|Type written manuscript by an unidentified member of Company F, 150th Machinegun Battalion, 42nd Division during World War I. The author had access to official company records and must have been an officer or a sergeant.
Brief History of Old Company "F" 2nd Wisconsin Infantry
Now Company C 150th Machinegun Battalion, 42nd Division
Better Known as "Rainbow Division"
On July 16, 1917 Company F of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry (National Guard) were stationed at their Rendezvous at their Armory on South Main Street, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Just a few months before they had returned from the Mexican Border Campaign, which some of their friends were fond of calling "a pleasure trip" at the same time referring to the boys (some of them were still boys) as "TIN SOLDIERS'. Please do not think I am casting reflections on anyone. Far be it from such, but I appeal to you, dear reader, to read this little book from cover to cover and I will do my best to interest you, while we make the trip to France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and last but not least, back again to God's Country, the good old U.S.A., and after you have read to the last page, ask yourself this question. Are they worthy of the pride, the good old City of Oshkosh takes in her sons?
Shortly after their return from the Border the men of old Company "F" returned to their former occupations, of course following the old system of going to the Armory once a week to drill. This practice was followed until April 6th, 1917; the startling news came that America had declared War on Germany. The news, of course, caused a bit of excitement at first, and one could hear "one question" whispered from one to another throughout the Armory "I wonder when we will be called out?" That seemed to be the question on everyone's mind. Soon rumors spread about of attempts to blow up the Armories, Bridges, etc., and in a few days a guard was maintained around the Armory.
About the same time there was a call for more men, at least enough to bring the old Company up to War strength but it was not long before the call was answered. Sergeants, Corporals and Privates began to bring applications into the office. Some rounded up their relatives, cousins and brothers, in fact anyone they could get to bring the Company up to the required strength.
The boys were all busy getting things in shape and getting new members, when on July 16th. 1917 the Company was called into the Federal service, Pursuant to the President's call June 3rd. 1917 and T. C. Madison, Wis., Adj. General, Kollway, dated July 12th. 1917.
From this date the boys began to eat and sleep at the Armory, and on the 16th the following men were transferred to Co. "K" of the 2nd Wis. Inf. Privates Detlaff, C. Getchus and the following were transferred to Co "H" 2nd. Wis. Inf. Pvt. F. Fabrycki, J. Jungwirth, J. Metko, J. Radke, J. Schreiber and C. A. Bryant.
During the beautiful sunny days of the latter part of July and the first of August, the Company began its training in the South Park, where frequently large crowds gathered to watch them in their close order drills and physical exercises. This drilling was continued until Sunday, August 5th, 1917 when orders were received to pack the "field ranges" rations and quartermaster supplies in cars that were standing on the St. Paul tracks and to have them all packed before night, as the Company was to leave in the morning for the mobilization point, Camp Douglas, Wisconsin
We lined up in the front of the Armory, and marched through the crowd and at last succeeded in getting aboard the train and a few minutes after the train slowly pulled out with the old Company "F" composed of three officers and one hundred and seventy-three enlisted men.
We arrived at Camp Douglas at noon and at once started to pitch the tents and get the company street in order. The following morning was spent taking care of minor details around camp and at 5:00 P.M. the company was lined up and mustered into Federal Service by Capt. D. L. Remington, 3rd Wisc. Inf.
A few days later the boys were lined up and marched down to the range house for a physical inspection which proved very cold, and a drizzling rain was falling but it did not take very long and we were all fully dressed and back on the company street in due time. At regular intervals during inoculation with Typhoid Fever and Para Typhoid Serum and also vaccination all of which left us with a rather sore arm.
A few days later the following men were discharged on S.O.D. per 1st. Ind. A. std. mustering officer auth. tel. A.G.O. April 21st, 1917: Sgt. Alvin Zimmerman, Pvt. 1/c L. Fletcher, F. Balke, F. Kinderman, John Lang, Roy Mork, Herman Steckbauer, Edward Shabloski, Otto Thurm, Russel De Bolt, Michael Bloechel and Edward Dehl.
On August 9th the following men who had served three years with the colors but who were still serving in their three years' reserve, were assigned to the company per S.O. #9 Hqs. Mobilization Camp August 9th, 1917 Kurt Graf, G. Hafeman, A. Schneider, G. Luther, W. Pechmann and Adolph Sphatt.
On August 16th this company was ordered to form the 3rd. Company, 150th Machine Gun Battalion, 63rd. Inf. 42 Div. (Rainbow) per R.S.O. #69, Extract August 16th, 1917 and later in the day we received thirteen unassigned recruits attached to Co. "M" 2nd Wisconsin Infantry two unassigned recruits attached to Supply Company D 2nd Wis. Inf. three unassigned recruits attached to the same were transferred to the same.
On the same day we received the following Officers, 1st. Lt. Wm. Wolf Co. (H) 2nd Lt. Stanley Smith (M.G.Co. 2nd Wis. Inf.) 2nd Lt. Aug Wolf (Co. "C" 2nd Wis.) and at about the same time the 150th machine Gun Battalion composed of the following Companies sprang into life. Company "C" 2nd. Wis. (1st. Co.) Company "E" 2nd. Wis. Inf. (2nd Co.) and Company "F" 2nd Wis. Inf. (3rd Co.) The Headquarters Company was taken from Company "M" 2nd. Wis. Inf.
In choosing the men for this battalion only the flower of the Badger State Troops were taken, so naturally the boys of these companies felt rather elated and went about their duties with new life and pride, until September 2nd 1917 when the following order was published before the company.
150th Machine Gun Battalion
83rd. Inf. Brigade
Camp Douglas, Wis. Sept. 2nd, 1917
General Orders: #1
Pursuant the telegraphic instructions from the commander of the 150th M.G.B.83rd Inf. Brig. 42nd Div. will commence entraining on September 3rd. 1917 at 4:00 P.M. for Camp Mills, Garden City, Long Island.
The first section under command of Maj. Hall and train quartermaster 2nd. Lt. Wolf will consist of Headquarters detachment and the 3rd. Co. (Old Co. "F") plus 8 members of the sanitary detachment and the dental surgeon.
The second section under command of Capt. Graff and the train quartermaster Lt. J. Smith will consist of the 1st and 2nd companies plus Lt. Frawly and two members of the Sanitary detachment.
Tents will be struck up in the morning after breakfast. Wagons for loading will be furnished by Lt. Col. C. B. Williams.
Stoves will be set up in the baggage cars. In the morning cold lunch is to be served with hot coffee.
Non commissioned officers will be seated near the door of the car and will be responsible for the prevention of men passing from the car with out passes signed by the train commissioner.
By order of Major Hall
Allen H. Ellis 1st. Lt. 150 M.G.Bn. 83rd. Inf. Brig. Battalion Adjutant.
Imagine the excitement, if you can, that ran through the camp on receipt of the order and the busy scenes that followed with every one preparing for the trip and as the orders were published on Sunday, a day when many friends and relatives of the boys came down to Camp to say the last Good Byes. It made matters still more vexing and not a few of the boys scratched their heads in disgust and despair after a lengthy conversation with their dear ones in a vain effort to get them home before the company would leave on the following day.
On the morning of September 3rd., 1917 we struck the tents shortly after breakfast, the rest of the morning being spent polishing, loading baggage, etc., and that being finished we lounged around until about 3:00 P.M. when we were lined up and marched down to the train, but before the train pulled out every band in the town and camp was lined up along the tracks, and it seemed as though each one was trying to outdo the other in giving the 150th M.G.Bn. a glorious sendoff. At 4:00 P.M. the train consisted of five Pullman sleepers, one baggage car and one kitchen car where the meals were prepared on field ranges, pulled slowly out of Camp Douglas while the boys who stayed behind cheered themselves hoarse and the bands began to play all the old songs we love as "On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin" and as the notes of the old song echoes from the "ink stand" to the "Castle Rock" and back, the boys began to realize and to grasp the significance of the whole thing in depending on them to protect their interest and represent her in the great struggle until the rest of her sons could be sent over there.
Soon the bands began playing that old familiar hymn, "God be with you till we meet again" and as the last notes died away in the distance we resolved that the people of old Wisconsin would never regret the choices they had made in choosing her troops for the Rainbow Division.
After the train pulled out of Camp Douglas the boys all settled down to various games that were started as a pastime and in this way we amused ourselves until super time. Our supper was composed of tomatoes and beans, bread, jam and coffee. But a lot of stuff came from home. It was just growing dark when we had finished eating supper and in a few minutes we pulled into Madison. Of course, many questions were asked as to where we were going but we did receive our orders and we did not know anything about it.
At 8:00 P.M. we crossed the boundary line into Illinois and now, dear reader, I will simply outline the route we took as the journey was rather long and tedious. We hit Chicago at 10:30, got a new engine and crew and were transferred to the "Erie Road", then crossed into Indiana and at 11:00 P.M. we were in Hammond, Indiana. At about 7:00 A.M. the next day we crossed into Ohio. Here we were surprised to find that the passenger trains were side tracked for us. And the boys began to wonder if the Germans were going to raid New York or what was going to happen.
When we reached Marion, Ohio, we received orders to change our watches to Eastern Time, one hour later. At about 2:00 P.M. we crossed into Pennsylvania near the town of Sharon. Here we began to notice the beautiful hills and as the railroads wind in between them. Through Pennsylvania and New York it was rather hard to get a seat at the windows. By that time the boys had gathered a fair list of Post Cards and addresses and here and there one could see a boy hastily writing a card, to be dropped from the window, at the next town as they knew that the Red Cross was on the job and would take care of the cards, just as well as the Postal authorities did it themselves.
At 3:00 P.M. we struck for the small city of Meadville where we stopped and were ordered out for exercise, and it certainly felt good, the first chance to stretch ourselves in twenty-four hours. After starting again we passed the one-half sign (half way) to New York from Chicago and about 5:45 we passed into the great state of New York, but we were still surrounded by hills and we passed through several tunnels and at 7:00 P.M. we stopped at a town called "Salemanka" just long enough to change engines. After that darkness overtook us and most of us went to sleep early as we had not slept very soundly the night before.
On the next morning we had breakfast at the usual time, also usual menu. Presently a wave of excitement went through the train. We were nearing the big city of New York. The trip had been an interesting one and the boys had had lots of opportunities to send Post Card scenes of the various points of interest along the trip. But I believe Barney the Dental Surgeon has the record. It is said of him that he wrote enough Post cards to be able to drop one off at every town along the route from New York to Chicago.
We were now nearing New York. In the distance one can see the smoke of the big city and now and then a church spire or tower. At 8:30 A.M. the train was pulled on a side track and in place of the big steam locomotive which took us from Pennsylvania an electric train was hitched to the cars. About this time the conductor came in and gave orders to dump all fires on the train, as we were going through the tunnel. At 9:40 we entered the Pennsylvania tunnel and in just about five minutes we were at the Pennsylvania Station, the largest in the world.
At 10:05 we entered the Long Island tunnel which has a length of about three miles and goes under the Hudson River and part of the city of New York. This time we were in darkness for about ten minutes and after emerging from the tunnel we passed the most beautiful place along the whole route, the "Floral Park". One is almost spell-bound when going through the miles and miles of flowers. At last we reached our destination, Mineola, Long Island, New York.
The train had hardly stopped when all heads were at the windows looking at the first war airplane they had seen. When the train stopped all were ordered out and lined up and marched off to the Camp which was about two miles hike and arriving just in time for dinner.
Each Company Street was supplied with a mess hall, latrines and bath houses (made of burlap) but there had never been a tent pitched on the ground and the weeds on every side were four feet high and although every one was quite disgusted the Company was soon line up on the Street allotted to them and while waiting for the baggage detail to bring the tents, busied themselves in various ways. Some wrote letters, some ran to the bath house in hope they would get a bath but, alas, the water was turned off. Some went so far as to figure where their tent would stand and began cutting wood in that particular spot.
At last the baggage arrived and in due time the tents were pitched and the field range was set up in the mess hall ready for the first meal. Bunks were made and everyone was ready for the first meal in Camp Mills. On the morning of the 6th the men were informed that there would be no drilling on that day but instead the time would be devoted to ditching the tents and airing all the clothing and take a bath which proved to be very cool. Owing to hasty construction of the bath house the walls of which, as I have stated before, were made of burlap and the roof consisted of the beautiful blue sky.
On the morning of September 7th., 1917 the company started its regular drills by the following schedule: 7 to 7:30 A.M. Non-Commissioned Officers School by Company Officers. 7:30 to 7:40 talk by an officer to the company about the day's work. 7:40 to 11:30 drill 1:15 to 4:30 P.M. drill: 5:45 retreat, 7:00 P.M. Officers call 7:30 P.M. School of French (for officers). Seventeen books on modern warfare were issued to our company which the boys were supposed to read in spare time, the rest of the time we had for ourselves.
In the days that followed we saw many airplanes sailing over the camp, sometimes as many as 20 in the air at the same time reaching a speed of about 150 miles an hour. But it was not long before the novelty of seeing them wore off.
The boys had long before settled to the steady routine of work and drill. One could often hear a fellow say "how long are we going to train here." One of the nice features of Camp Mills was the passes which were given to a certain percent of men allowing them to go to New York, Hamstead, Mineola, Jamaica and other points of interest. Some of the boys were lucky enough to get a pass to Coney Island.
One little incident which occurred shortly after our arrival at Camp Mills and which may seem a bit humorous to one who went through it and was recalled to mind in after years was what nearly became the first battle the boys of the third Co. ("F") were ever in. Shortly after three a boy from Alabama, which later formed a part of the Rainbow Div., yelled Look out Wisconsin, we are coming over tonight and clean you up. The answer was "any time you're ready". The boys had heard rumors that day from other troops as to the lawlessness of the Alabama boys and there was a regiment of them and only a battalion of the Wisconsin boys. So Wisconsin was making preparations, and about dusk an outpost saw a couple of men coming through the weeds. We removed our shirts and armed ourselves with axe handles, picks and anything we could get a hold of and began to advance in file of skirmishes through the weeks and what might have been a tragedy was averted by the outposts discovering that the men were some of the Georgia boys coming over to pay us a friendly visit.
In the meantime the drilling continued and on the 23rd the 42nd Division composed of 27,000 troops, representing 28 different states passed in review before Secretary of War Newton Baker, Maj. Gen. Tasker H. Bliss, Major Gen. Wm. A. Mann (Commanding Division) Col. Douglas McArther and Brig. Gen. R. A. Brown.
Old Company "F" being one of the last Companies in the parade, was not able to get out of the parade grounds but stood along the street for nearly three hours while platoon after platoon marched by before they all fell into rank and in their proper places and marched back to camp. After supper most of the boys took in a movie at Hemsteed.
On the following day the Company took their first hike with the new packs which, by the way, did not seem to meet with very much approval by the boys. Lt. Salzieder demonstrated to us how the new pack would draw shoulders and unconsciously throw out our chest.
The next day (the ghost walked in) or in plain English, we had a payday. The next day being Wednesday, a lot of the boys went to New York City, as Wednesday afternoon was usually a half holiday. On Friday it started to rain and rained so hard that drill was suspended for the day to the joy of all in camp. The days that followed were passed without anything of special interest occurring until October 7th, when the 42nd Div. was reviewed, their final review in the good old U.S.A. and on the 8th of Oct. the battalion was paid. It rained again on the 9th, so the boys packed freight all day, getting it ready for shipment to France.
Two days later the Battalion was taken out on a ten mile hike, in heavy marching order known in the army as "full humps". We arrived back in camp in time to have the "afternoon off" to see the baseball game between the "White Sox" and the "Giants". All the baseball fans took advantage of the opportunity.
On the morning of the 18th of Oct. everything was made ready for the move. We are going to France at last. We marched out of our Company Street at 8:30 A.M. entraining at the edge of camp for Long Island City where we were marched aboard a ferry until there was standing room only and very little of that. From there we steamed down the river to Hoboken Docks where we got our first sight of anything real German. The Fatherland, the largest ship afloat, was docked very near to where we left the ferry and out in the harbor one could see the Statue of Liberty.
We marched through the docks and at once boarded the "Covington" which, by the way, had been a German ship and later was sent to the bottom by the Germans. The 150th M.G.Bn. was lucky in getting on deck above the water. The air was fresh and at 6:00 P.M. the busy little tugs towed our ship out into harbor.
The list of men who composed Co. C. and who were on the ship "Covington" is as follows:
1st. Sgt. John Dobish
Supply Sgt. Herman Sawall
Stable Sgt. Kurt Graf
Mess Sgt. Jno. T. Matschi
Sgts. Wm. Ott
Cpls. R. Procknow
Hshr. A. Castonia
Mech. I. Stelzner
L. Van Kurk
Sadler P. Graska
Cooks H. Kieckhafer
Buglers E. Baier
Pvts. 1/c P. Fauck
J. C. Fischer
Pvts. Ed. Alft
J. J. Nimmer
Capt. G. C. Schwandt
1st. Lt. R. Salzeider
1st. Lt. W. Jung
2nd. Lt. Stanley Smith
2nd. Lt. Art Bahr
2nd. Lt. Aug Wold
2nd. Lt. R. Proudfit
Many of us were lucky in getting a place at a porthole where we could see the city of New York in all its splendor of light from the river and later from the harbor.
In order to give you a vague idea of the size of the ship, I will, as near as I can give, the Organizations that were on board with the boys from old Wisconsin: First Div. Hqts. With Maj. Gen. Mann: 117th Engineers, 4th Field Hospital, Heavy Artillery of Virginia (which later became the Military Police) Field clerks and some others that I was unable to distinguish.
On the second day out at sea, or rather on the 19th. of Oct. 1917 when we rolled out in the morning old New York had passed out of view. In going through the boat one could see that the men were packed in all available space and before nightfall some of them began to get seasick as they were only allowed on deck from 6:30 to 7:00, from 10:30 to 11:30 A.M. and from 3:30 to 4:00 P.M. All portholes had to be closed at 4:30 P.M. and all lights out and the men did not get any fresh air from then until 6:30 the next morning.
The schedule for meals while on ship was arranged so as not to interfere with the deck leave. It was like - 6:30 A.M. cup of coffee and a slice of bread - 10:30 breakfast and 3:00 P.M. dinner.
On the morning of October 20th, 1917 the sea began to roll heavier and there were quite a few more sick men than on the previous day. Capt. Schwandt gave the order to the Lts. That they were to stand watch with the men on 4 hour shifts but as there were Five Lts. With the Co. viz., Lt. Wolf, Lt. Smith, Lt. Jung, Lt. Salzieder, Lt. Bahr and Lt. Proudfit (who was assigned to the Co.) at Camp Mills two or three officers from each organization were on duty at one time.
Along in the afternoon of October 20th the men noticed Lt. Bahr, "who always looked so bright and well" sitting on a hatch-way with a sort of dejected look on his face. He seemed to be slightly pale, but on looking in his direction shortly afterwards they found that the place had been deserted and Lt. Bahr was in all probability beating a hasty retreat to the stern of the ship which afforded an excellent opportunity for feeding the fish. As this was the Oshkosh hour for deck leave, the boys were all scattered around the deck enjoying the fresh air, while they had a chance and playing, while others were swapping years with the Sailors (one of whom was an Oshkosh boy, Ross) when all of a sudden a band struck up.
Some were on the forward deck playing "Oh Johnnie, Oh Johnnie, Oh" and before they had finished many of the faces that a moment before wore a look of agony were crowned with a smile and hundreds of lusty young voices had joined in the chorus. It was a miracle the way the fresh air and music worked on the one thing the boys dreaded nearly as much as a Submarine - seasickness.
The band wound up the concert with "Good bye Broadway, Hello France" which brought a cheer from everyone on deck. But all too soon the deck officer came around shouting "all machine gun men in the hole" a cry which was used by the boys long after they had reached France, whenever they thought the Company was getting the worse of any deal.
That night after they had retired with clothes on and life preserver under their pillow, many, in fact a great many of them had the sensation of feeling the whole ship rise slowly under them for a distance of about fifteen or twenty feet and then gradually fall away again. After this occurred for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes they had another sensation; every time for boat would rise it seemed that everything they possessed was coming up, eventually it did come up. One of the boys, before we sailed, was always afraid the boat would be torpedoed and now he was afraid that it would not sink.
On the next morning, which by the way, was Sunday, church services were held in the Aft dining room by Chaplain Bell of the 117th Engineers who was an excellent speaker and preached a very interesting sermon. Another little feature of the services that morning that one could not help but notice was that the large room was crowded to the very doors and every where the chaplain's voice would carry. After the services the boys were treated to another band concert, which was enjoyed by all.
After the men finished with their breakfast on the morning of the 22nd when the notes of the bugle rang through the whole boat. It was a strange call to the boys in O. D. [olive drab], but some one yelled "abandon the ship" then everybody grabbed for their life preserver and overcoat and in three minutes every soldier was lined up on deck ready to take his place in a life boat or raft.
After the men were marched to their respective places and the excitement had died down the cry of "man overboard" was heard on our ship. Lifeboats were lowered at once and the boat stopped but it was of no avail the man could not be found. It was later found out that he was from another ship, nevertheless, the first member of the Rainbow Division had paid the supreme sacrifice in the World War. May his body rest in peace in the depths of the deep blue sea.
Time wore on and after the evening meal beautiful strains from a banjo and mandolin could be heard coming from some unknown corner of the boat. Soon the clear voices of a quartet could be heard joining in and although the entertainment was probably meant for the officers, it was equally enjoyed by the enlisted men, at least a few of them who were fortunate enough to get bunks under the officers quarters.
The sun rose on the morning of the 23rd. on a beautiful calm sea when shortly after breakfast one of the transports came along side at a distance of about a hundred yards and the boys began waving their hands and joking back and forth.
At about 9:30 the ships time it was reported that President Grant, another one of our transports, was having engine trouble and was turning back to the U.S. At present we are about 1100 miles from the United States and 1600 miles from France.
When the Wisconsin boys went up on deck at their usual hour they were surprised to see a real American Battle Cruiser and three Destroyers circling around the entire Convoy. Their signal lamps were flashing signals back and forth like the eye of a giant constantly watching for danger that threatened us and considering the fact that the convoy consisted of 15 ships and nearly a division of soldiers, I think we would have been in danger had 'FRITZ' sighted us.
As the Convoy was steadily morning toward France at the rate of 100 miles a day it was necessary for the boys to set their watches at least 20 minutes a day to keep up with the ship's time.
A lot of the boys had gathered around the piano which stood in the dining room and having induced one of the Sailors to sit down and play, all hands were enjoying themselves thoroughly when that D--- bugle call was heard. Of course, they all made one mad rush for their overcoats and blanket as orders had been issued that each man must take a blanket with him. Well, after the drill was over and the boys went back to their amusement, the bugle blew again. Again they rushed for their bunks but this time the sailors were ahead of them and every one stood in amazement as about twenty of the Bluejackets came racing through the room with a long string of Fire Hose. I never could tell the difference between these calls.
It was about this time that one of the Majors, who happened to be on a tour of inspection came in the room occupied by our company. One or two of the portholes happened to be open and as orders were that all portholes be closed both day and night, the Officers of the Third Co. got a lecture that I believe covered everything in the military line from A to Z. He had just nicely calmed down and caught his breath when he noticed one of the men lying on his bunk with shoes on. Result! Another lecture.
When the Major had decided to go on his way in search of his next victim the men didn't know whether to stand up or sit down until he had disappeared from view, but soon their attention was drawn in another direction. Lt. Salzieder had just come in and was giving some orders about the care of the dining hall, which, by the way, was also our sleeping quarters. He had been placed in charge of the dining halls and as usual was right on the job.
In a few minutes a detail of men came in to carry out the Lt's orders in regard to placing the benches for the evening meal and in a few minutes the mess line itself began forming. In due time the meal was finished and everyone rolled in early or found some amusement below decks as it was raining quite hard.
The following morning there was quite a noticeable change in the atmosphere. It was damp and a bit colder and the sea was rolling quite heavier. This condition remained the same on the following day, with the exception that the sky was overcast with dark clouds.
Late in the afternoon a rumor spread over the ship that there was a report in New York that our ship was sunk and they were betting two to one that our fleet would never reach shore.
The suspense began to tell on some of the men and they grew anxious as we drew near the "danger zone". Some of them imagined the subs would be about as thick as the ducks on Lake Poygan. The clerk was preparing mustard and payroll and we were all lined up to sign our names when an order came which did not soothe our trouble minds in the least. It ran something like this. Every man aboard ship must be fully dressed at all times, day and night, and must have his life belt, overcoat and one blanket with him as we are now in the danger zone.
The men in the hold were given orders not to rattle their dishes and not sing or even talk in a loud voice after five P.M. on this day. It is Sunday and all is well. Services were held in the Dining hall and were largely attended.
After it had begun to get dark I managed to slip past a guard, after several unsuccessful attempts, by answering his challenge in a gruff voice saying "officer". The moonlight on the waves was beautiful. I had not been on deck long before I noticed that the convoy was moving very slowly, in fact they were nearly at a standstill. I stayed on deck for nearly an hour after the moon began to slowly creep behind the clouds. At the same moment the ships put on fully steam ahead, their great funnels belching huge clouds of black smoke.
As soon as I had an opportunity I slipped past the guard and returned to my quarters only to find most of the men in slumber. So making myself comfortable as best I could with a blanket folded and tucked under my pistol belt and one arm slipped through my life belt I soon was in dreamland.
At 10 P.M. on the 29th we had our first submarine scare. One of the officers came down with the report that a submarine had been sighted on our "port side" (aft) and that the gunners were standing and waiting for the command to fire. The sub, later to be an English Torpedo Chaser and imagine, if you can, our surprise when we went up on deck leave the next morning to see 18 of them, painted in all colors and designs circling around us. Occasionally one would dodge between the boats. Just before we were ordered down in the holes, we saw the three American Destroyers and an American Battle Cruiser steam back to old U.S.A.
On getting back to our quarters we were treated to a surprise order to clean ship (this meant to clean up). Floors had to be scrubbed, windows and woodwork cleaned and everything had to be done by one P.M. We all got busy and in a short time had everything "shipshape". After the work was done the boys were sitting around. It was laughable to hear some of the reports that began to circulate. One boy claimed he saw land from the 'crows nest". One reported having seen a sea gull with mud on its feet, still another knew that we were not far from land by the way the waves were rolling.
At last a boy broke up the conversation by claiming an "Oak Leave" on deck and when asked where, said "on the Major's shoulders".
Long before I got up the next morning I could hear first one and then another coming down the stairs with a report "land in sight" land in sight". We have watched a light for an hour and it does not move. Being as anxious as anyone I calmly made my way quickly to the nearest porthole and "there it was" way out ahead and to the right. It seemed to flash for a few seconds and then disappear for the same length of time.
I stayed at that porthole till nearly 6 A.M. when I saw a dark object way out ahead and on getting closer, I discovered it to be a point of rock. About an hour later we passed the Bell Isles and could plainly make out the houses on the island and the water seemed to be alive with little sailboats darting around, back and forth.
Gee, but it is an awful relief to know that at last you had succeeded in slipping past all the mines and submarines that were meant for you. Some of us kissed the officer when he told us we would not have to wear life belts any more. That night I believe I had the first good real sleep since we left Hoboken and the next morning we could hear people talking in a strange language which we knew must be French and upon looking out of the porthole we were tied hard and fast to France.
There was a nasty drizzling rain falling and everyone was content to stay below until the French girls began to make their appearance in little rowboats selling apples. At sight of these there was a mad rush for the rail and soon sales were being made by the use of the old campaign hat tied to the end of several tent ropes. Simple - just put in the money (American) lower the hat, pull up the hat, and take out the goods.
We were taken off the ship at St. Nazaire at 8:00 A.M. on November 6th, 1917 and it surely was a relief to feel the good old mother earth under our feet again. We then marched to the railroad station and here we had another surprise. There was a bunch of German prisoners pushing the cars along the tracks. The cars were about half the size of one of the small box cars in the States - each car having a sign on it, which read, "40 Hommes-'Chavaux" which meant 40 men or 8 horses. There was really room for ten men to sleep comfortable but we were piled in 50 to a car.
After two days of travel in our cigar box train with a peanut whistle, we were taken off and marched about ten miles to a quaint little French village called Meligy le Grand, where we got our billets the men being placed in cars and not a few of them were forced to use their ponchos to keep dry, as it had rained every day since our arrival in France. The officers were far more fortunate in this respect as they all had beds and right now let me tell you that a French bed had the prize, some of them being nearly three feet in thickness.
But now the boys were having their troubles, armed with a little French book and by using their arms as a sort of a semaphore and pointing to the thing they wanted, they succeeded in "parleyvooing" to a certain extent but I believe that Bugler Erick Baier has the record. As Bugler it fell to him to be the orderly for the Captain. One evening the Captain wanted some eggs and Brick was sent after them. He did not know the difference from eggs and onions in French, but took a chance. So walking into a place where the Mademoiselles made their home he got down in a crouching position and began to cackle like a hen, flapped his arms at his sides and getting up described the form of an egg, but he got what he went after.
It took the boys quite a while to get used to the French customs. One could come out of a barn and start down the street when he would hear the clatter of some thing and hurry to the side of road expecting to see a horse go dashing down the street but instead a French boy or girl would come running down the street.
We are now getting two meals a day as we have not yet received any animals and the rations are rather slow in getting up to us.
The boys have noticed a low rumbling sound since the day we got here but as it was raining every day everyone thought it was thunder. But this morning Cook Kiechaefer who got up rather early said he had seen the flashes from cannon. At first we all laughed at him but some of the boys decided to see for themselves so they stayed up rather late the following night. They reported the same thing so we decided that at least we were within hearing of the great guns.
On the morning of the 10th the 3rd. Co. lost its first man; Private Win was taken sick with the mumps and was rushed to a base hospital. On the following morning the sun came out very bright, the first time since we landed in France and while walking down the street we saw a few airplanes going toward where we thought Germany to be. I asked Wilfred De Roseria, one of the men transferred to Camp Douglas how far we were from the trenches and as he spoke France very well, he said the people told him that they were only 18 miles from the trenches. Good night, what if the Germans sent over cloud gas.
On the following Sunday in town many of the boys went to church, a French Catholic Church, so old that the stone floor was worn down over an inch in the aisle. If I am not mistaken it was built in AD 1792.
The people were friendly, and with our interpreters Pvts. Brown, De Roseria, Ruella, Horseshoer Castonia, they made us understand that they were refugees and that they had been driven from their homes by the Germans. They stated that the German Officers' wives would enter their homes and take whatever suited them. They saw the Germans cut off the children's hands and commit crimes too damnable to be printed.
We had been in about five days when we learned we were ordered to clean up the town thoroughly which, by the way, meant about a week's job as all the manure piles, which were invariable placed beside the front doors along the edge of the street, had to be removed but by everyone working and the men pulling the two wheeled French carts, we had the company street fairly clean by night. The next morning Lt. Bahr marched us up to the Mess Hall, which stood on a side of a hill just out of the town and there we spent another day building a stone walk to the mess hall from the main road.
As everything was in shape the next day the Company was taken out for a two-mile hike. The process of hardening down had begun. When we returned from the hike we were rather surprised to find two Companies of Infantry in our town (the 166th) but such was the way of the army. The next day we had to move our mess hall back to company street still using men for horses. We had just finished this work when I noticed a crowd gathering around our Orderly Room and being inquisitive I started in that direction. I asked the cause of excitement. They said "mail". Our first mail from the States and comprised of a bundle of Daily Northwestern's dated Oct. 19, 22.
I had just been down the street after some French cheese and back when I heard a drum. I looked in the direction from which the sound came and there was an old gray headed beating an old fashioned snare drum. After she had beat the drum to gather a fair sized crowd of French she read some orders to them and then went on to the next street. I later found out that she took the place of a village newspaper.
On the morning of the 23rd. of Nov. Capt. Schwandt, Lt. Salzieder, Sgts. Ott, Obersteiner, Zimmerman and Ruppel left in a combat wagon, which we got the day before, for Grondecourt, a distance of about 30 kilometers or about 20 miles. They expected to stay about five weeks for school of instructions on machine gun work.
After two hours after they left the Battalion Adjutant came up with the money and paid the Company in French money, which reminded the boys of cigar coupons and I guess some of them placed the value of a Franc as high as a cigar coupon, at least that was my opinion after watching a few games the next day and the days after.
On the 28th of Oct. the Company was marched to a forest where our fuel supply came from and had to be carried back to the Company Mess Hall and they were sure the cook was going to get enough as the next day was "Thanksgiving" and we were all anxious to get a real feed, and this is what we got. (Oh, boy) Turkey, mashed potatoes, hard tack, bread, butter, coffee and apple sauce.
I was sitting on my bunk on the 26th writing a letter when a great cheer was given up near the Orderly Room. I noticed a boy running down the street carrying a bunch of letters in his hand. At last, some real honest to God mail. Many were the stories swapped that night, about ones at home and the girl they had left behind. Some of the boys were less fortunate and did not receive any mail, were rather downhearted until someone let them read a letter from the old town or perhaps written by someone that he had known and soon everyone was happy and the sounds of merriment could be heard from the barns out in the cold, stormy night.
On the next day Sgts. Dobish, Polier, and Matchi left for Officers Training School at Langres, France for a period of three months. This left Sgt. Bullis acting 1st. Sgt. and Corporal Pochojka acting Mess Sgt.
The next morning we were taken for our first close drill we had since we left God's Country and in the afternoon we reached for our first Machine gun a "Hotchkiss" the same type we used throughout the war. On the morning of the 3rd of Dec. the ground was covered with snow and that night in the bright moonlight one could hear the distant roar of the cannon and it made you stop and wonder how long will it be before "I" will be out there in the mud?
On the morning of the 6th of Dec. the boys were awakened early about 6:30 A.M. by the roaring of the big guns which seemed to be nearer than ever before. The windows in the houses shook and shortly after breakfast a courier came into town with orders to suspend all drill and get packed up and ready to leave by the following morning. We did not know where we were going, although we were ready to move the next morning. We did not get orders to move until 12th of Dec. and left Meligne le Grand at 8:00 A.M. on that day arriving in Riebacourt at 3:00 P.M. Here we met McDonald and Selden, two Oshkosh boys. They were truck drivers but had enlisted in the Coast Artillery and came to France with the First Division on August 1917. They were certainly glad to see someone from Oshkosh.
We left Riebacourt at 3:15 A.M. the following day. Leaving the column at Germany, we arrived at Morionyilleiers at 4:00 P.M. Up to the present time we had marched 49 kilometers without losing a man. On the following day we started our regular drills. On Dec. 17th Officer in charge took us in from drill at 3:00 P.M. because it was so cold and wet, for we had only one pair of shoes and these were not very good. At 3:15 General Lenihan passed through the town and gave orders for the company to be taken out until 4:00 P.M. and the next day demanded an explanation as to why the company came in so soon.
Near the end of the year Lt. Salzieder and Capt. Schwandt, Ott, Obersteiner and Zimmerman came back from school where they studied trench warfare and machine gun work.
On Dec. 8th we had a regular old-fashioned snowstorm and it turned very cold. On the 21st. General Pershing and his staff reviewed the 42nd Div. while on a hike. It is reported that we are to stay in this town until Xmas and as I happened to be in charge of quarters on the 24th, in making the rounds of the billets that night, I noticed several of the billets were preparing Xmas trees. Some of the boys had received small boxes of candy and candles in the mails (today) so some of the trees were 'lit up" and it certainly brought back memories. Some of the trees were even trimmed with the following: old pipes, sox, gloves, tent pins, hard tack and on the highest branch, a small American flag.
Although those little trees were in haylofts, stables and sometimes even worse, the boys were happy and were told a bunch of packages had arrived from the hometown. As the Company was suffering a tobacco famine, this made them shout with joy.
That night when we went to sleep it was snowing real hard and when we started to hike on the following morning Dec. 26th, there was six inches of snow on the ground and a gale blowing the sleet in our faces, but we started at 7:15 A.M. and arrived at Ecot at 4:15 having marched a distance of 24 kilometers. Here we were all billeted in an old barn, with no fire of any kind to dry our feet; the result was that when we got up in the morning our shoes were frozen stiff. So we stuffed them full of straw and burned the straw and sometimes the shoes but we were ready at 7:15 A.M. and started on our way arriving at Mendras at 12:30 noon to find good billets and plenty to drink and that night we forgot all our sorrows, but we had to leave the next morning for the new Division Dump at Rolapont. We arrived there at noon, but again found poor billets and no fire and the next morning we had to get up at 3:00 A. M. to find our shoes like a couple of boards but at least we got in them and left Rolapont at 8:00 A.M. and some of us had mighty sore feet but at 3:00 P.M. we arrived at our destination "Orcevaux" and old Company "G" did not lose a man, the only company in the Division to hold that record, but many of the men were foot sore and had very bad colds.
Two days later Lt. Bahr was made American Town Mayor of the Village. The next day Lt. Hoffman, who afterwards got command of the Company, was assigned to us. Soon after he arrived the Company was reorganized in Machine Gun formation and from then on we drilled in this order.
We had not been in town long before the men were able to get passed to the town of Langres, which place was quite large, and built on the top of a large hill, and surrounded by forts and a mote or walls about thirty feet apart and thirty feet high, reaching around the entire fort, which by the way, was the gate to the city. The space between these walls was filled with water and the gateways were fitted with draw bridges.
On the 5th of Jan. the entire Company went to Langres, a distance of about 12 kilometers and got our machine guns and carts and also ammunition carts and it was by no means a small job to pull them back to Oresvaux. Nothing of interest occurred here from the time until about the 15th when we were issued our steel helmets and wrap leggings. Things began to look as though we really going to see action.
The boys, by this time, had become quite efficient with the Hotchkiss gun. In the evening Sgts. Dobish and Polier returned from Officers training school. About a week later Lt. Bahr and Sgts. Fauck, Cop. Ruechel, Gunners Gerhard Frohrib, Herrle and Ratzburg went to the 42nd. Division School of Fire at Beauchemia, where they stayed a week learning the mysteries of fire control, machine gun drill, etc. They left Beauchemia on the 27th, hiking back to Orcevaux, a distance of about 30 kilometers.
The snow is all gone and we are having beautiful weather. The work grows more interesting now as there is a French Machine Company giving us exhibition drills every morning. We take up the same work ourselves, after the French finish the performance.
On the 5th Lt. Wolf went to Langreas and came back with the report that he had seen General Boardman and one [of] old "B" Company's men, but he was not sure if the rest of the Company was over here or not. The next day we were to get instructions in the art of building trenches and Machine Gun emplacements of different types, so we all rolled out early.
Tonight occurred the first exciting thing in the Company. While demonstrating the O.F. and the F. 1 hand grenade Lt. Jung was seriously hurt when [the] detonator of an automatic time fuse, which he was holding in his hand, went off blowing parts of his fingers off. Lt. Salzieder was struck in the forehead and Capt. Schwandt was also hit in the forehead. Lt. Smith was struck about the head and over his ear and eyes, while Lt. Bahr got a small splinter in his forehead, while Lts. Hoffman and Proudfit were not touched. Lt. Jung was rushed to a hospital.
About an hour after this accident Lt. Newton of Oshkosh was here and had a nice talk with all the boys, but as he had to leave before supper, as he was just passing through he noticed one of the officers.
We received orders on the 18th of Feb. that we were to leave Orcevaux on the 20th for a place near the front so everything was packed up except what we really did not need and on the morning of the 20th we left Orcevaux at 3:45 A.M. and hiked to a station near Langres, about 15 kilometers and had our breakfast on the train, pulling out on the train at 9:15 A.M.
One could see row upon row of camouflaged guns both French and American ready to hurl death and destruction into the German ranks at a moment's notice and lined on every hill.
It was such a beautiful night and so warm that we hated to go to bed, so we went outside and smoked, being careful not to let the enemy see any light and at 9:00 P.M. it seemed as though every big gun in the French, American and German Army started to shoot at one time and when I looked towards the hills our silent sentinels had suddenly become active for the tops of the hills seemed to become one continuous burst of flame.
It had been impossible to make out the report of any one gun. The noise by this time was very deafening had turned into one continuous roll. Soon we could make out a flash up the road, about 1000 yards which looked like a short flash of a search light but it was followed by another and another and with the report of a whip, as the French and American batteries had ceased firing we could make out the "Keee-keee-keee" as they came through the air and we came to the conclusion that the best place was in bed, although I believe I did not sleep a wink that night expecting every a moment a shell to go through the barn.
We arose the next morning, I fear not very much refreshed by our night's sleep and after we had our breakfast we got a surprise that hit the Company like a bomb. Captain Schwandt was relieved from command. Capt. Schwandt who was everyone's friend and whom any of the men would go through hell with, was going home and our new Lt. Hoffman was going to take command and whom we hardly knew. For the first few days it seemed as though the heart of old Company "F" was gone and all that remained was a big human machine that was made to fight and would fight until it would fall to pieces, but in the busy scenes that followed this feeling was soon forgotten for the Germans put over another heavy barrage on the night of the 11th of March and on the 12th our Company went into the trenches at Blemeray, relieving Company "D" of our battalion, formerly a Pennsylvania Company.
The Company went in the following order: - 1st line, Lt. Bahr, 3rd platoon, 2nd Line Lt. Proudfit, 2nd platoon and 3rd line Lt. Smith, last platoon. Although there were several Artillery duels and a few Infantry raids excepting on several nights when we had to set up the machine guns in "No Man's Land" and stay with it until morning, taking it down just before daybreak so as to get back in the trenches before a Dutch sniper could get us. This job was allotted to me one night and I can assure you that I was glad when morning came.
Pvt. De Roseria was perhaps the closest to death of any man in the Company during those ten days. He was runner for the 3rd platoon and had to take messages from the front line to the Company post of command, located in the 3rd line. It was while making one of these trips up through the communication trench, while the Germans were shelling, that De Roseria was knocked down by the concussion of a shell that landed about 10 feet from the edge of the trench. He staggered to his feet and started forward when another shell landed about five feet away from the trench half burying him. When he realized what he was doing he was trying to crawl out of the trench but soon he was all right and delivered his message returning to the front line by the same route.
The first man of the Company to be entitled to wear the much coveted wound chevron, was wounded during our stay here, Pft. Golz, who was on his way to the 3rd line to relieve one of the other men who was to be next to take back the mules to Benamenil, was hit in the head with a piece of stray shrapnel but the wound did not prove to be serious and Pvt. Golz stayed with the Company.
About 2:00 A.M. on March 22nd we were relieved by a French Company and got out of the range of the Germans just a few minutes before, where they started shelling the road behind us.
We arrived in Benaenil at daybreak and rested a couple of hours and then started out for Aroux, a town near Mooyen. We stayed there over night and had a good feed, and best of all, a good, peaceful sleep once more.
The next morning we started for Gerevelliers arriving there about noon, from here it was reported that we were to march to Orcevaux, a distance of about 125 miles, but later orders were changed to stay where we were as the Germans were making a big drive. We remained in Gerevelliers four days and then started for the front, our first stop being at Dompail, where we billeted for the night, starting the next morning.
We arrived at Brouville at 10:30 A.M. in a nasty rain, on our second day there, Lt. Bahr and Sgt. Matchi went to Reherry to look over some trenches, when on this day until the 11th things were comparatively quiet, but on that night, we had "alert alarm" and expected to be called out until the next morning when we left for Reherry, a distance of about two kilometers.
Upon reaching this place the first platoon went to the front, the second and 3rd platoons staying in the city, this was a Pro-German town (Reherry) as the Germans had held this territory until two weeks before and things were very quiet, but on the next day we saw another air battle. Many of the boys said they would rather stay in the trenches than to stay in this town and their wish was soon granted, for the morning of the 18th P.M. we started for the trenches, going through to the town of Montigay and arriving at our position at Anseralliers at 9:30.
Anseralliers is a very large town and the trenches run into the town making the one part "no man's land" of course, this added to the danger of moving about at night, as it was known that German spies made frequent trips after dark in search of information, frequently taking a shot at an American from an alley or cellar window, then getting away via "no man's land".
As now our men were now in the sector, several of them had very close calls, on the first night as the "doughboys" had orders to shoot at sight anyone moving about in the alleys or in certain buildings. At this place practically some of our guns were in the open, which made things quite warm at times, when the Germans send over the "Big Ones" and sweeping the line with machine gun fire "which frequently happened".
On the second day one of our machine gun emplacements was shelled and a dugout blown up, but fortunately no one was hurt. We were relieved here on the 24th but just before we left we sent our compliments to "Fritz" in a form of a "barrage" which lasted one hour and fifteen minutes, after which we got a false gas alarm. After this we left the trenches in good time getting back to Brueville early in the morning.
While in Breuville the second platoon of our Company adopted a war orphan, a little French girl six years old, paying for her support for a year. They called her Miss. Rainbow.
On May 3rd, 1918 the Company took part in a big raid, our orders were to go to Reherry woods, and we arrived there May 3rd at 1;45 A.M. and soon we had our guns lined up in the open at the edge of the woods. Our artillery had been firing since the first of May and were still sending them over. Our machine guns started a barrage at 3:00 A.M. and at 4:00 A.M. our heavy artillery opened fire at an eight mile front: it was deafening. The machine guns stopped firing at 7:00 A.M. and an hour later the artillery stopped. The infantry went over but they didn't get any prisoners; the artillery had everything blown to pieces. The Americans had 1 killed and fifteen wounded but the German casualties will never be known. Our Company fired 21,000 rounds of ammunition that morning. We had to remain in the woods until that night as the sun was shining and German airplanes were on the watch for any troop movements on our side. We got back to Breuville at 10:00 that night without losing a man.
In the days that followed we were kept very busy preparing for open warfare. On the 14th we hiked to Reherry, arriving at 8:30 P.M. where we stayed till the 21st when the Company was split up. One platoon going to Migneville, the second platoon went to Saint Pole and the third to Montignay, these towns were about 4 kilometers apart, but as this is a quiet sector we had ten days of rest except for a dose of gas between 12 and 2 a.m.
On the thirtieth we were again on the move. We hardly realized it was Declaration Day until we saw a squad of Americans led by a Corporal march in to the cemetery (where only French Soldiers were buried). This cemetery was only about a half mile from the German trenches, but the squad lined up and fired three volleys over the graves in the direction of the German trenches. After each volley the Corporal would say, "let's hope that volley got eight more Huns." The name of this town is Ansevelliers.
From this day until June 2nd nothing of importance had occurred, except the constant shelling by the Germans and the gas which they sent over every night, but on the third at about 9:15 A.M. occurred the first death in the Company. Pvt. Paul Fauck was accidentally killed while inspecting his pistol. In some unknown manner he discharged the gun while looking in the barrel. The bullet passed through his head causing instant death.
Private Fauck being one of the oldest members in the Company, had a host of friends, and in years to come many of the boys will look back to that May morning when they laid him to rest in the town of Arcevillers.
On the night following this sad occurrence we were relieved and again went back to Reherry. (We are getting to know this place very well) We stayed here a few days only and then hiked to Saint Pole, Migneville and Montigy, one platoon in each place. This is supposed to be a training area. Well, there was certainly enough handed to us.
While here there was a sickness in the Company that is called "three day trench fever". Two of the men were sent to the hospital with it and there are about ten more sick in their bunks.
Everything was quite peaceful for a week, when on the 18th, the Germans bombarded our first platoon at Migneville with high explosives and gas shells and shrapnel. Corporal Wm. Bahr and Pvt. Marchini (the latter a replacement of the first platoon) were hit with shrapnel. Corporal Ryan and Pvt. Hillson of the 3rd platoon were gassed and all were taken to the hospital.
The bombardment started at 5:30 and lasted until 10:00 P.M. then started again at 5:00 A.M. and lasted until 7:00 A.M. We lost two saddle horses from the effects of the gas the night before.
By way of illustrating the density of the bombardment the boys counted 2000 big shells that landed in the city of Montigney, composed of 40 dwellings or rather they had been dwellings but now they were but stone piles, the handiwork of the Germans.
On the following day, the 20th, the division was relieved of the Ancerville Section, our Company assembled at Merivillier at about 2:00 P.M. Lt. Bahr had command and Capt. Hoffman had to stay over for the day. We arrived at Menil at 6:30 after hiking 20 kilometers and at 9:00 that evening we started for Zincourt a distance of 26 kilometers and arrived there at 4:30 A.M. We marched through a driving rain, but not a man fell out. Although we had many Infantry men go to sleep at the road side, but we were drenched with the rain that was falling that night and we kept on.
Zincourt is a beautiful town and quite well kept considering that there are only four men left in the town, the rest of them were called into the service. As we are the first American troops in town, the things were sold at moderate prices, and the people treated us fine. Many of the boys were disappointed when they received orders to move to Chatel on the 23rd, and many of us looked reluctantly back as the column marched down the road toward the little town where in a few hours, we were to entrain in French (side door pullmans) which would take us quickly to the front somewhere near the Somme.
We had made the trip in about 36 hours going via Neufchateau and Bar le Duo, arriving at Coolus late in the afternoon. From here we hiked to Togny where the whole Battalion was to billet. We stayed here about four days and on the evening of June 28th at 8:45 P.M. we received orders to pack up and be ready to leave at 9:45 P.M. We left the town at 10:00 P.M. and after a forced march of 35 kilometers, arrived at our destination, St. Etieanne au Temple, a scrap camp, a short distance from St. Etienne where we were to be billeted in barracks.
We were told that we were 17 kilometers from there and about 20 from Togny: we had covered those 20 miles in 7 hours and had to camp in a woods that day as the French troops were still in the barracks when we arrived. That night we went out into the barracks and were held here in reserve until July 3rd when orders came in for us to pack up again and move out at midnight.
As usual we started out on the appointed times, arriving at Suippes at 4:30 A.M. tired and foot sore so the greater part of our Company spent our National Holiday getting what sleep they could, which was not very much as we were only seven miles from the lines.
In the afternoon Lt. Bahr and the Capt. made a reconnaissance of the positions we were to take up in the 3rd line, and they had just returned when the company under command of Lt. Wolf who in the meantime had received orders to more forward at once, were preparing to start, so they had to turn back and load the Company into emplacements, arriving there at 1:30 A.M.
The first and second platoons going right into the trenches, while the 3rd platoon pitched pup tents in a strip of woods just back of the 3rd lines where they stayed that night and following, but on the 2nd night Sgt. Matchi was ordered to take his place into the lines. They were ready for action.
Our big guns doing quite a bit of firing, or at least so it seemed to us, perhaps because this was our first active sector, but as nothing unusual occurred until midnight of July 14-15 where it seemed as though hell broke in all its fury. The Germans started sending over every size and variety of shell they had and I had believed the shells covered every square mile of land along a hundred mile front. This was the beginning of what was to be the biggest drive the Germans had ever made during the whole four years of the war. This barrage lasted 12 hours and when one stops to think that most of the men simply had small holes dug in the ground for protection it seems almost a miracle that we had only 10 casualties in the Company: - Pvt. Zindler, killed out-right, Cpt. A. Steinert wounded, Pvt. Treichel shell shocked, Cook Kiekhaefer wounded, and six men from the 3rd. platoon were gassed: F. Klotz, E. Rupple, Sgt. F. Fauck, Sgt. F. Obersteiner, E. Herrle and Sitzelberger.
On the two days that followed there was quite a bit of Artillery fire, most of it going toward Germany. If only we could get something to eat we would be alright, but owing to the roads being torn up so badly they could not get the rations up to us and on the 16th we got nothing to eat, but on the 17th they got through with the rations and that night we ate and on the 19th we got relieved.
We left the trenches at 2:30 A.M. but had orders to leave the guns and ammunitions behind, and at 3:15 A.M. our men and infantry all seemed to be mixed up. Then we were ordered to go back in and get our guns and ammunition which we did and after carrying the equipment about that way for two miles, were ordered by a Major to go back as we could not get out that way; this made four miles we had carried these guns in plain view of the Germans for nothing, and to make matters worse, we had nothing to eat for 24 hours but such are the fortunes of war and after the Company had been divided into platoons we moved back in good order.
While on the way back, we saw a German air attack and destroy one of our observation balloons. We reached Cuperly at 7:30 in the morning about played out and while pitching our pup tents in a beautiful little strip of woods along the village creek (every French village has one) a few German planes came over, but they were brought down from a great height, but the two occupants were not killed, only one of them being injured.
Everything was peaceful in our little camp until it began to grow dark when we could hear the steady roar of German planes above us. It was not until then that I thought of Co. A& B of our Battalion that were just about due to pull out of the next town on a troop train bound for another front (or perhaps it was a great camp) although we were often told we were going to a rest camp. We could always hear the rumble of the great guns when we stepped off the train.
The hum of motors above us seemed to increase every minute and it seemed as though there were a hundred of them directly over us. Soon the big search light sent beams through the sky in search of the planes and soon as one was located the machine guns sent up shots and streams of lead in his direction, and soon we could hear the distant boom of the anti-aircraft and see the lights which illuminated the country very well and as we stood there on one spot they seemed to send a chill down our backs, for we knew that it meant only a matter of seconds before they would unload their cargo of death on us and go back and get some more.
Soon I heard the "whizz" of a bomb descending; it seems as though my heart stopped beating, then came the report about 500 yds. but in an empty field. Several bombs hit the town but no one was injured.
A & B Co. were not so fortunate, they were already in the cars when two bombs were dropped alongside the track killing two men and wounding nine. On the following day we began making preparations to move that night.
We left Cupery at 6:00 P.M. arriving at St. Hilaire at 8:00 P.M. entraining as soon as we arrived but owing to some delay we did not pull out until 9:30 P.M.
Imagine if you can, out state of mind during that hour and a half expecting every minute to hear the hum of German planes. When at last we pulled out of the bomb shattered village we all heaved a great sigh of relief.
We had been riding an hour or so and were reaching the city of Chalons when I noticed eight search lights playing on one spot in the sky. I stepped to the car door in an effort to get a better view. When I heard above the rattle of the train the dreaded hum of a German Plane. At about this time some one in the car ahead yelled "there he is" at the same time the three machine guns which we had mounted on a flat car began shooting tracer bullets. Each one can be traced in its flight as it resembles a streak of fire, and before I could draw back from the doorway I saw the huge shadow of the machine pass directly over the car and not more than 50 feet high.
After we left Chalons everything was fine and we got [to] our destination at 6:45 P.M. I think the name of the town was Esbly. Here we detrained and hiked to Nanteuil, arriving there at midnight and the following morning at 9:30 A.M. started for Crouttes. Here we got 8 replacements and on the following morning at 7:30 we started out again, but only marched a half mile and fell out along the road. We stayed here until about 4:00 P.M. when we were loaded into trucks. I think the drivers were Japanese. At about 6:00 P.M. we passed Chateau Thierry (or rather what the Germans left of it) we reached Epeids an hour later, and there we got out of the trucks and started to hike, a distance of about two miles to a small woods and after getting our supper of coffee and hard tack we tried to sleep, but we soon made the discovery that we had for neighbors a row of six inch long range rifles, and as the one nearest to us was only 50 yards away, sleep was out of the question, so we had to be contented by what rest we could get by stretching out on the ground.
On the afternoon of the next day we moved to another woods, near the lines. Here we had to keep under cover at all times, as the Germans could see us from their observation balloons. It was in this woods that one of the German's big Bertha's was found and were told by the French Lt. That the German troops had occupied this place the night before. (the trail was getting warmer)
Many of the boys began to pick up souvenirs as the woods was literally full of clothing, German papers, ammunition, guns and different parts of equipment left behind by the Germans in their hurry to vacate. That night it rained nearly all the time and as we were sleeping in holes dug in the ground, no one got very much sleep and we were beginning to get hungry as we were only getting two meals a day now, the kitchens (on wheels) coming up on meal time, then going back to the valley where it was more sleep.
Our guns were keeping up a constant fire and at 6:30 the next night we left the woods and started on a march which was to last all night. We passed through one town that was literally blown to pieces and from there we marched through a woods nearly three miles. Here, at times, it was almost necessary to don our gas masks, as the Germans were retreating so fast our men did not have time to bury the German dead, who by this time, the weather being so warm, had turned black and besides carrion of dead animals, some literally blown to pieces. This, coupled with loss of sleep was almost unbearable, but we grit our teeth and kept on.
I doubt if Fifth Avenue in good old New York has been a busier thoroughfare than that road leading from Chatteau Thierry to the front on that night. French and American Artillery, Infantry and Machine guns forming two lines of traffic one on either side of the road, moving forward, always forward, giving way only to ambulances bearing the burden of pain to safety in the rear.
We had just reached the edge of this woods when the Infantry had just begin to spread out over the fields on either side of the road. Word was sent back to advance with five minute intervals between platoons, so we slowed down allowing the first platoon to move ahead the required distance and when we had advanced one-half mile, we ran into a ration wagon in the mud that had tipped over its contents, a load of war bread, which was scattered in the mud. The men were told to keep to the right.. The result was that our last cart got stuck in the mud hole and broke a wheel. I sent one squad back to stay with the cart and on looking back a few minutes later saw that most of the men were eating on a big piece of war bread and I must admit that it tasted as good as any meal I ever made. I was as hungry as the rest.
When we had nearly got through this town, the streets were full of shell holes. Then we came to a big hill and the mules were tired out so orders were for all men to push on the carts and after about fifteen minutes of hard work we got to the top of the hill. By this time it had become quite dark and as the road ahead was under German shellfire we were forced to pick our way through an open field, keeping directions as best we could with a compass and after we had advanced in this manner for what seemed an hour we again struck the road. We pushed ahead a mile further, passing line after line of French infantry. Here we started to cross another open field but when we were in the center of it, shrapnel began bursting directly in front and about a distance of 100 yards we halted at command and as the shrapnel began coming closer and a bunch of infantry men were hit just ahead of us we got the orders "platoon column right" and started for the edge of a big woods but ran into a barb wire fence. This difficulty was soon taken care of, however, and soon the whole company was well into a little clearing.
We had not been there ten minutes when it seemed that the Germans were following every move with their artillery and it was later reported that a German observer was shot out of a tree in the same woods while signaling with a flashlight. While in this woods we had one casualty. In the afternoon of the next day we started through the woods which was very badly town up by shell fire and I believe before we reached the road, a distance of about one and one-eight mile, I saw 5,000,000 German shells of all sizes and shapes.
When we hit the road, there was our gun cart and squad that had been left behind the day before and as we continued up the road we passed our wagon the first the first man I saw, Stable Sgt. Kurt Graf was standing beside a big tree and waved a farewell as we passed. It was the first time we saw him in two days but little did we think it was the last time any of us would see him.
We went over a big hill from where the Germans could be plainly seen. Here we unloaded our equipment and started out across the field stopping at last in a small patch of woods and as we were to stay here that night, after the guns were mounted the men began digging holes in which they could sleep and not be in danger from shrapnel. That afternoon three German planes kept circling over us and finally one flew real low dropping several hand bombs, none of they doing any damage.
At about 4:00 P.m. Lt. Wolf came out to us with a report that Sgt. Kurt Graf had been instantly killed along with one of the teamsters whose name was De Graves. He also reported that our kitchen was lost. This meant nothing to eat. I do not recall just who sneaked out through the open fields towards the rooms of an old barn on the top of a hill. Our advancing waves were just beyond the town, which the Germans were shelling quite heavily, and in about 30 minutes each one came back with about six or eight loaves of war bread and a few cans of bacon. We still had a little water in our canteens. When asked where we got the rations the boys said the first thing they ran into was what had been a kitchen - a broken ration cart with the driver and the mules all dead so they just helped themselves and it was certainly a Godsend to the Company.
That night about 4:00 P.M. we started out across the open field toward the town where we got the break the day before. We reached the edge of the town and laid in wait in a small orchard until the proper time to advance, as we were supposed to filter through that night and take our place in the front.
At about 5:30 P.M. we started out across another open field and as the last man cleared the village a perfect hail of shrapnel met us, but our orders were to advance and we did advance, slowly but surely taking the village of Seringes at about 6:00 P.M. After the village was captured the Germans did a lot of firing in an effort to make us retreat but were unsuccessful.
We had not had any sleep or any food except the bread and bacon for three days and the minute you raised your head you became a target for the Germans. Lt. Bahr was placed in charge and reorganized the Company in three hours (our casualties were 24 today). We expected to be relieved tonight, but instead we were shelled heavily all day and night and on the following day the shelling continued.
The French advanced on our left and the 165th took the town on our right. We were still looking for relief and had no sleep and nothing to eat. At 9:30 the next day we left the town of Seringes with orders to take the village of Marenil.
We had advanced about three kilometers when a German plane flew over us just as we had reached the hill in front of the village, at 4:00 P.M. and in a few minutes they began opening upon us with the artillery and the men began falling right and left.
It was impossible for us to take the town so we were ordered to retreat under cover of darkness when we would be relieved. This was welcome news as we had reached the limit of our endurance. It took us about 5 hours to get to the rear owing to the crowded condition of the roads and the boys of the 4th Division who relieved us, saw only a remnant of Company "C" 150th Machine Gun when they searched in to relieve us that night. Our losses were nine killed and 61 wounded as follows:
Sgt. Kurt, Graf, shrapnel
Sgt. Richard Procknow "
Cpl. Walter Thorn "
Pvt. Louis Suess "
Pvt. F. Phillips "
Pvt. Ed. C. Steckbauer "
Pvt. Otto Spaedke GUNSHOT WOUND
Sgt. Elmer Bullis "
Pvt. Nicholas Mand "
1st. Lt. Wm. Jung shrapnel
1st. Lr. R. Proudift "
2nd. Lt. Aug Wolf "
Capt. Ellis Hoffman "
Sgt. J.D. Ruppel GUNSHOT WOUND
Cpl. W. Pochojka shrapnel
" A. Sphaat "
" W. Billberg "
Pvt. 1/C J. O. Fischer GUNSHOT WOUND
Wm. Hable "
A. Kroll shrapnel
Harry Krueger GUNSHOT WOUND
Harold Schneider shrapnel
J. Sitzelberger shell shock
Carl Julius GUNSHOT WOUND
F. Schroeder shrapnel
J. Kinderman "
Joe Lorenz "
Private F. Winkelbauer GUNSHOT WOUND
Clarence Ryan shell shock
Geo. Poklasny "
Frank Wiener GUNSHOT WOUND
James Hooper "
J. Hoffman "
1st. Sgt. J. Dobish shrapnel
E. Zimmerman "
Bugler Erick Bauer "
Carl Schneider "
P1. R. C. Bruhn "
Pvt. 1/c H. Fitzmorris "
Henry Witt GUNSHOT WOUND
H. Pollnow "
Jas. Ruppel Gas
Jul. Mand "
Pvt. Ad. Aft GUNSHOT WOUND
H. Christensen Shell Shock
Frank Coffers shrapnel
Geo. Fischer GUNSHOT WOUND
Edward Parley shrapnel
Otto Friday GUNSHOT WOUND
Frd. Finch Shell Shock
Don Howell GUNSHOT WOUND
Williard Luis "
L. Meisinger shrapnel
Peter Mathey "
C. Paffenroth GUNSHOT WOUND
Del Rasmussen '
L. Reed Shell shock
Wm. Wanke GUNSHOT WOUND
Gassed Mech. Alb. Schneder
Pvt. 1/c Geo. Hanschu
19 killed, shrapnel
6 wounded, shrapnel
We reached the woods in the rear at 4:00 A.M. August 3rd, 1918. We had a little to eat after which we rolled in our blankets and slept until noon. When we got up we had our first real feed in a week. It had been raining nearly all the day on the 2nd and here is one little incident I remember well. The boys were advancing through a shower of shrapnel and machine gun bullets when a little gopher crawled out of a hole and started running. A doughboy saw him and started chasing him with his bayonet. It seemed he utterly forgot the shells that were bursting around him and all he cared for was to get the gopher.
It rained almost continually until the 7th of August and we had poor shelter. The men were beginning to give way under the strain which had been their lot to bear and many of them grew sick but on the next morning the sun was bright in the sky cheering them up to a great extent.
We left the woods at 9:00 A.M. Aug. 11th and camped overnight near Chatteau Thierry. Started for Coupru on the next morning arriving there at noon. Here we pitched camp in a woods moving to Villers sur Marne on the next day where we got our billets. Here we stayed for six days. A lot of the boys attended a French Catholic Church.
We were told we were to stay here for six weeks and were lucky enough to get paid on the 24th of August but much to our surprise as well as disappointment on the afternoon of the 28th we received orders to pack up and be ready to move in a half hour's notice. Soon all were busy rolling pack and when this was finished, they began bidding their friends farewell, for our boys had made considerable bunch of friends in this village and at 9:00 P.M. we left Vrecourt and after hiking 10 kilometers arrived in Bungeville at 1:30 P.M. Dinner at 1:00 P.M. and supper at 6:00 P.M. and were on the road to Viecourt at 7:30 P.M. On this hike we passed a big German Prison Camp and later a British Camp and then a Canadian camp and at 12:30 A.M. we arrived at destination of 17 kilometers.
Our casualties in this sector were two-Pvt. C. Rhyner and Pvt. A. Boyd - shrapnel. In this action the 42nd Division started on the morning of Sept. 12 advanced 14 kilometers and 28 hours later advanced 5 kilometers more. They took more than 1,000 prisoners, 28 cannon, 200 machine guns, 2 anti-tank guns, 1,000 rifles, 350,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, 20,000 hand grenades, 2 gasoline locomotives, 43 railroad trucks, 20 wagons and 10 caissons etc.
On the night of September 27th we left the woods and went up to the lines which now were changing hour by hour. Here we relieved the 151st. M.G.Bn. (Rainbow Division) at St. Bennoit but nothing of interest occurred until we were relieved by the 341st. M.G.Bn. on the morning of the 30th and hiked back to the woods about 12 kilometers where we rested a couple of hours, then continued on our way to Boconville a distance of 20 kilometers. At that place we were told that we were going to lose our commander, Lt. John Smith. He was to be sent to the States to be used as an instructor.
On the road we had passed about 200 French trucks and when we arrived these trucks pulled up. We were loaded in any way and then we went. After riding all night we arrived at some woods at 11:00 A.M.
We left the woods the next morning on a hike to Brocourt. Here we stayed along the roadside overnight. This was a very hard hike as the country was exceedingly hilly. Left here that morning and hiked 20, then 5 kilometers, when we discovered that we were in "reserve" on the Verdune Front. We were near the town of Avacourt which resembled one large mess of broken stone. The fields around were dotted with shell holes so thick that a man could not walk in any direction without walking on soil turned up by the shells.
One strip of woods looked like a mass of posts set in the ground, the Artillery cleaving off the trees from four to fifteen feet from the ground. Our position was back of the big guns which kept up a continuous roar from morning till night. The planes were very active in this sector. It seemed as though they were going about in flocks. While in this position we met some of our old friends from the 32nd Div., our old band leader from the 2nd Wisconsin Band, Steinmetz and Lt. Heller and Dad Getchus both from Oshkosh.
We had two alert calls while here. On the 10th at 9:30 we started ahead relieving the first Div. in the Bucance Sector of the Verdum front. On the following morning the Germans were fighting hard but the Yanks were getting the best of them although the hill to the side was covered with dead and wounded. It looked bad but we came over to fight and fight we would to the last.
We went in to action at Cotede Malda, near the village of Sommerance, and in a short time we got orders to advance. We started, but did not get very far when we were forced to go back to the woods but on the next morning with heavy fire from our Artillery we gained our objective and then some. We heard today that the Kaiser was willing to agree to our terms. Its about time. He is licked right now only he doesn't know it.
Having occasion to go to the rear to search for our kitchen I saw one of the saddest sights imaginable (the fruits of war). The ground was all torn up, ammunition, guns, clothes, horses and dead men, both American and German, spread all over the field. On my way back I passed scores of returning wounded and as I passed several of them said to me, "boys, she is hell". Continuing I saw a German ambulance which had been hit by one of our shells, killing four Germans. None of them looked to be fourteen years of age.
On the 16th the Div. took one of their objectives but the second objective proved to be a bad one and we were told that we would not be relieved until we had taken it as it was a German "railhead" and very important and the Germans were fighting to the death. The next day our general (Lenihan) was asked to resign because he did not make an advance on this objective. It will be a great loss for General Lenihan was a 100% man. Many of the boys were going back now as we were living in shell holes and as the result of frequent rains, many of them had water in the bottom.
On the 18th the French began to bring up many big guns to help us give Fritz a boost. There was not very much of a report until 3:45 when the Germans threw us some sneezing gas. I thought that we would sneeze our heads off. Things were quiet until the evening of the 22nd when the Germans began sending them over faster than usual. About 7:00 P.M. while Lt. Ranney was holding a meeting of the non-commissioned officers a shell lit right in the circle they had formed, killing Sgt. F. Obersteiner and wounding Sgts. Peckman, Polier, Friday, Fauck, Cpl. Sphaat and Pvt. Coffers.
We had been in the same place since the 14th , as the fighting was among hills and the Germans had the tops of these hills lined with machine guns making us pay dearly for every foot we advanced. While I was back near the kitchen today I noticed some German planes over us but they were soon chased back and as they turned they dropped thousands of pamphlets which read as follows:
NEVER SAY DIE
Don't die till you have to-
What business have you to die for France, for Alsac-Lorraine or for England? In France isn't it better to live than to die no matter for how glorious a cause than to rot in the shell holes of France and be back to old folks at home. You have heard many high faluting words about Liberty but honest now ain't these catch words merely sugar coating to the bitter pill of making you spend wretched months far from home? Do you really believe those German soldiers in the gray uniforms on the other side of No Man's Land are hot on the trail of Liberty just like you want the war to end with honor so they can go back to their home folks.
All they want is a chance to live and let live and so if it should happen to you to fall into their hands, you will find that they will treat you fair enough on the principle "live and let live". Why run any more chances than you have to? You might as well be a free boarder in Germany till the war is over. You don't want to die till you have to.
It was quite evident they did not know what the American soldier was made of. At any rate the boys took these pamphlets as an insult to our Army.
On the morning of the 20th early in the morning we saw a bunch of German planes coming over and that afternoon we witnessed the greatest air battle we had ever seen. That night we received word that Austria had laid down her arms. This certainly was welcome news to the boys. On the next morning it turned real cold and continued to be so all day, but everything was unusually quiet with the exception of airplanes. They were kept busy all day.
On the morning of Nov. 1st just one year from the time we landed in France at St. Nazaire, we put over a barrage with machine guns and it lasted three hours starting at 3 A.M. This was the start of the drive along the whole Verdun Front. Soon after we ceased firing and the infantry started to drive we were relieved by the second Dir. at 7:00 A.M. We had two casualties on the 26th, Sydney Regan and Pvt. Aron Frost; and on the 24th, Pvt. Mark Stein and one this morning, Pvt. Hans Soresen.
We remained here until Nov. 3rd. pulling out that morning at 6:30 in an effort to catch up to relieve the 8th Div. We had the Germans on the run. Our infantry were preparing to follow in trucks.
We had some trouble locating the German lines and we marched until 2:00 A.M. on the 4th, when we struck a town called Verpel. Here we stayed until 8:00 A.M. starting again through the mud and at two A.M. Nov. 4th we landed on a big farm "all in" from the hike. We rested without breakfast. We had one meal in three days. The Germans were going so fast our kitchens could not keep [up] to us.
On the sixth of Nov. we relieved the 27th Div. near the Village Sy. The weather was terrible. Rain and mud was all one could see and at night it was so dark you could not see ten feet ahead of you but we kept advancing and on the evening of the 8th we had advanced as far as Cherrey and most of the boys were trying to get a small nap before we started out again.
We were relieved by the French, so we marched to the rear and after hiking 20 kilometers through the mud and dark, we pitched our tents in a muddy field. On the following day we got three meals, so everyone was comparatively happy to what they had been for the last week. Later in the day we heard that our boys were in Sedan. They surely had the Germans on the run. Our Company was lucky as we had no casualties in this sector.
On the morning of the 10th we pulled out at 7:30. About 11:30 arrived at Fontaney. Here we had a pleasant surprise. We were to have billets to sleep in, the first billets in nearly three months. Late that night Sgt. Ruppel returned from the hospital and brought the news that the Armistice was to be signed the next morning. Here we got orders to order a complete outfit for every man.
We left the next morning at 7:30 and at 10:30 arrived at Thenorgues. Late in the afternoon we received word that the Armistice was signed at 11 A.M. We stayed here until the 13th when we were to be paid but just before they were ready to pay us, orders came in to pull out in one hour. We had not been paid for three months.
At 2:00 P.M. we started - at 5:45 we came over the top of the hill of Landres and in the distance many fires stretched for many miles covering the hillsides around. What a difference! Only a few hours before we were not allowed to even light a match for fear of being seen and now these thousands of camp fires, each one surrounded by laughing and shouting boys and although they were thousands of miles from home and loved ones, sounds of song and laughter drifted back and forth across the valley and later flares and signal lights of all description could be seen shooting into the air on every side. This part of the celebration was in all probability at the expense of the Germans, but a wonderful target for a bombing plane.
The night was rather cold and we had some difficulty in keeping warm. The following morning we got paid and that night most of the boys were in a game by the light of some camp fire, thereby passing away the time and keeping warm as well.
On the 15th of Nov. we received news that the boys didn't like very well. We were going to Germany and what was worse, we were going to hike a distance of about 200 kilometers.
On the morning of the 20th began our long and tedious march to the Rhine River, as our destination was to be at Coblenz on the Rhine. At 2:30 PM we had completed our first day at Clery de Petite and at 4'00 P.M. we ate our supper, after which I sent out some of the men to dig potatoes and gather cabbage. So we had a good meal and the next morning leaving at 8:30 we followed the Meuse River and arrived at some large stone barracks about one mile away from the Seine where we stayed two days. Got some new clothes and plenty to eat as we found ten sacks of potatoes and a barrel of sauerkraut in an old German warehouse.
Capt. Ernest B. Combs was assigned to the Company at this place and on the morning of the 20th we left the barracks arriving at Avioth at 12:30. Here the Germans had used the only church in the town, which at one time had been beautiful, for a stable. We left this place the next morning and 11:30 we crossed the Franco-Belgium border.
The 165th band, while marching, played some snappy American pieces. The town was decorated with flags, both French, Belgium and some home made American flags and although on some of them the stripes ran from top to bottom, we could see they had worked hard to try to show us their appreciation for what we had done for them, one of the bravest little nations in the world today.
We landed at Fartin at 2:15 PM and that night when we asked for a place to sleep in the barns, they were shocked and offered their parlors, and in fact, every room they could spare. Our next stop was in the town of Lischart, Belgium. On the next day we passed through Oberpallen where we left Belgium, and entered the Province of Luxembourg and at 11:30 we arrived at Boevenge, Luxembourg.
Here the people all talked German so the boys of our company began to feel quite at home. The Second Division was just ahead of us and they said that the Germans were leaving the town just as the Americans came in the other hand. We got our first bath in over three months in this place. On Dec. 1st we again started for Germany. On the way we passed through a beautiful canyon and at 10:30 we reached Fiebach, our destination for that day, where most of the men were billeted in a barn.
The next morning we passed through the most beautiful country I had ever seen but we got orders that after today we must carry a loaded pistol at all times as we would soon be in Germany. Our next day's hike brought us in to the town of Beaufort. This is a real nice town although not very large.
The next morning we started at 3:30, sending an advance guard, for the sake of safety, and arrived at the town of Bolendorf, across from Luxembourg into Germany landing at 12:30 at Peffingen, Germany. Got our billets in a short time and soon had a meal. The people here seemed very friendly and they all seemed anxious to billet soldiers, perhaps because of the pay they were getting from the German government.
We stayed for two days in this place and on the second morning started on our way once more. This was certainly a beautiful country The hills were covered with pine and evergreen but owing to the fact that we had to hike, as we always did with a 60 pound pack, we did not appreciate the scenery as we would have done on a pleasure trip.
We arrived at Ehlands at 12:30, where we stayed that night and the next morning started for Lessegen, getting there about 4:30 P.M. a distance of about 34 kilometers. The following morning we started on a short hike to Dohn. Most of the people said in this place that they were glad that the Kaiser lost his Sob as he was getting 22,000,000 marks a year and the poor Germans had to pay it.
Our next stop was in Vedelhoven and on the day following we reached Niederadnau. Here we received another bath and in the afternoon we got orders not to fraternize with the German people. We did not leave the next morning but stayed over a few days. On the second day we were to demand 130 Marks for 100 Francs and as we had only been getting 80 marks, this was wel-come news indeed. On the 14th we pulled out at 7:30 and after marching through the greatest wine bergs in the world arrived at Dernay at 10:30 the next morning. We started out over the last lap of our Journey to the Rhine and after passing through three very pretty towns or cities, we reached Bodendorf and although we did not know it, this was to be our home for four long months. We are only 4 kilometers from the Rhine end one can get a wonderful view of the river from the big hill on the side of the city. Here is a summary of the whole trip:
Started from Leandres, France on Nov. 16, 1918. Reached final destination, Bodendorf, Germany, Dec. 15, 1918. Covered 288 kilometers or l81 miles. Of the thirty days from start to finish we marched 16 and rested 14.
After reaching our destination, the first few days were spent in a general cleanup. After that we drilled every day. On Feb. 5th Lt. Proudfit left the Company, starting back for the States and on the second day Lt. Peter Kiefer was assigned to the Company from the 4th Division.
On January 10th the Battalion took part in a Brigade Field meet end competing against two Infantry Regiments we got the largest percentage of points and a silver cup for our troubles. On Feb. 25th the Division had a horse show in which our Battalion made seven entries and took six prizes, three firsts, one second and two thirds. On the last day of March, Second Lt. Kilp, who was formerly a Sgt. of Co. "B" Fond du Lac, was assigned to the Company. From this time nothing occurred except the every day routine of drill until the 16th when our Commander-in-Chief, General John Pershing, reviewed the Division at Krip on the Rhine, and the following day inspected the transportation.
On the day of review we left Bodendorf at 9:00 A.M. and did not return until 5:00 P.M. At the conclusion of the review the General made a short speech calling to mind the many good deeds which the Div. had done with the French and American army, touching for a moment the commendations they had received at certain times, some of which follow:
7th Army Corps:
Headquarters June 15, 1918 General Orders #50
At the moment when the 42nd U.S. Infantry Div. is leaving the Lorraine Front, the commanding general of the 6th Army Corps desires to do homage to the fine Military qualities which it has continuously exhibited and to the service it has rendered Baccarat Sector.
The offensive order, the census from the utilizations and the organ-izations of Terrain, as for the liaison of the Armies, the spirit of method and the discipline showed by all its officers and men, the inspiration animating them, proved that at the first call they can henceforth take a new place in a new line of battle.
The Commanding General of 6th Army Corps expresses his deepest grat-itude to the 42nd Division, for its punctual collaboration, he practically distinguished the Commander of the Division General McArthur, the officers under his orders and his staff so brilliantly directed by Col. McArthur.
With a sincere regret the 6th Army Corps sees the 42nd Div. depart but the bonds of affectionate comradeship were not to be broken for in memory are united the living and deaf of the "Rainbow Division", those who are leaving for hard combat and those who after having sacrificed their lives in the east and now rest there guarded over precisely by Franc a.
These sentiments of esteem will still be more inflamed during the impending struggles where the faith of the free people are to be dictated. May our members, united side by side, contribute valiantly to the triumph of Justice and of right.
General Dupont (French)
The above order was made after our Division had completed 110 days of extensive training on the Lorraine Front and the following letter was written by our Division Commander on our first anniversary as a unit.
Hdqs. 42nd Div. A.E.F. France, August 13th, 1918
To the officers of the 42nd Division - also the men.
A year has elapsed since the formation of your organization. It is therefore fitting to consider what you have accomplished as a combat Divi-sion and what you should prepare to accomplish in the future. You first entered the trenches in Lorraine on February 21st; you served on that front for i10 days; you were the first American Division to hold a divisional sector and when you left this sector June 21st you had served continuously as a Division in the trenches for a longer time than any other American Division. Although you entered the sector without any experience in actual warfare, you so conducted yourselves as to win the respect and affection o~ the French Veterans with whom you fought.
Under gas and bombardment, in raids, in patrols, in the heat of hand to hand combat, and in the long dull hours of trench routine so trying to a soldier's spirit, you bore yourselves in a manner worth2 of the traditions of our companies.
You were withdrawn from the Lorraine and moved immediately to the Champagne Front, where, during the critical days from July 14th to the 18th, you had the honor of being the only American Division to fight in General 0ourad'a Army which so gloriously obeyed his order 'we will stand or die' and by its iron defense, crushed the German assault and made possible the offensive of July 19th to the west of Reims.
From Champagne you were called to take part in exploiting the success of Marne. Fresh from the battlefront before Chalon, you were thrown against picked troops of Germany. For eight days you skillfully attached prepared positions; you captured great stores of arms and ammunition.
You forced the crossing of the Oureq. You took hill 212; you drove the enemy, including the imperial guard division, before you for a depth of 15 kilometers when your Infantry was relieved. It was in full pursuit of the re-treating Germans and your Artillery continued to progress and support another American Division in the advance of the Vesle.
For your service in the Lorraine, your Division was formally commended in the following order by the French Army Corps under which you served. For your services in Champagne your assembled Officers received personal thanks and commendation of General Gouraud himself; for your services on the York your division was officially complimented for your services in a letter from the commanding general 1st Army Corps of July 28, 1918.
To your success, all ranks and all services have contributed and I desire to express to every man in command my appreciation to his devoted and courageous effort.
However, our position places a burden of responsibility upon us, which we must strive to bear steadily forward without faltering. To our comrades who have fallen we owe the sacred obligation of maintaining the reputation for which they died to establish. The influence of our performance on our allies and our ending cannot be over estimated, for we were one of the first divisions from our Country to France to show the world that the Americans could fight.
Hard battles and long campaigns lay before us. 0nly by ceaseless vigilance and tireless preparations can we fit ourselves for them. I urge you, therefore, to approach the future with confidence but above all, who with firm determination that so far as it is in your power, you will spare no effort, whether in training or in combat, to maintain the record of our Division and the honor of our Country.
Charles T. Menoher Maj. Gan. U.S.Army
Shortly after the signing of the Armistice the following letter of appreciation was published to the Company.
Bulletin of Information #21
November 13, 1918
The 42nd Division has now been in France over a year. From the time it assembled at the points of debarkation the Division has remained continuously in the zone of the Army, its first training area being within hearing of the great guns at the front of St. Miehiel.
In Feb. 1918 the division was first into the line end has been in contact with the enemy almost continuously since that time until the Armistice was signed by the Germans Nov. 11, 1918. Out of 224 days of the great war which have elapsed since it first entered the lines, the Division has been engaged with the enemy 180 days, the balance of the time has been spent in moving from front to front or in reserve behind the lines.
The Division has marched by road, traveled by camion and moved by trains. It has held a wide sector front in Lorraine. It has been in battle in Champagne, in Voevre at St. Mihiel and in the Argonne.
It was the only American Division to assist in the disastrous defeat of the great German offensive of July 15th on the battle field of Champagne. From that time on it has taken part in every American large operation.
In Nov. when the German power was finally broken the division, as it laid in Sedan, had reached the northern most point obtained by the first American Army in its magnificent advance. The American High Command has long employed the 42nd Division as a first class shock Division. The French Commander under whom the Division has served has sighted it in orders and now a captured document shows the regard in which the Division has been held by the enemy.
The weekly summary of information for October 9th, 1918 of the German group of arms, which held the front from the Argonne to Meuse, enumerates the American units on its front and makes the following statement. 'The engage-ment of the 42nd Division is expected soon. It is in splendid fighting condition and is counted as the best of American Divisions.'
In the course of its service the Division has taken prisoners from 26 enemy Divisions including three Imperial Guard divisions and 22 separate units as follows: 1st, 3rd, 4th, Guard; 10th, 13th, 28th, 40th, 41st, 32nd, 96th, 192nd, 195th, 201st, 202nd, 203rd, 216th, 227th, 233rd, 14th Reserve; 77th re.; 6th Bavarian re.; 4th Landwher; 8th Landwher, 10th Landwher, 21st Landwher; 25th Austria-Hungarian; 3rd, 30th, 42nd, Foot Artillery Regiments, 51st, 65th, Landwher, 67th, 97th, Labor Bn.; 53rd, F.A.; 216th Ag. Bn.; 20th Light, XIII Army Corps, 18th Elec. Bn.; 17th Sharpshooters Mg.; XV Ersatz Foot Artillery Bn.; 70th Sound Ranging Troops, 14th Sturm Bn.; 4th Minenwerfer Bn.; 78th F.A.; 22nd Railroad Bn.; XIII Ludwigburgh Bn.; 3rd Telegraph Bn.; 657 Intelligence Section.
Hdq. 42rid Division
A.E.F. France, Nov. 11th, 1918.
To the Officers and Men of the 42nd Division:
On the 13th of Aug. I addressed to you a letter summarizing your achieve-ments in Lorraine. Before Chalons and on the Ourq. On the occasion of my leaving the division I wish to recall the services since that time and to express to you the appreciation of the unfailing spirits of courage end cheerfulness with which you have met and overcome the difficult tasks which have confronted you.
After leaving the region of Chateau Thierry you have scarcely been assembled in your new area. You were ordered to advance by a hard night march to participate in the attack of St. Mihiel Salient. In this first great operation of the American Army you were instructed to attack in center of the 4th army corps and to deliver the main blow in the direction of the heights overlooking the Masime River.
In the battle that followed you took every objective in accordance with the plan of the Army Commander. You advanced 14 kilometers in 28 hours. You pushed back elements 5 kilometers further or nineteen kilometers beyond the original starting point. You took more than 1,000 prisoners from nine enemy Divisions. You captured nine villages and 42 square kilometers of territory. You seized large supplies of food, clothing, ammunition and engineering material.
Worn though you were by ceaseless campaigning since Feb. you then moved to the Verdun region to participate in the great blow which your country struck west of the Meuse.
You took hill No. 288 La Tullerie and the Co. Chatilion and broke square across the powerful Kriem Hilde Stellung, clearing the way for advance beyond St. Georges and Landres.
Marching and fighting day and night you thrust through the advancing lines of the enemy across the Meuse. You captured the heights, dominating the river before Sedan and reached in the evening the farthest point ever obtained by any American Troops.
Since Sept. l2th you have taken over 12,000 prisoners, you have freed 25 French villages, you have recovered over 120 kilometers of French territory and you have captured great supplies of enemy ammunition and material. What-soever may come in the future, the men of this Division will have the proud consciousness that they have thus far fought wherever the American flag has flown most gloriously in the war. In the determining battle before Chalons, in the bloody drive from Chateau Thierry to the Vesle, in the blotting out of the St. Mihiel salient and in the advance to Sedan you have displayed a splendid and leading part.
I know you will give the same unfailing support to whoever may succeed me as your Commander and that you will continue to beat forward without faltering the colors of "Rainbow Division". I leave you with deep regret and I thank you for your loyalty to me and your services to your Country. You have struck a blow in the greatest war in history. You have proved to the world in no mean measure that our country can defend its own.
Chas. T. Menoher Maj. Gen. U. S. A.
In the last week in March the following of Original Company returned from other Divisions: Cop. Bruhn, Cook Tauber, Pvt. Staack, Gillen, Witt and Pebiseh.
On April 3rd our Battalion colors were decorated and late that evening we received the orders we had been waiting for so long, "moving orders". We were to leave Bodendorf, Germany on April 8th on the first lap of the long Journey that would take us back to God's country and our loved ones.
Pvt. Harvey Stich, who died of influenza, was the only Company "C" man to be buried in Germany.
When the Company pulled out that morning the following men were on the roll:
Capt. Ernest B. Combs
1st Lt. A. R. Bahr
1st Lt. J. Johnson
2nd Lt. O. McKennzie
2nd Lt. P. J. Kiefer
2nd Lt. Kilp
1st Sgt. Dobish
Mess Sgt. J. Matschi
Supply Sgt. F. Horesj
Stable Sgt. A. Ruelle
Sgts. W. Becker
J. O. Fischer
Cpls. A. Sphaat
Hsr. A. Castonia
Saddler P. Graska
Cooks J. Schroeder
Bugler G. Fischer
Pvts.1/C R. Briggs
F. E. Curd
E. St. Clair
The following men were wounded in action:
J. D. Rippel
Mech. A. Schneider
We left Bodendorf at 9:00 A.M. on April 8th, 1919. It was a beautiful morning and many of the natives gathered along the Main St. (about the only street in town) to wave us a fond farewell. Many of the boys carried with them sandwiches or a lunch of some description, which, in many cases, was put up by some pretty "fraulein".
After a three-hour march we reached Oberwinter where we were to entrain. We were placed in a billet and at 9:00 P.M. when we were all prepared for a good sleep we received orders to roll up and march down to our train. At about 12:30 that night we reached our train, all big American box cars, put our equipment in the cars and made a rush for a pile of straw with which we filled our bed ticks. As it was to be a three day Journey we wanted to be as comfortable as possible. There were 41 men in the car I was in and we were rather crowded that night, but everyone was happy. We were on the first lap of our Journey home.
We reached Brest on the morning of the 12th of April. After we had breakfast we were marched out to the Camp, a distance of about 4 miles. We stayed until April 15th when we started for the docks. While in this camp we were notified of the death of Pvt. Alvin Ripple, a former member of Go. "C" at the camp hospital, the cause of death being spinal meningitis.
We remained on the docks until the following day when we embarked on the U.S.S. Pretoria, formerly a German liner. We sailed the next day at 4:00 P.M. and after ten days on the ocean we pulled in to Boston on the 28th of April. Our trip across was enjoyed by all, as the weather was fine and there were several entertainers aboard who made it a point to amuse the boys in one form or another. We were treated to solos, piano, violin and singing and dancing. The sailors and soldiers staged several boxing and wrestling matches and as there were only 1800 troops on board, we had liberty at all times so the trip home was far more pleasant than the trip to France.
We boarded a train at Boston and after riding about two hours we reached Camp Evans Mass. Here the entire Company was deloused, our company going through the process from 10 to 11 P.M. The following day we were moved to barracks where we remained until May 12th. During this time the following men re-enlisted and were transferred to the 51st Depot Brig.
Cpl. John Ruhl
Pvt. Theo. Schmidt
The following men were transferred to 51st Depot Brig. for discharge and they were sent to different Camps through the States.
Cook Frank Becker
Pvts. Wm. Brady
Pvt. Admiral Driesback
Genti1 Van De Ginste
The following men re-enlisted and were attached to the 36th Infantry on May 6th, 1919. Sgt. Louis Kubasta, Cpl. R. Bruh, Mech. Albert Schneider.
We left Camp Evans at 2:00 P.M. on May 12th arriving at Camp Grant, Ill. at ?:00 A.M. On 14th at 10:00 ~.M. we turned in our equipment, except blankets and mess kits. The following day we got our physical examination and at 9:30 A.M. on the l5th we received our pay and discharges and boarded a street car for E. Rockford where we took a special train for dear old Oshkosh, reaching there at 6:00 P.M. amid the din of bells and whistles, and such arousing welcome that the boys never thought of and now, dear reader, that we are back again in dear old Oshkosh, I will bid you adieu.
Hoping you have enjoyed the trip to the utmost and I feel assured that you are now able to answer my question "were they worth the trust that was placed in them".
Brief History of Old Company "F" 2nd Wisconsin Infantry
Now Company C 150th Machinegun Battalion, 42nd Division
Better Known as "Rainbow Division"
-WORLD WAR I
-Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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