4. The Lorraine Front



L. Wardlaw Miles

Chapter 4
The Lorraine Front


The Lorraine Front


MORE hard hiking, and then the Battalions entrained by night at Longpre, Hangest, and Pont Remy respectively. Although the yards at Longpre had been severely bombarded the night before, the Regiment was spared an attack. There followed an endless trip of three days, which began by slowly carrying us westward. All sorts of speculation were rife as to the destination. To Italy! To Chateau-Thierry, where it was rumored the Germans had broken through in their drive to Paris! (And where in reality they had been stopped at this time by the French and our own 2nd Division.) To Russia! Perhaps the only destination not seriously suggested was Hoboken.

By day and night the little freight cars marked "Hommes 40-Chevaux 8," rumbled and bumped slowly along, stopping at times for a brief stay while the men filed by to fill canteens with coffee. The Regiment was traveling, two sections to the Battalion, and the ordres de transport were issued to the train commander at various points en route. This route took the Regiment through battered Amiens, then southwest to Forges-les-Eaoux, then southeast on a broad swing around Paris, touching its environs at Versailles, through Toul and Nancy, until the final ordres de transport were handed to the train commanders bearing the final destinations- Charmes, Chatel, and Thaon, small rail stations in the neighborhood of Epinal. Then by degrees all learned that we were going in on the Lorraine front.

For some reason, irritating and unexplainable to the doughboy, these three detraining points were a full day's march from billeting or camping areas. Some sections detrained stiff and sleepy in the chilly dawn to find a march of twenty kilometers ahead of them. At last the 1st Battalion got itself comfortably sheltered under tents in the beautiful park of the chateau of Girecourt, Major Budd's 2nd Battalion under canvas and in billets in Fontenay, and Major Chinner's 3rd Battalion and Regimental Headquarters, with Headquarters Company, at St. Helene.

The Regiment was for a time at rest. Rolling kitchens began again to function. Tiresome travel, reserve rations, and grueling marchings had come to an end. After two months of dirty barns, bombing raids, long-range artillery fire, with the roar of the big guns often in one's ears, and at night the horizon blinking with the constant heat-lightning above the front; after those months of chilly discomfort and hard training on the Arras front, the Regiment had apparently entered a land of peace and summer. Once more British rations had given way to honest American white bread, beef, bacon, and potatoes. There was no drill schedule. Reveille was moved half an hour forward, and the men devoted themselves to getting clean.


The major part of the 77th Division was now reunited, and billeted in various towns surrounding Division Headquarters at Rambervillers. While under command of our own officers, we were not yet free from tutelage. Under supervision of the 61st French Division we were to relieve the 42nd-the Rainbow-Division in the line.

The 308th, going into the line, was preceded by reconnaissance, and as the battalions went in in numerical order the first trip of inspection was made by the Major and Captains of the 1st Battalion with their First Lieu-tenants. Such a trip,- whether taken then or a little later when all went forward, forms a memory never to be forgotten. Now at last, for the first time, most of us reached the long anticipated and long approached front line. After a ride of several hours in trucks through Baccarat, to which Division Headquarters had moved; through Neuf Maisons, later Headquarters of both 308th and 154th Brigade; over red sandstone roads, through beautiful pine forests, the party reached the little town of Badonviller, where it descended.

Two things stick in the writer's memory. The road on the hill west of Neuf Maisons, camouflaged with dirty yellow cloth and with the ominous and significant sign suspended above it, "Zone Dangereuse "; this and the meeting during a short stop at the town with certain members of the 42nd Division, who were strolling about in what, considering the situation, seemed a strangely unconcerned manner.

Badonviller before the war had been an important little manufacturing city; it made pottery, as Baccarat made glass, and after Baccarat, was the most important town of the Department of Meurthes-et-Moselle. The German invasion Of 1914 had wrecked it and swept past. When the Germans fell back after the battle of the Marne, Badonviller rested on the French line, and four years of shell-fire had accomplished what the enemy could not finish in his first rush. In the streets, barricades constructed of wattling, with a filling of cement leaving loop-holes for rifles, recalled where the French had resisted the invader in hand-to-hand street fighting. At the time of the 308th's arrival the town boasted a single citizen, who was later gassed and evacuated. Some half dozen houses still stood, and in one of these, a big square two story structure of red limestone set at the rear of a court-yard, formerly home and wholesale house of a wine mer-chant, was Headquarters of the 3rd Battalion, 168th Infantry, which our 1st Battalion relieved.

Badonviller occupied the extreme left of our sector, which from there extended towards the east and south about three miles. The whole front line trench system was connected in the rear by a road, and for the most part sufficiently protected from observation by forests that served as cover in the daytime for small parties. An American platoon or string of ration carts, however, always caught the eye of the observer in a German balloon and drew a few bursts of shrapnel. For some unexplained reason, French ration wagons went unmolested.

The regimental sector was divided into three sub-sectors: Chamois, on the left, rolling meadowland strongly suggestive of Illinois prairie; Village Negre, in the middle, breaking into wooded hills and valleys; and Chasseur, on the right, yet more wooded and hilly, where the actual foothills of the Vosges range began. The trench system constituted an elaborate maze, running haphazard up and down hill and across gullies; now in the woods and now in open land. At intervals occurred little groups of dugouts built with pine logs and square blocks of red stone into the sides of the hills. Many of these were ornamented with rustic woodwork, done with a truly French sense of decoration.

To Major Nelson, on his arrival, occurred an incident which is worth relating. A few days earlier some American artillery had dropped a few shells into the opposite town of Bremenil. There existed a sort of gentleman's agreement that Headquarters towns should not be shelled. And so the enemy replied by shelling and gassing Badon-viller. This happened to begin when the two Battalion Commanders and Staff were sitting down to mess. Mess was finished to the last detail-and this Iowa outfit lived well in the front line; not an officer left the table until the gas alarm was screeching in the courtyard. Shells were bursting in the street, and a battered building adjoining Headquarters had been set on fire and was blazing. The bombardment kept up till 10:30 that night and began again at 3 in the morning to last two hours. A noisy reception to what had been described as "a quiet rest sector " !

On the 17th of June, the entire Regiment began its thirty-eight kilometer march to the front. The 1st Battalion leading reached Ker Avor, a French rest camp, at 2 o'clock of a rainy, muddy, pitch-black night. The next day the Battalion slept and rested in the rustic Chautauqua-like collection of artistic huts set in the center of a magnificent pine forest. The next night the Regiment marched in by half platoons to relieve the Rainbow battalion. An interesting feature of the march to the front was the meeting at night with the troops coming out, and particularly memorable that with the 69th New York. Father Duffy vividly describes the occasion:

Yesterday was New York "Old Home Day" on the roads of Lorraine. We marched out from Baccarat on our hunt for new trouble, and met on the way the 77th Division, all National Army troops from New York City. It was a wonderful encounter. As the two columns passed each other on the road in the bright moonlight there were songs of New York, friendly greetings and badinage, sometimes good-humored, sometimes with a sting in it. "We're going up to finish the job that you fellows couldn't do ... .. Look out for the Heinies or you'll be eating sauerkraut in a prison camp before the month is out ... .. The Germans will find out what American soldiers are like when we get a crack at them." "What are you givin' us," shouted Mike Donaldson: "we was over here killin' Dutchmen before they pulled your names out of the hat." "Well, thank God," came the response, "we did not get drunk to join the army."

More often it would be somebody going along the lines shouting "Anybody there from Greenwich Village?" or "Any of you guys from Tremont?" And no matter what part of New York was chosen the answer was almost sure to be "Yes." Sometimes a man went the whole line calling for some one man: "Is John Kelly there?" the answer from our side being invariably, "Which of them do you want?" One young fellow in the 77th kept calling for his brother who was with us. Finally he found him and the two lads ran at each other burdened with their heavy packs, grabbed each other awkwardly and just punched each other and swore for lack of other words until officers ordered them into ranks, and they parted perhaps not to meet again. At intervals both columns would break into song, the favorite being on the order of:

East side, West side, All around the town, The lots sang " ring-a-rosie, "London Bridge is falling down." Boys and girls together,

Me and Mamie O'Rourke,

We tripped the lightfantastic
On the sidewalks of New York.

The last notes I heard as the tail of the dusty column swung around a bend in the road were "Herald Square, Anywhere, New York Town, take me there." Good lads, God bless them, I hope their wish comes true.

Fortunately the weather had cleared, which made the further advance more comfortable. Doubly fortunate, the enemy apparently suspected nothing of what was going on. The front was as silent as the usual midnight at Upton. The French artillery, which had earlier relieved the artillery of the 42nd Division and was to support the combined Franco-American line (the 77th Division's own artillery still being in training), put down a three-hour bombardment in the first part of the evening, with the double purpose of covering the relief and of repaying the ungentlemanly shelling of Badonviller. According to one story, which is said to have become current in the A. E. F., members of the 42nd Division picked up the day before the relief one of the German paper propaganda balloons which bore the following message: "Good-bye 42nd! We're sorry to see you go! Welcome 77th I We'll give you Hell! " A good story, but if the balloon was picked up, it was never shown to any officer of our own Regiment.

At 9 o'clock, Captain Harvey's runner arrived at Battalion Headquarters with the laconic message-Company A in position. It was possible to conduct the relief of the Chasseur sector practically by daylight owing to its being heavily wooded and approached by well sheltered roads. About 11 o'clock Captain Breckinridge's runner announced B in position in the trenches at Village Negre; about midnight, Captain Fahnestock, obliged to proceed with the greatest caution in the open treeless Chamois sector, reported C in position and the relief complete.

At last! The first of the National Army is actually in the line, holding its own small section of the five hundred odd miles of Western Front. At last! Here is the place toward which every moment of the last nine months has been step by step leading us. And whether his eyes rested upon the walls of a room in Battalion Headquarters, or the walls of a dugout a little further front, or whether they peered from a still more advanced strong point, reached by the maze of trenches and facing some dimly -seen field or woods, wherever he might be, there came into each man's heart something which might be translated into words thus: "At last! This is the Real Thing. May I play a man's part in it."

And so the 308th went into the front line on the night of June 21-22.

To one visiting the trench system of the sector for the first time, it appeared a maze at once intricate and with-out plan. Nevertheless the scheme by which the French placed the different groups of soldiers in the front line was in itself simple enough. This scheme, identical in each of the three sub-sectors, divided the front line into three parallel lines. First came the P. C. (Poste de Commandement) in which the Captain of the Company occupying the sub-sector had his quarters. Next going forward were two P. A.'s (Points dAppui) each garrisoned by a platoon half French and half American. These P. A.'s were strong positions of firing trenches, support trenches, and dugouts, forming the main line of resistance. Finally, at the extreme front, from six hundred to a thousand yards beyond the P. A.'s, were four G. C.'s (Groupes de Combat) each garrisoned by a platoon, two by American platoons and two by French. These G. C.'s were miniature strong points, practically square, with firing trenches, support trenches, and communicating trenches. The G. C.'s were connected with the P. A.'s by long communicating trenches, most of them carefully revetted with wattling and floored with duck board.

However complicated it may sound in description, the theory of the scheme was simplicity itself. The P. C. was a tree trunk which branched into two P. A.'s, and each of these P. A.'s branched in turn into two G. C.'s. Each of the three sub-sectors was such a branching tree. In consequence, the entire Badonviller sector included three P. C.'s (from right to left-Chasseur, Village Negre, and Chamois); in advance of these, six P. A.'s (numbered from. right to left, 1 to 6); and at the extreme front, twelve G. C.'s (numbered from right to left, 1 to 12). By this arrangement, P. A. No. 1 supported G. C.'s Nos. 1 and 2; and so on until on the extreme left, P. A. 6 supported G. C.'s 11 and 12. The Points d'Appuis all had French names as well as numbers, but no one memorized them as the numbers were so much more convenient.

According to the original scheme of defense, each P. C. was garrisoned by an American and a French platoon with an American and French Company Commander in joint command; each P. A. was garrisoned by a mixed platoon of French and Americans with two platoon commanders. G. C.'s 1 and 2 were held by platoons from Company A; 3 and 4 by French platoons; 5 and 6 by platoons from C; and finally 11 and 12, considered the most vulnerable positions of the line, by the French. Company D and a French Company were in support in the town of Badonviller. All the positions so far mentioned were of course part of the real front line (the so-called Green Line). The real support (on the so-called Red Line) was the 2nd Battalion camped at Ker Avor, but ready at the first alarm to spread out into the reserve line of trenches running through the woods there. The real reserve (on the Blue Line) was the 3rd Battalion in the town of Bertri-champs.

On the night of June 23rd, a change in the scheme of defense saved one American platoon and cost the French the whole of another. The original garrisoning of the G. C.'s put the Americans in liaison with the French 8th Army on the right of the front line, and put the French in liaison with the front of the American 307th on the left. Therefore on this night the posts were shifted, the French taking the odd numbers and the Americans the even. This substituted a French platoon for the American platoon in G. C. 9. The French platoon was wiped out that very night.

In the Chamois sector, a slight variation from the scheme of defense in the rest of the line was made with G. C. 12, held by Lieutenant Sheridan's platoon at the extreme left of the regimental front. Since this position was clearly untenable at night, the platoon was withdrawn to the ruins of the big pottery factory on the edge of Badonviller, leaving one squad in G. C. 12. The French in 11 were likewise withdrawn at nightfall, but G. C. 10 was held by Lieutenant Flood's platoon with the orders to keep the position by night and day to the last man. The French in G. C. 9 had similar orders. In support were Lieutenant Cullen's platoon in P. A. 5 and. Lieu-tenant Schenck's in P. A. 6, and with each of these in accordance with the plan already described a French platoon as well. Lieutenant Schenck, acting temporarily as Gas Officer, was not with his men, but his work in organizing the gas defenses doubtless proved helpful that night. The platoon of C Company was under command of Corporal Martin F. Tuite who later headed a platoon in the Pocket. Captain Fahnestock, with Lieutenant Blackwell second in command, was in command of the sub-sector.

Meanwhile Battalion Headquarters had been established in the so-called "Pink Chateau" which contained a telephone switchboard, and was a two story stucco residence painted a startling pink. There was a good reason for this choice; the Pink chateau had never been hit. Some legend bequeathed by the town's departed inhabitants told of its owner being in league with the enemy, and of a dog, trained by him to carry information, captured with a message to the Germans tied to his collar. The Kaiser's own mandate was supposed to protect the Pink chateau. How much faith this legend deserved will appear later.

On the day after the relief, Captain Crook brought up his Machine Gun Company and established his Headquarters at Village Negre, while Captain Condon, Regimental Surgeon, set up an aid station in a gas protected cellar in Badonviller. Another such station was under Lieutenant Morgan at Village Negre, and the third under Lieutenant Cooley at Chasseur.

The events of the night must be told in the light of subsequent knowledge. Whether the balloon story was true or not, the Germans knew that some new Division was in, and prepared a royal reception. Special artillery was brought up, and gas shell projectors installed for a big gas attack. A battalion of Sturm Truppen, or "Storm Troops," was employed to stiffen the 35th Landwehr Division already on the Division's front. The attack planned was apparently more ambitious than a local raid, as was learned from prisoners who returned from German prison camps after the Armistice. At least six bombing airplanes had been brought into the show. Other planes with machine guns were to circle above the trenches. Several companies of flamethrowers were also assigned to the attack, but, though the 307th lost some men from these, they apparently never got close enough to get into action against the 308th.

Of all this preparation the Regiment was totally unconscious. For two days reigned the quiet of a summer Sunday in the country, only broken occasionally when some distant German 77 or I55 took a ranging shot on the French batteries carefully and securely screened in the thick timber north of Ker Avor.

"Bonne guerre, ici, " remarked Captain Poli to Captain Fahnestock as they made the evening rounds of the Chamois line.

From Mont Kemmel to Albert the British were holding on desperately, looking forward to the renewal of the great German drive. At Chateau-Thierry the French were gripping hard, fearful for Paris in case of another blow like that of May. But this was the rest sector of Lorraine. "Bonne guerre, icil"


At exactly 3 o'clock on the morning of June 24th, the storm broke. It did not begin with a pattering of shells, an interlude gradually working up to the fortissimo of drumfire. It began all at once-as if at one moment an organist had pulled out all the stops, pressed down all the keys, and stepped hard on all the pedals. The sound recalled that of the whistles and explosions at midnight of New Year's Eve, a background of steady roar supplied by the discharge of far off guns, punctuated with the sharp and broken reports of shells exploding near at hand.

In Badonviller, battered walls began to tumble; soon the streets were blocked with debris; shells of all calibres up to I55's were bursting at almost minute intervals; and as about every third carried gas the town was soon reeking with mustard fumes. The choice of the Pink Chateau as Battalion Headquarters was obviously not unknown to the enemy. Five direct hits were registered on the building and grounds, and throughout the bombardment two airplanes circled over the chateau and peppered it with machine gun fire. It is to be remembered that here was situated the telephone exchange, by which

the entire trench system, French Headquarters, Regimental Headquarters at Neuf Maisons, and Division Headquarters at Baccarat, were all connected.

The exchange in the Pink chateau was placed in a half cellar and thus fairly well protected from gas, but the necessity of constantly opening the blanketed doors for those going in and out soon filled it with fumes. The Battalion Staff worked in gas masks, the telephone operator taking off his mask long enough to shout messages into the phone. Secrecy was at an end. The enemy knew what was going on better than we did. Now Major Nelson began to learn that nothing is quite so helpless as a battalion commander during an attack on a trench position, unless it be his own superiors farther back. He has made his dispositions out in front and they will have to stand. If attacked he cannot get out to change them. His duty it is to sit tight at Battalion Headquarters where he can be found, to try to keep his line of communications open, and to be ready to send help to any section of the front that calls for it.

One by one the wires began to go out. First died the one to French Headquarters, and soon only two were left, one forward to an observing post in Chamois, and the other back to Regimental Headquarters. The operator in Chamois stuck to his post throughout, and as daylight dawned, reported no attack in that sub-sector. The message went through to Regimental Headquarters and then this line died. Major Nelson turned to two men of the Signal Platoon and commanded them to go out and repair the line.

"Out there?" asked one of them quizzically.

"Certainly out there. The Infantry is out there, isn't it? The Signal Platoon ought to have as much guts as the Infantry."

" Come on, Bill, it's us for the fresh air," said the lineman. They adjusted their gas masks, gripped their tool kits, and disappeared behind the gas blanketed door. They had the line fixed by the time the show was over, when it proved of great help in getting up additional medical assistance.

Shortly after daylight, the only remaining telephone line, that to the Chamois outpost, died and an impenetrable curtain of ignorance descended over the happenings at the front, while every one wondered ceaselessly as to the fate of the three companies out there. About 5 o'clock the storm ended as suddenly as it began. A silence followed almost depressing in quality after the infernal racket. The ruins of Badonviller were smoking and white dust clouds hung over the piles of d6bris. Streets were piled with stone and mortar interspersed with puddles of yellow mustard gas mixture.

At last a C Company runner staggers into Battalion Headquarters. He is white-faced, mud-covered, and his uniform is torn. He reports that everybody is killed.

'Trenches all gone. Men all gone. Everything all gone. "

What had really happened at the front?

Of the three sub-sectors, that of Chasseur had received no punishment whatever. But Village Negre, cut transversely by a deep gulley, was an ideal place upon which to deliver a gas attack, and this the Germans carried out in a very thorough manner. The road, Captain Breckinridge's P. C., and the two P. A.'s were peppered with nine inch gas shells. One of these landed directly on B Company's rolling kitchen and blew it to pieces. The accuracy of the fire was very noticeable, and the communication trenches received a number of hits. As many members of B Company then had opportunity to observe, the sound of a gas shell has a peculiar quality accompanied by a sort of gurgling and hissing in flight and exploding with a softer detonation than that of the high explosives. Two men of B Company were killed outright by bursting shells, and many others suffered from gas. " Thirty-eight of these required treatment and one died. The French in the same sector are said to have lost more than one hundred. Although this was our first experience, our gas discipline was apparently the superior.

But it was in the Chamois sector that the most important events had happened. In addition to the bombardment there were attacks made on G. C.'s 9, 10, and 11. The French platoon in 9 was, as already stated, virtually wiped out.

At G. C. 10 the platoon which had never been under fire before went through a terrific hammering. At one corner a two hundred and fifty pound air bomb made a direct hit, and the trench became a gaping shell crater twelve feet across and fifteen feet deep. No better platoon than Lieutenant Flood's could have been picked on which first to try the effect of battle upon our conscript army. It was about the most cosmopolitan platoon of the most cosmopolitan company that came out of the melting pot of New York. It comprised Irish, Italians, East Side Jews, Russians, Scandinavians, and even a few native Americans, but they all acted as one would wish Americans to act in such a crisis. At Camp Upton, this had been one of the best drilled platoons in the 308th, proving a close contender for the Regimental trophy won by an E Company platoon. Now upon another kind of drill ground it was to show the effect of that drilling.

When the barrage lifted, Flood gave the command to man the firing trench. Instantly riflemen and chauchat teams took their places still wearing gas masks. The wearing of the masks was a mistake but in accordance with French orders in the sector, and in spite of this handicap they met the advancing Germans with concentrated rifle fire. The attacking force on G. C. 10 was estimated from 150 to 200. If this is correct, a conservative estimate would show the Americans outnumbered three to one. While rifles and chauchats were clearing the front, the enemy filtered in from the sides of the battered positions so that the Americans were attacked on three sides at once. The fight became a hand-to-hand affair: German potato mashers against American bay-onets in the shell holes and battered trenches. Flood encouraged his men in just the way that any one who had watched him working with them for the last nine months, might know he would do. After he had shot two Germans and lay wounded on the ground, he continued this splendid encouragement until from loss of blood he grew unconscious. By that time the platoon was overpowered by numbers and the fight for G. C. 10 was lost. But there had been no surrender. With fifty percent of the platoon lying on the ground-seventeen of whom had seen their first and last fight-the struggle still went on.

When the platoon ceased to be a fighting unit, the Germans rounded up twenty prisoners and went back to their own lines. That these prisoners did not go without a fight the bayoneted body of Corporal J. J. Sullivan, found later in the road toward the German trenches, was mute witness. The next morning our scouts found the body of but one German in front of G. C. 16. Sergeant Wagner, who with a badly shattered leg had crawled back the three quarter mile of communicating trench, as well as the five unwounded survivors of the platoon, all asserted that many of the attacking force had been killed. It was not until after the Armistice, when Corporal Nasser came back from a prison camp at Strassburg, that the truth was known. The German losses in the attack on G. C. 10 exceeded the entire strength of Flood's platoon. The enemy had concealed them by carrying off his dead and wounded.

Here is Flood's own account of the matter:

Early on the morning of the 24th, I decided that as everything was going along so nicely, I would shave. Sergeant John Herold and myself were on duty at night. While Sergeants Wagner and Maroney took charge during a few hours, I slept during the day. I had finished my shave and made a round of the sector inspecting the men in their "stand to" positions and was sitting in the dugout gazing into the candle light, when I was suddenly almost thrown to the floor by the terrific bombardment that started. Not stopping to think, I immediately gave the gas signal and rushed out of the dugout into our trench system. The din was something terrific and the ground was being rapidly chewed up, so much so, that when I collected my wits, and started back to get the Sergeants together, I could make very little headway. Luckily, however, I ran across Sergeant Frank Wagner, and my orderly, Private William Dietrich, and the three of us proceeded to go up and down the line. Most of us by this time had gotten over our first shock, and I ordered the men to lie low in their positions, with a man standing every few yards to watch for the approach of the enemy.

As far as I could make out then, and what I have heard since tends to confirm it, the German barrage was laid to my right and left with the third side of it directly on our position. After what seemed an age, but what was I suppose about ten minutes, the side of the barrage that was directly on our position seemed to move back toward where you and Company B were stationed. So far, through the dusk, we could see only vague forms moving in No Man's Land, but the sky was getting clearer every minute.

Wagner, Dietrich, and myself were plowing through the now half demolished trenches, when in making the turn in one, we came across about a dozen of the enemy in single file, advancing down an unused trench that ran into No Man's Land and which had been barricaded. I aimed my pistol and fired twice; two of them dropped but the others immediately let fly their grenades. I jumped back behind the turn in the trench, and yelled to Wagner and Dietrich, but one of the grenades hit the wall of the trench behind me, and dropped between my feet. I saw it and jumped, but as I did so, it exploded and that put me out of it. Wagner and Dietrich were both badly wounded by the same grenade, and as I opened my eyes, I saw Wagner gradually coming to. Private Cossen was also wounded near us at the time. Two of the Germans proceeded to take everything we had in our Pockets, and one of them spoke in German to Cossen telling him that the Medical Corps would be up to help soon. He was saying something else, when Racco Rocco, a young Italian who could hardly speak a word of English, made his appearance around the turn of the trench, and immediately charged with his bayonet. He was stopped by a grenade, which exploded directly between his feet, wounding him so seriously that he died shortly after in the hospital.

After that the fighting kept on for sometime around us. In fact it had become quite bright, when at some signal all of the Germans who were in our line suddenly left. During all this time, two German aeroplanes were sweeping back and forth over us, and when their infantry had left, came much lower and kept up a continual machine gun fire along the line.

By this time, those around me who had been unconscious, began to revive. Sergeant Wagner had an ugly gash in his neck under the ear, and a large piece of grenade in his knee. Both wounds were bleeding profusely, and he was the color of this paper, but he insisted on dragging himself back in search of assistance for the rest of us. For this he was awarded the D. S. C.

Other men who distinguished themselves were: Sergeant Maroney, badly wounded, awarded D. S. C.; Sergeant Herold, died of wounds; Corporal Patrick Hendricks, the coolest man of all, worked his automatic rifle as if he were practicing on the range, D. S. C.; Corporal George McKee, died of wounds-, Corporal McBride, fought until knocked unconscious, taken prisoner, died of wounds in Germany; Privates Hanrahan and George Rothenberg both killed; Private Jopson wounded and afterwards returned to line, and was blinded by gas; Privates John L. Sullivan and Patrick J. Sullivan, both of them wonderful soldiers and both killed that morning."


A word in connection with the Badonviller raid may be added even at the risk of giving it overmuch attention. In extenuation let it be pleaded that this was the first time the men of the National Army had come under fire, a test than which there could have been none of greater import in the outcome of the World War.

Lieutenant Sheridan's platoon, as already mentioned, had drawn back from G. C. 12 to the pottery the night before, leaving only six men in the post. When the barrage started Sheridan took his platoon forward to bring help to the six. Right through the barrage the platoon went; the faithful Sergeant at the head of the column and the Lieutenant's own wild, cheery Irish self bringing up the rear to encourage the faint of heart. All got safely through the barrage and found the six at the post likewise unharmed. There they awaited an attack, but none was made on G. C. 12. Lieutenant Cullen, who had likewise turned back to the pottery under orders with part of his platoon, also started forward at the same time as Sheridan, and got his men safely through the barrage to the support position.

Comparative quiet now again settled over the Badonviller sector. A platoon of Company D now replaced Flood's at G. C. 10, after helping to carry back the wounded. Colonel Averill and Major Nelson came up, and the wounded were cared for on all hands. The one figure which most strikingly dominated the whole strange scene was that of Captain Condon. Hatless, his sleeves rolled up, and his arms red to the elbows, he worked feverishly to save the life of every man in whom any life was left. The sun shone brightly and the birds sang, but though it was June, many of the leaves were like those of a late October landscape, having been turned sickly yellow by the gas. The Major, losing faith in the village legend of the Pink chateau's safety, now moved to the "Swiss chalet." This was nearer French Headquarters, and the broken telephone wires had taught the necessity of closer liaison.

Past the Swiss chalet that afternoon moved a little cortege with Father Halligan, the first battle dead of the 308th being borne to the pretty little French cemetery at Village Negre. The enemy had for the most part been quiet during the afternoon, with only an intermittent shell now and then in the direction of Ker Avor. Suddenly there was a nearer and more menacing sound, and the white smoke of a burst of shrapnel appeared over Village Negre, followed by another and another, nearer and nearer to the little burying ground. The funeral party had been seen from the German sausage balloon; though to give the enemy his due, he could not have known its nature. A platoon of pioneers digging the emplacement for a heavy gun would have looked the same to the observer in the sausage.

Seated that evening before a cheery fire in the Swiss chalet, the Padre vented his pardonable indignation on the foe.

I thought it was a salute [he said] and then I looked around and I was alone in the cemetery. The burial squad had left. Then I heard another big noise overhead and something spattered all around me and cut the leaves off the bushes. I decided it was not a salute. Shrapnel, you say it was? What should I know of shrapnel. It wasn't taught in the College of Rome.

And how did you get out, Father?

I didn't. I just tumbled into the grave and laid there till it was over, thinking the while that an open grave is small comfort for a man of the church with those despicable villains shooting at him from overhead.


One result of the German attack of June 23rd was the adoption of a new system on the front line by which the foremost line of defense was held by scattered outposts, containing two or three men each and known as "petits postes." The entire front was, according to the new arrangement, split into two sub-sectors instead of three, called respectively Chamois and Chasseur; Village Negre was eliminated. By this scheme, where three American companies had originally been in the front line, there were now only two; one with Headquarters in Badonviller and the other with its P. C. in Chasseur. On June 28th, the 2nd Battalion relieved the 1st in the front line with E and H ahead. Battalion Headquarters were moved back to Pexonne, where Major Budd occupied "Sampson I," and the French Commander moved to the Chateau, known over the telephone as "Hayes."

There are few events which deserve record during the five weeks in which the Regiment remained on the Lorraine front subsequent to the attack described. On the night of July ist, a German patrol cut the wire in front of one of E Company's petits postes, and attempted to creep into our lines. It was driven off by the members of the post, one of whom was slightly wounded; in the morning a quantity of flares and hand grenades were found left behind. A few days later Lieutenant Griffiths, then Battalion Scout and Intelligence Officer, together with Corporal Tuin of G Company, afterwards killed, was visiting P. P. 12 in what had been the old Village Negre sector, when they came upon two German scouts in camouflaged suits attempting a daylight patrol, and killed or wounded one of these. An enemy attack was confidently awaited on the eve Of July 4th. At 12:45 A.M., the French batteries opened a terrific barrage which lasted with great intensity for half an hour. At the end of that time the French Commander sent confident word to Major Budd: "Les Boches ne viendront pas." Sure enough, quiet ensued and there was no raid. On the 5th, G and F Companies relieved E and H, which went back to the Battalion support positions now held at Pexonne. On the 10th, the 2nd Battalion was relieved on the front line by the 3rd under Major Chinner; the former moving back into reserve at Bertrichamps, and the 1st Battalion, now under command of Captain Whittlesey, taking the support position at Ker Avor. Finally on July 19th, the 1st Battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, returned to the front line to remain there until August 1st, when the 77th was relieved by the 37th National Guard Division of Ohio, and the 1st Battalion had its place taken by a battalion of the 145th Infantry.

On July 11th, the 2nd Battalion then at Bertrichamps, enjoyed band concerts, Y. M. C. A. shows, and a short programme by Miss Elsie Janis herself. Passes were issued for Baccarat to the number of fifty a day, and there was a fine chance for bathing in the river Meurthe-and also facilities for dental treatment. On the 13th, started the first of a series of ball games which took place in the afternoon after the morning's drill, and in anticipation of Bastille Day perhaps, an exhibition of pyrotechnic signalling. It was at this time that special orders arrived, commissioning successful candidates who had attended the Third Officers' Training School at Upton. These non-commissioned officers, now commissioned, proved a great loss to the Regiment. Most of the new lieutenants went to the 1st and 2nd Divisions, where they made fine records.

It was while the 2nd Battalion was in support at Ker Avor, that Captain Mills of Company G was accidentally killed by the explosion of a rifle grenade. Thus died one of the most beloved leaders in the whole Regiment, and the possessor of one of the most vivid personalities.

Captain Philip 0. Mills bad inherited a love for France from a French mother and a natural military ability from his father, General Samuel Mills. In 1916 he volunteered in the Norton Unit and served for seven months as an ambulance driver for the French Army. He had decided to join the Foreign Legion when America entered the War, and he returned to the United States to attend the First Plattsburg Training Camp, from which he received the commission of Captain. At Camp Upton he was placed in command of G Company with which he remained until his death. As a leader of men, Mills was unsurpassed. He was keenly anxious to get into action, and among his happiest moments were those when he took two Sergeants with him to the British front line. The Colonel of the English Battalion asked Mills to make a report on the conditions of the line, and was so impressed by this report that he wrote to Colonel Averill testifying to Mills' worth and to his own envy of any officer who commanded him. Mills would have been glad to change the quiet Baccarat sector into a general offensive, and after close study of maps and terrain, conceived the plan of making a quick thrust and capturing a hill in front of his position which dominated our line. He did not have the opportunity to make this adventurous attack, nor unfortunately to make any attack at all. His death came while, according to his custom, he was instructing all the men of his company in all the weapons of an infantryman. Instruction was as usual under the direct supervision of Mills himself. The French rifle grenade had been received for the first time, and as he was the only one familiar with the new weapon, he personally arranged for the firing. The first two grenades functioned properly, but the third was defective and exploded in the tromblon. Two men were wounded and Mills killed.

A side of Mills, not known to all, was his sympathy and love for his men. In Camp Upton, one of his men received a telegram, begging him to come to New York at once as his mother was dying. There were no trains that night and there was a bad storm. Starting at 11 in the evening, Captain Mills in his own car drove this man to New York, left him at him home, and returned to camp in time for reveille. Many a man in Company G can testify to his timely help in financial trouble. Many felt that Mill's reckless courage would not allow him to come back. True to the ideals of his soldier father, he laid down his life for his own country and for the beloved France of his mother.

Mention may be made here of the striking characteristics of the French poilu whom we now had opportunity to observe, and who proved so amusingly different from the English Tommy whom we had noted a little earlier. Nothing more unpretentious than the small figure in his faded horizon blue uniform can be imagined. Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the French soldier's daily life, both officer and man, was the lack of all haste. There was no excitement, no long series of detailed orders with instructions and memoranda so familiar to ourselves. Four years of realistic war had worn off all non-essentials (if they had previously existed) and only the fundamental was left, namely common sense. This, coupled with entire seriousness of purpose where the War was concerned, marked the dominating characteristic of the French soldier. The same simplicity marked the high command; each Headquarters seemed rather a kindly family affair than a center of one of the greatest of war machines. The General Staff was seldom seen. The French Corps to which we were attached had, we were told, but five officers on the Staff and of these the senior was a Colonel. There was little interference from above. When orders had been given, the Officers of the line were left to carry them out without constant supervision or interference.

The absence of the typewriter helped to simplify matters in the army of these practical allies, since nearly all orders had to be drawn up carefully in longhand, and as there were but few clerks, the paper work was naturally minimized. Another feature of the French Army was the substitution of decorations for promotions. Typical of the best in his army was Captain Rene Memmv who joined the 308th at Neuf Maisons as liaison officer with the French. He endeared himself to all his American associates by his cheerfulness, his willingness to work, and the charm of his character. The real desire of this soldier of Fortune was that when he had ceased to serve his country in the field, he could return to a home with his children in Gascony and there raise bees.

In the meantime, the French had withdrawn from this front on July 16th. American batteries had likewise relieved the French artillery, and now for the first time there was complete American control over this pleasant sector. For it was, as sectors go, a pleasant one a rather sleepy old lion who showed his deadly teeth but once, and at other times afforded fine instruction for unpracticed hunters in the field of war.

At the front there were frequent patrols into No Man's Land, and in the rear positions, constant drill. There was fairly constant shelling of the back areas (the growling, as it were, of the old beast in his sleep) but the events of the night of June 23rd were never repeated. No one, however, knew whether they might not be repeated at any moment, and thus anticipation was kept alive. For each man, who in turn went forward from the comparative comfort and safety of the reserve line to the almost equally comfortable and safe position of the support, and finally from this to the front line itself, for each the interest and novelty of that strange region never grew old.

The intricacies of the trench system, its walls and parapets held in place by firm, neatly woven brushwood revetting; the deep secure dugouts, some capable of holding a platoon or more of men and with the blankets at the entrance to keep out gas; the gas alarms, consisting of empty shells hanging from a support or of klaxon horns; the carefully labeled French signs: "Boyau Centrale, Cave-20 Hommes, " " Abri en cas de bombardement the shell holes torn and gaping; the machine gun and chauchat emplacements; the printed propaganda shot from rifle grenades or carried in small red German balloons; the Very pistols, rockets, and flares; the hand grenades always at hand;-and last but not least, No Man's Land itself, sometimes a dismal-looking stretch of wire-sown field or shattered woods, sometimes an innocent-appearing sylvan vista, but always the region where men peered silently ahead or else spoke in whispers -all of these things were just as you had read of them, and yet all somehow so different.
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