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Ancestral Heroes, Your Ancestors, Fathers, Mothers, Grandfathers, Grandmothers, Uncles, Aunts, Friends, Who Served in the Civil War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, World War I, World War II, Korean Conflict, Vietnam War, Gulf War.... and defended our freedom.
Riggs, Carroll G.
It is not unusual to hear of one of our alumni in almost any corner of the earth, yet who would expect to find an ex-Tacoma boy at Verdun? Carroll Riggs, [Stadium High School, Tacoma, Washington Yearbook] business manager in '09, is engaged in the American Ambulance service there, along the battle front. Mr. Riggs graduated from Yale last June, and with nine of his classmates left at once for Europe.
A number of engagements recently announced are of special interest to us.
At the last moment we had the good fortune to receive a letter from Mr. Riggs, whose interesting work was mentioned above. Engaged in the most arduous duties "somewhere in France," he has most generously complied with our request to tell us of his life near the firing line.
Quelque part en France. April 29, 1916.
The Tahoma can claim my little services any time my whereabouts offer material of interest. This time I feel like a volume and have little faith in affording copy of interest within the space of a letter. However, know that our comforts are those of a French soldier and that is why I must write this seated inside my car upon my bed. German prisoners, captured last night in the soggy trenches, soiled to the neck, climb the road fifteen feet from us. Aeroplanes descend 100 feet above our heads, with the harmonious whistle of their wings and wires perpetually in our ears, bringing news from the front and from behind the German lines to the aviation pare across the road. We mix well with aviators, in fact, with all Frenchmen. Quite naturally we were obliged to meet them with their own language. It was labor, but an interesting and now most entertaining accomplishment. Must not devulge any secret or this will not arrive. Please be patient if I can only give you a general idea of where we are located. We, made up of college graduates principally, number 20 in section No. 2 of the American Ambulance, are credited with being one of the most mobile sections, and for past services were complimented by an opportunity to take part against the German offensive around Verdun. That battle would fill out a High School course, and our little part consisted in driving wounded brought in by Frenchmen, over a shell swept road: so shelled, in fact, that we were obliged to learn the road over again each time we passed by the shelled districts; for to drive into a hole meant the ruination of your car. Eclats, or pieces of shell, have whistled by our ears; the explosion often obliging us to drive through its dust. Many of us have come in, our hair on end, only too willing to let off pressure of excitement by relating what just missed us on our last trip. It was imperative that the road be used—the only avenue of issuance; that is why soldiers and horses were killed on it. They missed us, and let me confess, it was splendid fun to be missed. This was of two weeks duration. The first two weeks of the German drive. Since, we have been moved again, nearer Verdun, and yet out of gun fire. At the present moment our dangers are confined to the air ; should a Zeppelin or an aeroplane make a call. May it be said with penitence that a few of us without permission, eager to observe from a position more proximate, drove our cars beyond Verdun, after inspecting the battered historical city, until the expected appearance of a shell explosion and then some more drove us back. We had been within two kilometres of the fiercest battle ground the world falls heir to. We had penetrated far within the French artillery, and our ears were deaf from the departures, suddenly revealing cannot fifty feet away ingeniously concealed from German aeroplanes. Why they allow the Americans such license I can not answer. I guess it is be cause they take it. We have witnessed aeroplane combats in air and in every instance the German fell. The aviators relate their experience to us.
Most interesting. Would like to make a flight with them. We have seen Navarre drop two German machines precipitately from several miles in the air, after the Germans had dropped bombs near us. What falls they were! And the cars we drive: They are disguised Fords competing with cars that cost $ 7,000 and $8,000. The beauty of it all is that from the stand point of the wounded they are better, and the trouble they give is nominal. The practical Ford has never rendered a better service. We have covered more than 200 miles in a day at times while carrying wounded. It is the sling to the body we have put on which renders the ambulance disposed to easier riding. I wish I might send you pictures, but there is not the possibility of a chance; regulations to the contrary. Pictures that arrive in the U. S. are carried across by someone. Be sure that we pride ourselves in the care we give the wounded in our charge. It is greatly abetted by Americans who generously send us tobacco for distribution. To be sure, I have mentioned little, hoping thereby not to intrude upon the Censor's peace of mind and thereby facilitating the passage of these lines: "tandisque main-tenant je peux voir s'esquisser sur la bouche de cuistot les mots a table."
CARROLL G. RIGGS '09.
Letter from the Alumni Section of the June 1916 Yearbook of Lincoln High School and Stadium High School