handwritten cover letter:
12 rue de Maistre
75018 Paris, France
Nov. 28, 1978
Dear Mr. And Mrs. Pink:
Under separate cover I am mailing you my account of the Grande Guerre 1914-18, taken from memories I compiled under the false impression that they would interest my younger relatives. But such things are now old hat and only appeal to owls like me and Wally.
You know that Bob and I published a book of war verse and that I composed a volume of sketches that were to be published under the title of "The Front from Behind" with great illustrations by George Hall. But the end of the war intervened and most of the verses from "En Repos" and some of my sketches were printed in Vol. III of the Field Service History.
I think Mary Seymour has the text of the "Front from Behind" and would lend it to you if you should want it. But this is about all concerning the war that I have to offer.
I hope that you are both as well as I am after my recent stop at Scripps. I wish you happy holidays as I always feel very close to you both and will hope to see you next year.
We didn't know it at the time, but when we started off to join the American Ambulance Service with the French Armies in France we had embarked on what most of us would recall as the outstanding experience of our lives. While it was going on there was too much uncertainty, too many small miseries, frights, excitements, long stretches of boredom, too much unnecessary discipline, too many stupid orders and too much general discontent alongside all the bloodshed, tragedy, momentous occurrences, unexpected turns of fortune and spontaneous pleasures to enable us to get a proper perspective on events. It was only after years when memory of the hardships, discomforts and disappointments had begun to subside that we began to realize that what we had been through was a turning point in world history, and that we, the survivors, had without too much agony been privileged to have a front seat observation of the spectacle.
Early in 1916 the first Stanford Ambulance Unit was recruited by the American Field Service, a volunteer organization, and had left for France. This departure, conducted with due ceremonies, had a telling effect on the student body as the probability of war increased, and many began to consider following this example. A second unit was shortly preparing, and Donaldson and I applied for inclusion. We were not selected, but refusing to be defeated, Bob with some others at once took steps to assemble a third ambulance section.
When he heard that we had volunteered my brother Henry (Skip) who had returned to his law practice in Los Angeles, decided to join us, and as war had in the meantime been declared by the United States, we got ready as soon as college ended. Bob was a good driver, but neither Skip nor I had ever driven a car. Paul Dowling gave us a few lessons and loaned us his Ford. We practiced assiduously for ten days and felt that we were able to handle a Ford which was the car we expected to drive. The twenty-one members of the Section assembled in New York and acquired at their own expense the equipment recommended by the Headquarters there. We sailed for France in June 1917 on the French liner Rochambeau.
We found on board a motley passenger list. There were about 150 volunteer ambulance drivers, a large contingent of the Red Cross and the YMCA, and also a number of celebrities, bound for Europe in various forms of war work. We were quartered in a slightly renovated portion of the steerage, located in the hold astern. Here our wants were ministered by a frouzy garcon, Gaudou, who was immediately christened "Gowdy". He woke us up at daylight with the insistent cry of "Café!" and would not depart until the unappetizingly strong liquid had been consumed. He inscribed our names with an increasing sum which he considered would be his due for a tip at the end of the voyage.
On the second day Mr. Chauncey McCormick called a meeting of the joint ambulance and Red Cross to impress us with our responsibilities as representative Americans abroad, urging us to sacrifice our all for France. He then called upon a sable-garbed English lady to give a lugubrious speech about sinking to the bottom. When she had finished we were asked to rise in homage.
After that we had setting-up exercises on the forward deck, and Mme. Nicholet, a self-appointed Ange Gardienne, gave French lessons which were chanted in chorus:
"J'arrive à la porte,
J'arrive à la porte,
J'arrive à la porte."
In the dining room Skip, Bob and I, seated at a table for four had the good fortune to find as a companion, Edward Samuel, Jr., of Philadelphia, who was being sent to serve in Paris in the office of the Field Service. He was a joyous shipmate and helped to moderate the darkening atmosphere of the voyage. We drank the sour red and white wine that was offered with the meals, not because we liked it, but out of bravado. Samuel observed that he was glad that the Red Cross had provided so many women on board, as they were so much easier to push out of the way in getting to the lifeboats.
It was at the height of the submarine warfare and the precautions for our safety were not impressive. There were small cannon on bow and stern and the gunners wore medals for having sunk a U-boat. Just the same they looked as if they might be the first to leave the ship in case of action. Each night the port-holes were darkened and smoking on decks was forbidden. But many people had flash-lights and these tiny beacons must have been visible far at sea.
Then, as though we had not endured enough, people began talking about the "Danger Zone," and more of less through the rumor method it was known that it was unsafe to sleep in the cabins. Most of the passengers therefore stayed all night in their steamer chairs on deck. Some of our group continued to sleep in their bunks. They put on their pyjamas to the great annoyance of Gowdy, who felt this was strictly forbidden in the Danger Zone and highly inappropriate drowning apparel in any case.
At last about 1:30 one afternoon we had our submarine scare. The ship took a sharp turn and began zig-zagging. There was great activity on the bridge. The gunners turned their howitzers off to port. Many persons ran for their life preservers and struggled into them on deck. But by then the liner had resumed its course and was going peacefully on its way. There was much argument as to whether they had seen a periscope, but most of us, like Sir Bors, had seen nothing but the sea and the sky and the wind on the waters.
Next day about 2 a.m. we entered the Garonne River, and after a prolonged wait (for what no one knew) we sailed on calmly and docked at Bordeaux just before nightfall. As we were in uniform the good citizens of Bordeaux mistook us for the first American infantry, due within a few days. Led by Walt Gores, one of our companions who carried the beautiful silken flag presented to our Section by Mrs. Herbert Hoover, we were deliriously acclaimed along the more than a mile of march to the railway station by dense crowds. The women threw us kisses and the men shouted, "Vive l'Amérique!" for the Bordelais were not enthusiastic supporters of the war and were hopeful that the Americans were about to take it off their hands. Little did they suspect that it would be nearly a year before U.S. troops really got into action. And I doubt that when the true soldiers reached France that they got so warm a welcome as was accorded to us, for these spontaneous outbursts cannot long be repeated.
We were packed into a third class railway carriage with three or four French poilus who were returning to the front from home leave. They sang us the "Madelon," and a number of other tunes popular in the French Army and gave us swigs of red wine from their canteens. The train careened and bumped over the rough roadbed and we slept not at all, but we had glimpses of lovely country in the moonlight.
Arrive in Paris at the Gare d'Orsay, Bob, Sam, Skip and I took a taxi and had a fearful dispute with the driver over the fare when we were dumped down at the Field Service Headquarters, 21 rue Raynouard. This was the palatial residence of the Vicomtesse de Villestreux in a large garden sloping down to the Seine almost directly opposite the Eiffel Tower. She had donated this fine mansion to the American ambulance service for the duration of the war.
Here we received by a cold welcome. Lined up in the garden we were told that now the U.S. had entered the war, the Field Service was enlarging its operations and that we had therefore been registered to drive munitions trucks instead of ambulances for the French Army. Such a reversal of our expectations had not entered into our calculations, and after conferring together, we notified Headquarters that we would only keep to our enlistments if we were given ambulances as originally proposed. This announcement on our part was not well received, and in the meantime two of our companions found places with the Second Stanford Ambulance Unit which was just then leaving for the Balkans. Three others left the Section to volunteer for other services.
We had just time that day to look up Miss Helen Lois Russell who was doing war work in Paris. She was one of the earliest school friends of my sister Althea, and had often visited us in Chicago and California and was considered almost one of the family. After finishing Smith College she had traveled much in Europe and had studied at Berlin University and at the Sorbonne. After the war started she went to France and took up work caring for children who had escaped from the regions occupied by the Germans. We found her at the headquarters of the "Enfants de la Frontière," a service run by Americans and supported by funds from the United States. She took us for a walk around the center of Paris and we took her and a friend to a restaurant that night. Whenever she saw any of us thereafter or had direct word from us, she always sent a cablegram to the family.
Much to our surprise a notice was posted at Field Service headquarters the next day to the effect that our wishes had been granted and we were sent with a large number of other volunteers to the Field Service Ambulance training Camp near Meaux. This was in the property of a big flour mill located on a stream between May-en-Multien and Crouy-sur-Ourcq. It was competently directed by Mr. R.A.L. Fisher, whose wife was Dorothy Canfield, the writer of a book called "A Hilltop on the Marne."
We were given a little practice in driving and a summary instruction in French military drill. All the different movements were executed in quick step with a jerky motion that made us look like marching troops on the cinema screen. The drill was commanded by a French Sergeant who had been wounded and whose principal interest was to march us out along the road toward Meaux where he had a rendez-vous with a young lady. He engaged in conversation with her while we rested and then she accompanied him as we marched back to camp. Our spare time was spent visiting the trenches in the neighborhood which remained from the first Battle of the Marne, and in obtaining omlets and white wine in the private houses of May and of Crouy.
After about ten days of this life we were informed one morning that an Ambulance Section was about to leave Versailles for the front in Fiat cars---two men to a car---and the remnant of our Stanford Section was offered the chance to join this unit. We eagerly accepted and were immediately dispatched to Versailles.
This was the 14th of July, the French National Holiday, and in passing through Paris we witnessed the parade of crack French troops brought in from the trenches for this ceremony. There were emotional plaudits for these hardy veterans of bloody combats and for such commanding officers as "Papa" Joffre and General Pétain. But the hero of the day was the frail-looking Captain Georges Guynemer, the French Ace of Aces, whose popularity was never equaled by any other aviator or war hero. The first U.S. infantry men to reach France won great applause as they marched by in their slouch hats of the Mexican war. We were thrilled by this spectacle, which was, in fact, the most notable military display that I have ever witnessed.
At Paris we encountered Edward Samuel, our genial companion on shipboard, who had already had enough of headquarters work and who decided on joining us in the field. We spent the night in some flea-bitten barracks in Versailles and next day visited the Chateau grounds and saw the main headquarters of the entire automobile service of the French Armies, which was quartered there. The broad avenues and fields were lined with thousands of different types of motor vehicles. In the gardens of the Chateau the fountains were playing and I wrote home that night had I been to Fontainebleau.
The big Fiat cars, which carried five stretcher cases or eight seated wounded, were an unanticipated problem, as neither Skip nor I could drive a gear-shift car. This matter was solved by Skip pairing with Bob and I going with Sam who was a competent driver. The twenty ambulances, accompanied by a staff car, a large truck for the mechanics, a smaller truck for the supply service and a rolling kitchen, left before dawn the next day. We were a heterogeneous lot. Besides our sixteen Stanford volunteers there were twenty-nine others from universities and colleges from all parts of the country. Five of them were from Salt Lake City, four from Texas, a number from New England and from many points in the Middle West. We had as commanding officer the French Lieutenant Giblay, assisted by an American Chef de Section Arthur J. Putnam. There were two cooks, three mechanics, four or five French non-commissioned officers and soon we elected four of our men to serve as subalterns.
The convoy halted at Argenteuil for lunch and then went on through Senlis and bearing northward finally arrived in the late afternoon in the town of Noyon. This district had been recently fought over and n March the Germans, executing a deliberate almost total destruction of the region had performed what they termed a "strategic retreat." All trees and telephone poles had been cut down along the roads, the bridges had been blown up, the roads and fields had been mined. The wells were poisoned, the orchards felled, a great portion of the houses had been looted and wrecked and in many of them had been installed "booby traps" which exploded when touched.
Some French civilians had already returned, but the damages had been by no means repaired, and towns and villages over a wide area were in a much ruined state. We occupied the following days in the spirit of tourists, visiting the former French and German lines in the vicinity of Lassigny and in collecting of a lot of absurd souvenirs that we soon discarded. We climbed the hillsides at night in order to see star-shells rising at the front, and spent much time trying to talk to the poilus and the civilians in the town, some of us visited the fine Gothic Cathedral which had been grieviously damaged by shell fire. I had studied French in High School and in College and could read it without trouble, but I was baffled by the accent and because the French seemed to speak so rapidly. Later we became proficient and picked up a great deal of French slang and some obscenity from the poilus, which caused us to make bad breaks in polite society when we were on leave.
At that time we knew nothing about leave or "Permission" as it was called, or even of rest periods or "repos" which our Division was now enjoying. One cannot say that we came uninformed, for we had been reading newspapers, magazines and books about the war for several years. This had only heightened our misconceptions. We thought of the war as a mad frenzy of violent bombardments, machine-gun barrages and furious encounters with bayonets, rifles and hand-grenades. We expected poison gas and "going over the top" at every instant. We had read of camouflage, mine digging and all sorts of war tricks, and it seemed to us at first that the men at the front were not taking things very seriously, and that in fact the war was being conducted in a very slip-shod manner. We were wholly unaware that there had just been a mutiny in the French Army and that the High Command was occupied in rebuilding French morale. The French soldiers, many of them weary from three years of fighting, did not speak in the heroics that we had imagined would come from these valorous veterans. It was some time before we realized that such things do not go well at the front and that these tired men were splendid and individualistic fighters when the necessity arose.
We were attached to the 53d French Infantry Division and we had some work carrying some sick and accidentally injured men to the hospitals at Montdidier, Saint-Just-en-Chausssée and Beauvais. An assignment to Beauvais was coveted, as at that time it was outside the War Zone and civilian activities were normal in this charming little city.
We removed from Noyon to the village of Rollot, and not long after this some of our troops went into line. We had an advanced dressing station or poste de secours at a place called Ham, but the sector was quiet and there were not many wounded.
Then one day we were called out to help transport all the officers of the Division where they were addressed by General Pétain, Commander-in-Chief of the French Army. It was evident that this Division was to be called upon to take part in some important action. True enough, the Division entrained within a few days, and our section was informed that we had been detached and were to be left behind. We learned this with dismay and were dejected for some time, thinking that our work had not been satisfactory and that our services were not wanted.
As it turned out we were in luck, for the 53rd was bound for a fearful winter in Flanders mud, and we were soon attached to the 38th Colonial Division, a crack formation of shock troops. It was composed of African soldiers under the direction of some of the best French officers. There was the Fourth regiment of Algerian Zouaves, the Fourth Mixed Africans, the Eighth African Sharp-Shooters (Tirailleurs) and lastly the Colonial Regiment of Morocco, which was the most highly decorated unit in the French Army. The men wore the Fourragère of the Legion of Honor and covered with medals, they looked like Christmas trees. There was a group of black Somalis and Senegalese, who were called clean-up troops. To see them with their polished skins walking around hand-in-hand, they seemed harmless enough, but in combat they brandished long knives and quickly finished off any Germans in the trenches. And sometimes they could not be prevented from falling on the prisoners as well. Most of them carried a little bag in which they kept the ears they had cut off German dead and which they planned to take home as trophies. Finally we had a detachment of cavalry, fantastic sheiks in their white bournouses and turbans and armed with curved swords and long lances. They rode splendid Arabian stallions, but in reality in confined trench warfare they saw little action.
Skip and I had by this time become sufficiently skilled in driving, he a good deal more than I, to take a car together and when following or rather preceding this superlative fighting organization, we went off in convoy to a new sector in the Aisne about ten miles from Soissons. We were cantoned in wooden barracks in the ruined village of Sermoise, and our chief advanced poste de secours was at Vailly across the Aisne. Another poste further on was at Aizy, and a third was in a deep cavern at Ferme Hamouret, only a very short distance behind the front line.
This was out real introduction to the war. It was obvious that the French were planning an attack. The position of our troops was opposite the towering Fort de Malmaison, which had been built in former times to protect the terminus of the famous Chemin des Dames. There had previously been heavy fighting along this road and it was certainly no place for Ladies. Its traces had almost been obliterated by shellfire and the Fort was an unrecognizable mound of earth like a hilltop on the ridge.
It would be the duty of our Division to capture this Fort and of other shock troops on either side to circle it, and if successful the operation would force the German withdrawal from a broad territory dominated by this strategic position. Our men were being put into line to acquaint themselves with the terrain and to sound out the adversary. The French were taking no chances of another failure, for the aim of this maneuver was to restore confidence in the soldiers who had been badly shaken by the disastrous defeat they had met during General Niville's offensive in April in the Champagne. For the next two months the French assembled the greatest concentration of artillery and ammunition of the whole war. This was carried on at night and driving in the darkness, we found the roads choked with ammunition trucks, wagon trains drawn by horses, torpedoes brought by mule-back for the trench mortars and small arms provisions hauled by donkeys.
There was a good deal of shelling of the roads, as the "Boches" knew what was going forward, and there were frequent trench raids by both sides, seeking prisoners and the information they could furnish. Our men were completely confident. They said the Germans were afraid of them and threw up their hands shouting "Kamerad!" and never making any resistance except for the machine-gun and artillery fire. The soldiers of our Division said that the attack would result in heavy losses, but that those who came through it would get the benefit of a Paris leave (the girls, n'est-ce pas?) and a long period of rest. They seemed to think this would be worth the risk.
Late in September our Division left the trenches and were replaced by relief troops. Our unit spent ten days in the peaceful little hamlet of Ecuiry, our cars drawn up in the Chateau ground. Then in the first week of October we returned to the front and found the whole area bristling with artillery. A dozen or more observation balloons were always in sight on both sides of the lines. There were enormous guns under matting camouflage on the railway tracks, ten miles from the front. Big Navy guns had been brought in and set up on barges on the Aisne. All about we could see emplacements for the larger cannon and nearer the lines were scattered groups of the rapid firing "Soixante-Quinzes."
We served the same postes at Vailly, Aizy and Ferme Hamouret and a new poste at Jouy, about a mile to the left of Aizy. We evacuated the wounded to an emergency hospital in a circus tent at Chassemy near the river, and took the more seriously injured to Vassemy, Mont Notre Dame, Vierzy and even as far as Braisne. Activity was piping up. I find the following entries for subsequent days in my dairy:
October 7, 1917---The Germans are getting more active and are shelling the roads quite regularly. Cooke and Bailey carried down two Field Service men of the Munitions Service who had been wounded near Jouy----one with his hands shot off. This is getting near home.
October 14---Arriving at poste a Vailly, found all cars out and we were called at once to Aizy where we got three couches and took two wounded artillery men on at the Algerian Gendarme Poste. Another long trip brought us back to Vailly where we found two extra cars had been called out. We went to bed fourth on call, confident of a good sleep. But no, out at 2:30 a.m. for Aizy and passed the rest of the night uneasily, for the Germans were dropping 210's so near that our abri shook like thunder. Mist and fog made driving hard and cold. The brancardiers (stretcher-bearers) put another stone or two on the abri roof in the morning. First thing, about 9 o'clock, dead were brought in literally blown to pieces. Then came two blesses whom we took all the way to Braisne before going off duty.
October 17---Everything seems ready for the attack now, although supplies are still pouring over the roads at night. If the artillery preparation has not yet begun they are at least starting to feel out the soft spots, because the banging is becoming pretty regular. There was a coup de main tonight in which four prisoners were taken. We were called in the midst of this barrage clatter to take a sick officer and his dog down to Chassemy.
October 18---It's evident that the attack is coming off soon, as the Alpine Chasseurs have gone into the trenches next to our men, and I think tonight the bombardment really started. It was not as loud as I expected, but a sort of steady grinding. Some mighty big guns are working and the batteries all around are tuning up.
October 20---When we reported at poste this noon we found the place flooded with patients, for the Germans have been sending over gas shells. The men had tears streaming down their cheeks and many of them were blind. If it had not been for the suffering it would have been funny to see the brancardiers leading half a dozen blind me, sneezing and clinging to a rope.
October 21---The great sight today was watching the big shells burst on Malmaison. From the hill back of the camp we could just make out the outline of the Fort and the huge spouts of earth that went up from the exploding French obus. Yesterday we had continuous driving with wounded and back on the job at two in the night when we completed a record of 78 blessés in 26 hours of almost uninterrupted driving. No question , but the attack is a reality. The Boches sent some shells into Soissons and Braisne, and also shelled Aizy, but their fire is nothing like that of the French. They are using only their long-range guns, which of course does not improve matters for us, but makes things look well for tomorrow when our troops will go "over the top with the best of luck."
October 23---When the Section reached poste at Vailly at 6:30 today we found that the French had attacked at 5:15 a.m. The wounded were beginning to stream back ---men who should have been stretcher cases were walking, many with bloody bandages wrapped around their heads or legs. There are three other ambulance sections working besides a large number of autotrucks to carry the less injured and there was a jam at the hospitals that took hours for a wounded man to get through. We carried mostly couches, five at a time, and we loaded the front seat and the running boards with those who could cling there, and we had to pass up the poor devils on the road who called out to be taken on. All through it the grinding of the guns was deafening.
At the hospitals the doctors were unable to handle so many cases and many wounded died in the corridors for lack of attention. At night we changed to the hospital at Mont Notre Dame and gradually the first flood of wounded became slower and it was evident that our section could now take care of the work.
As the wounded came in we talked to them and all had the same tale to tell---a great French victory. They had taken the Fort in a few minutes. One of the leaders in the assault was Captain Henri Honoré Giraud (who played a prominent and unhappy role in the Second World War). The Zouaves had gone ahead so fast that they ran into their own barrage. Most of the wounds were from machine guns, which apparently afforded the only resistance that the German presented.
The first prisoners passed down about 10:30 and fresh batches came during the day. They immediately became the prey of our voracious souvenir hunters who robbed them of spiked helmets, gas masks and epaulettes. They were a fagged out and hungry lot of bewildered beings---not much like the ferocious and atrocious Huns that we had heard about. A good many were boys of 17 or 18 years of age. They had been through a perfect Hell under bombardment in dugouts or deep down in the basements of the Fort with nothing much to drink or eat for six days, and as the French remarked, they were "très contents d'être prisonniers." They said they were members of the Prussian Guard and that they had been brought from the front at Riga a few days before the attack. Many of them did not know that the United States had entered the war, but they seemed to concur that this would not make much difference. They said the civilians in Germany were poor but those in the army and persons with money were well supplied with everything. One young man, when someone clipped a button off his coat, looked on in surprise and exclaimed, "Mein Gott, do you need a souvenir to remember this war by?"
Except for being robbed of all possible souvenirs, the Boche prisoners received good treatment from the French. They were set to work as brancardiers or as road menders. But the Somalis and the Senegalese came out with a plentiful supply of ears, showing perhaps that all possible prisoners had not survived.
The principal interest today is in the newspaper accounts of the glorious French success on the Aisne. It is stated that 12,000 prisoners were taken along with the town of Malmaison, Allamont, Pinon, Chavignan, Pilain, Vaudessen and that several hundred cannon and immense quantities of war supplies were captured. The German losses were undoubtedly heavy, both in that bombardment and in the attack. The French had considerable losses, too. The brancardier who was engaged in painting the wooden crosses told me he thought there were about 500 dead, many of them officers -----------of the Zouaves, the wounded were around 4000, I should judge from the numbers we carried. Today the bombardment continued and the troops were moving up guns and organizing the conquered territory all along the Chemin des Dames, which the Germans had evacuated.
This morning after our relief arrived, I walked with George Hall through the old No-Man's-Land to the ruins of the Fort de la Malmaison, and I hope never to see such desolation again. There was no sign of the German trenches---simply tumbled shell holes and the Chemin des Dames was completely buried.
Take acres and acres of land, plow it ten feet deep, pulverize the furrows, then pepper it with shell holes of all sizes, edge to edge, add mud that is shoetop deep, sprinkle it with hand grenades, shell cases, star shell boxes, torpedoes of all sorts of shattered war materials and you will have something resembling the scene. There were still many dead lying about, and shreds of uniforms and fragments of humans and animals that had been blown to pieces, scattered on the surface or projecting from the earth. The Fort was like a big volcano and only a few catacombs were left intact. The whole sight was of the most wholesale destruction imaginable. Brancardiers picking over the ruins and airplanes hovering overhead like buzzards completed the ghastly picture. Malmaison was certainly well named.
Ten days later when the front had been reorganized our Division was called out of line and replaced with holding troops. This meant that Section 70, American Field Service, was to be disbanded, as the U.S. Recruiting officers had visited the Section and about half of us had enlisted in the USAAS (United States Army Ambulance Services) with the French Armies. Others of our section either went home or remained in France and joined other services.
At Vierzy we parted with our French Lieutenant and French personnel, and by train we went to Field Service Headquarters in Paris. Here the men who had not enlisted obtained their release and after about five days in Paris a group of drivers were sent to a hospital at La Veuve, about 8 kilometers from Châlons-sur-Marne, to take us over the Ford cars of the former Field Service Section 18.
After the disappointment of losing our splendid 38th Division, we suddenly found our situation improved in every respect. We had ample barrack room in the hospital, barracks which didn't leak, the first of the kind we had met. We had a right to three shower baths a week in the hospital shower room. Instead of eating any place from our messkits and often standing at meals we had a dining shed with a long linoleum-covered table and benches to sit on. Our kitchen trailer was well equipped and our two cooks were professionals, not just soldiers assigned to kitchen duty. We had a big White truck to carry mechanical supplies and to tow the kitchen when we moved, a fine staff car and a camionette in which to market for food and necessaries.
Best of all we had 20 Ford ambulances with special bodies developed by the Field Service. Each man had his own car which carried three couches or four assis, which was lighter, more easily maneuvered and could go places that were impossible for the heavy Fiats or other of the Army models. The Ford won its laurels in this war, and one of the Field Service men, C.C. Battershell, immortalized its virtues in a parody of Gunga Din, in which he called the Ford Hunka Tin:
"Though I've cursed you and I've flayed you,
Still by Henry Ford who made you,
You are better than a Packard, Hunka Tin."
One of our drivers, Ned Nash, returning from poste later on, pitched upside-down into a crater from an airplane bomb that fell in the road just ahead of him. Nash was only slightly hurt, but the whole superstructure of the car was crushed. A number of poilus coming along pulled it out and set it on its wheels. Its vital parts were unharmed and Nash was able to drive it into camp.
Yet with all these advantages the life at the hospital at La Veuve was soon a dreadful bore. Our work was transferring sick poilus between various hospitals in the region and was not very exacting. We got only infrequent opportunities to get into Châlons, and as the cold winter shut down with a vengeance we were mostly confined to shivering around the barracks stove. Sam, returning from leave in Paris, brought a roulette wheel which added some spice to the evenings. In the daytime we had French lessons with an officer of the hospital, walks and clandestine drinking parties in the village café.
It was at this time that Donaldson and I began writing verses and sketches for the Bulletin, a little sheet of Ambulance news sent out periodically from Field Service Headquarters. They offered some prizes for contributions and as I happened to win a couple that encouraged us to kill time in this way. Later the poems that Bob contributed and m lighter verses were published under Field Service auspices by Houghton Mifflin in a volume called "En Repos." I collected my sketches which were illustrated by extremely clever drawings by George Hall. They were to be published under the title of "The Front from Behind," but the end of the war intervened and most of the drawings and some of the sketches were included in Vol. III of the Field Service History concerning the first World War.
We were mortally fearful that army discipline would be introduced but for the time being the U.S. Army left us strictly alone and we continued the comparative freedom of Field Service volunteers. Toward the end of the year we learned the joy of leave from the front or "permission" as the French called it. Dressed like Generals in our volunteer uniforms, Skip, Bob and I left for Paris and then passed a week on the Riviera with a group of Americans, Canadians, Australians and a New Zealand Sergeant, all of whom we met on the train.
Returning from these debauches we found that our Section had moved to the front. We had been attached to the 87th French Infantry Division, which though we didn't know it, had just been reorganized, mixing men who had been involved in the mutiny with fresh troops and loyal veterans. It turned out that these former mutineers proved courageous and gave a good account of themselves in later action.
Our base was established in the military barracks of the permanent army camp at Mourmelon-le-Grand, and our main advanced poste was in a strongly built dug-out with roomy idling space and tier bunks well below the surface of the ground. We usually spent three days here and were on call from other postes further up at Mont Frenet, Village Gascon and Bois Sacré. We took our wounded to hospital at Mourmelon-le-Petit, to a point called 8/6, to Camp Berthelot and to an old aviation field at Farman, where first flights had been made with the Farman plane. Two cars were stationed at this latter hospital all the time and usually evacuated to Châlons, La Veuve or Saint Hilaire.
At 8/6 one driver was on call and was put up at the headquarters of a British Ambulance Section, which was located there. This was a most aristocratic formation and the driver who stayed there was in luck. Most of the British members were men of position and wealth and had donated their cars. They all had chauffeurs who were enlisted soldiers and the owners only supervised the handling of the wounded. Their headquarters had the air of an exclusive club. IN addition to the sleeping quarters, the had a lounging room with a bar, a library, easy chairs and a table covered with newspapers and magazines. They had also a gramophone. soldiers acted as servants, made the beds and looked after fatigue duties. The cooking was non-pareil and served with fine wines. The drivers were all officers or at least dressed as such and there was much good-natured banter among them at meals. They didn't have to answer calls, for the chauffeurs were there for that, but I must say that they nearly always went out, too. This was life far above our status, but the Britishers accepted us in a most friendly way, as they had been told that we were American University students.
It was here that we were overtaken by the United States military regime. We received U.S. uniforms and equipment, regular visits from the Paymaster, and two of our Sous-Chefs were sent to school for non-commissioned officers. A censorship was instituted for letters and we received regular U.S. identification papers and government insurance. A lot of rules for daily routine were involved in official instructions from the USAAS, but in truth we were never really properly militarized and mostly carried on in our previous ways. Our theory was that the important job was carrying the wounded and that functions outside of that were subsidiary.
We had already learned a great deal from the poilus, who had been through three years of war and were impatient with useless orders and unnecessary restrictions. They had ways of getting round their "embêtements" and had devised their evasions into a practice which they called "Système D." Under this code it was not permissible to break an important order, but all annoyances and stupid rulings were evaded under Système D. If one had to travel with a third class railway ticket, one installed oneself in first class by virtue of Système D. And so it went. We were not slow in adopting this excellent system which made army life so much more agreeable. When our transgressions were called to our attention we used the poilu's regular reply that "Ça ne fait rien," it makes no difference. we were provided with French Army papers as well as with our American ones, which made it easy for us to show the French papers to American MP's and to use our American identification with the French.
Our work at this time was not excessive and the sector was a quite one. From time to time there was a bombardment of gas shells by the Boches and a coup de main was executed periodically by both sides. This kept us busy intermittently and the hospital officially designated was usually flooded with gas patients. We learned, therefore, that the first thing to do at poste was to watch one's chance and filch a bundle of transport tickets stamped with the seal of the poste. These were tied to the lapel of any man to be evacuated. They bore his name, rank and military unit and the name of the hospital to which he was routinely destined. When a busy attack was on we were able then to halt our car, remove the tickets that had automatically been put on at poste, and substitute ones that we made out ourselves directed to a hospital that was not likely to be over-crowded. Usually the reception at this hospital objected to taking the men, but we would explain that the cases were considered exceptional and we thus managed to place our wounded where they would get prompt attention.
However, our greatest struggle in those winter months was not in performing our duties, but in resisting the severities of the bitter weather. Instead of undressing at night, we put on our pajamas over our uniforms, then donned sweaters and overcoats and knitted helmets, and then rolled up in half a dozen blankets, and still we were cold. At poste we had to drain the water from the car reservoir, in order to prevent the radiator and cooling system from freezing. In the mornings we had to heat water to pour over the carburetor, and to jack up the rear wheel so as to be able to turn over the engine in cranking it. All through February the weather was frigid.
To protect my feet from the biting frosts I went to Châlons and purchased myself a pair of wooden sabots. I had seen them worn by the infirmiers at the hospital at La Veuve. You put on a pair of thick felt slippers, and when you went outside you slipped into the wooden clogs. Then you could walk around in the snow or mud and still your feet were perfectly dry, whereas our army boots were terribly cold. Of course it was hard to walk in the sabots and you had to learn to lift them with your toes. This became automatic and later I even learned to drive with them on, although such an act was strictly forbidden. I had no chilblains, and I credit this exception on my part to those sabots.
As the cold moderated in March the front resumed activity and we worked rather steadily until April. Then our French Lieutenant stumbled into our barracks in the middle of the night with the news that the British front had given way on the Somme and that we had been ordered thither. We started before dawn that morning, but went no further than the little village of Avenay in the heart of the district of Champagne.
We spent a week in this delightful little place. Everyone in it was a champagne grower and the cellar of every house was stocked with the best. Most had the right to supply several of the famous brands. You could get an "undressed" bottle for two francs, but if you wanted the picture, the tin foil and all the labels it was a franc and a half extra. Sam and I set up headquarters in one of these private houses where the Madame gave us pork paté, endive salad and a bottle of champagne for lunch. We played chess all afternoon and drank champagne and often stayed on for dinner and well into the night before sleeping off the day's excesses on one of the stretchers in our cars. The mornings were rather bad.
We were located in a neighborhood in which the nearest towns were called Drouzy, Bouzy and Dizy. Sam said we didn't need to leave Avenay to know all about all three. In response to new orders we left this village with great regret, stopping at Fismes and finally ending by parking our cars beside the Oise at Pont Sainte Maxence.
Ned Nash and I took a room in the Hotel du Commerce on the sly and lived high for a few days. Pont Sainte Maxence was a center for the automobile service, and some of the officers we met in the hotel told us this was a great refuge for embusqués. as they were in the automobile service they ought to have known. We had heard this term embusqué a good deal before and sometimes applied to ourselves. We found that it meant some one who was concealed in a nice soft job, escaping full duty in the war---something like our word "Slacker." One day a French infantry officer whom I encountered in the public baths, asked me what service I was in, and when I told him he said: "Did you know that there are a lot of women driving ambulances in France?"
"Yes," I responded, "I know that, but we don't see very much of them where we go. And by the way," I added, "Did you know that there used to be many women in the infantry fighting in the front lines of the Russian front?"
This floored him and he did not continue with his reproaches.
Here we were informed that the German advance had been checked and that our old Division, the 38th Colonial, had been practically decimating in halting the Germans at Lassigny, the place where we had gone sightseeing when we first went out to Noyon. Lieutenant Giblay and several of his American drivers had been decorated for recovering some of their cars that had been captured.
We soon left Pont Sainte Maxence and after a short stop at Gires-les-Mello with its fine chateau we moved from one farmyard to another manure pile in different villages on the Somme. Some of our men, returning from permission, had seen the shells from the German long-range gun, the Big Bertha, exploding in Paris. Our cars were called in emergency to help evacuate American wounded in one of the first U.S. actions which took place at Cantigny. We finished up with our ambulances parked in a small town named "Taisnil" and the place was frequently bombed in night raids.
We had been there only a few days when a chance to lave on permission was offered to me and Bernet Wohlford, who had joined our section after returning from the Balkans. We set out with out papers indicating Paris, but on arrival at Field Service Headquarters we were apprised that Paris was now "out of bounds" for enlisted men and that we must go to a U.S. government leave area that was being organized in the mountain health resort of Aix-les-Bains, thus removing us from the temptations of the dissolute life in Paris.
We had three days in that den of iniquity just the same, which we made the most of, you may be sure. It is impossible to describe what Paris was like at this time. It was filled with the soldiers of all the different Allied nations. The war and its slaughter hung over the city like a cloud, for it was by no means sure that anyone would be alive two weeks hence with all the fighting and the bombing that was going on. Civilians and soldiers were therefore intent on enjoying life to the full while it lasted. Everyone was your friend, whether you met him on a café terrace, in a restaurant, at the theatre or in the metro. You exchanged remarks and drinks with anyone at first glance, and never made a reference to the morrow. Men at the front were dying like flies and no civilian was really safe in the air raids. It was an atmosphere ever to be remembered and never to be repeated anywhere.
We found Aix-les-Bains under the exclusive direction of the YMCA. And it was tame stuff after the freedom of our French permissions. A few days after our arrival Helen Russell, accompanied by an elderly French friend, Madame Debray, arrived from the south where Helen had been installing a children's colony. They took rooms at the Hotel Astoria and we made daily excursions and dined with them regularly. Madame Debray was jovial and full of good humor and when we took them for an evening at the "Y", she refused to see any difference between that and the "Armée du Salut," or Salvation Army. She called the feminine workers the "Anges Gardiennes" and a particular stogy M.P. she dubbed "Le Bandit."
At dinner she bought us Asti Spumanti or Champagne and liqueurs, and regaled us with borderline anecdotes. We went back to Paris with them, as we had learned that the Germans had broken through on the Aisne, and we had the pretext of having to go to Paris headquarters to find out where our Section might now be located. The Field Service direction gave us lodging in a villa in the garden that had been used as an infirmary, and we roamed about in Paris at will. After five days when no news of our Section had been secured we were dispatched to the Automobile Park at Beauvais, nearest outpost to where our Section had last been reported. We spent the night there in the Hotel Continental, and in the early evening fell in with a French woman doctor and several nurses who recounted to us tales of blood spurts and bedpans. They went to sleep in the fields outside of town to avoid the nightly air raids. The town was being evacuated by civilians and there were moving vans in every street. As we didn't often get the chance to sleep between sheets, we stuck to our hotel room while the bombs of three different air raids fell around but not too near us.
Next morning we heard from a mail driver that our people had left Taisnil for parts unknown, and we were promptly shipped back to Paris. After a couple more days Major A. Piatt Andrew, head of the Field Service, now officer and later Colonel in the U.S. Army, took us in his Staff Car and set out in search of our Section. We had lunch in Senlis where we finally obtained information that our Section had been directed to Villers Cotterêts, a town which was in the line of the German attack. Their offensive was still going forward.
Approaching that town in the dusk we were met by a pathetic stream of refugees, mostly women and children, pushing wheel-barrows or baby carriages containing personal effects, or with maybe just a sack over shoulders. They had no idea where they were going, but the whole civil population had been ordered to leave. Inside the town the scene was one of complete turmoil. Shopkeepers were trying to load goods into horse carts, people were running to and fro, and the soldiers had started to loot.
"Take anything you want," they were told. "It is better than leaving it to the Boches."
What they wanted was mainly bottles of fine wine, and there was much carousing here and there. Many of the houses had been deserted with lamps still burning on the tables, and civilians and soldiers were rushing in and out carrying all sorts of things---books, chinaware, blankets, rugs, furs, clothing and some poilus were seen with a phonograph and others with an ice box or a sewing machine.
Be it said that the Boches never entered Villers Cotterêts, although that night they were in the woods only a few kilometers away. Our Division had just been sent in to stop them, and stop them they did with heavy losses. Our Section we found installing itself in an old flour mill at Vez, and we joined with the rest, as all cars had been called out. The fighting went on in these woods for days. Here the advance had been held back, but the Germans had gone on to the right and had progressed to the Marne at Chateau Thierry.
For us this was really the darkest hour of the war. It seemed as if we could not hold out against these incessant and furious attacks. Wee feared that the whole Allied front was about to give way before the American forces could be brought into the fray. This was at the end of May. All through June and the first days of July our men fought back and forth in the woods. This was an entirely new type of warfare from the style of slow attrition that we had known in the colossal bombardments of the trenches. There were no trenches in these woods and no dug-outs. An attack was heralded by a brief barrage and then they came on with machine guns, hand grenades and even bayonet charges, seeking to occupy a strip of terrain. Most of the artillery fire was with gas shells of a new type containing "mustard gas" that inflicted dreadful burns. The aviation was participating in combat, planes flying low over the treetops, dropping bombs and machine-gunning the roads.
We didn't know how man men were killed, but we must have carried half the division down to the hospital as wounded. We could not perceive an plan of defence. Soon the replacements were coming up in groups of several hundred. It seemed to us as though Marshal Foch, the new Allied Commander-in-Chief, was just flinging men into the gaps with no other idea than to replace them as soon as they were mowed down. It didn't seem possible that this process could be prolonged, and we half expected to see the Germans pouring through the forest at any time. It was interesting to see how callous we had grown regarding suffering and death. At first we had carried a blessé whose cry of "Doucement" used to go through you like a pain, but now you would catch yourself wondering whether he was a quitter, and I remember one fellow (not very seriously hurt) when he complained to the doctors that he had been bumped, made us sore as goats because we had driven as carefully as we could.
At first when a blessé was brought into poste, moaning and choking, we were eager to be off with him, but now we found ourselves hoping the doctors would let him lie there all night. I now ate my meals quite calmly beside a dozen corpses stacked like cord-wood, and would go tranquilly to sleep beside a poor man groaning in agony. There were too many dead, too many blessés, to allow oneself to indulge in personal sentiments on the subject. however, it only increased our concern for our own individual safety.
Our central poste was established about 100 yards from the road in the woods near a five-point crossing that was called the Carrefour du Saut du Cerf. This was a proper appellation, as there were deer in the forest, often seen crashing about in fright. There were also many birds, and the nightingales were heard singing full-throated in the pauses between the whining of the obus.
We took our wounded at first to Betz, and then further and further away to Senlis, to Crépy-en-Valois and finally all were transported to Pierrefonds to a hospital installed in the splendidly restore Renaissance Chateau. The roads in these parts were paved with uneven cobblestones and were continually being shell-pocked so that the ride was painful to our charges. Driving was more than difficult. In the daytime it was hazardous and slow because there was much shelling and fallen trees had often blocked the way. It was sometimes possible to back and get round by another route, but frequently we had to wait for the engineers to clear the road.
Luckily we had ten additional drivers sent us by the US Army Ambulance Training station at Allentown, Pa. Their so-called training was nil. They had been given rifles and bayonets and were coached in the manual of arms. They drilled and learned infantry tactics daily. There were made to dig trenches and were taught to throw hand-grenades. But they averred that they had never seen an ambulance from first to last, and several did not know how to drive a car. Still, they were bright fellows and were learning fast.
We didn't see much of our base at Vez. Returning from hospital we usually found that we were next on call. We slept in the car whenever there was a pause, day or night. At night, the darkness was impenetrable in the woods. We had often literally to get out of the car and feel our way along the curbstones. One night, about three a.m. returning to poste I got into the forest and became completely lost. It was so pitch black dark that I couldn't even see the narrow ribbon of sky between the bordering trees that sometimes helped to guide us. I poked on endlessly a few feet at a time, getting up, pulled over to one side and dozed on the wheel.
At last there was a glimmer of light and I could see that I was on an unfamiliar slope. Suddenly about 50 yards below I saw the dim form of a man come out of the woods and walk across the road. The silhouette of his helmet showed plainly that he was a Boche. I leaped down, cranked the car and making a swift turn sped backwards at top speed. I had passed our poste in the darkness and had narrowly escaped entering the German lines.
This rigorous life kept on for more than three weeks and then there was a lull in the German assaults. This was the signal for all of us to come down with the flu. The French called it La Grippe Espagnol, and it swept the Armies like the plague. Ours was not the most virulent type. It was announced by fever, then collapse from pain in the back and after that the victim was not able to get up.
I was one of the first down and had the pleasure of seeing Skip, Bob and Sam and most of the others brought in and stretched beside me. There was a daily visit of a French doctor and two infirmiers (men nurses). The treatment was not complicated. The doctor swabbed our throats with iodine just as a precaution, and then the infirmiers were told to put on the ventouses. The Ventouses were in the form of a circular glass cup of special shape, from which the air was burned by a lighted wick and the cup was then clapped onto the softest portion of the back. With a strong suction it adhered to the skin, sucking in a goodly portion of flesh. After the third or fourth cup, the flesh over the back was drawn tight and the patient began to howl with pain, but the dauntless infirmiers kept on with more cups until the back could hold no more. They put a dozen cups on the groaning Samuel's broad back and left them there for several hours. This was supposed to draw out the pain, but it caused so much in the application that when the cups were removed there was comparative ease.
Some of our men had to be sent to the hospital, but the rest of us remained to enjoy the second part of the treatment. This consisted of dosing us with champagne, and we were given a couple of bottles apiece each day and told to drink as much as we could. I don't know how long I lay there in a drunken stupor, swigging valorously from those bottles, but one day the Sergent Walt Gores came and said to me, "Everybody's sick. You were the first. You must now get up and take a call."
Somehow I staggered to my feet and managed to wobble into the seat of my car. Walt cranked it and I was off unsteadily on the road. After moving along in the fresh air for a time I felt better, and from then on I continued to improve. It was the same with the others and when action was renewed full force we were able to resume service. This time it was our troops who were attacking and after several days of bloody efforts our Division broke out of the woods and captured the town of Longpont. Later the advance was stopped and our men were taken out of line and we went back to Pont Sainte Maxence for a much needed rest.
Here we experienced a Hurle-Burley. This was a military inspection by two U.S. Army officers named Captain Hurley and Captain Burley who had been sent on a tour of Ambulance Sections from headquarters of the USAAS in Paris. They happily paused for lunch in the hotel where we got wind of them and had half an hour to line up our cars as they should be and to tidy up our barracks. But we were far from being a military organization. The inspectors were horrified by our slovenly appearance and our grotesque fashion of dress. Some had on University athletic sweaters with huge block letters on them, some were wearing Field Service uniforms, shoes were muddy, buttons tarnished, and it was obvious that we really had no notion of how an inspection should be carried out. We stood by our cars and Jim Irwin, our Sous-Chef, walked around us and right-faced a couple of times. The Lieutenants, French and American, paced along the line with the visitors and examined each man. The Captains found something wrong with everyone.
One of my friends who had car No. 4 was still absent in town, and so I stood by his car when the inspection started. Then when the officers were engaged with Car No. 8, I ducked out behind, exchanging my fatigue cap for my helmet on route, took up my station by my own Car No. 18. It went off all right. The inspectors didn't like me either time, but they didn't recognize the duplication. Our officers said nothing.
Later Captains Hurley and Burley walked around the barracks making sarcastic remarks and ended with a general proclamation of reprobation which was delivered to our officers. In their report which was sent to us afterwards it was stated that "Man with beard snickered." This was Skip, who wore a beard, and it was thus that we were apprised that beards were taboo in the U.S. Army, though they flourished gloriously among the French
This inspection had no adverse consequences, for we were soon off out of ken of our headquarters. We had a joyous celebration of the French Bastille Day, July 14th, with turkey and chestnuts and wine à volonté. It was all the more joyous when we learned that the third great German Offensive had been stopped dead in Champagne.
The following day we were ordered back to Villers Cotterets or Veal Cutlets as we now called it. Arrived in the night of the 17th we found the forest alive with troops who were being brought in by immense motortrucks in train over every avenue of approach. There were Allied continents along with the French, and in the darkness we heard cursing in our native tongue and recognized the first American soldiery that we had encountered in France. They belonged to the hard fighting 1st and 2nd divisions and went into line to the left of us. They had proved themselves with glory at Chateau Thierry. On our right were the kilted Scotsmen of the famous Black Watch. We saw them going into line with everything spic and span, hubcaps on their caissons polished bright, buttons shining, kilties swinging and bagpipes skirly all the way. They marched in close formation despite the shelling of the roads and when a man went down they merely closed ranks and strutted forward, for all the world as though they were in London on parade. It was a thrilling example of courage, for their losses that night were heavy just moving into line.
It was in sharp contrast to the movement of the French troops. Instead of using the road they went in single file and widely spaced, progressing slowly through the tangled woods, but they reached the line with scarcely any casualties.
Next morning the Big Allied Attack was on. General Mangin had come into the forest in person to take charge of the assault. He was a fighter and a leader to remember. The mere sight of him inspired confidence. He had had constructed a wooden platform for an observation poste level with the treetops at the highest point in the woods where the whole action could be observed. A violent artillery preparation preceded the advance and for the first time we saw the new French light tanks leading the way with the infantry following and airplanes whirring overhead. We even saw cavalry going into the fray with long lances and sabers on their galloping steeds.
The advance was a rapid one. The next day when we had the opportunity to pass over the field of battle we were again able to compare the French and the Black Watch methods. The Scotties had charged each machinegun nest en masse and at least a dozen kilted bodies lay around many of them, while the three Boche gunners, some of them chained to the base of their weapons, were dead from handgrenades. The French on the other hand, had not charged in a group. It was usually the small tank that had made the assault or else French sharp-shooters had worked their way around and had fired on the Germans from their rear.
Now we were in open country and day after day there was a small advance despite desperate German resistance. Our Division took Vierzy and Ecuiry, where we had once been, and for a time we were in Vivières in the midst of the men of the French Foreign Legion. Linden, one of our new men, using Skip's car, was just parking it in front of the poste de secours at Charentigy when a German 77-shell exploded under the car between the rear wheels. The ambulance was riddled with hundreds of shell fragments except in the spot where Linden was sitting. He jumped from his seat half-dazed but without a scratch. The shattered car was hauled back and eventually rebuilt by our mechanics and resumed its work. Most of the other cars had been pieced with shell fragments and Holman, our Corporal, had one pass through his overcoat.
As in a flash the whole tone of the situation had been altered. The gloom of the preceding weeks had given way to elation. Our men were winning. The pocket which the Boches had pushed to the Marne was being steadily closed by attacks on every side in an operation that was being conducted methodically in a movement entirely coordinated. We were now working with enthusiasm, even glee. It was evident that the barrel was being scraped on every hand for man power. Our replacements were mostly Territorials in their 50's or young boys just called into service. There were negro troops from the colonies, terrified of their own artillery, and there were Indo-Chinese soldiers employed in repairing the roads. Many older men had been called to act as officers, and on the other hand I carried back a Canadian lad of 18 with a shattered arm, who told me he had enlisted in Canada only a few weeks before and had been sent to the firing line without training.
The Germans were resisting fiercely and their artillery fire was continuous. Driving along the edge of a hillside a couple of our cars were halted by an old Scotsman in a sentry box. He pointed out that the road ahead was being heavily shelled. High calibre German guns were sending in shells that were exploding in the soft earth of the valley about half a mile away, throwing up fountains of dirt and smoke. We talked to the sentry while we waited.
"What kind of war is this?" he asked. "If they give you a gun to fight with, you know what to do with it. But what are you going to do when they throw founderies at you like this?"
And he pointed to the might eruptions below.
It was not long after this that I cam probably closer to death than at any time in the war. I was driving past troop columns over a plateau in nice farming country. I halted the car and stepped off the road to attend to my necessities, and found that I was on unstable ground and had sunk to my knees in a quagmire. I made a couple of desperate lunges and sank in up to my waist. Soldiers were marching within a few feet of me, and though I shouted with all my might for help they didn't hear me on account of the noise of the wagons and the caissons. Every time I moved I went down lower and soon I was in up to my armpits. By the greatest good fortune I was then noticed by a poilu. He started to laugh, but seeing that I was in agony, he held out the stock of his rifle and with the assistance of some comrades he succeeded in pulling me out. I was plastered from chest to foot with a thick, cream substance like grule that had a nauseating, putrid odor. I had to strip off all my clothing and throw it by the roadside, rescuing only my wallet and fountain pen, and driving back to base camp swathed in a blanket.
From some farmers I later learned the explanation. This was sugar beet country. When the harvest was on the harvesters dug these pits, sometimes fifteen feet deep along the edge of the field. Into these pits they cut off the tops of the beets before loading. These beet tops were left to rot and were sometimes used afterwards for fertilizer. The dust having covered one of these pits, I had walked into it unawares.
The Allied attacks went on successfully through July and early August and our Division recaptured Soissons. Our unit had again been decorated and was taken out of line. They were sent way down to Saint Dié in the Vosges mountains to be reformed. This part of the front was completely dead. Nothing much happened during our brief stay in this pleasant little town, which had special Franco-American connections, except that one day a regiment of U.S. colored troops (they were segregated in this war) came by. They had negro officers and one of our Southern boys got into trouble by refusing to salute a negro Captain. The latter reported the incident to our French command. As the French had no racial feeling at all, it was a difficult matter avoiding a court martial. The only thing that saved him was that the French officers didn't care much about saluting.
Also in Saint Dié we came up with some Russian soldiers in a village nearby. They had been a crack regiment sent to fight in France by the Czar. They had done very well at the front, but since the Bolshevik Revolution they had become suspect and had been shipped down here to vegetate. Later they were transferred to the Balkan front. They seemed to us to be fine men and a number of them spoke perfect English. From them we learned a few Russian words---Gaspudin, dobra Din and that word that was famous internationally after the Second War----NIET.
From Saint Dié we were directed to Luneville and the Division went into line in the forest of Parois. This was a quiet sector and there were even agreements with the Boche not to shoot for several days. During such intervals there was some fraternizing with the Germans and exchanges of cigarettes and drinks.
We were accommodated in one of the permanent military caserns in Luneville, had bunks and even running water. The only bad thing was that there were frequent air raids and the windows of our barracks were shattered several times by concussion from the bombs. Some of the French sentries were wounded. Things that we liked best here were the wide open cafes and the beer that was manufactured in a nearby town called Charmes.
One night when I was on duty in the forest I was called out to take part in a mushroom raid. It wasn't intended to be that, but that was what it became. An officer guided me to a place on the edge of the woods where a whole group of soldiers, armed to the teeth with machine guns, grenades and fixed bayonets, were lying on the ground. We parked the ambulance and got out and lay down, too. Pretty soon some teams of horses were set up on either side of my car, and at a given signal the gunners sent off about thirty shells. Then a group of poilus got up and sneaked out of the woods and off down a gully. There was a protracted wait of about three quarters of an hour until we heard a great chatter of machine gun fire, tac-tac-tacking, and fifteen or twenty minutes later the men began sauntering into the woods in great good humor. They had no prisoners, but each man had his bayonet stuck full of enormous flat mushrooms.
They told us this was what happened: As soon as our cannon started firing all the Boches in the front lines ran back through the communication trenches. The poilus, meeting no opposition, cut their way through the barbed wire and found the trenches deserted. But the Boches from the rear then turned machine gun fire on our men, who quitting the German lines, took refuge in some huge shell-holes remaining from a time when there had been heavy fighting here. These shell-holes had meanwhile become filled with growing mushrooms, and our raiders wasted no time in gathering the lot. There was mushroom soup in the forest front for several days.
While we were in Luneville I developed an almost unbearable itch, and had to be taken with several others to hospital where the malady was diagnosed as a wartime scourge called "La Gâle." This was caused by an almost microscopic insect which by hundreds burrowed under the skin of the back and specked it with tiny black points that had to be eliminated. The treatment was a radical one. An attendant took a brush with steel bristles, scraped off all the skin and dug underneath until the animal life had been exterminated. This operation was performed, inflicting excruciating pain with blood streaming down the back and legs. The French doctors were philosophical about it, while we bellowed piteously.
"C'est la gâle," they said contentedly.
Late in September Pink Wohlford and I had another "permission," and under regulations were pushed off to a new U.S. Leave Area at La Bourboule, a resort in Auvergne. Arriving in the rain, we found the place almost entirely closed for the winter. Most of the restaurants, hotels and cafés were shut and practically all the shops. The result was that there was nothing to do after we had made the excursions to Mont Dore and seen the snow-capped Puy du Dôme. All we could find to occupy our time was to hang around the Casino in the hands of the YMCA with no gambling allowed.
After three days of this life we skipped off without leave to Clermont-Ferrand, where a base hospital had been set up by a group of our former college mates from Stanford. Ed Martin, Buford Williams, Rob Roberts, "Red" Houser, and several others received us with honors, and took us around the town and to Royat and gave us a great banquet at the hospital. We learned that Wilmer Gross, who had shown much ability in dramatics while in college, was bed-ridden with a light case of the Spanish Flu. We were allowed to go up and see him in his room. He was in good spirits and we stayed with him, talking of Stanford and old times until quite late. He told us to stick around until he got well and could go about with us.
Imagine the shock we had when inquiring about him in the morning we were told that he was dead. His lungs had filled in the night and he had died asphyxiated before anyone knew of his seizure. He had been buried at dawn, so great was the terror of contagion from this dread epidemic.
We had to double back to La Bourboule in order to check out, but we managed to escape the MP's and get a few days in Paris, both coming and going. Helen Russell we found much engaged as she was not only running a children's colony near Paris, but was working at night as a nurse in a hospital for the war blinded. Nevertheless we had several meals at night with her. Our French had improved and we much enjoyed the theatre this time. We saw a memorable comedy with Raimu and Spinelly called "Plus ça Change..." a play called "La Petite Femme de Lotte," "Lysistrata" by Maurice Donnay and also some one-act horror plays at the Grande Guignol and Charpentier's opera "Louise" at the Opera Comique.
All this time the Allied offensives had been going steadily forward and practically the whole front was now engaged, the British, French and Americans advancing. The Hindenberg Line had been broken, and just after we rejoined the Section our Division was called to take part in the attack in the Argonne, where the Americans were fighting a desperate and sanguinary action. Our men were in the Reserve and we followed along for days in the wake of the Allied advance. The destruction in this attack was terrific, most of the villages occupied having been almost wiped off the map by the bombardments. In one town where we passed a couple of days there was nothing left standing except a signboard that had been erected bearing the name of the place---RIPONT. The rest was only pulverized stone and rubble.
We never really did get into this action except for a few days near Vouziers, and by then the battle was becoming a pursuit. In mid-October we were taken out of it and moved by easy stages back to our old stamping ground near Châlons-sur-Marne. We were lodged in the old dug outs of an abandoned aviation field at Bouy, about four kilometers from Mourmelon-le-Grand. The mud inside of these abodes was shoetop deep. We were also deep in despondency when the news of the Armistice was received on the afternoon of November 11th.
Skip, Sam and "Squink" Davis had left on permission that morning and they arrived in Paris in the midst of the celebration. They later described it as the greatest explosion of joy the world had ever seen or could ever see again. People were racing about the streets, half crazy with emotion, weeping and then laughing with relief, embracing strangers, kissing and dancing. They were pulling the captured cannon all over the Place de la Concorde and the Champs Elysées. Drinks were free at Maxim's, at Weber's and in all the Boulevard cafés. For three days the rejoicing continued until the police had to call a halt to the demonstrations that were getting riotous.
At the front the Armistice did not cause much stir. Nobody believed that it would last. We thought we would be back in the battle again in a couple of weeks. But we did send a car over to Rheims where the Champagne merchants were dispensing free consummations. They pressed on us a number of cases of the best year's quality. We preserved these excellent vintages to serve at our festivals for the rest of the year.
It was at Rheims that we encountered some of the Italians who had been fighting in the sector. They were stalwart Bersaglieri with their gloriously plumed helmets, and they had fought well. But in a French barrack at Rheims one of our men copied down a general order which said:
"It is forbidden to refer to our glorious Allies as Macaroni."
Although the war was apparently over, not so our service. The Division was at once dispatched to occupy Alsace, which under the Armistice terms had been surrendered to France. We drove across the county, halting in dismal little villages, and while we were still puttering around in the manure piles, Daubry, our genial second cook, came up to my brother and said:
"Skeep, vous savez, l'Armistice est pire que la Guerre."
Indeed, it was not much better. It had all the drawbacks and none of the excitement of war.
We reached Colmar just in time for the official ceremonies of "liberation." This lovely and picturesque Alsatian city with its red stone buildings and quaint streets was decorated in gala fashion with the French tricolor flying from every window. The French troops made a spectacular entry in true military style with bands and trumpets and important speeches and embracings. The streets were crowded with pretty girls in their local costumes with great black bows in their hair, their velvet corsages and their silver-buckled shoes. The population greeted the saviors and there was Alsatian beer and enormously strong kirsch for everybody.
After that we had kirsch offered to us wherever we went. it was made from distilled cherry juice and usually about 80% alcohol. At first acquaintance it made the tears flow from your eyes. The natives drank it like water unperturbed, but it was long before we could down a tumbler full. They had another devilish conconction that they sometimes offered on winter nights. They took a large pewter-topped beer stein of about one quart content and filled it half full of lager. Then they poured into it a glass full of kirschwasser 100 proof and by drawing a red-hot poker from the fire and plunging it into the mixture they made the beer foam up and thoroughly amalgamate the brew. The Alsatians drank it freely, but for us it was quick inebriation and a sodden hangover guaranteed.
On the other hand the white Rhine wine was a delight. We were also introduced to absinthe. In France it was forbidden, though there were many substitutes. There was something attractive about the yellow liquid in the glass which turned murky when water was dripped through a lump of sugar placed on a grill in the handle of a spoon laid across the brim. But I never got fond of the liquorice taste, and we soon learned that too much of it stiffened the medulla at the base of the brain, paralyzing the mind and leaving the consumer completely stupefied.
We left Colmar with regret and were soon installed at Neuf Brisach on the Rhine. This was a walled town, polygonal in shape, which had been fortified by Vauban for Louis XIV. It had streets in a grill pattern and stone houses nearly all of the same design. There were barracks in the subterranean passages underneath the walls which must have been good shelter from air raids. We were put up in a private house. In the main downstairs room where we slept was one of those grandiose green and white tilled Alsatian stoves which reached the ceiling. It had steps at the back to a platform intended for the chair of the grandmother to sit in. It kept the room at a delicious warmth such as we had never known during the war.
We kept our cars in several surrounding villages to transport any soldiers who were taken sick, but our principal poste was at the Rhine bridge which was being traversed afoot by French prisoners released from camps in Germany. Some of these men had walked nearly across Germany, and some were still wearing the red-trousered uniforms in which they had been captured toward the outbreak of the war before the French Army had adopted the "horizon blue." They were all of them exhausted when they reached the bridge and some of theme dropped down unconscious as soon as they touched French soil. We took them all to hospital for food and physical examinations. But not one but turned round and launched a volley of vigorous French invectives at the soldiers on guard on the German side.
"Cochons, chameaux et Sacré Nom de Dieu, vaches que vous êtes et sale bêtes Boches," were some of the milder terms used in these outbursts, as the freed men stood and shook their fists until their rage subsided.
It was a picturesque spot, with the ancient church of Alt Brisach surmounting the hill opposite. Our cars stood before a little café at the entrance to the bridge. In addition to the foot and vehicle bridge there was a railway bridge a short distance downstream over which some of the more fortunate passed in trains.
Alsace was a fertile land of milk and honey, and aside from bombardments in the first stage of the war, it had not suffered much from destruction and scarcities. Food and drink were still plentiful, while the rest of France was rationed to the strict necessities. The Alsatians, all of them, were very kind to us, but it was not long before we observed that all was not well between the citizens themselves. We noted that nearly all the butcher shops in the villages had been wrecked, and we were told that this had been done by the irate populace, indignant at the profiteering by the butchers in war time. Likewise at first we encountered a lot of persons, who with a heavy German accent, were wont to keep repeating "Viffa la Vrance," monsieur."
Shortly the expulsions began. The French police went through the lists of residents and gathered all the truly German denizens together for transfer across the frontier. They were not allowed to take money and had only the few personal effects they could carry. When they left it was a common sight to see other residents run out into the streets and pelt their departing co-citizens with dirty and even with horse manure.
Then in spite of all the cordiality of the Liberation it became clear that the true Alsatians----those who spoke only the local Germanic dialect----were not overjoyed at their reunion with France. They showed that they adored neither the French nor the German, and they sometimes confided to us that they would really like best to have an independent status as a separate nation such as Luxembourg. This feeling developed into a serious autonomous movement which caused the French government no end of difficulties. It finally resulted in the creation of a special regime, different from that in any other of the French departments.
By Christmas time the flood of returning prisoners and the exodus of the Germans had been completed. Early in the New Year our Section was moved to Mulhouse, a city with a predominantly French-speaking population. Alsatian was quite generally spoken there, too. We were quartered in the premises of a large brewery which had suspended operation. It was cold and drafty unlike our snug little house in Neuf-Brisach.
All through this dreadfully severe winter we were kept occupied carrying poilus taken with flu or with frozen extremities. We took them to Altkirsch where there was a big military hospital on the hillside beside the church, but sometimes we had to go as far as Belfort. The icy winds blew furiously down the Rhine Valley and the snow piled across the roads. We were obliged to rush our cars into the drifts, then back and charge again and again to break our way through. Without the alcohol that was everywhere poured into us, we could never had faced this frigid work.
Spring came at last with the cherry blossoms and in early March we were summoned for our last convoy, driving clear across France to Paris. We were sent with our cars to a vast garage in the rue Ganeron off the Place Clichy, and there for days, under the supervision of our mechanics, we were set to rebuilding our ambulances, repairing or replacing all the worn or defective parts. I should never have accomplished this confusing task but for the aid of my friend and comrade "Squink" Davis, who beside being a first rate driver was a professional mechanic.
At last we turned over the old Fords to the French Army, which ultimately sold them, and years afterward I saw one of these ex-ambulances which had been revised, repainted and disguised as a delivery cart. We were not allowed to go out on the streets, and when work was over we were promptly packed off by train, going first to Montargis and then to Ferrières where the U.S. Army had set up a repatriation camp. This was fatal for us, as we had no military training and did not even understand the military jargon and many of the orders that were given us.
On one of the first days Sam and I were assigned at evening assembly to take in the flag. While the bugler was sounding taps or something Sam let the flag slowly descend and when it was within reach I seized it, unknotted the cords, and spread it out on the ground. Sam and I were engaged in folding it when we were collared by Military Police and marched off to the Brig. It seemed that we had committed a sacrilege. I should have carefully muffled the flag on my breast and carried it off without allowing so much as an end of it to touch the earth. We were condemned to three days in the Brig. The Brig was about as comfortable as our quarters and the only drawback was that we spent our days carrying water for the cooks and doing other menial tasks.
We were told that there was no telling when we would be sent home. We had to wait our turn on the transport ships. A dozen of us wanted to be discharged in France so that we might have a brief pleasure trip and pay our own passage home. This, it was stated, could not be done. Skip looking up some Army rules discovered that a soldier on being released could ask for transportation costs to the point of his enlistment. With the benefit of his legal knowledge we then made a group petition to be mustered out in France and appended to it a statement that if this application were refused we would on release at home apply for transportation back to the place of our enlistment which was Sermoise, Aisne, France.
Shortly afterwards we were summarily shipped off to Saint Aignan, near Orleans. Despite all previous denials, here was a demobilization camp. Each morning we were lined up outside the wooded dormitory shed, expecting to receive our discharges from the Army and each morning we were marched off to shovel coal or load autotrucks or repair the roads. This kept on until we were in mortal despair.
Then one day we were marched to a special barracks which had been arranged for what was called the delousing process. We were stripped of all our garments and given steam baths. our clothes were disinfected by some sort of fumigation and then we passed through a kind of cafeteria arrangement where we were supplied with new uniforms, overcoats, rubber boots and every conceivable article of equipment down to rifles, helmets, gas masks, cigarettes and chewing gum.
After that performance we were taken back next day and surrendered about everything but the uniforms, overcoats and chewing gum. In line for the last time, we were presented with a document labelled "Honorary Discharge." We were warned that this discharge from the U.S. Army would not be considered valid for 24 hours and that any indignities offered to officers or any misconduct would be rigorously punished with court martial proceedings. We were too elated to offer indignities to anyone and in a delirium of joy we piled into the first train for Paris. Here for two weeks we indulged in unmitigated celebration. We were not precisely drunk, but were never completely sober either during the whole of that ecstatic lapse of time. We went to all the places of amusement. We saw Paris over again from end to end. And I sent a cablegram to the family in California, saying:
This wire somehow got into the newspapers and was credited to a young American officer who was severely criticised in Army circles for lack of Patriotism.
The Peace Conference was in session at Versailles, and the chief topic of conversation everywhere. All sorts of fantastic rumors were circulating, and people were quoting extraordinary statements purporting to come from Lloyd George or Clemenceau and some scandalous reports about President Wilson.
Mr. Herbert Hoover was living at he Hotel Crillon and was induced to receive a group of Stanford me in his suite. He told us quite frankly that the peace conference was almost on the rocks. He said the Americans had had a great deception, and that they felt that instead of framing a lasting peace the European Allies were engaged in a scramble for territories and mandates and economic advantages. He added that the adoption of the League of Nations appeared to be only a sop to Wilson by the other nations who had no true belief in it or at any rate no real interest in its creation. He said that President Wilson was thinking of quitting the conference and going home.
As we were leaving the hotel, we were questioned by a number of journalists and I talked with Edwin L. James who was Chief Correspondent for the New York Times. I told him the gist of what Mr. Hoover had said and a few days later I met James at Maxim's and we had a cordial drink together. But I was not thinking of newspaper work at that time.
One day when we were leaving the Field Service Headquarters in the rue Raynouard we saw a small Citroen car drive out of the rue Franklin and turn at the corner. A man stepped out of the vespasian and with a revolver fired a couple of shots into the back of the car. The driver turned round and raced down the rue Franklin as the assailant ran down a side street. We ran after the car and saw the driver helping out an old man who was slapping himself on the back and feeling of his chest. This old man was Premier Clemenceau, and he gave a laughing snort and declared as he was taken into the house:
But he had a bullet in his back, and though he was not seriously wounded, the ball was never extracted.
We of the Section had a great feast together offered by Sam at the Café de la Paix. Then Weller and Nash went off to study at the University of Montpellier, and others went their separate ways. Donaldson went to the Paris Headquarters and later to Boston to complete the editing of the Field Service History. Thus this fragment of the Section broke up.
Before that, however, Kenneth Harvey, the Benjamin of the unit, and I made an expedition to Le Havre. When we had thought that we were to be repatriated by transport ship we had sent all our personal baggage to be shipped home by steamer. When we got to the French port we found a mountain of trunks, suitcases and boxes on the dock. There was no way to identify our possessions.
"Perhaps the police can help you," said the official of the dockside warehouse.
We went to the Commissariat and the police went to a barbed wire enclosure and brought out a dozen German prisoners. Under our direction these men hauled all through the piles of luggage and one by one we located trunks and most of the shipments belonging to our comrades. This had taken so long that we had to stay in Le Havre overnight. It was something we had not desired. Le Havre was swarming with soldiers of every Allied nation and was about the toughest place I have ever seen, except for one unsavory quarter of Marseilles, now long since disappeared.
The Americans and the British did not get on. The Americans would say to the "Limeys" "Do you know what A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Force) means?" and when the British didn't know the answer was "After England Failed." This generally started a fight, but there was also inevitably a fight when the Australians, having come back from Dardanelles, went into line beside the Canadians at Wipers (Ypres). When asked why they didn't finish the job down there, the Australians retorted by asking why the Canadians needed help on this front. It became necessary to keep these two groups apart for the rest of the war.
The Australians had raised so much riot in Le Havre waiting transport home that they were marched out of town and interned in a suburban camp. They promptly burned down the barracks and returned to town.
Harvey and I started the evening in a café, but it was not long before bottles were flying and chairs were being broken. We escaped through a back door, but outside in the street we met patrols from different nations, soldiers and sailors, prowling about and spoiling for a fight. We barely got back to the hotel alive.
All bliss in this life has to come to an end, and we were beginning to run out of money. We had paid for our passage on the Holland-American liner Nieuw Amsterdam which was sailing from Plymouth as well as from Boulogne in France. Skip, Sam and I decided that we might as well see England, now that April was there.
We crossed from Boulogne to Folkestone, arriving in London after dark. This city is almost as gay and even more crowded than Paris with returning troops and visitors from everywhere. There was not a hotel room to be had. We were at last admitted to an hotel near the Haymarket and were allowed to sleep on cots behind screens set up on the landing of the wide main staircase. All the rooms and even the public bathrooms were occupied by guests that night.
Obliged to be up with the first light of day we had breakfast---a big English one---- at a lunch shop in the district and on the advice of the hotel manager, we found excellent lodgings in Upper Seymour Street. We had two bedrooms, a sitting room and wash room, but not bath.
We set about strenuously at sight-seeing and I must confess that our interest was centered on a census of the Pus and conversations there with all types of Britishers from Cockneys to Lords. We did approach one of two of the latter, as we had returned to our Field Service uniforms and looked like officers.
Just to be in London and to see the names of the places and the streets was an amusement----Rotten Row, Threadneedle Street, Pell Mell, Birdcage Walk and Houndsditch. The names of the smaller shop-keepers and merchants seemed to have come out of Dickens. We had some trouble with pronunciation and were not long in discovering that we did not really speak the English language. Sam had to get a pair of suspenders, and in the shop they offered him garters. We learned that he should have asked for "braces."
We took drivers into the country, to Richmond, to Eton and to Windsor and to a place called Godalming on which the accent was unaccountably on the "God." Returning from one of these expeditions we had a puncture, and as the driver was crouching intent on changing his tire, a street car came towards us. The driver made no move when Skip said to him, "Look out for the Street Car."
"There's a tram coming," said Sam and the man nearly jumped out of his skin leaping to safety.
We did visit the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Hall, and Skip as a lawyer was interested in the Temple Area. It was thus that we found the fascinating little church of the Templars. But Skip would not go to Westminster Abbey for fear of disappointment with the Poet's Corner. I had to go there and to the National Portrait Gallery in order to see the contemporaneously executed portraits of famous Englishmen. We went to London Tower Bridge, to the Tower of London and our one other item of sight-seeing was the British Museum where we were enthralled by the Elgin Marbles, the Assyrian Bas-Reliefs, the Easter Island Statues and the Portland Vase. Most of our time there, however, was examining the autograph manuscripts by Wordsworth, Thackeray, Shelley, Byron, Dickens, Carlyle and other noted authors.
Another excursion we made was to White Chapel, which I shall never forget. It was in marked contrast to White Hall. Unbelievably dirty little ragged and barefooted urchins were running all about, and bleary-eyed and drunken old hags were moving in and out of the pubs, begging. The filth and the squalor of the district surpassed anything in the worst slums of our large American cities.
Our ten days in London passed too quickly and we were sorry when we rode to Plymouth and boarded the Nieuw Amsterdam. Instead of sailing direct to New York, the liner returned to France and we spent two days in the magnificent natural harbor of Brest, loading coal and American infantrymen into the hold. As we sailed away and the shores of France faded out of sight, it was only then that we fully realized that the war was over. It was only then and in the months and years that followed that we gradually came to comprehend the full impact of what we had been privileged to witness, and that we understood that its consequences would be never-ending. The whole world, we at last perceived, was going to be completely changed.
The war had been a Bitch. It was a real war in which men had fought face to face and hand to hand. Millions died or had been maimed on every front. Many of these victims had believed that they were fighting for a cause and that a better world would be established through their sacrifice. They did not see that in the conflict they were wrecking the whole structure of society as they knew it and were working the ruin of the institutions that they were hoping to preserve.
Amid all the propaganda, the misrepresentations and the lies on every side, the war had been conducted with a barbarity and a cruelty that had never before been seen. The pitiful iniquities of Tamerlane, of Ghengis Khan and of Attila the Hun had paled beside it. And all the atrocities were not committed by one side. The Germans may or may not have cut off Belgian children's hands; they may or may not have used the bodies of the dead to manufacture soap. But at any rate they introduced brutality of a sort that had never before been known, and the Allies gave it to them in kind. Men were massacred by machines; armored tanks spitting deadly fire were invented by the Allies but used by both adversaries; saves of murderous gasses were released to sweep with the wind the territory of the enemy and shells containing the blistering mustard gas were shot behind the lines; engineers directed tunnelling under the opposite trenches where they set of explosive mines.
What barbaric slaughter of civil populations could be worse than the bombardment of cities by long-range guns or by the newly invented air raids, killing non-combattants, women, children, hospital inmates and aged people indiscriminately? The Germans invented gasses that poisoned, burned the flesh or caused asphyxiation of their enemies. The Allies used them, too, and sent out flame-throwers with jets of burning gasoline which scorched to death the occupants of the trenches or when placed at the entry of a dug-out or deep shelter cremated alive the men who were within. Black savages were brought from Africa and were set to cutting the throats of those who had been captured. The combattants were torn apart by terrible torpedoes dropped by mortars into the trenches and were blown to pieces by high explosive shells and handgrenades. The German machine gunners kept on killing their attackers until some had reached within a few yards of them, and only then they threw up their hands and pleaded for mercy with the cry of "Kamerad!"
All this ferocity had stamped the hearts of every people with a hatred for their foes which nothing could affect for decades. Socially, spiritually, politically and economically every standard of life had been shaken to its foundations and nothing in the world would be the same. The best of every country had been stricken and were gone, leaving the world direction for a great part in the hands of the nit-wits, the crack-pots, the vulgarians and the fore-flushers. Yes, the fighting was over, but the world as we had known it was destroyed and the effects of this universal conflagration would be ever-lasting. This became plainer as time went one, and explains the impression that I ever since have had of wandering in mental, spiritual and material desolation comparable only to that left by a devastating hurricane.