Newspaper Page Text
Brave Girl Soldiers of the Switchboard , By JOHN WALKER HARRINGTON. Mf'ENTttAL" is belying win Ameri- can victories overseas. SIic of (he Ismiling voice has been aiding Gen. Pershing for months, and has been amaz ing all France by the work of her agile fingers anil the rapid relieving of her French. The men operators have been in front line trenches and dugouts, but the great wire exchanges are in charge of young women from the United States. They are the pick of those keen wilted maid3 of the switchboard upon whose quickness and dexterity the business niea of .Xcw York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia de pended for carrying on transactions in the Lurry of commercial life. Just, as they once helped out the stock market and the wheat pit, so now they aie. plugging for our military success. Long hyi'oro the United States entered the war a Telephone Reserve Corps was formed in this country, under the direc tion of Col. John J. Carry, chief engineer of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, who is now in cbarge'of wire communications with the American Expe ditionary Forces in France. The men volunteers were drilled as infantry and then put through intensive technical train ing for military work. Some of them went over with Gen. Pershing on the first ship, along with his staff. As soon as they landed they started to work out ft system of communication, and they have been in the thick of righting ever since. Prove Thenuerres Brave Near Front. For places which were not directly ex posed to gunfire, or at least were not sup posed to be, the girl.operators were 'sent by hundreds! Many of them liave heard the roar of artillery and the whir of the Hun air bombers, but what does an Amer ican hello girl care for that! Hardly a day passes, even in piping times of peace, but that we read of-the telephone heroines. They stay at their postsin truruing build ings, they spread the news to countryside" villages and farms when dams burst and Ihey serve like good soldiers in perils that would daunt the. stoutest hearts. M. . 1 . i .11: . i . 1 ! 1. wmic me gin soiuicra ut uiu suittii - board are waiting for their call on this nf.tliA Atlantic, tlmv am drilled in. all . - tho 'technique which they will need in emergency work; Then they are sent to the cantonments to work m central 'offices under military condition, wliich are" much the same as those wliich they wUl find in France. Up to the time they step aboard the transports they are going from one large central office to another, operating wherever there are extraordinary difficul ties. i They arc soldiers just as raueh as the V men in khaki on the firing line, and they' -i wear a uniform. Perhaps you have seen i isonic of; them in the streets just before c they sailed from here. Their skirts and blouses:are of a dark navy blue, their hats, I which, nre wide brimmed and worn ex--1 acily straight, have the orange and white cord of the Signal Corps, to which they belong, and their brass buttons are duly . marked for the U. S. A. On the right sleeve of the operators of the first class is a white brassard on which is the blue outline design of a telephone ' roouthpirce. The supervisor, who Las. the ' rating of a platoon sergeant, "wears .the, Game emblem with, a wreath. around it. "Top," that is, the chief operator,, has a wreath, a transmitter and flashes of blue lightning shooting around abovcit. "Top" is always in charge of a unit, which may consist of fpm thirty to fifty operators. As messages from the front are trans mitted in both English and French, no operator left here who was not familiar with both languages. It is required that they pass from one tongue toythe other "unconsciously," and some of them can also put in a little Portuguese for good measure. The official organ of onr forces "over there," the Stars and Stripes, says of the first unit which arrived on the soil of France that the girls were equally at home with "Voulez-vons nie donuer lc Capitainc Blanque" and "Lcmme speakta Cap'n Blank, p'cas?." They can answer "Oui, mon Commandant, attendez un mo ment or "Yes, Major, just wait a min ute,' please." Miss Georgette Schar of Unit No. 3 wrote in a recent letter that although there are plenty of bombardments a per son gets used to them, and, it's the best thing in anticipation to practise hard on saying your numbers in French and to learn to talk rapidly so as not to be out done by the barrages. Life has its compensations for the daughters of the hello over there, because they are. well, cared for and excellently chaperoned. The. Government pays sala ries of $60, $72 and $120 a month, ac cording to whether or not the, switch board soldier is operator, supervisor or chief operator. In addition there is a monthly allowance or commutation of $4 a day for the first thirty days in service or until the recruit leaves the United States, if before that limit. After thirty days tlw monthly allow ances in addition to pay are $30 for lodg ing, $2i for food and $lVor light and heat. If the living expenses are met by tlie Government these allowances are not granted. All the necessary expenses are refunded. If is the intention of the'Gov ernment that the pay shall be 'free and clear above all costs. ;. AH Are 100 Per Cent. American. Doing their bit and their all is the aim whieh is uppermost in the minds of the joung women of the. white brassard. They are 100 per cent. American, and. those whose parents were foreign born are as eager a3 the native stock to do their ut most for the cause of democracy. All of them have given a ringing response to the question which is put to them, "Why do yon want to go to Franecf ' One young woman, timid, unassuming in manner, when slie was asked- that ques tion rose quickly to her feet andS brought both fists down on the table in front of the astonished official. . "You ask me that?" she demanded. !Ybu..ask me why I want to go to France after what I have told-you.the Germans have done to my home and family? I would. 'go a thousand times, even though I knew the day I landed, in France would be my last!" She was an Alsatian, and -in the his tory, of lier people there is a story of wrongs dating back half a century. "To fight and win the war," some of the fair.,switchboard soldiers say. when ths ' question,-"Why are you Lexe.!,'' is asked of them.. In the-first unit was a 'girl of English birth.wbo had reached here from;Austra fia.bylway.oi San. Francisco.-, iWhen soraq -one asked her if she was ,not afraid of be- . ing so near the front she laughed., She had been through eleven Zeppelin raids in England and had been, a passenger twice through submarine danger "zones. "What did she ears I She had worked for a while in an American munitions plant and had helped recruit for tha United States Navy as a ycowoman, but she wanted more ac tive service, and therefore she was glad of the chance to get back to the switchboard. What the girls of the Signal Corps are undergoing on the other side is shown in many a letter received at their home of fices. "Sometimes," whites Miss Lanrenc: Pechin, lately of Kan Francisco and now of Paris, "we hear the cannon joar, for the dear enemy likes to bombard us with big Bertha by day and give us air raids .it night. Neither of tliese does any good in the war game. They succeed sometimes in killing women and children and old men, but that is alL "We object to the night attacks because they disturb our slumbers. The only rea son theyido it is to weaken our morale. The -French and the Americans aretoo much alike for that and became deter mined to .see the thing turoiigh to the end. is our French friends say, 'On les aura,' and we will have them. IVevbt of- New' York, who says that Franec is-very much like the tales one read oCitHaiha'old story hooks, with its eha&;nrr, centuries -old. 4Hqw fife' fares in-thc neighborhood of American' headquarters in !Ffnnee is-conveyed by the following letter from one of the young persons who say "Number, please." "Beginning nest' week we" shall have to work all day and every' day," but'forUhe. present some- of us have either the after noon or the morning off. We .take long walks, as any exercise must be snatched . at, seeing that we sif all day. "If you were, only here to sec the beauty of it all with me! But you know' this mountainous -country and can appreciate it, too, for you arc here in spirit I know. "The. air lis. just as pure as it- can ybc, and the sky on a clear day Is.the;buiest.of bines. Tbi section is so beautiful! I do hope that ItwiiJ. be able to tay here. "This is the General Headquaric rs- of the American. Army, and every day, going to and from -work, I .pass the chateau "Our men are wonder?, filling -tua.. where Gen-Pershing resides. The house is breaches, everywhere and.pjcferring death to retreat. We feel sad when we see the cmbulances filled with 7woan,de4r bat. also we arc mighty proud of. pur boys." Filled Ambulances Wjth .-Refugee, ever guarded ar! no one stands straightcr or salutes with.iHOre'.snap than- that sen tinel.. -. t "In fact,, our hoys .are just as fine as they can be.: I .tell jqu one must come Our very . I.ami 4 .. nnnMn,. 4 1. ..... r, , . . ... .. .bosom-, swells -with pride. Lean tell you. von eould hear the stones that we near. ,, , , A . , t, , . .... . . They are mighty-glad to see -us, too, and A French woman told me with tears-in - J . , e iT ' - , ,-, eyes how the 'chew American had filled -caDnt for , feel like the ambulances and the autos with women'- tXfJm't. and children in order to save them from'1 b.nMhsn.this fel.ng nfctheeom- Mm li.nnda ni tlio liominiu whn in. 1 1 . glad I came because. J never knew before how many nice people there were in the world." . Peek at Great Personages. " vaded the city. Isn't that cnough-to make you proud of the boys?" "What do you think ?" to quote from a letter Miss Graee D. Banker of- New York, chief operator, "h im the "proud- " ; f .. - . . possessor of a Boehe helmet!-' -' ' , , e ery',T out f "Of course ff I could bare had a hand h1 fro.m Motherletter fron3Is F.resncI, in -the owner1 capture , I i .-would - hc ofeonallseco some-great person prouder. It was given -to mo by an Aus- ' "Kor-other tetephones, and the girl who tralian Captain who had carried it around" .caH 15 xer'' Ter3" Prond ever since Vimy Ridge.' t . - 'ta of Uie P- "Do you know that I. sometimes think Sot!timw me ?reat come3 that the many lands and peoples of this ,nto. our and we sit pp just .as world wiH not seem half- so far removed knight as can be and look sictly busi from one another after this--war! Con-t .fS3 bnt -,ts awfully hard not to turn stant contact with "the. soldiers of thel, Jarnn'1 3- Kttre'peep at him. . -i "UecasionnJIv we sm men comimr front 'the front." Then, too, we are right next M Allies and their colonic makes one-real ize that, after all, there isn't such a great; difference between us." - . "You have no idea' another sends, word, "how proud I, am of being over Jiere. When I think- how little I knew about people or work I am surprised that I am here. My work before all! to a base hospital, and the general nature of- the traffic accordingly brings home to us what is going ou." " ' "But the thing tliat impresses me most at times is the horses. If "yon could see those wretched beasts ! They are evidently n i a i Iipto to reenneratfi nist stntif and ul uu, iv ujiliul ux. i uiiut JB.: jui i . - x . - ; ,q . ; commander -in chief came to pay us an-, .strings, of ,jhem led by French soljiers. informal visit last Saturday., He !stayed T..Oace;Jrmust have beenfine animals.-' twenty :or twenty-five minutes :aml, dur-, They" all, seem" to be young toft Uiey are ing most.of.tliatfimel was pinching'my-. wrecks absolute wrecks. t self to see whether I. was rcaUy:awake or. . ,u and occasional wounded, being rusneU to. and trom tnc nospitai are tne only tlungs we. see which bring home poignantly that a war is going on. Some days, too, when we have a day off and happen to pass a railroad and see a troop train, we remember, but otherwise we do .par work, and .qat and sleep in a normal not. "He is the; most -.wonderful raiin'.in efery, respcet. - He .wasn't- a-bit distant or for- null, but shook hands iwith all, of us, -and. asked us individually what part of the States wee came from; and. how we -liked it, &c. , He. went all over, the-house, into every" room,.-escorted by; his .staff, -and it. 'way.j-. was. a veritable procession,, fer wc girL) .: escorted; them, through,. . "Vhen they left we iall rushed to the 5 wirulo.ws., Thm.aH.at once-verybody, -began,to talk. and. all through dkmex. and way into the evening our house was truly, as the Tower of Babel must have been.'' And here is another glimpse of the way. a switchboard soldjcr may find recreation while off duty. It is from Mis3 Suzanne "I hardly imagine though that we are going to stay here always. I know that some of us are going" to be moved to other .places in this section. Of course we know not when nor where." These arc, just a few words along the way from some of the young, women Vho arc at the switchboards at Gen. Pershing's headquarters on lines of communication or in Paris.