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150ème régiment d'artillerie de campagne - mai-juin 1918 Texte en langue anglaise
 


A sergeant's diary in the world war; the diary of an enlisted member of the 150th field artillery (Forty-second division) October 27, 1917, to August 7, 1919,
Elmer Frank Straub
Indianapolis, Indiana Historical Commission, 1923.

CHAPTER V
Up With the Guns

May 9, 1918: - Today there was not much doing. After mess I saddled up my horse and went to Baccarat where I played around and bought a few things that I needed. While there I ran into A1 [Albert R.] Brunner, Earl Pitsenburger and-Casey, and we all took a walk down to the Y.M.C.A. We then started in towards Gelacourt but on the way in found a good hotel where we stopped and had some fried eggs and potato salad for our evening meal. I was tired after my afternoon off and went to bed.

May 10, 1918: - This morning early I saddled my horse and went out to the guns to relieve Perry [Lesh]. When I got out there Perry went directly to Duval. I wrote letters until noon mess time and only took time enough to eat, and that’s all, because there were a great number of letters remaining for me to answer. During the afternoon I only went outside the telephone dug-out a few times and then only to get a breath of good fresh air and smoke a cigarette. At 5:00 I went down to evening mess and after took a walk down to Reherrey to have a talk with the intelligence officer about different reports.

May 11, 1918: - I slept and played around all day long. About 3:00 this afternoon a Boche plane came over while I was up at the machine gun emplacement so I fired 24 rounds at him. [Leo A.] Biddle, the machine gun man then took the gun and fired quite a few more rounds at him. He was hit by anti-aircraft shells and his motor stopped but he glided over behind his own lines. They are issuing some clothes out here at the guns this evening. It happened that I could get nothing but a pair of gloves as there was nothing but gloves that would fit me. When I got back into the telephone dug-out I overheard a conversation between the officers about Ed Bassett. I immediately told Ed to see Lieut. [Clarence E.] Trotter and as a result he is transferred to the aviation leaving immediately. We also fired thirty rounds this evening. I am now standing a telephone shift for the fellows, and as a pastime writing some more letters.

May 12, 1918: - Today is the day set aside by General Pershing as Mother’s Day. Every fellow has been urged to write home, I will venture to say that 90% of them have done it. It is very cold and rainy today. A little mail came in and I received four letters. I immediately sat down and wrote answers to all of them. I am now standing a telephone shift for the boys and I will stay up until about 11:00.

May 13, 1918: - Perry [Lesh] and I changed places this morning. We have made a new observation post just behind the old one because Duval is so caved in and is now such a death trap that we do not use it any more. Our new one is up in the trees directly behind the entrance to the old Duval. This O.P. is a very good one and we can see from the left of Domevre far over to the right of Blamont. It is all camouflaged with branches of trees so that we can not be seen. These branches are changed every morning so that the place remains as near the color of the surrounding trees as is possible to make it. The weather in this country has gotten to be a joke; in the morning it clouds up and probably rains and there is never a night passes but what it is as fair as one could wish to have it.

May 14, 1918: - This morning [Russell H.] Lamkin and [Carl] Moorman went with me to Duval. We got up there about 9:00 and immediately put up the scissor glasses. Visibility was very good. During the morning we saw a great deal of activity, but at noon it started to rain and of course from then on we could see very little. During the early part of the afternoon the Captain [Sidney S. Miller, still as Major of the first Bat.] and the Colonel came up to see our new O.P. They stayed about twenty minutes during which time they asked very many questions about the territory in front of Duval. They had only been gone about 15 minutes when it stopped raining and the sun came out, we could then see very fine. I was able to pick up a working party directly behind the Chateau de St. Marie but we could not fire on them as they were very far out of our range. About 2:00 I saw 13 men coming toward Verdenal (a little village out in ‘No Man’s Land’) and I immediately phoned their position in to the battery. Lieut. [Clarence E.] Trotter told me that if I saw any more of them there that I should let him know and he would let me have eight rounds to fire on them. At 3:30 I saw six more in the very same place. I immediately phoned in and Lieut. Trotter started the eight rounds over. We could hear our guns go off and a few seconds after we could hear the projectile going over our heads. The first shot must have been a freak because it burst about 300 feet in the air directly over my target. The second was over and to the left in some barbed wire entanglements. The third shot was nearly a target and the Germans began to run from the hedge at the side of the road where they had taken shelter. They ran in all directions and for fifteen minutes after our fire had been completed we could see them still running away from this place. I don’t know whether I got any of them or not, I sure hope so. During the rest of the afternoon we saw smoke coming from a building in Under-Champs and also from a building in Verdenal. I should say that the day was a very exciting one, there was quite a little activity and the day was a very pleasant one. The French also put eighty shells on Ouve Rouge and I could see all of them burst. German and French observation balloons were up practically all day long. When we come up here to Duval we always have bacon sandwiches for our noon meal and that is the only thing that is getting very tiresome. We left Duval at 4:45 and came right in to the guns. When we arrived there we found the third piece had been fired with a hammer in the cradle and that the recoil system had been badly damaged. That was the cause of the first shot this afternoon bursting in the air. Two of our pieces have been taken to Luneville for repairs. The second piece went yesterday with the bore very badly pitted, so we are left with only two pieces. We ate our evening meal at the guns. The rest of the detail has worked all day long here at the guns putting in electric light aiming posts. I gave my activity report to Perry [Lesh], talked the situation over with Lieut. [Clarence E.] Trotter and then started for Gelacourt. I also found out that they are getting ready to leave for somewhere, maybe home and maybe the Somme front, one can never tell in this army. I hope home. After I had put my horse away I went up and talked the day over with Sgt. Bruning, then went to my quarters where I wrote up my diary and then I went to bed.

May 15, 1918: - This morning when we got up for reveille one of our fellows was thrown in the water trough because he did not get up in time to make the call. John U. Bosson was in Baccarat today and he got the pictures I had taken the last time I was in there, so tomorrow I will send them home. After evening mess [Carl] Moorman helped me to put a design on an empty brass powder shell that I am going to pound out and make a brass vase out of.

May 16, 1918: - This morning early I saddled up and went out to the guns. [William H.] Bruning and [Perry W.] Lesh went up to the O.P., and from the reports they have been sending in they have not been seeing very much. The weather is very good today, in fact it is very warm. I do not remember whether or not I mentioned the fact that Sgt. [John H.] Skidmore and Sgt. Karl Moore tried to find us one day when we were up at the O.P. and when we saw them they were about 400 yards out in ‘No Man’s Land’ directly in front of our O.P. It is a miracle that they were not shot. The ‘snow’ about going home is thicker than ever. Some of the fellows though are quite firm in their belief that we are going to the Somme front. Fire has now started with aerial observation. There are three planes observing for us, and as the observer sends down the commands we can see the sparks fly from his wireless. The observer’s message is received at Bn. Hdqs. and is sent down to the battery by phone. Our food here at the battery has been fairly good but most of the fellows do not care for it because there is no variety. Breakfast usually consists of the old standard, bacon, potatoes and coffee and sometimes sugar. I usually draw my coffee to wash my mess kit with because it is always good and hot and the mess water is always very greasy and nearly always cold. The Y.M.C.A. seems to be doing very much better work now. There are always two medical men here at the guns in case someone gets hurt. [Charles J.] Hoover is again back with the battery and I am sure glad because he is the best cook we ever had. I hear too that we have fifty more horses coming in; on the other hand I hear that we are going to be motorized very soon. The battery fired until about 6:30 and then we all went down to mess.

May 17, 1918: - This morning Pete [Clarence E.] Clift and I went to the telephone dug-out where we lay around until about 10:30 when our telephone line to Duval went out due to shell fire, so Pete and I started out to repair it. We could hear where the shells were bursting and so figured out just about where the line was broken. I timed the interval between the bursts of the German shells and we picked the way to the break in the line accordingly. The shells were coming at a five minute interval. In order to get to the break in the line we were obliged to pass the corner of the cross roads near a little group of fir trees where all of these shells were bursting. The shells came from a battery of eight-inch howitzers very close to our front lines and every time the gun would fire we could hear the report and also hear the shell coming. Being able to hear the report of the gun and having the interval so well timed we ventured very close to where they were bursting. Quite a few times we flattened ourselves against the ground to avoid any danger of being caught by an over or a short. I had my vest-pocket kodak along and every time a shell would come over I would stand up and try to get a picture but they all sounded so close that I did not take a chance and consequently got no picture that was worth while. Pete [Clarence E. Clift] and I then debated as to what we would do next. We decided to start directly after the next shell burst and make a run past the fir trees, then to the break in the line. So we waited for the next shell to burst and then started to run; we got within about twenty feet of the fir trees and the Germans must have changed the time interval because we heard the gun fire and also heard the shell coming. We did not know what to do and of course we did not have time to debate the question. We simply ran back about thirty feet and lay down at the side of the road. We could hear the shell coming and as it got closer and closer of course the sound became more shrill. It was a very exciting few moments for us but it finally burst and only within about thirty feet of us. While I was lying at the side of the road waiting for the shell to light, my only wish was that the shell would not hit me right in the middle of the back. When it burst it threw dirt and pieces of wood all over us and for fully a half minute after debris fell all around us. I noticed too that all up and down the road as far as I could see the dust was raised about one foot in the air. As soon as it had burst and we knew that we were out of danger I opened my kodak, ran up close to the place where the shell had lit and snapped a picture of it. We then ran on past the little group of fir trees and out into the field. Not far from where these shells had been falling we found the break in our line and we immediately began to repair it. We had only started to work when we heard the gun and another shell started on its way over. We found a very shallow ditch close by and in it we stretched out as flat as we possibly could until the shell went by and had burst in the little group of firs. In all, six of them came over before we got the break in the line repaired. They then stopped firing and we went back to the place to see just what damage they had done. I also took a picture of the holes that these shells had made. So far that is as close as they have ever come to me, and when I think it over it was as close as I ever hope one comes to me. We then went back to the guns where we ate our noon mess after which I lay down and slept nearly the whole afternoon. Directly after evening mess Sgt. [Bryant W.] Gillespie and I had a long talk about our girls and the people at home. Sgt. Bruning and [Perry W.] Lesh came back from Duval early because in the morning at 3:00, the three of us are going up in the large woods near Duval and build a new O.P. way up in a tree. We have to do it early, before visibility gets good so that we will not been seen by the Germans. It is now 10:15 and I am going to bed.

May 18, 1918: - This morning at 3:00 I got up and had no more than gotten my clothes on when we had a gas alarm, but it was false. Bruning, Lesh and I then started up to make the new O.P. We worked all morning and now have an O.P. that will take in anything our glasses will reach. It is sure a wonder; in a big oak tree fully seventy feet above the ground. It is an easy place for German snipers to pick someone off, but it is a much better place from which we can observe German activity. We had no breakfast; at 10:00 [George A.] Aurine came up as telephone operator. I started in at 1:00 and just as I was leaving Sgt. [Karl F.] Moore came up to look around. Our telephone line went out and so Aurine and the rest of the men went out to find the trouble. When I got back to the battery I got a bowl of cold tomatoes, salt, pepper and a piece of bread. I then went back up to the telephone dug-out got a powder temperature for the officers and then went to bed. I slept until 5:00 when the boys awakened me and I went down to evening mess. We got some second class mail after mess “Stars” [Indianapolis Stars,] and other papers from the people at home. Tomorrow Perry [Lesh] relieves me here at the guns and I go up to the O.P. The weather is very pleasant, very warm and far better than the rain that we have been having.

May 19, 1918: - I went up to the O.P. alone this morning. I took a phone and the head of the scope along. We have to pull all of our stuff up in the tree with a wire and I had just gotten all of this done when Bruning, Cpl. [Chester] Lumpkin and ‘Spick’ [John C.] Ellis came up to look around. ‘Spick’ and I stayed up on the platform all morning, Bruning and Lumpkin took a walk down through the first line trenches.

May 20, 1918: - This morning I again went to the O.P. alone and later [Carl] Moorman came up as the telephone operator for the day. We played around the tree all day long and during the afternoon I found a new O.P. in the trees far over in the German lines but before I could locate it accurately the leaves had blown in front of it and I could not pick it up any more during the afternoon. The Germans had probably camouflaged it very well for I hunted the rest of the day and could not find it. A little later we saw four propaganda balloons coming over from the German lines and of course [Carl] Moorman went after one of them. He did not get one of the balloons as some French soldiers beat him to them but he did bring back some of the literature that these balloons carried over. This literature tends to discourage the French soldier. The instrument detail is now staying out here at the guns and I am staying in a room with Jimmy [James V.] Fox. We also have our horses out here at the guns. After mess Jimmy and I did some work on our room and we are sure getting it so that it looks like a real place. The start of my diary has been lost for about a week and I have been hunting all over for it but have been unable to find it. I have been keeping rough notes in hopes that I will find it again.

May 21, 1918: - During the day I again found and accurately located the German O.P. that I had a glimpse of a few days ago. The morning was very pleasant and passed without the least bit of excitement until about noon when we heard the French anti-aircraft firing on a German plane. We looked for it all over and at first could not find it but suddenly, over it came, going toward the German lines and only about five hundred meters directly above our O.P. tree. The motor was not going and the pilot was volplaning down. I immediately took my glasses and fortunately caught him, which by the way is very hard to do. He fell just inside the German lines, in a group of trees just a little to the right of Chateau de St. Marie. That is the first German plane I have seen brought down. A little later B Battery did some firing and I did their observing for them. About 4:45 we started for the guns. When we got in to the battery we found out that another German plane had been dropped in ‘No Man’s Land’ during the afternoon, making two for the day. We also found out that three French planes had gone far over behind the German lines and had taken many pictures and had obtained very much valuable information.

May 22, 1918: - This morning Perry [Lesh] and Sgt. Bruning went up to the O.P., they are going to chop the tops out of several of the trees that hide just a little of the sector in front of us. I am staying at the guns today. Since the instrument detail is staying here at the guns none of us have to spend the night up at the guns. One of the telephone men also stays out here now so that we do not have to wait for them in the morning when we go up to the O.P. Perry [Lesh] found the beginning of my diary in his saddle bags this morning and I was sure thankful that he did. It was probably due to my carelessness that it got into his saddle bag instead of my own.

May 28, 1918: - This morning we had to make a topographical map of the territory around our guns so as to see whether or not it would be advisable to make an entrance to the new dug-out that the men are building, from the telephone dugout. They have been working on this new dug-out for about one month now. The gun sections that are off gun duty do this work. It is now about eight and one half meters deep. Sgt. Bruning and I worked on this until about 2:30 when we went down to the billets and plotted it out on the plotting board. We worked on it until evening mess and then gave our dope to Lieut. [Clarence E.] Trotter who was very well satisfied with it. I talked to Perry [Lesh] after he got back from the O.P. today and he said that he saw over fifty horses in a corral behind Chateau de St. Marie during the afternoon. He also said that the flies bothered the horses that we ride to the O.P. so bad that they bled. All of our horses have their tails cropped and we usually tie small branches of trees on their tails so that they can switch the flies off.

May 24, 1918: - This morning [George A.] Aurine, [James V.] Fox and I went up to the O.P. We pulled the instruments up into the tree and set them up ready to do our day’s work. We brought the scope along because yesterday in pulling the tripod up into the tree the strap broke and consequently the tripod was broken. The straps on the scissor case are also weak so we have sent it in to the saddler to be fixed. We saw nothing out of the usual all day long and our visibility was very good. The rain last night left the weather very cool and it was very much of a relief from the warm weather we have been having. Going back to the battery I had a very funny accident happen to me. I claim that my horse has a very funny and undesirable shape. He is shaped so that the cinch will not stay forward and after riding hard it always slips back and consequently loosens up. I was dodging from side to side so as to avoid the low branches along the narrow path that we always take. The saddle slipped back and became loose; I dodged from a branch, leaning far to the side in my saddle and off I went, head first. I did not hurt myself but believe me it taught me a lesson. I sure tightened that cinch before I went any farther. Fact of the matter is I nearly took all the breath away from the horse tightening the cinch.

May 25, 1918: - There was nothing doing all day long on the other side today. Our O.P. being in the highest tree in the woods we could very easily see that far. About 5:00 we started in toward the battery. When we arrived there we ate our mess and cleaned up a bit. The ration wagon from Gelacourt was out and they had some clothes along so I drew a new blouse. I then went down to our stables and groomed my horse and then let him graze for awile. Mail came in and I received thirteen letters. I sat down and read them. It is now 10:30. I have finished reading my letters, so I am going to bed. This batch of mail has made me so homesick that I think I will sleep but little.

May 26, 1918: - This morning after eating my breakfast I saddled my horse and went in to Gelacourt. I drew another new blouse and a pair of American ‘hobs' from our Q.M. I then went on in to Baccarat where I bought a pair of wrapped putties, some service chevrons, an overseas cap and some oranges and then came back Gelacourt. There I changed my high shoes for my new American ‘hobs' and putties. I then came on out to the guns where I sat down and sewed all of the buttons on my blouse. They are never on very tight when they come to us from the Q.M. I also sewed my first gold service chevron on. (One gold chevron was awarded for every six months service overseas).

May 27, 1918: - This morning Bruning and I took the aiming circle and rode into Gelacourt, then on to Azerailles where we accurately located a new gun position for possible future use. On our way back we stopped in a cafe at Azerailles and got something to eat. While we were there we heard that a German plane had been brought down near Brouville so we started back. We stopped off just outside of Gelacourt and re-located two more reserve gun positions. From there we went on to Brouville where we stopped in the Y.M.C.A., got something to eat and then went on toward Merviller where we re-located another reserve battery position. From there we went to the guns arriving there about 5:00. We learned that the plane we had heard about while in Azerailles had been brought down just in front of our battery position in the woods. The German plane had been far over our lines and was attacked by a French plane. The French airman got the German pilot with a machine gun bullet and then with incendiary bullets set the German plane on fire. The German pilot in spite of his wound tried to volplane to the German lines but the French airman headed him off. While the plane was still over one thousand feet in the air the Captain's observer jumped out and lit about one mile from where the plane did. He had all of his clothes burnt off and his body was so badly charred that one could never have recognized it. The pilot was in the plane, strapped in; and of course was simply burnt to death. When the plane came down it was in a mass of flames and when it lit it was mashed into a thousand pieces. All of our fellows have pieces of the machine as souvenirs. After the fellows had given Sgt. Bruning and I all the information concerning the plane we went down and had our mess. While we were eating we were told that someone would have to stay at the O.P. all evening, until about 10:00 or so; Perry [Lesh] had started in, so naturally the lot was mine. When I had finished mess I went down to the billets, saddled my horse and started off. I took nothing but a pair of glasses along. On my way I ran in to a group of infantry boys carrying the body of the dead German observer Captain. Following these boys came several wagons loaded with the remains of the aeroplane. Just before I entered the big woods while going through an open field I chased up a little red fox, and while I was chasing him I ran into his mate. I was nearly on both of them but they made a sharp turn and ran on in to the woods. They were two of the prettiest little animals I have ever seen. I got up into the O.P. about 7:00; immediately hooked a phone on and called in to the battery. I then started my watch over the German lines. I saw very many gun flashes back of the German lines. I tried to locate these batteries as accurately as possible so that they could be destroyed. About 9:00 while I was sitting up in the tree I heard the chatter of a German machine gun but thought nothing of it. I also heard a few of the twigs in the trees close by snap but still I did not get wise. I had lighted a cigarette and of course tried to keep the little light from it hidden but evidently I did not for before I knew it the twigs in my tree were being snapped and then I realized that I was being fired upon by German machine guns. I lost no time in getting down out of the tree, and all of the time I had my pistol ready to fire if I found it necessary. My watch had certainly been a lonely one because I was all by myself and it was very dark so I took no unnecessary chances. When I started in toward the battery it was about 10:00 but before I left the front lines I got the pass word from the infantry men because I could not have gone very far without it. The pass words were rather comical but even so they were words that hardly anyone would think of, “Suffering Suez”. I had to get off my horse seven times on the way in and repeat the pass words to the guards that I passed. I had not left the big woods before quite a little barrage started and of course it was a sight to see all of the different star shells going up into the air. I could look back and see red, white, and green flares all through the heavens and it seemed as though all of the guns on the front were firing. Red flares are the signal to stop a barrage, green ones are gas signals and the white ones are used to light up ‘No Man’s Land’ after night. I got back to the battery about 11:15 and they had gotten a gas alert signal. That means that everyone should be prepared for a gas attack. Last night we had three false alarms but tonight we really expect a real one. I am now going to bed, it is 12:00.

May 28, 1918: - I went up to the guns until about 10:30. Just before noon mess some more propaganda balloons came over. Perry [Lesh] up at the O.P. caught one of them and is going to bring it in when he comes, he also said that there was very little activity. It is now 11:00 and I am going to bed fully expecting another false gas alarm. We heard late this evening that another German drive had started to the north of us.

May 29, 1918: - This morning [Russell] Lamkin and I went up to the O.P. We were all pretty tired as we had two gas alarms during the night but as usual, they were false. These gas alarms are very far reaching because every out-fit has a guard on during the night and these guards pick up any gas alarm that they happen to hear. For instance, if an out-fit two or even four miles to our left or right should happen to have a real gas attack they would immediately start to ‘honk’ their klaxons and fire two shots from a rifle which is a gas alarm signal. This signal is passed up and down the lines as all of the guards pick it up and most of the time the gas never reaches so far as this, thus all of the false alarms. Last night the artillery and machine gun fire was pretty heavy and it helped to keep us awake most of the night. I stayed up in the O.P. all afternoon and saw but very little until about 3:00 when I happened to turn my glasses toward Chateau de St. Marie where to my surprise I saw about forty horses grazing out in the open quite near the old chateau. Even though we have seen so little activity we have good reason to believe that the Germans are strengthening their lines along this front. I have seen quite a few very nice air battles lately, they seem to be coming out more since the weather is so nice. I am now sleeping with a little Roumanian, as Jimmy [James V.] Fox is up at the guns this week. Ruso is sleeping with me because the rats bothered him too much where he was. Ruso was transferred to us from some other outfit and is a private on one of the gun squads. His father was a Colonel in the Roumanian army and after an advance made by the Germans was trapped in a room. After he had killed a few of the Germans he turned the gun upon himself rather than be captured.

May 30, 1918: - Decoration Day and it has been no different to me than any of the preceding days. Wish I were home enjoying a good five hundred mile automobile race. I spent the morning making a sector sketch of the territory to the left of Chateau de St. Marie. During the afternoon I saw several horses grazing near the chateau and after I had watched them for awhile I leaned against the guard rail of the platform and went to sleep for awhile. The weather has been beautiful and I have certainly been feeling very fine lately. I believe this out-of-door life is sure agreeing with all of the fellows because I never hear any of them complain.

May 31, 1918: - I stayed at the guns all day long. The ‘snow’ around the battery is that we are to stay here a while longer but I surely hope not, they also say that the Germans are going through the Allies to the north of us, that is why we are to stay here for a while longer. It is now 9:40 and it is still light. I can hear many machine guns firing farther up in the lines and I suppose there is some real action for a wonder. Many planes are up during the day now and they stay up very much later now since it stays light so long. We had another fake gas alarm last night and the fellows are getting so they don’t pay any attention to them any more.
June 1, 1918: - This morning I went up to the guns. Jimmy [James V.] Fox and I sat down and worked a firing data problem and then [Sgt. Bryant W.] Gillespie showed me around the guns and explained the different parts because I have never had anything to do with the guns before this. At 1:00 I stood 45 minutes of gun drill with Sgt. Gillespie’s gun section just to get familiar with the duties of a cannonier. We also had 15 minutes of drill with our gas masks on. The rest of the fellows worked on the big dug-out.

June 2, 1918: - Since the flies have been so bad for the horses here in the woods we have started tying them in the little sheds in the woods not far from the O.P. and quite near the infantry kitchens. When we got to the O.P. we found that our line was out so [Carl] Moorman immediately started out to repair it. When he found the break it sure made him sore as our own engineers had deliberately driven through it with a team. During the afternoon our 75s and the French 75s fired quite a bit on a lean-to on the camouflaged road between Under Champs and Domevre. Some heavier guns also fired on the camouflaged road between Blamont and Barbas. At 4:00 the Germans started to fire and of course our line went out after the first few shots. Several shells lit directly in Migneville and several lit in the little group of firs between the battery and Migneville. While the Germans were firing I was able to pick up the smoke from their batteries and on closer observation was able to locate two of their batteries. In a few days they will be no more. The Germans are now dropping, at a three minute interval, some three inch shells which are lighting about four hundred feet in front of our battery position. I have noticed too that about four out of ten of them are ‘Duds’ or, shells that do not explode. Tomorrow, Sgt. Bruning and I are going out to scout for a new O.P. because we want to get one way to the left of our present one so that we can see up the valley from Under Champs. Things are livening up a bit and the Captain before we started gave us strict orders to see that our pistols were in good working order for it is possible that we may run into a little more action than we expect. We will be in territory that is absolutely strange to us and we will be within easy rifle shot of the Germans.

June 3, 1918: - Our regiment is now on the extreme left end of the American sector and the French have all of the territory between here and Luneville. Bill [Sgt. Bruning] and 1 left our horses in Migneville and walked up the rest of the way. After we had jaunted around in the big woods for about an hour we found a tree that we thought would be just the thing for the new O.P. so we proceeded to make a wire tree-climber and finally Sgt. Bruning started up the tree. The first branches were about twelve feet from the ground and Bruning was about two feet from them when the wire climber broke and down Bruning came. He lit square on his neck and it is a wonder that he did not hurt himself, but luck was with him and he only jarred himself up a bit. I then tried it without the climber and I got to the same spot where Bill had fallen from and my strength gave way so I let go and came down. I lit on my feet, but not right, and I gave my ankle a slight sprain. We then decided that our tree was not so good as we thought it might be and we started in search of another. We found two or three that we thought would be good but after we had climbed them we found that they were not as good as our old O.P. in our sector so we then started to scout around merely to see what could be found of interest. While we were looking around we ran into a bunch of Frenchmen and they took us to their O.P. which was sure a peach as far as comfort and height was concerned, but their view only took in the little village of Domevre. We then decided that a better place than our old O.P. could not be had. From this French O.P. we could look back into the woods to our right and see Perry [Lesh] sitting in our O.P. After we had talked to these French soldiers for a while we started back. We walked back in to Migneville, got our horses and rode into the battery. Just after mess we found out that the second platoon was to be sent to an advance position, I don’t know just how far forward; Bruning is going along. Perry and I are going to stay here with the first platoon. While I was up in the big woods today I saw some very wonderful machine gun and rifle posts which had complete command of the road through the woods; they had been built in preparing for another German drive through this sector. I also saw some fine dug-outs, kitchens, sleeping quarters, etc. My sprained ankle is hurting pretty badly this evening and I think that I will now go to bed and get a good rest.

June 4, 1918: - This morning [Claude] Moulden and I went up to the O.P. French and American 75s did a fair amount of firing during the day and a German battery in the Bois de Trion fired on the road leading from Migneville to Vaxainville nearly all day long. They also fired on E Battery of the 149th but they did not do any damage. Moulden had to repair our line nine times during the day due to this shell fire. About noon I began feeling very ‘bum’ and by 3:00 I could hardly stay up in the tree. I think I am getting the 'grip’ because I ache all over and my back is very sore. I also saw some Medics bring in a dead ‘doughboy’. He was pretty well torn up from the burst of shrapnel that had fallen near him. About 4:00 we went in to the battery and I did not eat much evening mess as I am feeling awfully bad. Hope I am feeling a great deal better by tomorrow morning.

June 5, 1918: - Luck was not with me today and when I woke up I felt so ‘bum’ that I stayed in bed and did not get up until 10:30. I had a fever of 104 degrees last night, but this morning it was only 101 so they did not send me to the hospital. Many of the fellows have been feeling ‘bum’ and quite a few of them have been sent to the hospital. It is something like the ‘flu’. Perry [Lesh] and [Claude] Moulden went up to the O.P. today but they came in at 3:00 because Perry got this fever while he was up at the O.P. I received three letters and then came back down to the billets where I sat down to try to answer at least one of them. I have my 45 lying here on the table side of me for the sole purpose of shooting rats as they come snooping around my door.

June 6, 1918: - The first thing we heard this morning over the communique was that the U.S.S. President Lincoln had been sunk after it had made five successful trips across. This is the boat that all of our battery came across on. I have a fierce headache and backache. By noon I had only enough ‘pep’ left to go up to noon mess and after I had finished eating I came back to the billets and wrote some letters. About 3:00 I lay down and there I stayed until evening mess. I brought food down for [Bryant W.] Gillespie, [James V.] Fox, [Howard H.] Maxwell and Perry [Lesh], as all of them are feeling too sick to get up for mess. Fox didn’t want his so I sat there and nibbled away on the toast and steak I had brought down for him. About 8:00 I began to feel the effects of eating too much evening mess, and I sure got sick. The doctor came down and gave me some medicine and I had a ‘deuce’ of a time all night long. Between Jimmy [Fox] and I, both sick and also swatting at rats as they came in the door, hardly anyone could have slept.

June 7, 1918: - While we were in bed last night the second platoon came back. They only took this position temporarily as they thought the Germans were going to drive toward Baccarat. Jimmy [James V. Fox] and I got up about 8:30 and did nothing but lie around all morning. At evening mess time I felt well enough to go down to mess, and we sure had a wonderful meal of lettuce salad, roast beef, browned potatoes and dumplings. I ate all that I could hold because never since I have been in the army have I had such a good meal. Thus far I have felt no ill effects from it. After the meal, [Kenneth] Simms, who works in our Q.M. came out with some clothes and I was lucky enough to get a tight fit in a pair of trousers. I also drew two new suits of summer underwear and all of the fellows were issued a box from the “Judge Trench Xmas. Association”, a little late but nevertheless it contained some very good things, talcum, tooth paste, etc. Jimmy and I then wrote some letters and then we went to bed.

June 8, 1918: - The Captain came down to see the sick boys this morning and you should have seen the fellows crawling in bed as he came around. We are pretty sure that we are going to move soon because the Battalion is taking down their telephone wires between the battery and Bn. Hdqrs. We found a magnifying glass this morning and everybody has been using it to look at pictures that have been sent them from home. I got a pair of issue spurs today when the ration wagon came out. I also received some mail and some pictures from cousin Pauline [Ballweg]. All the pictures I have received from home I have tacked up on the wall and they sure look good.

June 9, 1918: - I went up to the O.P. this morning, but there was little doing. Things were so quiet that at 4:00 we started back for the battery. I might mention here that the bridge over the Seine River at Bacarrat, is mined ready to be blown up should the occasion arise. According to the boast of the Germans, this is the year that Bacarrat is to be taken without the least trouble to the Germans. It is funny to watch the fellows who go to the hospitals from here. Fellows who can sit up are required to change machines several times between here and the hospital and they also have to take care of their baggage so when asked whether or not they can sit up they say ‘‘No” and of course they are then taken care of. Several of the fellows are getting some very good pictures. Of course we are not supposed to have cameras along but one can always slip something over on any of them. We can not get them developed so we are saving all of our rolls until we get somewhere to have them taken care of. As a whole we are pretty well fixed now, we always have plenty of smoking and good food as well as a pretty fair place to sleep. Every one seems to be in pretty fair spirits but we are all wishing for home. It stays light until about 9:30 now and one can get quite a few letters written during these spare moments after supper. Our horses are getting along very fine and we take a great deal of pleasure in riding them. There is very little doing up at the front and outside of a few occasional shellings things are very quiet.

June 10, 1918: - It started raining about 12:00 last night and this morning it is very miserable. Bruning and I went up to the O.P. We did not go up to observe but to run a traverse from the old O.P. to the new one so that we could locate it accurately. The co-ordinates of this O.P. we will send in to the Bn. Hdqrs. so that they can locate targets in regard to this new O.P. This work took us until noon and then we started back to the battery. Perry [Lesh] and Pete [Clarence E. Clift] went to Baccarat today and brought some American cigars, a few little cakes and some Melachrino cigarettes back and we spent the rest of the afternoon eating and smoking. At 5:00 we went up to evening mess and there noticed that all of our officers are out here at the guns, so we think that there is going to be something doing before long.

June 11, 1918: - This morning I went up to the O.P. and took Joe [Joseph L.] Simms along with me as a telephone operator. Sgt. Bruning and [Perry] Lesh stayed at the guns. We got up to the O.P. in due time but visibility was so poor that I could not even see Chateau de Saint Marie all day long; I didn’t eat any evening mess because I just felt good and lazy enough not to walk up after my mess. About 7:00 Perry came down to the barracks and we saddled up and went to Reherrey after some mail, but to our dismay we got only a sack of papers and the fellows were sure disappointed. Sgt. [Cecil L.] York and Sgt. Bruning and I sat around for awhile talking and then we went to bed.

June 12, 1918: - This morning Sgt. Bruning and I slept until about 8:30, Perry [Lesh] and [Joseph L.] Simms went up to the O.P. Just as we were getting up one of the fellows from the gun position came down and told Bruning that the divisional inspecting officer was going to visit the O.P., so Bruning missed his breakfast and immediately went up to the O.P. There is a French newsboy who comes every day and while at mess I bought a New York Daily Mail and a Herald [Paris editions] and then went down to the billets and read all about the war. The weather is as wonderful as one could wish for and the fellows are getting over their spells of fever and are rounding back into shape again. They are in very good spirits but are disgusted because we have not more real fighting to do, and outside of a few stray shells coming over once in awhile this is just like seeing how long one can live away from home, contented under these conditions. During evening mess Sgt. Bruning and I decided to take a ride, so immediately after mess we got our horses and went to Ogerviller about six kilometers from our gun position over in the French territory. There we stopped off, went into a cafe and had something to eat and drink. About 7:00 we started back and we rode very slow and enjoyed the country as we went along. When we got back we put our horses away, gave them some hay for the night and then went out in the open to watch five Boche planes that were being fired on by French antiaircraft guns. It is now 8:40 still very light and before long we will be hopping away to bed, Oh boy it’s a tough life ????

June 13, 1918: - After I had finished eating breakfast I took my horse down to the water trough, soaped him up and gave him a good washing. I then went in to our desk where I wrote quite a few letters and read some of the old newspapers from home. We had a very good noon mess and the fellows sure enjoyed it because it is very seldom we get a meal that looks real good and then too thoughts of a good meal at home make it so much worse. Bill [Bruning] and I took a ride after evening mess and about 8:00 we arrived in Benamenil where we stopped into an American-Franko Y.M.C.A.; there we bought some cakes and chocolate and then went out into the village to look around. I was very much surprised while walking around; the village was full of French colored [Moroccan] troops all packed up and ready to pull out. I stopped to talk to one of these negroes and it seemed very strange to me when he threw up his hands as much as to say, “You’ll have to speak French to me”. It had never occurred to me that a negro could speak anything but the American language. About 8:45 we started back and we had to hurry because we were sixteen kilometers from our guns. On our way back we stopped at Pettonville and bought a few eggs for our breakfast in the morning. We arrived at the battery about 10:00, stopped at the telephone dug-out where we read some of the communique and then went down to our billets, put our horses away and went to bed.

June 14, 1918: - We have given our O.P. a name so that when we phone down to the battery no one can tell just where it is, except the men who know the name. In naming it we thought of home and called it W.I., meaning West Indianapolis. Our line to the Battery is again out and it probably will remain so unless they change it because constant shell fire on the Montigny-Migneville road keeps it pretty well broken up. At 4:80 [Carl] Moorman and I started in to the battery but we had to take the long way because the Boche were dropping shells (220s) on the road we usually take which is a short cut. I made a sketch of about 500 mils farther to the right in our sector today, I now have about 1450 mils finished. We spent the evening talking to Cpl. Helt from Bn. Hdqrs. who came over to see us; he gave us all the dope about leaving and he seems to think that we will leave about next Sunday or Monday. Our Division [Forty-second] has been on the front 100 days continuous now and that is the longest time that an American Division has held a sector by itself so far.

June 15, 1918. - As we were going to the O.P. this morning we passed a French battery of 75s right out in an open field, they were firing with aerial observation and just finished as we passed. They immediately took in their signal panels and limbered their pieces and started away, and I want to say they sure worked with system. We had not gone far before their observation plane came back from the front and just as we were saying to one another how fine the plane looked, the pilot made a big dip right down toward us. He came within 100 feet of the ground and directly over our heads, and as he passed the observer stood up and waved both hands at us. They were going I should judge about 70 miles an hour and we could see all parts of the plane and the men in it very well. It was sure a sight. We got to the O.P. and put all of our junk up in the tree and there we stayed until about 2:00 when it clouded up and started to rain. We then took all of our stuff down out of the tree, ate our lunch and fed our horses and still it rained so we started into the battery. We arrived at the battery about 3 :00 put our instruments away and were then told that we would have to turn in all blankets but one so I don’t know how we will keep warm but I suppose we will make out some way.

June 16, 1918: - This morning when we got up it was very cloudy and miserable. Bill [Bruning] and I saddled up and went up to the O.P. We took all of the sketches along that I had made, checked them over and made a few corrections. I then started on a sketch 500 mils to the right so as to take in all of our sector that could be seen. After I had finished the 500 mils Bruning and I started in toward the battery. On the way in we examined a few shell holes and collected the noses of quite a few of the larger shells just to show the fellows back at the battery. During the afternoon at the O.P. Perry made a sketch 500 mils farther on to the right, so that makes 2450 mils, which finishes the sketch in this sector. Sgt. Bruning took the sketch up to the Captain and he put his O.K. on it, so the next thing is to trace it so that it can be sent in to the divisional intelligence officer. [Carl] Moorman will start the tracing of it tomorrow.

June 17, 1918: - Last night was a very miserable night; I was awakened by the hard rain about 2:00 and I never did go back to sleep again. This morning at time to get up it was still raining and so Sgt. Bruning and I stayed in bed until nearly 10:00. [Carl] Moorman started on the tracing of the sketch about 10:30 and I helped him as much as I could. We worked until about 4:00 and then gave it up until tomorrow because it is a very tiresome job. Two caissons and two escort wagons came out during the day and were loaded with ammunition and then went back in to Gelacourt. That is always done when they are preparing to move so I suppose we will not be here very long any more. While up at evening mess every man got two boxes of hard tack and two cans of ‘corned willie’, these are supposed to be our traveling rations. Bruning and I did not stay up at the kitchen very long, we came back to the billets, saddled up and went way up past Migneville to try to find some real straight waterbirch saplings to make new aiming posts out of. Bruning and I are very disgusted with this life and we have decided that if things do not go better we are going to ask for a transfer either to the intelligence department or to the tank corps.

June 18, 1918: - This morning when we got up it was still very cloudy; Bruning and I got up for breakfast because they had pan-cakes and believe me all of the fellows were there. Immediately after breakfast [Carl] Moorman started to work on the tracing, Perry [Lesh] did not go up to the O.P. because it was so very hazy and misty. About 8:80 just as Bruning was leaving for a trip in to Gelacourt Pete [Clarence E.] Clift came out to act as operator for awhile. Bruning and I went down to the kitchen and ‘bummed’ a steak sandwich which we had to hide away in our shirts until we got to our room in the billets, for if we had shown them to the fellows all of them would have been down to the kitchen trying to get something to eat. I believe it is the first steak sandwich I have had since I have been on the front. At 5:30 all of us went up to evening mess and it surely was a good one, we had steak, potatoes, sugar, coffee, bread and jam.

June 19, 1918: - This morning Pete [Clarence E.] Clift and I went up to the O.P. and since I have had a few days away from it the ride up and through the woods to the O.P. was certainly a delightful change. The Boche have been shelling all during the night, it seems as though they are shelling all of the small villages behind our gun position. When we got as far as Migneville we found little groups of ‘doughboys’ all along the road with their gas masks at the alert position and we then found out that the Germans had put over a very great deal of gas during the night. We also noticed that several of the houses in Migneville were on fire and that the country in and around Migneville was simply full of shell holes. The village was still being shelled at intervals and the ‘doughboys’ at first were not going to let us pass but we convinced them that we had to get up to our O.P. so they let us pass on. Pete [Clarence E.] and I put our gas masks at the alert position and went through the streets at a gallop. As we passed along we could see the heads of many ‘doughboys’ sticking out of the shell proof dug-outs and nearly all of them yelled at us to “make it snappy”. When out of the village we took the short cut toward the O.P., we could very easily be seen by German observation balloons but we kept on going at a good rate. We had just entered the big woods at the little tramway and everything seemed normal when suddenly we smelled the rich sweet odor of phosgene gas. We immediately dropped our reins and put on our gas masks as both of us knew just what it was, we then made haste and took the little tramway leading through the woods. Through our masks we could even smell the gas along the tramway and between the tracks and along the edge there were several large shell holes which had been made during the night. When we got as far as the infantry kitchens along the main road we took our gas masks off, tied our horses over in the little sheds and went on up to the O.P. Shells are bursting within from three to four hundred meters from the O.P. but none of them are close enough to do any damage. The French have started to fire and the shells are whizzing over my head from both sides, visibility is very good. At mess today we gave our bacon sandwiches to some ‘doughboys’, as all of their food had been spoiled by the gas and we started in toward the battery. We wore our gas masks all the way through the woods and had no trouble at all.
When we got to Migneville all of the ‘doughboys’ were hanging around their dug-outs ready for a shelling at any time, we got through without a mishap but we had not gone far out of the village before we heard the shells falling in the streets again. When we got to the billets [Latham W.] Connell and [Carl] Moorman had started to take down the telephone wire to the O.P., they slire will have some job because this wire runs through the big woods and nearly directly through the village of Migneville. While I was there I got a month’s pay and I immediately bought some chocolate and cakes and started back to the battery. The battery at Gelacourt were all packed and ready to leave at a moment's notice The battery is now firing on Barbas, a little village behind the German lines. This is retaliation fire. After mess Bruning and I stayed around the guns and watched for enemy planes while the battery fired. I fired about twenty rounds and then I went down to the billets and got all of my junk ready so that I could leave at any time. All indications are that we will leave here tonight sometime. I do not know just where we will go, some say to another front and others say that it will be our first step towards home.

 

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