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Title: "I was there" with the Yanks on the western front, 1917-1919

Author: Cyrus Leroy Baldridge

Hilmar R. Baukhage

Release date: May 29, 2005 [eBook #15937]
Most recently updated: December 14, 2020

Language: English

Credits: Produced by David Cortesi and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.



Audsurade Belgium
Nov. 11/1918




PVT. A. E. F.

PVT. A. E. F.

The Knickerbocker Press

Copyright, 1919


Ours the Great Adventure,
Yours the pain to bear,
Ours the golden service stripes,
Yours the marks of care.
If all the Great Adventure
The old Earth ever knew,
Was ours and in this little book
'Twould still belong to you!

Preface, page 1

These Sketches were made during a year's service as a camion driver with the French army in the Chemin-des-Dames sector and a year's service with the A.E.F. as an infantry private on special duty with "The Stars and Stripes," the official A.E.F. newspaper. Most of them were drawn at odd minutes during the French push of 1917 near Fort Malmaison, at loading parks and along the roadside while on truck convoy, and while on special permission to draw and paint with the French army given me by the Grand Quartier Gènèral during the time I was stationed at Soissons. The rest were drawn on American fronts from the Argonne to Belgium as my duties took me from one offensive to another.

Preface, page 2

It has been a keen regret to me that my artistic skill has been so unequal to these opportunites. The sketches do not sufficiently show war for the stupid horror I know it to be.

I hope, however, they may serve as a record of doughboy types, of the people he lived with in France, with whom he suffered and by whose side he fought.

Many appeared first in "The Stars and Stripes," "Leslie's Weekly", and "Scribner's Magazine", through the courtesy of whose editors I am now enabled to reprint them.

C. LeRoy Baldridge

Private, Am.E.F.

June 1919


Sunny France...

Warming up the "corned willy" over the "corned heat" (solidified alcohol)

Rain overhead and mud underfoot
Baldridge Near Montfaucon / 18

The Yank

Fighting Trim

Seicheprey, America's old home sector. April '19

America's old home sector—first trenches entirely under their own command.


Form a line!
Get in line!
From the time that I enlisted
And since Jerry armististed
I've been standing, kidding, cussing,
I've been waiting, fuming, fussing,
In a line.
I have stood in line in mud and slime and sleet,
With the dirty water oozing from my feet,
I have soaked and slid and slipped,
While my tacky slicker dripped,
And I wondered what they'd hand me out to eat.
Get in line!
For supplies and for inspections,
With the dust in four directions,
For a chance to scrub the dirt off,
In the winter with my shirt off,
In a line.
I have sweated in an August training camp,
That would make a prohibition town look damp,
Underneath my dinky cap
While the sun burned off my map
And I waited for some gold-fish (and a cramp!).
Get in line!
For rice, pay-day, pills, and ration,
For corned-willy, army fashion,
In Hoboken, in the trenches,
In a station with the Frenchies,
In a line.
I've been standing, freezing, sweating,
Pushing, shoving, wheezing, fretting,
And I won't be soon forgetting
Though I don't say I'm regretting
That I stood there, with my buddies,
In a line.

The lids we wear--

The lids we wear—
Dungeree style...
The tin derby with winter knitted helmet...
Old "rain-in-the-face"...
The charming red-and-white effect...
The tank helmet...
Some managed to hang on to the old reliable...
With the French army...
With its canvas overcoat on

He used to hunt rabbits in Kentucky

He used to hunt rabbits in Kentucky

The job that's never ended--Cleaning up for inspection

The job that's never ended—Cleaning up for inspection

First time in two weeks!

First time in two weeks!

The letter from home

The letter from home

The Ration Detail

The Ration Detail—a job which no one relishes. Each day the other fellow's artillery tries to lay down a fire which will keep these boys from getting back. They travel to where their supply company has dumped the food from mule carts—the point nearest front where creaking wheels may go. The man in the center is carrying a string of French loaves, the round black variety common before we got our own bakeries started.

The Headquarters Company of the Reserve Mallet taking its bath at Chavigny Farm.

The Headquarters Company of the Reserve Mallet taking its bath at Chavigny Farm. The tub is a tin-lined cigarette box used by the Y.M.C.A. Water is heated in the old farm fire-place.


I ran into Johnny Redlegs
A-sitting on his bus,
And I asked him why the devil
He dropped half his shells on us.
He just smiles and puffs his corn-cob,
As peaceful as a Persian,
And, "Buddy," says he, "you can't blame me,
You gotta blame dispersion."
I says to Johnny Redlegs,
"If I didn't have nine lives
Your barrage would have got me
With those lousy seventy-fives."
He grins and puffs his corn-cob,
And then he winks, reflective,
And, "Buddy," says he, "you can't blame me
If you pass your damn objective."
I says to Johnny Redlegs
(Just kidding him, you know),
"The trouble with your popgun is
She pops too gol-darned slow."
Then Redlegs drops his corn-cob
And spits on both his han's,
And, "Buddy," says he, "you can kid with me
And the whole damned Field Artilleree,
But there'll be a dud where you used to be
If you kid my swasont-cans!"
"Johnny Redlegs"--and the doughboy

"Johnny Redlegs"—guardian of the "Soixante-quinze." (the famous French "75")

...and the doughboy who tries to keep just the right distance from the covering barrage fire.

"I know a girl at home who looks just like you."

"I know a girl at home who looks just like you."
6 June

"The Bugs"--Two men, French style tanks

"The Bugs"—Two men, French style tanks

An Indian M.P. -- "A Chance to get even"

An Indian M.P.—"A Chance to get even"

A Survival of the old regular army

A Survival of the old regular army

Among the first sent across

Among the first sent across
They served with the French in '17

Reading their shirts

Reading their shirts

Her boy too

Her boy too...

American and French field artillery gun crews

American and French field artillery gun crews camped together in a wood near Charsoney. The canvas overhead keeps the fire from being observed by aeroplanes at night.

The linesman at the front...

The linesman at the front—Same old job with just a couple percent more risk than usual

Using a shell-shocked tree for a telegraph pole.

St. Mihiel 1918

Dumb Beasts

Dumb Beasts:

In the Missouri draft

Wagon train
bucks: "Maud" and "Mud"

Former refugee—now mascot and the only man in the outfit who likes monkey meat

Yanks with French Type of Anti-Aircraft

Yanks with French Type of Anti-Aircraft

The Aeroplane Fight

The Aeroplane Fight

z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-Z-e-e-e-e-E-E-------------b Boom!
There's another!
God, this pack is heavy.
Glad I pinched the extra willy,
Guess I'll need it.
And the sweater, too,
out there.
-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-Z-E-E-E-EEEEEE- - b Boom!
There's another!
Jesse! that was a close one.
Wonder if......good Christ! Where's Charlie?
Got him clean. God curse those Jerries!
I'll get even,—p'raps—
out there.
z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-E-E-E-E-e-e----------b Boom!
There's another!
Well, if one has my name on it
Then the guv'ment pays ten thousand.
What's the use? I couldn't spend it.
Leastways not—
out there.
z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-Z-e-e-e-e-e-E-E-E-E----b Boom!
There's another.
Where'd I put that plug of Climax?
Oh, I s'pose somebody swiped it.
Gee, I never thought that Charlie...
Glad I ain't out on the wire.
This damn trench is dark—ouch! Damn it,
Wait a minute.... Hell, I'm coming,
I can't run in this equipment.
What the hell's the rush to get—
out there?
The Relief--

The Relief—
Coming up to the front lines through the communication trenches, which extend a kilometer or so. On these occasions little love is lost on "beautiful moonlight nights"

The roofs of Vaux...

The roofs of Vaux after a few minutes of Yank barrage lifted—

"The Germans have gone!"

"The Germans have gone!"—St. Mihiel

The shell hole Central

The shell hole Central

On Guard

On Guard

The noncombatant--

The noncombatant—

The family with whom I lived in Soissons

The family with whom I lived in Soissons

In 1870 Grandpère was taken as a prisoner to Coblenz

Madam Framary who sewed on my buttons and who transformed miserable French army rations into marvelous dishes

Erasme, the youngest son who starts his three years of compulsory training in the fall 1919

The eldest son. After his three years of training he was called to war. He has never come back.


Awaiting the signal to attack...

Awaiting the signal to attack. The sergeant is ready to blow the whistle for his squad to follow him out through a path in the barbed wire. In another minute they will advance close behind the bursting shells of a heavy barrage which, lifting, will leave them face to face with German machine guns.

"American Field Service"/drivers at Longpont/1917"

"American Field Service"
drivers at Longpont/1917

The "Territorial"...

The "Territorial"—the name given French poilu between the ages of 34 and 40. Vailly—1917

The Paris Bus

Noyon, 1918

The Paris Bus—many kilometers from the Place de l'Opèra—used for transporting troops, horses, and fresh meat to the front


You can see 'em in the movies,
With the sunlight on their guns,
You can read in all the papers
Of the charge that licked the Huns,
You can read of "khaki heroes"
And of "gleaming bayonet,"
But there's one thing that the writers
And the artist all forget:
That's me!
On K.P.
In my suit of denim blue
I am thinking—not of you—
But the places where I'd like the top to be!
On the posters in the windows,
In the monthly magazine,
Are the boys in leather leggins
Such as Pershing's never seen;
Oh, they love to paint 'em pretty,
All dressed up and fit to kiss,—
Ain't it funny there's a picture
That they always seem to miss?
Loading coal!
In my little shimmy-shirt,
Eyes and mouth full up with dirt—
(In the next war I'll be living at the Pole.)

Built for speed...

Built for speed
and with light pack to match
R.B.—Belleau Wood
A Marine

"Steady, buddy!"

"Steady, buddy!"
Paris 1919

Never too far gone for a smoke

Never too far gone for a smoke

But he wears the Legion of Honor and the "Croix de Guerre"

In an abri...

In an abri waiting for the "Gothas" (big German planes) to go home

The veteran of the Spanish-American war...

The veteran of the Spanish-American war tells 'em how it ought to be done

R. Lufbery

R. Lufbery—Sketched at the Lafayette Escadrille field near Longpont as the aviator was getting into his "union suit" preparatory to flying in a Chemin-des-Dames engagement

Base port stevedores

Base port stevedores—Volunteers from the South who work eight hours a day for seven days a week

A 26th Division Wagon Train...

A 26th Division Wagon Train moving toward Chasseurs wood—1918
Mule and Prairie Schooner in a country made desert by war

The end of his service

The end of his service

Veterans of the Marne

Veterans of the Marne


When we left the transport
Back in St. Nazaire,
Second thing you asked us,—
"Quand finit la guerre?"
Didn't know your lingo
You weren't hard to get,
Peace was what you wanted—
And a cigarette.
Then up in the trenches
It was just the same,
"When's it going to finish?"
Didn't seem quite game.
Then we saw you strafing,
Saw we had you wrong,
Wondered how you stood it
Four years long.
Drank your sour pinard,
Shared what smokes we had,
Got to know you better,
Found you weren't so bad,
Four years in the trenches!
(One's enough, I'll say)
How the hell'd you do it
On five sous a day?

Chemin des Dames '17

Chemin des Dames '17

American being taught...

American being taught by Frenchman to drive truck so that the latter may return to his farm.

Moving up

Moving up—
over a corduroy road hastily laid down by a gérre (engineer) regiment in war-wasted land. The piece of wall on the right is all that remains of a French village of five hundred inhabitants

Arabian Knight

(Arabic script) Arabian Knight

(Arabic script) Between drives he works on the railroad

(Arabic script) On other days he rides a camel in Algeria

Senegalaise types

Senegalaise types / voluneers used for the attack and for labor on roads Vailly 1917

The aumônier

The aumônier—poilu priest who marches with the troops.

Of the youngest class

A father of the class of '89

Moulin Laffaux

Un cannonier marin sur le front

Un cannonier marin sur le front

He handles a big naval gun mounted on railroad cars near Soissons

French "corvée" laborers.

French "corvée" laborers.

In the war of 1870 he drove a team instead of a camion.

Too old to serve in the active army and so assigned to the more unromatic, uninteresting but vital work of loading camions, tending horses, or building and repairing roads back of the lines. It has been said that the first battle of Verdun was won by the camion service. This is the kind of man who made that victory possible

A "walking case"

A "walking case"—France, August -18

Toul(?) sector days--Waiting for something to happen--

Toul(?) sector days—Waiting for something to happen—

Un grand blessé

Un grand blessé

A Medal for Valor

A wounded Chasseur and "Fritz" who has the next cot. They get the same treatment and neither seems to mind the proximity

 An American ambulance at a poste de secours

An American ambulance at a poste de secours (first aid station)

An old trench in the Argonne near Montfancon

An old trench in the Argonne near Montfaucon

The edge

The edge


Four hours off—two hours on—
And not a thing to do but think,
And watch the mud and twisted wire
And never let your peepers blink.
Two hours on—four hours off—
The dug-out's slimy as the trench;
It stinks of leather, men, and smoke,—
You wake up dopey from the stench.
Four hours off—two hours on—
Back on the same old trick again,
The same old noth'n' to do at all
From yesterday till God knows when.
On post or not it's just the same,
The waiting is what gets your goat
And makes you want to chuck the game
Or risk a trench-knife in your throat.
Two hours on—four hours off—
I s'pose our job is not so hard,—
I s'pose sometime we're going to quit—
        *         *         *         *         *
The ghosts we leave—do they stand guard?

The water wagon filled with red-hot coffee...

The water wagon filled with red-hot coffee going to the ration dump via shell fire and not losing any time about it— Outside Belleau wood—June '18

He's been on every front...

He's been on every front from Chateau-Thierry to the Rhine

After the German Retreat

After the German Retreat
Cleaning up old quarry used by Fritz as a barracks—Chemin-des-Dames

"Wagon Soldiers" (nickname for artillerymen)

"Wagon Soldiers" (nickname for artillerymen)

Made in America

Made in America—France Aug. 1918

"Marraines" (Godmothers)

"Marraines" (Godmothers) who kept their poilu godsons at the front in good cheer with letters and packages from home, and who took their Yank cousins to their hearts in the same kindly spirit


in Paris and the provinces—
A type to match the ideal of every man who looks

"Papa Perrin"  Soissons 1917

"Papa Perrin"

No one knows where the poilu slang word "Pinard" came from, but everyone knows what it means. It's half way between water and red wine, with the kick mostly in the taste. It is served as an army ration. The poilu's canteen is always full of it.

We ain't no thin red 'eroes,...

"We ain't no thin red 'eroes, Nor we aren't no blackguards too."

One of the Agent-de-ville = M.P. teams of Paris

One of the Agent-de-ville = M.P. teams of Paris patrolling the boulevard. They have authority over both Yank and poilu.
Paris 1919

Belgian Types

Belgian Types

The Tommy

The Tommy—Montdiddier 1918

In the month of July

In the month of July

Caught by a star shell...

Caught by a star shell at a listening post, and attempting to "freeze" like a rabbit with the hunter upon him, to look as much like a lump of mud as possible until the glare dies down.

Americans quartered in the mediaeval monastary of Pont St. Maxence

Americans quartered in the mediaeval monastary of Pont St. Maxence

French Colonial Types

French Colonial Types: White, black, and half-way
From Algeria
A Zouave
From Morocco


"P.Gs" (prisonneurs de la guerre) who are keeping in physical trim by lumber work in a forest where once the kings of France took their morning walks
Croix St. Ouen 1918

A Yank going on leave...

A Yank going on leave having a midnight cup of "vin rouge" in a compartment of a Permissionnares' Train—with a soixante-quinze gunner, a sailor from a submarine, a chasseur, an aviation sergeant, and several infantrymen. For the next ten days of "permission" these men can forget war.
En route—Nice/1918

The barber shop quartette on the trip home

The barber shop quartette on the trip home— (no ocean rules about noise this time).

Coming Out! dirty, tired and grinning!

Coming Out! dirty, tired and grinning!
Chateau Thierry


Brought up to the front by the ration detail

Forty feet underground in an old stone quarry...

Forty feet underground in an old stone quarry formerly used by the Germans as barracks. Near Fort Malmaux

This is the cellar of her home...

This is the cellar of her home. The house above no longer exists. For her living she washes clothes for the soldiers. Her daughter with two young children is a prisoner in Belgium. A third grandchild lives in this cave


This one has won three army citations
"la soupe"
Liaison dog to carry messages
Red Cross dog
Jack - a yank volunteer

French dogs loaned by private families...

French dogs loaned by private families and trained by the army for use as Red Cross aids, sentinels, and message carriers. Intelligence the only qualification—any breed goes

Kénaro / S'aïd
Two dogs who worked together at Verdun

Sultane / Picard / Marraine / Filon

"mort pour la patrie"

The O.D. Circuit

The O.D. Circuit

"Pull the shades down Mary Ann"

A love song from The East—

Our own jazz band

"Coming out" after "The Washington Birthday Raid"...

"Coming out" after "The Washington Birthday Raid" Chemin des Dames$nbsp;1918

An African Mohammedan, an... Annamite, and a prisoner...]

(Arabic script) An African Mohommedan, An Indo-Chinese Annamite and a prisoner who all crack rocks nine hours a day for the roads of France

First regiment Zouave

French Colonials from Northern Africa used in shock troops


I'll be stepping wide in these russet shoes!
Leather putts beside, honest I can't lose!
Guess the guy that had 'em left 'em in a hurry!
What the hell, he's S.O.L.
I should worry.
"That's my second razor!"
"Then gimme the blades."
"Whatcha got there, Buddy?"
"Pair of tailor-mades!"
I'll be walking on air! Yes...they was the top's!
He won't need 'em out there—if a big one drops.
"Going to keep that sweater?"
"No, look at the dirt."
"Put that on you, Buddy,
"You'll have to read your shirt!"
If I get that leave I can use 'em to dance.
Well, I should grieve,—he had his chance.
"Nothing doing! Beat it!"
"Saw that luger first!"
"Ten francs says I want it."
"Done. I'll cure this thirst."
Brand-new russet shoes, I'll be stepping high!
Someone's got to lose, glad I ain't the guy.
If I'm going to use 'em, guess I'll have to hurry,
The next H.E. may be meant for me—
I should worry!

The Gardener's Cottage

The Gardener's Cottage

In 1870 he lost an arm...

In 1870 he lost an arm, in 1917 he lost a son and everything he owns

Lafayette Escadrille Men--

Lafayette Escadrille Men—
Marcus who helps keep the big planes in order
Loupont France Nov—'17

Making brooms from brushwood at Antibes for use on army roads.

Making brooms from brushwood at Antibes for use on army roads.

The Signal Corps

The Signal Corps

The gold star

The gold star
France, Aug. 1918

Both under Arms...

Both under Arms—The "pepère" of the '89 class and the Marie-Louise of the last call—Soissons France/17

Cafè group of poilus...]

Cafè group of poilus listening to an American popular song for the first time, sung by Yanks of The American Field Service



Some of the first ones

Some of the first ones



Vaux—the town American artillery blew off the map (together with the German inhabitants)

Dugouts built for German officers...

Dugouts built for German officers near Soissons used by them in 1915. Decked out with cement and mosaic floors, tile roofs and stained glass windows. Used by our troops in 1918.

The American Trained Nurse

The American Trained Nurse
Am. Hospital No. 5

What one man is fighting for

"Once upon a time--"

"Once upon a time—"
Before leaving France 750,000 doughboys contributed enough to support 3,444 French war orphans for one year, and the "Stars and Stripes" newspaper left nearly three million francs toward their education


Annamites—French colonial troops from Indo-China. These paid Colonials were used as attacking troops, as laborers on roads and as drivers of light trucks.

(Blackened teeth are an aid to health and beauty)

An Oriental pipe and a French briquette to light it with

Le Sergent Tam


The Loot is getting wabbly,
With his dinky little pack,—
He can hear the sergeant cussing
But he doesn't dare look back.
But we ain't saying nothing
Since we got the order "route,"
Too dog-dead for even wond'ring
If we'll ever hear "fall out."
My damn rifle and my helmet
Keep on getting in the way,
And my brains are numb and dopey
Try'n' to cuss and try'n' to pray.
My throat's as dry as sawdust
And my right arm's gone to sleep,
And the pack-strap on my shoulder
Cuts a slit two inches deep.
I just lift one foot and shove it
And it hits most any place,
Then I lift and shove the other
T'keep from falling on my face.
If the guide should change the cadence
I'll be damned if I could stop;
If you pushed me with a feather—
Well, I'd just curl up and drop.
And I know damn well there's stragglers
That'll ride up on a truck—
Guess if you ain't born a quitter,
You're just simply outa luck.
I suppose we'll keep on going—
Huh? The Skipper's faced about?
Halt!...I'm the daisies...
You don't say..."fall out!"

For some of use the War will never end.

For some of us the War will never end.

In an old Roman cellar...

In an old Roman cellar two floors underground where civilians went during air raids as bombing planes passed over on their way to Compiegne, Paris, and interior cities. This "cave" was considered absolutely safe, but in October 1918 was completed demolished by one "155" shell.

Mess and distribution of mail...

Mess and distribution of mail at the "non-com" school for the M.T.C. at Longpont

Far from Broadway

Far from Broadway—S.R.O.—Christmas 1917 at a YMCA hut

Dressing a gas burn case

Dressing a gas burn case

"Mission Ambrine"

"Mission Ambrine"
Hospital for the treatment of burns

Americans quartered in the old abbey...

Americans quartered in the old abbey St. John de Vine of Soissons in the spring of '18

All the Same Family

Henri, who tends sheep with his assistant (Leroy)

She teaches us French

Jean, who comes around at mess time for "confiture Americaine," and who has learned how to say "chewing gum" and "cigarette."

And Pierre picked the spuds

Their last war

Their last war
Chateau Thierry—France 1918

The town of Cuffies...

The town of Cuffies (sur Aisne) held by the Germans till 1916, when the old inhabitants began moving back in; they were assisted in re-establishing their life there by the American Red Cross

The site of the home of Madam Crépin where the Red Cross set up a barrack cottage for her.

The Glory of Reims

The Glory of Reims

Cut off from rations for three days...

Cut off from rations for three days in the wood—with one can of tomatoes for both food and drink—

A sixteen year old volunteer

A sixteen year old volunteer


It seemed years since I had seen one,—
Years of hiking, sweat and blood,
Didn't think there was a clean one
In these miles of men and mud.
Well, I stood there, laughing, drinking,
Kidding her in bon fransay
But the things that I was thinking
Were a thousand miles away.
Sewed my stripe on like a mother,
Gee! She was a pretty kid...
But I left her like a brother,—
Shake her hand was all I did.
Then I says: "Vous, all right, cherry—"
And my throat stuck, and it hurt...
And I showed her what I carry
In the pocket of my shirt.
"Maison Comtois"

"Maison Comtois"

A second floor billet

A second floor billet

Outpost at Hershback Germany

Madelon of the village...

Madelon of the village, who washed our clothes—and who still has some of those we had to leave when we pulled out of the sector in the middle of the night

Neat but not gaudy

Neat but not gaudy
As we come home—on the transport.

Oran Africa 1919

Troops coming home from Marseilles go by way of Africa and stop to coal at Oran. Here the doughboy rests the French Arab soldier with whom He fought side by side at Soissons.

Ready to go Home

Ready to go Home

Reading the Draft Covenant for the League of Nations--Paris

Reading the Draft Covenant for the League of Nations—Paris. (President Wilson, center, reads, other figures labelled as) General Bliss, Colonel House, Secretary Lansing, M. Clemenceau, Mr. Balfour

Peace Conference Feb 14 1919

Blue denims for the trip home

Blue denims for the trip home
S.S. Canada

Outpost at Molsberg...

Outpost at Molsberg, Germany, an ancient castle which stands just on the edge of the American occupied area and the Neutral Zone.


We stood up and we didn't say a word,
It felt just like when you have dropped your pack
After a hike, and straightened out your back
And seem just twice as light as any bird.
We stood up straight and, God! but it was good!
When you have crouched like that for months, to stand
Straight up and look right out toward No-Man's-Land
And feel the way you never thought you could.
We saw the trenches on the other side
And Jerry, too, not making any fuss,
But prob'ly stupid-happy, just like us.
Nobody shot and no one tried to hide.
If you had listened then I guess you'd heard
A sort of sigh from everybody there,
But all we did was stand and stare and stare,
Just stare and stand and never say a word.