Letters from Oregon Boys in France
Compiled by Mrs. Frank Wilmot 1918
Lieutenant Robert Fithian, son of Mr. and Mrs. O. H. Fithian, who has been in the aviation corps for more than a year in France, has taken many aerial photographs of German troops and territory used to determine the position of the enemy, writes the following letters to his mother:
August 24, 1918.
Normandy Hotel, Deauville,
Ed. Piper and your little boy just arrived here last night and are figuring on leaving for the southern part of the country this p. m. This is a most wonderful summer resort and very rich for my blood.
The costumes worn by the ladies and gentlemen are very brilliant and comfortable looking; would that I could dress in the same comfortable looking clothes as the French gentlemen are wearing here. But we have a little job to finish up and then back to the comfortable civilian clothing.
Have you ever been here at either Deauville or Trouville in your travels? If so, you can well appreciate the wonders of this famous beach resort. But when it comes to soaking you on the bill, the boys are not at all backward about it.
We leave this p. m. for Paris, having seen this exclusive summer resort, and from Paris we journey to Biarritz, where there is another famous summer resort on the beach near Spain. The American Red Cross operates a wonderful large new hotel there which was built before the war but never was used. At that place we can get a wonderful room and bath with three excellent meals a day for the small sum of five francs or a dollar a day. It is regular charity, but I now feel obliged to accept after a couple of days in Paris and just one here, because I haven't the heart to let these ducks continue to rob me.
The service here is wonderful and the arrangement of the hotel, the gardens, etc., are indescribable, therefore I'll not attempt to describe things, one just must see for oneself.
I am a funny duck about money, anyway. I have it to spend but hate to see it go too fast. I kind of like to have full control of it and not let the hotel man divide it up amongst his friends and himself. I have ruined the better part of $100.00 in three days, so you can figure how long my $500.00 would run me at that rate; just fifteen days and then I would have no clothing money.
The railroad fare for military persons is very how, about one-fifth of that for civilians. Our fare from Paris to Deauville was 7 francs. Deauville is just about 10 miles south of Havre, which is a port in France that is used considerable by the American and British ships; in fact, I landed there myself coming from Southampton, England.
September 10, 1918.
How is the world treating you? I trust you are in good spirits and never enjoyed better health. As for Dad, all I need ask is, "How is business ?" For Dad's business regulates his health. With a good business, he has good health, and vice versa. However, that is as it should be with any good business man.
This is a fine rainy day and the C. O. has issued 23 hour passes to the flyers, as the weather is such as to eliminate all flying. My leave to England was refused by the higher command of the A. E. F., so it is impossible for me to visit Pauline. Even Englishmen who are at the front cannot obtain leave to visit their families, so why should I be allowed to go? Very reasonable.
Was in Paris when the big German gun was pounding away and hit not for from my hotel but did little damage. I have received so many articles of clothing since coming here, have been compelled to purchase another trunk to transport my wardrobe from place to place. Some speed for me, for I am not much on the dress, but now "C'est la guerre" I guess that is correct. Translated into Oregon it means "that is caused by the war." When it comes to French phrases I am just as much at home as an Oregon salmon on the Sahara desert.
Flying is the greatest game in the world. To be up in the clouds in a machine that can do better than over 100 miles an hour, and have the right of way, is beyond words.
I spent a Sunday in Limoges. It is a quaint and very interesting city. The country round there is very similar to southern Oregon. I met Whit Clock, while there and he is looking fine.
I need nothing at present but a leave to England to visit Pauline, which I hope to have some day.
Ed. Piper and I, just returned from a trip to Deauville, a very fine seaside resort on the north coast of France, where we enjoyed the bathing as the water is much warmer than at our beaches at home.
Will close for this time, with love to you both.
From your son,