History of the
American Field Service in France
"FRIENDS OF FRANCE", 1914-1917, TOLD BY ITS MEMBERS
||CHARLES E. BAYLY, JR.|
||GILBERT N. ROSS|
||ELLIS D. SLATER|
SECTION TWENTY-SIX left Paris on May 28, 1917, going by Montmirail to Souhesme. On June 17 it left for Camp Chiffour, east of Verdun, where it served at the front the postes of Ferme Bellevue, near Fort de Tavannes, Douaumont, and Chevretterie. The later cantonment was at Ancemont. It served hospitals at Souilly, Petit Monthairon, Rambluzin, Benoite Vaux, Dugny, and Vadelaincourt. The Section worked in this sector during the entire time before it was taken into the American Army. Its cars were then taken over by the personnel of Field Service Section Sixty-Nine which later became officially known to the U.S. Army as Section Six-Thirty-Eight.
Those who have stood for thy cause when
the dark was around thee,
UNDER the leadership of Second Lieutenant Pierre Marchal and of Chef A. Musgrave Hyde, Section Twenty-Six was formed at Versailles on May 26, 1917. For two days the men were busy gathering equipment, getting the cars in shape, and saying good-bye to Paris. Then, on the evening of the 27th, with a camion section that was ready to start for Dommiers, they were given a farewell banquet at rue Raynouard by the Field Service authorities, and the next morning the Section pulled out of the park in convoy, and crept slowly through the streets, out into the country, bound at last for the front.
We passed over the battle-field of the Marne and, just at dusk, drew up in the Place de la Mairie at Montmirail. From that time on we progressed from village to village, sometimes stopping overnight, sometimes for several days, until at last we came to Souhesme, in the Verdun sector, and parked in a much-abused barnyard at the edge of the town, where we tarried for several days in the mud, impatient to be attached to our division. There was nothing to do, so we sought amusement in haunting the near-by aviation field, where the persistence of two or three of the boys was finally rewarded with rides; or by walking out over the hill where, far in the distance, the gray waste of Mort Homme could dimly be seen. Rat hunts filled the evenings.
During our stay in Souhesme every one had the colic from the water, and the cook, a silk-worker in time of peace, finally, to our infinite relief, had to be evacuated to the hospital. Two of our boys cooked the meals the next day and our spirits rose. Sardines and cheese are not the worst things in the world, but they do grow tiresome after a week or so of almost nothing else; and that is about all the old cook and the new boys were giving us. Gradually, however, things began to get better. A new cook arrived, the rain stopped, and we commenced to dry out. But best of all, we were now attached to the 19th Division and received orders to move into line close to Verdun. So, on the morning of June 17, after being reviewed by the Médecin Principal of this Division and by the Médecin Chef des Brancardiers, we left Souhesme for Camp Chiffour, the Divisional Headquarters, relieving an English section which had been there for four months.
OUR farthest poste was a ruined house called Ferme Bellevue, well named, for it stood on the top of a hill close to Fort de Tavannes and looked out over the valley of the Meuse and down into the town of Verdun. From it the two towers of the cathedral resembled twin monitors guarding the citadel and city, all of whose scars were hidden by a purple haze which hung over the entire valley.
The ungainly saucisses, swaying and tugging at their ropes, gave to the scene the only indication that there was war in our midst. But our own desolate ruin, with its sandbag-covered abri, and the knowledge that just over the hill were the Germans, was stimulus enough to the imagination and we were not long in getting more.
Standing there in the road, with our eyes never leaving the city that had even yet no touch of reality to us, we were suddenly startled by a crashing of guns behind us, and we raised our eyes in time to see a tiny wasplike machine darting out of the clouds in the midst of a rapidly increasing bunch of white puffs. Before we knew what was happening, we saw another spot of white below the saucisse as the observer's parachute opened. The great bag itself, after a burst of flame, began trailing downward in a dense cloud of black smoke, while the tiny assailant darted back into the cloud. In the meantime, all around us the French batteries, as if awakened from sleep, began one by one to roar until our ears rang, and the first moment of unrest gave place to one of immense security and interest. The Germans were replying by this time, and we could hear the shells, going in both directions, whistle over us, while we stood in safety under the arc, with our mouths open.
Though there were times like the foregoing when we had interesting experiences, the sector was in general comparatively quiet. From the postes the cars were sent, usually at night, but sometimes in the daytime, too, down the far side of the hill, the side that looked toward Metz into the lands of the Germans. Good luck was with us and never a man was injured. There were accidents to the cars, of course. One of them, for example, slipped off the road and turned completely over with all four wheels in the air. But as a rule neither man nor vehicle suffered much during this stay at the front.
Our postes were spread along the line to the right of Verdun, from Bellevue, from which we worked about the Forts de Tavannes and Douaumont, to Chevretterie, on the Verdun-Metz road. The triage was back at the foot of the hills on the road to Souilly, and the various hospitals were even farther back, at the Château of Petit Monthairon, Souilly, Rambluzin, Benoite Vaux, Dugny, and Vadelaincourt. Our cantonment was at Ancemont in the centre of the hospital district. Never perhaps did a Section have better quarters --- a large house on the edge of the village, with a smaller farmhouse a few yards up the road to serve as office, atelier, and living quarters for the Frenchmen of the Section. There was a large orchard behind for the cars --- an orchard of cherry, plum, and apple trees, which, ripening successively through the summer, provided fruit almost continuously. It was here that we held our track meet, which attracted such attention from the French soldiers that they challenged us and built a huge field with lanes for the sprints and pits for the jumping. Twice we beat them, but they got their revenge in beating us at soccer.
IN August during the Verdun attack, the 19th Division moved, and for some reason the Section was transferred to the division that came in, the 7th, and became more or less the property of the sector. For the five months from the time we came to that district until the Section was taken over by the United States Army, we kept the same postes, travelled the same roads, and did exactly the same work; and during all this period we were usually quiet enough at the cantonment, though from time to time the Boches would shell the town, never, however, with serious results.
It was not until the attack to the north of Verdun that we began to be interested in air raids. As reprisals, perhaps, for the loss that they had sustained, the Boches began to send nightly bombing parties aimed principally at the aviation fields of Souilly and at the hospitals at Dugny, Monthairon, and Vadelaincourt, often dropping a few "microbes," as the poilus call the bombs, on our village and firing with their machine guns on the cars in the road. The most violent bombardment that we had was on the night of October 2, when, with the help of a full moon, the enemy flew back and forth over the main street, throwing bombs into the cantonments of the troops. On this occasion all of the cars were called out at once and worked for several hours under fire. In fact the bombardment was so serious that the village was evacuated of all the automobiles and artillery sections, and the sanitaires alone were left. In this connection the Tenth Army Corps decorated with the Croix de Guerre the Section as a whole, and six of its members. On the afternoon of October 11 the Colonel of the Thirteenth Hussars, who was stationed in the château, held a ceremony and pinned the cross on these men, on the flag of the Section, and on some French soldiers who had been cited at the same time.
Soon after this the boys finishing their engagements began to leave the Section, and on the 24th, when Section Sixty-Nine came to relieve us and to take over the cars, the postes, the cantonment, and the work which we had grown to think of as intimately ours, the most of the personnel of old Twenty-Six scattered, some men going into aviation, others into artillery, and some into infantry and other services of the United States Army.
CHARLES E. BAYLY, JR.*
*Of Denver, Colorado; Princeton, '18; served with Section Twenty-Six until October, 1917; subsequently a Sous-Lieutenant in the French Artillery.
August 23, 1917
ABOUT three o'clock on the afternoon of the 20th the Chef came running out with an order to go to a hospital twenty miles away and do it quickly. When we got there we found the place literally packed and jammed with German and French wounded --- and most of them in awful shape; we were kept very busy evacuating them. In the evening at the big hospital in Vadelaincourt we ambulance drivers were grouped together talking about nothing much when suddenly a German airplane, with his motor cut off, dropped out of the sky, and three bombs landed about five hundred yards away from us. Then for over two hours in the darkness of night that town was raided by a whole flock of planes, which followed each other in rapid succession dropping bomb after bomb. The third plane set fire to a hospital, making a ghastly scene of it all --- the men rushing for shelter in all stages of undress and in all stages of fear, the Boche planes circling overhead, lit up in the red glow of the fire. On top of that some one yelled, "Gas!" A nice "bunch" that will drop poison gas on a hospital! I'm beginning to appreciate the French point of view in regard to the Germans. On my way out of town I passed the hospital, which was still burning. I finally got out of that place, delivered my wounded, including a doctor and a stretcher-bearer, and returned to the cantonment at 3.30 A.M., feeling that setting fire to a hospital is the limit in abominations.
GILBERT N. ROSS*
*Of Brookline, Massachusetts; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; joined the Field Service in June, 1917, and remained in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service for the remainder of the war.
THESE are extracts from the Journal des Marches et Operations, the official Day Book of the Section, kept by the French Maréchal des Logis, Joseph Lévêque. These extracts derive most of their interest from the fact that they are from the pen of a French military official.
June 2, 1917
THE Section begins its career by making a series of visits around to the other cantonments near Triaucourt and taking their charges to the hospital at Fleury-sur-Aire.
THEORY and practice in the use and application of gasmasks. Cantonment at Souhesme very bad and very dirty. The Americans install themselves in a field. The Section has very little work to do. Military instruction in marks of respect.
STRETCHER-BEARER instruction for the drivers. Cleanliness. Technical inspection. Lessons in driving. Neatness.
THE Section counts seven sick drivers, including the kitchen personnel. The doctor attributes it to bad water and change in food.
RECEPTION by the Médecin Principal, who extends a hearty welcome to the Section.
THE Section goes out to a front poste for the first time --- to the east of Verdun.
SECTION moves to Ancemont. Very good cantonment. Dugouts in case of bombardment. Office and workshop isolated. American quarters comfortable.
As a result of a competition the 'Section adopts as its insignia the American Bison, a copy of the "Buffalo Nickel."
IN the afternoon, athletic events by the members.
INSPECTION of entire Section by Major Church, delegated for this work by General Pershing, accompanied by A. Piatt Andrew the head of the Field Service. Both officers expressed their complete satisfaction at the general good appearance of the Section and in particular at the perfect upkeep of the vehicles. Major Church was particularly interested in the ambulances, their height, length, carriage, etc.
THREE American recruiting officers arrive at Ancemont to ask the drivers if they wish to enlist for the duration of the war in the Medical Service as ambulance drivers, with the rank of private. For different reasons, of which the principal one is the desire to join a more active service --- things have been too quiet here --- none of the American volunteers is willing to sign, at least immediately. Consequently, the officers announce that the volunteers will be replaced by other drivers regularly enlisted and trained in America for this purpose.
LAST night German aviators bombarded at two different times the cantonment, causing considerable damage and several deaths. All the American drivers not already on service immediately went to the places bombarded and effectively coöperated in the saving and transporting of the wounded. The fine attitude of the American volunteers as regards courage and devotion to set-vice was remarkably well shown during this raid. The Colonel commanding the 13th Hussars, the commanding officer in this town, and the Médecin Chef all praise the fine attitude of the American volunteers. All the facts have been today officially reported to the commanding officer.
BECAUSE of continual bombardment of Ancemont all the hippomobile and automobile services have received, with one exception, orders to leave this village and canton in the woods. Section Twenty-Six alone remains in its original cantonment.
IN accordance with the report of the Lieutenant commanding the Section and the report of the Colonel of the 13th Hussars commanding at Ancemont, the General commanding the Tenth Army Corps cites to the order of the Army Corps, S.S.U. 26. Here is the text of the citation: "On the night of October 2-3, 1917, during an aerial bombardment, the personnel of S.S.U. 26, commanded by Second Lieutenant Marchal, hurried to the places which were bombarded, in order to pick up the wounded. The drivers --- some of whom did not even take time to dress---showed the utmost devotion in aiding in the search and the picking-up of the wounded, whom they transported to the hospitals, driving their ambulances with the greatest courage under machine-gun fire and bombing by the aviators."
THIS afternoon the Colonel of the 13th Hussars officially pinned the Croix de Guerre, in the name of the President of the Republic, on the Section standard and on several American drivers. After the ceremony the Colonel and other officers came to the Section's cantonment to congratulate the American drivers of the Section.
TWENTY-TWO drivers, formerly of Section Sixty-Nine, under the command of the American Lieutenant, Allen Butler, with two sergeants and one corporal, arrive at the Section to complete the number of drivers of whom there were only six remaining of old Section Twenty-Six. The U.S. Army drivers, former volunteers in the American Field Service, were good Fiat drivers --- only a few knew how to drive Fords before they arrived --- and they know the work of this branch of the service; so the taking over of the postes is easily effected. The old drivers of Twenty-Six who are now in the American army remain at the poste to show the new members the roads. The Ford ambulances left by the old members are passed over to the new in very good running condition --- only one ambulance being in the workshop for repairs at the time of the arrival of the new men.
INSPECTION by General Bulot, commanding the 7th Division of Infantry. He compliments the Lieutenant on the good standing and appearance of the Section and its personnel, and addressing himself particularly to the Americans the General said how happy he was in having attached to this Division such a young body of Allies so full of energy and good-will, thus assuring the best service possible.
January 1, 1918
S.S.U. 26 will hereafter be known as S.S.U 638 (American Series). The Section will still bear the honor of the Croix de Guerre received October 8, 1917
SECTION SIXTY-NINE was enlisted in the U.S. Army on October 3, 1917, while the Section was stationed at Verdun and doing poste work at Bras, Vacherauville, and points farther to the front. They stayed at Verdun until October 18 when they went to Chardogne, a small town not far from Bar-le-Duc. It was in this town that they lost those members of the Section who had seen fit to join other branches of the service or those who sought the old États- Unis.
October 23 saw old Section Sixty-Nine fused with Section Twenty-Six and the old Fords of Twenty-Six replaced the Fiats of Sixty-Nine. We took over the Woevre sector and were quartered at Ancemont-sur-Meuse. We stayed in this quiet sector until November 7, when we pulled stakes and finally landed in the Champagne at Jalons about seventeen kilometres out of Chalons on the road to Épernay.
On November 28 we went into line at Villers-Marmery in front of Mont Cornillet, where we spent a quiet winter to the right of Reims. The only action we had here was from the 15th to the 21st of March, when small attacks along the line rather excited the entire front.
On April 30 we left Villers for La Cheppe, between Suippes and Chalons, where we were en repos. We left this town on May 7 with our Division which was ordered to Belgium at the moment of the British retreat. We ran in convoy to Belgium by way of Meaux and Abbéville and stopped at Ochtezeele. We stayed at Ochtezeele until the 22d of May when we went into line near Poperinghe in front of Mont Kemmel.
During June we had our postes at Reninghelst and La Clytte. After about a month and a half in Belgium we left for Esquelbecq, southeast of Dunkirk, where we stayed until July 5 when we left with our Division for the Champagne by way of Paris and Sézanne. After a day in Tours-sur-Marne we were called into the mountains of Reims, where we waited in the woods under cover until July 15 during the preparation for the second battle of the Marne.
On July 15 we went into line at Hautvillers, six kilometres north of Épernay, but this town seemed to be too close and we were moved back three kilometres to Dizy-Magenta on the 16th. It is from here that we saw part of the second battle of the Marne with our postes at Damery and Arty. After the French advance of July 18 we had postes at Châtillon-sur-Marne and Villers-sous-Châtillon.
On August 1 we left for Igny-le-Jard, fifteen kilometres south of Châtillon, where we stayed en repos until August 17. Our next work was as a reserve at Saint-Hilaire-au-Temple, near Châlons. After our repos here, lasting until August 26, we moved to Camp Dillmann, on the Châlons-Reims road, working postes at the foot of Mont Cornillet with some postes the same as during the winter of 1917-18.
On October 6 we left Camp Dillmann for Mourmelon-le-Grand, whence we went to Souain and to Sainte-Marie-à-Py, where we lived in the woods between this town and Saint-Etienne-à-Arnes until October 11, during the battle of the Arnes and subsequently the German retreat to the Aisne.
October 16 found us in Pauvres, twenty kilometres west of Vouziers, which town we left on October 21 for La Neuville, thence to Saint-Martin l'Heureux, and from there to Louvercy, where we stayed until October 23. We next stopped at Camp au Tombeaux des Sarazins, near Bouy, where we stayed until November 6 en repos. Our next move was shortly before the Armistice, when we went to Somme-Py and then to Semide and later to Vouziers, where we spent "le jour de l'Armistice. "
On November 11 we moved to Sauville and thence to Chevenges, where we stayed the remainder of the month of November until December 16. From December until the 11th of March we spent the time in Torcy-Sedan doing evacuation work for hospitals and supplying civilians with food. On March 11 we were relieved and started on the final journey to Paris en route for the United States.
ELLIS D. SLATER*
*Of Chicago, Illinois; University of Michigan, '17; with Section Sixty-Nine of the Field Service from July, 1917; later in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.
||HOWARD RADCLIFFE COAN|
||COLEMAN G. CLARK|
SECTION TWENTY-SEVEN left Paris for the front on June 9, 1917, going via Châlons-sur-Marne to Billy-le-Grand in the Champagne district. Its postes were at La Plaine, Esplanade, and Prosnes, and it evacuated from Villers-Marmery and from Mont-de-Billy. At the end of the month the Section went to Breuvery, south of Châlons en repos. Its next move was to Fontaine-sur-Coole, thence to Mourmelon-le-Grand, with postes at Ferme de Constantine, Ferme de Moscou, and Ludwigshafen. The Section then went back en repos at La Chaussée-sur-Marne and ended its existence shortly after resuming active service in the region of Suippes, where the Section was combined with old Section Seventy-Two, to be known thereafter as Section Six-Thirty-Nine of the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.
Armies of France, advance!
WILLIAM C. SANGER, JR.
FROM different colleges and states, and not as a unit, came the twenty-three men who were to form Section Twenty-Seven. Most of them sailed together from New York, on May 5, 1917, on the Espagne, and, June 9, left Paris for the front in a long convoy. Proceeding through Châlons-sur-Marne, we arrived without incident at the little Village of Billy-le-Grand, where the Section considered itself fortunate, not because we were in this muddy and dusty village in which the cars were parked, but that being there meant work after the idleness and delay in Paris. The morning after arriving, ten cars went into active service, taking over from a French section the postes at La Plaine, Esplanade, and Prosnes, and entering upon hospital evacuation work, first from Villers-Marmery, and then from Mont-de-Billy.
The sector was all that could be desired as far as activity was concerned, for the 132d Division, to which Twenty-Seven was attached, was engaged in driving the enemy from the crest of Mont Cornillet, the only one of the famous Champagne hills on which he still retained a foothold after the April-May offensive.
The Section plunged right into the work, and before a week was over the number of cars on duty rose to eighteen. Thus, in our first period of active service, we were able to see and go through all that any section could reasonably desire; in a word experiencing everything --- arrivées and départs, night driving without lights over unknown roads, without maps and only verbal directions as to how to find the postes, and steady rolling, night and day, over shelled highways with but an occasional respite, owing to the volume of the work.
From the first, Esplanade, situated in woods filled with French artillery, was the worst poste. In the process of searching out and trying to strafe the surrounding batteries, the ambulances suffered, and Lars Potter's car was wrecked. Happily, however, the shells came in just before the car was loaded and no one was hurt. This good luck clung to the Section throughout its six months' existence, saving the drivers often by a matter of minutes or yards.
At this time the poilus, while undoubtedly weary of the war --- as indeed who could help being after three years in the trenches? --- nevertheless showed no sign of yielding. With America in the struggle, they felt confident of the final outcome; so the arrival of our troops was the subject of constant questioning.
THE courage of the wounded also early attracted our attention and won our admiration; for they scarcely ever permitted even a murmur to escape their lips, despite unavoidable jolting over rough roads or through shellholes; and their sincere appreciation of what we American volunteers were doing more than compensated us for any hardships and dangers connected with the work.
The German wounded carried after the successful French attack of June 21 showed a surprising ignorance of what was happening in the outside world and did not even know that the United States had declared war.
On the days off duty the Aisne-Marne canal formed a welcome retreat. Indeed, had it not been for its cool seclusion and quiet where the danger, dust, and strain of the front seemed so far away as almost to be forgotten, those first two weeks when heavy rolling and little sleep were added to the newness of it all, would have been far harder to bear.
TOWARD the end of June, again in a long, dusty convoy, but feeling quite a different section from the one which had arrived from Paris such a short time before, Number Twenty-Seven went back en repos to Breuvery, a village south of Châlons, where we enjoyed a delightful cantonment with grass, trees, a fair-sized stream, and an adjoining field for baseball. This pleasure was destined to be short-lived, however, for scarlet fever broke out and we left the village for Fontaine-sur-Coole, where two tents were set up, one serving as dining-room and the other as sleeping-quarters, although many of us still preferred to sleep on stretchers in our cars.
Except for the evacuation of the sick from near-by villages to Châlons, the men could now spend their time practically as they pleased. Bathing in an ice-cold spring, though rather a shock to the system, was fairly popular and rather interested the village children, who were always attracted to "les américains." It was the height of the cherry season, and roads lined with heavily laden trees whose owners had not the time to pick the fruit, also gave us much delight. In the evenings baseball furnished the chief diversion, and drew quite a number of spectators, for the game was new to the French. What might otherwise have been monotony in such a life was relieved by a special forty-eight-hour permission to Paris, granted through the courtesy of the French Army in honor of the Fourth of July. All but a few, who had to remain for sick evacuation, were thus permitted to see the magnificent welcome accorded at the Capital to the first contingent of the American Expeditionary Force and on returning were able to answer at least one of the questions so constantly asked by French officers, soldiers, and civilians ---"When are the American troops coming?" Those of us who had been unable to enjoy the Fourth in Paris had their leave ten days later on the French national holiday, when the occasion was marked by a special dinner at camp, and by shows and concerts.
FINALLY our sojourn at Fontaine-sur-Coole came to an end, when to the general disappointment the Section went neither to Verdun, the Vosges, nor Alsace, as rumor said would be the case, but back to the country of chalk hills and pines, of choking dust or clinging mud --- the Champagne. However, a pleasant feature of the situation was that after a few days in a slaughter-house, Twenty-Seven moved into fine brick barracks in Mourmelon-le-Grand, where the cars continued to run to Prosnes and through it to all the forward postes --- Ferme de Constantine, Ferme de Moscou, and Ludwigshafen. The road to the last-mentioned was in such full view of the German saucisses, constantly up on the other side of the Champagne hills, that its use by vehicles was permitted only at night.
The first day of our sojourn at Mourmelon-le-Grand, the Germans went out of their way to give Section Twenty-Seven a warm welcome. In relieving the ambulance at Constantine, two Fords were out in full view, waiting until one of them could go into the trench dug by the English drivers to conceal and protect their cars, and the other proceed to Moscou. In those few minutes, the Germans sent in four shells, all of which came within fifteen yards of the cars and their drivers, enveloping them in smoke and showering earth on them. But by a miracle no one was wounded. There was nothing else at which to fire within a half-mile radius, and as the red crosses on a white background precluded any possibility of a mistake as to the character of the cars, the act was but another example of German contempt for international agreements in time of war. The car that went to Ludwigshafen that night had also a rather bad time, for it was caught in the relief going up and the road began to be shelled.
During nearly two months in this sector, Sapinière was the poste central where cars waited their turn to go forward; but unlike La Plaine, it was but once molested by arrivées. It was an excellent place from which to watch both German and French aeroplanes, when one could see the sky dotted all over with white and black puffs from anti-aircraft guns, and occasionally witness an air duel or the attacking of an observation balloon. And an old artillery observation post, built in some trees, commanded a view of the whole of the hill region., on which the Germans often laid barrages, terrible yet fascinating to behold. At night star-shells, signal rockets, and flashes from guns illuminated the scene in a way that one who has seen it can never forget.
On the whole the new sector was far quieter than the former one, but it had its bad times, too. Between nine and four one night nearly a hundred wounded had to be evacuated over a piste from Ludwigshafen, because the explosion of an ammunition train at Prosnes, always a shelled corner, had completely blocked the regular road. On another occasion shells wrought havoc in a battalion just descending from the trenches when, of the three men who went out over the badly torn-up piste to bring in those who were not beyond help, two were mentioned and later received the Croix de Guerre for their work. Five drivers in all were so honored, before the Section, with half of its cars now bearing marks of the front, once more went back en repos with the Division, this time to La Chaussée-sur-Marne.
The incessant rain and cold which marked October made the old doorless, windowless mill, in which Twenty-Seven was billeted at La Chaussée-sur-Marne, anything but pleasant, so word that the Division was going back into line came as a relief.
The taking over of the ambulance sections with the French by the U. S. Army had now begun, and an officer came to La Chaussée to secure a list of those who would sign on for the new régime. A grand farewell party was held the evening before going back to active work for the last ten days --- to the Aubérive-Souain front, which was quiet; with its six forward postes, calling for ten cars at Bussy-le-Château in case of a gas attack, and its evacuation work from Suippes and Cuperly. The whole Section was thus nominally on duty.
Those of us who reënlisted were transferred to Section Eight, and the enlisted personnel of old Field Service Section Seventy-Two was sent out to take over Twenty-Seven's cars, but as this did not occur until November 4, we had the distinction of being the last of the old American Field Service Sections to give up volunteer work.
HOWARD RADCLIFFE COAN*
*Of New York City; Williams, '20; served with Section Twenty-Seven in the Field Service; later a driver for the Y.M.C.A.
Région des Monts, Champagne
Friday, June 15
TUESDAY afternoon, while I was trying to write in the terrible heat, Lars came along with three sailors and asked whether I wanted to go for a walk to see their guns. I accepted readily and a half-hour's walk brought us to the Aisne-Marne Canal where are some inland gunboats. They showed us all over them and then we went in swimming. You can't imagine how delicious that swim was. While we were still in, the sailors told us their Commandant was there. Accordingly we met him in our borrowed trunks, and he immediately invited us to tea aboard the "L." He is married to an American and speaks English well. We had a most pleasant tea with M. Caumartin, and on leaving he presented us with some shell fuses and "New York Tribunes," both equally welcome and deadly. He also insisted that we come and see him again, and we shall be nothing loath. Down there the war seemed so far away, a peaceful canal with the guns seldom audible. It is certainly most weird in a thunder storm to hear the cannon and thunder echoing each other alternately.
At the poste central, La Plaine
Sunday, June 17
HAVE kept this letter so as to be able to tell you a little of actual work at the front --- the previous part of the letter was too dull to send. Provided my state of mind will permit my writing intelligibly, the interest should not be lacking now. We arrived about eight-thirty with both the French batteries, with which all three postes are literally surrounded, and the Germans going full tilt. I never before in my life knew what real fear was. Unless one has been there, one cannot in any way appreciate the sensation. The only way that one can distinguish the arrivées and départs is that the former whistle, then explode; the latter give the explosion of the gun, and then whistle. Both are the same in meaning terrible destruction, but only the former for us. Although the latter are harmless for us, I couldn't keep from instinctively flinching every time a battery went off. They were worse than any Fourth of July celebration I have ever heard, and the strain of listening to every whine and explosion was something awful. Incidentally we learned what kind of business they meant. Wheeler took us to one of the postes to learn the road. While cranking to come back we had to drop flat twice while the éclats rattled down through the trees around us, and on the road we slowed up while they pattered down in front of us. Even back here, a three-inch piece missed the cook by just a yard. I can certainly sympathize with the ostrich, for somehow it gave a feeling of safety to be under the covering of the car, with only the top over me. And yet this was as dangerous a place as any because there was no chance to watch for and dodge pieces coming down. One comfort, however, was that I could hear most of them from an abri, for I have n't had a call all day --- and it is now almost four.
I HAD to go over to one of the batteries to get a man hit in the shoulder. He is another I shall never forget, for his wound was from one of these wicked things that have been whistling all day, and that made it come near. Those I have taken from hospital to hospital have n't been so fresh from the effects of the wounds, and their bandages a little older, and more a matter of course. I am now a little more used to the French guns, and the whistling of the arrivées is n't so bad unless they get too near. I am expecting a call almost any time now. The men out here are a wonderful lot, the doctors, brancardiers, and cooks. They are not hardened by it at all, after three years; every victim that comes causes the same amount of interest and sympathy. But oh! they are all so tired and sick of it all --- three long dreary years, and all the fighting on French soil. It is n't the thought so much of themselves that is uppermost but la pauvre France.
Tuesday, June 19
By noon we had eight instead of the usually five cars working, and we were busy too --- the price of the four hundred metres of trenches. The extent of human endurance never ceases to amaze me. The wounded never have any anaesthetic or hypodermic unless they require an operation to extract a piece of metal, or to amputate or enlarge the wound to prevent infection; and they have to undergo at least two or three dressings before they reach a permanent hospital. A man with half the face shot away, with a leg, arms, and hand wounded, often rides as an assis. One chipper little fellow beside me had a rifle ball through his neck; I have had to carry for half an hour over these rough roads a couché, with an unset compound fracture of the leg, with stomach, arm, and leg wounds, most of them bleeding into the car, and never did a murmur or groan escape his lips. Such fortitude is unbelievable unless one sees it himself. But the most pitiful men I carried, of the forty rescued in a day and a half, from midnight Sunday until ten Tuesday morning, were those who had been buried by shells. Those I carried acted queerly, but I did not know what was wrong until they started to walk into the hospital. They reeled like drunken men and did not take interest in anything. You could snap your fingers in their faces and there was no reaction. They may regain their minds in the course of two months, perhaps never.
We had a good many Germans, and it is another revelation of the superb qualities of the French at the front to see how the Fritzes are treated. Until wounded or captured they are Boches; afterwards, they are merely prisoners. I tried to brush up my German on the assis I carried, but after five weeks of French it was hard to go back. All are so young --- many boys of seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen --- and so sick of it all and glad to be out of it. Yet their discipline of fear controls them as a lion-trainer controls the beast. The latter does not dare use his superior strength except occasionally to resent what he hates to do. One, however, in whose questioning I acted as interpreter, said that in his regiment the soldiers were so angry at their officers for loafing in the rear that they had thrown grenades into their abris. It may not be true, and yet it is an indication.
Some of the poor fellows had been in the trenches two, others five hours when wounded. And hungry --- they had had no food for two days, no drink for five days, and they had no trenches, just shell-holes. That fact nearly cost us a whole company of men --- for the French advanced nearly four hundred metres too far, expecting to find trenches, before they realized they had already passed the German lines.
IN the course of one of my trips I investigated the road I had gone over the night before. Aside from the fact that it is terribly shelled several times every day, I don't see how I ever got through it without smashing my car. Honestly, the shell-holes I straddled, the coils of barbed wire I must have wound my way through, the bridge I crossed --- I shudder yet to think of it all. For, of course, we drive alone, and there is no communication by telephone between postes. Suppose I had been hit --- I could have rotted there before I should have been found, as no one traversed that road. The fact that I took an hour and a half instead of ten minutes to come out caused no one any anxiety. With two men to a car, aside from the tremendous comfort of company, there would be much less danger of being stranded somewhere. We are alone and only one who has done it, in the middle of the night, in the rain, on unknown, shell-filled roads, can appreciate the terrible loneliness of it all. Wheeler says he has never seen postes situated as these --- surrounded by batteries and also without telephonic connections for the tracing up of cars.
Between midnight Sunday and 10 A.M. Tuesday, today --- not quite a day and a half --- I carried 39 wounded in my car. About 175 passed through the poste in that same time, and after about noon Monday we had extra cars out here and also at the hospital.
August 10, 1917
FRIDAY I was out driving again. It was a wonderfully clear day, perfect for aeroplanes and photography. It was so clear, and so many German saucisses were up, that I waited outside of the ruined village, not daring to go to No. 1 until the car there came out. I was not going to give them another chance at more than one car there, not after that first Sunday. Except for the hum of motors and the occasional pop-pop of the mitrailleuses, nothing happened until ten-thirty, then I was an unwilling witness of one of the most terrible things I have yet seen. Mitrailleuses were particularly persistent, and George and I went out, just in time to see the end of a fight. A big Farman started falling, falling from a tremendous height, almost above us. First it started gliding fairly slowly, and not until its first drop did we see the ill-betiding smoke and a little flame. Either by skill or accident, it came into a spiral and fell quite a distance, but the flames were gaining. The mitrailleuse was going, and a second time it got into a perfect spiral. That fooled us and we waited with bated breath, cheering or groaning as the battle to land seemed a winning or losing one. A third straight drop and the ground did not seem so far away. Again it glided, but just as we lost sight of it behind the tree-tops, it turned clear over. Then a tremendous volume of smoke poured up. Did they make it or not? That was what we were asking. Then I remembered that when the machine was still very high up, I had seen objects pitching out. I had no glass to see what they were. When it was down, one realized that it could only have been one thing, men, and there had been three. And we had seen them die, powerless to do anything. We could not understand why the men should have jumped, unless because of the heat, yet the machine had appeared to be under control until then. Later I found out.
JUST outside the village we pass on the way to the hospital, I overtook our photographing friend, M. Bardielini, and took him in. He was out hunting for the place of the aeroplane's fall, as it is only the third that has fallen anywhere near here since the war began. I asked if I could go along, and having pretty good information as to its whereabouts, we struck off from the postes centrals. We passed the cemetery --- I say the because it is the largest in the neighborhood --- smaller, isolated ones are never out of sight. Even worse than the regular rows of crosses, with the monotonous "Mort pour la France," were the waiting open graves.
Neither of us was feeling very bright or happy, as we crossed open stretches and skirted woods down whose regular avenues we could see the chalk of the much-contested range. Shells were coming in to the left regularly but far away. After a hot walk of over a mile, through stretches peppered with shell-holes and strewn with pieces of shell, we came upon the wreck of the plane, still smoking. It was upside down, the left wing almost intact, the right and most of the rest of it twisted and broken. Despite the two guards, we got some pictures that ought to be good, and started back. We fell in with some artillerymen who showed us where the three unfortunates had fallen. They were fully five hundred yards from their machine, and we realized that the heat had killed them or had forced them to kill themselves by jumping. I found the machine-gun cylinder with every cartridge exploded.
That was what we had taken for the mitrailleuse being fired. A few pieces of burned coat and a pair of shoes showed where the mitrailleur had been. A captain and two lieutenants had suffered that terrible fate. The unhappy Farman's compass, a few rods from the spot, is a good remembrance of the catastrophe. We were feeling more depressed than ever, but in the evening when we saw a German saucisse burning, the fourth during the day, we realized that the French had secured pretty good revenge, especially as they also bagged a German plane that fell one hundred yards this side of the French first line.
HOWARD RADCLIFFE COAN*
*These are selections from home letters.
SECTION TWENTY-SEVEN, reorganized as Section Six-Thirty-Nine, served in Champagne, in the Suippes sector, with the 132d French Division from November, 1917, to March, 1918. In March it moved up, after the drive on Amiens, to the Somme-Oise front, being stationed at Gournay-sur-Arronde. It remained here until May, when it moved into the Montdidier sector, near Montigny and Ravenel. On July 18 it went to Bresles en repos. From the latter part of July until August 18 it worked in the Marne-Château-Thierry sectors --- Orbais, Chavenay, and Dormans. It was serving here with the 18th Division.
Leaving this front on August 18, it went to the Verdun sector, at Béveaux. On September 18 it moved again, this time to Camp Fréty, on reserve with the American army. From the latter part of September until just before the Armistice it took part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, working near Séchaut and Monthois. It was in Nancy when the Armistice was declared. Then followed the trip with the Army of Occupation, through Alsace, Lorraine, and into Baden into the neutral zone. The towns visited were Saverne, Morzheim, Ludwigshafen-am-Rhein, and Mannheim. Then followed the trip to Base Camp. The Section received a sectional citation during the Second Battle of the Marne, in the orders of the 18th French Division.
COLEMAN G. CLARK*
*Of Chicago, Illinois; University of Chicago, '18; served with Section Seventy-Two of the Field Service and subsequently in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.
||FREDERIC R. COLIE|
||JOHN BROWNING HURLBUT|
SECTION TWENTY-EIGHT left Paris June 17, 1917, arriving at Mourmelon-le-Grand, in Champagne, in the sector of the Monts, June 19. It served with its division in line there until relieved in the fall. The postes along the Voie Romaine and out towards Mont Sans Nom and Mont Haut, were Ham, Bois Sacré, M Quatre, and Village Gascon. In mid-September the Section moved to Damery, where it was enlisted in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service as Section Six-Forty.
He died in the winter dark, alone,
June 18, 1917
FINAL preparations were made day before yesterday, and yesterday we were up early in order to take a final look at our cars before they were lined up for inspection by Mr. Andrew and some of General Pershing's staff. There are sixteen Dartmouth men in the Section, who are all absolutely inexperienced as far as work at the front is concerned; but our Chef, W. H. Wallace, Jr., has been at the front with Section Four and understands the game from A to Z.
All day long we rode through clouds of dust, past isolated farms, between green fields of neatly laid-out vineyards and waving wheat, and in and out of quaint little villages whose inhabitants stared and waved cheerily as the convoy swept by. Here and there, in the midst of a meadow crimson-spotted by poppies, we noticed small wooden crosses, which marked the graves of those brave men who died in the fierce battle of the Marne. At dusk, we drew up in a small village where we were to spend the night and were drummed to sleep by the distant mutter of the guns.
LAST evening we pulled up before one of the long series of brick barracks at Mourmelon-le-Grand which is to be our cantonment. It lies about seven miles behind a row of six hills that dominate the surrounding country, which, we learn, has been the scene of sanguinary fighting since the day when the forces of Attila were defeated on the plains of Châlons. In itself the village has no particular attractions other than an excellent buvette and a chocolate shop. In times of peace this was one of the largest training-camps for the French Army, and in the main the town is composed of row upon row of long brick barracks laid out with streets between, with adjoining it a large plain cut by a system of trenches and dugouts. Fortunately for us, there remains plenty of room for a baseball diamond where Strubing and Hasbrook pursue elusive "flies" to the infinite delight of an admiring horde of poilus.
FROM the foot of the hills to Mourmelon a level plateau extends bare and unsmiling except for clumps of dwarf pine, the only form of plant life that can get sufficient nourishment from the chalky soil. A shell breaking on this ground leaves a round, vicious-looking white scar; and the ensemble of many shells produces a bizarre Swiss-cheese effect.
Out past demolished Baconnes is a poste de secours, M4, situated just at a crossroad, which has received, now and again, and twice between times, noisy remembrances in the form of "155's," which besides making the poste unhealthy, keep us tied close to the door of our dugout. Here we have four cars. Once having run through the woods, a veritable nest of guns, we come upon a little clearing among the pines, on which opens a trench which is our poste, Bois Sacré. Out ahead is an open field, cut by what remains of a national highway and pockmarked by shell-holes of every known calibre. Still farther ahead, in what remains of the Hun fortifications, are three regimental postes fed by a car stationed at Village Gascon. Village Gascon, by the way, is not a village at all, but a jumbled collection of small ramshackle wooden barracks, interspersed with dugouts and battery emplacements. All this is hidden in a small grove of scrub pines with little paths running here and there, and now and then an abandoned trench. The only thing in common this place has with a village is a little rude chapel near one end of the grove, built entirely of rough boards and pine branches, and marked by a large wooden cross before the gate. The cross is distinctive in that it is the one used by the Greek Church and not the simple cross of a single bar with which we are familiar. This sector was recently occupied by some Russian troops detailed for service on the French front; hence the insignia of the Greek Church. In fact, there are many Russians buried in the little cemetery in front of the chapel and their graves are easily distinguished from those of their French allies by the queer crosses which mark them.
TOWARD the latter part of this afternoon, the Germans dropped a heavy barrage upon the line of hills mentioned above, and the scarred slopes of Cornillet shone bare and forbidding in the sinking sun. Before dusk they were hidden under a dense cloud of smoke and dust that rolled down the sides, wave upon wave, choked up the valley, and spread over the woods in a veil. To the right, Monts Blanc and Sans Nom were smoking like volcanoes, and everywhere, for miles behind the lines, jets of earth and smoke spurted up, spread and added to the general haze, while the roads and battery positions were shelled. By mine o'clock the infantry attacked, and then the blessés came pouring into the postes. It was pitch dark in the woods. The roads were new and strange. The shelling was intense. Peltier, surrounded by batteries and swamped under a rain of shells, was the centre of activity. One car, driven by Allison, with Milne as orderly, ended up in a shell-hole and four men went to their rescue. After getting the car out, they started back, and just as they got abreast of their cars, two shells dropped but a few metres away, when Paul Osborn(1) was wounded in the back and right leg and his car perforated again and again by the éclats. The motor still ran, so with Noyes driving, Wells pouring water into the damaged radiator and Hurlbut running ahead to warn them against holes, they took him into Village Gascon where his wounds were dressed before he was taken back to Farman. Milne, too, was slightly scratched in the shoulder by a shrapnel ball. Toward morning things quieted down and we learned that the Boche attack had failed completely.
PAUL OSBORN died last night despite every attempt to save his life. The wound in his back sapped his strength so that he was unable to withstand the strain of having his leg amputated. The funeral service was held in the chapel of the hospital, and then the body was borne by six French soldiers to the little cemetery on the slope of the hill. The flags of France and America were draped upon the casket and the Croix de Guerre pinned upon the folds by General Baratier, of Fachoda fame, who delivered a touching address at the grave-side.
ALL day mysterious preparations have been going on in the mess hall and there is an undue amount of whispering among our French personnel. At six o'clock we were informed that dinner was ready and when we walked into the room we had the explanation of this mystery and whispering. The walls and rafters were swathed in greens of every description, while at one end a large American flag was draped, and from the smoky beams the banners of the Allied nations waved. Of the dinner itself, one cannot say enough in praise. During the interim between the last course and the wines, we were given a concert by the 63d Regiment Band, which played first the "Star-Spangled Banner" and then the " Marseillaise."
GERMAN planes came over day before yesterday in the afternoon and dropped circulars informing us that the following night we, with several other neighboring villages, were to be the recipients of some Kultur in the form of bombs. In fact, last evening they attacked Mont Sans Nom, but were repulsed, though they shelled the batteries and roads heavily. Rain set in, however, and called a halt to the aerial part of their programme; but it also made it hard evacuating the blessés. The roads were jammed with munition trains going up and ravitaillement trains coming back. In the woods behind Gascon the situation was especially difficult. On one trip Ashton, acting as Strubing's orderly, had to sit out on the fender and shout directions to the driver. Several shells fell close to them, and one wounded Ashton severely in the shoulder and foot, an éclat breaking the collar bone and just missing the spine as it came out of his back. He was evacuated to Farman and a part of the foot amputated.
OUT at Gascon the rats are terrible. Yesterday at midnight they held a field day on the corrugated iron roof of our dugout. The strange part of the whole performance is that these rats do not run, but gallop. At 2 A.M. each and every morning they hold a steeplechase, and between their squealing and our cursing this is a poor place for a rest cure.
Late this evening Isbell and Adams took a call to a battery near here that was being shelled rather heavily. One obus exploded very near and Isbell was given a deep flesh wound in the foot.
CHIEF WALLACE has been cited to the order of the Division for the Croix de Guerre, and this morning we all lined up and, looking as military as possible, spent a nervous quarter of an hour while General Baratier complimented Wallace upon "the splendid work that he and his men had done in the past few months." We are soon to lose him, as he has accepted a commission in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps.
ARCHIE GILE came out to the Section to-day to replace Mr. Wallace, He came over on the boat with the rest of the Dartmouth men, but went into the Motor Transport Service, then to Meaux, whence he was sent to us.
CAPTAIN TUCKER and Lieutenant Webster came out in the afternoon and gave us a talk on why we should become soldiers. We were assured that it is but a matter of a few months before we shall be promoted. Eleven of us followed their advice. But the memory will stick fast of the good old care-free days in S.S.U. Twenty-Eight and the American Field Service.
FREDERIC R. COLIE*
*Of East Orange, New Jersey; Dartmouth, '18; served in the Vosges Detachment as well as in Section Twenty-Eight; later a private in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service. The above are extracts from a diary.
Mourmelon-le-Grand, June 20
ADJOINING our cantonment here is a large network of trenches to be used in case of a retreat. I was out walking around them this afternoon watching the aeroplanes. The air was just alive with them, and it was interesting to watch the German anti-aircraft shells burst around them. One German plane came over and was fired upon by the French anti-aircraft guns. Soldiers working on barbed-wire entanglements around the trenches ran for the dugouts, and since I was in the centre of the field I decided it was time to run also. Several of the barracks here have been demolished by shells. In the rear of us, just twenty yards away, is one building all blown to pieces, and part of the roof of our own barracks has been torn off.
THIS afternoon I was assigned duty as orderly at M Quatre, a poste just across the valley from Mont Cornillet. On this high hill are the first-line trenches, the French holding this side and the Germans the other. The hill ---once wooded---is now bare, and, viewed through glasses, looks very much like a sieve, due to the shellholes which are so numerous that they overlap each other. Around M Quatre are four batteries, the soixante-quinzes being nearest to us. Shells fall around us practically all the time, and in consequence we remain in our dugout nearly always. It is almost impossible to picture the fighting going on here. Over the few square miles of ground in front of us fountains of earth and stones are thrown up by shells continuously. About five-thirty our supper was brought out to us and it was a fine meal. At this time the firing let up a little and only stray shots were heard. But along toward seven o'clock the bombardment opened up violently again, and the calls for cars came in rapidly, making it necessary to send for more. The sights out on Mont Cornillet were spectacular. Illuminating bombs, colored fire, flaming cannon, all added to the effect, until at about ten o'clock, the shells were dropping so fast that it was impossible to stay above ground.
AT about two o'clock this morning a guard called for "Encore deux voitures pour le poste Peltier." I went as orderly for Wells, and as neither of us was acquainted with the road, Noyes, our acting Chef in the absence of Wallace, went with us. Paul Osborn and Orr followed us in another car. I never had even dreamed before just what war really is. I can't begin to describe our ride down through to the poste. Even Noyes lost the road, and before we knew it we were out near the trenches, where shells were falling heavily. As we could not use lights, and as it was as dark as pitch, it was almost impossible to see anything except when an illuminating bomb lighted up the barren place. Consequently, I being orderly went ahead to "feel out " the shell-holes. After pushing our cars out of the mud several times, we got back on the right track. Soon we came to a car piled with blessés and stuck in the mud. We stopped to help them out of a shell-hole. The shrapnel and bombs were failing thick around us and we were continually receiving torrents of mud and clay which were thrown up. After getting this car off, we started for our own cars.
Just as we were running back a cent-cinquante-cinq struck about two metres from one car and at the same time another six or eight metres on the other side. We were all stunned. Suddenly I heard a moan, and then Paul Osborn cry from under the car, "Hospital, quick!" I did not realize anything at first, but soon came to my senses. He had heard the whistling shell approach and had dodged under the car, as he had one minute before said he intended doing. In this case it was the worst thing he could have done. We picked him up, and although it was pitch dark we were able to see by the light of the bursting shells that he was bleeding in the back profusely. As quickly and doucement as possible we put him in the car on a stretcher and started at once for the Village Gascon emergency hospital. Noyes drove the car, Orr remained inside with Paul, Wells sat on the fender feeding the radiator water, it being in a very leaky condition, and I ran on ahead watching the road.
Arriving at the hospital, Paul was placed on a brancard and his wounds were dressed. He was terribly hurt, having two large holes the size of one's fist in the back of his right leg, and another was bored through his back and into his lung. We were all very much alarmed, and when the priest asked us whether he was a Catholic or Protestant, we became more so. Finally, when the priest took me aside and said, "perdu" I could hardly hold myself together, for it did not seem possible that the fellow who, a little while ago, was taking a cat-nap in the dugout in the same blanket with me, was now almost dead.
Wells and I were given some hot coffee, and the firing having stopped somewhat, we went out to look over the car, which we found to be in worse condition than we had thought, although, strangely, the engine was all O.K. In all, the car was shattered with eighty-five holes, quarter-inch steel was cut through, and the side was like a porous plaster. Some cuts were as clean as if made by a saw, while others were jagged. A part of one shell pierced the heavy tool box, went through the pumps and came out the other side of the box, cutting the steel tubing and the steel rods cleanly in half. I never want another such experience as this night.
Champagne Sector, June 24
THE shelf-fire was heavy last night, when the Germans, a long time getting our range, poured the shells in rather hot and heavy. We went without orderlies for the first time, and it was anything but pleasant. I reached Village Gascon at about 1.45 A.M. and found every one sound asleep amidst the roar outside, and it was very lonesome to sit there with a thousand and one rats squealing. I remained until daybreak and then stepped outside to take a look around. It was very cold, dead men were lying about awaiting burial, earth was thrown up, and at intervals the "75s" poured out their deadly metal. Now and then the "155 " battery roared in masterly volubility, and off in the direction of Le Bois Sacré an infantry attack by the French was in progress, the rapid firing of the machine guns making things rather unpleasant.
OSBORN'S funeral was held this morning at nine-thirty. Section 28 was there in full dress, and also men from Sections 12, 14, 19, and 27. Mr. Andrew arrived from the Field Service Headquarters, bringing Paul's brother, who is in a transport section at Jouaignes. A Protestant chaplain officiated at the ceremony, which took place in front of a curiously painted wooden chapel erected by the Russian troops, who were here last year. Paul's body was sealed in a lead-lined, plain, unvarnished, white-oak casket. Hasbrook and Shoup drove one of the ambulances for a hearse. Interment was in a small cemetery a few hundred yards from the chapel and up on the hill. The floral display was very simple. The French personnel of our Section sent a large pillow of red rambler roses, and our Section gave a spray of lilies. These were all the flowers that could be obtained. Headed by a bearer of the American flag, the procession moved slowly up to the cemetery, where are buried a great many other men who have died for France, and whose graves are marked only by plain gray crosses. The whole ceremony was in French, and was very beautiful, impressive, exceedingly sad, and will be very difficult to forget. General Baratier attended and spoke at the grave as follows:
In the name of the 134th Division, I salute Soldier Osborn, who came at the outbreak of the war to aid us to triumph for right, liberty, and justice. In his person I salute the Army of the United States which is fighting with us. The same ideal inspires us and leads us onward, for we are both fighting to save the liberty of the world.
Soldier Osborn, my thoughts go out to your parents, who, on the other side of the ocean, will learn of the grief that has stricken them. I know that words have no power to lessen a mother's sorrow, but I know, too, that the ideal which she inspired in the heart of her son will be able, if not to dry her tears, at least to transform them, for it is through these tears, the tears of all mothers, of all women, that victory will come --- that victory which shall assure the peace of the world, which will be theirs more than any others' since they will have paid for it with their hearts.
Soldier Osborn, sleep on in the midst of your French comrades fallen, like you, in glory. Sleep on, wrapped in the folds of the American flag, in the shadow of the banner of France.
M Quatre, July 6
ALL was very serene until about 12.15 P.M., when the Boches attacked on Mont Blanc and Mont Cornillet. This was exceptionally fierce and was kept up until nearly four o'clock. The two hills were simply one solid bank of smoke, flame, and geysers of débris. Toward midnight I had a call to Village Gascon and one couché and one assis were brought out to me. The couché, who was wounded in the leg and through the back, spoke English quite well, and, although in great pain, managed to talk with me, saying, among other things, "I love the Americans --- !"
DURING the air raid in Châlons last night a paper was dropped by an aviator informing "tout le monde" that the towns of Châlons, Mourmelon-le-Grand, Mourmelon-le-Petit, Bar-le-Duc, and other places would be bombarded to-morrow night, July 14. The Germans seem to do this once in a while to try and show superiority.
TOOK a walk toward Hexen Weg and looked over the old trenches and ground which was being fought over last April. The whole field was covered with little graves marked by small wooden crosses. Skeletons of soldiers were strewn about and in some cases the uniforms had not started to decay. Now and then we would kick over a shoe with a foot in it. Helmets and weapons were around everywhere.
THERE was a big review of the 100th Regiment this afternoon. The regiment has just been filled out with a large number of Africans. They appear awkward at times, but on review make a good showing. Their huge " cheese-knives" are the terror of the Germans.
EVERY one is packing up preparatory to leaving to-morrow at 3 A.M., for Champigny. It is necessary to leave at this early hour because the road is exposed and unsafe for the convoy to pass by daylight.
Champigny, October 16
THIS sector is a quiet one at present. A few obus come in, but not very close. We carry the blessés to Châlons-sur-Vesle. It is always very dark by the time we reach Reims and so very difficult getting around. In addition, the streets are full of barbed wire and the main ones barricaded. These barricades are strongly built and are provided with loopholes through which it is possible to shoot.
JOHN BROWNING HURLBUT*
*Of Hartford, Connecticut; Dartmouth, '18; served with Section Twenty-eight of the Field Service from its formation and subsequently in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service. The above are extracts from a diary.
Wednesday, June 28,1917
PAUL OSBORN. was wounded on last Thursday night, but fought death until his heart failed him yesterday morning. If anything happens to me, I pray God that I may be as noble, as courageous, and as thoughtful of others as Paul was. One of the first things he did in the hospital was to ask for cigarettes --- he does not smoke himself --- to give to the blessés and attendants around him. About the last thing he said was, "I am going to fight this and win out." Then he went to sleep, became unconscious, and died when his heart failed him a half-hour or so later. He never came to consciousness in his last moments; so he passed away just as though he was going to sleep. He did not know that his leg was amputated. His brother, who is in the Camion Service, arrived here about two hours after his death. He lost the battle of life, but he did "win out," for he must have won a place of honor in eternal life.
From all this you can realize that we are in a particularly dangerous sector, and you would realize it more vividly if you could go to our postes and hear the shells flying. Three more of our autos were badly smashed up yesterday, but we have them all ready for service again. The boys were in the dugouts at the time, so no one was injured; but had they been at the side of their ambulances, it is certain that more would be in the hospital to-day. The boys are all playing as safe as possible when not making a run. Of course, when a call comes for an ambulance, they never flinch; but when we are waiting for a call, we keep within reach of the dugouts. But whatever happens, we are all ready to do our duty and to do our best....
Remember that we are in this war to the finish, and if our hour comes, we are glad to go if in the meantime we have done a noble work. We must all join the fight for humanity and civilization whatever the outcome, and after being here and seeing graveyards with a couple of thousand dead in each one, it seems that one life is a small sacrifice. It is a thousand dying that makes a difference.
*Of Lexington, Massachusetts; Dartmouth, '18; wounded July 15, 1918, at the beginning of the Second Battle of the Marne, while driving a load of blessés through a town which was under fire. His skull was fractured by a fragment from a shell and he died August 14, 1918, in the hospital of La Veuve. The above is from an unpublished letter to his father.
S.S.U. TWENTY-EIGHT was taken over by the Government September 17, 1917, at Mourmelon-le-Grand, while it was working with the 134th Division of Infantry, and was called thereafter Section Six-Forty. A week after being militarized we were relieved by S.S.U. Seventeen and went with the 134th to Damery-sur-Marne for a repos of three weeks. From Damery we went to Champigny, where we worked the postes on the northwest side of Reims and a few call postes in other parts of the city. Evacuation work was from Châlons-sur-Vesle to Bouleuse, Jonchery, Sapicourt, and Trigny. The latter part of January we moved into the city proper and had all our postes in the city.
About February 1 we went "out" en repos to Damery for three weeks, then came back to our old quarters in the city, and at this time we took over all the postes in the city, which we worked alone until August 17. After a couple of weeks we moved outside the city limits, where we lived in a candle factory. After the German attacks on March 1 we moved to Sacy, eight kilometres from Reims. Up to this time Reims had been quiet, and with this exception was until the Germans began their destruction in early April. This lasted about ten days, and then things were quiet until the retreat in May from the Aisne. At this time we were very busy and gave considerable help to S.S.A. Twenty on our left, whose division, the 45th Colonials, did excellent work in covering the retreat.
After a couple of days we moved into the woods on the road between Épernay and Reims, near Mont Chenot.
Our Division was in line when the attack of July 15 came, and again we were very busy. August 17 the Section was sent to Nogent-en-Bassigny to join the 91st American Division. In September we went to a position in reserve near Void, where we stayed until the Saint-Mihiel drive was over. From here we went to Parois, where we were when the attack of September 26 commenced. As the attack advanced we had postes in Véry, Cheppy, Epinonville, Eclisfontaine. After ten days in action we came down to Revigny where the Division entrained for Belgium, ten cars going by flatcar and ten over the road.
We camped two days in the English dugouts at Ypres, and then had about ten days' rest before the 91st went into action,
October 29. At this time Lieutenant Gile was relieved by Lieutenant Eno. November 4 the 91st received G.M.C.'s and we were sent to Nancy, where we were when the Armistice was signed, Lieutenant Eno now being relieved by Lieutenant Raydon. November 12 we were assigned to the 76th French Division, and started for Germany via Metz, Thionville, Sierck, Merzig, Hamburg, Alzey, Biebrich, and ended at Kriftel where we were until relieved March 15.
We received a Section Citation from the 134th D.I. for work in Reims during May and June and a letter of commendation from the Division Surgeon of the 91st.
*Of Lexington, Massachusetts; Cornell, '17; joined the Field Service in May, 1917; served in Section Twenty-Eight and in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service during the war. Brother of Stanley Hill, who was killed.
1. Paul Gannett Osborn, of Montclair, New Jersey; Dartmouth, '17; served with Section Twenty-Eight in the Field Service in 1917; died of wounds June 27, 1917.
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