Monday, February 21, 2011

The J.T. Fairall WWI Letters: (1) November 5, 1917

I'm grateful and honored that among my family history collection are fifty-two letters that my great-grandfather John "Jack" Tyler Fairall (b. 8 Apr 1892, d. 7 July 1972) wrote during World War I as a reconnaissance pilot in the 88th Aero Squadron.  I'm pleased to share with you not only my transcriptions of the letters, but also the scanned digitized copies of the letters and envelopes.  I have transcribed the letters word-for-word as they were written.  I will also follow up each transcription with any additional insights or interpretations I can provide based upon my research.

Firstly, a bit of an introduction to Jack Fairall's first letter, which was written while aboard a ship heading across the Atlantic Ocean from the United States.  He started out as a private rank in the Enlisted Reserve Corps on June 5, 1917.  He then attended the School of Military Aeronautics in Columbus, Ohio at The Ohio State University on June 11.  On the first of July, he was promoted to the rank of private first class.  About a month later, he then trained at the Aviation School at Wilbur Wright Field of Ohio on August 6.  Three months following that training on November 2, he was sent to Tours, France to begin his next steps of training at the 2nd Aviation Instruction Center.1

So, we begin with his first letter as he journeys eastward upon the great Atlantic ocean:

Shipboard 11/5/17

Dear Mother*

I surely am glad for this opportunity of writing.  We have had an excellent time very good food, and as quite a number of the fellows play the piano we have quite a bit of music especially after dinner.  The weather has been cloudy and for the last day or two the water has been rather rough, so far all have made very good sailors.  We are out of regular lanes of travel we have seen no ships.  On the second day out we went through a school of porpoise.  This has been the only happening to break the monotony of the water.

I received your letter saying that the sweater had been mailed but did not receive it before leaving it will be forwarded but there is no telling where it will catch up with us.

I am sorry that I was unable to see Raynor^ in New York and I surely hope that he didn't make the trip without hearing from me but I didn't receive his telegram until we were forming to leave and there was no possible chance to answer it there.  I wish that you would call him up and explain as I will be unable to write to him at this time.

Tell Cousin Estelle to write and send her "piece."  Tell every one to write but not to expect interesting letters as both the incoming and outgoing mail are censored and we are not allowed to say anything that could be of use to the Germans and as there is no telling when they might get their hands on our mail we must say nothing.


Aviation Section Signal Corps
American Expeditionary Force
Via New York, NY

P.S. I haven't received my commission yet.  Please write to Mrs. Lamien and ask her to send it home if it comes.  Then forward.  J.  

*John's mother's name was Anna E. Rentch (nee Kline, married to Milton Lee Fairall then a partner of John Elmer Rentch).
^Raynor is John's maternal uncle - Isador Raynor Kline.

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Page 4 (click for full size)

Source Citations

1 "Maryland Military Men, 1917-18," database, ( : accessed 21 February 2011), entry for John Tyler Fairall.

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