October 1918

Cap-ID-hero-oct

October 1/18

Great news today. Bulgaria has accepted all of the Allie’s proposals and an armistice has been declared.* That is just the beginning, Turkey will be next, then Austria. This morning I heard wild exclamations from a number of French soldiers gathered near a fire and upon investigation found that the morning papers had been received and they were elated over the news. Some more great news.

The Battle of Dobro Pole was fought in present day Macedonia.

The Battle of Dobro Pole was fought in present day Macedonia.

I had a real sure enough shower bath today in Les Islettes, a town where the Headquarters of the 28th Div. is located. Nobody will ever realize except those of us in France what a real bath means after plowing around in the mud of the trenches and elsewhere. We are still camped in the woods away from aeroplane observation immediately behind the front lines, expecting orders to move up any minute. Our big guns are right along side of us and are pounding away all the time. Every time I hear a door slam I jump about ten feet. It’s great on your nerves.

*The Battle of Dobro Pole was fought on September 15 and resulted in Bulgaria’s only defeat during the war. The country was forced to capitulate two weeks later, on September 29. 

October 2/18 

Just a line tonight as my old head is pounding and I must retire to my little bed of straw up in the corner of the old stable with the other cattle. I received orders to move my outfit on up tomorrow so must be up bright and early to supervise the loading.

I must have gotten rid of the cooties with that hot shower I took yesterday—some relief—but was up many times last night chasing the enormous rats away from my chosen corner. One of them was easily as large as my setter dog at home. Think they had a little reunion last night, several of the le rats back ‘on leave,’ no doubt. Anyway they sure were squealing their delight all night. Between them and the Boche shells I got a good nights rest.

Our outfit is certainly somewhat changed—the Colonel gone, Capt. Roberts at school—Lieut. Jackson & Haverstick transferred and McCarty under arrest. Mc got too much wine under his belt and messed things up considerably. Too bad.

“Mc got too much wine under his belt and messed things up considerably.”

October 9/18

Over a week since I have written anything in this little book and so much has happened that I’m afraid it will be impossible for me to remember the most interesting things. But to start, back on the 3rd I moved my outfit up with the rest of the regiment. The P.C. is located in a little two-by-four shack in the de Argonne forest a short distance behind the lines. The first night I was up there Fritz made a heavy counter attack, our big guns were in position immediately behind us. At eleven thirty they started a barrage and from then until day break at 5:30 a.m. there was a rain of lead. Before Fritz had gotten far in his counter attack we started one which drove him back. How our guns did pound away. Imagine if you can fifty guns firing at the rate of 30 shots a minute or until they became so hot that an egg placed upon one will become cooked in less than 2 minutes. One of our big navy guns firing about 20 miles was in position just a short distance away, our little shack quivered at its every shot.

Argonne_Forest_(PSF)

Took the motorcycle today and rode up to our 3rd Battalion who are in position in what was No Man’s Land before the drive. Saw the most complete system of dug outs I have seen yet. The Boche have been driven back about five miles in this section of the de Argonne—terribly hard fighting and our casualties have been extremely heavy. Talked with one officer just back from hospital who went temporarily crazy from terrific effects of shell fire—pitiful sight. Sherman was sure right—but if he was in this war he couldn’t have put it so mildly.*

temporarily-crazyAmericans have advanced their lines about as far as possible in this sector. Fighting has been terribly hard. Rumors that our division will be withdrawn and rushed by train to another sector. Orders just received state we must be prepared to move by train tonight. Orders received on the 6th to march to entraining point, St. Menehould, distance approximately 18 kilom. Got away about 4 a.m. entrained and left station 3 p.m. Regiment left in 3 sections, my detachment and wagon on the second sections. Impossible to determine our destination until arrival. All moves are necessarily very secret. Train very crowded, men packed in box cars and on flat cars—but it is a rush move so nothing matters. Arrived at detraining point, through at 4 a.m. Unloaded and marched to the [Bois de la Piece?] woods just east of Marbache and immediately behind Marbache sector. Learned today we will relieve French division in lines in two days.

No sleep, not much to eat and “tres fatigue.” Hope I will get a chance to sleep under cover tonight. Found a little shack last nigh, put my bedding roll on the floor and certainly did pound it off. One Battalion moved to front last night. I shall move up tomorrow with my outfit. First thing I heard upon arriving at this place was the distant sound of the big guns. Tho’t I had gotten away from them for a few days but no chance. Saw a paper today, first in long time, learned of the Entente Powers peace proposal—not a chance of anything like that yet, I don’t think.

*I assume he’s referring to General William Tecumseh Sherman, who famously stated “War is Hell.” The complete quote is as follows: “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.”

Isn’t it funny how idiomatic expressions change over time?

A ruined church in the Argonne forest. The structure on the left is a German observation post.

A ruined church in the Argonne forest. The structure on the left is a German observation post.

October 10/18

Was very busy all yesterday morning, up and getting ready to move my outfit up to the front. Got the wagon train off about 2 p.m. I took the side car and started out, found we needed some gas and had to run in to Nancy. Some city, the best I have seen in France. As we drove up those paved streets it made me think I was back home again. The city is really beautiful with wonderful old buildings and structures, did me good after being in the woods and mud so long. Saw some of those beautiful French women I have heard so much about—also did me good, saw one who was a motor—woman on street car that was a beauty. Sorry I could not stop there longer—a street car ride wouldn’t be too bad.

a-funny-thing-happenedStarted out for the front about 4 p.m. to Regimental P.C. which is located at Loisy—and then a funny thing happened which is worth mentioning, I believe. I was enjoying the scenery and not paying much attention to my map; did ask one m.p. the road to Loisy and he of course misdirected me. As we rode on I began to think we were off the road as the towns were completely evacuated and terribly shot to pieces. Finally I got beyond Pont à Mousson and an m.p. stopped me. It was then I found out that I really was on the wrong road and was within 1.4 of a kilom of the German lines. The Boche had been shelling the town of Pont à Mousson all day, but just at that time things were quiet—lucky for us. Lost no time in turning around and beating it for the right road.

Have spent most of the day getting things organized here at our regimental P.C. The town of Loisy is really a very pretty little place. The Boche have up to now spared it from shelling, and the buildings are in a fair state of preservation. Have got a dandy billet and am as comfortable as could possibly be expected under the circumstances. Aeroplanes are exceptionally active in this sector and almost every night Nancy and other cities are heavily bombed. Some great air battles during the day. The relieve of the crack 126th French Division has been completely accomplished without serious casualties, and the last French officer left today. Had a jolly dinner with them last night.

“I found I was on the wrong road and within 1.4 kilom of the German lines.”

October 11/18

Fritz has been unusually quiet in this sector up to now, but while I sit here writing I can hear the old shells go whining past landing somewhere on the lines of communication beyond. Pont-à-Mousson has been heavily shelled all day, reckon Heine is fearing an attack, as there has been considerable movement during the relief. Made a rush trip to Marbache, Division HQ, to see about money to pay off the regiment. Another sweet job to look forward to. Heard that some little time ago Division HQ had forwarded recommendation for my Majority and to be transferred to another Division as Statistical Adjutant. Hope it goes thru’ but promotions are hard to get in the A.E.F. and it sounds too good to be true. Read Pres. Wilson’s reply to Central Powers, a masterpiece sure, and it sure did call the German bluff.* But the end can’t be far off. Bet M. Guignard 100 frs. (*) that it will be all over by the first of January. —That will be a truly wonderful day. Some letters from home told me of Uncle Bige’s (?) death, it was mighty sad news and no one realizes more than I what big hearted and true friend we have lost. Also learned of Louett’s being drafted and sent to Camp Upton—wonder how he will like soldiering.

*Negotiations with President Wilson had begun by now, led by Prince Maximilian of Baden . He had hoped that the U.S. would offer better terms of surrender than the British and French. Instead, Wilson demanded the abdication of the Kaiser.

October 12/18

oct-12Made an inspection trip with the Colonel and Lt. de San Ceran today all thru’ the front line trenches. The most northern town we occupy in this sector is Les Menilles. From the O.P. and machine gun position there we obtained a good view of the Boche system. The trenches in this particular sector have been occupied for nearly four years, in the recent American drive (St. Michel) we were not able to push the Boche back due to the Seille and Moselle rivers. There is absolutely nothing left of the Les Menilles except the bare walls of a few houses. [Unclear] is directly in our front lines and commands a beautiful field of fire. Before going up I wrenched my ankle badly and it made the walking thru’ the trenches difficult. It is a [cinch?] that these trenches were never built for a tall man, for if it had not been for my tin hat I would have returned with fewer brains than when I started.

During our trip the Boche O.P.’s spotted our party and let fly several big boys at us. Luckily we were not at the particular spot where they concentrated their fire.

October 13/18 

Sunday and absolutely no indication that it has been a day different from the rest. One loses all track of the days and dates up here in the front lines. All days are alike, the only difference being that each successive day is one day nearer the end of the war.

The most wonderful news (or rumors) that I ever heard—The Huns have accepted Pres. Wilson’s 14 peace proposals and agreed to withdraw all forces from Allied territory.* The rumors have been persistent, coming from all sources and what a sensation it has caused, the troops are wild. Understand there is a big celebration on tonight in Nancy. Am only waiting to get it straight then I believe there will be a little celebration all of our own up here. Everything is unusually quiet tonight, absolutely no shelling, the Boche may be already beating it

—Wonderful days—

Six letters from the States today.

*This would turn out to be false. Another month of fighting lay ahead.

wonderful-days

October 16/18

Nothing exceptionally exciting has happened in the last two days. Heine has come to life again. Night before last he launched a gas attack and filled the woods full of the deadly “Mustard Gas.” It was a terrific bombardment, the Boche are now using a new kind of high explosive gas shell, it is impossible to distinguish it from the ordinary shell and therefore has its telling effects. About 72 gassed cases of men and officers have come in to me up to this time.

A victim of the mustard gas.

A victim of mustard gas (WWI).

Started paying off the troops again today. Tremendous job up here in the trenches, hope I can complete it by tomorrow. Peace prospects don’t look so good. I cannot but believe Germany has something up her sleeve and it would never do to accept her proposition. She must be licked to a frazzle and so she will be unable to ever start anything else.

October 17/18

Yesterday was exceptionally busy. Had 26 Summary Court cases to try, and being the only Summary Court Officer here at H.Q. I was necessarily on the jump all day. Most all were cases of straggling on the march and entering prohibited wine rooms, a couple of assault cases. Today went up to the first Battalion at C.R. Lesmilles, to pay companies off. Was shelling batteries and roads mighty heavy and how those old Boche 155’s did lick up the dirt and mud when they hit. Bolton who was driving side car made good time and fortunately ducked the shells and came thru’ alright. Asked an M.P if a certain road was the road to C.R. Lesmilles and he replied, “Yes—what’s left of it” and he sure was right, for it was like making your way thru’ a plowed field, all cut to pieces with shell holes.

cut-to-piecesReceived eight letters from States today, mail much more regular and coming thru’ in about 20 days, some of these were dated Sept. 24. Heine still throwing over plenty of gas shells.

October 19/18 

N.T.R. tonight.

Still in the same sector, don’t seem to be much indication of a big advance here, altho’ they have started one on our extreme left. We are right under the big guns of Metz here and until they are silenced we will not be able to do much. Started a little raid yesterday and caught a few of the Boche napping, they were buried here today in Loisy. There has been intermittent shelling by the Boche for the past few days. Intermittent—I wonder if the newspaper correspondent that coined that word knows what it means. Strong men go crazy under it, thousands are wiped out and miles of country laid desolate—intermittent shelling so often used by the newspapers—has no meaning to anyone except those who have been under it.

Intermittent shelling, so often used by the newspapers, has no meaning to anyone except those who have been under it.”

October 22/18

Have been exceptionally busy. In the trenches our work doubles and sometimes we are called upon for reports of all description even in the middle of the night—last night I got little sleep—we pulled off an attack and we were up with the Colonel at the telephone until way late. Heinie threw over plenty of gas shells and our gas sentries were busy sounding the claxons. The attack was for the purpose of getting prisoners but altho’ we penetrated far into the Boche lines we were unable to accomplish our mission. The German lines are held very thinly in this particular sector.

Last night was beautiful—absolutely full moon and a wonderful night for planes. Enemy planes came over in force and were bombing all around us. Our Archies with their search lights were exceptionally busy and at one time I counted six huge lights searching the skies within a very short distance of our P.C.

October 24/18

oct-24Plenty of excitement last night. The Boche were uneasy about something and opened up on everything and with everything. We were jumping up at all hours of the night with gas alarms and air raids. The night was beautiful and Fritz took advantage of it. One air raid about 10 p.m. and another at 1 a.m., the old bombs were dropping all around the village. If there is anything that gets a man’s [goat?] in this war it is the aeroplanes. You hear the irregular purr of the Boche machine, which is easily distinguished from our own, and then those terrific explosions which easily shake the earth. You are absolutely defenseless, for one bomb will just simply tear a house to pieces—it just gets you, that’s all. And to think that thousands of these Boche planes have been carrying on this kind of business on defenseless towns for four years—and then they want peace by compromise. Wilson’s final reply should be in two words—Unconditional surrender—.

In Watson’s (G.A.) Communiqué received from Louisville yesterday I learned of Britt Journey’s death here in France—mighty too bad, a fine fellow.

October 26/18 

Well, today is my birthday and it certainly has been one that I will always remember. Nothing unusual has happened but I cannot but look back and think under what conditions my 28th birthday was spent. In the front line, in a war that has involved almost every nation on the globe, and fighting an enemy that has shown absolute disregard for the laws of mankind and of a civilized race.* No, I shall never forget my 28th birthday—Loisy—France front line trenches—25 kilom. from the fortress of Metz, and under its very big guns.

*Yep, it was a different time.

today-is-my-birthday

October 28/18 

Today has been another one of wonderful prospects and possibilities—Austria surrenders, Berlin asks for terms of armistice. —It’s all too good to be true—there was wild excitement outside our P.O. when the news was first received. Later received word from Div. HQ that reliable information received there indicated that the enemy on our front has withdrawn so we immediately sent our troops forward, encumbered hostile artillery and M.G. fire and had several casualties but kept going. Gained contact with Boche and went far beyond his trenches but did not attempt to hold territory. Being right under the big guns of Metz it is impossible to hold advance territory until those are silenced or the city is completely taken.

Am looking for some wonderfully big things to happen before the week is up.

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1 Comment so far

  1. Betsy Dexter

    Another great post. Cap’s comment about “intermittent” shelling is poignant. Never heard him speak a word about his experiences in the war.

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