Charles F. Minder
306th Machine Gun Battalion
Company B


Wednesday, May 1, 1918
I was up good and early this morning after a good night of sleep. We all feel fine. They gave us three tickets to get our three meals today. The meals were good and they gave us big portions, too. This morning we received our blue laundry bags, as I call them, the ones we turned in at Camp Upton before we left, with all our personal things and extra equipment in them. We had to turn in all our extra equipment as it would have been impossible to carry it. We have all we are supposed to have on our backs now. We put all our personal things back into the blue bags, and we won't see them again until the war is over, they told us.

We loafed around the Camp all day taking it easy. There were so many interesting things to watch. The Chinks fascinate me very much. They are much better looking than the Chinese laundrymen we have back home. These fellows are huskier and healthier looking. Some of them have tremendous muscles.

At six o'clock we were given permission to leave the Camp until eight-thirty. We walked around the town and the time passed altogether too quickly for me. I felt like a tourist taking in the sights. Ruthie and I went into a French restaurant and had something to eat and a bottle of wine apiece. The bottle of wine was only a franc. That's twenty cents in our money. I gave them an American dollar bill and got two francs and fifty centimes back in change. Fifty centimes is equivalent to ten cents in our money, so the meal and wine cost us fifty cents. The coffee was good and strong and tasted great. I hope they let us out again tomorrow night. We would go back there. Ruthie knows a little French, and the French lessons we had back at Camp Upton came in handy tonight.

There are a lot of English girls over here in France in uniform. They are called Waacs. They work for the government in the camps so as to relieve the men. They need the men at the front. The girls work on the farms and shops and everywhere over in England ' as well as here in France in the camps. Ruthie and I talked to a couple of them tonight. They are wonderful patriotic girls. They denounced the girls in England who married before their husbands left for the front so that they could get the forty-five shillings a month allowance that the English government gives to wives having husbands in the army. They call those girls Swankers. I think, tho, that the reason these girls were so bitter against them is because they were never asked to marry, as they were not attractive at all.

Well, Mom, I guess I'll call it a day. I wouldn't mind staying here in this Camp for the rest of the war. But I don't think I would have that much luck. The planes are very active again over our heads at the moment. Guess they are going over to do some more i1strafing" tonight.
Your soldier boy,


DEAR MOTHER, Thursday, May 2, 1918

We were awakened at six this morning and lined up in company formation and the roll was called. Everyone was present. There were no deserters from our company. We received our three checks for meals today and then started over for breakfast. At nine O'clock we were lined up again and started on a five- mile hike to the Gas House. The scenery on the way was perfectly wonderful. How I wished I could spend the rest of my days in this vicinity with a sketch box!

No wonder so many artists come over here to France to paint. There are so many more paintable subjects than at home. I suppose there are wonderful places in America to paint but I doubt if they have the artistic atmosphere as you find over here. There is a certain old-worldish environment that can't be found in America. It is this that holds my interest.

Well, when we got to the Gas House, each one of us was given a mask which we keep for ourselves from now on. Every man had to put it on and walk into the house, which is like a big barn. All the windows are tightly sealed, and it is filled with poisonous gas. We all had to stay in there for five minutes to get accustomed to breathing thru the mouthpiece. The Germans shoot shells full of this poisonous gas. When the shell bursts, the gas escapes, and if you breathe this it chokes you and burns up your windpipe, it is so strong. That is why we have these masks. The canister in the bag neutralizes the poisonous gas and it does us no harm. At least, it didn't today, and we all had to breathe it for five minutes.

They also gave each one of us a steel helmet. The woolen caps we have been wearing would not give us any protection from bullets and shell fragments at the front. They are supposed to bounce off these steel helmets and protect us from getting any wounds about our heads. They said that these two things are our best friends and that we should take good care of them. When we got back to the Camp, it was a quarter of four and we missed the noonday meal. They were serving tea to the Tommies at four and I went over and got some with marmalade and crackers. The Tommies get their tea every afternoon at four. They would die, I understand, if they had to do without their afternoon tea. At five-thirty we ate again, I was still hungry and ate up all they gave me.

I am tired tonight, I guess from the long hike. We were given permission to visit the town again but I didn't go and am taking a good rest instead. I've been watching the coolies tonight and just sat there looking at them and listening to their jabber and the flutes they play. It doesn't sound any more like music to me than cowbells, and I guess our music would sound about as bad to them.

Everything was so peaceful. It was a balmy spring evening, and it was hard to believe that only sixty miles away was the front-line trench where men were taking shots at each other. Every now and then a bigger flash and a bigger boom would bring me back to earth. The artillery never seems to let up. Every shell probably is adding more and more names to the list of "Killed and Wounded." This war is like a great big spectacle and I am one of the actors in it. If you would have told me a couple of years ago that I would be in it, I would have smiled. But here I am in uniform with a helmet and a gas-mask, sixty miles from the front lines. All my love to you both, God bless you. I miss you,


Friday, May 3, 1918

We were up bright and early this morning at six. What a day this has been! It was heavenly. After breakfast we all took two trips back and forth to the town about a mile and a half away and left the blue bags at a warehouse. There they will stay until the war is over. The six miles of walking helped us to work off our breakfast, and we ate like fools when noontime came around. We have some extra equipment and this afternoon we fooled around making up our packs so that we can get everything into them. The pack we have to carry now with all the extras is something brutal. It weighs almost ninety pounds.

I don't know how the fellows are going to stand it tomorrow when we leave here for the training camp. The Captain told us tonight at Retreat that at twelve- thirty tomorrow, we leave here, and that we should get as much rest as possible tonight so that we would be fit for the hike. Some of the lighter fellows are going to drop, I know. There is one fellow I have in mind, Wilmarth. He only weighs about one hundred and ten pounds. Imagine him carrying a ninety-pound pack on his back! They should have put a frail fellow like him into some kind of an outfit where he wouldn't have to march and carry a pack. It's nothing but downright cruelty. I've seen fussy old women in New York bawling out truck drivers because their horses were perspiring with heavy loads on the trucks. The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has these kind of truck drivers arrested, and here in the Army is a one-hundred-and-ten-pound lad carrying a ninety-pound pack! I've been watching him, as he is in the squad in front of me and the way he struggled with the seventy-pound pack was awful.

That's the way they do things in the Army. I hope our officers use better judgment when we get into action, otherwise we'll just be out of luck.

We were allowed to visit the town again tonight from six to eight-thirty. I looked for Ruthie but couldn't find him, so I went back alone to the Estaminet, where we were the other evening. I sat down and ordered Un boutile Van Rouge. My French must be good because he understood me all right, and brought me a bottle of red wine. It tasted so good that' I ordered another and finished that too. By that time, I was nice and dizzy but not intoxicated, only and all it cost was two francs. That's forty cents in our money. I walked it off coming back here to Camp. I will take a last look at my Chink friends on the other side of the fence and then go to sleep. Love to you both and God bless you!


Saturday, May 4, 1918

We are now billeted in half-round steel huts. They are about fourteen-feet wide at the bottom, and about seven feet high in the center. They have wooden floors and are about twenty-eight feet long. They are like great big sewer-pipes cut in half with openings at both ends. There are thirteen of us on each side of the hut. We have no mattresses and must sleep on the floor tonight. We consider ourselves lucky, however, for the rest of the companies are billeted in old French barns and sleep on straw. They are more liable to get the body lice which all the soldiers get. The English Tommies told us they arc called "cooties." All of France is lousy with them, they said. The men all prefer these corrugated steel huts to French barns.

The flashes of the guns are terrific tonight and a bombardment is going on. The ground seems to shake from the vibration of the big guns. The town ahead of us is St. Omer, about three miles away. On the other side of St. Omer, is Ypres, fifteen miles away. That is where the Germans are now, eighteen miles away. All we have is a gas-mask and a helmet, no rifle, no revolver, no machine gun. We have twenty-one bullets and nothing to shoot them with. If the Germans break thru the lines tonight, we would just be out of luck. I don't feel any too comfortable tonight. They must be mad to bring us all up here so close to the enemy with nothing to protect us. That's the way they do things in the Army.

Well, we were routed out bright and early this morning, had breakfast and then started working on our packs. My pack was terribly heavy and I have very little of personal things. They don't amount to a pound. We finally got them all packed and loafed the rest of the morning. We had a quick bite at noon and at twelve-thirty were on our way, saying goodbye to the coolies forever. We marched to Fontinette and left there on a train at three o'clock. We rode in box-cars this time, no coaches, and it was quite a novelty to me. I felt like a hobo. These box-cars are much smaller than our freight trains in America, and I swear the wheels must have been square, instead of round, the way that car did bounce and bump. We sure had a lot of fun over it. It was impossible to sit down, for you would have been bounced all over the car. We all crowded around the little doors and took in the scenery which was beautiful.

We were only on the train thirty-five minutes and were dumped off at a town called Audruiq. Then we started to march and march. I thought it would, never end. The pack became heavier and heavier. All I remember of that terrible hike were the two rows of poplar trees on each side of the road. Miles and miles of them, wonderful big trees. I was suffering too much to enjoy any trees or scenery. The perspiration just streamed from me. My legs and back pained terribly, especially my shoulders where the straps of the pack were. Everybody suffered and the heat made us more miserable.

It was seven-thirty tonight when we hit these huts. There are English soldiers near by, and we all were sent over there to get something to eat. All we got was tea, some cheese and crackers and marmalade.

The fellows sure ate sore and cursing like troopers. We are hungry, but there is no chance of getting anything to eat tonight. I am writing this by the light of a candle stuck in a bottle and it is flickering all the time. The artillery fire is shaking everything and making such a racket that it will be a miracle if I fall asleep tonight. I am too nervous to sleep and guess I will watch the artillery flashes until my eyes close themselves. Good night, Mother Dear, love to you both. God bless you!

DEAR MOTHER, Sunday, May 5, 1918

It is Sunday but fighting goes on just the same. All day long, aeroplanes fly overhead. Automobile trucks, some full of supplies, some full of English soldiers, pass us on the road. Ambulances come back from the front full of wounded and empty ones return to the front to get more wounded. The artillery keeps firing all the time. There is never a let up. The trucks going up to the front are all full of young English soldiers. To me they all looked to be about eighteen years old.

The roads are camouflaged with grotesquely painted designs on huge pieces of cloth stretched across the road, and as far as your eyes can see. At some points they have huge pieces of netting with branches of trees fastened to them. This is to cover the movement of troops as they cannot be seen so well by the German aeroplanes. These planes fly over our heads at least a mile high and take photographs from the sky. Today we saw them shooting up in the air at one of them but it was too high up and they couldn't touch it. These anti-aircraft shells explode in mid air, a big burst of white smoke. If one of these explodes near a plane, the shrapnel in the shell disables the plane and it crashes to earth. These shells burst almost over our heads today but luckily none of the shrapnel falling to earth hit anyone. We all try to get under cover when these things start bursting.

Occasionally a stray shell from the German lines landed on the fields alongside the road about a mile from here which we can see very plainly because the country here is so flat. They are trying to hit the road but it is such a small target. It is surprising how close they do come to it, tho. If their range had been about a mile longer, the shells would have smacked right into us. We are outside of a little village called Mone-cove.

This morning, the Captain announced that anyone wishing to attend church could go over to Eperleque where the Chaplain was attached to the Infantry outfit. So Gus Weber, Harold Bardes, and myself walked over there about two and half miles away and attended the service. We got back at eleven-thirty and ate soon after. I didn't sleep much at all last night an was dead tired and fell asleep this afternoon and didn't wake up until six. The artillery became noisier than ever at that time. The Tommies tell us that it is at that hour each night that they "strafe Fritz." They are trying to eat at that hour and by bombarding them is the way they punish them. They figure that they have more chance at hitting more of them at that hour because they are up and about scrambling for food.

I wrote four letters to my friends tonight and the candle is getting shorter and shorter. I'm sorry that I didn't buy more of them when I was back at Calais the other night. I bought five of them for a franc and sold four of them, because nobody else thought of buying any. I think I can get some tomorrow night in Mone-cove. I saw a store there today but it was closed.
Goodnight, Mom Dear. All my love to you and Mousie.

Monday, May 6, 1918

We were up at five this morning and, for the first time since we left Camp Upton, we had to line up and stand for Reveille. Then we got in line for breakfast. What a line it was! If a German shell had ever come over at that time, we would have been cleaned out. It took an hour and a quarter before I got my mess -kit filled. We are eating at the Tommies' kitchen, Lord knows where our Greek Mess Sergeant and his supplies are. I guess he is still seasick. I haven't seen him for a week. This was another day of rest. We didn't see anything of the officers all day. I hope they are trying to get us guns of some kind. This is the third day here and we haven't got a thing to shoot with.

I spent the morning washing my dirty clothes in a bucket and with some cold water from a spring near by. It sure is tough washing with cold water. Back at Camp, we had hot water out in the bath house which we made ourselves with the help of the furnace. How I do miss the old barrack back at Camp Upton! I used to kick about it but take it all back now. That was heaven compared to what we have now. A batch of mail from America arrived this afternoon, and the Top-Sergeant read off the names. I waited until the very last one but there was no letter for me.

Leonard, another corporal of a squad in the platoon am in, and myself, visited a town called Moulet is afternoon. We rode back and forth on a lorry. The distance was about four miles and how they traveled! I bought some candles and we both had some wine and then started back. As close as these towns are to the front, the French people are still living there, the stores are open, the farmers are busy, and you would never think that the front lines were only twenty miles away. We saw a couple of houses that had been hit by bombs dropped from German aeroplanes. I should say, we saw what was left of the houses after they were hit. Only the walls were left standing. It reminded me of pictures I saw of the San Francisco earthquake years ago.

Luckily, we got back in time to stand for Retreat. The roll was called and everyone was present or ac-counted for. The bombardment had been louder than ever tonight and firing more frequent. Off in the distance, there is a huge fire, and the flames are leaping way up into the sky. The fellows say that a German ammunition dump must have been hit and started the fire. Well, Mom Dear, this is all too thrilling for words. I guess before long we will be in the more exciting spots also. Good night, God bless you both. CHARLES.

Tuesday, May 7, 1918

We were up at five again this morning. It was rain-ing and made me feel weary. The Lieutenant showed up this morning, and it was devoted to signaling practice. We divided up, on half of the men going off at a distance, and we sent messages back and forth to each other. For the first half hour, I was lost, but gradually the code came back to me and I was able to decipher messages again. it was lucky for me that I wasn't among the first ones called to send a message. I felt sorry for some of the fellows. The officer gave them a message to send aid they couldn't. They forgot all that they learned back at Camp Upton. You can't blame them because it must be three weeks since we had our last signal practice. We certainly have traveled far in the last three weeks.

This afternoon we were taken on a seven-mile hike. The sky was cloudy and no planes were up so we were safe from being seen by the enemy. I thought to myself while on the hike what I would do if suddenly an army of Germans came charging down on us. We had nothing to defend ourselves with. I smiled to myself, this outfit is well named "The Suicide Club." If it isn't suicidal to take a seven-mile hike in France about eighteen miles behind the front line with no weapon at all. I'd like to know what is. It isn't impossible for the Germans to sweep thru. At the beginning of the war, they swept across Belgium like a forest fire.

We signed the pay-roll after we got back, this taking almost an hour. Then came Retreat and we were thru for the day. The artillery is fairly quiet tonight, only shooting across shells about every five minutes. I've been keeping track on my watch. Every five minutes, right on the second, they send over a salvo to the "Heinies." How many pieces of artillery there are I can't tell, but I guess there must be at least a half a dozen. They all seem to go off about a fraction of a second apart. If you listen closely enough, you can hear them occasionally, bursting away off in the distance in the German lines. I don't know what shells cost, I should think about fifty dollars apiece. There sure is some money blown away over here every day.

What an expensive proposition war is! Just think of all the good that could be done with the money wasted in war! They could build cities full of houses for poor people and let them live rent-free for the rest of their lives. When I think of the poverty there is right in New York City alone, and then of the money that is spent to carry on this war over here, it makes me sick. If there only were a man on this earth who had the moral courage and power to put a stop to this carnage right now! If the men who make war, who are responsible for starting it, could only have heard the groaning of the wounded soldiers in the ambulances that I heard this evening over on the road, they might soften a little and become sympathetic for their fellow-men. It's awful!

I've just been in the dark for about ten minutes. The alarm was given to put out all lights. A German aeroplane passed overhead. It is the first one I heard. It has a very peculiar hum, quite different from the motors of the planes of the Allies. A guard is on duty all the time. He bangs an old brass shell every time an enemy plane approaches. All lights go out and we stay in darkness until he passes. It was very thrilling. If he had known we were under him, he would have dropped a bomb on us.
Your soldier son,


Wednesday, May 8, 1918

This morning we were up at five again and stood for Reveille. After breakfast, we had an hour of some strenuous calisthenics to get us back in shape again. We thought the exercise would keep up all morning, and just before we got thru a big automobile truck- we call them lorries-drew up at the huts. It was full of Vickers machine guns. This is an English gun. They were second-hand guns and looked as they had done a great deal of shooting already. I hope we don't keep these guns because they are in terrible condition, almost as bad as the ones we trained with back at Camp Upton. We left those behind. We spent the rest of the morning cleaning the guns as well as we could.

This afternoon we had a couple of hours of skirmish work across the fields here. We were all separated about fifty feet apart, each squad having a gun, and stretched out that way about two city-blocks long. We would advance, set up the tripod, then the man with the gun would follow, then the ammunition car-rier brought up a box that the ammunition is supposed to be in. We didn't get any bullets for the machine guns yet. Then the command "Fire!" would be given, and we'd insert the empty belts and go through the motions of firing. This way we advanced across the field for a half mile. We turned around and came back again. This is the way we will have to do it, I suppose, when we get into action.

Mother, I don't like the idea at all. I am utterly help-less. I don't feel that I am a coward. It isn't that. I have no desire to harm anyone, I don't want to kill. I am being forced to do something against my will, that's what bothers me. They may be our enemies but I know that many of them are being forced to kill, just as I am. Remember when we were in Germany when I was a boy, and how Uncle Franz was forced to do military service for three years when he was eighteen years old P It's the blooming militaristic crowd that they ought to make fight if they are so bloodthirsty. They never come near the battlefronts, they force the civilians to kill each other. If there is a God, why doesn't he put a stop to this, Mother? Surely, even tho he is of "too pure of eyes to see evil" he must be aware that his children are slaughtering one another against their wills. Is this evil force, War, more powerful than God? I can't believe it, nor can I understand it.

We stood for Retreat tonight and the Captain announced that I was promoted to Corporal. Funny, but it didn't mean a thing to me tonight. I would swap General's bars, if they were on my shoulders, for a civilian suit, to be able to end this some way and get back to you, Mom, again.

I took a long walk all by myself tonight, almost to the forest, about a half mile across the field from our Camp. The sun was setting. It was a beautiful sunset. I sat down for a while and my thoughts wandered back over the years and I lived my life over again. I watched the flashes of the big guns and could see them bursting, away off in the distance. It was getting dark and kind of spooky over at the forest, so I started back for the huts. It did me good, for my mind is a little more at ease than it has been for quite some time. It's just three years ago today that the Germans sunk We Lusitania, and that is really what got us into the war. It was an awful thing to sink that passenger liner with all the civilians aboard. Why they always make civilians suffer is beyond me! I suppose they had orders, tho, from their warlords in Berlin and had to do it. If they hadn't, we would probably never have gotten into this mess.

The artillery is at it hot and heavy tonight. The candle flickers from the concussion every time they shoot them off. Love from

Thursday, May 9, 1918
It was a heavenly day. The sun was out in all its glory and it certainly made me feel good that I was alive. I thought of the poor devils up at the front. I don't believe there is a minute of the day that some one of them isn't being wounded or killed. The birds were singing all around us, everything was so peaceful and lovely, and you felt you were on a nice picnic, only the blooming fire of artillery broke up your illusion every time they fired.

The aeroplanes fly overhead almost all the time and there seems to be great activity at the front. This sector, I understand, is a very vital one. The Germans have been trying to break thru here for a long time, and they are being stubbornly resisted by the English Tommies, who are holding this sector up here on the northern coast of France-

We all got up at five this morning and stood for Reveille and then had our breakfast. At seven-thirty some English sergeants came over, and for the rest of the morning, they instructed us in firing the Vickers machine gun. They told us the different names of all the parts, showed us how to take them apart to clean and oil them. We ate our lunch sprawled all over the place under the trees and it sure was good, too good to last, it was just like a picnic. This afternoon, we had some more machine gun instruction in loading, firing, and how to correct stoppages, should they occur. Then came some more gas-mask instruction. The important part is in getting them on quickly, and some of the fellows sure do need plenty of practice. We were lined up for inspection and then dismissed for the rest of the day.

I wrote some letters to my friends and studied my army regulations book, which all non-coms should be familiar with. I took a short stroll this evening with one of the fellows and then came back here and took it easy. At six, the artillery opened up and sent a couple of tons of shells over to the German line. It sure must be demoralizing to have tons of stuff like that thrown at you. We haven't had the pleasure of being under artillery fire as yet, and I am wondering how some of these New Yorkers are going to stand up under it.

None of us have tasted an egg in months and I myself had almost forgotten that there was such a thing as an egg. We had a lot of fun tonight kidding two of the fellows in this hut. They were over in the village and managed to buy four eggs from a French farmer. We have nothing to cook with, so they took their cups from their canteens and filled them half full with water and held them over the flame of the candles. It took forty-five minutes to soft boil the eggs. I never in my life saw such patience. The joke was when they opened them, for the eggs were still a little raw, not thoroly cooked, but they ate them just the same.

We had to put the lights out again for ten minutes and sit in darkness. A flock of German planes just passed overhead. They are probably out on a bombing raid again tonight. They made a terrible noise. There were so many of them. The searchlights illuminated the sky and the anti-aircraft guns took shots at them but didn't bring any down. They fly so high and are out of range. It seems to me that these planes could bomb the spots where the searchlights are and wipe them out. I think that's a pretty rotten job to have in this war, shining a searchlight up at the sky. It's an invitation to the German aviators to take a shot at you. I would call that branch of the service the "Suicide Club," also.
All my love to you and Mousie, God bless you! CHARLES.

Friday, May 10, 1918
It's ten-thirty and I am in the Guard House, I took my men out at nine and, at eleven, I bring them in again. The funny part about this guard is that we are not armed. We are less than twenty miles from the front-line trenches. Back in Camp Upton, we used to carry a rifle with a bayonet on it when we were on guard duty. All we have here are twenty-one bullets in our belts and nothing to shoot them with. We are supposed to stop any suspicious character. Suppose a German spy came along, we would have to use our fists. If this isn't about the worst conducted army, I'd like to know which one is. It just gets my goat. If something doesn't happen soon in getting us some arms to protect ourselves with, I'm going to the Captain. I feel sorry for my men out on their posts. They feel kind of nervous and you can't blame them.

The weather today was cold and dreary, the sun didn't peep once. We devoted the whole day on the machine gun instruction and it became monotonous after a while. We had trouble trying to keep awake and alert, listening to the English sergeants. We were paid tonight, the first time in foreign money. They gave me seventy-eight francs, which seemed like a lot of money because we are so used to dollar bills. According to the present rate of exchange as near as I could figure it out, it's thirteen dollars and sixty-nine cents in American money. The boys are all counting their French money, and having an awful time with it.

I mounted the guard at five tonight and will not be free until five tomorrow afternoon. The men are all asleep, and the responsibility of guarding the Camp is on my shoulders at the moment until eleven. Then I am going to sleep and, at three in the morning, I take the men out again to their posts until five. I feel pretty secure here in the hut, which is the Guard House. The men out on the posts, I bet, will be glad when I bring them in. I am going to wake up Corporal Leonard now. He goes on for the next two hours with his men. So goodnight, Mother Dear.


Saturday, May 11, 1918
At three this morning, Corporal McCarthy, who used to be a policeman in Brooklyn, awakened me. I got my men ready and we brought his men in. I asked him how he liked being on guard without any rifles or guns. I'm not going to write what he said because the language was a little bit stronger than your ears are accustomed to hearing. We sewed, slept and read in the Guard House all day and it was a good rest for us. I painted a little memory sketch today, the first one in France, to pass the time away. The company was away on a long hike this afternoon. My men went on guard again from nine-eleven and three-five. Then we were dismissed and the new guard came on.

Being on guard is good in one respect, you don't have to get on line for your feed. We have the preference, and walk right to the head of the line with our mess-kits. When we were relieved this morning at five, it was pitch dark. You couldn't see your hand in front of your face, and we tripped and fell over everything. In a few minutes, the artillery opened up some-thing terrible and didn't let up for an hour. We tried to sleep but couldn't on account of the noise.

The Tommies went over the top this morning up around Ypres. This morning, a little later, we saw a long string of German prisoners come marching back from the front. They sure were a disheveled and muddy looking lot. They looked very glum indeed. The Tommies leading them back looked spick and span and smart looking. It was quite a contrast. I took a walk to the village tonight to spend some of my money as it was burning a hole in my pockets. I bought some more candles and had a bottle of wine at one of the estaminets, which is still open and carries on business just the same, even though the front is so close. They don't seem to mind.
Well, Mom, I'm kind of tired, so will close with love to you both.

Sunday, May 12, 1918

Reveille sounded one hour later than usual this morning. Either the officers slept an hour longer or, on account of being Sunday, they let us rest longer. At eight, the company was lined up and we were marched to Eperleque, where we all had to take a bath. They had a row of showers there, and thirty-five of us at a time stripped and went in. It was some sight in the army there is no privacy. Thirty-five naked men sure do look funny with all their different builds and shapes. It was noon when we got back to the huts and felt much better being cleaned up.

This afternoon, thank goodness, we received our rifles. They are the ones the English Tommies use. They were packed and full of cosmoline and it was some job cleaning them with just a rag. It was on thick to keep them from rusting.

It's just a month today since we left dear old Camp Upton. How I miss it! I took a walk into the village tonight with Carlie, one of the fellows in my squad, and we had a couple of bottles of wine, and then came back here to the huts. It was good. The artillery is banging away as usual and it gets on your nerves listening to the explosions all the time. I wonder how the fellows in the artillery outfits stand it. I imagine the noise must break their eardrums after a while. Love to you both.


Monday, May 13, 1918

We were up at six this morning. They told us that we would start on a hike at seven with full packs. So while the others in our hut were at breakfast, I made up my pack. When the twenty-six men are in here at one time, there isn't much room to make up a pack. So when mine was finished, the long line for breakfast was much shorter and I didn't have to wait. After breakfast, the others were scrambling about and having an awful time, and I sat and rested, my pack was finished. Nothing like using your brains in this army.

The Captain was late so it wasn't until seven-thirty that we left for the long hike which ended at the gas house about four miles away. We all put our masks on and entered, getting our first experience of chlorine gas, which is a very popular one with the Germans. It is a very deadly one, they say. The hike was brutal. With the heavy packs on our backs, we marched up and down hills. The packs were terribly heavy, and this march today was for practice to get us used to carrying them. I'm afraid it's going to break our backs before long. It was eleven when we got back to the huts. We were all in, but had to turn out again with our machine guns and we had setting-up practice until lunch time.

The mail arrived today from America. It was a stack two feet deep, and it took the Sergeant almost an hour to call out the names and distribute them this evening. I received four letters, which were forwarded from Camp Upton. It's the first mail I've had for a month and it sure did make me feel good. One letter from you written on April 12th was among them. That's the day we left Camp Upton. I sure was mad to read that the dirty dog of a landlord had raised your rent ten dollars a month. I wish I was home now. He knows that your two sons are in the Army. If he had any patriotism at all, you would think he would pass you up. You have all you can do now to make things meet. Why didn't you give him an argument, Mother? If I had him here, I'd walk him right up to the front lines. He would make a nice target for the Germans to shoot at, the skunk.

I worked until nine tonight, cleaning my rifle. We non-coms had to go thru the manual of arms tonight after we ate so that we can instruct the privates, I guess. This lasted for a half-hour. The artillery is throwing them over by the dozens to the Germans tonight and the racket is awful.
Good night, Mother Dear, thank you for writing. It was good to see your handwriting again.

Tuesday, May 14, 1918

I was getting all ready to write you about an hour ago when the alarm for an air raid was given, and all the lights had to go out. Everything was dark instantly. Then I saw the most wonderful sight I think that I have ever seen. The whole sky for miles around was illuminated just like daylight. Sky-rockets and star-shells, just like you see on a Fourth of July celebration, could be seen everywhere. You would think there was a midnight pageant going on. The anti-air-craft guns were shooting all around us. We could see the red-hot sparks of the bursting shrapnel very distinctly. Fortunately for Jerry, as they call the German aviators, the sky was full of clouds and they got away safely. I saw none falling to earth. It sure gave us all a scare, because it was so close.

The English Tommies were kidding us about having "wind-up." That's what they call it when you get terribly frightened. Well, it's all over for the moment but I guess there will be more of this. The Germans are sending these planes over to try and locate the positions of the artillery which has been annoying them so much recently. The whole day was practically all machine-gun instruction by the English sergeants. It is getting very boring listening to them talk all day long, and if it wasn't for their accents, which are very amusing, we would all have fallen asleep. After they leave, our fellows all ridicule them and talk with an English accent and we have lots of fun. Our fellows call them "Limeys."

This afternoon for an hour we had some exciting experiences. At gas-mask practice, they threw gas bombs at us, which exploded about ten feet away. We either had to get our gas-masks on quickly or get a slight gassing. These bombs are small, but, just the same, one inhale of the fumes after the bomb explodes, is enough to gas you. Needless to say, nobody was gassed, and all records for getting the thing on over your head were broken this afternoon. We got them on in eight seconds.

Early this evening, the non-coms went through fifteen minutes of rifle drill again. What machine-gun outfits have to do with rifles is beyond me and just a waste of time. Maybe we are getting this to keep us busy and out of mischief, I don't know. I wrote some letters tonight to my friends just before the fireworks started. Good night.

Wednesday, May 15, 1918

It's eleven, and we just got over another air raid and I saw the first machine brought down. It must have been pretty high because, for about two minutes, we watched it falling to earth in a burst of flame. It caught fire in mid air and burned all the way on its downward flight. If the German aviator was strapped in it, he must have been burnt to death before he hit the ground. It was some sight! Tonight was a repetition of last night, the usual fireworks and searchlights. We will be kind of glad to get away from this sector. One of these nights, it will be over us and we'll get bombed. All of these planes carry them. They do a terrible damage when they drop them. I also hope that our kitchen gets here soon. We have been eating over at the English kitchen. Their food is all right for a time, but I wouldn't want it for long.

Corporal Leonard and myself walked over to the village tonight and we were lucky to get some real cow's milk, fresh from the cow. I had my canteen filled for a franc. We saw the French woman milking the cow and walked over and watched her. I held out my canteen and simply asked her in French, "Combien?" That means, "How much?" She answered, "Un franc." That means one franc. So we both emptied the rotten water out of our canteens and had them filled with milk. It was warm, fresh from the cow, and tasted great, the first milk I tasted since we left the U.S. and the first time in my life that I ever drank milk fresh from the cow. What a difference between that and the milk you buy! They sure must put water or some thinner in it before it gets to the public.

We get a newspaper here every day from England called the Daily Mail. I read that the English took the boat Vindictive over to Ostend Harbor and sunk it there, blockading the German submarine base. Now they can't get in or out of the harbor. I saw the Vindictive at a dock over at Dover when we started the trip across the channel to France. Now she is sunk. I hope that it will help to break up the submarine warfare. I don't think there is anything worse than sinking ships at sea. You haven't a chance in the world when the ship goes down.

Today was again spent in learning the mechanism of the Vickers machine gun, with the exception of a half hour of gas-mask practice, and tonight, after retreat, the rifle drill again for the non-coms.
Love to you both.

Saturday, May 18, 1918

I skipped a couple of days in writing, and I hope you will excuse me because I was in no mood to write. I had a spell of homesickness and I sure felt blue. The grind of the daily routine seems to get me, I just can't get my heart into this war business and I don't think I ever will. The wounded that came back from the front the last couple of days made me sick. Everyone was bandaged, some their legs, some their arms and many were bound up around the head. The sickening part was the blood-soaked bandages. It made me shiver, and made me feel like a coward for a moment. I had desperate thoughts, figuring how I could get out of this some way.

The English Tommies instructing us tell us what their soldiers do to get away from the front for a while. Some of them deliberately cut their hands and bandage a copper coin over the place for a couple of days until it becomes infected, and then they are sent back to a hospital. Others have shot themselves, supposedly accidentally, while cleaning their rifles. So many of them have shot themselves in the foot, that now, if anyone really gets a wound on his foot, he is looked upon as a faker and accused of having self-wounded himself. They hand out very severe punishment now in the English Army, even though the wound is accidental, well, I gradually came to my senses and realized that, being a non-com, I couldn't and mustn't think that way. I have to set a good example for the rest of the men. All I can do is to carry on and trust in God.

It seems terrible to pray for one's own safety alone, I include all soldiers in my prayer, the enemy as well as all of the Allies, but it's foolish, I suppose, because the wounded still keep coming back. There are so many of them now, that there aren't enough ambulances and they use the motor trucks and pile them on. The trucks come along at almost a snail's pace and yet the wounded men cry out, "Slower! Don't drive so fast!" Each pebble you ride over must seem like a rock when you are wounded. It's simply awful the way they whimper and groan. A lump was in my throat.

It's eleven-thirty, and I am in the Guard House. My men are out on their posts from eleven to one. This is our second shift. We were on earlier in the evening from five to seven. We go on again from five to seven in the morning, which sure breaks up the night. But I don't mind as we will have all day tomorrow to rest up. They have rifles now for guard duty but no ammunition to shoot. Some one of these days we might get fully equipped. If it's like this now, what will it be when we get up on the front? I bet they'll send us up with machine guns only. Then there will be mutiny in this outfit. Many are the fellows who are complaining, and using language that isn't fit to write. You can't blame them. This company is sure a tough, hard-boiled one of New York fellows. The up-state boys are really a fine gentlemanly group.

At ten o'clock tonight, Jerry came over again on a raid, and things sure were lively while they lasted. The next town over was bombed, and many were killed, and the petrol tanks were set on fire. The sky was brightly illuminated. They need this petrol pretty badly for the ambulances and lorries. I reckon this is what the Germans have been after. They have been coming over every night since we arrived here. This kind of retaliates for the German ammunition dump we blew up the other night.

This morning, we were marched up to the rifle range, carrying the machine guns along with us and received our instructions there. This was a couple of miles hike and got us used to carrying them. They sure get heavier and heavier every minute that you carry them. This afternoon we had some more of it out in the open on the parade ground near here. They don't seem to use any precaution in keeping us out of sight. If a German plane ever came over at that time, we could have been wiped out, as there was no protection near by at all. We are all placing our lives in the hands of fools. If it isn't suicidal to expose men out in the open like they do with us, I'd like to know what is. Not one of us has a gun to shoot with. We have the twenty-one bullets in our belts but no pistols. We have machine guns and rifles and no ammunition for them, and the enemy is only twenty miles or so away. The Lord certainly has been good to us so far. Well, Mom, I've been writing this a little at a time, then I've been sitting here thinking and dreaming away, wondering what you are doing at the moment, and wondering how much longer I'll be in this mess. The time has flown and it's almost one and will have to awaken Mac to get his men together to relieve mine, then we sleep until five, if nothing happens. I hope not because I'm tired. Goodnight, God bless you.

Sunday, May 19, 1918

It was a most wonderful day. The sun was shining all day, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was so clear, and the visibility was so good, that you could have looked all the way across France if you could have been on a high enough hill. I wished that I could have been up in a plane on a day like this. The weather was so lovely that it must have affected all the soldiers at war because there was very little shooting going on at all today. There was just a little intermit-tent fire from the artillery as a grim reminder that the war was still on. My men went on guard from five to seven this morning, eleven to one, and at five this afternoon, we were dismissed. We go on for two hours and then have four off. This keeps up for the twenty-four hours we are on.

Last Sunday I missed church service on account of going to Eperleque for a bath. The rest of the company marched over there again this morning for their baptism, as they call it. I couldn't go on account of being on guard, and of course had to miss church again also. I spent the day writing and reading a little and admiring the scenery. Tonight Leonard and I went to the village and filled up on milk again. The French woman runs her farm all alone. She told us that she has been alone for two years, that her husband was killed in 1915, and her two sons are now at the front. She told us lots more about herself, but our French is rather limited, and we couldn't understand everything she said.
With love to you both.


Monday, May 20, 1918
Today I had my first sensation of sitting behind a machine gun and firing it. It was a peculiar feeling. The gun almost flies off the ground, and you have to place your two legs firmly on the tripod because it bounces so much from the vibration. While we were eating breakfast, a lorry came along and dropped off some boxes of machine-gun ammunition. We inserted the bullets later on the long belts. Each belt holds about five-hundred bullets, I think. We roll them up and place them in the ammunition boxes to carry. We were ordered to make up our packs and then, with the guns and ammunition boxes, we started on the hike for the rifle range. We sure have a lot to carry. The packs alone were bad enough, now with guns and ammunition, it is worse yet. We suffered. It was a warm morning and we were soon wet with perspiration and feeling very uncomfortable. There is no dropping out for a rest and, no matter how tired you are, you must carry on.
The company as a whole made a good showing as marksmen, I myself was not so good. The targets are five-hundred yards away. Some of the fellows were over in the pits so the bullets wouldn't hit them. After one group would cease firing, they would come out and count the hits on the target and signal back to us the total. This is the first time that we actually made use of our signaling knowledge and it was interesting.

These machine guns shoot awfully fast. You press the trigger and it keeps on shooting automatically, the belt going in one side of the gun with the bullets on it and comes out on the other side empty. The brass part of the bullet is ejected automatically from the belt also. It shoots about a hundred bullets a minute, I think, and sure must be able to do a lot of damage. How any soldiers can advance against machine-gun fire is beyond me! At the beginning of the war, I used to read about the German soldiers advancing in formation across No Man's land, and how the English and French machine gunners mowed them down as if you were cutting down wheat. Today, they don't send their men over the top like that, but spread them out. This reduces the casualties. It was murder the way the German officers used to send their men over.

This afternoon we were over on the wide-open spaces of the parade ground, and received instruction on the mechanism of the machine gun. A great many Allies' planes passed over us but no German planes. Thank goodness! At sunset, the artillery opened up in all its fury and gave the Germans their daily evening strafe. The aeroplanes fly over the lines in the daytime to take photographs and make observations. Anything that looks suspicious is note . They find the spot on a map. This information is given to the artillery officers. They dope out the range and then start to drop shells in that vicinity. The next day, they fly over again and take more photographs to see just what damage was done. This was the kind of work I wanted to do in this war, take photographs from the air. But I didn't have any luck or influence to get into the Aviation at all. It would have been a darn sight better than this torture

I am going through now. Anything but hiking and carrying a heavy pack would have suited me.

Leonard and I went over to the village tonight and had some more milk, and this time we were very lucky to get four eggs. They are very scarce. We had to pay two francs for the four of them. That's ten cents apiece in our money. We opened them and mixed them with the milk and had an egg-nog without the kick in it. They were wonderful big eggs, fresh laid today.

The jerrys have been passing by overhead all evening. It's easy to distinguish them from the Allies' planes on account of the peculiar drone of their motors. The lights go out every time they are near. Well, Mom, it's late, so will say good-night.


Tuesday, May 21, 1918

This morning the artillery opened up with a terrible noise and woke us up and there was no more sleep after five o'clock. We all knew another attack was on and that the Tommies had to go over the top again this morning. It was long after breakfast when the ambulances and lorries started coming back with wounded men again. -It's an awful sight and gets on my nerves. I can't stand seeing anybody suffering. I think instantaneous death is better than this long drawn out suffering you must endure when you get wounded. I don't fear death as much as I fear suffer-ing. These sights make me feel like a dumb animal ready for slaughter.

I remember, as a boy, I used to go over to the packing houses over at First Avenue and Forty-fifth Street, and the way the animals used to look at the men who were doing the killing was pitiful. They seemed to sense that they were about to be slaughtered. You could tell by their expressions and the unearthly cries they emitted while struggling to get away. They saw the other animals hanging up around the place being cut open and skinned. This is the same sort of horror that I feel, and I only hope and pray that if I have to go in this war, that it will be instantaneous, I would like to be snuffed out as quickly as you snuff out a candle. I don't want to linger and suffer, it's terrible.

Some of the soldiers in the English and French armies, who have been in it since 1914, have received more than one wound and after they were well, they sent them back to the front for more. You would think, after a man was wounded, he should be exempt from further military duty. Those who are responsible for this war certainly will have guilty consciences for the rest of their days. It will be surprising if they ever rest peacefully again. The screams of the wounded and dying should haunt them forever. No punishment is too severe, in my opinion, for those who start wars.

This morning we were marched to the top of a hill near our camp, and we were instructed in mounting the gun on rough and hilly ground. This afternoon we were exposed again on the parade ground and received more instruction on the mechanism of the gun. Tonight we were all busy getting ready for a long hike tomorrow. They gave each one of us one hundred rounds of ammunition, which we are to carry along with us tomorrow. I think they are all going mad. All we can do is fume and curse, but it doesn't do us any good, except that we can express our feelings which is better than suppressing them. Well, Mom, I better quit and get to sleep. That's the best thing for us, because, while we are unconscious in sleep, nothing bothers us. Good-night, God bless you.


Thursday, May 23, 1918

I was so tired when I got back last night from the hike that I immediately went to sleep and missed writing you. We left the Camp yesterday morning at eight with packs, rifles, our gas-masks, and one -hundred rounds of ammunition strapped around our waists on our belts. It was some load! How I suffered! We arrived at our destination at ten, an uphill march all the way. The village near by was Watten, a beautiful spot, we could get a view of the country for miles around.

On the way, our field kitchen, with the Mess Sergeant and his cooks, appeared from nowhere. It was like magic. We haven't seen him for a long while, and this is the first time we saw our field kitchen, which is a huge stove on wheels drawn by a couple of mules. We were marching route step at the time. You can talk and be out of step when the command, "Route Step!" is given. We all let out three cheers for the kitchen, because we will get some American food from now on, maybe. We ate outdoors under the trees yesterday noon and last night and it sure was a pleasant change from the English cooking.

We devoted all of yesterday on machine-gun practice. We didn't have the English sergeants with us, so our own sergeants yelled out the different commands. We left there about seven-thirty last night for the brutal march back to Camp. I had blisters on both feet last night and I wasn't the only one. The hundred rounds of ammunition dragged down on our shoulders something awful, and we sure were in misery. We were all in when we got back here. We were up at six this morning and marched back to the same place as yesterday. It was a little cooler today and we didn't mind it so much. They also got us back here earlier tonight.

Some more mail arrived and I have been answering it tonight. Leonard and I are now over in the English soldiers' mess hall. There are tables here and this candle seems to be about the only light burning in the Camp. Everybody has turned in they were so tired.

We have been talking to the English soldiers, exchanging views with them. It was very interesting, and we listened for almost an hour. One of them has been in it since 1914 and hasn't been wounded yet, and has been back and forth from the front lines dozens of times. He told us one story about being in a trench down around Arras.

There was one spot in the trench where a hand of a dead French soldier protruded from the earth, he said. The man had either been buried that way or a big shell might have exploded and buried him alive. Anyway, he said that every morning the soldiers in that trench used to go up to the hand, grasp it, and say, "Good morning, Alphonse!" It became a sort of a superstition in the company that anyone who failed to shake the hand of Alphonse each morning, would surely get hit that day. The most fun they had in that company was with a little English cockney from London, who was deathly afraid of a corpse. They used to scare him about being hit if he didn't shake Alphonse's hand. It wasn't long before he decided it was better to shake the hand of a corpse than to get hit. So he used to walk up to the hand without looking at it and trembling, say "Good morning, Alphonse!"

One morning as the cockney came forward, and it was rather dark yet, one of the fellows in his company placed his cold hand alongside of the corpse and when he grasped what he thought was Alphonse, the soldier squeezed his hand and wouldn't let go for a second. The cockney let out a squawk, jumped up out of the trench and was shot by a German sniper. The English soldier told us that afterwards they stopped playing practical jokes in that company and warned us that we shouldn't either.
Well, Mom, they left us here all alone, so we are going to blow out their candle and beat it over to our own huts. God bless you.

Saturday, May 25, 1918

I missed writing last night because I was in no condition to write. I was half stewed from drinking too much ale. Leonard, Brumley, and I went over to the Estaminet, when we got through last night at eight- thirty. We had a long day and were thirsty, so drank up sixteen bottles of ale between the three of us. I had five and felt wonderful after drinking them. I slept like a child all night. Yesterday morning, when we got up at six, it was pouring rain, so we spent the morning in the huts practicing sighting on the ma-chine gun, and stripping the lock and gun and putting it together again. At one period, we all had to take the gun apart blindfolded and put it together again. When you can do this perfectly, you know the gun by heart.

At one o'clock, they hiked us to the rifle range, carrying our machine guns. It had stopped raining, but there was plenty of mud. We all fired fifty shots apiece at the targets. We got back here at six amid the roar of artillery fire. They served our meals to us in Dixies. They use these to carry hot food up to the soldiers in the trenches. Each hut got one, and the non-com in each has to dish it out. This eliminates standing on the long line. It makes it very uncomfortable on account of the crowded huts and the men do not like it and grumble. 'Soldiers grumble about everything. After eating, we had to work on taking the machine gun apart some more, and it kept us until eight -thirty. We were worked overtime and the soldiers grumbled some more.

The three of us made a bee-line for the Estaminet after that, and it's funny how a few drinks makes you forget all about the Army and its discomforts. The Estaminet was crowded with English Tommies, and American soldiers, and they were singing and having a good time in that way. Once in a while, a Jerry plane would pass. The alarm would be given and we would have to sit and drink in the dark for a little while. That's the time they drink up the other fellow's drink. When the candles are lit again, some find that empty glasses stand before them. The old-timers all are holding their glasses in their hands when the candles light up again.

This morning after breakfast we were marched over to the parade ground, and were there all morning practicing on the machine gun. At noon, we thought we might be dismissed for the afternoon as we used to be at Camp Upton, but were marched again to the Rifle Range. There are no regular hours in the Army. I didn't get a chance to shoot at all today. I was detailed to the pits or dugouts behind the targets.

It was my first baptism of being under fire. How the bullets whistled past over our heads! These bullets were the ones that missed the targets and buried them-selves in the huge pile of dirt behind the targets. Each group would shoot fifty shots. Then we would come out and count how many hit the target, signal the amount back, and then repair them with white pasters. Then the next group would shoot. The company sure are rotten shots. The highest amount that anyone hit the target was twenty-two out of the fifty. All the other shots landed in the dirt behind the targets.
It was four when we got back to Camp. Then came Retreat and Inspection of Quarters and we were free. Tomorrow we leave on a long hike for a number of days, so we are all getting things in shape so we can make our packs up quickly in the morning. Love to you and Mousie.


Tuesday, May 28, 1918
The last three days were about the worst that I've had in the Army. We were away on an imaginary battle, part of the training, just like it will be later on, I guess. I didn't have a chance to write at all. We started out Sunday-morning at seven-thirty. How we ate and got our packs ready in that time, I don't know. You can do a lot of things if you have to in the Army. We marched and marched, and I thought we would drop sure. Everything was getting heavier and heavier. We passed through Watten and stopped about two miles on the other side of it.. We must have covered twelve miles at least. We were right on the edge of a forest and ate there. Our field kitchen was with us.

It was a beautiful spot, the sunlight breaking through the trees forming ever so many decorative spots over the ground and on us. A beautiful subject to paint, but I guess those days are over for me, at the present. Then we marched away- with packs and our machine guns for another eight miles. We left our packs and guns, a detail was left to guard them, and we were marched back again to the kitchen just in time to eat our evening meal. After that, we were marched back again to where we had left our packs.

The fellows cursed like troopers. Everybody had sore feet and we felt miserable. They could just as well have driven the kitchen up to us. All that marching nearly killed us.

At nine o'clock, when we thought we were going to sleep, we started off with our machine guns for maneuvering practice. At eleven, we had all the guns in emplacements. Two men were put on guard, watching for the S.O.S signal all night, two hours on and four off. It was the hardest and longest day's work we have had in the Army. It was only an imaginary battle we were supposed to be in, and for a while, around ten o'clock, it looked like we would be in a real one. A German plane came over and there was an Allies' plane up there somewhere, too. They were firing at each other with red hot bullets. You could follow the sparks as they shot at one another. You never saw more crazy dips- and turns and loops than these two made in. their planes. It was a real air battle and about the most exciting. thing I have ever seen.

The German plane swooped down low a number of times and passed quite low over our heads. What a noise it made! We set up our guns quickly, put a belt of' ammunition in, and were all ready to take a shot at him the next time he came into range, but after that, he turned and got out of the rays of the searchlights, and started back for his own lines, traveling about one thousand miles an hour. The other plane disappeared also and it was quiet after that. It all happened so quickly that we didn't start to get "wind-up" until it was all over.

I slept in my pup-tent for the first time, sharing it with Leonard, from one to six. I was still tired but had to get up. In a little while one of our limbers came along loaded with Dixies full of food and hot coffee. These Dixies are like thermos bottles, and the food keeps hot in them for a long time. We were hungry and. it sure did taste good. Our guns were in place and every two hours the men were relieved. We had all the guns camouflaged with branches just the way they will have to be later on. Later, the non-coms of the second platoon and the lieutenants went scouting for new positions. We had to move everything over to our flank, about five hundred yards. We had to take our tents down, roll the packs and then pitch our tents again in the new positions.

At noon, half of the company at a time marched down the road about three miles where the field kitchen was, having moved up closer to us during the morning. We had a good lunch and started back to our positions.

At ten o'clock last night, while setting the guns on the R.O., as they call the target, we received orders to move, supposing that the enemy had retreated. We had figured on getting some sleep last night but were disappointed. We got our tents down quickly and made up our packs and loaded the guns on the limbers, which they sent up to us. These are small carts and a mule draws them. I am glad that we have limbers now. That eliminates the carrying of the guns and ammunition. We should have had them long ago.

At eleven-thirty last night, we started to march and I thought it would just be a short distance. One o'clock passed, two o'clock, three, and we were still marching. Every time that we stopped for a rest, I threw myself down on the ground, pack on my back and all, and fell asleep. Five minutes later' at the command, "Fall in!" I would be awake again and stumble on. It was a terrible grind. I fell asleep instantly every time that we stopped for a rest. We all suffered something terrible. Words can't describe the torture. You have to go through it to understand.

The moon was a full one and shone on us all night. We would have been a wonderful target had Jerry come over. At six o'clock this morning, we reached our huts here and the imaginary battle was over. At six-thirty, we were all asleep, except the fellows who were put on guard. I felt sorry for them. They were all in but had to do two hours of guard duty just the same.

At twelve today, we were awakened, and ate, and then went back to sleep again. The sergeants awakened us at three this afternoon, and we had to clean up all our equipment, clothing, rifles and machine guns. It was a quarter after eight tonight before we got through. Leonard and I then went over to the Estaminet and we drank some aile tonight. He told me that, when we drew up to the huts this morning after the hike, I looked as white as a sheet. I guess I looked as bad as I felt. It was terrible. If this is the sort of training necessary to get men into condition for the front lines, they are crazy. They are just weakening us with this unnecessary torture. That's all it is, loading men with heavy packs and rifles and ammunition and then walking them all night is wrong. They are sap-ping our vitality and later on we won't be able to stand any hardship at all. My legs pain terribly and I'd give fifty francs right now for a good bottle of liniment to rub myself with and kill the pain.
All my love to you and Mousie. God bless you.


Wednesday, May 29, 1918

We were up at six this morning and felt much better after having a good sleep. We made up our packs right after breakfast and then started for the rifle range. We moved up real close to the targets and everybody fired twenty-five shots at a distance of fifty yards. Out of the twenty-five shots, I only hit the target three times. This is terrible. I don't seem to be able to keep the gun on the ground. It vibrates too much for me. The best any of the fellows did was to hit it twelve times out of the twenty-five. The Lieutenant made some sarcastic remarks about us not being able to hit the side of a house. I wonder what they expect of us fellows who were civilians six months ago and up to last week had never fired a machine gun!

We were back at the huts at twelve and ate with the Tommies again. Our kitchen is far away somewhere. This afternoon we had some more practice in taking the gun apart and putting it together again. Then we had some more gas-mask instruction. Before this was over, some of our fellows came along with a half a dozen mules which were more dead than alive. They haven't the vitality of the mules we had back at Camp Upton. Then came about two hours of instruction in packing our machine guns and equipment on the backs of the mules, how to distribute the load evenly, where to tie it, and so forth. The mules were almost asleep when we got thru with them, and it took much urging to get them to move.

Tonight, before it got dark, Leonard and I walked over to the camp of the fellows from Tennessee, the 177th Infantry. They arrived yesterday. They sure are a wild and tough bunch. We were in the Estaminet over there, drinking some wine, and half of them were drunk and carrying on something awful. They were all drinking whiskey straight without any chaser at all. They all seemed to be very much full of fight and can hardly wait until the time comes for them to go over the top and "Give the Dutchmen hell," as they were shouting. What a difference between that bunch and ours! Our crowd is peaceful. They aren't so blood-thirsty. We got back here about nine, and the front is quite lively over here tonight. The artillery is at it hot and heavy.
Good night, Mother dear.


Thursday, May 30, 1918

Today, being Decoration Day, it was declared a holiday. I devoted the whole morning to cleaning things and washing my clothes. Our bath house opened up here today for the first time, and I had my first real shower since leaving the U. S. and felt great after it for the rest of the day. There is nothing better to make you feel good than getting cleaned up. We were visited by the Major General, the Brigadier General, and the Colonel of our Division this morning. They all looked us over very carefully. They looked highly pleased as everything was spick and span.

At three-thirty, we were allowed to leave the Camp, being excused from Retreat, the first time in a long while. Leonard, Carlie and I went riding on a lorry we picked up. It was going up toward the front. We soon came to the big town, St. Omer. This town is closer to the front than we are. It is a young city and everything was wide open and business going on as usual. You certainly have to hand it to these French people sticking around so close to the front. The town was badly damaged. It must have been hit thousands of times in the last four years. Many have been killed but the rest still stick around. While there, we had a wonderful feast in a restaurant. We had eight eggs apiece, plates of fried potatoes, and drank plenty of wine, and some good strong black coffee, something which we haven't had for ages, it seems. We walked all around the town and took in all the sights.

We arrived back at Camp at a quarter of ten and, unfortunately, had to run into the Top-Sergeant, who bawled us out something awful, asking us "Who the hell we thought we were?" He was sore because he had to stick around all day. We had to walk back part of the way, because we weren't lucky in picking up another lorry. We were good and tired when we got back. Am going to sleep now, as I don't know what's ahead for us tomorrow. They might decide to hike us a hundred miles to make up for the holiday we had today.


Friday, May 31, 1918

Had something new this morning after breakfast, we were marched to the trenches they have near by for training purposes, and we were instructed in making an emplacement. With picks and shovels, we dug and dug, until we had blisters on our hands. At eleven, we were marched over to the rifle range, leaving the digging unfinished. We weren't sorry at all. We all fired fifty shots with the machine guns, twenty shots for ranging fire, and thirty for application fire. They were all the same to me. I don't know any more what they mean than you do. Out of the fifty shots, I hit twenty--eight on the target, which is the best I've done so far. This afternoon, they took us up to the range again. The company shot again and my squad and myself were detailed to do guard duty up on the road. What for, I don't know. There was nothing to guard, except to keep anybody from wandering into the line of fire, and nobody was within miles of the place.

Company B of the 304th Machine Gun Battalion was supposed to relieve us, which they failed to do. I knew enough about army regulations not to leave a post until properly relieved. The Captain sent a messenger up to us tonight at seven and told us to report back to the huts and that I was to report to him which I did. "Where were you, Corporal?" he asked me. "On guard detail up at the range, Sir," I answered. "Why didn't you return with the rest of the company?" he asked. "We were never relieved by the 304th as the Top-Sergeant said we would be." He just said, "Very good, Corporal, you can go!" I gave him a snappy salute and then we went over to get some cold food, which they saved for us.

Tonight, I was thinking it over that the dirty dog of a Top-Sergeant framed this up and tried to get me into trouble. Now I know he has it in for me. I never did a thing to him as far as I know. These sergeants sure are tough eggs to get along 'with. I felt sorry for the seven fellows in my squad, staying on guard so long. I explained it all to them and they didn't seem to mind. My squad consists of a fine bunch of fellows and we get along great together. I never have to tell them to do anything. They do everything without me even asking them to. We were very much interested watching the artillery fire tonight up at the range while waiting to be relieved, so it wasn't so bad. Good night,

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