AEF 77-ID C Bat/306-FA 1917-1918 Published in 1920 by John Forster
In Memoriam : John D. Wallace, Thomas Martin, Nirano DeFelice, Samuel L. Brody
Contributors Robert Valverde : Chief Historian, JVL Morris : Father of History, Schuyler King : Society Editor, John Foster : Impressionist, Leonard Hanower : Counsellor, Rozel Peter : Stenographer, Wilson and Hazelette Inc : Criminal Reporters
Some day this little memo is going to look old fashioned. But to us boys of C Battery it will be the gateway into the year of 1918, that year in France, with its flashing train of events crowned by success to the cause of Democracy, the cause for which we sacrificed so much. A memory of those start and stop night marches when we looked for the first signs of dawn to put an end to the continuous urging of tired horses, our laying down in the road where we stood, pack and all, till the endless line of cannon, limber and fourgon would once more take up the lumbering march. A memory of the carefully built Boches dugouts to which our advance often brought us. And a recollection of the always present “grin and bear it” natures and happy-go-lucky disregard for the mud holes, rain, often lack of mess, and general cussedness of the Western Front. But now it is all over and done with, the job completed, Jerry fini, along with du lait, des oeufs, cognac and other luxuries of the Front ; with memories of the World War softened by time, we can browse through these notes with the pleasure of knowing we brought back something besides ourselves — Jerry’s scalp.
To the Men of Charlie Battery
There is very little I can say to you that you do not already know. The days we have spent together are even now a part of the past. They are one of the greatest pages in the history of our country and whatever life may hold in store for us will always he a period upon which we will look back with pride and satisfaction. On every occasion you have done not only that which your duty required but have acted with bravery and initiative consistent with the highest standards of the American Army and true to the oldest traditions of our country. My only regret is that I am not able to be with you during these last days of your service, but my thoughts will follow you back to America and my greatest pleasure in future will be to meet the old members of my battery. I wish you all the best things that life may hold for each and every one.
Capt 306th Field Artillery
77th Division, American Expeditionary Forces
Capt T. Crane
Capt W. H. H. Willeford
Capt K. O’Brien
1/Lt P. W. Van Saltza
1/Lt W. H. Klee
1/Lt D. R. Hyde
2/Lt G. F. Hunter
2/Lt J. S. Scott
1/Sgt J. W. Blackford
Bugler C. Rothschild
Pvt M. Schiell
Pfc J. A. Ricken
Sgt J. I. Beckerman
Cpl S. King
Pfc J. V. L. Morris
Cpl E. C. Funck
Sgt F. Klein
Cpl T. Romano
Cpl J. P. Downey
Cpl E. Van Orden
Pfc A. Anderson
Pfc J. Foster
Pfc H. H. Kinney
Pfc J. Springer
Pfc N. L. Wardwell
Pfc F. M. Woodworth
Pvt F. Leeb
Pvt O. G. Macher
Pvt G. B. Wilson
Machine Gun Detail
Sgt J. J. McCaffery
Cpl A. Rutkovsky
Pfc A. Berger
Pfc E. Cathcart
Pfc M. Dwyer
Pfc L. R. Hanower
Pvt C. A. Hazelette
Pvt H. Volks
Cpl J. F. Moore
Cpl C. G. Christunas
Pfc H. Stambaugh
Pfc M. A. King
Pfc C. Talley
Gun Section N°1
Sgt P. N. Bergen
Cpl F. J. Grunewald
Cpl J. J. Canavan
Cpl M. Pastore
Pfc M. J. Dillon
Pfc L. Dunn
Pfc H. G. Gallagher
Pfc T. Imhof
Pfc A. McCarthy
Pfc T. Mulkeen
Pfc M. Malanowski
Pfc R. Peter
Pfc T. W. Roche
Pvt R. H. Lamb
Pvt W. Pfirrman
Pvt E. Yellin
Gun #2824, fired the last round at 0715, Pylone, Nov 2 1918
Gun Section N°2
Sgt J. B. Sheehan
Cpl AI. Segal
Cpl H. Wolf
Pfc J. Alberts
Pfc D. Bilt
Pfc P. Danow
Pfc F. Halperon
Pfc T. McDonagh
Pfc H. A. Monyhan
Pfc A. Sawickas
Pvt A. E. Schmidt
Pvt E. O. Kreuger
Pvt R. P. McSolla
Pvt E. Phillis
Pvt M. Schiell
Pvt J. J. Steeneck
Pvt M. J. Trant
Gun #2825, maximum rounds in 24 hours 309 rounds; Sept 14 1918 during $1,000,000 barrage
Gun Section N°3
Sgt S. C. Hark
Cpl H. J. Schnackenberg
Cpl T. K. Schmidi
Pfc M. L. King
Pfc A. T. Patterson
Pfc A. C. Spencer
Pfc S. Weinberg
Pvt E. J. Clarkin
Pvt P. Haessler
Pvt F. Hicks
Pvt L. E. Lane
Pvt G. Monte
Pvt D. F. Sullivan
Pvt J. T. Sullivan
Pvt P. Weinberg
Gun #2826 fired maximum rounds, 2784 : equals 40 to tons of ammunition
Gun Section N°4
Sgt T. Immergut
Sgt C. P. Heege
Cpl A. Daly T. Alartin
Cpl M. Mclnerny
Cpl E. Tetley
Pfc W. J. Brazaites
Pfc A. Ettinger
Pfc J. E. Ryan
Pvt L. E. Arterberry
Pvt J. E. Hanegan
Pvt C. P. Heege
Pvt T. Martin
Pvt P. F. Mills
Pvt J. I. McCool
Pvt C. L. Onyan
Pvt O. O’Rourk
Pvt J. Spinazola
Pvt H. Stinipfl
Pvt E. Winkler
Stable Sgt. J. Kelleher
Sgt C. McKeever
Sgt W. W. Dorgan
Cpl M. Morgan
Pfc W. D. Grieg
Pvt 1/c. J. Rosenberg
Pvt A. Mayer
Driver Section N°1
Sgt H. Soder
Pfc N. Livingston
Pfc E. Kehoe
Pvt W. Dunn
Pvt E. J. Auert
Pvt J. F. Mealy
Pvt E. Orlando
Pvt J. P. Paulsen
Driver Section N°2
Cpl J. Serra
Pfc G. Mode
Pvt W. P. Drakias
Pvt A. Leger
Pvt J. Sweeny
Pvt C. J. Taylor
Pvt A. E. Leangos
Pvt T. N. Zarogianis
Driver Section N°3
Cpl T. P. Flynn
Pfc H. S. Weymouth
Pvt J. L. Fitzpatrick
Pvt A. C. Kelle
Pvt A. A. Steffen
Pvt J. J. Taggart
Pvt W. E. Haynes
Pvt R. E. Unralh
Driver Section N°4
Cpl E. N. Bickerman
Pfc M. Tierney
Pfc C. Flett Jr.
Pfc R. M. Leister
Pfc R. M. O’Connell
Pvt G. L. Fedden
Pvt P. J. Moran
Pvt J. T. Rein
Sgt C. Stickle
Pfc M. Heiz
Pfc J. Kopleman
Pfc W. J. Whelton
Pvt T. Kolosok
Pvt J. R. Spicer
Pvt J. McCarthy
Pvt A. N. Morril
Pvt T. Casey
Pvt J. McVey
Pvt J. Finn
Pvt I. Vadala
Pvt H. Johannessen
Chief Mech. H. J. Robinson
Mech C. J. Fleigel
Mech W. Houdlette
Mech R. Scott
Mech T. Spillane
Saddler L. Weiner
Horseshoer C. C. Grieme
Horseshoer C. F. Priem
Horseshoer E. A. Vogel
Sgt P. J. Foran
Pvt W. S. Amo
Pvt R. Lapoint
Pvt P. P. Lapriore
Pvt J. J. Clark
Pvt M. R. Magaril
Pvt I. Deutsch
Pvt G. Mercurio
Pvt N. De Felice
Pvt H. P. Serk
Pvt F. Hamilton
Pvt H. Shopwell
Pvt J. Hensen
Mess Sgt. H. VV. Dann
Cpl J. P. Cashman
Cook M. J. Bodkins
Cook V. Ganetes
Cook D. Gufifanti
Cook S. Pack
Pfc W. Bauer
Pfc G. C. Joyce
Pvt S. Di Salvo
Pvt N. N. Shirk
Pvt L. Stromme
Pvt P. M. Williams
Bugler C. Rothschild
Mech C. J- Fliegel
Supply Sgt. D. O’Brien
Tailor S. Setleis
Mail Orderly J. Ricke
Barber C. Marino
Cpl C. W. Ingulli
Pvt E. Ailed
Pvt L. M. Auger
Pvt E. Barrett
Pvt A. M. Beeman
Pvt C. E. Chase
Pvt G. Costa
Pvt S. Levy
Pvt W. I. McCaffery
Pvt J. A. Pappas
Pvt J. S. Ryan
Pvt J. G. Schmidt
Pvt P. J. Shawarey
Pvt T. Vilece
Pvt H. G. Weber
Pvt B. N. White
Pvt R. Zartman
Cpl F. P. Wilson
Pvt 1/c. H. F. Spinner
Pfc C. F. Habekost
Pfc J. M. McLean
Pfc J. A. Merritt
Pvt E. Oddo
Pvt E. F. McGrath
Chapter I – Upton
Battery C of the 306th Field Artillery began its existence on Sep 16 1917, in Barracks P 58, in the new cantonment of Camp Upton, New York. Capt Crane, assisted by Lieuts Green, Klee, Von Saltza and Kelley, were there ready to receive the first recruits, thirteen in number, among whom were the following men still with the battery. Sup Sgt O’Brien, Sgt Hark, Cpl Pastore, Cook Guffanti and Pvts. 1/c. Marino and Patterson. Sep 24 brought forty-eight more raw recruits and the battery moved to Barracks J 43, which for the time being remained the battery headquarters. Training was started over the rough ground from which the brush but not the stumps had been removed. Gradually more recruits came into the battery and each day saw the vain attempts to execute “Squads East and West” without telescoping the squads. The first attempt to march in battery front looked like a service stripe. Then came the glad tidings that the boys were to remove the stumps, and how happily was that news received.
On Oct 6, Blackford was promoted to sergeant and then appointed 1st sergeant. Later he proved that the selection was well made and here is the place to give credit where credit is due. Sgt Blackford was a man through and through; he showed exceptional ability and always had a helping hand for the men. Do you remember the first time you recited your general orders to Sgt Blackford for a pass to New York ? Did you get it ? Do you remember those orders now ?
Shortly after we moved to our permanent quarters on 16th Street, and started on our career as Hun Killers. Not all the members of the battery were enthusiastic soldiers. In some cases they had been in the United States for only a short time and so considered compulsory service for a country, for which as yet, they had little loyalty, an unwarranted infringement upon their personal rights. Several others made a stab at exemption. The most notorious of these was Private Gaber. An opportunity to escape service seemed to offer itself through his being hurt in an accident at the station at Camp Upton. After Gaber’s discharge from the hospital he claimed that his shoulder was so stiff, he could not carry a rifle, and so refused to drill. There followed a long series of wordy battles, furnishing much amusement for the boys, and finally ended in his disappearance with a charge of desertion against him.
One of the most popular of winter evening pastimes was scrubbing the mess hall. There never was a call for volunteers, but anyone could get the job by putting dust on his rifle, cutting a button off his coat, moving his head when at attention, etc. How we all enjoyed it, and as we looked up at the disappointed spectators who weren’t allowed to help, we, who were in soft (soap) felt lofty and superior. Did we not ?
Shortly afterward the first of the Transfers South took place on Nov 9, the first bunch went and at irregular intervals thereafter men were sent South. You could scare any man in the battery by telling him he was on the transfer list. How good all the boys suddenly became. Then came our conscientious objector Campbell. He certainly furnished amusement for the boys. At last he was sent out in the woods to live and had to prepare his own meals. Finally he eluded the guard and his name was erased from the battery roster. C Battery drew regimental guard, consisting of one post at regimental headquarters. Cpl Immergut was posting his relief and passed Capt Nelson during the night. Jake on the alert observed the captain and shouted : Guard attention ! Present arms ! and kept on going. Nearly lost his stripes but he meant well.
In December, Capt Crane left to attend the School of Fire and Lt Green acted as battery commander. As a martinet we all agree he had no superior. Our drills at Camp Upton were many and varied, once the foot drill was mastered. Bayonet exercise, by the numbers, we would advance and ferociously thrust, butt, and recover till our arms creaked. Many a time we about decided to lay down on Lt Davidson fifteen minutes before the drill finished, but somehow Pastore was still emitting blood curdling grunts at the close of the hour. Aiming exercise, under Lt Kelly, was a pleasant and painstaking pastime. Lying on our stomachs in the middle of the dusty road off Fifth Ave., making the autos steer around us as we drew road maps on a compass board. Luke Dunn was strong for that. And panoramic sketches ! Very important; in fact one of the reasons we won the war. To that end it was a common sight on a bleak, windy day to see a figure, Anderson, Wardwell or maybe Wilson, G. B., muffled up on a rock, a tiny piece of pencil sticking out of a huge glove as the sufferer drew in everything in sight, trees, rocks, latrines, houses and roads. Met one cursing feebly as he rubbed at the sketch with his thumb. A watery eye had caused him to sketch in a barrel about 30 yds. away. The barrel had thereupon walked off trying to light a butt. Standardizing your pace. This was where Kinney got his exercise, but learnt no new steps. And that Instrument Detail when Lt Klee would take Funck, Wilson and Valverde, loaded down with range finder, scissors and telescope, up on the hill off 5th Avenue and there they would look for the parallax of the aiming point; with the range finder I guess. Buzzer practice up in the Annex, after which the cots looked like you just got up. And then those semaphore flags, relaying from corner to corner such important info as Enemy outpost sighted to our right. All these things helped prepare us for that vague thing, the War Over There.
We also dug some elaborate gun positions deep in the woods beyond 5th Avenue while the snow was still on the ground. After going down three feet through frozen ground we passed the frost line – and the rest was easier. Capt Thibaut, the French artillery instructor, looked over the Brigade’s efforts and declared our positions the best. Mind I didn’t say the position was even good. Merely we made a few vital mistakes less. When it came to building the dugout 20 feet deep the sandy soil made shoring necessary. So the expert shoremen, Kelleher, Pastore, Sheehan, Mode, Scott, Marino, Patterson and Dunn, used to fall out every morning along with Skalicky and Spadotto fall out, and under Lt Van Saltza would right shoulder picks and march off. Lt Van Saltza used to be quite fond of designing cozy bungalows on a hill. This was the first of future bungalows whose most important part was to be the cellar.
The acting 1/Sgt during Blackford’s absence started in to show the battery couldn’t put anything over on him. Reveille was usually held in the darkness of those winter mornings. Some of the fellows couldn’t or wouldn’t hurry so they reveilled without leggings. The Sgt got wise. He bought a flashlight and the un-military soldiers scrubbed the mess hall in a military manner.
Early in March rumors became rife that we were about to sail over the seas. Every man in the battery was by that time weary of Upton and anxious to get a crack at the Boche. The first part of April saw many transfers to the infantry, as we had learned that part of the division was to depart before us. We all regret the loss of many old friends from the battery, some of whom paid the supreme sacrifice and now lie in the devastated regions of France. Then came the large contingents from Camp Devens to fill our battery to war strength, bringing us the famous and renowned privates Beeman, Zartman and White.
A Camp Devens Rookie’s Impressions of Battery C
– Capt Crane – Nuts on inspection.
– Lt Hyde – Infantry Drill Regulations.
– Lt Klee – Double time !
– O’Brien – A gate.
About this time the O.T.S. at the camp was disbanded and Sgts Blackford, O’Donnell and Cpls Lowengard and Gillespie were returned to the battery.
Some sayings we all remember
– Capt Crane : It’s not military.
– Lt Green : It’s you, you I mean !!! Take that bird’s name !
– Sgt O’Brien : Out cha go, take the gate !
– Sgt Dann : As for dinner – If he had pitched a curve.
– Sgt Dorgan : Now men.
– Sgt McKeever : When I was on the border.
– Bugler Rothchild : The proper way to build an incinerator.
– Alberts and Pfirrman (chorus) : The mill’s the only place. Early Monday morning after returning from pass.
Sunday the 21st of April was a rainy day. Many men had their relatives down. All through the barracks ran a spirit of sorrow. Some of the women were in tears but the boys cheered them up with a show of bravado. There were constant roll calls, inspections, check-ups and all such throughout the day. Finally the folks left to get back home and a gloom settled over the barracks. They seemed bare and each one of us was tired and weary. Again in the dark we were formed, this time to be assigned to a permanent squad. Then we marched inside and drew our rifle ammunition and travel rations. It was nearly midnight before we had a chance to fall asleep on the hard floor, our bunks having all been piled up in a corner. About 0300 we were called and finally slung the packs on weary shoulders and took our last look at the building that had been our home for so long and then plodded through the rain and mud to the station and France. By the way, we thought Upton the original mud hole, but how about the Western Front ?
Embarkation was very slow. After our sleepless ride from Upton we boarded a ferry at Long Island City and sailed round the Battery to Hoboken. Here we were kept lined up on the pier for several hours with our packs on. We had our first look at the largest ship in the world, which we had heard was to carry us to France. Having had no breakfast or dinner, when the Red Cross women gave us cocoa and cakes, we hungrily claimed seconds and thirds. At last the line moved up the gang plank where we received our dunk ticket, and on to the boat. What a maze of stairways and corridors. At last we found our compartment and laid our packs on the bunks. The quarters seemed narrow and cramped. The ship was one maze of bunks, three and four stories high and filling every corner. When we matched those bunk tickets to their proper bunks we found ourselves in the best part of the ship, on “E” deck, the highest for the soldiers, and in front of the grand stairway leading from this balcony down to the huge mirrored ballroom, now serving as the mess hall, a tiled steam kitchen extending back under the stairs, steam heated serving stations on either side of the stairs and rows of tables.
We stood while we ate. No loitering. We figured we were in soft on the eating proposition. Someone passed the word that we would get chow shortly. With a rattling of mess kits and cups we all lined up only to be told we were to get on the end of the line. Then we hung over the railing and looked down at the tables and hungrily watched the other fellows push the food down. Our time came at last and we had our first meal aboard. We got plenty and it was good. That evening we wandered about the monster ship, and early the next day we received our instructions as to our conduct aboard. Everything seemed very strict to us. On the morning of the 24th the whistles blew and we sailed. All the way across we were blessed with good weather and there were but few isolated cases of mal de mer, although there was a record passenger list on board; around 14,500.
Our days aboard seemed singularly alike. At reveille we arose, straightened up our bunks and hung around for breakfast, which was served at 0800. Although we were quartered at the head of the stairs leading to the mess hall we had to wait almost two hours and get on the end of the line. The food was good and we usually had eggs with our breakfast and also fruit each day. The rest of the day would be taken up by formations for medical inspection, physical drill or some such thing. What time we had off we spent on deck gazing longingly at the West and thinking of the dear ones left farther behind each hour. Then came our dinner about two o’clock and just as we would be eating the word would come to clear the mess hall for abandon ship drill. A race up two flights of steps and through the corridors. Adjusting our life preserver belt and canteen of water, and a blanket roll, not forgetting the gloves ; then waiting for the shrill signal which never failed to give us a start. None of us could ever figure out why it was necessary to have that blanket and 100 rounds of ammunition with us if the time ever came when we had to swim for our lives. Perhaps we should have taken our rifles along to try a potshot at the subs. We marched up to one of the upper decks and there received our daily instructions. We were to shove a pile of rafts over the side, then jump and swim out from the side with the rafts before the next pile was shoved over. Pleasant idea ! If the subs didn’t get us and we didn’t drown we might get whacked on the head by a pile of rafts. That ordeal over, we went back to the bunks to get rid of our junk, then to the deck again until dusk. Each evening in the large mess hall movies were shown. “Casey at the Bat” became famous over night, in fact, that was the only picture we saw. They used to vary the program by giving the second part first. After we crept into our bunks came the nightly warning in a deep sepulchral Voice, “Beware ! Keep away from the port holes ! Anyone caught opening a port hole would be shot down like a dog and the guard will be exonerated !”
There were plenty of shower baths aboard but salt water only. Sgt Kelleher was the proprietor. Before you could take a bath a ticket had to be procured from him. Usually the words on the ticket were, “Admit one dirty bum” or “Clean up this bum.”
One day as we were watching the men in the mess hall a large stack of pies was put out. Dinner was delayed an hour, and finally the pies were taken back. Someone had passed the word that there was glass in the pies. Tough luck again. The third day out saw the military guard established. Discipline was exceedingly strict. On this guard depended the safety of the ship. Every doorway to the decks, every stairway and water tight door was heavily guarded. After nightfall no one was allowed to be on deck under any circumstances. No smoking was allowed below and many a time a good cigar was lighted just before going below and ditched.
One night our guard slept in the Ritz dining room up on “A” deck. Certain posts were very desirable; the doorways near the canteens, posts No. 7 and No. 8 and also, I think. No. 12 and No. 13, which were supplied with chairs and had a doorway handy where the monotony of standing post could be varied by views of the deep blue and trying to dope out those disjointed patches of crazy quilt into a trim destroyer. There was another OK post which some of us will recall. To my mind it lay somewhere in the track of the ration convoys on the way to the Ritz dining room. Censored reports have it that many a convoy was fired upon by our submarines posted in ambush. Many of the boys procured passes which the kitchen detail had been given in order to pass through the various guards. Finally someone got wise and the passes were called in. “Friend” Alberts got stuck on “B” deck and after the guard had taken his pass away he couldn’t get down. However he must have taken his “I’ll tell you how it is, friend” to some soft-hearted guy and gotten away with it.
At last we entered the danger zone. Our ship, which had been zigzagging across the ocean, now went this way and that, in fact we all became dizzy from the constant twisting. Then our convoy appeared, five long, lean, wicked-looking destroyers. To us they appeared to be for the most part under water. The gun crews now became active. The guns were uncovered and gun drill every day keyed up the crews ready to do their part should a periscope be sighted. None showed up and finally emerging from a thick fog we saw land which proved to be France. We were soon inside the beautiful harbor of Brest. Our pilot came out in a little rowboat and was nearly drowned by the rush of water from the side of the ship. At 0715, May 2nd, we dropped anchor, thus deciding O’Brien’s famous 24-hour pool in favor of our versatile friend, Kinney.
The harbor was interesting with its surrounding green hills and white walls of the distant city. Scows came alongside and we amused ourselves by throwing small coins to the French longshoremen. We were taken off in the afternoon in a tug and then came a stiff march up hill to the rest camp, Pontanezen Barracks, built by Napoleon. Several days were spent there. Hikes and a few drills kept us in good condition. Daily details went to the city to help with the unloading. But not long were we to lie around, for on the morning of the 7th we were up before daybreak and started off for our training camp. Arriving at the station we had our first look at the “Hommes 40, Chevaux 8,” which was to mean so much to us during our stay in France. Then and there we were told that it was to be a bone dry trip, but we know of several old timers from Broadway whose knowledge of the game brought them spiritual joy from unlabeled bottles. And the joke was they found it on the platform of a milk depot.
Most of the trip was a nightmare. Crowded together in small cars between the low benches which took up a great deal of room and then to have all our equipment stuck in with us also. But there was an opportunity to gaze at the scenery through the windows, and for the greater part of the day the boys occupied themselves that way. Then night came on and there was no way to stretch out to sleep. Some had to stand up all the way and some were seated in the most uncomfortable positions. The rations consisted of bread, canned willy, a few cans of jam, tomatoes and beans. This was a new experience to us, eating iron rations, and we never grew to like them. Finally, at midnight of the second night out, we came to the end of the journey. Tired, shift, and sleepy we tumbled out of the cars and hiked through the darkness to what was to be our training camp. We soon came to the gates and passed down a long avenue lined with trees. We could see the dim outlines of long barracks. We stopped and entered the ones assigned to us and threw off our packs. In one corner was a stack of bunks and soon we were stretched out snoring at a great rate only to be awakened at six o’clock for reveille.
There was nothing to eat at that time, so we raided a few pushcarts which had entered the camp. Oranges, eggs, chocolates and crackers were all that was to be had, but we soon bought the peddlers out.
Our first few days at the camp were spent in lounging around and fixing up the quarters. The weather was quite warm and we wandered about the camp making ourselves acquainted. There were two YM buildings and a commissary. As usual, the Y never had much and the commissary line was too long to get on. Then came the drills with the regular routine of inspections. At the park where we drilled some of the boys amused themselves by teasing the coolies. Someone tried to steal one of the pet squirrels and there nearly was a riot. Doing squads “east and west” under the hot sun did not improve the temper of the boys. We all thought that stuff had been buried when we left Upton. After hours we could go out the gates to a small settlement of booths and cafes. Vin Blanc and Rouge were the favorites. Chocolate, crackers, fruits, nuts and also souvenirs were for sale. Our money dwindled away and the boys anxiously awaited the first pay-day.
Soon the Schools opened up for the Telephone, Radio and Machine gun details and they were lucky, for they only had a few hours’ work each day and did not drill. Our horses came and the drivers were picked out and began their grind. Finally the howitzers came and we saw visions of the firing line. Passes had been given out to Bordeaux. Some of the boys must have turned the city inside out, for an order came suspending the passes. And then they were granted again. No doubt some funny things happened, but the boys kept mum about them. So shall we. On June 3, we received our first jolt in the accidental death of Private John J. Wallace. He was a good soldier and a better comrade. He was buried with full military honors. A firing squad of his friends fired the last salute.
Target practice began, and under the hot sun we were lugging heavy ammunition and firing the problems. Incidentally a few fires broke out in the brush, and the whole camp had to turn out to extinguish the fast spreading flames. We had great fun practicing with gas masks, especially Chisel Robinson and Deutch, neither of whom had teeth enough to hold the mask on. It was here that Battling White earned his title and reputation by knocking out all comers in a battery boxing contest.
At times bread was short and jam was always an unknown quantity, but there were a few in the battery who partook in the parties given by the Mess Sergeant in his barracks where beaucoup bread and jam were in evidence. We were paraded in Bordeaux on July 4, and then we heard that we were to go to the front. Preparations were made and on the night of the 12, we started to roll packs and clean up the barracks. We were up at 3 a.m. and went to the kitchen to get bread and coffee into which Gulianti had spilled kerosene as sugar was scarce. Under way at last, and boarded the cars about noon the next day. This time we were more comfortable as only 20 men were in each car and we had our bed sacks to sleep on. A ride of two days took us to Baccarat in the Lorraine Sector, where we detrained in the darkness.
Positions at the Front
Lorraine – Les Carrieres – July 15 to August 1
Vesle – Chery-Chartreuve – August 14 to September 4
Aisne – Vauxcere – September 5 to September 14
Meuse-Argonne – Florent – September 25 to 27
La Harazee – September 28 to October 1
Morolager – October 2 to October 10
Grand Ham – October 12 to October 17
Pylone – (Chatel Chehery) – October 30 – November 2
Raucourt – November 9 to November 12
After a short hike in the darkness (hiring which we all were afraid the Boches would hear us, we halted at the edge of a woods upon a hill. In the distance we could see gun flashes and rockets going up. How it thrilled us to think we were at last in the fight. We worked like heavers to get the guns, caissons and wagons under cover and then got an opportunity to sleep just as day was breaking. The sun shining through the trees awoke some of us and we walked to the edge of the woods to see the Germans. Imagine our surprise at seeing only a long stretch of country, hilly and covered with clumps of trees or bush and rolling fields. Why, where were the lines ?
We proceeded to make our camp and ate a meal which could be called either breakfast, dinner or supper. That night our guns were taken out to a position near Les Carrières. The gun position was on the side of a steep hill and our ammunition came up at night. Carrying the heavy shells was no cinch, for the path led down a hill across a railway and a small bridge, then up a slippery hill to the position. Many of the men who were detailed to carry ducked in the darkness, and there was always a row. Altogether we had lugged about a thousand shells including gas and hight explosives up to the guns. We were all prepared for a big party which was never pulled off, much to our disappointment.
It was so quiet at this place that we could hardly realize that this was the front. But each night we were awakened several times by false gas alarms. We had to carry our rifles and belts, gas masks and helmets wherever we went, even on the mess line. There was a great rejoicing when the news of the Chateau-Thierry drive was received. Then came the news of our moving to another front. A French battery relieved us here. In this position our first shot was fired by Gun No. 1, Sgt Kelleher in charge, on July 22 at 2 p.m. The crew consisted of Gun Cpls Canavan and Grunewald, Cpl Fastore, No. 1; Gallagher, No. 1; Inhof, No. 2; Alulkeen, No. 2; Feter, No. 3; Pfirman, No. 3; Dunn, L., No. 4; McGrath, No. 4; Roche, No. 5; Yellin, No. 5; McCarthy, A. and Dillon, No. 6; Lamb and Malanowski, No. 7.
August 1 we moved, and at dark we were on our way carrying full packs. After this night the packs which had been full of personal belongings became lighter and lighter until there hardly was a pack left. After two nights of weary walking, tired out, footsore and disgruntled, we landed at Loromontzey woods where we remained five days during which we had rain every day. We rested up as best we could in the deep mud, and on the 8th, after a hike of about five kilos, we boarded the “Hommes 40, Chevaux 8” again at Bayon. This was a short ride, somewhat less than one day. We detrained at La Ferte Gauchere and resumed the weary hike again.
After two night marches which ran about 12 to 16 hours each, we stopped at the banks of the historic Marne. It was a sunny day and most of the boys took advantage of the opportunity to get a swim. Some of us entirely forget our surroundings and imagined it was the good old Hudson. But at 2100 we were off again, this time passing through Château-Thierry, the Waterloo of the Kaiser. Here we were able to see the havoc and damage done by the American Artillery. Shell-torn villages with hardly a wall standing, ruined roads. Equipment was strewn all around, countless graves, and frequently unburied bodies of friend or foe and horses were passed.
On the morning of the 13th we made our camp in the Nestle Woods, which was to be the echelon for the time being. After a brief reconnaissance a position was picked out, and on the night of the 15th two guns were placed in position near Chery Chartreuve, followed the next night by the other two guns relieving the 4th Artillery Brigade.
Vesle Sector – Aug. 14 – Sept 4
Chery – Chartreuve
One’s first thoughts upon going into action are whether he will have the guts and be able to show the real fighting spirit that is expected of him. These thoughts were with most of us as we took our Chery position on August 14. All the way along the winding road which took us through woods stacked with shells and wound its way into the village at Dole where the Red Cross had their field dressing station, these thoughts were uppermost. At last we were to do our bit and relieve veteran batteries in a very warm position.
The village of Chery was situated in a rolling wooded country and looked to be a peaceful little hamlet before the devastations of the war changed its appearance. There was a prominent church spire rising in the center of the buildings. This was of great value to us later in calculating our exact position. Our Battalion Headquarters was situated in one of the old buildings in the town. It had been wrecked by a shell and the Battalion CP was in the cellar. The YMCA was open for business on a side street, while everything was full of American “vim,” which would have made the old inhabitants gaze with astonishment, had they been there. But they had left long before on the advance of the Germans. Chery had turned into quite an artillery center over night.
The position selected for us was on the edge of a patch of woods opposite this township and just below the Ferme de Dames, a shell-torn farmhouse on the crest of the hill, that rose in front of us. Both Chery and the Ferme de Dames seemed to be the objectives of the Germans’ fire, as shells were always dropping their way and we were continually putting on our gas masks because of the alarms that sounded in both places. The Boche were methodical in their shelling as they evidently worked on a time schedule which enabled one, while in the town, to take cover in one of the many cellars used for that purpose.
The Battery moved to these woods in the shelter of darkness and we were, as we thought, lucky in being able to cover ourselves from German observations. But it was a hard night’s work as the worn road which led into the woods was of an uncertain rolling nature and movement along it after dark was a tedious job with shells bursting in that area.
We marched along in silence; the steady grinding of the cannon wheels and the hoof beats of the horses were the only sounds heard from the outfit. Off in the distance the steady booming of the guns and the screeching of a few shells that were landing near the roadside gave us all the thrills one would expect when going into active fighting. One of the guns was ditched for a short time and a fourgon wagon tipped over, but with all these little mishaps work went on smoothly, as the drivers had become experts in night marching. However, there was a feeling of relief by all of us when the guns had been placed. We then rolled up in our blankets and slept, the only disturbance being an occasional gas alarm.
Daylight at the front brings confidence to the new man and all felt in good spirits at the return of day. Work began, such as laving the pieces, building dugouts for the cannoneers and erecting a shelter for the firing executive. While we worked on these tasks, rumors began to float in from members of the 13th Field Artillery, which we were relieving, that the Germans often combed the section of the woods in which we were now located, so the Captain had all the men not working on the guns move farther back into the woods and pitch tents, a precaution he thought advisable, as the guns were on the edge of the woods near a beaten path which ran up to the Ferme de Dames and the Hun shells, observed the first day, fell near the road.
Tents were pitched in the section of the woods selected by the Captain and Sergeant Klein’s telephone detail strung the lines to the guns. All had a feeling of security resting in this thick patch of saplings which completely screened us from observation from above. The first day the German planes had been flying above us and we afterwards found out this was a daily occurrence, as the Huns had the supremacy of the air all the time we were fighting on this sector. Dusk came and those of us who were not on duty were preparing to settle ourselves for the night in our tents. Many tales were told of the last night’s experiences and most of us were sort of taking enjoyment in the new situation. A few shells were occasionally falling in the direction of Chery and we would estimate their nearness when the bursts gradually drew closer to our position. We could hear that weird shriek and spiteful crack as the shells exploded. Then suddenly fragments of steel began to hum all around us. All of us took shelter as best we could by lying upon the ground behind the largest trees we could find. Suddenly there was an explosion just above us, and someone began to cry and moan in a pitiful manner. There seemed to be a regular deluge of shells in our direction as we groped our way through the darkness to the wounded man. Someone, through smelling the powder of the shells, shouted “Gas !” and all immediately donned their gas masks. This made passing through the woods a hard task.
The wounded man proved to be Private Mills and when relief reached him, he was suffering intense pain, as he had a severe stomach wound. Corporals Segal, Moore and Cashman carried him from the woods to a cart which took him to the dressing station at Dole. Mills never returned to the battery as he was rendered unfit for active service. That same night a shell splinter lodged in the shoulder of Private Roche. The hot fragment caused intense pain, but not a serious wound. He rejoined the battery later at Pilon position. The next day every man went to work with a will which showed that their night’s experience had made everyone aware that they were facing a determined foe. The guns were registered upon a quarry on the hill above Bazoches and now began firing at the enemy with excellent results; this necessitated the hauling of ammunition to the battery from the main dump, and this proved a hazardous job, as the Huns were continually shelling the roads leading to our position. The ammunition detail was under the supervision of Corporal Stickle, and the FA and OA shells began to come in great numbers only to be sent to Fritz as soon as we received them.
The machine gunners were taking a sun bath near the dugouts when Fritz started his afternoon entertainment. McCaffery gave the gas alarm. Masks were donned immediately. After half an hour Mac lifted the mask and sniffed. Then he took it off and took another sniff.
Masks may be removed, says he.
McGrath deep in the dugout shouts : Sergeant, did you sniff ?
Yes, was the answer.
Well, Sarg, says McGrath, take a long breath before I take my mask off.
Then McCaffery fainted.
Sgt McCaffery struck up an acquaintance with the French interpreter of the 304th. One day the Frenchman came up to see Mac. Following dialogue took place :
What do you think of the American soldiers ?
Very fine soldiers but very reckless and careless.
What do you mean by careless ?
Well, they don’t take proper precautions to protect their lives, just then Fritz sent a few over including a gas shell. Up jumped the frog and shouted, Gas and I’ve forgotten my mask, and away down the hill he flew.
Private Kopleman was in this ammunition train driving a team of big gray horses, which were the pride of the Battery. During a heavy shelling of the road ahead of him, the driver thought it advisable to take cover, and this was very difficult with horses to look after. So the happy thought of dismounting came to him and of tying the team to a tree. Acting with great rapidity the driver was soon sheltered behind the largest oak tree he could find when a shell came over and struck just between the horses, tearing them to pieces. Kopleman in relating the event was so shaken by his narrow escape that he kept repeating, Can you imagine it ? which later became a battery query. Later in the afternoon of the same day the gun in charge of Sgt Immergut was hit by a shell which killed Private Martin. The gun crew, consisting of Corporal Daly, Corporal Mclnerney, and Privates Brazaties, Alberts, Tetley, Ettinger, McCool and Spinazola, were able to take cover in their dugouts as the shells began to hit around the gun. One after the other the 77’s came over with that sharp crack of the explosion and when the firing ceased, the crew returned to the gun to find poor Martin lying there with his body badly torn by a shell fragment. As they gazed on him and saw that mutilated body which had once been the jolly little Martin, a feeling of revenge came to them all. Martin was buried in Chery where he still lies with that little wooden cross, which is seen so much at the front, marking his grave.
The casualties gave the men their real grim determination to put the Boche out, so that within a short time our battery was known to all the officers including the Colonel, as the fastest firing and most accurate in the Regiment. We fired the problem which brought the following commendation : CP 306th FA, August 22, 1918. The Colonel of the 308th Infantry reports that our tire to-day saved the infantry from a powerful German thrust and freely gives this regiment the credit. Please disseminate the news generally
A similar note of praise was received from a French unit a few days later, praising the effective laying of a barrage, which also can be traced to our battery. We now had only three guns in action and the gun crews were kept busy firing at the targets which were coming over the phone in rapid succession. On August 20th DeFelice was killed while at his post as gas guard by a shell fragment and another good comrade was buried near gun No. I, where he fell.
Chery will long be remembered by all of us as a very warm position and there was a feeling of relief when we made our advance on September 4th over the Vesle in pursuit of the retreating Germans. We left a Chery far different from the one we found on entering this sector. The prominent church spire had been hit by a German shell and the little town was more war wrecked than before; one tried to picture it before the war a nice, clean little hamlet nestling in a rolling wooded country. Later we passed through villages upon which our own guns had been firing and found them more demolished than Chery Chartreuve. By this time we were more used to the sights of devastation caused by artillery fire.
On the night of Sep 4 the captain issued orders for the advance march. Quick action was the success of the battery and cannoneers hustled about limbering the guns, wires were taken down by Sergeant Klein’s detail and all equipment packed in the fourgon wagons. The horses made their appearance from the echelon and the sharp commands of Lieutenants Von Saltza, Klee and Hyde could be heard here and there in the darkness. All felt the thrill of the chase as the Germans were hastily retreating from a strong and bitterly contested position. After all the preparations for the move were made, we sat down beside our packs and waited the command to move forward. This order came at six o’clock the next morning and we started on a daylight march. All of us will remember passing through Chery, up the wooded road where the Filloux guns were still firing at the retreating Hun, then out upon the open rolling hill that sloped toward the Vesle river. It was upon this hill with enemy planes soaring above us that we stopped to have mess, while the bridge was strengthened. The 302d Engineers had hastily constructed bridges that enabled us to cross the Vesle with our heavy guns, we being the first American artillery to cross the Vesle. Fierce hand to hand combats had taken place all along the river and the scenes of the battle were still in evidence. The river was filled with barbed wire and upon the opposite bank lay our American dead as they fell in skirmish formation showing how the machine guns had mowed them down. Many a poor fellow lost his life in this fight for the capture of Bazoches. Many a German died there, too, as they lay there beside our own men, showing how they had tried to save their stronghold and prevent it from being taken by our forces.
The road now took us through that shell-racked Bazoches, which had been the special target of “C” Battery shells. An engineer pointed out to us what was left of it. Huge heaps of abandoned ammunition lay along the tracks which entered the yards at the western entrance of the town. We passed through Bazoches out upon the Rouen – Rheims road and on up the valley to our advance position. This took us toward Vauxcere, along the railroad and on to a dismantled railroad cut in the Ravin de Fontaine, directly back of the Ravin de l’Homme Mort. In front of us, slightly to our left was the hamlet of Vauxcere. This town was built on the crest of a hill and was subject to German fire, as the shells were continually bursting in its direction. The hill turned into a sharp ledge in front of us and afforded shelter for the reserve infantry in many of the numerous caves along the roadside. Upon reaching our position guns No. 2 and 4 were placed in the cut while Nos. 1 and 3 were placed on the side of the hill in a rather open position which necessitated the building of camouflage to screen them from observation.
Vauxcere, Sept. 5 – 14
In the darkness of the following night Field Marshal O’Brien brought up his traveling circus from the echelon. This brings us to the Mystery of the Sixteen Dozen Eggs. All that we at the guns could ever gather was that this present from the Red Cross started out on a motorcycle. Started as pearls without price in charge of Sgt. O’Brien and became a casualty somewhere between Chery and Vauxcere. Comment and slander were the natural result, but the story never got beyond the phrase “Lost in action.” So, for the sake of those of us who felt the loss keenly, let’s clear things up. Shortly before we left the Bois de Dole near Chery Lt. Hyde met a friend, a Red Cross nurse. Thanks to her efforts he obtained sixteen dozen eggs and a crate of chocolate for the battery. The echelon came up the day after the battery moved and the eggs and chocolate were loaded on the last fourgon. It started for the Vesle with Setleis, our galloping tailor, on the brake and McCaffery inside watching the eggs, Sgt. O’Brien and Cpl. Cashman riding alongside. The trouble started when taking that steep turn just before crossing the Vesle. Remember that downhill bend where the road was hammered to bits, shell holes all over it and we had to ease the guns down one at a time. Well, just as they started down the hill Jerry began to hop them over and, yes, the echelon was under fire. The next second and over went the fourgon, eggs, and all on their respective backs.
Act II. – Same story, in Setleis’ words.
I thought I was keeled, my leg was paralyzed, and I couldn’t get up. They helped me out from under the seat and there was McCaffery, his face pale as a ghost. Only you couldn’t see his face because the eggs was smeared all over him. Well, because I couldn’t walk Sgt O’Brien left McCaffery and me as guard over the wagon. The shells were exploding right on the road and I crawled in the ditch where I saw McCaffery. He had a bottle. Where did you get that bottle ? Oh, I found it in this coat sleeve. I had that coat over my knees when I was riding, but I was so excited and shaky from the fall and the shells falling around I forgot I had a bottle in my charge. We went across the field and got under a Boche wagon. As we laid there I said to McCaffery : I feel so deezy, gif me a drink. So we swapped drinks and I felt so much better then when a piece of shrapnel fell between us I didn’t worry at all. What I care if they gas tis now. Then we fell asleep in spite of the noise.
Next morning I went to the wagon for something to eat. You should see it what a mess. The eggs leaking through all the cracks in the crate and the chocolate mostly all gone, salvaged by passersby. Wen I came back I saw something in the bushes at one side. I went over and there was a nigger on his hands and knees, his rifle behind him. I thought maybe he was hurt so I went over. Are you hurt, buddy ? No answer. So I pushed his shoulder and Oh my god – DEAD ! I felt so awful I went back to the wagon and emptied the bottle.
They came for us, and when we got back I reported to Lt Van Saltza. He asked me what became of the medicine. Then it just occurred to me how did McCafferv get hold of that bottle. I didn’t want him to get into trouble so I said I couldn’t remember. Neither I could at first because I had forgotten all about it. Lt Klee was smelling the coat sleeve, and he asked me who else was on the fourgon. I told him McCaffery. Oh ! he said, that explains it.
Owing to the condition of the ground two of the guns were moved back a short distance and imagine the astonishment of the gun crews when Fritz made two direct hits on the places the guns had been in. Henson had a narrow escape when the horse he was riding was killed under him by an exploding shell which never scratched Henson. Sullivan. J. T., lost his head, but upon meeting the Top Kick he was sent out to find it. Guess he’s still looking.
Air combats were a daily occurrence while we were at this position and we were given many thrills watching this novel way of battling. Six German Planes maneuvering to get one of our planes was a sight we all will remember. The thrilling loops our man made in order to escape his foe ! At last it was plainly seen that there were too many fighting against him and his plane came down turning over several times before it made a straight dive to the ground bringing one more brave fellow to his death after lighting so heroically for his country. Sgt McCaffery nearly won the DSC when he attempted to shoot up eight Jerry planes which had attacked one French plane. The Frenchman came down and Mac still insists that he hit one of the Jerrys and chased the others awav.
We had been in this railroad cut about a week, I should say it was Sep 10, wen it was found advisable to pick a more effective position for the battery. It had always been the practice of the Regiment to get its guns as close to the enemy as the conditions of the roads and presence of a counter slope permitted. We often had 75-MM outfits behind us. This position was poor in several ways. The two semicircular cuts, while giving good protection, had twenty-foot banks on either side while the roadbed was barely wide enough to swing the trail. The minimum elevation to clear the crest of the bank was too great to allow for much sweep of the muzzle. And that cinder roadbed was never made to hold the spade of a 155-MM firing a double zero charge. As for camouflaging a gun in a position of white sand and black cinders, it could not be done with what we had on hand – chicken wire netting woven with fall-colored burlap. So we were scheduled to move and this required the location of and preparation of another position. The ravine up to Vauxcere had no suitable positions unoccupied. Beyond the town was level country for several kilometers, this being held by the reserve infantry in a series of dugouts and fox holes that lined the roads. Beyond that the country sloped sharply down to the Aisne River, along the banks of which were our lines and the town of Longueval. The cliff-like slopes were honeycombed with cave and lime quarries.
The afternoon of Sep 10 preparations were made for the party. Starting with the most important thing, Ganetes and Bauer loaded two days’ rations on the ration cart along with that battered field stove, pails, knives and all the weird collection of instruments necessary to open and serve a can of monkey meat. Sgt Beckerman parted with half his detail, loaded up Corporal King and Valverde with goniometer, zinc rule, protractor and maps and expressed the fervent prayer that Major Duell would not take it into his head to send in another fifty targets during their absence. Corporal Romano and Wilson, G. B., left the watch on Canton White One to the rest of the family and armed with two phones, plyers and a spool (of wire, not silk) loaded themselves on the first G. S. cart. The digging detail under Corporal Mclnerney fell in behind. The Staff was the Captain, Lt Hyde, Sgt Dorgan and 1/Sgt Corporal Moore, Stambaugh and King, M. A., were scouts whose duty was to maintain liaison with the battery. Of course, we all had packs.
After evening mess we lined up in the road near Gun No. 2, and at last it was dark enough to set out. The evening serenade had not yet begun and there was not a sound except the drivers urging on our goats with choice words, heel and whip. Past the Ravin de l’Homme Mort we toiled up the hill into Vauxcere. As we approached the town the shell-torn road showed signs of recent repairs and we made good time. Through the town and not a shell yet. The plateau lay above us, no trees and very little cover along the roads. So as a precaution Lt Hyde ordered us to string out Indian file, fifteen paces apart; or as far as one could see the man in front. We were just topping the rise when it happened. Seven hot shells and a dud came screeching over and landed on the cross-roads we had just passed. It stepped on our tail and when it came to counting noses Weinberg, Vilece and Sullivan, J. T., and Hicks were missing. Not a trace and we never knew what became of them till we returned three days later. Not a scratch, but when they climbed out of the various holes they had dived into they lost us and spent the rest of the time with the infantry till they found the way back to the battery. Meantime we plowed on across the plateau; the infantry were just bringing up the evening mess at eight o’clock and the trenches were humming with activity, shadows moving here and there, low voices, the occasional clank of a mess kit and I lost the man ahead. Calling a warning to the rear, I started to double time till the familiar figure loomed up in front of me once more, and OK.
About nine o’clock we halted and fell out. We were on the edge of a cliff and must wait for morning before looking for the way down. Black as pitch, the ground unfamiliar, we picked the best place to couchey, namely, about where we stood. The wind was pretty raw and finding a couple of pits about six feet deep considered ourselves lucky. King, Romano and Valverde slid into one of them and found it was an incomplete entrance to a German dugout. We had just got settled and were dozing when Romano said : Hey, Val, light a match, there is something live fell in here beside me. The lighted match disclosed a huge slimy toad staring up into Romano’s face as it squatted beside him. Nothing would do but Val should throw it out. However, Val objected most decidedly and the discussion woke King. Finally realizing he had the choice of throwing it out or having it hop over him the rest of the night got his nerve up and out went the toad.
At 0030 the shelling began. Dorgan, Ganetes and the rest of the fellows who were lying out in the open said the bursts were all around and Jerry was combing the road we had left. Next morning’ what a sight ! Fortunately, we had our raincoats on for we were covered with lime, our holsters and even the pistols smeared with the stuff. And on inspecting our surroundings we found we had camped fifty feet from perfect comfort, for the cliff was honeycombed with caves elaborately furnished with all the conveniences, beds, chairs, bureaus, wash-stands, china and the hundred and one things stolen from the nearby town of Longueval. We were too busy to stop, but made a note of it. After a hurried mess we found a trail down the hill while the cars took the road around. About half a kilometer down the ravine we came to the proposed position, an abandoned German gun position at that, and facing in the wrong direction. One look at it and King pronounced it a soup bowl. A semicircular amphitheater with heavy wood on three sides and a precipitate ravine cutting in on the west. Jerry’s guns, evidently howitzers, had been laid along this ravine. Each gun position was heavily walled on both sides with elephant iron and twelve-inch logs. The walls served as one side of an ammunition pit and telephone station. The entrance to the dugout was back of the phone station and led into the face of the hill. These dugouts were made from standard size boards fitting in like square frames, about four feet wide and six feet high like a tunnel. In about fifteen feet the tunnel bent off at right angles for six feet. We spent the morning making ourselves “Safe for Democracy,” Ganetes and Bauer setting up the kitchen on edge of clearing. The captain was testing out gun positions for elevation and sweep with that small though useful instrument, the goniometer. In selecting a position several conditions must be met – a way to get the gun up, secondly, counter slope not too steep to allow the gun to fire over the crest, and surroundings that make it possible to hide the gun from enemy observation and consequent SOS. That little goniometer was all there when it came to determining these things.
The telephone men had been ranging over the neighborhood locating an infantry or signal corps line in the effort to get in touch with Canton White One, our battalion headquarters. That had to be accomplished at the first opportunity. They located a deep cave on the east side of the “Soup Bowl.” A reserve battalion of the 306th Machine-gunners were comfortably located there, a huge bonfire in the rear of the cave roaring up a natural chimney to the plateau above. It looked good to us. Here they managed to get a connection through infantry wires with our battalion command post. Headquarters was advised we were running short of grub and to expect a guide to show them the way out. The next thing was to cut in temporarily on their switchboard. This till we could lay our own line out from Vauxcere. But that evening talking it over with G. B. and Tully, it came out that they were having their troubles in making that signal corps operator see it their way. Diplomacy is one of the main assets of a successful telephone detail. Our Hello Men were diplomats and – everything. So I knew the hold up was going to be temporary.
Omitted to mention it was pouring during mess. The omission like the rain was natural and to be expected. We had a sunshiny day once, but this phenomenon deserves a special article. It was pouring harder than usual. We stood around the kitchen under the trees. Had our helmets on (very fine umbrellas by the way), a cup of coffee in one hand and a mess-kit with Karo syrup and bread in the other. Nothing unusual about that, only my coffee. Each drink left the cup as full as ever. And it was impossible to finish the Karo. I finally broke away from this absorbing task to look out from under the helmet. Sheets of rain coming down. Gradually I focused my eyes on the edge of my tin derby. A column of water as thick as your wrist was pouring off the edge and diluting everything it struck. Now if they had only provided those helmets with a gutter and rain pipe – but you cannot improve the army in a day. Besides we were lucky to have that mess to eat. Our rations were none too plentiful. Moore and King, M. A., had gone back as guides with the captain for more.
That night we slept in the shelters we had fixed up around the Boche gun positions in the ravine. At 0030 on the dot the concert began. The introduction was a gas attack. A series of complaining whistles lapping one over the other followed by those weak bursts as they smack into the caves we had so fortunately deserted. We must have been spotted as we pulled in that morning and Jerry, who lacks imagination, took it for granted we would not pass up the comfortable quarters we had left so recently. Then the heavy stuff came over. The attack was general now, and the sounds of the bursts ranged from the hard crack of the light calibers to the grisly gr-u-u-mp of the big babies. To get the sensation of being run down by an express train you need only be underneath when a large caliber high velocity shell passes overhead to land far in the rear. The last part “far in the rear” is a very important part of the sensation. Their registration on the road around the edge of our Soup-bowl was poor because we got more than an occasional short. But the ravine was very steep, too steep for any but high trajectory shells to reach the bottom.
Morning dawned clear and quiet. The day before the place had been partly cleared of refuse, stray logs and corrugated iron piled up for further use, and dugout cleaned out; a job requiring care and caution. Lt. Hyde was now in charge. He sent Cpl. King up to the machine-gun outfit to get their captain’s permission to let us dry out at their fire. Fire for heating was a luxury and was subject to the usual “luxury tax.” For nothing at the front drew fire like fire. But this cave had natural protection. It faced to the flank and was thirty feet or more above the valley. Fairly safe from both shell and gas. Their captain was anxious to know had anyone been hurt during the night. Shortly after with nobody feeling any the worse the digging detail split up and each crew went to it with pick and shovel to level off and lay out a gun position at the previously chosen spots.
While this was being done we bethought ourselves of that Looey Cans furniture which was going to waste over in the caves. So with a mental picture of our future flat to temper our enthusiasm we made use of a spare moment to salvage a few necessities. We followed the wheel ruts down the valley past that mud hole with the crushed wine keg in it, and at last found the short-cut trail up the hillside. The morning before we had negotiated this muddy shoot-the-chutes with pack and rifle. Our ideas were pretty definite as to what we needed; three stools and a table. All we had to do was take our pick of the furniture. And sternly repress the desire to include a few extras like a spring-bed, wash-bowls, hat-rack, bureau – or maybe another bed. But by this time we were used to sleeping on a hard floor : and besides it’s so much healthier, don’t you know. A short time later with a few nails to hold things together, that damp hole in the hillside was raised to the dignity of a CP. The flesh is weak, for Romano and Wilson had inevitably gotten on the soft side of that operator and were busy cutting in on the infantry panel and running the extension down to our position. The instrumentmen assisted by our newly discovered rodman Ryan, J. S., set out with Lt. Hyde for a known point from which to lay our guns. Of the few possible reference points from which we proposed working, this was the nearest to the guns. But we were due for a difficult traverse over rough ground and must check against all errors that were bound to creep in.
It might interest the cannoneers to know how and why we lay the guns. Our 155-MM. Schneider Howitzers were marvels of accuracy. All we needed was to know where you were standing, on the map, and you would soon rate that “six feet of earth to which we all fall heir.” The position of the gun and target known on the map, it is a simple matter to work up the firing data for the gunner; running in the old familiar way :
Gun No. 1
B. D. R428
Sh F. A.
Fu I. A. L.
Ch No. 1
20 rds. per hour from 0215 am to 0530 am
Having set the data out on the sight dials, it is necessary in order to point the gun to swing it around some known point on the ground. Unfortunately useful landmarks are rare. So we pick a cross-roads, church spire, pylon or bridge or anything else in the neighborhood which we can find on the map. Then with the goniometer and compass, or else Three Point Resection Method locate ourselves accurately on the map. From this known point on the ground we work back to the guns, establishing one known point after the other till we reach the battery position. And having set up an aiming post upon which the gunners train with their gun-sights, the guns are optically connected to the ground. Going into further detail is apt to be dry, but that is the general scheme.
Working back to the guns takes one through some queer places ; under bridges, over cliff’s, across yards of barbed wire – no, not past infantry kitchens. And why not go around these obstructions ? Because a straight line is the shortest distance between two points and we have to use straight lines. And so with Lt. Hyde shooting the goniometer we made our way from the infantry trenches at the cross-road on the plateau down the hill and over the cliff into our soup bowl position. And having set up an aiming stake which would be visible from all the gun sights, called it a day’s work and closed up shop.
Going over to the CP we found the lines laid to the dugout and Tully ready to hang the phone. Now we never had hung the phone in the absolutely best place yet. The ideal place to hang the phone is where you can reach it from any position without having to turn around, move all the furniture and chase out a couple of occupants first to make room. In order to make this momentous decision it was necessary to imagine just how things were going to be laid out. That included ourselves, for we lived on the convertible apartment plan. Sleep and work in the same room. Since you cannot sleep and work at the same time you can use only one room at a time. So why have two rooms ? And we didn’t. Our blankets here at the rear end. Equipment hung beside them. Further along toward the entrance a narrow table against the wall with firing tables, log books, and so forth, ready to hand. Covering the wall on the other side, chosen because it would be smooth and right where we could pick off a range or deflection by just leaning over, would be our large scale map of the sector. And so naturally the phone to the right of the little table, where it could be quickly reached from where you sat or from the entrance. About three meters of slack wire to allow moving the phone to the rear or outside the CP. Everything placed just so, the same care taken with the rest of the battery, all for just one purpose to drop that hundred pounds of steel and high explosive sudden and where it will do the most good.
However, this time the CP was outfitted mostly in our imagination, but in the same way with the guns, the kitchen, the shelters, everything possible was being prepared so the battery could move in and fire immediately. But our kitchen was also rapidly becoming a thing of the imagination. For no scout had yet shown up with the promised grub. In fact, the picture of all those healthy appetites going to waste was so impressive that Arterberry and his pal went out around the countryside to find what they could see. Evidently they got an eyeful for they soon returned with the cart loaded. Bags of flour and sugar, cans of bacon, corned beef and milk, bread and a sack of Java. Asked where they got it they replied : “At a food dump.” “And with whose permission; were there no guards there ?” “Well, not exactly when we were there.” Unguarded property was common property at the front. So this was perfectly good salvage.
That night the enemy paid us no particular attention. Far from feeling neglected we turned in early and fell asleep with the evening hate just beginning on the distant communications and cross-roads. And only the guard was left walking his lonely post. Next morning after a hearty breakfast, as the mists blew out of the valley, one saw everything going in full swing; positions being completed, saplings cut ready to support the camouflage, and the thousand and one things done to “put the house in order.” The Germans left a load of odds and ends lying about; everything from Consul cigarette boxes to tubes of serum; from fuse covers to observation paper. And then the scouts arrived with food for the detail. They were a sight to behold.
They had reached the battery OK, but coming back had been shelled all the way out. The horse, a wise creature, would look ahead, and if any shelling was going on down the road it held back in all the ways known to a horse. It was late afternoon when they reached the old mill. Taking cover in a deep trench from a salvo a captain wanted to know what they were doing. They were advised to get the horse and rations under cover quickly and take cover themselves for that salvo was only a forerunner of a heavy strafing which was due. So Moore and Christunas finally jumped into the trench tired and hungry as the hate began. It was deep in mud but a duck board walk let them sink only just so far. Finding no place to sit they stood all night listening to the bombardment. Christunas dozed off and fell flat on his face in the mud. Finally dawn broke so calling it another day they got out to look for their ration cart. It was still there, even the horse. The latter was so glad to get moving out of that spot that it pulled the cart unaided into camp.
So now that we had plenty of supplies we found ourselves ready to move soon. In fact, the work on the position was the only thing holding us up. That was soon completed and after mess we immediately started preparations for our departure. The telephone detail at first was to stay behind and take care of the position. But their visions of unlimited jam, flour and other supplies were soon over when it was decided to stake the position with signs :
RESERVED FOR C BAT. 306 F. A.
SEPT. 13, 1918
and report back together. That evening everything was put on the carts except our packs. We stuck to the packs, or rather the packs stuck to us. The US Army pack was never meant by nature to be carried on the back. For wherever you go one notices that the pack is always attracted by anything on wheels. A battery starts out in the morning and in less than an hour half the packs have vanished. But diligent search always locates them on a cart of some sort.
However, the only carts having gone on ahead to take the longer road up the ravine we fell in and called roll. Chomsyk and Robinson absent. Search revealed them rolling their packs. We will never know what kept them at this job for the next twenty minutes. Whether some souvenir German crowbar proved too heavy to carry and they had to unroll, or what, but this I do know, that we were allowing ourselves an hour to get out to the roads on the hilltop where we came in. And that was none too much time, as we were bound to get stuck at least once. So you who now stand waiting for the car will long remember what real impatience means as you stood in column of twos watching the precious minutes fly while waiting for that precious pair to get through tying ribbons on their packs.
As soon as they appeared we were on our way and going some. Taking our old trail up past the caves we set a pace that put us on the plateau in no time and expecting to see the carts. But no such luck, so we prepared to go down and pull ’em (jut when they came creaking around the bush and with a last creak stopped dead. Everybody on the wheels and we soon had them out on the road. The trip back was uneventful. The French were pulling in so we had visions of pulling out. We reached the battery long after supper, but something more sustaining than mess was awaiting us. The mail had come in and there was a lot of it. And soon they found us reading such absorbing news as “Sister Susie’s baby’s breaking in a new tooth on everybody’s finger.” Life at Vauxcere was not pleasant. It was raining all the lime and most of the rudely constructed dugouts had water in them. Our men were tired out and needed a rest. Rumors became rife that we were to be relieved and were to go to a rest camp.
Marching through Fismes
Worn and tired from our constant hammering at the Germans, we welcomed the news that we were to be relieved by the Italians. At last we would be able to go to the rear and get cleansed of both mud and “cooties.” Orders finally came on September 14th to limber up and move to the rear. This followed a heavy gas barrage for a day and a night which we had sent over to the Germans and all were weary from the constant work. We left our position at seven o’clock in the evening and moved back to the echelon position where we waited for darkness, as movement so near the lines was generally made at night At nine o’clock that night the march to the rear started. The battery took its position of march with the entire 306th Regiment in line and quickly made its way to the Rouen – Rheims road which we followed into Fismes. This road was an important highway and we all naturally expected Jerry to shell it heavily during the night. Off to our left we could hear the guns booming away at our enemy and the Very lights and rockets of the trenches caused flashes similar to lightning to streak across the sky. Our march came to a halt on the horseshoe curve at the entrance to the town of Fismes. While standing here next to the swampy ground we could smell the fumes of gas as it gradually settled in the valley.
As we started moving again we saw what was causing our delay. A long line of Italian troops were entering this sector to relieve us. They passed quietly by in a steady column, both infantry and artillery. The only noise heard was the commands of their officers or an occasional salutation of one of the men. Our Engineers watched the bridge that led over the Vesle River as our heavy guns crossed, and we entered the town of Fismes early in the morning of Sep 15. The passing through Fismes is an event that all will remember. One’s feelings at the front are sometimes hard to analyze. What would probably turn into fright in civil life resolves itself into merely a speculation as to whether you will come through a difficult situation alive or just out of luck. Shells were bursting at the corner we had to pass. They would come in with that weird shriek and then explode with such a concussion that all the buildings trembled. The Hun was sending them over at such short intervals that our officers had to maneuver to get us by between the bursts. What would be our luck ? Sergeant Hark’s gun went first and disappeared in the darkness; then a wait for the next explosion and Sergeant Sheehan’s piece followed and went through the fumes of the powder. Sergeant Bergen’s gun followed. The swing team became entangled in the traces just at the spot the shells were falling. So the Sergeant ordered the driver to hurry on regardless of consequences, as a halt for a minute’s time would have been a perilous undertaking. Sergeant Immergut’s gun was next in line with the fourgon wagons bringing up the rear.
It was on this corner that Private Brody received the injury that caused his death and the last we saw of him he was lying on the side of the road, the medical man running through the smoke to his assistance. All wondered how Major Duell missed being hit that night as he was continually around the shelled area seeing that we passed safely and with the least delay. He timed the shells and ordered the movements with such accuracy that due to his judgment we came through Fismes that night with the loss of only one of our comrades.
We had now started on that tiresome hike to the rear. And what a good feeling we had for the KC as they met us on the road and gave us hot chocolate, chocolate bars and cigarettes. We could not smoke until we had marched for another hour out of the danger zone. After a few hours on the road, packs began to disappear, but it was noticed that each man had one at the line up the next day. It was a tired regiment that finally lay down for rest in the Cierges Forest, where doughnuts and coffee were served, owing to the thoughtfulness of Lt Von Saltza. Fismes cost us the death of Private Brody and the injury of Privates Haesler and Monyhan. Haesler returned to the Battery while it was in Noyen sur Sarthe. Hiking with full packs was no joke after the severe grind of fighting and we were glad to stop at the Cierges woods where we made our camp. Again we heard we were slated for a rest but the next night we where off again on the hike, stopping next day at Mareuil le Port on the banks of the Marne River, where we enjoyed a short rest and a swim again. Quite a few men were troubled with bad feet so some fifty men were taken away in advance in motor trucks. The rest of the unfortunates will ever remember the ten clays’ hike. A real nightmare it was, long marches, muddy roads, continual rain, short rests, small meals and what not. Everybody will remember the order to feed the horses grass and rub their legs at a halt. We were so weary we could not stand up much less rub the horses.
The Argonne and Meuse Offensive
On the morning of Sept 24 we awoke to find ourselves in the so-called impregnable Argonne, just north of the Florent. We had a short rest after placing the guns in position. Everything seemed quiet and secretive, officers going up to reconnoiter wore French uniforms and no American was allowed to walk on the roads or in the open where an aeroplane might spot him. Artillery was moving up hourly and it seemed as if the guns of all calibers were hub to hub. We all knew that a big offensive was to take place and we were bitter because we had had no rest. Zero hour for the history-making barrage was fixed, and all were in suspense. Finally at 2300-H on the 25th we heard the roar of artillery in the distance. At 0555-H on the 26th we opened up fire and added the noise of our guns to the ever-increasing roar of shot and shell. Evidently the surprise and the ferocity of the attack had its result, for soon the Boches was in full retreat and we were ordered to pack up and go forward shortly before noon.
We left the Florent position and made our way down the main highway. This took us through the woods hy barbed wire entanglements, as the line of trenches crossed the road and on to the town of La Placardelle where we stopped for mess. While at mess German prisoners passed under guard to the rear. It was here that a large number of planes went over our heads in battle formation and one could plainly see that we owned the air in this sector of the Argonne.
After mess the march continued and we followed the winding road into La Harazee. This part of the country had a real war-like appearance. All along the roadside were machine-gun pits with ammunition belts tossed carelessly aside. We passed over a bridge that crossed a small creek and entered the town. A dressing station had been established at the cross-roads and men began to pass carrying litters. It was a pitiable sight to see how badly some of the poor fellows had been wounded. Fighting had been hard in this sector.
The guns were laid late that afternoon and hasty preparations were made at digging in. Just at dark the Germans started sending them over and shells seemed to be breaking all around us with such accuracy that they evidently had us under observation. As the shells drew closer all of us took cover the best we could. An old building with a reinforced steel covering was selected by the battery commander and the CP. So a number of us took shelter here. Lt Klee and Pvt Valverde narrowly escaped death by having a shell burst directly behind them causing their bodies to be silhouetted against the red flare of the burst as they were entering the doorway of this shack. During the shelling around the guns the cannoneers ducked under their pieces and into the trench along the road for protection against the flying fragments. Vilece, who was driving the instrument detail wagon, left the horse to take cover by himself which he did by dashing down the road and across the fields, and some say he took two trenches in his anxiety to get away. Our first night in La Harazee was a funny one for the Machine Gunners. It was right after the big barrage and advance, and everyone thought the woods were full of spies and Germans.
Sgt McCaffrey’s crew had taken a position on the side of the hill in front of the guns, where they had a deep trench for protection. While they were talking someone saw something white on the side of the hill. Shortly thereafter Dwyer saw it also. Could it be a spy ! Time for action Dwyer, Cathcart and Hanower fixed bayonets, loaded rifles and started up the hill. Over the trenches which currycombed the hill, then suddenly Dwyer shouted, “Halt! Who’s there !” Bane went his rifle and then dead silence. It was dusk already and the three brave warriors held conference. It was decided to advance, Cathcart taking the left flank, Dwyer the center and Hanower the right. Over more trenches when Hanny called : “Mike, is this the place ?” Mike said it was but there was nothing to be seen, so they returned. In the morning’ one of the boys found a white cat straying around, but Mike still insists it was a spy. The same evening an important question arose. Where to sleep. Most of the boys were for sleeping in the trench, but McCaffrey said he was going to pitch a tent. After some wrangling Mac said, “We’re out of the line of fire. I will sleep in a tent. If it’s good enough for me it’s good enough for you.” Nevertheless the bunch hit the trench and in a few minutes Fritz sent a couple over. They sounded close and Mac asked where they landed. Chorus from the trench : “We are out of the line of fire.” Then one broke a few feet away and Mac must have heard the shrapnel whiz by. Anyway he was in a trench in no time. Mess Sgt. Dann was wounded that evening and several others had mighty narrow escapes.
The Major, seeing our position was too open, ordered the guns moved to the more sheltered spot further up the hill. The men were able to live very comfortably here in the little cliff village, reported to have been built by the Italians. Shelters were built all along the cliff completely protecting one from the enemy fire. Heavy reinforced steel roofs covered the buildings and some contained fireplaces, making it possible to have cozy little feeds around the fire. The cliff was so steep that the shells now passed completely over and splashed into the marshy valley to our rear. Rations were rather scarce at this time and many of the men got the habit of taking in other kitchens; famous among these were Messline Leeb and Fountain Pen Van Orden. In fact, Sgt Klein lost sight of Van till we moved.
Our Night in No : Man’s Land
A depressed feeling comes to one while passing through a shell-torn area. One becomes grouchy and irritable and feels the weight of his pack as he plods along the road. One is out of luck with the world in general. We left La Harazee Sept 30, about nine o’clock in the evening, walking along in the darkness and passed through Vienne la Chateau up the hill around the hair-pin curve, then down a slight slope where we came out upon a shell-racked country. The road was torn so that the cannoneers were often called to assist on the wheels of the guns, and then take up the march again stumbling along in the night. Finally we were compelled to halt as the French were blocking the road. The night started cold and windy and we were due for a frost. At the order to turn in for the night all of us tried to find some sort of shelter in the trenches at the side of the road. But upon examining these we found them filled with barbed wire and water and smashed to bits. We decided to roll up for the night on the roadside. This was one of our worst experiences for, after resting for a short time, one would become
so numb that the only relief possible was dancing on his toes to get the blood circulating. What an agony of waiting. No fires could be built so near the front lines and the night turned into one long shiver. As dawn began to break our spirits did not rest much on seeing our surroundings. Deep shell-torn trenches partially filled with water and barbed wire entanglements all a4ong their front seemed to speak of the efforts it took our men to pass over this country. Great shell holes lay close together and oft’ in the distance the trees were stripped and broken from the shell fire.
How we blessed that kitchen when it made its appearance next morning and the hot coffee brought our spirits back to normal. The march continued to the position selected for us at Moro Lager. Here we had real dugouts and a hot-water shower bath. Some of the shelters were marvels of construction : Electric lights, bath-tubs, wall-paper, etc. Here we were called upon to fire for the relief of the Lost Battalion. We fired to clear a lane through the wire which surrounded them. We got quite a jolt when the word came in to check up data, that friendly heavy artillery was firing into the Battalion. Followed a prompt and eventful investigation which fortunately cleared the regiment of being responsible for the fire. Capt. Crane returned to the battery at this time. What he welcome he received! We were glad to have old Teddy with us again. He did not fail us in our anticipations, for, ever after, he acted like a father to us.
Ten days later, on Oct 11, the Huns were on the retreat again and we advanced to our Grand Ham position. All the preparations for the move were made by noon, and after having mess, we started forward. Our line of march took us through the woods to the left of the ravine where the Lost Battalion had been surrounded, then up a steep hill. Along the road side lay groups of French soldiers, the victims of machine-gun bullets. We came out of the woods into an open rolling country that took us downgrade to the town of Lancon. Engineers were resting in this town and the street was lined with supply trucks and motor lorries. Just the other side of the village the battery halted on a horseshoe curve along a vast meadow. Off in the distance the guns were heard firing at the enemy. This halt was made as a French outfit had taken our selected position and our officers had to go forward on a reconnoitering expedition. At their return the march was resumed. The road now had an upgrade which came to a wooded hill and it was behind this hill that our guns were placed.
We had been here a short time when Brig Gen McClosky arrived in his car and deemed it advisable for us to take a more forward position in order to follow the Germans more closely should they again retreat. Capt Crane, who had received an injury to his leg, was unable to go forward, so Lt Hyde was sent on this mission. The spot selected by him was opposite the town of Grand Ham. Preparations for a new march were made and we continued down the road by Ferme Malaisses and came to a halt opposite the town. Our guns went a short distance past the entrance to the position and had to be unlimbered and turned in the narrow road. Capt Crane, with his leg still making it difficult for him to get around, directed the installing of the guns on the hillside. When this was done tents were pitched in the brush nearby. Our ration cart arrived at dusk and we ate mess in the darkness. Then all settled themselves for the night. But there was very little sleep, for about nine o’clock the Germans started a fusillade of shells which were evidently intended for the road directly to our rear and the shorts began to fall around the guns and tents.
One’s feeling of security vanishes as he lies in his shelter-half with pieces of shell casing whizzing all around him. Shell after shell came over. The noise of the bursts was deafening and all wondered how much longer their luck would hold good. As we look back at this experience it seems like a nightmare. Private Fischer was hit by one of the jagged pieces of steel and received a bad wound in the thigh, and suffered intense pain.
Others had narrow escapes that night. The tent of Sergeants Stickle and Hark was torn to shreds just after they had jumped out of it. Cpls Grunewald, Schnackenberg and Canavan and Privates Patterson, McCarthy, A., Spencer, Alulkeen, Tetley, Talley, Clarkin and Heiz and many others had narrow escapes. Heitz’s rifle which lay beside him was broken in pieces. Private Trant was hit by a piece of stone flying through the air after a burst which fractured his arm. A piece of shell came through the shelter-half that Corporal Downey and Privates Kinney and Wardwell were under, and hit Wardwell’s cartridge belt which lay beside their heads. Private Spencer’s slicker was torn to ribbons; it was lying over the entrance of his tent. All wondered by what act of Providence most of us escaped injury and death at this road combing by the Germans.
As this interruption fire promised to be a steady affair, the guns were moved the next day. Numbers 1 and 2 were placed in a ravine nearly and 3 and 4 on the hill above. A CP and telephone dugouts were built and each man dug himself in the slope. The battery’s work at this position received the praise of the High Command, as targets were received and shot at with such accuracy that we could claim a big part in the capturing of Grand Pré. Sergeant Beckerman’s instrument detail under the supervision of Lieutenant Hyde was kept busy night and day in this position figuring the numerous targets that kept coming over the wire. The work was so steady all night that the CP was moved to the Instrument Detail’s shelter, about thirty feet from the guns.
Problems would come in at 0200-H to be fired at 0215-H. Corporal Christunas would wake them. They would sit up in bed (?), grab maps, log book and tables, work up the dope, hand it out to Christunas on pieces of paper, fall back and be asleep again as the guns pounded out the problem. You infer they forgot to put out the candle ? No need to. The guns did that later. This resulted in a night and day grind for all the cannoneers and ammunition detail.
The “Top Kick” caught a bad cold while up at Grand Ham. Got his blouse wet. No, not water ; tears. Levy, our chance importation from the coast artillery, had been steadily kept back at the echelon ; we all thought to his great pleasure. But we had this noble spirit all wrong. One epic day he showed up with the ammunition detail. That night he asked the sergeant if he had to stay up with the guns. “No,” he says, says he, in his gentle way, “back you go deliberately.” Then came the deluge as the hero broke into tears and loudly wailed : “I don’t wanner go back. Here I get a chance to do my bit at the front and you wanner send me back to the echelon.”
Our echelon was opposite Ferme Malaisses, and German shells had been passing with plenty of clearance. Sergeant O’Brien and Corporal Segal were sleeping in one of the fourgons with Setleis and Rosenberg under it; nearby in their ark were Corporal Wilson and Private Spinner. Suddenly shells began to fall short and they immediately hit for cover, dressed only in ODBVDs. When safely behind some tall trees, Sergeant Foran came running up and asked with a little nervous shiver for a cigarette. In order to hide his real feelings he complained of its being cold. All laughed afterwards, as the night was very warm. A shell went through the spokes of a wagon wheel on the road opposite them, breaking the leg of a fellow who was under it, but fortunately it was a dud. The YMCA man who was in the wagon did not believe in duds and left in the direction of Malaisses farm never to be seen again.
The K of C at Grand Ham
This is a good place to mention something about the Knights of Columbus. Too much cannot be said of the various welfare associations that did so much for the morale of our armies. Certain organizations had the knack of not saying much, but being on hand when they were needed most. And where would that be but around the front lines. Paris or any other city with its complete assortment of canteens, soldiers’ hotels, and theaters for the AEF were not the things by which these organizations were judged. For they all had things of that sort in the big towns. But it was incidents like the following that made an organization solid with the soldier : one morning two auto trucks pulled up alongside the road not far from our position. We were not surprised to find it was the K of C. One truck was loaded with luxuries, the other fitted up as a kitchen and counter by which to dispense hot cocoa, cigarettes, chewing gum and writing materials – free. We knew in a general way we were to be relieved shortly. The K of C acting on a hunch got there a couple of days before our infantry were relieved. So these old fellows, I seldom saw a young man with the K of C, started serving the artillerymen in the neighborhood and the various infantry details which were continuously using that road. Due to the steep hills along this road the Boches had poor luck in his effort to destroy it. That was not saying he did not try. Quite the contrary. One morning I came across a telephone pole cut off clean as a whistle live feet from the ground by a spinning shell splinter. And the day before the relief Jerry put a shell smack through the K of C truck. It was during a period of intense activity by our artillery, and the K of C had had no time yet to dig shelter for themselves. The damage was slight, so on the day our infantry was relieved by the 78th Div. they were prepared for as exhausted, ragged and unkempt a bunch of lighters as they had ever seen. After nineteen days of exposure to night frost, mud and loss of sleep in a machine-gun front, they were interested in nothing. I saw them come down the road in single file looking neither to the right nor left following the man ahead like sheep.
The K of C man called to the leader to “come and get it.” He went over and stopped. The men in back followed over and stopped, not knowing or caring what was up. And so the line passed by, getting what they wanted most, something to smoke and something sweet to drink. They did not look up with gratitude in their eyes and pour forth thanks or anything like it. But the cigarettes had K of C printed on them and when they got where they could sleep and gradually become normal again, you can bet they remembered. And right there an impression was made which would make them talk in only one way – that when they were most needed, the K of C were there.
It was not long before a German garden was discovered in Grand Ham and a salvaging detail was sent over the long wooden bridge that led across the marsh and into the town. They returned with excellent cabbage, turnips and carrots, which were used to great advantage in a stew. Grand Ham was drawing considerable attention of the Germans and shells were continually exploding in the town. They succeeded in hitting an old ammunition dump and it caused a great racket as the bullets exploded.
Grand Pré was a rail center of the Germans and was another stronghold similar to Bazoches. Machine-gun nests constantly stopped the infantry’s advance and many an American lost his life in his effort to capture them. Our targets were mostly these nests and before long the artillery had them so cleaned up that the capture of the town was made possible. All the time we were at this position it rained and the mud was so thick that it made the handling of shells an extremely difficult task, but the men went to it with a will and there was never a time that shells were lacking. It was here on October 17th that we were replaced by the 78th Division, 309th Artillery and started back for a rest at La Harazee. The next day we stopped at La Harazee and occupied the dugouts constructed by the French some three years before. It was no rest, for we immediately were put to work to clean up four years’ filth which had accumulated around the area. Then when Squads East and West seemed imminent we were told to back up and go forward. We had left the line October 17th and had had only five days of so-called rest. The 24th found us rapidly going forward, in fact so fast that we outdistanced the courier who was to tell us where to halt. After going nearly into the German lines we were marched back some kilos to camp and the next morning we took position at Pylone, near Chatel Chehery. It was one of those bright sunny mornings (we have ’em in France), an ideal morning for the Hun to take a chance to come over and snap C Battery with his Vest Pocket Kodak.
Standing by the rolling kitchen was Gus Clark who had just dropped in for a visit. Gus had been careless this morning; he had forgotten his iron helmet. Just then the droning of a Hun plane was heard 2973 meters up. Corporals Grunewald and McInery, aware of their responsibility as noncommissioned officers, saw Clark’s predicament and from the cover of a nearby tree yelled, Take cover. Gus, who above all was a man of action, made a snap decision, opened the oven door and poked his head in, thereby coming to complete protection. Immediately afterward Gus refused several flattering offers from the Regimental Show. Twas here we first heart Rothschild’s wild rumor Bulgaria Quits. Some bets were made as to the finish of the war. More optimistic ones fixed the date as Thanksgiving, and they sure were right. Then came the last barrage at 0530 of Nov 1. The last shot fired by our battery was at 0715 Nov 2, by Gun N° 1, Sgt Bergen in charge. We had wiped out the last nests of machine guns and the infantry was rapidly advancing and we started to move. Passing through Marcq, St. Juvain, Champignetille we were forced to halt near Verpel on account of the traffic. This time the Boches was really going some, the doughboys were following in motor trucks. We passed Verpel (Thenorgues), Bar, Buzancy, Harricourt and Sommauthe.
We arrived in Thenorgues about six o’clock in the evening and by rapid work managed to lay the guns in a side lane. The advantage of this position was that it afforded shelter behind the high stone wall in the event of the Huns shelling us. The fourgons were parked in a court yard and the men were billeted in the buildings surrounding’ this yard. All that night the steady stream of cannon and supply lorries rumbled past. This kept up all the next day and again we were sitting at nightfall in various rooms with windows and doors covered to keep the candle light from leaking out. Suddenly the guard shouted “Lights out ! Plane overhead”. At this order we all put out our candles and sat in the darkness to await results, the plane could now be heard above us and by that uneven hum of the motor we knew them to be Germans. The buildings then began to tremble at the explosions that followed, for Jerry’s bombing squadron were opening up on us and dropping them in the fields nearby. All who have had shells and bombs flying their way will agree that if it were up to them, they would choose the shells for they seem mild in comparison to the horrible din caused by exploding bombs. A great feeling of relief came to us when we heard the steady stream of machine-gun bullets coming from our planes as they entered the battle and successfully drove the Huns back from our area. Then lights again appeared and all one could hear was that constant rumble of wheels still going along on the main road, through the town toward the front. Still no sign of halt in the stupendous retreat.
The battery was in the advance of the general onrush of artillery which was coming up in the wake of the Germans. From that crest of the hill the little town of Vaux could be seen nestling in the valley. This had been a base hospital for the Germans while they had occupied this territory. The road now wound down a gradual slope into Sommauthe which we passed through just behind our infantry only to be held up on the other side of the town. Our advance had been rapid to suit the strategical positions. So we were held here pending further orders.
We camped at Sommauthe among the willows on very wet ground just below the town. It rained continually all the time we were in this position and the mud became ankle deep. But by this time we were used to this French encumbrance and often wondered what it would feel like to step on solid ground. Released French refugees trooped by us on their way to the rear. Some old women the age of our grandmothers trudged by with all their household belongings on their backs, bending under the weight of an old clock, kitchen pots or some old family relic they had been able to save from German pillage. Girls at the age of sixteen were leading small children. These pitiable illustrations of German Kultur were assisted along by our soldiers who sometimes pushed their wheelbarrows or carried large bundles done up in Gypsy fashion. All these sights embittered us toward our enemy. One little fellow had lost his father during the invasion by the Germans and now his mother had been killed by one of our own shells as we bombarded the Germans. He was now a little orphan – only another added to the long list.
Along toward evening of the first day we were shivering in our wet blankets when the report of a gun was heard a short distance ahead of us. The shells screeched over our heads, exploding in the town near our head quarters. This continued at regular intervals and all knew we had a German sniping gun to contend with. This was repeated the next night only they changed their program by sending them closer to our position, but this gun met its doom by being captured by our infantry who surrounded it in the dense brush which hid the piece. Then on past La Besace and into position near Raucourt where our guns could reach Fritz near Sedan on the East bank of the Meuse River. It was here that the battery unanimously awarded Cpl Abie Rutkovsky a leather medal for his expert shooting of the machine gun. Abie shotted a Huns’ plane making for an observation balloon and immediately called his crew to parade rest. He didn’t want to fire until the plane was away from the observers, so as the Hun Hew away Abie opened tire. Hun disappears but Abie continues to fire until the balloon falls in flames. No, he did not bring down the balloon, but the incident brought him fame.
The cold became intense and each morning the ground was covered with frost. Those brave ones who like Sgt Sheehan took their shoes off on going to bed had some experience like this : Top Kick. What are you doing in that tent, Sheehan, when I tell you to report ? Come out of there. Sheehan. J. C. !!! How the h… am I going to report when these shoes are frozen stiff. One genius even built a fire in his hikers.
Finally word came that the armistice had been signed. At eleven o’clock on the 11th silence reigned. There was very little rejoicing. Most of us had very little faith in the rumor. It was a little too much to believe. Some were thinking of home. Anyhow we were allowed to build fires at night and this was a great comfort to us after the long days of mud, rain and cold. The first few days everybody was strangely agitated. The unending silence, never the sound of shot or shell, not even a call for the gun crews. Plainly peace was a strange thing. No excitement or noise or thrills.
Homeward Bound ?
We move back a short distance taking billets in an abandoned Hun Barracks near La Besace. Here we sent our horses to another division and prepared for home. Some bets were offered that we would be home by Christmas but nobody said what year. On the 20 we started for Marcq; all our stuff was taken in motor trucks, so we were traveling light. Stopped one night in Verpel and on the next day arrived at Marcq where we found O’Brien’s circus billeted very comfortably. After policing the area as usual we settled down to drilling. Thanksgiving was celebrated by a royal dinner of camoufake Canned Willy and Hardtack. At night we had Lemon Extract à la Vin Blanc. However, the fine speech of Col Winn and the Mayors of Marcq and St Juvain furnished us with some enjoyment and tended to keep up our spirits.
Nov 30 found us on our way to Autry where we slept over night, boarding big American box cars in the morning. After a twenty-four-hour ride we got off at Latrecey, staying over night and marching for Dancevoir early next morning. Dancevoir is a pretty village settled in between the hills on the bank of the Aube River. The river was mostly all over the village. After a few days of cleaning up we started the eternal grind of drilling and learning how to be soldiers. Oh, it was wonderful, the mere thought of it, “learn how to be a soldier”.
The Dancevoir Street Cleaning Dept. was organized and the fearless Hun Killers reveled in the streets filled with mud and gooey. Then there were the Road Tailors. We mended roads by the yard. It was a very dry job. Several of the tailors had to go down the road to get some tools. Around mess time that night they showed up very happy. In Upton they always predicted we would be motorized. They were correct. Three months after the Armistice we were Motorized. We were issued a roaring, crashing collection of machinery called Holt Military Tractors. Followed by a most jolting rumor 77th Div Army of Occupation.
But as there is an end to most things, so our time came. The guns, tractors and other material were to be turned in. Everybody on the job, clean up the junk and off to Latrecy. We must have done good work for the Chief Inspector of Artillery complimented the regiment saying that, in seventeen years of his experience as chief inspector, he had never seen turned in material in as good condition as ours was. A compliment, I should say.
The Peavers of Battery C
Aside from the splendid record made while at the front, nothing did more to make the 306th FA known throughout the AEF, than did the work of our talented actors. It is almost impossible to conceive how these fine textured mortals with the temperament of the true artist, these men who have struggled behind the footlights rather than behind the shovel, are the same men who lugged and greased the shells which rammed Kultur hack down the German throat.
There are those who argue that conditions at the Front with regard to rations were a distinct advantage to these gentlemen of the Rialto : but this is but a mean reflection based on that foolish old idea that an actor don’t eat. Unlike other artists of the AKF these talented boys of C Battery refused to leave the Lorraine Front when a call was sent out for professional entertainers. When interviewed at that time by representatives of the YMCA our boys told them in plain and unmistakable terms that “Our guns are laid and we are prepared to stand behind them …When the last German takes his foot off French soil we will consider ourselves free to discuss the stage”. In these few words innocently spoken, yet full of determination can be found the sentiment and fighting spirit of every man in Battery C. When the Armistice was signed our Thespians were informed that having fulfilled their obligation as fighting men they were now free to follow the stage. But the mere signing of the Armistice was not sufficient. We quote their reply (at that time censored) : “The signing of the Armistice is not without significance, however, not until the papers are signed, sealed and delivered will be accept Special Duty.” And they didn’t. That the German secret service was not entirely disrupted was evidenced by the haste with which the Armistice was sealed and delivered.
At Dancevoir, Spencer, Kinney, Gallagher and Wardwell gave a parting look down the bore of their rifles and, with tears streaming down their cheeks, turned their most useful weapon over to Sgt O’Brien. The war was over. We were not over ; but to help fight homesickness the boys of the AEF were now to be entertained. And they most certainly were. When the show reached the SOS they were taken in hand by the YMCA and most lavishly equipped with properties and costumes. Our chorus girls wore simple little Paris frocks, but the latter were not sold by weight. That sterling comedian, Bert Spencer, will long be remembered for his Irish wit at the expense of the officers. And who can forget Harry Gallagher not only for his singing with the Liberty Players but for the many hard march made lighter by a song for the tuneful Harry. Hubert Kinney, whose interpretive dancing was a revelation made more startling by his excellent female impersonations. Kinney in skirts was some peach. Ask any officer for instance. And Nelson Wardwell, who proved himself a tuneful and charming chorus girl, will linger in our memory. The initial performance of the 306th FA Show or Liberty Players as they came to be better known was given at Dancevoir in the charming month of January. A committee, or let us say delegation. (of dramatic critics was named by the Battery to attend the occasion and report their findings to the Top Kick. The findings were as follows :
“A success – full of spice.” (Ralph Zartman)
“One glorious and stupendous display of beauty.” (Benjamin White)
“A very risque, full of pep and ginger.” (Aldelbert Beeman)
Liberty Players Attract Packed Houses at Tours
Present Big Time Burlesque Which Keeps Audiences in Continual Uproar
The Herald’s Correspondent
Tours, Thursday. : From Whizz Bang to Footlights,” featuring “The Liberty Players” of the 306th Field Artillery, 77th Division, is playing to packed houses this week, despite the fact that the great SOS Championship Boxing Tournament is taking place also this week in Tours. It is big-time burlesque from start to finish. The Jew comedian is taken by George Rosenberg and the Irish laugh-maker by Bert Spencer. They keep their audiences in continual uproar. The hobo tenor singing for a drink is there with two good songs. The show is divided into three “elevations,” the first scene taking place on the roof-garden of the Biltmore Hotel, New York. Sam Mitchell, producer, sings a really clever parody ragtime on the “Sextette from Lucia” as the opening number. Without a doubt the real feature of the show is the dancing of Hubert Kinney, billed as “Mlle Combien, a Whizz Bang.” This lad from Alabama has studied under the best masters from both America and Europe. His act is being lengthened in response to popular demand. Spencer and Rosenberg demonstrate that they are old-timers in the way they dance their various eccentric numbers. They took a good-natured crack at a party of Congressmen, who were guests of honor, by saying that the latter had come to France to get a drink since the country had about gone dry. Rosenberg, in the song of “The Kaiser,” gets a big hand as does Spencer in the song, “Everything is Peaches Down in Georgia.” The old friend who recites stirring and pathetic poetry is also there in the shape of Peter McElroy. This is the first time that the show has gotten out of the Man’s area, and judging from the reception it is getting from the Tours audience it will go all over the AEF Circuit. The first week in February found us deep in reviews, inspections and all that. Then came the day that Gen McClosky left us for the Army of Occupation. After a short speech he read to us his general order as follows :
Headquarters 152nd Brigade Field Artilllery
American Expeditionary Forces
5th February, 1919.
General Order # 1
In relinquishing command of the 152nd Field Artillery Brigade, the Brigade Commander desires to publish in orders his appreciation of the work done by its members. Entering the service at Camp Upton, drilling for weeks without guns, caissons or horses, you applied yourself with a determination to do well which boded ill for the Boches. At Camp de Souge, your work won the merited praise of your French instructors. In the quiet of the Baccarat sector you learned the whistle of hostile shell. But it was in the Vesle that you received your baptism of tire and your reply showed the Boches that here was a foe to be reckoned with. In that long march from the Vesle to the Argonne, with sleepless nights and long distance, you acted like veterans and won the praise of French and Americans who saw you. On Sept 24 you entered the great Argonne forest which for four years had belonged to the Boche. And here, regardless of privations and discomforts, unmindful of personal danger, you manned your guns and gave the death blow to the Kaiser’s ambitions. From August 2nd, when you left the Baccarat sector, until November 11th, when the Armistice was effective, you marched overland 340 kilometers, gained 71 kilometers from the enemy in battle and had only five days of so-called rest. This is, indeed, a record to be proud of. But to it, there must be added the praise which Brigade, Division, Corps and Army Commanders have given you. No matter where the Infantry was, you always had guns in position to fire in front of them and there was always plenty of ammunition close at hand. The accuracy of your fire and cleverness in moving your guns were visible to all, but behind this your Brigade Commander saw the hardships, the difficulties and the sources of worry which confronted you. All these, however, you overcame because you were determined to win. With a full appreciation of this, your Brigade Commander congratulates you on your glorious accomplishment and your magnificent spirit. To have commanded you through this victorious career is, indeed, an honor and a privilege.
Brigadier General, USA
As brilliantly as the achievements of our battery had shone forth at the front, Battery C really came to its own on the arrival of the tractors. These giant, clattering iron horses came to us late in December while we were still taking the celebrated mud baths at Dancevoir. Shortly after our coming to this mud center, a call was sent by our battery commander for all men who could prove that they had had some previous experience as operators of mechanical contrivances. Thirty-six tried and true men instantly responded to the call. Their qualifications were as follows :
Deck-hands on a tug-boat 1
Mechanician on Ingersoll watches 1
Umbrella menders 1
Scissor sharpener, 2 (one good with knitting needle)
Cornet player, 1 (also good with the flageolet)
Pots and Pans for old clothes man 1
Six vin-blankers from Marcq
Tight-rope walker 1 (from either end)
Engineer on merry-go-round 1
Hat-check boy in a Synagogue 1
Chinese laundryman 1
Piano and base-drum player 1 (carries own instruments)
Bartenders, 2 (carry own samples)
Man who once saw a picture of a tractor 1
This carload of science was immediately put under the care and attention of Corporal Soder and sent post haste to the coast for our tractors. Picture our feelings of mingled pride and joy as we stood in wonder and awe, and witnessed the return of our chauffeurs with the tractors as they came lunging down the road, plowing through the mud, with their flaming exhausts flaming and exhausting as only flaming exhausts can flame and exhaust when urged on by exhausted drivers. Confidence returned to us as we now saw that we would be able to cope with the great battles now to be fought in the SOS. After some more or less (mostly less) important maneuvers and chamois battles our tractors were dusted off and sent back to the Paris Museum where tourists can now see them hob-nobbing with such masterpieces as the Duchess of Queensboro, the statue of Heinze’s Pickle by Hugo Catsup and the bas-relief in putty showing a pickled herring in a death grapple with a Tom and Jerry by Bell Nrinkley.
That Pig Roast
Here it is just as we got it from Rosenberg. Rosie thinks unfair discrimination was used in keeping him orthodox. At Dancevoir outside food was becoming so scarce that the French were taking their poultry to bed so as to be sure to have them in the morning. All neighboring villages were being combed for the wherewithal for a “pomme de terre” feed. With these conditions in mind imagine Rosenberg’s surprise to see the Three Musketeers, Wolf, Halperon and Alberts, pussyfooting up the road behind Morris Segal, the latter tightly clasping a squealing porker in his arms. Rosenberg after recovering his speech hurried over and inquired the chances of entering the syndicate. To Rosie’s chagrin the Board of Directors was full, for he received the amiable reply, ‘Where do you get that stuff ? This pig only has four ribs.”
Feb 7 : Yes, we left Dancevoir. Been there two months. Just sixty-six days too much. Knew we were going to move. For it started to rain, hail and SOS right after we received our traveling orders. And those packs ! Oh ! boy, we never knew, we never knew. After a couple of practice hikes with “full” packs figured we might possibly make it. You know before each hike the barracks were looked over and all extra equipment burnt up. But there was no extra stuff’ left there. Most of our wash was down at Margaret’s ; and the morning before the hike we saw a string of visitors to Madams Dulait, Deswoofs and Alonsoor Coniak’s to leave various lumpy packages for a few moments. This sort of explains the balloon-shaped packs the morning; we left Heavy ! My sainted aunt ! Thought I was doing Cannoneer’s Post and with an OA on my hump. The first thirty kilometers was the hardest and after we passed the two-mile post we were bowlegged. Reached Latrecy with DiSalvo’s and Rein’s packs on Lt Hyde’s and Scott’s backs, but the rest showed themselves good losers in this little joke and stuck it out. Little DiSalvo went to the hospital car. The rest us couché in the hay. Before leaving, visited the YMCA at the station and came away minus five francs as usual. Fortunately we had beaucoup hay. No steam heat in hommes and chevaux (40&8). Had a summer car next to us with “lace a-a-awnings and lace curtains to keep off the sun” as Chisel Robinson said. Oh yes, the Chief had it all doped out. If we were to be thirty days at Le Mans he was going to march right up to the Dental Infirmary and have the rest of his m-o-o-lars yanked out. That first night was a kuku. Wonder we didn’t all freeze. Probably we would have in second class. But only the French travel second class. We travel “fourth.” However, we smoked cigarettes and bet which way the train was going next, backward or forward. Chisel was laying on Cashman’s and Bauer’s feet and about four pairs of other feet distributed up his spine. He was too far up in the air. Feared his tin particulars would freeze. So he stood guard at the door the rest of the night.
Feb 8 : Had an argument as to where we were. Passed sign said Monteley. Saw a freight car sidetracked near a station. No houses. Still it must be a town. Looked up map. Found Montviller, Moreil, Monte the Monk, Monte Carlo, but no Monteley. Decided that town did not subscribe to the road map people. Later on passed Clamecy. Well that was something like. So we are going west ? To Le Mans ? Isn’t that nice ! Probably get home before 1920 after all. What, the Leviathan left last week ? Then if we stay two weeks at Le Mans and at St Nazaire a week we will – let me see – eight days to go over; take a week to unload and load and eight days back. Why, boy, we are right in line to go back on the Leviathan. And he is off in day dreams, the cold and cramped position forgotten. Sitting packed in the hay, our packs just out of reach over our heads. Dorgan digs out some jam and bread from the pile in reach. Do we get up to pull out our messkits ? Far be it from us to go to such huge exertions. Beckerman digs out a knife and opens the jam. Canavan is slicing a twelve-inch loaf with a two inch knife and getting expected results. And so the jam sandwiches are born only to perish down empty stomachs. Ganetes down at the other end of the car suddenly remembers he has not played poker for twenty four hours, so tries to inveigle Joyce and Danti Guffanti into a game of “two and one.” Nothing doing. That farewell dinner of pommes de terres frites and “God help us” was a heavy drain on those Dollar-a-Day men. So gathering up Kehoe on the way he clambers down to our quiet sector with a pack clenched between his teeth to start a game with those five Rushers Beckerman and Canavan. A blanket for a table and Spinner’s gas mask for a jackpot holder. Dijon and St Dizier fifty centime notes going out of favor. No good in St Nazaire, say we. Game called on account of mess. Opened beans this time. Boy. they were cold. Chisel finds a piece of ice in them. Back we go to jam and corned beef.
Stopped at Vierzon. Quite a station. Swell Jane in fur coat and toque makes an impression. The fur coat and toque, not the Jane. Whiskers was with her. The Front lost a lot of barbed wire when he left. Three chaps joined our car. Were put out of the held clerks’ car by the substitute regimental Sgt Maj. Quite good at substitution. Big American car, but he complained that with the field desks it was too crowded and they had a lot of work to do. Might have moved the desks. In fact they did as soon as possible. Sorry the SOS could not supply them with bunks. Traveling’ with troops is such a bother, you know. The hospital car was becoming pretty well crowded, so those best able rejoined their sections. Serra was the next arrival. Heard Vadala had a case of frost bite the night before. Took one of our many stops in a freight yard a little later. Several Frogs with suspicious bags and lumpy coat pockets talking to the fellows with one eye on Maj Fitz up at the head of the train. Can’t put anything over on the Maj. Oh, no. Court martial, dishonorable discharge and all that sort of thing. So they walk past him and down the other side of the train. Don’t know what they did when they got there, but they did it. On our way once more. Time to coucher for the night. The kitchen force goes about it in the usual way, to wit : Pack, Ganetes and Joyce lay out. Jerry and Bauer are fussing with that precious blanket. They finally compromise and stretch out poking their feet into the Chief. Follows a five-minute speech by the Chief while the precious pair worm their feet under his protesting back. Bauer leans back and makes connections with the rifles stacked in the corner. Bauer wants to put one rifle alongside of Chief Robinson but has no luck. Finally gets up to replace one of their private stock of jam which has fallen off the packs. Thereupon the whole line moves over to loosen up a bit; Joyce being in difficulties between Pack and Ganetes. Bauer tries to lie down again and finds that it’s all wrong, Jerry, it’s all wrong. Well, is it any wonder we never got to sleep at night ?
Feb 9 : Rumors we passed through Tours during the night. Look up the map. That is on the way to St Nazaire. Yes, we are way south of Le Mans. Begin to feel sorry we may have to go to St Nazaire and embark before the Leviathan gets back. Country looks green and fresh though there is some ice in the pools. Begins to look like “Sunny France” again. Passed through Saumur, the home of our big Artillery School, and on into Angers where we stopped. Right under Le Mans on the map. And then we turned north toward Le Mans. Yes, it was too good to be true. Luckily we pulled into Noyen well before dark, where we disembarked with quite some relief and set to furbishing up our packs so they would make a good impression when we get that review on our way through the town. First impressions would count a great way toward divisional priority in going home. Someone flashed by on a motorcycle. A young looking chap, but he had a silver star on his sleeve. An odd combination for a review. But a review it was, and the only one we got. A hike of about two kilos brought us well out into the country and finally we found ourselves divided into two sections and going in opposite directions. Shortly a mass of buildings loomed up and we were greeted by the watch-dogs. After pouring a liberal amount of sign-language French on the sleepy farmer he escorted us to the Maison Animal. Upon inquiring as to whether we were not depriving his animals of these lodgings he replied, “By no means, messieurs; eet ees too cold for them here, so I ships zem south in the winter.” He had the right idea, for those stalls were chilly. At once rumors began to circulate as to the probable length of our stay. And during the rest of our time there, those rumors materialized as – rumors. The most memorable thing that occurred was the strike of the “Historian Detail.” Headed by John Morris these illustrious gentlemen dropped the pen in favor of the pick, and for a time it looked as if the deeds of Battery C were to remain unsung. However, the wet drill grounds soon brought the historians to mediate, and thus a nasty situation was cleared up. Noyen will always be remembered for the shower of disciplinary orders we received. Foremost being the “Royal Order of the Shoe Dub.” “Dubbing” is the army shoe polish in the field; a gummy amber waterproofing that sticks where it is put, no matter where. So it must needs be conspicuous at that ceremonious formation called “Retreat.” The problem immediately arose how to cover that half mile from McCaffery’s and Mark’s billets over to the Chateau without getting the mud all sticky with shoe-dubbing. This was solved by taking the mud along on our shoes and while waiting for retreat to sound, to carefully manicure the “dogs of war” with our bayonets; the latter being the only thing not inspected at retreat. No sooner were we settled than a liberal supply of utensils and grub from the QM started the cooks fighting among themselves once more. Only this time they fought to see which billet had the best kitchen and could put up the best feed. Our ancient battery-fund was still hale and hearty, though its days were numbered. The argument was soon settled by the number of details that began to find themselves stranded in No 2 Billet around mess time.
The suburbs of Noyen will long remain a subject for intimate discussion. While the bungalows we occupied were not elaborate in their appointments they had an atmosphere of distinction which our previous humble dwellings lacked. Especially the atmosphere. However, after repeated house cleanings, and we were some little house cleaners, the pig-pens, cow-barns, doghouses and chicken coops retained only their useful features, and we finally had less than a thousand reasons for boiling our shimmies. The busy town of Noyen was a daily and nightly source of entertainment. Varying the monotony of army chow by going down to the Café de Boulle or Café de la Place for a dinner of milk soup, fried sausages, eggs and vin. Of course stopping first at Marguerite’s for an appetizer or so, and then on the way hack repeating the appetizers – probably for the breakfast next morning. Our own 306th Show and visiting regimental shows kept our minds off the Statue of Liberty waiting for us three thousand miles away.
Our Jockeys Leave for St Nazaire
While chronicling the social events of the day during Battery C’s sojourn at Noyen it would be a case of gross negligence, bordering on the criminal, on the part of the Historian Detail if they failed to record the expedition of our Jockeys to the turf events at Montfort. Picture the happiness and enthusiasm of the followers of the chase as they arise on the bright, clear morning of the hunt, filled with the anticipation of a gala day of sport across field and stream; picture their feelings of rare satisfaction told by the twinkle of the eye and the brisk rubbing of the hands as they view with keen delight the sight of the beagle hounds, who, anxiously awaiting the pursuit are already eagerly romping and sniffing about the barn yard. Picture this scene and you have the feelings of our Jockeys as they stepped forth from our paddock on the morning of April 2nd to attend the Grand Sweepstakes at Montfort. Without the tooting of horns, without the waving of flags, without the hokus-pokus usually attending such functions as related in the columns of society notes, these gay troubadors of the turf, these gentlemen of the whip and spur, our jockeys, strode forth with a spirit that yielded nothing to that of the blueblooded gentry of Bar Harbor or Palm Beach on the day of a meet.
Up with the bugle, a hastily though well prepared breakfast, a carefully creased blanket carried smartly under the left arm, a riding crop held jauntily in the right hand, a cigarette suspended nonchalantly from the lips, and our jockeys were off. The accompanying picture was snapped just as the boys stepped out. Ralph Zartman can be seen picking up in the rear, closely behind Walter Amo. Both of these riders hail from the New England States and each has brought many a thoroughbred across the line (picket) in a stirring finish. Both sit well up in the saddle.
It was indeed an envious group that cheerlessly saw our jockeys off and how we did wish that we too were born in the saddle that we also might be on our way to such a glorious and stupendous social event. It was rumored that the boys would go to Le Mans and there meet their steeds which they would subsequently escort to St Nazaire and thence home. This would have had our jockeys home toot sweet. But then the ways of the world are cruel. After tramping twenty-two kilometers to Montfort the boys each grabbed off a handful of horses and dragged them to Le Mans. In a few days the boys were again back in our own little barn-yard; and once more the pitchforks were humming merrily. When interviewed the boys made the following comments on the trip :
it was a gorgeous trip – Zartman
The zenith of entertainment – Hamilton
A gala occasion – Alled
Wouldn’t have missed it for the world – Beeman
Not to be surpassed even at Clayton – Amo
A great social event – White
One spasm of joy – Clark
An excursion never to he forgotten – Finn
Everything ran to form – Casey
A great dispeller of the bues – Dunn IV
One of my happiest moments – Haynes
A bacchanalian siesta – Arterberry
Great for an artistic temperament – Auger
Beyond all expectations – Rosenberg
The season’s triumph – Kolosok
Couldn’t have imagined such splendor – Shazvarey
The horses worked in true form – Leangos
A delirium of events – Drakias
So enchanting – Moran
Greatest of all turf displays – Henson
A blue ribbon for all concerned – Sfeffen
A great tribute to Montfort – Shopwell
Society succeeds at last – Merettrio
The ponies acted splendidly – Costa
Can you imagine it ? – Kopleman
Mar 17 : We were in that state of calm that means the utter loss of hope. It was so utter that even the most infectious rumor became nonpathogenic and died e’er it left the lips of the bearer. In other words if anyone came breezing in with some “inside dope” he would soon be told to “lay down’ and “where dya git dat stuff.”
Darling I am coming back
Silver threads among the black
Now that peace in Europe nears
I’ll be back in forty years
I’ll drop in on you some night
With my whiskers long and white
Yes, the war is over, Dear
And we’re coming back, I hear
Back at home with you once more
Say by nineteen twenty- four
Once I thought by now I’d be
Sailing back across the sea
Back to where you sit and pine
But I’m stuck here midst the wine
You can hear the gang all curse
War is hell but peace is worse
When the next war comes around
In the front ranks I’ll be found
I’ll rush in again pell mell
Yes, I will : “I will like Hell.”
First the 27th, then the 82d, the 30th, the 28th and finally the 42nd Divisions passed through and out before us. But when the Supply Co. began calling in condiment cans only to issue them again, hope was reborn. Always before a move as at Marcq and Dancevoir in the past, there come wave after wave of kit-inspections, issues and recalls of reserve rations, reading the articles of war, shirt reading, s.. a.. inspections, bunk inspections, bunker inspections, inspections, inspections…
And then came two short and snappy jolts to our innocent selves- paratyphoid inoculation and the passenger list. Both were knockouts. To see our brawny shell-tossers, men who used to coolly judge an oncoming shell whether it was worth while flopping to avoid it, I repeat, to see that excited line going pale as they bared their arm and faltered into the presence of that hypodermic needle which looked more like a grease gun. Well, it was enough to make one weep (with laughter) and wonder “When is bravery.” And that passenger list ! Thirteen copies to make up, all CAPITAL LETTERS, and one battle-scarred typewriter long since shot to pieces, with which to accomplish this tremendously important task. However, Cpls. Wilson and Spinner, our demon clerks, tore into the job in old-time form, went to bed in Equipment C and otherwise wasted no time in the busy days to follow.
Mar 17 saw us out on the drill field for the last time, pig-pens, stables and mud-holes left behind. There we lined up according to the passenger list five hours before train time. But part of that time was spent in a rattling game of baseball. “Sling packs” – “Fall in,” “Count off,” “Right by squads-march,” “Column left,” and we were on our way, the cooks in front to give class to the formation. That was a clever idea of Capt Willeford’s, for if that limber-riding, non-pack-toting kitchen could make it, there was no earthly excuse for the rest of the battery not keeping closed up. Passing through Noyen for the last time we bid good by to our French friends, and avoided paying for that pancake griddle we borrowed from the hardware store near the corner.
Arrived at the station a short spell before train time and stacked packs for a rest. Several of the German howitzers were parked along the station. The division had captured them at the Vesle and beyond. That noon after a light lunch of jelly sandwiches and cocoa from the YMCA girls, we were counted off into cars and soon on our way. During the business of hanging our packs and rifles on the rings and nails we did not notice there was no straw bedding around anywhere. However, we made ourselves a soldier’s bed of overcoats and fell to discussing the clever feeding system. It was our first experience on this style of train. Right after the engine came the kitchen car presided over by a staff of darky cooks. When mess time came the non-com in charge of each car had a brass tag. This drew rations for a car.
The first meal the train stopped and blew mess-call on the whistle. Cannot describe what mess call sounds like on a whistle, and certainly none of us heard it before, but here is the point, nobody failed to understand it. I know we were at the kitchen door right after, but already a line had formed. The darky took the check, shouted something into the depths of the car and two marmites of chow appeared. Next a marmite of coffee and then a sack of buns. But let us not digress. The lack of straw continued and that night some of us made up a hobo’s bed while the rest of us sat in circles around a gas mask or a box and played jackpot poker through the night.
A fairly straight and continuous trip brought us to Brest after nearly a year’s absence. The first sight of the port and those guys who always have the inside dope on the army, knew and could point out just which ship in the harbor we were going to take. Of course, with visions of our previous trip in mind it had to be the largest and best looking ship in the harbor, so we were ready to Listen Lester.
Saturday afternoon we detrained near the water’s edge and with mixed emotions contemplated that famous cliff-like road leading up to Camp Pontanezen. Before hiking to camp we were marched to a long railroad shed about a quarter of a mile away and after waiting around an hour marched out the further end of the station, around and back all the way to the mess hall of many kitchens, where we wasted no time, at least those of us who preferred other things than beans. Then back to our packs at the shed where fruit and souvenir vendors made the last desperate national effort not to have us go home without a Souvenir de France. We shouldered packs and took the hill up to camp with the usual delays which would never have occurred were we less anxious to get there. Our feelings now were, the quicker we get anywhere the quicker we get home. And we were not disappointed, for no sooner we reached what was once a few dilapidated stone huts and now a huge city of tents and barracks, than we were ordered to lay out our entire equipment for inspection. It was close to midnight and we were footsore and half asleep after reaching the tent city at the further end of camp. But as I said before, we were homeward bound and so in a mood to tolerate any fool thing at this unearthly though quite military hour. The inspection over with, the final check stood-one shoe-lace, one can of dubbing, and a couple of umbrella-handles missing. We retired-dog tired. However, let us not fail to note that before we retired the battery was formed and skirmishers sent out in every direction under the guidance of the supply-sergeant to procure and replace the missing articles. Suffice to say they were obtained and the equipment of the Beeman, Zartman and White was again complete. This enterprise, which has always been characteristic of Battery C, again brought the division back into the good graces of the embarkation officials and once more we were on the sailing list.
Sunday morning saw us up early and preparing for another final inspection before the final. Here let us stop a moment to record those features of Camp Pontanezen which stood out so strongly in contrast to the conditions that prevailed here before the dough boys called Uncle Sam’s attention to them. We struck the mess line for breakfast and found ourselves one of six batteries passing through as many kitchens. The Knickerbocker, Harvey House, Waldorf, Biltmore and Vanderbilt were the names of these tempting entrances, while the main thoroughfare leading to these kitchens was called Broadway. Could anything be better ? So much for a kick properly placed. Passing through we emerged with generous and well cooked portions into the mess-hall where we set down our mess kits on corrugated iron tablecloths. The only exit was past caldrons of boiling water where those mess-kits were washed clean. To our mess-hounds, at last, this must be paratlise. Beaucoup second was a standing invitation to those who had the patience to go through this model chow-mill again.
Later we went down to the “wringer.” Here we stripped and washed by the whistle. Here we were oiled, boiled, washed, rubbed, scrubbed and wrung out by the whistle. We returned to our tents only to be blown out by another whistle. This time to go down with full equipment, including shoe-dubbing, to receive the most thorough and by far the most important inspection of our stay in the army. We all know how we snapped to it on the inspection floor because we did not know what was coming next. They had us sure scared that time. As for the elaborate inspection ah, well, we walked in and walked out, that’s all. With the fatal exception of Sheehan’s canteen which being concave on one side for some reason which no one knew, not even Sheehan himself, the battery ”as a hole” was OK. We returned to our tents only to be called out and fall in for another inspection of curry-combs, toothbrushes and rifle salutes. Next morning our remaining francs were changed for good old greenbacks and jitneys. Most of us got our change in one piece. We were now prepared to leave this famous camp and we shall always remember it as an example of what could be done by Uncle Sam when the authorities were on the job.
As we stood there in the sun, all packed and only waiting the command to leave, with our eyes fixed in the direction of the ship and visions of home running through our minds, one of the most harrowing of things occurred. A doctor came down the hue with a beaker of clinical thermometers which he started putting one in each mouth. He was looking for temperatures. A high temperature and you stay behind and no doubt go through the whole heartbreaking mill again. When I had the flu I had a temperature for the first time. This was the second time. The thought was awful. In that hot sun it was enough to give you a high fever. But by leaving our mouths open, blowing on the bulb, and other first aid we came through without casualties. The epic hike to the boat was now in order and off we went, 128 to the minute, at 128 in the shade. We can never forget that hike. Once at the pier we soon took the lighters to embark on the palatial SS Agamemnon and bid a fond farewell to sunny France.
We left on Apr 21 1919, and arrived in Hoboken on the morning of the 29, over a year from the day we left the US Our trip over was uneventful except for the daily watch on the mess-line followed by “over the top” in the mess-hall. Entertainment was supplied throughout the trip by band concerts and our 306th Show. The sailors rigged up a billowy stage at the foot of the poop-deck where our actors gave their now famous performance of the 306th Jail and the Vamp on the Biltmore Roof. Needless to say our beauty chorus went strong with the gobs. They wondered at first where we got such wild Red Cross girls. It was along about here when a readjustment of officers for the homecoming promoted Capt Willeford to the Battalion Staff and gave us Capt Kenneth O’Brien. Capt O’Brien was really an old friend of ours, having been with us through all of our campaigns as an officer in our brother Battery D. Our arrival in the lower bay was timed for the morning. It found the Brigade lined up along the deck rails in battery fronts eagerly pointing out familiar landmarks and speculating whether we would pass the Statue of Liberty on our side or the other side of the boat. Oh, lady, lady, many a time since the armistice six long months ago we had planned for the event when we would have another look at you. And now a dream was about to be realized. Suddenly a fleet of tugboats, ferry boats and launches loomed up, crowded shrieking humanity waving banners and posters. Mere words cannot properly express our feelings as we stood there with lumps in our throats watching for the dear familiar faces among the crowd of delirious well wishers clinging to all parts of the boats. One man was standing in a life-boat waving his arms on all sides. It suddenly became apparent that he was semaphoring B-E-R-G-E-N over and over again. Others chose a more direct means of communicating, most familiar of which was the name of the soldier printed in block letters on a strip of cloth. The boat had come to a full stop in this part of the day where traffic was light so as to receive the reception committees. It now steamed up and drew away toward Hoboken. And we passed the Statue of Liberty on our side of the boat. What a royal reception the old girl received as we passed. One soldier noting how green the statue had become remarked : “How strange the old girl looks. She has grown moldy waiting for the 77th Div. to come home.”
Our arrival at Hoboken was marked by such outward signs as the blowing of whistles and the throwing of showers of paper clippings from the high buildings; by such inboard signs as the mobbing of the sailor who after we tied up at the dock tried to slip past us with American apple pie and ice cream under his jacket. Relatives were near the dock to meet us. And the Red Cross to give us a very tasty buffet lunch as we filed down one of the lower piers to the ferry-boat. While at every entrance, exit and opportunity along the whole trip to Camp Mills we received chocolate, chewing gum, cake and cigarettes.
Down the Hudson River and up the East River was a repetition of our arrival on the steamer. Every boat we passed blew its whistle and the passengers got excited. New Yorkers get excited on occasions, going under the Brooklyn Bridge a passing bridge train blew its siren all the way across; and an old fellow up in the stonework of the tower danced around waving his arms at the risk of a two-hundred-foot drop to the water below. Some diving operations were going on from a raft moored in the channel. The operators busy pumping air and attending the diver below, spied us. All work stopped and the workers leaving the diver to his fate began prancing about and waving their hands. A man stacking oxygen cylinders on the wharf stopped with the big idea of banging the cylinders together. Things were as quiet as possible under the circumstances on our ferry when the cook on a passing tug almost caused a riot when he brought out a case of Ehret’s and wanted to throw the bottles on board. So altogether the effect was beaucoup noise, but noise means no discomfort in the life of an artilleryman.
Landing at the Long Island station we were greeted by a huge throng of relatives and friends who took full advantage of the opportunity of embracing the boys as they marched down the gang-plank. It was a pleasant change from the cattle-cars of France to step on the commodious cars of the old LIRR (please note the phrase), and to be taken without a stop to Camp Mills. Upon arriving at Camp Mills we were at once subjected to an oration regarding the importance of remaining on the battery street. It was a dark night and the camp was a veritable city of tents – a step or two taken off the battery street and one would find himself positively bewildered in an attempt to orient the landscape. The result was he would soon be wandering aimlessly about, hopelessly lost, and later find himself a vagrant in the big city of New York. Many of our men had this unfortunate experience. Others took to the highways because the authorities failed to come through with the promised bath. At this stage there could be little excuse for the system at the shirt reading plant in this camp. Two days later the men began to find their way back and the making up of the morning report in the office was a scene more resembling a wild morning in an oil broker’s office, as one arrival after the other rushed in to have his name marked present on the roster.
After delousing things proceeded in a more military manner. Far be it from the editors to do justice to the parade in New York. That is history. It was good enough to make most of us reverse our opinions made in France about a parade over here. And that is saying something. Forming at Washington Square we marched up Fifth Avenue with rifles and fixed bayonets, and helmet held snappily on the left shoulder. As we came among the first in the parade and with fixed bayonets, it caused us no little amusement to hear the crowd remark : “Look, here come the dough boys, ain’t they grand.” At 110th Street we took special subway trains back to the old 69th Regiment Armory where our packs were. Weather was cool, the crowd warmhearted, the line of march in perfect order and we made the hike in the short time of forty-five minutes. The morning after we shouldered our equipment and went down to Camp Upton. Same old place in the main, but paved streets and a few new names and other things showed we had been away a long time. We went back to our former section around 16th Street and Fourth Avenue, and found ourselves in what used to be F Battery’s barracks. That evening saw many of us up at the Hostess House once more kidding the pretty cashier and consuming pie and ice cream as of yore. A large part of the out-of-town men had been left at Mills. After the smoke of battle had cleared somewhat at Mills we fondly imagined there were only thirty-five AWOLs unaccounted for. They were to be detained as guests of the government for an indefinite period. There was nothing decided about this and we had hopes of leniency for them under the circumstances. Friday morning we heard the worst when the roster came into the orderly room. Checking up the list showed a total of fifty-two names as absent without leave. Capt O’Brien had done all in his power to have the entire battery discharged at once. His efforts were appreciated by the men, but in spite of all the boys with the wanderlust were subsequently escorted to the Depot Brigade. What gloom floated over the bunch of us at this unsportsmanlike deal. And when the one or two of us who were left saw that perfect battery front “fall in” and “squads west” away, a feeling of lonesomeness came over us as if we were the ones left behind. They were mustered out the 17th of May.
After our arrival at Upton there followed two sleepless nights on bare cots, for with all equipment turned in except gas-mask, helmet and the clothes on our back we hourly awaited the order to go through that final mill, the physical inspection. At 0100 Saturday we fell in and marched down to the mill. Here we made out employment blanks, dashed over to the next barracks, stripped down to our dog tags, and with a card in each hand went dashing in review through a maze of medicos who poked us, tattoed us with blue pencils and then blandly asked if we were wounded yet. A wild session around a table upon which were three Bolsheviki shouting out names; and then we got the gate. That morning saw us down to the station where we were paid off, $60 bonus and 10 days pay for May. And talk about speed – as we advanced toward the paymaster’s table in single file, by elaborate signs and shouted instructions we were instructed what to do. As my name was called I jumped to the table and without saluting leaned over and shoved out both hands in a “gimme muh cheild” manner. The amount called, the hills were slapped into one hand and the change into the other by the two paymasters. Then out you go. They paid off 15,000 a day.
Then down to the station entrance where on May 10 1919, Capt O’Brien had the privilege of performing that most popular ceremony presenting us with our DISCHARGE PAPERS, and Chaplain Thomas, as we crossed the line, hid us “God speed, Air. Civilian.” And for once we were not AWOL.
SOCIETY NOTES AND ITEMS OF INTEREST – THE BATTERY AS IT IS
By Friend Alberts
Capt Crane – The Skipper
Lt Von Saltza – The Man of Wisdom
Lt Hyde – The Man of the Hour
Lt Klee – The Athletic Wizard
Lt Scott – Butts Manual
Lt Hunter – Officer of the Day
Sgt Dorgan – The Seeker : Close up, A Ten
Sgt O’Brien – Get Builer
Sgt Dann – Accordiny to the wind
Sgt Hark – The nightingale
Sgt McCaffrey – Well, I’ll tell you George
Sgt Kelleher – Avez vous Cognac ?
Sgt Beckerman – The Conscientious man
Sgt Klein – Always on the job. Service night and day
Sgt Immergut – The gun doctor
Sgt Sheehan – The Boy Farmer
Sgt Bergen – Quick Thinker
Sgt Foran – Soup Smeller
Sgt Stickle – Ammunition Connoisseur
Sgt McKeever – Regular Army – but drafted
Sgt. McNaught – The only good cop in New York
Cpl Rutkovsky – Balloon Hunter
Cpl Funck – Interpreter
Cpl Wilson – Paper Man
Cpl Romano – The Tango Lizard
Cpl Segal – He never lost an argument where shouting counted
Cpl Downey – Beau Brummel
Cpl Schnackenberg – On the job
Cpl Grunewald – Always hungry
Cpl Schmidt T. K. – Huh ! What ? Huh !
Cpl Soder – Mighty Mechanic
Cpl Christunas – He always begins with “T”
Cpl Canavan – Booster
Cpl Mclnerney – Soccer King
Cpl Bickman – Assistant Soup Smeller
Cpl Pastore – Too many numbers on the sight
Cpl Serra – Drives out
Cpl Cashman – I should worry; Cashman first
Cpl Daly – Looking out for himself
Cpl King – Lightning calculator
Cpl Morgan – Horse Doctor
Cpl Flynn – A peaceful man
Cpl Wolf – Fortune hunter
Cpl Moore – Takes it as it comes, good or bad
Cpl Ingulli – SOS
Mech Robinson – Toothless Chisel
Mech Fleigel – On the water wagon
Mech Houdlett – I did, I did – Banjo
Mech Spillane – Hammer
Sdlr Wiener – Slow but sure
Cook Bodkins – Talks on any subject
Cook Ganetes – Who shot Cock Robin ?
Cook Guffanti – No Seconds
Cook Pack – Bacon Counter
Horseshoer Grieme – Any seconds
Horseshoer Priem – Hungru Baby
Horseshoer Vogel – Completes the Hungry Trio
Bglr Rothschild – Bulgaria Quits
Pvt 1/c Alberts – Friend, you’re faded
Pvt 1/c Anderson – ‘It ‘im with a ‘iker
Pvt 1/c Bauer – I would if I could, but …
Pvt 1/c Berger – Silence is golden
Pvt 1/c Bilt – Desperate Dan, never missed a sick call
Pvt 1/c Brazaitys – He’s got the gimmies
Pvt 1/c Cathcart – Rides caissons bareback
Pvt 1/c Danow – Tough guy from Hester Street
Pvt 1/c Dillon – Ireland for its size
Pvt 1/c Dunn L. – Pigeon toes
Pvt 1/c Dwyer – Winged Feet
Pvt 1/c Ettinger – He’s a poet but doesn’t know it
Pvt 1/c Flett – Carload Charlie
Pvt 1/c Foster – Klein is locking for you
Pvt 1/c Gallagher – M. P. Caruso
Pvt 1/c Grieg – Tractor Killer
Pvt 1/c Habekost – Galloping Orderly
Pvt 1/c Halperon – Merchant of Venice
Pvt 1/c Flanower – Anything but the rifle
Pvt 1/c Heiz – Orderly to General Stickle
Pvt 1/c Imhof – Quiet Joe
Pvt 1/c Joyce – Chief of the bell hops
Pvt 1/c Kehoe – Always arguing
Pvt 1/c Kinney – Ballet Dancer
Pvt 1/c Krueger – He sold Cognac for four years
Pvt 1/c Leister – Motorboat soldier
Pvt 1/c Livingstone – Joyce’s secretary
Pvt 1/c McCarthy – A Flow is your little heart ?
Pvt 1/c McDonagh – Where’s my shoes ?
Pvt 1/c McLean – The Skipper’s favorite
Pvt 1/c Malanovvski – He discovered the “Liberator of Poland.”
Pvt 1/c Marino – Carmileo. I’ll fix you up tomorrow
Pvt 1/c Merritt – Got a chaw tabac ?
Pvt 1/c Mode – He loves horses
Pvt 1/c Morris – Stop i I m-m-m-ean it
Pvt 1/c Mulkeen – Stop arguing, Dillon
Pvt 1/c O’Connell – Ask me – I’ll tell you
Pvt 1/c Paterson – The breech block kid
Pvt 1/c Peter – Like a mason on the square
Pvt 1/c Ricken – Learning the bugle
Pvt 1/c Roche – Did they report me absent ?
Pvt 1/c Rosenberg – They made me first class
Pvt 1/c Ryan J. E – All around player
Pvt 1/c Sawickas – Not a Bolshevik
Pvt 1/c Schmidt, A. E – Outside of himself and Caruso
Pvt 1/c Setleis – I’ll fix it at cost price
Pvt 1/c Spencer – Jolly Bert, never missed a comeback
Pvt 1/c Spicer – Dark horse
Pvt 1/c Spinner – Carries a typewriter in his pocket
Pvt 1/c Springer – Don’t call me Ettinger
Pvt 1/c Tetley – Muscatel ? No – Yes – Oui
Pvt 1/c Valverde – Firing data expert
Pvt 1/c Van Orden – The Hunts Ball Fountain Pen
Pvt 1/c Wardwell – The Chorus lady
Pvt 1/c Weinberg – Con Merchant
Pvt 1/c Weymouth – When I was top kick
Pvt 1/c Whelton – Hey, Pall – sen !
Pvt 1/c Woodworth – The Greenpoint kid
Pvt Ailed – The Asthma Kid
Pvt – Amo – Stand pat
Pvt Arterberry – The guy that stuck is on Alberts
Pvt Auert – Giddap !
Pvt Auger – Beware of the Madamoiselles
Pvt Barrett – The midget pack carrier
Pvt Beeman – The medicine man
Pvt Casey – Chicago Jack’s partner
Pvt Chase – Where’s the Beaded bag, Clarence ?
Pvt Chomzyk – Lenine and Trotzky
Pvt Clark – Is he going or coming ?
Pvt Clarkin – A friend of Harks
Pvt Costa – Sunday details
Pvt Deutch – My new sign will be, “The Argonne Tailor.”
Pvt DiSalvo – Shake ’em up, Megiga
Pvt Drakias – Me kept the guns on the road
Pvt Dunn – Vin Rouge – No – But
Pvt Fedden – He eats hay and oats
Pvt Finn – Chicago Jack
Pvt Fitzpatrick – The Lightweight
Pvt Hamilton – The baker poet
Pvt Hanegan – The Bank
Pvt Haynes – Never kicks
Pvt Hazelette – Sherlock Holmes in disguise. Gironde !
Pvt Heege – Rubber-band Charlie
Pvt Henson – Change that step !
Pvt Hicks – Papa, where did you get that ambulance ?
Pvt Johannesen – From cook to mule skinner
Pvt Kelle – Throw him out at second, Gus
Pvt King, M. L – By Heck, Joe
Pvt Kolosok – Play ’em Tight
Pvt Kopleman – Well, nobody wants to die
Pvt Lamb – Man of many uniforms
Pvt Lane – He had the army by the throat
Pvt Langford – Too many razors
Pvt LaPoint – McCaffery’s interpreter
Pvt Leangos – Legging King
Pvt Leeb – Kitchen Detective
Pvt Leger – Afraid of the demoiselles
Pvt Lapriore – The noodle without a link
Pvt McCarthy – I’ll be the referee
Pvt McCool – I’m from Boston
Pvt McGrath – Where’s my mirror ?
Pvt McSolla – SOL Prohibition 1919
Pvt McVey – Is that ‘oo Hickey ?
Pvt Macher – Klein gets the credit
Pvt Magaril – Exemption Yes, No
Pvt Mayer – BRT Fountain Pens
Pvt Mealy – When I was in Boston
Pvt Mercurio – Our only five-striper
Pvt Monte – Very-pistol performer
Pvt Moran – Plenty chew tobacco
Pvt Morrill – Compri mess-kit
Pvt Oddo – My Oddo
Pvt Orlando – Landscape artist on tin hats
Pvt O’Rourk – Oh, my sthomick
Pvt Pappacostapoulus – Top-kick’s galloping orderly
Pvt Paulsen – If I could see my friend in the ammunition train
Pvt Plirrman – Scratch, Dutch, Scratch
Pvt Phillis – The only foot we couldn’t fit
Pvt Rein – He whistled “Homeward Bound” the day we went to the front
Pvt Ryan J. S. – A fighting man but OK if married to the right girl
Pvt Schiell – Souvenir de Dancevoir
Pvt Schmidt, J. G. – Zero
Pvt Scott – Why is a chief mechanic ?
Pvt Serk – I’d sooner clothe than feed him
Pvt Shawarey – When I was with the infantry
Pvt Shirk – Y-a-a-s
Pvt Shopwell – The first ten years is the hardest
Pvt Smith – Were you drafted that way ?
Pvt Spinazohi – Never had a chance ?
Pvt Steeneck – Tractor Killer
Pvt Steffen – Where’s my harness ?
Pvt Stromme – Nothing but chevaux
Pvt Sullivan D. F – Six inches deeper
Pvt Sullivan, J. T – I’m out of my head ; dizzy
Pvt Sweeney – Small but good
Pvt Taggart – Take the camouflage off your nose
Pvt Talley – I’ll say so
Pvt Taylor – Cannot be pleased
Pvt Unrath – Motor versus artillery goat
Pvt Vadala – Spaghetti actor
Pvt Vilece – Hey Volks, have a drink
Pvt Volks – Sure, got the price ?
Pvt Weber – Only one of his kind
Pvt White – His mitts are insured for 1,234,-567 centimes
Pvt Williams – God Save the King
Pvt Wilson, G. B – Introduced civil life into the army
Pvt Winkler – It thought he wouldn’t fight
Pvt Yellin – I should live so
Pvt Zarogianis – King of K
Pvt Zartman – Woodman spare that tree – and he did
Sergeant Klein – As I know Him
By A Friend
It is with considerable reluctance that I drop the sword and take up the pen to assume the role of biographer. I have yielded to the temptation, feeling that it is my duty in view of the fact that there is a universal demand for a brief, if not a complete and comprehensive work entitled, “Sergeant Klein – As I Know Him.” In most cases a biography is a rather difficult, not to say, disagreeable operation. To begin with a biographer is not supposed to know anything about his subject that would not sound good in writing. This makes it extremely difficult as in most cases the man is no good, never was any good, and never will be any good. These are circumstances which force the biographer to resort to a rather ingenious method, for example : the biographer, finding it impossible to write anything good about the man, simply substitutes himself. Holding the mirror thus, the biographer is face to face with a man of noble character, keen intellect and generous impulses; a man interested in the well being of his fellowmen, a philanthropist, a benefactor and a public-spirited man who is respected and loved by all who know him. With this flood of the finest qualities that mortal man could possess revealed to him, the biographer sets to work and applies them to his subject. This rarely fails to bring the biographer the money.
The results of this operation are usually successful. The man will either be flattered and believe what is said about him, or he will disbelieve it and possibly attempt to emulate the life of the worthy character pictured in his biography. However, it is said, through tradition or fable, that once a famous man while sitting for his portrait said to the painter : “Paint me as I am ! If you leave off a single mole or scar, I shall not pay you a sou.” This proves that there are those men who wish the truth and nothing but the truth ; men who wish to see themselves as others see them. And just such a man I believe Sergeant Klein to be.
I first met the Sergeant in the Spring of 1918 at Camp Upton. At that time he sported two stripes, the insignia of the Corporal. However, I instantly recognized that this man possessed qualities that stamped him as a man of affairs and a man who would some day rise to the rank of sergeant. And I was not wrong in my opinion, for in less than seven months before the Armistice was signed, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant, and three minutes later was busily engaged in a matter of importance with Pvt Setleis.
At Camp Upton, if my memory serves me correctly. Sergeant Klein had not as yet raised a mustache. This adornment, or patch of shrubbery, which on so many people is a hideous affair, gives an added effect of character and importance to the Sergeant, and on the whole gives him an appearance which is far from insipid. The natty manner in which the Sergeant wore his canvas leggings was a thing that did not escape the notice of the officers and it was rumored that this had something to do with his rapid rise from the ranks of the privates. Again the Sergeant was at the head of the list for promotion and this came upon our arrival at Camp de Souge. Here we received our first spiral leggings and again the Sergeant effected a most snappy way of bandaging his legs. And again the attention of the officers was attracted. This resulted in his promotion to sergeantcy and Chief of Staff of the telephone department. There are some who at that time insinuated that the choice of Sergeant Klein as telephone sergeant was due to the fact that he possessed some knowledge of electricity and had hidden this fact from the men in the battery ; but these men were prejudiced and did not know the Sergeant; for to know him is to love him. We now come to the beginning of our training period. The situation of the Allied armies was critical. Hindenburg was bending the line, but little did he realize that the future boded ill for the Hun. No man scrutinized the daily reports more carefully or anticipated the plans of the foe with greater accuracy than did Sergeant Klein.
The work of organizing a reliable and efficient telephone staff must begin immediately. That the success of a great leader depends entirely upon the men he surrounds himself with was the principle recognized and followed by the sergeant when he selected the following fighting men to compose his staff :
– Cpl Stickle
– Cpl Schnackenberg
– Cpl Romano
– Cpl G. B. Wilson
– Pvt 1/c Anderson
– Pvt 1/c Springer
– Pvt 1/c Roughsedge
– Pvt 1/c Wardwell
– Pvt 1/c Woodworth
– Pvt 1/c Alacher
– Pvt 1/c Leeb
– Pvt 1/c Van Orden
– Pvt 1/c Foster
The previous experience of these men was a factor that determined their selection. Yet it was not this alone; in fact, three additional essentials were considered, viz., general intelligence, including ability to speak English; absolute ignorance of electricity, and ability to wrap leggings very snappily. Sergeant Klein reported his detail regularly to the telephone college at Camp de Souge and the military manner in which he marched the detail to and from the school was commented upon by many officers. Intensive training was the order of the day. Much was to be learned before leaving for the front. The Sergeant had the confidence of his men who applied themselves with great diligence to their various studies and the Sergeant took great pride in the fact that after each examination of the entire regiment. Battery “C” received the highest percentage. The Sergeant was never backward in rewarding his men for their efforts for at a reception given to his men after each examination he presented each and every man with a brown derby. It is with pleasure that the men of the Telephone Staff recall the days of intensive training at Camp de Souge under Sergeant Klein. Always a strict disciplinarian who believed in carrying out a soldier’s duty in a military manner, he, nevertheless, believed that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. No man was compelled to pour over his text-book or solve some intricate electrical problem in the class-room of the University if he felt indisposed. In such a case the Sergeant would dismiss the soldier for the afternoon.
This did not mean that the man would dismiss from his mind all thought of his studies; in all probability he would go to the trenches adjacent to the school and there become accustomed to the atmosphere of the life he would soon be leading. It was not a rare occurrence to see many of the men spending a morning or an afternoon in the trenches in preference to the class-room. It is difficult for one who has not gone through our experience at Camp de Souge to realize the knowledge that was to be acquired before one can qualify for service at the front, and the fact that the men of Battery C graduated with such high honors was due to the qualifications upon which Sergeant Klein based their appointment to the Telephone Staff. Not only was it necessary for the men to become familiar with American appliances, but also with the French, and were it not for the assistance rendered by Sergeant Klein, the men would have found it much less difficult to master the problem of manipulating the French telephones and switchboards. The Sergeant, who speaks French fluently, could very easily converse through a French telephone; this gave the telephone bad habits and it would often stall when it heard the voice of a man who had less command of the French language than did the Sergeant.
The day arrived when our course was completed and the pride of the Sergeant knew no bounds when the men of his Staff received the highest percentage at the graduation exercises. In appreciation of the efforts put forth by his men Sergeant Klein presented each man with a handsome china shaving mug on the outside of which was a beautiful hand painting of the French and American flags on one side, and on the other an exact reproduction of the Sergeant himself. This was the work of a noted French painter of St Medard. Sergeant Klein’s opportunity to demonstrate his ability on the battle-front was not far off. On the 15th of July at Baccarat in the Lorraine sector, the Sergeant with a detail of six men led the way through a maze of brush and cactus plants in the dead of the night and laid the first line of communication for Battery C. From this time on it was one brilliant feat of strategy after another by Sergeant Klein which gave perfect communication to our battery; made it possible for our battery to make an enviable record, and made for the Sergeant a name that will live long in Dancevoir. It is needless to dwell at length on the achievements of Sergeant Klein at Chery Chartreuve. Had the war ended here the Sergeant would have already endeared himself to the people of the South Sea Islands and his name would have been a byword in the wine parlors of the Boobanians.
At Vauxcere it was another case of the Sergeant executing one brilliant stroke after another in such rapid succession that not only was the foe completely baffled but the entire personnel of the battery was utterly dazzled, dumbfounded and bamboozled. In short, the battery to a man was knocked for a goal by the lightning strokes of the Sergeant. Officers and men could be noticed walking around mumbling to themselves. Some appeared to be waving their arms about their heads as if in imminent danger of attack from above; some continually grasped about them as if they were catching flies, while others would repeat running in and out of their dugouts at the same time emitting a weird cry something like that of the Peruvian mountain goat. Realizing the danger of the situation, the officers, when they came to, cautioned the Sergeant to allow a slight interval between each of his strategical executions. This would permit the men to come up for air and in that way permit the battery to remain normal and fit for action. For a man of the Sergeant’s temperament this was difficult yet he promised to do so. The very fact that his Staff was by this time completely dizzy compelled the Sergeant to control himself. Yet there would be moments, as in the case of all great strategists, when the Sergeant would break loose. I might cite such an incident which took place at Vauxcere when the Sergeant, knowing that all the lines of communication were perfect, called Foster and Van Orden from their headquarters where they were resting after a hard night in pursuit of a break on the line which they finally captured near a kitchen, to clean a pair of giant monkey wrenches which the Germans had left behind.
The Argonne woods, that historic sector held so long by the Germans and considered well nigh impregnable, was the next position for our guns to occupy and incidentally a position, regardless of the perplexing problems it presented, that proved a pipe for Sergeant Klein. It was in the Argonne woods that the Sergeant committed many feats of daring which bewildered the men on his Staff. One such feat was the capture of a German caviar sandwich which he strangled while under observation of the battery cooks. From now on until the Armistice was signed the Sergeant did not give the Boche a moment’s rest. Even after the rumor of the Armistice was verified he insisted on continuing the pursuit and it required the combined efforts of six men each armed with a blackjack to hold him back. The Sergeant finally agreed to turn back and upon our arrival at Dancevoir he became chief connoisseur of cuisine supplies and Chairman of our Battery Welfare Committee.
In all Sergeant Klein is a man whom I am proud to have fought and bled with. A man whom every member of Battery C will often recall in times to come as a good sailor, and a man whose name will live long in the annals of American History.
Fini la Guerre