US World War I veteran Fred Rike’s postcards to his sweetheart back home. Photo by Richard Alan Hannon

In order to have a more complete understanding of World War I, these yellowed, dog-eared postcards and souvenir folders mailed to loved ones backs home have been revived from their shoeboxes.

This first set of postcards come from US WWI veteran Fred Rike, who was a family friend of my wife’s grandparents (seen with Rike in the collage photograph at top, left). The collection was recently passed down to us.

• Souvenir panoramic image of Camp Sherman, a World War I military training camp built on farmland near Chillicothe, Ohio in just three months in 1917 as the US entered the war.

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See these links for more information on Camp Sherman:

– From the Ohio History Connection.

– To celebrate the camp’s 100 anniversary in 2017, Chillicothe sponsered  Camp Sherman Days

– This website, and its subsequent pages, paints a more grim picture of the camp, where one can see (with additional photographs provided) where soldiers learned how to dig the trenches that would become synonymous with World War I.

 

• Collection of WWI-era postcards of Paris, France, in color.

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• Souvenir folder featuring the USS George Washington, a troop transport ship with an interesting history.

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On the night of April 12, 1914, prior to being commissioned by the US Navy, she passed a large iceberg off Newfoundland and radioed a warning to all ships, including the ill-fated Titanic, which sunk the next morning after striking an iceberg. The ocean liner also carried President Woodrow Wilson to France for the Paris Peace Process.

 

• Postcard booklet featuring images of the bombed city of Verdun, France.

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French and German troops, each delivering massive and relentless artillery bombardments, battled it out for 303 days around the French city of Verdun in 1916. Making for the longest and largest battle of the First World War along the Western Front, with estimated casualties near 1 million lives. The UK newspaper the Daily Mail has a well-illustrated and written piece about the battlefield as it is today. Travel expert Rick Steve’s tells of his visit to the battlefield here.  Or see Wikipedia’s entry here.

 

 

The second set of postcards below comes from my grandfather, also a WWI veteran, and a man I remember only through faded photographs and brief flashbacks whenever a Lawrence Welk show is televised. His choice of postcards to send home to family, along with the upbeat but sparcely-written wording on each, portray a happier atmosphere than the bombed out images of what was once Verdun. It is a striking comparison I wish I would have been old enough to speak with him about. It makes me question whether he and his fellow troops were told to refrain from specifics in their correspondence.

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Ending on a colorful note, this postcard, once again from Fred Rike to his wife Fern, features embroidery that no doubt would have made a beautiful impression upon arriving in the mail.

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An embroidered silk postcard with the flags of the United States, the UK, France and Germany, plus the words Souvenir of France. This WWI-era postcard was given to Fern Nave from her husband, Fred Ride, a US WWI veteran.
An embroidered silk postcard with the flags of the United States, the UK, France and Germany, plus the words Souvenir of France. This WWI-era postcard was given to Fern Nave from her husband, Fred Rike, a US WWI veteran.

 

My grandfather in his Army uniform
USS America (1905) steams up Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, upon arrival from France with troops of the 26th Division on board on 5 April 1919. Source U.S. Naval Historical Center

Grandfather sailed home on the USS America. He was injured in a mustard gas attack on November 3, 1918.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fred Rike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Army WWI veteran Fred Rike’s draft card

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The images reproduced above are for educational use only. If you are interested in learning more about the collecting and care of historic postcards, or only wish to see an exhaustive collection, Metropostcard.com is a fascinating and detailed site. The postcards on this page are not for sale.