Soldier's message in a bottle surfaces – 90 years later

A message in a bottle, which has floated on the waves of time for 90 years, has been found by French archaeologists.

The beer bottle contained a letter sent to an American soldier fighting in the First World War from his "Aunt Pete" in Oklahoma City. It was discovered by accident by archaeologists exploring a 6th and 7th century Merovingian settlement, at Messein in Lorraine.

The letter gives a jaunty, unthinkingly racist account of life in the US Midwest in July 1918, four months before the end of the war. "Its [sic] all most [sic] impossible to get help of any kind and those you do get are likely to be called any time," Aunt Pete writes. "There is a big bunch of darkeys going tomorrow night. They had a big parade today and are going to have a big dance tomorrow at the colored park: we lost our porter."

The letter appears to have reached Sergeant Morres Vickers Liepman, of D Battery, 130th Field Artillery, who was serving with the 35th Division of the American expeditionary force in Lorraine.

Sgt Liepman, who survived the war, placed the letter in the bottle and buried it. He may have been trying to preserve it during a German bombardment.

The bottle had previously held Champigneulles, a local beer. It was still equipped with its mechanical closing system. The envelope and four pages were almost perfectly preserved. The bottle was found by a team working for a French government agency, L'Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Preventives (Inrap), which explores important archaeological sites on which development is planned.

Officials from Inrap have tried to trace Sgt Liepman's descendants without success. The US embassy in Paris has discovered that Morres V Liepman studied in Pittsburgh, Kansas, and enlisted on 25 July 1917. He reached Le Havre in June 1918 and fought in the battles of the Argonne, Saint-Mihiel and the Vosges. In the autumn of 1918 his unit was stationed in the Haye Forest sector not far from the Noires terres where his letter was found. He returned to the US in 1919.

Aunt Pete's second name is unknown. The only address on her letter is that of the Robert M Scott drugstore in Oklahoma City.

* Inrap would be pleased to receive any more information on Sgt Liepman or Aunt Pete. The information officer, Mahaut Tyrrell, can be contacted on mahaut.tyrrell@inrap.fr.

Other extracts from the letter include:

My Dear Morres,

Well I guess you didn't know you were sending me a birthday letter you wrote me June the 8th and I got it July 8th. Say, don't ever again write on both sides of the paper for your letter was all cut up – you see where they cut out what they didn't want poor me to know, they cut out the other side too....

I wish you could hear Louise talk French. Her teacher says she is the best in the class ...

It is so hot here that you could cook eggs in the sand. Gee, Morres, I wish I could visit you now. It sure would be some trip. Robert says he would like to see it all, but he don't think he would like to get in the war... Well write me when you can. With heaps of love from the family and best wishes.

From Aunt Pete

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions