- from Colliers Magazine November 9, 1918
- 'The First Day of
- the First American Battle'
- By William Slavens McNutt
- Collier's Special Correspondent
Fighting in the St. Mihiel Salient
an American unit marching for the front
This is a story of the first day of the first offensive of the First American Army in France. As the world knows, prior to September 12,1918, the American soldiers had been fighting; in France for several months to some considerable purpose, but always as detachments with and under the French or British. The First American Army was not organized until August. Immediately after its organization France became noisy with rumor as to where and when it would first strike. A correspondent in Paris could walk for an hour on the boulevards, or put in the same length of time in any popular cafe, and learn from twenty different people exactly where and when the first battle would occur.
Next to the question of where and when we would strike the most popular form of discussion was this: How would we function as an army? The individual American fighting man had made good. What about the American army as an army? There was no lack of pessimists to prophesy initial failure. The most incorrigible optimists achieved no greater certainty of success than hope uncomfortably seasoned with fear. In the second week of September the majority of the American war correspondents were vegetating in a town on the Maine grumpily reporting the uninteresting clean-up of the battle that flattened, out the Soissons-Rheims salient and wondering when the big show was to begin.
On the morning of September 11 word came for us to move. Some twenty or more of us were bundled into staff cars and we learned that we were bound for the much- bombed city of Nancy in Lorraine.
Hours across France over a country dotted with graves and through towns made famous for all time in 1914 by the First Battle of the Marne! Late in the afternoon we encountered and passed miles of American ambulances purring along eastward. Grim prophets they were of the tragic inevitable. It was near to sundown when an American sentry by a small bridge stopped us to look at our passes and we knew that we were in the battle sector of France occupied by the First American Army in the World War.
Americans then from there onAmericans by the roadsideAmericans in all the many villages. Into the old city of Toul just at dusk we ran past a long line of American heavy artillery crunching up a muddy hill road in tow of huge, loud-roaring tractors into the foggy mystery of a rainy night, andto usthen unknown battle area.
Always at our right along the dark road from Toul to Nancy we could hear and vaguely see the line of American ammunition trains, artillery, and machine gunners that we were constantly passing. It was then that we began seriously to consider the possibility of the attack beginning the following morning, and it was then that the rain through which we had been riding for an hour began to feel unclean upon our faces. For rain means mud and mud is ever the stupid, effective enemy of the attacking force. Then into Nancy, a city of darkness where no light may show because enemies constantly ride the night sky above and any illumination is a target. Out of the night and rain into an excellent hotel miraculously intact, though ringed about with the tragic wreck of noble buildings upon which destruction had screamed down from the heavens for four mad years. A press officer met us in the dim-lit lobby as we were going in to dinner.
"The general will see you in his room at nine o'clock," he told us, "and explain the operation."
We knew that meant business the next morning, and the sound of that cursed rain beating down in the dark street became a savage and sinister threat in my ears. We crowded into the general's room and formed about a map pinned on the wall, a map elaborately marked with colored lines. It was a map of the Saint-Mihiel salient, that ugly wound in the side of tortured Lorraine that was made four years ago. We knew then that what had just been accomplished by the French and Americans in the Soissons-Rheims salient was to be attempted in the Saint-Mihiel bulge. We knew then for the first time where the First American Army was going to strike.
The barrage was to begin at one o'clock in the morning. It was to be laid down by a concentration of guns as heavy as any ever gathered in a similar space on the western front. The infantry was to go over at five o'clock in the morning behind a rolling barrage. The general stood by the map on the wall and carefully explained it all to us. It was very like any teacher of geometry calmly explaining any problem on any blackboard to any class in any school.
The salient was an open pair of pincers. The job was to shove the tips of those pincers together. If they succeeded in getting the tips together, the boches would be out of luck. That was all. It was very simple. The American division on the extreme right of the salient was to make a holding attack. That is, they were to advance very slightlyjust an inch or so it was on the mapand maintain liaison with the force on the left that would be busy shoving one jaw of the pincers over. The American force near the tip of the opposite jaw was to move in two or three incheson the map. The force rather thinly holding the rest of the salient was to make a couple of strong raids and then more or less wait around for the i pincers to close; sort of hang around to pick up the pieces, as it were.
The advance of the various active divisions on the left and right tips of the salient the divisions that were to shove the ends of the pincers together was marked out on the map in lanes. For the first phase of the first day's objective they were to go forward to such and such a linea matter of about two inches on the map. They were to make that advance under division commanders. Then the corps commanders were to take up the direction of the show and the divisions were to go on to the objective of the first daya line on the map some two inches farther alongat which time the commander of the army would take charge. Then they would proceed for two or three inches moreon the map to the objective of the second day. When they got there the jaws would be closed, and what followed could come to us only from the lips of the future.
We were to have supremacy in the air. Of that we were definitely assured. Our aviators would take the offensive in the morning, guard their own observers, shoot down the boche observers, machine-gun the German troops, and bomb behind the lines.
It was not, we learned, to be quite all our own show. The French would help us in the air and somewhat also in the line. But where hitherto we had been helping the French in operation, in this battle they would help us. We had fought with them, and now they were fighting with us, fighting as a small part of the American army as we had fought as a small part of theirs.
After the general had finished his explanation of the operation we arranged about press cars to take us out in the morning to the frontonly twelve miles distant at its nearest pointand went downstairs. It was raining harder than ever, and a rising wind was wailing loudly through the dark streets. Certainly the weather man was working for the boches that night!
At five minutes to one, with Don Martin of the "Herald," I went outside and stood in the streaming dark, straining my ears to catch the first battle cry of the First American Army. Out of the wet night from the north there came a single, dull boom that sounded like a distant blast of dynamite.
"They're off!" said Martin.
I listened intently for several seconds. "No," I contradicted him. "That was only one shot. Listen!"
Riding down to us on the wet high wind there came a low quivering murmur of sound, a sound that had in it a swift-beating- pulse, a sound like a thousand faint, rolling echoes of that first far solitary boom that we had heard.
The horizon became fitfully lit with faint, flickering flashes of pale, ghostly light that was like the far play of heat lightning on a summer night. The murmur of sound grew to a low rumbling, rolling growl, emphasized every few seconds with a far and faint- heard but deeply thunderous roar. The barrage was on!
The American artillery was talking to Germany!
The First American Army had spoken the first word of its propaganda in denunciation of German militarism through the eloquent mouths of its guns.
At two-thirty in the morning I lay down in my room in the hotel with the low, sinister note of that fiery speech sounding in my ears. At three-thirty I turned out to hear it yet booming down through the night. By four o'clock, when we went out into the rain and dark and crawled into our car, the sound of the barrage had come to seem to us as one of the elements, like the rain or the wind. Out of the dark city, then we went over country roads and through peaceful villages. Away on the horizon the barrage was sounding like the combined far play of a thousand thunderstorms, and we, but a few miles distant, rode through sleeping-towns that, but for the incessant waves of sound that surged through the narrow streets, were no more indicative of war than any little town in Indiana at that same hour.
It lacked but a few minutes of five o'clock the zero hourwhen sped up to the crest of a steep hill near a corps headquarters and stopped short. I suppose the chauffeur went through the customary movements necessary for stopping a car, but I remember feeling that the machine had been abruptly halted by the force of the spectacle into which we ran head-on at the top of that hill.
The Germans Call for Help
We were in sight of the barrage line. I hesitatingly attempt a description of its appearance. It was eighteen or twenty miles of ammunition factories exploding all together and incessantly. It was eighteen or twenty miles of blast furnaces in full blaze. It was the craters of the world's greatest volcanoes strung along in a line and all in violent eruption. It was a strip of the literal hell of legend the physical hell of five and brimstonea strip from which the lid had been lifted. It was a sea of flame, and on that fiery sea a storm was raging. Great waves of flame surged through the night, rolled to heights in the sky, broke in flying crests of fiery spray, and sank from sight to be followed by yet other red billows, from the tops of which a lacy spume of fine fire showered up and burned the night. Looking at it, I thought of a world in process of birth cr disintegration.
I looked at my wrist watch. It was five o'clock. And up ahead of me there scores upon scores of thousands of American boys were scrambling out of the trenches that had been the painful home of the Allied troops for four slimy, bloody years, and streaming out across that desolate strip of waste that ceased forever to be No Man's Land as their feet redeemed it, yard by yard, legging it across to the shore of that sea of flame that was raging over the German lines.
I looked and saw the line of that red, roaring sea begin to recede. In military parlance, the barrage was lifting.
| It was moving on as the men moved forward. And then, up from the midst of that receding sea, up from the dreadful depths of that moving hell in the night ahead of us, a bewildering profusion of rockets soared up into the wet sky. There were red rockets that made a high curving line of fire against the background of the night and exploded into a lovely spray of winking, slow-floating lights. There were greenish- white parachute flares that sat high in the air for a minute or more, clearly lighting up the ground beneath. There were white rockets of but a single ball of fire and yet other white rockets of eight or more balls of fire that showed in the night yards apart in a perpendicular position so that they looked like a string of huge, luminous pearls hung in the sky. These rockets were S. O. S. signals from the boche lines. The First American Army was on its way for the first time, and the Germans in its path were calling for help.
Breakfast Before the Battle
There was a moist, gray hint of dawn in the eastern sky when we moved on a mile or more to corps headquarters. I expected to find great activity there. I thought to see dispatch riders racing in and out of the little village, couriers dashing in and out of the barrack buildings in which the corps officers were located, and the j corps officers intent over maps or hurriedly receiving and sending messages. For in that corps headquarters, mind you, was located the directing brain of more than a hundred thousand American soldiers who were out there in the rain and mud of that dismal dawn, slogging over the fields and scrambling through woods, at that moment writing in action the first page of the history of the First American Army in France.
We rolled into the little village. Absolute quiet prevailed there. By a company kitchen in the partial wreck of a one-story stone building there was a line of sleepy doughboys, with their mess kits, waiting for their breakfast. For any evidence of interest they showed in the near-by battle they might as well have been in a training camp back in the States. A lone and bored-looking M. P. was in sight at the crossroads. We asked him for G2-which is the intelligence department of a staff and he directed us to a dark one-story barrack building on a near-by hill among some small houses and trees. We found the door marked G2 and went in. It was dark in there and quiet. Absolutely quiet! A sleepy orderly pried himself loose from a chair with evident reluctance and in a whisper asked us what we wanted. We wanted to see the staff colonel in charge.
"The colonel's asleep," the orderly whispered.
We asked then for a certain lieutenant of the staff.
"He's asleep." The orderly yawned.
"Well, who's here that we can see?"
The orderly stretched and yawned again.
"Everybody's asleep," he said wearily. It was like having gone through a door expecting to enter a crowded dance hall and finding oneself instead in an empty church! One of the most momentous battles in the history of any American army was just under way, and here, where was the directing brain of more than a hundred thousand American soldiers in the battle, there was the atmosphere of a country hotel at three o'clock in the morning!
Time for a Little Nap
We heard a stir in a room near by, and the orderly went to investigate. A moment later he returned and beckoned us in. A sleepy lieutenant was half sitting up on a cot by a table on which was a field telephone.
"Hello, fellows," he greeted us, yawning. "Quite a party on, hey?"
"Sure is. How's everything going?"
"Why, all right, I guess," the lieutenant said, seemingly surprised at the question. "What time is it? Five-forty? Well, the infantry ought to be pretty well on its way by now. Hi-hum! Gee! I'm tired."
"Well, is everything going all right?" I repeated stupidly. I had in mind those scores of thousands of Americans ahead there in the half light of the wet morning, plowing over into the unknown against fortifications that had stood all assaults for four years.
Again the lieutenant's face expressed surprise and a certain degree of uneasiness.
"Why, I suppose," he said. "You heard of anything wrong?"
The expression of uneasiness vanished from his face.
"We'll be getting reports back from the infantry before long now," he went on casually. Some barrage, isn't it? If they keep this up, there won't be many prisoners. Must be chewin' 'em up pretty fine over there."
"Think the boche knew where the attack was coming?"
"Oh, he knew there was an attack coming, but he didn't know when or where." He was silent for a moment, listening to the mighty voice of the American artillery. After a little he chuckled.
"They know now all right."
"Did the boche artillery come back at us much around one o'clock when our barrage started?"
The lieutenant rubbed his eyes sleepily and ran his fingers through his tousled hair. "I don't know," he said as he sat up and swung his feet to the floor. "I went to sleep about that time."
To sleep! At the moment of the beginning of the great battle!
"You see, we've been working night and day here for a long time," the lieutenant explained. "When the show started and we had a chance to get a little nap we were all pretty well tuckered out."
The Weather Against Us
And then I began to understand. The brain had done its work. The barrage that began at one o'clock and the events that immediately followed were well-ordered results of the work of that brain.
Everything had been planned out and nothing left to chance. The brain had constructed a great machine for the performance of a certain task and touched the button that set the machinery in motion. It was known certainly that the machine would do its work and there was no reason for the brain to worry. The quiet that prevailed about that corps headquarters was the quiet of an easy conscience, the peace resulting from the knowledge of a job thoroughly done. I knew what the American fighting man could do. At that moment I began to be optimistic about what the American planning man could do. I knew that the American soldier was among the best, and there in that quiet headquarters the morning of the first battle I began to believe that the American army, as an army, was to approximate the glorious record that the individual American fighting man had made for himself.
The buzzer on the telephone by the lieutenant's foot sounded. He took up the receiver.
"Hello. Yes. Peking. Canton? All right. What's that? Good stuff. Yes. Good-by."
He hung up the receiver and began drawing on his boots.
"We've taken Richecourt," he said casually as he tugged at the straps. "Everything going right according to schedule."
We had taken a town held by the Germans for four years, and the announcement was as casual as that.
"Too bad it's raining," I ventured.
The lieutenant stopped pulling at his boot strap and scowled. "Oh, damn the rain!" he said viciously.
The weather was the one thing on which the brain that built the machine so thunderously and perfectly operating out there in the fields and woods ahead of us had been compelled to gamble. And the weather was against us that historic morning.
It was near to full daylight when we wandered out again into the fitful rain. There was a high wind blowing and the gray world was roofed with a fast-flying scud of torn cloud, through which shone occasional patches of blue sky. Prom appearances the day might prove to be one of continuous downpour or come off clear and fine with the high wind fast drying the difficult ground over which the infantry was passing that ground that had been but a few insignificant inches on the map the night before in the comfortable hotel room in Nancy when the general was explaining our objectives, and was so many weary, difficult, dangerous miles this moody morning when the men with the guns and bombs were negotiating it!
We went up a side street and stopped at a company kitchen in a stable yard to wait while our driver got a bite to eat. Distance was dulling the violence of the receding barrage, but the village still shook to the thunder of its voice. A hundred or more doughboys were squatted about the stable yard busily partaking of breakfast from their mess tins. I listened carefully for comment about the great battle. There was none. In ten minutes I did not hear one soldier mention the great battle that was in progress so near by. Finally I mentioned the subject to a tall, solemn soldier who was intently destroying a bacon sandwich.
"Barrage last night was a wonderful sight, wasn't it?" I said.
"The barrage. Wonderful sight."
"Oh, I didn't see it. I turned in along about eleven o'clock, an' it didn't start till later."
"I guess you heard it, didn't you?"
"Lord, yes! Darn thing kep' me awake for half an hour!"
"It was one of the greatest barrages ever laid down."
"Zat so? Phew! They got a crust to call this stuff coffee. It's nothin' but ditch water with some kind o' brown mud in it."
"Wonder how the boys are making it up there just now?"
"Oh, all right, I guess. You know this bacon wouldn't be half bad if the blinkety-blank cook would try to make food out of it instead o' sole leather. Look at it! I think he tanned it instead o' cookin' it!"
I gave it up! The most impressive thing about the American soldier is the obstinate way in which he refuses to be impressed. After a few actions he's consistently bored with the whole war. I feel that if you were to take one of them suddenly to heaven he'd walk past the celestial gate, and after a casual and not particularly enthusiastic look about the place say: "So this is that heaven I've been hearing about, huh? Well, do we chow?"
The Airplanes on Guard
We started out then off to the left and up toward the receding front. Along the road on either side was evidence aplenty of what the mud meant to us. Never a hundred yards but there was a truck abandoned in the ditch, a truck filled with munitions that certainly were sorely needed. It had begun to look as though it might clear, and at every view of an American truck that the mud had trapped I voiced a fresh prayer for a dry day.
After a run of some three kilometers we got stuck in a traffic jam and stayed there for half an hour. A large plain in front of us was spouting flame. The guns were invisible. We could see only the winking short-lived yellow flashes. In the large it was exactly like watching at dusk a meadow filled with fireflies. It was a wonderful picture, but we could read in it no news of how the battle was going. I was in a car with Martin of the "Herald" and James of the "Times," and several thousands of miles away in New York were a considerable number of American citizens wondering what the American army was doing. If James and Martin stayed stuck in that traffic jam, those citizens would be short of the information to which they were entitled. We were up on the battle front with the guns, hut we didn't know what was happening and had to go back to find out, so we wormed out of the congestion and took a road to the left leading to another corps headquarters.
As we sped away on this road I became conscious of a new note in the clangorous harmony of the battle roar. It was a subordinate note, but insistent.
I looked aloft to find the instruments producing it. The rain had stopped for the time and the cloud roof was well shredded by the high wind. Buzzing along up there among the tattered clouds rode the winged cavalry of modern war. There were dozens of planes in sight. Singly, by threes and in larger formations, they were patrolling the windy sky. They ducked across the blue from cloud to cloud. They were high and they were low. They were flying toward Germany and back from Germany. They were flying back and forth up and down the line, observing and guarding off enemy craft, and they were flying back and forth in back of the line bombing and machine-gunning the enemy on the ground. Of all the planes in sight that morning not one was boche! With the generous and considerable aid of the French we owned the air on that memorable 12th day of September. We had a No- Trespassing sign in the sky and plenty of watchmen to see that it was obeyed.
The First Prisoners
The next corps headquarters to which we made our way was in a large and intricate cave. We passed down an incline into a narrow corridor from which small dugouts opened off on either side. We located the G2 dugout in which was a very calm major smoking a cigarette.
"Everything moving along fine, boys," he said casually. "We've taken all our objectives so far and joined up with the line on our right."
A colonel came in as he was talking and stood behind us.
"How about prisoners?" I asked.
"Taken two hundred and eighty that I know of. They're on their way in now."
"Two hundred and eighty prisoners coming in already!" the colonel exclaimed. "Why, say! By George! This begins to look pretty good. Why, say"
The major tried to be very military and stop it, but in spite of him a delighted grin leaked out and spread over his features. "Oh, boy!" he said.
"Just one more thing, major," I said as we moved toward the door. "Has there been very heavy resistance thus far?"
"Very little," he said brusquely. "It hasn't been much more than a morning walk so far."
I went outside minus any very great elation.
"The boche has simply evacuated the salient," I said to Martin. "He's just pulled out and gotten away clean with everything."
"Looks that way," Martin agreed rather glumly. "If that's the case, I suppose all that ammunition we shot away this morning was wasted."
"Either that or they are retiring to a second or third position in the salient and the battle hasn't really begun yet."
That was the way we felt about it then there at headquarters. We felt that it was a more or less empty victory. We rode back to the corps we had first visited and found the same general line of reports there at eight-forty. Everything seemed to be going all right, and there was little resistance. There was a report of some prisoners coming in. They didn't know how many. At that time it seemed like an anticlimax. When we got into the car for a speedy trip back to Nancy for James and Martin to file their stories, I had the feeling that the show was more or less of a flivver; that the boches had successfully withdrawn beforehand and left us reaching around blindly in an empty bag. On the way back we passed a regiment of infantry going in. We stopped by one company resting along the road, and found that they were from a Western State.
"You been in the line before?" I asked a typical doughboy sitting on the bank.
"Only in a quiet training sector," he said.
"Pretty hot up where you're going now," I suggested.
He looked up and squinted out across the country in the direction from which the sound of the guns was coming.
"Ye-e-e-s?" he drawled finally. "Pretty hot, hey? Well, I reckon we can make out to add a little mite to the temperature when we get up there. I reckon!"
"This Looks Like a Clean-Up"
Back to Nancy then. The impression of an anticlimax was increased by the appearance of this city only twelve miles from the battle front. Everything was going on as usual. The people were out casually shopping, lolling about in the cafes, going through the customary routine of their daily life in their customary way. Distance had so muffled the sound of the guns that the ordinary small noises of the city silenced it altogether, and there was nothing to suggest a battle in progress near by.
Out again then after the initial dispatches had been filed. It was a period of alternate rain and sunshine, a capricious fall hour that wooed one to lazy dreams. We rolled along for some miles parallel to a bewitching green canal, and for the time I absolutely forgot about the battle in my enjoyment of the scenery. The scenery was there, and the battle was not. Moreover, there was no hint of battle to mar the scenery. True, there were soldiers casually coming and going along the roads, and occasionally we passed a rumbling truck train. But there was nothing in the movement to suggest' other than an ordinary American training sector such as may be found in many sections of France. We, who were on the spot at the time, were dazed. I know I felt much like a man who had been fearsome, confronted with a horde of phantom enemies in a nightmare, and waked to smile idly at the remembered bad dream.
As we drove up the hill to the nearest corps headquarters a two-seater airplane coming from the front volplaned down toward us. We could see the observer in the rear seat standing up and looking down over the fuselage. As the plane buzzed over us not more than two hundred feet above the observer swung his arm and a small white object with a two-foot linen tail sailed out behind the speeding plane and came to earth like an arrow. An orderly picked it up and sprinted with it to headquarters. It was a report from the front not ten minutes old. It would have taken a foot runner the entire day to collect the material in that report and return with it; it would have taken a dispatch rider on a motorcycle hours; it took the airman minutes, and as the orderly picked up the message the plane above was banking around and heading again for the battle line. Planes are more than the eyes of the army in a war of movement. They are the means of communication as well. The army that owns the sky holds a short and certain mortgage on the earth below.
Up over the crest of the hill, then, and I let out a whoop of joy at the most surprising and gratifying sight I have ever witnessed. Out there in the open field on that hilltop, guarded by a few bored American doughboys, were more than two thousand German prisoners!
"Good Lord, man!" I gasped to Martin. "This doesn't look like a successful evacuation. This looks like a clean-up!"
A Pigeon Brings a Message
We hurried across the field and had a close-up look at the big batch of prisoners. They were not a bad-looking lotfar from being third-raters and certainly there was nothing dejected in their appearance. Rather otherwise. They were laughing and joking among themselves and calling out gleefully to newly recognized acquaintances.
I was struck by the fact that they presented no evidence of having been in a battle. They did not look weary. They were neither muddy nor mussed up, and I saw no wounded among them. I spoke of this to a colonel who was superintending their classification.
"Why wouldn't they look fresh?" he growled. "They haven't lost as much sleep or worked as hard as I havelet alone fighting. Our artillery kept them down in their dugouts, and when our fire lifted and they came up, our first wave was over and beyond them, and they surrendered like sheep."
"Well, colonel," I said, "this boche who surrenders this way can't be the same boche who made the great drives of last spring. What's the answer? Is he beginning to break up?"
"Draw your own conclusions," the colonel answered.
At the headquarters I found that the corps had taken some three thousand prisoners. The corps to the left had taken a like number. On the mid-afternoon of that first day our infantry was occupying positions marked as the first phase objectives of the second day. In places our men had advanced nine kilometers. The artillery of two divisions had already advanced seven kilometers and was beyond the line planned for the infantry at that hour. A pigeon had just arrived with a message saying that the forces shoving over the left jaw of the pincers were operating on schedule.
The F. A. A. Makes Good
There had been very little fighting during most of the astonishing advance. It had been what is known in military slang as a "dry battle." Yet out there in the field on the hilltop were thousands of captured German soldiers to discredit the theory that the boches had executed a well-planned evacuation. I began searching about headquarters for the answer to the puzzleand found it.
The First American Army in its first battle in Prance had made good! Paste that up over your desk! It had made good! The American army, as an army, had taken its place alongside the American fighting man as a fighting man.
The battle had been a .dry one because the First American Army, in its first battle in Prance, had outthought the boche. Early on that first day, in a captured German headquarters., there was found a German intelligence report to the effect that the much-talked-of American offensive against the Saint-Mihiel salient was a joke, and that all that need be expected was a couple of strong raids. The boche meant eventually to evacuate the salient under pressure, but he did not mean to be knocked outas we knocked him outand he did not mean to leave in our hands the thousands of prisoners that we took.
The truth is that we hit him when he wasn't looking. We slammed him on the jaw with a hard right, when the worst he expected was a light left on the nose. The First American Army in France won its first battle in France with very little fighting because the operation was well planned and well executed. The American military planning man had stepped into place alongside the American military fighting man.
It was the complete, well-ordered, quiet, matter-of-fact success of the operation that had so puzzled us who were on the spot that day. We felt that it was too good to be true.
I rode back to Nancy that night in a daze intermittently broken by periods of elation. I rode back stirred by the awesome feeling that during the day I had witnessed the beginning of the end of German military power. The end, mind you, may be far distant. What struggle the boche will make on his own frontiers no one knows. But, however distant the end may be, I felt certain there in the field on the evening of the historic 12th of September that I had witnessed definite evidence of the beginning thereof.
I have written this hastily in the days immediately following that first day of complete victory, between many trips through the redeemed territory. The operation is yet so young that I may not write details which will later be available for publication, nor designate organizations deserving of all credit. I have attempted here merely to give my impressions of that first momentous day as they came to me; the story of the first battle of the First American Army in France as I got it in the course of those initial astonishing hours on the 12th day of September in this the new year of our new national birth.
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