Jennings Goff of Guthrie County, Iowa, in action just eleven days, was ready to go to the front again in the Haute-Alsace sector. He wrote to his parents, Sherd and Laura Goff of Guthrie Center, Iowa, that on the 11th month, 11th day and 11th hour the war ended. “I was within sound of the guns when they stopped at 11:00 sharp.” He celebrated with a bottle of beer but didn’t feel well afterward. He expected to be home before the daisies bloomed again.
His brother Wayne never got to the front, but brother Merl was there two days. Merl wrote that he had his “fighting pack rolled Sunday morning and ready for the order to go to the big front. We were close enough to hear the big guns plain. We heard the last shots. We heard the armistice was signed but didn’t know whether to believe it or not, till the big noise stopped.”
Their oldest sister, Leora (Goff) Wilson, remembered learning the good news about the Armistice the next morning. The family got in the car and drove the country roads into Guthrie Center to celebrate, along with people from miles around. “The whistle in town blew while all marched down main or State Street, through the town and back.”
Can’t you just imagine the jubilation all up and down Guthrie Center’s main street, people dressed up and celebrating! I wonder how Leora’s small sons liked the town whistle. Their dad and grandfather kept the boys corralled while they visited with friends and neighbors. Leora and her mother took turns carrying10-week-old baby Doris.
Leora wrote in her memoirs, decades later, “It was a very happy time and we stayed ‘til late at night. An effigy of the Kaiser was burned. . .”
An effigy of the Kaiser? In Guthrie Center?
An effigy is a model of someone. If used in a protest, it is usually a rough representation. Burning someone in effigy probably goes back centuries.
After World War I, the Kaiser was burned in effigy across Europe and the United States.
Even in Guthrie Center, Iowa.
After the Armistice
Jennings wrote that he expected to be home “before the daisies bloomed again,” but after the Armistice, there was no letup of work. The 88th Division started an intensive four-weeks’ training program, in case they were called as part of an Army of Occupation. And they were ordered to collect salvage from their sector of the battle area all traces of over four years of warfare.
Sugar was rationed at home, but even after the fighting was over, the soldiers also had a hard time finding candy in France. Merl asked his mother to send some of the best candy she could for Christmas, without coconut. He bought some French candy but it made him sick all night.
That’s what Jennings wanted, too. Jennings had grown a mustache, but it must not have lasted very long. He told his sister that she didn’t need to be afraid of him coming home with a female hanging on his arm. “One American girl is worth a dozen French,” he wrote from Reffroy, France.
Wayne had also tried a mustache, writing from Plombeieres that the French girls said, “mustache good–no mustache, no good–so I get the razor and whacks it off, because I wouldn’t want to bring home a wife that I couldn’t talk to.”
Merl, at Trevery, had been “up to the front Halloween night, but they didn’t pick me off.” He thought they should stay overseas until the flu improved in America. Besides, it was more fun over there, he added.
After Thanksgiving, they began a long march to Gondrecourt, accompanied by inspectors from the Army, who observed discipline, etc., according to the history of the 88th Division in the World War. And the area turned out to be a trying period for the soldiers–dirty shambling villages, stony soil, and the weather! Rain was almost constant, mud everywhere. But they began training anyway.
Wayne helped load trucks there with potatoes, cabbage and onions. He’d played baseball and watched musicians, and the phonograph was playing. Their infantry band played in the dining hall. They were in an area of “rock, wild hogs, canals and jack rabbits. We also have some deer over there, two kinds.” He wrote from a town called Baudignecourt. He went to Mondelaincourt, which he called “Moodle-doodle,” to have three teeth filled. While there he also bought souvenir hankies to send home home, also a silk apron for his first niece.
From The Guthrian, December 1918: At a women’s meeting the other day a speaker warned the assembly against the purchase of Hun toys, which she said were coming to this country by the ship load. She advised the audience to look for the manufacturer’s stamp, and to buy nothing made in Germany. We doubt if many Hun toys will get here for Christmas, but doubtless many Hun products will seek a market here when trade channels open. . . . But if you are particular you look for the made in U.S.A. stamp and then you are sure that you are not fattening the pocket of a baby butcherer. The combination of Wilhelm’s Gott and Santa Claus doesn’t somehow appeal to civilized folks.
The war was over but there were still hard feelings against Germany.
By the end of December, the 88th Division was the first to complete the first period of training, even though they marched daily in “tenacious” mud and steady drizzle or even heavy showers. They were given two weeks’ rest over Christmas and New Year, with no work done after noon.
Our Doughboys, as they were called, still had no idea when they’d be able to come home.
Sources: Goff and Wilson family letters, 88th Division in the World War (1914-1918), The Guthrian newspaper.
Story from Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots