Letter July 6, 1919 fro David Eichel to Parents




Letter July 6, 1919 fro David Eichel to Parents




WWI conscientious objection / objectors


Eichel, David


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.






Letter [#69] from David Eichel, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

[July 6, 1919]

Dear folks:

We received Will's letter of June 30 and Abe's letter of July 1. We are happy to learn that Berkowitz was able to depict conditions here, so that you are now relieved of any anxiety resulting from uncertainty.

We have hitherto kept more or less silent about the brand of food we are obliged to exist on in the D.B's. We have kept silent because we felt that the authorities here intended to live up to their promises that the food would be improved. But the fact of the matter is that the food is getting steadily worse and worse; at times unfit to eat while very often resulting in complete nausea. This is no wild exaggeration. I am trying my darndest to be honest about this criticism.

It may sound petty and inconsequential to protest against so material a thing as food, yet for prisoners doomed to eat what is served them or starve; who depend entirely upon the food served them and who are not permitted to obtain food from any other sources, it assumes, you may be sure, some importance.

One of the great issues in the D.B. strike of January was the betterment of the prison fare, which was indeed intolerable. The officials promised that the food would improve. A mess-officer from Funston was put in charge of the D.B. kitchen, with a view of establishing a systematic mess-system and better the food. He is quoted as having said that there was no reason why the prison menu should not at least be as good as any ordinary soldier company, and every reason why it should be better. The money allowance for soldiers and prisoners, I understand is the same, and since the prison

population is at least 8 times as large as the ordinary company, and since every house-wife knows it to be a law of domestic economy that it is cheaper to buy on a large scale and cook for a large number, it follows that ordinarily our food should be superior to that of the soldiers. But apparently we are not dealing with ordinary circumstances.

When the new mess-officer assumed control there was a marked and noticeable improvement in the food. It was possible to give us hard-boiled eggs twice or three times during the week, or give us scrambled eggs, a fine quality of corn-flakes, buns and cake, fresh milk, decent meats etc. Yet at no time was the food as good as the food I got, for example at the Funston or Riley guard-houses.

Of late things that were tolerably palatable are gradually disappear

ing from the menu and there is a gradual retrogression to pre-strike conditions. Eggs-in-shell has disappeared forever, and an adulterated scrambled egg has been restored. This consists of a few eggs mixed with a great quantity of flour and starch, so that it results in a mixture that is more like a starchy dough than scrambled eggs. For the past three weeks we have been getting this stuff three times a week. You may be sure that it is hardly pleasing to the eye and much less to the taste. The corn-flakes that were of good quality have been replaced by the very cheapest brand the market offers. At times the flakes were actually worm-eaten. For some inexplicable reason fresh milk is no longer given to men on light diet, but canned milk has been substituted. Of late, prunes sent to men on light diet have been moldy and worm-eaten. I forgot to say that some two weeks ago the vegetarians sent a committee to Lt. Col. Smith, the Executive officer asking that the better corn-flakes be given them again. He promised

to take up the matter, but apparently nothing came of it. Well, it is impossible to adequately describe the stuff that comprises the prison menu. Suffice it to say that it is rank and in no wise comparable to the food served in the ordinary soldiers' mess.

We had a chicken dinner for July 4. It consisted of a lot of gravy and a few scraps of chicken, and this is passed off as chicken.

Today as we were eating dinner Col. Allison, Col. Smith and two more officers came down for inspection. Some of the boys spoke about the food. Col. Smith smelled the corn-flakes. I am quite certain they had the customary corn-flake smell. One of the men told the Col. that the buns were half-baked and so they were. Of course this is not a legitimate kick, since the buns had all the ingredients essential for good buns, and all they required was

proper attention. But Col. Allison, instead of admitting that they were unfit to eat as they were, insisted that they were perfectly all right.

Well, this is roughly the food situation here, and in the words of the mess officer there is no earthly reason why we should not get as good food as any soldiers. If there is'nt any reason then we would like to get it. Apparently there is some reason and I am confident that you would be interested in learning why. We have'nt the information, but you know how to get it.

Julius and I are feeling O.K. Nothing of importance has happe[ne]d. We still expect something to happen shortly.

Our love and regards to all.

Box 60

P.S. Julius will answer Abe.


Eichel, David, “Letter July 6, 1919 fro David Eichel to Parents,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed September 22, 2021, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/58.

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