Looking to buy? See our books on amazon.com Get Reading Now! Age of Aces Presents - free pulp PDFs

Painton’s Letters Home from WWI | 30 November 1918

Link - Posted by David on December 18, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS month we’re featuring Frederick C. Painton’s letters he wrote home while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. Portions of these letters were published in his hometown paper, The Elmira Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York. Before the war young Fred Painton had been doing various jobs at the Elmira Advertiser as well as being a part-time chauffeur. He was eager to get into the scrap, but was continually turned down because of a slight heart affliction and was not accepted in the draft without an argument. He was so eager to go that he prevailed upon the draft board to permit him to report ahead of his time. Painton left Elmira in December 1917 with the third contingent of the county draft for Camp Dix but was again rejected. He was eventually transferred to the aviation camp at Kelly Field as a chauffeur, and in a few weeks’ time was on his way to England in the transport service with an aviation section, where he landed at the end of January 1918 as part of the 229th Aero Supply Squadron. He was transferred to the 655 Aero Squadron in France shortly thereafter and then to the 496th and eventually attached to the staff of The Stars and Stripes just before the end of the war.

ARMISTICE DAY Parisians flood the streets and party hard after hearing the war was over.
11 November 1918


Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York • 30 November 1918

Sergeant Frederick Painton Tells of Being in Paris, When Good News Is Received—City Declares Three Day Holiday and Wild Scenes Are Enacted.

Sergeant Frederick Painton, formerly of the 496th Aero Squadron and now attached to the staff of The Stars and Stripes had the enjoyable experience of being in Paris when the news came that the war was over. His description of the seen that followed in the French capital gives an indication of the great joy the end of the war brought to the Frenchmen, and not the least enjoyment for the American soldiers, who happened to be in Paris was the enthusiasm of the girls, or the “flappers,” as Sergeant Fred calls them. With their streets lined with war material captured from the Huns and the street lights operated again after four years of darkness, the Frenchmen gave themselves to celebration in utter abandon.

Fred Painton is a son of Mr. and Mrs. George Painton of this city, and a former Elmira newspaperman. He was among the first Elmirans to land in France, being attached to the aviation service as an automobile driver. As a result of his newspaper experience, young Painton has secured a place on the American soldiers’ official paper, The Stars and Stripes.

His description of the celebration in Paris, written the day after the armistice was signed, follows:

“I arrived in Paris Sunday night, so I was here yesterday when the announcement came that hostilities were over and that the armistice had been signed. From that moment yesterday morning, when the Parisians were informed that the war was over, they went mad, simply mad, with joy.

“Never before have I witnessed such a demonstration as took place, commencing yesterday afternoon, and still in progress. As I sit here typing, this letter to you, I can hear the yells and cheers of the people as they promenade ceaselessly back and forth on the Boulevard Des Italians. It has been said that the French government has declared a three days holiday, and I can well believe it, as I doubt much whether anyone would work at any price.


“The town, the people and the vehicles are bedecked with streamers, flags and ribbons of the colors of the various allied countries. Yesterday afternoon about 5 o’clock as I left the office, the boulevard was a seething mass of swaying, demonstrative humanity in the midst of which were several taxicabs and fiacres stalled and unable to move. Impromptu parades were formed and the howling mob chanted the national anthems of the Allied powers. To use a hackneyed phrase, the scene was beyond description. If you can picture Elmira on an election night and then magnify it a thousandfold, you may perhaps be able to visualize the sight I have witnessed for the past two days. Coincident with the announcement of cessation of warfare, the lights of Paris, which have, for the past four years been turned off or darkened, were turned on full blast and tonight, the boulevard almost puts in the shade our “Great White Way.”

“On both sides of the Champs Elysee, the place de la Concorde and the Fuileries Gardens have been placed captured artillery and airplanes. They range from a machine gun to a grim siege mortar and from a giant Gotha bombing plane to the tiny dragon fly of a Fokker. There are literally thousands of pieces and to one unaccustomed to seeing large displays, perfectly appalling.


“When it comes to “taking joy out of life”, a Frenchman takes the “brown derby”. After four years of repression, they have cut loose with an abandon which, if tried in the United States would land them all in jail. As I was walking down to the hotel in company with another chap, we were violently assaulted by vivacious French girls and strenuously kissed to the intense enjoyment of the bystanders and our distinct embarrassment(?) It’s said, and I can well believe it, that two hours after the glad news was unknown that one could not buy a flag or piece of bunting in Paris. It is very amusing to us, who take our enjoyments more or less quietly, to watch the violent and hysterical manifestations of joy of these volatile French. All places of business were closed except the cafes and restaurants which did a pre-war business.

“It has been one of the great moments of my life, and I would not have missed it for any amount of money and will always owe The Stars and Stripes a debt for being instrumental in getting me here in time.

“The intense enthusiasm seems to be catching, for Italian, American, British, Aussies, Canadians, Portuguese and other soldiers yell as loud as the French and festoon themselves just as fantastically. In a way it reminds one of the Mardi Gras of New Orleans, as there is no limits placed on anyone’s wildest eccentricities. The kissing of the very pretty French “flappers,” at any rate, is contagious to say the least.

“Of course, with my change in stasix for which I am in a way genuinely sorry, as the old girl and I covered 10,000 miles of French soil ranging from end to end, on good roads and bad. I can at least say when I come back I have taken a personally conducted tour of France which covered everything very thoroughly.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

>>RSS feed for comments on this post.   >>TrackBack URL

Leave a comment