History of the
American Field Service in France
"FRIENDS OF FRANCE", 1914-1917, TOLD BY ITS MEMBERS
||JOSEPH H. EASTMAN|
||WILLIAM J. LOSH|
||FRANKLIN B. SKEELE|
SECTION FOURTEEN, a Leland Stanford University section, sailed from New York as a complete unit on the 14th of February, 1917, just after the breaking-off of diplomatic relations with Germany. It went immediately to the front, working in the Verdun sector, then comparatively quiet. On April 15 it moved to the Toul sector, in the region of Commercy. At length it went en repos near Ligny-en-Barrois. On June 5 it journeyed to the Champagne, near Mourmelon-le-Petit, in the Moronvilliers sector, where it remained until recruited into the United States Army, as Section Six-Thirty-Two.
Oh, it is n't in words that we show it
ROBERT A. DONALDSON
TOWARD the close of 1916, one hundred and fifty students of Stanford University assembled and signified their willingness to abandon the classroom for ambulance driving on the Western Front. From these young men was selected a group of twenty which became known as the First Unit of Friends of France, and later as Section Fourteen.
"Friends of France" is an association having a wide membership in California and was founded to promote cordial relation's between the two Republics --- "for Humanity and the Humanities." To its generosity and enthusiasm is due the success of the expedition and its influence in awakening, on the Pacific Slope, interest in the War.
On February 3, 1917, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, the society gave a banquet and leave-taking to the young men of the unit, each of whom was presented with a brassard bearing the shield of the Society made by Mrs. W. B. Bourn, of the Friends of France; and on the following morning the students boarded their special car bound for the east. On February 14 they sailed from New York.
Section Fourteen was the first section of the Field Service to come from the Pacific Coast, and in recognition of this fact, which was significant of the extending interest throughout the States in France and the war, the departure of the Section from Paris was marked with considerable ceremony. The farewell dinner at 21 rue Raynouard on March 15, which, according to custom, marked the leave-taking of sections for the front, was graced by the presence of the American Ambassador to France, Mr. William J. Sharp, and the former Ambassador of France to the United States, M. Jules Cambon, both of whom spoke eloquently of the growing rapprochement of the two Republics. Mr. Andrew, the Director of the Field Service, presided, and speeches were also made by representatives of the French Army and the officers of the Section, pledging their best efforts to the common cause. On the morning of March 16, the Section rolled out of the lower gate of "21," with its convoy of twenty-four new cars, bound for the front.
THE Section first served at Montgrignon, carrying wounded into Verdun two miles away, and spent long hours in the captured German canal-boat waiting for the nine or ten cases that were carried down the canal during a shift. But after a time even the famed city of Verdun, which was being given a rest for the moment, began to lag in interest. So we were glad when, on the morning of April 14, orders came to pack, and by evening most of the cars were loaded for travel.
The first stop was to put up for a few nights' lodging in a leaking and rat-infested shed along the side of the aviation hangars of Vadelaincourt, where some in the Section first contracted the aeroplane germ. Another short stop was made at Chardogne, near Bar-le-Duc, a hospitable and never-to-be-forgotten village far, far behind the world. Then we went on to the spacious quarters in the college at Commercy. If Verdun was having a rest, Commercy had declared peace!
With less effort than it takes to tell it, the Section was able to serve postes de secours along a twenty-kilometre front, in addition to carrying the patients of six or seven evacuation hospitals.
Artillery action could be seen from most of the postes at times, and at one of them it was, on occasions, even the traditional thing to take to the shelter of abris. Then all will remember that excitable station-master who always made such a fuss over receiving "more cases than the hospital train would hold"; the streets that became cleared of terrified pedestrians when our cars appeared on the scene; the uncomprehending professeur of the collège; and the comrades at the different postes --- these were the high-lights. Nor in this enumeration of the memorable things of the region should we forget the pastry-shop life, for there Commercy stands on its own feet.
AT length the French troops with whom we were associated had become well rested and were moved forward in anticipation of entering a more active secteur of the front, and Section Fourteen took to the road at the same time. It went first to Ligny-en-Barrois, where, under the shade trees between the cathedral and the public school, our cars were parked during several idle weeks of springtime. Ligny is a town of rare charm where at evening townspeople and the girls from the war factories promenaded about the square and along the paths through the forest park, and beside the river and canal. It was here, too, in the canal locks, that we fought out swimming and diving titles. Ambulanciers who had hitherto been listless toward the language now took new heart, that they might compete with the more studious, and likewise stand well in the eyes of feminine Ligny. As we were housed in the open near our ambulances, the boys often received callers, swarms of gamins and gamines overrunning at recess the cars that filled their playground, while the villagers at the forenoon hour and the church-goers at the not infrequent masses did the same.
On June 4, the Section had the signal honor of formally receiving the first Stars and Stripes to fly in France with the official sanction of the United States War Department, a gift of the Friends of France and the Union League of California, sent over to us by a special envoy, Arthur Kimber,(1) a fellow student at Stanford University. Presentation ceremonies of a most impressive character were held on a hilltop outside of Ligny in the presence of two battalions and a regimental French band, and Colonel Colon, in behalf of the armies of France, received the colors and in turn presented them to Section Fourteen.
THE following day the Unit journeyed to Mourmelon-le-Petit, behind Moronvilliers in Champagne, to the right of Reims, when brief survey of the district --- ruined Prosnes, the postes de secours of Constantine and Moscou, two kilometres from smoking Mont Cornillet ---sufficed to show us that the long-sought field of action was at hand. A party of six cars, sent to learn the road, and lined up in the open at Constantine in view of German observation balloons, drew the flattering attention of enemy artillery. In a word, we were at the front this time. The church corner at Prosnes, for example, was a place of evil enough repute to appease the most sensation-craving appetites. Some made a practice of skidding around it; others killed their engines and had to re-crank; while at least one managed it by whistling, or, if under pressure, by singing. The trench side of the Constantine abri was a pit-seat to the spectacle of shells bursting along the hills and in the surrounding fields. All in all there was a great deal of tension in Prosnes, with its terrific noise, the number and character of the wounded, and the conditions imposed on road travel.
The exposure to danger, as well as the opportunity to witness trench life first-hand, was perhaps the outstanding benefit received by the members of the unit from their work at this time. It gave us, too, a keener appreciation of the burden carried by the French soldiers, promoted respect for the men in the trenches, and altered views regarding the war's obligations. When the Section was nearing the time to retire en repos, and the first term of service was about to be completed, eight members accepted a call to join the second Stanford unit, then leaving for the Balkans to become Section Ten. On the Fourth of July, the Section was presented the Croix de Guerre with Divisional citation, for the manner of its work performed at Verdun and in the Moronvilliers sector.
JOSEPH H. EASTMAN*
*Of Pleasanton, Cal.; Stanford, '18; served with Section Fourteen from March to August, 1917; later became a First Lieutenant, U.S.A. Air Service.
Glorieux, March 25
WE were very busy the other night, because of a gas attack near by, and, most terrible of all, a liquid-fire attack. We carried the wounded to the town through the dark. My first entrance into the dressing-station was with some of my blessés. On the rack on which they lift the stretchers lay a liquid-fire victim --- his face black and charred like a cinder and the upper part of his body scorched and cooked. He hardly murmured. The gas victims can scarcely move; they cough and gasp and choke in great pain.
Vadelaincourt, April 16
WE are about twenty kilometres from Verdun, where is the most famous aviation camp in France, in fact the aviation base for the entire sector.
The Division has received orders to move; so we shall have to move with it. All of our old friends, the brancardiers, go along, and it seems that they are going to be our comrades for good. They are a mixed crew. Most of them are ordinary poilus with good hearts; but the best of them are well educated Catholic priests who make good chums and are painstaking French instructors.
The Division moves on foot; so we run ahead and wait a few days for them to catch up and go on again. This is tiresome travelling, and as transients we get thrown into almost any kind of quarters. At one town we were in a long, black, barren, portable house, built entirely without nails, which we shared half and half with a corps of French wireless men. The floor was of earth, stones, and straw. Last night, when all was quiet, a rat scout made a survey of the room and then piped up the regiment. Hundreds swarmed and swept, marched and counter-marched, squeaking and fighting, all over the place for the whole night. Anticipating as much, I had put shoes, bags, and everything out of reach on a wire, and so felt comparatively safe.
I am going to bed now. I never take off more than my shoes and coat.
Mourmelon-le-Petit, June 11
YESTERDAY'S ride of some one hundred kilometres was very beautiful. A thunderstorm blew over early in the morning, freshening the air and the colors of the fields, and pleasing us by laying the dust. We ran through a farming country where the regular patches of blooming alfalfa were a glowing pink, setting off the russet of newly ploughed ground and the silvery green of the grain. And such wild flowers! It is time for California to shut up and hand the china teapot to France. The principal flower is the scarlet poppy, with four broad petals of crinkly thinness, forming a very wide cup. Never was there flower more beautiful, and it abounds everywhere. Then there are lupins, buttercups, larkspurs, yellow flags, purple flags, lilies-of-the-valley, and a million others. The trees are all cottonwood and willow except the artificial pine forests. These forests, by the way, are of the greatest military importance, for they screen everything.
IT got dark about ten o'clock. About eleven an officer drove up on his horse behind my car and told me that he had a blessé whom his convoy had picked up on the road between our reserve poste and the poste de secours. He confided to me that the road was being steadily shelled between the two postes and that this man and his comrade had been hit by a shell. His comrade was blown in two. So I piled out with my stretcher and gave it to the artilleryman, who put the wounded soldier on it and set him down behind the ambulance. One said he was dead, but there was a difference of opinion on this point. I lit my briquet and in the flickering light we gathered around the stretcher, watching the man shudder and die without a sound. "Il est mort, " the officer said, "allons." And with that they went, leaving me, alone with a shell-torn man, dead but still warm, to gaze at the bloody mass, in the red, flickering light. His right arm was blown off at the elbow, the rest hanging in shreds. His head was riddled with splinters, and there was a hole an inch square in his cheek. Around his body were countless holes and his shirt was bloody and red. I woke up one of the fellows, and we loaded him into the ambulance and carried him to the hospital. It was not exactly the thing to do, but I was n't going to leave him on a stretcher all night by the roadside; so I took him to the hospital and let the authorities there dispose of the body.
As soon as I got back to the poste de réserve, the first car came back; covered with earth and full of holes. Randau left it in front of the poste --- there is no shelter for cars --- when a shell fell ten feet away. He was in an abri, but was n't a lot safer, for a "77" fell ten feet away from where he was resting and threw earth in the door. He also reported bombardment of the little town halfway to the poste. Anyway, it was up to me to see if there were not something to be done in that place, so I cranked up and buzzed down the road, somewhat shaky from seeing the evidence of the deadly bombardment before me. "Toad" Strong was with me. We are now running two to a car for moral support. As we stopped at a rise, we looked at the little town below and across the plain to the poste. The hills were illuminated by star-shells over the trenches and by artillery rockets, while across the plain came the sharp, wicked snaps of shrapnel in the air around the poste, and in the town the heavy flash of high-explosives.
THE psychology of judgment at such a moment is interesting. There is an object to be attained --reaching the poste. There is shelling of a town below, a shell arriving every fifteen seconds with an interval of a minute now and then. There is shrapnel around the object. The judgment to be reached is the most advantageous manner of reaching the poste without being hit. One does n't know whether to take it slowly and wait for an interval to be apparent or to tear through and trust to luck. On the return trip from the poste, the question is more complicated. If you go slowly, you are liable to be clipped from behind by shrapnel; and if you hurry, you are liable to reach the town at the same time that a shell does.
Anyhow, we went at a rush and got through the town without mishap, although a shell hit behind us just off the road. Then we faced the shrapnel. We waited this out, and halfway between, at a suitable moment, we tore up to the poste, backed up in a second, and beat it for the shelter. Immediately after, two shells fell twenty yards away, but without hitting the car.
Rolled up then in a blanket to sleep; but half an hour later an urgent case arrived. He had his nose, half his cheeks, his upper lip and teeth, and half his chin shot away. I expect he died. While bringing him in, two "150's" exploded thirty yards to our left in the town, throwing earth and rocks and the smell of powder across the road. We were glad to get out alive. This was at 3 A.M.
Such was the night. I did not really feel the effects of it all until after I came off, when I had a nervous depression corresponding to the excitement of the night before. The Lieutenant told us we looked ten years older, and I guess we did, for I felt so. Words cannot really express the nervous excitement of a night like that, mixed up with death and duty and the agony of life.
WILLIAM J. LOSH*
*Of San Francisco; served with Section Fourteen until June, 1917, when he joined Section Ten in the Orient; the above are extracts from letters.
IT seems as though every time I go on duty new experiences increase my hatred of the hell of war. I cannot tell you all of them, the censor would object; but I do wish there was some way of telling you just how stoical to suffering the French poilu is. This is an impression that grows on me, with every wounded man that I carry. One has to become accustomed to so many heart-tearing scenes. The sight of blood-soaked bandages is frequent; but to see a young fellow with blood matted between a week's growth of whiskers and perhaps partly covered with mud; to see a pair of sky-blue eyes peering out from the paleness of intense suffering, and perhaps to hear him talk of home in his delirium, are things one can never become accustomed to. Strange as it may seem, I have never seen a wounded Frenchman who was unconscious no matter what the pain. I had one soldier whose leg had been broken below the knee by a piece of shell, and in some way his foot had got turned partly around. How the poor boy kept from groaning, I never knew. But what was more, he partly sat up in his stretcher and asked one of the carriers to turn the foot slowly back again. Cautiously and gently his comrade worked, until the suffering poilu said, "There," as he lay back on the pillowless stretcher. Your imagination can never paint the picture; you must see and experience the bravery of wounded France to realize her spirit. Boys of eighteen, men of forty, all give their lives and suffer for ideals that mean more to them than life. And then comes our part --- to get the wounded poilu quickly to the hospital and to the skilful surgeon, for time means life. And yet one must drive carefully, for every jar means agony.
MISSING: [Image 163b.jpg----p94,vII: SSU14]
A RECENT experience when we went back of the lines for a rest may interest. Every one was scolding, crabbing, condemning the management for having picked out such a place for our sojourn, when a huge rat ran across the floor, which did not tend to lessen our discontent. The blame thing was as big as a rabbit. I suppose he ran so fast because of dissatisfaction at our having disturbed him in his retreat. Finally, out of the storm came a voice at the door announcing supper. So twenty-two grumbling tired men scuffled down the stairs, out past the front yard with its odors, to the café, which the manager loaned to us until we could get better settled.
Now comes the psychological part of the whole thing. We filled over half of the big room, while Frenchmen, the stretcher-bearers, and hospital attendants, with whom we had been working the past months and whom we had learned to know through the suffering of others, occupied half of the small room. Suddenly one of our men began to sing --- I think it was "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now?" --- and, like a stimulant to a heart about to flutter out, the singing began to blot out blues and grumbles and growls. I'll never forget, in all my life, what happened. Dinner was over by this time, and we sang a few more songs. Then the old Frenchmen began. You cannot understand the spirit until you see how a typical, educated Frenchman of university type, as most of these are --- how these men with their families awaiting their return, all entered into the spirit of the music with an enthusiasm such as I have never seen. They sang with their eyes, with their hearts, with their bodies; there was no restraint, no bashfulness. Even if some could not keep time or pitch, it made no difference. Then one of our men recited, sang a few songs with the sweetness of a McCormack, and one of their men responded, while we joined in on the chorus. "When Good Fellows Get Together" was the most à propos song we sang. We cheered them, they cheered us. It made absolutely no difference that we could not understand the words to their songs; nor could they make out what we were singing. The spirit was there and we felt it. Finally we ended with the " Star-Spangled Banner," and they with the "Marseillaise." And then we came back to a parlor, which before had seemed a rotten old garret because of our attitude of mind. Even the rat was forgotten.
ONE of the men said to me just before Christmas that he thought it sounded like sarcasm for folks to wish us a "Merry Christmas." He was basing his remark on our surroundings at that time. The barracks were cold with their damp ground floors. It was so cold, in fact, that I found ice caked in my Ford commutator, and even my fountain-pen ink became solid, though it was in my trunk. Occasionally I wore my overcoat to bed, slept under seven blankets, and for two weeks never took off my clothes. However, my friend was wrong. We had a lively time. As Christmas Day approached, every one got busy. Some went for a tree, others helped the French cook prepare the big meal, while still others were writing little somethings and wrapping mysterious packages that bulged peculiarly. When the men returned with the tree in an ambulance and a load of holly from the woods, we all began decorating the café, our dining-room at that time, where the insides of tin boxes made good reflectors for the candles.
An empty barrack near by served as a distributing-room for old Santa Claus, who was one of the men with his face covered with cotton for a beard and who heightened the effect by sprinkling snow over his jolly self. The children of the village were there long before "Père Noel" arrived. One little fellow proudly showed me a sou some one had given him, his only gift, "because his father was away fighting for the future along with thousands of others." Each man of the Section had three toys for distribution among the little ones, and limericks for himself. The reckless drivers received toy ambulances. One who had been "over the top" on a visit had a toy Croix de Guerre; while the old Major was given a toy sword; and so on for sixty limericks and toys. We then opened a box of candies sent to the Section, and then those bright-eyed, happy children of France politely took their chocolates and American gum, which at first they did not know what to do with, with a gracious " Merci." But the toys they knew well what to do with, for they had seen days when such joys existed.
Then came the turkey dinner, backed by salad, cakes, nuts, fruits, chestnut dressing, mashed potatoes, and candy. Oh, how surely such things did make us forget the discomforts of war! while college songs, yells, and toasts helped make the air glow with the brilliancy of the holly berries. Even Le Beck, the cook, was made to come in to receive our cheers and thanks and be toasted.
Soon after the dinner came the show, for we had one, and a good one, as the French army utilized men, who before the war were actors, for vaudeville performances to cheer up the poilus en repos. It is found here at the front as necessary to care for the amusement of the men as it is to provide good food for them. Accordingly, a group of actors of our Division form a sort of stock company with several pieces in their répertoire. They have an auto which furnishes electricity, and costumes are given them. It so happened that these actors were quartered in a near-by village and were glad to take part in our vaudeville. We even had their machine for making electricity. Every man in the Section had some part to perform, while the folk of our village, three hundred in number, were the audience. We had tumbling stunts, comedy boxing matches, several skits, minstrel scenes, etc. We had rented a piano from some one in a neighboring city. Burnt corks served to blacken the "coons," who had two German grenades hanging on their belts. One of us actually did a Salome dance dressed in a grass costume made from bits of camouflage while mosquito netting draped "her" extremities.
For seats we dragged in benches and covered them with blankets which we use for wounded soldiers. Our ten acts and the Frenchmen's two comedies lasted until 12.30 A.M. the next morning. But not a single person left the "auditorium," although they could not understand much of our English.
Thus my friend was wrong about it not being possible to have a Merry Christmas out here, for we had a good time ourselves as well as making it a merry day for others.
FRANKLIN B. SKEELE*
*Of Los Angeles, Cal.; Stanford, '18; served in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service. The pages given above are extracts from home letters.
ON September 19, 1917, the Section was officially taken over by the A.E.F. and given the number 632. We were cantoned in Villers-Marmery at the time, serving in the Champagne district in the sector of the Marquises Farm. Our postes were Wez, Prosnes, Maisonnette, La Cloche, and Cuisine.
From November 29 to January 1, 1918, came our first repos, near Châlons-sur-Marne. Chepy, Marson, and Jâlons were villages in which we lived. During this repos the Section was cited by the Division.
We were then assigned to the same front in the Champagne, but in the adjoining sector of the Mounts. Constancelager, Petite Haie, Bouleaux, Haie Claire, Prosnes, and Constantine Farm, were the postes, and our base first La Plaine, then the village of Sept-Saulx.
Allan H. Muhr was our first Lieutenant, Jefferson B. Fletcher, of Columbia University, taking his place in November. About March, 1918, another Lieutenant, Elliott H. Lee, from Princeton, took charge and was with us until le fin de la guerre. Émile Baudouy was our French officer from the time of the Section's formation, March 1, 1917, until September, 1918.
We remained in the sector of the Mounts until June 30, 1918, when we headed toward the Marne with our Division, the Eighth. Before the battle on the 15th we were quartered in Pierry, Vinay, and then Le Breuil. Our postes during the battle were Tincourt, uilly, Festigny, Saint-Martin, Chatillon, Vandières, Dormans, Damery, and Port-à-Binson.
After four days of heavy fighting, when we lost about eighty-two per cent of our Division, we retired to Courcelles. The ranks were soon refilled and August found us again on our way to the Champagne, in the sector of the Mounts again, serving postes at Prosnes, Sapinière, Baconnes, Farman, Constantine Farm, Bouleaux, and La Plaine. Mourmelon was the village of our Cantonment.
Then came the big advance, September 26, 1918, when we moved forward some 110 kilometres, from Mourmelon to Charleville-Mézières. Our line of advance, covering six weeks, took us through Naurouy, Aussonce, Neuflize, Tagnon, Rethel, to Charleville, which town was the, Headquarters of the German General Armies and where the former Kaiser and Crown Prince lived for four years. Our postes from here were Mézières, Saint-Laurent, Ville-sur-Lumes, Lumes, Prix, Nouzon, and Romery.
The section remained in Charleville from the day of its recapture on November 10 to March 7, 1919. hen we headed for home via Paris and Base Camp.
SECTION FIFTEEN left Paris about April 10, 1917, arriving a little later at Dombasle, near Verdun. It had postes opposite Mort Homme and Côte 304, and there it remained until the end of June, when it retired en repos to Wassy far back of the lines. In late July the Section returned to the Verdun sector, working again in the region of Mort Homme, which the French successfully attacked on August 20. Its next move was early in October to the Champagne, where it worked in the region of the Mounts. It was there that the Section was made a part of the American Army as Section Six-Thirty-Three.
Spirit of France, immortal, hail to thee!
WILLIAM C. SANGER, JR.
SECTION FIFTEEN left Paris for the front at a most auspicious time --- it was the first section to go out after the entrance of America into the war, and we were hailed as soldiers and allies.
Just as winter was breaking, the Section arrived at Dombasle-en-Argonne, and found quarters in that little shell-smashed village, ten miles west of Verdun and just behind Mort Homme and Hill 304, both world-famed for the battles that raged over their possession. Section One of the Field Service was on the ground when we arrived, and we took over its postes de secours. We were attached to the 32d Division of the French Army, with which we remained during the whole of our history as a unit of the Field Service; and, except for five weeks en repos, we always operated in and around Dombasle.
Although the Verdun sector was a comparatively quiet front during the spring of 1917, the work was interesting and somewhat dangerous, the advanced poste being at Esnes. This little run from Montzéville to Esnes is well known to every American section that ever worked in the Verdun sector. Nearly the entire road was in view of the German trenches at the foot of Mort Homme. Many sections won their spurs on this road. On it James Liddell, driving ambulance 530, was shelled forty-eight hours after leaving Paris. On his first run to Esnes a shell burst thirty feet away, while fragments from the explosion tore through the car, and an éclat cut the back of his coat.
The spot where Liddell nearly met his fate was the scene of many more escapes during the eleven weeks that the Section operated there. It was christened "Hell Corner," and the name has gone down in ambulance history. As a provider of thrills, "Hell Corner" has had no peer.
BEFORE the Section left Dombasle, it lost its first and highly popular Chef, Henderson, who was sent to the School at Meaux. His time with Section Fifteen was brief, but be put into it much energy.
On June 28, the Section went en repos at Wassy, in the Department of the Haute-Marne, where we celebrated the Fourth of July, and the French inhabitants made a special effort to do honor to their new ally. The Section acquitted itself well, after doing justice to a champagne dinner, by winning a game of association football and capturing most of the prizes offered at a field meet.
But the most important event of the stay at Wassy was the coming of Lieutenant Fabre, who was to be in charge of the Section, as it proved, as long as we remained members of the Field Service. He became the main factor in the success of the Section because of his energy and cheeriness. He knew how to awaken activity when we were tired of repos, and to cheer us when we were worn out with work. Where there were dangers to be encountered, our French Lieutenant was the first man on the scene.
August 2 saw the Section once more on the road back to the front. After a series of stops at various towns, it finally arrived, on August 10, at Jubécourt, where evacuation work started. This was the same sector that we had worked in before; but it was no longer possible to live so close to the lines as Dombasle, for since our departure the Boches had advanced long-range guns, and villages as far as twenty kilometres back were in danger. So our old cantonment at Dombasle was deserted. Section Two had moved out of it under a bombardment and no section occupied it afterwards.
AT Jubécourt we could see the preparations for the great attack before Hill 304 and Mort Homme. Troops and supplies moved up nightly. The far-famed Foreign Legion was called upon, together with several other magnificent divisions of France's best Colonial troops, to aid in the effort. The sky was alive with aeroplanes, and the rumble of cannon along the front was almost a continuous roar.
Our Division was expected to figure in the attack, and we all knew what that would mean for us. So Osborn our Chef, Lieutenant Fabre, Dominic Rich and Van Alstyne, went out to investigate the prospective poste de secours at La Claire. The trip resulted disastrously. At La Claire a bombardment was in progress, and before the men could make their way to cover, a shell exploded near them. Osborn and Rich were wounded and Lieutenant Fabre and Van Alstyne knocked down by the concussion, but not wounded. Rich, with his right arm splintered, and Osborn, with both legs struck, were hurt rather seriously. Eventually the latter had to return to America. Robert Paradise succeeded him as Chef, with Van Alstyne as Sous-Chef.
ON August 18 the Section moved to Rampont, in order to be nearer the lines when the attack should take place. At about this time, we learned, however, that our Division would not participate and that we should doubtless be doing evacuation work for some weeks. There was, of course, a feeling of disappointment in the Section, until the Lieutenant asked and received permission to assist an English ambulance section during the coming battle. The morning of the attack on Mort Homme, ten ambulances were called out, and headed for Hill 232, where we were to receive the wounded. Curtis and Dunn, driving car 513, were the first to reach the poste and brought down the first load. The Lieutenant followed close behind them in another ambulance, then others arrived in rapid succession. From then until two o'clock it was "hurry down and get back." The Lieutenant helped load each car as it came up and slammed the door shut as it started down the long stretch to the evacuation hospital eight miles distant. Every car was running its best, and we entered into good-natured rivalry with the English section to see which could carry the most wounded.
By two o'clock all the wounded at the dressing-station had been taken down, though a few were coming in all the time. The Section remained on duty until five o'clock when the day's work appeared to be finished.
Few of the men who were present at that attack will ever forget it. The dust and smoke that covered the country in a murky haze, the ride like mad to the poste near Mort Homme, with the guns blazing away on all sides, the hundreds of German prisoners tramping back, and the long rows of wounded at the poste, formed a picture so vivid as to be unforgettable. It was a glorious victory for the French, for where Dead Man's Hill and Hill 304 reared their shattered summits, the poilus had charged to a depth of four kilometres along the whole sector and had captured more than seven thousand prisoners.
OUR Division moved up on Mort Homme on August 25, and the Section officially took over the poste de secours on Hill 232. Then the cantonment was moved again, this time to Jouy-en-Argonne, a village just over the hill from our former home at Dombasle. The work there was more consistently hard than any the Section had ever had before, for besides the three cars of the poste de secours, two or three others were needed for evacuation work at the hospital of Claires-Chêsnes.
As at Jouy, we lived in tents. Things were damp during the rainy season which followed, and, to add to our troubles, a Boche bombing escadrille took up its quarters on the other side of the lines. Now, on every clear night, hostile airplanes circled overhead, spraying the ground with their machine guns, and dropping bombs. The famous hospital of Vadelaincourt was bombed and partially burned on the night of August 20, the day of the great attack, and twice again in September.
The Section just missed trouble at Rampont when the site of the cantonment was bombed the night after we had left for Jouy. It is supposed that the ambulances had been sighted in daytime by an observation plane and that the bombing-planes made their call the same night. In any event one of the four bombs which were dropped fell only a few feet from the spot which had been occupied by our main tent with eighteen men in it.
On September 28 the recruiting officer of the United States Army Ambulance Service visited Section Fifteen, and twenty-three of our thirty men enlisted in the American Army, whereupon Section Fifteen ceased to exist as a Unit of the American Field Service.
*Of Waco, Texas, University of Texas, '16; entered the Field Service, February, , 1917; served with Section Fifteen, and continued with the Section when it became part of the U.S.A. Ambulance Service in France.
En Repos, Wassy, July 5, 1917
OUR twenty ambulances are lined up in the public square of a delightful little town, and each one is completely cleaned and slicked up with oiled rags till they all look like new. One man stays here en réserve in case of accidents or sick-calls, while the rest of us swim, play ball, walk, and generally enjoy ourselves, for we are here en repos. I have been promoted to Sous-Chef of the Section and now have the privilege of "swanking" about the town with a silver grenade, instead of a red, on my collar, and a stripe on my sleeve. We have most excellent quarters in a small Louis XIV château. When we arrived, however, we were billeted in a former dance-hall. But one day, while the Chef and I were out walking, we discovered that there were apartments to let in this house, and so inquiries resulted in the Section moving in here, the Chef and I sharing the extra rent. Don't be alarmed at this prodigality, for it means only fifty francs per month to be divided between two of us. The place is owned by a most charming French lady, whose husband is in the trenches, and who manages the whole property, together with four charming children, three boys, of thirteen, eight, and six, and a little girl of four. We have all become great friends with the little ones and we play about together. The soldats américains, as they call us, are great favorites with all the children and even the grown people of the town, and it is very pleasant, indeed, to know how kindly they all feel toward us. We also indulge in football and sports generally with the jeunesse sportive of Wassy, who much admire our prowess in games. But it is rather a new experience to be stopped in the square by a Sister of Charity and orated at --- that is the only way to express it --- to this effect: " Oh! how glad the French people are to have you here; how much they like you personally and admire your sports. How kind you are to the children," and so on. I trust the two of us who underwent the ordeal did not look too foolish. It was embarrassing, but certainly not without its humorous and kindly side.
The Fourth of July was celebrated yesterday by the whole town, and we were quite the centre of attraction. it was about the most hectic day I have known. Lord, what a party! It started after breakfast with an inspection by the General of the Division, a courtesy for the Section. Numerous rehearsals had taught us to keep something of a line and how and when to salute; but as a smartly drilled army, I am afraid S.S.U. Fifteen would not take many prizes. The General was very amiable, however; asked to be presented to each man, and went down the line, shaking bands and asking questions as to age, state, etc. He then spoke with the Chef , and myself as Sous-Chef, for a few minutes and invited us to dinner. Fancy me dining with the General! I will tell of that in its proper place. After the inspection, we had a period for furbishing up, till the municipality gave the Section a banquet at noon. Never before have I eaten and drunk so much. We sat down, some sixty strong, at noon and rose at 2.45 to rush off to prepare for a fête sportive. There was course after course of delicious food with two kinds of wine, not to mention coffee and liqueurs at the end; and we ate and ate, and stuffed and drank, all the time knowing that we had to run races and play baseball and football immediately after.
Anyhow, at 2.45 we changed into "sportive costumes," khaki shirts, BVD shorts, and such tennis shoes and socks as we could find, and went to the park for the games. Imagine us, torpid with food and drink, doing what follows: All the races and jumps were won by us, for the poilus, as you know, are like the French in general, not very athletic. Our demonstration of baseball was highly successful and we won our football game, but were utterly exhausted afterwards.
Then the Section had dinner with champagne, which the Chef and I did not attend, as we dined with the General! It was most interesting ---we two at a staff dinner where all the other guests were in gorgeous uniforms plentifully bestrewn with medals. I should hardly call it a gay meal. But the General was most gracious and amiable --- set the Chef on his left hand and poured wine for him, while I was placed next to the Chief of Staff, who speaks English perfectly, and we conversed of hunting and shooting and fishing in California. More wines --- three kinds --- with liqueurs and coffee again. When we finally left at 9.15, I felt this had been indeed an active day --- a banquet, a dinner with the General, an inspection by the General, a track meet, a baseball game, and a game of soccer football. So to-day the whole Section is nursing sore muscles and sore heads, and thanking the Lord that July Fourth comes but once a year, especially in France in war-time, and just after America's declaration of war.
Wassy, July 15
WE have seen two bodies of Americans here on the way to their training-camps. They are a good lot, most of them, but furnish some amusement to our French Lieutenant. For example, a truck-load of officers came through yesterday, none of whom spoke French, and who had only the vaguest idea where they were headed for. We set them on a road leading in the general direction in which they thought their destination lay and gave them our blessings. They were very grateful and a very nice-looking bunch. But it all amuses the French, and I suppose we have a lot to learn.
*Of Azusa, California; University of California, '10, Oxford University, England, and Harvard; served with Sections Fifteen and Thirty-Two of the Field Service, which he joined in February, 1917; later a First Lieutenant in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service in France. The above are extracts from Mr. Vosburg's home correspondence.
Paris, Sunday, March 4, 1917
THE Champs Elysées was brilliant with life and color this fine Sunday afternoon. The sidewalks were crowded with officers and beautiful women, with the conditions of color absolutely reversed from those of peace-time --- black for the women and all the tints of the rainbow for the soldiers. There is nothing of the stiff martial Hun about them, but a certain soldierly dignity of carriage that conceals, but at the same time proclaims, sternness and unflinching devotion in time of peril.
Tuesday, March 13
WHEN I walked home this evening, through the deserted streets with a light shining only here and there, a strange impression of the unreality of my experience came upon me. It did not seem possible that I was walking down a street of that Paris of my dreams, thousands of miles from home.
Wednesday, April 11
A BIG dinner here at 21 rue Raynouard this evening to Section Fifteen, which goes out to the front to-morrow.
Dombasle, Sunday, April 15
WE started out slowly from Paris at 8 A.M. on the 12th. Our Section has the record for quick time. Forty seven hours out of Paris, we carried blessés at Verdun, replacing Section One which went to Champagne. Cleaned up my car in the morning and played a little baseball. It is certainly a queer contrast --- a quiet game of catch in the road here, while just over the hill the batteries are banging away. As yet I cannot quite realize that we are in the midst of death and suffering. We are not far from Verdun, with Mort Homme and Hill 304 on the east, and the Argonne Forest to the west. In the evening, we played duck on the rock to the great amusement of some poilus, who are most interesting and pleasant. They seem to have a very real and hearty welcome for us. The corporal we talked with was very intelligent, and well-educated; he made me feel ashamed of myself, he knew so much of English literature. He recited Keats and Tennyson for us.... We have a wonderfully comfortable room with a fire going all the time.
Wednesday, April 18
DULL. Snow. Am writing this entry in the little abri in the gray, dripping woods. Everywhere is dirty, sticky, yellow mud that is unlike anything I have seen before. A poilu has just come in from the trenches looking very sad and discouraged. The poor fellow was malade; so Clark took him back in his car. He also took two permissionnaires who were as happy as children at the thought of leaving, at least for a little while, the misery of it all.
Thursday, April 19
SLEPT very comfortably on my stretcher and woke at six o'clock to take four assis down to Dombasle. When I got out, the sun had just risen and shone redly through the woods, like a ball of dull fire. The sky was streaked with bands of blue, saffron, and pink, all in the lightest tints. Along the road, between me and the dawn, came a file of blue-clad heroes. They were going to relieve their comrades in the trenches, and, in spite of what lay ahead, they were singing. The finest men in the world, they are, and the sight of them cheerily going forward, in the peaceful freshness of dawn, to their terrible task, made an impression on me that I shall never forget.... Ate lunch outdoors in the warm sun to the music of shells whistling overhead and the batteries of "75's" exploding under my nose. It was all very new and tremendously interesting. But, though it was the first time I had been under fire, I did not feel any peculiar emotion aside from curiosity and interest. At twelve o'clock they brought in a poor fellow who had been badly wounded and I set right out with him. An exploding shell had hurt him terribly, so I went very slowly and carefully all the way to Ville, as he was fully conscious and suffering intensely. The poor man kept softly groaning all the way, for, in spite of all my efforts, the jolts and jars were dreadful. Coming back from Ville a natural reaction took place and I slewed and tore around the slippery corners to beat the band; singing away for no reason in the wide world --- but feeling much relieved and almost normal again.
Sunday, April 22
IT was a beautiful evening, and after supper I went up on the hill and watched the sunset. I could see Dombasle, with some of its quaint red roofs still intact, resting peacefully in the fertile, green valley between the rolling hills that curved up on all sides, finally ending, westward, in the blue swell of the Argonne. White bands of roadway ran out of the little village, some rolling in wide curves, others running straight as arrows, and along these slowly moved long files of carts and tiny men. Across the horizon against the red sun was a road, bordered by toy trees, over which moved a lone team. The whole scene was as clearly outlined as though it were only a few yards away.... And all the while the booming and crashing of the big guns ripped up the peaceful quiet and turned a beautiful landscape into a troubled sea of war. After I returned to the room, we sat around the fire looking into the flames and talked in low voices of many things. It was a time of confidences, of the opening of jealously guarded secrets, of cherished ambitions. It is comforting also merely to gaze into the mysterious, leaping flames and let the mind run whither it will.
TO-DAY was really my first experience under fire. I was tremendously excited ---and to be frank, scared stiff. The chief emotion I recollect when the shell landed near me, was surprise and satisfaction that the great organization known as the German Army should have bothered to fire upon me. With a little exaggeration, it became a case of me vs. Guillaume. I feel very important.
Saturday, April 28
THE Commander of our Army, General Herr, --- three stars and a stripe---visited us and shook hands and spoke with each one of us. The "big bug" was a kindly old man with cavernous eyes. Our French Lieutenant was very nervous during the ceremony and hid a lighted pipe in his Pocket. The General noticed something burning and called the Lieutenant's attention to a big hole in the latter's pocket. Which very much embarrassed said Lieutenant.
Sunday, April 29
Two new fellows arrived yesterday on the mail truck. The lads have been filled with as many stories as their credulity admits. We sowed mitrailleuse bullets in the walls of their room and spoke meaningly of aeroplane bombs and German sharpshooters.
Monday, April 30
AFTER lunch I had my hair cut at the G.B.D. I sat in a rickety old chair on a bale of burlap in a dirty little side room, while the barber clipped away with dull tools, and, nevertheless, did a very good job. Just as I was driving into Montzéville this evening two soldiers asked me to help them draw their camion out of the ditch into which the hind wheels had fallen. Of course I gladly assented and spent the best part of an hour trying to pull the truck out. We procured some wire, but it broke several times before we finally succeeded. By this time I was mighty tired and I fell asleep almost as soon as I hit the hay. "Hay" is to be taken literally. During to-night's ride large rats kept scurrying across the road at intervals, giving me a great sense of companionship.
Tuesday, May 1
WE have discovered the difference between the French and German star-shells. The former explode when they reach the height of their trajectory and the stick part falls to the ground, leaving a little pin-prick of light that gradually grows into a ghastly green flare. The light is suspended from a parachute that remains in the air by virtue of the hot air generated by the flame and lasts about a minute. The Boche star-shells light on the way up and remain up only as long as it takes the torch to describe a long arching curve in the air.
Saturday, May 5
OUR Chef, Barton, and Richmond are leaving for Meaux, and we all feel very sad over losing three whom we all liked and respected. We gave a farewell dinner at which they all spoke, as did the new Chef Osborn and our French Lieutenant, Clark making an efficient and amusing toastmaster. It is really remarkable how close the Section has grown together since its formation and how genuine was the regret at the split. Red Clark carried a wounded German prisoner and was terribly bawled out for shaking hands with him.
Friday, May 18
THE French brancardier is a kindly, sympathetic man who has been through the mill and come out strengthened in faith and understanding rather than hardened. He is probably the most lovable character I have met. So many of his kind seem like big children; but in time of stress, they show unsuspected depths of strength and coolness.
Sunday, May 20
IN the afternoon, most of the fellows went down to the coöperative field and played baseball with the English. I have had a long talk with a little poilu who did some laundry for me. He had a kindly face with twinkling eyes and humorous wrinkles, though lines of care are only too evident also. He is a simple farmer chap of no education. As for the war, he said he was mightily wearied of it all, but that he and every one of his countrymen would continue till the cause of right and humanity be won. I finished by entertaining a respect and admiration for the man that I cannot express. He was absolutely above anything that was small or mean; and I am beginning to realize that there are a lot of his comrades just like him.
Esnes, Tuesday, May 22
AFTER lunch I sat outside playing checkers with one of the brancardiers, when a shell landed just outside the yard and the éclats rattled against the château. We ducked for the abri, as three more fell uncomfortably close, one near my car and one in the graveyard. Though the éclats shot by my car on all sides, not a piece went through it, much to my disgust.
Thursday, June 14
ALL the afternoon, I sat around in my car trying to read and basking in the hot sun. Suddenly I heard a loud explosion and looked up to see a soldier, whom I had noticed working among the ruins across the road, blown into a bloody heap. He got up, streaming blood from his chest and arms, and staggered down the street a few yards, when he collapsed again. The brancardiers rushed out and I got a stretcher from my car, while the pharmacien arranged a tourniquet for a severed artery in the man's arm. Then I hurried him to Ville, as fast as the wretched condition of the road would allow, where they told me he would live, but that his arm would have to be amputated. The whole terrible drarna was caused by the poor fellow having dropped a piece of tile on an old grenade.
Saturday, June 16
FOR some unaccountable reason our whole room was late to breakfast, and work in the garden as punishment being pretty well exhausted, we were forced to aid the génie down by the railroad. We slung huge logs around, piled planks, and in about two hours accomplished what the génie were accustomed to take a week to do. This latter gentry sat around smoking cigarettes in the shelter of a pile of timbers, and, with mildly curious and altogether satisfied eyes, watched us work. It was awfully hot business, and I was very glad when I got back and had a cold bath.
The Lieutenant tells me that the poor fellow who was hit by the grenade died shortly after his arm was amputated.
I am told that three men of the 143d Regiment have just been shot because they refused to fight and were stirring up trouble among the soldiers. Two men from every other company in the Division were compelled to witness the execution.
Sunday, June 17
THE cherries are ripe and hang in tiny red clusters that peep from under shiny leaves, affording pleasing contrast in color. The first hay of the season has been cut and its lingering fragrance still hangs over the stubbled meadows.
The birds chirp in a rather listless sort of way and seem not to mind being drowned out by the lazy humming of bees and innumerable flies. Wandering through the tall, unkempt grass, one is apt to make the pleasing discovery of a row of rosebushes laden with heavy blossoms that alone mark the spot of a former garden, while everywhere one goes, one meets the piquant dash of brilliant red that denotes the poppy, standing boastfully forth from the field of soft, mellow colors. The world hereabouts is a great fragrant garden inviting you with all its subtle influence to further investigate its beauties.
Sunday, June 24
AFTER a very excellent meal, I prepared to do my last day's ambulance work here. My car was filled with blessés and malades, and I was about to frank it, when M. Charvet, the pharmacien at Esnes, told me that the Boches were firing on the "Corner" and that I had better hurry when I got there. I could see the cloud of black smoke hanging over it and every once in a while a new explosion boomed out. I felt that it was rather unnecessary to send the car out while the bombardment lasted, since I had no grave cases. But I couldn't tell him that and so I started off with very decided misgivings. . . . After supper, when I was relieved, and reached the top of the hill for a last view of the familiar scene, I almost felt a sensation of affection for Mort Homme ---now that we are leaving it.
Wassy, Haute-Marne, Tuesday, June 26
WE rose at five o'clock, made up our blanket-rolls, ate a wretched, uncooked breakfast, and were off by six o'clock with an astonishing lack of confusion and an equally amazing proximity to the time schedule. The squad system worked well. We took a direct route which included the towns of Ville, Jubécourt, Bar-le-Duc, Saint-Dizier, and Wassy. From the very start my car ran wretchedly and could not maintain the fast pace set by the convoy; so I had to travel close to the camionnette with Bailey in order to save time on the repair job. The Lieutenant and the Médecin Chef, who travelled with him, were much interested in my mishaps and even kept close to me in order not to miss any of the fun. Just outside of Bar-le-Duc I caught up again with the convoy and managed, by the exercise of great skill and persuasion, to stick with it the rest of the way. Near by in the fields where we stopped for lunch were several cherry trees laden with rich luscious fruit, and in a few moments we gathered enough to last the rest of the trip. At about 11 A.M. we arrived at Wassy, parked our cars, made a scanty meal at one of the cafés and spent the afternoon arranging our quarters. After supper I took a stroll and went to bed early.
Wednesday, June 27
WASSY is a quaint, beautiful little city of four thousand inhabitants. The small centralized area devoted to business is a tangled maze of clean, cobblestone streets, the other streets being wide and shady like a New England village. At present the town is very deserted, for the soldiers have not yet arrived, and the only people at home are old men, women, and children, who come out and gaze at us as though we were strange animals. We are the first Americans, except perhaps a few casual tourists, who have ever visited the place, and consequently we are the topic of the day. The little girls and boys follow us around everywhere, and when we stop, we are surrounded by an eager, curious crowd. These children are so well-behaved and lovable that we feel like adopting several on the spot. We worked all the morning washing our cars with the aid of hundreds of little urchins who insisted on going over with a dirty rag spots that we had just cleaned. Our cars are parked by the public square guarded by two soldiers, bayonets drawn, to protect them, I suppose, from the curious infants.
The river Blaise flows through the village in front of our camp, finally ending its journey in the Marne. A canal also traverses the place, and both of these streams have their source in a reservoir just outside of the town proper. We went swimming there this afternoon, as it was terribly hot, and absolutely had the time of our lives. The water was warm and clean, and we dived from a stone embankment into deep water, so there is no muddy bottom to consider. Down in the fields below the embankment they were making hay, and the warm, sweet odor drifted up to us as we lay stretched out in a luxurious sunbath.
Thursday, June 28
OUR new quarters are in the second story of the grand château of the town, one that was formerly occupied by the Governor of the province and which dates back to 1700. The family lives on the first floor and rents the second to us. We have six rooms, all of them very large; so we are not at all cramped. There are three little children in the family and we have all fallen in love with them.
Saturday, June 30
AFTER supper, Bundy, Liddell, and I went up to see the communiqué posted outside the mairie. Returning, we stopped to talk with an old gentleman and his wife who were leaning through their parlor window that opened on the sidewalk. They were the most genuine, patriotic, lovable, kindly ---except when they spoke of the Boches --- and hospitable people I have ever known. In honor of the occasion, a new bottle of some mild liqueur was opened, and when we finally forced ourselves to leave, the old gentleman called us "mes enfants."
Tuesday, July 3
FRAZER CLARK and I paid a visit to the Marquis de Mauroy to see his wonderful collection of meteors and minerals, the former being the best in the world. We met the Marquis on the street here in Wassy, and he invited us to come after lunch. Though almost an invalid he showed us his things personally with a great deal of pride in his collection, and was very kind and hospitable.
The Fourth of July
THE Wassy College invited us to dinner at the Hotel de la Gare, which proved to be very interesting and enjoyable. We were each seated between two étudiants who insisted on speaking broken English, while we murdered the French language with our usual cheerful unconcern. At three o'clock we had a track meet with the soldiers in which we managed to win about everything, and after that a short exhibition of baseball, ending up the afternoon with a soccer game with the French soldiers, which we won, 6 to 4. The features of the day were the huge crowds of people, their enthusiasm and the evidences of their friendly feeling for us. It was very thrilling to find such hospitality and welcome so far away from home.
Trémont, Wednesday, August 1
WE arrived at this little village in time to arrange our quarters before lunch, in a huge, garish château that was evidently the pride of the town. I have an immense feather-bed to myself. A shallow brook five feet wide flows along the main street and in this brook all the washing is done. On the top of one of the neighboring hills, we found a fine level field for baseball, which we played all the afternoon.
Saturday, August 4
STARTLING news! We leave to-morrow morning! Frantic eleyenth-hour repairs and packing occupied the evening.
As we watched, three planes descended, swooping down in wide circles and making spectacular dives and turns for the benefit of the crowds of soldiers who stood gazing up with us. The sun was just setting and on each downward circle the machines were blackly silhouetted against the glowing crimson clouds in the west.... It made one catch one's breath.
Jubécourt, Monday, August 6
WE went to bed early, as the lights have to be turned out at nine o'clock on account of enemy aeroplanes. The woods are full of artillery, wheel to wheel --- the most stupendous massing of guns the officers have ever seen. We hear the continual sound of cannon.
Wednesday, August 8
WE went to-day with a camion to Vadelaincourt to get ravitaillement. The activity and ordered confusion that covered the road and all the countryside we could see were proof of the importance of this sector. Thousands of camions passed us. We played baseball in the afternoon.
Thursday, August 9
ALMOST half the Section was called out this morning. The traffic on the road was worse than yesterday.
Tuesday, August 14
LAST night at La Claire, beyond Fromeréville, a good deal of shelling was going on, when a "130" burst near our staff car, éclats wounding Dominic Rich and Earl Osborn, who were quickly taken to Vadelaincourt.
Wednesday, August 15
APPARENTLY, the Section is not at all worried by the casualties, for life goes on as usual in every way. We make pilgrimages to Vadelaincourt in squads of four to visit our blessés. There was a terrific bombardment last night and all day. Playing baseball in the afternoon, I sprained my ankle and have to limp around with a cane.
Thursday, August 16
THE whole campaign of action has been mapped out to us on secret army maps so that we know pretty much what is to take place. Forty more prisoners were marched by to-day and Jimmy got a hat, while Frazer cut off an iron-cross ribbon.
Saturday, August 18
HAD a very interesting conversation with a soldier-priest touching the vital points of religion, especially in its relation to those going into battle. We watched battalions of the 31st Infantry go by in their light attacking order, with a small blanket-roll and no pack. The priest remarked that many of the soldiers had new uniforms and overcoats so that they "might be well-dressed to die." Later, however, he said that no matter how much a Frenchman may complain and mutter, he always fights like a hero when the test comes. These men going into battle were so downcast and serious-looking that I could not force a smile of good-cheer, for visions of what was before them. They offered quite a contrast to the Moroccans who went up singing and joking like boisterous children.
Rampont, Sunday, August 19
WE had breakfast at seven o'clock and immediately after broke camp. It was a long, hard task for there was much to do and the day was enervating. The Section has accumulated so much material that it took three voyages of the White to finish up things. Our new quarters are on the hill above the town. We have not a great deal of room, but there is a grassy stretch where we have pitched our tents. The French anti-aircraft guns shot down a Boche avion near here this afternoon. A crowd of Moroccans rushed to the scene and were all for tearing the German to pieces; in fact, it was only the intervention of a general that saved him. "Tex" Jones, in a long raincoat and goggles, with a handkerchief over his nose against the dust, also hurried to the spot, and was almost knocked down himself before the Moroccans discovered that he was not the Boche. The machine was quickly broken up into souvenirs.
Monday, August 20
My first call came at eleven o'clock last night, and since then I have n't had time to eat or sleep. The attack started at four o'clock this morning. My pulses were pounding away with excitement as I turned up the old Montzéville road, and the noise of the roaring guns grew louder and louder, till finally I reached the crest of the hill and the whole stunning effect of sight and sound burst upon me. Guns exploding on all sides of me --- huge nightmarish things that shook the very ground; dugouts with men standing around laughing and joking; I remember now how the contrast struck me --- the light casualness of these men and the hellishness of the scene around them. The attack had gone famously and the enthusiasm was contagious. I became conscious of nothing but an overwhelming desire to shout and yell. The day was brilliant and sunshiny; it seemed like a holiday. I started back with my wounded, determined to return as soon as possible in order not to miss any of the show; what then was my anger and disappointment when I was forced to wait half an hour to unload! The second time at poste I got a Boche helmet from a very attractive-looking prisoner. I finished out my twenty-four hours' duty with a trip to Chaumont. During the day our Section alone carried over 700 wounded, covering a distance of 2000 kilometres. I carried 55 men, went over 350 kilometres, and used 50 litres of gas. I was fairly well tired out when at length I was able to tumble into bed and forget the war for a while.
Wednesday, August 22
LAST night a German aeroplane bombed the Vadelaincourt hospital and worked terrible havoc among the wounded, including many of their own. It was a frightful deed, done apparently in cold blood. I made a trip from Jubécourt to Vadelaincourt, and had a very interesting conversation on the way over with a Dutchman of the Foreign Legion. He said that 460 of his countrymen had enlisted at the beginning of the war, only 40 of whom remained. His words showed what a marvellous esprit de corps the Legion had built up. Every man is proud of its reputation and would rather die than in any way harm it. It has never once failed to obtain its objective.
Claires-Chêsnes, Thursday, August 23
AFTER supper, I went on duty at Claires-Chêsnes and immediately was sent to Chaumont with one man --- a badly wounded Moroccan. These Moroccans are wonderful fighters, but when they are wounded, they cry and suffer out loud like children --- untaught to conceal their emotions. This poor fellow cried out all the way in spite of all my efforts to prevent jars. It was a fearful experience, for there was nothing I could do to help him except continue.
Claires-Chêsnes, Saturday, September 1
I MADE several trips last night, which gave me an opportunity to revolve in my mind all the troubled impressions caused by my reading of last evening and before. It was a beautiful night with a clear, calm moon that made all human problems seem futile and unnecessary. On one trip a sergeant of the Foreign Legion sat with me on the front seat, and during the ride talked cheerfully on various matters, though his head was entirely bandaged. On reaching Vadelaincourt, I put my hand on the side box while alighting and it came away dripping with blood, while the faint glimmer from the Attente des Couchés sign showed a pool of blood stretching several feet on the mudguard. . . . There was the answer to the moon.
Jouy, Sunday, September 2
AT 5 P.M. I proceeded to our new cantonment at this place. It is located in the woods of a steep slope rising on the north side of the village. The fellows had worked well, and numerous tents, cleverly placed to avoid detection by aeroplanes, gleamed through the trees. It is a pleasant, roomy sort of a spot, though the guns sound uncomfortably close, and occasionally the sharp whine of a shell tells of a near-by battery that makes the whole place a target.
Jouy, Wednesday, September 5
LAST night German aviators dropped bombs all night long. The most terrible effect was the destruction in the hospital at Vadelaincourt, where I stopped on the way back this afternoon. One bomb landed in the officers' barrack, killing instantly the Médecin Chef and two officers. The other three landed in different parts of the wards, working terrible destruction, as the éclats left no building untouched. The casualties were chiefly among the personnel. Three nurses were badly wounded and a doctor was killed with the patient he was operating upon. It was a truly frightful spectacle, one that made the onlooker forget any sense of humanity in an overwhelming desire to crush a people whose doctrines sanction deeds like that; for there is no doubt that the thing was done in cold blood.
Jouy, Saturday, September 8
TO-DAY and last night I made about seven trips. The cannonading on the right bank of the Meuse was terrific all night. I spent the afternoon in taxi service getting delicacies for a banquet that the Médecin Chef at Claires-Chesnes is giving to the French Lieutenant on the occasion of his Croix de Guerre. At Rarécourt, we --- Lieutenant Rubait and I --- went into a pâtisserie to buy éclairs and before we left we had either bought or eaten almost the entire stock.
Monday, September 10
LAST night was a little too nerve-racking. About midnight we were awakened by the crash of two shells, one on top of the other, somewhere down in the orchard between the cars and the village. We were just about congratulating ourselves on the conclusion of the strafe, when two more shells landed so near that éclats whistled through the trees. At that, all dignity broke down and there was one mad, trampling rush for the trench. Ryan's bed was in the entrance and about fifteen fellows walked over him before he had a chance to escape. I found myself in the trench with one shoe and my sheepskin coat on. Somebody stepped on my unprotected foot with praiseworthy energy, though I felt it to be somewhat out of place under the circumstances. No more shells came, however and wit began to make itself heard, until finally the party broke up as a sort of lark. All day I have been limping around on my bad foot.
Claires-Chêsnes, Friday, September 14
THE tricolor at the gate is struggling manfully against the beating rain. It flaps painfully from side to side, slower and slower, and now seems about to give up and hang dead. But every time a new impulse appears to spring through it, for up it struggles again, fluttering in dogged resistance against the downpour. And, somehow, I feel cheered at the sight of this sacred emblem of France, so worthily emulating its people.
Poste 232, Wednesday, September 19
AFTER breakfast I was standing outside the poste enjoying the morning sun when Sergeant Marcel came along and invited me to a ramble on Mort Homme. I naturally jumped at the opportunity and asked for and received the necessary permission from Chaussard. The morning was bright, but hazy, thus preventing efficient artillery observation, and consequently we were able to avoid the boyau and take the open path. So we tramped beside the trench for some distance till we came to a supply station, where we branched off on to what had once been a road. but which is now so spotted with shell-holes that I could hardly believe Marcel when he said the artillery caissons traversed it easily. Here we saw some sturdy little bobsleds which are used in wet weather, and passed batteries, support trenches, then the former third line, barbed wire, the second line, more barbed wire, and finally the old first line. There were many shell-holes all about, but the trenches were in excellent condition, with the exception of the first line which was battered in places, We now crossed No Man's Land, past chevaux-de-frise hastily thrown aside to open up a pathway for the attacking troops, and came on to --- imagine if you can the interior of a volcano, the smoke-blasted sides, the tumbled heaps of stuff thrown up, the yellow, scarred appearance; or picture an angry yellow sea running in mountainous swells and covered with smaller waves and troughs. We were in a sort of pocket formed by the first slopes of Mort Homme rising on three sides; and here had been the German lines, Marcel told me. But I saw nothing, nothing except the most frightful cataclysm I shall ever see. We had left the road now and were on a narrow path running along the crest of enormous, gaping holes; past twisted, useless barbed wire, and occasionally along half-submerged sap entrances from which drifted a faint, acrid odor. The French have cleaned up the place well since the attack, but I saw some gruesome sights. An innocent-looking bundle of rags more than once turned out to hold remains of a man. A shoe with a foot and sometimes a leg in it was a common occurrence, and once I noticed a skull. Grenades, body armor, helmets, gasmasks, and everything imaginable, lay strewn all about.
Presently we entered a trench which was at first shallow, but which suddenly deepened into a strong, well-protected thoroughfare that took us over the crest of Mort Homme. Here of a sudden Marcel drew me into a sap just in time to avoid the Colonel of the 80th, for my presence could hardly be explained. This sap, which had been built by the Germans, was of strong and of most curious design. It had so little head-room that the only way to enter it, as far as I could see, was by crawling backwards on hands and knees. After proceeding a little farther along the trench, Marcel turned into an abri and then through a curtained doorway into a little box of a room --- the observation post, where, through a narrow slit, I could look down into a valley from which rose, on the near side, the rather steep slope of Mort Homme covered with shattered trees. The French trenches ran very near, just below me, and the German ones showed very plainly in front of the Bois de Forges, the two being separated by over a kilometre, due to the marshy quality of the low ground. On the way back, we stopped at a telephone station to see a friend of Marcel's and were conducted down a very long sap into a stuffy chamber where we were received with the hospitality and grace of a drawing-room. The telephonist made chocolate for us, apologized for the lack of room with an ease and poise that made me quite forget my surroundings. I was quite tired out when we finally reached the poste, for we had gone over eight kilometres.
Vaubécourt, Saturday, October 6
WE left Jouy at 9 A.M. to-day and Section Thirty-One took our place. We reached this village at 11 A.M. The kitchen trailer was delayed, so we went forth in search of food. After many rebuffs and failures, four of us found ourselves in the back room of a tumble-down house that we reached by going through a stable and up three steps. The room was bare, but very clean, and with a cheerful fire burning on a wide hearth. Two old women served us with fried potatoes, cider, and pears, which, added to the tins of meat and huge loaf of bread and cheese we had bought, made a very substantial meal. The women told us a pathetic story of the vandalism and wanton destruction of the Huns when they occupied the village before the Battle of the Marne, All the furniture and goods were transported to Germany and the houses were then burned. The English, with customary thoroughness, gave to each of the inhabitants of the destroyed villages around here---a bed, some clothes, a rooster, a hen and a cow.
Chantrix, Tuesday, October 9
WE left this morning for the Champagne sector, having been transferred to the Fourth Army. We were stopped at the first village beyond Vaubécourt to make way for a party of notables including President Poincaré, Marshal Joffre, and the President of Portugal. We lined up by the roadside while the automobiles wheeled by, and every one acknowledged our formation, President Poincaré raising his hat completely and accompanying it with a short bow. We reached this village at 4 P.M. I slept the night in my car. The church here rings out the hours with a bell that is the exact counterpart of the Andover chapel bell.
Prosnes, Sunday, November 4
THERE is a cemetery near here of more than two hundred soldiers, ten to twenty in a grave. These graveyards are everywhere, with occasional black crosses conspicuous by the absence of the tricolor cockade; they mark the resting-place of Germans. After supper I got a hurry call to Petite Haie where were two very graves blessés, both suffering from the most painful wound possible --- leg fracture. Returning, I missed the sharp turn outside of Prosnes and took the road that runs off to the left toward Baconnes. After going about three kilometres, I became worried at not finding La Plaine and finally stopped and asked my whereabouts. I went through awful mental agony, emphasized each moment by the tortured cries of the poor fellows in back, both fully conscious, and aware, I had no doubt, of my mistake and my fatal helplessness. The horror, the agony of that ride will rest graven on my mind. I asked the doctor if the extra fifteen minutes in my car would have made any difference and he assured me no. Both men died at one o'clock that same morning.
Wednesday, November 7
I SPENT the greater part of the afternoon at bridge, writing, and talking with the telephonist. I learned that the corps de santé has an informal code that is used over the telephone in case the Boches should overhear what is said. Thus, an automobile is a bidon; a wounded man, une catégorie; a dead man, une planche, etc. The new abri at Bouleaux has just been finished and is by far the most comfortable of all those of the front-line postes. You enter it from a trench near the road and go down twenty-four steps, which brings the little room at the bottom just under the road, so that wagons and men passing overhead make a curious noise a little like the scuffling of rats. In this little box there is just place for three bunks, cut out of the pure white chalk. The absence of rats and totos is noticeable and worthy of mention.
Tuesday, November 13
GREENWOOD apparently has some very secret "dope," as he has told us flatly that there is to be a large coup de main by the French on Thursday morning and that he expects to call all cars out. One battalion of the 101st Regiment is going to make the attack.
La Plaine, Wednesday, November 14
TO-NIGHT I feel as though I could do anything, and yet I sit here in luxury while other poor fellows are thinking of morn when they are going to risk their lives --- for what? What does it matter if the Germans win? We will forget it on the morrow. But no! I know why it matters and I feel I am not doing enough. The trenches are a great melting-pot from which emerges all the good purged of the evil. To-morrow morning at five o'clock Bill and I are going to Constancelager to carry away those brave fellows who are waiting now, thinking ... I don't know what I think.
Thursday, November 15
WE rose in the darkness, and after a hasty breakfast set forth. The morning was unexpectedly mild and so misty that I found it difficult to keep Bill's car in sight. It grew light rapidly and by the time we arrived at Prat, the gaunt plain was easily visible. All was quiet and peaceful, but I realized how deceptive it was when I thought of the inferno about to break forth. I was waiting with ears strained to catch the first sound when I learned that the coup de main had been postponed till to-morrow morning.
Constancelager, Friday, November 16
WE started out again in exactly the same way as yesterday, except that just as I backed my car into the shelter at Prat, it happened. The din was tremendous. The sky showed streaks of crimson in the east, over the dead, peaceful countryside, and birds were singing in the air. But the inferno on the hills yonder only increased. However, the coup de main was an absolute failure. I carried two terrible head cases.
Reims, Monday, November 19
I HAVE been struck by the careless way in which an inventory is made of the dead man's effects. To me it is such a sacred, touching office. The crowd of brancardiers are as boyish as we are. They laugh and joke like a lot of schoolboys, which is nothing short of marvellous considering the depressing effect of their lives. How I admire them!
Dillman, Wednesday, November 21
AT 11 P.M. I was awakened and given a couché to take to Châlons; so I visited the American canteen at the station. It is a marvellous place with hundreds of brancards for the soldiers to sleep on, arranged in groups according to the destinations of the soldiers who may thus be awakened in time for their train. There are reading-rooms, shower-baths, an outdoor garden, and a huge refectory where one may buy simple, extraordinarily cheap food served with the efficiency of a modern American quick-lunch counter. The big rooms are quaintly and cleverly decorated and furnished with indirect lighting. The kitchen is a model establishment. But chief of all attractions, for me at least, were the pleasant American women in charge. I talked for a long time with a very attractive lady before I could finally tear myself away.
Sunday, December 2
WOKE at eight o'clock to find a broad beam of sunlight across the foot of my bed. What a glorious day! Clear, limitless blue overhead, sunlight on the green firs, a wind bringing air like wine that sends the blood tingling through the veins. From the observation tower the whole city of Reims was plainly visible. What a wonderful thing to be alive!
Haie Claire, Monday, December 3
ARRIVED here for the night, I followed my guide into a maze of trenches, one of which ended in a wide entrance to the poste, sloping downward with short, regular steps and plenty of head-room, unlike any other abri I have ever seen. At the foot is a broad archway cut out of pure chalk and then comes the door of the main room of the poste. What a surprise to find a blazing fire crackling on a hearth in the opposite wall, throwing ruddy reflections on the whitewashed walls and filling the place with warmth and comfort. The Médecin Chef lounged on a bench with his slippered feet on the hearth, and several brancardiers were talking in an undertone in a corner. A more peaceful, homelike spot would be hard to find. From another wing of the abri floated softly the sound of a flute and men's voices in chorus. The Médecin Chef nodded his head in approval. "It keeps the men happy," he said. Reluctantly I broke away from the warm fire and crept into my narrow bunk.
Constancelager, Sunday, December 9
I TOOK a walk with an aspirant who spoke English and who led me through a maze of trenches, all labelled with picturesque names. We passed officers' quarters, very cosy and comfortable, with smoke betraying the warmth within, soldiers grouped about a table playing cards, messengers hurrying along, the postman with letters and newspapers, soldiers working on new boyaux or abris or repairing fils de fer; in fact, all the ordinary aspects of trench existence which is now so perfect that a system of trenches is a busy, humming community, with its main streets, and alleys, its tenement row and its "Fifth Avenue," its church, its hospital, and its store.
Haie Claire, Monday, December 17
SNOW! We woke to a world absolutely transformed. Snow on the little huts, on the trees, glistening on the ground, and the air crisp and tingling. On account of the danger of aeroplanes taking pictures of tracks in the snow, we had to cross the open places on a single path, and, in the big level place in front, the cars have to use one track only.
La Plaine, Christmas, 1917
WE went wood-gathering beyond Thuizy in a forest of huge first-growth hardwood trees. Shells had done awful damage there. The magnificent trees were shattered and torn and thrown into all kinds of fantastic positions. One giant maple remained practically intact , with a tiny observation post riddled by éclats hidden away up at the top, perhaps a hundred feet in the air. The ground was torn up by the shells, and fallen branches lay around knee-deep, which added greatly to the difficulty of our work.
La Plaine, Monday, December 31
AND So this is the end of 1917, --- the most thrilling, most inspiring, most profoundly influencing year of my life. I look back on it with a certain amount of satisfaction tinged with awe and wonder.
*Of Lexington, Massachusetts; Harvard, '19, entered the American Field Service in February 1917, and served with Section Fifteen throughout the war. The above are extracts from a diary.
SECTION FIFTEEN was enlisted in the United States Army at Jouy-en-Argonne as Section Six-Thirty-Three. About November 1, 1917, it moved to La Plaine, in the region of the "Mounts" in the Champagne district. During this winter period there was no particular action along the front, the principal thing of interest being speculation as to when and where the Germans would pull their much-heralded "kolossal" offensive. On January 15, 1918, the Section went en repos in this district, coming back again to the lines at Mourmelon-le-Grand, in the same region, but a different sector.
Section Fifteen, after the army took it over, almost qualifies for the title of the "One Sector Section." It remained here in the Champagne, in this immediate neighborhood, sometimes shifting to one or the other of the near-by "Mounts" sectors, but never going far away, until July 20. From the 15th of March until the 1st of April its Division experienced a number of small but annoying diversion attacks, usually accompanied by gas. At these times there were fairly heavy evacuations from Prosnes, Ferme de Moscou, and Constantine. The Section was cited in April for its work during these gas attacks.
During Ludendorff's famous "Friedenstürm" offensive in the Champagne, from July 15 to July 17, the work of the Section was very heavy. The main part of the action here stopped abruptly after the counter-attack of July 18 on the Soissons-Château-Thierry front. For its work during this defensive the Section was cited to the Order of the Army.
Finally, on October 5, the Section moved to the front near Suippes, in the Champagne. It took part in General Gouraud's attack here, advancing steadily with its Division to and across the Aisne at Vouziers, and was still going forward when the Armistice stopped operations. For its work in this last attack it was again cited.
After the Armistice it remained for some time at Montigny, moving on to Charleville, Brussels, and finally taking up a more or less permanent position at Grevenbroich, Germany. It was ordered in to Base Camp on the 27th of February, 1919, and sailed from Brest for home during the first week in April.
1. Arthur Clifford Kimber, of Palo Alto, California; Leland Stanford, '18; joined the Field Service in May, 1917, as a member of Section Fourteen; where he remained until September; subsequently a First Lieutenant, U.S. Aviation; killed in action near Sedan, September 26, 1918.
Table of Contents