Harold Kamp journal  1917-1919
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Collection Scope and Content Note

Harold Kamp's diary from the First World War is well written, direct, and packed with action. Reflecting the active part taken by the 146th Field Artillery in three of the major offensives to involve American troops -- the Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne -- Kamp's diary provides a well-rounded sense of artillery service during the First World War, from training with shells to raining shells. A well educated man, Kamp was an accomplished writer, fond of displaying his interest in the ancient history of the fields over which he fought. At the same time, his diary is very economically written, conveying the intense fear and repulsion felt by a young man confronted by the horrors of modern warfare. At some point, probably after the war, Kamp's diary was edited by striking through or emending certain passages. In many cases Kamp's (?) efforts to strike through his writing did not fully obscure the original passage, and in deciphering these sections, it appears that the editing was aimed more at readability than censorship.

Kamp's writing conveys a particularly profound sense of the terror of modern, large-scale war and of the chaos and tumult of battle during his first exposure to fire in the Aisne-Marne offensive in July, 1918. His best writing, however, was reserved for the Meuse-Argonne offensive of September and October, and particularly for the entries of September 25, 26, and 27. On the 25th, contemplating the utter destruction near Verdun, Kamp's literary penchant worked strongly in his favor:

The guns are in position, four of them, on a roadway, where once the villagers gossiped and lived their daily life. But all that is past. Now every lane and street and corner is the retreat for a death dealing gun. How strange it is that no matter in what direction the eye may turn not a sign of human life is visible. A sort of nightmare seems to have taken hold on the war stricken area. Everything is as still as death; birds have f[org]otten their song, the trees no longer have life; little children have ceased their play.

The entry for September 26 is by far the longest in the journal, continuing for several pages. Begun when he was awakened by the first artillery salvoes marking the opening of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, Kamp's excitement is palpable, but the passage includes particularly detailed accounts of watching an American plane shoot down a German, and watching German planes bring down an observation balloon in a dramatic display. The entries throughout the Meuse-Argonne offensive are uniformly informative.

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