulled down over the right ear.

The families of chasseurs affect the beret and claim they have the sole right to the cor so Day can put herself in that number.

You would smile I think to see how we are living here, quartered in a perfectly wonderful chateau quite modernized – that is, bathrooms have been added. We have the mess in the big hall and the twenty of us sitting there at the long table surrounded by the ancestral paintings and silver make the darndest pictures of luxury you can imagine. It seems however a little too good to last. Things like that are anything but common in this war and I fear for our future. However we eat, drink and be merry while we can.

This about all now so good by with love Paul

Letter written July 1, 1918

Dear Mother-:

I have quite a little time just now with nothing to do but as luck will have it nothing at all to write to you about. Every single thing that I know about is exactly the same as it has been for the last two months and as you can well imagine, being here as long as we have, the monotony is getting to be rather dreadful.

I am sending you a photograph which a passing Frenchman took of the officers of the unit about a week ago. I am, if you are unable to recognize me, occupying the lower right corner, the facial expression being caused by the bright sun and not permanently put on by the horrors of war. Thank you very much for writing Jared (Ingersoll, an old friend from school and college –Ed.) for me. I received a letter from him a long time ago and answered it but that was the last. Have also had a couple of letters from Hunt Talmage, who is frantic because he went home and since that time he has been able neither to get into any sort of work on account of his eyes nor get back to France, having no excuse for coming. Adding worse to worse, his lady love is on this side which makes it very annoying from his point of view.

My work is still as it has been, going out at night with a convoy of trucks and delivering ammunition to the batteries, but now since things have quieted down a little we only go out about every two nights and in the rest of the time I censor letters of the company, of which since they are not too busy or tired there is a vast number. That does not sound hard but actually it is the most disagreeable task I have. First it is a perfectly horrible bore. Nine tenths of them say exactly the same thing, with varying mistakes of grammar. The other tenth vary from one or two actually clever ones, to all the tongues of Babel. More than that it takes just about three hours per day. (And he was also responsible for censoring his own letters. -.Ed)

The eternal Reg Windham (an acquaintance of Paul Hills and his family from before military service who coincidentally served with Paul in almost every unit, from the ambulance service to the same field artillery unit -.Ed) left yesterday on some sort of detached duty but things have happened so that I have turned up with him so much that it won’t be long, I am sure, before we both meet unexpectedly on the same work at some very out- of-the-way place.

This is about all there is now so good bye

With love

Letter written Sunday, June 23, 1918

Dear Nannoo-:

Your letter with the clipping in it came a few days ago and interested me very much. The more I hear the more I become certain that when things are over and I manage to come that it will be moving to a strange country, and every one I ever knew the head of a rapidly growing family. Certainly the younger generation, judging from its start cannot be accused of race suicide.

As for myself things are going much as always. I told you all, I think, that I had been put in the ammunition train which occupies itself in bringing up shells, etc., to the batteries. The work is not as interesting as being at the battery proper and you do not have the satisfaction of actually shooting Dutchmen and believe me that is a real satisfaction. On the other hand, however, the life is vastly more pleasant. We live better, eat better and have quarters above ground, with the added distinct pleasure that you may make plans for 24 hours in advance without having always in the back of your head that condition “if I’m still here”. The work tho is entirely at night which, tho luckily, I have ceased to mind and simply consider it as a known fact that during certain hours it is dark and certain others light. Night and day as set periods to sleep and work have ceased to exist. And night by the way is the fashionable time at the front. You could stay in one place all day long and be lonely as anything but just as soon as it becomes dark and the balloons (observation balloons –Ed.) go down, things begin to come out and move around and the whole front, I mean that strip of country which the Bosch can see in the daylight becomes the most busy section of the world. Caissons, guns, men, horses, food and in fact supplies of every conceivable sort are going and coming and are everywhere. The immediate vicinity of the front is as different at midnight and noon as at 5th Avenue, only just the opposite.

There isn’t a great deal more to tell you now so I will stop. With love, Paul

Letter written June 14, 1918

Dear Mother-:

I started a letter yesterday but something or other interfered and when today I came to go on with it, it was such a stupid thing that I decided to begin another all over again. Really to know what to write is quite a problem. You have quite enough at home of the blood and thunder, far more indeed it seems than we who are in it, and to always write about one’s self never leads anywhere. But now first a bit of the other side. Last evening or rather yesterday afternoon, for it doesn’t get dark until about 10, I went up to one of the batteries of the regiment and managed to arrive just about as they were finishing dinner. The position was in a woods, not an American woods but a real French one with no bushes or low undergrowth and tall trees with no low branches – Howitzers have the advantage of being able to fire from such a place. The table was laid under what the French call a “tonelle” – (spelling questionable) about a hundred yards back of the guns near the officers’ dugout and there, as it was under the branches it was such as we would be proud to have at home. A wonderful old oak table with fine white and gold porcelain and cut glass looted from a nearby smashed chateau, I am sorry to say. The meal was in proportion. Four courses, two sorts of wine and port after. During the whole time I was there the guns were going, one shot a minute only, simply interdiction fire on a point where all it is necessary to do is to load and pull the string. Here, tho, nobody was in a hurry, nobody overworked and as you can imagine the life there was comfortable since the battery has been there three weeks and firing about 600 rounds a day and no shell has ever come anywhere near it. And with it all this is a sector that has the reputation of being one of the liveliest on the entire front. You see, even this war isn’t without its pleasant moments and pleasant work, for certainly to fire a battery all day is pleasant when you are not fired back at by Heinie from over the hill.

As for myself I am becoming more and more nocturnal in my habits. A day or so ago it occurred that I did not have to go out at night and had aspirations towards a real, normal night’s rest. I went to bed about ten but it was like going to bed in the middle of the morning and I stood about as much chance of sleeping. Strange how easily you become absolutely turned around. This about all now, Mother, so good bye. With love, Paul

Letter written June 4, 1918

Dear Mother -:

Yesterday when I had begun to think that all the mail service between U.S. and France had been completely stopped I got about six letters from you and one from Nannoo and also some clippings from Papa. It was great to hear from you and get all the news from home.

Tyrant certainly seems to have disgraced himself for fair, but the people of Auburn give me an awful pain with all their picking and noise about it all. (Tyrant was one of two Great Danes the Hills family had at that time, and apparently committed some kind of serious offense. –Ed,) It seems just like some of the people you mentioned, tho I hardly expected it of the Clarks.

I supposed that Mildred W’s letter from Paris was a bit mystifying as to my movements but she really didn’t know herself exactly what I was up to. Now it doesn’t make any great difference. Due to the fact that I can speak French, when the division changed sectors, which it did about that time, I was sent ahead to arrange the billeting and had to pass through Paris on the trip. It was rather good fun and I particularly enjoyed the twenty-four hours I had there. I have about decided that this ability to speak French, tho, is a decided detriment to a military career. Everywhere I land I become sort of semi-official interpreter and am given all the odd strange jobs that involve the mysteries of the Gallic tongue. The result is that I am never at anything more than a short time and while I do a hundred and one odd jobs, never complete any large one and gain the merit attached thereto. Verily if ever I am transferred again I shall keep said knowledge under my hat and confine myself to my calling of shooting Bosche. I haven’t managed to land a leave yet and have no prospects. They are given again to those not on active service in the advanced zone of operations. That means that anyone with a soft pleasant post in the rear gets leave to rest him from the rigors of his work while the lucky individuals close up who live in holes, sleep about two hours a night and escape with their lives by a hair about twice a day (or don’t) are left there to enjoy themselves indefinitely. All that last description doesn’t apply to me for I have told you I think that I have splendid living quarters. However the leave arrangement makes me very ill.

This is all now – so good bye With love Paul

Letter written May 27, 1918

Dear Mother-:

I haven’t written lately simply because of he fact that if possible I have been a little more busy of late than before. I told you about my new work, well, it continues as before pleasantly but with very, very long hours. A couple of days ago, tho, it slacked up slightly and out of the ensuing twenty-four hours I managed to sleep 16 without stopping. Now, tho, I feel like a new person and am ready to begin again with a vengeance. It certainly is more pleasant to live a little behind the lines and to go up to them for work than it is to stay there continuously and live sort of a subterranean existence, coming up only at night.

We have a house left by the inhabitants, a one-story affair with three bedrooms and two sitting rooms.The late tenants left most of their worldly goods, as from everything I can gather they went in rather a hurry. As a result we have quite splendid china service, decanters, furniture, beds, etc.. With this outfit and our three orderlies we keep house very comfortably and tho perhaps it wouldn’t quite come up to your standards, it all does very well. By long practice I have become quite adept at domestic affairs and when I get home I shall certainly have to get a position of steward or housekeeper or purveyor of wines or something of that sort. For the last month that I was with the battery I acted as mess officer and had a great time. I would go to market in the nearest town, buy supplies and plan meals therewith, engage and discharge cooks and hear complaints from seven lieutenants and two captains who ate nevertheless with enjoyment what the board afforded. This war is certainly a liberal education but I am beginning to think that it is very nearly time the course ended and I got my degree. I am a little disappointed in W. (an old friend in Auburn) that he isn’t doing something in this war. It wouldn’t take a great deal of effort on his part to get into it and we can never have enough Docs. Perhaps being in it so deeply myself I have lost sympathy with the way the outsider feels but I can’t see anything that anyone should do but put himself into it. It isn’t money we need, it isn’t to such a great extent material, but it is men quickly and in quantities. Tell Day (sister) I got her letter and thank her very much and tell Papa and Nannoo that I will write them the first chance I get. With love, Paul

Letter written May 12, 1918

Dear Mother-
Have been at the front again now for nearly a week and consequently have had more to do than any one person has a right to attempt. This time, however, I am not on O.T. work but have a work which if things ever settle down a little will be quite pleasant and comfortable but not nearly, I am glad to say, as responsible. I am with the division munitions train. That is an automobile truck service and like most of the things I have ever been connected with a “fly by night”. We start out from where we live every day about 5 p.m., go to a munitions dump and deliver the shells, powder and such to the batteries. I suppose I got the job because I could speak a little French. As a matter of fact I might say I speak it well now and know a bit about road conditions, etc. My company consists of twenty trucks, a couple of motor cycles and a touring car in which with another I ride around, lead the procession and fight with the French munitions officers. It is only a temporary thing, however, and in a little time I suppose I will lose the luxury of a touring car and chauffeur and be back strafing Fritz with the high explosive again in the old style.

I am very glad Papa is getting better. You really have no idea how much his being sick upset me. Especially the letter he wrote me with his left hand.

If you get a chance, do all you can to see the Chasseurs Alpins that are in America now. (Paul’s ambulance unit, which served the French Army, was attached to the Chasseurs Alpins, an elite divison, until he entered the American Army at its arrival in France) They are still in my mind the best troops in the world and certainly some of the most striking looking, and what is more I am one and can wear a beret and the cor de chasse. Once a chasseur, always a chasseur.
This is all now. Good by with love Paul

Letter written April 27, 1918

Dear Mother-: I am really dreadfully ashamed and sorry about the way I have not been writing lately but it has been absolutely impossible. Just why I can’t tell you now but there has been no chance. Also I haven’t had any word from you for nearly a month but that has been for the same reason. I have been almost continuously on the move and when I was still, so far separated from things that the mail has had no chance to catch up to me.

I am now in a part of France I have never been in before and a very pretty and interesting one, particularly so now for it is really spring and the whole country is a mass of green fields and apple blossoms. The battery is just now resting but that isn’t at all as it sounds for rest means simply one grand clean up, clean out and adjustment, which keeps everyone more busy than they ever were at the front. I rather hope tho now we stay at it for a little while as I would like very much to write a few letters and see what I have left of my personal equipment.

I can’t understand your not having gotten my letters. I wrote you at least twice a week or more all of February and March. I have heard from Hunt (Talmage, a Princeton friend with whom he first entered the ambulance service in April, 1917) lately, that is comparatively lately. He went home for Xmas and somehow didn’t manage to come back. He gave up his position in the embassy hunting for a commission in the army and now being out of everything is very sore. If you get a chance, look him up in N.Y. as he could tell you some very interesting things and would be glad to. He is still at the Ritz. This is about all now. Good bye, With love, Paul

Letter written April 25, 1918

Dear Papa-:

When I started to write this I had really no idea what to tell you about until I realized that at home you had very little real knowledge of exactly what sort of an outfit I was with or what it looked like or what we did and I think that would be as interesting to you as anything else. The battery itself, which is Batt. C of the 5th, consists of about 220 men, 200 horses and four guns . There are four lieutenants in the outfit and a captain who is our battery commander. The guns would interest you more than anything else for they are absolutely the highest development of heavy field artillery that exists. You can’t really imagine anything any more perfected than they are. They are of the howitzer type, that is short guns of about six-inch caliber. They can throw ninety-odd pounds of steel and explosive about nine miles and in order to get away from it when it lands you have to have over fifteen feet of solid cover over your head and sometimes that isn’t enough. By solid I mean concrete, railroad iron and logs. Consequently as you can well imagine we aren’t particularly popular with the Bosche especially considering that the guns can shoot from any place at any time and with eight horses attached are very mobile. We can when necessary fire six shots a minute out of each of our guns with an accuracy that is really terrible. This science of artillery is really one of the most fascinating and wonderful things that there is. You know just what you can do to a fraction and given the necessary information you can set out and when you are finished be sure that it is done. For example, with one of the guns of our battery, I could with an accurate map sit on the piazza at Garnston (another reference to the family’s summer cottage on Owasco Lake near Auburn, N.Y.) with the gun on the back lawn, figure for ten minutes, fire a certain number of shots and be absolutely certain that the railroad station in Moravia was completely destroyed without anyone having seen a shot land or even bothering to go and see where the station was to make sure. It is certain.

But enough technical information and war and guns for the present. It is spring here and perfectly beautiful and during the past year I have had so much of the former and am so fed up on it all that I don’t care too much about doing any more with it all than I can help. The thing that I would like more than anything else just now would be to sit down at home with the family and the dogs and be clean and comfortable and quiet for an indefinite period of time. And more than that, stay in one place for a little while. The first thing any one does after arriving any where over here now is to wonder where the next place you are going to will be and how long it will be before you go there. Usually it is about a week and you go to the place that seems least possible of all those that you have figured on and you are warned about ten minutes before you start.

That, as you can imagine is a bit trying on one’s good nature and a bit hard on the personal belongings. I have things scattered from one end of France to the other and if ever I get the chance it will take me at least a week to collect them, traveling all the time. Some people are in a worse fix than I for they don’t even know where theirs are.

This is about all I have time for now so good bye, and best luck for your recovery which I feel sure is quite complete by now. With love, Paul

Letter written April 13, 1918

Dear Mother:-

I suppose that by this time you think that I am at least dead or a prisoner or something of that order but not at all for it is simply that I have not been able to write. I was sent away from the front on an official trip of a sort and have had till now absolutely no chance to write. During the course of my move I had about ten hours in Paris and managed to see Mildred Woodruff and have lunch with her. Paris, as you can well imagine, isn’t exactly gay but nevertheless I would certainly have liked to stay a week. Two months in a cold, lonely, and not too safe observation post may be in some ways an education in itself but it, if nothing else, brings out the desire for civilization, comfort and luxury. I will write more later but just now must stop. With love, Paul

Letter written April 7, 1918

(For the duration of World War I, Paris was a train ride of only several hours from the battlefront, and Paul Hills made the trip to Paris several times on leave. On one of those brief trips, he met one of his many Auburn cousins, Mildred Woodruff, then living and working in Paris; she then wrote “Cousin Alice,” Paul’s mother, an account. It reads a little like scenes from a World War I novel, but it was a fact, not fiction, that the battlefront was somewhere between 50 and 75 miles from Paris for most of the war. Many American civilians were a part of the city’s international community from 1914 to 1918, and of course thousands of Allied military personnel were on duty there during the war. –Ed.)

Dear Cousin Alice (Paul’s Mother):

I almost hate to tell you that I have seen Paul again, but next best to seeing him yourself is hearing from someone who has, so I want to get a letter right off to you.

Friday morning early I was out in front waiting for a car when I saw a taxi stop in front of our apartment house and a good-looking American officer get out. Knowing that we are the only Americans living in this house I knew there was an even chance of its being someone for me, so I went back and to my surprise and delight discovered it was Paul – although I hardly recognized him at first with a mustache. He had arrived at midnight and was leaving again at five – had the 6 a.m. train not been taken off he would not have been able to stop over, so we thought we were in luck. He had come to ask me to have lunch with him and as I happened to be having a vacation I very promptly accepted. I met him at Brentano’s and he took me to the Café de Paris for lunch and I never had such a meal. He was all for going all through the long menu, but the waiter was forced to remind him that they were only allowed to serve three courses. However, by serving salad with the meat and forgetting to count the hors d’oeuvres, they managed to give us a marvelous lunch. Paul was so interesting that I almost forgot to eat. We did a bit of shopping together and he sent Cousin Will (Paul’s father, William – Ed.) a book, but we finally gave up trying to get anything for you, because we did not seem able to find just the right thing. He was so sweet and I am sure he did not think anything we saw was quite good enough for you. Next we took a taxi up to the Etoile and then walked almost the entire length of the Champs Elysees, just plain taking in the sights. We ended up by sitting outside a café – always an amusing pastime. We ran across a Buffalo boy who had been in Section 5 with Paul, (Section 5 was the ambulance unit attached to the French Army in which Paul Hills served before the U.S. troops reached France in 1917. –Ed.) so he joined us and I never heard more interesting, thrilling conversation. Paul had his orderly with him and I only regretted not getting a look at him. It was such fun walking with him and seeing all the exchange of salutes. I can assure you that I was pretty proud of my handsome young cousin. He looked and seemed very well, but we agree that we would be pretty glad to have this hideous war over and to get home. I don’t think any of us who are over here will ever again complain of Auburn being too quiet.

I am so sorry that Cousin Will (Paul’s father – Ed.) has been ill and glad to hear he is so much better. What a winter it has been!

Paris is very hectic these days, but tremendously thrilling as you can imagine.

My love to you both- Always affectionately, Mildred Woodruff

Letter written March 29, 1918

Dear Papa-:

I was tremendously sorry to hear that you had been sick and hope by the time that you get this you will be well enough to feel as tho you had never had anything the matter with you.

As for me I am doing exactly the same thing now as I started in on about the first of February. As you can well imagine I am just about fed up with observation and looking forward to nothing as much as a change. No matter what variety. My work I suppose is as interesting as any other and I hope is doing as much for the country. However eight hours of work and then eight hours of rest day after day for two months with most days pretty much alike is bound to get a bit tiresome. What some writer said about modern war was the truest and about the most correct definition I have ever heard. He said that modern war was damn dirty, damn dull and damn dangerous. There are changes, however, and it is those that keep things from getting overpowering. This afternoon for example at the beginning it was clear. We saw a crowd of Bosche come out of the woods about nine kilometers off with a wagon and start to unload a lot of material. We located them, reported them in and a battery started in on them. The first shots weren’t very close and gave them time to get away. You should have seen those Dutchmen scatter. I don’t believe we hit any but at least we discouraged their architectural efforts for the day. That is just one of the things we do, although our main task is spotting and helping put our guns on German batteries that are shooting at us. There is really a great deal of satisfaction in catching a battery in action, directing the old heavies until they land right on it and then see it suddenly cease firing. You really feel as tho you had done something. It is a great deal as tho the guns were at Garnston (the Hills summer cottage on the west shore of Owasco Lake near Auburn –Ed.) behind the hill and I was on top of the hill with a telephone to you, telling you how your shots were landing on Scipio Center or Woods Pond (small communities several miles distant –Ed.) Quite a bit cold blooded and distant but when things get all tuned up and working perfectly and you can move your shots around just as tho you were there yourself it doesn’t seem that way at all. Then there are other times too when Fritzy gets angry at something and heaves over something like a garbage can full of Melinite. It comes at you like a train of cars, blows up like a thunderstorm and completely changes the topography of about a half acre of ground. You sit still and hope and wonder where the next one is going to land. Those times aren’t nearly as nice or interesting but it’s all in the day’s work.

It is great of you to keep sending me the newspaper clippings and they really make me feel as tho I was not quite as far away as I really am. This is all now, good bye, hoping you are better. With love, Paul

Letter written March 25, 1918

Dear Mother-:

Well, I have finally acquired the long lost and much anticipated Xmas boxes and they are wonderful. They came yesterday afternoon and if my system ever recovers from the shock I gave it there is hope that I will get thru the war. The fruit cake like all good things do must have improved with age for it was remarkably good and didn’t seem stale at all. (Paul changes to pencil at this point)The ink seems to have given out hence the change in technique. The woolen things too were great and in spite of the fact that summer is nearly here will come in very nicely for I haven’t worn anything cotton in so long , not even sheets by the way, that I can’t imagine what it would feel like. Those little sweaters too of which I now have four are one of the best inventions produced by the war, doing duty for undershirts, sleeping garments or just extra warmth. Thank Mrs. Clark too very much for her little addition. I haven’t managed to eat them yet but am sure that they will be fine. It was great of her to remember me. The last two days have not only been banner ones in every way in that my long-lost uniform which I had thought gone for good came and although I had already bought another it will be welcome and I can be a “jeune officier tres pimpant” (very natty young officer- Ed.) This afternoon I took a bicycle ride to see some people I know – while I was off duty. The weather was perfect and it certainly seems as tho spring had really arrived for some of the little bushes are beginning to have leaves and the grass is quite green everywhere. We are all just now tremendously excited over the Bosche attack on the English and everybody is as anxious for news as tho they were not in war at all. If only they can really give the Dutch a good rub this time it seems to me that it must be if not the end at least some where near it. The whole war when you look at it from a sane, cool point of view is hard to believe. The forces of the whole world all entered on one end – destruction – and as a matter of fact doing a fair job of it. Heavens what a terrific inextricable mess the whole world is in. This is all now - Good bye With love Paul