|James Henry "Harry"|
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Harry did, in fact, serve in the military police of the 26th Division during World War I. What I came across that amazed me was an account, in his own words, of his experience.
On January 18, 1919 as the war had drawn to a close, The Fitchburg Sentinel published an article with war accounts from three soldiers. One was Harry Tapply excerpted from a letter to his sister (named only as 'Miss Tapply') The newspaper scan was in very poor condition, so I will give you an abbreviated version here:
"I am still in Montigny-le-Roi and I hope when we move it will be toward the coast but I read in the paper that all the veteran divisions will remain here until peace is signed. If that is true we will be here for some time yet.
The other day I went hunting wild boar with the town mayor of Montigny. We has no luck though, but the experience was wonderful. In all there were nine dogs. We have had much better food after the signing of the armistice and have had it more regular. For dinner yesterday we had hamburger steak, creamed carrots, mashed potatoes, bread pudding, coffee and bread with butter. We never got such food as that at the front. Very often after marching all day we got nothing but bread and coffee and sometimes we had nothing to eat for two days.
While we were on these marches we slept whenever we stopped. Sometimes in gutters or fields and to make things more pleasant the Boche would send over whiz-bang and black Marias and many other things too numerous to mention. A fellow thinks of home when he sees a chum blown to bits and has to pick him up in a blanket.
At Chateau (unreadable) I went through a wheat field........in size and counted 36 mothers’ sons who would never return. Some of them mere boys with innocent faces and all were volunteers from our own division.
At Verdun it was even worse. Everywhere a Yankee fell a rifle was placed on end by running the bayonet into the ground. You could look out across most any part and see hundreds of such rifles denoting that many hundred would never return.
I went through Belleu woods and the sights I saw cannot be imagined by any human being. The woods themselves were demolished and men were buried half covered up and with hands and feet sticking out of the ground the and the odor was ...... You can see why the volunteers are ..... These were ……. of the sights and horrors of war.
I wonder how many of the men back home running things would say ‘ go on ‘ if they had to do the going and ………..
All I can say is we are all thankful it is over and that we are ……..pushing………No Man’s Land."
I don't think any words could make his experience plainer. Harry Tapply came home with this loss and others to join the Fitchburg police force. He remarried, had four more children, and served with honor until his death in 1942.