[Received June 24, 1918]


[Beauvois] France

May 30, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Just now my bus is getting a new engine so I feel like a peaceful civilian.

A little while ago I was sitting here on my cot writing and the orderly came in with the announcement of a patrol to leave the ground immediately. One of the fellows said I could fly his bus so I went up to the drome. However up there he changed his mind. We matched for it, and I lost. So I stood around as an interested spectator and watched the squadron leave.

The machines were lined up by flights before their respective hangars. All the engines were quietly ticking over in the warming up stage. The mechanics were about them, some standing by, some adjusting covers or gadgets, and some testing gun gears. The fellows were standing about in small groups—their suits half on—looking at maps or getting their duds ready. Presently they got to their machines, got their suits all buttoned up, climbed in and adjusted their belts, tinkered with the various gadgets, examined the movement of the controls, and got comfortably settled with gloves, helmet, goggles, etc., all O.K. Then when the engine was properly warmed up the pilot tried her out. With chocks in front of wheels and several mechanics hanging on to her, one laying across the fuselage at the tail, he opened his throttle and listened to the engine as he watched the rev. counter move up. For just an instant he let her go roaring nearly full out. The machine strained and shook and a big cloud of dust followed the hurricane back from the prop. Then back came the throttle and the engine resumed its quiet ticking over. As he waved his satisfaction to the mechanics they pulled the chocks from his wheels and all was ready.

Presently the flight commander, with colored streamers waving from some parts of his bus, to label him to his mates, taxied out to the starting position on the drome. The others followed closely. They turned into the wind and one after the other followed the leader. The throttle firmly opened full out, the tail quickly rises as the engine roars at full speed and away goes the bus picking up considerable speed in a short run across the drome and then a shoot up into the sky. One flight followed the other up and they raced into their climbing formations and disappeared as flies into the sky.

I hope my new engine will be a very good one. When it is installed everything else about the bus will be fixed as I have been wanting it, and we’ll have to get some results.

May 31st

I broke this off yesterday to go on a patrol but the bus I was to borrow had not gotten its undercarriage completely repaired from its last bad landing. However I took another fellow’s bus up this morning, but did not get close enough to shoot.

Since reading “Gassing the World’s Mind,” I think that I rather over drew my gloating over my safe position out here to you all in my first letters. As a matter of fact it just so happens that the type of work we do now is safe as a house. I am beginning to get fed up on going up for 2 ½ hours and not getting any target practice. One of the fellows who came over from U.S. with us has gotten two Huns and will probably be a flight commander when he goes to one of our squadrons. So I have got to get a hump on. That article was very good. In regard to the war breaking down national distinctions, I disagree. Although different nations are fighting side by side they are very critical and not complimentary to each other. I mean the actual personal feelings and valuations, not the magazine stuff. The thing that will be to the effect of breaking down national distinctions, I think, will be this. If America gets herself together and starts showing some results in another year, and then gets away with the war in a couple more, as I believe she will, there will be a tremendous bunch of people of all classes and nations that will rush to the States and Canada to live. And Canadians and citizens of the U.S.A. are pretty nearly the same thing.

In the last few days I have gotten a bunch of very interesting literature; both to me and to the entire squadron. 17 Daily Ledgers, 3 Sunday Ledgers, 1 overseas Sun, 2 Outlooks, and a bunch of Cornell Alumni News. I wonder if you could subscribe to the Cornell Widow for me. English magazine humor is such punk stuff. I would like to see and show them some first class funny stuff.

The Ledgers are very interesting because they give me an idea of what kind of stuff they are feeding to you all, and the general notions you all have about what a job this is to be. Some of it I like, and some of it I don’t like but I guess I had better not get specific.

Along the line of “Gassing the World’s Mind,” perhaps it would be well for me to tell you briefly about how I believe I stand in the universe. I believe most sweepingly in evolution. Not necessarily that men came from monkeys, I was never interested enough in that detail to investigate for a decision. Every accomplishment as I see it whether in mechanics, nature, intellect, or spirit is the result of the evolutionary process. A la Lyman Abbott it is God’s way of doing things.

The great wonderfulness of what little of the universe we come in contact with tells us that there is some great object to it all. And as much of that object as is given to us to see is personal character. I don’t say human character because that would seem to limit it to this existence. This same character is continued with its own individuality through eternity. Civilization, material progress and all our worldly human endeavors are the means of developing this character. The canvas which forms the means of holding the painting.

As it takes all kinds of people to make a world, so it takes all kinds of souls or characters to make a universe. So I believe people are born unequal and will be unequal, their value being the result of their own development throughout the ages. When we leave one world I believe we go to another of a higher order and take whatever position in it we have made ourselves worthy of. All of our longings, desires, and dreams will be realized and all our limitations eliminated, and higher hopes and understanding, and dreams will take their place. The degree of heaven there will be will be proportional to the advancement we have made here. For example a coon born into this world in a low state of development, but lives a very decent life and is what we would call a very good coon. Then consider a man like Dr. Abbott. In the next (we will now call it spiritual) existence the coon will be so much regarded and advanced that he will be just as much tickled and will think he has gotten as complete a heaven as the higher order man will get, but they will be far different. The ones of us who don’t make good with what we are given here will have to start in in the next world with only a small degree of heaven added to us. There is no such thing as Hell.

Of course this development of character is for some purpose, but that is bordering on the infinite and we here have no idea what it is. We’ll find out more about it when we graduate from this limited existence. So the object of the game is to develop your own character and help develop everybody else’s. Some of the Huns think they have the right idea, but we think we have the better one and we are going to make ours prevail, so that the folks coming after us will be so much the more able to make a good job of themselves. Incidentally it (the war) is a new and very fertile field for us to work and grow ourselves in. As long as I can stay in this world I will be very pleased. It’s really a great life and has wonderful possibilities ahead. Then there are parents, relatives, and friends that you want to be with, and then the longer you can stay here the more valuable and important you think you are. But when your time comes, if a Hun should have some luck on you, why it’s Heaven right away– “Heads I win, tails you lose.” The only thing about leaving is that the people who stay must not mourn. They should set aside their own temporary loss and rejoice in their loved one’s advancement. Just because a person is absent from this world does not say they are very far away. Thoughts, and memories, and spiritual communion reach to unknown lands.

Well there is not much poetry, worse luck, in the way I have set my ideas before you, and it probably sounds very foolish and is very incomplete. And I should say that I have not the slightest notion that a Hun is going to get me. He’ll have to take me by a big surprise, and then if he can keep me in his sights while I stir the puddin’ and swing that rudder he’ll be going some.

Our squadron was “washed out” this afternoon. I borrowed a bus, and a fellow from Louisiana who came here when I did and I took a trip to see a newly captured Hun bus. It is quite a good one. We have better ones, but will have to hand the Hun that he does some work better than we do. On my way home I took a trip along the coast. When I got back I was more than ever impressed with the possibilities of aerial travel. Right now it is cheaper than any other way of comparative comfort. A bus will do about 10 miles on a gallon of gas and ought not to cost as much as a good automobile. They will do 150 mi./hr. commercially with a little more development, and go so smoothly, pleasantly and direct. When they start making it safe it will be as safe as train, boat or auto.

Well I had better go to bed.



‘Gassing’ the World’s Mind: What a Father Told his Son” was written by William Thomas Ellis and published in the April 24, 1918, issue of The Outlook. Ellis was a Christian journalist who traveled widely in Europe and the Near East as a war correspondent for the New York Herald and associated newspapers in 1917–1918.450 The “hook” for his article, cast as a letter written to his son from Paris on September 12, 1917, is the report that he (the father) had been gassed while touring the front. This leads into his exposition of how the world’s mind is in danger of being “gassed” by the war, that is, corrupted by “first, ‘internationalism,’ with its corollary of pacifism; second, the apotheosis of mere physical safety and comfort; and, third, the relaxing of our Anglo-Saxon ideals of personal chastity.” It is presumably Ellis’s second topic that prompts Parr’s concern that he has “gloated” about his “safe position.” His further musings regarding how “I stand in the universe” may have been prompted by reading the article, but are largely unrelated to it.

When he writes that “one of the fellows who came over from U.S. with us has gotten two Huns,” Parr was probably referring to Lloyd Andrews Hamilton. A graduate of Syracuse University, Hamilton was studying business at Harvard when the U.S. entered the war. He joined the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, and attended ground school at M.I.T. He was among Parr’s shipmates on the Carmania and subsequently one of Parr’s “hut mates” at Grantham. Parr took a photo of him and Melville Folsom Webber just outside the door of their hut; unfortunately it is not sufficiently in focus to bear reproduction. Hamilton went on to train at Tadcaster, Turnberry, and Ayr. Attached to No. 3 Squadron, R.F.C., March 15, 1918, he was credited with two victories already in early April, and another on May 18, 1918.451

Parr had perhaps received copies of the Philadelphia newspaper, the Public Ledger.

The Cornell Widow was a humor magazine published by Cornell students starting in 1894.452

Lyman Abbott (1835–1922), a theologian and minister in the Congregational Church, was editor of The Outlook (which prior to 1893 had been The Christian Union) and known for his Christian evolutionist theology.453

On June 1, 1918, the day after Parr wrote this letter, his London Colney instructor, William Jameson Cairnes, flying an S.E.5a with No. 74 Squadron, was shot down by Paul Billik of Jasta 52 and died in the crash.454

In his letter of March 25, 1918, Parr noted the start of “the Hun’s big push,” Ludendorff’s “Spring Offensive,” which had begun March 21. Gordon Craig provides a summary of the course of this offensive through early June: “the might of the whole German army [was] thrown upon the British front between St. Quentin and Arras. The British Third Army was thrust aside and Gough’s Fifth overrun; . . . the hinge between the British and French armies threatened to snap and open the way to Paris. But Ludendorff’s momentum was slowed down by lack of fuel for his motorized units and by other logistical faults, and he lacked the reserves to keep up the pressure. When the expected gap did not appear between the Allies, he allowed himself to be diverted from his key objective and shifted his attack to points where it seemed easier to break through. . . . But the British held at Ypres, and Ludendorff changed direction again, developing a series of attacks between Soissons and Reims in May and crossing the Marne in the first week of June. The German thrusts were becoming weaker now and increasingly disarticulated.”455