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September


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


SEPTEMBER

Sunday, September 1, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
The Lieutenant came up last night about eleven, and took us for a hike over to an abandoned aviation field where the German planes used to roost a short time ago. Hangars are all around the great field. We set the guns, and put up the flash-screens and, after setting the range, started to shoot away. We would shoot about fifty shots and then stop for a minute and then another burst. We kept this up for about an hour, and then returned to our dugouts. Altho you can't see where the bullets are falling, this indirect firing does a great deal of damage. just look how many of our fellows have been hit by stray bullets! I think more men are hit that way than at close range. You seldom get right up on top of the enemy as they used to, at the beginning of the war.

The Germans shell this part of the forest quite often, because a road leads right past here, and all during the night, every so often, they sent over a shell or two, which were a little bit larger than we have been accustomed to. These shells are called ash-cans. When they explode, it sounded as if they were as large as ash-cans. What a noise! Every time that I would be off to sleep-bang--over would come one, and I would be awake again. If one ever hits you, it would blow you to pieces. You would never know what hit you.

We all stood-to from five to six this morning, but nothing happened. This morning General Johnson came along on an inspection tour, and he asked me all about my gun position, where I was firing, and a number of other questions. He said, "Corporal, have your men police this place!" I answered, "Yes, sir," and gave him the snappiest salute he ever saw. There was a great deal of rubbish and tin cans all around the place left by the Germans in their hasty retreat. We gathered it all and buried it in a hole.

I made my dugout deeper and longer today. It's just like a grave. I don't know what happened to our Mess Sergeant, but today he opened up his heart and sent us up extra large portions of roast beef, beans, and potatoes. We were all starved for a good meal, and today we were lucky.

I took a walk down the road which is completely covered by the trees. It's really a road built thru the woods by the Germans. I visited the other positions further up to make sure just exactly where they were. One of the other squads had a New York Times of July 20th, looking as if the whole 77th Division had been reading it. It told all about the beginning of the drive, and was very interesting, and I am becoming familiar now with our general position and where we are going.

When they brought up the mess tonight in the Dixies, three letters came along for me, one from you. I sure was glad to see your handwriting again.

We lost our good old Captain Campbell today forever. We sure will miss him. He is one of the finest type of men I ever met. Our Major was promoted, and our Captain is taking his place and, for the time being, is Acting Major. Lieutenant Ralph, of C Company, is now Acting Captain of our company. This "Acting" business is funny to me. Why don't they promote them right away and have it over with? Good night, Mother Dear, I will write some more tomorrow.
CHARLES.

Monday, September 2, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

After stand-to last night, we were taken over to the aviation field again, and for an hour shot over to the German lines, shifting our fire this time from left to right as we shot. It wasn't long when their artillery started firing over to us and landing away back of us into the woods. When their artillery opens up, it is a sign that we are annoying them, and doing some damage, and the artillery tries to wipe us out. It isn't a very comfortable feeling, and I felt sorry for the poor devils we must have been hitting last night.

At one o'clock this morning, after we got back to the dugout and were trying to get some sleep, a gas alarm was given, after a couple of tons of shells were dropped up the road about one hundred yards. It seemed as if they were right on top of us. The fumes of mustard gas started to drift down towards us, and we all put on our gas-masks and kept them on for a couple of hours, till all of the fumes had passed on.

We stood-to from five to six this morning. Nothing happened. After breakfast, I fell asleep and made up for the restless night. The morning was a quiet one, no shells came over to disturb us. I took a walk over to our left this afternoon to visit the positions of the first platoon.

While I was at one of the positions, Sergeant McCarthy came along and handed me some chevrons, and told me that I was promoted to Sergeant. I have been Acting Sergeant for the past two months at a corporal's pay. That's a good way for Uncle Sam to save money.

Jansen, one of the fellows in my squad, is now Corporal. He's one of the up-state fellows. They could have knocked me over with a feather this noon when the Dixie with our food came up. Every man got a nice big juicy steak, potatoes, corn and peas. That's what I call officers' food. They are going to spoil the soldiers. We will expect it every day. They also sent up some real cigarettes and some caramel candy for those who don't smoke. Some of the hard-boiled fellows in this outfit would rather have a daily issue of rum, as they give to the English Tommies. The French soldiers get wine issued to them every day. The American soldier gets water with chlorine in it. The aeroplanes have been very active overhead today. The artillery has opened up and has been firing quite regularly for the past hour. It looks like an advance is on. The artillery farther up the line on our left is very active also. Good night.
CHARLES.

DEAR MOTHER,
Tuesday, September 3, 1918

Last night a messenger came up after we had stand -to, and told us to go over to the aviation-field again. We got there at nine. The Lieutenant placed all the four guns in position about twenty-five feet apart. It was pitch-dark, not a star shone in the sky, and you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. He set the guns and told us to shoot five strips an hour. Each strip holds twenty-four bullets. We shot six bullets every three minutes from nine to twelve. He left us and said to fire the same amount from three to five in the morning.

We were shooting away, and at eleven-thirty-five the German artillery rained shell after shell at us. It was awful! We couldn't see a thing, for it was so dark, except when the shells exploded. The gun-crew, from the next position, over on the right, ran over to where we were. They were panic stricken. I was the senior non-com and had to quiet them, and it was some job, because I was scared to death myself. I thought sure it was curtains for all of us.

No one was hit, it was a miracle, the shells were dropping all around us, spattering us with dirt and mud. I ordered the men to return to their guns and continue firing immediately to deceive the Germans and make them think that they had the wrong range. It worked! As soon as we started firing our machine guns again, the German artillery lifted their range and started dropping them in back of us, and further over into the woods.

It was the first time that I was under a real barrage of shells, and I don't think there is anything any more demoralizing and terrifying in the world. We all huddled together over at the edge of the woods. We were all in. One man was on guard for an hour during the three hours. Some of them slept. I couldn't, and just lay there awake and dreaming.

At three, we were all back at the guns, and started firing away. At four-fifteen, day started to break, and I was beginning to get worried that we would be discovered. My orders were to continue shooting until five o'clock. We hugged the ground as closely as possible, so as to be as inconspicuous as we could. From quarter -past-four this morning until five seemed like eternity to me. The Lieutenant wasn't there but we had to obey his orders. The Germans must have seen us and why they didn't shoot at us is something that I do not understand. They must think that the Americans are crazy to come right out into the open as we were this morning.

At five, I gave the signal, and we all crawled back to the forest and started back to our positions. I fell asleep, and was dead to the world until eight, when breakfast came up. I was dead tired all morning but couldn't sleep. At two this afternoon, nine shells dropped right in on top of us. Pieces of the shells went thru a couple of overcoats that were hanging on the trees. It was exciting. We all had our wind up. Some of us scattered up the road to get away from it. They know that we are here at the corner of the woods, and have the range, and I wish we were out of it.

At two-thirty, a half hour later, the Germans sent over eighteen, twice as many as they had at two o'clock. I don't know what made me count them each time, but I did, just the same. This time they wrecked us completely, almost everything was smashed to pieces. We started running up the road to get away from under it, and who should I run plumb into but the Lieutenant. He asked me where my gas-mask was. I said that it was back at the dugout. He started bawling me out for running away as I did, and it sure does look bad for me now. I should have stuck. I was all on edge. I couldn't help it. We certainly have had some very narrow escapes from death in the last twenty-four hours. We are going to stand-to now, so will close and add some more to this tomorrow.
CHARLES.

Wednesday, Sept. 4, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

We were up at four-thirty this morning after a fair night's rest. It was quiet with the exception of a few gas-shells coming over Last night about ten. We all put our gas-masks on and, while we were waiting for the gas to drift away, I fell asleep, and didn't wake up until twelve-thirty and then took my mask off. All were sleeping except the one man guarding the gun. It was quiet all around, but in the distance you could hear the faint rumble of artillery fire. It sounded like a thunder storm, as I used to hear such in the mountains up the Hudson around West Point, where I used to go camping as a kid. The fellows told me that a few shells dropped in the immediate vicinity during the night, but did no damage.

I loafed and read the morning away. It's rather nice, in a way, to be up in the lines, because you have nothing to do but loaf. Back in a rest area the officers always have some drilling or cleaning to do to keep us from resting. We get more rest when we are in the lines.

At noon, when the Dixies of food came up, we heard that the Germans had evacuated the hill, and soon after our Infantry came up along the road at double-time. They were all out of breath, and I felt sorry for them. Many of them will be killed off, and they even have to run to their deaths. It's funny! They seemed like dumb animals, afraid, but not knowing what danger they were running into.

As I looked into their faces, the men seemed to lack any sign of intelligence at all. They all looked whipped. They were going into battle, but nothing at all like what we use to read about in our histories, where they told us how the soldiers went into battle with flags flying and with music playing. There wasn't a sign of anything patriotic about the way they were going up. It was grim murder and nothing more.

You go to your death here in filth and mud, and you suffer to the end sometimes, alone. Look how we left home, at night, so we couldn't be seen! We had the parade down Fifth Avenue before we left, and had a lot of cheering, but that wasn't patriotism, it was just an emotional outburst of some people of what they thought was patriotism. ' There is no glory in this bloody business, not for these poor devils at the battle front, anyhow. They'll build statues of the Generals, who are always back in headquarters. Their names will go down in history.

At three o'clock, we received orders to make up our packs and get ready to move up. Our artillery forced the Germans to retreat, and we have to advance now to catch up with them. About four o'clock, the road in back of our position, was alive with auto trucks, Infantry and ambulances. What twenty-four hours before was the front line is, at the moment, a back area. It looks like a long hike ahead of us, the Germans must have retreated back to Germany. Why our officers weren't here to follow them up is beyond me. I feel kind of foolish being where I am. We should be up in the line supporting the Infantry.

Our limbers and mules came up, and we loaded our ammunition and gun, and now are waiting for orders to move up. While I was writing a couple of Dixies of food came up. The Mess Sergeant probably hasn't heard of the advance yet. We were lucky to get a good meal, goodness knows when we will get another one. The road is terribly congested now, all going up. If there is a crowd like this here, the front line must be about twenty miles away. So long, I will add to this tomorrow.
CHARLES.

Thursday, September 5, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
We started off at seven last night. The rest of the squads came along from the left and picked us up, and we marched along to the other positions, until we had the whole company together and then kept on walking all night. There were many times that I thought sure I would drop. What made it so terrible was that we had to leave the limbers behind and carry every bit of ammunition and machine guns all the way. It was some torture!

Instead of advancing along a road, the Lieutenant led us across fields, thru small woods, up and down hills. Maybe it was best to advance that way, rather than on the road, which was congested, and also being shelled occasionally by the long-range artillery of the Germans.

As we advanced, we saw a huge fire that burned almost all night, way off on the horizon. Whatever was burning, it must have been awfully hot near by. The Germans evidently set it on fire before retreating.

When daylight came, we halted at some German dugouts. It was raining and we were tired, wet and miserable. We didn't notice the hunger and thirst. We placed the machine guns in positions, and arranged a guard for an hour each, and everybody else flopped and slept until one o'clock. There were fifteen of us, and we only had two cans of corned beef and seven packages of hardtack. We were ravenously hungry, and finished it in no time, not leaving a crumb be-hind. I heated some water this afternoon to make a canteen full of coffee. It took me an hour to get it hot over the thin splinters of wood I used for making a fire. We had our canteens filled with water this afternoon in the deserted town of Blanzy over on our left. The Germans were in it yesterday.

While we were advancing last night, going up one hill and not looking where I was walking, I stepped on something and it gave way and caved in. I looked down and found that my foot had crushed the chest of a dead German. He was laying on his back, with his pale white face looking to the sky. He was just a kid of eighteen, and I bet he was even younger, he was so thin and frail. I bet he didn't weigh more than a hundred pounds. It was sad to see a kid like that snuffed out so early in life and made me sick for the rest of the night. I just stumbled on. Many a time I felt like dropping out on the wayside, then I would keep on saying to myself, "Not here, a little further!" I kept putting it off and before I knew it, daylight came. We had walked all night. The fellows looked as white as sheets. It was an awful strain. And to make it worse we had to carry all our equipment. The Lieutenant was here and told us that the machine-gun barrage we put over at the aviation field did a terrible damage to the Germans. We killed many and wounded plenty also. They found that out thru observation work from the aeroplanes. They saw many ambulances going back and forth behind the German lines. We were complimented for our good work. I smiled to myself, being complimented for being murderers. If we were back home and killed a man, we would be electrocuted or hung for it -but over here, it's perfectly all right. I don't see any difference. If human life is so cheap, why do they have such long, drawn-out, and expensive trials, to convict one man when he commits a murder? For our good work back at the aviation field, we are being rewarded, he said, and we are going to have the privilege to put over the first barrage up here on this line where we are now. It's time for stand-to, so will close.

CHARLES.

Friday, September 6, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

After stand-to last night, we got the four guns set out in the open, and put up our flash-screens and started shooting one clip of twenty-four bullets a minute. We kept this up for an hour and then quit. The guns were red hot by that time. One of the guns back-fired for the first time, and black powder flew into the face of one of the boys. He was lucky that it didn't fly into his eyes.

About five minutes after we quit firing, the German artillery opened up, just to let us know they were still alive, I guess, and they sure did let us have it. Tons and tons of stuff came over, the ground all around looks shot to pieces. We hugged the ground, dove into shell-holes, and just waited until it lifted. We were in one shell-hole and a great big ash-can exploded about fifteen feet behind us and we were covered with dirt, pebbles and rocks, but thank goodness, not a piece of shell fragment hit any one of us. We heard them drop further over after a while. Early this morning, when they sent us up a Dixie full of beans, bread and syrup for breakfast, we found out that Captain Gillan of D Company was killed by one of the shells last night, and that Lieutenant Harris had one arm and one leg blown off, and a lot of men were wounded and killed.

Our Acting Captain, Lieutenant Ralph, who used to be with C Company, and has been our Captain for only a couple of days, was taken to the hospital during the night. He was wounded on the head by a- shell fragment. When a shell explodes, the pieces fly everywhere, great big jagged pieces. When they hit flesh, they tear it to pieces and make an ugly wound. Sometimes, a big shell exploding will wound a fellow standing a hundred feet away. The pieces fly thru the air at express speed. Sometimes soldiers never know what hit them. It was some night! We only had one meal yesterday, and what the fifteen of us did to the beans this morning is a shame. The Dixie was licked clean. The boys are in pretty good spirits considering everything and we sure have been lucky so far.

The Germans have eight balloons up, off in the distance in front of us, and I have been waiting to see one of our planes go over and shoot some of them down. They certainly have a lot of nerve. In each one there is an officer making observations through powerful field glasses.

We are out in an open field now. It's just like a western prairie, for miles and miles you can see nothing but tall wheatfields. It gives us a little protection from being seen, but not as much shelter as back in the woods. It's lucky we have two old German dugouts here. They know we are in them, because they have been sending over an occasional ash-can all afternoon. They have come pretty close. It sure is a strain on our nerves, to have these big fellows exploding all around you.

I spent the afternoon in the dugout reading old letters and smoking cigarette after cigarette. The army sure makes you lazy. It's just six-thirty, and we just finished a wonderful feast of steak, potatoes, tomatoes, and peas. Wilmarth risked his life bringing that food up to us in broad daylight, but he didn't think it was doing much. He kept in the wheat-field all the way after coming out of the forest. He also delivered an order to make up our packs as we move out of here tonight. He said we weren't going back, and I don't see how we can go up much further, unless they are taking us up in front of the Infantry again in an outpost position, as they did back at the railroad tracks. We are about thirty miles north of that spot now, I should think, after that all night hike. It's getting late so will close and add more to this to-morrow. It will be a young book if I don't mail them soon.
CHARLES.

Saturday, September 7, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

At eight-thirty we started off in single file, carrying all our equipment, and walked to the other side of the Village of Blainzy and slept in some abandoned dugouts until four this morning. It was so black last night, you couldn't see a thing. At dawn we changed to an old artillery position once occupied by the French, then by the Germans when they swept over this sector early this spring, and now Americans are in it.

The boys are saying that mixing up cooties this way is a bad thing to do. The cooties that hatch out now will be more ferocious than ever before. They certainly have been torturing us the last few weeks. I haven't had my clothes off in months, it seems, and I am wondering where I am going to have my next bath. It won't be out in the open, because it has been getting rather cool lately.

The German artillery that sent so many shells over to us about two weeks ago, must have been in this position. There is plenty of their equipment around, and we have been warned not to touch anything, as the whole place might be mined and blow us to pieces. We are scared to death to even breathe and, only for the nice comfortable dugouts they have here, I would much rather be elsewhere.

During the night, they brought our kitchen up to the village, and I bet the poor Greek Mess Sergeant wishes he was back in Brooklyn where his restaurant is. The town is under shell-fire, and I can't understand why they ever brought the kitchen up so close. We had three good meals today, and I hope it keeps up, because I don't think that there is any more annoying feeling than hunger when you think of how much there is on this earth to sufficiently feed everybody. The good Lord has abundantly provided us with all kinds of food. The fields around us are full of wheat, enough to make tons of bread. Every one should always have plenty to eat. It is only recently, since I have felt the pangs of hunger for the first time in my life, that I understand the desperation of a hungry man to steal. The pangs of hunger sure do sting. And when you are wet and cold as we have been, it's worse.

What makes the soldiers carry on is beyond me. If only everybody would at this moment lay down arms, leave the trenches, and stop this slaughtering, and leave the politicians or those who started this to fight it out among themselves, it would be wonderful!

At two this afternoon the Germans gave us another taste of their 77 shells, which we haven't heard for a couple of days. They dropped all around us, Foster was on guard at the time, and one shell dropped ten feet away from him. He was spattered with mud from head to foot and miraculously escaped injury. It's a terrible strain on your nerves and, unconsciously, you are continually rolling cigarettes. I smoke two and three packs of Bull Durham a day. A shuddering feeling of nausea creeps over me every time these shells explode near me. I can't help it.

Every guard but gas guard is given up for tonight. It is pitch black outside, you can't see your hand in front of your face. It is raining, and a terribly strong wind is blowing. I had occasion to visit the other dugout to arrange the guard for the night, and on my way back the lightning illumined the way for me. It was very strange. It even seemed to flash for me as I crossed the ladder which we use for a bridge over the stream that runs parallel to the entrance to our dugout.
I am going to snuff out this candle now, and maybe will be able to get a good night's rest if nothing happens. On a stormy night like this, you can generally figure that everything will be quiet, because everybody is trying to keep dry. It's strange sleeping down in the earth like this, it makes you feel like you have been buried alive. So long, Mother Dear! CHARLES.

Sunday, September 8, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

Today was Sunday but no church for us. I wonder what our chaplains really think down in their hearts of this bloody business. What would they do if they met a German chaplain? Shake hands, or start to fight each other?

We all had a good rest last night. A few shells dropped over on our right, the fellows told me, but I didn't hear a thing, because we are too far down in the earth. When the artillery outfits dig a dugout, they dig them deep.

The wind was still blowing strong today. It would rain one minute, and the next minute the sun would be shining. It was a real fall day. The Germans were dropping shells about fifty yards behind us all afternoon. As they exploded, the ground would shake, and we were all hugging the dugouts for protection. We just hang around and wait. We haven't any orders to shoot, all we seem to do is to wait for food to come up, and sleep.

I saw something that looked like a grave about a hundred yards over on our left and crawled over to it this afternoon. It was the wreck of a French aero-plane brought down by the Germans, on September 2, 1918, just six days ago. The flyer is buried alongside of the spot where he fell. His grave is marked by the propeller blade of his plane made into a cross. One of the wheels, and the nose of the engine are on the grave. On the propeller is lettered very crudely in pencil, and in German, "Here lies a French Aviator, brought down September 2, 1918, Corporal Priess Rogers. May he rest in peace!" They do pay a great deal of respect to aviators when they are brought down. I sat there and looked at the grave for about fifteen minutes, just dreaming, and wondering what it was all about. A German shell came over and burst quite near me and brought me to my senses, and I crawled back to the dugout. They sent up some beans and prunes tonight, and we just received orders to get ready to move up. Love to you both.
CHARLES.

Monday, September 9, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
I sure was cold last night. How I missed my sweater, and I wished I had my woolen helmet I left in my blanket roll. They managed to get some hot coffee and fried bacon and bread up to us this morning, and that kind of took the chill out of us. On the way up last night, I stepped into a shell-hole full of water, and was soaked half way up to the knees. This morning I hung up the only pair of socks I have with me and almost got them dry.

There are seven men here in this trench with us who were wounded last night. First aid was given the poor fellows after being out in the cold and rain all night. They are waiting now for it to get dark, so they can carry the injured back to where the ambulances are. I have been amazed all day at the wonderful vitality and patience of these wounded men, two of whom are pretty badly hurt, but they're been sleeping most of the time. They looked at one fellow a couple of times, and he looked as if he was dead, but after a while he opened his eyes and asked for a smoke.

We have been waiting in this trench all day, and suppose, as soon as it gets dark, we go on farther. We should be shot to pieces if we showed our heads above the trench. How we ever got up as far as this is beyond me. I think the Lieutenant brought us up a little too far. We are waiting for it to get dark, and for some one to bring us some food and tell us what to do. It's starting to rain again. It looks like we are in for it now. So long, Mother Dear! I wish I was home.
CHARLES.

Tuesday, September 10, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

They came up about nine last night, with some stew, bread and hot coffee. It was a life-saver, as we were about all in. The Red Cross fellows came up also, and took the wounded Infantry fellows back. After we ate, we waited until eleven and the Sergeant came along crawling on his hands and knees and brought us up to this trench which the Germans were in last week. There is plenty of mud in it. The trench behind us, which the Infantry evacuated yesterday, has a foot of water in it and at one spot a stream is pouring into it with considerable force. We put a few branches and dirt across the communication trench, so it doesn't pour into this one. The Infantry alongside of us have bread but it is soaking wet so we shared ours with them.

We have our machine gun here, but it is of no earthly use down here in the trench, and I suppose we are up here to help the Infantry, in case the Germans decide to come over on a raid. This morning, they brought us some coffee, jam, and bread, just before it became light, and that's all we have had all day. This lying around, not knowing what to do, is an awful strain. There are all sorts of rumors that we are going to be relieved but others that we go up farther. If we only knew!

The German shells were dropping rather close this afternoon, and the concussion smashed in our trench a little. It cleared up nicely this evening, and we are having a beautiful sunset. There are heavy orange and purple clouds overhead, against an emerald green sky, off in the distance, and, as I took a peek over the top of the trench, I saw the wreck of an aeroplane silhouetted against the sky on the horizon. It was brought down Sunday, the Infantry fellows told us, and nobody has been near it to bury the aviator. He is right between the lines at the moment.

I sure am starved tonight, Mother Dear. I wish I had some of the food now that I used to refuse to eat when I was a kid. I guess this is my punishment. I'll eat all the carrots you'll ever give me in the future. So long, it's getting dark.
CHARLES.

Wednesday, September 11, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
They managed to get a Dixie full of steak up to us last night and some rice pudding. We were so hungry that we didn't mind the combination at all. Later the Sergeant came up, and took us over to an old artillery position further over on our right, with nice deep dugouts alongside which the Germans have been occupying until recently. They were originally built by the French and have bunks in them made of wire stretched over posts.

We set the guns last night and put over a barrage from eleven to twelve, firing a clip of twenty-four shots every three minutes. We are pretty low on ammunition, and as soon as it gets dark, will have to send an ammunition detail back to where the limbers are and bring it up tonight. That will take almost half the night, so I told the fellows who are going back to get a little sleep today. They managed to get three good meals up to us, and we feel stronger and better, and every man got a box of matches apiece, something we need badly.

Our Lieutenant came up this afternoon and, from two to four, lectured to us on indirect firing and gave us some good pointers, and praised us highly for the good work that we have been doing. It made me smile' I wished that it was all over. We are in a rather good position here, just in front of a small woods, and there is a little hill in front of us and the Germans can't see us very well.

Last night our Lieutenant Milliard, having rejoined the battalion, and placed in charge of Company D, was hit by shrapnel and taken to the hospital again. I think he was sent to the hospital when so many of us were gassed up at Fismes.

The Germans shelled us pretty badly last night. One of our guns of the other platoon was completely smashed to smithereens by huge pieces of shell fragments, and a couple of our fellows were hit and taken back to the hospital. We are waiting for it to get dark now, as we are going to put over another barrage tonight. Our artillery has been sending over a shell or two every few minutes for the last half hour, and we can hear them swish by over our heads and land away off in the distance behind the German lines.

We haven't heard much from our artillery recently, and I wonder if they are still with us, or if they are having trouble back there in the mud. We have had plenty of rain the last few days and, I understand, it affects the artillery, for they have trouble keeping their ammunition dry. So long, Mother Dear! We have to stand-to now.
CHARLES.

Thursday, September 12, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

The Lieutenant came over last night about ten, and set the guns with the compass, and we all started in shooting a clip of twenty-four shots, every five minutes, elevating the gun ever so often. The Lieutenant told me that they received information that the German soldiers were being relieved last night, and that our firing was to demoralize the new troops coming in. They must have spies over in the German lines, and how they get the information over to us is wonderful. We stopped after half an hour because the ammunition was so low.

Somehow, I couldn't get to sleep last night, I kept thinking of the poor devils that we either killed or wounded with our barrage last night, and how the wounded must be suffering, and it got on my nerves. I got up about one this morning and started to smoke some cigarettes and finally dozed off. Everybody was up at four this morning, and we left two men at the guns, and the rest of us started on the long walk back to the limbers to get some more ammunition. We all brought along our shelter-halves which have our blankets in them. We'll be needing them now at night because it is getting cold.

Last night there was a terrific bombardment further up the line, on our left. It lasted for quite a time. The Germans must have been driven back some more, and they are probably drawing back at this point also, because they have been unusually quiet today.

This afternoon the Lieutenant came up, and we had to get our flash-screens ready for firing tonight. The Lieutenant had a prismatic compass with him, and he took MacCarthy and myself over to our left about fifty yards on the top of the hill, and by sticking posts into the ground, marked off the four positions to place the guns tonight. I had to go out about thirty feet and put up the posts for the extreme left and right points of firing of each gun. This was done in broad daylight and we were under observation. We sure did take an awful chance. The Germans saw us. We were on the highest point for miles and miles around. It took almost an hour to do all this and I was trembling all the time. It was very foolish to expose ourselves in that way.

The Germans know exactly where this spot is. They can tell by their maps, and their artillery officers are in all probability doping out the range from where they are, and when we start firing they'll put over a barrage and wipe us all out in a jiffy. That's the way they do it. They don't shoot at you the first time that they see you. It's raining now and, we brought the guns into the dugout. If it stops raining, we are to go out and start firing when it gets dark. So long, Mother Dear!
CHARLES.

Friday, September 3, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

Friday, the 13th, and nothing has happened so far, so I don't feel so superstitious any more. It is five months ago today that we sailed out of good old New York harbor. Today, we are veterans. We sure have been thru a great deal, and I wonder how much longer we will be over here.

About two o'clock this afternoon we were visited by a daring German aviator, who came right down on top of us. We tired a couple of hundred shots at him, and I'm sure we must have hit the plane, but we didn't seem to have hit a vital spot. They fly too fast, and it takes one of those shells from the anti-aircraft guns to bring one down. When they explode, hundreds of little lead balls fly everywhere. They are like hail. He must have taken a picture and then flew right back to his own lines. As soon as they see for sure that we are here, they are going to send over a barrage. I only hope that our Lieutenant, who so foolishly exposed us yesterday, is around when they do start to shell. That isn't bravery to walk around a battlefront in broad daylight, right on the top of a hill where you can be seen against the sky. I call it nothing but Insanity. It might cost some lives before we get away from here.

The platoon sergeant came up this afternoon about four and took me out to the four positions and we changed two of them. At seven tonight, while it was still light, all four gun teams took their positions. Two men from each squad are to stay at the guns all night, changing every two hours. The non-coms are all back in the dugouts and waiting for the barrage signal. Then we are going to fire. I haven't had my clothes off for two weeks and feel terribly dirty. The cooties are getting worse and worse, and I have become tired of trying to get rid of them. No sooner than you think you have killed the last one, than the next hour there are a hundred more on you. So long, Mother Dear.

CHARLES.

Saturday, September 14, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

We were all awakened at four o'clock this morning. It was cold and dreary. At five-fifteen we opened up, firing five clips a minute. A few minutes later the artillery all around us opened up. They must have come up during the night. I swear there were at least fifty of them all going off at once. What a noise! All sorts of rockets and fireworks flew up from the front lines, white lights, burning for a minute. It was a sight that I wouldn't have missed for anything in the world. It was a real battle, and, from where we were on top of the hill, we had a wonderful view for miles. We saw the Infantry leaving the trenches down below us and starting across No Man's Land. Every now and then we would see one of them fall and lay still.

They made the German trenches and jumped down into them. The German artillery opened up shortly and were dropping down in front of us, but they were too late, because our Infantry had already passed on over that area. It was uncanny, the accuracy of those shells where they landed. You certainly have to hand it to the Germans. They sure can get the range on you pretty closely. We had orders to keep firing until we were told to stop. It was getting brighter every minute. Off in the distance about five miles, we saw three German balloons going up for observation.

At nine o'clock, orders came to cease firing and bring in the guns. Each gun had fired twenty boxes of ammunition, and the guns were so hot you could fry eggs over them. We had three men wounded, McDonough, Henderson and Brock. The shells were dropping all around us. Henderson was standing alongside of me when a shell came over our heads and landed fifteen feet beyond us and exploded.
Usually, when a shell lands, the fragments fly in the direction that the shell was traveling. This time a huge piece, about six inches wide, flew back and hit poor Henderson in the leg halfway up from the knee. It seemed to have gone clean thru and must have broken the bone. I felt sorry, he was suffering so. The leg started to swell and it was as big as an elephant's leg. I sent a man back to the Medical Corps for a stretcher. It took two hours to get him back to an ambulance. I helped carry him back part of the way, and was surprised how heavy a wounded man can become when you carry him on a stretcher.

We had to stop for a while the Germans started to send gas-shells over. Henderson was too weak to put his mask on, so we had to put it on for him. He was groaning thru the gas-mask. I had then to get the men together and we had to go back for more ammunition, we shot so much of it away this morning.

At three o'clock, we received orders to mount the guns in the same positions again, and shoot eight clips an hour, raising the elevation of the guns. I was in charge of the four guns until five when McCarthy relieved me.

I returned to the dugout and found two potatoes, bread, and coffee, which they saved for me. It was all I have had to eat today. The excitement made me forget all about eating. This was one battle today, all right. They started shooting shells at us which exploded right over our heads, and the hot shrapnel dropped right down on top of us. It's a new kind of shell to me, and I am wondering how they made them explode right over us in the air. We just received orders to make up our packs, as the Infantry gained five miles, and we have to move up with them. I thought I would write a little, while I had the chance. CHARLES.

Sunday, September 15, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

We never moved up last night, and at seven I had to relieve McCarthy with a fresh gun crew, and we had to fire until eight-thirty, when we received orders to cease firing. The harassing-fire was over, and we were glad, because it was a terrible strain. It was the hardest day that we had as yet. Our artillery kept firing yesterday for fourteen hours. The poor Germans must have been shot to pieces.

We arranged the gas guard for the night, and went to sleep, and didn't wake up until six o'clock this morning. German shells were dropping all around us but did no damage at all. At eight, a Dixie full of bacon and bread was sent up, and we finished every crumb. I shaved this morning and felt a little better after it. Funny how a shave braces you up.

German aeroplanes were flying over us today and tried to bring down one of our observation balloons in back of us. Whoever was in it came down in a parachute, and the anti-aircraft guns opened up and chased the Heinie back to his own lines. They pulled the balloon down by the cable to which it is attached.

It was kind of quiet today, as if both sides were observing the Sabbath with very little shooting going on. Three Italian officers came up to our position this afternoon. They spoke very little English, and I got hold of good old Dinola, and he acted as interpreter. They were tired and wanted to sleep for a little while. I brought them into my dugout and the three of them fell asleep immediately and slept until five, when the Germans started to throw six-inch shells at us. What a noise they made! We were all trembling. The Italian officers looked at each other in surprise. Dinola said to me that they thought this was a nice quiet front. They have just come up from Italy and their division is going to take over this sector, relieving us.

Three Infantry fellows ran up to our dugout. Two of them were hit by the shell fragments. They were on the way back for more ammunition, and told us that they drove the Germans back to the other side of the river where they are dug in now, and it was going to be some job to get across. It's called the Ainse River. It is quite wide. We just got orders to make up our packs and eat our dry rations, and that we are going to be relieved tonight. I'm glad we are getting out of this. Maybe I'll be able to get a bath now!

CHARLES.

Monday, September 16, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

We certainly had a long wait last night to be relieved. The moon was shining all night until two in the morning, when it sunk behind the hills, and after that it was pitch-dark. We were all ready to move out, our packs made up, all equipment ready. We would sleep for an hour and wait up, and then sleep some more.

At a quarter-after-three this morning, the Italian Division came up, smoking, laughing and having a good time. Matches would flare up, until we all became a little nervous, and all the Italian fellows in our company started to tell them that the Germans could see them, and they very cockily asked, "What of it?" and you couldn't do a thing with them.

We marched back for about an hour, and finally came to our limbers, which were waiting for us on the road. We put all our guns and equipment into them. It was a relief to get rid of the heavy loads. We marched thru towns, which were in No Man's Land two and three weeks ago. All kinds of equipment, rifles, barb-wire entanglements, dead soldiers, new graves, ruins everywhere, all showed signs of desperate fighting. If a fellow wanted souvenirs of the war, this was his opportunity, but we were on the march and couldn't drop out. I passed hundreds of German helmets.

We marched thru Fismette, Fismes, St. Giles, Courville, where plenty of heavy fighting had been going on during the past month. The places all have a sickening smell about them. Either it is the gas, or the strange smell of the dead. It seemed to be in the very atmosphere. We were all getting weaker and weaker, as we had nothing to eat, but we didn't mind so long as we kept marching away from the front. We hit a town called Areis le Ponsart, and thought sure that we were going to stop there and were quite disappointed when we marched right on thru.

While we were going thru a field, Lieutenant Rice, who has charge of us, was leading the company and halted it. He pulled out his map and then started going back again. He isn't very popular with the fellows of our company. He used to be with C Company, back at Camp Upton, and the fellows of his company told us they were glad to get rid of him. When he seemed to be lost, the roughnecks in our company hollered out, "Where the hell are you taking us?" and "Don't you know where you are going?" He halted the company and made us stand at attention and bawled us out. He threatened to court-martial the entire company if there was another outburst like that. He marched us to the other side of the village and made for a woods where some of the other companies were camped. Our kitchen was there, and we knew then that we had arrived at our destination.

It was good to get the packs off of our backs. We pitched our tents and then got something to eat. We rested and cleaned ourselves up and all our equipment for the rest of the day. This evening a couple of cases of Murad and Camel cigarettes were given to me, and I was told to sell them to the men, three packs of Murads for two francs and three packs of Camels for one franc. I sold four hundred and ten francs worth and handed the money over to the Sergeant. Van Pelt and I are bunking together tonight. We haven't slept under our tents in a long while. It sure is nice and peaceful where we are now.
Affectionately,

CHARLES.

DEAR MOTHER,
Wednesday, September 18, 1918

I didn't get a chance to write yesterday as we rode all night on motor lorries, and are miles away from Arcis le Ponsart and on another front. Yesterday was a wonderful day. The sun was shining and we all felt fine. At four we were ordered to strike our tents and make up our packs. We waited around until eight o'clock, and the company was assembled and marched out of the woods down to the road. There were thirty big lorries waiting for the whole battalion. Twenty men got into each lorry and at eight-fifteen we started off. I sat up front with the chauffeur. The moon was shining and it was a beautiful night for riding. It was too dark to distinguish the names of the towns on the sign-boards. I kept awake all night. It started to rain early in the morning.

At daybreak, we passed thru Dormans, Epernay, and Chalons, then we turned south to Vitry le Francois, then northeast to Changy, Vanault, Possesse, and about ten o'clock this morning, we hit our destination, St. Mard sur le Mont. So if you look up these towns on the map, you can see just where we have been, and where we are now.

It was some grind, that ride. We were all in. We were marched to an orchard, and took off our packs, and I fell asleep until two o'clock, when they gave us something to eat. We had to wait until four o'clock when the French soldiers left the billets. They are going back to the line. Our whole second platoon is in this one billet.

There are bunks here, upper and lower berths, made out of wire stretched over posts. We were given permission to visit the village this evening. I bought a few things and had my first glass of wine in over a month and then came back here. I am all in and am going to sleep right away.
CHARLES.

September 22, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
I haven't had a chance to write you for a couple of days because we have been on one of those tortuous hikes again, and I have lost all track of how far we walked on account of suffering so much. My feet were blistered pretty badly. We are all dead tired. We were supposed to get a long rest and, instead, were rushed over here outside of a village called Fontaine, just north of St. Mennehould. We are in a deep forest called the Argonne. The rumors are that we are going back into the lines again, back to the noise and hell. The division that was supposed to come in is so far away that they decided to move the 77th Division in here. We are the closest division to this point at the moment. The men are half dead from fatigue and all are grumbling.

We landed here this morning at five after marching practically all night by the light of a full moon. It was very weird-looking and all the shadows in the forest seemed to be alive. We marched up and down hills. The roads were terrible, large pieces of stones all the way which seemed to cut your feet right thru the soles. C Company of our battalion was ahead of us, and traveling at a terrific pace.

We had to spend the afternoon cleaning our guns and ammunition. Tonight we had pot-roast, bread and coffee. I wish I could get a decent meal somewhere before we go up on this front. When we go into the lines, the meals are pretty rotten, mostly cold stuff. Sometimes, we are lucky that we get any at all. That's all that seems to matter. We think about nothing but food. It's got so that nobody worries, or even thinks about who is going to win the war. We are all wrapped up in ourselves, and becoming very selfish, a sort of "every man for himself" attitude. I think this is due to the way officers treat the men. They don't seem to have any consideration for us at all. They sup-pose that the best way to handle men is to treat them like animals. I know that they are wrong. The men realize it more than the officers think.

We lost Lieutenant Nachazel today. We only have two officers left now. He became sick and had to go back to the hospital. It's seven o'clock and everything is ready. We are moving up farther tonight, so, while we are waiting, I thought I would write just a few lines to you.
CHARLES.

September 23, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
I was put on a loading detail last night, when twelve of us were left behind while the rest of the company went ahead. It was raining steadily until midnight and we were lucky that we had shelter and didn't get very wet. The 304th Machine Gun Battalion have little Ford trucks, and as they came along we would unload their guns and ammunition and put them in the shed, and then load our own equipment on to the trucks and they would take them up farther where the company was. It was a quarter-after-four this morning when the truck to take my equipment came along. We loaded it all and started off.

Wilmarth was with me, he's the gamest kid in the company. How he sticks is a mystery. I never saw such vitality in such a frail person. It's remarkable, for he's nothing but skin and bones. We all are thin as rails. We haven't been getting regular meals and have lost lots of sleep. There is nothing to do tho, but carry on. What for, I don't know. It isn't going to make any difference to me who wins this war, I won't get anything out of it. All I hope is that I get my job back when I get home. But I have my doubts. I don't think I'll be able to draw any more. My hands are as big as hams, and clumsy and rough. I'll have to learn to do something else for a living when I get back. I wish they had placed me in some branch of the service where I could have taken care of my hands. But what do they care about me if I ever draw again or not? No one seems to care about us now that they have us. There was a captain of a company back at Upton who used to holler at his men, "We've got you where we want you, and we are going to do with you what we want to!" If there ever was a bully, it was him. They seemed to despise us because we were drafted. I tried to enlist but was refused, and just before the draft, you couldn't get into anything for a while.

The roads up to the supply dump were terribly muddy and we had some time, for the wheels of the truck went down to the hub a couple of times, but with the help of the Infantry, who were coming up this morning at the same time, we pushed it out each time. The road was awfully crowded. Many soldiers were coming back on different details, guess it looks like a real big advance is on, the way I used to read about.

We piled the stuff under a shed in a quaint little garden planted by the French soldiers. There were huts all around the place built out of logs. This line here in the forest has been like this since 1916. The whole line thru the forest is a sunken city. The dug-outs are immense. They have electric lights in them, and comfortable bunks, and the walls are papered. They have been fighting this war in a deluxe manner at this point.

We slept this morning until twelve o'clock, and nobody disturbed us. At four o'clock, we got our guns and marched up to this trench where we are now. Everybody carried up two boxes of ammunition. Harris, a fellow from out west, who was sent up to us to fill up the company, is sharing a piece of sheet-metal with me which is a pretty good shelter. We are going to sleep under it.

This position, where we are now, is between the trenches in some big shell-holes. Our gun is mounted but we have no orders at all. I suppose we are to shoot only when we see the whites of the Germans' eyes. The underbrush is so thick right here, that you wouldn't be able to see them until they were on top of you. Of all positions to place a machine gun.  It's a joke. We don't know where we are, where our Infantry is, where our Company Headquarters is, nothing but that the Germans are somewhere in front of us. We were brought up here in broad daylight by the Sergeant an hour ago.

One of the corporals, Davy, shot himself today when cleaning his pistol. If any more shoot themselves, we'll be wiped out. It's getting dark, and it doesn't look like we are going to get anything to eat tonight. Love to you both.
CHARLES.

Tuesday, September 24,1918
DEAR MOTHER,
I slept until five this morning, when we all were awakened by the most terrific noise that I have heard for some time. An artillery outfit must have moved in about fifty yards away from us during the night and started firing this morning. It lasted for about a half an hour. We were told that this was a quiet front. It was, but no more!

We found out that the Germans sent three waves over this morning, and that the French troops, who are in these lines, drove them back each time. When I heard our own artillery so close to us, I knew we must be a mile at least behind the line. We were scared stiff. We thought sure we would be in for a shelling from the Germans. They always try to locate an artillery outfit, and then they start a duel with each other. I figured that the shells always seem to fall about fifty yards short, and it was just about fifty yards that we were in front of them this morning.

We were moved up further this afternoon, and now are in a deep dugout about twenty feet under the earth. We have bunks down here and, outside of the dampness, it is ideal. We spent the morning cleaning and oiling the gun and at eleven the sun came out again for the first time in three days.

I took advantage this afternoon of the spare time and took off everything above my waist and started slaughtering the cooties. I killed about five generations of them-the great big great-great-grandfather cooties, which have three stripes on them--the fellows, jokingly, call them sergeants-then, the grandfather cooties, they seem to have two stripes-they are the corporals-and all the way down to the baby cooties, it's a shame to kill them off, but we have to do it, because if we let them live, in two or three days they will be as big as grandfather cooties. And how they do bite and annoy you! The fellows who get wounded must suffer something awfully when the cooties start bothering them.

I went back with the ration detail this afternoon to our kitchen, which is about a kilo back of us, and who should I meet on the way but Paulie Scneck, who I used to go to the Madison Square Church House with, and haven't seen for nine years. Of all places to meet some one who knows you, over in France in the Argonne forest!

I found out that the barrage that went over this morning by our artillery was the first one in this vicinity in two years. I don't know what good a machine gun is going to do in this forest. The trees are too thick, and the underbrush is so bad at some spots that you would' think you were in a jungle.

The Sergeant came up this afternoon and brought us over here to this trench, with these nice deep dug-outs, not like the officers have, but better than sleeping out in the open. I froze last night.

I stole some eggplants and carrots this afternoon, when I went back on the ration detail, and fried them in my mess-kit tonight down in the dugout over splinters of wood. I shared them with the rest of the fellows. We were starved for some vegetables and I know the eggplants and carrots were for the officers. They always seem to have the Company Headquarters wherever the kitchen is. You're sure out of luck if you're not an officer in this war, I found that out long ago.

We all stood-to this evening and then came down the dugout. Some of the fellows are playing cards by candlelight on the bunks. I took the opportunity to write. It's very fascinating, writing by candlelight. So long, Mother dear!
CHARLES.

Wednesday, September 25, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

I slept very restlessly last night. Every two hours, when the guard changed, I woke up and couldn't sleep for an hour after, it seemed. There must be a million cooties in these dugouts because, after all my careful cleaning yesterday, I am full of them again. I cleaned my clothes twice today and still am bothered with them.

I went back with the ration detail again this morning to get the kinks out of me and brought back bacon, a loaf of bread for each man to last him all day, and some hot coffee. I couldn't steal a thing today, everything was locked up, out of sight. They must have missed the carrots and eggplants yesterday.

The sun wasn't out at all today, but I was cheered up this noon when they brought up eleven letters for me, and another package of good things from the Paris office of the Dry Goods Economist. I am surprised that the packages get here. It's surprising that they bother sending packages to us when we are in the line. It's more important to bring up ammunition and food, instead of packages. That should wait until we get back to a rest area. But that's just an example of the way things are managed in this Army. I read the eleven letters over and over again all afternoon. The package disappeared in no time. There were too many eager mouths around, and I had to give everyone of them something. The ration detail brought up some pot-roast, cabbage and coffee tonight.

Our Sergeant Kaneen, who was away at school for a long time, came back to us today and was placed in charge of the second platoon. It's time for us to stand-to soon, so will close until tomorrow.

CHARLES.

Thursday, September 26, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
We were told last night that a barrage would start at ten o'clock that was going to knock the Germans for a row of pins. It started on the minute, and you can bet there was no sleeping after that. The noise was terrific, I thought my eardrums were going to burst a couple of times during the night. If it was as bad as that for us, it must have been ten times as bad for the Germans.

This morning at six-thirty, the Sergeant came along and told us to make up our packs and a separate roll of the shelter-halves and blanket. This is what is called the short pack. It makes it lighter, and when we are told to leave it behind, it's a sign that we are going to be on the move for a while. It's bloody cold right now, too; I wish they would let us keep the blanket with us.

We carried all our equipment to the road, then we went back to the dugout, got our packs and then marched all the way back to the kitchen and piled all our shelter-halves in a hut, and then marched back to where we left our equipment. Our gun carts were there and we loaded them and then started walking.

On the way we saw a touring car pass us with a captured German officer in it. He must have been a general to receive all that attention. Later, we marched passed a bunch of German soldiers. They were men about forty. They looked awfully tired. Their cheeks were hollow and their eyes were sunken. They must have been in it for the past four years. We halted after a while, and waited for hours. We began to get hungry and they gave us some canned salmon and bread.

We saw a squadron of thirty American aeroplanes flying past over our heads over to the Germans. They were in battle formation, and the largest group of planes I ever saw flying at one time. It was a sight to make you feel great. It was the first time we felt that there were others fighting the war besides ourselves.

While waiting all afternoon, we saw troops going up and the wounded coming back. I never saw such congestion on a road in broad daylight, but it was all right, because we were pretty well concealed by the hills of dense trees all thru this forest. We heard a rumor that there is a gigantic drive going on all the way from the North Sea to Switzerland.

A company of engineers, all negroes, came along this afternoon and started fixing the road just where we had stopped. The actions and talk of those negroes, made us all roar with laughter, they were so funny. It wasn't a laughing matter for them, but to us it was, when some German shells started to fall very close to us, and the road was cleared in a few seconds. Where they all disappeared to so quickly was a mystery.

For the first time I didn't get scared at all. Usually shell-fire so close starts me trembling. Today, for the first time, I was cool and am very happy, and hope I will be as callous from now on as I was this afternoon. It's no fun having your wind up all the time. A couple of pieces of shrapnel flew thru the air and hit my thigh and knee-cap but did not penetrate the skin, or even bruise it, because all the force of the pieces had been spent.

At nine o'clock tonight, we were led to these huts built in the side of a hill. At nine-thirty they brought up some meat, cabbage, and coffee. We all thought we were going to sleep hungry. There are eighteen of us crowded in this hut. Some of them are playing cards, some are reading, some writing. We haven't any blankets with us and we will just have to lie on the floor, and go to sleep with our packs for pillows. I'm sleepy from doing nothing. The marching this morning tired me a little.
Good night.
CHARLES.

Friday, September 27, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
They let us sleep until seven this morning, something I do not understand, with all the activity on this front. It looks like business. We were told to go down to where the limbers were and to unload them. After a mile walk, we got there, and had them unloaded, when a messenger came and said, "Never mind!"

We marched back and then they gave us breakfast. How the boys cursed! If there is anything they do not like it is to be sent on a fool's errand and then to have it happen before you have had your breakfast. It was a little bit too much. They gave us bacon, syrup, bread and coffee. It was a cold morning and the bacon sure did taste good.

The place where we slept last night was very interesting. There were three rows of huts built right in the side of a perpendicular hill, just like the cliff-dwellers used to have in the antediluvian days. There were troops galore around the place. We heard rumors that Metz had been captured, also that the Allies had advanced 25 kilometers north of Verdun. It looks like the Germans are on the run. We saw about two hundred of them this morning brought back as prisoners on the other side of the valley. Many of them looked like kids about eighteen. There was also a German wireless station located here.

We loafed the morning away, taking it easy. At noon we were waiting for the detail to return with the food. It never arrived and we went hungry. This afternoon they let us alone again to loaf, and I snooped around and took a little walk and stumbled across Jansen, who used to be one of our cooks back at Camp Upton, and is now at Company Headquarters and cooks for the officers. He baked some apple pies for the officers and invited me to have a piece. It was still warm, and had just come out of the oven a little while before. It had plenty of cinnamon in it, and, believe me, it was worth a thousand dollars, it tasted so good. I asked him how often he baked for the officers, and he told me every day. I thought of the poor devils over in the huts who hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast. You sure are out of luck if you're not an officer in this Army.

I stayed with Jansen all afternoon and then walked back to where the company was. They were still loafing. Nobody had disturbed them. It wasn't long before the lost mess detail appeared with some hash, beans, bread and coffee. Everything was cold. It was the meal we should have gotten this noon.

Our Lieutenant ordered the men to fall in before they were even half thru eating. The food was cold. They were hungry. But as there was so much excitement, they never finished it. We picked up the equipment and started to march, up and down hills, thru barb-wire entanglements, into trenches, and then up on top again. They were the German trenches only yesterday morning. I never saw such a labyrinth of trenches since I've been in France. For miles and miles, nothing but trench after trench, with heavy doors between the communication trenches, and miles and miles of barb-wire all over. At some places, it was absolutely impossible to walk on top at all. We walked until nine o'clock. Shells started dropping all around us-word was sent along the line that we could sleep.

Harris and I investigated this deep dugout, which is about forty feet underground. We came down very carefully. They warned us that the places might be mined. There is a foot of water at the bottom. We have two upper berths and are sleeping on the wire stretched over the posts. The others are sleeping on the steps farther up. I wish we had our blankets with us. it's late, so will close, Mother Dear, and add some more to this tomorrow.
CHARLES.

Saturday, September 28, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,

I went on gas guard last night from twelve to one. Everyone was asleep, and I sat up on the top of the trench and looked out at the great hill in front of me. The trees and their branches took on strange shapes. It was very mysterious. I was the only one awake. The fellows were snoring just as terribly as they did back to camp. I was thinking of you and just wondering what you were doing and if I would ever see you again.

I like to be on guard alone in the middle of the night. It gives me a chance to think. I go back over my whole life again. This morning I was thinking of my schooldays, when I was eight. We had a very severe and stern teacher. I even remembered her name, Miss Bartels. I remembered that when she hit my open palm with a ruler about ten times to punish me for laughing in school, I was going to buy a pistol when I became old enough, and was going to shoot her. I would let her beat my palm a hundred and ten times and smile just to be a kid again, and back in school) with no responsibilities, and no danger of being killed any minute. It's an awful torture.

At six, I was awakened and went back with the men for rations. It was a three-mile hike each way, and when we returned with the bacon, bread and coffee, it was ten o'clock. It was some job bringing up there food in those narrow trenches. Every few minutes, a stretcher with a wounded man would be carried past you. We would have to drop the Dixies and make, ourselves as thin as possible while they passed by. We found out that most of the fellows had been wounded by snipers.

The Germans have lookout places up in trees and in pill-boxes, and as soon as they see a soldier, they take, a shot at him. It certainly is tough going in this mountainous and dense Argonne forest. I'll be glad when we get out into the open again.

There have been many sacrificed German machine gunners left behind, while the others retreated, and they are doing deadly work. Some of them have chained themselves to their guns, so they wouldn't run when we advanced. They knew it would be sure death for them, but they think so much of their country that they are willing to be sacrificed in that way. I like to live too much to volunteer and sacrifice my life in that way. Oh, if I could get out of this! I don't want to kill anyone.

Just as our evening meal came up, we were ordered to pack up, so we couldn't eat it and carried it along with us. I was carrying two boxes of ammunition, and they almost pulled my arms out, they were so heavy. We hiked about two more miles farther up. It was some grind! These trenches were supposed to be impenetrable. But they took the place. It is called, "The Hindenburg Line." The Germans retreated out of here, I think, on account of having been driven back at some point farther up the line. If they had stayed in here, they would have been surrounded. No troops in the world could ever have driven any one out of these trenches. There is too much barb-wire. We finally came up out of the trenches and walked along a new road which the engineers made.

It started to rain and we became soaking wet. We put our raincoats on over our overcoats and the rain soaked thru. Whoever sold these raincoats to the Government ought to be shot. If we throw them away, we'll have to pay for them. Some of the fellows sold theirs to the French people back in the villages for food and wine.

At last we stopped at a billet in the woods which used to be the Germans' canteen hut, where they came to buy things. We ate the cold stew and coffee and bread, and we are going to sleep on the floor. Thank goodness, we are inside out of the wet! It's raining very heavily. The artillery keeps firing just the same. I feel miserable and cold. At eleven I'm going on gas guard, and will try to get a little snooze before then.
God bless you.
CHARLES.

Sunday, September 29, 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
I want to get out of all this mess, it's too terrible. We were awakened early this morning and started out immediately with all our equipment. We had Infantry men helping out to carry our ammunition. It was raining lightly and everything was mud and we slipped and fell quite often. We advanced very carefully and slowly up hill and down hill, looking for the Germans. As soon as we found them, we were to establish a line. just about noon bullets started to whizz past our heads. We had caught up with them.

I glanced over to my right and saw men dropping, over to the left also. We dropped into a huge shell-hole in front of us and a little hill in front gave us pretty good protection. We mounted the gun and got ready for action. After a five-minute wait, which seemed like five hours, the Infantry fellows started off again as far as you could see. We were looking up the hill and, as our Infantry was advancing, a German uniform stuck up out of the ground and was directing a gunner at the machine gun to shoot down the Infantry, which he was doing very nicely. From the angle where I was, I could see everything very plainly, as I was almost on his right flank. The Infantry boys couldn't see the machine gun nest very well. I opened up our gun and let him have it, I was so sore at the moment. He was hitting our Infantry' they were falling one after another. It was terrible! I had to shoot.

There wasn't any more opposition, and we picked up our gun and ammunition and started off again keeping up with the Infantry. I walked up to the machine-gun nest and there were the two Germans stretched out on their backs. One of them was unconscious and the other opened his eyes very weakly as I came up to him and when I looked into his face, I felt like dying. I had a ghastly fear that he was Uncle Franz, for he looked like him. I didn't know what to say or do. I stood there dumb. The others had gone on. I lifted his head, and blood spurted from the wound on the side of his neck. I asked him, Sint sie nicht Franz Barg, von Bremen aus? He opened his eyes very slowly again and looked at me. He tried to, talk but couldn't. I didn't know what to do and started to cry. The man opened his eyes once more and smiled, as I grasped his hand; then his eyes closed, and he was still. He gave one slight gasp and passed on. I knelt there for a little while just dumb. I couldn't think or do anything. Of course, he was not Uncle Franz, but I kept thinking of him in the German lines and my cousins there, too.
An officer came along and started hollering at me:

"What the hell are you doing there? This is no time for souvenir hunting! Don't you know we are advancing? Leave those dead Germans alone! Come on!" I gathered up the ammunition boxes and followed on. I was so heartsick I couldn't talk. We finally hit a trench and everybody got into it, the bottom is mud and water, but I don't mind, I am so tired, wet all the way thru, and feel miserable.

We sent a detail back for food this morning and they got back at six tonight with ice-cold pan-cakes, bacon, bread and coffee; that's all we ate today. We were lucky to get that. This is about the worst place that we have ever been in. This day has been like a dream to me, a terrible nightmare. The German shells are dropping close to us, according to the wounded and killed I saw today. It doesn't seem that they are losing. They certainly are doing some awful damage. Some of the wounded fellows are going to have a tough time getting found where they fell in this wilderness today. They might -never get found. Oh, it's awful when you think of it! I can't write any more tonight, Mother Dear.
CHARLES.

Monday, September 30 1918
DEAR MOTHER,
The artillery fire has been something awful for the past two days. Shells are screaming over our heads constantly. The Germans shell us quite often, and we are continually hugging the earth, making ourselves as thin as possible. I feel like a man of fifty, my bones ache so. I went on gas guard this morning at one. I was supposed to wake up another one of the fellows at three. We have the gun mounted right on top of the trench at night, in case any Germans come over.

It was pitch-dark last night while I was on guard. I couldn't see my hand in front of me. It started to drizzle a little and I huddled down close to the gun under a piece of sheet-metal. I was-looking out in front of the trench-occasionally a shell would go over and explode in the distance, and once in a while I heard the crack of a rifle shot off in the distance-some Infantry fellow on guard, and shooting as soon as he heard a suspicious noise.

I was very sleepy and did the most unexcusable thing that I could possibly do in the Army, and that is to fall asleep on guard duty. Everybody was asleep and, I was responsible for them all. The last thing I remembered I was thinking of home and wondering how soon I would get back to it. I awoke with a start just a few minutes before four o'clock, according to the radium dial on my watch.

I awakened the fellow who was to go on guard after me, and told him that I felt wide awake, and did an extra hour for him, so he could get that extra sleep. He thanked me and took his position at the gun. It sure was a narrow escape. If I had been caught by an officer, they could have shot me at sunrise. That's the penalty for falling asleep on guard duty. I couldn't sleep any more after that.

I went back with the ration detail at six this morning, a trip so dangerous just now that nobody is anxious to go. Four of our men who were sent back for rations yesterday, Steinbach, Anderson, Lohmann and Norman, were wounded by shrapnel and went back to the hospital. I don't seem to be scared any more, and volunteered to go. What if I do get hit; it might get me out of this mess! I don't want to kill any more.

When we got to the kitchen, it was ten o'clock. It was an easy eight miles each way. At ten-thirty, we started back for the trenches. I carried thirty loaves of bread, each one weighing two pounds. They were in two burlap bags tied together, and I threw them over my shoulder. The march back was up and down hill, through trenches and mud and water. It was brutal! I didn't mind, because the men need food, and they like these little round loaves. When we got back to the company, it was after two o'clock and I jus dropped. We passed many wounded on the way. The whole place just stinks with the dead.

I met a soldier of Company A, 308th Infantry, on the way, and I asked him about Sumner. When we were advancing up here the other day, I saw a stretcher being pushed into the top row of an ambulance on the road. The top of the soldier's head was showing and it was peculiarly shaped as Sumner's was. I recognized him by the top of his head. The soldier told me today that he had been hit by a piece of shrapnel on the back pretty badly and it had penetrated his lung It sure made me feel bad when I heard it. I couldn't talk to him the other day, as we were in formation and marching up. I'm sorry now that I didn't drop out and say a few words to him.

I fell asleep when I got back and woke up a little while ago. I was surprised that they let me sleep s long, for we sure are kept busy either getting ammunition or food or cleaning the gun-always something to do to keep us busy. The Germans are shelling u something terrible. I had to stop writing for a while It's getting pretty dark, too.
So long, Mother Dear!

CHARLES.
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