As one of the members of a regiment that fought in France, the memories that are most vivid with me, now that two years have gone since the war has ended, are the memories of the nights and days when the simple unknown soldiers of the regiment showed their fineness under trial. In a forest in northeastern France in a cold and damp October, without rations, without surgical attention, cut off, as they supposed, from the notice of their fellow men, they gave to the day's hardships and duties a courage and plain human kindliness that will always make one proud of the record of the American soldier. Such achievements are not attributable to any officer or group of officers or leaders. They arise from brave men working unselfishly together with faith in the cause which they serve. When an individual shows courage under stress, we feel a thrill at his achievement, but when a group of men flash out in the splendor of manliness we feel a lasting glow that is both pride and renewed faith in our fellow men. And as a member of such a regiment, for which I feel deep affection, I feel a bond of understanding and fellowship for the American soldier in every place and time, doing his job simply and finely, asking neither sympathy nor praise. May the armistice be lasting, and these great qualities find their true place in Peace.
November 11, 1920.
We of the 308th have come to pay a last tribute to the memory of our loved comrade and friend Charles Whittlesey.
I speak for the heart of the regiment when I say that we all are mindful of his outstanding character, mindful first of that attribute given to few men, the absolute lack of fear, seen and known by many of us before that day when he sprang into world-wide fame. Ordered to advance thru the densest part of the thicket of the great forest of the Argonne to take a certain fixed objective and hold it, he succeeded, and alone with his battalion reached the designated point far in advance of the troops on his right or left. The enemy soon surrounded his position, and then began those numerous attacks lasting four days and nights. Over one hundred hours passed without food of any kind and with but little water. With the majority of his command killed or wounded, surrounded by the dead and dying, with no succor or help for the wounded and yet when the call for the surrender came, how instantly he refused it, and took in at once the only bit of white showing---the white of the ground panel for signalling to the Air Service; thus saying "They shall not pass" and no Hun passed save from the Here to the Hereafter. No man as a soldier can stand higher in the history of the republic and no man is more entitled to the nation's gratitude.
Mindful too of the wonderful mind, we were more impressed by that stern and strict conscience, the inheritance of those Puritan ancestors, a conscience always sure of the right and from which line of action no power could ever make him change. Coupled with all this was the highest sense of duty I have ever seen.
Mindful too of that other side of his character, the gentle and sympathetic nature which was so marked on all occasions, causing him to be known as "Brother Charles," I know that I speak for all of us when I say that it has been given to none to ever meet a man who more closely approached that knightly Bayard of old in that he was without fear and without reproach.
While at first we were stunned and could hardly credit the news, yet the more I think his case over the more firmly I am convinced that his death was in reality a battle casualty and that he met his end as much in the line of duty as if he had fallen by a German bullet on the Vesle or in the Argonne, The scars of conflict or the wounds of battle are not always of the flesh. We, of the Regular Army have seen too often the results of mental strain, even in the older soldiers.
Let us briefly review his war service. Answering at once his country's call and coming from his quiet, scholastic life of a city lawyer, he was thrown almost immediately into the fiercest fighting the World has ever known. How heroically he arose to the emergency suddenly thrust upon him history will always tell, but what a mental strain it must have been on that shy, retiring, kindly and lovable man when he could do nothing to relieve the suffering or the agony of those gallant men dying beside him---and this after all had reached the last stages of physical exhaustion due to a hundred hours constant fighting and hunger; with this were the unspeakable conditions and the horrors of the battle field where it had been impossible to bury the dead, and the sole responsibility rested on him. Whittlesey had that rare and moral courage which makes men great, and in that emergency he held on, to the everlasting credit of the American Army.
This occurred a little over three years ago, but he has never been away from those scenes from that day on. Coming back to this country, he found himself a popular hero much against his wishes and inclination. Constantly called upon for aid and advice by the mothers and widows of the dead and missing, he gave everything he had, everything that was in him---not only to them but to all the men of the regiment, wounded and in trouble---who found in him a ready friend, counselor and aid.
His last answer to the call of duty was on November 11th, 1921, when, with the other Medal of Honor Men of the regiment, McMurtry, Miles and Kaufman, he attended the final ceremonies at Arlington for the Unknown Soldier. I think we all can see him standing there with these memories of the suffering and pain of war surging through his mind. We know how he suffered until at last that great heart broke, but the memory of Charles Whittlesey will always be an inspiration to the officers and men who served with him in France.
I can only add, speaking for the regiment, that from the heart of each of us goes up the prayer that the God, who in His Infinite Wisdom saw fit to take from our midst Charles Whittlesey, may give to his soul that peace and quiet for which he so longed.
Rain! Rain! Rain!
Over The Top
Oui Oui Mon Cher!
Captain Holderman's Citation
History of The Lost Battalion
How The Lost Battalion Was Lost
Private Hollingshead's Experience
Private Krotoshinsky's Experience
The Fight of The Lost Battalion
That Night At La Harazee
Those Who Wait
Songs of Sorrow
The Ambulance Driver
The Pirate Gun
Killed in Action
Can You Beat That In England
We Are Coming Back
The War Is Over