The Project Gutenberg EBook of Average Americans, by Theodore Roosevelt

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Title: Average Americans

Author: Theodore Roosevelt

Release Date: May 31, 2011 [EBook #36292]

Language: English

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Average Americans

Theodore Roosevelt



Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt
From a photogrph by Lévey-Dhurmer










The Knickerbocker Press


Copyright, 1919








ALL our lives my father treated his sons and daughters as companions. When we were not with him he wrote to us constantly. Everything that we did we discussed with him whenever it was possible. All his children tried to live up to his principles. In the paragraphs from his letters below, he speaks often of the citizens of this country as "our people." It is for all these, equally with us, that the messages are intended.

"New Year's greetings to you! This may or may not be, on the whole, a happy New Year—almost certainly it will be in part at least a New Year of sorrow—but at least you and your brothers will be upborne by the self-reliant pride coming from having played well and manfully a man's part when the great crisis came, the great crisis that 'sifted [vi]out men's souls' and winnowed the chaff from the grain."—January 1, 1918.

"Large masses of people still vaguely feel that somehow I can say something which will avoid all criticism of the government and yet make the government instantly remedy everything that is wrong; whereas in reality nothing now counts except the actual doing of the work and that I am allowed to have no part in. Generals Wood and Crowder have been denied the chance to render service; appointments are made primarily on grounds of seniority, which in war time is much like choosing Poets Laureate on the same grounds."—August 23, 1917.

"At last, after seven months, we are, like Mr. Snodgrass, 'going to begin.' The National Guard regiments are just beginning to start for their camps, and within the next two weeks I should say that most of them would have started; and by the first of September I believe that the first of the National [vii]Army will begin to assemble in their camps.... I do nothing. Now and then, when I can't help myself, I speak, for it is necessary to offset in some measure the talk of the fools, traitors, pro-Germans, and pacifists; but really what we need against these is action, and that only the government can take. Words count for but little when the 'drumming guns' have been waked."—August 23, 1917.

"The regular officers are fine fellows, but for any serious work we should eliminate two thirds of the older men and a quarter of the younger men, and use the remainder as a nucleus for, say, three times their number of civilian officers. Except with a comparatively small number, too long a stay in our army—with its peculiar limitations—produces a rigidity of mind that refuses to face the actual conditions of modern warfare. But the wonder is that our army and navy have been able to survive in any shape after five years of Baker and Daniels."—September 17, 1917.

[viii]"Along many lines of preparation the work here is now going fairly fast—not much of a eulogy when we are in the ninth month of the war. But there cannot be much speed when military efficiency is subordinated to selfish personal politics, the gratification of malice, and sheer wooden-headed folly."—October 14, 1917.

"The socialist vote [in the New York mayoralty election] was rather ominous. Still, on the whole, it was only about one fifth of the total vote. It included the extreme pacifist crowd, as well as the vicious red-flag men, and masses of poor, ignorant people who, for example, would say. 'He'll give us five-cent milk,' which he could have given as readily as he could have given the moon."—November 7, 1917.

"Well, it's dreadful to have those we love go to the front; but it is even worse when they are not allowed to go to the front."—Letter to Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., November 11, 1917.

[ix]"Yesterday mother and I motored down to the draft camp at Yaphank. First, I was immensely pleased with the type of the men, and the officers are just as good as the average of young West Pointers. I believe that in the end that army there will be as fine a body of fighting men as any nation in the world could desire to see under its banners. But there is still, after nearly three months that they have been called out, some shortage in warm clothes; there are modern rifles for only one man in six; there are only about four guns to an artillery brigade."—November 19, 1917.

"Of course, the root of our trouble lies in our government's attitude during the two and one half years preceding our entry into the war, and its refusal now to make the matter one in which all good citizens can join without regard to party, and paying heed only to the larger interests of the country and of mankind at large.... I now strike hands with any one who is sound on Americanism and on [x]speeding up the war and putting it through to the finish; but we ought to take heed of our industrial and social matters too."—Thanksgiving Day, 1917.

"There is little I can do here, except to try to speed up the war; the failure to begin work on the cargo ships with the utmost energy ten months ago was a grave misfortune."—December 23, 1917.

"The work of preparation here goes on slowly. I do my best to speed it up; but I can only talk or write; and it is only the doers who really count. The trouble is fundamental and twofold. The administration has no conception of war needs or what war means; and the American army has been so handled in time of peace that the bulk of the men high up were sure to break down in the event of war."—January 6, 1918.

"Over here Senator Chamberlain's committee has forced some real improvements in the work of the war department and the [xi]shipping board. It is of course a wicked thing that a year was wasted in delay and inefficiency. Substantially we are, as regards the war, repeating what was done in 1812-15; there was then a complete breakdown in the governmental work due to the pacifist theories which had previously obtained, to inefficiency in the public servants at Washington, and above all to the absolute failure to prepare in advance. Yet there was much individual energy, resourcefulness, and courage; much work by good shipwrights; fine fighting of an individual and non-coherent kind by ship captains and by occasional generals."—March 10, 1918.

"How I hate making speeches at such time as this, with you boys all at the front! And I am not sure they do much good. But someone has to try to get things hurried up."—March 14, 1918.

"Wood testified fearlessly before the Senate committee, and the country has been impressed [xii]and shocked by his telling (what of course all well informed people already knew) that we had none of our own airplanes or field guns and very few of our own machine guns at the front."—March 31, 1918.

"The great German drive has partially awakened our people to the knowledge that we really are in a war. They still tend to complacency about the 'enormous work that has been accomplished'—in building home camps and the like—but there really is an effort being made to hurry troops over, and tardily, to hasten the building of ships, guns, and airplanes.

"My own unimportant activities are, of course, steadily directed toward endeavoring to speed up the war, by heartily backing everything that is done zealously and efficiently, and by calling sharp attention to luke-warmness and inefficiency when they become so marked as to be dangerous."—April 7, 1918.

"Of course, we are gravely concerned over the way the British have been pushed back; [xiii]and our people are really concerned over the fact that after over a year of formal participation in the war our army overseas is too small to be of great use."—April 14, 1918.

"The administration never moves unless it is forced by public pressure and public pressure can as a rule only be obtained by showing the public that we have failed in doing something we should do; for as long as the public is fatuously content, the administration lies back and does nothing."—April 20, 1918.

"The people who wish me to write for them are divided between the desire to have me speak out boldly, and the desire to have me say nothing that will offend anybody—and cannot realize that the two desires are incompatible."—April 28, 1918.

"I spoke at Springfield to audiences whose enthusiastic reception of warlike doctrine showed the steady progress of our people in understanding what the war means."—May 5, 1918.

[xiv]"It is well to have had happiness, to have achieved the great ends of life, when one must walk boldly and warily close to death."—May 12, 1918.

"We are really sending over large numbers of men now, and the shipbuilding program is being rushed; but the situation as regards field guns, machine guns, and airplanes continues very bad. The administration never takes a step in advance until literally flailed into it; and the entire cuckoo population of the 'don't criticize the President' type play into the hands of the pro-Germans, pacifists, and Hearst people, so that a premium is put on our delay and inefficiency."—May 12, 1918.

"The only way I can help in speeding up the war is by jarring loose our governmental and popular conceit and complacency. I point out our shortcomings with unsparing directness and lash the boasting and the grandiloquent prophecies.

"The trouble is that our people are ignorant [xv]of the situation and that most of the leaders fear to tell the truth about conditions. I only wish I carried more weight. Yet I think our people are hardening in their determination to win the war, and are beginning to ask for results."—May 23, 1918.

"The war temper of the country is steadily hardening and so is the feeling against all the pro-German agitators at home."—June 2, 1918.

"In every speech I devote a little time to the 'cut out the boasting plea.' Of course I really do think that in spite of our governmental shortcomings we are developing our strength."—June 26, 1918.

"On the Fourth of July I went down to Passaic, where three quarters of the people are of foreign parentage, the mayor himself being of German ancestry. I talked straightout Americanism, of course, which was most enthusiastically received; the mayor's two sons have enlisted in the navy, and one has [xvi]been promoted to being ensign. The war spirit of the people is steadily rising."—July 7, 1918.

"I, of course, absolutely agree with you as to the tremendous difficulties and possible far-reaching changes we shall have to face after this war. Either fool Bourbonism or fool radicalism may land us unpleasantly near—say halfway toward—the position in which Russia has been landed by the alternation between Romanoffism and Bolshevism."—July 15, 1918.

"It is very bitter to me that all of you, the young, should be facing death while I sit in ease and safety."—July 21, 1918.

"I keep pegging away in the effort to hurry forward our work. We now have enough troops in France to make us a ponderable element in the situation."—August 4, 1918.

"On Labor Day I spoke at Newburgh shipyard and spoke plainly of the labor slackers [xvii]and the unions that encourage them; and on Lafayette Day, at the City Hall, I spoke of the kind of peace we ought to have, and nailed to the mast the flag of Nationalism as against Internationalism."—September 9, 1918.

"The Germans have been given a staggering blow, and while I hope for peace by Xmas, I believe we should speed everything to the limit on the assumption that next year will be the crucial year."—October 20, 1918.

"During the last week Wilson has been adroitly endeavoring to get the Allies into the stage of note writing and peace discussion with an only partially beaten and entirely unconquered Germany. I have been backing up the men like Lodge who have given utterance to the undoubtedly strong, but not necessarily steady, American demand for unconditional surrender. It is dreadful to have my sons face danger; but unless we put this war through, their sons may have to face worse danger—and their daughters also."—October 27, 1918.

Oyster Bay, August, 1919.








From a portrait by Lévey-Dhurmer
Haudivillers, April, 1917
Drawn by Captain W. J. Aylward, A. E. F., 1918
Drawn by Captain W. J. Aylward, A. E. F.
Drawn by Captain Harry E. Townsend, A. E. F.
Drawn by Captain George Harding, A. E. F., Montfaucon
Drawn by Captain George Harding, A. E. F. August, 1918
Drawn by Captain Ernest Peixotto, A. E. F.
Copyright, Walter S. Shinn






"'Tis education forms the common mind,—
Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined."

Alexander Pope

FROM the time when we were very little boys we were always interested in military preparedness. My father believed very strongly in the necessity of each boy being able and willing not only to look out for himself but to look out for those near and dear to him. This gospel was preached to us all from the time we were very, very small. A story, told in the family of an incident which happened long before I can remember, illustrated this. Father told me one day always to be willing to fight anyone who insulted[2] me. Shortly after this wails of grief arose from the nursery. Mother ran upstairs and found my little brother Kermit howling in a corner. When she demanded an explanation I told her that he had insulted me by taking away some of my blocks, so I had hit him on the head with a mechanical rabbit.

Our little boy fights were discussed in detail with father. Although he insisted on the willingness to fight, he was the first to object to and punish anything that resembled bullying. We always told him everything, as we knew he would give us a real and sympathetic interest.

Funny incidents of these early combats stick in my mind. One day one of my brothers came home from school very proud. He said he had had a fight with a boy. When asked how the fight resulted he said he had won by kicking the boy in the windpipe. Further investigation developed the fact that the windpipe was the pit of the stomach. My brother felt that it must be the windpipe, because when you kicked someone there he[3] lost his breath. I can remember father to this day explaining that no matter how effective this method of attack was it was not considered sportsmanlike to kick.

Father and mother believed in robust righteousness. In the stories and poems that they read us they always bore this in mind. Pilgrim's Progress and The Battle Hymn of the Republic we knew when we were very young. When father was dressing for dinner he used to teach us poetry. I can remember memorizing all the most stirring parts of Longfellow's Saga of King Olaf, Sheridan's Ride, and the Sinking of the Cumberland. The gallant incidents in history were told us in such a way that we never forgot them. In Washington, when father was civil service commissioner, I often walked to the office with him. On the way down he would talk history to me—not the dry history of dates and charters, but the history where you yourself in your imagination could assume the rôle of the principal actors, as every well-constructed boy wishes to do when in[4]terested. During every battle we would stop and father would draw out the full plan in the dust in the gutter with the tip of his umbrella.

When very little we saw a great many men serving in both the army and navy. My father did not wish us to enter either of these services, because he felt that there was so much to be done from a civilian standpoint in this country. However, we were taught to regard the services, as the quaint phraseology of the Court Martial Manual puts it, as the "honorable profession of arms." We were constantly listening to discussions on military matters, and there was always at least one service rifle in the house.

We spent our summers at Oyster Bay. There, in addition to our family, were three other families of little Roosevelts. We were all taught out-of-door life. We spent our days riding and shooting, wandering through the woods, and playing out-of-door games. Underlying all this was father's desire to have all of us children grow up manly and clean[5]-minded, with not only the desire but the ability to play our part at the country's need.

Father himself was our companion whenever he could get away from his work. Many times he camped out with us on Lloyd's Neck, the only "grown-up" of the party. We always regarded him as a great asset at times like these. He could think up more delightful things to do than we could in a "month of Sundays." In the evening, when the bacon that sizzled in the frying-pan had been eaten, we gathered round the fire. The wind soughed through the marsh grass, the waves rippled against the shore, and father told us stories. Of the children who composed these picnics, two died in service in this war, two were wounded, and all but one volunteered, regardless of age, at the outbreak of hostilities.

When we were all still little tadpoles, father went to the war with Spain. We were too little, of course, to appreciate anything except the glamour. When he decided to go, almost all his friends and advisers told him he was making a mistake. Indeed, I think my[6] mother was the only one who felt he was doing right. In talking it over afterward, when I had grown much older, father explained to me that in preaching self-defense and willingness to fight for a proper cause, he could not be effective if he refused to go when the opportunity came, and urged that "it was different" in his case. He often said, "Ted, I would much rather explain why I went to the war than why I did not."

At school and at college father encouraged us to take part in the games and sports. None of us were really good athletes—father himself was not—but we all put into it all we had. He was just as much interested in hearing what we had done on the second football team or class crew as if we had been varsity stars.

He always preached to us one maxim in particular: take all legitimate chances in your favor when going into a contest. He used to enforce this by telling us of a man with whom he had once been hunting. The man was naturally a better walker than father. Father selected his shoes with great care.[7] The man did not. After the first few days father was always able to outwalk and outhunt him just on this account. Father always went over his equipment with the greatest care before going on a trip, and this sort of thoroughness was imbued in all his sons.

Long before the European war had broken over the world, father would discuss with us military training and the necessity for every man being able to take his part.

I can remember him saying to me, "Ted, every man should defend his country. It should not be a matter of choice, it should be a matter of law. Taxes are levied by law. They are not optional. It is not permitted for a man to say that it is against his religious beliefs to pay taxes, or that he feels that it is an abrogation of his own personal freedom. The blood tax is more important than the dollar tax. It should not therefore be a voluntary contribution, but should be levied on all alike."

Father was much interested in General Wood's camps for the training of the younger[8] boys and was heartily in sympathy with them. Both Archie and Quentin attended them. Quentin had a badly strained back at the time, but that did not keep him from going.

At the sinking of the Lusitania a very keen realization of the gravity of the situation was evident all over the country. A number of younger men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-five met together to talk things over. In this group were Grenville Clarke, Philip A. Carroll, Elihu Root, Jr., Cornelius W. Wickersham, J. Lloyd Derby, Kenneth P. Budd, and Delancy K. Jay. They felt that it was only a question of time until we would be called to the colors, and realized most keenly the fact that it is one thing to be willing and quite another to be able to take your part. They felt, as this war has shown, the lamentable injustice and grievous loss that is entailed by putting against men who are trained in the business of fighting untrained men who, no matter how good their spirit and how great their courage, do not know the game.

[9]The outcome of the conference of these men was the decision to ask General Wood if it would be possible for him to hold a training camp, for men up to forty-five years, similar to those held for boys. With the usual patriotism that characterizes him, General Wood said at once that he would hold the camp even if they were able to get only twenty-five men to attend. In the beginning, converts came slowly, but after a campaign of personal solicitation, in which members of the original group went individually to various cities in the vicinity of New York, the movement got under way with such success that the first so-called "Business Men's Plattsburg Camp" numbered about one thousand, and was immediately followed by another nearly as large.

At this time the average man did not know what military training and service meant. The camp was composed of men of all types and all ages. Many of them, too old for active service, had come as an earnest of their belief and through the desire to teach by their actions as well as by their preachings. Robert[10] Bacon and John Purroy Mitchel attended this camp, both of them men whose memory will always be treasured by those who were fortunate enough to know them.

We took it all very seriously. At one end of the company street you would see two prominent middle-aged business men trying to do the manual of arms properly, rain dripping off them, their faces set like the day of judgment, crowned with grizzled hair. At the other would be Arthur Woods, the Police Commissioner of New York, "boning" the infantry drill regulations. George Wharton Pepper was promoted to sergeant, and was as proud of it as of any of his achievements in civil life. Bishop Perry of Rhode Island was named as color sergeant.

Men who went to this Plattsburg camp had to pay their own money in order to try to fit themselves to serve their country. No more undemocratic arrangement could have been made for it placed beyond the power of the men of small means, who form the body of the country, to get in advance the knowledge[11] necessary to act as an officer. Yet this was the only course open to us. In the ensuing year these camps spread over the country, and through them passed many thousands of men. Far over and above their value from the standpoint of military training was their educational value in national duty. A large percentage of the commissioned officers on our country's roll of honor attended the Plattsburg camps.

These camps in themselves furnished the nucleus for the selection of the commissioned personnel of the national army, and furnished, furthermore, the system by which the great mass of our junior officers were chosen and educated. Yet the movement was launched, not with the backing and help of the national administration, but rather in spite of the national administration. No official representing the administration visited these early camps. Solely by private endeavor, therefore, arose the system of selection of officers which enabled the army in this war, more than any army this country has had in the past, to choose the men for commissions with[12] a keen regard for their ability, with a truer democracy and less of political influence. On account of this movement the town of Plattsburg is known from one coast to the other.

During this first camp my father came up to address the men. Up to this time, although he had spoken on universal military training, it had been considered as such an unthinkable program that no one had paid any attention. Two or three times people have asked me when my father first became convinced of the necessity for universal training and service in this nation. They have always been greatly surprised when I have referred them back to a message to Congress written during his first term as President, in which he suggested that the Swiss system of training would be an advisable one to adopt in the United States. Many years before this he had directed N. Carey Sawyer to investigate and report on Switzerland's military policy. So little were people concerned with it at that time that no comment of any sort was caused by either act.

[13]The evening of my father's arrival at Plattsburg an orderly came and directed me to report at headquarters, where my father was sitting in conference.

"Ted, I have decided to make a speech to-morrow in favor of universal service," father said to me. "My good friends here, who believe in it as much as I do, feel that the time is not ripe, that the country would not understand it, and that it will merely provoke a storm of adverse criticism. I have told them that although the country may criticize, and although unquestionably a storm of attacks will be directed against me, it must be done, because the country must begin thinking on the subject."

He spoke next day before the assembled students. The ring of serious khaki-clad men seated on the parade ground, father speaking very earnestly in the center, speaking until after dark, when he had to finish by a lantern, is a clear picture to me.

To many of them this exposition was the first they had ever heard on the subject.[14] Most of them up to this time had not been interested in it, and had felt vaguely that compulsory military training and service was synonymous with the German system and was not democratic. When France and Switzerland were brought to their attention as democracies, as efficient democracies, and as countries which had a thoroughly developed system of universal military training, their eyes were opened and they saw the matter in a new light. From this camp, directed in a large part by my father's and General Wood's inspiration and ideas, grew a nation-wide group of young men who felt the seriousness of the situation, young men who realized we must take our part and who wished, as one of my private soldiers put it to me, "At least to have a show for their white alley" when the war broke.

During the ensuing winter and summer in many parts of the country enthusiasts were working, and many more camps were founded and carried to a successful completion. Recognition of a mild sort was obtained from[15] the National Government. Not recognition which permitted men to go as men should go in a democracy, to learn to serve their country, as pupils of the country, at the country's expense, but at least as men doing something which was not unrecognized and frowned on by their government.

Toward the winter of 1917 father talked ever increasingly to all of us concerning his chance of being permitted to take a division or unit of some sort to Europe. When war was declared he took this matter up directly with the President. What happened is now history. He took his disappointment as he took many other disappointments in his life. Often after he had worked with all that was in him for something, when all that could be done was done, he would say, "We have done all we can; the result is now on the knees of the gods."

Meanwhile he was constantly interested in and constantly talked with all of us about what we were doing. At last, two months after we severed diplomatic relations, training[16] camps for officers were called into being with enormous waste and inefficiency, and we ambled slowly toward the training of an army and its commanding personnel.

All of us except my brother Quentin left for Plattsburg. Quentin, on the day before diplomatic relations were severed, had telephoned from college to father to say he would go into the air service, where his real ability as a mechanician stood him in good stead. Of the other three, Kermit had had the least training from a purely military standpoint, having been in South America during most of the time when we had been working on the "Plattsburg movement." His ability and experience, however, in other ways were greater, as in his hunting trips in Africa and South America he had handled bodies of men in dangerous situations. Archie had attended practically all the camps, and was naturally a fine leader of men and a boy of great daring.

At Plattsburg, Archie and I were fortunate enough to be put in the same company. During the major part of the month we were there[17] we were in charge of the company. Our duty was to instruct potential officers in the art of war which we ourselves did not know. We spent hours wig-wagging and semaphoring. Neither of these methods of signaling did I ever see used in action.

In our "conference" periods the floor was opened for questions. The conversation would be something like this: "What is light artillery?" "Light artillery is the lighter branch of the artillery."—"That is all very well, but define it further." Deep thought. "It is the artillery carried by men and not by horses." One man asked in all solemnity once, "Does blood rust steel more than water?" It is not necessary to add that he never became an officer.

We worked like nailers, but were always watching for the word that troops were to be sent across. To all of us, from the beginning, it was not a question of deciding whether we should go or not. We had been brought up with the idea that, deplorable as war was, the only way when it broke was to go. The only[18] way to keep peace, a righteous peace, was to be prepared and willing to fight. A splendid example of a fine family record is given by Governor Manning's family, of South Carolina: seven sons, all in service, and one paying the supreme sacrifice.

"If we had a trained army like the Swiss, Germany would never dare commit any offenses against us, and, furthermore, I believe it highly possible that the entire war might have been avoided," was a statement often made to me by father at the beginning of the war.

At the end of the first three weeks we heard rumors that a small expeditionary force was to be sent over immediately. We telephoned father at Oyster Bay and asked him if he could help us get attached to this expeditionary force. He said he would try, and succeeded in so far as Archie and I were concerned, as we already had commissions in the officers' reserve corps. We offered to go in the ranks, but General Pershing said we would be of more value in the grades for which we held commissions.[19] Our excitement was intense when one day in an official envelope from Washington we received a communication, "Subject—Foreign Service." The communication was headed "Confidential," so we were forced to keep all our jubilation to ourselves. Some ten days after we received another communication, "Subject—Orders," and were directed to report to the commanding general, port of embarkation, New York, "confidentially by wire," at what date we would be ready to start.

We both felt this was not the most expeditious way to proceed, but we obeyed orders and telegraphed. We supplemented this, however, by taking the next train and reporting in person at the same time the telegram arrived, in case they could not decode our message. General Franklin Bell was the commanding general, and he very kindly helped us get off at once, and we left on the liner Chicago for Bordeaux on June 18th.

Our last few days in this country we spent with the family. Archie and I went with our[20] wives to Oyster Bay, where father, mother, and Quentin were. My wife even then announced her intention of going to Europe in some auxiliary branch, but she promised me she would not start without my permission. The promise was evidently made in the Pickwickian sense, as when I cabled her from Europe not to come the answer that I got was the announcement of her arrival in Paris. There were six of our immediate family in the American expeditionary forces—my wife, one brother-in-law, Richard Derby, and we four brothers. Father, busy as he was, during the entire time we were abroad wrote to each of us weekly, and, when he physically could, in his own hand.


The last five years have made me bitterly conscious of the shortcomings of our national character; but we Roosevelts are Americans, and can never think of living anything else, and wouldn't be anything else for any consideration on the face of the earth; a man with our way of looking at things can no more change his country than he can change his mother; and it is the business of each of us to play the part of a good American and try to make things as much better as possible.

This means, at the moment, to try to speed up its war; to back its army to the limit; and to support or criticize every public official precisely according to whether he does or does not efficiently support its war and the army.





"Sons of the sheltered city—
Unmade, unhandled, unmeet—
Ye pushed them raw to the battle
As ye picked them raw from the street.
And what did ye look, they should compass?
Warcraft learned in a breath,
Knowledge unto occasion
At the first far view of death?"


WHILE we were personally working at Plattsburg the national administration, after a meandering course, in which much of the motion was retrograde, had finally decided that to fight a war in France it was necessary to send troops to that part of the world. Out of this determination Pershing's force grew.

Investigation of the condition of our military establishment indicated that we had virtually nothing available. The best that[22] could be done in the way of an expeditionary force was to group two regiments of marines and four regular regiments together and send them to Europe as the First Division. So little attention and thought had been given to military matters that when the First Division was originally grouped it consisted of three brigades, not two. These brigades consisted of the Fifth and Sixth Marines, Twenty-sixth and Twenty-eighth Infantry, and the Sixteenth and Eighteenth Infantry. In the regiments themselves things were in the same chaotic condition. Battalions contained three companies of infantry and one machine-gun company each. This was an eleventh-hour change from the old system of four companies of infantry, to which we returned later in the year. We had, furthermore, up to this time, by our tables of organization, companies of 152 men. These companies were raised to 200 men, and still later became 250.

As a matter of fact, the strength of these companies at the declaration of war was somewhere around sixty. The 140 additional were[23] obtained by getting a percentage by transfer from other infantry regiments, and filling in the balance with raw recruits who had just volunteered for service.

My own regiment, the Twenty-sixth Infantry, entrained early in June at San Benito, Texas, and came to the port of embarkation, New York City. The trip always stands out in my mind, although I did not join the regiment until after it had arrived in Europe, because all through the two years of war I was pestered by a paper which kept constantly turning up concerning some $100 worth of ham and cheese that was supposed to have been eaten by the men of the Twenty-sixth Infantry as they passed through Houston. No one was ever able to furnish me with any information as to it, but in the best approved military style the communication kept circulating to and fro, indorsement after indorsement being added, until, when I last saw it, January, 1919, after the war was finished, there were some twenty-eight series of remarks, and no one was any the wiser.

[24]A story that always appealed to me was told me by one of my officers, of the time when the troop train was lying in the Jersey marshes waiting to go on board ship. A very good officer, Arnold by name, had command of one of the companies of the Twenty-sixth Infantry. A number of lieutenants were sent from the training camps to join the First Division. The military knowledge of the lieutenants consisted in the main of a month at Plattsburg at their own expense, and a month for which the government paid. The lieutenants, after getting to New York, had their uniforms pressed and cleaned and their shoes beautifully polished, feeling that at least they would look the part. They went out to join the troops, who were lying in the cars, hot, dirty and uncomfortable, after traveling for four days. Arnold was sitting with his company, his blouse off, unshaven, with his feet on the seat in front of him. One of the nice young lieutenants came in to report to him looking, as the lieutenant himself told me afterward, like a fashionable clothes advertisement, and knowing about as much about military matters[25] as a canary bird.

1 Lt. Einar H. Gausted wounded
2 Lt. George Jackson killed May 28, '18
3 Capt. Amiel Frey killed May 27, '18
4 Lt. Grover P. Cather killed May 28, '18
5 Lt. Charles H. Weaver wounded
6 Lt. Wesley Freml killed June 29, '18
7 Lt. James M. Barrett gassed
8 Lt. Roland W. Estey  
9 Major Theodore Roosevelt wounded
10 Lt. B. Vann  
11 Lt. George P. Gustafson killed June 6, '18
12 Lt. Tuve J. Floden wounded
13 Lt. Rexie E. Gilliam wounded
14 Lt. John P. Gaines wounded
15 Lt. Lewis Tillman  
16 Lt. Percy E. Le Stourgeon wounded
17 Lt. Brown Lewis wounded
18 Capt. Hamilton K. Foster killed Oct. 2, '18
19 Lt. Paul R. Caruthers wounded
20 Lt. M. Morris Andrews  
21 Lt. William C. Dabney wounded
22 Lt. Donald H. Grant  
23 Capt. E. D. Morgan  
24 Lt. Dennis H. Shillen wounded
25 Lt. Harry Dillon killed Oct. 4, '18
26 Lt. Charles Ridgely  
27 Lt. Joseph P. Card  
28 Lt. Stewart A. Baxter wounded
29 Lt. Thomas D. Amory killed Oct. 3, '18
30 Lt. Thomas B. Corneli  



Haudivillers. April, 1917

Arnold looked at him in a weary way, shook his head sadly and remarked to the officer beside him, "We have only ourselves to blame for it." Indeed, we were to blame for conditions, and such of us as were fortunate enough to see service in Europe had the sins of our unpreparedness brought before us in the most glaring light.

Just how much training and experience were of value was everywhere evident. In my opinion, all divisions sent over by this country were approximately equal in intelligence and courage. There was, however, the greatest difference between the veteran divisions and those which had just arrived. Each division, after being given the same amount of training and fighting, would show up much the same, but put a division which had been fighting for six months alongside of one that had just arrived, and in every detail you could see the difference. The men of the newly arrived division were as courageous as the men of the[26] old division. Their intelligence was as good, but they did not know the small things which come only with training and experience, and which, in a close battle, make the difference between victory and defeat, the difference between needless sacrifice and the sacrifice which brings results.

A great friend of mine, Colonel Frederick Palmer, put this to me very clearly. He was observing the action of our troops in the Argonne and came on a young lieutenant with a platoon of infantry. The lieutenant was fidgeting and highly nervous. When Palmer came up he said, "Sir, there is a machine gun on that hill. I don't know whether I should attack it or whether I should wait until the troops on the right and left arrive and force it out. I don't know whether it is killing my men to no purpose whatever to advance. I don't know what to do. I am not afraid. My men are not afraid."

This man belonged to one of the newly arrived divisions. Given the experience, he would have known exactly what to do. If he[27] had been a man of an older division and had seen sufficient service he would have been doing what was necessary when Colonel Palmer arrived.

The little tricks which come only with soldiering and training, which do not appear in the accounts of the battles and are never found in the citations for valor, are those which make the great difference. For example, Napoleon has said that an army travels on its stomach. It is often quoted and rarely understood, yet nothing is more true. The men have had a hard day's fighting. They are wet, they are cold, they have marched for a week, mostly at night, and are worn out. Can you get the food forward to them? Can you get the food to them hot? If you can get hot food forward to them you have increased the fighting efficiency of these troops thirty per cent.

Experienced troops get this food forward. A machine working on past experience knows exactly what to do. The supply trains keep track of their advance units and follow closely[28] in their rear. During the engagement the supply officers are planning where to put their rolling kitchens and what routes can be used to get the supplies forward. Meanwhile the echelons of supply in the rear are acting in the same manner. One does not find in the drill-book that the way to keep coffee and slum hot after it has left the rolling kitchens is to take out the boilers with the food in them, wrap these boilers in old blankets, put them on the two-wheeled machine-gun carts, which can go nearly anywhere, and work forward to the troops in this way. This is just one instance, one trick of the trade. It is something that only training and experience can supply, and yet it is of most vital importance. I have known divisions to help feed the more recently arrived divisions on their right and left, when all have had the same facilities to start with. I have known new troops, fighting by an older division, to be forty hours without food when the men of the older division had been eating every day.

Right in the ranks of a regiment you could[29] see the difference made by training and experience. Look at a trained man alongside of a new recruit just arrived for replacement. The trained man, at the end of the day's fighting, will fix himself up a funk hole where he will be reasonably safe from shell fragments, will cover himself with a blanket, and will get some sleep. The recruit will expose himself unnecessarily, will be continuously uncomfortable, and will not know how to take advantage of whatever opportunity might arise to make himself more comfortable. The result is that the value of the former is much greater from a military standpoint, and the latter runs a far greater risk physically from all standpoints. Moreover, when the test comes, as it generally does, not in the beginning of the battle, but toward the bitter end, when every last ounce that a man has in him is being called on, the untrained man is not so apt to have the necessary vitality left to do his work.

Our equipment, for the same reason, during the early days of the war was most impracticable. A notable example of this was the[30] so-termed "iron ration" carried on the men's backs. The meat component of this ration was bacon. In certain types of fighting, those in which our army had been principally engaged, this may have been best, but for the work in Europe, it was absolutely impracticable. To begin with, bacon encourages thirst, and thirst, where troops are fighting in many of the districts in France, is almost impossible to satisfy. A canteen of water a day for each man was all it was possible to provide. Furthermore, bacon has to be cooked, and this again is often impracticable. About a year after the beginning of the war, some of the older divisions adopted tinned beef, which went among the men under the euphonious name of "monkey meat."

To the average person in this country these things are not evident. They read of battles, they read of the courage of the men, of the casualties, of the glory. They do not appreciate the unnecessary sacrifices and the unnecessary deaths and hardships entailed on us by our policies.

[31]It is all very well for someone comfortably ensconced in his swivel chair in Washington to issue the statement that he glories in the fact that we went into this war unprepared. It may be glorious for him, but it is not glorious for those who fight the war, for those who pay the price. The clap-trap statesmen of this type should be forced to go themselves or at least have their sons, as guarantee of their good faith, join the fighting forces. Needless to say, none of them did.

Except for one instance, I do not believe there is a single male member of the families of the administration who felt that his duty called him to be where the fighting was, a single male member who heard a gun fired in anger. I have heard some of these estimable gentlemen say they considered it improper to use any influence to get to the front much though they desired to do so. This type of observation is hypocritical. No doubt the men who gave their lives, their eyes, their arms, or their legs would feel deeply grieved to be robbed of this privilege.

[32]I have quoted above my father's statement that he would rather have explained why he went to war than why he did not, for the benefit of these gentlemen. I should think they would rather explain why they used their influence to be where the danger was than why they did not. As my father wrote me in June, 1918: "When the trumpet sounds for Armageddon, only those win the undying honor and glory who stand where the danger is sorest."




"Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind the gates of Hercules,
Before him not the ghosts of shores
Before him only shoreless seas."

Joaquin Miller.

MY brother and I sailed from New York for Bordeaux on June 18, 1917. One little incident of the voyage always stands out in my mind. As we were leaving the harbor, the decks crowded with passengers, everyone keyed up to a high state of excitement, our flag was lowered for some reason. While being lowered it blew from the halyards and fell into the water, and as it fell one could hear everyone who saw it catch his breath, like a great sob.

The passenger list was polyglot. French returning from missions to the United States,[34] Red Cross workers, doctors, ambulance drivers, and a few casual officers. We spent our time trying to improve our French to such an extent that we could understand or be understood when speaking it with others than Americans. Our teacher was Felix, a chauffeur. He had already served in the artillery in the French army, finally finishing the war as a captain in the same branch of the service in the United States army.

We touched the shore of France toward the end of June and, passing a few outgoing ships and a couple of torpedoed vessels, steamed slowly up the broad, tranquil estuary of the Garonne. In the town of Bordeaux all the inhabitants were greatly excited about Les Américaines. We were the first they had seen since the news had reached France that we were sending troops, and as we drove through the multi-colored market the old crones would get up and cackle their approval.

To the average Frenchman who had always been accustomed to a sound scheme of preparedness and trained men who could go to[35] the colors for immediate service, we were taken to be simply the first contingent of an enormous army which would follow without interruption. The poor people were bitterly disappointed when they found that the handful of untrained men alluded to by our papers in this country as "the splendid little regular army" represented all that we had available in the United States, and that ten months would pass before a really appreciable number of troops would arrive.

From Bordeaux we went by train to Paris. In the train the same interest in and excitement over us continued. The compartment was full of French soldiers, who asked us all about our plans, the number of our troops and when they would arrive. Outside it was a beautiful day, and the green, well-cultivated fields and picturesque, quiet villages made it hard to realize we were really in France, where the greatest war in history was being fought.

On reaching Paris we reported to General Pershing. He asked us what duty we wished.[36] We both replied, service with troops. He assigned my brother at once to the Sixteenth Infantry, and ordered me to go with the advance billeting detail to the Gondecourt area, where our troops were to train.

Meanwhile the convoyed ships containing the troops had arrived at St. Nazaire. On the way over officers and men had tried to do what they could to prepare themselves. One of the officers told me he spent his time learning the rules of land warfare for civilized nations as agreed on by the Hague tribunal. Like the dodo, the mammoth, and international law, these rules had long since become extinct.

From St. Nazaire a battalion of the Sixteenth Infantry went to Paris and paraded on the Fourth of July. The population went crazy over them. Cheering crowds lined the streets, flowers were thrown at them, and I think the men felt that France and war were not so bad after all. As a side light on our efficiency in this parade the troops were marched in column of squads because the[37] men were so green that the officers were afraid to adopt any formation where it was necessary to keep a longer line properly dressed.

Meanwhile three officers and I had left Paris and gone to Gondecourt. The officers were General (then Colonel) McAlexander, who since made a splendid record for himself when the Third Division turned the German offensive of July 15, 1918, east of Château Thierry; General (then Major) Leslie McNair, afterward head of the artillery department of the training section; and Colonel Porter, of the medical corps. We knew nothing about billeting. The sum total of my knowledge was a hazy idea that it meant putting the men in spare beds in a town and that it was prohibited by the Constitution of the United States.

Toward evening we arrived at the little French village of Gondecourt. The streets were decorated with flowers, and groups of little French children ran to and fro shouting Vive les Américaines! We were met by French officers and taken to the inn, a charming little[38] brownstone building, where French officers, soldiers and civilians mingled without distinction. There the mayor of the town and the town major, who is appointed in all zones of the army as the representative of the military, came to call on us, and we started to get down to business. A most difficult thing for our men to realize was the various formalities through which one must go in working with the French. Many times real trouble was caused because the Americans did not understand what a part in French life politesse plays. No conversation on military matters is carried on by the French in the way we would. You do not go straight to the point. Each participant first expresses himself on the virtues and great deeds of the other, and after this the sordid matter of business in hand is taken up. We were poorly equipped for this. Only McNair and I spoke French at all, and ours was weird and awful to a degree. We had both been taught by Americans after the best approved United States method.

The French town major with whom we dwelt was an old fellow,[39] a veteran of the war of 1870. He had an enormous white mustache. He "snorted like a buffalo," and the one word that I always understood was parfaitement, which he constantly used.



Right by this area was the birthplace of Jeanne d'Arc. The humble little village, Domremy, is just like any of those in the surrounding country. The house where she is supposed to have lived is rather smaller than its neighbors. In many ways Jeanne d'Arc and this little village symbolize France to me. France is France not on account of those who scintillate in Paris, but on account of the humbler people, those whom the tourist never sees, or if he does, forgets. France has no genius for politics. Her Chamber of Deputies is composed of men who amount to little and who do not share the national ideals and visions, but in the body of the people you find that flaming and pure patriotism which counts no costs when the fight is for France. The national impulse will exist as long as there is a peasant left alive.

[40]The training area was composed of a number of towns with from 150 to 500 civilian population. We ran from village to village in automobiles, surprised and appalled by the number of men that the French military were able to put in each.

These small French villages in the north of France resemble nothing that we have in our country. They are charming and picturesque, but various features are lacking which to the well-ordered American mind causes pain. To begin with, there is no system of plumbing. The village gets all its water supply from the public fountains. This naturally makes a bath an almost unknown luxury. Many times I have been asked by the French peasants why I wanted a bath, and should it be winter, was I not afraid I would be taken sick if I took one. Around these public fountains the village life centers. There the chattering groups of women and girls are always congregating. There the gossip of the countryside originates and runs its course. There is rarely electric light in the small towns,[41] and enormous manure piles are in front of each house and in the street. The houses themselves are a combination affair, barn and house under the same roof. The other features that are always present are the church and café. Even in the smallest town there are generally charming chapels. The cafés are where the opinions of the French nation are formed.

The peasants who live in these villages have an immemorial custom behind them in most of their actions. They have the careful attitude of an old people, very difficult for our young and wasteful nation to understand. Each stray bit of wood, each old piece of iron, is saved and laid aside for future use. No great wasteful fires roar on the hearth, but rather a few fagots, carefully measured to do just what is intended for them.

The families have lived in the same spot for generations. Their roots are very firmly in the ground. Individually they are a curious combination of simplicity and shrewdness. One old woman with whom my brother Archie[42] was billeted in the town of Boviolles became quite a friend of ours. We talked together in the evening, sitting by the great fireplace, in which a little bit of a fire would be burning. She had never in her life been farther than six or eight miles from the village of Boviolles. To her Paris was as unreal as Colchis or Babylon to us. She, in common with her country folk, looked forward to the arrival of the American army, much in the way we would look forward to the arrival of the Hottentots. In fact, when she heard we were coming to the village, she at first decided to run away. To her the United States was a wilderness inhabited by Indians and cowboys. We told her about New York City and Chicago. We told her that New York was larger than Paris and that neither of us had ever shot a bear there and no Indians tomahawked people on the street. We explained to her that if you took all the houses in the village and placed them one on top of another they would not stand as high as some of our buildings. As a result, she felt toward us much as the con[43]temporaries of Marco Polo felt toward him—we were amiable story-tellers and that was all.

Once I introduced a French officer to Colonel William J. Donovan, of the 165th Infantry. In the course of my introduction I mentioned the fact that Colonel Donovan came from Buffalo. After Donovan had gone, the Frenchman remarked to me, "Buffalo is very wild, is it not?" I answered him guardedly, "Not very." He explained, "But it is the place where you hunt that great animal, is it not?"

Something that struck me forcibly was the total lack of roving desire among the peasants. Where they had been born, there they desired to live and die. This you would see in the poilu in the trenches, whose idea always was to return home again to the house where he was born.

There is also a very real democracy in the French army. This should be borne in mind by all those who go about talking of the military aristocracy which would be built up by[44] universal service in this country. In France I have seen sons of the most prominent families, the descendants of the old haute noblesse, as privates or noncommissioned officers. I also have seen in the little French villages a high officer of the French army returning to his family for his leave, that family being the humblest of peasants, living in a cottage of two rooms. I have dined with a general, been introduced by him to the remainder of his family, and found them privates and noncommissioned officers.

The French sent to the Gondecourt area a division of the "Chasseurs Alpins" to help train us. The chasseurs are a separate unit from the French infantry and have their own particular customs. To begin with, their military organization is slightly different, in that they do not have regiments and the battalion forms the unit. Their uniforms are dark blue with silver buttons, and they do not wear the ordinary French cap, but have a dark-blue cloth bérèt, or tam-o'-shanter, with an Alpine horn embroidered in[45] silver as insignia. The corps is an old one and has many traditions. Their pride is to consider themselves as quite apart from the infantry; indeed, they feel highly insulted if you confuse the two, although, to all intents and purposes, their work is identical. They have songs of their own, some of them very uncomplimentary to the infantry, and highly seasoned, according to our American ideas. They have a custom when marching on parade of keeping a step about double the time of the ordinary slow step. Their bugle corps, which they have instead of our regimental brass bands, are very snappy and effective, and the men have a trick of waving their bugles in unison before they strike a note, which is very effective. They have no drums. These quaint, squat, jovial, dark-haired fellows were billeted in the villages all around our area.

The billeting party, after working very hard and accomplishing very little, divided the area up as the French suggested. In advance of the remainder of our troops the battalion[46] of the Sixteenth Infantry, which paraded in Paris on the Fourth of July, arrived. We were all down at the train to meet them, as was a battalion of the Chasseurs Alpins. They came in the ordinary day coaches used in France. I remember hearing an officer say that these were hard on the men. It was the last time that I ever saw our troops travel in anything but box cars, and this arrangement was made, I think, as a special compliment by the French Government.

A couple of days afterward came the Fourteenth of July. The French had a parade, and our troops took part in it. The French troops came first past the reviewing officers, who were both French and American. The infantry of each battalion passed first, bayonets glittering, lines smartly dressed; following them in turn the machine-gun companies, or "jackass batteries," as they were called by our men, the mules finely currycombed and the harness shining. Their bands, with the brass trumpets, played snappily. Altogether they gave an appearance of confident efficiency. Then came our troops—in[47] column of squads. What held good in Paris still held good—our splendidly trained little army did not dare trust itself to take up platoon front.




"I wish myself could talk to myself as I left 'im a year ago;
I could tell 'im a lot that would save 'im a lot in the things that 'e ought to know.
When I think o' that ignorant barrack bird it almost makes me cry."


A day or two after the Fourteenth of July review the rest of the troops arrived and my personal fortune hung in the balance, as I was still unattached. Colonel Duncan, afterward Major General Duncan, commander of the Seventy-seventh and Eighty-second divisions, was then commanding the Twenty-sixth Infantry. One of his majors had turned out to be incompetent. He came to General Sibert and asked if he had an extra major to whom he could give a try-out.

"Yes," replied General Sibert. "Why not try Roosevelt?"

[49]"Send him along and I will see what he's good for," was Duncan's reply.

I went that day, took command of my battalion the day after, and never left the Twenty-sixth Infantry, except when wounded, until just before coming back to this country after the war.

Most of the Twenty-sixth Infantry was billeted in a town called Demange-aux-Eaux, one of the largest in the area. By it flowed a good-sized stream, a convenient bathtub for officers and men alike. We started at once cleaning up places for the company kitchens, getting the billets as comfortable as possible and selecting sites for drill grounds.

The men, who up to this time had been bewildered by the rapid changes, now began to find themselves and make up to the French inhabitants. I have seen time and time again a group composed of two or three poilus and two or three doughboys wandering down the street arm in arm, all talking at once, neither nationality understanding the other and all having a splendid time. The Americans'[50] love for children asserted itself and the men made fast friends with such youngsters as there were. It is a sad fact that there are very few children in northern France. In the evenings, after their drill was over, the men would sit in groups with the women and children, talking and laughing. Sometimes some particularly ambitious soldier would get a French dictionary and laboriously endeavor to pick out, word by word, various sentences. Others, feeling that the French had better learn our language rather than we learn theirs, endeavored to instruct their new friends in English.

About this time that national institution of France, vin ordinaire, was introduced to our men. The two types, vin blanc, white wine, and vin rouge, red wine, were immediately christened vin blink and vin rough. The fact that this wine could be bought for a very small amount caused much interest. Champagne also came well within the reach of everyone's purse. To most of the men, champagne, up to this time, had been something they [51]read about, and was connected in their minds with Broadway and plutocracy. It represented to them untold wealth completely surrounded by stage beauties. Here, all of a sudden, they found champagne something which could be bought by the poorest buck private. This, in some cases, had a temporarily disastrous effect, for under circumstances such as these a number of men might naturally feel that they should lay in a sufficient supply of champagne to last them in memory, if nothing else, through the rest of their lives.

I remember particularly one of my men who dined almost exclusively on champagne one evening and returned to his company with his sense of honor perhaps slightly distorted and his common sense entirely lacking. The company commander, Captain Arnold, of whom I spoke before, was standing in front of his billet when this man appeared with his rifle on his shoulder, saluted in the most correct military manner, and said, "I desire the company commander's permission to shoot Private So-and-So, who has made some very[52] insulting remarks concerning the town in which I lived in the United States."

Trouble of all sorts, however, was very small considering the circumstances, and decreased with every month the troops were in France. We always found that the new men who arrived for replacements were the ones who were most likely to overstep the bounds, and with them it was generally the novelty rather than anything else.

Then came the question of French money. We were all paid in francs. To begin with, our soldiers received eight or ten times as much pay as the average French soldier. This put them in the position of bloated plutocrats. Then, too, none of us had very much idea of what French money meant. Since the war the paper of which French money was made had been of very inferior quality, and I know I personally felt that when I could get anything concrete, such as a good dinner, in exchange for these very dilapidated bits of paper, I had made a real bargain. The soldiers, I am sure, were of the same opinion.[53] Prices tripled wherever we were in France. Indeed, I doubt if in all their existence the little villages in our training area had ever had a tenth part of the money in circulation that appeared just after pay day for the troops.

Of course, the French overcharged our men. It's human nature to take as much as you can get, and the French are human. One should remember, in blaming them for this, that our troops, before sailing for France, were overcharged by people in this country. When the doughboy wanted eggs, for instance, he wanted them badly, and that was all there was to it. In every company there was generally one good "crap shooter." What the French did not get he got, and, contrary to the usual theory of gamblers' money, he usually saved it. One of the trials of an officer is the men's money. Before action, before any move, the men who have any money always come to their C. O. and ask him to keep it for them. I remember once an old sergeant came to me and asked me to keep two or three thousand francs for him. I did. Next day he was[54] A. W. O. L. He had not wanted to keep the money for fear of spending it if he got drunk. When he came back I tried him by court-martial, reduced him to the ranks, and gave him back his money.

During the twenty months that I spent in Europe I was serving with troops virtually the entire time, commanding them in villages all through the north of France, through Luxembourg and Germany, and in all that period I never had one complaint from the inhabitants concerning the treatment by our men of either women or children. When we went into conquered territory we did not even consider it necessary to speak to the men on this point, and our confidence was justified. Occasionally a man and his wife would call on me and ask if Private "So-and-So" was really a millionaire in America, as he had said, because, if so, they thought it would be a good thing for him to marry their daughter. This would, however, generally smooth itself out, as Private "So-and-So," as a rule, had no intention of marrying their[55] daughter, and they had no intention of letting her marry him when they found out that the statement concerning his family estates in America was, to put it mildly, highly colored. Oddly enough, this is not as queer as one might think. The company cook in one of the companies of our battalion inherited, while in Europe, about $600,000. It never bothered him from any standpoint. He still remained cook and cooked as well as ever.

The average day's training was divided about as follows: First call about 6 o'clock, an hour for breakfast and policing. After that, the troops marched out to some drill ground, where they maneuvered all day, taking their lunch there and returning late in the afternoon. Formal retreat was then held, then supper, and by 10 o'clock taps sounded. The American troops experienced a certain amount of difficulty in fixing on satisfactory meeting grounds with the corresponding French units with whom they were training. Our battalion, however, was fortunate, but another battalion of our regiment had at periods to[56] turn out before daylight in order to make the march necessary to connect.

This battalion during the early part of our training was billeted in the same town. One day their first call sounded at somewhere around 4.15. A good sergeant, Murphy by name, an old-timer who had been in the army twenty-four years, had his platoon all in one billet. He heard the first call, did not realize that it was not for him, and turned his platoon out. By the time he had the platoon filing out he discovered his mistake. At the same time he noticed that one of the men had not turned out. Murphy was a strict disciplinarian and he took a squad from the platoon and went in to find the man. The man explained that this was not the correct call. Sergeant Murphy said that that made no difference, that when a platoon was formed, the place for every man was with the platoon, and, to the delight of the platoon and particularly the squad which assisted him, escorted the recalcitrant sleeper out and dropped him in the stream.

[57]Sergeant Murphy was the type of man who is always an asset to a command. On the way to Europe he had been in charge of the kitchen police on board the transport and here had earned himself the name of "Spuds" Murphy. He was always faithful to whatever job he was detailed. When things were breaking badly he could always be depended on to cheer the men up by joking with them. He was an old fellow, bent and very gray, and he was physically unable to stand a lot of the racket, so I used to order him to stay behind with the kitchens when we went into action. One night, when the troops were moving up to the front line, I was standing by the side of the road checking off the platoons as they passed. I thought I recognized one figure silhouetted against the gray sky. A moment later I was positive when I heard, "Sure and if you feel that way about the Gairmans there're as good as beat."

"Sergeant Murphy?"


[58]"What are you doing here? Didn't I tell you to stay with the kitchens?"

"But I didn't be thinkin' the Major would be wantin' me to stay coffee coolin' all the time, so I just come up for a little visit with the men."

The actual training consisted of practice with the hand grenade, rifle grenade, automatic rifle, rifle, and bayonet, and in trench digging. We had a certain amount of difficulty merging the troops in with the French. It was really very hard for men who did not speak the same language to get anywhere. In addition to this, the French temperament is so different from ours. They always felt that much could be learned by our troops watching theirs. But the soldier doesn't learn by watching. His eye doesn't teach his muscles service. The way to train men is by physical exercise and explanation, not by simply watching others train.

At one time an artillery demonstration was scheduled. In it we were to see a rolling barrage illustrated and also destructive fire. [59]The men paid no attention at all to the bombardment. A company commander described to me how the men lay down and rested when they got to the maneuvers ground.


Drawn by Captain W. J. Aylward, A. E. F., 1918

"Whizz, Bill, hear that boy," casually remarked one, when the first shell went over. "What was it you said?"

An interesting sidelight on our military establishment is afforded by the fact that on our arrival in France there was no one with the command who had ever shot an automatic rifle, thrown a hand grenade, shot a rifle grenade, used a trench mortar or a .37-millimeter gun. These were all modern methods of waging warfare, yet none of our military had been trained to the least degree in any of them. To all of us they were absolutely new. The closest any of us came to any previous knowledge was from occasional pictures we had seen in the illustrated reviews.

The Major of the French battalion with whom we trained was named Menacci. He was a Corsican by birth and looked like a stage pirate. He had a long black beard, sparkling[60] black eyes, and a great appearance of ferocity, but was as gentle a soul as I have ever known. The topic that interested him above all others was the question of marriage. He was just like a young girl or boy and loved to be teased about it. A very fine fellow called Beauclare assisted him. Beauclare was from the north of France, tall and light-haired, and full of energy. He would strip off his coat, throw grenades with the men, and join in the exercises with as much enjoyment as anyone.

Curiously enough, the good fellowship of the French made things rather hard for many of us. The Chasseurs were as kind as could be, and I never shall cease to respect the men with whom we trained, both as soldiers and gentlemen. We, however, were trying by incessant work to overcome the handicap of ignorance with which we had started, while they were out of the line for a rest and naturally wished to enjoy themselves, have parties, and relax.

At one time we tried attaching noncommissioned officers from the French units to ours. We hoped we could accomplish more[61] this way. It did not work well, however, except in one instance, in which the American company became so fond of their French "noncom." that they did their level best to keep him with them for the rest of the war.

Toward the end of the training period, before the French left us, we had a sort of official party for both our troops and the French troops. It was held on our drill grounds and everyone had chow. The men and officers really enjoyed this affair. Later we gave another party for the French officers, who came and lunched with us. In the athletic sports that afternoon we experienced some difficulty with the middleweight boxing because Sergeant Ross, of B Company, was so much the best boxer that we could find no one to put up a good fight against him.

Among the other sports was a "salad" race, in which all the combatants take off their shoes, piling them in the center of a circle. They line up around the edges and, at the word "go," run forward, try to find their own shoes, put them on, and lace them up. The[62] man who first does this wins. Of course, the contestants throw each other's shoes around, which adds to the general mix-up, with the usual comic incidents. During the meet a lieutenant rushed up to me before the tug of war was to be staged, terribly excited, explaining that the best men in his company's team for a tug of war were just going on guard. I hurried off to try to change this and succeeded in mixing the guard up to such an extent that it took the better part of a day to get it straightened out again.

The French noncoms. came over also and dined with our men, and one day all of us went over to the French village and saw their sports, mule races, pole vaulting, etc. Their officers' messes are very picturesque. Every action is surrounded by custom. They rise in their snappy blue uniforms and sing songs of previous battles and victories, and drink toasts to long-dead leaders.

It was at this time we developed our policy concerning punishment. Under circumstances [63]such as we were up against it was necessary to be severe, for the good of all. No outfit but had the same percentage of offenders; the draft took all alike, and any man who says he had no punishments in his command is either a fool or a liar. We always considered, however, that as far as possible, in minor offenses, it was better to avoid court-martial. The summary court if much used indicates a poor or lazy commander. Where possible we always handled situations as follows: Private Blank is ordered to take his full pack on maneuvers, and does not. His C. O. notices it at a halt. No charges are put in against him for disobedience of orders. His pack is opened then and there and nice, well-selected rocks are put in to take the place of the missing blankets and shelter half. He resumes the march with these on his back and has to keep up.

One cold day the buglers, who are supposed to be having a liaison drill while the rest of the brigade are maneuvering, decide to sneak off and build a fire. They are discovered, and then and there are ordered to climb to the top of[64] a pine tree, where they are made to bugle in a cold wind during the rest of the morning.

These punishments serve two purposes—first, they check the offender, at the moment he has committed the breach of discipline, and not only make it very unpleasant for him, but also make him ridiculous in the eyes of the other men. Second, they leave no stain on his record and let him keep his money.

It must not be taken from the above that I do not believe court-martial necessary, for I most emphatically do in many cases. You often cannot reach constant offenders by any other method. Also such offenses as "theft," desertion, and serious insubordination can be dealt with suitably by no other method. I believe in keeping all cases away from the court when possible, but I also believe, when you do take them into the courts, you should punish stringently.

In addition to the numerous incidents where too severe penalties have been imposed, there are many instances of unjustifiable leniency. This is resented by all alike. I remember the[65] comment which was caused among all ranks by the pardoning of men convicted of having slept on their posts. This pardoning sounds pretty and humane to those who have not been in the fighting line, but where the lives of all depend on the vigilance of that sentry, it is "a gray horse of another color."




THE billeting of the men was a problem. As I mentioned before, the constitution of the United States forbids billeting, taking as ground for this action that when soldiers are placed under a private roof constant friction is bound to arise. In Europe the masses of troops were so great and the country so thickly settled that this method of caring for the soldiers was of necessity the only one that could be adopted. In the average French farm the houses have big barns attached to them. In the barn on the ground floor are the pigs, cows, and numberless rabbits, also farm implements, wagons, and the like. Up a shaky ladder, which had been doing service for generations, is the hay-loft.

[67]There, among the hay, the soldiers are billeted and sleep.

When we first came over, according to our best army traditions, cots were brought for the men. We tried to fit these into the barns, but soon found it impossible, and, after we had been there a certain length of time, we turned them all in, and they were never again used by the troops. Instead, we bought hay from the natives, spread it on the floor of the loft, and the men slept on it. This sounds pleasant, but it isn't as pleasant as it sounds. It is fairly good in summer, as the weather is warm, the days are long, and the barn is generally full of cracks, which let in the air, and you can get along quite well as to light. When winter comes, however, the barns are freezing cold, and the men, after their hard work in the rain, come back soaking wet. It gets dark early, and the sun does not rise until late. On account of the hay the greatest care must be used with lights. Smoking has to be strictly forbidden. You have, therefore, at the end of the day tired, wet men, who have nowhere[68] to go except to their billets, and in the billets no light to speak of, very little heat, and a strict prohibition against smoking.

The officers, of course, fared better. They slept in the houses, and generally got beds. Europeans do not like fresh air. They feel a good deal like the gentleman in Stephen Leacock's story, who said he liked fresh air, and believed you should open the windows and get in all you could. Then you should shut the windows and keep it there. It would keep for years.

I have been in many rooms where the windows were nailed shut. The beds also are rather remarkable. They are generally fitted with feather mattresses and feather quilts. Very often they are arranged in a niche in the wall like a closet, and have two doors, which the average European, after getting into the bed, closes, thereby rendering it about as airy and well ventilated as a coffin.

I remember my own billet in one of the towns where we stopped. As I was commanding officer, it was one of the best and was[69] reasonably warm. It was warm because the barnyard was next door, literally in the next room, as all that separated me from a cow was a light deal door by the side of the bed. The cow was tied to the door. When the cow slept I slept; but if the cow passed a restless night I had all the opportunity I needed to think over my past sins and future plans. In another town an excellent billet was not used by the officers because over the bed were hung photographs of all the various persons who had died in the house, taken while they lay dead in that bed.

Human nature is the same the world over, and we became very fond of some of the persons with whom we were billeted, while others stole everything that was left loose. One hoary old sinner, with whom I lived, quite endeared herself to me by her evident simplicity and her gentleness of manner, until I discovered one day that, under the ægis of the commanding officer billeting there, she was illicitly selling cognac to the soldiers.

The struggle of certain sergeants with some[70] of these French inhabitants concerning the neatness of their various company kitchens or billets always amused me. I remember a feud in one village which was carried on between a little Frenchwoman and a sergeant called Murphy. Sergeant Murphy liked everything spick and span. The French woman had lived all her life where things were not, to put it mildly, according to Sergeant Murphy's army-trained idea of sanitation. The rock that they finally split on was the question of tin cans, old boxes, and egg-shells in front of Sergeant Murphy's kitchen. I shall never forget coming around a corner and seeing Sergeant Murphy, tall and dignified, the Frenchwoman small and voluble, facing one another in front of his kitchen, she chattering French without a break and he saying with great dignity, "Ma'am, it is outrageous. It is the third time to-day that this stuff has been taken away. I shall throw it in your back yard." He did, and next morning the conflict was joined again. Although Murphy kept up the struggle nobly,[71] no impression was made on the Frenchwoman.

Most generally, in France, the small French village contains about one battalion of infantry. As a result, the battalion commander is post commander, and to him all the woes of the various inhabitants as well as the troubles of his own troops come. One complaint which filled me with delight was made by a Frenchwoman. The basis of the complaint was that my men, by laughing and talking in her barn, prevented her sheep and pigs from getting a proper amount of sleep.

A constantly recurring source of trouble were the rabbits. The rabbits in all French country families are a sort of Lares and Penates. You find them in hutches around the houses, wandering in the barns, hopping about the kitchens, and, last but by no means least, in savory stews. I don't maintain for a moment that none of my men ever took a rabbit; I simply maintain that it would be a physical impossibility for these men to have eaten the number of rabbits they were accused[72] of eating. Every little while in each town some peasant would come before me with a complaint, the gist of which was that the men had eaten a dozen or so rabbits. With great dignity I would say that I would have the matter investigated. The man would then suggest that I come and count the rabbits in the village, so that I would know if any were missing. I would explain in my best French that from a long and accurate knowledge of rabbits, gathered through years when, as a boy, I kept them in quantities, counting rabbits one day did not mean that there would be the same number the next day.

Eventually we adopted the scheme of making some officer claim adjuster. After this it was smooth sailing for me. I simply would tell the mayor that Lieutenant Barrett would adjust the matter under dispute, and from then on Lieutenant Barrett battled with the aggrieved. He told me once he thought he was going to be murdered by a little woman, who kept an inn, over a log of wood that the[73] men had used for the company kitchen. Several times persons offered to go shares with him on what he was able to get for them from the government.

In this part of France there was quite a little wild life. Sail-winged hawks were constantly soaring over the meadows. Coveys of European partridges were quite plentiful. Among the other birds the magpie and the skylark were the most noticeable, the former ubiquitous with his flamboyant contrast of black and white, the latter a constant source of delight, with clear song and graceful spirals. The largest wild animal was the boar. There were quite a number of these throughout the woods. As a rule, they were not large, and there was, so far as I could find out, no attempt made to preserve them. We would scare them up while maneuvering. They are good eating, and occasionally we would organize a hunt. The French Daniel Boone, of Boviolles, was a delightful old fellow. When going on a hunt he would put on a bright blue coat, a green hat, and sling a silver horn over his[74] shoulders, resembling for all the world the huntsman in Slovenly Peter.

During August a number of the field officers were sent on their first trip to the trenches. I was among them. We went by truck to Nancy, a charming little city, known as the Paris of northern France. At this time the Huns had not started their air raids on it, which drove much of the population away and reduced the railroad station to ruins. Round it cling many historic memories; near by was fought the battle between Charles the Bold, of Burgundy, and Louis XI, in which feudalism was struck its death blow; on the hills to the north the Kaiser stood at the commencement of this war, when the German troops were flowing over France, seemingly resistless.

From Nancy we went to the Pont-à-Mousson sector, where we spent a day with French officers of the corresponding grade. This was a rest sector, and there was little to indicate that war was raging. Occasionally a shell would whistle over, and if you exposed your[75]self too much some Hun might take a shot at you with a rifle.

Pont-à-Mousson, the little French village, was literally in the French front lines, and yet a busy life was going on there. There I bought cigarettes, and around the arcade of the central square business was much as usual. A bridge spanned the river right by the town, where everyone crossing was in plain view of the Germans. The French officers explained to me that so long as only small parties crossed by it the Germans paid no attention, but if columns of troops or trucks used it shelling started at once. In the same way the French did not shell, except under exceptional circumstances, the villages in the German forward area.

On a high hill overlooking Pont-à-Mousson were the ruins of an old castle built by the De Guises. In old days it was the key to the ford where the bridge now stands. It was being used as an observation post by the French. I crawled up into its ivy-draped, crumbling tower, and through a telescope[76] looked far back of the German lines, where I saw the enemy troops training in open order and two German officers on horseback superintending.

In the trenches where the soldiers were there were vermin and rats and mud to the waist. There I made my first acquaintance with the now justly famous "cootie."

During this night I went on my first patrol. No Man's Land was very broad, and deep fields of wire surrounded the trenches. The patrol finished without incident. The only casualty in the vicinity while I was on this front was a partridge, which was hit on the head by a fragment of shell, and which the French major and I ate for dinner and enjoyed very much. We returned to our training area by the same way we came. The principal knowledge we had gained besides general atmosphere was relative to the feeding of men in trenches.

These were the primitive days of our army in France. We being the first troops who had arrived, received a very large proportion of the attention of General Pershing and his staff.[77] The General once came out to look over the Twenty-sixth Infantry, and stopped in front of the redoubtable Sergeant Murphy and his platoon. Now, Sergeant Murphy could stand with equanimity as high an officer as a colonel, but a general was one too many. He was not afraid of a machine gun or a cannon, but a star on a man's shoulder petrified him. After the General had watched for a minute, the good sergeant had his platoon tied up in thirteen different ways. The General spoke to him. That finished it; and if the General had not left the field, I think Sergeant Murphy would have.

With all of us comic incidents in plenty occurred. Our most notable characteristic was our seriousness, and, running it a close second, our ignorance. I remember one solemn private who threw a hand grenade from his place in the trench. It hit the edge of the parapet and dropped back again. He looked at it, remarked "Lord God," slipped in the mud, and sat down on it just as it exploded. Fortunately for him it was one of the light,[78] tin-covered grenades, and beyond making sitting down an almost impossible action for him for several days following he was comparatively undamaged. Often the comic was tinged with the tragic. We had men who endeavored to open grenades with a rock, with the usual disastrous effects to all.

Once Sergeant O'Rourke was training his men in throwing hand grenades. I came up and watched them a minute. They were doing very well, and I called, "Sergeant, your men are throwing these grenades excellently." O'Rourke evidently felt there was danger of turning their heads by too much praise. "Sor-r-r, that and sleep is all they can do well," he replied.

In order to get the men trained with the rifle, as we had no target material, we used tin cans and rocks. A tin can is a particularly good target; it makes such a nice noise when hit, and leaps about so. I liked to shoot at them myself, and could well understand why they pleased the soldiers.

Why more persons were not killed in our [79]practice I don't know, as the whole division was in training in a limited space, all having rifle practice, with no possibility of constructing satisfactory ranges.


Drawn by Captain W. J. Aylward, A. E. F.

Some officers in another unit organized a rifle range in such a position that the overs dropped gently where we were training. One eventually hit my horse, but did not do much damage.

Lieutenant Lyman S. Frazier, an excellent officer, who finished the war as major of infantry, commanded the machine-gun company of my battalion. He was very keen on indirect fire, but we could get little or no information on it. One evening, however, he grouped his guns, made his calculations as well as he could, and then fired a regular barrage. As soon as the demonstration was over he galloped out as fast as he could to the target, and found to his chagrin that only one shot had hit. Where the other 10,000 odd went we never knew.

We had many incidents that were really humorous with the men in the guard mount.[80] A young fellow, named Cobb, who lost his leg later in the war, was standing guard early in his military career. A French girl passed him in the dark. He challenged, "Who is there?" She replied, "Qu'est-ce qu'il dit?" Young Cobb didn't know French, but he did know that when in doubt on any subject you called the corporal of the guard. So he shouted at the top of his voice, "Corporal of the guard, queskidee!"

We emphasized the manual of formal guard mount as a disciplinary exercise. One of the regulations is that when the ranking officer in a post passes the guardhouse, the sentry calls, "Turn out the guard—commanding officer," and the guard is paraded. We had lived so long by ourselves that although we sometimes had the colonel in the same town, when we were in the Montdidier sector, I never could persuade them to pay any attention to him. They had it firmly rooted in their minds that the ceremony was for me and no one else.

Occasionally a German airplane would come over and bomb the towns in the area. This[81] furnished a real element of excitement, as we had anti-aircraft guns set up. The one trouble was that we could not tell at night which was a German and which was a French plane, with the result that if we should happen to hit one it was as likely that we would hit a French one as not. We were saved this embarrassment by never hitting one. Later, in the Montdidier sector, I remember hearing how, in a burst of enthusiasm, the gun crew of one of our 75's had fired at an airplane, and by some remarkable coincidence had torn a wing off and brought it down. On rushing out to inspect it they found it contained a very irascible Frenchman.




"How strange a spectacle of human passions
Is yours all day beside the Arras road,
What mournful men concerned about their rations
When here at eve the limbers leave their load,
What twilight blasphemy, what horses' feet
Entangled with the meat,
What sudden hush when that machine gun sweeps
And flat as possible for men so round
The quartermasters may be seen in heaps,
While you sit by and chuckle, I'll be bound."

A. P. H. (Punch).

EARLY in October mysterious orders reached us to spend forty-eight hours in some trenches we had dug on top of a hill close to the village, simulating actual conditions as well as we could. At the same time a battalion of each of the other three infantry regiments were similarly instructed. The orders were so well worked out that we were convinced at once[83] that we were to go in the near future to the front. Everyone was in a high state of excitement, and very happy that we were at last to see action.

The hilltop where we were to stay was covered by the remains of an old Roman camp, commanding the two forks of the stream. We marched up the following day over the remains of the old Roman road, and passed our last short period training to meet the barbarians of the north, where Cæsar's legions, nearly two thousand years ago, trained for the same purpose. Many features were lacking from the trenches on the hill, such as dugouts, for example, but we felt we could get along without them, and everything went happily and serenely the first day.

We had the rolling kitchens and hospitals placed on the reverse slope in the woods. Carrying parties brought the chow along a trench traced with white tape to the troops, and they ate it without leaving their positions. During the evening, however, "sunny France" had a relapse, and a terrific rain[84]storm came on. It was bitterly cold, and a high wind swept the hilltop. We were all soaked to the skin.

The men either huddled against the side of a trench or stretched their ponchos from parapet to parapet, and sat beneath them in a foot-deep puddle of water. In making inspection I passed by a number of them that night who looked as if they were perfectly willing to have the war end right then.

The company in reserve was occupying the territory around the old Roman wall. They had dug some holes in it, and crawled into them to keep as near dry as possible. Splendid so far as it went, but nearly disastrous, for a message reached me saying that a first sergeant, the company commander, the second in command and the company clerk had all been buried by a cave-in. I ran back to see about them and found that they had been extricated, and looked like animated mud-pies.

One company commander during the middle of the second day started his men digging[85] trenches as deep as they could, so that at night when the rain started again and the cold wind blew up they would have some place to stay. They dug vigorously all day, but by night, when the rain came down in torrents again, the trenches filled up like bath-tubs, and they had to sit on the edge.

After the maneuvers we received definite orders that we were to go to the front. The equipment was checked and verified, and everything put in apple-pie order. The trucks arrived; we got in and started, all of us feeling that now at last we were to be real warriors. All day long the truck train, stretching out along the road, jolted forward in a cloud of dust. Toward evening we began to pass through the desolated area over which the Hun had swept in 1914, and about five o'clock we detrucked at a little town about fourteen miles behind the lines.

Here we stayed a couple of days, while our reconnoitering details went forward and familiarized themselves with the position. On the evening of the second day the troops[86] started forward. As usual, it was raining cats and dogs, and our principal duty during the ten days we spent in the sector was shoveling mud the color and consistency of melted chocolate ice cream from cave-ins which constantly occurred in the trench system.

We were all very green and very earnest. The machine-gun company arrived, bringing all its ammunition on the gun carts. The guns were uncased and the carts sent to the rear with ammunition still on them, leaving the guns with hardly a round. Only about five or ten shells were fired daily by the German artillery against the portion of line we occupied. One man was hit, our signal officer, Lieutenant Hardon, his wound being very slight. The adjutant, when this happened, ran to tell me, and we both went down and solemnly congratulated Hardon on having the honor to be the first American officer hit while serving with American troops.

A number of ambitious members of the intelligence group sniped busily at the German trenches. These were about a mile away, and though they reported heavy casualties among the enemy, I believe that the wish was father to the thought.


Drawn by Captain Harry E. Townsend, A. E. F.

[87]The French were on our right, and we had some very funny times with them. One officer of mine was coming in after inspecting the wire and ran into one of their sentries.

"Qui est la?" called the sentry.

My officer then gave in his best American what he had been told was the French password. This was incomprehensible to the Frenchman, who immediately replied by firing his rifle at him. The officer jumped up and down and gave the password again. Blam went the Frenchman's rifle the second time. Nothing but the fact that the Frenchman regarded the rifle more as a lead squirt rather than a weapon of accuracy prevented him from being hit. The officer eventually got through by shouting repeatedly at the top of his voice, "Vive les Américains!"

At the end of the ten days we were relieved and hiked back veteran troops, as we thought, to the training area. Our medical depart[88]ment, not the department with the troops, but our higher medical department, which dealt with papers rather than facts, sent at this time a letter which I would give a lot to have now simply as a humorous document. It was headed "General Order ——." It had at the top as subject—"Pediculi." Pediculi is the polite medical name for lice. We were instructed in the body that immediately on leaving the trenches all men were to be inspected completely by the medical officer before they were allowed to go to their billets. This involved the inspection by the medical officer of some one thousand men. It furthermore necessitated the inspection of these one thousand men between two and five in the morning, in the dark. The order went on to say that where pediculi were present all clothes were to be confiscated, finishing with the brief and bland statement that thereupon new clothes were to be furnished throughout. This to us, who had not had new clothes since we reached France, to whom every garment was a valuable possession that could not be[89] replaced! However, we have no doubt that the medical officer felt that he had done something splendid, and what is more, his paper record was perfect in that, although what he demanded was impossible, he had put it on paper, and, therefore, someone else was to blame for not carrying it out.

Our first Christmas in France was spent in the usual little French village. The men had raised a fund to be used for the purpose of giving a Christmas tree to the refugee children living in the vicinity, as well as the native children. It was the first Christmas tree that the village had seen and excitement was intense. The festivities were held in a mess shack, and to them came nearly the entire population, though I gave instructions to be sure that the children were taken care of before the "grown-ups." The enlisted men ran the festivities themselves.

Flickering candle-light cast shadows over Christmas greens and mistletoe and the rough boards of the shack. A buzzing mass of French children and adults crowded around[90] the tree, and lean, weather-beaten American sergeants gave out the presents. There were the usual horns and crackers, and in a few minutes pandemonium had broken loose. The curé was there, and the mayor, dressed in an antediluvian frock coat and top hat. These two, at a given signal, succeeded in partially stilling the tumult by making an equal noise themselves, and a little girl and boy appeared with a large bouquet for me. First they made a little speech in French, looking as cunning as possible. Each time they said "Mon Commandant" they made a funny little bow. After giving me the bouquet the little girl kissed me. Then the mayor spoke. Warned by the little girl's action, I fended him off with the bouquet when he showed a tendency to become affectionate. I then answered in my best French, which I alone understood, and the festivities finished.

Later in the evening the men gave a show, which they had arranged themselves. It was really very good. Sergeant Frank Ross was[91] principally responsible, ably assisted by Privates Cooper, Neary, and Smith. The humor was local soldier humor and absolutely clean. For instance, the men always march with their extra pair of shoes strapped on the outside of the pack. One man on the stage would say to the other: "Say, Buddy, I call my pack my little O. D. baby. It wears shoes the same size as mine, and I can't get the son of a gun to walk a step."

During the play the sergeant of the guard came in to me and said, "Sir, there has been a little disturbance. Sergeant Withis of B Company says C Company men have been picking on him; but, sir, there are three C Company men at the infirmary and Withis is all right."

The day, however, on the whole, was a success and it speaks well for the men, for of all the Christmas dinner that our papers talked so much about, practically nothing but a few nuts and raisins reached us.

One old regular sergeant of C Company, Baird by name, discovered at this time a[92] novel use for the gas mask. The old fellow had been in service for many years, and though a fine and gallant soldier, he was long past his prime physically. He always reminded me of Kipling's description of Akela the gray wolf, when he says that "Akela was very old and gray, and he walked as though he were made of wood." Baird was a great man on paper work, and believed in having his company files in tiptop shape. Facilities were a little poor. One bitter day he tried to make some reports. First he tried in the barn, where his hands became so cold he couldn't write. Then he tried in the kitchen, and his eyes got so full of smoke he couldn't see. At last we found him sitting in the kitchen with his gas mask on making his reports, writing in comfort.

We were joined at this time by Major Atkins of the Salvation Army, an exceptionally fine character. He stayed with us during most of the time we were in Europe. He was courageous under fire, felt that where the men went he wished to go, and was a splendid influence[93] with them. Whatever he could do he always did with a whole heart.

Before the war I felt that the Salvation Army was composed of a well-meaning lot of cranks. Now what help I can give them is theirs. My feelings are well illustrated by a conversation I overheard between two soldiers. One said, "Say, Bill, before this war I used to think it good fun to kid the Salvation Army. Now I'll bust any feller on the bean with a brick if I see him botherin' them."

Early in January we were told that replacements were arriving to bring up our companies to 250 in strength. When the men arrived we planned to be there on time to get our fair share. Two old sergeants, Studal and Shultz, went down and helped pick the recruits, working from detachment to detachment trying to shift the best material into our detail. The men were, on the whole, a fine lot, but their knowledge of military matters was absolutely nil. A large percentage had never shot any firearms, and still a larger percentage had never shot the service rifle. One man turned[94] up with a service record on which was nothing except "Mennonite, objects to bearing arms." Incidentally he made an excellent soldier, and was killed while fighting gallantly near Montdidier. Another man had partial paralysis of one side. When the medical officer asked him if he had been examined before he said, "No, sir; just drafted." Still another had an arm so stiffened that he could hardly bend his elbow. When the medical officer tried to send him to the rear he protested. We let him stay. He became an automatic rifle gunner, and was later killed.

One westerner, from Montana I believe, called Blalock, finished the war as first sergeant in Company D, after a very distinguished record. Another young fellow, Aug by name, was a real estate man from Sacramento. I noticed him first when he was detailed as my orderly. Later he was cited for gallantry twice, and eventually sent to the officers' school, where he got a commission, and asked to be returned to the fighting troops. He fell in action just before the armistice.[95] Private "Bill" Margeas was a Greek who came with this lot. He was shot through the chest at Montdidier, and later ran away from the hospital and got back before Soissons. He came in to report to me. I had been near him when he had been hit before.

"Margeas," I said, "you're in no shape to carry a pack."

"No, sir," said he, "but I can carry a rifle all right."

He was killed later in the Argonne.

Two Chinamen, Young and Chew, drafted from San Francisco, were also in this lot. They were with my headquarters all during the war.

These replacements had absolutely no conception of military etiquette. They wanted to do what was right, but they didn't know anything. When one man from a western National Guard regiment—incidentally he was a German by birth—came up to me with a message from his company commander, he would always begin with, "Say." One time I asked him when he was born and he told[96] me in 1848, which impressed me as being a slight overstatement. Subsequent investigation proved that 1878 was the year. Incidentally he fought very gallantly, and was fortunate enough to get through the war, being with the regiment when I left it in Germany.

One huge fellow called Swanson, from North Dakota, turned up. Swanson was a fine soldier in every way, but the government had not figured on a man of Swanson's size. Never when he was in my command were we able to get a blouse to fit him. He turned out on parade, went to the trenches, and appeared on all other occasions in a ragged brown sweater.

Some of the men we got could not speak English. One squad in particular we had to form in such a fashion that the corporal could act as interpreter. Once turning around a corner I came upon a group of four or five soldiers. All of them except one saluted properly. He merely grinned in a good-natured, friendly fashion. I started to read him the riot act, asking why he thought he[97] was different from the rest of the men, what he meant by it, did he put himself in a class by himself, and so forth. About half way through one of the other men interrupted me.

"Sir," he said, "that guy there he don't understand English." We found someone who could speak his language, had the matter explained to him, and found it was simply that he did not understand. He wanted to do what was right and he wanted to play the game.

These replacements had very long hair and looked very shabby. One of the first things we did was to have their hair cut. There are many reasons why troops should keep their hair cut. It looks neater for one thing, but, far more important, it is sanitary, and where baths are few and far between short hair makes a great difference. Each company has a barber. Therefore the excitement was at fever pitch once in Company B when Loreno, its barber, deserted and got to Italy, taking with him the barber tools. As a result they used mule clippers for some time.

[98]The men took great pride in the good name of their organization. One man, who afterward proved himself an excellent soldier and a good American, came to us through the draft with no idea of loyalty to the flag, and with no real feeling for the country of any sort. He tried to desert twice, but we caught him both times, although on the last occasion he got as far as Marseilles. During the trial, while the court was sitting, he became frightened and broke away from the sentry who had him in charge. The alarm sounded for the guard, which immediately started out through the dark and rain on the jump. Then, without any orders, the escaped prisoner's own company turned out to help them, not because they had to, but because they felt he was hurting their company record.

"What is it, Bill?" I heard one man call.

"Aw, it's that guy Blank who's been giving Company B a black eye. He's beat it again, and we're going out to get him."

About this time we were issued gas masks for the first time, thus furnishing us with[99] another weapon, or means, of warfare about which we knew nothing. There was a small, active individual with glasses from general headquarters who was supposed to be our instructor. He used to give us long lectures on gas, in which he told us when gas had first been used in the past (I believe by the Greeks), how it had been employed in the beginning of the war, what gases had been used, and what their chemical components were. He told us at great length how to protect ourselves against the gas cloud, and then informed us that cloud gas was not used any longer. Later he took up the deadly effects of mustard gas, and how we must immediately put on the gas masks when gas was evident.

Toward the end of the lecture a deeply interested officer asked him how one could detect gas when it was present in dangerous quantities. He didn't know; so we left the lecture with full information as to obsolete methods of using gas, with full information as to its chemical components and effects, but[100] with no information as to how to detect it when it was present in dangerous quantities.

To try to put interest in the work and make it less hard on the men, we organized competitions in everything—competitions for the best platoon billet, competitions for the best platoon in close order drill, bayonet, etc. The prizes were almost negligible. Sometimes it would simply be that the victorious platoon was excused from some formation, but the men took to it like a duck to water.

The officers became fully as keen as the men. I never shall forget the company commanders who, together with myself, formed the judges. They would always start off by saying in an airy manner it was for the good of the entire organization, and that they personally did not care whether their company won or not, provided the battalion was benefited. As soon as the contest was under way, however, all was different, and it generally narrowed down to my doing all the judging. They would come up and protest the standing in competitions in the official bulletin for all the world[101] as if they were managers of a big league baseball team.

About this time we organized a drum and bugle corps. This corps got so it could render very loudly and very badly a number of French and American tunes. We used it on all our long marches and maneuvers. We used it for reveille in the morning, for retreat in the evening, for close-order drill and all ceremonies. The men got so they thought a good deal of it, and frequently when marching through towns the troops would call out, "How about that band?" The doughboy likes to show off. I know, myself, that I always got a thrill of conscious pride going through a town, the troops marching at attention, colors flying, bugles playing, drums beating, and the women and children standing on the streets and shouting.

We had, in addition to this early training, long days spent in maneuvers. I disapproved heartily of these maneuvers at the time, looking at them from the point of view of bat[102]talion commander, who feels that any attempt on the part of the higher command to have maneuvers on a large scale is wasting valuable time that might be employed by him to better advantage. I am sure now that General Fiske, the head of the American training section, was right when he prescribed them and that the maneuvers contributed greatly to the ability of the First Division to keep in contact when it struck the line. The necessity for them, of course, was based on the fact that, great as was the ignorance of our junior officers, it was comparatively far less than the ignorance of our higher command and staff. These maneuvers were bitter work for the soldiers who would be out all day, insufficiently clad and insufficiently fed. Often a bloody trail was left in the snow by the men who at this time had virtually no boots. We used to call it Indian warfare and say we were chasing the last of the Mohicans over the Ligny sector.

About this time we began to work into some complicated trench maneuvers. These[103] were the ones the men liked. They threw hand grenades, fired trench mortars, and had a general Fourth of July celebration.

Once we had a maneuver of this kind before General Pershing. The company officers were lined up and afterward were asked their opinion as to how the men had conducted themselves. The first one to answer was a game little fellow named Wortley from Los Angeles, who was afterward killed. He said that he thought everything went off very well and he didn't think he had anything to criticize. The next lieutenant said that he thought that a few men of his company had got a little mixed up. This was a cheerful point of view for him to have, for, as a matter of fact, two thirds of his company had gone astray. His company had been selected to deliver a flank attack over the top, but when this took place it consisted of one lieutenant and two privates. The mistake, however, was never noticed.

Indeed, the generals and suchlike who come to maneuvers can rarely criticize the efforts of[104] the company and field officers, as they are not conversant with the handling of small units. Their presence at maneuvers is largely a question of morale. I remember during an exercise a higher officer, a very fine man to whom I afterward became devoted turned to me and said: "Have a trench raid."

"When, sir?" I asked.


Now, any junior officer knows that a trench raid cannot be staged the way you can fire a rocket. It has to be thought out in every detail and all concerned have to be familiarized with all phases of the plan in so far as it is possible. I got two very good lieutenants and, hastily outlining the situation, told them to go ahead. They made their plans in five minutes. I got some hand grenades for them and they gave a lively imitation. The trenches they raided did not exist, but were simply marked by tape on the ground. They did very well considering the circumstances, but the higher officer remarked to the assembled officers on its completion that he didn't know[105] anything about raids, but this one did not appeal to him. It took all concerned quite a while to get over their feeling about this criticism.

During this period we heard of Bangler torpedoes. These torpedoes are long sections of tin tubing loaded with high explosive and are used for tearing up the enemy wire in order that the raiding party may get through into the trenches. Nothing of the kind was to be had from our people, but we obtained permission to send someone to try to get one from the various French ammunition dumps near by. Lieutenant Ridgely, my adjutant, went. He turned up after a hectic day with some long sections of stovepipe and a number of little tin cases. He explained that he had been unable to get the torpedoes, but that he had got some stovepipe and some very deadly explosive and perhaps we could make one.

The next day we set out to follow his plan and two afternoons later completed our experiment, and gave an exhibition before the [106]assembled officers of the brigade. The raiding party were picked men, whom I considered among the best in the battalion. They all crawled out through the assumed "No Man's Land," holding on to one another's heels and endeavoring to look just as businesslike as possible. Their faces were blackened and they carried trench knives and hand grenades. The party which was to set off the torpedo lighted it, poked it under the wire, then leaped up and dashed through the gap in the wire to the trenches where the enemy were supposed to be. On account of the amateur workmanship, only a part of the charge went off, and I never shall forget my horror when I saw the party of my picked men galloping gallantly through the gap over this smoking, unexploded charge. I had visions of having to reorganize the battalion the next day. Fortunately the charge did not go off and all worked out well.

Later we started a good deal of work at night, realizing how difficult it was for men to find their way and how necessary it was for them to get used to working in the dark. This training the men enjoyed. It was all[107]in the nature of a competition. Reconnaissance patrols would be started out to see how near they could approach to the dummy trenches without detection. In the dummy trenches other groups, with flares, etc., would keep a strict watch. Combat patrols would go out two at a time, each looking for the other. I recall one night when two patrols ran into one another suddenly. One of the privates was so overcome with zeal when he saw the supposed enemy that he made as pretty a lunge with his bayonet as I have ever seen and stabbed through both cheeks of the man opposite him.

During the entire time we were in France we trained much along the lines indicated in the previous paragraphs, except that as we became veterans we naturally became more conversant with the correct methods of instruction. For trained troops who are leaving the line it is my opinion that two points should be stressed above the rest—one is close-order drill and the other rifle practice. In the First Battalion we were particularly fortunate in this period in having with us Captain Amel [108]Frey and Lieutenants Freml and Gillian, all three of whom had served as N.C.O.'s in the regular Army. They understood close-order work, the service rifle, and the handling of men, and to them a large part of the early training is ascribable.

The next point in the line to which we went was the Toul sector. This was much more lively than Arracourt, and here we had our first real taste of war. No Man's Land was not more than fifty to one hundred yards in width at many places. The whole terrain had been occupied for three years, and, as there had been many slight changes of position, abandoned trenches, filled half full of mud and wire, ran everywhere. Originally the front had been held with a large number of troops, but when we took it over, these had been reduced to such an extent that now one company would hold a kilometer in width. The line of support was furthermore about one kilometer in the rear. It was winter and snow and sleet and mud formed an ever-present trio. As always in[109] trench warfare, the night was the time of activity. During the day everything was quiet; in walking through the trenches all one would meet was an occasional sentry.

This night work was hard on the new men, for it is easy to see things at night even if you are an old soldier. If you are a recruit, you just can't help seeing them.

"Well, Major, it's like this," was the way Sergeant Rose, an old-timer, put it to me when I was speaking to him in the front-line trenches one night. "I'm an old soldier, but when I stand and look out over this trench long enough, the first thing I know, those posts with the wire attached to them begin to do squads right and squads left, and if I ain't careful, I have to shoot them to keep them from charging this trench."

Private Jones would imagine he saw a German patrol approaching him, fire all his hand grenades at them, and send in a report to the effect that he had repulsed a raid and that there were three or four dead Germans lying in front of his part of the line. In[110]vestigation would prove that an old stump or a sandbag had received all his attention.

The division had fairly heavy casualties in this sector. The Germans staged a couple of raids. Also there were heavy artillery actions very frequently. Generally these would start around three o'clock in the morning. First would come the preliminary strafing. During it the higher command would call up and ask what was going on, to which you replied N. T. R.—(nothing to report). Then the shelling would commence in earnest and all connections would go out at once. From then on, runners were the only method of communication until everything was over. One could never be sure that each strafing was not the preliminary to an assault. Strafing like this was very picturesque. Generally I got into position where I could see as much of the front as I could. It is possible to guess by the intensity of shelling just what is getting ready, while hand grenades and rifle fire mean that an attack is taking place. First a few flashes can be seen, which increase until[111] on all sides you see the bursts of the shrapnel and the noise becomes deafening. Then it gradually dies away and a thick acrid cloud of smoke lies over everything.

During one of these actions a runner came in to report that the captain of the right flank company had been severely hit. The second in command had not, in my opinion, had quite enough experience, so I sent my scout officer back with the runner to take command. They got to a bit of trench where shells were falling thick.

"Lieutenant, you wait here while I see if we can get through," said the runner to the officer.

"Why should you go rather than me?" asked the lieutenant.

"Well," came the reply, "you see you are going to command the company. I'm just a runner. They can get lots more of me."

A very good sergeant of mine, Ross by name, had his hand blown off in this sector.

He was making a reconnaissance with a view to a patrol, when a German trench [112]mortar shell that had been imbedded in the parapet went off under his hand. As he passed me he simply said: "Major, I am awfully sorry to leave you this early before the real game begins."

Here we captured our first German prisoner. I doubt whether any German will ever be as precious to any of us as this man was. We had patrolled quite a good deal, but the Germans had either stopped patrolling in the sector in front of us or we were unfortunate in not running into any of them. We felt at last that the only way to get a prisoner was to go over to the German trenches and pull one out.

One night Lieutenant Christian Holmes, Sergeants Murphy, McCormack, Samari (born in southern Italy), and Leonard, who was called Scotty and who spoke with a pronounced Irish brogue, were designated to raid a listening post. They crawled on their bellies across No Man's Land, got through the maze of wire, and ran right on top of a German listening post. A prisoner was what they wanted, so [113]Lieutenant Holmes, who was leading the party, leaped upon one of the two Germans and locked him in a tight embrace. The German's partner thereupon endeavored to bayonet Lieutenant Holmes, who was struggling in two feet of water with his captive, but was prevented by a timely thrust from Sergeant Murphy's bayonet. They seized the German, who was shrieking "Kamerad" at the top of his lungs, and dragged him back across No Man's Land at the double.

When they came in with him we were as pleased as Punch. Indeed, we hardly wanted to let him go to the rear, as we had a distinct feeling more or less that we wanted to keep him to look at. He was a young, scrawny fellow, and gave us much information concerning the troops opposite us. Lieutenant Holmes and Sergeant Murphy received the Distinguished Service Cross for this work; and well deserved it, for they showed the way and did a really hard job. Holmes told me afterward that they had all agreed that they would not come back until they had got their [114]prisoner. They had decided that if they did not find him in the first front-line trenches they would go back as far as necessary, but they were going to find him or not come back.

We began here also for the first time to play with that most elusive of all military amusements, the code. In order that the Germans, in listening in on our telephone conversations, might not know what we were about, everything was put in code or cipher. The high command issued to us the Napoleon code. The Napoleon code is written entirely in French. Only a few of us could read French, with the result that only a few could send messages. General Hines, then colonel of the Sixteenth Infantry, realized that this was a poor idea, so he made up a code of his own. This code went by the name of the Cauliflower Code, and the commanding officer, his adjutant, etc., in every place were given distinctive names.

Conversation ran something like this—"Hello, hello, I want Hannibal. Hannibal is not there? Give me Brains. Brains,[115] this is the King of Essex talking. Sunflower. No balloons, tomatoes, asparagus. No, No. I said no balloons! Oh, damn. My kitchens haven't come. Have them sent up."

When we received rush orders to leave this sector, I tried to mobilize my wagon truck by telephone. The supply officers all went by the name of Sarah in the code. I would start off, "Hello, hello. This is the King of Essex talking. I want little Sarah. Little Sarah Van." Lieutenant Van, my supply officer, would reply from the other side, "Hello, hello, is this the King of Essex talking?" "It is." "Well, Major Roosevelt," then the connection would be cut. After much labor I got him again. I had just begun, "Balloons, radishes, carrots" when we were cut off again. The next time we got the connection we said what we had to say in plain English and quickly.

One evening just after we had arrived in the front-line trenches, after a rest in the support position, the telephone buzzed. The adjutant leaped to it. "Yes, this is Blank.[116] What is it? Yes, yes. The Napoleon code." And then for some thirty minutes, during which time the trench telephone ceased to work, was cut off, or simply went dead, the Adjutant took down a long string of numbers. At the end of that period he had a sheet of paper in front of him which looked for all the world like the financial statement of a large bank. He rushed to our portfolio where the sector papers were kept, yanked them out, ran over them in a hurry, and then turned to me with a blank look of grief: "Sorry, sir, we have left the code behind." We thought for a moment, then called back the sender, and said, "Sir, we have forgotten our code." He remarked blithely from the other end, "If the message had been an important one, I would not have sent it in code. I'll give it to you when I see you to-night."

Our first real experience with gas came in this sector. As I said before, we had been taught how to put on and take off our gas masks, how gas was used by the ancients, [117]what methods had been used and abandoned in the present war, what the chemical components were, what the effects were, but not how to detect it when it was present in dangerous quantities. The result was that everyone was thoroughly apprehensive of gas and afraid he would not be able to detect it. We had all sorts of nice little appliances in the trenches to give the alarm. They consisted of bells, gongs, Klaxon horns, and beautiful rockets that burst in a green flare. A nervous sentry would be pacing to and fro. It would be wet and lonely and he would think of what unpleasant things he had been told happened to the men who were gassed. A shell would burst near him. "By George, that smells queer," he would think. He would sniff again. "No question about it, that must be gas!" and blam! would go the gas alarm. Then from one end of the line to the other gongs and horns would sound and green rockets would streak across the sky and platoon after platoon would wearily encase itself in gas masks. One night I stood in the reserve[118] position and watched a celebration of this sort. It looked and sounded like a witches' sabbath.

After a certain amount of this we worked into a practical knowledge of gas. We found that there were only two methods of attack we had to fear: one was by cylinders thrown by projectors, and the other by gas shelling by the enemy artillery. With the former, an attack was often detected before it took place by our intelligence, and it was possible to tell by a flare that showed up along the horizon on the discharge of the projectors when the attack commenced. With the latter, after a little practice, it was perfectly simple to tell a gas shell from a H. E. shell, as it made a sound like a dud. The difficulty with both types of attack was not so much in getting the gas masks on in time, as there was always plenty of time for that, but rather in holding heavily gassed areas, where burns and trouble of all sorts were almost impossible to avoid.

[119]It was in this Toul sector on March 11th that my brother Archie was severely wounded. The Huns were strafing heavily and an attack by them was expected. He was redisposing his men when he was hit by a shell and badly wounded both in the left arm and left leg. Major A. W. Kenner, M. C., and Sergeant Hood were shelled by the Germans while they were moving out the wounded, among them my brother, when, because of the stretchers they were carrying, they had to walk over the top and not through some bad bits of trench. To Major A. W. Kenner, M. C., and Captain E. D. Morgan, M. R. C., is due great credit, not only in this operation, but in all the work to come. They never shrank from danger or hardship and their actions were at all times an inspiration to those around them.




"And horror is not from terrible things—men torn to rags by a shell,
And the whole trench swimming in blood and slush, like a Butcher's shop in Hell;
It's silence and night and the smell of the dead that shake a man to the soul,
From Misery Farm to Dead Man's Death on a nil report patrol."


BY the end of March we were veteran troops.

All during the latter part of the month rumor had been rife about the proposed German drive. After nearly four years of war, Germany had crushed Russia, Rumania, Belgium, Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania; had dealt Italy a staggering blow, and was about to assume the offensive in France. On March 28th the blow fell, the allied line staggered and split, and the Germans poured through the gap.

[121]The news reached us, and at the same time came orders to prepare for an immediate move. At once the Twenty-sixth American Division moved up in our rear, and with hardly any time for reconnaissance they took over from us. My battalion moved out and marched twelve kilometers to the rear; the last units checked in to where our trains were to meet us at about 5 A.M., and by 6 A.M. we were on the march again to the vicinity of Toul, where the division was concentrating.

Here we were told that we were to be thrown into the path of the German advance. By this time all types of rumor were current. We heard of the Englishman Cary's remarkable feat, how he collected cooks, engineers, labor troops from the retreating forces, formed them into a fighting unit, and stood against the German advance, and how his brigade grew up over night. Cary, because of this feat, became, from captain in the Q. M. C., general of infantry. We heard of the thirty-six hours during which all contact was lost between the French left and the English[122] right, when a French cavalry division was brought in trucks from the rear of the line and thrown into the gap, and on the morning of the second day reported that they believed they had established contact with the English.

The next few days all was excitement. We formed the men and gave out our first decorations to Lieutenant Holmes and Sergeant Murphy. At the same time we told them all that we knew of our plans. They were delighted. Men do not like sitting in trenches day in and day out, and being killed and mangled without ever seeing the enemy, and this promised a fight where the enemy would be in sight.

We had a large, rough shack where we were able to have all the officers of the battalion for mess. Lieutenant Gustafson, an Illinois boy, who had, in civilian life, been a head waiter at summer hotels, managed the mess. We had some good voices among the officers, and every night after dinner there was singing.

[123]Our supply officer, meanwhile, was annexing everything in sight for the battalion in the most approved fashion. One time his right-hand man, Sergeant Wheeler, passed by some tethered mules which belonged to a green regiment. He hopped off the ration cart he was riding, caught them, and tied them behind the cart. A mile down the road some one came pounding after them.

"Hey! Where are you going with those mules?" Wheeler was equal to the occasion. "Are them your mules? Well, what do you mean by leaving them loose by the road? I had to get out and catch them. I have a good mind to report you to the M. P. for this." Eventually Wheeler compromised by warning the man, and giving one of the mules back to him.

Then the trains arrived. We had never traveled on a regular military train before. A military train is made up to carry a battalion of infantry; box cars holding about forty men or eight animals each, and flat cars for wagons, kitchens, etc. We entrained safely and got off all right, though we were hurried at the last by a message saying the[124] schedule given us was wrong, and our train left one half hour earlier than indicated.

We creaked off toward the southwest. We didn't know where we were going, but by this time we had all become philosophical and self-sufficient and believed that if the train dropped us somewhere far away from the rest of the division, we would manage to get along by ourselves without too much trouble.

After a day's travel we stopped at a little station. The only thing that we had to identify us was a long yellow ticket scratched all over with minute directions, which none of us could read. Here I was informed by a French guard that this was the regulating station and the American regulating officer was waiting to see me. I hopped off the train and ran back, finding Colonel Hjalmar Erickson, who afterward became a very dear friend of mine and later commanded the regiment. He was busy trying to figure things out with[125] the French chef de la gare, an effort complicated by his inability to speak French.

"My lord, Major, why aren't you the Seventh Field Artillery?" was Colonel Erickson's greeting.

As he was giving me the plans and maps I heard a whoop from the train outside. I ran to the door and found that, for some reason, best known to himself, the French engineer had started up again and my battalion was rapidly disappearing down the track. I started on the dead run after them. Fortunately some of the officers saw what was happening, and by force of arms succeeded in persuading the engineer to stop the train.

That night we detrained a couple of days' march from Chaumont-en-Vexin, where division headquarters were to be. We hiked through a beautiful peaceful country, the most lovely we had yet seen in France, billeting for the night in a little town where a whole company of mine slept in an old château. At Chaumont we stayed for some few days,[126] maneuvering while the division was being fully assembled.

From Chaumont we marched north for four days to the Montdidier sector. I never shall forget this march. Spring was on the land, the trees were budding, wild flowers covered the ground, the birds were singing. Our dusty brown column wound up hill and down, through patches of woods and little villages. By us, all day, toward the south streamed the French refugees from villages threatened, or already taken, by the Hun. Heavy home-made wagons trundled past, drawn by every kind of animal, and piled high with hay and farm produce, furniture, and odds and ends of household belongings. Tramping beside them or riding on them were women and children, most of them dazed and with a haunted look in their faces. Sometimes the wagons would be halted and their occupants squatted by the road, cooking a scanty meal from what they had with them.

To us in this country, thanks to Providence, not to our own forethought or character, this[127] description is only so many words. Unless one has seen it, it is impossible to visualize the battered village, the column of refugees that starts at each great battle and streams ceaselessly toward Paris and southern France, the apple orchards and gardens torn beyond recognition, the desolation and destruction seemingly impossible of reparation.

Nothing would have been better for our countrymen and women than for each and every one of them to have spent some time in the war zone. When I think of men of the type of Bryan and Ford, when I think of their self-satisfied lives of ease, when I think of what they did to permit disaster and death to threaten this country, it makes me wonder more than ever at the long-suffering kindness of humanity which permits such as they still to enjoy the benefits of citizenship in this great land which they have so signally failed to serve.

When we took over the Montdidier sector it was not, nor did it ever become, the type found in the parts of the front where war[128]fare had been going on without movement for more than three years. Trenches were shallow and scanty, and dugouts were almost lacking. Indeed, from this time on, with one exception, the division never held an established sector. The line at Montdidier had been established shortly after the break-through by the Germans, by a French territorial division which was marching north, expecting to relieve some friendly troops in front of it. They suddenly encountered, head on, the German columns that were marching south. Both sides deployed, went into position, and dug in where they were. The First Division took over from these troops.

The first morning we were in the Montdidier sector the Huns shelled us heavily. Immediately after they raided a part of our front line held by a platoon of D Company, commanded by Lieutenant Dabney, a very good fellow from Louisville, Ky. The Germans were repulsed with loss. We suffered no casualties ourselves except from the German bombardment. The next evening[129] we picked up the body of the German sergeant commanding the party, whom we had killed.

We staged a very successful raid ourselves at about this time. The raiding party was composed of eighty-five men of D Company, under the command of Lieutenant Freml. The section of German trenches selected as the objective of the operation lay in a little wood about one hundred yards from our front line. Our patrols had reported that this part of the German line was particularly heavily held. In the first light of the half dawn the raiding party worked up into position, passing by through the mist like black shadows. At the agreed time our artillery came down with both the heavies and the 75's, and the patch of woods was enveloped in clouds of smoke through which the bursts of the H. E. showed like flashes of lightning. In ten minutes the guns lifted and formed a box barrage, and the raiding party went over. So rapid was the whole maneuver that the German defensive barrage did not come down[130] until after the raiding party had reached the enemy trenches.

The enemy trenches were found, as had been expected, full of Germans. Most of them were in dugouts or funk holes, and did not make a severe resistance. "Come out of there," the man in charge of the particular detail for that part of the trench would call down the dugout. If the Huns came out, they were taken prisoner. If they did not, a couple of incendiary grenades were thrown down the dugout and our men moved on.

We captured, in all, thirty-three prisoners, of whom one was an officer, and probably killed and wounded as many more. Our losses were one killed and five slightly wounded. Unfortunately the one man killed was Lieutenant Freml, the raid leader, who fell in a hand-to-hand combat. Freml was an old Regular Army sergeant and had fought in the Philippine Islands. After this war he was planning to return and establish a chicken farm. He always kept his head no matter what the circumstances were and his solutions for situations that arose were always practical. His men were devoted to him and would follow him anywhere.


Drawn by Captain George Harding, A. E. F., Montfaucon

[131]The men returned in high excitement and fine spirits. This was the most successful minor operation we had had so far. I was with the raiding party when it jumped off and then went to the point where they were to check in as they got back. There were four parties in all. As each returned with its collection of prisoners, the first thing that the officer or sergeant in command asked was, "Sir, did any of the rest get any more prisoners than we did?" When I told one of them, Lieutenant Ridgely, that another party had brought in two more prisoners than he had, he wanted to go back at once and get some more himself.

A very gallant fellow, Bradley, my liaison sergeant, asked and was granted permission to go on the raid. He turned up at the checking-in point driving three Germans in front of him, his rifle over his shoulder, the bayonet covered with blood and a German[132] helmet hanging from the end. As he passed I said, "Bradley, I see you have a new bonnet." He turned to me with a beaming smile and answered, "Why, Major, I heard that Mrs. Roosevelt wanted a German helmet and this was such a nice one that I stuck the man who had it on." Poor Bradley was, I believe, killed in the battle of Soissons, though I never have been able to get positive information.

A curious instance of the way a man will carry one impression from an order in his mind and one only was given by this raid. Before the operation started I had given particular instructions to the effect that I wanted prisoners and papers. This is literally what the party brought back, lots of prisoners and papers of all sorts. They took the crews of two machine guns but did not bring the guns back—that was not included in the instructions. The company which made this raid was composed of raw recruits who had never had even the most rudimentary kind of military training until their arrival in Europe some five months before this date. They[133] were of all walks in life and all extractions. Many did not even speak the English tongue with ease.

It was in this sector that the First Division staged the first American attack when the town of Cantigny was taken. The attack was made by the Twenty-eighth Infantry. My battalion, although not actually engaged in the assault, was in support and took over the extreme right of the line after the assault. It also helped in repelling counter-attacks delivered by the Germans and in consolidating the position. Just preceding the Cantigny show the Germans strafed and gassed very heavily the positions held by us. I suspect that this was due to a certain amount of additional movement in the sector coincident with moving the troops into position for the attack.

After gassing us and strafing us heavily a raid in considerable force was sent over by the Germans. It was repulsed with heavy loss, leaving a number of prisoners in our hands. A Company took the brunt of this, the platoon commanded by Lieutenant Andrews[134] doing particularly well. Just after the repulse of the German attack I was up watching the right of the line, which was in trenches out in the open. The German machine guns and sharpshooters were very active. One of our men was lying behind the parapet. He had his helmet hooked on the end of his rifle and kept shoving it over the top. The Germans would fire at it. Then he would flag a miss for them by waving it to and fro in the same way the flag is waved for a miss when practice on the rifle range is going on.

Our own losses were due in large part to the German artillery fire. In this operation a number of our most gallant old-timers were killed. Captain Frey, second in command of the battalion, was shot twice through the stomach while leading reënforcements to his front line. When the stretcher bearers carried him by me, he shook my hand, said "good-by," and was carried away to the rear. After they had moved him a short distance he lifted himself up, saluted, said in a loud voice, "Sergeant, dismiss the company," and[135] died. Sergeant Dennis Sullivan, Sergeant O'Rourke, and Sergeant McCormick, not to mention many, many others, were killed or received mortal wounds at this time.

The Cantigny operation was a success. We took and held the town, or rather the spot where the town had been, for it would be an exaggeration to say it was even a ruin. It was literally beaten flat. This piece of land had seen the German invaders for the last time. We learned a valuable lesson also, namely, not to make the disposition of the men too thick. In this operation we did, and this, and the fact that our objective was necessarily limited in depth, caused us casualties, as the enemy artillery was not reached and opened on us before we had time to dig in and consolidate the position we had taken.

Not all our operations were necessarily as successful as the ones I have mentioned above. Raids were organized and drew blanks. At times orders would reach us so late that it was exceedingly difficult to attempt their execution with much chance of success. For example,[136] one night a message reached me that a prisoner was wanted for identification purposes by morning.

As I recall, it happened as follows: The telephone buzzed; I answered, and the message came over the wire somewhat in this fashion: "Hello, hello, is this Hannibal? Hannibal, there is a friend we have back in the country [the brigadier general] who is very fond of radishes [prisoners]. He wants one for breakfast to-morrow morning without fail." This reached me at about ten or eleven o'clock. The raid had to be executed before daylight. In the meantime the plans had to be made, the company commander notified, the raiding party chosen, and all ranks instructed. Add to this that everything had to be done during the dark and you will see what a difficult proposition it was.

I got hold of the company commander, got the men organized, telephoned to the artillery, and asked for five minutes' preparation fire on a certain point, joined the raiding party and went forward with it. Then the first of a[137] string of misfortunes happened. On account of the hurry and the difficulty of transmission, the artillery mistook the coördinate and fired three hundred meters too short, with the result that an effective bit of preparation fire was wasted on my own raiding party. By the time this preparatory firing upon our own raiding party was over, the Germans naturally understood that something was happening, for why would we strafe our own front-line trenches to no purpose? The result was that when the raid went over, every machine gun in the area was watching for them. They got to the opposing wire, ran into cross-fire, and, after various casualties, found it entirely impossible to get by the enemy wire, and worked their way back.

As they were working back a senior sergeant, Yarborough by name, was sitting in a shell hole, machine-gun bullets singing by him, checking his party as it came in. Lieutenant Ridgely, who had been with the party, came up to him. As he crawled along, Yarborough said to him: "Lieutenant, this reminds me of[138] a story. There was once a guy who decided to commit suicide by hanging himself. Just about the time he done a good job of it the rope broke. He was sitting up on the floor afterward when I came in, a-rubbing his neck, and when he saw me, all he said was, 'Gee, but that was dangerous.'"

During this period the German Château-Thierry drive was made, again scoring a clean break-through. The Second Division, which was coming up to our rear to relieve us, was switched and thrown in front of the enemy. Shortly after the Huns attacked toward the town of Compiègne, in an endeavor to straighten out the reëntrant in their lines with its apex at Soissons. This latter attack passed by on our right flank.

We, of course, got little but rumor. In the trenches you are only vitally concerned with what happens on your immediate right and left. What goes on ten kilometers away you know little about, and generally are so busy that you care less. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," is a proverb that holds[139] good in the line. In this last instance we were more interested because we believed that as a result of this attack the next point to stand a hammering would be where we were holding. Our policy, which held good through the war, was developed and put into action at this time. The orders were, all troops should resist to the last on the ground on which they stood. All movement should be from the rear forward and not to the rear. Whenever an element in the front line got in trouble, the elements immediately in the rear would counter-attack. This extended in depth back until it reached the division reserve, which, as our general put it, "would move up with him in command, and after that, replacements would be necessary."

During the time when the Huns were making their Château-Thierry drive, Blalock, afterward sergeant of D Company, distinguished himself by a rather remarkable piece of marksmanship. Noticing a pigeon fluttering over the trench, he drew his automatic pistol and killed it on the wing. The[140]bird turned out to be a carrier pigeon loosed by one of the attacking regiments the Germans were using in their drive toward the Marne, and carried a message giving its position as twelve kilometers deeper in France than our higher command realized. At the same time it identified a division that we had not heard of for three months, and indicated by the fact that it was signed by a captain who was commanding the regiment that the Germans were finding it difficult to replace the losses among their officers.

Instances occurred constantly which showed the spirit of both officers and men. A recruit, arriving one night as a replacement, got there just in time for a heavy strafing that the Germans were delivering. A dud—that is a shell that does not go off—went through the side of the dugout and took both of his legs off above the knees. These duds are very hot, and this one cauterized the wounds and the man did not bleed to death at once. The platoon leader, seeing that something had gone wrong on the right, went over to look and found the man propped up against the side of the trench.[141] When he arrived, Kraakmo, the private, looked up at him and said, "Lieutenant, you have lost a hell of a good soldier."

Another time, when we were moving forward to reënforce a threatened part of the line, a sergeant called O'Rourke was hit and badly wounded. As he fell I turned around and said: "Well, O'Rourke, they've got you." "They have sir," he answered, "but we have had a damned good time."

Sergeant Steidel of A Company was a fine up-standing soldier and won the D. S. C. and the Médaille Militaire. He used to stay with me as my own personal bodyguard when I was away for any reason from headquarters. Steidel was afraid of nothing. He was always willing and always clear-headed. When I wanted a report of an exact situation, Steidel was the man whom I could send to get it. We used to have daylight patrols. One day a patrol of green men went out to obtain certain information. They were stampeded by something and came back into the part of the trench where Steidel was.[142] He went out alone as an example to them, and came back with the information.

Lieutenant Baxter, whom I have mentioned before, and a private called Upton patrolled across an almost impossible shell-beaten area to establish connection with the battalion on our left. They both went out cheerfully, and both, by some streak of luck, got back unhurt. Baxter, on returning, reported to ask if there was any other duty of a like nature that he could undertake right away.

One night, when we were shifting a company from support to a position on our left flank, a heavy bombardment came on. A number of the men were killed and wounded while moving up. One sergeant, by the name of Nestowicz, born in Germany, was badly hit and left for dead. I was standing in the bushes on the side of the valley waiting for reports when I saw this man moving unsteadily toward me. I asked him what the matter was, and he replied that he had been hit, his[143] company had gone on and left him, and he had come up to ask me where he could find them. I said, "Hadn't you better go to the first aid, sergeant?" He said, "No sir, I am not hit that bad and I want to go back to my company. It looks as if they'd need me."

Sergeant Dobbs, of B Company, badly wounded by a hand grenade, wrote me a letter, saying that he was well enough to come back, but the doctors would not let him come, and could not I do something about it. I took a chance and wrote, telling the medical authorities I would give him light work if they let him come back to the outfit. Dobbs turned up, was wounded again, and the last I heard of him was a letter written in late October, saying that he had never had the opportunity to thank me for getting him back. Mind you, getting him back merely meant, in his case, giving him the chance to get shot up again before he was thoroughly cured of his first wound. He finished by saying that he was in bad trouble[144] now, as part of his nose had gone the last time he was wounded and they would not even keep him in France, but were sending him back to the United States. His last line was the hope that he would get well soon so he could get back to the outfit.

There was a young fellow called Fenessey from Rochester, New York, in B Company. He was being educated for the Catholic priesthood. As soon as war was declared he enlisted and came over with the regiment. He did well and was a good man to have around the command because of his earnestness and humor. He was eventually made corporal of an automatic-rifle squad. His rifle was placed in the tip of a small patch of wood guarding a little valley that ran back toward the center of our position. These valleys were important, as down them the Germans generally delivered thrusts. The Huns, one morning, strafed heavily our position. Fenessey's automatic rifle was destroyed and he was hard hit, his right arm torn off and his right side mangled. Fenessey knew[145] he was dying. The strafing stopped, the first-aid men worked in, and Fenessey was carried to the rear. They heard him mumble something, listened carefully, and found he wished to be taken to his company commander. They carried him back to Lieutenant Holmes. When he saw Lieutenant Holmes, he said: "Sir, my automatic rifle has been destroyed. I think the company commander should send one up immediately to take its place." Fenessey died ten minutes later.

Quick promotion, unfortunately not in rank, simply in responsibility, occurred all the time. Of the four infantry company commanders which had started, only one was surviving when we left this sector. In each case a lieutenant took command of the company and did it in the finest shape possible. Lieutenants Cathers and Jackson were killed here at the head of their platoons, and Lieutenants Smith and Gustafson died from the effect of wounds. Lieutenant Freml, who was killed in a raid, had numerous narrow escapes.

[146]I remember one time we were going together over the top on a reconnoitering party preparatory to redisposition of the troops. Freml had as his personal orderly a very bright little Jew from San Francisco—Drabkin by name, who had kept a junk-shop. The little fellow seemed to run true to former training, for he always went around festooned with pistols, "blinkers," notebooks, and everything conceivable. A shell hit beside them, Freml being between this man and the shell. Freml was untouched, but the man was torn to pieces.

One young fellow seemed, for a while, to bear a sort of charmed life. Unfortunately this did not last, and he was killed in the battle of Soissons. He was very proud of the things that had happened to him. One night, while I was inspecting the front trenches, he said to me, "Major, I have been buried by shells twice to-day. The last time I only had one arm sticking out so they could find me. All the other men in the dugout have been killed and I ain't even been scratched."

It was here that Lieutenant Ridgely earned[147] for himself the nickname of the idiot strategist, which he went by for a long while in the battalion. The Huns were putting up a pretty lively demonstration on our left. A message reached me that they were attacking. I made my preparations to counter-attack, if necessary, and sent runners to the various units concerned to advise them of this plan. The runner who was bringing the message to Ridgely's platoon lost it in the shuffle. Runners are made to repeat messages verbally to take care of contingencies just like this. However, this does not always work, and when he got to Ridgely, the only message he could remember was, "The Major orders you to counter-attack, and help the troops on our left."

It seemed a pretty forlorn business to counter-attack with one platoon, but neither Ridgely nor the platoon considered this was anything which really concerned them. They hastily formed up and moved to the left. They got over and found that the Germans had been successfully repulsed and that they[148] were among our own troops. The Captain in charge of the company told Ridgely to go back. Ridgely thought for a moment and said, "No, my Major's orders were to counter-attack to assist the troops on the left," and it was only with difficulty that they persuaded him that he must not stage a little private adventure then and there against the German lines.

In this sector we experienced our most severe gas attacks. It is a thoroughly unpleasant thing to hear gas shells coming over in quantity. Often an attack begins much as follows: It draws toward morning; the digging parties file back toward their positions. Suddenly shelling begins to increase in volume. Private Bill Smith notes a sort of a warbling sound overhead and remarks to Private Bill Jones, "Gee, Bill, they're gassing us." Next, reports come in from various sections that they are gassing Fontaine Woods, Cantigny Woods, and the valley between. You stand out on some point of vantage and listen to the shells singing over and bursting.[149] As day dawns you see a thick gray mist spreading itself through the valley. The men have slipped on their gas masks. The question now is, what's up? Just meanness on the part of the Huns, or is it part of some ulterior design to straighten the salient and nip off the two points of woods we are holding? How heavy is the gassing to be? How quickly will the wind carry it away? A thousand and one other questions.

You send your gas officer up to test. You go up yourself and generally know as much as the gas officer. Our general experience was that the first gas casualties we had were the gas officers. You decide that, as nothing has developed up to this time, it is probable that if any attack is planned by the Huns it is not intended to take place this morning. You get your men out of the heavily gassed areas and try to determine where is the best place for them to be well protected, to cover practically the same territory, and not to be too much exposed to the gas. By this time they have been sweating in their gas masks for[150] three hours or more with the usual number of fools and accidents contributing to the casualties. You carefully redispose them while a desultory bombardment by the Germans adds to the general joy of life. You get them redisposed. The wind changes, the gas is carried to the position where they are. You have to change them again. To add to the general complications, the chow which was brought up last night is spoiled. It has been in the gassed area and the men must go hungry until the next evening. You come back to your dugout and find that in some mysterious way the gas has gone down into the dugout, so you prop yourself in the corner of the trench and carry on from there. Altogether it is a happy and joyful occasion. Your one consolation rests in the fact that your artillery is now earnestly engaged in retaliating on their infantry.

Speaking of artillery, there is one thing that always used to fill us, the infantry, with woe and grief. A paper would come up, reading, "Nothing to report on the (blank) sector[151] except severe artillery duels." "Severe artillery duels" to the uninitiated means that the opposing artillery fights one with the other. This, however, is not the custom. Your artillery shells their infantry hard and then their artillery shells your infantry hard. This is an artillery duel. The infantry is on the receiving end in both cases.

Our artillery was particularly good. General Summerall, who commanded, I have been told, preached to his men that the primary duty of that arm was to help the infantry, and that to do this properly in all war of movement they should follow the advancing troops as closely as possible. Once I saw a battery of the Seventh F. A. wheel up and go into action not more than two hundred yards from the front line. We, on our part, endeavored to call uselessly on the artillery as little as possible.

At times our own artillery would drop a few "shorts" into us but this is unavoidable and the infantry felt too strongly what had been done for them to pay much attention.

In one of the German dugouts we captured,[152] a lieutenant told me he found a sign reading, "We fear no one but God and our own artillery."

Sector matériel is something that always adds interest to the life of the officers in trench warfare. Sector matériel consists of all varieties of articles, from tins of bully beef and rusty grenades to quantities of grubby, illegible orders and lists, and mangled maps. These remain in the sector and are turned over by each unit to the next succeeding. Theoretically a careful inventory is made and each individual article checked each time.

Moreover, to keep the higher command satisfied, there must be maps—legions of maps. These maps do not have to be accurate. Indeed, they cannot possibly be accurate, but they must be beautifully marked in red, blue, yellow, and green with a pretty "legend" attached. The higher command never knows if the maps are correct, but they do know if they are not beautifully marked. In each sector there must be, first, a map indicating where all the trenches are.[153] You, as commanding officer, are probably the only person who knows and you are too busy to put them down. Then there must also be maps indicating work in progress. Very generally they like a map to be turned in every day showing what work has been done during the night. How they expect anyone to do this is beyond anyone who has done it. Further, maps must show abandoned trenches; still further, there must be what is known to the high command as maps indicating "alternate gas positions." "Alternate gas positions" are impossible to indicate. Everything depends on which way the wind is blowing and what place is gassed. But the higher command wants these maps and it is simpler to placate them than to fight with them. I had a fine artillery liaison officer, called Chandler. He had had some training in topography and he kindly agreed to take over the map question. When a message came up from the rear demanding a map showing alternate gas position, he would get out his stack of blue pencils and make, with[154] exquisite care, the nicest and most symmetrical blue lines. He would number them in black, arrange a margin between, putting green marks and yellow marks and red marks for other units; fold them up and send them back. It was quite simple for him. He did not have to consult anyone, it wasn't necessary to reconnoiter the ground; the map would go in with the morning report and all would be happy.

Another sport indulged in by the higher command was to change the main line of defense and re-allot the defense system of the sector. To be really qualified to do this, you should on no account have any knowledge of the actual terrain. Indeed, I think in all my experience I never received a defense map from the higher command where the individual making the map had been over the ground. All that you do, if you are the higher command, is to get a beautiful large scale map, draw broad lines across it and then dotted lines to indicate boundaries. For nearly a month I defended a sector where the map was entirely wrong. Two patches of woods were[155] represented as in a valley, whereas they were on a hill. This worried neither the higher command nor me. The higher command did not know that the map was wrong; they had sent me their beautiful little plans. I sent them equally beautiful ones without debating the matter, and all were satisfied.

I remember one general who commanded the brigade of which I was a member. His hobby was switch lines. A switch line is simply a trench running approximately perpendicular to the front, where a defensive position can be taken up in case the enemy breaks through on the right or left and whereby you form a defensive flank. The old boy would come up, solemn as a judge, and ask me where my switch lines were to be put. With equal solemnity I would explain to him. After talking for a half an hour he would ask confidentially, "Major, what is a switch line?" With equal solemnity I would explain to him and conversation would cease. Three days thereafter we would go through the same thing again. The old fellow had heard[156] someone talking about a switch line once and somehow felt that it counted a hundred in game to have one.

Another indoor sport of the high command was a report for plans of defense. A plan of defense consisted of maps and long screeds indicating just where counter-attacks were to be launched when parts of the front line were taken by the enemy. They were beautiful things, pages and pages long. They were as gay in color as Joseph's proverbial coat, and when things broke, circumstances were always such that you did something entirely different from any of the plans.

Still another sport was patrol reports and patrolling. The patrols were, according to instructions, arranged for by the higher command because the higher command knew nothing and could know nothing of the particular details that govern in any individual section of the front. They would send down to the battalion commander and demand statements, for their revision, as to what his patrols were to be for the night, when they[157] were to go out, what they were to do, etc. The battalion commander would send them his patrol sheet and then by the above-mentioned code they would endeavor to confer with him and debate the advisability of certain of his actions. Again experience taught the way out. You agreed with everything they said, and did what you originally intended. Next day they would want a map indicating exactly the points traversed by the patrol. Knee-deep in water in a filthy dugout, your adjutant or intelligence officer would make them this map. The map, like most maps, was for decorative purposes. No patrol wandering in a pitch-black night in the rain, stumbling on dead men, snarling itself in wire, lying flat on its bellies when the Hun flares shot up, could possibly tell exactly where it had gone. This was, happily, not known to the higher command, so they rested in blissful ignorance.

I cannot leave the question of maps without discussing the all-absorbing topic of coördinates. A coördinate is a group of numbers which indicate an exact point on the map.[158] If you have firmly got the system in your head, you can find the point accurately on the map. Any man, however, who thinks he can go and sit on a coördinate on the actual ground is either a lunatic or belongs to the higher command. Incidentally, in demanding reports of patrols, alternate gas positions, etc., the order usually, reads, "Battalion commander will furnish reports with coördinates."

When I was recovering from a wound in my leg, I attended for two weeks our staff college. This college was well conceived and did excellent work, but nowhere were more evident the grievous faults of our unpreparedness. A good staff officer should have had practical experience with troops. If he has not had this experience he takes the thumb rules too literally and does not realize that they are simply rules to govern in general. We had practically no officers with this experience. The result was that the students, good fellows, most of them men who had never been in action, attached too much importance to the figures and did not realize it was the theory[159] that was important. Infantry, according to staff problems, always marches four kilometers an hour. March graphics are drawn with columns which clear points, with three hundred meters to spare between them and the head of the next column after both columns have marched ten kilometers to the point of junction. No account is taken of the fact that rarely, if ever, does infantry exceed in rate of march three and one half kilometers under the ordinary conditions prevailing in France, and that bad weather, bad roads, etc., bring it to three kilometers. What a commanding officer of troops must bear in mind is not simply getting his troops to a given point, but getting them to that given point in such shape that they are able to perform the task set them when they arrive. Furthermore, roads given on the map are accepted with the sublime faith of a child. I remember once having my regiment on the march for twelve hours because the trail on which we had all been ordered to proceed necessitated the men going single file, and the infantry[160] of a division single file stretches out indefinitely.

Our troops had now begun to arrive in France in large numbers. It was more than a year after the commencement of the war before this was effected. The inability of our national administration to bring itself to the point where it considered patriotism as above politics was largely responsible for this. Every move forward toward the active pushing of the war was the result of the pressure of the people on Washington. When I say that our troops were coming across in large numbers, let it be borne in mind that, though the men did come, munitions and weapons of war did not. The Browning automatic rifle, for example, to my mind one of the greatest weapons developed by the war, was invented in the United States in the summer of 1917. When the war finished it had just been placed for the first time in the hands of a limited number of our divisions; my division, the First, never had them until a month after the armistice. We used the old French chauchat,[161] a very inferior weapon. None of our airplanes had come, and the death of many of our young men was directly traceable to this, as they, of necessity, used inferior machines. Our cannon was and remained French and its ammunition was French. Our troops were at times issued British uniforms and many of the men objected strenuously to wearing them on account of the buttons with the crown stamped on them. Our supply of boots, up to and including the march into Germany, was composed in part of British boots. These boots had a low instep and caused much foot trouble. These are facts that no amount of words can cover, no speeches explain away.




"And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy."


EARLY in July rumors reached us that we were going to be relieved. At first we did not attach any importance to this, as we had heard many rumors of a like nature during the months we had been in the sector. At last, however, the French officers came up to reconnoiter, and we knew it was true. We were relieved and marched back to some little village near the old French town of Beauvais. Everyone was as happy as a king. Here we heard that the plan was to form a corps of the Second Division and our division, train and recruit them for a month, and make an offensive with us some time late in August or September. General Bullard, our division commander[163] who had been, in turn, colonel of the Twenty-eighth Infantry, brigadier general commanding the Second Brigade, and division commander, was to be corps commander. This pleased us very much, as we had great confidence in him.

We had been in these villages only for a few days when orders reached us to entruck and proceed to some towns only a short distance from Paris. This appealed to us all, for if we were going to train and rest for a month, no more delightful place could be chosen for one and all than the vicinity of Paris.

The buses arrived and all night we jolted southwest through the forest of Chantilly. By morning we arrived and detrucked and the brown columns wound through the fresh green landscape to the charming little gray stone towns. The town where we were to stay was called Ver. It was built on rolling country and its gray cobble-paved streets twisted and wound up hill and down through a maze of picturesque gray houses in whose doors well-dressed, bright-cheeked women and[164] children stood watching us. On the hill were the remains of an old wall and château, and at the foot, through a broad meadow shaded with trees, a fair-sized brook rippled. Jean Jacques Rousseau lived and wrote there. How he could have been such a hypocrite and have lived in such a charming place is more than I can see.

The men were delighted. "Say, Buddie, this is some town; look at that stream!"—"Bonne billets."—"Let's fight the rest of the war here"—were some of the remarks I heard as the column swung in.

Everything was ideal. The stream above mentioned furnished a bathtub for the command. We had had no opportunity for about two months to thoroughly bathe, as we had been on active work the entire time, and you can imagine in just what condition we were. To put it in the words of one of my company commanders, "The command was as lousy as pet coons." The first day we spent in orienting ourselves, getting the kitchens arranged and the billets comfortable. Meanwhile[165] the troops were down bathing in the stream, to the admiring interest of the French inhabitants, who lined the bridge. To our staid Americans the unconventional attitude of interest in bathing troops displayed by the French inhabitants of all ages and both sexes was a source of constant embarrassment. I have known a platoon sergeant to guide his men to quite a distant point to take their baths. When I asked him why, he replied, "Sir, it isn't decent with all them frogs looking on."

That evening, at officers' meeting, everyone was on the crest of the wave, "sitting on the world," as the doughboy puts it. The officers established their mess in various houses, and I remember to this day Lieutenant Kern, as gallant an officer as ever it was my pleasure to know, who was mortally wounded some three days from this time, telling me that they had the prettiest French girl in all of France as a waitress at his company mess and that they were all going to give her lessons in English. We talked over training and made all arrangements for a long stay. The only[166] dissenting voice was that of the medical officer, Captain E. D. Morgan. He, Cassandra-like, prophesied that the town was too nice and we would be moved soon.

Next morning, while I was out going over the village, selecting drill grounds and planning the schedule, a motorcycle orderly arrived and handed me a message which read, "You will be prepared to entruck your battalion at two this afternoon." This meant no rest for us. We realized that a move on our part now meant one thing and one thing only, that something serious had arisen, and that we were going in again. Rumor had been rife for two or three days past that the big Hun offensive was about to start again. In the army, among the front-line troops, practically all you get is rumor about what is happening daily. Where the rumor starts from it is impossible to say, but it travels like lightning. Officers' call was sounded, and when they had assembled, I read them the order and told them it was my opinion we were going into a big battle right away. The men were immediately[167] assembled and told the same thing. We always felt that all information possible should be given to the men. Instead of the command being downcast at the idea of leaving their well-deserved rest, their spirits rose. Immediately bustle and preparation was evident everywhere in the town.

By one o'clock the truck train was creaking into place on the road. Oddly enough the truck train was made up of White trucks, made in Cleveland, with Indo-Chinese drivers and was under the command of a French officer. The troops filed by in columns of twos toward the entrucking point. The men were laughing and joking. "They can't do without us now, Bill." "Say, Nick, look over there" (pointing toward a grave yard), "them's the rest billets of this battalion, and that" (indicating a rather imposing tomb) "is the battalion headquarters." Many of them were singing the national anthem of the doughboy, Hail! Hail! the Gang's All Here.

I got into the automobile of the French commander of the train, taking with me Lieutenant[168] Kern, as he was pretty well played out and I wanted to spare him as much as possible. The French train commander had no idea what our ultimate destination was. All he knew was a route for about sixty kilometers, at the end of which he was to report for further orders at a little town. As we ran up and down the column of trucks checking the train to make sure that all units were present and all properly loaded, the men were singing and cheering.

As all afternoon we jolted northward through clouds of dust, rumors came in picked up from French officers on the roadside. The Hun had attacked in force east and west of Rheims in a desperate attempt to break the French army in two. East of Rheims they had met with a stone-wall resistance by Gouraud's army and been hurled back with heavy loss. West of Rheims their attack had been more successful, and they were reported to have broken through, crossed the Marne, and to be now moving on Châlons.

As night fell the jolting truck train pressed[169] ever farther north. At the regulating station, by the shaded flare of an electric torch, we got our orders: we were to proceed to Palesne. We guessed on receiving them what our mission was. We were pushing straight north into the reëntrant into the German lines, at the peak of which was Soissons. Our destination was a large wood. We realized that we were probably to form part of an offensive to be made against the Hun right flank, which should have as its object, first, by pressure at this point, to stop the attack on Châlons; second, if it was possible, to penetrate far enough to force the evacuation of the Château-Thierry salient by threatening their lines of communication. In the early dawn the troops detrucked, sloshed through the mud, and bivouacked in the woods. Every care possible was taken to get the troops under cover of the woods and the trucks away before daylight in order to avoid any possible chance of observation by the Germans.

All day we became more certain that our guess as to our probable mission was correct.[170] We heard that the Foreign Legion and the Second American Division had come up on our right. We knew that our division, the Foreign Legion, and the Second Division, would not be concentrated at the same point if it did not mean a real offensive.

Soon after the orders for the attack were given us. Apparently the idea was to stake all on one throw. Marshal Foch had decided on a counter-offensive in this part and had delegated to General Mangin, commander of the French army, the task of putting it into execution. Mangin desired to make this offensive, if possible, a complete surprise. All care was used that no unnecessary movement took place among our troops in the back area. We were not to take over the position from the French troops holding the front line, as was generally customary for the attacking troops before an action, but rather to march up on the night of the offensive and attack through them. Fortunately, from the point of view of secrecy, the night before the attack it rained cats and dogs. The infantry slogged[171] through the mud, up roads cut to pieces by trucks and over trails ankle deep in water. The artillery skittered and strained into place. The tanks clanked and rattled up, breaking the columns and tearing up what was left of the road. It was so dark you could hardly see your hand before your face.

As a part of the element of surprise there was to be but a short period of preparatory bombardment. The artillery was to fire what the French call "the fire of destruction" for five minutes on the front line, and then to move to the next objective. This bombardment was to commence at 4.30, and at 4.35 the men were to go over the top.

The troops all reached the position safely by about 4 o'clock. Our position lay along the edge of a rugged and steep ravine. The rain had stopped and the first faint pink of the early summer morning lighted the sky. Absolute silence hung over everything, broken only by the twittering of birds. Suddenly out of the stillness, without the warning of a preliminary shot, our artillery opened with a crash.[172] All along the horizon, silhouetted against the pale pink of the early dawn, was the tufted smoke of high explosive shells, and the burst of shrapnel showed in flashes like the spitting of a broken electric wire in a hailstorm. After the bombardment had been going on for two or three minutes, D company, on the right, became impatient and wanted to attack, and I heard the men begin to call, "Let's go, let's go!"

At 4.35 the infantry went over. The surprise was complete. Germans were killed in their dugouts half dressed. One of the units of the division captured a colonel and his staff still in his dugout. So rapid was the advance on the first day that the German advance batteries were taken. The French cavalry followed up our advance, looking for a break-through. By night all the objectives were taken and the troops bivouacked in the captured position. During the night Hun airplanes flew low over us dropping flares and throwing small bombs. Next morning the attack started again. We ran into much machine-gun fire. "Only those who have danced to its music can know what the mitrailleuse means."


Drawn by Captain George Harding, A. E. F., August, 1918

[173]The Germans now rushed up all the reserves they could to hold this threatened point. On the second day we took prisoners from four Hun divisions in front of the regiment. One prisoner told us he had marched twenty-four kilometers during the preceding night. For five days the advance continued, until the final objective was taken and we held the Château-Thierry-Soissons railroad and the Germans ordered a general retreat. I was not fortunate enough to see the last half of this battle, as I was wounded. I heard about it, however, from men who had been all through it.

Our casualties were very heavy. At the end of the battle, companies in some cases came out commanded by corporals, and battalions by second lieutenants. In the battle the regiment lost most of the men that built it up.

Colonel Hamilton A. Smith, as fine an officer[174] and as true a gentleman as I have ever known, was killed by machine-gun fire while he was verifying his outpost line. Major McCloud, a veteran of the Philippines who had served with the British for three years, was killed on the second day. I have somewhere a note written by him to me shortly before his death. He was on the left, where heavy resistance was being encountered. I had just sent him a message advising him that I was attacking in the direction of Ploisy. His answer, which was brought by a wounded runner, read: "My staff are all either killed or wounded. Will attack toward the northeast against machine-gun nests. Good hunting!"

Lieutenant Colonel Elliott was killed by shell fire. Captain J. H. Holmes, a gallant young South Carolinian, was killed. He left in the United States, a young wife and a baby he had never seen. Captains Mood, Hamel, and Richards were killed. Lieutenant Kern, of whom I spoke before, was mortally wounded while gallantly leading his company. Lieutenant Clarke died in the hospital from the[175] effect of his wounds a few days later. Clarke was a big, strapping fellow who feared nothing. Once he remarked to me: "Yes, it is a messy damn war, sir, but it's the only one we've got and I guess we have got to make the best of it." These are only a few of those who fell. Both Major Compton and Major Travis were wounded.

The Twenty-sixth Infantry was brought out of the fight, when it was relieved, by Lieutenant Colonel (then Captain) Barnwell Rhett Legge, of South Carolina. Colonel Legge started the war as a second lieutenant. When I first knew him he was adjutant of the Third Battalion. Later he took a company and commanded it during the early fighting. He was then made adjutant of the regiment, and two or three times I recall his asking the Colonel to let him go back with his company. Captain Frey, killed earlier, who was originally my senior company commander, thought very highly of him and used to "josh" him continually. Once Legge took out a raiding party and captured a German prisoner fifty-four[176] years old. Frey never let him hear the last of it, asking him if he considered it a sportsmanlike proceeding to take a man of that age, and saying that a man who would do such a thing would shoot quail on the ground and catch a trout with a worm. All during my service in Europe, Legge served with me. During the latter part he was my second in command in the regiment. I have seen him under all circumstances. He was always cool and decided. No mission was too difficult for him to undertake. His ability as a troop leader was of the highest order. In my opinion no man of his age has a better war record.

An amusing incident occurred in Lieutenant Baxter's platoon during the battle. The men were advancing to the attack perhaps a couple of hundred yards from the Germans. They were moving forward in squad columns as they were going through a valley where they were defiladed from machine-gun fire, though the enemy was firing on them with its artillery. Suddenly Baxter heard rifle fire behind him. He wheeled around and saw that a rabbit had[177] jumped up in front of the left of the platoon and the men were firing at it.

The worst strain of the battle came during the last two days when casualties had been so heavy as to take off many of the field officers and most of the company commanders, when the remnants of the regiments pressed forward and captured Berzy-le-Sec and the railroad. It is always more difficult for the juniors in a battle like this, for they generally do not know what is at stake. General Frank Parker told me how, during the fourth day, when battalions of eight hundred men had shrunk to a hundred and it looked as if the division would be wiped out, and even he was wondering whether we were not losing the efficiency of the division without getting a compensatory gain, General C. P. Summerall, the division commander, came to his headquarters and said: "General, the German high command has ordered the first general retreat since the first battle of the Marne."

General Summerall took command of the division just before Soissons, when General[178] Bullard was given the corps. He had previously commanded the artillery of the division. The division always regarded him as their own particular general. He was known by the nickname of "Sitting Bull." He is, in my opinion, one of the few really great troop leaders developed by us during the war. At this battle General Summerall is reported to have made a statement which was often quoted in the division. Some staff officer from the corps had asked him if, after the very heavy casualties we had received, we were capable of making another attack. He replied: "Sir, when the First Division has only two men left they will be echeloned in depth and attacking toward Berlin."

Beside the First Division, the Foreign Legion and the Second Division were meeting the same type of work and suffering the same losses. No finer fighting units existed than these two. A very real compliment that was paid the Second Division was the fact that the rank and file of our division was always glad when circumstances ordained that the divisions[179] should fight side by side. I have often heard the junior officers discussing it.

The division was relieved by the Seaforth and Gordon Highlanders. When I was going to the rear, wounded, I passed their advancing columns. They were a fine set of men—tall, broad-shouldered, and fit looking. They, too, were in high spirits. The morale of the Allies had changed within twenty-four hours. They felt, and rightly, that the Hun had been turned. Never from this moment to the end of the war did it change.

This Highland division showed its appreciation of the American division by the following order that was sent to our higher command:

Headquarters 1st Division,
American Expeditionary Forces,

France, August 4th, 1918.

General Order
No. 42.

The following is published for the information of all concerned as evidence of the appreciation of the 15th Scottish Division of such assistance as this Division may have rendered them upon their tak[180]ing over the sector from us in the recent operation south of Soissons:

15th Scottish Division No. G-705 24-7-18

To General Officers Commanding,

First American Division.

I would like on behalf of all ranks of the 15th Division to express to you personally, and to your staff, and to all our comrades in your splendid Division, our most sincere thanks for all that has been done to help us in a difficult situation.

During many instances of taking over which we have experienced in the war we have never received such assistance, and that rendered on a most generous scale. In spite of its magnificent success in the recent fighting, your Division must have been feeling the strain of operations, accentuated by very heavy casualties, yet we could discern no symptom of fatigue when it came to a question of adding to it by making our task easier.

To your artillery commander (Col. Holbrook) and his Staff, and to the units under his command, our special thanks are due. Without hesitation when he saw our awkward predicament as to artillery support the guns of your Division denied themselves relief in order to assist us in an attack. This attack was only partly successful, but the artillery support was entirely so.

[181]Without the help of Colonel Mabee and his establishment of ambulance cars, I have no hesitation in saying that at least four hundred of our wounded would still be on our hands in this area.

The 15th Scottish Division desires me to say that our hope is that we may have opportunity of rendering some slight return to the First American Division for all the latter has done for us, and further that we may yet find ourselves shoulder to shoulder defeating the enemy in what we hope is the final stage of this war.

Signed: H. L. Reed,      
Major General        
Comdg. 15th Scottish Div.

By Command of Major General Summerall:
H. K. Loughry,        
Major, F. A. N. A.,    
Div. Adjt.

The Highlanders cheered as the wounded Americans passed by them. One lieutenant called out to me, "How far have you gone?" I answered, "About six kilometers." "Good," he said. "We'll go another six."

After the battle the division was withdrawn to near Paris. Many of the officers came to see me, where I was laid up with a bullet[182] through the leg. Major A. W. Kenner, the regimental surgeon, who had again distinguished himself by his gallantry, and Captain Legge were both in, looking little the worse for the wear.




"'Millions of ages have come and gone,'
The sergeant said as we held his hand;
'They have passed like the mist of the early dawn
Since I left my home in that far-off land.'"


DURING the next couple of months, while I was laid up with my wound, the regiment first went to a rest sector near Pont-à-Mousson. There replacements reached them, wounded men returned, and they gradually worked up to their full strength again.

They enjoyed themselves fully. It was one of those sectors so common on the east of the Western Front where by tacit agreement little action took place. The nature of the country and its distance from the great centers of France made many parts of the front impracticable for an offensive either by the Hun or[184] ourselves. In these sectors a division such as ours, worn by hard fighting, or a division of green or old men, held the line, a handful of men on each side occupying long stretches. A few shells would come whistling over during the day and that was all.

Everybody used to look back on their pleasant times in this sector. They got fresh fish by the thoroughly illegal method of throwing hand grenades in some near-by ponds, while fresh berries were plentiful even in the front line. It was midsummer and the weather was pleasantly warm. Altogether, if you had to be at war, it was about as comfortable as possible.

An odd incident of this period occurred to a recruit who was sent out the first night to a listening post. In the listening post was a box on which the guard sat. At some time during the previous night the Germans had crept up and put a bomb under this box. After looking around a little the recruit felt tired and sat down on the box. A violent explosion followed. Right away a patrol[185] worked out from our lines to see what had happened. When they got there they looked carefully through every ditch or clump of bushes in the vicinity, but they could not find a trace of the man. He was reported as dead, blown to bits. On the march up into Germany that missing recruit reported back to the regiment on his return from a German prison camp. Instead of being blown to pieces he had simply been blown into the German lines. When he came to, he was being carried to the rear on a stretcher, and he spent the rest of the war as a prisoner, little the worse for wear, except for a few scars.

Shortly after this the St. Mihiel operation took place. The plan was to nip off the salient by a simultaneous attack on both sides. Our division was the left flank unit of the forces attacking on the right of the salient, being charged with the mission of making a juncture with the Twenty-sixth Division, which was the right unit of the forces attacking on the left of the salient. The resistance was so slight that the operation partook of the nature[186] of a maneuver rather than a battle. Our losses were practically nil. A large number of prisoners were captured and a considerable amount of matériel. The reason for this was that the Germans had determined to abandon the position and were in full retreat when we attacked. They had been misinformed by their spies, however, and started their movement about twenty-four hours too late.

The men had a fine time in this attack. While they had been in the Toul sector a high hill, called Mount Sec, behind the German lines, had given them a lot of trouble. From it the Germans had been virtually able to look into our trenches. In the attack they not only took this hill, but left it far in the rear. Our unit captured a German officers' mess, including the cook and a fine pig. They promptly made the cook kill the pig and prepare him for their dinner, which they thoroughly enjoyed.

At another time a German company kitchen came up in the night to one of our outposts to ask him directions. When they found out[187] their mistake it was too late, and they were promptly conducted to one of our very hungry companies.

The value of the St. Mihiel operation to our army was considerable. It gave our staffs an opportunity to make mistakes which were not too terribly costly. We fell down particularly on the question of handling our road traffic. The artillery and the trains in many instances became hopelessly jammed on the largely destroyed road. Each unit commander with laudable desire to get forward would do anything to accomplish that purpose—double back or cut across country. The result was, of course, a hopeless tangle. This alone would have prevented us carrying on a further attack, as no army can run away from its echelons of supply.

Immediately on the completion of the attacks the First Division, in company with a number of others, was withdrawn from the line and moved west by marching to a position of readiness for the Argonne offensive, which was to take place in a couple of weeks.[188] The march was made mainly by night, as every endeavor was being used to make a surprise attack. The troops bivouacked in the woods, keeping under cover during the day.

The battle was a fierce one. During the first day the Americans made a clean break through, but the lack of training showed and they were unable to exploit their success properly. The various units became dislocated and orders could not be transmitted. The men were gallant, but gallantry is no use when you do not get orders and when supplies do not come up. As a result the Germans were able to gather themselves, and what might have been a rout became a fierce rear-guard action which lasted for more than a month.

The First Division was held in army reserve and thrown in to take a particularly hard bit of territory. They were in eleven days in all and took all their objectives. As a result they were cited individually by General Pershing in General Orders No. 201. This order—I believe the only one of its kind issued during the war—follows:

[189]G. H. Q.
American Expeditionary Forces,

France, Nov. 10, 1918.

General Orders
No. 201.

1. The Commander in Chief desires to make of record in the General Orders of the American Expeditionary Forces his extreme satisfaction with the conduct of the officers and soldiers of the First Division in its advance west of the Meuse between October 4th and 11th, 1918. During this period the division gained a distance of seven kilometers over a country which presented not only remarkable facilities for enemy defense but also great difficulties of terrain for the operation of our troops.

2. The division met with resistance from elements of eight hostile divisions, most of which were first-class troops and some of which were completely rested. The enemy chose to defend its position to the death, and the fighting was always of the most desperate kind. Throughout the operations the officers and men of the division displayed the highest type of courage, fortitude, and self-sacrificing devotion to duty. In addition to many enemy killed, the division captured one thousand four hundred and seven of the enemy, thirteen 77-mm. field guns, ten trench mortars, and numerous machine guns and stores.

[190]3. The success of the division in driving a deep advance into the enemy's territory enabled an assault to be made on the left by the neighboring division against the northeastern portion of the Forest of Argonne, and enabled the First Division to advance to the right and outflank the enemy's position in front of the division on that flank.

4. The Commander in Chief has noted in this division a special pride of service and a high state of morale, never broken by hardship nor battle.

5. This order will be read to all organizations at the first assembly formation after its receipt. (14790-A-306.)

By Command of General Pershing:

James W. McAndrew,
Chief of Staff.      

    Robert C. Davis,
Adjutant General.

The losses again were very heavy, nearly as heavy as at Soissons. It was in this battle Lieutenant T. D. Amory was killed while making a daring patrol. Amory was a gallant young fellow, not more than twenty-two or twenty-three years of age. He had originally[191] been intelligence officer for my battalion and had been quite badly wounded by a shell fragment in the Montdidier sector. As soon as he was cured he reported back to the regiment and took up his old work as scout officer. When the division took over, contact had been lost with the enemy. A patrol was accordingly sent out at once, for it was possible that an attack would be ordered in the morning. Lieutenant Amory was given forty men and went out. Signal-corps men were put with him to carry a telephone. It turned out that the Germans were holding strong points rather than a continuous line of front. On account of this and the darkness he filtered through without finding them and unobserved by them. The first word his battalion commander received was a telephone message from the signal-sergeant, saying: "We have advanced about one and one half kilometers and there is no sign of the enemy. The Germans have opened on us from the right flank." Then: "They are firing on us from three sides. I believe we are surrounded." And, last: "Lieu[192]tenant Amory has just been shot through the head and killed."

Captain Foster and Captain Wortley also were killed at this time, besides many other gallant officers and men. Foster when he died was but twenty-two years old. When he came over with the division, he was nothing but a curly-headed boy. In the year and a half that he spent in France he turned from a boy into a man. He was afraid of nothing and had a rarer virtue in that he was always in good spirits. He had been hit once before at Soissons. He had been platoon leader and adjutant. Later, on the death of the company commander, Captain Frey, he had taken command of a company. He, like Lieutenant Amory, was shot through the head by a machine gun.

Wortley was an older man and had always been ambitious to join the regular army. He had served an enlistment in the regulars and had been a sergeant. Later at the Leavenworth School he had received his commission. Wortley also had been wounded at Soissons.

[193]Major Youell described to me a personal incident of this battle, which illustrates very well the dull leathery mind that everyone gets after a certain amount of bitter fighting and fatigue. As commander of the Second Battalion he had received orders for an attack. He was not sure of his objectives. He got out his very best prismatic compass, which he valued more than any of his other possessions, as it was virtually impossible to replace it, sighted carefully, determined the direction of the attack, ordered the advance, put the compass on the ground, and walked off, leaving it there. When he next thought of it the compass was gone for good.

Another captain we had was thoroughly courageous personally, but he had one very bad fault. He could not keep his men under control. Once after an attack his battalion commander was checking up to see if the objectives were taken and all units in place. He found the objectives were taken all right, but that, in the instance of this one company, the company itself was missing! On the[194] objective was sitting simply the company commander and his headquarters group. The rest of the company had missed its direction advancing through a wood and got lost.

I remember this same company commander in another action. We had been advancing behind tanks, which had all been disabled by direct fire from the Germans. I went forward to where he was lying with a handful of men by one of these tanks. I said to him, "Captain, where is your company?" He said, "I don't know, sir; but the Germans are there." He knew where the enemy were and was perfectly game to go on and attack them with his eight or nine men.

Colonel Hjalmar Erickson was commander of the Twenty-sixth Infantry during this action. He was a fine troop leader and a powerful man physically. During a battle the higher command naturally want to know what is going on at the front. It is very difficult for the officer at the front to furnish these details; often he is busy, sometimes he knows nothing to tell. Once, during the first[195] Argonne battle, the higher command called upon Erickson. Nothing was happening, but Erickson was equal to the occasion.

"Yes, yes, everything is fine. What has happened? Our heavies have just started firing and it sounds good," was Erickson's reassuring message.

Meanwhile I had been given a Class B rating and detailed as an instructor at the school of the line at Langres. After I had been there a short while I saw an officer from the First Division and told him I was awfully anxious to get back and felt quite up to field work again. A few days after that General Parker called up some of the commanding officers in the college on the telephone. I had one obstacle to overcome. I still had to walk with a cane, and, although this did not really make any difference to me from a physical standpoint, it was a question if I could get the medical department to pass me as Class A. We decided that the best way to do was to take the bull by the horns and go anyhow. I said good-by to the college one night and went[196] with Major Gowenlock, of the division staff, directly back to the division. I was technically A. W. O. L. for a couple of weeks, but they don't court-martial you for A. W. O. L. if you go in the right direction, and my orders came through all right. On reporting to General Frank Parker, who was commanding the division, he assigned me to the command of my own regiment. When my orders finally came to the school directing me to report to C. G., of the First Division, for assignment to duty, I was commanding the regiment in battle.

At about this time three cavalry troopers reported to the Twenty-sixth Infantry. They said they came from towns where they had been on military police duty. They stated that they had heard from a man in a hospital that the First Division was having a lot of fighting and so they had gone A. W. O. L. to join it. They were attached to one of the companies, and a letter was sent through regular channels saying that they were excellent men and we wanted their transfer to a combatant branch of the service. We phrased it this way in[197] order to tease one of our higher command who belonged to the cavalry. A long while later, as I recall, an answer came back directing me to send the men back to their outfit, but they were all either killed or wounded at that time.

After the division was relieved from the Argonne it went into rest billets near the town of Ligny, there to rest and receive replacements before returning into the same battle. Advantage was taken of this brief period of rest to give leave to some of the enlisted personnel and officers. This was the first leave most of them had had since they had been in France. Captain Shipley Thomas took the men under his command to their area. He described to me on his return how on the way down all the men would talk about was: "Do you remember how we got that machine-gun nest? That was where McPherson got his." "Do you remember how Lieutenant Baxter and Sergeant Dobbs got those seventy-sevens by outflanking and surprising them?"

By the time they had been at the Y. M. C. A. Leave Area twenty-four hours they had for[198]gotten all this. For seven days they had a fine time and their point of view changed entirely. As the train carried them north through France, when they stopped at a station they would lean out of the windows and inveigle some unsuspecting M. P. close to the train. They would ask him with much earnestness what it was like at the front, explaining to him meanwhile that they were members of the Arkansas Balloon Corps, and when he got near enough throw soda-water bottles at his head. Later an indignant epistle reached me demanding an explanation and directing "an investigation to fix the responsibility." A commanding officer should know a great many things unofficially, and in this case my knowledge was all of an unofficial nature, so I was able with a clear conscience to indorse it back with the suggestion that they investigate some other unit.

Captain J. B. Card, Captain Richards, and some other of the officers were given leave. They started immediately for Nice. While they were traveling down we received orders that we were to go back into the battle, so[199] wires were awaiting them when they got off the train to report back to their units immediately. They made a good connection and spent only three hours at Nice. They reported back smiling and thought it was a good joke on themselves.

General C. P. Summerall had been promoted to the command of a corps and General Frank Parker given command of the division. General Parker was also one of the First Division's own officers. Before getting the division he had in turn commanded the Eighteenth Infantry and the First Brigade. He had a fine theory for soldiering. Summarized briefly, it was that the way to handle troops was to explain to them, in so far as possible, all that was to take place and the importance of the actions of each individual man. He had all his officers out with the men as much as possible. He had them all emphasize to the private the importance of his individual intelligent action. This is a fine creed for a commanding officer, as it helps to give him the confidence of his men. Obedience is absolutely necessary[200] in a soldier, but unintelligent obedience is not nearly as valuable as intelligent obedience given with confidence in the man who issues the order. It is intelligent comprehension of the aims of an order that lends most to its proper execution.




"The giant grows blind in his fury and spite,
One blow on the forehead will finish the fight."


HARDLY had the new replacements, some 1800 in all, learned to what company they belonged, when our definite orders reached us. The trucks arrived and we rattled off toward the front. We detrucked and bivouacked for a couple of days in a big wood while our supply trains came up. The weather, fortunately, was crisp and cool and bivouacking was really pleasant. What our mission was we did not know, but as we were to be in General Summerall's corps we were sure there would be plenty of fighting to go around.

General Summerall himself came and spoke to each of the infantry regiments. The regi[202]ment was formed in a three-sided square and he spoke from the blank side.

Almost immediately our orders arrived to move up. As usual we moved at night. The weather repented of its gentleness and cold heavy rain started. The roads were gone, the nights black, the columns splashed through mud with truck trains, with supplies for the troops ahead of us, crisscrossing and jamming by us. We passed the barren zone that had been No Man's Land for four years and was now again France.

Early in the morning in a heavy mist we reached another patch of woods just in rear of where the line was. Here we gained contact with the Second Division that was ahead of us. They attacked the same day and again we received orders to follow them. On this night the maps played us a trick, for a road well marked turned out to be a little wood trail. All night long we moved down it single file to get forward a bare seven kilometers. A wood trail in the rain is bad enough for the first man that moves over it, but it is almost[203] impassable for the three thousandth man when his turn comes. We got through, however, and by morning the regiment was in place. The road was clogged with a stream of transports of all kinds—trucks, wagon trains, tanks, and tractors, double banked and stuck. Occasionally, passing by them on foot, you would hear some general's aide spluttering in his limousine at the delay and wet.

Through this our supply train was brought forward by Captains Scott and Card and Lieutenant Cook with the uncanny ability to accomplish the seemingly impossible which had stood us in good stead many times. Indeed, the train beat the infantry and when we arrived, we found them there banked beside the road, with the kitchens smoking, and the food spreading a comforting aroma through the rain-rotted woods. Orders were received to march to Landreville. We gave the men hot chow and put the column in motion as soon as they had finished. The sun came out and dried us off and we felt more cheerful.

Still following in the wake of the victorious[204] Second Division, we passed through the desolate, war-battered little town of Landreville. There, to my intense astonishment, I suddenly came on my brother, Kermit, and my brother-in-law, Richard Derby, who was chief surgeon of the Second Division. My brother Kermit had transferred to the American army from the British, had finished his course at an artillery school, and was now reporting to the First Division for duty. Seeing them so unexpectedly was one of the most delightful surprises.

We went into position at Landreville and sent out patrols, which immediately gained contact with the marines in our front, who were preparing to attack next day.

That night my brother and I sat in a ruined shed, regimental headquarters, surrounded by dead Germans and Americans, and talked over all kinds of family affairs.

Again the following night, as the Second Division's attack had been successful, we moved forward. Again it rained. Next morning we were bivouacked in the Bois de la Folie,[205] but before evening were on the march again to another position. By the time we had reached this position, orders came to move forward again and we went into position in woods just south of Beaumont. Here the Colonel of the Ninth Infantry and I had headquarters together in an old farmhouse that had been used by the Germans as a prisoners' cage. It was surrounded by wire and filthy beyond description.

Here we got orders that we were to take over from the division on the left of the Second Division and attack in the morning. By this time the troops had marched practically five nights in succession and also two of the days. Speaking of this, there is a military phrase which has always irritated me. It appears in all accounts of big battles. It is, "At this point fresh troops were thrown into action." There is no such thing as "throwing fresh troops" into action. By the time the troops get into action they have marched night after night and are thoroughly tired.

The correct phrase should be, "troops[206] that have suffered no casualties." For example, that night my three majors, Legge, Frazier, and Youell, all of them young men not more than twenty-eight years old, came in to get their orders for the attack. We all sat down on wooden benches in the cellar. Something happened which made it necessary for me to change part of my orders. Making the changes did not take more than five minutes in all. By the time I was through, all three of them had fallen asleep where they sat.

After receiving the orders, I got in touch with the Second Division, and I want to say that when the next war comes I hope my side partners will be of the same type. Colonel Robert Van Horn, an old friend of mine, was commanding the Twenty-third Infantry, which was to be on the right flank. I was to attack with two battalions in line and one in support, my right flank on Beaumont, my left following a road that led north to Mouzon. Together Van Horn and I worked out our plans and arranged for the connections we wished to make. He had been fighting then[207] for a number of days, but was just as keen to continue as a schoolboy in a game of football.

That night again sunny France justified her reputation and for the fifth day in succession it rained. The troops moved forward and with the easy precision of veterans found their positions, got their direction, and checked in as in place at the moment of attack.

At 5.35 in a heavy mist they went over the top. The Hun had, by this time, lost all his fight and we advanced for seven or eight kilometers to our objectives, Mouzon and Ville Montry. By 6.00 in the evening the sector was cleared, the troops established on the objectives, and the advanced elements fighting in Mouzon.

Two of the German prisoners who were brought back early this day, an officer and his orderly, were nothing more than boys. They said they had been retreating for days and that they were so tired that they had not woke up until some of the Americans had prodded them with a bayonet.

It was in this attack that, among others,[208] one of the medical officers, Lieutenant Skillirs, was killed. Like most of our medical officers, he followed his work with absolute disregard for his personal safety. He was hit by a shell toward the end of the attack while crossing the shelled area to help some wounded.

At 8 o'clock we received word that we were to withdraw from the sector we had taken and march into a position from which we should attack Sedan next morning. The Seventy-seventh Division was to extend its right and occupy the sector we were leaving. Word was sent to the majors to collect their commands and assemble them at a given point. All honor again to our supply company. They were there close in the rear of us and worked forward food to the men. At this time, with the men as tired as they were, it was of vital importance.

I received my detailed orders from General F. C. Marshall at a little half-burned farm.

By 8 o'clock the officers and men, who had marched and fought without stopping for twenty-four hours, were again assembled[209] and moving west on the Beaumont-Stornay road. All night long the men plowed like mud-caked specters through the dark, some staggering as they walked. Once we had to move single file through our artillery, which was to follow in our rear. Often we had to take detours, as the Germans had mined the road. At one place a bridge over a stream was gone and the whole division had to cross over single file. Everyone had reached the last stages of exhaustion. Captain Dye, a corking good officer, fainted on the march, lay unconscious in the mud for an hour, came to, and joined his company before the morning attack. Major Frazier, while riding at the head of his battalion, fell asleep on his horse and rolled off.

As I rode up and down the column I watched the men. Most of them were so tired that they said but little. Occasionally, however, I would run on to some of the old men, laughing and joking as usual. I remember hearing a sergeant, who was closing the rear of one platoon, say, "Ooh, la, la!"

[210]"What is it, sergeant, aren't you getting enough exercise?" I said to him.

"Exercise, is it, sir? It's not the exercise I'm worried with, but I do be afraid that them Germans are better runners than we are! Faith, to get them is like trying to catch a flea under your thumb."

Another time I passed an old sergeant called Johnson, at one of the five-minute rests.

"Sir," asked Johnson, "when do we hit 'em?"

"I'm not sure, sergeant," I said, "but I think about a kilometer and a half from here."

"That's good," Johnson replied. "If we can once get them and do 'em up proper they will let us have a rest."

Johnson voiced there the sentiments of the rank and file. They had been set a task and it never entered into their calculations that they could not do the task. They wanted to do it, do it well, and then have their rest.

In the morning we passed through a French[211] unit at Omicourt and started our attack. By afternoon we were on the heights overlooking Sedan, where word reached us to halt our attack. Shortly after we were told to withdraw, turning over to the French. We found later that it was considered wise that the French should take Sedan on account of the large sentimental value attached to it because of the German victory there in the war of 1870.

I waited in the sector until the troops had checked back, and then followed them to Chemery, where we were to spend the night. When I arrived I found the three battalion commanders sleeping in the stalls of a stable. As I came in one sat up and said: "Sir, I never knew until this minute what a lucky animal a horse is."

A characteristic incident of the new spirit occurred in this attack. Lieutenant Leck of E Company was assigned the task of occupying the town of Villemontry with a platoon. After severe hand-to-hand fighting on the streets he succeeded. The rapidity of[212] the attack prevented the Germans from carrying off some French girls with them. The town was under heavy fire and the runner who was sent with the message directing the withdrawal and the march on Sedan was killed before he reached them. After the relieving unit arrived a message was sent to Leck that his regiment had withdrawn. He replied that the First Division never gave up conquered ground and he would hold the town until he received word from his proper commander.

The next day we moved to the south and east. The plan of the higher command, I have been informed, was to throw the First, Second, Thirty-second, and Forty-second Divisions across the Meuse in an attack on Metz, to assign no objectives but to let the rivalry in the divisions determine the depth of the advance.

All through the last ten days vague rumors had been reaching us concerning a proposed armistice. None of us really believed there was anything in them. This was largely on account of the fact that during the year and[213] a half we had grown so accustomed to war that we could not imagine peace. Besides, we felt that terms that would be in any way acceptable to us would not be even given a hearing by the Germans. We felt also that we had them on the run and we wanted to go in and finish them. As a matter of fact, we didn't give much thought to it anyhow. We had almost as much as we could do finishing the job we had in hand.

On the march one day I heard one man discussing with the other members of his squad. He finished his remarks by saying, "I hope those damned politicians don't spoil this perfectly good victory we are winning."

As we were moving back a day later an engineer officer rode up to me from the rear and told me he had just come from Second Division headquarters, where they had announced that the armistice had been signed and all hostilities were to cease at 11 o'clock that morning. I sent back word to the men. It was announced up and down the column and a few scattering cheers were all that[214] greeted it. I don't think it really got through their heads what had happened. I know it had not got through mine.

That night we stopped in the Bois de la Folie, and for the first time the men began to realize what had happened. Fires were lit all over. Around them men were gathered, singing songs and telling stories. It was very picturesque: the battered woods, the flaming fires, and the brown, mud-caked soldiers. The contrast was doubly great, as until that time no fires were lighted by the troops when anywhere near the front lines. German airplanes always came over and as the men expressed it, "laid eggs wherever they saw a light."

The first thing that really brought it home to me personally was when a little military chauffeur came up through the dark and said, "Colonel, Mrs. Roosevelt is waiting in the car at the corner."

I knew that no women had been anywhere near the front the day before. I realized that this really meant that the war was over.[215] The car came up and skidded around in the deep mud. Mrs. Roosevelt was there in a pair of rubber boots. She had somehow managed to come because she wished to say good-by to me and return to our children in the United States now that the fighting was over. I went back with her some ten kilometers to a tent where some Y. M. C. A. men were giving out chocolates, crackers, etc.

All the way back through the night the sky was lit by the fires of the men. On every side rockets were going up, like a Fourth of July celebration. Gas signals and barrage signals flashed over the tree tops. The whole thing seemed hardly possible.

Although we had been there in France only a year and a half, it seemed as if the war had lasted interminably. It seemed as if it always had been and always would be with us. All our plans had been based on an indefinite continuation. I had been rather an optimist, and yet I did not consider the possibility of a cessation of hostilities before the following autumn. Much of the quaint philosophy of[216] the French had sunk into our hearts and insensibly became a part of us—the philosophy which had its creed in the expression C'est la guerre. To them and to us C'est la guerre had much the significance of "All in the day's work." Like them, we treated après la guerre as something in the nature of "castles in Spain."

So the war finished, so our part in the fighting came to an end; a page of the world's history was turned and we moved south to Verdun to prepare for our march into conquered Germany.




"Judex ergo cum sedebit
Quidquid latet, apparebit
Nil, inultum remanebit."


THE Third Army, which was to march into Germany as the army of occupation, was all in place on the 15th of November. My regiment was bivouacked in what had once been a wood, northeast of shell-shattered Verdun. The bleakest of bleak north winds whistled over the hilltops, whirling the gray dust in clouds. The men huddled around fires or burrowed into cracks in the hillside. Here we prepared as well as we could for our move forward.

Before dawn on the 17th of November, the infantry advanced in two parallel columns. By sunrise we were over the German lines and[218] the brown columns were winding down the white, dusty roads through villages long beaten out of the semblance of human habitation by the shells. Gazing back down the column, the thought that always struck uppermost was the realization of strength. The infantry column moves slowly, but the latent power in the close mass of marching men is very impressive. The only thing I know which compares with it in suggestion of power is a line of great gray dreadnaughts lunging across the water.

At one village a young French soldier, who had been riding on a bicycle by our column, stopped sadly before three crumbling walls. It was all that was left of his home. His father, the mayor of the village, had lived there. His mother had died in Germany and he did not know what had become of his father.

By night we were out of the uninhabited parts and were reaching the freed French villages. Here we found starving men, women, and children whom we helped out from our none-too-plentiful rations. These people were pathetic. They seemed to have lost the[219] power to rejoice. They looked at us from their doors with lackluster eyes and apparent indifference. One woman told me that the Germans as they left her house had told her they would be back soon. I asked her if she believed it, and she simply shrugged her shoulders.

Next morning we were on the march again. All day long, past our advancing columns, streamed the prisoners whom the Germans had been working in the coal mines. They were French, Italian, Russian, and Rumanian, desperately emaciated for the most part and still wearing their old uniforms. Sometimes they dragged behind them little carts containing the possessions of two or three of them. Often I stopped them and questioned them, but whether they were French or not they seemed to have one idea, and one only—to put as many miles between them and Germany as possible.

We had sent back to where our baggage was stored while we were at Verdun and brought up our colors and our band. Now we put[220] them at the head of the column and went forward with band playing and colors flying.

The farther we got from where the front line had been, the better was the condition of the inhabitants. Now we began to see the first signs of rejoicing. News would reach the authorities in villages that we were coming some time before we arrived. They would throw arches of flowers over the streets through which we marched. Groups of little girls would run by the side of the column, giving bouquets to the men. Cheering crowds would gather on the sides of the road.

The doughboy had a beautiful time. The doughboy loves marching to music, with flags flying and the populace cheering. He is very human and is fond of showing off. For some reason or other there is a current belief in this country that the average American does not like parades, decorations, etc. This is just bosh. The average American is just as keen for such things as anyone else. He likes to put on a pretty ribbon and come home and[221] be admired by the young ladies. I know I like to put on my decorations for my wife.

In every little town where we spent the night a ceremony of some sort took place. Generally the townspeople made us an American flag and presented it to us. I have some of these flags stowed away at this moment. They were made with the help of old dictionaries. Sometimes these dictionaries were very old and the American flag of one hundred years ago would be the one copied. At one village we were presented with a flag with fifty stars. The donor explained that he had been in the United States and knew we had forty-eight and that the two extra were for Alsace and Lorraine.

Once, while we were at mess in the evening, with great ceremony it was announced that a committee of young ladies desired to wait on me. I bowed to the girdle and said, "Will they come in?" They trooped in, peasant girls from fourteen to twenty years old, dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and headed by the mayor's daughter. They[222] had a flag with them. First, one of them made an elaborate speech, in which we were hailed as the sons of Lafayette and George Washington, a slight historical inaccuracy. Then I replied, calling upon the names of Joan of Arc, Henry of Navarre, and others, and then the spokeslady, to the intense delight of my staff, stepped forward and kissed me on both cheeks. At another time a large, corpulent, much-bewhiskered mayor endeavored to enact the same ceremony, but forewarned is forearmed, and I evaded him.

In a short time we came to the Duchy of Luxembourg and marched over the border. Everywhere here also we were met with open arms. The streets were jammed as we marched through the villages. All the world and his wife were there and greeted us as "Comrades glorious" and "Victors."

We sent forward, as was customary, a detail of officers to make sure that billeting accommodations were forthcoming and that everything would be as comfortable as possible for the men. When I arrived, slightly in advance[223] of the troops, the first thing I saw was a procession of townfolk approaching. At its head was a band which might, for all the world, have come out of the comic opera. Following the band were pompous gentlemen in frock coats and top hats, carrying bouquets of gorgeous flowers done up with ribbons, and making up the body of the procession were people of every age, both sexes, and every grade in society. I realized they were heading for me, and with great dignity descended from the dinky little side car in which I had been traveling. Major Legge and Lieutenant Ridgely here joined me and explained that a ceremony of welcome was to take place, and I was to represent the United States! We three lined up solemnly while the Luxembourgers formed a semicircle around us. The ceremony was, first, the presentation speech; second, the keys of the city and armfuls of bouquets, and, third, a cheer for America; and then the band played. We none of us knew the Luxembourg national anthem, but felt that this must be it, so we stood at attention with great solemnity and saluted[224] while it was sounding. When it was finished the mayor started it off again with a cheer for France and the same supposedly national anthem. Again we stood at attention. We went through this same ceremony for six of the Allies, when fortunately the troops came up and terminated it. Later I found that the tune they played and to which we had been rendering the formal compliment was the air of a popular song. The warm welcome would have impressed me more had I not been certain it had been accorded equally to the Germans when they marched through.

Meanwhile the Eighteenth Infantry of our division had passed on our left flank through the city of Luxembourg. That day I ran down with a couple of officers to watch them parade. It was the first time I had ever been in Luxembourg. The city is very picturesque. It is built on the side of a rocky gorge, and on one jutting pinnacle of rock are the remains of the feudal castle where a medieval emperor of Germany was born. The fête amused me very much. I felt as if I were living in George[225]Barr McCutcheon's Graustark. The Luxembourg army was drawn up to receive our troops, all the men being present, 150 sum total. What they lacked in numbers they made up in gorgeousness. Never have I seen such beautiful uniforms, so many colors, so much gold lace, and such absurdly antiquated rifles. The populace had a beautiful time. They are mercantile by temperament. They realized that a reign of plenty was coming; that the American goose that lays the golden eggs would be in their midst and that money would flow as the changeless current of their own Moselle River.

A couple of days' march farther and we reached the banks of the Moselle. Here we spent four or five days while the troops cleaned up and rested in three small towns. The regimental band played for different units every day. Everything moved smoothly. The inhabitants were gentle and kindly. Indeed, they were so effective in their kindness that one of the second battalion headquarters cooks, called "Chops," came to grief. First, he drank[226] all of their wine he could get, then, in an inspired spirit of generosity, cooked and turned over to his new friends the turkey which, with much labor, had been secured for the officers' Thanksgiving dinner. His generosity was sadly misunderstood by his commanding officer, for he was returned to duty with the mule train from which he had come.

On the fifth of December we resumed the march and crossed the Moselle into conquered Germany. From this time on a new element was added to the chances of campaigning. Our maps were perfectly impossible. You never could tell where bridges were and where there were simply ferries. Once we ran our column directly into a pocket. The map showed what looked like a bridge. We were not allowed to scout ahead, and the interpreter's questions seemed to confirm its existence. When we got there we found a ferry that accommodated only sixteen men at a time and we had to double on our tracks. On these maps, also, the roads all looked good. The first day's march in Germany we nearly lost the supply train on account of this, as a seemingly good highway ended in a marsh.


Drawn by Captain Ernest Peixotto, A. E. F.

[227]That night we billeted for the first time in German territory. Regimental headquarters were in the country house of a German officer. On the news of our advance he had fled farther north, but, with the characteristic affectation of his class, telephoned, on our arrival, saying he regretted that he would not be there to receive us and hoped that we would be comfortable. Next morning he telephoned again, sending a message to the effect that if any of his servants had not done everything for our comfort would we please report the matter to him immediately in order that he might punish the offender.

All the next day we moved up the banks of the winding Moselle through Treves, where relics of the old Roman buildings frowned down on us as we passed. At night we stopped in another German house, from which the German officer had not fled. He was a lieutenant colonel and had waited to receive us, prepared to be butler or anything we demanded.

[228]A real indication of the character of the German soldier was given by the terror of the women at our approach. It was clear that they expected any outrage. On account of this, on arriving in each town, when I would call the burgomaster to give him the instructions concerning the behavior of the townspeople, I would finish up by directing him to announce to all women and children that they need have no fear concerning the actions of any American soldier, that we were Americans, not Germans. I had my interpreter see that it was given out in this form.

Day after day we followed the river or made short cuts inland. As we marched along, on hilltops on either side, silhouetted against the sky, austere and dignified, were the crumbling brown-rock towers of medieval castles. These castles were destroyed more than two centuries before by Louis XIV as he marched by the same route. On either side of the river the slopes rose abruptly. They were covered with vineyards, apparently growing from the brown shale. Once, when we passed through[229] the city of Berncastle, in the early morning, when the mist choked the valley, I looked up and saw on the peak that overhung the town, touched by the morning sun, the old keep framed in the white mist like a cameo set in mother-of-pearl. Time and again some Hun farmer would stop me and take me through a cow-shed to see the marble remains of some Roman bath or villa, the name of whose owner had long since vanished in the mists of time.

An odd incident of this march occurred when Lieutenant Barrett was ordered by me to go and instruct a German soldier we were passing concerning certain of our regulations. When Barrett reported back, he told me the man had come from his own home town in Indiana.

One thing that struck us all as we left France and reached Germany was the number of children. In France children are rare. Each community you passed you felt was composed of grown people. In Germany the streets were full of them—healthy-looking little rascals, pink-cheeked and well-nourished, wearing diminutive[230] gray-blue uniforms like those of the German soldier. Little machine gunners, the men used to call them, for they looked like so many small replicas of those men we had been killing and who had killed us. Immediately upon the proclamation going out that the children would be in no way molested, these little rascals swarmed over everything. Nothing could satisfy their curiosity.

After weaving our way up the river valley and over the hills, one early December morning we found ourselves winding down from the surrounding hills toward the Rhine. As we swung around a rocky corner, the whole panorama lay before us—the gables and steeples of the town of Boppard with, as a background, the broad, undisturbed silver Rhine. On we wound down the rocky slope into the city, the flag flying at the head of the column. That night I formed the entire regiment in line on the terraced water front facing the river and, with the band playing The Star-Spangled Banner, stood retreat.

We waited here a day and then marched[231] down the river to Coblenz. On this march we passed through one village, with old gates, little jutting houses carved and painted in bright colors, unchanged sixteenth-century Europe. Next was another village, factory towers smoking, great brick buildings filled with machinery, plain little board houses for the workmen, the epitome of modernism.

The night of December 12th we billeted at Coblenz. Next morning, at seven o'clock, the First Division in two columns crossed the Rhine, the first of the American troops. As the head of the column reached the center of the bridge and I looked at massive Ehrenbreitstein and up and down the historic river, I felt this truly marked the end of an era.

Two days more brought us to the end of the bridgehead, where we were to take up our position. Division headquarters were in quite a large town called Montabaur, a name supposed to have been brought back with the early crusaders, i. e., Mount Tabor. Two castles overlooked the town, one in ruins, the other still used as an administrative building[232] by the town authorities. The regiment was scattered through the surrounding small country villages.

Quarters for the men were good in comparison with what they had been used to. We were able to get washing facilities, food came up regularly, and now, for the first time, proper equipment. The men really enjoyed themselves for the first week or so. We had no trouble with fraternization. Our men had seen too many of their friends and relations killed to care to have anything to do with their late enemies. Like true Americans, they played with the children and flirted with the women whenever opportunity offered, but I never remember seeing any attempt to become familiar with the men.

Now that the work of fighting was over, uppermost in everyone's mind was the thought, "When do we get home?" The minuteman wanted to go back to ordinary life and his family. Time and again when I first returned to this country people would ask me what I thought the soldiers thought of this or that[233] public question. I always replied truthfully that the men were so busy thinking about what a good place the United States was, how much better in their opinion than any of the European countries they had been to, that all they were interested in was, when will that transport leave.

In January I was ordered to Paris on sick leave. Shortly after, I sailed for home on the Mauretania and saw the mass of New York lift on the horizon, where my three children, who had practically forgotten me, were waiting. So ends the active participation of an average American with average Americans in the war.




"When old John Burns, a practical man,
Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows,
And then went back to his bees and cows."

Bret Harte.

THE war is important to us in this country for what it accomplished directly: namely, it crushed the brutal military power of Germany, which threatened our ideal of civilization. We are, however, primarily civilians, not soldiers, and we are now going back to our "jobs," whatever they may be. For this reason I consider more important and more far-reaching than the military victory the lessons that it taught us and the effects it had on our citizens who participated. We must profit by these lessons and preserve the impulses that have been given to our people. If we do this the war will not simply be history,[235] a past issue, a good job well finished; it will be a force that will be felt in this country through the generations to come for righteousness and a truer Americanism.

The first and most evident lesson taught us was the effect of being ill-prepared. We permitted in the past a policy which substituted fine words for fine deeds, the pen and the voice for action. We, in the past, contented ourselves with sounding platitudes; we allowed our sloth to approve them under the misnomer of idealism. We allowed ourselves to be switched from the hard realities by glittering phrases. We sowed the wind and we reaped the whirlwind. As a result hundreds of millions have been spent to no purpose and blood has been shed unnecessarily. Those who were in this country saw daily the evidences of inefficiency and the coincident waste of the public moneys. Those who went to Europe saw blood shed unnecessarily through lack of supplies, inefficient organization, and untrained leadership. At no times did our equipment compare favorably with[236] that of either of our major Allies. At all times in Europe we were to a greater or less extent equipped by them.

Much as we are to blame for permitting these conditions to arise in the past, we will be doubly so if in the future we let half-baked theorists and sinister demagogues lead us again into a like neglect. We will be guilty of bringing down upon the heads of our children the same punishments that we have suffered. Indeed, we will probably bring down more upon them, as we by pure good fortune escaped the maximum penalties that were due us.

It was our good fortune that we were permitted, under the sheltering forces of the Allies, slowly to prepare ourselves after we had declared war, until, after about a year, we were in a condition which enabled us to join in the conflict. Next time in all probability there will be neither England nor France standing between us and the enemy armies and giving us nearly a year leeway before we have to fight. I am proud to be an American, I am proud of the actions of the citizens of the[237] country, I am proud to be a citizen of a country which has fought a war, not with the aid of, but in spite of, its national administration. My pride in the actions of the rank and file of the country is offset only by my shame at being represented in the world by the present administration.

As is usually the case, those who are responsible in a large measure for conditions have suffered least. The average American man or woman has borne the brunt and paid the price. Those nearest and dearest to the men mostly responsible have been, like the Kaiser's sons, too valuable to risk near the battle. A prominent Socialist deputy of France who had advocated disarmament went with the first troops. He was wounded, and when dying said he was thankful it had been permitted him to atone with his life for his errors in the past. I admire a man of that type of honesty and courage.

Honor where honor is due. Honor to the people of the United States for their actions after the beginning of this war.

[238]Blame where blame is due. Blame to the citizens of the United States for their easy indolence which permitted them to support for their high offices men who neither thought straight nor were manly enough to share in the penalties for their mistakes.

We had the lesson of unpreparedness illustrated so that we all can understand it. We must not now content ourselves with admitting we were wrong. That does not get us any further forward. We must adopt measures to see that it does not occur again. The policy that I believe is necessary to this end is compulsory training. This is not, to my mind, simply a military question. It is an educational question, educational in the broadest sense of the term. The question of most vital importance to a democracy, and for which we always work, is to create equal opportunity for every man and woman; to raise in every way possible the type of the average citizen. It is from this point of view that I believe most strongly in universal training.

We have adopted in this war the policy of[239] compulsory military service. We have used it as a military war-time measure. To get the peace-time economic value we should have its complement, compulsory training in time of peace. One of the obstacles to this, in the mind of the average citizen, is the creation of a military caste. This is no doubt a danger, and a real danger, but it is not an insurmountable danger. In France and in Switzerland it has been surmounted. There is no military caste in either country. There is no desire for war among the citizens of these countries. No one can say that France by her aggressive action drove Germany to the war. No one can say that on account of military training Switzerland plunged into the war. The first country saved herself from the domination of the German military caste by compulsory training. The second country by the same means saved herself entirely from war, for unquestionably Germany chose Belgium to rape on account of her defenselessness. Both France and Switzerland are democracies, real democracies in deed and thought.

[240]This danger of fostering a military caste, in my opinion, can be met by a proper handling of the scheme. The whole matter of training should be directly under the control of a general staff. This general staff should not be composed, as in Germany, simply of military men. Military training, to my mind, is only a part of the training necessary. On the general staff the military should be simply an element. In addition to them there should be prominent educators, representatives of labor, prominent employers of labor, representatives of the farming interests, and members of our legislative bodies, the House and Senate. Such a staff would prohibit once and for all the question of a military caste. Such a staff would obtain the correct balance between the purely military and the obviously more important educational side. The complicated adjustments of interests would be safeguarded. The economic question would be properly handled.

Some of the benefits are obvious. First, when the country is called upon to defend itself, competent, trained men will step forward into the ranks. Over and above them will be a mechanism conserving the sacrifices, making possible the just reward in victory of gallantry and self-sacrifice. Your boy will go out and you will feel that what can be done will be done. You go yourself and you know you will get a show for your white alley. You don't mind sitting into a game where there is an even break, but you hate to be forced to draw cards when you know they are stacked against you.


Copyright, Walter S. Shinn

[241]Second, the physical welfare of our young men would be immeasurably helped. Let us face the cold facts. In this war nearly half of the men of military age were refused admission to the service for physical defects. They were below par from the standpoint of the physician. Compulsory training should be organized in such a way as to pay particular attention to just this feature. No man would be exempt from compulsory training on account of physical defects. Special organizations should be created to handle men of this[242] kind. Specialists should be put in charge. These specialists year after year would devote their entire time to working with men of just this kind and would add enormously to the country economically by this work.

Third. The knowledge of sanitation and simple hygienic rules, to be concrete, the care of teeth, the feet, the digestion, and a thousand and one things of this nature, should be taught to the many men who up to this time would have had no opportunity to learn. For the person who lives where every modern convenience surrounds him it is difficult to believe the conditions which exist in sections of the country. Let him go to the poor sections of any great city, let him go to the mountain districts of Tennessee or of North Carolina. He will see at once that the men from these districts will be infinitely benefited by this education.

Fourth. The democratization would be very beneficial to all alike. All would receive the same treatment, and all classes, all grades in society, would be mixed. The educational[243] value from this alone would be very great. Everyone would get new ideas, a broader outlook on life, and a more complete understanding of this country. Our public schools do not embrace all classes and do not cover the situation as generally as they should. It is a rare thing for the sons of the wealthy to go to the public schools. Compulsory training would be a very real benefit to them.

To sum up, from an economic standpoint alone, compulsory training would be of untold benefit. The economic unit of the community is the individual. By training and developing the individual you develop the economic assets. The small loss in time from a money-earning aspect would be ten times compensated by the increased efficiency after training. From a moral standpoint the individual would be broadened by contact, trained in fundamentals and self-discipline, and have one of the surest foundations of clean thought and clean action, a healthy body. So much for the lesson of unpreparedness and what I believe we should do to remedy it.

[244]One of the first effects on the men who served was democratization. By the draft call all classes and grades of society were drawn into the service. After reaching the service, in so far as possible they were advanced into positions of responsibility without fear or favor. The effort was directed toward finding the men most suited for the individual job. The result was, in most instances, as close a reproduction of a real democracy as is possible.

In my regiment there were many instances of this fact. One of my lieutenants, a gallant young fellow, was a waiter in civilian life, a captain was a chauffeur. On the other hand, many men serving in the ranks came from professions ranking high in the scale in civilian life.

A lieutenant once spoke to me after an action saying that when he was leading his platoon back from the battle one of his privates asked him a question. The question was so intelligent and so well thought out that the lieutenant said to him: "What were[245] you before the war?" The reply was, "City editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer."

Another private, serving as a runner in one of the company headquarters, was an ex-state senator from the State of Washington. These are isolated instances of what was taking place the army over—the waiter and chauffeur as officers and the lawyer and newspaper editor as privates. Ability to take responsibility in the present, not previous conditions, was what they were judged by. Surely associations of this sort will breed sympathy and understanding for the future. Surely these will aid the country to approach its problems without class bias.

Another effect was the idea of service to the country. To most of us, up to the time of the war, the country was a rather indefinite affair which had done something for us and which we expected to do more for us in the future. We had given but little thought to what we should do for the country. During the war every man in the service did something for his country. He now is in the position[246] of a man who has bought a share of stock in a company. He is interested in seeing the country run right and is willing to give more service. The idea that we must endeavor to approach in the United States is to create a condition where as close to our entire population as possible has a vested interest in the country. In a certain way this has been supplied to the service men by what they have done for the country.

The most important effect, to my mind, was the Americanization. Those who served became straight Americans, one hundred per cent. Americans and nothing else.

The regiment was composed of as good a cross section of the United States as you could get. The men came from all sections of the country and from all walks of life.

Selected at random from men who one time or another served at my headquarters are the following: Sergeants Braun, Schultz, Cramer, and Corporal Schwarz were born and educated in Germany, and no gallanter or better Americans fought in our army. Sergeant[247] Braun was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Corporal Schwarz gave his life.

Sergeant Samari and Privates Belacca, Kalava, and Rano were born in Italy. Samari particularly distinguished himself by his gallantry, although all were gallant.

The Sergeants Murphy, mainstays of their particular organizations; Hennessy, of gallant memory; Leonard, Magee, and O'Rourke were, I believe, born in Ireland. All of the men reflected credit on this, their country.

Sergeant Hansrodoc, born in Greece, was promoted from private and served from beginning to end.

Sergeants Masonis, Crapahousky, and Zablimisky were born in Poland.

Sergeant Mosleson and Privates Brenner and Drabkin were of Jewish extraction. One of them is dead; each of the others has been twice wounded.

and Sneaton and Corporals Brown and Glover were of straight English extraction. Corporal Le Bœuf is of French-Canadian extraction. These are only[248] some of the names that occur to me. In the regiment at large the range was greater.

All of these men were straight Americans and nothing else. All of these men thought of themselves as Americans. Once I heard one of the men in conversation outside my headquarters. He had been born in a foreign country. He didn't like the way that country was doing in the war. He alluded to the citizens of that country, the country of his birth, as "them cold-footed rascals." It never even occurred to him that there was anything funny in this. He thought of himself as an American, the men to whom he was talking thought of him as an American.

An excellent soldier born in Germany was brought back to me one day as we were advancing into the lines. The officer in charge reported that the man had been caught talking to German prisoners, which was something strictly forbidden. He appeared before me. I knew him to be a good sort and said to him, "What is the matter, how did this come about?" He said, "Well, sir, I know I should[249] not have done it and I won't do it again, but I suddenly saw in that batch of prisoners someone from the town where I was born." This man was killed in action shortly afterward fighting for this country.

I have been told of a leave train sent to Italy with American soldiers born in Italy on it in order that they might see their people. Doubt was expressed in the minds of the higher command as to whether it was an advisable move, inasmuch as it was thought probable that many of the men would overstay their leave or possibly try to desert and stay there. Not one man out of the 1200 did either. An officer who talked with these men on their return said that conversations ran much like this: "Cipiloni, have a fine time on your leave?" "Yes, sir." "See your family?" "Yes, sir." "Get back in time all right?" "Yes, sir, got back to the train fourteen hours before it left, sir. I was afraid, sir, if I missed this train, I might get left behind when the division started for home."

When replacements came to us, some of[250] them could not even speak English. After they had been with the troops two or three months the same men would not only be speaking English, but would speak it by preference. I have seen two Italians, born in the same district in Italy, laboriously conversing with one another in English rather than use the tongue to which they were born, with which they were naturally much more familiar.

From these and many other reasons, the army is the least of this country's fears as far as Bolshevism and its kindred anarchies are concerned. All over the country you will find the service men keen to put down demonstrations of this sort. They are keen of their own accord, not prompted by anyone. The other day I was in a city where a Bolshevist meeting had been broken up by some service men. I knew one of the men who was concerned in this. I asked him how it occurred. He said. "Why, sir, it was this way. I was talking to some of the fellows down at the W. C. C. S. and a guy says to us, 'They've[251] got a red-flag meeting on for to-night.' I said to some of the men, 'That ain't the flag we know anything about, or fought for. Let's go down and bust them birds up.'"

The service man feels that this is his country. His first and foremost concern is for the United States. He wants the institutions of this country to stand. He has given himself, and where one has given of one's self the interest is deepest. He has bought a share of stock of the United States. As a stockholder he intends to do what he can to see that the concern is run properly.

In order to keep alive and active this spirit of sturdy loyalty, a vested interest of some type obtained by his own labor should be aimed at for every one of as many citizens as possible. This country will have to move forward with a program of sane, constructive, carefully thought-out liberalism.

It may be necessary in doing this to modify or change certain things in this community in the future, but the service man, I believe, intends, as far as he is able, to see that those[252] changes and modifications are carried out in such a way as will not destroy or injure the national fabric and institutions.

Again, first, last, and always, the service man is an American!



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