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Philip A. Embury World War I collection, 1917-1919.
MANUSCRIPT 1849-1854
Collection Overview


Philip A. Embury World War I collection, 1917-1919
World War I collection, 1917-1919


Embury, Philip A., 1891-1940, creator


The Philip A. Embury collection contains an assortment of World War I memorabilia and features the diaries that Embury kept during 1917-1918. The collection is organized into two series: Personal papers and Military papers.
PERSONAL PAPERS: Passport issued 1917; Miscellaneous cards, drawings, etc. and a letter to Philip from his brother George arguing against his proposal to join the volunteer corps; Postcards from Philip to Hazel Engebretsen and some to her from others, unaddressed and blank postcards; Postcard souvenir books from various European countries and cities.
MILITARY PAPERS: Orders and other documents; Publications, including newspaper clippings about the American Ambulance Service, a history of the 141st Aero Squadron and single issues of "Gangplank news", "The Wing slip", and "The Pontanezen duckboard"; Diaries from May of 1917 to Sept. 3, 1918; Photographs including an album documenting Embury's wartime service; Various medals and ribbons and a helmet.
The Embury diaries are in four separate notebooks. The last two contain mostly duplicative material and the fourth has additional material such as notes on map making, drawings, poems, a list of planes, etc. Entries begin in June of 1917 when Embury was serving in the American Field Service Ambulance Service, training to become a "camion" driver. He describes his duties and recounts his exposure to life on the front near Jouaignes. On June 23rd he writes: "Resumed the convoy at dark. While passing over the bridge on father side of Oeuilly two German shells were fired at the bridge & convoy. Passed over our heads about 20 ft. and exploded in a field about 100 ft. from the road and us. First experience of being under fire." The next day he recounts a similar incident: "It is a funny sensation when an arriving passes close to you head. You can hear the screach a second or two before it lands. When it passed over my head I unconsciously ducked."
On August 30th, Embury was sent to Reims which was then under daily bombardment. "It was very spooky walking down the street with nothing but ruined houses on both sides from shell fire & barb wire entanglement all over the street, and ocasionaly sand bag baricades with concrete machine gun positions. We walked along for about a mile and never saw a sole and the only thing we heard was the clatter of our own feet on the cobble stones and the whistling and breaking of the shells." Outside of town they came to the trenches and were invited in. "Way down underground they had a fine cooking range, sink, cupboards, a round dining room table, pictures on the walls, and electric lights. All the comforts of home."
Since the beginning of his service, Embury was interested in aerial combat and, once the United States entered the war, he was able to leave the Field Service and enlist in the U.S. Army Air Service. He began training at the end of 1917 and by June of 1918 he is describing his first time at the controls: "I had control of the ship this afternoon, and I discovered that it is not half as simple to fly an aeroplane as it looks. To save me, I couldn't keep the thing level, or keep it from nosing up or down. I couldn't even keep it flying straight ahead. It strikes me that I will have to go some to be able to fly alone after eight hours of double control."
On June 27th one of Embury's companions died in a plane crash, the first of his group to be killed. "I went out to see the wreck, and the plane hit nose first. The engine was buried in the ground. The whole plane was nothing but kindling wood." It was not unusual for the fragile aircraft to be damaged; on that day there were "fourteen machines smashed today". And often the pilots were killed or injured; by August, Embury had lost seven friends while training at Issoudun. One was his roommate, Grub, and Embury describes his feelings and the funeral in one of the closing entries in the diaries. "I didn't believe it for awhile but I went over to headquarters and found out that it was true. It was an awful blow to me as I thought the world of Gruby. ... Hary Webb and Dick Coleman and I went down town this morning and got 90 f worth of flowers and ordered a toom stone. We had 'Greayer Clover, Died for his country, August 30, 1918'. ... Everything went off smoothly at the funeral, but it was an ordeal that I hope that I will never have to go through again."
Complementing the diaries is an album of photographs, most taken by Embury during his European service. Highlights include: a record of the UC Corps, beginning with their cross-country trip to depart for Europe and continuing throughout their posts in France and repatriation from Germany in 1919; a series of portraits of personnel in the 141st Aero Squadron and the planes they flew; and a group of photographs of "Singalese" troops at Jouaignes. There are also scenes of trips on leave to the Riviera, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. Some photographs of war scenes were commercially produced.


1917 (issued)


1848: Personal papers: Passport-Postcards. -- 1849: Personal papers: Souvenir books. -- 1850: Military papers: Orders, Publications, Original diaries, -- 1851: Military papers: Diary copies. -- 1852: Military papers: Photographs. -- 1853: Military papers: Realia: Medals, etc. -- 1854: Military papers: Realia: Helmet.


n-us--- -- n-us-ca
Embury, Philip A -- 1891-1940 -- Diaries
Airmen -- California -- Diaries
World War, 1914-1918 -- Aerial operations, American
World War, 1914-1918 -- Personal narratives, American
World War, 1914-1918 -- Pictorial works
United States. -- Army. -- Air Service. -- Biography


Philip A. Embury was born in Berkeley, California on June 12, 1891. His father, George A. Embury, was a contractor/builder; he and his wife, Sarah, had three other children, George S., Mary, and Lulu. Philip attended school in Berkeley and matriculated at the University of California in 1914 where he starred on the UC basketball team. Early in the spring of 1917 he embarked with the UC contingent of volunteers for the American Field Service Ambulance Service and served on the Western front in France. After the United States entered the war, Philip attained a commission in the fledgling United States Army Air Service and trained as a pilot. He served in the 141st Aero Squadron with distinction and repatriated in 1919.
Philip returned to Berkeley after the war but did not complete his education. Instead he began a career in finance with a San Francisco brokerage firm. He married his sweetheart, Hazel Engebretsen, and the couple resided on San Luis Road in Berkeley. Philip remained an active sportsman and served as president of the Richmond Golf Club. He died at the Club on October 27, 1940 after he suffered a heart attack at the 17th hole.
Philip A. Embury World War I collection, 1917-1919
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.



Physical Description:

354 items : ill, maps, ports.




MANUSCRIPT 1849-1854



Copyright Note:

Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.