L'évènement du 5 mai
1918 (capture de prisonniers allemands au Hameau d'Ancerviller
par une patrouille américaine), relaté par la presse
du 13 mai 1918, Journal de
la Meurthe du 14 mai 1918) aurait-il été quelques
peu grossi ?
On constate d'ailleurs que dans les écrits américains
d'après guerre (The Sun, 27
avril 1919, The story of
the Rainbow division - New York 1919...) on ne
retrouve pas cette attaque « au couteau. - La lutte fut
âpre et farouche », « les crosses des fusils dont
l'ennemi voulut se servir pour se défendre [...]
largement entaillées par les lames » et les américains
montrant « avec fierté leurs couteaux rouges de sang ».
Dans son journal, le chapelain Francis P . Duffy relate
aussi plus simplement cet événement, sans mentionner «
Le caporal chef de groupe fut grièvement blessé »,
mais on y apprend que deux soldats, la caporal Joseph
Brown et Charles Knowlton, se sont égarés dans la nuit
dans le no man's land et ont été fait prisonniers par
A tale of humor and heroism, of life and death with the
by Francis P. Duffy Chaplain, 165th Infantry
April 25th, 1918
On April 23rd, and a miserable day of rain and mud it
was, we relieved the Ohios in the positions on the left
of our Division Sector. Looking east from Baccarat one
sees only a steep hill which forms the valley of the
Meurthe and blocks the view in the direction of the
combat line; but a road from the north of the town leads
through an opening in the hills to undulating country
with small villages dotting the landscape every two or
three miles. One of these is Reherrey, which is to be
our regimental P. C. during our stay in this section.
The next village to the east, called Migneville,
shelters our support battalion, the P. C. of the advance
battalion being at Montigny, still farther on.
The trenches are more varied and more interesting than
those in the Forest of Parroy. Those on the left of our
sector run along the front edge of the Bois Bouleaux,
which gives its occupants the shelter of trees, but
leaves them in a position to see an approaching enemy.
The trenches to the right run over open ground and
finally straight across the eastern tip of the town of
Ancervillers, utilizing the cellars, broken walls, etc.
Machine gun nests have been established in some of the
cellars which dominate the open spaces, the guns being
raised to be able to fire at ground level through
carefully concealed concrete openings. The 1st battalion
is in line, the 3rd in support, while the 2nd is in
"Camp Mud," a group of barracks to the rear of us in
surroundings which provoke its title. Poor fellows, they
would much rather be in a battle.
April 28th, 1918
Went over Saturday to St. Pol where Companies L and M
are in support positions and passed the night with
Merle-Smith and his Lieutenants, Carroll, Baker, Givens
and Knowles. The village church is pretty badly wrecked,
parts of the walls and most of the roof being tumbled
down in crumbled ruins. One shell went through just in
front of the altar, but the roof above the altar is
fairly well intact. I had doubts as to whether I could
use it for services, but Cornelius Fitzpatrick and Frank
Eustace offered to have it cleaned up and put in shape
for me by next morning. When I arrived to say Mass I was
delighted at the transformation they had effected. The
half ruined reredos of the altar was a mass of bloom
with big branches of blossoms which they had cut from
the fruit trees in the garden. It is one of the pictures
of the war that I shall long carry in my mind.
One of the men told me that Joyce Kilmer had been out
here on his duties as Sergeant of the Intelligence
Section to map out the ground with a view to its defence
if attacked. As his party was leaving the ruined walls
he said, "I never like to leave a church without saying
a prayer," and they all knelt down among the broken
fragments under the empty vault and said a silent prayer
- a beautiful thought of a true poet and man of God.
May 5th, 1918
Headquarters, both American and French, have been very
anxious for somebody to take prisoners, and we were all
very much pleased this morning to hear that a patrol
from Company D had gone out and bagged four of them. Out
across No Man's Land from Ancervillers there is, or used
to be, a few houses which went by the name of Hameau d'Ancervillers.
There was some reason to believe that a German outpost
might be found there; so at midnight last night a patrol
of two officers and twenty-four men, mainly from Company
D, went on a little hunting expedition. They crossed No
Man's Land to the old German trenches, which they found
to be battered flat.
Lieutenant Edmond J. Connelly remained with a few men in
No Man's Land to guard against surprise, and Lieutenant
Henry K. Cassidy took the rest of them, including
Sergeant John J. O'Leary of Company A, Sergeant Thomas
O'Malley of Company D and Sergeant John T. Kerrigan of
the Intelligence Section to examine the ruins of the
hamlet. Part of the wall of one house was left standing.
O'Leary led three men to one side of it, and O'Malley
three others to the other side, while Lieutenant Cassidy
approached it from the front. They were challenged by a
German sentry and the two Sergeants with their followers
rushed at once to close quarters and found themselves
engaged with six Germans, two of whom were killed, and
one wounded, the survivors dashing headlong into a
Lieutenant Cassidy, pistol in hand, ran to the opening
of the dugout and called on them to surrender. If any
one of them had any fight left in him we would have had
to mourn the loss of a brave young officer, but they
surrendered at discretion, and our whole party, with no
casualties, started back as fast as they could, carrying
the wounded prisoner and dragging the others with them.
It was an excellent job, done with neatness and dispatch.
Valuable papers were found on the wounded man and other
information was obtained at Division by questioning. The
only thing to spoil it was that two of our men, Corporal
Joseph Brown and Charles Knowlton got lost in the dark
coming in, and have not yet reported.*
* These men became confused and wandered into the German
lines where they were made prisoners. Information
concerning their fate came to us through the Red Cross
about two months later, and both rejoined the regiment
after the Armistice.