There's a feud between Kelly and Klaw.
DURING the night, gas shells came in at the Haudromont "Poste," and Kreutzberg and Hanna worked in masks for some time. Purdy, too, got some hard work; and when the "brancardiers" dropped one of his wounded men as they took him out of the car, he, also, went up in the air; but he calmed down in a few minutes and returned to his "poste" at Douaumont.
August 14. Last night was "a bird!" All the roads were under heavy bombardment --- high explosives and gas shells. Holt got knocked down, and his mask fell off; and if it had not been for a Harjes-Norton boy whom he had taken up to show him the road, he undoubtedly would have been done for, as he was blinded and only semi-conscious. They dragged him a couple of hundred yards to the "poste de secours" at Haudromont, where he was given anti-gas treatment, and he got back all right. White and Flynn each got the side of his car blown out by shells, and got some gas as well; while little Tapley had his car almost entirely destroyed by a shell and two of his "blessés" killed. All the boys did finely. Curtis's car broke down, so I gave him No. 5 ---that is, Gamble's. machine---and he drove twice through gas to the "postes" with it. Stout and some of the others, earlier in the evening, got shelled as they crossed the Douaumont Hill, and had very close calls, having to remain in La Source dug-out for several hours, before the barrage let up and they could return with their wounded.
Dallin(38) broke down and was towed back this morning. We'll scrap Tapley's car and rebuild 17 and 14 out of it.
August 16. I nearly "got mine" yesterday. Kreutzberg broke down No. 4 in the Froide Terre, and I was out with the "camion," Pearl, and Day to repair it. After it was fixed up, as the car was not far from the Haudromont "Poste," I took it over to help get the " blessés " out, as Kreutzberg was worn out and I wanted him to get some sleep. On the way I met Patterson "en panne," and he warned me not to go by the Bras road, as they we're "shelling hell out of it." He had only a flat tire, and, of course, I went on up by the Bras road. If I had not "Pat" would have had no respect for his officer. I got there all right, and just as I was unscrewing the radiator cap to see how the water was, a shell fell through the camouflage within five or six feet of me. It blew straight up in the air, luckily. It is the closest call I ever had excepting at Cappy. Stones, mud, and sticks rained down and the car was hit in several places. The "brancardiers" standing near by said it must have been the mass of camouflage which came down that checked the "éclats." No. 4, with its new front triangle, steered all over the place, not having been correctly adjusted. But I got my load of "blessés" and eased back all right. It was certainly lucky, as "77's" and "155's" were raining all around. Lots of newly wounded and killed men and horses lay all along the road for at least a couple of hundred yards.
Flynn, who is driving No. 17, a car presented by the "young girls of San Francisco" and which bears that name on its plate, came back to-day announcing "another German atrocity!" They've been knocking out the "young girls of San Francisco!" The whole side of his car was blown out and it now has been repaired by using up what was left of Tapley's No. 13. But it is certainly a queer-looking ambulance: half a red cross, half an Indian head, "17" on one side, "13" backward and upside down, on the other!
Strater came in with a big hole in the back of his car, where a "couché" must have had a hair-breadth escape. It passed just under the "brancard."
Dallin is a funny chap. He likes to go up to the "postes," even when off duty, and always asks to accompany the drivers. Just now he asked to go with Plow in the "camionnette," although the wood is being heavily bombarded. They, certainly, are a great bunch of boys! One couldn't ask for a better crowd to lead.
Mr. Norton came up to inspect his Squad. He seems to be a very decent sort, excepting that he wears a monocle. The Inspector and Chef of the Automobile Service fell upon us this morning. But despite the fact that the cars are awful sights ---holes all over them, radiators and mud-guards bent up, side boxes "busted"---he expressed himself as pleased with the work of the Section.
He was very anxious about the actual road ability of the cars; and when he found that all the twenty were marching, he was surprised and pleased. That is due to Pearl, who is working his head off. He keeps the cars going in, spite of everything and has grown a scraggy beard and worn out his clothes in the doing. But they go. The boys, too, are fine. Hardly any sleep, food grabbed when they can get it, but they make good every time. They are a splendid bunch!
August 17. Rice came in plastered with mud, this morning. It rains every day and the roads are quagmires. Rice, who has a well-developed sense of humor, remarked, "If I were the French, I'd give the Boches the damned country and then laugh at them!"
Pearl was wounded last night. He went up with Rice to repair Stockwell's car which had broken front springs through falling in a shell hole at Haudromont. A big one exploded right beside them and drove a hole as big as an egg through his forearm. Pearl kept his nerve, Rice took him to the "poste," and he calmly smoked a cigarette while the doctor dressed the wound, which was a nasty one. All the ligaments and muscles are torn, and he will retain only partial use of his hand. The Médecin Chef cited him on the spot. He is now in the hospital here at Bevaux, but I hope to get him down to Paris in a few days.(39) Red Day(40) has taken over the mechanic's job, and is doing finely. He is quicker than Pearl, though not so thorough. William Armour Pearl(41) is a Rhodes Scholar and a wonder. He is the second man wounded in this drive and probably will lose the use of his arm, fortunately the left. But both men had a lucky escape. I have been driving myself in order to let some of the most worn-out get a little rest.
A new man, Regan, has arrived and looks pretty good. I eased him into the work at once. Oller has a touch of appendicitis and I have had to send him down to Vadelaincourt for treatment. But I have just received a wire saying that another new man was on his way.
August 18. Tapley had a lucky escape to-day. Up by the Vaux "Poste" a big "420" dropped behind him and completely demolished the road, causing a sort of landslide down into the ravine. He telephoned that he could n't get back, as the road was completely blocked and wanted to know what to do. I told him to get the "Génie" to fix it, which they did after some hours' work.
Every hour some story of lucky escapes and weird experiences is brought in as the men return from the "postes." It is the biggest work the Section has ever done.
August 19. The attack starts to-morrow at 4 A.M. We are to be relieved of the Haudromont "Poste" by two French Sections! Some compliment, considering that only one half of Section 1 was working the "poste"! In order to help out, I took Oller's car and drove around. We cleared the "Poste" completely by night, so they could start with a clean slate.
August 20. The attack is on. Carrière Sud "Poste," where the Lieutenant and I are to take turns, is cut off temporarily by heavy barrage. He will go out with cars as soon as possible, and I am to relieve him to-morrow morning; meanwhile attending to this end.
Stout broke down on Douaumont Hill and had a merry time being towed in by Day and the White truck. A new man, Paul Cram, has arrived.
The Lieutenant showed up finely today. He cleared the road by driving the trucks deserted by their drivers out of the tangle, shot a lot of wounded horses, and had the "Génie " drag the carcasses as well as the bodies of the drivers and so on. The road was cleared by nine in the morning, and the cars are now rolling all right.
According to latest reports we advanced one and one half kilometers in front of Douaumont, not so much over by Haudromont but sufficiently along both banks of the Meuse to take in the whole of Hill 304 on the left bank. Long strings of Boche prisoners are coming in, grinning and apparently delighted to be out of it. We see many plane fights. The boys are all rolling finely excepting Stout, and he will be on the White truck until Day gets the car fixed up. I refused flatly to roll the whole Section at once, knowing that the next couple of days will be harder yet. That's why I'm rolling ten and saving ten.
August 22. I spent yesterday at the '"poste." The attack has been an unexpectedly big success. All counter-attacks have been frustrated. The Sanitary Service worked finely. Everybody is praising the Americans. Piatt Andrew and Colonel Kean, of the United States Army, came up in the afternoon. They had a lively, trip both ways. I showed them around and came back with them. A shell broke right alongside of the car, and showered rocks and mud all over it. Shrapnel also came close to us, and we passed many dead bodies of men and horses in every stage of decomposition and dismemberment. We also passed many Boche prisoners. In fact our visitors, were treated to the entire "mise-en-scene" of the battle of Verdun. I think that they were decidedly impressed.
To-day things are quieter. Rice had another close call at La Source, however. Cram, the new man, did, well; also the other new man, Regan.
It is funny how certain things help. There has been a dead horse lying for several days just at the top of the hill, coming. out of Chambouillat. First he swelled up, and now he is beginning to disintegrate. The boys have christened him "Old Wrinkle Belly." They feel that, once they have passed him, they are comparatively safe. This is not true, as the shelling at Fleury corner and Saint-Fismes is just as dangerous, although the road improves. At night they can always smell "Old Wrinkle Belly" fifty yards before they come to him, and that encourages them, they say.
Of course, the smell is terrific everywhere; and some of the troops wear their gas masks on account of this as much as because of the gas. The drivers of the dead wagons generally wear their masks, too, as do the collectors of the dead. At first I was inclined to attribute it to a sort of superstition, as not wishing their faces to be exposed during their gruesome business of putting together dismembered bodies or collecting them in sacks; but they tell me that it is simply on account of the odor.
Still another new man came up to-day: Mark Brennan, who has been in Salonica with Section 10. He looks a bit nervous, but may be all right.
August 23. I was asked by the Harjes contingent to stand sponsor for the decoration of Reed, their man who had his hand blown off. As there were, as yet, no Croix de Guerre men in their Section, they invited me to officiate. So the ceremony came off yesterday afternoon.
Last night we had a big aeroplane raid around here. One man was killed by a mitrailleuse on the road in front of the hospital, and an ammunition storage place was blown up. Many bombs fell close to our camp and most of the boys took to the trenches and to the dug-outs.
Dallin leaves to-morrow. I am awfully sorry to see him go. I am sending down Curtis, as he is in a nervous condition and is useless to us; also Oller, who has appendicitis, and poor Pearl. O'Connell came to me with a tale of woe about being sick also, and I am easing him off too. The fewer weak brethren we have with us just now, the better. This is real work.
August 24. This job certainly is instructive, if nothing else. I am becoming quite a doctor. I treat all my children with the medicine chest furnished by the Service. All the various dopes are described and numbered in a little catalogue. I catechize the patient, look wise, scratch my chin, and then, after a quick "once over" of the catalogue, hand him out the pills, quoting the instructions as if I really knew something about them. Personally, I have lived through two years on "granules des Vosges" and "pinard" very successfully. The former is the best cure for colds I ever struck, and the other settles all stomach troubles.
Strater broke down again to-day. This time it is a back axle. I first sent out Plow in the "camionnette," and then, luckily, thought I'd take a look myself with the staff car. Found him in the bottom of a ravine near Fort Tavannes, and it would have been impossible to get him out except by hooking up both cars tandem and touring him out that way. We've christened it "System D."
August 27. The French made another advance last night on Beaumont, but later got thrown back. We are taking prisoners of the Bavarian Guard just now. The French big guns did some remarkable shooting the other day. There was a sort of obelisk about the size of Cleopatra's needle, some three kilometers inside the Boche lines, which they used as a sighting and observation post. One of the big guns back at Haudainville, fully fifteen kilometers away, was ordered to destroy it. The first shot fell right beside the monument, and the second blew it to pieces.
One of the Harjes men, fooling with a "75" detonator fuse, pretty nearly blew off his hand yesterday, and received a number of splinters in his stomach. He had to go through a severe operation; but, of course, he is getting very little sympathy, as he certainly has had enough warnings not to fool with hand grenades, fusées, and the like.
Curtis, O'Connell, Oller went off on sick-leaves. I also sent down Pearl and Dallin, the latter's term being up. I am awfully sorry to see the two latter go not to return.
Up at the "poste" again yesterday. The road is in better shape, but the smell is frightful from the unburied dead.
Bullard,. the Chef of Harjes Section, which is working with us, had a remarkably narrow escape the other day. An "éclat" of a shell which exploded right in front of his car hit his watch after cutting his trousers and coat. The watch was hammered into his stomach, but only one eighth of an inch or so, leaving a nasty cut and a big bruise. The "éclat" was driven into the watch and through a half-franc piece! He's got the whole collection as a souvenir. This even beats Waldo Peirce's pocketbook for luck, although Bullard was too much shaken to pull the "bon mot" Waldo did. Bullard is a splendid fellow, and he is doing mighty well with his raw Section. He looks dreadfully tired, and it must be some strain to have to tackle such a Lieutenant as his --- especially, perfectly new at the game as he is --- in addition to his new men. I certainly take off my hat to him.
August 28. Boche counter-attacks continue, but the French artillery seems able to hold them. Long lines of prisoners still come past us. The Germans are bombing and shelling everything indiscriminately, including hospitals. They killed a number of women nurses at Vadelaincourt. The hospital there is close to the aviation camp, and they may have been trying for the latter. At Belonpy and Dugny, however, there was no mistake. They killed a number of nurses and also the Division Paymaster.
Here, at Beaulieu Bevaux, they shell the barracks on one side of us and the railway on the other, and lob big fellows on to the "convois" below and behind us. . So the fellows who are supposed to be resting from front-line work get relatively little sleep. The strain is terrific, but the men are standing up to it magnificently.
August 29. The 42d Division, which bore the brunt of the big attack and to which we asked as a favor to be attached, is coming out to-day, and our own Division, the 69th, is going in. This means a continuation of the work for us, for a while at least; but it should help our reputation a lot! It is about the longest the Section has ever had in real attacking work, and every car is still rolling. I slipped Stocky, Holt, and Purdy surreptitiously on to Paris. It helps the morale of the men to feel that they are not being "stung" out of their "permissions"; and they certainly deserved it.
I suppose that we shall lose the Harjes Section now that we are attached once more to our own Divisionists. Fine as are the fellows, I shall not regret their very annoying Lieutenant, who is constantly butting into our affairs. Being the oldest man in point of service, he has a right to give orders to our Lieutenant, despite the fact that this Section is by far the elder of the two, and that the men are all experienced and quite capable of teaching him his job. He is not a Chevalier Bayard, and he assumed for himself all the credit for our Lieutenant's splendid work up at the Front "postes."
He himself stayed back here and let us handle the advance stuff. Then he'd undertake to give all sorts of conflicting orders, to which, however, we paid not the slightest attention, but kept on doing our own job --- and doing it well, too.
August 31. A shell landed right on top of car No. 4 at Carrière Sud last night. Luckily, Regan, the driver, slid for the dug-out in time. The car was entirely destroyed and two Harjes Fiats were also badly damaged. We have stripped what could be used and scrapped it, wiring Andrew for a new car to replace it. Red Day and I had a tight squeak in the staff car at Haudainville. They were shelling the road with "220's" at half-a-minute's intervals. So we got up as close as we dared, and then made a dash for it with the throttle wide open just after a shell had landed. We made it by the skin of our teeth., the next shell falling within thirty feet behind us exactly on the road. The shock was terrific and our ears were dulled for an hour or more. Coming back, the shelling had stopped.
September 1. Section 61, our next-door neighbors, were celebrating last night, as they are going to the rear. They invented a new battle song for the occasion, the chorus of which began: "Hurrah! Hurrah! We're going to the rear!" Hardly heroic, but doubtless expressive of the real sentiments of those concerned. Our boys "kidded" them, shouting over in derision: "Section 1 to the Front, Harjes to the rear!!" Boys will be boys!
September 2. Our Division the 69th, is in again. Having served it from August 1 to 10, and then the 42d from August 10 to September 1, we are going on again now. Some record! We took the Médecin Principal up this morning in Cram's car. It was a scream. The road was being shelled both with shrapnel and high explosives and the old man was pretty nervous. When we got to the Carrière Sud opening, he did not even wait for the car to stop before he jumped for the "abri." He forgot to thank Cram for taking him up!
The Boches shelled around the hospital all day to-day, and the smell is fierce, as they landed several of their shells in the graveyard. They nearly did for Regan, incidentally, as he came around the comer to enter the hospital with a load of "blessés." The Harjes, Section, after all, got left about going to the rear! They are simply "en repos" here.
We get shelled all day, and the "avions" drop bombs on us every clear night. For the first time I hear the men hoping for rain! Those boys, by the way, have been wonderful. I never saw such work as they have been doing. It far exceeds anything the Section has done before, and I really don't see how they keep it up. Of course, I give them every bit of rest I can, and insist upon their being fed at all hours, both day and night. It is putting a crimp in the Section's books, but it's keeping them physically fit, anyway.
September 4. Yesterday was a big day for S.S.U. No. 1. Six men were cited. Flynn, Tapley, Hanna, Stockwell, White, and the Lieutenant. Fine citations, too, all for special work for the 42d Division ---not our own, but the one for which we were asked as a favor to work. Harjes's got two --- but they are being sent to the rear. An English Section takes their place. We worked with them about this time last year, and they are supposed to be about the best English Section. Another attack is scheduled for around the 8th, and they tell us they want the very best Sections to be had! Some compliment!
Flynn went in on "permission" today. I fear that he won't come back. The Hayes [sic=Harjes] Section lost two men by desertion yesterday, to cap the climax of their troubles. Altogether they're in wrong. I feel sorry for poor Bullard, who is such a fine fellow.
Here is a copy of the letter of the Colonel of the 153d Brigade: --
153e Brigade. État-Major. P.C. 21 Août 1917.
Le Colonel Pongin, Cdt. la 153e d'infanterie.
A Monsieur le Général Commandant la 42e Division.
J'ai l'honneur de vous signaler la conduite absolument remarquable du détachement du B.D. 42e depuis son arrivée au secteur à la Carrière Sud. Je tiens a vous signaler particulièrement:
Le groupe des auto-sanitaires Américains S.S.U. No. 1, et S.S.U. 61, qui a fait preuve de la plus belle crânerie et d'un courage superbe en assurant, de jour et de nuit, sous les bombardements les plus violents, malgré les gazes toxiques et le mauvais état des routes, le transport de nos blessés.
Stockwell returned last night. He will stay until his commission in the American Artillery comes through. He tells me that Purdy has signed up again --- good news! As for Holt, he has tonsillitis in Paris caused by the gas he inhaled at Haudromont. Buell, one of the new men, got a touch of gas last night, and I got the doctor to give him an emetic. He's all right to-day. We had gas here at Bevaux also last night. It kept every one snuffling and sneezing, but was not strong enough to bother with masks.
Steve Galatti came up from Paris to give us the "once over" yesterday. As the Boche long-range guns were shelling the place at the time, and, the night before, the German aviators had dropped bombs on him at Souilly, where he had been passing the night on his way here, and as the gas was quite perceptible, he got a fair idea of our work even without going to the Front "postes." I offered to take him, but he declined on account of lack of time, and went down on the, line to see the other Sections.
September 6. I went the -round of the "postes" with the Lieutenant yesterday. When we reached the top of the Douaumont Hill, we found Ned Townsend blocked on his way to Carrière. Sud; the road was being shelled and an enormous crater had been formed --- or rather a series of craters. Really, there was no road at all. We fixed it up by pulling away debris sufficiently to permit a Ford to worm its way past, and finally got up. Coming back, Ned blew a tire right in the same spot; and, as the Boches could see us plainly, it wasn't much fun fixing it. We had to duck for an "abri" once, when a bunch of shells lit right close by. The lieutenant got some good pictures, I hope.
We have made all arrangements to work with the new English Section No. 1. We are paid a compliment by the Médecin Chef, who refused to allow us to work on alternate days. He said that he wanted to be sure to have a few Fords, as it would be impossible for the big English cars (Rolls-Royce, Napiers, Panhards, etc.) to get up the Carrière Sud road.
Poor Rice went to pieces at about dinner-time; but when he overheard White calling him a quitter he went out and cranked his car and started up. The man was all gone; so when I heard he had disobeyed orders, I went to hunt him up around ten o'clock. I found him out near Sainte-Fismes, and cursed him for disobeying and sent him back. I also jumped on White, who had no business to criticize a man who had worked until he broke down.(42) It is the quitters that need cursing ---men who lie down on their work. I have to be constantly after the latter. In one case it was easy to get rid of the man the moment he asked to go. He got his wish so fast that it must have surprised him, as it did others. Little Tapley has an abscess; so, as he is pretty well done up, I sent him down to Paris for his Croix and gave him two days' "permission" to get his teeth fixed.
An amusing thing occurred at Bar-le-Duc: Tapley was buying a little Croix ribbon, and an old "poilu," noticing his extreme youth, came up and kissed him! You may imagine Tapley's feelings!
A photograph, taken at this time, of the station of the village of Fleury shows that there is not a vestige of the village left. You can tell it by one piece of rail! The Boches are just behind the camouflage, which may be seen along the road, where the car is. The man in the raincoat is William A. Pearl, who was wounded near there later that very afternoon, and will lose the use of his arm. H. B. Day is the other fellow standing beside him; while I am taking a picture of the post, with the sign " Gare de Fleury" propped up on the unexploded Boche "220" millimeter shell. Douaumont is on the left, and Vaux and Tavannes on the right, but concealed by the camouflage.
We are still hard at work, and the men are still doing wonderfully, considering the strain under which they have been for five weeks. Two of the cars have been completely destroyed by shells, and several others have been very badly hit; but we have managed to patch them up, with bits of board and odds and ends. They don't look like ambulances, but they run. The sides of one have simply been remade out of two canvas sleeping-bags. Only two of the men have broken down under the nerve strain, but they're all getting pretty jumpy. The wounded man and two of the men who were gassed, I sent down to Paris. The others who were only slightly gassed were fixed up here.
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