Bio: Winner, Paul (War Letter from France – 1918)

Contact: Ann Stevens

Surnames: Winner

----Source: Neillsville Times (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 6/13/1918

Winner, Paul (War Letter from France – 23 APR 1918)

Paul Winner, son of Grant Winner of Humbird, is serving his country in France as a flying cadet. Recently the Osseo Red Cross sent the young man a box of articles, and he replied with the letter below, which is more than of ordinary interest:

Somewhere in France, April 23, 1918
The Red Cross of Osseo, Osseo, Wis.

Dear Friends:
I was greatly surprised and even more pleased to receive a box this morning labeled, “From the Osseo Red Cross.” Allow me to thank you for your kindness and thoughtfulness, because these boxes certainly are appreciated. At the same time I want to congratulate you, or the person who made up this box, for the splendid selection of articles. In this respect it differed greatly from many other boxes I’ve seen. Every article is mighty useful and almost necessary, and then, of course, candy is always acceptable because it is practically impossible to purchase it here.

It is a satisfaction and a comfort to see the way people “over there” are focusing their efforts and devoting their time, money and energy toward winning the war. It instills confidence and kindles the fighting spirit in the men “over here”. When the boche is beaten and peace is restored to the earth, equal credit should be given to those who fought at home as to those that fought abroad.

It might be interesting to you to know what I’m doing; of course, I can’t tell you anything about the situation here because you people over there probably know more about it than we do. It is now over a year since I first went into the service and of that time over half of it has been spent over here. At first the French people and their manners and customs were a puzzle to me, and their language was a riddle; this in spite of the fact that I had studied French in school. However, I have managed by exclamations, signs and a variety of contortions and acrobatics to get enough to eat. Our usual menu consisted of pemmes daterre, frits, omelette, trois, ovafs, pain chocolate, et comfiture. This in the good old United States would be fried potatoes, three-egg omelet, bread, chocolate and jam. On one occasion a French lady said, “Why is it all Americans always order the same things to eat?’ I told her I thought it was because they couldn’t ask for anything else.

Most of our experiences are humorous, but some are deeply humiliating—almost pathetic. One time I wanted to get some honey (meil). Not knowing the name for it, I tried to make her “comprehend” the word “honey” by a galaxy of gestures. Somehow when the French man does not understand, you get the idea, he is hard of hearing. You speak very slowly and wax louder and louder; but in this case she continued to say, “Je no comprehend paes.” Then I thought she might understand the word “bee”, and by association knew that I wanted honey. There was a flower in the window and I endeavored to make use of that also. The rest of my description which was emphasized by a melee of gesticulations preceded somewhat as follows: H-o-n-e-y! Buz-z! Flower! Bee! Bus-z! Honey! Buz-z-z! Bee! Buzz-zz-zz, etc. Finally a faint expression of understanding crept into her face and she triumphantly exclaimed, “Oui, Oui”, which means, “Oh, yes!” I had succeeded! I congratulated myself on being clever and making myself understand wherever and whenever I wanted anything. I wiped the perspiration off my face, put on my coat again, and waited for the woman to return. Later she came in, all radiant with smiles, carrying a tray with a couple of glasses and a bottle of seltzer water.

As time goes on we have become more or less acclimated and have gradually absorbed enough knowledge of the language to get along tolerably well, although, of course, we cannot carry on any intellectual discourses.

We are flying every day now when we have nice weather and have just started night flying; but up to the present time, I haven’t been up at night. Yesterday I had my first experience in acrobatic flying, and believe me, it is a thrilling experience. The things we do here as a matter of fact proposition were thought to be impossible a couple of years ago. The loop, which was thought to be so sensational and hazardous a few years ago, is one of the easiest things we do. The wing slip and yreille, or tail spin, was thought to be impossible to recover from and meant sure death to the person who was unfortunate enough to get into one; but now we do them deliberately. The “reversement” was practically unknown in the States when I left a few months ago, but it is now one of the most valuable stunts in aerial fighting because it changes the direction flight almost instantly. It is a combination loop, wing slip and nose dive. The maneuver is especially effective when an enemy is “on your tail;” because it is done so rapidly you take him unawares and can take him head on with your machine gun.

Our time is pretty well occupied with our work, but whatever spare time we do get, I try to use to advantage by visiting old chateaux castles and points of historical interest.

I’m afraid this letter is getting to be too long and rambling so I’d better bring it to a close before it becomes boresome; besides the censors do not like to read long letters. Thanking you again for your kindness in sending me the box and extending my regards and good wishes to each member of the Osseo Red Cross, I am, sincerely yours,
P.C. Winner



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