- "A Million Kisses":Love Letters from a Doughboy in France Part Two of Two
In the July 2010 issue of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, we published the letters of Corporal Roscoe C. Chittim, drafted into the U. S. Army in June 1918, to his wife, Vera, in Dallas. Written between September and November 1918, they described his experiences at Camp Dix, New Jersey, and on the battlefront in France. Corporal Chittim survived the influenza pandemic, which hit Camp Dix hard, and the Meuse Argonne Offensive that brought World War I to an end on November 11, 1918. Hoping to be discharged a month later, Roscoe learned that he had instead been reassigned to the Military Police Corps (MPC) in the Loire Valley of central France, where he would now spend three more months before making his way home to his beloved bride, who waited for him in Texas. In January 1919, Roscoe trained at the MPC camp at Caserne Changarnier in Autun, then joined the 2nd Provisional Company at the regional MP headquarters in Parigne L'Eveque, a village just south of Le Mans. His letters during this transitional time were few and brief until he had settled in, but the ones that followed were often long and ever passionate. As explained in the first set of letters, Vera wrote her husband many letters, but Roscoe was unable to save them while in France, and only a handful that were returned to Dallas are extant. All the spelling and grammar has been left as Roscoe and Vera wrote them. [End Page 153]
Roscoe wrote this deeply personal letter to Vera on February 2, 1919, describing the depth of his longing for her.
Sweetheart Wife, Today is Sunday and hours have been like months all day. I've been thinking and getting myself into a worry about you, and my thoughts seem to turn into a song of the soul—my love all goes out to you in one big bunch. My thoughts wander on and on of our great happiness then comes that terrible—something perhaps has happened to cause you to not love me anymore or maby you are sick or dead. So many things can happen in such a short time while I am away from you and I am not there to watch over you and be responsible for you.
I want this letter to be one personal to you and our private letter. I haven't written one to you in a long time that I knew was to be private. So be careful with this one. The censorship does not bother me because he does not know either me or you.
Do you remember our Sundays that we used to spend together and what fun we had? Well that is what I have been thinking about and I shiver when I recall some of those days. How I want to have you close to me and feel your warm breasts up against me and your little whispers. Those things all remind me now of a little bird cooing to her mate. You were so sweet so perfect to me and your ready response to my love for you. Can't you feel dear how I want those days back again, those wonderful sympathetic days of love and devotion.
Sometimes I can imagine you in some other man's arms, then I realize how impossible that would be for you to do. Sweet can't you understand how terrible it is for me to stay over here away from you—my wife, my sweetheart, my lover, and my baby, and I want you in each one of those capacities and toot-sweet (French for quick).
These cold nights I certainly miss my little stove, how I would love to take you in my arms and cuddle you up close to me and pull hair—long red ones, and have you talking to me all down under my arm and everything. It gives me the creeps to think about it. O what a wonderful sensation it would be again.
But just to know that you were near me is what I want most...