Courtesy Stephen L. Harris
Private Raeburn Van Buren was a soldier, a cartoonist, and the art editor for Gas Attack, the official publication of the 27th Division. Humor and hope filled his message to his grandparents and he left them with a comical illustration of one of the war’s many dangers.
Over Here Oct. 8, 1918
Dear Grandma & dad;
I have received two letters from you folks during the past month - the last one is still warm yet and the sight of that envelope with its Philipsburg post mark makes my heart ache for another squint at the farm and you. Lordy how I will damage your food supply when I find myself in a position to drop in on you some morning.
The war is going fine, thank you, I haven’t been touched yet and have such a good chance of coming out of the mess all O.K. I would bet money on it. It’s a wild, terrible game and so mamoth a thing that even I, here on the spot am unable to realize the full magnatude of the goings on.
I am writing this letter in a little sheet – iron (for protection) hut built and formally owned by the Huns for this is a bit of territory captured by us about three weeks ago. The rumble of guns is at my door and the old iron walls of this little “studio” quake now and then because the big guns are only a few miles away. They are still going East and fast and before long we will enter in again and give them an extra push for luck. Our push last week was a complete success and cost us little. We reached our objective and gave the beer garglers a good thrashing – also captured several hundred for good measure.
We all feel very encouraged over the news and know that it is now the beginning [page break] of the end. I fully expect to spend my winter in France but if I am not home in time to celebrate the 4th of July in our back yard I will be very badly disappointed.
I have miles of stories to tell and will spill them to you when the proper time comes. All thru my experiences I have felt mother’s work. It certainly is wonderful the way the tight places have loosened and how things in general have worked out.
Many thanks for offering to send me magazines. Mother is shipping me plenty so please don’t bother. By the way it only takes 3 cents postage on letters to soldiers in France.
There is not a building or house in any of the towns around here that hasn’t been wrecked by shell fire. There are about ten towns within walking distance and nothing in them but a few shattered walls and twisted iron & splintered timber. The country looks pretty good. No body in these parts but soldiers I haven’t seen a woman or a man in civilian clothes for about a month.
Its getting cold in this part of the country now. Every night it gets so cold it is hard to keep warm. So far the Government hasn’t made any arraingements to fight the coming cold.
I am quite happy and am bubbling over with health – never felt better in my life.
[illustration: soldier running from shell]
Must Go Now! Thanks for your two dandy letters.
Pvt. R. L. Van Buren 27th Division Headquarters Detachment American E.F.