My story may seem somewhat different from the rest, but this incident
impressed and embarrassed me the most. Early in the war in my
home town my near relatives criticized the administration, the draft
and, in fact, the war in general. Fortunately, our home people knew I
had two brothers who enlisted early and this was a consolation to us.
Everyone had many reminders of this throughout the war, but due to my
previous experience it always struck me keenly. We had considerable
pro-German in the southern camp where I was located, but on my arrival
overseas my first assignment was 23 German prisoners.
With all the pro-German hatred in my heart, I immediately told the
chief nurse I would not care for them. She replied, "Other nurses
have," and knowing the army discipline, I knew just what I would have
to do. I replied, "I will, but I feel sorry for the Germans." I went
into the ward, my blood boiling, but in a short time I realized they
were our prisoners. I shall never forget how I shuttered for one week
ever time I spread one of our O. D. blankets over them and saw the big
U. S. in the center -- wondered had our own brave boys all they needed.
They were all very patient, looked so starved, others so sick and
replied courteously and sympathetically that in few days I changed my
mind. Most of these men had been in the war almost four years,
fortunately had been in the artillery or would have been taken
prisoners earlier in the war.
Although they had been under Prussian rule, I soon felt they were
easier to deal with and trust than some American people who were born
on American soil, attend our colleges and had all the advantages that
America could offer.
Hence, I say we had the pro-German and the German to fight and have
some yet today after all the loss of lives and bloodshed.
Also let me say there never was or will be anyone that had the valor of
the American soldier. They surely must have had the kindest hearts to
treat the German prisoners with the respect they did after the terrible
experiences in the front lines as they would holler "Kamerad" for
protection, then almost immediately shoot our own men, "the Yanks who
won the war."
It is pretty hard to write on any one incident as there are so many
that come into my mind at present, but I will try to hold myself down
to two or three. The first I do believe was in Lorraine. Four of us
were to go out on a reconnoitering patrol under command of Lieut.
Chapman, of Cedar Rapids. We were out in front of our wire about 200
yards when we heard a muffled cough. We dropped to the ground ay once
and prepared for the worst to come which was awful slow in coming.
After we had remained in this prone position, about 20 minutes we first
heard a slight whistle to our left and in a few seconds, one to our
right. The next came from directly ahead of us. As there were only four
of us and the Lord only knows how many Krauts, our lieutenant came to
my side and said, "There is only one way out of this and that is the
way we came, so we must make it lively or we will be S. O. L. for
breakfast." We went.
The next one I have in mind was the taking of Sergy by the second
battalion scouts. We went into the town at 2 p.m. on July 28 (I
believe), and had orders to hold it at all costs, which was the death
of two of our scouts. The next day we decided to satisfy our appetite,
so the lieutenant said he would start a fire in one of the buildings if
we would go get some hard tack and bully beef from some of the packs
that were left in a woods near by that had been nearly torn to pieces
along with the men that were in them. We got our beef and hard tack,
and when we returned the lieutenant had a nice fire and water boiling
to scour out a kettle with, as we located some nice spuds in one of the
Heinie's gardens near by. We got our spuds washed and on the stove, our
hard tack out on a table, and the cans of bully beef opened, when over
came a nice 88 and placed it self in the next room with an awful crash,
knocking the wall in on our supposed-to-be meal and upsetting our
stove. This was so close that we didn't stop to eat but left P. D. Q.
for a somewhat safer zone. Walter Betsworth, of our post, was in on
both of these parties, and if you get hold of him he can give you real
dope for your book because he kept a diary.
What most impressed me during the war was the entire lack of fear on
the part of practically everyone. Everyone knew just where they were
going and what into, but apparently never a thought of danger seemed to
enter their minds -- or I should say their heads.
The old pep and spirit was there regardless of conditions, and no army
in the world can beat a bunch with a spirit like that.
Pf course there were exceptions like, for instance, one guy who had
passed through "Winall Down" Camp, Winchester, England, ahead of us and
had written on the barrack wall, "This is the place you stop to pray
before going to France to be killed." Evidently he (whoever he was) was
scared alright, but thank goodness his kind were scarce.
The 503rd was one of the first four service battalions to be organized
and was composed mostly of men from the first draft, from Camp Grant.
We sailed five weeks after receiving our first men and landed at St.
Nazarie, December 10, 1917. Here we went to Rest Camp (?) No. 1, for a
couple of days while the battalion was split to the four winds of
With 180 men and no officers I was assigned to the 17th Engineers to
work on the supply base at Montoir. Here is where I found out the kind
of men I had and what would be expected of them, and the thing that
impressed me most then and thereafter was the men's ability.
They were building a railroad yard, and unloading material under the
worst possible conditions, on a tide flat covered with six inches of
water and one-half inch of ice, working from ten to sixteen hours a
day, seven days in the week, and they did it cheerfully and without
As trained soldiers I could not say much for them, as they had had very
little training, most of them never having had an army rifle in their
hands. But as good, honest, intelligent and dependable workers, I'll
not take my hat off to any outfit in the army, for they were loyal,
I, a buck private, belonged to Co. C, 341 M. G. Bn., 89th Div., found
my greatest event during my ten month's in France in the hell hole of
the Argonne Woods. On the night of September 23, 1918, when our company
was ordered to relieve Company B, of 341 M. G. Bn., in a pocket of the
Argonne, which was open for the Fritzies to have a nice shot at us from
three sides which made it a very hard place for us to get into. Well,
we had Company B's top kicker to led us to where Company B was at.
After we stumbled and fell around under heavy shell fire for half the
night and not being able to find Company B, which though was a very few
of left to be found. The captain decided we would dig in for the rest
of the night till day break. Then we would have better chances to find
the place we were looking for. But as it happened the Fritzies found is
first at day breal for we were out in the open in No Man's land. And he
put over two shells and they sure were hits, for it killed three and
wounded 19 of our company. And from then on, boys, we sure got ours. It
took all that day to get the wounded to the first aid station and that
was about three miles from where we were at. It would not have been so
bad, but there was no path to go by and a few of the boys got theirs
while trying to get others to shelter. I Could tell a good deal of my
life over there, but I was not asked to write but a few lines and not a
What impressed me most during service was fighting mosquitoes in New
One of the most thrilling times for me was during the night of July 15,
between the hours of 12 a. m. and 6 a. m. I was on the Marne rive about
a mile east of the town of Chateau Thierry. After midnight our platoon
was just relieved from the railroad grade which formed our front line,
being the German's outpost. We had just started back to the reserve
when the Germans started throwing over a few G. I. cans which we did
not mind much at first, but they began coming over so fast and thick
that we were forced to stop and take cover any place we could find. It
sure seemed like a living hell to me, and sure it seemed the same way
to the rest of the boys.
About dawn the Germans started to cross the river. A small group of our
platoon advanced again to the front line, only to discover that both
our flanks were left open, the platoons on our left and right had
returned to the support where there was better protection from machine
gun and shell fire.
The Germans working to our flanks and we were forced to split our men
into three groups. We fought there for some little time. Our lieutenant
leaving the front went to the left flank which was in a small patch of
brush and we never saw him again. That leaving only two corporals left,
our two sergeants being wounded in the part of the barrage.
Had it not been for a machine gun barrage put over on the river by the
7th Machine Gun Battalion, I am sure that none of us would have been
able to reach the support line alive.
The one thing that was brought home to me above all was, I didn't know
what a great and glorious country we live in until we left it and went
abroad. Thank God I am an American.
Sand, officers, army regulations, camp orders, division orders,
regimental orders, battalion orders, company orders, the army --- and