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The Vesle Defensive


HISTORY OF THE 305th Infantry
by
Frank Tiebout

Chapter 5

THE VESLE DEFENSIVE


THE Americans had been tearing up the Chateau Thierry salient like a bunch of wildcats. Quoting from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, "they had broken down the morale of the Germans, squeezed them out and were driving the Huns before them with a dash that would not be denied. Jerry was moving back so fast that the divisions trailing him were exhausted, having given of their best until it was only the spirit which held them together. The 4th Division had relieved the 42d and taken up the advance through the Foret de Nesle. It had pressed madly on against stubborn, deadly, machine gun resistance, and had forced the fighting to the banks of the Vesle."

Through St. Thibaut, across the river and into the city of Bazoches they had advanced, there to be overwhelmed by everything the Germans could pour down upon their heads from the precipitous hill rising out of the disputed city. Companies of the 4th which had ventured over the river never returned, and their dead still lay in the burning sun of No Man's Land, unburied. On the southern bank of the river, the American line had stabilized, leaving the "Hell hole of the Vesle " strewn with the bodies of friend and foe alike. To reach them was out of the question.

Quoting again, " the hold of the 4th Division, its ranks so sadly and terribly depleted, was getting very tenuous. Relief must come at once, for there was danger that at any moment the enemy might learn of the thin American ranks; he had complete domination of the air," their planes not only observing uninterruptedly all movement, but cooperating with the artillery by spotting targets and dropping air bombs at will. That Division was practically shot to pieces when the Three Hundred and Fifth Infantry, vanguard of the 77th Division, swept into Fere en Tardenois.

The 77th was through with its training; it was to be thrown into the breach with a suddenness that left no time for deliberation or conjecture or for screwing the courage to the sticking point. It was to essay the task of veteran fighting troops at a most important point though untried and untested to oppose the most efficient fighting force the German war machine could present.

On Saturday, August 10th, captains were moved to ask their companies to forgive them for anything unpleasant that might have happened in the past. Rush orders had come in, to supply the men with all the ammunition they could crowd upon their person and to be ready to move at any minute. Marching, this time, was too slow. Into motor trucks we crushed, thinking of all the stories read in the past, of soldiers being rushed into the thick of it by motor. These were painted the horizon blue of France, but recognized as an American product, driven by little brown devils called Annamites. Backward along the dusty route, there stretched out in the distance, as far as the eye could reach, the seemingly endless motor train as it twisted in and out, up hill and down dale, over shell-torn, traffic -laden roads. Grim jest and a pathetic effort at skylarking which characterized, the morning hours gave way to solemn looks after the passage through battered Chateau Thierry. There were the trampled wheat fields through which mad American soldiers had forced the advance, making veterans of four years fighting gasp over their seeming disregard of an enemy's murderous machine guns. There was the historic Marne, deep and swift and blue, and the bridges, which had cost American engineers so dearly to build. The route lay through Fere en Tardenois, where another frightful struggle had taken place, and beyond it as night came on, to the Foret de Nesle, where we debussed and made tracks for the concealing forest.

To the north could be heard the muffled roar of heavy artillery, and we realized that things were about to happen. Some there were who had lost blood brothers in that fighting and who were anxious to be avenged; all knew that the gentle days of the Lorraine Sector were past and gone; but they glowed as how "fight" was painted all over 'em.

The woods that night, so dense and black that a hand could not be seen before the face, reeked of horrid, ghastly smells. The men had all been warned that there was likelihood of a gas attack, and in consequence precipitated a series of nervous alarms, ere the morning light revealed disgusting evidences of the Germans' hurried evacuation. An M Company officer awoke to find close beside him the half-buried body of a dead Boche whose hand stuck straight up out of the soil like a signpost. There were uncounted thousands of shell, mutely testifying to the enemy's utter lack of intention to have quit the area without a grim struggle. Illimitable quantities of discarded equipment, rifles and helmets lay all about; letters, postcards, belts of machine gun bullets, gas shells, Very lights and bags of " kriegs tabac, " which con-sisted of chopped oak and beech leaves.

While the chaplains next day, Sunday, heard confession, comforted, encouraged, counseled, received trinkets, keepsakes and other prized personal possessions, and pocketed the numerous in-case-I-never-can-write-again letters, and while the lieutenants made sure that the helmets, gas-masks, rifles, bayonets, ammunition, bombs and stretchers were all present or accounted for, company and battalion commanders went forward to have a peep, bringing back depressing and sobering tales. There were no trenches. The positions we would move into, under shell fire, were nothing more than fox-holes dug here and there along a roadside, in the lee of any slight rise of ground, or in a railroad bank. A certain message sent back to one of the companies did not especially improve the morale of the men who heard it; it ran something like this: "The dugouts are mere holes in the ground. You will be shelled morning, noon and night with shrapnel and high explosive, and during the intervals between shelling, they will throw gas at you."

Directly following this announcement, one battalion started filing past another which was still lined up along the roadside. The air was tense. "My God!" a doughboy was heard to exclaim. "Look at that major's face."

Before starting off for the relief at eight o'clock that night, every man five paces from the one in front and single file, every rifleman carrying in addition to his full pack two extra bandoliers of calibre .30 ammunition, the autoriflemen dragging an extra musette of Chauchat ammunition, all were cheerfully and generally warned that they would doubtless be shelled on the way to their positions and that any casualties were to be left for the Sanitary Detachment to discover and pick up. Great for morale!

It was a tumultuous taking over of the lines. By devious shell-torn roads and lanes, through woods and muddy fields, the way led north toward the river, past a battery of naval guns whose sudden belching almost blew the wits out of us. Behind Les Pres Farm, where Regimental Headquarters was to make its stormy rendezvous, on the steep and slippery road, units of the 306th were encountered marching in double file. Back and forth in the inky ravine the hopeless jumble of troops buckled and filled, while all around us landed high explosive. Soon the pungent odors of mustard gas-to some it smelled like crushed onions-smote the nostrils for the first time. It was a wild night. The Third Battalion finally got into wretched Ville Savoye, on a forward slope running down toward the river and facing the Boches; but the greater part of the Second lay for hours on a hillside under the belching guns of the Corps Artillery, lost, without maps, without guides, without instructions. In the darkness and confusion the column had broken-a thing to be feared during any relief. Major Dall, his guides, his Headquarters Detach-ment and a half platoon of -G ' Company had hurried serenely on, blissfully ignorant of the circumstance in rear, while the offending parties who had lost contact were severely reviled by their leaders, and scouts sent out into the night. At four o'clock, just as dawn was silhouetting the gaunt ruins of St. Thibaut, CY Company hove into position on the right of the town, and the platoons of H Company struggled down the sunken road leading into the village, hurrying into position before the movement should be clearly visible to the observant Boches. Past the little brick house on Dead Man's Corner, around which the bullets whistled night and day, and into their several positions they crept.

The Regiment took over a sector extending from well to the left of St. Thibaut to the Chateau Diable, the left of the line confronting Bazoches, one of the most sadly wrecked towns imaginable. The Third Battalion was on the right, the Second on the left, F Company crossing the river and finding meagre shelter under the railroad track west of Bazoches. Because four regiments had not been able to make parallel advances by motor, and because there was not time for an instant's delay in strengthening the front, the Three Hundred and Fifth alone took over the entire sector of the exhausted 4th Division. After twenty-four hours in close support, the First Battalion went in on the extreme right, taking over a piece from the 28th Division.

Jerry had opened up with his usual nightly entertainment. All the boys of A Company but one seemed to need no further encouragement to dive into their funk holes, The little fellow "got his wind up" a bit and ran to his Corporal exclaiming, "What shall I do? What shall I do?" The squad leader poked his head out above the rim of the hole just long enough to say, "Do the same as I'm doing, you damn fool. Say your prayers!"

How those Regulars scrambled out of their holes, the relief complete, minus equipment, caring only that their task for the moment was through! H Company took over a position theoretically held by two of their companies which together could then only muster fifty-seven effective men. Right then and there, our boys exchanged their service rifles for the lighter Springfields, with which the Regulars had been equipped. Materiel of all sorts which had been stripped from the dead and wounded lay about in quantity.

This position outdid even our worst dreams. On that forward slope, there was no protection whatsoever from shell and machine gun fire in moving from one platoon to another. All day long, the " ash cans ... .. iron cigars" and "Minnies" came tumbling into Ville Savoye and St. Thibaut, while the famous sniping piece of the Austrians, the 88, played incessantly. Ordinarily, there is time to flop on the ground or otherwise dodge the oncoming shell, the screaming whine of which is heard overhead for a considerable interval ere the explosion. Some of them even seem to float aloft and to hang there, as if contemplating where to make a big killing. It is said that one doesn't hear the shell that kills him. But the 88 or "whizz-bang" is different, and by far the most terrifying of all. Its flat trajectory and high velocity make it a large calibre rifle, with which moving trucks or even individuals are often sniped. So fast does the shell travel that the explosion is practically coincident with the whine. There is no time to dodge. The boys were later much amused at a definition of "whizz-bang" which appeared in the Bulletin published by the Regimental Auxiliary. "The whizz-bang, it said nonchalantly, "is a small shell, making a peculiar sound!"

By some lucky mischance, shells seemed to avoid the portals of house No. 13 in St. Thibaut, in the shallow cellar of which H Company made its P. C. Into the small, littered courtyard vagrant ammunition and ration- carrying details would scurry for shelter, though of actual protection there was none. Thither the rattling hand-drawn limber would clatter at twilight down the sunken road and draw up with a flourish, much to the consternation of the company commander, who didn't want all the Boches in the world to think it the hub of the universe.

Although it was almost believed that the Germans were sparing, as an artillery aiming point, the few remains of the church tower which stood between that building and the front, and that in consequence it escaped destruction, a more solid though more damp old wine cellar was found in the lee of the crumbling church in which to establish the telephones, and to measure out the orders as they came through. This was taken over and later used by the several companies which in turn occupied that position,

There had been accidents and minor casualties within our ranks before this time. But here we really began to see our brothers in arms falling beside us. The first sight of a bleeding arm or a wounded shoulder was startling enough. But when, for instance, one first saw a Minnenwerfer drop its tremendous charge in the sand bank just above the point where several comrades had dug for protection, burying all, mangling two of them beyond recognition, a shiver ran through the heart. One knew then what war could be.

It had been a popular superstition that soldiers new to the dirtier side of the game would somehow be initiated into it gradually, perhaps by brigading small units with experienced troops for a while. Yet, here were men who had never experienced a barrage, or a gas attack, or seen a man shot down or blown to atoms-men who had no means of knowing, aside from their own spirit of determination, whether or not as a body they could play to a finish a game at which veterans have been known to lose. Given the most important task of their lives, these boys simply had to do without question of failure or doubt of success the difficult job assigned to them. Yet everything was so new, and they so untried! They had much to learn, and had to learn it all at once.

"Dutch" Richerts, early in the game, found out what a " dud" was; one passed so close to his ear that it knocked him flat, scaring him so that he talked Bohemian for fifteen minutes without realizing it. Folks had talked about shell splinters. The platoon sergeants of I Company stood near the funk hole of the company commander to receive instructions. A high explosive shell burst about five hundred yards away. Thirty seconds later, something was heard to fall near the funk hole. They dug a ragged ten-pound chunk of red hot iron out of the earth. Splinters!

"Iron maidens," huge trench mortar shells with steel fins to maintain correct position during flight, had been lobbing over into the portion of the river bank held by the First Battalion. Soon the air was streaked with an unholy flickering of streaming lights, like an army of racing fireflies gone mad. Few had even heard of phosphorized cartridges, or tracer bullets. One swarthy little Italian, horrified and indignant, crept over to his corporal to say, "Gee, Corp, dey shoota da redda hot bullets! "

We had heard before about shelling; but here we made its acquaintance. The German knew every foot of the ground like a book, and he read every topographical line of it again and again, his artillery observers wearing their keenest spectacles. He threw at us everything but his own trenches, and yet the men found courage to joke and jest about their horrible experiences.

Corporal Kelly of K Company was hit, but he still wore his Irish smile. "Jim," he called. "Come over here a minute. Take this message and send it for me." And then like the tired businessman he dictated to his stenographer while Jim wrote: "Somewhere in France. To Mr. Kelly of Buffalo. Died happy. Dennis." Jim and Denny both laughed heartily -, and a few days later, back in the hospital, Dennis died.

Dead bodies lay in some instances just beyond our parapets; an effort to reach them would have been madness. Dead horses lay in the streets insufficiently covered by fallen masonry. The burying details were terrible, the men wearing gas masks. Some bright youth discovered that the work on dead horses could be speeded up, a smaller hole being necessary if the legs of the beasts were sawed off. Flies, naturally, were hideously thick, penetrating even to the blackest depths of a damp cellar. They swarmed into the " chow," on account of which, the men at first might have left it untouched. But hunger is no chum of fastidiousness. Presently, it was considered no hardship at all patiently to pick the frolicsome fly out of the mess kit. The atmosphere reeked in the sultry sun of terrible carrion odors, burnt powder, mustard gas, sneezing gas and dust.

Little wonder that on a diet of "goldfish," flies and water the men really suffered from dysentery. It is reported that an officer hoped to get a wound stripe for cutting his finger opening a can of salmon. Well, he deserves a wound stripe for eating salmon. A quantity of the salmon and gas-soaked bread had been left by the units relieved, and for a time the Quartermaster Department seemed unable to offer anything but fish as the meat component. Water was difficult to get. The water points of St. Thibaut were very soon shelled out, which necessitated fetching from a stream that ran through the bloody fields. Fish and sunshine made it almost impossible to exist on one canteenful a day. Into Ville Savoye the Germans poured a constant stream of machine gun fire, sneezing gas and high explosive, and rained shrapnel into the water points at intervals of about every two minutes. A man would rush to the fountain immediately after a shell-burst, hang a pail on the spout and retire, then run out again to retrieve the pail after the next burst. Safe in the back areas, a Corps inspector sought to raise Hob with someone, when it was admitted that Lyster bags of cool chlorinated water were not hanging out under the trees where the men might conveniently use them!

In the Mairie of Ville Savoye still hung a list of the five remaining civilians whose actions had been closely observed by the Boches. Much of the wheat had been harvested by the enemy; gardens were in full bloom. Immense piles of firewood were stacked high against the coming of winter. The houses, terribly shattered, had been hastily ransacked, the furniture ruthlessly smashed; on the floors were litters of family records and correspondence, tintypes, and photographs of self-conscious brides and bridegrooms. Out of a great hall clock the brass works had been taken and done up into a neat bundle-but forgotten in the hasty retirement. German signposts were at every crossroad, the fountains marked "Trinkwasser." The Third Battalion, occupying this village and the terrain in front, had decided in, the worst position, being subject to constant observation and machine gun fire. Battalion Headquarters functioned with difficulty in the cellar of an old house forward of the village church in which were found bodies of an American lieutenant and several men, dead for some time, and impossible to bury on account of the shelling. The entrance to the First Aid station in an abandoned wine cellar at the edge of the town was exposed to rifle fire. Dr. Luther J. Calahan was in this meagre retreat administering to a number of wounded when shells struck the building, setting fire to the roof, imprisoning him for a time under the burning rafters. But though under constant fire, he and his assistants barricaded the entrance with stretchers, quelled the flames and saved his men.

A letter written by the adjutant of the First Battalion gives a vivid picture of the situation in this town:

" The Boches kept shelling it continually; they had perfect observation of our movements from their positions. Every fifteen minutes during the day they would throw over three shells, taking the town bit by bit. When any one appeared on the street they gave us a little extra, although I must say they left our ambulances alone except when they thought we were using them for covering some tactical move. Our headquarters was in the cellar of a former French residence. I was no sooner inside than they shot away the wall in front and a couple of hours later they took off the corner of the building. They were giving us a liberal dose of gas all the while-it was very uncomfortable sitting packed tight in this cellar with our gas masks on, studying maps, writing messages and trying to get an answer over the phone. The gas seemed to linger more than we had expected. We discovered soon that part of what we thought was gas was the fragrance of six dead Americans in the yard next door. Poor devils. The shelling had been so hot that nobody had had a chance to bury them. Toward noon we had our first casualty. Lieut. Clokey with two runners came from his company headquarters to report their position to the major. The Boches dropped a shell beside him, which tore off part of his face and killed one of his runners. Clokey came staggering into our little cellar and we patched him up crudely with our first-aid packets. Then I ventured out with him to the First Aid station and he was evacuated that afternoon. (He came back to the regiment later with a brand new piece of face and looking not very much the worse for his misfortune.)

"The next day we moved our headquarters to a ravine about 300 yards outside the town. Although it was wide open to the sky, this was a more comfortable spot. Each of us dug a hole in the side of the ravine, and for an office we had a piece of corrugated iron for a roof and camouflaged it with bushes. As we had to be constantly going and coming, it didn't take the Boche long to discover our new location. From that moment he included us in his strafing of the town, but our ravine was so small and the sides so steep that he couldn't quite get us. His shells would drop on each lip of the ravine, but he never got more than a fragment of shell into the ravine itself, although he gave us plenty of gas. His airplanes were what we feared most. "

Gradually the rations were amplified by the arrival of hardtack, corn syrup, a little jam, a few canned beans, raw coffee and sugar. Still the salmon. To cook anything, to raise a smoke, or make a light was out of the question.

-Except once: Early in the morning, after Dr. Calaban and his wounded had been nearly burned out of the First Aid Post, McDonald and Eidlen, cooks of First Battalion Headquarters, ventured down to the burning building and made a dozen canteens full of steaming coffee over the glowing rafters. They outwitted the Boches and gave Battalion Headquarters their first hot food in five days.

A grimy private made his way to a lieutenant with the complaint: "They've got some raw bacon down there, but won't issue it."
"Would you care to eat raw bacon?
"Yes, Sir. "
"Raw? You know, it can't be cooked here."
" Yes, Sir. "

"Well-if you can eat raw bacon, I guess there's no reason why you shouldn't." And he did-they all did, and smacked their lips over it.

If the doughboy stopped to think at all about the quantity of stuff needed to keep him going, and of the amount his company needed, he realized what the Supply Company, making a constant effort to serve the Regiment in this regard, had to accomplish. He appreciated more than ever the old canned beef. This touching eulogy, which appeared in the Stars and Stripes we read a few days later, back at Mareuil en Dole:

0 remnant of wrecked flesh, rent and torn asunder!
Howe'er do we digest thy potency-I wonder?
Greedily we eat thee hot or cold or clammish;
How welcomely thou thuddest on the mess-tins of the famished!
0 leavings of the jackals' feast! 0 carrion sublime!
However much we scoff at thee we eat thee every time-Corned Willie!

There were no serious kicks about the meagreness or the strangeness of the rations - that was all in the game, and relief would come soon. A good batch of cigarettes would have been a happy thought; but the famous front echelon of the Y. M. C. A. was not personally represented. Wait, though! Some battered cookies and a few cigarettes were sent up on a ration carrying party, to be sold!

The only real complaint was the result of the Germans' uninterrupted, undisputed supremacy of the air. The men had to grit their teeth while planes darted overhead, raked the positions with machine gun fire, threw hand grenades even, spotted batteries and unloaded their bombs. Some of the bomb holes on the riverbank were large enough to bury a whole platoon. This, despite the reassuring utterances from the rear to the effect that American and French airmen dominated the situation. It was some department far in rear, too, which discovered at a time when the bullets whistled merrily through our positions that the enemy had withdrawn, and ordered out daylight patrols on the afternoon of the 13th. Lieutenant Peter Wallis and eight men swam the Vesle to see. Only one of the party was ever heard from again, a sergeant wounded and taken prisoner.

Private McGee, of F Company, writes of several patrols:

" From somewhere on the right, a bunch of machine guns used to enfilade us every night. We figured that the Germans couldn't stay there all day long, and so Captain Eaton picked a desperate bunch of Indians, ten of the wildest men he could find in the company, to go out and locate the gun positions and the places where the Germans hung out during the day. There were twelve in the party, all armed to the teeth. We started out before dark for the purpose of getting there ahead of the enemy and, if possible, to see what holes he crawled out of, and to watch them take up their positions. It's hard to let a Boche crawl by without taking a pot shot at him but you know that if you let him go, he's sure to give away a gun position.

"In order to get there without being seen, we had to travel several hundred yards through a big swamp that was all chewed up by shells and the mud up to your neck in places. At the end of this swamp we struck a suspicious-looking place where there were several dugouts from which telephone wires ran up into a tree that might have been used for an observation post. We figured that our German friends might live in there, so we took an unhealthy position on the edge of the swamp and watched.

"In this way we gradually located six gun positions, but the Boche suddenly located us and acted as if he thought a general attack was coming over, because he opened up a young hell in the filthy swamp with all the machineguns and some of his artillery with gas, high explosive and shrapnel. We couldn't go through it, so Bob Farmer placed his men and said, "You hang on here no matter what happens." That was nine P. M. and we had no overcoats and the night was cold; and sitting in the mud and cold did not feel like the first row in the Winter Garden. Here we lay under almost continuous artillery fire, with plenty of gas that don't smell very sweet, until about 4.30 A. M.,, and that was the time that old Jerry sure opened every gun he had on the swamp. We just laid there and gasped for breath, and our dream of Hoboken was starting to evaporate, and we were wishing we were back with the company once more, praying our 304th, 305th and 306th Artillery would open all together and blow the Boches to Hell.

" At 5.15 he swung his barrage over to our company position, but he kept looking at us out of the comer of his eye all the time. We figured this would be as good a time as any to work our way back to the company and wondered if there would be anything left of it when we got there. We got near the old trenches and sent out a scout, who said the company was 0. K. We were happy but so exhausted we had to lay there half an hour before starting to crawl in one by one. The captain was amazed to see us back alive and thanked us for finding six enemy gun positions for the artillery to blast out. For our reward we received a full cup of coffee per man, thus beating Osfeld's patrol by half a cup."

An interesting account of a reconnaissance patrol characteristic of many sent out to gain information of the enemy's positions and suspected movements follows:
"We were under almost constant machine gun fire, without knowing absolutely where it came from. 'Mac,' said the Top, about four o'clock, 'how do you feel? Bloodthirsty?'

"'Anything you say.'
"'Then you're going out tonight with Osfeld, Soufflas and Corporal Schwartz to find where those guns are.'

"At eleven o'clock we gulped a bit, saying 'So long!' to our pals ', and crawled over the top toward the German lines about two hundred yards away. The shells fell pretty thick while we were crawling over badly chewed-up ground that smelt gas soaked; and the German flares made us duck and lie quiet every few feet.

"About a hundred and fifty yards out, I should say, we heard what sounded like a bird whistle close by; we decided that no birds would be out at midnight and besides, they don't like high explosive. So we lay quiet like cats watching a mouse. Presently we heard the steel click of a cartridge belt being fitted into a 'typewriter.' They must have seen us, sure. But just then two Boches darted from behind an old tree stump, running up to the position with ammunition boxes. From there they ran back to a corner of the chateau where another 'typewriter' started chattering. We could hear the Huns in front of us whispering and tinkering with their gun, so we decided to make a getaway, having spotted three guns.

" Our knees were very sore from the rough ground and Osfeld said, 'What do you say we hike a bit?' I said, 'Anything you say, Phil,' and the quartet decided to run about twenty feet, then flop, listen and run again. At last we tumbled over the parapet, and reported the two guns, which our 75's blew out in the morning."

Four days and nights the Regiment stood up under its first severe punishment, the only reinforcements a live mule salvaged by E Company. The Germans seemed to know that the relief was due, and early in the evening of the 15th commenced pouring a steady stream of gas and metal into the American lines. It was a peculiarity of Ville Savoye, which they knew full well, that gas would linger in and about the village as in a pocket. They filled it full, particularly the sunken road leading therefrom and the areas behind the town. There was no wind to disperse the fumes. In the early hours of the morning men were feeling the effects despite the use of masks, all but ten of M Company's entire personnel being evacuated for mustard burns about the body and the eyes. Then and there, they adopted as their company song, Too Much Mustard. By daylight, the relieving company of the 308th Infantry found their way into the town, practically all of them being evacuated later that day as a result of coming in contact with the mustard gas.

The relief of the battalion was not completed until the following night. As Companies I, K and L left their positions, they came into the gas-infected areas and many of them were also burned. All in all, the battalion sustained about four hundred casualties.

.Again, quoting from the letters of Captain Kenderdine, then Adjutant of the First Battalion:

"According to schedule, we were to be relieved at the end of the fifth day-, but the relieving battalion failed to get us on two successive nights and we were kept there seven days. Our supply of rations ran out at the end of the fifth day, and for two days we had virtually nothing to eat except a little that I managed to bring in on my way back on the last day. On the night before the seventh day the relieving battalion managed to get to our positions, but not until dawn. We tried to risk getting out even then, but to get out in daylight one was under constant observation, as the hillsides were almost bare. We sent out one company over the hill at about seven A. M., but they got pretty badly shot at, so the major wisely ordered the rest of the battalion to stand pat. By that time they had started to go out and had pulled out of their positions in the valley. The only thing to do was for them to come into the ravine (which was at the base of the hill) until dark. This they did, and three-quarters of a battalion sat huddled in the ravine all day, praying that our luck would hold good and that the Boches would fail to register on the ravine itself.

"The major was naturally worried by the battalion not having got out. So I took a staunch little Irish boy as orderly and we made a dash for it over the hill and back to Regimental Headquarters with a report of our situation. Instead of being angry at our failure to get out during the night the Colonel was all sympathy. He took me in to report to the General. He pressed me to stay for luncheon, but I had only time for a cup of coffee and a sandwich (and Lord, how good it tasted!). Then I went to the Y. M. C. A. hut and bought all the cigarettes, chocolates and crackers they would sell me. The Colonel loaded me up with canned food and hardtack, and I made my way back to Battalion Headquarters, where I was welcomed with open arms and immediately relieved of my bag of food.

We all came out that night at dusk. Not a shot was fired. The men took off their packs on the main road beyond the crest of the hill. On that first trip to the lines they had carried everything they owned. I bad been fortunate enough to arrange for four big trucks to come up that night and transport these packs to the rear. It was lucky I did, for the men were almost utterly exhausted. I stayed behind to supervise the loading of the packs and then rode out on one of the trucks. I was almost all in when I sat down on the soft leather seat by the driver. I immediately fell asleep, and one of my happiest moments in life was when some good soul of a Red Cross man stopped the truck in a village we passed through and poured a large cup of rich chocolate down my throat. The Battalion had arrived at their rest bivouac before I did. My striker had found my bedding roll there and spread it out under a tree. Never was any bed so comfortable. The Major, bless his heart!-gave orders that I shouldn't be awakened, and I slept for twenty hours straight."

There were no irregularities in that first relief of the Second Battalion- nothing but the ordinary casualties and plenty of excitement. Shells fell thick and fast, while machine gun bullets rattled through the streets of St. Thibaut spattering savagely on stone walls. "Just take a look at this," said Captain Dodge, from the entrance to the old wine cellar. Over to the eastward billowing smoke and a flame-hued sky silhouetted the spectral walls of the ruined town. Spiteful bursts of rifle and machine gun fire and a thundering barrage could heard both right and left, earth rocking explosions and, comforting through it all, the scream of our own shells, five for one, winging northward. One recalled Alan Seeger's lines:

I have a rendezvous with death At midnight,. in some flaming town."

Somehow in the darkness groping figures found their new places, while shadowy forms in single file hastened into the gas-filled, shell-torn road, hug-ging the comforting embankments, walls and ridges, ready to flop whenever a screaming whine came too close. No fear of the men losing contact! Jerry dropped a few 77's on the tail of the disappearing column and although the pace was increased to about four miles an hour, they miraculously closed up. Out of the darkness came a clattering team of runaway mules hitched to a limber, headed straight for the front lines, crashing into the column of struggling men, bruising and breaking bones. Anon, the cry of " Gas" as the head of the column would strike a pocket of it. Here and there an overturned wagon, supplies scattered bewilderingly over the road, the slain animals cast into the ditch. The hills above Chery-Chartreuve belched forth their constant fireworks, deafening those plodding past who felt sure that by the fitful glare they stood revealed to German gunners. It was Hell let loose. Toward Mareuil, the roads seemed hopelessly jammed with artillery trains, camions, field pieces, grunting and clanking tractors prying the " heavies " into positions where whole companies of artillerymen were sweating with pick and shovel against the oncoming dawn. Here and there a ruined truck blown across the road blocked the path temporarily, adding to the general confusion.

On this terrible night, the men of the Sanitary Detachments proved their mettle. Seemingly always forgotten when general orders were issued, " boarding " at whoever's kitchen happened to be nearest to their station, never receiving very much publicity, they were always there with the big, fat pack and quick to respond to pathetic cries of "First Aid!" During the relief, Privates Coorman, Giordano and Liebman were the last to leave St. Thibaut in the heavy concentration of gas and high explosive. Proceeding slowly along the road, they searched all the dugouts and funk holes, picking up wounded and gassed men. It was impossible to see with masks on, due to the heavy smoke. With just the mouthpiece and nose-slip adjusted, they continued their work, gathering together twelve wounded and gassed men who otherwise would have in all probability remained there until the next day. As only one ambulance was available, it was necessary for them to remain on the road for three hours until all the wounded could be evacuated. It took four stormy trips to and from Chery-Chartreuve to accomplish this. And then, although exhausted from the work and lack of sleep and sick from the effects of gas, they reported at noon of the next day, to assist in treating the casualties from Ville Savoye, persisting in refusing hospital treatment inasmuch as they were temporarily the only Sanitary Corps men available. Their work in this instance is typical of the devoted, self-sacrificing service rendered to their brothers in the Regiment all through our battle experiences.

Here you are, all of a sudden, in your allotted portion of the Bois de Mareuil, loafing, eating to make up for last week, shaving, taking your shoes off for the first time in eight days, and daring again to think of home. Where are those "in case" letters? Tear them up! Here is the long-delayed incoming mail! Old copies of the Saturday Evening Post! Pay-to gamble with. A little water to bathe in. Plenty of warm sunlight by which to "read your shirts." The woods are all cluttered up with the gas-burned, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and you are prompted to recount your own terrible expe-riences: how, for instance, to rest your weary legs by the roadside you sat down-in a little pocket of mustard; how, when you turned to the man sitting beside you to say, "Buddy, give me a drink," he didn't reply. He sat there dead.

Next morning you discover that the rest isn't to be all idleness; you dig a system of support trenches and reserve trenches, while others at the front are taking up their share of the dirty work. After a brief period of days you move up into the woods behind St. Thibaut perhaps, in support, there to grub in the sand all day and dodge shells all night. From there you move on up, for your second tour of duty at the front, this time less awed by what the Boche flings over, and hearing a fervently expressed desire "to take that hill! "

During this time, when companies skipped from " red " line to " green line to " blue " line and back to " red " again, feeling like a bunch of darned chameleons, first in brigade reserve, then regimental support, then division reserve, regimental reserve and so on, M Company comprised a body of forty stalwart vacationists, thoroughly familiar with the care and handling of horses. They had just returned from the horse-buying detail, to find practically the entire company, in the hospitals.

During the month of August the French under General Mangin began to exert a flanking pressure up in the northwest and the 77th Division, more used to the bitter fighting, increased its frontal pressure. In the words of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, "it could be seen that they were growing uneasy and it was important to establish the extent of the uneasiness-to learn if they were preparing to evacuate.
"One of the great feats of the war resulted. Major William Mack, who was at that time a 1st Lieutenant in command of G Company, Three Hundred and Fifth, and 1st Lieutenant Leonard Cox, then 2d Lieutenant of B Company, Three Hundred and Fifth, volunteered to lead a patrol over the river in broad daylight to establish just what the situation was. They took ten other volunteers of Companies B and C of the Three Hundred and Fifth Infantry, Sergeant John Blohm, Corporal Peter J. Kiernan, Corporal Solomon Catalano, and Privates Frederick Barth, Clarence H. Koehler, Raphael Cohan, Vincent Bisignano, Frederick M. Meury and Joseph Bridgeman. The party left the village of St. Thibaut in broad daylight.

"At the Vesle, Mack left the others and swam across. Cox followed, carrying a heavy coil of rope. He crawled out into the river on sunken logs and other debris until he was up to his armpits in the swift flowing stream. Then, after repeated attempts, he managed to throw an end of the rope across to Mack, who fastened it on the other side. All of the patrol got across the river by means of the rope. On the other side, the patrol was divided into two parties of five men each, Mack taking one and Cox the other.

"Mack and his men went into the village of Bazoches, making their way past the enemy outposts and getting along finely until they surprised four Germans in an old house. Mack and his patrol got the jump on the Germans, killed several of them and withdrew, fighting desperately all the while, although under heavy machine gun fire. All of the party except Sergeant Blohm were wounded, Koehler and Cohan mortally. All of them made good their with-drawal, Mack having secured much valuable information.

"On the way out, Sergeant Blohm took shelter in a shell hole and saw Corporal Catalano, bleeding profusely from a wound in the neck, just barely able to drag himself along through the grass. Blohm promptly left his shelter, carried Catalano behind a tree near the river, there dressed his wound, and then broke boughs from a fallen tree so as to make a raft. On this improvised raft he placed Catalano and pulled him across the river. Arriving on the other side, he carried Catalano over an open field fully 200 vards to the outpost line, all of the time being under continuous rifle and machine gun fire. And Sergeant Blohm had two brothers who were fighting in the German Army!

"Lieutenant Cox, meanwhile, had led his part of the patrol into the chateau where he shot down two men as they were about to open fire on his men. He wounded another, and the party decided it was time to move. Although German machine gun and rifle fire fairly blasted the air, the entire patrol got out without a man being injured and got back to their own lines.

"The commander of the Third Army Corps, to which the 77th was attached, recommended all of the men in the patrol for a citation, and Mack. Cox and Blolun were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross."

But on the next morning, September 4th, Lieutenant De Rharn and a patrol of thirty men from C Company swam the river and with slight opposition gained & heights beyond, from which point their rocket signal "Objective reached" precipitated a general advance.

The Division was on its way to the Aisne.
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