This 132-page diary chronicles the experiences of Bert C. Whitney, of Washington, Michigan, who served with the 304th Sanitary Train in France during World War I. Whitney described his transatlantic voyages, his experiences near the front line at Verdun in late 1918, and his travels around France after the armistice.
Collection processed and finding aid created by Richard C. Bates, February 2006; Mary Parsons, May 2006; and Meg Hixon, August 2012
Scope and Content:
This 132-page diary chronicles the experiences of Bert C. Whitney, of Washington, Michigan, who served with the 304th Sanitary Train in France during World War I. Whitney described both of his transatlantic voyages, his experiences near the front line at Verdun in late 1918, and his travels around France after the armistice. The journal is housed in a leather wallet, and has a drawing of a flag on its inside cover.
Whitney began his account in early July 1918, while en route to Brooklyn, New York, where his regiment embarked for France on July 10. During his time at sea, he described the ships in his convoy, submarine scares, and daily life onboard the transport ship Lutetia. Shortly after their arrival at Brest on July 21, Whitney recounted his movements in France until mid-September, when he reached the front lines. Though he did not participate directly in active combat, he described life behind the lines and witnessed artillery barrages, gas attacks, and aerial battles. Near the end of the war, he remarked about the destruction of the area around Verdun and anticipated an armistice, particularly after he saw a German delegation on their way to meet with General John J. Pershing. On November 11, 1918, Whitney counted down the final minutes of active combat, noting the ferocity of the fire until the stroke of 11:00 a.m. After the armistice, he recorded his travels around France and his negative opinions of French soldiers. He embarked for the United States in the spring of 1919 and wrote his final entry on May 30, 1919, as the ship approached the United States. Enclosures include poppies taken from a battlefield (pressed into the volume around October 22, 1918), 2 military documents related to his promotion to sergeant, and a poem entitled "Romeo to Verdun," printed in the Romeo Observer.
Biographical / Historical:
Bert C. Whitney was born in Washington, Michigan, on March 3, 1893, the son of William H. Whitney and Lucy E. Mason. Following his father's death, his mother married John J. Baker, who had an older son, Park. Whitney worked for the Detroit United Railway before registering for the draft on October 7, 1917. He joined the 304th Sanitary Train later that month. Whitney served as a wagoner and ambulance driver in France between July 1918 and May 1919, and rose to the rank of sergeant. After the war, Whitney lived in Detroit, Michigan, where he worked as a builder. He and his wife Laura had one daughter, Jeanne Bertina. Bert C. Whitney died on May 3, 1973.
2006. M-4528 .
Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.
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Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
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