John Morrison Michener WWI correspondence
Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081
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Overview and metadata sections
John Morrison Michener (1894-1986) was a Quaker high school chemistry teacher from Wichita, Kansas, who served as a medic in France during WWI. He was the son of Homer Michener and Susanna May Morrison, members of University Friends Church, Wichita. Drafted in February 1918, he was assigned to a non-combatant company, Ambulance Company 353 of the 314th Sanitary Train, 89th Division, which trained at Camp Funston, a U.S. Army training camp located on Fort Riley, The camp also served as a detention center for conscientious objects and was the location of some of the first recorded influenza cases in the United States later that year. The United States Army Ambulance Service (USAAS) was a unit of the United States Army during World War I, established by the War Department in May 1917 to provide medical services to the Allied Armies.
Before being shipped overseas to serve in France in July 1918, he married fellow teacher Anna Jane Baker in Wichita. John Michener was honorably discharged June 3, 1919. A younger brother, R. Bryan Michener (1898-1992) served with Friends Relief Service in 1919 and subsequently with Friends Mission in Kenya Africa, 1930-1938. John and Anna Jane Michener were members of University Monthly Meeting; Anna Jane Michener was a community and civil rights activist in Wichita.
The collection contains the correspondence of John Morrison Michener (1894-1986), Quaker high school chemistry teacher from Wichita, Kansas, who served as a medic in France during WWI. His letters provide detailed descriptions of his training in Camp Funston, Kansas, and his service in field hospitals in France and in a hospital in Bitburg, Germany, after the end of the War.
Gift of Joy Stewart, Acc. 2019.001. Grand-daughter of John M. Michener.
Preliminary sort by donor. The identifying post-it notes she attached to some of the envelopes were photocopied on acid-free paper and discarded.
- Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
- Finding Aid Author
- Susanna Morikawa
- Finding Aid Date
- April 2020
- Access Restrictions
Collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Friends Historical Library believes all of the items in this collection to be in the Public Domain in the United States, and is not aware of any restrictions on their use. However, the user is responsible for making a final determination of copyright status before reproducing. See http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/.
John Michener was drafted and arrived at YMCA hut, Field Hospital, Company 353, 314th Sanitary Train, Camp Funston by Feb. 4 for training. In a postcard dated 2/28/18 he notified the family that he stood muster, signed payroll, and had the mumps. He described the training he was receiving to work in a field hospital, he was trained to stabilize patients before evacuation.
Letters to his fiancée; they had become engaged in December 1917. Detailed descriptions of his introduction to the training camp. He mentioned that if he were a biological chemist, he would have been able to assume a higher rank.
At the end of February, he was transferred to the Office of the Camp Surgeon, Camp Ballou/Pawnee, working in record keeping. April 1 letter noted the arrival of an African American recruit who had smallpox and was sent to base hospital. April 6 letter included a sketch of Camp Funston. He wrote about his attitude towards marriage and its implications for when he would be sent abroad. He received an emergency pass on May 10.
Letters to his mother concerning preparations for leaving Camp Funston and announcing his intention to marry Anna Jane Baker before leaving the United States.
John and Anna Jane were married during his furlough, and immediately after, he traveled by train to Camp Miller on Long Island. He enclosed a typed carbon copy of a letter from brother Bryan, a student at Westtown. Bryan described a sermon by Thomas Fisher of Malvern, delivered in old style sing-song. Bryan wrote that he liked the worship style of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting compared to pastoral Five Years Meeting.
Undated letter from ship and postcard he had that safely landed. Short censored letters. Letter #3 dated July 30, to sister Setha, he was somewhere in France, described the town and people. Letter #5, August 18: Training at a hospital near the Front with German bombs and shrapnel from the French guns; he had been there nearly two weeks. In a letter he wondered if younger brother Bryan was at Earlham and expected that Bryan also will be drafted and may file for alternative service as he did.
Undated letter from France, wrote that he could hear the gunfire. On postcard of "American YMCA, On Active Service with the American Expeditionary Force" dated 10/28 he wrote that had been working 12 plus hours a day. November 9, he wrote that the unit had been moved several times and they were in areas recently vacated by the German forces.
Germany signed the Armistice on November 11. Dec. 2, Letter #22. he wrote from Somewhere in Belgium, working in a hospital which included Russian POW patients. By mid-December, he was in Bitburg, Germany. Final letters of the year describe Christmas celebrations and enclosed a program for a Christmas entertainment. He asked if younger brother Bryan was headed to France.
Wrote to family that the Americans had expected a hostile response from the Germans but were surprised to be treated cordially. He advised against Bryan volunteering for the FRU and recently heard he planned to go to Johns Hopkins. Also, a letter to his mother-in-law.
Working in Bitburg, in the mess and miscellaneous duties. Letter of February 17 included photographs of damage to the town and a sample triage tag that Germans used for their wounded. February 23 letter noted that Bryan had arrived in Paris to participate in relief work. Detail about the town and people. His letter of Feb. 27 was heavily censored.
In early March he continued to assist at the hospital, but there were few operations. He noted that the German mark was falling precipitously. March 27, he sent postcards of troops and the devastation in Germany.
At the end of April, John Michener visited Paris. All patients were discharged, and the hospital dismantled. May 27, he was headed to the discharge camp in Brooklyn, New York
July 18, 1919, a letter to his family, written while traveling to Chicago with his wife. Photocopy of his discharge and military record, also undated letter and empty envelope.