"Etienne Dufau, My great-great grandfather"
By Margeurite De Joux
translated by Yael Rosen, United States World War One Centennial Commission
Isolation. Despair. Fear. These are each soldier’s true enemy. Vision, hope and connection. These keep each soldier moving forward, even in the face of relentless pain.
Meet Etienne Dufau (1896 -1950), a Sergeant in the U.S. 303rd infantry regiment.
During the war, he corresponded with “an American godmother of war” who lived in Philadelphia, her name was Ms. Eva MacAdoo.
In his unpublished memoirs, he describes the exchange of letters as a connection to the other side of the world that transcends oceans, borders and nations; and the humility and gratitude that filled him knowing that even in this far away place of America, they cared about the soldiers here in France.
This connection gave him hope, a sense of purpose, and a sense of being part of something greater.
Ms. MacAdoo would share about her life and experiences, her joy and her heartaches and how despite it all she was still madly in love with life; which provided him with an escape, and a vision of another, better world.
In August 1917, during a recognition operation in Verdun (cote 304) Etienne Dufau was injured and lost an arm and his eyesight.
He was a talented violin player and after the incident he thought he would never be able to play again. However -- Years later, he created a device that enabled him to play the violin, after all.
This was a powerful testament to his dedication, and incredibly positive outlook on life which became his legacy.
Etienne Dufau, much like his American godmother, was in love with life and held on to hope. A creative at heart, he wrote a memoir, and several poems, that were filled with raw, palpable emotions, and serve as a great reminder that even after all the atrocities, somehow humanity prevailed.
Two of his poems “A mon violon”, a tribute to his violin, and “A ceux qui viennent combattre en France”, a tribute to the American soldiers who came to France to fight the war, were published in the famed literary magazine “The Forge” in Philadelphia in 1918.
Read more: "Etienne Dufau, My great-great grandfather"
Writing "Dad and Dunk in the Great War"
"I knew I wanted to dig deeper into this decades-long relationship."
By Jenifer Burckett-Picker
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site
There was a small trunk in our house that my husband kept telling me to clean out as it was “cluttering the basement area” that he wanted to use for his hobbies. My dad had died at age 97 in 1993 and when, after almost a decade, I finally got around to opening this trunk, I found it was a treasure trove of my dad’s WWI memorabilia. In it was the revolver (with no bullets in the barrel), WWI victory medals attesting to my dad’s participation in both the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives, old maps of the Western Front in the area of Verdun, the khaki army hat and shirt, dad’s Army discharge papers, and a small, partially disintegrated, brittle envelope with something inside.
Jenifer Burckett PickerI had a feeling that the envelope contained something important. And it did! Inside was a packet of 2.5 inch by 4.5 inch white lined pages with three holes punched at the top. Written mostly in ink but occasionally in pencil was Dad’s diary from November 25, 1917, when he was sworn into service at Ft. Slocum, New York to June 14, 1922 when he left Boston on route to W. Montana. In these miniature pages, in a tiny but very readable script, was my dad’s record of his WWI service.
As I began to read these pages, I was filled with emotion. They told story of my dad’s time in WWI, and what captivated me was friendship he had formed with one of the soldiers he’d met in training camp. George Duncan ‘Dunk’ was from rural Montana and Dad, who had interrupted his studies at MIT to join the war, was from New Jersey. They became fast friends as they spent months in training camps in Maryland and then went overseas together. As I read through the diary I knew I wanted to dig deeper into this decades-long relationship.
How could I get in contact with Dunk’s family to find out more about this WWI friendship? By the early 2000s there was no chance that Dunk and his wife were alive. I knew, however, from my father’s Christmas card list that Dunk and his wife Eileen had had one child, a daughter Margaret, born in 1924. Unfortunately, women change their names when they marry so I was getting nowhere in my search for Margaret, even if she were still alive in her eighties.
Read more: Dad and Dunk in the Great War