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´╗┐Title: In the Flash Ranging Service - Observations of an American Soldier During His Service - With the A.E.F. in France
Author: Trueblood, Edward Alva
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Observations of an American Soldier During
His Service With the A. E. F. in France_

In the
Flash Ranging


_Private Edward Alva Trueblood_


Press of
Sacramento, California


"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to
the Republic for which it stands--
one nation, indivisible, with liberty
and justice for all."

          This book is a record of the personal
          observations of a private soldier in the Flash
          Ranging Service of the American Expeditionary
          Forces in France. It not only relates his
          experiences while in France, but also tells of
          going over and returning. In brief, it is a
          soldier's story from the time he left America to
          help crush the autocracy of Germany, until he
          returned again after fighting was over.


Chapter                                                      Page

   I. Going Over                                                1

  II. Our First Glimpse of France                              10

 III. From Brest to Langres                                    18

  IV. Nearing the Front                                        29

   V. Preparation for Battle                                   37

  VI. The Great St. Mihiel Drive                               42

 VII. Gassed                                                   54

VIII. Hospital Experiences                                     63

  IX. Home Again                                               72

In the Flash Ranging Service

_By Private Edward Alva Trueblood_

Chapter I.

Going Over.

When the sun arose on the 22nd of June, 1918, three great transports
were lying out in the stream of New York harbor. They were filled with
American soldiers for duties overseas. They were well camouflaged and
well convoyed. The previous afternoon they had pulled away from a
Jersey City pier, where they had taken on their human cargoes, and
they were undoubtedly under sealed orders. They had slipped away
quietly from the piers without attracting undue attention, and while
they moved to the location where they anchored for the night, not a
soldier's uniform could have been detected from shore even after the
most scrutinizing search with the best binoculars obtainable. The
departure was made without a word of warning and not a fond good-bye.
It was accomplished with a methodical silence that called for
admiration. It is the way Uncle Sam does things during war times.

Just before 9 o'clock on that beautiful June morning, simultaneously
but without communicating with each other, each of those transports
began to weigh anchor, and except for the click, click, click of the
machinery all was silent. Precisely at 9:05, without the blast of a
whistle, the sound of a gong, or the hoisting of a signal flag on the
mast, but like so many automatic machines, these vessels turned their
prows to the sea and began their long voyage.

Among those who sailed on one of the vessels of this transport fleet
were the members of the Twenty-ninth Engineers, A. E. F., of which I
was a member, being attached to Company C. Our departure was an
occasion never to be forgotten.

As we glided out of the great harbor and saw first the Statue of
Liberty, then all trace of our native land disappear from sight, and
we realized that we were on our way to fight the most savage, inhuman
and despicable foe that has ever drawn a lance, a feeling of solemn
thoughtfulness came over most of the boys. Many of them were so
affected, as they knew a certain percentage of us must inevitably fall
in battle, that they went below to spend a few hours by themselves in
serious thought. I am not ashamed to say that I was one of those who
sought solace for my feelings in thoughtful solitude.

The vessel upon which we sailed was an Italian transport, by name, the
"King of Italy." It was accompanied by a French and a former German
liner and was convoyed by a destroyer and a cruiser. On the second day
out we picked up four more transports, making seven in all in our

There were 1,500 American soldiers on our transport and approximately
the same on four of the other transports. Two of them, however,
carried more than 3,500 men, making a total of about 15,000 men on
that one fleet bound for duty overseas. Of the 1,500 men on the King
of Italy, 500 were white and 1,000 colored troops. No trouble was
caused by this mixture of races because of good management. The white
and colored boys were kept on different parts of the boat and all
guard duty was in the hands of the white troops.

For the first few hours after sailing, thoughts of home lingered in
the minds of most of the boys, but these were hastily banished when we
had our first life drill. This took place at 2 o'clock on our first
day out. The drill was a thorough one, and it soon became apparent to
most of the boys that even if we should be torpedoed by a submarine
while going across, our troops would have no difficulty in getting
away from the boat before it took its final plunge toward the bottom
of the sea. In the life drill, every man had his place. He was
assigned to a certain boat and could take no other. The lower decks
were emptied first, and then those above, one at a time. I was bunked
on the fifth deck, hence, as the liner had six decks, would have been
among the last to leave the ship, in case of disaster.

The object of the life drill, of course, was to make it possible to
empty the boat of troops quickly and in military order in the event
that the boat became a submarine victim. Every man was instructed at
the sound of the alarm to go to his bunk and stand there until given
further orders. In the meantime, he was to put on his life belt. The
boys marched out to the life boats only when they received orders from
their superiors to do so. After a few drills, we mastered the
manoeuver and it would have been possible for us to have emptied that
boat of 1,500 soldiers in twelve minutes, if such action had been

We had life drills two or three times a day all the way across. The
signal for the drill was four siren blasts, and when we heard those
blasts, there was a lively time on deck for a few minutes, until the
ship, in theory, had been abandoned.

American people, who believe in giving their soldiers the right kind
of treatment, and particularly wholesome food, would have been
righteously indignant, if they could have known how poorly we were fed
while on that transport. Those at home were buying Liberty Bonds and
paying heavy war taxes so that the boys in the fighting forces would
be well fed and clothed, and yet, it is hard to imagine how men could
have been treated worse, so far as food is concerned than were the men
of this boat. I am going to be just as frank as I know how in
describing food conditions with the hope that by calling public
attention to this petty graft, such practices will be stopped, so far
as American fighting men are concerned. To any who have weak stomachs,
I suggest that they skip over the next two or three pages, as the
details may nauseate them.

The kitchens and mess rooms of the transport were on the top deck.
Meal tickets were issued to the men, and when they went to mess, the
tickets were punched. This is the way the Government kept track of the
number of meals served, as these tickets were collected when we left
the boat. The white men were fed first, and the colored troopers
afterwards. This was done so as to keep free of any possibility of
racial trouble, and apparently it worked well.

After the second day out, our "chow," which is the soldier's name for
food of all kinds, was vile. It consisted largely of spoiled beef and
such foods as spoiled rabbits. When I say spoiled, I mean just what
the word implies. These rabbits were positively in a state of decay.
They had been in cold storage for a long time, evidently a very long
time. They had been carried in the ice boxes without being drawn, and
when exposed to the air the odor of decay was so strong that they were
positively nauseating. I saw strong men turn exceedingly sick just
from the stench, and I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say
that there was more upset stomachs on that trip from the decaying
rabbits that were given us to eat than from the action of the sea.

The beef that we were given consisted of only the poorest and toughest
parts. The good cuts went to the mess for the army officers and for
the officers and crew of the ship. The potatoes that we were fed were
the poorest that I have ever seen. They were served about half cooked,
and were small, wet, soggy and unpalatable. It was seldom that a
potato fit to eat was given to the men. We received rice several
times, but it was only about half cooked. During one meal we were
given bologne sausage, and after some of the boys had eaten their
allotment, the discovery was made that the sausage was full of
maggots. The soup was like water with neither flavor nor body. The
bread served was Italian-French bread made with sour dough, and not at
all palatable to an American, who has been accustomed to sweet and
wholesome bread. The coffee was of the poorest quality--probably
mostly chickory--and we were given neither milk nor sugar for it. The
result was that most of the boys did not touch their coffee at all.
The only seasoning given our food was an insufficiency of salt.
Everything served was tasteless, unpalatable and unwholesome.

That there was better food on the boat, we knew, for we could see it
going to the officers' tables. They were served chicken two or three
times a week--the men never. Officers were given fresh fruit at every
meal--the men not at all. Officers were given palatable, sweet bread;
the men only when they would pay for it out of their own pockets and
then at a big price.

It is my opinion that the owners of the boat on which I sailed made an
enormous profit off those meals served to the soldiers. Certainly the
Government would not have given the soldiers such unfit food. The
Government is to blame to this extent, however, in not seeing that the
ship owners lived up to their contract to feed the men properly. There
was a man on board who was supposed to see that the men were given
wholesome and nourishing food, but he failed absolutely to perform his
duty. Whether he was in the company's pay or simply negligent, I
cannot say, for I do not know. But it is a fact that he did not
perform his duty and 1,500 men were fed spoiled and unnourishing food
as a result. Men who indulge in "graft" of this kind are no better
than traitors, and should be treated as such by the Government.

As a part of the uneatable diet we were given, numerous complaints
were made. We were not long in being told that we could purchase
something in the way of wholesome food for ourselves, if we had the
money. This was done on the sly. We could purchase a palatable steak
for $1.50 or $2, or we could get chops for about the same price. A
chicken would cost about $4. All the boys who had money were forced to
buy food this way or go hungry. Many of the boys ate only enough to
keep them alive. Often two would go in together and buy a steak or a
chicken, each putting up half of the money. Even then, we could not
get the food we wanted, as only a limited quantity could be "sneaked"

We could buy sweet bread in the canteen on the boat for 25 cents a
loaf, and a small loaf at that. That was the only way we could get it.
Sweet rolls, the kind that sell four for a nickle at home, cost two
for a nickle. Oranges, apples, bananas and other kinds of fruit cost
25 cents each. Unable to eat the food in the mess room, most of the
boys had to pay the exorbitant prices asked at the canteen or go

We had no sugar at all. The Government must have provided a sugar
ration for us, so my conclusion is that it was stolen by someone in
connection with the boat management and used in some form of graft.
Because it was necessary for them to buy so much of their food, all
the boys who had money with which they expected to buy things when
they landed on the other side, were without a penny when the boat

Every afternoon between 2 and 3 o'clock, the Y. M. C. A. workers who
were on the transport came on deck and held song services. Many
familiar hymns were sung. These meetings were very popular at first,
but gradually the fascination for them wore off, and toward the latter
part of the voyage they were but lightly attended.

The "Y" workers did promote one form of entertainment, however, that
the boys thoroughly enjoyed. This was boxing. Every afternoon several
bouts would be held. Nearly every company had a fighter and he was
matched with the best man of some other company. Lively bouts of about
three or four rounds were fought. The colored soldiers took to this
sport keenly and they furnished some good contests among themselves.
White men, however, were not permitted to box the colored soldiers, as
such a bout might have led to a racial difference. Members of the
ship's crew also wanted to partake in the sport and they furnished
several bouts. The sailors, however, were somewhat awkward at first,
but they were game and they afforded us many a good laugh. Those who
had charge of the boxing never let a bout go to a knockout. When one
man was apparently getting the worst of it or was clearly outboxed,
the bout would be stopped.

Very strict rules were issued on the boat with regard to lights at
night. Every porthole was closed, and every precaution taken so that
not a gleam of light could be seen. The men were warned that anyone
who attempted to make a light would be shot on the spot. The fleet
moved along in the darkness at full speed ahead. That it did not meet
with accident was due to excellent management on the part of the

All the boats in our fleet were camouflaged. The King of Italy had
great irregular streaks of black and white painted across it. One of
the boats in our fleet had a really remarkable picture of a sinking
ship painted on its side. Another had two ships painted on its side
and was camouflaged to look like two vessels instead of one. While the
camouflaged ships appeared strange at first, we soon were used to the
unusual appearance, and thought nothing of them. A camouflaged vessel
is visible to the naked eye, almost as plain as one that has not been
daubed with paint, but it is through the mirrors of a periscope that
the camouflage is effective. In reflecting the picture on the horizon,
the mirrors lose some of the rays of light, so officers explained to
me, hence the eyes of the periscope are unable to detect the

Our voyage passed pleasantly with smooth seas until the eleventh day,
when the water was a little choppy, and then for the first time some
of the boys were a little sea sick.

It was my fortune to see our first and only brush with a submarine. It
happened about 4 o'clock in the morning on the twelfth day out. The
sea was choppy and the night very dark and cold. I was on guard duty
on the sixth deck of our vessel, and I noticed unusual activity on the
part of the destroyers that were convoying our fleet. Our transport
stopped dead still. In a moment four shots were fired from the
destroyer. I could see the fire from the gun plainly. It was an
exciting moment and the first real guns of war that I had ever heard.
Depth bombs were also dropped, then all was still again. All this
happened without disturbing the men asleep on our boat, and in the
morning they were told that the transport had been attacked by
submarines. It was the belief that the destroyer had sunk one of the

We were given orders on the twelfth day to sleep in our clothes with
our life belts on during the rest of the trip. This was issued so that
there would be no delay in getting off the boat if we were hit by a
torpedo. That night, being unused to sleeping with clothes on, was a
restless one for most of us. The following night, however,
notwithstanding the fact that we were fully dressed, we slept well.

We were also joined on that day by a flotilla of destroyers. The sight
of these boats was hailed with joy, for we knew we were nearing land.
We had not been informed, however, in what country nor at what port we
would land, but we had hoped that it would be France, and we soon
learned that our destination was France.

The torpedo boat flotilla that accompanied us during the last two days
was made up mostly of American and British destroyers, though there
were two French boats among them. They made a lively scene, and surely
gave us great protection. If a speck would appear on the horizon, two
boats would be off to investigate it, and would return later to join
the fleet. We were also accompanied on the last day of the voyage by
two airplanes as a further protection against submarines.

We sighted land on the thirteenth day, and it was a welcome view.
Everybody was happy and eager to disembark. It was quite a contrast
from the feeling that existed just after we left New York harbor. We
were a merry crowd as we entered the harbor of Brest and we were glad
to see a large city again. We disembarked at 3 o'clock in the
afternoon. Before leaving the boat, we were given "leaving rations,"
which consisted of a loaf of sour bread, a can of bully beef and a
small piece of cheese. This was given to us because we had a long
march ahead and our kitchens would not be in place for several hours.
We were taken off the transport on barges built especially for that
purpose. We were then marched to the Napoleon Barracks, built by the
Emperor Napoleon, eight miles from Brest, and were glad to put our
feet on land again, even though the march was a long one after a
thirteen day sea voyage. We had only a passing glimpse of Brest, but
did not mind that as we knew we would have opportunity to visit the
city later.


Our First Glimpse of France

At Brest, the American soldiers got their first idea of the magnitude
of the work that the American Government was doing in the prosecution
of the war. Prior to our arrival there we had heard a great deal about
the construction work in French ports that the Americans had
undertaken, but our ideas of just what this work was, were more or
less vague. At Brest we saw just what it was. We saw miles of concrete
piers that had been built in record-breaking time with American skill,
American speed and American thoroughness. This work was a revelation
to all France, and the magnitude of the task, together with the
remarkably short time in which it was completed, stamp it as one of
the wonders of the war and as a lasting tribute to American ingenuity
and efficiency. These piers and warehouses of American construction
played a great part in ending the war, for they enabled the American
Government not only to land millions of troops in France, but to
provide adequate food, ammunition, guns and other necessary supplies
for these men. Nothing like it had ever been done before in the
history of the world.

Soon after we left the boat at Brest, the men were lined up on the
pier and given a sensible and appreciated address by the Commanding
Officer. He told us that now more than ever before, since we were upon
foreign soil, orders were to be obeyed to the letter. We were told to
be careful in all that we did because by our actions the French people
would judge the American nation. He advised us to do everything
commanded of us by our officers with snap and thoroughness, so as to
show the French people that we were not raw recruits; that we were
real soldiers; that we could do as well at any task, if not better,
than the soldiers of Europe. The boys, to a man, lived up to those
instructions, and it was not long before the world knew that the
American soldier was the equal of any on earth.

After this interesting advice was received we swung into squad right
and our first march on French territory began. We first marched more
than a mile through the railroad yards in Brest. These were all of
American construction. We saw miles of warehouses, filled with various
kinds of material of war and great quantities of food, not only for
the American soldiers, but for the civilians of France as well. These
warehouses were of wooden construction, and so different in design and
material from other buildings in Brest that we recognized at once that
they were built by Yankees. For this reason, we greeted them as
friends; it was like looking upon a familiar scene.

Most everything else, however, that met our eyes had a decidedly
foreign look. The railroad trains in the yards were French, and
entirely different from those of this country. The freight cars have a
diminutive look. They are only about half the size of American cars
and they rest upon single trucks. The locomotives are much smaller
than ours and have brass boilers. We did not see anything of the
familiar dark red American box car and the giant American locomotives
until we got into the interior of France.

We passed many peasant women and children while we were marching
through the railroad yards. Some of them were offering cakes and nuts
for sale, others were begging white bread from us. It was here that we
first heard those two French words that became so familiar to us
before we left France, "Donnez moi." It was "donnez moi" this and
"donnez moi" that, especially from the children who begged cigarettes,
pennies, and anything else that the American boys might have to give

Brest is built on hills, some of which rise abruptly and give a
picturesque look to the old city. As we marched through the residence
part of the city, the women from the windows gave us a hearty welcome,
waving flags and calling "Vive les Amerique." Our march took us over a
winding roadway through the district where the poorer classes lived
and we did not get a view of the more attractive parts of the city on
our arrival. The street we marched along was paved with broken rock
and was in excellent condition; it was crossed several times by
overhead railroad tracks built on massive arches of masonry.

Our first impressions are rather difficult to describe because
everything had such different appearance from familiar things in
America. One noticeable feature was the character of the construction.
The buildings are of stone or some other such inflammable material,
with roofs of slate or tile. There are no frame buildings, except
those that have been constructed by Americans since April, 1917.

The dress and the habits of the people differ materially from those of
America. Most of the lower classes wear sabots, or wooden shoes. Some
wear sabots with leather tops. But few, if any, all leather shoes are
in use among the lower classes. While all shades and colors of clothes
were worn by children, we noticed that the women were nearly all
dressed in black. This, we believed to be because they had lost
relatives in the war, and we later found that our conclusion was the
correct one. Among the poorer classes the men wear large loosely
fitting trousers and tight jackets. They wear a peculiar hat, with a
tightly fitting crown, a broad round brim, and two streamers of black
ribbon about eighteen inches long hanging down in back. The middle
classes dress more like Americans, though not with as well made
clothes as one is accustomed to see in this country.

After marching about five miles, we were given a rest in an open field
in the outskirts of Brest. Here we were again addressed by an officer
and cautioned to be careful about coming in contact with the French
people, and particularly with the women and children of the lower
classes. We were informed that the lower classes of women and the
peasant children are nearly all syphylitic, especially in seaport
towns. This sent a shudder through us, for we had already been
fondling some of the French children, before we realized the necessity
for caution. The warning was heeded and thereafter the boys kept the
peasants at a distance.

As we resumed our march, we began to get into a cultivated district.
The rolling land along the roadway was cut up into small farms ranging
in size from a half acre to about two and a half acres. The boundary
lines of these farms were hedges; there were no fences, such as we
have in America. The land was planted to truck gardens, berries, fruit
trees, etc., and at the time that we saw them, they were in good
condition and apparently quite productive.

It was about 6 o'clock in the evening and after a long and hard march
that we arrived at the Napoleon Barracks, where we were to have a few
days' rest before going into the interior. These barracks are quite
extensive. They are built of stone and are surrounded by a stone wall.
The wall is about three feet thick and twenty feet high, and it would
be a difficult matter for anyone to scale it. To keep soldiers from
trying to get out, broken glass is cemented into it for the entire
length on top. The purpose of this was to make it so dangerous that
no soldier would attempt to climb it. There are two arched gateways
leading to the interior. These archways are fitted with heavy gates,
which were originally designed as defense gates in case of attack. The
main buildings within the enclosure are of two stories and are built
of stone. We were not long in being assigned to the bunks that we were
to occupy during our stay. These were two decked affairs with a
mattress of slats about two inches apart to sleep on. They were about
as uncomfortable as anyone can imagine and most of the boys preferred
to sleep on the floor. These barracks had been occupied by many
American boys who had gone before us. We saw thousands of American
names written on the walls, and occasionally we would run across one
that we knew. And, like the other, we too wrote our names, for the
boys who followed to read and comment upon.

Our meal for the first night at the barracks consisted of the rations
we had been given upon leaving the ship--bully beef, sour bread and
cheese. Our cooks got their fires started and gave us some coffee,
which stimulated us after our long and tiresome march.

After eating, we were permitted to write to our folks at home, and all
of us spent the evening in correspondence. We were not permitted to
write while on board ship, so most of us had several letters to send.
I wrote until 11 o'clock that night. I was surprised to find that it
was not yet dark. The long and appreciated twilight is due to the fact
that Brest is a great distance farther north than Sacramento, and this
was in the middle of summer, when the evenings are longest.

Not all of the buildings within the walls at the barracks are of
ancient construction. Several were recently built, such as a hospital,
a bath house for the accommodation of our men, the Y. M. C. A. hut,
etc. At this particular place the "Y" hut was appreciated by us
because it afforded us amusement, we could buy fruit, cakes, tobacco
and other articles there, and we could attend to our correspondence
there. We were assembled there on one occasion to hear two addresses
on the ways and habits of the French people, which were to benefit us.
We also exchanged our American money at the hut for French money. For
a dollar we received five francs and seventy centimes, and it was
amusing to see the boys studying over the French money system, as it
was difficult to understand at first. Some of the boys, not knowing
the value of the French franc, paid enormous prices for fruits,
candies, etc., to French women and girls, who peddled these articles.

While at the Napoleon Barracks we saw the first American wounded. They
were soldiers who had participated in the defense against the German
drive which began in March, 1918. It was from them that we first
learned the real horrors of war. Some had only one arm; others had
lost a leg; still others were suffering from shell shock. Those who
were suffering from shell shock were the most pitiful, as the least
unusual noise startled them.

I had the good fortune to be placed on a motor truck detail during
three days of our brief stay at Brest. This gave me an opportunity of
seeing most of the city. It has about 120,000 inhabitants, is one of
the chief ports of France and has a harbor that is protected by nature
as well as by strong fortifications. Lying as it does, among the
hills, there is much natural beauty in the city and its surroundings.
The streets are about as wide as those of the average American city,
although there are a number of very narrow streets that cut into the
main thoroughfares at angles and these reminded me somewhat of the
narrow streets of Boston. The city is kept clean and there are
numerous parks and public squares. The latter are frequented mostly by
women and children, though it is not uncommon to see French soldiers,
home from the front on leave, lounging in them. The warm blooded
French people have ideas that differ widely from those of Americans in
many respects, and it is nothing unusual to see a French couple making
love in broad daylight with persons passing by on all sides, in one of
these public parks. Occasionally one would see an American soldier
sitting with a French Mademoiselle. French troops were often drilling
in these squares--not troops that had participated in the war, but
companies of younger men who were being trained for war. It was
interesting to watch them and to contrast their manoeuvers with ours.

There are no skyscrapers in Brest, that is to say, there are no tall
office buildings there, although the city is an important business
point. The only tall structures are the churches and an old castle,
dating from the thirteenth century. The business buildings are all of
two or three stories. The stores are not as up to date as the retail
establishments in America, and the methods of doing business are
entirely different from ours. Goods are not on display in the open as
they are in American stores, but are kept in show cases. If you are
interested in a certain piece of goods, the clerk takes it out of the
show case and exhibits it to you. If you do not buy it, the article is
placed right back in the show case. The clerks are mostly girls. They
are plainly dressed but always neat. Most of them wear black. They are
by no means as well dressed as American girls who work in stores. The
French store employes are very poorly paid, the average wage for a
clerk being two and a half francs, or about 50 cents in American money
a day.

During the war, Brest was very much of a cosmopolitan city. On the
streets most any day could be seen the uniforms of the soldiers and
sailors of all the Allied nations--French, British, Italian,
Portuguese, American and others. The uniforms of the different nations
are of different hues and they gave a tinge of color to the crowds on
the streets. They ranged from spotless white to faded blues. The
uniforms of the Italian soldiers, in my opinion, were the most
attractive. They were a pretty gray, well made and attractive in
design. The uniform of the American soldier, while not the prettiest,
is the most serviceable. For war use it is no doubt the best. The
British wear uniforms very much like ours, although a little different
in shade and design. They are serviceable and neat but not attractive.
The coat has a small lapel and large brass buttons that are always
well shined. The home guards of the French army wore flashy coats and
trousers. The trousers were either blue with a broad red stripe or red
with a blue stripe.

I regret that our brief stay in Brest did not give me a better
opportunity to see the mediaeval churches and castles in the vicinity.
But war is serious business with no time for sightseeing and on the
third night after our arrival, we received our orders to march at 4
o'clock the following morning. It was a restless night for we knew
that every day from now on would take us nearer to the front and to
the fight. At 3:30 o'clock on the morning of our departure we were all
up and dressed and were packing our belongings. We came to company
front promptly at 4 o'clock, just as the dawn was breaking; in a very
few minutes we were marching out of the historic Napoleon Barracks
never to see them again. The morning was cool and crisp; it was
conducive to lively marching and we stepped along at a fast clip,
passing three companies of infantry on the way to Brest. The march was
an eight mile "hike" and we made it without a stop until we reached
the railroad yards at Brest. We were then assigned to compartments in
French railroad coaches. Most of them were second and third class
coaches, although there were a few first class cars for the officers.
There were five compartments to a car and eight men were assigned to
each compartment; as we also had to make room for our luggage, we were
crowded and uncomfortable. However, we made the best of the unpleasant
conditions, and patiently awaited the starting of the train, which was
to take us through a country new and strange to us, and nearer to the
war zone.


From Brest to Langres

Before our train pulled out of Brest we were ordered out of our
crowded compartments in the French railroad coaches for the purpose of
bringing in traveling rations. These consisted of canned bully beef,
canned jam, canned beans and bread. The bread that was given to us
here was made into enormous loaves--the largest that any of us had
ever seen. The loaves were sixteen or eighteen inches wide, from two
and a half to three feet long and eight or nine inches high. They were
American-made and were white and wholesome. The outside crust was hard
but palatable and the inside was soft and flaky like home-made bread.
We afterwards learned that these loaves had been baked weeks in
advance and that they were kept fresh and palatable by the use of a
chemical. Each compartment of eight men was given three of these large
loaves which, together with a number of cans of beans, bully beef and
jam, were to keep us supplied with food until we reached Langres, in
eastern France, which was our destination. We had previously
learned--on our trip overseas--to conserve food, and none of this
supply was wasted. We stored it away in our cramped quarters and saw
that it got proper care.

As we sat in the train waiting for it to start, we looked out upon the
bay of Brest and saw numerous tugs busy along the waterfront. They
were all engaged in war work of some kind. We also saw more American
troops being landed at the wharf, just as we were landed a few days
previous, and we knew their thoughts and feelings. In the air there
were several airplanes and dirigible balloons giving needed protection
to the ships that were entering the harbor.

While we were still in the yards of Brest, we also saw for the first
time in France, numerous Chinese coolies, who were doing with their
labor their part toward winning the war. They worked on the railroad
tracks in large gangs. To the Eastern boys who were not acquainted
with this class of Chinese laborers, they were quite a curiosity, but
to the Western boys, the sight was nothing unusual. The coolies,
however, were not dressed in the customary Chinese clothes, as in
California, but were in a garb more like that which American laborers
wear. They had on overalls, loose blouses or jumpers, heavy leather
shoes and straw hats.

We pulled out of Brest about 10 o'clock in the morning. The train was
made up of about twenty-five or thirty of those small and
uncomfortable French coaches, and it moved very slowly. To one used to
the fast first-class American trains, this French train seemed
exceedingly slow, unaccommodating and tiresome. We first climbed
gradually up the hills, overlooking the bay, and were furnished with a
wonderful view. We could see far out to sea, and were in part
compensated for the lack of comforts to which an American is
accustomed when traveling, by the beauty of the scenery, and the many
strange and interesting sights that were constantly meeting our eyes.

Soon after we left the ocean we came to a fertile farming section, in
which crops of various kinds, such as grains, fruits, garden truck,
etc., were grown. We had known that the farms in European countries
are small, especially those of France, as compared with farms in
America, but it was necessary for us to see the actual size of these
small farms to realize how diminutive they are. As in the vicinity of
Brest, mentioned in a previous chapter, the cultivated areas ranged in
size from a half acre to two and a half acres. Rarely we would see a
place as large as five acres, but that was the exception. No fences
separated these farms, but the boundaries were marked by hedges and
occasionally a low stone wall. In these small fields cultivation is
not practiced as in this country, but the land is tilled in narrow
strips. The numerous different textures of the soil, accounted for the
large number of strips. Each strip was planted to a crop to which it
was best suited.

The highways through this farming section are kept in excellent
condition. They are built of rock and give the impression from the
train window that a motor trip through France would be a delight. Rows
of trees are planted along all the highways, the poplar tree
predominating, but other trees being used frequently as well. The
by-roads are of dirt but appear to be kept in good condition. They
also have trees planted along them; this seems to be a characteristic
of France, and readers will recall that in all war pictures where
these roads have been shown, the rows of trees are always there. This
is an excellent feature and one that California with its rapidly
increasing mileage of concrete roads, might well follow.

Very few automobiles were seen on these highways, except those engaged
in war transportation. Of course at the time that I made my
observations, the country was engaged in war, and in peace times no
doubt more automobiles belonging to civilians are in use. It is a
fact, however, there are comparatively few automobiles among the civil
population of France. Only the very rich own them. The masses of the
people do not possess them, as in America. The civil population either
walk along these highways or travel in horse-drawn carts and wagons.
The carts are different from any that we see in America. Frequently
they are heavily constructed with wheels of from six to eight feet in
diameter. They are fitted with brakes, which are used on the grades.
They have a long body, that is, long for a cart, and this is laden
with the varied products of the small farms which are in this way
taken to market. Most frequently these carts are drawn by one horse,
though it is not unusual to see two or three horses hitched to one
when the load is heavy. When more than one horse is used, the animals
are not hitched abreast, but tandem. The wheel horse is hitched
between two long heavy shafts and his duty seems to be largely that of
steering the unwieldy conveyance, while the front horse or horses do
most of the pulling. The harness is heavy and the rear horse is
protected from sores that might be caused by rubbing, by a heavy and
well padded saddle and a heavy girth. It was a common sight to see a
woman driving one of these carts and guiding the wheel horse and
handling the brakes, while boys were either driving or leading the
leaders. These strange and cumbersome rigs, so different from any that
we had ever seen before, interested and amused us.

The crops in the section through which we passed on our first day out
of Brest appeared to be good. They gave me, a Californian with
considerable farming experience, the impression that agriculture has
been very carefully studied by the French. Occasionally we would see
small tracts lying fallow, apparently to give the land a needed rest,
while other tracts were being cultivated. On some of the small farms
it was haying season. We were surprised as we noted the methods of the
French farmer in this particular branch of husbandry. The hay was cut
mostly by women and children with scythes. An American mower probably
had never been seen there. It seemed like a tremendous waste of human
energy to see these women and children doing such hard manual labor in
the field, when a modern mower would cut the entire field in a very
short time. It seems to me there should be a field for the sale of
American mowers and other modern American farm machinery in the rural
districts of France. While the farms are so small that the individual
farmer could not, perhaps, afford to buy a mower, still, several
farmers could go in together and buy one, or the community as a whole
could buy one, for the common use of all who needed it. Here is
something that the French and American Governments might get together
on, for surely the French want to conserve the energy of their women
and children who now do this hard work, and the Americans want a wider
market for their modern farm equipment. It must be said, however, that
the women of the French peasantry who were doing this hard work,
appeared strong and healthful, and were enured to this difficult
labor, no doubt, through many generations of this hard farm life.

We noticed as we got away from the coast, that there was a change in
the style of dress of the peasants. We no longer saw the round hats
with the ribbon streamers hanging down behind, so familiar in the
rural districts around Brest. The dress of the peasants, farther in
the interior, was more like that of the laboring classes of America.
The men and women both wore serviceable clothes of dark material, but
few of them wore anything on their heads. Sabots were worn instead of
leather shoes. The women wore a sort of an Arctic sock over the
stockings; the men frequently wore no socks at all. Occasionally the
sabots would be several sizes too large for the wearer, but were made
to fit by stuffing straw in them. This must have been rather
uncomfortable, but the French peasantry seemed not to mind it at all.

While the horse is the principal draft animal in France, oxen are
also used by some farmers. Most Western boys have seen teams of oxen,
as they are still in use in some of the mountain districts of
California, or at least they were still in use up to a few years ago;
but to the Eastern boys an ox team was a new and interesting sight,
and there was much comment upon it.

The first large city at which we stopped after leaving Brest was
Nantes. This is a popular and ancient city, famous for the edict of
Nantes, and more famous still, perhaps, because of the revocation of
that edict by Louis XIV, which led to disastrous religious wars.
Nantes is also famous as the birthplace of Jules Verne, whose "Twenty
Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," became an actuality during the world
war. It is a city of about 150,000 and is an important industrial
center, having extensive shipyards, factories, wharves, etc. It is on
the right bank of the Loire River, about thirty-five miles from its
mouth and is one of the chief ports of entry of France.

Nantes has a very interesting history and it contains many ancient and
famous edifices. It was not our privilege, however, to see any more of
the city than the views afforded from the train, for we stopped here
but a short time. It was there that we got our first taste of French
coffee, which is very different from that made and served in America.
It was furnished to us by the French Government. At first it was
distasteful to us, but after drinking it a few times we became used to
it and later on we really liked it.

We were now in the rich valley of the Loire, one of the most
productive and one of the most famous in France. It is not nearly so
large as the Sacramento Valley, in California, nor as fertile, yet its
fame extends around the world. It is drained by the Loire River, which
is the longest river in France, being more than 600 miles in length,
and being navigable for ships as far as Nantes and for river boats
for more than five hundred miles of its length.

In the valley of the Loire we began to see the beautiful vineyards of
France. In this district the farms as a rule were a little larger than
those we saw on our way from Brest to Nantes, and consequently the
hedges were less numerous. It was an exceedingly picturesque scene
that met our eyes as we rolled along in the slow train. One noticeable
fact was that each little vineyard was of a different shade of green
from that of its nearest neighbors, due perhaps, to a different
variety of plant, or to a variation of soil. There seemed to be no two
of just the same shade. It was also in the Valley of the Loire that we
saw considerable fruit production. Orchards were more numerous here
than on the coast. They were planted to most of the deciduous trees
with which we of California are familiar, although prunes seemed to

While we were traveling through this valley we were greeted with some
familiar sights and sounds. These were the American box car and
locomotive and the sound of the whistle of a U. S. A. train. We
greeted the American rolling stock as companions, and were truely glad
to see them. We could easily distinguish between the sound of the
whistle of an American locomotive and that of a French engine, the
American whistle being deep and the French shrill. It may seem strange
to think that I comment upon such a small matter as a locomotive
whistle, but when one is in a foreign land, amid foreign scenes and
sounds, a familiar sound is good to hear, even though it is as
unmusical as a deep blast of an American-made locomotive.

Our next stop at a place of importance was at Tours--historic Tours.
This is a city of more than 100,000 inhabitants and is one of the most
interesting cities in France.

I spent several weeks here in a hospital after being gassed on the
Metz front and I will speak in more detail of this city in a later

At Tours we were given more freedom than at any previous stop, and
here our officers bought chocolates, tobacco and fruit and distributed
them among the men. These dainties were the first we had since leaving
Brest and were surely appreciated.

After leaving Tours we continued to wind through the Valley of the
Loire along the Loire River, and I must say that the vineyards and
orchards between Tours and Orleans, our next stop, were the prettiest
that I saw in all of France. In this particular part of the valley the
trees and vines are exceedingly prolific, as compared with trees and
vines in other parts of France. They are not, however, as prolific as
those of California. The trees do not attain as large a growth as
those of this State and the vines are less vigorous. The fruit is
neither as large nor does it have the quality of ours. The 1918 fruit
crop was a large one, as measured by French standards, but yield per
acre, I am sure, would be small as compared with the yield per acre of
a first class Sacramento river orchard. The difference of the quality
and the yield as compared with our fruits, is undoubtedly due to the
fact that for centuries the lands of the Loire have been cultivated,
while our lands are new and contain all their natural richness. The
vineyards are planted differently from ours. The vines are four feet
apart one way and eight feet apart another, while ours are usually
planted eight or ten feet apart each way. Having been reared on a
California vineyard, I was naturally very much interested in the
vineyards of France, and I examined those that I had the opportunity
of visiting very carefully. I inspected some of the grapes that were
pronounced first class by French vineyardists, and found them to be
very inferior to California grapes. The berries were smaller and they
contained less juice.

The farther we traveled into the interior of France, the more
interested the people became in us. In other words, the nearer we came
to the scene of action, the greater was the enthusiasm of the French
people over our arrival. While we excited but small interest in the
small towns on the coast, as we got closer to the front, there were
delegations of women and children at the station waving to us at every
small or large town through which we passed. Cries of "Vive
L'Amerique" were more frequent, and we had hopes that the persistent
"donnez moi" would be heard less frequently, but it was not. We never
ceased hearing it as long as there were French children around.

We arrived at Orleans late in the evening of the third day of our
trip, and here we received a very hearty welcome from the American Red
Cross, as we did at Tours. The station at Orleans was more like an
American station than any that we had yet seen in France. It was large
and equipped with several tracks, as are most American stations.
Orleans is full of interest, but we were not permitted to stop there
long. We continued on our journey all night and the next day were out
of the Valley of the Loire and into a hilly section. While the scenery
was attractive, there were fewer cultivated areas and the soil was
less productive. We now began to see more of the American war
activities in France. We saw tented cities that had been built for
troops in record time; we saw camps where American soldiers were being
drilled; and we saw great quantities of American implements of war
such as airplanes, ammunition, light and heavy artillery, etc. In this
region we also passed three hospital trains coming from the front with
American soldiers who had been wounded, and we knew we were getting
very near the fighting. We also noticed a decided difference in the
French inhabitants. We detected a deeper interest in the war among
these people who were so near the battle line than in those farther
away, and we noted that not a young man was to be seen among the
civilians in eastern France--they were all at the front fighting to
save their homes from the ruthless Hun.

At 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the fourth day after we had left
Brest, we arrived at Langres, which was our destination, so far as
train travel was concerned. It was a great relief to leave those
crowded compartments in that uncomfortable train. The distance from
Brest to Langres by the route we traveled probably does not exceed six
hundred miles, yet it took us four days and three nights to make the
distance. A first class American train would cover the same distance
in about sixteen hours. At times our train moved so slowly that a man
could get out and keep up with it by running along the side. There
were no conveniences on the train, such as American travelers are
accustomed to. For instance, there were no toilets, and the train
would stop every three or four hours at some small station where
latrines were provided for our use. No one knows how miserable we were
on this trip, and the only thing that kept the boys from complaining
was the fact that the country was new to us and strange sights and
scenes made us forget our discomfort. Still, we did not have things as
bad as some of the American boys, who were compelled to travel across
France in box cars.

We were all glad to stretch our legs at Langres, and after we were
given a little refreshing exercise, we were loaded on motor trucks and
taken to our barracks, located in a stone building formerly used as a

The city of Langres is beautifully situated. It is on a hill that
rises from a plateau. It is a city of great antiquity, dating from the
time of the Romans. There can be no doubt but that its original
location was selected because of its strategic position, as it is on
the summit of a ridge and commands the situation in every direction.
In mediaeval times it was a stronghold for the feudal lords and in
modern times it is still of importance as a fortress. The city is
surrounded by a defense wall, built hundreds of years ago, and around
the outside of the wall was a moat, wide and deep. In feudal days this
moat was part of the defense works and it was kept filled with water.
It was dry when we visited and has been so for many years, as a moat
would be but as slight obstructure in modern warfare. But it made the
city well nigh impregnable in the mediaeval days before gunpowder was
invented and when most fighting was of the hand to hand kind. We
entered the city through an arched gate and crossed the moat on a
bridge which could be drawn up in case of attack. At present the gate
is always kept lowered, but it could be drawn up if necessary. It was
easy to picture in the mind's eye as we looked at these relics of
former days, the feudal barons of the age of chivalry, sallying forth
from this ancient stronghold on their steeds to make war or to plunder
and prepared to retreat behind this moat and wall where they would be
safe in the event that they were opposed by superior forces. I could
not but think, as I stood upon this historic ground, that we ourselves
were making history and that the fight that we were then preparing to
make, while less romantic than the skirmishes of the feudal barons,
was vastly more important to the welfare of the world.

Situated as it is upon an eminence, a view that is beyond description
is to be obtained from Langres. From the ramparts one may see the
upper valley of the Marne with its checkerboard of farms of various
hues; the Vosges; and on a clear day the white peak of Mont Blanc, one
hundred and sixty miles distant.

In strong contrast with the way in which ancient warriors entered
Langres, we were loaded onto motor trucks and taken up the steep and
winding way that led to the gates of the city by means of the most
modern way of transportation. Our eyes were fastened on the oddities
of this strangely interesting city as we wound through the streets,
some of which were narrow, others wide, past well kept parks and
buildings older than most of the modern governments, and we were
filled with a sort of reverence for this historic spot as we took our
places in the barracks made ready for us.


Nearing the Front

After we were installed in the barracks at Langres and had our
personal belongings straightened out, we were given the day to
ourselves. This was the first freedom that we had had since our
arrival in France. The boys, of course, all went to the business
section of the city, where many of them were given their first glimpse
of French customs and French methods of merchandising. As I had been
fortunate in getting into the business section of Brest while we were
there, this was not new to me, but to most of the boys it was a novel
experience. They spent their time and much of their money in the
French stores, buying small articles of various kinds. One oddity of
the freedom that we were given here was the fact that the American
soldiers, although forbidden to buy alcoholic liquors in America, were
permitted to buy them without restrictions in France, and it is only
telling the plain truth to say that many of them sampled the French
beers, wines and cognac.

I had an experience in a French barber shop that may be of interest,
as it shows the difference between French and American barbers. The
French barber does his work very rapidly, in fact so rapidly when he
is shaving that the patron wonders whether or not he is going to get
out of the chair uninjured. I ordered a haircut, a shave, a shampoo
and a face massage. I had much difficulty at first in making my wants
understood, particularly as to the manner in which I wanted my hair
cut. This finally made clear, I sat in the chair and the barber went
to work on me with his sharp shears. His hands moved like lightning
and it seemed like no more than two minutes that he had the job done.
It was the fastest hair cutting I ever witnessed and a good job, too.
He then proceeded to shave me, and for speed he exceeded his already
phenomenal record as a hair cutter. He put a thin lather on my face
and then with a thin razor--the thinnest I ever saw--he slashed off a
four days' growth with six strokes--one down the right cheek, one down
the left cheek, one across the entire upper lip, one--a fancy curved
stroke--across the chin, then up one side of the neck and a final
stroke up the other. In less time than it takes to tell, the job was
done, and it was a clean smooth shave too. But while he was slashing
that razor around I was uneasy. It was my first and last experience
with a French barber; thereafter, it was safety first. The massage was
excellent, but what impressed me about the shampoo was the small
amount of water used. Water must be costly in Langres from the way
that barber conserved it, but with no more than a handful of water, he
did his work well. The face waters used by French barbers are all
highly perfumed, in fact, too much so for the rough Westerner. When a
man leaves a barber shop he carries a sickening sweet aroma with him
and his friends know where he has been when he is as much as a hundred
yards away. It may be of interest to note that the shave, hair cut,
shampoo and massage cost me two and a half francs, or a little less
than 50 cents American money. The price of the same service in the
average American shop at the present time (August, 1919) would be
about $1.65.

The following day the men in our detachment were assigned to various
kinds of work at Langres. I was given a motor truck to drive. It was
in very poor condition and my first duty was to get it in working
order. I spent three days overhauling it and had it in fair
serviceable shape. But after putting all this work on it, I had the
pleasure of running it only about three days, for I received orders,
along with 208 others, to pack and get ready for a special course in a
military school. I had only half an hour's time to get ready, but at
the appointed time I was prepared to go, and with the boys chosen for
the schooling, was loaded onto a motor truck and taken to Fort St.
Menge, one of the numerous protecting forts around Langres. This was
an old fort, apparently built many years ago. It was situated on the
summit of a mountain and was surrounded by a moat, which, however, was
dry. It was substantially built and exceedingly interesting. The
barracks were built underground and of stone. They were sealed and
were water-tight. Soil from ten to fifteen feet in depth covered these
stone compartments and they were proof from the bombs of other days,
but would have but feebly resisted the modern high explosives. There
were also several tunnels leading from various parts of the interior
to the outer walls, so that men could be taken to any part of the fort
that might be attacked without being exposed to the enemy's fire.
About a thousand men could be billeted there.

Water for this fort was supplied from two deep wells and raised by a
peculiar lift pump, different from any that I ever saw before. It was
a sort of combination of a lift and pressure pump and was of European
design and manufacture. The wells were deep and the water good, for

On the day after our arrival there we commenced our work. We were
given a stiff drilling for three weeks, with scarcely a minute's rest.
We often worked until two or three o'clock in the morning. Our daily
routine was as follows: Arise at 5 o'clock; breakfast at 6;
calisthenics and manual of arms drill from 6:30 to 7:30; instruction
from 8 to 12; lunch from 12 to 1; instruction from 1 to 5; evening
instruction from 7 to 10, and often until 1, 2 or 3 o'clock the next
morning. It was here that we received advanced learning in
intelligence lines for our work in the war.

We studied with French and American instruments such as were then
being used by the Allied armies on the western front. I cannot
describe these instruments in detail or tell much about our
instruction because I have given my oath never to reveal any of the
details of this work. I am permitted, however, to name some of these
instruments, such as the subterranean microphone, sizorscope,
horoscope, perpendicular and horizontal range finder, elongated
three-power French binocular, instruments for determining the height
of airplanes, etc. We had to acquire a practical knowledge in the use
of all these instruments, as they were to be our future implements of
warfare, and in matters of this kind, accuracy is of vast importance.
We also had to learn the signals of the French, British, Italian and
American aviators; the international Morse code; to send and receive
messages perfectly under all conditions; to have a practical knowledge
of the use of telephone and telegraph instruments; their attention and
repair; and how to keep the lines of communication in working order at
all times and under any and all conditions.

From this brief summary, it can be readily understood that the
Government crowded plenty of work upon us during those three weeks. At
the completion of the courses examinations were given, and only 86 of
us out of a class of 208 succeeded in reaching the required
percentage. Of the others most remained to take the course for
another three weeks, while a few were released from the work as not
qualified for that particular kind of service.

All the time that we were studying we were drilled just as though we
were actually at war. We were compelled to dig in, to find the range
on certain objects and to direct imaginary artillery fire upon them.
We had to find the range of airplanes that passed over us, just as
though they were enemy planes. This drilling was as near like actual
warfare as it was possible to make it and because of this, we grasped
the meaning of our work and the details very quickly.

We were also drilled thoroughly in the art of camouflage. To be
successful in camouflage, one must learn to imitate nature and that is
what we had to study, and one's tracks must always be covered. A
successful bit of camouflage not only deceives the eyes of the enemy
aerial observers, but it also deceives the lens of the enemy camera.
To make this perfectly clear, it should be said that the lens of
cameras used in warfare are exceedingly delicate and frequently when
the plate of an aerial photograph is developed, it reveals a spot that
means some extraordinary work on the part of the enemy, which the eyes
of the aviator did not detect. It can be readily understood,
therefore, that unless the camera is also deceived, the camouflage has
not been well done, for enemy planes, having located the spot by means
of their photograph, could plan to bomb it, but if the plate did not
show anything, then the camouflage is successful.

While we were at Fort St. Menge we received our gas masks and we were
compelled to go through many gas mask drills. This was done so we
would become efficient in putting them on when we got to the front
line. With a little practice we got so we could adjust them in a
remarkably short time. We were also given our steel helmets while
here, and we realized fully that we were getting nearer and nearer to
the scene of action, and that our sham warfare would soon give way to
actual fighting. We were also drilled in rifle shooting and by the
time we were ready to leave, we were in every way fit to participate
in the great struggle in which we were soon to take part.

As soon as our schooling was completed, we were told to get ready to
leave for Langres, so we packed up and we were compelled to "hike"
back to that city. At Langres we spent two days in getting ready for
the front. We were ordered to leave fully equipped with the best of
those things that we had to have. This meant that new articles were
issued to many of us. For instance, if a man had a pair of shoes that
was partly worn, he was given a new pair, and some of our old clothes
were turned in for new garments. These were two busy days and our time
was entirely occupied in getting ready. We were limited as to the
things we could take with us. We were given our barrack bags and told
to put in these bags all the things that we had to leave and that
those of us who returned would receive their bags when they got back.
My bag contained a number of toilet articles, clothes and other
articles that I took with me from the United States. I never saw that
bag again, as I was gassed and wounded and never went back to Langres,
but I suppose that it has long since become the property of some one

When we were ready to leave Langres we marched with full equipment to
a station three miles from the barracks we were leaving, where we were
billeted in wooden billets. Here we spent the night. We had to get up
at 4 o'clock in the morning to take an early train. It was a bitter
cold morning, but we did not notice this much, as we were on our way
to the scene of action and our thoughts were on the future. A cup of
coffee, a couple of doughnuts and a bun was the only breakfast that we
had, but it was all we wished. We carried traveling rations, of which
we made good use later on. We boarded the train at 4:30 o'clock and
rode on a fast passenger train until 11 o'clock, when we arrived at
Toul. We traveled in second and third class passenger coaches. At Toul
we were well received by the Red Cross, which furnished us with some
food, and this, together with our traveling rations, provided us with
a hearty meal.

We left Toul at 1 o'clock and marched toward the front. We were soon
within the sound of the heavy guns. We continued on the road for
several hours, and then, as we were getting into the zone where shells
fell occasionally, we were told to thin out our ranks so that if a
shell fell among us our casualties would be light. From then on, we
marched about eight or ten feet apart in single file on each side of
the road. We were ordered to wear our steel helmets as a protection
against shrapnel. Some did not see the need of doing this, but most of
us were glad to take the precaution. We crossed several narrow gauge
tracks on our march, and saw trains carrying supplies of all kinds to
the battle front. They were pulled by gasoline engines. We also saw
our first barbed wire entanglements. These were built back of the
lines as a protection to the French in case the Germans should break
through on that front. They were about twenty-five feet in width and
extended north and south as far as the eye could see. Later on we saw
barbed wire entanglements as much as 250 feet in width, put up as a
barrier to the Boche, should they break through.

Airplanes were now very numerous. They were darting back and forth at
various heights. We were anxious to see an airplane battle, but none
took place on that front on that day. We could see observation
balloons in the distance. Those in the very far distance we knew to be
enemy observers.

We marched until 7 o'clock, when we reached a woods, where we were
permitted to stop. We were given our evening meal, which consisted of
bully beef and hard tack. The woods was our sheltering place for the
night. Some of the boys said they slept well that night, but I will be
absolutely truthful and say that I did not. The knowledge that we were
under shell fire and the unforeseen events that the immediate future
held in store for me so weighed upon my mind that I could scarcely
close my eyes. I really do not understand how any of the boys slept.
We could hear the screech of the shells as they whizzed by, but,
fortunately, none of them hit near us. Only a few days before several
hundred American boys were gassed in this same woods, and our gas
guard kept a close watch for gas shells.

The next day we proceeded on toward the Verdun front. We marched all
day long, with only occasional stops. We were not in the open,
however, going from one woods to another; when we marched in the open,
only small bodies of men would move at a time. At 11 p.m. we stopped
marching and made our camp for the night. Most of the boys were so
weary from their long "hike" that they wrapped up in their overcoats,
lay down on the ground and went right to sleep. We remained three days
here waiting for orders. We were near the front, could hear the guns
all the time and the occasional rattle of a machine gun. When our
orders did finally come, we were told to march back over part of the
same route we had come and we finally stopped close to Novient. It was
here that we saw our first action and it was here that we finished our
education in the work that we were to do under the supervision of the
French, who held this front before it was taken over by the


Preparation for Battle

We were billeted at Novient for three days in wrecks of buildings that
had been ruined by Hun shells. At first we did not do much work
because it was not definitely known whether or not we were to remain

Although we were in the war zone and under shell fire at all times, we
were amazed when we learned that there were still a few French
peasants in the vicinity. These were mostly old men and old women, and
a few, but very few, children. These peasants would not leave their
old homes, though requested to do so by the French Government. They
preferred to remain there and be killed by a Hun Shell, if that was to
be their fate, than to leave the spot that they so dearly loved. The
young men of these towns were all fighting at the front and the young
women had gone to the larger cities, farther from the front, where
they found employment at good wages.

Most of these old peasants kept a cow or two and a few chickens and
they sold milk and eggs to the American soldiers, thus realizing a
small profit for their great hazard. We paid seven francs or about
$1.35 for a dozen eggs and four francs or about 70 cents for a gallon
of milk. We were indeed glad to get these luxuries, even at these
prices and considered ourselves fortunate. In Novient two beer shops
were also conducted and sold the soldiers light wines and beers, the
prices being one franc or nearly 20 cents for a small bottle of beer,
five francs for a bottle of red wine and from seven to ten francs for
a bottle of white wine.

After three days at Novient, we moved forward toward the trenches,
where we were to complete our training for work in the Flash Service.
At this time we were divided into small detachments, there being
fourteen men in the detachment to which I was assigned. We were taken
to a woods about a mile and a half from Novient, and there had our
first introduction to the French S. R. O. T., or service similar to
our Flash Service.

In this woods we were billeted underground, where we were protected
from shell fire. Each detachment was billeted with an equal number of
French, and it was from the fourteen French in our detachment that we
were to complete our education for the special work for which we were
preparing. In other words, we were to learn the practical application
from the French of the knowledge that we had learned in the school at
Fort St. Menge.

Our first experience in actual war work was in an observation tower in
this woods. This tower was 65 feet in height. It was cylindrical in
form and built of steel about half an inch in thickness. The interior
was about five feet in diameter. In the tank (so-called) was a lookout
post for observation work. It had small slits on all sides that could
be readily opened and shut, through which we were to take our
observations. We entered the tower through a trap door in the bottom,
and the men working at the post locked the door while they were at
their duty. The tower was erected in a thick growth of tall trees, and
was well camouflaged. It was securely hidden from Hun eyes, yet gave
us a full view of the Hun trenches in that vicinity. It was from this
tower that I first saw the enemy, and got my first glimpse of the Hun
lines and got my first full view of a modern battlefield.

The French outer trench was only one-quarter of a mile from this
tower. The German trenches were just a little way beyond those of the
French, the distance varying from fifty yards to a quarter of a mile,
according to the terrain. With our strong glasses, we could get an
excellent view of everything that Fritz did in this part of the line.

In this tower the French taught us their secrets of observation in
modern warfare. They showed us how to locate German batteries, machine
gun nests, railroads, troop movements, supply trains, aerial activity,
observation balloons, etc. We paid particular attention to watching
how often Hun airplanes arose, where they crossed our lines, whether
or not they were fired on by our anti-aircraft guns, the number of Hun
planes in the air, the purpose of their flights, etc. It was
particularly important to get the point where the German aviators
crossed the Allied lines. Their planes followed a system in this so as
to try to avoid our anti-aircraft guns. They would cross at a certain
point for one or two days, then, believing that if they attempted to
cross there again they would meet with a warm reception, they would
change the location, thus keeping the Allies guessing all the time.
The French remained with us about ten days, during which time we
acquired sufficient knowledge to take up the work ourselves, and the
American troops then took over this section of the line.

Our conveniences while here were not good, but they were as good as we
expected. We accepted our lot without protest. All our provisions had
to be carried in at night on our backs, as it would have been
dangerous for a supply train to attempt to bring anything in during
the day. There was no water at all in our immediate vicinity. That
which we used for cooking and drinking purposes had to be carried from
a spring about three-quarters of a mile distant. While going to this
spring on one occasion, we located a blackberry patch, which gave us a
little diversion. We conserved our flour for several days, and then
picked enough blackberries for pie. On two occasions we had blackberry
pie and it is no exaggeration to say that it was absolutely the best
morsel of food that any of us had ever tasted. It was a luxury, I
venture to say, that but few soldiers in the extreme front line
trenches were privileged to enjoy.

A few days after the French left this front to us, we became aware
that we were preparing for some big military manoeuver. What it was,
of course, we were not told; we knew, however, that it was to be on a
gigantic scale. It subsequently developed that we were preparing for
the great St. Mihiel drive, that wonderful independent plunge into
German lines by American troops, which straightened out the St. Mihiel
salient and showed definitely to the Germans that ultimately they were
to be defeated.

A brief description of this preparation may be of interest. Our first
intimation of this manoeuver was the bringing up of great quantities
of ammunition. This was placed in the woods and well camouflaged.
Next, heavy artillery came up in greater quantities than we had any
idea that the American army had in France. Then light artillery was
brought up in numbers proportional to the heavy guns. Then thousands
of fresh troops were marched up and placed under the cover of the
woods. These men marched up at night, so as not to be seen by Hun
airplanes. It should be stated here that during this preparation
Allied air machines had complete mastery of the aerial situation and
as soon as a Hun plane appeared on the horizon, it was pursued until
it either was brought down, or it escaped back to its lines.

While the infantry was stationed in these woods, no time was lost. The
men were given their final instructions in fighting Bosch. They were
drilled hard every day and they became particularly efficient in the
use of the bayonet, a weapon that in the hands of a Yank the Germans
fear worse than anything else that I know of. Rifle practice, of
course, could not be indulged in while in these woods, because the
noise might attract German attention, but bayonet drills never
ceased. Thorough drilling was also given in the use of machine guns.
Men were instructed how to repair guns, were told what to do in case
certain parts of the gun were injured, were shown how to take guns
apart and put them together again, and before the end of the drilling,
these men became as efficient in machine gun work as Fritz himself.

The last step of the preparation was the bringing up of the tanks.
These came up at night in great numbers. There were tanks of all
kinds, from the huge British machines to the "petite" or little French
tank. These were also camouflaged and concealed in the woods. After
the tanks were brought up, their gunners were given a final thorough
drilling in the use of their guns, their machines, etc. We had never
before seen such a vast equipment of war material.

It is difficult to express my feelings during the final days of this
preparation. I knew that something of a gigantic nature had been
planned and that the time was close at hand. I also knew that whatever
it was it would surely succeed, for nothing could resist the combined
force of all that preparation when the final word was given. I cannot
but admit that enormous quantity of ammunition, the vast number of
light and heavy guns, the thousands of men ready for the fray, caused
me to feel a certain indescribable sadness, for I knew, that although
success was sure to follow our drive, some of these brave boys were to
pay the price with their lives. On September 11th, the boys were
drilled for the last time. We were then required to strip our bodies
of all our clothes and to smear ourselves with a salve. This was a
preparation that was designed to protect the body from burns in case
we encountered the deadly mustard gas.

After dark and all during the night there was a steady stream of men
going to their positions in the trenches. They knew that the time for
the manoeuver to start was near, but whether it was to be 24 or 48
hours, they did not know. But we of the Flash Service did; we knew
that at one minute past midnight on the morning of September 12th, the
zero hour, the Germans were to be given their great surprise party,
and we counted the minutes as they were ticked off the watch until
that time arrived.


The Great St. Mihiel Drive

It was exactly at 12:01 o'clock on the morning of September 12th, when
the great St. Mihiel drive began, and when all the preparation of
which I told in the preceding chapter was brought into play in the
first great independent movement of American troops, which was to give
the Germans a warning of what they were to expect from the army from
across the seas, of which they had so sneeringly spoken. The drive
opened with a demoralizing barrage, the greatest of the kind that, up
to that time, had ever been laid down by artillery. It greatly
exceeded in the number of guns brought into action and in amount of
ammunition used, any barrage that either the Germans or the Allies
had, prior to that time, attempted. It was like letting hell loose
upon the Germans in the salient at all points within the range of our
guns. Language is inadequate to describe this barrage and none except
those who were actual participants in the drive will be able to
visualize in the mind the terror that General Pershing's guns belched
forth on that momentous occasion. Those who have imaginative minds may
be able to form some faint conception of what this great battle was
like, if they can picture thousands of guns--heavy, medium and
light--belching forth their fire with ceaseless regularity for six
long hours. It was pitch dark when the first guns opened with their
roar, but it was not long before the heavens were lighted with a
brilliant pyrotechnic display, something like elaborate Fourth of July
fireworks, but multiplied by millions in intensity. The heavy
artillery spit forth long flames as they were discharged. The long
flash, the rapidity with which it is dashed from the gun muzzle, and
its sudden disappearance, reminded me of a serpent's tongue. And
serpents' tongues they were, indeed, to German hopes, for as sure as
these are facts, the St. Mihiel drive sealed the doom of the despised
Huns. As far as the eye could see, these flashes were being repeated
at stated intervals, and in front of them were the smaller and more
rapid flashes of the medium artillery; and adding their flame, smoke
and noise to the din far out in front was the famous light artillery,
which did such effective work throughout the war.

It was not long after the barrage began before the Germans began to
throw star shells. These were for the purpose of lighting up No Man's
Land. They are thrown to a height of several hundred feet, and as they
slowly descend, they burn a brilliant white light. These added to the
brilliancy of the fireworks. The object of the Germans in throwing
these star shells was to keep No Man's Land lighted so as to be ready
to repel our attack. They knew, of course, that our barrage was to be
followed up with a charge, but they did not know at what hour it was
to be launched. The star shells were thrown so that they could not be
taken unawares in the dark.

Far behind the line in Fritz' territory we could see our shells
bursting. The telltale flash meant that the Huns were getting a dose
of severe medicine, though we could at that moment only guess at the
destruction that was being wrought. Later we were to see the havoc
worked by our accurate artillerymen.

The object of this demoralizing barrage was to break up the morale of
the Germans and in general to pave the way for our infantry charge
that was to follow. It shattered the German trenches, plowed through
their barbed wire entanglements and kept those who survived in a state
of great nervous tension, because they knew a great charge was to
follow. Our guns were also trained on such objects as headquarters,
railroads, heavy artillery emplacements, cross roads, ammunition
dumps, aviation hangars, etc., from information that had previously
been obtained by the Flash and Sound Ranging sections. The heavy
artillery did great damage far in the rear. The medium artillery, not
having the range of the heavy guns, did not reach so far back with its
fire, but demoralized things generally wherever its shells hit. It
also had for its purpose the breaking up of any attack that might be
planned as a counter offensive. The light artillery is of smaller
caliber and fires more rapidly. This did wonderful execution and was a
great help in winning the war.

It was exactly 6 o'clock when the demoralizing barrage stopped, and it
was followed by a protecting barrage. There is quite a difference
between a demoralizing barrage and a protecting barrage. A
demoralizing barrage is just what its name signifies, a demoralizing
rain of shells upon the enemy. A protecting barrage is for the purpose
of protecting the infantry as it charges into the enemy's lines and it
is raised slowly as the infantry advances so as to keep over the heads
of the marching soldiers. As soon as the protecting barrage was fired
in this drive, the first waves of infantry went over the top.

Most people have a misconception of what going over the top is. The
prevailing idea is that a great mass of troops rush over the top and
into the German trenches. What really occurs is this: The men climb
out of the trenches at an ordinary pace in a thin line from six to ten
feet apart. This is followed in a few seconds by another thin line
about the same distance apart, and then another, and so on until there
are thousands of men advancing over No Man's Land, but they are
scattered over a large area. The object in scattering them is to
reduce losses in case an enemy shell falls among them. I have seen a
shell fall among men advancing this way without hitting any of them,
and I have also seen several fall from a single shell. Another reason
for these thin waves is the fact that when advancing in this formation
the men offer a poorer target to the machine guns of the enemy, while
in mass formation, a machine gun could mow down in a short time a
whole company.

Just ahead of the waves of infantry in this drive, wiggled the tanks.
These cumbersome, awkward, ugly but efficient machines were of great
help to the foot soldiers. They not only made a path through the
barbed wire entanglements that the artillery had not destroyed, but
they hunted out and destroyed German machine gun nests, which were so
dangerous to the infantry. The tanks had a very difficult task and
they performed it well. Too much credit cannot be given to the tank
crews. They were brave, skillful and good fighters. It is true they
were in a measure protected behind the steel walls of the machine,
but, on the other hand, they were exposed to heavy fire, it was hot
and disagreeable within and in case of being struck by a shell or
running onto a mine, the horrors were worse than those to which other
fighters were exposed. The greatest danger was that of being trapped
within and burned to death in case a shell hits the gasoline tank; a
number were destroyed in that manner. So I give full credit to the
tank men for their heroic services--they braced the greatest dangers
without knowing such a word as "fear."

As our boys went over the top they were given the protection of an
aerial squadron. Only those who were advancing toward the Hun lines on
that day, with full realization of their duties and their dangers,
know what a feeling of protection these hovering planes gave us. They
flew low, frequently just over the heads of the men, and poured their
deadly machine gun fire into such of the Hun trenches as the artillery
had not destroyed--and, no matter how thoroughly the artillery does
its work, there is always plenty left for the other branches of the
army to do. These daring airmen also dropped fishtail bombs on the
Huns. These men were the bravest of the brave. They had the courage,
grit and combative qualities of the lion. They are constantly in great
danger. They are fired upon from below by enemy anti-aircraft guns,
and frequently from above by enemy planes. They are also exposed, when
they fly low, to rifle fire and machine guns and machines are
frequently brought down by such fire. During a drive of this kind they
also face the danger of running into their own barrage and are
restricted as to the area in which they may manoeuver. We cannot give
these fearless men of the flying corps too much praise for their work.
While men in all branches of the American army were brave and all did
their duty, I think the airmen, like the tank men, deserve a special
meed of praise for their daring, and when I say this, I intend in no
way to detract from the bravery of the men in any other branch of the

The Flash Service, to which I belonged, was not a fighting unit. While
we were heavily armed, so that we could defend ourselves and fight if
necessary, we were not, in the strict sense of the word, combatants.
It was more important for us to keep the lines of communication in
working order, to give the artillery the range on certain objects, to
locate machine gun nests and direct fire upon them so they could be
destroyed, than to fight, for there were sufficient numbers in other
branches of the army for that purpose. But we did not overlook an
opportunity to help our cause, and it is with a great deal of pleasure
that I tell of a machine gun nest of thirteen men captured by three of
the men of our detachment, though of a different post from mine. It
was during the early morning of the first day of the drive. It should
be stated that the American infantry advanced so rapidly that it
frequently went right by carefully concealed machine gun nests. This
was just what the Germans wanted them to do, because they opened fire
from the rear and rained bullets on our men from two sides. The three
men that captured the nest of which I am telling were just in back of
the second wave of infantry that went over the top, following it up
for the purpose of establishing our line of communication from front
to rear. They came upon this nest as the Huns were preparing to fire
at our advancing men. When they first located the nest the Americans
had their revolvers carefully wrapped in greased coils and in their
holsters, not expecting to use them--the greased coils being to keep
the weapons from rusting from the dampness of the trenches. These
resourceful American boys lost no time, however, in getting their
weapons ready for use, and by a quick and intrepid manoeuver, they
approached the Huns, covered them with their revolvers, and compelled
them to surrender without so much as firing a shot. The Huns were
taken to the rear, and their gun, a Vicker, became a trophy of war.

It was about 9 o'clock in the morning while we were advancing that I
came upon a petite French tank, which had run upon a Hun mine and had
been completely destroyed. The machine was reduced to a pile of junk,
and it was hardly believable that a mine would work such destruction.
The heavy iron was torn in shreds, and while we knew it was a tank and
we knew what had happened to it, it was now nothing but scrap iron.

Just about that time the infantry was capturing thousands of Hun
prisoners--men who had occupied the front German trenches and who were
overcome by our boys. As I was advancing, I saw 3,700 German prisoners
marching to the rear, and as it was still early in the day, you may
know with what thoroughness our boys were doing their work. Among
these prisoners was a German officer who knew the location of the
mines that had been planted to destroy tanks, bridges, roads, etc. The
Americans were not long in learning this and they compelled him to
point out these locations. Under his guidance, 52 mines were
destroyed. These might have done great damage to American tanks and
soldiers if they had not been set off. As it was, they opened a
pathway through which our tanks passed without danger.

As we went forward into the territory that had been held by the Huns,
we could see the results of our own work, that is to say, we could see
objects upon which we had given the range to the artillery, completely
destroyed. It was gratifying to note that our work and the work of the
artillery had been so accurate. Objects, such as headquarters,
railroad tracks, cross roads, that we had located through our strong
glasses before the drive, and upon which we had given the distance to
the gunners, had been shattered by direct hits, speaking wonders for
the marksmanship of the American gunners. At some places we saw scores
of men and animals that had been killed by shell fire; at others we
saw trenches that had been as completely wiped out as though they
never existed; we also saw ammunition dumps that had been hit and set
afire and which burned steadily for several days. These were
exceedingly dangerous places, and we kept a good distance from them
until they burned completely out, as the exploding shells threw flying
metal for a distance of a hundred yards or more. We also came across
railroad trains that had been hit as they were proceeding, and so
badly crippled that they had to be abandoned by the enemy, later to be
captured by us.

We advanced about ten kilometers the first day, and then our men were
directed to dig in. Here we met with our first real resistance. The
enemy counter attacked during the night, but his charges were finally
broken up by our accurate fire.

Our advance that day had been rapid and had penetrated deeply into the
enemy line. This had been possible because of the rapidity with which
our supplies had been brought up. The roads for the most part were not
badly cut up, and those that were damaged were quickly repaired by our
engineers. Bridges had been hastily built, obstructions removed from
highways, and shell holes filled in so that traffic could go on almost
uninterruptedly. This made it possible for all necessary munitions to
move forward.

One thing that was annoying to our advance was the German "pill boxes"
in which machine gunners were placed. These pill boxes were of
concrete. They were round and flat, a few square, and took their name
because of their resemblance to a pill box. They had slits about six
inches wide and eighteen inches long in the concrete through which the
Huns fired their machine guns at our troops. Our most effective weapon
against these pill boxes was our one pounders. They fired a small
shell directly at the box and continued to fire until they got the
range of the slit. The shells would then penetrate the slit and hit
the other side of the box, exploding when they did so, and killing or
wounding the occupants. Once the range was obtained, our gunners kept
pouring in these shells until there was no longer any fear that the
Fritz soldiers in that box would harm any more Americans. Our boys put
many of these pill boxes out of commission with big loss to the enemy.
They made duty in a pill box certain death for the Huns when any
Americans were around.

We spent a rather restless night after our first day's advance. Though
we had marched many miles and were mentally and physically fatigued,
it was not easy to sleep. We were in constant danger of counter attack
and of being shelled by the enemy, and the sensation was not pleasant.

Early in the morning of September 13th, the second day of the drive,
we advanced again in the gray of the early dawn. It was between 8 and
9 o'clock on this morning that I saw a great aerial fight in which
probably thirty-five and perhaps forty machines participated. We had
advanced so far the first day that the Germans sent their aircraft out
in numbers on the second day to look at the territory that had been
lost. Our men were ready for them. It was the most thrilling sight I
ever witnessed, and I cannot imagine anything more sensational. At
first these machines were very high in the air, perhaps ten thousand
feet, for they were mere specks in the sky to the natural vision. It
was wonderful to see them manoeuvering for positions of advantage.
They twisted, turned, looped and dove. At times two or three would be
very close together and then again they would separate. Little white
puffs of smoke told the tale that the machine guns were in action.
They reminded me of bees swarming, as they buzzed and circled around
each other in the air. As they fought they descended, coming nearer to
earth and thus plainer to our vision. Suddenly one dropped out of the
ranks, a struck machine. We knew it was permanently out of commission
the minute it started to fall, for it dropped like a dead bird. It was
a Hun machine and it dropped close to where I was located, so close in
fact that within a few minutes I was inspecting it and taking small
souvenirs to send home from its collapsed wings. Then another dropped,
but it fell far from where we were located and its descent was so
swift that we could not see its insignia and were unable to tell
whether or not it was a Hun machine. Then one came down wounded, but
still able to fly. It was an American machine, for it sought refuge in
back of our lines. And so the fight continued for a few minutes--it
did not last long--until a total of eight machines dropped and several
others flew away wounded. Just what percentage of Hun and Allied
planes fell, I was never able to ascertain, but the best evidence that
the majority of them were Hun machines was the fact that the remaining
enemy planes soon departed from the aerial battle field, leaving the
Allied planes in complete control. The Allied fleet of planes in this
fight was composed mostly of Americans, though our airmen were aided
by a couple of British and a couple of French machines.

We continued our advance throughout the second day, though we did not
proceed as rapidly as on the first day. This was because the roads
were in poorer condition and supplies could not be so rapidly moved
forward and for the further reason that the country was more wooded
and offered Fritz a better opportunity for defense. Our boys were
counter-attacked on several occasions, but each time they sent the
Huns flying to the rear with heavy losses. In hand to hand fighting,
such as often resulted when counter attacks were lodged, the Germans
were no match for the Americans, who seemed to excel in close work
which required bravery, skill and dash. In fact, it was in this kind
of work that our boys showed Fritz what we mean in America by "punch."

On the third day we advanced as far as Thiacourt, which was our
objective. On this day we also met with stubborn resistance. It was
here that we encountered many pill boxes and it required considerable
difficult and accurate work to put them out of business.

It was on the night of September 15th that we saw our hardest
fighting, and were given a taste of how hard Germans could fight when
pressed. It was on this night that our losses were the heaviest of the

My post was dug in on a ridge that was occupied by a detachment of
incomparable fighters--the Marines. The ridge was only about 500 yards
in length. The roads being in bad condition, we were unable to get the
protection of any artillery. All that we had to keep Fritz at bay on
this ridge was about forty machine guns, which were no match for the
heavy shells that the Huns were pouring on us, having our range to a
nicety. We were in what is known as "graves," or shallow trenches, not
having had time to dig deep trenches or to strengthen our positions as
we were constantly under fire. But these Marines laid down a machine
gun barrage, the first that I had ever seen. They kept up the fire all
night and thus held Fritz away. It was a tense period. Hun shells were
dropping all around us and frequently right among us, but the machine
guns never ceased their excellent defensive work. When day broke, and
the Hun ceased firing, only seventeen of these machine guns and their
crews were in condition to fight. Twenty-three of them had been
destroyed by the German artillery. It was a sad sight that met our
eyes the morning when we saw the losses that we had suffered during
the night.

It was on the night of the fourth day of the drive that fresh men were
brought up, and those of us who had been out in front during the drive
were relieved. It was, indeed, a great relief. It permitted us to
relax our bodies and minds after four days of steady strain, with no
more food than was sufficient to sustain us and without rest during
the entire time. We were grateful to be away for a short time from the
devastating fire that the Huns were pouring into our front line
trenches in an endeavor to check a further penetration into their
lines, but we were still under shell fire.

We were taken a short distance to the rear, where we were billeted in
German dugouts. The day before these had been occupied by German
officers. They were elaborately fitted up with all things necessary
for luxury and comfort, such as beds, bathtubs, electric lights, etc.

It was here, seemingly as a reward for my small services in the great
fight, that I met my friend and companion, McKinley Johnston, of
Sacramento. Nothing could have pleased me more for McKinley Johnston
is like a brother to me, having been my companion since boyhood. It
was with him that I had talked of enlisting long before I volunteered,
and it was he who enlisted with me. Though we became soldiers together
and entered the same company, the fortunes of war separated us in
France, and united us at a moment that was most gratifying to us both.
We sat down together and related our experiences. He was driving a
truck, and from him I learned of remarkable escapes that he had had
from death during the four days of the drive. On one occasion a Hun
shell, sufficient in size to have blown him to atoms, lodged in his
truck among supplies and failed to explode. I saw the shell myself,
also saw the hole in the top of the truck through which it passed and
can vouch for the truthfulness of the story. On another occasion a
shrapnel shell exploded on the road just to the right of his truck.
When it burst, it sent small pieces of metal flying in all directions.
About twenty-five or thirty of these passed through his truck, but not
one struck him. I saw the holes they made. The motor of the truck was
not as fortunate as the driver. A number of the pieces passed through
the hood and lodged in the engine. It was damaged considerably, but it
still ran and McKinley was able to complete his trip. I marveled at
these stories because they concerned a young man of whom I am very
fond, but escapes of this kind were numerous in these days and almost
every soldier who passed through the drive can truthfully tell of
similar escapes. We were facing death all the time and the remarkable
thing is that so many of us did pass through the drive and come out



One of the happiest days that I experienced during the period that I
was at war was on Friday, September 20, 1918. On this day, after
having made several visits to our new posts in the front line, I came
back to our billet, where, to my delight and surprise, I found eight
letters from home awaiting me. No one knows the joy that a letter from
home gives to a soldier on the firing line. It is like taking him out
of hell and placing him back on earth again. For several days we had
been in the very thickest of the fight, facing death at every minute,
seeing our companions fall around us, doing everything we possibly
could to help our side win, and willing to go back and do it all over
again without complaint--and then to get these welcome letters from
dear ones 9,000 miles away right in the midst of it all. Is it any
wonder that on such occasions we frequently gave way to our emotions?

The letters that I received were enjoyed not only by me, but by my
companion, McKinley Johnston, as well, as he knew all of my people and
was as familiar as I was with the things that they wrote about. It is
a peculiar circumstance, but it is a fact, nevertheless, that all of
the boys, even those who did not know my folks and who came from other
States than California, were interested in these letters. They were
news from home and that is what all the boys were craving. They wanted
to read anything that came from America. So, after reading the
letters, I passed them all around and every boy in the camp read them.
After getting the letters back, I read them over several times.
Several of them contained photographs of familiar scenes and faces,
and it seemed good to look upon them again, for no one knew but that
it might be the last time we would see them. I thought it would be a
nice thing to sit right down and write, after reading these letters,
but when I attempted it, I was so overcome with emotion caused by
thoughts of those who were near and dear to me, that I was unable to
give expression to my thoughts.

The position of the American troops at this time was not favorable.
The enemy held the commanding ground, and was concealed in woods,
while our troops were out in the open. The Boche could see what we
were doing while we were unable to detect his moves. This
disadvantage, you might well know, would not long be tolerated by
Americans. We wanted the commanding ground and we wanted to put Fritz
in the open. So on Monday, September 23rd, we gave Fritz a three-hour
barrage and it was a hot one. By the time the barrage started, all our
light artillery had been brought up and put in place, and we were able
to rain shells from the famous 75's upon the enemy in torrents. This
barrage was for the purpose of breaking up the morale of the Germans.
We were counter-barraged by the Huns, and for a time they made it hot
for us. But our superiority began to show after about an hour's
firing. The men in the Flash Division worked hard to give our gunners
the correct location of the German batteries. We worked hard and fast
and the accuracy of our effort was shown by the silencing of the
German guns. One by one they ceased firing, as the American artillery,
with the data we supplied them, dropped shells on the Hun batteries.

It was just about 5:45 in the morning when our artillery ceased firing
and our boys advanced again. This time our objectives were only about
two kilometers in back of the German front trenches. We met with
stubborn resistance at first, but with the usual American
determination and pluck, we soon forced the Boche back.

It was here that I first saw the German minnewafers and trench mortars
at work. The shells thrown from the minnewafers are as much feared as
any German weapon of war. They are thrown from a large gun with a
smooth bore and short barrel. The projectile is shaped like a rolling
pin, though it is much larger. In each end, or handle of the shell, is
a cap, which explodes as the handle strikes the ground. As the
projectile somersaults as it travels, one handle or the other is sure
to hit the earth, so there are no "duds" that I saw among these
shells. They explode with a terrific racket and tear up the earth for
a great distance around the spot where they land. They are not thrown
very high in the air, and are intended for use in close fighting, that
is to say, two or three hundred yards. As the shells whirl through the
air, you can plainly hear them whistling, and if you look sharply you
can occasionally see them coming. These minnewafers and mortars are of
various ranges--from three and four inches up to twelve and fourteen
inches. Aside from these trench guns, the Germans in this fight also
resisted heavily with machine gun nests and one pounders.

In going over the top this time, we did not have the protection that
we did when the St. Mihiel drive started. In other words, we did not
have any tanks or any aerial protection, but had to advance with only
such help as the artillery could give us.

The Germans were well protected and it took clever work to outwit
them. Their machine gun nests were always cleverly concealed. Many of
them were concealed in trees, and it was a common sight to see our
infantrymen advance unseen by the machine gunners, and then with their
rifles, shoot them out of the trees. I had seen machine gun nests in
trees before, but never so many as this time. Not only were they
numerous, but they were so well provided with ammunition that they
could fire thousands of rounds of shells, if necessary. I have seen
long belts of cartridges hanging to limbs of trees, all ready for use
on the part of the gunners. I have also seen many of these belts
attached together so as to provide an almost endless chain of
cartridges for the gun. Under one tree where there had been a nest, I
saw empty cartridge shells eight inches deep, which was some shooting
for a short fight such as this was. That machine gun had certainly
done all that could be expected of it.

We gained our objectives at 4 o'clock of the afternoon of the day the
drive started. We were then in the best possible position, so far as
ground is concerned, as it was possible for us to occupy. We had taken
the commanding ground from Fritz, and we began digging in so as to be
ready for a counter attack. All during that night we dug our trenches,
making them deep and as safe as possible. Between 3 and 5 o'clock the
next morning, the expected attack came. We experienced a heavy
shelling from the German artillery. Of course, our light artillery
that had been hastily brought up was not slow in returning the fire.
Our barrage was very accurate and eventually the Huns were silenced.

It was at this time that I was called upon to witness the greatest
horror of war--that of seeing some of my dearest friends fall from the
enemy's fire before my very eyes. I was working in a post with three
other men. We had been constantly together since the drive began and
our hardships that we had undergone resulted in a bond of friendship
that held us together like brothers. All three of these men were
killed during this barrage. Two of them were instantly killed and the
third lived but a short time after being hit, dying about 6 o'clock in
the morning.

When you consider that we were working in a post that was not more
than twelve feet in diameter, you may well imagine my feelings as I
saw these boys fall. I fully expected that my turn would come at any
minute, but I kept at work so as to keep my mind off the gruesome

The next twenty-four hours were about the worst that I experienced
throughout the war. My post was right out in front, and I was the only
man left in it. Our communication lines had been badly cut up by
German shells, and I was unable to make a report of the disaster that
our post had suffered to headquarters. I could not leave the post,
because I could not leave the instruments. They were too valuable to
be left there with no one guarding them, and it would not do to leave
any chance of their falling into the hands of the enemy. So I remained
at the post all day. About 7 o'clock in the evening, men from
headquarters fixed the communicating lines and I made my report of the
loss of three men. Help was immediately dispatched to me, but,
because we were heavily shelled again that night by the Huns, it was
impossible for aid to reach me. It was not until 4 o'clock the next
morning that a detachment reached the post and I was relieved.

A detachment was also sent from headquarters for the purpose of
removing the bodies of my three dead companions. They were taken back
of the lines to a beautiful spot in the woods, and there they were
buried. Because of the fondness of the men of our detachment for these
and for the further reason that fighting had slackened up some, we
were able to give these men a little better burial than is accorded
most soldiers who fall on the field of battle. In most cases a grave
is dug, the body wrapped in a blanket and deposited without a casket
and without ceremony. But for these boys, some of the men in our
detachment made boxes to serve as coffins out of material that we had
captured from an engineering dump. One big grave was dug and the
bodies were laid in it side by side. One of the boys said a prayer and
the graves of these brave lads, way out there in the woods in France,
were covered over. This is one of the incidents of the war that will
never leave my mind, as two of the boys were among my dearest friends.

I realize that my escape from death while at that post was by a narrow
margin. It seemed to be the beginning of a number of miraculous
escapes, such as many soldiers experience. Mine came in such rapid
succession that I began to have a feeling that Fritz would get me yet.
About 11 o'clock at night on the 30th of September I was aroused from
my bed in a dugout to repair the communication lines, it being part of
the duty of our detachment to keep the lines in working order when not
observing. It wasn't very pleasant, of course, to get out of bed in
the middle of the night, but this was the luckiest call that I had
ever had. I had not been out more than five minutes when Fritz scored
a direct hit with a big shell upon that billet, destroying everything
it in. If I had not been called out, I would have been killed.
Fortunately for our post, all the other members were on duty at the
time, so we all escaped. But while I escaped with my life, the shell
destroyed all of my personal belongings. This resulted in my
discomfiture for many days, as I will relate. I had previously
captured a pair of German officer's boots, which I would put on when
called out at night, rather than my regulation army shoes and leggins.
On this night I slipped on these boots, and my army shoes were torn to
shreds. Therefore, I was compelled to wear the German boots, and they
were the most uncomfortable things that I had ever had on my feet.
Though they were my size, I could not get used to them, and they
burned and blistered my heels so that I could hardly walk. As we were
way out in front, it was not easy to get new shoes from headquarters.
My foot troubles became so serious that my officer granted me a day
off duty for the purpose of trying to find a pair of shoes that would
fit me. I spent the entire time in a fruitless search. I found several
pairs of shoes that belonged to boys who had been killed, but they
would not fit me, so finally I had to give it up. I wore those Boche
boots sixteen days, and I had to keep going all the time with sore and
blistered feet. I suffered more from those German boots than from
anything else in the war.

On October 4th I had another interesting experience and narrow escape,
which was as close as any that I ever want to experience. I was one of
a detail that was sent after water. We had to go from our dugouts a
distance of about two kilometers. On our way there we were walking in
a gully. Fritz had probably used that gully for the same purpose
himself when he held that ground, and he probably knew that we would
be using it too. At any rate, he had the range to a nicety. On our way
he first dropped a number of gas shells around us. We hastily put on
our masks and escaped injury. But the gas shells were followed by a
few high explosives. A flying fragment severed the air tube of my gas
mask. This meant immediate death, unless there was quick action. I had
the presence of mind to take hold of the tube, so as to prevent any
gas from entering my lungs, and then I ran to high ground. The reason
I sought high ground is because the chlorine gas is heavy and settles
in low places and is not likely to be as thick if high ground can be
reached. I was accompanied by one of the buddies, who saw my plight
and ran to assist me. By a stroke of luck that seems almost
unbelievable, we ran across a salvage dump on the ridge to which we
ran, and there we found a good gas mask, which I hurriedly slipped on,
and used until a new one was issued to me. As if to add insult to
injury, while I was having trouble with the mask, I was struck on the
shoulder by a piece of shrapnel. The fragment, however, had about
spent its force, and while I was knocked down by the force of the blow
and suffered from a bruised shoulder for several days, the skin was
not broken and my injury did not reach the dignity of a wound.

We proceeded on and got our water, and on our way back we were shelled
again when we were in approximately the same place. This time one of
the men received a small scratch from a piece of flying shell. It just
broke the skin between the knee and the thigh, but was so small that
it did not cause any inconvenience. Shortly after this, another bit of
shrapnel hit my helmet and knocked it off my head. I gave the boys
cause for a hearty laugh as I scrambled on all fours after my "tin
derby," and no doubt I cut an amusing figure. Fritz seemed to be
picking on me all day, but I was glad that I got off so lightly after
being exposed to so much danger.

There is no room for sentiment in the army. Birthdays usually don't
mean much. It just happened, however, that I had a day off of post on
October 6th, and, that being my birthday, the occasion was made doubly
pleasant. But the thing that made the day a perfect one for me was the
fact that when I reached headquarters I found fourteen letters from
home. I have already told how happy I felt when I received eight
letters--well, fourteen made me feel just twice that happy. They were
from relatives and friends and no gift could have made my birthday
more pleasant.

October 16th was another red letter day for me. On that date I had a
detail to pack in supplies, and I had the great fortune to find a new
pair of shoes, just my size. What a relief to get rid of those
uncomfortable ill-fitting, detestable German boots. If there was one
thing that made me hate Germans worse than anything else, it was those
horrid German boots. The boys said they were a hoodoo and that if I
continued to wear them Fritz would get me sure. However that may be, I
did not cease to have close calls. The very next day I got a small
sniff of chlorination gas. It happened while I was fixing
communication lines. I did not get enough to hurt me, but it made me
deathly sick. I was unable to do much for a couple of days, and was
taken to headquarters, where I was assigned to the duty of fixing
communication lines, which were constantly in danger of being broken.
On October 24th two of us were sent to repair a break, which we
located at 5 o'clock in the morning. Dawn was just breaking and the
place where we found the break was in the woods. The Germans had
during the night thrown a lot of chlorine gas shells into this woods,
so we donned our masks. The break in the line was a difficult one to
repair. We soon found that we could not do it with our gas masks
on--one or the other must take his mask off. We could not return
without making the repair. To a soldier there is no such word as fail.
It is either do or die. The buddy who was with me was a married man
with a baby at home. I, being unmarried, could certainly not ask him
to take off his mask, while I kept mine on. So I stripped mine off,
made the repair, and while doing so was gassed severely. With the aid
of the buddy, I was able to reach our billet. There I was put on a
stretcher and taken to a field dressing station. As the old saying
goes, it never rains but it pours; gassing was not the only trouble I
was destined to experience on that day. As I was being carried to
headquarters a shell exploded nearby and I was struck in the leg by a
piece of shrapnel. It was a small but painful wound just below the
left knee. I tried to accept it with a smile, and I was really glad
that I was struck instead of one of the other men, as I was already
out of the fight, while if one of them had been wounded, it would have
been two out of commission instead of one.


Hospital Experiences.

After being gassed and wounded, I was taken immediately to a dressing
station, where the wound in my leg was carefully, but hurriedly
dressed and my throat was swabbed with a preparation used in all
hospitals to relieve the severe burning in the throat caused by gas.
Of all the unpleasant experiences that I had at war, this throat
swabbing was the worst. It seemed to me like the surgeon who performed
this act had found in my throat a bottomless pit, and as the swab went
up and down my burning esophagus, I suffered great agony. Although I
knew this treatment was necessary, if I was to recover speedily from
the gas burns, I could scarcely endure it.

As soon as the wound in my leg was dressed and my throat doctored, I
was examined as to my physical condition by a Major, who labeled me
with a tag upon which was written, "tuberculosis." This, of course,
was very annoying and caused me considerable worry. It was certainly
not a pleasant word for one to receive when lying in the condition
that I then was. But I afterwards learned, much to the relief of my
mind, that this tag had been put on me by the Major as a warning to
the next surgeon into whose hands I should fall, against tuberculosis.
In other words, in my condition, it was necessary to take precautions
against the white plague.

I experienced great pains in my throat and lungs from the gas and
seemed to be choking. My strength was entirely gone, and I was about
as miserable as one could be. I could not utter a sound and any
attempt to speak only increased my pain. I relate these facts about
the agony that I suffered simply to show what a terrible weapon of war
this deadly phosgene gas is, and to emphasize the villainy of the Hun
government in using it after having agreed with other nations years
before not to do so.

I was placed on a cot and made as comfortable as possible under the
circumstances and was awaiting a motor truck to take me to a base
hospital. On all sides of me were other wounded and gassed boys. Some
of them were exceedingly jolly and talkative, notwithstanding their
pitiable condition. I remember one boy in particular, who was about my
own age. He was going over on a raid and was shot through the temple.
The bullet entered on one side an inch or two above the eye, and went
straight through, passing out the other side at about the same
distance above the eye. It passed through apparently, without striking
the brain, and the boy was fully conscious while the wound was
dressed and seemed to be quite jolly. I watched the surgeon shave both
sides of his head around the wound to prevent infection, and then
carefully dress his head, without administering any anesthetic. I
marveled at the boy's condition, with such a nasty wound, but what
surprised me still more was several months later when I was on board
ship on my way home, there was this same boy with his wound entirely
healed. Two little white scars, one on each temple, were the only
marks that told of his awful experience.

From the dressing station I was taken to a field hospital, about
fifteen kilometers to the rear, and there placed in a ward in a tent.
The purpose of the field hospital is to treat soldiers who are too
severely wounded to be taken to base hospitals. My wound was again
examined, cleaned and dressed and again the terrible swab went its
depth. About 4 o'clock that afternoon I was loaded into another
stretcher on an ambulance and taken to Base Hospital 51 at Toul. The
distance from the field hospital to Toul was about twenty-five
kilometers and we did not reach there until about 9 o'clock that
night. The trip was a rough one, and I suffered greatly. I positively
believe my recovery would have been much faster, had I not been
transferred so hastily to this hospital. I was placed in a ward in a
large hospital built of stone. In this hospital the wounded men were
classified in accordance with the nature of their wounds. I was not
long in this hospital when a nurse took charge of me, and again, I
received that awful swab. Each time it seemed worse than before and
how I dreaded the time when it was to be given again! But much to my
surprise and pleasure, my treatment was changed at this hospital. My
chest and throat were massaged by the nurse with an oil that brought
me immediate relief. This nurse continued this treatment several times
a day and night and I began to feel a little better. All this time,
however, I was unable to utter a word, and I began to wonder whether
or not my speech was permanently injured. In my predicament, however,
I soon learned the sign language. It is remarkable how well a man can
make himself understood merely by the use of his hands. I had no
trouble at all in making my wants known. I was in the base hospital at
Toul for fourteen days and all of that time I coughed up great chunks
of solid matter and mouthfuls of blood, as the result of the burning
that I had received. After the seventh day, the nurse stopped the use
of the swab, much to my delight, but continued the more appreciated

On the morning of my fifteenth day at this hospital, I was able to
make my wants known by a faint whisper, and on that day I was
transferred to another hospital. I was placed in a motor car and taken
to the railroad station, about half a mile distant and there loaded on
to a French hospital train, our destination being Tours. Before the
train pulled out of the station, American Red Cross workers, always in
evidence in every city in France, came and made us as comfortable as
possible. They gave us coffee and doughnuts, hot chocolate and
cigarettes, and their kindness was greatly appreciated by all the
wounded on that train.

All the members of the crew of the train were French, and there was
also several French surgeons aboard. They all showed much interest in
the American troops. They asked us many questions about America and
the American people. The fighting qualities of our boys were highly
praised by them. The members of the crew in particular were interested
about working conditions in America, and were anxious to know whether
or not they would have any difficulty in getting work if they came to
this country. They showed plainly that they had been so favorably
impressed by Americans in France that they had a longing to become a
part of this great nation.

It took us a day and a night to reach Tours. The journey was a
tiresome one and we were glad when the train finally stopped at Tours.
Again we were put on motor ambulances and taken to Base Hospital 7, in
the suburbs of the city. We were immediately given a physical
examination, and all our personal effects, including our clothes, were
taken from us, except a few toilet articles. We were then given a bath
robe, a towel and soap and taken to a warm shower. It was with great
delight that we got under that shower and enjoyed a thorough bath. The
showers were of American make and were built large enough so that
twenty-five or thirty men could take a bath at a time. After the
shower we were given a solution to rub on our bodies for the purpose
of killing the cooties. The time had come, I am glad to say, when we
and the cooties, must forever part. But the cootie in the front line
trenches was not altogether an enemy. That may sound strange, but the
fact is, when we were fighting the cooties and chasing them out of our
dug-outs, our minds were not on our more serious troubles and we were
unmindful of the dangers that surrounded us. So there were times when
the cooties were really friends and they kept our minds and hands

After the bath, we were taken back to the ward and were not allowed to
have any clothes for three days. This was probably so there would be
no chance of a stray cootie getting into our new outfit. When three
days had elapsed, however, we were given slips, which we filled out in
accordance with our needs. When I got back into a uniform, life at the
hospital was more pleasant. With the aid of crutches I was able to
move around a little and to enjoy the company of other boys. The time
was spent in playing cards, light conversation, and other amusements.
We kept our minds off our rough experiences at the front.

I had an unusually pleasant experience soon after I was at Tours. A
Red Cross nurse came to our ward to take orders for our small wants,
such as candy, cigarettes, tobacco, writing paper and such articles.
She spoke a few words to me and then passed on. It was the first time
I had spoken to an American girl since leaving the United States. A
few minutes later one of the boys told me she was from the West and
then one said he thought she was from California. I could not wait
until she came to bring our supplies, but immediately started out to
look her up, so anxious was I to see and talk with a Californian. I
found her and told her I was from California and that I had heard that
she was from that State, too. To my great pleasure and surprise, I
learned that she was from Sacramento, my home town, and that she was
acquainted with my folks and knew of me. Her name is Miss Mae Forbes,
and after her patriotic work in France, she is home again in
Sacramento. One must experience the delight of meeting a charming
young woman from his own town, in far-off France, and under the
circumstances that I did, to appreciate my feelings at this time. It
is an experience that I will always remember as one of the most happy
of my life. It was only a few days later that I made my way, without
the aid of crutches this time, to the American Red Cross station where
I again met Miss Forbes and had a long and pleasant chat with her
about California. Miss Forbes introduced me to the other members of
the station, and from that time until I left Tours, it was like my
home. I spent many a pleasant hour there and its memories will always
be dear to me.

I was in the hospital at Tours on November 11th, when the armistice
was signed. There was a great commotion in my ward when we first
learned the news. Most of the boys were glad that the war was over and
that the lives of so many boys still at the front had been spared.
Others said they hoped the end had not come so suddenly, as they were
anxious to recover and get back into the front line to take another
crack at the despicable Huns.

At this time I was gaining strength rapidly and was able to get around
fairly well. I was given a pass out of the hospital, and with two
other boys who were fairly strong, we went into the business district
of Tours to witness the celebration. It was like a great city gone
mad. The streets were crowded with civilians, and everybody was waving
flags. Most people had a French flag in one hand, and the flag of one
of the Allied nations in the other. The American flag predominated
above all other Allied flags; in fact, the people of Tours seemed to
be very partial to America. "Vive l'Amerique" they shouted, "La guerre
est fini." They are very emotional and demonstrative. They lined the
sidewalks of the business streets, waving their flags and shouting in
their native tongue, while an American Marine Band playing patriotic
music, marched up one street and down another. It was a general
holiday and no business was done that day, and but very little for
several days thereafter. All American soldiers in the city were
lionized. When a group of enthusiastic Frenchmen would get hold of a
buddy, they would insist on taking him to a cafe and buying the most
expensive of wines. If we could have conserved all the liquor the
French were willing to buy for us that day, dry America would not
worry us.

I was seated on a bench in one of the parks watching the demonstration
and contrasting it with the probable demonstrations in American cities
on that day, when two flags, one French and the other American,
dropped over my shoulders. I straightened up and the next thing I knew
I was strongly clasped in the arms of a beautiful young French girl,
elegantly dressed and bewitchingly charming. She kissed me fervently
on each cheek. The sensation was pleasant, but it was rather
embarrassing inasmuch as it was in full view of hundreds of people
who were celebrating. If the shades of evening had been falling, the
spot more secluded and the number reduced to two, it would have been
more to my American tastes. However, I arose, conscious that I was
blushing, and offered the beauty my hand. She could scarcely speak a
word of English and I scarcely a word of French, but we managed to
make each other understand that it was a pleasurable greeting. She was
soon on her way joyfully waving her flags, and I--well, I charged
myself up with a lost opportunity for not being more proficient in the
polite use of the French language.

We remained in the city until 9:30 that evening, and the people were
still celebrating. And they kept it up for several days and several
nights, so great was their joy in knowing that the war was over and
that the enemy had been crushed.

My stay in Tours gave me some opportunity of seeing this ancient city.
Tours lies in the heart of the Loire Valley, which is the garden of
France. It is 145 miles southwest of Paris by rail and is on the left
bank of the Loire River. It is an exceedingly old city and has an
interesting history. There are numerous castles and chateaux in the
vicinity, which in peace times are visited annually by thousands of
tourists. It contains a number of ancient buildings of interest. In
normal times it is no doubt one of the most interesting cities in

The hospital in which I was treated was a very large one, in fact, it
was a great institution of many buildings. It contained forty-five
wards of fifty cots each. It covered a large area and had every
comfort for the men, such as a motion picture house, library, reading
room, etc.

After I had been there about five weeks and had regained much of my
physical strength, the authorities in charge began to classify the
boys, either for further duty, or for shipment home. All were anxious
to be put in class D, which meant the United States--God's country.
Nobody wanted class A, which meant further duty with the army of
occupation, and another year at least in Europe. It seemed very much
like a lottery, as the boys who were able to do so, walked up and
received their classification. I was exceedingly happy when I was
given class D, which meant that nothing would stop me from seeing
"home and mother."

After being classified, we were notified to make ourselves ready for a
trip to the coast. Although we were not told that we were going home,
we knew that the good old U. S. A. was our ultimate destination. So I
received a pass and made my last visit to the business district of
Tours for the purpose of purchasing some souvenirs of France for the
women folks at home. The men I had already remembered with rings, made
during my convalescing days at the hospital out of French two-franc
pieces. I might add that ring making was a favorite occupation of the
patients and we spent many pleasant moments working them out sitting
on our cots, while a group of interested buddies would sit around and
watch and comment.

I found it no easy matter to make my purchases. In the first place,
the French merchants, knowing that many of the American boys had money
to spend, asked about four prices for everything, and, secondly, the
French methods of doing business are quite different from our own. But
by spending practically the entire day, by attempting Hebraic methods
in purchasing, and by pretending that I had only a few francs to
spend, I managed to spend about $25 in buying the few things that I
wanted to bring home.

I was then ready to leave, whenever Uncle Sam was willing to take me.


Home Again

On the morning of December 11th a number of the boys at the hospital
at Tours received orders to prepare for a trip to the coast. This was
the most welcome news that we could have heard and we hastily got our
personal belongings together. It was about 10 o'clock when we were
placed in ambulances and taken from the hospital. We were driven to
the railroad station about a mile distant, and there assigned to
quarters in an American hospital train.

This was the first American train I had been on since I arrived in
France, and it certainly was a great relief to me to know that we were
not to be crowded into one of those uncomfortable, stuffy and tiresome
French trains. The American hospital train furnished an excellent
example of American efficiency, and when contrasted with the French
trains. I could not but think how much more progressive our people are
than Europeans. We had everything that we needed, and plenty of it. We
enjoyed good beds, good food, and sufficient room to move around
without encroaching upon the rights and the good natures of others. We
pulled out of Tours with no regrets on what was our most enjoyable
train trip while in France. It was enjoyable for two reasons--first,
we were traveling in comfort and as an American is used to traveling,
and secondly, we were traveling toward home.

The trip down the Loire Valley followed practically the same route
that we took on our way from Brest to Tours. The scenes, of course,
were very much the same, except that the country now wore its winter
coat, while it was mid-summer on my previous trip.

We arrived in Brest on December 13th, and to our surprise, we learned
that President Wilson had just previously landed there, and the city
had gone wild with enthusiasm over him. A tremendous crowd gathered
at the station to greet him. Bands were playing and the occasion was a
gala one. Our train stopped about a quarter of a mile away from the
station, where the President greeted a mass of French people and
American soldiers. I regret very much that I was unable to get a view
of the President while he was at Brest; that was not my fortune. We
did, however, see his train pull out on its journey to Paris.

Soon after we arrived at Brest we were told that we would be taken
back on the "George Washington," the liner upon which President Wilson
crossed the Atlantic, and great was our joy. However, we were soon
doomed to disappointment, for orders were changed, and we were taken
to the Carry On Hospital, just out of Brest. The ride to the hospital
was a disagreeable one, as it had been raining and the streets were
muddy and wet. The ambulance rocked more like a boat than a motor car.
We were assigned quarters and given food. We met a number of boys in
the various wards who were awaiting their time of departure. We asked
them about how long it was after arriving at Brest before soldiers
were embarked for home, and they said the time varied all the way from
three to thirty days. That was not very encouraging and we were hoping
that in our case it would be three days. The very next morning,
however, a number of our boys received orders to get ready to depart.
I was not included among them, to my sorrow, and had no idea how long
I might be kept at Brest. It was only a day or two later when we were
made happy by the news that our time to depart had come. It was joyful
news and made our hearts beat with the joy that only a returning
soldier knows.

We were loaded on the hospital ship "La France," which is a beautiful,
four-funnel French liner, 796 feet in length. It was the third largest
liner in use in transporting troops at that time. We took our places
on the boat about noon, but the big ship laid in the harbor all
afternoon, and it was not until about sundown that she started to pull
out and we bade "good-bye" to "la belle France." One might think that
there was a lot of cheering when the boat pulled out on the eventful
afternoon of December 17, 1918, but there was not. Some of the boys,
it is true, cheered heartily. Most of us, however, were too full of
emotion to become wildly demonstrative. Our thoughts were on home, the
folks that are dear to us, and our beloved native land, and our
emotions were too strained for expression in cheers.

The vessel was manned by French, who treated us splendidly for the
first two days out. After that, however, they began to skimp on our
food and to give us things of poor quality. For instance, we were
given coffee without sugar or milk, cereals of poor quality without
even salt in them, and no fruit, though it was understood that fruit
was to be a part of our diet. The boys complained bitterly at this
treatment, and finally our officers, knowing that we were not being
properly fed, made an examination of the ship. They found several
hundred boxes of apples that were supposed to be for us, stowed away
in the hold. It had been the intention of the French in charge of this
boat to steal that fruit, evidently to sell it, at the expense of the
wounded American soldiers on this hospital ship, who had fought and
saved their country from the Hunnish hordes. We had been cheated and
overcharged for everything we purchased in France, and we knew it, but
it surely did hurt when we were thus treated by men whose homes we had
saved at the cost of our blood. I will say this: We did not hold this
kind of treatment against the French people as a whole, but to
individuals who are so unprincipled and so greedy that they are
willing to sacrifice the fair name of their people for a paltry gain.
I might add here that it was the smallness of some of the individual
"Y" workers that brought the Y. M. C. A. into such disrepute among
the American soldiers in France. This simply shows how important it is
for an individual to sustain the reputation of his country, or his
association, as the case may be, by honorable conduct.

After our officers uncached the horde of stolen apples in the ship's
hold, we were well fed and on the last two days of the journey had no
complaint to make on this score.

On December 24th at 10 a.m. some far sighted individual shouted "Land"
and what a welcome word it was. Columbus, watching from the deck of
the Santa Maria, was not more happy when he first set eyes upon the
faint outline of the new world than we were as the dim blue shoreline
began to rise upon the horizon. There was a mad rush to the deck and
everybody who could get out was soon watching over the rail. It was
not long before the Statue of Liberty came into full view and there
was joy in our hearts for we knew that at last we were home.

In a very few minutes our ship stopped and a pilot was taken aboard to
guide the great vessel safely into the harbor. Next we were greeted by
a yacht that steamed out beside us carrying a great sign, "Welcome
Home." It was the 24th of December, and this boat carried a large
Christmas tree, typical of the season.

As we entered the harbor, we were given a wonderful welcome. It seemed
as though every whistle in the great city of New York had been brought
into action to make noise on our account. Certainly every boat in the
harbor from the smallest tug to the trans-Atlantic liners was blowing
a blast; and the noise, though of an entirely different character, was
as deafening as that of a battle. Every window of all the great
buildings that make up that wonderful skyline of New York was filled
with patriotic citizens waving a welcome to us. It was a great sight
and one that the boys will never forget. It seemed so good to see our
own people again--our pretty girls, our fond fathers, our dear
mothers, our elderly folks, and even our street gamins. It gave us a
feeling that we would like to take them all in our arms, for they were
ours and we were theirs. I knew, of course, that there would be none
of my folks to meet me, as my home is in California, but it did me
good to see the other boys meet and greet their mothers, fathers,
sisters and sweethearts.

We started disembarking at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I was on the
top deck and did not get off until 9 o'clock, being among the last to
leave the ship. We were taken on a ferry to Jersey City, where we were
entertained and given food. Later in the evening we were taken to Camp
Merritt, New Jersey, by train. It did seem good to ride on a real
American train, on American soil, and among our countrymen. We arrived
at Camp Merritt at 11 o'clock at night and I was taken to the
hospital. I was assigned to a ward and after getting comfortably fixed
was given a real American meal, and you may be sure that it was
thoroughly enjoyable. We had to stay in the barracks the next day to
undergo a physical examination and for the further purpose of taking
precautions against the persistent cooties--some of the boys having
encountered them on the boat.

The spirit of Christmas was everywhere manifest, and certainly I could
have had no Christmas present better than to arrive in America on
Christmas eve. The Red Cross brought us boxes of good things to eat
and Christmas presents, and the people entertained us wonderfully.
They took us on automobile rides in their private cars, to dinners, to
theaters, etc. Their hospitality was of the real American sort and it
was deeply appreciated by the boys.

At the very first opportunity after reaching camp, I sent a telegram
to my parents in Sacramento, telling them that I had arrived safely. I
received an answer saying that all at home were well, that same day,
and it was a welcome message. It was the first word I had heard from
home since I had been gassed and wounded in October. I had been
transferred from place to place so frequently that my mail never quite
caught up with me. It kept following me around, and I did not get all
my letters until some weeks after I arrived home.

I was in Camp Merritt for a month and five days, and during that time
I had an excellent opportunity of seeing New York. I made several
trips to the metropolis and enjoyed seeing the points of interest of
that great city.

While at the camp I met Harry Nauman, a Sacramento boy, and greatly
enjoyed the pleasure of his company. From my folks I heard that James
Brenton, my room mate at college, was also there. I looked him up and
was fortunate in finding him. We spent three or four pleasant days
together before we departed for California.

On the first day of February, I left the camp and was sent to the
Letterman Hospital in San Francisco. The trip across the continent was
uneventful, except for the last one hundred miles of the journey. At
Sacramento I again saw my folks after a year in the service and my
father and mother accompanied me to San Francisco, making the ride
most enjoyable as Dad related all the local happenings during the long
time that I was away. I spent several days in the Letterman Hospital
and was then honorably discharged from the service.

I have endeavored to relate in a general way many of my experiences. I
have not told all. Some of the more gruesome occurrences I have left
untold, not believing that any good would come of their repetition.

I can honestly say that I am glad that I went to war and that I fought
for my country. The experience was of untold value to me, as it gave
me a broader and more serious view of life. Notwithstanding all the
horrors of war, if called upon again, I would willingly go. I am ready
to serve my country any time it calls. We have a wonderful country
and a wonderful people. I realize that now more than I did before we
went to war. My rather limited observations lead me to believe that we
are far ahead of any European country. If Americans live for America,
if they put country above self, if they obey the laws and become
acquainted with all the wonders of their own land, this nation will
make even greater progress in the future than it has in the past. The
war brought out a wonderful spirit; let our spirit in times of peace
be just as patriotic.

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