Thanksgiving in France
Posted On: 11/23/2017 - 10:33am, Posted By: Christine Engels, Archives Manager, Manuscripts Department
There was much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day in France in 1918. The war had ended and some US soldiers had already been sent home. Other soldiers remained there for a time while Europe regained some semblance of stability. Clarence R. Runk (1897-1970) was still in Bordeaux, France when Thanksgiving arrived. Runk was the son of Stacy B. and Pearl Runk of Cleves, Ohio. He was in the 522 Motor Truck Corps and was an ambulance driver during World War I. Runk attained the rank of Sergeant First Class before his discharge on July 29, 1919.
Runk’s December 4, 1918 letter home to his father is typical of soldiers’ letters no matter when they were written. Most include complaints about how few or how short their letters to are. They often ask pointed questions born out of the frustration of not being at home and feeling out of the loop. Soldiers complain about their work detail and the lack of information they get from military. Usually they also include at least one nice story so family back home doesn’t worry too much. In this letter Runk tells his father that he is stationed at a park where a variety of trucks and cars are being assembled. He didn’t know how long they would be there and it was hard for him to watch other Americans leave for home. His impatience and frustration with his situation is clear throughout the letter. He uses a derogatory term for the French, saying that he was “ready to be done with this frog country.” He also expressed annoyance that their work continued on the same as it did before the armistice and that “you can’t tell the war has stopped.”
Runk describes his Thanksgiving dinner with a French family. “At Thanksgiving I went to a French home for dinner. We had all kinds of wine and meat but no potatoes and deserts [sic].” He then goes on to explain that he can understand but not speak French fluently, however the family knew a bit of English so the “conversation didn’t drag.” He concludes his letter by describing the gifts he is sending family members that he hoped would arrive by Christmas. Runk himself hoped to be home by Spring.