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Title: The A.E.F. - With General Pershing and the American Forces
Author: Broun, Heywood, 1888-1939
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE A. E. F.



THE A. E. F.

WITH GENERAL PERSHING
AND THE AMERICAN FORCES

BY

HEYWOOD BROUN

[Illustration: colophon]

D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

NEW YORK LONDON

1918

COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

Printed in the United States of America

TO

RUTH HALE



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                    PAGE

I. THE BIG POND                                               1

II. THE A. E. F.                                             11

III. LAFAYETTE, NOUS VOILÀ                                   25

IV. THE FRANCO-AMERICAN HONEYMOON                            36

V. WITHIN SOUND OF THE GUNS                                  56

VI. SUNNY FRANCE                                             74

VII. PERSHING                                                92

VIII. MEN WITH MEDALS                                       102

IX. LETTERS HOME                                            115

X. MARINES                                                  126

XI. FIELD PIECES AND BIG GUNS                               136

XII. OUR AVIATORS AND A FEW OTHERS                          147

XIII. HOSPITALS AND ENGINEERS                               164

XIV. WE VISIT THE FRENCH ARMY                               177

XV. VERDUN                                                  192

XVI. WE VISIT THE BRITISH ARMY                              200

XVII. BACK FROM PRISON                                      221

XVIII. FINISHING TOUCHES                                    227

XIX. THE AMERICAN ARMY MARCHES TO THE TRENCHES              250

XX. TRENCH LIFE                                             260

XXI. THE VETERANS RETURN                                    281

Some of the material in this book is reprinted through the courtesy of
the _New York Tribune_.



THE A. E. F.



CHAPTER I

THE BIG POND


"Voilà un sousmarin," said a sailor, as he stuck his head through the
doorway of the smoking room. The man with aces and eights dropped, but
the player across the table had three sevens, and he waited for a
translation. It came from the little gun on the afterdeck. The gun said
"Bang!" and in a few seconds it repeated "Bang!" I heard the second shot
from my stateroom, but before I had adjusted my lifebelt the gun fired
at the submarine once more.

A cheer followed this shot. No Yale eleven, or even Harvard for that
matter, ever heard such a cheer. It was as if the shout for the first
touchdown and for the last one and for all the field goals and long
gains had been thrown into one. There was something in the cheer, too,
of a long drawn "ho-old 'em."

I looked out the porthole and asked an ambulance man: "Did we get her
then?"

"No, but we almost did," he answered. "There she is," he added. "That's
the periscope."

Following the direction of his finger I found a stray beanpole thrust
somewhat carelessly into the ocean. It came out of a wave top with a
rakish tilt. Probably ours was the angle, for the steamer was cutting
the ocean into jigsaw sections as we careened away for dear life, now
with a zig and then with a zag, seeking safety in drunken flight. When I
reached the deck, steamer and passengers seemed to be doing as well as
could be expected, and even better.

The periscope was falling astern, and the three hundred passengers,
mostly ambulance drivers and Red Cross nurses, were lined along the
rail, rooting. Some of the girls stood on top of the rail and others
climbed up to the lifeboats, which were as good as a row of boxes. It
was distinctly a home team crowd. Nobody cheered for the submarine. The
only passenger who showed fright was a chap who rushed up and down the
deck loudly shouting: "Don't get excited."

"Give 'em hell," said a home town fan and shook his fist in the
direction of the submarine. The gunner fired his fourth shot and this
time he was far short in his calculation.

"It's a question of whether we get her first or she gets us, isn't it?"
asked an old lady in about the tone she would have used in asking a
popular lecturer whether or not he thought Hamlet was really mad. Such
neutrality was beyond me. I couldn't help expressing a fervent hope that
the contest would be won by our steamer. It was the bulliest sort of a
game, and a pleasant afternoon, too, but one passenger was no more than
mildly interested. W. K. Vanderbilt did not put on a life preserver nor
did he leave his deck chair. He sat up just a bit and watched the whole
affair tolerantly. After all the submarine captain was a stranger to
him.

Our fifth and final shot was the best. It hit the periscope or
thereabouts. The shell did not rebound and there was a patch of oil on
the surface of the water. The beanpole disappeared. The captain left the
bridge and went to the smoking room. He called for cognac.

"Il est mort," said he, with a sweep of his right hand.

"He says we sunk her," explained the man who spoke French.

The captain said the submarine had fired one torpedo and had missed the
steamer by about ninety feet. The U-boat captain must have taken his eye
off the boat, or sliced or committed some technical blunder or other,
for he missed an easy shot. Even German efficiency cannot eradicate the
blessed amateur. May his thumbs never grow less!

We looked at the chart and found that our ship was more than seven
hundred miles from the nearest land. It seemed a lonely ocean.

One man came through the crisis with complete triumph. As soon as the
submarine was sighted, the smoking room steward locked the cigar chest
and the wine closet. Not until then did he go below for his lifebelt.

Reviewing my own emotions, I found that I had not been frightened quite
as badly as I expected. The submarine didn't begin to scare me as much
as the first act of "The Thirteenth Chair," but still I could hardly lay
claim to calm, for I had not spoken one of the appropriate speeches
which came to my mind after the attack. The only thing to which I could
point with pride was the fact that before putting on my lifebelt I
paused to open a box of candy, and went on deck to face destruction, or
what not, with a caramel between my teeth. But before the hour was up I
was sunk indeed.

It was submarine this and sousmarin that in the smoking room. The
U-boats lurked in every corner. One man had seen two and at the next
table was a chap who had seen three. There was the fellow who had
sighted the periscope first of all, the man who had seen the wake of the
torpedo, and the littlest ambulance driver who had sighted the submarine
through the bathroom window while immersed in the tub. He was the man
who had started for the deck with nothing more about him than a lifebelt
and had been turned back.

"I wonder," said a passenger, "whether those submarines have wireless?
Do you suppose now that boat could send messages on ahead and ask other
U-boats to look after us?" And just then the gun on the forward deck
went "Bang."

It was the meanest and most inappropriate sound I ever heard. It was an
anti-climax of the most vicious sort. It was bad form, bad art, bad
everything. I felt a little sick, and one of the contributing emotions
was a sort of fearfully poignant boredom. I tried to remember just what
the law of averages was and to compute as rapidly as possible the
chances of the vessel to complete two more days of travel if attacked by
a submarine every hour.

"The ocean is full of the damn things," said the man at the next table
petulantly.

This time the thing was a black object not more than fifty yards away.
The captain signaled the gunner not to fire again and he let it be known
that this was nothing but a barrel. Later it was rumored that it was a
mine, but then there were all sorts of rumors during those last two days
when we ran along with lifeboats swung out. There was much talk of a
convoy, but none appeared.

Many passengers slept on deck and some went to meals with their
lifebelts on. Everybody jumped when a plate was dropped and there was
always the possibility of starting a panic by slamming a door. And so we
cheered when the steamer came to the mouth of the river which leads to
Bordeaux. We cheered for France from friendship. We cheered from
surprise and joy when the American flag went up to the top of a high
mast and we cheered a little from sheer relief because we had left the
sea and the U-boats behind us.

They had been with us not a little from the beginning. Even on the first
day out from New York the ship ran with all lights out and portholes
shielded. Later passengers were forbidden to smoke on deck at night and
once there was a lifeboat drill of a sort, but the boats were not swung
out in the davits until after we met the submarine.

Early in the voyage an old lady complained to the purser because a young
man in the music room insisted on playing the Dead March from "Saul."
There was more cheerful music. The ambulance drivers saw to that. We had
an Amherst unit and one from Leland Stanford and the boys were nineteen
or thereabouts. It is well enough to say that all the romance has gone
out of modern war, but you can't convince a nineteen-year-older of that
when he has his first khaki on his back and his first anti-typhoid
inoculation in his arm. They boasted of these billion germs and they
swaggered and played banjos and sang songs. Mostly they sang at night on
the pitch black upper deck. The littlest ambulance driver had a nice
tenor voice and on still nights he did not care what submarine commander
knew that he "learned about women from her." He and his companions
rocked the stars with "She knifed me one night." Daytimes they studied
French from the ground up. It was the second day out that I heard a
voice from just outside my porthole inquire "E-S-T--what's that and how
do you say it?" Later on the littlest ambulance driver had made marked
progress and was explaining "Mon oncle a une bonne fille, mais mon père
est riche."

Romance was not hard to find on the vessel. The slow waiter who limped
had been wounded at the Marne, and the little fat stewardess had spent
twenty-two days aboard the German raider _Eitel Friedrich_. There were
French soldiers in the steerage and one of them had the Croix de Guerre
with four palms. He had been wounded three times.

But when the ship came up the river the littlest ambulance driver--the
one who knew "est" and women--summed things up and decided that he was
glad to be an American. He looked around the deck at the Red Cross
nurses and others who had stood along the rail and cheered in the
submarine fight, and he said:

"I never would have thought it of 'em. It's kinda nice to know American
women have got so much nerve."

The littlest ambulance driver drew himself up to his full five feet four
and brushed his new uniform once again.

"Yes, sir," he said, "we men have certainly got to hand it to the girls
on this boat." And as he went down the gangplank he was humming: "And I
learned about women from her."



CHAPTER II

THE A. E. F.


The dawn was gray and so was the ship, but the eye picked her out of the
mist because of two broad yellow stripes which ran the whole length of
the upper decks. As the ship warped into the pier the stripes of yellow
became so many layers of men in khaki, each motionless and each gazing
toward the land.

"Say," cried a voice across the diminishing strip of water, "what place
is this anyhow?" The reply came back from newspapermen whose only
companions on the pier were two French soldiers and a little group of
German prisoners.

"Well," said the voice from the ship, "this ought to be better than the
Texas border."

The American regulars had come to France.

The two French soldiers looked at the men on the transport and cheered,
flinging their caps in the air. The Germans just looked. They were
engaged in moving rails and after lifting one they would pause and gaze
into space for many minutes until the guards told them to get to work
again. But now the guards were so interested that the Germans prolonged
the rest interval and stared at the ship. News that ships were in was
carried through the town and people came running to the pier. There were
women and children and old men and a few soldiers.

Nobody had known the Americans were coming. Even the mayor was surprised
and had to run home to get his red sash and his high hat. Children on
the way to school did not go further than the quay, for back of the
ship, creeping into the slip, were other ships with troops and torpedo
boat destroyers and a cruiser.

Just before the gangplank was lowered the band on the first transport
played "The Star Spangled Banner." The men on the ship stood at
attention. The crowds on shore only watched. They did not know our
national anthem yet. Next the band played "The Marseillaise," and the
hats of the crowd came off. As the last note died away one of the
Americans relaxed from attention and leaned over the rail toward a small
group of newspapermen from America.

"Do they allow enlisted men to drink in the saloons in this town?" he
asked.

Somebody else wanted to know, "Is there any place in town where a fellow
can get a piece of pie?" A sailor was anxious to rent a bicycle or a
horse and "ride somewhere." Later the universal question became, "Don't
any of these people speak American?"

The men were hustled off the ship and marched into the long street which
runs parallel with the docks. They passed within a few feet of the
Germans. There was less than the length of a bayonet between them but
the doughboys did credit to their brief training. They kept their eyes
straight ahead.

"How do they look?" one of the newspapermen asked a German sergeant in
the group of prisoners.

"Oh, they look all right," he said professionally, "but you can't tell
yet. I'd want to see them in action first."

"They don't lift their knees high enough," he added and grinned at his
little joke.

A French soldier came up then and expostulated. He said that we must not
talk to the Germans and set his prisoners back to their task of lifting
rails. There were guards at both ends of the street, but scores of
children slipped by them and began to talk to the soldiers. There were
hardly half a dozen men in the first regiment who understood French.
Veterans of the Mexican border tried a little bad Spanish and when that
didn't work they fell back to signs. The French made an effort to meet
the visitors half way. I saw a boy extend his reader to a soldier and
explain that a fearfully homely picture which looked like a caterpillar
was a "chenille." The boy added that the chenille was so ugly that it
was without doubt German and no good. Children also pointed out familiar
objects in the book such as "Chats" and "Chiens," but as one soldier
said: "I don't care about those things, sonny: haven't you got a roast
chicken or an apple pie in that book?"

Some officers had tried to teach their men a little French on the trip
across, but not much seemed to stick. The men were not over curious as
to this strange language. One old sergeant went to his lieutenant and
said: "You know, sir, I've served in China and the Philippines and Cuba.
I've been up against this foreign language proposition before and I know
just what I need. If you'll write down a few words for me and tell me
how they're pronounced I won't have to bother you any more. I want 'Give
me a plate of ham and eggs. How much? What's your name?' and 'Do you
love me, kid?'"

The vocabulary of the officers did not seem very much more extensive
than that of the men. While the troops were disembarking officers were
striving to get supplies started for the camp several miles outside the
city. All the American motor trucks had been shipped on the slowest
steamer of the convoy but the French came to our aid. "I have just one
order," said the French officer, who met the first unit of the American
Expeditionary Army, "there is no American and no French now. There is
only ours."

Although the officer was kind enough to make ownership of all available
motor trucks common, he could not do as much for the language of the
poilus who drove them. I found the American motor truck chief hopelessly
entangled.

"Have you enough gasoline to go to the camp and back?" he inquired of
the driver of the first camion to be loaded. The Frenchman shrugged his
shoulders to indicate that he did not comprehend. The officer smiled
tolerantly and spoke with gentle firmness as if to a wayward child.
"Have you enough gasoline?" he said. Again the Frenchman's shoulders
went up. "Have you enough gasoline?" repeated the officer, only this
time he spoke loudly and fiercely as if talking to his wife. Even yet
the Frenchman did not understand. Inspiration came to the American
officer. Suddenly he gesticulated with both hands and began to imitate
George Beban as the French waiter in one of the old Weber and Fields
shows. "'Ave you enough of ze gaz-o-leene?" he piped mincingly. Then an
interpreter came.

After several companies had disembarked the march to camp began, up the
main street and along the fine shore road which skirts the bay. The band
struck up "Stars and Stripes Forever" and away they went. They did not
march well, these half green companies who had rolled about the seas so
long, but they held the eyes of all and the hearts of some. They
glorified even cheap tunes such as "If You Don't Like Your Uncle Sammy
Go Back to Your Home Across the Sea," and Sousa seemed a very master of
fire when the men paraded to his marches. These American units did not
give the impression of compactness which one gets from Frenchmen on the
march. The longer stride gives the doughboy an uneven gait. He looks
like a man walking across a plowed field and yet you cannot miss a sense
of power. You feel that he will get there even if his goal is the red
sun itself at the back of the hills.

There was no long drawn cheer from the people who lined the streets to
see the Americans pass. Even crowds in Paris do not cheer like that.
Instead individuals called out phrases of greeting and there was much
handclapping. Although mixed in point of service the men ran to type as
far as build went. They amazed the French by their height, although some
of the organizations which followed the first division are better
physically. Of course these American troops are actually taller than the
French and in addition they are thin enough to accentuate their height.
It was easy to pick out the youngsters, most of whom found their packs a
little heavy. They would stand up straighter though when an old sergeant
moved alongside and growled a word or two. It was easy to see that these
sergeants were of the old army. They were all lank men, boiled red from
within and without. They had put deserts and jungles under foot and no
distance would seem impossible for them along the good roads of France.

As ship after ship came in more troops marched to camp. The streets were
filled with the clatter of the big boots of doughboys throughout the
morning and well into the afternoon. There were American army mules,
too, and although the natives had seen the animal before in French
service, he attracted no end of attention. In his own particular army
the mule seems more picturesque. He has never learned French. It seems
to break his spirit, but he pranced and kicked and played the very devil
under the stimulus of the loud endearments of the American mule drivers.

The French were also interested in a company of American negroes
specially recruited for stevedore service. The negroes had been
outfitted with old cavalry overcoats of a period shortly after the Civil
War. They were blue coats with gold buttons and the lining was a
tasteful but hardly somber shade of crimson. Nor were the negroes
without picturesque qualities even when they had shed their coats and
gone to work. Their working shirts of white were inked all over with
pious sentences calculated to last through the submarine zone, but piety
was mixed. One big negro, for instance, had written upon his shirt:
"The Lord is my shepherd," but underneath he had drawn a large starfish
for luck. A few daring ones had ornamented themselves with skulls and
crossbones. To the negroes fell the bitterest disappointment of the
American landing in France. Two Savannah stevedores caught sight of a
black soldier in the French uniform and rushed up to exchange greetings.
The Senegalese shrugged his shoulders and turned away from the flood of
English.

"That," said one of the American darkies, "is the most ignorantest and
stuck up nigger I ever did see." They were not yet ready to believe that
the negro race had let itself in for the amazing complications of a
foreign language.

Later in the day the town was full of the eddies which occur when two
languages meet head on, for almost all the soldiers and sailors received
leave to come to town. They wanted beer and champagne and cognac,
chocolate, cake, crackers, pears, apples, cherries, picture postcards,
sardines, rings, cigarettes, and books of French and English phrases.
The phrase books were usually an afterthought, so commerce was
conducted with difficulty. A few of the shopkeepers equipped themselves
with dictionaries and painstakingly worked out the proper reply for each
customer. Signs were much more effective and when it came to purchase,
the sailor or soldier simply held out a handful of American money and
the storekeeper took a little. To the credit of the shopkeepers of the
nameless port, let it be said that they seemed in every case to take no
more than an approximation of the right amount. Fortunately the late
unpleasantness at Babel was not absolutely thoroughgoing and there are
words in French which offer no great difficulty to the American. The
entente cordiale is furthered by words such as "chocolat," "sandwich,"
"biere" and "bifstek." The difficulties of "vin" are not insurmountable
either.

"A funny people," was the comment of one doughboy, "when I ask for
'sardines' I get 'em all right, but when I say 'cheese' or 'canned
peaches' I don't get anything."

Another complained, "I don't understand these people at all. They spell
some of their words all right, but they haven't got the sense to say 'em
that way." He could see no reason why "vin" should sound like "van."

Another objection of the invading army was that the townsfolk demanded
whole sentences of French. Mixtures seemed incomprehensible to them and
the officer who kept crying out, "Madame, where are my oeufs?" got no
satisfaction whatever.

Late in the afternoon phrase books began to appear, but they did not
help a great deal because by the time the right phrase had been found
some fellow who used only sign language had slipped in ahead of the
student. Then, too, some of the books seemed hardly adapted for present
conditions. One officer was distinctly annoyed because the first
sentence he found in a chapter headed war terms was, "Where is the grand
stand?" But the book which seemed to fall furthest short of promise was
a pamphlet entitled, "Just the French You Want to Know."

"Look at this," said an indignant owner. "Le travail assure la santé et
la bien-être, il élève et fortifie l'âme, il adoucit les souffrances,
chasse l'ennui, et plaisir sans pareil, il est encore le sel des autres
plaisirs. Go on with it. Look at what all that means--'Work assures
health and well being, it elevates and fortifies the soul, drives away
ennui, alleviates suffering, and, a pleasure without an equal, it is
still the salt of all other pleasures'--what do you think of that? Just
the French you want to know! I don't want to address the graduating
class, I want to tell a barber to leave it long on top, but trim it
pretty close around the edges."

The happy purchaser of the book did not throw it away, however, until he
turned to the chapter headed "At the Tailor's" and found that the first
sentence set down in French meant, "The bodice is too tight in front,
and it is uncomfortable under the arms. It is a little too low-necked,
and the sleeves are not wide enough."

Sundown sent most of the soldiers scurrying back to camp, but the port
lacked no life that night, for sailors came ashore in increasing numbers
and American officers were everywhere. The two hotels--the Grand and
the Grand Hotel des Messageries, known to the army as the Grand and
Miserable Hotel--were thronged. Generals and Admirals rushed about to
conferences and in the middle of all the confusion a young second
lieutenant sat at the piano in the parlor of the Grand and played
Schumann's "Warum" over and over again as if his heart would break for
homesickness. The sailors and a few soldiers who seemed to have business
in the town had no trouble in making themselves at home.

"Mademoiselle, donnez moi un baiser, s'il vous plait," said one of the
apt pupils to the pretty barmaid at the Café du Centre.

But she said: "Mais non."

Crowds began to collect just off the main street. I hurried over to one
group of sailors, convinced that something important was going on, since
French soldiers and civilians stood about six deep. History was being
made indeed. For the first time "craps" was being played on French
soil.



CHAPTER III

LAFAYETTE, NOUS VOILÀ


The navy was the first to take Paris. While the doughboys were still at
the port crowding themselves into camp, lucky sailors were on their way
to let the French capital see the American uniform. I came up on the
night train with a crowd of them. Their pockets bulged with money, tins
of salmon, ham and truffled chicken. They had chocolate in their hats
and boxes of fancy crackers under their arms, while cigars and
cigarettes poked out of their blouses. They would have nothing to do
with French tobacco, but favored a popular American brand which sells
for a quarter in New York and twice as much over here. One almost
expected each sailor to produce a roast turkey or a pheasant from up his
sleeve at meal time, but it was pretty much all meal time for these men
who were making their shore leave an intensive affair. One was a very
new sailor and he was rejoicing to find land under his feet again.

"Oh, boy!" he said, when I asked him about his ship, "that old tub had
two more movements than a hula dancer."

The little group in my compartment was sampling some champagne which
hospitable folk at the port had given them. It was not real champagne,
to be sure, but a cheaper white wine with twice as many bubbles and at
least as much noise. It sufficed very well, since it was ostentation
rather than thirst which spurred the sailors on and they spread their
hospitality throughout the train. A few French soldiers headed back for
the trenches were the traveling companions of the Americans. The poilus
were decidedly friendly but somewhat amazed at the big men who made so
much noise with their jokes and their songs. Of course the French were
called upon to sample the various tinned and bottled goods which the
sailors were carrying. It was "have a swig of this, Froggy" or "get
yourself around that, Frenchy." The Americans were still just a bit
condescending to their brothers in arms. They had not yet seen them in
action. Of course there was much comparison of equipment and the sailors
all tried on the trench helmets of the French and found them too small.
The entente grew and presently there was an allied concert. The sailors
sang, "What a Wonderful Mother You'd Make," and the French replied with
the Verdun song, "Ils Ne Passeront Pas," and later with "Madelon."

I heard that song many times afterwards and it always brings to mind a
picture of dusty French soldiers marching with their short, quick, eager
stride. They are always dusty. All summer long they wear big overcoats
which come below the knee. Dust settles and multiplies and if you see a
French regiment marching in the spring rainy season, it will still be
dusty. Perhaps their souls are a little dusty now, but it is French
dust. And as they march they sing as the men sang to the newly arrived
Americans in the train that night:

    For all the soldiers, on their holidays,
    There is a place, just tucked in by the woods,
    A house with ivy growing on the walls--
    A cabaret--"Aux Toulourous"--the goods!
    The girl who serves is young and sweet as love,
    She's light as any butterfly in Spring,
    Her eyes have got a sparkle like her wine.
    We call her Madelon--it's got a swing!
    The soldiers' girl! She leads us all a dance!
    She's only Madelon, but she's Romance!

    When Madelon comes out to serve us drinks,
    We always know she's coming by her song!
    And every man, he tells his little tale,
    And Madelon, she listens all day long.
    Our Madelon is never too severe--
    A kiss or two is nothing much to her--
    She laughs us up to love and life and God--
    Madelon! Madelon! Madelon!

    We all have girls for keeps that wait at home
    Who'll marry us when fighting time is done;
    But they are far away--too far to tell
    What happens in these days of cut-and-run.
    We sigh away such days as best we can,
    And pray for time to bring us nearer home,
    But tales like ours won't wait till then to tell--
    We have to run and boast to Madelon.
    We steal a kiss--she takes it all in play;
    We dream she is that other--far away.
    A corp'ral with a feather in his cap
    Went courting Madelon one summer's day,
    And, mad with love, he swore she was superb,
    And he would wed her any day she'd say.
    But Madelon was not for any such--
    She danced away and laughed: "My stars above!
    Why, how could I consent to marry you,
    When I have my whole regiment to love?
    I could not choose just one and leave the rest.
    I am the soldiers' girl--I like that best!"

    When Madelon comes out to serve us drinks,
    We always know she's coming by her song!
    And every man, he tells his little tale,
    And Madelon, she listens all day long.
    Our Madelon is never too severe--
    A kiss or two is nothing much to her--
    She laughs us up to love and life and God--
    Madelon! Madelon! Madelon!

When the train came into Paris early the next morning the sailors were
singing the chorus with the poilus. They parted company at the quai
d'Orsay. The soldiers went to the front; the sailors turned to Paris. It
was a Paris such as no one had ever seen before. The "bannière etoilée"
was everywhere. We call it the Stars and Stripes. Little flags were
stuck rakishly behind the ears of disreputable Parisian cab horses;
bigger flags were in the windows of the shops and on top of buildings,
but the biggest American flag of all hung on the Strassburg monument
which shed its mourning when the war began.

Two days later all the flags were fluttering, for on the morning of the
third of July the doughboys came to Paris. It made no difference that
they were only a battalion. When the French saw them they thought of
armies and of new armies, for these were the first soldiers in many
months who smiled as they marched. The train was late, but the crowd
waited outside the Gare d'Austerlitz for more than two hours. French Red
Cross nurses were waiting at the station, and the doughboys had their
first experience with French rations, for they began the long day with
"petit déjeuner." Men brought up on ham and eggs and flapjacks and
oatmeal and even breakfast pie, found war bread and coffee a scant
repast, but the ration proved more popular than was expected when it was
found that the coffee was charged with cognac. It was a stronger
stimulant, though, which sent the men up on the tips of their toes as
they swung down the street covering thirty-two inches with each stride.
For the first time they heard the roar of a crowd. It was not the steady
roar such as comes from American throats. It was split up into "Vive les
Etats Unis!" and "Vive l'Amérique!" with an occasional "Vive le
President Wilson!" This appearance was only a dress rehearsal and the
troops were hurried through little frequented streets to a barracks to
await the morning of the Fourth.

Paris began the great day by waking Pershing with music. The band of the
republican guard was at the gate of his house a little after eight
o'clock. The rest of Paris seemed to have had no trouble in arousing
itself without music, for already several hundred thousand persons were
crowded about the General's hotel. First there were trumpets; then
brasses blared and drums rumbled. The General proved himself a light
sleeper and a quick dresser. Before the last note of the fanfare died
away he was at the window and bowing to the crowd. This time there was a
solid roar, for everybody shouted "Vive Pershing." The band cut through
the din. There were a few strange variations and uncertainties in the
tune, but it was unmistakably "The Star Spangled Banner." Only a handful
in the crowd knew the American National anthem, but they shouted
"Chapeau, chapeau" so hard that everybody took up the cry and took off
his hat. There was a fine indefinite noisy roar which would have done
credit to a double header crowd at the Polo Grounds when Pershing left
his hotel for the "Invalides," where the march of the Americans was to
begin. It was pleasant to observe at that moment that our commander has
as straight a back as any man in the allied armies can boast.

At least four hundred thousand people were crowded around the
"Invalides." They had plenty of chance to shout. They were able to keep
their enthusiasm within bounds when first Poincaré appeared and then
Painlevé. The next celebrity was Papa Joffre and hats went into the air.
There was an interval of waiting then and a bit of a riot. An old man
who found the elbows of his neighbors disagreeable, exclaimed: "Oh, let
me have peace!" Somebody who heard the word "peace" shouted: "He's a
pacifist," and people near at hand began to hit at him. He was saved by
the coming of the American soldiers. "Vive les Teddies," shouted the
crowd and forgot the old man.

The crowd made way for the Americans as they marched toward the
"Invalides" and into the court yard where the trophies won from the
Germans are displayed. "You will bring more from the Boche," shouted a
Frenchman. French and American flags floated above the guns and
aeroplanes and minenwerfers. During the short ceremony the American
soldiers looked about curiously at the trophies and up at the dome above
the tomb of Napoleon. Many knew him by reputation and some had heard
that he was buried there.

After a short ceremony the Americans marched out of the "Invalides" and
toward the Picpus cemetery. The crowds had increased. It was hard
marching now. French children ran in between the legs of the soldiers.
French soldiers and civilians crowded in upon them. It was impossible to
keep ranks. Now the men in khaki were just a little brown stream
twisting and turning in an effort to get onward. People threw roses at
the soldiers and they stuffed them into their hats and in the gun
barrels. It was reported from several sources that one or two soldiers
who were forced out of ranks were kissed, but no one would admit it
afterwards. The youngsters in the ranks tried their best to keep a
military countenance. They endeavored to achieve an expression which
should be polite but firm, an air of having been through the same
experience many times before. Only one or two old sergeants succeeded.
The rest blushed under the cheers and entangling interest of the crowd
and they could not keep the grins away when people shouted "Vive les
Teddies" or threw roses at them. On that morning it was great to be
young and a doughboy.

On and on they went past high walls and gardens to the edge of the city
to a cemetery. There were speeches here and they were mostly French.
Ribot spoke and Painlevé and Pershing. His was English and he said: "I
hope, and I would like to say it that here on the soil of France and in
the school of the French heroes, our American soldiers may learn to
battle and to vanquish for the liberty of the world."

But the speech which left the deepest impression was the shortest of
all. Colonel Stanton stood before the tomb of Lafayette and made a
quick, sharp gesture which was broad enough to include the youngsters
from Alabama and Texas and Massachusetts and Ohio and the rest.
"Lafayette, we're here!" he said.



CHAPTER IV

THE FRANCO-AMERICAN HONEYMOON


The day after the Americans marched in Paris one of the French
newspapers referred to the doughboys as "Roman Cæsars clad in khaki."
The city set itself to liking the soldiers and everything American and
succeeded admirably. Even the taxicab drivers refrained from
overcharging Americans very much. School children studied the history of
America and "The Star Spangled Banner." There were pictures of President
Wilson and General Pershing in many shops and some had framed
translations of the President's message to Congress. In fact, so eager
were the French to take America to their hearts that they even made
desperate efforts to acquire a working knowledge of baseball.
_Excelsior_, an illustrated French daily, carried an action picture
taken during a game played between American ambulance drivers just
outside of Paris. The picture was entitled: "A player goes to catch the
ball, which has been missed by the catcher," and underneath ran the
following explanation: "We have given in our number of yesterday the
rules of baseball, the American national game, of which a game, which is
perhaps the first ever played in France, took place yesterday at
Colombes between the soldiers of the American ambulances. Here is an
aspect of the game. The pitcher, or thrower of balls, whom one sees in
the distance, has sent the ball. The catcher, or 'attrapeur,' who should
restrike the ball with his wooden club, has missed it, and a player
placed behind him has seized it in its flight."

The next day _L'Intransigeant_ undertook the even more hazardous task of
explaining American baseball slang. During the parade on the Fourth of
July some Americans had greeted the doughboys with shouts of "ataboy." A
French journalist heard and was puzzled. He returned to his office and
looked in English dictionaries and various works of reference without
enlightenment. Several English friends were unable to help him and an
American who had lived in Paris for thirty years was equally at sea. But
the reporter worked it out all by himself and the next day he wrote:
"Parisians have been puzzled by the phrase 'ataboy' which Americans are
prone to employ in moments of stress or emotion. The phrase is
undoubtedly a contraction of 'at her boy' and may be closely
approximated by 'au travail, garçon.'" The writer followed with a brief
history of the friendly relations of France and America and paid a
glowing tribute to the memory of Lafayette.

The name for the American soldiers gave the French press and public no
end of trouble. They began enthusiastically enough by calling them the
"Teddies," but General Pershing, when interviewed one day, said that he
did not think this name quite fitting as it had "no national
significance." The French then followed the suggestion of one of the
American correspondents and began to call the soldiers "Sammies," or as
the French pronounce it, "Sammees." Although this name received much
attention in French and American newspapers it has never caught the
fancy of the soldiers in the American Expeditionary Army. Officers and
men cordially despise it and no soldier ever refers to himself or a
comrade as a "Sammy." American officers have not been unmindful of the
usefulness of a name for our soldiers. Major General Sibert, who
commanded the first division when it arrived in France, posted a notice
at headquarters which read: "The English soldier is called Tommy. The
French soldier is called poilu. The Commanding General would like
suggestions for a name for the American soldier." At the end of the week
the following names had been written in answer to the General's request:
"Yank, Yankee, Johnnie, Johnny Yank, Broncho, Nephew, Gringo, Liberty
Boy, Doughboy."

Now Doughboy is a name which the soldiers use, but strictly speaking, it
refers only to an infantryman. The origin of the name is shrouded in
mystery. One officer, probably an infantryman, has written, that the
infantrymen are called doughboys because they are the flower of the
army. Another story has it that during some maneuvers in Texas an
artilleryman, comfortably perched on a gun, saw a soldier hiking by in
the thick sticky Texas mud. The mud was up to the shoetops of the
infantryman and the upper part which had dried looked almost white.
"Say," shouted the artilleryman, "what've you been doing? Walking in
dough?" And so the men who march have been doughboys ever since.

Paris did not let the lack of a name come between her and the soldiers.
The theaters gave the Americans almost as much recognition as the press.
No musical show was complete without an American finale and each
soubrette learned a little English, "I give you kees," or something like
that, to please the doughboys. The vaudeville shows, such as those
provided at the Olympia or the Alhambra, gave an even greater proportion
of English speech. The Alhambra was filled with Tommies and doughboys on
the night I went. Now and again the comedians had lapses of language and
the Americans were forced to let jokes go zipping by without response.
It was a pity, too, for they were good jokes even if French. Presently,
however, a fat comedian fell off a ladder and laughter became general
and international. The show was more richly endowed with actresses than
actors. The management was careful to state that all the male performers
had fulfilled their military obligations. Thus, under the picture of
Maurice Chevalier, a clever comedian and dancer, one read that Mons.
Chevalier was wounded at the battle of Cutry, when a bullet passed
between his lungs. The story added that he was captured by the Germans
and held prisoner for twenty-six months before he escaped. It did not
seem surprising therefore that Chevalier should be the gayest of funny
men. Twenty-six months of imprisonment would work wonders with ever so
many comedians back home.

And yet we Americans missed the old patter until there came a breath
from across the sea. A low comedian came out and said to his partner in
perfectly good English: "Well, didja like the show?" His partner said he
didn't like the show. "Well, didja notice the trained seals?" persisted
the low comedian and the lower comedian answered: "No, the wind was
against 'em." Laughter long delayed overcame us then, but it was mingled
with tears. We felt that we were home again. The French are a wonderful
people and all that, of course, but they're so darn far away.

Later there was a man who imitated Eddie Foy imperfectly and a bad
bicycle act in which the performers called the orchestra leader
"Professor" and shouted "Ready" to each other just before missing each
trick. This bucked the Americans up so much that a lapse into French
with Suzanne Valroger "dans son repertoire" failed to annoy anybody very
much. The doughboys didn't care whether she came back with her
repertoire or on it. Some Japanese acrobats and a Swedish contortionist
completed the performance. There are two such international music halls
in Paris as well as a musical comedy of a sort called "The Good Luck
Girl." The feature of this performance is an act in which a young lady
swings over the audience and invites the soldiers to capture the shoe
dangling from her right foot. The shoe is supposed to be very lucky and
soldiers try hard to get it, standing up in their seats and snatching as
the girl swings by. An American sergeant was the winner the night I went
to the show, for he climbed upon a comrade's shoulder and had the
slipper off before the girl had time to swing out very far. Later, when
he went to the trenches, the sergeant took the shoe with him and he says
that up to date he has no reason to doubt the value of the charm.

The most elaborate spectacle inspired by the coming of the Americans was
at the Folies Bergères which sent its chorus out for the final number
all spangled with stars. The leader of the chorus was an enormous woman,
at least six feet tall, who carried an immense American flag. She almost
took the head off a Canadian one night as he dozed in a stage box and
failed to notice the violent manner in which the big flag was being
swung. He awoke just in time to dodge and then he shook an accusing
finger at the Amazon. "Why aren't you in khaki?" he said.

Restaurants as well as theaters were liberally sprinkled with men in the
American uniform. The enlisted men ate for the most part in French
barracks and seemed to fare well enough, although one doughboy, after
being served with spinach as a separate course, complained: "I do wish
they'd get all the stuff on the table at once like we do in the army. I
don't want to be surprised, I want to be fed." A young first lieutenant
was scornful of French claims to master cookery. "Why, they don't know
how to fry eggs," he said. "I've asked for fried eggs again and again
and do you know what they do? They put 'em in a little dish and bake
'em."

Yet, barring this curious and barbarous custom in the cooking of eggs,
the French chefs were able to charm the palates of Americans even in a
year which bristled with food restrictions. There were two meatless days
a week, sugar was issued in rations of a pound a month per person and
bread was gray and gritty. The French were always able to get around
these handicaps. The food director, for instance, called the ice cream
makers together and ordered them to cease making their product in order
to save sugar.

"We have been using a substitute for sugar for seven months," replied
the merchants.

"Well, then," said the food director, "it will save eggs."

"We have hit upon a method which makes eggs unnecessary," replied the
ice cream makers.

"At any rate," persisted the food director, "my order will save
unnecessary consumption of milk."

"We use a substitute for that, too," the confectioners answered, and
they were allowed to go on with their trade.

The cooks are even more ingenious than the confectioners. As long as
they have the materials with which to compound sauces, meat makes little
difference. War bread might be terrapin itself after a French chef has
softened and sabled it with thick black dressing. Americans found that
the French took food much more seriously than we do in America. Patrons
always reviewed the _carte du jour_ carefully before making a selection.
It was not enough to get something which would do. The meal would fall
something short of success if the diner did not succeed in getting what
he wanted most. No waiter ever hurried a soldier who was engaged in the
task of composing a dinner. He might be a man who was going back to the
trenches the next day and in such a case this last good meal would not
be a matter to be entered upon lightly. After all, if it is a last
dinner a man wants to consider carefully, whether he shall order
_contrefilet à la Bourguignon_ or _poulet roti à l'Espagnol_.

Whatever may be his demeanor while engaged in the business of making war
or ordering a meal, the Frenchman makes his permission a real vacation.
He talks a good deal of shop. The man at the next table is telling of a
German air raid, only, naturally, he calls them Boches. A prison camp,
he explains, was brilliantly illuminated so that the Boche prisoners
might not escape under the cover of darkness. One night the enemy
aviators came over that way and mistook the prison camp for a railroad
station. They dropped a number of bombs and killed ten of their
comrades. Everybody at the soldier's table regarded this as a good joke,
more particularly as the narrator vivified the incident by rolling his
war bread into pellets and bombarding the table by way of illustration,
accompanied by loud cries of "Plop! Plop!"

Practically every man on permission in Paris is making love to someone
and usually in an open carriage or at the center table of a large
restaurant. Nobody even turns around to look if a soldier walks along a
street with his arm about a girl's waist. American officers, however,
frowned on such exhibitions of demonstrativeness by doughboys and in one
provincial town a colonel issued an order: "American soldiers will not
place their arms around the waists of young ladies while walking in any
of the principal thoroughfares of this town."

Still it was not possible to regulate romance entirely out of existence.
"There was a girl used to pass my car every morning," said a sergeant
chauffeur, "and she was so good looking that I got a man to teach me
_'bon jour,'_ and I used to smile at her and say that when she went by
and she'd say _'bon jour'_ and smile back. One morning I got an apple
and I handed it to her and said '_pour vous_' like I'd been taught. She
took it and came right back with, 'Oh, I'm ever so much obliged,' and
there like a chump I'd been holding myself down to '_bon jour_' for two
weeks."

There could be no question of the devotion of Paris to the American
army. Indeed, so rampant was affection that it was occasionally
embarrassing. One officer slipped in alighting from the elevator of his
hotel and sprained his ankle rather badly. He was hobbling down one of
the boulevards that afternoon with the aid of a cane when a large
automobile dashed up to the curb and an elderly French lady who was the
sole occupant beckoned to him and cried: "_Premier blessé_." The officer
hesitated and a man who was passing stepped up and said: "May I
interpret for you?" The officer said he would be much obliged. The
volunteer interpreter talked to the old lady for a moment and then he
turned and explained: "Madame is desirous of taking you in her car
wherever you want to go, because she says she is anxious to do something
for the first American soldier wounded on the soil of France."

The devotion of Paris was so obvious that it palled on one or two who
grew fickle. I saw a doughboy sitting in front of the Café de la Paix
one bright afternoon. He was drinking champagne of a sort and smoking a
large cigar. The sun shone on one of the liveliest streets of a still
gay Paris. It was a street made brave with bright uniforms. Brighter
eyes of obvious non-combatants gazed at him with admiration. I was
sitting at the next table and I leaned over and asked: "How do you like
Paris?"

He let the smoke roll lazily out of his mouth and shook his head. "I
wish I was back in El Paso," he said.

I found another soldier who was longing for Terre Haute. Him I came upon
in the lounging room of a music hall called the Olympia. Two palpably
pink ladies sat at the bar drinking cognac. From his table a few feet
away the American soldier looked at them with high disfavor. Surprise,
horror and indignation swept across his face in three waves as the one
called Julie began to puff a cigarette after giving a light to Margot.
He looked away at last when he could stand no more, and recognizing me
as a fellow countryman, he began his protest.

"I don't like this Paris," he said. "I'm in the medical corps," he
continued. "My home's in Terre Haute. In Indiana, you know. I worked in
a drug store there before I joined the army. I had charge of the biggest
soda fountain in town. We used to have as many as three men working
there in summer sometimes. Right at a good business corner, you know. I
suppose we had almost as many men customers as ladies."

"Why don't you like Paris?" I interrupted.

"Well, it's like this," he answered. "Nobody can say I'm narrow. I
believe in people having a good time, but----" and he leaned nearer
confidentially, "I don't like this Bohemia. I'd heard about it, of
course, but I didn't know it was so bad. You see that girl there, the
one in the blue dress smoking a cigarette, sitting right up to the bar.
Well, you may believe it or not, but when I first sat down she came
right over here and said, 'Hello, American. You nice boy. I nice girl.
You buy me a drink.' I never saw her before in my life, you understand,
and I didn't even look at her till she spoke to me. I told her to go
away or I'd call a policeman and have her arrested. I've been in Paris a
week now, but I don't think I'll ever get used to this Bohemia business.
It's too effusive, that's what I call it. I'd just like to see them try
to get away with some of that business in Terre Haute."

Some of the visiting soldiers took more kindly to Paris as witness the
plaint of a middle-aged Franco-American in the employ of the Y. M. C.
A.:

"I'm a guide for the Young Men's Christian Association here in Paris,"
he said, "but I'm a little bit afraid I'm going to lose my job. They
make up parties of soldiers at the Y. M. C. A. headquarters every day
and turn them over to me to show around the city. Well, Monday I started
out with twelve and came back with five and today I finished up with
three out of eight. I can't help it. I've got no authority over them,
and if they want to leave the party, what can I do? But it makes trouble
for me at headquarters. Now, today, for instance, I took them first of
all to the Place Vendome. There were seven infantrymen and an
artilleryman. They seemed to be interested in the column when I told
them that it was made out of cannon captured by Napoleon. They wanted to
know how many cannon it took and what caliber they were and all that.
Everything went all right until we started for the Madeleine. We passed
a café on the way and one of the soldiers asked: 'What's this "vin" I
see around on shops?' I told him that it was the French word for wine
and that it was pronounced almost like our word 'van' only a little bit
more nasal. They all looked at the sign then, and another soldier said:
'I suppose that "bières" there is "beers," isn't it?'

"I told him that it was and another guessed that 'brune ou blonde' must
mean 'dark or light.' When I said that it did, he wanted to know if he
couldn't stop and have one. I told him that I couldn't wait for him, as
the whole trip was on a schedule and we had to be at the Madeleine at
three o'clock. 'Well,' he said, 'I guess it'll be there tomorrow,' and
he went into the café. Another soldier said: 'Save a "blonde" for me,'
and followed him, and that was two gone.

"After I had showed the rest the Madeleine I told them that I was going
to take them to St. Augustin. The artilleryman wanted to know if that
was another church. I said it was and he said he guessed he'd had enough
for a day. I tried to interest him in the paintings in the chapel by
Bouguereau and Brisset, but he said he wasn't used to walking so much
anyway. He was no doughboy, he said, and he left us. We lost another
fellow at Maxim's and the fifth one disappeared in broad daylight on the
Boulevard Malesherbes. He can count up to twenty in French and he knows
how to say: 'Oú est l'hotel St. Anne?' which is army headquarters, so I
guess he's all right, but I haven't an idea in the world what became of
him."

The high tide in the American conquest of Paris came one afternoon in
July. I got out of a taxicab in front of the American headquarters in
the Rue Constantine and found that a big crowd had gathered in the
Esplanade des Invalides. Now and again the crowd would give ground to
make room for an American soldier running at top speed. One of them
stood almost at the entrance of the courtyard of "Invalides." His back
was turned toward the tomb of Napoleon and he was knocking out flies in
the direction of the Seine. Unfortunately it was a bit far to the river
and no baseball has yet been knocked into that stream. It was a new
experience for Napoleon though. He has heard rifles and machine guns and
other loud reports in the streets of Paris, but for the first time there
came to his ears the loud sharp crack of a bat swung against a baseball.
Since he could not see from out the tomb the noise may have worried the
emperor. Perhaps he thought it was the British winning new battles on
other cricket fields. But again he might not worry about that now. He
might hop up on one toe as a French caricaturist pictured him and cry:
"Vive l'Angleterre."

One of the men in the crowd which watched the batting practice was a
French soldier headed back for the front. At any rate he had his steel
helmet on and his equipment was on his back. His stripes showed that he
had been in the war three years and he had the croix de guerre with two
palms and the medaille militaire. His interest in the game grew so high
at last that he put down his pack and his helmet and joined the
outfielders. The second or third ball hit came in his direction. He ran
about in a short circle under the descending ball and at the last moment
he thrust both hands in front of his face. The ball came between them
and hit him in the nose, knocking him down.

His nose was a little bloody, but he was up in an instant grinning. He
left the field to pick up his trench hat and his equipment. The
Americans shouted to him to come back. He understood the drift of their
invitation, but he shook his head. "C'est dangéreux," he said, and
started for the station to catch his train for the front.



CHAPTER V

WITHIN SOUND OF THE GUNS


The men had traveled to Paris in passenger coaches, but when it came
time to move the first division to its training area in the Vosges our
soldiers rode like all the other allied armies in the famous cars upon
which are painted "Hommes 36; chevaux en long, 8." And, of course,
anybody who knows French understands the caption to mean that the horses
must be put in lengthwise and not folded. No restrictions are mentioned
as to the method of packing the "hommes."

The journey lay through gorgeous rolling country which was all a sparkle
at this season of the year. Presently the vineyards were left behind and
the hills became higher. Now and again there were fringes of pine trees.
At one point it was possible to see a French captive balloon floating
just beyond the hilltops, but we could not hear the guns yet. French
soldiers in troop trains and camps near the track cheered the Americans
and even a few of the Germans inside a big stockade waved at the men who
were moving forward to study war. The trains stopped at a little town
which lay at the foot of a hill. It was a mean little town, but on the
hill was the fine old tower of a castle which had once dominated the
surrounding country.

From this town, which was chosen as divisional headquarters, regiments
were sent northeast and northwest into tiny villages which were no more
than a single line of houses along the roadway. A few one-story wooden
barracks had been built for the Americans, but ninety per cent. of the
men went into billets. They were quartered in the lofts of barns of the
better sort. The billeting officers would not consider sheds where
cattle had been kept. Few troops had been quartered in this part of the
country previously and so the barns were moderately clean.

The effort to make cleanliness and sanitation something more than
relative terms was the first thing which really threatened
Franco-American amity. The decision of American officers that all manure
piles must be removed from in front of dwelling houses met a startled
and universal protest. Elderly Frenchwomen explained with great feeling
that the manure piles had been there as long as they could remember and
that no one had ever come to any harm from them. The American officers
insisted, and at last a grudging consent was forced. I saw one old lady
almost on the point of tears as she watched the invaders demolish her
manure pile. At last she could stand no more. "They make a lot of dust,"
she said critically, and went into the house.

A few days after the Americans arrived in camp came their instructors. A
crack division of Alpine Chasseurs was chosen to teach the Americans.
Nobody called these men froggies. They called them "chassers." It was
enough to see them march to know that they were fighting men. Their
stride was short and quick. Each step was taken as if the marcher was
eager to have it over and done with so that he could take another. Even
their buglers won admiration, for they had a trick of throwing their
instruments in the air and catching them again that brought envy to the
heart of every American band. Indeed, a good deal of friendly rivalry
developed from the beginning and in the early days, at least, the French
had all the better of it. They could lift heavier weights than our men,
who averaged much younger. Little Frenchmen standing five feet three or
four would seize a rifle close to the end of the bayonet and slowly
raise it with stiff arm to horizontal and down again. American farmer
boys tried and failed. Of course, this was a crack French division which
drew its men from various organizations, while our division was just the
average lot and perhaps not quite that since there was a larger
percentage of recruits than is usually found in the regular army.

Although our men were somewhat outclassed by their instructors in these
early days, they were game in their effort to keep up competition.
Almost the first work to which the troops were set was trench digging.
This is one of the most important arts of war and also the most
tiresome. Somebody has said of the Canadians: "They will die in the last
ditch, but they won't dig it." The Americans have a similar aversion for
work with pick and shovel, but trench digging came to them as a
competition. I saw a battalion of the chasseurs and a battalion of
marines set to work in a field where every other blow of the pick hit a
rock. There was no chance to loaf, for when a marine looked over his
shoulder he could see the French picks going for dear life down at the
other end of the trench. At four-thirty the men were told to call it a
day. The chasseurs leaped out of their trench; threw down their tools,
and began to sing at top voice a popular Parisian love ditty entitled
"Il faut de l'amour." One of the French officers told me afterwards that
it was the invariable custom of his men to sing at the end of work, but
the marines thought the "chassers" were merely showing off the excellent
nature of their wind. More slowly the Americans clambered out of their
trench, but they were ready when the last French note died away and
piped up somewhat breathlessly: "Hail! Hail! the gang's all here!"

American company commanders were quick to appreciate the value of
organized singing in the training of troops, and for the next few days
the doughboys were drilled to lift their voices as well as their picks.
Most of all, music was appreciated in the long hikes of the early
training period. A good song did much to make a marching man forget that
he had a fifty-pound pack on his back.

"I know I'm beginning to get a real company now," one captain told me,
"because whenever they're beginning to feel tired they start to sing and
freshen up." "No," he said, in reply to a question, "they didn't just
start. It needed a little fixing. I noticed that when the Frenchmen
stopped work they always started back to camp singing. 'We can do that,'
I told my men when we started back. 'Let's hear a little noise.' Nothing
happened. Nobody wanted to begin. They were scared the others would
laugh at them. I can't carry a tune two feet, but I just struck up
'We'll hang the damned old Kaiser to a sour apple tree' to the tune of
'John Brown's Body.' A few joined in, but most of them wouldn't open
their mouths. I told 'em, 'I'm just going to keep on marching this
company until everybody's in on the song. I don't care if we have to
march all night.' That got 'em going. Now they like it. They're thinking
up new songs every day. I can save my voice now."

One of the reasons for sending the men into the Vosges for training was
to get them within sound of the guns, but it was almost a week before we
heard any of the doings at the front. It was at night time that we first
heard the guns. It was a still, windless night and along about eight
o'clock they began. You couldn't be quite sure whether you heard them or
felt them, but something was stirring. It felt or sounded a good deal as
if some giant across the hills had slammed the door of his castle as he
left home to take the morning train for business. Up at the northern end
of the training area the sound of the guns was much more distinct. In
fact, they were loud enough some nights to become identified in the mind
as events and not mere rumblings. A Sammy up in that village stopped
our car one morning and asked if we couldn't give him a newspaper.

"I suppose you want to know how the baseball games are coming out,"
somebody suggested.

"To hell with baseball, I want to know about the war," said the soldier.
"I'm with these mules," he said, pointing to half a dozen animals
tethered on the bank of a canal. "I've been with them right from the
beginning. I came over on the same steamer with 'em. I rode up with 'em
in the train from ---- and here we are again. I don't hear nothing. They
could capture Berlin and nobody'd tell me about it. All I do is feed
these damned mules. 'Big Bill,' that one on the end, is sick, and I've
got to hang around and give him a pill every six hours. I wish he'd
choke. I don't like him as well as the rest of the mules and I hate 'em
all.

"It'll be fine, won't it, when somebody asks me: 'Daddy, what did you do
in the great war?' and I say: 'Oh, I sat up with a sick mule.'"

Back of the hills from some indefinite distance came the sound of big
guns. They raged persistently for ten minutes and then quit. "Big Bill"
began to rear around and kick. The soldier cursed him.

"Those guns were going like that all night, but mostly around two
o'clock," he said. "Nobody around here knows anything about it. I wish I
could get hold of an American paper and find out something about that
fight. I've sent to Memphis for _The News Scimitar_, but somehow it
don't seem to get here. I wish those guns was near enough to drop
something over here on the mules, especially 'Big Bill,' but I'm out of
luck."

The nearest approach of the war was in the air. It wasn't long before
German planes began to scout over the territory occupied by the
Americans. One battalion almost saw an air fight. It would have seen it
if the Major hadn't said "Attention!" just then. The battalion was
drilling in a big open meadow when there came from the East first a
whirr and then a machine. The machine, flying high, circled the field.
The soldiers who were standing at ease stared up at the visitor, but it
was too high to see the identifying marks. Soon there was no doubt that
the machine was German, for little white splotches appeared in the sky.
It looked as if Charlie Chaplin had thrown a cream pie at heaven and it
had splattered. An anti-aircraft gun concealed in a woods several miles
away was firing at the Boche. Presently the firing ceased and there was
a whirr from the West. A French plane flew straight in the direction of
the German, who climbed higher and higher. As the planes drew nearer it
was possible to see machine gun flashes, but just then the Major called
his men to attention. Regulations provide that eyes must look straight
ahead, but it was a hard test for recruits and there may have been one
or two who stole a glance up there where the planes were fighting. In
each case an officer was on the culprit like a flash.

"Keep your head still," shouted a lieutenant. "That's a private fight.
It's got nothing to do with you."

Soon the German turned and flew back in the direction of his own lines
and when the necks of the doughboys were unfettered and they could look
up again the sky was clear. Even the cream puff splotches were gone.

On another afternoon a Boche plane flew over the entire American area.
It circled a field in divisional headquarters where a baseball game was
in progress and flew home.

"I know why that German flew home after he reached ----," an officer
explained. "Don't you see? He was trying to find out if we were
Americans and that baseball game proved it to him."

The greatest aerial display occurred on a morning when a French officer
was instructing an American company in the art of trench digging. He
spoke no English, but an interpreter of a sort was making what shift he
could. The doughboys tried to look interested and didn't succeed. It was
harder when out from behind a cloud came one aeroplane, then another and
another. When half a dozen had appeared from behind the cloud one
doughboy could stand the strain no longer.

"Look," he shouted, "they're hatching them up there."

The French instructor finally granted a recess of ten minutes but
before the time was up the planes had maneuvered out of sight. In spite
of all the German activity in the air only one attempt was made to bomb
the Americans during the summer. A single bomb was dropped on a village
where the marines were stationed, but it did no damage.

The second week in the training area found the doughboys increasing
their curriculum to include bombs and machine guns. It had not been
possible to do much in the finer arts of war previously because of the
absence of interpreters. A number of these had been mobilized now but
they varied in quality. As one American officer put it, "Interpreters
may be divided into three classes: those who know no English; those who
know no French; and those who know neither."

However, the Americans managed to get their instruction in some way or
other. No interpreters were needed with the machine guns. Instead each
American company was divided up into little groups and a chasseur placed
at the head of each group. I watched the instruction and found that
little language was needed. The Frenchman would take a machine gun or
automatic rifle apart and holding up each part give its French name. The
Americans paid no particular attention to the outlandish terms which the
French used for their machine gun parts, but they were alert to notice
the manner in which the gun was put together and in the group in which I
was standing two Americans were able to put the gun together without
having any parts left over after a single demonstration.

Of course, a little language was used. Some of the marines had picked up
a little very villainous French in Hayti and they made what shift they
could with that. A few French Canadians and an occasional man from New
Orleans could converse with the chasseurs and one or two phrases had
been acquired by men hitherto entirely ignorant of French.
"Qu'est-ce-que c'est?" was used by the purists as their form of
interrogation, but there were others who tried to make "combien" do the
work. "Combien," which we pronounced "come bean," was stretched for many
purposes. I have heard it used and accepted as an equivalent for
"whereabouts," "what did you say," "why," "which one" and "will you
please show us once more how to put that machine gun together."

Not only did the Americans show an aptitude for getting the hang of the
mechanism of the machine gun and the automatic rifle, but they shot well
with them after a little bit of practice.

The first man I watched at work with the automatic rifle was green. He
had taken the gun apart and put it together again with an occasional
"regardez" and bit of demonstration from one of the Frenchmen, but the
weapon was not yet his pal. He picked the gun up somewhat gingerly and
aimed at the line of targets a couple of hundred yards away. Then he
pulled the trigger and the bucking thing, which seemed to be intent on
wriggling out of his arms, sprayed the top of the hill with bullets. The
French instructor made a laughing comment and an American who spoke the
language explained, "He says you ought to be in the anti-aircraft
service."

The next man to try his luck was a non-commissioned officer long in the
army. He patted the gun and wooed it a little in whispers before he
shot. It was a French gun, to be sure, but the language of firearms is
international. "Behave, Betsy," he said and she did. He sprayed shots
along the line of targets at the bottom of the hill as the gun clattered
away with all the clamor of a riveting machine at seven in the morning.
When they looked at the targets they found he had scored thirty hits out
of thirty-four and some were bull's-eyes. The French instructor was so
pleased that he stepped forward as if to hug the ancient sergeant but
the veteran's look of horror dissuaded him.

Bombing proved the most popular part of training and particularly as
soon as it was possible to work with the live article. First of all
dummy bombs were issued. A French officer carefully explained that the
bomb should be thrown after four moves, counting one, two, three, four,
as he posed something like a shot putter before he let the bomb go with
an overhand, stiff, armed fling. He illustrated the method several
times, but the first American to throw sent the bomb spinning out on a
line just as if he were hurrying a throw to first from deep short. The
Frenchman reproved him and explained carefully that, although it might
be possible to throw a bomb a long way in the manner in which a baseball
is thrown, it was necessary for a bomber to hurl many missiles and that
he must preserve his arm. He also pointed out that the bomb would never
land in the trenches of the enemy unless it was thrown with a
considerable arc.

The men then kept to the exercises laid down by the instructor, but just
before they stopped one or two could not resist the temptation of again
"putting something on to it" and letting the bomb sail out fast. One
lefthander who had pitched for a season in the Southern League was
anxious to make some experiments to see if he couldn't throw a bomb with
an out curve but he was informed that such an accomplishment would have
no military utility.

The first American wounded in France was the victim of a bombing
accident. A soldier threw a live bomb more than thirty meters from a
trench. When the bomb burst a fragment came whirling back in some
curious manner and fell into a box of grenades upon which a lieutenant
was sitting. The fragment cut the pin of one of the bombs and the whole
box went off with a bang. The lieutenant received only a slight cut on
his forehead, but a French interpreter thirty yards away was knocked
unconscious and lost the sight of his right eye. This Frenchman had
spent two years under fire at Verdun without being scratched and here
was his first wound come upon him on a quiet afternoon in a meadow miles
from the lines.

The men threw bombs from deep trenches and they were instructed to keep
cover closely after hurling a grenade just as if there was a German
trench across the way. But curiosity was too strong for them. Each
wanted to see where his particular bomb hit and how much earth it would
tear up. The bombs made only small scars in the earth, but they sent
fragments of steel casing flying in all directions and several men were
cut about the face by splinters.

The seeming inability of the American to visualize battle conditions in
training retards his progress in spite of his aptitude in other
directions. A French officer was directing a platoon of Americans one
day in skirmishing. They were to fire a round, run forward twenty paces,
throw themselves flat and run forward again. One doughboy would raise
himself up on his elbows and look about. The Frenchman, very much
excited, ran over to him and said, "You must keep your head down or you
will get shot. You must remember that bullets are flying all about you."

As soon as the instructor's back was turned the soldier was up on his
elbows again. "Hell," he said, "there ain't any bullets."

In later phases of training the inferiority of the American to the
French in imagination showed clearly. French veterans or recruits for
that matter could work themselves up to a frenzy in sham battles and
dash into an empty trench with a shout as if it were filled with
Germans. Americans could not do that. They found it difficult to forget
that practice was just practice.



CHAPTER VI

SUNNY FRANCE


Later on "Sunny France" became a mocking byword uttered by wet and muddy
men, but during the early days in the training area no one had any just
complaint about the weather. Come to think of it there wasn't anything
very wrong with those early days in rural France. Five o'clock was
pretty early for getting up but the sun could do it and keep cheerful.
It was glorious country with hills and forests and plowed fields and red
roofed villages and smooth white roads. The country people didn't throw
their hats in the air like Parisians, but they were kindly though calm.

"Down in ----," said a little doughboy who came from an Indiana farm,
"everybody you meet says 'bon jour' to you whether they know you or not.
That means 'good morning.' I was in Chicago once and they don't do it
there."

It wasn't Eden though. There was the tobacco situation against that
theory. To a good many soldiers, pleasant weather and kindly folk and
ample rations meant nothing much. These were minor things. The
quartermaster had no Bull Durham. When the supply of American tobacco
and cigarettes ran out the men tried the French products but not for
long. "So they call these Grenades," muttered a soldier as he examined a
popular French brand of cigarettes, "I guess that's because you'd better
throw 'em away right after you set 'em going."

French matches were less popular than French tobacco. The kind they sold
in our town and thereabouts were all tipped with sulphur and usually
exploded with a blue flame maiming the smoker and amusing the
spectators. Political economists and others interested in the law of
supply and demand may be interested to know that when the tobacco famine
was at its height a package of Bull Durham worth five cents in America
was sold by one soldier to another for five francs. This shortage has
since been relieved from several sources, but there has never been more
tobacco than the soldiers could smoke.

Reading matter was also ardently desired during the early months in the
Vosges. An enterprising storekeeper in one town sent a hurry call to
Paris for English books and a week later she proudly displayed the
following volumes on her shelves: "The Life of Dean Stanley," "Sermons
by the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon," "The Jubilee Book of Cricket," "The
Reminiscences of Sir Henry Hawkins (Lord of Brampton)," and "The
Recollections of the Rt. Hon. Sir Algernon West."

A few companies had libraries of their own. I wonder who made the
selection of titles. The volumes I picked out at random in one village
were: "The Family Life of Heinrich Heine," "Fourteen Weeks in
Astronomy," "Recollections and Letters of Renan," "Education and the
Higher Life," "Bible Stories for the Young," and "Henry the Eighth and
His Six Wives." The librarian said that the last was the most popular
book in the collection although several readers admitted that it did
not come up to expectations. Just as I was going out the top sergeant
came in to return a book. I asked him what it was. He said, "It's a book
called 'When Patty Went to College.'"

Our town was big and had moving pictures twice a week, but up the line
in the little villages there was no such source of amusement. After the
men had been in training for a week or more, a French Red Cross outfit
stopped at one of the villages with a traveling movie outfit and
announced that they would show a picture that night. According to the
announcement the picture was "Charlot en 'Le Vagabond.'" It sounded
foreign and forbidding. The doughboys anticipated trouble with the
titles and the closeups of what the heroine wrote and all the various
printed words which go to make a moving picture intelligible. Still they
were patient when the title of the picture was flashed on the screen and
they tried to look interested. The first scene was a road winding up to
a distant hill and down the highway with eccentric gait there walked a
little man strangely reminiscent. He drew nearer and nearer and as the
figure came into full view the soldier in front of me could stand the
strain no longer. He jumped to his feet.

"I'm a son of a gun," he shouted, "if it isn't Charlie Chaplin."

Recognition upon the part of the audience was instantaneous and
enthusiasm unbounded. If the Americans go out tomorrow and capture
Berlin they cannot possibly show more joy than they did at the sight of
Charlie Chaplin in France. Never again will the French be able to fool
them by disguising him as "Charlot."

After a bit the soldiers learned to entertain themselves and several
companies developed a number of talented performers. The first company
show I attended mixed boxing and music. They began with boxing. There
was a short intermission during which the first tenor fixed up a bloody
nose. He had received a bit the worst of it in the heavyweight bout. The
other members of the quartet gave him cotton and encouragement. Finally
he put on his shirt and hitching up his voice, began, "Naught but a few
faded roses can my sweet story tell." His comrades joined him at "My
heart was ever light," and they finished the ballad in perfect
alignment.

Almost all the songs were sentimental and many were old. They had
"Dearie," and "Where the River Shannon Flows," and that one about
Ireland falling out of Heaven (just as if the devil himself had not done
the very same thing). Later there were "Mother Machree" and "Old
Kentucky Home." Patriotism was not neglected. "When I Get Back Home
Again to the U.S.A." was the favorite among the recent war songs. The
only savor of army life in the program on this particular evening was in
a couple of Mexican songs brought up from the border by men who went to
get Villa. They brought back "Cucaracha" with all its seventeen obscene
Spanish verses. There was also one parody inspired by this war and sung
to the tune of "My Little Girl, I'm Dreaming of You." It went something
like this:

    America, I'm dreaming of you
    And I long for you each day
    America, I'm fighting for you
    Tho' you're many miles away
    We'll knock the block right off the Kaiser
    And we'll drive them 'cross the Rhine--
    And then we'll sail back home to you, dear
    To the tune of "Wacht am Rhein"!

The American soldier does not seem to be much of a song maker. Songs by
soldiers and for soldiers are not common with us yet. We have nothing as
close to the spirit of the trenches as the British ditty "I want to go
home," which always leaves the auditor in doubt as to whether he should
take it seriously and weep or humorously and laugh. Possibly there is
something of both elements in the song. The mixture has been typical of
the British attitude toward the war. Here is the song:

    I want to go 'ome
    I want to go 'ome
    The Maxims they spit
    And the Johnsons they roar
    I don't want to go to the front any more
    Oh take me over the seas
    Where the Alley-mans can't get at me
    Oh my; I don't want to die,
    I want to go 'ome.

The American army is still looking for a song. None of the new ones has
achieved universal popularity. However the many who heard the quartet of
Company L sing on this particular evening seemed to have no objection to
the old songs. In fact they were new to many in the audience for as the
concert went on French soldiers joined the audience and townspeople hung
about the edges of the crowd. They listened politely and applauded,
though indeed one must get a strange impression of America if his
introduction is through our popular songs. Such a foreigner is in danger
of believing that ours is a June land in which the moon is always
shining upon a young person known as "little girl." Yet the French
expressed no astonishment at the songs. Only one feature puzzled them
profoundly. At the end of a particularly effective song the captain
said, "Those men sang that very well. Bring 'em each a glass of water."

No villager could quite understand why a man who had committed no more
palpable crime than tenor singing should be forced to partake of a
drink which is cold, tasteless and watery.

Most the villages in our part of France had only one dimension. They
consisted of a line of houses on either side of the roadway and they
were always huddled together. Land is too valuable in France to waste it
on lawns and suchlike. Some of the villages were tiny and shabby, but
none was too small or too mean to be without its little café. It took
the doughboys some little time to get over their interest in the
startling fact that champagne was within the reach of the working man,
but they went back to beer in due course and now champagne is among the
things which shopkeepers must not sell to American soldiers. The
prohibition of the sale of cognac and champagne is all that the army
needs. Beer and light wines are not a menace to the health or behavior
of our army. Beer is by far the most popular drink and it would be an
ambitious man indeed who would seek the slightest deviation from
sobriety in the thin war beer of France. He might drown.

Absolute prohibition for the army in France would be well nigh
impossible. It would mean that every inn and shop and railroad station
and farmhouse would have to be classed as out of bounds. In fact
prohibition could not be enforced unless our soldiers were ordered never
to venture within four walls. Wine is to be had under every roof in
France and you can get it also in not a few places where the roof has
been shot to pieces. The French are interested in temperance just now.
On many walls posters are exhibited showing a German soldier and a black
bottle with the caption, "They are both the enemies of France," but when
a Frenchman talks of temperance or prohibition or the abolition of the
liquor traffic he never thinks of including wine or beer. The civil
authorities of France would not be much use in helping the American army
enforce a bone-dry order. They simply wouldn't understand it.

There was some excessive drinking when the army first came to France but
it has been checked. A number of influences have made for discretion.
One of the most potent is the opportunity for promotion in an army in
the field. Officers have been quick to point this out to their men. One
captain called his company together in the early days and said, "Some of
the men in this company are going out and getting pinko, stinko, sloppy
drunk. Any man who gets drunk goes in the guard house of course and more
than that he will get no promotion from me. I'm going to pick my
sergeants from the fellows that have got sense. You may notice that some
of the men who drink are old soldiers. Don't take an example from that.
Remember that's why they're old soldiers. There isn't any sense in
blowing all your money in for booze. Now if I took my pay in a lump at
the end of a month I could buy every café in this town and I could stay
drunk for a year. That would be fine business, wouldn't it?"

"I guess maybe I exaggerated a little about the length of time I could
stay drunk," the captain told me afterwards, "but do you know that talk
seems to have done the trick."

One factor which worked for temperance was the French fashion of making
drinking deliberate and social. When an American can be induced to sit
down to his potion he is comparatively safe. These little village cafés
did no harm after the first brief period when the American soldier had
his fling and they served the good purpose of encouraging fraternization
between doughboy and poilu.

The contact with French soldiers brought no great vocabulary to our men
but if they learned few words they did get the hang of making their
wants understood. In a week or two innkeepers or women in shops had no
trouble at all in attending to the wants of Americans. Probably the
French people made somewhat faster linguistic progress than the
soldiers. The Americans were willing to be met at least halfway. When I
asked one doughboy, "How do you get along with the French? Can you make
them understand you?" he said, "Why, they're coming along pretty well. I
think most of 'em will pick it up in time."

But there was one French word the soldiers had to learn. That was
"fineesh." The children forced that word upon them. They were always at
the heels of the American soldiers. They galloped the doughboys up and
down the village streets in furious piggyback charges. They borrowed jam
from company cooks and rode in the supply trucks. Of course there had to
be an end to the rides, sometimes, and even to the jam and the only way
to convince the children of France that an absolute unshakable limit had
been reached was to thrust two hands aloft and cry "fineesh." The old
women liked the doughboys too because they would draw water from the
wells for them and occasionally lend a hand in moving wood or wheat or
fodder. Nor do I mean to imply that the younger women of the little
villages did not esteem the doughboys. "Tell 'em back home that there
aren't any good looking women in France," was the message that ever so
many soldiers asked me to convey to anxious individuals in America. I
hand the message on but must refuse to pass upon its sincerity.

American officers got along well with the French but they never reached
the same degree of chumminess that the men did. They met French officers
at more or less formal luncheons and had to go through a routine of
speeches largely concerned with Lafayette and Rochambeau and Washington.
Poilus and doughboys did not go so far back for their subjects of
conversation. The American enlisted man had a great advantage over his
officer in the matter of language. He might know less French, but he was
much more ready to experiment. An officer did not like to make mistakes.
His was defensive French, a weapon to be used guardedly in cases of
extreme need. When a visiting officer hurled a compliment at him he
replied, but he seldom took the initiative. After all he was an American
officer and he feared to make himself ridiculous by poor pronunciation
and worse grammar. The soldier had no such scruples. He saw no reason
why he should be any more abashed by French grammar than by English and
as for pronunciation he followed the advice of a little pamphlet called
"The American in France" which was rushed out by some French firm for
sale to the American army. In the matter of pronunciation the book said,
"Since pronunciation is the most difficult part of any language the
publishers of this book have decided to omit it." The soldiers were
ready to adopt this method and only wished that it could be extended to
other things. To trench digging for instance.

The most daring man in the use of an unfamiliar language was not a
soldier but a second lieutenant. He took great pride in his talent for
pantomime and asserted that his vocabulary of some thirty words and his
gestures filled all his needs. He was somewhat startled though on an
afternoon when he went into a shop to purchase "B.V.D.'s" and found the
store in charge of the young daughter of the proprietor. Pantomime
seemed hardly the thing and so he paused long to think up a word for the
garment he wanted or some approximation. At last he smiled and exclaimed
brightly, "Chemise pour jambes, s'il vous plait."

Stores were not the strong point of our bit of France. We soon came to
regard our town as a metropolis because people journeyed there to make
"shopping tours." One afternoon I marked fifteen visiting soldiers with
their eyes glued against a shop window which displayed half a dozen
electric flashlights, two quarts of champagne, a French-English
dictionary and a limited assortment of postcards. These, of course, were
barred from the mail by censorship but the soldiers collected them to be
taken home after the war.

"These French postcards aren't exactly what some of the boys back home
are going to expect," one soldier admitted. "I went to three shops now
but the others have been ahead of me and all I could get was these two.
One's a picture called 'l'eglise' and the other's 'la maison de Jeanne
d'Arc.'"

The shops had hard work in keeping up with more commodities than picture
postcards. There seemed to be an insatiable demand for canned peaches
and sardines. Somehow or other men who have been on a long march simply
crave either sardines or canned peaches. The doughboys did a good deal
of eating at their own expense. Army food was plentiful and moderately
varied. Beans and corned beef hash were served a good many times
perhaps, but there was no lack of fresh meat and there was plenty of jam
and of carrots and onions and heavy gravy. Food, however, was an outlet
for spending money and in some villages the men got so eager that they
would buy anything. Little traveling shops in wagons came through the
smaller villages in the northern part of the training area loaded with
all sorts of gimcracks intended for the peasant trade. The peddlers had
no time to put in a special line for the soldiers. They found that it
was not necessary. Desperate men with pockets full of money would
purchase even the imitation tortoise shell sidecombs which the itinerant
merchants had to sell.

The purchasing capacity of the soldier was not limited to his pay alone.
The villagers were wildly excited about the white bread issued to the
American army. It was the first they had seen since the second year of
the war. One old lady seized a loaf which was presented to her and
crying "il est beau," sat down upon a doorstep and began to eat the
bread as if it were cake. The rate of exchange fluctuated somewhat but
there were days when a loaf of white bread could be exchanged for a
whole roast chicken.

The eagerness of the American soldier to spend his money had the result
of tempting French storekeepers to raise their prices and as the cost of
living mounted the civilian population began to complain. Even the
soldiers had suspicions at last that they were being charged too much in
some stores and the American officers took over price control as another
of their many responsibilities.

"I went to the mayor," one town major explained, "and I said, 'Look
here, Bill, I don't mind 'the shopkeepers putting a little something
over. All I ask is that they just act reasonable. They'll get all the
money in time anyhow, and so I wish you'd tip them off not to be in so
much of a hurry.' He couldn't talk any English, that mayor couldn't, but
the interpreter told him about it and he went right to the front for us.
From that day to this we've had only one complaint about anything in our
village. That came from an old lady who had some doughboys billeted in a
barn next to the shed where she kept her sheep. She came to me and said
the soldiers talked so much at night that the sheep couldn't sleep."



CHAPTER VII

PERSHING


Nobody will ever call him "Papa" Pershing. He is a stepfather to the
inefficient and even when he is pleased he says little. In the matter of
giving praise the General is a homeopath. For that reason he can gain
enormous effect in the rare moments when he chooses to compliment a man
or an organization. Pershing believes that discipline is the foundation
of an army.

"I think," said one young American officer, "that his favorite military
leader is Joshua because he made the sun and the moon stand at
attention." In other words Pershing is a soldiers' soldier. No man can
strike such hard blows as he does and leave no scars. There are men here
and there in the army who do not love him but their criticism almost
invariably ends, "but I guess I'll have to admit that he's a good
soldier."

Pershing is not a disciplinarian merely for the sake of discipline but
he believes that it is the gauge of the temper of any military
organization. His interest in detail is insatiable. He can read a man's
soul through his boots or his buttons. Next to the Kaiser, Pershing
hates nothing so much as rust and dust and dirt. Perhaps round shoulders
should go in the list as well, and pockets. Certainly he makes good the
things he preaches. There is no finer figure in any army in Europe. The
General is fit from the tip of his glistening boots to his hat top. We
saw him once after he had walked through a front line trench on a rainy
day. There were sections of that trench where the mud was over a man's
shoetops and the back area which had to be crossed before the trench
system was reached was a great lake of casual water fed at its fringes
by roaring rain torrents. And yet the general came out of the trench
without a speck of mud on his boots in spite of the fact that he had
plunged along with no apparent regard for his footing.

There was dust behind him, though, on the afternoon he first came to
the training area to see his men. News reached our town that the general
was up in the northern end of the training zone and moving fast. An
officer passing by gave me a lift in his car and when we arrived at the
next village half a dozen soldiers who were sitting on a bench jumped up
for dear life and jarred themselves to the very heels with the stiffest
of military salutes.

The officer grinned. "Pershing's in town," he said and so he was.

We found him in a kitchen talking about onions to a cook. He asked each
soldier in turn what sort of food he was getting. Some were too
frightened to do more than mumble an inaudible answer. A few said, "Very
good, sir." And one or two had complaints. The General listened to the
complaints attentively and in each case pressed his questions so as to
make the soldier be absolutely concrete in his answers. Next he turned
upon an officer and wanted to know just what the sewage system of the
town was. The officer was a dashing major and he seemed ill at ease when
Pershing asked how many days a week he inspected the garbage dump.

"That isn't enough," said the General when the major answered. "I want
you to pay more attention to those things."

From the kitchen he went into every billet in the village. In two he
climbed up the ladders to see what sort of sleeping quarters the men had
in their lofts. In one billet a soldier stole a look over his shoulder
at the General as he passed. Pershing turned immediately.

"That's not the way to be a soldier," he said. "You haven't learned the
first principle of being a soldier." He turned to a second lieutenant.
"This man doesn't stand at attention properly," he explained. "I want
you to make him stand at attention for five minutes."

The next offender was a captain who had one hand in his pocket while
giving an order. The General spoke to him just as severely as he had to
the enlisted man. Then he was into his car and away to the next village.

Pershing is always on the move. One of his aides told me that he never
had more than five minutes' notice of where the General was going or
how long he would stay. No man in the army has covered so much territory
as Pershing. He has been in practically every village occupied by the
American troops. He has inspected every hospital and every training
camp. One day he will be at a port looking at the accommodations which
are being made for incoming vessels and on the next he will have jumped
from the base to a front line trench. He has been on all the Western
fronts except the Italian. His French and British and Belgian hosts find
him a most ambitious guest. He wants to see everything. Once while
observing a French offensive he expressed a desire to go forward and see
a line of trenches which had just been captured from the Germans. The
French tried to dissuade him but the General complained that he could
not see just how things were going from any other position and so into
the German trench he went.

Pershing has developed in France. Like every other man in the American
army he has had to study modern warfare, but more than that he has
caught something of the spirit of the French. He has acquired some of
their ability to put a gesture into command, to utilize personality in
the inspiration of troops. He is not yet the equal of the French in this
respect. Joffre, for instance, fully realized the military usefulness of
his enormous popularity and capitalized it. It was not mere luck that he
became a tradition. Pétain, while by no means the equal of Joffre on the
personal side, knows how to talk to soldiers and to townsfolk and to
make himself a big human force.

While he is still a homeopath, General Pershing realizes more than he
ever did before the value of a pat on the back given at the right time.
I saw him do one of those little gracious things in a base hospital
which was caring for the first American wounded. A youthful doughboy was
lying flat on his back wondering just how long it was going to be before
supper time came round when all of a sudden there was a clatter at the
door. The doughboy was afraid it was going to be some more nurses and
doctors. They had bothered him a lot by bandaging up his arm every
little while and it hurt, but when he looked up at the foot of his bed
there stood the man with four stars on his shoulders. The little
doughboy grinned a bit nervously. He thought it was funny that he should
be lying on his back and General Pershing standing up.

The General was somewhat nervous and embarrassed, too. He still lacks a
little of the French feeling for the dramatic in the doing of these
little things. He had to clear his throat once and then he said, "I want
to congratulate you. I envy you. There isn't a man in the army who
wouldn't like to be in your place. You have brought home to the people
of America the fact that we are in the war."

The doughboy didn't say anything, but the nurse who made the rounds that
evening wondered why a patient who was doing so well should have a pulse
hitting up to ninety-six.

Earlier in the summer General Pershing encountered some far more
embarrassing tests. He had to handle bouquets. The donor was usually a
French girl and a very little one. When Pershing and Pétain made a joint
trip through the American army zone there were two little girls and two
bouquets in each village. General Pétain, after receiving his bouquet,
would bend over gracefully and kiss the little girl, adding one or two
kindly phrases immediately following "ma petite." General Pershing began
by patting the little girls on the head, but he realized it was not
enough and after a bit he began to kiss them, too; only once or twice he
got tangled up in their hats and found it hard to maintain military
dignity. He handled the flowers gingerly. He seemed to regard each
bouquet as a bomb which would explode in five seconds but each time
there was some aide ready to step forward and relieve him.

The attitude of the average West Pointer towards his men is generally
speaking the same as that of General Pershing. Some observers think the
West Point attitude too strict, but I was inclined to believe that the
men from the academy handled men better than the reserve officers. They
are strict, it is true, but at the same time they have been trained to
look after the needs of their men closely. The trouble with the average
reserve officer is that he has not had time to learn how much he must
father his men and mother them, too, for that matter. He does not know
probably just how dependent the average soldier is upon his officer.

Perhaps the strictest officer of all is the man who was once a non-com.
The former doughboy knows the tricks of the enlisted man and he is
determined that nobody shall put anything over on him. He is often just
a little bit afraid that the soldiers are going to trade on the fact
that he was once an enlisted man. I once saw a soldier offer some cigars
to two officers. One of the officers was a West Pointer and he laughed
and took a cigar but the former non-com. refused very sternly. He could
not afford to be indebted to an enlisted man.

I do not wish to imply that the men who come up from the ranks do not
make good officers. As a matter of fact they are among the best, once
their preliminary self-consciousness has worn off. The transition from
stripes to bars is perfect torture to some of them. One company had a
crack soldier who had been a sergeant for seven years. He was
recommended for promotion and was sent to an officers' training school
in France. He did very well but just a week before he was to receive his
commission he succeeded in gaining permission to be dropped from the
school and go back to his old company as sergeant. At the last minute he
had decided that he did not want to be an officer.

I watched him put a company through its drill two days after his return.
They moved with spirit and precision under his commands but when it was
all over I found one reason why he didn't want to be an officer.

"That was very good today," he said. "You done well."

The first lieutenant smiled. He had a right to smile, too, for the
return of the sergeant to his company had almost cut his work in half.
He knew his value well enough.

"The best I can do is teach the men," he said. "It takes an old sergeant
to learn them."



CHAPTER VIII

MEN WITH MEDALS


General Pétain was the first of many famous Frenchmen who came to see
the American troops in training. He also had the additional object of
reviewing the chasseurs and of distributing medals, for this crack
division had been withdrawn from one of the most active sectors to
instruct the doughboys. General Pershing accompanied Pétain. The blue
devils were drawn up in formation in the middle of a big meadow cupped
within hills. The seven men who were to be honored stood in a line in
front of the division. Six were officers and they awaited the pleasure
of the general with their swords held at attention. The seventh man who
stood at the right of the little line was an old sergeant with a great
flowing gray and white mustache. The rifle which he held in front of him
overtopped him by at least a foot.

The ceremony began with a fanfare by the trumpeters. As the last notes
came tumbling back from the hills Pétain moved forward. We found that he
was not so tall as Pershing nor quite as straight. The French leader is
also a little gray and about his waist there is just a suggestion of the
white man's burden. But he is soldierly for all that and his eyes are
marvelously keen and steady. His tailor deserved a decoration. The
general wore only one medal, but that was as large as the badge of a
country sheriff. It was a great silver shield hung about his neck and
indicated that he was a commander of the Legion of Honor. He stopped in
front of the first officer in the little line waiting to be honored and
spoke to him for a moment. Then he pinned a red ribbon on his coat and
kissed the man first on the left cheek and then on the right. The
doughboys looked on in amazement.

"Well, I'll be damned," said one under his breath, "it's true."

Four men received the red ribbons, but the other three were down only
for the military medal which is a high decoration but less esteemed
than the Legion of Honor. No kisses went with the green and yellow
ribbons of the military medal but only handshakes. Pétain stopped in
front of the old sergeant at the end of the line and looked at him for a
minute without speaking. Then he called an orderly.

"This man has three palms on his croix de guerre," said Pétain.

Now a palm means that soldier has been cited for conspicuous bravery in
the report of the entire army.

"The military medal is not enough for this man," continued Pétain. "Step
forward," he said.

The old sergeant trembled a little as he stood a tiny, solitary gray
figure in front of the whole division.

"Bring back the trumpets," Pétain commanded and for the lone poilu the
fanfare was sounded again.

"I make you a chevalier of the Legion of Honor," said the commander in
chief of the French army to the old sergeant, and after he had pinned
the red ribbon to his breast he added a hug to the conventional two
kisses. The poilu moved back to the ranks steadily, but as soon as the
general had turned his back the sergeant pulled out his handkerchief and
wept. The soldiers greeted their comrade with cheers and laughter.

"Now," said Pétain turning to Pershing, "let's take it easy for a little
while. I've seen plenty of reviews."

The French general walked across the space cleared for the review and
began to talk with people in the fringe of spectators gathered around
the edge of the meadow. He talked easily without any seeming
condescension.

"How are you, my little man?" he said, patting a boy on the head. "In
what military class are you?"

Encouraged by his father the boy said that he was in the class of 1928.

"Oh," said the general, "that's a long time off. We shall have beaten
the Boches before then."

Next it was a peasant girl who attracted his attention.

"Where have you come from?" he inquired with as much apparent interest
as if he were talking with a soldier just back from Berlin. "That was a
long walk just to see soldiers," he said when the girl told him that she
lived in a little village about ten miles distant. "But we are glad to
have you here," he added.

And so he moved on down the line with handshakes for the grownups, pats
on the head for little boys and kisses for little girls. He turned back
to his reviewing station then and the French troops swept by with brave
display: They were very smart and brisk, horse, foot and artillery, but
Pétain found a few things to criticize although he mingled praise
generously with censure. He told the officers to know their men and to
get on such terms with them that the soldiers would not be afraid to
speak freely. He told of reforms which he planned to introduce in the
French army. He favored longer leaves from the front, he said, and
better transportation for the poilus.

"I shall have time tables made for the men on leave," he said and then
for an instant he became the shrewd French business man rather than the
dashing general.

"I have figured out," he explained, "that the army can afford to sell
these time tables for five sous. It wouldn't do to give them away.
Nobody would value them then."

A week later we had another visitor. French generals and all their
resplendent aides clicked their heels together and stood at attention as
this civilian passed by. He was a short stoutish man in blue serge
knickerbockers and a dark yachting cap. His tailor deserved no
decoration for this seemed a secondary sort of costume and headgear in a
group loaded down with gold braid and valor medals. But their swords
flashed for the man in the yachting cap and a great general saw him into
his car, for the stoutish visitor was the President of the French
Republic. Generals Pétain and Pershing accompanied Poincaré in his car
up to the drill ground. It was an American division which marched this
morning. In fact it was the same unit which had marched through the
streets of the port only a few months before. They had grown browner and
straighter since that day and they looked taller. Group consciousness
had dawned in them now. The only lack of discipline was shown by the
mules. It must be admitted that the mule morale left much to be desired.
Many were new to the task of dragging machine guns and those that did
not sulk tried to run away. Strong arms and stronger words prevailed
upon them.

"Remember," the driver would plead, "you have a part in making the world
safe for democracy," and in a trice all the evil would flee from the
eyes and the heels of the unruly animals.

A number of bands helped to keep the men swinging into the face of a
driving rain. The French officers who accompanied Pétain and Poincaré
were somewhat surprised when one regiment went by to the tune of
"Tannenbaum," but General Pershing explained that it had been played in
America for years under the name of "Maryland, My Maryland." He had a
harder task some minutes later when a band struck up a regimental hymn
called "Happy Heinie," which borrows largely from "Die Wacht am Rhein"
for its chorus.

As soon as the troops marched by, General Pershing sent orders for all
the officers to assemble. They gathered in a great half circle before
the French President who spoke to them slowly and with much earnestness.
Indeed, he spoke so slowly that fair scholars could follow his
discourse. Even those who could grasp no more than such words as
"Lafayette" and "President Wilson" and "la guerre" listened with
apparent interest. M. Poincaré called attention to the fact that the day
was the anniversary of the Battle of the Marne and also the birthday of
Lafayette. These days, he said, linked together the two nations which
were making a common cause in the struggle for civilization and he ended
with a dramatic sweep of his arm as he exclaimed, "Long live the free
United States." However, he called it Les Etats Unis which made it more
difficult.

"What did he say?" a group of doughboys asked a sergeant chauffeur who
had been stationed near enough to hear the speech. "I didn't get it
all," said the sergeant, "but it sounded a good deal like 'give 'em
hell.'"

The President and his party spent the rest of the afternoon inspecting
the billets of the Americans. In one barn Poincaré insisted on climbing
up a ladder to see the quarters at close range and as he climbed slowly
and clumsily it came to my mind that the presidential waist line, the
knickerbockers and the yachting cap were all symbols of the fact that
France even in war was still a civil democracy.

Still it must be admitted that the next civilian we saw was more warlike
than any of the soldiers. The only military equipment worn by Georges
Clemenceau was a pair of leather puttees which didn't quite fit, but he
had eyes and eyebrows and a jaw which all combined to suggest pugnacity.
He was not then premier and indeed he had been in political retirement
for some time, but he made a greater impression on the soldiers than any
of our visitors because he spoke in English. It was on September 16,
1917, that Clemenceau saw American soldiers, but he had seen them once
before and that was in Richmond in 1864 when Grant marched into the
city. Clemenceau was then a school teacher in America. The old Frenchman
watched the sons and grandsons of those dead and gone fighters and
expressed the wish that he might see American troops once again when
they marched into Berlin.

The doughboys he saw in France were not the seasoned troops which swung
by him on those dusty Virginia roads so many years ago, but in their
hands were new weapons which might have turned the tide at Bull Run and
changed Gettysburg from victory into a rout. Certainly Pickett would
have never swept up to the Union lines if there had been machine guns
such as those with which the rookies blistered the targets for the
edification of the distinguished guests and the bombs which sent the
pebbles sky high might have given pause even to Stonewall Jackson.

There were sports as well as military exercises in the program arranged
for Clemenceau. There were footraces and a tug of war and boxing
matches. In one of these American blood was freely shed on French soil
for a middleweight against whom the tide of battle was turning butted
his opponent and cut his forehead.

I did not see Joffre when he paid a visit to the army zone and reviewed
the troops but he left a glamor for us all in our messroom where he had
dinner with General Pershing. It was a reporterless dinner so it meant
less to us than to Henriette who served the dinner for the two generals.
Nothing much had ever happened to Henriette before. She looked like
Jeanne d'Arc, but the only voices she ever heard cried, "L'eau chaude,
Henriette," or "Hot water" or "OEufs" or "Eggs." And if they were not
wanted right away they must be had "toute de suite."

It was Henriette who brushed the boots and cleaned the dishes and swept
the floors and every night she waited on peasants and peddlers and
reporters. Once she had a major in the reserve corps. He was attached to
the quartermaster's department. But on the historic night she stood at
the right elbow of General Joffre and the left elbow of General
Pershing. I was away at the time and the correspondents were telling me
about it before dinner. While we were talking she came into the room
with the roast veal and I said, "Henriette, they tell me that while I
was away you waited upon Marshal Joffre and General Pershing."

One of the men at the table made a warning gesture, but it was too late.
Henrietta put the hot veal down to cool on a side table and pointed to
the seat nearest the window. A large man from a press association sat
there but she looked through him and saw the hero of the Marne.
"Maréchal Joffre là," said Henriette. She turned to a nearer seat and
pointing to the shrinking representative of the Chicago _Tribune_
explained, "General Pearshing ici."

One of the men rose from the table then and got the veal. Something was
said about fried potatoes, but Henriette remained to tell me about the
historic dinner. She admitted that she was very nervous at first. That
was increased by the fact that General "Pearshing" ate none of his
pickled snails. The Maréchal had fifteen. The soup went well, Henriette
said, and General Pearshing cheered her up enormously by his conduct
with the mutton. The chicken was also a success. After the chicken the
generals held their glasses in the air and stood up. Henriette noticed
that when Maréchal Joffre stood up he was "gros comme une maison."

As he left the room Maréchal Joffre pinched her cheek but the mark was
gone before she could show it to the cook. For all that Henriette had
something to show that she waited upon generals at the famous dinner.
She opened a new locket which she wore around her neck and took out a
small piece of gilt paper. She would not let me touch it, but when I
looked closely I saw that it had printed upon it "Romeo and Juliet."

"It's the band off the cigar Pershing smoked at the dinner," explained
one of the correspondents. Henriette put the treasure back in her locket
and sighed. "Je suis très contente," she said.



CHAPTER IX

LETTERS HOME


The British army tells a story of a soldier who had been at the front
for a year and a half without ever once writing home. This state of
affairs was called to the attention of his officer who summoned the
soldier and asked him if he had no relatives. The Tommy admitted that he
had a mother and an aunt.

"I want you to go back to quarters," said the captain, "and stay there
until you've written a letter. Then bring it to me."

The soldier was gone for two hours and then he returned and handed the
officer a single sheet of letter paper. His note read, "Dear Ma--This
war is a blighter. Tell auntie. With love--Alfred."

It was different in the American army. The doughboys wrote to their
families to the second and third cousin. One soldier turned fifty-two
letters over to his lieutenant for censorship in a single day. The men
hardly seemed to need the suggestion posted on the wall of every
Y.M.C.A. hut: "Remember to write to mother today." Of course it was not
always mother. I came upon a couple of lieutenants one afternoon hard at
work on an enormous batch of letters. It was originally intended that
the chaplain should censor all the mail for the regiment but it was
found that the task would be far beyond the powers of any one man. In
time the job came to absorb a large part of the energy of the junior
officers.

"This," said one of the officers, "is the fifth soldier who's written
that 'our officers are brave, intelligent and kind!' I know I'm brave
and intelligent, but I'm not so damned kind," and he ripped out half a
page of over faithful description of the country.

"The man I have here," said the second officer, "has got a joke. He
says, 'If I ever get home the Statue of Liberty will have to turn round
if she ever wants to see me again.' It was all right the first time, but
now I've got to his tenth letter and he's still using it."

It has been found that more than fifty per cent. of the mail sent home
consists of love letters. The fact that they have to be censored does
not cramp the style of the writers in the least. One letter was so
ardent as to arouse admiration. "This man writes the best love letter I
ever read," said a lieutenant, looking up. "The only trouble is that
he's writing to five girls at once and he uses the same model every
time. Two of the girls live in the same town at that."

Most of the letters were cheerful. Some courageously so. One man who was
near death from tuberculosis wrote home once a day recounting imaginary
events which had happened outside the walls of his hospital. In his
letters he would send himself on long marches over the hills of France
and describe the woods and meadows and plowed fields as they looked to
him on bright mornings. He described in detail work which he was doing
in bombing and the only complaint he ever made was on a day when he had
coughed himself to such weakness that he could hardly finish his daily
letter. He wrote to his mother then and asked her to excuse the
briefness of his note. He explained that he was pretty well fagged out
from a long afternoon of bayonet drill.

The soldiers frequently commented on the kindliness of the French people
and they were also fond of boasting, with perhaps doubtful
justification, that they were already proficient in the French language.
A few were desirous of giving the folk back home a thrill. One man
working as company cook at a port in France, some three or four hundred
miles from the firing line, wrote a weekly letter describing all sorts
of war activities. He made up air raids and heavy bombardments and
fairly tore up the village in which he was living. Curiously enough he
never made himself conspicuous in these actions. According to the
letters he was just there with the rest taking the "strafing" as best he
could.

The officer who censored his first warlike letter cut out all the
imaginative flights, but two days later the soldier wrote another letter
even more thrilling. He complained that it was difficult to write
because the explosion of big shells nearby made the house rock.

The lieutenant called him up then and said, "You're writing a lot of
lies home, aren't you?"

"Yes, sir," said the soldier.

"Well, what are you doing it for?" continued the officer.

The soldier shifted about in embarrassment and then he said, "Well, you
see, sir, those letters are to my father. He went into the Union army
when he was sixteen and fought all through the last two years of the
war. He lives in a little town in Ohio and the people there call him
'Fighting Bill' on account of what he did in the Civil War. Well, when I
went away to this war he began to go round town and tell everybody that
I was going to do fighting that would make 'em all forget about the
Civil War. He used to say that I came of fighting stock and that I'd
make 'em sit up and take notice. It would be pretty tough for him, sir,
if I had to write home and say that I was cooking down in a town where
you can't even hear the guns."

"That's all right," said the lieutenant, "but some of the people who've
got sons in this regiment will be doing a lot of worrying long before
they have any need to."

"No, sir," said the soldier, "my father don't know what regiment I'm
with. I was transferred when I got over here and the only address he's
got is the military post office number."

"I don't know what to say in that case," replied the lieutenant. "It's a
cinch you're not giving away any military information and I can't see
how you're giving, any aid and comfort to the enemy. I guess you can go
on with that battle stuff. Make the bombardments just as hard as you
like, but keep the casualties light."

In contrast to the attitude of the veteran back in Ohio was a letter
which a captain received from the mother of one of his men.

"My son is only nineteen," she wrote. "He has never been away from home
before and it breaks my heart that he should be in France. It may sound
foolish but I want to ask you a favor. When he was a little boy I used
to let him come into the kitchen and bake himself little cakes. I think
he would remember some of that still. Can't you use him in the bakery or
the kitchen or some place so he won't have to be put in the firing line
or in the trenches? I will pray for you, captain, and I pray to God we
may have peace for all the world soon."

The captain read the letter and then he burned it up. "If the rest of
the men in the company heard of that they would jolly the life out of
that boy," he said. But he sat down and wrote to the mother, "Your boy
is well and I think he is enjoying his work. I cannot promise to do what
you ask because your son is one of the best soldiers in my company. We
are all in this together and must share the dangers. I pray with you
that there may be peace and victory soon."

No complete story of America's part in the war will ever be written
until somebody has made a collection and read thousands of the letters
home. The doughboy is strangely inarticulate. He can't or he won't tell
you how he felt when he first landed in France, or heard the big guns
or went to the trenches. He is afraid to be caught in a sentimental pose
but this fear leaves him when he writes. In his letters he will pose at
times. This is not uncommon. Many a man who would never think of saving
anything about "saving France" will write about it in rounded sentences.
His deepest and frankest thoughts will come out in letters.

Of course the censors stand between these makers of history and
posterity. We must wait for our chronicles of the war because of the
censor. The newspaper stories about our troops in France on their
tremendous errand should ring like the chronicle of an old crusade, but
it is hard for the chronicler to bring a tingle when he must write or
cable "Richard the deleted hearted."

When a censor wants to kill a story he usually says, "Don't you know
that your story may possibly give information to the Germans?" The
correspondent then withdraws his story in confusion. Of course what he
should answer is, "Very well, that story may give information to the
Germans, but it will also give information to the Americans and just
now that is much more important."

There are certain military reasons for not naming units and not naming
individuals, but the war is not being fought by the army alone. If the
country is to be enlisted to its fullest capacity it must have names.
The national character cannot be changed in a few months or a year. The
newspapers have brought us up on names. It is too much to expect that
the folk back home can keep up on their toes if the men they know go
away into a great silence as soon as they cross the ocean and are not
heard of again unless their names appear in casualty lists. We can't do
less for our war heroes than we have done for Ty Cobb and Christy
Mathewson and Smokey Joe Wood. That is not only for the sake of the
people back home, but for those at the front as well. They like to know
that people are hearing about them. It is not encouraging to them to
receive papers and learn that "certain units have done something." Just
as soon as possible they want to see the name of their regiment and of D
company and K and F and H. The English name their units after a battle
and so must we. And we must have plenty of names. It helped Ty Cobb not
a little in the business of being Ty that thousands of columns of
newspaper space had built up a tradition behind him. When Joe Wood got
in a hole it is more than probable that he realized that he must and
would get himself out again because he was "Smokey Joe." We must do as
much for private Alexander Brown and corporal James Kelly, and for
sergeants and major generals, too. We are not a folk who thrive on
reticence. It is true that we like to blow our own horn but it must be
remembered that Joshua brought down a great fortress in that manner. The
trumpets are needed for America. We cannot fight our best to the sound
of muffled drums.

The man abroad who is sending back the stories of the war must deal with
the French censor as well as the American, and that reminds us of
Pétain's mustache. When the great general came to our camp all the
newspaper stories about his visit were sent to the French military
censor. All were allowed to pass in due course except one. The
correspondent concerned went around to find out what was wrong.

"I'm sorry," said the censor, "but I cannot allow this cable message to
go in its present form. You have spoken of General Pétain's white
mustache. I might stretch a point and allow you to say General Pétain's
gray mustache, but I should much prefer to have you say General Pétain's
blonde mustache."

"Make it green with small purple spots, if you like," said the
correspondent, "but let my story go."



CHAPTER X

MARINES


"They tell me," said a young marine in his best confidential and earnest
manner, "that the Kaiser isn't afraid of the American army, but that he
is afraid of the marines."

The youngster was hazy as to the source of his information, but he never
doubted that it was accurate. He felt sure that the Kaiser had heard of
the marines. Weren't they "first to fight"? And if he didn't fear them
yet, he would. At least he would when Company D got into action.

No unit in the American army today has the group consciousness of the
marines. It is difficult to understand just how this has happened.
Everybody knows that once a regiment, or a division, or even an army,
has acquired a tradition, that tradition will live long after every man
who established it has gone. There is, for instance, the Foreign Legion
of the French army. Thousands and thousands of men have poured through
this organization. Sickness and shrapnel, the exigencies of the service
and what not have swept the veterans away again and again, but it is
still the Foreign Legion. Some of its new recruits will be negro
horseboys who have missed their ships at one of the ports through
overprotracted sprees; there will be a gentleman adventurer or two, and
a fine collection of assorted ruffians. But in a month each will be a
legionary.

I saw an American negro in a village of France who had been a legionary
until a wound had stiffened a knee too much to permit him to engage in
further service. He was a shambling, shuffling, whining, servile negro,
abjectly sure that some kind white gentleman would give him a pair of
shoes, or at least a couple of francs. But he had the Croix de Guerre
and the Medaille Militaire. He had not cringed while he was a legionary.

The tradition of this organization, however, is based on battle service.
The Legion has seen all the hardest fighting. The tradition of our
marines rests on something else. They have seen service, of course, but
it has not been considerable. Their group feeling was at first sheerly
defensive. There was a time when the marine was a friend of no one in
the service. He was neither soldier nor sailor. Many of the marine
officers were men who had been unable to get appointments at West Point
or Annapolis, or, having done so, had failed to hold the pace at the
academies. And so the spirit of the officers and the men was that they
would show the army and the navy of just what stuff a marine was made.
And they have. It is true that the army and the navy have ceased long
since to look down upon the marine, but the pressure of handicap has
been maintained among the marines in France just the same.

It is largely accidental. For instance, when the American troops were
first billeted in the training area the marines were placed at the upper
end of the triangle miles further from the field of divisional maneuvers
than any of their comrades. And so, if Joffre, or Pétain, or
Clemenceau, or Poincaré, or any of the others came to review the first
American expeditionary unit, the marines had to march twenty-two miles
in a day in addition to the ground which they would cover in the review.
Curiously enough, this did not inspire them with a hatred of the
reviews, nor did they complain of their lot. They merely took the
attitude that a few miles more or less made no difference to a marine.

I remember a story a young officer told me about his first hike with the
marines in France. They had eleven miles to do in the morning and as
many more in the afternoon, after a brief review. The young officer
appeared with a pair of light shoes with a flexible sole.

"Look here," said the major, "you'd better put on heavier shoes."

"I think these will suffice, sir," said the young lieutenant. "You see,
they're modeled on the principle of an Indian moccasin--full freedom for
the foot, you know."

The major grinned. "Come around and see me this evening," he said, "and
tell me what you think of the Indians." The man with the moccasin style
shoe did well enough until the company was in sight of the home village.
Unfortunately, a halt was called at a point where a brook ran close to
the road.

The sight of the cool stream made the lieutenant's feet burn and ache
worse than ever. "I had just about made up my mind to turn my men over
to the sergeant and limp home, after a crack at the brook," said the
lieutenant, "when I heard one of the men say that he was tired. There
was an old sergeant on him like a flash. He was one of the oldest men in
the regiment. He had never voted the prohibition ticket and rheumatism
was only one of his ailments, but he hopped right on the kid who said he
was tired. 'Where do you get off to be a marine?' he said. 'Why, we
don't call a hike like this marching in the marines. Look here.' And the
old fellow did a series of jig steps to show that the march was nothing
to him.

"Well," said the young officer, "I didn't turn the men over to the
sergeant and I didn't bathe my feet in the brook. I marched in ahead of
them. You see, I thought to myself, I guess my feet will drop off all
right before I get there, but I can't very well stop. After all, I'm a
marine."

Even the Germans did their best to make the marines feel that they were
troops apart from the others. Only one raid was attempted during the
summer and then it was the village of the marines upon which a bomb was
dropped. It injured no one and did ever so much to increase the pride of
marines, who would remark to less fortunate organizations in the
training area: "What do you know about aeroplanes?"

When it came time to dig practice trenches, other regiments were content
to put in the better part of the morning and afternoon upon the work,
but the marines went to the task of digging in day and night shifts.
There was a Sunday upon which Pershing announced that he would inspect
the American troops in their billets. Through some mistake or other he
arrived in the camp of the marines eight hours behind schedule, but the
men were still standing under arms without a sign of weariness when he
arrived. Historical tradition lent itself to maintaining the morale of
the marines, for their village was once the site of a famous Roman camp
and one of the men in digging a trench one day came across a segment of
green metal that the marines assert roundly was part of a Roman sword.
In a year or two it will be sure to be identified as Cæsar's.

The marines were exclusive and original even in the matter of mascots.
The doughboys had dogs and cats and a rather mangy lion for pets but no
other fighting organization in the world has an anteater. The marines
picked Jimmy up at Vera Cruz and he began to prove his worth as a mascot
immediately. He was with them when the city was taken. Later he stopped
off at Hayti and aided in subduing the rebels. He is said to be the only
anteater who has been through two campaigns. Army life has broadened
Jimmy. He has learned to eat hardtack and frogs and cornbeef and pie and
beetles and slum and omelettes. As a matter of fact Jimmy will eat
almost anything but ants. Of course he wouldn't refuse some tempting
morsel simply because of the presence of ants, but he no longer finds
any satisfaction in making an entire meal of the pesky insects. He won't
forage for them. Things like hardtack and pie, Jimmy finds, will stand
still and give a hungry man a chance. Lack of practice has somewhat
impaired the speed of Jimmy and even if he wanted to revert to type it
is probable that he could catch nothing but the older and less edible
ants. Of course he does not want to go back to an ant diet. He feels
that it would be a reflection on the hospitality of his friends, the
marines.

The marines are equally tactful. In spite of his decline as an
entomologist Jimmy remains by courtesy an anteater and is always so
termed when exhibited to visitors. He has two tricks. He will squeal if
his tail is pulled ever so gently and he will demolish and put out
burning cigars or cigarettes. The latter trick is his favorite. He
stamps out the glowing tobacco with his forepaws and tears the cigar or
cigarette to pieces. The stunt is no longer universally popular. The
marine who dropped a hundred franc note by mistake just in front of
Jimmy says that teaching tricks to anteaters is all foolishness.

However, Jimmy has picked up a few stunts on his own account. It is not
thought probable that any marine ever encouraged him in his habit of
biting enlisted men of the regular army and reserve officers. There is a
belief that Jimmy works on broad general principles, and many marines
fear that they will no longer be immune from his teeth if the
distinctive forest green of their organization is abandoned for the
conventional khaki of the rest of the army.

Some little time before the American troops first went into the
trenches, the marines were scattered into small detachments for police
duty. Many of them have since been brought together again. There is, of
course, a good deal of stuff and nonsense in stories about soldiers
saying, "We want to get a crack at them," and all that, but it is
literally and exactly true that the marines, both officers and men, were
deeply disappointed when they could not go to the front with the others.
Their professional pride was hurt.

Still they did not whine, but went about their traditional police work
with vigor. I was in a base hospital one day when a doughboy came in all
gory about the head. "What happened to you?" a doctor asked. "A marine
told me to button up my overcoat," said the doughboy, "and I started to
argue with him."

There are not many American army songs yet, but the marines did not wait
until the war for theirs. Most of it I have forgotten, but one of the
stunning couplets of the chorus is:

    If the army or the navy ever gaze on heaven's scenes
    They will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.



CHAPTER XI

FIELD PIECES AND BIG GUNS


War seemed less remote in the artillery camp than in any other section
of the American training area for the roar of the guns filled the air
every morning and they sounded just as ominous as if they were in
earnest. They were firing in the direction of Germany at that, but it
was a good many score of miles out of range. Just the same the French
were particular about the point. "We always point the guns toward
Germany even in practice if we can," said a French instructing officer,
"it's just as well to start right."

The camp consisted of a number of brick barracks and the soldiers and
officers were well housed. It was located in wild country, though, where
it was possible to find ranges up to twelve thousand yards. Scrubby
woods covered part of the ranges and the observation points towered up
a good deal higher than would be safe at the front. We went through the
woods the morning after our arrival and heard a perfect bedlam of fire
from the guns. There was the sharp decisive note of the seventy-five
which speaks quickly and in anger and the more deliberate boom of the
one hundred and fifty-five howitzer. This was a colder note but it was
none the less ominous. It had an air of premeditated wrath about it. The
shell from the seventy-five might get to its destination first but the
one hundred and fifty-five would create more havoc upon arrival. A
sentry warned us to take the left hand road at a fork in the woods and
presently we came upon one of the observation towers. It was crammed
with officers armed with field glasses. Every now and then they would
write things on paper. They seemed like so many reporters at a baseball
game recording hits and errors. When we got to the top of the tower we
found that large maps were part of the equipment as well as field
glasses. These were wonderfully accurate maps with every prominent tree
and church spire and house top indicated. The officers were ranging
from the maps. The French theory of artillery work was not new to the
American officers, but this was almost the first chance they had ever
had to work it out for we have no maps in America suitable for ranging.

According to theory the battery should first fire short and then long
and then split the bracket and land upon the target or thereabouts. The
men had not been working long and they were still a little more
proficient in firing short or long than in splitting the bracket. Later
the American artillery gave a very good account of itself at the school.
The French instructors told one particular battery that they were able
to fire the seventy-five faster than it had ever been fired in France
before. Perhaps there was just a shade of the over-statement of French
politeness in that, but it was without doubt an excellent battery. In
the lulls between fire could be heard the drone of aeroplanes for a
number of officers were flying to learn the principles of aerial
observation in its uses for fire control. Turning around we could also
see a large captive balloon. All the junior officers were allowed to
express a preference as to which branch of artillery work they preferred
and, although observation is the most dangerous of all, fully
seventy-five per cent, of the men indicated it as their choice.

Some American officers in other sections of the training area came to
the conclusion in time that we should go to the English for instruction
in some of the phases of modern warfare. We did in fact turn to the
English finally for bayonet instruction and a certain number of officers
thought that the English would also be useful to us in bombing, but I
never heard any question raised but that we must continue to go to the
French for instruction in field artillery until such time as we had
schools of our own.

The difference in language made occasional difficulties of course. "It
took us a couple of days to realize that when our instructor spoke of a
'rangerrang' he meant a 'range error,'" said one American officer, "but
now we get on famously."

We left the men in the tower with their maps and their glasses and went
down to see the guns. Our guide took us straight in front of the one
hundred and fifty-fives while they were firing, which was safe enough as
they were tossing their shells high in the air. It was better fun,
though, to stand behind these big howitzers, for by fixing your eye on a
point well up over the horizon it was possible to see the projectile in
flight. The shell did not seem to be moving very fast once it was
located. It looked for all the world as if the gunners were batting out
flies and this was the baseball which was sailing along.

The French officer who was showing us about said that he could see the
projectile as it left the mouth of the gun, but though the rest of us
tried, we could see nothing but the flash. Later we stood behind the
seventy-fives but since their trajectory is so much lower it is not
possible to see the shell which they fire. They seemed to make more
noise than the bigger guns. Fortunately it is no longer considered bad
form to stick your fingers in your ears when a gun goes off. Most of the
officers and men in this particular battery were as careful to shut out
the sound of the cannon as schoolgirls at a Civil War play. Not only did
they stuff their fingers in their ears, but they stood up on their toes
to lessen the vibration.

Guns have changed, however, since Civil War days. They are no longer
drab. Camouflage has attended to that. The guns we saw were streaked
with red and blue and yellow and orange. They were giddy enough to have
stood as columns in the Purple Poodle or any of the Greenwich Village
restaurants.

Before we left the camp we met Major General Peyton C. March, the new
chief of staff, who was then an artillery officer. We agreed that he was
an able soldier because he told us that he did not believe in
censorship. Regarding one slight phase of the training he bound us to
secrecy, but for the rest he said: "You may say anything you like about
my camp, good or bad. I believe that free and full reports in the
American newspapers are a good thing for our army."

We traveled many miles from the field gun school before we came to the
camp of the heavies. This, too, was a French school which had been
partially taken over by the Americans. The work was less interesting
here, for the men were not firing the guns yet, but studying their
mechanism and going through the motions of putting them in action. Many
of the officers attached to the heavies were coast artillerymen and
there was a liberal sprinkling of young reserve officers who had come
over after a little preliminary training at Fortress Monroe. The General
in charge of the camp told us that these new officers would soon be as
good as the best because the most important requirement was a technical
education and these men had all had college scientific training or its
equivalent. Just then they were all at school again cramming with all
the available textbooks about French big guns. They did not need to
depend on textbooks alone, for the camp contained types of most styles
of French artillery.

The pride of the contingent was a monster mounted on railroad trucks. It
fired a projectile weighing 1800 pounds. After the French custom, the
big howitzer had been honored by a name. "Mosquito" was painted on the
carriage in huge green letters.

"We call her mosquito," explained a French officer, "because she
stings."

"Mosquito" had buzzed no less than three hundred times at Verdun, but
she had a number of stings left. The Americans detailed with the gun
were loud in its praises and asserted that it was the finest weapon in
the world. There were other guns, though, which had their partisans.
Some swore by "Petite Lulu," a squat howitzer, which could throw a shell
high enough to clear Pike's Peak and still have something to spare.
There were champions also of "Gaby," a long nosed creature which
outranged all the rest. Marcel could talk a little faster than any gun
in camp, but her words carried less weight.

All the menial work about the camp was done by German prisoners. I was
walking through the camp one day when I saw a little tow-headed soldier
sitting at the doorstep of his barracks watching a file of Germans
shuffle by. They were men who had started to war with guns on their
shoulders, but now they carried brooms.

"Do you ever speak to the German prisoners?" I asked the soldier.

"Oh, yes," said the youngster; "some of them speak English, and they say
'Hello' to me and I say 'Hello' back to them. I feel sorry for them."

The little soldier looked at the shabby procession again and then he
leaned over to me confidentially and said with great earnestness as if
he had made up the phrase on the spot: "You know I have no quarrel with
the German people."

When we got home after our trips to the artillery camps we found an old
man in a French uniform eagerly waiting to see us. He told us that he
was an American, and more than that, a Californian. His name was George
La Messneger and he was sixty-seven years old. He was French by birth
and had fought in the Franco-Prussian war, but the next year he went to
California and lived in Los Angeles until the outbreak of the great war.
Although more than sixty, La Messneger was accepted by a French
recruiting officer and he was in Verdun two weeks after he arrived in
France. Three days later he was wounded and when we met him he had added
to his adventures by winning a promotion to sous-lieutenant and gaining
the croix de guerre and the medaille militaire.

Old George came to be a frequent visitor, but though we urged him on he
would never tell us much about the war. He wanted to talk about
California.

"I tell the men in my regiment," George would begin, "that out in Los
Angeles we cut alfalfa five times a year, but they won't believe me."

Gently we tried to lead George back to the war and his experiences. "How
did you get the military medal, lieutenant?" somebody asked.

"Oh, that was at Verdun," replied the old man.

"It must have been pretty hot up there," said another correspondent.

"Yes," said George, and he began to muse. We imagined that he was
thinking of those hot days in February when all the guns, big and
little, were turned loose.

"Yes," said George, "it was pretty hot," and we drew our chairs closer.
"You know," continued the old man, "a lot of people will tell you that
Los Angeles is hot. Don't pay any attention to them. I've lived there
forty years, and I've slept with a blanket pretty much all the time. The
nights are always cool."

I had heard George before and I knew that he was gone for the evening
now. As I tiptoed out of the room the old soldier in French horizon blue
was just warming up to his favorite topic. "San Francisco's nothing,"
said George, dismissing the city with as much scorn as if it had been
Berlin or Munich. He talked with such vehemence that all his medals
rattled.

"We're nearer the Panama Canal," said George, "we're nearer China and
Japan, and as for harbors----"

But just then the door closed.



CHAPTER XII

OUR AVIATORS AND A FEW OTHERS


At first the ace is low. Our young aviators who will be among the most
romantic heroes of them all begin humbly on the ground. The American
army now has the largest flying field in France for its very own, but
during summer and early autumn many of our men trained in the French
schools. There his groundling days try the aviator's dignity. He must
hop before he can fly and perhaps "hop" is too dignified a word. When we
visited one of the biggest schools, all the new pupils were practicing
in a ridiculous clipped wing Bleriot called a penguin. This machine was
a groundhog which scurried over the earth at a speed of twenty or thirty
miles an hour. It never left the grass tops and yet it provided a
certain amount of excitement for its pilot, or maybe rider would be
better.

The favorite trick of the penguin is to turn suddenly in a short half
circle and collapse on its side. It takes a good deal of skill to keep
it straight and when the aviator has learned that much he is allowed to
make a trip in a machine which leaps a little in the air every now and
then, only to flop to earth again. Then he is ready to fly a Bleriot,
though, of course, his first trips are made as a passenger. Very little
time is spent in flying. Staying up in the air is no great trick. It's
the coming down which gives the trouble. And so the student is eternally
trying landings. He smashes a good many machines and here the French
show their keen realization of the mental factor in flying.

"I made a bad landing one day," an American student named Billy Parker
told me, "and smashed my machine up good and proper. I thought I'd
killed myself, but they dragged me out from under the junk, picked the
pieces of wood and aluminum out of my head, stuffed some cotton into my
nose to check the bleeding and in fifteen minutes they had a new machine
out and had me up in the air again."

Parker said he felt a bit queer when he got up in the air again. "I had
a sort of feeling that I belonged down on the ground and not up there,"
he said. "That was peculiar because usually the air feels very stable
and friendly. You hate to come down, but this time I was anxious to get
back and after circling the field once I came down. My landing was all
right, too, and since then I've never had that scared feeling about the
air."

The French theory is that the mistake must be corrected immediately. The
man who has had a smash-up is apt to get air shy if he has a chance to
brood over his mishap for a day or two.

The last test of the preliminary school is a thirty mile flight with
three landings. After he has done that the student goes to Pau for his
test in acrobatics. The chief stunt set for him here is a vrille. The
student is required to put his machine into a spin at a height of about
8500 feet and bring it out again. The trick is not particularly
difficult if the man keeps his head, but the tendency is to turn on the
power which only accelerates the fall and some are killed at Pau. My
friend caught malaria as soon as he got there and was allowed to take
things easily for a week. Finally his test was set for Wednesday. On
Monday morning the man who slept in the cot to his left went out for his
test and was killed and on Tuesday the man from the right hand cot was
killed. Death came very close to the young American. He and a French
student arrived at the training ground at about the same time. Two
machines were ready. The instructor hesitated a second and then assigned
the American to the machine at the right. A few minutes later the
Frenchman was killed when a wing came off his machine as soon as he
began his vrille. Fortunately Parker did not know that until after he
had passed his own test. He saw one other man killed before he left Pau
and that horrified him more than the accident on the morning of his
trial.

"The judge who decided whether you passed your test was a little
Frenchman with a monocle," he said. "He sat in a rocking chair at the
edge of the field and you had to do the vrille straight in front of him
or it didn't count. He simply wouldn't turn to look at a flyer. I was
standing beside him when one fellow got rattled in the middle of a
vrille and put his power on. Even at that he almost lifted his machine
out but she came down too fast for him. There was a big smash-up and
people came running out to the wreck. They sent for a doctor and then
for a priest, but the terrible little man never moved from his chair.
'You see,' he cried to me, 'he was stupid! stupid!' This flying test had
come to seem nothing more than an examination bluebook to him. A fellow
passed or he flunked and that was all there was to it."

Luck plays its biggest part in a flier's early days at the front. He has
a lot to learn after he gets there, but the French do not nurse him
along much. He has to take his chances. It may be that he will get in
some very tight place before he has learned the fine points and a future
star will be lost at the outset of his career. On the other hand he may
come up against German fliers as green as himself and gradually gain a
technique before he is called upon to face an enemy ace or a superior
combination of planes. At the front as in the schools the French pay
keen attention to the mental state of the fliers.

"There was always champagne at mess and they kept the graphophone
playing all through dinner any night a man from our squadron didn't come
back," an aviator said to me. "One afternoon we lost two men and before
dinner they took a leaf out of the table. Our commander didn't want us
to notice any empty seats or the extra space."

It is difficult to say which nation has the most daring aviators, but
that honor probably belongs to the English. I asked a Frenchman about it
and he said: "The English do most of the things you would call stunts.
There was one, for instance, that made a landing on a German aviation
field and after firing a few rounds at the aerodrome flew away again.
That was a stunt. But we think the English are fools with their
sportsmanship and all that. It doesn't work now. We look at it a little
differently. We cannot take fool chances. If you take a fool chance you
are very likely to get killed. That is not nice, of course. We do not
like to be killed, but more than that, it is one less man for France. We
must wait until there is a fair show."

"And when is that?" I asked.

"When there are not more than four Germans against you," said the
careful Frenchman.

The warlike spirit of the French aviators extended even to the servants
at the preliminary school which we visited. The Americans there were all
quartered in one big room and their general man of all work was a little
Annamite from French-Indo-China. Hy seemed the most peaceful member of a
peace-loving race as he moved about the barracks just before dawn every
morning waking up the students with a smiling "Bon jour" and an equally
good-natured "Café." One day he had a holiday and after borrowing a
uniform he went to a photographer's in the nearest town. From the
photographer he borrowed a rifle, a cutlass and a pistol. He thrust the
cutlass into his belt and shouldered the other two weapons. After he had
assumed a fighting face the picture was taken.

The next day Hy varied the routine. He began with "Bon jour" as usual,
but before he said "Café" he drew from behind his back the photograph,
and pointing to it proudly, exclaimed, "brave soldat."

We went from the French school to the big field where the American camp
was under construction. The bulk of the work was being done by German
prisoners. One of these, a sergeant, had been a well known architect in
Munich. The American workers consulted him now and then in regard to
some building problem and he always gave them good advice. He took
almost a professional pride in the growing buildings even if they were
designed to house the men who will one day be the eyes of the American
army. We asked another prisoner how he got along with the Americans and
he replied: "Oh, some of them aren't half bad." A third spoke to us in
meager broken English, although he said that he had lived five years in
Buffalo. "Are you going back to Germany after the war?" we asked him.
"Nein," he replied decisively, "Chicago."

Most prisoners professed to be confident that Germany would win the war
and they all based their faith on the submarine. As we started to go the
man from Buffalo suddenly held out his hand and said: "So long." Several
of the correspondents shook hands with him much to the horror of a young
American in the French flying corps who accompanied us.

"You mustn't do that," he explained. "Any Frenchman who saw you do that
would be very much shocked."

I remembered then that when I saw German prisoners in any of the large
towns the French inhabitants took great pains to ignore them. I never
heard French people jeer at their prisoners. Their attitude was one of
complete aloofness. Once I saw prisoners in a big railroad station and
the crowds swept by on either side without a glance as if these men from
Prussia had been so many trunks or trucks or benches.

If the young Americans at the school had not been so busy learning the
business of flying they could have formed a cracker jack nine or eight
or eleven, as the squad included some of the most famous of our college
athletes.

We also visited an English aerodrome which was not far from our
headquarters. This was a camp from which planes started for raids into
Germany. The men who were carrying on this work were all youngsters. I
saw no one who seemed to be more than twenty-five. Just the day before
we arrived the Germans had discovered their whereabouts and had raided
the hangars. One man had been killed and two planes wrecked. Machine gun
bullets had left holes in all the buildings about the place. The English
officer smiled when we looked about. "Oh, yes," he said, "the Hun was
over last night and gave us a bit of a bounce." His slang was fluent but
puzzling. He was explaining why he and his fellow aviators flew at a
certain height on raids. "You see," he said, "the Hun can't get his hate
up as far as that."

The bombing machines of the squadron were huge, powerful planes, but
they all had pet names painted upon them such as "Bessie" and "Baby" and
"Winifred" which had been twice to Stuttgart. These English fliers were
a quiet, reticent crowd who became fearfully embarrassed if anybody
tried to draw them out on the subject of their exploits. One of them
went over to an American Red Cross hospital nearby a few days after our
visit and played bridge with three American doctors there. He had been a
rather frequent visitor and a keen and eager player, so they were
somewhat surprised when he told them at nine o'clock that he would have
to go. He was three francs behind and started to fumble around in his
pockets to find the change. "Oh, never mind," said one of the doctors.
"Some other night will do. You'll be over here again pretty soon, I
hope."

"Oh, no," said the young Englishman, "I'd rather pay up now. Sorry to
toddle off so early. Beastly nuisance, you know, but I've got to go over
and bomb Metz to-night."

Much more would be heard of the flying exploits of the English if their
individual reticence were not combined with a governmental policy of not
announcing the names of the fliers who bring down enemy planes.
Unfortunately, the American army seems prepared to follow this example.
One of the high officers in the American air service in France said that
he did not intend to treat aviators like prima donnas. He added that he
thought it was a big mistake to advertise aces. However, the Germans
play up their star airmen in the newspapers and on the moving picture
screen and it must be admitted that they have not made many mistakes
from a purely military point of view.

Inevitably, however, the status of the flier is changing. Nobody regrets
this more than the aviators of France. The French army used to have a
saying, "all aviators are a little crazy," and nobody believed it so
thoroughly as the aviators. They took great pride in being unlike other
people in a war which was all cramped up into schedule. An aviator got
up when he felt like it and flew when the mood was on. If he felt
depressed, or unlucky, or out of sorts, he rolled over and went to sleep
again. Nobody said anything about it. When he fought the battle was a
duel with an opponent who was also a knight and sportsman although a
Boche.

But there was no keeping efficiency out of the air. The German brought
it there. He discovered that two planes were better than one and three
even better. He introduced teamwork and the lone French errants of the
air began to be picked off by groups of Germans who would send one
machine after another diving down on a single foe. The Flying Circus and
other aerial teams of the Germans have not only driven chivalry from the
air, but they have taken a good deal of the joy out of flying. Very
reluctantly the French have adopted squadron flying and the airman now
finds himself obeying commands just as if he were an infantryman or an
artillerist. Even the civilian population has begun to show that it
realized the change in the status of the aviator. There was, for
instance, poor Navarre, the finest flier in the army, who was sent to
prison because he came to Paris on a spree and ran down three gendarmes
with his racing auto. French aviators cannot see the sense of punishing
Navarre. I only heard one aviator who had any excuse to offer for the
civilian authorities.

"After all," he said, "they showed a little judgment. They did not
arrest Navarre until he had run down three gendarmes."

Although many men in the army have longer lists of fallen Germans to
their credit, no Frenchman has ever flown with the grace and skill of
Navarre. The great Guynemer was only a fair flier and owed his success
to his skill as a gunner. But Navarre was master of all the tricks. Upon
one occasion he bet a companion that he could make a landing on an army
blanket. The blanket was duly fastened in the middle of the field and
away flew the aviator. His preliminary calculation was just a bit off
and at the last minute he nosed sharply down and wrecked the machine.
But he hit the blanket and won the bet.

Next to Germany, America has done most to take romance out of the air,
so the Frenchmen say. The American air student attends lectures and
learns about meteorology and physics. He learns how to take a motor
apart and put it together again. In fact, he is versed in all the theory
of flying long before he is allowed to venture in the air. Of course
this is the best system. It would be the system of any nation which had
the opportunity of taking its time, yet the scholarly approach cannot
fail to dim adventure a little bit. Launcelot would have been a somewhat
less dashing knight if he had begun his training in chivalry by learning
the minimum number of foot pounds necessary to unhorse an opponent or
the relative resilience of chain mail and armor. Yet not all the
training in the world can take the stunt spirit out of the young
American aviator. One who shipped as a passenger with a Frenchman bound
for a bombing raid, paid for his passage by crawling out along the
fuselage of the machine to release a bomb which had stuck. But it was a
little incident back of the lines which gave me the best insight into
the character of the American aviator. I know a young aviator of
twenty-five who is already a major and the commander of a squadron. He
wasn't particularly old for his years, either. I remember he told us
with great glee how he and another young aviation officer had nailed the
purser in his cabin one night during the trip across. Yet he could be
stern upon occasion. He was walking along the field one day when he saw
a plane looping. He was surprised because the French instructor attached
to the squadron had told them that the type of machine which they were
using would not do the loop the loop. It didn't have sufficient power,
he said, nor would it stand the strain.

"It made five loops," said the major in telling the story, "and they
were dandies, too, as good as I ever saw. I thought it was the
Frenchman, of course, but I asked somebody and he said, 'No, it's
Harry.' When he came down I bawled him out. 'You were told not to do
that, weren't you?' I asked him. He said, 'Yes, sir.' 'Well, what did
you do it for?' I asked him. 'I guess it was because the Frenchman told
me it was impossible,' he said. I told him that he would have to turn
his machine over to another man and that other disciplinary measures
would be applied. He's in disgrace still and I suppose I've got to keep
it up for a while. That's all right, good discipline and all that sort
of thing, you know, but there's one thing I can't take away from him,
and nobody else can. He's the only man in France that ever looped that
type of machine. He did it. By golly, I envy him, but I don't dare let
him know it."



CHAPTER XIII

HOSPITALS AND ENGINEERS


Some of the compliments the mannerly French poured out upon the army
left the Americans feeling that they didn't quite deserve them. Others
they could take standing. Well to the front of the second lot were all
the good words for the medical corps. A leading writer for a big
Parisian afternoon paper took the first three columns of his first page
to say with undisguised emotion that the French government not merely
could, with profit, but should and must pattern after the American Army
Medical Service.

One good army hospital in France is like another and so let it be the
New York Post Graduate unit which was picked at random for the purpose
of a visit. We straggled off the train with two old peasant women whose
absorbed faces under their peaked white caps did not encourage us to
ask our way of them, and one poilu, bent under the astonishing
miscellany of the home-going French soldier. He lost his chance to
escape us by eyeing us with frank if friendly curiosity. Could he direct
us to the American Army Hospital, we asked, and he wrinkled his weather
worn nose. No, he hadn't been home since the Americans had come to war,
but, of course, there was only one building in town big enough and new
enough to be used by the Americans. If we should turn to the left and
then to the right and then to the left again we would come to the school
and there he thought we would find the Americans. We did. To the far end
of the little town we trudged till we came to a low stone building, gray
and white, of good stout masonry. We knew it was the American hospital
because over the arched entrance there hung a "bannière etoilée."

We neared the entrance to the tune of some trumpet blasts, not very well
played, and we peered from arch to inner court yard just in time to see
a swarm of khaki-half-clad soldiers running out from barracks. By the
time they reached the mess door they were khaki-clad. The officer who
came to take us about explained that on Sunday mornings everybody slept
late and dressed on the way to breakfast and that discipline was better
on week days. Then he told us that of all the privates in that unit not
one had ever been a soldier before. They had been picked for medical
service first and military service at such time as the officers had
learned enough to teach it to them. I remember later that one of the
soldiers objected privately to being drilled by a dentist.

Nine-tenths of the men were fresh out of college, the officer told us,
and half the other tenth were freshmen or sophomores. Many of the
enlisted men, we were told, had left incomes in the tens of thousands
and a few in the hundreds of thousands. The enlisted personnel included
one matinee idol, one young New York dramatic critic, two middling well
known young authors, a composer of good but saleable music, and a golfer
who gets two in the national rating.

The wards were not very different from those of a New York hospital
back home, except that they housed a strange mixture of patients. About
half were American soldiers and the rest were civilians from the country
round about. The French civilians were convinced that though the
American doctors might cure them with their marvelous medicines and
speckless cleanliness they would surely kill them with air. This
particular base hospital was fulfilling two functions for the civilian
population. It was seeking to take out adenoids and let in air. A great
New York specialist was attending to the adenoids and making progress.
It was not always possible to convince the patient that it would do him
any good to have his adenoids removed, but if the operation gave the
kind American doctor any pleasure he was willing to let him go ahead.
The air campaign was making slower progress. Dislike of air is centuries
old in France and it has become an instinct with the race. I rode in a
railroad car with a French aviator on a balmy day of early autumn and
his first act upon entering the compartment was to close both windows.
Everybody in this part of France has his bed placed inside a closet and
at night he closes the doors.

Worst of all were the extra precautions against air which the French
peasants took in case of illness. The young French doctors were at the
front and the old men who remained always began the treatment of a case
by advising the patient's relatives to close all the windows and start a
fire.

At the call of sick babies and old folk of the countryside came
aristocrats of the New York medical profession whose fees at home would
have bought the house in which the patient lived. Later, of course, the
doctors of the hospital will be more rushed by the necessities of the
soldiers.

"This is hardly more than a germ of what we plan," a doctor explained to
us. "Do you see those tents?" He pointed across a small field. "Those
are American engineers and they're going to do nothing for the next few
months but build additions to this hospital. Every time I go 'way for a
day I come back to find that they've added a thousand beds to the
capacity we're planning for. We will extend all the way across the
fields over to that road before they're done with us." He spoke in a
joyful voice as if nothing in the world was quite so inspiring as a huge
hospital filled with patients. That was the professional touch. I
remember the story one of the doctors told us about a young surgeon who
was sent up to the French front to help handle the cases after a big
drive. One of his first patients was a German prisoner who had been shot
just above the elbow and bayoneted in the stomach. The doctor had no
great trouble with the elbow and he did what he could for the abdominal
wound.

"I could save that man all right if it wasn't for that bayonet wound,"
he said to another American doctor close at hand, and then he added in a
reproachful voice as he pointed to the gash: "That's an awful dangerous
place to stab a man."

There were no wounded at the hospital at the time of our visit, but some
of the soldiers in the medical ward were very sick. There was one boy
there, who has since mended and gone away, whose recovery seemed
hopeless. The doctor in charge saw that something was troubling the
young soldier and so he came to him and told him that he was aggravating
his illness by this worry or desire.

"Whatever this thing is, you must tell me," said the doctor.

"Do you think I'm going to die?" the boy asked anxiously.

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," the doctor answered a little evasively.

"I knew I was pretty sick," said the boy, catching the evasiveness of
the doctor's tone, "and if you think I'm going to die and won't ever get
back home again, there's just one thing I want to ask you to do for me."

"What's that?" said the doctor.

"Couldn't you fix it up for me just once to have ham and eggs and apple
pie for breakfast?"

The most important thing in the case of all the sick men was to keep
them from brooding about home. The doctors made a point of getting
around and talking to the patients to cheer them up. One of them
complained of homesickness.

"Yes," said the doctor, "I suppose we all have people back there that we
miss."

"You can just bet I do," said the sick soldier, "I've got the finest
wife in the world in Des Moines and two children and a Ford."

The health of the staff was excellent, but sometimes they felt homesick,
too. The enlisted men gave a show the night I was at the hospital and
during the course of the performance everybody wept or at least got
moist eyed because the play was about New York. It was laid in a year as
nameless as the place where the hospital is located. All the program
said was: "The bachelor apartments of Schuyler Van Allen on a fine June
night a few weeks after the end of the war." Schuyler had just come back
from Europe and he found his apartment with everything just as it was on
the night he had sailed for France. There was the daily paper he had
left behind with the date May 8, 1917, and he looked at the old sheet
and mused as he read some of the headlines:

"Kaiser Calls on Troops to Stand Firm," read Schuyler. "The Kaiser," he
said to himself, and then he added: "I wonder whatever became of him."

The audience laughed at that, but in a moment the doctors and the nurses
and the patients who weren't sick enough to stay in bed wept. It was all
because Schuyler looked out of the window and said to his friend: "Oh,
it's great to be on Fifth Avenue again. I want to see it in every light
and at every hour of the day. It was fairly blazing tonight with the
same old hurrying crowd jamming the traffic at Forty-second Street and
the same old mob pushing and shoving its way into the Grand Central
subway station." The mention of the subway was too much for the
audience. By this time the nurse who sat in front of me was dabbing
violently at her eyes with her pocket handkerchief. She was breaking my
heart and I leaned forward and asked: "What part of New York do you come
from?"

"I wasn't ever in New York," she said. "I come from Lima, Ohio."

Like the medical corps, the engineers were peculiarly American and
peculiarly efficient as well. We first came upon them when we saw a
tall, stringy man looking out of the window of a little locomotive which
pulled a train up to a point at the French front. We thought he was an
American because his jaws were moving back and forth slowly and
meditatively. Inquiry brought confirmation.

"Sure, I'm an American," said the man in the blue jumpers. "I guess I've
kicked a hobo off the train for every telegraph pole back on the old
Rock Island, but this is the toughest railroading job I've struck yet."

The man in the locomotive was a member of an American regiment of
railroad engineers which had taken over an important military road. They
had the honor to be the first American troops at the French front who
came under fire. The engineers were willing to admit that while washouts
and spreading rails were old stories to them, they did get a bit of a
thrill the first time they found their tracks torn up by shellfire. But
the aeroplanes were worse.

"One night," said our friend the engineer, "there was one of those
flying machines just followed along with us and every time we fired the
engine and the sparks flew up she'd drop a bomb on us or shoot at us
with her machine gun. We tried to hit it up a bit, but she kept right up
with us. They didn't hit us, but once they got so rough we just slowed
down and laid under the engine for a spell until they decided to quit
picking on us."

This regiment of railroad engineers was the huskiest outfit I saw in
France. It was carefully selected from the railroads running into
Chicago. Of the men originally selected only about one-seventh were
taken because the railroads found so many men who were eager to go. One
company boasted one hundred and twenty-five six-footers and all were
two-fisted fighters. The discipline of the regiment, of course, was not
that of an infantry unit. I watched an animated discussion between a
captain and his men as to where some material should be placed when the
regiment first moved into a new camp.

"You've got the wrong dope about that, Bill," said a private to his
captain very earnestly. The officer looked at him severely.

"I've told you before about this discipline business, Harry," he said.
"Any time you want to kick about my orders you call me mister." It is
hard for a railroad man to realize that a couple of silver bars have
changed a yardmaster into a captain.

The regiment set great store by the number thirteen. It was put into
service on a Friday the thirteenth and it left its American base in two
sections of thirteen cars each. The locomotives' headlight numbers each
totaled thirteen and the thirteenth of a month found the regiment
arriving at its European port of entry. The thirteenth of the next month
found the regiment starting for its French base and when the camp was
reached a group of interpreters was waiting.

"How many are you?" asked the colonel.

"Myself and twelve companions," replied one of the Frenchmen.

The regiment will never forget the first night at its French base. It
arrived at midnight but crowds thronged the darkened streets and gave
the big Americans an enthusiastic greeting, although it was forbidden to
talk above undertones. Since they could not hurrah for the soldiers,
the villagers hugged them, and from black windows roses were pelted on
shadowy figures who tramped up the street to the low rumble of a muffled
band.

"Great people, these French, so demonstrative," said a captain, who was
once a trainmaster in a Texas town.

"I was in the theater the other night," he said, "and a couple of
performers on the stage started to sing 'Madelon.' Well, I'd heard it
before and I knew the chorus, so when they got that far along I joined
in. Well, there was a young girl sitting next me and when she saw that I
knew the song she just threw her arms around my neck and kissed me.

"And now," said the captain, "everybody in the regiment's after me to
teach 'em that song."



CHAPTER XIV

WE VISIT THE FRENCH ARMY


"The Germans haven't thrown a single shell into Rheims today," said our
conducting officer apologetically. "Yesterday," he continued more
cheerfully, "they sent more than five hundred big ones and they wounded
two of my officers."

We left the little inn at the fringe of the town and rode into the
square in front of the cathedral. At the door the officer turned us over
to the curator. The old man led us up the aisle to a point not far from
the altar. Here he stopped, and pointing to a great shell hole in the
floor said: "On this spot in the year 496 Clovis, the King of the
Franks, was baptized by the blessed St. Remi with oil which was brought
from heaven in a holy flask by a dove."

Something flew over the cathedral just then, but we knew it was not a
dove. It whistled like a strong wind, and presently the shop of a
confectioner some ten blocks away folded up with a ripping, smashing
sound. Clovis, with his fourteen centuries wrapped about him, was safe
enough. He had quit the spot in time. But a younger man ducked. The old
guide did not even look up.

"The first stone of the present cathedral was laid in May, 1212, by the
Archbishop Alberic de Humbert," he said.

Another big shell tore the sky, and this time the smash was nearer. It
seemed certainly no more than nine blocks away. The young man began to
calculate. He figured that he was seven centuries down, while the
Germans had nine blocks to go. That was something, but the guide failed
to keep up his pace through the centuries. There were no more happy
hiatuses.

"Scholars dispute," he continued, "as to who was the architect of the
cathedral. Some say it was designed by Robert de Coucy; others name
Bernard de Soissons, but certain authorities hold to Gauthier de Reims
and Jean d'Orbais." Two more shells crossed the cathedral. The
controversy seemed regrettable and the young man shifted constantly from
foot to foot. He appeared to feel that there was less chance of being
hit if he were on the wing, so to speak.

"One or two have named Jean Loups," said the guide, but he shook his
head even as he mentioned him. It was evident that he had no patience
with Loups or his backers. Indeed, the heresy threw him off his stride,
and the next smash which came during the lull was more significant than
any of the others. The crash was the peculiarly disagreeable one which
occurs when a large shell strikes a small hardware store. Even the guide
noticed this shell. It reminded him of the war.

"Since April," he said, "the Germans have been bombarding Rheims with
naval guns. All the shells which they fire now are .320 or larger. They
fire about 150 shells a day at the city, mostly in the afternoon, and
they usually aim at the cathedral or some place near by."

The young man noted by his watch that it was just half-past one.

"A week ago the Germans fired a .320 shell through the roof, but it did
not explode. I will show it to you, but first I must ask you to touch
nothing, not even a piece of glass, for we want to put everything back
again that we can after the war."

On the floor there was evidence that some patient hand had made a
beginning of seeking to fit together in proper sequence all the
available tiny glass fragments from the shattered rose windows. It was a
pitiful jigsaw puzzle, which would not work. The curator stepped briskly
up the nave, and at the end of a hundred paces he stopped.

"This is the most dangerous portion of the cathedral," he explained.
"Most of the big shells have come in here." And he pointed to three
great holes in the ceiling. Then he showed us the monstrous shell which
had not exploded and the fragments of others which had. Down toward the
west end of town fresh fragments were being made. Each hole in the
cathedral roof sounded a different note as the shells raced overhead.
But the old curator was musing again. He had forgotten the war, even
though the smashed and twisted bits of iron and stone from yesterday's
clean hit lay at his feet.

"The first stone of the present cathedral was laid in May, 1212, by the
Archbishop Alberic de Humbert," he said. "Alberic gave all the money he
could gather and the chapter presented its treasury, and all about the
clergy appealed for funds in the name of God. Kings of France and mighty
lords made contributions, and each year there was a great pilgrimage,
headed by the image of the Blessed Virgin, through all the villages. And
the building grew and sculptors from all parts of France came and
embellished it and in 1430 it was finished. You see, gentlemen," he
said, "it took more than two hundred years to build our cathedral."

We left the cathedral then and paused for a minute in the square before
the statue of Jeanne d'Arc, who brought her king to Rheims and had him
crowned. In some parts of France devout persons speak of the Jeanne
statue in Rheims as a miracle because, although the cathedral has been
scarred and shattered and every building round the square badly
damaged, the statue of Jeanne is untouched. I looked closely and found
the miracle was not perfect. A tiny bit of the scabbard of Jeanne had
been snipped off by a flying shrapnel fragment, but the sword of Jeanne,
which is raised high above her head, has not a nick in it.

Crossing the square we went into the office of _L'Eclaireur de l'Est_.
This daily newspaper has no humorous column, no editorials, no sporting
page and no dramatic reviews, and yet is probably the most difficult
journal in the world to edit. The chief reportorial task of the staff of
_L'Eclaireur_ is to count the number of shells which fall into the city
each day. That doesn't sound hard. The reporter can hear them all from
his desk and many he can see, for the cathedral just across the street
is still the favorite target of the Germans. Sometimes the reporter does
not have to look so far. The office of _L'Eclaireur_ has been hit eleven
times during the bombardment and three members of the staff have been
killed. One big shell fell in the composing room and so now the paper
is set by hand. It is a single sheet and the circulation is limited to
the three or four thousand civilians, who have stuck to Rheims
throughout the bombardment. One of the few who remain is a man who keeps
a picture postcard shop in a building next door to the newspaper office.
His roof has been knocked down about his head and his business is hardly
thriving. I asked him why he remained.

"I started to go away several months ago after one day when they put
some gas shells into the town," he said. "The very next morning I put
all my things into a cart and started up that street there. I had gone
just about to the third street when a shell hit the house behind me. It
killed my horse and wrecked the wagon and so I picked up my things and
came back. It seemed to me I wasn't meant to go away from Rheims."

The shelling increased in violence before we left the office of
_L'Eclaireur_. One shell was certainly not more than a hundred and fifty
yards away, but the work went on without interruption. The printers who
were setting ads never looked up. Mostly these advertisements were of
houses in Rheims which were renting lower than ever before. If there was
anyone in the visiting party who felt uncomfortable he was unwilling to
show it, for just outside the door of the newspaper office there sat an
old lady with a lapful of fancy work. A shell came from over the hills
and, in the seconds while it whistled and then smashed, the old lady
threaded her needle.

A day later, when some of us were willing to confess that of all
miserable sounds the whistling of a shell was the meanest, we found a
curious kink in the brain of everyone. It was the universal experience
that the slightest bit of cover, however inadequate, gave a sense of
safety out of all proportion to its utility. Thus we all felt much more
uncomfortable in the square than when we stood in the composing room of
the newspaper which was shielded by the remains of a glass skylight. The
same curious psychological twist can be found among soldiers at the
front. Again and again men will be found taking apparent comfort in the
fact that half an inch of tin roof protects them from the shells of the
Germans.

One is always taken from the cathedral of Rheims to the wine cellars.
The children of darkness are invariably wiser than the children of light
and the champagne merchants have not suffered as the churchmen have.
Their business places have been knocked about their heads, but their
treasures are underground deep enough to defy the biggest shells. In the
cellar of a single company which we visited there were 12,000,000 quarts
of wine. Even the German invasion at the beginning of the war failed to
deplete this stock. Hundreds of people live in these cellars, which are
laid out in avenues and streets. We came first to New York, a street
with tier upon tier of wine bottles; then to Boston, then to Buenos
Ayres, then to Montreal. One of the visitors explained that the street
named New York contained the wine destined to be shipped to that city,
while Buenos Ayres contained the consignment for the Argentine capital,
and so on. We nodded acceptance of the theory, but the next wine-laden
street was called Carnot and the next was Jeanne d'Arc.

From the cellars we made a journey to a battery of French .75's. It was
a peaceful military station, for so well were the guns concealed that
they seemed exempt from German fire, in spite of the fact that they had
been in place for half a year. The men sat about underground playing
cards and reading newspapers, but the commander of the battery was
unwilling that we should go with such a peaceful impression of his guns.
He brought his men to action with a word or two and sent six shells
sailing at the German first line trenches for our benefit. We left, half
deafened, but delighted.

No child could be more eager to show a toy than is a French officer to
let a visitor see in some small fashion how the war wags. We went from
the battery to a first line trench. It was slow work down miles and
miles of camouflaged road to the communicating trench, and all along the
line we were stopped by kindly Frenchmen, who wanted us to see how their
dugouts were decorated or the nature of their dining room or the first
aid dressing station or any little detail of the war with which they
were directly concerned. Much can be done with a dugout when a few back
numbers of _La Vie Parisienne_ are available. Still, this scheme of
decoration may be carried too far. I will never forget the face of a Y.
M. C. A. man who joined us at a French officers' mess one day. It was a
low ceilinged room, with pine walls, but not an inch of wall was
visible, for a complete papering of _La Vie Parisienne_ pictures had
been provided. Among the ladies thus drafted for decorative purposes
there was perhaps chiffon enough to make a single arm brassard.

Trenches, save in the very active sectors, give the visitor a sense of
security. Open places are the ones which try the nerves of civilians,
and it was pleasant to walk with a wall of earth on either hand, even if
some of us did have to stoop a bit. From the point where we entered the
communication trench to the front line was probably not more than half a
mile as the crow flies--if, indeed, he is foolish enough to travel over
trenches--but the sunken pathway turned and twisted to such an extent
that it must have been two miles before we struck even the third line.
Here we were held while ever so many dugouts and kitchens and gas alarm
stations and telephones were exhibited for us. They were all included in
the routine of war, but of a sudden romance popped up from underground.
The conducting officer paused at the entrance of a passage. "Another
dugout" we thought.

"Bring them up!" said the officer to a soldier, and the poilu scrambled
down the steps and came up with a bird cage containing two birds.

"These are the last resort," explained the officer. "We send messages
from the trenches by telephone, if we can. If the wires are destroyed we
use flashes from a light, but if that station is also broken and we must
have help the birds are freed."

Neither pigeon seemed in the least puffed up over the responsibility
which rested upon him.

The German trenches were just 400 yards away from the first lines of the
French. It was possible to see them by peering over the rim of the
trench, but we quickly ducked down again. Presently we grew less
cautious, and one or two tried to stare the Germans out of countenance.
If they could see that strangers were peeping at them they paid no
attention.

The French officer in charge seemed embarrassed. He explained that it
was an exceptionally quiet day. Only the day before the Germans had been
active with trench mortars, and he couldn't understand why they were
sulking now. Possibly the bombardment from the French .75's, which had
been going on all day, had softened them a bit. He looked about the
trench dejectedly. The soldiers of the front line were playing cards,
eating soup or modeling little grotesque figures out of the soft rock
which lined the walls of the trenches. He called sharply to a soldier,
who fetched a box of rifle grenades out of a cubbyhole and sent half a
dozen, one after the other, spinning at the German lines. Probably they
fell short, or perhaps the Germans were simply sullen. At any rate, they
paid no attention. They were not disposed into being prodded to show
off for American visitors.

The officer suddenly thought up a method to retrieve the lost reputation
of his trench. If we could only stay until dark he would send us all out
on a patroling party right up to the wire in front of the German first
line. We declined, and made some little haste to leave this ever so
obliging officer. In another moment we feared he would organize an
exhibition offensive for our benefit and reserve us places in the first
wave.

If things were quiet on the ground there was plenty of activity aloft.
It was a clear day, and both sides had big sausage balloons up for
observation. Once a German plane tried to attack a French sausage, but
it was driven off, and all day long the Germans sought without success
to wing the balloon with one of their long range guns. In that
particular sector on that particular day the French unquestionably had
the mastery of the air. We saw four of their 'planes in the air to every
one German, and once a fleet of five cruised over the German lines. The
Boche opened on them with shrapnel. It was a clear day, without a
breath of wind, and the white puffs clung to the sky at the point where
they broke. Presently the French planes swooped much lower, and the
Germans opened on them with machine guns. Somebody has said that machine
gun fire sounds as if a crazy carpenter was shingling a roof, and
somebody else has compared the noise to a typewriter being operated in
an upper room, but it is still more like a riveting machine. It has a
business-like, methodical sound to me. To my ear there is no malice in a
machine gun, but then I have never heard it from an aeroplane.

The officer in charge accompanied us to the end of the communicating
trench.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

We told him that we were going directly to Paris.

"Have a good time," he said, "but leave one dinner and one drink for
me."

"You are going to Paris?" we asked.

He looked over toward the German wire and smiled a little. "I may," he
said.



CHAPTER XV

VERDUN


From the hills around Verdun we saw the earth as it must have looked on
perhaps the fourth day of creation week. It was all frowsy mud and
slime. Man was down deep in the dust from which he will spring again
some day. There was not even a foothold for poppies on the hills around
Verdun, for mingled with the old earth scars were fresh ones, and there
will be more tomorrow.

The Germans have been pushed back of the edges of the bowl in which
Verdun lies, and now their only eyes are aeroplanes. Big naval guns are
required to reach the city itself, but the Germans are not content to
leave the battered town alone. They bang away at ruins and kick a city
which is down. They fire, too, at the citadel, but do no more than
scratch the top of this great underground fortress.

Our guide and mentor at Verdun was a distinguished colonel, very
learned in military tactics and familiar with every phase of the various
Verdun campaigns. The extent of his information was borne home to us the
first day of the trip, for he stood the party on top of Fort Souville
and carried on a technical talk in French for more than half an hour,
while German shells, breaking a few hundred yards away, sought in vain
to interrupt him.

From the top of Souville it was possible to see gun flashes and to spy,
now and again, aeroplanes which darted back and forth all day, but not a
soldier of either side was to be seen through the strongest glasses. On
no front have men dug in so deeply as at Verdun. They have good reason
to snuggle into the earth, for the French have a story that one of their
projectiles killed men in a dugout seventy-five feet below the surface.
They thought that this terrific penetration must have been due to the
fact that the shell hit fairly upon a crack in the concrete and wedged
its way through.

Barring plumbing, which is always an after thought in France, the French
make the underground dwellings of the soldiers moderately comfortable.
There are ventilating plants and electric lights, and in the citadel a
motion picture theater. In one underground stronghold we found the
telephone central for all the various positions around Verdun. We
wondered whether or not he was ever obliged to report, "Your party
doesn't answer."

We traveled far underground, and at last the colonel brought us out
again near the high, bare spot where the automobiles had been left. As
we walked down the road there was a particularly vicious bang some place
to our left.

"That wasn't very far away," said the colonel.

This was the first shell which had stirred him to interest or attention.
Presently there came another bang, and this seemed just as loud. The
colonel paused thoughtfully.

"Maybe one of their aeroplanes has seen us and spotted us for the
artillery," he said. "Tell the chauffeurs to turn the cars around at
once, and we'll go."

The chauffeurs turned the cars with commendable alacrity and the
colonel walked slowly toward them. But his roving glance rested for an
instant upon a little ridge across the valley to his left which brought
memories to his mind and he stopped in the middle of the road and began:
"In the Spring of 1915----" On and on he went in his beautiful French
and described some small affair which might have influenced the entire
subsequent course of events. It seemed that if the Germans had varied
their plan a little the French defensive scheme would have been upset
and all sorts of things would have happened. At the end of twenty
minutes he had done full justice to the subject and then he recollected.

"We'd better go now," he said, "the Germans may have spotted us."

We messed with the French officers in the citadel that night and found
that they were ready to converse on almost any subject but the war.
Literature was their favorite topic. Although the colonel spoke no
English, he was familiar with much American literature in translation.
Poe he knew well, and he had read a few things of Mark Twain's.
Somebody mentioned William James, and a captain quoted at length from
an essay called "A Moral Equivalent for War." The lieutenant on my right
wanted to know whether Americans still read Walt Whitman, and I wondered
whether the same familiarity with French literature would be encountered
in any American mess. This little lieutenant had been a professor or
instructor some place or other when the war began and had several
poetical dramas in verse to his credit. He had written a play called
"Dionysius" in rhymed couplets. At the beginning of the war he had
enlisted as a private and had seen much hard service, which had brought
him two wounds, a medal and a commission. He hoped ardently to survive
the war, for he felt that he could write ever so much better because he
had been thrown into close relationship with peasants and laborers. He
found their talk meaty, and at times rich in poetry. One day, he
remembered, his regiment had marched along a country road in a fine
spring dawn. His comrade to the right, a Parisian peddler, remarked as
they passed a gleaming forest: "There is a wood where God has slept."
The little lieutenant said that if he had the luck to live through the
war he was going to write plays without a thought of the Greeks and
their mythology. He hoped, if he should live, to write for the many as
well as the few. I wondered to myself just what sort of plays one of our
American highbrows would write if he served a campaign with the 69th or
drove an army mule.

The French army tries to let the men at the front live a little better
than elsewhere if it is possible to get the food up to them. In the
citadel at Verdun the men dine in style now that the incoming roads are
pretty much immune from shell fire. Our luncheon with the officers on
the night of the twenty-fifth of September, for instance, consisted of
hors d'oeuvres, omelette aux fines herbes, bifsteck, pommes
parmentier, confitures, dessert, café, champagne and pinard. And for
dinner we had potage vermicelli, oefs bechamel, jambon aux epinards,
chouxfleur au jus, duchesse chocolat, fruits, dessert, café and, of
course, champagne and pinard.

We spent the night in the citadel and a little after midnight the German
planes came over. They bombed the town and dropped a few missiles on the
citadel, but they did no more than dent the roof a bit. Our rooms were
almost fifty meters underground and the bombs sounded little louder than
heavy rain on the roof. Certainly they did not disturb the Frenchman
just down the hall. His snores were ever so much louder than the German
bombs.

On the morning of our second day we crossed the Meuse and drove down
heavily camouflaged roads to Charny. Five hundred yards away a French
battery was under heavy bombardment from big German guns. We could see
the earth fly up from hits close to the gun emplacements. Five hundred
yards away men were being killed and wounded, but the soldiers in Charny
loafed about and smoked and chatted and paid no attention. This
bombardment was not in their lives at all. The men of the battery might
have been the folk who walk upside down on the other side of the earth.

"The last time I came to Charny," said the Colonel, "I had to get in a
dugout and stay five hours because the Germans bombarded it so hard.

"But that was in the afternoon," he reassured us; "the Germans never
bombard Charny in the morning."

We stood and watched the two sheets of fire poured upon the battery
until somebody called attention to the fact that it was almost noon and
we returned to the citadel. And at two o'clock that afternoon we stood
on a hilltop overlooking the valley and sure enough the Germans were
giving Charny its daily strafe. Shells were bursting all around the
peaceful road we had traveled in the morning. Probably by now the men in
the battery were idling about and taking their ease. After all there is
something to be said for a foe who plays a system.



CHAPTER XVI

WE VISIT THE BRITISH ARMY


He was twenty-six and a major, but he was three years old in the big
war, and that is the only age which counts today in the British army.
The little major was the first man I ever met who professed a genuine
enthusiasm for war. It had found him a black sheep in the most remote
region of a big British colony and had tossed him into command of
himself and of others. Utterly useless in the pursuit of peace, war had
proved a sufficiently compelling schoolmaster to induce the study of
many complicated mechanical problems, of subtler ones of psychology, not
to mention two languages. It is true that his German was limited to
"Throw up your hands" and "Come out or we'll bomb you," but he could
carry on a friendly and fairly extensive conversation in French. The
tuition fee was two wounds.

He was a fine, fair sample of the slashing, swanking British army which
backs its boasts with battalions and makes its light words good with
heavy guns. We rode together in a train for several hours on the way to
the British front and when I told him I was a newspaper man he was eager
to tell me something of what the British army had done, was doing and
would do.

"If they'd cut out wire and trenches and machine guns and general
staffs," said the little major, "we'd win in two months." Without these
concessions he did not expect to see the end for at least a year.
However, he was concerned for the most part with more concrete things
than predictions, and I'd best let him wander on as he did that
afternoon with no interruption save an occasional question. He was
returning to the front after being wounded. There had been boating and
swimming and tennis and "a deuced pretty girl" down there at the resort
where he had been recuperating, and yet he was glad to be back.

"You see," the little major explained, "I have been in all the shows
from the beginning and I'd feel pretty rotten if they were to pull
anything off without me. The C.O. wants me back. I have a letter here
from him. He tells me to take all the time I need, but to get back as
soon as I can. The C.O. and I have been together from the beginning. It
isn't that the new fellow isn't all right. Quite likely he's a better
officer than I am, but the C.O. wants the old fellows that he's seen in
other shows and knows all about. That's why I want to get back. I want
to see what the new fellow's doing with my men."

He limped a little still, and I pressed him to tell me about his wound.
It seemed he got it in "the April show."

"There was a bit of luck about that," he said. "I happened to take my
Webley with me when we went over, as well as my cane. They've got a
silly rule now that officers mustn't carry canes in an attack and that
they must wear Tommies' tunics, so the Fritzies can't spot them. They
say we lose too many officers because they expose themselves. Nobody
pays much attention to that rule. You won't find many officers in
Tommies' tunics, but you will find 'em out in front with their canes.

"And there's sense to it. I've always said that I wouldn't ask my men to
go any place I wasn't willing to go and to go first. 'Come on,' that's
what we say in the British army. The Germans drive their men from
behind. Some of their officers are very brave, you know, but that's the
system. I remember in one show we were stuck at the third line of barbed
wire. The guns hadn't touched it, but it wasn't their fault. There was a
German officer there, and he stood up on the parapet, and directed the
machine gun fire. He'd point every place we were a little thick and then
they'd let us have it. We got him, though. I got a machine gunner on
him. Just peppered him. He was a mighty brave officer."

I reminded the little major that I wanted to hear about his wound.

"We were coming through a German trench that had been pretty well
cleaned out, but close up against the back there was a soldier hiding.
When I came by he cut at me with his bayonet. He only got me in the
fleshy part of my leg, and I turned and let him have it with my Webley.
Blew the top of his head right off. Silly ass, wasn't he? Must have
known he'd be killed."

I asked him if his wound hurt, and he said no, and that he was able to
walk back, and felt quite chipper until the last mile.

"The first thing a wounded man wants to do," he explained, "is to get
away. If he's been hit he gets a sudden crazy fear that he's going to
get it again. Most wounds don't hurt much, and as soon as a man's out of
fire and puts a cigarette in his mouth he cheers up. He's at his best if
it's a blighty hit."

Here I was forced to interrupt for information.

"A blighty hit! Don't you know what that is? It's from the song they
sing now, 'Carry Me Back to Blighty.' Blighty's England. I think it's a
Hindustani word that means home, but I won't be sure about that. Anyhow,
a blighty hit's not bad enough to keep you in France, but bad enough to
send you to England. Those are the slow injuries that aren't so very
dangerous.

"Next to getting to Blighty a fellow wants a cigarette. I never saw a
man hit so bad he couldn't smoke. I saw a British 'plane coming down one
day and the tail of it was red. The Germans fix up their machines like
that, but I knew this wasn't paint on a British plane. He made a tiptop
landing, and when he got out we saw part of his shoulder was shot away
and he had a hole in the top of his head. 'That was a close call,' he
said, and he took out a cigarette, lighted it and took two puffs. Then
he keeled over."

The little major and I got out to stretch our legs at a station
platform, and I noticed that salutes were punctiliously given and
returned. "I suppose," I said, quoting a bit of misinformation somebody
had supplied, "that out at the front all this saluting is cut out."

"No, sir," said the little major sternly. "Somebody told that to the
last batch of recruits that was sent over, but we taught 'em better
soon. They don't get the lay of it quite. It isn't me they salute; it's
the King's uniform. Of course, I don't expect a man to salute if I pass
him in a trench; but if he's smoking a cigarette I expect him to throw
it away and I expect him to straighten up.

"You've got to let up on some things, of course. There's shaving now. I
expect my men to shave every day when they're not in the line, but you
can't expect that in the trenches. Naturally, I shave myself every day
anyhow, but I'm lenient with the men. I don't insist on their shaving
more than every other day."

When I got to the château where the visiting correspondents stay I found
the officers at mess. There were four British officers, a Roumanian
general, a member of Parliament, a Dutch painter and an American
newspaperman. As at Verdun the conversation had swung around to
literature. It all began because somebody said something about Shaw
having put up at the château when he visited the front.

"Awful ass," said an English officer who had met the playwright out
there. "He was no end of nuisance for us. Why, when he got out here we
found he was a vegetarian, and we had to chase around and have
omelettes fixed up for him every day."

"I censored his stuff," said another. "I didn't think much of it, but I
made almost no changes. Some of it was a little subtle, but I let it get
by."

"I heard him out here," said a third officer, "and he talked no end of
rot. He said the Germans had made a botch of destroying towns. He said
he could have done more damage to Arras with a hammer than the Germans
did with their shells. Of course, he couldn't begin to do it with a
hammer, and, anyway, he wouldn't be let. I suppose he never thought of
that. Then he said that the Germans were doing us a great favor by their
air raids. He said they were smashing up things that were ugly and
unsanitary. That's silly. We could pull them down ourselves, you know,
and, anyhow, in the last raid they hit the postoffice."

"The old boy's got nerve, though," interrupted another officer. "I was
out at the front with him near Arras and there was some pretty lively
shelling going on around us. I told him to put on his tin hat, but he
wouldn't do it. I said, 'Those German shell splinters may get you,' and
he laughed and said if the Germans did anything to him they'd be mighty
ungrateful, after all he'd done for them. He don't know the Boche."

"He told me," added a British journalist, "'when I want to know about
war I talk to soldiers.' I asked him: 'Do you mean officers or Tommies?'
He said that he meant Tommies.

"Now you know how much reliance you can put in what a Tommy says. He'll
either say what he thinks you want him to say or what he thinks you
don't want him to say. I told Shaw that, but he paid no attention."

Here the first officer chimed in again. "Well, I stick to what I've said
right along. I don't see where Shaw's funny. I think he's silly."

The major who sat at the head of the table deftly turned the
conversation away from literary controversy. "What did you think of
Conan Doyle?" he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bright and early next morning we started out to follow in the footsteps
of Shaw. We went through country which had been shocked and shaken by
both sides in their battles and then dynamited in addition by the
retreating Germans. I stood in Peronne which the Germans had dynamited
with the greatest care. They left the town for dead, but against a
shattered wall was a sign which read, "Regimental cinema tonight at the
Splinters--CHARLIE CHAPLIN IN SHANGHAIED." This was first aid. A frozen
man is rubbed with snow and a town which has suffered German
frightfulness is regaled with Charlie Chaplin.

Life will come back to that town in time and to others. After all life
is a rubber band and it will be just as it was only an instant after
they let go. We turned down the road to Arras and drove between fields
which had been burned to cinders and trodden into mud by men and guns
only a few weeks ago. Now the poppies were sweeping all before them.
Into the trenches they went and over. First line, second line, third
line, each fell in turn to the redcoats. They were so thick that the
earth seemed to bleed for its wounds.

Presently we were in Arras and our officer led us into the cathedral.
"We won't stay in here long," said the officer. "The Germans drop a
shell in here every now and then and the next one may bring the rest of
the walls down. People keep away from here." This indeed seemed a very
citadel of destruction and loneliness, but as we turned to go we heard a
mournful noise from an inner room. We investigated and found a Tommy
practicing on the cornet. He was playing a piece entitled, "Progressive
Exercises for the Cornet--Number One." He stood up and saluted.

"Have the Germans bombarded the town at all today?" the captain asked.

"Yes, sir," said the Tommy. "They bombarded the square out in front here
this morning."

"Did they get anybody?"

"No, sir, only a Frenchman, sir," replied the Tommy with stiff
formality.

"Was there any other activity?"

"Yes, sir, there were some aeroplanes over about an hour ago and they
dropped some bombs in there," said the Tommy indicating a street just
back of the cathedral.

"And what were we doing?" persisted the captain.

"We were trying out some new anti-aircraft ammunition," explained the
Tommy patiently, "but I don't think it was any good, sir, because most
of it came down and buried itself over there," and he indicated a spot
some fifteen or twenty feet from his music room.

The captain could think of no more inquiries just then and the soldier
quickly folded up his cornet and his music and after saluting with
decent haste left the cathedral. For the sake of his music he was
willing to endure shells and bombs and shrapnel fragments but questions
put him off his stride entirely. He fled, perhaps, to some shell hole
for solitude.

From the cathedral we went to the town hall. Here again one could not
but be impressed with the futility of destruction. The Germans have torn
the building cruelly with their shells and their dynamite, but beauty is
tough. Dynamite a bakeshop and you have only a mess. Shell a tailor's
and rubbish is left. But it is different when you begin to turn your
guns against cathedrals and town halls. If a structure is built
beautifully it will break beautifully. The dynamite has cut fine lines
in the jagged ruins of the Town Hall. The Germans have smashed
everything but the soul of the building. They didn't get that. It was
not for want of trying, but dynamite has its limitations.

We got up to the lines the next day and had a fine view of the opposing
trench systems for ten or twelve miles. Our box seat was on top of a
hill just back of Messines ridge. We saw a duel between two aeroplanes,
the explosion of a munitions dump, and no end of big gun firing but the
officer who conducted us said that it was a dull morning. Our day on the
hill was a clear one after three days of low clouds, and all the fliers
were out in force. Almost two dozen British 'planes were to be seen from
the hilltop, as well as several captive balloons. Although the English
'planes flew well over the German lines, they drew no fire, but
presently the sky began to grow woolly. Little round white patches
appeared, one against the other, cutting the sky into great flannel
figures. Then we saw above it all a 'plane so high as to be hardly
visible. Indeed, we should not have seen it but for the telltale
shrapnel. These were our guns, and this was no friend. Now it was almost
over our heads. It seemed intent upon attacking one of the British
captive balloons, which could only stand and wait. The guns were
snarling now. We were close enough to hear the anger in every shot. The
shrapnel broke behind, below, above and in front of the aeroplane, but
on it sailed, untouched, like a glass ball in a Buffalo Bill shooting
trick.

Yet here was no poor marksmanship, for at ten thousand feet the air
pilot has forty seconds to dodge each shell. He merely has to watch the
flash of the gun and then dive or rise or slide to right or left.
Sometimes, indeed, the shrapnel lays a finger on him, but he whirls away
out of its grip like a quarterback in a broken field. The guns stopped
firing, although the German was still above the British lines. Somebody
was up to tackle him at closer range. Where our 'plane came from we did
not know. The sky was filled all morning with English fliers, but each
appeared to have definite work in hand, and not one paid the slightest
attention to the German intruder. This was a special assignment. When we
caught sight of the English flier he had maneuvered into a position
behind his German adversary. We caught the flashes from the machine
guns, but we could hear no sound of the fight above us. The 'planes
darted forward and back. They were clever little bantams, these, and
neither was able to put in a finishing blow. Our stolid guiding officer
was up on his toes now and rooting as if it were some sporting event in
progress. Looking upward at his comrade, ten thousand feet aloft, he
cried: "Let him have it!"

The hostile attitude of the spectators or something else discouraged the
German and he turned and made for his own lines. The Englishman pursued
him for a time and then gave up the chase. The consensus of opinion was
that the Briton had won the decision on points.

"They've been making a dead set for our balloons all week," said an
English soldier after the German 'plane had been driven away.

"If they get the balloon does that mean that they get the observer?" I
asked in my ignorance.

"Lord bless you no," said the soldier. "No danger for 'im, sir. He just
jumps out with a parachute."

Next we turned our attention to the big gun firing. We could see the
flash of the guns of both sides and hear the whistle of the shells.
After the flash one might mark the result if he had a sharp eye. There
was no trouble in following the progress of one particular British shell
for an instant after the flash a high column of smoke arose above a town
which the Germans held. A minute or so later we had our own column for a
German shell hit one of the many munition dumps scattered about behind
the British front. Our own hill was pocked with shell holes and the
tower near which we stood was nibbled nigh to bits and we had a wakeful,
stimulating feeling that almost any minute something might drop on or
near us. The Tommy with whom we shared the view undeceived us.

"This hill!" he said. "Why there was a time when it was as much as your
life was worth to stand up here and now the place's nothing but a
bloomin' Cook's tour resort."

Our last day with the army was spent at the University of Death and
Destruction where the men from England take their final courses in
warfare. We began with a class which was having a lesson in defense
against bombs. A tin can exploded at the feet of a Scotchman and
peppered his bare legs. Five hundred soldiers roared with laughter, for
the man in the kilt had flunked his recitation in "Trench Raiding."
Officially the Scot was dead, for the tin can represented a German bomb.
They were cramming for war in the big training camp and they played
roughly. The imitation bombs carried a charge of powder generous enough
to insure wholesome respect. The Scot, indeed, had to retire to have a
dressing made.

The trench in which the class was hard at work was perfect in almost
every detail, save that it lacked a back wall. This was removed for the
sake of the audience. An instructor stood outside and every now and
again he would toss a bomb at his pupils. He played no favorites. The
good and the bad scholar each had his chance. In order to pass the
course the soldier had to show that he knew what to do to meet the bomb
attack. He might take shelter in the traverse; he might kick the bomb
far away; or, with a master's degree in view, he might pick up the
imitation bomb and hurl it far away before it could explode. Speed and
steady nerves were required for this trick. An explosion might easily
blow off a finger or two. Yet, after all, it was practice. Later there
might be other bombs designed for bigger game than fingers.

We followed the students from bombs to bayonets. The men with the cold
steel were charging into dummies marked with circles to represent spots
where hits were likely to be vital. It looked for all the world like
football practice and the men went after the dummies as the tacklers
used to do at Soldiers' Field of an afternoon when the coach had pinned
blue sweaters and white "Y's" on the straw men. There was the same
severely serious spirit. In a larger field a big class was having
instruction in attack. Before them were three lines of trenches
protected by barbed wire ankle high. At a signal they left their trench
and darted forward to the next one. Here they paused for a moment and
then set sail for the second trench. At another signal they were out of
that and into a third trench. From here they blazed away at some targets
on the hill representing Germans and consolidated their positions.
Instructors followed the charge along the road which bordered the
instruction field. They mingled praise and blame, but ever they shouted
for speed. "Make this go now," would be the cry, and to a luckless wight
who had been upset by barbed wire and sent sprawling: "What do you mean
by lying there, anyhow?"

It was a New Zealand company which I saw, and in the class were a number
of Maoris. These were fine, husky men of the type seen in the Hawaiian
Islands. All played the game hard, but none seemed so imaginatively
stirred by it as the Maoris. They were fairly carried away by the
enthusiasm of a charge, and left their trenches each time shouting at
top voice. The capture of the third trench by no means satisfied them.
They wanted to go on and on. If the officer had not called a halt
there's no telling but that they might have invaded the next field and
bayoneted the bombardiers. Over the hill there was a rattle of machine
guns and beyond that a more scattering volume of musketry. We stopped
and watched the men at their rifle practice.

"You wouldn't believe it," said the instructor, "but we've got to keep
hammering it home to men that rifles are meant to shoot with. For a time
you heard nothing but bayonets. A gun might have been nothing more than
a pike. Later everything was bombs, and sometimes soldiers just stood
and waited till the Boches got close, so that they could peg something
at 'em. But when these men go away they're going to know that the bombs
and the bayonet are the frill. It's the shooting that counts."

We saw a good deal of the British army during our trip but the thing
which gave me the clearest insight into the fundamental fighting,
sporting spirit of the army was a story which an officer told me of an
incident which occurred in the sector where he was stationed. An
enlisted man and an officer were trapped during a daylight patrol when a
mist lifted and they had to take shelter in a shell hole. They lay there
for some hours, and then the soldier endeavored to make a break back for
his own trenches. No sooner had his head and shoulders appeared above
the shell hole than a German machine gun pattered away at him. He was
hit and the officer started to climb up to his assistance.

"No, don't come," said the soldier. "They got me, sir." He put his hand
up and indicated a wound on the left hand side of his chest. "It was a
damn good shot," he said.



CHAPTER XVII

BACK FROM PRISON


France has a better right to fight than any nation in the world because
she can wage war, even a slow and bitter war, with a gesture. Misery
does not blind the French to the dramatic. Even the tears and the
heartache are made to count for France. We saw wounded men come back
from German prison camps and Lyons made the coming of these wrecked and
shattered soldiers a pageant. Gray men, grim men, silent men stood up
and shouted like boys in the bleachers because there was someone there
to greet them with the right word. There is always somebody in France
who has that word.

This time it was a lieutenant colonel of artillery. He was a man big as
Jess Willard and his voice boomed through the station like one of his
own huge howitzers as he swung his arm above his head and said to the
men from Germany: "I want you all to join with me in a great cry. Open
your throats as well as your hearts. The cry we want to hear from you is
one that you want to give because for so long a time you have been
forbidden to cry 'Vive la France.'" The big man shouted as he said it,
but this time the howitzer voice was not heard above the roar of other
voices.

The French soldiers who came back from Germany had been for some little
time in a recuperation camp in Switzerland. A few were lame, many were
thin and peaked and almost all were gray, but the Lyonnaise said that
this was not nearly so bad as the last train load of men from German
prisons. There were no madmen this time.

The windows of the cars were crowded with faces as the train came slowly
into the station. There was no shouting until the big man made his
speech. Some of the returned prisoners waved their hands, but most of
them greeted the soldiers and the crowds which waited for them with
formal salutes. A file of soldiers was drawn up along the platform and
outside the station was a squad of cavalry trying to stand just as
motionless as the infantry. There were horns and trumpets inside the
station and out and they blew a nipping, rollicking tune as the train
rolled in. The wounded men, all but a few on stretchers, descended from
the cars in military order. Lame men with canes hopped and skipped in
order to keep step with their more nimble comrades.

There was an old woman in black who darted out from the crowd and wanted
to throw her arms around the neck of a young soldier, but he waved to
her not to come. You see she still thought of him as a boy, but that had
been three years ago. He was a marching man now and it would never do to
break the formation. Group by group they came from the train with a new
blare of the trumpets for each unit. There were 416 French soldiers,
thirty-seven French officers and seventeen Belgians. They marched past
the receiving group of officers and saluted punctiliously, though it was
a little bit hard because their arms were full of flowers. When they had
all been gathered in the waiting room of the station the big colonel
made his speech. He did not speak very long because the returned
soldiers could see out of the corner of their eyes that just across the
room were big tables with scores of expectant and anticipatory bottles
of champagne. But there was fizz, too, to the talk of the big colonel. I
had the speech translated for me afterwards but I guessed that some of
it was about the Germans, for I caught the phrase "inhuman cruelty."

"You have a right to feel now that you are back on the soil of France
after all these years of inhuman cruelty that your work is done," said
the colonel, "but there is still something that you must do. There is
something that you ought to do. You will tell everybody of the wrongs
the Germans have inflicted upon you. You will tell exactly what they
have done and you will thus serve France by increasing the hatred
between our people and their people."

The soldiers and the crowd cheered then almost as loudly as they did
later in the great shout of "Vive la France." The gray men, the grim men
and the silent men were stirred by what the colonel said because they
did and will forever have a quarrel with the German people.

"We are doubly glad to welcome you back to France because our hearts
have been so cheered by the coming of America," continued the colonel.
"Victory seems nearer and nearer and vengeance for all the things you
have endured." It was then that he snatched the great shout of "Vive la
France" from the crowd.

As the din died down the corks began to pop and men who a little time
before had not even been sure of a proper ration of water began to gulp
champagne out of tin cups. The sting of the wine, the excitement and the
din were too much for one returned prisoner. He had scarcely lifted his
glass to his lips than he fell over in a heap and there was one more
weary wanderer to make his return sickabed in a stretcher. But the rest
marched better as they came out of the station with band tunes blaring
in their ears and God knows what tunes singing in their hearts as they
clanked along the cobbles. For they had been dead men and they were back
in France and there was sun in the sky. When they crossed the bridge
they broke ranks. The old woman in black was there and for just a minute
the marching man became a boy again.



CHAPTER XVIII

FINISHING TOUCHES


The American army had begun to find itself when October came round.
Perhaps it had not yet gained a complete army consciousness, but there
could be no doubt about company spirit. Chaps who had been civilians
only a few months before now spoke of "my company" as if they had grown
up with the outfit. They were also ready to declare loudly and profanely
in public places that H or L or K or I, as the case might be, was the
best company in the army. Some were willing to let the remark stand for
the world.

Too much credit cannot be given to the captains of the first American
Expeditionary Force. A captain commands more men now than ever before in
the American army and he has more power. This was particularly true in
France where many companies had a little village to themselves. The
captain, therefore, was not only a military leader, a father confessor,
and a gents' furnisher, but also an ambassador to the people of a small
section of France. The colonels and majors and the rest are the fellows
who think up things to be done, but it is the captains who do them.

Of course that wasn't the way the junior officers looked at it. A man
who was a first lieutenant when the army came to France told us: "A
first lieutenant is supposed to know everything and do everything; a
captain is supposed to know everything and do nothing, and a major is
supposed to know nothing and do nothing."

We were delighted early this year when we heard that he had been made a
major, for we immediately sat down and telegraphed to him: "After what
you told us this summer, we are sure you will be an excellent major."

By October much of the feeling between the officers of the regular army
and the reserve had been smoothed out, but it was not like that in the
early days. Once when a young reserve major was put in command of a
battalion, a regular army captain who was much his senior in years
observed: "I think there ought to be an army regulation that no reserve
officer shall be appointed to command a battalion without the consent of
his parents or guardian." But as the work grew harder and harder many
little jealousies of the army were simply sweated out. It was easy to do
that, for the American army woke up, or rather was awakened, every
morning at five o'clock. There was a Kansas farmer in one company who
was always up and waiting for the buglers. He said that the schedule of
the American army always left him at a loss as to what to do with his
mornings. But for the rest the trumpeters were compelled to blow their
loudest. Roll call was at five-thirty and this was followed with setting
up exercises designed to give the men an appetite for the six o'clock
breakfast. This was almost always a hearty meal. The poilus who began
the day with a cup of black coffee and a little war bread were amazed to
see the doughboys start off at daylight with Irish stew, or bacon or ham
or mush and occasionally eggs in addition to white bread and coffee.

After breakfast came sick call, at which men who felt unable to drill
for any reason were obliged to talk it over with the doctor. Those who
had no ailments went to work vigorously in making up their cots and
cleaning their quarters. At seven they fell in and marched away to the
training ground. Mornings were usually devoted to bombing, machine gun
and automatic rifle practice. A little after eleven the doughboys
started back to their billets for dinner. This was likely to consist of
beans and boiled beef or salmon, or there would be a stew again or
corned beef hash. The most prevalent vegetables were potatoes and canned
corn. Dinner might also include a pudding, nearly always rice or canned
fruit. Sometimes there was jam and, of course, coffee and bread were
abundant.

During the latter part of the training period the home dinner was often
omitted in favor of a meal prepared at the training ground. The
afternoon work began a little before two. Rifle practice, drills and
bayonet work were usually the phases of warfare undertaken at this time
of day. Labor ceased at four with supper, which was much the same sort
of meal as dinner, at five-thirty. After supper the soldier's time was
pretty much his own. He could loaf about the town hall and listen to the
army band play selections from "The Fair Co-ed," "The Prince of Pilsen"
or any one of a score of comic operas long dead and forgotten by
everyone but army bandmasters, or he could go to the Y.M.C.A. and read
or write letters or play checkers or perhaps pool of the sort which is
possible on a small portable table. He was due back in quarters and in
bed at nine and he was always asleep at one minute and thirty seconds
after nine.

The training hours became more crowded, if not longer, as the time drew
nearer when the American army should go to the front. Everybody was
anxious that they should make a good showing. Trench problems had to be
considered and gas and bayonet work which was the phase in which the
training was lagging somewhat. It was also considered useful that the
men should have some experience with shell fire before they heard guns
fired in anger, and so it was arranged that a sham battle should take
place in which the French would fire a barrage over the heads of the
American troops. The first plan was that the doughboys should advance
behind this barrage as in actual warfare and attack a system of practice
trenches. Later it was decided that it was not worth while to risk
possible casualties, as the men could learn almost as much although held
four or five hundred yards behind the barrage.

The bombardment began with thirty-six shots to the minute and was
gradually raised to fifty-two. The doughboys were allowed to sit down to
watch the show. Our soldiers seemed a bit unfeeling, for not one
expressed any regret at the destruction of Hindenburg, Ludendorff, and
Mackensen, although they had spent many a happy afternoon under the
broiling sun constructing this elaborate trench system. None of the men
seemed disturbed, either, by the unfamiliar whistling sounds over head.
All the doughboys wore steel helmets but two were slightly injured by
small fragments from shells which fell a little short. In both cases the
wounded man had lowered the protective value of his helmet somewhat by
sitting on it. After the first interest in the show wore off many proved
their ability to steal naps in spite of the bickering of the big guns.
The marines, for instance, had marched eighteen miles after rising at
3:30 in the morning, and although the marine corps is singularly hardy,
a few made up lost sleep. The patter of the French seventy-fives was no
more than rain on the roof to these men when they could find sufficient
cover to sleep unobserved.

The most fortunate soldiers were those who were stationed in a fringe of
woods which bordered on the big meadow. Here the doughboys did a little
shooting on their own account when no officers were at hand. In a sudden
lull of gunfire I heard a voice say: "Shoot it all," and there was a
rattle of dice in the bottom of a steel helmet.

When the bombardment was at its height a big hawk sailed over the field
full in the pathway of hundreds of shells. He circled about calmly in
spite of the shrieking things which whizzed by him and then he turned
contemptuously and flew away very slowly. Perhaps he was disappointed
because it was only a sham battle.

Of course some of the officers saw the real thing. Many made trips to
the French front and a few fired some shots at the German lines just to
set a good precedent. American officers attended all the French
offensives of the summer as invited guests. Brigadier General George
Duncan and Lieutenant Colonel Campbell King were cited by the French
army for the croix de guerre after they had spent some thrilling hours
at Verdun. The awards were largely complimentary, of course, but the
American officers saw plenty of action. According to the French officers
General Duncan was at an advanced observation post when the Germans
spotted it and began pouring in shell. One fragment hit the General's
hat and the colonel in charge advised him that it would be well to move
back to a safer point of vantage. Duncan replied that this was the first
show he had ever seen and that he did not want to give up his front row
seat if he could help it.

Lieutenant Colonel King paid visits to the first aid dressing stations
under heavy fire and encouraged the wounded with words of good cheer in
bad French. The night before the attack his dugout was flooded with
poison vapor from German gas shells, but he awoke in time to arouse his
two companions, who got their masks on in time to prevent injury.
Another American officer who shall be nameless found it difficult to sit
back as a spectator when so much was going on. He was a brigadier
general, but this was his first taste of war on a big scale. The French
offensive aroused his enthusiasm so much that he said to a fellow
American officer: "Nobody's watching us now, let's sneak up ahead there
and throw a few bombs." The second officer, who was only a captain,
reminded him of his rank.

"I can't help that," said the General, "I've just got to try and see if
I can't bomb a few squareheads." Discipline was overlooked for a moment
then as the captain restrained the General with physical force from
going forward to try out his arm.

The British now seem to be able to give the Germans more than they want
in gas, but this superiority did not come until late in the year.
American officers who went to the front returned with a profound respect
for German gas and, in fact, all gas. This feeling was reflected in the
thoroughgoing training which the men received in gas and masks. It began
with lectures by the company commanders in which it is certain no very
optimistic picture of poison vapor was painted. Then came long drills in
putting on the mask in three counts and holding the breath during the
adjustment. The contrivance used was not a little like a catcher's mask
and this simplified the problem somewhat. The men carried the masks with
them everywhere and developed great speed in getting under protection.
Conscientious officers harassed their men by calling out "gas attack" at
unexpected moments such as when men were shaving or eating or sleeping.
Finally the doughboys were actually sent through gas.

Big air-proof cellars were constructed in each village and here the
tests were held. As a matter of fact, the gas used was a form of tear
gas, calculated to irritate the eyes and nose and perhaps to cause
blindness for a few hours. It would not cause permanent injury even if
a mask were improperly adjusted. The comparative harmlessness of the
test vapor was kept secret. When the men went down the steps they
thought that one whiff of the air in the cellar would be fatal and so
they were most careful that each strap should be in its place. Most of
them had shaved twice over on the morning of the test so that the mask
should fit closely to the side of the face.

The first man to go in was a captain and when he came out again
obviously alive and seemingly healthy, the doughboys were ready to take
a chance. A young soldier in the second batch to visit the gas chamber
had taken the tales of the vapor horrors a bit too much to heart. He
became panicstricken after one minute in the underground vault and had
to be helped out, faint and trembling.

"What's the matter?" said his officer. "Are you afraid?"

"Yes, sir," the boy answered frankly. "But I want to try it again," he
added quickly. He did, too. And what is more, he remained in for an
extra period as self-discipline for his soul. When he came out he leaned
against a fence and was sick, but he was triumphant because he had
proved to himself that his second wind of grit was stronger than his
nerves or his stomach.

As the afternoon wore on a trip through the gas chamber became a lark
rather than an adventure and each batch before it went in was greeted by
such remarks as "Never mind the good-byes, Snooty! Just pay me that $2
you owe me before you check off."

"Who invented this gas stuff, anyway?" asked a fat soldier, as he sat in
the stifling vault, puffing and perspiring. "The Germans," he was told.

"Well," he panted, "I'm going to give 'em hell for this."

There was other practice which seemed less warlike. Particular attention
was paid to signaling and men on hilltops stood and waved their arms at
each other from dawn until sunset. I stood one bright day with an expert
who was trying the utmost capacity of the man stationed on the hill
across the valley. The officer made the little flags whirl through the
air like bunting on a battleship. He looked across the peaceful
countryside and saw war dangers on every hand. The gas attack which his
flags predicted seemed nothing more to me than the dust raised by a
passing army truck. He signaled that the tanks were coming, but they
mooed as they moved and the aeroplanes of which he spoke in dots and
dashes cawed most distinctly. With a twist of his wrist he would summon
a battery and with another send them back again. There was an emphatic
whip and swirl of color, and in answer to the signal mythical infantry
swarmed over theoretical trenches to attack shadow soldiers. The task of
the receiving soldier was made more difficult because every now and then
the officer would vary his military messages with "Double-header at the
Polo Grounds today" or "Please pass the biscuits." But the soldier read
them all correctly. Biscuits were just as easy for him as bullets.

The men were also tested for their ability to carry oral messages. As a
result of this drill there were several new mule drivers. The test
message was, "Major Blank sends his compliments to Captain Nameless and
orders him to move L company one-half mile to the east and support K
company in the attack." After giving out this message the officer moved
to the top of a hill to receive it. The first soldier who came up had
difficulty in delivering the message because English seemed more alien
to him than Italian. He had it all right at that, except that he made it
a mile and a half. The next three delivered the message correctly, but
then a large soldier came panting up, fairly bursting with excitement,
and exclaimed: "The major says he hopes you're feeling all right and
please take your company a mile to the east and attack K company." The
names of such careless messengers were noted down so that they might not
cause blunders in battle.

Precaution was taken against another source of mistakes by sending
American officers out to drill French units. A few found no trouble in
giving orders which the poilus could understand, but some had bad cases
of stage fright.

"I almost wiped out a French battalion," said one young West Pointer. "I
got 'em started all right with 'avance' and they went off at a great
clip. I noticed that there was a cliff right ahead of us and I began to
try and think how you said 'halt' in French. I couldn't remember and I
didn't want to get out in front and flag 'em by waving my arms, so we
just kept marching right on toward the cliff. They had their orders and
they kept on going. It began to look as if we'd all march right off the
cliff just to satisfy their pride and mine, but a French lieutenant came
to the rescue with 'a gauche en quatre!' I didn't know that one, but I
was a goat just the same. I could have gotten away with 'halt' all
right, because I found out afterwards that it's 'halte' in French and
that sounds almost the same."

The British as well as the French helped in the final polishing of the
doughboys who were to go to the trenches. An English major and three
sergeants came to camp to teach bayonet work. They brought a healthy
touch of blunt criticism. The major told some young officers who were
studying in a training school that he wanted a trench dug. He told them
the length and the depth which he wanted and the time at which he
expected it to be finished. It was not done at the appointed hour. "Oh,
I say, that's rotten, you know!" exclaimed the big Englishman. The
American officer in charge was somewhat startled. The French were always
careful to phrase unfavorable criticism in pleasant words and there were
times when the sting was not felt. A rebuke so directly expressed
surprised the American so much that he started to make excuses for his
men. He explained that the soil in which they were digging was full of
rocks. The British major cut him short.

"Never mind about the excuses," he said, "that was rotten work and you
know it."

Curiously enough the American army got along very well with this
particular instructor and he on his part had the highest praise for the
capabilities of the American after he had sized them up in training. He
was more successful than the French in wheedling the Americans into
visualizing actual war conditions in their practice.

"Never let your men remember that they are charging dummies," said the
visiting major to an American officer. "Make them think the straw men
are Germans. It can be done even without the use of dummies. Watch me."

A remarkable demonstration followed. The major sent for a little Cockney
sergeant. "Now," he said, "this stick of mine with a knob on the end is
a German. Show these Americans how you would go after him."

The little sergeant did some brisk work in slashing at the end of the
stick with his bayonet but the big major was not content. "Remember," he
said, "this is a German," and then he would add suddenly every now and
again: "Look out, my lad--he's coming at you!"

And bye-and-bye the insinuation began to take effect. The little man had
spent two years on the line and it was easy to see that bit by bit he
was beginning to visualize the stick with a cloth knob as a Boche
adversary. His thrusts grew fiercer and fiercer. The point of his
bayonet flashed into the cloth knob again and again. He was trembling
with rage as he played the battle game. As he finally flung himself upon
the stick and knocked it out of the major's hands the officer called a
halt.

"There," he said to the Americans, "if your men are to train well,
you've got to make them believe it's true, and you can do it."

The British added lots of snap to the American training because they
knew how to arouse the competitive spirit. They made even the most
routine sort of a drill a game, and whether the men were bayoneting
dummies or shooting at tin cans the little Britishers kept them at top
speed by stirring up rivalry between the various organizations.
Sometimes the slang was a bit puzzling. The marines, for instance,
didn't know just what their bayonet instructor meant when he said: "Come
on, you dreadnoughts, give 'em the old 'kamerad.'"

Curiously enough the other specialty in addition to bayonet work which
the British taught the doughboys was organized recreation. Thus a
British sergeant would take his squad from practicing the grimmest
feature of all war training and set the men to tossing beanbags or
playing leapfrog. Prisoner's base, red rover and a score of games played
in the streets of every American city were used to bring relaxation to
the soldiers. There were other rough and tumble games in which the
players buffeted each other assiduously in a neutral part of the body
with knotted towels. The emphasis was put upon the ludicrous in all
these games.

"This may seem childish and silly to you," said the major, "but we have
found on the line that the quickest way to bring back the spirit of a
regiment which has been battered in battle is to take the men as soon as
they come from the trenches and set them to playing these foolish little
games which they knew when they were lads. When we get them to laughing
again we know we've made them forget the fight."

Mostly it wasn't play. There were long mornings and afternoons spent in
battalion problems in which the doughboys again and again captured the
position made up of the trenches Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson. One general
pointed out that communication between Roosevelt and Taft would be
necessarily difficult and between Roosevelt and Wilson all but
impossible. The doughboys overcame these difficulties as they advanced
under theoretical barrages and hurled live bombs into the trenches or
thereabouts.

The last set event of the training period was a big field meet in which
picked companies competed in military events. The meet began with
musketry and worked through bayonets, hand grenades, automatic rifles,
and machine guns, ending with trench digging. It was supposed that this
would be the least exciting, but two companies came up to the last event
tied for the point trophy. Honor and a big silver trophy and everything
hung on this last event and the men could not have worked harder if they
had been under German shellfire. Partisans of both sides stood nearby
and shouted encouragement to their friends and heavy banter at the foe.
There was organized cheering and singing, too, and a couple of bands
blared while the competitors lay prone and hacked away at the tough
soil. One band played "Won't You Come and Waltz With Me?" while the
other favored "Sweet Rosie O'Grady." Neither seemed particularly
pertinent, but there wasn't much sense of the appropriate in the third
band, either, which played "Dearie," while the soldiers were stabbing
imitation Boches in the bayonet contest.

The champions of the pick and shovel brushed some of the dirt off their
uniforms and lined up to receive the prize, which was a big silver salad
bowl. The best bayoneters got a sugar shaker and there were mugs and
wrist watches and plain watches and all sorts of things from the
commander and from General Sibert and General Castelnau. No sooner were
the prizes distributed than news came that the White Sox had won the
first game of the world series from the Giants and then there was more
cheering. The winning company went back to camp in a big truck loudly
and tunefully proclaiming to the natives: "We got style, all the while,
all the while."

The Germans contributed one post graduate phase of training which was
not on the program. Shortly before the troops went to the front a
Zeppelin was brought down in a town within marching distance of the
American training zone. The big balloon could not have been better
placed if its landing had been directed by a Coney Island showman. It
was perched on two hills just by the side of a road and visitors came
from miles about to look at the monster. Early comers reaped a rich
harvest of souvenirs. "I only had to get three more screws loose and I'd
have had the steering wheel if a French soldier hadn't come up and
stopped me," complained an American correspondent.

The chasseurs left to go back into the line before the Americans started
for the front. The departure of the chasseurs caused genuine regret, for
in addition to a profound respect for their military ability, the
American officers and men had a warm personal feeling for the troops who
taught them the first rudiments of the modern art of war. In all the
camps there were ceremonies for the soldiers who were leaving drills and
practice attacks and sham battles to go back wherever shock troops were
needed.

"When you see us later on some time," said an American officer, "we hope
to make you proud of your pupils."

Although the French had already given the Americans all the fundamentals
they would need they spent their last few hours in giving them some of
the fine points and a minute description of just what conditions they
might expect at the front.

"When you go up there," said a French officer, "the soldiers you come to
relieve will say that you are late. They will say that they have been
waiting a long time and they will go out very quickly. Always we find
when we come in that the troops in the trench have been waiting a long
time and always they go out very quickly."

As the sturdy Frenchmen marched away their cries of "bonne chance"
mingled with equally hearty shouts of "good luck."



CHAPTER XIX

THE AMERICAN ARMY MARCHES TO THE TRENCHES


THE chief press officer told us that we could spend the first night in
the trenches with the American army. There were eight correspondents and
we went jingling up to the front with gas masks and steel helmets hung
about our necks and canned provisions in our pockets. It was dusk when
we left ----. Bye-and-bye we could hear the guns plainly and the villages
through which we traveled all showed their share of shelling. The front
was still a few miles ahead of us, but we left the cars in the square of
a large village and started to walk the rest of the way. We got no
further than just beyond the town. An American officer stood at the foot
of an old sign post which gave the distance to Metz, but not the
difficulties. He asked us our destination and when we told him that we
were going to spend the first night in the trenches with the American
army he wouldn't hear of it.

"There'll be trouble enough up there," he said, "without newspapermen."

He was a nervous man, this major. Every now and then he would look at
his watch. When he looked for the fourth time within two minutes he felt
that we deserved an explanation.

"I'm a little nervous," he said, "because the Boches are so quiet
tonight. I've been up here looking around for almost a week and every
night the Germans have done some shelling." He looked at his watch
again. "The first company of my battalion must be going in now." He
stood and listened for six or seven seconds but there wasn't a sound. "I
wonder what those Germans are up to?" he continued. "I don't like it. I
wish they'd shoot a little. This business now doesn't seem natural."

We turned back toward the town and left the major at his post still
listening for some sound from up there. Soon we heard a noise, but it
came from the opposite direction. Soldiers were coming. There was a bend
in the road where it straightened out in the last two miles to the
trenches. It was so dark that we could not see the men until they were
almost up to us. The Americans were marching to the front. The French
had instructed them and the British and now they were ready to learn
just what the Germans could teach them.

The night was as thick as the mud. The darkness seemed to close behind
each line of men as they went by. Even the usual marching rhythm was
missing. The mud took care of that. The doughboys would have sung if
they could. Shells wouldn't have been much worse than the silence. One
soldier did begin in a low voice, "Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are
marching." An officer called, "Cut out that noise." There was no tramp,
tramp, tramp on that road. Feet came down squish, squish, squish. There
was also the sound of the wind. That wasn't very cheerful, either, for
it was rising and beginning to moan a little. It seemed to get hold of
the darkness and pile it up in drifts against the camouflage screens
which lined the road.

At the spot where the road turned there was a café and across the road
a military moving picture theater. The door of the café was open and a
big patch of light fell across the road. The doughboys had to go through
the patch of light and it was almost impossible not to turn a bit and
look through the door. There was red wine and white to be had for the
asking there, and persuasion would bring an omelette. The waitress was
named Marie, but they called her Madelon. She was eighteen and had black
hair with red ribbons. She could talk a little English, too, but nobody
came to the door of the café to see the soldiers go by. There had been a
good many who passed the door of that café in three years.

The pictures could not be seen from the road, but we could hear the hum
of the machine which made them move. Presently, we went to the door and
looked. The theater was packed with French soldiers who were back from
the front to rest. American troops were going into the trenches for the
first time. Our little group of civilians had come thousands of miles to
see this thing, but the poilus did not stop to watch marching men. They
paid their 10 centimes and went into the picture show. They had an
American Western film that night, and French soldiers who only the day
before had been face to face with Germans, shelled and gassed and
harassed from aeroplanes, thrilled as Indians chased cowboys across a
canvas screen. It grew more exciting presently, for the United States
cavalry came riding up across the screen and at the head of the
cavalcade rode Lieutenant Wallace Kirke. The villain had spread the
story that he wasn't game, but there was nothing to that. The poilus
realized that before the film was done and so did the Indians.

Meanwhile the doughboys were marching by as silently as the soldiers on
the screen, for this wasn't a movie-house where they synchronized bugle
calls and rifle fire to the progress of the film. At one point in the
story there was some gun thunder, but it came at a time when the
orchestra should have been playing "Hearts and Flowers" for the love
scene in the garden. Of course, these were German guns, and they were
fired with the usual German disregard for art.

Probably the men who were marching to the trenches would have enjoyed
the scene of the home-coming of the cavalry, when Lieutenant Wallace
Kirke confounded the villain, who actually held a commission as major in
the United States army. However, the doughboys might have spotted him
for a villain from the beginning, on account of his wretched saluting.
The director should have spoken to him about that.

The marching men looked at the theater as they passed by, but only one
soldier spoke. He said: "I certainly would like to know for sure whether
I'll ever get to go to the movies again."

They went a couple of hundred yards more without a word, and then a
soldier who couldn't stand the silence any longer shouted, "Whoopee!
Whoopee!" It was too dark to conduct an investigation and too close to
the line to administer any rebuke loud enough to be effective, and so
the nearest officer just glared in the general direction of the
offender. A little bit further on the soldiers found that the road was
pock-marked here and there with shell holes. They began to realize the
importance of silence then, for they knew that where a shell had gone
once it could go again. It was necessary to walk carefully, for the road
was covered with casual water in every hollow, and there was no seeing a
hole until you stepped in it. They managed, however, to avoid the deeper
holes and to jump most of the pools.

That is, the infantry did. Late that night a teamster reported that he
had driven his four mules into a shell hole and broken the rear axle of
his wagon.

"Why didn't you send a man out ahead to look out for shell holes?" asked
the officer.

"I did," said the soldier. "He fell in first."

Presently the marching men came to the beginning of the trench system,
and they were glad to get a wall on either side of them. There was no
scramble, however, to be the first man in, and even the major of the
battalion has forgotten the name of the first soldier to set foot in the
French trenches. Some twenty or thirty men claim the honor, but it will
be difficult to settle the matter with historical accuracy. A Middle
Western farm boy, an Irishman with red hair or a German-American would
seem to fit the circumstances best, but it's all a matter of choice. As
the Americans came in the French marched out.

A trench during a relief is no good place for a demonstration, but some
of the poilus paused to shake hands with the Americans. There were
rumors that one or two doughboys had been kissed, but I was unable to
substantiate these reports. Probably they are not true, for it would not
be the sort of thing a company would forget.

Although the trenches for the most part were far from the German lines,
there was noise enough to attract attention over the way. The Germans
did not seem to know what was going on, but they wanted to know, and
they sent up a number of star shells. These are the shells which explode
to release a bright light suspended from a little silk parachute. These
parachutes hung in the air for several minutes and brightly illumined No
Man's Land. It was impossible to keep the Americans entirely quiet then.
Some said "Oh!" and others exclaimed "Ah!" after the manner of crowds at
a fire-works show.

Persiflage of this kind helped to make the men feel at home. Indeed,
the trenches did not seem altogether unfamiliar, after all their days
and nights in the practice trenches back in camp. The men were a little
nervous, though, and took it out in smoking one cigarette after another.
They shielded the light under their trench helmets. After an hour or so
a green rocket went up and all the soldiers in the American trenches put
on their gas masks. They had been drilled for weeks in getting them on
fast and a green rocket was the signal agreed upon as the warning for an
attack. Presently the word came from the trenches that the masks were
not necessary. There had been no attack. The rocket came from the German
trenches. It was quiet then all along the short trench line with the
exception of an occasional rifle shot. The wind was making a good deal
of noise out in the mess of weeds just beyond the wire and it sounded
like Germans to some of the boys. It was clearer now and a sharp eyed
man could see the stakes of the wire. They were a bit ominous, too.

"I was looking at one of those stakes," a doughboy told me, "and I kept
alooking and alooking and all of a sudden it grew a pair of shoulders
and a helmet and I let go at it."

There were others who suffered from the same optical illusion that
night, but let it be said to their credit that when a working party
examined the wire several days later they found some stakes which had
been riddled through and through with bullets.



CHAPTER XX

TRENCH LIFE


They dragged the gun up by hand to fire the first shot in the war for
the American army. The lieutenant in charge of the battery told us about
it. He was standing on top of the gun emplacement and the historic
seventy-five and a few others were being used every little while to fire
other shots at the German lines. He had to pause, therefore, now and
then in telling us history to make a little more.

"I put it up to my men," said the lieutenant, "that we would have to
wait a little for the horses and if we wanted to be sure of firing the
first shot it would be a good stunt to drag the gun into place
ourselves. We had a little talk and everybody was anxious for our
battery to get in the first shot, so we decided to go through with it
and not wait for the horses. We dragged the gun up at night and I can
tell you that the last mile and a half took some pulling. Excuse me a
second----" He leaned down to the pit and began to shout figures. He
made them quick and snappy like a football signal and he looked exactly
like a quarterback with the tin hat on his head which might have been a
leather head guard. There was a sort of eagerness about him, too, as if
the ball was on the five-yard line with one minute more to play. It was
all in his manner. Everything he said was professional enough. After the
string of figures he shouted "watch your bubble" and then he went on
with the story.

"We fired the first shot at exactly six twenty-seven in the morning," he
said. "It was a shrapnel shell." He turned to the gunners again. "Ready
to fire," he shouted down to the men in the pit. "You needn't put your
fingers in your ears just yet," he told us.

"It was pretty foggy when we got up to the front and we thought first
we'd just have to blaze away in the general direction of the Germans
without any particular observation. But all of a sudden the fog lifted
and right from here we could see a bunch of Germans out fixing their
wire. I gave 'em shrapnel and they scattered back to their dugouts like
prairie dogs. It was great!"

The lieutenant smiled at the recollection of the adventure. It meant as
much to him as a sixty-yard run in the Princeton game or a touchdown
against Yale. He was fortunate enough to be still getting a tingle out
of the war that had nothing to do with the cold wind that was coming
over No Man's Land. A moment later he grinned again and he suddenly
called, "Fire," and the roar of the gun under our feet came quicker than
we could get our fingers in our ears.

The gun had earned a rest now and we went down and looked at it. The
gunners had chalked a name on the carriage and we found that this
seventy-five which fired the first shot against the Germans was called
Heinie. We wanted to know the name of the man who fired the first shot.
Our consciences were troubling us about that. This was our first day up
with the guns in the American sector and the men had been in two days.
There were drawbacks in writing the war correspondence from a distance
as we had been compelled to do up to this time. We'd heard, of course,
that the first gun had been fired and that made it imperative that the
story should be "reconstructed," as the modern newspaperman says when
he's writing about something which he didn't see. Of course, everybody
back home would want to know who fired the first shot. Censorship
prevented the use of the name, but we couldn't blame the censors for
that, because when we wrote the stories we didn't know his name or
anything about him. With just one dissenting vote the correspondents
decided that the man who fired the first shot must have been a
red-headed Irishman. And so it was cabled. Now we wanted to know whether
he was.

The lieutenant told us the name, but that didn't settle the question. It
was a more or less non-committal name and the officer volunteered to
find out for us. He led the party over to the mouth of another dugout
and called down: "Sergeant ----, there's some newspapermen here and they
want to know whether you're Irish."

Immediately there was a scrambling noise down in the dugout and up came
the gunner on the run. "I am not," he said.

"Haven't you got an Irish father or mother or aren't any of your people
Irish?" asked one of the correspondents hopefully. He was committed to
the red-headed story and he was not prepared to give up yet. "Not one of
'em," said the sergeant, "I haven't got a drop of Irish blood in me. I
come from South Bend, Indiana."

The party left the gunner rather disconsolately. That is, all but the
hopeful correspondent. "He's Irish, all right," he said. We turned on
the optimist.

"Didn't you hear him say he wasn't Irish?" we shouted.

"Oh, that's all right," answered the optimist, "you didn't expect he was
going to admit it. They never do."

"Say," inquired another reporter, "did anybody notice what was the color
of the sergeant's hair?"

I had, but I said nothing. There had been disillusion enough for one
day. It was black with a little gray around the temples.

The lieutenant took us to his dugout and we tried to get some copy out
of him. A man from an evening newspaper spoiled our chances right away.

"I suppose," he said, "that you made a little speech to the men before
they fired that first shot?"

The little lieutenant was professional in an instant. He felt a sudden
fear that his manner or his youth had led us to picture him as a
romantic figure.

"What would I make a speech for?" he inquired coldly.

"Well," said the reporter, "I should think you'd want to say something.
You were going to fire the first shot of the war, and more than that,
you were going to fire the first shot in anger which the American army
has ever fired in Europe. Of course, I didn't mean a speech exactly, but
you must have said something."

"No," answered the officer, "I just gave 'em the range and then I said
'ready to fire' and then, 'fire.' It was just like this afternoon. We
made it perfectly regular."

"In the army a thing like that's just part of the day's work," the
lieutenant added, with an attempted assumption of great sophistication
in regard to war matters, as if this was at least his twentieth
campaign.

And yet I think that if we had heard our little quarterback give his
order at six twenty-seven on that misty morning there would have been
something in his voice when he said "fire" which would have betrayed him
to us. I think it must have been a little sharper, a little faster and a
little louder for this first shot than it will be when he calls "fire"
for the thousand-and-tenth round.

The guns had decided to call it a day by this time and so we headed for
the trenches. We had to travel across a big bare stretch of country
which was wind-swept and rain-soaked on this particular afternoon. Every
now and then somebody fell into a shell hole, for the meadow was well
slashed up, although there didn't seem to be anything much to shoot at.
On the whole, the sector chosen for the first Americans in the trenches
might well be called a quiet front. There was shelling back and forth
each day, but many places were immune. Some villages just back of the
French lines had not been fired at for almost a year, although they were
within easy range of field pieces, and the French in return didn't fire
at villages in the German lines. This was by tacit agreement. Both sides
had held the lines in this part of the country lightly and both sides
were content to sit tight and not stir up trouble.

Things livened up after the Americans came in because the Germans soon
found out that new troops were opposing them and they wanted to identify
the units. Some of the increasing liveliness was also due to the fact
that American gunners were anxious to get practice and fired much more
than the French had done. Indeed, an American officer earned a rebuke
from his superiors because he fired into a German village which had been
hitherto immune. This was a mistake, for the Germans immediately
retaliated by shelling a French village and the civilian population was
forced to move out. For more than a year they had lived close to the
battle lines in comparative safety. On the night the American troops
moved in to the trenches a baby was born in a village less than a mile
from one of our battalion headquarters. Major General Sibert became her
godfather and the child was christened Unis in honor of Les Etats Unis.

The increase in artillery activity had hardly begun on the day we paid
our visit. No German shells fell near us as we crossed the meadow, but
when we reached a battalion headquarters the major in charge pointed
with pride to a German shell which had landed on top of his kitchen that
morning. The rain had played him a good service, for the shell simply
buried itself, fragments and all. He did not seem properly appreciative
of the weather. "All Gaul," he said, "is divided into three parts and
two of them are water."

Still, we found ourselves drier in the trenches than out of them. They
were floored with boards and well lined. As trenches go they were good,
but, of course, that isn't saying a great deal. We were the first
newspapermen to enter the American trenches and so we wanted to see the
first line, although it was growing dark. We wound around and around
for many yards and it was hard walking for some of us, as the French had
built these trenches for short men. It was necessary to walk with a
crouch like an Indian on the movie warpath. This was according to
instructions, but we may have been unduly cautious, for not a hostile
shot was fired while we were in the first line. It was barely possible
to see the German trenches through the mist and still more difficult to
realize that there was a menace in the untidy welts of mud which lay at
the other side of the meadow. But the point from which we looked across
to the German line was the very salient where the Germans made their
first raid a week later and captured twelve men, killed three, and
wounded five.

The doughboys wouldn't let us go without pointing out all the sights. To
the right was the apple tree. Here the Germans used to come on Mondays,
Wednesdays and Fridays and the French on Tuesdays, Thursdays and
Saturdays, and gather fruit without molestation so long as not more than
two came at a time. This was another tacit agreement in this quiet
front, for the tree was in easy rifle range. One of the doughboys
unwittingly broke that custom by taking a shot at two Germans who went
to get apples.

"I like apples myself," he said, "and I just couldn't lie still and
watch a squarehead carry them away by the armful."

The Hindenburg Rathskeller lay to the left of our trench, but it was
only dimly visible through the rain. This battered building was once a
tiny roadside café. Now patrols take shelter behind its walls at night
and try to find cheer in the room where only a few broken bottles
remain. The poilus maintain that on dark nights the ghosts of cognac, of
burgundy and even champagne flit about in and out of the broken windows
and that a lucky soldier may sometimes detect, by an inner warmth and
tingle, the ghost of some drink that is gone. Sometimes it is a German
patrol which spends the night in No Man's Café. It is more or less a
custom to allow whichever side gets to the café first to hold it for the
night, since it is a strong defensive position in the dark. The night
before our visit an American patrol reached the café and found that the
Germans who had been there the night before had placed above the
shattered door of the little inn a sign which read: "Hindenburg
Rathskeller." Silently but swiftly one of the doughboys scratched out
the name with a pencil and left a sign of his own. When next the Germans
came they found that Hindenburg Rathskeller had become the Baltimore
Dairy Lunch.

Several hundred yards behind the Baltimore Dairy Lunch is another ruined
house and it was here that the Americans killed their first German. Even
on clear days Germans in groups of not more than two would sometimes
come from their trenches to the house. The French thought that they had
a machine gun there, but it was not worth while to waste shells on
parties of one or two and as the range was almost 1700 yards the Germans
felt comparatively immune from rifle fire. Two doughboys saw a German
walking along the road one bright morning and as they had telescopic
sights on their rifles they were anxious to try a shot. One of the men
was a sergeant and the other a corporal.

"That's my German," said the sergeant.

"I saw him first," objected the corporal, and so they agreed to count
five and then fire together. One or both of them hit him, for down he
came.

When we got back to the second line the men were having supper. The food
supplied to the soldiers in the trenches was hot and adequate and
moderately abundant. A few of the men complained that they got only two
meals a day, but I found that there was an early ration of coffee and
bread which these soldiers did not count as enough of a breakfast to be
mentioned as a meal. This comes at dawn and then there are meals at
about eleven and five. One of the men with whom I talked was mournful.

"We don't get anything much but slum," he said, when I asked him, "How's
the food?" That did not sound appetizing until I found out that slum was
a stew made of beef and potatoes and carrots and lots of onions. We ate
some and it was very good, but perhaps it does pall a little after the
third or fourth day. It forms the main staple of army diet in the
trenches, for it is not possible to give the men in the line any great
variety of food. The most tragic story in connection with food which we
heard concerned a company which was just beginning dinner when a gas
alarm was sounded. The men had been carefully trained to drop everything
and adjust their masks when this alarm was sounded. So down went their
mess tins, spilling slum on the trench floor as the masks were quickly
fastened. Five minutes later word came that the gas alarm was a mistake.

Before we left we saw a patrol start out. The doughboys took to
patrolling eagerly and officers who asked for volunteers were always
swamped with requests from men who wanted to go. One lieutenant was
surprised to have a large fat cook come to him to say that he would not
be happy unless allowed to make a trip across No Man's Land to the
German wire. When the officer asked him why he was so anxious to go, he
said: "Well, you see, I promised to get a German helmet and an overcoat
for a girl for Christmas and I haven't got much time left."

It was dark when we left the trenches and started cross country. The
German guns had begun to fire a little. They were spasmodically
shelling a clump of woods half a mile away and seemed indifferent to
correspondents. But by this time the weather was actively hostile. The
rain had changed to snow and the wind had risen to a gale. Every shell
hole had become a trap to catch the unwary and wet him to the waist.
Little brooks were carrying on like rivers and amateur lakes were
everywhere. We walked and walked and suddenly the French lieutenant who
was guiding us paused and explained that he hadn't the least idea where
we were. Nothing could be seen through the driving snow and there was no
certainty that we hadn't turned completely around. We wondered if there
were any gaps in the wire and if it would be possible to walk into the
German lines by mistake. We also wondered whether the Kaiser's three
hundred marks for the first American would stand if the prisoner was
only a reporter. Just then there was a sudden sharp rift in the mist
ahead of us. A big flash cut through the snow and fog and after a second
we heard a bang behind us.

"Those are American guns," said our guide, and we made for them. We
were lost again once or twice, but each time we just stood and waited
for the flash from the battery until we reached our base. Shortly after
we arrived the shelling ceased. There was hardly a warlike sound. It was
a quiet night on a tranquil front. The weather was too bad even for
fighting.

We went to the hospital in the little town and were allowed to look at
the first German prisoner. He was a pretty sick boy when we saw him. He
gave his age when examined as nineteen, but he looked younger and not
very dangerous, for he was just coming out of the ether. The American
doctors were giving him the best of care. He had a room to himself and
his own nurse. The doughboys had captured him close to the American
wire. There had been great rivalry as to which company would get the
first prisoner, but he came almost unsought. The patrol was back to its
own wire when the soldiers heard the noise of somebody moving about to
the left. He was making no effort to walk quietly. As he came over a
little hillock his outline could be seen for a second and one of the
Americans called out to him to halt. He turned and started to run, but a
doughboy fired and hit him in the leg and another soldier's bullet came
through his back. The patrol carried the prisoner to the trench. He
seemed much more dazed by surprise than by the pain of his wounds.
"You're not French," he said several times as the curious Americans
gathered about him in a close, dim circle illuminated by pocket flash
lamps. The prisoner next guessed that they were English and when the
soldiers told him that they were Americans he said that he and his
comrades did not know that Americans were in the line opposite them.
Somebody gave him a cigarette and he grew more chipper in spite of his
wounds. He began to talk, saying: "Ich bin ein esel."

There were several Americans who had enough German for that and they
asked him why. The prisoner explained that he had been assigned to
deliver letters to the soldiers. Some of the letters were for men in a
distant trench which slanted toward the French line, and so to save time
he had taken a short cut through No Man's Land. It was a dark night but
he thought he knew the way. He kept bearing to the left. Now, he said,
he knew he should have turned to the right. He said it would be a lesson
to him. The next morning we heard that the German had died and would be
buried with full military honors.

There was another patient whom we were interested in seeing. Lieutenant
Devere H. Harden was the first American officer wounded in the war. His
wound was not a very bad one and the doctors allowed us to crowd about
his bed and ask questions. In spite of the British saying, "you never
hear a shell that hits you," Harden said he both saw and heard his
particular shell. He thought it would have scored a direct hit on his
head if he had not fallen flat. As it was the projectile exploded almost
fifty feet away from him and his wound was caused by a fragment which
flew back and lodged behind his knee. He did not know that he had been
hit, but sought shelter in a dugout. Just as he got to the door he felt
a pain in his knee and fell over. He noticed then that his leg was
bleeding a little. A French officer ran over to him and said: "You are
a very lucky man."

"How is that?" asked Harden.

"Why, you're the first American to be wounded and I'm going to recommend
to the general that he put up a tablet right here with your name on it
and the date and 'first American to shed his blood for France.'"

The thought of the tablet didn't cheer the lieutenant up half so much as
when we prevailed on the doctors to let him take some cigarettes from us
and begin smoking again. By this time we had almost forgotten about the
slum of earlier in the evening and so we stopped at the first café we
came to on the road back to the correspondents' headquarters. Several
American soldiers were sitting around a small stove in the kitchen, and
although they said nothing, an old woman was cooking omelettes and small
steaks and distributing them about to the rightful owners without the
slightest mistake. At least there were no complaints. Perhaps the
doughboys were afraid of the old woman for whenever one of them got in
her way she would say nothing but push him violently in the chest with
both hands. He would then step back and the cooking would go on.

Presently a noisy soldier came roaring into the kitchen. It took him
just half a minute to get acquainted and about that much more time to
tell us that he was driving a four mule team with rations. We asked him
if he had gotten near the front and he snorted scornfully. He told us
that the night before he had almost driven into the German lines.
According to his story, he lost his way in the dark and drove past the
third line trench, the second line and the first line and started
rumbling along an old road which cut straight across No Man's Land and
into the German lines.

"I was going along," he said, "and a doughboy out in a listening post, I
guess it must have been, jumped up and waved both his hands at me to go
back. 'What's the matter?' I asked him, just natural, like I'm talking
to you, and he just mumbles at me. 'You're going right toward the German
lines,' he says. 'For God's sake turn round and go back and don't speak
above a whisper.'

"'Whisper, Hell!' I says to him, kind of mad, 'I gotta turn four mules
around.'"



CHAPTER XXI

THE VETERANS RETURN


When the first contingent of doughboys came out of the trenches I went
to a French officer whom I knew well and asked him what he thought of
the Americans.

"Remember," I told him, "I don't want you to dress up an opinion for me.
Tell me what you really thought of our men when you saw them up there.
What did the French say about them?"

"Truly, I think they are very good," the Frenchman told me. Then he
corrected himself. "I mean I think they will be very good. They are
something like the Canadians. They were pretty jumpy at first, but that
doesn't do any harm. The soldiers up there, they wanted to fire when the
grass was moving and they did sometimes, without getting any orders.
They got over that pretty soon. By the third night they were pretty
well settled. Of course, they can shoot better than our men and they are
bigger and stronger, but in some things we have the advantage. You
Americans are much more excitable than we French."

As a rule French and British officers were inclined to be optimistic
about the Americans. They were impressed by their physique. The first of
the Canadians were probably a little huskier than the Americans and the
early contingents of Australians and New Zealanders were at least as
good, but now all the rest are falling off in their physical standards
on account of losses, while the most recent American arrivals in France
are better than any of our earlier contingents.

The American is potentially a good soldier, but it is a long cry of
preëminence. Any nation which establishes itself as the best in the
field will have to perform marvelous deeds. The chances are that nobody
will touch the high water mark of the French. After all, in her finest
moments, France has a positive genius for warfare. Her best troops
possess a combination of patience in defense and dash in attack. France
has a fighting tradition which we do not possess. We must gain that
before we can rival her.

From the point of view of the newspaperman the Frenchman is the ideal
soldier of the world. Not only can he fight, but he can tell you about
it. There is no trouble in getting a poilu to talk. He has opinions on
every subject under the sun. The only difficulty is in understanding him
once you have got him started. The doughboys, on the other hand, are
usually reticent. They're always afraid of being detected in some
sentimental or heroic pose and so they adopt a belittling attitude
toward anything which happens as protection. The first men who came back
from the trenches were not quite like that. These doughboys were more
like Rossetti's angels. "The wonder was not yet quite gone from that
still look" of theirs.

They did not minimize their experiences. I think I understand now what
Secretary Baker meant when he said that some of the most thrilling
stories of the war would come in letters from the soldiers. We went to
the major of a battalion which had just come back from the front to its
billets.

"No, nothing much happened while we were up there," he said. "They
didn't shell us very hard; they didn't try any raids or any gas and the
aeroplanes let us alone."

Then we tried the soldiers. "Yes, sir, we certainly did see some
aeroplanes," said a doughboy. "Why, one day there was two hundred and
twenty-five flew over my head. I think the French brought down twenty of
them, but I didn't see that." Another told how two hundred and fifty
Germans had started to attack the Americans. "Our artillery put a
barrage on them and in a couple of minutes all but three of them were
dead."

"Did you see those Germans yourself?" we asked him sternly.

"No," he admitted, "it was a little bit down to our left but I heard
about it."

There were other stories which may have grown in the telling, but they
sounded more plausible. One concerned a soldier who had his hyphen shot
away at the front. This man was of German parentage and his father was
in the German army. Before he went to the trenches he used to dwell on
what a terrible thing it was for him to be fighting against his father
and Fatherland. He declared that if it were possible he was going to
play a passive part in the war. But in the course of time he went into
the first line and no sooner was he in than he peeked over the top to
have a look at the folks from the old home. "Pat, pat, pat!" a stream of
bullets from a machine gun went by his head. The German-American gave a
grunt of surprise and then a yell of rage and jumped over the parapet
and began firing his rifle in the direction of the machine gun. He must
have made a lucky hit for by some chance or other the machine gun ceased
firing and the doughboy crawled back into the trench unharmed. He was
still mad and kept mumbling, "I didn't do anything but look at 'em and
they went and shot at me."

A story better authenticated concerns a visit which General Pershing
paid to the trenches. A young captain took his responsibilities much to
heart and wanted to leave nothing to his subordinates. He was on the
rush constantly from one point to another and at the end of fifty-two
hours of unceasing toil he went to his dugout to get three hours' sleep.
He had hardly started to snore when there was a knock and a doughboy
came in to complain that he had sore feet and what should he do. A few
minutes later it was another who wanted to know where he could get
additional candles. Rid of him, the captain really began to sleep, only
to be awakened by a knock at the door and a voice, "Is this the company
commander?"

"Yes," said the irritated captain, "and what the hell do you want?"

The door opened and the strictest disciplinarian in the American army
permitted himself the shadow of a smile. "I'm General Pershing," he
said.

One battalion came back from the front with an additional member. He was
a large dog of uncertain breed who had deserted from the German lines.
At least it was hard to say whether he belonged to the German army or
the French. The French first saw him one afternoon when he came
lumbering across No Man's Land and pushed himself through the wire in a
place where it had grown a bit slack. One French soldier fired at him.
The poilu thought it might be a new trick of the Germans. For all he
knew a couple of Boches might have been concealed inside the big hound.
He was no marksman, this soldier, for he missed the dog who promptly
turned sharply to the left and came in at another point in the trenches.
The soldiers made him welcome although there was some discussion as to
what his nationality might be. It was evident that he had come across
from the German lines, but it was possible that he was a French dog
captured in one of the villages which fell to the invaders. The men in
the front line tried him with all the German they knew--"You German
pig," "what's your regiment?" "damn the Kaiser," "to Berlin," and a few
others. He indicated no understanding of the phrases. Later he was taken
further back and examined at length by an intelligence officer but no
single German word could be found which he seemed to recognize. On the
other hand it was ascertained that he was equally ignorant of French.
However, he understood signs, would bark for a bone and never missed an
invitation to eat.

During the first week of his stay the soldiers were generous in giving
him a share of their rations. Later he became an old friend and did not
fare so well. One night he disappeared and an outpost saw him lumbering
back to the German lines. The Boches were out on patrol that night and
apparently the big dog reached their lines without being fired upon. He
was gone three weeks and then he returned for a long stay with the
French. So it went on. He never affiliated himself permanently with
either army and he never gave away secrets. Possibly his coming gave
some sign of declining morale across the way for when the men became
cross and testy the big dog simply changed sides. There was never any
indication that he had been underfed even when rumors were strongest
about the food shortage in Germany. The Boches took a pride in belying
these stories, as best they could, by keeping the hound sleek and fat.

The French called him Quatre Cent Vingt after the big gun but nobody
knew for certain his German alias. Once when he left the German lines in
broad daylight the Boches all along the line were heard whistling for
him to come back, but no one called him by name. The French chose to
believe that across the way he was known as "Kamerad," but there was no
evidence on this point. It is true that he would stand on his hind legs
and wave his paws when anybody said "Kamerad," but this was a trick and
took teaching.

He must have heard somehow or other about the coming of the Americans
for he left the Germans at noon one day when the doughboys had hardly
become settled in their new home. A French interpreter vouched for him
and he was allowed free access to third line, second line, first line
and, what he valued much more, to the company kitchen. Here for the
first time he tasted slum. Soldiers are fond of belittling this
combination of beef, onions, potatoes and carrots but Quatre Cent Vingt
was frank in his admiration of the dish. Naturally, free-born American
citizens could not be expected to know him by his outlandish French
name or any abbreviation of it and he became Big Ed in honor of the mess
sergeant. Hitherto Quatre Cent Vingt had been careful to show no favors.
He had been the company's dog but he became so distinctly partial to the
mess sergeant that the soldier took him over as his own and when the
company went away Quatre Cent Vingt went too, following closely behind a
rolling kitchen.

The experience in the trenches made American soldiers a little more
expressive than they had been before but the national character remained
baffling. As a nation we unquestionably have personality but our army is
somewhat lacking in this quality even among its leaders. Pershing is a
personality, of course, and Bullard and Sibert and March, but for the
rest all major generals seemed much alike to us. Sibert we remembered
because he was a quiet, kindly man who got the things he wanted without
much fuss. He was among the thinkers of the army. Mostly he was
listening to other people, but when he talked he wasted no words.
Undoubtedly he was one of the best loved men in the army for he combined
with his efficiency and his kindliness an occasional playful flash of
humor. I remember a visit which three American newspaperwomen paid to
him one day at his headquarters. The conversation had scarcely begun
when one of the women somewhat tactlessly remarked, "General, this is a
young man's war, isn't it?"

General Sibert is husky enough but he is a bit gray and he smiled
quizzically as he looked at his questioner over the top of a big pair of
horn-rimmed glasses.

"When I was a cadet at West Point," said General Sibert, "I used to
console myself with the thought that Napoleon was winning battles when
he was thirty. Now, I find that my mind dwells more on the fact that
Hindenburg is seventy."

Robert H. Bullard is probably the most picturesque figure in the
American army. He has a reputation as a fighter and a daredevil and he
is still one of the best polo players and broadsword experts in the
American army. They say that when a second lieutenant swore at him one
day in the heat of a game he made no complaint but laid for the young
man later on and sent him sprawling off his horse in a wild scrimmage.
He will fight broadsword duels with anybody regardless of rank if his
opponent promises to be a man who can test his mettle. And yet it was a
bit surprising that when the command of one of the crack divisions in
France was open, General Pershing chose Bullard for the command because
Major General Robert H. Bullard is perhaps the worst dressed major
general in the American army. A poilu in one of the provincial cities
mistook him for an American enlisted man and talked to him with great
freedom for more than half an hour before an excited French officer
rushed up and told him that the man with whom he was talking so
familiarly was an American general.

"Oh, that's all right," said Bullard, "I wanted to hear what he had to
say. Come around to my headquarters sometime and tell me some more."

On another occasion I saw an American captain suffer acutely because
Bullard appeared at a public Franco-American function with two days'
growth of beard. "What kind of an aide can he have," moaned the
captain. "I was on his staff for two years and I never let him come out
like that. I always had him fixed up when there was anything important
on."

Tall, spare, hawk-featured and straight, Bullard represents a type of
officer who has a large part to play in the American army. It is around
such men that tradition grows and tradition is the marrow of an army. It
was Bullard, too, who gave the best expression to the hope and purpose
of the American army which I heard in France. He had said that what the
American army must always maintain as its most important asset was the
offensive spirit and when we asked him just what that was he lapsed into
a story which was always his favorite device for exposition.

"There was once a Spanish farmer," said General Bullard, "who lived in a
small house in the country with his pious wife. One day he came rushing
out of the house with a valise in his hand and his good wife stopped him
and asked, 'Where are you going?' 'I'm going to Seville,' said the
farmer bustling right past her. 'You mean God willing,' suggested his
pious wife. 'No,' replied the farmer, 'I just mean that I'm going.'

"The Lord was angered by this impiety and He promptly changed the farmer
into a frog. His wife could tell that it was her husband all right
because he was bigger than any of the other frogs and more noisy. She
went to the edge of the pond every day and prayed that her husband might
be forgiven. And one morning--it was the first day of the second
year--the big frog suddenly began to swell and get bigger and bigger
until he wasn't a frog any more, but a man. And he hopped out of the
pond and stood on the bank beside his wife. Without stopping to kiss her
or thank her or anything he ran straight into the house and came out
with a valise in his hand.

"'Where are you going?' his wife asked in terror.

"'To Seville,' he said.

"She wrung her hands. 'You mean God willing,' she cried.

"'No,' thundered the farmer, 'to Seville or back to the frog pond!'"

In the main, however, American officers and soldiers were not very
successful in expressing their feelings and ideals in regard to the war.
One of the Y. M. C. A. huts carried on an anonymous symposium on the
subject "Why I joined the army." Only a few of the answers came from the
heart. Most of the rest were of two types. One sort was swanking and
swaggering, in which the writer unconsciously melodramatized himself,
and the other was cynical, in which the writer betrayed the fact that he
was afraid of being melodramatic. Thus there was one man who answered,
"To fight for my country, the good old United States, the land of the
free and the starry flag that I love so well." "Because I was crazy,"
wrote another and it is probable that neither reason really represented
the exact feeling of the man in question.

Some were distinctly utilitarian such as that of the soldier who wrote
"To improve my mind by visiting the famous churches and art galleries of
the old world." There was also a simplicity and directness in "to put
Malden on the map." But the two which seemed to be the truest of all
were, "Because they said I wasn't game and I am too" and "Because she'll
be sorry when she sees my name in the list of the fellows that got
killed."

For a time I was all muddled up about the American reaction to the war.
Sometimes we seemed helplessly provincial and then along would come some
glorious unhelpless assertiveness. This would probably be in something
to do with plumbing or doctoring. Even our friends in Europe are
inclined to put us down as materialists. They think we love money more
than anything else in the world. I don't believe this is true. I think
we use money only as a symbol and that even if we don't express them, or
if we express them badly, the American who fights has not forgotten to
pack his ideals. A young American officer brought that home to me one
day in Paris. He was a doctor from a thriving factory town upstate.

"You know," he began, "this war is costing me thousands of dollars. I
was getting along great back home. A lot of factories had me for their
doctor. My practice was worth $15,000 a year. It was all paid up, too,
you know, workman's compensation stuff. I'll bet it won't be worth a
nickel when I get back."

He sat and drummed on the table and looked out on the street and a
couple of Portuguese went by in their slate gray uniforms and then some
Russians, with their marvelous tunics, which Bakst might have designed;
there were French aviators in black and red, and rollicking Australians,
an Italian, looking glum, and a Roumanian with a girl on his arm.

"Did you ever read 'Ivanhoe'?" said the man with the $15,000 practice,
fiercely and suddenly.

I nodded.

"Well," he said, "when I was a boy I read that book five times. I
thought it was the greatest book in the world, and I guess it is, and
all this reminds me of 'Ivanhoe.'"

"Of 'Ivanhoe'?" I said.

"Yes, you know, all this," and he made an expansive gesture, "Verdun,
and Joffre, and 'they shall not pass,' and Napoleon's tomb, and war
bread, and all the men with medals and everything. Great stuff!
There'll never be anything like it in the world again. I tell you it's
better than 'Ivanhoe.' Everything's happening and I'm in it. I'm in a
little of it, anyway. And if I have a chance to get in something big I
don't care what happens. No, sir, if I could just help to give the old
Boche a good wallop I wouldn't care if I never got back. Why, I wouldn't
miss this for ----" His eyes were sparkling with excitement now and he
was straining for adequate expression. He brought his fist down on the
table until the glasses rattled. "I wouldn't miss this for $50,000
cash," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

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The corspondent=>The correspondent

it was passible to see the projectile in flight=>it was possible to see
the projectile in flight





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