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The Chaplins Department


HISTORY
of
THE 306th Field Artillery

The Chaplins' Department


0F all the momentous experiences of a soldier, the keenest and most awe-inspiring is the loss of his comrades, killed in action. In the emotion of that loss we reach a climax in human experience. For if the life of a soldier means danger, we know that they have faced the worst; if it means bravery, we know that they have met the severest test; if it means victory through sacrifice, we know that their sacrifice was supreme even as their victory was glorious.

But it was long before we met the enemy that we were called upon to bear the loss of comrades, when accident and disease claimed the lives of four, two at Camp Upton, and two at Camp de Souge in France. The sadness cast over all Camp Upton on the afternoon of October 28, 1917, by the accident at the railway station was shared by us when the news came that Private Joseph Messina of Battery F had been killed, the first of our men to die in the service. Five months later, on March 22, 1918, Private Edward F. Murphy of Battery E succumbed to pneumonia while on leave at his home in New York City.

A month after our arrival in France another accident saddened us. For on the afternoon of June 3, 1918, Private First Class John J. Wallace of Battery C was struck by a motor truck and died as the result about an hour later in the camp hospital at Souge. Just as we were leaving for the front, Private Benjamin Schmitt of Battery E, who was in bad health when transferred to us at Brest, died of tuberculosis and heart disease at the same hospital on July 11, 1918.

Then we went to the Lorraine sector where we found the enemy menace far less than we had ex-pected. But on July21st we were sternly reminded that there are other hazards of war beside enemy action when an accidental firing of a rifle fatally wounded Private Walter A. Avery of Battery D.

On the second week in August, having crossed the Marne and marched through Chateau-Thierry, we realized that we had been called upon to face the enemy at a point on which the eyes of all the word were turned. Although we felt the thrill of having a part in the turning point of the greatest crisis in human history, yet we were certain that even as Quentin Roosevelt had given his life at a spot nearby, just so surely would some of us be called upon to give up our lives.

Who would be the first? That was the question in our minds when our guns were rolled into position around Chery-Chartreuve amid the shriek and crash of German shells.

But although we were prepared to that extent, yet the solemnity of the news of our first major casualties was deeper than anything we had imagined. On the morning of Sunday, August 18th, the machine gun detail of Battery E was wiped out by a single shell and Sergeant Joseph H. Le Voy, Private First Class Enoch G. Margraf and Private John Nelson had gone, to join the ranks of America's heroes fallen in battle. Then that very afternoon at 4.00 P.M. came the news of the killing of Private Thomas Martin of Battery C on the other end of our sector, the extreme left.

The next point at which the enemy shells damaged our ranks was at the observation post of the First Battalion, on the edge of a wood overlooking the Vesle valley on the left of our sector. It had been a hot corner for most of the forenoon and enemy fliers had been directly overhead, but the observers had stuck to their posts. Then at about the noon hour a shell landed at the foot of the tree from which branches our observers were watching enemy territory. Private Patrick J. Kane of Headquarters Company who had obtained partial shelter at the foot of the tree was struck by shell fragments, and then an officer, Lieutenant Hirschel Tritt of Battery B, was seen to reel from the branch of the tree on which he had been standing and fall across a lower branch. He was caught by others and lowered gently to the ground but never regained consciousness and died a few minutes later. Private Kane was at first able to walk and talk but died soon after reaching the infantry first aid station. Lieutenant Tritt had joined the regiment only a month before and had been assigned to Battery B only the day before but had made many friends and had won the respect of officers and men, especially throughout the First Battalion. He had just received his commission when his career was cut off, but that career could not have been more glorious had it lasted for years.

These two casualties just mentioned occurred on August 19th. The next to go in quick succession was Private Nicola De Felice of Battery C, killed while on duty beside the guns on August 20th.

On August 22d came the loss which was felt most widely throughout the regiment in all batteries and companies when the word was passed from man to man that Lieutenant Samuel J. Reid, Jr., the commander of Battery A, Athletic Officer of the regiment, with the regiment since its organization, had been killed.

The story of his life in college, on the athletic field, in the courts, and as a soldier, is familiar to every member and friend of the 306th Field Artillery. He was captain of his school athletic teams, president of his class at Princeton, captain of the college team and on the All American Baseball Team, a leader in class and college activities, the secretary of the Princeton Club of New York, Assistant United States District Attorney in Brooklyn, a fighter and commander who was like a brother to every man under him. But the climax of his career was, when leading his battery against his country's foe, he gave all. The men of Battery A have done and will continue to do everything humanly possible to show respect for his memory. The epitaph which they placed on his grave near Chartreuve Farm is "A Leader and Inspirer of Men in Life and in Death."

This loss of a battery commander stunned the whole regiment. The effect on the men in Battery A was indescribable for seldom has a leader of any group of men had such a hold on their affection. Yet, although their commander was gone, his spirit was still leading them, for on that very night those guns of Battery A roared back to the enemy with what seemed like a new note of grim defiance.

Yes, he was like an older brother to every man in his outfit. In fact he had left his shelter at his post of command to go to the assistance of one of them who was wounded, and while on that errand was killed. And so it was solemnly fitting that when he died one of those "younger brothers" of his was beside him sharing the same fate, the same grave, the same glory. For the shell that killed his commander also killed Cook Herbert P. Ecks.

On that eventful night, Lieutenant Reid's orderly, Private Rene H. Mongeon, wrote in his little worn pocket diary "Today I lost my best Pal." Thenon the very next morning came one of the most pathetic coincidences of the war when Private Mongeon himself joined his "best Pal" in the great beyond, killed by a shell while leading his horse to water.

Meanwhile Battery F had been heavily shelled and had sent many men to the rear, gassed and wounded. Reports from the field hospital had been indicating that all our wounded men were getting on well, but on August 23d, Mechanic Charles F. Hopp and

Frederick E. Flugge of Battery F who had been struck at almost the same time on the afternoon of August 22d, succumbed to their wounds and died, and were buried at the field hospital near Fere-en-Tardenois.

On the morning of August 24th the regimental Post of Command was ordered to move temporarily from Chartreuve Farm to make way for an infantry Post of Command. The move was to be completed before daylight, and at 3.00 A.M., Private Walczak of Headquarters Company was one of those detailed to bring up the wagon. The road was being shelled at the time near the First Battalion Post of Command and when the wagon failed to appear a searching party found Private Walczak lying dead, he having driven unfalteringly ahead directly into the shelled area.

Battery E had been occupying what was perhaps the most precarious position of any, on the crest of Mont St. Martin with the infantry reserve trenches. It had borne a heavy fire but since the loss of the machine-gun detail on the first Sunday it had been fortunate. On August 25th and 26th, however, four more men of that battery paid the price for the position they had maintained with such determination and fidelity. Two of them, Corporal William H. Gross on August 25th and First Class Private Reilly on August 26th were killed almost instantly at the battery position. The others, First Class Private James P. Bums and Corporal John J. Mc-
Hugh, both wounded on August 26th, died after they had left the first aid station and had been taken to the field hospital. In General Orders NO. 35, Head-quarters 77th Division, November 3, 1918, was the following Posthumous Citation: " Corporal John J. McHugh, No. 1716207, Battery, E 3o6th Field Artillery-while repairing telephone wire under heavy shell fire received wounds which resulted in his death. He showed absolute fearlessness and disregard of danger and exceptional devotion to duty under the most trying conditions."

Battery F had meanwhile moved over to a position on the road just northwest of Chery-Chartreuve and it seemed that its position there would remain undiscovered by the enemy. But on Sunday evening, August 25th, the shells landed thick and fast and at a roll call later that evening Sergeant Raymond A. Berkerneyer did not report. They found his body in a trench by the roadside, the fatal shell having landed three feet away from his shelter.

Amid the ruins of Chery-Chartreuve was a Y. M. C. A. and, although to visit it was to gamble with death, Private James W. Madden on the afternoon of August 28th volunteered to get some supplies for his battery. But he never obtained them, for he was caught just outside of the door of the Y. M. C. A. by a terrific shell burst which caused many other casualties at the same time. It was on that same day that news came of the death of Private Warren L. Hoel of Battery D in the field hospital. He had been wounded on August 26th and had made a game fight for life but in vain. And now every one of the batteries without exception had felt the bitterness of real war.

Then there was a lull; there were evidences that the Huns were preparing to retreat. But just on the eve of our advance across the Vesle the telephone wires near Battery D were destroyed by one of the last bombardments of that area. Out into the storm of flying metal and explosive went Private Jacob Waiser of the repair detail only to return borne by his comrades unconscious, severely wounded, and doomed to meet the end soon after in the field hospital.

The advance toward the Aisne was made soon after this. We felt the satisfaction of victory in the pursuit of a retreating enemy but were reminded that we must count the cost of success when on September 12th Corporal Kaplan of Battery D was badly wounded while on the outskirts of Vauxcere and died in the ambulance, never having regained consciousness.

The wireless messages about the St. Mihiel victory on the 13th cheered us, and when the Italians came to take our places there was universal relief. But there was one more life to go to complete the toll this regiment paid as the price of victory on the Vesle. Long distance enemy guns were tearing up the ruins of Fismes as Battery C came through and Private Samuel S. Brody fell fatally wounded on that night when relief and rest seemed just ahead, over the hill of Dravegny.

The "rest" never came, however, for Foch needed us in the Argonne Forest. The great attack of September 26th cracked the Hindenburg line and we had crossed the Biesme twelve hours after the attack was begun, but the wilderness of the Argonne was a tangled mass of ravines, wire, trenches, underbrush, and thick forest. The exact location of our front lines was unknown, and on September 28th three of our officers who had been reconnoitering were lost. All day Sunday, September 29th was spent in search but there was no trace. Not 'til a month later did we learn that Lieutenant Jean Badin, our French Liaison Officer, had been killed by machine-gun fire and our other two officers taken prisoners in a ravine near Binarville, not far from where the "Lost Battalion" of infantry were cut off a few days later. Lieutenant Badin had been a member of the 117th Heavy Artillery of the French Army before he was assigned to us. He was not only our ally but had become our friend and comrade. His sacrifice while in our ranks has linked us more closely than ever to his nation.

On October 22d when we were having a short breathing spell behind the lines at La Haraz6e came the tragic death of five men of Battery E caused by a "barbed wire exploder." The presence of that explosive near the picket line still lacks an adequate explanation but the mystery of it only aggravated our sorrow. They were Private First Class Dominick A. Detrani, Private James Fleming, Private Levi Lefto, Private First Class Henry Lindblom, and Private First Class Joseph F. McGrath.

The first week in November found us chasing the Germans in their last great rout to Sedan, with our Third Battalion well in the lead. On November 5th final victory seemed near. Danger seemed entirely passed, but it was not. Private James A. Welch of Battery F met almost instant death when a shell struck the Third Battalion Post of Command on that evening. His grave near the Meuse is a monument to the iron will of our regiment to be " game to pay the price" up to the very end and to stop at nothing short of complete victory.

Most of our fallen comrades were buried where they fell on the battlefield or at the nearest field hospital. There was little time or opportunity for proper eulogies or elaborate ceremonies. The simple funeral services sought to remind the hearers that the spirit of a hero does not die, that the work for which they gave their lives must be finished by us who are spared and that their lives although cut off in youth had attained the climax of glory. Several battery and battalion memorial services were held when more of the men could assemble and on January 5th a regimental memorial service was held at which the entire regiment was turned out.

Throughout our campaign the health of our regiment has been splendid, and a tribute to our Medical Detachment and Supply Company. Not a single man did we lose by disease during the months of exposure at the front, in spite of abnormal living conditions and difficulty in bringing up supplies; and we only lost two while in training, a remarkably low record.

The world-wide epidemic of influenza and pneumonia, however, made itself felt in our ranks during the weary months of waiting after the Armistice and eight of our comrades were buried in France although they had lived to see the victory for which they had fought and for which they had crossed the ocean. Second Lieutenant Harvey 0. Weilopp died December 9, 1918, Private Benjamin H. Sloan of Supply Company, January 8, 1919,Private Edward E. Hamilton, Battery B, January 13, 1919, Horseshoer Anthony Heck, Headquarters Company, January 20, 1919, Private John M. McGrady, Battery B, February 12, 1919, Private George L. Belain, Battery B, February 13, 1919, Private Thomas F. O'Rourke, Battery E, February 17, 1919, Corporal William Ruppert, Headquarters Company, November 20, 1918.

Whatever else may be forgotten, the memory of our fallen comrades will always remain. Some of them, of course, were more widely known than others; such as men like Sergeant Le Voy, active in the welfare work of the regiment; Sergeant Berkemeyer, a man of the strongest and most popular moral leadership in his battery; Corporal Kaplan President of the Jewish Federation of the regiment; Corporal McHugh, athlete and true sportsman; Lieutenant Reid, whose fame extends far beyond our ranks.

But whatever their varying rank and duties, telephone men, cannoneers, cooks, officers, drivers, messengers, observers, all, from battery commander to private, who have shared the Great Adventure have equal rank in the true democracy of American Heroism.

Religious Activities of the 306th Field
Artillery

DURING the regiment's period of training in America most of its members were accessible to the services of their home churches or synagogues in or about New York City.

For those who remained in camp over Sunday, morning and evening services were held regularly. Two Catholic masses and two Protestant services were held each Sunday and in addition at least one religious service and one Bible class were held during each week at the Y. M. C. A.

The various watertight compartments of the Leviathan each served as a church building on our Sunday on the ocean and our first Sunday in France at Pontanezen barracks were fittingly observed by large outdoor services.

While in training camp, and in billets in towns, before and after the fighting, there was every opportunity for regular schedules of services. They consisted of Catholic masses, hours for confessions, Jewish services, Protestant communions, Protestant church services, general services, Bible classes and an open Forum for all creeds. This last mentioned enterprise was conducted by the cooperation of the three religious federations of the regiment and presented a series of topics for discussion for general moral and social topics such as " What Do You Mean by Morale?" "What of the Girl You Left Behind?" " Will Your Religion Affect Your Courage Under Fire? " " What is Your Personal Duty as a Soldier -Citizen of Democracy?" " Should the Standard of Right and Wrong be the Same for Soldier as for Civilian? "

These conferences were largely attended and many men participated in the discussions.

Each religious federation had an executive committee composed of a representative from each battery and company. Corporal Kaplan of Battery D (killed in action September 12, 1918) was President of the Jewish Federation; Sergeant Hughes of Headquarters Company, of the Catholic Federation; Sergeant Fisher of Battery B of the Protestant Federation.

While we were at the front there were always a quantity of unexpected factors and emergencies to be taken into account in the arrangement of religious services. Night firing was more conducive to sleep than to church during the daylight hours and likelihood of shelling and enemy air observation prevented any sort of group assembly. In spite of these handicaps a few small simple services were held at the gun positions and some more largely attended ones in the woods at the echelons with the help of the chaplain's organ. The most gratifying thing was that each man, throughout those trying months, showed the spirit of devotion, loyalty, bravery, nerve, unselfishness, sympathy, and courage in the face of death. Wherever that spirit is found, there is real religion.

Of course there were a great many services at the front of a sadder and more solemn kind, when it became our duty to pay the last simple tribute beside the graves of our fallen comrades. Many 306th Field Artillery men with their chaplain were often called upon to conduct burials and funerals for dead soldiers of other regiments; most frequently for infantrymen near the infantry first aid stations. Memorial services were held later for batteries and battalions, and on January 5th at Dancevoir the entire regiment was formed for a regimental memorial service.

Our regiment owes a great debt of gratitude to the various chaplains of other faiths who assisted the regimental chaplain in religious work. Father Sheridan, of the 305th Field Artillery, has rendered steady and most appreciated service to the Catholic men, particularly in hearing confessions at the gun positions on the battlefield. The French cures of Merviller, Dancevoir, and Noyen were most cordial in their invitations for our soldiers to join in their services. Rabbi Blechman at Camp Upton, and Rabbi Schwartz of Bordeaux gave liberally of their time and energy for the benefit of the Jewish men of the regiment, the latter conducting a most impressive ritual at Camp de Souge just before we left for the front. Chaplains Friedman and Voorsanger of Division Headquarters visited the regiment at regular intervals. The secretaries of the Y. M. C. A., K. of C., and J. W. B. consistently cooperated most sympathetically with all chaplains in religious work programs, and often used great initiative in planning events.

A religious census in Camp Upton showed 35% Catholic, 30% Protestant, and 2570 Jewish men in the regiment. This proportion was nearly the same throughout our history, although we had many replacements after the census was taken.

Some of the outstanding religious events in the history of the regiment have been; the Day of Atonement observance at Camp Upton, September, 19 17; Easter, 1918, at Camp Upton; the "Welcome to France" outdoor service at Pontanezen Barracks; "Mother's Day," May, 1918, at Camp de Souge; Visit of the Grand Rabbi of Bordeaux; Service in commemoration of fourth anniversary of the war, held August 4th, at Loromontzey Woods in Lorraine; Service in Bois-de-Meuniers, September 15th, while en route from the Vesle to the Argonne; Com-memoration of completion of six months' foreign service, November 3, 1918; "Victory Sunday" service at Sommauthe near the Meuse on November 16, 1918; "Fathers' Day" and Thanksgiving Day services at Marcq; Christmas services at Dancevoir.

A Purim service and banquet and Passover service were held at Noyen in March, 1918, and a Christmas observance with a tree and party was held for the children of Dancevoir in December, 1918, with the co6peration of Father Thivet, the cure of the village. Our last six Sundays in France were observed by a series of " Homeward Bound " talks in the Noyen theater, and on April 6th a service in commemoration of the second anniversary of America's declaration of war was held. The decks of the Agamemnon served as pew and pulpit at the last services held on April 27th, just before we sighted America.

Many of the greatest preachers of the United States were heard in France, through the agency of the Y. M. C. A., and whatever the subject a real commonsense idea was put across without offense to men of any creed.

More important, however, than the enumerating of services and listing of events is the pride which every member and friend of the regiment feels in the high standards of intelligence and conduct that have been maintained. Our men gave a broad-minded sympathetic hearing to all religious messages whether or not they agreed with the views expressed. They showed themselves to be high-minded thinking men of the best order of American citizen-ships.

We have been assured that no regiment in the A. E. F. had a better moral record and that few equaled the splendid spirit of high endeavor and disciplined self-control which this organization consistently displayed.

ROGER PAGET, The Son of the Regiment

0N Sunday morning, June 9th, at a memorable assembly at Camp de Souge, four-year-old Roger Paget of Bordeaux was adopted as the protégé of the regiment. His father, Lieutenant Henri Paget of the 8th Cuirassiers a pied, was killed in action on April 29,1917, at a point north of the Marne near where most of our own men were killed in action.
Lieutenant Paget twice received the Croix de Guerre and was named for the medal of the Legion of Honor. We have been proud to have the son of such a brave soldier and a representative of the children of France, become a part of the regiment.

Madame Paget, Roger's mother, and a detail from the American Red Cross were present at the ceremony, which was opened by the regimental band and the singing of America. The chaplain referred to the story of Lieutenant Paget and introduced Roger and his mother. Colonel Miller then accepted Roger in behalf of the regiment while the handsome boy himself stood on the table by his side.

Sergeant Levi then spoke briefly in French translating what had been said and expressing the sentiment of the occasion. The climax of the program was reached when Rudolfi stood by the side of the lad and sang Sweetest Little Feller, Mighty Lak' a Rose and the Marseillaise.

Captain Van Keuren of the Red Cross then congratulated the regiment, after which the band played Sousa's 306th Field Artillery march. Most of the men came to the platform to meet Roger and his mother personally.

Bordeaux, Paris, Boston, New York, Philadelphia papers have written up the event and referred in glowing terms to Roger and his regiment. His picture was also published and sent to hundreds of friends of the regiment who in turn have showered letters and souvenirs on him. The 306th Field Artillery Association at a mass meeting in Brooklyn, unanimously adopted Roger and sent him a bountiful box for Christmas, 19 18.

Many of our men on leave visited the Pagets both in Bordeaux and Lyon to which city they moved in February, 1919. "9 Rue Valdeck-Bousseau, Brotteaux Lyon," is the address. They will, in turn, surely visit New York occasionally.

The Farmers Loan and Trust Company of Bordeaux is handling the fund we have established for Roger's education.
As we left France we of the 306th Field Artillery had no more happy reminiscence than the thought of the boy -who has become a symbol to us of the meaning of our fight for the children of France, our own boys and girls, and the future generations of the whole world. We are proud that we helped to finish the work for which his father gave his life, and that some of our comrades shared his noble sacrifice.

That thought will always bind Roger closely to the 306th Field Artillery.
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