by Jess Clackum
In 2002, during the course of my genealogy research, I discovered a letter penned by my great grand-uncle during WWI, which was part of the Bryn Mawr College historical collection. Joseph Mangiere (1888-1955) was my great grandfather Thomas's older brother and one of eight children born to Italian immigrants Nicolo and Michelina Fasano Mangiere. Joe, a LT in the United States Army during the war, was 29 years old when he wrote this letter to his friend and future father-in-law Peter Rinelli.
I am now at Verdun. It was here where the Crown Prince's army was defeated and 500,000 Germans 150,000 French paid the price. There isn't a stone or tree that was not turned over or destroyed during the fierce fighting. Amid such surroundings I am thinking of you this day so far away. Thinking of you just thinking of the days to come.
We are here at a rest camp just waiting for orders, how long we will be here no one knows, but I am afraid it will be several months before we set sail for home. The army here will be divided into 3 classes. The first will be the army of occupation the second will be kept along the front line trenches or boundary line and the 3rd is in the back areas training. Rumors have it that all the fighting forces- by that I mean men who have actually been at the front and did the real fighting will be the first one's to go home let us hope and pray that this is the truce for if such is the case I will be among the first group to set sail for home. I have been in 3 big drives here against the Huns. St. Mihiel drive on Sept. 12, Argonne forest on October 15 and Grand Pre on the way towards Sedan Nov. 1. No doubt you have read about them in the papers but I will tell you my personal experience when I come home. I am safe and sound and with God's help will be with you all soon. Will think of you especially during the holidays. Best wishes to you and yours.
Your old friend Joe
I will admit dear Peter I am homesick. Now that the war is over my thoughts continually carries me back home. God bless you. Just think of me during the holidays so far away in Verdun.