History of the
American Field Service in France
"FRIENDS OF FRANCE", 1914-1917, TOLD BY ITS MEMBERS
IN the Stars and Stripes of March 21, 1919, there was published, under the general headline of "Life Stirs Again in Ravished Countryside Once Bounded by Death Swept Valleys," a series of sketches dealing with the rehabilitation of the territory over which the Yanks fought during the German advance from the Aisne, and the subsequent Foch counter-attack on July 18. Among these little sketches which deal so delightfully and picturesquely, and with such a strange mixture of war and peace, with this country, is one which should be of more or less interest to a number of the ambulance and camion sections. The old stamping-ground of the camionneurs, during the days of 1917, when one would have laughed had he been told that these would ever be battle fields, is again described, as well as villages of the plateau country between Soissons and Pierrefonds, where the 1st and 2d Divisions fought side by side with the Moroccans, and other French troops, along a front held a little later entirely by the French troops and the famous Scotch division which included the Black Watch, Gordon Highlanders, the Coldstream Guards, and many others. To those many ambulance men who will retain among their most vivid memories of the war the battle along this picturesque front, this article should prove of interest.
There are some sights, some shrines on the edge of battle, of which the official guides know nothing and which the tourists are unlikely to see. It seems improbable, for instance, that the tourists will ever find their way in such great numbers to the historic, but little known, heights south of Soissons, where, on the memorable July 18, 1918, one of the most potent offensive weapons ever forged was thrust forward by Marshal Foch to cut the Soissons-Château-Thierry road and thus catch the Germans in the salient that reached to the Marne. Standing on that highland area, which the 1st and 2d American Divisions, with the Moroccans between them, overran in those sweltering days, the pilgrim can say: "Here on July 18th the tide of the great war turned."
Yet, so incredibly swift was the blow there struck, and so swiftly did the tide of battle move far beyond, that the famous highlands themselves are less scarred than many other areas farther east and south, and the villages and towns are less populous with American memories. Yet, Berzy-le-Sec, now all in ruins, and belabored Vierzy are American memorials of one of the most dashing and important engagements in history.
Here is the land of quarries, from which the blinking Germans crawled forth to find the whole surface of the earth over run with young gun-toting Americans in no mood for soft fighting. Here is Chavigny Farm, the utterly demolished thirteenth-century farmhouse which marked the extreme right of the American jump-off, and which had been the training ground for the old American Field Service. Here is Longpont, with the fine de Montesquieu château laid low in the dust. Longpont, at whose gates the Escadrille Lafayette encamped.
Here a short distance back through the wonder forest of Villers-Cotterets is Pierrefonds, whose towering château looked down on the remnants of the 2d Division gathered wearily there on July 21 after its naked rush of twenty-six hours. That château, visible for miles and miles, has scars from bomb and cannon to show. It shows, too, long halls that were built to house the men-at-arms of the Duc d'Orléans, but which housed instead Yankee troops all last summer. The old caretaker is still rosy with recollections of their Fourth of July dinner, at which he was an honored guest.
The tourist, for instance, is never likely to find that damp, far-reaching cave which burrows into the hill just outside of Cuvres on the road to Mortefontaine. Only some still dangling telephone wires are left to tell the passer-by that it was once the Headquarters of the 1st Division, when prisoners choked the ravine outside and the roads were gay with Scotch troops coming up fresh and hearty to relieve the dog-tired Yanks.
Section Two was serving with the Moroccan Division mentioned in this article, a division which here added another laurel to its already splendid list of victories. The Section was working out of Longpont and Vertes-Feuilles in the edge of the Villers-Cotterets Forest, and had, among other places, Vierzy, an old evacuation centre in the days of 1917, for a front-line poste. The Section carried large numbers of American wounded who were unable to locate their own dressing-stations.
Section One also worked on this front, their division being to the left of the Scotch and just above Soissons. Missy-aux-Bois, remembered by some of the old Chemin-des-Dames sections for repos spent there, was one of their front-line postes. The wounded were evacuated to the old and half-ruined château at Cuvres.
Section Eighteen was located for thirty-eight days in the Forest of Villers-Cotterets when the Germans first broke through the Aisne front. On the 19th of July their division again came back into line in front of Villemontoire, and Buzancy, on the Soissons-Château-Thierry road, relieving part, and later all, of the 1st American Division. The Headquarters, and those of the Scotch division here mentioned, were in the "damp, far-reaching cave" above Cuvres. They evacuated to Pierrefonds. After the German retreat of August 5 in this sector, the division moved up past Chaudun, Septmonts, and Villemontoire, through country where the Section had been en repos in 1917, to a front along the Aisne.
It was after the retreat from the Chemin-des-Dames beginning the 27th of May, that Section Seventeen, working with a division of French dismounted cavalry, went back across this same territory until the lines stabilized, and the Section worked Montgobert, a few kilometres to the southeast of Cuvres, as a front-line poste. It was at the Château-Valsery poste that "Nip" Nasel was shot twice through the leg by machine-gun bullets, and before Montgobert, Sherman Conklin was struck in the throat by a fragment of shell and instantly killed, while "Sid" Eddy was wounded in the head. Later the poste at Montgobert was worked by Section Eighteen.
This short length of front, so picturesquely described by the Stars and Stripes, holds for many a conducteur in its hills and valleys the thrill of those precarious hours when the genius of Maréchal Foch turned the tide of battle.
November 12, 1918
IT is just a little over a year since old Section Soixante-Dix joined the army and took over old Section Eighteen, and here we are back in the region of Châlons-sur-Marne where we started our U.S. Army career. Many things have happened since then --- so many it would be difficult to remember, let alone recount them all. We have travelled up and down the whole western front in the meantime, from Flanders to the Vosges, "en repos" and "en bataille." But under what different circumstances are we back in that selfsame sector of "Les Monts"! Then, and e'en yesterday, it was "la guerre "; to-day it is "l'armistice." It does n't quite seem possible, and yet it must be true, for to-night, as I write this memento in my diary with the aid of a pigeon lamp, I can see through my unmasked window the unaccustomed, blinding headlights of passing automobiles as they speed by with loads of singing merrymakers still celebrating the big event.
Yesterday was a day of days --- one which will cling in my memory as long as life itself. It was the day that the French had been waiting for so patiently these long four years, and which even we comparative newcomers in the game had begun to long for too. It seemed so far away during the anxious days of last spring, previous to the great offensive which was to bring victory to the German arms, and even farther still during the dark and trying days of last summer. Then came the great smash below Soissons, in which we played our tiny part, and with it great hope and promise. Success followed upon success, and then, suddenly, came the final and great victory of yesterday. The once tumultuous front has sunk into unaccustomed slumber --- a slumber from which it will never awaken.
Of all the towns in France, I could not have chosen a better than Châlons in which to spend that day. Even Paris, with all its wild enthusiasm, could not have stirred in me the feeling of deep significance and the realization of the momentousness of the occasion as this town did. My impression of Châlons, the last time I saw it in March just previous to the opening of the Boche offensive, was one of utter desolation and sadness, and had left with me the poignant feeling of what a terribly cruel and needlessly inhumane thing war is --- especially as the Germans wage it. It was at a moment when, after many terrifying nights of continual air raids by German planes, the order for the evacuation of the town had finally been given. Much material damage had been done and many innocent civilians killed. In many places the streets were strewn with débris from wrecked buildings, and in one place the trees, house-tops, and telephone wires and poles were strewn with scattered bandages and wound-dressings for hundreds of feet around where a Red Cross medical supply dépôt had been struck by an incendiary bomb. The streets were deserted save for a few tardy réfugiés, old men, women, and children, with their arms full of precious belongings and the haunting look of fear and terror in their eyes, hastening to leave the town before the oncoming night, and the death and destruction that was sure to follow. The picture was completed, as I quickened my step through the main street of the town, by the coldly staring and inhospitable boards and shutters which barred the doors and windows of the stores and houses. A cold shudder ran through me as I reached. the canal and river and left it all behind. I wanted never to see the town again, but to remember it by its gayer, happier days, as I had known it the winter before.
How different its appearance yesterday, in its festive, holiday mood! Such a scene of happiness and wild exuberance it would be difficult to describe. Nothing was there left of its sadness as I saw it six months before; rather was it as if reincarnated and given a new, long lease on life. The streets were filled to overflowing with thousands of singing and shouting soldiers. Every one had a flag, no matter of which ally. The automobiles were bedecked with flowers and ribbons and flags, and they honked their horns and Klaxons for the sheer pleasure of making noise rather than to clear their path. The streets were one long blaze of color, red, white, and blue, with a Tricolor or the Stars and Stripes in every window and on every house-top. The day of glory had at last arrived and every one was hilariously happy. Here and there, to be sure, a sad note was struck by the appearance of some mother or widowed wife in mourning; but even they, it seemed, held their heads a bit higher than usual, proud, if not happy, in their sacrifice of a loved one to a cause they knew to be just and right---proud that that happy moment had been made possible for France and for all the world.
They say that yesterday was much like that other day, August 4, 1914, when France's best went forth to stem the onrushing tide, with a song on their lips and roses in the muzzles of their guns. Many of those were n't there with us yesterday to join in the shout of victory; but we were with them in spirit, for it was their day more than ours. It was a day, no matter how small our part in its achievement, which will always be a bright spot in our memory to look back upon with much pride and happiness. It cannot compensate for all --- these lives that have been lost will ne'er come back --- but it at least makes up for many of the unpleasant moments, unhappiness and suffering, that have gone before, in that it will lead to agreements between nations that will prevent for all time the reoccurrence of such a world catastrophe. Vive la Paix!
WALTER J. GORES*
*Of Los Angeles, California; Stanford, '17; joined the Field Service in June, 1917; served with sections Seventy and Eighteen; subsequently a First Lieutenant, U.S.A. Ambulance Service.
I DID not have the good fortune to be in Paris on the Big Day, to be kissed by all the women, and to snake-dance down the Champs-Élysées with the bankers, but I attended the ceremonies of a day that was a close second: the day of the triumphal entry of French troops into Luxembourg. I was in an auto with several French officers, and it happened that on the road we passed the troops that were to make the entry, and arrived in the city about an hour before them.
We found the city all dressed up in its best, with flags and bunting hung in every conceivable place. French flags were as numerous as the flags of the Duchy, and here and there an American one stood out in all its beauty. It was not the decoration, however, that was the big feature --- for I had seen such decorations in all parts of Belgium --- but the spirit of festivity, the unalloyed joy that the inhabitants of the city showed at seeing once more their French neighbors. I doubt if a car bearing so unassuming a gathering as ours ever received greater acclaim. On all sides ---for the people were already lined up for the greeting of the approaching troops--- arose cries of "Vive la France!" "Vive les Alliés!" and then "Vive I'Amérique!" when they caught a glimpse of my khaki uniform. They swarmed around the car; they smiled and doffed their hats ---at least the men did--- while the women waved their handkerchiefs and pressed forward to shake hands. But we were rather premature, so we withdrew to a quiet corner, and then set out on foot to see some of the sights, before the real heroes of the day, the poilus, arrived.
For a while I was alone and I wandered in the direction opposite to that taken by the crowds. Suddenly the wonderful valley which cuts the city in two came into view, and then the wonderful stone bridge. The days of knighthood came to mind immediately that this scene came in sight, for romance is expressed in every feature of the landscape. The sides of the valley were a bright green, with a lawn as even as a carpet, and the vivid blue of the stream flowing at the bottom made an effect that reminded of costly jewels. Across the valley stands a great solid building with turrets, towers, and battlements, and in minor relief stand the little houses of the valley with their turrets and façades, all on a lesser scale. The bridge is worthy of special note. It is so broad that besides two sidewalks and a railroad track, there is a passage across it wide enough for three abreast. The middle is a huge span thirty metres across at the bottom, and proportionate in height --- which the populace claim is a record. Although of massive construction, every line is beautiful, and from one end to the other of its great length, every feature, every corner, expresses architectural finish.
A distant fanfare warned me that the troops were approaching the city, and I hurried to the big square where they were to be reviewed. Here all was excitement and hilarity. Everybody was laughing; every one was striving to get a better place of vantage; on all sides was good-natured chaff as the crowd swayed from one side to the other. And then the soldiers came into sight! The good-nature and enthusiasm of the people grew to fever-pitch, and the shouting and cheering echoed and reëchoed through the city like the reverberations of thunder. "Vive les Français!" "Vive les Poilus!" "Vive les Libérateurs!" "Vive les Alliés!" --- so it went on, and the poilus were stormed and overcome in the fury of the cheering avalanche. I doubt if a single soldier went unkissed, and I doubt still more if any soldier passed through with only a single kiss. The festival ended with a great storm of flowers which the crowd threw at everybody in sight, and the street looked like Nero's hall after the flower-shower at one of his grand dinners.
Before we left I had the opportunity to walk about once more, and this time I entered into conversation with many of the people. Out of perhaps a dozen people that I spoke to, ten could speak not only French and German, but even English, enough to carry on an intelligent conversation. Two little girls not over eight years old conversed with me alternately in the three languages. And I managed to get myself all twisted up, by beginning a sentence in German, switching off to French, and ending up absolutely tongue-tied with not a word of any language in my head. Most of these people who spoke English had never been outside of the Duchy, and yet their accent was astonishingly correct and accurate. In addition to all this they naturally all spoke their native language, which, so far as I could make out, is a conglomeration of the three languages mentioned above---and several others. They are proud of their city --- as they may well be --- and from the littlest ones up they spoke of the different features with an interest that showed individual feeling, or what we would call "community spirit." The older people, too, showed a comprehension of world politics, although slightly out of date after the German invasion.
I had noticed that the people were very well and very tastefully dressed, and that the little girls and boys were as attractive as those one sees on the Champs-Élysées and the Boulevards. This struck me very forcibly, especially as the prices during the German occupation had soared to an unheard-of level. A spool of thread cost twenty francs, and a pair of ordinary shoes, of ordinary height, cost three hundred francs. Other articles are on a par with these prices. However, I did not see a single poorly dressed person all the time that I was there, though the whole town was in the streets.
When I come back to France after the war's mark has been obliterated, I shall surely go to see Luxembourg in the tranquillity of normal life: Luxembourg the romantic, Luxembourg the cultured, Luxembourg, with its odd mixture of the old and the new.
FREDERICK W. KURTH
SOMETHING told of peace that day, as coming--- events cast their shadows before. We had barely missed seeing the German delegates as they passed over the same road we were travelling on their way to Senlis. But there had been no papers that day.
Through the amber haze we could see the cathedral of Saint Quentin high on the hill as we approached the city on the road from Ham, through barrens of demolished trenches --- No Man's Land for almost four years. There was a huge mine-hole just before we entered Saint Quentin; the work of the Germans, as were the two concrete pillboxes from which machine-gunners could command the approach from five different streets.
We drove on up the street on which these were built, past the ruined houses, all of them stripped bare of metals. On one or two still in good shape was the word "Kantine." The Germans had left their mark, all right. Finally we turned to the right to get to the groupement headquarters, when we heard the notes of a French bugle ringing over the trees of the park which we reached at the next turn of the street. Pleasant this must have been in peace times, with its tall elm trees and the bandstand in the centre and its fountains and flower plots. Now part of it had been used by the Germans as a cemetery, and over a gate entering another part was the word "Abteilung." The graves in the part used as a cemetery were crowded together in Teutonic orderliness and each had a small stone cross at the head.
The bugle was calling rassemblement as we went a little farther and saw a regiment of chasseurs alpins were being formed in an open place in the park. It was two o'clock in the afternoon of November 11. In an open square they fell in behind the little group of buglers and the général de brigade and his staff of officers. The officer in charge of them snapped several orders which the "Blue Devils" executed with swift precision, going through a few simple parade manuvres for ten minutes or so. At the end of this time they ended their movements in the same formation they had started with, drawn up behind the musicians. These latter flourished their instruments in a perplexing movement of swinging them outward and around, and the blare of martial music rang out again through the park.
With sword drawn, the officer in command of the chasseurs advances to the général de brigade and salutes. He swings his sword from the shoulder straight into the air, then to the ground, and then to the tip of his cap and back to position. A splendid figure of a man he is, in his close-fitting black uniform, and his picturesque chasseurs cap and the Croix de Guerre with the palm which he wears on his breast. The general, too, is imposing in his long flowing blue cape and his cap adorned with laurel leaves, standing rigid and straight, with his staff officers. The general salutes and then the musicians play " Sambre-et-Meuse."
With all its settings the review seems to us the most imposing we have seen as we watch the chasseurs, who have just come out of the fighting up beyond Guise, stand motionless at present arms, and feel the thrill of the stirring notes of "Sambre-et-Meuse."
Presently the music stops and the general advances a few steps toward the troops.
"Soldiers of the Republic," he says simply, "the Armistice was signed at five o'clock; fighting ceased at eleven. The war is over."
There is no burst of cheering from these men who struck terror into the hearts of the Germans. They stand seemingly unmoved, and save for the gleam in their eyes their feeling at hearing the news is undemonstrated.
The general then referred to their past hardships, days when all did not go well, but days which were now crowned with glory and victory.
"And now you have reserved for you a great honor. You have been chosen as the vanguard of the Army of Occupation. You are going into Germany. While the fighting is over, our task is unfinished. It may seem hard to be kept longer from your families and your homes. Mais, c'est pour la France," he concluded fervently.
The music started again as the general finished speaking, and as he turned to walk away he noticed us --- a little group of ten or twelve Americans who were watching the review. We came to attention, preparing to salute, when the general himself saluted us first.
So it was that in her hour of triumph, France forgot her own glory to honor the nation that had come to her aid.
And so it was that we learned of the Armistice.
THAT the joys of anticipation are greater than the joys of participation or realization seems to be borne out by what happened, or, at least, what failed to happen when Foch's Armistice Order came to the armies.
How often, in our moments of wildest fancy, had we looked forward to that almost unimaginable and elusive "fin de la guerre." What would it be like? Would there be wild celebrations, and unrestrained manifestations of joy and happiness? Would the news of "The End" be an electrifying impulse of supreme elation?
As it happens, this madness and intoxication of victory seem to have possessed only those regions and those peoples more remote from the theatre of military operations. Paris threw herself into a frenzied orgy --- New York went literally mad.
But what a different picture we saw at the front. The poilus said, "What fools, these Parisians" --those sturdy little poilus of France, who had for four years faced the trials and fortunes of War, without its "pomp and circumstance"; who had faced Death itself, and, what is more than Death, the mud, rain, snow, and ice of the trenches and the open fields.
When the order came for the cessation of hostilities, they shook each other by the hand. " Eh bien, mon vieux, la guerre est finie. Pas trop tôt, tu sais. C'est dommage que nous n'avons pas quelques bouteilles de champagne, eh?"
That was all. And how could it have been otherwise?
When one has suffered, and toiled, and fought for four long years, one cannot immediately grasp the end of it all. The day to which all had been looking forward had come. Long ago it seemed that day would be almost like the millennium itself, perhaps a golden aurora of Peace ---and Victory would be hanging in the sky. But the day of the Armistice was a day like those before.
It was over; but the brave soldiers of France did not cry, "Victory." They did not assume the attitude of victors in the strife, but the attitude of workers who had done their work well. It was the spirit of satisfaction rather than the spirit of having won.
"Our immediate danger is forestalled," they said, "but France, our dear France, has suffered. There is much to be done to restore our little fairyland. Now our task is to build, and to preserve the rights which we have gained."
And so "The End" was not an end, but a beginning; a beginning of a new spirit of Freedom and Construction, and the soldiers of yesterday will go back from the man-made hell of fire and torture to build.
AT noontime I went downtown to do some errands in my unofficial capacity of errand boy for those not in Paris. Already people were marching about the streets, usually with a band at the head of the procession. One of these groups had halted to serenade some one in front of the Continental.
As I came back to the office I met "The Crab" coming out of the Yard. "Don't go in," he said. "Every one has gone out except the non-coms and if you go in you will queer the bunch." Accordingly we repaired to the corner café, where we found most of our crowd with the girls from the French offices, all apparently engaged in making Paris a safe place for the Prohibitionists. I am here to state that before we left they had made considerable progress.
About four o'clock those of us who were in unofficial charge decided that we had better take the truck for our return to the barracks.
By the time we reached the Bastille, people began to climb into the truck, poilus, women, street urchins, every one. When we turned into the boulevards we had such a load that the truck could barely crawl along. Never have I seen such crowds. If you could imagine the jam after a Harvard-Yale game multiplied by about a million, you might have some idea of what we saw down the boulevard as far as the eye could reach. The main difference was that all this crowd was good-natured. In fact, during the entire celebration I saw no fights in the street.
Long before we reached rue Ganneron all the top of the camion had been broken in. Now if we have bad weather we can ride in the rain. However, no one minded. All law and order seemed dispensed with for two days.
From the barracks I walked to the boulevards and then down some distance below the Opera. I stopped at a popular American bar. Men were stationed at the two entrances to let in a certain number at a time from two long lines. I decided that it was hardly worth while, so I walked back to a Montmartre restaurant for dinner without an aperitif.
After dinner I walked to the boulevards again and down to Concorde. There I found the street gamins pushing the trench mortars about as if they had been toys.
In front of the Opéra the crowd had stopped a baby Peugeot containing two officers, and were pushing it back and forth as one does an express wagon to amuse two children. I saw Mme. Marthe Chenal in her famous Marseillaise costume singing the national anthem. I say "saw" advisedly, for from near the entrance to the Métro where I stood not a sound of that voice which has called forth so much eloquence could be heard.
Just to see the long-darkened boulevards ablaze with light again was enough to intoxicate one. People who have seen New York on New Year's Eve and New Orleans on Mardi-Gras declare that they were tame in comparison. On all sides one heard cries of "Vive l'Amérique!" "Vive l'Angleterre!" "Vive la France!"
Sometimes a procession would come along carrying an effigy of the Kaiser hung from a pole. The head was usually that of a pig. Others carried colored lanterns. On both Monday and Tuesday evenings I was so tired by the time I turned in at the barracks that I could hardly push one foot ahead of the other.
At roll call this morning the Captain reminded us that we were once more in the Army. Since then the only topic of conversation has been, "How long?"
N. H. REYNOLDS*
*Of New York City; Harvard; joined the Field Service in July, 1917; served in T.M.U., 397, and subsequently in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.
November 13, 1918
DESPITE the confidence on all sides, despite the false alarm of last week, when at eleven minutes past eleven on the eleventh day of the eleventh month the distant booming of cannon was heard telling us that the Armistice had been signed at six o'clock that morning and that fighting had stopped at eleven, a kind of pandemonium broke loose and for the past two days and nights Paris has lived in a state bordering on delirium. And why not? The first firing at Lexington was described as "the shot heard round the world"! When one stopped to think of the number of people on this old globe who would be directly affected by that distant booming, the thought was overpowering.
Even in our office, surely an infinitesimal corner of the universe, two of the civilian employees began weeping, one hysterically and the rest ran about like mad people. These were the same ones who, when the long-range gun was shooting in shells at the rate of one every twenty minutes, would scarcely look up from their work, unless one landed quite near, and then all one heard was, "Oh, là, là!": the same who sat in cellars night after night last spring and then came to work the next day with a patience and good-humor that were little short of Christlike. Mlle. Marcelle, who was shaking with sobs, had lost a brother in the war and had had her fiancé at the front for over two years. Mme. M.'s husband had been a prisoner since the first year and Mme. R.'s, a large, smiling man who has come often to the office, has been unable to work for many months because of a wound. M. D. had closed his little farm in California and come back to the mother country in 1914. And so were the destinies of millions to be changed by that far-away cannon!
As for me, I was making out an ordre de transport for two Réserve Mallet men. These men do not get to town often and I knew that they wanted to make the most of the few hours before their train left. Consequently during the first ecstatic moments I was writing. Then more men came in and I scarcely had a chance to look up from my desk before the office closed at a quarter to twelve.
OUT of the mud and waste and desolation of the Champagne we came, upon the signing of the Armistice, to take the road toward Alsace. The Germans were retiring, and the war-worn poilus who had made the Fatherland's dream of world dominion impossible, were now to "guard the stream divine."
On a chill bright day of November we took the road in convoy down through Châlons and on over the hills above the fair valley of the upper Marne. And what a convoy it was! Never did the old "voitures Ford" seem to run better --- and certainly never did they run faster! Through Vitry-le-François, Saint-Dizier, and Domremy-la-Pucelle, the birthplace of Jeanne d'Arc, we went, and finally arrived at --- part of us, or straggled in to --- the rest of us --- Neufchâteau. Then on over the undulations of the lower Vosges, to Darnay, where we waited during several cold days while the division was organized for the march. Then convoy again to Remiremont, set like a ruby in the emerald valley of the upper Moselle; and long grades toward the crest of the Vosges, the watershed separating the Rhine from the streams flowing down into France. The red-tiled roofs of villages dot the valley below. The crest is reached at the Col de Bussang. The tunnel under the mountain marks the frontier.
What a view as we emerged on the other side! We are here in country conquered by the French in the early days of the war. Before us, down the steep grade, plunges the valley of the Thur. In the range of mountains across the valley is the famous Hartmannsweilerkopf, captured and held by the French after a terrible struggle. Down the long mountain grades we go to the floor of the valley itself. A stop is made at Wesserling, one of the beautiful little resort towns. Then on down the valley through Saint-Amarin, and along the Thur into Thann, with its noted church decorated with so many strange mediaeval figures and inscriptions. Although close behind the lines, Thann has not been shelled much --- in fact scarcely at all since the first year of the war. The land out where ran the lines themselves is more or less ruined, but not in measure at all comparable to the battle-fields of northern France and Flanders.
After passing Thann, we are out of the mountains. Before us stretches the low fertile valley of the upper Rhine. Passing through Cernay, or Sennheim as the Germans called it, we arrive at Soultz, the first populated town we have reached in the part of Alsace held by the Germans. The town is decorated with Alsatian and Allied flags. Here and there is an American flag --- home made. The stripes vary in any direction, and the stars in number, but the sentiment is there. At the entrance of the town are triumphal arches announcing in large letters, "Soyez les Bienvenus."
The people run out into streets and stare curiously. We are besieged by children, and have the curious sensation of hearing the whole of the conversation about us being carried on in German. "Amerikaner! Amerikaner!" they cry. The children are most of them wearing old Boche fatigue caps, and other cast-off articles of German military clothing.
We are cantoned in a factory, and as soon as we are settled we "step out" to look the town over. The gabled and high-roofed houses, the German signs, the German articles in the stores, the "Strasses" and the "Kirchplatz" all go toward making unforgettable our first day in "Alsace Reconquise." We buy "Kaiser Gold" cigarettes, price chocolate at eight francs a cake, and order up our first meal in "starving Germany" --- thereupon deciding that we should not mind starving in this manner.
We listen to tales of the German revolution during the period after the Armistice; the taming of haughty officers; the manipulations of the Soldatenrat; the march back toward the Fatherland with the bands playing the "Marseillaise," and the soldiers shouting, "The war is gained for the German people!"
Rouffach, with its old castle and church and its picturesque stork's nest, where we installed ourselves in a Wirtshaft belonging to an old French veteran of the War of '70, was gloriously pavoisé. Never were we better received. The entire buvette is ours. We have one room to use as a dining-room, and the son of the family, who was in the German Army, and has just returned from the Russian front, makes it his personal business to keep the stove well stoked up. On Thanksgiving Day the old man and old lady offered us the big room of the café in which to hold our dinner.
The next day we left for Neuf-Brisach, near the Rhine, on the Colmar-en-Fribourg road. It is an old French fortification dating from 1708. The town is completely surrounded by a triple moat and all manner of ancient buttresses and walls, and deep underground passages and rooms. Above the ancient stone work at the gates announcing the original date of building, the Germans had placed a sign, "Deutsch, 1870," above which is now still another sign, "Français, 1918." No sooner had we arrived than suddenly appeared in the sky above us, a number of German planes, flying very low, so low in fact that the iron crosses upon the wings were distinctly visible. It was a curious sensation. But a few days had passed since a similar scene would have caused us, with much inquietude, to seek shelter in the profoundest cave available. The planes performed their complete repertoire of acrobatic stunts, and then descended on the aviation field outside the town. They were planes being handed over by German aviators to the French under the terms of the Armistice. Sic transit gloria mundi!
We installed ourselves in a German officers' barracks; with separate rooms and electric lights, huge German tile stoves --- including lots of coal --- a sight gratifying to the ambulance man's heart: the ambulance man can best exhibit his sang-froid when he has a good stove and lots of coal. Beds and spring mattresses from the near-by Kasern added to our comfort, while a few "voitures Ford" served to empty a former German officers' club of its equipment, including electric chandeliers, chairs, and a sectional bookcase. Numerous German lithographs, and pictures of Ludendorff and Hindenburg, German war-loan posters, and the like served to decorate the walls --- not to speak of an original drawing representing something or other, "Die Klippe" -claimed to be a fine example of Modern German Art!
We had one car a day on duty at the pontoon bridge across the Rhine, opposite Alt-Brisach, a picturesque old town built on top of the steep bluff across the river --- in the province of Baden. In the first few weeks after the Armistice many hundreds of returning prisoners, French, English, and Italian, crossed the Rhine at this point. Our business was to care for any of them that were sick. On the French side of the bridge there floated for the first time since 1870 the Tricolor. A sign was (also erected---a reproduction of a similar one used at the time of the French Revolution in 1789-- "Ici commence le Pays de la Liberté"--- a sign arousing indescribable emotion in the hearts of the returning Frenchmen --- many of them, with their dark blue coats and faded red trousers, prisoners since the early days of 1914.
On the pontoon bridge were congregated a large number of Alsatians. They were in German uniform, having been in the German Army, most of them on the Russian front. As the French État-Major had not yet ruled on their cases, they were not allowed to pass during a period of ten days. They were of all sorts: Men who had been in the infantry, men from the artillery, men from antiaircraft batteries, men from German submarines --- which they themselves had but recently turned over to the English at Harwich. During the period of waiting they were fed each day at an American Red Cross Canteen established at the bridgehead.
The population of Neuf-Brisach is, or was, largely pure German, owing to its having been a fortified town. Was, because we had the pleasure of seeing a good part of the well-to-do German population sent "over the river" with an allowance of fifty kilos of baggage, and two thousand francs in cash. It was at the "Rheinbrücke" also that we saw the termination of the exportation of the hated German functionnaires of Colmar---of which "Uncle Hansi" wrote and illustrated such a delightful article for Le Matin of December 31, 1918. Alsace is determined to throw off the yoke of German commercial dominion, and she has started early.
So has gone the last winter of the war ---spent in "L'Alsace Reconquise." But how different the winter this time! "Guerre finitch! "And we were keeping, with the incomparable poilus, our "Watch on the Rhine!"
ROBERT A. DONALDSON
WILLIAM CARY SANGER, JR.,
HAIL to the new-born Peace on Earth!
Great is the age we were born to serve!
Voila! Voila! You may say adieu,
G. HINMAN BARRETT,
HE did n't have hysterics, this doughty Man in Blue
He was n't loud or noisy and he did n't boast and taunt,
He did n't lose his dignity, his modesty and poise,
But when the word a tortured world had waited for through
THE Glorious Dead speak:
O mortal Man, why be so blind:
"Ghastly" you call us? Nay, not so!
What mean you: "crimson wrecks of pride"?
At even when the Sun's last beam
O Man, rejoice in Victory.
F. W. K.,
OUT of the swirl of mist and choking smoke,
Seared Earth in joy lifts up her head to Heaven,
FREDERICK W. KURTH
O GENTLE France, to you we owe the most,
You did not cry or murmur 'neath the load,
High did you hold prized Freedom's torch,
ROBERT A. DONALDSON,
MUCH as my heart rejoices in surcease
The end of war I craved; now, also this:
As Paris, joy-mad, waved her flags above
JOHN B. WHITTON,
REST gently after these long years, ye dead
Rest gently, O ye dead of present time
Rest not, ye veterans of the final blow
R. A. D.,
THE guns are stilled; how quiet now
W. C. S., JR.,
GONE are the years that came with fevered strife
R. A. D.,
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