- 'With the American Soldiers'
- 'on the Fields of France'
- told in letters by American soldiers
Personal Experiences Direct from the Front
from a British magazine
This is a series of personal narratives and letters from the American soldiers with Pershing in France. This great American army "captivated the French imagination." Our boys who have gone across seas to fight with the Allies carried the American flag into new glories and triumphs that will become epics of valor in the annals of mankind. These letters have been collected by the New York Sun, with whose permission they are given permanent historical record. They give a clear insight into the American soldier's life in the first days of Pershing's army in France.
American soldiers in France
- I Story of the Life of the American Soldier
- (Told by Private Joseph A. Deegan, of the Eleventh Railway Engineers)
The daily life of the American soldiers and their relations with those of other nations is an intimate and interesting phase of the war concerning which little has been published. Here is a description of them among the French, the Chinese laborers and Hindus and the German trenches:
Fine is no name for the way I feel. The climate in the part of France we have finally settled in is just betwixt and between. It is lukewarm. Over in England it was rain, rain, rain. Everything was wet and muddy. We slept and ate in mud right up to our mustaches. However, the blooming little isle had its good points, so I ought not to knock it. London gave us a royal welcome, and I now have a few good friends there. A live time also awaits me if I ever go back to Exeter, Alder-shot or Folkestone.
But turning the film back to La Belle France, here we have nice climate, an exciting war, excellent champagne and a set of girls that would make the boys back home green with envy. What more could a man ask? The only trouble with the French people is their unfailing habit of trying to overcharge us. However, we are getting on to their curves now and take discounts off every price they ask. For instance, when I go into a candy shop the proprietress will exclaim: "Ah, bon Americain." Then she will proceed to quote me one and one-half francs for a bar of five-cent chocolate. After a little hesitation and figuring on my part I slip her half a franc, and even at that she is making a 75 per cent profit. She accepts the slight reduction with a deprecating air, and probably mutters to herself: "Those Yankees are as stupid as foxes." Aside from our little monetary differences we and the French are the most affectionate of comrades.
Somewhere in France we camped next door to a Chinese labor camp. There was a small army of them. The Mongolians are the best pals we have run into yet. They were so honored by the attention paid to them by the whites that they broke their necks to please us. When I said to a Chink: "Gimme a cigarette, Charlie," he would run a quarter of a mile to his tent and come back with a fistful. Some of the Chinks even wanted to lend money to our boys. Unfortunately, however, our bunch got to selling them, at exorbitant prices, gold rings that after a rainstorm resembled the Irish flag, and wrist watches with the small item of works entirely missing. The English soldiers sort of wised up the Yellow Perils to our tricks and before we parted company with them they became noticeably cool toward us. Well, they were Coolies, anyhow. That's a cool joke.
Lower down in France we were camped directly opposite a tribe of Hindus you know, the kind with knotted Turkish towels for hats. These birds bury and pick the pockets of all soldiers killed on the front, so you cannot sell them trinkets. They have carloads of them. The Hindus are surlier and dirtier than the Chinese gentlemen, and we did not mingle with them so freely. If you want to get them drawing knives just holler, "Buddha no bon!" They are fanatics on religion. About a week ago we visited their camp and they immediately challenged us to a tug of war. They had about twelve on one end of the rope and we had only seven. Evidently, however, they are not over strong, because we pulled them almost up to the firing line. They are hard losers, and might have drawn their bowies, but I think they suspected we were Irish, so they remained peaceable.
The guns play a constant tattoo at night, and I am getting used to them now. The other day a few other fellows and myself made a tour of inspection among some recently deserted German trenches up near the line. In them we found feather beds, a box of cigars and, last but not least, a beautifully toned organ. The feather beds were wet and coated with mud, so we couldn't bother with them. You will say "Impossible" when I say I left the cigars there also. This I did, however, as the Germans have a playful habit of poisoning such dainties. The organ was badly warped and too far below the ground to attempt to salvage, but we stayed there for a while and I made the subterranean passages echo to the strains of "Ragging the Scale."
Another pet trick that the Germans employ is to leave a watch hanging on the wall of their abandoned trenches. Said watch connects with a high explosive bomb which explodes when the Ingersoll is removed from the wall. The other night I was talking with a couple of English soldiers, who told me that the English and Bavarians became so friendly at one stage of the war that a squad of the English soldiers crossed over to the German trenches one night, had a little souse party with the Bavarians and returned back to the allied trenches in the morning. For this they were court-martialled. They say that the Bavarians will frequently holler over to the English not to fire any shots so that they can eat their dinner in quiet, and they will reciprocate in like manner. The English apparently have no hard feelings against the Bavarians, but sure do hate the Prussians. Yesterday I saw a vicious air fight. The German aviator looped the loop with his machine fully a dozen times in order to escape the machine-gun fire from the Allies' planes, and escape he did, for I saw him shooting over the German lines leaving his pursuers far behind.
Any German prisoners I see I always give them a cheery, "Wie gehts?" and some of them answer "Good morning" in English. They are sick of the war and claim they are glad to be prisoners. Visited a large French city the other day which the Germans had occupied but which was recaptured by the French. No human being could imagine the destruction that has been wrought there. Among the thousands of houses there is not a single one that could be lived in. Most of them are beaten to dust, churches and everything else. An old Frenchman there told me with tears in his eyes how his daughter and the rest of the girls of the city had been forcibly taken away by the Germans when they were evacuating the city. I can now understand enough French to converse in a broken way. The slogan here now is, "Give the Germans hell and take no .prisoners."
From all stories and indications they have acted like barbarians and deserve the worst treatment possible. Their fire is becoming weaker and I think their days are numbered. The Americans will put the finishing touches on them, and don't be surprised if I send you a postcard from Berlin some day.
American ambulance driver - an original color photograph
- II Story of a Volunteer in the American Red Cross
- (Told by Edward J. Doyle, with American Army)
The experiences and the souvenirs such as a piece of shell shot through an ambulance and buttons cut from the uniforms of German prisoners of a volunteer in the American Red Cross service are recorded in this letter.
Sherman was right, but he knows nothing about it. I suppose by this time you know all about the attack, and needless to say I have been through it all. Haven't had my clothes off in over a week and my total sleep might average about three hours a day for that time, so you can imagine how I feel. We haven't been working all the time, but we get shelled out of every place we try to sleep, when we get a chance, and that's worse than working. We are quite a way to the left of where I wrote from last. We relieved a section that could not stand the work that was before the attack and you can imagine what it was during and since the attack.
We arrived at B--------a week ago this morning and started in. That night the Germans shelled that town, and imagine, it's about fifteen miles from the German lines. We were alone in a barn, and when the shells began to go over our heads and gas with it, you can see how much sleep we had. Next morning Bud and I started out, and the car is running rotten. The Germans are shelling the road all the way from here. This is our first post out of R--------, about three miles from B--------. Don't try to look up these towns; it's a useless task. Poste 4, a like distance from R--------. We get in the middle of Hill --------, about a mile from Poste 2, when the car dies.
About 100 yards ahead of us is a crossroad and the Boche is shelling it. Bud and I didn't realize where we were, and all alone, mud over our shoe tops where we stopped. We worked on the car for one and a half hours, falling in the mud every time a German shell came through the air. We got eleven holes in our car from that morning, and a piece of shell went right through an inch rod on the front of the car. I'll show you a picture of that. We were the first in the section to get hit, and how we escaped alive is the wonder of every one who has seen the car, and we are always the center of attraction when we stop along the road or at the postes. I have a piece of shell that went through the car a souvenir. We were in the most dangerous part of the whole woods French guns on every side of us, but of course we didn't know and those were what the Germans were after.
When we finally decided we couldn't get the car to run we made for a nearby dugout, and a Frenchman there told us we had our nerve. I left Bud there and walked back to this post about three and one-half miles got another car and towed our own back that was our baptism of fire, and it was plenty. We got our car fixed up that day and worked all that night and the next day. That night we were dead, and the damn Germans shelled B--------again, and we had to get out twice during the night and run for a nearby quarry, and no one who has not been through it can imagine the feeling of being awakened by hearing a shell go over your head. and almost before you can get into your shoes and out of a place another drops near by. It's a thousand times worse than being on a shelled road because you can see a shell hit the road and invariably another follows wait for the second one to land and then beat it some sport.
I'm at P. J. Left now, our most advanced post with the exception of one about a mile from here, which we make only at night, as the Germans can see the road from their first lines. They must have seen us on the road some plane of theirs as they have been shelling here ever since we arrived. We're in the dugout now and I don't expect to find my car when I come out at the rate the shells are landing around here.
Now for the attack. Sunday we were at Post 4 a piece of shell just landed on my helmet. I'm just at the entrance of the dugout got to stop it's getting too warm.
Friday, 11:50 p.m. Just got out of P. J. Left. They shelled it from 12 o'clock yesterday until 9:30 last night. Blew up everything in sight but our dugout; killed a couple of the brancardiers; blew up the kitchen, and you should have seen what was left of our car everything was hit on the darn thing but the air in the tires.
The French made another attack last night on Hill -------- and took it. You have undoubtedly read about it if you have followed the news. Back for the attack now Sunday we were at Post 4, that is, my car and we made a couple of trips from there, and all Sunday night the woods were just ablaze with guns firing and the boys went over the top at 4 40. All we carried that night had been gassed and there was a bunch of them. At 5:10 a car came to poste, saying they could not make Poste 2 the road was blocked so the lieutenant telephoned and gave me a note to deliver to Poste 2 that meant get it there. Well, we started out, and such a sight! There was one whole ammunition train along the road that had been shelled and gassed every horse dead and not only horses. We got to Hill --------, where Bud and I were stuck, and such a sight!
Two trains had been gassed, and we cut the horses that were still alive from the carriages and then there was a stampede. I shall never forget that morning the road blocked, shell holes, gas, dead horses, at least fifty of them, in less distance than a city block, and this awful racket. Well, we got the road cleared and made Poste 2, and there it was worse than ever. Our chief and sous-chief and about six of our boys had been there all night, gas masks on for nine hours. Two of them had shell shock, another hysterical, and the dead and wounded all around us. I'm poor at description, and you could never picture such a scene. Well, we got a load and started back. You could still cut the gas, and after we had gone a way one of the couches rapped on the window. We stopped. The fellow on the top stretcher had died, his head had fallen off the edge of the stretcher and he was leaking from the mouth on the chap below. We took him out, fixed his head on the stretcher and started on, shells dropping all around us. How we ever got through no one knows, but we did, and that's just the way things went. Carried Boches and cut buttons off some of the prisoners have a Boche helmet and gas mask souvenirs.
American engineers and dispatch riders
- Ill Story of an American Engineer in France
- (Told by (name suppressed), nth Regiment Railway Construction Engineers)
This member of Company D, nth Regiment Railway Construction Engineers, swings pick and axe and acts as chauffeur on a handcar, but he enjoys it heartily.
For several days we have been busy getting some new drills, but unfortunately I am not at liberty to tell you the nature of them.
All day yesterday was my own time, but I was too busy cleaning up to write. The sun v/as shining most of the day, for a change, so I was able to wash my clothes, air my blankets, etc., and take a real bath.
We made stoves out of some large oil cans, and as we have deep pans we boiled our clothes out and then scrubbed them well on our washboard. But the real treat was our bath. We walked about half a mile to a British camp, where they have some bath. They have rigged up a small room with live steam in it. We stood in the room for at least a half hour and just perspired. Then a cold shower and, believe me, for the first time since I left home I was real clean.
Do you remember how you laughed at my army shoes because they were so heavy? Well, you should see our shoes now. They are the same as the Tommies wear in the trenches. The soles are nearly as thick as the heels on our other shoes. Besides, the heels and soles are studded with iron plates and hobnails. Of course they are very heavy, but for all of that they are very fine shoes, as the wear in them surpasses the lighter American shoe and they are better protection from water. We have also discarded the canvas leggings and are now wearing the spiral cloth puttees.
We are still in a rest camp belonging to the British, but suppose we will be moving off to our own base in 'the near future. The powers that be know best.
In the Base Camp Hurrah! Received your package yesterday in perfect condition, and maybe I wasn't happy, also the squad, for of course they have to have some of it. Best of all, the cigarette? and tobacco are real American products. I do not care for the English stuff. And the candy well, "nuf sed!"
Last night a number of us walked around a very interesting battlefield. If I should give you its name you would remember it as one of the famous ones of the war. I have never seen so much junk lying round as there is on this old battleground. Bullets, old shells, helmets, guns and what not. There is so much stuff we did not bother to pick it up. We found a number of English rifles and shrapnel helmets, some with a lot of holes in them. I guess the men who wore them are dead. As for graves, well, in some spots they are as thick as daisies.
You wanted to know if I had taken any pictures. Unfortunately all cameras were confiscated, so nothing doing in that direction. As it is, there is very little Scenery of interest where we are. The country is fairly well blasted and the tops of all the trees are gone; but you can see such pictures in the Sunday supplements.
I do not know, of course, if the newspapers say that we are being well fed or not, but we certainly do not feel the effects of the U-boat war. While we were in the rest camp we did not eat any too well, but now that we are in a, permanent camp everything is changed. How does roast beef, tomatoes, brown gravy, butter, tea, jam and apple dumplings sound? Of course the apple dumplings were not hard to get, as we have the apples growing in our camp. The flour, however, came from the good old U. S. A.
For the last few days I have Seen swinging a heavy pick and axe and playing chauffeur (with some other fellows) on a handcar. Believe me, it is hard work pumping one of those cars heavily loaded against a head wind or on an up grade. However, the work is doing me worlds of good. I am feeling fine and getting stronger every day.
There is something doing on our front to-night. From all the banging noise Tommy must be strafing Fritz good and plenty.
We have had several issues of tobacco since we arrived in this part of the world. I do not know where the tobacco comes from, but imagine it is part of the money collected from our good citizens in New York. The only trouble is that it is English tobacco and not the good old American kind.
It would surprise many of our curio seeking friends to see what we do with those that we pick up. Our poker is an old French bayonet, something that many a person would put in a cabinet under lock and key.
On Leave. Immediately after breakfast I started for a very famous city some nine or ten miles from our camp. I stopped in for a friend of mine, in one of the other companies. We started to walk to town in hopes of having a motor lorry (just plain motor truck in America) overtake us, but we had covered some five miles before we were overtaken by a horse-drawn wagon.
This particular city (censor forbids my giving name) was never reached by the Huns except at long range bombardment. One can hardly believe the amount of destruction the Huns are capable of doing when they start out on their career of hate.
In this town they seem to have centered their vengeance on a most beautiful church and one of the fine old cemeteries that France is noted for. The church was not entirely demonished, but I think it is beyond repair. As for the cemetery, many a poor Frenchman returned to the surface before the Angel Gabriel had blown his trumpet.
Just next to this old cemetery is a new one. Instead of old tombstones and marble crypts, this plot is marked with many small white wooden crosses. Here and there one can find a more pretentious cross, indicating an officer. One cannot realize the tug at the heartstrings until one has seen the hand marks of "Kultur." The only consolation, a brutal one, is that on the way to the town are many graves with German names on the crosses.
But let's get cheerful and talk of the main object of my trip, to get something to eat. The real fun of the day came while we were eating. Fritz paid us a visit by aeroplane and dropped a few visiting cards in the shape of bombs. A couple of Tommies were eating in the same room, and as they showed a great deal of sang froid I was compelled to do the same. However, my real fear was that I wouldn't be able to finish my eggs, but would have to dive for a bomb-proof. Fortunately he was driven away before much damage was done and I finished my eggs in peace.
I forgot to tell you that our quarters are the most comfortable we have had. We are in a hut which is built like a tunnel. The outside is made of corrugated iron, but the inside is lined with wood. There are fourteen of us in my hut, but there is plenty of room. We sleep on cots for the first time since we left Fort Totten.
from a french magazine
- IV Story of an American with a Siege Battery
- (Told by Wallace Gibbs)
Our guide in this trench is with a British siege gun battery shelling and being shelled by the Germans on the Flanders front. He tells of a stormy night under shell fire.
Aug. 13, 1917.
Your letter followed me all around Blighty and over half of France. And yet it got me. Got me in the middle of a tree-shattered, shell-pocked country field, in a wee hole in the ground. That's some postal service for you!
Guns are going merrily to-night. Fritz was putting up S. O. S. signals a bit ago. He dropped one on our cook house about a quarter of an hour ago. Poor "Ginger," our cook, got it badly. Head, back and leg.
You can't dodge 'em here; there's too much row. Besides, one don't hear the shell that's going to get one. Don't know whether that's a blessing or not. A vivid imagination is no good to any one out here. Some fellows are jumpy with expectation; others are always smelling gas, and so on.
Saw a Boche plane brought down yesterday. He made a terrific attempt to get right, almost succeeded, then nose dived plumb!
Can you picture me in a little narrow, gravelike hole, writing this and guns firing behind me and Hun shrapnel whining and bursting with a ping just outside ? That's the doings just now. Fritz is being real nasty.
You just live on chance at this game. One gets callous only thoughts of home annoy a bit. One fellow got killed early this morning. It was hard lines. Fritz was pushing the shell over; it was black and wet, only gun flashes giving light now and again, leaving it blacker than before. (Things are rotten in the night!) One came very near to where they were unloading shell. He made a dive for an old trench: just then another burst. He copped it when he had only a yard to go. Another second would have done it. It's all luck. I was at the cook house to-night; I left just a bit before. I said to a fellow, "Are you going up to the guns?" He said, "No." So I pushed off on my own.
Still that's only stray shooting, nothing to what we give Fritz. He must have hell in his lines. He's getting what the British once got, only more so. He didn't have to fight then, he merely walked over. Now he gets as good as he gives, and he don't like it. You never saw such a weary, scared-looking crowd in your natural as the mob that came in from the latest push. I was sorry for the boys some looked only 15 years old. They were mixed with big, sour, dour, square-head swine. We are looking forward to giving them another dig soon.
The men are not commenting much on the U. S. A. coming in. They don't comment much on anything, now everybody is in; but it will make a big difference.
It's a very nice war in "Blighty," with nice time, polished buttons and a pair of swanky boots and heaps of glory reflected from the lads out here. But out here well, a fellow might fight a Hun, but damned if he can fight a shell!
Still, it's marvelous how little notice one can take of them when they're somewhere else, but it don't half buck up one's ideas when they get personal. The soulful Huns usually open up at night time when fellows are trying to forget shells and guns, lice and biscuits. (Oh, those army biscuits!)
- Well, George, this has got to finish. Gas is coming over now in shells, dozens of them; I must put on my mask. The air is growing sweet and sickly. Isn't he a rotter? . . . All clear again. Jove, he dropped them close! Some experience between those two lines, eh? Hope this finds you in the Pink. Best regards to everybody.
American ambulances - an original color photograph
- V Story of an American Ambulance Driver at the Battlefront
- (Told by James M. White "Somewhere in France")
The thrilling experiences through which drivers for the American Ambulance in France pass are narrated in this letter. Mr. White has been decorated with the Croix de Guerre.
So many things have happened . . . that I hardly know where to begin. Also, I am pretty tired out, so please excuse this letter if it is rather incoherent. We have been working our present posts now for three weeks and often it has meant forty-eight hours steady. Not only has it been hard work but it has been most exciting. One of the boys who has been always with the section says that never has he seen such all round hard and exciting work. It is practically over now and we will all be very glad to go en repos.
You have seen by the papers of around this date what a successful attack the French have made. Out of the numerous sections of the ambulance we had the honor of doing the hardest work, and it has been well appreciated, for letters have been written to the General about it. That probably will mean a citation for us.
When I write you about what we have gone through I do it, not for personal reasons, but because I want you to know that this work is no play, and far from being an occupation of the "semi-heroic rich." I have seen more of war in five minutes in this sector than in months in the other places we have been. Nine of our twelve cars have been hit, but luckily only one chap has been wounded, and that not very seriously. I really think there is a divine Providence watching over us, for you would hardly believe some miraculous escapes that have taken place.
I have seen demonstrated something which I had heard but never believed, namely that a shell can land so close that its proximity saves one, the eclats going over one's head. Shells play queer tricks at times. Three cars were standing in a row, one with two wounded. A shell landed near and the concussion blew whole panels out of each car and killed the two men. The remarkable part is that neither the cars nor men were actually hit by anything but dirt.
Nowadays the Germans seldom send over waves of gas. They seem to prefer to send in hundreds of gas shells. These have the same whistle as the high explosives but do not explode with a loud noise. It is more like the opening of a gigantic ginger ale bottle. They do a lot of damage, for they often catch one unawares. They will pick out a hollow and just drench it with gas shells; some smell like garlic and others like mustard. We have found it impossible to drive at night with masks on, especially those of us who wear glasses, for they immediately fog up. All of us dread these shells, much preferring to take our chance with the high explosive. A soldier was telling me of a new gas that they send in by shells. Wherever there is a perspiration on the body it forms an acid which gives a very bad burn. The men suffer most around the necks, under the arms and on the hands.
Altogether, this has been a tremendously interesting period. The aerial activity has been intense, there being lots of fights and numerous captive balloons brought down. The Germans have a nasty habit of coming over at night, flying low and turning their mitrailleuse on the roads which they know are crowded with wagons carrying material.
By a lucky shot the other day the Germans started a fire in a small munitions depot quite close to us. I have seen displays of fireworks, but this had them all beaten with a four hours' display. Some of the abris up front are perfect marvels of safety and comfort and I shall try and give you an idea of one. One side of a solid stone hill had been used before the war as a quarry. This particular side happened to be away from the Boche. It has been so tunnelled that one walks through cave after cave with plenty of head room and spacious rooms. Everywhere there is plenty of light supplied by an electric generator and one finds a wonderfully complete and clean operating room. Remember this is all within a mile and a half of the front-line trenches, which in modern warfare is a short distance.
The wounded get splendid treatment; but of course stretchers take the place of beds, for it is by no means a hospital. They can comfortably take care of 200 men and, mind you, all of this has been cut out of solid rock. At such a post we get the men and take them back to the field hospital, where they may again be sorted for transport to the hospitals further back.
We carried quite a few German wounded yesterday and it is very interesting to hear their ideas about things in general. Most of them seem to be in great perplexity about why we declared war. Some of them seem like mere boys and others quite old, but then that holds for all armies.
It is almost a month since I heard from America, but then I know how busy you all must be with the moving. Please tell Tom that the second package of tobacco has come and I am ever so grateful. I lost my passport but have another. I had to have new pictures taken and walked all over Paris on a hot day to find a place, hence the expression.
American soldiers guarding German prisoners
- VI Story of How Pershing Saw the Germans Attack
- (Told by J. Welling Lane, with American Ambulance)
The writer of this letter, J. Welling Lane, left his place with the banking firm of Montgomery, Clothier & Tyler, 14 Wall street, New York, in April, 1917, to go to France with the American Ambulance. He had served on the Mexican border with the First Field Artillery.
France, Aug. 23, 1917. Dear-----------:
Well, old man, I can certainly tell of some real experiences now. The latest: Last night we had an air raid, beginning around 9 o'clock, when the Boche came over and dropoed some bombs, trying for some gun positions near here, then at exactly 12:30 a.m. a big raid. There must have been at least five machines or more came flying very low and dropped a bomb within twelve feet of our barracks, wounding one of the boys who slept in the corner nearest the bomb in the bottom of his heel. He will be all right soon, but will take quite some time to recover.
It is a wonder to all he did not get it anywhere else. I drove him to the hospital with our Lieutenant and waited until they extracted the eclat, and am keeping it for him. It went through the wooden wall, through the blankets and carried a piece of blanket into the wound. Then another of the fellows lying opposite received a hard scratch, but only a scalp wound.
Our Brigadier, or Quartermaster, who keeps tires, etc., was sleeping in a little shed within seven feet of the hit, and when we all rushed over we heard him groaning, and I broke in the door to find him on the floor. He was hit in three places, a long piece in his side and one little piece piercing his backbone. He is dead now. Our barracks is riddled with holes from the eclat. The hole is about three feet deep and very narrow, the eclat spreading in all directions. There were all told eight bombs dropped around us.
Sept. 26, 1917.
One did not explode and can be seen in the ground near a stable. If it had exploded it would have no doubt killed many horses. That was a pretty close call for all of us, no doubt being brought on by the new gun position. One of the guns, by the way, was the one that silenced the German gun that used to shell Dunkirk, being able to shell twenty to twenty-five miles.
We just gave them a most successful attack when every objective was gained besides 6,000 to 7,000 prisoners 174 officers were taken. We assisted Section 18 of the American Ambulance and I worked from 11 o'clock Sunday to Wednesday at 7 p. m., and during that time had only about seven hours sleep. But strange as it may seem, no doubt, the excitement and all, I did not feel sleepy or tired but as fresh as if I never had worked. We secured our meals after a fashion, often times missing some.
The wonderful part is the few wounded other than very slight wounds upon the French side. The Boche said the artillery work was awful. One English speaking person said he had no food for three days and of a battalion of 1,000 men only twenty-one were left. The food they are getting is very poor and very little and every one was tickled to death to be a prisoner.
Some of the strangest sights were the Germans working as brancardiens helping to carry the wounded. One instance which I photographed was a Boche coming down the road helping a wounded Frenchman. Another was five prisoners coming down from the post of securs that we moved up to as soon as the position had advanced, which before was on the three line trenches, came down the road without any guard at all. They just told them to walk to the next village. It is all so wonderful; never have I been so close or in such an interesting place.
From our post secours, which by the way has been advanced again to the spot which before the attack was no man's land you can see all the French lines being on the side hill, the Boche positions being on top. Now advanced about four kilometres. This attack we have been through makes up for the long repose we have had. Our division was not in the attack, only one regiment, and we only assisted Section 18, but they are a white livered bunch and our section did duty continually while they sat around telling their weird tales of gas and having to work so long without sleep, etc. Far from the spirit all section four has, who were fighting all the time for more work. All the time grumbling did not have enough.
One man who is dying now I heard is to get the Medaille Militaire, the very highest honor the army has, and is only bestowed upon the men when there is no chance for them. Some section we have, haven't we? Now another of our boys will receive the Croix de Guerre medal. He came down one portion of the road usually shelled with three couches and one assis on the seat beside him. As he came down they were dropping them in. The boys were tiring and replacing the cars in between the shots, which came at 2 to 4 minute intervals, and one broke near him, wounding the assis beside him.
A piece of eclat caught our man in the arm, making a slight flesh wound and leaving a piece of wood in it. It had passed through a part of the body of the car and blew this wood into him. He had enough gas in the feed pipe to carry him about a hundred feet outside of the zone when another of our section cars came along and took his assis, who by now was a couche down for a dressing. Our man stopped a carrier and had to take his blessÚs back to the post while he tried to start his car, but was unsuccessful. He ran down a trench through the falling shells from another post of secours with a note to our post telling that everything was O. K., and the wounded taken care of. They took him to the hospital, and he is now back with us, but not in service for a while. He is to get a medal.
We are certainly being hammered up a bit, but think the worst is over, so there is absolutely no need to worry about me, as I haven't come near anything yet. Pershing and Petain were down the road while the attack was on, and also our post was visited by a Regular American Army Medical Colonel while we were in action. It is now all over and the service is to be taken over by the American Army. I don't know what difference it will make with us. Since last night's fracas we are to have a guard posted all night to warn us of any more raids so we can get into our trench, which is more than safe against any repetition.
An English speaking Boche gave me a photo postal card of himself and mate and gave the date and place and signed his name. I have a Boche gas mask and many buttons and shoulder-straps. The Boches do not recognize hospitals plainly marked with red cross, since they threw bombs on a nearby hospital, burning up four buildings, killing 170 and wounding forty-one. 'Tis one of the hospitals we evacuated too, but now is being evacuated by a French section. A British section of the best which has been in this section with the French army two years and has been twice cited in army orders was hit and one couche killed and four were wounded and the driver only a slight flesh wound during the attack. Strange to say, so many ambulances always come clear. Their speed helps. Good luck to you all.
*see also - Paris at War - the Yanks are Coming
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