During the first three weeks in service we spent most of our time in
quarantine at Kelly Field. Being obliged to feed about 650 men at one
field kitchen, some of the last ones in line did not get what they
thought to be their share.
As we were raw recruits we knew very little of military discipline.
After "chow" one night about 25 of us, including about 10 Sioux City
boys, decided to go to San Antonio to "feed up." About dusk we prepared
ourselves, and knowing the pieces carried by the guards were not
loaded, we made ready.
We formed in a body and made one grand rush over the line. The guards,
rather numerous guards, said "Halt." We said "Go to H---," and traveled
on our way.
In getting home we sneaked down around the old ravine and around the
camp and made ready for a spurt of speed back in the camp. But seeing
about five men approaching we waited, and when they had arrived within
speaking distance one of the boys said, "Are you going back in?" The
corporal of the guard said, "No, but you are." We thinking that they
were some of the other boys were coming from town to go back to camp.
After sleeping all night in a temporary guard house, we were assigned
three days heavy fatigue and excused.
I had been slammed in with a bunch of others to fill the gaps during
the defensive, and what we sometimes thought was a little offensive
work along the Paris-Mets Road in the Chateau-Thierry sector. It was
hot around those parts and I had never heard a shell before nor seen a
live hand grenade thrown. One edge of Bellan Wood remained to be
cleaned out. The company I belonged to got mixed up in it and that
meant me. We shifted our position from one place in the section that
was due for fireworks. It didn't look bad. We walked up a road,
everything was quiet, with the exception of the drone of a Fritz
overhead. Along one side of the road there were fox holes about every
ten feet and a fellow or two sat on the edges there in the sin, but
they didn't talk out load. I wondered a bit at that. The underbrush was
dense -- you could not see fifty feet to one side of the road. We were
lined up in waves. Trimmed packs. At a signal form some officer we
stood up -- then started for the underbrush. I don't think a single new
fellow there realized that was the front line until he started to go
under it. Hell broke loose, and a lot of machine guns and rifle
grenades. We advanced. Got mixed up in the underbrush. Took the fire
hotter and hotter. Got to hot to move on. I was so flat on the ground -
well you know. Then there came a little lull. I shifted my face in the
dirt to take a squint. A greenhorn and scared stiff. Happened to feel
some dirt kicked in my face and saw a "Heinie "Potato Masher" spinning
in front of me. Was fascinated. Couldn't move. Bullet kicked the
dirt at my elbow. Broke the shell. I did a flip, rolled into a little
ditch as the thing exploded. Looked up and there was a bunch -- behind
some handy rocks not two yards away. They do say it takes a little
dynamite or some such stuff to wake some people up. Six more exploded
where I just had been. I was behind the rocks.
What I most liked to hear was the old bugle blowing recall from
Through my short experience during the service at Camp Dodge, there was
one thing that always appealed to me; namely, the braveness and
cheerfulness of our suffering boys. They were indeed brave soldiers in
every sense of the word. They suffered, we knew as nurses, and yet
perhaps not one out of fifty would complain of pain.
During our epidemic of influenza those boys who were suffering and
dying from pneumonia would never complain. The only answer as to how
they were feeling was, "Just fine, nurse." It was a pitiful and yet a
Those young men who had been in France, wounded and returned for
medical care, would be there -- some of them perhaps with from eight to
ten rubber tubes in one limb -- being in misery, of course, and yet
being happy and singing with the rest of the boys in our ward.
Another case: a young man of 19 who had both of his limbs shot off, his
wounds all healed up nicely and the young man claimed he was happier
now than ever before. The happiness and wonderful spirit of our boys
were certainly to be admired.
stationed at Paris, I had occasion, after the armistice was signed, to
visit the battlefields at Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Woods, and the
Champagne front near Rheims. To walk over these battlefields so short a
time after the was was over, had a big impression on me. It was then I
realized that only a short time before, men were standing side by side
in the trenches fighting -- some falling wounded and dying.
When I stood looking at Rheims in ruin, the vision came to me of what a
pretty and peaceful village this must have been before the war. And it
was indeed a weird sight to pass by farm houses, nearly all of which
were ruined or deserted.
After having seen all this, I understood more than before, the feeling
of the French people, and the meaning of the greatest war for
The experience which most impressed me during the war was the manner in
which our company spent Christmas eve in 1918. I was at Camp Genicourt
near Bordeaux, France. At 4 p. m. of December 24th, we were assembled
at our barracks and were marched some two miles to a "delousing" mill
preparatory to embarking for the U. S. A. We stood for four hours in
the rain and mud before we were ordered to approch the door of the
"institution," of which about three hours was after dark. We had
nothing to eat or drink. At about 8:30 p. m. we were ushered into the
mammouth "mill" and were summarily divested of all our garments and
baggage. Then in our nude state our entire company was herded into a
small room which was unheated. Through some mismanagement we were kept
naked and shivering in this packed compartment for over two hours.
Finally, shortly after midnight, they started us through the mill
proper. This was a remarkable and varied chain of speedy successive
experiences and required about three hours for its completion. At 4
o'clock in the morning of Christmas day, I merged from the gauntlet, at
the back door, a quarter of a mile distance from where we entered, a
"new man." Everyone trudged along to the barracks at their own pleasure
after "escaping." The only "silver lining" we could see was that, by
that time, the stars were shining. It was after daylight on Christmas
morning before the last "deloused" warrior struggled in. In due time,
"eats" were again available.
It is rather hard to say what impressed one the most during the war as
there were so many vivid scenes which now can be but dimly pictured in
memory. There is one scene which I, however, will not soon forget. That
is the American bombardment which opened the offensive at Saint Mihiel.
Our little battery was perched upona reverse slope of a ridge near the
ruined village of Les Epaiges. We were only about one-half mile from
the German front line positions and from our point of vantage could
look far back into the rear of the American positions. While coming up
into position and while emplacing our battery, we had sighted
every size of artillery going in from 75s to marine mounts., all as
carefully hidden and camouflaged as possible.
The evening before the attack was bright and cool, and I well remember
looking back and watching where the shells from the German artillery
were falling amoung our guns. But not an answering shot was heard from
our side, and for all the activity one would think there was no one
Then the evening wore along with desultory firing on the German side
and none on ours. The night came off dark and cloudy, full of
mystery. Suddenly at 1 o'clock far off to the west we heard the
mighty roar of one of the 12 inch marine guns. This was the signal.
Every battery on our side immediately opened up. The earth trembeled
and shook with the shock and reverberation and reverberation filled the
air with an awful pandemonium of sound. Looking back, the air seemed
filled with darting, belching fingers of flame, leaping and dancing in
the night as though some demon were playing a composition of hate in
tones of blood and fire and noise.
It brought out a man's true color, and either changed it or made it