“Rather a peculiar thing happened a few days ago,” Lieutenant Howard Smith of Hudson Falls wrote his mother from a military hospital in France on December 26th, 1918. “One of the orderlies of this ward found a picture of me in The Post-Star while he was in another ward. It was an account of my getting a Boche.”
Smith, a military aviator, had been wounded in the arm during a combat flight over Germany.
Smith learned that the newspaper from his hometown area belonged to Lieutenant Arthur Duel of Glens Falls, who formerly worked at C.V. Peters department store in downtown.
Duel was serving with an Army medical unit at the hospital.
“Through him I learned that Ned Fursman had died over here,” Smith wrote in the December 26th letter. “I am very sorry for I know what he was to his family and how they loved him.”
Army National Guard 1st Lt. Edgar L. Fursman of Hudson Falls died October 6th, 1918 of disease, according to New Horizons Genealogy World War I honor roll. Christmas at the hospital had been pleasant, considering the circumstances.
“Christmas day was really quite enjoyable here. In fact, much more so than I had expected,” he wrote to his mother. “We had a tree in the ward, plenty of candy, nuts and other delicacies. Then there was a dance in the evening. So, you see, we had quite a pleasant day.”
It was the second consecutive Christmas in Europe for Smith, a Hudson Falls High School graduate and standout-athlete who left his studies at Harvard University in May 1917 to enlist in the military. He also spent two birthdays in Europe.
His mother sent him a Liberty Bond for one of the birthdays. For Christmas in 1917, Smith and several other soldiers enjoyed three days leave at a hotel in Naples. “Luxuries” included good food and hot baths.
“I thought of you and home many times Christmas day, mother,” Smith wrote on December 29th, 1917. “It wasn’t the most enjoyable Christmas I have experienced, but when I remember how miserable it was for the four million in the trenches, I realized fully that I was mighty to be where I was.”
“I am going to ask you to send me some of the heaviest socks you can find such as the lumbermen wear. Also a pair of heavy mittens.”
Smith returned to the states in 1919 and was treated at a military hospital at Cooperstown. He visited his mother at Hudson Falls on June 22nd.
“The young man is rapidly recovering from injuries received in action in France when he was struck in the right arm by a bullet while piloting an aeroplane over the German line,” The Post-Star reported. “The government physicians expect that he will fully recover the use of his arm.”
Smith had fully recovered from his wounds when he was discharged from the military at Hempstead, Long Island in November 1919, and by Christmas he had landed a job at the Guaranty Title and Trust Co. office in New York City.
Illustration: A European poster from the start of the First World War with hopes the war would be over soon.