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August


THIS MAN'S WAR
by
Charles F. Minder
306th Machine Gun Battalion
Company B


AUGUST

Friday, AUGUST 2, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
We certainly have been on the go for the last three days. I didn't have time to write, and when I did have, was so tired that I dozed off to sleep whenever I could. On Wednesday, a messenger came up with a note that I should report with Dahlin, Purcell and McCabe at Company Headquarters with our packs. They had a limber packed with all the paraphernalia necessary for shooting at aeroplanes and we four were selected. The German aeroplanes have been just a little bit too active around here.

Early on that morning, a German plane came over and dropped bombs on our positions. One of them landed about twenty feet away from one of the guns, and my best friend, Gus Weber, had his whole left shoulder torn away by a piece of the shrapnel. His overcoat was left behind, and was blood-soaked, and the worst part of it is that he plays the piano so wonderfully. I guess his piano-playing days are over. It's lucky he wasn't killed. The machine gun was completely wrecked.

We have our gun mounted in an abandoned shed, right alongside a wheat-field, and for the past two days we have been shooting at every German plane that came over but haven't been able to hit one in a vital spot yet. We must be hitting the planes because the Aviators keep coming back and fly around trying to locate us. We are shooting thru a piece of burlap over a hole in the roof of this shed.

I don't know what has become of the French planes. They don't seem to go up after these German planes at all. They seem to have the air for themselves. I hope we will be able to bring one down before we leave here. We sure have wasted enough bullets on them. I met my Captain yesterday and showed him the posi-tion, and he was pleased with it.

We eat over at the Battalion Headquarters kitchen. When I was over this noon, I discovered a house with showers inside and a stove burning, making hot water. In two minutes I was naked, and jumped into the shower, kicked off as many cooties as I could and dressed again. This must be the Officers' Shower Baths. If I had been caught, I guess they would have shot me. What a difference tho, I felt great after it, the first hot water bath I have had since we left Camp Upton last April.

The weather is cloudy, and this is our last night up here so the prospects of bagging a plane are mighty slim. The Division is moving out of this sector tomorrow, I got this rumor from a fellow in Company Headquarters, but nobody knows exactly where. We have been in this sector forty-five days, he told me, and the line is exactly where it was when we came here. We didn't advance an inch. It's getting dark. Good night.
CHARLES.

Sunday, August 4, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

It's seven o'clock and we are waiting for the order to march. Our packs are made up and it looks like a long night of marching again. Yesterday we reported back to the company then had to go back to the cemetery, pack up our equipment, and report back to Company Headquarters. Last night, at seven, the whole company started to march away from Ker Avor for the last time. We are now bound for a new sector.

I did some marching yesterday and last night. The first hour, I went along in good style, but the second and third hour I became mighty tired. It's funny, when you are marching, your pack becomes heavier and heavier, just like lead, and how it pulls your shoulders down, and makes your back ache terribly! I thought we would never reach our destination.

It had been cloudy all evening, and it was pitch dark on the roads. Sometimes our limbers ran off the road into the ditch on the side, then we would all have to help the mule and give a hand at the wheels, sometimes going down deep into the mud. What a night it was! At twelve o'clock, the rain came down in torrents. We were all soaked to the skin. Our raincoats were like cheesecloth. Whoever manufactured them, should be shot, and if the United States Government pays for these raincoats, they must be crazy.

How that rain did come down! We hit an open field, we were marched into it and ordered to pitch tents. We did. And about one o'clock, I flopped and fell asleep without undressing and slept until eleven this morning. At twelve, they gave us something to eat, and at two, we were paid off. They gave me one hundred and six francs. That's about nineteen dollars in our money.

Steinbach, Ruthie, Irving and myself went over to the village of Xaffevillers. near by this afternoon, and managed to get a good feast of eggs and fried potatoes at a farmhouse. These French people are always glad to, feed the American soldiers. All you have to do is to motion, to your mouth that you want to eat, and they get all excited and say, Oui, oui. That means "Yes." Well, Mother Dear, I guess I better close, I see our officers coming along now, and we will probably start on another one of those tortuous hikes.

CHARLES.

Monday, August 5, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

We are in a large open field, miles away from the front lines. It's dark, and I am writing a few lines to you by candlelight in my little pup-tent which I am sharing with McGarty tonight. It's raining and cold and we have no dry clothes to put on. We sure have had enough rain this past week to flood all of France. We marched last night until three in the morning when we hit a town called Deinvillers. Our limbers were left at a quarry and the men were taken to billets in the town. How they find these places at three in the morning is beyond me!

My squad slept in a hayloft last night, I threw myself on the hay and fell off to sleep immediately and slept until eleven this morning. We ate at twelve, and at three this afternoon started to hike, the first time we marched in broad daylight for some time. I guess it's all right, because we are so far from the front. But we would be out of luck if a German aeroplane ever flew over us. A couple of bombs and there would be no more Company B of the 306th Machine-Gun Battalion.

We walked about thirty miles this afternoon as closely as I can figure it out, and it rained mostly all the time. We were wet outside from the rain and inside from the perspiration. My feet bothered me terribly today.

At seven tonight we halted on the road and our Mess Sergeant gave us some corned-beef which he heated, after opening the cans, and some bread, and coffee. The fellows hate this canned corned-beef and call it monkey meat. In a half an hour we were off again and marched until nine-thirty when we arrived in this field and pitched our tents. Good night, God bless you.
CHARLES.

Tuesday, August 6, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
I certainly had a restless night and didn't get much sleep and had to get up at five-thirty. We had a light breakfast of biscuits and coffee and then started on the hike again. It was raining but it didn't matter as we were all soaked from the rain of yesterday and our clothes were still wet. Whoever says anything to me about Sunny France in the future is going to get knocked down, I think.

About noon, we hit a town called Charmes, and were ordered to pitch tents. We thought sure we would stay here for overnight at least, but this evening, about seven, we were ordered to strike tents again and make up our packs. We are waiting now to start. The limbers are all packed and somebody just said that we won't start until two in the morning. It's only eight now, so I thought I would write a little to you while we are waiting.

Mac, Bush and I went into town this afternoon for an hour or two, and had a wonderful meal at a farm-house which the woman cooked while we waited. We thawed out our clothes in front of the fireplace, and it was funny to see the steam coming out of the three of us. The French woman laughed at us and said a lot of things, but none of us understood, so we didn't

know what she was saying. She sure could cook tho. The most important part of this grind over here, is to get decent food so you can carry on. When you are in an outfit like I am in, with a poor Mess Sergeant, you are just out of luck. I'll add some more to this tomorrow.
CHARLES.

Wednesday, August 7, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

We are on one of these French freight-cars again, traveling across France somewhere. Here is a list of the towns we passed today so you can follow us along on the map! The first town I saw was Mattaincourt. Neuf Chateau, Gondrecourt, Lignyan Barrois, Bar le duc, Le Francois, and Sompuis were some of the others I noticed, as we rolled along all day.

I fell asleep last night on the ground, waiting to start, and it was two in the morning when a whistle blew. We all fell in and started to march, with one eye open and one closed, stumbling, blindly following along. Thank goodness! It was only an hour's hike, and we hit the railroad station, and boarded the freight cars. Their last occupants were horses and the stench was terrible.

The rest of the early hours of the morning were spent in loading our equipment into the other cars and, at seven, we started off. There are thirty-two men in this car, it is half the size of an American freight -car. The lettering on the side of the car says it is for forty men. How in the world you could ever get another eight men in this car is beyond me unless they were midgets.

The fellows grumbled and argued with one another all day long. The congestion gets on their nerves and the eating of cold canned corned-beef and hardtack today, instead of something warm, isn't any too good for the disposition of a man.

I tried to sleep today, but half-hour snoozes were about the best I could do. The train would bump so, that it would wake you, so spent most of the day looking out at the scenery which looked very pretty, in spite of there being no sunshine today.

We saw many trains passing us in the other direction with French and Italian in them, all regular passenger coaches. We feel like hoboes, the way we are traveling, laying around one over another. We stopped a half hour ago, and they served us some hot coffee with the monkey meat, so I thought I would write a little, while the train wasn't moving. Good night, Mother Dear, God bless you.
CHARLES.

Thursday, August 8, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
At one in the morning, the train stopped, and we all got off and unloaded our equipment. Two hours later, we started marching until we got to an open field about an hour later, a temporary resting place. At five this morning, we got to sleep in a billet.

We were up at nine-thirty, and they gave us hard tack and coffee for breakfast. Slept some more and at one, they gave us some more corned-willy and hard-tack and coffee. As hungry as I was, I couldn't eat that cold corned-beef, and only drank the coffee. It was lucky for me that they let us wander over to the village this afternoon, where I found a very unique place to eat, a long table out in front of a house along the garden walk, a delightful spot. It was covered with twigs and leaves and flowers. A very polite French woman was serving, and I ate half-dozen fried eggs, and potatoes, and some good coffee, after which I felt myself again. I thought, as I ate, of the rest of the fellows in the company and what a stampede it would be if they all came over here at one time for something to eat. They seemed satisfied with the cold corned beef, as they were so hungry, I couldn't go it.

We are in a village called St. Simeon and it is only seventeen miles south of Paris, I think. The rumor is that we are going to stay here for a while and rest up, and that we are going to get furloughs to Paris. I can hardly wait for my pass to come along, I do want to get to see the wonderful paintings at the Louvre. I have been dreaming of this for years and, at last, it seems my dream is going to come true. Spent an hour this evening cleaning my underwear of cooties, or, rather, I should say, tried to clean them, I thought I had killed them all about an hour ago, but they are starting to bite again. A new batch seems to hatch every hour. God, they are terrible things! This barn we are billeted in isn't any too clean either. Soldiers have been here before and they always leave cooties behind. This candle of mine is getting rather short, I should have bought some when I was over in the village today. God bless you.

CHARLES.

DEAR MOTHER,
Friday, August 9, 1918

We were awakened at eight this morning. How they let us sleep so long is beyond me. They served us hard-tack and coffee and some of the fellows started to holler and the Mess Sergeant told them that he didn't get his supplies yet, and that we were lucky that we were getting a little coffee. We spent the morning cleaning up our equipment to keep us out of mischief. We were assembled and they gave us a gas-mask inspection.

This afternoon we were free again, and I went back to the little place I was at yesterday and had another good feed. I had Ruthie with me. He is very sick with a fever he contracted two years ago down in the West Indies where he was working on a case. He's a detective in private life, and sure has had some very thrilling experiences already. What I don't understand is why they draft detectives and policemen. Mac, in my platoon, was a policeman over in Brooklyn.

Funny, when we arrived here, the other day, we thought we were on the way to Paris. Yesterday, we thought this was a rest for us. Today, we found out that we are going up on this front, north of Chateau Thierry, where the Germans were driven back last week. Tomorrow, five men from each squad leave for the line. I'm going, taking four men from my old squad, the sixth. Good night.
CHARLES.

Saturday, August 10, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

We were up at seven this morning and had some hardtack and coffee again and spent the morning getting things ready to take up the line. At twelve, after an early luncheon of monkey meat and hardtack and coffee, which we sure were disgusted with, we started marching up the hill to St. Simeon, and there got on auto trucks, loading our machine guns and ammunition.

We have been riding all day and resting, now, for a little while, before we go on further. We can hear the artillery off in the distance and we are on a real hot-front now. We rode thru some towns that sure are wrecked and there must have been some fierce fighting around here recently. There are new graves all along the roads, for the soldiers were buried in haste where they fell.

We passed through the towns of Coulommiers, St. Germain, La Ferte, Jouaire, Artand, Cherny sur Marne, Chateau Thierry, Roccourt, and Oulchy. We are now on a road, and the last sign we saw was a German one which read, Nach Fere en Tardenois.

We opened some more cans of corned-beef, and you either have to eat it, or starve, so I ate some. It's worse than taking castor oil.

This place smells of gas. There were a lot of gas -shells exploded around here. We are going to start off again in a few minutes, my back is sore, we have been riding in this auto truck for the last seven hours and Lord knows how much farther. We sure have had a good bumping up today. This was all in German hands a couple of weeks ago, and it looks like the beginning of the end of the war. That's what the rumor is. They are starting now.
CHARLES.

Sunday, August 11, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

We are now just outside of Fere en Tardenois. What a spot! The town is a wreck. The place all around here has a terrible stench, for the dead haven't been buried deeply at all. We got here at two a.m. They dumped us off the trucks, and we unloaded our equipment, piled it up, threw our packs on the ground and fell asleep. We sure were tired.

I woke this morning at eight. The morning went fast. We had no orders to do anything. Our officers weren't around, so we went sightseeing. The supplies left behind by the Germans are enormous. They sure must have made a hasty departure. It is only a week that they were in this spot. In some of the huts they have built here, the food is still on the table. We have been warned not to touch anything, as some of these places have been mined, and as soon as you touch anything, you might get blown to pieces. The food is rotting and there are millions of flies around.

The hot sun today made conditions worse. There is only one place to get water over in the town in a well back of a house. Everybody had to get on line there this afternoon to get his canteen filled. The town is deserted and surely is wrecked. You would think there had been an earthquake here recently. They sure can do some awful damage with artillery fire. Some of the buildings seem to have been cut in half by a huge knife. Shells have been dropping over all day. The Germans are only a short distance away.

This afternoon we cleaned our guns carefully and looked over all the ammunition and got it in shape for immediate use. Van Pelt, Mac and I are sleeping together tonight under the tent which we put up under a few small trees.

I saw the grave of Roosevelt's son, in the open field right near here today. The Germans brought down his aeroplane and buried him with one wheel of the plane over the grave. The artillery is opening up and the noise is sure deafening. Good night, Mother Dear, God bless you.
CHARLES.

Monday, August.12, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
We were awakened at eight, and spent the morning cleaning our guns again very thoroly, for at eleven we had an inspection. Everything was all right and no fault found with anyone. We ate and made up our packs.

At one o'clock, two auto trucks came along. We piled the twelve machine guns and all equipment and one hundred and eighty boxes of ammunition and sixty-eight men on them, and then started off. We rode and rode, going north all the time, passing through Soponay, Craimaille, Loupeigne, Chery Chartreuve, and the sign says that the next town is Mont. St. Martin.

We just stopped, and ate some corned-beef and hard-tack, and it looks like that is all we are going to get for some time. We sure were taking an awful chance today, riding around in these two auto trucks with all our machine guns and ammunition. It's surprising that no German planes came over today. There were plenty of Allied planes flying over us, and I think now they were sent along to kind of protect us, in case any German plane did come over. We are starting to move, so will add on to this tomorrow. Good night.
CHARLES.

Tuesday, August 13, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
We rode until twelve o'clock last night. We Were delayed by getting lost and taking the wrong road. It was pitch dark and how we ever got here was a mystery. It was a thrilling ride. We had a wonderful view for miles and miles, and could see the flashes of artillery way off in the distance and all kinds of colored lights were shot into the sky all along the front. In the distance was a huge fire. That, later on, helped us to stay on the road, and was a guiding beacon for the correct direction to ride in. The place where we unloaded was being shelled and most of us had our wind-up.

The Captain was walking up and down the road with the shrapnel flying all around him. He was the coolest man in the whole bunch. At one spot, he stumbled across someone on the road and asked who it was. When he answered, "the Lieutenant," our Captain bawled him out something terrible, telling him that he was a fine man to set an example for the rest of the men by hugging the ground that way. I bet the Lieutenant felt like two cents.

The Captain discovered an old artillery emplacement that the Germans had a few days ago and we were all led into it. We threw our packs on the ground and brought in the guns and ammunition. Later, when we tried to find our own packs, they were all mixed up, and everybody took other fellow's pack. I was out of luck, the pack I picked had no overcoat in it, only a slicker, and I froze all night. It was pitch dark, we couldn't see a thing, and no lights were allowed.

This morning I got my pack back, Levy had it. He lost one of the wristlets that Mrs. Johnson had knit for me to keep me warm this winter. Here it is August and I froze last night. It was impossible to sleep. The shells burst around us all night and, with the noise of our own artillery over on our right, it was nerve -wracking, I'm all in at the moment. Even tho the Germans are retreating, they sure are sending over plenty of shells. I think they were here two nights ago. They killed some more horses of the artillery outfit last night.

The day has been a wonderful one, the sun shining in all its glory with a gentle breeze blowing all day. It has been too nice a day for a war to be going on. We have been spending the day digging a dugout so that we will have a little protection. The German planes were flying over us today and we started shooting at them, but they flew too fast for us to bit them. It's a matter of luck to bring one down. We lost a fellow by the name of Murtha this afternoon. A shell

dropped just behind our position and shrapnel hit him in the arm. He went back in the Red Cross ambulance to the hospital. We just finished eating some more corned-willy and hardtack, and are waiting around, for what, I do not know. Good night.

CHARLES.
Wednesday, August 14, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

After it became dark last night, a couple of German planes flew right over us and dropped about a dozen bombs down on us. I wish you could have seen the wreckage around us this morning, and the strange part is that only one man was hurt, a fellow by the name of Ostendorf. They took him to the hospital at midnight. A piece of a bomb hit him on the leg, I didn't sleep much at all last night, the German planes kept dropping bombs all night long.

At eight this morning, we had some breakfast. They made some coffee down in a cellar. It sure was a life-saver. We all made up a small pack after that, taking only our overcoats, slickers, reserve rations and toilet articles. We left the rest of our belongings in our shelter-halves, making a roll of it.

After lunch, everybody in the company, including the officers, carrying two boxes of ammunition and our machine guns, started marching in single-file towards the front line. I judge this to have been the most foolish of ideas, to do this in broad daylight. The road led around a small hill and, on our right, the hill sloped down into a valley about a mile away, and then up again away off in the distance, at the top of which were the German observation posts. They must have thought the Americans were crazy. Well, we were just walking about five minutes when, there came, bang, bang, bang. All around us the small seventy-seven shells started exploding. The order was given to fall out which we did, all hugging the ditch alongside of the road. We waited for a little while until they let up and then started on again and made for the -village of Villersavoye, where we are now waiting in a farm-yard to go on further.

The village is deserted and a wreck. The shells are dropping into it all the time. The smell of gas is everywhere. One of our fellows, named Stein, was cleaning his pistol and it accidentally went off and went clean thru his foot. He lost a lot of blood and looked as white as a sheet. Some of the fellows say he shot himself intentionally, but I don't think so. I am so nervous and shaking like a leaf at the moment myself, and if

I touched my pistol, I am afraid it would shoot at my slightest touch. It sure is hell right where we are now. The whole atmosphere has the smell of death in it. A heavy shelling is going on all over the place and it would be suicidal to get up and walk around.

Seven German planes spiraled down over us, firing away at two Allies' planes, and the bullets were dropping all around us like hail. We thought we would see a nice air battle but the odds were too great, and the Allies' planes beat it back. We have been waiting for them to return but so far there has been no sight of them and the German planes are flying around looking down trying to locate us. If they would only oblige us by coming down just a few hundred feet and in getting within range of our machine guns they will find out very quickly where we are. We have them all set and waiting. As soon as it gets dark, and this shelling lets up a little, we are going to move on. Good night, Mother Dear, God bless you.

CHARLES.

DEAR MOTHER,
Thursday, August 15, 1918

I sure must have been tired last night, for I fell asleep, and at twelve a shrill whistle blew and we started off. We marched for about an hour, carrying our equipment and small packs. Up and down hills, through water, over land exposed to the enemy. Lieutenant Krell was leading and I was directly behind him, with the sixth squad behind me, of which I have charge. The Lieutenant was leading at such a terrible pace that we lost the rest of the company. We put our stuff down, while the Lieutenant went back to look for them.

There were German machine-gun bullets flying past over our heads, and we had to keep close to the ground to escape being hit. A corporal of a squad of Infantry in an outpost position cautioned us to be careful. I asked him where the front line was, and he motioned towards his right, and back, and there we were out in front of the Infantry outpost. The Lieutenant returned, shouting my name at the top of his lungs and telling us to come back.

The Germans started to shoot more rapidly, and we just lay there and made ourselves as thin as possible. I felt a couple of bullets cut the long grass over my head. If I told you I wasn't scared, I would be a liar. I felt like a dumb animal cornered and that my end was near. As soon as it stopped a little, I said, "Come on, men!" and led the way back. It was starting to get light and we had to make the top of the hill and get back into the town, or we would be out of luck. We double-timed up the hill gladly, with all our equipment. just near the top, we passed a well, and the bullets started to pick up the dirt all around us.

Some German machine gunner had spotted us. We all knelt on the other side of the well and, one by one, managed to crawl just a little farther, where we got behind a cement wall. It was almost daylight. Lights were being sent up. The artillery got busy, and it sounded like hell let loose for an hour. There was my squad and myself lost from the company! I looked at my watch and it was five o'clock. We were all dead tired and fell asleep and didn't wake up until nine this morning. We were hungry and opened up a couple of cans of corned-beef and hardtack and, with some water in our canteens, that was our breakfast.

We saw some signs showing we were in a town called Fismes. It sure had been wrecked by artillery fire. I don't remember seeing one house that wasn't hit, and all being deserted, it was a very mysterious looking town. Marching back thru the town, we saw hundreds of dead Germans and Americans lying where they fell. It was the most gruesome sight I have seen yet, and made me realize more than ever, how ridiculous and unnecessary this business of war is.

I figured that the rest of the company must have returned to the next town over, Villersavoye, where we started out from yesterday afternoon. I was right, and when we got back there at noon today, they were all surprised to see me and my squad. They thought that we had been killed last night. Three of the men in my squad, who were with me last night, went to the hospital this afternoon, Purcell, Kujawa and Stadler. My squad is shot to pieces, yet we are going back again tonight, when it gets dark, to where we started for yesterday.

We could smell some very beautiful lilacs last night while we were on the way up and took deep whiffs of their perfume in the dark, thinking that there was a lilac bush near by. We found out today that the smell was gas. Our Captain and Lieutenant Krell were gassed, and a lot of men in the other two platoons. My throat is raw and my eyes have been watering all afternoon, but outside of that I am all right.

We just had a good meal at four o'clock, and everybody has been resting and cleaning up this afternoon, as we go up again tonight to relieve the other machine-gun company that is in the line. I found out this afternoon that the place where we were last night is called the "Valley of Death." It is such a terrible position, because the Germans are on the top of the hill on the other side and can shoot down on top of us and across the valley into the town of Fismes. It is one hot spot. So it looks like we are in for a little excitement. As soon as it gets dark, we start, so will close, Mother Dear. I wish I was home now.

CHARLES.

Friday, August 16, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

At nine o'clock last night, we started off for the line with a new Lieutenant in charge of us, Lieutenant Rice of C company. Why he was switched over to us is a mystery. I wish we had our own officers, but they are all gassed or sick at the moment. A guide from the company we were relieving led us into the line, over the same ground where we were last night. It was very exciting coming up last night. Everybody was on edge, and when two of our fellows were hit by some machine-gun bullets, and let out a yelp, we all became a little panicky and hugged the ground until it stopped. We had a taste of what the Germans get every time that we put over a machine-gun barrage. The guide finally got us to our position about midnight when everything was very quiet and mysterious.

We are on the side of railroad tracks upon the embankment which runs around in a curve right here. The other side of the embankment is infiladed by German machine-gun fire, I doubt very much that they think we are on this side of the track. We are in a most advanced position, away up in front of the Infantry front line. We have our machine gun set behind the hedge on the top of the embankment. It's lucky the hedge is a good thick one, for it protects us from being seen.

About half-way down, we have a good sized dugout which the last outfit dug. We have been digging it a little bigger so that it won't be so crowded. There are four with me, Jansen, Kimberly, Dinola, and Hammerstrom. One man is always at the gun. We have two-hour shifts. The hill runs straight up about a hundred yards, and the Germans are up there somewhere on the main road that runs from Soissons to Rheims. If they start down the hill, we can see them silhouetted against the sky. Of all positions to place us in this is about the hottest yet! I managed to sleep a little last night but was awfully nervous.

We all stood-to this morning, expecting a raid but nothing happened. We have orders not to shoot until we see the enemy. According to a prophecy of an Indian soldier in the 308th Infantry, the war was supposed to end last night but it is still going on.

About two this afternoon, we were wondering whether we would ever eat again or not, so decided to open up some cans of salmon which we have, and we ate it with bread which the fellows we relieved left behind. We have some canned milk in our rations which we mixed with the water in our canteens and drank it. We are all suffering from watery eyes from the gassing we got the other night.

Further down the tracks are a number of dead Germans and some American soldiers on the opposite side of the bank. It's impossible to get to them, because the other side of the embankment is being swept by machine-gun fire all the time. We have to be very careful and keep out of sight. It sure is tough staying in this little dugout all day. The only chance we get to stretch is at night when it gets dark. Tonight we ate the last of our rations, a couple of cans of corned-beef and hardtack, and washed it down with the last of our water in the canteens. One of the four had to go back for rations and get the canteens filled with water. Nobody volunteered so I had to hold four matchsticks and the one who drew the short one had to go. Kimberly drew it. As soon as it gets dark, he is going to start back. It's a tough job but has to be done. Well, Mother Dear, will say good night. We have to get ready now for stand-to.
CHARLES.

Saturday, August 17, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
We all stood-to last night from nine to ten-thirty and about ten we noticed some figures moving down towards us about half-way up the hill. They were crawling on their hands and knees, it seemed. We knew it couldn't be any of our men out there or they would have told us. We hesitated a few seconds and decided it would be better to open up. So we swept the gun from left to right covering the general area where we thought they might be, shooting all the time thru a piece of burlap, so they wouldn't be able to see the sparks and give away our position.

This morning when daylight came, we peeked up the hillside and saw six Germans lying dead whom our gun snuffed out last night. We all felt pretty bad about it today. It's nothing but downright murder to me! How I hate this war business!

The next squad up the track about a hundred feet captured a German prisoner last night, a kid about nineteen years old, as he came walking towards their position, hollering, "Comrade!" at the top of his lungs. He was so panic stricken that he had a potato masher in his hand holding it over his head, and the fellows almost shot at him, thinking he was going to throw the potato masher at them, so they threw it up the hill and it exploded with a loud bang. The kid was scared to death and hungry. They gave him something to eat, and the ration detail took him up to Headquarters. One of the fellows could speak German and the kid told him that he was sent out on a trench raid all alone, with a potato masher. He told them that they hadn't anything to eat for two days and that they were about all in, and wouldn't be able to hold out much longer.

Kimberly got back at 3:30 this morning from the ration detail, he had to walk five miles each way. He brought up some cans of corned-beef and salmon for the five of us, which was supposed to be for all day. We finished it all at one meal at breakfast time. We were terribly hungry. My eyes are in good condition again, but Dinola's eyes are still watering. He is going back for rations tonight and at the same time have the medical man fix his eyes with something.

It is nerve-wracking waiting around like this, so this afternoon I took an inch of cold water out of my canteen and managed to shave my beard off and felt much better afterwards.

Our artillery has been very active all day shooting intermittently over our heads and landing somewhere off in the distance on the top of the hill. Dinola is watching at the gun and the other three are fast asleep in the dugout here with me. It's getting dark rapidly. We are hungry and tired of it all -but there is nothing to do but carry on. Will close with love to you and Mousie.
CHARLES.

Sunday,
August, 18, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

I was awakened this morning at eight by Ruthie, who came around with eight letters for me, two of them from you and the rest from my friends, and I have been reading them over and over again all day so that I almost know them all by heart now. They sure did brace up my low spirits, I was feeling like two cents.

Last night they sent up a Dixie with some cabbage and some kind of meat in it which tasted more like the dead horses than anything else. I couldn't eat it. This morning we had some more of the cold corned-beef and filled up on some bread and syrup which Dinola found somewhere. The syrup was a life-saver for my sore throat from the gassing I got the other night. It was just what I needed.

The morning passed very rapidly due to reading my mail over and over again. Our artillery was firing short this morning and started shooting into our lines further over on our left, only one was hurt slightly by a flying piece of shell fragment.

We were all starving for some good hot coffee, so I had the fellows cut up some small pieces of wood no thicker than toothpicks and built a little fire inside the dugout and filled the syrup-can with water and, after half an hour, managed to make enough coffee with the beans from our reserve rations to satisfy the five of us. It hit the spot. I remember reading that in a war book called "Under Fire," and made coffee just as the other soldier did. Today I am going through the same experiences and appreciate all the more the different war books that I used to read. I never thought at the time that some day I myself would be in a front line, but here I am.

The embankment on the other side of the tracks is supposed to be infiladed by enemy fire and we saw a very bold thing this afternoon: two Infantry fellows came along and walked over to the other side of the tracks and removed the pack from the back of one dead German soldier and ransacked it. I became bold also and walked over to them, figuring that, if we were seen by any German snipers, they wouldn't shoot at us, thinking that this was a burial detail. The enemy never shoots at a burial detail.

They lifted the cover off the dead German's face and it was black. just a little further down the bend was another dead German chained to a machine gun, leaning over his gun as if he was firing. He looked very grotesque.

Further up to the right, on the other side, we came across two dead American soldiers from the 59th Machine Gun Company. They were regulars. A shell must have hit them direct, they were so badly mangled. These two Infantry fellows started going thru their pockets, and I asked them what they were up to. I thought at first they were ransacking all the dead soldiers. But they told me that they were from H Company of the 308th Infantry, and that they had been sent out to bury all American soldiers. So they started to dig into the embankment, and after a half hour, had a big enough hole to shovel the remains of the two bodies into it. There wasn't anything left of those poor devils but large pieces of their torsos and a couple of legs. There were no heads around at all. Thousands of flies were all over them and the stench was something terrible.

The two Infantry men doing the burying were peculiar looking fellows and didn't seem to mind the job at all. We found out later that they were a little dopey and had been selected for the job on that account. They made a cross out of two branches and put the two battered helmets on top of the grave with the papers and wallets, which they found in the pockets under the helmets to identify them later on. They couldn't find any of the identification tags, which we have around our necks. I am wondering if those poor devils will ever be shoveled out of that hole some day and how they will be able to separate them. They must have been buddies and were snuffed out together.

The Infantry men finished the burial, and went on their way toward the rear, I told them that there were no dead American soldiers in front of us. I am glad they came up, because when I walked down to the right, about fifty feet just before the bend, I discovered some nice ice-cold water trickling down from the side of the bank, a natural spring. We all went down there, one by one, keeping out of sight as much as possible, and had a good wash, and the ice-cold water sure did feel good.

I was afraid to drink that water at first, but as the others have and it tasted all right, we are all drinking it, and the other position has sent a man over, and they have all filled their canteens also. This saves carrying it back from the well at the top of the hill. It's enough for the men to carry up rations. A half-dozen canteens full of water are heavy when you have to carry them a great distance.

The artillery has been firing all day, even tho it is Sunday. There are no holidays in this bloody business. We wish for an early peace. All are fed up with war already.

We had some bacon in our reserve rations and, this afternoon, I cut it up into small pieces and fried it in a mess-kit and dipped some bread and hardtack, which we had, into the bacon grease. It sure did taste good. We also had some more salmon.

Well, Mother Dear, it's getting dark, and almost time to get ready and stand-to. We never know when the Germans might decide to come over and visit us and wipe us out with a couple of their potato mashers. When they explode, they do some terrible damage. Good night, God bless you.
CHARLES.

DEAR MOTHER, Monday,
August 19, 1918

I slept until seven-thirty this morning. The front was so quiet that the fellows let me sleep thru, and they stood-to this morning themselves. They said I needed the rest, and I did feel better after a few hours more of sleep. Dinola went back for the rations last night and brought up a very generous feed, three loaves of bread, two cans of beans and salmon, some more milk and tobacco and matches. We were well supplied for the day, and ate like officers.

About noon, I made enough coffee for the five of us in the syrup-can, which is made of tin and heats very quickly. I also heated the beans, and we all had a hot meal right up in the front line, with the Germans about a hundred yards away on the top of the hill. I made the fire out of very thin pieces of wood again which didn't smoke at all.

This is our fourth day up here and it seems like four months because it has been such a strain. There is an ever-present threat of disaster. I keep up my spirits by whistling, low, of course. I sure do a lot of smoking. The boys are all kind of quiet, and I try to cheer them up the best I can, but don't feel any too happy myself and it is difficult.

We all wish for an early peace. There is no glory for us up here. We never know when a shell is going to drop on us and snuff us out. We all feel like it's coming, and makes us uneasy, just like a doomed prisoner feels in the death-house, knowing he is going to be electrocuted. The torture of waiting for it is the real punishment. That's the way it is up here in the front line, the shells are screaming all around you, and you wonder why it is that you haven't been hit yet. You feel that it's coming. It seems inevitable that you couldn't escape. The stench of the dead is another grim reminder.

Oh, Mother, if the men who start wars could only spend one day in the lines, they might reconsider before they would ever start another one. You have to go thru it to realize how terrible and utterly foolish it all is. Human beings trying to kill off each other and hiding in holes in the ground. Why it's a slap at our' intelligence and civilization itself! When I think of it sometimes, I feel like rising and rebelling against it all, I know I better not tho, because they would shoot me at sunrise-my own comrades, the ones I am with, not the enemy, my own comrades-would shoot me! Oh, how ridiculous! It doesn't seem possible, but it's true. And I wonder about the enemy. They are the same as me, I have German blood in me, I never know when I might be shooting at one of my own cousins or uncles. We don't want to shoot each other, but we are forced to. How silly it all is! That an institution called War can make men commit such atrocities! War must be abolished! The women of the world should organize themselves against it.

Well, Mother dear, I've been raving again. Don't mind me! But you know how I feel about killing. What has become of all the religion taught to children ? Have they forgotten all about the Golden Rule P What good are the churches anyhow, if they permit such destruction as this?

Thank God, I was just told that we will be relieved tonight by C Company of our Battalion. It was just about as long as I could stand this place. Good night.

CHARLES.

Tuesday, August 20, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
The Relief took over our emplacement at ten-thirty last night, after getting all the instructions where the enemy was located, how the tracks were infiladed by snipers, and I told them about the spring. They were glad to hear about the water being so near to them. If water is scarce, it is tough.

We started off to meet the rest of the company up on top of the hill. We walked in single file, about three feet apart. Bullets were flying, and we had to walk in a crouched position mostly all the way. There was a little creek to cross about twenty-feet wide. The engineers had a plank over it but the German machine gunners made it very uncomfortable, shooting around the spot all the time. The bottom of the creek is covered with barb-wire which the Germans threw in when they retreated. There are quite a number of our Infantry boys floating on the water. Their feet must have got caught when they were killed. They had to wade across when they were advancing. It sure was a gruesome sight and I was glad when we all were safely over the plank and on our way.

The side of the hill was covered with dead, lying where they fell. The bullets were kicking up the dirt around the well as we passed. We reached the cement wall which was a protection to us a week ago. Some of it had been shot away, but enough of it was left to shelter us while we rested after the tough climb up the hill.

The rest of the squads came along shortly, and we started the walk back to the quarry, where we had left our belongings in the shelter-halves. This has been a company headquarters. It was one this morning when we reached it. The Mess Sergeant had some hot coffee for us and we turned in, sleeping on the hard ground.

The company this morning looked shot to pieces. Quite a few were killed and injured during the four days that we were in the line. We are going to get some new men to fill it up to full strength again. Our Lieutenant Krell was sent back to the United States today as instructor, lucky boy.

We had steak and carrots today, how they ever got steak for soldiers is a mystery. That's food for officers only.-They must have made a mistake. We have been taking it easy today, nothing to do at all but clean up ourselves and try to get rid of these cooties which hatched out during the past week. How they torture us! Our artillery over on our left has opened up, and the ground shakes every time they fire. I don't know why we always get a position near artillery outfits. The noise is nerve-wracking and, as this is supposed to be a rest, they should take us to a place farther away. Good night, Mother Dear, God bless you.

CHARLES.

Wednesday, AUGUST 21, 1918.
DEAR MOTHER,
I woke up this morning after a very restless night. I was coughing all night long, and this morning my throat was very raw. Eight of us started off this morning at ten for the Battalion Infirmary. It was a terrible hike in the hot sun. We all received pills and some castor oil. I slept the early part of the afternoon. At three o'clock went over to a pool near by and took an ice-cold bath and felt much better after it. I was very nervous because two German aeroplanes flew directly over me and they must have seen my naked white body in the bright sunlight, because the pool was in an open and exposed spot. There was no shelter around at all. It was a very crazy thing to do, on my part, but I was lucky, because they didn't shoot at me.

I had only coffee for breakfast and luncheon, but made up for it tonight. We had a good meal of beans, bacon, tomatoes, bread, jam and three crullers apiece with our coffee. I felt fine after it with the exception of the rawness in my throat.
At six o'clock, a whistle blew. We were ordered to make up our packs. German aeroplanes were flying overhead, and our artillery let loose in all its fury, the anti-aircraft guns were firing at the Germans, and it sounded like hell let loose.

At eight o'clock, we started off in single file at five -yard intervals. This was the furthest apart we had ever marched, and I guess it was because the company was so shot, it looked like only half a company. They have to take care of the ones that are left. I felt all right for about twenty minutes but suddenly became very dizzy and weak and I dropped out of the line. I sat down and then became very sick and threw up my nice meal. Ruthie was sent back to take care of me and the rest of the company continued on its way. Later on, I felt all right again and we started off and finally found the company here in this woods. They had pitched their tents, so Ruthie and I took our shelter-halves and we are bunking together tonight.

It's twelve, and I have been writing by candle-light in our pup-tent. This forest is so dense that it is a wonderful protection, and it is quiet, thank goodness. We are about ten miles away from the front, and we might get a good night's rest if they don't decide to take us on a hike. Good night, Mother Dear, God bless you.
CHARLES.

Thursday, AUGUST 22, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

My sore throat bothered me all night and it's just my luck, if it isn't the noise of artillery to keep me awake at nights, something else always does. This morning I received eight more letters and they braced me up and gave me something to read and forget myself and the war a little. It would be great to forget the war forever. I received the letters you wrote on July 22, and the long one you wrote on the 15th. It takes about a month before I get your letters. How long do mine take? I am glad you got the "young book" that I wrote for you coming over the ocean. Gosh, it seems like years ago that I wrote those letters! I was afraid that you might never get them.

We had an inspection this morning and had to arrange all our equipment. The Captain certainly was sore and bawled us out something awful. He asked if any man in the company had polished his shoes since we have been out of the front line. Not one man had. I will say we do look terrible. Our uniforms are a disgrace. It's the only one we have and we have to sleep in them to keep warm at night. Our shoes look awful. My heels are run down almost to the edge of the uppers. We have nothing to clean or polish them with, and they are caked with mud. It was some inspection we had. After it was over we all did the best we could with water, and then greased them with rinds of bacon which the Mess Sergeant gave us.

The men are all disgusted with the war and everything, and I can understand their mental attitude in regard to their personal appearances. What do they care how their clothes look? All they are concerned about is to get some decent food and a place to sleep with as little work as possible. That's the way I feel about the whole thing, but I mustn't say so, because I am a non-com and must set a good example to the men. I am not honest with myself in that respect and if I should be, and go to my superior officers and tell them so, I would be reduced to a private and then would have all the dirty detail work to do again. That is the advantage of being a non-com.

Our artillery has been firing all day. Thank goodness, it wasn't near us, so it didn't sound so terrible. Shells from the German artillery were dropping about three-hundred yards away over to our right. It's funny how close they can come to you. If the German who was setting the range would have moved his sight, maybe a sixteenth of an inch more to the right, it would have sent the shells about three-hundred yards more to the right, and they would have dropped in among us.

It's remarkable, when you think of it, how close you come to death sometimes, maybe a sixteenth of an inch. We were told by the Captain tonight at formation that C Company, who relieved us, was raided last night by a company of German Infantry. They had five men killed, one an officer. One of the squads captured eleven Germans. They were all kids about eighteen years old. That position down there in the railroad track was about the craziest place to put machine guns anyhow, and if we had been kept in there another day, it would have been us that would have been raided. Our company sure has been very lucky so far.

I took another trip over to the Battalion Infirmary this afternoon about my throat. I told him that it was raw, but he didn't even look at it, and gave me two more pills and sent me on my way. No matter what is wrong with you, they give you some of these pills which do nothing but physic you. Some of the fellows when they are sick never bother walking over to the Infirmary because that's all you get. A couple of C C pills, they call them.

I managed to get some water from our water-cart and shaved and washed myself, and felt better and have been taking it easy tonight. Most of the fellows are playing cards. Some are writing. Good night.

CHARLES.

Tuesday, August 27, 1918.
DEAR Mom,
I thought I must write or you might get worried about me. We have been taking it easy for the past week, resting up, and only wish that my throat was all right, so I could enjoy it more. I can't speak above a whisper on account of the hoarseness. That poison gas we got that smelled like lilacs sure was powerful stuff.

Company D of our battalion is camped alongside of our company, and the other day, German shells started to drop all around us. Five fellows were injured and taken to the hospital. Even when you are out of the lines on a rest, you have very little peace. The Lieutenant assembled all the non-coms today and gave us all a good bawling out on account of not having more aggressiveness. Every afternoon, for about two hours, we have machine-gun work, taking it apart and putting it together again, so that we do not become rusty.

This afternoon a package came up for me from the Paris office of the Dry Goods Economist containing macaroons, candy, nuts, and a can of apricots. The boys all gathered around, and I passed out a little to everybody, and in about ten minutes it was all gone, with the exception of the can of apricots, which I am going to save for the future. That package was worth a million dollars in this sector, for sweet things are scarce. They certainly were good.

The days are getting shorter and cooler, and I wonder if I'll have to spend a winter out in the open as I used to read that the soldiers did in the war books. It sure is tough.

It's kind of quiet tonight. You can usually hear the artillery off in the distance firing away about this time. I spent the whole day yesterday over at Battalion Headquarters, and had to make twelve map- sketches, all the same, from one map showing the different towns and landmarks. The Sergeant showed me some photographs, while I was there, which were taken from aeroplanes flying over the German lines. This was the work I wanted to do, but didn't have any luck in making the Aviation Corps. It would have been much better than hiking all over France, as we have been doing, breaking our backs with our heavy packs, and pulling our hands away from our wrists carrying those heavy boxes of ammunition. The end is not in sight, either. It's getting dark so will close with love to you and Mouse.

CHARLES.

Thursday, AUGUST 29, 1918
DEAR Mom,
We were all standing for inspection last night and waiting for the Captain to come along, when suddenly the rain started to come down in torrents. When I say torrents, I am wondering if I am making it strong enough. I should say the whole sky came down on top of us. We were flooded. It was awful. Everything became soaked. There was nothing to do but get in the pup-tents and wait until it stopped. We had little ditches dug around our tents for rain to run off into, but the way the rain came down last night, the deepest ditch would have been useless.

The inspection never came off and all our preparatory work was for nothing. We had the inspection tonight and the Captain bawled out all us non-coms again, and asked if any of us felt in any way that we couldn't hold the job that he should step forward. Not one of us advanced. We all feel competent and, personally, I can't see anything wrong. I'm afraid that it's ruining the morale of the non-coms to be bawled' out in front of the men, and I can't see what it's all for, except that the officers fear lack of discipline from the men.

We were up at seven and had some fried bacon which sure went good, as it was cool this morning. Then we had some machine-gun work from eight--thirty to eleven-thirty. We have had so much of this machine-gun work that we are all bored stiff with it.

We do the same thing over and over again. We had to clean our guns and ammunition this afternoon for inspection. It was very quiet, with the exception of an occasional bang from a German shell. I wonder where they get all the iron and steel that they have been throwing back and forth at each other for the past four years. It's remarkable where it all comes from.

The Captain announced that we have a new division commander now, General Robert Alexander. General Duncan was our last commander. Things have been exceptionally quiet while we have been resting back here, and I wonder if it's the lull before the storm, or if this is a quiet front now, or maybe peace negotiations are going on, I wish I knew. We who are so near to the front never know what's going on. It's funny. They gave us some chemical to waterproof our shoes with tonight, and the best part was when they gave us some real cigarettes and some chocolate which the Red Cross sent up to us. Good night, Mother Dear, will add some more on to this tomorrow.

CHARLES.

Friday, August 30, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
Well, our rest is over, we had eleven days, and now are back in the line. This morning the officers all went up to the new positions to become acquainted with them. The Platoon Sergeant and McCarthy also went along, so I had charge of the platoon while they were away, and was told to keep the men occupied with machine-gun drill. I had them mounting the gun for a while and stripping and putting it together again and individual tripod mounting. We got along fine and the men showed more pep than they have ever shown before. I discovered that it was better to give the commands, "Mount Gun!" in a more gentle tone than by barking at them like some of the sergeants do. When you treat them like men, instead of dogs, they respond better. They enjoyed their drilling this morning.

At two o'clock, we received orders to make up our packs to move out at a moment's notice. At four O'clock we started off, and at seven we were in our new positions after some swift hiking. It was rather a bad time to be relieving a company, in broad daylight. If the Germans saw us, they decided not to shoot at us immediately. We sure are a lucky company.

Corporal Fink rejoined the company this afternoon and was immediately promoted to Sergeant and placed in charge of the second platoon, in place of Sergeant Holm, who was sent to the Officers' Training School. McCarthy and I are both in charge of a section.

I arranged the Guard List for the night, and then went to my dugout, which I am sharing with Leonard and Hurell. It's rather crowded. I call it a dugout, but it's really a shallow grave, about a foot deep, with a large piece of sheet metal over it, which we crawl under. It helps to keep off the rain. We are right on the edge of a forest. In front of us are little hills and valleys as far as your eyes can see. There is some barb-wire about two-hundred yards away, and behind it are the Germans. It's getting dark. I will write some more tomorrow. Good night, Mother Dear.

CHARLES.

Saturday, August 31, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
I had a very restless night. It was too crowded in the dugout for three, so I spent this morning digging one for myself. We all stood-to just before dawn but nothing happened. The third section is going to put over a barrage tonight, and we have been getting our aiming-posts ready and fixing our flash-screens, as we call them. They are pieces of burlap around posts to conceal the flash of the gun. We shoot thru them.

The aeroplanes were very active over our heads this afternoon. Funny, but when the German planes were overhead, there were no Allied planes around, and when the Allied planes came up, there were no German planes about. They seemed to avoid each other. We are all anxious to see a nice air battle, as we used to see up on the English front.

It's now seven, and I am writing a few lines to you, and also enjoying one of the most beautiful sunsets that I have ever seen. The colors in the sky are marvelous. I wish I had my sketch box with me. I buried it, together with all my art material, back at St. Simeon, under a tree along the canal. When I found out that we were on the way to the Chateau Thierry front a few weeks ago, I decided to make my pack as light as possible and, when we came back,

I was going to dig it up again. I doubt now if we will ever see that town again. It's time for stand-to, so will close. Good night,
CHARLES.


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