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Title: The Iron Division, National Guard of Pennsylvania, in the World War - The authentic and comprehensive narrative of the gallant - deeds and glorious achievements of the 28th division in - the world's greatest war
Author: Proctor, H. G.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Iron Division, National Guard of Pennsylvania, in the World War - The authentic and comprehensive narrative of the gallant - deeds and glorious achievements of the 28th division in - the world's greatest war" ***

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 27th October 1918.


 A RED KEYSTONE has been designated as the distinctive insignia of this

 Keystones are to be worn on all coats and overcoats, including the
 trench and short coats worn by officers, and the Mackinaws issued to
 Engineers motorcycle drivers, etc., but not on the slicker.

 A standard size of Keystone of selected color and quality of cloth has
 been adopted and contracted for by the Quartermaster's Department. These
 will be issued at the rate of two per man and no others will be worn.
 They are to be sewed on the left sleeve with red thread, the top to be
 on the line of the seam.

 The proportions of a Keystone are shown below:


 By command of Major General Hay:

 OFFICIAL:              W.C. Sweeney,
 Richard W. Watson,     Chief of Staff.
 Major, Adjutant








 Copyright, 1919, by

 Copyright, 1918, by



If love, admiration and respect, with a sense of personal gratification
at seeing the hopes and predictions of years fulfilled, may be pleaded
as justification for a self-appointed chronicler, then this book needs
no excuse. It is offered with a serene confidence that it does justice,
and nothing more than simple justice, to as fine and gallant a body of
soldiers as ever represented this great commonwealth in action.

There must be, for the loved ones of these modern crusaders, as well as
for the thousands of former members of the National Guard, who, like the
writer, whole-heartedly envied the opportunities for glorious service
that came to their successors in the organization, a sense of deep and
abiding pride in the priceless record of achievement. To all such, and
to those others to whom American valor is always a readable subject,
whatever the locale, the narrative is presented as not unworthy of its

 H. G. P.



     I. MEN OF IRON                    11

    II. OFF FOR THE FRONT              25

   III. THE LAST HUN DRIVE             48

    IV. "KILL OR BE KILLED"            60

     V. THE GUARD STANDS FAST          77

    VI. BOCHE IN FULL FLIGHT           91

   VII. BOMBED FROM THE AIR           108

  VIII. IN HEROIC MOLD                121


     X. AT GRIPS WITH DEATH           157

    XI. DRIVE TO THE VESLE            168

   XII. IN DEATH VALLEY               184

  XIII. STARS OF GRIM DRAMA           199


    XV. A MARTIAL PANORAMA            227

   XVI. IN THE ARGONNE                241




    XX. TOWARD HUNLAND                291


 THE 28TH AS THE KEYSTONE DIVISION           _Frontispiece_


 DEBARKING                                               22

 INTO THE MAW OF BATTLE                                 186

 FOREST                                                 248



"You are not soldiers! You are men of iron!"

Such was the tribute of an idolized general to the men of the
Twenty-eighth Division, United States Army, after the division had won
its spurs in a glorious, breath-taking fashion at the second battle of
the Marne in July and August, 1918.

The grizzled officer, his shrewd, keen eyes softened to genuine
admiration for the deeds of the gallant men and with real sorrow for the
fallen, uttered his simple praise to a little group of officers at a
certain headquarters.

It was too good to keep. It was repeated with a glow of pride to junior
officers and swept through all ranks of the entire division in an
incredibly short time. The gratified and delighted soldiery, already
feeling the satisfaction of knowing their task had been well done,
seized upon the words and became, to themselves and all who knew them,
the "Iron Division."

The words of praise have been attributed to General Pershing. Whether
they actually emanated from him has not been clearly established. That
they did come from a source high enough to make them authoritative there
is no shadow of doubt.

Furthermore, to make the approval wholly official and of record, there
has come to the division from General Pershing a citation entitling
every officer and enlisted man to wear on his left sleeve, just under
the shoulder seam, a scarlet keystone, an unique distinction in the
American Army. The citation called the Twenty-eighth a "Famous Red
Fighting Division," but even this formal designation has not supplanted,
in the minds of the soldiers, the name of "The Iron Division," which
they regard as their especial pride.

And, to make the record complete, scores of the officers and men
throughout the division have been cited for gallantry and awarded the
Distinguished Service Cross by General Pershing, while others have won
the French decoration, the Croix de Guerre.

So it is that the former National Guard of Pennsylvania has carried on
the fame and glory which were the heritage of its fathers from the Civil
War and from every other war in the history of the nation. At the cost
of many precious young lives and infinite suffering, it is true, but
that is war, whose recompense is that the victory was America's and that
our men magnificently upheld all the traditions of their land.

Regiments and smaller units of the division which did not get into the
line in time for that first swift battle looked with envy upon their
comrades who did and pridefully appropriated the division's new-found
honors, announcing themselves "members of the Iron Division." And when
their own time came, they lived well up to the title and reputation.

Held up to scorn and contempt for years as "tin soldiers," made the
plaything of the pettiest politics, hampered and hindered at every
emergency and then thrown in a sector where it was believed they would
have a chance to become fire-hardened without too great responsibility
falling to their lot, they met the brunt of the last German advance
from the Marne, held it and sent the enemy back, reeling, broken and
defeated, saved Paris and won the grateful and admiring praise of their
veteran French comrades in arms.

Throughout all the years of upbuilding in full belief that the time
would come when they would have a chance to vindicate their faith in the
National Guard system, a devoted group of officers and enlisted men
remained faithful and unshaken. The personnel fell and rose, fell and
rose. Men constantly dropped out of the service as their enlistments
expired and the burden of recruiting and training new men was always to
be met. It was discouraging work, but carried forward steadily and

Persons who visited the National Guard of Pennsylvania in its training
camps, especially the last one in this country, Camp Hancock, at
Augusta, Ga., were impressed with the quiet confidence with which the
older officers and enlisted men viewed their handiwork. Many of the
newer men in the service, catching the spirit of confidence, voiced it
in boyish boastfulness.

"These men are ripe and ready," said the older, more thoughtful ones.
"They will give a good account of themselves when the time arrives. They
are trained to the minute, and Pennsylvania never will have need to be
ashamed of them."

"Just wait until this little old division gets to France," bragged the
younger ones. "The Hun won't have a chance. We'll show 'em something
they don't know. Go get 'em; that's us."

And today, Pennsylvania, mourning, grief-stricken, but aglow with pride
and love for that gallant force, agrees with both.

It is an odd coincidence that the Twenty-eighth Division of the German
army should have been one of the most frequently mentioned organizations
of the Kaiser's forces during the war and that it, too, should have
acquired, by its exploits, a title all its own. It was known as "the
Flying Shock Division," and on frequent occasions it was disclosed,
through the capture of prisoners, that the two Twenty-eighth Divisions
were opposing each other--a fact eloquent in itself of the esteem in
which the enemy held our Pennsylvania lads as foemen, for the "Flying
Shock Division" was shunted from one end of the Western Front to the
other, wherever a desperate situation for the Germans called for
desperate fighting.

In the heroic stand of the Pennsylvania Guardsmen may be traced one more
instance of the truth of the adage that "history repeats itself." On the
field of Gettysburg a handsome monument marks the crest of Pickett's
charge, the farthest point to which Confederate fighting men penetrated
in their efforts to break through the Union lines. Here they were met
and stopped by Pennsylvania troops (the Philadelphia Brigade). Had they
not been stopped, military authorities have agreed, the battle of
Gettysburg almost certainly would have been lost to the Union. The whole
course of the war probably would have been changed and the Confederacy
would have been within sight of ultimate victory.

But they were met and stopped by the Pennsylvania troops. From that time
the cause of the Confederacy was a losing one, and for that reason the
monument is inscribed as marking "The High Water Mark of the

It is not inconceivable that, when the time comes to erect monuments on
the battlefields of the Great War, one will stand at or near the tiny
village of St. Agnan, in the Department of the Aisne, France, fixing the
"high-water mark" of the German bid for world domination.

Here it was, at this village and its vicinity, that Pennsylvania troops
met and defeated the flower of the German army, halted the drive and
sent the Huns staggering backward in what turned, within a few days, to
wild flight. The Germans, in their first rush through Belgium and France
in 1914, came closer than that to Paris, but with less chance of
success. Then virtually everything was against them except the
tremendous impetus of their forward movement. In July, 1918, everything
favored them, and the entire world awaited with bated breath and
agonized heart the news that Paris was invested.

When it seemed that nothing could prevent this crowning blow to our
beloved Ally, the advancing Germans struck a portion of the line held by
Pennsylvania's erstwhile despised National Guardsmen. Instead of news
that Paris lay under the invader's heel came the gloriously thrilling
tidings that the German was in retreat before our very own men, and that
it was again Pennsylvania troops which had turned the tide.

To get a proper perspective on the organizations comprising the Iron
Division, it is necessary to go back a few years in the history of the
National Guard, before the various reorganizations to which it was
subjected. The division was a product of gradual growth since the
Spanish-American War. After that brief conflict, the National Guard of
Pennsylvania set out upon a new course of development almost as a new

In 1916, it consisted of four infantry brigades of three regiments each;
one regiment of artillery; one battalion of engineers; one battalion of
signal troops; two field hospitals, three ambulance companies and one
regiment of cavalry.

The call for service in the threatened war with Mexico, resulting in a
tedious tour of duty at Camp Stewart, Texas, on the Mexican border,
caused lively recruiting and the upbuilding of the units. This was
nearly offset on the return home by the eagerness of officers and
enlisted men, disgusted with the fruitless task assigned them on the
border, to get out of the service. When America entered the war against
Germany, however, recruiting again livened up, but in the meantime the
tables of organization of the whole army had been so changed and the
regiments so enlarged that it was necessary to send quotas of selected
men to fill the ranks to the required strength.

During the service on the Mexican border, a brigade of artillery had
been formed and the number of infantry brigades was reduced to three.
Also, a start was made on the work of expanding the engineer battalion
into a regiment.

The division moved into camp at Augusta, Ga., from August 20 to
September 15, 1917. The post was known as Camp Hancock. Here the drafts
of selected men were received and the division was completely
reorganized to conform to the new army standards. New designations also
were awarded the units. It was necessary to reduce the number of
infantry brigades to two, of two regiments each. The First Infantry
Regiment, of Philadelphia; the Tenth, of Philippine fame, hailing from
counties in the southwestern part of the state; the Sixteenth, centering
in the oil country of the northwest, and the Eighteenth, of Pittsburgh,
were chosen as base regiments, to retain their regimental organizations
virtually intact.

The Thirteenth Infantry Regiment, of Scranton and vicinity, was broken
up and its officers and men turned into the First to bring the companies
up to the required strength. In the same manner, the Third, of
Philadelphia, was consolidated with the Tenth; the Eighth, from
Harrisburg and vicinity, with the Sixteenth, and the Sixth, from
Philadelphia and surrounding counties, with the Eighteenth.

The former First and Thirteenth became the 109th Infantry, in the new
designations; the former Third and Tenth, the 110th; the former Sixth
and Eighteenth, the 111th, and the former Eighth and Sixteenth, the

The former First Artillery, whose batteries were distributed through the
state from Pittsburgh to Phoenixville, became the 107th Field
Artillery; the historic old Second Infantry, transformed into the
Second Artillery during the border duty, whose home station is
Philadelphia, became the 108th Field Artillery. The Third Artillery,
which had been formed from the former Ninth Infantry, of Wilkes-Barre
and the surrounding anthracite towns, became the 109th Field Artillery.

The cavalry regiment disappeared. One troop, from Sunbury, remained
cavalry, being attached to division headquarters as Headquarters Troop.
The rest were scattered through different organizations. The 103d Trench
Mortar Battery was formed almost entirely from among the cavalrymen,
largely members of the famous old First City Troop of Philadelphia.

The engineer regiment became the 103d Engineers, the signal troops the
103d Field Signal Battalion, and the field hospitals and ambulance
companies became parts of the 103d Sanitary Train. In addition, there
were formed the 103d Military Police, the 103d Ammunition Train, the
103d Supply Train, and the 107th, 108th and 109th Machine Gun

The 109th and 110th Infantry regiments were brigaded together under the
designation of the 55th Infantry Brigade. The 111th and 112th regiments
became the 56th Infantry Brigade and the three artillery regiments and
the trench mortar battery became the 53d Artillery Brigade.

There were other Pennsylvanians--many thousands of them--in the war, but
no other organization so represented every locality and every stratum of

  [Illustration: © _International Film Service._


  After months of vexatious delays, the Pennsylvania Guardsmen
  acknowledged their welcome on French soil with expansive smiles
  which showed their pleasure at having come thus far on the
  Great Adventure.]

And so the division went to France. The movement to a port of
embarkation began in April, 1918, and the convoy carrying the eager
soldiers arrived in a French port May 18th. The troops were separated by
organizations, brigaded with British troops in training areas and
entered upon the final phases of their instruction. The men were
discouraged by their exceptionally long period of preparation. They felt
within themselves that they were ready for the front line, and the
evident hesitation of the military authorities to put them there was
distressing. Many of them began to doubt that they would see actual
fighting. They had longed and waited for so many months that it is no
exaggeration, on the word of men who have returned, to say that their
very dreams were colored with the keen desire to try their mettle on
the enemy.

According to the system worked out by the high command for bringing new
troops up to front line caliber, they should then have gone into their
own camp within sound of the guns, but behind the actual "zone of
operations." There the division should have been reassembled and gotten
to functioning properly and smoothly as a division, and then have been
moved up by easy stages. It should have occupied one billet area after
another, each closer to the lines, until it should actually have been
under artillery fire behind the fighting line. Then, with its nerves
tautened and having learned, possibly through some losses, how best to
take care of and protect itself, it would at last have been sent into
the front line, but even then not without some misgivings and it would
have been carefully watched to see that it reacted properly to the new

In the progress of this customary routine, the work of assembling the
division was begun a few miles northwest of Paris. Division headquarters
was established at Gonesse, a little over ten miles from the heart of
Paris. The infantry regiments and the engineers were scattered through a
myriad of villages in the vicinity, billeted in houses, stables,
buildings of any kind that could be turned to adequate shelters.

Established thus, the organizations extended over a considerable stretch
of territory. The 109th, for instance, was at Mitry and Mory, twin
villages, but a short distance apart and usually referred to, for
convenience, as one place, Mitry-Mory, eight miles by airline from
division headquarters.

The 53rd Artillery Brigade still was hard at its training work miles
away and the doughboys, surmising that they would not be withheld from
action to wait for the guns, gave thanks that it was the old Second, and
not one of their regiments, that had been turned into artillery. Men of
the old Third, particularly, recalled that it had been generally
expected, when there was talk of transforming an infantry regiment to
artillery, that theirs would be the regiment to be chosen, and that the
naming of the Second had come as something of a surprise.



The infantry regiments had been assembled during June and a long and a
wearisome wait impended while other units moved into the divisional
concentration. No leaves were granted to go to Paris, although the crown
of the Eiffel Tower could be descried above the haze from the city by
day and at night the searchlights, thrusting inquisitive fingers of
light through the far reaches of the sky in search of prowling Hun
airmen, seemed to point the way to joys to which all had long been

From the other direction came, when the wind was right, the dull
rumbling, like distant thunder, which they had learned was the guns.

Longings were about evenly divided between the two directions. If they
could not go up to the front, whither they had been headed for these
many months, they would have liked to go to Paris. Failing of both the
front and Paris, they would have liked to go "any old place away from
here." Which is typical of the soldier, "here," wherever it may be,
always being the least desirable place in the world.

So the doughboys and engineers whiled away the long, warm days, drilling
and hiking, doing much bayonet work, polishing and cleaning rifles and
other equipment and variously putting in the time as best they could,
and fretting all the time for a chance at real action. That may be said
to have been one of the most trying periods of their long probation.

It may not be amiss to recall the general situation on the Western Front
at this time. After a winter of boastful preparation, during which they
advertised in every possible way that they expected to launch in the
spring the greatest effort they had yet put forth to break through the
Allied lines, the Germans, on March 21st, strengthened by hundreds of
thousands of veteran soldiers released from Russia through the farcical
Brest-Litovsk treaty, boiled forth from their lines on the fifty-mile
front from Arras to La Fere.

This was an effort to force a break at the juncture of the French and
British lines about St. Quentin. It did not succeed in this, but a great
wedge was thrust out to become a grave menace to Amiens, an important
British distribution center.

Very shortly after this move was checked, the British army in Flanders
was heavily attacked, on April 9th, in the region of Ypres, and thrown
back so badly that Field Marshal Haig issued his famous appeal to the
troops "fighting with their backs to the wall."

The British line finally held, and, French reinforcements arriving,
began to react strongly in counter-attacks. Again the boiling western
line simmered down, but on May 27th the German Crown Prince's army flung
itself out from the Chemin des Dames, in Champagne, and by June 3d had
reached the Marne at Château-Thierry. Here forces which made their way
across the river were hotly attacked and driven back, and this drive
came to a halt.

One week later, on June 10th, the fighting was renewed from Montdidier
to Noyon in a thrust for Compiegne as a key to Paris. This was plainly
an effort to widen the wedge whose apex was at Château-Thierry, but Foch
had outguessed the Germans, knew where they would strike and held them.
The attack was fairly well checked in two days.

This was the situation, then, in those late June days, when our
Pennsylvania soldiers pined for action within sight of Paris. The
American army had been blooded in the various drives, but the
Twenty-eighth Division had not yet had a taste of the Hun action.
Marines, the First and Second divisions of the Regular army, engineers
and medical troops, had had a gallant part in the defense of Paris, and
even in defense of the channel ports, in the Flanders thrust.

Dormans, Torcy, Bouresches, Bois de Belleau, Cantigny, Jaulgonne, these
and other localities had won place in the annals of American arms.
Wherever they had come in contact with the enemy, without exception, the
American troops had "made good," and won the high encomiums of their
British and French comrades. Is it any wonder, then, that the
Pennsylvanians chafed at the restraint which held them far away from
where such great things were going forward?

It was at the critical juncture in March, the darkest hour of the
Allied cause, that President Wilson, waiving any question of national
pride, directed General Pershing to offer such troops as he had
available to be brigaded with the French and English to meet the German

The reason for this was simple. The American army had not yet been
welded into a cohesive whole. Its staff work was deficient. It was
merely a conglomeration of divisions, each possibly capable of operating
as a division, but the whole utterly unable to operate as a whole. By
putting a brigade of Americans in a French or British division, however,
the forces of our co-belligerents could be strengthened to the full
extent of the available American troops.

The American offer was promptly and gratefully accepted. Came the day,
then, when our Pennsylvania men were ordered to move up to a sector
below the Marne, there to be brigaded with a French army. The artillery
brigade had not yet come into the divisional lines and few, even of the
officers, had seen their comrades of the big guns since leaving Camp

Of all this, of course, the men in the ranks knew nothing. To them came
only the command to "fall in," which had always presaged the same weary
routine of drill and hike. This time, however, when they found lines of
motor trucks stretching along the road seemingly for miles, they knew
there was "something doing" and word swept through the ranks that they
were off for the front at last.

When the truck trains got under way with their singing, laughing, highly
cheerful loads of doughboys and engineers, it was not directly
northward, toward Montdidier, nor northeast, toward Soissons, where the
latest heavy fighting had been going on, that they moved, as the men had
hoped, but eastward.

Through Meaux and La Ferte-sous-Jouarre they moved. At the latter place
they came to the Petit Morin River and from there on the road followed
the valley of the little river more or less closely. Through pretty
little villages and, here and there, more pretentious towns they
whirled, singing as the spirit moved them and waving cheery greetings to
the townsfolk, who, apathetic at the sound of many motors, stirred to
excitement when they realized the soldiers were "les Americaines."

After their period of inaction, the men enjoyed the ride immensely, even
though a crowded motor truck careering at full tilt is not the most
luxurious mode of travel, especially for those on the inside. It is,
however, so much better than hiking that your soldier regards
transportation thus almost as he would riding in a Pullman at home.

When at last the column came to a halt, those in the vanguard learned
the town at hand was Montmirail. Except that it was east of where they
had been, this meant little. They had small idea of the number of miles
they had traveled, but they knew from the looks of the country and from
the attitude of the eagerly welcoming residents that they were not very
close to the battle line.

Clustered all about the countryside for miles were countless villages.
Part of the troops passed through Montmirail and went further east to
Vauchamps. The trucks in the rear of the long column turned off at
Verdelot. In the tiny hamlets centering about these three towns, the
regiments were billeted.

Then ensued another period such as tries a soldier's patience to the
uttermost--a time of waiting for something big to do and having all the
time to carry on with what seem like trifling tasks.

Here another feature of the advanced training was noted by the men. For
weeks, now, they had been hearing the sound of the big guns at the
front, but only as a low, growling rumble, so distant that, although it
was ever present, after a day or so it became so much a part of the
daily life that it was forced upon the attention only when the wind was
from the northeast.

Here, however, it was louder and more menacing and by that token alone
the men would have known they were closer to the front lines. Their
surmises in this regard were strengthened by the added gravity of the
officers and the frequency with which they were summoned to headquarters
for consultation.

The Pennsylvania regiments were in a line some miles back of the front,
which was held by French troops along the Marne. The distance between
our men and the front lines then varied from ten to fourteen miles.

By the time the men had been in these billets three days, they were
disgusted thoroughly with their failure to get farther. Hourly they
grumbled among themselves at the delay, and told themselves it was "N.
G. P. luck," to be held back so far at such a time.

However, there came a break in the monotony for the 109th. The men of
the various regiments had been arranging for a mild sort of celebration
of the Fourth of July, with extra "eats," concerts, sports and other
events. The 109th had gone to sleep the night of Wednesday, July 3d, to
dream of the "doings" of the morrow, which loomed large in view of the
deadly routine they had been following so long.

They were not to sleep long, however. Shortly after midnight they were
routed out and the companies were formed. "Something was up," though the
men in the ranks knew not what. Officers knew that an emergency had
arisen to the north and that they were under orders to hasten there with
all speed, presumably for their first action.

The lads stumbled from their billets, many of them no more than half
awake, doubting, confused, excited, demanding to know, being told wild
rumors by their fellows, the most credible of which was that the Germans
had broken through in the north and that "the old Hundred and Ninth is
goin' in to stop Fritz, an' we sure will do that li'l thing." Small
wonder that there was more than a usual touch of asperity in the
commands snapped out in the dark, or that the doughboys seemed able to
handle themselves and their accoutrements less smoothly and smartly than
usual. Off to the front at last, in the dead of night! What an
experience for these Pennsylvania men!

That the emergency was real and that they were not merely the victims of
another practice hike, soon became clear. Hardly was the column under
way than the order "double-time" was given and off they went at the
smart dog trot that takes the place of running for an army on the march.
Only when men began to lag behind was the return to regular "quick-time"
ordered. Officers and non-coms busied themselves with urging on would-be
stragglers, keeping the ranks closed up and encouraging the men.

Hours passed thus. The thrumming of a motor was heard ahead and the
column halted. A sidecar motorcycle appeared. Riding in the "tin
bathtub" was a staff officer. He talked aside briefly with Colonel
Millard D. Brown, of Philadelphia. His message was that the regiment
would not be needed at that time and that it was to return to billets.

A short rest was ordered. The men dropped almost where they stood, many
not waiting to unsling their equipment. Not until daybreak was the order
given for the return march. The men thought of the weary miles they had
come in the cool of the night, glanced up at the scorching sun,
remembered that lost Fourth celebration, and set off on the return
march, slower and more wearisome than the northward journey, when every
yard seemed a task to face.

It was not until the day was almost gone that the last company was
safely back in billets. The Glorious Fourth--truly the strangest the men
ever had spent--had come and gone. As they dropped into exhausted sleep
that night, the last thought of many was of the familiar celebrations of
the day at home and of what their loved ones had been doing.

When word had filtered through to the other regiments that the 109th was
on its way to the front, the celebration of the Fourth had turned to
ashes in their mouths and they very frankly were green with envy. When
they heard the next day of the outcome of the move, they chuckled at the
discomfiture of the 109th and regretted they had not put more "pep" into
the events of the day before.

Some days before this, several platoons of picked men from the division
had been sent into a sector west of Château-Thierry for advanced
training under fire with French forces. They were not expected to have a
very hot time. The sector was extremely lively, but not just then
flaming with activity, as were other places.

Two of these platoons, from the 111th Infantry, under command of
Lieutenants Cedric H. Benz and John H. Shenkel, both of Pittsburgh, made
an extraordinarily good impression on their French comrades. The sector
continually grew hotter and hotter until the French, early in July,
launched repeated attacks on the village of Vaux and on Hill 204, close

These two positions were particularly difficult, and the French went
about their operations under the watchful eyes of the learning Americans
with all the skill and craft that long campaigning had taught them.
Finally, just about the time their own regiments back in billets to the
east were growing stale from monotony, the Americans around Vaux were
invited to occupy positions where they could observe closely the whole
operation. The platoons from the 111th had made such a favorable
impression on their French hosts that the commander of the latter made a
proposal to them.

"You will have every opportunity to observe the action," he said, "and
that is all that is expected of you. If, however, you so desire, such of
your numbers as care to may participate in the assault on Hill 204."

Participation in the attack was voluntary. Those who wanted to go were
invited to step out of the ranks. The two platoons stepped forward as
one man, went into the battle beside the French and under French
command, laughing and singing, and covered themselves with glory. This
was the first occasion in which units of the Pennsylvania Division had
been in action, but as it was not under their own commanders it cannot
properly be regarded as a part of the divisional activity.

Word of this action seeped back to the regiments and created a profound
impression. The doughboys talked about and envied their companions and
pledged themselves, each in his own heart, to maintain that high
standard of soldierly character when the moment arrived.

Meantime, the regiments had gone plugging ahead with their training
work--rifle shooting, bayonet work, hikes and practice attacks
succeeding each other in bewildering variety.

The work was interrupted July 5th by the arrival of messengers from
brigade headquarters. The regiments were to move up in closer support of
the French lines. Marshal Foch had shepherded the Germans into a
position where their only possibility for further attack lay almost
straight south from the tip of the Soissons-Rheims salient. The French
forces there were expected to make the crossing of the Marne so
hazardous and costly an enterprise that the Germans either would give it
up almost at the outset, or would be so harassed that the push could
gain little headway. In any event, the American support
troops--including our own Pennsylvanians--were depended on to reinforce
the line at any critical moment. And for that reason it was imperative
that they be within easier striking distance.

So, very early on the morning of July 6th, the bugles roused the men
from their slumbers and word was passed by the sergeants to hurry the
usual morning duties, as there was "something doing." No larger hint was
needed. Dressing, washing, "police duty" and breakfast never were
dispensed with more rapidly, and in less than an hour after first call
the regiments were ready to move.

The 110th, the 111th and the engineers moved off without incident, other
than the keen interest aroused by the increasing clamor of the guns as
they marched northward, to the new positions assigned them. Parts of
their routes lay over some of the famous roads of France that had not
suffered yet from the barbarous invaders, and made fairly easy going. At
times they had to strike across country to gain a new and more available

A doughboy, pressing close to where a fine old tree leaned protectingly
across the sun-baked road, reached up and pulled a leafy twig. He thrust
it into the air hole in his hat, and laughingly remarked that "now he
was camouflaged." His comrades paid no attention until he remarked later
that it was a good thing to have, as it helped keep the flies away.
Thereafter there were many grasping hands when trees or bushes were
within reach, and before noon the men bore some semblance to the Italian
Bersaglieri, who wear plumed hats.

The going was not so smooth for the 109th, however. The farther the
regiment moved along its northward road the louder and more emphatic
became the cannonading. Both the officers and men realized they were
getting very much closer to artillery fire than they had been. A spirit
of tense, nervous eagerness pervaded the ranks. The goal of the long
months of hard training, the achievement of all their dreams and
desires, seemed just ahead.

They had passed the little village of Artonges, where the tiny Dhuys
River, no more than a bush and tree-bordered run, swung over and joined
their road to keep it company on the northward route. Pargny-la-Dhuys
was almost in sight, when a shell--their first sight of one in
action--exploded in a field a few hundred yards to one side.

At almost the same time an officer came dashing down the road. He
brought orders from brigade headquarters for the regiment to turn off
the road and take cover in a woods. Pargny and the whole countryside
about were being shelled vigorously by the Germans with a searching fire
in an effort to locate French batteries.

The shelling continued with little cessation, while the 109th in
vexation hid in the woods south of Pargny. The doughboys became
convinced firmly that the Germans knew they were on the way to the front
and deliberately were trying to prevent them, through sheer fear of
their well-known prowess. For many a Pennsylvania soldier had been
telling his comrades and everybody else for so long that "there won't be
anything to it when this division gets into action," that he had the
idea fixed in his mind that the Germans must be convinced of the same

Three times the cannonade slackened and the heckled Pargny was left out
of the zone of fire. Each time the 109th sallied forth from its green
shelter and started ahead. Each time, just as it got well away and its
spirits had begun to "perk up" again, the big guns began to roar at the
town and they turned back.

This continued until July 10th. When orders came that morning for the
regiment to proceed northward, there was much gibing at Fritz and his
spite against the regiment and little hope that the procedure would be
anything more than another march up the road and back again.

Surprise was in store, however. This time the guns were pointed in other
directions, and the regiment went over the hill, through what was left
of Pargny after its several days of German "hate," and on up the road.

Just when spirits were soaring again at the prospect of marching right
up to the fighting front, came another disappointment for the men. A
short distance north of Pargny, the column turned into a field on the
right of the road and made its way into a deep ravine bordering the
northern side of the field. Ensued another period of grumbling and
fault-finding among the men, who could not understand why they still saw
nothing of the war at first hand.

The discussion was at its height as the men made camp, when it was
interrupted by a screeching roar overhead, followed almost
instantaneously by a terrific crash in the field above their heads and
to the south.

"Whang" came another shell of smaller caliber on the other side of the
road, and then the frightful orchestra was again in full swing. Suddenly
that little ravine seemed a rather desirable place to be, after all.
Most of the men would have preferred to be in position to do some
retaliatory work, rather than sit still and have those shells shrieking
through the air in search of them, but the shelter of the hollow was
much more to be desired than marching up the open road in the teeth of
shell fire.

An air of pride sat on many of the men. "Old Fritz must know the 109th
is somewhere around," they reasoned.

Three days passed thus, with the regiment "holed up" against the almost
continuous bombardment. Little lulls would come in the fire and the men
would snatch some sleep, only to be roused by a renewal of the racket,
for they had not yet reached that stage of old hands at the front, where
they sleep undisturbed through the most vigorous shelling, only to be
roused by the unaccustomed silence when the big guns quit baying.

Runners maintaining liaison with brigade headquarters and the other
regiments were both better off and worse off, according to the point of
view. Theirs was an exceedingly hazardous duty, with none of the
relatively safe shelter of the regiment, but, too, it had that highly
desirable spice of real danger and adventure that had been a potent
influence in luring these men to France.

Liaison, in a military sense, is the maintaining of communications. It
is essential at all times that organizations operating together should
be in close touch. To do this men frequently do the seemingly
impossible. Few duties in the ranks of an army are more alluring to
adventurous youth, more fraught with risk, or require more personal
courage, skill and resourcefulness.

At last, however, the tedious wait came to an end. Saturday night, July
13th, the usual hour for "taps," passed and the customary orders for the
night had not been given. Toward midnight, when the men were at a fever
heat of expectancy, having sensed "something doing" in the very air, the
regiment was formed in light marching order. This meant no heavy packs,
no extra clothes, nothing but fighting equipment and two days' rations.
It certainly meant action.

Straight northward through the night they marched. Up toward the Marne
the sky was aglow with star shells, flares and shrapnel and high
explosives. The next day, July 14th, would be Bastille Day, France's
equivalent of our Independence Day, and the men of the 109th commented
among themselves as they hiked toward the flaring uproar that it looked
as if it would be "some celebration."

The head of the column reached a town, and a glimpse at a map showed
that it was Conde-en-Brie, where the little Surmelin River joins the
Dhuys. Colonel Brown and the headquarters company swung out of the
column to establish regimental post command there. The rest of the
regiment went on northward.

A mile farther and a halt was called. There was a brief conference of
battalion commanders in the gloom and then the first battalion swung off
to the left, the third to the right and the second extended its lines
over the territory immediately before it.

When all had arrived in position, the first battalion was on a line just
south of the tiny hamlet of Monthurel, northwest of Conde. The second
battalion was strung out north of Conde, and the third continued the
line north of the hamlet of St. Agnan, northeast of Conde.

Then the regiment was called on to do--for the first time with any
thought that it would be of real present value to them--that which they
had learned to do, laboriously, grumblingly and with many a sore muscle
and aching back, in camp after camp. They "dug in."

There was no sleep that night, even had the excited fancies of the men
permitted. Up and down, up and down, went the sturdy young arms, and the
dirt flew under the attack of intrenching picks and shovels. By
daylight a long line of pits, with the earth taken out and heaped up on
the side toward the enemy, scarred the fields. They were not
pretentious, as trenches went in the war--scarcely to be dignified with
the name of trenches--but the 109th heaved a sigh of relief and was glad
of even that shelter as the Hun artillery renewed its strafing of the

Runners from the 109th carried the news to brigade headquarters that the
regiment was at last on the line. Thence the word seeped down through
the ranks, and the men of the 110th and 111th and of the engineers got
little inklings of the troubles their comrades of the old First and
Thirteenth had experienced in reaching their position.

Roughly, then, the line of the four regiments extended from near Chezy,
on the east, to the region of Vaux, beyond Château-Thierry, on the west.
The 103d Engineers held the eastern end. Then came, in the order named,
the 109th, 110th and 111th. The 112th was busy elsewhere, and had not
joined the other regiment of its brigade, the 111th.



Our Pennsylvania regiments now were operating directly with French
troops, under French higher command, and in the line they were widely
separated, with French regiments between.

The troops faced much open country, consisting chiefly of the
well-tilled fields for which France is noted, with here and there a
clump of trees or bushes, tiny streams, fences and an occasional farm
building. Beyond these lay a dense woods, extending to the Marne, known
variously in the different localities by the name of the nearest town.
The Bois de Conde, near Monthurel, was the scene of some of the stiffest
fighting that followed.

The real battle line lay right along the Valley of the Marne, a little
more than two miles away, and the men of the Pennsylvania regiments were
disappointed again to learn they were not actually holding the front
line. That was entirely in the hands of the French in that sector, and
French officers who came back to visit the American headquarters and to
establish liaison with these support troops confidently predicted that
the Boche never would get a foothold on the south bank of the river. The
river, they said, was so lined with machine gun nests and barbed wire
entanglements that nothing could pass.

That evening, Sunday, July 14th, runners brought messages from brigade
headquarters to Colonel Brown, commanding the 109th, and Colonel George
E. Kemp, of Philadelphia, commanding the 110th. There were little holes
in the French line that it was necessary to plug, and the American
support was called on to do the plugging.

Colonel Brown ordered Captain James B. Cousart, of Philadelphia, acting
commander of the third battalion, to send two companies forward to the
line, and Colonel Kemp, from his post command, despatched a similar
message to Major Joseph H. Thompson, Beaver Falls, commanding his first

Captain Cousart led the expedition from the 109th himself, taking his
own company, L, and Company M, commanded by Captain Edward P. Mackey,
of Williamsport. Major Thompson sent Companies B, of New Brighton, and
C, of Somerset, from the 110th, commanded respectively by Captains
William Fish and William C. Truxal.

Captain Cousart's little force was established in the line, Company M
below Passy-sur-Marne, and Company L back of Courtemont-Varennes. The
two companies of the 110th were back of Fossoy and Mezy, directly in the
great bend of the river. The Dhuys River enters the Marne near that
point and this river separated the positions of the 109th and 110th
companies. Fossoy, the farthest west of these towns, is only four miles
in an air line from Château-Thierry, and Passy is about four miles
farther east.

The reason for this move was two-fold: Marshal Foch had manipulated his
forces so that it was felt to be virtually certain the next outbreak of
the Germans could be made only at one point, directly southwest from
Château-Thierry. If the expected happened, the green Pennsylvania troops
would receive their baptism of fire within the zone of the operation,
but not in the direct line of the thrust. Thus, they would become
seasoned to fire without bearing the responsibility of actually stopping
a determined effort.

The second reason was that the French had been making heavy
concentrations around Château-Thierry, and their line to the east was
too thin for comfort. Therefore, their units were drawn in somewhat at
the flanks, to deepen the defense line, and the Pennsylvania companies
were used to fill the gaps thus created.

French staff officers accompanied the four companies to the line and
disposed them in the pockets left for them, in such a way that there
were alternately along that part of the front a French regiment and then
an American company. The disposition of the troops was completed well
before midnight. The companies left behind had watched their fellows
depart on this night adventure with longing, envious eyes, and little
groups sat up late discussing the luck that fell to some soldiers and
was withheld from others.

The men had had no sleep at all the night before and little during the
day, but no one in those four companies, facing the Germans at last
after so many weary months of preparation, thought of sleep, even had
the artillery fire sweeping in waves along the front or the exigencies
of their position permitted it.

Eagerly the men tried to pierce the black cloak of night for a first
glimpse of the Hun lines. Now and then, as a star shell hung its flare
in the sky, they caught glimpses of the river, and sometimes the flash
of a gun from the farther shore gave assurance that the Boche, too, was
awake and watching.

About 11.30 o'clock, the night was shattered by a ripping roar from
miles of French batteries in the rear, and the men lay in their trenches
while the shells screamed overhead. It was by far the closest the
Pennsylvania men had been to intensive artillery fire, and they thought
it terrible, having yet to learn what artillery really could be.

Days afterward, they learned that prisoners had disclosed the intention
of the Germans to attack that night and that the French fire was
designed to break up enemy formations and harass and disconcert their
artillery concentration.

The Germans, with typical Teutonic adherence to system, paid little
attention to the French fire until the hour fixed for their bombardment.
Midnight came and went, with the French cannon still bellowing. Wearied
men on watch were relieved by comrades and dropped down to rest.

At 12.30 o'clock, the German line belched forth the preliminary salvo of
what the French afterward described as the most terrific bombardment of
the war up to that time. The last German offensive had opened.

The gates to glory and to death swung wide for many a Pennsylvania lad
that night.

That the French did not exaggerate in their characterization of the
bombardment was shown in documents taken later on captured prisoners.
Among these was a general order to the German troops assuring them of
victory, telling them that this was the great "friedensturm," or peace
offensive, which was to force the Allies to make peace, and that, when
the time came to advance, they would find themselves unopposed. The
reason for this, said the order, was that the attack was to be preceded
by an artillery preparation that would destroy completely all troops for
twenty miles in front of the German lines. As a matter of fact, shells
fell twenty-five miles back of the Allied lines.

For mile on mile along that bristling line, the big guns gave tongue,
not in gusts or intermittently, as had been the case for days, but
continuously. Only later did the men in the trenches learn that the
attack covered a front of about sixty-five miles, the most pretentious
the Huns had launched. Karl Rosner, the Kaiser's favorite war
correspondent, wrote to the Berlin Lokal Anzeiger:

"The Emperor listened to the terrible orchestra of our surprise fire
attack and looked on the unparalleled picture of the projectiles raging
toward the enemy's positions."

Pennsylvania's doughboys and engineers shared with the then Prussian War
Lord the privilege of listening to the "surprise fire attack," but to
them it was like no orchestra mortal ear had ever heard. Most of those
who wrote home afterward used a much shorter word of only four letters
to describe the event. There was, indeed, a strange unanimity about the
expression: "It seemed as if all ---- had broken loose!"

Crouching in their trenches, powerless to do anything for themselves or
each other, they endured as best they could that tremendous ordeal. The
very air seemed shattered to bits. No longer was it "the rumbling
thunder of the guns," to which they had been giving ear for weeks.
Crashing, ear-splitting explosions came so fast they were blended into
one vast dissonance that set the nerves to jangling and in more than one
instance upset completely the mental poise of our soldiers, so that they
had to be restrained forcibly by their comrades from rushing out into
the open in their temporary madness.

Paris, fifty miles away "as the crow flies," was awakened from its
slumber after its holiday celebration by the sound of that Titanic
cannonade and saw the flashes, and pictures were jarred from the walls
by the trembling of the earth.

The regiments back in the support line were little, if any, better off
than the four companies of Pennsylvanians up in the front line, for the
Hun shells raked the back areas as well as tearing through the front
lines. Men clenched their hands to steady shaking nerves against the
sheer physical pressure of that awful noise, but officers, both French
and their own, making their way along the lines in imminent peril to
encourage the men, found them grimly and amazingly determined and

As usual with the Boche, he had a schedule for everything, but it went
wrong at the very start this time. The schedule, as revealed later in
captured papers, called for the swinging of prepared pontoon bridges
across the Marne at 1.30 o'clock, after one solid hour of artillery
preparation, and the advance guards were to be in Montmirail, thirteen
miles to the south, at 8.30 o'clock that morning.

As showing the dependence placed by the Germans on their own ability to
follow such a schedule, it may be permissible here to recall that during
the fighting an automobile bearing the black and white cross of the
Germans was driven into a village held by Americans. It was immediately
surrounded and a German major, leaning out cried, irascibly:

"You are not Germans!"

"That's very true," replied an American lieutenant.

"But our schedule called for our troops to be here at this time,"
continued the perplexed German.

"They missed connections; that's all. Get out and walk back. You are a
prisoner," snapped the American.

The anticipatory artillery fire of the French had so harassed the
Germans in their final preparations that it was not until two hours
after their schedule time, or 3.30 o'clock in the morning, that the
pontoons were swung across the river and the infantry advance began.

The Prussian Guards led. The bridges swarmed with them. The French and
Americans loaded and fired, loaded and fired until rifle barrels grew
hot and arms tired. Gaps were torn in the oncoming hordes, only to be
filled instantly as the Germans pushed forward from the rear. The
execution done among the enemy when they were concentrated in solid
masses on the bridges was terrific, and for days afterward the stream,
about 100 feet wide in that section, was almost choked with the bodies
of Germans.

The moment the enemy appeared, the excitement and nerve-strain of our
Pennsylvania soldiers dropped from them like a robe from a boxer in the
ring. Their French comrades said afterward they were amazed and deeply
proud of the steadiness and calmness of these new allies. Their
officers, even in the inferno of battle, thrilled with pride at the way
their men met the baptism of fire.

All the new troops going to France have been "blooded" gradually in
minor engagements and have been frequently in contact with the enemy
before being launched into a major operation. Virtually the only
exception to this was the case of the seven divisions of the British
regular army that landed in France and were rushed at once into the
maelstrom of the first German onslaught in 1914, retreating day by day
and being slaughtered and cut to pieces constantly, until they were
almost wiped out.

It was the intention that the Pennsylvania troops should be carried by
slow and easy stages into actual battle, too, but a change in the Boche
plans decreed otherwise. Thus, Pennsylvania regiments, with the
engineers fighting as infantry, found themselves hurled immediately into
front line fighting in one of the most ambitious German operations of
the war.

The maximum German effort of the July thrust was made directly along
their front. It seemed almost as if the enemy knew he faced many new
troops at this point and counted on that to enable him to make a

But Pennsylvania held. The great offensive came to smash.

Official reports compiled from information gathered from prisoners and
made public afterward showed that the enemy engaged fourteen
divisions--approximately 170,000 men--in the first line in this part of
the battlefield. Behind these, in support, were probably fourteen
additional divisions, some of which, owing to the losses inflicted on
those in the front line, were compelled to take part in the fighting. No
figures are available as to the number of French, but their lines were
so thin that Americans had to be thrust in to stop gaps, and there were
fewer than 15,000 men in the Pennsylvania regiments.



Nothing human could halt those gray-green waves in the first impetus of
the German assault across the Marne. They gained the bridgeheads, and
were enabled to seek cover and spread out along the river banks. The
grim gray line, like an enormous, unclean caterpillar, crept steadily
across the stream. When enough men had gained the southern bank, the
assault was carried to the Franco-American lines.

Machine guns in countless numbers spat venomously from both sides.
Rifle-fire and rifle-grenade and hand-grenade explosions rolled together
in one tremendous cacophony. The appalling diapason of the big guns
thundered unceasingly.

Up the wooded slope swept the Hun waves. The furious fire of the
defenders, whatever it meant to individuals, made no appreciable impress
on the masses. They swept to and over the first line.

Then, indeed, did the Pennsylvanians rise to heroic heights. Gone was
most of the science and skill of warfare so painstakingly inculcated in
the men through months of training. Truly, it was "kill or be killed."
Hand-to-hand, often breast-to-breast, the contending forces struggled.
Men were locked in deadly embrace, from which the only escape was death
for one or both.

One lad, his rifle knocked from his hands, plunged at an antagonist with
blazing eyes and clenched fists in the manner of fighting most familiar
to American boys. They were in a little eddy of the terrible melee. The
American landed a terrific "punch" on the point of his opponent's chin,
just as a bullet from the rear struck home in his back. The rifle,
falling from the hands of the German, struck the outflung arms of the
Pennsylvanian. He seized it, even as he fell, plunged the bayonet
through the breast of his enemy, and, the lesson of the training camps
coming to the fore in his supreme moment, he gurgled out the ferocious
"yah!" which he had been taught to utter with each bayonet thrust.

The companies were split up into little groups. Back-to-back, they
fired, thrust, hewed and hacked at the swarming enemy. No group knew how
the others were doing. Many said afterwards they believed it was the end
of all things for them, but they were resolved to die fighting and to
take as many Huns with them as possible.

Then came the great tragedy for those gallant companies. Something went
wrong with the liaison service. It was such a thing as is always likely
to happen where two forces of men, speaking different languages, are
working in co-operation.

An officer suddenly woke to the fact that there were no French troops on
the flanks of his command. The same realization was forced home to each
of the four companies. The now famous "yielding defense" of the French
had operated and their forces had fallen back in the face of the
impetuous German onslaught. Four companies of Pennsylvanians alone faced
the army of the German Crown Prince.

In the midst of that Gehenna of fighting, no man has clearly fixed in
his mind just what happened to cause the separation of the line.
Certainly the French must have sent word that they were about to fall
back. Certainly the companies, as such, never received it. Possibly the
runners conveying the orders never got through. Maybe the message was
delivered to an officer who was killed before he could pass it on.

Whatever the reason, the French fell back, and there were left in that
fore-field of heroic endeavor only little milling, twisting groups, at
intervals of several thousand feet, where our valiant Pennsylvania lads
fought on still for very dear life.

The Boche hordes swept onward, pressing the French. The Americans were
surrounded. Captain Cousart and a handful of his men were severed
completely from the rest and taken prisoners. Lieutenant William R.
Dyer, of Carney's Point, N. J., and Lieutenant Bateman, of Wayne, Pa.,
at the other flank of Company L, and almost half a platoon met a similar
fate. Lieutenant Maurice J. McGuire was wounded.

Lieutenant James R. Schoch, of Philadelphia, was next in command of
Company L. Not far from him, Sergeant Frank Benjamin, also of
Philadelphia, was still on his feet and pumping his rifle at top speed.
From forty to fifty men of the company were within reach. The
lieutenant and the sergeant managed to consolidate them and pass the
word to fall back, fighting.

Part of the time they formed something like a circle, fighting outward
in every direction, but always edging back to where they knew the
support lines were. They literally fought their way through that part of
the Prussian army that had gotten between them and the regimental lines.

At times they fought from tree to tree, exactly as they had read of
Indians doing. When they were pressed so closely that they had to have
more room, they used their bayonets, and every time the Hun gave way
before the "cold steel."

Here and there they met, singly or in small groups, other men of the
company who had become separated. These joined the party, so that when,
after hours of this dauntless struggle, Lieutenant Schoch stood in front
of headquarters, saluted and said: "Sir, I have brought back what was
left of L Company," he had sixty-seven men in the little column.

During the day other men slipped from the shelter of the woods and
scurried into the company lines, but there were sad holes in the ranks
when the last one to appear came in.

Company M was having the same kind of trouble. A swirl in the fighting
opened a gap, and an avalanche of Germans plunged through, leaving
Captain Mackey and a dozen men utterly separated on one side. It was
impossible for them to rejoin the company, so they did from their
position what the men of Company L were doing, fought their way through
the Prussian-crowded woods to their own lines.

Lieutenant William B. Brown, of Moscow, Pa., near Scranton, senior
officer remaining with the bulk of the company, became commander, but
his responsibility was short-lived. He, too, was surrounded and made

Lieutenant Thomas B. W. Fales, of Philadelphia, now became commander of
the little band, as the only officer left with the main body of the
company. Lieutenants Edward Hitzeroth, also of Philadelphia, and Walter
L. Swarts, of Scranton, had disappeared, prisoners in the hands of the
Germans, and Lieutenant Martin Wheeler, of Moscow, Pa., also had been
separated with a few men.

There were thirty-five men in Lieutenant Fales' command. He rallied and
re-formed them and they began the backward fight to the support line.
They made it in the face of almost insurmountable odds and, what is
more, they arrived with half a dozen prisoners. Enough men of the
company had been picked up on the way to make up for casualties suffered
during the running fight.

Lieutenant Wheeler, who had been cut off with part of a platoon early in
the rush, ordered his men to lie down in the trenches, where they were
better able to stand off the Germans. He himself took a rifle from the
hands of a dead man and a supply of ammunition and clambered out of the
trench. Absolutely alone, he scouted along through the woods until he
found a route that was relatively free from the German advance.

Then he went back for his men, formed them and led them by the selected
route, fighting as they went against such of the enemy as sought to
deter them. All of this Lieutenant Wheeler performed while suffering
intense pain from a wound of the hand, inflicted early in the
engagement. After reaching the regimental lines, he had first-aid
treatment for the wound and continued in the battle.

Lieutenant W. M. R. Crosman found a wounded corporal who was unable to
walk. He remained with the corporal and they became entirely isolated
from all other Americans. They were given up for lost until the next
night, when a message arrived that a patrol from another American unit
on another part of the battle front, miles away, had brought in the
lieutenant and the corporal, both utterly exhausted and almost
unbalanced from their experience.

The lieutenant had dressed the corporal's wound roughly and then had
started to lead him in. They became lost and wandered about for hours.
At times the lieutenant carried the corporal on his back, when the
wounded man became unable to walk. Again they were forced to take
shelter in a thicket, when parties of Germans approached, and to lie, in
imminent fear of death, until the enemy groups had passed on. Finally
they heard voices speaking in English and came on the American patrol.

A message came back to the regimental lines from the beleaguered,
hard-pressed M Company for ammunition. Supply Sergeant Charles McFadden,
3d, of Philadelphia, set out with a detail to carry the ammunition
forward. They were trapped in a little hamlet by the advancing Germans.
McFadden sent his men back on the run, as they were badly outnumbered,
but himself remained behind to destroy the ammunition to prevent its
falling into the hands of the Germans.

He saw men approaching him in the French uniform and believed he was
safe, until they opened fire on him with rifles and machine guns--by no
means the first instance in which the Germans made such use of uniforms
other than their own. Sergeant McFadden saw it was hopeless to try
longer to blow up his ammunition and fled. He ran into a machine gun
manned by three Germans. He took them at an angle and before they could
swing the gun around to bear on him, he was upon them. Two shots from
his rifle and a swift lunge with the bayonet and the machine gun crew
was out of the way forever.

The Germans were coming on, however, and to reach his own lines,
McFadden had to run almost a mile up a steep hill. A bullet passed
through his sleeve, another through his gas mask, one through his
canteen, four dented his steel helmet and another shot the stock off his
rifle, but he himself was untouched. He had taken off his outer shirt
because of the heat. As he came up the hill toward his own lines, his
comrades, not recognizing him in that wildly running figure, opened fire
on him. He dropped to the ground, ripped off his undershirt and waving
it as a flag of truce, made his panting way into the lines.

The two companies of the 110th were passing through almost exactly
similar experiences. Company B was surrounded and split. After a fight
of twenty-four hours, during which it was necessary time after time to
charge the Huns with bayonets and rally the group repeatedly to keep it
from disintegrating, Captain Fish, whose home is in New Brighton, with
Lieutenant Claude W. Smith, of New Castle, and Lieutenant Gilmore
Hayman, of Berwyn, fought their way back with one hundred and
twenty-three men. They brought with them several prisoners, and carried
twenty-six of their own wounded.

The rest of the company, surrounded in the woods, also made a running
fight of it, but was scattered badly and drifted back to the regimental
lines in little groups, leaving many comrades behind, dead, wounded and

The same kind of thing befell Company C, of which a little more than
half returned, Captain Truxal, of Meyersdale, Pa., and Lieutenants
Wilbur Schell and Samuel S. Crouse were surrounded by greatly superior
forces and taken prisoner with a group of their men.

Corporal Alvey C. Martz, of Glencoe, Somerset County, with a patrol of
six men, was out in advance of the company stringing barbed wire right
along the river bank, when the German bombardment began. They dropped
into shell holes. At the point where they lay, the wire remained intact
and the Hun flood passed around them. When the hail of shells passed on
in advance of the charging German lines, they arose, to find themselves
completely cut off from their comrades.

"We've got to fight boys, so we might as well start it ourselves," said
Martz, and his matter-of-fact manner had a strong steadying effect on
his men.

Remember that it was the first time any of the youths had been face to
face with the Germans. It was the first time they had ever been called
on to fight for their lives. Less than a year before they had been quiet
civilians, going about their peaceful trades. Martz had lived with his
parents on a mountain farm in a remote part of Pennsylvania, six miles
from the nearest railway. Add to this the fact that they had learned in
their brief soldiering career to lean heavily upon their officers for
initiative, instructions and advice, and what these men did attains epic

They came out of their shell holes shooting. No crafty concealment, no
game of hide and seek with the Hun for them. Lest their firing might not
attract enough attention, they let out lusty yells. Groups of Germans
before them, apparently believing they were being attacked from the
flank by a strong force, fled. The seven men gained the shelter of the
woods. For two hours they worked their way through the forest, fighting
desperately when necessary, and hunting anxiously for the place where
they knew their company had been. It was not there.

When, at last, they glimpsed American uniforms through the trees they
thought they had come up with the company. But it was only Sergeant
Robert A. Floto, of Meyersdale, Pa., of their own company, with half a
dozen men.

Corporal Martz relinquished command of the party to Sergeant Floto. A
little farther on they met another American, who joined the party. He
was "mad all through" and on the verge of tears from anxiety and
exasperation at his own helplessness.

"There were seven of us cut off from the company," he told them, "and we
ran slap-bang into all the Boche in the world. I was several feet behind
the other guys and the Fritzes didn't see me. It came so sudden, the
boys didn't have a chance to do anything. When I took a peek through the
trees, about a million Germans were around, and my gang was just being
led back toward the river by two Hun officers. I figured I couldn't do
anybody any good by firing into that mob, so I came away to look for

"Guess we'd better see what we can do for those fellows," remarked Martz
in the same cool, almost disinterested manner he had used before.
Everybody wanted to go, but Martz insisted it was a job for only two
men. As a companion he picked John J. Mullen, of Philadelphia. Mullen
was not a former Guardsman. He was a selected man, sent from Camp Meade
several months before with a draft to fill the ranks of the
Twenty-eighth Division. But he had proved himself in many a training
camp to be, as his comrades put it, "a regular fellow."

So Corporal Martz and Mullen, surrounded by a goodly part of the Crown
Prince's crack troops, 3,000 miles from home, in a country they never
had seen before, cut loose from the little group of their comrades,
turned their backs on the American lines and hiked out through the woods
toward Hunland to succor their fellows in distress.

The little prisoner convoy was not making great speed and the two
Americans soon overtook them. The first torrent of the German advance
had now passed far to their rear. The two Americans circled around
through the woods and lay in ambush for the party. The prisoners,
because of the narrowness of the paths through the woods, were marching
in single file, one German officer in the lead, the other bringing up
the rear.

"You take the one in front and I'll take that bird on the end," said
Martz to Mullen. Martz was something of a sharpshooter. Once he had gone
to camp with the West Virginia National Guard, just over the state line
from his home, and came back with a medal as a marksman, although he was
only substituting for a man who was unable to attend the camp.

They drew careful bead. Out of the corner of his eye Mullen could watch
Martz, at the same time he sighted on his German officer. Martz nodded
his head and the two rifles cracked simultaneously. Both officers
dropped dead. The prisoners looked about them, stunned with surprise.
Martz and Mullen stepped out of the woods. There was no time for thanks
or congratulations. They hurried back the way they had come. The
released men had no trouble arming themselves with rifles and ammunition
from the dead lying in the woods.

They soon overtook Sergeant Floto and his men. The party was now of more
formidable size and as the Germans by this time were broken up into
rather small groups, the Americans no longer felt the necessity of
skulking through the woods, but started out as a belligerent force, not
hunting fight, but moving not a step to avoid one.

A few hours later they joined another group of survivors, under Captain
Charles L. McLain, of Indiana, Pa., who took command. He vetoed the
daring rush through the Hun-infested woods by daylight and ordered that
the party lie concealed during the day and proceed to the American lines
after nightfall.

"We need a rear guard to protect us against surprise," said Captain
McLain, and after what had gone before it seemed but natural that
Corporal Martz and Private Mullen should be selected for the job when
they promptly volunteered. With little further adventure the party
arrived in the regimental lines after about thirty-six hours of almost
continuous contact with the Germans.

In each regiment the survivors of this first real battle of the troops
of the Pennsylvania Division were formed into one company for the time
being, until replacement drafts arrived to make up for the heavy losses.

This, then, is the tale of what happened when, as so many soldier
letters have related, these four companies were "cut to pieces," and
this is why L and M companies, of the 109th, and B and C companies, of
the 110th, figured so largely in the casualties for a time.



Back in the regimental lines, while the four companies were being mauled
badly by the Germans, anxiety had gone steadily from bad to worse.

Enduring the storm of shells with which the Germans continued to thresh
the back areas for miles, the troops did not have, for some time after
the battle began, the excitement of combat to loosen their tight-strung

They saw the French come filtering out of the woods before them, and
watched eagerly for their comrades, but their comrades did not come and,
as time passed, it was realized the detached companies were having a
hard time.

The vanguard of the Prussians reached the edge of the woods shortly
before daybreak. Men on watch in the American trenches saw hulking
gray-clad figures slinking among the trees close to the forest's fringe
and opened fire. As the day grew the firing on both sides waxed hotter,
and soon a long line of the enemy advanced from the shelter of the bois.
They were met by a concentration of rifle, machine gun and cannon fire
such as no force could withstand. The first waves seemed simply to
wither away like chaff before a wind. The following ones slackened their
pace, hesitated a moment or two then turned and ran for the timber.

From that moment, our men were themselves again. They saw the Germans
were not invincible. They themselves had broken up a Prussian Guards'
attack. All their confidence, self-reliance, initiative, elan, came to
the fore. They felt themselves unbeatable.

But one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one repulse of an enemy
make a victory. Time after time the Germans returned to the assault.
Groups of them gained the wheat fields, where they felt protected from
the fire of our men. Obviously, they expected to crawl through the wheat
until they were on the southern edge of the fields, where, lying closely
protected, they could pick the Americans off at leisure.

Whole platoons of our men volunteered to meet this move and were
permitted to crawl forward and enter the wheat. Then ensued a game of
hide and seek, Germans and Americans stalking each other as big game is
stalked, flat on their faces in the growing grain.

But the Germans were no match for Americans at this kind of thing. There
is something--a kind of heritage from our pioneer, Indian-fighting
ancestors, probably--that gives to an American lad a natural advantage
at this sort of fighting, and scores of Germans remained behind in the
shelter of the wheat when the tide of battle had passed far away, with
the spires of grain nodding and whispering a requiem over them.

Before dawn of that fifteenth of July, word was received from Colonel
McAlexander, commanding the 39th Infantry of the old regular army, which
was in front and to the right of the 109th, that the Germans had crossed
the river and penetrated the Allied lines. He added that if they gained
a foothold in the Bois de Conde, or Conde Wood, a high, wooded tract
just north of Monthurel, the position of the 39th would be seriously

Captain William C. Williams, commanding Company H, 109th, and Captain
Edward J. Meehan, commanding Company D, of the same regiment, and both
Philadelphians, were ordered into the wood. The companies were led out
and took positions on both sides of a narrow ravine in the wood.

Presently the French began to appear, falling back. First they came one
or two at a time, then in larger groups. As they hurried by they gave
some indication of the heavy fighting they had gone through and which
still was going forward up toward the river.

Captain Williams took a platoon of his company to establish it in a
strong position to protect the flank of the company. While doing so, the
firing, which had been growing closer all the time, broke out right at
hand and Captain Williams discovered he and his men were cut off from
the company. The Captain was shot in the hand at the first fire and
several of his men were wounded, but the Captain rallied his little
party and they fought their way back and rejoined the company. Captain
Williams was wounded twice more, but so serious was the emergency that
he had a first aid dressing applied and continued the fight without
further treatment.

Both Captain Williams and Captain Meehan since have been promoted to the
rank of Major and have been awarded Distinguished Service Crosses. Major
Williams is an old regular army man. With the rank of sergeant, he was
attached to the former First Pennsylvania Infantry as an instructor and
served in this capacity during the Mexican border duty in 1916. Later he
was commissioned Captain and assigned to command Company H.

A party of Huns made their way through the woods to a copse on the flank
of the first battalion of the 109th, where they established a strong
machine gun nest. From that position their fire was especially harassing
to the battalion, and it was found necessary to clean out that nest if
the position was to be maintained.

Accordingly Captain Meehan led Company D out from the shelter of their
trench without the special protection of artillery fire. A piece of
shell caught Captain Meehan in the shoulder and the impact half swung
him around, but he kept on. Captain Felix R. Campuzano, also of
Philadelphia, with B Company, went out in support of Captain Meehan's
men, and Captain Campuzano was struck in the hand.

Company D spread out like a fan and stalked that copse as smoothly and
faultlessly as ever a black buck was stalked in the heart of Africa by
an expert hunter. Occasionally a doughboy would get a glimpse of a Boche
gunner. There would be a crack from the thin American line, always
advancing, and virtually every shot meant one Hun less. There were few
wasted bullets in that fight. The storm of lead from the machine guns
was appreciably less by the time the Americans entered the shelter of
the woods. Once they reached the trees, there was a wild clamor of
shouts, cries, shots, the clatter of steel on steel.

Presently this died down and Americans began to emerge from the woods.
Not so many came back as went out, but of the Huns who had crept forward
to establish the nest, none returned to their own lines. Our men brought
back several enemy machine guns.

Captain Williams, still with H Company in a well-advanced position, was
pressed closely by Huns, but believed his position could be held with
help. He despatched George L. MacElroy, of Philadelphia, a bugler, with
a message to Colonel Brown, asking for assistance.

Nineteen years old, and only recently graduated from his status as one
of the best Boy Scouts in his home city, young MacElroy trudged into the
open space before Colonel Brown's quarters, saluted and stood stiff and
soldierly while he delivered his message. He looked very young and
boyish, though his grimy face was set in stern, wearied lines under his
steel helmet.

Colonel Brown read the message and started to give an order but checked
himself as he noticed the messenger swaying slightly on his feet.

"My boy, how long has it been since you had food?" he asked.

The question, and particularly the kindly tone, were too much for the
overwrought nerves of the lad.

"Forty-eight hours, sir," he responded, and then his stoicism gave way
and he collapsed.

"Get something to eat here and take a sleep," said the Colonel. "You
need not go back."

"No, sir," was the reply. "My company is up there in the woods, fighting
hard, and I am going back to it. Captain Williams depends on me, sir."

And back he went, although he was persuaded to rest a few minutes while
a lunch was prepared. He was asked to describe his experiences on that
journey through the German-infested woods, but the sum of his
description, given in a deprecatory manner, was: "I just crawled along
and got here."

With such spirit as this actuating our men, it is small wonder that the
Germans found themselves battling against a stone wall of defense that
threatened momentarily to topple forward on them and crush them.

MacElroy was wounded slightly and suffered a severe case of shell shock
a few days later. He was in the hospital many weeks and was awarded the
French War Cross for his bravery.

Bugler MacElroy was by no means the only lad who did not eat for
forty-eight hours. Those in the forward lines had entered the fight
with only two days' rations. Many of them threw this away to lighten
themselves for the contest. Subsequently food reached them only
intermittently and in small quantities, for it was almost an impossible
task to carry it up from the rear through that vortex of fighting.

Sleep they needed even more than food. For five days and nights hundreds
of the men slept only for a few moments at a time, not more than three
hours all told. They became as automatons, fighting on though they had
lost much of the sense of feeling. It was asserted by medical men that
this loss of sleep acted almost as an anesthetic on many, so that wounds
that ordinarily would have incapacitated them through sheer pain, were
regarded hardly at all. When opportunity offered, more than one went
sound asleep on his feet, leaning against the wall of a trench.

After that first splendid repulse of the German attack, the Crown
Prince's forces, with typical Teuton stubbornness, launched assault
after assault against our line. Officers could be seen here and there,
mingling with the German soldiers, beating them and kicking them
forward in the face of the murderous American fire.

It was during this almost continuous game of attack and repulse that
there occurred one of the most remarkable and dramatic events of the
whole period. The Boche had been gnawing into the lines of the 110th, in
the center of the Pennsylvania front, until it seemed nothing could stop
them. Probably the most terrific pressure along that sector was exerted
against this point.

For twenty-five hours the 110th had given virtually constant battle, and
officers and men felt they soon must give way and fall back. Y. M. C. A.
men serving with the Americans had established themselves in a dugout in
the face of a low bluff facing away from the enemy, where they and their
supplies were reasonably safe from shell fire, and from these dugouts
they issued forth, with a courage that won the admiration of the
fighting men, to carry chocolate, cigarettes and other bits of comfort
to the hard pressed doughboys and to render whatever aid they could.
Several of them pleaded to be allowed to take rifles and help withstand
the onslaught, but this, of course was forbidden.

The Rev. Francis A. La Violette, of Seattle, Wash., one of the Y. M. C.
A. workers, had lain down in the dugout for a few minutes' rest when he
heard a flutter of wings about the entrance. He found a tired and
frightened pigeon, with a message tube fastened to its leg. Removing the
carrier, he found a message written in German, which he was unable to
read. He knew the moment was a critical one for the whole line. He knew
there were grave fears that the Germans were about to break through and
that if they did there would be little to hold them from a dash on

He rushed the message to headquarters, where it was translated. It was a
cry of desperation from the Germans, intended for their reserve forces
in the rear. It said that, unless reinforcements were sent at once, the
German line at that point would be forced to retire. The pigeon had
become lost in the murk of battle and delivered the message to the wrong
side of the fighting front.

In half an hour word had gone down the line, and tanks, artillery and
thousands of French troops were rushing to the threatened point. With
this assistance and the knowledge that the Germans were already
wavering, the Pennsylvanians advanced with determination and hurled the
enemy back. Headquarters was dumbfounded, when prisoners were examined,
to learn that six divisions of Prussians, about 75,000 men, had been
opposing the Allied force and had been compelled to call for help.

On the right of our line the enemy thrust forward strong local attacks,
driving our men from St. Agnan, and La Chapelle-Manthodon. St. Agnan,
three miles south of the nearest spot on the Marne, was the farthest
point of the German advance. Almost immediately the 109th Infantry and
103d Engineers, in conjunction with French Chausseurs Alpin (Blue
Devils), launched a counter attack which drove the Germans pell mell out
of the villages and started them on their long retreat.

Just before this counter attack began the 109th was being harassed again
by a machine gun nest, and this time Company K was sent out to "do the
job." It did, in as workmanlike a manner as D Company had on the other
occasion. Lieutenant Walter Fiechter, of Philadelphia, was wounded, as
were several enlisted men.

When the counter attack finally was launched Captain Walter McC. Gearty,
also a Philadelphian, acting as major of the First Battalion of the
109th, led the advance of that regiment. They ran into a machine gun
nest that was spitting bullets like a summer rain. The stream of lead
caught Captain Gearty full in the front, and he dropped, the first
officer of his rank in the old National Guard of Pennsylvania to meet
death in the war.

His men, frantic at the loss of a beloved officer, plunged forward more
determinedly than ever and wiped out that machine gun nest to a man,
seized the guns and ammunition and turned them on the already fleeing

The Americans had discovered by this time the complete truth of what
their British instructors had told them--that the Hun hates and fears
the bayonet more than any other weapon of warfare. So they wasted few
bullets. Rifle fire, they discovered, was a mighty thing in defense,
when a man has a chance to steady himself and aim with precision while
the enemy is doing the advancing. But when conditions are reversed, the
best rifleman has little chance to shine in pressing forward in an
attack, so it was the bayonet that was used this time.

The men had gone "over the top" without a barrage, but they had the best
protection in the world--self-confidence, which the Hun had not. The
Prussians had had a taste of American fighting such as they had thought
never to experience, and for thousands of them the mere sight of that
advancing line of grim, set faces, preceded by bristling bayonet points,
was enough. They did not wait to be "tickled" with the point.

Others, however, stood their ground boldly enough and gave battle. As
had been the case for several months, they depended little on the
individual rifleman, but put virtually their whole trust in machine guns
and artillery. With their ranks shorn of their old-time confidence and
many of their men fleeing in panic rather than come to grips with the
Americans and French, there was little chance to stem that charge,
however, and the enemy fell back steadily, even rapidly, to the Marne.



It was in following up the German retreat from their "farthest south"
back to the Marne, that our men learned the truth of what they had heard
and read so often, that the German is as good a fighter as any in the
world when he is in masses, but degenerates into a sickening coward when
left alone or in small groups.

It was during this time, too, that they learned the truth of the
oft-repeated charge that Germans were left behind, chained to machine
guns so they could not escape, to hinder an advancing enemy and make his
losses as heavy as possible.

Repeatedly groups of our men advanced on machine gun nests in the face
of vicious fire until they were in a position to make a sudden rush and,
on reaching the guns, were greeted by uplifted hands and bleats of
"Americans, kamerads! kamerads!"

On the nature of the individual Americans depended what happened.
Sometimes the Germans were released from their chains and sent to the
rear as prisoners. Sometimes the bayonet was used as the only answer to
such tactics. And who shall blame either action?

When, as frequently happened, it was a case of man to man, the
Pennsylvanians found that it was a rare German who would stand up and
fight. Long afterward they told gleefully of finding, here and there, a
Hun who bravely gave battle, for our men frankly preferred to kill their
men fighting rather than to slaughter them or take them prisoner.

Some of the Americans were so eager to keep close on the heels of the
retreating Huns that they did not stop long enough thoroughly to clean
up machine gun nests and other strong points. Groups of the Boche hid
until the main body of the Americans had passed on, then raked them from
the rear with machine gun and rifle fire, snipers concealed in trees
being particularly annoying in this way.

In scores of instances our men found machine guns and their gunners both
tied fast in trees, so that neither could fall, even when the operator
was shot. It was reported reliably but unofficially that machine gun
nests had been found where the Germans, in the short time they had been
on the ground, had arranged aerial tramways of rope from tree to tree,
so that if a machine gun nest were discovered in one tree and the
gunners shot, the guns could be slid over to another tree on the ropes
and another group of men could set them going again.

Many of the Huns "played dead" until the American rush was past, then
opened fire on the rear. This is an old trick, but Allied soldiers who
tried it early in the war discovered that the Germans countered it by
having men come along after a charging body of troops, bayoneting
everybody on the field to make sure all were dead. The Germans, however,
knew they were safe in trying it with our men, for they were well aware
Americans did not bayonet wounded men or dead bodies.

Sergeant McFadden, who has been mentioned before, was making his way
through the woods with a single companion when he noticed an apparently
dead Boche in a rifle pit. He got a glimpse of the face, however, and
noticed the eyes were closed so tightly the man was "squinting" from the
effort. McFadden jabbed his bayonet in the German's leg, whereupon he
leaped to his feet and seized the rifle from the astonished American's
hand. He threw it up to fire, but before he could pull the trigger,
McFadden's companion shot him.

At one point, below Fossoy, the Germans not only went back to the river,
but actually crossed it in the face of the 110th Infantry's advance.
Reaching the banks of the river, however, the enemy was within the
protection of his big guns, which immediately laid down such fire that
it was utterly impossible for the Americans and French to remain. Having
had a real taste of triumph, the Pennsylvanians were loath to let go,
but fell back slowly, unpressed by the Germans, to their former

It was on this forward surge back to the Marne that Pennsylvania's
soldiers began to get real first-hand evidence of Hun methods of
fighting--the kind of thing that turned three-fourths of the world into
active enemies of them and their ways, and sickened the very souls of
all who learned what creatures in the image of man can do.

They came on machine gun nests, in the advance between Mezy, Moulins and
Courtemont-Varennes, to find their comrades who had been taken prisoner
in the earlier fighting tied out in front in such a way as to fall first
victims to their friends' fire should an attack be made on the gunners.
Men told, with tears rolling down their cheeks, how these brave lads,
seeing the advancing Americans, shouted to them:

"Shoot! Shoot! Don't stop for us!"

They saw eight airplanes, painted with the French colors, swoop over the
lines, soar low near a barn where a battery had been planted and drop
tons of bombs, shaking the earth and demolishing everything about as if
an earthquake had occurred. Fortunately in this instance, the battery
had been moved to another location, but the same planes poured streams
of machine gun bullets into the ranks of our men until driven off by
machine gun and anti-aircraft fire.

Not the least of the difficulties of our men was the fact that the
Germans mingled a certain quantity of gas shells with their high
explosives and shrapnel. Ordinarily, soldiers learn to distinguish gas
shells from others by the difference in the sound of the explosion, but
in such a bombardment as this the sounds are so commingled that even
that protection is denied.

Therefore, it was necessary for the men to wear their gas masks almost
continuously. While these are a protection against the poisonous fumes,
they are far from being pleasant. Not only is it more difficult to see
and breathe, but what air is inhaled is impregnated with chemicals used
to neutralize the gas. Yet for hours at a time, the men had to go
through the inferno of fighting under the handicap of the masks.

Men returned to the rear with great burns upon their faces, hands and
bodies. From some the clothes were burned away almost entirely, and
others reeled along like drunken men, nearly blinded. They reported that
they had seen Germans in the woods with what looked like large tanks on
their backs. As the Americans approached to give battle, these Huns
turned short nozzles toward the oncoming soldiers, and from the nozzles
leaped great streams of flame, extending as much as thirty feet.

A part of the 111th Infantry confronted, at one time, a small wood,
which the French believed masked a strong machine gun nest. A patrol was
organized to reconnoiter the position, composed partly of volunteers and
partly of men chosen by officers. One of the volunteers was Private
Joseph Bennett, of Gulph Mills, Pa., near Norristown, a member of the
headquarters company of the 111th. The party consisted of twelve
enlisted men under command of a French lieutenant.

They advanced with the greatest care, their line extended to more than
the normal skirmish distance. There was not a sign of life about the
wood. Coming closer, they saw the body of an American soldier propped
against a tree. The French officer signaled for the men to close in
toward this point. As they did so, four machine guns, concealed by the
Hun ghouls behind the American body, raked the thin line of approaching
men with a terrific fire. Every man in the party except Bennett was
killed instantly. Bennett fired one shot and saw one of the Boche
plunge forward from his hiding place and lie still. Then a stream of
machine gun bullets struck his rifle and destroyed it.

Bennett flung himself to the ground and dragged himself to the body of
the French lieutenant. He took a supply of smoke bombs with which the
lieutenant had intended to signal the result of his expedition. Setting
these in operation, Bennett heaved them over in front of the machine gun
position. They promptly threw up such a dense cloud that the Gulph Mills
man was able to stand up. Under cover of the smoke he advanced and threw
hand grenades into the position, killing the remaining three Germans.
Then he returned to his regiment, the sole survivor of the scouting
party of thirteen men. The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to
him for that act.

Bennett had another remarkable experience. He is one of the biggest men
in his regiment, standing a little more than six feet, and weighing
about 200 pounds. He was with Private Joseph Wolf, of Pottstown, in the
advance when they saw a sniper in a tree just drawing a bead on an
American lieutenant. Bennett was almost directly under the tree, and
coolly picked off the sniper. In falling, the body dislodged a second
badly frightened German. Bennett, watching the grim little tableau, had
not lowered his gun, and the live German fell directly on his gun,
impaling himself on the bayonet. The force of the blow almost dropped
the big American.

The men of the 111th were no whit behind their comrades of the other
regiments in the intensity of their fighting spirit nor in their
accomplishments. Individuals performed the same kind of heroic feats,
whatever regiment they called their own. In other words, all were true

Corporal William Loveland, of Chester, with Company B, 111th,
single-handed, captured seventeen of the enemy, and was decorated for
his bravery. He was so badly wounded in the last campaign of the war
that he died November 5th.

It was a little later, after they had driven the Germans back to the
Marne and had retired again to their original positions, that there came
to the Pennsylvanians a highly pleasing estimate of their prowess as
viewed by the British. A runner from division headquarters brought up a
copy of a great London daily newspaper in which appeared the following

"The feature of the battle on which the eyes of all the world are fixed,
and those of the enemy with particular intentness, is the conduct of the
American troops. The magnificent counter-attack in which the Americans
flung back the Germans on the Marne after they had crossed was much more
than the outstanding event of the fighting. It was one of the historical
incidents of the whole war in its moral significance."

One other bit of cheering news came to them, passing down through the
various ranks from headquarters. It told something of what the
intelligence officers had gleaned from the study of documents taken from
enemy prisoners and dead. One of these latter had been an intelligence
officer. He was killed after writing a report on the quality of the
American troops and before he had a chance to send it along on its way
to German great headquarters. Our men learned that in this report he had
written that their morale was not yet broken, that they were young and
vigorous soldiers and nearly, if not quite, of the caliber of shock
troops, needing only more experience to make them so.

With his troops back at the Marne and balked from moving southward, the
enemy now tried to move eastward along the banks of the river toward
Epernay. The checking of this move fell to other troops, chiefly French,
while our men lay in their trenches, the victims of a continuous,
vindictive bombardment, without apparent purpose other than the breaking
of that morale of which the dead intelligence officer had written.

The men did not know what had happened. They knew only they wanted
either to get away from that sullen bombardment or get out and do
something. They were not aware that Foch had unleashed his armies
between Château-Thierry and Soissons and that the enemy already was in
flight from the Marne, the bombardment being designed to keep those
terrible Americans in their trenches until the last Huns had recrossed
the river to begin the long retreat northward.

Until July 21st, the Pennsylvania regiments hugged their trenches,
nursed their minor hurts and their deadly fatigue, and wondered what was
going on out yonder where the fate of Paris and possibly of the war was
being decided. The roar of artillery had gradually died down and the men
realized that the front was moving away from them. This could mean only
one thing--a German retreat: and our soldiers were gladdened, despite
the sad gaps in their ranks, with the knowledge that they had played the
parts of real men and splendid soldiers in making that retreat

Uppermost in the mind of more than one old national guardsman, as
evidenced by scores of letters received since that time, was the thought
that the despised "tin soldiers" of other days had "come through" with
flying colors, and had put their fine old organization well beyond the
touch of the finger of scorn.

So, on July 21st, the regiments were ordered back out of the ruck of
battle and away from the scene of their hard six days for a rest. They
went only a few miles back, but it was a blessed relief for the men--too
much and too sudden for some. Men who had come through the battle
apparently unscathed, now collapsed utterly as their nerves gave way
with the release of the tension, like the snapping of a tight-coiled
spring, and more than one went under the physicians' care from that rest
camp, miles away from German fire.

Not all were allowed to rest, however. Details were sent to the scene of
the recent fighting to clear up and salvage the wreckage of war, to hunt
for wounded and to bury the dead. This was not the least trying of their
experiences for the men engaged. The bodies of well-liked officers were
dragged out from tangles of dead Huns and buried tenderly, each grave
being marked by a little wooden cross on which was placed one of the
identification disks taken from the dead man, the second being turned
over to statistical officers for record purposes.

A week had passed since the first engagement, and the burying squads had
no pleasant task, from the physical standpoint, entirely aside from the
sadness and depression it entailed. The men got little touches of
spiritual uplift from things they found on the battlefield. Such as, for
instance, the body of little Alexander Myers, of Green Lane, Montgomery
County, a private in Company M, 109th, who had been known in boxing
circles about Philadelphia as "Chick" Myers. He was found with five dead
Boche about him. And the body of Sergeant Coburn, of the same company,
who had been married two days before he sailed for France, was found
prone on an automatic rifle, with the ground before him literally
covered with dead Huns.

In the burial detail of the 111th was Harry Lewis McFarland, of
Fallston, Pa., near New Brighton, a private in Company B. He had been
grieving bitterly over the fact that his brother, Verner, had been
missing since the company was cut up so badly in the first German
advance. Moving about among the dead, he turned one over, face up. It
was his brother. In his hands was his rifle, still clenched tightly. In
front of him, in such position that it was plain he had done the
execution himself, lay seven dead Germans.

Such was the spirit with which our men fought and died, and such was the
price they charged for their lives.

Back in the rest camp, the companies were mustered and the rolls checked
off with the known statistics regarding those not present. Figures on
the casualties of the 109th in those six days of action have reached
this country. They show four officers and 75 enlisted men killed; ten
officers and 397 enlisted men wounded; six officers and 311 enlisted men
missing, a total of twenty officers and 783 men, or 803 casualties for
the regiment, out of something more than 3,000 men--approximately
twenty-five per cent of losses. The 110th suffered about as heavily, and
the 111th scarcely less. The 103d Engineers had been more fortunate.
Their hard time was yet to come.

It was in this period that the weather changed. The fine, hot, sunshiny
days gave way to pouring rains, which turned the roads into quagmires
and added immeasurably to the miseries of the men. However, officers
commented on the fact that there was little complaining. Men who had
grumbled in the training camps back in America when the beans were cold
for lunch, or when they had an extra hour's work to do, or when the wind
blew chill while they were "on sentry go," now faced actual hardship
with dauntless spirit and smiles. In some places the men marched through
mud up to their knees. At night they slept in the open with the rain
pouring on them. When the hot sun shone once more, their clothing

More cheering news came to the men while they rested. The companies that
had been in the front line with the French when the Germans drove across
the river and had suffered the heaviest, were mentioned in special
orders for their gallantry, and the report went down the line that
several of the officers and men were to receive decorations.

With indomitable good humor, which served to cover their hurts to some
extent--as many a small boy laughs to keep from weeping--officers and
men made the most of things that struck a funny vein. In this
connection, there was much "kidding" of Captain George M. Orf, of
Philadelphia, statistical officer of the 109th.

Sunday, July 14th, Captain Orf received his discharge from the army
because he had been found to be suffering from an ailment that unfitted
him for military duty. He wrote a request at once for a re-examination
and revocation of the order of discharge. Pending action on his request,
he was, technically and to all intents and purposes, a civilian.
Actually, he went right on with his duties, "carried on" throughout the
German drive and the counter-attack, came through without a scratch, and
stayed right with the regiment through further hard fighting and
campaigning to August 9th. Then he received final word, a rejection of
his appeal and orders to proceed home at once. During this period, his
fellow officers declined to address him by his military title, but went
out of their way to speak to him and of him as "Mister Orf."



After only a few days and nights of rest, the regiments were moved off
to the southward a few miles, then turned sharply to the west, thus
passing around a district that still was being shelled heavily by the
Germans in an effort to hold the Allied force back until they could get
their own materials out of the Château-Thierry salient.

Thus they came again to the Marne, which turns sharply south at
Château-Thierry, and here they made camp again and received contingents
of "casuals"--that is, men unattached to any regiments--who had been
sent to fill up the depleted ranks. The shattered companies were
refilled, Companies L and M, of the 109th, and B and C, of the 110th,
becoming almost new organizations. The newcomers were made welcome and
proved to be good soldier material, but few of them were

The march was resumed July 24th over a road paralleling the railroad
line from Paris to Château-Thierry, which followed the course of the
river rather closely, except for its numerous bends. The doughboys were
anxious to see Château-Thierry, which already, even among these lads who
were out of touch with events in other parts of the war area, had loomed
large in their talk. They had heard much of it and of the achievements
there and in the vicinity of other American troops, notably the marines,
and they were eager to see it.

They saw it, however, only in glimpses from the far side of the river,
for they kept on up the road and did not cross the river there.

That night they bivouacked in woods along the Marne. Here the 109th had
its first taste of night air raiding. The regiment halted at the little
town of Chierry, just east of Château-Thierry, but on the south bank.
One battalion remained there, another crossed the river on pontoon
bridges, left behind by the French and Americans now in pursuit of the
fleeing Germans, and remained in the hamlet of Brasles for the night,
and the third was ordered out to guard the bridges.

About three o'clock in the morning sentries heard the whir of airplane
motors, and fired their rifles. The sharpshooters of the regiment rushed
to the edge of the woods with rifles and supplies of ammunition, and the
anti-aircraft guns around Château-Thierry set up their baying. The
109th's marksmen tried a few shots, but the range was too great for
effective shooting, and the flyers turned tail and disappeared in the
face of the air barrage from the big guns before they got within good
rifle range of our men.

Next day the regiments remained in camp, and that night another
battalion of the 109th stood guard on the bridges. This time the flyers
apparently had crossed the river to the east or the west, for they came
up from the south, directly over the bridges at Chierry, probably
returning from an attempt to raid Paris.

They rained bombs. There was no possible chance for the marksmen this
time. Rather it was a question of keeping out of the way of the
death-dealing missiles hurtling earthward. Again the anti-aircraft guns
gave tongue, and after ten minutes or so of this explosive outburst the
airplanes disappeared. Then the 109th learned something of the
difficulties airmen experience in trying to hit a particular mark.
Although the river had been churned to foam by the hail of bombs, only
one bridge was hit and the damage to it was so slight as to be repaired

Early next morning, July 26th, the period of inaction came to an end.
The regiments were ordered out on a route to the northeast, which would
carry them somewhat east of Fere-en-Tardenois, in the middle of the
Soissons-Rheims "pocket," which fell some days later.

Orders were for the Pennsylvanians to press along that route with all
speed until they effected contact with the retreating enemy, and to
exert all possible pressure to harass him and push him as far and as
rapidly as possible.

Gradually, as the regiments moved forward, the sound of the firing
became louder, and they realized they were overtaking the ebbing tide of
Germans. Officers, having learned by bitter experience at the Marne the
value of the British suggestion to do away in battle with marks
distinguishing them as of commissioned rank, stripped their uniforms of
insignia and camouflaged themselves to look like enlisted men. The
officer casualties in those first few days of fighting could not be
maintained without working irreparable harm to the organizations.

Orders were issued to beware of every spot that might shelter a sniper
or a machine gun. The regiments deployed into lines of skirmishers,
greatly extending the front covered and reducing the casualties from
shell fire. Patrols were out in advance, and every precaution was taken
against surprise by parties of Germans that might have been left behind
in the retreat.

The Germans still were using gas shells, and again the masks were
inspected carefully and donned. Overhead, enemy aircraft circled, but
Allied airman and anti-aircraft guns were active enough to keep them at
a respectful distance. They were unable to harry the Americans with
machine gun fire. Occasionally, a bombing flyer, protected by a covey of
fighters, would get into what he believed to be a favorable position for
unloosing a bomb, but these did no damage to the thin lines of our

At night they made their way into the forests and lay there. There was
little sleeping, but the men were grateful for the rest. They evaded the
vigilance of the airplane observers, so they were not molested by a
concentrated artillery fire, against which the forest would have been
poor shelter, but the continual roar of the artillery and the occasional
shell that came with a rending crash into the woods effectually disposed
of any chance to sleep. The men crept close to the trunks of the larger
trees. Some dug themselves little shelters close to the trees, but the
night was a terrible one, and the day, when it came, was almost a

The regiments now were in a region where the Germans had been long
enough to establish themselves, where they had expected to stay, but had
been driven out sullenly and reluctantly, fighting bitter rear-guard
actions the whole way. Our men had their first opportunity to learn what
it means to a peaceful countryside to face a German invasion.

The wonderful roads for which France so long had been noted were
totally effaced in places, sometimes by shell fire, often with every
evidence of having been mined. Here and there were tumbled heaps of
masonry, representing what had once been happy little villages, many of
the houses centuries old. Trees and grape vines had been hacked off
close to the ground, and often the trunks of trees were split and
chopped as if in maniacal fury. Where the Huns had not had time to chop
trees down, they had cut rings deep into the trunks to kill them.

They saw the finest homes of the wealthiest landowners and the humblest
cottages of the peasants absolutely laid in ruins--furniture,
tapestries, clothing, all scattered broadcast. Handsome rugs were
tramped into the mud of the fields and roads. It was as if a titanic
hurricane had swept the entire country.

There had been no time to bury the dead, and the men actually suffered,
mentally and physically, from the sights and the stench. At one place
they came on a machine gun emplacement, with dead Boche lying about in
heaps. Close beside one of the guns, almost in a sitting posture, with
one arm thrown over the weapon as if with pride of possession, was an
American lad, his fine, clean-cut face fixed by death in a glorified
smile of triumph.

Scores of officers and men almost unconsciously clicked their hands up
to the salute in silent tribute to this fair-haired young gladiator who
had not lived to enjoy his well-won laurels.

It was about this time that the Pennsylvanians saw one of the few really
picturesque sights in modern warfare--a touch of the war of olden times,
which had been seen seldom since Germany went mad in 1914. Troop after
troop of cavalry, some French, some American, passed them, the gallant
horsemen sitting their steeds with conscious pride, their jingling
accoutrements playing an accompaniment to their sharp canter, and round
after round of cheers from the Americans sped them on their way to harry
the retreating foe.

During a brief halt along a road for rest a part of the 110th Infantry
took shelter under an overhanging bank while a sudden spurt of heavy
enemy fire drenched the vicinity. There were few casualties and the
officers were just beginning to congratulate themselves on having
chosen a fortunate position for their rest when a large high-explosive
shell landed on the edge of the bank directly above Company A. Two men
were killed outright and several were wounded. Lieutenant George W. R.
Martin, of Narberth, rushed to the wounded to apply first-aid treatment.

The first man he reached was Private Allanson R. Day, Jr., nineteen
years old, of Monongahela City, Pa., whom the men called "Deacon,"
because of a mildness of manner and a religious turn of mind.

"Well, Deacon, are you hard hit?" asked Lieutenant Martin, as he
prepared his first-aid application.

"There's Paul Marshall, Lieutenant; he's hit worse than I am. Dress him
first, please, sir. I can wait," replied the Deacon, who died later of
his wounds.

The Pennsylvanians had thought they hated the Hun when they left
America. They had learned more of him and his ways below the Marne, and
they found their loudly-voiced threats and objurgations turning to a
steely, silent, implacable wrath that was ten times more terrible and
more ominous for the enemy. The farther they penetrated in the wake of
the Boche the more deep-seated and lasting became this feeling of utter
detestation. Not for worlds would they have turned back then. Had word
come that peace was declared it is doubtful if the officers could have
held them back. The iron had entered their souls.

During the progress of all these events east of Château-Thierry, the
112th Infantry had come up and had been in the desperate fighting in the
vicinity of that town, so that when the Franco-American attack from
Soissons to Bussiares, on the western side of the pocket, began to
compel a German retirement from the Marne, that regiment was right on
their heels.

The 110th and the 111th were close behind and all three soon came into
contact with the fleeing enemy.

In all their engagements the greatest difficulty the officers had to
contend with was the eagerness of the men to come to grips with the
enemy. Repeatedly they overran their immediate objectives and several
times walked into their own barrage so determinedly that officers,
unable to halt the troops so hungry for revenge, had to call off the
barrage to save them from being destroyed by our own guns.

The Pennsylvanians pressed on relentlessly. The 109th Infantry now was
rushing up from the Marne to resume its meteorlike career as a fighting
unit beside its fellow regiments of the old National Guard, and word was
received that the 53d Field Artillery Brigade, commanded by
Brigadier-General W. G. Price, Jr., of Chester, was hurrying up to
participate in its first action.

Still other organizations of the Twenty-eighth Division hastening to the
front were the ammunition train and the supply train. The division was
being reassembled, for the first time after leaving Camp Hancock, as
rapidly as the exigencies of hard campaigning would permit.

With the 112th and 111th in the van, the Pennsylvanians pushed
northeastward after the Germans. It was at times when the Huns had
stopped, apparently determined to make a stand at last, only to be
blasted out of their holding positions by the Americans and continue
their flight that, as so many officers wrote home, they "could not run
fast enough to keep up with Fritz," and the artillery was outdistanced

Repeatedly our doughboys had to be held up in their headlong rush to
permit the artillery to catch up. It being useless to waste life by
sending infantry against the formidable German positions without
artillery support, our lines were held back until the struggling field
guns could come up to silence the German guns by expert counter battery

The Pennsylvanians were wild with eagerness and excitement. None but the
officers had access to maps, and hundreds of the men, having only hazy
ideas as to the geography of France or the distances they had traveled,
believed they were pushing straight for Germany and had not far to go.

One and all realized fully that, when they began their fighting, the
Germans for months had been moving forward triumphantly. They realized
just as well that the Germans now were in flight before them. Each man
felt that to his particular company belonged the glory of that reversal
of conditions. Thus, scores wrote home: "Our company was all that stood
between the Boche and Paris, and we licked him and have him on the
run"--or words to that effect.

They were like a set of rabbit hounds, almost whining in their anxiety
to get at the foe. Deluged by high explosives, shrapnel and gas shells,
seeing their comrades mowed down by machine gun fire, bombed from the
sky, alternately in pouring rain and burning sun, hungry half the time,
their eyes burning from want of sleep, half suffocated from long
intervals in gas masks, undergoing all the hardships of a bitter
campaign against a determined, vigorous and unscrupulous enemy, yet
their only thought was to push on--and on--and on.

The likeness to rabbit hounds is not uncomplimentary or far-fetched. One
soldier wrote home: "We have had the Boche on the run in open country,
and it has been like shooting rabbits--and I am regarded as a good shot
in the army."



Captain W. R. Dunlap, of Pittsburgh, commander of Company E, 111th
Infantry, and Captain Lucius M. Phelps, Oil City, of Company G, 112th
Infantry, with their troops, led the advance beyond Epieds.

They came to the western edge of the forest of Fere, and into that
magnificent wooded tract the Germans fled. The occasional small woods,
dotting open country, through which they had been fighting, now gave way
to heavily timbered land, with here and there an open spot of varying

An American brigadier-general, who has the reputation of being something
of a Haroun-al-Raschid among the men, left his dugout in the rear at
night and went forward to the front lines to get personal knowledge of
the dangers his men were facing. Scouts having reported that the Germans
were preparing to launch an attack in hope of delaying our troops, the
general started for a position from which he would be able to see the
attack and watch our men meet it. He became confused in the forest and
arrived at the designated observation post later than he had intended.
He found it had been destroyed by a shell just a few moments before he
reached it. Had he been on time he certainly would have lost his life.

He took up another position and Lieutenant William Robinson, Uniontown,
Pa., started to lead forward the first line of Americans to break up the
German formations. Standing on a little ridge, the general saw the young
officer, whom he had known for years, going among his men, cheering and
encouraging them, when a huge shell burst almost at the lieutenant's
feet. A party of his men rushed to the spot, but there was not even a
trace of the officer.

"I'll sleep alone on this spot with my thoughts tonight," said the
saddened general, and he did, spending the night in a shell hole.

The Americans battled their way in little groups into the edge of the
forest, like bushmen. This was the situation when night fell, with a
fringe of Americans in hiding along the southern edge of the woods. The
forest seemed to present an almost impenetrable barrier, through which
it was utterly hopeless to continue an effort to advance in the

So scattered were the groups that had forced their way into the shelter
of the wood that it was imperative headquarters should know their
approximate positions in order to dispose the forces for a renewal of
the assault in the morning. In this emergency Lieutenant William Allen,
Jr., Pittsburgh, of Company B, 111th Infantry, volunteered to find the
advanced detachments of our men.

Throughout the night he threaded his way through the woods, not knowing
what instant he would stumble on Germans or be fired on or thrust
through by his own men. It was a hair-raising, daredevil feat of such a
nature that he won the unstinted admiration of the men and the warm
praise of his superiors. When he found himself near other men he
remained silent until a muttered word or even such inconsequent things
as the tinkle of a distinctly American piece of equipment or the smell
of American tobacco--entirely different from that in the European
armies--let him know his neighbors were friends. Then a soft call "in
good United States" established his own identity and made it safe for
him to approach.

As the first streamers of dawn were appearing in the sky off in the
direction of Hunland, he crawled back to the main American lines, and
the report he made enabled his superiors to plan their attack, which
worked with clock-like precision and pushed the Boche on through the

Corporal Alfred W. Davis, Uniontown, Pa., of Company D, 110th Infantry,
was moving forward through the woods in this fighting, close to a
lieutenant of his company, when a bullet from a sniper hidden in a tree
struck the corporal's gun, was deflected and pierced the lieutenant's
brain, killing him instantly. Crawling up a ravine like an Indian
stalking game, Davis set off with blood in his eye in quest of revenge.

When he picked off his eighteenth German in succession it was nearly
dark, so he "called it a day," as he remarked, and slept better that
night for thought of the toll he had taken from the Germans to avenge
his officer.

In the woods the Germans fought desperately, despite that they were
dazed by the terrific artillery fire. Hidden in tree tops and under
rocks, with even their steel helmets camouflaged in red, green and
yellow, it was difficult for the attackers to pick them out in the
flicker of the shadows on the dense foliage.

While the attacking waves were advancing it was discovered that touch
had been lost with the forces on the right flank of the 110th, and
Sergeant Blake Lightner, Altoona, Pa., a liaison scout from Company G,
110th, started out alone to re-establish the connection.

He ran into an enemy machine gun nest, killed the crew and captured the
guns single-handed. Then he went back, brought up a machine gun crew,
established a snipers' post, re-established the communications, returned
to his own command and gave the co-ordinates for laying down a barrage
on a line of enemy machine gun nests he had discovered.

Toward nightfall of one of these days of desperate fighting it was
discovered that the ammunition supply of the first battalion of the
110th was running low, and Corporal Harold F. Wickerham, Washington,
Pa., and Private Boynton David Marchand, Monongahela City, Pa., were
sent back with a message for brigade headquarters. When they reached the
spot where the headquarters had been they found it had been moved. They
walked for miles through the woods in the darkness and finally came to a
town where another regiment was stationed, and they sent their message
over the military telephone.

They were invited to remain the rest of the night and sleep; fearing the
message might not get through properly, however, and knowing the grave
need of more ammunition, they set out again, and toward morning reached
their own ammunition dump and confirmed the message orally. Again they
refused a chance to rest, and set out to rejoin their command, which
they reached just in time to take part in a battle in the afternoon.
Such are the characteristics of the American soldier.

Somewhat the same fate as befell Epieds, which had been completely
leveled by artillery fire, came to the village of Le Charmel. After
violent fighting lasting two hours, during which the village changed
hands twice, it was blown to pieces by the artillery, and our men took
possession, driving the Germans on northeastward.

The Pennsylvanians now began to feel the change in the German resistance
as the Boche retreat reached its second line of defense, based on the
Ourcq River, and the fighting became hourly more bitter and determined.
This, as well as the dense forests, where the Germans had strung a maze
of barbed wire from tree to tree, slowed up the retreat and pursuit.
Also the density of the woods hampered observation of the enemy from the
air and therefore slowed up our artillery fire.

The process of taking enemy positions by frontal assault, always a
costly operation, gave way, wherever possible, to infiltration, by which
villages and other posts were pinched off, exactly as Cambrai, St.
Quentin, Lille and other places were taken later by the British farther

The process of infiltration from a military standpoint means exactly the
same thing as the word means in any other connection. A few men at a
time filter into protected positions close to the enemy until enough
have assembled to offer battle, the enemy meanwhile being kept down by
strong, concentrated fire from the main body and the artillery. Although
much slower than an assault, this is extremely economical of men.

During this progress from the Marne northward, the various headquarters
had found some difficulty in keeping in touch with the advancing
columns. A headquarters, even of a regiment, is not so mobile as the
regiment itself. There is a vast amount of paraphernalia and supplies to
be moved, yet it is necessary that a reasonably close touch be
maintained with the fighting front.

The German method of retreat necessarily resulted in the Americans'
going forward by leaps and bounds. Strong points, such as well-organized
villages, manned by snipers and machine guns in some force, held the
troops up until the German rear-guards were disposed of. Once they were
cleaned up, however, the American advance, hampered only by hidden
sharpshooters and machine guns in small strength, moved forward
rapidly. It was reported, for instance, that one regimental headquarters
was moved three times in one day to keep up with the lines.

Most of the time, regimental, and even brigade, headquarters were under
artillery fire from the German big guns, and it was from this cause that
the first Pennsylvania officer of the rank of lieutenant-colonel was
killed, July 28th. He was Wallace W. Fetzer, of Milton, Pa., second in
command of the 110th.

Regimental headquarters had been moved far forward and established in a
brick house in a good state of preservation. The office machinery just
was getting well into the swing again when a high explosive shell fell
in the front yard and threw a geyser of earth over Colonel Kemp, who was
at the door, and Lieutenant-Colonel Fetzer, who was sitting on the

A moment later a second shell struck the building and killed three
orderlies. This was good enough evidence for Colonel Kemp that his
headquarters had been spotted by Boche airmen, for the artillery was
registering too accurately to be done by chance, so he ordered a move.

Officers and men of the staff were packing up to move and Lieutenant
Stewart M. Alexander, Altoona, Pa., the regimental intelligence officer,
was finishing questioning two captured Hun captains when a big
high-explosive shell scored a direct hit on the building. Seventeen men
in the house, including the two German captains, were killed outright.
Colonel Kemp and Lieutenant-Colonel Fetzer had left the building and
were standing side by side in the yard. A piece of shell casing struck
Colonel Fetzer, killing him, and a small piece struck Colonel Kemp a
blow on the jaw, which left him speechless and suffering from
shell-shock for some time.

Lieutenant Alexander, face to face with the two German officer
prisoners, was blown clear out of the building into the middle of the
roadway, but was uninjured, except for shock.

It was this almost uncanny facility of artillery fire for taking one man
and leaving another of two close together, that led to the fancy on the
part of soldiers that it was useless to try to evade the big shells,
because if "your number" was on one it would get you, no matter what you
did, and if your number was not on it, it would pass harmlessly by.
Thousands of the men became absolute fatalists in this regard.

Major Edward Martin, of Waynesburg, Pa., took temporary command of the
regiment and won high commendation by his work in the next few days.

It now became necessary to straighten the American line. The 109th had
come up and was just behind the 110th. It had taken shelter for the
night of July 28th in a wood just south of Fresne, and early on the
morning of July 29th received orders to be on the south side of the
Ourcq, two miles away, by noon of that day.

The men knew they were closely in touch with the enemy once more, but
this time there was none of the nervousness before action that had
marked their first entrance into battle. They had beaten back the
Prussian Guard, the flower of the Crown Prince's army, once, and knew
they could do it again.

Furthermore, there were many scores to settle. Every man felt he wanted
to avenge the officers and comrades who had fallen in the earlier
fighting, and it was a grimly-determined and relentless body of men
that emerged from that wood in skirmish formation before dawn of July

Almost immediately parts of the line came into action, but it was about
an hour after the beginning of "the day's work" that the first serious
fighting took place. Company M, near the center of the 109th's long
line, ran into a strong machine gun nest. The new men who had been
brought into the company to fill the gaps that were left after the
fighting on the Marne had been assimilated quickly and inoculated with
the 109th's fighting spirit and desire for revenge.

Although the company had gone into its first action as the only one in
the regiment with the full complement of six commissioned officers, it
now was sadly short, for those bitter days below the Marne had worked
havoc with the commissioned personnel as well as with the enlisted men.

Officers were becoming scarce all through the regiment. Lieutenant Fales
was the only one of the original officers of the company left in
service, so Lieutenant Edward B. Goward, of Philadelphia, had been sent
by Colonel Brown from headquarters to take command of the company, with
Lieutenant Fales second in command.

The company had to advance down a long hill, cross a small tributary of
the Ourcq, which here was near its source, and go up another hill--all
in the open. The Boche were intrenched along the edge of a wood at the
top of this second hill, and they poured in a terrible fire as the
company advanced.

Lieutenants Goward and Fales were leading the first platoons. The
company was wild with eagerness and there was no holding them. Here was
the first chance they had had since the Marne to square accounts with
the unspeakable Hun, and they were in no humor to employ subtle tactics
or use even ordinary care.

With queer gurgling sounds behind their gas masks--they would have been
yells of fury without the masks in place--they swept forward. Lieutenant
Goward ran straight into a stream of machine gun bullets. One struck him
in the right shoulder and whirled him around. A second struck him in the
left shoulder and twisted him further. As he crumpled up a stream of
bullets struck him in the stomach. He fell dying.

Seeing him topple, Lieutenant Fales rushed toward him to see if he could
be of service. He walked directly into the same fire and was mortally
wounded. Goward managed to roll into a shell hole, where he died in a
short time.

The men did not stop. Led only by their non-commissioned officers, they
plunged straight into and over the machine gun nest directly in the face
of its murderous fire which had torn gaps in their ranks, but could not
stop them. They stamped out the German occupants with as little
compunction as one steps on a spider. The men came out of the woods
breathing hard and trembling from the reaction to their fury and
exertions, but they turned over no prisoners.

The machine gun crews were dead to a man.

Goward and Fales had been especially popular with the men of the
company, and their loss was felt keenly. Goward was distinctly of the
student type, quiet, thoughtful, scholarly, doing his own thinking at
all times. He had been noted for this characteristic when a student at
the University of Pennsylvania. Fales, on the other hand, was of the
dashing, athletic type, and the two, with their directly opposed
natures, had worked together perfectly and quite captured the hearts of
their men.

Both Goward and Fales are buried on the side of a little hill near
Courmont, in the Commune of Cierges, Department of the Aisne, their
graves marked by the customary wooden crosses, to which are attached
their identification disks.

From then on, the rest of the day was a continuous, forward-moving
battle for the regiment. Every mile was contested hotly by Hun
rear-guard machine gunners, left behind to harass the advancing
Americans and make their pursuit as costly as possible.

Lieutenant Herbert P. Hunt, of Philadelphia, son of a former
lieutenant-colonel of the old First, leading Company A of the 109th in a
charge, was struck in the left shoulder by a piece of shell and still
was in hospital when the armistice ended hostilities.

The 109th reached Courmont and found it well organized by a small force
of Germans, with snipers and machine guns in what remained of the
houses, firing from windows and doors and housetops. They cleaned up
the town in a workmanlike manner, and only a handful of prisoners went
back to the cages in the rear.

It was in this fighting that Sergeant John H. Winthrop, of Bryn Mawr,
performed the service for which he was cited officially by General
Pershing, winning the Distinguished Service Cross. The sergeant was
killed in action a few weeks later.

He was a member of Company G, 109th Infantry. All its officers became
incapacitated when the company was in action. Sergeant Winthrop took
command. The official citation in his case read:

"For extraordinary heroism in action near the River Ourcq, northeast of
Château-Thierry, France, July 30, 1918. Sergeant Winthrop took command
of his company when all his officers were killed or wounded, and handled
it with extreme courage, coolness and skill, under an intense artillery
bombardment and machine gun fire, during an exceptionally difficult



Meanwhile, the 110th had been having a stirring part of the war all its
own, in the taking of Roncheres. As was the case with every other town
and village in the whole region, the Germans, without expecting or
intending to hold the town, had taken every possible step to make the
taking of it as costly as possible. With their characteristic disregard
of every finer instinct, they had made the church, fronting an open
square in the center of the town and commanding roads in four
directions, the center of their resistance.

Every building, every wall, fence and tree, sheltered a machine gun or a
sniper. Most of the enemy died where they stood. As was the case 99
times out of every 100, they fired until they dropped from bullets or
thrust up their hands and bleated "Kamerad," like scared sheep, when our
men got close enough to use the bayonet.

Some time before, however, the Pennsylvanians had undertaken to make
prisoners of a German thus beseeching mercy, and it was only after
several men had fallen from apparently mysterious fire that they
discovered the squealing Hun, hands in air, had his foot on a lever
controlling the fire of his machine gun. Thus, he assumed an attitude of
surrender in order to decoy our men within easier range of the gun he
operated with his foot.

So it is small wonder that the men of the 110th went berserk in
Roncheres and made few prisoners. They played the old-fashioned game of
hide and seek, in which the men in khaki were always "it," and to be
spied meant death for the Hun. From building to building they moved
steadily forward until they came within range of the village church,
when their progress was stayed for some time.

There was a cross on the roof of the church of some kind of stone with a
red tinge. Behind it the Germans had planted guns. Three guns were
hidden in the belfry, from which the bells had been removed and sent to
Germany. Gothic walls and balconies, from which in happier days the
plaster statuettes of saints looked down on the fair, green fields and
peaceful countryside of France, sheltered machine gunners, snipers and
small cannon.

Sharpshooters of the 110th finally picked off the gunners behind the
cross, but the little fortress in the belfry still held out. Detachments
set out to work around the outer edge of the town and surround the
church. When they found houses with partition walls so strong that a
hole could not be battered through easily, sharpshooters were stationed
at the windows and doors and they were able to hold the German fire down
so well that other men could slip to the shelter of the next house.

This was all right until they came to the roads that radiated from the
church to the four corners of the village. They were not wide roads, but
the terrific fire that swept down them at every sign of a movement by
the Americans made the prospect of crossing them seem like a first class
suicide. Nevertheless, it had to be done. The men who led this
circuitous advance waited until enough of their comrades had arrived to
make a sortie in force. The best riflemen were told off to remain behind
in the houses and to mark down the peepholes and other places from
which the fire was coming. Automatic riflemen and rifle grenadiers were
assigned to look after the Huns secreted in the church.

When these arrangements were completed, the Americans began a fire that
reduced the German effort to a minimum. Our marksmen did not wait for a
German to show himself. They kept a steady stream of lead and steel
pouring into every place from which German shots had been seen to come.

Under cover of this sweeping hail, the men who were to continue the
advance darted across the road, right in the open. They made no effort
to fire, but put every ounce of energy into the speed of their legs.
Thus a footing was established by a considerable group on the other side
of the road, and the remaining houses between there and the church soon
were cleaned up, so that reinforcements could move forward.

Still the church remained the dominating figure of the fight, as it had
been of the village landscape so many years. Its stout stone walls,
built to last for centuries, offered ideal shelter, and before anything
further could be done it became imperative to wipe out that nest of
snarling Hun fire.

Using the same tactics as had availed them so well in the crossing of
the road, a little band of Americans was enabled to cross the small open
space at the rear of the church. Here a shell from a German battery had
conveniently opened a hole in the solid masonry. It was the work of only
a few minutes to enlarge this, and our men began to filter into the once
sacred edifice, now so profaned by the sacrilegious Hun.

The bottom of the church was turned quickly into a charnel house for the
Boche there, and then our men were free to turn their attention to that
annoying steeple, which still was taking its toll. One man led the way
up the winding stone stairs, fighting every step. Strange to relate, he
went safely to the top, although comrades behind him were struck down,
and he faced a torrent of fire and even missiles hurled down by the
frantic Huns who sought to stay this implacable advance.

Eventually the top of the stairs was gained. A German under officer, who
evidently had been in command of the stronghold, leaped over the low
parapet to death, and three Huns, the last of the garrison, abjectly
waved their arms in the air and squalled the customary "Kamerad!

Mopping up of the rest of the town was an easy task by comparison with
what had gone before. Then, with only a brief breathing spell, the
regiment swung a little to the northwest and reached Courmont in time to
join the 109th in wiping out the last machine gunners there.

Now came an achievement of which survivors of the 109th and 110th
Infantry Regiments--the Fifty-fifth Infantry Brigade--will retain the
memory for years to come. It was one of those feats that become
regimental traditions, the tales of which are handed down for
generations within regimental organizations and in later years become
established as standards toward which future members of the organization
may aspire with only small likelihood of attaining.

This achievement was the taking of the Bois de Grimpettes, or Grimpettes

The operation, in the opinion of officers outside the Fifty-fifth
Brigade, compared most favorably with the never-to-be-forgotten exploit
of the marines in the Bois de Belleau.

There were these differences: First, the Belleau Wood fight occurred at
a time when all the rest of the western front was more or less inactive,
but the taking of Grimpettes Wood came in the midst of a general forward
movement that was electrifying the world, a movement in which miles of
other front bulked large in public attention; second, the taking of
Belleau was one of the very first real battle operations of Americans,
and the marines were watched by the critical eyes of a warring world to
see how "those Americans" would compare with the seasoned soldiery of
Europe; third, the Belleau fight was an outstanding operation, both by
reason of the vital necessity of taking the wood in order to clear the
way for what was to follow and because it was not directly connected
with or part of other operations anywhere else.

Grimpettes Wood was the Fifty-fifth Infantry Brigade's own "show." The
wood lies north of Courmont and just south of Sergy. It is across the
Ourcq, which is so narrow that some of the companies laid litters from
bank to bank and walked over dryshod, and so shallow that those who
waded across hardly went in over their shoetops. At one side the wood
runs over a little hill. The 109th and 110th were told, in effect:--

"The Germans have a strong position in Grimpettes Wood. Take it."

The regiments were beginning to know something about German "strong
positions." In fact they had passed the amateur stage in dealing with
such problems. Although, perhaps they could not be assigned yet to the
expert class, nevertheless they were supplied with groups of junior
officers and "non-coms" who felt--and justly--that they knew something
about cleaning up "strong positions." They no longer went about such a
task with the jaunty _sang froid_ and reckless daredeviltry that had
marked their earlier experiences. They had learned that it did
themselves and their men no good and was of no service to America, to
advance defiantly in the open in splendid but foolish disregard of
hidden machine guns and every other form of Hun strafing.

Yet when it came to the taking of Grimpettes Wood, they had no
alternative to just that thing. The Germans then were making their last
stand on the line of the Ourcq. Already they had determined on, and had
begun, the further retreat to the line of the Vesle, at this point about
ten miles farther north. Such places as Grimpettes Wood had been manned
in force to hold up the Franco-American advance as long as possible.
When they were torn loose, the Huns again would be in full flight

Grimpettes was organized as other small woods had been by the Germans
during the fighting of the summer: the trees were loaded with machine
guns, weapons and gunners chained to their places; the underbrush was
laced through with barbed wire; concealed strong points checker-boarded
the dense, second growth woodland, so that when the Pennsylvanians took
one nest of machine guns they found themselves fired on from two or more
others. This maze of machine guns and snipers was supplemented by
countless trench mortars and one-pounder cannon.

The taking of the hilly end of the wood was assigned to the 110th, and
the 109th was to clean out the lower part.

It was a murderous undertaking. The nearest edge of the wood was 700
yards from the farthest extension of the village of Courmont that
offered even a shadow of protection.

The regiments swung out from the shelter of the village in the most
approved wave formation, faultlessly executed. The moment the first men
emerged from the protection of the buildings, they ran into a hail of
lead and steel that seemed, some of the men said later, almost like a
solid wall in places. There was not a leaf to protect them. Hundreds of
machine guns tore loose in the woods, until their rattle blended into
one solid roar. One-pounder cannon sniped at them. German airmen, who
had complete control of the air in that vicinity, flew the length of the
advancing lines, as low as 100 feet from the ground, raking them with
machine gun fire and dropping bombs. The Pennsylvanians organized their
own air defense. They simply used their rifles with more or less
deterrent effect on the flyers.

The sniping one-pounders were the worst of all, the men said
afterward--those, and the air bombs. They messed one up so badly when
they scored a hit.

It is a mystery how any man lived through that welter of fire. Even the
men who survived could not explain their good fortune. That the
regiments were not wiped out was a demonstration of the tremendous
expenditure of ammunition in warfare compared to effectiveness of fire,
for thousands of bullets and shells were fired in that engagement for
every man who was hit.

A pitiful few of the men in the leading wave won through to the edge of
the wood and immediately flung themselves down and dug in. A few of the
others who were nearer the wood than the town scraped out little hollows
for themselves and stuck grimly where they were when the attackers were
recalled, the officers realizing the losses were beyond reason for the
value of the objective.

Neither officers nor men were satisfied. Private soldiers pleaded with
their sergeants for another chance, and the sergeants in turn besought
their officers. The Pennsylvanians had been assigned to a task and had
not performed it. That was not the Pennsylvania way. Furthermore there
were living and unwounded comrades out there who could not be left long

A breathing spell was allowed, and then word went down the lines to
"have another go at it." The men drew their belts tighter, set their
teeth grimly and plunged out into the storm of lead and steel once more.
It must be remembered that all this was without adequate artillery
support, for what guns had reached the line were busy elsewhere, and the
others were struggling up over ruined roads.

Again on this second attack, a handful of men reached the wood and
filtered in, but the attacking force was driven back. It began to seem
as if nothing could withstand that torrential fire in force. Three times
more, making five attacks in all, the brigade "went to it" with undimmed
spirits, and three times more it was forced back to the comparative
shelter of Courmont.

Then headquarters was informed, July 30th, that artillery had come up
and a barrage would be put on the wood.

"Fine!" said the commander. "We will clean that place up at 2.30
o'clock this afternoon."

And that is exactly what they did. The guns laid down a barrage that not
only drove the Germans into their shelters, but opened up holes in the
near side of the wood and through the wire. The scattered few of the
Pennsylvanians who still clung to their places just within the first
fringe of woodland made themselves as small as possible, hugging the
ground and the boles of the largest trees they could find. Despite their
best endeavors, however, it was a terrible experience to have to undergo
that terrific cannonading from their own guns.

Finally, the barrage lifted and the regiments went out once more for the
sixth assault on the Bois de Grimpettes. The big guns had lent just the
necessary added weight to carry them across. The Germans flung
themselves from their dugouts and offered what resistance they could,
but the first wave of thoroughly mad, yelling, excited Americans was on
them before they got well started with their machine gun reception.

Our men went through Grimpettes Wood "like a knife through butter" as
one officer expressed it later. It was man against man, rifle and
bayonet against machine gun and one-pounder, and the best men won. Some
prisoners were sent back, but the burial squads laid away more than 400
German bodies in Grimpettes. The American loss in cleaning up the wood
was hardly a tithe of that. It was a heroic and gallant bit of work,
typical of the dash and spirit of our men.

After the first attack on Grimpettes Wood had failed, First Sergeant
William G. Meighan, of Waynesburg, Pa., Company K, 110th Infantry, in
the lead of his company, was left behind when the recall was sounded. He
had flung himself into a shell-hole, in the bottom of which water had
collected. The machine gun fire of the Germans was low enough to "cut
the daisies," as the men remarked. Therefore, there was no possibility
of crawling back to the lines. The water in the hole in which he had
sought shelter attracted all the gas in the vicinity, for Fritz was
mixing gas shells with his shrapnel and high explosives.

The German machine gunners had seen the few Americans who remained on
the field, hiding in shell holes, and they kept their machine guns
spraying over those nests. Other men had to don their gas masks when the
gas shells came over, but none had to undergo what Sergeant Meighan did.

It is impossible to talk intelligibly or to smoke inside a gas mask. A
stiff clamp is fixed over the nose and every breath must be taken
through the mouth. Soldiers adjust their masks only when certain that
gas is about. They dread gas more than anything else the German has to
offer, more than any other single thing in the whole category of horrors
with which the Kaiser distinguished this war from all other wars in the
world's history. Yet the discomfort of the gas mask, improved as the
present model is over the device that first intervened between England's
doughty men and a terrible death is such that it is donned only in dire
necessity. Soldiers hate the gas mask intolerably, but they hate gas
even more.

So Sergeant Meighan, hearing the peculiar sound by which soldiers
identify a gas shell from all others, slipped on his mask. It never is
easy to adjust, and he got a taste of the poison before his mask was
secure--just enough to make him feel rather faint and ill. He knew that
if his mask slipped to one side, if only enough to give him one breath
of the outer air, he would suffer torture, probably die. He knew that if
he wriggled out of his hole in the ground, however inconspicuous he made
himself, he would be cut to ribbons by machine gun bullets. So he simply
dug a little deeper and waited.

If this seems like a trifling thing, just try one of the gas respirators
in use in the army. If one is not available, try holding your nose and
breathing only through your mouth. When you have discovered how
unpleasant this can be, try to imagine every breath through the mouth is
impregnated with the chemicals that neutralize the gas, thus adding to
the difficulty of breathing, yet insuring a continuance of life.

And remember that Sergeant Meighan did that for fifteen hours. And then
ask yourself if "hero" is an abused word when applied to a man like

Furthermore, when in a later attack on the wood, Company K reached the
point where Sergeant Meighan was concealed, he discovered in a flash
that the last officer of the first wave had fallen before his shelter
was reached. Being next in rank, he promptly signaled to the men that he
would assume command, and led them in a gallant assault on the enemy

There were other men in the 109th and 110th regiments who displayed a
marked spirit of gallantry and sacrifice, which by no means was confined
to enlisted men. Lieutenant Richard Stockton Bullitt, of Torresdale, an
officer of Company K, 110th, was struck in the thigh by a machine gun
bullet in one of the first attacks.

He was unable to walk, but saw, about a hundred yards away, an automatic
rifle, which was out of commission because the corporal in charge of the
rifle squad had been killed and the other men could not operate the gun.
Lieutenant Bullitt, member of an old and distinguished Philadelphia
family, crawled to the rifle, dragging his wounded leg. He took command
and continued firing the rifle.

Five more bullets struck him in different places in a short time, but he
shook his head defiantly, waved away stretcher bearers who wanted to
take him to the rear, and pumped the gun steadily. Finally another
bullet struck him squarely in the forehead and killed him.

After the wood was completely in our hands, a little column was observed
moving slowly across the open space toward Courmont. When it got close
enough it was seen to consist entirely of unarmed Germans, apparently.
Staff officers were just beginning to fume and fuss about the
ridiculousness of sending a party of prisoners back unguarded, when they
discovered a very dusty and very disheveled American officer bringing up
the rear with a rifle held at the "ready." He was Lieutenant Marshall S.
Barron, Latrobe, Pa., of Company M, 110th. There were sixty-seven
prisoners in his convoy, and most of them he had taken personally.

That night the regimental headquarters of the 110th was moved to
Courmont, only 700 yards behind the wood that had been so desperately
fought for.

"We'll work out tomorrow's plans," said Major Martin, and summoned his
staff officers about him. They were bending over a big table, studying
the maps, when a six-inch shell struck the headquarters building
squarely. Twenty-two enlisted men and several officers were injured.
Major Martin, Captain John D. Hitchman, Mt. Pleasant, Pa., the
regimental adjutant; Lieutenant Alexander, the intelligence officer, and
Lieutenant Albert G. Braden, of Washington, Pa., were knocked about
somewhat, but not injured.

For the second time within a few days, Lieutenant Alexander flirted with
death. The first time he was blown through an open doorway into the road
by the explosion of a shell that killed two German officers, who were
facing him, men he was examining.

This time, when the headquarters at Courmont was blown up, he was
examining a German captain and a sergeant, the other officers making use
of the answers of the prisoners in studying the maps and trying to
determine the disposition of the enemy forces. Almost exactly the same
thing happened again to Lieutenant Alexander. Both prisoners were
killed, and he was blown out of the building uninjured.

"Getting to be a habit with you," said Major Martin.

"This is the life," said Lieutenant Alexander.

"Fritz hasn't got a shell with Lieutenant Alexander's number on it,"
said the men in the ranks.

The shell that demolished the regimental headquarters was only one of
thousands with which the Boche raked our lines and back areas. As soon
as American occupancy of Bois de Grimpettes had been established
definitely the Hun turned loose an artillery "hate" that made life
miserable for the Pennsylvanians. In the 110th alone there were
twenty-two deaths and a total of 102 casualties.



The village of Sergy, just north of Grimpettes Wood, threatened to be a
hard nut to crack. The 109th Infantry was sent away to the west to flank
the town from that direction, and the 110th co-operated with regiments
of other divisions in the direct assault.

The utter razing of Epieds and other towns above the Marne by artillery
fire, in order to blast the Germans out of their strongholds, led to a
decision to avoid such destructive methods wherever possible, and the
taking of Sergy was almost entirely an infantry and machine gun battle.

It was marked, as so many other of the Pennsylvanians' fights were, by
the "never-say-die" spirit that refused to know defeat. There was
something unconquerable about the terrible persistence of the Americans
that seemed to daunt the Germans.

The American forces swept into the town and drove the enemy slowly and
reluctantly out to the north. The usual groups of Huns were still in
hiding in cellars and dugouts and other strong points, where they were
able to keep up a sniping fire on our men.

Before the positions could be mopped up and organized, the Germans were
strengthened by fresh forces, and they reorganized and took the town
again. Four times this contest of attack and counter-attack was carried
out before our men established themselves in sufficient force to hold
the place. Repeatedly the Germans strove to obtain a foothold again, but
their hold on Sergy was gone forever. They realized this at last, and
then turned loose the customary sullen shelling with shrapnel, high
explosives and gas.

While the 110th was engaged in this grim work, the 109th recrossed the
Ourcq, marched away down the south bank to the west of Sergy, and
crossed the river again. Officers, feeling almost at the end of their
physical resources, marvelled at the way in which the regiment--blooded,
steady and dependable--swung along on this march.

Like all the other Pennsylvania regiments, food had been scarce with
them because of the pace at which they had been going and the utter
inability of the commissary to supply them regularly in the
circumstances. When opportunity offered, they got a substantial meal,
but these were few and far between. There were innumerable instances of
men going forty-eight hours without either food or water. The thirst was
worse than the hunger, and the longing for sleep was almost

Despite all this, the two regiments set off for the conquest of Sergy
with undiminished spirit and determination, and the two grades of men,
commissioned and enlisted, neither willing to give up in the face of the
other's dogged pertinacity, spurred each other on to prodigies of
will-power, for by this time it was will-power, more than actual
physical endurance, that carried them on.

The 109th took position in a wood just northwest of Sergy and sent
scouts forward to ascertain the situation of the enemy, only to have
them come back with word that the town already was in the hands of the
110th, after a brilliant action.

The 109th now came to some of the most nerve-trying hours it had yet
experienced, though no fighting was involved. A wood north of Sergy was
selected as an abiding place for the night and, watching for a chance
when Boche flyers were busy elsewhere, the regiment made its way into
the shelter and prepared to get a night's rest.

They had escaped the eyes of the enemy airmen but, unknown to the
officers of the 109th, the wood lay close to an enemy ammunition dump,
which the retiring Huns had not had time to destroy. Naturally, the
German artillery knew perfectly the location of the dump, and sought to
explode it by means of artillery fire.

By the time the 109th, curious as to the marked attention they were
receiving from the Hun guns, discovered the dump, it was too late to
seek other shelter, so all they could do was to contrive such protection
as was possible and hug the ground, expecting each succeeding shell to
land in the midst of the dump and set off an explosion that probably
would leave nothing of the regiment but its traditions.

Probably half the shells intended for the ammunition pile landed in the
woods. Dreadful as such a bombardment always is, the men of the 109th
fairly gasped with relief when each screeching shell ended with a bang
among the trees, for shells that landed there were in no danger of
exploding that heap of ammunition.

The night of strain and tension passed. Strange as it may seem, the
Boche gunners were unable to reach the dump.

In the night a staff officer from brigade headquarters had found Colonel
Brown and informed him that he was to relinquish command of the regiment
to become adjutant to the commandant of a port of debarkation.
Lieutenant-Colonel Henry W. Coulter, of Greensburg, Pa., took command of
the regiment.

Colonel Coulter is a brother of Brigadier-General Richard Coulter, one
time commander of the Tenth Pennsylvania, later commander of an American
port in France. A few days later, Colonel Coulter was wounded in the
foot, and Colonel Samuel V. Ham, a regular army officer, became
commander. As an evidence of the vicissitudes of the Pennsylvania
regiments, the 109th had eight regimental commanders in two months. All
except Colonel Brown and Colonel Coulter were regular army men.

The 110th was relieved, and dropped back for a rest of two days, August
1st and 2d. The men were nervous and "fidgety," to quote one of the
officers, for the first time since their first "bath of steel," south of
the Marne. Both nights they were supposed to be resting they were
shelled and bombed from the air continuously, and both days were put in
at the "camions sanitaire," or "delousing machines," where each man got
a hot bath and had his clothes thoroughly disinfected and cleaned.

Thus, neither night nor day could be called restful by one who was
careful of his English, although the baths probably did more to bolster
up the spirits of the men than anything else that could have happened to
them. Anyway, when the two-day period was ended and the regiment again
set off for the north, headed for the Vesle and worse things than any
that had gone before, it marched away whistling and singing, with
apparently not a care in the world.

It was about this time that the first of the Pennsylvania artillery,
one battalion of the 107th Regiment, came into the zone of operations,
and soon its big guns began to roar back at the Germans in company with
the French and other American artillery.

The guns and their crews had troubles of their own in forging to the
front, although most of it was of a kind they could look back on later
with a laugh, and not the soul-trying, mind-searing experiences of the

The roads that had been so hard for the foot soldiers to traverse were
many times worse for the big guns. The 108th, for instance, at one time
was twelve hours in covering eight miles of road.

When it came to crossing the Marne, in order to speed up the crossing,
the regiment was divided, half being sent farther up the river. When
night fell, it was learned that the half that had crossed lower down had
the field kitchen and no rations and the other half had all the rations
and no field kitchen to cook them. Other organizations came to the
rescue in both instances.

At six o'clock one evening, not yet having had evening mess, the
regiment was ordered to move to another town, which it reached at nine
o'clock. Men and horses had been settled down for the night by ten
o'clock and, as all was quiet, the officers went to the village. There
they found an innkeeper bemoaning the fact that, just as he had gotten a
substantial meal ready for the officers of another regiment, they had
been ordered away, and the food was all ready, with nobody to eat it.

The hungry officers looked over the "spread." There was soup, fried
chicken, cold ham, string beans, peas, sweet potatoes, jam, bread and
butter, and wine. They assured the innkeeper he need worry no further
about losing his food, and promptly took their places about the table.
The first spoonfuls of soup just were being lifted when an orderly
entered, bearing orders for the regiment to move on at once. They were
under way again, the officers still hungry, by 11.45 o'clock, and
marched until 6.30 A. M., covering thirty kilometres, or more
than eighteen miles.

The 103d Ammunition Train also had come up now, after experiences that
prepared it somewhat for what was to come later. For instance, when
delivering ammunition to a battery under heavy shellfire, a detachment
of the train had to cross a small stream on a little, flat bridge,
without guard rails. A swing horse of one of the wagons became
frightened when a shell fell close by. The horse shied and plunged over
the edge, wedging itself between the bridge and a small footbridge

The stream was in a small valley, quite open to enemy fire, and for the
company to have waited while the horse was gotten out would have been
suicidal. So the main body passed on and the caisson crew and drivers,
twelve men in all, were left to pry the horse out. For three hours they
worked, patiently and persistently, until the frantic animal was freed.

They were under continuous and venomous fire all the while. Shrapnel cut
the tops of trees a bare ten feet away. Most of the time they and the
horses were compelled to wear gas masks, as the Hun tossed over a gas
shell every once in a while for variety--he was "mixing them." The gas
hung long in the valley, for it has "an affinity," as the chemists say,
for water, and will follow the course of a stream.

High explosives "cr-r-r-umped" in places within two hundred feet, but
the ammunition carriers never even glanced up from their work, nor
hesitated a minute. Just before dawn they got the horse free and started
back for their own lines. Fifteen minutes later a high-explosive shell
landed fairly on the little bridge and blew it to atoms.

The 103d Field Signal Battalion, composed of companies chiefly from
Pittsburgh, but with members from many other parts of the state,
performed valiant service in maintaining lines of communication.
Repeatedly, men of the battalion, commanded by Major Fred G. Miller, of
Pittsburgh, exposed themselves daringly in a welter of fire to extend
telephone and telegraph lines, sometimes running them through trees and
bushes, again laying them in hastily scooped out grooves in the earth.

Frequently communication no sooner was established than a chance shell
would sever the line, and the work was to do all over again. With cool
disregard of danger, the signalmen went about their tasks, incurring all
the danger to be found anywhere--but without the privilege and
satisfaction of fighting back.

Under sniping rifle fire, machine gun and big shell bombardment and
frequently drenched with gas, the gallant signalmen carried their work
forward. There was little of the picturesque about it, but nothing in
the service was more essential. Many of the men were wounded and gassed,
a number killed, and several were cited and decorated for bravery.



When the Hun grip was torn loose from the positions along the Ourcq, he
had no other good stopping place short of the Vesle, so he lit out for
that river as fast as he could move his battalions and equipment. Again
only machine guns and sniping rear-guards were left to impede the
progress of the pursuers, and again there were times when it was
exceedingly difficult for the French and American forces to keep in
contact with the enemy.

The 32d Division, composed of Michigan and Wisconsin National Guards,
had slipped into the front lines and, with regiments of the Rainbow
Division, pressed the pursuit. The Pennsylvania regiments, with the 103d
Engineers, and the 111th and the 112th Infantry leading, followed by the
109th and then the 110th, went forward in their rear, mopping up the few
Huns they left in their wake who still showed fight.

It had begun to rain again--a heavy, dispiriting downpour, such as
Northern France is subjected to frequently. The fields became morasses.
The roads, cut up by heavy traffic, were turned to quagmires. The
distorted remains of what had been wonderful old trees, stripped of
their foliage and blackened and torn by the breaths of monster guns,
dripped dismally. In all that ruined, tortured land of horror on horror,
there was not one bright spot, and there was only one thing to keep up
the spirits of the soldiers--the Hun was definitely on the run.

Drenched to the skin, wading in mud at times almost to their knees, amid
the ruck and confusion of an army's wake, the Pennsylvanians trudged
resolutely forward, inured to hardship, no longer sensible to ordinary
discomforts, possessed of only one thought--to come to battle once more
with the hateful foe and inflict further punishment in revenge for the
gallant lads who had gone from the ranks.

All the time they were subjected to long-distance shelling by the big
guns, as the Hun strafed the country to the south in hope of hampering
transport facilities and breaking up marching columns. All the time
Boche fliers passed overhead, sometimes swooping low enough to slash at
the columns with machine guns and at frequent intervals releasing bombs.
There were casualties daily, although not, of course, on the same scale
as in actual battle.

Through Coulonges, Cohan, Dravegny, Longeville, Mont-sur-Courville and
St. Gilles they plunged on relentlessly.

Close by the hamlet of Chamery, near Cohan, the Pennsylvania men passed
the grave of Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt, who had been brought down
there by an enemy airman a few weeks before and was buried by the
Germans. French troops, leading the Allied pursuit, had come on the
grave first and established a military guard of honor over it and
supplanted the rude cross and inscription erected by the Germans with a
neater and more ornate marking.

When the Americans arrived the French guard was removed and American
soldiers mounted guard over the last resting place of the son of the
onetime President.

Just below Longeville, the Pennsylvanians came into an area where the
fire was intensified to the equal of anything they had passed through
since leaving the Marne. All the varieties of Hun projectiles were
hurled at them, high explosives of various sizes, shrapnel and gas. Once
more the misery and discomfort of the gas mask had to be undergone, but
by this time the Pennsylvanians had learned well and truly the value of
that little piece of equipment and had imbibed thoroughly the doctrine
that, unpleasant as it might be, the mask was infinitely better than a
whiff of that dread, sneaking, penetrating vapor with which the Hun
poisoned the air.

The "blonde beast" had his back to the Vesle and had turned to show his
teeth and snarl in fury at our men closing in on him.

The objective point on the river for the Pennsylvanians was Fismes. This
was a town near the junction of the Vesle and Ardre rivers, which before
the war had a population of a little more than 3,000. Here, in centuries
long gone, the kings of France were wont to halt overnight on their way
up to Rheims to be crowned. It was on a railroad running through Rheims
to the east. A few miles west of Fismes the railroad divides, one branch
winding away southwestward to Paris the other running west through
Soissons and Compiegne. The town was one of the largest German munitions
depots in the Soissons-Rheims sector and second in importance only to

Across the narrow river was the village of Fismette, destined to be the
scene of the writing of a truly glorious page of Pennsylvania's military
history. The past tense is used with regard to the existence of both
places, as they virtually were wiped out in the process of forcing the
Hun from the Vesle River barrier and sending him flying northward to the

The railroad through Fismes and in its vicinity runs along the top of an
embankment, raising it above the surrounding territory. There was a
time, before the Americans were able to cross the railroad, that the
embankment became virtually the barrier dividing redeemed France from
darkest Hunland along that front. At night patrols from both sides would
move forward to the railroad, and, burrowed in holes--the Germans in
the north side and the Americans in the south--would watch and wait and
listen for signs of an attack.

Each knew the other was only a few feet away; at times, in fact, they
could hear each other talking, and once in a while defiant badinage
would be exchanged in weird German from the south and in ragtime,
vaudeville English from the north. Appearance of a head above the
embankment on either side was a signal for a storm of lead and steel.

The Americans had this advantage over the Germans: They knew the Huns
were doomed to continue their retreat, and that the hold-up along the
railroad was very temporary, and the Germans now realized the same
thing. Therefore, the Americans fought triumphantly, with vigor and
dash; the Germans, sullenly and in desperation.

One man of the 110th went to sleep in a hole in the night and did not
hear the withdrawal just before dawn. Obviously his name could not be
made public. When he woke it was broad daylight, and he was only partly
concealed by a little hole in the railroad bank. There was nothing he
could do. If he had tried to run for his regimental lines he would have
been drilled like a sieve before he had gone fifty yards. Soon the
German batteries would begin shelling, so he simply dug deeper into the

"I just drove myself into that bank like a nail," he told his comrades
later. He got away the next night.

Richard Morse, of the 110th, whose home is in Harrisburg, went out with
a raiding party. The Germans discovered the advance of the group and
opened a concentrated fire, forcing them back. Morse was struck in the
leg and fell. He was able to crawl, however, and crawling was all he
could have done anyway, because the only line of retreat open to him was
being swept by a hail of machine gun bullets. As he crawled he was hit
by a second bullet. Then a third one creased the muscles of his back. A
few feet farther, and two more struck him, making five in all.

Then he tumbled into a shell hole. He waited until the threshing fire
veered from his vicinity and he had regained a little strength, then
crawled to another hole and flopped himself into that. Incredible as it
may seem, he regained his own lines the fourth day by crawling from
shell hole to shell hole, and started back to the hospital with every
prospect of a quick recovery. He had been given up for dead, and the men
of his own and neighboring companies gave him a rousing welcome. He had
nothing to eat during those four days, but had found an empty tin can,
and when it rained caught enough water in that to assuage his thirst.

Corporal George D. Hyde, of Mt. Pleasant, Company E, 110th, hid in a
hole in the side of the railroad embankment for thirty-six hours on the
chance of obtaining valuable information. When returning, a piece of
shrapnel struck the pouch in which he carried his grenades. Examining
them, he found the cap of one driven well in. It was a miracle it had
not exploded and torn a hole through him.

"You ought to have seen me throw that grenade away," he said.

In this waiting time it was decided to clean up a position of the enemy
that was thrust out beyond their general line, from which an annoying
fire was kept up constantly. Accordingly, a battalion of the 110th was
sent over to wipe it out.

The Rev. Mandeville J. Barker, rector of the Episcopal Church in
Uniontown, Pa., is chaplain of the 110th, with the rank of first
lieutenant. He had endeared himself to officers and men alike by his
happy combination of buoyant, gallant cheerfulness, sturdy Americanism,
deep Christianity, indifference to hardship and the tender care he gave
to the wounded. He had become, indeed, the most beloved man in the

He went over the top with the battalion that attacked by night on the
heights of the Vesle. It was not his duty to go; in fact had the
regimental commander known his intention, he probably would have been
forbidden to go. But go he did. He had an idea that his job was to look
after the men's bodies as well as their souls, and when there was stern
fighting to do, he liked to be in a position where he could attend to
both phases of his work.

The attacking party wiped out the Hun machine gun nest after a sharp
fight and then retired to their own lines, as ordered. It was so dark
that some of the wounded were overlooked. After the battalion returned,
voices of American wounded could be heard out in that new No Man's Land,
calling for help. Dr. Barker took his life and some first aid equipment
and water in his two hands and slipped out into the dark, with only
starshine and the voices of the wounded to guide him and, between the
two armies, attended to the wounds of the men as best he could by the
light of a small pocket torch, which he had to keep concealed from the
enemy lookouts.

One after another the clergyman hunted. Those who could walk he started
back to the lines. Several he had to assist. One lad who was beyond help
he sat beside and ministered to with the tenderness of a mother until
the young soul struggled gropingly out into the Great Beyond. Then, with
the tears rolling down his cheeks, the beloved "Sky Pilot" started back.

But again the sound of a voice in agony halted him. This time, however,
it was not English words that he heard, but a moaning petition in
guttural German: "Ach Gott! Ach, mein lieber Gott!"

The men of the 110th loved their "parson" even more for what he did
then. He turned right about and went back, groping in the dark for the
sobbing man. He found a curly-haired young German, wounded so he could
not walk and in mortal terror, not of death or of the dark, but of those
"terrible Americans who torture and kill their prisoners." Such was the
tale with which he and his comrades had been taught to loathe their
American enemies. Dr. Barker treated his wounds and carried him back to
the American lines. The youngster whimpered with fear when he found
where he was going, and begged the clergyman not to leave him. When he
finally was convinced that he would not be harmed, he kissed the
chaplain's hands, crying over them, and insisted on turning over to Dr.
Barker everything he owned that could be loosened--helmet, pistol,
bayonet, cartridges, buttons, and other odds and ends.

"All hung over with loot, the parson was, when he came back," said a
sergeant in telling of the scene afterward.

"The Fighting Parson," as the men called him, did not fight, actually,
but he went as close to it as possible. On one occasion snipers were
bothering the men. Dr. Barker borrowed a pair of glasses, lay flat on
the field and, after prolonged study, discovered the offenders, four of
them, and notified an artillery observer. A big gun casually swung its
snout around, barked three times and the snipers sniped no more. Two or
three days later, the regiment went over and took that section of German
line and found what was left of the four men. "The Parson's Boche," the
men called them.

Toward the last of the action below the Vesle, a group of men of the
110th had established an outpost in a large cave, which extended a
considerable distance back in a cliff--just how far none of the men ever
discovered. After they had been there several days, Dr. Barker arranged
to cheer them a little in their lonely vigil. The cave had been an
underground quarry. The Germans had occupied it, knew exactly where it
was and its value as a hiding place, and kept a constant stream of
machine gun bullets flying past its mouth.

For three weeks it had been possible to enter or leave the cave only
after dark. Even then it was risky, for the mouth of the cave was only
about fifty yards from the German trenches and slight sounds could be
heard. After dark the Hun fire was laid down about the entrance at every
suspicious noise. Sometimes the men inside would amuse themselves by
heaving stones outside from a safe position within, to hear Fritz turn
loose his "pepper boxes."

Despite these difficulties, Dr. Barker got a motion picture outfit into
the cave and gave a show of six reels to the men stationed there, after
which Y. M. C. A. men entertained them with songs and eccentric dances.
Men who saw that performance, in the light of torches and flambeaux,
will never forget the picture.

Toward the last there were sounds from the farther interior of the cave,
and two American soldiers walked into the circle, blinking their eyes.
Nobody gave much attention to them, supposing they just had wandered
away a few minutes before, until one of them interrupted a song with the
hoarsely whispered query:

"Got any chow?" Which is army slang for food.

"Aw, go lay down," was the querulous reply of the man addressed. "Ain't
yuh got sense enough not to interrupt a show? Shut up, will yuh?"

"Gee, but I'm hungry," came the answer. "I need some chow. We been lost
in this doggone cave for two days."

Investigation developed that he was telling the truth, and Dr. Barker
produced from some mysterious horn of plenty some chocolate, which the
famished men ate with avidity. With the natural, healthy curiosity of
American youth, they had set out to explore the cave and had become lost
in its mazes. Only the lights and noises of Dr. Barker's concert had led
them out.

An instance of the attitude of mind of the Pennsylvania men, who felt
nothing but contempt for their foes, and of how little the arrogance and
intolerance of the typical Prussian officer impressed them, was given by
members of the 111th Ambulance Company, working with the 111th Infantry.

Soldiers of Pennsylvania Dutch descent had amazed the Germans more than
once not only by understanding the conversation of the enemy, but by
their intense anger, almost ferocity, which they displayed on occasions
when confronted with "the Intolerable Thing" called the Prussian spirit.
Offspring of men and women of sturdy, free-minded stock who fled from
oppression in Europe, they flamed with the spirit of the real liberty
lover when in contact with the Prussian.

A little group of the 111th's ambulanciers when carrying back the
wounded, met a German major who was groaning and complaining vigorously
and demanding instant attention. The contrast between his conduct and
that of American officers, who almost invariably told the litter-bearers
to go on and pick up worse wounded men, was glaring, but finally the
bearers good-humoredly decided to get the major out of the way to stop
his noise. He was not wounded severely, but was unable to walk, and they
lifted him to the stretcher with the same care they gave to all the

Promptly the major began to upbraid the Americans, speaking in his
native tongue. In the language of a Billingsgate fishwife--or what
corresponds to one in Hunland--he cursed the Americans, root, stock and
branch, from President Wilson down to the newest recruit in the army.

Thomas G. Fox, of Hummelstown, Pa., one of the bearers, understood his
every word and repeated the diatribe in English to his fellows, who
became restive under the tirade. At last the major said:

"You Americans think you are going to win the war, but you're not."

That was too much for Fox and his companions.

"You think you are going to be carried back to a hospital, but you're
not," said Fox. Whereupon the litter was turned over neatly and the
major deposited, not too gently, on the hard ground. For some time he
lay there, roaring his maledictions. Then he started to crawl back, and
by the time he got to a hospital, he had lost some of his insolence.



Hun infantry in considerable force held Fismes. Their big guns had been
moved across the Vesle, tacit admission they had no hope of holding the
south bank of the river, but the strength of the force in the town
indicated the customary intention to sell out as dearly as possible to
their dogged and unfaltering pursuers.

Lying in the woods, or whatever other shelter they could find, our
infantrymen for two days watched French and American batteries moving
into position. It seemed the procession was interminable.

"There'll be something doing for Fritz when those babies get going," was
the opinion of the Pennsylvania doughboys.

French and American forces already had crossed the river east and west
of Fismes, which was almost the geographic center of the line between
Soissons and Rheims. To stabilize the line, it was essential not only
that Fismes be taken, but that the river crossings be forced and
Fismette seized.

Forward bodies of infantry continually had been feeling out the German
positions in Fismes and on Saturday afternoon, August 3rd,
reconnaissance parties from the 168th Infantry, formerly the Third Iowa
National Guard, of the Rainbow Division, entered the southern edge of
the town.

They clung there desperately until the next day, but the Germans deluged
them with gas, which hung close because of the river and the heavy
atmosphere, and it was deemed inadvisable for the small force to remain.
Their reconnaissance had been completed and they were ordered to return
to their lines. The information they brought back aided the staff
materially in planning the general attack.

The Germans had placed heavy guns on the crests of hills one or two
kilometers north of the river, from which they poured in a flanking

A few hours after the return of the men of the 168th, the massed French
and American batteries turned loose with a racket that seemed to rend
the universe.

The Germans had been dropping shells intermittently since daylight, but
even this spasmodic firing stopped entirely under the hurricane of
shrapnel, high explosive and gas shells from the Allied artillery, which
swept the town, the river crossings and the country to the north. It was
a case of "keep your head down, Fritzie boy," or lose it.

The artillery preparation was not protracted. After an hour or so, it
steadied down into a rolling barrage and the first wave of attackers
went over. The 32d and 42d (Rainbow) Divisions, exhausted, had been
brought out of the front line and Pennsylvania's iron men slipped into

It fell to the fortune of the 112th Infantry to lead the advance on
Fismes and, supported though it was by other regiments and by tremendous
artillery fire, it was the 112th Pennsylvania that actually took Fismes.

  [Illustration: © _Committee on Public Information._


  Pennsylvania Guardsmen attacking a German position in the
  Soissons-Rheims pocket. A bombing squad leads to blow up the
  German wire and open the way for the infantry waves which are
  seen following close, headed for the holes in the wire

There was the usual harassing fire from enemy machine guns and snipers,
especially to the east, but these were silenced after a time and the
112th romped into the southern edge of the town. Then ensued a
repetition, on a larger scale, of the street and house fighting that had
been experienced before in other villages and towns.

Scouts crept from corner to corner, hiding behind bits of smashed
masonry, working through holes in house walls and into cellars. A haze
of dust kicked up by the shells hung in the bright sunlight.

Every open stretch of street was swept by rifle and machine gun fire
from one or both sides. Americans and Germans were so mingled that
sometimes they shared the same house, firing out of different windows on
different streets, and varying the procedure by attempts to kill their

As the Americans crept slowly forward, always toward the river, the
Germans showed no slightest inclination to follow their comrades to the
north bank, and it became apparent that they were a sacrifice offered up
by the German command to delay, as long as possible, the progress of
those terrible Americans. They had been left behind with no hope of
succor, simply to sell their lives as dearly as possible. Quite
naturally, they fought like trapped wolves as long as fighting was
possible. When convinced they had no further chance to win, they dropped
their weapons and squalled: "Kamerad!"

Two American officers and some wounded men worked their way into one of
the houses. Inside, they found two unwounded men from Pittsburgh. Almost
as the two parties joined forces, one of the unwounded Pittsburghers,
venturing incautiously near what had been a window, stopped a sniper's
bullet and fell dead. The wounded were made as comfortable as possible
to await the stretcher-bearers and the two officers and one enlisted man
started to investigate the house.

They were crawling on all fours. They came into a dismantled room and
raised their heads to look over a pile of débris. They looked straight
into the eyes of two Germans. One had a machine gun, the other a trench
bomb in each hand. These German trench bombs were known among our
soldiers as "potato mashers," because they are about the size of a can
of sweet corn, fastened on the end of a short stick. They are thrown by
the stick, and are a particularly nasty weapon--one of the worst the
Germans had, many soldiers thought.

The German with the bombs was slowly whirling them about by the handles,
exactly like a pair of Indian clubs, as one of the Americans described
it afterward.

For the time you might have counted ten, there was not a movement on either
side, because the men were so surprised, except that the German with the
bombs kept whirling them slowly, around and around. The other German
stood like a statue, but making funny, nervous noises--"uck-uck-uck"--in
his throat. The Americans, telling about it later, frankly admitted they
were too scared to move for a few moments, expecting every second the man
with the "potato mashers" would throw them.

The remarkable tableau ended with the crash of a rifle. The American
private soldier had fired "from the hip." The German with the bombs bent
forward as if he had a sharp pain in his stomach, but he did not come up
again. He kept on going until his head hit the pile of débris, as if he
were salaaming or kowtowing to the Americans. Then he collapsed in an
inert heap on the floor, still holding his bombs.

The other turned and ran, stumbling through the wreckage, out through
the little garden in which flowers and green stuff still struggled
through the broken stone. As he ran, he cried in a curious, whimpering,
muffled tone, like a frightened animal, his big helmet crushed down
over his ears, a grotesque figure. He got out into the street, out into
the open where machine guns and rifles still called from corner to
corner and window to window. He was drilled in a dozen places at once
and collapsed like a heap of dusty rags.

There were innumerable instances of individual gallantry and of narrow
escapes. In days of fighting when virtually every man performed a hero's
part, it was impossible for anyone to keep track of all of even the more
outstanding cases, and many a lad's deed went unnoticed while another's
act brought him a citation and the coveted Distinguished Service Cross,
the difference being that one was observed and reported and the other
was not. A very small proportion of the deserving deeds were rewarded
for this reason.

Among the narrow escapes from death, probably Lieutenant Walter A.
Davenport, formerly of Philadelphia, established a record. A machine gun
bullet struck his belt buckle, was deflected and ripped a long gash in
the muscles of his abdomen. He returned to duty before his regiment, the
111th, had finished its work in Fismette, a few weeks later, and was
slightly gassed.

It was at Fismes that Captain John M. Gentner, of Philadelphia, acting
commander of the first battalion of the 109th, was wounded. He had been
commander of Company C, but took over command of the battalion when
Captain Gearty was killed in the Bois de Conde, below the Marne. After
he was wounded, Captain Gentner was made the subject of a remarkable
tribute from men of his battalion. They wrote for newspaper publication
a letter of eulogy, in which they said:

"The influence of Captain Gentner is still leading on the men of his
battalion. None speak of him but in admiration and thankfulness for
having helped them to be good soldiers. Daring, even brilliant, he led
his men into seemingly hazardous attacks, and yet we felt a sense of
safety. Other commanders say: 'I wouldn't send a man where I wouldn't go
myself,' but Captain Gentner wouldn't send men where he would go
himself. We looked upon him as a father. He has brought in wounded men
from places where no one else would venture. He delighted in dangerous
patrols and often regretted that his position prevented him from
leading combat patrols. In places where food came to us rarely and in
small quantity, he would claim that he had eaten when we knew that
neither food nor water had crossed his lips for twenty-four hours. He
was filled with admiration for his men--men who willingly would have
followed him through the gates of hell, just because no trouble, no
privation was too great for him to make his men comfortable."

What a difference between that relationship of officer and enlisted man,
and the sight our men saw of German soldiers being kicked and beaten
with sabres by German officers in an effort to drive them forward into
battle while the officers remained behind out of harm's way!

With their never-failing sense of the dramatic and their natural
tendency to picturesquely appropriate nomenclature, our men named the
valley of the Vesle "Death Valley" after the desperate fighting they
encountered there.

And so they took Fismes, these gallant American daredevils. Slowly but
surely they went through it, mopping it up in a scientific manner. It
was costly--such warfare always is--but they wiped out one German post
after another, driving the Huns to the very edge of the town on the
north, where they held on desperately for a few days until the American
occupation was complete, and the last German foothold was gone from the
Soissons-Rheims pocket, which for two weeks had been the focal point for
the eyes of the world.

Even before the operation was complete, and in callous disregard of the
men they themselves had left behind to impede the American advance, the
Germans cut loose with a hot artillery fire from the heights north of
the river.

They are not unlike the chalk cliffs of Dover, only not so high, these
elevations along the Vesle. There were several high points on the north
bank on which the Germans had observation posts, from which they could
look down upon Fismes and the surrounding country as persons in a
theatre balcony view the stage, and it was a terrible fire they poured

Already their big guns had been withdrawn to the line of the Aisne,
which is only five miles to the north and therefore well within range.
Lighter pieces in great number crowned the high ground nearer the Vesle,
and machine guns held their usual prominent place in the German scheme.
Once more they brought flame projectors into play, using them in this
instance at what is believed to have been the greatest distance they
tried to operate these weapons during the war. They accomplished little
with the "flamenwerfer," however.

Night and day the gun duel continued. The French and American batteries
methodically set about to break up the concentration of Hun fire.
Monday, August 5th, the shelling became so violent that observation
virtually was impossible and maps had to be used, the American gun
commanders picking out German positions that had been marked down

German 105's and 155's (about four and six inches) hurled their high
explosive shells. Shrapnel sprayed over the entire territory, and the
American positions in the rear were heavily pounded and deluged with
gas. The Germans shelled forests, crossroads, highways, clumps of trees
and all other places where they thought troops or supplies might be
concentrated or passing.

Every position in the American lines which ordinarily would have been
good from a military viewpoint became almost untenable from the fact
that the Germans, having so recently been driven out, knew the terrain
and the positions accurately. It was as safe in the open as in the
supposed shelters.

No sooner had the occupation of Fismes been established completely than
the Americans calmly prepared to cross the river and take Fismette,
regardless of the German resistance. For some reason still unexplained,
since after developments have made it clear the Germans had no real hope
of stopping short of the Chemin-des-Dames, north of the Aisne, they made
the taking of Fismette almost a first-class operation, even driving the
Americans back across the river after they once had established
themselves, and counter-attacking repeatedly.

Presumably, they had been unable to get away their vast quantities of
munitions and supplies between the Vesle and the Aisne, and needed to
hold up the pursuit while these were extricated.

As a first step in the crossing of the river, Major Robert M. Vail, of
Scranton, commanding the 108th Machine Gun Battalion, operating with the
55th Infantry Brigade, sent over two companies of machine gunners. They
waded the river, which was nearly to their armpits in places, holding
their weapons above their heads. Others carried ammunition in boxes on
their heads. They went over in a storm of shells and bullets, which took
a heavy toll, but they established a bridgehead on the north bank and,
fighting like demons, held it against tremendous odds while men of the
103d Engineers, ordered up for the work, threw bridges across the

It was in this work that units of the engineer regiment, particularly
Company C, of Pottsville, were badly mauled. Working swiftly and
unconcernedly in the midst of a tornado of almost every conceivable kind
and size of shell, most of the time sustaining the discomfort of their
gas masks, the engineers conducted themselves like veterans of years of
service, instead of the tyros they actually were. Officers and men of
the other organizations, watching the performance, thrilled with pride
at the outstanding bravery of these heroic young Americans. Their own
officers were too absorbed in their task to appreciate the work of the
men until afterward, when they had also to mourn their losses.

Methodically, working in water above their waists, many of them, the
engineers thrust the arm of their bridge across the stream. Shells raged
about them, churning the water to foam and throwing up geysers of mud
and spray. Now and then a flying fragment of steel struck one of the
toilers, whereupon he either dropped and floated downstream,
uninterested in the further progress of the war, or struggled to the
bank for first aid and made his way to a hospital.

The first bridge was nearly completed when a big shell scored a direct
hit and it disappeared in a mass of kindling wood. Patiently and
tenaciously, the engineers, deprived by their duties of even the
satisfaction of seizing a rifle and trying to wreak a little vengeance,
started to rebuild the structure.

Hampered by the German fire, the bridge building was slow and, the
machine gunners having made a good crossing, infantry was started over
the ford. The process of throwing men across was greatly hastened when
at last the first bridge was completed. Other spans soon were ready, but
the engineers knew no cessation from their task, for all too frequently
Hun projectiles either tore holes in the bridges or wrecked them



In Fismette, the Pennsylvanians ran into a stone wall of resistance. The
enemy made desperate efforts to dislodge them and drive them back across
the river. One counter-attack after another was met and beaten off by
the valiant little band of Americans, supported by the roaring guns on
the heights to the south.

The Pennsylvanians had the double satisfaction now of knowing their own
artillery brigade was mingling its fire with that of the other American
and French batteries. On August 8th, Brigadier-General William G. Price,
of Chester, rode up to regimental headquarters of the 109th Infantry and
greeted his friends among the officers. He informed them that his
brigade was immediately behind and that he was hunting division
headquarters to report for action. A guide was assigned him and the
General left in his motor car. Word soon spread through the infantry
regiments that all the Pennsylvania gunners at last were in the fight.

The weather turned wet again, varying from a drizzle to a heavy
downpour, but never quite ceasing.

The penetration of Fismette went slowly but steadily on, in the face of
strong resistance, the Germans reacting viciously at every point of
contact. Here, as elsewhere along the front between Soissons and Rheims,
the action consisted of a series of sharp local engagements, with
considerable hand-to-hand fighting, in which American bayonets played an
important role.

Amid the fever of battle and not knowing what moment may prove their
last, men move as if in a trance. Hours and days pass undistinguished
and unrecorded. With the fundamental scheme of existence shattered and
with friends of years and chums of months of campaigning killed between
sunrise and sunset, it is no wonder that men's minds become abnormal and
their acts superhuman.

In quiet, peaceful homes it is impossible to understand this psychology.
One may comprehend the mental shock sustained when a relative or
neighbor or close friend falls victim to accident or disease, but that
feeling is but distantly related to the effect upon the soldier when he
realizes that a dozen, possibly half a hundred, of his comrades and
close associates of weeks of work and recreation have been wiped out of
existence in an hour--men with whom he had talked daily, possibly was
talking at the time of dissolution.

The same experience is repeated day after day with deep effect upon his
mental, as well as his physical, state of being. Even in civil life, one
learns that loss of sleep in time acts like a drug. After twenty-four or
thirty-six hours without sleep, it becomes increasingly easy to do
without further, until the limit of human endurance is reached and the
victim collapses. Also, infrequent food and drink may be borne at
increasingly long intervals. The condition is not infrequently
described, accurately enough, as being "too hungry to eat," or "too
tired to rest." Inevitably the reaction comes, and the longer the relief
is postponed, the worse is the reaction. For this reason, the first day
in repose for soldiers after a long campaign is usually worse than the
campaign itself.

But while the deprivation of sleep, food and drink continues, it is
undeniable that, though the physical being may support the loss with
decreasing discomfort up to the point of collapse, the effect upon the
senses is almost that of an opiate. Men lose their sense of proportion.
Everything ordinarily of prime importance recedes into the background.
The soldier is imbued with but one overmastering aspiration--to go on
and on and on.

It is no wonder that, in such case, he feels that his own fate is a
small matter, as it is liable to be sealed at any moment, in the same
way as that of his comrades; no wonder that he faces death with the same
indifference as a man at home faces a summer shower.

This, then, is the state to which our Pennsylvania soldiers had now been
reduced, and in consequence their deeds of personal heroism began to
multiply. This was the period when individual men achieved most
frequently the great glory of the service--citation and decoration for
bravery in action. They had overstepped, individually and collectively,
all the bounds of personal fear of death or injury.

The Germans hurled one fresh regiment after another into the inferno
which was Fismette, in a determined effort to dislodge that pitiful
handful of Americans which had found lodgment on its river edge. Five
times fresh, vigorous forces, with hardly a lull, were hurled at the
position. All the time the guns kept up an incessant cannonade, both of
Fismette and Fismes and the back reaches of the Allied front, while the
attacking forces were strongly supported by airplanes, artillery and
machine guns.

The tide of battle swayed back and forth as the Americans, reinforced at
intervals by groups of men who succeeded in crossing the river, worked
their way forward, only to be hurled back by vastly superior forces of
the enemy, and hero after hero stalked, actor-like, across the murky
stage. Some gallant acts were recorded and, duly and in due time, won
their reward. Many more never were heard of, for the reason that
participants and witnesses were beyond mortal honor, or else the only
witnesses were part and parcel of the heroic act and therefore,
according to the Anglo-Saxon code of honor, their lips were sealed.
They could not tell of their own fine deeds.

It was the 111th Infantry which came into its gallant own in the first
penetration of Fismette, and its men took high rank in the heroic galaxy
constituting the Iron Division.

Probably the most noteworthy deed of individual heroism was that of
Corporal Raymond B. Rowbottom, of Avalon, Pa., near Pittsburgh, member
of Company E, and Corporal James D. Moore, Erie, Pa., of Company G, both
of the 111th.

They were on outpost duty together with automatic rifle teams in a house
beyond the spinning mill on the western edge of Fismette. The mill had
been one of the hotly contested strongholds of the Germans because of
its size and the thickness of its old stone walls. The situation was
such that the loss of the firing post in the house would have endangered
not only a battalion which was coming up under Lieutenant L. Howard
Fielding, of Llanerch, Pa., but also would have made the whole military
operation more difficult, if not impossible.

A flare thrown from a German post landed in the room where Rowbottom
and Moore had established themselves, and in a moment the place was
ablaze. This was on the night of August 12th. The flare had been thrown
for the particular purpose of providing illumination for the German
snipers and machine gunners to see their target. The fire that started
from it not only answered this purpose better than the flare alone could
have, but also distracted the attention of the American outpost and
threatened to drive them from the house.

There was, of course, no water in the house except the small quantity
contained in the canteens of the men. With this absurdly inadequate
supply and their own bare hands, fighting flames in a room as bright as
day and under a heavy, concentrated machine gun and rifle fire,
Rowbottom and Moore extinguished the blaze and then calmly resumed their
automatic rifle work. For hours they went thirsty, until their throats
were parched and their tongues swelled. For this deed, both men were
cited and given the Distinguished Service Cross.

Five wounded men were left behind unavoidably when a detachment of the
111th was called hurriedly back from an advanced post which it was seen
could not be held without too great sacrifice. Private Albert R. Murphy,
of Philadelphia, a member of the sanitary detachment of the 111th,
volunteered to go out after them. Despite seemingly insurmountable
obstacles and constantly under vicious fire from scores of enemy
marksmen, Murphy stuck to his task until the last man was back, although
it took three days and nights of repeated effort. He, too, was cited and
given the Distinguished Service Cross.

A sergeant of Company C, 111th Infantry, was shot on August 10th and lay
in an exposed position. Sergeant Alfred Stevenson, of Chester, a member
of the same company, volunteered to go to the rescue. He successfully
made his way through the enemy fire to the side of the wounded comrade.
As he leaned over the man to get a grip on him so he could carry the
burden, a sharpshooter's bullet struck him. Stevenson partially raised
himself and said to the wounded man:

"Gee, they got me that time."

As he spoke the words, the sniper shot him again and he fell dead. The
wounded man lay in a clump of bushes and between there and our lines
was an open space of considerable width. When Stevenson did not reappear
with the wounded man, Corporal Robert R. Riley, of Chester, a member of
the same company, and two comrades asked permission to go after the two.

At their first effort, all were wounded and forced to return. Corporal
Riley's wound was not severe, however, and he insisted upon making
another attempt. This time he reached the spot, only to find his old
schoolmate, Stevenson, dead, and the man for whom the effort was made
able to crawl back after having first aid treatment. Riley collapsed on
his way back and was carried in by Private Edward Davis and sent to a
hospital, where he recovered and was awarded the Distinguished Service

On August 10th, a detachment of men of the 111th captured some enemy
machine guns and a quantity of ammunition. Corporal Raymond Peacock, of
Norristown, a member of Company F, was the only man available who knew
how to operate the enemy gun, a Maxim. He had just been so badly wounded
in the left shoulder that the arm was partially useless. Nevertheless,
he volunteered to go forward and operate the gun. He participated in a
spirited assault, firing the weapon with one hand, until he was wounded
again. A Distinguished Service Cross was his reward.

An officer of the 111th called for a runner to take a message from
Fismette back to Fismes. The path that had to be covered was pounded by
big shells and sprayed with machine gun bullets, and the man who
volunteered went but a short distance when he dropped, riddled like a

Undaunted by the sight, Private Lester Carson, of Clearfield, Pa., a
member of Company L, promptly volunteered and was given a duplicate
message. His luck held, for he got through over the same route, by an
exercise of daring, aggressiveness and care, and delivered the note. He,
too, won a Distinguished Service Cross.

For five days of the most intense fighting, from August 9th to 13th,
Private Fred Otte, Fairmount City, Pa., a member of Company A, 111th
Infantry, acted as a runner between his battalion headquarters in Fismes
and the troops in Fismette. He made several trips across the Vesle under
heavy shell and machine gun fire, and when the bridge was destroyed he
continued his trips by swimming the river, in spite of wire
entanglements in the water. For this he received a Distinguished Service

Bugler Harold S. Gilham, of Pittsburgh, Company H, and Private Charles
A. Printz, of Norristown, Company F, both of the 111th, not only
volunteered as runners to carry messages to the rear, but on their
return showed their scorn of the enemy by burdening themselves with
heavy boxes of ammunition which was badly needed.

Sergeant James R. McKenney, of Pittsburgh, Company E, 111th Infantry,
took out a patrol to mop up snipers. When he returned, successful, he
was ordered to rest, but begged and obtained permission to take out
another patrol.

Sergeant Richard H. Vaughan, of Royersford, Pa., Company A, 111th
Infantry, was severely gassed and his scalp was laid open by a piece of
shrapnel. Despite this, he refused to go back for treatment, but had his
wound treated on the field and continued to command his platoon for four
days until relieved. He died later of his injuries, but a Distinguished
Service Cross was awarded to him and sent to his father, Dr. E. M.
Vaughan, of Royersford, together with the text of the official citation,
which told the tale of the Sergeant's heroism and concluded with the

"By his bravery and encouragement to his men, he exemplified the highest
qualities of leadership."

Corporal James V. Gleason, of Pottstown, Pa., Company A, 111th, was
publicly commended and given the Distinguished Service Cross for his
"great aid in restoring and holding control of the line in absolute
disregard to personal danger and without food or rest for seventy-two
hours." How terse and yet how graphic are these precise words of the
official citation!

Lieutenants Walter Ettinger, of Phoenixville, who later was killed, and
Robert B. Woodbury, of Pottsville, the former an officer of Company D,
and the latter of Company M, 111th Infantry, spent three sleepless days
and nights aiding and encouraging their men to hold a position.

On August 12th, the Germans delivered an attack in force, preceded by an
intense bombardment and accompanied by a rolling barrage, which was too
pretentious to be met by the small American force in Fismette. In the
face of those onrushing German hordes, there were but two things to
do--die heroically but futilely or retire. True to American army
traditions, under which men never are required to lay down their lives
uselessly, the American force slowly, reluctantly and stubbornly retired
across the river.

Instantly the Franco-American guns gave tongue. They laid down upon
Fismette a bombardment which made the German effort seem trifling. With
the walls falling around them, the Germans began to flee. And then the
task of conquering that stubborn little village was begun again.

This second advance was led by a detachment of the 111th, under Captain
James Archibald Williams and Lieutenant H. E. Leonard, both of
Pittsburgh. They swam the Vesle under a hail of fire, for the enemy
centered much of his artillery upon the bridges, and shrapnel and
machine gun bullets fell upon them like rain.

Soaked from head to foot, the Pennsylvanians got a footing on the
northern bank, only to find they were unsupported as yet on either
flank. Undaunted, they plunged forward into a little ravine which
seemed to offer some protection. On the contrary, they found there had
settled into it most of the gas with which the enemy had been drenching
the town. Various kinds of the poisonous vapor, mustard gas, sneeze gas,
tear gas and chlorine gas, had accumulated there in a seething mixture,
providing the worst experience with this form of Hun deviltry the men
had met.

Gas masks were already in place, however, and forward they went on the
run. Machine guns chattered angrily at them, and the gunners stood their
ground until the flashing bayonets of the Americans were almost at their
breasts. Then they either broke and fled or bleated the customary plea
for mercy.



While all this was going forward, shells had wrecked all the bridges
over the river but one and it was so damaged as to be considered unsafe,
so the little force in Fismette had to hold on as best it could until
reinforcements could be thrown across. It was at this juncture that
there entered into fame a new set of candidates for military

The men of the 103d Sanitary Train of the Twenty-eighth Division had
been performing their arduous and perilous tasks in a gallant and
self-sacrificing manner, but they now achieved the apotheosis of

In the cellar of a house in Fismette there had been assembled
twenty-eight American wounded, and it was necessary to evacuate them
across the river in order that they might reach hospitals and receive
proper treatment. Five times the house had been struck by shells and
Sergeant William Lukens, of Cheltenham, Pa., and a few other men had to
scrape the débris off the wounded. Four times the comrades of Lukens had
to dig him out when shells buried him under an avalanche of earth.

Captain Charles Hendricks, of Blairsville, Pa., remained in the cellar
three days and four nights, and twice was buried by shells.

The ambulance men who finally carried the wounded back across the river,
after hairbreadth escapes and thrilling experiences, were headed by
Captain George E. McGinnis, of Philadelphia, and were members of
Ambulance Company 110, formerly Ambulance Company 2 in the National

The advance party of rescuers set out for Fismes in a touring car. It
was made up of Major Frederick Hartung, of Pittsburgh; Major Edward M.
Iland, of Coraopolis, Captain McGinnis and Privates Walter McGinnis and
Walter Frosch, both of Philadelphia, and all members of the medical

Frosch was at the wheel. They took the road down the hill on the
southern slope of the Vesle at breakneck speed, for caution was useless.
They were in full view of scores of enemy gunners and their car at once
became a target, being hit several times. Frosch drove on "without
batting an eye," as the officers remarked.

Over the unsafe bridge they rushed at top speed and, to the amazement of
the watching Americans on the south bank, the structure held. Then the
car tore up through Fismette to the dressing station, around which big
shells were beating a terrible tattoo. The men hurriedly looked over the
situation and then made a preconcerted signal to the ambulanciers
waiting on the other side of the river.

When the signal was received, the ambulances came out from cover and
dashed for the river. They were conspicuously decorated with the red
cross, but that seemed only to make them a special target for the enemy.
The machines were manned by James T. O'Neill, of Aldan, Pa.; James R.
Gunn, Joseph M. Murray, Samuel Falls, Alfred Baker, Originnes Biemuller,
known among his comrades as "Mike," James R. Brown, Jack Curry, Harry
Broadbent, Raymond Onyx and Albert Smith, all of Philadelphia, and John
F. Maxwell, of Williamsport.

On the trip into Fismette, the ambulances escaped a hit, miraculous as
it may seem. They went around corners on two wheels, thundering and
rushing through the narrow little streets littered with dust and débris,
and came to a halt in the lee of the dressing station. Their crews
leaped to the ground and set to work loading the wounded.

The Hun artillerists and machine gunners vented all their varieties of
hate on the gallant little group intent on an errand of mercy. It seemed
as if the whole German army had determined they should not get their
wounded back to Fismes. With more indifference to the fire than they
felt for the clouds of flies which really annoyed them, the ambulance
men worked quickly, smoothly and efficiently.

O'Neill was sent back to see if the bridge still was standing. Instead
of contenting himself with making sure of this from the brow of the
river slope, he bethought him of a cache of medical supplies near the
river and continued on foot to the spot, carrying back with him a burden
of needed stores. Officers, watching the splendid exhibition of
cast-iron nerve through their glasses from the far side of the river,
alternately cursed him for "a blazing young fool" and blessed him for
being "the kind of young fool that does things."

O'Neill reported that the bridge was still in place and at three o'clock
in the morning the first ambulance was loaded and sent away. Captain
McGinnis went with it. The second ambulance left a few minutes later.
Broadbent and Maxwell still were loading. O'Neill had made another trip
to the river to see if the bridge was all right.

The first two ambulances had just cleared the river when a shell landed
fairly on the span and broke it through. O'Neill ran back to tell his
comrades and as he arrived a big shell fell just outside the cellar.
Broadbent was knocked down and deluged with earth at the entrance. He
scrambled back into the cellar at top speed, but one of the wounded men
in the ambulance, supposed to be too badly hurt to walk, beat Broadbent
into the shelter.

One of the patients was wounded again in the leg and one of the
ambulanciers held his hand over his cheek, where a screw from the side
of the ambulance had been blown clear through. Three tires of the
ambulance were punctured, the sides were perforated in a score of places
and the roof was blown off by shell fragments.

The patients were unloaded and carried back into the cellar to await a
quieter moment. Repairs were made to the bridge and Captain McGinnis
returned in a car and ordered the ambulances to get away. They started
again at seven o'clock in the morning, but found the bridge again a mass
of wreckage and had to return.

At last, at four o'clock in the afternoon, there came a lull in the
enemy fire and two more of the ambulances began their perilous race
across the river, the engineers having just completed the rebuilding of
the bridge. For the second time they just cheated a big shell, which
landed on the bridge immediately after the second car had crossed, and
the structure was put out of service beyond hope of quick repair.

Thereupon the ambulanciers remaining in the Fismette cellar calmly
proceeded to carry the remaining wounded on litters down the hill
through the German fire, under protection of a well-organized defense by
our fighting men. They forded the river, holding the litters above
their heads, while shells threw up waterspouts and bullets pattered like
hail all about them.

On the southern bank, ambulances stood out in the open, backed almost to
the water's edge, their drivers smoking cigarettes and watching and
calling advice to the men in the water. Thus the last of the wounded
were taken from under the noses of the enemy.

Captain McGinnis and most of the enlisted men whose names have been
mentioned were awarded Distinguished Service Crosses. Most of them had
worked seventy-two hours and many had absolutely no rest for forty-eight
hours. Ten of their thirteen ambulances were demolished.

In organizing a protective offense to cover the evacuation of the
wounded, First Sergeant Thomas J. Cavanaugh, of Pittsburgh, a member of
Company D, 111th Infantry, distinguished himself in such a manner as to
be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

With a small force of men, he captured a building in the outskirts of
the village and organized it as a strong point. He then took a position
himself at a street intersection where, by stepping around the corner of
the buildings one way, he was protected from enemy snipers and machine
gunners, and by turning the corner, he was open to the fire sweeping in
gusts down the road the ambulance men had to cover. Cavanaugh, when an
ambulance was ready to move, stepped into the open, like Ajax defying
the lightning. If the Germans were not firing heavily for the moment, he
whistled a signal to the ambulance men that it was safe to go ahead.

He was wounded by shrapnel, but refused to leave his post until he
collapsed, an hour and a half after being struck. The next day, having
had his wound treated, he insisted on resuming his position as a human
target for the benefit of the ambulance men and their wounded.

Captain Edmund W. Lynch, of Chester, commanding Company B, 111th
Infantry, who was killed a short time later, and Lieutenant Edward S.
Fitzgerald, of New York City, exposed themselves in the same manner and
for the same self-sacrificing purpose at other important corners.

And the fight for possession of Fismette went forward ceaselessly. A
daring and clever bit of work by a party of Pennsylvania machine gunners
under Lieutenant Milford W. Fredenburg, of Ridgway, Pa., an officer of
Company D, 112th Infantry, had a considerable influence on the final
driving of the enemy from the town. The lieutenant led his gunners
filtering through the German lines at night, like Indians, a man or two
here, another there. They assembled beyond the town, took shelter in a
wood and when the fighting was most furious the next day they were able
to pour in a disconcerting fire on the rear of the German forces.

Lieutenant Rippey L. Shearer, of Harrisburg, with men of Company G,
112th Infantry, crossed the river in water up to their necks, in which
the shorter men had either to swim or be supported by the larger ones.
They had the center of the advance and captured a building which had
been used as a tannery and had been a German stronghold. It was a
desperately brave, although costly, bit of work for which the
Pennsylvanians were highly praised.

Captain Fred L. McCoy, Grove City, Pa., commanding Company M, 112th
Infantry, held the left flank. He and his men fought their way down the
river bank to where an old stone mansion, known as the Château Diable,
had been a thorn in the side of the American attack. They stormed and
captured the building, taking thirty machine guns, a large quantity of
ammunition and many prisoners.

Captain Lucius M. Phelps, of Erie, Pa., commanding Company G, 112th, and
Captain Harry F. Miller, of Meadville, Pa., commanding Company B, of the
same regiment, led their companies in an advance east of the tannery
until they were ensconced behind stout stone walls, from where they were
able to turn their guns on the enemy stubbornly clinging to the northern
fringe of the village.

The 103d Trench Mortar Battery, made up very largely of members of the
old First City Troop of Philadelphia and representative of many of the
socially prominent families of that city, entered its first general
action. Under command of Captain Ralph W. Knowles, of Philadelphia, the
battery advanced with the infantry, lugging their Stokes mortars across
the river and up the hill. They set up their squat weapons and soon the
deep-throated roars of the mortars hurling their immense bombs joined in
the chorus that was beginning to sound the knell of German hopes of
hanging onto any part of Fismette.

West of Fismette, the broad Rheims-Rouen highway became, in the course
of these operations north of the Vesle, an objective of commanding
importance to the Americans for the purpose of breaking up lateral
communications along the German line. Captain Arthur L. Schlosser, of
Buffalo, N. Y., later killed, and Captain Robert S. Caine, of
Pittsburgh, who went to France as lieutenants of Company G, 111th
Infantry, on their own initiative started a raid which developed into a
successful attack and resulted in the capture of the highway where it
crosses the Vesle.

Captain Schlosser, who was almost a giant in size, carried a rifle
himself and, instead of having his men advance in company formation, led
them filtering through the woods in Indian fashion. He captured two
Maxim guns and killed the crews and he and Captain Caine and their men
held their positions against counter-attacks by the remnants of three
German regiments.

Not all the losses were confined to the attacking troops. The enemy
artillery, continually shelling the back areas, took its sad toll of
American life and limb. The 103d Engineers, who had been performing
prodigious work in their own line, suffered the loss of their second in
command, Lieutenant-Colonel Frank J. Duffy, of Scranton, Pa. As he
stepped into a side car in front of headquarters on the evening of
August 17th to make a tour of the lines, a huge shell exploded
immediately behind, killing him and the cycle driver instantly.

Back on the hills south of Fismes, the Pennsylvania artillery all this
time had been earning the right to rank in the Iron Division glory roll
along with their doughboy comrades. At one time, just as a battery had
geared up to move and the men already were astride their horses, a big
shell dropped plump upon the lead team of one of the guns.

"Steady, men," called an officer, and the men sat their plunging,
trembling horses as if on parade. It was an ideal time for a costly
stampede, but the conduct of the artillerymen prevented this and won the
highest praise of officers and men of other units who saw the

Two men were killed and three severely wounded and two horses were blown
to bits. The wheel driver trotted to a first aid station to get help for
the wounded men, while the regiment went on. After delivering his
message, the driver obtained a supply of powder and shells and went on
the gallop to the battery position to deliver the ammunition. Then he
said to men about him:

"Now, if you fellows have all that stuff unloaded and one of you will
help me down, I'll get you to tie a knot around this leg of mine."

Only then was it discovered that he had been attending to other wounded
men and the ammunition needs of the battery with a bad gash in his own
leg from a shell fragment.

Members of the headquarters companies of the artillery regiments
maintained communications constantly, stringing telephone wires in the
face of heavy enemy fire in almost impossible places. There was no
thought of failing. When some men died in an attempt, others promptly
stepped into the breach to "carry on."

Still the German guns from their hilltops poured down their galling fire
upon the American positions. Still the snipers and machine gunners hung
on in Fismette and still the crossing of the Vesle under bombardment was
so hazardous that an attack in force was impracticable.

The fighting in the streets of the town swayed back and forth until
August 28th. That day the Germans came down out of their hills in a
roaring tide. They boiled into Fismette and drove the small force of
Pennsylvanians back to the river, where an amazingly few men managed to
hold a bridgehead on the northern bank, and the town once more was
German territory.

Then our gunners went systematically to work to level the place, for the
high command had lost all hope of taking it by infantry assault without
an unworthy loss of brave men.



But meanwhile great and portentous things had been happening elsewhere
on the long battle line. Up in Flanders, the British troops, with
American brigades fighting shoulder to shoulder with them, were driving
the Germans eastward. Farther south, the French were hounding the
fleeing Germans. And American forces around Soissons were pounding away
in such a fashion as to make the positions along the Vesle untenable for
their stubborn defenders.

The enlisted men knew little or nothing of this and even the junior
officers were surprised when word came back from patrols on the north of
the river on September 4th, that they met almost no opposition from the
enemy. Even his artillery fire had fallen off to a little desultory
shelling, so at once a general advance was ordered.

Roads in the rear instantly became alive with motor trucks, big guns,
columns of men, wagon trains and all the countless activities of an
army on the march. The sight of the main forces crossing the river was a
wonderful one to the officers standing on the hills overlooking the
scene, and one that they never will forget.

The long columns debouched from the wooded shelters, deployed into wide,
thin lines and moved off down the slope into the narrow river valley.
Below them lay the villages and towns of the Vesle, pounded almost to
dust by the thousands of shells which had fallen upon them during the
weeks the two armies contended for their possession. The men went down
the hill exactly as they had done so often in war maneuvers and sham
battles at training camps. Only an occasional burst of black smoke and a
spouting geyser of earth and stones showed it was real warfare, although
even that had been so well simulated in the training that, except that
now and then a man or two dropped and either lay still or got up and
limped slowly back up the hill, the whole thing might have been merely a
drama of mimic warfare. Many of the officers who watched did, in fact,
compare it with scenes they had witnessed in motion pictures.

Despite the occasional casualty, the line moved steadily forward. On
reaching the river, there was little effort to converge at the hastily
constructed bridges. Men who were close enough veered over to them, but
the rest plunged into the water and either waded or swam across,
according to the depth where they happened to be and the individual's
ability to swim.

Once on the north side, they started up the long slope as imperturbably
as they had come down the other side, although every man knew that when
they reached the crest of the rise they would face the German machine
gun fire from positions on the next ridge to the north.

Without faltering an instant, the thin lines topped the rise and
disappeared from the watchers to the south, and the fight was on again.
The German machine gunners resisted and retired foot by foot, but the
American advance was unfaltering. It had been freely predicted that the
enemy would make a stand on the high plateau between the Vesle and the
Aisne, but the pressure elsewhere on his line to the west and north
precluded the possibility of this and he plunged on northward.

The 109th Infantry made its crossing of the Vesle about two and a half
miles east of Fismes, the regiment's position on the south of the river
having been at Magneux. Its next objective point was Muscourt. The
Germans confronting it had not retired so precipitately as those at
Fismette and the regiment fought its way across the river and on
northward, losing its third commander in the action.

Colonel Samuel V. Ham, regular army officer, who had succeeded Colonel
Coulter when he was wounded, led the firing line of the regiment across
the river. He was so severely wounded that he was unable to move, but
remained ten hours on the field looking after the welfare of his men. So
conspicuous was his action that he was cited and awarded the
Distinguished Service Cross, the official citation reading as follows:

"For extraordinary heroism in action near Magneux, France, September 6,
1918. By courageously leading his firing line in the advance across the
Vesle River from Magneux toward Muscourt, Colonel Ham exemplified the
greatest heroism and truest leadership, instilling in his men confidence
in their undertaking. Having been severely wounded and unable to move,
he remained ten hours on the field of battle, directing the attack, and
refused to leave or receive medical attention until his men had been
cared for."

The Pennsylvania regiments came onto the high ground, from which the
lowlands to the north were spread out before them like a panorama, and
in the misty distance, fifteen miles away, they could descry the towers
of the Cathedral at Laon. This was, in a sense, the Allied promised
land. It was defiled and invaded France and, furthermore, Laon, since
1914 had been the pivot of the German line, the bastion upon which the
great front made its turn from north and south to east and west.

The five miles of hill, plateau and valley lying between the Vesle and
the Aisne were not crossed with impunity. It was on the Aisne plateau
that another company of the 109th wrote its name high on the scroll of

A small wood below the village of Villers-en-Prayeres obstructed the
advance of the regiment. It had been strongly organized by the Germans
and was fairly alive with Boche machine gunners and snipers. Company G,
of the old First, was ordered to dispose of it. The orders were carried
out in what the official communique of the next day referred to as a
"small but brilliant operation." Considering the small extent of the
action and the fact that it was but an incident of the whole battle, the
fact that it was mentioned at all in the official reports speaks volumes
for the men who carried it out.

The glory and distinction were won at a bitter cost. Company G, after
the fight was over, ranked side by side with Companies L and M of the
same regiment and B and C of the 110th for their splendid stand and
heavy losses south of the Marne. There were 125 casualties in the
company of 260 men. Included among them were Sergeant Frederick E.
Bauer, Sergeant Graham McConnell, Corporal Thomas S. B. Horn, Private
Charles A. Knapp, all of Philadelphia, and Sergeant John H. Winthrop, D.
S. C., of Bryn Mawr, killed, and Lieutenant Harold A. Fahr and Sergeant
Earl Prentzel, both of Willow Grove, Pa.; Corporal Theodore G. Smythe,
Bugler Howard W. Munder, Privates Gus A. Faulkner, Charles Quenzer,
Thomas Biddle, Robert C. Dilks, Frederick C. Glenn, Charles Lohmiller
and Bernard Horan, all of Philadelphia, wounded.

Private Paul Helsel, of Doylestown, Pa., a member of the same company,
came out of the battle with six bullet holes through his shirt, two
through his breeches, the bayonet of his rifle shot away and a bullet
embedded in the first aid packet carried on his hip, but without a
scratch on his person.

The Americans were subjected at times to a heavy artillery fire,
especially while crossing the plateau. For about two miles it was
necessary for them to advance in the open on high ground, plainly
visible to German observers. There was little cover, and both heavy and
light artillery swept the zone, but with slight effect and without
checking to any degree the forward movement.

The advance of the Americans over the plateau was effected without
material loss because, instead of advancing in regular formations, they
were filtered into and through the zone, never presenting a satisfactory

The German stand on the Vesle had enabled them to remove the bulk of
the supplies they had accumulated there and what they could not remove
they burned. Vast fires, sending up clouds of smoke in the distance,
marked where ammunition dumps and other stocks of supplies were being
destroyed that they might not fall into the hands of the Americans. Thus
it was that the progress from the Vesle presented a different aspect
from that between the Marne and the Vesle, where the way had been
impeded in places by the unimaginable quantities of supplies of every
conceivable kind the Hun had abandoned in his flight.

By September 10th, the pursuit had come to an end, as far as the Iron
Division was concerned. The Americans and French were on the Aisne and
the enemy again was snarling defiance across a water barrier.

The artillery regiments followed the infantry as far as the high ground
between the rivers and there took position to blast the Huns away from
the Aisne and send them rolling along to their next line, the ancient
and historic Chemin-des-Dames, or Road of Women.

Battery C, 107th Artillery, of Phoenixville, commanded by Captain
Samuel A. Whitaker, of that town, a nephew of former Governor Samuel W.
Pennypacker, was the first of the Pennsylvania big gun units to cross
the Vesle.

On the night of September 10th, the 107th was relieved by the 221st
French Artillery Regiment, near the town of Blanzy-les-Fismes. The
French used the Americans' horses in moving into positions. They
discovered they had taken a wrong road in moving up and just as they
turned back the Germans, who apparently had learned the hour of the
relief, laid down a heavy barrage. A terrible toll was taken of the
French regiment.

Lieutenant John Muckel, of the Phoenixville battery, with a detail of
men, had remained with the French regiment to show them the battery
position and bring back the horses. When the barrage fell, Lieutenant
Muckel was thrown twenty-five feet by the explosion of a high-explosive
shell, and landed plump in the mangled remains of two horses. All about
him were the moans and cries of the wounded and dying Frenchmen. He had
been so shocked by the shell explosion close to him that he could move
only with difficulty and extreme pain. He was barely conscious, alone in
the dark and lost, for the regiment had gone on and his detachment of
Americans was scattered.

Lieutenant Muckel, realizing he must do something, dragged himself until
he came to the outskirts of a village he learned later was Villet. Half
dazed, he crawled to the wall of a building and pulled himself to his
feet. He was leaning against the wall, trying to collect his scattered
senses, when a shell struck the building and demolished it.

The Lieutenant was half buried in the débris. While he lay there, fully
expecting never again to rejoin his battery, Sergeant Nunner, of the
battery, came along on horseback and heard the officer call. The
Sergeant wanted the Lieutenant to take his horse and get away. The
Lieutenant refused and ordered the Sergeant to go and save himself. The
Sergeant defied the Lieutenant, refusing to obey and announcing that he
would remain with the officer if the latter would not get away on the
horse. At last they compromised, when the Lieutenant had recovered
somewhat, by the Sergeant's riding the horse and the Lieutenant's
assisting himself by holding to the animal's tail. In this way they
caught up with the battery.

Having reached the Aisne, the Twenty-eight Division now was relieved and
ordered back to a rest camp, which they sadly needed, after about sixty
days of almost unremitting night and day fighting for the infantry and
approximately a month of stirring action for the artillery.

Thoroughly exhausted, but serene in the knowledge of a task well and
gloriously performed, their laurels thick upon them and securely in
possession of the manfully earned title, "The Iron Division," what was
left of our Pennsylvania men turned their backs upon the scene of action
and prepared to enjoy a well-earned period of repose and recreation.

It was not to be, however. Disappointments, of which they had been the
prey for more than a year, dogged their footsteps. While on the road,
moving toward a rest camp as fast as they could travel, orders reached
the division to proceed eastward to where General Pershing had begun to
assemble the American forces into the First American Army. The
emergency which had led to the use of American brigades under French
and British higher command had passed and America at last was to have
its own army under its own high command, subject only to the supreme
Allied commander, Marshal Ferdinand Foch.

The men in the ranks were keenly alive to the fact that they were headed
for a rest camp, and when their route and general direction were changed
overnight and they set off the next day at right angles to the course
they had been traveling, they knew something else was in store for the
division. Not an officer or man, however, had an inkling of what time
only brought forth--that the thing they were about to do was
immeasurably greater, more glorious and more difficult than that which
they had accomplished.

Grumbling among themselves, after the true soldier fashion when not too
busily engaged otherwise, the men found some compensation in the
knowledge that their herculean efforts of the past weeks were understood
and acknowledged by the higher authorities. They cherished with open
pride a general order issued by Major-General Charles H. Muir, the
division commander. It was of special significance because he is a
regular army officer, not a Pennsylvanian, and therefore not imbued with
local or state pride, and also because before the war the National Guard
was held in huge contempt by the average regular army officer. Here is
what General Muir's general order told the men:

"The division commander is authorized to inform all, from the lowest to
the highest, that their efforts are known and appreciated. A new
division, by force of circumstances, took its place in the front line in
one of the greatest battles of the greatest war in history.

"The division has acquitted itself in a creditable manner. It has
stormed and taken points that were regarded as proof against assault. It
has taken numerous prisoners from a vaunted Guards division of the

"It has inflicted on the enemy far more loss than it has suffered from
him. In a single gas application, it inflicted more damage than the
enemy inflicted on it by gas since its entry into battle.

"It is desired that these facts be brought to the attention of all, in
order that the tendency of new troops to allow their minds to dwell on
their own losses, to the exclusion of what they have done to the enemy,
may be reduced to the minimum.

"Let all be of good heart! We have inflicted more loss than we have
suffered; we are better men individually than our enemies. A little more
grit, a little more effort, a little more determination to keep our
enemies down, and the division will have the right to look upon itself
as an organization of veterans."



So away they went to the southeast and came to a halt in the vicinity of
Revigny, just south of the Argonne Forest and about a mile and a half
north of the Rhine-Marne Canal. Here they found replacement detachments
awaiting them and once more the sadly depleted ranks were filled.

The division was under orders to put in ten days at hard drilling there.
This is the military idea of rest for soldiers, and experience has
proved it a pretty good system, although it never will meet the approval
of the man in the ranks. It has the advantage of keeping his mind off
what he has passed through, keeping him occupied and maintaining his
discipline and morale. The best troops will go stale through neglect of
drill during a campaign, and drill and discipline are almost synonymous.
As undisciplined troops are worse than useless in battle, the necessity
of occasional periods of drill, distasteful though they may be to the
soldier, is obvious.

"A day in a rest camp is about as bad as a day in battle," is not an
uncommon expression from the men, although, as is always the case with
soldiers, they appreciate a change of any kind.

This rest camp and its drills were not destined to become monotonous,
however, for instead of ten days they had but one day. Orders came from
"G. H. Q.," which is soldier parlance for General Headquarters, for the
division to proceed almost directly north, into the Argonne. This meant
more hard hiking and more rough traveling for horses and motor trucks
until the units again were "bedded down" temporarily, with division
headquarters at Les Islettes, twenty miles due north from Revigny, and
eight miles south of what was then, and had been for many weary months,
the front line.

The doughboys knew that something big was impending. They had come to
believe that "Pershing wouldn't have the Twenty-eighth Division around
unless he was going to pull off something big." They felt more at home
than they had since leaving America. All about them they saw nothing
but American soldiers, and thousands upon thousands of them. The country
seemed teeming with them. Every branch of the service was in American
hands, the first time the Pennsylvanians had seen such an organization
of their very own--the first time anybody ever did, in fact, for it was
the biggest American army ever assembled.

Infantry, artillery, engineers, the supply services, tanks, the air
service, medical service, the high command and the staff, all were
American. It was a proud day for the doughboys when showers of leaflets
dropped from a squadron of airplanes flying over one day and they read
on the printed pages a pledge from American airmen to co-operate with
the American fighting men on the ground to the limit of their ability
and asked similar co-operation from the foot soldiers.

"Your signals enable us to take the news of your location to the rear,"
read the communication, "to report if the attack is successful, to call
for help if needed, to enable the artillery to put their shells over
your heads into the enemy. If you are out of ammunition and tell us, we
will report and have it sent up. If you are surrounded, we will deliver
the ammunition by airplane. We do not hike through the mud with you, but
there are discomforts in our work as bad as mud, but we won't let rain,
storms, Archies (anti-aircraft guns) nor Boche planes prevent our
getting there with the goods. Use us to the limit. After reading this,
hand it to your buddie and remember to show your signals." It was
signed: "Your Aviators."

"You bet we will, all of that," was the heartfelt comment of the
soldiers. Such was the splendid spirit of co-operation built up by
General Pershing among the branches of the service.

To this great American army was assigned the tremendous task of striking
at the enemy's vitals, striking where it was known he would defend
himself most passionately. The German defensive lines converged toward a
point in the east like the ribs of a fan, drawing close to protect the
Mezieres-Longuyon railroad shuttle, which was the vital artery of
Germany in occupied territory. If the Americans could force a break
through in the Argonne, the whole tottering German machine in France
would crumble. Whether they broke through or not, the smallest possible
result of an advance there would be the narrowing of the bottle-neck of
the German transport lines into Germany and a slow strangling of the
invading forces.

After the first tempestuous rush, there was no swift movement. The Yanks
gnawed their way to the vaunted Kriemhilde line, hacked and hewed their
way through it, overcoming thousands of machine guns, beset by every
form of Hun pestilence. Even conquered ground they found treacherous.
The Germans had planted huge mines of which the fuses were acid, timed
to eat through a container days after the Germans had gone and touch off
the explosive charge to send scores of Americans to hospitals or to
soldiers' graves.

To the Americans, not bursting fresh into battle as they had done at
Château-Thierry, but sated and seasoned by a long summer of campaigning,
fell the tough, unspectacular problem of the whole western front. While
the world hung spellbound on the Franco-British successes in the west
and north, with their great bounds forward after the retreating
Germans, relatively little attention was paid to the action northwest of
Verdun, and not until the close of hostilities did America begin to
awaken to the fact that it was precisely this slow, solid pounding, this
bulldog pertinacity of the Americans that had made possible that
startling withdrawal in the north.

So vital was this action in the Argonne that the best divisions the
German high command could muster were sent there and, once there, were
chewed to bits by the American machine, thus making possible the rapid
advances of the Allies on other parts of the long front.

The Pennsylvania men looked back almost longingly to what they had
regarded at the time as hard, rough days along the Marne, the Ourcq and
the Vesle. In perspective, and from the midst of the Argonne fighting,
it looked almost like child's play. Back home over the cables came the
simple announcement that a certain position had been taken. Followers of
the war news got out their maps and observed that this marked an advance
of but a mile or so in three or four days and more than one asked:
"What is wrong with Pershing's men?" It was difficult to understand why
the men who had leaped forward so magnificently from the Marne to the
Aisne, traveling many miles in a day, should now be so slow, while their
co-belligerents of the other nations were advancing steadily and

A very few minutes spent with any man who was in the Argonne ought to
suffice as an answer. Soldiers who were in the St. Mihiel thrust and
also in the Argonne coined an epigram. It was: "A meter in the Argonne
is worth a mile at St. Mihiel." The cable message of a few words nearly
always covered many hours, sometimes days, of heroic endeavor, hard,
backbreaking labor, heart-straining hardship and the expenditure of
boundless nervous energy with lavish hand, to say nothing of what it
meant to the hospital forces behind the lines and to the burial details.

September 24th, division headquarters of the Twenty-eighth moved up to a
point less than two miles back of the front lines, occupying old,
long-abandoned French dugouts. That evening Major-General Charles H.
Muir, the division commander, appeared unexpectedly in the lines and
walked about for some time, observing the disposition of the troops. He
was watched with wide-eyed but respectful curiosity by many of the men,
for the average soldier in the ranks knows as little of a division
commander as of the Grand Llama of Tibet. Frequently he cares as little,

The General cast a contemplative eye aloft, to where countless squirrels
frolicked among the foliage of the great old trees, chattering in wild
indignation at the disturbers of their peace, and birds sang their
evensong upon the branches.

[Illustration: © _International Film Service._


Periods of rest in the inferno of fighting in the Argonne were not
frequent, but this group of Iron Division doughboys was snapped by the
camera during a lull, while they were grouped about the entrance to an
old German dugout.]

The Iron Division now was completely assembled, functioning smoothly and
efficiently, every unit working as a cog in the one great wheel. The
artillery brigade, which had made its bow to modern warfare in the Vesle
region, was established on the line well to the rear of the infantry. It
had rushed at top speed from the Aisne plateau, making some record
hikes. The guns were moved only by night and each day the weapons were
camouflaged, usually in a friendly patch of woods. One night they made
thirty miles, which is covering ground rapidly, even under the most
favorable circumstances, for an organization with the impedimenta of
an artillery brigade.

There were times, in those long night marches, when the little natural
light from a moonless sky was blotted out by woods through which the
roads passed, and the artillerymen moved forward in absolute blackness.
To have a light of any kind was dangerous, because of the frequent night
forays by enemy flyers, and therefore forbidden. Patrols went along in
advance to "feel" the road, and the men with the guns and caissons
followed by keeping their eyes on the ghostly radiance from illuminated
wrist watches worn by officers with the advance patrols.

When it came to the work of placing the guns for the preparatory
bombardment of the offensive, the position assigned the Pennsylvania
regiments was in a forest so dense that to get an area of fire at all,
they had to fell the trees before them. But concealment of battery
positions in a surprise attack is a vital consideration, and to have cut
down hundreds of trees would have been an open advertisement to enemy
observation planes of the location of the batteries.

To overcome this difficulty, the trees which it was necessary to remove
were sawed almost through and wired up to others, which were untouched,
in order to keep them standing to the last moment. In order to get their
field of fire, it was necessary for the men of some batteries to cut and
wire as many as a hundred trees. In this way everything was prepared for
the opening of the bombardment save the actual felling of the trees, and
not the keenest eye nor the finest camera among the Boche aviators could
detect a change in the character of the forest.

At dusk on the night of Wednesday, September 25th, the artillerymen cut
the wires holding the trees with axes and pulled the monarchs of the
forest crashing to the ground to left and right of the path thus opened
up, leaving the way clear for the artillery fire. A total of more than a
thousand trees were felled in this way for the three regiments.



At eleven o'clock that night, September 25th, a signal gun barked far
down the line. The gunners of every battery were at their posts,
lanyards in hand, and on the instant they pulled.

That has become known in the army as "the million dollar barrage,"
because enlisted men figured it must have cost at least that much.
Whatever it cost, no man in that great army ever had heard the like. It
ranged from the smaller field pieces up to great naval guns firing
shells sixteen inches in diameter, with every variety and size of big
gun in the American army in between. There had been talk in the war of a
bombardment "reaching the intensity of drum fire." No drums the world
ever has heard could have provided a name for that bombardment. It was
overwhelming in the immensity of its sound, as well as in its effect.
There were 3,000 guns on the whole front.

Toward morning, the twelve ugly, snub-nosed weapons of the 103d Trench
Mortar Battery, under Captain Ralph W. Knowles, of Philadelphia, added
their heavy coughing to the monstrous serenade which rent the night.
They were in position well up to the front, and their great bombs were
designed to cut paths through the enemy barbed wire and other barriers
so the infantry could go forward with as little trouble as possible.

Zero hour for the infantry was 5.30 o'clock on that morning of September
26th. Watches of officers and non-commissioned officers had been
carefully adjusted to the second the night before and when the moment
arrived, the long lines went over the top without further notice.

The former National Guard of Pennsylvania was but one division among a
great many in that attack, which covered a front of fifty-four miles
from the Meuse clear over into the Champagne and which linked up there
with the rest of the whole flaming western front. The American army
alone covered twenty miles of attacking front, and beyond them extended
General Gourard's French army to the west.

The full effect and result of the artillery preparation was realized
only when the infantry went over the top. The early stages of the
advance were described by observers as being more like a football game
than a battle. The route was virtually clear of prepared obstructions,
although there was hardly a stretch of six feet of level ground, and the
German opposition was almost paralyzed.

The whole field of the forward movement was so pitted with shell craters
as to make the going almost like mountain climbing. Over this field a
part of the great battle of Verdun in 1916 had been fought and the pits
scooped out by the artillery of that time, added to those due to the
constant minor fire since, lay so close together that it was utterly
impossible for all the men to make their way between. The craters left
from the Verdun battle could be distinguished by the fact that their
sides were covered with grass and that once in a while a few bones were
to be seen, melancholy reminder of the brave men who died there.

Seen from observation posts in the rear, the advancing soldiers
presented an odd picture, dropping suddenly from view as they went into
a hole, then reappearing, clambering up the far side. They jumped over
the edges, often into a pool of stagnant water with a bottom of slimy
mud, and the climbing out was no easy task, burdened as they were with

It was now the season of the year when the days are still fairly warm,
but the nights are keen and frosty. The men started out in the chill of
the morning with their slickers, but as the day advanced they began to
feel these an unbearable impediment in the heat and rush of battle and
they discarded them. When night came they bitterly cursed their folly,
for they were wretched with the cold.

The early morning was gray and forbidding. A heavy mist covered the
land, hampering the air force in their work of observation, but overhead
the sky was clear, giving promise of better visibility when the sun
should heat the atmosphere and drive the mists away.

The infantry, with machine gunners in close support, went forward
rapidly. They came to the first German trench line and crossed it almost
without opposition. A surprising number of Germans emerged from
dugouts, hands up, and inquired directions to the prison cages in the
American rear. The Pennsylvanians were just beginning to feel the effect
of the loss of morale in the enemy army.

To the surprise of our doughboys, the artillery opposing them was weak
and ineffectual. To this fact is attributed the great number of what are
known as "clean" wounds in the Argonne fight--bullet wounds which make a
clean hole and heal quickly. In view of the great number of men struck
during this campaign, it is extremely fortunate that this was so. Had
the German artillery been anything like what it had been in other
battles, our casualty lists would have been much more terrible, for it
is the shrapnel and big shells that tear men to pieces.

Beyond the first German line, which was just south of Grand Boureuilles
and Petite Boureuilles, on opposite sides of the Aire river, the German
defenses had not been so thoroughly destroyed and the resistance began
to stiffen. Out from their shelters, as soon as the American barrage had
passed them, came hordes of Germans to man their concealed machine gun
nests. The lessons of the Marne-Aisne drive had been well learned by the
Pennsylvanians, and there were few frontal assaults on these strong
points, many of which were the famous concrete "pill boxes"--holes in
the earth roofed over with rounded concrete and concealed by foliage and
branches, with narrow slits a few inches above the surface of the earth
to permit the guns to be sighted and fired.

When the infantry came to one of these that spat flame and steel in such
volume that a direct attack threatened to be extremely costly, they
passed around it through the woods on either flank and left it to be
handled by the forces coming up immediately in their rear, with trench
mortars and one-pounder cannon, capable of demolishing the concrete

The infantry passed beyond the area in which the artillery and trench
mortars had wiped out the barbed wire and ran into much difficulty with
the astounding network of this defensive material woven through the
trees. The Germans had boasted that the Argonne forest was a wooded
fortress that never could be taken. American troops proved the vanity
of that boast, but they went through an inferno to do it. The wire was a
maze, laced through the forest from tree to tree, so that hours were
consumed in covering ground which, but for the wire, could have been
covered in almost as many minutes. The men had literally to cut and hack
their way through yard after yard.

The towns of Boureuilles, great and small, were cleaned up after smart
fighting, and the advance was continued up the beautiful Aire River
valley in the direction of Varennes.

The Pennsylvania infantry was advancing in two columns. The 55th
Brigade, including the 109th and 110th Infantry regiments, was right
along the river, and the 56th Brigade, made up of the 111th and 112th,
went through the forest on the left, or west of the river. On the right
of the Twenty-eighth Division was the Thirtieth Division, consisting of
National Guard troops of North and South Carolina and Tennessee, and on
the left was the Seventy-seventh Division, selected men from New York

The town of Varennes stands in a bowl-shaped valley, rich in historic
significance and, at the time our men reached there, gorgeous in the
autumnal colorings of the trees. It was at Varennes that Louis XVI was
captured when he attempted to escape from France.

Coming up from the south to the high ground surrounding Varennes, the
Iron Division forged ahead faster than the troops on their right could
move through the forest. Before the officers and men of the liaison
service could apprise the Pennsylvania commanders of this fact, they
discovered it for themselves when a hot fire was poured in on their
flank from German "pill boxes" and other strong points.

It was decided, since the troops were rolling onward in fine style, not
to halt the division while the other division caught up, so Major
Thompson was sent off to the east with a battalion of the 110th to look
after that flanking fire. The battalion disappeared into the woods, and
in a little while a sharp increase in the sound of the firing from that
direction indicated that it was hard at work. After some time it came
back into its position in the line. The other division had easier going
for a time as a result of the efforts of the four companies of
Pennsylvanians, and the embarrassing fire from the right flank was

After a number of the German "pill boxes" had been reduced and entered
by the Pennsylvania troops, it was discovered that they were, like so
many other German contrivances and devices of the war, largely bluff. In
instance after instance, where the intensity of the fire from these
places had led our men to expect a garrison of a dozen men they found
only one. The retreating Germans had left a single soldier with a large
supply of rifles to give the impression of a considerable force manning
the fort. Prisoners said their instructions had been to fire as rapidly
as possible and as long as possible and to die fighting, without thought
of surrender.

When the Pennsylvanians forced their way to the lower crest of the ridge
looking down into the valley where Varennes lies, the edge of the
Argonne forest to the westward still was occupied by enemy machine
gunners. Officers of the division stepped out from the shelter of trees
and looked over the ground with their glasses to plan the next phase of
the attack. German snipers promptly sighted them and in a moment bullets
were singing through the trees above their heads and to both sides, but
they remained unperturbed.

"Get me an idea of what is over in that wood," said General Muir to his
aides, and Lieutenant Raymond A. Brown, of Meadville, Pa., and Captain
William B. Morgan, of Beverly, Mass., started out on the risky mission.
Lieutenant Brown's pistol was packed in his blanket roll. He borrowed a
rifle and a cartridge belt from a private soldier. Three hours later
they returned and made reports upon which were based the next actions of
the troops. They told nothing of their experiences, but Lieutenant Brown
had added a German wrist watch to his equipment and Captain Morgan
showed a pair of shoulder straps which indicated that the troops
opposing them were Brandenburgers.

As they went down the far side of the hill toward Varennes, the
Pennsylvania soldiers saw an amazing evidence of German industry. The
whole slope was painstakingly terraced and furnished with dugouts in
tiers, leading off the terraces. The shelters of the officers were
fitted out with attractive porticos and arbors.

As evidence of the hurried retreat of the Huns, who apparently had not
dreamed the Americans could advance so swiftly through their leafy
fortress, a luncheon, untouched, lay upon a table in an officer's
dugout. At the head of the table was an unopened letter.

In another dugout was an upright piano, which must have been looted from
the town and lugged up the hill at the cost of great labor. But, most
astonishing of all, upon the piano was sheet music published in New
York, as shown by the publisher's name, long after America entered the
war. Our officers puzzled long over how the music could have got there,
but found no solution.



Varennes itself was virtually a wreck by the time our men reached it.
Most of the buildings were cut off about the second story by shell fire.
An electric plant, installed by the Germans and which they had attempted
to wreck before leaving, was repaired by Pennsylvania mechanics and soon
was ready to furnish illumination for the Americans.

Crates of live rabbits, left behind by the Germans in their flight, were
found by the Pennsylvanians and turned over to the supply officers, and
in the evening an officers' mess sat down to a stewed rabbit dinner in
the open square of the ruined town, in the shadow of the gaping sides of
the wrecked church. In addition to the army ration issue, the meal and
others for some days were helped out by a plentiful supply of cabbage,
radishes, potatoes, cauliflower, turnips and other vegetables, taken
from the pretty little gardens which the Germans had planted and
carefully nurtured.

While the Pennsylvanians were at Varennes, a great automobile came
roaring down the hill from the south and slithered to a halt where a
group of our soldiers had been lolling on the ground resting. They were
not there by the time the car stopped. Instead, they were erect and
soldierly, every man at attention and hands jerked up to the salute with
sharp precision. For the flag upon the car bore four stars and it was
all the men could do to keep from rude "gaping" at the tall, handsome
man inside, who called to them pleasantly:

"What division is this?"

Most of the men were tongue-tied with surprise and embarrassment, but
one responded:

"The Twenty-eighth, sir."

"Ah! You have an enviable reputation," was the reply from the man in the
car. "I should like to lunch with your division today."

Which he thereupon proceeded to do. As the car passed on, a group of
very red-faced private soldiers looked each other in the eye in a
startled way and one voiced the thought of all when he said:

"And that was General Pershing! And he spoke to us! Gee!"

The 103d Engineers again were covering themselves with glory in this
Argonne drive. Time after time they were sent out to repair existing
roads and construct new ones, often working right on the heels of the
infantry, for only after they had performed their work could supplies be
brought up to the fighting troops and the artillery maintain position to
continue the barrage in advance of the infantry and machine gunners.

The 103d Supply Train, too, performed its work under incredible
difficulties. Doughboys rarely thought to give a word of praise to the
men of the big camions. More often their comment was: "Gee! Pretty soft
for you fellows, riding around in a high-powered truck while we slog
through the mud!"

But to those who knew of the trying night drives in utter darkness over
roads which not only were torn to tatters already by shells, but which
were subject at any time to renewed shelling; of the long stretches
without sleep or food or drink; of the struggles with motors and other
parts of the trucks which fell heir to every kind of trouble such things
are liable to under great stress--only to that understanding few, and to
the supply chaps themselves, were their activities regarded as subject
for praiseful comment. Had the supply train "fallen down on the job" and
"chow" not been ready at every opportunity--which truly were few and far
enough between--Oh, then the doughboys would have howled in execration
at their brothers of the big lorries.

The same kind of credit was due as much and given as rarely to the 103d
Ammunition Train, which kept all the fighting men supplied without stint
and without break with the necessary powder and steel to keep the Hun on
the run.

Even the men of the four field hospitals found themselves nearer the
front than such organizations usually go. So well had the plans been
laid for that opening assault that it was realized the hospitals would
have to be well forward to avoid too long a carry for the wounded after
the first rush had carried our men well beyond their "jumping-off-place."

The hospitals took position during the night and erected their tents, so
they would not be subject to air bombing before the attack and so their
presence would not betray the concentration of forces. French officers
who passed along the American front inspecting it the night before the
assault were amazed at this concentration, and so were the field
hospital men when the bombardment was started and they found themselves
far ahead of the big guns. In the morning they discovered, to their
astonishment, that they had been thrust in between the first line of
infantry and the support.

Throughout the Argonne fighting, as they had done from the beginning of
the division's activities, they performed their work in as thorough and
capable a manner as did any of the organizations in the division, and
found their chief recompense in the gratitude of the wounded and
suffering who passed through their hands.

As the two Pennsylvania columns battered their way forward, a double
liaison service was maintained between them, first by patrols of men and
second by telephone communication. The service of communication was
presided over by Colonel Walter C. Sweeney, chief of the divisional
staff, originally a Philadelphian, but now hailing from Virginia.

The circuit of communication was not broken once, largely because of the
alertness and ability of Lieutenant-Colonel Sydney A. Hagerling, of
Pittsburgh, the divisional signal officer, and the staunch, untiring and
efficient work of the 103d Field Signal Battalion. Each brigade
commander knew always precisely how far the other had advanced. Both
regular army men, they united in giving full credit for the remarkably
successful advance to the high quality of the troops, the superb
handling of the artillery by Brigadier-General Price and the unexcelled
teamwork of officers and men of each branch of the service and of branch
with branch.

At one time, emphasizing this remarkable spirit within the division,
Major-General Muir appeared in the front lines one morning, just as the
first wave of infantrymen was about to go over in a charge against a
machine gun nest. Standing talking to the regimental commander, General
Muir fidgeted for a few moments and then said:

"I think I'll command one of those companies myself."

To the amazement and great glee of officers and men, he did, the
commander of the chosen company acting as second in command. Enemy
shells landed all about the General, who manifested as much agility and
energy as the youngest private. A shell fell within twenty-five feet of
him, but fortunately it was a "dud," or one which failed to explode.
There was vicious machine gun fire all about, but the nest was cleaned
out and prisoners and guns were captured. General Muir rejoined the
Colonel. He was breathing hardly faster than usual as he remarked:

"That was fine! It took me back to the old days in the Philippines."

A few days later, the General was out again among the troops,
accompanied by Colonel Sweeney, Captain Theodore D. Boal, of Boalsburg,
Pa., Lieutenant Edward Hoopes, of West Chester, and Corporal Olin
McDonald, of Sunbury, all of his staff.

German planes were hovering overhead and suddenly one of them dropped
like a plummet to a few hundred feet above the ground and began to spit
machine gun bullets at the group. A wounded soldier had just come out of
the woods, stood his rifle against a tree and started back to a first
aid station. General Muir seized the rifle, took careful aim at the
flyer, about three hundred feet above, and fired twice. Whether he
scored a hit could not be determined, but the airman fled after the
second shot.

In the course of the advance, the artillery went forward in echelons.
That is, batteries from the rear moved up and took position in advance
of other batteries which maintained the fire, passing between the guns
on their way. After they were in position to fire, the one farther back
ceased fire and the process was repeated.

The Pennsylvania artillery cut a swath two miles wide through the
forest, doing their work so thoroughly that beautiful green hills which
could be descried by powerful glasses in the distance were, by the time
the beholders reached them, nothing but shell-pitted, blackened mounds,
ragged with beards of shattered and splintered trees, looking for all
the world, as men from the Pennsylvania mountain country observed, like
the hills at home after a forest fire.

When the artillery reached Varennes, which was, of course, not until
after the infantry had gone far beyond, they ran into a severe enemy
shelling. On October 2d, First Sergeant T. O. Mader, of Audenried,
Luzerne county, a member of Battery A, 109th Artillery, performed the
deeds which won for him official citation and the Distinguished Service

He helped to guide sections of the battery over a shell-swept road, when
the fire was so severe that eight men were wounded and ten horses
killed. The horse that Sergeant Mader rode was killed under him. The
driver of a swing team had difficulty in controlling the horses of a
section and Sergeant Mader sent him to another section and himself took
charge of the fractious team. He continued with the section until he was
so badly wounded he was unable to control the frantic horses. He refused
to have his wounds treated, however, and continued to direct the gun
carriages to places of safety. Then, disregarding his own condition, he
requested the medical officers to give first attention to other wounded
men. The official citation declared that "Sergeant Mader's conduct was
an inspiration to the men of his battery."

Another "second in command" was put out of action at this time,
Lieutenant-Colonel Olin F. Harvey, of the 109th Artillery, being
severely wounded in the leg by a shell fragment.

Beyond Varennes, the infantry found the going harder than before--much
harder than anything they had encountered since going to France. The
Germans had their backs to their boasted Brunnhilde line and fought with
the desperation of despair to hold off the advancing Americans until
their vast armies in the north could extricate themselves from the net
Marshal Foch had spread for them with such consummate skill.

Montblaineville and Baulny presented but temporary problems to troops
flushed with victory, and they pushed on toward Apremont, below which
they suffered the first serious check of the drive. Once more there was
need for tremendous effort and heroic endeavor and once more the
Pennsylvania troops measured up to the need. Men who had distinguished
themselves on the Marne, the Ourcq, the Vesle and Aisne lived nobly up
to the reputations for bravery they had already established, and they
were emulated in inspiring style by men whose names had not before
figured in the division's record of honor.

The trench mortar battery of the artillery brigade was rivaled by men of
the trench mortar platoons attached to the headquarters companies of the
various infantry regiments, who carried their heavy weapons through the
almost fathomless mud, in and out of shell craters, exhausted by the
heat of the days and the bone-chilling cold of the nights. In spite of
their heavy burdens, the mortar platoons always were close at hand when
the infantry stopped, baffled by the mazes of wire, and called for the
"flying pigs" to open a path.

Men of every regiment filled stellar rôles in this smashing advance.
Lieutenant Godfrey Smith, of Gwynedd Valley, Pa., overcame innumerable
obstacles and passed through many dangers to establish and maintain
telephone communication between the advance posts and the rear areas of
the 112th Infantry. Color-Sergeant Miles Shoup, of Braddock, had charge
of the runners and liaison work and displayed great personal bravery.

Shoup had the reputation among the other men of bearing a charmed life
and he was termed "a remarkable soldier" by more than one officer. In
the advance of the morning of September 28th, Colonel Dubb became
separated and Shoup volunteered to search for him. He located the
Colonel after passing unscathed through a terrific artillery and machine
gun fire, then returned the same way and organized additional runners to
keep the communications intact.

At night the Germans suddenly opened a smart barrage with big guns and
men of the 112th became scattered. Lieutenant Smith assembled the men
while the fire was going on, finding them in various shelters. It was
necessary to wear masks because the Boche was mixing an occasional gas
shell with his shrapnel and high explosives, but Lieutenant Smith
persisted until he had returned the men to their various battalion
positions and reorganized the companies.

On another occasion, Lieutenant Smith was laying telephone wire with a
detail of headquarters company men. When the supply of wire ran out, he
crawled through the woods to a German telephone line, within a short
distance of German positions, cut the wire and brought back enough to
continue laying his own line.

An officer of the 112th noticed that every time he called for a runner
from any one of three companies, it was always the same man who
responded. The man was Private Charles J. Ryan, of Harrisburg, a member
of Company I. When a lull came in the activity, the officer investigated
in person, because the men assigned to act as runners should have taken
turns and he suspected the others were imposing on Ryan, which is
subversive of discipline. To his amazement, he learned from the
unanimous accounts of all the men, including Ryan, that the latter had
insisted that the other runners should let him take all the assignments
to duty. The officer put a stop to the method.

France puts her clergymen into the army as fighting men, on the same
basis as any other men. America exempts men of the cloth from military
service, but offers them an opportunity to serve their country and
humanity, as well as their calling, by acting as chaplains to the
fighting men. As such, they are supposed to have nothing to do with the
fighting. But there come times, in the heat and rush of battle, when
quick action by the nearest man of ability and judgment points the way
to victory.

Such an occasion arose on the second day of the Argonne drive, when all
the officers of a battalion of the 111th Infantry were incapacitated.
Lieutenant Charles G. Conaty, of Boston, a Catholic priest who was a
chaplain in the 111th, was the only commissioned officer remaining with
the battalion. He promptly jumped into the breach and led the men in a
victorious charge. Lieutenant Conaty had not long recovered at that time
from the effects of gas which he inhaled while working close to the
lines in the Marne-Vesle drive.

A German sniper wounded the "bunkie" of Thomas Corry, of Pittsburgh, a
member of Company I, 111th Infantry. Corry started out to stalk the
sniper in revenge. He spent the whole day at it and returned with half a
dozen prisoners, all the snipers he had found except the ones who showed
fight and had to be killed.

A major of the 111th at one time sent a runner to the 109th machine gun
battalion to ask for immediate assistance. Company B of the gunners,
under Captain Daniel Burke Strickler, of Columbia, Pa., set out at once
with a guide. They followed the guide over one hill, but saw no sign
either of the enemy or a hard-pressed battalion of their own men. At the
bottom of the next hill, Captain Strickler called a halt and asked the
guide if he were sure the battalion was at the top.

The guide replied that they were hardly 100 yards away and started up
the hill alone to make sure. He had gone not more than twenty feet when
a masked machine gun battery opened up and the guide was shot to
ribbons. Captain Strickler ascertained the location of the infantry
lines from a wounded man who happened along on his way to the rear and
started for them.

The infantry, however, had been having a hard time and had been directed
to retire while the artillery laid down a barrage. Unaware of this,
Captain Strickler led his men up the hill and walked into the edge of
our own barrage, but the company escaped without the loss of a man.

The effect of the American pressure now was being felt far behind the
German front lines, as was evidenced by the sheets of flame by night and
clouds of smoke by day which signaled the burning of heaps of stores and
the explosion of ammunition dumps far to the north.

Advancing around Apremont, the 111th ran into difficulties and was
delayed. Runners carried the word to the 55th Brigade and Captain Meehan
and a battalion of the 109th were detached and sent over to help. They
cleaned out the Bois de la T'Aibbe, which was strongly garrisoned and
offered a next to impregnable front, so that when the 111th disposed of
its immediate difficulties it was able to move up to the same front as
the rest of the regiments.



The taking of Apremont was the greatest struggle the division had in its
fighting career. Much has been said and written during the war of "the
blood-soaked fields of France" and "streams of blood." Officers who were
at Apremont solemnly vouch for the fact that there was a time in that
town when the water running in the gutters was bright red with blood.

And not all of it was German blood.

The town was held in force, much as Fismes and Fismette had been, and
presented much the same problem. So strong was the position that every
approach to it was covered by heavy concentrations of machine guns and
snipers. No longer were one or two Germans left in a nest to fire many
guns as fast as they could. The enemy had brought up strong
reinforcements of comparatively fresh troops and gave every evidence of
a determination to stand. Not until compelled to by superior force did
he let go, and then it was only to launch one counter-attack after

It was at this time that Sergeant Andrew B. Lynch, of Philadelphia, won
his Distinguished Service Cross by a remarkable piece of daring and
self-sacrifice. A member of the headquarters company of the 110th
Infantry, he was on duty with the one-pounder section of his company in
a position slightly north of the village. Under orders he removed his
guns to the rear and, after establishing the new position, was told that
his commanding officer, Lieutenant Meyer S. Jacobs, had been taken

Sergeant Lynch and Corporal Robert F. Jeffery, of Sagamore, Pa.,
organized a rescue party of five and instantly moved forward and
attacked a German patrol of thirty-six men who had Lieutenant Jacobs in
custody. Fifteen of the Germans were killed and Sergeant Lynch
personally took three prisoners and released his Lieutenant, unwounded.

Immediately after the return to the American lines, Sergeant Lynch took
command of seventy-five of his company who had been held in reserve.
Drawing his revolver, the sergeant commanded the men to follow him,
launched a fresh attack, drove the enemy back two-thirds of a mile and
established a new line in a ravine northwest of the village. The
official citation when he was awarded his cross remarked that "Sergeant
Lynch's conduct exemplified the greatest courage, judgment and

Lieutenant John V. Merrick, of Roxborough, Philadelphia, with D Company
of the 110th Infantry, had gained an objective to which he had been
assigned and was holding the western end of a ravine near Apremont. He
found his men were subjected to both a frontal and an enfilading fire
and were without proper shelter. He ordered a withdrawal to a safer
position and while doing so he was struck through the elbow and hand by
machine gun bullets.

Suffering intense pain, he declined to be evacuated and for two hours
bravely and skilfully directed his men and brought them back to the
company, together with stragglers from other units, who attached
themselves to his party.

Captain Charles L. McLain, of Indiana, Pa., who had distinguished
himself below the Marne, again came into prominence at Apremont. He
learned that Company C, 110th, was without officers. His own company was
in reserve. There was no superior officer at hand, so without orders he
turned over command of his own company to a junior officer, took command
of the orphaned C Company and led the first wave in a hot attack. He was
wounded in the leg, but continued at the head of his men, hobbling along
with the aid of a cane, until his objective was reached. Then he allowed
them to send him to a hospital. Both he and Lieutenant Merrick recovered
from their wounds and rejoined their regiment.

In the fighting close to the village of Apremont, the men used shell
craters instead of digging trenches, organizing them as strong points.
An attack on the German positions was planned for 5.30 o'clock in the
morning. About three hundred Pennsylvania infantrymen in the town were
awaiting a barrage which should clear the way for them to advance.

Oddly enough, the Germans had planned an attack for almost the same
time. The Pennsylvanians were heavily supported by machine guns. The
Germans launched their attack first and the result was better for the
Pennsylvanians than they had expected to achieve in their own attack and
was won with less cost. The Germans came straight at the shell craters
and were mowed down in rows. Those that managed to get by ran into the
waiting infantry in the town and those who survived that fight turned
and fled, right past the machine guns in the shell holes again. It was
pitiable, officers said later, or would have been if the Americans had
not realized that the Germans had so much to answer for. Hardly a
handful of the several hundred Germans who began that charge lived
through it.

At last the Germans launched one great attack, in which they apparently
had every intention of driving the Americans from the village and the
surrounding positions and every hope of being successful. They came on
confidently and with undeniable courage. The fighting that resulted was
desperate. Our Pennsylvania men stood up to them like the gallant
veterans they had now become.

The fighting was hand-to-hand, breast-to-breast. In many spots, man
contended against man in a struggle as primitive, as dogged and as
uncompromising as any fighting ever has been. When a contest narrowed
down to one or two men on a side this way, there was but one outcome for
the loser. There was neither time nor inclination on either side to
surrender, nor time to take prisoners. Death, quick and merciful, for
one or the other was the only possible eventuality.

Our men fought like tigers, but the Germans outnumbered them somewhat
and, after their first rush, had a certain advantage of position. The
109th Infantry bore the brunt of this attack. Major Mackey, who as
Captain Mackey had won place in the fighting annals of the division in
the battle below the Marne, was in his post command in an advanced
position when the attack was launched. The "P. C.", as the army shortens
post command, was in a cellar from which the house above had been almost
blown away by artillery fire. With him were his battalion adjutant and a
chaplain. He was keeping in touch with the rear and with the regimental
post command by means of telephone and runners.

The runners ceased arriving and the telephone connection was severed.
Only then did the men in the cellar realize the attack was gaining
ground and that they might be in danger. Suddenly from directly over
their heads came the angry "rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat" of a machine gun,
like a pneumatic riveter at work on the steel skeleton of a skyscraper
back in God's country. Simultaneously, the bawling of hoarse-voiced
commands in German told them that the visitors who had taken possession
of the ground floor of their subterranean domicile were the pestiferous

It is hardly necessary to add that Major Mackey and his companions kept
quiet, expecting every moment to be called on to surrender. But Fritz
had his hands full. Reinforcements were seeping up to the front line of
the Americans and they were beginning to make a stand. Then the officers
and men of Major Mackey's battalion saw what the Major had heard--the
Hun machine gunners standing on the American "P. C."

It called for no special command. There was a wild yell of anger and
defiance, and away the Pennsylvanians went to the rescue. The
reinforcements were right at their heels. The Germans had shot their
bolt and would have been compelled to retreat very soon anyway, but the
plight of Major Mackey and the other officers hastened it. In a very
short time the enemy was in flight northward once more.

It was after this fight that Company H of the 109th buried twenty-four
of its men, said to have been the largest loss in killed of any company
in the division in one engagement during the war. The losses all through
were exceedingly heavy. There were instances of companies emerging from
the combat in command of corporals, every commissioned officer and every
sergeant having been put out of action, and in at least one instance, a
battalion was commanded by a sergeant, the major, his staff, the
commanders and lieutenants of all four companies having been
incapacitated. It was terribly costly, but it wrote the name of Apremont
on the records of the division as a word to thrill future members of the

From Apremont the advance veered over to the west, still following the
course of the river, toward Chatel-Chehery. When the artillery reached
Apremont it ran into trouble again. One battery of the 109th was shelled
and knocked to pieces. Guns were torn from their carriages, limbers and
caissons blown to bits, horses killed and a number of men killed and
many injured.

Colonel Asher Miner, of Wilkes-Barre, went out in person and assisted in
rallying the gunners, bringing order out of chaos and directing the men
to a new position. Speaking of Colonel Miner's presence of mind, his
constant presence at the scene of danger, the care with which he looked
after his men and equipment and his general efficiency and ability,
Brigadier-General Price paid him a high compliment.

"Colonel Miner showed bravery upon many occasions," he said, "but it is
when men do what they do not have to do that they are lifted to the
special class of heroes. Miner is one of these."

It was but shortly after this that Colonel Miner was so badly injured in
the ankle that his foot had to be amputated.

Just after leaving Apremont, fighting rod by rod, almost foot by foot,
the infantry advance had a brisk engagement in the clearing out of
Pleinchamp Farm. As was the case with the other farms of France which
figured so frequently in the war news, this consisted of a considerable
group of centuries-old buildings, built of stone with exceedingly thick
walls, offering ideal protection for machine guns, snipers and

The buildings were so situated that a force attacking one was open to
hot fire from most of the others. It was cleared of the Germans in a
brilliant little engagement, however, and our men began to close in on
Chatel-Chehery. They were now in the act of driving their way through
the Kriemhilde line, the second German defense line in that sector,
which the Germans had predicted never would be broken.

The 112th Infantry again came to the fore in this work. Hills 223 and
244, named from their height in meters--names which are purely for
military purposes and appear only on the military maps--presented
formidable obstacles in the path of the regiment. It is not, however,
the American way to stand about and talk of how strong the enemy
probably is, so the 112th took another hitch in its belt, clenched its
teeth and set out in a rush for Hill 244. Rather to their surprise, they
swept over the eminence in their first rush. Neither machine gun nor
rifle fire halted them. It was not the 112th's day to be annoyed and it
continued to wipe out the German defense positions on Hill 223 in the
same way.

The night before this attack, Sergeant Ralph N. Summerton, of Warren,
sat in a kitchen of the regiment, feeling about as miserable as one man
may. He was suffering with Spanish influenza, and had upon his body and
legs a number of aggravating wounds, inflicted when a German "potato
masher," or trench bomb, went off close to him. He had refused to go to
a hospital because he felt he was needed with the regiment, but he had
upon his blouse two medical tags, indicating he had been treated for
both the disease and the wounds.

Lieutenant Dickson, the battalion adjutant, and Lieutenant Benjamin F.
White, Jr., a surgeon, entered and Summerton asked Lieutenant Dickson
how things were with the regiment. The officer remarked that there were
no officers to lead I Company in the attack next morning and Summerton
started out.

"You'd better either stay here or go to a hospital; you're a sick man,"
said the medical officer, but Summerton disregarded the advice, went to
the company and assumed command and led the first wave in the assault on
Hill 244 next morning. He actually was the first to the top of the hill,
and performed the feat under the eyes of the brigade commander, although
he was almost reeling from his illness and his wounds. Not only that,
but after gaining the crest he continued to lead the attack until he got
a rifle bullet through the shoulder, which put him out of the action.

The regiment came next against Chene Tondu Ridge, and here the whole
division came to a pause. It took just four days to reduce that
stronghold. It was a case where nothing could be gained and much lost by
trying brute force and speed, so it was cleared of Germans by a regular
course of siege operations in the tactics with which the Pennsylvanians
now were so familiar.

Some men spotted the German firing positions and concentrated their
streams of bullets on them, while others crept forward to protected
posts. These in turn set up a peppery fusillade and the others crept
forward. So it went on, steadily up hill, steadily gaining, until, on
the evening of the fourth day, the tired doughboys of the 112th lay down
and slept on the crest of the ridge in token of their victory. They had
redeemed it for France.

These were the chief defenses which had to be overcome before the troops
came to Chatel-Chehery itself. There much the same kind of fighting as
at Apremont took place, although not on so fierce and extensive a



Near Chatel-Chehery, in the depth of the woods, the soldiers found a
hunting lodge which prisoners said had been occupied for a long time by
the German Crown Prince. They said that, unmindful of the great tragedy
such a short distance away and for which he was at least partly
responsible, he entertained parties of gay friends at the lodge and went
boar hunting in the forest. That he was more or less successful was
attested by several large boars' heads on the walls.

In the course of their progress up the valley, our men had captured a
railroad which had been part of the German system of communications.
With it were taken seven locomotives and 268 cars. The locomotives were
of odd construction, to American eyes, having a big flywheel over the
boiler, and on each a fanciful name was painted in German on the side of
the cab. Locomotives and cars were camouflaged to make them blend with
the trees, bushes and ferns of the forest. An effort had been made to
wreck them, but four were easily repaired and in a few hours after they
were seized men of the 103d Engineers had the railroad running full
blast and performing valuable service.

Our men also had taken a complete 15-cottage hospital. It was located
attractively upon the side of a hill and winding paths connected the
buildings, which were of red brick and painted concrete. In the modern
operating room a gruesome sight was presented. Evidently the hospital
force had fled in haste as the Americans approached, for upon the
operating table lay a dead German with one leg amputated. The detached
member and the surgical implements lay right at hand, indicating that
the surgeons had deserted the man upon the table while operating,
without a thought for his welfare.

Another valuable capture was an electrically-operated sawmill, with
1,000,000 feet of prepared lumber. All of these, together with a number
of electric power plants, were immediately set to work for the benefit
of the division, the mill and power plants under mechanics from the
engineer regiment, the hospital under men from the sanitary train.

Moving on from Chatel-Chehery, the division took Fleville and then came
to the outskirts of Grand Pre, which promised to make itself worth the
taking of any division and which did, indeed, prove quite a stumbling

Not for the Iron Division, however, for its service of fourteen days in
that magnificent drive was regarded as enough for one body of men and it
was ordered withdrawn. The organizations were relieved on October 9th
and 10th and moved southward, crossed the Aire and came to rest in
positions around Thiaucourt, sixteen miles southwest of Metz and about
four miles back of the front lines. Division headquarters was
established at Euvezin, several miles southwest of Thiaucourt.

The artillery was detached and sent scurrying away along the rear of the
roaring battle line, where the Germans now were rapidly nearing the
crash to cause which our men had done so much. Straight away northwest
they traveled, mile after mile, and when they finally came to a halt
the gunners, to their utter amazement, found themselves in that devils'
cauldron of the whole war, Belgium.

Here they were attached to the Army of Pursuit, which was intended to
hound the retiring Germans to the last ditch, but the signing of the
armistice intervened before they saw real action. The artillerymen had
thought they knew something about devastation and desolation from what
they had seen hitherto, but the sights in Belgium taught them that they
knew little of such things. That ghastly, bleak, barren land, clawed to
pieces like a carcass under the beaks of carrion birds by four long
years of war, left the Pennsylvania gunners speechless with horror.

Back with the division, the men had but a day or two to rest in the
billets about Thiaucourt. Then, just after the middle of October, the
56th Brigade moved up toward the front and took position on a line,
Xammes, Jaulny, Haumont. They had now become a part of the Second
American Army, which obviously was getting into position for a drive on
Metz, and our men looked forward to more strenuous work.

The 55th Brigade was to have relieved the 56th in ten days, but this
order was countermanded. The 55th instead moved up and took position on
the left of the 56th, and it was approximately in these positions that
the signing of the armistice found our men. In the meantime they had
some smart action and a number of casualties, but the work was nothing
which drew attention during the closing days of the world's greatest
war. When hostilities ceased they were moved back somewhat and went into
a real rest camp based on Heudi-court. On November 18th they achieved
the right to wear a gold chevron on the left cuff in token of their
having been six months in overseas service.

Four days before this, however, on November 14th, the division was named
as one of several to push forward toward the German frontier, to act in
support of the Third Army, the American Army of Occupation.
Disappointment at not having been made a part of the Army of Occupation
promptly gave way to rejoicing at this new honor and fresh evidence of
the confidence reposed in the Pennsylvanians by the High Command.

Some days before the signing of the armistice, General Muir had taken
leave of the division with every sign of deep regret. He was going to
take command of the Fourth Army Corps and Major-General William H. Hay
succeeded him in command of the Twenty-eighth.

General Muir once more took occasion to voice his admiration for the
division as a whole and directed that special orders, commending each
unit and mentioning some of the special feats it had performed, be
issued to the commanding officers of the units. These were in turn
reproduced by the commanding officers and a copy given to each man.

In concluding this record, probably nothing could be more appropriate
than to quote the order of its fighting commander, citing its glorious
action. The communication read:

"The Division Commander desires to express his appreciation to all the
officers and soldiers of the Twenty-eighth Division and of its attached
units who, at all times during the advance in the valley of the Aire and
in the Argonne forest, in spite of their many hardships and constant
personal danger, gave their best efforts to further the success of the

"As a result of this operation, which extended from 5.30 o'clock on the
morning of September 26th until the night of October 8th, with almost
continuous fighting, the enemy line was forced back more than ten

"In spite of the most stubborn and at times desperate resistance, the
enemy was driven out of Grand Boureuilles, Petite Boureuilles, Varennes,
Montblaineville, Apremont, Pleinchamp Farm, Le Forge and Chatel-Chehery,
and the strongholds on Hills 223 and 244 and La Chene Tondu were
captured in the face of strong machine gun and artillery fire.

"As a new division on the Vesle River, north of Château-Thierry, the
Twenty-eighth was cited in orders from General Headquarters for its
excellent service, and the splendid work it has just completed assures
it a place in the very front ranks of fighting American divisions.

"With such a position to maintain, it is expected that every man will
devote his best efforts to the work at hand to hasten that final victory
which is now so near."

    |             Transcriber's Note:                     |
    |                                                     |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the        |
    | original document have been preserved.              |
    |                                                     |
    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:         |
    |                                                     |
    | Page  24  their's changed to theirs                 |
    | Page  85  stubborness changed to stubbornness       |
    | Page  88  dumfounded changed to dumbfounded         |
    | Page 297  Montblainville changed to Montblaineville |

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Iron Division, National Guard of Pennsylvania, in the World War - The authentic and comprehensive narrative of the gallant - deeds and glorious achievements of the 28th division in - the world's greatest war" ***

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