Today on Tablet, Naomi Sandweiss writes about her grandfather who proudly straddled the seam between American and Jew during his service in World War I.
Benjamin didn’t try to hide some of the realities of warfare from his family. In his letters, which are in my father’s safekeeping, Benjamin wrote his brother Louis about the equipment he encountered during training: “Dear Brother, as I see you take an interest in warfare, let me explain a few things. About the gas mask. It is made of rubberized goods and the eyes through which you look are made of glass. You breathe through your mouth as there is a pair of pinchers which is the mask which fits tight about your nose. And right under your chin, there is a rubber pipe, which is connected to a tin box. It can protect you for 17 hours. After that it is no good. I had it on for about a half-hour and I nearly choked. But the average time they wear it is eight hours, which is the rule on the European battle front.” By February 1918, Benjamin and his unit were in active service in France where they kept the railroad tracks in good shape and supplied the boys in the trenches with ammunition and supplies. On Aug. 2, 1918, he reported, “As I am writing this letter, I can hear the roar of the Artillery.”
It’s a great story. Check it out here.