The Armistice occurred on November 11, 1918.
By the end of November, the army had refocused its mission:
- The army in Europe was now an army of occupation
- A major demobilization was begun to return the troops to civilian life.
At the time of the Armistice, Ben Teply was at the Beau Desert Convalescent Center near Bordeaux.
A Change of Mission
Since it is the intention to discharge all oversea convalescents as soon as possible, consistent with the maximum physical improvement, commanders of general hospitals will, as far as practicable, send convalescents to the camps nearest to the homes of the men to be discharged.Excerpt from revisions to General Orders, November 1918
Here’s what it meant for Ben:
- He would be incorporated into a newly formed convalescent unit.
- He would be sent to the convalescent center at Camp Funston.
- He would be discharged as soon as possible.
Aboard the USS Maui
On the morning of November 30, the USS Maui steamed up the Gironde River to the American docks at Bassens, just outside Bordeaux.
The Maui had been commissioned from commercial service as a transport ship in 1918. It had made a number of trips carrying troops to Europe, and then returning with a small number of sick and wounded.
But on this trip the Maui would take on a full load of 2,160. One of those men was Ben Teply.
The Maui left Bordeaux on December 6 and proceeded down the Gironde to anchorage off Pauillac to await the next flood tide. Anchor was weighed the next day, so December 7, 1918, Ben was leaving France and on his way home.
The voyage encountered heavy seas and high winds, so it was uncomfortable for the men. But I doubt it diminished their joy at returning to the US. On the night of December 16 the weather calmed.
The next morning land was sighted at 0530, and by 0615 the decks were swarming with soldiers. The log reported that the men were completely silent.
New York had figured that Maui would be delayed by the storm. So the arrival was somewhat a surprise.
But the reception committee was quickly organized. A band was playing- ”Smiles.” Sirens and whistles screamed a welcome. And from the top of skyscrapers millions of scraps of white fluttered down. Fire tugs shot streams of water skyward. And folks ashore waved handkerchiefs. Now the soldiers aboard were waving and cheering wildly.
Thus Maui arrived in New York on December 17, one of the first loaded troopships to arrive after the Armistice.
Camp Merritt, New Jersey
Ben and the rest of the convalescent soldiers were transported to Camp Merritt, twenty miles up the Hudson River.
Here they would await orders to transport each of them to a convalescent unit close to their home. While here, their official duties were minimal. So for now, it was hurry up and wait.
Camp Funston, Kansas
By early January 1919, Ben was back at Camp Funston. Now it would be a matter of days to process his discharge.
On Saturday, January 18, 1919, Ben Teply was discharged from the United States Army.
Sunday afternoon, January 19, a day after his discharge, Ben arrived home in Hanover to a hero’s welcome.
- Homeward Bound Poster – Center of Military History – United States Army – www.history.army.mil
- Convalescent Centers – Section IV – Office of Medical History – U.S. Army Medical Department
- Manifest for USS Maui – December 6, 1918 – Ancestry.com
- USS Maui information and photos – Being the “Log” of the U.S.S. Maui in the World War : with photographic illustrations – https://archive.org/details/beinglogofussmau00mauirich/page/n4/mode/1up
- Ben Teply military documents and photos – Teply family memorabilia
- Newspaper articles are from The Hanover Democrat. All are available on Newpapers.com and are free for Kansas residents – Kansas State Historical Society – https://www.kshs.org/ancestry/drivers/dlverify