Frederick A. Pottle
Mayen. The Watch on the Rhine.
ONE might well question why we should ever have been sent into Germany at all. We had been trained and equipped for surgical work, and our experience had been almost entirely in the operative treatment of wounds. Wounds (unless accidental) were now a matter of the past; what could we find to do in the Army of Occupation? Well, if wounds were fortunately a thing of the past, pneumonia and influenza were not, and the Army of Occupation found itself as susceptible to disease as any other group of mortals. Post hospitals were urgently needed. The base hospitals had received more training for this work, but the evacuation hospitals were much more readily mobile and hence more eligible. Besides, the base hospitals still had enough to do in caring for convalescent wounded. There was not much for us to do in France, for the sick men there could receive better care in the more permanently established units. Consequently, we were among the first medical troops to move up with the Army of Occupation. The site allotted to us was Mayen bei Coblenz, where we were to furnish post hospital facilities for the Fourth Corps of the Army of Occupation, Mayen itself being mainly occupied by the Third Division.(40)
The old city of Mayen (fifteen thousand inhabitants) is one of the quaintest and most charming in all the romantic region of the Rhineland. This area has known the presence of the human animal almost longer than any other part of Europe. "For ages that make all history seem a thing of yesterday" (to borrow a phrase from H. G. Wells), the Neanderthal men hunted, fought, and died in this region, to be slowly but relentlessly replaced---centuries before the dawn of history---by the true men of the Paleolithic Age, who in turn faded away before our Neolithic ancestors. Before recorded history the Gauls, pushing in from the east, overran the country. Caesar's legions passed through Mayen as he went to fight the German Ariovistus, and he built his famous Rhine bridge only a few miles away, near Coblenz. Most of the names of the present-day towns are old Roman place-names in disguise. Coblenz was "Confluentes" ("Junction," i.e., of the Rhine and the Moselle); Cologne, "Colonia Agrippina"; Andernach, "Antonacum" (short for "Statio ante Nacum," "Station before the Nette"). Caesar's disciple, Napoleon, annexed the region for a brief season to France. The monuments of all these occupations, from burial urns of 4000 B.C. to Roman household furniture, Frankish weapons, and French tricolors, are carefully preserved in the remarkable museum in the old Capelle on Stehbachstrasse by the curator, Peter Hörter, Schreinermeister.
The country is still of absorbing historical and scenic interest. Mayen lies something over fifteen miles west and slightly south of Coblenz; northwest about ten miles is Andernach. The famous university of Bonn is twenty-five miles or so north, farther down the Rhine; Drachenfels and the rest of the Seven Mountains lie still nearer; the Laacher See is only five miles away to the north. The region is volcanic in origin. The Laacher See is a crater tarn; hot and mineral springs abound, and the mining of tuffstone and basalt forms the principal industry. The great quarries are at Niedermendig, three and a half miles north, but those at Mayen are extensive, the stone found here being especially adapted for millstones. The city is still astonishingly medieval. On the height commanding the whole expanse of roofs, rises the ruin of the Genovefaburg, ancient castle of Siegfried, Count Palatine of Mayenfeld, who lived in the eighth century. Like many other objects in the vicinity, however, it has acquired the name of his much-abused wife, St. Genovefa, who, legend says, was driven out through the machinations of Siegfried's wicked steward to find shelter with her infant and a tame deer in a cave in the wilderness near Niedermendig, there to be discovered by her sorrowing husband, who supposed her dead. One wing of the ruin has been restored and modernized, but the crumbling mass of the huge round donjon tower, battered and ragged but still good for centuries, rises up to mock the newer portion. Below the castle the narrow streets radiate out from a large open market square. The most interesting is the Marktstrasse, with its fifteenth-century church of St. Clement, the spire of which is tilted like the Tower of Pisa and twisted like a stick of candy into the bargain. Access to the town must still be made through medieval gates, surmounted by defensive towers. A large part of the old wall (some of it Roman) is still standing, though a large part of the city is now outside. Everywhere one turns he sees relics of the Middle Ages in sharp, unsymmetrical gables projecting over the street, in tilted tile roofs, and in worn cobbled streets.
Evacuation Eight awoke in Mayen on the morning of December 19, 1918. There was some trouble about finding quarters. Diary A records that the "sun was shining, 1st in many days. Train lay in yard until 7 P.M. 60 men forgotten in cold without feed. Walked about town and visited stores and hotels. Then to bed in train about 10 P.M. tired and hungry." Quarters were finally found for the nurses in two hotels, the officers were billeted with civilians, and the men occupied one of the school buildings of the city. We took over three schools: the Knaberschule, the Gymnasium, and another the name of which I have failed to record. As our main hospital building we appropriated the new and splendidly equipped Kaiserin Auguste-Viktoria Krankenhaus (which was conducted by nuns, the Sisters of St. Charles), on a hill above the city. As it was soon found to be too small to accommodate our patients, we converted two of the schools into wards, the third continuing to serve as a barrack. Miss Biddlecome and Miss Grandin of the Smith College Relief Unit had followed us from Petit Maujouy, and set up their recreation hut in the yard of one of the schools, near which our mess tent was pitched. Mr. St. Clare helped open the theater of the town as a Y.M.C.A.
On December 21 General Pershing came to town very quietly, and the wanderers from Mont Dore returned with a good deal of noise. Both events furnished some excitement, that caused by the arrival of the members of the company being principally as to how they were to be lodged, the one schoolhouse barrack being already filled beyond its capacity.
Christmas came on. All of us had now been a year in the army. For those who had passed their first army Christmas at Slocum, this, though one could hardly help feeling homesick, was comparatively paradise. The inhabitants of the Rhineland are mainly Roman Catholic; to a deep religious fervor they add the rich strain of sentiment that is characteristically German. If one were not in the army, Germany would be the finest place in the world to spend Christmas in. But, alas, we were in the army. "Was somewhat homesick in the evening," says Diary B, "upon seeing all the people coming home with their presents, and all the windows lighted up with colored lights which displayed the beautiful trees all decorated." In a letter I find a paragraph in much the same tone: "Last night was pretty awful. All the people were getting ready for Christmas. I went to a Gasthaus-Restaurant... . . A young German and his sweetheart came in and sat opposite me, whispering, with their faces close together. I got out. I walked the streets---warm houses with drawn curtains, where people were getting ready for Christmas. It got worse and worse. I went to bed to forget that it was Christmas, but I was not allowed to sleep. At midnight clear and sweet (and not sad) came the chimes---'Silent Night'---and great soft snowflakes began to fall like angels' feathers. There was no reveille this morning in honor of the day. When I did get up, I found everything three inches deep in fluffy white snow. I went to the big Catholic church for mass at ten o'clock. . . . When I came out, I found the German youngsters and the Americans engaged in a snowball fight. We can't help falling for the kids; they're so spontaneous and delightful we're beginning to spoil them already. Of course, we're supposed not to speak to civilians except for business purposes, but what is one to do?"
Diary A can always be depended on for a record of what we had to eat. "Dinner," it says, "pork, potatoes, tomatoes, filling, preserves, fudge, and pie; tobacco from Y.M.C.A. " (The nurses made the fudge.) We had a Christmas tree, with an entertainment of company talent. The entertainment, indeed, turned out to be better than anyone had expected. A few of the nurses and men who had gathered for the tree began an informal dance, which grew until everyone was dancing. As such promiscuity was strictly against regulations, we feared the wrath of the colonel. But it all blew over, and, as a diary says, "the night was called a big success." In fact, at least three more "secret" dances between the nurses and men were engineered while we were at Mayen. One diary makes an entry that is almost indecent in its levity: "Pulled one on old Jim with a dance at 8 P.M. Had a wonderful time, most of the nurses were present. . . . Locked out [from billet], but to bed at 11.30 P.M.---happy as a lark." The poor nurses were almost danced to death in Mayen. As the only eligible partners in the whole region, they were in demand for a dance almost every night by the officers of some company or other. They regarded it as a duty not to refuse. No matter how tired they were from their long day's work, they were always ready to do what they could to make the lot of the army more endurable.
Another institution which came into being on this Christmas Day had a less happy effect on the morale of the company. This was the opening of a special mess for the noncoms, who thereafter ate by themselves, with special food and table service for which (it is only fair to add) they paid something extra out of their own pockets. There was more or less resentment among the privates at this rather pointed daily reminder of the inferiority of their status, but it would probably not have lasted very long if it had not been accompanied by an immediate and alarming decline in the quality of the general mess. Formerly there had been two grades: officers' mess, good; enlisted men's, fair. Now the cooks had to devise three grades, with the result that ours became and remained extremely bad. It seems to me now that we were served day after day at Mayen the same invariable menu: soggy potatoes boiled in their jackets, square chunks of beef served in the watery slop in which they had been boiled, and tomatoes just as they came from the can. The seats in our mess tent were the children's desks which had been removed from the schoolhouses. I shall never forget the look on the face of one of the men who had vainly tried to eat one of these dinners, as he slowly and pensively poured his tomatoes down an inkwell.(41)
Christmas brought us some presents. The army, which had forbidden the sending of parcels to the A.E.F., so far relented as to allow each soldier one Christmas box of standard size-about the dimensions of a brick. But even that much from home was something to dream about for weeks before it came and to have heart failure over when it arrived. None of the parcels, I believe, actually were on hand for Christmas Day, but they began to drift in soon after, and by January 10 had practically all been received.
On December 29 the congestion in the barrack was relieved by the billeting of a large part of the men in German families. "My military address," says a letter, "remains unchanged, but I now boast the splendor of a civilian address. 52 Marktstrasse is the clothing store of Frau Lichtenstein and Fräulein Paula. The other members of the family are Grossmutter, aged 82, and two soldier sons, one in a German hospital recovering from a wound; the other a prisoner with the British. Mitchell, Sam Hitchings, Foy, and I live on the third floor. We have two rooms, one large, the other small. We have German beds with feather-ticks above and below, as is the German custom, sheets, and goose-down pillows. We even sport the splendor of pajamas, the first I have worn since December 25, 1917. Mamma Lichtenstein is 52, plump, rosy, gay, always smiling, apparently happy. Paula is 23, a rather striking blonde, with a face that fairly sparkles when she smiles. She is soon to be married to a clothing salesman who met her in a most romantic manner. He was a soldier, and got into correspondence with a girl here in Mayen whom he had never met. He came here to see her, saw Paula and was captivated. They will be married as soon as the boys get home. . . . Evenings we sit in the little kitchen and write, talk German, sing, and eat---German cakes and coffee; last night waffles! Tonight being New Year's Mamma has made a huge cake, and we shall sit up to watch the old year out."
Shocking! Less than fifty days before the American Army had been engaged in a most earnest and uncompromising effort to kill all the Germans it could; now we sat in their kitchens breaking bread with them, every shade of bitterness past, watching together for the dawn of a New Year. It was inevitable. If you want to make people hate properly, you must keep them out of sight of each other. Our company was perhaps prepared to fraternize with the enemy a little sooner than the combatant units, because we had for months been caring for wounded Germans, and discovering that they were very like our own men. What are you going to do about an enemy who turns out to be so very like yourself? Tales of atrocities simply became incredible when you saw the German children standing wide-eyed before their Christmas trees, or heard the German chimes sounding "Stille Nacht" in the hush of midnight. Grossmutter summed it all up very well. She was an old, old lady; not very wise, perhaps, but very good, and with a vision clearing in the new light which poured in through the chinks Time was making in her soul's dark cottage. At first she sat quietly in the little kitchen (we always gathered there of an evening because it was warm), speaking seldom, but listening; devoutly reading her Hebrew Bible (the Lichtensteins were Jewish), standing for some parts, with her handkerchief pressed to her mouth. One night, as though she had pondered the matter long, she deliberately pronounced her conclusion: "We were told," she said, "and we all believed, that the Americans were very fierce and cruel. But I see that they are not. We believed even worse things of the French, and many people here still think that, although we were mistaken about the Americans, we were at least right about the French. But there is a French soldier billeted with Familie Treidel (Frau Treidel was her other daughter, Frau Lichtenstein's sister), and he is a middle-aged man, very gentle and kind, who plays with my little grandson and is so sad and lonesome at being away from his family that one must pity him." She paused to sum it all up. "I think most of the people in the world must be good. There are bad people in all the countries, but most people everywhere are good."
Indeed, the Germans went beyond us in complacence. We had every reason to condescend; we were an army of occupation. But we expected them to show open resentment at our presence, and were completely disappointed. In some instances their complacency went beyond the bounds of dignity, and looked too much like servility or hypocrisy, but in general I think it was genuine. "I really think," says a letter, "that there is little hatred here for America. Foch and the English are held responsible for the severity of the Armistice terms, while the belief in Wilson's sympathy for Germany is universal. I don't mean by that that they think Wilson actually pro-German, but they think he is disposed to let Germany out more easily than the others---that he is willing to have a 'you-pay-your-bills-and-I'll-pay-mine' kind of peace. Many of the people are genuinely glad that we are here to prevent the disturbances that are afflicting Berlin. Then, too, we have plenty of money and a willingness to spend it, and also many things that can't be bought with money in Germany which we are willing to barter. We get along perfectly; there is never any friction. In fact, you might think we were allies rather than conquerors."
There would be no use in attempting to disguise the fact that the majority of the members of Evacuation Eight, like the majority of other American troops, felt more at home in Germany than in France, and had no hesitation in saying that they liked the German people better than the French. The causes for this monstrous fickleness are infinitely complex, and they have already been much written upon. Thy all reduce, however, to, one general cause: the culture and tastes of the majority of Americans are Teutonic rather than Latin. To the average person of Anglo-Saxon, German, or Scandinavian descent, the French will always appear to be distressingly insanitary and immoral---generally indecent and incomprehensible. Some of us who, like the writer of the following letter, were given to idealism, were revolted at what seemed to us such blatant treason to the ideals the Allies had invoked.
"You ask me to tell you all about the Germans. Well, I can tell you one thing, and that is that I am becoming every day more and more disgusted and enraged by the attitude the majority of my comrades, and (if one can judge from the press) the people back home are taking with regard to France. I have a most extravagant love for France myself, but I believe I am not prejudiced. It grates on me more than I can express, the way we swell around saying 'We won the War,' and 'We came over and saved the Frogs.' ROT! The American may be the best fighter, but the Frenchman is the best soldier in the world. It's pitiful to hear people who ought to know better talk the poisonous nonsense they do. We came into this war half-trained (a soldier can't be trained in six months), came in at the ninth inning, came in with no artillery worthy of the name, with no aircraft (we had a glorious program for an air fleet), and the French gave us artillery support and turned over half their air force for our use. The Americans went in and fought like devils. The Canadians are their only equals at that kind of fighting. But where we get our license to call the French 'yellow' and 'quitters' I don't know. The kind of fighting the French did for four years was necessary, absolutely necessary. The spectacular stuff we pulled off, if it had been resorted to in the early part of the War, would have landed the Germans in Paris before six months were up. It was necessary to hold doggedly, to retreat stubbornly, to give one man for the enemy's two, or three, or five, and wait for the cracking point. Of course it finally came. And then there was a chance for the spectacular stuff. And because we got in on that, 'we won the war.' We should stop to consider that the German Army of 1918 was a vastly different army from the splendid machine of 1914. 1 don't know whether the Allies would have lost if we had stayed out. When I see the spirit of the French and the English, I doubt it. But this I know: that France has given more, suffered more, and deserves more, than any of the Allies except Belgium. . . .
"I have always thought that one of the most important things we did in the War was to give fresh hope and spirit to France. They say that France was at the bottom of her morale last spring. The first successes of the Americans at the Front operated like an infusion of blood. They have always had a great admiration for us. When they saw our boys maimed and killed in defense of their beloved country, it braced them more than anything else could have done. They used to come to the pathetic little cemetery at Juilly and weep over the graves. It was all so fine---and now we, and you people back home, are trying to throw it all overboard. For what? For no other apparent reason than to bind ourselves to Germany.
"I don't hate the Germans. They are using me very well. I don't believe a great deal of the stuff that was circulated as propaganda. But in the things that really count, they are miles below the French. Things are more comfortable here---why shouldn't they be? What do the Germans know about the pinching poverty that has always been the lot of the average Frenchman? Do they go home to find their villages heaps of crumbling stones, their fields untillable, their families lost? . . . The Germans don't strike me as being cruel or beastly. The French picked the right word; they aren't the 'Huns,' but 'les boches'---the squareheads. . . . The secret of such German atrocities as actually were committed lies, I think, not in a malignant spirit of cruelty, but in a stupendous unimaginativeness. If they had had any brains, do you think they would have treated Belgium as they did, or sunk the Lusitania? The Germans are very ordinary, well-fed, sentimental, rather stupid, people---people very like us. There simply isn't in them a spark of that divine idealism that makes the French the most admirable nation in the world. Do you think a Frenchman would swap his Croix de Guerre for a pound of soap?"
There is far too much heat in this tirade. One wonders, "why so hot, little man?" The reason is clear enough. It is because he feels the treason at work within his own heart; because he realizes that, in spite of his fine resolutions, he is coming to think as affectionately of some of the Germans as of his friends in France. They have been so good to him!
"I have been a little sick with the influenza," he says in another letter, "but am fully recovered now. I had to stay abed and got a temperature of 103 one day. Frau Lichtenstein took care of me as though I had been her own son. Paula and Grossmutter were sick too, with no one but her to care for them, but she climbed up and down the steep stairs to my room every few minutes, and brought me coffee and soup and eggs (which cost her one mark each), and worried about me in a way that was beautiful to see."
On New Year's Eve we repeated at the "Y" our Mont Dore show for all the soldiers in town. There were some notable additions from the nurses, and the Thirtieth Infantry band furnished music. The entertainment received a gratifying amount of praise. "Every detail was a success," says the Fourth Corps Flare (of which more later). The hilarity of the evening ended with a prank described in the Flare of January 4 as follows: "American soldiers on New Year's Eve tore down and made off with the statue of ex-Kaiser Wilhelm on Unterringstrasse. [They dragged it with a cable behind a truck over most of the cobbles in town.] The statue was found the next morning near the Wilhelm I monument."
We began the new year with a distressingly large number of patients in the hospital. Although the weather was mild, there was a remarkable prevalence of heavy colds, influenza, and pneumonia. All three of our buildings were soon full to capacity, and deaths occurred daily. As most of the members of the combatant units now had little to do, the men who died were given full military funerals. The band, playing Chopin's funeral march with muted horns, led the way through the rough narrow streets; the flag-draped coffin followed on a rumbling caisson; the dead man's company marched solemnly behind, up to the German cemetery on the heights across the Nette, where, behind the grim ranks of black basalt stones topped with crucifixes bearing the tortured figure in startling white, the cemetery of our own dead was ominously enlarging. The procession usually started from the great hospital on the hill, and wound down through the city, passing both our other ward buildings. The effect of the funeral dirge was terrific. Bill Smith used to say that every time a procession went by one of the hospitals, two more patients died of fright. Sgt. Corwin later printed a little poem which expresses very well the feelings the poor fellows must have had as they lay there and listened:
I wish, I were ---------
Well, here it comes again:
Dum, Dum, De-dum.
Dum, Dum, De-dum.
That makes the second time today.
They always walk as if
The cobbled street were laid with ties,
And they must not miss one.
'Tis said all roads once led to Rome;
Well, here the graveyard has but one,
And that leads by our ward.
I hear the bugler on the hill;
There is a quiver in his Taps
By day, that is not there
By night, impersonal and cold.
They say the war is finee now;
And yet the firing squad
Still volleys o'er new dead.
I asked the Doc if I was nuts.
He said, "No more than I; "
But that's not saying much.
I wish I were a hexagon,
I get so tired lying on
The sides that God gave me.
From the Flare for January 18 I find that there were seventeen deaths in Evacuation Eight in the week January 4-13, nearly all from pneumonia. Not all our patients, however, suffered from epidemic diseases. In the Flare from week to week I find a list of men admitted to the hospital for various injuries due to accident or violence. For example, Pvt. James Sullivan suffered a fractured nose in a fight with a comrade; Lieut. Cleland Lauren's horse fell on him; Sgt. 1st Cl. Edwin J. Hardin was stabbed with a pocket knife by a comrade; Band Leader Gaetano Capria was struck in the left temple with a clarinet by the Sergeant of the Band, receiving thereby a lacerating wound; and Pvt. Nugent Kesseler suffered a severe contusion when a mule stepped upon his foot.
I quote these, I say, from the Flare. The Fourth Corps Flare, official organ of the Fourth Corps Artillery Park, first American newspaper in Germany, made its bow to the public on January 4 , 1919, and continued to be published every Saturday and sold for fifty centimes or the equivalent until April 12, the fifteenth number.(42) The Flare throughout its career was a very creditable piece of journalism. In its four pages (varying in size from week to week according to the paper supply and the whim of its editors) it presented to homesick Americans all the familiar details of the American newspaper. No one looking at its scare heads and leaded sub-heads, its boxes and rules, would have believed that all the details of composition were managed by German printers who could not read a word of English. But they were, at the press of Louis Schreder, 25 Brückenstrasse, where the Mayenische Zeitung was printed. In the editorial office at 27 Keutelstrasse (the front room of a civilian dwelling) we produced "copy" on a decrepit German typewriter. The clever German compositors rapidly set this up without understanding a word of it. There were, to be sure, plenty of mechanical handicaps. Herr Schreder had a very limited supply of Roman type; just enough, in fact, to set up two pages of the paper. We had to get our copy ready for the inside pages, set those up and print them, and then distribute the type before the front and back pages could be set up. Even then there was a shortage of Roman "y's," for which German characters had to serve.
The. editor-in-chief of the Flare, Cpl. Herbert M. Davidson, a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism, was, until recently, feature editor of the Chicago Daily News, and is now part owner and editor of the News-Journal, afternoon daily at Daytona Beach, Florida. His editorial policy in the Flare seems to me even now astonishingly mature. We (I became one of the editors with the third number, and Leslie Foy was soon after added as reporter) by no means restricted ourselves to recording merely local events. On the contrary, we printed the freshest and frankest news on world affairs of any newspaper in Europe. I quote an announcement which appeared on the front page of the Flare for February 1: "The Flare announces a unique news service, unequalled possibly anywhere in the world. Through the courtesy of Second Lieutenant Wallace W. Smith, Fourth Corps Radio Officer, this newspaper is enabled to publish the very latest press dispatches, received through the air from all over the world by the powerful radio operated at Cochem by Company A, 31st Field Signal Battalion. This enables the Flare to get this news to you on Saturday mornings about three days before you can read it in the civilian newspapers." We not only got it earlier, but for a time we were entirely free from censorship---an unheard of license in a European newspaper at the time. The French papers and the American papers printed in Paris were by no means allowed to print such frank and ample news reports as those sent by wireless to America, which we intercepted. Our news on the Peace Conference finally got us into trouble. In the issue for February 15 we printed an account of the friction which had developed between President Wilson and the French leaders, and mentioned Wilson's unexpected and effectual threat to move the Conference to England or Switzerland unless the French press ceased its open hostility. This was all perfectly true, and was printed in the United States. But no French paper had a hint of trouble at Paris.
From the Flare this news quickly got into German papers and came back to the French, who were naturally annoyed. We received a reprimand, and thereafter had to submit all our copy for censorship to the corps commander. Davidson's editorial for the next week (February 22), a quite harmless comment on the stupidity of the debate in Congress as to whether the men who had served abroad should be allowed distinctive service chevrons or not, was ordered deleted after it had been printed. We imposed another block of type, inverted, over it, which still left it legible enough for those who were willing to spend a little time in deciphering it. Probably that editorial was the most generally read of any we published.
Almost as soon as we reached Mayen, our company began to be disbanded in the discouraging fashion adopted by the army for such units as ours. We had, from the first , been a well-organized unit with a very strong cohesive sense. We had naturally hoped that at least the original outfit that landed at Brest might be kept intact and returned together. It soon appeared that this was not to happen, but that the company would be disbanded piecemeal. First the officers began to go. Mr. St. Clare, our Y.M.C.A. chaplain, who had been burying dead at Juilly when we arrived and had been the sole chaplain for both patients and personnel until after the armistice, a man of extraordinary devotion to the company and who filled a most difficult and anomalous position well and courageously, left us on December 28. Captain Chaffee left on New Year's Day. "Our officers are being sent back every day," says a letter. "Capt. Chaffee goes tomorrow. I shook hands with him, and never felt more choky about saying goodbye to a man in my life. He's been the most consistently kind person I have met in the Army." In the Flare for January 18 1 find that Captain Summers, Lieutenant McCall, and Lieutenant Hanson had left us, and that Lieutenant Cronan and Lieutenant Reier were temporarily in the hospital as patients. Colonel Shipley, who left Mayen on January 26, received half a column in the Flare, from which I quote:
"Colonel Shipley has been with the Company since its inception at Fort Oglethorpe, more than a year ago. During that time he has won the ardent affection of every man of the Unit by his interest in Company affairs, his never-failing humor and kindliness.
"As surgical director, he was responsible for the organization and efficient management of the operating theatre. At Petit Maujouy, Meuse, where the whole hospital had to be erected, the system he evolved won high recommendation for its efficiency. In addition to the arduous duties of this position, he found time to establish one of the largest operating records of the hospital.
"Evacuation Hospital 8 unites in wishing him Godspeed, and hopes by this token to express in some small measure its affection and esteem for him as an officer and a gentleman."
We were to suffer losses sadder still. Before the end of February two members of the company, both from the original Oglethorpe delegation, had been buried in the now populous American cemetery at Mayen. On January 19 Diary C records the following: "Pvt. 1st Cl. Bettis died at 12-35 of empyema." David Bettis was one of the National Army men who joined us at the barracks in Oglethorpe. His home was in Port Huron, Michigan, and before enlistment he had been, I believe, a pharmacist. His death was a severe shock to the company, in which he had been popular. Only a month later (February 22) Ed. Pettit died of pneumonia. According to Leslie Foy's obituary notice in the Flare he was twenty-five years old, and before the War had been associated with his father in a cement and quarry business at Nazareth, Pa. In the company he had been an assistant in the X-ray room. He was buried with full military honors on February 24. Every record I have contains some note of affection. "Pettit died last night at 9.20," says Diary B. "One great fellow and a very severe blow to [the] fellows.
"Feb. 23. Morning as usual and all boys very blue about Ed. . . .
"Feb. 24. Morning cloudy but cleared about noon. Ed. buried at 2 P.M. with a huge funeral. Full Military Band, caisson and firing squad. The most impressive funeral I have ever attended. The chaplains [Lieutenant McCarthy and, I think, Lieutenant Heugel] were especially touching, as one was a close friend of Ed's. It gave me a very different view of death and hope that I can go with the same esteem that Ed. did." Pettit, if he had lived, was to have been a clergyman. Grover Walters, one of his closest friends, says that he had come to this determination only a little while before his death. "Ed. and I and Berlfein, and I believe, one other, assisted Chaplain Heugel at the burial of a lieutenant at Mayen on Jan. 5. Ed. and I had been assisting the Chaplain in services of various kinds. Ed. had been thinking much of Christian service. That night he wrote in his diary, 'I have seen the great need of the world to be brought closer to God. Would to God that I could help in this work!' A day or two later he decided that he would return with me to the seminary to prepare for the ministry. But on Feb. 24 we buried his body within a few yards of the grave of the lieutenant at whose funeral he had in some way been led to his decision. His body was returned to the States during the latter part of the summer of 1920."
In the same issue of the Flare that records Pettit's death, Foy has written the following: "News of the death of Burnett Smith, who was evacuated because of sickness when the company left Maujouy to join the Army of Occupation, has been received by one of the boys. No particulars are yet known." So far as I know, no further particulars ever were received, though the roster compiled by the Adjutant General's Office shows that he died of pneumonia on December 16, 1918, at Army Red Cross Hospital No. 114. Burnett Smith was one of the pleasantest of our many pleasant members from the south. He came from Newport, Tennessee, and had been with the company from the beginning.
By January 11 Diary B reports the hospital full of patients. Ward men and nurses were as busy as ever caring for the sick. Office men had no release from the tyranny of paper work. As there was very little operating to be done, the majority of the surgical assistants went back to detail. Only two who had served as scribes started on the long task of digesting the surgical records of the hospital and compiling therefrom various statistics. But work at Mayen, even though it kept one incessantly busy, was much more like a civilian job than anything we had known previously. The great Kaiserin Auguste-Viktoria hospital, with its linoleum floors, its gleaming tiles, its private rooms, its telephones, bathrooms, and dumb waiters was a luxurious place for a soldier to work in. The improvised wards in the school buildings were less comfortable and convenient, but much less trying than the unfloored muddy tents of Maujouy.
The nurses were billeted in the town's best hotel. Most of us were in civilian quarters. We slept (if we chose to) between sheets; we usually breakfasted in our quarters, often sharing the table with our German hosts, who were glad to exchange their own fare for such dainties as white bread and butter which we could (by more or less transparent deceit) secure from our commissary. We had exciting times collecting souvenirs. Iron crosses and spike helmets could be procured for cash or soap (plain yellow laundry soap preferred), and for those of any degree of affluence the windows displayed alluring beaded bags, silver brooches, and pocketknives. One could (and did) buy gloves and twirl a stick. We had two movie theaters, the Y.M.C.A. and the K. of C., and the Smith College Relief Unit had come to Mayen with us to continue the recreation service which had so endeared them to us at Petit Maujouy. Regular religious services were conducted in the Lutheran church by various members of the company, notably by Walters, Harry Kreider, and Sam Hitchings. Or you could sit at home and engage in such devilish sports as Schwarzer Peter. "Do you know Schwarzer Peter? It's nothing but Old Maid! We played it with ordinary playing cards. The Jack of Spades was Black Peter. If you lost you must either pay five pfennigs or black your face. We all pay. We're going to play every night, and when we get enough, somebody's going to take the money for a trip to Coblenz. We've got 80 pfennigs now---enough for the first station."
It was not difficult, especially after our relief arrived, to get off for short hikes over the surrounding territory, or to obtain a pass for a day in Coblenz.
Here Ehrenbreitstein, with her shatter'd wall
Black with the miner's blast, upon her height
Yet shows of what she was, when shell and ball
Rebounding idly on her strength did light
A tower of victory! from whence the flight
Of baffled foes was watch'd along the plain:
But Peace destroy'd what war could never blight,
And laid those proud roofs bare to Summer's rain,
On which the iron shower for years had pour'd in vain.
So wrote Byron in 1816 , viewing the great fortress just after the downfall of Napoleon had permitted its inglorious demolition. If he could have returned a century later and stood again at the junction of the Rhine and the Moselle, he would have seen floating high in the air above Ehrenbreitstein an object at the sight of which he would have rubbed his eyes in incredulous amazement---a gigantic American flag, suspended between the fortress and a captive balloon, visible for miles around. In 1816 the United States was only forty years old, a narrow strip of territory along the Atlantic coast. Anyone who had then predicted that within a century that nation's flag should float by right of conquest over the proudest fortress in Europe would have been regarded as simply insane. And I fear that there can be little doubt that Byron (whose Childe Harold is far from being a vehicle of narrowly nationalistic sentiment) would have been as much grieved as surprised to see us there.
(Diary C, January 2 6, 1919.) "Went to Coblenz with S------ in an ambulance. Had one puncture. Arrived in Coblenz at 11 A.M. What a wonderful dinner we had too: soup, steak, potatoes, real Brussels sprouts, wine, and apple sauce---all for five marks. In the afternoon we went to Ehrenbreitstein and all through the fort. Walked over on the pontoon bridge, and came back on a ferry which cost us six pfennigs. (Diary B: On the way over I gave a German 10 Camel cigarettes for a silver emblem ring, which was a very good cheap souvenir, I think.) Saw wonderful view from top of fort.
Directly below us was the Kaiser Wilhelm I Denkmal, at the junction of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. What a wonderful view to follow the Rhine up the valley. Saw the dungeons, moats, draw-bridges, etc. from the fort. After we finished this trip we went over on the K. W. Denkmal---what an enormous thing! The base of it takes up a whole city block. During the afternoon we had beaucoup ice cream, cake, hot chocolate, etc. (Diary B: The ice cream was a fine dish of frozen water. We also had some cake that would have been called shoe leather as far as the crust went. German cake is some on the line of Washington Pie, only different. The crust on the bottom may be made of flour and other good things, but it isn't by any means. The top or ingredients of the fluff, I have not been able to determine.) Back to the hotel again for supper, another excellent meal. Went to the cafe at night, heard some great music, like being in N.Y.C. again! Also went to Y.M.C.A. services in the Festhalle, heard a wonderful organ recital. Left for Mayen at 11.3 5 P.M. after a great day's trip."
I am surprised to find that I have so few full records of these jaunts to Coblenz. The reason, I think, is given in the diary I have just quoted: it was "like being in New York City again." One had a fine, comfortable time, but the experiences there lacked the spice of novelty which impels one to record them. Coblenz is a modern, handsome, up-to-date city, with broad clean streets and stores dressed quite in the American manner. The amusements provided for the American troops there were much like those we should have expected in Chattanooga or New York. The "Y" conducted sightseeing tours to places of interest in the vicinity, notably to the Kaiser's castle, Schloss Stolzenfels, not far from the city, but most of the men preferred to amuse themselves at the Festhalle, where, as the Flare of January 18 says, there was "a cloak room and orchestra on one floor, a pipe organ, stage, and motion picture machine on the second. . . . Other features of the Y are a large canteen, where money can be exchanged, and jam, cigarettes, and chocolate bought, an extensive library, and a restaurant of excellent cuisine. In another part of the city, the Y has a smaller branch for overflow, and nearby the K. of C. has small, but comfortable quarters.
The following will serve as a sample of our hikes to places of interest in the country surrounding Mayen:
"Mitch and I have finished the reports, and are now free. It seems pretty nice. Yesterday I walked over to Schloss Bürresheim, an hour's walk down the Nette, with Foy and Peter Hörter. Peter is a master woodcarver by trade., but an archaeologist by avocation, the curator of the museum, most of the exhibits of which he has collected himself. He is a member of the International Archaeological Society---I understand the only member who isn't a Doctor of some sort. He is a mild, child-like person, very likable and approachable. On the way he entertained us with folk legends about the surrounding country, especially about two boulders known as 'Hans Knecht und die Dicke 'Trein' who were once a bad young man and his sweetheart. He was a little hard to follow because of his whiskers and his meerschaum pipe. Schloss Bürresheim was first built in the 11th century, and restored several times since. It is now owned by a Belgian count. We entered the portal in the thick wall, went past the porter's lodge, along a sort of vaulted passage-way or tunnel, until we came out in the central courtyard. Just before we reached the end of the tunnel, we came face to face with five tall portrait burial slabs---life-size relief carvings in the most delicate and exquisite detail of five people, two knights in armor, two ladies, and (I think) a priest. They were taken from an old church near here, and were probably of the 15th or 16th centuries. They are not of the dark Mayen stone, but a light stone, the color of concrete [Niedermendig tuffstone]. They looked as fresh as though they were made yesterday.
"The castle is built around a great central courtyard, paved with uneven flagstones. At the upper end, in a sort of passageway through the castle itself, was a great stone water trough, the overflow from which ran in a shallow open drain all the way across the courtyard, down the tunnel through which we entered, and out under the gate. Everything looked very moist. It seems that 250 Americans had been quartered in the castle until the day before, and the Countess was having the place cleaned. Scrubwomen were running everywhere, slopping water about from big pails. As we stood there, the Countess herself came out. She was about fifty, distinctly Belgian in appearance, wore a disreputable black dress, and a pair of men's overshoes on her feet. She, too, looked very moist, and was apparently not in a pleasant humor. A great wolfish dog leaped about her; she spoke to him in French, but to us in English. Herr Hörter was clearly a privileged character, for he obtained grudging permission to show us through the castle. After I saw the rooms where the Americans had been quartered, I didn't wonder at her lack of cordiality. Only a few rooms were furnished. The greater part had been dismantled when the doughboys came. There was the great kitchen, with a fireplace larger than most modern kitchens, and a flagged floor; the living room, with its two great genuine Gobelin tapestries, inlaid cabinets, armor, statues, and pictures of all the ancestors; the music room, with more Gobelins and old masters, a mantel and fire frame of carved stone, said by Herr Hörter to be one of the finest things of its kind in Europe---and so on and on. Everything has been kept as nearly as possible in the spirit of the Middle Ages. Save for the tapestries and pictures, the walls show the bare stone, and the floors are of plain boards, waxed to a beautiful finish."
Politics, which had engrossed very little of our attention as long as the fighting went on, now became with us a matter of interest. On January 7 we received the news of Roosevelt's death---news which could not fail to make a great impression on Americans wherever they might be. The company held a formation on January 9 in honor of his funeral, and the Flare for January 18 printed a really admirable editorial (by Davidson), "T.R." "Good-bye, Teddy. Life was bully, wasn't it?" The first German national election under the republic came on January 19. It was exciting to witness the birth of a new nation. Some jottings in a letter of January 16 may be useful to show the state of the public mind as a foreigner understood it:
"This section of Germany is strongly Catholic (Centrist), and opposed to the Social-Democrat party and regime. One of the articles in the program of the Socialists is the complete severance of church and state, and the removal of religious instruction from the public schools. This is especially resented by the Catholics. I was in St. Clement's church at mass Sunday. The priest gave a long address, wholly political, in which he forbade his flock to vote for the Socialists, and urged them to report to him any of their acquaintance whom they knew to be of socialistic tendencies, that he might reason with them. Scheidemann seems to be the most popular presidential candidate here. Ebert isn't much in favor, because he is thought to have usurped his present position, and because he is a Jew.(43) Liebknecht is hated and feared as a bolshevist. [He was assassinated on the very day this letter was written.] The people here are genuinely afraid of 'Bolshevismus.' The Kaiser is represented as a sentimental, rather good-hearted old fool who let his military staff lead him by the nose. Hindenberg is thought of as a purely military man, not a politician, and something of a figurehead, while Ludendorff and Tirpitz are held up as the monsters responsible for the blunders of the war---not for starting it, for England did that. This propaganda is so universal and uncontradicted that I think the Germans really believe it."
The opening of the Peace Conference with our president in attendance filled us with enthusiasm and an extravagant hope, but the newspaper reports of the actual proceedings soon brought to a head the pessimism and cynicism which were the inevitable reaction from the intoxication of idealism in which we had been living for a year. It was a bitter experience. "Before the armistice," says a letter, "I was very optimistic. The unity of purpose among the Allies, and their affection for one another seemed so genuine and eternal that I really thought the time of wars was at an end. But now, when the war is so splendidly finished, and we have such an opportunity to make the world a safe place to live in, I see (if one can trust the papers) such growing fears and jealousies, such jingoism among the nations that seemed so inseparable, such outcry that 'England wants to run the world' and 'America is trying to hog the whole show' that I begin to see that men aren't any better than they used to be, and will never be any better. President Wilson's first point---open covenants---has already gone by the board. I expect it will take them only about a week to decide to knock the League of Nations on the head and 'hide it in a hole.' You see I had developed quite an idea that we had really done something that was going to make the world better. But if this thing doesn't go through, it will have robbed my Army service of all the idealism I had built around it, and make me think I merely transferred jobs, and didn't make a very wise choice."
Our cynicism and disillusion were made worse by the usual lot of men in the army---not knowing what was to happen next. Until the armistice, no one, no matter how homesick, had gone as far as to set a definite date for what seemed almost the consummation of perfect felicity: going home. But as soon as the fighting was over, there seemed to be no reason why we should not go at once. There were, of course, plenty of good reasons why we could not go at once, and I think it would have helped matters if they had been made more public. As usual, we were the sport of cruel rumors, the effect of which was to keep us in alternate fits of exaltation and depression. As early as January 3 there was a rumor that we were to leave on January 15. Then it was hinted that we should move up to Berlin, or even be sent to Siberia---the last a joke which appeared in the Flare, but which some of the men believed. On January 6 we were considerably brightened by receiving two months' pay, marks then being 8.13 to the dollar. The rumors died down, to be vigorously revived at the beginning of February. The fact that they were semi-official made them worse.
(Diary C.) "Feb. 4. A phone call from C.S.O. from Coblenz tells us that we are soon to be on our way to the States! My God, what a grand and glorious feeling!
"Feb. 5. Sure enough, orders came in in the morning for the return of the original company and all others attached who have served in the A.E.F. for one year or more."
By this time army experience had made us extremely skeptical. No matter how much a rumor might flutter the heart, we hardly put our faith in it until it received the stamp of authority. This order, however, was official, and things proceeded quite as though we really were leaving within a day or two. The office force was put upon a hasty preparation of service records, pay books, and rosters. On February 8 (Saturday, a very cold day) the company stood inspection, and heard the order for moving officially read. "Feb. 7. My souvenirs will be home in a month or a little more," says a letter with naïve confidence, "I'm going to bring them personally." "By the time you get this," the writer continues in a letter dated February 16, "I hope to be far, far away from Mayen. Our relief left Is-sur-Tille 24 hours ago on their way here. By the end of the week we may be on our way HOME." On February 18 orders came that we were to be ready to leave on February 21, and the same night our relief, Evacuation Hospital Thirty, arrived from Coblenz. I quote from the Flare for February 22:
"Evacuation Hospital Thirty arrived in Mayen Tuesday night to relieve Evacuation Eight, and took over the management of the Post Hospital buildings Thursday. Colonel James F. Hall, Commanding Officer of Evacuation Eight, remains in Mayen as Commanding Officer of the new unit, replacing Major Price. . . . Captain Cushman, Evacuation Eight's adjutant, with the men formerly attached to Number Eight---about a hundred in all---are also to become a part of Number Thirty. [The nurses also remained behind. This had been mentioned in a previous article.]
"Mayen's new Post Hospital unit was formed last summer at Camp Greenleaf, Georgia, from men most of whom were sent from Camp Greene, N. C. . . . They arrived in France by way of England on the day the armistice was signed. Since then they have been at Lemans, and at the large hospital center near Nevers. . . . About two hundred and fifty men, composing the original Evacuation Eight personnel, and about fifty attached two-stripe men, were scheduled to leave yesterday for the United States. It is popularly believed that they are to sail from Amsterdam. Evacuation Eight has been in Europe since May 23."
The "yesterday" shows that we did not depart as scheduled, if we ever were scheduled to leave on February 21. As a matter of fact, we had three weeks more in Mayen. On February 19 we had a physical inspection; the next day inspection of clothing and packs; on the twenty-first two more inspections. On the night of the twentieth a farewell entertainment was held in the Red Cross hut; the next night the company had a dance. Roll calls (9.30 A.M. and 1.30 P.M.) and inspections continued. There was nothing now for most of us to do but sit around the Red Cross tent and wait for the train. It was just at this time that poor Ed. Pettit died. The spring rains began and continued. Our cars arrived and stood waiting on a siding; after a while they were taken away again. It became clear that no one really knew when we were going. At this juncture an attempt was made to lighten the general atmosphere of despondency by the announcement of a long list of promotions among the enlisted men. We were obviously intended to regard them, not as necessary appointments to administrative positions, but as rewards for meritorious service. Previously, the number of promotions had been limited by the army regulations applying to companies such as ours; now (we were given to understand) it was possible to show by this means that faithful and intelligent service in any department of the hospital had not passed unnoticed. Unfortunately, such a policy, if properly applied, would have resulted in the promotion of nearly every man in the company instead of twenty or so. The majority of the men drew blanks and were deeply angered and hurt. Promotion in our company, as in all companies in the army, had from the first been an unpredictable affair. Ability sometimes won the stripes, favoritism secured them about as often, but sheer chance assigned them oftenest of all. Under such a system nobody felt too badly about being passed over. Previously a failure to be promoted had not been regarded as a reflection on anyone's abilities; now it certainly was. No man who had been passed over could dodge the intended implication: the company had been combed for the men who had done their work well, and he had been found wanting. The noncoms' mess aggravated the trouble. The new noncoms, before promotion, had all growled about the iniquity of the institution; the first meal after they put on their stripes found them all there themselves. More could hardly be expected of human nature. But what with promotions and the apparently interminable delay in our departure, Mayen ceased to be the most pleasant of places. A small group of men applied for leave to attend the new A.E.F. University then being organized at Beaune. Nine were given permission to go as students, two as enlisted instructors. The student members, discovering that being a student at Beaune in the early days meant constructing concrete barracks in the rain, forswore the charms of education, and petitioned to be returned to the company, which they overtook at St. Nazaire.
Just before the first of March, the ladies of the Smith College Unit (Miss Biddlecome and Miss Grandin), who had so loyally cared for us for six months, decided that they could now begin reconstruction work in France, and turned over the recreation tent to Miss Coleman and Miss Frances, Y.M.C.A. workers who came on from Allerey.
The Flare for March 8 printed the following notice:
"Major Henry O. Bruggeman, who was transferred for duty with Evacuation Twelve, has been retransferred to Evacuation Eight with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and will be Commanding Officer of Evacuation Eight when it leaves Mayen. Lieutenant (?Captain) Toulson is appointed Adjutant, and Captain Alleman will remain Detachment Commander.
"Captain Foote and Captain Lore have been promoted to Major. Nor have the promotions stopped with the Officers. Twenty-two men have been warranted from the ranks, and thirteen non-coms have received a higher grade. Non-coms are commoner than bucks in Evacuation Eight now." [Then follows the sad news of John Martin's death, which had just reached the company.]
On March 10 the company was paid, and genuine orders arrived, designating St. Nazaire as the port of debarkation. On the twelfth the baggage went aboard.
(Diary A.) "Thursday, March 13, 1919. Up at 6.30 A.M., turned in bed, etc. Left No. 9 [his civilian billet] amid tears. Lined up while Colonel spoke, then marched to station where nurses greeted us. Left at 10.45 A.M."
Vertou and Savenay; The Trip Home; Getting Out of the Army.
ON March 11 I left Evacuation Eight forever and proceeded to Beaune in Burgundy, where the A.E.F. University was being formed. For constructing a record of what happened between March 13, when the organization left Germany, to about May 20, when most of the men had sailed home, I have plenty of material in the three diaries with which the reader is already so familiar. But I have chosen not to make the record long, for those days are the least significant and interesting of our history. We went over as a unit, with a fine esprit de corps; we straggled home in small detachments, the real Evacuation Eight long since dead. The hospitals were particularly unlucky in this regard as compared with the combatant units. When the War was over, there was little for fighting troops to do; nothing was gained by splitting up their organizations, everything by keeping them intact. Therefore they came back by divisions as they went over, were paraded and made much of. But medical troops never cease to be useful, for soldiers, whether in action or not, never cease to require medical attention. Transports were now carrying back to the United States the patients from the base hospitals, convalescent wounded and gassed men, and a surprising number of "mental" cases. The readiest way to secure trained attendants on the transports for these patients was to break up such units as Evacuation Eight. The great majority of the men ultimately came home as casuals, a skeleton force of only forty-one men preserving the name of the organization.
The order for our return did not include the nurses, who had already been transferred to Evacuation Thirty. We found them at work when we arrived at Juilly, and we left them at work when we started home. Not literally at work, for they were all at the railroad station that morning to see us off and wave good-bye, but when the last car had pulled out of sight, they had to go back to the old routine, with no immediate prospect of going home themselves. No finer or pluckier group of women was ever collected together than the nurses of Evacuation Eight.
The troop train of third-class coaches which took the company out of Germany made better time than the train that took it in. Leaving Coblenz at noon on March 13, it pulled into the ruins of Verdun about twenty-four hours later, then passed through the familiar towns of Ancemont, St. Mihiel, Coussey, and Neufchâteau. On the morning of March 15 Evacuation Eight awoke in Is-sur-Tille, changed cars, and passed south through Beaune (though none of us there knew about it until later) and Le Creusot, then east by Tours, St. Aignan, and Saumur. At 7.30 on March 17 it detrained at Vertou of evil memory. Vertou is a small town in the province of Loire Inferieure, within six miles Of Nantes. "Of all the damn places," says a diary, "this is the worst!" Perhaps the company was unfair to the beauties and comforts of the camp, which was then suffering from the spring floods. At any rate, the entries in all the diaries, except for records of excursions to Nantes, are gloomy in the extreme. During the first month, it seems to have rained nearly every day.
(Diary A.) "March 19. Rain. Then stood two inspections. Dinner at Vertou restaurant, steak and bread. . . . To bed [in hayloft] at 9 P.M. Still raining.
"March 20. Roll call at 7 A.M. . . . No inspections all day. Another walk to town at night. Some rain. Bed 10 P.M.
"March 21. Raining. A run for roll call. Eggs for dinner, steak for supper, but oh such a long day. . . .
"March 23. Little to do but guard. Had 3rd shift 5.30 P.M. to 9.30 P.M. Not a soul passed. . . . Slept fairly well, but caught nasty cold in the rain.
"March 24. Sat around billet all day half sleeping, half reading. Took walk to town at night, watched the water [the Loire] rushing madly along . . . "
(Diary B.) "March 24. Had a hard night fighting cooties. Fine day all day---rain from A.M. to P.M. . .
"March 25. Sun shone for fifteen minutes in morning then rain as usual for the day. . . .
"March 26. Drill in A.M. by company. Raining as usual . . . "
(Diary A.) "March 29. More rain, confined to quarters, sat by fire all day. Got package ready for home. Played lotto at house with old lady until 9 P.M. . . .
"March 30. Up at 8 A.M., answered sick-call, signed payroll. Eggs for dinner. Fairly clear, but some snow. Short walk at night to Vertou. River Loire much swollen. People row to houses, enter by 2nd story window."
On the first day of April came a great inspection, which was generally supposed to have been held to determine whether the company was fit to embark immediately or not.
(Diary A.) "April 1. Up at 7.30 A.M. Policed around company. Big inspection and failed though we tried so hard. . . . " (Diary B says it was because our "infantry packs"---a new kind of equipment for us----"were not uniform, also three dog tags not even." But considering the day, it may be that the inspecting major was having his little joke. In view of what followed, it is hard to believe that there was ever the slightest intention that Evacuation Eight should return as a body.)
(Diary B.) "April 2. Making individual orders cet jour authorizing wearing of [second] service stripe.
(Diary C.) "April 4. Bright day. Col. Bruggeman left, leaving Major Dale our C.O. . . . Pay day, large doings. Final inspection tomorrow."
(Diary B.) "April 5. Lined up for company inspection at 9 and then at 10 for final inspection. Telephone postponed inspection until 2 P.M. when Major gave us a fast once over and said 'fine.' All we are waiting for now is orders .
"April 6. Very quiet in A.M. getting ready for trip to Nantes. At 1, Van, Janow, Adams, and I started for Vertou and outside of train being 1/2 hour late, arrived on time in Nantes. After going to headquarters building and then to a P.M. for our theater pass we purchased orchestra seats for the 'Grand Mogul' at the Opera. Went for a walk and dropped into a small bakery with all sorts of fancy cream puffs, etc. We had some hot chocolate and two platters of assorted 'goods.' It was a fine treat. After this we went to a carnival and into a boxing match. During a wrestling match one of the men was almost choked to death but finally recovered. We tried three places to eat but didn't like the looks any too well, so wound up in Prevost's, one of the swellest cafés in Nantes. For a second course we ate a French collection of snails, sardines, potato salad, and ten other things. Had a great steak and Roquefort cheese. Fine stuff and a fine price, but worth the experience. [Lest the reader be dazzled by the careless affluence of this party, it had better be added that they were all sergeants first class, two days after pay day.] We started out for a wash before the opera, but could find no café or hotel with a public wash house, so finally hired a room for the sake of a wash. Engaged a taxi to meet us after the opera but only after much persuasion and 40 francs. Finally went to opera and as far as possible understood and enjoyed the performance. Came out at 11.30 and there was only one taxi in sight, which was ours. It seemed very funny not to see more cabs around but all the people seemed to prefer walking. Arrived home at 11.55 in Vertou. "
(Diary A.) "April 9. Clear but later rain. Hospitals 36 & 25 left for boat. We still await orders. . . .
"April 12. Rain. Good eats but I stuck pretty close to fire all the time. Company physical inspection, then rumors of moving, but all we got was orders to report for inspection Sunday [at St. Sebastien, to be reviewed by General Pershing] ."
(Diary B.) "April 13. Up early and ready at 8.30 for inspection. Lined up at 9.30, but the affair was postponed to 1 P.M. Arrived encore at St. Sebastien [by trucks] at 12.45 and Gen. Pershing arrived promptly at 12.50. After inspection the General spoke to the boys. . . . "
(Diary A.) "April 14. More rain & windy oh the time passes like years. Slept most of day. No work but no word of moving either . . . "
Just a month after the company arrived at Vertou, the process of disruption began:
(Diary A.) "April 17. Beautiful day & again on structural iron detail. At noon 75 men left, for transport service so it was said. A sad parting and the breaking up of E.H. # 8. Guess the balance will never get out now."
(Diary C.) "A wonderful day, at noon the Embarkation Adjutant from Nantes came out in his car, wanted 1 officer and 75 men at 2 P.M. for convoy work. Maj. Foote, Sgt. 1cl Smyth, Tissell, Hines & a great many other fellows gone now. How we miss them all. Wonder who will get to the states first?"
(Diary A.) "April 19. Warm and clear. Work some on bldg. [the structural iron detail already mentioned]. No word of moving yet, I've almost lost all hope.
"April 20. Easter Sunday. Up at 8 A.M. and to 10.30 mass Vertou. Sermon on Resurrection, good music and plenty of incense. Sat with French girls in cafe until 5 P.M. - - -
"April 22. Beautiful day and more work on hanger [the "bldg." aforesaid]. Will we ever get orders to sail. . . .
"April 24. Fair. Rest all day. No word of leaving and I walked around the country. By supper time 75 more men ordered to transport work and my name was there. Hurrah. . . . "
(Diary C.) "April 25. Well the 75 got off at 1 P.M. among them were Hennion, Graham, Donahue, Schill and a lot of my other buddies. Such yelling! We got orders to move to St. Sebastien tomorrow at 8 A.M.
"April 26. Moved to St. Sebastien at 11 A.M. As soon as we arrived there we got orders to detach 6 medical officers. Maj. Dale, Capts. Alleman, Tupper, Webb, Toulson, and Lt. Reier left, leaving Lt. Emery in charge, and also Maj. Lore, Q.M.C. He expects to be detached tomorrow."
The men who were detached and departed in such glee proved to be less lucky than the small group left behind. Both detachments, instead of proceeding at once to a port, were sent to Savenay, where they hiked out to Casual Camp No. 1. Savenay seems to have been a rather brutal place, gloomy, cold, and rainy, where the men were put to work tearing down tents. It is impossible after the end of April to trace in detail what happened to the different groups, for they were further broken up, and came home on many different boats. A few representative cases will show the extent of the dispersion.
One man was sent on April 30 to Base Hospital 2 14 at Savenay, where he did clerical work. This hospital handled "mental" cases. On May 10 he left Savenay on a hospital train in charge of 75 patients, proceeded with them to Base Hospital 65 near Brest, and on May 19 sailed on board the R.M.S. Saxonia. He landed in New York on May 30, and was discharged at Camp Upton on June 10. Another man remained at Savenay until May 21, and then sailed on the U.S.S. Pocahontas, which had four hundred "mental" patients on board. He landed at Hampton Roads on June 1, and was discharged at Camp Meade on June 13. The man whose diary I have quoted as "Diary A" reached Savenay on April 25. On May 4 he was still there, serving as K.P. in the casual camp, and wrote: "Sunday. Am feeling quite blue. 1 year ago today I was home and living high. Today a casual, still I trust God to take us home soon." He left St. Nazaire on board the U.S.S. Mercury, and was discharged at Camp Dix on June 12. The tiny group still called Evacuation Eight is represented by the man whose record I have called "Diary C." On May 5 he moved from Vertou to St. Nazaire, boarded the Manchuria on May 13, struck very heavy weather on the passage, and landed at New York on May 24. He records the fact that the last survivors of Evacuation Eight were dispersed at Camp Upton on June 1, and that he himself was discharged at Camp Dix on June 9. By whatever route they returned, the members of the enlisted force seem nearly all to have been out of the army by the middle of June, 1919.
So much for the chronicle. But I find it impossible by mere compilation to transmit the reality of that last chapter. As I fell back upon a detailed personal narrative to give the feeling of Slocum and of getting into the army, I shall venture now to employ the same method in making an end. The chronicle of events presented in this narrative will actually fit only one man, but the core of the experience, the feeling of it, should be representative.
JUNE 14, 1919. Beaune, Côte d'Or, France. We have eaten our breakfast early, and are waiting in the dewy dawn between two rows of barracks for the order to march. Most of us have thrown our packs on the ground; no use to carry them until you have to. I have an infantry pack now, like the rest, and find it pleasant to carry a pack like a doughboy's and to march in squads. We are all here. There is the big bolshevik from Idaho; he is trying to sing "Cristofo Colombo," but he knows only one stanza---at least he sings only one, over and over. There is the brilliant but savage Marine. There is my one buddy from Evacuation Eight.
We are marching down the highway now, the great city of wooden and concrete barracks well behind us. Our departure leaves them practically empty. Their doors flap in the wind; they begin already to have an air of desolation and ruin. Here is the place where the M.P. cursed me so and threatened to arrest me for wearing my shirt collar outside my blouse. Never mind now. The train: long lines of box cars, most of them already filled with soldiers, soldiers almost frantic with joy and trying to hide it by ribaldry. The bolshevik prompts them, and they all roar together:
"We'll pull Old Glory to the top of the pole,
And we'll all reenlist ** * **** ********!"
There was a college of art at the A.E.F. University, where some of the men have at least learned to letter signs. Great streamers with inscriptions on them decorate many of the cars. One huge placard reads, FROM BEAUNE TO T-BONE. Pretty poor wit, but the sentiment is all right.
The engine has coupled on and we are jostling out of Beaune. I liked it. I want so to get home that I can't feel homesick at leaving any other place. But I did like it. Shall I be able to remember it always? The red and yellow gillyflowers that grew under the windows and made the air so sweet? The terraced vines on the golden slopes, and the dusty incense of their bloom? The avenues of pink-flowered horse-chestnuts, and the nightingales that sang from them so piercingly sweet as you hurried home to camp at midnight? The Avenue de l'Aigue, and the Aigue itself, a pretty little weedy brook which runs between stone walls all the way along one side of the street? There is a house on that side which you reach over a little arched bridge. There is a gray gate with a bell, and inside are people who let you eat with them en famille, who let you climb their great cherry tree and pick for yourself big cherries so red that they look black. Madame Gros washed your clothes and always gave you a carefully itemized bill in which she cheated herself in the addition. And Germaine, whom you used to wait for at the milliner's shop where she worked; will you forget her?
Tell me, dear, do you ever care
As you sit to sup at the close of day,
Where I am, or how I fare?
Does the Côte d'Or gleam in the same old way
Where the vines go terraced up, far away?
As you eat alone your potage au pain,
"Where is he"--do you ever say
"Le p'tit soldat du pays lointain?"
Are the chestnut and plane trees still as fair
Where we used to stroll au jardin anglais?
Do the nightingales sing as sweetly there
As after the cinéma au Pathé?
Do you dream of those moments of happy play,
Play, but sweet with forevisioned pain,
When you laughed and kissed in that flaming May
Le p'tit soldat du pays lointain?
Are the little round tables waiting where
The sidewalk goes by the gay café?
Does the town seem sad, do the streets seem bare
Since the khaki-clad soldiers went away
With their foreign song and their laughter gay?
Do you wish them back, les américains?
And spring, and me---come this time to stay
Le p'tit soldat du pays lointain?
Dear, never dream that that happy day
For you or me can e'er come again:
You, the midinette, and I, far away,
Le p'tit soldat du pays lointain.
Bounce and jostle of the cars, and rhythmic click of the wheels on the rails. Reading, eating, sleeping, watching the countryside, not talking much. Mersault: they make even better wine here than at Beaune. Macon. Lyons: I was here once for a week-end leave. There is the place where the French ticket collector threw my ticket on the ground and stamped on it because another soldier had already ridden on it. I knew it, but I didn't expect him to look at the date. Miles and miles and miles. There are Red Cross canteens at the stations where you can get coffee and jam sandwiches. Ah! a strange old lovely city, white as though it had just been washed, across the great river. What is it? Avignon? I never really expected to see Avignon; I thought it was only a town in a story by Daudet.
The green fertile fields have vanished. The grass even has disappeared. The sun is hot and bright, the sky cloudless and dazzling. A bare dusty-white landscape, like what one fancies the surface of the moon is like, shimmers in the heat; dusty-gray old olive trees cling here and there to its surface like gnarled and tough old leeches sucking for water. Off there an encampment of squat brown barracks comes in sight, isolated in the midst of that desolate plain; American, clearly, and there is a high wire fence all around it. A prison camp. Poor chaps. Well, at any rate, we're going home.
Marseilles is a city where people speak Italian instead of French. So dusty a place! The American barracks are very low, with two-tier bunks and no floor. A thick layer of powdery dust covers everything. There is no grass at all. As you walk, you pad softly along in dust two inches deep. Packs must be inspected at once. Shall we unroll them in the dust? Sure, why not? There are so many of us that when we get our blankets spread out they cover the whole ground. Now roll them up again. The dust makes the ground so soft that you can't make a good roll, but it is so dry that it seems clean.
The army insists that soldiers returning to the United States be free from cooties and other varieties of vermin. At some camps they delouse you in spite of your protests; here they are more intelligent. We line up in our undershirts outside a large, low-posted building and enter in single file. We pass a long table like a counter, behind which several soldiers with shaded eyes hold high-powered electric bulbs with metal reflectors on extension cords. "Throw your shirt flat on the table." You strip it off, spread it out, and with the light the soldier runs rapidly up the seams searching for cooties. "Turn it over." Another quick scrutiny. "O.K." You pass the end of the counter; here sits another soldier with shaded eyes and high-powered light. "Lift your arms over your head." The light bathes your armpits. You drop down your breeches and the warm light continues its search. "O.K." It makes you think of Slocum, but the whole spirit of the place is different. In France soldiers are generally decent to each other. These men must be tired, and the work is unpleasant. But they smile and joke with you; they tell you how lucky you are to be getting home.
As we march to the waterfront the sun is hot and bright, but the breeze blows fresh and strong from the Mediterranean. We are soon marching out on a long narrow white causeway with the sea beneath us. It is a blue sea, dark blue, and tossed by the breeze into little white-caps. Our progress is slow, and Red Cross girls come out to cheer us with cold chocolate. Off there is a little island with a fortress. The man in front of me says it is the Château d'If of Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo. The long file of soldiers with their bumpy packs stretches ahead nearly a mile on the causeway; it looks like a column of brown ants moving slowly into their nest. The place of the nest is taken by a small vessel, which in the distance looks very white and trim on the blue waves. As we draw nearer, I begin to be sure that it is the Caserta. No, the name is America, but for all that it is the Caserta over again. I learn later that she is the Caserta's twin ship. It certainly is bad luck to come over in the Caserta and go home in the America. There is some consolation: this time I am lodged just below the main deck, with plenty of light from the portholes. The America has two-tier metal bunks, which look cleaner than those of the Caserta, but on the first night I learn that they are full of bugs.
Sailing on the blue Mediterranean, as smooth and peaceful as a lake. I, who am a bad sailor, can sit in the very peak of the prow and watch the dolphins sport in front of us. One swims steadily for hours, apparently without moving a fin, just six feet in front of the vessel. We sight another ship, steaming slowly across our course. As she nears, we see that she is a troop vessel too. We have a chance to see what our boat must look like. Soldiers in olive drab cover every inch of the deck, and swarm over the superstructure and low spars, which look like twigs of a plant badly infested with brown lice. But why are they sailing east? The boat has to come much nearer before we learn the reason. Their faces have been strangely indistinct; now we see that they are all coal-black negroes. It is a French transport carrying colonial troops back to Algeria.
We pull into Gibraltar Bay just before sunset. A sudden shower bursts. The sun hardly disappears, but for a moment the rain dashes and skips upon the waves which the squall has kicked up. A brilliant rainbow appears against the great mass of the rock, where some of our number are vainly looking for the Prudential sign. Early next morning we are awakened by shrill shouts from the surface of the water. Tousled heads pop out of all the portholes of the ship. There are several small dories below, with men in them who plainly have something to sell, though we cannot understand anything of what they are shouting. It looks like something to eat, But how are we going to get down to them? Again the shrill cries, and lines of thin rope come twisting through the air. Most of them slap back in the water, but some are caught from the portholes. More shrieking and gesticulation. The line, when pulled up, is found to terminate in a pouch of woven rope. Somebody takes a chance, puts a franc in the pouch, and lowers it down. The vendor in the boat fills the pouch with something, and signals to hoist; it is a quart or so of large ripe strawberries. Business now goes on briskly. But some of us have no money, not even a franc. Somebody suggests glumly that we see whether we can't swap corned wullie with the wops. Nobody thinks it will work, but we try it.
Our packs are rifled for reserve rations, and square blue cans with red labels waved from the portholes, with shouts and gesticulations as wild as those from below. There are loud cries of assent; canned corned beef seems even to be preferred to francs. Down goes can after can of Uncle Sam's solid rations, and up come the strawberries. We were not sure afterward that we had made a good exchange. The strawberries tasted good, but they gave us cramps.
We have stopped at Gibraltar for coal. A dingy barge pulls up and anchors beside us, and a gangway is thrown across between the two vessels. For the whole of one day and most of the next an endless line of coal carriers emerges from the hold of the barge, each carrying on his head a flat basket filled with soft coal. They trot wearily over the gangway, dump the contents of the baskets down into our coal bunkers, and trot back. Many of them are women. Hour after hour, a scene amazing to modern eyes. One might fancy himself back in the days of the Pharaohs. In what way are these men and women better off than the slaves that built the pyramids? The coal dust has grimed their faces to the color of negroes'; their clothes are saturated with coal dust. Coal dust spreads over everything on board the America.
Now we are off the Azores. The wind is fresh and the sea is roughening. I think I will go up and sit on the prow. It is a fine day, but I feel only brief delight in watching the sea. I think I will not stay so long this time. I think I will go below and lie down. I feel dull this morning. Not dull. Sick. I think I had better get to the porthole; perhaps I need fresh air after all. I get to the porthole, but it was not really fresh air that I went for. I crawl weakly up into my bunk and lie flat. I should like to groan. Some one is groaning. Just across from me is a burly farmer from Iowa. He groans like a sick ox. Between groans he tells me about it. Before he left France he had stocked up on dainties to eat on board ship. He was especially fond of Crackerjack, and had bought several boxes. This morning early he ate an entire box of Crackerjack. Now he loathes Crackerjack. He thinks he will die unless he can get rid of that Crackerjack. But it won't come up; it only ties him in knots. He groans. My unwilling thoughts go to the contents of my own pack. I too had laid out all my cash in the commissary at Beaune before we left. I have no Crackerjack, but I have a dozen chocolate bars and half a box of strong cigars. Cigars!!! Oh, why did I get that fool talking? I make another fast trip to the porthole.
Fourteen days it takes a transport from Gibraltar to New York. The trip to France all over again, plus bugs. The same boat, the same food, the same unhappy feeling in the stomach. But we do have more freedom. There are fewer officers aboard, so they let us go up on the stateroom deck and sit in the sun. But if you doze, people trample on your legs.
Late on the afternoon of July 1 we get our first glimpse of the low-lying shore of the United States. We are too hardboiled to make much of a demonstration; instead of saying, with tears in our eyes, how glad we are to be back, we only curse the ship. Oh, to be off it! But we cannot get in tonight. We anchor in the harbor opposite the gay lights of Coney Island. It seems somehow unfair. What right had Coney Island to be running full blast while we were away at war? The engines stop, the ventilating system ceases to operate. The air stagnates. The heat below is intolerable. If you strip off your clothes, the bugs bite you worse; if you keep them on, you swelter.
July 2, and we are landing at last. We did not see the Statue of Liberty when we sailed out, but we see her now. She is smaller than I expected, and more streaked, but she couldn't look better. A tug comes blaring out to meet and escort us to the pier. On it are two or three brass bands, all playing lustily at different tunes. Noise, cheerful noise, is all that matters. When it is still a long distance from us it begins to bombard us with oranges. The reception committee has hired a major-league baseball star to toss fruit to us. In the abandonment of his enthusiasm, or perhaps through professional pride, he is accomplishing feats of speed and distance which even the committee could hardly have reckoned on. Half the oranges sail in superb arcs clean over the ship; those within reach are travelling with such velocity that if one could catch them he would only get a shower of juice in the face. The nearer he gets, the harder he hurls; we duck the oranges, which spatter and splash on the cabins and spars, and shout back to encourage him. There are committees of all sorts on board; signs, WELCOME HOME and WELL DONE, OUR HEROES; one that reads, IS JAMES BROWN ON THAT BOAT? The bands blare and we let ourselves go; it is the old intoxication we have not known for months.
The America pulls up to the pier; we all rush to one side and almost capsize her. Western Union boys are everywhere waving yellow blanks and beseeching us to notify our families that we are home. I write out a telegram trustfully, hoping that the Western Union is doing this free, or maybe the Y.M.C.A. pays for it. No. But I have no money. "Aw, send it collect! " Collect it goes.
Camp Merritt has changed in the last thirteen months. It would be hard to say how; here are the same comfortable barracks, the same Hostess House, the same Merritt Hall, the same good mess. But it is different. One hates to admit it, but it has become a little like Slocum. We are casuals again and feel the lack of confidence that always comes upon a soldier when he is away from his outfit. The men of the post patronize us. Their uniforms look very trim and soldierlike as compared with our baggy and wrinkled garments, and they are all wearing smart garrison caps that look so much like officers' that we salute the first we meet. Even from civilians one gets surprises. The farmer from Iowa rushes to the barber shop to get a haircut and comes back cursing. The barber had been importunate in offering other attentions and had finally announced crossly that at least the soldier ought to pay for a shampoo as well as a haircut: "he couldn't afford to waste his time just giving a plain haircut." It is now eight months since the Armistice and people are getting a little fed up with returning heroes.
Here, lice or no lice, you get deloused and no words about it. You file into a building like a gymnasium, strip off your clothes and put them in wire baskets, to which you tie your identification tags. Then, one of a long line of naked men, you move slowly forward to the showers.
After a bath with hot water and soap, you claim your clothes again. While you were bathing, they were in a steam cooker, and they still steam like a pudding. If you were careless and put your blouse or breeches into the basket wrinkled, the wrinkles now are steamed in so that no pressing will ever get them out again. Did you put in your beloved French cap with the leather sweat band? Too bad. Leather that goes through the decootieizer comes out looking like chewing gum.
Late in the afternoon our casual company is broken up. We have been together since March and have become very friendly. We line up, the roll is perfunctorily called, and our top-sergeant reports to our detachment commander, not in the consecrated formula, "Sir, all present or accounted for," but with an equivalent of jocular obscenity. The detachment commander is a pleasant young lieutenant. He does not like it, but it would be pedantic to make a fuss over discipline at this juncture. I think he was going to say something to us, but he changes his mind and dismisses us curtly. No farewell speech. No flag-waving. No heroics. It comes over me that getting into the army was much the same.
A moment of frantic rushing about to say goodbye to our particular friends, and we are hurried off into new casual groups according to the geographical location of our homes. I find myself in a group of men from Maine and Massachusetts. When there are enough of us, we shall be sent to Camp Devens. But it won't be for a few days.
July 4; a year ago I heard the Bishop of Meaux and marched out to the American cemetery at Juilly. Did it really happen? Today Dempsey is fighting Willard; it is the only fight, apparently, in which anyone is interested. It is too hot to go outdoors. I lie on my cot and think how Slocum is coming back. Two hardboiled Irish sergeants are terrorizing the barrack. They contradict everything and sneer at everybody. Someone says he hopes Dempsey gets his because he dodged the draft. The sergeants rend him; Dempsey went after what money he could get, and anybody but a fool would have done the same. The talk turns to differences between the British and American armies. Someone says he has heard that in the British Army a man is not really enlisted until he has accepted a shilling from the recruiting officer. Bunk. They know better.
Soldiers from Maine and Massachusetts do not collect so fast as we should like. On July 6 I get an all-day pass to visit people I know in Yonkers. It is the first American home I have been in since the day I enlisted---nearly eighteen months ago. I am disappointed to find that I have not forgotten how to behave. Eighteen months in the army is only an episode, after all; as soon as I get into civilian clothes again people will not notice that I am any different. I am surprised and embarrassed to discover that they think me a hero. They want me to sit on the veranda most of the time. Of course, it is cooler there, but the real reason is that they want the neighbors to see that they have a soldier visiting them. A nice boy of ten or twelve from next door comes over and bashfully asks if he can talk with me. He really doesn't want to talk; he wants to sit and worship me with his eyes. And I served in the Medical Corps!
July 8, and I leave Camp Merritt forever. North to Albany, where the train stops for a while and a crowd of women and children gather to cheer and ask us questions. I write a note to Bill Smith and give it to a woman who promises to mail it. He must be home by now.
Camp Devens is quite unlike any camp I have been in yet. Here are the usual low wooden barracks, but the soil is sand, clear brownish sand. There are many scrubby hard pines, and the barracks are weathered until they look as though they had soaked pitch from the trees. We casuals from the train line up in the late afternoon, where a golden blaze of sun shoots athwart the low buildings, which have that strange air of being already deserted that I noticed at Merritt. An elderly officer addresses us. Tomorrow we will turn in what few articles of equipment we have not left at Merritt, and "go through the mill." We think he means the delouser again and groan in chorus; then we forget discipline so far as to shout. "We don't need to go through the mill! We don't want to go through the mill! " A look of blank amazement covers his face; then he understands and smiles. "We call getting discharged here going through the mill. But if you don't want to -----------"
Next day we learn why getting discharged is called "going through the mill." In single file we pass into a barrack with booths and wickets all the way around like a bank. So many papers have to be filled out before a man can be let out of the service. Final entries on my service record. My last month's pay has to be figured, with my $60 bonus, and the commutation of my transportation home. At last I see that breath-taking document, my discharge, actually being made out. Born, so and so. Age, so and so. Height, so and so. Eyes, blue. "Hell, your eyes aren't blue! " The bottom drops out of life. How many months will my discharge be held up now? "I know my eyes aren't blue. The service record is wrong. It's always been wrong." I cannot believe it, but he is scraping out the entry. Eyes, brown.. Complexion, ruddy. All complexions in the army are ruddy. Marksmanship? Not classified. Horsemanship? Not mounted. No AWOL under G.O. 31-12 or G.O. 45-14. Battles: Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne. Everything is filled in except the signature at the end and the one entry: CHARACTER. "Aren't you going to fill that in?" "Not until just before you go. You might do something before tomorrow."
July 9, my last day in the army. I have turned in everything now, and have no baggage at all. Only the clothes on my back. As I sit on my bunk after breakfast, my blouse hanging on the wall, a sergeant comes in looking for a K.P detail. Devens must be a hard place for making up details, the men come and go so fast. "Buddy, will you help out by being kitchen police?" I could point at the two wretched stripes on the sleeve of my blouse, but I don't. He has asked me so sweetly. And it will be fitting to serve on kitchen police on my last day in the Army. It rounds things out somehow. I follow him to the kitchen and peel potatoes all the forenoon, two bushels of potatoes. I help dish out the mess. Right after dinner the sergeant comes back. My discharge is ready. Nothing to pack. Nothing to forget. Dry my hands. Pull on my blouse. Try to stop my heart from thumping so. The same building as yesterday. My money is counted out: $83.13. There through the wicket I see my discharge all made out. The space opposite "Character" has been filled in in another hand: EXCELLENT. The soldier behind the window looks at it, looks at me, asks me one last question, and reluctantly slides it across the ledge. With trembling hands I button it inside my blouse. I'm out of the Army. Out of the Army! OUT OF THE ARMY! I hurry out of the building and down the wooden steps. There is the man from Turner who lent me three dollars. I pay him. A group of boys from Maine see me and rush over. A man has .offered to take six of us by car to Portland tonight, now, for $8 apiece. It is four times the railroad fare, but who cares? Wait at camp after you have your discharge? Off we run for the car. Portland tonight, and tomorrow forenoon---HOME.
Evacuation Hospital Eight was one of the first units of its kind to arrive in France, and the first of all to go into action behind a portion of the front where American troops were suffering heavy casualties. At Juilly it placed its name in history by being for a time the only advanced surgical hospital caring for the wounded from Belleau Woods and Château-Thierry. At Petit Maujouy it planned and erected a hospital which was regarded throughout the A.E.F. as a model of speed and efficiency. Of all the American boys wounded during the entire War, six in every hundred received surgical treatment at our hands. "I am sure that all members of Evacuation Eight know how highly I regarded the work of that unit," writes Surgeon General Ireland, who was Chief Surgeon of the A.E.F. until a month before the armistice. "It had a wonderful esprit de corps and an uncanny knack of getting things done in the face of almost insuperable difficulties that entitled it to be ranked with the leading medical units of the A.E.F."
A Postscript Concerning Books.
AS I have said in my Preface, it was my intention to write the history of an army hospital from intimate and unpublished sources. I made my first draft in the country during the summer vacation, away from all books; partly because I had to do it then if I was to do it at all, but also because I wished the tone to be personal and anecdotal, and I knew that extensive reference to books before I began to write would make it difficult to secure such a tone. After the first draft was entirely written, I read a good many works bearing on the subject, and modified some of my statements in the light of what I found. I could, perhaps, have made the book a more useful historical study by working in more of this material, but I am sure that by so doing I should have lost something more important. I should like, however, to mention a few books which I can confidently recommend to the ordinary reader who wishes more information on certain of the matters I have treated.
For an account of the engagements of the combatant troops, I like Dale van Every's The A.E.F. in Battle (New York, Appleton, 1928), because, though vivid in style, it is clear, concise, and (I believe) accurate. My history of the Collège de Juilly is abstracted from a little pamphlet written for members of Evacuation Hospital No. 8 by Mlle La Favre, an official of the Collège, and presented to us as a part of the fête which the French gave us on July 4, 1918. 1 shall be happy to furnish a typewritten copy at cost to anyone who will ask me for it. All members of army medical units which saw service in the field will find much of interest in the eighth volume of the Surgeon General's report to the Secretary of War, entitled The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1925). Copies of this thousand-page, beautifully illustrated book may be obtained for $3.00 from the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. It contains a good many references to Evacuation Hospital No. 8, though the sketchiness of the index makes it necessary to go through the book page by page to find them. In particular, it gives a full account (pp. 32-3 ff.) of the stirring early days at Juilly, and a detailed description, submitted by Colonel Hall, of the organization of the hospital at Petit Maujouy (pp. 818-822). On p. 169 is a ground plan. Chapter Three of Wade in, Sanitary! by Richard Derby, Division Surgeon of the Second Division (New York, Putnam, 1919) is a good supplement to my Juilly chapters, for though Colonel Derby frequently mentions the hospital at Juilly, he is naturally more interested in the units between us and the line; viz., the dressing stations, the triage manned by Field Hospital No. 1 at Bézu-le-Guéry, the operative unit for non-transportables (Field Hospital No. 23) at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, and the gas hospital (Field Hospital No. 16) at Luzancy. The History of American Red Cross Nursing (New York, Macmillan, 1922) prints some interesting letters by Mary Elderkin, nurse on Navy Operating Team No. 1, concerning the work at Juilly and also at Petit Maujouy (pp. 741-745, 754-755, 982). On p. 754 she is kind enough to say, "I do not believe there was a better organized operating room in the American Expeditionary Forces than at Evacuation Hospital No. 8."
My chapter on war surgery should be taken as the statement of a layman with a fair amount of scientific training who worked for some months in an army operating room and has taken pains to verify his remarks by reference to the literature of the subject, but who has had no opportunity to follow personally the progress of surgical science since 1918. The Carrel-Dakin treatment has proved to be less useful in civilian surgery than was once hoped, and many surgeons now would probably not be so enthusiastic about its use in war as I seem to be, but my chapter represents accurately what was thought and said about it by leading authorities at the time. The general reader who wishes to follow the subject farther should read Dr. William W. Keen's lecture, "Before and after Lister," in his Selected Papers and Addresses (Philadelphia, Jacobs, 1923), and will find much of interest in The Treatment of War Wounds (Philadelphia, Saunders, 1917, second edition 1918) by the same author. Doctor Keen has the extraordinary record of having served as an army surgeon through the whole of the Civil War, and also of having published one of the most useful elementary manuals for the use of surgeons in the World War. It contains many interesting illustrations, especially (pp. 192-196) Cushing's diagrams of his technique in wounds of the head. The Treatment of Infected Wounds, translated by Herbert Child from the French of Carrel and Dehelly (New York, Hoeber, 1917) is somewhat technical, but should be looked into by anyone who wishes to know what the Carrel-Dakin treatment really was like. The plates from photographs of actual large wounds soon after operation and again after suture (pp. 188, 192) are the best I have seen in an easily accessible book. I have some photographs of the same kind which were made from cases in our own hospital, but it seemed best not to include them in a book intended for general circulation.
The story of the work of the Smith College Relief Unit among its villages on the Somme is attractively told by Ruth Gaines in Ladies of Grécourt (New York, Dutton, 1920). The Smith Alumnae Quarterly for November, 1917, February, 1919, and May, 1919, contains letters from various members of the Unit concerning their work with army hospitals.
Addenda: Personal letter, dated November 16, 1937, from Frederick A. Pottle to Dr. John Foster, found in the leaves of the book.
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