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July


THIS MAN'S WAR
by
Charles F. Minder
306th Machine Gun Battalion
Company B


JULY

DEAR MOTHER,
Monday, July 1, 1918.

Well, we must have some guardian angel watching over us. We have been very lucky so far and especially last night. We sure do hand it to the German artillery, for they are remarkable marksmen. They just seem to smell where we are. Last night, when Dinola and I were at the gun, all of a sudden, we heard a swishing noise and then a loud bang, another direct hit on the house, at the further end of it, and it crashed right on down thru the floors to the cellar. Had it hit on the side of the house where we sleep, there would be nobody of my squad left but Dinola and myself. We were out in the field in the back of the house at the gun. It was just a matter of ten feet which saved the others from being swept into eternity. They sent over more, and we heard the shells dropping back further and further. Both sides play for the roads at night, figuring that there must be soldiers walking on them at that time.

It sure was a narrow escape, and everybody was restless and nervous for the rest of the night. It just seems to rip and tear you to pieces when these shells explode so close to you.

The Lieutenant came over and set the gun for us and we fired over to the Germans, giving them fifty shots, and then a minute pause, and then another fifty. We kept this up for about a half an hour and then stopped. The Lieutenant told us that they expected the Germans would be up and about at that time and we were giving them a little "strafing."

It was daylight when we quit firing and for a time it looked as tho we would surely be seen. We crawled back to the house, keeping as low as possible. I was dead tired and fell asleep and it wasn't until eleven that I woke up. I sent two men back for something to eat for the squad. It took them three hours, our kitchen is so far back. The afternoon went fast. We cleaned up the room and got all the dirt out of the place from the shell exploding in the other room last night.

My friend the Major, our Captain, and the Lieutenant came up this afternoon to look things over and walked out to our position in the back of the house to inspect it. What chances they took! The way they walked around so unconcerned worried me' because I know the Germans saw us and sure will let us have it now. They know we are in the vicinity. They showed me a map of that particular section of the country and it surprised me how accurate it was. Every hill and valley and even the houses were plainly marked. There were mileage marks all over it and with one of these maps you can hit any spot on the terrain by doing some mathematics and figuring out in degrees from the spot you are standing on. It's quite scientific and interesting in getting the range on an enemy position. I suppose the observers in airplanes help in locating positions. I bet a franc that the Germans are doping -out the range on this house and are figuring on smashing it to pieces. I was glad when they went on their way.

There is more delay tonight in getting our food up. It's eight now and I sent them back at three-thirty this afternoon, figuring they would get back by six--thirty. The fellows are hungry and it is getting dark and we are kind of worried about them because, about an hour ago, the Germans were shelling in back of us, sending them over fast and furiously for about fifteen minutes. We hear them going past over our heads and then land with a bang off in the distance. I have to arrange the different shifts for the guard tonight. We all have to stand-to for an hour at nine-thirty. Good night. Lots of love.
CHARLES.

DEAR MOTHER,
Tuesday, July 2, 1918

The Lieutenant got over about ten-thirty last night. He set the gun at a certain degree, and stuck two sticks into the ground again and started firing fifty shots, rest a minute, and then another fifty. It wasn't ten minutes when bang, bang, bang, three shells about a second apart came over from the German lines and landed about fifty feet in front of us in the wheat-field. We had to stick at the gun and keep firing. These shells coming over seemed to say, "We know where you are, take that!" You sure have to hand it to them for getting the range of a place. We were lucky again no one was hit. The fellows seemed philosophical about it, remarking, "Well, if your name isn't written on a German shell, you won't get hit." I suppose the average number of soldiers hit by shells must be about one out of every thousand fired. It sure must cost plenty to kill off one man when you think of the cost of shells. More shells are wasted in hitting the ground only.

The Germans must have thought that they were off on their range because they hadn't silenced our machine gun. We kept right on shooting. The Germans raised their gun and dropped them farther back of us, then they shifted over a little to the right and then finally stopped. It was a peculiar sensation to know that German artillery was searching for you and trying to wipe you out. At eleven-thirty, we stopped and went over to the house to get some sleep, leaving two men at the gun.

At two-thirty, we all had to get up and stand-to until three-thirty. I almost fell asleep. Besides the two men at the gun, one man has to be on guard at the house to watch out for gas. This breaks up our sleep at night all the more, and I have difficulty in arranging the men for the different shifts so that all may get an occasional rest.

I went on from eight to nine this morning, and managed to get some water out of the well in the back of the house and shaved myself. I was beginning to have whiskers. We spent the morning cleaning up the gun and ourselves. We spend the most of the day waiting for meals to come up because our kitchen is so far away.

They gave us something to do this afternoon to keep us occupied, anything to keep us from getting a little rest. We had to make duckboards to cover over some of the wet spots of the trenches. At some places you almost went up to your knees in the mud. The Lieutenant came up later and got Mac and myself and we started for Company Headquarters, marking the path all the way so that it would be easier to find. We visited No. 5 and No. 8 positions, Leonard's and Hurell's. Their positions are about a mile farther over. Between my position and Leonard's, there is absolutely no one. He is about a mile away. When I was back home, I used to think that the front line from the northern coast of France all the way down to Switzerland was just a long solid line of men with no gaps between at all. I swear if the Germans knew that there wasn't a single soldier between Leonard's position, a mile away on my left, and my position, they would march their whole army right on thru and there would be nobody to stop them.

When it's dark at night, you can't see all the way across this wheat-field. While I am writing, I must confess it has me nervous, for there surely is something wrong here in the management of this particular section of the line. This has been the most quiet night we have had up here yet. It is a peaceful summer evening and it is nice and cool after the hot day we had. The evenings sure are lovely here in France and it's a shame that a war is on. We have to get ready now to stand-to, for it's beginning to get dark so will say good night, God bless you.

CHARLES.

Wednesday, July 3, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
It's raining cats and dogs tonight, and instead of going out into the open, we have the gun mounted in the rear of the house under a shed so it won't get too wet. We can still see our field of fire across the wheat-field, in case any Germans happen to come over. We were all up at three this morning and stood-to until four. Nothing happened.

It was very foggy this morning and the Lieutenant told me a story which Captain Deven, the Englishman up at Monecove, related to him. He was in a position and it was very foggy and the enemy marched right up in columns of four. The Captain and his men got away. That happened at the beginning of the war. The enemy always comes over when you least expect them. He told us to be on special guard tonight.

I slept for a while and then up at eight to stand for gas guard again for an hour. I cleaned my pistol because the damp weather seems to make it rust. You can't be too careful with it. We were visited by the Colonel and Major of the 308th Infantry this morning, and they asked me about my field of fire and where the gun position was, and then went on their way, walking about as if they were miles behind the lines. It's surprising that they are not shot at, because there are German snipers over in the woods in front of us. Ever so often, a bullet goes whizzing by. These officers seem to have charmed lives. I warned them about the snipers but they took no heed and kept right on walking up farther.

The Lieutenant came over this afternoon and had Mac with him and the three of us took a walk in the rear of our position to familiarize ourselves with the ground. Tonight, the runners lost their way again and we waited hours for our chow. I came in from stand-to just before I started to write. We didn't do any shooting tonight because the Lieutenant didn't show up. We haven't any orders to do any shooting so the gun gets a rest tonight. I am writing by candlelight on the floor and it's very fascinating. I get quite a kick out of it. Well, Mom, the way things have been here, it looks like the war is going to last forever. We don't move forward or backward. Love from

CHARLES.

Thursday, July 4, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

It's almost midnight, and we just got back a little while ago from some real excitement, and I do not feel any too good after what happened tonight, something which I have been dreading all along, and that was shooting at men. Maybe if I write you and tell you, it will relieve my mind and I might be able to sleep.

Everything was very quiet tonight, down on the front line, and somehow we got information that the Germans were going to surprise us with a raid, thinking we might be off guard on account of it being the Fourth of July. So, just as it was becoming dark, we were in a trench on the flank of the Infantry, and when they started to crawl up out of the trench to raid the enemy trenches, before they were supposed to come over to us, we opened up with our gun, protecting them, while they advanced over No Man's Land. We saw some of our fellows falling, and noticed the sparks coming from an enemy machine gun over in the woods and shifted our gun on to them. In a few seconds, there were no more sparks coming from that point. We must have hit them, and our Infantry proceeded on.

As they were nearing the enemy trench, we saw the Germans coming up out of it, and we started shooting at them and saw them fall. Some jumped back into the trench and others dropped their guns and walked up with hands in the air. In about two or three minutes, it was all over. It seemed like an hour to me. I was so excited the perspiration was pouring out of me.

We stayed there for about an hour, not knowing just what to do, and I sure was glad when a runner came and told us that the Lieutenant said to come back to the house. It was dark and I saw the silhouettes of the Red Cross men carrying stretchers with our fellows who were wounded. They have to carry them back to where the ambulances are at the First Aid Station. It made me feel terrible, and I was wondering what good all this killing will do. There have been wars for hundreds of years, men always killing each other, maybe they have been forced to, just as we were tonight. I never wanted to shoot anyone. The German soldiers we killed tonight probably have dear ones waiting for them at home just as we have. I wish I knew what to do, how to get out of this. I don't think I can stand much of it.

I thought of you all day long, wondering what you were doing. It was a heavenly day here, very peaceful and quiet, quite different, I guess, from back in New York. I suppose you had more frights and scares today from the noise of fire-crackers, I thought today how you used to be so nervous about Earnie and I when we were small.

I think they ought to abolish the noisy Fourth of July celebrations in the future and forget about wars. That might be one way to abolish war. The celebrating of victories every Fourth of July keeps the thought of war before the people, makes war something grand and glorious, when it is nothing but downright murder, makes some people arrogant, and it is a mockery of patriotism. Patriotism shouldn't make men commit murder. Oh, I pray God that I will be delivered from this some way. Somehow, I don't want to carry on. I would much rather get hit myself than ever have to shoot at another man again.

The fellows here in the room haven't spoken a word since we got back. They must feel just like I do. We are sprawled around the floor. I am writing by candle-light. The fellows are staring into space. Two of them are watching the gun. The German artillery has opened up since I started to write, and shells are whizzing by over our heads and dropping into the woods. Good night, Mother Dear.

CHARLES.

Saturday, July 6, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

For the past two days, I have been trying to sleep, but the excitement and the noise of the artillery has been too much for me. It never seems to stop. Just one continuous explosion after another. Our artillery is having a duel with the German artillery, both trying to wipe out the other. The shells have been dropping rather close to us and the gas from the shells has poisoned the air so that we have been keeping our masks on most of the time. It isn't the pleasantest feeling in the world to have the mask over your face all the time.

We put over another machine-gun barrage tonight, having doped out our range with a compass and a protractor which the Lieutenant brought over this afternoon. We were playing on a spot about two and a half miles behind the German lines, just behind a hill where the German artillery emplacement and ammunition dump is supposed to be. One of our aviators took a picture from the air and that's how they discovered the spot.

The German aeroplanes were very active over our heads today and probably were taking photographs of our positions. We stay inside the house when they are overhead, for if they ever see any activity around here, it wouldn't be long before they would let us have a shower of shells. I suppose they figure that we wouldn't be so foolish to stick around a prominent target as this house is, but here we are just the same. They shelled the village heavily, over on our right, at nine-thirty tonight, lasting ten minutes and tons of shells dropped into it. I think the Infantry bunch are over there and they must have hit some of them. It sounded as if they were bursting right over our heads. We thought at first that it was the preparation fire for a general advance on the German's side, but nothing happened.

We have had a tough time getting food, and as hungry as I am, I seem to eat just a little and then have to quit. The food seems like a lump in my stomach. It's after midnight. The candle on my helmet is burning away rapidly, so will say good night, I think I will be able to sleep a little if the shells whizzing by over our heads only let up for a little while. God bless you,
CHARLES.

DEAR MOTHER,
Monday, July 8, 1918

It's seven o'clock. We all have our packs made up and waiting for the soldiers to come up and relieve us some time tonight, and we go back for a rest after our first stretch in the front lines. We sure are glad to get out because we have been up here for quite a time and all need a good cleaning and delousing. The cooties have hatched out millions of young ones while we have been up here. There has been a young battle raging here and I don't envy the fellows who are going to relieve us. It was a very quiet spot when we first got here.

We put over a terrific machine gun barrage last night from nine-thirty to eleven and almost shot away all the ammunition we had. The gun was red hot when we got thru. We slept for a little while, and, at two-thirty, had to stand-to until three-thirty as the day broke. I was so sleepy that I went back to the house and slept until nine this morning when an in-tense artillery fire from our side awakened me. It lasted for about thirty minutes and we found out later that the Infantry had gone over the top again, further over on our right. We saw quite a number of German prisoners later in the morning being led back thru the woods.

We had a surprise this afternoon by seeing a woman come walking up to the house. We motioned to her to keep low but she didn't heed us in the least and came right on, fearlessly exposing herself. Our Lieutenant was here at the time telling us about being relieved tonight. Luckily, he spoke French, and he told us later what the French lady told him. This is her home that we are in and it has been in German hands. This house was once between the front lines, the Germans holding her in their front lines. Her son was taken with them when they were forced back four years ago but returned three days later, after having escaped. He was killed last March in this house by shrapnel from the explosion of a big shell. He was seventeen years old.

The house does show signs of a hasty departure. The woman, her husband, and three children have been living, since then, two villages away, down the road. They have received orders now to evacuate that village by the fourteenth of this month and go back even further. So she came up today to look the house over for the last time. It was sad. Tears were in her eyes all the time she spoke. She went out in back of the house and picked a basket full of wild berries before she left.

The enemy was driven back three times from this point in the past four years. She said her home was hopelessly ruined and probably when she sees it the next time, it might be completely demolished. Practically all of the top part has been shot away already. These poor old peasants are the real sufferers and my heart went out to her. She seemed so brave. The men who start wars should have seen that poor woman today, maybe they might think twice before they would start another one.

Women the world over should band themselves together and force men to abolish war. If they have to suffer and bring children into the world, and then have them snuffed out in a moment by a shell, they should have something to say whether there should be war or not.

It's getting dark now, Mother Dear, and we have to stand-to until we get relieved, which I think will be about ten tonight when its gets real dark, so will close with love to you and Mousie.

CHARLES.

Wednesday, July 10, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

We are now in a billet outside of a village called L'Enaipe, somewhere in the Vosges Mountains. This spot is one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. For the past two days we have been hiking to get here. We suffered terribly and were all footsore and weary but this wonderful scenery was worth the torture of the hiking we went thru.

We were relieved the other night by Company D of our Battalion about eleven o'clock. Shells dropped to the right and left of us but never seemed to get near enough to do any damage. It sure was terrifying to have those things dropping near us. We were loaded down with our packs and machine guns and other equipment and stumbled and fell quite often. About a mile or two, our limbers and mules were waiting for us, and we loaded the guns and ammunition on them and started to hike. It was almost dawn when we came to our destination, some empty shacks in a deep forest. We slept until noon, ate, and then started off again and got to this place about one-thirty this morning.

Corporal Leonard's squad and mine are billeted in this barn, and the rest of the company is scattered out in other places. We had a chance to clean ourselves today and also our equipment. We stripped the limbers this afternoon and cleaned and oiled them. It was some job! We are miles away from the front lines and it is very quiet. Tonight I spent a delightful two hours resting in the field in the rear of our billet, ad-miring the wonderful scenery. Mountains are all around us.
It's nine and we were told we are here for the night, so it looks like a good old eight hours of sleep again, which I haven't had for a long time. Some of the fellows are asleep. I am writing up here in the hayloft. It has a wonderful odor, fresh cut, nice and soft, and makes a good mattress for us. God bless you.

CHARLES.
Thursday, July 11, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

We were all up at six this morning and, for the first time in many weeks, lined up in company formation as we used to do back at Camp Upton and stood for Reveille and all men were present or accounted for I didn't mind getting up early at all because I had a wonderful night's rest, and with all the mountains around us and the beautiful scenery, it made me glad to be alive. It was one of the pleasant days of Army life that makes you forget the disagreeableness of it. After that we had a good old-fashioned breakfast of flapjacks with plenty of syrup over them.

The morning passed quickly, and we were free from all duties, so I took advantage of the wonderful facilities for washing clothes and got rid of my accumulation and cleaned them and they dried quickly in the sunshine. The French women all wash their clothes in cold water, out in the open, on a board alongside a trough which the horses drink out of.

At two-thirty this afternoon, Sergeant Kaneen, of our platoon, and Corporals Leonard, Johnson and my-self were ordered to make up our packs. At first, we thought we were going back to the line again for something special. At four o'clock, the Lieutenant came along. We were all ready and waiting for him and started off immediately saying, "So long!" to the rest of the company.

It was an hour after marching that the Lieutenant told us that we were going to a school to get anti--aviation training so that we could instruct the rest of the company when we got back to them again. We marched and marched, and the pack became heavier and heavier, and I suffered the usual torture that I always do on a hike. My right heel, where I was run over when I was a kid, bothered me terribly today. The road seems to get red hot and just burns up my feet. I was glad I washed all my socks this morning, as I had a clean change when we got here tonight at eight-thirty after marching four and a half hours.

We are back in the dense forest right behind the artillery emplacement at a place called Ker Avor. They are firing all the time and it is quite a contrast from the quiet and peace which we enjoyed last night which is about sixteen miles from here. We are right on the road that leads up to the position that we came out of the other night. The front line is only about two or three miles farther up the road. I wish they would have taken us sixteen miles away in the other direction so that we could have been away from this infernal noise.

They had some food saved for us and the Lieutenant took us over to eat. I gathered some pine tree boughs to sleep on. I am sleeping in a lower berth. There are fifty-six of us sleeping in this hut, twenty--eight lowers and twenty-eight upper berths made out of two by fours with wire stretched to form a spring. The mattress consists of pine tree branches. They smell good and ought to make good sleeping. All the non-coms of three machine-gun battalions are here in the different huts. It's getting on to eleven, am foot sore and tired, so will say good night to you.

CHARLES.

Sunday, July 14, 1918

DEAR MOTHER
This is the French Independence Day, which they celebrate each year as we do on the Fourth of July. The four of us were over to a village called Neuf Maison this evening, and the way the French people were carrying on was surprising. Most all of them in the village were pretty well intoxicated and all the estaminets were crowded. I admired their spirits tho. They have had four years of war and all have someone at the front or someone who has been killed off already. I suppose they try to drown their sorrows in wine.

The roads were crowded with ambulances tonight bringing back wounded soldiers. The Germans put over a terrific barrage this morning, which, by the way, woke us all about four o'clock, and it kept up for a couple of hours. The noise was so terrible that we couldn't sleep any more. We were on edge, thinking that a general advance by the Germans was on the program. If they ever had advanced to where we were this morning, we simply would have been out of luck, because we haven't much ammunition here at all, only some machine guns which we are using in sighting on aeroplanes.

We have been very busy the last few days over at a chalk quarry near by, which is quite out in the open.

Two of our planes have been circling above us for hours at a time, and we take turns at sighting the machine gun at it and try to follow it all the time. The idea is to hit the gasoline tank and set it on fire. We have also been instructed in using different instruments for this.

While we were over in Neuf Maison tonight, I ran into Sumner. The last time I saw him was back at Camp Upton. He told me that he has had some narrow escapes, going back and forth from the front lines with messages. He's one of the company runners, a very dangerous job. Last week when he was up in the lines, he had to run back thru a barrage and tell the artillery to lengthen the range as they were dropping shells down on some of their own men in an outpost position. He is weary of the whole business, too, and wishes he was back home.

We had the day off for once and I went down to the brook which is near here and took a good bath right out in the open. It was perfectly all right because there are no houses or people around but I smiled at myself, I must have looked strange taking a bath out in the open. The day was warm and sunny and the water was nice and cool and I felt like a two- year old when I got thru. They brought up five letters to me today. One of yours was among them, the one you wrote on June 16th. It sure was good to see your handwriting again. It's too bad you can't send Mousie away to the country while she is on her vacation. I wish I had been born about ten years later, I would be on my summer vacation from school now, also, instead of over here in this bloody mess.

The artillery is at it hot and heavy again tonight and the woods vibrate every time they shoot. It's a wonder that the roots of the trees do not lose their hold on the ground and tumble over. They stand for a great deal of punishment, too. The trees, where the gas-shells have exploded, have been killed off also, as the gas is so poisonous that it kills all green things. The trees are a wonderful protection to us in the summer time, but I wonder how it will be this winter. I suppose you have to keep out of sight all day long. It's getting late so will blow out my candle and hit the pine tree mattress, which is wonderful sleeping, by the way. Good night,
CHARLES.

DEAR MOTHER,
Monday, July 15, 1918

The artillery is banging away tonight with unusual activity. It's been going on now for the past two hours. The hut actually shakes from the concussion and it doesn't look like we are going to get any rest tonight. There must be an advance on the program, otherwise, they wouldn't be firing so much. God, if it would only stop! It makes you jump every time they fire. The poor Germans must certainly be demoralized. If it's as bad as this on the side where they are firing from, what must it be like on the other side where they are dropping all around the Germans?

They killed the Captain of the Medical Corps of our Battalion last night, and the funny part is that it happened right in the doorway of the same house that we were sleeping in at our old position up the line. He was struck by a big piece of shrapnel from a shell that landed right on top of the house. I guess there will not be any of it left by the time the French woman gets back to it.

We spent the morning sighting on model planes which they gave us for that purpose. This afternoon we all went over to the range near the chalk quarry and everybody fired the machine gun, using the aero sights on the gun. After we got back, I guess the Lieutenant thought it would be a good joke to take us on a four-mile hike, marching at a terrific pace. It was a hot day and the perspiration poured off of me. I bet I lost five pounds.

We get a paper here called the Daily Mail, printed in England. I read it tonight. It said that there was another big German drive on up on the Champagne sector between Rheims and Chateau Thierry. This is a very important point because it is so near to Paris. If they ever get to Paris, I guess that would be the end of the war as far as France was concerned. I don't know what would happen to us away down here in, the Lorraine sector.

I bet you get the news of what's going on over here long before we do. About all we see of the war are the few hundreds of soldiers we see about us, and at times you get the impression that your squad is fighting the war all alone. That's the way it felt to me the last time we were up, because nobody was near us at all.

Bang! A huge German shell dropped near by a min-ute ago. They are trying to locate our artillery. We are all nervous. If the Germans lengthen their range a little, we are in for it. One of the sergeants just hollered to put out the lights. God bless you,

CHARLES.

DEAR MOTHER,
Tuesday, July 16, 1918

The front was quiet tonight and I spent an enjoyable two hours resting this evening and reading a May fourth copy of the Saturday Evening Post that managed to get into my hands somehow. Reading matter is scarce over here. I found one of Irvin Cobb's stories and enjoyed it immensely and forgot all about myself, the war and everything. I am reading it all the way thru, something I never did with a Saturday Evening Post, devouring every word of it.

This morning about a hundred German prisoners were marched past us on the road. They were captured this morning early, I guess. They looked scared to death. They were mostly young kids about eighteen and some old men. Some of them were having a terrible time carrying back their own wounded on stretchers. Our artillery fire last night must have cut them to pieces.

This morning we were instructed in the identification of the German and Allied planes. They also gave us range cards showing the velocity of bullets at different ranges. It was all very interesting but I couldn't figure out, how on earth all this data is going to help us. When you are up in the line, you have to shoot and shoot fast, you haven't time to look up charts and dope out ranges, elevations, and one thing or another. It seems like wasted time to me. I've forgotten practically all of the stuff they jammed into us, back at Camp Upton. If they would only teach us some way of standing this infernal, nerve-wracking noise of artillery fire, I would appreciate it. I'm shaking almost all the time.

Tonight, at seven, two men were picked from each company to go up the line and put over a machine-gun barrage. They selected Leonard and Kaneen, so Johnson and I are out of luck tonight, but we get our turn tomorrow night, they said. It's almost ten, am tired and will say good night, Mother Dear.
CHARLES.
Wednesday, July .17, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

We are back with the company now at Laruipt, a quaint little village down in the Lorraine section. Our school suddenly ended this noon and I was glad to get away from that awful artillery fire. It certainly is quiet and peaceful here. The fellows all seem in good spirits, many were playing cards this evening. This morning we had problems to solve, a sort of test of all that we had learned while we were at the school. At noon, the fellows started to leave for their different outfits. We were the last to leave. I took advantage of the long wait and went down to the brook again and took a bath. The water was ice cold and it surprised me that it should be so cold because it was a terribly hot day. We were annoyed this afternoon by a swarm of big ugly-looking flies, that seemed to come from nowhere. They were just like bees, the way they bit us. A limber from our company came for our packs late this afternoon, so we had nothing to carry on the hike back to the company.

At seven, tonight, the Lieutenant and the four of us started off. We walked through three villages, Rantelier, Bertichamps, and Raon L'Tape. They are a couple of miles apart, and it was quite a hike before we got back to the outfit. The Lieutenant bought two bottles of champagne while we passed through Bertichamps, and we all drank it on the road after we got outside of the town. I don't think the Lieutenant is used to drinking, because the little he had went to his head, and he began to act foolish. He was the only one who knew where the company was located and we simply followed after him-we had to-as he is our superior officer, drunk or sober. After getting lost in the woods and rewalking our steps, we finally reached our billets here at eleven.

One of the fellows in the company, named Kapp, was cleaning his Colt automatic pistol today and accidentally shot himself through his leg. He is now in the hospital. It's almost twelve, Mother Dear, so will say good night.
CHARLES.

Thursday, July 18, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

Nothing very exciting happened today. It was a heavy and rainy day, and it's strange how blue and homesick you can become when the sun isn't shining. This morning, in spite of a drizzle, we marched over to a range near by for pistol practice. Our raincoats, which are supposed to be waterproof, were soaked thru and thru. We all fired thirty rounds at a target. It's the first time I ever shot it, and every time I pulled the trigger, my arm shot into the air. The pistol has a kick like a young cannon.

We spent the afternoon cleaning and straightening out our equipment and about four o'clock, were lined up for inspection. Before we were dismissed, the Captain read from a sheet of paper that I was promoted today to an Acting Sergeant.

Funny, but ever since I was drafted into the army, I never have had any use whatsoever for Sergeants, and now I am an acting one, and before long will be a full-fledged one, after acting it for a while. Well, I am going to be a different kind of sergeant than the dirty punks that I ran into. I am just the same today as I was when I was a buck private. I never have to boss any of the men in my squad, and have I never bawled out any of them, and get along fine with them.

When there is any work to be done, I always dig in with them and they notice those things and think more of you. It's always best to treat them like human beings.

We are sleeping up in a hayloft where we are billeted now, and it is a wonderful place to get lousy in. I only slept in it one night and today a flock of cooties were crawling all over me. I spent tonight killing them off over my candle flame. The fellows are all disgusted and will be glad when we move out of here as nice as the scenery is all around. But I think you can get these cooties no matter where you go. France is just alive with them. It sure is a lousy country. Well, Mother Dear, I guess I'll close, and hit the hay.
CHARLES.

DEAR MOTHER,
Friday, July 19, 1918

This morning we were all awakened bright and early and stood for Reveille. I don't know how Leonard did it, but he managed to talk somebody inviting himself and me a pass for Baccaret, a very big town. We were also very lucky in picking up lorries which gave us lifts both ways, and we had little walk-ing to do.

We spent the day visiting all the Y. M. C. A. and Salvation Army huts. The town has been damaged pretty badly in spots by aeroplane bombs being dropped on it. We saw a couple of hospitals and wounded soldiers, bandaged, were all over the place. It was a terrible hot day and I bet the poor fellows must have suffered. When the wounds are bandaged, they must be pretty hot on days like this. We got back to the company at five, and just in time to stand for Retreat, and then had a good feed.

At six-thirty, we decided to go for a swim over at the canal near by. just as we got there, we heard a cry for help. A fellow from upstate, by the name of Heimanz, was wading in the shallow water and suddenly stepped off where it became very deep. He couldn't swim, and neither could any of the others who were near by. He went down for the third time.

We all jumped in after the poor fellow, clothes and all, and fetched, but the water was so dirty we couldn't find him for some time. Finally, Bergstrom discovered him. Heimanz had grabbed a branch growing at the bottom and had a death grip on it. The water was about ten feet deep. He was under for about five minutes. We started working on him, trying to get the water out of his lungs.

The medical men came along shortly, our Captain and Lieutenants, and relieved us of the work of trying to revive him. We had been working frantically. We got hot water from a French farmhouse and kept up a relay applying it to Heimanz. It was twelve o'clock when they finally gave up all hope. The medical men said there wasn't a sign of life in him. His heart had stopped beating and his muscles were stiff and he was becoming colder every minute. We dressed him and placed him on a stretcher and left him in the billet for the rest of the night, while we all sadly returned to our billets. It is impossible to describe our feelings in words. Everybody was very sad. It was a tough way to go, so many miles from home.

It's after one, and am going to try to sleep a little if I can. I notice some of the others feel like I do. It was too much of a shock to see Heimanz go like that. My uniform is still wet. It's the only one I have, and I hope it gets dry by morning. Good night, Mother Dear. God bless you.
CHARLES.

Sunday, July 21, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

Things do happen quickly. Here we are back in the line again and you'll laugh when I tell you just where we are. We got here at midnight after a long hike. The Lieutenant stopped at a tree just in front of a cemetery wall and said, "This is your position, dig in here, Corporal!" I saluted, and he went on his way with the rest of them.

Shell-holes were all over the cemetery. We were told to sleep inside the wall. We did the best we could. Luckily, the moon was shining, and we picked out a vacant spot under a tree where there were no graves. I had a very restless night, dreaming of ghosts and skeletons, and I was glad when day broke this morning. As spooky as it was, the fellows in my squad took it good-naturedly and joked about it. Purcell found a tombstone with "Louise Maurencin," and the date of her birth and death on it , "1890-1908." He threw himself down on top of the grave and jokingly said, "Well, I guess I'll sleep with Louise tonight,

Okay, Corporal?" "Okay," said I, and we all burst out laughing, at midnight, in the cemetery. One fellow remarked that it wasn't the dead that we need be afraid of but the Germans. After arranging the different shifts for the guard, we just threw ourselves on the ground behind the wall and fell asleep.

Yesterday morning, we got the body of Heimanz ready for burial and, at twelve o'clock, he was laid to rest in a graveyard in the rear of a little church in the village of Bertrichamps. The Chaplain said a few words for him and prayed, and that was the end of poor Heimanz, the first one to be snuffed out in our company.

We spent the afternoon making up our packs, loading up the limbers with our equipment, and cleaning up our billets, leaving them spick and span, cleaner than they were, when we first came into them. Our outfit has a reputation for cleanliness.

We started marching about seven last night and finally arrived at this, position after unloading back in the woods, and carrying our machine guns and ammunition the rest of the way. I haven't figured out exactly where we are, but it is near a place they call Ker Avor. We have been working today building a shelter out of some lumber and pieces of sheet metal we found on the side of the road.

We managed to make bunks, one on the ground, and two uppers on both sides of the corner of the cemetery wall, with sheet metal resting over us to keep out the rain which came down quite heavily this morning and urged us on to finish this shelter.

The worst part about this place is that we are so far away from our kitchen, and it takes two hours walking each way to get food. This is another one of those funny positions where it seems that we are fighting the war all by ourselves. The nearest position on our right must be a mile away. In front of us are rolling hills as far as your eyes can see, and about a half mile away are lots of trenches and barbwire entanglements, which must be the front line. The only noise we heard today to remind us that a war was on, was an occasional explosion off in the distance further north, otherwise you would think we were on a picnic.
No officers have been here as yet. We have no instructions. We just stay here, keeping a man on guard all the time, looking out thru the holes in the wall down toward the front line. As soon as it gets darker, we will all stand-to and dig our gun emplacement a little deeper outside the wall. Good night, Mother Dear, God bless you.

CHARLES.

Tuesday, July 23, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
The quietness of the other day was only a lull before the storm. For the past two days they have been throwing shells back and forth at each other. Some of the shells from the Germans landed right in the cemetery, smashing many of the tombstones to pieces. It seems as if they want to kill the French dead and buried here a second time. I think the reason they take shots at the cemetery is because they figure that it might be used for an observation post. For every shell that they send over, our artillery sends back at least five. There is plenty of firing going on further up the line and it looks as if an advance might be on the program. They ought to do something down here, because it's been like this for the last two years.

The Lieutenant came over yesterday and took me to the other positions of the other squads. The four squads are stretched out for about a mile and a half. Word got around that my squad was in the cemetery, and the fellows were kidding us about whether the ghosts come up out of the graves at night or not. I told them about Purcell having a date with Louise almost every night. It's funny how we sit around on the graves and eat and wash and shave right on the tombstones. The relatives of these dead would be shocked if they could see us.

The Lieutenant told me to go over to Corporal Hendrickson and Jansen at their positions, and instruct the men on aerial gunnery which the four of us learned about last week. When I got back to my position last night, it was dark and I couldn't write any. We have to stay in darkness up here, I miss my old candle at night, but if I should light it here, I'm afraid the Germans would throw a barrage over on us.

They had some food saved for me which they got from the Infantry kitchen about a mile and a half up the road, instead of taking the long walk to our own kitchen. We dug our gun emplacement deeper last night so that the barrel of the gun just clears the top. This gives us more protection.

One of our sergeants was given a commission as second lieutenant and sent back to the United States as instructor. Hurrah! But I do wish he could have stuck around a little longer. We were all very anxious to see just how tough he would be when we got into some real excitement. They say that every time a shell exploded he would jump into the air and take a dive for the nearest ditch and hug the ground, scared to death. I like to see these tough guys whimpering like babies as soon as the Germans start throwing shells across.

The bunks are nice and soft, with leaves under our shelter-halves as mattresses, but we haven't had much sleep on account of the noise of the artillery and the aeroplanes flying overhead almost all night long. They go out on bombing raids. It rained all day, and we were lucky to have this shelter over us or we would have been soaked.

The Major came up this afternoon and looked over our gun emplacement outside the wall. We never go out there in daylight because we can be seen by the Germans. The Major walked all around the place as if he were miles behind the lines. When the Germans see us, they do not fire at us right away. They dope out the range and their artillery get instructions to lay down a few on us. This will probably happen tonight. It always does, after the officer leaves. He didn't approve of the emplacement being in that position, and told me, as soon as it became dark, to dig another one farther over, about fifty feet. We are waiting for it to get dark so we can get at it.

It's a great life, this army life, if you can stick it out. There are more bosses telling you what to do, and the funny part is that everyone wants it done in a different way. Well, Mother Dear, it's time for stand-to and the digging. Good night.
CHARLES.

Friday, JU1y 26, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
We must all have charmed lives in my squad, for how we ever escaped being hit is beyond me. The cemetery is a wreck and the ground all around us is full of holes and reminds me of the comb that the bees make honey in. Everybody feels nervous and we sure will be glad when we get out of here.

We finished the new gun emplacement. Yesterday, our Captain and Lieutenant came over and criticized the square front and told me to have it rounded off, and to face it more to the right flank, so that we can put over an infilade fire, should it be necessary.

There has been a dreadful stench around here for the past two days and we thought it was some of the dead that the German shells had ripped open, here in the cemetery, but it was from a half dozen horses from the artillery outfit back of us. They were bringing up ammunition the other night, and a German shell made a direct hit on one of the limbers, exploding shells, and killing the horses and men, and spattering guts everywhere. What a mess! The gentle wind from the west has been wafting the aroma down here to us and it sure smells terrible.

The roads around us here are camouflaged with high screens made of long poles with twigs and leaves wound through the netting. From where the Germans are, it must look like the surrounding country and covers the road completely. The only way the enemy can tell there is a road is from the photographs the aeroplanes take.

I had to take a trip over to the other positions and signaled back to them so that the extreme right of the traverse could be determined to avoid shooting into each other. There are lots of rumors that our Division moves from here soon. Some say that we are going to be sent to Cuba, others say the Philippines, and others say we are going to a more active front. Why don't they make this an active front, instead of going thru some more torture of hiking to another front ?

We had a good feed of flap-jacks and syrup sent up to us this morning, just the way you make them at home. The Infantry kitchen has a good cook, I wish he was with our outfit.

Almost every morning this week, three French aeroplanes have been circling above the German lines, on observation duty only. The German anti-aircraft guns opened up, and the sky become full of the exploding shells and the black shrapnel-puffballs, as I call them-drive them back all the time. The shells ex-plode nearer and nearer to them as they race across the sky but never hit them, always eluding the finger-tips of some giant hand of death, it seems. It certainly is exciting watching them.

The Germans must have wasted thousands of dollars in ammunition on these three planes. They maneuvered around for two hours, and then returned to their base. This morning, nine French planes went over and with all the shells sent up at them, not one was hit. Well, Mother Dear, I guess I'll close, it's get-ting dark, and we are going out to work some more on our emplacement.
CHARLES.

Saturday, July 27, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

It has been raining all day. The life here in the cemetery is bad enough on good days, but when the weather is not so good, you get the willys.

Sergeant McGarthy, the Brooklyn policeman, came over this morning and I spent two hours talking to him and showing him how to use the prismatic compass and the different things we learned at the school recently.

The Infantry kitchen sent us up a plum pie this noon, three-inches thick, and it certainly was good. Our Greek Mess Sergeant never sends up anything like that.
Last night, I cut my hand pretty badly on the sheet metal we were using to rivet the gun emplacement with, and had the medical man fix it up properly this afternoon) I only had a bandage on it from my first -aid kit.

Sergeant Holms, of our outfit, leaves tomorrow morning for an officers' training camp-a three months' course. He came over to say goodby. He's a fine fellow, and will make a good officer, and deserves to get out of this mess. Lucky fellow! He's the one who had his pack hit by a German shell up on the Somme front.

The Lieutenant came over and inspected the gun emplacement we have been working on and it is now satisfactory. Thank goodness! He told us to get our ammunition in order, as we are going to put over a little barrage tonight about ten. The days are going rapidly and I wonder how long it is going to last. Oh, how I wish I was back home again! CHARLES.

Sunday, July 28, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
The Lieutenant came over last night, and about ten-thirty we started to shoot over to the German lines at seventeen-hundred-and-fifty meters' range. We would shoot fifty shots and then stop for a minute. After shooting for about fifteen minutes-whiz bang! -over came shell after shell, landing right into the cemetery. They certainly did wreck it completely last night. How the French people will ever be able to identify these graves after the war is beyond me.

The Germans know we are here, and we are in for it now as long as we stay here. It's good our gun emplacement was dug deeply, for it protected us from the flying-shell fragments. We kept right on shooting. The German artillery became tired and finally stopped shooting, but today, a half-dozen German planes were flying back and forth over our heads, making pictures probably of the damage they did to the cemetery, and trying to locate us. We kept out of sight.

The Lieutenant brought up a new man for the 8th squad from the 37th Division, which he said they have broken up to fill up other outfits. This new man is a fine type from the State of Mississippi.

Four years ago today this war started with Austria declaring war on Serbia, because one Austrian was killed by a crazy Serbian and Millions of men have been slaughtered since then, and maybe millions more before it ends. Was that one life worth all this slaughter? It sure is silly when you think of it.

This afternoon I was told to locate the fifth and sixth squads over on our right. I discovered that their extreme range of fire to the left was shooting right into my position over at the cemetery a mile and a half away. We changed the firing-post for the extreme left of fire, so they would clear us, in case any firing had to be done in that direction, which would only be should the whole Germany army try to march thru there. We would shoot into them from both flanks then. If they knew that there was such a great gap in between our positions, they could march right thru all the way to Paris on a dark night. It's surprising that they haven't found it out yet, because the lines have been just as they are now for almost two years.

They say, when our Division first came down here, that the French soldiers became sore because our Infantry took shots at some German soldiers who were walking about off in the distance. The French soldiers used to walk about also in broad daylight, and neither side shot at each other. This was supposed to be a peaceful front, a sort of rest for soldiers who had been on some other and more active front. This front was a rest-but no more! Bang! The artillery is starting in again! Looks like some more nerve-wracking noise tonight! It's getting dark, Mother Dear, so will close. God bless you.
CHARLES.

Monday, JULY 29, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

I received three letters today and they sure did cheer me up. After the dreary weather we have been having, letters are like sunshine to cheer up homesick soldiers. But, please Mother, do not send me any more money, I have all I need. It's just like you to do such a wonderful thing when you haven't much yourself. Do you think I can spend this money without having a guilty conscience when I think how you have to work for it back at the bakery? They only pay you fifteen a week, don't they, and for all those long hours that you have to work? It's a shame! So I really cannot take this money and am sending it back to you.

Tell the man at the post office that your son is now a Corporal, and makes more than a dollar a day, and pretty soon, he will be a full-fledged Sergeant and then get more. So don't you worry about me, Mother Dear! I have all that I need. There isn't much chance to spend any money where we are, anyhow.

Last night, out of a clear sky, one of my teeth started to pain and I suffered all night long with it, and this morning my face was swollen. When the Lieutenant came along, he told me to start down the road until I came to Battalion Headquarters and to ask for the dentist. I walked and walked for three hours until I finally got to it.

The dentist took one look at it, reached for a pair of pliers, gave a quick yank, and before you could say, "Jack Rabbit!" it was out, and I was on my way back to the line. He didn't use anything to deaden the pain, no antiseptic, nothing at all. I think his name is Goldberg-Doctor Goldberg-and, because he has a college degree of doctor, they made a Second Lieutenant out of him. He is my superior officer and, of course, I could say nothing. I hope I meet this bird some time after the war, in New York. I'll throw a brick thru his window. The way he went at it was something brutal. Privates to him are just so much dirt. He was having a good time kidding around with some other officers, and I suppose it was annoying to be interrupted by a soldier with a toothache. That's the way it is in this army!

When I got back to my squad, I found two former members of the Texas Rangers there. They were part of the 37th Division, which is being used to replace vacancies in other outfits. They were two rough-and- ready fellows, and I expected them to start to shoot up our place any minute. Were they blood thirsty? They wouldn't be satisfied until they had the Kaiser's throat in their hands, squeezing it until his eyes popped out of his head. I said, "That's strong language, Buddy!" After I said that, I expected a fight to start, but I suppose they were surprised that any one of us would dare to say anything like that. I asked them what they were doing up here, and one said they were told to report to the 308th Infantry. I directed them how to get to the Company Headquarters and they went on their way.

Tonight when it gets dark, those chaps will be escorted up to the line and get all the action they claim to be looking for. Neither one of them has been under artillery fire as yet. I would like to be around when they get their baptism. When they first came up to our position at the cemetery, while I was away, one of them asked, "What you all havin' here, a picnic? I thought there was a war on. This ain't no way to end it." In that last statement of his, he was right. I'm wondering, too, how it is ever going to end, the way we have been hanging around this peaceful front down here for over a month now.

Dinola, the Italian fellow, in my squad, has us laughing, imitating the Texas Rangers, "Wot you all havin' here, picnic?" He has a slight Italian accent and sure is a funny fellow. Well, Mother Dear, it's getting dark, and we'll have to stand-to soon.
CHARLES.


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