5. The Vesle



L. Wardlaw Miles

Chapter 5
The Vesle


The Vesle

THE usual soldier in the A. E. F. knew little of the War beyond his immediate surroundings. Even when not in danger, his life was a constantly busy and exacting one. For these reasons it is probable that the dates of June 1st and July 18th, if remembered at all by the individual member of the 308th Infantry, will be remembered in connection with some personal experience in Flanders and Lorraine rather than with the stand of the Americans at Chateau-Thierry and the subsequent blow delivered by Americans and French which struck the west side of the Crown Prince's salient then threatening Paris. Yet some news of these larger happenings did reach us. In the little second-story room of Regimental Headquarters facing the quiet town square of Neuf Maisons, Colonel Averill assembled such of the officers as could be reached and announced the good news, adding: "Gentlemen, this is the beginning of the end. The Boche is through! " An unsubstantiated but credible report declares the Colonel to have received the news with a characteristic introductory expression, adding, "I knew all along our boys would give them Hell!"

Such news did doubtless exercise a certain effect on the Regiment's morale. As we marched back from the foothills of the Vosges, through the shattered little Lorraine villages, we could know if we stopped to think, which usually we did not have time to do-that our part in the big drama was advancing rapidly. The prologue had been the training with the British, the first act, the Lorraine sector. Now arose the inevitable speculations, accompanying movement from one area to another, as to the scene on which the curtain would next rise.

Near Rozelieures, with its twelfth century church, close beneath which clustered the usual red roofs, the 3rd Battalion enjoyed some training in open order formations. Here the men that understood French heard from the lips of the village fathers how Napoleon had won a bloody battle in the streets in defense of the famous Trouee de Charmes. And here too arrived mail from home.

On this march from the Vosges each battalion again had its own transport, and the entraining at Charmes on August 7th was accomplished in record time. The first sealed orders given to the regimental or battalion officers in command of trains showed Hesdin near Montdidier as the detraining point, but the general skepticism prevailing is well reflected in Major Chinner's diary of this date: "Having heard of these camouflaged orders before, we are not betting any too freely on that being our destination." As a matter of fact, it was upon arrival at La Ferte Gaucher, in the Marne country about forty miles east of Paris and twenty south of Chateau-Thierry, that train commanders received, on the afternoon of the 8th, Divisional Orders to detrain and march their commands to the area near Jouy sur Morin, where Regimental and Brigade Headquarters had been already established. At La Ferte Gaucher some of the Regiment saw for the first time a hospital train loaded with American wounded. British and French hospital trains we all had seen before. We did not know that in eight days many of us would be returning ourselves from the Vesle to the hospital trains at Chateau-Thierry; nor did we know that even while we were detraining the English, Canadians, and Australians were breaking through between Albert and Nareuil. It was August 8, 1918, which was to be later described by General Ludendorff as "the black day of the German army in the history of the War."


Next day equipment was checked up. Officers of the Regimental and Battalion Staffs and Company Commanders were ordered to Brigade Headquarters at Jouy where General Johnson gave instructions on open warfare in general and the correct methods of suppressing enemy machine gun nests in particular. The men found the rest very welcome after more than a week of travel, but as usual it was soon over. Between 2 and 3 o'clock on the hot afternoon of the 10th, the whole Regiment took busses near Jouy to begin a memorable journey toward the front. Each one of the long column of light blue carnions held 16 men and their packs and was driven by a skillful brown Annamite driver. The road lay through beautiful and historic country that had been fought over again and again in the history of France. Crossing the Petit Morin, it traversed the area where the British had retreated during the first battle of the Marne. At this little river the Highland Light Infantryl with whom our 2nd Battalion was brigaded in Flanders' had four years earlier struggled desperately to help check the first great German drive of 194.

At Chezy the camions crossed the Marne and followed the right bank of the river to Chateau-Thierry. Here two months earlier had fought our own 2nd and 3rd Divisions. On all sides appeared evidences of the high water mark left by the recently ebbed tide of the Crown Prince's army; and just as high water leaves its mark along a wall, so the sides of the houses showed the line where the machine gun bullets had played. The town was still full of German signs of various military character with the names of the streets in German. From Chateau-Thierry we started north. In addition to the shattered buildings, the shell holes, some of huge dimension, were particularly impressive. And the dust. No one will probably dispute the entry in one diary: "This ride will be long remembered because of the great quantities of dust which each member of the Division consumed."

Early in the evening the Regiment debussed near the little city of Fere-en-Tardenois, which like everything seen that day had been heavily shelled. Then a march to the woods west of the town where all hands were soon asleep.

According to Major Chinner's diary: "The woods in which we moved late at night were found to be full of dead horses and some Huns. " Proportions differed doubtless in different parts of the woods. Many other evidences of the recent German occupation were at hand. In a house in Fere-en-Tardenois the writer picked up a copy of a recent issue of "Fliegende Blatter" and, on a field near our encampment, a spotless sheet of one of Beethoven's symphonies. A stray newspaper recounted instances of brutal cruelty shown by American officers. About the fields unexploded gas shells lay in dangerous profusion. Elsewhere were quantities of regularly stacked shells which the enemy had not had time to carry away. On the fringe of the woods lay skillfully built pits for the light German machine guns that had cost our troops so many lives. Large stores of bottled mineral water proved a welcome find.

On August 11th, battalion practice in open order formations provided some admirable training, although this was for some of us unfortunately the first and only Occasion of the kind. On the same day a reconnaissance Of the position to be taken by the Regiment in the Dole Woods, about four kilometers to the north, was made by General Johnson, Colonel Averill, Major Budd, and an officer from each company of the 2nd Battalion. Next morning at dawn 2nd Battalion Headquarters with E and F Companies marched to this new position in the Dole woods. G and H following later arrived at. 5:30 P.m. As the transport was still en route from Jouy sur .Morin the Battalion had no wagons, but fortunately through Battalion Adjutant Lieutenant Kidde's efforts several were borrowed from a detachment of French troops nearby.

At 6:30 P.m., August 12th, Major Budd received from Major Richardson, Division Machine Gun Officer, a copy of the Division Order to the Commanding General, 154th Brigade (Time 3:30 P.m., Division Headquarters) instructing him to report to the Commanding General, I53rd Brigade, and to move his Battalion to Ville Savoye, some seven kilometers ahead by 10 o'clock that night. The Battalion had just settled down according to platoon positions, packs had been unrolled, and suppers started, when the unexpected order arrived in the Dole woods. Major Budd and the four Company Commanders, McMurtry, Kiefer, Bush and Kane, at once started in General Wittemneyer's car to report to him at Chery Chartreuve. The general designated Colonel Winnia of the 305th Infantry to guide the officers on foot over the five kilometers of road, which led through Mont St. Martin to Ville Savoye. The officers accordingly preceded the 2nd Battalion which was left in command of Lieutenant Griffiths. Considerable gas lurked in and about Mont St. Martin, a timely warning, if the visitors had known it, of what was to come later. Lieutenant Bush's bad knee compelled him to stop, but in the gathering dusk the Battalion Commander and the other three Company Commanders descended for the first time that steep and memorable slope which led to the little town of Ville Savoye, invariably called by the members of the 308th " Villa-Savoy. "

Now for the first time they saw from the slope above the town the valley of the Vesle stretching to east and west, and now they made observation of the commanding heights to the north held by the Germans and for some time prepared by them as their first strong line of resistance in case of a withdrawal. There still lay unburied dead of the 4th Division Infantry both in the path above Ville Savoye and in the town itself-grim witnesses who being dead yet spoke of the difficulties of the position.

The officers with some difficulty located the units of the 305th to be relieved, and then awaited the arrival of their companies. Meanwhile the shelling with high explosives and gas of Ville Savoye and of the cross roads at Chery Chartreuve and Mont St. Martin began about 8:30 P.m. At 10 P.m. appeared the head of the Battalion in single file, at five paces interval, with Lieutenant Griffiths and the Battalion scouts in the lead. Shelling continued until about 11:30 P.m., and it was some time after that before the 2nd Battalion finally settled for the night in positions on the support line.

This support position on the Red Line (later we learned how appropriate was the color!) was destined to become distressingly familiar to members of the Regiment during the next two weeks. Although this line was about two and a half kilometers from the front positions north of the Vesle, it was subjected like the town of Ville Savoye itself to constant and accurate shelling. It is true that the funk holes once reached afforded a protection from high explosive shells other than direct hits; but besides the possibility of a direct hit, there was also the constant menace of gas. Meanwhile the company kitchens were brought up and placed in positions which seemed comparatively safe. The danger from the smoke of the kitchens was made as small as possible, and the hot meals proved of great comfort in the introduction to this very active sector.

The 2nd Battalion suffered a number of casualties in taking up its first position. Others followed. The American batteries stationed behind the infantry continued firing day and night. Late on the afternoon of the 13th, the enemy fire became particularly heavy and accurate. A battery just behind Company H was silenced by a direct hit. On the following day the reconnaissance, made by the Battalion Commander and other Battalion Officers, was complimented by receiving the individual attention of several of the enemy's 77's. On this night came the order for our 2nd Battalion to relieve the 3rd Battalion of the 305th Infantry at the front, two companies, E and F, to take the position north of the Vesle River and two companies, G and H, to be held south of the river in support. Heavy shelling covered Mont St. Martin, and as the terrain from this point forward was without any shelter whatever, the result was very bad. Those troops which did succeed in reaching the neighborhood of Ville Savoye found the town and the whole of the river valley drenched with gas so that it was necessary for all to put on masks. The fact that some of the 305th guides had difficulty in finding their way caused additional trouble.

The Battalion Commanders of the 305th Infantry decided to leave their battalions in position as the whole of the relief had not been completed. Two companies effected the relief that night and the other two, together with Company D of the 306th Machine Gun Battalion, on the following night, August 15th. At this time the enemy subjected the 2nd Battalion to an even more severe gas bombardment than that of the three previous nights. The gas casualties proved less severe in companies E and F, on the railroad and north of the railroad across the river, than in the support companies, G and H near Ville Savoye. Battalion Headquarters in the town and H Company just south of it suffered most severely. It was necessary to move the Headquarters three times on account of the gas concentration.

The designated position, calling for two companies north of the Vesle and two companies near Ville Savoye, was taken over by the 2nd Battalion from two battalions of the 305th Infantry, and by them in turn from a Regiment of the 4th Division. From a military standpoint, the situation was a difficult and unusual one. One platoon of G Company was on the railroad to the south of Chateau du Diable and a liaison patrol of F at the Tannery near Fismes. Captain McMurtry with E Company along the railroad cut, and Lieutenant Kiefer with F Company at the ChAteau du Diable and in the woods nearby, had to resist enemy attacks from the north and east. The Germans held a strong machine gun position at the crossing of the railroad and the Soissons-Rheims road. Thus they were able to enfilade most of the railroad track with machine gun fire from both the east and the west. Enemy machine guns in Bazoches, west -of the 308th's sector, also commanded our positions while his artillery held excellent positions on the more elevated north side of the Vesle River. The stream itself was full of barbed wire and at all points known at the time unfordable. A heavy log with a hand rail allowing one man to cross at a time was used.

The orders received by the 308th on taking the position stated that it was "to hold the bridge head," but there was no road leading to a bridge nor any bridge or the remnants of any. Finding then that but two companies were on the far side of an unfordable stream; finding no bridge head to hold as ordered; and believing the losses of the leading battalion unnecessary, Colonel Averill reported these facts, requesting a rectification of the line as the position had at that time become purely a defensive or holding one.

Colonel Averill. was now relieved on August 17th from command of the Regiment and transferred to the 3rd Division, not to rejoin us till after the Armistice. The justice and wisdom of this action, which, as in other similar cases at the time, was taken without allowing the victim the satisfaction of an investigation, is to be questioned. He was succeeded by Colonel A. F. Prescott.

An unfortunate and apparently entirely erroneous impression existed at Division and Brigade Headquarters, and therefore probably at Corps and Army Headquarters, that the American line in question ran from the Chateau du Diable eastward along the Soissons-Rheims highway to the point where this highway crossed the railroad. There is no evidence that this line was ever held for an appreciable time by American troops. It is a matter of record, however, that the 305th Infantry took over the exact position held by the 4th Division Regiment which they relieved, and that the 2nd Battalion of our Regiment took over the exact ground held by the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 305th Infantry.

It should be recorded here that during the gruelling days just described when the 2nd Battalion took over and held this first position on the Vesle, Major Budd and every officer and man in the Battalion received all possible help and support from Colonel Averill, Captain Lindley, the Regimental Adjutant, and Captain Whittlesey, the Operations Officer. The splendid spirit of the Regiment was further cemented by this strong cooperation.

The company which had suffered most severely, both advancing to its new position and subsequently holding it, was H. Of the 196 men estimated in the Company at the beginning of August there were by the night of the 15th just six left, including First Sergeant Raffo. All the rest had been evacuated as gas or wound casualties, or were lying helpless in the aid station as a result of gas. Lieutenant Kane's eyes, like those of many others, gradually closed until in the afternoon he could not see at all. (Not a necessarily painful symptom, but from the military point of view, a most inconvenient one.)

On the morning of August 16th, Major Budd, badly gassed, was sent back under protestation by order of the Regimental Surgeon, and Captain McMurtry took command of the 2nd Battalion. The Battalion Headquarters suffered very severely. The single street of the ruined village ran down the exposed slope, a direct target for enemy fire. The men of the rapidly dwindling handful of runners, scouts, and signal detachment who remained did gallant service volunteering to carry canteens to the town pump in the village square and there fill them and bring them back. Direct fire covered every inch of that perilous journey. Nor should the ambulance drivers be forgotten who made the trip down the slope to the dressing station in the square and back up again, carrying the gassed and wounded. Lieutenant Griffiths was badly gassed and almost blind, but continued to handle the message center at Battalion Headquarters. The gas concentration became so impossible that Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, arriving in Ville Savoye on the afternoon of August 16th, ordered the Battalion Headquarters moved from the cellar in the village to the hillside above.

L Company, sent forward on the evening of the 16th to take the place of G, took up a position on the hillside near Battalion Headquarters, about 11:00 P.M. At 3: 00 A.M. this position received a severe shelling. A single explosion killed Lieutenant Gard and mortally wounded Lieutenant Case, of L Company. The following morning, August 17th, there was a pause in the shelling of Ville Savoye and the gas clouds lifted. 2nd Battalion Headquarters was moved back into the cellar at the edge of the town. About 2:00 P.M. the town was treated to a severe shelling, and again the gas clouds covered everything. One bright spot in the chronicle of those dark days is the capture of our first German prisoner by Lieutenant MacDougall, who had succeeded to the command of Company E, at the railroad cut, and who tells the story this way:

It was while holding this position (in the railroad cut across the Vesle River) on August 17th, at 8 P.m. that I, personally, captured the first prisoner credited to the Division. (The 307th claim this distinction erroneously. They claim to have captured the first prisoner of war on August 18th during their attack on Bazoches.) I recall this incident very well. I have the blonde German youth's cigarette case as a souvenir of the occasion. My men, ninety-six was all I had, were standing to," because of the fact that they were so few in numbers it was necessary to place them about twenty feet apart. About 8 o'clock and just at dusk I was attracted to the level of the railroad cut by a rustling in the bushes out in front. Catching a glimpse of a crouching form, and with no time to draw my pistol I grabbed and pulled a very much-terrorized Boche down the side of the cut to the railroad tracks below, assisted by Sergeant Powers. The Division's first prisoner was taken and proved to be the leader of a combat patrol of eight men, some of the number carrying tanks of liquid fire. They retreated when they heard the startling cry of their leader. I recall his wanting to know when he would be shot. After being assured he had twenty minutes to live, he attempted to bribe us by giving valuable information concerning the enemy positions as far as he knew. After stripping him of his gun and equipment, including four hand grenades of the " potato masher " type, one of which he was in the act of getting ready to throw when caught, he was sent to the rear in charge of Sergeant Powers who turned him over to Regimental Headquarters where his story checked up favorably against the Regimental intelligence report.

On the night of August 18th, the 2nd Battalion, commanded by Captain McMurtry, was relieved by the 3rd Battalion, commanded by Major Chinner, and F and E relinquished their positions north of the river to I and K respectively. M was divided with part on the wooded crest northeast of Villesavoye and part in the Tannery. L Company, as already stated, had relieved G two days earlier. It was just before the relief of F Company that Lieutenant Griffiths with a patrol of six men from L, was ordered to get information of the unit on our right, with the parting words of comfort, "Stay until you get it, even if you never come back. " Griffiths did get it and did come back. And for getting it, he also got the D. S. C.

Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion had been having its own troubles on the Red Line to which, like the 2nd, it had marched on the 14th from the woods near Mareuil-en--Dole. Captain Breckinridge commanded the Battalion, the Company Commanders being Captain Harvey, Lieutenant Miles, Captain Fahnestock, and Captain Brooks of A, B, C, and D respectively. The position was taken under shell fire with two casualties in Company B, and fairly constant shelling followed during the next five days. After a mustard gas attack, Lieutenant Morse and forty-eight men were evacuated from B. Captain Fahnestock was sent back with a shrapnel wound in the arm. Direct hits on funk holes accounted for other casualties. On the evening of the 21St, the Battalion Commander and Company Commanders went forward to make reconnaissance, prior to the relief of the 3rd Battalion by the 1st. A runner guided these officers to the new location of Battalion Headquarters, a cave on the road to Ville Savoye. While standing for a few minutes at the entrance to the cave, at about 10 P.m., the group came under direct shell fire. Captain Brooks, Lieutenant Lederle, Adjutant of the 3rd Battalion, Lieutenant Lusk, Gas Officer of the 3rd Battalion, and Lieutenant Graham, Liaison Officer for the Artillery, with two enlisted men, names unknown, were all killed instantly. Lieutenants Adams and Blackwell were wounded, the former severely, and other officers badly shaken up. This event interfered with the reconnaissance, which should have been made to expedite the relief of the 3rd Battalion. It was later in the same evening that the Tannery was completely taken over without casualties by Company M's outpost on the extreme right. This occurred coincidentally with the attack on Bazoches by the 306th Infantry on our left.

It was on this same day of many losses that the Battalion Intelligence Officer at the front tried to get Regimental Headquarters at Chery Chartreuve in order to ask for additional runners.

" Just a minute please," answered Captain Lindley in a low voice. "Call up again; I can't talk to you now. "
A direct hit by a combination high explosive and gas shell had just registered on the Regimental P. C. Pass-ing through the ceiling, it had burst in the office rigged up for the Operations and Intelligence Staff. Corporal Harry A. Goodman, of Brooklyn, a lawyer and formerly employed in the State Department in Washington, was seated at the typewriter on which he had worked so faithfully ever since the days at Upton, and was finishing a field order which had just been dictated to him by Captain Whittlesey. A piece of shrapnel struck him in the groin, almost severing his leg from the trunk. No one knew he was wounded until he was seen crawling along on hands and knees to the dugout in which the telephone switchboard was located; he was rushed to the 307th Field Hospital at Fere-en-Tardenois, but died there immediately. Corporal Rose and two runners from the 37th Division, and Lieutenant Wood, Signal Officer, and Lieutenant Fisher, Munitions Officer, as well as Sergeant-Major Murray, all suffered from gas and shock. Lieutenant Fisher was at the time waiting for the order from Division Headquarters to send him back to the United States as an instructor. Fortunately he was out of the hospital again and in a few days on his way to the port of debarkation.

On a similar though less fatal occasion a few days earlier, the shell-torn house in which the Regimental Band was billeted, also received a hit, and several of the men were wounded though none very severely. It was then that a sudden call on the telephone at Regimental Headquarters announced that "the whole band was lost."

"What?" inquired the Adjutant.

"Yes, every damned instrument has been smashed and Several men wounded! What shall I do? "

For once the ever ready Adjutant was unable to find a satisfactory answer. The idea of replacing a complete set of military band instruments at that place and time had a humorous suggestion absent from most of the experiences of the period.

Severe as were the losses of the 308th on the 21st of August, those of the next day were to prove even heavier. After the shelling in which Captain Brooks and the others were killed, there was comparative quiet until about 3: 30 A.M. Then about dawn came a particularly severe barrage of high explosives without gas, followed in about twenty minutes by attacks on Companies I and K in their positions north of the river. Fierce fighting at close quarters followed immediately for the men in I. The solitary German who got through K Company's fire of rifles, chauchats, and hand grenades, was killed by Private Spinella, who, it is said, first used the butt of his own chauchat and then finished with the enemy's bayonet. Company I, as was later learned from prisoners, was attacked by four companies of Baden troops accompanied by a detachment of pioneers with flame-throwers. These flamenwerfer did considerable damage, though it is supposed that all belonging to this command were killed by the men of I Company with the exception of those who were burned to death by their own hands through getting the nozzles of their machines entangled in the heavy underbrush of the swamp.

The engagement on August 22nd of Company I, under Captain Harrington, and of Company K, under Captain Frothingham, in their positions beyond the Vesle was one of the severest experienced by the 308th Infantry.
The following vivid account of Company I's engagement is furnished by Lieutenant Langstaff of the 4th platoon:

The fight grew hotter especially in our rear, I called in Sergeant Riley's post, because it was too far away to control. I sent runners to Lieutenant Fowler, only one of whom returned with news that he was safe and putting up a hard fight on his front. Men straggled in from the 3rd platoon and reported that it had been split by the enemy in overwhelming numbers and had fallen back on the 4th and 2nd platoons. Lieutenant Galligan joined Lieutenant Fowler.

Many a brave deed was done that day. Acting Corporal Stein, a New York ladies' hat manufacturer, saved his platoon at one time by rushing out alone to an extreme flank with a chauchat and putting out of commission a Boche machine gun that was about to enfilade Lieutenant Fowler's line. Private Bologna, a New York bootblack, covered the retirement of Sergeant Riley's post, turning and firing his chauchat from his shoulder, mowing down a file of Germans pursuing his detail along a narrow pathway. Private Comarelli, a day laborer, insisted on keeping up fire from the path over my dugout, although four little red spots on his buttocks showed that a machine gun bullet had threaded its way in and out of him four times. Only rough handling could get him up to have his wounds dressed. My own striker, Private Arzano, a candy maker at home, was sent out with Private Ward to find men of the 3rd who were crying out down in the valley somewhere. An enemy machine gun did for Danny Ward, splendid fellow that he was, and caught Arzano three times in the right shoulder. As soon as he reported back, I ordered his wound dressed for fear of infection of the joint. He would have none of it till he had killed a couple of Huns. When it was dressed he refused to leave me. Sergeants Carter and Riley did wonderful work tearing about encouraging their men and engineering a coup whereby we annihilated a platoon of Boches marching over an open field in platoon front formation, with rifles slung.

Then word came that the first platoon with Lieutenant Morey had been overwhelmed and captured. Smiling little Connell had been overlooked under the dirt of a caved-in trench and wire, and scrambled out later, and made a record sprint from his pursuers to Company Headquarters. So much for our poor right flank. Word came from Captain Frothingham (of K) that he was retiring to the Vesle to prevent the Germans from cutting him off. So much for our left flank. We could hear firing in our rear, as well as in our midst. So much for our rear.

Captain Harrington repeatedly called on Battalion Headquarters, but as I said before, Battalion Headquarters and Company L were too far away to be of much service to us in our predicament. There seemed no help for it but to fight our way back to the Vesle, and keep our enemies in front of us only.

In the meantime, Company K was also vigorously engaged. Although the liquid fire was used less upon it, one jet penetrated the shelter which housed Company Headquarters. Private Van Duzer, who was on liaison duty, received severe burns about the face and body. To quote from an account by Sergeant Arthur Robb:

Van Duzer's life was saved by Private Rosenthal of I Company, who threw him into a pool of water, but Van Duzer's thoughts were not of his own life.

Without helmet or gas mask, hatless and coatless, his face already blistering from the flame, he made his way through the woods to K Company's Headquarters to tell Captain Frothingham that I Company, though badly cut up, was still holding the line. He was barely able to deliver the message and Captain Frothingham. ordered instant first aid, despite the fact that his own posts had suffered heavily during the barrage. Wound in endless thicknesses of gauze, Van Duzer started back through the woods toward the aid station in Villesavoye, but was gone only a moment when he came back breathless:

"Captain," he gasped, "there's a dozen Dutchmen in the woods back of you!"

"We'll get them," was the laconic reply, and the words were scarcely spoken before Lieutenant Robinson and four men crossed the tracks and climbed the bank into the woods, without waiting for orders. Van Duzer ran with them and indicated where the Germans had been.

Private Henry Lang, who was one of the party, speaks German and raised his voice in a call to surrender, which was answered by the appearance of a young Boche who wanted to know whether he would be killed. He was assured that Americans don't kill prisoners, and disclosed the fact that several of his comrade were in the woods. They were found and marched to the railroad track in their favorite "Kamerad" attitude, led by a sergeant-major, who disclosed the fact that the attack had been made by a battalion, with orders to drive the American outposts beyond the Vesle River before 4: 45 A.M. It was a regular raiding party, equipped with light machine guns, hand grenades and flame-throwers. All the prisoners had been told that capture by the Americans meant instant death, and in their gratitude at being spared, they turned out their pockets, furnishing an abundance of souvenirs, among which was a large package of British cigarettes.

Reinforcements arrived from Company L about this time, after a nerve-wracking trip through Ville Savoye in which two men were injured by shell fire, and the prisoners were sent back to Headquarters and the wounded evacuated.

Sergeant Reusse, one of the few remaining noncommissioned officers of Company K, was killed during the barrage. He was the only man hit in his section of the line, but the platoons on the right and left, as well as the platoon from Company C of the 306th Machine Gun Battalion, suffered severe losses, several men being mortally wounded. About thirty of the seventy-nine effectives of Company K were evacuated with more or less serious hurts.

Later in the day both Companies I and K were again suddenly enfiladed from the flanks. They then fell back to the river bank some one hundred and fifty yards in the rear. About eight o'clock Company A under Captain Harvey took over the sector of both I and K. I and K then withdrew to the ravine near Ville Savoye and awaited orders.


Meanwhile, back in the support line, came news that the 3rd Battalion companies at the front had been forced back across the Vesle. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon Captain Breckinridge reported at Division Headquarters, according to orders, where General Johnson outlined a plan of bombing attack along the railroad. Captain Breckinridge drew attention to the fact that his Battalion had only about four hundred effectives left, that they had been under continuous and severe shell fire for a period of eight days, had suffered heavy casualties from gas and sickness, were without hand grenades or rifle grenades, and with no signal apparatus or pyrotechnics; further that half of the officers had been lost through death, wounds, transfer or sickness. He suggested that an attack in the nature described should in his opinion be made by at least a thousand fresh men. Captain Breckinridge then went to Brigade Headquarters, where he received a telephone message saying that the orders had been changed and that he should wait at Brigade Headquarters until 6 o'clock, when Colonel Houghton, Division Machine Gun Officer, would meet him to go over the situation as changed. At that hour Colonel Houghton outlined the new plan of attack. This was to take place at midnight.

Captain Breckinridge got back to the support position between 9 and 10 P.m. and called the officers of the Battalion together. Their instructions were outlined and they were directed to mobilize their companies and start for Ville Savoye, picking up on the way certain guides at the old German hangars, west of Mont St. Martin. About ii o'clock a telephone message from Lieutenant-Colonel Smith countermanded all previous orders and said nothing was to be done until the receipt of further ones. The companies then stood fast until I A.M. (of the 23rd) when word was received that the original orders of the previous afternoon were reinstated and that the Battalion Commander would proceed to operate under them. The lack of hand grenades and other equipment was again pointed out, and Captain Breckinridge explained that his Battalion was disposed over two kilometers of front, and that it would be impossible in his opinion to give the orders to company officers, mobilize the troops, march them three or four kilometers, and dispose them again over so wide a front while making attack over unknown terrain in less than five hours time. The orders were however issued, Colonel Prescott agreeing to attempt to delay the barrage for one hour, that is from 3:17 to 4:17 A.M.

Desperate efforts were made to keep up with this new schedule. Inevitable confusion and delay, however, accompanied the moving out. The scouts had to be returned to their companies because there was no Scout Officer to look after them. It was after 3:30 when the advance companies reached the crossroads in the fields south of the hangars. Lieutenant Lewis, Adjutant of the 1st Battalion, crawled into a ditch and wriggling under a foot bridge, used an opportune telephone station to notify Regimental Headquarters that it would be absolutely impossible to make the attack on scheduled time.

"Tell Breckinridge to do the best he can," telephoned back Colonel Smith. And that was what theist Battalion did-the best that any troops could do in the chaotic circumstances.
The experience of the writer, as Commander of Company B, may be taken as more or less typical of the general perplexities and difficulties of the situation-the sort of thing which taught the innocent novice that war was a business no less messy than murderous. According to the orders, one platoon of the company was to attack across the Vesle at the Tannery as soon as the barrage lifted. On receipt of the order I sent this platoon off under Lieutenant Ginter. A little later came another order delaying the barrage one-hour. Immediately I sent runners forward to catch Ginter and notify him of the change. They returned having failed to reach him. I proceeded in person to the front, leaving the company under command of Lieutenant Sewall. It was now my fear that Ginter would make his attack at the earlier hour and therefore without help from either barrage or other attacking forces. I finally reached him near the front and found to my great relief that he had not yet started. He, on his part, apologized for the fact that he had lost some of his platoon in the darkness, and thus had not been able to advance at the scheduled time. I told him of the changed hour of attack, and then re-turned to the rest of B Company. As a matter of fact when Ginter did attack at the postponed hour, he did so with neither barrage support nor support from the other companies, since these had not yet arrived at the front.

It was an hour before the rest of the attack that Ginter carried out his orders. With the half of the platoon, which remained with him, he plunged into the Vesle and made his way across. In the mist on the other bank they saw some figures. Supposing these to be members of Company C engaged in the attack, they called out to them. A volley of fire was the answer. Ginter with a detachment of ten men had run right into a superior number of the enemy and though they fought as best they could with rifles and chauchats, which had suffered in the crossing of the river, they were soon dispersed, being either captured, wounded or killed. Sergeant Kimball and several others were lost in this attack. It was not till three months later that while lying in the hospital in Paris I chanced to see in the newspaper that Ginter was still living. He and four of the men had been captured and taken to a German prison camp. 11 Some forty-five men in all had made the attack with Ginter and of these only six apparently survived. Private Sugarman, after lying wounded between the lines for five days, finally worked his way back to the Americans.

To return now to the other companies. One platoon of C Company, under Lieutenant Schenck, became confused in the darkness while making its way through Ville Savoye to attack across the Vesle and then if possible to extend up the railroad track to the east, and connect with B Company at the Tannery. A detachment from this platoon took refuge in the cellar of the ruined church, while the Sergeant in command tried vainly to get in touch with some one from the company. Lieutenant Sheridan, however, took two platoons from C Company and decided to carry out his orders regardless of whether the rest of the company was in position to attack. With the assistance of Captain Harvey and the A Company men, who had been sent forward the day before to rein-force the 3rd Battalion, Sheridan went ahead. He is said to have turned and to have remarked in characteristic fashion to some one near him, "Well, I expect this is going to be a real Irish Wake." He fought his way nearly to the railroad track and then fell mortally wounded by machine gun bullets to die a few hours later. The losses of the attacking party now became so heavy that Captain Harvey again retired to the south side of the river. D Company under Lieutenant Knight, although late in arriving at the scene of the attack, had managed to keep all four platoons together, and in broad daylight, more than two hours after the barrage had started across the valley, began its advance toward the objective on the extreme left of the attacking line.

Captain Breckinridge established his Battalion P. C. on the slope south of Ville Savoye. At 8: 30 A.M., orders came from Colonel Prescott putting Major Chinner in command of the operation. Lieutenant-Colonel Smith came up to the P. C. to take supervision of the entire outpost zone, including both battalions. Major Chinner and Captain Breckinridge then went down to the river to direct the attack personally. There were many casualties from machine gun fire and whizzbang barrages, which raked the marshes along the river. Fighting continued all day. By nightfall practically all of the ground had been regained and our outpost line was nearly back in its original position. More than one hundred casualties had been cared for in the dressing station at the cave. Carrying the wounded to this point under direct observation from the enemy provided a difficult task, and it was while acting as stretcher bearers that several of the finest soldiers in the Battalion were wounded. Lieutenant Feldman, Medical Officer in charge at the cave, was much handicapped by lack of bandages and dressings. After dark, ambulances ran up from Mont St. Martin to fetch the severely wounded.

During the night, the line was pushed still further across the railroad. Combat troops were stationed in the direction of the crossroads, and also in the direction of Chateau du Diable and the northerly and westerly borders of the woods in which the Chateau was situated. The left flank was sharply refused and combat groups were established, commanding the railroad and railroad cut. Through the next two days, the 24th and 25th, the position was held while the troops along the river were subjected to constant surveillance from German aeroplanes and to heavy shell fire. The Battalion P. C. caught some terrific barrages which brought casualties among the runners and signal men. Details for ammunition had of course to cross the open fields to Mont St. Martin. Emergency rations were brought up on the afternoon of the 24th and rushed down to the companies at the forward outpost line. The combination of coffee and canned heat was comforting. Father Halligan and a detail of three men succeeded after several attempts in getting the bodies of Captain Brooks and the others away from the mouth of the cave, and buried them in the side of the hill.

Officers of the 2nd Battalion, 307th Infantry, made a reconnaissance on the 25th, and that night this Battalion marched forward from the Red Line to relieve us. Just as this was being done, an artillery barrage on the slope where the Battalion P. C. was situated, caused the death of three officers and several men of the incoming troops.

At the same time there occurred a heavy thunder shower, and in certain cases, men confused by the claps of thunder and flashes of lightning failed to take cover when shells burst near them.

The 1st Battalion now marched back to the Bois de Pissotte. The command was just beginning to enjoy its first freedom from shell fire, in two weeks, and had devoted some three or four hours to washing and sleeping, when by Regimental Order, it was moved out at an hour's notice to bivouac in the woods near Sergy.

In the preceding pages of this chapter, the attempt has been made to give in comparatively bare narrative form the succession of events, which befell the 308th Infantry while dug in on the Vesle Sector from the 12th to the 25th of August. I do not think that the facts of the situation and the moral to be derived from it could be better stated than in these words of Captain Lewis:

From a tactical point of view, the campaign fought on the Vesle suffers from comparison with the Chateau-Thierry advance which began in July, with the subsequent advance to the Aisne which removed our troops from the valley of the Vesle on September 4th, and with the gigantic operation of driving the Germans from the Forest of Argonne during the four weeks which followed September 26th., Operations along the Vesle from August 4th to Labor Day were not coordinated in the steady forward progress of an offensive; neither is it correct to say that our troops were on the defensive during this period. . . .

As boxers with hands tied behind their backs, absorbing punishment from the fists of their opponents, the battalions on the Vesle had to take over and hold by mere force of physical occupancy positions taken from the Germans, when the Chateau-Thierry drive lost its initial momentum and came to a standstill in the face of determined opposition. They could neither advance nor fall back to improve their positions. The orders were to stick right there. And they obeyed orders and stuck. To anyone who is at all familiar with military fundamentals, it is evident that such a predicament constitutes the most severe and nerve-wracking test for recruit divi-sions made up of troops freshly arrived from the so-called quiet sectors.

Herein is the significance of the Vesle. It brought raw troops up to a full stop as they cracked their helmets against the real thing-modem warfare. Its waters figuratively seethed in a great test tube from which untried troops were cast forth three weeks later, a bit dazed and exhausted, but with their mettle tempered and their morale strengthened. The fibre of the heroic American stuff which stood the final acid test in the Argonne was toughened by subjection to terrible stress on the Vesle. For the first time, weary officers and men realized the relationship between making good and what the British Sergeant-Major in the bayonet class had called "guts." For the first time they were impressed with the violence of artillery warfare with its high explosive shells and its gas shells so effective in rendering a command ineffective, For the first time it was brought home to puzzled minds under mud-stained helmets that fighting the Huns, instead of mean-ing what Tommy Atkins always called a " Push, "-an advance which carried one forward almost automatically in the splen-did impetus of attack,-might mean, and in more instances did mean, existing for days and nights like human prairie dogs; groveling in funk holes which threatened to cave in from the concussion of each recurring shell burst; suffering casualties and being cruelly punished by an unseen enemy five miles away. . . .

On the map it (the Vesle River) is a narrow, crinkly double line, less impressive than the broad black line with red dots to mark the national highway north of it. On the ground . . . it is a muddy, snake-like stream- with varying depth . . . winding slowly a tortuous course through a country that had been wooded before the combined destruction poured forth from Allied and Teuton artillery reduced the trees to sterile gaunt trunks devoid of foliage. In the memory of the men who lived as rabbits in the huge warren which the slopes south of its valley concealed, the Vesle means something more than a river. There they underwent their baptism of fire.
They approached its banks as recruit divisions. A month later these same troops were chosen as veteran divisions to participate in the drive through the Argonne. They had arrived. At the very time of discouragement when they feared that they were being shattered as fighting units, they were, although they did not guess it, finding themselves.'

For those who were present in the period described the actual conditions will be supplied by memory; for others who have not had the experience of similar campaigns, it would be difficult to reproduce them. If Lorraine was a sleepy old lion, who only rarely woke to stretch his claws, the Vesle was some sort of a monster hell-cat which scarcely for a moment ceased to spit and scratch, and whose very breath was death. Hidden in its marshy den, choked with wire and heavy with the stench of the bodies of its earlier victims, the still unburied horses and men, this monster lay at bay; and even the satisfaction of attacking it was denied. It deserved the name universally and affectionately bestowed by the members of the 308th: The Hell Hole of the Vesle.

Perhaps the most significant feature, and certainly one of the most trying, was the shelling. One never knew when this might begin. Other things being equal, it was most likely to occur when the danger from it was greatest, as on the occasion of making reliefs. Once in a funk hole, all danger was removed except that of a direct hit, but there were a number of these, when, of course, the shallow hole in the ground afforded no protection whatever. Ration parties like reliefs suffered particularly from the storm of death which might at any moment burst from a perfectly quiet sky. On the front line the whizzbangs were much in evidence with their particularly loud and shattering detonations. At times troops or individuals became the target for direct fire from 77's, an experience calculated to make the victim feel especially helpless. Incidentally, I imagine that most individuals found shelling much harder to bear when alone than in company with others.

In the shelling both high explosives and gas were employed, but the latter claimed the more victims. Indeed the ever increasing menace and presence of gas was in a way more hateful than the high explosive itself. The gas employed in the barrage of June 22nd, at Badonviller, was mostly chlorine and phosgene, the latter a vile and sweetish stench. On the Vesle, we began also to learn the smell as of rare, ripe onions which distinguished mustard gas. Characteristic of the latter was its comparatively slow action. Men who were unaware that they had been exposed might hours later develop severe burns. Against mustard gas masks, except for the protection of eyes and lungs, were of course useless. Walking through the woods, one might at any moment sniff the presence of this invisible and sinister thing, since little pools of it remained for days in cool damp spots. In the actual valley of the Vesle it lay like an unseen but deadly lake of death, beneath which the silent dwellings of the wretched little town of Ville Savoye stood constantly submerged.

A particularly depressing feature was the smell of the unburied bodies of horses and men, the latter for the most part, former members of the 4th Division. A pleasanter heritage from the same source came in the large amount of discarded equipment and supplies at the front. The tins containing coffee proved particularly welcome. The bodies mentioned attracted innumerable flies, which would settle on anything to eat and collect in vast numbers in the larger funk-holes, cellars, and caves. When disturbed the sound of their buzzing became remarkable. There was considerable dysentery, though, so far as I know, not of a virulent type. The water was doubtless accountable for this, and the flies helped to spread it. The sense of weakness and general wretchedness always produced by this complaint was not accentuated by the constant presence of danger for one's self and one's fellows. To watch the daily tragedy purged the beholder with pity and terror as well as with dysentery. A very real trial for many of the officers lay in their sense of heavy responsibility. The lives of men constantly de-pended on their judgment, and their judgment was necessarily so often faulty. The disposal of a platoon in one position instead of another more wisely chosen a few hundred yards away might result in the loss of numerous lives. And even if you went back wounded to safer regions, this heavy sense of responsibility was not left behind; for in your dreams it was still with you- only more confused, importunate, and unappeased than when you had felt it in waking hours.

In the conditions described, men lived on day after day in a life which for the most part curiously combined exposure to danger with enforced inactivity, for No Man's Land, the unknown country beyond the Vesle, could not be patroled as in Lorraine. Therefore it assumed a still more mysterious and sinister character. One watched the signals which constantly went up by night and vaguely wondered what they meant. Generally the familiar old three green stars dropped slowly down, but at times all sorts of new ones, portentous and vari-colored flares and rockets, went popping along the horizon. At other times, the ominous glare of great unknown fires7-supposedly enemy ammunition dumps set on fire by our own artillery or purposely destroyed before retirement-brightened the whole sky.

The constant warning at all times was " Don't expose yourself," and thus long periods were spent doing nothing at all, lying the while in the funk-holes of white clay (which got into everything including your hair) waiting for something to happen. With relief expected, the time of its arrival became the one inevitable subject of conversation. Hope deferred made the heartsick. When men, long exposed to such a period of strain, fought as did the 3rd Battalion later near the Aisne, it meant real staying power. Conditions on the Vesle were bad, but not bad enough to break the spirit of officers and men of the 308th.

The last two sections of this chapter will be devoted to the time which elapsed before the Division left the Vesle Sector, and in which the advance was made toward the Aisne River. A brief respite came to the Regiment ,at the end of August, when a few days were passed in rest positions back in the Bois de Pisotte and in the Bois d' Anicet near Sergy. Yet even this too was a busy time, filled with much issue of equipment, drill and trench digging. At this time only eleven line officers were left for duty. On August 29th, the 2nd Battalion was sent forward to the support position on the Old Red Line, in the woods south of Mont St. Martin. Business was as usual; that conditions continued much the same was evidenced by the fact that the kitchen of Company B soon received an almost direct hit, and that during a particularly severe barrage on the morning of the 2nd, another direct hit killed three privates of that company, Asselle, Frost, and Weiner. The three bodies blown out of the funk-hole were scarcely recognizable.

Nevertheless, there was something new in the air besides shells and gas, and that was increasing rumors of the enemy's withdrawal. The 2nd Battalion meanwhile took the front line and the 1st the support position, and then, after more hard shelling on September 3rd, the news came at last that the Germans were actually in retreat! American observation balloons were out in number to observe the event, and soon Captain Harrington, now in command of the 3rd Battalion back on the Blue Line, had received orders to follow in pursuit at once. Late in the afternoon of the 4th, the troops halted in the Bois de Faux on the St. Thibaut-Bazoches road to receive an issue of iron rations and ammunition. Toward evening, the Battalion passed through Ville Savoye and thence across the swamps and the Vesle River, and so through the old position on the railroad track.- All was silent now. Crossing what had so long been the mysterious and deadly No Man's Land, the troops saw ample evidence of the fight of August 22nd. Right up the hills on the north side of the Vesle from which the German batteries had so long been firing, they went without opposition.

Darkness fell and the companies were ordered to dig in, some of them on the old battleground itself. These orders had scarcely been carried out before word came to fall in again on the Soissons-Rheims road. Here packs were abandoned and the Battalion set out in skirmish formation in a blinding thunderstorm. Still without opposition, they marched all night, resting at dawn for two hours. After a short distance had been covered, the sound of shelling was heard toward the right in the direction of Blanzy-les-Fismes. The barbed wire entanglements of the old German support lines were now reached, and the troops continued on the road connecting Blanzy with Fismes. Leaving this, they crossed the railroad until they reached the brink of a steep valley. Here the Battalion, formed in two waves with companies L and M in front, followed by I and K, and with Battalion Headquarters between the line, and proceeded down the cliff. The first wave, slipping and clambering slowly from rock to rock, had reached the bottom and had begun the upward ascent when they were met with fire from unseen machine guns. In the words of one observer present, "the first line began to fade." Sergeant Rappolt of M Company was killed, and there were a number of other casualties. It was a rough and disorganizing experience. Those who were not hit dropped to the ground, and the second wave which had not yet finished the descent, was ordered back to the top of the slope to be joined immediately by the first. A number of men were lost as prisoners following this repulse. Soon two German aeroplanes appeared, and their red flares were promptly acknowledged by the enemy artillery, which poured an intense fire into the ranks of the Battalion, now holding a position on the sunken road and on the railroad which had been crossed a short time before. For several hours this artillery fire, of all sizes, as well as the fire from the machine gun nests, prevented any forward movement. Rations, however, were brought from Blanzy and Companies L and M, after being fed and reorganized, were sent forward to attack, leaving I and K in support positions. Meanwhile a personal reconnaissance by Major McNeill, now commanding the Battalion, Lieutenant Robinson, and one of the sergeants proved that the enemy had withdrawn from Serval. The enemy artillery had by this time ceased, and the troops on the left and right of the 3rd Battalion had begun to advance. The 307th Infantry on the right was engaged with the enemy south of Merval; the 306th on the left, south of Barbonval.

The 3rd Battalion now pushed through the gap which had been located in the enemy's line, and followed the trail running north from Serval through the wooded draw. "Lieutenants McDougall and Robinson led the advance party in the darkness. The men were so tired that when we had to halt for a few minutes to reconnoiter the road, more than half would fall asleep and had to be kicked to awaken them." On reaching the broad road running into Merval, the enemy's flares and Very lights first showed his presence, and kept the terrain so well illuminated that the troops could advance only about five yards at a time. Despite precaution, the troops were observed, and a number of casualties resulted from the shelling which followed. At Serval bombing planes tried to locate the column, but only succeeded in setting the village on fire. After a few minutes halt to deceive the aviators, the advance began again, only to meet machine gun fire which held it up for an hour or two while the Germans again withdrew.

Finally the Battalion, after leaving a pair of relay runners at each road fork, reached its objective on the Red Line, and Lieutenant Robinson was sent back with the news to Regimental Headquarters. The men were moved into the shelter of the woods, outposts established, and the rest allowed to go to sleep. At this time the enemy was on all sides of the Battalion, but unaware of the fact. A reconnaissance was made of the town of

Villers-en-Prayeres still in the hands of the Germans.
This was about 2 A.M., at which time "the artillery fire was so heavy from both sides that the whole sky seemed filled with screaming projectiles, all passing far above us." At dawn the Battalion occupied a wooded hill called la
Butte de Bourmont and prepared for defense; the 308th Infantry was the only regiment which had then reached
its objective on the Red Line, now about eight kilometers beyond the Vesle.


On the Butte de Bourmont the 3rd Battalion was destined to remain for ten memorable and trying days. It was under fire on nearly three sides. For two or three days the food and water situation was critical, and at first the men drank from puddles and had practically nothing to eat. There was considerable diarrhea in more or less severe form. However things improved greatly under the energetic handling of Captain James A. Roosevelt, recently appointed Regimental Supply Officer, who like Captain Frank Weld, now Regimental Adjutant, was an old friend of many officers of the Regiment. Captain Roosevelt came up personally to find out what was needed and pushed forward supplies and kitchen. Probably American griddle cakes and German front line trenches never came closer together than at the Butte. During this period there was constant sniping from the Germans, and from this cause alone not less than twenty men were lost. The I53rd Brigade attacking on our left were the first troops to come abreast of us. After severe fighting they gained a footing in the southern edge of Villers-en-Prayeres. The 307th Infantry, attacking in conjunction with the French on the right, captured Merval and advanced to the vicinity of St. Pierre farm about September 8th.

At dusk of the 8th, the 307th at our right was ordered to take Revillon, and the 3rd Battalion of the 3o8th to advance in unison and cover their left flank. At the appointed hour Company L, under Lieutenant Burns on the right, and Company I, under Lieutenant Taylor on the left, advanced. K was in support and M in reserve on the Butte de Bourmont. Lieutenant McDougall led a combat patrol covering the left flank. The advance of the companies drew the concentrated fire of the enemy machine guns before it had progressed two hundred yards.

The men kept a good line and apparently it was a surprise to the enemy for not a shot was fired except from one lone tree, in which a sniper was posted. He is now resting in peace. It was rapidly getting dark and after crossing two lines of enemy wire, our first wave suddenly disappeared in a trench which proved to be the enemy front line. Flares were coming up in all directions and machine guns were firing over our heads.

Hearing that a prisoner had been taken, Lieutenant Taylor went to investigate, taking with him Sergeant Quinn and Private Wolf. "The trench was about three feet deep and two feet wide. The German was sitting in the bottom with his captor standing over him with a fixed bayonet." Through the aid of a man who could speak German, Lieutenant Taylor inquired how many machine guns were out in front. Just as the German was about to reply there came a blinding explosion, and then Taylor saw nothing for a little while. Sergeant Quinn, nearby, observed everything by the light of an enemy flare. A comrade of the prisoner had come up a communicating trench, leading back to the support line. When he heard the prisoner questioned, he placed a hand grenade in the latter's lap and pulled the string. The prisoner was severely wounded and the interpreter lost part of his foot. "Lieutenant Taylor who was leaning over the prisoner was hit near the temple by a small fragment of the zinc covering of the bomb, but it was trifling. " At any rate, the man who ought to have known best says so. He refused medical attention and kept the field, supervising the consolidation of the position. Sergeant Quinn saw the German who had come up the support trench now attempting to return the same way, and shot him with his automatic. The prisoner later proved to be a Prussian Guard machine gunner.

Meanwhile Lieutenant Burns, with the aid of a wire cutting detachment of the Pioneer Platoon, advanced to a position near the St. Pierre farm road. Lieutenant McDougall's patrol had run into a machine gun nest, which was enfilading our left. Most of the crew was killed and the gun silenced. Since, however, the advance of the troops on the right had not sufficiently warranted the occupation of the positions taken, the companies were, after suffering several casualties, withdrawn back to their position on the Butte de Bourmont by Regimental Order. Next morning the operations for the attack on Revillon were to be repeated. The Germans, however, now showed themselves on the alert and observed the movements of our men, under cover of the woods on the east side of the Butte. They put down a heavy artillery fire of one pounders and Austrian 88's. Among the casualties resulting was the death of Lieutenant Gallagan, which left Company H with no officer. No advance was made this day.

Before Captains Miles and Breckinridge took command of Companies M and I respectively on the 11th, there was no captain attached to the Battalion. Companies I, K, L, and M were respectively Lieutenant Taylor, Sergeant Robb, Lieutenant Burns, and Lieutenant Angier. Most of the time there was not more than one officer to a company. Major McNeill writes:

Many thrilling incidents occurred during this period. The enemy artillery, machine guns, and snipers were active and our patrols operated constantly in No Man's Land. A runner whose name I do not recall was sent by me with a message to the Battalion of the 307th Infantry on our right. He ran into a German patrol and was surprised and captured. Remembering instructions received during training, he swallowed the message. While being taken to the rear by his captors there came a lucky moment when only one guard was with him. The American knocked him down with his fist, finished him with his own rifle, and made his way back to the Battalion Headquarters.

An event which did much to raise flagging spirits at the Butte de Bourmont was the capture of two prisoners by a patrol of Lieutenant Conn. The General had requested that the Battalion should obtain information in this way. On the night of the 11th, Major McNeill called for volunteers to lead patrols. Three of the Company Commanders volunteered and took out patrols. Lieutenant Conn's party included Sergeant Quinn, Private Wolf, and two other privates of Company I whose names are unfortunately lost.
This is how Conn tells it:

My patrol was sent out on the extreme left flank of our position, that being the flank with which I was most familiar. Major McNeill even told us to supply ourselves with hard tack, in order not to be without food, in case we were obliged to spend the following day within the German lines. This detail did not appeal to me very much. After advancing to a point which we knew to be in front of our outposts, we all went flat on our stomachs, and began a long and arduous crawl towards the German lines. I knew that not very far ahead of us, we would find a shallow trench, which showed on our maps, and this was my objective. Needless to say owing to the delay caused by our manner of travel, we constantly thought that we were considerably more in advance of our lines than was actually the case, and to our imagination every blade of grass and small bush assumed gigantic proportions. We finally reached the trench, however, which was about knee deep, and from there on our advance was considerably more rapid. This trench was laid out in a zig-zag line, and our method of procedure was to advance cautiously to a comer, peer carefully around it, and then proceed to the next corner. Barbed wire entanglements crossed this trench in two places, but did not descend into it, so that we were able to crawl under it without much trouble. After five or six centuries elapsed, we were rewarded with the sound of voices, and upon reaching the next corner, I saw two sentries with their hands in their pockets, talking about home and mother. I motioned to the men with me to come up, and whispered to them that Sergeant Quinn, who was immediately behind me, and I would each grab a man, that the two following men would follow us and help to hold the prisoners, while the fifth man was to keep his eye on the German lines to warn us of any attack from that quarter. The prisoners put up a very mild resistance, but were inclined to talk, which was not very helpful; I succeeded in silencing the most talkative one by putting the muzzle of my automatic in his mouth and saying "Come on," which he probably thought was "Kommen." We then jumped out of the trench and started for Battalion Headquarters, making a bee-line for Butte de Bourmont, which stood up very prominently on the horizon.

We. had forgotten all about the two belts of barbed wire we had been. obliged to crawl under while in the trench. I remember that I was holding one of the prisoners with my left hand and my automatic in my right hand. The prisoner had just been telling me about his wife and three children in Ger-many, and as I was replying that I had a wife and six children in America, we bumped into the first belt of wire, causing my gun to go off accidentally, which frightened the prisoners very successfully. Of course things had long since ceased to be quiet in the German lines, and we received a shower of rifle grenades, Very lights, and rifle fire. As each light would go up, the prisoners (being very well trained) would start to lie down, but as we had no time to lose, we requested them to keep moving. Some of the rifle shots were too close for comfort, and we were all amused afterwards at the Germans calling their own men pigs for shooting at us. Whereas the trip out had consumed all of two hours, the return trip was accomplished in about ten minutes, proving to us that we had not gone so far after all.

On September 14th, came the final attempt by troops of the 77th Division to advance the line on the right and to take Revillon. At dawn our machine gun barrage screamed overhead with peculiar and prolonged intensity. Then all day long the Battalion lay in the quarry to the east of the Butte or in the marshy woods (le Marais Minard) still further beyond-a day of prolonged waiting marked by enemy shelling and sniping that brought several casualties. At last, late in the afternoon, M Company of the 308th and C of the 30th went forward from the woods into the open, and since they had nothing with which to cut the wire, stepped over it. Captain Miles was severely wounded. Lieutenant Angier was killed, as well as Sergeant Leonard and among the men Brigge-man , Scott, Gladstone, and Beligon. There were also a number of wounded. Revillon remained untaken about a half a kilometer to the north, but we did take a little eighteen inch deep trench by the side of the sunken St. Pierre-Revillon road, as well as three machine guns. To have had the opportunity to lead men who, after such a long and trying experience at the front, were ready to advance so gallantly across wire and under fire into an entirely coverless open, was indeed a privilege for which any man might be grateful as long as he lived. Sergeant Norwat (later killed in the Argonne) particularly distinguished himself in this attack. Observing a concealed machine gun, which caused heavy loss to the advancing line, he went ahead of the company with a chauchat and single-handed silenced the gun, and captured the gunner. To Norwat now passed the command of M Company which was left without officers.

Lieutenant McDougall now came up and took command of the left flank, which was very much exposed to enfilade fire from enemy machine guns. Lieutenant Taylor commanded the middle sector and Lieutenant Miller of the 307th the right flank. All through the 15th the position was heavily shelled, "and no man could move from that straight-jacket trench. We had no shovels so could not dig deeper." Late in the afternoon an Italian officer arrived to look over the position preparatory to bringing relief that night. Lieutenant Taylor was ordered back to Battalion Headquarters to make the relief. A little later just after dark the Germans made a carefully planned counter attack following an artillery barrage. Although Lieutenant McDougall, armed with a chauchat rifle, checked the attack for a time on the left and killed the German Commander, nevertheless the Americans were forced out of the trenches. Lieutenant Miller of the 307th Infantry was killed in this attack, although his body was never found. Finally the position was 'again retaken by the Americans who rallied under Sergeant Norwat, drove out the Germans for the last time, and took the machine guns which they left.

At 2 A.M. on the morning of the 16th, troops of the Italian Infantry of the 8th Division, the Brescia Brigade of Garibaldi's Division, completed the relief. The Battalion spent the 16th in position on the Butte de Bourmont under a heavy barrage which had been drawn down by the appearance of the Italians. At 7:30 P.M. of the same day the men started back. The Battalion diary observes: "Marched all night. Lorries, which had been promised, did not arrive. Men very tired and weak from lack of food and nervous tension undergone in the line. Hiked twenty-four kilos to St. Giles where men went to sleep 4 A.M. of the 17th." Then the march started again after three hours sleep, and Vezilly was reached at 10 o'clock that morning.

At Vezilly men got their long delayed opportunity for cleaning up by washing in the streams. Now, too, there was a chance to eat without the accompaniment of shell fire, and to draw much needed equipment. Again at 8 o'clock that evening, the Battalion started in the rain by motor busses to reach Noirlieu at 10 on the morning of the 18th. Here the troops were billeted, and spent the next day cleaning up and resting. At 2 A.M., on the 20th, began a march of twenty-two kilos, which ended near Verrieres, where they bivouacked all day in the Argonne woods. At evening, another march-but only of three hours this time-brought them at 10:30 to Florent.

By generally similar routes of travel-that of the 2nd Battalion leading through Chalons, Bar-le-Duc, Chemin-Ordinare, and St. Menehould-the other battalions reached Florent. It was from this city that after two days, the whole Regiment went forward to the front line, of the Argonne.
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