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Title: Our Greatest Battle (The Meuse-Argonne)
Author: Palmer, Frederick
Language: English
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OUR GREATEST BATTLE



BOOKS BY
FREDERICK PALMER


  THE VAGABOND
  WITH KUROKI IN MANCHURIA
  THE LAST SHOT
  MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR
  MY SECOND YEAR OF THE WAR
  WITH OUR FACES IN THE LIGHT
  AMERICA IN FRANCE
  OUR GREATEST BATTLE



  OUR GREATEST BATTLE
  (THE MEUSE-ARGONNE)


  BY
  FREDERICK PALMER
  Author of "The Last Shot," "America in France," etc.


  [Illustration]


  NEW YORK
  DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
  1919



  COPYRIGHT, 1919
  BY DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, INC.



TO THE READER


During the war we had books which were the product of the spirit of the
hour and its limitations. Among these was my "America in France," which
was written, while we were still expecting the war to last through the
summer of 1919, to describe the gathering and training of the American
Expeditionary Forces, and their actions through the Château-Thierry and
Saint-Mihiel operations. Since the war and the passing of the military
censorship, we have had many hastily compiled histories, and many
"inside" accounts from participants, including commanders, both Allied
and enemy, whose special pleading is, to one familiar with events, no
less evident in their lapses than in their tone.

This book, which continues and supplements "America in France," is not
in the class of the jerry-built histories or the personal narratives.
It aims, as the result of special facilities for information and
observation, to give a comprehensive and intelligent account of the
greatest battle in which Americans ever fought, the Meuse-Argonne.

In the formative period of our army, I was the officer in charge of
press relations, under a senior officer. I was never chief censor of
the A. E. F.: I had nothing to do with the censorship of the soldiers'
mail. After we began operations in the field, my long experience in
war was utilized in making me an observer, who had the freedom of our
lines and of those of our Allies in France. Where the average man in
the army was limited in his observations to his own unit, I had the key
to the different compartments. I saw all our divisions in action and
all the processes of combat and organization. It was gratifying that my
suggestions sometimes led to a broader point of view in keeping with
the character of the immense new army which was being filled into the
mold of the old.

Friends who have read the manuscript complain that I do not give
enough of my own experiences, or enough reminiscences of eminent
personalities; but even in the few places where I have allowed the
personal note to appear it has seemed, as it would to anyone who
had been in my place, a petty intrusion upon the mighty whole of
two million American soldiers, who were to me the most interesting
personalities I met. The little that one pair of eyes could see may
supply an atmosphere of living actuality not to be easily reproduced
from bare records by future historians, who will have at their service
the increasing accumulation of data.

In the light of my observations during the battle, I went over the
fields after the armistice, and studied the official reports, and
talked with the men of our army divisions. For reasons that are now
obvious, the results do not read like the communiqués and dispatches of
the time, which gave our public their idea of an action which could not
be adequately described until it was finished and the war was over. We
had repulses, when heroism could not persist against annihilation by
cross-fire; our men attacked again and again before positions were won;
sometimes they fought harder to gain a little knoll or patch of woods
than to gain a mile's depth on other occasions. Accomplishment must be
judged by the character of the ground and of the resistance.

As the division was our fighting unit, I have described the part that
each division took in the battle. The reader who wearies of details
may skip certain chapters, and find in others that he is following the
battle as a whole in its conception and plan and execution, and in the
human influences which were supreme; but the very piling up of the
records of skill, pluck, and industry of division after division from
all parts of the country, as they took their turn in the ordeal until
they were expended, is accumulative evidence of what we wrought.

The soldier who knew only his division, his regiment, battalion,
company, and platoon, as he lay in chill rain in fox-holes, without a
blanket, under gas, shells, and machine-gun fire, or charged across
the open or up slippery ascents for a few hundred yards more of gains,
may learn, as accurately as my information warrants, in a freshened
sense of comradeship, how and where other divisions fought. He may
think that his division has not received a fair share of attention for
its exploits. I agree with him that it has not, in my realization of
the limitations of space and of capacity to be worthy of my subject.

There are many disputes between divisions as the result of a proud
and natural rivalry, which was possibly too energetically promoted by
the staff in order to force each to its utmost before it staggered in
its tracks from wounds and exhaustion. One division might have done
the pioneer hammering and thrusting which gave a succeeding division
its opportunity. A daring patrol of one division may have entered a
position and been ordered to fall back; troops of another division may
have taken the same position later. There was nothing so irritating as
having to withdraw from hard-won ground because an adjoining unit could
not keep up with the advance. Towns and villages were the landmarks
on the map, with which communiqués and dispatches conjured; but often
the success which made a village on low ground tenable was due to the
taking of commanding hills in the neighborhood. Sometimes troops, in
their eagerness to overcome the fire on their front, found themselves
in the sector of an adjoining division, and mixed units swept over a
position at the same time. In cases of controversy I have tried to
adjust by investigation and by comparing reports. I must have made
errors, whose correction I welcome. To illustrate the full detail
of each division's advance would require several maps as large as a
soldier's blanket. The maps which I have used are intended to indicate
in a general way the movement of each division, and our part on the
western front in relation to our Allies.

There may be surprise that I have not mentioned the names of
individuals below the rank of division commander, and that I have not
identified units lower than divisions. The easy and accepted method
would have been to single out this and that man who had won the Medal
of Honor or the Cross, and this or that battalion or company which had
a theatric part. Indeed, the author could have made his own choices
in distinction. I knew the battle too well; I had too deep a respect
for my privilege to set myself up in judgment, or even to trust to the
judgment of others. Not all the heroes won the Medal or the Cross. The
winners had opportunities; their deeds were officially observed. How
many men deserved them in annihilated charges in thickets and ravines,
but did not receive them, we shall not know until our graves in France
yield their secrets.

I like to think that our men did not fight for Crosses; that they
fought for their cause and their manhood. A battalion which did not
take a hill may have fought as bravely as one which did, and deserve
no less credit for its contribution to the final result. So I have
resisted the temptation to make a gallery of fame, and set in its
niches those favored in the hazard of action, when it was the heroism
and fortitude of all which cannot be too much honored. I have written
of the "team-play" rather than the "stars"; of the whole--a whole
embracing all that legion of Americans at home or abroad who were in
uniform during the war. If I have been discriminate about regulars and
reserves, and frank about many other things, it is in no carping sense.
We fought the war for a cause which requires the truth, now that the
war is over.

I regret that it is not possible for me to give due acknowledgment to
the many officers of our army who, during the actual campaign and since
their demobilization, have facilitated the gathering of my material.
For the preparation of the book I am indebted to the continued
assistance, both in France and at home, of Mr. George Bruner Parks.

FREDERICK PALMER.

September, 1919.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                               PAGE

       I A CHANGE OF PLAN                  1
      II INTO LINE FOR ATTACK             19
     III  NEW AND OLD DIVISIONS           42
      IV THE ORDER OF BATTLE              51
       V ON THE MEUSE SIDE                65
      VI WE BREAK THROUGH                 75
     VII IN THE WAKE OF THE INFANTRY      95
    VIII THE FIRST DAY                   109
      IX THE ATTACK SLOWS DOWN           129
       X BY THE RIGHT FLANK              147
      XI BY THE LEFT                     168
     XII BY THE CENTER                   194
    XIII  OVER THE HINDENBURG LINE       223
     XIV  DISENGAGING RHEIMS             249
      XV VETERANS DRIVE A WEDGE          266
     XVI MASTERING THE AIRE TROUGH       280
    XVII VETERANS CONTINUE DRIVING       294
   XVIII THE GRANDPRÉ GAP IS OURS        309
     XIX ANOTHER WEDGE                   324
      XX IN THE MEUSE TROUGH             340
     XXI SOME CHANGES IN COMMAND         355
    XXII A CALL FOR HARBORD              376
   XXIII THE S. O. S. DRIVES A WEDGE     391
    XXIV REGULARS AND RESERVES           413
     XXV LEAVENWORTH COMMANDS            433
    XXVI OTHERS OBEY                     449
   XXVII AMERICAN MANHOOD                472
  XXVIII THE MILL OF BATTLE              485
    XXIX THEY ALSO SERVED                501
     XXX THROUGH THE KRIEMHILDE          515
    XXXI A CITADEL AND A BOWL            540
   XXXII THE FINAL ATTACK                571
  XXXIII  VICTORY                        589



TABLE OF MAPS


                                      FACING PAGE

  1.--American Offensives and other Offensives
  in which American troops participated,
  May-November, 1918                            2

  2.--Where American Divisions were in line,
  from our entry into the trenches until
  the Armistice                                14

  3.--Offensives of September, 1918. Relation
  of Meuse-Argonne Battle to the
  decisive Allied offensive movement           20

  4.--Divisions in the First Stage of the
  Meuse-Argonne Battle, September
  26th-October 1st                             52

  5.--Divisions in the Second Stage of the
  Meuse-Argonne Battle, October 1st-31st      194

  6.--Lines reached by German and Allied
  Offensives, 1918                            224

  7.--In the Trough of the Aire               266

  8.--The approach of the Center to the
  Whale-back                                  274

  9.--Divisions east of the Meuse             348

  10.--The Services of Supply: Showing Ports
  and Railroad Communications                 378

  11.--Divisions in the Third Stage of the
  Meuse-Argonne Battle, October 31st-November
  11th                                        590



OUR GREATEST BATTLE


I

A CHANGE OF PLAN

  The original scope of Saint-Mihiel--A winter of preparation for a
  spring campaign--Which is cut down to two weeks--The tide turning
  for the Allies--The advantage of a general attack--And especially
  of numbers--The tactician's opportunity--Why the Meuse-Argonne--The
  whale-back of Buzancy--Striking for the Lille-Metz railway--All
  advantage with the defense--The audacity of the enterprise--The
  handicaps--A thankless task at best.


We were in the fever of preparation for our Saint-Mihiel attack.
Divisions summoned from the victorious fields of Château-Thierry, and
divisions which had been scattered with the British and French armies,
were gathering in our own sector in Lorraine. The French were to
assist us with ample artillery and aviation in carrying out our first
ambitious plan under our own command.

After cutting the redoubtable salient, which had been a wedge in the
Allied line for four years, we were to go through to Mars-la-Tour and
Etain, threatening the fortress of Metz itself. This was to be the end
of our 1918 campaign. Instead of wasting our energy in operations in
mud and snow, we should spend the winter months in applying the lessons
which we had learned in our first great battle as an army. Officers who
had been proved unfit would be eliminated, and officers who had been
proved fit would be promoted. All the freshly arrived divisions from
home camps and all the personnel for handling the artillery, tanks, and
other material of war which our home factories would then be producing
in quantity, would be incorporated in a homogeneous organization.

The spring would find us ready to play the part which had been chosen
for us in the final campaign. On the left of the long line from
Switzerland to the North Sea would be the British Army, striking out
from the Channel bases; in the center the French Army, striking from
the heart of France; and on the right the American Army, its munitions
arriving in full tide to support its ceaseless blows, was to keep on
striking toward the Rhine until a decision was won.

[Illustration: MAP NO. 1
AMERICAN OFFENSIVES AND OTHER OFFENSIVES IN WHICH AMERICAN TROOPS
PARTICIPATED, MAY-NOVEMBER, 1918. ]

In the early days of September, with our troops going into position
before the threatening heights of the salient, and with the pressure
of the effort of forming in time an integral army increasing with
the suspense as the 12th, the day set for the attack, drew near,
some important officers, at the moment when their assistance seemed
invaluable, were detached from the Saint-Mihiel operations. Their
orders let them into a portentous secret. They were to begin work in
making ready for the Meuse-Argonne attack. While all the rest of the
army was thinking of our second offensive as coming in the spring of
1919, they knew that it was coming two weeks after the Saint-Mihiel
offensive.

This change of plan was the result of a conference between Marshal Foch
and General Pershing which planned swift use of opportunity. The German
Macedonian front was crumbling, the Turks were falling back before
Allenby, and the Italians had turned the tables on the Austrians along
the Piave. Equally, if not more to the point for us, the Anglo-French
offensive begun on August 8th had gained ground with a facility that
quickened the pulse-beat of the Allied soldiers and invited the
broadening of the front of attack until, between Soissons and the North
Sea, the Germans were swept off Kemmel and out of Armentières and away
from Arras and across the old Somme battlefield.

The communiqués were telling the truth about the Allies' light losses;
at every point the initiative was ours. The Germans were paying a
heavier price in rearguard action than we in the attack. It was a
surprising reaction from the pace they had shown in their spring
offensives. All information that came through the secret channels from
behind the enemy lines supported the conviction of the Allied soldiers
at the front that German morale was weakening.

Ludendorff, the master tactician, was facing a new problem. That
once dependable German machine was not responding with the alacrity,
the team-play, and the bravery which had been his dependence in all
his plans. He had to consider, in view of the situation that was now
developing, whether or not the Saint-Mihiel salient was worth holding
at a sacrifice of men. He knew that we were to attack in force; he knew
that in an offensive a new army is bound to suffer from dispersion
and from confusion in its transport arrangements. If he allowed us to
strike into the air, he could depend upon the mires of the plain of the
Woëvre to impede us while the defenses of Metz would further stay our
advance, with the result that his reserves, released from Saint-Mihiel,
might safely be sent to resist the pressure on the Anglo-French front,
either in holding the Hindenburg line or in the arduous and necessarily
deliberate business of covering his withdrawal to a new and shorter
line of defense based on the Meuse River. The German war machine, which
had been tied for four years to its depots and other semi-permanent
arrangements for trench warfare, could not move at short notice.

A generalization might consider the war on the Western Front as
two great battles and one prolonged siege. For the first six weeks
there had been the "war of movement," as the French called it, until
the Germans, beaten back from the Marne, had formed the old trench
line. Throughout the four years of siege warfare that had ensued,
the object of every important offensive, Allied and German, had been
a return to the "war of movement." After a breach had been made in
the fortifications, the attacking army would make the most of the
momentum of success in rapid advances and maneuvers, throw the enemy's
units into confusion, and, through the disruption of the delicate
web of communications by which he controlled their movements for
cohesive effort, precipitate a disaster. The long preparations which
had preceded the offensives of 1915, 1916, and 1917 had always given
the enemy ample warning of what to expect. He had met concentrations
for attack with concentrations for defense. The sector where the
issue was joined became a settled area of violent siege operations
into which either side poured its fresh divisions as into a funnel.
Succeeding offensives, in realization of the limitations of a narrower
sector,--which only left the advance in a V with flanks exposed,--had
broadened their fronts of attack; but none had been broad enough to
permit of vital tactical surprises after the initial onset. The
attrition of the man-power of the offensive force had so kept pace
with that of the defensive that the offensive had never had sufficient
reserves to force a decision when the reserves of the defensive were
approaching exhaustion. Moreover, the Allies had never had sufficient
preponderance of men, ordnance, and munitions to warrant undertaking
the enterprise, which was the dream of every tactician, of several
offensives at different points of the front at the same time or in
steady alternation.

Now from Soissons to the sea the French and British were developing a
comprehensive movement of attacks, now here and now there, in rapid
succession. This drive was not a great impulse that died down as
had previous Allied offensives, but a weaving, sweeping, methodical
advance. Not only was German morale weakening and ours strengthening,
but attrition was now definitely in our favor. Ludendorff's reserves
were all in sight. His cards were on the table; we could feel assured
that we knew fairly well how he would play them. Our own hand was being
reinforced by three hundred thousand men a month from the immense
reserves in the American training camps. We could press our initiative
without fear of being embarrassed by serious counter-attacks taking
advantage of our having overextended ourselves.

Thus far, however, the Germans were still in possession of their old
trench system, except at a few points; our counter-offensive had
only been recovering the ground which the Germans had won in their
spring and summer offensives. Now that the tide had turned against
him, Ludendorff, if his situation were as bad as we hoped, had two
alternatives, and a third which was a combination of the two. One was
to fall back to the proposed shorter line of the Meuse. This would give
him the winter for fortifying his new positions. As a shorter front
would allow him deeper concentrations for defense and the Allies less
room for maneuvers in surprise, it must be their purpose to prevent his
successful retreat by prompt, aggressive, and persistent action. The
other alternative was to make a decisive stand on the old line, where
for four years the Germans had been perfecting their fortifications. If
we should overwhelm them when he was holding them rigidly, we should
have the advantage of a wall in fragments when it did break. The third
plan was to use the old fortifications as a line of strong resistance
in supporting his withdrawal. Broadly, this was the one that he was to
follow.

Everything pointed to the time as ripe for the fulfilment for the
Allies of the tactical dream which had called Ludendorff to his own
ambitious campaign in the spring of 1918. Marshal Foch would now
broaden his front of alternating attacks from Verdun to the North
Sea, in the hope of freeing the Allied armies from trench shackles
for a decisive campaign in the open. The American part in this bold
undertaking was to be its boldest feature.

If a soldier from Mars had come to Earth at any time from October,
1914, to October, 1918, and had been shown on a flat map the fronts
of the two adversaries, he would have said that the obvious strategic
point of a single offensive would be between the Meuse River and the
Argonne Forest. This would be a blow against the enemy's lines of
communication: a blow equivalent to turning his flank. If the soldier
from Mars had been shown a relief map, he would have changed his mind,
and he would have perfectly understood, as a soldier, why all the
offensives had been in the north, from Champagne to Flanders, where
breaking through the main line of defenses would bring the aggressor to
better ground for his decisive movement in the open. He would also have
understood why the front from the Argonne to the Swiss border had been
tranquil since the abortive effort of the Germans at Verdun.

When Ludendorff undertook his great offensive of March, 1918, he did
not repeat Falkenhayn's error, but turned to the north, where the
Allies had made their attacks. In that Lorraine-Alsatian stalemate
to the south, with the Vosges mountains and interlocking hills from
Switzerland to the forts of Metz as the stronghold of the Germans,
and the forts of Verdun, Toul, Epinal, and Belfort as the strongholds
of the French, the odds were apparently too much against an offensive
by either side to warrant serious consideration. Yet a watch was
kept. Over the French mind was always the shadow of a possible German
offensive toward Belfort; and, when the sector which our young army was
to hold in Alsace and Lorraine had been first discussed in July, 1917,
the French excluded the defense of a portion of the front opposite
Belfort, with the polite explanation that they preferred to hold that
themselves. But the Germans never did more than make the feint of an
offensive in the south, which Ludendorff used in the winter of 1918 to
draw off French troops and guns from the north: for the army with the
numbers and the initiative of offense can always force the defense to
waste movements to meet threats of attack. This was another advantage
which the Allies could now use in keeping Ludendorff in doubt as to
where our real blows were to be struck.

The heights of the Saint-Mihiel salient, which look directly across the
plain of the Woëvre to the fortress of Metz, may be said roughly to
have formed the left flank of the Lorraine-Alsatian stalemate. They
continue onward in the hills which are crowned by the forts of Verdun,
and then across the Meuse River for a distance of twenty miles through
the bastion of the Argonne Forest, where they gradually break into the
more rolling country of Champagne. The Meuse winds past Saint-Mihiel
and through the town of Verdun, and then, in its devious course, swings
gradually to the northwest until, at Sedan, it turns full westward.

Our new offensive was to be between the Meuse River and the western
edge of the Argonne Forest. East of the forest is the little river
Aire, and between its valley and the valley of the Meuse rises back of
the German front a whale-back of heights, as I shall describe them for
the sake of bringing a picture to mind, though the comparison is not
absolute. The practical summit of the whale-back is to the eastward
of the village of Buzancy. We may use Buzancy as a symbol: for it is
only in a highly technical history that the detail of names, confusing
to the general and even the professional reader, is warrantable. The
summit of the whale-back gained, you are looking down an apron of
rolling ground and small hills toward the turn of the Meuse westward
past Sedan, where the German Army surrounded the French Army in the
Franco-Prussian War.

To the northeast, readily accessible to attack, are the Briey
iron-fields, which were invaluable to the Germans for war material.
Along the valley of the Meuse after it turns westward, and along the
Franco-Belgian frontier runs the great railroad from Metz to Lille,
which is double-track all the way and in large part four-track.
Incidentally this connected the coal fields of northern France with
Germany, but its main service was to form the western trunk line of
communication for the German armies in Belgium and northern and eastern
France. It was linked up with the railways spreading northward into
Belgium and southward toward Amiens and Paris in the arterial system
which gave its life blood to the German occupation. If this road were
cut, the German troops in retreat would have to pass through the narrow
neck of the bottle at Liége.

The dramatic possibilities of gaining the heights of Buzancy and
bringing the Lille-Metz tracks under artillery fire had the appeal
of a strategic effect of Napoleonic days. The German staff had been
fully aware of the danger when, in their retreat after their repulse
on the Marne, which the world saw only as the spectacle of the French
Army inflicting a defeat on an advancing foe, it used its tactical
opportunity for choosing, with comparative deliberation, advantageous
defensive positions from the Argonne Forest to the Meuse at the foot
of the whale-back.

For future operations it was depending upon more than the elaborate
fortifications of that line. Every hundred yards from the foot of
the whale-back to the summit was in its favor in resisting attack.
Higher ground leads to still higher ground, not in a regular system
of ridges but in a terrain where nature cunningly serves the soldier.
Nowhere might the defense invite the attack into salients with a better
confidence, or feel more certain of the success of his counter-attacks.
All roads, and all valleys where roads might be built, were under
observation. Heights looked across to heights on either side of the
two river troughs, heights of every shape from sharp ridges and
rounded hills to peaked summits crowned by woods. Tongues of woods ran
across valleys. Patches of woods covered ravines and gullies where
machine-gunners would have ideal cover and command of ground. Reverse
slopes formed walls for the protection of the artillery. The attack
must fight blindly; the defense could fight with eyes open.

Had the Allies attempted an offensive in the Meuse-Argonne sector in
the first four years of the war, the long and extensive preparations
then regarded as requisite for an ambitious effort against first-line
fortifications would have warned the Germans in time to make full
use of their positions in counter-preparations. All the advantage
of railroads and highways were with them in concentrating men and
material. It might not be a long distance in miles from the Argonne
line to the Lille-Metz railway or to the Briey iron-fields, but it
was a long distance if you were to travel it with an army and its
impedimenta against the German Army in its prime. When attrition was
in his favor in the early period, the German might well have preferred
that the Allied offensive of Champagne, or Loos, or the Somme, or
Passchendaele, should have been attempted here: thus leaving open to
him, after he had inflicted a bloody repulse in this sector, the better
ground in the north for a telling counter-offensive.

Thus an Allied effort toward Mézières, Sedan, and Briey would have
been madness until the propitious moment came. Had it really come now?
Anyone who was familiar with the history of warfare on the Western
Front might ask the question thoughtfully. Bear in mind that we had not
yet taken Saint-Mihiel and were not yet certain of our success there;
and that from Soissons to Switzerland the old German line was intact.
North of Soissons we had broken into it at only a few points. In the
event that they had had to make a strategic withdrawal, the Germans had
always followed the tactical system of a full recoil to strong chosen
positions, where they resisted with sudden and terrific violence and
held stubbornly and thriftily until they began one of their powerful
counter-thrusts.

Thus they had fallen back after their defeat on the Marne, from
before Warsaw, and from Bapaume to the Hindenburg line. Again and
again their morale had been reported breaking, and they had seemed
in a disadvantageous position, only to recover their spirit as by
imperial command and to extricate themselves in a reversal of form.
The German Staff was still in being; the German Army still had reserve
divisions and was back on powerful trench systems with ample artillery,
machine-guns, and ammunition. Whether Ludendorff was to stand on the
old line or withdraw to a new line, either operation would be imperiled
by the loss of those heights between the Argonne and the Meuse. He must
say, as Pétain had said at Verdun: "They shall not pass!"

In my "America in France" I have told of our project, formed in
June, 1917, when we had not yet a division of infantry in France and
submarine destruction was on the increase, for an army of a million men
in France, capable of the expansion to two million which must come,
General Pershing thought, before the war could be won. That far-sighted
conception and the decision which was now taken are the two towering
landmarks of the troublous road of our effort in France. By July 1st,
1918, we had a million men in France, or nearly double the number of
the schedule arranged between the French and American governments. We
should soon have two millions.

[Illustration: MAP NO. 2
WHERE AMERICAN DIVISIONS WERE IN LINE, FROM OUR ENTRY INTO THE TRENCHES
UNTIL THE ARMISTICE.]

When the Allies called for more man-power, in the crisis of the German
offensive of March, 1918, the British had supplied the shipping that
brought the divisions from our home training camps tumbling into
France. They were divisions, not an army; and in equipment they were
not even divisions. They had been hurried to the front to support the
British and French as reserves, and they had been thrown into battle
to resist the later German offensives. There had been no niggardliness
in our attitude. We offered all our man-power as cannon-fodder to meet
the emergency. Across the Paris road behind Château-Thierry we had
given more than the proof of our valor. In the drive toward Soissons
and to the Vesle we had established our personal mastery over the
enemy. We had pressed him at close quarters, and kept on pressing him
until he had to go. The confidence inherent in our nature, strengthened
by training, had grown with the test of battle. We had known none of
the reverses which lead to caution. More than ever our impulse was to
attack.

Château-Thierry had taught Marshal Foch that he could depend upon any
American division as "shock" troops which would charge and keep on
charging until exhausted. Now he would use this quality to the utmost.
To the American Army he assigned the part which relied upon the call of
victory to soldiers as fresh as the French on the Marne, and, in their
homesickness for their native land, impatient for quick results. If a
Congressional Committee, knowing all that General Pershing knew, had
been told of the plan of the Meuse-Argonne, they would probably have
said: "No leader shall sacrifice our men in that fashion. We will not
stand by and see them sent to slaughter."

The reputation of a commander was at stake. Should we break through
promptly to the summit of the heights, then we might take divisions,
corps, even armies, prisoners; but that was a dream dependent upon a
deterioration in German staff work and in the morale of the German
soldier which was inconceivable. The great prize was the hope of an
early decision of the war; in expending a hundred or two hundred
thousand casualties in the autumn and early winter, instead of a
million, perhaps, during the coming summer. At home we should be saved
from drafting more millions of men into our army; from the floating
of more liberty loans; from harsher restrictions upon our daily life;
from the calling of more women and children to hard labor; from the
prolongation of the agony, the suspense, the horror, and the costs of
the cataclysm of destruction.

There were more handicaps than the heights to consider: those of our
unreadiness. If we had failed, this would have meant the burden of
criticism heavy upon the shoulders of the commander-in-chief, who would
have been recalled. Dreams of any miraculous success aside, it was not
the example of the swift results in a day at Antietam, or the brilliant
maneuver of Jackson at Chancellorsville, but the wrestling, hammering,
stubbornly resisting effort of the men of the North and South in the
Appomattox campaign which was to call upon our heritage of fortitude.
In that series of attacks which Marshal Foch was now to develop, our
part as the right flank of the three great armies was in keeping with
the original plan of 1917: only we were facing the Meuse instead of
the Rhine. Without sufficient material or experience, we were to keep
on driving, not looking forward to the dry ground and fair weather of
summer but toward the inclemency of winter. There against the main
artery of German communications we were to launch a threat whose power
was dependent upon the determined initiative of our men. Every German
soldier killed or wounded was one withdrawn from the fronts of the
British and French, or from Ludendorff's reserves which must protect
his retreat; and every shell and every machine-gun bullet which was
fired at us was one less fired at our Allies. It was to be in many
respects a thankless battle, and for this reason it was the more honor
to our soldiers.



II

INTO LINE FOR ATTACK

  The Meuse-Argonne and the Somme Battle of 1916--The British had
  four months of preparation--And a trained army--But a resolute
  enemy--Our untried troops--Outguessing Ludendorff--Prime importance
  of surprise--Blindman's buff--What it means to move armies--Fixing
  supply centers--Staffs arrive--Their inexperience--Learning on the
  run--Our confidence--Aiming for the stars--Up on time.


Comparisons with the Battle of the Somme, the first great British
offensive, which I observed through the summer of 1916, often occurred
to me during the Meuse-Argonne battle. In both a new army, in its
vigor of aggressive impulse, continued its attack with an indomitable
will, counting its gains by hundreds of yards, but never for a moment
yielding the initiative in its tireless attrition.

The British were four months in preparing for their thrust on the
basis of nearly two years' training in active warfare, with all their
arrangements for transport and supply settled in a small area only
an hour's steaming across the Channel from home. Behind their lines
they built light railroads and highways. They had ample billeting
space, and their great hospitals were within easy reach. They
gathered road-repairing machinery and trained their labor battalions;
built depots and yards; established immense dumps of ammunition
and engineering material; brought their heavy guns into position
methodically, and registered them with caution over a long period;
set an immense array of trench mortars in secure positions; dug deep
assembly trenches for the troops to occupy before going "over the top";
and ran their water pipes up to the front line, ready for extension
into conquered territory.

Their divisions had been seasoned by long trench experience, tested in
the terrific fire of the Ypres salient and trained in elaborate trench
raids for a great offensive. All their methods were as deliberate as
British thoroughness required. Units were carefully rehearsed in their
parts, and their _liaison_ worked out by staffs that had long operated
together. Commanders of battalions, brigades, and divisions had been
tried out, and corps commanders and staffs developed.

On the other hand, the Germans knew that the British attack was coming.
Their army was in the prime of its numbers and efficiency. They had
immence forces of reserves to draw upon to meet an offensive which was
centered in one sector, with no danger of having to meet offensives in
another sector. We were striking in one of several offensives, each
having for its object rapidity and suddenness of execution, over about
the same breadth of front as the British in 1916; and against the
Germans, not in their prime, as I have said, but when they had lost the
initiative and were deteriorating.

[Illustration: MAP NO. 3
OFFENSIVES OF SEPTEMBER, 1918. RELATION OF MEUSE-ARGONNE BATTLE TO THE
DECISIVE ALLIED OFFENSIVE MOVEMENT. ]

The increase of the skill of infantry in the attack, in their nicely
calculated and acrobatic coördination with protecting curtains of
accurate artillery fire, had been the supreme factor in the progress
of tactics. As a young army we had all these lessons to learn and to
apply to our own special problems. As we could not use the divisions
that were at Saint-Mihiel in the initial onset in the Meuse-Argonne,
we had to depend upon others from training camps and upon those which
were just being relieved from the Château-Thierry area. Two of them had
never been under fire; several had had only trench experience. They
had not fought or trained together as an army. Many of our commanders
had not been tried out. Some of the divisions were as yet without
their artillery brigades; others had never served with their artillery
brigades in action. By the morning of September 25th, or thirteen
days after the Saint-Mihiel attack, all the infantry, the guns, the
aviation, and the tanks must be in position to throw their weight, in
disciplined solidarity, against a line of fortifications which had all
the strength that ant-like industry could build on chosen positions.

We had neither material nor time for extensive preparations. We must
depend upon the shock of a sudden and terrific impact and the momentum
of irresistible dash. If we took the enemy by surprise when he was
holding the line weakly with few reserves, we might go far. Indeed,
never was the element of surprise more essential. We were countering
Ludendorff's anticipation that, if he withdrew from the salient,
we should stall our forces ineffectually in the mud before Metz:
countering it with the anticipation that he would never consider that a
new army, though it grasped his intention, would within two weeks' time
dare another offensive against the heights of the whale-back.

For our dense concentrations we had only two first-class roads leading
up to the twenty-mile front between the Meuse and the Forest's edge.
These were ill placed for our purpose. We might form our ammunition
dumps in the woods, but nothing could have been more fatal than to have
built a road, for to an aviator nothing is so visible as the line of
a new road. Where aviators were flying at a height of twelve thousand
feet in the Battle of the Somme, they were now flying with a splendid
audacity as low as a thousand feet, which enabled them to locate new
building, piles of material, even well-camouflaged gun positions;
and the minute changes in a photograph taken today in comparison with
one of yesterday were sufficient evidence to a staff expert that some
movement was in progress. An unusual amount of motor-truck traffic or
even an unusual number of automobiles, not to mention the marching
of an unusual number of troops along a road by day, was immediately
detected.

All our hundreds of thousands of men, all the artillery, all the
transport must move forward at night. To show lights was to sprinkle
tell-tale stars in the carpet of darkness as another indication
that a sector which had known routine quiet for month on month was
awakening with new life that could mean only one thing to a military
observer. With the first suspicion of an offensive the enemy's troops
in the trenches would be put on guard, reserves might be brought
up, machine-guns installed, more aviators summoned, trench raids
undertaken, and all the means of information quickened in search for
enlightening details.

It was possible that the German might have learned our plan at its
inception from secret agents within our own lines. If he had, it would
not have been the first time that this had happened. In turn, his
preparations for defense might be kept secret in order to make his
reception hotter and more crafty. He might let the headlong initiative
of our troops carry us into a salient at certain points before he
exerted his pressure disastrously for us on our flanks. Thus he had met
the French offensive of the spring of 1917; thus he had concentrated
his murder from Gommecourt to La Boisselle in the Somme Battle.

Not only had our army to "take over" from the French in all the
details of a sector, from transport and headquarters to front line,
but the Fourth French Army, on our left, which was to attack at the
same hour, must be reinforced with troops and guns. The decision that
the Saint-Mihiel offensive was not to follow through to Etain and
Mars-la-Tour meant that French as well as American units and material
must move from that sector to the Argonne. Immediately it had covered
the charge of our troops the heavy artillery, both French and American,
was to be started on its way, and, after it, other artillery and
auxiliary troops and transport of all kinds as they could be spared.

"It sounds a bromide to say that you cannot begin attacking until your
army is at the front," said a young reserve officer, "but I never knew
what it meant before to get an army to the front."

He had studied his march tables at the Staff School at Langres; now
he was applying them. Young reserve officers had a taste of the
difficulties of troop movements. They had to locate units, see that
they received their orders, and set them on their way according to
schedule, with strict injunctions from "on high" to see that everybody
was up on time. They had lessons in the speed of units and the capacity
of roads which, at the sight of a column of soldiers on the march, will
always rise in their recollections of anxious days.

When haste is vital, unexpected contingencies due to the uneven
character of men and materials break into any system. That is the
"trouble" with war, as one of these young officers said. Everything
depends upon system, and system is impossible when the very nature of
war develops unexpected demands that are prejudicial to any dependable
processes of routine. With urgent calls for locomotives and rolling
stock coming from every quarter to meet the demands of the extension of
the Allied offensive campaign over an unexampled breadth of front, the
railroads, which were few in this region, could not transport troops
and artillery which ordinarily would have gone by train.

Three road routes were available from the Saint-Mihiel to the Argonne
region. Artillery tractors that could go only three were in columns
with vehicles that could go ten and fifteen miles an hour. Field
artillery regiments, coming out from the Saint-Mihiel sector after two
weeks of ceaseless travail, were delayed by having their horses killed
by shell-fire. The exhaustion of horses from overwork was becoming
increasingly pitiful. They could not have the proper rest and care.
In some instances they made in a night only half the distance which
schedules required. When the deep mud, and outbursts of bombardment
from the enemy, retarded the relief of troops, motor buses, which
were waiting for them, had to be dispatched on other errands, leaving
weary legs to march instead of ride. Military police, army and corps
auxiliaries of all kinds, and various headquarters must be transferred.

Officers who had hoped for a little sleep once the Saint-Mihiel
offensive was under way received "travel orders," with instructions
to reach the Argonne area by hopping a motor-truck or in any way they
could. Soldiers, after marching all night, might seek sleep in the
villages if there were room in houses, barns, or haylofts. Blocks of
traffic were frequent when some big gun or truck slewed into a slough
in the darkness.

The processions on these three roads from Saint-Mihiel represented only
one of many movements from all directions to the Argonne sector. French
units had to pass by our new front to that of the Fourth Army. A French
officer at Bar-le-Duc, who had charge of routing all the traffic, was
an old hand at this business of moving armies. He perfectly appreciated
that curses were speeding toward his office from all four points of
the compass where traffic was stalled or columns waited an interminably
long time at cross-roads for their turn to move, or guns or tanks
or anything else in all the varied assortment were not arriving on
schedule time. By telephone he kept in touch with American and French
units in the process of the mobilization, while he moved his chessmen
on the rigid lines of his map.

The "sacred road" from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun coursed again with the full
tide of urgent demands; only this time the traffic turned off on the
roads to the left instead of going on to the town. With each passing
day, as the concentration increased, daylight became a more portentous
foe. "No lights! No lights!" was the watchword of all thought which
the military police spoke in no uncertain tones to any chauffeur who
thought that one flash of his lamps would do no harm; some of the
language used was brimstone and figuratively illuminating enough
to have made an aurora borealis. Camouflage became an obsession of
everyone who had any responsibility. Discomfort, loss of temper and of
time were the handicaps in this blind man's buff of trying to keep the
landscape looking as natural by day as it had in the previous months of
tranquil trench warfare.

Traffic management was only one and not the most trying or important
part of the problem. If the demands upon the Services of Supply
were not met, failure was certain: our army would be hungry and
without ammunition. In no department was the additional burden of the
Meuse-Argonne more keenly felt than in this. New railheads must be
established, and additional vehicular transport sent forward to connect
up with the new front. Though the mastering of the objective in the
Saint-Mihiel operation released a certain surplus, it was disturbingly
small. The line established after the salient was cut had become
violent. It would require large quantities of supplies as long as we
should hold it; and it was already evident that the Meuse-Argonne
offensive was to be a greedy monster which could never have its hunger
satisfied.

Every hour that we kept the enemy ignorant of the strength of our
concentration was an hour gained. The one thing that he must not know
was the number of divisions which we were marshaling for our effort.
They were the sure criterion of the formidability of our intentions.
The most delicate task of all was the taking over of the front line
from the French. Not until the stage was set with the accessories of
the heavy artillery, the new depots, and ammunition dumps did the roads
near the front, cleared for their progress, throb under the blanket
of night with the scraping rhythm of the doughboys' marching steps,
infusing in the preparations the life of a myriad human pulse-beats in
unison. Our faith was in them, in the days before the battle and all
through the battle to the end. Their faces so many moving white points
in the darkness, each figure under its heavy equipment seemed alike in
shadowy silhouette. In the mystery of night their disciplined power,
suggestive of the tiger creeping stealthily forward for the spring on
his prey, was even more significant than by day.

The men were prepared in the red blood that coursed young arteries,
in their litheness and their pride and will to "go to it." They had
their rifles, their belts full of ammunition, their gas masks, and
their rations. It was not for them to ask any questions--not even if
the barrages which would cover their charges would be accurate, if
the tanks would kill machine-gun nests, if the barbed wire would be
cut, and if their generals would make mistakes. Suspense, not of the
mind but of the heart, lightened at the sight of their movement, so
automatic and yet so stirringly human. The gigantic preparations of
dumps, gun positions, and trains of powerful tractors became only a
demonstration of the mighty energy of our industrial age beside that
subtler endeavor which had formed them for their task and set them down
as the pawns of a staff in a gamble with death. Might the big guns that
the troops passed, grim hard shadows in ravines and woods, do their
work well in order that the empty ambulances at rest in long lines
might have little to do!

By battalions and companies the marching columns separated, taking
by-roads and paths, as their officers studied their maps and received
instructions from French guides who knew the ground. By daylight they
were dissipated into the landscape. The hornets were in their hives;
they would swarm as dawn broke to the thunders of the artillery.
Attacks were always at dawn; and dawn had taken on a new meaning to
us since the morning of July 18th, when our 1st and 2nd Divisions, in
the company of crack French divisions, had started the first of the
counter-offensives.

The success of Saint-Mihiel had developed corps staffs which must now
direct the Meuse-Argonne, while others took over the arrangements
at Saint-Mihiel. Major-General Hunter Liggett, pioneer of corps
commanders, with the First Corps was to be on the left; Major-General
George H. Cameron, with the Fifth Corps in the center; and
Major-General Robert L. Bullard, with the Third Corps on the right.
Groups of officers making a pilgrimage in automobiles to the new sector
were to be the "brains" of the coming attack; for our corps command was
an administrative unit which took over the direction of a different
set of divisions from those under it at Saint-Mihiel.

The corps staffs had only four or five days for their staff
preparations for the battle. It was Army Headquarters in the town hall
of Souilly which set the army objective, the corps limits, and the
tactical direction of the attack as a whole, while the corps set the
divisional limits and objectives to accord with the army objective.
At our call we had French experience of the sector, and in this war
of maps we had maps. Our prevision in this respect was excellent. The
French furnished us with millions of maps in the course of the war; we
had our own map-printing presses at Langres; and we had movable presses
in the field for printing maps which gave the results of the latest
observations of the enemy's defenses. A snowstorm of maps descended
upon our army, and still the cry was for more. Not only battalion and
company, but platoon and even squad commanders needed these large-scale
backgrounds marked with their parts.

Yet maps have their limitations. They may show the ground in much
detail, but, even when the blue diagrams and symbols are supposed up to
date, not the bushes where the enemy's machine-gun nests are hidden,
or what the enemy has done overnight in the way of defenses. Nor are
maps plummets into human psychology. Even when they have located
machine-gun nests they cannot say whether the gunners who man them will
yield easily or will fight to the death. If the British on the Somme,
after months of preparation and study of the defenses of the sector,
had more elaborate directions for their units than we, it does not
mean that, considering its inexperience, our staff did not accomplish
wonders.

Our corps commanders may have known their division commanders in time
of peace, but they had never been their superiors in action of any
kind. Their artillery groupings and aviation arrangements included
French units as well as their own. There was no time for considering
niceties in dispositions. Division commanders who had to arrange the
details of their coöperation had never served together. They had scores
of problems, due to the haste of their mobilization, to consider; for
the burden of apprehension that pressed them close was of apprehension
lest they should not be up on time. They and their officers went over
the ground at the front, but they had not the time to make the thorough
observation that any painstaking and energetic division commander would
have preferred.

A division with all its artillery, machine-guns, and transport is a
ponderous column in movement, with every part having its regulation
place. One day in one set of villages and the next in another, the
communication of orders and requirements down through all the branches
is difficult, and the more so when you are short of dispatch riders,
and there is a limit to what can be done over the field telephone.
The unexpected demand for wires for our second great offensive must
not find the signal corps unprepared; or a people as dependent on
telephones and telegraph as we are, and so accustomed to having them
materialize on request, would have been helpless in making war. The
deepest tactical concern was, of course, the coördination of the
artillery with the infantry advance. It is only a difference of a
hundred yards' range, as we all know, between putting your shells among
your own men instead of the enemy's.

Reliable communication from the infantry to the aviator and his
reliable report of his observations to the artillery and infantry is
one of the complicated features in that team-play, which, in the game
of death, needs all the finesse of professional baseball, a secret
service, and a political machine, plus the requisite poise, despite
poor food and short hours of sleep, for worthily leading men in battle.
Some divisions that went into this action had not yet received their
artillery; or again their artillery arrived from the training camp,
where the guns had just been received, barely in time to go into
position, so that an inexperienced artillery commander reported to an
inexperienced division commander with whom he had never served. There
were batteries without horses, which the horses of other batteries
pulled into position after they had brought up their own. Battery
commanders received their table of barrages and their objectives of
fire, and, without registering, had to trust to observation by men
untried in battle or by aviators who had never before observed in a big
operation. Aviators had been trained to expect the infantry to put out
panels, and they might say that the infantry did not show their panels,
while the infantry would deny the charge. Such things had happened
before. They would happen this time. They happen to the most veteran
of armies, whose long experience, however, may have an excellent
substitute in other qualities which we had in plenitude, as we shall
see.

All our own guns were of French make, with the exception of a few
howitzers. The gun-producing power of the French arsenals supplying us
with our artillery and our machine-guns--the Brownings were only just
beginning to arrive--in addition to supplying all their own forces over
the long front of their offensive was one of the marvels of the war and
an important factor in victory. The majority of our planes were also of
French make: not until August had the Liberty motors begun to arrive.
The French had supplied us with additional aviation and tanks, as well
as artillery, from their own army; but much of this was new. All the
Allies, indeed, were robbing their training camps for the supreme
effort that was about to be made from the Meuse to the Channel.

While the public, which thinks of aviation in terms of combat, admired
the exploits of the aces in bringing down enemy planes, which they
looked for in the communiqués, the army was thinking of the value of
the work of the observers, whose heroism in running the gamut of fire
from air and earth in order to bring back information might change the
fate of battles. Training for combat, perhaps, more nearly approximated
service conditions than training for observation. A fighting aviator,
with natural born courage, audacity, and coolness, who goes out
determinedly to bring down his man, makes the ace. These qualities were
never lacking in our fliers. They went after their men and got them, in
a record of successes which was not the least of the honors which our
army won in France. The observer had no public praise; he was always
the butt of the complaint that he did not bring enough information, or
that he brought inaccurate information. His complex responsibilities
were singularly dependent upon that experience which comes only from
practice.

Instead of applying the lessons of Saint-Mihiel at leisure, as we had
hoped, to the whole army, we had to apply them on the run in the rapid
concentration of divisions which had not been at Saint-Mihiel. Yet the
supreme thing was not schooling. It was a seemingly superhuman task in
speed. It was to have the infantry up on time even if the other units
were limping. In this we succeeded. On the night of September 24th,
from the Meuse to the Forest's western edge every division was in
position. We had kept faith with Marshal Foch's orders. We were ready
to go "over the top."

The Marshal postponed the attack for another day. Rumor gave the reason
that the French Fourth Army was not ready; possibly the real reason,
or at least a contributory reason, was in the canniness of such an old
hand at offensives as Marshal Foch. Ours was a new army under enormous
pressure. Veteran armies were always asking, at the last moment, for
more time in which to complete their preparations before attacking.
Possibly the Marshal had set the 25th as the date with a view to
forcing our effort under spur of the calendar, while he looked forward
to granting the inevitable request for delay. At all events the respite
was most welcome. Our staff had time for further conferences and
attention to their arrangements for supplies, and our combat troops a
breathing spell which gave their officers another day in which to study
the positions they were to storm.

When I considered all the digging necessary for making the gun
positions, or had even a cursory view of the parks of divisional
transport, of the reserves crowded in villages and woods, of the
ammunition trains, and of the busy corps and division headquarters,
I wondered if it were possible that the Germans could not have been
apprised that a concentration was in progress. Not only did pocket
lamps flash like fireflies from the hands of those who used them
thoughtlessly, but despite precautions careless drivers turned on
motor lights, and some rolling kitchen was bound to let out a flare of
sparks, while the locomotives running in and out at railheads showed
streams of flames from their stacks, and here and there fires were
unwittingly started. An aviator riding the night, as he surveyed the
shadowy landscape, could not miss these manifestations of activity.
If he shut off his engine he might hear above the low thunder of
transport the roar of the tanks advancing into position, of the heavy
caterpillar tractors drawing big guns. When the air was clear and the
wind favorable, the increasing volume of sound directed toward the
front must have been borne to sharp ears on the other side of No Man's
Land. All this I may mention again, without reference to observations
by spies within our lines.

On our side, we might try to learn if the enemy knew of our coming,
and how much he knew. A thin fringe of French had remained in the
front-line trenches, with our men in place behind them. Thus our voices
of different timbre, speaking the English tongue in regions where only
French had been spoken, might not be heard if we forgot the rules
of silence, which were as mandatory by custom as in a church or a
library; and besides, if the Germans made a raid for information they
would not take American prisoners. They did make some minor raids,
capturing Frenchmen who, perhaps unwittingly when wounded or in the
reaction from danger, and subject to an intelligence system skilled in
humoring and indirect catechism, told more than they thought they were
telling. Information that we had from German prisoners left no doubt
that the Germans knew at least that the Americans were moving into
the sector, but did not expect a powerful offensive. This, as we had
anticipated, was discounted as being out of the question on the heels
of the Saint-Mihiel offensive. Our new army, the Germans thought, had
not the skill or the material for such a concentration, even if we had
the troops.

In our demonstration that we did have the skill and the energy, and
that in one way and another we were able to secure the material
even though it were inadequate, we were peculiarly American; and we
were most significantly American in the adaptable exercise of the
reserve nervous force of our restless, dynamic natures, which makes
us wonderful in a race against time. We strengthen our optimism with
the pessimism which spurs our ambition to accomplishment by its
self-criticism that is never satisfied.

On all hands I heard complaints by officers concerning lack of
equipment, of personnel, of training, and of time. But no one could
spare the breath for more than objurgations, uttered in exclamatory
emphasis, which eased the mind. I could make a chapter out of these
railings. Yet if I implied that the unit, whether salvage or aviation,
hospital or front-line battalion, tanks or signal corps, or any other,
would not be able to carry out its part, I was assailed with a burst
of outraged and flaming optimism. And optimism is the very basis of
the psychologic formula of war. Americans have it by nature. We lean
forward on our oars. Optimism comes to us from the conquest of a
continent. It presides at the birth of every infant, who may one day be
president of the United States.

Confidence was rock-ribbed in a commander-in-chief's square jaw; it
rang out in voices over the telephone; it was in the very pulse-beats
of the waiting infantry; it shone in every face, however weary. We
had won at Château-Thierry; we had won at Saint-Mihiel; we should win
again. The infantry might not conceive the nature of the defenses or
of the fire they might have to encounter. So much the better. They
would have the more vim in "driving through," said the staff.

The objectives which we had set ourselves on that first day, after the
conquest of the first-line fortifications, which we took for granted,
were a tribute to our faith in Marshal Foch's own optimism. On the
first day we were striking for the planets. In our second and third
days' objectives we did not hesitate to strike for the stars. This plan
would give us the more momentum, and if we were to be stopped it would
carry us the farther before we were. Of course we did not admit that
we might be stopped. If we were not, the German military machine would
be broken; and any doubts on the part of generals were locked fast in
their inner consciousness, for uttered word of scepticism was treason.

On the night of the 25th, when all the guns began the preliminary
bombardment, stretching an aurora from the hills of Verdun into
Champagne, our secret was out. From the whirlwind of shells into his
positions the enemy knew that we were coming at dawn. With thousands of
flashes saluting the heavens it no longer mattered if a rolling kitchen
sent up a shower of sparks or an officer inadvertently turned the gleam
of his pocket flash skyward. Along the front our infantry slipped
forward into the place of the French veterans, who came marching back
down the roads.

"Gentlemen," said the French, "the sector is yours. A pleasant morning
to you!"



III

NEW AND OLD DIVISIONS

  A military machine impossible in human nature--Regular
  traditions--National Guard sentiment--National Army
  solidarity--Divisional pride--Our first six divisions unavailable to
  start in the Meuse-Argonne--British-trained divisions--What veteran
  divisions would have known.


The Leavenworth plan was to harmonize regulars, National Guard, and
National Army into a force so homogeneous that flesh and blood became
machinery, with every soldier, squad, platoon, brigade, and division
as much like all the others as peas in a pod; but human elements
older than the Leavenworth School, which had given soldiers cheer on
the march and fire in battle from the days of the spear to the days
of the quick-firer, hampered the practical application of the cold
professional idea worked out in conscientious logic in the academic
cloister. It may be whispered confidentially that all unconsciously
their own training and associations sometimes made the inbred and
most natural affection of the Leavenworth graduates for the regulars
subversive of the very principle which they had set out to practise
with such resolutely expressed impartiality. A regular felt that he was
a little more of a regular if he were serving with a regular division.

"We're not having any of this good-as-you-are nonsense in this
regiment," said its Colonel, talking to a fellow-classman who was on
the staff. "We're filled up with reserve officers and rookies,--but
we're regulars nevertheless. We've started right with the regular
idea--the way we did in the old --th"--in which the officers had served
together as lieutenants.

By the same token of sentiment and association the National Guardsmen
remained National Guardsmen. They also had a tradition. If they
were not proud of it they would be unnatural fighters. While the
average citizen had taken no interest in preparedness, except in the
abstraction that national defense was an excellent thing, they had
drilled on armory floors and attended annual encampments. Sometimes the
average citizen had spoken of them as "tin soldiers"; and they were
conscious perhaps of a certain superciliousness toward them on the part
of regular officers. Drawn from the same communities, members of the
same military club that met at the armory, they already had their pride
of regiment and of company: a feeling held in common with Guardsmen
from other parts of the country, who belonged to the same service
from the same motives. Should that old Connecticut or Alabama or any
other regiment with a Civil War record, and, perhaps, with a record
dating from the Revolution, forget its old number because it was given
a new number, or its own armory, because it went to a training camp?
Relatives and friends, who bowed to the edict of military uniformity
and anonymity, would still think of it as their home regiment. If
Minneapolis mixed its sons with St. Paul's, they would still be sons of
Minneapolis.

While all volunteers felt that they were entitled to the credit of
offering their services without waiting on the call, the draft men, who
had awaited the call, had their own conviction about their duty, which,
from the hour when they walked over from the railway stations to the
camp, gave them a sense of comradeship: while they might argue that
it was more honor to found than to follow a tradition. Their parents,
sisters, and sweethearts were just as fond, and their friends just as
proud, of them as they had been in the Guard. Aside from a few regular
superiors, their officers were graduates of the Officers' Training
Camps, who, as the regulars said, had nothing to unlearn and were
subject to no political associations. Yes, the draft men considered
themselves as the national army; and they would set a standard which
should be in keeping with this distinction.

All the men assembled in any home cantonment, with the exception
of the regulars, were almost invariably from the same part of the
country, which gave them a neighborhood feeling. The doings of that
cantonment became the intimate concern of the surrounding region. Its
chronicles were carried in the local newspapers. There was a division
to each cantonment; and in France the fighting unit was the division,
complete in all its branches,--artillery, machine-guns, trench mortars,
engineers, hospital, signal corps, transport, and other units. As a
division it had its training area; as a division it traveled, went into
battle, and was relieved.

Before a division was sent to France its men were already thinking
in terms of their division; they met the men of no other division
unless on leave, and met them in France only in passing, or on the
left or right in battle. In the cantonment the division had its own
camp newspaper, its own sports, its separate life on the background
of the community interest, without the maneuvering of many divisions
together on the European plan until they were sent into action in the
Saint-Mihiel or Meuse-Argonne offensive. Each division commander and
his staff, who were regular officers, conspired to develop a divisional
pride, thereby, in a sense, humanly defeating the regular idea of
making out of American citizens a machine which could be anything but
humanly American. Within the division, pride of company, of battalion,
of regiment, was instilled, and the different units developed rivalries
which were amalgamated in a sense of rivalry with other divisions.

Every cantonment had the "best" division in the United States before it
went to France, where rivalry expressed itself on the battlefield. The
record of the war is by divisions. Men might know their division, but
not their corps commander. Divisions might not vary in their courage,
but they must in the amount of their experience and in the quality of
their leaders. A division that had been in three or four actions might
be better than one that had been in ten; but a division that had not
been in a single action hardly had the advantage over one that had
been in several. Our four pioneer divisions, which had been in the
trenches during the winter of 1917-18 and later in the Château-Thierry
operations, the 1st (regulars), and the 2nd (regulars and marines), and
the 26th and the 42nd (both National Guard), were all at Saint-Mihiel.
Their units were complete; their artillery had had long practice with
their infantry; they had had long training-ground experience in France,
had known every kind of action in modern war, and had kept touch under
fire, rather than in school instruction, with the progress of tactics.
If they were not our "best" divisions, it was their fault.

Of the two other divisions which had been longest after these in our
army sector, the 32nd had just finished helping Mangin break through at
Juvigny, northwest of Soissons, and the 3rd was at Saint-Mihiel. These
six formed the group which General Pershing had in France at the time
of the emergency of the German offensive in March, which hastened our
program of troop transport.

Now we were bringing to the American army five of the divisions which
had been trained with the British, the 4th, 28th, 33rd, 35th, and
77th. From the British front the 77th had gone to Lorraine, whence
it was recalled to the Château-Thierry theater. The 4th and the 28th
were ordered from the British front, after the third German offensive
in June, to stand between Paris and the foe, and then participated,
along with the 77th, in the counter-offensive which reduced the Marne
salient,--or as the French call it, the second Battle of the Marne, a
simple, suggestive, and glorious name. Château-Thierry had thus been a
stage in passage from the British to the American sector, and the call
for the defense of Paris had been serviceable to the American command
as a reason for detaching American divisions, which the British had
trained, from Sir Douglas Haig, who, as he is Scotch, was none the less
thriftily desirous of retaining them.

The 33rd Division, remaining at the British front after the other
divisions had departed, gained experience in offensive operations,
as we know, which approximated that of the others at Château-Thierry,
when, fighting in the inspiring company of the Australians in the Somme
attacks beginning August 8th, the Illinois men took vital positions
and numerous prisoners and guns. Though these four divisions, the 4th,
28th, 33rd, and 77th, had not had the long experience of the four
pioneer divisions, they had had their "baptism of fire" under severe
conditions, they knew German machine-gun methods from close contact,
and they had the conviction of their power from having seen the enemy
yield before their determined attacks. To Marshal Foch they had brought
further evidence that the character of the pioneer divisions with
their long training in France was common to all American troops. The
National Guard divisions which had arrived late in France, though they
had been filled with recruits, had, as the background of their training
camp experience at home, not only the established inheritance of their
organization but the thankless and instructive service on the Mexican
border, where for many months they had been on a war footing.

According to European standards none of the divisions in the first
shock of the Meuse-Argonne battle was veteran, of course; and the
mission given them would have been considered beyond their powers.
Indeed, the disaster of broken units, dispersing from lack of tactical
skill, once they were against the fortifications, would have been
considered inevitable. A veteran or "shock" division in the European
sense--such divisions as the European armies used for major attacks and
difficult operations--would have had a superior record in four years
of war. Its survivors, through absorption no less than training, would
have developed a craft which was now instinctive. They were Europeans
fighting in Europe; they knew their enemy and how he would act in given
emergencies; they knew the signs which showed that he was weakening
or that he was going to resist sturdily; they knew how to find dead
spaces, and how to avoid fire; and they had developed that sense of
team-play which adjusts itself automatically to situations. All that
our divisions knew of these things they had learned from schooling
or in one or two battles. We had the advantage that experience had
not hardened our initiative until we might be overcautious on some
occasions.

The battle order of our divisions for the Meuse-Argonne battle was
not based on the tactical adaptation of each unit to the task on its
front. We must be satisfied with placing a division in line at a point
somewhere between the Meuse and the Forest's edge where transportation
most favored its arrival on time. One division was as good as another
in a battle arranged in such haste. The French Fourth Army was to
attack on the west of the Argonne Forest; on its right a regiment of
the 92nd (colored) Division, National Army, with colored officers, was
to form the connecting link between the French and the American forces.
For men with no experience under heavy fire, who were not long ago
working in the cotton fields and on the levees of the South, this was
a trying assignment, which would have tested veterans. Never before
had colored men under colored officers gone against a powerful trench
system. All the British and French colored troops had white officers,
and our other colored division, the 93rd, which was attached to the
French Army through the summer and fall of 1918, had white officers.

We come now to our divisions in place on the night of September
25th, with whom will ever rest the honor of having stormed the
fortifications. When I consider each one's part I should like to write
it in full. I shall mention them individually when that best suits the
purpose of my chronicle, and at other times I shall describe the common
characteristics of their fighting: in either case mindful of the honor
they did us all as Americans.



IV

THE ORDER OF BATTLE

  The Metropolitan Division in the Argonne proper--Six weeks without
  rest--Direct attack impossible in the Forest--Similar history of the
  Keystone Division--Pennsylvania pride--Its mission the "scalloping"
  of the Forest edge--The stalwart men of the 35th Division--Storming
  the Aire heights--Fine spirit of the Pacific Slope Division--A
  five-mile advance projected for the Ohio Division--North and South in
  the 79th Division--Never in line before, it was to strike deepest.


Three National Army divisions were to be in the initial attack. It
was a far cry for the men who a year before had tumbled into the
training camps at home, without knowledge of the manual of arms or of
the first elements of army etiquette and discipline, to the march of
trained divisions forward into line of battle in France. On the extreme
left of the line was the Liberty Division, from New York City. The
metropolitans were given the task of taking not a town, but a forest,
with which their name will be as long connected as with our largest
city. Its left flank on the western edge of the Argonne Forest and its
right on the eastern, the 77th had a long divisional front of over four
miles; but it would have been unsatisfied if it had had to share the
Forest. The Forest was its very own. The public at home seemed to have
the idea that the whole battle was fought there. If it had been, the
77th would have had to share credit with twenty other divisions, which
had equally stiff fighting in patches of woods which were equally dense
even if they were not called forests.

If the Forest were stripped bare of its trees, it would present a great
ridge-like bastion cut by ravines, with irregular hills and slopes of
a character which, even though bald, would have been formidable in
defense. Its timber had nothing in common with the park-like conception
of a European forest, in which the ground opens between tree trunks
in lines as regular as in an orchard. If the Argonne had been without
roads, the Red Indians might have been as much at home in its depths
as in the primeval Adirondacks. Underbrush grew as freely as in
second-growth woods in our New England or Middle States; the leaves had
not yet begun to fall from the trees.

It had not been until September 15th that the 77th had been relieved
from the operations in the Château-Thierry region. A new division,
fresh from training at the British front and in Lorraine, it had gone
into line in August to hold the bank of the Vesle against continuous
sniping, gassing, and artillery fire; and later, after holding
the bottom of a valley with every avenue of approach shelled in
nerve-racking strain, it had shown the mettle of the Americans of the
tenements by fighting its way forward for ten days toward the Aisne
Canal. It had been in action altogether too long according to accepted
standards, though this seems only to have tempered its steel for
service in the Argonne.

[Illustration: MAP NO. 4
DIVISIONS IN THE FIRST STAGE OF THE MEUSE-ARGONNE BATTLE, SEPTEMBER
26TH-OCTOBER 1ST.]

Ordinarily a new division would not only have been given time to
recover from battle exhaustion, which is so severe because in the
excitement men are carried forward by sheer will beyond all normal
reactions to fatigue, but it would have been given time for drill and
for applying the lessons of its first important battle experience. The
value of this is the same to a division as a holiday at the mountains
or the seashore to a man on the edge of a nervous breakdown. He
recovers his physical vitality, and has leisure to see himself and his
work in perspective.

Instead of knowing the relaxation and the joy of settling down in
billets and receiving the attention of the "Y" and other ministrants,
of having plenty of time to write letters home, and of receiving from
home letters that were not more than six weeks old, the men of the
77th had long marches to make through ruined country, and were then
switched about, in indescribably uncomfortable travel, on the way to
the Argonne. The division commander made no complaint on this score;
but it was a fact to be taken into consideration. The 77th was short
of transport; its horses were worn down. Yet, faithful to orders, its
artillery as well as its infantry was up on the night of the 24th.
Owing to the length of its front, all four infantry regiments were put
into line, which meant that there could be no relief for any units
after they reached their destination.

We admire hardy frontiersmen, of whom we expect such endurance; but
what of these city-dwellers, these men from the factories and offices,
short of stature and slight of body? Who that had seen them before they
entered a training camp would have thought that they could be equal to
carrying their heavy packs on long marches and undergoing the physical
strain of battle? Their fortitude was not due altogether to good food
and the healthy régime of disciplined camps; it was the spirit of their
desire to prove that they were the "best" division because they were
the "Liberty Division." Their hearty, resolute commander, Major-General
Robert Alexander, was justly proud of them and believed in them; and
they had excellent officers, who held them up by example and discipline
to high standards.

Faith in the impregnability of the Forest, from ancient times a bulwark
for which armies competed, had not led the Germans to neglect any
detail in improving its natural defenses. In that area where for
four years the French and the Germans had stared across No Man's Land
at each other, the reasons for the enforced stalemate were almost as
obvious as those for the truce between the whale and the elephant.
Either army had at its back the cover of woodland, while the slopes
about the trenches formed a belt of shell-craters littered with trunks
of trees. Any attempt to take the forest by frontal attack must have
been madness. Action in front must be only an incident of pressure, and
confined to "mopping up," as action on either side forced the enemy's
withdrawal from a cross-fire. This was bound to be our plan, as the
enemy foresaw; we shall see that he governed himself accordingly.

The 28th Division, which had been on the left of the 77th in the
advance to the Aisne, was again on its left. These had really been
the first two American divisions to fight side by side under an
American corps command, that of Major-General Robert L. Bullard. In the
enterprise that they were now undertaking they had need of every detail
of team-play that they had learned.

Some elements of the 28th, which was then just arriving in the
Château-Thierry region, had been in action against the fifth German
offensive; then it had been pushed across the Marne, where it had been
put in by brigades and moved about under harassing circumstances in the
ensuing counter-offensive. Later, having proved its worthiness for the
honor, as an intact division it had taken over from the exhausted 32nd
on the Vesle. Practically, from July 15th until it went to the Argonne
it had had no rest. It had held not only the town of Fismes on the bank
of the Vesle, but the exposed position of the little town of Fismettes
on the other side of the river, during that period when the Germans
were inclined to make a permanent stand there if their digging, their
sniping, and their battering artillery fire, showered from the heights
upon the 28th and the 77th in the valley, were any criterion. In the
subsequent advance to the Aisne, and later in the transfer to the
Argonne, the division had to submit to the same kind of irregularities
and discomfort as the 77th, and to suffer in the same way for want
of adequate transport and of leisure for studying its latest battle
lessons for use in the next battle.

There is a general idea that such populous states as New York and
Pennsylvania lack state pride, particularly in the sense of the
southern states; but any state, whose National Guardsmen were numerous
enough to form a complete division on the new war footing, had the
advantage of the unity of sentiment of the old family, which does
not have to include strangers at its board. The 28th's deeds were
Pennsylvania's. It stood proudly and exclusively for Pennsylvania
with her wealth and prosperity and all her numerous colleges, large
and small, from Allegheny in the northwest to the University of
Pennsylvania. The men were evidently capable of eating three and four
square meals a day, and they looked as if they were used to having them
when they were at home.

"What about politics?" the critic always asks about any National Guard
division. If there were politics in the 28th it was so mixed up with
marching and fighting--and the men of the 28th were always doing one or
the other when I saw them--that it was unrecognizable to one so unused
to politics as the writer. Certainly, it was a good kind of politics,
I should say, in that Pennsylvania had taken a downright interest in
her National Guard, which was now bearing fruit. The 28th's commander,
Major-General Charles H. Muir, was a man of equanimity and force,
who had the strength of character, on occasion, to stand up to an
Army staff when he knew that its orders were impracticable. The staff
respected him for his confidence in the judgment of the man on the spot.

The 28th's losses both in officers and in men in that excoriating
progress from the Vesle to the Aisne had been the price of a gallantry
which was a further reproof to the scepticism in certain quarters
about the National Guard. Officers who had been killed or wounded had
been replaced by young men who were often from the training camps
though not Pennsylvanians; and in the fierce illumination of battle
much had been learned about the qualities of the survivors. Some of
these who had hitherto been called politicians had entirely overcome
the aspersion. Others who had worn themselves out physically might be
given a period of recuperation even if the division had none. The 28th
had been indeed battle-tried in all that the word means. If it could
have had two weeks before the Meuse-Argonne in which to digest its
lessons, this would have been only fair to it as a division: though
probably its determination would have been no stronger.

The 28th's front was from the edge of the Forest on its left to
the village of Boureuilles on its right. Astride the Aire River it
linked the Forest with the main battle-line. While maintaining its
uniformity of advance on its right, its left had the same difficult
maneuver in "scalloping" the eastern edge of the Forest as the French
in "scalloping" the western edge. This meant that the 28th must storm
the wooded escarpments which the Forest throws out on the western side
of the Aire. On the eastern side of the valley were heights which
interlocked with the escarpments. As one Guardsman said, the division
had a worse job than a Democrat running for governor of Pennsylvania in
an off year for Democrats.

Now the 28th could not succeed unless the division on its right took
the heights on the eastern side of the Aire. If the 28th failed, then
the whole turning movement of the Army offensive toward the main series
of heights which formed the crest of the whale-back was endangered. On
the right of the 28th was the 35th Division, National Guard from Kansas
and Missouri, which must offer the courage and vigor which is bred in
their home country in place of the battle experience which had been the
fortune of the Pennsylvanians. Major-General William M. Wright had been
the first commander of the 35th. He was a man of the world, most human
in his feeling and sound in his principles of war, with a personality
which was particularly effective with troops of sturdy individualistic
character, who were unaccustomed by their tradition of self-reliant
independence of thought to the arbitrary system which a regular army
develops in the handling of recruits in time of peace. Leonard Wood had
the same class of men from the same region in the 89th, which Wright
later led in the Meuse-Argonne battle with brilliant results.

Soon after the 35th arrived behind the British lines, Wright's accepted
knowledge of regular army personnel and his capacity for inspiring
harmonious effort in any group of subordinates led General Pershing
to set him the task of organizing corps staffs, among them the Fifth,
which was to develop exemplary traditions. Major-General Peter E.
Traub, a scholarly soldier, fully equipped in the theories of war,
succeeded him in command of the 35th. Traub's brigade of the 26th
Division had received at Seicheprey the shock of the first attack in
force that the Germans had made against our troops, where the quality
which the young officers and men had shown in face of a surprise by
overwhelming numbers, and their prompt recovery of the town without
waiting on superior orders, had reflected credit on their brigade.

The physique and the good humor of the men of the 35th had been the
admiration of everybody who had seen them after their arrival in the
British area. The Guardsmen of Kansas had a fine tradition linked up
with the career of Frederick Funston, who was in the fullest sense what
is known as a born soldier. He was a combination of fire and steel; of
human impulse and inherent common sense. His initiative was in tune
with that of his Kansans. Through the authority of their faith in him
he applied stern discipline.

With its left on Boureuilles and its right on Vauquois, the 35th must
storm the heights of the eastern wall of the Aire under flanking
artillery and machine-gun fire from the escarpments of the Forest,
unless these were promptly conquered by the 28th. No finer-looking
soldiers ever went into action. Their eagerness was in keeping with
their vitality. Compared to the little men of the 77th, who were
overburdened with heavy packs, they were giants of the type which
carried packs of double the army weight over the Chilcoot Pass in the
Klondike rush. Their inheritance gave them not only the strength but
the incentive of pioneers. Whoever had the leading and shaping of such
a body of American citizens had a responsibility which went with a
glorious opportunity. The stronger the men of a division, the abler the
officers they require to be worthy of their potentiality. Given the
battle experience of the 77th, under a Pershing, a Wood, a Bullard, a
Summerall, or a Hines, and a group of officers as such a leader would
have developed, the work of the 35th would never have become a subject
for discussion: but we shall come to this later on.

On the right of the 35th we had the 91st, National Army from the
Pacific Coast, as the left division of the Fifth or center Corps, with
its front from Vauquois to Avocourt. Its commander was Major-General
William H. Johnston, a redoubtable fighter and vigorous for his years,
as anyone could see at a glance. There was no question as to the
character of his men, who were six thousand miles from home. Their
physique was as good as that of the 35th, as you know if you know the
region where they were called to service by the draft. Never before
under fire, they were to fight their way through woods by a frontal
attack, and then under the enemy's observation into an open ravine, and
on through that up forbidding slopes. An appealing sentiment attached
to this division from the other side of the continent, no less than
to the 77th, from which it differed in its personnel as the Pacific
Slope differs from the streets of New York. There were city men in its
ranks, but not in the sense of city men from New York; and there were
ranchmen, and lumbermen, and those among them who spoke broken English
were not from tailors' benches.

On the right of the 91st was the 37th, Ohio National Guard under
Major-General Charles S. Farnsworth, a regular officer of high repute,
who was to take the division through its terrific experience in the
Meuse-Argonne and afterward to Belgium. Why so excellent a division
as the 37th should not have been earlier in France may be referred to
geography, which gave an advantage to National Guard divisions from the
seaboard states. The 37th had waited and drilled long for its chance,
which now came in generous measure. After breaking through the trench
system it must storm by frontal attack, for a depth of three miles,
woods as thick as the Argonne; and this was only a little more than
half the distance set for a single day's objective. Therefore, without
previous trial in grand offensives, it was assigned a mission which
would ordinarily have been supposed to be disastrous against even a
moderate defense. The 37th was without its own artillery, but it had
been assigned on short notice the artillery of the 30th Division,
which, however zealous and well-trained, had not worked with the
division or ever operated in a serious action, let alone protected
infantry advancing for such a distance over such monstrously difficult
ground.

On the right of the 37th was the 79th, National Army drawn from
Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Major-General
Joseph E. Kuhn, who was in command, was well-known as an able
engineer officer. He had served as an attaché with the Japanese in
the Russo-Japanese War, seeing more of the operations than any other
single foreign officer; and he had been an attaché in Germany early
in the Great War, afterward becoming president of the War College in
Washington. Aside from this equipment his untiring energy, his high
spirits, and his personality fitted him for inculcating in a division
confidence in itself and its leadership.

The 79th, with men from both sides of Mason and Dixon's line, united
North and South in its ranks. Since its arrival from the States it
had hardly had time to become acclimatized. In place of its own
artillery, which was not yet equipped, it had not even a homogeneous
artillery brigade. Of American artillery (aside from seventeen of
the French batteries upon which we were relying so largely for our
preliminary bombardment) it had three regiments, less six batteries,
from the experienced 32nd Division, and one regiment from the 41st
Division. Though the 79th had never been under fire before, though it
had only training-camp experience, it was expected, after taking the
first-line fortifications, to cover the most ground of any division on
the first day, and though it did not have to fight its way through any
important woods it was to proceed along the valley of the Montfaucon
road, passing over formidable ridges which were under the observation
of woods on either flank capable of concealing any amount of enemy
artillery.



V

ON THE MEUSE SIDE

  The ground of the Verdun battle--The Crown Prince's observatory--The
  Third Corps to move the right flank down the Meuse--Businesslike
  quality of the 4th Division--A marshy front and no roads--Swinging
  movement of the Blue Ridge Division--The Illinois Division to secure
  the right flank--Dominating heights east of the Meuse.


At this point let us consider the missions of the three corps.
Liggett's First, with the 77th, 28th, and 35th Divisions, had the
problem of the left flank, the conquest of the Argonne Forest, the
valley of the Aire, and the heights of the eastern valley wall, which
was so essential to supporting the movement of Cameron's Fifth Corps
in the center. The Fifth, with the 91st, 37th, and 79th Divisions,
was to make the bulge of the sweep toward the main crests of the
whale-back. Its objective on the first day was the town of Montfaucon,
whose whitish ruins on the distant hilltop pretty well commanded all
the terrain on the corps front. Here the Crown Prince through his
telescope, at the safe distance which was in keeping with the strong
sense of self-preservation of the Hohenzollerns, had watched some of
the attacks on Verdun.

This sector was near enough to the battleground of Verdun to have
participated in some of the volume of shell-fire which had left no
square yard of earth in No Man's Land, or for half a mile on either
side of the trenches, untouched by explosions. The thicker the
shell-craters, the more difficult it is to keep uniformity of movement.
They are useful for cover for a halted charge, but for a charge that is
intended to go through, as ours was, they meant that troops must pick
their way over unstable footing. In view of the possibilities of French
counter-attacks the Germans had hardly been negligent in perfecting all
their defenses during the Verdun battle.

The groups of woods south of Montfaucon and north and west of Avocourt
was the heart of the German defense against the Fifth Corps. Against
Cheppy Wood which covered Vauquois the French, in 1915 when small
offensives were still the rule, had made many attacks in order to gain
the dominating position of Vauquois; and later, in the Verdun battle
and subsequent offensive operations by the French, the Germans had used
the woods as shelter for reserves, which drew persistent shell-fire of
large caliber from the French. A thick second growth had sprouted up
around the shell-craters and broken timbers, which afforded concealment
to the enemy and confused any platoon or company commander in keeping
his men together and in touch with the platoon or company on either
flank.

The assignment of such an ambitious objective to these three divisions
required an abounding faith in their manhood, initiative, and training
upon the part of an audacious command. I may add that before the attack
the Germans had taken one prisoner from the 79th Division, which
they thus identified; they did not know of the presence of the other
two divisions. As the 79th had never been in line before, they were
warranted in thinking that a green division could be there for no other
purpose than the usual trench training which we had systematically
given all our divisions before they went into serious action. When the
79th came rushing on toward Montfaucon on the morning of the 26th,
the enemy's surprise was warranted by all their canons of military
experience.

The Third Corps on the right flank, with its right on the Meuse River,
had in a broad sense the same mission as the First in supporting the
main drive toward the whale-back by the Fifth. On its left in _liaison_
with the 79th was the 4th, the only regular division in the attack,
under Major-General John L. Hines, whose ability was later rewarded
by a corps command. Regular divisions had a certain advantage in the
assignment of experienced professional officers and in the confidence
of the staff in the value of regular traditions which must be
maintained. Though in detached units, the 4th had had a thorough trial
in the Marne counter-offensive of July 18th to 24th. Then it had been
swung round, and as an intact division had taken over from the 42nd,
after the heights of the Ourcq were gained, for the final pursuit to
the Vesle, where it had a taste of shells, gas, and machine-gun fire
in the "pocket" before it was relieved by the 77th and started for
Saint-Mihiel. The 4th was a thoroughly regular and singularly efficient
division, disinclined to advertisement, doing its duty systematically
and unflinchingly.

At the outset of its advance it would have to cross marshy ground and
the Forges Brook, from which the footbridges had naturally been removed
by the enemy. On the left it was to keep up with the swift progress
of the 79th, with its course dominated on the left by the Montfaucon
heights, and on the right by the heights east of the Meuse--of which
we shall hear much before the story of the Meuse-Argonne battle is
told. There were wicked slopes and woods to be conquered. Indeed, its
position on the right flank of the 79th confronted as stern and complex
difficulties as that of the 37th on the left flank of the 79th.

On its right was the 80th Division under Major-General Adelbert
Cronkhite, sturdy, thick-set, cut out of sandstone, who faced the
world all four-square with his Blue Ridge men. The 80th had done well
at the British front, and had been in reserve at Saint-Mihiel. Though
it had its own divisional artillery and its units complete, this was
its first experience in a drive through first-line fortifications for
an extensive objective. If it had not so far to go as the 4th, its
trying maneuver in swinging toward the Meuse included passing between
the Juré and Forges Woods, which, unless cleared of the enemy, would
enfilade its advance with machine-gun fire.

The 33rd Division, Illinois National Guard, had the extreme right. I
have mentioned already the preparation which the 33rd had had in the
August offensive with the British. Major-General George Bell was calm
and suave, but a stalwart disciplinarian. Before leaving the States he
had eliminated many officers who for temperament, physical disability,
or other reasons appeared less serviceable abroad than at home. This
enabled him to travel to France without excess baggage, and to arrive
there with his organization knit together by a harmonious and spirited
personnel. As for his men, they were from Illinois and of the Illinois
National Guard, as you may learn in Cairo, Springfield, or Chicago,
for Illinois had been one of the forward states in supporting its
Guardsmen.

The 33rd was to swing up along the Meuse by noon of the first day, and
to rest there as a pivot for the Third Corps,--a delicate operation.
Its position was as picturesque as its record was various, in its
service first with the British under the Australian Corps, then with a
French, and later with an American Corps. If the war had lasted long
enough the Illinois men might have been sent to serve on the Italian
front, to complete their itinerary of military cosmopolitanism. At its
back now was the Mort Homme, or Dead Man's Hill, whose mention in the
communiqués during the Verdun fighting was frequent in the days when
the world hung on the news of a few hundred yards gained or lost on the
right or left bank of the Meuse. There under countering barrages from
the quick-firers and the plowing by high explosive shells, Frenchman
and German had groveled in the torn earth, mixed with blood and flesh,
between the throes of hectic charges for advantage. The Germans won the
hill, but eventually the French regained it. Then silence fell on the
shambles where the unrecognizable dead rested, and above them rose not
the red poppies of the poet's pictures, but weed and ragged grass from
the edges of the shell-craters.

Such was the texture of the rising undulating carpet unrolled to the
northeast over the battlefield of Verdun. In the foreground it was
variegated by the ruins of villages and those exclamation points of
desolation, the limbless trees, which melted into its greenish-ashen
sweep over the fort-crowned hills in the distance. Beyond them was
the plain of the Woëvre; and beyond that was Germany. An occasional
shell-burst showed that the volcano of war still simmered; its report
was an echo of the crashing thunders of the past, which we were to
awaken again in the valley of the Meuse.

The Meuse seemed only a larger Aire, asking its way sinuously in this
broken country. As vision followed its course past the German trench
system in front of the Mort Homme and past the area of destruction, it
was arrested by the bald ridge of the Borne de Cornouiller, or Hill
378. Mark the name! It will have a sinister part in our battle. Ten of
our divisions were to know its wrath without knowing its name. Higher
than any of the Verdun forts, except Douaumont, and higher than the
heights of the whale-back, it had been in the possession of the Germans
since August, 1914. From its summit observers could give the targets
to the countless guns hidden in the woods and ravines of its reverse
slopes.

An offensive against frontal positions resembles the swinging open of
double doors, with their hinges at the points where the first-line
fortifications are broken. The farther the doors are swung, the
greater the danger of enemy pressure on the hinges, whose protection
is the tactician's nightmare. In broadening his front of offensive
operations by alternating attacks Marshal Foch may be said to have been
opening several doors which were to become the alternately advancing
panels of a screen.

The Fourth French Army was the left flank of our army in the
Meuse-Argonne. As its left, and therefore the left of the whole
Franco-American attack, was making only a slight advance at the start,
it was little exposed. Our Third Corps had the right flank of the whole
movement, the Meuse River being the hinge, with the swing toward the
west bank of the Meuse, which bends westward toward the heights of
the whale-back on the Corps front. This gave it a frontal command of
the west bank, while it put the German trench system on the east bank
in the right rear of our line of general movement. Though the Meuse
was an unfordable stream, and we held the bridgeheads to prevent any
infantry counter-attack, this could not prevent cross-fire upon us
from artillery and even from machine-guns. As from the Mort Homme one
had a visual comprehension of the mission of the Third Corps, which
was more informing, not to say more thrilling, than the study of maps
at Headquarters, the inevitable question came to mind as to what was
being done for our protection on the east bank. The answer was that
French artillery and infantry were to undertake "exploitation." This
was a familiar word, which could not intimidate the artillery on the
Borne de Cornouiller. Forces in exploitation on the flanks, however
encouraging in battle plans, form an elastic term in application,
dependent upon what sacrifices they will make in the thankless task of
diverting the enemy's fire to themselves. With the heights of the Meuse
commanding one flank and the heights of the whale-back commanding the
other, the Third Corps was to operate in the Meuse trough as in the
pit of an amphitheater, striving to fight its way up the seats under a
plunging fire from the gallery.

Still, there was nothing else to be done. Someone had to take
punishment on the flanks for the support of the drive on the center.
The grueling which the Third Corps was to endure in advancing on one
side of the trough of a river valley beyond the enemy line on the other
was as certain to entail severe losses as was the mission of the First
Corps against the Argonne Forest and down the valley of the Aire. The
duty of all concerned, in an offensive which was organized in haste
in the hope of winning a great prize by springing into the breach of
opportunity, was not to hesitate in consideration of handicaps, but to
minimize them as much as possible in the initial plan, and then to
strike in fullness of confidence and of all the power at our command.
The strategy of the battle was daring in conception, and resolute in
execution.



VI

WE BREAK THROUGH

  French gunners at home in the landscape--Sleep by regulations in
  spite of suspense--"Over the top" not a rush--Difficulty of keeping
  to a time-table--Even with a guiding barrage--What barbed wire
  means--And the trench mazes beyond--Moving up behind the infantry.


The Pacific Slope, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
Maryland, Virginia, and New York thus had the honor of the initial
attack in our greatest battle, in which men from every state in the
Union were to have a part before it was won. In that area of rolling
country from Verdun to the Bar-le-Duc-Clermont road, which had been
stealthily peopled by our soldiers, the swarming of their khaki was
relieved by scattered touches of the blue of the Frenchmen who had come
to assist us. Though ours was the flesh and blood which was to do the
fighting--every infantryman was an American--the French were filling
the gaps in our equipment which we could have filled ourselves, as
I have said, only by delaying the Meuse-Argonne offensive until the
spring of 1919 as we had originally planned.

Under their camouflage curtains in an open field, or in the edge of a
woods, or under the screen of bushes which fringed a gully, the groups
of French gunners seemed at home in a landscape that was native to them
while it was alien to the Americans. When at rest their supple lounging
attitudes had a certain defiance of formal military standards, as if
French democracy were flouting Prussian militarism. When the order for
firing came, the transition was to the alertness of the batter stepping
up to the plate, and their swift movements had the grace and confidence
of professional mastery which had long put behind it the rudimentary
formalities of the drill-ground. They seemed a living part of the
infantry, their pulse-beats answering the infantry's steps. Never were
guests more welcome than they to our army. We could not have too many
French guns--or cannon, as our communiqués called them in recognition
of the unfamiliarity of our public with military terms--playing on the
enemy's trenches and barbed wire in the preliminary bombardment which
blazed a way for the charge.

I have known the suspense preceding many attacks while the darkness
before dawn was slashed by the flashes from nearby gun mouths and
splashed by the broad sheets of flame from distant gun mouths. There is
nothing more contrary to nature than that the quiet hours of the night
should be turned into an inferno of crashes and, at the moment of dawn,
when the world refreshed looks forward to a new day, men should be
sent to their death. The suspense before the Meuse-Argonne attack was
greater than before the Somme attack, when the British new army, after
its months of preparation and nearly two years of training, was sent
against the German line; it was greater than before Saint-Mihiel, our
own first offensive.

At Saint-Mihiel we had hints that the enemy would oppose us with only
a rearguard action. Our mission would be finished with the first
onslaught; we had only to cut the salient; the result was measurably
certain, while in the Meuse-Argonne it was on the knees of the gods.
The Germans could afford to yield at Saint-Mihiel; they could not in
the Meuse-Argonne, where, if informed of the character of our plan,
they might make a firm resistance in the first-line fortifications or
at such points in them as suited their purpose in seeking to draw us
into salients, to be slaughtered by enfilade fire as the French were in
their spring offensive of 1917.

After the preliminary bombardment began at midnight, our American Army
world, as detached in its preoccupation with its own existence, as much
apart from the earth, as if it were on another planet, waited on the
dawn of morning, which was the dawn of battle. The stars which were out
in their distant serenity had a matter-of-fact appeal to generals to
whom a clear day meant no quagmires to impede the advance. It was the
business of all except the gunners and the truck-drivers, or of those
speeding on errands to tie up any loose ends of organization, to try to
force a little sleep. Even the infantry, with the shells screaming over
their heads, were supposed to make the most of their inertia in rest
which would give them reserve strength for the work ahead.

This was in keeping with the formula which had been studied and
worked out through experience. No one not firing shells could be of
any service in smashing in strong points or cutting barbed wire.
Particularly it behooved high staff officers and commanders to lie
down, with minds closed to all thoughts of mistakes already made or
apprehensions of future mistakes, in order to be fortified with steady
nerves, clear vision and stored vitality for the decisions which they
would have to make when they had news of the progress of the action.
The plans for the attack were set; they might not be changed now;
the attack must be precipitated. Aides protected their generals from
interruption, and arranged that they should have food to their liking,
and as comfortable a bed as possible. No genius composing a sonnet or
a sonata could have been more securely protected in his seclusion than
a corps commander. The rigorous drill which had formed the men in the
front line to be the pawns of superior will was applied to keep the
superior will in training for its task.

General Pershing kept faith with the formula, and many others followed
his example, though junior staff officers worked through the night.
They were plentiful, and "expendable," as the army saying goes, as
expendable in nervous prostration as were in wounds and death the
young lieutenants who were to lead their platoons into the hell of
machine-gun fire. Waiting--waiting--waiting while the guns thundered
were the ambulances beside the road, the divisional transport, the
ammunition and engineer trains, the aviators with their planes tuned
up and ready, the doctors and nurses at the dressing-stations and
evacuation hospitals, and the reserve troops in billets. Officially
through his orders everyone concerned knew only his own part, but all
knew without asking that an unprecedented ordeal was coming.

It was easier for French and British veterans, familiarized by other
offensives with the roar and the flashes of artillery, to relax than
for Americans who were having the experience for the first time. With
sufficient practice one may learn to sleep with a six-inch howitzer
battery in an adjoining field shaking the earth. Many times during
the Meuse-Argonne battle I have seen our own veterans giving proof
of such hardihood; but on this night of September 25th it was not in
human nature for all the thousands who were to have no sleep the
next day or the next night to summon oblivion to their surroundings.
Those who fell asleep slept with nerves taut with anticipation and in
the consciousness of a nightmare, in which the rending thunders were
mixed with reflection upon their own arduous efforts and their part
in the future. Everyone was a runner crouched for the pistol-shot,
as he awaited the dawn. The great test for which all had prepared
individually and collectively for two years was coming tomorrow.

With the first flush of thin light the observation balloons had risen
in stately dignity from the earth mist, and the planes had taken to
the sky and swept out over the enemy lines: the combat planes seeking
foes and the observers to watch the progress of the charge or enemy
movements or the location of batteries or of machine-gun nests which
were harassing our infantry. Mobilization by the aviators for the
offensive had not been hampered by the problems of one-way and two-way
roads. They flew over from Saint-Mihiel the afternoon before or on the
morning the battle began.

At 5.30, just as a moving man would be visible a few yards away,
from the Meuse to the western edge of the Argonne, where we had our
_liaison_ with the French who advanced at the same moment, our men
left the old French trenches and started for the German trenches.
Everyone is familiar with the phrase "going over the top," yet despite
the countless descriptions everyone who saw an attack for the first
time remarked, "I didn't know it was like that!" The system of the
advance on the morning of September 26th accorded with the accepted
practice of the time. In their familiarity with the system soldiers
and correspondents have taken it for granted that what was common
knowledge to them was common knowledge to all the world. Only when they
returned home did they realize their error, and learn that ignorance
of fundamentals ingrained in army experience had made their narratives
Greek to all who had not been in action.

The average man is slow to yield his idea that a charge is an impetuous
sweep. It sounds more real to say that "the boys rushed" than to
say that they advanced with the sedateness of a G. A. R. parade on
Decoration Day, which is more like what really happened. Indeed, they
simply walked, unheroic as that may seem; and from high ground, or
better still from a plane flying low, an observer saw to the limit of
vision right and left men proceeding at a set and regular pace. The
more uniform and the more automatic this was, the better. On closer
view every man, except in height and physique, was a duplicate of the
others, in helmet, in pack, in gas mask, in every detail of uniform,
even in the way he carried his rifle with its glistening bayonet,
which was the only relief to khaki on the background of somber-tinted
earth.

Every man, every platoon, and on through the different units to
divisions and corps, was moving on a time schedule. A competition
between companies to "get there" first would have resulted from the
start in a hopeless tangle. If not literally, it may be said broadly
that each company was to be at a given point on the map at a given
hour; and if one company, or battalion or regiment, for that matter,
outdistanced another, it was because it had kept its schedule and the
other had not. In case it became "heady" and was on its objective in
advance of schedule, it ran the risk of "exposing its flanks." At
least that is the theory of the staff in its essence. An ideal army,
according to the staff, would be at a given line on the map at 10.30,
at another at 11.30, and so on. This might be possible if there were
no enemy to consider, although it would require an adept army, as
everyone who has ever drilled recruits well appreciates. He knows
how long it takes to train them, and to learn how to direct a small
force in carrying out satisfactorily a practice skirmish evolution
over slightly uneven ground. The gregarious instinct of itself seems
to break uniformity by drawing men into groups in face of infantry
fire in battle for the first time, as well as eagerness to close with
the enemy and gravitation away from the points of its concentration.
Shell-bursts scatter them, casualties make gaps which lead to further
disorganization.

Could our army have had reproduced for its edification the confusion of
the battle of Bull Run or of Shiloh, it would have realized the purpose
of all the painstaking drill, the monotonous and wearing discipline,
which made the well-ordered movement possible. Its very deliberateness
in maintaining the coördination of all its units gave it a majesty in
its broad and mighty sweep, which was more like the sweep of a great
river than the cataract rush of the small forces of the old days, which
the public still continued to visualize as a charge. I thought of it
too as in keeping with the organization of modern life, in the trains
entering and leaving a great city station or the methodical processes
of a vast manufacturing concern.

How did our men know whether or not they were keeping their schedule?
Did they look at their watches as they counted their steps? They had
a monitor at first in the rolling barrage, that curtain of fire which
preceded them. This was their moving shield which the guns far in rear
provided for their guidance as well as protection. If they came too
close to the barrage, they were exposed no less than their enemies to
death from its hail.

We may have a comparison in marching behind a road sprinkler, with
orders to keep just out of reach of its spray, which will be obeyed if
the spray consist of nitric acid instead of water. The more guns the
stronger the shield. We could never have an excess of guns as Grant had
at the outset of the Wilderness campaign, when he sent many batteries
of the short-range pieces of those days to the rear for want of room
on a narrow front in which to maneuver them. Cæsar applied the first
barrage in France in his tactical use of the shields of his legions,
who owed their success to systematic training no less than we in the
Meuse-Argonne. His men had to carry their own shields; the modern
soldier has enough to carry without carrying his.

Suspense was most taut, it was agonizing, as every soldier knows, in
the waiting hours ticking away into waiting minutes before the charge.
As the final minute approached, the veteran, as a connoisseur in
death's symbols, might find assurance in the strength, and apprehension
in the weakness, of the supporting barrage laid down on the enemy
trenches. Those of our men who had not been in battle before could have
no such prescience. They did know that when they left their trenches
the full length of their bodies would be exposed. They would march,
rifle in hand, without firing, while only the shield of the shells from
friendly guns screaming over their heads--the greater the volume, the
sweeter the music--could silence the fire of rifles and machine-guns
which had them at merciless point-blank range. Instantly they climbed
"over the top," anticipation became realization. One ceased to listen
to his heart-beats. The emotion became that of action. Suspense became
objective, merged in responsibility for every man in watching where
he stepped as he moved toward his goal, and for every captain and
lieutenant in directing his company or platoon.

The most careful maneuvering on fields at home was poor preparation for
No Man's Land, which is like nothing else in the world except No Man's
Land. Millions of soldiers know it through long watches over its dreary
lifeless space, and more vividly through crossing it in a charge. For
four years it had been the zone of death where no soldier from either
side ventured except at night on patrol or in a raid or general attack.
All this time shells had been pummeling it. The rims of craters, of
sizes varying with the calibers of the shells, joined each other; old
craters had been partly filled by later bursts. This continued pestling
of the soil with nothing to press it down but the rain made it the more
spongy in wet weather and the looser in dry weather. The heads of the
men bobbed as they advanced, stepping in and out of craters, and wove
in and out as they passed around craters. The rims often gave way with
their weight, or they slipped on the dew-moist weeds that fringed them
or upon some "dud" shell hidden in the weeds, as their attention was
diverted from the ground under foot by the burst of an enemy shell or
of one from their own guns which fell dangerously short.

As our artillery, in order to preserve the element of surprise, had
not "registered" with practice shots, it was firing strictly by the
map; and, though its accuracy was wonderful, inexperienced gunners
manning guns which had not had the allowances for error recently
tabulated, were bound, in some cases, to send their shells wide of
the mark. The big calibers might fail to destroy "strong points" that
held machine-gun nests, or a battery of seventy-fives fail to cut
the section of wire which was its assignment. For these mistakes the
infantry must suffer. It is the infantry which always pays the price in
blood for all mistakes; and the transfer of an officer to Blois or the
demotion of a general officer would not bring back their dead.

Their immediate concern, as that of every infantryman had been in every
charge throughout the war, as they crossed No Man's Land, was the wire
entanglements. All the original wire, four years' exposure to the
weather making its rusty barbs the more threatening, was still there in
some form or other, though it had been ruptured or further twisted by
previous bombardments whose craters only added to the difficulties of
passage. Breaks had been filled by new wire, which rather supplemented
the old than took its place. Additional stretches had been put out
at intervals to reinforce the defense of vital points. A half-dozen
strands will halt a charge in its tracks; here was a close-woven skein,
from three and four to twenty yards in depth. Where the depth was
greatest, it was most likely to have a continuous uncut stretch which
the enemy had marked as a target for fire upon the arrested attackers.

According to photographs of selected areas, which show a few bits of
wire sticking out of a choppy sea of fresh earth, every square yard of
which has been lashed by shell-fire, it would seem that artillery was
accustomed to do as thorough mowing as a reaper in a field of grain.
Even with treble our volume of artillery fire, taking treble the length
of time of our bombardment, and with every shell perfectly accurate on
its target, we could hardly have accomplished any such blessed result.
The best that could be expected was that lanes would be opened at
frequent intervals.

A break in the uniformity of advance appeared at once when one platoon
or company had a clear space on its front while its neighbors had not.
Suppose that for five hundred yards of distance the guns had completely
failed and for five hundred yards on either side they had succeeded:
then you had two exposed flanks sweeping forward into the trenches
beyond, possibly against the enfilade fire of machine-gun points
especially established for this opportunity.

Where the guns had not done the work for them the men must do it
themselves. If they had the torpedoes at the end of long sticks,
resembling exaggerated skyrockets, they might thrust these into the
meshes and explode them to gain the destructive effect of shell-bursts.
If the artillery had made some breaks, they might, in their impetuosity
to keep up with the rest of the line, try to pick their way. What young
soldiers can accomplish in this respect is past all comprehension
by elders who try to follow in their steps. The first wonder is how
they were able to go through at all, and the second is how they had
any flesh on their leg-bones after they had gone through. Their main
reliance was on the hand wire-cutters, which had not been improved
since Cuba and South Africa.

All the while that the soldier was snipping the strands and bending
them back as he crawled forward, he was usually too near the trench to
have any protection from the barrage, while from the trench he was a
full-size target at short range. War offers no more diabolical suspense
than to this prostrate soldier in his patient groveling effort, when
machine-gun fire is turned in his direction. He is in the position of
a man lashed to a bulls-eye. Bullets sing as they cut strands of wire
around him. He feels a moist warm spot on his leg or arm and knows
that he is hit. Perhaps he tries to apply the dressing to the wound;
but more likely he refuses to expose himself by any movement which
will attract the gunner's attention. He may be hit again and again
before the inevitable final bullet brings the last of his ghastly
counted seconds of existence. The bones of men who were killed in this
way--"hung up" in the wire--are all along the wire of the old trench
line from Switzerland to Flanders. Or perhaps, when that patient
wire-cutter has taken death for granted, the machine-gun suddenly
diverts its spray to other targets, and he is safe.

Such was the nature of the barrier of entanglements which had to be
conquered by these young divisions of ours before they ever began
fighting. Beyond its fiendish and elaborate skeins was a trench system
equally elaborate in all its appointments for the real resistance.
German officers and soldiers in occupation had taken all the interest
in improvements, and the more as it concerned the safety of their
own skins, of the most fastidiously scientific and progressive
superintendent of a manufacturing plant. The latest wrinkles in the
development of defensive warfare were promptly applied. After each
trench raid or enemy attack, weak points that had appeared were
corrected. Generals who came on inspection ordered changes suggested
by their study of the ground. Regiments new to a sector brought fresh
ideas and industry. Work was good for German soldiers, who were kept
digging and building for four years in perfecting the security of these
intricate human warrens.

Any trench system, after allowing for an enemy's success in clearing
the hurdle of the wire and in penetrating the trench system, and even
for his successful occupation of considerable stretches of the front
line, relied upon "strong points" and second lines in the maze of
fortifications to make the gains futile, or only the prelude to a more
costly repulse than if the attack had failed in its first stage. Let it
be repeated that not one out of four of our soldiers had ever before
stormed a first-class fortified line. They and their officers knew
the character of its mazes only through lectures, pictures, maps, and
imagination; but they were perfectly certain of one thing, and that
was that their business was to clean the Germans out, and for this
they were equipped with proper tools. In other words, when you saw a
German emerging from a deep dugout where he had taken refuge from the
bombardment, or appearing round a traverse, either kill him or gather
him in.

The ardor and ferocity of our youth in a furious offensive mood was
never more compelling in its results. Caution was not in our lexicon.
If strong points held out, the thing was to go through them. There
was no time to lose. The first wave must go on according to schedule,
leaving those who followed to do the mopping up of details. Our
faith was in our valor and destiny. In our progress the first-line
fortifications were to be only another hurdle after the wire.

In the course of this famous day, in seeking a personal glimpse
of every aspect of the action, I was at Army, Corps, and Division
Headquarters as the news came in, and I was three miles beyond the
trenches with our advance against the machine-gun nests. Such a
morning sun as is rare in this region eventually dissipated the thick
mist which had been in our favor in concealing our attack from enemy
observation, and against us in preventing our observation of the
movement of our own units. It kept on shining, which was still more
rare, in all the genial pervading warmth which we associate with its
generous habit in this season at home, until midday found the air
singularly luminous--luminous for this region--and the sky a soft blue.
The generals could not have asked more; and to the medical corps it
meant a blessing for the wounded. Judging by the weather that ensued
during the remainder of the battle, the point that the sun of the
Argonne exhausted all its beneficence on the first day and had to
retire behind clouds to recuperate, in order to keep up the reputation
of "sunny France" for future tourist seasons, seems well taken.

Not only was the infantry advancing, but all the rest of the army, no
longer obliged to court concealment under the cover of the night, had
come aggressively into the open, the stealthy processes of preparation
having given place to the thrill of battle joined. Where all efforts on
preceding days had been directed toward a stationary theater, now all
were directed to a traveling theater. A mighty organism of human and
metal machinery, which had been assembling and tuning up its engines,
had thrown in the clutch and was in motion.

Considering the volume of shells being fired at the Germans, the
columns of motor-trucks loaded with ammunition now had an intimate
appeal. The front had become a magnet drawing every thought toward it,
with every waiting ambulance and vehicle expectant of an order to start
forward. At the rear there was less traffic on the roads than during
the period of preparation; but forward, close to the trench lines,
roads that had been empty two days before were crowded. Machine-gun
battalions in reserve and batteries of artillery which had carried
out their assignment in the preliminary bombardment, and were moving
forward to new positions where they could support the advance, were
demanding right of way over divisional transport, which was clear as
to its duty to keep as close to the infantry as orders would permit.
The signal corps, unrolling their wires, also wanted precedence in
order that division headquarters might have information; and the
engineers had taken precedence over everybody with the compelling
argument that unless roads were built no traffic could move forward.

It was a familiar enough picture. To the jaded observer of war every
glimpse only reproduced some scene which was part of a routine of
which he was so weary that it made him desire, if for no other reason,
the realization of the supreme hope that this should be the final
offensive of the war. The great thing, though all the equipment and
all the system seemed age-old because of their associations, was
that the personnel was new. A new knight had slipped into old armor,
and taken up the sword from a tired if experienced hand. D'Artagnan
had arrived from Gascony to add his young blade to the blades of the
three Musketeers. On the part of everybody there was still the boyish
enthusiasm of the beginner in a game.

Hundreds of officers who had been to staff schools, or enduring the
S. O. S. in fractious impatience, now for the first time were at the
front--the front of the Great War; and with them were all the men
of the supply units, motor drivers, ambulance drivers, engineer
battalions, military police, whose one thought was a sight of that "big
show."

The French gunners looked on smiling, as a middle-aged woman smiles
over the enthusiasm of the débutante. Given the hour of attack, they
knew by experience how long it would be before the first wounded and
the first prisoners would come down the road. Soldiers who had never
seen a German at close quarters perhaps had taken the prisoners; a
young intelligence officer might be having his first experience in
questioning them. To the French the prisoners looked like all the
"sales Boches"; but we were discovering their characteristics afresh.
Later came the severely wounded on stretchers which were slipped into
the ambulances which bore them away. By nine o'clock in the morning we
knew that except for a few strong points which could not hold out we
were through the wire and through that elaborate trench system and out
in the open, and still going on.



VII

IN THE WAKE OF THE INFANTRY

  A successful surprise--The importance of traffic control in
  maintaining the advance--The "show" in the air--How the engineers
  built roads--And traffic blocked them--And colonels showed the
  traffic police how.


The veteran accepts his long service as a guarantee of efficiency; the
novice is patient under instruction and open to suggestion. Our desire
to do everything in the book, our painstaking individual industry under
a meticulous discipline, and our willingness as beginners to learn had
served us well before the battle in the concealment of our strength
and plans from the enemy. There were so many of us and we were so
swift in our onset that we gave the enemy the benumbing shock which on
many occasions the newcomer, springing aggressively into the arena,
has inflicted by a rain of blows upon a hardened adversary who has
appraised him too lightly.

If the Germans had made the most of their fortifications with their
customary skill, the dam might have held against the flood; for it
is the touch and go of impulse that decides in the space of a second
between docile hands up begging for succor and a fury of resistance
to the death. Suddenly brought to face overwhelming formations, the
answering sense of self-preservation prevailed in the German trenches
before the German officers and non-commissioned officers, had they been
in the mood, could overcome the mass instinct of their men.

The French on our left had presumably met more resistance than we
in the first-line fortifications. Their attack was doubtless more
professionally skillful than ours. Had they failed, for no other reason
than that they had fewer men to the mile, the cost of a repulse would
have been less for them than it would have been for us. The Germans
knew that the French were massing west of the Argonne, and apparently
accepted their attack as serious, while they thought that we would make
only a demonstration. We had been right in our anticipation that they
would not consider, for one thing, another major offensive by our army
feasible so soon after Saint-Mihiel; or, for another, that Marshal
Foch, while he was carrying on extensive operations in northern France,
would have the temerity or the forces to undertake in addition such an
extensive effort as that of September 26th.

Despite the honor in which open warfare was now held, a first line was
still a first line, with its wire, deep dugouts and strong points, and
all the approaches accurately plotted by the artillery through long
practice in fire. A part of it might be readily taken at any time by
thorough artillery preparation, but the victors in the early offensives
had suffered enormous toll of casualties from shell-fire in organizing
their new positions. Though the short artillery preparation, without
registering, had proved efficacious against the Germans on July 18th
and August 8th, when they were holding shallow trenches in ground
which they had won in their spring offensives, it had not as yet been
tried by the Allies--I may mention again--over any such length of
front against the old trench system as in the Meuse-Argonne. It is
only fair to say that we were not opposed in strong force, but, make
any qualification you choose, by conquering twenty miles of first-line
fortifications we had won a signal triumph which must have been a
distressing augury to the German command.

After our "break through" there was little answering artillery fire. We
had drawn the teeth of immediate artillery resistance by going through
to the guns. We had captured many guns; others were forced to fall
back to escape capture, and they, or any that were hurried forward,
would have had to fire, not at a settled trench line, but at infantry
deployed and on the move. Meanwhile our infantry must be driven to the
utmost of its capacity to make the most of the headway that we had
gained.

We had also to consider the dispersion and the fatigue which bring
loss of momentum in an attack, just as a tidal wave spends itself in
flowing inland. The farther our infantrymen went, the farther our
transport must go to provide them with rations and ammunition. Thus the
ability of our organization to continue the advance after the "break
through" included the indispensable factor of efficient arrangements at
the rear. As a division has twenty-seven thousand men, its daily food
requirements are equal to those of a good-sized town, without including
small arms and artillery ammunition and other material. People at home
who were surprised at the length of time it took a division to march by
on parade, without its artillery or transport, will have some idea of
the road space required for a single division fully equipped for action
and in motion.

Behind the old trench system traffic movement had settled into a
routine, under the direction of policemen at the crossings, resembling
that of a city. In our mobilization for the attack we had brought,
aside from corps and army troops, nine divisions into the Meuse-Argonne
sector. This led to the pressure which would appear in suddenly
trebling the traffic of a city. Though the roads were insufficient,
they were kept systematically in repair; quantities were known; we
were forming up on a definite line of front. After the attack was
begun, the defensive force was falling back upon its established
and dependable arrangements. The offensive force--and this cannot be
too clearly or vividly stated--had to build a city, as it were, by
establishing new depots and camps, repairing old roads and building
new roads, while traffic control in the area of advance was subject
not only to the calculable requirements of a great street parade in a
city, but to the incalculable requirements of a great fire and other
emergencies which switch concentrations from one street to another.

From a ridge in the midst of the old trench system in the center of
our line, the nature of our task appeared as a picture, which my
observation in threading my way through the streams of traffic in the
rear filled in with detail. Ahead, except for occasional groups and
lines appearing and disappearing in the wooded, undulating landscape,
our advancing infantry seemed to have been dissipated into the earth.
Their part after they were through the fortifications I shall describe
in another chapter. The bridge between them and the rear was for
the moment in the air, where Allied and German planes in prodigal
numbers came and went on their errands of combat and observation.
In the jam on the roads back of the trenches, thousands of men, of
waiting machine-gun battalions and of stalled artillery, and drivers
and helpers attached to traffic of all kinds, were looking aloft
at a "show" which was worth the price of being packed in darkened
transports, and almost worth the price of enduring army discipline.

If they might see nothing of the battle going on behind the ridge, they
had grandstand seats for the theatrics of war in the air, staged on the
background of the blue ceiling of heaven. I was not to see the like
of this scene again in such bright sunlight. The most jaded veteran
never failed to look up at the sound of machine-gun firing, which
signaled that the aces might be jousting overhead. Would one be brought
down? There might be only an exchange of bullets between planes in
passing; then one might turn to give chase to the other; or both begin
maneuvering for advantage. In shimmering flashes the sunlight caught
the turning wings of planes that tumbled in a "falling leaf" when at a
disadvantage, caught the wings of planes that were crippled and falling
to their death.

Duels were forgotten when a German plane with no Allied plane across
its path swept down toward the huge inflated prey of an observation
balloon. His telephone told the observer in the basket that it was time
to take to his parachute. The sight of the figure of a man, harnessed
to a huge umbrella, leisurely descending from a height of a thousand
feet, divided attention with watching to see whether or not the gas
within the thin envelope overhead broke into a great ball of flame. If
not, it was brought down to take on its passenger again; and it could
be lowered with incredible rapidity for such an immense object, as
the wire which anchored it was reeled in on the spinning reel on the
motor-truck. There was something very modern and truly American about
a motor-truck in a column of traffic towing a balloon.

Most fortunate of all the spectators were the men with machine-guns for
aërial defense mounted on trucks. They both observed and participated
in the game. Many of them were in action for the first time with a new
toy. They did not propose to miss any opportunity to make up for having
come late into the war.

"Haven't you learned the difference between an Allied and a German
plane? You're shooting at an Allied plane," an officer called to a
machine-gunner.

"Yes, sir," was the reply, and he stopped firing.

"Why didn't you tell him you couldn't hit it anyway?" remarked a
passing wounded man, after the officer had passed on. "But don't worry.
If they miss the plane, the bullets can still hit somebody when they
fall."

Entranced as they were by the spectacle, all the men who had to do
with the moving of the wheels of all the varieties of transport which
overflowed the roads were only the more eager to press forward. The
air was not their business. Their duty was over the ridge toward
the front. The artillerists had particularly appealing reasons for
impatience, as we shall see. They were using rugged language, which
relieved their steam-pressure without changing the fact, which was
being burned into the consciousness of the whole army, that as surely
as a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, a road is no stronger
than any slough which holds up traffic.

The engineers had no time to spare for observing blazing balloons.
Their labors in the old trench system, in contrast to the florid drama
of the air, were a reminder of how completely earth-tied the army was,
and how small a part of its effort was above the earth, even in the
days when communiqués paid much attention to aces. For a mile or more
every road in the immediate rear of the old French trenches had been
in disuse for four years while it was being torn by shell-bursts. For
the distance across No Man's Land, it had become part of the sea of
shell-craters. On the German side of No Man's Land were more trench
chasms, and another stretch which had been blasted in the same fashion
as the French side.

Shoveling would fill many of the holes; but shoveling required labor
when we were short of labor, and time when every minute was precious.
It was increasingly evident every minute, too, that trucks that carry
three tons, and six-inch mortars, and heavy caissons were not meant to
pass over any piece of mended road that had its bottom two or three
feet below the surface. They insisted upon finding the bottom and
remaining there until pulled out by other traction than their own.

The division engineers were supposed to keep on the heels of the
infantry, which they did with a gallantry which made amends for the
inadequacy of their numbers and material. Their efficacy was dependent
upon these two features and upon the prevision of the division command
in mastering the problem beforehand. There were critics who said that
some division staffs evidently expected their artillery and rolling
kitchens to take wing; but the division staffs produced by way of
answer the unfailing list of written orders on the subject, which
could not be carried out. If the infantry were repulsed or checked,
the engineers might share some of the fighting, as they had on more
than one occasion. There seemed to be a universal apprehension, the
engineers said, that an engineer might have a chance to sleep or
rest, which would obviously ruin his morale. If, after the infantry
had passed on, the enemy concentrated the fire of a battery on the
road-builders, they were not supposed to be diverted from their labor,
but to be prompt in filling new shell-craters.

The lack of material ready on wagons for immediate movement to the
front left them to gather what material they could on the spot. They
could not use barbed wire, and in places that seemed the only thing in
sight. They tore out trench timbers, which often proved rotten from
four years in moist earth, they gathered stones where stones could be
found and used these to make something more solid than loose earth
turned by the shovel; and they sent hurry calls to the rear for trucks
of material, which themselves might be stalled on the way forward in
the jam of waiting traffic. The more sticks and stones filled in a bad
spot, the more were needed as the earth underneath continued to yield.
When a truck-driver saw that the truck in front, which belonged to his
convoy, had passed through a rut, he determined that where his leader
could go he could follow, and he drove ahead, cylinders roaring with
all their horse-power. When he was stuck, he spurred them to another
effort. Meanwhile his wheels were probably sinking, and he had delayed
the mending of the break in any satisfactory way while the truck in
front backed up to put out a towline, and all hands in the neighborhood
added their muscular man-power to cylinder horse-power. The Germans had
raised in the shell-torn earth of the trench system another barrier
than that of their fortifications to a swift drive for their lines of
communication.

Their own limited opportunities in "passing the buck" did not exclude
the engineers from easing their own mental, if not physical, burden
by remarking with acid intensity that a little better traffic control
on the part of some of the people who were complaining would help
matters. No one who had been along the roads could deny that this
point was well taken. If not the experience of other offensives, our
traffic demoralization at Saint-Mihiel should have been a warning to
us, though most of the men who had learned their lessons in that sector
were still occupied there. We had the admirable example of the British
transport, which, after confusion in the Somme battle resembling ours
at Saint-Mihiel, had developed in practice under fire a system which
seemed automatic.

The number of guns and ammunition-caissons and the length of a column
of divisional transport were calculable quantities. Their order of
precedence behind the infantry was largely a settled formula. The
number of roads and their state of repair must be known not only on the
map but by practical observation. Some were narrow country roads, which
would accommodate only "one-way" traffic, and others would accommodate
traffic going both ways. Having all these factors in mind, the program
must include the disposition of labor battalions where they would
be needed in making prompt repairs, when heavy trucks cut up roads,
especially one-way dirt country roads.

We had written out extensive instructions for traffic regulation,
which were to be enforced by military police who were new to the task
and insufficient in numbers. The same thing happened to the military
police on September 26th as happened to the New York City police during
the parade of the 27th Division, when the crowd broke through the
police lines into the line of march. In this instance, when aggressive
commanders of artillery and convoys saw an opening, they made for it
without regard to traffic regulations, though their ardor may have
meant only delay in the end.

Thus the military police had paper authority which they could not
enforce. Their minds were kept in confusion by the confusion of
personal directions they received from volunteer experts. They
were overwhelmed in rank; and respect for rank had been drilled
and drilled into them. A colonel is a colonel and a mighty man;
a lieutenant-colonel is a mightier man than a major, who in turn
outranks any captain in charge of a section of road. What was the use
of proclaiming a road "one-way," when a staff officer appeared and
declared it "two-way"? What was there to do when another staff officer
appeared with an outburst against the disobedience of regulations that
had interlocked traffic going both ways on this same one-way road?

This is not saying that the personal initiative of a passing senior
officer was not serviceable, when he confined his effort to breaking
a jam, without reorganizing the system in one locality, and thereby
throwing it out of gear in other localities. With the best of
intentions, colonels fresh from home who had not seen a large operation
before were particularly energetic. Some of their remarks stirred
memories of Philippine days when the transport of an expeditionary
battalion was in difficulties. The burden of the world was on their
shoulders. When they gave an order, they wanted no suggestive "But,
sir----" from any captain or major, though they complained that
reserve officers lacked both initiative and discipline. As each
colonel departed in the blissful consciousness that it had taken a
trained soldier to "straighten things out," the traffic officers, in
the interval before another appeared with contradictory orders, might
indulge their sense of humor with the reflection that numerous "fool
colonels" must be wandering about France with a free hand in impressing
their rank upon juniors.

The biggest "fool colonel" or general was he who, to avoid walking,
took his car in the early part of the day across the freshly made
road over the trench system, thereby delaying the carts of machine-gun
battalions. When his car was stalled, he received about as much
sympathy as the driver of a truck stalled on a road which did not
belong to his division. Not being a colonel, the driver might be made
the public object of language which did not consider rank or human
sensibilities.

In no result was the fact more evident than in our traffic direction
that in making a large army we must crack the mold of a small army. In
time our capacity for organization would make a new mold. Meanwhile,
though it might be applied at cross-purposes, our American energy,
adaptable, tireless, furious, and determined, must bring results.
The many broken-down trucks in ditches beside the road were only the
inevitable casualties of a prodigious effort. Let the infantrymen keep
on advancing; we would force their supplies up to them in one way or
another.



VIII

THE FIRST DAY

  Out in the open--The enemy limited to passive defense--And relying on
  machine-gunners--Their elusiveness--Problems of the offense--Slowing
  down--Up with the infantry--Why dispersion--_Liaison_ up, down,
  and across--How keep the staff informed?--The spent wave before
  Montfaucon.


What of the infantry lost to view in the folds of the landscape? They
were confronting the originals of the hills, woods, and ravines, whose
contours on paper had been the definite factor in making plans, while
the character and resistance of the enemy had been the indefinite and
ungovernable quantity. As the day advanced, irregular pencilings,
reflecting the reports of the progress of the fighters, moved forward
on the maps of the different headquarters toward the heavy regular
lines of the objectives which were the goals of our high ambition.

The loss of the first-line fortifications to the Germans could not be
considered as serious as in an offensive in the first years of the war.
Even as early as the Verdun battle, proponents of the mobile school
of warfare, who had never been altogether silenced by the engineering
school, had advocated a yielding elastic defense, which, after drawing
the Crown Prince's Armies away from their depots, would counter by
a sudden attack of the gathered French forces; but such a maneuver
was too daring and contrary to the thought of the time, with its
dependence upon rigid defense. Infantry had fallen into the habit of
feeling "undressed" and helpless unless in trenches. When the soldier
was forced into the open, he had hastened to hide his "nakedness" in
a shell-crater, or instantly, in the very rodent instinct that he had
developed, set to digging himself a pit. Since the German offensive of
March, 1918, all the practice had been to wean the infantry away from
settled defenses to the supple use of light artillery, trench mortars,
and machine-gun units. Happily, as we know, the basic training of our
infantry had been in keeping with this idea.

In the palmy days of German numbers and vigor, the German High Command
might have met our Meuse-Argonne offensive by the prompt marshaling of
reserves for a decisive counter-attack against our extended forces with
inadequate roads at their backs; but if Ludendorff realized the errors
which our fresh troops might commit from inexperience, we realized,
on our part, that he was too occupied elsewhere by Allied attacks to
consider any considerable aggressive action on our new front, where his
tactics must have in mind, obviously, the protection with a minimum
cost of men and material of his lines of communication, in order to
assure a successful withdrawal from northern France and Belgium. With
our attack developed, his subordinate in the Meuse-Argonne sector, in
carrying out this policy, would choose the points where he could gain
the best results by concentrating the fire of the artillery at his
command, and then depend upon the expert German machine-gunners for
defensive warfare in the open, supported by such fragmentary defense
lines as might be hastily constructed.

According to the German intelligence report of our operation at
Saint-Mihiel, our staff work had been immature, while our line officers
did not know how to make the most of our gains. Without considering
that at Saint-Mihiel we were under orders to stop on our limited
objectives, and granting the Germans their view, no one will deny
them the credit of knowing how to make the most of their tactical
opportunities. The bellows of our accordeon was being drawn out as
theirs was drawn in. With every hundred yards of advance our men were
farther from their communications. Reports were accordingly the longer
in reaching headquarters, and orders for future moves the longer in
reaching the line, while those of the Germans, as they fell back on
their communications, were prompt.

It was not the first time that they had lost first-line fortifications.
They knew by experience as well as observation what had happened to
their first line under the powerful initial assault; and they knew
what they had to do, in full dependence upon a staff system trained
in practice to meet this as well as the other vicissitudes of war.
The failure of their men in the front line to stand to the death was
an irritating exhibition of deteriorating morale, which must be taken
into consideration not only by the subordinate but the higher commands.
Scattered and demoralized individuals and groups, filtering back in
retreat, might be re-formed, or passed through advancing reserves to
the rear for reorganization. Fresh machine-gun units, which had almost
the mobility of infantry, could be readily placed at points already
foreseen as most suitable. One machine-gun might hold up the advance of
a company of infantry. The enemy was fully familiar with the details
of a landscape studded with ideal machine-gun positions, the choicest
being the edge of a woods on a hillside overlooking an open space.

Some of our officers and men had met German machine-gun practice in
open warfare in the Château-Thierry campaign and at the British front.
As others knew it only under the limitations of trench warfare, the
resistance which they now must face was familiar to them only through
instruction. The German machine-gunner, having learned as the survivor
of many battles the art of self-preservation at his adversary's
expense, would wait all day and all night and even longer without a
shot, until his target appeared in the field of fire assigned to him;
wait as a Kentucky feudsman waits behind a rock for his enemy to appear
on a road. Each gun was only one in a well-plotted array covering all
the avenues of approach which any attacking force must follow. The guns
disposed in front might precede or wait on the guns in flank in opening
fire.

There was nothing new or wonderful in this arrangement. Any soldier
with a sense of ground and of natural combative strategy could work
out a plan of interlocking fire; but the discipline and the training
requisite to its proper execution, and the stubborn phlegmatic bravery
which sticks to a machine-gun to the death, are not to be found at
random on any page of a city directory or social register. The fact
that a gun had begun firing did not mean that it could be immediately
located. Sometimes when light conditions were right the flash was
visible, unless the gunner had hung a piece of bagging, through which
he could aim, to conceal the flash. The direction of the fire might
be judged somewhat by sound, and also by observing the spits of dust
in the earth or on the wall of a building. Judgment on this score was
affected by the proximity of the passing bullets to the observer's
person.

The more machine-guns were firing from different angles, the more
difficult it was to locate any one of them by either method; and
the more influential the human element. In the midst of their fire
imagination easily multiplied the number of guns, which is one of the
moral effects of their use. When a gun was located, the gunner might
slip back behind the crest of a ridge, or he might have moved as a
precaution, before he was located, to another position which had been
chosen as his next berth, with pit and camouflage in readiness.

An experienced aviator--always there is that word "experience" which
has no substitute--might detect a machine-gun nest if he flew low; but
not as a rule in woods or in bushes, or even in the open when covered
with green branches. There were many machine-gunners and relatively
few aviators. If a gunner thought that an aviator who flew low had
seen him, he might have taken up a new position before the aviator's
information had brought down artillery fire. The machine-gunner was a
will-of-the-wisp with a hornet's sting, which could be thrown a mile
and a half. Usually the price of locating him was casualties to the
infantry, and still more casualties before he was taken, if he stood
his ground. If the Germans had not enough machine-guns back of their
first line for a complete interlocking defense on the first day of the
battle--and they certainly had later--they aimed to place them where
they could do the most good.

Naturally the American Army, studying its chessboard, had taken into
consideration the counter-moves of the enemy which would result from
its attack. Of course the passage through the entanglements would lead
to the first dislocations of _liaison_; the storming of the trenches to
more; and the passage over the shell-craters to still more. After every
offensive against the trench system, officers had studied how to avoid
the slowing down of the attack after the first line was taken. This had
led to passing the first wave promptly through the trenches and leaving
a second wave to "mop up" by "breaching" dugouts and cleaning up points
of resistance; and then to the system of "leap-frogging," in which,
when the men in front had been weakened in numbers by casualties and
lost their aggressive cohesion, fresh troops went through them to carry
forward the attack. Reserves in passing through the lanes of the barbed
wire and over the trenches and on to catch up with an advancing line
also suffered from disorganization, which might be increased by strong
concentrations of enemy shell and machine-gun fire.

A division commander had discretion as to how he would gain his
objectives, which brings us into the field of tactical direction, as
technical as it is vital to success. His dispositions were a test of
his knowledge of his profession, and his handling of the division
after it was engaged of his qualities of generalship. In some instances
villages and strong points were passed by the main line of advance, and
left to be conquered by special attacking forces. Instructions had not
only to be elaborate but practical.

Those captains and lieutenants, the company and platoon commanders,
who were carrying out the instructions, must each be a general in his
own limited field. The less experience his seniors had in preparing
practical instructions, the more he might suffer for his want of
experience in leading men in battle. With the conquered trenches behind
him, he had to make sure that his men were in hand, and if he had
been allowed no time for reorganization behind his shield, that was
an error; for barrages might move too fast, in expressing the desire
of commanders for speed. At the same time, the line officer had to
identify by the map the ground on his front which he was to traverse
and the positions he was to take as his part in that twenty miles of
pulsing, weaving, and thrusting line.

When you are seated before a table in calm surroundings, trying to
follow the course of one company in an advance, you realize the
limitations of your 1 to 20,000 map. It ought to be 1 to 10. More
elements than any layman could imagine entered into the problem of
the location of the command post from which a battalion commander was
to direct the movements of one thousand men, or a regimental commander
of three thousand, in action. All this, of course, represents sheer
fundamentals in thoroughgoing military science; but we must have the
fundamentals if we are to appreciate the accomplishment of our young
army in the Meuse-Argonne battle.

A prominent hill was easily recognized. If a village were in the line
of your attack, that was a simple guide; but in a region where, unlike
our country of scattered farmhouses, the farmers all live in villages,
there was a paucity of buildings which might serve as landmarks. One
of our men expressed the character of the terrain by saying that with
every advance it all looked alike--hills, ridges, woods, and ravines;
yet when you came close to the part which you were to attack it seemed
"different from any other and a lot worse." We had to cross brooks
and swamps as an incident to conquering the other features of the
landscape. If we missed any kind of fighting on the first day of the
battle, it was in store for us in the later stages.

Oh, that word _liaison_! That linking up of the units of the attack in
proper coördination! Is there any man of the combat divisions who does
not know its meaning or who wants to hear it again? It never came into
slang at home in the same way as camouflage; but it is a thousand times
more suggestive of the actualities of war. _Liaison_ between the French
and the American armies, between corps, divisions, brigades, regiments,
battalions, companies, platoons, squads, and individual soldiers.
_Liaison_ between infantry and artillery and trench mortars and planes
and tanks! If you did not have it, why, the adjoining commander might
be as much to blame as you, at least, and you could say that he was
altogether to blame. It may be said that the history of the war will be
written in terms of positions taken, and of positions which were not
taken because coöperating units failed to keep their _liaison_. They
were not up. When I mention that there were difficulties of _liaison_
in writing of any division, I am not saying who was at fault, as no one
person was, perhaps, more than another.

Other generals might be promoted and demoted, but General _Liaison_
remained the supreme tactician. "Establishing _liaison_" was fraught
with more heartaches and brain-aches than any other military detail.
Men prowled through the night in gas-masks under sniping rifle and
machine-gun fire and artillery fire, to ascertain if the unit supposed
to be on their flank was there: perhaps to receive a greeting from an
officer hugging a fox-hole, "Why aren't you fellows keeping up with
us?"

_Liaison_ was most difficult in woods, though the fighting was not
necessarily always the severest there. Men naturally took to the paths
instantly they advanced into woods, and these, if they were not stopped
by machine-gun fire, advanced ahead of those in the deep underbrush.
A stretch of unseen wire might arrest a part of the line, without
the men in _liaison_ on the right and left, as they plunged through
the thickets, knowing that it had been stopped. The sheer business
of keeping any kind of formation was distracting enough, without the
sudden bursts of machine-gun fire, which might be so powerful that
there was nothing to do except to take cover and consider a plan for
silencing or capturing the gun. Unless the casualties were so serious
that it was suicidal not to halt and mark out a plan for capturing the
nest, and as advancing was a sure way of locating machine-guns and
a prompt way of overwhelming them, we swept on in the spirit of our
instructions and impatience. Captured machine-guns littered the paths
of our battalions, in tribute to the effect of our impetuous rush upon
gunners who continued to forget their orders to stand to the death when
they saw the tidal wave of our soldiers about to swamp them.

As the day wore on and the enemy began to recover from the shock of the
surprise of our initial onset, we encountered an increasing volume and
fury of machine-gun fire from hill to hill across valleys, sweeping
down ravines, plunging from crests and by indirect aim over crests,
from village houses and from both directions where village streets
crossed. At critical points it was supported by concentrations of
shell-fire. Along that road, at the edge of this patch of woods, along
that stretch of river bottom, the German's artillery laid down barrages
over a space already swept by bullets, to hold positions by which he
set as much store in his plans as we in ours.

"Why aren't you getting on?" division commanders asked, or tried to
ask--as communication did not always permit the message to arrive
promptly--when the pencilings on the map were not keeping up to the
schedule of progress toward the objectives. It was an easy question;
the answer might be in the lack of resolution of a regimental or
battalion commander, in the character of the resistance to his troops,
or in their disorganization under new and severe trials. After further
ineffectual efforts the battalion and regimental commanders might say
that progress was impossible without reserves.

Should the division commander send them? Expending his reserves on the
first day of a long battle might place him in a dangerous position
in face of a later and graver emergency; but he had the word of a
subordinate that they were necessary. Had that subordinate in his first
serious engagement become too readily discouraged? What was the extent
of his losses? They were a criterion for judging his balance of assets
for continuing the attacks, though they did not include the exhaustion
of the men, their mood of the moment, or the disruption of _liaison_ of
their units.

The division commander might sit rigid with the front of Jove, which
he thought was the chief item of the military formula, and say: "I
want no excuses. Take the position!" Or he might keep on pressing in
his reserves, in the determination that his division would be up on
time; for Corps Headquarters were depending on him. The pencilings
moving toward the corps objective were his record in the battle. If the
pencilings were in a V-shape, that was bad. It meant that some of his
elements were in a salient, in danger of being "squeezed."

Sometimes the pencilings were farther advanced than the troops. The
wish being father to the thought, observers who saw a charge entering a
woods took it for granted that it would go through the woods. Aviators
sometimes mistook German soldiers in movement for our own; again they
misread the maps, and placed our troops on a ridge ahead of their
actual position. Company leaders might make the same mistake. The
incentive to "get there" involved eagerness to send back word that you
were arriving. A little group of gallant men who pushed through a wood
or gained a crest might have been swept back by machine-gun fire by the
time their proud report had reached division headquarters. Instead of
having commanding ground as a "jumping-off place" for the next stage of
advance, they might be hugging the reverse slope, exposed to fire from
three sides immediately they showed themselves.

Regular as well as reserve officers who had never before been in action
were to prove again that no amount of study of the theory of war,
invaluable as it is, may teach a man how to keep his head in handling
a thousand or three thousand men under fire. West Point cadet drill,
Philippine jungle and "paddy" dikes, Leavenworth staff school, army
post routine, and border service had no precedent of experience for
the problems of maneuver which they now had to solve. It was all very
well to say that the men were all right; but another thing was keeping
your men together. I saw a regular colonel violating, in a singular
reaction to amateurishness, the simplest principle of organization--the
same that keeps subordinates informed of the location of a business
superior--by having no post of command where he or an adjutant could be
found with orders or reports. Some colonels remained steadily at their
headquarters, without absenting themselves for personal inspection in
any emergency; others moved restlessly about the field, trying to apply
to three thousand men the personal direction of a platoon commander.
Every subordinate who witnessed such an exhibition by a superior was
bound to lose confidence in the command. I am not thinking of a lack
of physical bravery when I say that there were instances of colonels
and brigadiers voicing pessimism in the presence of subordinates. They
might have become good judges or good philosophers, but they were
not meant by nature, at least in their lack of battle experience, to
drive home an ambitious offensive movement. Others had too much blind
initiative; they were the kind that would drive head downward at a
stone wall. Others were amazingly cool, determined, and efficient.
These the men would follow against any odds.

Being human, our men who symbolized the pencilings on the map had
muscles and nerves which were subject to fatigue. They had no
visualization of their goals. If they could have been shown a flag on
a mountainside, which they must reach before they "knocked off" for
the day, the incentive for keeping on would have been more directly
applied. All they saw was the slope or woods ahead of them. Their
knowledge of the battle plan was limited to their orders to keep on
going. After nights when suspense and suppressed excitement had
allowed them little sleep, they had been going all day from 5.30 in the
morning--going through barbed wire and trenches, over uneven ground, as
they fought their way not only under fire but under the strain of that
wearing mental concentration of trying to remember and apply all they
had learned in their training and in previous actions.

Physically, the task set for our troops had seemed almost superhuman.
Many had taken enough steps to cover in a straight line twice the
distance they had traveled. To the eye of a hurrying observer, these
myriad figures, whether dashing toward a machine-gun nest, or ducking
to avoid an outburst of fire, or coming wounded across the fields, had
the attraction of the ardor and fearlessness of youth in battle, while
they brought many thoughts which were as far from the battlefield as
the homes that had sent them forth.

We might say "check!" to the Germans if we had taken Montfaucon at the
end of the first day. Montfaucon was the highest point on our way to
the Lille-Metz railway except the Buzancy heights. It was visible from
the old first-line trench system at Malancourt and from the Mort Homme
on the banks of the Meuse, and it looked forward over the ground of the
projected second day's advance.

It happened that I knew by travel that day how far it was from
Headquarters to the front line. I might feel as well as appreciate the
reasons of the officer and the soldier for disappointing Headquarters
when I came to the end of my journey, where the tidal wave, expending
itself, had left a platoon of infantry, without touch with the units
on their right and left, washed up in a sunken road on the reverse
slope of a hill in front of Montfaucon. On the bare crest of the hill
lay the bodies of comrades who had fallen when the watchful German
machine-gunners aimed at the human targets appearing in bold silhouette
on the sky-line. It would have been madness for a handful of men
without support to continue on against such blasts of cross-fire. They
had fallen back, bringing their wounded, to await orders. Apart from
the opposition they had met, the irregular landscape over which they
had advanced was sufficient explanation of their inability to keep
their _liaison_. It made islands of the hills as it diverted the tidal
wave into the channels of the ravines. Scattered American soldiers were
moving about the neighborhood like hunters, beating up Germans who had
taken cover among bushes and in holes.

There was a recess in the battle in the vicinity, with stretches of
several seconds when the countryside seemed quite peaceful. Then for
another quarter of a minute, only a single machine-gun might be firing
with deliberately precise intervals between shots. Suddenly the whole
pack broke into full cry at the sight of quarry on the ridge which
forms the southwestern approach to the town from the Montfaucon woods.
We must have this ridge before we took the town. As I looked in this
direction, I saw a line of our men appearing above the crest, each
figure sharp against the light blue sky. Their intervals seemed at
first as exact as the teeth of a comb; then the teeth began to drop out
as figures fell. For a few seconds longer the survivors strove against
the blasts before they drew back and faced right and moved along under
cover of the slope, apparently seeking a less exposed portion of the
crest for another attempt.

The machine-gun fire died down into spiteful irregularity until the
line wheeled again toward the crest. Their heads were hardly above it
when, with the unity of an orchestra answering the conductor's baton,
the diabolical whirring rattle began again with all its previous
volume. Evidently quite as many guns had this portion of the ridge
under their fire as the other. This time the men did not persist. In
proper tactical wisdom they disappeared from the sky-line as quickly as
a woodchuck dodges into his hole.

We had now definitely developed the strength of the enemy at this
point. Possibly we had located some of his machine-guns. At least,
a battalion commander had learned enough to realize that he must
undertake a deliberate method adapted to the situation for silencing
them, which of course meant delay in pushing forward toward the day's
objective the pencilings in one small section of the Headquarters map.
Yet it was such details as this, revealed to me in a pantomime of vivid
and stark simplicity and brevity, which taken together made the whole
for that abstraction to the soldier which is called the High Command.

"Is Montfaucon taken?" was the question of Headquarters when I arrived
there in the evening. Some reports indicated that it was. This part of
the line was the most extended, and its communications accordingly the
most uncertain. There were other pencilings on the map which also had
to be erased. If we had not gained all our objectives, this was not
saying that we had not been astonishingly successful. Having, as it
were, set out ambitiously to take the whole solar system between dawn
and darkness, one of the planets still held out, with the fixed star of
Buzancy heights in the distance.

There might be many small salients, but none of threatening importance
in our new line. Despite the uneven battle experience of our divisions,
all had done their part magnificently. Our gains were more than a
mile on our flank to four miles in the center, where we had made the
bulge toward the summit of the whale-back. How far had we expended our
momentum in our initial onset? What was the traffic situation? What of
the morrow?



IX

THE ATTACK SLOWS DOWN

  The call goes back for artillery--And at night for the rolling
  kitchens--The staff interferes with sleep--Our part meant no
  stopping--Keeping at the roads during the night--Montfaucon on the
  second day--Then drive for the whale-back--Enemy resistance holds our
  exhaustion--Settling down in the rain to slow progress.


Moving on their feet, with each man's course his road through the
trench system and across the country beyond, the infantrymen, as they
hourly increased their distance ahead of the part of the army moving
on wheels, were calling oftener for artillery than for reserves.
They needed shells to destroy machine-gun nests, to silence enemy
batteries, and to make barrages to support their farther advance as
resistance began to develop. There were equally urgent appeals for
machine-gun battalions to meet the German machine-gun opposition in
kind. Their spray of bullets, in indirect fire over the heads of the
men in a charge, was another form of shield, the more desired when the
protection of the artillery was lacking.

The machine-gunners, who called themselves the "Suicide Club," were
soldiers both of the wheel and the foot. Their light carts did not
have to wait on the stout passageway over the trench system which even
the light artillery required. Yet some of them had been marooned, to
their inexpressible disgust; for it was their part in an emergency to
press on to the firing line through the shell-fire which may sweep the
roads back of the infantry. The place of the artillery was as near the
actual front as orders and traffic jams would permit.

How the artillery chafed on the leash! Not only duty but the gunner's
promised land was beyond the barrier of the trench system which stayed
his progress. Open warfare called to him from the free sweep of the
landscape. The seventy-fives had come into their own again as mobile
living units which would unlimber in the fields close behind the
moving infantry, instead of playing the part of coast artillery behind
fortifications. There would be no need to bother about camouflage. They
would move about so rapidly that the enemy could not locate them; or
if he did--well, that was all in the game. Their protection and the
protection of the infantry would be in the blasts overwhelming the
enemy's fire.

"Why in ----" the infantry was calling to the artillery. "Why in ----"
the artillery was calling to the engineers. You may fill out the
blank space of this cry of mutually dependent units with the kind
of language which was not supposed to be, but sometimes was, used in
the presence of chaplains. The infantry changed the object of their
impatience when night stopped them wherever the end of that long day's
work found them. They were not thinking of supporting artillery fire
for the moment. The late September air was chill, the ground where they
lay was cold. Their appetites were prodigious from their hard marching
and fighting. Their hearts and thought were in their stomachs. Wasn't
it the business of rolling kitchens to furnish them warm meals? It was
past supper-time. Where in ---- were those rolling kitchens? After dark
they surely need not be held back in apprehension of being seen by the
enemy's artillery.

Night had laid its supreme camouflage over all the area of operations.
Under its mantle an activity as intense as that of the day must
continue for all who supported the infantry. We might take an account
of stock. Regimental, battalion, and company officers might move about
freely along the front in familiarizing themselves with the situations
of their commands. _Liaison_ which had been broken between different
units must be re-established. The ground ahead must be scouted.
Platoons and companies which had become mixed with their neighbors, and
individual men who had strayed from their units, must be sorted out
and returned. Gaps in the line must be filled; groups that had become
"bunched" must be deployed; groups whose initiative had carried them
forward to exposed points might have to be temporarily withdrawn,--all
by feeling their way in the darkness. The sound of machine-gun fire
broke the silence at intervals as the watchful enemy detected our
movements. A shadowy approaching figure, who the men hoped was the
welcome bearer of that warm meal from the rolling kitchens, might turn
out to be an officer who directed that they stumble about in woods and
ravines to some other point, or creep forward in the clammy dew-moist
grass with a view to improving our "tactical dispositions," which does
not always improve the human dispositions of those who have to carry
out the orders.

Army Headquarters wanted information from the three Corps Headquarters.
Each Corps wanted information from its three Division Headquarters,
which in turn were not modest in asking questions of the weary fellows
at the front. Exactly where was your line? What was the morale of the
men? Were they receiving ammunition and food? When would the guns be
up? What identifications of the enemy forces in your sector? Had many
machine-gun nests been located? Was the enemy fortifying, and where?
What was the character of his shell-fire? The high command had to
consider the corps summaries of the answers in relation to its own
news from other sources, communications from the French staff, reports
from Army aviation and artillery, conjectures of the enemy's strength
and probable intentions, and the general situation of transport in the
Army area and the flow of supplies from the rear.

The lack of information on some points was no more puzzling than the
abundance of contradictory information on others. Staff heads must work
into the small hours of the morning. They might rest after they had
arranged their program for the morrow. The men at the front who were to
carry it out were supposed to rest at night to refresh themselves for
another effort at dawn. This was a kindly paternal thought, but how,
even in the period of daylight saving, they were to find the time for
sleep in the midst of re-forming their line and answering all those
questions was not indicated. Whether they slept or not, whether their
shields and food were up or not, they were supposed to fight from dawn
to dusk on the 27th.

Our army, though our situation perhaps warranted it, might not dig in
along the new line and hold fast while it recuperated after that long
first day. Other double doors from Verdun to the sea were about to
be swung open; other armies must be considered. Indeed the decision
in this respect was not with our army. In a sense it was not with
Marshal Foch, for the forces which he had set in motion to carry
out his great plan had already prescribed our part, as we know. On
September 28th the Franco-Belgians were to attack in Flanders, and
Mangin's army was to move on Malmaison; on the 29th the Anglo-French
armies, including our Second Corps, were to storm the Hindenburg line
in the Cambrai-St.-Quentin sector; on September 30th Berthelot was
to free Rheims from the west; and on October 3rd, Gouraud, with our
2nd Division, was to storm the old trench system east of Rheims. We
must hold off reserves from their fronts. The more determined were
our attacks, the more ground we gained on the way to the Lille-Metz
railroad in this critical stage of Allied strategy, the more perturbed
would be the enemy's councils in adjusting his combinations to deal
with the other offensives. Though it might have been better for us
to have taken two or three days in which to gather and reorganize
deliberately our forces for another powerful rush which would have been
a corresponding shock to the enemy, this was no more in the psychology
than in the calculations of the moment. We were winning; we meant to
keep up the winning spirit of our army. What we had done one day we
should do the next. We and not the Germans must take possession of the
commanding position of Montfaucon as the first great step in gaining
the heights of the whale-back, should their resistance require delay in
reaching our goal.

Leaving the account of each Corps' and division's part in its sector
to future chapters, I shall conclude this chapter with the results of
the fighting of our army as a whole for the succeeding days to October
1st, when we were to realize that Saint-Mihiel was the quick victory
of a field maneuver compared to the realism of war at its worst in the
Meuse-Argonne. When night fell on the 27th, our transport direction
appreciated still more pregnantly the limitations of our roads for our
deep concentrations. Each road, where it passed over the old chasms of
the trenches,--where the rats now had the dugouts to themselves, and
the silence of a deserted village prevailed except for the rumble of
the struggling trucks over the new causeways--was pumping the blood
from the veins of the by-roads to the rear, through its over-worked
valves, into the spreading arterial system of the by-roads in the
field of advance. Once on the other side, the drivers felt the relief
of a man extricated from the pressure of a crowd at a gate, who finds
himself in the open. Lights being forbidden, night was less of a
blessing and more of a handicap to the transport than to the infantry.
The argument that it secured the roads from observation, which might
mean artillery concentrations, had little appeal to the average army
chauffeur. He was not worried about shell-fire. If he had not been
under it before, he was curious to know what it was like.

Darkness only made road repairs more onerous and slow. The engineers
could not see to gather material or where to place it to do the most
good. Unexpected difficulties appeared in the midst of the shadows of
men and vehicles. The most calculating of staff heads, who wished to
neglect no detail in his instructions, had not suggested that anyone
connected with artillery, signals, or transport should sleep until
he had overtaken the infantry, except as drivers might take cat-naps
between the fitful pulsations of traffic. Men at the rear who were mere
passengers waiting on others to clear the way felt a certain disloyalty
if they slept in the face of the hurry call from the front.

The partisanship of the spectators "pulling" for the home team is a
faint comparison with the partisanship of war, with comrades asking
for more than your cheers. The cry of "Come on! Take hold here!" in
the darkness would instantly awaken any man, nodding in his seat on
a caisson or truck, into welcome action. Now he had a chance really
to help, instead of exercising telepathic pressure on the Germans. He
ceased to feel that he was a slacker. Shoulders to the wheel with the
last ounce of your strength! Timbers taken out of dugouts, stones dug
out of the earth with bare hands to be filled into sloughs! Break a
way, make a way,--but "get there!"

As a people, when we want something done in a hurry, we are no more
inclined to count the cost than to stint our efforts. Ditched trucks
and caissons were the casualties of the charge of our transport, which
was no less furious in spirit than that of our infantry. Moving a
broken-down truck off the road of course meant delay for the trucks
behind it; and it meant, too, that someone at the front would be asking
in vain for the supplies that it carried. But that pitcher of milk was
spilled; on to the market with other pitchers.

Anyone who thought that the going would be easy or troubles cease on
the other side of the old trench system was soon disillusioned. The
Germans had blown up some roads as well as bridges. Our own shells in
the preliminary bombardment had made shell-craters and dropped trees
as obstacles. We must not forget that for four years there had been
a belt three or four miles wide beyond the old trench system from
which any but army life had been excluded. No roads had been kept up
except those which served a military purpose. The Germans, partly
because of their rubber famine, had depended largely on light railways
rather than motor-trucks for sending up supplies. Where they did not
use a main road, it was of no interest to them how far it had fallen
into disrepair. Maps did not take bad spots into account, and aërial
scouting did not reveal them.

Dirt country roads had been utterly neglected. We must use them all to
meet the demands of our immense force. Our heavy trucks and artillery
wheels soon cut them with deep ruts. When the engineers were not on
hand, each battery and convoy negotiated a passage for itself and
left those in the rear to do the same. Freshets had washed out some
sections, and undermined others. Embankments had fallen away into
swamps, where a side-slipping truck would sink in up to its hubs. If
shoulders to the wheel failed when artillery striking across fields ran
into ditches and holes, snatch ropes were used.

Each convoy must locate the unit which it was serving. The rolling
kitchens that had worked their way forward could not deliver their
warm meals until they had found the impatiently ravenous troops.
Artillery commanders must grope about for their assigned positions,
or wait until they were assigned positions. They must have their
ammunition as well as guns up. Officers bearing instructions from the
staff were as puzzled as the recipient about their meaning, as they
studied the map by the discreet flash of an electric torch, and sought
to identify landmarks shrouded in the thick night mist under the
canopy of darkness. Lightly wounded men moved counter to the streams
of traffic and of reserves, who might also be uncertain of their exact
destination. Men with bad wounds in the body tottered across the fields
and dropped by the roadside. Others who could not move must be found
and brought in by searchers.

It was not surprising that some of our leaders had not yet learned to
apply in the stress of action and the conflict of reports the principle
that when committed to one plan it is better to go through with it than
to create confusion by inaugurating another which may seem better.
Half-executed orders were countermanded and changed and then changed
again; and this led to trucks trying to turn round in the narrow roads,
and to eddies in that confused scene of the hectic striving of each
man and unit to do his part. The effect suggested a premature dress
rehearsal of a play on a stage without lights, while the stage-hands
were short of sets and the actors were still dependent upon reading
their parts.

When morning came, few rolling kitchens indeed had reached the
objective of the men's stomachs with their cargo. Our heavy artillery
was still struggling in the rear. Only a portion of our light artillery
was up. Where our troops were fresh on the first day, they were now
already tired. The Germans had made the most of the night. Their
reserves which had arrived included the 5th Guard Division, already
on the way when we began the battle. We needed our heavy artillery to
pound roads and villages, and to counter artillery which the Germans
had brought into action. Against the increase of German machine-guns
we needed the rolling barrages of our light artillery even more than
on the first day after we were through the trench system. Renewing
the attack over the full length of our twenty miles of front, we
were to advance with our moving shields irregularly distributed and
vulnerable in most places. Any observer could see soon after daylight,
in the widespread puffs of German shells on the landscape, that the
inevitable had happened, as in all previous offensives. The enemy
artillery had other targets than our infantry; he was laying a barrier
to the infantry's support on the roads, halting the columns of traffic,
forcing reserves to cover, and making new shell-holes in the roads to
be filled by the transport and engineer workers.

The important thing on the second day was to take Montfaucon. On
the ridges west of the town the German infantry, artillery, and
machine-gunners were utilizing the positions which he had laid out
months before the attack. He fought stubbornly here as in Cuisy Wood
and on the hills on the left; but buffeted as they were, our men,
under firm orders to keep on attacking, conquered both systems. This
cracked the shell of the Montfaucon defenses. Before noon we were in
the town.

There are those who say that if we had taken Montfaucon on the first
day, we might have reached the crest of the whale-back itself on the
second or third day, and looked down on the apron sweeping toward the
Lille-Metz railway. I fear that they belong to the school of "ifs,"
which may write military history in endless and self-entertaining
conjecture. They forget the lack of road repairs; the lack of shields
to continue the advance; and the interdictory shell-fire which the
enemy laid down on the ruins of the town and on the arterial roads
which center there. If we had taken Montfaucon on the first day,
I think that there would still have been a number of other "ifs"
between us and the crest. Of course, once we possessed Montfaucon and
its adjoining heights, the enemy's infantry was not going to resist
in down-hill fighting, though he harassed us with artillery and
machine-gun fire as we descended the irregular slopes of the valleys
beyond.

Our ambition was soaring for a decisive success on the 28th. We
had been delayed a day, but we should yet carry through our daring
programme. Forced optimism saw our field artillery coming up, our
roads improving, our transport somewhat more systematized, and tried
to forget other factors; but the fatigue of all hands was greater; the
vitality of our troops was weakening for want of proper food. Our heavy
artillery, and indeed some of our light artillery, was still struggling
in the rear. Our artillery ammunition supply was insufficient to feed
the guns all the shells they would need when dawn proved that the
Germans had brought up still more artillery on the second night. There
were the heights of the whale-back before us, with the first great step
in their conquest behind us. Attack was the thing, attack from the
Forest's edge to the Meuse. The more time we gave the enemy, the more
time he would have to fortify and bring up reserves. Necessity accepted
no excuses from subordinate commanders. Drive, and again drive; keep
moving; the enemy would eventually yield. He must yield. Once we broke
his resistance, then the going would be swift and easy against his
shattered units.

The 28th was a critical day: the day when it was to be decided whether
or not we were to fight a siege operation, or to carry the whale-back
in a series of rapidly succeeding rushes,--though I think that the
decision really came with the signs of developing resistance on the
morning of the 27th.

Our divisions put in their fresh reserves; they would admit no word
of discouragement. Artillerymen who had been at work for two nights
and two days tried to bring their guns close up to the infantry. All
the remaining tanks were called into service. With the forced burst
of energy which may be mistaken for "second wind," we everywhere made
gains. Our right had moved along the Meuse to south of Brieulles, which
with the bend of the river westward narrowed our front. On the left we
had reached Exermont ravine. On the 29th we tried for Brieulles; for
Gesnes; for the ravine; and for the escarpments of the Forest, points
which the attack of the third day had developed as the locked doors
which we must smash through to give us purchase for another general
attack. There was a certain fitfulness in these efforts, as of a fire
dying down blown into a spitful flame. In the trough of the Aire we
were under the raging artillery fire from the heights on either side;
and in the trough of the Meuse from the heights across the river and
from the whale-back, which I shall describe in later chapters. In the
valleys beyond Montfaucon and the neighboring heights we faced the
first slopes of the whale-back, which were the covering positions for
the Kriemhilde and Freya Stellungen, new trench systems utilizing all
the natural strength of the heights as a main line of defense by an
aroused enemy in strong force.

Our army might now take counsel of necessity, if not of prudence. In
the future we must hack and stab our way. Meanwhile we must have rest
for the tired troops, or we must have fresh troops, before another
considerable offensive effort. A hundred millions of population at
home did not mean that we had unlimited trained man-power to draw on
in France. Our divisional reserves were exhausted. Replacements were
not arriving in sufficient numbers to fill gaps from casualties and
sickness. We were not only fighting from the Meuse to the Argonne and
holding the line of our new front at Saint-Mihiel, but we had four
excellent fresh divisions just going into attack in British and French
offensives, not to mention our divisions in tranquil sectors. If we had
had more men for the front, we could not have fed them. If we had made
a farther advance, we could not have kept our artillery and transport
up with the troops. We needed more motor-trucks, horses, and every kind
of equipment for that insatiable maw. If we had had more transport, we
should hardly have had room for it. The arterial road facilities over
the old trench system were as yet unequal to caring for the number of
our troops. The bottle necks could not meet the demands of the bottle.
Our appetite for victory had exceeded our digestion.

Army reports which spoke of "poor visibility" referred to the
morale of the men as "excellent." There was no question of the "poor
visibility" or of the morale of men who were well enough to be in line,
for they were always ready to fight. The chill October rains had begun.
We could expect little more fair weather. When, already, one needed a
heavy blanket over him in bed, our men sent into action, for mobility's
sake, without blankets were shivering at night on the wet ground, not
under the roof of the stars but in the penetrating cold mist which
hugged the earth when it was not raining. This and the lack of proper
food and of sleep brought on diarrhea, and the pitiful sight on the
roads of the sick and gassed was a reminder of how quickly war may
wreck the delicate human machine which takes so long to build. In a few
days sturdy youth with springy steps in the pink of health had become
pale and emaciated, looking ten years older as they dragged their feet
in painful slowness.

Some divisions had suffered more exhaustion than others. All their
reserves had been crowded in to meet an emergency. They had given to
the limit of their strength in a few days, while others might spread
theirs over weeks. At close quarters with the enemy we dug in, with
machine-gun nests and defensive lines of our own to repulse his
counter-attacks, while the message of our own piecemeal attacks, by
which we sought to maintain our personal mastery over him, was: "We are
only gathering our strength. This is our battle. We are coming at you
again--soon." Thus established in our gains, in temporary stalemate,
we might withdraw some divisions for rest. This meant fewer mouths to
feed, lessening the strain on our transport. Other divisions had rest
by the alternate withdrawal of regiments and brigades.



X

BY THE RIGHT FLANK

  Two weeks of reconnaissance by the 33rd on the right--Surprising
  the enemy by charging through a swamp--Careful planning gives
  complete success by noon--Nothing more but build a road and
  wait--Two belts of woods in front of the 80th--The enemy must
  hold at the second belt--Which he does with enfilade artillery,
  gas, and a counter-attack from Brieulles--More artillery support
  necessary before the defenses of the town, beyond the belts, could
  be taken--The 4th does its first bit in workmanlike fashion--But
  cannot get beyond the foot of the whale-back without its stalled
  artillery--The Corps digs in as it can and waits.


By the right flank, left flank, and center! Every action, whether
fought by a thousand or a million men, resolves itself into these
simple elements of strategic control, which is as old as war. In our
Meuse-Argonne drive the right and left flanks elbowed their way down
the two river valleys to the conquest of the approaches on either side
of the heights of the whale-back, which the center was attacking in
front. To think in these terms is to think in Corps; and to think in
Corps is to think in divisions.

On the right of Bullard's Third Corps in the trough of the Meuse was
the 33rd Division, Illinois National Guard. It was the first American
division to arrive on the Meuse-Argonne line, taking September 7th-9th
from a French division the sector which our whole Third Corps was later
to occupy. A single American division assigned to such a broad front
of quiet trenches would not arouse the enemy's suspicions that we were
planning a major offensive. On the contrary, it might be an excellent
mask for our battle preparations.

Thus the 33rd had two weeks of actual trench occupation in which to
familiarize itself with the enemy positions. These resourceful Illinois
men, who had seen much and learned much in having already served with
a British, an Australian, a French, and an American Corps, were just
the kind to make the most of their advantage, being naturally of an
inquiring mind and not timid, though shrewd, in their methods of
inquiry. Before the attack, in making room for the other two divisions
of the Corps in their stealthy approach, they were side-slipped to the
right, where they faced the river bottoms of the Meuse. At their back
was the scarred slope of the Mort Homme, and in their sight were the
other famous hills of the Verdun battle.

The mission of the 33rd was as picturesque and appealing as its
surroundings. As the hinge of the whole movement, on the pivot of the
river bank, it was to swing round in a half circle until its front was
secured on the Meuse, at a right angle to the German front line on
the opposite bank. This was to be accomplished by noon, after which
the 33rd had only to dig in and hold fast. My reference elsewhere to
the difficulty of maneuvering troops even in face of no opposition
particularly applies to this sweeping right wheel. There was the Forges
brook, as well as the trench systems to cross. On the right of the line
was the Forges Wood, and on the left was the Juré Wood, which gave
cover for machine-guns, if they were not overcome, to play a flanking
fire on the center. Forges Wood was the real problem. Its machine-gun
nests were protected by formidable defenses where the Germans thought
them necessary. At other points they depended upon morasses which they
thought impassable; and they knew the river bottoms thoroughly as their
avenue of advance in their repeated attacks for the mastery of the
Mort Homme in the Verdun battle. However, the inquiring Illinois men
made their own investigations most thoroughly, if covertly, without
accepting the reputation of German thoroughness as a guarantee that
there were no openings.

As a result they not only disagreed with the German view, but took
counsel of their conviction in strategy which was to lull the enemy in
his own conviction of his security and of their amateurishness. They
had time to work out the plan by thorough instruction in every detail.
In the first stage of the advance they had to descend a steep slope
and cross the Forges brook. There they were to halt on a road on the
other side of No Man's Land, to form up for the final act any units
that had been delayed or become mixed. Being an accurate, card-index
kind of division, the 33rd's records show that the road was reached in
fifty-seven minutes, and that at the end of twenty minutes every man
was in his place according to schedule.

With the left regiment swinging past the Forges Wood, this might have
exposed its flank, if the action of the right had not been properly
timed; for everything depended upon each unit carrying out its part
in the team-work punctually. Charging up to their hips in slime and
up to their necks in water, the Illinois men proved that the swamps
were not impassable. They took duckboards from the trenches and threw
them over the stretches of barbed wire which protected the Wood where
the swamps did not. Just as the defenders of the Wood were turning
their machine-guns on the targets on their flanks, the right regiment
"jumped" them in front. This gave them an opportunity for to-the-death
resistance by firing in two directions; but they were too confused in
the shattering of all their preconceptions to make use of it in face
of those mud-plastered Americans springing bolt into their midst. They
yielded readily. The swinging left had put the Juré Wood behind it,
and, with only broken elements of the enemy now in its path, the 33rd
had its whole line on the bank at noon. The right hinge of the Army
secure, the maneuver had been so beautifully made and it was such a
complete success that it attracted less attention than if the division
had been obliged to endure the very hard fighting which skill and
foresight had prevented.

As the booty of its swift combing advance, the 33rd had taken 1,450
German prisoners, who wondered just what had happened to them and why,
and seven 6-inch howitzers, two 110-millimeter guns, twenty pieces
of field artillery, not to mention some trench mortars, fifty-seven
machine-guns, a light railway, and a well-stocked engineer depot. The
33rd's own loss was 2 officers and 34 men killed, and 2 officers and
205 men wounded, and not a single man missing. To put it in another
way, this division with its fondness for figures as the real test of
military prowess, had captured nearly six Germans for every casualty of
its own. This was certainly waging thrifty and profitable war.

In the matter of traffic, too, the 33rd with characteristic
self-reliance proceeded to look after itself. General Bell, who had
a pungent common sense, knew his men when he set them to paddling
their own canoe. When congestion on the Béthincourt road, assigned
to both the 33rd and the 80th Divisions, prompted the thought of
making a road of his own, he did not take up the question with Corps,
which, as this was not in the original plan, might ask the views of
Army on the suggestion. A young engineer might be sent out to make
an investigation. He might consider the danger of drawing fire, and
other factors. Then he might return to Corps for further consultation.
After this another young engineer might be sent out to superintend the
construction. Before Corps knew anything about it, and in the time that
procrastinating counsel might have occupied, the Illinois men, who did
not need anyone to show them how to build a road while they had spades
and elbow-grease, had one completed right over the Mort Homme.

With its transport moving in good order and with its objectives taken,
the 33rd might say, in the language which it had learned in training
at the British front, "We've finished our job, and we're feeling quite
comfortable, thank you." Except to put in a brigade to relieve the 80th
and join up with the 4th Division--which was no small exception to the
brigade--the 33rd had nothing further to do until, on the strength of
the way it had carried out its mission of the 26th, it was ordered to
cross the Meuse on October 8th in order to stop some of the flanking
fire from the other bank--which belongs to another chapter.

Cronkhite's 80th, or "Blue Ridge" National Army Division, which was
the center division of the Third Corps, was also to swing toward the
Meuse, and had farther to go, though the Meuse bends inward toward its
line of advance. According to the Army plan, the 80th was to have only
one day's intensive fighting and swift advancing. On the night of the
26th the narrowing front of attack was to "squeeze" it out. Immediately
ahead of them the Blue Ridge men had two miles of open hilly country,
which facilitated maintaining their formations. Beyond this was a
series of woods forming practically a belt, which offered cover at
every point for machine-gun nests. Better still for the enemy's purpose
in holding up a persistent attack--of the kind the Blue Ridge men were
under orders to make and would make--beyond this, separated by another
open space, was another belt of woods. When hard pressed in the first
belt, the enemy could withdraw to the second, where his machine-guns
would have another free field of fire.

The Blue Ridge men were not abashed by hills and woods. They had been
brought up among hills and woods. After breaking through the trench
system in a clean sweep, by noon they were in the first belt of woods,
though they had flanking fire from the Juré Wood on their right. They
were up to schedule no less than the 33rd; but they had had only
an introduction to what was in store for them. With the left of the
intrenched 33rd as their pivot, they must take the second belt of
woods between them and the river. On the river bank was the town of
Brieulles, where they were supposed to rest their left when the task
was finished. Brieulles did not appear to be far away on the map; but
we were to be a long time in taking it.

Fortunately the engineers--who deserve much credit for this--had a
bridge over the Forges brook by nine in the morning for the artillery.
This was good news to men looking across the open into the recesses
of that second belt of woods, which appeared as peaceful from that
distance as a patch in the Shenandoah valley. In a race against
time--with the schedule burned into every officer's brain--the 80th
could not wait for all the guns to come up. In the attack at three
in the afternoon the front line of the division moved forward with
drill-ground precision and the confidence of its morning's success.

Since the 80th's movement had stopped at noon, the enemy had had three
hours in which to prepare his reception of the charge. In a sense the
success of the 33rd was a handicap to the 80th that afternoon. It
aroused the enemy to the gravity of his situation along the Meuse.
His remnants of units retreating before the 33rd were swinging round
in front of the 80th; reserves had been hurried across the river and
from Brieulles. By this time our plan was revealed to him along our
whole front. The loss of more river bank had an important tactical
relation to his defense of Montfaucon and the covering positions of the
whale-back, toward which our Fifth Corps in the center was advancing
rapidly. If he could hold his ground from the river bank to Cuisy,
he might have our center in a salient. His determination to hold it
blazed out from that soft carpet of green in cruel machine-gun fire,
raking the open spaces. His artillery on the opposite bank of the
Meuse, as well as on the near bank behind the second belt of woods and
around Brieulles, opened fire immediately our charge developed under
its observation. Undaunted, the Blue Ridge men pressed on across the
open toward the machine-gun nests in the edge of the second belt, as
toward a refuge in a storm. They took these, only to find that more
machine-guns were echelonned in the recesses of the woods. Gas as
well as high-explosive shells were falling in the first belt and at
points where our reserves were concentrated. In openings or narrow
stretches of the second belt where units were able to drive through,
they looked out on more open spaces under command of machine-guns from
ridges and thickets, while right and left any unit whose courage or
opportunity had carried it too far was caught in enfilade by the fire
of machine-guns which had not been mopped up.

That night the 80th had its right up with the 33rd's intrenched left
on the river. Its brave accomplishment on the remainder of its front
was best measured by the powerful resistance it had met. The division,
which was to have been squeezed out by the narrowing front, had to
remain in line because the front had not been narrowed, after far
harder fighting than it had anticipated. Transport congestion on the
road which the 33rd as well as the 80th was still using was extreme.
If the Blue Ridge men could not bring their supplies up by wheel
they might by hand. Carrying parties brought up food and small arms
ammunition by fording the brook past the stalled trucks.

There could be no question about the character of the next day's
fighting. The enemy was serving notice of it throughout the night.
The 80th's line needed re-forming. Its commander did not mean to send
his sturdy, willing, lithe men to slaughter in the fulness of their
youthful energy and ambition. They must have artillery protection.
Their divisional artillery, operating with the division for the first
time, required daylight for going into position and mastering its
problems of fire in a task which was both beyond its strength and
complicated, as was all the other detail of preparing for the attack,
by the terrific enemy artillery fire spread from the roads in the rear
to the front line.

The shells from the German field-pieces were "small potatoes" compared
to the "big fellows" that were arriving in increasing numbers. As the
men listened to the scream of the large calibers and studied their
bursts, they learned that these were coming not only from the front but
from both sides. Enfilade machine-gun fire is bad enough, but enfilade
artillery fire is still harder to bear. You may at least charge the
machine-guns, but you cannot charge the distant unseen powers hurling
high-explosive shells into your flank.

The Borne de Cornouiller, or Hill 378, which I took pains to describe
in a previous chapter, was now having its first of many innings at the
expense of the Third Corps at its feet in the trough of the Meuse. This
bald height on the other side of the river looked across the river
bottoms and the rising valley walls to the heights of the whale-back.
If the observers on the Borne de Cornouiller saw a target which their
guns could not reach, they signaled its location to the whale-back,
which might have it in range; and the observers of the whale-back
were responsively courteous. This accounted for the cross artillery
fire which for weeks was to knife our men of the Third Corps with the
wickedness of assassin's thrusts in the ribs.

From Hill 378 the 80th Division's movement of troops, guns, and
transport in the open was almost as visible through powerful glasses
as people in the streets below from a church steeple. As the 33rd was
already dug in and could advance no farther except by crossing the
river, the 80th was convinced that it was receiving as a surplus the
allotment from over the Meuse which otherwise might have been sent
against the Illinois men. A measure of the increase of artillery fire
is given in the Third Corps report, which estimates that the enemy
sent 65,000 shells into its area on the 27th, compared to 5,000 on the
26th. Against this long-range fire the 80th's divisional artillery was
as helpless as against falling meteors. The Blue Ridge men must endure
the deluge with philosophic fatalism. Their own gunners could only give
them barrages, and concentrate on machine-gun nests and such field
battery positions as were located.

The deadly accuracy of the enemy's artillery fire, its wide
distribution, blasting holes in the roads, loosing on infantry as it
deployed, on convoys of artillery ammunition, and raking our front-line
positions, only made it more important that the next attack should be
well delivered and in force. So it was. At one in the afternoon, under
the barrage of their artillery, trench mortars, and machine-guns which
they had forced through to the front, the Blue Ridge men, with a dash
worthy of the traditions of their fathers in the Civil War, gained
their objectives, except on the left, where the 4th Division was having
troubles of its own of a kind which the 80th could fully appreciate.

Though in the second belt of woods, the 80th was not yet to be squeezed
out. There was Brieulles to be taken yet, and the German reinforcements
which were rapidly arriving required more attention than the other
divisions of the Corps could spare from their own fronts. The German
command decided that it was time that these Americans had a taste of
offensive tactics themselves. Fresh German troops, advancing from
Brieulles on the third morning, delivered a sharp counter-attack; but
the Blue Ridge men had no patience with any attempt to drive them back
from the ground they had won. They were of the "sticking" kind, as
their forefathers had been. It was a joyous business, repulsing that
counter-attack to the accompaniment of such yells as Union soldiers
associated with Confederate ferocity. It was enlightening, too, in that
it showed both them and their adversaries what a difference there is
between charging machine-guns and using them to stop a charge.

This incident of the German counter-attack--and the Blue Ridge men made
it an incident--was a fillip for the defenders as they sprang up for
their own attack, which began at 7.15, soon after the Germans were in
flight. The object was to advance the left flank, which had been held
up the preceding day, into Brieulles. The 80th's artillery concentrated
on hills 227 and 281, which commanded the town, and the town itself,
which is at a sharp bend of the river. It happened that the Germans
were even more interested in holding Brieulles than on the preceding
day. The low ground around it held a semi-circle of machine-gun
positions. While the long-range artillery fire from flanking heights
was heavier than before on the 80th's area, German field-guns on the
other side of the river from Brieulles had the special mission of
protecting the town.

From the start the fighting was furious and at close quarters. The 80th
made some headway in the morning, re-formed, and renewed its effort
in the afternoon. Again and again parties attempted to rush the crest
of 281, which not only commanded the town but was linked up with the
town and the river bend in the tactical defense of the whale-back,
which, after the taking of Montfaucon, the Fifth Corps was approaching
in front. The ground before Brieulles was impassable. The valor of
tired men had done all it could under sniping of machine-guns and all
calibers of artillery. Before we could take Brieulles, we must have
more guns and develop a better method of approach. In holding it the
Germans might find some compensation for the loss of an engineer dump,
estimated to be worth millions, which the 80th had taken.

Sent in for one day's fighting, the division had fought for three
days. Now it was withdrawn according to the original plan; but this
did not mean that it was to go into rest. It was dog-weary, though not
exhausted. When a brigade from the 33rd, which had been busy fortifying
the river bank and sending patrols across the river, and generally
keeping its irrepressible hand in, took over the 80th's front, the
80th's artillery was kept in the sector, one infantry regiment remained
with the 4th in action, and the other three regiments were marched
away as reserves for the 37th Division, which, after throwing in all
its strength in conquering the deep Montfaucon Wood, was expecting a
counter-attack by the enemy to recover a position which was vital in
that area to his defense of the whale-back. As we had kept him too
busy with our attacks for the counter-attack to materialize, the three
regiments of the 80th had only the experience of that marching and
counter-marching by which alarms and changing dispositions wear out
shoe-leather and patience in the course of a mighty battle. The Blue
Ridge men had advanced six miles, taking 850 prisoners and 16 guns,
with a loss of 1,064 men in killed and wounded, as the introductory
part of the service which they were to perform in the Meuse-Argonne.

As the one regular division in line, the tried 4th, on the left of the
Third Corps, would hardly be given the short end of the stick. There
was no road in its sector. Once its transport was across the trench
system, it had to switch back from the sector of the neighboring 79th
Division to its own. This was a handicap characteristic of the stern
problem of the 4th, which, if it failed, would set a bad example for
inexperienced divisions.

Being forewarned of what was expected of his regulars, General Hines
was forearmed in his prevision. Recognizing the miserable character of
the Esnes-Malancourt road which the division was to use, the engineers
of the 4th began work on its improvement early in the evening of the
25th before the battle began. In common with the two other divisions
of the Corps, the 4th had to cross the Forges brook. Its left flank,
in _liaison_ with the 79th, faced the height of Cuisy, which was
a flanking approach to the Montfaucon heights, and its right the
practically continuous system of woods which joined up with those in
front of the 80th. Thus it was a link between the swinging movement to
the Meuse and the main drive, the mission of its left being to help
force the evacuation of Montfaucon, and of its right to occupy the
bank of the Meuse from Brieulles north to Sassey.

The whole command was keyed up to great things when with a yell the
men went over the top in the thick mist on the morning of the 26th. If
not regular in the old sense, they took pride in being professional
in skill, though most of the young officers, as in other regular
divisions, were from the training camps. They did not belong to any
part of the country. They were not National Guard or National Army,
but just fighting soldiers who belonged to all America. Discipline was
strict in this division. Its spirit of corps was in the conviction of
its rigid efficiency. With hardly a waver in its methodical progress
it had reached the Corps objective by 12.30. There it dug in, waiting
until 5.30 for the division on its left, which was the keystone of the
movement, to come up. Then the men rose again and went forward without
any artillery support, only to meet what the divisions right and left
were meeting in the rapidly stiffening German machine-gun defense, and
to call for shields against murderous odds.

In their road-making across the brook and the trench systems the
engineers had used 40,000 sand-bags. Early in the afternoon they had
a passageway which permitted of the slow passage of transport between
intervals of filling in the ruts cut by the heavy trucks; but two
divisions, in the section of the line where the farthest advance was
expected, were limited to road facilities inadequate for one. It can
only be said that if it had not been for the diligence of the engineers
the situation would have been even worse.

The failure of the center to reach Montfaucon on the 26th had an
intimate concern with the plans of the 4th the next day, when the
positive orders for its capture required that the 4th should attack
without its artillery, which was still laboring to get forward. From
7.30 until darkness, without their shields against the increasing
artillery and machine-gun fire, the men continued their workmanlike
advance. Didn't they belong to the 4th, which was as good as the 1st,
2nd, or 3rd, Regulars? When night came they had behind them the heights
around Montfaucon. They had gone through Brieulles Wood. They were also
in the south edge of the Fays Wood, but when they tried to dig in there
the machine-gun and shell-fire was too deadly to be endured. They had
to fall back to the slope of 295.

Still their artillery was not up; still the order was to attack; and
they attacked the next morning. The Germans attacked also; and were
held. We were now against the strong covering positions on the slopes
of the summit of the whale-back, where the Germans were organizing
their Kriemhilde main line of defense. During the remaining days of
September, the 4th cleaned up the Brieulles Wood, made itself secure
in its defenses, and kept harassing the enemy with patrols. On the
night of the 28th its artillery had arrived, though traffic congestion
limited its ammunition supply, which it needed in great quantities to
counter the enemy's artillery fire as well as his machine-gun nests. It
was in range of many of the guns from the east bank of the Meuse which
were so mercilessly harassing the 80th, and of course was receiving an
immense volume of shells from all the heights of the whale-back. The
division was short of supplies and it was tired, but there could be
no thought of taking it out. It was to remain in line in a tug-of-war
with the enemy until it took part in the general attack of October 4th,
being all the while under that raking cross artillery fire that made
the Corps sector a hell night and day.

Contemptuous in their security, the observers from Hill 378, the Borne
de Cornouiller, continued to exchange notes with the observers on the
heights of the whale-back, as they looked down on the amphitheater,
peering for targets into the wrinkles of the uneven landscape and
soaking the woods which we occupied with gas. Our only hope of
protection was to find ravines deep enough or with walls steep enough
to enable us to dig pits which could not be reached by the plunging
fire from three directions. These German gunners knew the roads which
we must take at night in order to move our supplies to the front; the
villages where our transport might halt; and the location or probable
location of our batteries, while theirs were hidden. If we wheeled to
attack to the right or left, we received shells in the back as well as
in front. The first day of the battle, when the Corps had fired 80,000
shells against the Germans' 5,000, became the mockery of a halcyon past
in face of the concentrations which now pounded the Corps from sources
to which we could not respond with anything like equivalent power.

If the men of the Corps who had to endure this plunging fire had heard
the name of the Borne de Cornouiller, they would probably have called
it "Corned Willy," the sobriquet which naturally came to the lips of
our soldiers, who eventually conquered it on rations of cold corned
beef. But they knew only that shells were coming from three quarters
of the compass, while they asked "why in ----" our artillery did not
silence the German artillery. The answer was that our artillery could
not, until the Borne de Cornouiller and the whale-back were taken,
which was not to be for another month. The Third Corps was to keep on
trying for that town of Brieulles, while it kept on fighting in that
wicked river trough, to support the attacks in the center. There was no
use of growling. The thing had to be borne.



XI

BY THE LEFT

  German comfort in the Forest retreats--The 77th see-sawing
  through--The 28th plowing down the trough of the Aire--Scaling
  the escarpments of the Chêne Tondu and Taille l'Abbé--An enemy
  counter-attack--The 35th pushing four miles down the east wall of
  the Aire--Pushing through an alley to the untenable position of
  Exermont--Unjust reflections on the persistence of the 35th.


On the left flank the First Corps, composed of the 77th, 28th, and
35th Divisions, was having quite as hard fighting as the Third Corps
on the right flank. The regiment of the 92nd Division (colored),
National Army, forming the link with the French on the western edge of
the Argonne Forest, buffeted in its inexperience by the intricacies of
attack through the maze of trenches, was withdrawn after its initial
service. It was better that the 77th should take its place in meeting
the baffling requirements of _liaison_ between two Allied armies.

In the trench system before the Forest, the "Liberty" men of the 77th
met comparatively slight resistance, their chief trouble being to
maintain the uniformity of their advance through the fortifications
and across the shell-craters, over the tricky ground of sharp ridges
and gullies littered with torn tree-trunks and limbs. The division
staff had in vain sought opportunities for flanking maneuvers. A
straight frontal attack must be made. "There's the Forest. Go through
it!" paraphrases the simple orders of the division commander. This put
the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the young platoon and
company commanders. They knew that they could depend upon one thing.
There was nothing but forest ahead of them. They need not concern
themselves with any open fields, though they would have their share of
swamps and ravines, which would not lessen the difficulty of keeping
their units in line through the thickets.

If the French "scalloping" on the left of the Forest, and the 28th
Division "scalloping" on the right of the Forest, did not drive in
their protecting wedges, a cross-fire would hold the 77th's flanks back
while its center, driving ahead, would be caught between the infantry
and machine-gun fire from the Germans on either flank. If the French
and the 28th fully succeeded in their mission, then, as we already
know, all the 77th would have to do would be to "mop up" any Germans
who failed to withdraw in time from the pressure on either side.
According to this plan the 77th was to have an easy time. The plan
failing to work out, the 77th had anything but an easy time.

The Forest was held, as it frequently had been, I understand, by
Landwehr troops. Some of the old fellows, who were not sturdy
enough for real warfare, had spent months and even years there.
They considered that they had the squatter right of occupation to
the Argonne. There were theaters, rest camps, and well-appointed
hospitals, with enough _verboten_ signs along the paths to alleviate
homesickness in a foreign land. Isolated in their peaceful solitude,
where they could be cool in summer and comfortable in winter, they took
the interest in adding to the comforts of their sylvan surroundings
of a city man in his new place in the country. Positive artistry was
achieved in the camp of the German commanding general. The walls of
his office and sitting-room were wainscoted, with a snug ante-room
where orderlies might attend and messengers might wait. The heating
arrangements literally afforded hot water at all hours. A spacious
dining-room was supplied from a commodious kitchen. If the French began
putting over heavy shells, interrupting the German officers at their
chess game or in reading the Cologne _Gazette_, it was only a few
steps to a stairway that led to an electric-lighted chamber so deep in
the earth that it was perfectly safe from a direct hit by the largest
calibers.

All the headquarters and camps were under canopies of foliage which
screened them from aërial detection. Battalions come here from the
death and filth and misery of violent sectors settled down to a holiday
existence in an environment associated with a vacation woods. Of course
there was a war in progress, but they knew it only through sending
out detachments to keep watch and maintain the trenches in repair.
The Landwehr men saw enough shell-bursts to say that they had been
under fire. Indeed, one was occasionally wounded. There was no need
of trench raids for information in a mutually accepted stalemate. To
fire more than enough shells to keep up the postures of war might bring
retaliation which would interfere with smoking your pipe and drinking
your beer at leisure.

After this pacific routine had been long established and so much effort
and pains had been spent in improvements, appeared these outsiders of
the Liberty Division in the rude haste that they might show in a subway
station at home. They had no respect for the traditional privacy of
a gentleman's country estate. However, the irritated occupants were
no passive resistants. They had thought out in precise terms how they
would defend their fastness against any such outrageous lawlessness.
They knew every road and path, and how to make use of their ideal
woodland cover. They might not be strong in the front line, but as the
military men say they were "echelonned deep."

There was no line of resistance in the first stages of the advance,
but many successive points of resistance, ready to receive the invader
in turn, punishing him severely in his slow progress if he were not
repulsed. But even they in their chosen positions, covering avenues
where the foliage was not dense, could not see far. This developed
close-quarters fighting from the start.

As the Germans had particularly depended upon light railways in the
Argonne, the roads, except transversal ones, had been neglected. This
did not matter, so far as it concerned bringing up the artillery.
There was no maneuvering artillery in the thick woods. Even if
there had been, it could not get any angle of fire for shells which
would burst short of their targets against tree-trunks. It was
exclusively an infantry fight except for the machine-guns and the baby
_soixante-quinze_ or 37-millimeter guns, in which the heads of the
Americans bobbed through the thickets in search of the hidden heads of
the defenders. A platoon commander might not keep watch of his own men
in the maze--let alone see what the platoons on his flank were doing.

On the first day the 77th had practically reached its objectives,
on the second it was to suffer the same loss of momentum as other
divisions. The "scalloping" on the edges of the Forest, however
valorous, could not keep up to schedule. If the Forest boundaries had
been straight lines on a plain, the result might have been different.
_Liaison_ over the escarpments in the valley of the Aire and the hills
and ravines on the left became a nightmare. Still the orders were
"Push ahead!" to battalions or companies which were not up. If under
this spur they advanced beyond their flanks, then the flanks were to
"push ahead!" Thus in a process of see-sawing platoons and companies
continued to make progress. The units in the middle of the Forest saw
nothing but trees and underbrush. All the world was forest to them.
Those who found themselves on the edge looked out on stretches of the
great battlefield under puffs of shell smoke, and to the going and
coming of aeroplanes in another world, and possibly were forced to seek
shelter in the Forest by bursts of machine-gun fire to which they were
exposed from other divisional sectors.

So it was not surprising that the men of the 77th, immersed in the
Forest depths, should think that they were fighting the whole battle.
They knew nothing of the "scalloping" tactics. Their horizon was
confined to a few square yards. To them the Argonne had no appeal of
a holiday woods. Sylvan glades, which the poet might admire, meant
stumbling down one side and crawling up the other, with ears keen for
the whipping sound which might signify that they were in an ambush.
They might not stop in for a nap at the rest-camps. They were not
sleeping in those beautiful wainscoted quarters, but on the dank ground
in the deep shadow of the trees which kept the sunlight from slaking
moisture after the rains. The rolling kitchens were held up in the rear
where the trucks cut deep in the saturated woodland earth, and hurdled
over tree-trunks between sloughs, while the Forest made the darkness
all the more trying as the weary engineers endeavored to hold up their
end.

The infantry continued its valiant and persistent see-sawing. On the
29th they made a big swing on the right, and on the left took a _dépôt
de machines_, or roundhouse, and the treacherous ravine south of
Binarville in which it was situated, by hard and audacious fighting. On
the 30th the whole line again made progress, against machine-gunners
who had cunningly prepared paths to give them visibility for a greater
distance, and to draw the attackers into the line of their fire. They
charged down the slopes of the Charlevaux ravine and its irregular
branches, across the streams and swamps at their bottoms, and up
the slopes on the other side--all this through woods and thickets,
of course. The next day an even deeper advance was made over very
irregular ground, while the right in triumphant ardor pressed forward,
ahead of the left and center, across the Fontaine-aux-Charmes ravine
and its branches and their streams until it was past the heights
of the Chêne Tondu. As the Chêne Tondu was not yet wholly in the
possession of the division on the right, the gallant victors deserved
something better in their weariness than to be forced to retire by
overwhelming fire in flank and rear from the commanding heights. The
night of October 1st the "Liberty" men, after six days in which they
had steadily advanced for a depth of six miles, held the line from
the Chêne Tondu across the Forest to a point north of Binarville, its
supporting flanks on either edge of the Forest in a deadlock.

There was forest and still more forest ahead of the 77th. After it had
conquered the Argonne, it might have a chance to take the Bourgogne
Wood beyond on the way to the Lille-Metz railway. After this experience
the New Yorkers ought not to be afraid to go into Central Park after
dark when they returned home.

They may have thought that the 28th on their right was not keeping
up to program, and the 28th may have thought that they were not; but
neither had the advantage that I had of seeing the other in action
during those terrible days. Astride the Aire river, having the trough
as its very own, the 28th put a heart of iron into its first impact,
and tempered it to steel in its succeeding attacks. The "scalloping"
process which was its mission looked just as simple on a flat map as
the swing toward the Meuse of the 33rd; but then, everything looked
simple on the map, and everything for all the divisions might have
been as simple as it looked if it had not been for the enemy. He was
always interfering with our staff plans. If the Aire's course had been
straight, and the valley walls had come down symmetrically to the river
bottom, the 28th would have had straight open fighting, which is a
satisfaction to brave men whatever the cost. A direct frontal attack
was as out of the question for the Pennsylvanians as it was mandatory
for the 77th. They must exhibit suppleness and cunning, or bull-dog
grit was of no service.

In full realization that the true defense of the Forest was on its
flanks, the enemy developed strong resistance in front of the 28th
on the first day. The Perrières Hill, a bastion in the first line of
defense, honeycombed with machine-gun emplacements, held up the attack
on the left as it swept its fire over the trench system on either
side, covering the steep approaches for its capture which were studded
with shell-craters and festooned with tangles of wire. The enemy also
set store by the ruins of the town of Varennes in the valley, which
were to become so familiar to all the soldiers who ever passed along
the Aire road. At Varennes the road crosses the river in sight of the
surrounding congeries of hills. Under cover of the ruins and the river
banks the Germans had both seventy-sevens and machine-guns, which,
well-placed as they were, failed of their purpose. It was now evident
that the enemy would strive to hold every height on either side of the
Aire with the object of grinding our attacks between the molars of two
powerful jaws.

For the German map plan was as simple as ours. It invited our
initiative into the open throat of the valley and into blind alleys
between the heights blazing with fire. The 28th was to interfere
with the German plan just as the Germans were to interfere with the
American. Plans did not seem to count. Nothing counted except tactical
resource and courage in the face of shells which came screaming and
bullets whistling from crests in sight and crests out of sight. Woods
fighting was only an incident of the problem for the 28th, which
took La Forge on the edge of Montblainville, only to find that the
machine-guns in the Bouzon Wood on the west wall had an open field for
their fire from three quarters of the compass.

The disadvantage of the 28th's sector from the start was that there
was no screen of foliage to cover a deployment before a charge.
On the night of the 26th the battalion which had been held up by
the Perrières Hill was marched round, to carry out the plan of
"scalloping," for an attack on the Chêne Tondu, which was an escarpment
projecting out of the Forest into the valley of the Aire north of
Montblainville, like a wood-covered promontory into a strait. It
commanded the whole river valley and the Forest edge on its front. Its
slopes were irregular, with every irregularity seeming to favor the
defender, who at every point looked down-hill upon the attacker. Behind
it was another escarpment, even stronger, the Taille l'Abbé. Between
the two the enemy had ample wooded space for moving his reserves and
artillery free from observation. Should the Chêne Tondu be lost, the
enemy had only to withdraw with punishing rearguard fire to this second
bastion. On the reverse slope of the Taille l'Abbé were hospitals,
comfortable officers' quarters, and dugouts, while the artillery in
position there could shoot over the Chêne Tondu with plunging fire upon
its approaches. Along the heights of the Forest edge and other heights
to the rear, other guns, as many as the Germans could spare for the
sector, might find perfect camouflage and security.

There were also the heights of the east bank of the Aire to consider.
With the river winding past their feet they interlocked across the
valley. Thus advancing down the valley meant advancing against heights
in front as well as on the flanks. Stretching back to the whale-back
itself beyond the heights of the east bank were other heights, even
more commanding, whose reverse slopes offered the same kind of inviting
cover for long-range artillery as the reverse slopes on the west
bank. If a height on one bank were not taken at the same time as the
corresponding height on the other, this meant murderous exposure for
the men in the attack that succeeded. Therefore, thrifty and fruitful
success required a uniformity of movement by the three divisions of the
First Corps in conquering the heights of both banks of the Aire and of
the Forest's edge.

For the 28th the taking of the Chêne Tondu was the keystone of the
advance. Until it had this height, the 28th could not support the
movement of the 77th in the Forest or of the 35th on the east bank of
the Aire. The Germans had concentrated their immediate reserves on the
Chêne Tondu, and their guns on its supporting heights.

If the German staff had planned the woods in front of the main slopes
of Chêne Tondu, they could hardly have been in a better location
for affording invisibility to machine-gun nests against a visible
foe. To have taken the Chêne Tondu by one fell rush, as our staff
desired, might have been possible through sheer weight of man-power
by the mustering of all the division's infantry against one sector
of its front, supported by the artillery of two or three divisions
with unlimited ammunition. The artillery of the 28th was not up. It
was having the same trouble about roads as the artillery of other
divisions. When the officers of the 28th scouted the avenues of
approach in order to maneuver their infantry units economically, they
found none which would not require that we charge across open and
rising ground against an enemy whose strength our men were to learn by
"feeling it" in an attack without adequate shields into concentrations
of shell- and machine-gun fire which became the more powerful the more
ground they gained.

Availing themselves of every possible opening where the enemy's fire
was relatively weak, they forced their way into the village of Apremont
in the valley. As soon as this success was known to him, the enemy made
up for any neglect in prevision by bringing guns and machine-guns into
position to command the village. Wherever the Pennsylvanians made a
thrust, if a savage reception were not primed awaiting them, one was
soon arranged. Their maneuvers were further hampered by the bends of
an unfordable river, which a direct attack for any great depth would
have to cross and recross under the interlocking fire. Troops on the
narrow river bottom were visible as flies on a wall. Every hour German
resistance was strengthening in the Aire sector as in other vital
sectors along the front.

Their guns up, the division attacked the Chêne Tondu a second time in
the vigor of renewed confidence and in the light of the knowledge they
had gained of the enemy's dispositions. They won a footing; and then
attacked again. Their effort now became incessant in trying to make
more bites at close quarters, as they struggled for complete mastery.
The Germans infiltrated back between our units, and we infiltrated
forward between theirs. We might think that we had possession of ground
over a certain portion of front, only to find that our efforts to "mop
up" were thwarted. With Chêne Tondu partly conquered in the search
for advantage in maneuver, we moved on the Taille l'Abbé in flank;
and there we found the Germans, thanks to their fresh reserves, in
irresistible force. They were firing prodigal quantities of gas-shells
wherever our men took cover in any stretch of woods they had conquered.

The 35th on the east bank of the Aire was meeting with deadly
opposition which held it back, as we shall see when its story is told.
Maintaining _liaison_ on the heights of the east bank with the 28th
astride the river was fraught with the same elements of confusion as
with the 77th in the monstrous irregularity of the escarpments on the
Forest's edge. To which division belonged the khaki figures breaking
out of a ravine in an effort to rush a machine-gun nest which held
them at its mercy? One thing was certain: they must either advance or
retreat. Under the whip of impulse as well as orders they tried to
advance. Messages exchanged between neighboring division headquarters,
under the pressure of the Corps command to get ahead, were dependent
upon reports long in coming out of the recesses of the woods. Each
division staff in its faith in the courage of its men, who were
fighting on their nerves after sleepless nights, insisted that it was
doing its part and would be up--and that, by God! it was up.

The possession of the Aire heights was all important to the Army
command, still undaunted in its ambition for the immediate conquest
of the whale-back in those fateful days at the end of September. On
the 29th two Leavenworth men from Grand Headquarters itself--while
two regular colonels were sent to regiments--were put in command of
the brigades of the 28th. One of the colonels was killed before he
took over his command, and the other later in leading a charge. On the
30th the division was to make another general attack, supported by all
available artillery and tanks; but a few minutes before the infantry
were to charge, the Germans developed a counter-attack in force. Their
troops were middle-aged Landwehr men, who made up in spirit what they
lacked in youth. They had been told that theirs was the opportunity
to help the Fatherland in a critical moment against these untrained
Americans. The courage with which they persisted in their charge was
worthy of a better cause. It recalled the freshness and abandon of
German volunteers in the first battle of Ypres. Our infantry, already
in line to advance over the same ground as the counter-attack, received
it with a merciless fire which its ranks kept breasting in fruitless
sacrifice. Our tanks, waiting to move forward with our infantry at the
moment set for our own attack, carried out their program and literally
rolled over many of the survivors of the charge in which our youth
had learned some respect for age. Our attack was countermanded, and
the next day was October 1st, which was to mark another period of the
battle, as I have said.

It had been a good policy in more senses than one to send regulars to
take command of the brigades of the 28th. Assigned for the purpose of
seeing that the division "pushed ahead," when they looked over the
situation their conclusions were a supreme professional tribute to the
magnificent persistence of the Pennsylvanians, who had already earned
the sobriquet of the Iron Division in place of that of the Keystone
Division. Short of food, without sleep, saturated by rain and gas,
the men of the 28th had won their gains with superb and tireless
initiative, and held them with grim tenacity. In a burning fever of
loyal effort, their vitality had been ungrudgingly expended. They
staggered from fatigue when they rose to charge. Not only was all the
area of advance under shell-fire, but that road through Varennes which
both the 28th and the 35th were using was exposed to ruthless and
well-calculated blasts from many guns, disrupting communications and
further delaying the congested transport. The new brigade commanders,
with staff school education and staff experience, as became practical
men when face to face with nerve and physical strain which put
limitations of human endurance upon the will of the high command,
accepted their lesson, which they applied by withdrawing units to give
them rest, and having the units remaining in front "dig in," while
processes of reorganization accompanied a phase of recuperation during
the coming lull in the battle.

The same devoted offering of strong and willing men in the flush of
aggressive manhood by the Kansans and Missourians of the 35th, on the
left of the 28th, which had the heaviest casualty list of any division
from September 26th to October 1st, was not to have the good fortune of
such understanding direction. Kansas and Missouri took all their pride
as well as their natural courage and hardihood into this battle. Their
left flank was from the first on the heights to the east of the Aire
in full view of the Forest edge and its escarpments. On the right they
were swinging toward the heights west of Montfaucon. The particularly
dense fog hugging the ground on their front in the first hour of their
advance made the _liaison_ between the battalions difficult from the
start. The two formidable heights of Vauquois hill and the Rossignol
Wood were masked by troops sweeping speedily by them on either side in
brilliant fashion, and left to the battalions detailed for the purpose,
which cleaned them up with thoroughgoing alacrity. Meanwhile the
frontal line drove ahead against machine-gun fire in front and flanking
artillery fire from the right until it was in the vicinity of Cheppy.

As we already know, there had been trouble immediately in Varennes,
where the 35th was linked with the 28th. The 35th received both shells
and machine-gun fire from the high ground of the town and from the
heights which were firing down on the 28th. Both division reports speak
of having taken Varennes, which is well spread on the river banks.
There was room enough for the troops of both to operate, with plenty
of work for both to do before their common efforts had cleared the
ruins of their infestuous occupants. The tanks also had a part in this
success. Wherever there was anything like favorable ground in that
irregular landscape, they did valuable service; and they tried to pass
through woods and across ravines which only sublime audacity would have
attempted--and sometimes they succeeded. Their visibility at short
range to the numerous enemy batteries made any part in the battle by
them seem suicidal.

The formation for the attack was by brigades in column: that is, one
of the two brigades in reserve behind the other that took the lead. On
that first day, when a regiment of the frontal brigade was stopped by
casualties, another was sent through it. The plan was to crowd in the
eager men. It was their first big fight. They had impatiently trained
for this chance. The individualism of these stalwart high-strung
Middle Westerners was allowed full rein. To them a fight meant that
you did not give the enemy any time to think; you forced the issue
with smashing rights and vicious uppercuts at the start, a robust
constitution receiving cheerfully and stoically any punishment
inflicted as you sought a knockout.

Therefore flanking fire was only a call to pressing the enemy harder
and having the business the sooner finished. There was no waiting for
guns to come up, as Cheppy on the right was taken soon after Varennes
on the left. Losses, particularly of senior officers, were becoming
serious by this time; units, though scattered and intermingled in the
fog, only wanted direction to go on. Having been reorganized and
being supported by fresh battalions, the advance continued. By night
the 35th's left was well north of Varennes, its right near Véry, and
the approaches to Charpentry had been gained. On that first day the
35th, fighting against flanking and frontal artillery and machine-gun
fire, had made four miles in mastering the east bank of the trough
of the Aire; but it had paid a price which was a tragic if splendid
tribute to the courageous initiative of its men. The artillerists were
working hectically to bridge the little streams for their pieces; that
one-way bridge which two divisions were trying to use through Varennes
congested the other traffic. According to the division report, instead
of proper rations for the troops, there was an issue of fresh meat and
vegetables with no means for cooking.

The divisional artillery was expected to be up by eight o'clock on the
morning of the 27th to renew the attack, but higher authority could not
wait on its support. In full realization of the strength of the enemy's
artillery, Corps orders to advance at 5 A.M. must be obeyed, with only
one battalion of light guns to protect the men in an endeavor that
must be far more costly than yesterday's. The Kansans and Missourians
were of the stock that can fight to a finish; and they were expected
to fight to a finish. The 70th Brigade, whose units had already been
engaged and had been all day under more or less fire and advancing
behind the 69th, was put in front, with the 69th in close reserve,
ready to take up the battle when the 70th had suffered too heavily.

Overnight the enemy had reinforced the commanding position of
Charpentry, which was the keypoint of his line of defense against
the 35th. It sent down gusts of machine-gun fire while the increased
enemy artillery on both flanks played on the open fields of advance,
where, after the attack slowed down, the men continued to spring up and
charge, in the hope that they had found an opening, only to be met with
machine-gun fire from unexpected quarters. Tanks having been brought
up and reorganization effected, another general rush was made, which
aroused such a torrent of fire that the infantry, without their shields
for advance, could only seek what protection they could dig or find in
gullies behind banks or in shell-holes.

The artillery, which had worked ceaselessly all night and day to get
forward, was now arriving, and with its support a new advance, which
crowded in more troops, was undertaken at 5.30 in the afternoon. The
artillery silenced some of the machine-gun nests, though it could not
reach the enemy battery positions; but by the grace of their undaunted
determination and energy the Kansans and Missourians took both
Charpentry and the town of Baulny. In the darkness some daring units
pressed through the Montrebeau Wood, while the main line dug in near
Baulny to secure what protection it could from the shells whose flashes
illumined vigorous spading, which had an incentive in the vicious
singing of the fragments.

It had been another costly day, and the night that followed was ghastly
for the wounded. They were gathered from the field under incessant
bursts of machine-gun fire; and when they were brought in, the crowded
roads made their evacuation horribly slow. The struggle to force
ammunition and supplies forward over the main road did not relax in
the area behind the troops, where all through the night the German
artillery, which had the approaches to Charpentry and Baulny perfectly
registered, kept up a fire shrewdly calculated to block a movement
every time it started.

All the artillery was now up to support the troops being re-formed for
another attack at daybreak, which was preceded by a counter-attack of
the enemy which was promptly repulsed. More open spaces than yesterday
must be crossed in full view of the enfilading batteries, particularly
those firing from the west bank of the Aire. Ground was gained all
along the front: ground important for the terrible day's work that was
to follow. While the wounded, suffering from exposure, were walking
back or being carried back across the shelled fields and along the
shelled roads, the survivors must spend the night in leaving nothing
undone to insure the success of the next morning's attack, which was
to capitalize every atom of vitality remaining in this hard-driven
division. Again the men were short of regular rations; and the fresh
beef and vegetables which were again forced upon them could not be
cooked. It was raw fighting, indeed, on raw meat and raw potatoes which
was expected of the 35th. Incidentally the divisional transport was
short fourteen hundred horses.

The loss of officers in their gallant exposure to keep up the _liaison_
of the units had continued severe. For this reason alone the 35th,
which was having its first battle experience, was unprepared for a
far less onerous task than that now assigned it. With nerve strength
in place of physical strength, with will in place of adequate
organization, the division was sent into a veritable alley, which could
be swept by artillery fire from the Forest edge across the Aire as well
as from the other flank and in front. The instant the attack began, the
enemy guns concentrated with a pitiless accuracy and a volume of fire
completely surpassing that of the other days. In places the advance was
literally blasted to a standstill.

The village of Exermont which was the main goal was mercilessly exposed
in that ravine where the enemy shell-fire had the play of a cataract
through a gorge. Some men actually reached the village, but they could
not remain there alive. Groups charging for what seemed cover only ran
into more shell-bursts. The dead and wounded lay in "bunches" under
the continuing blasts which disrupted organization, while officers
in trying to restore it sacrificed themselves. There was no want of
courage; but the division was undertaking the impossible. Every spurt
of initiative was as futile as thrusting a finger into a stove door.
Confused orders were further confused in transmission.

When night of the 29th came, there was nothing to do but for the 35th
to withdraw, for lack of any means of supporting them, its exposed
units from Montrebeau Wood and Exermont. The ravine could not be held
until the guns commanding it were silenced and fresh troops in numbers
were summoned. A willing horse had been driven to its death. The 35th's
units had been crowded into the front line until the only reserves
it had were men too exhausted from fighting to move. On the 30th a
defensive position was organized. A battalion of the 82nd Division,
brought up with a view to renewing the attack, met a killing barrage
which warned commanders that advancing one fresh battalion was only
throwing more cannon-fodder into the ravine.

Throughout the 30th the men of the 35th held their ground under
continuous artillery fire, which could not keep many from falling
asleep in their exhaustion; but they were awakened to retributive zeal
by two German counter-attacks, their marksmanship being a warning to
the enemy that though they had not the strength to advance they still
knew how to shoot. On the night of the 30th the 35th was relieved by
the veteran 1st Division. Gaunt and staggering, shadows of the sturdy
figures which had advanced on the 26th, the survivors plodded back to
rest billets, to find that in some quarters the view was held that the
division had done badly. No more inconsiderate reflection upon brave
men was ever engendered in the impulses of battle emotion, with its
hasty judgment.

In an advance of over six miles the 35th had suffered 6,312 casualties.
Nearly half of its infantry was dead on the field or in hospital. The
other half was in a coma from fatigue. Every rod gained had been won by
fighting against fire as baffling as it was powerful. To say that the
35th fought for five days as a division is hardly doing it justice. A
division may be said to be fighting when only one brigade is in line
while the other is resting. All the men of the 35th were fighting.
There were soldiers who did not have five hours' sleep in that period
of unbroken battle strain in the midst of the dead and dying. Only
the powerful physique of the men, with their store of reserve energy
which they drew on to the last fraction, enabled them to bear it as
long as they did. Their courage and endurance and dash performed a
mighty service in a most critical sector. Instead of being the object
of any ungenerous reflections by captious pedants or commanders who
did not know how to command, after they had given their generous all
they should have been welcomed with a warmth of praise in keeping with
their proud and justifiable consciousness that they had done their
red-blooded best.



XII

BY THE CENTER

  The wooded front of the Fifth Corps--Where the Germans discounted
  the chance of an attack--Particularly by a division that had never
  been under fire--The Pacific Coast men through the woods for a
  five-mile gain--And, its artillery up, keeps on for nearly as much
  more--Into a dangerous position which cannot be held--The "hand-made"
  attack of the Ohioans--Surprise carries them in a rush through
  the pathless woods--Three days of unsupported advance against
  counter-attacks--Open country for the advance of the 79th up the
  valley to Montfaucon--And open country beyond toward Nantillois and
  the whale-back--The 79th "expended."


Cameron's Fifth Corps, which made the central drive head on to the
whale-back, relied, in mastering the distance it had to cover on the
first day as the "bulge" of the Army movement, upon the freshness of
its troops, whose inexperience would be only another incentive to hold
up their end. No aspect of the plan of our command was more audacious
or more thrilling than the decision to expend in one prodigious
ruthless effort the energy of the 37th, 79th, and 91st Divisions
and their impatience for action accumulated in their long period in
training camps.

[Illustration: MAP NO. 5
DIVISIONS IN THE SECOND STAGE OF THE MEUSE-ARGONNE BATTLE, OCTOBER
1ST-31ST.]

It was in this that we defied accepted standards; in this that we
carried to the seemingly quixotic limit our confidence in our ability
to transform on short notice citizens into soldiers who would go bolt
from the drill-ground into a charge that was to take an elaborate
trench system as the prelude of from five to six miles of advance
in the days of mobile interlocking machine-gun fire. Anyone who was
surprised that they did not go as far as they were told to go on the
first day had forgotten the power of modern weapons in defense, and was
oblivious of the military significance of the ground which the Corps
had to traverse.

The right division, the 79th, had before it a comparatively woodless
stretch following the Esnes-Montfaucon road among the hills to
Montfaucon, but the other two divisions faced the German trenches at
the edge of a deep belt, or rather mass, of woods as dense as the
Argonne, which, though broken by only one open space of a breadth
more marked than a roadway, had sectional names--Montfaucon, Véry,
Béthincourt, Cheppy, Malancourt,--each taken from the name of the
nearest neighboring town. The store which the Germans set by these
woods had been shown by their stubborn resistance to the attacks of the
French for their possession in 1915.

When the Germans detected--as they did despite our care--unusual
activity on our roads in this sector during the later stages of our
preparations, they made the raid of September 22nd, already mentioned,
which took a man of the 79th prisoner; but evidently they did not learn
from him of the presence of the other two divisions. German prisoners
said that an Allied attack was expected along the whole front from
Metz to Champagne, but that it would be limited to the front-line
positions--a feint, to cover the offensive from Soissons to the
Channel. Certainly the enemy had no thought that we would try to storm
the woods on the first day. On September 18th a memorandum of the 1st
German Guard Division, in occupation of this sector, said:

  It is unlikely that the enemy will direct his attack against the
  wooded territory in Sector K (Cheppy Wood) or against the neighboring
  sectors on our left. He would have to meet an unknown situation,
  and to advance through the heavy underbrush of the woods, which are
  totally secured from observation, would be very difficult....

  It is only in the case of a deliberate offensive against the whole
  front of the Group or Army that there should be any retirement to the
  main line of resistance (the Lai Fuon ravine).

  The main line of resistance must be held in any event.

The Lai Fuon ravine really bisected the woods transversally into two
masses or belts. In describing the action of the Corps, which had the
mission of taking the ravine and both sections of the woods, I shall
begin with the 91st Division, National Army from the Pacific Slope,
on the left. The 91st had never been in any except a practice trench,
or heard a bullet or shell fired in battle, when it went into position
for the attack. On its left was the 35th of the First Corps, and on
its right the 37th of its own Fifth Corps. For artillery the 91st had
that of the 33rd, and a battalion from the 82nd. The fact that the 33rd
was also using borrowed artillery in its own attack is sufficiently
indicative of the character of the hasty and heterogeneous mobilization
of our unprepared army for the battle.

The Pacific Coast men had traveled far, clear across the Continent
and across the Atlantic. Traveling was in their line. If distance
had kept them from reaching the front as soon as some of the eastern
divisions, noticeably those praised New Yorkers of the 77th, they would
show that they could move fast and stick in the war to the end. The
pioneer heritage was theirs; they were neighbors to Alaska, who looked
toward Asia across the Pacific: big men who thought big and were used
to doing big things. Their people depended upon them for great deeds
worthy of their homes beyond the Great Divide. As the National Guard
divisions from the Pacific Coast had had the misfortune, through sudden
necessities when they were the only available men in depot, to be cut
up for replacement, the men of the 91st had as an intact division a
special responsibility in upholding the honor of the Coast.

They had the stamina which their climate breeds. They were under no
apprehension that their inexperience in battle would not enable them to
take care of the Germans they met, once they were through the trenches
and in the open. As men of the distances, they had imagination which
applied all their training to the situations which they would have
to encounter. No veterans ever went into action with more confidence
than these draft men. The roar of the surf on Pacific beaches, of the
car-wheels from the Coast to New York, of the steamship propellers
across the Atlantic, was the song of their gathered energy suddenly
released in a charge.

The wire on their front had not been well cut; but what might have
been a justifiable cause for delay they overcame in an intrepidity
of purpose supported by a team-play which prevented confusion of
their units. Happily the prompt taking by the stalwart Kansans and
Missourians of the Vauquois hill positions commanding the 91st's field
of advance, which had been the object of the French attacks in 1915,
removed a formidable threat on their left. The Germans, who had been
told that a division which had never been under fire was on their
front, had no thought that it would attempt a serious attack. They
were accordingly the more unprepared for the avalanche of man-power
which came rushing at them. Relatively few in numbers, waiting on the
5th Guard Division to come up in reserve, they had a painfully urgent
desire to start to the rear and meet it on its way forward.

If the uncut wire had made progress slow for the men of the 91st at the
start, once these fast travelers were past the fortifications, they
stretched their legs in earnest as they rushed through the thickets
of the first belt, which in their sector was the Cheppy Wood, in a
practically unbroken advance. When they came out in front of the Lai
Fuon ravine, they had the "jump" on the enemy on their front. He had
not the numbers to form up for a determined defense on that main line
of resistance which he was supposed to hold in any event. The best
he could do was a skilful rearguard action. Speedy as they were,
the Pacific Coast men could not force the enemy, who surrendered or
withdrew after bursts of machine-gun fire, to close with the bayonet,
as they desired.

Having fought their way through the Véry Wood, the narrowing spur of
the second belt, which extended only part way across their front,
they had now open hilly country, for the most part, before them. The
men were warmed up for their afternoon's work. As they continued to
gather in prisoners, as they pressed steadily ahead against rearguard
resistance, they maintained the _liaison_ of their units admirably. By
nightfall they had advanced nearly five miles. The Coast might well be
proud of its sons in their first day's battle.

They had been fortunate in preventing congestion of their transport,
and their artillery was fast coming up in support when they attacked
with unbroken vigor the next morning. They were to find, as all other
divisions found, that the second day was a different kind of day from
the first. As all their power was needed on the 27th to support the
37th Division in its attack for the ridges protecting Montfaucon, all
four regiments were put into line, with orders to go as far as they
could, regardless of whether or not their ardor carried them ahead of
the other divisions into a salient. They drove the enemy out of the
positions which he had taken up overnight, and continued their advance
in repeated charges against his increasing resistance. Parties charged
into the village of Epinonville several times, to receive a blistering
cross-fire from positions in flank and rear, and from the Cierges Wood,
where the German machine-gunners looked down upon all the streets and
approaches of the village.

Though its flanks were still exposed, the 91st was told to go ahead
the next day, the plan of the Army command, as we have seen, being to
use all the fight there was in every division on the 28th, when our
ambition still dared an immediate conquest of the whale-back after the
taking of Montfaucon. Switching now to a two-regiment front, after
fifteen minutes of preparation by the artillery, which was all in
position, the Pacific Coast men again attacked on the third day, which,
in turn, they were to find different from the second. While the guns
kept moving forward and striving to lay down protecting barrages and to
smash machine-gun nests, they made a mile and a half against resistance
hourly becoming more vicious and determined, taking Epinonville and
entering the Cierges Wood, which was to earn such a sinister reputation.

Despite the general results of September 28th, which had somewhat
dampened its ambition for a prompt decision, the Army command, now
seeking to drive a wedge into the heights between the Aire and
whale-back in order to break the chain of its covering defenses,
ordered the 91st to continue attacking on the 29th. The two regiments
in the rear, which had had a little rest, passed through the two
that had been exhausted by the hard work in front on the 28th. Two
battalions of the engineers, whose indefatigability had kept the roads
in shape, were sent into line. As we know, the engineers were never
allowed to be idle. If they had nothing else to do, they could fight.

The morning advance drove its point beyond the Cierges Wood, but was
checked by merciless fire from Cierges village on the right. Though
the front was in a salient, still the orders were "at all costs" to
"push ahead." At 3.40 that afternoon, after forty minutes' preparation
by the artillery, which was keeping faithfully up to the infantry
despite the weariness of horses and men, the right once more moved
forward with a vigor that was amazing after the four days' strain,
and succeeded in passing through Gesnes and in gaining a footing in
Morine and Chêne Sec Woods on its left. Every rod farther meant an
increase of overwhelming cross-fire. Either there must be support on
the flanks from the adjoining divisions, or this tongue of men thrust
into furious cross-fire must be withdrawn. Support could not be given.
The 35th Division on the left was stopped in the shambles of the
Exermont ravine, the 37th on the right was facing counter-attacks.
Accordingly on the night of the 29th the 91st fell back to the front
of the morning's gains. The 32nd, which was to have such hard fighting
in re-taking the positions which the 91st had temporarily held, was
to relieve it on October 4th. During the 30th the 91st organized
defensive positions, and until October 4th held its ground under
continuous artillery and machine-gun fire as well as harassing blasts
of machine-gun bullets from low-flying enemy aeroplanes. Though the
men were suffering from exposure and diarrhea, the whole division was
not to be relieved. The 181st Brigade, under Brigadier-General John B.
MacDonald, was assigned to the 1st and 32nd Divisions to take part in
the greater effort of fresh troops to break the heights between the
crest of the whale-back and the Aire, which was to be such a brilliant
and costly exploit. The 91st had advanced for a depth of nearly eight
miles, and held its gains for a depth of nearly seven miles.

It might be said that the 37th Division had had, as National Guardsmen,
a longer military experience than the other two divisions of the Corps,
and some trench experience in a tranquil sector, which, however, was
slight technical preparation for the offensive action which it was now
to make. If ever there was a "hand-made" battle, it was that of the
Ohio men. For artillery they had the brigade of the 30th Division,
which, after five days' hard marching when it should have been brought
by train, arrived with its men exhausted and its horses utterly so.
There were no French guns to assist this tired artillery brigade,
operating with a division with which it was associated for the first
time.

Ohio's predilection for politics is well-known; and it has even been
said that her National Guardsmen took some interest in politics.
The politics of September 26th was Republican-Democrat-Socialist
politics,--all the political genius of Ohio, town and country, from the
river to the lake, armed, trained, and resolute. I have no idea what
part these soldiers will play in the future of Ohio elections; but I do
know how they fought in the Meuse-Argonne. It is something that Ohio
should not forget.

Their rush through the trench system was soon over. Ahead was the
full depth of nearly four miles of the Montfaucon woods which I have
already described. The old trench system was partly in the midst of
woodland wreckage, caused by long sieges of artillery fire, of the
same character as that facing the 77th in the Argonne Forest. In its
attack through the thickets the 37th was to have the assistance of no
scalloping movement in forcing the enemy's withdrawal from its front.

I have already referred to the enemy's conviction that our "untrained"
troops would not have the temerity to attempt an attack which comprised
the taking of this deep belt of woods; and do not forget that half
way through the belt, which it really divided into two sections,
was the Lai Fuon ravine. Here, as our troops emerged to descend the
hither and ascend the opposite slope, they would be in full view; and
here, in the edge of the woods on the far slope, the Germans had long
ago organized the positions for that main line of resistance which
the enemy memorandum of September 18th had said must be held in any
event,--which did not include, however, the event of a drive by the
Ohio men of the same swiftness as that of the Pacific Coast men on
their left.

Had the 5th German Guard Division come up a little earlier, had the
Germans had time to mass reserves for the defense of the ravine, it
seems impossible that it could have been conquered without a siege
operation. The value of taking an enemy by surprise and audaciously
following up the surprise was singularly illustrated by the rushing
tactics of the Ohio infantry, who cleared the whole depth of the
woods on the first day. When they were halted, it was not for long.
Theirs was no cautious policy. Their reserves, keeping close to the
front line, were ready instantly to add their weight in the balance in
charging any refractory machine-gun nests. The Germans never had time
to form up for prolonged or effective resistance. Their familiarity
with the woods made retreat behind the screen of underbrush the more
inviting in face of the numerous figures in khaki which they saw
swarming forward through the openings in the foliage. Instead of a
determined stand on the Lai Fuon line, there was only a rearguard
action, fitfully though never clumsily carried out by the veteran
Prussians, in their injured pride at having to yield to the American
novices.

With no thought except to keep on going, when the Ohioans emerged
from the woods into the open, they pressed on toward the commanding
positions of Montfaucon on their right. The fact that there was nothing
like a practicable road for their transport through the woods behind
them now developed a handicap which they appreciated keenly in their
eager appetites and the thought of shields for the next days' attacks.
Though tanks and artillery were of no service in the woods, they were
needed now. The tanks assigned to assist the Ohioans as they came into
the open did not arrive until the evening, when they were short of
gasoline. The artillery, by the use of snatch ropes, managed to bring
up one battalion of guns to the south of the ravine.

When rain began to fall, it made the woodland earth soft, hampering
the efforts of the engineers, who themselves labored without food all
the day and all through the night and all the next day without pause,
as they dug and chopped away roots and cut saplings for corduroys in
making a passage through that four-mile stretch of forest---and _forêt_
it was though called a _bois_--which separated the fighters from their
beleaguered supplies. Signal corps carts, so necessary to lay the wire
for the communications which would enable the infantry to send in
reports and receive orders promptly, and the small arms ammunition
carts, which would keep soldiers who were without their shields from
being without cartridges as well, were forced through by dint of an
arduous persistence in answer to the urgency of the call. Rolling
kitchens with warm meals could do no more rolling than if they were
hotel kitchens. Ambulances had to wait at the edge of the forest for
wounded brought three and four miles on stretchers or plodding on foot
or hobbling on canes and crutches made from tree limbs.

Was this division, with its artillery, its ammunition trucks, and all
its supplies waiting upon a road through four miles of the forest
whose time of completion was uncertain, to attack the next day after
all the exertion of working its way through the forest? Of course.
The Fifth Corps was supposed to take Montfaucon on the night of the
26th. Montfaucon must be taken on the 27th, and early, too, or the
pencilings on the maps would be fatally behind ambitious objectives
in the center. To the west of Montfaucon in small patches of woods
and on crests were the positions of the Völker Stellung, which the
Germans had plotted, though they had done no digging, for the defense
of Montfaucon; but the lines where trenches were to be dug and the
points machine-guns were to occupy had been carefully assigned.
Therefore units of reserves as they arrived would know exactly where
to go without loss of time. Naturally, we wanted to attack this
position while it was still weakly held. For all the Ohio men knew,
the enemy might have already concentrated there in force, when without
their artillery, machine-guns, or trench mortars, uncertain even of a
constant supply of small arms ammunition, they began their second day's
action at the break of dawn. In swift charges the right overran the
ridges, overwhelming German reserves, who were arriving too late, on
their way forward. By 11 it had patrols in Montfaucon, and by 1.30 in
the afternoon it had cleared the enemy from the cellars as well as from
the steep and winding streets of the town, which were littered with the
débris of buildings that had crumbled under shell-fire.

Against the left brigade the Germans did not depend upon defensive
tactics alone. Their reserves, more prompt in arriving than on the
right, counter-attacked at 9 A.M. to stem the brigade's advance. There
was a pitched battle, a conflict of charges, for a fierce half-hour;
but the brigade, putting in the last of its reserves, won the mastery,
and at 9.30 was in pursuit of the enemy. An hour later its advance
elements, running a gamut of artillery and machine-gun fire, were in
the village of Ivoiry. Now turning their attention to the conquest
of Hill 256 beyond the town, which was lashing them with plunging
machine-gun fire, storming parties finally swept over the crest; but
their exposure to the blasts which the enemy promptly concentrated made
their position untenable. With the left holding its gains after this
slight withdrawal, the center advanced at 5.45 and took a strong and
threatening position which made the victory of the day more secure. The
line at dark was along the Ivoiry-Montfaucon road.

After the exhaustion of fighting its way through the forest on the
first day, the 37th had used every available man on the second day.
The engineers had now made a road through the forest. This, being
unequal to caring for all the transport in a steady flow, was the more
inadequate owing to the delays due to the repair of sloughs, which
were always appearing at some point in its four-mile length. Hungry
infantrymen lying on the moist ground were wondering if they would
ever have the strength to rise again. The prodigal, hasty crowding in
of reserves which necessity required had exposed all the troops to the
widespread artillery fire and the long-range sweep of bullets, which
caused many casualties.

On the next day, the 28th, the Army command, as we know, was to call
for a supreme effort all along the line. Despite the tireless labor of
the gunners with their snatch ropes, most of the 37th's artillery was
still stalled where it could be of no service. Without their shields
the Ohio men again rose to the attack at seven on the morning of the
28th. In half an hour they had entered the Emont Wood on their left and
the Beuge Wood on their right. They continued on toward the village
of Cierges until the blasts of fire from the heights and woods of the
whale-back, not only upon the elements in advance but upon those in
support, forced them to take cover. They were now within a quarter of
a mile of the Cierges-Nantillois road. Meanwhile the Germans had been
filling Emont Wood with phosgene gas to such an extent that it became
untenable. In another attack at 5.45 P.M. the Ohio men encircled the
wood. By dark their outposts were just south of Cierges.

Gettysburg did not last three full days, but any veterans who fought
throughout that battle will have some idea of what the 37th Division
as a whole had endured on September 26th, 27th, and 28th. The division
commander reported lack of food and a "condition of almost collapse"
among his men, which did not weaken the determination of Corps or
Army to expend any energy remaining in the 37th in another effort on
the next day to "crack" the chain of heights between the Aire and the
whale-back. How fruitless this proved only makes the final effort of
the 37th the more appealing. The Ohio men were willing; they were
willing, after shivering on wet earth all night without blankets, as
long as they had strength enough to stagger to their feet,--and they
might have had more strength if they had had more food. There was only
one relieving feature of their situation, so unfavorable from the
first. A German water-point equal to supplying the whole division had
been captured. There was enough to drink, if not enough to eat: that
is, for such units as the water-carts could reach.

Yet Corps and Army thought the 37th ought to be very cheerful. Hadn't
they been assigned, on the morning of the 28th, ten small tanks to
assist them in taking Cierges? The tanks were moving gallantly along
the western edge of Emont Wood until the German artillery, from the
heights which had them in plain view, concluded that they had gone far
enough, and put them out of action. Then the German artillery turned
its undivided attention to assisting the German infantry, concentrating
its volume upon any attempt of the Ohioans, whose brains and legs
were numb from fatigue, to storm particularly murderous flanking
machine-gun nests. Patrols, creeping up ravines and dodging bursts of
shells, succeeded in entering Cierges. They could not be supported
by the artillery, which was now up, as it had run out of ammunition.
Thus our guns were silent when the enemy started a counter-attack
beyond Cierges; but the vengeful and accurate fire of the infantry soon
sent the survivors of the advancing German wave to cover. Later the
artillery, having received some ammunition, when it had an aeroplane
signal of the Germans massing for another counter-attack, scotched it
promptly. If the Germans could not budge us, we could not budge them.
Every time we showed our heads in any effort for another gain, we
stirred up a hornet's nest of bullets and offered a fresh target for a
storm of shell-bursts.

Late in the afternoon word came from the 91st, asking coöperation
from the 37th in a further advance to relieve pressure on the wedge
it had driven past the fronts of its neighbors. The fact that the
message was two hours in transit was sufficient comment on the state
of communication between divisions which had extended themselves to
the limit of their power. The Ohio men who were already intrenching
might still be willing to charge, but it was the willingness of the
spirit rather than of the flesh. Had every gun and machine-gun on their
front there on the threshold of the whale-back been silenced, and had
they been ordered to march another two miles over that rough ground, a
majority would have dropped in their tracks from exhaustion. There was
nothing to do but stick where they were. This was as easy as for logs
of wood to lie in their places. They fell asleep over their spades, and
the bursts of high-explosive shells which shook the earth did not waken
them. All they asked of the world was rest and food.

Remaining in a stationary line all the next day, they had recovered
enough strength to march back when the 32nd Division relieved them on
the night of the 30th. At the cost of 3,460 casualties their rushing
tactics, keeping the jump on the enemy, had taken 1,120 prisoners and
23 guns. Fatigue and sickness from exposure, as well as casualties, had
worn them down. If they had fought with less abandon of energy, with
less resolute and vivid spirit, their casualties would have been much
larger. From the first they had thrown in all their reserves; and to
the end they had fought with all their numbers in order to overcome the
handicaps of their mission.

On the right of the Fifth Corps the 79th Division, National Army
from the Atlantic Coast--Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the District
of Columbia--was to have its baptism of fire at the same time as
the Pacific Coast men on the Corps left,--a baptism preparing it
for its memorable service later in taking Hill 378, or the Borne
de Cornouiller, on the east bank of the Meuse. In place of its own
artillery brigade, which had not yet received its guns, it had three
regiments, less six batteries, of the veteran artillery of the 32nd
Division, and one regiment of that of the 41st Division, National Guard
from the Pacific Coast.

As one of the two divisions which had never been under fire before,
the 79th had been given the farthest objective of any division. The
German trenches on its front were everywhere in the open, crowning
a gentle ridge. The wire had been badly cut, but the Eastern Coast
men made no more fuss over that handicap than their neighbors. When
they came to the top of the ridge, they might see the field of their
action, in its relation to the Army plan, spread before them. There
was the route of their advance, following a valley with the ribbon
of the Esnes-Montfaucon road at its bottom, and the distant ruins of
Montfaucon on their high hill as distinct a goal as the stone column of
a lighthouse on a shore. They were not only to take this on the first
day, but to pass on down the slopes beyond, and, conquering patches of
woods and ravines, carry their flying wedge to the foot of the heights
of the whale-back. On the second day Army ambition designed to assail
the whale-back itself, as we know. Well might these inexperienced
troops have asked in irony: "Is that all you expect of us? Don't you
think we can do it in the forenoon, and take the whale-back in the
afternoon, so that we can get on to the Lille-Metz railway tomorrow?"

As the 79th had open country to traverse, it ought to go fast. With
adjoining divisions clearing the walls of the valley leading up to
Montfaucon, it was supposed to be marching over a boulevard compared
to the route which the 37th had in the Montfaucon forest. Indeed
every division was given the idea that all it had to do was to keep
deployed and moving according to schedule. As for the distance itself
which the 79th had to travel, any golfer may measure it as two and
a half times that of an eighteen-hole round, with a quarter of the
distance through traps and bunkers, and the rest altogether in the
rough of a surpassingly hilly course, while he carries a rifle and
a soldier's pack and ammunition. In the immediate foreground was a
belt of weed-grown shell-craters, their edges joining, the passage
being further complicated by the ruins of two villages--Haucourt and
Malancourt--within the area of the trench system. On the left, over the
moist slippery weeds of the shell-craters, the men could not keep pace
in the mist with the barrage, which had been made specially rapid in
order to urge them to the rapid movement required; but this delay did
not prove important.

From Montfaucon the German observers could see the wave of khaki
figures distinctly as they came down the slope toward the valley. It
was a sight to thrill any veteran with professional admiration of the
drill-ground precision of these young soldiers in dipping and rising
with the folds of the ground. There seemed not enough superfluous fat
among the division's privates to have given a single war profiteer
that rotundity with which we associate the corpulency of a parvenu's
fortune. They were pantherishly lean, trained down to elastic sinews
and supple muscles. In every eye there was a direct and eager glance,
quick in response to any order. Looking at these thousands of athletes,
with their clean-cut and intelligent faces, one was not surprised that
the Army command thought that to such men nothing was impossible.

For the first three hours they made a parade of their daring mission as
a flying wedge. They had only to continue to march, each man guiding
by the man on his right and left, while the sun shone genially, and
war, once they were through the trench system, was little more than a
stroll across country in excellent company. The observers on Montfaucon
might not gratify the appetite of their eyes by sending over barrages
of shell-fire into such a distinct target. All the Germans' available
artillery force, which was slight at that time, must be concentrated
elsewhere. Let those American amateurs come on! There was trouble in
store for them.

When the 79th came down into the valley, a hill in front of Montfaucon
was now on the sky-line, instead of the ruins of the town. There were
hills all around them, while they were exposed in the valley bottom.
To the right in the 4th Division's sector was the hill and village of
Cuisy, high points in a series of irregular commanding slopes. On the
left was the Cuisy Wood, as the eastern end of the Montfaucon woods was
called. So they were between the two Cuisys. The Cuisy Wood was in the
79th's sector. The machine-gun nests there served notice of one of the
disadvantages of open country when they began firing from the cover
on the visible foe. Checked by this fire, and forced to take cover in
shell-craters and any dead spaces available, the Eastern Coast men
found that whenever they showed themselves the air cracked and sung
with bullets. This was the trouble that the Germans had in pickle for
them; this was war in earnest. They were now without barrages. They
could not close with the enemy in an abandoned rush through a screen of
woodland: the enemy had all the woodland to himself. Moreover, they had
to advance uphill over very treacherous ground.

With the help of tanks and of the 37th exerting its pressure on the
left, Cuisy Wood was taken after three hours' fighting; but valuable
time had been lost. The center, striving to pass over the crest of
Hill 294 in front of Montfaucon, was blown back by converging blasts
from machine-guns. Cuisy and the ridges on the right, as threatening
as those on the left, were not yet taken. The 79th was in an open area
of interlocking fire, though in a lesser degree than the 28th in the
valley of the Aire. There was confusion owing to errors which were not
always those of the young officers and the men, only waiting in their
willingness to go where they were told against any kind of resistance.
One of the young officers, finding himself alone, as the morning mist
lifted, in the midst of machine-gun nests, forced the gunners to
surrender and to point out the location of sixteen other nests.

In ratio to the importance of the thrust of the 79th was the
responsibility of its senior officers, regimental and brigade. They had
come to test in the field their ability as professional soldiers; when
the amount of fat they had accumulated on their bodies and in their
minds would have its influence on their endurance and judgment. There
was contradiction in commands; uncertainty in decisions; higher orders
were not carried out. In one case the natural military initiative of
a tank commander gave the word to advance, which was all that the men
wanted. Instead of reserves being sent in to keep the jump on the enemy
by swift taking of positions, he was allowed time to recover his morale
and bring reinforcements and machine-guns into position.

Corps was displeased with this hesitation; Army equally so. They still
had their eyes on the distant goal that they had set for the day's end.
The 79th was told to press on at dusk and that it was expected to reach
Nantillois and its full objective during the night. This, of course,
required only the writing of a message. Without artillery support
a regiment made a brave and fruitless attempt against a deluge of
hand-grenades and interlocking machine-gun fire. During the night the
division commander relieved a senior officer who had failed to carry
out his orders, read lessons to others, and reorganized his command.
The road across the two miles of trench system and of shell-craters,
being used by two divisions, despite the work of the engineers was
wholly unequal to demands. As it passed over a ridge the trucks,
sinking into sloughs which seemed to have no bottom, were frequently
blocked in the ascent.

The 79th had two battalions of artillery up when it attacked the
next morning. Now it had its "second wind." The men were given rein.
Practically without shields, neither shells nor hand-grenades nor
bullets could stay their progress. On the right they began driving
ahead under the flanking machine-guns of Cuisy before dawn at 4 A.M. On
the left they started at 7 A.M. Their only _liaison_ with their flanks
was by mounted messenger, as their motorcycles were of no service
until Montfaucon was reached. Their units intermingled with those of
adjoining divisions, and advanced with them in that determined rush to
"get there." By 11 A.M. the 79th had men in Montfaucon with those of
the 37th. A regiment was re-formed and ordered to flank Nantillois on
the right, but now, going down the north slopes, it was in full view of
the artillery from the whale-back. The left was stopped in the Beuge
Wood. It had been a day of incessant and wearing effort of the same
kind that the 37th had suffered. The road was in better condition, the
troops received some though not sufficient food. A hundred burros were
invaluable in bringing up ammunition.

The next day being the critical 28th, the orders were for the 79th to
exert itself to the utmost. It was still advancing in country perfectly
open to view from the whale-back and its covering positions. In the
morning the regiments which had been in reserve, now being in front,
proved that woods fighting was no monopoly by cleaning up all the
machine-gun nests in the Beuge Wood and storming the ridge beyond Hill
268, and taking Nantillois before noon. Then they were re-formed and
given a little time for rest,--if rest was the word for hugging cover
under incessant shell-fire. With the aid of tanks two attacks were
made on the Ogons Wood beyond Nantillois under the German artillery
fire from the whale-back, which was at close quarters and as accurate
as the plunging machine-gun fire which accompanied it.

The two tanks, so inadequate for their task, did not go far before both
were hit. The infantry came near enough to the Ogons to realize that
at the ratio of the increasing resistance our survivors who reached
it would be hopelessly unequal to taking the machine-guns firing from
its edge. Withdrawal was necessary to the south slopes of the crest in
the rear, Hill 274, if the troops in their present position were not
to be offered as sacrifice to the nests of artillery the enemy now had
in position. Undaunted by the shell-fire on the road, the transport
was able that night to reach Montfaucon, which was kept under such a
heavy bombardment that there was no going farther without blocking the
road with wreckage. Though in a trance of weariness, carrying parties
brought the food and other supplies three miles through the zone of
shell-fire to the front.

A willing horse was still to be driven for another day. The 79th was
to be sent against the slopes of the whale-back. Morning revealed
the enemy's artillery in still greater force; and there was mockery
for the men as they breasted it in the sight of a German observation
balloon, lazily floating above the whale-back and directing the guns
in firing on any parties who might have found ravines or slopes out
of sight of observers from the heights. All day the left strove for
gains in fitful attacks, and gained some three hundred yards. The
right, in a determination that shell-fire could not balk, reached the
edge of the Ogons Wood. That was something; courage's final defiance
in its exhaustion, before the thin line, which had looked into the
recesses where the hidden machine-guns opened upon them, withdrew to
their former position. The 79th was "expended," to use the military
phrase; and the meaning of that was in the hollow eyes of pasty faces
and in dragging footsteps. On the 30th its part was that of the other
divisions from the Meuse to the Forest, hugging the pits it had dug
under shell-fire. In the afternoon it was relieved by the veteran 3rd
Division.

Having brought the account of the battle down to the standstill which
closed the first stage, we may now turn our attention to the American
divisions which were engaged with Allied armies in other decisive
attacks of this crucial period.



XIII

OVER THE HINDENBURG LINE

  New York and the South on the British front--Up the Somme valley in
  the wake of the Australians--The Saint-Quentin Canal tunnel--Another
  ambitious plan--The simplicity of success in the attack of the 30th
  Division--The Pickett's charge of the 27th--A mêlée on the open
  slopes--In which the Australians take a hand--The German hinge at
  Bony holds--Australia carries on--The western front in movement--The
  British again in Le Cateau--Our part in the advance to Valenciennes.


The Scotch thrift of Sir Douglas Haig, in face of the demand for our
divisions in our own sector and at other points along the line, had
been able to retain two of the ten divisions which had been trained
in the British sector: the 27th, or "Orions," National Guard of New
York under command of Major-General John F. O'Ryan; and the 30th, or
"Old Hickory," National Guard of the Southern mountain states, under
command of Major-General Edward M. Lewis. These two, forming our Second
Corps under Major-General George W. Read, were to have a spectacular
part in the attack of September 29th against the Hindenburg line on
the thirty-mile front between Cambrai and Saint-Quentin, which was to
be the next of the thrusts in the development of the general offensive
movement which decided the war.

Second Corps Headquarters had been from the time of its organization
in the British area. Neither division had served anywhere else than
with the British. They had been isolated from the association of the
American army in a world of their own within the British world. It
was well that they should be there; that if we were to have divisions
detached from our army some should be contributing their style of
English to that spoken by English, Scotch, and Irish, by Canadians,
Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans.

On August 30th-September 1st the two fought side by side for the first
time as divisions in the Ypres salient offensive. They advanced for the
depth of a mile, the 27th until its outposts were on the famous Kemmel
Hill which the German attacks had won in the preceding April, and the
30th taking the village of Voormezeele. They were now withdrawn and
sent into training to digest the lessons of their first battle and to
learn in practice maneuvers how to coöperate with tanks. After that
post-graduate course they might be considered "shock" divisions, having
the freshness of new troops plus an instructive experience. When they
received their next order to move, they knew that they were to be used
as such; they were going into a "big fight."

[Illustration: MAP NO. 6
LINES REACHED BY GERMAN AND ALLIED OFFENSIVES 1918.]

Late in September they started across the old Somme battlefield, which
the Germans had devastated in their retreat in the late winter of 1917
in face of the Anglo-French offensives. Here the results of war on the
largest integral area in France were seen at their worst in a dismal,
treeless landscape, pitted by the bursts of the countless shells
fired in the Somme and Cambrai battles and the fighting in the period
between them, and in the tidal wave of the great German offensive of
March, 1918, which overflowed the desert of their making. The subsoil,
having been mixed with the loam that once nourished succulent pasturage
and rich fields of grain, now responded to sun and moisture in a
subtropical growth of weeds and grass in a grizzly carpet, variegated
by the gaping wounds in the earth of crumbling trench walls and great
mine craters. Deserted tanks, and remnants of sheet-iron dugout roofs
and of gun-carriages and caissons recalled as the débris of a dead
world ghostly memories to all British soldiers, for at one time or
another all had fought there, enduring the powers of destruction that
made the wreckage.

Troops marching in this area, where man had at such labor and cost
imitated the forces of earthquakes, volcanoes, and of chaos, found few
billets. The villages were mostly level with the roads. Temporary
buildings, with corrugated iron roofs and tar-paper walls, which would
be called "shacks," had risen as the landmarks of pioneer hospitality.
The two divisions marching toward the sound of guns through the silence
where there was neither woman nor child living could people it with
what reflections they chose on their way to battle.

They were attached to the Australian Corps, which was company to their
taste. There were no better soldiers than the "Aussies." Our men liked
them not only for this but for other qualities which have a man-to-man
appeal when men from the ends of the earth meet. In the coming attack
we were to have more intimate reasons for liking them: the reasons
born of the gratitude which one brave man owes to another who does not
hesitate at hell's door to come to his aid when he is hard pressed.

Beginning with the Anglo-French offensive on August 8th, the five
divisions of the Australians in their "leap-frogging" advance--and
they were very expert at "leap-frogging"--had not been out of line as
a Corps until they had fought their way clear across the devastated
region from the high-water mark of the German tidal wave of March to
the point from which it had started. In the free stride which they had
brought overseas from their island continent thousands of miles away,
now guided by a veteran's wisdom and cunning, they had won back all
they had fought for on these Somme fields with an enemy whose measure
they had always taken--an enemy who they knew now could never fight
on the offensive again. They had suffered for four years the fatigue,
the shell-fire, the machine-gun fire, the gas, which our army was to
know for a brief period of intensity. Long service and army discipline,
accepted as a means to an end, had no more influence in making them
militaristic than a course in boxing changes the anatomy of the
kangaroo. They were ever the Australians.

Though the British had regained what they had lost in the spring, they
were only back before the line to which Hindenburg had given his name,
after he came with his Ludendorff from their victories in the east to
prove that the western front was not necessarily the grave of German
military reputations. German staff experts had chosen the ground which
they had fortified at leisure behind their old Bapaume defenses during
the winter of 1916-1917. German industry was then at its height, and
German material was ample to carry out the plans for that elaborate
system which was advertised by German propaganda as impregnable. In
those days when all offensives in the west had failed, many military
experts were inclined to accept this view.

The portion of the Hindenburg line which the 27th and 30th Divisions
were to attack had a distinctive character which might well relate its
conquest to an action by such an integral force as our Second Corps,
attached to another army. For six thousand yards the Saint-Quentin
Canal, opened in Napoleon's time and used until the beginning of the
war, runs in practically a straight line north and south under a ridge,
whose crest, from the piling of the spoils of excavation, is almost as
regular as an enormous parapet. The open canal being unfordable, this
section, obviously inviting attack, was given particular attention
in preparing the artificial defenses which the ground and the tunnel
itself favored. The thickness of the earth over the stone arch was such
that at no point had the largest caliber shell the slightest chance
of successful penetration. In the tunnel, lighted by electricity,
the number of reserves which could be accommodated was regulated by
the extent of the wooden platforms laid across from wall to wall. It
was said that there was room enough provided for a full division of
infantry, which, while being entertained by moving pictures to while
away idle hours, would be perfectly secure from any bombardment until
such time as their services were required, when they had prompt egress
to their places assigned for a crisis through the openings to the
reverse slope of the higher irregular crest in front. It was a most
comfortable and adaptable arrangement, for which the French a century
ago had done the spading.

On the crest in front of the tunnel, of course, none of the
provisions in dugouts, traverses, strong points, and barbed wire of a
thoroughgoing trench system was lacking. In front of this crest over
which the main Hindenburg line ran, at a distance of a thousand yards,
was another ridge, which formed the first or outpost line. Any troops
who took this forward line must move down an apron in full view of the
trenches of the main system, in range of its machine-guns and rifles,
and under its observation for the direction of artillery fire, which
of course had this apron accurately plotted. Between the two ridges,
utilizing the ravines, sunken roads, and irregularities of ground,
the Germans had deep communication trenches, which, with the passages
out of the tunnel, further connected up the system in facilities for
the swift utilization of their troops in making the most of all the
details of natural and artificial advantage of a position which had on
its flanks the unfordable canal. But the defenses had not been well
kept up, partly as a result of the deterioration of German industry in
digging, and more largely because of Ludendorff's commitment to mobile
warfare by his March offensive.

I recollect that the first news we had at Army Headquarters in the
Meuse-Argonne of the progress of the Second Corps said that our troops
and the Australians had surrounded a division of Germans. In view of
what happened, this report now has a tragic mockery. The plan of the
attack was made by the Australian Corps. The 30th Division was to be
on the right; it went into position on the forward ridge, which in its
sector was not as exposed as in that of the 27th. When the New Yorkers
went into position, they faced the unpleasant fact that the British
whom they relieved had not advanced beyond their own old outpost line.
This meant that they must make a preliminary attack on September 27th
in order to gain their assigned jumping-off place for the main attack
on the 29th. Their daylight charge went home in gallant fashion, but,
exposed, when they reached the crest, to machine-gun fire and to the
blasts of artillery fire from behind the tunnel, they fought all day
on the Knoll and among the ruins of the buildings of Gillemont and
Quennemont farms. In and out of trenches, "mopping up" machine-gun
nests only to have others reappear from sunken roads and subterranean
passages which were said to lead back to the canal tunnel itself, they
paid heavy casualties for a persistence which left them that night and
the next day hugging the slopes with the crest still unmastered.

It was not on the cards that the main attack, which was only one of a
sequence in the general offensive movement, should be delayed on this
account. What was to have been taken in a small bite must now be taken
in a big bite. The first ridge would be rolled under in the mighty wave
which was then to sweep down the apron and through the barbed wire
and trenches up the slopes and over the crest of the main ridge and
of the tunnel and on into the open country beyond. The fighting vigor
of our Second Corps, nursed in training for such a purpose, was to be
expended in one morning's tremendous effort; and at noon the 3rd and
5th Australian Divisions were to pass through our two divisions and to
continue the advance with all possible speed on the heels of the broken
enemy. For the American was not the only ambitious staff when it took
to marking objectives on a map. Most ambitious of all was Marshal Foch.
Our two divisions had all the "Don Acks," or divisional artillery, of
the Australians, a total, with the Corps artillery, of 438 guns, or one
for every forty feet of their front, to make their shields; and beside
an array of British tanks the only American heavy tank unit in France.
With the American divisions' artillery brigades, which had never seen
the British front, supporting other divisions in the Meuse-Argonne
offensive, who shall say that there was not coöperation among the
Allies?

The attack of the 30th Division on the right of the Corps line against
the Hindenburg position, on the morning of September 29th, was a
complete success--a clean drive through for two miles and a half to its
objectives. If the division's flank was not exposed as the 27th's was,
if it had relatively better ground to traverse, without the handicap of
having to take its jumping-off place before it began its real advance,
this in no wise detracts from the honor that these men of the Southern
mountains, ninety-five per cent of whom were of Anglo-Saxon origin,
did their forebears in fighting as a part of the British army. They
won more Congressional Medals of Honor, the highest tribute our nation
can pay any officer or man for gallantry in the field, than any other
division. All that they did was in character with the best traditions
of their grandfathers who had fought under Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
They had named their division "Old Hickory" in honor of another Jackson
who was a Southern hero; and hickory is hard, tough, and springy wood.
Called "poor whites" by the heedless, they were rich in the qualities
that count in battle. There were companies of them which were sixty
per cent illiterate when they came to camp, which calls for thought
on the part of the traveler in the "richest country in the world" who
sees their faces at railroad stations or in their simple houses in the
mountains.

Character and education, as we are not too often reminded, are not the
same; and these men have character, which is sound in the warp and the
woof, though it lacks frills and misses the motion pictures 'round the
corner from the soda fountain. They were capable of education, too,
not only in reading, writing, and arithmetic which they were taught
in the schools established for them, but in military technique. What
they learned they learned well. They did not think that any substitute
"would do just as well" when it would not. If they were told to put out
panels for the planes, they put them out, and in the way that they were
told. Their discipline was in the devotion of the kind which kept the
poorly fed, equipped, and clothed Southern armies resisting Northern
power for four years, and the officers who led them were of a democracy
which has its test in more than mere platitudes.

They believed in their officers, but maintained their attitude of
self-respect, that individualism developed from their surroundings,
which separated them by as wide a gulf from regiments drawn from the
swarming streets of a great city as could well exist in a country
speaking a common tongue. With their drawling voices and romantic
views, and their lean figures and clear eyes, it seemed to me that they
gave a certain atmosphere of simple knightliness even to the processes
of modern war. Their conscientious attention to all the details of
instructions which taken together make the whole of battle efficiency,
their accuracy of thought as accurate as their shooting, the confident
hunter's zest with which they went straight at their foe, were
contributing factors of more importance than any good fortune in their
swift and positively brilliant advance through the defenses of one of
the strongest positions on the western front. With surprisingly small
losses, no day's work of any division of the American army deserves
more praise than the Hickory's, both because of their own character
and of that of their task. They did not think that they had done much.
Their admiration was all for the British veterans on their right who
had adroitly managed a crossing of the canal on rafts and had kept pace
with their own movement.

The story of the 27th on the left, for the very reason that it was not
the kind of success which moves the pencilings on schedule time on the
map in keeping with staff plans, was to exhibit those qualities of the
courage of individuals and groups in distress against odds, of which
we stand in awe as the supreme tribute to men as men in battle. The
reports showed that all was going well at first. Under cover of foggy
mist, which was most friendly in hiding the advance down the slope of
both divisions, the 27th started off in the same admirable fashion as
the 30th, following close behind its barrage. By noon not only was the
30th reported in Nauroy, beyond the canal, but troops of the 27th had
been seen in Gouy and Le Catelet, practically one town, on the far
side of the main ridge. Aviators later saw detachments of the Orions
moving forward and Germans who were not convoys of prisoners moving
in the opposite direction--a most suggestive spectacle. Divisional
communications had been cut. The division staff could only wait on
results, not knowing what orders to give. Such command as remained
was with the leaders of the elements, their _liaison_ broken, which
were fighting their hearts out. There could be no more doubt of the
27th's capability than of the fearful situation in which it was placed.
The New York National Guard had been known as among the best state
troops, having received liberal support, while its commander was a
permanent officer on the state's pay-roll, who gave all his time to the
organization. On the Mexican border it had won high praise. Later, when
the New Yorkers were given an integral division in our army in the war
with Germany, both in their training at home and in France and then in
their fighting in the Ypres salient, they enhanced their reputation.

When I went over the field of the action of the 27th, I was struck
with amazement at the results expected of them, and with awe as I
visualized their effort, which like Pickett's charge owes its place
in history not to the wisdom of generals but to valor--and that the
valor of intelligence. While the British were to advance on the
right of the 30th, they were not to succeed in advancing on the left
of the 27th, where the canal, emerging from the tunnel's northern
end, bends to the west, against the direction of the attack, across
the Macquincourt valley, whose wall opposite the tunnel entrance
has ravines and hillocks for cover. This area, covered with big
shell-craters, sometimes half-filled in by other shell-bursts, included
sections of communication trenches, machine-gun emplacements, dugouts,
snarls of barbed wire, all in a chaotic disorder which had no system
to the casual glance, except that every square yard of it was suited
to desperate resistance by skilful soldiers. The 27th's left was to
sweep across this valley over the ridge, and then throw out forces of
exploitation for protection of its flank in face of the well-intrenched
unfordable canal and the high ground behind it; after the canal tunnel
had been taken, other forces were to swing north, while the British
Third Corps, which had not been sent in a frontal attack against the
open canal positions--over ground infinitely more difficult than at
the other end of the tunnel,--was, with the aid of this support, to
"join up." It could hardly be said of that plan, as of many others
for swinging open the double doors against trench systems, that it
even looked well on paper; but it was the plan adopted after thorough
consideration by practical soldiers.

The Germans, of course, had information that an offensive was in
preparation on this front, and that it would include the ridge over
the canal tunnel. With their reserves in the tunnel ready, they would
wait on its development before sending them to the point where they
would do the most service. Anticipating their prevision, our command
gave instructions that as we reached the openings in the tunnel they
were to be guarded, thus preventing the egress of the Germans except
as prisoners from their great dugout, in the same manner that trench
dugouts were breached in an attack. That this could not be done in face
of the numbers of the enemy emerging after our first wave had passed is
not a criticism of the men who fought all day to do it.

The "get there" spirit which animated all our divisions was supreme in
the men of the 27th. As they descended the slope, after sweeping over
the forward ridge, their figures distinct as the smoke-screen and the
fog lifted, the German artillery sent a curtain of shell-fire, which
kept pace with their progress, through the curtain protecting them.
Machine-guns from the high ground across the open canal were turned on
their flank with increasing fire; and their own tanks, on which they
relied so largely for protection, were to suffer severe casualties
from accurate enemy defense. Each infantry unit had no thought except
to keep on going. Every survivor had his face set toward the goal. The
forces assigned to secure the openings in the tunnel and to "mop up,"
straggling over the uneven ground and raked by machine-gun fire, could
not advance against the stubborn resistance developed by the enemy
emerging from his hiding-places after our barrage had lifted. On the
right the men of the 27th, striving to keep up with the 30th, drove
into the main trench system about the ruined village of Bony, on the
crest in front of the tunnel, and for all the accumulated effort of
the enemy to throw them back from this vital hinge of his resistance,
maintained their footing in a struggle that lasted all day. Passing
over the northern end of the ridge, on the left, a battalion of the
first wave, regardless of fire, reached the Le Catelet-Gouy villages,
their final objective. It was their movement that the aeroplane
observers had seen going in the opposite direction from German reserves
coming into action. That battalion had kept faith with the plan which
required swift action to make the most of the initiative gained, before
the enemy could mobilize for defense after the shock of the attack.

Naturally it had soon been apparent to the German command that there
was no advance by the British Third Corps on the 27th's left up to
the canal. Obviously this was the opening for reserves to frustrate
the offensive. The German soldiers gradually losing morale as a whole
were now to show their old form in one of those flashes of desperate
counter-attack and resistance which was worthy of their regulation
at its fiercest. It had always been characteristic of them that they
fought best when they were winning; when the advantage was theirs.
These veterans swarming out of the openings of the tunnel and up the
Macquincourt valley on our exposed flank had their blood up. This was
their Hindenburg line. They had been told that it was unassailable, and
that any attack against it would break into confusion which would be
their prey, an opportunity which was compensation for their retreats of
the last month, arousing afresh their professional zeal in applying,
in a field of a kind with which they were as familiar as prairie dogs
with their warrens, all their skill in tactics of cunning infiltration
under the support of their machine-guns. They were as old hounds who
had been having hard hunting of late with little success, and whose
appetites were whetted by the sight of a quarry.

The report that we had an enemy division surrounded was probably
founded on the observation of the counter-attacking parties of Germans
observed between the battalion in Gouy and our main force. Wholly
enveloped, the groups of this gallant unit--a Pickett's charge which
had kept going until the remnants were swallowed up in the enemy's
forces--could only surrender, when they saw gray uniforms on all sides,
or, dodging from cover to cover, try to win their way back to their
comrades. Other units, emerging into zones swept by unseen fire, sought
any protection they could find. Others still tried to advance. "Mopping
up" parties had to resist being "mopped up" themselves. The battle
became a mêlée in front of the Hindenburg line; a free-for-all, in and
out of burrows and craters; their general must trust his men to fight
in the spirit in which he had trained them; and thus they did fight.
Plunging machine-gun fire and hand-grenades sought out the wounded
in folds of the ground and pits, while bullets whistled overhead. No
platoon knew to a certainty what its neighbor was doing. Some bold man
sprang out of shell-craters to seek close quarters or to try to reach a
machine-gun, only to fall back dead into his companion's arms. Groups
found that they were being slowly exterminated by scattering bullets,
while any movement in any direction meant instant extermination. Always
the spits of dust showed bullets coming in two directions--as ridge and
valley wall looked down on them. The wonder is that they did not break
into a panic. But that was not in the character of such men. On the
contrary, they continued their efforts to advance. How many deeds of
heroism, unseen by any observer, deserved Medals of Honor will never be
known.

If ever the determined faces of sturdy men coming up in reserve were
welcome, they were those of the Australians, as they appeared for their
part of the program--which was to "leap-frog" our troops and carry
on the advance: to find that they had hot work in prospect from the
moment they passed the tape we had strung for our jumping-off line. Our
battalion in Le Catelet having been effectively cut off, the battalion
which had kept its footing in the Hindenburg line at Bony stayed on,
mingled with the oncoming Australians, for that night and another day
of fighting. The Australians who had passed through the 30th Division,
on its objective at Nauroy, for a farther advance to the next village
of Joncourt, were obliged to relinquish their gains in order to bend
back their line diagonally to join up with the mixed Australians and
New Yorkers at Bony. The German hinge at that point was not to be
broken until the next day; north of Bony the 27th's line that night
slanted back, in order to face as far as possible the murderous fire on
its exposed flank, to the outpost line from which they had been unable
to advance. The 27th had suffered 4,000 casualties since September
27th. Now, as fast as units could be gathered and re-formed, it was
withdrawn for reorganization, as was the 30th, leaving the Australians
to finish the task. The fact that our Meuse-Argonne offensive had
slowed down, and that at other points the progress of the general
Allied movement was being stayed, may account, judging from German
reports I have read, for a return of German staff confidence which was
imparted to the German veterans, who, after their brilliant and savage
use of their amazing opportunities against the 27th, kept up their
resistance point by point for four days before the Australians had
gained the complete objective set for the 27th on September 29th. It
is never a pleasant task for any body of troops to have to do the work
assigned to another; but the Australian staff had made the plan, and
the "Aussies" accepted the legacy we had left with a spirit in keeping
with their comradeship for the Americans. From our staff and our army,
from the state of New York and our country, as well as from the men of
the 27th, ever willing to give it with full hearts, they deserve the
tribute due to their bravery and fellowship.

I may add that this was the Australians' last action. After thirteen
months of continuous fighting they were sent into winter quarters. The
men who had been out from home since 1914--and the Americans who were
homesick after three months in France can imagine what this meant--were
just starting on their first home leave when the armistice came. May
the recollection of how they fought at our side in a war to end war
keep the friendship of the two peoples secure.

On the night of October 5th the 30th Division, which had suffered far
less than the 27th, relieved the Australians. The job was finished;
on this part as on the rest of the British front, the once glorious
Hindenburg line was left behind, suddenly become a somewhat frowsy
irrelevance of deserted trenches, dugouts, shell-craters, and tangles
of barbed wire. With its passing one knew that, for the northern half
of the front, there was no question of stopping; careful, methodical
planning, mindful of the necessary vigorous thrusts at the key
positions of railway centers and canal and river defenses, would
irresistibly sweep the enemy back to the Meuse line, while the slower
movement "down below"--as the French and American fronts seemed from
the north--would question his ability to stand even there.

Not that there was to be any spectacular rush about the movement,
though one looked expectantly at the fitness of the British cavalry,
which was always kept ready; the German staff could be expected to
handle itself in this its most serious emergency. The spectacular and
amazing thing was the steady, unruffled forward movement of millions of
men, glacier-like in its assuredness. The temper of victory revealed
itself in the eyes and bearing of the men who had waited four years,
and who now saw Ypres disengaged, Lille on the point of recovery, Lens,
Cambrai, Saint-Quentin restored to France. Americans might feel out of
place in the midst of rejoicings, the depth of which they could not
measure because they had not known the suffering which had gone before.

The Second Corps was now to take part in the advance of one French
and three British armies which, by November 1st, was to expand until
the whole line from the sea to the Argonne was in motion. From north
of Cambrai to south of Saint-Quentin the line was to reach its apex
before Le Cateau in the attack of October 8th-10th; on the 14th the
Franco-Belgian and British attack north of Lille was to start bringing
the line up to this level; from the 17th to the 25th the southern
British and French armies would again take up the offensive to the
gates of Valenciennes, while the French armies "around the corner"
on the right would have passed over the Saint-Gobain bastion and
straightened out the corner.

The plan of the advances in which the Second Corps took part was
simple. The enemy had none but hastily organized defenses, and if
he were pushed hard enough he would go. So the artillery was to be
moved as far forward as possible to give the necessary protection to
the infantry; the attack would start all along the thirty-mile front
for generous objectives, and could be expected to go fairly well for
two or three days, when stubborn resistance at various points would
make it necessary to halt the advance until supplies were brought up
and the resistance overcome in another general effort. The artillery
declared that this was getting to be too much of an infantry war,
nothing counting except keeping up with their giddy romp across
fields. The infantry might have replied that they were pushing on so
fast in order to keep the Germans from destroying the roads and light
railways which the artillery and transport would be using. Not that
I wish to imply that the infantry found it a giddy romp; there were
always the machine-guns and the front-line artillery batteries, and,
especially on the first day of the attack, a considerable quantity
of "h-vic" shells, as they were called on the British front, from the
large-calibre guns which were protecting the withdrawal of field-guns
and material.

There was no question, however, of the withdrawal. When the 30th
Division, after two days of waiting on the two miles of Corps front
which the Australians had handed over, started forward on October 8th
along the south edge of the Roman Road to Le Cateau, it was able to
cover three miles by noon, taking the fair-sized towns of Brancourt
and Prémont, and a number of solid farmhouses and small copses, on
the way. Enough guns were moved up over virtually undamaged roads
to permit another start at dawn on the 9th; and the end of that day
found the Southerners four miles farther on and in possession of the
important railway center and large town of Busigny, which the enemy had
relinquished practically without a struggle. Another mile was gained
on the 10th, and the division line brought to the Selle river, which
was not much of a river in the eyes of the Americans, but on which
the enemy had obviously intended to call a halt. The railway yards in
front of Le Cateau, in the sector of the Thirteenth British Corps on
the left, gave violent resistance to any further progress on that side;
the rearward movement of enemy field-guns had apparently stopped, to
judge from the quantity of shell-fire and gas which now came over;
and worried intelligence officers were doing their best to decipher
the mystery of prisoners from eleven German divisions who had been
taken on the two-mile front. Incidentally, it should be said that the
Southerners had gathered in 1,900 Germans in three days, which was more
than their share of the total of 12,000 prisoners captured by the three
British armies.

One who knew the dreary waste of the Somme battlefield, or indeed the
level ruins of any part of the old trench line, might well rub his eyes
when he came into this fresh landscape, where the Southerners seemed as
much at home as if they had never seen mountains. One had forgotten,
it seemed as if one had never known, that you could have war in a
country where women and children walked about the streets, and lived in
intact houses, and even went to shop, to school, and to mass. A Corps
officer who had worked with Hoover in Belgium found a familiar task in
distributing food to the four thousand civilians in the sector.

Sterner fighting was to follow from October 17th for the weakened
divisions, which had received no replacements to bring them up from
half strength, and which could therefore, together, take over little
more than a mile of front. Starting from the Selle river south of Le
Cateau, they met a stubborn resistance until the stand made by the
enemy in that town, which had seen a fierce British resistance in
1914 in the retreat from Mons, was overcome by the Thirteenth British
Corps; then our Southerners and New Yorkers, having advanced four miles
in three days, were relieved and sent back to the dreary Somme fields
east of Amiens. Had it been necessary to fight a way into Germany, they
would probably have been called on again for their manly share.

As it was, they were the only American troops, aside from scattered
units, which were not to be gathered into the fold of the main American
forces. That this isolation did not please them is understandable;
but I suspect that it was good for them. There could not be the
exaggeration of their part in the final victory which there might have
been if they had had American food and had seen none but American
activity about them. If officially the British made much of them, they
realized that it was not only for what they had done but in honor of
the country which had sent them forth to fight for the common cause.



XIV

DISENGAGING RHEIMS

  The race-horse division in another spearhead action--Regulars and
  Marines--A division that had learned coördination--Trying for
  Blanc-Mont--One attack that cost nothing--An exhausted division
  reinforced by the new Southwestern division--Which keeps up with the
  Marines--The 36th learns fast--And pursues the enemy to the Aisne.


Ever the demand from all parts of the Allied line was for American
troops. Their speed in attack had become a recognized factor in
the plans of the unified command, which moved them about with an
inconsiderate rapidity which was hard on shoe-leather and most
uncomfortable. The very sight of the soldiers of our young army moving
into a sector of their line before an action quickened the spirits of
the veterans of the old armies.

If Sir Douglas Haig had two American divisions for storming the
Hindenburg line, then General Gouraud, whose Fourth Army had broken
the trench line for gains west of the Argonne Forest, in conjunction
with our advance between the Forest and the Meuse, must have two
divisions for the next step in the general offensive movement which
was to disengage Rheims, in a drive northward from Somme-Py to the
Aisne. These two included the 2nd, Marines and Regulars, the race-horse
division, which had the longest experience in France of any regular
division except the pioneers of the 1st. Our sore need of its veteran
skill in the Meuse-Argonne had to yield to an urgent request, which
amounted to a command, from higher authority. Naturally, the 2nd would
have preferred being with our own army; but wherever it was it would
fight well. It was to add to its laurels now in the rolling country
of Champagne, where the deep strata of chalk under the light subsoil
formed solid walls for defenses, accrued through four years of digging,
as distinct on the background of the landscape as the white tape on a
tennis court or the base-lines on a baseball diamond. Soldiers in blue
or khaki, after fighting in this region in rainy weather, looked like
men who had just come from work in a flour-mill, where they had been
wrestling with the splashing mill-wheel. It was a custom to rub helmets
with the chalk of parapets for the sake of invisibility.

The action in which the 2nd was again, as on July 18th, to play the
part of the spearhead was to cut the Rheims salient by thrusts on the
sides, much as one would push in the roofless walls of a house on a man
within, which is much more reasonable than trying to break up through
the floor to get at him. The third German offensive of May had all but
encircled Rheims from the west; had the last and unsuccessful offensive
attained its end of a deep advance east of the city, Rheims would
have been far behind the enemy's line. As it was, heroic resistance
had saved the city, at the price of leaving it for four months in a
salient as pronounced and as dangerous as the Ypres salient, which
must be reversed and then broken. The reversal which would put the
enemy in turn into a salient was started west of Rheims, on September
30th, by General Berthelot's Fifth Army; in a three days' advance his
line, pivoting on the city, swung up from an east-west direction to a
northwest-southeast direction, effectively turning the salient inside
out. The line now ran for some twenty miles southeast past the edge
of Rheims, turned east through Champagne for another fifteen miles to
Aubérive, and then, as a result of General Gouraud's advances from
September 26th, turned northeast to the northern end of the Argonne.
A simultaneous attack by Berthelot, on the west face of this flat arc
with a thirty-mile chord, and by Gouraud on the east face, would send
the enemy scurrying back to a maximum depth of twenty-five miles to the
line of the Aisne river, which here runs roughly east and west.

From just north of Somme-Py, in the center of the up-slanting east face
of the salient, the 2nd Division, attached with French divisions to
the Twenty-first Corps, was to strike over chalk ridges and through
woods northwest toward Machault. The attack was first set for October
2nd, but was postponed while the division spent this day in cleaning
German recalcitrants out of a portion of the trench system taken over
from a French division which had captured it. The Corps orders for the
attack were then issued so late that there was not time to have them
translated and written out, as the custom was, for the sake of accuracy
which was considered indispensable to the team-play of units; but they
had to be sent orally to our two brigades.

In the center of the field of attack was the Vipère Wood, which was
known to hold many machine-gun nests. By a converging movement the
Marine brigade was to pass this wood on the left, and the Regular
brigade to pass it on the right in flank, and form line beyond
it,--which was not a mission a general would assign to tyros who had
not yet learned to maintain the _liaison_ of their units in difficult
fighting. In order to go into position, the Regular brigade had a
night march around the rear of the line. Happily the men of the 2nd
Division had had experience of this sort of thing. They had gone in on
the run at Château-Thierry, and again in the crucial drive at Soissons
on July 18th. It had been said that they did things best in a hurry,
which may have led to their being relied on as "hit-and-run"-experts;
nevertheless they had an idea of their own that if they might have
moved into line and looked over the ground a few hours before going
into an attack, instead of charging when they were breathless from
sprinting, they might have done equally well with slightly less nerve
strain.

As the French guides who were to meet the Regular brigade at dark and
show it the way did not appear, which was a common failing with guides,
the brigade had to grope about among shell-craters and communication
trenches to find its jumping-off place, which was still partly occupied
by the enemy. By 5 A.M. only six companies were in position; but by
5.50, the hour for attack, thanks to the owl's eyes and instinct of
direction which seemed to be a part of the equipment of the 2nd, every
company was up in order, ready for the charge. With tanks assisting
against its machine-gun nests, they swept past the Vipère Wood. A loss
of twenty per cent of their infantry did not interfere with their
reaching their two-mile objective on schedule time at 8.30.

The race-horse proclivities of the 2nd, having been developed on no
level speedway but over all the hurdles of modern defense against
all arms of fire, were accentuated by the rivalry of the Regular and
Marine brigades. The Marine was the better brigade of the two. All the
Marines say so. I agree with them. The Regular brigade was also the
better. All the Regulars say so. I agree with them. If the Marines
were up to their objective, the Regulars must be; and if the Regulars
were up the Marines must be, or die in the attempt. No ifs, or buts,
or excuses of any kind except casualties were ever accepted in the
2nd for not advancing. And you must not lose life unskillfully, or
your brigade might be convicted of not being as professional as the
other,--and that would be a disgrace. The 2nd had been fortunate in
its commanders. Major-General Harbord, a Regular, had leaned backward
toward the Marines; and Major-General Lejeune, a Marine officer, who
was now in command, leaned backward toward the Regulars. They were wise
men, occupied with making the 2nd the "best" division in the army.

Despite the trouble it met on the way from cross-fire and machine-gun
nests in the Somme-Py Wood, the Marine brigade was also up on schedule
time at 8.30. The two brigades had not been thinking much of their
flanks; they were concerned in racing each other. While either
considered the other incapable of its own stride, neither thought that
any brigade in the world except itself could keep pace with the other.
They were not surprised to find that the French were not up on their
flanks; and the fact that the French were not, interfered with the
success of another advance planned for 11 A.M., unless the 2nd were
to drive into a salient which increasing machine-gun fire indicated as
an unprofessional effort,--suicide not being professional with the 2nd
unless one brigade should make it a custom which the other would have
to follow.

Though the French on the right might hold up their end in a further
attack before noon, there was no chance that the French on the left
could: with the Marine front line more than two miles in advance, the
French were still occupied in trying to conquer the sinuous warrens
of the Essen trench, which was acting an assassin's part in the rear
of the Marines. Indeed, the Germans were counter-attacking, further
intensifying the seriousness of the situation. The reserve regiment of
Marines had other work to do than assisting the front-line regiment in
a further advance. While its men, in helping the French division, were
breaching dugouts, using their bayonets, throwing and dodging bombs
as they rushed around traverses and met counter-rushes in an infernal
hand-to-hand wrestle, and sending out chalk-plastered Germans in torn
uniforms to join the groups of prisoners and wounded coming from the
front, Marshal Foch sent a telegram of congratulation to the Corps,
with word to press the advance.

At 4 P.M., when the reserve regiment of the Marines had finished its
task in applying in savage hand-to-hand fighting, characteristic of
the old days before open warfare became the rule, all its training in
trench warfare, an order was given to obey that of the Marshal; but
it hardly concerned the front regiment of Marines, which was without
the support of the reserve regiment, while the retarded French on the
flank, still fighting hard for their gains, were well to the rear. The
reserve regiment of the Regulars, passing through the front regiment,
made three-quarters of a mile, where it met machine-gun fire from both
flanks. At 7.30, the French on the left having made progress, the
reserve regiment of Marines, passing through the front regiment, made
another hard-won gain against flanking fire, and in the darkness had to
repulse two counter-attacks.

It had been a great day even for the 2nd Division, with four miles
of advance and a toll of two thousand prisoners; a day of systematic
and masterly fighting which had added to its list of honors that of
forcing the Germans forever out of the deep maze of the Champagne
trenches. The trucks and the rolling kitchens as well as the artillery,
which had never been far behind the infantry, were up that night;
and the ambulances, in keeping with the race-horse spirit, running
close up to the front, had made a record in their expeditious care of
the wounded, who had been gathered with a promptness, in the fields
under fire, worthy of a show drill at maneuvers. For if we had any
division which knew how, and had reasons of long service for knowing
how, to coördinate all its branches in action, it was the division
which had learned its lessons in the taking of Belleau Wood, Vaux, and
Vauxcastille.

It need not be said that the program was to continue the advance the
next day; but the Germans had been preparing overnight to impede its
fulfillment with something of the same ferocity they had shown in the
Essen trench. As usual in these days, after the Allied attack had spent
its initial momentum in breaking them out of their fortifications, the
Germans reacted by applying open warfare tactics on a second line of
resistance. While the French were striving to come up on both flanks,
the whole line was being deluged with shells and machine-gun fire.
On the afternoon of the first day, the Marines by their customarily
swift tactics had taken a portion of Blanc-Mont--the adjective being
used before the name, contrary to modern French fashion--a hill which
ran back in an irregular shelf covered by patches of sparse woods.
Well-made trenches, dugouts, and communicating trenches so easily
dug and kept up in the firm chalk, were evidence of the German's
appreciation of the hill's importance in the defense of their positions
east of Rheims.

A congeries of machine-gun nests on its west slope, which was still
untaken, by its enfilade fire from our sector had stopped the advance
of the French on the left. Without waiting for them, and with a view
to clearing the way for them, the Marines on the afternoon of the 4th,
supported by their artillery, attacked this position. They tested out
its strength well enough, in face of withering blasts, to learn that
they must devise another plan of assault. This was a wise precaution,
as the event was to prove. They spent the night in tireless and
canny preparations for the next day's effort. Early in the morning a
battalion started over the ridge. They did not want for shields; and
their confidence in the accuracy of their veteran artillery led them to
keep close behind the smothering fire of the barrage with a speed and
agility in the systematic advance of their units which made a record
even for the race-horse division. The German machine-gunners, as they
saw that hurricane of bursting shells approaching, rushed to cover,
which they hugged in desperate and prayerful intimacy as it passed over
them. They rose, to find that a human whirlwind in its train was upon
them. Without a single casualty the battalion had taken 213 prisoners
and 75 machine-guns. The thing seemed miraculous; but there were the
machine-guns, and there were the startled Germans who had thrown
up their hands. When I went over the ground, still littered with
equipment and scattered cartridge cases, that commanded every avenue
of approach, I had an example which might well be quoted in all future
text-books of how speed and skill may get "the jump" on an enemy. Here
was certainly something, not to tell the Marines, but for the Marines
to tell those Regulars, who, holding a large section of the line, could
respond that though they had no theatrical exhibits to please the
gallery gods they were having an affair of their own which might make
any Marine thankful for his health's sake that he was climbing hills.

On the right of the Regular brigade the French had not yet taken
Médéah farm, which was a perfect haven for machine-guns bearing on
the Regulars' flank. The Germans, in this section, were fighting
hard enough to atone for the easy surrender of their comrades on
Blanc-Mont in their defense of the ridges in front of the village of
Saint-Etienne-à-Arnes, the next landmark in the path of the 2nd's
progress. The Marines found a thorn in the flesh in a strong point near
Blanc-Mont, whose defenders refused to be stampeded. Enemy artillery
fire was furious throughout the 5th. On the morning of the 6th, at
6.30, under another hurricane barrage, a regiment of Regulars and
one of Marines side by side set out to take the last ridge before
Saint-Etienne. This meant that something had to break. It was one of
the occasions when professional spirit did not consider the folly of
suicide, as the rival units charged side by side. They took the ridge
with a loss that was estimated at thirty per cent, and dug in. The
French on the left had forged ahead. Meanwhile, with the French on
the right valiantly struggling against Médéah farm, and our Regulars
checked, our line was at a sharp angle.

It had been a grueling day for a division which notably never spared
itself in its high-strung intensity; and four or five days seem to
have been the limit of endurance for soldiers who were continuously
fighting. Relief for the 2nd was due. On the night of the 6th the
36th Division, National Guard of Texas and Oklahoma, under command
of Major-General William R. Smith, which was lately from home and
had never been under fire before, began arriving. Its fresh and
inexperienced battalions were now mixed with the tired battalions of
the 2nd to learn the art of war at first hand from old masters, who
included not only their comrades of the Regulars and Marines but the
Germans in a very ugly mood. After a day of reorganizing and digging,
while the French were in the outskirts of Saint-Etienne, the Marines on
the left and a regiment of the 36th on the right charged Saint-Etienne
on the morning of the 8th. The French were reported to have patrols
in the town, but a portion of it at least seemed to be very much in
the hands of the enemy. At least his machine-gunners, in the course of
their supple infiltrations, had established themselves in the adjoining
cemetery, which gave them a free sweep of fire across the ground of
our advance, which was open fields without any more cover than a house
floor. For half a kilometer the men of the 36th kept their line even
with the veterans. The Marines entered the town while the men of the
36th were still in the open.

It was the Southwesterners' first taste of machine-gun nests. They had
no standards of previous experience for judgment as to the density of
fire which would warrant a halt. Their orders were to keep on going;
and they kept on. In front of them, as they crossed the open, was a
wooded ravine. Our guns could not bombard it with any appreciable
effect upon its nests, which were sending a tornado of bullets into
the 36th's charge in addition to the shower of shells from the German
guns. The Southwesterners who were meeting both bullets and shells
for the first time did not fall back before this deadly combination
of artillery and machine-gun fire, which would have dismayed hardened
veterans at their best, until they had kept faith with Alamo traditions
by losing a third of their numbers.

The 2nd's engineers now came up for a fighting part in protecting our
hard-pressed flanks. We withdrew our front to the town, which we held.
Meanwhile, though the French had taken Médéah farm, the division's
right was still well back of the line of Saint-Etienne. All day of the
9th was spent in re-forming our position after the see-sawing conflict
of the 8th; but the Germans, far from showing any signs of withdrawal,
made a counter-attack on the French beyond Médéah farm and on our
Regulars, who repulsed it with their rifle fire.

The race-horse division, which had been hurried from the mud of
the Saint-Mihiel sector without time to rest, had been doing a
steeple-chase for nine days. Physical exhaustion claimed it for its
own. As it withdrew, with casualties of 4,771 and the capture of 1,963
prisoners from eight German divisions, the Regulars and Marines and the
French of the Twenty-first Corps had the satisfaction of knowing that
German guns had fired their last shot at the cathedral and the ruins of
the city of Rheims.

The Texans and Oklahomans who now took up the battle were assigned the
tired artillery of the 2nd, as they had no guns of their own. They
lacked horses, transport, and nearly everything a division should have,
except rifles, which were in the hands of men who knew how to use them.
On the morning of the 10th their reconnaissance in force showed that
the enemy artillery and machine-gun fire was as powerful as ever. It
was hardly in the books that an inexperienced division should begin
a movement in the dark; but the French being ready to advance on the
left, the 36th began an attack that evening.

The Germans, already preparing for retreat, still had large forces
of field artillery in range. Evidently they were determined to take
revenge on these new troops by expending in the rapid fire of a
prolonged bombardment all they could of their ammunition, instead of
leaving it behind to be captured. The accurate and moving sheet of
death which was laid down upon the advancing infantry of the 36th
was the kind from which men will withdraw in the sheer instinct of
self-preservation. Indeed, a panic would have been excusable. But the
lean tall Texans and Oklahomans had not come all the way from home
to be in a battle at last with any idea of celebrating the occasion,
or gratifying the Germans, by a retreat, because of a display of
fireworks. Among the leaping flashes in the dark, with voices unheard
and men revealed for an instant in shadowy outline, with officers who
had the direction of units being killed and wounded, with gaps being
torn in the line, there was bound to be some disorganization. But
there was no faltering. The Texans and Oklahomans are not by nature
panicky. They accepted stoically this screaming tumult of destruction.
Particularly it was not the nature of the Indians among them to be
distracted by a "heap big noise." Officers agreed that there was no
problem except that of keeping units together. All the men wanted was
to "get back" at the German, straight into his barrage. Pressing on as
they closed up their gaps, the charging groups with the bit in their
teeth took the village of Machault.

The enemy resistance had suddenly broken. After this final spasm of
splenetic reprisal, all the German guns were moving fast toward the
Aisne. The Texans and Oklahomans did not waste much time over the
machine-gunners who attempted a rearguard action, but "hiked" ahead
for fifteen miles in a single day, as a reminder to the 2nd, which
had considered them "tenderfeet," that in the matter of long-distance
racing they yielded the honor to nobody. Bridges destroyed, machine-gun
nests established on the north of the river, the German served notice
that he was to make another stand. The Texans and Oklahomans enjoyed
themselves in swimming across on scouting trips and in a period of
active sniping gratifying to ranger inheritance. The last day they
were in line they completed their brief service by cleaning up Forest
farm, east of Attigny, in an uninterrupted rush which gave them the
opportunity to make the most of their qualities, and in ejecting the
enemy from a bend in the river which he still held. Their casualties
were 2,651, and they had taken 813 prisoners and an engineer depot
worth ten millions of dollars, which had supplied that section of the
German line for four years. It was their only battle, but they had
fought it in a way to make the most of it, in attest to the enemy of
what might be expected of such a new division, if, fully equipped, it
should take to the war-path again.



XV

VETERANS DRIVE A WEDGE

  Skill essential to break the heights east of the Aire--The "per
  schedule" 1st Division--The much-used 32nd Division--A combined
  frontal attack on October 4th--A thin wedge to Fléville on the
  Aire--Which is broadened to the east the next day.


After this diversion to the accounts of divisions detached for other
offensives, we return now to our own battle in the Meuse-Argonne, where
we had learned to our cost in the two last days of September that no
nibbling attacks at the close of a drive that had spent its momentum
would serve our purpose against the gathering power of the enemy. There
was no abatement in our industry as we rested our weary divisions still
in line, replaced exhausted with fresh divisions, brought up fresh
material, improved our road facilities, and tightened our organization
during the temporary deadlock of furious nagging under incessant fire
at the front.

[Illustration: MAP NO. 7
IN THE TROUGH OF THE AIRE.]

All thought centered, every finger moving about a map eventually
came to rest, on the bastion of the heights to the east of the Aire
river. To the west its fire swept across the river trough, where the
Pennsylvanians of the 28th Division were in a vise, to the Forest where
the New York City men of the 77th were held fast in their tracks;
southwest and south it looked down upon Exermont ravine and the ground
which the Missourians and Kansans had had to yield after the charges
that had taken the last of their strength, leaving the 28th's flank in
the trough further exposed; southeast upon Gesnes and Cierges, where
the battalions of the Pacific Coast men of the 91st and the Ohio men
of the 37th in their weariness had been stopped by its blasts; and to
the east on the valley north of Montfaucon, where the Eastern Coast men
of the 79th had expended the last of their reserves against the Ogons
Wood, and beyond upon the stalwart 4th, which was also being shelled by
the batteries across the Meuse, whose bank the Illinois men of the 33rd
were holding.

This mighty outpost locked the door to all the approaches to the
whale-back. There was no use of puttering with Fabian tactics; it could
be taken only by a spearhead drive. Though salients are the bane of
generals, the only thing to do in this case was to make a salient. For
this we must have troops of the mettle of Pickett's charge and the
charge at Cold Harbor, whose courage would hesitate at no sacrifice,
and whose skill and thrift would win victory with their sacrifice.

Our 1st was our pioneer division in France. It had fired our first
shot in the war; had fought the first American offensive at Cantigny;
had driven through with the loss of half its infantry to the heights
of Soissons in turning the tide against the Germans; and in its swift
and faultless maneuver in the Saint-Mihiel operation it had joined
hands with the 26th Division to close the salient. Being a proved
"shock" division, too valuable to be kept in a stationary line when
another offensive was in preparation, it was immediately withdrawn from
Saint-Mihiel and sent to the Meuse-Argonne area, where its presence in
reserve was a consoling thought. At first the Army command considered
expending it in a sweep up the east bank of the Meuse to take the
heights which were raking our Third Corps with flanking artillery fire;
and later considered using it to follow through the center, after the
taking of Montfaucon, in a direct thrust at the whale-back. These
missions had to yield to the more pressing one, which stopped all
traffic to make way for its rapid march around the rear of the line on
September 30th to take the place of the 35th in face of these monstrous
heights.

This division wasted little time and few words on sentiment. The
hardships of war had become a matter of course to its survivors.
Recruits who filled the gaps from death, as they were rapidly
inculcated into its standards, absorbed the professional spirit. "You
belong to the 1st, Buddy. And this is the way we do things in the
1st"--was the mandate of initiation into a proud company, which was
facing its second winter in France. The only way to escape another
winter in France was to win the war; and the way to win the war was
by hard fighting. The regular field officers had been trained in a
severe school; five out of six of the company officers were reservists.
It was one of these young lieutenants, later killed in action, who
characterized the views of the division when he said: "This is a mean
and nasty kind of war, but it's the only war we've got, and I hope
it's the last we'll ever have. The right way to fight it is to be just
as mean and nasty, and just as much on the job, as the mean and nasty
Boche."

In command was Major-General Charles P. Summerall, who had led the 1st
in the drive to Soissons. He is a leader compounded of all kinds of
fighting qualities, a crusader and a calculating tactician, who, some
say, can be as gentle as a sweet-natured chaplain, while others say
that he is nothing but brimstone and ruthless determination. "As per
schedule" are the first words of his divisional report, which is as
brief and cold prose as I have seen, describing as hot action as I have
ever known. He might be called "per schedule" Summerall, and the 1st
the "per schedule" division.

Another veteran division was to form the right side of the wedge: the
32nd, National Guard of Michigan and Wisconsin, under Major-General
William G. Haan, a leader whose fatherly direction and "flare"
communicated team-play and enthusiasm which an iron will could drive to
its limit in battle. Iron was needed now: the iron of the spearhead,
which would not blunt. The 32nd knew open warfare from its storming
of the heights of the Ourcq in the Château-Thierry operations; and
working its way over trench warrens from its three days' fighting as
a division attached to Mangin's Army in the Juvigny operation north
of Soissons. Sent from its first hard battle to its second without
time for rest or replacements, it marched away from Juvigny, after
losses of seven thousand six hundred men in the two battles, with half
its requisite number of infantry officers and its infantry companies
reduced to one hundred men. When it went into camp at Joinville, it
had eight days, hardly enough to recuperate from its exhaustion,
in which to train in its veteran ways five thousand replacements,
before, with only two hundred men to the company--and half recruits,
be it remembered,--and with each company short three officers, it was
started for the Meuse-Argonne area. But it was considered--it must be
considered--veteran by the Army command for this emergency, which was
to give it a front of three miles in the place of the relieved 37th and
91st Divisions. The Arrow division, as it was called, which had twice
pierced the German line, was to pierce it a third time before it was
withdrawn again.

In comparison with the 32nd, the 1st was at the top of its form. It had
not had heavy losses since its Soissons drive of July 18th-22nd. The
two months' training of the replacements which it had then received
included its experience in the Saint-Mihiel operation, which had been
instructive without leaving many gaps in its ranks. On the 1st's front
were the 5th Guard and 52nd German Divisions, which had come fresh into
line. So veterans met veterans. The character of the opposition which
the Missourians and Kansans of the 35th, whom the 1st had relieved, had
faced, may be judged by the fact that for the four days in line before
it advanced the 1st had daily average casualties of five hundred,
while its men were hugging their fox-holes, readjusting their line,
and throwing out patrols to gain information of service in the coming
attack.

Immediately ahead of it was the Montrebeau Wood, which the Germans had
been fortifying since they recovered it from the 35th; beyond that the
deep broad Exermont ravine, guarded in the center by the Montrefagne,
or Hill 240, with its crest crowned by woods which covered its slopes
almost to the edge of the ravine. This was only the highest of the
series of hills which extended west to east from the Aire valley across
the sector of the 32nd. When the first series was taken, other hills
still higher commanded the valleys and reverse slopes beyond, in a
witchery of irregularities which had their culmination in a final
congeries of wooded hills in front of the Kriemhilde Stellung of the
whale-back, some six miles beyond the 1st's line of departure. Every
open space was covered by interlocking machine-gun nests supported
by artillery concentrations. Ravines were corridors for the sweep of
fire; or if they gave cover their ends were sealed by fire. With its
left moving along the eastern wall of the Aire, its flank naked to the
fire from the western wall, the 1st was to drive a human wedge over
these hills in order to gain one of the two sides of the trough, whose
interlocking and plunging fire, as we have seen, had stayed the First
Corps in the trough and in the Forest. Of course, the 1st would "go
through" at the start. Its own record and standards compelled it to
go through. It would make the wedge. What would be the result after
the wedge was made? Unless the point of the wedge were protected by
a spreading movement at its base, it would be crushed by pressure
from both sides. Here the part of the 32nd became vital in gaining
the hills on its front, which, remaining in the enemy's hands, would
threaten the right of the 1st with a fire interlocking with that from
the western wall of the Aire. In the valley of the Aire, of course, the
Pennsylvanians of the 28th were to try to advance under cover of the
1st's thrust. If they were checked, and the 32nd were also checked, the
Germans would not be slow to see or to improve their opportunity to
force a repetition of the bloody result of Pickett's charge and of the
assault at Cold Harbor.

The 1st and the 32nd were not the only veterans attacking on October
4th. There was to be an offensive along our whole line to engage the
enemy at every point to support the prime object of making the wedge.
The 1st started for its objectives at the same hour, daylight, as
the other divisions. Its left overran the Germans of the 5th Guard
Division in Montrebeau Wood, and swept down into the Exermont ravine.
There the groups of dead of the 35th, killed by shell-bursts, gave
warning against "bunching" that the men of the 1st took to heart.
They did not move forward in dense formation, but in thin swift lines
offering the enemy few targets, and those briefly. Orders were simple;
responsibility direct and ruthlessly delegated. Company leaders knew
what to do against machine-gun nests, and they did it, thanks to the
fresh vigor and thorough training of the men.

Quivering under the blows of the hammer of command and determination,
the left was driven three miles that day, against fire from three
directions manipulated by the cleverly conceived and cunningly executed
open warfare tactics of the enemy: in and out of the folds of ground,
uphill and downhill, taking machine-guns with barrels hot, as the
German gunners fired until the last moment. That night it sent patrols
into Fléville, a village on the bank of the Aire at the foot of a
bluff, with the Germans holding the other bank three miles in their
rear. The possession of Fléville was that of a name on the map, which
read well in communiqués. Holding the high ground above it was what
counted, in the same way that possession of the porch counts if you
wish to throw stones at a man on the driveway below; and holding it in
face of fire from flank and rear flank required men who would dig holes
and stick to them. The wedge was made, but it was a sharp one of only
one brigade front, as things had not gone as well as they might either
with the right of the 1st or with the 32nd.

[Illustration: MAP NO. 8
THE APPROACH OF THE CENTER TO THE WHALE-BACK.]

The right of the 1st crossing Exermont ravine under enfilade and
frontal fire charged into the wooded slopes of the Montrefagne, or Hill
240. Twice that day we had the hill; and twice the Germans, reinforced,
surged back and drove us off. Our men were saying that "every Boche who
didn't have a machine-gun had a cannon"; for the enemy, realizing the
value of every foot of ground, was using roving guns attached to his
infantry battalions. We were doing the same. There were instances, in
the course of this battle for the heights, when our infantry charges
came within a hundred feet of field guns which the enemy boldly--and
it seemed miraculously--withdrew under our rifle fire to the cover of
reverse slopes.

The repulse of the right of the 1st was of course intimately concerned
with the situation of the 32nd, which was fighting against the same
kind of tactics on the same general kind of ground, which had its own
particularly refractory qualities. Before the attack the Arrows had
entered Cierges, which they found unoccupied; but the German evacuation
of the village only opened up a field of approach commanded by the
strengthened defenses of the surrounding positions, which had already
forced the withdrawal of the last of the reserves of the 37th and 91st
in their final charges before being relieved. Thus the 32nd had its
center in a kind of trough, commanded by heights and woods. Gesnes was
its first goal; but to take Gesnes the positions east and west of it
must be conquered. On the right the charge reached the summit of Hill
239, due east of the village of Gesnes, but could go no farther. To
the west were the two woods Chêne Sec and Morine, forming a single
oblong patch. The left charged them repeatedly, in vain. The Arrows
were fighting with veteran will, but their charges could not proceed
against the welter of machine-gun and artillery fire, while they were
swept by bullets from German aeroplanes flying audaciously low.

In all that long day of ceaseless endeavor, when its replacements
were learning their lessons hot from the enemy's guns and rifles, the
32nd had been able to gain a little more than half a mile, with every
rod counted. Its effort and that of the right of the 1st, let it be
repeated, had been mutually dependent for success on their _liaison_ in
the hectic rushes of units for points of advantage over the treacherous
ground. That is, if an element of one division made a gain, it must
have the support of a gain by the other. Though the wedge made by the
left of the 1st on October 4th was narrower than we had planned, we did
have a wedge, and where we wanted it--on the wall of the Aire valley.
We must not lose that wedge, though the 28th had been able to make only
a slight advance in the valley. The dangerous position of the left of
the 1st on the bluff above Fléville called for desperately hard driving
the next day by both the 32nd and the 1st's retarded right.

In supporting the 1st's right, whose advance was so vital in protecting
the entrant the 1st's left had made, the 32nd set its heart on gaining
the block of the Morine and Chêne Sec woods and Hill 255 beyond. From
midnight to the hour of attack, all the artillery of the 32nd pounded
them, keeping the dark masses of the woods and the outlines of the
hill flickeringly visible in the flashes of a stream of bursting
shells, which it would seem no defender could withstand. At 6.30 three
battalions of infantry began the assault of the woods, and over the
fresh shell-craters, past smashed machine-gun nests, through a litter
of fallen saplings and splintered limbs, they kept on until they
reached the open. This was a triumph of incalculable value to the right
of the 1st, and in turn to the wedge on the Aire wall. But when the
charge started to go on to Hill 255, the artillery concentration could
not stifle the irresistible machine-gun fire of the nests hidden in all
the recesses of the forward slopes, or the guns on the reverse slopes
and on the series of heights beyond.

Meanwhile the center and right had passed the village of Gesnes through
encircling fire, which, once they were beyond the village, grew to such
volume that they were stopped. Demands went back for more shells from
the divisional artillery,--demands which the artillery of three or four
divisions and all the heavy artillery of the Army, which could alone
reach the more distant enemy guns, could not have filled. However, the
gunners gave all the volume in their power with all possible rapidity.
Again the infantry moved forward to the attack; but our bombardment
seemed only to have stirred up a heavier one in answer, and brought
additional enemy machine-guns to bear. It was hopeless to try to go on.
If the Arrows could not go on, it was folly to remain targets nailed
to exposed ground around Gesnes, and accordingly they withdrew through
the town, but still retaining the hard-won woods on the left, whose
possession was essential to the success of the attack of the right of
the 1st.

The 1st's goal on the 5th was that wooded hill and the wooded slopes of
the Montrefagne, which had resisted the efforts of yesterday. During
the night Summerall had appeared among his men, a dynamic, restless
figure, insisting that there must be no failure on the morrow. With all
the divisional artillery at play in a mobile pattern of fire, at once
smashing the enemy machine-gun nests and advancing the shields where
needed, the infantry in systematic charges continued making progress
until the Montrefagne was theirs. When darkness came, they joined up
with the left in line with Fléville. The wedge was this much broadened,
its position accordingly stronger. As the 28th had still been unable
to make much headway, the wedge could not be driven farther until the
base was spread, without exposing a longer flank to the fire from the
western wall of the Aire valley, and on the right from the sector of
the 32nd, whose elements were in poor _liaison_ that night with those
of the 1st. So the men of the 1st, become cave-dwellers on the heights
in their industrious digging, had one side of the Aire trough as far
as Fléville,--and that was the intrinsic value of the wedge. The next
step was to be the spreading of the wedge across the valley of the Aire
itself, by thrusting in another fresh division between the 1st and the
28th at the base of the bluffs to assault the Forest escarpments. This
movement would support the 1st, and would in turn be supported by the
1st's further advance.



XVI

MASTERING THE AIRE TROUGH

  West of the river--The 82nd Division called for--A difficult
  alignment--The outpost hills taken on the 7th of October--And the
  28th cleans up the escarpments on its front--The all-American
  character of the 82nd--The enemy defends desperately the remaining
  escarpments--Repeated charges up the bluffs--Which are cleared by the
  10th.


Hovering in reserve since September 26th, the 82nd Division, National
Army, was now to have its turn to be "expended" in the battle. During
its period of waiting it had two battalions severely shelled on the
way to assist the 35th Division in an attack which was countermanded;
and of course its engineers had been kept employed on the roads. No
engineers in sight were ever out of work, from the beginning to the
end of the battle. Previously the division, which had stayed but a
brief time on the British front, had served during the summer months
on the Toul front, where it had advanced on the extreme right flank of
the Saint-Mihiel operation. Originally formed in the South, the 82nd
had been called the "All-American" division because it had been filled
with draft men from all parts of the country, though its training-camp
associations remained Southern, and most of its officers were
Southerners. Now it was chosen for the thrust in the valley of the Aire
to spread the wedge which the 1st had driven.

We know how the 28th Division threw its men against the Argonne
escarpments in the first days of the battle. Since then it had remained
in the trough of the Aire under continual flanking fire, while its
units had alternate periods of rest; but after all it had endured, even
its determination could not give it the vigor of a fresh division. On
the 4th and 5th, while the 1st on its flank was advancing, and again
on the 6th, while the 1st was dug in, it had kept up its attacks, with
the net result that its left had made some further progress against
the Taille l'Abbé of infamous reputation, and its right had advanced
as far as Hill 180, a mile and a half to the south of the village of
Fléville where the men of the 1st were hugging the bluffs, which formed
a bastion in the trough interlocking the fire from either side.

Having moved down the valley of the Aire under the portion of the
eastern wall which the 1st held, the 82nd was to face west and attack
toward the western wall. Getting into position for the action was
itself a ticklish business as a tactical maneuver for the infantry.
The shell-swept road which it was to use for bringing its artillery
and transport up this narrow passage under the enemy's flanking
machine-gun nests, was already taxed with the transport of the 28th,
which was still to go on attacking. The 28th had sworn that it would
not leave the valley until it had taken the Taille l'Abbé. It had prior
rights to that formidable escarpment.

If ever a division needed capable guides, it was the 82nd on the night
of the 6th. It had to slip past Châtel-Chéhéry on the opposite bank of
the river, from which patrols of the 28th had been ejected in the day's
attack, and on past Hill 223 and Hill 180 to a point near Fléville, in
a winding, exposed passage. There were unexpected delays on the roads.
At 2.30 in the morning the artillery was stalled, and some of the
infantry was still at Varennes, five miles from its jumping-off place
for the attack set for three hours later. Guides failing to appear, it
was not surprising that the regiment which was to attack on the left,
or south, against Hill 223 should have gone too far in the darkness,
when a man was hardly visible ten yards away; and, after marching and
groping all night, should have had to retrace its steps. With men
exhausted and units confused, it arrived at its jumping-off line to
find that not a single gun was up for its support. An advance according
to schedule became out of the question.

By accepted canons this misfortune might have ruined the whole
movement, or at least led to delaying the movements of the other units;
but delays were out of the question. There was no time to communicate
counter-orders to the 28th, which had gathered all its strength for
a supreme effort whose success depended upon the coöperation of the
82nd. If the whole line could not go forward at daylight, then all of
it that could must go. Fortunately the dark night, which had screened
their movement from accurate fire by the enemy, was followed by a
thick morning fog. This was opportune in partially screening an attack
which must cross the river in face of the heights which they were
to storm. The right, or north, regiment, as it started on time, had
the advantage of the fog in its first rush. The men forded through
water two and three feet deep; the officers who were leading pulled
them up the steep banks on the other side. By 8.30 Hill 180, with its
machine-gun nests, which had been one of the bulwarks defying the thin
line of the 28th for nearly two weeks, was no longer in German hands.
The men of the left regiment, starting at 9 o'clock against a still
higher hill, 223, overlooking Châtel-Chéhéry, were swept at the fords
by enfilade shell-fire and storms of machine-gun bullets in front,
which made fearful gaps in their ranks. Under the spur of their delay,
considering nothing except that they must make up for lost time, they
plunged ahead, and once across they did not bother with any deliberate
infiltration around machine-gun nests, but simply swept over them in
headlong impatience. By one o'clock they had the hill, a portion of
which had been reached by a small detachment of the 28th. They did not
know whether or not the 28th had reached Châtel-Chéhéry until they saw
soldiers of the 28th climbing the steep sides of Hill 244 back of the
town. The fact that two-thirds of the men of two of the companies of
the 82nd were killed or wounded was evidence enough that the 1st was
not the only division willing to pay a price for gains when it was
called upon to be a human wedge. This finished the day's work for the
left regiment, except for a German counter-attack which received such
prompt and efficacious attention that another was not attempted.

The 82nd having taken over a portion of its line, the 28th had been
able to concentrate its forces on the remainder. Though by all criteria
the 28th should have been counted as already "expended," it had an
access of energy at the prospect of attacking under more favorable
circumstances the positions which had so long held it back. After
building a footbridge across the Aire, the right regiment charged
across the level toward the village of Châtel-Chéhéry, at the base
of the heights. This time the Pennsylvanians meant to put more than
patrols into the village. Lashed by gun-fire and whipped by machine-gun
fire from the heights which had them seemingly at their mercy, units
were riddled and their officers killed, with resulting dispersion as
undaunted survivors sought for dead spaces and cover. The colonel in
command fell mortally wounded by a machine-gun bullet while directing
his men. His soldiers avenged him not only by taking and holding
Châtel-Chéhéry, but that night they took Hill 244, the ridge following
south to the Taille l'Abbé, silencing its galling fire on the river
bottoms.

So much for the right. The left regiment was again to attack the
Taille l'Abbé. This, being farther south, and toward the rear, than
Châtel-Chéhéry, which was in turn south of the 82nd's front, further
illustrates the anomalous tactical situation and the interdependence
of all the diverse and treacherous elements of ground and dispositions
in the problem of supporting the driving of the 1st's wedge. In the
course of their arduous ten days' effort to carry out the original plan
of "scalloping" the Forest edge to protect the frontal attack of the
77th through the Forest, the Pennsylvanians had developed a sinuous
line around the slopes which in places ran at right angles to our
battlefront as a whole. It was a line with outposts holding ravines,
and groups clinging to vantage points of all kinds, who, in their
fox-holes, were the present masters of their destiny, isolated from
communication by day and approachable only by silent crawling under
cover of darkness. This process of infiltration had bent a shepherd's
crook around the Taille l'Abbé. All the whittling of ten long days came
to a head in the attack of October 7th, whose ax's blow cut deep into
the Forest to La Viergette, past the south flank of the Taille l'Abbé,
whose defenses must now crumple under the additional pressure from the
north.

While we are with the 28th, we shall follow its career through the Aire
valley to the end. On the 8th neither the general situation in relation
to the neighboring divisions nor its exhaustion warranted a general
attack by the 28th; but it did not neglect a little chore, which gave
it retributory satisfaction, in cleaning up the last of the machine-gun
nests and any vagrant Germans remaining on the hateful Abbé. Its goal
won, its honor avenged, it was now to have the rest which it had as
fully earned as the name of the "Iron Division," which it was now being
called. It was relieved on the night of the 8th-9th by the 82nd. In
a marvelous endurance test of twelve days, in which the men had gone
without cooked food under continual rains, the Pennsylvanians had
suffered 6,149 casualties, while 1,200 officers and men had been sent
to hospitals, ill as the result of the terrible strain and exposure.
They had advanced over six miles. They had taken 550 prisoners and 8
guns in their plodding gains against fearful odds; and do not forget,
as they will tell you, that they had also taken two German locomotives,
most useful for bringing up supplies on a captured section of railroad
which the engineers had repaired. The engineers particularly, and all
the Pennsylvanians, were proud of that railroad--the 28th's own trunk
line; but the proudest thought of these emaciated Guardsmen, as they
marched away, was that they had not had to leave the conquest of the
Taille l'Abbé to a fresh division. They had taken it themselves.

Now Hills 223 and 180, which the 82nd had captured in its first day's
fighting on the 7th, were as detached forts, nearer the eastern wall
than the western, in a broad stretch of the valley. Their crests looked
over a rolling stretch of bottom lands to the bluffs of the Forest's
edge, which were so steep that the naked earth broken by landslides
held only scattered dwarf trees and shrubs. Torrents dashed down the
ravines during heavy rains. Scaling rather than assault was the word
to describe an attempt at their mastery. Artillery was hidden on
their crests, and machine-guns on their crests and in the favoring
intricacies of the slopes.

Northwest from Hill 180 the village of Cornay nestled at the foot of
an escarpment flung out from the Forest almost to the river's bank.
This promontory made of the stretch of bottom a kind of bay. While
commanding in rear and flank the farther advance of the 1st on the
opposite river wall, it could also turn a flanking fire on any charge
across the bay toward the bluffs in addition to the plunging frontal
fire from the bluffs. Cornay must be taken in order to gain the valley
as far as Fléville. On the way across the bay, either to Cornay or
to the bluffs, any charge must cross the Boulasson creek, which was
unfordable at points. Thus this bay was a _cul de sac_; but a visible
one. The All-Americas knew what to expect on their way to the heights.

With its personnel varying from little men from the tenements to tall
lean men of the cotton-fields, the 82nd had in its pride of corps the
rivalry of community, region, and state. It was said that one city
division had been careful in its sifting when it transferred an excess
of its draft men to the 82nd. If so, the result shows how inspectors
may err in judging by the measure of a recruit's chest whether or not
he will have the heart of a warrior when good food reddens the blood
pumped through the valves it strengthens, and drill and comradeship
stiffen his fighting temper. The All-Americas might have no state or
group of states that claimed them for its own; but the conviction that
they were for all the states--all America--was the fostering spirit of
the four days of unceasing attack, that were now to begin.

On the 8th the south regiment, moving down the slope of Hill 223 and
crossing the level, had reached the ridge beyond in two hours. By 5
P.M. it had fought its way to the possession of a portion of the ridge.
Bitterly yielding to the power of the enemy's fire after companies, in
characteristic all-America bravery, had lost half their numbers, it
retired down the slope during the night to dig itself protection. The
north regiment bridged and forded and swam the creek, and fought all
day for Cornay and the heights to the westward. The Germans did not
depend alone upon fire from the heights. Their machine-gunners were
under cover of the bushes and knolls of the bottoms, contesting the
passage of the brook, sweeping stretches of its winding course with
flanking as well as frontal fire. Their roving field guns attached to
battalions fired at point-blank range upon the infantry wave as it
appeared on a knoll on the other side of the brook before Cornay, and
the men face to face with the gunners bore them down and passed on.
By six that afternoon they were in the town and up the slopes of the
adjoining heights. There were not enough of them to hold what they had
taken. All but forty men of two companies had been killed or wounded
in crossing those deadly reaches of the river bottom. As darkness fell,
bullets were spattering in every street in Cornay, and pelting down
from the crest upon the All-Americas, trying to dig into the slope.
Orders had to be given for withdrawal from Cornay and the most exposed
ground, for a night of reorganization in the valley of the brook.

A reserve regiment of the 82nd, having taken over the 28th's front,
spent the next day under galling fire in swinging its line up level
with the other regiments. Again a charge, running the gamut from the
bluffs and in face of machine-gun nests in the village itself, entered
Cornay at 11 A.M.; again we were slowly forcing our way up the heights
where in places the men could climb only by drawing themselves up by
bushes and dwarf trees. Reduced in number by the incessant drain of
casualties, beginning to feel the exhaustion from three days' fighting
and nights practically without sleep, they thought that this time they
could hold their gains; but at dusk a German counter-attack launched
right across the river bottom from Fléville to Cornay under a barrage
of shells and machine-gun bullets, and by infiltration from the heights
into Cornay, where our men fought from house to house in a confused
struggle against odds, forced those of the advanced groups who did not
remain to die in their tracks to fall back upon their reserves, who
stood fast. The Germans depended much upon that counter-attack, and
they made it at a time when the losses and exhaustion of the 82nd, of
which they were fully aware, might well have led them to think that
this young division would break under a sharp blow. Far from breaking,
the 82nd, having savagely and promptly repulsed the counter-attack,
was, despite its casualties, further to extend its front that night by
taking over the eastern bank of the river from the 1st Division.

October 10th was to see the culmination of the movement in the trough
of the Aire, when the 77th, the pressure on its flank released, was
to begin its final sweep through the Forest. It was to be a day of
such retribution for the 82nd as the 28th had had in the taking of
the Taille l'Abbé; hills and woods are the landmarks of divisional
histories in this battle. The dead of the 82nd were intermingled with
the dead enemy on the slopes and in Cornay, and in that stretch of
the river bottom which in its exposure resembles more closely than
the background of any other charge in the Meuse-Argonne battle the
open fields which Pickett's men crossed in their rush up the slopes of
Seminary Ridge. The gallant officers who led these men knew that they
would follow, and Major-General George B. Duncan, who had taken command
of the division before the battle, was serene and resourceful in his
confidence.

Along the embankment, along the banks of the creek, in little gullies
and dips of that _cul de sac_ of a bay, they had pegged down their
gains as the jumping-off places for their assaults on the gallery of
heights overlooking the stage of their indomitable tenacity. They were
fighting against better than German veterans--German specialists. The
prisoners they took usually yielded not in bodies but as individuals
or small groups, wounded, exhausted, surrounded by dead. Two out of
three of those in the Cornay region were machine-gunners or chosen
non-commissioned officers who were trusted to fight to the death and
make the most of their sacrifice by their skill. First and last the
82nd captured 277 machine-guns, as the harvest of its courage at close
quarters.

On the morning of the 10th it brought its field guns close up behind
the infantry, assigned roving guns to its battalions, and placed its
Hotchkiss guns and its little 37's in the front line, which smashed
machine-gun nests at point-blank range. Now the All-Americas took
Cornay for the last time, clearing its streets and cellars; swept up
the valley and over the ridge above Cornay; and sprinting patrols
entered Marcq in the plain beyond, while from the conquered higher
ground they looked down upon the bend of the river toward Grandpré,
where it passes between the Argonne and the Boult Forests. At last the
trough of the Aire with both its walls was ours from Varennes past
Cornay. The taking of the gap of Grandpré which brought us in face of
the heights beyond may wait upon an account of the action of the 1st
and 32nd from October 6th to 11th.



XVII

VETERANS CONTINUE DRIVING

  The 1st marking time--A fumble gives one height--Relying on the
  engineers--The triangle of hills--A tribute from the enemy--The Arrow
  Division also pointed at the whale-back--Which resists intact--Still
  the 1st goes on--"As good as the 1st."


As soon as the 82nd's attacks on the river bottoms were well under
way, the 1st was to make another rush, driving its wedge ahead of the
82nd's front over the hills of the eastern wall. On the 6th, the day
before the All-Americas took Hills 180 and 223, and the day before the
Pennsylvanians of the 28th took Châtel-Chéhéry, the 1st was due to mark
time; and so also was the 32nd--still holding the block of the Morine
and Chêne Sec woods and withdrawn from Gesnes,--which was in turn
dependent for further advance upon the movement in the Aire trough. The
flanks of the two divisions, left out of _liaison_ as a result of the
viciously confused fighting of the 5th, must join up.

In the neighborhood of their junction, northwest of the Morine and
Chêne Sec woods, the highest point was Hill 269, in the Moncy Wood. To
the west 269 looked across all the hilltops to the Argonne Forest,
and to the east almost to the Meuse. This distance of vision, it
should be explained, did not mean observation of the slopes of the
other hills or the low ground at their bases. Each hill which we had
conquered or had yet to conquer on the way to the whale-back was only
one of an interlocking series. Though none approached the spectacular
formidability of an isolated height towering over a surrounding plain,
Hill 269 was relatively very important because of its situation and
altitude.

The statement that the 1st was marking time on the 6th must be
qualified by the activity of its patrols; for it was not in the
nature or traditions of the pioneer division ever to dig a hole and
sit in it all day, leaving the initiative to the enemy. It was always
hugging him close, ready to jump for any opening that offered. A
patrol kept on going until it developed enough resistance to warrant
its withdrawal with the information it had gained. Also it took
responsibility, and did not wait on orders if it found an opportunity
of turning a trick. This seems an obvious system; but its application
may vary in efficiency from experience to inexperience, from clumsiness
to shrewdness, from foolish bravado to courageous and resourceful
discretion. One of the 1st's patrols, in the course of linking up with
the 32nd on the 6th, kept feeling its way through the Moncy Wood
without any opposition until it came to the top of Hill 269. This was
in the 32nd Division's sector; but veteran divisions do not stand on
etiquette on such occasions. They know that in the gamble of battle the
division which lends a helping hand one day may need a helping hand
the next. In sending out the patrol, the brigade commander had made
it small, as he did not want many men killed; for he appreciated what
hidden machine-guns could do to the most agile group of scouts when the
gunners held their fire for a propitious moment.

We had caught the Germans napping on 269. The advantage we had gained
resembled that taken of a fumble at football. Any "kid" lieutenant
or any one of his men could see as well as General Pershing himself
that this crest was worth holding; and that daring little group held
it until relieved by two companies of the 32nd. Meanwhile the fumble
had enabled the 1st to take the Ariétal farm, which formed a natural
rallying point for enemy machine-gunners in the ravine between the
Moncy and the Little woods (le Petit Bois). This was an advantage for
the next attack second only to the occupation of 269, with which it had
a close tactical relation.

On the 7th the 1st, which had been under the First Corps, was
transferred to the Fifth, and its front extended to include Hill 269.
It was now time for the division engineers, who had been working night
and day on the roads, to cease their idling and begin fighting. The
battalion which was sent to take over 269 from the 32nd was soon to
find what store the Germans set by it, once they realized the blunder
that had allowed it to slip out of their hands. The enemy's artillery
proceeded to make this sharply defined cone a pillar of hell; but the
engineers were used to digging, and they dug with a vengeance. They
were also used to sticking on the job. In the face of counter-attacks,
supported by a rain of shells and bullets of artillery and machine-gun
barrages, they held their ground in the midst of fountains of earth and
flying débris and frightful casualties, with that resolution in which
every man, no matter how many of his comrades are killed, determines
that he will not yield alive.

After the driving of the wedge to Fléville and the taking of
Montrefagne, the 1st had been badly shattered. The heavy rains had
made the holding of the eastern wall of the Aire under the murderously
accurate flanking fire from the western wall all the more horrible.
Transport was being regularly shelled; woods, where reserves might take
cover, were being gassed. Not only was the doctrine of the 1st never
to yield ground taken upheld at every point, but it was continuing
to improve its position on the 7th and 8th while it reorganized its
available forces, steadily reduced by casualties, in an undaunted
offensive spirit.

The 28th having taken the Châtel-Chéhéry heights of the opposite valley
wall, and the 82nd attacking the Cornay heights, the 9th was chosen as
the day when the hammer should again begin pounding the wedge into the
ramparts ahead. By this time the 1st had had over 5,000 casualties,
representing more than one-third of its infantry. There was an old
rule that when a third of your men were out of action it was time for
retreat. This had ceased to apply in the Great War; it was hardly a
view that Summerall would hold. The 1st had not yet finished its task,
and he meant that it should be finished. There could be no question of
fatigue, or excuses. More engineers were summoned into line; everything
that veteran experience could arrange was ready. The ammunition supply
and the transport were up; the hospital service was prepared for heavy
casualties. Every man's jaw was set for a final triumphant drive which
should finally clear the wall of the Aire.

The enemy's jaw was set too. He knew that our next rush would be a
desperate effort to reach the main-line defenses of the whale-back.
Indeed, this was our plan, which required that the 1st go about a mile
and a half over even more formidable ground than in the drive of the
4th and 5th. On the 1st's right, Hill 269 in the Moncy Wood was safely
held, if at a bloody cost. On the center and right the Montrefagne
Wood ran northeast in the narrow tongue of the Little Wood. In this
wood, about on a line with 269, was Hill 272, the highest of all the
hills on the 1st's front, which we knew was strongly held and strongly
fortified. The Little Wood, broadening beyond it, extended westward,
while the ravine between it and the Moncy Wood (Hill 269) wound in the
same direction. Well back in this portion of the Little Wood was Hill
263, which was at the apex of a triangle with 269 and 272 as the base.
Our seizure of Ariétal farm in the ravine before it could be fortified
enabled our men, thanks to the protection from our seizure of Hill
269, to establish themselves on the 7th and 8th on the slopes of the
two other hills. Thus we were saved from a cross-fire in having to
pass between the two base angles of the triangle toward the apex. We
could take Hill 272, the remaining hill at the base, in flank. It was
certainly good generalship which won this advantage for us, and poor
generalship which lost it for the enemy. Once we had Hill 263 at the
apex, it was downhill through the Romagne woods until we were before
the Kriemhilde Stellung, which bent southward on the 1st's right in
front of the 32nd's sector. To the west of Little and Romagne woods
many patches of woods gave cover for machine-guns on the ascents of
the Maldah ridge, which ran to the end of the Aire wall where the Aire
bent sharply westward to the gap of Grandpré. However, the crux of the
problem of the 1st on the 9th was the taking of Hill 272 at the western
point of the triangle and 263 at the apex.

Being a gunner, Summerall believed in making the most of gun power.
He had trained the artillery of the 1st, and knew its capabilities.
This implied anything but penuriousness in the expenditure of
ammunition. Throughout the 7th and 8th, day and night, the 1st's
artillery had been "softening" the defenses of these two hills and of
all the other positions with a concentrated bombardment, and placing
ceaseless interdictory fire in their rear to keep them isolated from
communication.

If ever infantry needed powerful barrages to protect its swift charges,
it was on the morning of the 9th. Any failure to go home at any point
might be fatal to the whole movement. As supple as the enemy, the
1st was using roving, or tramp, guns to counter his roving guns. The
remainder of the divisional artillery was entirely concentrated in
making shields in turn for the right, left, and center, which advanced
successively instead of at the same time. The weather as well as the
barrages was in our favor. A dense fog hid our waves from the enemy's
observation. His machine-gunners in some instances could not see to
fire until our men were upon them; in others, as the fog lifted on the
exposed targets, our losses were ghastly without staying our progress.

Apart from the engineers, the division had only one battalion of fresh
infantry in reserve. This battalion was sent against the highest of
the hills, 272. Breaking through the fog, in bolt surprise, it took
prisoner every man of the garrison of 272 who was not killed. As the
curtain of bursting shells of the shield which our men were hugging
lifted, the German lieutenant-colonel in command of the hill started
out of his dugout, only to see the charge sweeping past its mouth, and,
in turn, past all the dugouts where his troops had taken cover from
the approaching tornado. He knew that all was lost; and he wept in his
humiliation at being captured. It was the first time that the shock
division to which he belonged had ever been on the defensive. He paid
a soldier's tribute to the power and accuracy of the artillery fire of
the 1st, which for two days had marooned him, without food for his men
and unable to send them orders or to receive orders from his superior.
He had not believed that in five years the Americans would have been
able to develop such a division as the 1st; and one's only comment on
this is that the men of the 1st were the same kind of men as in the
other divisions. He had happened to meet the 1st, as any other division
will tell you. German officers who met other divisions in the Argonne
held the same view about them. Professional opinions from such experts
were worth while.

Our attack on Hill 272 on the left and our possession of 269 on the
right protecting their flanks, the troops which were making a head-on
drive for 263 had an equally brilliant success, thanks to the same
thoroughgoing, enterprising, and courageous tactics. Those on the left,
with the enemy's plans upset by the loss of 272 and 263, wove their way
through the patches of woods, conquering successive machine-gun nests
until the Côte de Maldah was theirs in a sweep no less important as a
part of the well-arranged whole, though perhaps less sensational. So
much for the day's work of the 1st in the high tide of its career on
October 9th.

We shall now take up that of the Arrows of the 32nd. On the 7th and 8th
the 32nd had been busy sending out patrols and seeking to gain certain
vantage points which would be useful in the next day's attack. It had
established itself in Gesnes. Its own artillery was now back with the
division, taking the place of that of the 30th Division, which, after
its exhausting work in forcing its guns through the Montfaucon woods
in support of the 37th, had still remained in line in support of the
32nd. In addition the artillery of the 42nd, or Rainbow, Division,
which was now coming up in reserve, was placed at the disposal of the
32nd; for it could not have too much gun power if it were to make any
headway on the 9th. Nor could it have too much infantry. The 181st
Brigade of the 91st, Pacific Coast, Division had not gone into rest
when the 91st had been "expended" in the early period of the battle. It
was now placed in line between the 1st and the 32nd, and despite their
fatigue the Pacific Coast men were relied upon for nothing less than
the assault of that Hill 255 whose galling fire had checked the 32nd's
advance on the 5th.

The "side-slipping" of the division sector when the 1st relinquished
the bank of the Aire and came under the administration of the Fifth
Corps had not given the 32nd any easier task. Wasn't it a veteran
division? Wasn't it used to being expended? The ambition of the Army
command was in the saddle again, expecting the Arrows, with the
artillery of two divisions in support, to penetrate immediately the
Kriemhilde Stellung, or main defenses of the whale-back.

As the Kriemhilde bent south past the 1st's flank, it was within a
mile of the 32nd's front. On the 32nd's left it was established in the
Valoup Wood on the ridge of the Côte Dame Marie, a name of infernal
associations in the history of two veteran divisions. In the center
it passed in front of the town of Romagne. To the right or east it
continued on another ridge in the strong Mamelle trench. The plan was a
swing to the left through Valoup Wood to take the Côte Dame Marie, and
a swing to the right to take the Mamelle trench, encircling the village
of Romagne, while the center on the Gesnes-Romagne road regulated its
advance with that of the flanks.

It might have been carried out in one day, as an officer said, if
the 32nd had had the artillery of five or six divisions and a score
of heavy batteries from the French, while the men had been provided
with shell- and bullet-proof armor. This heroic dream is mentioned in
passing. More to the point is what the men of the 32nd accomplished;
for they almost made the dream come true before darkness fell on the
night of October 9th. They were the Arrows indeed--an arrow on the
right and on the left--with the bow of determination drawn taut before
the attacks were released. That on the left penetrated the Dame Marie,
while the right penetrated the Mamelle trench where the meager numbers
which formed the very tip of the arrow-head were stopped in a bout of
hand-to-hand fighting, while their comrades on the right and left were
held up by the wire and the relentlessly increasing machine-gun fire.
The center could not advance. Romagne was not encircled.

The 181st Brigade of the 91st had orders to hold during the attack on
the 9th; then, as standing still appeared to be poor policy, it had
orders to assault Hill 255, whose fire had stayed progress on the 6th.
Later orders came that the support was unnecessary, but not until the
Pacific Coast men were already started forward, only to have to dig in
in face of annihilating fire. The next day, the Germans now evacuating
Hill 255 under the flanking pressure of the 1st and 32nd, the Pacific
Coast men mopped up the hill, captured the concrete blockhouse on the
reverse slope, and then set out to mop up the Tuilerie farm, which was
supposed to be taken. Unfortunately it was not taken. Between them
and the farm was Hill 288, the highest of all, with an outpost of the
Kriemhilde position in the form of a horseshoe organized in a sunken
road with walls twenty or thirty feet high. Tunnels from the road
allowed the machine-gunners to play hide and seek in going and coming
to the slope. Their fire and plentiful gas and high-explosive shells
checked the front line about three hundred yards south of the hill.
The next day the brigade was to attack again in case there were enough
artillery fire forthcoming to "soften" the hill; but there was not.
The Pacific Coast men were now relieved by units of the 32nd. Shivering
for want of woolen underwear, rarely getting hot meals, their long
service in the battle was over. Though many were ill, they refused to
report on the sick list for fear that they would be transferred from
hospital to another division than their own.

It was no less a policy of the Arrows of the 32nd than of the 1st
Division never to yield gains. They were at close quarters with the
Kriemhilde, and they proposed to remain there. The enemy's fully
aroused artillery and machine-gun resistance to protect the points
where the Kriemhilde had been entered prevented any headway on the
10th and 11th, while hand-to-hand fighting continued on the Dame Marie
ridge. Before the 32nd was to conquer the ridge and take Romagne, it
must make preparation equal to the task. This belongs to another stage
of the battle. We are presently concerned with the fact that the Arrows
had done their part in the costly operation that had conquered the
heights into which the 1st had driven its wedge.

The enemy now withdrawing from the front of the 1st across the valley
and low ground to the Kriemhilde, which was here farther north than
in front of the 32nd, the 1st, in a movement of exploitation, with
gratefully few casualties made a mile on the 10th, passing through
the Romagne Wood and beyond the village of Sommerance. On the next
day, feeling out the enemy positions with a knowing hand, the veterans
learned that they could be taken only by fresh troops in a thoroughly
organized attack. The 1st had accomplished its daring mission; it had
won a telling victory. Three-fifths of its infantry was out of action
from death and wounds; the remainder had been fully "expended" in
exhaustion or sickness. Surely no division in all our history had ever
been in finer condition for battle, or fought with more discipline and
skillful valor, or suffered more losses in a single action. "To be as
good" as the pioneer 1st had been the ambition of all the divisions in
the early days of our fighting in France. If some became as good, this
is the more honor to them.

The affection of long association creeps in as I think of the 1st's
first detachments arriving at Saint-Nazaire, or of its pioneer training
on the drill-grounds at Gondrecourt in the days when there was a fear
in our hearts that we might yet lose the war. The 1st had confidence
without boasting, and dignity without punctiliousness; its pride kept
it from dwelling on the excuses of unprotected flanks; it was on good
terms with neighboring divisions and with the French: self-reliant,
systematic, trying to live up to the fortune that had made it the first
to arrive in France and was to make it the last to go home. It had
expected to pay a heavy price for its crowning success; and paid it
with an absence of grumbling which makes the sacrifice of life of a
transcendent nobility, however worn and filthy the khaki it wears.

When relieved by the 42nd the 1st withdrew, after casualties of 8,554,
in faultlessly good order from the line of the gains which it securely
held.



XVIII

THE GRANDPRÉ GAP IS OURS

  The "Liberty" Division trying to clear the Forest on its own--The
  battalion which refused to be lost--The "scalloping" succeeds--Out
  of the Forest--The 82nd across the Aire--The 77th takes Saint-Juvin,
  though not according to plan--And finally gets across the Aire to
  Grandpré.


Its line the breadth of the Argonne Forest, no division could have
waited more impatiently than the 77th or "Liberty" Division of New York
City upon the driving of the wedge on the eastern wall of the Aire and
the clearing of the Aire trough, which, to serve its purpose, must be
accompanied in turn by the progress of the "scalloping" movement of
the French on their left. The "Liberty" men's apprehension lest they
might not make the most of any advance on their flanks amounted to an
obsession. If they halted, they found that the enemy had time to cut
openings in the foliage to give his machine-guns fields of fire, string
chicken-wire between trunks of trees, build elements of trenches on the
opposite slopes of gullies, and play other tricks in the tangles of
underbrush. The best way to keep the German out of mischief was to keep
him on the move.

On the 29th and 30th of September the "Liberty" men had made good
advances, as we know. In the early days of October, while there was a
lull in the offensive on other parts of our front, they were having a
very busy time. As the "scalloping" movement against the escarpments
at either edge of the Forest was delayed, they would try to do without
this elbowing assistance on their flanks. As for being "expended," this
was out of consideration while half of the Forest was yet to be taken.
No other division had any rights in the Forest. It was theirs, with
the understanding that they prove the nine points of the law by taking
possession of their estate. They must keep on fighting until they saw
the light of the Grandpré gap at the end of its dark reaches. Such a
state of mind is conducive to fighting morale. There was a personal
property interest at stake.

On the morning of October 2nd, they made a general attack of their
own. On the right in the Naza Wood they ran into a system of detached
trenches and machine-gun positions which were invisible until the
bullets began to sing and hand-grenades began to fly, while their
exposed flank left no doubt that the Germans were still in force on
the Taille l'Abbé in front of the 28th. The objective of the left was
the Apremont-Binarville road. Not only were the "Libertys" a "pushful"
division, but there was never any lack of pushing by their commander.
The battalion on the left was told to keep on going until it reached
the road, no matter what happened on its flanks. It obeyed orders.
After it arrived, it found that there were no Americans on one flank or
French on the other. Only Germans. No messages came through from the
brigade; messengers sent back disappeared in the woods to the rear, and
fell into German hands.

This was the incident of the "Lost Battalion." Technically, the
battalion was not lost. It knew where it was on the map. Practically,
it was isolated from the rest of the division--surrounded, besieged.
Whether they are described as lost or not, the men of the battalion
will not soon forget their experience. When they went into action,
they had two days' rations. As most of them had eaten one day's on
the morning of the 3rd, they had the other day's to last them--they
knew not how long. They did not have to expend much energy, except on
patrols and outposts. The thing was to avoid drawing fire and wasting
their ammunition. If they rose from their fox-holes, where they were
dug in among the roots of trees on the northern slope of the ravine
below the road, a spray of machine-gun fire, or the burst of a shell,
convinced them that sedentary habits are best when you are fasting.
At the bottom of the ravine was a swamp which protected them on that
side, while the crest of the ridge above the road protected them on the
other. Their pleasantest diversion was watching shells which missed
their aim, harmlessly throwing up fountains of mud in the swamp.

Some of the shells were supposed to have been fired by the French,
who were said to be under the impression that the battalion must
have already surrendered. The Germans held the view that it ought to
surrender, according to rules. When they sent in a messenger with the
suggestion, supported by the gratuitous information that the battalion
was hopelessly surrounded, it was received not even politely, let alone
sympathetically, by the reserve major in command, who had gone from his
law office to a training camp.

The major shaved every morning as usual. He never let the empty feeling
in his stomach communicate itself to his head; he was as smiling and
confident when he went among his men as if their situation were a
part of the routine of war. He had disposed them skillfully; they had
learned by experience where to dig in to escape fire; and they were
amazingly secure, though they were surrounded. It became bad form to
be hungry. When they put out panels to inform our aviators of their
location, the panels only drew fire, and seem to have failed in their
object as lamentably as the dropping of rations from American planes,
which probably the Germans ate.

Of course, the division was making efforts to reach the battalion,
being stopped by machine-gun fire. The 77th was fast held during those
five days. Meanwhile the 1st had driven its wedge along the wall of
the Aire, and on the morning of the 7th the 82nd had begun its attacks
in the valley, while the French were ready to move up on the western
edge of the Forest. These successes, and the disposition of the 77th to
take advantage of them, started the retirement of the Germans in the
Forest. On the night of the 7th the survivors of the lost battalion
rose from their fox-holes as the figures of Americans came through
the darkness to their relief. Their first thought was food. Then they
found that they had become heroes. There had been a compelling appeal
to the imagination in the thought of this band of Metropolitans from
city streets, stoically holding their ground when surrounded by German
veterans in a forest in France. They did a fine thing, but no finer
than many other battalions whose deeds attracted less public attention.

Now, with the forest edges being "scalloped" according to the original
plan, the 77th might carry out, after two weeks of travail, its mission
of "mopping up" as the pressure on its flanks was relieved. On the
8th it conquered the Naza positions, its right coming up even with the
Taille l'Abbé. The next day, while the 1st was making its second great
attack, and the 82nd was again attacking the Cornay heights, while the
French were rapidly advancing on the left, the 77th swung ahead for a
mile and a half. The Forest was now to be the 77th's for the marching.
The retiring enemy offered only rearguard action from machine-guns
and concentrations of shell-fire on roads and open spaces, which were
mosquito bites after the kind of opposition which they had been facing.
All they had to do was to keep up their supplies and ammunition,--and
that was a good deal over the miserable roads,--and pick their way
through the thickets and in and out among the tree-trunks, across
ravines, on to the gap of Grandpré at the Forest's end.

By this time they were at home in woodland maneuvers, or on the 10th
they would not have made nearly four miles in formation, combing every
yard of the Argonne's breadth as they advanced. That march showed a
reserve of vitality in the city men worthy of the day when the 82nd in
the valley had overrun the Cornay heights, and the 1st and 32nd had
reached the Kriemhilde Stellung. Patrols, encountering no resistance,
came out of the Forest to see the promised land. Another stride, and
the division would be in the open, facing the gap.

On the northern bank of the Aire, about half a mile beyond its sharp
turn toward Grandpré, is the village of Saint-Juvin. The river
bottoms here are broad and swampy between the slopes which draw
together to form the walls of the gap. From the fronts of the 1st and
32nd Divisions the fragmentary trench system of the Kriemhilde ran
northeasterly to a point just opposite the bend. Beyond this to the
west the Germans depended upon the westward course of the river and
upon the naturally strong positions on its northern side, culminating
in the heights above Grandpré. The 77th's sector was extended slightly
to the east to include Saint-Juvin, in order that the 82nd, which had
taken over some of the front of the 1st, might undertake a movement
against the Kriemhilde on the 1st's flank east of the river bend,
passing Saint-Juvin on the east.

For four days the 82nd had been throwing its men into charges from the
river bottom against heights, and wrestling against counter-attacks.
Though it had conquered the trough of its northern course, the Aire
river was still the nightmare of its evolutions. The left regiment
remained facing the westward bend. The center regiment was to cross
the northern course of the river, south of the bend, at Fléville, and
join the right regiment, which was already across. This it did under
heavy fire on the morning of the 11th, and, deploying, swung west in
protecting the flank of the right regiment from the heights north of
Saint-Juvin.

The 82nd had already received enough shocks to be called a "stonewall"
division, and had given enough to be called a shock division. It was
not surprising, then, though wonderful, that the left regiment made
two miles in face of the heights; or that the right regiment made a
half mile more and by 8 A.M. had reached the Kriemhilde Stellung. Their
exhaustion, instead of staying the All-Americas, appeared to give them
a delirium of valor. When front lines were riddled by casualties, the
second line "leap-frogged," and charged on into the machine-gun fire.
One battalion had all its commissioned officers killed or so badly
wounded that they could not move; another all but one. Non-commissioned
officers continued the attack; but there was no hope at present of
taking the Kriemhilde, with its fresh waiting machine-gunners in their
interlocking positions supported by artillery, as the 32nd on the
82nd's left had found. The part of it in front of the 82nd was not to
be taken in the general attack of October 14th--not until the final
drive of November 1st. Exposed in a salient under cross-fire, the
survivors of the right regiment were ordered to withdraw even with
those of the center regiment, where, still under flanking fire in face
of the heights, they held their ground.

Meanwhile the left regiment was to cross the river westward of the
bend, in order to assail the heights north and northeast of Saint-Juvin
which commanded the village, and to protect the flanks of the other
two regiments. The bridge near Saint-Juvin was down. A soldier going
into attack under the weight of his pack and 220 rounds of ammunition
cannot swim a river. Patrols searched up and down in the darkness
in vain for a ford. When the engineers, who were called in, started
building a footbridge, they were greeted by bursts of machine-gun fire
which suddenly ceased. Instantly the infantry rushed on to the bridge,
which was completed at dawn, the machine-gun fire was renewed with
great accuracy and increased volume. Dead and wounded fell into the
water; survivors leaped into the water and sprang up the opposite bank,
facing the unseen enemy. Parts of two companies got across, and boldly
started out to envelop Saint-Juvin. After losses of fifty per cent from
annihilating machine-gun fire, the little band had to retreat across
the river; but they had found that there was a ford near the ruins of
the bridge.

Though worn down until its battalions hardly averaged the size of full
companies, the left regiment was across by the ford early the next
day, and charging for the heights northeast of Saint-Juvin, in the
first stages of an action which was to carry on through the general
attack of the 14th. In order to rid the flank of machine-gun fire, an
officer led his men into the edge of Saint-Juvin itself, and took nests
and prisoners. The right of the attack reached the Ravine of Stones,
joining up with the center regiment in front of the Kriemhilde. There,
in a wicked pocket, they stove off counter-attacks, and fought in and
out with the Germans in a hide-and-seek in the treacherous folds of the
slope.

In the general attack of the 14th the 82nd was once more called upon
to show all the speed of a shock division fresh from rest in billets.
Supporting the 42nd on its right, which began its three days of
terrific storming of the Chatillon Ridge, where the Kriemhilde bends
southward in a loop, the 82nd, with its infantry effectives less than
half of normal strength, again attacked the Kriemhilde. It actually got
through the Kriemhilde, but again was in a salient, and after further
heavy casualties had to withdraw. On the left it had swept over Hill
182, the commanding height to the rear of Saint-Juvin, in coöperation
with the attack of the 77th which I shall describe. As the All-American
division, the 82nd was prolific in personal exploits. The sergeant who
brought in 129 prisoners, and became more famous than the division
commander, had a worthy comrade in the western "bronco buster," who,
finding himself in face of a group of Germans on Hill 282, walked up
to them, and, suddenly drawing his revolver, "took care" of the group.
Then seeing a skirmish line of two hundred Germans forming, he picked
up a dead German's rifle and shot the officer leading the charge,
before he rushed back and brought up his machine-gun company to repulse
the attack with the loss of half its numbers.

Of course, the action of the 82nd was influential in the fall of
Saint-Juvin, which the 77th, facing the westward bend of the river
along the entire front, was to take by a neat maneuver, as its part in
pressing the left flank of the Germans in the general attack of the
14th. It was concluded that the German, being a creature of habit, had
probably arranged his barrage to protect Saint-Juvin from attack from
the south. This was all the more likely against the heady Americans,
who had a way in their exasperating energy of taking the bit in the
teeth and driving straight through to an objective. With one battalion
making a threat in front, the other, crossing the river--which it
managed to do most adroitly--from the east, would encounter little
opposition. The event turned out entirely according to anticipation,
except that the battalion which was to make the threat in front got
out of hand, though in a manner which was bound to give a thrill to
their commander even in his technical reproof.

After fighting two weeks in the Forest, the men of this battalion were
feeling their oats, now that they were in the open. They did not see
why the battalion on the right should have all the honor and excitement
of taking Saint-Juvin, while they were making faces at it on the side
lines. Their eagerness, according to the divisional report, turned the
threat into an attack, with the result that they suffered from the
barrage which the Germans laid down. At all events, they lost eight
officers killed and twenty wounded in leading the men, who suffered in
proportion, while the flanking battalion, with slight losses, entered
the town on the afternoon of the 14th. The garrison tried to escape,
but another little detail of prevision in the 77th's plan interfered.
Accordingly the retreating Germans ran into our curtain of machine-gun
fire which we laid down northwest of the town, and were captured.

After Chevières, a village on the south bank of the river, was also
entered, the next nut to crack, the town of Grandpré on the other side
of the river, was bound to be a bad one. It was a large town for this
region, with a thousand inhabitants, resting against the bluff of the
tongue of ridge which shoots out from the Bourgogne wood, which is the
name for the southern end of the Boult Forest. The character of this
bluff and of the "citadel" will be of more concern when we come to the
thankless and bitter experience of the 78th Division in their assaults.
It is sufficient to say now that the bluffs and the houses of the town
command the river bank and the narrow opening of the Aire valley to the
southernmost projecting edge of the Argonne Forest. While the German
on the defensive had machine-guns to spare for use in this Gibraltar,
he would apply the tactics in which he was expert by making an attack
on the town pay a heavy price, at small cost to himself. On the nights
of the 10th and the 11th, some patrols crossed the river and entered
Grandpré, to meet with a reception as hot as it was enlightening. It
was evident that Grandpré was not to be taken by a few daring men. We
must cross in sufficient force to hold, and then only when at least
a portion of the machine-gun nests in the town had been silenced.
However, the patrols had found a ford.

From their heights on the north bank of the river the Germans were
covering all the approaches to the town with artillery, trench-mortar,
and machine-gun fire clear to the edge of the Argonne. Where we
appeared in obvious avenues of approach, they brought down heavy
barrages. The "Libertys" could not make a move in the open without
being seen; but they kept on infiltrating forward with the rare
canniness they had learned in fighting machine-gun nests through
underbrush. By the morning of the 15th they were ready for the final
attack. All day their artillery was pounding the town and approaches.
All day they were maneuvering and advancing as they held the enemy's
attention, until at dusk a detachment rushed the ford and entered
the town. Other detachments built boat-bridges, and swam the river
in the dark to add their numbers in making sure that we held what we
had gained. All night plunging fire from the bluffs continued, and
raking fire from the houses swept the streets, while the western and
northern edges of the town were being organized to turn over to the
78th Division.

Both river banks were ours; we had the gap, if not the citadel or the
bluffs or all the buildings in the town, on the same day, it happened,
that the British were at the gates of Lille. For nearly three weeks the
"Libertys" had been in action. For all but five days of that time, they
had been in the damp woods out of sight of the sun. In its taking of
the Forest and of Grandpré and Saint-Juvin, and its subsequent advance
to the Meuse after it came into line for a second time, the 77th had
4,832 casualties, and captured 720 prisoners, 3,200 rifles, and pieces
of heavy and 16 of light artillery. Even now, when they were to have a
holiday, they were not to leave the Forest which their valor had won,
but to settle down in the comfortable rest camps in its recesses--much
better than the roofless and torn walls of villages--which the enemy
had built in the days when he thought that he had permanently occupied
this part of France, and when no Prussian of the Landwehr or a shock
division ever dreamed of being dispossessed by draft men of New York
City, who at that time had never had a rifle in their hands.



XIX

ANOTHER WEDGE

  The Marne Division--A wedge in the east over open
  ridges--Magnificent, but not war--A footing in the Mamelle
  trench--Blue Ridge men hammering a way into the Ogons Wood--And into
  the Mamelle trench--A still hunt in a German headquarters--The dead
  line of the Brieulles road.


Our First Corps was still on the left, with the trough of the Aire
now behind it. Our Fifth Corps, including the 1st Division after its
transfer from the First, was still in the center, and our Third Corps
in the yet unconquered trough of the Meuse on the right. Departing from
the arbitrary lines of the Corps, in following the movement for the
conquest of the Forest and of the trough and the walls of the Aire to
its conclusion, no mention was made of the other divisions from the
flank of the 32nd to the Meuse. All had been attacking with the same
vigor as those to the left.

On October 1st the 3rd Division, under Major-General Beaumont B. Buck,
had relieved the 79th, going in beside the 32nd. Its part is given
separately from that of the 32nd, which was in the same, or Fifth
Corps, because it was also to drive a wedge in the general attack
of October 4th. Be it the 1st or 2nd, or the 4th or 5th, the 3rd
considered itself the peer of any regular division. It had become
veteran without any trench service when it hurried to Château-Thierry
to its baptism of fire, in the crisis of the third German offensive of
the spring. I have described in my first book how, flanks exposed, it
"stonewalled" on the Marne's bank against the fifth German offensive;
and how, then swiftly crossing the Marne, it had joined our other
divisions in the advance to the Vesle. Though its emblem was three
white stripes on a blue field, indicating its three battles, it was
sometimes called the Marne Division. The reputation for unflinching
endurance and bold initiative which it had won was now to be further
enhanced in an action whose toll of casualties was second--and then by
only one hundred--to that of the 1st, which drove the wedge along the
Aire.

Having come from Saint-Mihiel, its replacements absorbed in its ways,
its units all fresh and trained in coöperation, it marched along the
road through Montfaucon which was ever under shell-fire, and down the
slopes in face of the guns of the whale-back, following the path where
the 79th had "expended" itself, with the spring of youth in its steps
and confidence in the heart-beat of every man. Such was its pride and
spirit that one would say that anything that this division could not do
no other division could do. Judging by the sector and the mission to
which it was assigned, this was also the view of the Army command.

The line which it took over from Nantillois to the Beuge Wood was
exposed to continual harassing fire. Before it were three bare
irregular ridges, surmounted by commanding hills, with woods on the
right flank. On the last of the three was the Mamelle trench, a part
of the Kriemhilde Stellung. Army ambition, fondly contemplating the
freshness and efficiency of the 3rd, saw it driving over those bare
ridges, all the while under the guns of the whale-back, past flanking
machine-gun fire from the wooded Hill 250 and Cunel Wood on the right.
Piercing the Mamelle trench, it was to sink its wedge into the right
flank of the whale-back, while the wedge of the 1st was sunk into the
left flank. It was the precept of the Army that if you did not order a
thing it would not be delivered. One never could tell. The 3rd might
do a miracle. It had done something like a miracle on the banks of the
Marne. The better a division was, the more was expected of it: which is
only logical and human.

The open ground on the front was excellently suited for tanks. Forty
or fifty would have approached a theoretically adequate number for the
division's part in the general attack on October 4th. Unfortunately
our troops had had little training in maneuvers with tanks, and the
few which the French were able to spare for the 3rd were of relatively
little service. For its artillery support, the 3rd had, beside its own
brigade, that of the 32nd. This appeared quite generous on paper--but
not in sight of those ridges. Their crests should have been ruptured by
the high-explosive bursts of half a dozen regiments of heavy artillery,
and received a shower-bath of shrapnel from half a dozen regiments of
field artillery. However, there was the infantry--we could depend upon
the "doughboys" even if we were short of artillery.

As a substitute for natural cover, a smoke-screen was helpful in
obscuring the aim of the enemy's machine-gunners as the charge ascended
the exposed slope of the first ridge. This was taken in the morning
under the cross-fire from Hill 250, which had resisted the attack on
the right, while the enemy artillery fire from the whale-back searched
the whole field of the advance. The dependable infantry, closing up the
gaps in ranks torn by shell-fire, swaying, re-forming, and rushing on,
had accomplished this much; but there were the machine-guns from 250
sweeping the flank of the line on the ridge. The artillery was asked to
pound 250; it did its best to answer this while it was answering other
pressing calls. An effort to encircle 250 while it was being shelled
was blasted back. No matter about 250; there was yet the second ridge
to be taken; and the afternoon was young. Before nightfall the men
of the 3rd had reached its reverse slope, and were digging in under
shell-fire, while they received machine-gun fire not only from 250 but
from Cunel Wood, which was now in flank of their advance. The Cunel was
a small wood, but it was large enough for a host of machine-guns, and
could not have been better placed for the German purpose.

The next morning, October 5th, under artillery support, the men of
the 3rd tried infiltration over the crest of the second ridge by
all the tactics known to veterans. Apart from ample machine-guns
and infantry in the trenches, the Germans had two field guns on the
ridge, firing at point-blank range in directions where they would be
of most service. Infiltration would not do. There must be artillery
preparation, then a sweep over the crest behind the shield of a strong
barrage. During the organization of this attack, there was no lull in
the bitter and stubborn fighting. If lines became disarranged, there
was no demoralization. The Marne division was second to no division.
It meant to go through. The Cunel Wood must be cleaned up as a part
of the program of taking the second ridge. A line of men, crouching,
methodical, bayonets glistening, started across the open against the
wood, and melted away in face of the spitting of the machine-guns.
Unflinchingly another line advanced, and still another, and they
too melted away under that blaze from the wood's edge. Artillery
preparation for the assault of the second ridge at 5 P.M. had included
the Mamelle trench on the third ridge, where the Germans were known
to be in strong force. The crest of the second ridge was gained. One
company, targets against the slope for shells and machine-gun bullets,
kept on until it reached the little Moussin brook in the valley. The
German machine-gunners had this perfectly registered under an aim that
swept the reverse slope. If the company had continued advancing, any
survivor who reached the Mamelle trench would have been taken prisoner.
That night the machine-guns on 250 were mopped up, which removed one
source of assassination in flank. The 3rd was not keeping up with the
lines drawn for it on the map, but it was making gains and holding them.

Fatigue and the drain from casualties were beginning to tell. It was
evident from the number of Germans and machine-guns in the Mamelle
trench that the enemy meant to fight desperately for its retention.
There was no storming it without thorough artillery preparation
until something was done to take care of Cunel Wood on the flank. In
conjunction with the 80th on its right, the 3rd again charged Cunel's
machine-gun nests. They made an entrance, only to find that the
depths of the wood were plotted with machine-gun nests which began
firing when the edge was taken. After the repulse of the main attack,
a sergeant and twenty men of the 3rd stuck to their fox-holes. The
following day they were able to withdraw in small groups. Meanwhile
defensive positions were being organized on the second ridge. It was
not a solacing fact to have the 32nd Division's artillery withdrawn at
this juncture. In its place came a smaller force of French, who were
welcome, but would have been more welcome if they had had more guns;
but the British, the French, the Americans, and the Belgians, too, were
using every available gun in the general offensive movement.

On the 7th and 8th the 3rd remained dug in, preparing for the general
attack of the 9th which on the Army's left was to free the Aire
valley. That day the objective was to take the Mamelle trench and
pass on through to the Pultière Wood. Meanwhile on the 8th there had
been remorselessly close quarters work in attacks and counter-attacks
in trying to take Hill 253 on the left, with the result that the end
of the day left the two lines about seventy-five yards apart on the
slope. Starting from the valley of the Moussin brook on the 9th, we
swept into the Mamelle, overran it in places, lost parts of it, held
other parts as the contest swayed back and forth. On the 10th it was
hammer-and-tongs again, as we made further gains supported by barrages,
only to find as the barrage lifted that the guns from the whale-back
were bursting shells on our heads,--and units were again in salients
of interlocking machine-gun fire. The advantage gained was not in
distance, but in cleaning up some of the machine-gun nests, which
allowed us to hold on to more of the Mamelle. The 11th was a repetition
of the same ferocity of initiative and resistance in the same kind of
wrestle. It had been a test of endurance in sleepless effort between
the men of the 3rd and the Germans, and the grit of the 3rd had won.

All this time the 80th on the left, which was swinging past the trench,
was suffering from flanking fire from the machine-guns which the 3rd
was trying to overcome. On the night of the 12th, the 3rd relieved
units of the 80th, extending its sector. This frequent realignment in
divisional sectors only made more difficult the repeated re-forming
of the lines within the sector due to set-backs and casualties. The
next day the elements of the 3rd which had taken over in the Peut de
Faux Wood found themselves, after a terrific outburst of shell-fire,
facing a strong German counter-attack. They had resisted German attacks
before this on the Marne. At one point they withdrew from the line of
the barrage; but when the barrage lifted, and they looked the enemy
infantry in the eye at close quarters, they never budged.

There may have been faults in the command of the 3rd in this baffling
problem of tactics on open slopes and ridges where communications were
under the fire of artillery from both the whale-back and the heights
across the Meuse, but there was no fault in the dependable infantry.
Here, as along the rest of the front in the middle of October, we were
learning that the enemy, having lost advantageous ground in the defense
of the whale-back, was to hold the final heights with all the more
stubbornness. In the successes from October 4th to 11th the 3rd had won
one of the most conspicuous. After two weeks in line its endurance was
not exhausted. It was now to begin preparing for the general attack of
October 14th, which is another phase of the battle.

Support on its right flank, which had been essential to its progress,
had been given by the peripatetic Blue Ridge men. The veterans of
Stonewall Jackson's flying columns would have felt at home in the 80th
Division. We know how well it had fought for three days in the initial
attack that broke the old fortifications. On September 28th, when the
80th had been "squeezed out" of the narrowing Third Corps sector, its
artillery and one infantry regiment had also remained in the fighting
with the 4th Division, while the three other regiments had been
marched around to be in readiness to assist the 37th in repelling a
counter-attack against the Montfaucon woods. Now the Blue Ridge men
were returned to become the left flank of the Third Corps on familiar
ground. For such rapid travelers Army ambition had set a no less rapid
pace on the map than for the 3rd. They were to keep on driving until
they were through the Kriemhilde Stellung between Cunel and the Meuse.
It was not fair to call them a fresh division, unless hard fighting and
hard marching were counted a warming-up exercise, and going without
sleep a tonic.

The first of the many hurdles in the steeple-chase planned for them
was the Ogons Wood, whose machine-guns had shattered the attacks of
the 79th on September 29th; but this was ancient history in a battle
whose processes were so swift. It happened six days ago. We were in a
new era; we were making another general attack as powerful as that of
September 26th. The clock had run down on September 29th; it was wound
up again by the 4th. The 80th had only to repeat its own successes in
the first three days of the battle, and it was in Cunel. The staff must
always talk in this encouraging fashion; but there was no reason to
believe that there were fewer machine-guns in the Ogons Wood than when
the 79th had been repulsed. Possibly their number had been increased
during the stalemate period from September 29th to October 4th. There
was one way of finding out--by sending a wave of human targets over
those open slopes toward the wood's edge.

The machine-guns began firing with the mechanical regularity of a
knitting machine, instantly the attack began. The Blue Ridge men were
not surprised at this, or at receiving high-explosive shells from two
directions. If they had not known from their own previous experience,
the men of the long-suffering 4th Division on their right could have
told them that once they were in the woods the German gunners would be
slipping gas shells into their gun tubes in place of the H. E.'s used
against them in the open. It was the quantity of shells and bullets
that was unexpected. The enemy shell-bursts were keeping pace with them
as automatically as their own barrages, and beyond their own barrage
the enemy was laying down a stationary barrage awaiting their advance.
Machine-gun fire increased with every step.

There was no continuing against such a shower of projectiles and
hissing of bullets. A halt was called. A battalion of reserves was
brought up while the artillery was told where to concentrate its fire;
separated units were brought together, re-formed on a new line; tanks
came up on the left to assist in the second charge at 5.30 P.M.; but
the enemy had only held his fire, waiting for the second charge to
start. It came nearer the Ogons, but when darkness fell the Blue Ridge
men were still lying in the open, south of the wood, the enemy's guns
still keeping up an intermittent galling fire, which was falling alike
on the dead and the wounded and the survivors. Patrols filtered into
the woods during the night--and the Blue Ridge men had a gift for such
work--only to learn that a few enterprising scouts, in their stealthy
crawling, if they wished to escape massacre or being taken prisoner,
had to avoid drawing fire.

Attack again! Keep on trying! The next morning all the machine-guns
were ordered up to send a barrage of bullets over the heads of the
charge into the edge of the woods. This had been efficacious on other
occasions, but it was not this time, as the infantry knew instantly
they rose to advance, when the deadly refrain from the edge of the
woods showed no more diminution than the wrath of the guns from
the heights. Ground was gained in places between the swaths of the
machine-guns' mowing; but no part of the line penetrated the woods,
though it was close to the woods when it was stopped. Attack again!
Keep on trying! The enemy will break if you try hard enough! The
wedge must be driven, whether through woods, over slopes, or through
trenches. Again reorganization; again the line re-formed to make the
most of gains; again the artillery ordered to concentrate on the woods
for an attack at 6 P.M. This time the jumping-off place was so near the
woods, that the Germans, when the barrage descended upon them, were as
a rule disinclined to wait for the charge. Many who remained held up
their hands. The men felt relief at being at last no longer a target in
the open as they made swift work of mopping up the whole of the Ogons.

The next day, the 6th, the divisional artillery assisted the 3rd in its
efforts for the Mamelle trench. Patrols trying to reach the trenches
north of the Ogons--which incidentally was being gassed--ran into an
array of machine-gun nests, and brought back information about what was
in store for the next attack; for the German, as we know, was much in
earnest on the east flank of the whale-back. On the night of the 6th
the brigade which had been in front during these two days was relieved
by the brigade in reserve. On the 7th and 8th, while there was more or
less of a lull in the battle everywhere except in the Aire valley and
the Argonne, the 80th was busy with patrols, locating enemy pill-boxes
for the information of the artillery, and preparing for its part in the
general attack of the 9th all along the line--the attack that brought
us up to the main line of defenses at many points--the third great
attack of the battle. September 26th, October 4th, and October 9th are
the three dates.

The 80th did not start at daylight, the same hour as the 3rd on its
left. Its thrust waited on the advance of the 3rd to a certain point.
At 3.15 the word came for the 80th to attack. After fifteen minutes of
furious artillery, the first wave rose and moved forward in face of
the machine-guns, while the enemy brought down a curtain of shell-fire
in front of the second wave when it rose, in order to keep it from
supporting the first, whose ranks were being rapidly thinned; but all
the powers of destruction which the enemy could bring to bear could not
stay the men of the fresh brigade in their hard-won stages of progress,
now that the slopes and the Ogons were at their back. They took the
strong point of the Ville-aux-Bois farm, and still going after dark
they reached the Cunel-Brieulles road.

There was a familiar sound to that word Brieulles. The 80th on
September 28th had attacked the hills in front of this town at the bend
in the river. Brieulles was still in the enemy's hands, but the village
of Cunel was ahead in the dark night. There must be numerous Germans
in Cunel. In stealthy audacity two companies of the Blue Ridge men now
turned a trick that would have rejoiced the heart of Jeb Stuart or
Colonel Mosby. They slipped into Cunel very quietly, and returned with
two crestfallen German battalion staffs--thirty officers and sixty
men--whom they had caught completely by surprise.

The next morning the enemy had his revenge of the kind which his hidden
long-range artillery in its lofty positions out of reach of our guns
might take. An attack was ordered for 7 A.M. As it was forming, and the
morning light dissipated the mist, the watchful German observers were
taking notes and passing the word to the gunners in Brieulles and in
the Rappes and Pultière woods. The minute-hands were near the "H" hour
on wrist watches, and the line ready, when a concentration of screams
came from three directions, and geysers of earth and shell fragments
and gusts of shrapnel had something of the effect of a volcanic fissure
opened at the men's feet. Officers were killed or thrown down by the
concussion in the midst of their hasty directions. Two companies were
decimated, two others scattered in confusion, by this sudden and
infernal visitation; but this did not mean that the Blue Ridge men were
to give up making the attack. They reorganized and charged according
to orders. The enemy guns which had caused such havoc in their ranks
disputed their advance. Against this whirlwind they managed to go
beyond the Brieulles-Cunel road, but could not hold their positions.
The Germans made the road a dead line, and for days to come its ribbon
was to be the clear gray background upon which human targets were
clearly visible to their watchful gunners. The "pinch-hitting" 80th was
the only division thus far that had been twice in the battle line of
the Meuse-Argonne. Before it went in again, its infantry was to have
a real rest, though its artillery, engineers, and ammunition train
remained to support the 5th Division which took its place.



XX

IN THE MEUSE TROUGH

  The bull-dog 4th--Enfilade shell-fire from a gallery of
  heights--Driving and holding a salient--A second try--As far as it
  could reasonably go--Reversing Falkenhayn's offensive--The 33rd
  builds bridges--To cross and join the Blue and Grey Division in a
  surprise attack--A bowl of hills--The Borne de Cornouiller holds out.


On the 80th's left during the advance of October 4th-11th was the
bull-dog 4th Division, under its bull-dog commander, Major-General John
L. Hines, which had been continuously in line since the first day of
the battle. Hines had been trained in the school of the pioneer 1st.
When he was with the 1st, he considered that it was the "best" of the
Regular divisions. Since he had been in command of the 4th, he had
changed his mind as the result of maturer judgment and more experience
in the field. The 4th was now the "best" of the Regular divisions. The
question of whether or not it was the "best" of all our divisions,
including National Guard and National Army, so enlarges the field of
rivalry that it must be left to the decision of divisional historians.

No one on the Army staff considered relieving the 4th before the
attack of October 4th. If any man of the division thought of relief,
he knew that the bull-dogs might not expect it when they were in a
position where the Army could not afford to allow them to loosen their
grip on the enemy. What incoming division could familiarize itself on
short notice with that treacherous front in the trough of the Meuse
river, which the 4th knew by experience?

Its right rested in the woods on the west bank of the Meuse, while the
German front line was four miles back on the east bank on its flank.
Enemy machine-guns had hiding-places on the banks not only of the
river but of the Meuse Canal, which follows the course of the river.
Beyond the river bottoms, on the east bank, were many patches of woods
on the first slopes, which brought field artillery within range of
the 4th's front, while the heavy artillery in the ravines and woods
around the Borne de Cornouiller, or Hill 378, was also in range. To
this quite gratuitous bombardment, entirely out of our own battle zone,
from the eastern gallery upon the pit of the amphitheater of the 4th's
action, we had no means of replying. It must be accepted with the same
philosophy as an earthquake or any other violence of nature. In front
of the 4th's right flank was the town of Brieulles in the river bend,
which held batteries of field guns, its surrounding swamps defended by
machine-gun nests giving it the character of a fortress with a moat. To
the left of it was the Fays Wood, facing more open ground, and back of
that the frontal gallery of heights holding still more artillery, while
on their left was the gallery of the whale-back.

Campaigners who have been for a long time sleeping on doors and
the hard ground, when they try a bed again find, as I found on one
occasion, that it is so unnaturally soft that they lie down on
the floor before they can sleep. The men of the 4th had become so
accustomed to enfilade shell-fire that they would hardly have felt at
home without it. If they had been receiving shells from the rear as
well as from front and flank, I think that General Hines would only
have set his jaw the harder, and his bull-dogs would have said: "We
thought we'd be hearing from you. Now we know the worst. But you can't
make us let go." When they took a piece of woods from the Germans, it
was immediately gassed. Some of them thought little more of putting
on their gas masks than a baseball player of putting on his mitt.
Already a veteran division when they came into line, they had taken
an excoriating course in practical warfare which made their previous
experience comparatively that of a grammar school. There could be
nothing new in store for them in the attack on October 4th; they could
be under none of the illusions of fresh troops in their first plunge
into the cauldron.

Army ambition chose to make them another wedge--we were falling into
the habit of wedges as the only means to progress--which was to take
the Fays Wood; then the Forest Wood (Bois de Forêt), by crossing open
ground under the enfilade of Brieulles and all the guns on the other
side of the Meuse. This may have seemed a reasonable mission for them,
as they were already so hardened to flanking fire. Indeed the flank of
this division was exposed in its drive down the Meuse valley in much
the same way as the 1st's on the Aire wall, with the difference that
its right carried down the slopes falling toward the river in plain
view of the heights on the other side.

The 4th could be trusted to do not only its valorous but its
professional best. In view of the galleries of guns overlooking the
sector, it seems superfluous to say that it had not enough artillery
support. The bull-dogs had given up calling for artillery assistance.
They had been under superior artillery fire so long that they took it
for granted that they would have to attack under support of artillery
inferior to the enemy's when they drove their wedge into tiers of
machine-gun nests; but they had in their favor their amazing capacity
for judging where shells were going to hit and taking cover before
they burst, for slipping out from under barrages without losing their
heads, and thus keeping their formations, and for filtering in between
concentrations. It was amazing how many German shells were required to
make a casualty in the 4th; otherwise there would not have been enough
men of the division left for a charge on the morning of October 4th,
when their waves went forward with that suppleness of adaptability
which is the difference between drill-ground and veteran precision.

Their line of advance in the open plowed by shells, they carried all
the machine-gun nests in the Fays Wood, put the wood behind them, and
reached the Cunel-Brieulles road. So they had driven home their wedge,
a very sharp-pointed one. Their left flank was exposed to the Ogons
Wood, which the 80th could not reach in its repeated charges, and to
the Cunel Wood beyond, which the 3rd had not taken, and to the guns of
the whale-back. On their immediate front they faced the machine-gun
fire from the western portion of the Peut de Faux Wood on their left,
and on their right from a series of trenches on a ridge which supported
the Kriemhilde, while the increasing volume of fire on both flanks
emphasized the German intention to permit no rash American flying
column to slip down the river valley in flank of the whale-back. Thus
the advance was in the narrow angle of a murderously sharp salient on
bad ground. This could not be deepened into the jaws of hell; it could
not be retained except at a futile sacrifice. The bull-dogs could dodge
shells from across the Meuse, but they could not dodge a hose play of
machine-gun bullets coming from both flanks. If they managed protection
in one direction, they could not manage it from the other. Skillfully
making a virtue of necessity, they withdrew in the night to the line of
the Ville-aux-Bois farm, where they were still in a salient, but one
which their craft in taking cover and their tenacity could hold, and
did hold against three determined counter-attacks under strong barrages
against the Fays Wood. On the 9th the tactical plan required that they
mark time until the 80th had reached a given point, as the 80th in turn
waited on the advance of the 3rd. The day was overcast; it was already
dusk at 5.40 P.M., when word was given for the 4th to charge as the
start of three days' fighting more bitter than the division had yet
known.

Draw a line east and west through the 4th's front, and it would now
have passed to the north of the Borne de Cornouiller, whose guns
were throwing their shells into the right rear of the charge. Their
fire was joined by that from all the other galleries, while the
machine-guns from Brieulles swept a field of targets revealed by the
light of bursting shells. Barrages of gas shells were laid across the
path of the charge and into the woods ahead. This was particularly
trying in the gathering darkness, over ground where landmarks could
not be distinguished. The bull-dog did not take hold this time.
There was nothing to grip except the murderous flashes. To go on was
only to court a fearful casualty list and inevitable confusion and
disorganization in the darkness, which could not be readily repaired.

The troops were recalled, while the German gunners continued to shell
the field of their advance, thinking that they were still moving
forward. The next morning, they started early in order to have a
full day before them. In face of the same kind of deluge of gas and
shells, and trench-mortar in addition to machine-gun fire, and under
the support of their own barrage, they made one bite of the tongue of
Martinvaux Wood with its trench line on the right. They passed through
the eastern portion of the Peut de Faux Wood, where the undergrowth was
dense and there was no protecting men with a barrage. Advance elements
charged across the ravine into the larger Forêt Wood; but it was
hopeless to try to consolidate in the midst of gas and machine-gun fire
from the depth of the wood. By this time the line was past Brieulles,
whose guns and machine-guns were of course stabbing the flank at close
quarters.

Brieulles, considering the cost of taking it, was not so important
to immediate Army purpose as thrusting the wedge into the flank of
the whale-back. So Brieulles, which was not to be ours until we won
the whale-back three weeks later, had to be borne; and it was the way
of the 4th to bear such thrusts in the ribs without flinching, as
it prepared for another attack the next day under the plunging fire
from the galleries. Beginning again at 7 A.M., when it had finished
its day's work it was through the gassed Forêt Wood, and had sent its
patrols up on Hill 299 beyond. This was the high-water mark of its
arduous and glorious part in the battle. It had gone as far as anything
but tactical madness would permit, until the heights of the whale-back
and east of the Meuse could be broken. Until October 19th, it held its
gains under continual gassing and cross artillery fire.

Twenty-three days in the welter of the Meuse slopes, it had been able
to remain all that time in gassed woods and ravines in cold autumn
rains, owing to its character that made every ounce of energy answer
a resolute will to well-directed ends; for this bull-dog also had
something of the nature of the opossum and the panther. It knew how to
spring. The depth of the division's advance was eight miles, and the
marvel of this was that every yard since the first day had been gained
in frontal attack against machine-gun nests protected by superior
artillery fire. It had taken 2,731 prisoners and 44 guns, some of them
of large caliber, with a loss of 6,000 officers and men killed and
wounded. A proud division the 4th, with the right to be proud, though
it had no parades in its honor, as its personnel came from all parts of
the country, when it returned home.

During the latter days of its service, it began to realize that our own
artillery fire was increasing. This seemed almost too good to be true,
and of course, as the men remarked, it came after the 4th's offensive
work was over. The fact was that our army was receiving more guns. It
was also noticed that there was less flanking artillery fire. This was
due not only to our attacks on the Romagne positions, which absorbed
more and more of the attention of the German gunners of the whale-back,
but also to the driving of still another wedge, this time on the east
side of the Meuse--the wedge which at one stage of the battle the 1st
was intended to drive before that on the Aire wall became more vital.

[Illustration: MAP NO. 9
DIVISIONS EAST OF THE MEUSE.]

The farther we went, the more bitterly we realized the murderous
handicap of a force advancing on exposed slopes on one bank of a river,
with its flank at right angles to the other bank held by the enemy far
back of its reserves. After the attack of October 4th on the right went
forward naked to this terrible flanking fire, the French Seventeenth
Corps, in support of the forthcoming attack of the 9th, including two
American divisions, the 29th and the 33rd, under its command, was to
make a drive from the old trench system at Samogneux--the start line
of the German Verdun offensive of 1916, and opposite the line from
which our army had started on September 26th--down the east bank of the
Meuse. The French engaged at many points on the Allied front were short
of troops; but despite all the calls from other points the high command
had finally fixed its eye on the Borne de Cornouiller.

Our Illinois men of the 33rd Division had been holding our side of the
river bank, dug in in face of the other bank and the German flank, with
only divisional artillery to answer the long-range artillery from the
heights. Having won attention for its brilliant swinging movement which
brought its front to the river bank on the first day of the battle,
the 33rd was now to undertake a far more difficult, and a spectacular
and daring, maneuver. Every veteran from Cæsar's day on the Rhine
to Grant's and Lee's on the Potomac knows what it means to force a
crossing of an unfordable stream under fire. In this instance it must
be done under frowning heights, in the days when machine-gun bullets
carry three thousand yards, and shells, according to the caliber of the
gun, from three to seven times as far. There were to be two bridges;
one at Brabant, 120 feet long, and one at Consenvoye, 150 feet long.

In building their own exclusive road over the Mort Homme, which
enabled the rolling kitchens to bring up hot meals to the infantry,
the Illinois engineers had shown their capacity for "rustling," which
they now applied in gathering material for their new task. In broad
daylight, in full view of the enemy's guns which forced them to wear
their gas masks, they brought their boards and timbers to the river
bank and did their building. Shells were falling on their labors at
Consenvoye at the rate of ninety an hour; but that did not interrupt
their labors. Men fell, but others kept on the job. Punctuality was a
strong point with the Illinois men. The bridges must be up on time, and
they were.

The time of crossing depended upon the movement of our 29th Division,
coming up on the east bank as the flank of the advance of two French
divisions. At 9 A. M. the 29th passed the word, and the regiment of
the 33rd which had been assembled in the Forges Wood rushed for the
bridges. Night would have been a more favorable time for crossing,
perhaps; but that was not on the cards. All the divisional artillery
was pounding the opposite bank as a shield, while the French artillery
was also busy, and the advance of the infantry on the other bank was
drawing fire. Thoroughly drilled for their part, the Illinois men lost
no time in the crossing, which was effected with slight casualties.
Now under command of the Seventeenth Corps, joining up with the flank
of the 29th, it worked its way for a mile and a half up the river
bank until it dug in at night on the edge of the Chaume Wood after a
faultless day's work.

In the operations east of the Meuse now begun, I shall describe only
the actions of our own divisions. The 29th Division, under command
of Major-General Charles G. Morton, had taken the name of the "Blue
and Grey." Many of its Guardsmen were grandsons of veterans from New
Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia. After nearly two months in the quiet
trench sector at Belfort, it had been marched on the night of the 8th
past the ruins of villages in the Verdun battle area for its initiation
into two weeks of fighting, which showed that one side of the trough of
the Meuse had no preference over the other in the resistance which the
enemy had to offer.

A system of hills extending from the Verdun forts to the Borne de
Cornouiller formed the walls of a bowl, which the French Corps in a
fan-shaped movement was to ascend. Their slopes were wooded and cut by
ravines commanding the bottom of the bowl itself, which was irregular,
but everywhere in view of the heights. The 29th was to drive straight
toward the Borne de Cornouiller. Upon its success on the first day, may
it be repeated, depended largely the success of the 33rd's crossing
of the Meuse. The farther away from the river, the stronger were the
enemy's positions. Advancing without any artillery preparation, the
29th took the enemy completely by surprise. It was twenty minutes
before he brought down his artillery fire. This gave the Blue and
Greys a good start. After hot work at close quarters they captured
Malbrouck Hill, which was a strong point in the German support trench
system of Verdun days. Then passing across the open under increasing
German gun-fire, they overran all the machine-gun nests in the dense
Consenvoye Wood. There they were halted by orders to allow the division
on their right to come up. Combat groups which had reached Molleville
farm and the Grande Montagne Wood were called in, and the position
consolidated during the night. The enemy by this time was fully awake
to the plan of the Seventeenth Corps. He unloosed that torrent of
shells and gas from the heights of the rim of the bowl which was not to
cease for three weeks.

Its right exposed after an advance of three miles on the 8th, digging
in under the bombardment and repulsing counter-attacks, the 29th was
not to attempt to advance on the 9th; but the 33rd had orders to go to
Sivry on the banks of the Meuse, whose possession was most important.
By noon it had fought its way through Chaume Wood, and by dark its
patrols, infiltrating around machine-gun nests and under machine-gun
fire from the slopes were in Sivry. All that night it was under gas and
shell-fire. The next day it must make sure of Sivry. The 29th was to
attack on its right in support. Despite the artillery concentrations on
the whole movement laboring in the bowl, we were still to try to break
through to the Borne de Cornouiller. This was a vain ambition, which
the Illinois men and the Blue and Greys none the less valorously tried
to achieve.

The 33rd had brought more reserves across the river, which had to
pass through powerful artillery barrages to relieve the decimated
battalions at the front. They actually reached the ridge east of
Sivry, right under the guns of that towering Hill 378 of the Borne de
Cornouiller. On their right the 29th again and again charged for the
possession of the Plat-Chêne ravine, which was a corridor swept with
plunging fire from right and left and in front, and saturated with
gas. Casualties were enormous, in keeping with the courage of this new
division inspired by the heritage of both Blue and Grey. It was futile
to persist in the slaughter of such brave and willing men; futile for
the 33rd to try to hold the exposed salient of the Sivry ridge; but
every shell they received was one spared our men on the slopes of the
west bank of the Meuse. Austrian troops which had been holding the line
against them were replaced by veteran Prussians and Wurtemburgers, who
knew how to make the most of their positions, and who answered attacks
with counter-attacks. As the left flank which must not yield the river
bank, the 33rd intrenched in the Dans les Vaux valley through the
Chaume Wood. We were within a mile of the Borne, but what a horrible
mile to traverse. The first stage of that detached battle east of the
Meuse, so important in its relation to the main battle, was over. Its
second stage I shall describe later.



XXI

SOME CHANGES IN COMMAND

  John Pershing of Missouri following Pétain and Nivelle--Training his
  chiefs--The solidity of Liggett--From schoolmaster of theory to Army
  command--The wiry Bullard--His mark on the pioneer division--The
  inexorable Summerall, crusader, martinet, and leader of men--The
  imperturbable Hines.


When from the window of a luxurious office thirty stories above the
pavement I looked down upon the human current of Broadway, and over
the roof-tops of the tongue of Manhattan, and across the bridges to
other roof-tops, and upon the traffic of bay and river, I thought of
that little room, first door to the left upstairs, in the town hall
of Souilly, where more men than all of service age in all the city of
New York had been commanded in two of the greatest battles of history.
The "sacred road" to Verdun took the place of Broadway; the volcano of
unceasing artillery fire, the place of the city's muffled roar.

In this little room Pétain had said, "They shall not pass," and so
wrought that they did not pass; and Nivelle had shown me his maps and
plans for the brilliant re-taking of Douaumont and Vaux in the fall
of 1916, which was to make him commander-in-chief as the exemplar of
a system of attack upon which he staked his reputation in the Allied
offensive of 1917. In those days no one dreamed that American khaki
would stream along the "sacred road," and American guns again set the
hills trembling with their blasts; or that John Pershing of Missouri
from this little room would direct the largest force we had ever sent
into action in the battle which was to be the final answer to German
aggression.

The Chief of Staff's room, its walls hung with maps, was across the
hall from the Commanding General's, as it had been in the Verdun
days. Then as now it sent across to the General's desk slips of
paper with the digested news of the battle, which he could follow by
reference to his own maps. Now as then a cloistered quiet pervaded the
building which had been the center of a small town. Orderlies stood
on guard, and adjutants on guard above them. The lights behind the
black-curtained windows burned late, as on the basis of the day's news
plans for the next day's action were made--plans for another advance
against the Germans, this time, instead of resistance to their advance.

"You never know what is in the C.-in-C.'s mind, and how it is coming
out," said his aide. "When it comes, it comes quick and definite--just
like the outburst of a bombardment for an offensive which has been
weeks in preparation."

He listened to many counselors; but the decisive counsels he held
behind the locked doors of his own mind. Those who thought they knew
what he was going to do knew least; those who received the most
affirmative smile bestowed in silence might receive the most positive
of negative decisions when the time came. He was charged with "snap"
judgments on some things; and with unduly delaying over others--while
he smiled over both criticisms. In all events his word was supreme. Men
might contrive to defeat his orders, but no man dared dispute them.
He had continued to grow with the growth of his army; his grip of the
lever strengthened as the machine became more ponderous. Others might
build the parts of the machine; he brought them together in his own way
and his own time.

We had started with divisions; then organized corps staffs; then
appointed corps commanders; then organized the staff of the First Army,
now in the Meuse-Argonne, and afterward the staff of the Second Army,
now at Saint-Mihiel. He was still commanding both armies as general in
the field. When would he choose their commanders? Professional army
gossip had an ear out for rumors. Possibly the Commander-in-Chief did
not know himself; possibly he was waiting on the test of battle to
find the two most worthy to lead. On the night of October 11th his
choice was made; it was announced by his calling up some generals on
the telephone. Two learned that they were promoted from corps to army
command, two that they were promoted from division to corps command.

It was no surprise to learn that Major-General Hunter Liggett was to
have the First Army, and Major-General Robert L. Bullard to have the
Second Army. Liggett, who was already a major-general of regulars,
had been considered as a possible commander of the A. E. F. when we
first decided to send an army to France. If ever a soldier looked as
if he could "eat three square meals a day" without indigestion, it was
Liggett. Over six feet in height and generously built, his majestic
figure would attract attention in any gathering. There was a depth of
experience shining out of his frank eyes, and he radiated mellowness,
poise, and reserve energy. The army knew him as a thorough student,
sound in his views, which he could express with compelling force. No
one questioned that he had a mind capable of grasping military problems
down to their details, and a resourcefulness in the "war game" as
played at the War College which fitted him in theory for the direction
of immense forces.

Large bodies move slowly, though with great momentum when they start,
and the sceptic's question about Liggett was whether or not he had
energy in keeping with his mentality. McDowell made excellent plans for
Bull Run, and lost it. McClellan seemed an ideal leader, but lacked
convincing power of action, though he built a machine which others were
to direct.

A full corps in the plans of the A. E. F. was six divisions; and when,
early in 1918, Liggett was assigned to the Command of the First Corps,
he had one division which had been in the trenches, and three others
about ready to go into the trenches under the direction of the French.
All the other corps which were to come would look to his example in
pioneer organization. Settling down in the little town of Neufchâteau,
he formed his staff and set to work organizing his G's of operations,
intelligence, supply, transport, preparatory to taking over our first
permanent sector.

Thus far his authority had been little more than paper routine under
the French. He was a schoolmaster of theory. Then the March German
offensive against the British left him with a corps staff which was a
fifth wheel in present plans, just as he was about to have his sector.
His best divisions were being sent to the Picardy battlefront while
he remained at Neufchâteau, having an internal American authority
over any divisions in the trenches in Lorraine, but even these were
under the direct command of French corps. He accepted the situation in
a manner in keeping with his mental and physical bigness. He kept on
working on his "war college" organization at his headquarters while,
operating under the French at the other side of France, his divisions
were taking Cantigny and making a stand on the Paris road and on the
Marne.

The commanders of these divisions, however, were winning distinction
for themselves through actual battle experience, and some of them
would soon be taking command of our new corps composed of our rapidly
arriving divisions, which raised the question if, when the time came to
have a commander for the First Army, Liggett would not be passed over
from very want of any except theoretical preparation. No one worried
less about this than Liggett. He seemed anything but ambitious. Yet,
pass over Liggett? That enormous, calm, thoroughgoing Liggett! He
loomed tall as his six feet, and broad in proportion, at the thought.
I always think of him leaning over a table studying a map, with the
intensity of a student who was never mentally fatigued.

When was he to have any battle experience? If we were to have an
integral army to attack the Saint-Mihiel salient, our corps commanders
must have other than paper training. General Pershing arranged that
Liggett take corps command of an American and a French division in the
Marne counter-offensive. This brought him into close association with
the French army command in the midst of a great movement. Later, in
its operations at Saint-Mihiel, everybody said that "Liggett's corps
had done well," and said it in the way that took for granted that
Liggett was bound to do well. He is not the kind of man, as I see him,
who sets people into a contagion of cheers, or the kind of man who
makes enthusiastic enemies or equally enthusiastic partisans. Rather
he is like some sound office member of a great law firm, who does not
make speeches or appear in court, but who, other lawyers say, is the
buttress of the firm's strength.

I remember a distinguished civil official from home talking of our
generals, and saying, when I suggested Liggett: "Why, he is the one I
didn't meet," which was not surprising. A certain isolation that he had
was due less to any personal exclusiveness than to the fact that he was
a large body well anchored to his maps and his job.

In the Meuse-Argonne battle his corps had the wicked front on the left
against the Argonne Forest and the valley of the Aire; and again he
did well, leaving no doubt that he had energy as well as capacity,
or that he deserved the three stars of a lieutenant-general which
General Pershing now placed on his shoulders. Later, in the drive of
November 1st, his maneuvering of our corps and divisions, in that
swift movement in pursuit and in the crossing of the Meuse which gave
us the heights on the other bank, seemed without a tactical fault in
its conception and execution, and it warranted the use of the word
brilliant in thinking of Liggett, who in the closing days of the war
had the opportunity to show the cumulative results of his study of
his maps from the days when he began sawing wood in Neufchâteau. He
was a modest, sound soldier, an able tactician, and a delightful,
simple gentleman, who did his country honor in France both as soldier
and as man. His place at the head of the First Corps was taken by
Major-General Joseph T. Dickman.

Both he and Major-General Robert Lee Bullard, who received command
of the Second Army, then holding our line won in the Saint-Mihiel
operation, were broad-minded men of the world who would have made their
mark in any profession. Physically you could make two Bullards out of
one Liggett. My most distinct picture of him was of his slight figure
in his big fur coat in the midst of winter rains and sleet, while his
small head, with his close-fitting overseas cap, only made the coat
appear the larger. In his command of the 1st in the Toul sector and
in our first offensive at Cantigny, he had set his mark on our pioneer
division. The French liked him, and he could speak their language with
the attractive Southern accent of his boyhood days. He took the French
_liaison_ officers into his family and set them to work, and they
became so fond of his family that one of them was overheard telling
French staff officers what a lot they had to learn from the Americans.
If Bullard could not eat three square meals a day, it did not interfere
with his belligerent spirit. His brain was just as good a fighting
brain as if he had eaten beefsteak for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
However bad his neuritis in the winter days, his blue eyes were always
twinkling, and when he came into his mess and the officers rose, his
smiling request that they dismiss the formality was all in keeping with
the atmosphere of that division command.

His dry, pungent wit was not affected when the doctor put him on a
diet of an egg and a bit of toast. It always came back to the fact
that war was fighting. We had much to learn from the French, from
the British, from all veterans, and you could not be too brave or
too skillful. If you made up your mind to lick the other fellow, you
were going to lick him. When his neuritis was very bad at one time,
he told General Pershing that he did not want to stand in the way of
a successor. General Pershing replied that he would not forget the
reminder; and remarked to someone else: "Bullard's division is doing
well. The neuritis hasn't gone to his head." His body seemed to be made
of elastic steel wire that always had the spring for any occasion, and
the more fighting he had the better his health became. In the Argonne
battle his neuritis entirely disappeared.

He never seemed very busy. In the midst of battle you would find him
appearing at seeming leisure; and his attitude always was: "What a
fine, able lot of men I have around me! They do all the work for me."
Thus he developed brigadiers out of his colonels.

When he corrected subordinates, it was with a simple phrase that cut
through the fog of discussion. One day, before an operation, one of
his colonels who was a little wrought up on the subject told him of a
number of young officers in his regiment who might be brave, but who
were not up to the mark of leadership. "You think it over coolly and
make me a list of those you are sure about," said Bullard. "It's a
matter for your judgment. Perhaps these officers will do better in some
service that is not combatant, or perhaps they need a little lesson
which will make them all right in some other regiment. Make me the
list, and I'll have everyone on it relieved right away"--and you may
be sure that the colonel made the list with care.

The Third Corps had been tried out in the Marne salient. In the
Meuse-Argonne battle it had seized the bank of the Meuse to protect
our right flank, and against superior raking artillery fire from the
heights of the whale-back and across the river, on the slopes and in
the woods of the Meuse trough, gained the Cunel-Brieulles road with an
indomitable skill, which proved his contention that, however heavy the
odds, if you make up your mind to lick the other fellow you will.

In the instances of Liggett and Bullard, both general officers before
the war, high rank had shown its worthiness of higher rank in the swift
merciless test of war's opportunities, while the other two officers who
received telephone messages from the Commander-in-Chief had both been
majors when we entered the war. I had first met Charles P. Summerall as
a lieutenant in Riley's battery on the march to the relief of Peking.
When I next met him, he had the artillery brigade of the 1st Division.
He was given the command of the 1st when Bullard was given a corps.
The way in which he sent the veteran division through toward Soissons
in the Marne counter-offensive was a precedent for the way in which he
sent it as a wedge over the Aire wall, which won him command of the
Fifth Corps.

In the last days of the war no one of Pershing's generals was more
talked about in the A. E. F. than he. His was a personality of the
kind which was bound to make talk. No one ever denied that he was a
fighter and that he knew his profession. He could make men follow him,
and make men fear him. They called him a "hell-devil of a driver," but
won victories under him. If he had started as a private in the French
Revolution, and had not been killed too early in his career, I think
that he would have had one of the marshal's batons which Napoleon
said every private carried in his knapsack. If no general expected
more of his soldiers than Summerall, no general expected more of
himself. Sturdily built, of average height, he was tireless. He could
go about the front all day, and work at headquarters all night; or go
about the front all night, and work at headquarters all the next day.
When officers and men were numb from fatigue, he gave an example of
endurance as a reason for his further demands on their strength. "If
you win, your mistakes do not count," he told a group of officers one
day. "If you lose, they do. If you win, your men have their reward for
their wounds and suffering, and those who have fallen have not died in
vain. If you fail, your men feel that all their effort has been wasted.
Do not fail. Go through!"

It was said of him, as it was said of Grant, that he was not afraid
of losses. Like Grant, he was a hammerer. Pershing could depend upon
him, as Pétain could depend upon Mangin, to "break the line," and as
Lee depended upon Jackson to arrive on time and ahead of the enemy.
Considering the objectives he gained, his admirers regarded him as a
master economist of lives, as he was, comparing what he gained for a
given number of casualties with what many other divisions gained for
their casualties. With an iron will be applied the principle that he
who hesitates in war is lost. If you keep the upper hand, the enemy
suffers more heavily than you. Summerall's standard was always what he
was doing to the enemy, and his attitude toward the enemy was not that
of a professional soldier who regards war as a game in which you are
testing your wits against an adversary. He would at times exhibit a
Peter the Hermit fervor when he spoke of his soldiers' crusade against
the barbarians, or pointed out to them ruined villages and heart-broken
peasants as another reason for charging again. With his staff around
him in the midst of an action, he gave an impression of thorough grasp
of their parts and his. In this, as in everything he did, he had a
touch of the histrionic. He was most concretely modern in arranging his
patterns of barrages, and at the same time it occurred to an observer
that it would have taken only a change of garb and hardly of mood
to make him perfectly at home among the knights before the walls of
Jerusalem. By this time you will understand that he is of a type whose
characteristics entreat a writer to fluency, and that there are several
Summeralls.

There was the Summerall who might turn up at any point on his front at
any time and talk to his men, while an officer stood apprehensively
by, wondering what might happen to him; a Summerall who rounded on
officers and men for carelessness about details that would mean a habit
of carelessness which would accompany them into action; a Summerall
surprising young officers who considered him a ruthless driver by
telling them that they were working too hard--when it seemed to them
that they never could work hard enough to please him--and that they
must not worry over their maps and orders in a way to keep them from
getting enough sleep to insure the strength necessary for self-command
and the command of their men. Again, he would speak of his men and
particularly of their deeds of initiative with a gentle, worshipful
awe, as if every one were greater than any marshal of France in his
estimation; again, he would be telling his young officers that they
could not be worthy of their men, but that he expected their most
devoted effort to that end. The men would always follow if they knew
how to lead. He made it an almighty honor and a responsibility to be
a second lieutenant, and yet he would censure colonel, lieutenant, or
private in a manner which assuredly no politician would ever use in
order to win the vote of a constituent. When an officer and a number
of men standing in a group were all hit by the same shell, he had a
glaring example to demonstrate how untrained we still were when an
officer would allow soldiers to gather round him and become a target
for the enemy's artillery, thus losing their lives without taking a
single German life in return. The sight of those bodies spoiled the
victory for Summerall. He burned the picture in the minds of his men in
the course of their drills. One lieutenant said that if the spirit of
the officer who had been the center of the group could have been given
the chance to come back to earthly life, he might refuse it in fear of
the lecture he would receive from Summerall for his inefficiency.

All the different Summeralls were the different strings to his bow in
applying his teachings and gaining his ends, while he was unconscious
of there being more than one Summerall. He was the A. E. F.'s negation
of the propagandic habit of building up the characters of generals
from one common attribute, when every one of them, whether French or
British or American, was an individual human being.

When you went to Summerall's headquarters by day, you were pretty
certain, unless there were a big action in progress, to find him
absent, looking in on divisional, brigade, regimental, or battalion
headquarters, moving about among the guns and transport and
troops--wherever it pleased him to go in his insistence upon keeping in
close human touch with the forces under his command. He left routine to
his staff officers, and he expected much of his chief of staff. How his
staff officers, hard master though he was, respected his ability!

He could be forensic on occasion, as he was searchingly brief at
others. It was not beneath his military dignity to make a speech,
either. On the day before the great final attack on November 1st,
when the German line was broken, he was out from morning to night,
gathering officers in groups around him and addressing his soldiers,
reminding them of their duties on the morrow, when there must be no
faint-heartedness. They must go through. When he returned to his
headquarters, hoarse from talking in the raw open air, General Maistre,
who had come from Marshal Foch, was there, and General Pershing came in
a little later. Both asked the one question of Summerall: would he go
through? He answered that he would, with the positiveness that he had
been instilling into his troops.

If he had ever failed in one of his drives, there would certainly have
been a smash, but he made no blind charges. He wanted to know where he
was going, and he wanted to be sure that he had his bridge of shells
for the men to cross in their advance. He prepared his lightnings well,
but when they were loosed he would not stay them.

Major-General John L. Hines, the new commander of the Third Corps, had
been a colonel under Bullard in the 1st Division, and had commanded the
bull-dog 4th Division in the Third Corps, under Bullard, in the trough
of the Meuse. He was of a wholly different type from Summerall, with
whom he shared the honor for swift promotion won in the field. It was
said of him that he was the best linguist of the A. E. F., as he could
be equally silent in all languages, including English. If the accepted
idea of General Grant is true, he and Grant could have had a most
sociable evening together by the exchange of a half dozen sentences, of
which I am certain that General Hines would not have used more than his
share.

He came to France with General Pershing as a major in the
adjutant-general's office, where he served for some time before he was
sent to a regiment. He seemed to be out of place at a desk. It was
like asking taciturn Mars--and I suppose that Mars was taciturn--to do
drawn work. Sandy of complexion, sturdily built, he had that suggestive
quiet strength, militarized by army service, which we associate with
Western sheriffs who do not talk before they shoot. Without his having
said a word, you understood, by the very way in which he was taciturn,
that if you were in a tight place you would like to have him along. I
used to think that if a section of the floor had been blown up in front
of his desk while he was signing a paper, the shock of the explosion
would not have interfered with the legibility of his signature. There
was something in his manner which soldiers would respect. They, too,
saw that he would be a good companion in a tight place. When someone
had a troublous problem on hand, he would say: "Let me have it. I'll
take care of it." He took care of it promptly too, once he had the
paper in his strong hands.

Whether as a major or as a corps commander, he was quick to appreciate
that a subordinate was preoccupied with unimportant things, and he had
seen enough red tape in the old adjutant-general's office to know how
to amputate it without too much hemorrhage. In common with Summerall
he too had the endurance which no amount of work seems to faze, and
that clarity of thought and readiness of decision which thrive on
crises. He, too, went among his troops, impressing them with his cool,
unchanging personality, his bull-dog tenacity, and his implacably
aggressive spirit.

Having spoken his messages over the telephone which called to greater
service the adjutants who had served him well, General Pershing might
move about his far-flung kingdom again, though he was not to be long
away from the battlefront. Nothing in the A. E. F. was better regulated
than his own time and movements. Wherever he was, his special train
was waiting upon him. In these later days he had a car fitted up as
an office, with aides and stenographers in attendance. When the train
pulled out from a station, two automobiles were on board. They were in
readiness when the train arrived at its destination. If he had only a
hundred miles to go, it was covered in the night while he was asleep.
The day's beginning found him where he chose to be, at Marshal Foch's
headquarters, at the main headquarters at Chaumont, in Paris, or at
either Army headquarters. If he wished to speak over the wires, they
were instantly cleared of other messages. The President of the United
States may only ask a senator or a governor to come to see him; but a
word from the C.-in-C. for any officer to report to him at a certain
hour and place was an order. One might come clear across France for
the ten-minute conference which was set down in the schedule of
appointments on the pad of the aide to the C.-in-C. The democracy had
bestowed unlimited autocracy and responsibility, too, upon John J.
Pershing.

He had become the creature of this responsibility, determined to
be equal to it, his human impulsiveness of other days now and then
flashing out at the circle of authority that hedged him in, and his
indignation cleaving with broad-sword blows the links of bureaucracy
that plotting minds had forged around him.

At last after fifteen months his plans had achieved fruition. If he had
not had imagination, he could not have visualized the structure before
he began its building. Out of his window in that little room of the
town hall, which had a significance that none of his other headquarters
had, as he turned from his map he looked down upon the "sacred road"
to Verdun, which was the main street of Souilly. Motor trucks came
and went, and at one side of the town hall the staff cars stood in
military line, waiting upon the commands of generals and colonels
whom they served. The houses of the little town had not room for all
the office force of First Army Headquarters. This had overflowed
into many temporary buildings with walls of tar-paper, where all the
different branches, to the tune of the hosts of typewriters which was
the "jazz" of staff command, worked and had their messes. They sent
out the leading, if not always, perhaps, the light, through the battle
area, where the trucks surged all night and all day on the roads,
going forward laden with ammunition and food and returning empty,
where the ambulances went forward empty and returned laden, behind the
vortex of the struggle. How was all this power, and how were the men
who exerted it on a twenty-mile front in France, brought from home?
Long before Marshal Foch had summoned our troops to the attack in the
Meuse-Argonne, General Pershing had made his plan of how they should be
concentrated as the right flank of an Allied movement. To carry this
out he was to depend upon another adjutant.



XXII

A CALL FOR HARBORD

  Pershing's right-hand man--From the center of power to the
  field--Radical measures for the Services of Supply--Our own
  Goethals--Varied personnel united in discontent--Regulars and
  experts--Harbord's two problems of construction and morale.


As President, Theodore Roosevelt had made Pershing a brigadier over
the heads of a small host of senior officers, and had likewise singled
out Sims, who was to command in European waters. When he was forming
his division, which destiny was not to allow him to lead in France,
he chose for one of his brigade commanders James G. Harbord, then a
major of regulars. Harbord was not a West Pointer; having begun his
army career as a private, his rank was not high for his years when we
entered the war. Had the competition of civil professions applied in
the army, it is safe to say that he would have been a major-general
already, and that some of the colonels who were his seniors would still
have been lieutenants. It is only instruction that one receives at West
Point or at any college; education is for the graduate to receive in
after life, a detail he sometimes neglects. Harbord educated himself
by study and observation in the leisure hours which army officers have
for the purpose.

One's first thought upon meeting him was to wonder why he should have
enlisted in the regulars. He seemed to be the type that would have
become in another environment a judge of the Supreme Court or the
president of a university. After one came to know him, it was evident
that he was in the army because he was naturally a soldier. He was also
to prove to be the kind of organizer who in civil life is a good mayor
of a great city or the efficient head of a large corporation.

As Chief of Staff of the A. E. F., he was Pershing's right-hand man for
our first ten months in France.

It was not long before observers began to appreciate that he was one
of the officers capable of "growing" with the growth of his task.
One of the acquirements of his self-education was lucid and concise
English, whether dictated to a stenographer or written on his little
folding typewriter. When you brought a question before him, there was
action, unfettered by qualifying verbiage. He did not "pass the buck"
to the other fellow, according to the habit which army regulations
and restrictions readily develop. When he went into Pershing's room,
adjoining his, with a bundle of papers, and returned with them signed,
there was finality. He could be tart as well as brief, in the face
of prolix and meandering reports or memoranda. "If this man really
had something to say," he remarked one day after he had read ten
typewritten pages, "I wonder how many more pages he would require."

Next to Pershing himself, Harbord was most familiar with the planning
and forming of an organization which would be equal to handling an
unprecedented problem, three thousand miles from home. That story about
the old quartermaster, who said that everything was going beautifully
until a war came along and ruined his organization, had a most palpable
application when a department which had carried on the routine of
supplying our small regular army had to design a service equal to our
demands in France. It was unequal to the task. A new and comprehensive
system which experience had demonstrated to be suited to our needs
divided the activities of the army into two territorial departments.
One, that of the zone of advance, running from the outskirts of our
training area in Lorraine to the front, was to have charge of the
fighting. The other was to see that the fighters reached the front
and were supplied when they arrived. His headquarters at Tours, the
Commanding General of the new Services of Supply--the "S. O. S.," as
the army knew it--was to be the head of a principality, of almost the
breadth of France itself, under the kingdom of Pershing.

[Illustration: MAP NO. 10
SERVICES OF SUPPLY. SHOWING PORTS AND RAILROAD COMMUNICATIONS.]

One day, when at last our long period of drill and preparation was
having the substantial result of making our pressure at the front felt
in earnest, Pershing said: "I'm going to send Harbord to troops, but
I shall have him back----" the plan being to have him back as Chief
of Staff, I understood. Harbord had his desire, the desire of every
soldier, for field service. A brigadier-general now, he was given
the brigade of Marines in place of Brigadier-General Doyen, who had
been invalided home, where he died, as the result of his hard service
in France. One week I saw him in the barracks building at Chaumont,
surrounded by hundreds of adjutants, in the direction of the whole,
and the next week I found him in charge of one part--but that a very
combatant part--of the whole: with no stenographer, but writing his
reports and orders on the little folding typewriter.

His new command required the tact of a man of the world as well as of a
soldier among soldiers. There are no better fighters than the Marines;
none prouder in their spirit of corps. The only Marine brigade in
France was not pleased at the thought of having a regular in command.
It wanted one of its own corps. Harbord had not been about among the
officers and men many times before the Marines were saying, "Well, if
we had to have an army man, we're glad we've got Harbord." By the time
they were fighting in Belleau Wood, they had put their globe insignia
on his collar, which he was proud to wear. He was adopted into the
Marines, while regular officers were saying that he had better make his
transfer official.

His record of the battle was a model of military reports, which did not
hesitate to acknowledge mistakes in detail, the point being that the
Marines won the wood. Promoted to be a major-general and to command the
2nd Division (which included the Marines), he led the race-horse 2nd in
the counter-offensive in the Château-Thierry operations, which was the
turn of the tide against the Germans. After this success the next step
for him seemed to be a corps command, and possibly the command of an
army, in the course of the rapid promotions that were due to care for
the immense forces now arriving in France. His division had only just
been relieved, when he received a hurry call to go to Chaumont. When
he arrived, Pershing looked him over to see how he had been standing
the strain of two months of severe fighting, after his ten months of
harassing strain as Chief of Staff. Harbord appeared fresh, and ready
for another year's hard work.

"Harbord, I'm going to send you down to straighten out things in the
S. O. S.," Pershing then told him....

"Well, you see what my general has done to me," Harbord remarked a few
hours later in an outburst to a friendly ear. "He's taken me away from
my division,--but," he added, "he's my general. He knows what he wants
me to do----" Then a toss of the head, and from that moment his thought
was concentrated on his new duties.

Things had been going badly in the Services of Supply. There was
congestion at the ports; construction work was not proceeding. In view
of the enormous demands which would arise when we should have two
million men, instead of the million we had planned, in the autumn, the
situation had suddenly become most serious. Washington, with our own
ports sensitive to delays at those on the other side of the Atlantic,
had about decided to send General Goethals to France to take charge
of the Services of Supply as a co-ordinate commander with General
Pershing. This was a radical departure. It meant two commanders in
France instead of one, directly responsible to Washington. Such divided
authority in such a crisis stirred the apprehension of every soldier
lest in a great crisis the fighting branch should not be supreme over
every other branch which served its will and necessities. The simplest
of military principles required that the commander of the forces at
the front must command the whole, or his fearful responsibility for
needless loss of life rested on inadequate authority.

Harbord, Pershing's right-hand man, was the counter to Washington's
suggestion; that major of cavalry, whom nobody knew in the days when
Goethals was building the Panama Canal, would prove that we already had
a Goethals of our own in France. Without going over the ground of the
pioneer stages of the Services of Supply, covered in my first book,
the requirement upon which all transport depended was construction.
We must enlarge the plant which France offered us for our needs. This
meant building new docks to accommodate the requisite shipping, webs
of spur tracks, immense areas of warehouses at the ports and others
inland to accommodate our supplies; plants for assembling our railroad
locomotives and cars brought from home; repair shops for them, and for
guns and gun carriages, ambulances and aeroplanes and automobiles,
motor trucks, and all other vehicular transport. More important still,
there must be repair shops for human beings--enormous hospitals for
caring for the sick and wounded, who might come by the hundreds of
thousands in a single month. Hospital trains must be ready for their
transport from the front. Enormous bakeries must provide hundreds of
thousands of loaves every day. There must be barracks for the nurses
and all the workers; barracks for the aviators and helpers who were
drilling; lighters for disembarking troops when they arrived; camps,
where they could spend the night ashore. Railroad sidings must enlarge
railroad capacity; more spur tracks must be built wherever we had
railheads at the front, and regulating stations which should dispatch
the trains to the railheads. Around quiet villages must arise temporary
cities of our building, connected with all the other activities in a
system which was punctual and dependable.

The S. O. S. had been arranged to meet the demands of an army in our
own sector. Its plan was disrupted by the switching of our troops
to Château-Thierry and Picardy to meet the German offensives. The
mobilization for Saint-Mihiel brought us back to our own sector. After
Saint-Mihiel came the Argonne concentration, called into being by the
hope of a speedy end of the war through one supreme effort by all the
Allies. Should our new troops, thrown in action without sufficient
preparation, and the veteran troops, thrown in without time for
recuperation after Château-Thierry and Saint-Mihiel, go without food
and ammunition, we might have a disaster. The wisdom of our insistence
that we could form and supply and fight an integral army, instead of
infiltrating our men into the British and French armies, was on trial.
Victory and our soldiers' lives were at stake.

The battle was to be fought not only against machine-gun nests, but in
the sweating effort of stevedores, of mechanics, and laborers, in the
roar of foundries, in the rattle of trains far from the sound of the
guns. For officer personnel in the S. O. S. we had first, of course,
the regulars, those of the old quartermaster department and of the
engineers, who would not ordinarily command troops, and those who could
be spared from the zone of advance where every able fighting officer
was required. These must be few, compared to the numbers of the whole.
Second, we had all the men in the thirties, forties, and fifties,
experts in every calling, who had come to France in their enthusiasm,
in answer to the summons, in the days when the thing was for every
man to serve in uniform in France. These were too old for combat,
even if they thought they were not. They could not stand the physical
hardship of the front, however brave their spirit. The S. O. S. was the
place for them. There, or in building the organization of supply at
home--which was primarily important--the nation could make the best use
of their training in civil life. Third were younger officers, from the
Guard or a training-camp, caught by the card-index system classifying
occupations, and separated from their regiments because they were
experts in some line of activity which was short of personnel in the S.
O. S. They knew how to fight; but their knowledge of something else,
their superiors thought, not they, was more useful to the nation.

For mechanics we had all the men skilled in trades at home who were as
ready to give up high wages for a soldier's pay, and to work double
union hours, as they would have been to stick tight in a fox-hole
against a counter-attack, if they had had the chance. These came
in their thousands, living under conditions far more miserable, in
contrast to their habits, than their officers--from railroad trains
and shops, bakeries, cement factories, contractors' firms, and every
industry on the list--the typical American army, which has made
industrial America.

For labor we had all we could pick up abroad: able-bodied German
prisoners, middle-aged and invalided French territorials, Senegambians,
Turcos, Belgians, Spaniards, Chinese, Annamites. From home we had,
aside from expert labor, chiefly the colored men, who had no rivals
in "rustling" cargo. At the docks their giant strength and their
good-natured team-play were supreme; but they were in evidence all the
way forward to the shelled roads which they were repairing back of the
front where their kinsmen had their place in line.

The feeling between the regulars and reserves, which I shall describe
in general terms elsewhere, was bound to be most acute in the S. O.
S. Suffice it to say for the present that it was a gospel with the
regulars that they should hold all the high commands in the S. O. S. as
well as at the front. It was granted that the regulars must be absolute
in the zone of advance, and all reserves their pupils or "plebes"; but
how was the manager of a great railroad, of a bakery, of a contracting
firm, a chemist, a civil engineer who had built tunnels and bridges, or
a business organizer, to feel that a regular officer was his superior
in his own line? The answer of the regular was that only he understood
how to coördinate all policy for military end,--the old, old answer
of the inner temple of mystery, from the days of the Egyptian priests
to the present. The regulars said, too: "How can we tell who is the
real expert? These big men from civil life are jealous of one another.
To appoint one over the heads of others would bring friction. We know
war. Supply is a part of war. And we shall keep matters in our own
hands----" and promotions, too, as the reserves might whisper.

A point which the regulars dwelt upon even more emphatically was that
the reserve officers did not know discipline and army forms. Some of
these reservists had directed thousands of men in organizations at
home, without knowing how to drill a company. In their experience,
building railroad yards and warehouses did not require military
etiquette. The men under them held even stronger convictions on the
subject. They were doing the same kind of work that they did at home,
and amid peaceful surroundings. If they were workmen and not soldiers,
why should they have to submit to all the distinctions between rank
and file? Must they salute every man with a gold bar who happened to
pass along, when he was no nearer the front than they? He was not
their boss. What mattered, except that they were "on the job"? Why
did not these officers pay more attention to getting the tools and
material whose lack hampered progress? The officers could only turn to
their seniors, who turned to other seniors, on through the channels of
authority, to the lack of shipping, and to the plants at home, where
the workmen were being driven equally hard, but did not have to wear
uniforms and crook elbows in salute. As for army forms, the reserve
officers were ready to comply with them if they could find that there
was any settled system; but army forms seemed to change to meet the
requirements, as the reservists sometimes thought, of delaying action,
when that suited a commanding officer's idea.

Meanwhile, why should the assistant to the chief baker be an
infantryman? Not that he wanted to be in the S. O. S.: he wanted to be
at the front. Was the baking of bread taught only in the army? For the
army, yes, thought the regulars. The complaints of the soldiers about
the quality of the bread, which were warrantable, seemed to indicate
that the regulars might have escaped blame by giving the responsibility
to a civilian baker. A reserve officer whose business was automobile
manufacture, serving in a repair shop under a cavalryman, did not deny
that the cavalryman knew how to lead a squadron in a charge, but did
he know about mending broken motor trucks? The civil engineer, who had
once executed a contract for five millions, as he reported to a young
West Point engineer who had been a lieutenant when we entered the war,
might ponder the difference between theory and practice. A regular
engineer lieutenant-colonel of twenty-nine said: "From what I have seen
of the eminent civil engineers, I should think that they ought to be my
subordinates." He was young; so was Napoleon at Marengo and Austerlitz.
Both were soldiers.

When reserve officers, because of their expertness, were given
authority, it did not mean that they were always able to exercise it.
One who came to France under the express condition that he was to
be supreme in his branch found that he was made a subordinate. What
could he do? Resign? Resign in time of war? There was another to whom
General Pershing said: "You go ahead. I give you carte blanche in
your work." One day he was called on the carpet by his regular senior
for acting on his own authority. "Who told you to do this?" asked the
superior.

"General Pershing!"

"Well, then you better report to him. You go tell him you have been
insubordinate, you haven't been doing things through channels, and see
what he says."

This was putting the Commander-in-Chief himself to the test of regular
loyalty.

"You tell that narrow-minded regular for me," said Pershing, "to leave
you alone."

This did not mean that the reserve officer was left alone. He could not
carry all his troubles to the busy Commander-in-Chief, as he struggled
against the system.

The reservists, both officers and the whole force of workers, were
not meeting as a rule the best class of regulars. A brigadier or a
colonel in the zone of advance, who was wearing himself out physically
and mentally, or who for less temporary reasons was not efficient,
was relegated to the rear, with the idea that he might be good
enough for the S. O. S. Yes, anything was good enough for the S. O.
S., thought its pestered, nerve-racked workers. Was that colonel or
brigadier, who had served his country for twenty or thirty years,
to be made subordinate to some railroad man, civil engineer, or
manufacturer, who had been in uniform only a few months? He might
be sent home; but surely not on the invitation of General Peyton C.
March, Chief of Staff in Washington, who had his own domestic problem
in derelicts without the further annoyance of importations. So the
colonel or the brigadier was cared for in the S. O. S., all the while
feeling keenly his humiliation at not having command of a regiment
or brigade in combat operations. If he were wise enough to serve his
country and keep his health, he only signed the papers turned in by
an energetic subordinate, be he regular or reserve; but if he were
mischievous in his insistence upon authority, he clogged the wheels of
organization,--which is not saying that he was not a worthy, honorable,
and agreeable gentleman, even if he were not of much service in
building a bridge or a warehouse in a hurry, or in forcing five days'
rations through to a division at the front. Considering these things,
and considering that every man tied to some humdrum task in the S. O.
S. wanted to be up under fire instead of one, two, or three hundred
miles away from the guns, it is not surprising that the spirit of corps
of the S. O. S. was not good. It was well that Harbord arrived in July;
or he might have been too late.



XXIII

THE S. O. S. DRIVES A WEDGE

  Depending on Tours--The "front-sick" S. O. S.--Harbord not
  "Bloisé"--Getting his men together--Building morale--Troops as
  freight--Brest to the front--Construction figures--Atterybury's
  job--Sorting supplies at Gièvres--Hospitals and the product of
  war--Feeding the front from Is-sur-Tille--The point of the wedge at
  the railheads.


If one division at the front knew little of what another division was
doing, how much less its men knew of what was doing in the capital
of the Services of Supply at Tours, that ancient city in the center
of France. Grand Headquarters in the town of Chaumont, and Army
Headquarters in the village of Souilly, were relatively small office
affairs, compared to Tours.

In place of tables of barrages, maps of trench sectors, photographs of
combat areas, reports of hills and villages and lines of resistance
taken, and the examination of prisoners, which formed the staple
routine of a combat headquarters, there were tables of the daily amount
of tonnage and the number of troops disembarked, maps of transportation
systems and railroad yards, photographs of half-finished quays and
vast piles of cargo, blue prints of the plans of a network of tracks
running up to the doors of hospitals and warehouses, and reports from
foresters getting out timber, from commanders of base sections and
regulating stations.

One thing, however, Tours, Chaumont, and Souilly, and every other
headquarters had in common. That was the call for more guns, rifles,
clothing, shoes, machine-guns, ammunition, engineering tools, balloons,
aeroplanes, ambulances, automobiles, motor-trucks, and other material,
which was passed on from Souilly to Chaumont, from Chaumont to Tours,
and then home. "We are sending them," home responded.

"But hurry!" Tours cried.

"Clear your ports," home replied.

"Stop wasting space! Fully load your ships," said Tours. "Equip the
troops in the way we ask! Send things in the order we ask! Put them
aboard with some kind of classification. Don't throw steel beams on top
of automobile parts and chemical apparatus! Pack your sugar and flour
in bags that don't tear open."

If there had been a long-distance telephone across the Atlantic, steam
might have risen to the surface from the scorching messages; but the
wires we had stretched from Paris to Chaumont and to Tours and to
the coast were used with a prodigality which was an evidence of the
distrust of our own postal system.

The barracks that had been turned into offices at Tours had office
space equivalent to that of a New York "sky-scraper" or of the Army and
Navy Building in Washington. A private was as distinguished a person in
the streets of Tours as in the streets of Washington. Nowhere, not even
in the ordnance department at home, were more leather puttees and boots
with spurs circulating between offices to maintain _liaison_ between
the combat units and the business end of war than at the general
offices of that huge corporation at Tours. The officers worked hard
all day without feeling that they had accomplished anything like as
much as they would have in their own occupation at home. They wondered
sometimes why so many of them were there. Everyone was thinking how
to secure material and labor, and everyone had a sense of struggling
with his hands tied behind his back against walls of cotton wool. There
was a pitiful look in their eyes as they stood before their senior
officers, pleading for a chance to go to the front and fight. Was this
sitting at your desk in your spurs going to war in France?

"Mother, take down your service flag, your son's in the S. O. S.," was
the subject of a popular army song in France.

Not far from Tours was Blois--we shall have more to say about it--where
officers whose seniors reported them unsatisfactory were re-classified
and re-assigned. It was the channel of passage from the front to the
S. O. S., and for officers in one branch of the S. O. S. who might do
better in another. The danger of being sent to Blois was a shadow over
every mind.

Where the fighters were "homesick," the able-bodied workers in the S.
O. S. were "front-sick" and "heart sick." All their selfish interest
centered in escaping the misfortune of having to return home without
having heard a shot fired. If they did not do well, there was no chance
of their reaching the front; if they did well, they became invaluable
to a senior who refused to let them go. Their restlessness and their
feeling of general helplessness in fits of despondency led to a few
cases of suicide.

When Harbord came to Tours, it was not by the way of Blois. He was no
major-general of engineers or of the Q. M. C. who, however specially
capable for his task, had not been in combat service. Here was
Pershing's favorite adjutant, fresh from victories in the field, come
back from the limelight at the front to help "count the beans and
rustle freight." This of itself gave him a prestige that affected the
state of mind of the whole organization. He must be a man of action;
and the S. O. S. wanted action. He knew his regulars and his reserves,
and Headquarters at Chaumont, and the needs of the army from ship's
hold to the fox-holes. The business men in uniform, with U. S. R. on
their collars, did not care whether or not their chief was a Catholic
or a Presbyterian. A regular or a reserve? Was he the man?

He found the S. O. S. working in a series of compartments rather
than departments. Though each was most conscientiously striving for
coördination, different chiefs were in a mood that meant friction.
Projects whose immediate completion was vital were not as far along as
those whose completion could wait. Many were being constructed on too
elaborate and lavish a scale by chiefs who had won a disproportionate
amount of authority to carry out their ideas. They were enjoying the
building of a plant that would last for twenty years, when the war
might be won in another six months. Harbord did what Pershing would
have done if the C.-in-C. had come to Tours; he was Pershing's man, as
he had said. He grasped his problem, made his plan, and then set his
adjutants to driving.

"The first time I went in to see Harbord," said one of them, "I knew
that he knew his own mind, and that he was going to tell me what to do;
and that I was going out to do it with the confidence that he would
back me up. His 'no' to my suggestions was as convincing as his 'yes'
that we were to have team-play--and that he was master."

His faculty of drawing men together was put in full play in some of
the obvious methods of leadership which had been somewhat neglected
in the S. O. S., where there had evidently been a policy that if you
honestly follow the regulations all will come out well in the end.
All the chiefs gathered at his house once a week for luncheon, where
they found one another to be human. Instead of remaining at Tours,
he left routine to his Chief of Staff, and spent three nights out of
four on his railroad car in going and coming, with his office on board
always in touch with Tours, while his inspections kept him informed of
progress and aroused the enthusiasm of subordinates. The feeling passed
that you were derelict if fate sent you to work in the S. O. S. The S.
O. S. began to have the fighting spirit of corps of the front--that
of an ambitious business concern. Harbord had not been a week in
command before the S. O. S. was feeling a new force emanating from
headquarters. They were calling to the fighters: "We're with you. Take
more prisoners, so that we can set them to work. It means more supplies
for you." That new commander who now had under him more than four
hundred thousand men, and activities exceeding those of the largest
of our trusts, would make every worker feel that he was contributing
his part, not for his wage envelope, but for winning the war which had
brought him to France.

Our cargo was now flowing into every one of the ports of France south
of Cherbourg, and overflowing into Marseilles in the Mediterranean
too. The less that had to go to Marseilles, the more shipping time
would be saved from the longer trip through the Strait of Gibraltar. We
Americans like competition. The different Atlantic ports were started
on a "race to Berlin" unloading contest; the stevedores of the port
which won would be the first to go home. No Americans in France were
more homesick than our colored men. When one was asked whether he would
rather work at Bordeaux than at Saint-Nazaire, he replied: "Is Bordeaux
any nearer home?" The "rustling" of cargo now became a game in which
joyous calls were heard in common urging against any shirking which
might delay the return of the workers to the levees and the cotton
fields of their own southland. In tune with the Herculean mechanical
effort of the giant American cranes, their Herculean muscular effort
in its impetuosity was in imminent danger of removing the stanchions
from the ships as well as the cargo. A British skipper who thought
that he would be two days in unloading, and found that only one day
was required, returned home to say that he was lucky to escape without
having his ship's plates torn off and started toward the front. When
bags of sugar were piled so high on one dock that several tons went
through the floor into the water, it was a tragedy to people on sugar
rations at home and to the sugar-hungry men at the front, but in the
fever of effort to win the war by supplying two million men with
their requirements for battle it was only an incident of the wicked
extravagance of war, which led one of the stevedores to say that the
sugar must count in the record as cargo discharged, while he did not
think that it would make that old sea that had made him seasick so much
sweeter that you would notice it.

The impetus which the coming of Harbord gave to the S. O. S. implies no
criticism of past accomplishment. His business was to "go through," as
it had been at Belleau Wood and in the counter-offensive. An unfinished
plant, preparing for an offensive in the spring of 1919, must be made
equal to one in the fall of 1918. There had never been any lack of
energy in the S. O. S. This was guaranteed by our national character,
under the whip of war. All the while we had been making progress.
The feeling of helplessness on the part of the workers had been due
to ambition thwarted in gaining the full results of the supreme
efforts which they were eager to exert. There had been no cessation of
building; no cessation in striving to find in Europe every available
article which would save transport, without reference to the cost--cost
being the one thing that never made us hesitate. Every man accepted
the idea that all the money in the world was ours.

There was already an end to the confusion of the early days when the
parts of a piece of machinery arrived on different ships. Tables of
priority for each month were sent ahead to Washington, which might
well think that the A. E. F. considered that the War Department had
the magical power of pulling anything that it required out of a hat.
Instead of sending his requisitions for material through Chaumont,
Harbord now sent them direct to the War Department; he was the great
administrative agent for the chief of G-4 at Chaumont, who coördinated
combat and supply, holding the balance between the demands of the front
and the wherewithal to meet them. There was increasing coördination at
home, too, under the indomitable authority of General March.

The wedges which our divisions were driving down the walls of the Aire
and the Meuse rivers and against the Kriemhilde Stellung were only a
part of the giant wedge of the supply system, with its bases as broad
as the United States, which narrowed to the breadth of the Atlantic
Coast of France from Brest to Bordeaux. Most of our troops arrived at
Brest, where the harbor was deep enough for the draught of the mighty
German liners which had been transformed into transports. Navy blue
and army khaki swarmed on the docks where our sea and land forces met.
Our destroyers sped out of the harbor to disappear on the horizon, and
reappear as the protective scurrying guards of the transports which
they brought safe into port before they slipped out to sea again, to
see more freighters safe through the submarine zone under their agile
husbanding.

During the height of that transatlantic excursion season of ours the
men on board slept in three shifts of eight hours each; they had two
meals a day. Their warm bodies were close-packed, breathing into one
another's faces, in tiers of low-ceilinged rooms, for from seven to ten
days, after the healthy life of the training camps which had accustomed
their lungs to fresh air. When the transport passed into the harbor
mouth, and the submarine danger was over, as ants might swarm out of
their runways to the top of a hill they swarmed on deck, where first-
and second-class passengers had sauntered and promenaded, in solid
masses of khaki, who formed the most valuable and superior first-class
passengers America had ever sent to Europe. They had arrived. They
made the harbor echo with calls and hurrahs. Theirs had been a passage
which money could not buy or would want to buy for more than one
experience; a passage not for pay or adventure, whose glamour was a
sight of the sea and of France and of all they had read about the war.
They were man-power, man-power by its thousands and millions, formed in
a common mold no less than egg-grenades, their clothes cut according
to the same pattern no less than their gas masks, the man-power which
we had to give if we did lack artillery and aeroplanes, automata who
were sentient parts of a machine responding to the mechanism of orders
rather than of levers. Equipped, disciplined, trained, hardened, the
preparatory processes of the training camps sent them to us for the
final processes in France.

Mighty lighters hurried alongside the transport, whose time must not
be wasted while the hundreds of thousands of other passengers waited
three thousand miles away. Swiftly, more swiftly than any but human
cargo could be unloaded, they were disembarked, the decks and the hold
becoming strangely empty with the resounding footsteps of the officers
and crew in place of the hum of conversation and the atmosphere of
human bodies crowded together.

Their confinement normally and charitably required that stiffened
bodies and minds and suffocated lungs should have a period of
relaxation and exercise. This indeed was a part of the original plans;
but now when original plans had gone by the board in feeding in men to
make the present the decisive offensive, though horses must be given
rest, it was found that men who had been through a régime to toughen
their human adaptability for what four-legged animals could not endure,
could do without such consideration when they were needed as the minute
men of the Meuse-Argonne battle. Shipped as freight from camp to pier,
from pier on to transport, and then from Brest across France, which
they saw only through the doors of box cars where they were packed
as close as on board the transports, the one idea at every point was
to hurry them along until they were delivered f. o. b. at the front.
There, after coming from comfortable barracks, after the devitalizing
closeness of transport and train, in a merciless climatic change, they
could remain in the fox-holes in the chill penetrating mists and rains
as they were still being hurried against the enemy, until death or
wounds or "flu" or pneumonia or the dizziness of fatigue reported them
as "expended."

Caring for the passage of this human stream from the ports to the
front was the first duty of the S. O. S. The next was to follow it up
with supplies. Wherever men were they must be fed. La Pallice and La
Rochelle were also being used; but the main Atlantic cargo ports were
Saint-Nazaire and Bordeaux. Ships moved with a processional regularity
to their places alongside the docks we had built. Our warehouses
stretched out over the sandy reaches where an occasional vine appeared
between spur tracks on the site of the vineyards for which we were
paying, and which hardly brought as much wealth to Bordeaux as the
money we were spending. Broken bags of flour, and broken crates of
canned goods, were piled in separate warehouses; as they could not
stand the journey to the front, they were used to feed the legions
of the S. O. S. For there was an army larger than Grant had in the
Appomattox campaign to be supplied between the ports and the front.
Fields were filled with the parts of automobiles and trucks. Assembled,
they started in long convoys across France to Saint-Mihiel or the
Argonne, their drivers having a tour of the château country before
passing over the Côte d'Or of Burgundy. All the parts of the railroad
locomotives and cars arriving were assembled in the vast shops which
we had built and fitted out with machinery according to the latest
American models.

We were supposed to have, but never had, ninety days' routine supplies
in France for all our forces in France. Of these forty-five days were
to be in the warehouses at the base ports. Sometimes trains were loaded
at the ports and run straight through to the front. Normally, there
were three changes in transit. At our service were all the arterial
railroads of central France, and all the locomotives and cars that
the French could spare, and all the broken-down French rolling stock
which our mechanics could repair. Possibly no denial can ever overtake
the report that we built a railroad clear across France; but we did
nothing of the kind, and contemplated nothing of the kind. We built
spur tracks and sidings and cut-offs; if all the track we laid, figured
a statistician in G-4 at Chaumont, had been in line, it would have
reached from Saint-Nazaire across France and Germany to the Russian
frontier.

All our building construction, if it had been concentrated in one
standard barrack building, would extend from Saint-Nazaire as far as
the Elbe river in Germany. We erected and put in operation 18,543
American railroad cars, and 1,496 American locomotives. Besides
producing enough firewood to form an unbroken wall around three sides
of France, one meter high and one meter broad, we sawed 189,564,000
feet of lumber, 2,728,000 standard gauge ties, 923,560 narrow gauge
ties, and 1,739,000 poles and pit props. If all the motor vehicles we
brought to France were put end to end, they would form a convoy two
hundred and ninety miles in length. On the day that the armistice was
signed we were operating 1,400 miles of light railway, of which 1,090
miles had been captured from the Germans. They handled 860,652 tons of
material.

These figures, put together in a paragraph in passing, give an idea
of the magnitude of the business which the army of the S. O. S. was
conducting. It was an army which knew no excitement in war except work.
The problem of sea transport which faced our ports at home was no
more trying than the problem of railroad transport from our ports in
France; _liaison_ between combat units in action no more trying than
the _liaison_ between our American railroad men with their American
training and the French railroad system. We were used to long distances
and long hauls; the French, in a country no larger than some of our
states, were used to short distances and short hauls. Impatient at
first with their methods, we saw how they had come to be applied in
France. Amazed at first at ours, the French came to appreciate how
well our long heavy trains suited the wholesale business of war. The
French seemed unsystematic, yet their worn locomotives and rickety
cars managed to carry on an enormous traffic. When we applied our
home tracer system for the first time on the railroads of France,
the central offices might know the location of every car under their
authority.

Our railroad men, under Brigadier-General W. W. Atterbury, our railroad
general, used to having at home all the supplies they needed, made
victory possible by the way in which they patched and contrived
in their energy and resource to meet the demands of the months of
September and October, which were far beyond their calculations. They
share the honors due to our pioneer railroad builders in the early
days of the west, while they exemplified the type of men who operate
our great systems of today, whether the engineer, the fireman or shop
mechanic, the veteran superintendent, or the young fellow just out of a
technical school. I wonder no less how they were able, with the rolling
stock at their command, to forward all the tonnage we required at the
front, than I wonder how we were able to take some of the positions of
the whale-back.

In his office at Tours, surrounded by his adjutants, who, though
in khaki, were railroad men in every word and thought, and in the
discipline which our home systems have established in webbing our
country, Brigadier-General Atterbury had a command which in numbers
belonged to a major-general. His discipline was that of a leadership
which won loyalty. In all his perplexing situations, when he was
striving for authority and material for an undertaking so strictly
technical, he never passed on any animus to a subordinate. It is
something for an officer to return from France with the respect which
he had from his subordinates.

The train that started on the steel trail across France, leaving behind
the hectic labor and the piles of cargo and the warehouses built and
building, when it passed out of the region of the base sections came
to the intermediate zone. In the regular routine it lost its entity
when it ascended the "hump" which we had built at Gièvres,--that
American hump, singularly characteristic of our system of labor-saving
organization. Every car was loaded with material belonging to some
branch of the army. One by one they were "dropped" down the incline,
each being switched to a track, as its downgrade momentum, subject to
the brakes, sent it--with the facility of letters tossed into mail bags
by a railway mail clerk--where its contents belonged, whether to the
door of an engineer, an ordnance, a signal corps, a medical corps, or
a Y. M. C. A. or Red Cross warehouse, while the meat trains or others
with perishable cargo went to our vast cold-storage plant. From the
"hump" you looked out over a city of warehouses, of barracks, and
other structures, with its guardhouse, its clubs, its motion-picture
theaters, its military policemen, under a colonel who was mayor, common
council, and king--all having been built in the open fields as a way
station from the New York docks to the front.

Here at Gièvres other trains were made up to continue the journey
forward in answer to the daily requisitions of the regulating stations
upon the intermediate reserves. War being a one-way business, all
expenditure and no income, all loaded cars were going one way except
those bringing lumber and ties that we were cutting from the forests
for construction, salvage from the battlefield, broken trucks, and
vehicles--and the hospital trains. Here prevision must be most sure.
Man was the most valuable piece of machinery; his repair the most
important of all repairs. We had enormous hospitals in the intermediate
zone as well as at the base ports; and indeed all over central and
southern France. The medical corps used great hotels and other
buildings to care for the hosts of broken, gassed, exhausted, sick
men from the Meuse-Argonne battle; but when we had to build we ran
out spur tracks--deep was our faith in spur tracks--into open fields
upon which rose cities of standardized unit hospital buildings, all of
a color, all of a pattern, and also operating rooms and Y. M. C. A.
clubs and theaters, under the autocracy of some regular surgeon who
looked up from his desk at the chart on the wall showing the number of
his patients and the number of vacant beds. The hospital trains ran
up on the spur tracks, and hobbling wounded descended, and wounded
who could not hobble were carried on stretchers to their beds--each a
card-indexed automaton, no less than when he entered the training camp,
as he would remain until he was demobilized or buried in France.

So the trains of munitions passed the trains laden with the products
of war, the knowledge of whose sacrifice is the only value of war.
Right and left through the intermediate zone, from Orléans to the
Mediterranean, were more repair shops, remount depots, training camps
for aviators, tank crews, machine-gunners and carrier pigeons, each
worker striving for the same purpose that shoveled the coal into the
locomotive firebox or slipped a shell into a gun or a cartridge into a
rifle. At Is-sur-Tille, near Dijon, was another "hump," which looked
down on what seemed a training camp in its streets of mud: for there
was mud in the S. O. S. as well as at the front--mud kept soft by the
damp atmosphere when autumn rain was not falling, and deep by the
trampling of many feet. Here, as at Gièvres, the train sent its cars on
their way to the warehouses to which their contents belonged; here you
felt at first hand the breath of the front in all its hot and pressing
demands; here was the largest bakery, with cement floors and all
up-to-date apparatus, directed by the head of one of our large bakeries
at home, rolling out the round loaves with the ease of peas shelled
from a pod. All night long, as at Gièvres and at the base ports, the
switch engines coughed forth their growls as they shunted cars, and
the laborers worked at loading and unloading. The officer in charge
in his little office was directing as insistent an excursion business
as ever fell to the lot of man. His nightmare, and the nightmare of
all the regulating officers of the S. O. S., was moving cars. Every
hour a car was needlessly idle was waste. This called for labor, and
more labor--for more warehouse space, for more locomotives, for more
sidings; but as they were not forthcoming, why, man and machine must be
made to do more work. The excess strain on either was not considered.
The pressure was the same as that for the relief of a city stricken by
fire or earthquake.

Beyond Is-sur-Tille at Saint-Dizier was another, a supplementary,
regulating station for the Meuse-Argonne battle, which during the
battle fed, apart from the troops in the Saint-Mihiel and other
sectors, 645,000 men and 115,000 animals. Regulating stations did the
detail, while Gièvres and the base ports did the wholesale. They saw
that each division received its daily rations of food and ammunition.
Each division had its "cut in" of cars, with all its daily supplies,
which was made up a day in advance and sent to the divisional railhead.
Knowing the needs of the divisions, a regulating station sent its
requisition back to the big warehouse centers, while it always
tried to keep on hand a small amount of all articles likely to be
needed in haste. When we were swinging our divisions around for the
Château-Thierry emergency, one division had seven railheads in eight
days; its trains were on hand on each occasion. They must be; otherwise
the divisions went hungry. All other demands must yield to the routine
which brings the morning milk and the grocer's boy to the kitchen door.

At the railhead you felt not only the breath of battle but that
throbbing suspense and intensity of purpose which is associated with
men in action. Here came the empty trucks and wagons from the front,
and the ambulances traveling in their convoys on the crowded roads up
to the zone of fire, while men worked in darkness. Here the wedge from
home was narrowing under the hammer strokes, until you could feel it
splitting the oak--the hammer strokes of the hundred millions, their
energy, their prayers and thoughts.

Those empty trucks seemed ever hungry, open mouths, the mute expression
of the call for more, and still more, of everything with which to keep
up the driving--more replacements as well as material.

When the front wanted anything, it was wanted immediately. Improvise
it, purloin it, beg for it, but send it, was the command that admitted
of no refusal. If this officer could not get it, put another in his
place who could. Officers when they lay down for a few hours' sleep
had their telephones at their elbow, ready as firemen to answer the
call. Men worked until the doctors ordered them to the hospital--that
they must do. They could do no more. The S. O. S. could not send guns
or tanks when it had none from home; but American resourcefulness
surpassed its own dreams of probabilities. Harbord could well say to
Pershing: "I've straightened out things in the S. O. S."



XXIV

REGULARS AND RESERVES

  Isolation of West Pointers--College graduates not dissociated
  from the community--The monastic ideal of the founder of West
  Point--And the caste ideal--The officer a cleat on the escalator
  of promotion--Out of contact with America--Five years to make a
  soldier--A clan tradition--A blank check to the regulars.


Before our entry into the war our busy people had occasional reminders
that we had a United States Military Academy for training army
officers. Its gray walls on the bluffs at West Point were one of the
sights of the Hudson valley to passengers on river steamers. There
was an annual football game between the West Point and Annapolis
cadets. As every schoolboy knew, both teams were better than those
of the small eastern colleges, but not so good as those of the large
eastern colleges. The cadets were in the inaugural parade. Their
marching thrilled observers with an excellence which, however, is
always expected from professionals, whether ballplayers, billiardists,
actors, pugilists, circus performers, opera singers, or poets. It
was the cadets' business to march well. Of course they were superior
to amateurs in their own line. Investigations of "hazing" had also
at one time attracted wide attention to the Academy. Some of us were
horrified, and others of us amused--still others disinterested as
long as they did not have to take the dose themselves--at reports of
first-class men having to swallow large draughts of tabasco sauce in
order to toughen their stomachs for the horrors of war.

A community which sent only an occasional boy to West Point sent many
boys to civil colleges. I was one of the boys who went to a civil
college, and knew how we felt in our time. We returned at the end of
our freshman year with the attitude of "How little they know!" as we
looked around our native town. During our college career we spent
our holidays in home surroundings, which formed a break in college
influences. At the end of our senior year we had the "rah! rah!" spirit
of class, alma mater, and college fraternity, and a feeling that the
men who went to the principal collegiate football rival were of a low
caste. We were graduated full of theories and wisdom, and set out to
earn a living and incidentally to demonstrate how little "they" really
knew. By the time we were able to earn a living we concluded that
"they" had known more than we thought.

In fact, we ourselves now belonged to the "theys" struggling in the
great competition of professional and industrial life. We met men
who had not been to college, who were the betters of college men.
Having left college sworn to keep the fraternity first in our hearts
and to write frequently to our friends, other interests and other
acquaintances took our time. Meeting men from the deadly football
rival, we found that they were the same kind of men as ourselves. We
went to the annual football game and to class reunions where the old
spirit revived transiently, and old memories were recalled as we met
our old mates; but we found that we had not as much in common with
them, beyond memories, as we had had in our youth. They had gone into
different occupations, developed different tastes, and enjoyed varying
measures of success. Some had become rich and famous; some had gone
into politics; some had achieved respectable citizenship and some had
failed. Jones at the head of the class had not done well; Smith at
the foot had become a power in the world. Robinson, who had not been
a remarkable scholar in his youth, was now a great professor. Brown,
who had been a most serious student, was interested only in his golf
score; Higgins, who had barely escaped expulsion for frivolity, was a
serious judge. Larkin, who had been pointed out as a born leader of men
at twenty-one, was a follower of meager influence. All this proved that
college was only a curriculum in studies and basic character-building,
while development came in after life from inherent vitality,
persistence, latent talent, health, environment, and innumerable
influences.

The occasional West Pointer who returned home at the end of his second
year with squared shoulders and chin drawn in had become far more
dissociated from his surroundings than the freshman of a civil college.
He too was thinking, "How little they know!" After his graduation,
except for a rare visit to his parents, he had ceased to be a part of
the home community. He was here and there at army posts, and serving
in the Philippines. It was not unlikely that he had been a poor boy.
I have known instances where boys had to borrow the money to travel
to West Point. Many of the appointees had no particular call to the
profession of arms; but they knew and their parents knew that from the
day he entered the academy a cadet would not require a cent from home
or have to "work his way," or win a scholarship. The nation took him
under its wing. In order to receive an appointment it was well to know
the local Congressman or a Senator, even in these days of competitive
examinations.

The appointment of poor boys to be officers had the appeal of
democracy. It was a system devised in the days following the
Revolution, when in England commissions in the red-coats were bought
and sold, and only the sons of the gentry became officers. West Point,
now well over a hundred years old, was at first an engineering school,
but the real founder of the academy of today was Sylvanus Thayer,
who had Prussian ideas of the same kind as von Steuben, drillmaster
of the Revolutionary armies. He was of the old school of martinets,
who proposed to establish in the midst of this pioneering, lawless,
new country an institution where pupils could be caught young and so
disciplined and formed that they would be worthy of the strictest
European military tradition. In return for this privilege, the
Congressman was to have the power of appointment. Congress accepted
the idea. It did not interfere with the militia organizations, or any
group of amateurs, or the conviction that any man in his shirt-sleeves
and with a squirrel rifle was the equal of any European regular. At
the same time it trained some really professional officers, who might
become generals in time of war. Moreover, it was democratic; this was
the compelling argument. America was opportunity; a poor boy might
become a general; the Congressman might select the poor boy who was to
be a general.

The founder was a wise man and a stern one. He set the tradition which
endured; he put the cadets into the uniform which we see in the cuts of
Wellington's veterans who fought at Waterloo, and which they were to
wear for a hundred years. He put a stigma upon being "dropped" from
the Academy, which was a counter to family and political influence
for a softer course. Doubtless he foresaw that when the graduates
were through with these hard four years, they would be a unit for its
continuance, particularly as they had not to go through it again.
He had no illusions about democracy; he knew that democracy was the
curse of military discipline. He believed in an officer caste; there
could not be a good army without caste. If he could not have students
from families belonging to the officer caste according to European
traditions, he would make them gentlemen. They would be taught to
dance, and initiated into a code of officer ethics and etiquette. In
later times the Point had its polo team, a luxury which only rich youth
could afford.

This did not imply any relaxation of that severe régime in which
theoretically only the fittest were to survive. The cadets might not
smoke cigarettes or drink; they might not go skylarking to neighboring
towns. Their every hour of drill, study, and recreation was counted.
Far from the freedom of the elective course, every mind and body
was filled into a mold a century old. Three-fourths of the study
was scholastic; only a fourth, outside the drill, could be classed
as strictly military: for the cadets were supposed to receive the
equivalent of a collegiate education at the same time that they were
being trained to be officers. With few exceptions their instructors
were former graduates, called in from service with the army. Some of
these might be rusty, compared to the experts of civil colleges, who
gave their lives to specializing in one branch; but civilian teachers
could not supply military discipline and atmosphere.

The boy who went to West Point was an average boy. At an impressionable
age he entered a world as isolated and self-centered as that of a
monastery. The effects of college and fraternity spirit were many
times intensified. He had almost no opportunities of renewing the
associations of civil life; all was of the army, for the army, and by
the army. Though he served in the ranks as a cadet, he never served in
the ranks as a soldier. His "How little they know!" was not to suffer
the shock of competitive strife with the millions of other boys whom
he was to lead as a general. His quality of leadership had been tested
only in marks on drill and scholarship.

When he was graduated, he became an officer, his position assured for
life. The fellows of his school days who went into professions had
to have their way paid, or to work their way, through college and
professional school, and then slowly build up a practice. All this
the West Pointer had free, as the gift of his country, in the name of
democracy. His income would be more than equal to that of the average
graduate of our leading law and medical schools, with the certainty
of sufficient pay to care for his old age when he was retired. Once
an officer, he could lean back on his oars if he chose,--the hardest
work of his career having been finished when other boys are beginning
theirs. He became a cleat on the slow-moving escalator of promotion,
waiting on the death and retirement of seniors or the expansion of the
army. There were other cleats than those with the West Point marking,
those of officers who had worked their way up from the ranks, and a
larger class which had come in through examination; but the West Point
spirit was dominant. The West Pointer was a West Pointer; his tradition
the tradition of the army.

Superb of health, and hardened of physique, the graduate, I should add,
need not continue the West Point régime after his graduation. He might
neglect exercise to the point that led President Roosevelt to issue
his order compelling tests of physical endurance, which led to such
an uproar in army circles. Roosevelt proceeded on the sound principle
that capacity for enormous and sudden physical strain is a prime
requisite--as the Great War so abundantly proved--for leading infantry
on marches and in battle, and for sleeping on the ground.

Occasionally a West Pointer may have had some of his illusions about
"they" amended by his colonel; but anything like a full revelation was
out of the question. The young lieutenant, when he went to an army
post at home or in the Philippines, found himself in the same isolated
world of army thought and associations. The troops he commanded hardly
put him in touch with the average of citizens. They were men who, in
a country which did not feel the call to military service, enlisted
for $17.50 a month and the security of army life, oftener than for
adventure or ambition. Between them and their officers there was as
broad a gulf as between any officer class in Europe and their soldiers.
All standards were set on the time required to drill these recruits and
form them in the regular army mould.

When officers met, ten or twenty years after graduation or receiving
their commissions, they found none of the changes of fortune which
alumni of civil colleges found. Everyone was in the same relative rank
as when he became a second lieutenant. The army opposed promotion
by selection, as that meant "political" influence and favoritism.
Promotion by selection was against the law, except that the President
might, if he chose, make a second lieutenant a brigadier or
major-general with the consent of the Senate. The promotion of Wood,
Bell, Funston, and Pershing to be brigadiers over the heads of many
seniors led to no end of ill-feeling in the army, which made these
ambitious and able officers the victims of an unpopularity which only
time and the retirement of older officers could overcome.

They had all distinguished themselves in the Spanish War, which had
awakened us to a realization that though we had excellent regiments,
which exhibited all the sturdy and dependable qualities of the
regulars, we had no army organization. Under Secretary Root we
developed the staff school and the school of the line at Leavenworth,
and the War College at Washington, as a series of schools where
ambitious officers could study tactics, specialize in different
branches, form paper armies, and direct them in the field. The Staff
College applied West Point industry. Its students worked long hours
in the enthusiasm of mastering their profession. It was necessarily
scholastic. I remember seeing, soon after the Russo-Japanese War, a
combat maneuver of a few companies in the fields at Leavenworth. It
was carried out in a manner that would have mortified a young reserve
officer in France. Some of the soldiers participating had had two and
three years' service. In wonted freedom of speech I suggested that with
three months' training companies of college men, farm-hands, elevator
boys, brakemen, firemen, clerks, and managers, drawn from civil life,
could be taught to perform this maneuver better than we had just seen
it performed. There was a chorus of protest, particularly from the
older officers, who were saying that the trouble was that these men had
not had enough drill: it took five years to make a soldier. Not all the
younger officers joined in this view. One had the courage to express
his opinion: "You're right--provided those citizens you mention put
their hearts and intelligence into the job. Give them six months, with
enough experts to train them, and plenty of war material to back them;
shoot over them a few times--and I'd ask nothing better than to lead
them." He was to live to see his heresy become orthodoxy; to see West
Point receiving lessons in democracy from American soldiery.

Upon our entry into the war, our officers might have been divided into
three classes: (A), including about ten per cent of the whole, officers
who were the best of the Leavenworth graduates: officers who had shown
administrative ability and natural leadership; officers who were in
touch with the world, alert, vital, with strong constitutions, and
the capacity of meeting situations. These men would have done well in
any occupation in civil life. (B), average officers, devoted to their
duty, consistently efficient. These represented about forty per cent.
They would have been moderately successful in civil life. (C), the
remaining fifty per cent, of varying degrees of capacity. They included
the officers who kept step and escaped courts, those without ambition,
those who had not grown since they received their commissions, the
fussy sticklers for etiquette without power of initiative, those who
avoided any extra work, those who were never meant to lead men in
battle. This class, with few exceptions, would not have been successful
in civil life; not good lawyers or doctors, railroad men or mechanics.
They would never have earned the pay they received anywhere but in the
army.

Taken as a whole, the average was about the same as in any group of
men; it was high, indeed, considering the absence of incentive and of
competition. Then there were the unknown quantities in every class: the
officers whose latent powers, hitherto undetected, came into play under
the call of emergency; and the officers who disappointed expectations
formed in peace when they were put to the test of war.

All of them were fellows in the life of the post, where the feminine
element had its influence. Almost without exception they lived modestly
on their pay. Everyone knew the other's income. The rank of wives was
that of their husbands. The officer commanding was the head of the
family. All the jealousies of any isolated community were in play.
There was bound to be intrigue for good assignments, not only in
Washington and favorite posts at home, but in the Philippines; but
there was no such thing as corruption. The army was straight; its
code of honor was unimpeachable, except in the influences for good
assignments. There were hops and dinners, and visiting back and forth.
Inner feelings might be strong, but they must be kept under the mantle
of formal politeness; for you did not choose your companions. They were
chosen by army orders. Everything was official, and what was not was
rank.

Talk at the bachelor messes and at all gatherings was about "shop":
which left the outsider as detached as a railroad man attending a
convention of chemists. The lack of common themes was one reason for
absence of contact with the "they" of the outside world. The army
register was the most read of books. It showed where all your friends
were serving, and also you could reckon when you would receive your
promotion, and when perhaps you might have a separate command, with
husband and wife outranking all present and having to follow the views
of no senior in matters of routine. Strong and biting criticisms
were exchanged of fellow officers, whose nicknames of cadet days
remained,--whether "Rusty," or "Poppy," "Wooden-headed Charlie,"
"Slow Bill," "Pincushion Pete," or "Noisy Tom." Smith had gone to
seed. How Jones had ever been able to graduate from the Point was
past understanding. Robinson managed more good appointments with less
ability than any man in the service. All belonged to the army; in the
presence of the outside world there could be no fault in the army.
Officers stood together; they stood up for their men, no matter how
mercilessly they "bawled them out" at drill. In the background at drill
and in the barracks were the sergeants and corporals, the "non-coms,"
who shaped the "rookies" into soldiers, and who carried on all the
routine drills. Old soldiers, they had fallen into the habit of army
life. Their position in our democratic country lacked the importance
that it enjoyed in European armies. In the offices were the field
clerks, who ran the typewriters and carried on office routine.

Among the officers the college spirit backing the football team for
victory, and that of the secret society and of the trade-union, were
inevitably, as in all officers' corps, united in the common fealty
of self-protection. The army was always fighting for its rights
against an unappreciative nation. Secretly it was always against each
administration. Roosevelt was almost hated at one time. Later he was
admired. Congress was regarded as a natural enemy which cut down
appropriations. Civilian secretaries of war, who came into office
without the slightest knowledge of the character of the military
service, fell into the hands of a clique of officers close to the
throne. Unless you had a friend among them, you might not count on good
assignments, said the pessimistic of class C.

The feeling that the army was underpaid was as common as that it was
unappreciated. Officers, thinking only of the men in civil life who
succeeded, complained that they could not associate with the outside
world because they had not the money to keep up their social end.
The dream of every officer was of a great conscript army, like the
French or German. This meant promotion, of course, and that the army
would count for something in the country, though the thought was not
consciously selfish on the part of the best men. It was professional
and natural human ambition, based on the conviction of the necessity of
military training for every citizen. Without it an officer could not be
a good soldier. It was a better spirit than that of the time-servers
of class C, who were interested in promotion alone, and in passing the
time.

The prospect of Japan taking the Pacific Coast was the main item of
propaganda before the Great War began. Then Germany, or the victor in
the war, was seen devastating our coasts, his great guns toppling our
cities in ruins, and his infantry sweeping across country, perpetrating
the horrors of Belgium. Any officer who knew his profession in the
large, knew--despite the figures assembled for its proof--that the
transport of forces for a successful invasion was out of the question;
but such methods of making the flesh creep alone could awaken an
indifferent public to the necessity of an adequate army and the value
of military drill to our heterogeneous population. The regulars saw
us depending against trained hosts upon citizens in shirt-sleeves
and the undisciplined National Guard. "They" of the outside world
were concerned only with their own prosperity--undisciplined, utterly
without the military sense or spirit. War was a biological necessity.
There had always been war, and there always would be war. One day we
would find ourselves at war. The nation would call for soldiers, and
the little band of regulars would go forth to sacrifice. Meanwhile, in
the midst of ignorance, they would keep the altar fires burning, and
remain true to the traditions of their profession.

Then a miracle happened. The dream of the regulars came true. There
were to be no political generals: none were to be rewarded with
commissions for raising regiments, as in the Civil War. We were to
have the draft; all direction was to be left to the professional. The
nation signed a check upon all our resources, human and material, to
be filled out by them. Our people offered all they had in order to
save civilization. Their thought was the interest of their souls, their
country, humanity, and their future happiness and prosperity.

To the army officers war was their occupation: a viewpoint entirely
different. Glorious opportunity had burst the door of their isolation
wide open, beckoning them to power. It was the same to them as if
overnight the stocks in a land company had jumped a thousand per cent
owing to the discovery of oil on its property. Majors and captains of
classes B and C were to be colonels of regiments of three thousand men,
more than colonels, and many brigadiers, had ever commanded. All the
officers of class A might now carry out their theories in practice:
they might aim for the command, not of paper, but of real armies
in battle. Only a few had been in touch with the psychology of the
country. The country was swarming in upon them. Was it surprising that
some of class C and class B and even of class A felt, at the prospect
of enlightening the ignorance of the manhood of all the United States,
a constriction of cap-bands which had formerly been large enough?

For recruit officers of this enormous new army we turned to our
colleges and technical schools. This was an educational test, but the
only one that could be hurriedly applied. The average of the candidates
for the officers' training camps must be as naturally capable as the
average of army officers. They must possess a class A, drawn from men
already tested in civil life, which would be equal in brain power to
class A on the army list; and it must be relatively larger, considering
how few army officers there were and how numerous were the educated,
intelligent, and ambitious youth of our country. Among those who were
only privates in the swarms of volunteers who enlisted immediately
upon our entry into the war were privates to whom nature had given
a natural capacity for leadership which no curriculum of a military
school or civil college could supply; who were to take the leadership
of companies out of the hands of men who had an "A plus" in calculus,
surveying, and Latin. After the volunteers, the draft men began
arriving at the training camps in excursion parties.

"When I saw them piling off the train," said one regular officer, "the
undisciplined sons of an undisciplined people, I wondered what they
would do to us. They had not been in camp a day before I knew that
they were going to play the game." It had never occurred to him, his
horizon restricted from his juvenile days at the Academy, that there
was discipline in the running of our railroads, our industries, our
labor unions, our societies, our lodges, and in all the team-play of
our sports; that we were all used to obeying orders in the process of
earning a living or winning a baseball game. Those boys among the
volunteers and in the draft were of the same kind as the boys who went
to the Point to become members of the officer class. There had been no
such military marvel in all history as the willingness of our people
to yield authority which the British had granted only after painful
stages of inveterate resistance. It was all inexpressibly magnificent;
a better proof of strength and character than any form of routine
military preparedness. Given such a spirit--a spirit the stronger for
the dislike of military forms and the aversion to war--and we could no
more fail of victory in the end than you can exterminate the Jewish
race. Without that spirit nations decay and fail, for war does not form
character: war only expresses the character formed in peace.

Every volunteer and draft private, every would-be officer, realized
his ignorance, as a neophyte about to be initiated into professional
mystery. He had the willingness to conform, the eagerness to learn,
of the neophyte. No teachers were ever safer from scepticism on the
part of their pupils. The West Point discipline was applied. It taught
the drillmaster's fundamentals of forming good physique and habits of
strict routine. For this, great credit is due. This host of recruits,
American in intelligence and adaptability, "playing the game," never
able to answer back, rigid at salute, imbibing the instruction of
class A or enduring the outbursts of temper in good army "bawling out"
language from class C, formed a silent body of criticism which became
increasingly discriminate with growth of knowledge. The instructors did
not forget that the course at West Point was four years, though they
did forget that three-fourths of the curriculum consisted of elementals
learned at a civil school. They did forget their association with the
"rookies" who became privates of regulars in time of peace. Holding
fast to these criteria, they overlooked how fast the average youth of
America could learn when he put his heart and mind into intensive study
and drill.



XXV

LEAVENWORTH COMMANDS

  Developing "staff work" in France--The younger men from Leavenworth
  schools in the saddle--The inner ring of the expert--Building the
  "best staff" at Langres--The obsession of promotion.


So it happened that the little band of regulars did not go out to
sacrifice in a body. They were scattered through the training camps as
instructors, and they directed the expansion of our army organization.
The officers of our General Staff in Washington had followed the
strategy of the war on the maps, and studied its larger tactical
problems in the light of such reports as were received. Their own
precepts and training led them to admire the German rather than the
French army system; a majority, thinking at first that Germany would
win, were accordingly impressed with the seriousness of our undertaking
when we entered the war. They hardly realized that the Canadians
and Australians, who were people of something the same character as
ourselves, had developed from raw recruits divisions and corps which
were without superiors. We had formed no plan for operating an army in
Europe. We seemed to be unfamiliar with the static details of trench
warfare, with the clothing and equipment required; otherwise all this
information would not have had to be sent back by the officers of our
pioneer force in France three months after our entry into the war.

The training camps being established, and munition plants under way at
home, we must prepare to command our forces when they were ready to
take the field. "Staff work" was supposed the most expert of all the
branches. In my first book I have already gone into the organization
of our staff in France, formed on the plan of European staffs. What I
have to add now comes in the light of later events, after the staff
had been tried in battle, and in the light of the days of peace, when
discrimination will not be misunderstood. In the early days in France a
progressive officer said to me: "We must not go too fast in elimination
of the unfit and promotion of the fit. It will upset the equilibrium.
We must wait on evolution." It was General Pershing who had to maintain
the equilibrium. He was a regular; and regulars regarded him as their
general. He had to depend upon the men who had rank; and upon trained
soldiers who knew the army system, in order to start his machine. One
day, someone remarked to him, "But this officer is in a rut, and a
winding rut, that does not permit him to see ahead, let alone over the
walls." The General replied: "But he's one of my broad-minded ones.
What do you think I do with my narrow-minded ones?"

Possibly the tests, ever so swift in war, were swifter in France than
at home. It was soon evident that some regular officers could rise to
their tasks, and that some could not. Some of them had fallen into
habits that did not permit long concentration of mind. They had not the
physical vitality to endure long hours of labor. They were obsessed by
small details, when they were suddenly given charge of a department
store instead of a little store with one clerk for an assistant. Some
were simply overwhelmed by their new burdens, or more possessed with
the pride of authority than its efficient exertion. They were the ones
who would show reserve officers that building a bridge or baking a
loaf of bread or putting up a crane or organizing a laboratory was a
different matter when you did it for the army. Some who had vitality
and concentration were hopelessly lacking in capacity for organization.
They were particularly impressed with their awful responsibility in
having to train reserve officers not only in combat but in the Services
of Supply. They would not admit that there was anything about the army
which a reserve officer could do as well as a regular. The capacity of
many for prolonged controversy over theory and for writing memoranda
was astounding; a result of the days of talking "shop" and speculative
discussion at the posts. Where naval officers have always a fleet
in being, and are always on a war footing--which means a successful
secretary of the navy if he will only sign the papers placed on his
desk--army officers had only an army in imagination, which meant that
a "successful" secretary of war must indeed be a great man.

From the first there was a struggle in France between two elements:
between the ruthlessly progressive and the reactionaries who were set
in traditions; between the able, energetic, ambitious, enduring, and
others who might have finer but not as aggressive qualities; between
the men who were sure of themselves and those who were not. For his
immediate advisers Pershing had to turn to the Leavenworth men, who had
been trained in the theory of a large organization and who had used it
as the basis of intelligent observation of the operations of the French
and British armies. A Leavenworth man believed in Leavenworth men. He
had enormous capacity for desk work which he had developed as a student
at Leavenworth. A scholastic preparation thus became the criterion for
practice in organization. Leavenworth men believed in the gospel of
driving hard work; of rewards for success, and merciless elimination
for failure--which is the basic theory of successful war.

All armies are looking either back at the last war or ahead to the
next. One element, leaning back on its oars, considers the lessons of
the last war, if it were won, as setting all precedents for present
policy. Another, usually the men who were not in the last war except as
captains and lieutenants, considers that new conditions will again set
new precedents in the next war. The officers in the forties in the days
of the war with Spain and the Philippine rebellion, who chafed at the
Civil War traditions of their seniors, now had command of divisions,
while in the Great War the Leavenworth men who were in the thirties and
forties were pushing up from below. If the later generation lacked rank
on this occasion, it had power in France as the result of Leavenworth
and the new staff system, while promotion by selection called its
ambition.

Leavenworth graduates sat in the seats of the mighty on the right
and left hand of the Commander-in-Chief; the tables of organization
were of their devising; the orders signed by the Chief of Staff,
which the divisional and the corps generals and all the generals
of the Services of Supply had to obey, originated from this inner
circle in the barracks buildings at Chaumont, which was surrounded
with professional mystery. Divisional and corps chiefs of staff were
Leavenworth men in touch with the inner circle. The disrespectful
thought of these officers as the Leavenworth "clique"; but it was not
the fashion to do much thinking aloud about them, such was their power.
They did not think of themselves as a clique; not even the members of
a secret society think of themselves in that way. They were a group
of veterans, who if they had not the scars won in battle--we had had
no great battles since the Civil War--had burned the midnight oil and
played the war game together. They had, as volunteers, in order to
learn their profession, when the people of the country knew no more of
their existence than if they had been in a monastery, gone through a
post-graduate course as rigorous as West Point itself. They thought of
themselves as apostles, their voices unheard in a land saturated with
pacifism and indifference, who, in fasting, prayer, and industry, had
studied the true gospel in their holy of holies. They alone had conned
the pages of the sacred books behind the altar where the regular army
kept the sacred fires burning.

"War is the greatest game on earth," as one of them said. In this
thought they had the same reason for enthusiasm in study as a chemist
in his experiments or an architect in his building. In their school
in the wheat fields of Kansas they were manipulating in theory forces
which made a hundred million dollar corporation an incidental pawn.
But they were dealing with the imaginary, and the managers of the
corporation with the real. When the war came all their forces of
imagination became real.

To be a "Leavenworth man" meant a title to staff position, which you
must take whether you wanted it or not. There were many excellent
officers who never went to Leavenworth; officers who were masterly
company, battalion, and regimental commanders, and who had the quality
of natural leaders. They did not want to train for the staff. They
preferred the line. Their ambition, nursed through the years of
service, with never an assignment to Washington, was to make sure of a
command in the field if war came.

"I had rather lead a battalion of infantry than be chief of staff of
an army," as one of them said. Another said, early in the war, "I'm
all for the Leavenworth men to do the chessboard work, but we'll find
that they have studied so much that some of them don't know how to make
decisions when they are dealing with a real instead of a paper army.
I don't envy them. I obey their orders. I'll make a good regiment;
that is all I ask--let me be with troops." He was right in saying that
the men who stood high at Leavenworth ran the danger of being too
academic for practical war, as surely as the best students at college
are unfitted for practical business life. Yet all criticism of the
Leavenworth coterie runs foul of the question: "What should we have
done without them in France?" If you have to build a great bridge and
there is no engineer who has ever erected one, why, it would be better
to choose a man who had been through a first-class engineering school
to make the plans, than to choose the contractors who got out the stone
or sunk the caissons, or the financiers who furnished the funds. Every
Leavenworth man had pet ideas of his own, as the result of his study,
which he sought to apply when authority came to him, with inevitable
interference with team-play. He had all the enthusiasm of a graduate of
the Beaux-Arts who is given a million-dollar appropriation to build a
state capitol as his first assignment.

In relation to our little army with its scattered posts, their
problem in making a great army organization was much the same as the
transformation of Japan from medievalism to modernism, or amalgamating
and improving all the small plants of individual business of fifty
years ago in a year's time into a modern trust. The thing required
broad vision. Some of them possessed it, but not all, even if they
were Americans. Such was the loyalty of graduates to Leavenworth
that I have heard them say that it was the best staff school in the
world. A French officer might respond: "Perhaps, but we have had
more opportunities for practice in handling large bodies of troops."
The British and French staffs thought that our men were worthy of the
highest praise; but they thought that our staff was inexperienced and
sophomoric. They would not have been averse, as we know, to taking over
the staff direction of our army, which, considering the feeling of the
line toward the staff on all occasions, would have led to additional
inter-allied friction. Relations would be smoother by having the
resentment of the men who bore the brunt of casualties directed into
home channels.

The Leavenworth men, thinking as army officers and for the army, did
not wish to yield power. They wanted to establish a staff system and
a tradition for a large American force, in the hope that universal
service would be accepted and continued, making the system permanent.
Where were they to get the host of additional staff officers required
for the armies, the corps, and the divisions in battle? A few student
observers could be sent to the British and French staffs; but not a
sufficiently large number when any outsider was in the way in the
crowded quarters of a series of dugouts, or the ruined houses of a
village. Moreover, Leavenworth wanted no system half British and half
French, but one suited to our own army for all time. Leavenworth was
always thinking of our military future. Following our national bent
for excellence and this thought of the future, which led us to aim for
the best gas mask, the best aeroplane motor, the best machine-gun, the
best gas, the best of everything, Leavenworth proposed to make the best
staff. To this tendency of ours to seek perfection the Allies might
reply: "Perfection is all very well; but we have tested equipment, and
a staff system the result of three years' trial, and time is valuable
against the German."

Just as the West Point system, which takes the "plebes" in hand, was
being applied in our training camps, so Leavenworth staff college was
reproduced in France in the ancient city of Langres, near Chaumont,
which had been a fortress in many wars. Here regulars worked beside
reserves, while the regulars had no special privileges except the
first choice of horses to ride. Here they were to learn how to solve
the tactical management of troops in action, the technique of all
the different G's of the staff: G-1 and G-4, which had to do with
transport and supply; G-2, which had to do with intelligence; G-3, with
operations, and G-5, with training.

There was much to teach in that three months' course. How long will it
take to reach all the units of a division, billeted in ten villages in
an area of ten square miles, with an order for movement? How will it be
sent? How will it be written after consultation with G-1, who knows the
transport available? Which units will march out first? How long will
it take to entrain those going by train? If the motor transport, and
the horse-drawn transport, too, have to go overland, what roads will
they take to reach their destination? Have the drivers their maps? In
making a relief in the trenches, how long will it take to march up and
complete the task?

Four German prisoners say one thing, four another, and three another.
Take their reports in connection with aeroplane reports and general
observation. What is your decision as to the enemy's strength on your
front? Two additional divisions are suddenly brought into your sector.
How are you to feed them? An attack is planned to pinch out a salient.
How long is to be your artillery preparation? What its character? What
points will you cover with the corps artillery fire? What with the
divisional howitzers? There is your map with the information in G-2's
possession for G-3 to consider in working out details. The infantry
must be preceded by a barrage worked out with a mathematical accuracy,
that will be practicable for the gunners and the infantry. All the
fundamentals of technical knowledge were what arithmetic, algebra and
geometry, and the strength of materials are to a bridge builder, in
solving the problems presented to civilians, lawyers, engineers, and
scholars of ages from twenty-five to forty-five, who worked them out
and went to recitation in a school-room where they sat at little desks,
as they did in boyhood days.

The number of hours of study a student put in at Leavenworth had been
a test of capacity--the reason for Leavenworth's existence. While
officers who did not take the course were regarded somewhat in the
light of outsiders, "We'll show these cits what it is to work," as one
regular said. Langres was a very sweatshop in scholastic industry.
It was a combination of learning and an infinite amount of clerical
detail for men many of whom were used to having their details looked
after by clerks. British and French officers, acting as instructors and
lecturers, elucidated the problems on the blackboard. As one saturated
with war on the Western Front listened to preachment of fundamentals, I
was impressed with how much the average man who has not seen war, and
has taken his conception of it from a soldier charging or firing a gun,
had to learn before he had the a b c's of modern war.

One also wondered if all the hard work were always to the purpose.
Practical Allied officers, who were always polite, thought that the
students did so much grinding that they became dull and stale; we were
trying to teach them too many generalities. A knowing regular said
one day to a reservist: "You are too serious. The thing in the army
is to make a show at this sort of gymnastics,--then use your common
sense when you reach the front." This was in kind with a remark of one
regular officer about another, whose information had led us astray: "I
know him--a regular West Point trick. You must pretend you know, and be
very definite in the pretense. That often gets over." It seemed to me
one of the faults of the West Point system.

The regulars had the advantage at Langres in that they had been
ingrained in the military instinct, which is what is called the
mathematical sense in a schoolboy who finds mathematics easy; but if
the instinct were only that of cadet days and of company drill, and
their minds had not grown, they suffered from the little learning
which is a dangerous thing. Though the average Leavenworth man--not in
all cases a class A man--did not see, despite the Canadian example,
how anyone could become a staff officer in a few months when you had
to study at Leavenworth for years, it soon became evident that some
of these reserve officers with finely trained minds, used to the
application and competition of civil life, were showing themselves
the superior of the regulars. This in the scholastic sense, without
considering practice in action. There was one Leavenworth man I knew
who, though a master at solving problems in the classroom, seemed
unable to solve any problem in action. Beside the Langres school we
had a school of the line, and a candidates' school where men who had
shown their leadership as privates in combat might be educated in
theory for commissions. The reserve graduates of Langres were being
sent out in the spring and summer of 1918 to be assistants in the G
sections of army and corps and divisions. In a few instances they
even became chiefs of section of division staffs. They were promised
that one day they might wear the black stripe of the General Staff on
their sleeves as the reward of efficient service. "Doping the black
stripe" was the slang phrase for the grind at Langres. One day the
reserve graduates might also have promotion, and one day, too, the
reserve officers, captains and lieutenants and a few majors of the
line, arriving with the divisions from the training camps--as our
organization grew and was knit together--might also have promotion.

About this time promotion was becoming a form of intoxication with
the regulars. They must be cared for first; in due course, after the
reservists became soldiers, the reservists would have their turn.
New tables of organization were being devised which called for more
high-ranking officers. Without rank the work could not be done, said
his chiefs to the Commander-in-Chief, who once greeted one of them with
the remark: "How many lieutenant-colonels must become colonels in order
to do this job?" The regulars kept apart from the reserves, forming a
group in their own world. In their messes the talk ran on promotions:
each new list brought its tragedies for men who found themselves
jumped, and its triumphs for those who had jumped them. If you were
not frequently promoted, it was taken as a sign that you were not
"making good." Promotion depended upon the good will of your superior,
and sometimes, naturally and humanly, upon the fact that you might
have served with him at an army post. Promotion became unconsciously
corrupting. Some younger men who received their stars after swift
passage through the lower grades hardly bore their honors with the
equanimity of their elders. One chief of staff I knew had a Napoleonic
grandeur. He hedged himself about with the etiquette of royalty. If he
had been presented with a three-cornered hat of the kind that Napoleon
wore, he would have accepted it in all seriousness. Unhappily his work
was not of the Napoleonic standard. There was another chief of staff
who was just the same man as a brigadier-general that he had been as a
major. He never seemed busy; his work was always in order; his tactics
were successful. He knew how to win men to his service, how to delegate
authority. Had he been given command of an army he would have carried
on in the same imperturbable fashion.

"It will be hard on some of us regulars," he remarked, "when we wake
up the 'morning after' and find ourselves majors back in the good old
Philippines."

Naturally, in this environment, the reservists caught the contagion of
promotion. If promotion were the criterion of having done your "bit,"
well, then, what would your friends think of you if you returned with
the same rank you had when you left home? When you did return, you
found that your friends could not remember whether you had been a major
or a colonel. They were relieved if they might call you "mister" or Tom
or George. It didn't matter to them what kind of insignia you had as
long as you had been "over there," doing your bit. They had perspective
which was hard to preserve in France.



XXVI

OTHERS OBEY

  Misfit and unfit sorted at Blois--Clan again--What to do with the
  "dodo"--Making good after Blois--Its significance to the regular--The
  fear of Blois in its effect on the reservist--Faults of reserve
  officers--Feeling of the medicos--Staff propaganda--Getting to
  troops--Staff and line--Slow weeding out.


When the promotion disease was most acute, however, the word promotion
never exercised over the army the spell of the word Blois. Though Blois
was not mentioned in the press, it was as familiar in the secrecy of
the army world as Verdun, Ypres, Paris, or Château-Thierry. Every
officer who was uncertain whether or not he was pleasing his superior
stood in fear of Blois, which was the synonym of failure. Downcast
generals and lieutenants traveled together from the front to Blois.

What was to be done with officers who broke down in health, or who did
not come up to the standards required in their work? They might be sent
home; but white-haired generals and colonels who had reputations as
able officers in time of peace were not wanted airing their grievances
on the steps of the Army and Navy Building in Washington. There was
an injustice, too, in placing on any officer the stigma of having been
sent back from France, which would react on the many capable officers
who were recalled from France in order to apply their experience abroad
in furthering our preparations at home. Then, too, we needed the
service of any officer who could do any kind of work in France. In the
majority of instances it was not so much a question of being unfit as
being "misfit." The thing was to put round pegs in round holes.

The town of Blois near Tours became a depot for classification and
reassignment of officers who had been relieved by their superiors. A
Leavenworth man who was in charge had the power to reduce an officer in
rank if he thought this were warranted. He secretly interrogated the
arriving officer, who was told that his record would not be considered
against him; his superiors might have been unjust to him; if he had
"stubbed his toe," this did not mean that he would do it again. Though
the plan was as logical as the transfer of an employee of a business
from the manufacturing to the selling branch, the object of the
attention felt the humiliation none the less. Despite all propaganda
to alleviate its association in the minds of fellow-officers, "being
sent to Blois" had only one generally accepted significance, which
was wickedly unfair to many a victim. There were superiors who
followed their subordinates to Blois; while the subordinates were
later promoted, they sank into the desuetude of a routine position.
Indigestion, a burst of temper, a case of nerves, of prejudice, of
finding a scapegoat for a senior's mistakes, might start an officer
away from the front with his unhappy travel order. I knew of instances
where it was a tribute to the officer that he had been sent: a tribute
to his honest effort, his initiative, his unselfish spirit in trying
to do his duty under an incompetent, irascible superior, who himself
should not have received the consideration of Blois but been sent to a
labor battalion, in the hope that by a few hours of physical effort a
day he might have earned a part of the pay and the pains his country
had wasted on him.

Considering how valuable was the regular's professional training for
combat, and considering too that only half of the regular officers
ever reached France, it was surprising how many regular officers were
sent from the front to Blois. The percentage of regulars who failed
in action was said to be as large as the percentage of reserves. The
Leavenworth group, aiming to be impartial in the ruthlessness which
they thought their duty, declared that when a man failed to make good
he went, whether regular or reserve.

"If there's a reserve officer who can do my job better than I can, I
want him to have it," said a regular colonel of thirty-five. "I'll give
all I have and do my best wherever I am sent. That's service and duty.
My country thought I was fit to be an officer. It paid me to serve
where I could serve best. What is the use of holding to the clannish
idea that any regular is better than a reserve? That isn't the idea of
efficiency. If a man who has served only six months is better than a
man who has served thirty years, the old regular ought not to growl. He
ought to feel ashamed. He is beholden to his country for having given
him a livelihood for thirty years. He could not have earned as good a
one in any other occupation."

He was the same officer who had spoken his convictions after my
remarks at the maneuver at Leavenworth. Of humble origin, proving the
democratic test by his conduct, he was an honor to the profession
of arms,--as he would have been to any profession. The whole army
recognized his ability. Of course no reserve officer or National Guard
officer could be better than he; his subordinates were proud to serve
under him. If his reward could have been judged by a monetary standard,
he earned all the pay he had ever received from the government by one
month's service in France. He would return to a major's rank under
mediocre officers, whose work he now directed from the staff.

Had he made the remarks which I have just quoted to reserve officers
when any regulars were present, even his ability would not have saved
him from the charge of disloyalty to the clan. So the strain on class
A men in the staff or in the line was heavy. As Leavenworth men, the
Leavenworth men stood together, thought the observing reserves--and
with them, of course, I include National Guard officers--while the
regulars, forming up against the magic inner circle, stood together as
regulars in the magic outer circle.

The human equation and friendships were bound to enter into the honest
effort at impartiality. Here was a brigadier-general of fifty-five or
sixty who had been your commanding officer at a post. He was hopelessly
superannuated. There was no place of responsibility in keeping with
his rank where his services would not be fatal to efficiency. No one
desired to hurt his feelings. Diplomacy must arrange cushions for him.
He was given a car, and aides, and sent about on inspections, to make
reports which were received with serious attention, or he was given a
first-class officer as chief of staff. One of these amiable "dodos,"
as the regulars called them among themselves--never in the presence of
a reserve officer--complained, so the story ran, that "another general
had a cut-glass vase for flowers in his limousine, and he had none."
The strife for cars befitting rank was almost as vigorous as for
promotion, while some regimental commanders rode in side-cars or cars
of a "low rank"; but they, who passed through shell-fire and bumped
over shell-craters, would not have exchanged their commands for the
most luxurious of limousines flying along good roads out of sound of
the guns. It was hard, indeed, that upstarts from Leavenworth in the
name of John J. Pershing should consign to Blois, and from Blois to
a base section of the S. O. S., veterans of thirty and forty years'
service in the regulars. There was another method applied on one
occasion, when a division commander told a brigadier who had mismanaged
his command that his brigade would be cared for in the morrow's attack,
and that he would have his chance to redeem himself in the manner of a
brave man, by going "over the top." He went, of course, winning that
respect which is given every man, regardless of age or ability, for
unflinching courage. Others might have been given the same opportunity
to win gold letters in the memorial hall at West Point as an enduring
epitaph; but there were strong arguments against this. The incompetent
were not fit for the serious business of combat organizations; men's
lives could not be trusted to their direction. In case of death, the
officer's widow would receive a small pension, while if he survived and
was retired, he would receive retired pay enough to assure comfort to
his family.

The human equation reappears. A reservist was a stranger, a regular
might be an old comrade, calling on a senior's affection and the
loyalty to clan, when the latter considered sending an officer to
Blois. Still other influences might make a regular's shortcomings more
easily forgiven than a reservist's. If a regular did not succeed in
carrying out orders, as he was a professional, failure must be accepted
as unavoidable. In a word, if Ed or John with whom you had served could
not put the trains through or take a machine-gun nest, then it was
impossible.

There was no such personal standard of professionalism to apply to a
reservist. Success must be the only standard for him. On the other
hand, I did not envy some Leavenworth men, who leaned over backward in
being resolute to comrades, when they should revert to their original
rank and be once more serving under officers whom they had commanded
from the staff. "He's got it in for me," was an expression sometimes
heard, as you will hear it in different forms in any class community.
It was an excuse for having been sent to Blois. Meanwhile, new grudges
were being formed. It was dramatic when a regular officer, who had been
sent to Blois, upon reassignment to the front won his brigadiership
in a brilliant action; but not so dramatic as when a National Guard
brigadier, who had had his stars removed at Blois, refused a colonelcy
in the rear, received a majority in the line, returned as a major to
his own brigade, and was killed in leading his battalion gallantly in
a charge.

The heartbreaks among the regulars must be more lasting than among
the reservists. War was the regular's profession. He returned to live
with his reputation in the army world. The reservists returned to the
civil world, where the war would soon be forgotten. This accounted for
the greediness for promotion, which throughout the lives of regular
officers would be the mark of their careers, while the guerdon of the
future for the reservist was success in another occupation.

"Do these reservists want to jump in and take everything away from
us, when they are in the army only for the war?" as a veteran regular
complained when he was not receiving the promotion which he thought was
his due.

The more subordinates you had, the more chance of promotion.

"Get a lot of young officers around you, form a bureau, and you will
get a colonelcy in the new tables of organization," said one regular
officer to another, both efficient, upstanding men.

Toward the end we did not lack officers in numbers for service in
the rear. Our problem was to prevent unnecessary expansion in
superfluities. Our American energy was under pressure. The thing for
regular or reserve was to show that he was as busy as any Leavenworth
man. Both the British and French said we had too many typewriters, and
were prone to excess motion, despite our wonderful accomplishment. It
was an obvious criticism, by officers in an established organization,
of an organization which was in the throes of creation. Big men might
work with a purpose; but little men might be flailing out their
vitality on old straw, in order to make a "show" before the senior who
might either promote them or send them to Blois.

One day a reserve officer suggested to a regular senior, who had
been laboring long and hard over a problem, a solution which could
be expressed in half a dozen lines, leaving the execution of the
policy stated to subordinates. That conscientious regular trained
in Leavenworth industry shook his head. He sent in ten pages, after
burning the midnight oil, which finally went up to Harbord himself.
Harbord dictated a few sentences which duplicated the reservist's
suggestion. "In line with my idea!" said the regular. There was no
reason why the reservist should expect credit. He was in service to
help in any way he could to hasten the end of the war.

I have in mind one regular staff chief, who won promotion and great
credit because of his able subordinates. "He never knew," as one of the
subordinates said. I am not sure that he was entirely unconscious, for
he said: "These reservists have a lot of ideas. Of course they don't
know anything about war." By the time the serious fighting began, they
knew more than he knew. They were shrewd enough to let him think that
their knowledge was his.

Of course, he always held over them the fear of Blois and the promise
of promotion. That fear of Blois killed many an officer's initiative.
It made independent men into courtiers for favor from men for whom
in their hearts they had no respect. The weak tried to play safe, as
they studied a senior's characteristics. Lack of psychologic contact
between the army post world and the world of the nation as a whole,
and overwork, overworry, and lack of appreciation of their efforts
sent many officers to Blois. It was one sure way of having a brief
holiday. Young reservists especially became discouraged and fatalistic
when they found that they were incapable of ever pleasing an irascible
senior. Others who had the right kind of superior developed under
his encouraging and understanding direction. All was a gamble in how
commanding officers themselves developed under the test of war.

A certain suspicion of civilians of whom they knew so little
had its inevitable influence in keeping regulars in all the
important positions, even in the S. O. S. The army had to take the
responsibility, and the army must therefore keep authority in its own
hands. Was it surprising, considering the life they had led, that the
regulars should think that civilians could not understand the honor
and the ethics of the service which they had so jealously guarded
against politicians and a misinformed public? Civilians were shrewd in
worldly ways; they might use their positions for profit; they might
inculcate bad gospel. I heard of no peculation in that enormous and
scattered organization, buying such gigantic quantities of supplies. We
may have been extravagant, but we were clean--very clean, compared to
the political contracts of Civil War times. The regulars kept to the
honest traditions, even if some of their officers had become "dead from
the chin up," to use a regular army expression. As an observer I dare
indulge in only a few of the regulars' tart sayings about one another,
sayings which of themselves were symptomatic of our restless energy for
achievement, and of standards which were formed on achievement rather
than pretension. If there were any graft, it was that of desire for
power, of travel orders to see the front and France, and of other human
weaknesses which were an inevitable accompaniment of active ambition.

It was my fortune to see the staff and the supply systems, to go in and
out of the different headquarters, and on up to the front itself. I had
the keys to the doors of all the many compartments, each immured by the
nerve-racking pressure of its industry and exposure to death. I also
saw the other armies at work. I knew the faults of reserves as well as
of regulars. There were young officers of the line, good in scholarship
and drill at the training camps, who, not from any want of courage
but from inability, failed under fire. Floating in on the wave of the
quartermaster and ordnance corps in the hasty granting of commissions
was many a major and captain who was worthless. Some had never earned
in their occupations in civil life the pay they were receiving as
officers. These were most ambitious for promotion. They were always
grumbling that their organizing capacity was not recognized. To the
regular they were examples in point, proving the wisdom of expert
control to the last degree.

Other reserve officers who were specialists in a business or
profession, now that they were at war, considered it a hardship to have
to do the same work that they had been doing in civil life. Others by
their propensities for unbridled talk offended the regular ethics of
secretiveness. Others who had been regarded as men of ability in their
occupations were living on their reputations no less than some of the
older regulars. Under army conditions, in poor quarters on foreign
soil, they seem to have had a further relapse. Men of reputation in
civil life, who were used to having their work known through the press,
once they were in uniform felt their helpless anonymity. Leavenworth,
in its unfamiliarity with civil life, sticking fast to its prerogatives
and its theory of war, said that all reserves, line and staff, should
be given a hell's trial, and that those who survived would one day
receive their reward--after all the regulars had been looked after, as
the reservists remarked.

Among the reserve officers were the physicians and surgeons, the most
notable we had, in one of the most progressive of professions, who
came to the aid of the army medical corps, which had to expand its
organization with all the suddenness of the quartermaster corps. The
standards of admittance to the army medical corps had been high; it
had expanded its vision in sanitation in the Philippines, Cuba, and
the Canal Zone; its practice was with soldiers in time of peace. The
reserve medico, whether a great surgeon, a laboratory expert, or head
of a hospital, was subject to a regular senior, often much younger
than he, whose capacities might be first-class, or as inferior as his
prejudices were numerous. No experts from civil life, in their sacred
desire for efficiency, could feel the restrictions on their initiative
more than the reserve medical officers; but be it said that we did
build hospitals, we did equip them well, and, with General Pershing's
resolute support, the exacting health discipline included precautions
against that disease which has ever been the curse of armies.

Leavenworth would have no advertising. Not only for reasons of military
secrecy would censorship have no names mentioned, but also in keeping
with the ethics of regular officers that publicity was unbecoming--a
theory that was fine in the abstract, but in the application had to
deal with human nature. The names of the Leavenworth men themselves,
holding the fates of division generals in their hands, were unknown
to the public and to the mass of the army. Not reports in the press,
glorifying a unit or its commander, but the military judgment of
superiors was to form the criterion of praise. Never, indeed, had such
power come to a group of men as to the graduates of that sequestered
school in the wheat fields of Kansas, in charge of two million men.
It was interesting to watch how rapidly some of them grew under
responsibility, how used they became to accepting power as a matter
of course; and equally interesting how others remained scholars of
Leavenworth, their vision still shut within its walls.

They directed policy to keep up morale. Their propaganda never forgot
the army; and finally included, to my regret, that of hate and of
atrocities accepted on hearsay. The Stars and Stripes, the A. E. F.
newspaper, brought to France all the headlines, the snappy paragraphs,
the cartoons, the slang, which knit California to Maine, to arouse our
enthusiasm for the war. Our communiqués, much studied and revised, had
facility in concealment in place of outright prevarication, which was
the prevailing fashion to keep up the spirits of the public behind the
army by assurances that it was the enemy who was making the mistakes
and suffering the heavier casualties. Fashions in uniform received
much attention, too, from those with that inclination of mind. The
overseas cap, without a visor to keep sun or rain out of the eyes, was
none the less distinctive. We might have designed a better one the day
we started troops to Europe, if our staff at home had had information
about European climatic conditions; but the number of things in which
we might have shown prevision are too numerous to mention. They do not
count now; for the war was won. The Allied communiqués were right. Our
victory proves that the enemy made all the mistakes.

Considering the many regulars used in organization and instruction
in France, the number of regular officers who served at the front
must be, if exception is made of the youngsters from West Point and
the provisional regular officers, relatively small. Reacting to a
"million men rising to arms in their shirt-sleeves," and to the popular
conception of leadership as an officer rushing at the head of his men
in a charge, Leavenworth held strictly to the idea of the chessboard
system, which kept commanders, including regimental, in touch with
their communications, instead of leading charges, the better to
direct the tactical movements of their units. In the National Guard
and National Army, the majority of the majors as well as the captains
and lieutenants were from civil life; so, too, were the captains and
lieutenants in the regular divisions, always excepting the regular
officers, who did not average one out of six in the average regular
battalion.

No army staff was more given to the policy of alternating between line
and staff than ours. Every officer on the staff felt that he had a
right to lead a regiment or brigade before the war was over. Transfers
were frequent. The result was gratifying to individual ambition. A line
officer who had just learned field command took the place of a staff
officer who was just becoming expert in his branch of staff work. The
newcomer had to start in learning fundamentals when his predecessor had
been under a strain to keep up with the rapid developments; but how
could you deny Tom, who was once your lieutenant in the Philippines,
his desire, after three months' confinement, to be "in it" for a while
at the front? When he showed peculiar fitness for office work, the
British and French would have kept him in an office. He had his daily
exercise, and his periods of leave when he might recuperate from the
mental strain, which was all the worse for a man whose heart was with
the troops. The Germans, least of all inclined to consider the personal
equation, had interchangeable corps staffs. When one became stale, it
went into rest in the same manner as a division of infantry, while a
fresh staff took its place. Their system was the same as having two
office forces, interchanging at intervals, in a business where the
offices were open night and day. We had not enough officers to allow
holidays. All must serve double the usual office hours in any concern,
Sundays included--work as long as there was work to do, snatching
intervals of sleep. In this the Leavenworth men, I repeat, set all
an industrious example. Their greatest fault first and last was lack
of psychologic touch with the people of their country. They were too
remote from the troops. "But you forget the men," as the C.-in-C. used
to say to the chess-players.

No staff can ever be popular with the line; and no line can ever
satisfy the staff which works out its plans of attack on paper. The
staff serves at a headquarters, and the line in the open under fire.
The difference of the human equation is that between security and
comfort, and death and hardship, which no philosophy can bridge. A
staff officer who appeared at the front always looked conspicuously
neat and conspicuously wise, as exotic as a man in a morning coat on a
cowman's ranch. The line officer in earth-stained uniform, lean from
his effort, eyes glistening with the fever of battle dangers shared
with his men, as he entered a staff room to report was equally exotic
in his surroundings, while he had a personal dignity whose chivalrous
appeal no one could resist.

Yet someone must do staff work. Some directing minds must arrange for
the movement of the troops and their transport according to a system,
and assure the presence of supplies and ammunition; someone must sit
near the centering nerves of wire and wireless and telephone and
messengers, and maneuver the units in battle. The more comfortable they
were, the better they did their work, inasmuch as there was no reason
for their sleeping on the ground when they could have shelter.

Everyone familiar with the statics of war on the Western Front knew
that you might have a good lunch at a division or corps headquarters,
and two or three hours later you might be floundering in the mud, gas
mask on, under bombardment. If you spent a day in the trenches, your
feelings became those of the men who were there, you knew the nonsense
that was written for public consumption in order to keep the public
stalwart for the war, and you held visitors and staff officers who came
sight-seeing in the kind of humorous contempt that those who "busted
bronchos" held the tenderfoot in the days when realities in the wild
west resembled the moving-picture shows of contemporary times. The
officer relieved from staff duty for the front was subject to the same
influence. He was not long in command of troops before he began abusing
the staff for its preposterous orders, while the line officer assigned
to the staff was soon talking about the incapability of the line to
carry out his directions.

Gradually slipping the round pegs into round holes and the square
pegs into square holes, floundering and stumbling, but keeping on,
the process of organization continued, while the resolute will of
the Commander-in-Chief laid down the lines of policy. For him to
give an order, as I have said, did not mean that it would be carried
out. He himself was the victim of the system: one man dependent upon
others for the execution of his plans, and largely dependent too upon
inspections by others for reports of progress. His adjutants could form
chains of influence of which he was unconscious. "Insubordination"
is the most glaring of military offenses, next to timidity under
fire. It cannot be openly practised; but within the bounds of any
closed society the effects of insubordination can be gained. To trace
responsibility in time of action is laborious through channels where
officers familiar with the craft of "passing the buck" may spin red
tape endlessly, though on other occasions they cut it with facility.
Yet the phrase, "the C.-in-C. wants it," was the shibboleth of power.
In war a democracy is right to confer autocracy. This means efficiency
in concentration according as the character of its people is sound
and efficient. The C.-in-C. and all progressive officers had to fight
the influences inherent in autocracy, which eventually make permanent
autocracy effete through formality and intrigue.

The leaven was working; we were passing through the inevitable
evolution which had been foreseen. The officers who had come through
the schools and training camps, watchful if silent, had learned their
fundamentals thoroughly and up to date, without having to unlearn
pre-war teachings. They were finding, as the Canadians and Australians
found, that, once on the inside, the art of making war was not such
a profound technical secret as they had thought. They were now able
to judge their seniors by professional as well as human standards.
Regulars, of the type who felt their feet slipping, were naturally
tenacious in keeping up the mystery, which was the capital of the
inefficient. Regulars who were sure of themselves--having learned
more of war in six months than in all their service--gladdened at the
prospect of the fulfillment of their dream of a great army, which was
equal to any in the world. They felt the fewness of their numbers on
the top of this tidal wave of the nation's manhood in arms, which
they must ride. An army has its public opinion, that of the mass of
officers and men. Great leaders realize that this is supreme. Moltke
courted it no less than Napoleon; Hindenburg sought to hold it, and
lost it. The American army was becoming the country's army--the country
as a whole trained to arms. The youth and the brains of the country
making war its business had too large resources in leadership, once
it had learned the technique of leadership, to submit to class rule.
Your old regular sergeant, your old regular colonel must yield to the
survival of the fittest in the competition of the millions. At the end
of the Meuse-Argonne battle, excluding at the most twenty per cent of
the regulars of sufficient rank for battalion and regimental command,
I should say that there were five officers from civil life who were
better than any regular in leading a battalion, and two or three better
than any regular in leading a regiment. With the reservists I include
the National Guard officers, though they had had military experience
before the war. Arms was not their regular calling; but they were to
prove that they were not amateurs. Our plans, as I have said, until the
late summer all looked forward to a spring campaign. In the winter that
preceded it there would have been many heartbreaks among the regulars;
for the evolution no longer held in check would have had its fruition.
The tidal wave would have broken through the barriers; we should have
had many colonels and brigadiers from among the young officers from the
training camps and the National Guard.

Called to the Meuse-Argonne battle, without adequate preparation or
equipment, our organization imperfect, remarkable as it was considering
the circumstances, the burden of the leadership which meant success,
as the account already shows, was with the officers from civil life.
They led the combat units against the machine-gun nests. Did promotion
matter for the moment to that sergeant who took over the platoon when
his lieutenant was mashed by a shell or received a machine-gun bullet
in the heart? Did it matter to the second lieutenant who was the only
commissioned officer left to lead a company? To the boy captain, who
had fought his way up from the ranks, or had not finished his college
course before he went to a training-camp, as undaunted he took charge
of a battalion and continued the attack? Staffs, sitting beside the
telephones, waited on their reports. Did promotion matter to the men? I
am weary of writing of staff and officers, who must have their part in
the narrative. The men! We have heard much of them. We shall hear more.
They won the battle--a soldier's battle. They saved generals and staff.
It is their part which sent an old observer of wars home in pride and
gratitude.



XXVII

AMERICAN MANHOOD

  Visualizing "over there"--Camping out in France--Unimportance of
  the leaders--Adopting "Jake"--America finding maturity--Playing the
  game--The coating of propaganda.


If one by one all the sounds at the front from the thunders of the
artillery to the rumble of the columns of motor-trucks were to pass
from my recollection, the last to go would be that of the rasping beat
of the infantry's hobnails upon the roads in the long stretches of the
night, whether in the vigor of a rested division, in rhythmic step
going forward into line, or of an exhausted division in dragging steps
coming out of line. It was mechanical and yet infinitely human, this
throbbing of the pulse of a country's man-power.

Whether or not the draft boards were always impartial, whether or not
favoritism provided safe berths for certain sons, I know that the
fathers or friends who kept a young man of fighting age out of uniform
or away from France did him an ill turn. He had missed something which
those who went to training camps or to France were to gain: something
not to be judged in terms of medals or bank balances.

When the men returned from overseas, people wondered at their
inarticulateness over their experiences. Subscribing to Liberty
Loans and War Savings Stamps, eating war bread, making innumerable
sacrifices, relatives and friends had been living in their habitual
world, traversing the same streets or fields in their daily work, and
meeting the same people,--and sleeping in their accustomed beds. The
war news that they had read came through the censorship, speaking in
the assuring voice of propaganda, which had men cheering and singing
in battle. Their sons and brothers had been in another world, whose
wonders, agony, and drudgery had become the routine of existence in the
face of death, which was also routine. They had seen the realities of
war behind the curtain, which had offered the pictures of war as it was
designed to be seen by the public. There was so much to say that they
found themselves saying nothing to auditors who did not know that the
Meuse-Argonne was a greater battle than Château-Thierry, or that the
S. O. S. was the Services of Supply, or the difference between rolling
kitchens and the ammunition train. Some finally worked up a story which
was the kind that friends liked to hear. Only when they had their
American Legion gatherings would they be able to find a common ground
where all their fundamental references would be understood.

Much was written about the democratic results of millionaire and
bootblack, farmer's son and son of the tenements, day laborer and
cotton-wool youth, fastidious about his cravats, mixing together in
the ranks. At the training camps our soldiers were on the background
of home, and they were not facing death together. They knew their own
country by railroad journeys and by living with men from different
States; but some observers think that one does not really know his own
country until he has seen other countries. The training camp had become
a kind of home. Its discipline was modest beside that of France; there
were no hardships except the hard drill and routine. In France our
soldier had no home. He was always changing his boarding place, though
never his task as a fighting man.

He did not see France as the tourist saw it, from a car spinning past
finished old landscapes, between avenues of trees along roads that
linked together red-tile-roofed villages, while his chauffeur asked
him, after he had had a good dinner at an inn, at what time he wanted
his car in the morning. He marched these roads under his pack, often
all night long, while he was under orders not to strike a match to
light a cigarette. He was drenched with winter rain when he was
conducted to a barn door and told to crawl up into the hayloft, or
conducted to a house door where he stretched himself on the floor in a
room that had no heat.

He was billeted in villages where the people had been billeting
soldiers for four years. They wanted the privacy of their homes again
as surely as he wanted to be back in his own home. The roads over which
he marched he had to help repair, in winter rains, when old cathedral
spires lacked the impressiveness which they had to the tourists because
they looked as cold as everything else, and when picturesque, winding
canals merely looked wet when everything was wet.

He knew other roads which were swept by the blasts of hell; he saw the
beautiful landscapes through the mud of trenches and from the filthy
fox-holes where he waited in hourly expectation of an attack; he knew
the beautiful woods which fleck the rolling landscape with their
patches of green as the best possible places for being gassed.

The hand of authority was on him even in his holidays--he, the free
American. He might not go beyond certain limits when he went for
a walk, for otherwise all our soldiers within walking distance of
the largest town would spend the day there, to the discomfiture of
discipline and French regulations. If he secured leave, it was not to
the Paris of which he dreamed, but to the area which the army had
prescribed. For months and months our men fought and marched, going and
coming past Paris, without a glimpse of the city of their desire. That
Paris was not good for them all the high authorities agreed; besides,
their services were too valuable to be spared for sight-seeing.

From the day of their arrival they were under the whip of a great
necessity: first, of keeping the Germans from winning the war, and then
of winning the war before Christmas came. In the last stages of the
war, they bore more than American soldiers have ever borne--more than
the British, in their own limited sector with its settled appointments
a day's travel from England; more than the French, fighting in their
own country with leave to go to their homes--their own homes--once in
four months. Our men had a real rest only when they were wounded or ill
and were sent back to the hospitals and rest camps.

When a soldier was not fighting, somebody was lecturing to him. His
education was never complete. There was some new gas which he must
avoid, some new wrinkle in fighting machine-guns which he must learn.
As he had so much lecturing on the drill-ground and on the march and
in billets about making sure that he did not destroy any property or
take a piece of wood or use a tool that did not belong to him, the
orators who came from the United States to tell him how to be "good"
though a soldier, and how all the country admired him and depended
upon him, were not so popular as they might have been, because he knew
the character of his job by very bitter experience. How little such
visitors knew of him--in his own world!

As distinguished from the officers of commissioned rank, we spoke of
the privates as the men; also as the "doughboys," a name which long ago
the cavalry, looking down haughtily from their saddles, applied to the
infantry, as kneaders of mud. There was a gulf between officers and
privates, settled in old military customs, which at least at the front
grew narrower as the old influences were dissolved in the crucible
of fire. Many of the privates were superior to their officers. Many
won their commissions in the training-camp of battle. I preferred
always to think of the whole of generals, colonels, "kid" lieutenants,
and privates as men. It was the whole that was majestic; manhood as
manhood, which was supreme.

Officers, whether with one bar or two stars on their shoulders, were
only the nails holding the structure of manhood together. They might
be promoted and demoted; prune themselves on their rank; but the
mighty current of soldiery was elemental as the flow of a river. Never
had the part of any high commander been relatively less important
than in this war; in no army was this so true probably as in ours. By
running through a list of names in this age of universal ability, you
might find a score of leaders for corps or army who might be better
than those in the field; but fresh divisions of infantry were not in
such easy call. The names of officers who commanded more men than
Napoleon or Wellington had at Waterloo, Meade or Lee at Gettysburg,
were unknown to the public. Never had a single human being, no matter
how many orders on his breast, appeared more dispensable than in this
machine war with its enormous masses of troops. We had two million men
in France. Every officer and man counted as one unit in the machine,
according, not to rank, but to the giving of all that he had in him.
Manhood and not soldiering was glorified.

It was the great heart of our men, beating as the one heart of a great
country--simple, vigorous, young, trying out its strength--on the
background of old Europe, which appealed to me. It was the spontaneous
incidents of emotion breaking out of routine which revealed character.
One day on a path across the fields near headquarters town, I met a
soldier with a wound stripe who had been invalided back from the front.
He was thick-set, bow-legged, with a square, honest face, and eyes
slightly walled, and he was leading a bow-legged sturdy child of four
years, whose one visible eye showed a cast resembling the soldier's
own. The other eye was hidden by a drooping wool Tam-o'-Shanter about
four sizes too large for the child's head, while his wool sweater and
wool leggings were not more than two sizes too large. It was evident
that a man and not a woman had bought his wardrobe, having in mind that
the child was to be kept warm at any cost. The pair aroused my interest.

"I heard all about adopting French war orphans through the societies,"
the soldier said, "and I concluded, when they sent me here, to pick
out my own orphan. So I adopted Jake. Yes, I calls him Jake. You see,
his father was killed by the boche and his mother croaked. He hadn't
anybody to look after him, so I took over the job. Didn't I, Jake?"

Jacob looked up with an eye that seemed to consider this a wonderful
world created by the soldier, and removed his finger from his mouth
long enough to say "Yep," which he had learned in the place of "Oui."

"I'm going to take Jake home with me, and make him an American, ain't
I, Jake? You're learning English too, ain't you, Jake?"--with Jake
taking up his cue to prove that he was by responding "Yep!" again.

When they started on, I paused to look after them, with something
catching in my throat, and as the soldier paused I overheard him saying:

"I'm going to take you home. Don't you worry--I'm sticking to that,
Jake. The French regulations will say that they ain't going to let you
leave France when they're so short of kids over here, and the American
regulations will say there ain't no room for kids on transports, and
probably the censor will lip in too--but I'll bring you after the war
if I can't now. You and me's fixed up a life pardnership, ain't we?
You'll make a hit with my mother, all right. All you've got to do is
look up at her just the way you're looking up at me and say 'Yep.'
Oh, it'll be all right over there--no more of this war and regulation
stuff!"

"Speaking a few words of French" could only open a chink in the
barrier of language between our men and the French people. Wherever
two Americans met they could begin talking without waiting on an
interpreter. The common bond of language promoted the family feeling
of the A. E. F. In all their relations our men saw with fresh eyes,
in the light of foreign surroundings, how like they were, not only in
uniform and equipment and ways of thought, but how distinctly American
even the European born and the sons of European parents had become. Old
differences disappeared in this new sense of a fundamental similarity.
Men from the different parts of the United States came together not
only in the combat divisions but around the docks and railway yards and
wherever they labored in the Services of Supply. Kansas, Oregon, and
Maine had adjoining beds at a hospital, while a doctor from Pittsburgh
or Oskaloosa, or a nurse from New York or Cheyenne, looked after them.
Reserve officers who had been lawyers, merchants, engineers, gang
foremen, bakers, bankers, manufacturers, lived and worked together in
keeping the army fed with shells and food.

"The gang's all here," was as expressive of the soldier's feeling in
the Great War as "There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight" in
the little war with Spain. To all in whom there was the germ from which
it could develop, the stern fighting and effort brought a sense of
personal power, quiet, observant, undemonstrative; and their sense of
the presence there in France of two millions of Americans--scattered
far and wide, omnipresent in their energy, welded into one mighty
organization, pulsing with the heart of the home country three thousand
miles away, as California looked Maine in the eye in that common
family--brought a new sense of national power. It occurred to me that
the A. E. F. symbolized how a great overgrown boy of a nation, with a
puzzled feeling about its expanding physique, had suddenly become a
dignified, poised, self-respecting adult.

The men knew why they were in France, even if they did not express it
in the phrases of oratory or propaganda. Their logic was as cold as
their steel, as vivid as gun flashes. They were in France to beat the
Germans. The period for argument had passed for them. They had the
business in hand. Their bitterness toward the foe was not as great as
that at home. Why waste words on him when you had bullets and shells to
fire at him? He was taken for granted no less than burglary and murder:
a positive material force to be overcome.

Whether college graduates or street-sweepers, the privates were a guild
as exclusive in its way--as it always has been--as a regular mess. They
had voted themselves into their task. It was the will of the majority
of their country that we go to France. The majority rules; general and
other officers may act as legatees for the majority. The thing was to
"play the game." Those who rebelled found that there was nothing else
to do. They were in the machine's grip. "Play the game!" No phrase
better expressed their attitude than this. It was a wicked, filthy,
dangerous game. They had signed on for it; they would see it through.

Given this conviction, and no soldier will endure more hardship than
the American. It was the bedrock of adherence to that rigid discipline
which in our western democracy surprised Europeans. We saluted on all
occasions--what a punctiliously saluting army we were!--and followed
all the rules of etiquette that the experts said were necessary, and
learned to take "bawlings out" with soldierly philosophy. As children
know their parents, the men knew their officers' characters; a fresh
replacement lieutenant was promptly "sized up," but final judgment was
reserved until he had led them under fire, where he must stand the real
test. It was a relief to them that they did not have to add an extra
salute for every grade of an officer's rank. One salute would do for
a general as well as a second lieutenant. Generals passed them on the
road in cars; generals inspected them. They did not take much interest
in generals, who were also a part of the game to them. Company and
battalion commanders alone could make their personal leadership felt.
They were the "heroes" when they were good, and rightly so.

Officers made strange guesses sometimes as to what their men were
thinking. The men were wiser than many officers knew; for they were
the mass intelligence of America. They understood that the Stars and
Stripes was propaganda; but it was interesting. They read it with
avidity. Propaganda was one of the parts of the mysterious, ugly game.
I have heard it compared to the coaching from the bleachers at a league
game. The men smiled over the communiqué's records of actions in which
they participated. Communiqués were a part of the game, helping
propaganda to coach from the side lines. It would not do to say that
a company had been sent by mistake into interlocking machine-gun fire
to take a town which the survivors had to yield. When the men read the
home papers, there was no mention of their losses or their suffering.
One might think from the accounts that they were enjoying themselves
immensely, and were quite comfortable in the fox-holes. This, too, was
a part of the game.

They were there to see the game through. The sooner it was through,
the sooner they would go home. Veterans who had spent one winter in
France did not want to spend another; those who had not did not care to
try the experience. They had no more reason for liking France than a
man who sleeps on the ground in Central Park in December, eating cold
rations, under machine-gun fire, has for liking New York City. "I want
to get back to the cactus!" as an Arizona man said. All were fighting
to reach home and be free men again; freedom having a practical
application for them. The longer they were in France, the more they
felt that they were fighting for America. As Americans they were on
their mettle. Such was the spirit that carried them as Americans
through the Meuse-Argonne, which was the American army's battle.



XXVIII

THE MILL OF BATTLE

  Wet misery--"Penetratin'er and penetratin'er"--The men behind the
  lines--Back to "rest"--Replacements as bundles of man-power--Reliefs
  in the fox-holes--Before and during an attack--Dodging shells--A
  struggle to keep awake--And "on the job"--Will, endurance, and
  drive--The wedge of pressure.


As the processes of the Argonne battle became more systematic, they
became more horrible. They would have been unendurable if emotion
had not exhausted itself, death become familiar, and suffering a
commonplace. The shambles were at the worst during the driving of
our wedges in the second and third weeks of October. The capacity to
retain vitality and will-power in the face of cold and fatigue, and
not to become sodden flesh indifferent to what happened, was even
more important than courage, which was never wanting. The thought
of ever again knowing home comforts became a mirage; a quiet trench
sector, with its capacious dugouts and occasional shell-bursts, became
a reminiscence of good old days. Paradise for the moment would be
warmth--just warmth--and a dry board whereon to lay one's head until
nature, sleep finished, urged you to rise.

We were learning what our Allies, and the enemy too, suffered in the
winter fighting of Verdun and the Ypres salient. The Europeans, we
must not forget, were fighting in their own climate. They were used to
having their oxygen served in the humidity of a clammy sponge pressed
close to their nostrils; we to having our oxygen served in dry air.
We suffered less at home when ice covered lakes and streams than in
mists and rains in France at forty and fifty degrees. There is sunshine
on snow-drifts and frosty window-panes in our northern States in
midwinter, as well as on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico; but we never
saw sunshine, as we know sunshine, in the Meuse-Argonne, though there
were days which the natives called fair, when the sun was visible as
through a moist roof of cheese-cloth.

"I'd charge a machine-gun nest single handed, if I could first sit on
a steam radiator for half an hour," one of our soldiers said.

It was summer during the Château-Thierry fighting; a kindly summer,
resembling our June in the northern, or our April in the southern
States. The enthusiasm of our first important action gave hardships a
certain glamour. Men could sleep on the ground without blankets; the
wounded did not suffer greatly from cold, if they remained out over
night. Cold rations were tolerable. Clothes and earth dried soon after
a rain. Fox-holes did not become wells on the levels, and cisterns on
the slopes. Guns and trucks did not cut deep ruts beside the roads or
in crossing the fields. Summer was ever the time for war in temperate
climates; winter the time of rest. It was so in our Civil War.

The battlefield was a sombre brown, splashed by liquid grays. No bright
colors varied the monotony of the landscape except the hot flashes from
gun-mouths; there were none overhead against the leaden and weeping
sky except the red and blue of the bull's-eye of an aeroplane, and
the gossamer sheen of its wings. Khaki uniforms and equipment, and
the tint of trucks, automobiles, caissons, and ambulances were all
in the protective coloration of the surrounding mud. A horse with a
dappled coat, or with dark bay or black coat, shining in the mist, was
a relief. The sounds were the grating of marching hobnailed shoes, the
rumble of motor-trucks and other transport, the roar of the guns, the
strident gas alarm, the bursts of shells, the staccato of machine-guns:
all in an orchestrated efficiency which wasted not even noise in
conserving all energy to the end of destruction--if we except the song
of marching companies at the rear, and the badinage with which men
diverted one another and themselves from their real thoughts.

There were the one-way roads where all the traffic was going in
one direction, either to or from the front, all day and all night
in orderly procession. Along the roads our negro laborers, who all
seemed to be giants, kept filling in stones and shoveling in earth to
mend broken places. They were in a marvelous world, whose diversions
tempted a holiday spirit. They rested on their spades as they watched a
general's car, or a big gun, or a tank, or one of a dozen other wonders
on wheels pass by; or, the whites of their eyes showing, looked around
at the sound of the burst of a shell or an aviator's bomb; or aloft at
the balloons and passing aeroplanes and duels in the air.

"How do you like this weather?" I asked one.

"It's ve'y penetratin' and ve'y cold, seh," he replied. "They
say it keeps on getting colder and colder, and penetratin'er and
penetratin'er, and spring nevah comes."

"It will not, if you don't work hard and win the war."

"I'm goin' to work ve'y hard. We've gotta win this war, seh; or we'll
all freeze to death--only it's pow'ful hard keeping yo' mind on work,
seh, when so much is goin' on."

Thus at the front the colored man kept open the passageway for the
supplies which the colored man had unloaded at the ports. He was truly
the Hercules of physical labor for us.

In the zone of battle, back of the infantry and artillery lines, many
men had many parts, all under shell-fire and hardships; the rolling
kitchen men, the ammunition train and ambulance drivers; the salvage
men gathering up the overcoats, blankets, rifles, gas masks, and other
equipment discarded in the course of an attack; and the much-abused
military policemen, who made drivers keep their lights turned off, and
insisted, in the latter days of their high authority, upon colonels'
automobiles obeying orders, with the same impartiality that policemen
at street crossings show in "stop" and "go" to the "flivver" delivery
wagon and the limousine of the man who groans over the size of his
income tax.

Out of the shelled zone in the early morning the shattered companies of
expended divisions came marching back from the front. Sometimes they
broke into song. Usually they were too tired to sing; the recollection
of what they had seen was too near for rollicking gayety, at least.
They were going into "rest" in some ruined village or series of
dugouts, or possibly into a village that had not been shelled; to be
"Y. M. C. A.'d" and deloused, to receive fresh clean clothing and warm
meals. There were no beds or cots for them, with rare exceptions, but
floors and lofts, as we know. Of course, they were not rested in one
day, or two or three, or even ten. They had given an amount of their
store of reserve energy which it would take them a long time to renew.
Drill began as soon as they had had their first long round of sleep.
New officers took the place of the fallen: officers who often did not
know their men or the battle. Replacements came to fill the gaps in
the ranks, and share all the drills and the lectures which applied the
latest battle lessons. Tired brains reeled with instruction.

There was a plan to return convalescent wounded to their original
divisions, but in the pressure to hurry all available man-power forward
to fill the greedy maw of the front it could be carried out only in a
limited way. Thus, whether convalescent or newcomers, the replacements
might come from a part of the country widely separated from that of
the division which they were joining, and upon the division's welcome
home to the locality of its origin by relatives and friends find
themselves still far from their own homes. Maine was fighting in the
ranks of a battalion from Chicago; New York in the ranks of a battalion
from Kansas. The longer a division had fought, the less regional its
character. The fortune of war never fell more unkindly than upon the
National Army divisions which arrived late in France and were broken up
for replacements, or, even in those final days when victory beckoned
us to our utmost endeavor, turned into labor troops in the S. O. S. In
that vital juncture, they went where they were most needed, which is
a soldier's duty. I have seen groups of replacements, who had had so
little training that they hardly knew how to use their rifles, moving
up through the shelled area to find the battalion in reserve to which
they were assigned. Only two or three weeks from American training
camps, shot across France, strangers indeed on that grim field, they
were man-power which could take the place of the fallen.

In the late afternoon on the roads near the front one might see the
troops of rested divisions marching forward to relieve expended troops.
At Château-Thierry, our men, I know, went singing toward the line of
shell-bursts. I am told that many put flowers in their rifle barrels
and their button-holes. No doubt they did. So did the French and
British in the early days of the war. There were no flowers on the
Meuse-Argonne field, only withering grass and foliage. To sing was to
attract the enemy's attention. The first enthusiasm had passed; our
spring of war was over; our winter of war had come. Most of the men
whom I watched going forward looked as if they appreciated that there
was wicked, nasty business ahead, and they meant to see it through.

It was dark when they came into the zone where the transport had its
dead line. The length of their march was often in darkness if we were
making concentrations for an attack. Some went to their appointed
places as reserves in the warrens dug on reverse slopes; others in
cautious files, led by guides from the troops in position who knew the
ground, went on until they came to the little pits where the outposts
were lying, or to machine-gun posts which faced the enemy under the
whipping of bullets and the bursts of shell-fire and gas. They were
the very point of the wedge which all the strength of our nation was
driving. Wet to the skin, filthy, hollow-eyed, the occupants gave up
their places to the newcomers, whose officers located their positions
on the map, and received local information from their predecessors
about the character and direction of fire and many details. It was like
a change of shift in a factory--all as businesslike as possible.

How different this front from the days of stationary warfare, with the
deep trenches with parapets of sand-bags! Individualism here returned
to its own. Patrols must be sent out to keep watch of the enemy;
machine-guns and riflemen must be ready for a counter-attack,--which
were variations from that deadly monotony of lying in a wet hole in
the ground, whether on a bare crest or among the roots of trees in a
wood. Blood-stains, torn bits of uniform, meat tins, and hard bread
boxes formed the litter around the fox-holes, which marked the stages
of progress where we had dug in. The young officers had to creep from
fox-hole to fox-hole, keeping touch with their platoons, and bearing
in mind all the instructions, regardless of exposure to cold and fire.
The men must not forget anything they were told. Their gas masks must
always be ready; they must "stick to the death" when that served the
purpose of their superiors. Nothing except war's demands could have won
them to such willing submission to such a hideous existence.

If there were to be an attack the next morning, then stealthily the
men of the first wave came up to the line of the fox-holes and hugged
the clammy moist earth, while they were to keep their spirits hot for
their charge. Their officers had to study the ground over which they
were to advance; consider the speed of the barrage which they were to
follow; carry out amazingly intricate maneuvers,--not knowing what
volume of shell and machine-gun fire would meet them as they rose to
the charge in the chilliest hour of the day, at dawn, when the ground
reeked in slipperiness from the mist. The night before an attack always
had the same oppressive suspense, the same urgency on the part of all
hands in trying to be definite under the camouflage of darkness--hazard
omnipotent in its grip on every man's thought.

After the attack came the hurry call for artillery fire on points
which had checked our advance; the summoning of reserves to add more
pressure; the eagerness for exact reports from out of the woods and
ravines where our men were struggling; the hurried flight of messengers
running the gamut of machine-gun bullets; the glad news of gallant
charges going home; the sad news of companies "shot to pieces"; the
filtering back of the walking wounded, and the stretcher-bearers
carrying those who could not walk; prostrate forms waiting on
ambulances, and busy doctors at the _triages_; all so habitual that its
wonder had ceased even for our young army.

If you were wary, studying your ground, eyes and ears alert, you might
travel far in that region beyond the dead line of transport; or you
might invite a burst of machine-gun fire at the outset of your journey.
When it came, or the scream of a shell announced that it would burst
in close proximity, as you sought the nearest protection with an
alacrity that increased with experience, you indulged in that second
of prayer, blasphemy, or fatalistic philosophy which suited your mood.
Some men laughed and smiled; I do not think, however, that they were
really amused. The farther you went, the more deadly the monotony.
When you had seen the front once, you had seen it all, in one sense;
in another, little. After that, going under fire was in answer to duty
or the desire to be nearer the realities. Every man was subjective at
intervals. The less time he had to think of anything but his work, the
more objective he was. One man might be killed when he left the parapet
the first time he was under fire; another might go through showers of
missiles again and again, and never receive a scratch. I have marveled,
considering the number of men whom I have seen fall, how chance had
favored me. The high-explosive shell I always found the most hateful
with its suggestion of maiming for life. Bullets were merciful. They
meant death, or a wound from which, except in rare cases, you would
recover. Fighting in the open as our men did in the Meuse-Argonne, all
their bodies exposed to machine-gun nests, the percentage of dead was
often only one in six or seven, and in some cases only one in ten, to
the wounded. In the Ypres salient, conspicuously, and elsewhere in the
old days of trench warfare, when only heads were exposed above the
parapet, and shells mashed in dugouts and struck in groups of men, the
percentage was one in three, and even one in two.

Those who saw our returned veterans parading in clean uniforms have
little idea of their appearance in battle, their clothes matted with
mud, their faces grey as the shell-gashed earth from exhaustion, when
they had given the last ounce of their strength against the enemy. This
picture of them makes a march over pavements, between banks of people
rewarding them with cheers for what they had endured, seem exotic
pageantry. No one can know except by feeling it the physical and mental
fatigue of this siege battle. There was always the contrast of effort
at high nervous pitch and the utter relaxation of moments of inaction.
Memories of weary men prone on the earth, or lying on caissons or
gun limbers, go hand in hand with memories of our bursts of "speed"
when orders summoned weariness to another impulse of effort. Nature
compelled sleep at times, even in the cold; and men awoke to find that
they had pneumonia or "flu." It was not only the wounded, but the sick,
who were dripping, painfully hobbling shadows along the muddy roads.
The medical corps accomplished a wonder I do not understand in the low
percentage of mortality.

The battle was a treadmill. If there were men of faint hearts or dazed
by fatigue, they had to keep on going. The number with an inclination
to straggle was infinitely fewer than in the Civil War. Not only battle
police but something stronger held them in their places in the machine:
public opinion. We were all in it; we must all do our share. The spirit
of the draft was applied by the common feeling. A soldier who might
sham illness or shell-shock--which was rare indeed--if his malingering
were not understood at a glance, must pass the test of a searching
diagnosis. I have in mind such a case, of a soldier who came into a
_triage_.

"Well, what's the matter with you?" asked the medico, looking at him in
gimlet intensity as their eyes met.

"Nothing, except tired, I guess. I'm feeling better. I'm going back to
the front," was the reply.

The wonder is that there were not more men who succumbed, not to
fear or fire but to the strain. There were instances of insanity, of
temporary illusion, of mind losing control over body--shell-shock,
or whatever you choose to call it--which sent a soldier back through
sifting processes for specific treatment; but no soldier well enough
to fight might escape his duty. Never, I repeat, were there so few
who had any such thought; and this under conditions worse than Valley
Forge. Where heroes of that day only knew want and cold in camp, they
did not have to fight at the same time. The lack of warm food was
alone enough to weaken initiative in men used to comforts and to being
well fed. We tried to force the rolling kitchens up to the front, but
it was impossible on many occasions. Division staffs might say they
were up--and they were, in some parts of the line, but not in all. The
men growled, of course. They had a right to growl. They growled about
many things. The lack of artillery fire, the failure of our planes to
stop enemy planes from flying low with bursts of machine-guns, orders
that made them march and counter-march without apparent reason. They
growled, but they kept on the job.

I always think of three words to characterize the battle. Will,
endurance, and drive: the will to win, the endurance which could bear
the misery necessary to win, and the drive which by repeated attacks
would break the enemy's will. It was the old accepted system; but its
application is the test of the soldier in every cell of brain and body.
The high command could supply the orders, but the men must supply the
qualities which could carry out the orders.

"It's drive, drive, drive!" as one of the soldiers said. "All the way
down from Washington, through Pershing, to the lieutenants, to us--and
there's nobody for us to drive except the Boche"--an enemy who was a
mighty soldier. We tried our steel against no inferior metal. To say
otherwise is not to allow just tribute to ourselves.

All our national energy, our pride, came to a head in the fields of
the Argonne. We can be ruthless with ourselves and with one another.
We consumed man-power like wood in a furnace. Some men and divisions
gave their all in the first period of the battle; others in a later
period; others in the final period. The thing was to give your all.
For officers there was always the fear of Blois; of being sent to
the rear. I know of an officer who staggered at the door of division
headquarters; and then stiffened and drew in his chin as he entered.

"How are you?" asked his division chief of staff.

"All right. Never felt better."

Then his hand went out to the wall to keep him from falling. This was
the right spirit. Yet he must have rest. He could no longer command
three thousand men.

One day an officer might seem fully master of himself and his task;
the next day he "cracked." Superiors, breaking under the strain, were
unjust to subordinates who could not carry out orders to take a series
of machine-gun nests. Personal fortunes were subject to the "break in
luck."

Favoring circumstances honored officers who perhaps had not done as
well as those who were considered to have failed. Success was success;
failure was failure. Time was precious.

"Finding that X-- was not close enough up to his battalion, I
immediately relieved him," was the matter-of-fact report of a colonel
on a major, which meant tragedy to the major; the next day the colonel
himself might "crack." The young lieutenants of platoons and companies,
burdened with their instructions and maps, were the object of the
accumulated pressure from senior officers. They could always charge.
There was one sufficing answer to criticism--death. It came to many
against impossible positions: yet not in vain. Every man who dared
machine-gun fire added to the enemy's conviction of our determination
to keep on driving until we had "gone through."



XXIX

THEY ALSO SERVED

  From tambourine to doughnut--The "Y" and the canteen--Too much on its
  hands--Other ministrants--Manifold activity of the Red Cross--But
  not at the front--Honor to the army nurses--The chaplain's label
  immaterial.


Of the auxiliary organizations serving with the army the Salvation
Army was nearest to the soldier's heart, and the Y. M. C. A., or the
"Y," as the soldiers knew it, the most in evidence. When the pioneer
Salvationists appeared in our training camps early in the winter of
1917-1918, some wits asked if they were to beat the tambourine and hold
experience meetings in the trenches. Soon they were winning their way
by their smiling humility. They were not bothered by relative rank,
which gave some of the personnel of the other auxiliaries much concern.

"If there's anything that anybody else is too busy to do, won't you let
us try to do it?" seemed to express their attitude.

After the fighting began, it was evident that on campaign their
emblem was not the tambourine but the doughnut. When our soldiers
came out of the battle, whom should they see standing in the mud
of the shelled zone but the khaki-clad Salvation lassies, smilingly
passing out doughnuts and hot coffee--free. The tired fighter did not
have to search his pockets for money. All he had to do was to eat the
doughnuts, and drink the coffee. That made a "hit" with him.

The men workers of other auxiliaries went up under fire, and
distributed chocolate and cigarettes. Yet nothing in their gallantry
or devotion could have the appeal of the smiling lassies offering
free doughnuts and hot coffee to a man just out of the shambles, when
his emotions were gelatine to the impressions that would endure.
The Salvationists were ready night and day to bear hardships and do
cheerfully any kind of drudgery. There were relatively few of them;
they filled in gaps, depending upon the personal human touch, which
they exerted with admirable "tactics," as the map experts of the staff
would say.

Possibly the soldier was a little unfair to the "Y"; possibly, too,
the "Y" was the object of critical propaganda, while it neglected
propaganda on its own account among our soldiers, though not at
home. Where nothing was expected of the Salvation Army, everything
was expected of the "Y." It must have motion pictures, singers, and
vaudeville artists, and huts wherever American soldiers congregated
from end to end of France; this was a part of the ambitious plan,
although it could not get the tonnage allowance from home, or the
supplies in France, to carry it out. Another part was that of really
taking the place of a company exchange. Here the "Y" put its head in a
noose; but not unwittingly. When the proposition came from the army to
the "Y," its answer was in the negative.

"Aren't you here to serve?" was the army's question. To this the "Y"
could only say, "Yes, sir." At that time the army authorities--not
foreseeing conditions which later developed--were applying the theory
that gifts to the soldiers meant charity: as a self-respecting man he
would want to pay for his tobacco, candy, or other luxuries.

The "Y" had no such generous fund as the Red Cross; it could not build
huts and theaters, sell cigarettes, chocolate, sandwiches, pie, or
furnish meals below cost. In the early days when our soldiers were
hungry for chocolate, and none was arriving from home, the "Y" bought
it at exorbitant prices in the local market, charging what it had paid.
Later it had supplies from the quartermaster. As soon as a soldier
appeared in a town, he asked, "Where is that blankety-blank 'Y'?" If
there were no "Y" hut, canteen, or motion picture show, his conclusions
were inevitable, and his remarks sometimes unprintable, especially
if he could not buy his home brand of cigarettes. It was the "Y's"
business to be on hand, no less than that of the quartermaster
department to see that he was given his daily rations.

He did not receive his pay more regularly than his mail. If he had no
money, though he might go to the "Y" motion picture show, he could not
get cigarettes, chewing gum, or pie. On one occasion when a "Y" truck
loaded with cigarettes came to the rescue of the tobacco-famished at
the front, the besieging purchasers, when they opened the packages,
found a slip inside, saying that they were from a newspaper's free
tobacco fund. The fat was in the fire. The "Y" might give away all that
truck load of cigarettes as it did, return the money of the deceived
purchasers, and it might give away a dozen trucks of sales cigarettes;
but the explanation that the quartermaster department had mixed the
free cigarettes with sales cigarettes, the "Y" being officially
credited for payment for all, could never overtake the circumstantial
report of the "Y's" profiteering, which grew as it was helped on its
travels, perhaps, by the "Y's" enemies.

If a division commander wanted an errand done in Paris, a check cashed,
or any comfort or entertainment for his men, he called on the "Y,"
which was not "volunteer," but "drafted." No one ever stopped to think
what the army would have done without the "Y" huts, motion pictures,
theatricals, and canteens.

After the armistice, when a large number of returned British and
American prisoners arrived at Nancy, I recollect how the local head
of another auxiliary organization called up the "Y" on the telephone,
saying: "We're helpless. Can you do anything?"

"Send them on!" was the answer.

"There are eight hundred, all hungry. Have you food for them?"

"No, but we'll find it--" which was the spirit of the S. O. S. that
kept us supplied in the Meuse-Argonne battle. Another type of "Y" man
might, however, have thrown up his hands in despair.

The "Y" was an enormous and mixed force, criticized, reasonably I
think, for lack of organization to keep pace with its ambitions. Its
home administration seemed disinclined to take the advice of men
experienced at the front in the choice of personnel. A novelist, a
college professor, a lawyer, or even a regular "Y" secretary is not as
good at running a lunch counter or a hut as a man who regularly runs a
lunch counter or a hotel. A young woman who stood high at college might
not be as useful in the kind of work the "Y" had to do as a practical
housewife who might not have heard of Euclid, but who did know how
to bake, sew, and cook. The soldier judged personnel by the way they
came down to earth, as he had a very earthly job in his fox-holes and
charges. I have gone into this detail because it became the fashion
to give the "Y" a bad name, which was hardly deserved considering the
large contract it had undertaken to fill.

The Knights of Columbus also had huts and theaters, but did not attempt
to cover the whole field. When K. of C. workers opened a counter or
appeared with a truck at the front, the supplies while they lasted were
free to all comers. The soldier who had no change was always looking
for the K. of C. When he passed the "Y," which required money for the
sweets or the tobacco he craved, the contrast in his mind was that
between generosity and commercialism. He was allotting a large portion
of his pay to his family in a time of war, when according to all he
read everybody at home was subscribing liberally in order that the men
who faced hardship and death might not go without comforts. As the K.
of C. appeared in force with the army later than the "Y" and could
profit by example, its workers were seemingly a little more practical
than those of the "Y."

"Boys, we'll give you all we have. Never mind the money!" was their
attitude. The Jewish Welfare Board seems to have been admirably
forehanded and generous in its special attention to the soldiers of
the Jewish race.

We must not overlook the American Library Association, which had a free
library in Paris. It circulated books throughout the army zone by a
system which enabled the reader, if he were traveling, to return a book
to any "Y" hut. If a book were lost, no matter. The thing was that our
fighters should be served.

The Red Cross, having elaborate headquarters in Paris, was an enormous
organization, managed with able statecraft, which covered a broad field
of various activity. Its duties with the army never seemed as specific
as those of the other auxiliaries. The old established Samaritan of
our modern world, with immense funds and resources ready to meet any
emergency when the call came, it opened free dispensaries and succored
refugees; assisted civil populations as well as soldiers; ran some
auxiliary hospitals, convalescent hotels, and hotels for officers;
never selling, always giving, supplied hot coffee and lunches to
soldiers en route across France; and "filled in" on a huge scale in
the same way as the Salvation Army on a smaller scale. More of its
workers were well-to-do and unpaid than in the K. of C. and the Y. M.
C. A. Some of these--for the A. R. C., too, had its difficulties with
personnel--were far more expensive, the practical comrades said, than
if they had received large salaries. The Red Cross doctors and nurses
were ready to supplement the regular army forces when occasion demanded.

The popular idea that the Red Cross had anything to do with bringing
in the wounded from the field, or with the dressing stations or
ambulances, was quite erroneous. All the doctors and medical men in
the front line, and all the stretcher-bearers who endured their share
of gas, shells, and machine-gun blasts, of rains and mud, with heavy
casualties; all the drivers of the ambulances along shell-infested
roads; all the hospital corps men, on their feet twenty-four hours at a
stretch at the _triages_; all the teams of surgeons and their helpers,
whose skill and tireless endurance saved lives--these were of the army.

There is no heroism finer than that of the stretcher-bearer; or of the
surgeon and medical corps man in the front line. Their blood is not hot
in pursuit or combat. They see the red bandages and gaping wounds, and
hear the gasps for breath of the dying. Your medical corps man "took on
for the war"; he was of the army machine. The work of our doctors is
attested by the record of how successfully they patched up the wounded
to return to the battle; of how they kept the stream of wounded flowing
back to the hospitals in amazing smoothness, considering the unexpected
demands of the battle.

There were not enough medical officers, hospital corps men, or nurses;
but they made up for their lack of numbers under the most appealing of
calls by giving the limit of their strength, no less than the soldiers.
The honors to the womanhood which served in France go to our trained
nurses in the army service. They did not report to a Paris headquarters
when they arrived from home, but were hurried to their destinations
on army travel orders; they knew none of the diversions of working
in canteens or of automobile rides about the front. For weeks on end
they were restricted to hospital areas; they were soldiers under army
discipline, in every sense of the word. They had not only kindness in
their hearts, but they knew how to be kind; they not only wanted to do,
but knew how to do.

How their competency shone beside the frittering superficiality of
volunteers who had not even been taught by their mothers to sew, or
cook, or look misery in any form in the face, but who felt that they
must reach France in some way in order to help, or rather to be helped!
It was the difference between the sturdy workhorse drawing a load
upgrade, and a rosette of ribbons on the bridle; between the cloth that
keeps out the cold, and the flounce on the skirt; between knowing how
to bathe a sick man, put a fresh bandage on his wound, move him gently,
and what to say to cheer him; and knowing how to take a chocolate out
of a box daintily. There was no time for ribbons or flounces during
our greatest battle. We rarely had candy from the commissary, which
fact however did require self-abnegation on the part of a few of the
least serviceable of auxiliary workers, which might lead them to think
that they were doing their bit.

Hollow-eyed nurses, driving into bodies aching with fatigue no less
energy of will than the exhausted battalions in their charges, kept the
faith with smiles, which were their camouflage for cheeks pale from
want of sleep. They often worked double the time that they would in
hospitals at home, where they had their home comforts and diversions.
When a soldier, with drawn, ashen face from loss of blood, reeking
still with the grime of the battlefield, came into a ward, an American
woman, who knew his ways and his tongue, was waiting to attend upon
such cases as his. When he was bathed and shaved and his wound dressed,
and he lay back glowing in cleanliness on his cot, his gratitude gave
the nurse renewed strength.

After I had returned home, I heard one day on an elevated train a young
woman telling, in radiant importance, of her "wonderful experience"
as an auxiliary worker of the type to which I have referred, and of
all the officers she had met. Seated near her were two nurses in
uniform, furtively watching her between glances at each other. There
were lines in their faces, though not in hers--lines left by their
service. What she was saying went very well with her friends, but not
with us who know something of who won the war in France. Many of these
nurses--working double shifts in a calling which is short-lived for
those who pursue it for any length of time--will not recover from the
strain on mind and body of the generous giving of the only capital that
most of them had. If you were not in France--in case you were and were
wounded, you need no reminder--when you meet a woman who was in France,
ask if she were an army nurse. If she says that she was, then you may
have met a person who deserves to outrank some gentlemen I know who
have stars on their shoulders.

Then there were the chaplains. General Pershing had his own ideas
on the subject. The chaplain was simply to be the man of God, the
ministrant of religion, the moral companion without regard to
theological faith, who might show, under fire, his greater faith in the
souls of men fighting for a cause.

Bishop Brent, the chief chaplain, was not a militant churchman, but a
man of the gospel militant; and so was Father Doherty, on his right
hand, and all the other chiefs. You ceased to ask whether a man was
Catholic or Protestant, Baptist or Methodist, Christian or Jewish.
Clergymen at home might wonder about this, but they would not after
they had served for a while as our chaplains served, close to the
blood-stained gas-saturated earth, with the eternal mystery of the sky
overhead. The chief chaplains were hard disciplinarians. The punishment
which they meted out to one chaplain who strayed from the straight
and narrow path was not comprised in army regulations. "Wasn't he a
chaplain?" the chaplains argued. Hardest of all on him were the men of
his own church. He had disgraced his church as well as his fellows.

Yet despite the chaplains the men developed the habit of swearing;
soldiers always have. War requires emphatic expressions. It destroys
flexibility of expression--and "damn" and "hell" do seem the fittest
description of a soldier's occupation.

"It's an innocent kind of swearing, though," said a chaplain. "It does
not really blaspheme. It may help them in fighting the battle of the
Lord against the German."

In the assignment of chaplains, of course, the plan was to place
a Catholic with a regiment which was preponderantly Catholic; a
Protestant with a regiment that was preponderantly Protestant; a rabbi
with a regiment that had many Jews. When it was reported that the
majority of the men of a certain regiment were not of the same church
as their chaplain, a transfer was recommended. The colonel wanted to
keep his chaplain, and suggested that he put the question to a vote,
which he did: with the result that all the men of the regiment declared
themselves of the same faith as their chaplain. This chaplain's
religion, as it worked out in the daily association of the drudgery of
drill and the savage ruck of battle, was quite good enough for them,
without regard to the theological label he bore. He had faith, simply
faith, and he gave them faith through his own work.

Division commanders who were not religious men, but hard-hitting
fighters, thinking only of battle efficiency, used always to be asking
for more chaplains. I recollect during the Meuse-Argonne battle
a division commander exclaiming: "Why don't we get more chaplain
replacements? I'm right up against it in my division. I've had one
killed and one wounded in the last two days. I'm going to recommend
both for the Cross, but there's nobody come to take their places. You
stir them up on this question at Headquarters."

The chaplain stoutened the hearts of the fighters against hardship,
cheered the wounded, administered to the dying, wrote letters home to
relatives, went over the fields after the battle with the men of the
Graves Registration Service, which had the pitiful and reverent task of
gathering and burying the dead.

Our soldiers who knew religion at home as repeating "Now I lay me down"
in childhood and the Lord's Prayer when they were older, as grace
before meals, going to Sunday school, sitting in pews listening to
sermons, and as calls from the clergyman, now knew it as the infinite
in their souls in face of death, exemplified by the man of God who was
wearing the uniform they wore, who was suffering what they suffered,
who kept faith with the old thought that "the blood of the martyr is
the seed of the church."



XXX

THROUGH THE KRIEMHILDE

  No thought of peace at Souilly--The third attack--The Rainbow
  Division before Chatillon ridge--Three days of confused combat--Over
  the ridge--The Arrows sweep through Romagne--Outflanking the Dame
  Marie ridge--The new Ace of Diamonds Division--In and out--A
  corridor of fire--Knitting through the Pultière Wood--A fumble in
  the Rappes Wood--Which is finally "riveted"--The long-enduring Marne
  Division--Knits further progress.


On the late afternoon of October 13th I happened to be in the stuffy
little ante-room at Souilly, when, his great figure filling the
doorway, Liggett came out from a conference with Pershing. His face
was glowing, his eyes were sparkling as if he had seen a vision come
true. We were planning to have four million men in France in the
summer of 1919. Its new commander might think of his First Army, after
three weeks of battle in the Meuse-Argonne, as only the nucleus of our
growing strength.

A few minutes after he had left the ante-room General Pershing's aide
received an item of news over the telephone from Paris. This announced
that the Germans had provisionally accepted President Wilson's Fourteen
Points. Thought turned from our own to other battlefields. Austria had
practically thrown up her hands. Turkey was isolated and demoralized.
Bulgaria had surrendered; the Serbs and Allied troops were marching to
Belgrade; the Belgians were at the gates of Bruges, the British four
days later were to enter Lille, and the French had taken Laon in the
sweep across the open country. Was the end in sight? So long and so
stubbornly had the German armies held out, so habitual had war became,
that we who were close to the front saw vaguely as yet the handwriting
on the wall which was so distinct to the German command. We knew that
the Germans had many times dallied with peace proposals in the hope of
weakening Allied morale.

When I went in to see General Pershing, he turned to his big map on the
wall, and ran his finger over the Romagne positions. "Liggett is losing
no time. He's attacking tomorrow," he said. After he had referred to
the plan, he fell to talking of the young reserve officers, their
courage, the rapidity with which they had learned their lessons, of
the fortitude and initiative of the men, who produced leaders among
themselves when their officers fell in action. He had had to drive them
very hard; this was the only way to hasten the end of the war. His
voice trembled and his eyes grew moist as he dwelt on the sacrifice of
life. For the moment he was not a commander under control of an iron
purpose, but an individual allowing himself an individual's emotion.
Then his aide came in and laid a little slip of paper on his desk,
remarking that it contained the news of the German acceptance. I asked
the general what he thought of the chance of peace.

"I know nothing about it," he said. "Our business is to go on fighting
until I receive orders to cease fire. We must have no other thought, as
soldiers."

The only negotiations in his province and in that of the Allied armies
were of the kind they had been using for four years: the kind which had
brought the Germans to their present state of mind. The prospect of
peace should make us fight all the harder, as a further argument for
the enemy to yield speedily. Not until the day of the armistice did our
preparations diminish, at home or in France, for carrying on the war
on an increasing scale of force. Throughout October and the first ten
days of November our cablegrams to Washington continued to call for
all the material required for four million men in the summer of 1919.
Indiscreet as it would have been to encourage the enemy by confessing
to our paucity of numbers and lack of material in the summer of 1917,
we might lay all our cards on the table in the autumn of 1918.

Liggett's attack of October 14th was our last effort which could be
called a general attack before the final drive beginning November 1st,
which broke the German line. The general attack of September 26th had
broken through the old trench system for deep gains; that of October
4th, with the driving of two wedges on either side of the whale-back,
had taken the Aire valley and the gap of Grandpré, and brought us up to
the Kriemhilde Stellung, or main line of resistance of the whale-back;
that of October 14th aimed to drive a wedge on either side of the
Romagne heights, taking the Kriemhilde, the two wedges meeting at Grand
Carré farm in their converging movement to deliver the heights into our
hands. Thus Army ambition was soaring again. If it had succeeded, we
should have been up to the Freya Stellung, another fragmentary trench
system, the second and inferior line of resistance of the whale-back,
and we might not have had to wait another two weeks for victory. The
progress of the other armies summoned us, as it had at every stage
of the battle, to a superhuman effort to reach the German line of
communications, which might now mean a complete military disaster for
the enemy.

The 32nd was still facing the Côte Dame Marie and the town of Romagne
in front of the loop in the Kriemhilde. On its left was the 42nd, which
had just relieved the exhausted 1st and was to drive the western wedge
through the trench system of the Chatillon ridge and on through the
Romagne Wood and the large Bantheville Wood.

I have written so much in my first book about the 42nd, in its Baccarat
sector, in its "stone-walling" against the fifth German offensive, in
the Château-Thierry counter-offensive, that it seems necessary to say
only that it was the Rainbow Division, the second of National Guard
divisions to arrive in France, which had shown such mettle, immediately
it was sent to the trenches, that it was given every test which a
toughened division might be asked to undergo. Major-General Charles T.
Menoher, who had been in command throughout its battle service, had the
poise requisite to handling the infantry regiments from Alabama, Iowa,
New York, and Ohio, and all the other units from many States, in their
proud rivalry.

The Arrows of the 32nd, from Michigan and Wisconsin, now on the
Rainbows' right, had been on their right when both divisions crossed
the Ourcq and stormed the heights with a courage that disregarded
appalling casualties. Neither the 42nd nor the 32nd would admit that
it had any equals among National Guard divisions. After their weeks
of fighting in the Marne region, the Rainbows had come out with
staggeringly numerous gaps in their ranks as a result of their victory,
which had been filled by replacements who were not even now fully
trained. They had been in line for the Saint-Mihiel attack, but were
brought to the Argonne to be ready in reserve when a veteran division
should be required for a vital thrust. No sooner had they gone into
line than they found that the enemy, taking a lesson from the success
of the 1st and the 32nd and the 3rd, which had entered the Kriemhilde,
had been improving his Kriemhilde line, concentrating more artillery
and establishing machine-gun posts to cover any points where experience
had developed weakness. The Kriemhilde had thus far resisted all our
attacks. It combined many of the defensive advantages of the old trench
system with the latest methods of open war defense upon chosen and very
formidable ground. The 42nd was to storm one of its key points, the
Chatillon ridge.

Will any officer or man of the division forget the days of October
14th, 15th, and 16th? At the very start they were at close quarters,
their units intermingling with the Germans in rush and counter-rush, in
the midst of machine-gun nests, trenches, and wire entanglements, where
man met man in a free-for-all grapple to the death. The rains were at
their worst. Every fighter was sopping wet. It was impossible to know
where units were in that fiendish battle royal, isolated by curtains of
fire.

Summerall was now in command of the Fifth Corps. "Per schedule" and
"go through" Summerall, who had driven a human wedge as a division
commander, was to drive another as a corps commander. His restless
personal observation kept touch with the work of brigade and regiment;
his iron will was never more determined.

The 42nd did not keep to the impossible objective beyond, but it did
"go through" the formidable Kriemhilde, which had been our nightmare
for three weeks, in one of the most terrifically concentrated actions
of the battle. There was hard-won progress on the first day on the
bloody slopes of Hill 288, while patrols, pushing ahead, found
themselves under cross-fire which could not be withstood. When night
came, the units in front were already exhausted in a day of fighting of
the most wearing kind. "Attack again!" Wire which was not on artillery
maps, swept by machine-gun fire, meant delay, but no repulse. The
German resistance was unusually brave and skillful in making the most
of positions as vital and well-prepared as they were naturally strong.
The right, its units rushing here and crawling there to avoid the
blasts of machine-gun fire, had put Hill 242 and Hill 288 well behind
it on the second day, and had reached the gassed Romagne Wood. The
center was held up on the slippery and tricky ascents of the Chatillon
ridge, where the German machine-gunners stood until they were killed
or so badly wounded that they could not serve their guns; and the
German infantry, literally in a fortress stronghold, became more
desperate with every hour throughout the afternoon, while dusk found
the shivering and tenacious Rainbows dug into the sodden earth and
holding their ground. Shattered units were reorganized, and fresh units
sent forward for the attack of the next day, which took the ridge. The
Kriemhilde Stellung was won.

Those three days had been more horrible than even the Rainbows had
known: days which have either to be told in infinite detail, or
expressed as a savage wrestle for mastery. Few prisoners might be taken
in such confused fighting, when the Germans stuck to the last to their
fox-holes and their fragments of trenches. The path of the advance
was strewn with German dead. Army ambition had gained much, if not
its extreme goal. It had a jumping-off place for a final and decisive
general attack. There remained nothing further for the 42nd during
the next two weeks except to make sure that its gains were not lost.
This required constant patrols and costly vigils under gas, artillery,
and machine-gun fire, which were very wearing. On October 30th the
division was relieved by the 2nd, which passed through it for the great
advance of November 1st. The 42nd had suffered 2,895 casualties in
this operation. It could retire after its victory, in full confidence
that it had kept faith with the high expectations of its future from
the day of its organization. It had brought great honor to itself as a
division, to the whole National Guard, and to the replacement officers
and men who had served in it.

The 32nd's attack on October 14th was of course intimately connected
with that of the 42nd. Having assisted the 1st to drive the wedge over
the wall of the Aire, the Arrows had still enough vitality left to
carry out their eager desire to complete the conquest of the section
of the Kriemhilde on their front. They knew that they had a hard nut
to crack, and they began its cracking by turning all the power of
their artillery on to the German positions from noon of the 13th until
5.30 on the morning of the 14th, when, under as deep a barrage as the
tireless artillery could make, they started for the entrenchments on
the Dame Marie ridge, and the town of Romagne. Their left struggled up
the slopes of the ridge, but had to halt and dig in, waiting for more
artillery preparation to silence the array of machine-guns and guns
which, despite the eighteen hours of bombardment, began firing almost
as soon as the charge began.

On the right success was more prompt. By noon a battalion was past the
village which had resisted so many attempts to capture it. Knowing
Romagne of old, the right had executed a clever flanking movement,
under the special protection of a flexible barrage, which outwitted
the enemy. By 11.30 the village was in the hands of the swiftly moving
Arrows, and entirely mopped up. Its name might now be inscribed on the
division banners with those of Fismes and Juvigny. The Germans had
arranged many bloody traps in the streets, but the men of the 32nd had
taken too many positions from the enemy to be fooled by such tricks.

The left meanwhile was burrowing into the steep and slippery sides of
the Dame Marie ridge, with a blast of machine-gun fire grilling every
head that showed itself. There are occasions when officer and soldier
know that the odds are too great against them; when they halt and dig,
from the same instinct that makes a man step back from a passing train.
This was such an occasion. It looked as if the ridge could not possibly
be taken in front, when the men on the extreme flank, quick to press
forward instantly there was any opening in the wall of fire, saw their
opportunity. The 42nd, with their first onrush halted, had kept on
pushing, and they were driving the Germans off Hill 288, which had been
pouring its fire into the ranks of the 32nd men facing the Dame Marie.
This gave a purchase for a tactical stroke, which was improved before
the German realized that he had fumbled, and could retrieve himself.
A reserve battalion which was hastened forward slipped around to the
left of the Dame Marie. With its pressure on the flank, and that of
the center regiment, which had lost _liaison_ on the left but had no
thought of stopping while it could keep up with the right, the enemy
was forced completely off the ridge by dark, and the advance pressed
on into the woods beyond. The Arrows had now not only penetrated the
Kriemhilde, but had gone clear through it. Too much gold can not be
used in State capitals in inscribing the Dame Marie beside the heights
of the Ourcq to glorify the deeds of the 32nd for the admiration of
future generations. Despite its two weeks' hard service, it was to
remain in line,--or rather to continue advancing for four days longer,
as it grappled with the machine-gun nests in Bantheville Wood.

On the night of the 19th-20th it was relieved by the 89th. All the
survivors among numerous replacements which it had received after
Juvigny could claim to belong to that fraternity of veterans, which,
from the hour they marched down the apron of the Ourcq in parade
formation in the face of the enemy's guns, had shown the qualities
which make armies unconquerable. No division ever stuck to its knitting
more consistently, or had been readier to take the brunt of any action.
Its part in the Meuse-Argonne battle had been vital and prolonged.
The number of its prisoners, all taken in small groups in desperate
fighting, was 1,095, its casualties were 5,019, and it had identified
the elements of nine German divisions on its front.

On its right in the attack of October 14th a division new to the
great battle had come into line--the regular 5th, under command of
Major-General John E. McMahon. Its emblem was the ace of diamonds.
The 5th was just as regular as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, and it had
no inkling of a doubt that it could prove as ably as the other four
that it was the "best" regular division. As a basis for its confidence
was its record in Lorraine, where it had preparation for a larger
role in its faultless taking of the village of Frapelle, when for
the first time in two years the Vosges mountains had resounded with
the bombardment of an offensive action. Officers and men had been
thoroughly drilled. Uniformity had not suffered from the injection of
inexperienced replacements. The 5th had both the ardor of the fresh
divisions which had gone in on September 26th without having previously
been under fire, and long trench service, which made the Aces the more
eager to be in the "big show."

The command took them at their own estimate in a characteristic--an
aggravatedly characteristic--fashion. If ever a division were warranted
in losing heart on the ground that their superiors were "not playing
the game" with them, it was the 5th, which was submitted to everything
in the way of changing orders that is ruinous to morale. It was moved
about without any regard to the chessboard rules of war. Doubtless
this was necessary; but it was hard on the 5th, though it was only to
confirm other people, including the Germans, in the opinion that the
5th was a great division.

On the night of October 11th-12th a brigade of the 5th was ordered
to take over the line of the 80th and a part of the line of the 4th.
The sector was on the Cunel-Brieulles road, where the 80th had been
checked, and under the flanking fire of the galleries of guns, on the
right from east of the Meuse, on the left from the whale-back, as well
as in front, which I have described fully in my account of the 4th
division. Relief was not completed until after daylight, at 6.30 in the
morning. Patrols were sent forward into the Pultière Wood when word
came that the Germans were massing for a counter-attack. The 5th was
preparing to receive them, and establishing itself in its sector, when
orders came that it was to withdraw. Nothing irritates a soldier of
spirit more than to be sent into position for action, and then to turn
his back upon the enemy. Withdraw! The aces of diamonds to withdraw!
They were willing to play the game, but they were filled with disgust
at such an order. After long marches from the rear, after spending
the whole night in effecting a most difficult relief under continuous
fire, after a day full of annoyances in organizing an uncertain line
swept by shell-bursts, they were to march back, through the night in
the gamut of the enemy artillery, which became increasingly active
in evident knowledge of their exposure. Units had as much reason for
becoming confused as they would have in a night attack.

Disheartened at having to retreat--for that was the word for the
maneuver--some showed less alacrity than in going to the front, while
the filtering process of withdrawal under the cross-fire was bound to
separate men from their commands. The language they used of course
was against the German artillery, not against high commanders. A part
of the relief had to be carried out in broad daylight in sight of the
German artillery observers; indeed, it was not finished until noon.
Without having made a single charge, the brigade had been exhausted and
suffered many casualties.

The change of plan considered using the 5th as a fresh division, which
it would not long remain if this kind of maneuvering were continued.
Army ambition had decided that it was to be the eastern wedge in the
converging attack to Grand Carré farm, of which the 42nd was to be the
western. Hence a change of sectors for the 5th, which, after marching
into hell's jaws and out again, was to be "side-slipped" into the
sector of the amazingly tenacious 3rd, which, though it might well be
considered "expended" by its severe casualties and long exertions, was
to take over the wicked sector from which the 5th had been withdrawn.
"Side-slipping" was almost as common and hateful a word in the battle
as _liaison_. Consider a battalion as a bit of paper fastened by a pin
to a map, and moving it right or left was a simple matter; but moving
men under shell- and machine-gun fire, in the darkness, from one series
of fox-holes to another with which they were not familiar, you may be
assured on the word of any soldier, who lost a night's sleep, while
soaked to the skin by the chill rain, and had his comrades killed in
the process, was anything but a simple matter.

Naturally the three divisions, the 5th, 32nd, and 42nd, were
interdependent for success in this converging attack. As the veterans
of the 42nd, doing all that veterans could do, were three days in
taking the Chatillon ridge, and the regulars of the 5th could not bring
to life their dead in the Rappes Wood to continue charging, either
division had another reason than the unconquerable resistance on its
own front for not keeping the schedule of high ambition.

According to the original plan, the Aces of the 5th, passing through
the 3rd, were to advance across open ground in a corridor between the
artillery fire of the Romagne heights and the flanking machine-gun
nests of the Pultière and Rappes Woods, over which flanking artillery
fire would pass from the heights east of the Meuse. The 5th's commander
was to change the plan--another change with additional maneuvers,
though a wise one--by attacking the Pultière Wood, which would save the
Aces from some flanking machine-gun fire on the right.

It should have been no surprise, after the commotion due to the
"side-slipping," double reliefs, and counter-marching, that the enemy
knew that an attack was coming. Only if he had lost all tactical sense
would he have failed to foresee its nature. He was ready with all his
galleries of guns, and with his machine-guns regrouped to meet the
emergency, when the wave of the 5th, including troops which had been up
two nights in making a relief, being relieved, and taking over again,
began the attack, under insufficient artillery support, in all the
ardor of their first charge in the great battle.

Our barrage had not silenced the machine-gun nests, which began firing
immediately. The enemy's ample artillery shelled our echelons in
support, causing losses and a certain amount of inevitable confusion,
as they were forced to take cover and deploy. It also laid down a
barrage in front of our first wave; but the Aces passed through the
swath of the bursts in steady progress up the bare slopes under
increasing machine-gun fire, and reached the crests of Hills 260 and
271. There they were exposed to all the guns of the galleries, and
to machine-gun fire from the direction of Bantheville in front, from
Romagne on the left, and the Pultière and Rappes woods on the right.
To pass over the crest and down the slopes into the valley beyond
was literally to open their arms to receive the bullets and shells.
What use was it for the 5th's batteries to face around due east from
the line of attack toward the enemy batteries behind the Borne de
Cornouiller, which were out of their reach?

The Pultière, the southern of the two woods, was about half the size
of the Rappes, which was a mile long and separated from it by a narrow
open space. The ground was uneven, sloping upward to hills which made
the defense of their depths the easier. Our exploiting force sent into
the Pultière to protect the flank of the main advance had not been
strong enough for its purpose. After passing through flanking fire from
the direction of Cunel, it was checked in the woods by the machine-guns
concealed in the thickets, which also gave cover for machine-guns
firing not only into the flank but into the right rear of the main
advance. The next step was to take the Pultière by a concentrated
attack during the afternoon, which drove forward until we had dug in
face to face with the remaining machine-gunners in an irregularity
of line which was always the result of determined units fighting
machine-gun nests in a forest. The Aces who had won this much, their
fighting blood fully aroused, proceeded to carry out their mission
the next day, the 15th, of further relieving the flank of the advance
on the hills, which was being sorely punished as it held to its gains
under storms of shells.

Now imperishable valor was to lead to a tragedy of misunderstanding.
On through the northern edge of Pultière Wood, across the open space
between the two woods in face of the machine-gun fire from the edge
of the Rappes Wood, then through the dense growth of the Rappes,
infiltrating around machine-gun nests, and springing upon their gunners
in surprise, again charging them full tilt in front, passing by many
which were "playing possum," these Aces of American infantrymen,
numbers thinning from death and wounds, but having no thought except to
"get there," kept on until a handful of survivors reached the northern
edge of the Rappes. This was their destination. They had gone where
they were told to go. They dug in among the tree roots in the inky
darkness, without the remotest idea of falling back, as they waited for
support to come.

Now on the morning of that day, the 15th--after casualties had been
streaming back all night under shell-fire from the bare hills which
were being resolutely held with rapidly diminishing numbers,--it was
found that the total remaining effectives of three regiments were only
eleven hundred men, a hundred more than one battalion. Having asked the
Corps for reserves, the division commander had attacked for the Rappes
Wood as we have seen. The reports that came in to Division Headquarters
from the morning's effort showed that we were making little progress in
the wood, and were having very hard fighting still in the Pultière. The
brigade commander ordered another attack on Rappes for the afternoon.
This the division commander countermanded. In view of lack of support
on his flank, the continuing drain of casualties and the situation of
the division as a whole, he felt warranted in indicating that any units
which might have made an entry into Rappes withdraw to the Pultière.

The next morning patrols which reached the men who were in the northern
edge of Rappes passed on the word that they were to fall back. The
gallant little band, surrounded by German snipers, had not been able to
send back any message. Weren't they of the 5th? Hadn't they been told
to "go through" the wood? Was it not the regulation in the 5th to obey
orders? Withdraw! Very well; this was orders, too. From their fox-holes
where, so far at least, they had held their own in a sniping contest
with the enemy, they retraced their steps over the ground they had won
past the bodies of their dead comrades. Before Division Headquarters
knew of their success, the evacuation of Rappes was completed.

The night of the 16th the total rifle strength of the division was
reported as 3,316, or a little more than one-fourth of normal. On the
17th Major-General Hanson E. Ely took command of the 5th. He was of the
school of the 1st, long in France; a blue-eyed man of massive physique,
who met all situations smilingly and with a firm jaw. The Pultière Wood
was definitely mopped up during the day.

The brigade which had been in the 3rd Division's sector and suffered
the most casualties and exhaustion was relieved. At least the 5th,
weakened as it was by a battle in which the Aces fought as if they were
the whole pack of cards, must hold the Pultière, and Hills 260 and 271.
On the night of the 16th-17th the divisional engineers did a remarkable
piece of work, even for engineers. They brought up under shell-fire and
gas, and laid under shell- and machine-gun fire, two thousand yards of
double wire to protect the tired infantry, which was busily digging in,
against counter-attacks.

By this time, of course, the prospect of taking Grand Carré farm by
the converging movement seemed out of the question. The farm was
more than a mile beyond Bantheville, which was nearly a mile beyond
the southern edge of the Rappes Wood. But when the 32nd reported
progress in the Bantheville Wood on the 18th, and its patrols had
seen no one in Bantheville, the 5th was sent to the attack again. Its
patrols, which reached the edge of the town, found it well populated
with machine-gunners, who might have only recently arrived. As
for the Rappes Wood, all the cunning and daring we could exert in
infiltration could take us only four hundred yards into its depths,
where the Germans had been forewarned to preparedness by their previous
experience.

On the 19th the 5th held fast under the welter of shell-fire from the
heights and across the Meuse, while General Ely straightened out his
organization, and applied remedies for a better _liaison_ between
the artillery and the infantry. On the 20th, the idea of "pushing"
still dominant, under a heavy barrage the 5th concentrated all its
available numbers of exhausted men in a hastily formed plan for
another attempt for the Rappes Wood. It made some two hundred yards'
progress against the sprays of bullets ripping through the thickets.
The 5th was "expended" in vitality and numbers after these grueling
six days; but it was not to give up while the Germans were in the
Rappes Wood. The Aces made swift work of its taking on the next day.
Their artillery and that of the 3rd on their left gave the men a good
rolling barrage. The enemy artillery replied in a storm immediately;
but the Aces, assisted by the men of the 3rd Division attacking from
their side, drove through the shell-fire and all the machine-gun nests
with what one of the men called a "four of a kind" sweep. At 5 P.M.
the reports said that the wood was not only occupied but "riveted." At
6 P.M. the enemy answered this success with a counter-attack, which
the 5th's artillery met, in three minutes after it had started, with a
barrage which was its undoing. Having consolidated Rappes and avenged
the pioneers who had first traversed it, the 5th was now relieved by
the 90th, and sent to corps reserve. The exposure had brought on much
sickness, which increased the gaps due to casualties. Absorbing three
thousand replacements, General Ely, reflecting in his personality the
spirit of his men, was now to prepare them for their brilliant part in
the drive of November 1st.

The 3rd Division, on the right of the 5th, had had of course to submit
to the same annoyance of "side-slipping" as the 5th in the interchange
of sectors. Having assisted in driving one of the wedges of October
4th, it was now to continue under the shell-fire from the neighborhood
of the Borne de Cornouiller across the Meuse in forcing its way still
farther. It made slow and difficult progress in the eastern edge of
the Pultière Wood and the Forêt Wood on the 14th, and, the division
sector being swung east, as the 5th, in turn dependent upon the other
divisions, had a misfortune in the Rappes Wood, not even the dependable
infantry of the 3rd could make headway under flanking fire against the
Clairs Chênes Wood and Hill 299.

On the 16th Brigadier-General Preston Brown, one of the younger
brigadiers, a well-known Leavenworth man who had been chief of staff
of the 2nd Division in its stand on the Paris-Château-Thierry road,
took command of the 3rd. His appointment was significant of how youth
will always be served under the test of war. On the 17th nothing was
expected of the division by the Corps; on the 18th it advanced in
_liaison_ with the 5th in the attack on the Rappes Wood, which only
partially succeeded. Now that tough and dependable 3rd took over the
front of the 4th Division, which had been in since September 26th, and
with all four regiments in line its front reached to the bank of the
Meuse from Cunel.

On the 20th, the day that the 5th was to take Rappes, General Brown
now having made his preparations, the 3rd went for Clairs Chênes Wood
and Hill 299 in deadly earnest, which meant that something would
have to "break." It was characteristic of the handicaps under which
every division labored that in crossing the open spaces on their way
to Clairs Chênes the 3rd had flanking machine-gun fire from the
machine-guns in the Rappes Wood, which had not yet been taken. The 3rd
took Clairs Chênes, but the flanking movement planned for the taking
of 299 could not go through. The next day General Brown converged two
attacks upon 299 and 297. Two of the highest hills in the region, which
had long been a vantage point for observers, were won, and the 3rd's
line straightened out with veteran precision.

The 3rd had been going too fast these last two days to suit the
enemy's plans of defense. He concentrated his artillery in a violent
bombardment on Clairs Chênes, and under a barrage worthy of German
gunners in their most prodigal days the German infantry, in one of
those spasmodic counter-attacks which showed all their former spirit,
forced our machine-gunners and engineers to withdraw. A regimental
commander repeated an incident of the 3rd's defense of Mézy and the
railroad track along the Marne, when he gathered runners and all the
men he could find in the vicinity, and led them in a charge which
drove the Germans out of the wood, and re-established the line. The
Germans found what compensation they could by pounding Hill 299 all
night with their guns; but that hill was too high and too valuable to
be yielded by such stalwart dependables as the men of the 3rd. During
the next five days, while our whole line was preparing for the drive
of November 1st, the 3rd's active patrols even entered the village of
Brieulles on the river bank, which for over four weeks had been a sore
point with us; but they were told that it was too dangerous a position
to hold, and withdrew.

On the night of the 26th the 3rd was relieved by the 5th, now
recuperated. It was a pity that the 3rd, after its wonderful record in
the battle, could not have participated in the sweep of our battalions
down the far slopes of the whale-back. In line since October 1st,
four weeks lacking two days, it had paid a price for taking the
Mamelle trench, and for all its enduring, skillful attacks under that
diabolical cross-fire from the galleries of heights. Its casualties,
8,422, were more than half its infantry, and, taken in connection
with the positions it gained and its length of service, are an
all-sufficient tribute to its character.



XXXI

A CITADEL AND A BOWL

  Hopeless stabbing at the flanks--The Lightning Division at
  Grandpré--Vertical warfare--Scaling walls to the citadel--Stumbling
  toward Loges Wood--The All-Americas still doing their part--A bowl
  east of the Meuse--Approached through Death Valley--The Blue and
  Greys crawling toward the rim--The rough end of the stick for the
  Yankee Division--Belleau Wood a key point--General Edwards and the
  staff--Desperate grappling.


The enemy must make sure of holding our left in front of Grandpré gap,
or we would swing toward the whale-back from that direction; he must
not lose the heights east of the Meuse, or we would cut off his line of
retreat across the river. This naturally called for violent pressure on
his flanks in order to draw forces from his center, where we were going
through the Kriemhilde Stellung. During the third week of October there
was just as intense fighting for the "citadel" of Grandpré and for
the heights east of the Meuse as for Chatillon and Dame Marie ridges,
and for the Loges and the Ormont woods as for the Bantheville, Clairs
Chênes, Rappes, and Pultière woods.

We shall first tell the story of our left, where the 78th Division not
only drew the arrows to its breast but charged them in their flight,
after, as we have seen in Chapter XVIII, the 77th, on the 14th and
15th, had accompanied the general attack in fighting to master the
northern bank of the Aire. Sacrifice is the only word for the 78th's
action. Without expecting that the division could gain ground, the Army
command set it the thankless task of repeated attacks to consume the
enemy's strength, which it carried out with superb ardor and fortitude.

The 78th, originally drawn from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and parts
of New York State, took its name of the "Lightning" Division from an
obvious local source. Under Major-General James H. McRae, a skillful
and modest commander, both in its training at the British front and
in its occupation of the Limey sector north of Toul, where it made
remarkably successful raids, it had shown that although it was not
one of the best advertised of National Army divisions it was one of
the most promising. Where other new divisions had had their first
experience in the intoxicating drive for three and four miles in the
first stage of the battle, the 78th was to have no open field for its
bolts of lightning, but must use them as hammer-heads against granite,
when it took over from the 77th after the latter had made its lodgment
in Grandpré.

Though we had the Aire trough, we were not yet through with the
westward bend of the Aire river, where the bottoms are broad and
swampy. A wedge-like escarpment projects down to the town of Grandpré
from the heights of the Bourgogne Wood. This escarpment afforded
machine-guns cover for firing east and west and into the town.
Eastward, high ground sloping up from the river bottoms continues
to the Loges Wood, which averages about three-quarters of a mile
in breadth and depth, covering an eminence. In this sector, about
two miles in length, the 78th on the river bottom faced commanding
positions at every point on its front. To the Germans the Bourgogne
Wood was a bastion against the right flank of the French Fourth Army in
its movement toward Sedan, a barrier between our flank and the French,
and the flanking outpost of the Loges Wood, as I have indicated, in
holding us back from swinging northward toward Buzancy and cutting into
the flank of the whale-back.

Conditions in the relief of the 77th in the intense darkness on the
night of the 15th were very mixed. Saint-Juvin on the north side of the
river, to the right or east, was securely held. In Chevières on the
south side of the river the Lightnings of the 78th report that they
still had mopping up to do before they crossed. East of Grandpré the
Aire has two beds, which made the crossing of the river bottom under
shell- and machine-gun fire the more trying. In Grandpré the 78th found
itself in possession of only a section of the town near the river bank
on the morning of the 16th, and with only small detachments of troops
across the river,--which it must cross in force under plunging fire
before it reached the foot of the slopes.

It simplifies the action which followed to divide it into two parts:
the left brigade, operating against the Grandpré positions, and the
right against the Loges Wood positions. I shall describe that of
Grandpré first. A principal street of the town runs up the hill against
the western slopes of the escarpment. Machine-gunners and snipers could
go and come from the heights into the back doors of the houses, and
pass upstairs to the front windows, whence they could sweep the street
with their fire. The division knew the escarpment as the "citadel";
for this tongue of high ground on its eastward side was surmounted by
the ruins of ancient buildings, with old stone walls which must be
scaled, while the Saint-Juvin road, which runs past it, is on the edge
of a swamp. The only way to attack the citadel from the town, which it
absolutely commanded, was over a narrow causeway where a squad of men
could not properly be deployed. My Lord's castle of olden times had
an ideal position for holding the villagers on the river bank in meek
subjection.

A vertical warfare ensued in Grandpré, the Germans firing downward from
upper-story windows and the citadel, and the Americans firing upward.
It took two days of house-to-house fighting, in and out of doorways,
hugging the house walls, and taking house by house, before this town
of a thousand inhabitants was cleared of Germans, whose tenacity in
holding the town itself, when they had the citadel at their backs, was
indicative enough of the store they set by their right flank. On the
19th, the town having been mopped up, and sufficient troops across the
fords for the purpose, an attack was made on the citadel and upon the
western slopes of the escarpment. Beyond the citadel a park extends for
a distance of a quarter of a mile. Beyond that Talma Hill, and Hills
204 and 180, and Bellejoyeuse farm formed a rampart of heights at the
edge of the wood. The 78th, wrestling with machine-guns in this small
area, was to use enough tactical resource for a great battle.

At 2 A.M. the Lightnings began the assault. The hour was chosen because
darkness favored the plan, which must be that of scaling the walls
of an ancient fortress. Two separate parties made the attempt on
the walls. The enemy machine-guns from the Bourgogne Wood instantly
concentrated on one party, a target despite the darkness, while a
shower of bombs was thrown down upon their heads. The other party
reached the top, only to be met by irresistible fire from machine-guns,
which the artillery had not been able, for a good reason, to silence.
The guns were dropped into deep dugouts during the bombardment, and
hoisted by cables to turn on the advancing infantry, immediately the
bombardment was over. This care in preparation was another indication
of the value the Germans placed on the citadel and the hills at
the edge of the wood. Under scourging machine-gun fire, the attack
everywhere had to fall back, after severe casualties, except that the
right regiment of this brigade took the Loges farm, between the Loges
Wood and the Bourgogne Wood, which it managed to hold by skillful
digging under cross-fire.

For the next four days there were the usual patrols, while the 78th's
artillery hammered the citadel and the hills. On the 23rd a small
party, led by a lieutenant and three or four men, under a powerful
rolling barrage finally scaled the walls of the citadel and rushed on
to Bellejoyeuse farm, where they had a ferocious struggle with the
garrison while waiting for the second wave of the attack to come to
their support; but the second wave, having been stopped by a curtain of
machine-gun and artillery fire, had to fall back to the northern edge
of the park. The gallantry of that little band had not been in vain, as
was that of the men of the 5th who went through the Rappes Wood. They
had the citadel. There had been success, too, at another vital point.
Talma Hill had been taken. The Lightnings on the left were having their
reward for their arduous sticking to it in a warfare which was no
longer vertical, though still at a great angle of disadvantage.

Their jumping-off places having been gained, progress became more rapid
in a series of thrusts. On the 25th, one party entered the Bourgogne
Wood from Talma Hill. There was a gap of half a mile between them
and the troops in the park. Both they and the men in the park held
on against the worst the enemy's machine-guns and artillery could
do, while it took two days' persistent fighting by other units to
conquer machine-gun nests and snipers, to close the gap. On the 29th
Bellejoyeuse farm was taken; Hill 180 beyond it was taken; Hill 204 had
already been stormed with the aid of the French. The left brigade of
the 78th had finished the task.

The traveler who goes to the Meuse-Argonne battlefield, as he follows
the road from Grandpré on his way up the valley of the sinuous Aire,
would do well to take a long and thoughtful look at the sweep of open
ground between the river and the green mass of the Loges Wood rising
from its edge. Let him imagine the right brigade of the 78th crossing
the river on the 16th, and plunging through mud knee-deep, as in the
freshness of the youth of its men and its division spirit, without
artillery preparation, and without time to organize an attack properly,
answering the call of the Army to divert German strength from the
fronts of the divisions in the center, it went across that exposed zone
straight in face of the blaze from the machine-guns in the woods and
the associated heights. Though the gray valley floor was sprinkled with
the figures of the dead and wounded, the charge reached the edge of the
wood; it had gained the foot of the stairs.

Loges Wood was not only high ground. Its character and situation as
well peculiarly suited it for defense. The wood was thick enough to
prevent the artillery making a barrage to protect the infantry, and
sparse enough to give hidden machine-guns in the thickets a free
play. It was estimated that there were machine-guns at intervals of
forty yards in the German first line of defense, not to mention the
interlocking system in the depths of the woods. The ground itself
was a series of ravines, resembling nothing so much as a corrugated
iron-roof. Each formed a natural avenue for machine-gun fire. The
machine-gunners in the woods were supported by plentiful artillery in
the rear to concentrate upon the open spaces before the wood and on
the irregular open slopes east and west, which were linked together in
singular adaptability for the enemy's purpose. He was not, in this
instance, to depend upon small groups of machine-gunners to fight to
the death. Knowing from past experience that these would be overcome by
our hammering tactics, he was prepared to keep on putting in reserves
for counter-attacks to answer our attacks. Therefore Loges Wood was to
become a cockpit.

The problem of how to attack it was baffling. Of course, encircling
was the obvious method; but this meant a longer exposure of the men
in the open, while as they swung in toward the wood they would have
cross-fire from the adjoining positions into their backs. The troops
that had reached the edge of the wood drove halfway through on the
morning of the 17th, but were withdrawn to make an attack from the
west. The reserves sent to hold the line they had gained had a rough
and tumble with a German counter-attack, and had to yield a hundred
yards. The attack from the west under the flanking fire of Hill 180
managed to dig in and hold on the west side of the wood, level with the
line in the wood. This was progress; but it was progress at a terrible
cost. The position was too murderous, however thoroughly the men dug,
to be maintained. The Lightnings must either go forward or back, or be
massacred in their fox-holes.

On the morning of the 18th the support battalions passed through the
front line, and, rushing and outflanking machine-gun nests, in a
fight that became a scramble of units, each clearing its way as fast
as it could, numbers of our men broke through to the northern edge
of the wood. All the while the Germans, instead of holding fast to
their positions, were acting on the offensive at every opportunity,
infiltrating down the ravines, as they tried to creep around isolated
parties, and again charging them. No commander could direct his
troops under such conditions. It was a fight between individuals and
groups acting as their own generals, of German veterans, with four
years' experience in this kind of fighting, against the resourceful
Lightnings. His artillery gassing the southern edge of the wood to
keep back our reserves, the enemy kept forcing in more reserves in his
counter-attacks, which gained weight and system until they forced our
survivors, by ghastly losses, to retire to their starting point.

Thus far the Germans were still holding the escarpment and citadel
and the hills at the edge of the Bourgogne Wood, in line with the
southern edge of the Loges Wood, and well south of its northern edge,
while the Loges farm, between Grandpré and the Loges Wood, was an
outpost of enfilade fire at close quarters. We know how in its night
attack just before dawn, though it failed to take the citadel, the
left brigade took and held Loges farm. The right brigade was to move
at the same time on the wood. Though our artillery had tried to smash
the nests, its shells had been unsuccessful among the trees, and when
a frontal advance was attempted, it met heavier machine-gun fire than
hitherto. At the same time we attacked the wood from another direction,
trying for the eastern edge. The Germans had the wood encircled with
machine-guns, however. Our charge, as it turned in its swinging
movement, met their fire in face, and received machine-gun fire in
flank and rear from the village and high ground around the village of
Champigneulle. Driven back to its starting point, it closed up its gaps
and charged again under this cross-fire of machine-guns and a deluge of
gas and high-explosive shells which shattered it.

The brigade had used up all its reserves; the division had none
available; Corps could send none. By this time our divisions in the
center had gained the Kriemhilde, and were consolidating their gains,
and, therefore, events on other parts of the front had their influence
in a Corps order to withdraw to the Grandpré-Saint-Juvin road. When the
exhausted men in the gas-saturated Loges Wood were told that they were
to retreat, they complained. They might be staggering with fatigue,
and half-suffocated from wearing their gas masks, but they had been
fighting in hot blood at close quarters for the wood. They did not want
to yield to their adversary. They were critical of the command which
compelled them to retrace their steps in the darkness, which was done
in good order, across the levels spattered with the blood of their
comrades who had breasted the machine-gun fire.

Every bullet and shell which the men of either brigade of the 78th
had received was one less fired at the heroic 42nd in its struggle
for the mastery of the treacherous slopes and the wire and trenches
of the stronghold of the Chatillon ridge. Their ferocious attacks,
made in the hope of gains which the Army knew were impossible, had
served another purpose in convincing the Germans that our final drive
would concentrate on this flank instead of on the Barricourt ridge to
the east of the whale-back. In this final drive the 78th, after hard
fighting, was to enjoy its retribution; for it took Loges Wood, and
afterward knew the joy of stretching its legs in rapid pursuit for
twelve miles. Its casualties were 5,234 for all of its operations.

While we are following the careers of the divisions before the attack
of November 1st, we must not forget that the 82nd was still in line on
the right of the 78th. It had reached the Kriemhilde on October 11th,
and then in the general attack of the 14th penetrated the Kriemhilde,
where it bends west from the Chatillon ridge, and it had taken Hill 182
and the other heights to the north and northeast which commanded the
defenses of Saint-Juvin. As the result of these actions of determined
initiative and heroic sacrifice, one regiment had 12 officers and 332
men fit for duty; another regimental commander reported that eighty per
cent of his survivors were unfit for duty, and that the other twenty
per cent ought to be on the sick list. However, they could be depended
upon until they swooned. The effective rifle strength of the division
was 4,300, or less than a third of the normal total for a division. Yet
it attacked in support of the 78th's effort against Loges Wood. Then it
settled down to holding its lines and patrolling.

Provident General Duncan saved his exhausted men from a part of the
strain by skillful front-line reliefs on alternate nights. As the
All-Americas might not go into rest as a division, he established a
rest camp of his own, where exhausted, slightly gassed, wounded, and
sick men had clean clothing, baths, and plenty of hot food, which
rehabilitated them into "effectives"; and this enabled him to keep the
82nd in line until the night of October 31st, when the exhaustion of
its memorable service in the Aire trough was to rob it of the thrill of
pursuing the enemy to the Meuse, which the now rested 77th and 80th,
taking its place, were to know. It had taken 900 prisoners, and paid
for its success with 6,764 casualties.

So much for the left flank. We have bidden farewell to the Aire valley,
whose trough and gap were now behind us; but we were not to be through
with the Meuse until the day of the armistice. I approach no part
of our fighting in France with a greater sense of incapability than
the battle east of the Meuse--a separate battle, so influential in
the fortunes of the main battle, which has never received its share
of credit. Here every feature of the main battle was repeated in a
confined arena which recalled to me the assaults on Port Arthur. I have
already described the early operations of the 29th and 33rd in driving
the wedge, which we hoped would relieve our Third Corps from long-range
flanking fire to which it could not respond; and how they had been
checked in the quixotic mission of an immediate conquest of the Borne
de Cornouiller, or Hill 378.

As we know, the Borne, about three miles from the Meuse, was the
supreme height of the eastern valley wall. Southward in the direction
of the attack it sloped down into the steep-walled ravine of the Vaux
de Mille Mais, whose eastern end gave into a series of ridges rising to
the summit of Hill 370, protecting the Grande Montagne Wood in front as
it protected 378 in flank by the Grande Montagne Wood and the famous
Molleville farm. Thence an encircling ridge turning southward toward
the Verdun forts formed the rim of a bowl. Had the German Army, as
planned, withdrawn to the Meuse line, these hills would have been to
their defense what the hills of Verdun were to the French defense in
the battle of 1916.

Once the heights were taken, except for a series of detached hills, the
way was open to the plain of the Woëvre and to Germany. Back of them
and on their reverse slopes the Germans had built barracks for their
men, and assembled their material for the great Verdun offensive. On
the crests and the near slopes they had built concrete pill-boxes at
critical points, and arranged a system of defense in the Verdun days,
when they had learned by experience the tactical value of every square
rod of ground. The approach from the bottom of the bowl--which is a
rough description--to the rim was covered by many smaller interlocking
and wooded hills and ridges cut by ravines. There was no ravine, it
seemed, no part of this pit which was not visible to observers from
some one of the heights. The operation of the French Corps, under which
our divisions operated, must be fan-shaped, sweeping up the walls of
the bowl, as a wedge at any given point would have meant annihilation.
The approach to the bowl for our troops was along a road through a
valley, which was as warranted in receiving its name as any Death
Valley in the war. On the French side of the old trench line this ran
through an area of villages in utter ruin from the bombardments of the
Verdun battle, then through Samogneux and more ruins, woods, and fields
of shell-craters into the valley of the bowl itself.

For five or six miles, then, stretched an area of desolation without
any billeting places where troops could rest, except a few rat-infested
and odorous, moist dugouts and cellars, roofed by the débris of
villages. The young soldier who was going under fire for the first
time, as he marched forward past that grayish, mottled, hideous
landscape, might see the physical results of war upon earth, trees,
and houses. When he came into Death Valley, he was to know its effects
upon men. For two or three miles the road was always under shell-fire.
By day visible to the enemy's observers, by night his gunners could be
sure that guns registered upon it, if they fired into the darkness,
would find a target on its congested reaches. It was inadequate to
the traffic of the divisions engaged. Troops marching into battle
must run its deadly gamut before they could deploy. It was the neck
of the fan-shaped funnel of the battle-line. Transport was halted
by shell-torn cars and motor-trucks and dead horses until they were
removed, and by fresh craters from large calibers until they were
refilled. There was no rest for the engineers; all the branches which
were not ordinarily in the front line knew what it was to be under fire.

The Illinois men of the 33rd, on the left, after they had crossed the
river and reached the slopes of the Borne de Cornouiller on the 9th,
could move no farther on their front until the rim of the bowl was
taken on their right. They stood off counter-attacks, and continued
nagging the enemy until their relief on October 21st, forty-three
days after they had gone into line on the left bank of the Meuse,
and twenty-six days since, in the attack of September 26th, they had
taken Forges Wood in their brilliant swinging maneuver which had been
followed by their skillful bridging and crossing of the river. Now the
division was to go to the muddy and active Saint-Mihiel sector for a
"rest," relieving the 79th, which had had its "rest" and was to return
for a part in the last stages of the battle. Even the much traveled,
enduring, industrious, and self-reliant infantry of the 33rd had not
had such a varied experience as the artillery brigade, which I may
mention as a further illustration of how our units were moved here
and there. It had been attached in turn to the 89th Division, the 1st
Division, the Ninth French Corps, the 91st Division, the 32nd Division,
the Army artillery, and finally to the 89th Division for the drive of
November 1st, without ever once having served with its own division.

While the 33rd had been maintaining its ground, under orders to attempt
no advance, in the east of the Meuse battle, the Blue and Grey 29th,
its regiments intermixed at times with French regiments, had been
forcing the action among the ravines and woods of the Molleville farm
region against the same kind of offensive tactics that the Germans
were using in the Loges Wood, and for an equally important object in
relation to the plan of our operations as a whole. All parts of its
front line and its support positions were being continually gassed. The
frequent shifting of its units in relation to the French, in an effort
to find some system of making progress up the walls of the rim, were
additional vexation in trying to keep organization in hand over such
difficult ground, under such persistent and varied fire against the
veteran Prussians and Wurtembergers, who were quick to make the most of
every opening offered them.

A branch of the Death Valley road, the Crépion road, runs up the
eastern slope of the bowl. The point where it passes over the rim
was most vital. From a rounded ridge on both sides of the road for a
stretch between woods you look down upon the village of Crépion in
the foreground and receding slopes in the distance. This point gained
might flank the Etraye Wood positions, the Grande Montagne, and
eventually Hill 378, the Borne de Cornouiller itself.

Commanding the southern side of the road and approaches to the summit
was Ormont Wood, which rose to the crest of a very high hill, 360, only
eighteen feet lower than the Borne, which was defended by pill-boxes.
On the other side of the road were the Reine and Chênes woods. Beyond
these was the Belleu Wood, on the same side of the road. Belleu and
Ormont were key points. Belleu was to have as bad as name as Belleau
Wood in the Château-Thierry operations.

On October 12th the Blues and Greys of the 29th, coöperating with the
French, undertook in an encircling movement, which was complex in its
detail, to take the woods on both sides of the roads. This aroused all
the spleen of the German artillery. It drew violent counter-attacks
from the German infantry, continued in two days of in and out fighting.
Successive charges reached the edges of Ormont. There under a tempest
of artillery fire they looked up the slope through the thickets toward
the summit of 360, where the machine-guns were emitting too murderous
a plunging fire to permit them either to advance or to hold all the
ground they had gained. On the north side of the road Reine Wood and
a part of Chênes Wood were taken against counter-attacks. This was
encouraging. Though it did not seem to make the capture of Ormont
easier, it opened the way for an attack on the 15th toward Molleville
farm on the left and Grande Montagne on the right. Much ground was
gained on the left, and some on the right, where the fire from the
Etraye ridge stopped the advance.

We were slowly working our way toward the rim, using each bit of woods
or ridge which we won as a lever for winning another. All the while we
were an interior line, attacking up a gallery against an exterior line
whose ends could interlock their cross-fire. On the 16th, by dint of
the sheer pluck of units dodging artillery concentrations and zones of
machine-gun fire, and wearing down machine-gun nests, further progress
was made on the Grande Montagne. The 29th, always under shell-fire and
gas, had been attacking and resisting counter-attacks for eight days.
It was not yet "expended" by any means; but it was glad to find that
another American division was coming into the arena to relieve some of
its own as well as French elements.

Had we any division whose veterans might feel, as the result of their
experience, that they were familiar with all kinds of warfare, it was
the 26th, the "Yankee" Division, National Guard of New England. As I
have mentioned in my first book, the Yankees had learned not to expect
a sinecure. Assignments which meant victory with theatrical ease never
came to them. If four divisions were to draw lots for four places in
line, they took it for granted that the worst would go to the 26th,
which had become expert in gripping the rough end of a stick. The
second division to arrive in France, the 26th was put into trenches,
after a short period of training, in the ugly Chemin des Dames region,
away from the American sector. From there it was sent direct into
the mire of the Toul sector under the guns of Mont Sec, where it
resisted the powerful thrust of German shock troops at Seicheprey. The
length of time it remained in the Toul sector, and the length of the
line it held there, might well have turned it into a division of mud
wallowers; but it was able, on the contrary, to make some offensive
thrusts of its own, and only longed for the time when it might have
something like decent ground for an attack. From Toul it went to
relieve the Marines and Regulars of the 2nd in the violent Pas-Fini
sector on the Château-Thierry road, where, after more than two weeks
in line, instead of having the period of rest and reorganization given
to divisions before a big attack, it drove through to Epieds in the
counter-offensive. Then at Saint-Mihiel, where it was with the French
on the western side of the salient, by rapid marching it swung across
to Vigneulles to meet the veteran 1st in closing the salient.

If there were any replacements in the 26th who felt apprehension as
they came up Death Valley, the older Yankees, in the name of all the
mud, shells, gas, machine-gun fire, and hardships they had endured,
soon gave them the heart of veteran comradeship by their example.
Saint-Mihiel had been revenge for them. It had set a sharper edge on
their spirits. Artillery and all the other units having long served
together, the Yankees were to be "expended" as other veteran divisions
had been for a great occasion in the battle--an occasion in keeping
with their tough experience. It was not for them to have the straight
problem of charging a trench system, but to maneuver in and out of
these ravines and woods, facing this way and that against appalling
difficulties. Maine forests, Green Mountains, White Mountains, little
Rhode Island, and Massachusetts and Connecticut had traditions in their
history in the background of the fresh traditions the Yankees had won
in France. With the Blue and Greys already in, and the 79th coming,
the east of the Meuse battle became somewhat of a family affair of the
original colonies. The French had great respect for the 26th. Much was
expected of it, and it was to do much.

It went to the attack immediately on the morning of the 23rd. On
the left it coöperated with the 29th, which, feeling rejuvenated in
the presence of Americans on its flank, concentrated its remaining
effectives for an ambitious effort which carried the Americans through
to the Etraye ridge, and even to the important Pylone, or observatory,
before the advance elements were stopped. This was the high watermark
for the Blue and Grey, splendidly won. Without trying to follow the
detail of the maneuver, the 26th, as soon as it was known that its
Etraye ridge attack was succeeding, put in a reserve battalion and
rushed for the Belleu, that wood on the east of the Crépion road, just
short of the vital point on the rim that I have mentioned. In the
impetuosity of new troops in their first battle, and the spryness and
wisdom of veterans, this battalion swept over the machine-guns and
through the wood, which the 29th had already entered, to meet a savage
reception.

This was shaking the whole plan of German defense. It was an insulting
slap in the face to German tactics. Just over the crest beyond Belleu,
as I have already mentioned, the slope ran down to the plain of the
Woëvre. The German had no shell-fire to spare now for the other bank
of the Meuse. Batteries whose fire had been the curse of the Third
Corps swung round in concentration on that exposed patch of woods.
The machine-gunners in the pill-boxes and log-covered redoubts were
reinforced by others. It was a wonderful thing to have gone through
Belleu Wood; but in order to have held, the Yankees would have needed
something less permeable to bullets and shell-fragments, and subject to
gas, than a "stern and rock-bound coast" determination. The battalion
had to withdraw from the wood during the night, which was illumined by
a fury of bursting shells.

The Yankees were now fairly warmed to their task. On the 24th they
fought all day for Belleu Wood and Hill 360 in the Ormont Wood. A
cleverly arranged smoke-screen protected their first entry into Belleu,
when they advanced five hundred yards. The Germans knew well how to
fight in that wood. They could draw back from their advanced line of
fox-holes to their strong shell-proof emplacements, and call for an
artillery barrage to blast our charge. Then they could gather for a
counter-attack. Four times that day they rushed the Yankees under
the support of their concentrations of artillery, which prevented
our reinforcements coming up, and the fourth time they drove out our
survivors. Attack again! New England would not accept the rebuff from
Prussia. At 2.30 the next morning the Yankees charged the wood in
darkness and rain, and they went through it, too.

There was no use of our artillery trying to crush the concrete
pill-boxes defending the Ormont height on the other side of the road.
They were invulnerable to shells, for the Yankees were facing, in most
exposed down-hill positions, the latest fashion in mobile tactics in
command of well-tested defenses on high ground. Trench-mortar fire in
addition to machine-gun fire and shells shattered the two battalions
which tried by all the suppleness of veteran tactics to reach Hill 360
on the 23rd. The next morning, after the usual night of shell-fire and
suffering from cold on the wet ground, another attack did reach the
hill, and fought in and out around it and in the woods, but could not
hold it against the plunging fire of unassailable pill-boxes.

On October 24th a new commander, Brigadier-General Frank E. Bamford,
who was trained in the school of the 1st, came to the 26th. Some
people thought that our army staff was not in very intimate touch with
the situation in the bowl. Preoccupied with the main battle, it was
harassed by the flanking fire from the heights east of the Meuse. It
wanted possession of these heights before starting the next general
attack. A veteran division had been sent to take them. Evidently harder
driving was required from Division Headquarters of the 26th.

"Go through!" Individuals did not count; success alone counted.
Officers had been relieved right and left for failing to succeed. "Go
through!" Other heights had been taken: why not these? Perhaps someone
had overlooked the fact that while the German army retained anything
like cohesion or any dependable troops, its command would not yield
this Gibraltar in covering its retreat toward Germany after it was out
of Sedan and Mézières, and withdrawn from the whale-back; and this was
all the more reason for our desiring Gibraltar. The relief of other
divisional commanders created nothing approaching the stir made by that
of Major-General Clarence R. Edwards.

Well-known before the war as Chief of the Insular Bureau, possessing
characteristics that were bound to attract attention, he had had
command of the 26th from its organization. He went about much among his
men. They all knew his tall figure. They and the line officers were
bitter over losing him. If there had been a vote of the soldiers of the
division on the question of recalling him, it would have been almost
unanimous in his favor. The staff seemed to think that he was too kind
to officers of a type which other division commanders relieved; that
the success of the division had been due to the fine material in the
ranks, which needed better direction; and finally that his long service
had broken him down to a point where he had lost his grip on his
organization. In answer, his friends said that he had made the division
out of the nucleus of many National Guard units and replacements. He
had given it its original spirit of corps, and kept up its spirits
under handicaps which would have demoralized many divisions.

In the first two days the 26th had suffered 2,000 casualties. On the
27th they were sent into one of those ambitious attacks which look well
on paper. To the right of Hill 360, which of course was on the rim, was
a valley, and beyond that on higher ground the Moirey Wood, continuing
the rim. Relying on veteran experience to carry out this daring
maneuver, they were to swing around Hill 360, and into the valley,
and take Moirey Wood. Such encircling movements had been carried out
before; but their success had been dependent upon the relative strength
of the positions to be encircled and of the forces occupying them, not
to mention the volume of all kinds of fire on the flanks of the attack.
This attack invited the reception that it met no less than a man who
jumps into a rattlesnake's nest. The German army might be staggering
to defeat, but east of the Meuse the German units were not yet in the
mood to turn their backs to the heights, and retire to the plain. With
a wonderful accuracy and system they poured the intensest concentration
of artillery fire that even the bowl had known. All the guns on all
the heights which could swing around upon any part of the bowl seemed
to have only one target for shells of all calibers, mixed with gas,
which is so hard on men who are clambering over slippery ground in
violent physical effort. Units could not see one another from the smoke
of the bursts, tearing gaps in the line, which was at the same time
ripped by machine-gun fire from the pill-boxes. Every step forward
meant more machine-gun fire in flank, and more of it in rear, without
any diminution of the volume in front. It was not in human flesh to "go
through"; and there was nothing more to be said on the subject.

At the same time, on the other side of the Crépion road the 26th had
sought to drive through Belleu Wood and over the ridge. If both attacks
had succeeded, and could have held the ground gained, we might have
won the battle; but we could not have held it under the artillery
concentrations which the Germans were able to deliver, unless each
man had a shell-proof pill-box of the weight of a trench helmet--an
invention which would have ended the war before we ceased to be neutral.

We were not in full possession of Belleu Wood yet. Conditions there
were indeed "mixed." Yankees and Germans were dug in in fox-holes in
the northern edges, at points where either could watch the other. Back
of the Germans were their trenches on the crest, and their interlocking
pill-boxes; at their command always the infernal concentrations of
artillery fire which could be brought down on a few minutes' notice.
They still had the higher ground; they could slip back for rest into
their bomb-proofs and camps in the valley. Many of our fox-holes were
full of icy cold water, where the men had to lie--and did lie; for to
show their heads was to receive a blast of fire. But the Yankees, all
the while nagging the enemy by sniping and shell-fire, held on here and
across the road under the same conditions. It was out of the question
for warm food to reach the outposts, who received their rations by
tossing biscuits from one fox-hole to another.

On their military maps the French gave Belleau Wood, which the Marines
had taken in the Château-Thierry campaign, the name of the Marine Wood.
Belleu Wood or Ormont Wood might either be called the "Yankee" Wood,
though the 29th might ask that one be called the "Blue and Grey" Wood,
or Grande Montagne the "Blue and Grey" mountain. After having repulsed
counter-attacks on previous days, depleted as it was in numbers, the
29th supported the attack of the 26th through Belleu Wood in an attack
through Wavrille Wood, where it met irresistible fire of the same kind
as the 26th had against Hill 360 and Moirey Wood.

The 29th's three weeks' service in the hell's torment of the bowl was
now over. In its place came the 79th, National Army, which was also
from both sides of Mason and Dixon's line, north and south mingling
in its ranks. We know the 79th of old for its rush down the Montfaucon
valley and over the slopes in the first stage of the battle. The
isolation of units in slippery ravines and woods, and the depth of
the shelled area, required two nights for relief. The 29th's 5,636
casualties were balanced on the bloody ledger of its record by 2,300
prisoners. This was a remarkable showing; testimony of harvest won by
bold reactions against counter-attacks, of charges which made a combing
sweep in their sturdy rushes, even when they had to yield some of the
ground won. Man to man the Blue and Greys had given the enemy better
than he sent; but not in other respects. They could not answer his
artillery shell for shell, or even one shell to three.

My glimpses of the battle east of the Meuse among the Verdun hills
recalled the days of the Verdun battle, while the French were stalling,
with powerful artillery support, on the muddy crests and slopes and
in the slippery ravines. When they re-took Douaumont and Vaux, they
had a cloud of shell-bursts rolling in front of the charge. We were
going relatively naked to the charge. This had been our fortune in most
of our attacks in the Meuse-Argonne, as our part in driving in our
man-power to hasten the end of the war. There was something pitiful
about our divisional artillery in the bowl, trying to answer the
smashing fire of the outnumbering guns with their long-range fire from
the heights. The artillery of the 29th for three weeks kept its shifts
going night and day, while the veteran artillerists of the 26th had
problems in arranging patterns of barrages to cover the infiltrating
attacks which put new wrinkles in their experience.

Of the 29th's wounded, thirty-five per cent were gassed. The whole
area of the bowl was continually gassed. Sickness was inevitable from
lack of drinking water, warm food, and proper care. While the Germans
could slip back to billets on the reverse slopes, and to shell-proof
shelters, let it be repeated that our men had to remain all the time
under the nerve-racking shell-fire in the open, and under soaking rains
that made every hole they dug on the lower levels a well. Some of the
woods which they occupied were shelled until they could see from end to
end through the remaining limbless poles of the trunks. The desolation
of Delville and Trônes woods in the Somme battle were reproduced; but
the 26th and the 29th were there to attack, and they kept on attacking.
The fire they drew was a mighty factor in the success of our thrusts
in the main battle against the whale-back. It should be enough for any
soldier to say that he served east of the Meuse. The 79th and the 26th,
which remained in to the death, were to sweep over the rim into the
plain, as we shall see.



XXXII

THE FINAL ATTACK

  Stalwart 89th and 90th--Bantheville Wood cleaned up by the 89th--The
  90th to the Freya system--The 5th, back in line, takes Aincreville
  and Brieulles--America's two-edged sword--An aggressive army
  and the Fourteen Points--Would the German links snap?--A last
  push--The military machine running smoothly--Vigorous divisions in
  line--Veterans in reserve--"We will go through."


The rest of the picture, which had been done in the miniature of
agonizing efforts for small gains, was now to be painted in bold
strokes on a swiftly flowing canvas. During the last ten days of
October, after the general attack of the 14th had slowed down, our
preparations for the final attack included the taking of certain
positions which would be serviceable as "jumping-off" places, and the
arrival of two conspicuously able National Army divisions.

The 89th had been formed under Major-General Leonard Wood, which
assured that the men of clear eyes and fine physique, drafted from
Kansas and Missouri, would be well and sympathetically trained. If the
division might not have Wood at its head in France, it was to have in
his successor, Major-General William M. Wright, a leader worthy to
exemplify the standards he had established. All the army knew "Bill"
Wright, a man of the world as well as an all-round soldier, practical
and broad-minded, who faced a problem or an enemy in all four-square
robustness and energetic determination. In the Saint-Mihiel drive, and
afterward in the Saint-Mihiel sector, the 89th had fully met the high
expectation of its old commander and his admirers.

His men were as devoted to Major-General Henry T. Allen, who had formed
the 90th from recruits and commanded it in France. The six feet of
"Hal" Allen were as straight, now that his hair was gray, and he was as
spare in body and as youthful in spirit as in the days when he was a
lieutenant of cavalry, or organized the Philippine Constabulary. He too
was known to all the army, always "all there," whether on parade or in
a stuffy dugout, or in any group of men at home or abroad. When he went
among his tall Texans they said that they had a general who looked like
a general. Both Allen and Wright were afterward rewarded with corps
commands for their service in the concluding drive of the battle.

As for the spirit of the infantry of the 90th during all the battle,
only three stragglers were reported from the whole division. They were
from Texas, as they were prompt to tell you. They had shown in the
mire of the Saint-Mihiel salient that men from a very dry atmosphere
can endure penetrating humid cold as well as the hot sun. The sight
of them, no less than of the 89th and other divisions from the Middle
West, was an assurance that anemia does not flourish in their native
States. Neither the 89th nor the 90th had received enough replacements
to change their local character. Their regional pride was accordingly
almost as strong as their divisional pride. Both, when they arrived in
the Meuse-Argonne, were considered as "shock" divisions, so rapid had
been their progress in efficiency since they had come to France.

Taking over from the 32nd on October 19th, the 89th immediately
proceeded to clean up the troublesome Bantheville Wood. Though the
operation was entirely successful, it required severe fighting under
other adverse conditions than machine-gun and artillery fire, which
grew worse, the farther the infantry advanced. The roads through the
wood, which was continually gassed, were impassable. Stretcher-bearers
had to wade in mud knee-deep for the mile and a half of its length
in bringing back the shivering wounded, and the men stricken with
influenza.

When the Germans built that excellent bathing and disinfecting plant
at Gesnes, they did the 89th a good turn. Taking care of over four
thousand of our exhausted men, it was the adjutant of their fine
physique in so conserving the strength of the division that it was
able, after ten days of action and exposure which might well have
"expended" it, to fight its way to the Meuse and across the Meuse in
the ten days of advance from November 1st until the armistice.

The 90th, taking over on October 22nd from the 5th Division in that
violent sector of the Rappes Wood in front of Bantheville, under the
cross artillery fire from the heights of the whale-back and east of
the Meuse, its line joining the 89th on the left, made a spring for
the village of Bantheville on the 23rd, capturing and holding it. The
next day it drove ahead until it was up to the Freya Stellung, the
second line of defense of the whale-back, with a precision that defied
the enemy's artillery and machine-guns. The Freya was not as strong as
the Kriemhilde, neither being of course a trench system in the former
accepted sense; but the Freya had fragments of trenches and strong
positions for machine-guns, linked together in characteristic mobile
defense. Eager as the Texans were to attack the Freya, it was not in
the plan that they should. They were to dig in and expose themselves
as little as possible to the cross artillery fire, and "make medicine"
for their part in the general attack, which would sweep over the Freya
on November 1st. The Germans tried several counter-attacks; but every
one was promptly repulsed by the accurate fire of the Texans, whom the
deluges of shells could not budge from their positions.

Meanwhile the tried regulars of the 5th Division, which had come into
line on the Meuse flank on October 27th, had a few chores to do before
they were to carry out their brilliant programme in crossing the Meuse.
I use the word chores, because the Aces, now refreshed and full of
"pep," made their successes appear to be little more. We had not yet
taken Brieulles on the river bank, though it had been set as a part of
the Army objective of the initial attack of September 26th. For four
weeks it had been whipping our flanks with its machine-gun fire and
protecting enfilading German batteries. After having vigilantly pushed
forward aggressive patrols, which seized vantage points, in a rush in
the darkness on the morning of the 30th, the 5th took Aincreville.
That evening skirmishers went into Brieulles, and cleared it of the
enemy. To a point opposite Liny, where the river curved westward, we
had straightened out our line on the Meuse bank, shortening our Third
Corps front, which at the same time had cut deeper into the flank of
the Barricourt ridge, the final crest of the whale-back.

This was cheerful news for our Army command. It was an augury
confirming all our information in the latter days of October. The
rapid advance of the other Allied armies to the west was having a
pronounced effect. Indeed, during the second stage of the Meuse-Argonne
battle, powerful as the German resistance had been, it was not that of
full divisions, as a rule, but of elements of divisions hurried into
line, their officers sometimes uncertain of the identity of units on
their flanks, as they strove to obey orders to hold at any cost. An
army, in its many units, is like a series of steel links. For over four
years the German army had presented a front possessed of the alternate
mobility of a chain and the rigidity of a steel wall. So rapidly was
German morale now deteriorating that it looked as if the chain, worn by
attrition, might snap in a confusion of scattering links.

America's part in this juncture was that of a two-edged sword. One
edge was preparing to strike with all our military force against the
German front. It is needless to repeat how influential is psychologic
suggestion on a soldier's mood. Our soldiers were forbidden to speak
of peace; all thought of peace being as resolutely suppressed in the
military mind as apprehension of defeat, when the German offensives in
the spring had seemed to be threatening Paris. The average soldier,
being a human being, and particularly the veteran who had survived many
battles, if he thought the end were near, did not want to be the "last
man killed in the war." The more he had endured, the more he wanted to
live. So we must leave peace to the peace-makers. The war-makers must
keep at war. The harder we fought in the days to come, the better we
served the purpose of President Wilson, the Commander-in-Chief.

The other edge of our sword was his Fourteen Points. The German soldier
now knew that he could never undertake another offensive. Henceforth
his back was against the wall. A soldier who submitted to the will of
his superiors in full faith in their promises of victory, a soldier
who fought peculiarly for victory on enemy soil, found his great
organization, which he had been told was unconquerable, breaking, and
himself yielding in disheartening retreat the ground that his sacrifice
had won. He may have thought that he had fought in his country's
defense by invading France; now he knew that defense had become a
matter of the defense of his own soil. Would he fight to the last
ditch? Would he resist on the Meuse as the British had at Ypres, and
the French at Verdun, and the South at Appomattox? The question was for
him, the soldier, to answer. It always is, in every war. Leadership and
staff work can effect nothing, unless the soldiers are for battle. The
aim of all the propaganda on both sides was to promote the fighting
spirit of the masses at home and at the front.

Germany still had millions of armed men, a great staff organization,
and immense numbers of guns and quantities of ammunition. The organic
disintegration was due to the mood of the Kaiser's atoms, his men.
Strike a spark in them, flaming into desperate common defense as a
people--and the German army might show as a whole something of the
resistance to the death of individual units in the Meuse-Argonne. It
was all very well to talk of a swift movement to Berlin; but the Allied
armies were themselves becoming exhausted. They were running short of
fresh divisions; they were hampered for lack of transport and horses.
An army advances slowly against rearguard action alone. Between Berlin
and the Allied soldiers, who knew the meaning of interlocking fire from
machine-guns manned by small groups of men, were Luxemburg, the walls
of the Moselle and the Rhine valleys, and all the stretch of country
beyond the Rhine, which meant long lines of railroad communication,
many bridges to be built, and an infinite amount of labor. If a million
German veterans decided that it was better to die than to yield, though
we should go to Berlin, we should have much fighting on the way,
increasing the ghastly cost in lives and treasure which was swamping
the world in blood and debts. A common view of German character during
the war had held that once the Germans knew they were losing, their
resistance would collapse; that they would fight well only when the
odds were in their favor. This hardly accorded with their record under
Frederick the Great. I think that with them, as with all peoples and
all soldiers, much depended upon whether or not some event or train of
events should have again aroused their passion. They lacked food; but
a people in siege desperation will go hungry for a long time.

It was a solace to the German soldier's mind, a tribute to his
courage, for him to think that if America had not come into the war
he would have won it from the other Allies. He had finished Russia
and Rumania; he had France and Britain trembling, when a fresh and
gigantic antagonist appeared against him. His retreats had begun just
as American troops were making their force felt on the battle line.
Despite censorship of the press, belittling our effort, despite the
espionage of officers over their men, word traveled fast from German
soldier to soldier. By talks with others who had fought, if not by
actual contact, every German soldier knew with what freshness and
initiative the Americans fought. If we had been slow in preparing, once
our enormous preparations came to a head in the immense numbers we were
now throwing into battle, the effect was all the more impressive upon
the German soldier, and through him upon the German people.

This same America, which was now attacking with such increasing power,
had made through its President the peace offer of the Fourteen Points,
which had followed his speeches and notes during our neutrality, all to
the same effect: that America--then considered weak and unmilitary--was
not fighting in a war of conquest. The Fourteen Points guaranteed
Germany from the dismemberment and subjection which the military caste
had said would be her fate if she ever yielded to the Allies. After
he awakened to his leaders' failure to give him victory, the Fourteen
Points and associated propaganda were infiltrating into the German
soldier's mind as effectively as German infantry infiltrated down a
ravine or through a patch of woods. One hand of America driving a
bayonet into his face, the other was offering him self-preservation in
the rear. Why fight to the last ditch when such terms were offered?
Three out of four German soldiers were accepting them in the sense that
they were no longer fighting to the death in machine-gun nests. The war
was over; they wanted to go home.

It was these two influences in the latter part of October and early
November which were weakening the enemy's spirit on our front. Our
conviction that this time we would break through waxed stronger every
day. Our men thought of the enemy as groggy; another smashing blow
would topple him. We, too, wanted to go home; we wanted an end of the
horror and the hardship, as the days grew colder and the ground a
moister bed. One supreme effort, and the orgy might be finished. The
second stage of the battle had already passed, in our thoughts. We were
entering a new stage, which should free us from the grim routine of
siege. Something of the fervor of our preparations for the first stage,
tempered and strengthened by the experience gained in the second, was
in our preparation for the third.

Originally Marshal Foch had set the attack for October 28th; but
postponement to November 1st was found to be better suited for his
plans. This gave us time to take Aincreville and Brieulles, to bring
up still more material, and further improve our arrangements. This
time we were to have enough guns. More divisional artillery had come
from the French foundries to the training camps, whence the waiting
gunners brought them to the front. We had an increase of Army and Corps
artillery, while Admiral Plunkett's bluejackets, with their long-range
naval pieces which they wanted to take up as close to the enemy as if
they were machine-guns, were cheering to the eye. Yet altogether we
were to have only one hundred guns of American make in the battle;
all the rest were of French make. Our columns of ammunition trucks,
increased by the recent arrival of large numbers from home, seemed
endless. Great piles of shells were rising beside the roads. The
artillery of the 90th Division alone was to fire over 68,000 rounds in
twenty-four hours on November 1st. All the artillery of divisions in
reserve and in rest were brought up to the line. Artillerymen could
endure longer service than the infantry. Those off duty might steal
some sleep under shell-fire. This time we were to make a shield of
shells, and a bridge of shells, too, for our troops. Despite our deep
concentrations and the quantity of supplies moving, there was none of
the confusion of the early days of the battle. Our staff heads had
learned in a fierce school to control traffic. The machine was running
comparatively smoothly--no military machine can ever run exactly so
except in inspired accounts--equal to the extra and foreseen demand
upon it. Our officers in the different headquarters were making their
tables of barrages and the dispositions for attack with the routine
confidence of clerks balancing a ledger. We were no longer new to war.

The plan for November 1st was only carrying out the final stage of
the first plan which our ambition had dared: a sweep over the last of
the crests of the whale-back, and down the irregular descents toward
the westward course of the Meuse and the Lille-Metz railway. On the
left, the French Fourth Army was pressing against the western edge
of the Bourgogne forest. Our left flank and their right flank were
to "scallop" the forest, while it was filled with gas, instead of
accompanying the flanking movement by a frontal drive, as we did in the
Argonne.

Our National Army divisions had come into their own, the National Guard
divisions, which in the first and second stages had helped to pave
the way for a glorious day, being in reserve, or "resting" in that
muddy Saint-Mihiel sector. In Dickman's First Corps, at the left, were
the 78th Division, still in line after the taking of the citadel and
its ordeal in the Loges Wood; the 77th, come into line for a second
time, after it had been in camp in its own Argonne Forest; and the
peripatetic 80th, which had swung round from the Third Corps, come into
line for the third time. Two divisions formed Summerall's Fifth Corps
in the center: the veteran 2nd, which, after its service in helping
to disengage Rheims, was back "home" in our army; and the 89th, which
had made Bantheville Wood secure as its "jumping-off" place. In Hines'
Third Corps on the right were the 90th Division, which had taken
Bantheville, and the 5th, now masters of Brieulles of evil repute and
of Aincreville. Across the river with the French Second Colonial Corps,
as an influential and thoroughly inclusive part of the whole movement,
the 79th was preparing to start from Molleville farm to storm the Borne
de Cornouiller, and the 26th, the only National Guard division in
the front line, clinging to Belleu Wood and the edge of Ormont Wood,
preparatory to rushing the eastern rim of the bowl.

We know all these divisions of old. Their spurs had been won; they had
tasted what Lord Kitchener called the salt of life in his message to
the little British expeditionary force in August, 1914,--if the mud,
the blood, the lice, the gas, the evisceration of battle is to have
this name rather than that of the acid of death. We know, too, the
three divisions in reserve, which had had a longer experience. Some
of their survivors had been toughened to the point of pickling by the
salt of life. Two of them were National Guard, and one regular--the old
dependables of the pioneers. It was good that they, and the 26th and
the 2nd, too, among the pioneers, were to be in at the finish. Back
of the Third Corps, in reserve on the right, was the 32nd, and of the
First Corps on the left was the 42nd, both fit for any duty after the
rest following their smashing blows which went through the Kriemhilde;
and back of the Fifth Corps was the 1st, which, with usual promptness,
had trained in its ways the replacements who filled the gaps of its
more than 8,000 casualties in its October 4th-11th drive. It was now
under command of Brigadier-General Frank Parker, who was a soldier of
the school of the 1st, and as knightly a young officer as ever won
promotion in battle.

I should have said that these three veteran divisions were to be in at
the finish only in the event of the checking or exhaustion of one of
the divisions in front. Their part was to follow up the advance, ready
to spring into an opening. They were a whip from behind in the Army
policy, which meant this time not only to go through the enemy's final
defense line, but to keep on going. The 42nd seemed to have drawn the
most favorable position for its ambition, as the 78th was worn down by
its attacks on the citadel and Loges Wood, and might have an initial
nervous voltage to drive its legs, but not the reserve strength to
remain long in pursuit. The 1st's prospects seemed very dismal. Do you
suppose that Kansans and Missourians of the 89th were going to yield
place to any division? As for the 2nd, fresh in line, it was the "best"
of the older divisions. You may have that on official authority from
its headquarters, and on the informal authority of every officer and
man of the 2nd, and also from every transport horse or mule, if they
could have spoken. The 1st was also the "best" division, as we know
from equally numerous and valiant authorities. Anyone who cares to
dispute either set of authorities, lacking, of course, information to
justify his opinion, is left to his fate.

Was the race-horse 2nd to allow the 1st to take one rod of its line
of advance? Not while the 2nd had a corporal's guard able to march
and fight; not unless the 1st could leap-frog the 2nd in aeroplanes.
The 1st might do police duty and repair roads after it was tired out
in trying to keep in sight of the 2nd's heels. Were the Texans of
the 90th, who were just becoming warmed up to the Argonne battle, to
allow the 32nd to do anything but trail in their wake? Was the regular
5th, which had taken a lien on the west bank of the Meuse, to accept
assistance from National Guardsmen, even if they were the greedy and
swift Arrows?

We had in this array of divisions--to pass a general compliment, as
they passed few compliments to one another because the "bests" were
so numerous--infantry which thrilled the most stale of observers
with admiration apart from national pride. I had heard much of the
"trench look" and the "battle face," which, as seen by civilians,
sometimes puzzled men long at the front. I saw it, as I understand
it, at Château-Thierry and during the Meuse-Argonne battle; I saw it,
too, in the Ypres salient and at Verdun. It was sharp-featured, in
keeping with lithe muscular bodies, with a smile that possibly took its
character from that "salt of life," a direct look in the eye in answer
to a challenge,--the face of a man who has seen the flight of things
more dangerous than baseballs, who knows grinding discipline, roofless,
fireless billets in midwinter, and the submission of self to a cause in
the grimmest of team-play.

Our infantry were ready, resolutely and confidently ready. All our
gunners, there on the slopes, in the ravines and woods, in the midst
of that array of guns, were ready to pour forth their hurricane of
shells. Our machine-gun battalions, our medical, engineer, and salvage
units, our ammunition trains, our rolling kitchens, were ready. General
Maistre, who came from Marshal Foch to Fifth Corps headquarters the
night before the attack, asked if we would "go through."

"We will go through," Summerall replied.

"Do you want to see my plans?" Summerall asked Pershing.

"No. I know them."

Summerall went out with him to his car.

"Will you go through?" Pershing asked him.

"We will."

Pershing put the same all-embracing question to Hines and Dickman,
and received the same resolute answer. Corps commanders were only
repeating the messages of division, brigade, and battalion commanders,
who were speaking the thought of the men.

"We will go through."



XXXIII

VICTORY

  A march of victory in the center--Held on the left--But full speed
  on the second day--The 89th stays in--Veterans in leash--The 90th
  to the river wall--The 5th pivoting--The Borne at last taken by
  the 79th--The 5th gets across the Meuse--Varying resistance to the
  main advance--Rainbows give way to French entry into Sedan--In
  motion from Meuse to Moselle on the last day--Isolated divisions in
  Flanders--Every village in France--The folly of war.


One who moved about in the days before and the night before the attack,
from the railheads to the front, his vision embracing the whole
panorama, no longer need talk of what America was going to do in the
war. He saw what America had done since September 26th between the
ruins of the old trench system and the Kriemhilde Stellung, and he knew
that the army which was to spring into action at dawn on the morning of
November 1st was the greatest in our history.

When the simmering volcano of routine artillery fire broke into
eruption at 3.30, racking the earth with concussions and assaulting the
heavens with blinding flashes, as the stream of shells from the larger
caliber of the forest of guns passed over the streams from the smaller
caliber, it seemed that all the Germans in the front line must be
mashed into the earth. If the preliminary bombardment left any alive,
then that monstrous curtain of shell-bursts in front of the advancing
infantry, and the trench mortar fire, and the sheets of machine-gun
bullets that increased the strength of the shield, must hold them
trussed to the earth until it passed over them and our men were upon
them.

So it was with the 2nd Division, where I followed up the advance.
With the seeming facility with which the easier hurdles are taken in
a steeple-chase, the wave of the 2nd had swept over the fragmentary
trenches of the Kriemhilde system beyond Sommerance, where the great
attacks of the 1st and the 82nd had died down, and our line had been
little changed by the general attack of October 14th, which had
mastered the Kriemhilde in the center. There were occasional enemy
shell-bursts in patches of woods and on obvious points, fired by German
guns, halting in retreat or before withdrawal from their old positions,
and occasional bullets cracked by from the left in the region of the
Bourgogne forest; but all this seemed only the venomous and hopeless
spite of a rearguard action that was breaking into a rout. Only at long
intervals did you see a prone, still figure in khaki on the earth; and
our wounded were not numerous. German prisoners were being rounded
up from bushes and gullies, and in gray files they were crossing the
fields to the rear, as the combings of a drive which was moving as fast
this time as the pencilings on the map of high ambition. Admired by the
Allies for our speed, we were showing it now in legs unlimbered and
free of the chains that had encompassed us for over a month.

[Illustration: MAP NO. 11
DIVISIONS IN THE THIRD STAGE OF THE MEUSE-ARGONNE BATTLE, OCTOBER
31ST-NOVEMBER 11TH.]

It had ceased to be a battle on the way to Bayonville-et-Chennery. It
was a march, a joyous march of victory, more appealing than any city
parade, you may be sure. Our guns and transport were coming along roads
which were free of any except a rare vagrant shell-burst. Indeed,
everything in the 2nd's sector was going according to schedule. It
was good to be with the 2nd, as I had learned in June and July in the
Château-Thierry operations. One stopped and watched for the figures
ahead to appear in their mobile swiftness in open spaces, as they came
out of woods and ravines. One knew by instinct that we were going over
the heights and down the apron this time. The weather was with us, too.
After the long period of chill rains and hardships, a kindly sunshine
filtered through the leaden sky. There had been more thrilling days in
the war, thrilling with triumph and apprehension for me: when I was in
Brussels, before the German avalanche arrived; when I saw the British
battle fleet go out to sea; when I saw the French driving the Germans
back in the first battle of the Marne; when I saw the British and
French in their retreat before the German offensives of 1918; when I
saw our first contingent land in France. But the crowning day was the
one which brought forth the confession of the German communiqué that we
had broken the German line.

This is not saying, though the Fifth Corps in the center reached
its objectives, except for a few hundred yards at some points, that
everything in the schedule went without a hitch along the whole front.
Our movement was fan-shaped, swinging toward the loop of the Meuse in
its bend westward. The center of gravity, as I understood the plan, was
to pass from the Fifth Corps to the First on the left, whose flank was
on the Bourgogne forest, with an intricate tactical problem to solve in
scalloping and flank maneuvers. Here we met severe resistance from the
Germans, who were still inclined to hold their bastion. Though the 78th
had pounded its old enemy, the Loges Wood, with shells of big calibers
from heavy American and French batteries assigned to it, the Germans
still clung to their machine-guns; and though the Bourgogne Wood was
thoroughly gassed, it poured in a strong flanking fire, and even sent
out one counter-attack. The 77th was checked by heavy casualties in its
effort to storm Champigneulle. The 80th, also fresh and impetuously
determined to let nothing stop it, found the Germans showing their old
form in defending woods and hills, and had to repeat their attacks and
repulse counter-attacks; for our left, which had the longest swing to
make, was delayed, while our center, taking over the center of gravity
as the result of its advance, had gone ahead for four and five miles.

The Rainbows of the 42nd, in reserve with the First Corps, were
fractious. Weren't they in sight of the rainbow's end of their year
in France? Let them in, and they would take it. Fine troops the 78th,
77th, and 80th, no doubt, thought the Rainbows, but the 42nd was
the 42nd, and belonged to a class by itself for this kind of work.
The three divisions of the First Corps were not offering iridescent
travelers in the rear a holiday on the path they had blazed. They were
about to enjoy it themselves.

The enemy was making his stand on the left to prevent our wholesale
capture of prisoners, when he found that the combined movement of the
French and American armies would put him into a trap; but the next day
he was out of the Loges Wood and Champigneulle, and retreating through
the Bourgogne forest. All three divisions took up the pursuit, to make
up for lost time--and catch up with the procession. They were to show
that they could move fast, too. On the 2nd they made four and five
miles, and on the 3rd they kept up the same gait, which was a marvelous
performance in deployment and contact and endurance.

The Fifth Corps in the center faced the final heights of the
whale-back, the Barricourt crest. For its support it had an
overwhelming concentration of artillery fire, which Summerall, the
gunner, required in order to keep his word to "go through." Lejeune's
race-horse 2nd surpassed its own record for speed, as we have seen.
Not only did it take its own objectives, but it was called on to send
support elements over to assist the left. It was glad to send support
elements anywhere, if they filled a gap which the 1st might have filled.

The 89th, the other division of the Fifth Corps, was thrown head on
against the Barricourt heights. Wright had been among his officers and
men, making them feel that all the Mississippi valley was calling on
them for all there was in them in this attack. They might have been
gassed and mired in the Bantheville Wood, they might be tired; but
their great day had come. They were "going through." The Stokes mortars
kept up with the assault waves, even dragging wagons of ammunition with
them; a brigade of artillery was following up the infantry two hours
after the attack began. Prodigious effort had a road through the mire
of Bantheville Wood by 10.30 in the morning, with all the divisional
transport moving up. No less than those hard-shell veterans of the 2nd,
the 89th went ahead from the start in the conviction that success was
certain. Before that day was over they ran into nests of machine-guns
which ordinarily ought to have repulsed the most gallant charge, but
the waves of infantry, with supports fast on their heels, had tasted
victory in its intoxicating depths, and they overcame every obstacle.
That night the Barricourt ridge was ours; when the Germans stated that
their line was broken, it meant that we had broken German resistance on
the whale-back. The way was open to the Meuse, and Germans in front of
the First Corps had better make the most of the darkness of the night
of the 1st for retreat.

As the two divisions of the Fifth Corps, the 2nd and the 89th, in the
pell-mell rush to get the final crest, which was of such decisive
importance in the strategic plan, had become extended, the shorter
advances required of them during the next two days, which included some
stout, if uneven, resistance, by the Germans, allowed them time to get
transport in order and bring up more artillery. Those old hounds of the
1st, with their mouths watering, were moving as close up to the front
as their schedule would permit, and straining at the leash. The 89th,
having had such a grueling time in going over the ridge, and such
hard marching after the exhaustion of cleaning up Bantheville Wood,
might be considered nominally expended, if not in fact. When the Fifth
Corps gave an order that the 1st take over the 89th's place, General
Wright objected. Take out his Kansans and Missourians! They were only
getting their second wind. They were coming as strong as a flood on the
Missouri. The order was revoked; a second one later was scotched by
the same effective protest. Meanwhile the General was up at the front,
urging on his tired men with the persuasive argument of the Corps
threat. So the 89th was to remain in until the finish, while the 1st,
licking its chops and panting, swinging this way and that, was begging:
"Just give us one bite!"

Prospects were no better for the 32nd, in reserve with the Third Corps
on the right. Everybody could not be in this battle; the 5th and the
90th were willing that the Arrows should study the ground they had
won, but they might not participate in winning more. Ely's and Allen's
men were preoccupied with that undertaking themselves, and too busy to
look after tourist parties. Whereat the Arrows sharpened their points
in impatience, as they pried forward, and tightened their bowstrings,
ready for a flight if they could draw the bows which, if they had the
chance, would show the divisions in front the character of veteran
skill.

If the Fifth Corps took its objectives, you might be certain that
General Hines of the Third Corps on the right would take his, and
maintain his reputation for brevity by reporting the fact with no
more embellishment than a ship's log. If he had written Cæsar's
commentaries, they would have been compressed into one chapter. The
former commander of the bull-dog 4th Division, who had been on the
Meuse flank under the cross artillery fire from September 26th, knew
his ground. As the Third Corps had its flank on the Meuse and was to
swing in toward the river bank, it had the shortest advance of the
three corps to make.

The Texans of the 90th, on the left of his Corps, had been fretting for
a week in face of the Freya Stellung and the Andevanne ridge, which
they were now to take. In one of his trips about the front, General
Allen had had his artillery commander killed at his side by a shell.
His Texans were the kind that would carry out his careful plans for the
attack. Barrages were cleverly arranged; machine-gunners put on high
points for covering fire. On the 1st the Texans made short work of the
Freya Stellung, reaching their objectives at every point, and eager to
go ahead. The Germans put in a first-class division against the Texans
on the night of the 2nd; but that did not make any difference. It was
a furious give and take at some points, but on the night of the 2nd
they had Villers-devant-Dun and Hill 212. The next day, in face of only
desultory shelling, it was a matter of tireless maneuver and scattered
fighting, with the worst punishment from low-flying German planes,
raking our lines with machine-gun bullets. That night the 90th was
organizing on the Halles ridge, preparatory to striking for the river
bank.

The 5th, the right division of the Third Corps, as it pivoted on
the Meuse bank, had patrols studying the river for a crossing at
Brieulles and beyond on November 1st. The next morning its left entered
Cléry-le-Petit, a mile farther down the river from Brieulles, and
cleaned up the horseshoe bluff known as the Punch-bowl. Now we had word
that the Fourth French Army, on the west, and our First Corps, on the
east, of the Bourgogne forest, in their rapid pursuit were out of touch
with the enemy. This prompted energetic measures by the 5th in crossing
the river, which General Ely was to apply in dashing initiative that
will hold our attention later.

By this time on that shell-cursed western slope of the Meuse where many
of our divisions had fought under the cross-fire from the galleries,
there was only an occasional burst. Apart from the taking of the
whale-back, there was another reason--the action east of the Meuse,
where our divisions, coöperating with the French, had sprung to the
attack on the morning of November 1st no less energetically than on
the main battlefield. The Yankees of the 26th, as the only National
Guard division then in the front line, sharing the freshened confidence
of the hour, put the survivors of all four regiments in line, their
sector being now farther south, over the ridges and through the woods
north of Verdun, where they were hampered by bad roads and mud, which
was to give them a part in keeping with their record in the last acts
of the drama. The 79th was making a maneuver up the slopes of the bowl
which called for initiative and consummate tactical resourcefulness.
Kuhn, who had formed the division and led it, knew his men. There
was nothing they would not attempt. He knew his enemy, too. A great
honor had come to the 79th, the honor of storming the Borne de
Cornouiller, or Hill 378, the highest of all the hills we took in the
battle,--"corned willy," as the soldiers fighting for it on cold corned
beef called it.

There was no rapid pursuit for them, but wicked uphill work all the
way, in three days of repeated charges. Starting from the Molleville
farm clearing, they had to ascend the steep, wooded slopes of the
Etraye and Grande Montagne ridges, and struggle down one side and
up the other of that deadly Vaux de Mille Mais and other ravines,
before they were in sight of the Borne. The German grew bitter in his
resistance at the thought of having to yield this favorite height,
which had given his observers a far-flung view, and his artillery
cover to swing the volume of fire into the flank of our Third Corps.
The Borne was a bald and gently rounded ridge, with the undulating
plateau-like crest, facing the bare and steep slope which the 79th
had to ascend, peculiarly favorable for machine-gun defense in front,
while along the bordering road to the west, in the edge of the Grande
Montagne Wood, machine-guns could sweep in flank the road and the whole
slope. Piles of cartridge cases which had been emptied into our waves
were silent witnesses of the fire the assaults of the 79th had endured
when every khaki figure was exposed on the blue sky-line, a pitilessly
distinct silhouette at close range.

Checked at this point and that, taking advantage of each fresh gain
in gathering their strength for another effort, the men of the 79th
kept on until they had worked their way through the woods and finally
overrun the crest. There in their triumph, as they looked far across
the Meuse over the hills and ridges and patches of woods, they might
see the very heights of the whale-back which had been their goal when
they charged down the valley of Montfaucon on September 26th in their
baptism of fire. That Borne was the crowning point of those frowning
hills and ridges east of the Meuse, which bullet-headed Prussian staff
officers, who dreamed of fighting to the last ditch, had foreseen as
a line of impregnable defense on French soil, which should become as
horrible a shambles as their neighbors, the hills of Verdun. They had
a new and inexpressibly grateful relation now to the vineyards of
France, her well-tilled fields, her flower gardens of the Riviera,
and the security of the whole world--for everywhere the bullet-headed
Prussian officer was becoming the protesting flotsam in the midst of
a breaking army which he could not control. The 79th had gone as far
as it was wanted to go in following north the course of the Meuse in
that movement begun on October 8th when the 33rd crossed the Meuse and
advanced on the flank of the 29th toward the Borne.

Now another division, the 5th, was to cross the Meuse. The Meuse
bottoms were broad, as I have hitherto noted, and swampy in places
under the heavy rains, and required that the Meuse canal as well as the
river should be bridged. There were many points on the river bottoms
as well as on the hills on the east bank where machine-gunners might
hide. German units still being urged to stand felt the appeal to their
skill of such an advantage of position; their commanders the value
of holding all the Meuse heights they could to assist the retreat of
the Germans on the west. The 5th, despite its daring efforts, was
not to achieve a crossing until the 90th on its left had finished
its longer swing. On the night of the 3rd our Third Corps measured
eight miles of front on the river bank. For the 5th and the other
divisions, as their fan-shaped movement toward the bend brought each
in turn to the river, it was a case of patrols finding openings by
night between the tornadoes of machine-gun fire, where the engineers
might do the building under the protection of our artillery. Material
for the bridges had to be found or brought from the rear. In this our
initiative and resourcefulness were at their best.

At dark on the night of the 3rd the attempts began. The engineers
went to their hazardous task of working under fire, which is harder
than shooting back at your enemy. They stealthily managed to put a
footbridge across the river, but when they started to build another
across the canal, they met a hurricane of machine-gun and rifle fire,
while the German guns concentrating upon them forced their retirement.
The engineers are a patient and tireless lot, who can wait until a
burst of fire has died down and then start work again. By 2 A.M. they
had two footbridges across the canal. When a small column of infantry
tried to cross, they were blown back by the enemy, who had evidently
been watching for the target to appear. The infantry dug in between
the canal and the river. This much was gained at all events.

At 9.30 the next morning came a message from the Corps, directing that
"the crossing will be effected regardless of loss, as the movement of
the entire Army depends upon this crossing, and it must be done at
once."

There was nothing to do, then, but cross or die in the effort,
without waiting for darkness. All available artillery was asked to
pound the east bank of the Meuse until eight in the evening. At four
in the afternoon the 5th started to lay a pontoon bridge across at
Cléry-le-Petit, where the river was 110 feet wide and 10 feet deep. The
pontoons were not blown up by shell-fire quite as fast as they were
put in the water. Therefore the bridge was finally completed. Under
a barrage of artillery fire two battalions made a rush to cross the
bridge. The German artillery began tearing them to pieces at the same
time that it was tearing the bridge to pieces.

Happily the 5th was not putting all its eggs in one basket. At 6.20
another party, without any artillery preparation, succeeded in crossing
the canal as well as the river at Brieulles, and once on the other
side would not be budged from maintaining their narrow bridgehead in
face of the plunging fire from the heights. Just below Brieulles,
another battalion, which was also favored, no doubt, by the German
attention being drawn to the fragile targets of the pontoons, in the
most unostentatious but expeditious manner got across by using rafts,
duckboards, poles, and ropes, and by swimming. The water of the river
was bitter cold, but we were winning the war, and every soldier in the
Meuse-Argonne was used to being wet by rain. This sopping battalion
made a lodgment in Chatillon Wood, and kept warm during the night by
cleaning the Germans out of it.

It appeared at midnight that the whole division would have to swing
round to cross the river by way of Brieulles; but before morning the
left brigade, on the north, put pontoons over successfully during the
night, and crossed a battalion; for the Aces of the 5th had taken the
Corps order to heart. Never let it be said that the 5th was holding up
the entire Army--if it really were. General Hines was a very taciturn
man, as I have remarked; and the Army staff had studied foreign methods
in propaganda.

By 8 A.M. there were artillery bridges over the Meuse at Brieulles.
Such speed as this ought to be encouraged by calling for more speed.
Two brigades had detachments across the river. The next thing was to
join up the bridgeheads and take Dun-sur-Meuse, and this immediately.
General Ely, of square jaw and twinkling blue eyes, did not care who
took it, so it was taken.

"Take Dun-sur-Meuse and the hill north of 292, and from there go to the
east," he told one brigade. "Do not wait for the other brigade. Keep
pushing up with that one battalion, and take that place."

"Keep shoving your battalions through," he told the other brigade.
"Don't stop, but go through Dun. Take the shelling, and take the
machine-gun fire, and push things along. You are to go to Dun unless
the other fellow gets there first."

Thus Dun and the heights were taken that day, and the 5th fully
established on the east bank of the Meuse. It was an accomplishment
admirable in courage and skill.

The spirit of rivalry shown by the battalions rushing for Dun was
that of all the divisions sweeping down the apron of the reverse
slopes of the whale-back toward the river. This apron was not a
smooth descent, but undulating, broken by hills, ravines, and woods,
where machine-gunners could take cover and force deployment. In many
instances advancing was no mere maneuver. The 89th ran into strong
opposition on the heights overlooking the Meuse, and in common with
all other divisions could not answer the enemy artillery, as we did
not want to fire into the inhabited villages on the other bank. The
2nd met strong resistance on the 4th, which required organizing a
regular attack; but, of course, it went through. Lejeune was not a man
to consider any other result, or his men inclined to waste time when
the 1st Division was waiting in the rear to take the 2nd's place if it
so much as stubbed its toe. As we know, on critical occasions, the 2nd
did not worry about casualties. Its casualty list, whose total was the
heaviest of any division in France, for the final drive was over four
thousand.

Enemy resistance varied with the mood of individual units. A few
answered the professional call and the call of fatalism not to miss
an opportunity to turn their machine-guns upon our advancing troops.
Others asked only to escape or to surrender. The harder we pressed,
the larger would be this class. Our own mood was that of the soldier
who has his enemy in flight. Every blow was another argument for an
armistice, and a further assurance of an early passage home. The
elation of the chase eliminated the sense of fatigue. Abandoned guns,
rifles, bombs, trench mortars, worn-out automobiles and trucks, all
the stage properties of retreat were in the wake of that German army
whose mighty organization had held the world in a fearful awe. We
were passing through a region where houses were intact and only a
few shells had fallen in the course of our advance. Villagers in a
wondering delirium of joy were watching the groups of German prisoners,
too weary for any emotion except a sense of relief, of officers with
long faces and a glazed, despairing look in their eyes, officers who
were indifferent, and occasional ones in whom the defiance of Prussian
militarism still bore itself in ineffectual superciliousness; and
watching these strange Americans going and coming on their errands, and
the passage of our troops, guns, and transport in an urgent procession
which thought of nothing except getting ahead.

The Commander-in-Chief having on the 5th directly urged all possible
speed on the left toward the Meuse at Sedan, which was of course the
farthest objective from our starting-point, those mouth-watering
veteran hounds in reserve of the First and Fifth Corps at last had
their leashes removed, and joined the pack in full cry. Taking the
place of the 78th, the men of the 42nd knew now that there was a
rainbow's end, and they meant that it should go to none other than the
Rainbow Division. March is hardly the word for their speed; gallop is a
better one. On the 8th they had reached Wadelincourt, a suburb across
the river from Sedan, in their wonderful dash. Their Rainbow ambition
having considered all northern France as their objective, they found
that they were out of the American sector, and accordingly must be
"side-slipped." The French took Sedan. There was historical fitness in
the French poilus, in their faded blue, being the first troops to enter
that town, where a French disaster, due to a travesty of imperial
leadership, had glorified the Hohenzollern dynasty, which was now a
travesty with its armies in dissolution.

The 1st, swinging over to the left but still remaining with the Fifth
Corps, had a long march before reaching the front of the 80th, which it
relieved. When it received the word to go, it developed a speed which
was sufficient reason for its being in at the finish, without depending
upon its record in previous actions. Our pioneer veterans had two days
and two nights in line, advancing ten miles. Then they were "squeezed
out" by the "side-slipping" of the 42nd from before Sedan. From the
morning of November 5th, when the call came to them, until midnight of
November 7th-8th, their units had fought for forty-eight hours, and
marched from thirty to forty-five miles. Will the race-horse 2nd please
take note of this?

If the Arrows of the 32nd, the third of the veteran divisions in
reserve, had had to go home without being in the final drive, when the
42nd was in it, our army staff would have been even more unpopular than
it was. They, too, had this chance. As the Third Corps' front broadened
with its advance over the heights on the other side of the river they
took over a portion of the sector of the 15th French Colonials, where
they were driving the enemy in most uncivil fashion when the flag fell.

The Texans of the 90th had to swing their right flank to the river
bank in _liaison_ with the flank of the 5th, and keep firm _liaison_
with the 89th on their left. They faced very resolute fire from the
other bank in their bridge-building, which had to be done under most
troublesome conditions after some expensive reconnoitering, in which
the Texans did not allow artillery or machine-gun fire to interfere
with their pioneering audacity. On the 9th they had orders to cross.
That night they went over their new bridge under a pitiless fire. While
one detachment went into Stenay, which lies under a bluff, where it had
a busy time in cleaning up the town, the other detachment pressed on
into Baalon Wood.

Meanwhile the Kansans and Missourians of the 89th had been preparing,
at the same time with the 2nd of the Fifth Corps, to cross and take
the heights of Inor. As soon as their outposts reached the bank,
their patrols had begun swimming the river under machine-gun fire.
They were assigned some German pontoons, which they transformed into
rafts. The first was rowed across; the others were pulled across with
ropes. Seventy-five men being crowded on each raft, they put one whole
battalion on the opposite bank while footbridges were being smashed
by the enemy artillery as fast as the engineers could build them.
The battalion, having taken over a hundred prisoners, pressed on to
Autreville. It goes without saying that the 2nd had also effected a
crossing--and under equally trying conditions.

Every battalion over the Meuse, every rod of ground gained, was
considered a further argument for the Germans to accept the terms of
the armistice now in their hands. Until the word to cease fire came,
the Army would go on fighting; at dawn on the 11th, when the German
delegates were signing their names on Marshal Foch's train our Second
Army, weak in numbers and strong in heart, began carrying out the
orders that had been planned in the Saint-Mihiel sector, where several
of our veteran divisions had been resting after being expended in the
Meuse-Argonne, and we had the 7th and 88th among our new divisions.
On the right was the 92nd, colored, National Army, nearest of all our
troops to the former German frontier, who were the first to cross it,
I understand, in their successful charge. To say that the 28th and the
33rd were also in the action is sufficient. They were going ahead,
and the German infantry was resisting with machine-gun fire which
caused numerous casualties, and the German artillery was responding
with a heavy bombardment at some points, when word was flashed through
from Marshal Foch to our General Headquarters, and through to the
Second Army, and out to the regiments and battalions, that at 11 A.M.
hostilities would cease.

The Second Army advance was immediately stopped. Everywhere east of
the Meuse our troops were advancing on the morning of the 11th. The
81st was engaged on the flank of the veteran 26th, which had been
ceaselessly pushing the enemy over the hills since November 1st,
and was now approaching the plain. The 79th, after taking the Borne
de Cornouiller, had faced round in a rapid and brilliant maneuver,
pressing over the rim of the bowl from the Grande Montagne and from
Belleu Wood, in whose fox-holes three of our divisions had suffered,
and moving down into the plain had taken Damvillers, and was now
storming the last of the three hills between its line and the plain
of the Woëvre. The men were wrathful at being stopped. They wanted to
finish the job: to take the last of the hills.

At many points where our infantry units were far beyond our
communications and infiltrating around hills and through woods, it took
some time to reach the rapidly moving advance detachments with the news
that they were to cease firing and go no farther. Particularly was
this true in front of the Fifth Corps, whose skirmishers, having just
crossed the river, were taking the bit in their teeth. A few elements
were still engaging the German rearguard at eleven, unaware that the
war was over, while on all the remainder of the front from Switzerland
to Holland there was silence for the first time in four years--and the
mills of hell had ceased grinding.

Two of the divisions which had been in line on the first day of the
Meuse-Argonne battle were in line on the last. Two others which had
helped break the old trench system on September 26th, the 37th and the
91st, were to see the finish far from our army family, on the plains
of Belgium. Isolated in an odd Flemish world of level fields broken by
canals, the two were attached to different French corps in that Allied
force of British and French and Belgians under the Belgian King, and
under the direct command of General Degoutte, which had disengaged
Ypres, recovered Ostend, Bruges, Roulers, and Courtrai, when on October
31st our men joined in that tide of victory which was soon to flow into
Brussels itself. In three days they made eight miles against irregular
rearguard action. In taking the low ridge commanding the Scheldt, they
were under a heavy artillery reaction of the Germans in protecting the
retreat across the river. The Ohioans on November 2nd, in face of the
concentrations of gun-fire, were able to slip small detachments across
on bridges improvised from tree-trunks and timbers taken from shattered
houses, and eventually, that night, to pass over several battalions
on a temporary footbridge; the 91st and the French divisions were
unsuccessful in reaching the other bank except by this one bridge. The
Pacific Coast men, with their usual intrepidity, were planning to swim
the river, but after three days of continued advance, which included
the capture of the large town of Audenarde, they and the Ohioans were
given a rest by the corps commands. On the 10th they were put in line
again, but they did not overtake the line pursuing the retreating enemy
before his capitulation.

Some American units, besides the 27th and 30th Divisions with the
British, had been isolated from the first from the American family.
American hospitals in base towns on both the British and French fronts
were an evidence, from the days of our neutrality, of that work of
war which knows no national allegiance. Volunteer ambulance sections,
maintaining the traditions of the American Field Service, continued to
the end to serve with French divisions; and indeed, many of the former
volunteers who had preferred to prepare for commissions in the French
army might be come upon unexpectedly in the horizon blue uniform.
Engineer troops for which our Allies had made an early request might
be buried in obscure parts of the front, to come to light only in the
shadow of an emergency which, as at Cambrai and in the German March
offensive, turned engineer troops into combatants; or again, as our
own demands grew, to return to our own fold. Air squadrons, as well
as individual aviators, served in valiant anonymity on Allied fronts,
in many cases never seeing the American front, which yet wanted for
aviation. So wide was the dispersion of Americans throughout France
that it is safe to say that hardly a single commune of the country
has gone without sight of the soldier from overseas. In due time the
far-flung legions would all have come home to an integral army; but the
problem of keeping in touch with units which believed themselves lost
to the sight of their comrades was not a simple one, and yet a problem
that must be faced. How was the motor park, isolated in French barracks
at Epinal, or the forestry unit in the Jura or the Pyrenees, to be
assured that somewhere in the inner circles of hierarchy its faithful
service was being noted and appreciated?

Most isolated of all, though they received due meed of honor from the
French with whom they served, were certain colored regiments. Recruited
from various National Guard organizations in northern States, they had
arrived in a training area in France after a usual period of service
as labor troops in the S. O. S., and were formed into a provisional
93rd Division, which was not, however, to be assembled. In the spring
the regiments were assigned to various French divisions for trench
service, at the request of the French staff, which had developed
long experience with colored troops in many African campaigns. For
this service the Americans were equipped throughout with French
mustard-colored khaki uniforms, French rifles, packs, gas masks, and
helmets, which still further accentuated their isolation. The varying
fortunes of trench warfare in the Argonne and about Saint-Mihiel
seasoned their experience for a due part in the repulse of the last
German offensive, and in the offensive begun by General Gouraud's
army west of the Argonne, at the same time with our attack to the
east. Withdrawn with their divisions after a few days of advance which
counted them as "expended," the regiments were sent to recuperate in
the Vosges, whence they started on the short march to the Rhine after
the armistice.

We know how, in framing the armistice terms, as one after another
strong demand was included, an apprehension developed in certain Allied
quarters lest the Germans, with such a large army still in being, might
become desperate and continue the war. When one read the terms, which
surrendered the German navy and placed us in command of the Rhine
bridgeheads, he knew how deep the two-edged sword had cut, and that
the Allies had power in their hands to force complete submission to
their will. It was a skillful and wise peace, bringing an end to the
bloodshed and the agony.

Only those who considered it to their honor or their profit could
have wished to fight all the way to Berlin. The thought in the mind
of every soldier was: "I still live; I shall not have to go under
fire again;" in the mind of every relative of a soldier: "He is still
alive." Through all the celebrations to come, it was a thought dominant
in subconsciousness, if not publicly expressed. To some of our own
newcomers, perhaps, who had not yet been in action, there was human
disappointment that they had arrived too late; though our veterans
and the war-weary veterans of our Allies might tell them that they
were fortunate in what they had escaped. Perhaps, too, certain of our
officers, who had worked toward the vision of the spring campaign, when
our recuperated divisions would be supported by the enormous quantity
of munitions from home, and all our branches would be fully equipped,
may have felt that they had been robbed of professional fulfillment.
Not until spring would we have been able to undertake another offensive
against determined resistance. On November 11th we had only two fresh
divisions in reserve; we were depending upon green replacements, and
our hospitals were full. If we had come late into the war, we had given
the full measure of our strength in the final stage.

The forming of the new Third Army of Occupation under Major-General
Joseph T. Dickman, drawn from our veteran divisions in a favorable
position for the movement, and its long tour of police duty, is no more
in the province of this book than the many journeys which the author
made after the armistice: up and down the Rhine; into Brussels, to see
the people welcome back their King; over the Ypres, the Somme, and the
Verdun battlefields, as well as our own; along roads which had been
for four years in sound of the guns, now silent; among our camps where
our soldiers in the dreary, long, cold nights were impatiently marking
time until their homegoing; through the Services of Supply, where I
saw that vast machine we had built reversed, to the ports, where the
tide of our soldiery was flowing outward instead of inward--the thought
ever uppermost being that humanity might learn from this most monstrous
example of war's folly how to avoid its repetition. [Blank Page]



INDEX


  Ace of Diamonds Division (_see 5th Division_).

  Aincreville, 571, 575, 581, 584.

  Aire River, 10, 51, 58, 60, 65, 71, 73, 143, 168, 173, 175, 176,
    177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 184, 187, 189, 190, 203, 210, 218,
    266, 272, 273, 274, 276, 277, 279, 280, 281, 284, 286, 293, 294,
    297, 298, 299, 300, 303, 309, 313, 315, 321, 324, 325, 330, 336,
    343, 348, 361, 365, 399, 518, 523, 541, 542, 546, 552, 553.

  Aisne river, 53, 55, 56, 57, 249, 250, 251.

  Alamo, battle of the, 261.

  Alexander, Major-General Robert, 54.

  All-American Division (_see 82nd Division_).

  Allen,  Major-General Henry T., 572, 596, 597.

  Allenby, General Sir Edmund, 3.

  Alsace, 9, 10.

  "America in France," 14.

  American Legion, 473.

  American Library Association, 507.

  Amiens, 11, 248.

  Andevanne, 597.

  Annapolis, Naval  Academy, 413.

  Antietam, battle of, 17.

  Appomattox campaign, 17, 403, 577.

  Apremont, 180, 310.

  Argonne Forest, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 22, 24, 25, 26, 36, 49, 51, 55,
    58, 61, 63, 65, 73, 80, 96, 142, 143, 144, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172,
    173, 174, 175, 176, 178, 179, 181, 184, 190, 195, 204, 222, 244,
    249, 251, 267, 279, 281, 285, 287, 288, 291, 293, 295, 309, 310,
    311, 312, 313, 314, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 336, 361, 583, 615.

  Argonne offensive (_see Battle, 1915_).

  Ariétal farm, 296.

  Armentières, 3.

  ARMY:
    American,  First,  31,  357, 358, 360, 374, 515.
      Second, 357, 358, 362, 610, 611.
      Third, 617.
    French, Fourth, 24, 26, 36, 50, 72, 79, 96, 134, 249, 542, 583, 598.
      Fifth, 134, 251.
      Tenth, 47, 134, 270.

  Arras, 3.

  Arrow Division (_see 32nd Division_).

  Atlantic Coast Division (_see 79th Division_).

  Atterbury,  Brigadier-General W. W., 391, 405, 406.

  Attigny, 264.

  Aubérive, 251.

  Audenarde, 613.

  Austerlitz, battle of, 388.

  Australian Corps, 48, 70, 148, 223, 226, 227.

  Australian 3rd Division, 231.

  Australian 5th Division, 231.

  Autreville, 609.

  Avocourt, 61, 66.


  Baalon Wood, 609.

  Baccarat, 519.

  Bamford, Brigadier-General F. E., 564.

  Bantheville, 531, 535, 574, 583.

  Bantheville Wood, 519, 525, 535, 540, 571, 573, 583, 594, 596.

  Bapaume, 227.

  Bar-le-Duc, 26, 27, 75.

  Barricourt, 551, 575, 594, 595.

  BATTLE OF:
    1914: Le Cateau, 248.
      the Marne, 5, 11, 14, 16, 592.
      Ypres, 183.
    1915: the Argonne, 66, 195, 198.
      Champagne, 13.
      Loos, 13.
    1916: the Somme, 13, 19, 22, 24, 32, 77, 105, 225, 570.
      Verdun (German offensive), 8, 14, 65, 66, 70, 109, 148, 149, 340,
        349, 352, 356, 485, 554, 555, 569.
      Verdun (French  offensive), 355, 569.
    1917: Cambrai, 225, 613.
      Champagne, 13, 24, 77, 356.
      Passchendaele, 13.
    1918: the Somme (German March offensive), 7, 8, 15, 47, 110, 225,
            230, 359, 383, 576, 592, 613.
      Seicheprey, 60, 560.
      Cantigny, 268, 360, 363.
      the Marne (German May offensive), 15, 46, 47, 250, 252, 325, 360,
        383, 410, 473, 486, 537, 558, 569, 576, 591, 592.
      Champagne (German July offensive), 55, 325, 519, 615.
      the Marne (Allied July "counter-offensive"), 1, 15, 30, 39, 46,
        47, 48, 52, 56, 68, 97, 112, 250, 252, 268, 270, 271, 361, 365,
        380, 383, 486, 491, 519, 560.
      Frapelle, 526.
      the Somme (Allied offensive, August 8th), 3, 48, 69, 97, 226.
      Juvigny, 47, 270.
      Saint-Mihiel, 1, 2, 3, 4, 13, 21, 24, 26, 28, 30, 31, 35, 36, 38,
        39, 45, 46, 47, 68, 69, 77, 96, 105, 111, 135, 268, 271, 280,
        361, 362, 383, 520, 560, 561, 572.
      Flanders, August 28th, 224, 236.
      Flanders, September 28th, 134.
      Cambrai-Saint-Quentin, September 29th, 29, 134, 223-243.
      Rheims, September 30th, 134, 251.
      Blanc-Mont, October 3rd, 134, 249-265.
      Le  Cateau, October 8th, 244, 247.
      Flanders, October 14th, 244, 612, 613.
      Valenciennes, October 17th, 245, 247, 248.
    1919: Metz, plan of, 1, 2, 75.

  Baulny, 188, 189.

  Bayonville-et-Chennery, 591.

  Belfort, 9, 351.

  Belgrade, 516.

  Bell, Major-General George, 69, 151.

  Bell, Major-General J. Franklin, 421.

  Belleau Wood, 257, 380, 398, 558.

  Bellejoyeuse farm, 544, 545, 546.

  Belleu Wood, 540, 558, 562, 563, 567, 568, 584, 611.

  Berlin, 397, 578, 616.

  Berthelot, General, 134, 251.

  Béthincourt, 151.

  Béthincourt Wood, 195.

  Beuge Wood, 210, 220, 326.

  Binarville, 174, 175, 310.

  Blanc-Mont, 249, 257, 258, 259.

  Blue Ridge Division (_see 80th Division_).

  Blois, 393, 394, 449, 450, 451, 454, 455, 456, 457, 458, 499.

  Blue and Grey Division (_see 29th Division_).

  Bony, 223, 238, 241, 242.

  Bordeaux, 397, 399, 402, 403.

  Borne de Cornouiller (_see Hill 378_).

  Boulasson brook, 288.

  Boult Forest, 293, 321.

  Boureuilles, 58, 60.

  Bourgogne Wood, 175, 321, 542, 544, 545, 546, 549, 583, 590, 592,
    593, 598.

  Bouzon Wood, 177.

  Brabant, 350.

  Brancourt, 246.

  Brent, Chaplain Charles H., 511.

  Brest, 391, 399, 400, 401, 402.

  Brieulles, 143, 147, 154, 155, 159, 160, 163, 167, 324, 337, 338,
    341, 343, 344, 345, 365, 527, 539, 571, 575, 581, 584, 598, 603,
    604.

  Brieulles Wood, 164, 165.

  Briey, 11, 13.

  Brown, Brigadier-General Preston, 537, 538.

  Bruges, 516, 612.

  Brussels, 591, 612, 617.

  Buck, Major-General Beaumont B., 324.

  Bullard, Lieutenant-General Robert L., 30, 55, 61, 355, 358,
    362-365, 371.

  Bull Run, battle of, 83, 359.

  Burgundy, 403.

  Busigny, 246.

  Buzancy, 1, 10, 11, 124, 127, 542.


  Cæsar, 84, 349, 597.

  Cambrai, 134, 223, 244 (_and see Battle, 1917, 1918_).

  Cameron,  Major-General George H., 30, 65, 194.

  Cantigny, battle of, 268, 360, 363.

  Champagne, 8, 10, 40, 196, 250, 251, 256 (_and see Battle, 1915,
    1917, 1918_).

  Champigneulle, 550.

  Chancellorsville, battle of, 17, 592, 593.

  Charlevaux ravine, 174.

  Charpentry, 187, 188, 189.

  Château-Thierry, 1, 15, 21, 55, 449, 586 (_and see Battle, 1918,
    Marne_).

  Château-Chéhéry, 282, 283, 284, 285, 294, 298.

  Chatillon ridge, 318, 515, 519, 520, 521, 529, 540, 551.

  Chatillon Wood, 604.

  Chaume Wood, 351, 353, 354.

  Chaumont (General Headquarters), 182, 373, 379, 380, 391, 392, 394,
    404, 437, 442, 610.

  Chemin des Dames, 560.

  Chêne Sec Wood, 202, 276, 277, 294.

  Chêne Tondu (hill), 168, 175, 178, 179, 180, 181.

  Chênes Wood, 558.

  Cheppy, 185, 186.

  Cheppy Wood, 66, 195, 196, 199.

  Cherbourg, 397.

  Chevières, 320, 542.

  Cierges, 202, 210, 211, 212, 267, 275.

  Cierges Wood, 200, 201, 202.

  Civil War, 159, 428, 437, 438, 459, 487, 497.

  Clairs Chênes Wood, 537, 538, 540.

  Clermont (-en-Argonne), 75.

  Cléry-le-Petit, 598, 603.

  Cold Harbor, battle of, 267, 273.

  Consenvoye, 350.

  Consenvoye Wood, 352.

  Cornay, 287, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 298, 314.

  CORPS:
    American, First, 30, 65, 67, 73, 168, 179, 197, 272, 296, 324, 359,
        362, 583, 584, 592, 593, 595, 598, 607.
      Second, 134, 223, 224, 228, 230, 231, 244, 245.
      Third, 30, 65, 67, 70, 72, 73, 147, 153, 157, 158, 162, 166, 167,
        168, 268, 324, 332, 333, 365, 371, 553, 563, 575, 583, 584, 596,
        597, 598, 600, 602, 608.
      Fifth, 30, 60, 61, 65, 66, 67, 155, 160, 194, 197, 207, 213, 296,
        303, 324, 365, 520, 583, 584, 587, 592, 594, 595, 596, 597,
        607, 608, 609, 611.
    British, Third, 236, 239.
      Thirteenth, 246, 248.
    Australian, 48, 70, 148, 223, 226, 227, 230, 241, 242, 243.
      Second Colonial, 584.
    French, Ninth, 556.
      Seventeenth, 348, 351, 352, 554.
      Twenty-first, 257, 262.

  Courtrai, 612.

  Cote d'Or, 403.

  Counter-offensive (_see Battle, 1918_).

  Crépion, 557, 562, 567.

  Conkhite, Major-General Adelbert, 68, 153.

  Cuba (_see Spanish War_).

  Cuisy, 155, 162, 217, 218, 219.

  Cuisy Wood, 140, 217.

  Cunel, 333, 337, 338, 344, 365, 527.

  Cunel Wood, 326, 328, 329, 330, 344.


  Dame Marie ridge, 304, 306, 515, 518, 523, 524, 525, 540.

  Damvillers, 611.

  Dans les Vaux valley, 354.

  Degoutte, General, 612.

  Delville Wood, 570.

  Dickman, Major-General Joseph T., 362, 583, 587, 617.

  Dijon, 409.

  DIVISIONS, AMERICAN:
    1ST, 30, 46, 164, 192, 203, 250, 267-279, 294-308, 313, 314, 315,
           324, 325, 326, 340, 343, 348, 362, 365, 371, 518, 520,
           523, 526, 534, 556, 564, 584, 585, 586, 590, 594, 595,
           596, 606, 608.
    2ND, 30, 134, 164, 249, 250-262, 264, 325, 380, 522, 526, 537,
           560, 583, 584, 585, 586, 590, 591, 592, 594, 595, 605,
           606, 608, 609, 610.
    3D, 47, 164, 222, 324-332, 333, 336, 337, 344, 345, 515, 520,
          526, 529, 534, 536-539.
    4TH, 47, 48, 65, 67, 68, 69, 147, 148, 152, 159, 161-165, 217,
           267, 325, 332, 334, 340-348, 371, 526, 527, 537, 597.
    5TH, 325, 339, 515, 526-536, 537, 539, 545, 571, 574, 575,
           583, 586, 589, 590, 598, 601-605, 609.
    7TH, 610.
    26TH, 46, 60, 268, 559-570, 584, 599, 611.
    27TH, 106, 223-248, 613.
    28TH, 47, 48, 55-59, 65, 168, 169, 175-185, 218, 266, 267, 273,
            276, 279, 280-287, 290, 291, 294, 298, 310, 610.
    29TH, 340, 349, 350, 351-354, 553, 557-562, 568, 569, 570, 601.
    30TH, 63, 203, 223-248, 302, 613.
    32ND, 47, 56, 64, 202, 203, 213, 214, 266, 270-279, 293-299,
            302-306, 314, 315, 316, 324, 327, 330, 515, 518, 519,
            520, 523-526, 529, 535, 556, 572, 584, 586, 596, 608.
    33D, 47, 48, 69, 70, 147-152, 153, 154, 156, 158, 161, 176,
           197, 267, 349-354, 553, 556, 557, 601, 610.
    35TH, 47, 51, 59, 60, 61, 62, 65, 168, 179, 181, 184-193, 197,
            198, 202, 267, 268, 271, 273, 280.
    36TH, 249, 260-265.
    37TH, 51, 62, 63, 65, 68, 161, 194, 197, 200, 202, 203-213, 215,
            217, 220, 267, 271, 275, 303, 333, 612, 613.
    41ST, 64, 214.
    42ND, 46, 68, 302, 308, 318, 515, 518, 519-523, 524, 528, 529,
            551, 584, 585, 589, 593, 607, 608.
    77TH, 47, 48, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56, 61, 62, 65, 68, 168-175, 176,
            179, 181, 197, 204, 291, 309-315, 318, 319, 323, 541, 583,
            592, 593.
    78TH, 321, 322, 540-552, 583, 585, 592, 593, 607.
    79TH, 51, 63, 64, 65, 67, 68, 162, 194, 196, 213-222, 267, 324,
            325, 333, 556, 561, 568, 569, 570, 584, 589, 599, 600,
            601, 611.
    80TH, 65, 68, 69, 147, 151, 153-162, 165, 280, 324, 329, 331,
            332-339, 340, 344, 345, 527, 583, 593, 608.
    81ST, 611.
    82ND, 191, 197, 281-293, 294, 298, 309, 313, 314, 315-319,
           540, 551, 552, 590.
    88TH, 610.
    89TH, 59, 525, 556, 571-574, 583, 585, 589, 594, 595, 596, 605, 609.
    90TH, 536, 571-575, 582, 583, 586, 589, 596, 597, 598, 602, 609.
    91ST, 61, 62, 194, 196-203, 205, 212, 213, 267, 271, 275, 303,
            305, 306, 556, 612, 613.
    92ND, 50, 168, 610.
    93D, 50, 614, 615.

  DIVISIONS:
    Australian, 3d, 231.
      5th, 231.
    French, 15th Colonial, 608.
    German, 1st Guard, 196.
      5th Guard, 140, 199, 205, 271, 273.
      52nd, 271.

  Doherty, Chaplain Francis B., 511.

  Douaumont, Fort, 71, 355, 569.

  Doyen, Brigadier-General, 379.

  Duncan, Major-General George B., 291, 552.

  Dun-sur-Meuse, 604, 605.


  Eastern Coast Division (_see 79th Division_).

  Edwards, Major-General Clarence R., 540, 565.

  Elbe river, 404.

  Ely, Major-General Hanson E., 534, 535, 536, 596, 598, 604, 605.

  Emont Wood, 210, 211.

  Epieds, 560.

  Epinal, 9, 614.

  Epinonville, 200, 201.

  Esnes, 162, 195, 214.

  Essen trench, 255, 257.

  Etain, 1, 24.

  Etraye Wood, 558, 559, 562, 599.

  Exermont, 168, 190, 191.

  Exermont ravine, 143, 190, 202, 267, 271, 273, 274.


  Falkenhayn, General, 8, 340.

  Farnsworth, Major-General Charles S., 62.

  Fays Woods, 164, 342, 343, 344, 345.

  Fismes, 56, 524.

  Fismettes, 56.

  Flanders, 8, 89, 589 (_and see Battle, 1918_).

  Fléville, 266, 274, 276, 278, 279, 281, 282, 288, 290, 297, 316.

  Foch, Marshal Ferdinand, 3, 7, 15, 17, 36, 40, 48, 72, 96, 134, 231,
    255, 256, 370, 373, 375, 581, 587, 610.

  Fontaine-aux-Charmes ravine, 175.

  Forest farm, 264.

  Forest Wood, 343, 347, 537.

  Forges brook, 68, 149, 150, 154, 162.

  Forges Wood, 69, 149, 150, 350, 556.

  Franco-Prussian War, 10.

  Frapelle, battle of, 526.

  Frederick the Great, 579.

  Freya line, 143, 518, 571, 574, 597.

  Funston, Major-General Frederick, 60, 421.


  General  Headquarters (_see Chaumont_).

  Gesnes, 143, 202, 267, 275, 276, 277, 278, 294, 302, 304.

  Gettysburg, battle  of, 210, 478.

  Gièvres, 391, 407, 409, 410.

  Gillemont farm, 230.

  Goethals, Major-General George W., 376, 381, 382.

  Gommecourt, 24.

  Gondrecourt, 307.

  Gouraud, General, 249, 251, 615.

  Gouy, 235, 238, 240.

  Grand Carré farm, 518, 528, 534.

  Grande Montagne Wood, 352, 553, 558, 559, 568, 599, 611.

  Grandpré, 293, 300, 309, 310, 314, 315, 320, 321, 322, 518, 540, 541,
    542, 543, 544, 546, 549, 550.

  Grant, General Ulysses S., 84, 349, 367, 371, 403.

  Haan, Major-General William G., 270.

  Haig, Field Marshal Sir Douglas, 47, 223, 249.

  Halles, 598.

  Harbord, Major-General James G., 254, 376-390, 391, 394-399, 412, 457.

  Haucourt, 215.

  Hill 180 (near Cornay), 281, 282, 283, 287, 294.

  Hill 180 (near Grandpré), 544, 546, 548.

  Hill 182 (near Saint-Juvin), 318, 551.

  Hill 204 (near Grandpré), 544, 546.

  Hill 212 (near Villers-devant-Dun), 598.

  Hill 223 (near Châtel-Chéhéry), 282, 283, 287, 289, 294.

  Hill 227 (near Brieulles), 160.

  Hill 239 (near Gesnes), 275.

  Hill 240 (the Montrefagne), 271, 274.

  Hill 242  (Romagne Wood), 521.

  Hill 244  (near Châtel-Chéhéry), 284, 285.

  Hill 250 (near Ogons Wood), 326, 327, 328, 329.

  Hill 253 (near Romagne), 330.

  Hill 255 (near Gesnes), 277, 303, 305.

  Hill 256 (near Ivoiry), 208.

  Hill 260 (near Romagne), 531, 534.

  Hill 263 (Little Wood), 299, 300, 302.

  Hill 268 (near Nantillois), 220.

  Hill 269 (Moncy Wood), 294, 295, 296, 297, 299, 302.

  Hill 271 (near Cunel), 531, 534.

  Hill 272 (Little Wood), 299, 300, 301, 302.

  Hill 274 (near Nantillois), 221.

  Hill 281 (near Brieulles), 160.

  Hill 288 (Dame Marie ridge), 305, 521, 524.

  Hill 294 (near Montfaucon), 218.

  Hill 295 (near Cuisy), 164.

  Hill 297 (near Pultière Wood), 538.

  Hill 299 (near Pultière Wood), 347, 537, 538.

  Hill 360 (Ormont Wood), 558, 563, 564, 566, 568.

  Hill 370 (Grande Montagne Wood), 553.

  Hill 378 (Borne de Cornouiller), 71, 73, 157, 158, 165, 166, 213, 340,
    341, 345, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 531, 536, 553, 556, 558, 584,
    589, 599, 600, 601, 611.

  Hindenburg, Field-Marshal, 227, 469.

  Hindenburg line, 4, 14, 134, 223, 227, 228, 229, 232, 239, 240,
    241, 243, 249.

  Hines, Major-General John L., 61, 67, 162, 340, 342, 355, 371-373,
    583, 587, 597, 604.


  Illinois Division (_see 33rd Division_).

  Inor, 609.

  Iron Division (_see 28th Division_).

  Is-sur-Tille, 391, 409, 410.

  Italian offensive, 1918, 3.

  Ivoiry, 208, 209.


  Jackson, Andrew, 232.

  Jackson, Stonewall, 17, 232, 332, 367.

  Jewish Welfare Board, 506, 507.

  Johnston, Major-General William H., 61.

  Joinville, 270.

  Joncourt, 241.

  Jura Mountains, 614.

  Juré Wood, 69, 149, 151, 153.

  Juvigny, battle of, 47, 270, 524, 525.


  Kemmel Hill, 3, 324.

  Keystone Division  (_see 28th Division_).

  Kitchener, Earl, 584.

  Knights of Columbus, 506, 507.

  Knoll, 230.

  Kriemhilde line, 143, 165, 272, 299, 303, 305, 306, 309, 314, 315,
    316, 318, 326, 333, 344, 399, 518, 520, 521, 522, 523, 525, 540,
    550, 551, 574, 584, 589, 590.

  Kuhn, Major-General Joseph E., 63, 599.


  La Boiselle, 24.

  Lai Fuon ravine, 196, 199, 204, 205.

  Langres, printing plant, 31.

  Langres, schools, 24, 433, 442-446.

  Laon, 516.

  La Pallice, 402.

  La Rochelle, 402.

  La Viergette, 286.

  Leavenworth schools, 42, 122, 182, 422, 423, 433, 436, 437, 438,
    439, 440, 441, 442, 444, 445, 450, 451, 452, 453, 454, 457, 461,
    462, 464.

  Le Cateau, 223, 244, 246, 247.

  Le Catelet, 235, 238, 241.

  Lee, Robert E., 232, 349, 367, 478.

  Lejeune, Major-General John A., 254, 594, 605.

  Lens, 294.

  Lewis, Major-General Edward M., 223.

  Liberty Division (_see 77th Division_).

  Liggett, Lieutenant-General Hunter, 30, 65, 355, 358-362, 515, 516.

  Lightning Division (_see 78th Division_).

  Lille, 244, 322, 516.

  Lille-Metz railway, 1, 11, 13, 124, 134, 141, 175, 215, 583.

  Limey, 541.

  Liny, 575.

  Little Wood, 296, 299, 300.

  Loges farm, 545, 549.

  Loges Wood, 540, 542, 543, 545, 546, 547, 548, 549, 550, 551, 552,
    557, 583, 585.

  Loos (_see Battle, 1915_).

  Lorraine, 1, 9, 10, 47, 52, 360, 378, 526.

  Ludendorff, General, 4, 7, 8, 9, 14, 17, 19, 110, 227, 230.


  MacDonald, Brigadier-General John B., 203.

  Macedonia campaign, 1918, 3.

  Machault, 252, 264.

  Macquincourt valley, 236, 239.

  Maistre, General, 340, 587.

  Malancourt, 124, 162, 215.

  Malancourt Wood, 195.

  Malbrouck Hill, 352.

  Maldah ridge, 300, 302.

  Malmaison, Fort, 134.

  Mamelle trench, 304, 324, 326, 329, 330, 331, 336, 539.

  Mangin, General, 47, 134, 270, 367.

  March, General Peyton C., 390, 399.

  Marcq, 292.

  Marengo, battle of, 388.

  Marne Division (_see 3rd Division_).

  Marne river, 55, 325, 326, 331, 538 (_and see Battle, 1914, 1918_).

  Marseilles, 397.

  Mars-la-Tour, 1, 24.

  Martinvaux Wood, 346.

  McClellan, General, 359.

  McDowell, General, 359.

  McMahon, Major-General John E., 526.

  McRae, Major-General James H., 541.

  Meade, General, 478.

  Médéah farm, 259, 260, 262.

  Menoher, Major-General Charles T., 519.

  Metz, 1, 4, 9, 22, 196.

  Meuse canal, 341, 601, 602, 603.

  Meuse line, 4, 7, 243, 577.

  Meuse river, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 22, 35, 36, 49, 65, 67, 68, 69,
    70, 71, 72, 73, 80, 124, 142, 143, 144, 147, 148, 152, 153, 154,
    157, 162, 163, 165, 176, 213, 222, 249, 267, 268, 295, 322, 324,
    332, 333, 341, 343, 345, 347, 348, 349, 350, 351, 352, 354, 362,
    365, 371, 399, 527, 530, 535, 536, 537, 540, 552, 553, 556, 563,
    564, 574, 575, 583, 586, 589, 592, 595, 597, 598, 600, 601, 602,
    603, 604, 605, 607, 610, 611.

  Mexican border service, 48, 122, 235.

  Mézières, 13, 565.

  Mézy, 538.

  Moirey Wood, 566, 568.

  Molleville farm, 352, 553, 557, 559, 584, 599.

  Moltke, Field Marshal, 469.

  Moncy Wood, 294, 296, 299.

  Mons, 248.

  Montblainville, 177, 178.

  Montfaucon, 64, 65, 66, 68, 109, 124, 125, 127, 129, 134, 140, 141,
    143, 155, 160, 162, 164, 185, 194, 195, 200, 201, 206, 207, 208,
    209, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 220, 221, 267, 268, 325, 569, 600.

  Montfaucon woods, 126, 161, 204, 215, 217, 303, 333.

  Montrebeau Wood, 188, 191, 195, 271, 273.

  Montrefagne (_see Hill 240_).

  Mont Sec, 560.

  Morine Wood, 202, 276, 277, 294.

  Mort Homme, 70, 71, 72, 124, 148, 149, 152, 350.

  Morton, Major-General Charles G., 351.

  Mosby, Colonel, 338.

  Moselle river, 578, 589.

  Moussin brook, 329, 330.

  Muir, Major-General Charles H., 57.


  Nancy, 505.

  Nantillois, 194, 210, 219, 220, 221, 328.

  Napoleon, 228, 366, 388, 447, 469, 478.

  Nauroy, 235, 241.

  Naza Wood, 310, 314.

  Neufchâteau, 359, 362.

  Nivelle, General, 355, 356.


  Ogons Wood, 221, 222, 267, 324, 333, 334, 335, 336, 337, 344.

  Ohio Division (_see 37th Division_).

  Old Hickory Division (_see 30th Division_).

  Orion Division (_see 27th Division_).

  Orléans, 409.

  Ormont Wood, 540, 558, 559, 563, 564, 568, 584.

  O'Ryan, Major-General John F., 223.

  Ostend, 612.

  Ourcq river, 68, 270, 519, 525.


  Pacific Coast Division (_see 91st Division_).

  Palestine campaign, 1918, 3.

  Paris, 11, 47, 373, 392, 448, 475, 476, 509, 515, 576.

  Parker, Brigadier-General Frank, 585.

  Passchendaele (_see Battle, 1917_).

  Peking, march to, 365.

  Perrières Hill, 176, 178.

  Pershing, General John J., 3, 14, 16, 39, 60, 61, 79, 296, 355,
    356, 357, 361, 362, 363, 364, 366, 367, 370, 371, 373, 374, 375,
    376, 377, 378, 379, 380, 381, 389, 394, 395, 412, 421, 434, 435,
    436, 446, 454, 462, 465, 467, 468, 498, 511, 515, 516, 517, 587,
    607.

  Pétain, Marshal, 14, 355, 367.

  Petit Wood (_see Little Wood_).

  Peut de Faux Wood, 331, 344, 346.

  Philippine rebellion, 437.

  Piave river, 3.

  Picardy, 359, 383.

  Plat-Chêne ravine, 353.

  Plunkett, Rear-Admiral, 581.

  Port Arthur, 553.

  Potomac river, 349.

  Prémont, 246.

  Pultière Wood, 330, 338, 515, 527, 530, 531, 532, 534, 537, 540.

  Pyrenees Mountains, 614.


  Quennemont farm, 230.


  Rainbow Division (_see 42nd Division_).

  Rappes Wood, 338, 515, 529, 530, 531, 532, 533, 534, 535, 536, 537,
    538, 540, 546, 574.

  Read, Major-General George W., 223.

  Red Cross, American, 407, 501, 503, 507, 508.

  Reine Wood, 558.

  Rheims, 134, 249, 250, 251, 257, 262.

  Rhine river, 2, 17, 349, 578, 583, 615, 617.

  Riviera, 601.

  Romagne, 304, 305, 306, 348, 515, 518, 523, 524, 530, 531.

  Romagne Wood, 299, 300, 306, 519, 521.

  Roosevelt, President Theodore, 376, 420.

  Root, Elihu, Secretary of War, 422.

  Rossignol Wood, 185.

  Roulers, 612.

  Russo-Japanese War, 63, 422.


  Saint-Dizier, 410.

  Saint-Etienne-à-Arnes, 259, 260, 262.

  Saint-Gobain, 248.

  Saint-Juvin, 309, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 322, 543, 550, 552.

  Saint-Mihiel, 1, 9, 10, 13, 25, 26, 80, 144, 262, 325, 357, 360,
    403, 410, 556, 572, 573, 583, 610, 615 (_and see Battle, 1918_).

  Saint-Nazaire, 307, 397, 402, 404.

  Saint-Quentin, 134, 223, 244 (_and see Battle, 1918_).

  Saint-Quentin canal, 223, 228, 236, 237.

  Salvation Army, 501, 502, 507.

  Samogneux, 349, 555.

  Sassey, 163.

  Scheldt river, 612.

  Sedan, 10, 13, 542, 565, 589, 607, 608.

  Seicheprey, battle of, 60, 560.

  Selle river, 246, 247.

  Seminary Ridge, 291.

  Services of Supply (S.O.S.), 28, 93, 376, 378, 381-412, 435, 437,
    454, 459, 473, 481, 490, 505, 614, 617.

  Shiloh, battle of, 83.

  Sims, Vice-Admiral William S., 376.

  Sivry, 352, 353.

  Smith, Major-General William R., 260.

  Soissons, 3, 13, 15, 47, 196, 268, 270 (_and see Battle,
    1918--"counter-offensive"_).

  Somme valley, 3, 223, 225, 227, 247, 248, 617 (_and see Battle,
    1916, 1918_).

  Somme-Py, 250, 251.

  Somme-Py Wood, 254.

  Sommerance, 307, 590.

  Souilly, 31, 355, 374, 391, 392, 515.

  South Africa (Boer War), 88.

  Southwestern Division (_see 36th Division_).

  Spanish War, 88, 422, 437, 481.

  Stars and Stripes, newspaper, 463, 483.

  Stenay, 609.

  Steuben, 417.

  Stones, ravine of, 318.

  Stuart, Jeb, 337.

  Summerall, Major-General Charles P., 61, 269, 278, 298, 300, 355,
    365-371, 372, 520, 521, 583, 587, 594.


  Taille l'Abbé (wood), 168, 178, 181, 281, 282, 285, 286, 287, 291,
    310, 314.

  Talma Hill, 544, 546.

  Thayer, Sylvanus, 417.

  Toul, 9, 280, 363, 378, 541, 560.

  Tours, 378, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 406, 450.

  Traub, Major-General Peter E., 60.

  Trônes Wood, 570.

  Tuilerie farm, 305.


  Valenciennes, 223, 245 (_and see Battle, 1918_).

  Valoup Wood, 303, 304.

  Varennes, 176, 177, 184, 185, 186, 187, 282, 293.

  Vauquois, 60, 61, 66, 185, 198.

  Vaux, 257.

  Vaux, Fort, 355, 569.

  Vauxcastille, 257.

  Vaux de Mille Mais ravine, 553, 599.

  Verdun, 8, 9, 10, 27, 40, 71, 75, 351, 355, 374, 449, 553, 554,
    569, 577, 586, 599, 601, 617 (_and see Battle, 1916_).

  Véry, 187.

  Véry Wood, 195, 199.

  Vesle river, 15, 52, 56, 57, 68, 325.

  Vigneulles, 561.

  Ville-aux-Bois farm, 337, 345.

  Villers-devant-Dun, 598.

  Vipère Wood, 252, 253.

  Völker line, 207.

  Voormezeele, 224.

  Vosges Mountains, 9, 526, 615.


  Wadelincourt, 607.

  War College, 422.

  Warsaw, 14.

  Waterloo, battle of, 417, 478.

  Wavrille Wood, 568.

  Wellington, 417, 478.

  West Point, 376, 388, 413, 414, 416-417, 418, 419, 420, 422, 423,
    426, 430, 431, 432, 442, 445, 454, 463.

  Wilderness campaign, 84.

  Wilson, President Woodrow, 515, 577.

  Woëvre, plain of, 4, 9, 71, 554, 562, 611.

  Wood, Major-General Leonard, 59, 61, 421, 571.

  Wright, Major-General William M., 59, 572, 594, 596.


  Yankee Division (_see 26th Division_).

  Y. M. C. A., 407, 408, 489, 501, 502-506, 507.

  Ypres, 20, 244, 251, 449, 485, 495, 577, 586, 612, 617 (_and see
    Battle, 1914, and Battle, 1918--Flanders_).



Transcriber's Notes


Obvious errors of punctuation and diacritics repaired.

Inconsistent hyphenation fixed.

P. 42: Divisonal pride -> Divisional pride.

P. 126: thirring rattle -> whirring rattle.

P. 143: There was a certain fifulness -> There was a certain fitfulness.

P. 236: the field of the action of the 29th -> the field of the action
of the 27th.

P. 367: will he applied the principle -> will be applied the principle.

P. 530: his machine-gunes regrouped -> his machine-guns regrouped.

P. 619: Australian 5th Divison -> Australian 5th Division.

P. 627: Passchendaele (sse Battle, 1917) -> Passchendaele (see Battle,
1917).





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