|DONALD D. SMYTHE|
456 POST STREET
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94102
Every time I hear your name, I think of what happened one night at Bouresches. As company runner you were returning from Lucy le Borage when you came across a wrecked ration cart and filled your pockets with dried prunes. On arrival at Bouresches, you passed them around then apologized to the rest of us that you were not able to bring enough for the entire company. That was typical of you, you always wanted to share what ever you had with others.
You may remember that I left Co. A. in August 1918 under orders sending me back to the States. Guess they wanted a few old heads in the new regiments being formed. Was sent to camp Humphreys where I went through recruit training three times, once under a recently commissioned shavetail who had been a Sgt. in a militia outfit. Then, contrary to the Articles of War, I was forced to apply for Officers training School. Training was conducted by recent graduates of the school, the "four weeks wonders"(1) but a West Pt. Major assisted by W.P. Captain were in charge. Much of the time I had to conduct the training as the "wonders" did not know what it was all about. I stuck it a week or so, then saw the Major got relieved from the school, and was transferred to an Eng. Training Regt.
There I functioned as a drill Sgt. All other enlisted men were recruits for the east side of N.Y. and Jersey City. All other non-coms had been picked for their looks so I had to do all the drilling. Our captain was a Scotchman, previously a Master Sgt. with the 1st Engs. He called the company his "boy scoots". Half a dozen captains for the Officers school were attached to the company for training as were 8 or 10 1st. Lts and even more Shavetails(2) from the same source. They were supposed to do the drilling but you can guess who did it.
When I left Co. A. in August '18, I had a list of Co. A. men who asked me to write to their people, which I did after I reached Camp Humphreys. Your Aunt Laura Otis
(3) must have been one that I wrote to which would account for the Sgt. Smith. I have the list packed away somewhere but not in San Francisco.
I was discharged in Jan. 1919 and returned to the U. of Oregon where I had been studying Civil Engineering prior to the war. By then, however, I had decided to change to Geology. In June 1919 I received a B.S. in Mathematics with a Highest Honors in Geology. That peculiar combination was due to the fact that I did not have enough credits to graduate with a major in geology but did in Math.
In the fall 1919 I was married and we went back to Ithaca, N.Y. where I had been appointed the most junior member of the Geology faculty at Cornell U. teaching Engineering Geology and doing graduate studies. In the summer of 1920 I was engaged in mine examination work for the Phelps Dodge Corp. in Ariz, N. Mex. and Sonora. Returned to Cornell in the fall.
In June 1921, I received a M.S. in geology and then went to Peru as geologist at the Morococha copper mine for the Ceno de Pasco Corp. There I was living at an altitude of 15000 feet in the Andes. The altitude was too much for me so I had to return to the States in the following summer.
In 1923, I & Mrs. S went to Tientsen, China where I had been appointed head of the Geol. Dept. at a Chinese Gov't Engineering University. Our standing was such that the leading U.S. Schools accepted our students without examination.
China was in turmoil at that time with various war lords fighting for control of the country. In the three years I was there, I saw Tientsen captured 7 times. On one occasion the fighting was so close that bullets was coming in my house (Mrs. S had been sent into the city for safety) and for two weeks I lectured my classes with the windows rattling from shell fire.
I left China in the fall of 1926 as the Govt. could not pay the professors and returned to the States. Shortly thereafter, I joined the faculty of the U. of Wyoming. While there our first child (a daughter) was born. (She died of epilepsy in 1946 while I was in Africa).
Early in 1927, I resigned from the U. Wyoming. The President had given orders that only a small percentage of a class could be failed regardless of their grades. I wouldn't teach under such a restriction.(4)
I then went to Pilares de Nacozari, Mexico a Chief Geologist at the main mine of the Mexican subsidiary of the Phelps Dodge Corp. A few months later Mrs-S. joined me. She left for the States a year or two later when our second child (a boy) was well on the way. Not long after that, the last Mexican Revolution caught up with me. The mine was in Rebel held territory and things were touch and go at time but we all came through safely.
About 1932, the mine shut down on 15 days notice. The price of copper had fallen to about 4¢ a pound and 10¢ was required to just break even. In the meantime, Mrs. S. had remained in the States and our second boy had arrived.
From 1932 till 1935 things was touch and go. I had bought a house in Santa Cruz, Calif. so we had a roof over our heads but jobs was hard to find. For a time I worked for the U.S.C.P.G. Survey. For a time mining friends financed the reopening of an old gold mine in the high Sierra of Calif. For a time I served as attendant at a private insane hospital.
Late in 1935 I went to the Philippines as geologist for a Philippine Co. Early in 1937, they sent me to Kenya Colony in Africa to examine a gold mine. I recommended its purchase, they took it over, and I started to open it up. In summer of 1938, I learned the Philippine Co. had gone bankrupt and left me holding the sack. Its President had made himself judgement proof but I was able to put on enough pressure to get back salary paid and return to the States.
Again I got work as an attendant at the "bughouse" (the doctor in charge was an old schoolmate). Then an old mining friend asked me to take charge of an exploration venture in Utah. Then came Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, another old mining friend was appointed to head the Copper production Branch of the W.P.B. in Washington and I began to get phone calls asking me to join him there. I did so in the summer of 1942 as funds for the Utah job were about exhausted and our drilling results were negative.
I could never figure out why Frank wanted me, a field geologist, on his Washington staff. He gave me a desk, a telephone, a secretary and papers to shuffle. Then another old mining friend showed up. He had been appointed to head the search for strategic minerals in Brazil for the Board of Economic Warfare. He had several geologists on his staff but said he wanted a "bush broke" geologist to head it up. I wanted the job and I went to work on Frank. He was tough and I did everything but weep bitter tears and get down on my knees and beg before I broke him down.
Frank, I might say, had been manager of the Pilares mine in Mexico when I went there. Carl, my new boss, had bee Supt. of the Morococha Mine in Peru when I went there. For a time we had lived there together. I had known him for several years before he told me he had commanded a machine gun company (Marines) in Belleau Woods. He told me he had had guns trained on the Lucy road when we marched in the night of June 6, 1918. They almost cut loose on us before discovering who we were.