|We heard the deep vibrations of a bell,
The Tongue of Fate that, tolling on the blast,
Repeated o'er and o'er
"Awake! your horoscope is cast;
The Old World and the New shall live apart no more.
Awake! the Future claims you."
-----JOHN JAY CHAPMAN
AFTER waiting three days in New York, where, by the way, I had a wonderful time with friends, I sailed on the Espagne at three o'clock on March 26 --- a glorious afternoon.
There was quite a crowd on board --- among them Dr. Alexis Carrel, the famous, whom I found a very pleasant-spoken sort of chap. On the next day, I ran across Charley Clark(2) who is going back to work in the Harjes-Norton Section with six or seven others. The last time I saw him it was back of Verdun by the light of a lantern. Before that, we had n't met for ten years.
Gradually, I am getting to know the twenty boys of whom I was put in charge by Hereford. Most of them are extremely young, but, on the whole, they are a decent lot, and they'll soon get the range of life over there. There are three aviators on board, one of whom, Zinn by name, was in the Foreign Legion. He was wounded, and got transferred to the Aviation Service. The others are American Army aviators who are going to study French methods.
Of course, we have the customary German raider scares. We had one this afternoon--- it turned out to be a Dutchman.
On the third day out, I ran across Miss Harriman, with whom I crossed before on the Rochambeau. She says that she couldn't stand the United States, and simply had to come back. She is working in the Société des Dames de France and she is thinking of making her home in France.
On March 30 we had a scream of a night! A blessed fool by the name of Brown got some of the boys together and insisted on my getting up a meeting of the Norton-Harjes and the American Ambulance Field Service men, and to have them addressed by Drs. Carrel and Powers.(3) Then, out of a simple conference, the news spread, and the whole ship turned up in the smoking-room, and I had to introduce the speakers! Then, as if that were not more than enough, they called on me to give a talk on the field work. But I dodged that, and they made Charley Clark talk. After which they called on me again. But I only said a few words of thanks to the previous speakers. It was an awful bore, but the thing seems to have made quite a hit. The funny part of it to me is that I was a sort of master of ceremonies to the great Alexis Carrel, of all people in the world.
April 1. We went through boat drill, life-preservers, and the rest. Also, we had an auction this evening. The son of one of the owners of the line, Ducrot by name, was auctioneer and did it very well. He netted about three thousand francs for practically nothing.
I had an interesting talk with Havemeyer, who is taking charge of the Paris end of the Norton-Harjes Ambulance. They are going to standardize their cars on the American Ambulance system --Fiats and Fords.
A patrol boat came close to us to-day (April 4) and evidently gave us instructions. We are now in the War Zone. We should sight land to-morrow.
I met Dr. Reese, who is going over to take charge of a hospital near Bordeaux for the French War Relief Committee of the Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania. He was in London at the time of the first Zepp raid. Then he went as ship doctor on an English transport, taking troops from Australia to Gallipoli, Egypt, South Africa, and Salonica. In the doing, he got chased by submarines, was wrecked on the coast of Africa, etc. A most interesting companion, for, besides all this, he is one of the few survivors of the "First 100,000." And now he is going to Beaumont-du-Périgord!(4)
April 5. Arrived at Bordeaux at noon' with my twenty recruits, having seen no warships whatever all the way over: only one patrol boat. I dined with Charley Clark and Frauntz, and took the ten o'clock evening train for Paris with Havemeyer, of Harjes-Norton.
I left my men in charge of Clark, who had to stay over to get his Packard off the boat and put it together. The innocent lamb had cut the châssis in half, because they told him that the cranes at Bordeaux could not lift it off the ship as a whole. Now, he's got to have it joined together. I suggested hinges, so he could go around corners like a snake. It turns out that the cranes here handle up to five thousand pounds! Old Charley is certainly sore.
April 6. I went to Henry's, where I met Ned Townsend, who told me that "Woodworth" has superseded ----- in charge of Section 1. ----- apparently did n't size up and Lieutenant de Kersauson de Pennendreff got Andrew to recall him.
I called at the Rue Raynouard and saw Mason and Arboter, chiefs of Sections 8 and 2 respectively. They are returning to the States. Piatt Andrew, Galatti, and Cartier seemed delighted to see me and said many nice things. Also Ewell. The boys of Section 1 have arranged for me to come right up, keeping a place vacant for me. So I leave with. Ned Townsend on Saturday for Bar-le-Duc. The Section is "en repos" at Vadelaincourt. Took dinner at Maxim's and afterwards went to the Folies Bergères.
April 7. Dined with Persons, Fred Dawson, Ned Townsend, Waldo Peirce,(5) and Webster. We went to the Olympia afterward and had quite a time. Waldo is as funny as ever. He has gone back to his art work. Dawson has gone into some sort of diplomatic service, and was just back from Egypt.
War is declared at last! Andrew, however, says that the Ambulance Service will continue and probably will be taken over by the American Army, if an expeditionary force is sent. Of course, there is a remarkable difference in the attitude of the French toward the Americans. At last we are treated like human beings. American flags are flying all over Paris.
Arrived at Bar-le-Duc with Ned Townsend at 5 P.m. Every sort of courtesy was shown us. The gate man hardly looked at our tickets. They even passed our luggage free. We leave on the postal wagon to-morrow, as we are no longer allowed to run into Bar-le-Duc to get our men, on account of shortage of essence.
April 10. I spent Easter at Vadelaincourt. Woody,(6) Sponny,(7) Kurtz,(8) and the "Loot "(9) fell on my neck. We had a triple celebration for Easter, the war, and my return! The "Loot" opened wine. Later, the French aviators and mechanics joined us with more wine --- we had quite a time. The French contingent of Section 1 read us a regularly prepared speech welcoming us, as allies. We did not expect this, so after some argument, I was made to get up and answer.
Last night, the 9th, the Boches made an air raid on us, dropped bombs, but did no damage. The mitrailleuse wouldn't work, so we contented ourselves with firing rockets at the planes!
One of the men who took the places of Walker, Wallace, Culbertson, Tison, and me in December last, was fired for getting drunk.
April 12. We are moving to-day to Dombasle and take over Section 12's job in the Mort-Homme-304 Sector, where Kelly, of Philadelphia, was killed last September. Our Section was there in February and had a beast of a time, the thermometer being below zero and the roads almost impassable from snowdrifts. So many cars were out of commission, owing to the inexperience of the new men, that not a single citation was given, although the work was almost as severe as it was on the right bank at the time of the battle of Fleury and Souville.(10)
An aviator was describing to me to-day the new anti-Zeppelin flame bombs. They can make a curtain of fire in the air, now, alternating with shrapnel. This was how the Zepp was brought down a month or so ago. The new aeroplane bombs, too, are wonders. They carry as much explosive as a "420 " and only weigh fifty-six kilos. He tells me that most of the attacking squadrons have left Verdun, and are now grouped around the Champagne district and to the north, as indeed are the picked French troops.
There are a great many more Portuguese about, some two hundred thousand, it is said.
April 13. I took No. 5 over to Dombasle, then came back and took over No. 17, as their drivers were on "permission."
After noon word came that Ned Townsend had broken a rear axle at Esnes, close to Hill 304. So I was ordered to take No. 18, my new car, with "Eddy" Sponagle to fix it. We passed the place where Kelly was killed and Sanders was so badly wounded, and saw the famous Mort-Homme. We were in plain sight of the Germans about one thousand yards away. They were lobbing "105's " over our heads into the Bois d'Avocourt. Then we came in sight of Hill 304 and found Ned. It took us about two hours to fix him, but the Boches let us alone. We got back at about 7 P.M. for a cold supper.
I spent this morning tuning up No. 18. In the afternoon General Herr, the Commander of the Sixteenth Corps d'Armée, inspected us. We were introduced to him individually and he said some very complimentary things, remarking that with the entry of America into the war "the combat would be shortened." He prophesied that great things shortly would be doing. Amen, I say.
The "Loot" announced that we were leaving the Verdun Sector and the Second Army in a few days to get into the great battle now beginning in Champagne. Fine!
General Herr was formerly in command of the Sixth Army around Verdun, when the Boches began their historic attack in February, 1916. It is said that he disregarded the warnings of the aviators and failed to take sufficient defensive measures. He was recalled to the rear, and only recently has he been given important commands again --- first of a division, and later of the army corps he now commands.
April 14. Section 15 arrived this morning. We moved this afternoon. Our first scheduled stop is at Châlons. We are to join the Fifth Army somewhere near Épernay. Flynn(11) took Lidden of the new Section to the Esnes "poste." On their way, at the bad corner, two shells dropped right close to them on the road, leaving several big holes in the car and ripping the whole back out of Lidden's coat! Surely a remarkable escape, and "some" experience for a brand-new man on his first appearanceon the firing line. He had to remain at the "poste" for twenty-four hours, too!
There was a Vale of Peace I knew and there,
Came Discord, of a day, and Iron Wrath
April 15. I made a quick trip from Dombasle to Châlons and slept there last night. We had quite a party in the morning with Hibben, Stockwell,(12) Kurtz, Woodworth, and Sponagle. I left Châlons this morning, lunched in the woods, and reached the outskirts of Épernay this afternoon --- a village called Vaudancourt.
There is here a bully sixteenth-century château. Everywhere we are greeted with enthusiasm, now.
We are quartered at a small champagne grower's place. He sells us the finest vintage for four francs a bottle; it is the sort of stuff he sells to Pol Roger and to Pommery for eight hundred francs for two hundred and sixty bottles. He says the best recent vintages are those of 1904 and 1906, and that they are almost as fine as the famous 1893. The 1905 vintage also is very good but scarce, as everybody drank it "ad libitum," owing to the uncertainties of the war. The Boches also, I regret to say, took away a good deal. What a waste of good stuff!
April 16. The French attacked Soissons this morning with one hundred and forty-eight tanks. The big Champagne offensive, for which artillery preparation has been in progress for the last week, is on. To-night, fifty more tanks are to attack south of Soissons. We are still awaiting orders.
Woodworth, Kurtz, Stockwell, and I went into Épernay for a bath this afternoon. Two new men have joined us and three "permissionnaires" have returned. One of the new men is a second M---- but may develop. The other seems to be a good "scout" and quiet. The bunch, as a whole, looks a good deal better than some of the letters I had received implied.
April 17. We have left Épernay. The call came at 4 A.M. and we started at once. We passed through Rheims at 9 A.m. and proceeded toward Soissons.(13) We saw a good many Russians, who still seem to be here in considerable numbers. Last night's attack was very successful. Seven thousand prisoners were taken. The Russian troops figured in it as well as the French.
Our orders came to roll at 7 P.M. and the whole Section went out. We handled the wounded from Berry-au-Bac and Craonne.(14) There was heavy fighting and heavy losses. The Russians suffered severely, but notable progress was made, and some fourteen thousand prisoners were taken.
The receiving hospital is far to the rear; the traffic congestion was frightful. The roads were scarcely fit to move over. Nearly all the cars got lost or ditched at some time or other during the night, but nevertheless all, save Orton, got back all right. He broke his steering-gear.
I was ditched once, but got out again with the aid of a passing "camion." The hospital was so full that we had to wait four and five hours before the cars could be unloaded, and the wounded, naturally, suffered terribly. As usual, it rained and it was also very cold. I got back at seven in the morning to our headquarters at Muizon.
These quarters are quite comfortable. They are in a handsome château which dates back to 1658. We share it with a battery of auto-cannon. There are a bunch of "370's" and "400's" around us, and the explosions shake even the two-foot walls of the château. There also are many heavy guns mounted on cars along the railway line.
April 18. Orders came this afternoon that we were to roll again to-night. Fortunately I had some sleep to-day. My gear-bands were pretty nearly worn out last night, shifting them so continuously in the heavy traffic. I doubt if they will last through to-night. They will have to be changed to-morrow at all events. The attack is still on despite the rain.
April 19. Such a hectic night! I carried Russians from Châlons to Antilly. There I found that the place was full. After a long argument, I managed to get rid of them, however. They lost three thousand wounded and six hundred killed out of ten thousand!
When I got back and had gone to bed, a sudden influx of Russians going into "repos " turned up, and we were all forced to double up! The place is just jammed with them. The stench is something fearful and they are covered with lice! It is awful! The whole place now is in a mess.
After they had been bedded down, around one o'clock in the morning, and we had all gone to sleep again, the gas alarm sounded and everybody had to hustle out and get his mask. As usual, it was a false alarm and we turned in once more.
At about five o'clock we were awakened again, this time by bombs falling around the town. Two Boche aviators were trying for the railway. They finally were driven off.
The Russians, of course, steal everything they can lay their hands on. I've already lost my shaving-soap and glass. Many have self-inflicted wounds on feet and hands in a vain attempt to avoid war duty. I hope to God that they may be sent farther to the rear. Their front-line positions have been taken over by the French.
April 20. An interesting day. The "Loot" took Woody, Kurtz, and me to inspect possible advance posts.; We had a splendid view of the opposing lines in front of Rheims and the famous Fort Brimont, which is still holding out.(15) The French have practically surrounded it and the huge "320's" and "400's" are falling on it steadily. The Russians having failed to take it, their divisions are being brought back, and the Chasseurs Alpins, the best troops the French have, are going to attack. We saw the shifting going on, the roads being blocked with troops and artillery.
They say that General Michelet, in charge of the first operations, has been blamed for their failure, and has been demoted to a minor sector. At present cavalry is blocking the roads --- the first time I have seen any great amount of it in the two years I have fussed around the Front. The horses are splendid. The men are equipped with lances as well as with rifles.
X----, a comparatively new man of rather surly disposition and most unpopular, was fired by the "Loot" to-day. He got "fresh" with the "Loot" and the latter had just been waiting for a chance to remove him. So he left on the postal wagon. I also understand that L----- has been eased out --not exactly "fired," but that, having gone down on "permission," he will not be allowed to return. He was harmless, but awfully dull. A new man has arrived by the name of Stout(16) who seems to be a good sort. Victor White's brother also has joined us. He is very much like "Vic" in mannerisms and general looks ---quite an "air de famille," as our French allies would put it.
April 24. I went into Rheims with a man who owns a good deal of real estate in and around the town. He found that one of his block of houses had been burned and another had been badly damaged by shells. There are still about four thousand civilians who linger, as against an antebellum population of seventeen thousand. Nevertheless, market was going on as usual, and, as the shells were coming in at three minutes' intervals, the civilians with their baskets would gauge their movements accordingly, running from cellar to cellar like prairie dogs. One man with a long beard was particularly funny. He popped out of a cellar, galloped to a post-box, mailed a letter, and scurried back, his beard streaming in the wind. Three dead horses were lying at the corner of the square where the Cathedral stands, and the shells were landing there steadily --- "220's." The Jeanne d'Arc statue. is still uninjured. But the Cathedral is slowly being chipped to pieces.
A Boche "saucisse " broke loose this morning and came right over our camp. The anti-Zepp battery beside us failed to hit it, but three planes went up and set it on fire, and it fell, a mass of flames, not more than a couple of miles away.
The "Loot" is dissatisfied with our present connections --- or lack of them, rather, as we seem to be unattached to anything just now. He is trying to get us transferred again, this time to the Sixth Army near Fismes, where he knows a good many of the authorities.
April 27. While in Rheims the other day, Woody, Kurtz, Sponagle, and I picked up a little fox terrier pup for a mascot. We matched to see who should be the permanent owner, and Kurtz won. We call him "Rheims."
The Germans shelled the railway all day yesterday. One shell landed on a passing cart and killed five civilians. The railway station-master's wife also was badly injured. A Zeppelin went over last night at about one o'clock and dropped five bombs. I did n't even wake up! --- but was told about it this morning.
April 29. This was an interesting day. Word came that A. Piatt Andrew was to be decorated with the Legion of Honor. General Ragueneau, General Nivelle's second, the head of the entire Automobile Service, and so many other "stripers" that it reminded one of Sing-Sing, turned up. The cars were formed in a square in the château's courtyard, and some two hundred troops formed a square in front of them.
Section 1 had been selected as being the oldest Section in the Service, and Andrew's own Section besides. The day was perfect; Andrew arrived and presented us with our new Section flag, with the Croix twice starred on it, and the names of the battles in which we had served: Dunkirk, Ypres, Verdun, Somme, Argonne, Aisne, Champagne --- some eight or ten names.(17)
We were introduced to the General, individually; and, after his speech, some of the older men were invited in to drink the health of France and the United States: Sponagle, Woodworth, Kurtz, Stockwell, and I were chosen. As it happened, the big guns were roaring straight ahead, behind and in front of us. In addition, Boche aviators chose the moment to drop bombs on Muizon (our town), and the anti-aircraft batteries were going full tilt. One bomb fell into the Vesle right near our tent. We had been swimming in the stream but a short time before. It was a splendid "mise-en-scène" for such a military ceremony.
Andrew incidentally asked Kurtz and me to agree to be Section chiefs if he needed us. We acquiesced rather from a sense of duty than from any real desire, as it means a sacrifice of personal liberty. I asked to be allowed to stay for a month or two, and our "Loot" also kicked like a steer. So Kurtz and I go down next week and I am not to be called till June. Andrew also says that, if all goes well, we may get commissions in the American Transport Service which he is forming. He expects to get, and the French Government has asked for, ten thousand "camion" drivers as the most useful immediate aid the United States can give, and those of us who talk more or less French and have had experience will be called upon to furnish material for minor officerships.
Too bad that our third citation could n't be."pulled off" with the big ceremony. As it was, seven minor French officers were decorated with the Croix de Guerre after Andrew's Légion d'Honneur award was given.
April 30. We heard this morning, not without grim amusement, that one of the German bombing machines, by mistake, had dropped a big one right on the prison camp not far from here, and thus killed or injured some fifty of their own citizens last night! A case of taking their own medicine, all right!
We had quite an excitement after luncheon. An enemy aviator came over and got four "saucisses" in succession right in front of us. Some of the observers got away in parachutes; but a couple were followed down by the blazing balloons, and, I fear, killed, as there was little or no wind. The "Germ," apparently, got away untouched, although every gun in sight was firing at him.
May 1. Kurtz leaves to-day to take charge of the new Section 18, known as the Cornell Section. Everybody is sorry to lose him. He was a first-rate worker and a good comrade. A new man, by the name of Patterson, has arrived. He was on the Penn Squad for three months, and got transferred.
Ned Townsend, Woodworth, and I saw "Kurtzy" off at Épernay. We "kidded" him about the Boche aviator who came down close to the ground and wiped out the company of Zouaves with his machine gun, yesterday afternoon, by the same train. I tried to get a bath at Épernay, but all the attendants were upset because of the bombs dropped on the gas plant and the café last night. There was quite a fire afterward. No baths for us until too late this afternoon to enable us to get back to Muizon in time for dinner.
May 3. Lieutenant de Kersauson de Pennendreff ---otherwise known as the "Loot" --- and I took a long walk and saw the fighting for Brimont again; also the little gunboats that used to be on the Somme. There were many Boche aviators out bombing. Four new men have arrived. They look fairly hopeful.
May 4. The Germans have finally managed to set fire to the main part of Rheims. The HôteI de Ville is burning now, and the little café on the corner of the square where we always stopped, was "crowned" by a "220," just before we got there today. The proprietor and his family narrowly escaped by going into the cellar and then getting out again before the house burned down over their heads. So the Section pup's home is gone. The heavy bombardment of Brimont still is in progress, and it looks like another French attack on the fort. I trust it won't be such a failure as the last.
May 5. The French attacked and made four kilometers, but they lost half their gain later. The bombardment still goes on. I went into Rheims with the "Loot," Woody, and Flynn. The Hôtel de Ville is now gutted, and our little café is a heap of ruins! What strikes one as odd in all these French bombarded towns is, that the men always are equipped with helmets and gas masks, while the women and children go about just as usual, bareheaded or with a shawl, in the most unconcerned manner!
May 6. We got the shock of our lives last evening. Orders came for Lieutenant de Kersauson --our "Loot" --- to leave Section 1, of which he has had charge for two years, and take over the new school at Meaux for training of ambulance men to be American officers. It certainly was a "jolt." For the "Loot," of course, it means a captaincy, when he gets through with the school and takes charge under the new plan of four sections of ambulances or trucks, each with an American Lieutenant.(18) Meantime, we have a temporary Lieutenant for the next couple of days when our new officer is to arrive. No one knows anything about him.
We got some champagne and we saw our Lieutenant off at about ten o'clock in the evening in a driving rain and thunderstorm. It was a gloomy party. All chance for the "fourragère" for the Section is gone now, as it required a hustler like de Kersauson to put it over, by placing the Section in a position to earn it.
May 7. The new temporary officer arrived last night and seems a good sort. The regular Lieutenant turned up later, so for the time being we have two "Loots"; but the temporary one leaves this morning. He was a generous fellow and most amusing, and he ordered champagne all around. He told us that his wife came from Denver, Colorado; that he himself was a Cornell man. He certainly understands things American. His sister is at Bryn Mawr College! It all seems very familiar, does n't it?(19)
Our regular officer, by name Reymond, has been wounded, has the Croix, and was only recently promoted to a stripe. But he also talks English with facility and looks like a hustler --- but has never been in America. Will he understand the boys?
There seems to be more infection about, this spring, than there was last year. Quite a number of the men have infected hands, some quite severely. Kenyon had both hands so infected from minor cuts that he had to go on sick-leave. Wilson also is on sick-leave for "la gale," while Townsend, Hanna, Plow,(20) Stout, and Pearl all have had some trouble of the same kind. I managed to ward off a felon with dioxygen and iodine, and Sponagle also staved off an infected cut with gasoline and iodine. I suppose that this is due to this part of the country having been fought over so long.
It was at this time that Section 1 was cited for the third time by the General Order of the Sixteenth Army Corps, Staff First Bureau.
The S.S.U. No. 1, American Sanitary Section
Under command of the Second Lieutenant de Kersauson de Pennendreff and of the American officer Herbert P. Townsend, at the Front since January, 1915, has been particularly distinguished by a devotion, a dash, and a courage worthy of all praise in the execution of the Service, particularly before Verdun and during the attacks of January 26th, 27th, and 28th, 1917, in the course of which it has assured, night and day, the evacuation of numerous wounded from a poste de secours at the Front line to the Ambulances through a road exposed to sight of the enemy and constantly subjected to the, fire of enemy artillery, so that many cars were struck by shell fire.
(Signed) GENERAL HERR
May 9. We were shelled last night by big fellows; but nobody was hurt.
May 10. The Lieutenant-Colonel and his staff, who have been occupying with us the Château de Muizon, moved out this morning to a place farther away from the lines, because of the recent shelling; so we now have much more room.
May 12. I had an interesting afternoon to-day. I went down to the front line with the new "Loot," Woodworth, and de Maré, to see a colonel, who is de Maré's brother-in-law, in an effort to get attached to his division. After getting disconnected from the old 32d, de Kersauson had hoped to "hook up" with a live one, but with the loss of de Kersauson, our chance for a good berth disappeared.
The fellows, however, have kicked so that Woody has taken matters into his own hands. Meantime we sit around, and read, eat, swim, play ball, and sleep.
The Colonel received us kindly and cordially enough, and said he would do what he could. His dug-out was twenty feet underground and it was interesting to watch the handling of a regiment in the trenches by telephone. He said that he lost six hundred men and twenty officers in the last attack, which failed owing to insufficient aviation and lack of heavy artillery. Altogether he was very frank, and hardly optimistic.
We went into the observation posts and saw the Boche lines, only six hundred yards away. Coming back we saw an aviator fall in flames into the German lines. I could not make out whether he was an Ally or German. Anyhow, it was a fierce sight, and the only comforting thought was that he must have died almost instantly.
May 15. We have organized two baseball teams. The "Back and Forths" and the "Here and Theres." We have games every day, some of them most exciting. We have quite an audience of "poilus," too. Of course, the playing is rather weird, but we get a lot of fun out of it.
I went up with Woody, Hibbard, and Gamble(21) to call on Mrs. Tolstoy; an American girl, a Miss Frothingham, of Boston, who is nursing at the Frigny Hospital. She married a Russian. She knows the Frothinghams of Philadelphia. The Comtesse de Benoist-d'Azy is in charge of the hospital.(22) The latter tells me that Mrs. Tolstoy's name has been sent in for the Croix de Guerre for her work in the recent bombardment of the village in which the hospital is located. It appears that a woman was killed in the street, and her child, a baby in arms, was taken care of by Mrs. Tolstoy, who, instead of hiding in the dug-outs, went about ministering as best she could to the villagers and soldiers injured by the bombardment. This occurred about three weeks ago. She does n't know yet that she has been cited.
May 16. We had a big night last night. Word came that the old 32d Division had cited Woody, Hibbard, Kurtz, and Ned Townsend for their work last winter around Hill 304. Kurtz, of course, has left us, and Ned is on sick-leave. But Woody and Hibbard opened wine and "a pleasant time was had by all." I guess that's about the last of the Croix de Guerre opportunities. The Section seems to be hopelessly "canned" now. We are unattached and there is not the slightest chance of our getting anything but punk ---evacuating work, if even that. It is certainly tough luck to have come all the way over for this.
May 17. One of the "Loot's" friends by the name of Jones turned up yesterday. He is in charge of an English Ambulance Section No. 16, which is near here. Quite "a guy" --- half French, half English; wears a monocle. I went in to Rheims, with Woodworth and the two "Loots" after dinner and we had quite a party in a new café which we have discovered, where there is a piano and a Victrola.
Jones says that the new French tanks were very badly handled in the Craonne offensive, and that he himself, saw five burned up. Instead of taking their positions during the night, they moved up in broad daylight and the Boches simply played with them, shelling with phosphorous igniting shells. Their gas tanks were badly protected, and it was an easy matter to set them on fire.
A whale of a big gun turned up here today --- a 380 marine! The barrel is over fifty feet-long and it is mounted on a railroad truck. The French call it "La Reine Elizabeth."
May 18. 1 hear that Andrew got rid of the French Lieutenant of one of the Sections. It is said that when the Boches attacked a while ago around Hill 304, the rumor got abroad that they had broken through. So this "Loot" lost no time in packing up his things and in running off to a town well back of the lines in his staff car. And then he telephoned to the Section, which was working night and day, that, if they needed him, they could find him at this rear post. The Germans did get a couple of hundred yards of trenches, but the Americans remained on the job in spite of their "Loot"! So the latter duly faded out of sight.
Woody and I took a four-"striper" and a priest into Épernay yesterday. He corroborated all we had heard about the failure of the spring offensive.
Finally we have obtained a little direct front-line work. Only one car for twenty-four hours, though, evacuating four little front-line "postes de secours." Everything is quiet and we are merely given this because we have been " kicking" for a month both in Paris and with the local army heads.
May 22. Lieutenant Jones, of English S.S. 16, dropped in and asked Woody, the "Loot," and me to dine with him at Épernay. We went down in his car and met Sponagle returning from "permission." We had a very nice "feed" and stopped at Rheims on our way back at the little café. Spone's description of conditions at Rue Raynouard was not encouraging.
May 23. While we were playing baseball to-day, the Boches jumped on two "saucisses." One of the observers came down in his parachute all right. As there was not a sign of wind he was lucky to escape his falling gas bag. The other was simply squatted upon by his burning bag and vanished in a cloud of smoke rising lazily up to heaven as from a factory chimney on a dull, hazy day.
White came back this morning from his twenty-four-hours "poste" work and reported an active night. He had his tire punctured by an "éclat" which landed in the yard of the "poste" at Château-Thierry(23) and simply plastered the French car beside him. Luckily no one was hurt.
May 24. We have been definitely attached to a mixed division---the 152d, much of which is dismounted cavalry. We serve two "postes," Pouillon and Villers-Franqueux ---right close up, and we evacuate to Châlons-sur-Vesle. For the moment we will retain the Château de Muizon as the regular "cantonnement." Every one is delighted with the change, and especially with being actually hooked-up with something definite, instead of being a sort of pariah section.
May 25. Disaster! All are plunged in woe! They have spread manure over our baseball field!!
May 26. Steve Galatti turned up to-day with the new staff car. He tells us that two Section 13 men were wounded last night over to the east of Rheims. But neither is badly hurt.
May 27. Aviators dropped a dozen bombs on the town this morning. One fell within twenty or thirty feet from our tent. The fellows dived under beds or anything conveniently near. One man fell into the "feuillée" in his excitement.
May 28. We saw a thrilling plane fight over our heads to-day. Two Frenchmen brought down a German. The latter's gas tank exploded, and then they fairly riddled him with their mitrailleuses. He wormed down slowly, and finally fell in the field near Muizon. It proved to be a three-man plane. One was dead, the other two only slightly wounded. The motor was a six-cylinder Bruz, with four valves to each cylinder --- a beautiful machine.
It carried two mitrailleuses. The "Germs" were made prisoners and were rather roughly handled before an officer came up and took charge of them. The machine was nearly stripped bare by souvenir hunters.
A poor ape, a new man, --- or rather child, --- went up to the front-line "poste" at Villers-Franqueux yesterday, on the regular schedule, and got an éclat " in his front wheel. Immediately, he rushed over to the Médecin Auxiliaire and got him to write a sort of signed affidavit that it had occurred; and then took it to the Lieutenant with the idea that it was good for a Croix de Guerre. The whole Squad are having the time of their lives with him now! Every time anybody goes out in his car, he brings back a receipt and solemnly presents it to Woodworth. Flynn says he's going to get a book like the messenger boys' and produce it at each hospital, saying, "Here are two blessés, sign here."
May 29. I was at the Pouillon "poste" for twenty-four hours with Flynn and Weld,(24) interchanging at Villers-Franqueux. We had pretty active shelling at intervals. I climbed up in the church tower and watched the lines through binoculars. I could see the shells failing steadily on the trenches, but saw no troop movements.
Our "abris" at Villers-Franqueux: are amusingly named. One is "le Metro"; another is " Ca m'suffit," which the men pronounce "Sam Suphy"; still another, "Grotte des Coryphées," etc. Shells were dropping around near, and the concussion of one caused the sandbags of our "abri" doorway to cave in partially blocking the entrance.
I went up to the Front at 3 A.M.; dawn was beginning to show. I nearly ran into a camouflage which had been hit by a shell and blocked the road. Found only one dead man, and came back. The "Germs" are only six hundred yards off here and the road is in plain sight.
We have to make the run at 3 A.M., whether called or not,, as the only means of communication is by messenger, the telephone being cut so often by shells that they have given up attempting to keep it connected.
May 30. This is Decoration Day. We put up a big flag, and when it was lowered at night we all lined up and officially saluted. It was the first time that we had observed any such ceremony.
I hear that Sam Chew broke his arm cranking his car out in the Argonne, where we were posted last fall, and that he has gone. home. His brother Oswald was looking very well a month ago when I passed through there.
Table of Contents