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Letter September 29, 1918 from David Eichel to Sibyl ____


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Our experiences at the Ft. Riley guard house are sad but peculiarly instructive. We were completely at the tender mercies, whims and passions of one single second Lieut. Every time the weather was disagreeable, or his collar-button lost, some C.O. was sent to solitary on bread and water diet. I dared gaze upon his majesty and I suffered accordingly for it. Soon practically every C.O. (some 48 in all) was on bread and water diet (I should have mentioned that the same perfunctory procedure of arrest etc, with slight variations of scope was gone thru every subsequent day. I am told that at present every C.O. of the tent colony is in the guard house) Most of us refused to eat bread & water. One of the four hunger strikers declared another absolute strike as a vehement protest. Two others at least have done likewise. They deny that the Gov’t has the right to keep them in prison and deprive them of all sorts of reasonable privileges, tho they are willing to concede to the gov’t the right to detain them. I also witnessed a most brutal and cowardly assault upon a CO. Under orders from the Lieut, one of the guards rammed one fellow with the muzzle-end of the gun so forcibly in the back that the latter sank to the ground in agony.

My first day here resulted in a rather unusual experience for me. After supper we were ordered out for exercise. None of us objected to this but we could’nt respond properly to such orders as “right face” and “forward march”. We finally declared an armistice and began walking around the building. But the guard insisted upon certain formations that are rather stylish but not exactly compatible with our tastes. The guard however proceeded to convince us forcibly that such formalities were proper and nice. Finally he concentrated all his force upon me so that he almost upset me. This led me to conclude that I had had all the exercise I wanted and I informed him quite respectfully that I would walk no more. But this was not to be! These fellows know what’s good for me; hence I was ordered to march on!

My motor areas did not respond. The guard very obligingly proceeded to impart momentum to me, and believe me, he had an excess amount of propelling force. Using my neck for a steering gear and my head for a gas generator he walked me around. He imparted high speed by using his knee from the rear with such force that “he threatened to batter my political science to wreck and ruin”. My head was somewhat the worse for use, for every spot presented a ridge or sore spot. In contrast our treatment the next day was most courteous and considerate, so that I have gladly forgotten the “parade”.

Julius is now confined at the Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth – where he has been promised more lenient treatment. He is one of the very few men who have refused to work even in prison. If nothing miscarries I ought to be with him soon and I really am all expectant. I’d be pleased at a definite disposition of my case. I am tired of being played with. I must tell you, Sibyl, that all your efforts at persuading me to accept some offer are futile. I am grateful to you, tho. I have searched vainly thruout your letter for a single sentence telling me that my attitude is wrong. It is apparent to me that you are prompted by pure consideration for my personal welfare and I must say you flatter me highly. Every argument you present is from the standpoint of practicability and expediency. Even farm work you say is an opportunity. But I intend to see this business thru come what may.

I am glad you got so much pleasure from your work on the farm. Again I must say that I even hate the word farming. I guess my aversion towards it is natural. But that is not the cause of my rejecting the farm furlough offer. It is the principle of compulsion and [illegible word] that I am opposed to. I will do nothing under dictation.

Am I right in concluding that you are back at the Met?

Thanks for your information about Ed. I do not hear from him directly.


% Military Police Guard House

P.S. Have you read Ellen N. LaMotte’s “The Backwash of War”?

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