The Brookline Connection

Pittsburgh World War I History

In researching the history of Brookline soldiers in the First World War, old editions of the Pittsburgh Press revealed the following special feature on the contributions of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania soldiers in that Great War. It is a revealing documentary detailing the role that our local men and women played in bringing an end to that global conflict. It is a part of Pittsburgh history that has been buried in the newspaper archive for nearly a century. It has been recreated here after so many years in hiding.

The documentary covers the work of the Pennsylvania National Guard's 28th Keystone Division and the infantry regiments and artillery battalion comprised of Pittsburgh men. It also follows the 80th Blue Ridge Division, made up of men drafted into service from the Western Pennsylvania area, the 15th Engineer Battalion, raised and trained in Pittsburgh, and Base Hospital No. 27, comprised in large part of students and faculty from the University of Pittsburgh.

The story takes the reader from the early days at training camps in the United States to the battlefields of France and on to the armistice. Pittsburgh soldiers were instrumental in several campaigns, including the Second Battle of the Marne, the Battle of Soissons and the Argonne-Meuse Offensive.

At the time of America's entry into World War I, Pittsburgh was the eighth largest city in the United States. It was an unrivaled industrial giant. From factory output at home, to the foot soldiers in the field and the medical staff in the Army hospitals, Pittsburgh did as much as any other city or state in helping to bring the Great War to a successful conclusion for the Allies.

The Carnegie Steel Homestead Works.

When the guns ceased firing and the doughboys from Pittsburgh came home, 508 did not return, and many thousands had suffered wounds. Many of our Pittsburgh boys remained in France, buried in military cemeteries that will forever be hallowed ground, and a reminder to future generations of the costly toll paid by the young men and women of the United States of America to help preserve freedom and rid the world of tyranny.

This story, written by John V. Hanlon of the Pittsburgh Press, documents these achievements and is presented below as it was printed in the Sunday Press a century ago. There were four missing editions in this thirty-edition chronicle. The gaps in the text are unfortunate, but do not take away from the gripping history of the soldiers from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.

There are some additions and images included at the end that substantiate and enhance the original text, including some personal remembrances from a Mount Washington nurse that served in France and a Somerset native that spent four months in German captivity. Finally, there are additional links to online, readable Google Books that detail the wartime experiences of individual regiments, complete with maps and plenty of photos.


A History of Pittsburgh and
Western PA Troops in the War

by John V. Hanlon

Illustrations from paintings by F.C. Yohn
(Copyright, 1919, by the Pittsburgh Press)


Introduction - The Spirit That Wins
Chapter 1 - Departure of Pittsburgh Troops
Chapter 2 - Americans Arrive Just In Time
Chapter 3 - The Battle Of The Marne
Chapter 4 - Americans Beat Back The Boche
Chapter 5 - Clearing The Villages
Chapter 6 - Roncheres And Grimpette Woods
Chapter 7 - Hun On The Run
Chapter 8 - Holding The Line
Chapter 9 - Acts Of Bravery And Heroism
Chapter 10 - Struggle To Gain A Foothold
Chapter 11 - Capture of Fismette
Chapter 12 - Advance To The Aisne
Chapter 13 - Argonne-Meuse Offensive

Chapter 14 - The Brunhilde Line
Chapter 15 - German Front Collapses
Chapter 16 - The Blue Ridge Division
Chapter 17 - Artillerymen Of The 28th
Chapter 18 - Thoughts Of Home
Chapter 19 - Base Hospital No. 27
Chapter 20 - The Fifteenth Engineers
Chapter 21 - Chemical Arms Services
Addendum A - Red Cross Nurses At Angers
Addendum B - The Tragedy at Fismette
Addendum C - Medal of Honor Recipients
Addendum D - Prisoner of War Experience
Addendum E - Sgt. Raymond P. Cronin
Sources And References

 The Saga Of The WWI Veterans Bonus Army - 1932/36 

 Brookline Veteran's Memorial 

15th Engineers    15th Engineers
The men of the 15th Engineers say goodbye to family and friends on May 22, 1917 at Forbes Field (left)
and return to a triumphal parade through downtown Pittsburgh on May 7, 1919.

Additional Reading on Western PA Troops during the War

"The 110th Infantry in the World War"
Google Online Books - By Francis Earle Lutz

"History of the 110th Infantry (10th PA) of the 28th Division (1917-1919)"
Google Online Books - By The Association of the 110th Infantry, Pennsylvania

"Illustrated Roster of the 110th Infantry (10th PA) of the 28th Division (1917)"
Google Online Books - By The Association of the 110th Infantry, Pennsylvania

"The Iron Division, National Guard of Pennsylvania"
Google Online Books - By Harry George Proctor

"The Accurate and Authentic History of the Second Battalion, 111th Infantry"
Google Online Books - By George W. Cooper

"Company F History, 319th Infantry, 80th Division"
Google Online Books - By Charles Ryman

"History of the 18th Regiment, the Duquesne Greys"
Google Online Books - By The National Guard of Pennsylvania

"History of Hampton's Battery, the Pennsylvania Light Artillery"
Google Online Books - By William Clark

"C Company, 15th Engineer Battalion History"
Independent Document - 107 pages - Author Unknown

Men of the Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry Division bringing in a wounded soldier on September 26, 1918.



To chronicle all the activities and achievements of the sons and daughters of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania in the Great War would be to compile a complete history of the mighty struggle itself. Such a history would have its opening chapters dating from the day when he who was Emperor of the Germans summoned his militaristic hordes and sent them forth on an orgy of murder, pillage and terrorism to satiate his unholy greed for power and to realize his ambition of a fettered world.

Long before the United States entered the war and indeed from its very first days, adventurous sons of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania were bleeding and dying on the battlefields where the allies were striving to stop the ravages of the Hun.

Turn where you would in stricken Belgium and bleeding, torn France; in the plague-ridden Balkans; along the cold, barren wastes of Russia or on the hot sands of far-off Egypt, wherever the crimson tides of war surged back and forth in the struggle for humanity, they could be found performing acts of charity or mercy or of war itself.

They pressed the cup of water to the fevered lips of Serb and Cossack and Poilu and Tommy. The men from India and Australia and Canada hailed them from beds of pain as ministering angels and the sons of sunny Italy were familiar with their work.

The Hun, too, had tasted of their prowess with the cold steel on land and sea, under the waves and in the air. When sudden death and destruction would pour from the heavens at the enemy lines the steady skillful hand of a Pittsburgh man was frequently at the helm of that battleship or in the air.


It is very likely that some of the most notable deeds performed in this war will never be set down to enrich the pages of the history or the advance of mankind towards that goal where shines the radiant lights of equality and justice. Many of these deeds were unobserved and those who performed them made the supreme sacrifice. Their lips are forever sealed in the silence of the grave. Perhaps had they lived the stories would have remained locked close in their hearts, for brave men are not prone to boast of valor.

And although many of these sons of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania had fought and died, winning for themselves the deathless crown of victory under foreign flags, before Columbia unloosed the mighty hurricane of her wrath, nevertheless they contributed their all to the final determination of the great cause. And as the story of their deeds is cherished in the archives of other nations it is not possible at this time to include in this narrative more than acknowledgement of their contribution to humanity. Anything further would not be right for it could not give them that measure of exact justice which is their due.

For this reason this resume of the part played by Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania soldiers in the war must begin with the entry of the United States into the conflict and even then it is only possible to follow the activities of certain designated units in which the personnel was made up largely of men from this section.

When the United States declared that a state of war existed with the Imperial German Government there were hundreds of men from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania serving in the regular army establishment. There was hardly a unit of any size which did not carry their names upon its roster of commissioned or enlisted personnel.


One of the first three men to make the supreme sacrifice in the first actual clash between the soldiers of Uncle Sam and the enemy was a Pittsburgh lad, Private Thomas Enright, of 6641 Premo Street. He, together with Privates James B. Gresham, of Evansville, Indiana, and Merle D. Hay of Glidden, Iowa, headed the first honor roll of casualties which came home to America from overseas.

Thomas Enright, James Gresham and Merle Hay.

Private Enright had enlisted in the Regular Army eight years before and had been assigned to Company F, Sixteenth United States Infantry. He was therefore a trained and seasoned man and when he met his death he was in a training sector securing the actual combat knowledge necessary to effectively instruct his less experienced comrades back of the lines.

It was on Saturday, November 3, 1917, that the little band of about forty Americans to which Private Enright was attached was cut off by artillery fire which literally ripped their trench to pieces. The Germans had learned, in some manner or other, that Americans were holding this salient, and desired to capture prisoners in order to ascertain, if possible, the strength of Pershing’s forces then in France.

It is recorded in the data on that first fight that 210 Germans rushed the forty Americans after the artillery preparation and in the hand-to-hand combat which followed the Americans gave a good account of themselves, fighting in a manner which would have delighted their revolutionary ancestors. It was a fight worthy of the best traditions of their country and flag.

American troops manning the trenches.

The American casualties were three dead, five wounded and twelve missing. The German casualties are known to have been extremely heavy and although they secured prisoners the cost to them in lives was out of all proportion to the numbers they engaged.

When the story of this first clash and the casualty list reached Washington and was made public it sent a thrill throughout the nation and the war department was besieged with inquiries from many anxious homes. The news brought to America the first distinct appreciation that her part in the great world struggle was not to be a bloodless one.


And this appreciation of the heartaches and suffering which war was to bring to many firesides was especially felt in Pittsburgh, the home of one of those three patriots who went to their deaths on that bleak November day.

They buried the three heroes close to the place where they fell; while the shells screeching overhead sang the only requiem. American troops and French veterans were massed in the form of a hollow square and the three caskets, draped in the flag of the country they had loved so well were carried upon the field by comrades.

From the lines there stepped a soldier of France wearing the insignia of a general. He walked to the caskets. With tears streaming down his war-seamed face he removed his cap and bowing before each bier he called the names of Private Enright, Private Gresham and Private Hay, and then in a voice husky and choked with emotion said:

“In the name of France I bid you farewell. In the name of France I thank you. May God receive your souls. Farewell.”

Then he asked in the name of France that the mortal remains of these three young men be left with that nation forever* and that upon their tombs would be the words:

“Here lie the First United States Soldiers to Fall on French Soil for Liberty and Justice.”

Thomas Enright
Thomas Francis Enright

As he finished there was a terrific roar, the salute for the dead, and it was not fired with blank cartridges, but by batteries of the great French 75s, manned by American artillerymen who sent a salvo of shells hurling into the German lines and with every shell there went a prayer that it would find an avenging mark.

And the names of Privates Enright, Gresham and Hay will have a special and distinguished niche in history. The French will see to that for they already have erected a monument to the memory of these brave soldiers where all the world and generations yet unborn may read of the day when the Hun first met the men of that nation which was destined to wreck his vain ambition.

Thomas Enright    Thomas Enright
The remains of Private Thomas Enright were brought back to the United States in 1921.
Upon his return to Pittsburgh, his casket laid in state at Soldiers and Sailors Hall
in Oakland. He is buried in Saint Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Lawrenceville.


And this is where Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania was first brought to a true realization of the sacrifices necessary to the conduct of this war and the truths brought home did not go unheeded. The story of Private Enright and his comrades but strengthened that grim determination to go on to a victorious end, let the cost in blood and treasure be what it might.

As there was scarcely a unit of any size in the Regular Army which did not carry the names of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania men upon its roster, even from the earliest days of the Republic, so it is today in the mighty and unconquered host which Uncle Sam has created, for Pittsburgh brains and brawn and bravery were found necessary wherever the War or Navy departments carried on their activities.

Thousands of the most skilled men in the military establishment were summoned from the industries of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania to do for the government what they had been doing for private employers. Pittsburgh and the surrounding industrial districts furnished many of the very best mechanics and men trained in the various metal crafts and trades.

This was a war of metal and where else in the world could men be found so eminently fitted for keeping the combatant branches supplied with the weapons they used so effectively against the Hun!

And so to write the story of their achievements would be to write of the work of every unit and branch of the military service - ordnance, quartermaster, motor transport, tank, chemical warfare and many other and special and new sections necessary to the modern army.

For instance, it was Pittsburgh chemists who strove night and day in gas research work and contributed much towards making our gas defense and gas assault sections so effective that even the Germans with all their boasted expertness in chemical warfare were both outguessed and out-gassed.


Through every ramification of the service, in every rank and station the men of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania toiled through all the weary months when our stupendous military establishment was building, to weld it into a solid whole and which even in its infancy turned the tide of battle and strewed the Central Empires with fear, internal dissensions and empty thrones.

Hundreds of highly trained executives from this section of the country were commissioned and ordered to the nation’s capital to help direct the activities of the war. They were searched out and summoned to the most important tasks by both the military and civil authorities of the Federal government and although many were restless because they could not secure assignments overseas where the actual fighting was being done, nevertheless they did not flinch from their work and contributed much to the success of their brothers “over there.”

But it was not alone in the military service of the nation that the sons of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania helped to make the world safe for democracy. It was necessary that many should remain at home to tend the mines, and mills, and factories. The Pittsburgh district became the Arsenal of America in many respects.

To this great manufacturing section where steel is king the nation looked for the implements and machines of modern warfare. Here was planned the huge ordnance plant which was to have furnished the heavy engines of destruction with which our fighting men proposed to blast a way through the enemy lines, and then on to Berlin.

To those who served in the mines and the mills, the furnace and the forge, acknowledgement of the part they played in the victorious outcome is justly due. They will never be accorded the place in history that will go to those who stood on the far-flung battle line, but, nevertheless, they wrought efficiently and effectively back of that line.

The German Kaiser bit off more than
he could chew when he drew
America into the war.


And thus it came about that what was known as the “Workshop of the World” in times of peace turned in the passing of a day into an arsenal of the world. The thousand glares which light the skies of night marking the abode of a wealth of peaceful industry and a world a-building became the demon eyes of an outraged and determined people flashing ominous warnings of swift and terrible retribution for those who dared to taunt the Giant of the Occident.

Then it was that Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania resolved to drain the blood of manhood to the dregs with the same determination with which the precious metal is drained from the melting pots in order to make sure the triumph of our arms. The lids of the treasure chests and strong boxes were thrown open and gold was literally poured into Columbia’s coffers.

Then it was that the call went forth from Washington for men as well as munitions and money, and our people saw those famous regiments from the western slopes of the Pennsylvania Alleghenies depart for their training stations to secure that military instruction which together with their traditional bravery later enabled them to throw back the Hun from the very gates of Paris; to confound and demoralize and annihilate the very flower of German Soldiery; to break the armies of the Kaiser in twain at the Argonne, and force an early ending of the Great War.

Later came the selective service calls which summoned thousands more of the very cream of our manhood to take up the rigors of military training; a training which eventually made the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania draftees the superiors of any Hun who ever wore the uniform of his overlord.

And the accomplishments of the selective service men who left the plow and the forge, the store and the factory, to do battle on the blood-stained soil of Europe; who left peaceful homes for trenches reeking with all that chills the heart - demonstrates that they were of a type beyond compare.

They were men with iron in their blood and the advance of their legions was irresistible. The German horde fell back withered and palsied before those living walls of valor as if stricken with the most dreaded arrow in the quiver of the Grim Destroyer.


It has always been the policy of the War Department since Columbia threw down the gage of battle to refrain from making public the standards of proficiency attained by the various army divisions. This policy, no doubt, is a commendable one, preventing, as it does, any feeling between the men from various sections of this country.

Nevertheless, it has recently come to notice and from the highest authoritative sources that the soldiers of Pennsylvania were among the very best taken overseas. A great military leader of a foreign power recently remarked in private conversation that they proved themselves to be among the foremost soldiers of the world.

The 28th Division (Pennsylvania National Guard) and the 80th Division (selective service men mostly from Western Pennsylvania) both became “Red” divisions - divisions designated as “shock troops” of the highest known type and only so honored after being thoroughly tested in actual combat with the enemy.

The 28th Division is known to have been the most proficient National Guard division in the United States. That is why this division was among the first to be sent to Europe and also why it was used so continuously and successfully, bringing upon itself the record of so many glorious achievements.

The casualties of this division and especially of some of the Western Pennsylvania regiments which are a part of this unit demonstrated it was regarded so highly by the supreme command that it was always used in the most difficult places and where failure to hold or obtain objectives was not to be even thought of, regardless of the resistance offered.

Likewise, the 80th Division became one of the most proficient of the draft divisions because the records show that even before departing for overseas it was held in high regard by military leaders. But these facts will not surprise Western Pennsylvanians, for their section of the state has given to our armies of the past many skilled and notable men-at-arms.

Although ordinarily following peaceful pursuits they are primarily of fighting stock and can readily be transformed into soldiers capable of successfully meeting the choicest of what William the Murderer was proud to boast of as his unconquerable and matchless legions.

The Gunners of an American Battery, though reduced to two wounded men,
keep their gun in action through a gas attack.


The spirit and morale of the Western Pennsylvania soldiery in this war was characterized by the military authorities as unsurpassable. The traditions of their state coupled with a free-born love of justice, together with a natural aptitude to face and solve the serious problems of life, made of these men antagonists to all tyranny.

They were accustomed to laugh under the strain of the most arduous labors, for theirs was the life of the mines and the mills where only the fittest survive and thus they furnished some of the most desirable military material obtainable in America.

They went to their training camps with a song and a smile upon their lips just as they later sang and laughed while a hurricane of German machine gun bullets was cutting wide swaths of death in their ranks. They knew no such word as failure and they also knew that no man from the Keystone state had ever turned his back upon his flag. In their creed to die was one thing and to die bravely was another and that is why they were always found with their faces toward the enemy.

The folks at home already know how true they kept to these teachings for in the accounts of their battles cabled by the war correspondents it has been a matter of frequent comment that the men of the Pennsylvania regiments always fell with their faces in the direction from which came the steel and leaden hail of the Hun.

This statement does not mean, of course, that there were any Americans who refused to face the enemy and go forward where sudden death was stalking beside them at every step. It does show, however, that those from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania lived up to every cherished tradition of their home district; that they were men unafraid.

In addition to the two divisions mentioned above, Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania sent many men to other fighting organizations. The Marines claimed hundreds and everybody knows how the “Soldiers of the Sea” accounted for themselves when they met the enemy. The Navy and Merchant Marine claimed other hundreds while the dangers of the Tanks and Aviation tempted many more to forsake the ways of peace even before the draft calls were made.


And hundreds of men from this section flocked to the officer's training camps very early in the war there to learn how to lead and train other men. Most of them passed their period of intensive military instruction successfully and they were scattered throughout every arm of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.

The 79th Division which trained at Camp Meade carried the names of about 3,000 Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania men on it's muster rolls and the 83rd Division which trained at Camp Sherman, Ohio, also received men from the counties of Butler, Beaver, Lawrence and Washington.

The Fifth (now the Fifteenth) Engineers which trained at Oakmont and which were one of the first units to go overseas was recruited from in and about Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh likewise contributed the University of Pittsburgh Base Hospital No. 27, which included an Allegheny Hospital Unit, known as Unit L.

Taken all-in-all it was a glorious contribution to the cause given by Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania in stalwart manhood and it is predicted that when it is possible to secure the final total of those who donned the uniform of Uncle Sam from this section the percentage of men directly serving the nation, either as soldiers or civilians, will be the highest of any section of the country.

Many of the boys will never come home again, they will not participate in the last grand review and many a mother’s heart is aching because she will never see her son again. They sleep under the soil of a people who gave us Lafayette and freely shed their blood that our Republic might live. Their graves are tended by loving hands and will be kept green and flower-bedecked until such time as our government will bring the bodies home.

The women of France do not forget. The hero dead will come home either to find eternal rest beside loved ones in some quiet country churchyard or maybe in Arlington, that magnificent city of the nation’s soldier and sailor dead where one may trace the history of Columbia’s greatness in the carven words upon the marble monuments pointing to the last abode of those whose memory our people delight to honor.

Some have died in the very forefront of the battle while others were the victims of accident or disease, but one and all gave the last full measure of sacrifice and devotion. It matters not where they fell, nor under what soil they repose either now or in the years to come. They have built for themselves tombs which are indestructible, which even the ever shifting hands of time shall only serve to polish and make more brilliant the records of their deeds. Their names shall go ringing down the centuries alongside those heroes of the world who have gone before.

Others will return maimed and torn by shot and shell - some to go through a living death of perpetual darkness or mad from the shock of the close-bursting bomb or crippled beyond human skill to repair. They want no charity and none will be offered for they belong to the nation and it is not likely that our people will allow the Congress to forget.

And those who return from the conflict well and hearty will have treasures beyond the wildest dream of the youth; treasures which they would not exchange for all the gold in the universe and for which many men would today give everything on earth which they hold dear. These treasures are the knowledge of having been “over there,” of having participated in the greatest military struggle in the history of the world, of having gained the victor’s wreath.

They will have ever before them the memory of what they did for mankind and wondrous stories to tell until their dying days. Then when the dark night comes and they pass ever to the comrades who have been gathered to their fathers they will have a heritage to leave their offspring as lasting and substantial as the rock of ages.

When on April 6, 1917, at 1:13pm, President Wilson signed the memorable Joint Resolution of the Congress declaring the existence of a state of war and five minutes later issued a call for volunteers to fill up to war strength the regular military establishments, Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania commenced to change the habiliments of peace for the panoply of war. The transition was accomplished swiftly, smoothly and thoroughly.

The great army of toilers in the mines and mills and factories only paused long enough to utter a defiant word to the Hun, to clench their fists and set their jaws in determination. Then they turned to their work again and with increased production began literally to jam the avenues of transportation with the implements of war.

They knew that they must gird Uncle Sam with armor against which the Hun might launch his thunderbolts in vain and that the requirements of our gallant allies must not be forgotten or neglected. Without the Pittsburgh industrial district to turn to in the emergency there might have been a different story to tell.

In Washington and London, Paris and Rome, the contribution of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania to the winning of the victory is well known by those who directed our civil and military enterprises. Foch and Pershing, Haig and Petain can tell, and so can the former German warlord and all his Prussian brood, for the enemy was unable to withstand those avalanches of steel which rolled out of Pittsburgh, tagged for Berlin.

And while every drop of energy was being expended to turn out those products so necessary to the prosecution of the war, Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania did not forget that men must also go forth to make effective the use of the material in the areas where despots sought to dispute with free men in the future conduct of the world.


Even before Congress had finally passed the law to determine whether the military policy of the nation should be volunteer or selective service, Pittsburgh experienced an early realization of the cruel part of war, that part which summons the sons and the husbands and the fathers from the firesides and company of their loved ones and sends them forth with the prospect that they may never return.

Death is hard at any time but to go forth to face the end far away from kinfolk or even kindly neighbors oftentimes makes even a brave man shudder. And when men are destined to days of suffering from disease or wounds there is something in the gently loving touch of mother or wife, daughter or sister, which seems to possess the magic of transmitting power to endure pain. This is the part of war which tears and rends the heartstrings, but it is a part of the toll civilization has ever been forced to pay. The progress of the world is but an escalade of battles.

So to many anxious homes in Pittsburgh there came the first real stir of war’s alarms when on April 12, 1917 the old Eighteenth Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard was ordered to mobilize and proceed to patrol the great avenues of transportation which radiate from this city.

The officials at the head of our government knew only too well that the country was enmeshed in a network of enemy espionage directed by agents who would not hesitate to order any crime which might retard the stupendous preparations Uncle Sam was making. There were few more likely places to commit such outrages than in the Pittsburgh district. The railroad bridges spanning the rivers and valleys and the tunnels piercing the mountains offered especially excellent objectives.

Soldiers of the Eighteenth Regiment guard the Radebaugh and Gallitzin Tunnels in May, 1917.


The presence of the Eighteenth regiment on this important duty was first revealed May 18, but even before that date a Pittsburgher at the head of a little band of intrepid Americans with the flag of the country above them was marching through Paris for the front and being acclaimed amid that greatest demonstration that city had witnessed in years.

This event occurred on May 9, 1917, and the man was R.T. Scully, who was one of the officers in charge of this unit of sixty Americans clad in khaki and armed with rifles. They comprised the first detachment of the then newly created munitions transport branch of the American Ambulance corps. This was the first American armed force to pass through France.

And while the Eighteenth continued to guard the strategic points along the railways leading out of Pittsburgh, thus assuring the speedy transportation of the material for war, martial events began developing quickly throughout this section of Pittsburgh more and more as each day passed by realization of the stern requirements of the nation.

Soon the rhythmic tread of marching feet echoed through Pittsburgh’s streets as the early squads of volunteers departed from recruiting offices of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps for the various training stations. Tented cities began to appear in and about Pittsburgh and armories were made ready for the mobilization of the units of the National Guard which had not been placed upon patrol duty.

Pennsylvania National Guard Insignia

The order for the mobilization of the National Guard of Pennsylvania was sent from Washington to Governor Brumbaugh on the night of May 17, 1917 and was immediately transmitted by the Adjutant General of the state to all commands. The mobilization was set for July 15 at the armories of the various units, there to be mustered into the Federal service and await the order to proceed to the training camp. The guard was drafted into the Army of the United States, August 5, 1917, by proclamation of the President.

Meanwhile, Colonel Edgar Jadwin, formerly in charge of the United States Engineers office in the Pittsburgh district, had received permission from Washington to go ahead with his pet scheme of recruiting a regiment of engineers in Pittsburgh. He worked fast and aroused such enthusiasm over the prospect of an early journey to France that he organized and trained a splendid body of men within a short time. At Oakmont, Colonel Jadwin established Camp Gaillard and the regiment mobilized there for training May 23, 1917.

Then came the news of June 6, 1917. It was a day which will always be remembered for those who were to comprise the principal part of the great draft army registered for service. Ten days later the first Liberty Loan campaign was launched and Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania went into the business of beating the Kaiser with renewed vim.


The first troop movement of consequence out of Pittsburgh occurred on July 4, 1917, when the Fifth Engineers (now the Fifteenth Engineers) finally departed from this section for a port of embarkation to take ship for overseas, there to build railroads and wagon roads for the legions Uncle Sam was preparing to hurl against the Hun.

From that time on until the signing of the armistice hardly a day passed in which men from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania did not depart, either singly or in squads, companies or regiments, with their objective as the battlefields of France. The uniform became a familiar sight upon the streets for many officers and enlisted men were assigned to this district to supervise in the various industries performing war work and to inspect the finished products.

Fourth Avenue - Pittsburgh - July 19, 1917
Fourth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh was alive with the Spirit of America on July 19, 1917.
Many Pittsburghers had just left for war and many more were being mobilized.

July 15, 1917, the National Guard units not already on patrol duty mobilized. The Tenth and Sixteenth Regiments of infantry assembled by companies at their home armories throughout Western Pennsylvania and the First Field Artillery took up quarters in Motor Square Garden.

Troop H, First Pennsylvania cavalry, camped on Bayard Street, opposite the Schenley Riding Academy and Duquesne Garden was used to house Truck Companies No. 5 and 6. The First Field Battalion Signal Corps, Field Hospital No. 1 and Ambulance No. 1 were stationed at the Armory, Penn Avenue and Station Street. Ambulance No. 4 remained at its armory in Coraopolis and Field Hospital No. 4 departed for camp at Mt. Gretna.


The Eighteenth Regiment of infantry was relieved from patrol duty along the railroads and after a parade through the downtown section of Pittsburgh went into camp at Schenley Park. During all this time the Guard units were busy recruiting up to war strength and close to 4,000 soldiers were stationed in Pittsburgh and another 4,000 scattered throughout the cities and towns in Western Pennsylvania where the various companies maintained their headquarters.

In the meantime, the great draft lottery had been held at Washington and the various local and district draft boards in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania were busy selecting the men who were desired by the Federal government to make up the personnel of the 80th Division of the new National Army to be organized at Camp Lee, near Petersburg, Virginia and the 83rd Division at Camp Sherman, near Chillicothe, Ohio. The draftees from the counties of Beaver, Lawrence, Butler and Washington were sent to Sherman and those from all other sections of Western Pennsylvania to Lee.

August 24, 1917, witnessed the departure for Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, of 600 officer candidates who had assembled in Pittsburgh from every section of Western Pennsylvania preparatory to entraining for the southern camp. They departed in three squads over the P & L E, Pennsylvania and B & O railroads and were cheered on their way by hundreds of friends and well wishers who had gathered at the depots.


The first of the guardsmen began to move towards Camp Hancock August 17, 1917, when Field Hospital No. 1 and Ambulance Company No. 1 of the Eighteenth regiment entrained. Then on August 30 the Western Pennsylvania contingent of the First Field Artillery Battery, a sanitation detachment and regimental band numbering 622 men and 18 officers entrained at East Liberty station. Colonel W.S. McKee was in command and the local units were joined later by Battery A, of South Bethlehem, Battery D, of Williamsport and Battery C, of Phoenixville.

The units marched from their armory to the station in a steady downpour of rain but this did not deter thousands of relatives and friends together with city and county officials from braving the elements to give the men a rousing farewell. The same scenes were re-enacted when the Eighteenth regiment “pulled stakes” at it's camp in Schenley oval and entrained for Camp Hancock September 7, 1917.

September 11, 1917, the last guardsmen in this section departed for the south; Troop H, First Cavalry of Pittsburgh, which was later joined by Troop F, First Cavalry of New Castle. During this period of the guard movement the Tenth regiment and the Sixteenth regiment, both with companies scattered all over Western Pennsylvania, entrained for Camp Hancock.

Americans driving the Germans out of a French farmyard. The enemy held thesefarmhouses and buildings until the
last moment in order that he might harass the Allied troops. The fighting was hand-to-hand and company work.



The night of September 4, 1917, in Pittsburgh and in practically every city, town and village in this section of the state, was a somber night for many Western Pennsylvania families. The draftees received notice from their draft boards to hold themselves in readiness to go to war.

The demonstrations of farewell that took place in the thousands of Western Pennsylvania homes were of the type that create fond memories for both the soldier and his proud yet anxious family. The memories of these cherished moments, for families and friends and soldiers alike, would be their last together for many months or years, however long it took to push the German aggressors back to the gates of Berlin.


The large crowds gathered at the railway stations of Pittsburgh and other towns around Western Pennsylvania on September 19, 1917, to bid farewell to those assembled, were filled with pride and anxiety. The somber reality that many of the thousands of draftees departing for military training would never return could not dull the excitement of family and friend, but the morbid anxiety was real.

The population of the United States knew the bloody strife that awaited our soldiers and only too well the terrible toll to be exacted by this war for they had received first-hand information from our nearby neighbor Canada, where there remained hardly a home that had not been touched with sorrow for lost sons. Canada had paid a horrible price thus far on the European battlefields by reason of the dash and daring of her unconquerable legions.

But with all the sadness and the bitter thoughts of what the future might have in store for the boys who were going away, nevertheless there was a brave attempt at cheerfulness, and many a mother went through the ordeal with Spartan spirit as she gave her only son to Uncle Sam.

No one will ever know the heartaches and the torture which the mother suffered during the days when all these Western Pennsylvanians were leaving for the armed camps, and then on through the long days and nights until the armistice was signed and the casualty lists finally were completed.

First disease invaded the camps and death claimed many of the lads even before they had completed their training, and then when they were safely overseas the cables would commence to bring stirring accounts of battles and tell of the brilliant fighting of the Pennsylvanians. And after the news of the battles would always come those lists of sorrow for many homes.

There would be a rap at the door and a messenger would quietly hand out a telegram from the War Department at Washington. That was all, and it was oftentimes the sudden end of the hope and joy of a lifetime. But there was always the consolation in knowing that he died with the bravest of the brave and for a cause in which millions of other men cheerfully gave up their lives.

Drafted men from the First, Third and Twelfth Wards at the B & O Station,
Pittsburgh, on Sunday, September 23, 1917.


And, many a home in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania had good and sufficient reason to know the casualties among the troops from this section were especially heavy. Our families suffered this toll due to the fact that our soldiers were efficient and dependable forces.

Wherever the vitally important work was, where it was necessary to use soldiers who would not fail in the tasks assigned them, our boys were sent. And such work was usually found where the fighting was thickest and hottest and the enemy offering desperate resistance with picked regiments.

During September, 1917, the University of Pittsburgh Base Hospital No. 27, the female personnel of which had been encamped at Ellis Island, embarked for France. The unit numbered about 300 persons and was in command of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Miller. This base hospital was recruited in Pittsburgh and was originally financed by a contribution of $25,000 made by Mrs. Henry S. Collins from the funds of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The Allegheny Hospital Unit, known as Unit L, was mobilized early in September and departed for France early in December 1917, under the command of Major Victor King.

In addition, there were hundreds of men leaving this section of the country almost daily under orders inducting them into certain special branches of the military establishment where their particular skill, along mechanical and other lines, made their services greatly desired.

Some received commissions while others were inducted as privates or in various non-commissioned grades. It was this gradual filtration of the skilled men in and about the Pittsburgh industrial district which eventually helped make the new Army of the United States so proficient in almost every line of it's endeavor.


No matter where one would turn, either in this country or overseas, in aviation, quartermaster, ordnance, signal corps or in any of the many different and exacting branches of the service, Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania men could be found performing the most difficult work and gaining lasting reputations for energy, close attention to duty and as master craftsmen.

The aviation service, offering as it did exceptionally hazardous opportunities, was a favorite with many of the young men of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania and hundreds of them later won the right to wear on their uniforms the wings of the graduate flying man.

Many thousands of others who offered were unable to get into the aviation camps because of the great popularity of this branch of the service and were forced to seek some other arm. But those who did gave a good account of themselves both in the air as pilots and observers or on the ground as engineers and mechanics.

The tank service was another branch which was attractive for the men from this section and many hundreds were accepted and became highly proficient in manipulating these monsters of modern warfare. Chemical warfare, too, was attractive to many Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvanians, because in this section there were many men skilled in chemistry and Uncle Sam had crying need for these experts in order to make ineffective the avalanches of gas so frequently sent over by the Hun.


If the war would have gone on much longer the Germans would have had occasion to learn even more of the work of these chemists from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, for they had devised gases so devilish and deadly that even the worst the enemy had to offer were mild in comparison.

To enumerate all the special branches of the service in which men from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania were engaged both at home and abroad would require a book itself. They were everywhere and doing every imaginable sort of work and in every rank and station in that great army.

Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania physicians and nurses were at the front in large numbers administering to the soldier boys, and the work of men and women from this section of the country in connection with the various religious, athletic and other activities must not be forgotten. Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania furnished many men and women who voluntarily left peaceful and happy homes to undergo the hardships of life on the battlefield so that they might assist our fighting men.

Many such were striving by night and by day in connection with the YMCA, Knights of Columbus, Jewish Welfare Board, Salvation Army and the other agencies, and they helped materially to lighten the load of the soldier boy billeted on a foreign shore away from home and kinfolk.

General Pershing says:

"The fact that our soldiers, in a land of different customs and languages, have borne themselves in a manner in keeping with the cause for which they fought, is due not only to the efforts on their behalf, but much more to other high ideals, their discipline and their innate sense of self-respect."

"It should be recorded, however, that the members of these welfare societies have been untiring in their desire to be of real service to our officers and men. The patriotic devotion of these representative men and women has given a new significance to the Golden Rule, and we owe to them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid."


In the Red Cross, too, were many men and women from the western section of Pennsylvania, and wherever there were works of mercy or relief to be performed, either among the soldiers or the civilians of devastated towns and villages, their kindly ministrations will be long remembered.

Pennsylvania furnished the stupendous total of 330,000 men to the World War, according to figures obtained from the draft headquarters at Harrisburg, and estimates made from the state totals indicate that Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania alone furnished almost half this number.

Hundreds of Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvanians are sworn in to the service at Memorial Hall.

Draft boards throughout the entire state furnished 195,203 men, and of this number 77,514 were supplied by this section of the Commonwealth. The Harrisburg draft officials estimate that in reality the state supplied 250,000 men through the draft, because there were individual inductions amounting to 7,528 men sent to the student army training camps and 219 to the navy. The balance of the estimate is made up by adding delinquents and deserters and replacements for rejected men at camps.

The State National Guard furnished approximately 30,000 men, and in the neighborhood of 50,000 men volunteered in the various branches of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.

Recruiting officers in charge of the Pittsburgh stations of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and who have charge of all enlistments in Western Pennsylvania, estimate that they received into the service more than 10,000 men. Of this number the Army had about 3,000, the Marine Corps 2,200 and the Navy approximately 5,500. Aviation and other special branches also obtained relatively large quotas here.

Here are the draft figures for Pittsburgh and the various counties of Western Pennsylvania:

Allegheny County 14,198; Beaver 2,850; Blair 1,261; Butler 1,827; Bedford 568; Clarion 830; Clearfield 2,239; Crawford 1,130; Cambria 4,726; Elk 981; Erie 3,207; Pittsburgh 18,467; Fayette 4,202; Forest 182; Greene 622; Huntingdon 701; Lawrence 1,648; Mercer 2,425; McKean 1,050; Somerset 1,372; Venango 2,381; Warren 806; Washington 4,565; Westmoreland 5,276.

When the National Guardsmen from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania arrived at Camp Hancock and the drafted men at Camp Lee, those who had never participated in military affairs before received their first taste of the hardships which often accompany Army life. Especially was this so at Camp Lee, because there was a scarcity of bed clothing, no heat and the weather was anything by comfortable.

The National Guardsmen had considerable equipment before they departed for the South and so were more fortunate in this respect than the selective service men, but even then there were other inconveniences with which the boys had to put up until such time as the camp was thoroughly organized and equipped. Many were the complaints of unnecessary hardships which filtered back from Camp Lee to the folks at home, and what was true of Lee was true of most every camp in the country.

A section of the trenchworks at Camp Hancock, where the 28th Division prepared for war.


In undertaking to create so large an Army, Uncle Sam had many obstacles to meet and overcome, and it was no small task to provide the necessary equipment for so large a body of men in so short a time between the declaration of a State of War and the calling of the men to camp. In addition to bedding being scarce considerable time elapsed before all the men were equipped with uniforms and other articles of clothing required to withstand the rigors of an Army camp in winter.

There were instances of carelessness on the part of officers in exposing the new men to the elements, and no doubt much sickness was caused as a result. This carelessness most generally took the form of forcing the men to stand in line in unheated buildings to await their turn for medical examination or for various inspections, but such conditions were soon corrected by the chief military authorities.

There were also some cases of neglect in properly caring for men who were ill, but these, too, were incidents due to the inexperience of the officers in handling large bodies of troops and they did not happen after the camp became thoroughly organized and in smooth running order.

But these experiences only served to give the men an idea of what might be expected in the way of hardships under war conditions, and on the whole they bore up bravely, accepted their lot with a highly commendable spirit of patience and prepared to acquire everything offered in the school of the soldier.

They later gave ample and sufficient demonstration on the battlefield that, although they learned the arts of war quickly, nevertheless they had learned their lessons thoroughly and well. And some of the former Kaiser’s best well knew the truth of this statement.

At the two camps, Hancock and Lee, where the large majority of the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania boys were stationed, the usual courses of intensive training were commenced shortly after their arrival and continued without interruption until the divisions were declared fit to go overseas to complete their studies.


Of course, the guardsmen were for the most part familiar with military discipline and the major field maneuvers, so that it was possible to start them in the advanced studies of the most modern forms of warfare within a few weeks after they went into camp.

Major General Adelbert Cronkhite
Maj. Gen. Adelbert Cronkhite

But the selected men at Camp Lee were, with few exceptions, entirely without any previous military experience, so it was necessary to teach them the very rudiments of the camp. From the start the men at Camp Lee had one of the most successful soldiers in the Regular Army as camp commander, Major General Adelbert Cronkhite, and it was freely predicted in high Army circles in Washington that if the Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvanians had the stuff in them to make soldiers that he would turn out one of the best divisions in the new Army.

How well this prediction held out is known to the General Staff, for the 80th Division was noted as one of the most highly trained and proficient divisions of the National Army when it finally received orders to move to France.

And while the selected men at Camp Lee were going along steadily and developing into first-class soldiers, the guardsmen down at Camp Hancock were commencing to have troubles in the shape of an order for the entire reorganization of the Pennsylvania National Guard Division to conform to the new Army standards. General Pershing, after making a study of the British and French army organization standards, had worked out a plan taken from the best points of both, and the carrying into effect of this plan played havoc with the various guard units.


The strength of an infantry regiment under the new standards called for many more men and officers than under the old scheme of organization. Thus some regiments were broken up to bring others up to the new strength, and it was at this time that the stir was caused when it became known that the Old Eighteenth, of Pittsburgh, was to lose it's identity entirely by being broken up, with part of the regiment to be used as a depot brigade.

Major General Charles M. Clements, then division commander, had arranged the scheme of reorganization and some ugly stories were circulated at the time relative to an attempt by Philadelphia politicians to save the identity of a Philadelphia regiment at the expense of the Pittsburgh unit. The citizens of Pittsburgh were indignant that the historic Duquesne Greys, upon which the regiment was founded, should be thus relegated into oblivion, and a mighty protest went up.

Delegations composed of the Pittsburgh representatives in Congress, together with Colonel E.L. Kearns, the commander of the regiment, hastily appealed in person to Secretary of War Baker and to General Tasker H. Bliss, then Chief of Staff of the Army, to save the Eighteenth. The information was given that the reorganization was purely a matter for Major General Clements to decide. The Governor, Martin G. Brumbaugh, was asked to exert himself on behalf of the Eighteenth, and he even made a trip to Washington to consult with the Secretary of War.

The tide of dissatisfaction was running uncurbed for a time over this controversy. As the result of some alleged irregularities, including a telegram bearing the signature of the governor, which he declared he never signed, an investigation by the War Department into the whole affair was threatened. Congress also began to hear of the row and rumors of an investigation by the House Military Affairs Committee were rife.


Later, however, and much to the relief of the citizens of Pittsburgh and the men of the Eighteenth, the plans were changed so as to allow this regiment to retain it's identity, but it had a narrow escape from not being able to add more glorious chapters to it's long history.

All fair men in or out of the Pennsylvania National Guard will admit that, although considered excellent as a state militia division, this organization had much to learn about the brand of warfare being waged in Europe when it entered camp. Politics, both internal and external, had left imprints in spots, and such imprints were considered as retarding the efficiency of the men and the units.

The General Staff in Washington was well aware of these conditions and did not hesitate to clean up these spots, although taking full cognizance of the fact that such renovation would undoubtedly cause much talk and dissatisfaction in the quarters attacked. Nevertheless, to have left matters as they were would have been to needlessly jeopardize the interest of the soldiers in the division, both as regards training and leadership.

The first and foremost consideration was capable officers throughout every branch of the organization, and today none know better than the men themselves how important, and for their interests, were the changes made at Camp Hancock.

The weeding-out process removed many officers either for physical defects, age or for other reasons deemed in the interests of the service. Many of the officers so removed were patriotic, sincere men, who had given a lifetime of service to the guard and were loved and respected by the men of their commands, but in this war there was no room for sentiment and so some had to suffer.


Major General Clements, the guard’s division commander when it went to camp, was early separated from direct contact with his command by being sent overseas on an observation trip, and upon his return was retired and replaced by Major General Charles E. Muir. Before being relieved of his command, Major General Clements had also removed and shifted a number of officers, including Colonel E.L. Kearns, commander of the Eighteenth Regiment, of Pittsburgh. And Major General Muir did not hesitate to carry out this policy of swinging the ax whenever he became convinced the service could be benefited.

Major General Charles Muir
Maj. Gen. Charles Muir

A lifelong and thorough soldier, Major General Muir had not been long in command of the division before improvement was noticeable in the discipline and morale of the troops. “Regulations” Muir they called him. He demanded promptness and efficiency on the part of officers and men and he did not hesitate to speak his mind when things were not to his liking.

He won the admiration and confidence of the men by demanding respect for them on the part of officers as well as absolute obedience by the men. And from that time on there was a new spirit of service, a new atmosphere about the camp reflected in every activity. Thus was the 28th Division re-made, and thus was it brought up to the new standard of proficiency where it stood first on the list of all the National Guard divisions of the United States.


Before proceeding further with the story of the activities of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania units in the Great War, it would be well to examine somewhat the history of the guard regiments from this section of the state and also to set forth the results of the reorganization whereby these regiments may be identified in the Army of the United States. This history will deal chiefly with the 28th and 80th Divisions, because it was in these divisions where a large majority of these men served.

The 319th and 320th Regiments of infantry, 160th Brigade, 80th Division, were the units comprised for the most part of the selected men from Pittsburgh and the western end of the state, although many were scattered throughout this organization in the various arms of the service.

The guard regiments were the 10th Infantry (now the 110th Infantry), 55th Brigade, 28th Division; 18th Infantry (now the 111th Infantry) and 16th Infantry (now the 112th Infantry), 56th Brigade, 28th Division; 1st Artillery (now the 107th Artillery), 53rd Artillery Brigade, 28th Division; 1st Field Battalion, Signal Corps (now the 103rd Field Signal Battalion), 28th Division; Ambulance Companies (now the 103rd Sanitary Train), and Field Hospitals No. 111 and 112, 28th Division; Truck Companies No. 5 and 6 became the 103rd Supply Train of the 28th Division.


The 110th Infantry, formerly the Tenth Regiment of the National Guard, was mustered into the state service in December, 1873. Its military district comprises the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Somerset, Blair, Fayette, Indiana, Beaver and Greene. The respective company headquarters are located at Greensburg, Latrobe, Mount Pleasant, Connellsville, Somerset, Holidaysburg, Blairsville, Indiana, New Brighton, Monongahela, Washington and Waynesburg.

Colonel John A. Black, of Greensburg, was it's first commanding officer, and he was succeeded by Colonel Alexander L. Hawkins, who had been Captain of Company H, at Washington. The regiment served during the Spanish-American war in the Philippines, where it obtained the sobriquet of the “Fighting Tenth.” It's tour of duty there was from July 17, 1898, until July 1, 1899, when it embarked for home. The regiment suffered casualties in the Philippines of: killed in action 6; wounded 70; died of wounds 9; died of disease 6; and missing 1.

The death of Colonel Hawkins occurred on shipboard July 18, while on the journey home. The regiment was re-organized in 1900, with Colonel James E. Barnett as Commander who served in that capacity until 1907. He was succeeded by Colonel Richard Coulter Jr., of Greensburg. The regiment served on the Mexican border during the Mexican aggressions from July 8, 1916, until October 4 of the same year.

In August 1917, Colonel Coulter was promoted to be Brigadier General and he was succeeded in command of the regiment by Lieutenant Colonel Henry W. Coulter. In the reorganization for service overseas as part of the 28th Division the table of organization called for 3,750 officers and men, and to effect this change the Third Infantry was directed to transfer the enlisted personnel of that organization, less 346 men to the Tenth (now 110th) Regiment. Orders also assigned some officers of the third regiment to the 110th and Colonel George E. Kemp was named as regimental commander, with Lieutenant Colonel Coulter the second in command.


The Eighteenth regiment was “Pittsburgh’s Own” and perhaps the most historic military organization in the state and one of the oldest in the nation. It was known as the Duquesne Greys and was organized August 5, 1831. In the Mexican War it served as Company K, First Pennsylvania Volunteers. In the Civil War it served as Company B, Twelfth Pennsylvania Volunteers and gave 69 officers to the Union Army, including Major General James S. Negley and seven colonels.

The Duquesne Greys was organized as a regiment of the National Guard of Pennsylvania in September 1869. The organization in the early days of it's existence was given certain special privileges, vested rights and immunities, and all military codes of the Commonwealth since 1832 have contained clauses recognizing these grants made by the Legislature.

During the Spanish-American War the regiment became the Eighteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers. It was on Mexican border service during the Mexican aggressions in 1916, was called to do patrol duty in the state April 12, 1917, and drafted into the Federal service August 5, 1917, by proclamation of the President. Upon reorganization of the 28th Division it became the 111th Infantry, 56th Brigade. Sufficient of the enlisted and commissioned personnel of the Sixth Infantry were transferred to the Eighteenth to being it up to the new standards.

Since the organization of the Duquesne Greys as a regiment in the National Guard of Pennsylvania, it has been commanded by Colonel David Campbell, 1869-1870; Colonel Presley N. Guthrie, 1870-1883; Colonel Chambers McKibben, 1883-1884; Colonel Norman M. Smith, 1884-1899; Colonel Frank I. Rutledge, 1899-1909; Colonel Albert J. Logan, 1909-1912; Colonel James H. Bigger, 1912-1916. Colonel Edward L. Kearns was in command of the regiment on the Mexican border and also when it went into training at Camp Hancock.


The Sixteenth Regiment, used as a nucleus around which to build the 112th Regiment, hails from the thriving oil and manufacturing cities and counties of Western Pennsylvania north of Pittsburgh. It was organized in 1878 with General John A. Wiley, a veteran of the Civil War, as its first colonel.

From the time of it's organization until it's entry into the service of the United States during the Great War, it had but three commanders; General Wiley, General Willis J. Hulings and Colonel George C. Richards. During the Spanish-American War the regiment saw active service in Puerto Rico and was frequently mentioned in official dispatches for its excellent work. At the close of the Spanish-American War the regiment was reorganized by bringing in five companies of the old Fifteenth infantry which then went out of existence.

The respective company headquarters are located at Oil City, Corry, Bradford, Kane, Franklin, Erie, Ridgeway, Warren, Kittanning, Butler and Grove City.

In the new reorganization at Camp Hancock sufficient commissioned and enlisted personnel to make up the new standard were drawn from the Eighth infantry, which formerly had headquarters at Harrisburg and was recruited from the central portion of the state.


The First Field Artillery, which became the 107th Field Artillery of the new Army, dates back to Civil War days for it was formed around Battery B from the Allegheny Valley, known as Hampton’s Battery. Hampton’s Battery was organized October 8, 1861 and served in the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. It was in some of the greatest battles of the Rebellion including Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and others.

As a regimental unit the First Artillery was officially organized November 30, 1915. The headquarters are in Pittsburgh, but it's batteries are drawn from all sections of the state. The regiment was in service during the Spanish-American War but did not leave the country. During the Mexican aggression, the regiment was stationed on the Mexican border. Colonel William S. McKee was the commander at the time the regiment went into training at Camp Hancock.

The First Field Battalion, Signal Corps, which became the 103rd Field Signal Battalion of the 28th Division, was recruited in and around Pittsburgh a number of years ago and was composed of experts in all branches of signal work. The battalion was considered one of the very best in the United States by reason of it's skilled enlisted and commissioned personnel.

It saw service on the Mexican border during the Mexican aggressions. How well this battalion accounted for itself in the Great War will be apparent to all who read of it's exploits in the chapters to follow. The battalion was in command of Major Frederick T. Miller when it went into training at Camp Hancock.


The Truck Companies which became the 103rd Supply Train, the Ambulance Companies which became part of the 103rd Sanitary Train, and the Field Hospitals which took the numbers 110, 111 and 112 were all recruited for the most part in Allegheny County and had been part of the state guard organization with headquarters in Pittsburgh.

Late in April 1918, the 28th Division completed it's training and was declared ready for preliminary work close to the scene of actual fighting. Overseas orders were received by General Muir. The division embarked May 3 and was in France by June 1, 1918.

The 80th Division was transported to France during the latter part of June and the forepart of July 1918.

It was almost impossible to obtain an accurate record of the many shifts in the commissioned personnel of the 28th Division during the time which elapsed between its arrival at Camp Hancock and departure for overseas. There were many changes and additions due to the reorganization as well as in the career officers who were found unfit physically and otherwise.

The following officers were in command of the principal units from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania when the 28th Division embarked for France: 110th Infantry, Colonel George E. Kemp; 111th Infantry, Colonel Edward C. Shannon; 112th Infantry, Lieutenant Colonel Albert C. Crookston; 103rd Field Signal Battalion, Major Frederick G. Miller.

Americans Arrive
Curious Frenchmen watch as the doughboys of the 28th Division arrive in France, June 1918.

28th Keystone Division Insignia                     28th Keystone Division Coat of Arms


July 6 - Under shell fire in rear of the line below the Marne.
July 15 to July 21 - Stopped last German offensive and participated in the counter attack which started the German retreat.
July 24 to August 4 - The drive from the Marne to the Vesle.
August 4 to September 4 - Battle of Fismes and Fismettes.
September 10 to September 25 - In rest billets in St. Mihiel sector under constant artillery fird while being incorporated as part of First American Army.
September 26 to October 10 - Participated in The Battle of the Meuse, better known as the Argonne-Meuse Offensive.

Towns and positions freed of invaders by division, alone of with other troops: St. Agnan, La-Chapelle-Monthodon, Boise de Conde, Epieds, Trugny, Courpoil, La Charmel, Fresnes, Roncheres, Courmont, Boise de Grimpettes, Sergy, Fismes, Fismette, Blanzy-les-Fismes, Barbonval, Glennes, Neuvilly, Boureuiles, Varennes, Montblainville, Baulby, Apremont, Chatel-Cheherry, Fleville.



When the 28th Division arrived in France our allies were facing the most critical period of the war. All during the previous winter and early spring the Germans had prepared for a series of drives which they expected to break the backbone of the British and French armies before the Americans could arrive in force.

The German expectations were heralded to the world, so confident was the enemy high command that nothing could go wrong with the carefully worked-out plans. The Russian fiasco had released to them many thousands of seasoned veterans and, with these added to the armies already on the West Front, the order to advance was given on March 21, 1918. Then on a 50-mile front, stretching from La Fere to Arras, the Germans went “over the top.”

The French and British lines joined in and around St. Quentin, and the objective was to force a break and separate the forces of the two allies. This plan did not succeed, but the enemy was able to drive a great wedge, and Amiens, the important British distributing point, was seriously menaced.

The second phase of the German offensive was launched April 9 against the British in the Ypres sector, and with such fury and persistence that Marshal Haig’s troops were thrown back for a considerable distance before they were able finally to stem the assault. But the British line did not break and the French sent reinforcements whereby it was possible to counterattack and regain a portion of the territory lost.

Raids and local actions then constituted the principal activities for several weeks while the Germans were preparing for their third effort. It began May 27 when the Crown Prince’s army was hurled forth from Chemin des Dames, in Champagne. The Allied armies were forced back until the enemy had reached the Marne and Chateau-Thierry by June 1.

The French capital Paris was directly threatened. It was at this juncture of the German offensive that American troops were rushed to the front and so successfully helped the French stem the oncoming hordes of the Kaiser. Every American knows the story of Chateau-Thierry and Cantigny.

The Western Front - Spring 1918
Situation on the Western Front, July 1918, when the 28th Division arrived to help stop the German advance.
The Spring Offensive had gained much territory, but the Hun lacked the strength for a push to Paris.
The fresh American troops provided the manpower needed to bolster the Allied defense.


Here are the words of the Commander in Chief, General Pershing:

"The Allies faced a crisis equally as grave as that of the Picardy offensive in March. Again every available man was placed at Marshal Foch’s disposal, and the Third Division, which had just come from it's preliminary training in the trenches, was hurried to the Marne. It's motorized machine-gun battalion preceded the other units and successfully held the bridgehead at the Marne, opposite Chateau-Thierry."

"The Second Division, in reserve near Montdidier, was sent by motor trucks and other available transport to check the progress of the enemy towards Paris. The division attacked and retook the town and railroad station at Bouresches and sturdily held it's ground against the enemy’s best guard divisions."

"In the Battle of Belleau Wood, which followed, our men proved their superiority and gained a strong tactical position, with far greater loss to the enemy than ourselves. On July 1, before the Second was relieved, it captured the village of Vaux with most splendid precision."

German stormtroopers at the Battle of
 the Marne.
United States Marines drive the Germans from Belleau Wood.

Thus the enemy began to secure demonstration of the fighting ability of the Americans, and to meet lines of adamant resistance that would neither bend nor break. The enemy was stopped at the Marne, but one week later opened another offensive between Montdidier and Novon in a new thrust for Paris.

The allied supreme command had advance information and this blow was readily checked. This was the situation during the last days of June, the darkest hour of the Allied cause when it was feared that Paris was doomed and such a catastrophe would literally take the heart out of the French.

It was during these stirring times in June that the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania infantrymen were billeted within sight of Paris and hearing of the wonderful work of their countrymen who were privileged to be taking part in the mighty struggle.

They heard of Chateau-Thierry, Bois de Belleau, Bouresches, Cantigny, those milestones already recorded in the history of the American arms and they fretted and strained at the leash which held them far from where there were deeds of valor to be performed and glory to be won.

NOTE: Brookline's Sgt. Raymond P. Cronin was a member of the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment, 4th Marine Brigade, assigned to the U.S. 2nd Divsion during the Battle of Belleau Wood. He was killed during the Battle of Hill 142. For his bravery during that engagement, Sgt. Cronin was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross and the Silver Star Citation. Learn more about Sgt. Raymond P. Cronin, Brookline's most decorated soldier.

Devil Dog Recruiting Poster

It was during this Battle of Belleau Woods that the United States Marine Corps Leathernecks earned the nickname "Devil Dogs." The German soldiers were so shocked by the fierce grit and determination showed by the Marines under the most horrific of conditions that they began calling them "Teufel Hunden." They name stuck and to this day a U.S. Marine is refered to as a "Devil Dog."


When the division arrived in France it was split up into small units and brigaded with the British troops to receive it's final instruction before going to the front. At times the men became discouraged as the result of what they deemed an exceptionally long training period for they felt fit to meet any Boche that ever lived. Some of the men even began to wonder if they were ever to see any of the real fighting.

The Supreme Command had worked out a special system for training new troops whereby they were gradually brought to that state of steadiness and perfection required for the line by a series of movements ever nearer the front and thus closer and closer to the sound of the guns. Then the artillery fire where through experience gained, at times as the result of casualties, their nerves were steeled to withstand the din of battle.

Next there was a period in the front line under the watchful eye of experienced officers. But the Americans “made good.”

During the course of training with the British, the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania troops were stationed near Lumbres and later at French training centers near Gonesse and Rebais.

The Division was partly reassembled a few miles northwest of Paris with headquarters at Gonesse. This town is about ten miles from the heart of the French capital. The four infantry regiments together with the engineers were scattered throughout the surrounding towns and countryside wherever billets were available.


At the time of arrival in France, the artillery brigade of the division, which included the 107th Regiment, was separated from the other units and sent to an artillery training camp many miles away. Other units had been sent to other places for specialized training.

The infantry and engineer regiments assembled first and then awaited the arrival of other units at the divisional center, and it was during this wait that the Pennsylvania doughboys began to long for a nearer approach to that direction from which came the low rumbling sound like continuous thunder. To the southeast on clear days they could see the great Eiffel Tower in Paris.

But the men did not get much time to ponder over the reasons for the delay in keeping them out of the conflict. They were busy those warm July days in going through that maze of work incidental to their final graduation from the school of the soldier. It was a trying period but it was soon forgotten in the days which followed.

The Germans were preparing for another thrust at the Marne. The bald, naked truth is that the British and French were fearful that they did not have sufficient men to stop the Hun. Even during the last rush the lines were but thinly held and would probably have given away had not the few American troops which were ready been rushed up in the night in motor trucks and thrown into the battle.

As appeal had gone forth for more Americans, and casting aside all thoughts of a distinct American Army for the time being, General Pershing offered all the troops available to be brigaded with the French and British armies in a supreme effort to save the world.

The American Army at that time was merely an army on paper because it had not yet been assembled. Divisions were the largest unit then working as a whole and by brigading these divisions with the British and French the gaps would be stopped up and their forces strengthened by all the available American forces. Their army units were functioning with the experience of the long years of war and it was an easy task to assimilate the American divisions. Time was short, too, in which to work effectively.

Allied truck convoy in World War 1
A convoy of trucks carrying soldiers to the front line.

It was at this juncture in the fortunes of our Allies that the order came down the line for the 28th Division to prepare for a journey. The artillery brigade had not yet come up to join the division, so the infantry and engineers were to go away without it.

When the time came to depart for their new destination the men noticed that long lines of motor trucks awaited them and there was much jubilation, for here indeed was evidence of a respite from the wearisome hikes. They were to ride in state, for the motor trucks looked to them like the best to be had in the way of transportation.

There was expectancy in the very air, for to be accorded the luxury of a motor ride was unusual up to that time for the men of the 28th. However, they were disappointed when the direction taken was not to the northeastward or to the northward from whence came that rumbling sound, but eastward from Paris.

They journeyed on through pretty French villages where the townspeople greeted them as saviors when it was discovered they were Americans. The Pennsylvanians sang and cheered until they were hoarse. Soon they came to a little river, the Petit Morin, and down along it's beautiful winding valley the great trucks lumbered carrying their happy and cheerful burdens.

Suddenly the men discovered that the distant thunder was gradually getting louder, and they commenced to realize that they were approaching that zone where the guns were continuously belching forth their messengers of death. They knew, too, from the people along the way that they were nearer the battle lines, and then finally they stopped in a little town beside the river.


This town was Montmirail and the distant guns could be heard distinctly. Part of the division passed through Montmirail and stopped at another town a few miles to the eastward. This town was Vauchamps. The rear of the column turned off and stopped at Verdelot, to the westward a few miles from Montmirail. The surrounding countryside was dotted with villages and in the three towns and these villages the local doughboys and engineers were billeted.

The pause here was but another step in the advanced training of the men so that they could become more familiar with the sound of the guns, and it was only a few days before they ceased to notice that ever rising and falling rumble which made the earth tremble under foot even at that distance.

Now the soldiers from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania began to grow serious and to buckle down to their training work with even more determination to approach nearer perfection, for they realized that the day would soon come when they would have an opportunity to let the folks at home, and the world, know that the men of the 28th were not afraid of anything the Hun had to offer.

Within a few days they commenced to grow restless, however, because they had not moved nearer to the guns so that they might at least obtain a distant view of the activities which were going on just to the north of them; activities among the most important in the long war and with Paris as the stake. They were not more than ten to fourteen miles from the front lines along the Marne and could not understand why they were not up there helping the French to hold back the enemy from any further advances.

This was the situation as it pertained to the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania regiments during the last days in June. Little did the men dream that before the end of another month they would have decisively demonstrated their mastery over the pick of the Prussian soldiery and had written large on the pages of history that state of valor and achievement which sent a thrill throughout America, and the Kaiser reeling with disappointment and chagrin.

And little did they realize that there were many there in those last days which would never be with them again; many whom would be found, after the tide of battle passed, with cold set features and with the light gone from their eyes, the victims of the Hun; others cruelly shattered in mind and body and facing a lifetime of helplessness and misery.

But even if these soldiers from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania could have known in advance the bloody days directly ahead of them they would not have been less keen for the carnage; to have known would have only whetted their desire to rise to even greater heights of bravery and daring if such were possible. There were folks at home who in other days had spoken of the guardsmen as “tin” soldiers.

And there were officers of the regular military establishment who had scoffed at them and questioned their usefulness in a crisis. Both these insults were to be wiped out forever; wiped out in such a sea of blood by men who were to prove themselves the peers of any men-at-arms the world had ever known that a blush of shame would mount to the cheek of every person who ever uttered an unkind remark against the old Pennsylvania National Guard.


Came July 1, 1918, and the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania boys were still billeted in and around the vicinity of Montmirail, from ten to fourteen miles from the front lines on the Marne. They were planning for some sort of celebration for the Fourth in order to help while away the tedious hours of waiting for a shot at the Boche.

Something extra in the way of food to be topped off with concerts, sports, etc., was on the program. There was some comfort in the prospect of getting away from the tiresome and heavy routine, too, because they expected to be allowed to rest at least part of Independence Day.

Midnight, Wednesday, July 3, 1918, there was a stir in camp when the 109th Regiment, from Philadelphia and the eastern part of the state, was rousted out and formed into companies in heavy marching order. Here at last was a prospect of action! Wild rumors flew up and down the line to the effect that the Hun had broken through and that the Pennsylvanians were going out to stop him. Some of the Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvanians in the 110th, 111th and 112th Regiments heard of the sudden movement and were wondering why it had not been their luck to be called.

The night rang with the hastily snapped out commands as officers prepared the 109th Regiment to move forward. Then when the order to march at double time was given the men were sure that something was happening. It was a long, weary hike with the sound of the guns ever getting closer. Then, just before the dawn, the head of the column was stopped by a staff officer who arrived in the sidecar of a motorcycle, and Colonel Millard D. Brown, of Philadelphia, in command of the regiment, was ordered to return to billets.

This was a disappointment indeed, and when the order for a short rest was given the men just dropped down in their tracks, equipment and all. They were dead tired after the long, hurried journey. But while there were prospects of real work to do they were willing to bear without flinching the rigors of that wearisome march in the dark.

The night had been cool, but when they were ready to trudge back towards their billets the sun was well up and beating down in all its July fury upon their heads. They thought of the celebration they had missed back in camp, and they wondered what the loved ones back in America were doing to while away the holiday.


It was night before all the companies were finally back in camp, and so all thought of any Fourth festivities was gone. They were mighty glad to crawl into bed. As to the celebration conducted by the other regiments, it is said by officers, that, when it became generally known that the 109th had gone forward in the night, the men considered themselves so out of luck that they didn’t care whether they extracted any joy out of the Fourth’s festivities or not. However, the men of the other regiments surely did chuckle the next day when they learned of what the 109th had been through.

But during this period the Pennsylvanians were wondering as to the experiences of certain of their number who were actually on the front line receiving advanced instruction under the French. Several platoons had been picked from the Division and sent in with the French just west of Chateau-Thierry. This sector was not a quiet one, nor was it a really active just at that time.

Two of these platoons were from the old Eighteenth, under the command of Lieutenants Cedric H. Benz, of Company B, and John H. Shenkel, of Company A, both of Pittsburgh. Then the sector in which they were stationed commenced to grow hotter as each hour passed. On July 1 the French decided to launch attacks against the nearby village of Vaux and Hill 204.

The Americans carefully watched the French go about the preparations for this attack, with that skill which is only obtained after long and arduous campaigning. The Americans were invited to take position where they could easily view the whole operation.

The platoons from Pittsburgh had made such an impression on the French that the French Commander informed them they might participate in the attack if they so desired, but that such action would be entirely voluntary. Those who elected to go were invited to step out of the ranks and every man of the two platoons came forward with a snap that demonstrated how eager they were to get into some actual fighting.

They went into the battle with the French, and under French command and they were the first troops of the 28th Division to engage in important fighting. Here is the story of that attack told by the French general commanding:


“On the morning of July 1 a platoon of the 111th Infantry, in command of Lieutenant Shenkel, participated with several platoons of French infantry in the attack on Hill 204. The battle opened with sharp machine gun fire from the German forces, concealed in trees, underbrush and trenches. Immediately, on gaining the heights of Hill 204, Lieutenant Shenkel deployed his troops to the right and left of him for the purpose of making flank movements.”

“As the Pittsburghers and the French commenced to close in on the German troops an avalanche of machine gun fire greeted them. The soldiers refused to give ground and continued their advance. Seeing that the machine gun fire could not check the advance, the German officer in command called for a barrage artillery fire. But before this could be laid down the Americans had routed the enemy from his first line of trenches.”

Lieutenant Benz went in on the left of Hill 204 with his platoon and together with the French completely routed the German forces. He succeeded in bringing thirty-nine prisoners back to his lines.

Americans rout the Germans at
the Battle of Chateau-Thierry.
American soldiers attacking a German position near Chateau-Thierry, July 1918.

The French general in his report on the work of Lieutenant Benz said:

“Lieutenant Benz and his platoon of American and French soldiers, in spite of the firing of the enemy’s heavy and light machine guns, trench mortars and riflemen placed in trees, bravely threw themselves on their adversaries in a fierce hand-to-hand contest. In a thick and almost impregnable wood, they not only routed the German forces but took thirty-nine prisoners back to the allied lines.”

The sector where Lieutenant Benz operated was of the utmost importance. The enemy had concentrated large forces, and a menacing shrapnel fire was continually harassing our troops located at Vaux directly within the range. The lieutenant and his men started towards the crest of the hill. They soon gained its heights and were forcing their way through the heavy underbrush when a burst of machine gun bullets was sprayed on them.


Taking position as skirmishers the men pressed forward even under this heavy fire, while the enemy troops quickly retired to second line trenches. The lieutenant saw a chance for a rush before the enemy could set up his machine guns in the new position and his men were quickly upon them, forcing them back to the their line and then finally out of the woods.

It was then that a number of the Germans became panic-stricken and beat a hasty retreat, leaving Benz with his thirty-nine prisoners.

Lieutenant Shenkel was also busy on the other side of the hill during all this, for by a flanking movement a detachment of German soldiers had succeeded in trapping Shenkel and a squad of his men. This crisis was quickly broken up by a counterattack.

The lieutenant and his seven men fought like veritable demons, cutting and hacking their way through the Germans with bayonets and the butts of their rifles. Lieutenant Shenkel flirted with death more than once that day, for three times he was targeted by a German sniper who was concealed in a tree. Each time the bullet pierced part of his uniform.

In commending Lieutenant Shenkel for his part in this battle the French high command, after telling of his ardor and bravery in the taking of the hill, declared that “the American people should be proud of the wonderful soldiers that are now fighting with the allies.”

“The odds were ten-to-one against you,” said the General, “but this great disadvantage did not dampen the ardor and bravery of your men. You troops today did what I thought was the impossible. You have taken a position which is of the utmost importance.”

Americans rout the Germans at
the Battle of Chateau-Thierry.
American soldiers engaging the Germans in close combat.

Thus with the taking of Hill 204 one of the most important gains of the Marne sector was made. The Germans, prior to the engagement with the French and Americans, had concentrated more than 1,000 soldiers and an exceptionally large amount of ammunition.

They were preparing for an attack on Vaux, which had been previously wrested from their grasp by the Marines. Had not the Pittsburghers taken Hill 204 the Germans would have had a commanding position whereby they could have readily shelled the Americans out of the town.

The battle opened at 6:00am, July 1, and raged all that day, Before dawn of the next day there was not a single Boche remaining on Hill 204.


Both the Pittsburgh lieutenants were cited by the French for their part in this glorious victory and both received the coveted Croix de Guerre. In speaking later of the work of the men who were in his platoon, Lieutenant Shenkel said that the boys showed wonderful courage and ability and that the people of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania should be proud of every one of them. Lieutenant Benz says that too much credit cannot be given the boys of the Old Eighteenth for the wonderful work they did in chasing the Boche from Hill 204.

Before many hours had passed the news of this action filtered back to the regiment, and also stories of the wonderful work of their comrades, with the result that each man pledged himself, in his own heart, to live up to the standards established by the men of the two platoons from Pittsburgh. Now more than ever before were the men chafing under the restraint which held them back from the front lines, for they were absolutely confident that they could outfight any Boche that ever lived.

But the regiments kept up that dayly routine of drill, bayonet work and rifle practice, together with frequent hikes and all the other activities of intensive training. The men at times began to feel they were “going stale” from overtraining, but the real trouble was their anxiety to get into action.

The work of the airplane in attacking, at low altitudes, the ammunition and transport wagons of
the enemy has been very successful in cutting off huge quantities of supplies for the front lines.



During the first days of July, 1918, Marshal Foch had been gradually working the Germans into a position where there was only one loophole towards which to launch the forthcoming drive, and the Supreme Commander wanted the enemy to make just that move. The direction was straight south at the tip of the Soissons-Rheims salient and in the direction where the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania troops were stationed.

Here Marshal Foch set a trap, for although the lines were only thinly held by the French, he had the Americans in reserve. He had already tested the valor of some of the Pennsylvanians and the other American forces assembled in that section, and he was supremely confident that the great moment had arrived.

The Germans would cross the Marne, but they wouldn’t go far until they met those unyielding lines of doughboys. There would be a violent clash as the Americans unloosed their pent up energy, and then the Germans would find themselves on the defensive and making a hurried effort to get back on the other side of the Marne.

That was the way Marshal Foch expected the affair to work out. He was banking on the Americans, and the Americans did not fail him. Then it was that the German military leaders realized for the first time that the war was lost to them. General Pershing said it was the turning point of the war, and the ex-Crown Prince has since admitted that he knew it was the beginning of the end for Germany. The Boche had never met an “Iron” division.

July 5, 1918, there was a noticeable stir at brigade headquarters. Then messengers began to hurry to the various regimental headquarters and soon the word was passed along that the regiments were to move up in closer support of the French lines. This was cheering news indeed. At last the Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvanians were actually going up into the zone of fire where the great shells would go screeching overhead and fall menacingly near at times.

Early on the morning of July 6, 1918, the 110th, 111th, and the engineers shouldered their equipment and moved forward to the positions assigned them. The 112th was held in reserve.

During the journey one of the soldiers was seen to reach up and pull a branch from a tree alongside the road. He stuck a leaf-covered twig in his cap with the remark that “now I am camouflaged.” The flies were troublesome and his comrades soon perceived that the soldier with the “camouflage” was not bothered.

Then there was a rush for head decorations until the regiments looked like the famous Italian Bersaglieri. The Bersaglieri wear plumed hats. The 110th, 111th and the engineers arrived at their positions without incident, except an occasional reminder from the Boche in the shape of a shell which passed overhead and exploded in the distance. The cannonading also became ever louder and increased in volume as the troops advanced.


The 109th Regiment did not fare so well, for it encountered an area in it's march northward which was being vigorously shelled by the Boche. The regiment had passed the little village of Artonges, where the Dhuys creek joins the road and then follows along the valley towards Pargny-la-Dhuys. The latter town was almost in sight when a shell burst in a field a few hundred yards away.

Then an officer came rushing from brigade headquarters with orders for the regiment immediately to seek cover in the woods nearby. The Germans were raking the countryside in an attempt to locate French batteries. The shelling kept the regiment in the woods until July 10, 1918. Then came orders to advance, and after going through what was left of Pargny, after that terrific shelling, the regiment was ordered off the road into a long ravine.

Then the bombardment started again and the men realized that it was much safer to have the protection of the ravine than to be caught on the shell-swept open road. For three days the enemy kept up the fire. July 13, 1918, when the hour for “taps” arrived, and no orders for the night had been given, the men realized that something was going to happen. At midnight the regiment was formed in light marching order - no heavy packs, no heavy clothes, nothing but fighting equipment and two day’s rations.

Then the column moved northward through the night; up toward the Marne while star shells shed a glow from the sky and shrapnel and high explosives were being showered in all directions. When the column reached the designated position to the left of the engineer regiment of the division the men were told to “dig in!”

The next day was July 14, “Bastille Day,” France’s equivalent of our Independence Day, and from all indications the Pennsylvanians believed it was to be a real celebration.

The Pennsylvania regiments spent Bastille Day in their hastily constructed trenches about two miles from the front line, which was directly along the valley of the Marne. Their line stretched out over quite a distance, with French regiments between each of the regiments of the 28th Division. The engineers were operating as infantry.

The line extended from near Chezy, on the east, to the region of Vaux, beyond Chateau-Thierry, on the west. The 103rd Engineers held the eastern end, and then came the 109th, 110th and 111th. The 112th was back in reserve.

All day long the Pennsylvanians waited patiently for something to happen, but the only excitement was the screech of the shells overhead. Towards evening on Bastille Day runners arrived from brigade headquarters with orders for Colonel Brown of the 109th and Colonel Kemp of the 110th to dispatch two companies from each regiment to fill little gaps in the French lines on the front.

Colonel Kemp forwarded the message to Major Joseph H. Thompson, of Beaver Falls, commanding the first battalion of the 110th. Major Thompson selected Company B, of New Brighton, and Company C, of Somerset. Company B was commanded by Captain William Fish and Company C by Captain William C. Truxel.

Company L and Company M of the 109th were also selected, commanded by Captain James B. Cousart, of Philadelphia, and Captain Edward P. Mackey, of Williamsport, respectively.

The two companies of the old “Fighting Tenth” were placed in the line back of Fossoy and Mezy, directly in the great bend of the river, with the 113th French regiment. The two companies of the eastern Pennsylvania regiment were placed near Passy-sur-Marne and Courtemont-Varennes. It is near this point that the Dhuys River flows into the Marne, and the Dhuys separated the companies of the two regiments. Fossoy, the farthest town to the west, is only four miles from Chateau-Thierry, and Passy is about four miles further east.

The reasons for thus plugging the holes in the French line were many. Marshal Foch had been giving the Germans a jolt here and there until he had them in such a position that the next outbreak was almost sure to occur directly southwest of Chateau-Thierry. The heavy concentration of French troops around Chateau-Thierry had depleted the French front line at this point.


Here it was expected that the Pennsylvania troops would receive their baptism of fire, for they would be directly in the zone of operation. French staff officers accompanied the Americans to the front line and so distributed them that there was alternately a French regiment and a Pennsylvania company. The Pennsylvanians were now operating directly with the French troops and under French higher command.

Between the advanced companies and the Pennsylvania regiments there was an open country with many well-tilled fields stretching away in all directions. Towards the enemy there were dense woods which extended to the Marne, known as the Bois-de-Conde. These woods were to be the scene of some of the most strenuous fighting of the war.

French liaison officers, who came back from the front to consult with the officers of the Pennsylvania regiments, declared that they had made it almost next to impossible for the Germans to get across the Marne. Acres of wire had been strung and machine guns had been massed at every possible point.

Before midnight July 14, 1918, the Pennsylvania companies were in position, and although not a man had been able to secure a minutes sleep for over 48 hours nevertheless they were wide awake. They tried to pierce the gloom of No-Man’s land, for they were anxious to get a sight of the Hun lines. Occasionally a star shell would light up the countryside and they would catch a glimpse of the river but none of the enemy was in sight. The flash of a gun across the river, however, told them that the Hun was not sleeping.

Two miles back in the trenches, where their comrades waited eagerly discussing the adventure which fell to the lot of the four companies, envious eyes were turned in the direction of the front and they sat about in little groups talking of possibilities in the hours to come.


At 11:30pm that night the very heavens were shaken with a roar which sounded as though all the cannon in the world had broken forth at once. The men looked up in amazement as the shells from the French batteries in the rear went screeching over into the enemy lines.

This was something new for the Pennsylvanians, for it was their first experience under intensive artillery fire. Later they learned that this activity was designed to break up enemy concentrations of men and munitions and to harass his artillery concentrations.

The Germans paid little attention to the French cannonade, for the German adheres to a system and the “zero hour” had not yet arrived. Midnight came and went, and the French artillery continued to hurl tons of shrapnel and high explosive shells to the north of the Marne.

But the hour was fast approaching when it was expected there would be some retort from Fritz, for it was known that he had concentrated all his resources for a last stupendous effort. The German Supreme Command was staking everything on this attempt to break through to Paris. To the German mind such a success would mean victory and an early end to the war.


At 12:30am the German front, for a distance of sixty-five miles, belched forth a stream of fire the like of which had never been witnessed before. It has since been described by the French as the most terrific bombardment of the war.

It was the opening salvo announcing that the last German offensive was on and that it was to be the mightiest of man’s mighty efforts to force slavery upon the world.

The Second Battle of the Marne had opened and the Allies waited nervously to learn of the result. All the free men on the earth knew that civilization was hanging in the balance.

Documents taken from prisoners who were captured later show that the French did not exaggerate when they declared the bombardment to be the heaviest of the war. On one prisoner was found a copy of a General Order to the troops assuring them of victory.

It informed the Germans that this was the great offensive which was to force the Allies to make peace and that when the time came to advance they would find themselves unopposed.

The reason for this, according to the order, was that the attack was to be preceded by artillery preparation that would destroy completely all troops for twenty miles in front of the German lines. It has since been learned that shells fell twenty-five miles back of the Allied lines.

It was the opening of this offensive that the Kaiser witnessed, and Karl Rosner, his favorite correspondent, wrote to the Berlin Lokal Anzeiger:

The Kaiser inspects his legions.
The German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, inspects his Prussian Guards.

“The Emperor listened to the terrible orchestra of our surprise fire attack and looked on the unparalleled picture of the projectiles raging towards the enemy’s positions.”

Thus the lads from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania also had the privilege of sharing with the then Prussian warlord all the wonders of this “surprise fire attack.”


But how were our lads in the very front line of trenches faring under this terrific hail of steel? The Emperor’s correspondent described the din as a “terrible orchestra” but most of the Western Pennsylvanians, when writing home about their experience on that night, gave to it the short four-lettered word that Sherman used.

The soldiers crouched in their trenches powerless to do anything for themselves or each other. This most pretentious effort of the Hun was entirely different from the low rumbling sound like thunder to which they had become accustomed during the past few weeks. This was deafening and ear-splitting, and the earth fairly rocked under their feet.

It was one continuous roar and was heard in Paris, fifty miles away, where people resting after their day of celebrating were wakened from the sound sleep of exhaustion while windows cracked and pictures were jolted from the walls. The people of Paris heard and wondered and breathed a prayer for the boys out there who were charged with the mission of withstanding that avalanche of death and destruction.

The nerves of some of the Pennsylvanians were apparently giving way under the terrible strain and there were men who had to be forcibly restrained from rushing madly out of the trenches - anywhere to get away from that awful noise and suspense. French and American officers went up and down the line encouraging the men and speaking a word here and there where needed.

The other Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvanians back in the support trenches two miles away fared little better than did their comrades of the four companies in front. The Hun shells raked the back areas and the men had to clench their fists and bite their lips to withstand the tension on their nerves. Nevertheless, our boys fought grimly against that madness which often comes to green troops serving for the first time under such conditions, and they were amazingly determined and courageous through it all.


The knowledge that eventually the Boche would come forth, and that they must be in condition to meet and stop him, helped to steady the nerves of many a doughboy during the seemingly endless hours of that cannonade. The artillery preparation of the Germans was for a longer time than usual. This was because something had gone wrong with the German schedule.

The Boche is methodical and has a schedule for everything, and with this schedule goes the supreme confidence that it always will be carried out. His schedule was upset at the very start that night by the early bombardment of his lines and back areas. It was revealed later that after one solid hour of artillery preparation the Germans were to swing pontoon bridges across the Marne. This should have occurred at 1:30am.

The anticipatory fire of the French had harassed the Germans in their preparations to such an extent that the bridges were not swung across the Marne until 3:00am. The original schedule also called for advance guards to be in Montmirail at 8:30am that morning. It will be remembered that it was in and around Montmirail that the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania men were billeted previous to moving northwards to support the French lines.

The German infantry advance began immediately after the pontoon bridges were across the Marne. The famous Prussian guards led. They literally swarmed upon the bridges. The French and four companies of Americans poured into this living mass such a rain of bullets that their rifles became hot and their arms tired from the repeated loading and firing.

They worked fast and saw their concentrated fire tear great gaps in the oncoming hordes, but these gaps were quickly filled by Germans pushed forward from the rear. The Huns were herded onto these bridges like so many cattle being driven into slaughter pens, and slaughter pens they were for the river was soon choked with the bodies of the dead, and it remained so for several days afterwards.


Officers, in describing the behavior of the Pennsylvania boys on this memorable occasion, said that immediately when the Hun appeared their nervousness and excitement dropped from them like the cloak from the body of a gladiator just stepping into the arena.

Their steadiness was magnificent and they gave assurance that they would live up to every tradition of their nation and their state. French officers afterwards said they were amazed at the way in which these Pennsylvanians met their baptism of fire.

It had always been the custom to have new troops going to France “blooded” gradually in minor engagements and in frequent contact with the enemy before being sent into major operations. It was the intention that the Pennsylvania troops should have this experience, but a change in the Boche plans, and the necessity for haste, decreed otherwise. It was thus that Pennsylvania troops were hurled into the greatest battle of the war without going through the usual easy stages of approach.

The maximum German effort of the thrust was made along their front and it seemed almost as if the enemy knew he faced green troops and, by pitting against them his crack regiments, he counted on having an easy breakthrough.

The Hun with his perfected military machine could not understand how it would be possible for “green” troops to withstand an attack by the Prussian Guards. There was no known rule by which such an eventuality could be even suspected, much less given the most fleeting thought or consideration. The Guards were expected to brush those new troops aside as a man brushes a fly from his hand - and then on to Paris and victory!

German storm troopers at the
Battle of the Marne.
Elite German storm troopers of the Crown Prince on the attack during the Second Battle of the Marne.


Some idea of the tremendous feat accomplished by these Pennsylvanians may be gleaned from the fact that the Germans used no less than fourteen divisions, approximately 170,000 men, in the first line on this part of the battlefield. Behind these in support were an additional fourteen divisions.

Some of the Boche support divisions were used to fill gaps in the front lines, so there were actually more than 170,000 Germans engaged. No figures are available as to the French, but their lines were so thinly held that Americans had to stop up the gaps and there were fewer than 15,000 Pennsylvanians in the four regiments.

But the Keystone held. The German offensive smashed against those living, breathing walls which could not be swayed or moved. They were “green” troops, but the Kaiser had none to withstand their withering fire or the cold, sharp points of their bayonets.

The Pennsylvanians wrote one of the most brilliant pages in the military annals of the world, and the story of that stand will go down in history alongside that of the Old Guard at Waterloo. But the door to glory and to death swung wide for many a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania lad that night.

The terrible slaughter at the bridges which the Boche had thrown across the Marne failed to stop those green-gray waves and, after sufficient of the Prussian Guards were on the south side of the river, they charged up the wooded slope.

The masses were so dense that the hurricane of machine gun and rifle bullets pouring into them failed to make any appreciable impression. They swept onward and then over the first line of trenches in which were positioned the companies of the old Tenth.


The Pennsylvanians, finding themselves surrounded on all sides and split into little groups by the rush of the enemy were determined to forfeit their lives as dearly as possible. It became a hand-to-hand combat in which the Pennsylvanians were seen to rise to heroic heights.

They forgot for the moment the lessons of warfare so carefully learned in the camps, and with bayonet and rifle butt, and even with their bare hands, they savagely attacked the Huns. Men were locked breast to breast in combat, from which the only escape was death to one of them.

There was one lad in the melee that had his rifle knocked from his hands and with blazing eyes and clenched fists he went at an antagonist. The American managed to get in a hard punch on the point of his opponent’s chin and just as he delivered the blow a bullet hit him in the back.

The German, staggering under the blow on his chin, threw up his arms and his rifle dropped. The American grabbed it up and plunged the bayonet through the breast of his enemy, at the same time not forgetting to gurgle out the ferocious “yah!” which he had learned at bayonet practice in the camps. Then he toppled over on the German.

The little groups of Americans fought back-to-back, and fired and hacked and hewed at the enemy masses. No group knew how the others were doing, and many said afterwards that they felt certain that it was the end of all things for them. It was only a question of accounting for as many Huns as possible before it came their turn to cross the Great Divide.

It was then that there occurred the great tragedy for those valiant Pennsylvanians. One of their officers noticed that they were no longer supported by the French on their flanks. Something had failed or someone had blundered. Either the liaison service between the French and Americans had been broken or the runners had been killed, or perhaps an officer who had received the orders to fall back had died before he could give the command.


Soon the officers and men of all four companies realized that they were alone on the field and that the French forces had moved backwards. It was the famous “yielding defense” of the French in action, but for some reason the Americans had not been informed of the execution of this movement. The four companies of Pennsylvanians faced the army of the German Crown Prince, but even then they were undaunted and undefeated.

No man of the four companies who went through that Gehenna of fighting has any clear idea fixed in his mind as to just what happened during these crucial moments. Thousands of Prussians were between them and the French by that time and there was only one thing to do. Either die where they were or take a chance at hacking their way through the Germans and thus regain the lines where the French were now making a stand.

This was a difficult feat to attempt, especially when the companies were all split up into little groups, nevertheless, it was the only way out. To have stayed and died in their tracks would have been a useless sacrifice, and civilization needed every man that day.

The groups frequently formed into fan-shaped circles and moved backward, fighting the enemy from all sides. Then one group would meet up with another and these little forces, thus combined, were able to make more headway. Company B, of the 110th, was surrounded and split, and after hours of fighting, during which it was necessary, time after time, to charge the Huns with bayonets and rally the group repeatedly to keep it from disintegrating.

Captain Fish, of New Brighton, with Lieutenant Claude Smith, of New Castle, and Lieutenant Gilmore Hayman, of Berwyn, fought their way back with 123 men. They brought with them several prisoners and carried twenty-six of their own wounded.

The other members of Company B were surrounded in the woods. They made a running fight of it but were scattered badly and drifted back to the lines in little groups. They were forced to leave many comrades behind, dead or wounded. Some were taken prisoner.

Two companies of the “Fighting Tenth” boldly battle and refuse to give way before crack Prussian divisions.
Companies B and C were caught in the center of the rush and, although surrounded, fought their way out.



Company C of the 110th had about the same experience as Company B of the same regiment when the four Pennsylvania companies were cut off and surrounded at the opening of the Battle of the Marne. Only about half the men returned to the regiment.

Captain Truxal and Lieutenants Wilbur Schell and Samuel S. Crouse were surrounded by greatly superior forces and taken prisoner with a small group of their men. But they did not give up until they were convinced that it was utterly impossible to fight their way out; that to continue the struggle meant death for all of them and nothing substantial to be gained by the sacrifice.

Corporal Alva Martz, of Glencoe, was standing on the south bank of the Marne in charge of a working party of five privates who were engaged in stringing wire entanglements when the German offensive was launched. Martz quickly called to his men to take cover and they dropped into shell holes. The wire had not been broken by the German cannonade at the point where they were concealed and the Kaiser’s hordes swept around and past them. Then they were completely cut off from their comrades.

They carefully crept from shell hole to shell hole until they approached a tree line. Then Martz ordered bayonets fixed and with a hearty yell the squad charged the Germans between them and the woods. The enemy, believing they were attacked in force on their flank, gave way and the little group was able to make the cover of the woods in safety.

For more than two hours Martz and his companions worked their way through the forest. At times they had to fight desperately when they met groups of the enemy. They were hunting for the place where they believed their company had been stationed, but the company was not there. Suddenly they glimpsed American uniforms through the foliage and thought they had rejoined the company. However, it was only Sergeant Robert Floto, of Meyersdale, a member of their company, with half a dozen men.

Sergeant Floto assumed command of the entire group and they pressed on. They met up with another American who was fighting mad and on the verge of tears because the six other lads who had been with him were suddenly cut off by a party of Germans and taken prisoner. He had seen his comrades led off towards the river by two Hun officers.


Martz thought they ought to try to do something to release the six prisoners so, with the permission of Sergeant Floto, he selected John J. Mullen, of Philadelphia, to go along and set out on the dangerous rescue mission. All of the men wanted to go, but Martz insisted it was a job for only two men. Mullen was a former guardsman, but was now a selected man who had been sent from Camp Meade several months before to help fill up the ranks of the Company.

Corporal Martz and Mullen then set out to locate their comrades who were being marched to the rear by the Huns. Although surrounded by a goodly part of the Crown Prince’s crack troops they never faltered, being sustained in their undertaking by the firm conviction that they could turn the trick. They half crawled through the thick woods and finally came upon the party marching single file on a path between the trees.

One German officer was in the lead of the convoy and another was bringing up the rear. Martz and Mullen decided the best plan would be to ambush the party, and so they circled around until they were close to a point where the officers and their prisoners would have to pass.

Martz told Mullen to take the officer in the lead while he would look after the one in the rear. Both Martz and Mullen were rated as marksmen. They took careful aim and, at a nod from Martz, their rifles cracked simultaneously. Both Hun officers dropped dead in their tracks.

The little band of prisoners were almost stunned with surprise to find that they were no longer guarded and peered anxiously into the foliage from whence came the shots. Martz and Mullen stepped forward and motioned for them to get under cover. There was no time for thanks or congratulations.


Then the little party hurried back the way they had come, the rescued men arming themselves with rifles and ammunition from the dead lying in the woods. Martz and his men soon rejoined Sergeant Floto and the party. Now being of more formidable size, the group started to march back towards the American and French lines.

The Germans were broken up into little groups by this time so the Americans didn’t bother about trying to hide. They marched boldly as a belligerent force, not hunting fight, but moving not a step to avoid one.

A few hours later the party met up with another group under the command of Captain Charles L. McClain, of Indiana, who took command. Captain McLain put a stop to the rush through the Hun-infested wood by daylight and ordered the men to hide until nightfall. Captain McLain said that a rear guard was necessary, so Corporal Martz and Mullen promptly volunteered for this dangerous duty.

After nightfall the party was able to make the regimental lines without further adventure. The men had been out for thirty-six hours in that caldron of gas and machine gun and artillery fire.

The two companies from the eastern part of the state fared little better than the Western Pennsylvanians, for they went through practically the same experiences. Separated into little groups by the sudden rush of the Germans, and not having been apprised of the withdrawal of the French were soon surrounded. They also began to battle their way back towards the new line of defense.

Many of the officers of these two companies were either killed or taken prisoner, as well as many of the enlisted men, and they endured all that their fellows in the two western companies did.


The easterners gradually drifted back to the regimental lines in small squads under the shadow of night. The four companies were so depleted that it was decided to form them into one company until replacements were received.

Captain McLain was later cited in official orders and decorated for his part in the affair. In awarding the Distinguished Service Medal, the official communication of the war department set forth:

“Captain Charles L. McLain, 110th Infantry, for repeated acts of extraordinary heroism in action on the Marne River, France, July 15, 1918, and at Apremont, France, September 29, 1918. Captain McLain was an observer with the French when the enemy attack on the Marne River was started July 15, 1918. All the officers of an infantry company having been killed or wounded, he voluntarily reorganized the remainder of the company and successfully fought his way through the enemy, upon two occasions being surrounded.

In this operation he was badly gassed. At Apremont, September 29, when his own company had reached its objective, Captain McLain, finding that another company was without officers, voluntarily assumed command of it and led the first wave. In so doing, Captain McLain was wounded, but he continued in action until the objective was reached.”

During those long weary hours of carnage while the Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvanians, belonging to the companies which were out in front, were bravely standing off the German hordes and fighting their way back to the lines, the other Pennsylvania regiments continued to endure the storm of shells. The men were under a terrible nerve strain and longed for an opportunity to experience the excitement of combat in order to relieve the tension.

Finally, they saw the French come filtering through the woods before them and looked eagerly for sight of their comrades who were out there. As the French continued to pass and they did not see any of the members of the four companies, it was realized that they must be having a hard time. It was at this stage of the battle that Colonel Kemp, of the 110th exclaimed: “I wonder what is happening to my poor boys out there.”

Shortly before daybreak the vanguard of the Prussians reached the edge of the woods, and when the men on watch saw the gray-clad figures slinking around among the trees they immediately opened fire. This was the first sight of the enemy for most of the soldiers from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. Within a few hours sufficient of the enemy had assembled along the fringe of wood to form a line and soon the waves came forward in an effort to take our trenches.


Our boys poured into those advancing lines such a concentration of rifle, machine gun, and artillery fire that the first wave just seemed to wither away. No force could withstand that terrific storm of steel for long. The following waves slackened their pace, hesitated and finally broke and ran for the cover of the woods.

It was then that the Pennsylvanians discovered that the Germans were not invincible; that despite the boasted perfection of his military machine the Hun could not stand the resistance if it were given to him with sufficient force. The breaking up of this attack gave to the men that degree of confidence and self-reliance which they later exemplified on many a bloody field. They knew they were unbeatable, for they had just broken up a charge by the crack Prussian Guards.

But the Germans returned to the assault, and time and time again attempted to rush the trenches. Numbers of the enemy, having gained the wheat fields out in front between the trenches and the wood, attempted to use the waving wheat as a protection whereby they could crawl up to the trenches. Our boys saw the move and whole platoons volunteered to meet them at their own game.

American soldiers at the Battle of the Marne
American soldiers beat back the Germans at the Second Battle of the Marne.


The Pennsylvanians who were permitted to go crawled out into the wheat and began a deadly game of hide and seek, with the Americans and Germans stalking each other like big game is stalked, flat on their faces in the growing grain.

It was just such fighting as the American loves, for there is something he has inherited from his pioneer ancestors which gives him skill in such work. The Germans were no match for our boys at this game, and scores of them remained behind after the tide of battle had passed, with the spires of grain whispering and nodding a requiem over them.

The Crown Prince’s forces kept up their attacks with characteristic stubbornness, and officers could be seen here and there mingling with the German soldiers, beating and kicking them to force them forward in the face of the murderous fire.

It was during this phase of the battle that some of our boys saw a mutiny take place in the German lines. Several of the German soldiers resenting this rough treatment turned on an officer and literally jabbed him full of holes with their bayonets.

For their trouble they were pumped full of lead by other officers with automatic weapons. It was evident then that the Germans were disappointed at not having attained their objectives and that as a result their morale was ebbing.

During this almost continuous game of attack and repulse, the old “Fighting Tenth” had been withstanding the brunt of the battle and the Germans had been gradually gnawing into it's lines. Then occurred one of the most dramatic incidents of the conflict.


The men had been in constant action for twenty-four hours without food or sleep and were indeed on the verge of exhaustion. Workers attached to the various welfare societies brought the only relief in the shape of chocolates, cigarettes and other bits of comfort. They had established headquarters in a dugout in the side of a low bluff facing away from the enemy.

Among these workers was the Reverend Francis A. LaViolette, of Seattle, Washington, attached to the YMCA. He was taking a few minutes rest in the dugout after his strenuous labors when he heard the flutter of wings at the entrance and found a tired and frightened pigeon. The bird had a little metal case attached to it's leg in which was a message. It was written in German, and the minister believing that it might contain important enemy information rushed it to headquarters.

The message was translated, and to the astonishment of the officers it was a cry of desperation from the Germans to their reserve forces in the rear. It said that, unless reinforcements were sent at once, the German line at that point would be forced to retire.

There were grave fears right at that moment that the Germans would succeed in breaking through to Paris and this was indeed cheering news. The pigeon had become lost in the murk and had delivered it's message on the wrong side of the fighting front.

Rapidly this news was sent down the line, and in half an hour tanks, artillery and thousands of French troops were rushing to the point where the Germans were in distress. With this assistance and the knowledge contained in the message which the pigeon brought our boys, the French advanced and hurled the enemy back.


After the first day of the German attack, the German Quartermaster General, Erich von Ludendorf was quoted as saying:

"... all divisions achieved brilliant successes, with the exception of the one division on our right wing. This encountered American units! Here only did the Seventh Army, in the course of the first day of the offensive, confront serious difficulties. It met with the unexpectedly stubborn and active resistance of fresh American troops."

"While the rest of the divisions of the Seventh Army succeeded in gaining ground and gaining tremendous booty, it proved impossible for us to move the right apex of our line, to the south of the Marne, into a position advantageous for the development of the ensuing fight. The check we thus received was one result of the stupendous fighting between our 10th Division of infantry and American troops ..."

The Boche leaders knew all along that the American entry into the conflict would tilt the scales in the Allies favor, and their Spring Offensive was timed to put the British and French out of the war before the Americans, and their fresh troops, could become a factor.

Already frustrated in their Aisne Offensive at Chateau-Thierry by the recently arrived First Division, and at Belleau Wood by the Marine Corps, the Hun was again stung by the tenacity and unfailing spirit of American soldiers. The gig was up, and the Boche High Command, always slow to admit that their superior military machine was capable of failure, knew it right away.


On the right of our line the Germans had been able to thrust forward strong local attacks reaching St. Agnan and La Chapelle-Manthodon. St. Agnan, three miles south of the nearest spot on the Marne, was the farthest south the Germans ever advanced. Our boys almost immediately, with the assistance of French Chasseurs (Blue Devils), launched a counterattack which drove the enemy out of the villages and started him on his long retreat.

From that time on the Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvanians gave the Hun no respite. They followed him and hounded and slaughtered him until they finally gave him the death blow at the Battle of the Meuse.

During this fighting our boys learned that what their British instructors had told them was true - the Hun hates, and fears, the bayonet more than any other weapon of warfare. So they didn’t do any firing when they had a chance to use the cold steel.

The Huns had already had several tastes of American fighting such as they never expected to experience and, when they saw that long line of bristling bayonets, backed up by grim determined faces, they didn’t wait to be tickled with the points.

It was very evident that the Germans had been shorn of their oldtime confidence and, with many of their men fleeing in panic rather than come to grips with the Pennsylvanians, there was little chance for their officers to stem our charge and so the enemy fell back rapidly to the Marne.

In following up this retreat of the Germans, our men also learned that the Hun will fight in masses, but split him up into little groups and he becomes the worst sort of coward. If one happens to be left alone there is no fight in him.

They learned, too, in this advance, the truth of the oft repeated charge that Germans chain their men to machine guns so that they cannot escape, and are thus forced to hinder the advance of the enemy and make his losses as heavy as possible.

German Machine Gun Nest
German machine gunners constantly harrassed the advancing Americans, taking a deadly toll on the doughboys.


Frequently our men found it necessary to clean out these nests. They would sneak up on the Germans until close enough to make a sudden rush, and then up would go the hands of the Boche machine gunners and they would cry out "Americans, Kamerads! Kamerads!"

But whether the chained gunners were accorded any mercy depended on the individuals who happened to be in the group that captured them. Very often they were given the bayonet as a protest against such tactics, but occasionally they were released from their chains and sent to the rear as prisoners.

Our men suffered numerous casualties by being too eager to keep at the heels of the retreating Hun. Some of the Germans would hide in the woods and after the Pennsylvanians had passed would suddenly pour in on them a murderous machine gun fire from the rear. Snipers concealed in trees were also very annoying. In scores of instances our men found machine guns and gunners both tied in trees, so that neither could fall.

There were other instances of Huns playing dead until the Americans had passed and then rising up and firing at them from the rear. That is an old trick, but Allied soldiers who tried it early in the war discovered the Germans countered it by having men come along after the advancing troops, bayoneting everybody on the field to make sure all were dead.

However, the Germans did not fear to attempt this trick when facing the Americans because they felt sure the soldiers of Uncle Sam would never bayonet wounded men or dead bodies.

Sergeant Charles McFadden, of Philadelphia, had an experience with one of these Huns “playing possum.” The German was in a shell pit and apparently dead. He noticed that the eyes were closed so tightly that the man was “squinting” from the effort. he became suspicious. McFadden gave the German a vicious jab in the leg with his bayonet with the result that the “possum” leaped to his feet with a yell.

The German seized the rifle from the astonished American’s hand and threw it up to fire, but before he could pull the trigger McFadden’s companion shot him.


At one point the 110th not only forced the Germans back to the Marne, but across it. This was below Fossoy. However, the Germans were now under the protection of their artillery which laid down such an intense fire that our men were obliged to get back under cover. The men had tasted of victory and were loath to pull back. They fell back slowly, not pressed by the Germans, to their former positions.

On this surge towards the Marne the Pennsylvanians began to get real first-hand evidence of Hun methods of fighting - the kind of thing that turned three-fourths of the world into active enemies of Germans and their ways, and sickened the soul of all who learned what creatures in the image of man can do.

In the advance between Mezzy, Mouline and Courtemont-Varennes they came on machine gun nests with their comrades who had been taken prisoners earlier in the day tied out in front so that they would fall first victims to their friend’s fire should an attack be made on the gunners. Men told with tears running down their cheeks how these brave lads seeing the advancing Americans shouted to them:

“Shoot! Shoot! Don’t stop for us!”

They saw airplanes painted with the French colors fly low and drop bombs where they believed our batteries to be stationed, and also pour machine gun fire into our infantry. The Germans mingled a quantity of gas shells with their explosive shells during the attempt to stop our advance, and this caused no little inconvenience for our men because they were obliged to wear gas masks practically all the time.

Any person who has ever donned one of these contrivances knows how unpleasant it is, for although it protects against the deadly fumes, nevertheless it is very difficult to see and breathe, because the air is impregnated with the chemicals used to remove the gas.

The Germans also used flamethrowers on our men for many returned to the rear with burns upon their faces, hands and bodies. Some had their clothes burned entirely off and others reeled along like drunken men almost blinded. As the Americans approached the Huns to give battle, the latter would turn the valve in the nozzles of these contrivances and a spurt of flame, often thirty feet in length, would leap forth.


During one part of the battle, a part of the old Eighteenth of Pittsburgh confronted a small wood which the French believed masked a strong machine gun nest. A patrol of volunteers and some men selected by the officers, and in command of a French lieutenant, started out to ascertain just what was in the wood. There were twelve men and the lieutenant in the party. Private Joseph Bennet, of Gulph Mills, was one of the twelve.

Advancing with the greatest care, and with their line no more than normal skirmish distance, they approached the wood, but there was no sign of life. When closer to the wood, they saw the body of an American soldier propped up against a tree. The French officer signaled for the men to close in towards this point.

German Machine Gun Nest
German machine gun nests brought a hail of fire onto the advancing Marines.

As they did so four machine guns, concealed by the Hunnish ghouls behind the body of the American, raked the line of approaching men with terrific fire. Every man in that party except Bennet was killed instantly. Bennet fired one shot and saw one of the Boche plunge forward from his hiding place. Then a stream of machine gun bullets struck his rifle and destroyed it.

Bennet quickly dropped to the ground and, dragging himself to the body of the dead lieutenant, secured a number of smoke bombs with which the lieutenant had intended to signal the result of his expedition.

Bennet heaved them over in front of the nest and created such a dense cloud of smoke that he was able to stand up. Then he advanced and threw hand grenades into the position killing the remaining three Germans.

For this deed Bennet was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He also had another experience of an unusual sort when in company with Private Joseph Wolf, of Pottstown, he spied a Boche sniper in a tree. He was just drawing a bead on an American officer when Bennet picked him off.

In falling the body dislodged a second German. Bennet had not lowered his rifle and the live German fell directly on the point of his bayonet, impaling himself. The force of the blow almost dropped the big American, who tipped the scales at about 200 pounds.


Our boys did not realize until later the importance of their success in driving the enemy back to the Marne, but the Allied commanders knew. General Pershing, in an order to the troops, declared that it was the turning point of the war. He said:

"It fills me with pride to forward in general orders a tribute to the service achievements of the First and Third corps, comprising the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Twenty-sixth, Twenty-Eighth, Thirty-second and Forty-second divisions. You came to the battlefield at a crucial hour for the Allied cause. For almost four years the most formidable army the world has yet seen had pressed it's invasion of France and stood threatening the capital."

"On July 15, it struck to destroy, in one great battle, the brave men opposed to it and to enforce it's brutal will upon the world and civilization. Three days later, in conjunction with our allies, you counterattacked. The Allied armies gained a brilliant victory that marks the turning point of the war."

Our men also received copies of a great London daily newspaper containing a pleasing estimate of their prowess:

"The feature of the battle on which the eyes of the world are fixed, and those of the enemy with particular intentness, is the conduct of the American troops. The magnificent counterattacks in which the Americans flung back the Germans on the Marne, after they had crossed, was more than the outstanding event of the fighting. It was one of the historical incidents of the whole war in it's moral significance."

Other cheering news, which was passed down through the various ranks from headquarters, was to the effect that our intelligence officers had secured from the body of a dead German intelligence officer a report which he had prepared for German great headquarters on the fighting qualities of the Americans.

He had written that their morale was not yet broken, that they were young and vigorous soldiers and nearly, if not quite, the caliber of shock troops, needing only more experience to make them so.

American Machine Gunners
American machine gunners were a vital part of both the U.S. defensive and offensive doctrine.


After the Germans had been pushed back to the Marne they made another attempt to move eastward along the banks of the river near Epernay. The checking of this move fell chiefly to the French troops. But all the time the enemy kept up a continuous, vindictive bombardment on the trenches occupied by the soldiers from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, without any apparent purpose but to shake that splendid morale of which their intelligence officer had written.

The regiments marched off southward from the rest billets for a few miles and then turned sharply to the west, thus passing around a district which was still being shelled heavily by the German artillery. The enemy was attempting to hold back the Pennsylvanians until they could get their own materials out of the Chateau-Thierry salient.

After again reaching the Marne, which turns sharply south at Chateau-Thierry, the regiments made camp and received contingents of replacement troops to fill up the now depleted ranks. The four companies which had suffered so severely at the Marne battle July 15, and had later been formed into one company, were again separated and brought up to their regular strength. They were practically new organizations after these replacements were completed. The new men were made welcome and proved to be excellent soldier material, although very few of them were from Pennsylvania.

July 24, the regiments resumed their march. Their course lay along the road paralleling the railroad line between Paris and Chateau-Thierry. It followed the river rather closely except for it's numerous bends. Our boys had heard much of Chateau-Thierry and were hoping to get a look at the town where the Marines and some other American troops had written history, but they were only able to get glimpses of it from the far side of the river.

The night of July 24, the regiments camped in the woods along the Marne and the men had their first experience with enemy airplane night-raiders. Certain units of the Pennsylvania regiments had been sent out to guard bridges across the river, and at about 3:00am the Germans attempted to bomb and destroy these bridges, in order further to retard the advance of our troops. However, the air defense was too quick for them and the Boche fled before the air barrage put up by our big guns.


The regiments remained in camp all the next day, and the next night they were again visited by enemy airmen attempting to blow up the bridges. This time the Boche flyers were able to get over the bridges and drop bombs, and about all the men on guard could do was to seek cover hurriedly. However, the aim of the Germans was not good and they were only successful in slightly wrecking the bridge.

Early on the morning of July 26 the regiments started in a northeasterly direction with orders to reach contact with the enemy as soon as possible and to drive on through the center of the Marne pocket. The 112th regiment had come up by this time and had engaged in some desperate fighting with German rear guards in the vicinity of Chateau-Thierry.

When the Franco-American offensive from Soissons to Bussiares, on the western side of the pocket, began to compel a German retreat from the Marne, the old Sixteenth, Pennsylvania National Guard, was right on their heels. The 111th and 110th regiments were close behind, and soon all three came in contact with the enemy.

The Germans were depending on machine gun nests to retard the progress of the Pennsylvanians, and orders were issued to beware of every spot that might shelter a sniper or machine gun. To offset this danger the regiments deployed into skirmish lines with advanced patrols, and every known precaution was taken to prevent the men from being surprised by parties of Germans left behind with these deadly weapons.

The Germans were also using gas shells, and much of the time the men were forced to suffer the inconveniences incident to wearing the gas masks. Enemy aircraft circled overhead, but were prevented from getting close enough to do damage by our own airmen who continually patrolled the areas over our troops. What bombs the enemy planes were able to drop did no damage because of the fact that our men were scattered out in the skirmish formation.

By night our men rested in the forests and secured what little sleep was possible. They managed to evade the vigilance of the enemy airmen and thus were not subjected to concentrated artillery fire. But the continual thunder of the guns and the bursting of an occasional shell in the woods didn’t allow them much chance to slumber, although they were grateful for the rest after the strenuous activities of the day.



The Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania soldiers were now in territory where the Germans had occupied long enough to establish themselves, where they had expected to stay, but had been driven out sullenly and reluctantly. Here it was that our boys had their first opportunity to learn what it means to a peaceful countryside and undergo a German invasion.

The wonderful roads of France had been effaced in many places by shellfire. Town and villages were reduced to heaps of broken masonry. Even the stone fences had been torn down. Not a wall was left standing and mansions centuries old suffered the same devastation. Priceless rugs and tapestries scattered about and ground into the mud.

Trees and grapevines were cut off at the roots and in instances where the Hun had been unable to cut down the trees, rings were hacked in the bark all around the trunks in order to kill them. The country was bare of everything, and a Texas cyclone could not have accomplished nearly so much destruction as did these merciless and brutish Germans.

To add to this the Hun did not have time to bury his dead, and the stench was awful from the decomposing bodies lying about in heaps. At one place our boys came upon a machine gun position, with many dead Boche scattered all around it. Close beside one of the guns, almost in a sitting posture, was an American lad. He had one arm thrown over the weapon as if in pride of possession, and his fine, youthful, clean-cut face was fixed in death with a glorified smile of triumph.

As the Pennsylvanians came up to this spot scores of officers and men unconsciously clicked their heels together and came to the salute in silent tribute to this fair-haired boy who had not lived to enjoy his well-won laurels. How he ever got through to that nest is, and will probably always remain a mystery.

He was not one of our Pennsylvania troops, but he was buried tenderly, and the identification tags were sent back to headquarters. He had evidently won through to the guns and had killed all the Germans, but in so doing had been so severely wounded that he was just able to reach the spot where our men found him.

And it was near this gruesome spot that shortly afterwards our men were treated to another of the ever changing scenes of battle. The sight was picturesque because it brought to mind the warfare of the past and to Americans memories of pioneer days.

Troop after troop of cavalry came into sight and passed our men, the gallant horsemen sitting on their steeds with conscious pride, jingling accoutrements playing an accompaniment to their sharp canter. Some were French and some Americans, and our Pennsylvanians cheered them heartily. They were on their way to further harry the retreating foe.

Cavalry was not a common sight in this war. It had seldom been seen on the battlefield since the Hun went mad in 1914.

The three regiments from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, 110th, 111th and 112th, were now in contact with the retreating enemy forces and drove steadily northeastward in the direction of the towns of Trugny and Epieds, where they met with stiff resistance. During this advance a part of the 110th regiment sought shelter under an overhanging bank to escape a sudden spurt of enemy artillery fire.

The men had not been there long, and the officers were congratulating themselves because of the narrow escape from being caught in the open while this shelling was under way, when a big shell burst over the edge of the bank directly above Company A.

Two men were killed outright and several were wounded. Lieutenant George W. Martin, of Narberth, with several of his men rushed to give first aid to the wounded, and the first man he reached was Private Allanson R. Day, Jr, of Monongahela City - “Deacon” Day as the boys called him because of a mildness of manner and a religious turn of mind.

As the lieutenant prepared to render first aid to Day, the youngster told the officer to attend to Paul Marshall, saying that Marshall was more severely wounded.

“Dress him first,” said Day, “I can wait.” Even then the Monongahela lad was wounded to death, as it developed later, for he did not survive.

It was during these days that our Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania soldiers began to work up a real and intensive hate for the Hun. They learned more of him and his ways after they crossed the Marne, and they found their loudly-voiced threats turning to a steely, silent, implacable wrath that boded no good for the Boche.

It was a feeling of utter detestation and it is doubtful if their officers could have turned them back had word come through at that particular time that peace had been declared.

Gradually the Pennsylvanians began to close in on Trugny and Epieds. The first named is about four miles from Chateau-Thierry, and Epieds about one mile from Trugny. They lie almost in a straight line along the route where our troops were advancing.

The Germans were having a strenuous time to get their army and war material out of the Soissons-Rheims pocket, and they sent large numbers of fresh troops down to Trugny and Epieds in an effort to hold back the determined Americans. These two villages were utilized in their scheme of defense and were strongly held with machine guns and artillery.


At times, as our men moved up closer, they were so eager that they frequently passed their stated objectives and ran into their own barrage fire, with the result that their officers had to call off the barrage to save them from being destroyed by our own guns. The Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania doughboys were out to avenge some hurts and had forgotten that there was any such command as “Halt!”

Trugny and Epieds were hard nuts to crack. The Germans were well prepared to withstand an attack, and for thirty-six hours our men flirted around the outskirts in attempts to flank or penetrate the towns.

Finally the Allied guns were rushed up in numbers and soon brought Trugny down about the ears of it's defenders and, although the Boche retired to Epieds, strong machine gun detachments were left behind to hamper as much as possible the American advance.

Epieds was even more difficult than Trugny, and our troops were in and out of the town three times before they were finally able to rid the place of the desperate Hun. The artillery first treated the village to a heavy bombardment which made it grow smaller and smaller under the ceaseless pounding of the guns.

The buildings just seemed to pulverize and go up in dust. It was a case of the Pennsylvanians getting into the village streets and driving the Germans from house to house. The Germans would send new troops in to stiffen the resistance and drive our boys out, but they would immediately come back to the attack.

Finally the Pennsylvania troops, learning that their heavy artillery support had come up, decided not to risk any more lives in this street fighting. The town was now swarming with Germans as heavy reinforcements had been thrown in with orders to hold the Americans. The German Army retiring from the salient was apparently being hard pressed. Word was flashed to the batteries, and the village was buried under a deluge of heavy explosive shells.

Thousands of Germans perished and the others fled for their lives. When the bombardment was lifted there were great heaps of slain Boche, and what was once Epieds was only a cloud of dust. There was not so much as even a large pile of bricks left standing. The artillery did terrible execution that day.


When the artillery bombardment ceased the Germans prepared again to enter the site of the village in order to meet the expected American attack. The debris was soon alive with gray coats, and with a yell the Pennsylvanians rushed out of the surrounding woods and were upon them before they could recover from the surprise.

American troops on the attack
American troops on the attack.

The Germans were thrown into a state of confusion and many were killed or taken prisoner before they could rally. Scattered remnants of the Kaiser’s soldiery then hurried northward to get away as rapidly as possible from the cold steel of our doughboys.

The Pennsylvanians then pressed on, and there was much elation in the ranks when it was heard that the 53rd Field Artillery brigade was rushing up to go into action in support of the infantry. This artillery brigade was the 28th Division’s own. It was under the command of Brigadier General W.G. Price Jr., of Chester, and included the 107th Regiment.

Word also came that still other organizations of the 28th Division were hastening to the front, including the ammunition and supply trains. It became evident that the division was being reassembled in it's entirety as an intact fighting unit for the first time since it's departure from Camp Hancock.

The 107th Artillery was made up of many Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania lads, Batteries B, E and F, the Headquarters Company, Supply Company and Sanitary Detachment, being from this section of the state. The 111th and the 112th regiments of infantry were now leading the chase and they relentlessly drove northeastward.

In many instances they kept the Boche moving so fast that many officers and men wrote home about having the enemy on the run and not being able to keep up with him. The Germans would attempt to make a stand and our doughboys would literally blast him out of the place and then move on.

The chase became so fast and furious that at times our Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania men had to be restrained in their headlong drive in order to allow the artillery a chance to come up and silence the German guns by expert counter-battery work.

Our men were eager with excitement. With none but the officers having access to maps, hundreds of the enlisted personnel believed they were heading straight for Germany and that it was only a question of a short time before they would be entering the Kaiser’s domains.

The fighting had been so strenuous, and the forward movement so fast and confusing, that without maps they could only have hazy ideas as to the distances they had traveled.

As the Germans retreated from the Soissons-Rheims Salient after the Battle of the Marne, they put up strong
resistance in many villages, ordered to hold back the Allied advance as long as possible. Pittsburgh and
Western Pennsylvania soldiers cleared out several of these villages during their advance.


The Pennsylvanians were pictured as a set of rabid hounds almost whining in their anxiety to get at the Hun. Deluged by high explosives, shrapnel and gas shells, seeing their comrades mowed down by machine gun fire, bombed from the sky, alternately in pouring rain and burning sun, hungry half the time, their eyes sore and heavy from loss of sleep, half suffocated from long intervals in gas masks, undergoing all the hardships of a bitter campaign against a determined, vigorous and unscrupulous enemy, yet their only thought was to drive on - and on - and on.

Beyond Epieds is the village of Courpoil, and here the Germans made another stand with many machine gun nests. It was another case of street-to-street and hand-to-hand fighting with countless instances of individual bravery and heroism, and many casualties.

The main body of Germans was cleared out without so much trouble as was encountered at Epieds, and our men passed on leaving small detachments behind to “mop up” any straggling Germans that might have been left behind.

Courpoil is on the edge of the forest of Fere, and into that magnificent wooded tract the Germans fled. Captain W.R. Dunlap, of Pittsburgh, Commander of Company E, 111th Infantry, and Captain Lucius M. Phelps, of Oil City, commander of Company G, 112th Infantry, with their troops, led the advance beyond Epieds and participated in the capture of Courpoil and the advance into the forest.

Captain Phelps for a time had the difficult task of leading an independent force making flank attacks on the enemy, to the left of the main battering ram. Both these officers so distinguished themselves in this difficult fighting that they were recommended for immediate advancement to the rank of Major.

The Americans battled their way in little groups into the edge of the forest and were hanging on to this fringe of the wooded area when night fell. The forest seemed to be an almost impossible barrier, and it was decided to be utterly hopeless to attempt to continue advancing in the darkness.

It was while these widely scattered groups were holding the fringe of the forest after nightfall that Lieutenant William Allen, Jr., of Company B, 111th infantry, of Pittsburgh, so distinguished himself as to be recommended for promotion and a medal. Owing to the groups being separated it was necessary that headquarters should know their approximate positions so as to be able to dispose of the forces for a renewal of the attack the next morning.

Lieutenant Allen took two privates along with a patrol of three men on either side and set out to traverse the forest along the line were our groups were supposed to be. The lieutenant and his men always kept within speaking distance of each other, and throughout the night carefully threaded their way. They did not know what instant they might stumble on Germans or be fired on or thrust through by their comrades.


It was described as a hair-raising daredevil feat. When Lieutenant Allen found himself near other men he remained silent until a muttered word or even such inconsequent things as the tinkle of a distinctly American piece of equipment, or the smell of American tobacco - entirely different from that in the European armies - let him know his neighbors were friends. Then, after a soft call to establish his identity and make it safe for him to approach, the lieutenant secured an idea as to the location and force of that particular group.

At the first signs of the approaching dawn Lieutenant Allen and his men crawled back to the main American lines where, in a shell-hole which the General was using as headquarters, he was able to sketch, with the aid of a pocket flashlight, a map which enabled his superiors to plan the attack. The plans thus made from the information gathered by Lieutenant Allen worked with clock-like precision and resulted in the Boche being driven further into the woods.

Corporal Alfred W. Davis, of Uniontown, Company D, 110th infantry, was moving forward through the woods in this fighting, close to a lieutenant, when a bullet from a sniper hidden in a tree struck the corporal’s gun and was deflected. The round pierced the brain of the officer, killing him instantly.

This aroused the ire of Davis, and crawling Indian-like up a ravine he decided to make the Germans pay dearly for the death of the lieutenant. When he picked off his 18th German in succession it was nearly dark, so he called it a good day’s work and rejoined his company.

In the woods the Germans fought desperately despite the fact that they were dazed by the intense artillery fire. They contested every foot of the way and used every conceivable contrivance including camouflage to hinder the advance of those determined and relentless Pennsylvania doughboys.

They hid in rocks and under old tree-trunks and in piles of brush, and they camouflaged their steel helmet with brown, green and yellow and other shades of paint so that it was almost impossible at times for our boys to pick them out from the flicker of the shadows in the dense foliage.

During the progress of our troops there was one time when touch had been lost with the forces on the right flank of the 110th infantry, and Sergeant Blake Lightner, of Altoona, a liaison scout from Company C, 110th, started out to re-establish the connection.

While engaged in the hunt for the separated forces, Lightner ran into an enemy machine gun nest. He surprised and killed the crew and captured the guns single handed. He hurried back, secured a machine gun crew, and established the men in the former enemy nest while also re-establishing the communications.


During the trip he had also located a line of enemy machine guns nests, and when he returned to his command was able to furnish information to his officers whereby it was possible to lay down a barrage on the enemy machine gun line.

During one of these days of desperate fighting is was discovered that the ammunition supply of the first battalion of the 110th regiment was running low due to the extra heavy showers of bullets with which our boys had been deluging the Boche.

It was almost nightfall, and the officers wanted to be sure that the supply on hand in the morning would be ample to meet all requirements. Corporal Harold F. Wickerham, of Washington, and Private Boynton D. Marchand, of Monongahela City, were sent back to brigade headquarters with a message. When they reached the spot where headquarters had been they found it had been moved.

There was nothing for the two soldiers to do except attempt to seek out the new location of headquarters, so they set off through the woods. After walking for miles in the darkness they came to a town where another regiment was stationed and were able to get into communication with their brigade headquarters over the military telephone, thus delivering their message.

The two lads were tired and sleepy after their days of strenuous fighting and the long weary tramp through the pitch dark woods, and they were invited to remain in the town the rest of the night to sleep.

But the Pennsylvanians were fully aware of the need for ammunition. They feared that their message may not have gone through properly so they set out again, and in the early dawn reached their units ammunition dump to confirm the message orally. Even then they refused an offer to rest and started out to rejoin their regiment.

They arrived just in time to participate in a battle in the afternoon. It was because the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania doughboys were one and all imbued with this wonderful spirit that they were able to write their names so high in the annals of this great world struggle.

The next village from which our boys had to drive the foe was Le Charmel, and it suffered about the same fate as Epieds. For two hours a violent battle raged for possession of this town and twice it changed hands during this time. Then our men retired to the outskirts and called for an artillery barrage which soon made the place untenable for the Huns.

They hastily retreated, and the Pennsylvanians entered and either killed or captured the Germans who were unable to get away in time. Here again heaps of the slain were found, for the artillery had just about wiped the town off the map. Many Boche were caught in that terrific hurricane of explosive shells and shrapnel.

Men of the 28th Division attacking a German position in the Soissons-Rheims pocket. Demolition teams
lead the advance to blow holes in the wire for the infantry following close behind.


The Pennsylvanians were now approaching the Ourcq River, where the Germans had a second line of defense, and they began to feel the stiffened resistance. Each succeeding hour the fighting became more bitter and determined, But nothing the Germans could offer was sufficient to retard the advance of our troops, although at times this advance was slowed considerably.

The dense forests were a maze of barbed wire, stretched from tree to tree, and the density of the woods prevented our airmen from locating the enemy, thus preventing our artillery from getting in it's deadly work.

A new system of attack on enemy posts was inaugurated at this time in order to prevent the large number of casualties which always ensued as a result of direct frontal attacks. The new scheme consisted in “pinching” off and surrounding these posts just as the British accomplished the capture of St. Quentin, Lille, Cambrai and other large cities.

Beuvardes, a village in the line of our advance was strongly held by the Germans with masses of machine guns. The Germans had concentrated fresh forces in the town and it was doubtful if it could have been taken by direct assault without heavy loss of life to the Pennsylvanians. The British tactics were brought into play, however.

Our doughboys infiltrated La Tournell from the west and the Forest of Fere from the east, while French troops worked on the left. As a result, Beuvardes was soon encircled, and became untenable for the Germans. Many prisoners and machine guns were captured as the result of the speed with which the enterprise was carried out.

It was this swift, sure work of the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania doughboys that always caused their regiments to be in great demand for tackling the extra hard military problems. The Pennsylvanians and the Marines were always assigned to these important tasks, and as a result their casualties were always extremely heavy.

But our Keystone lads loved the strenuous work and, when they went up against a supposedly heavy job and found it to be rather easy, they were always disappointed. Despite the lessons they had learned on previous occasions about advancing beyond objectives their officers continued to have trouble trying to drag them back so they would not fall victim to their own artillery barrages.

During this progress from the Marne northward, the various headquarters had considerable difficulty in keeping in touch with the advancing columns. A headquarters section of a regiment is not as mobile as the regiment itself. There is always a vast amount of paraphernalia and supplies to be moved, yet it is imperative that communication be kept with the advancing front.


The rapid retreat of the Germans necessitated our troops going forward quite rapidly at times in order to stay on their heals and make the Boche move even faster. At other times, when the Germans were strongly organized in villages and other places which offered a natural site for defense, our troops were slowed up in their advance.

Then it was necessary to pause for a few hours and\ dispose of the enemy rearguards. It was reported that one Pennsylvania column advanced so fast that it was sometimes necessary to move the regimental headquarters three times in just one day.

And most of the time the regimental and even the brigade headquarters were under the artillery fire of the German’s big guns. It was from this cause that the first Pennsylvania officer of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel was killed July 28. He was Wallace W. Fetzer, of Milton, second in command of the 110th Regiment.

Headquarters had been moved far forward and established in a brick house which was still in a fair state of preservation. Work was just getting well into swing again when a high explosive shell fell in the front yard and threw a geyser of earth over Colonel Kemp, who was at the door, and Lieutenant Colonel Fetzer, who was sitting on the steps.

A moment later a second shell struck the building, killing three orderlies. Colonel Kemp was now thoroughly satisfied that the Boche airmen had spotted his headquarters, and he gave immediate orders to pack up and move. The German artillery was registering too accurately to be done by chance.

Officers and men of the staff were packing up to move, and Lieutenant Stewart M. Alexander, of Altoona, regimental intelligence officer, was questioning two Hun captains, taken prisoner a short time previously, when a big explosive shell scored a direct hit on the building. Seventeen men in the house, including the two German captains, were killed outright.

Colonel Kemp and Lieutenant Colonel Fetzer had left the house and were standing side-by-side in the yard. A piece of the shell casing struck Lieutenant Colonel Fetzer, killing him instantly. A small piece struck Colonel Kemp on the jaw, leaving him speechless and suffering from shell-shock for some time.

Lieutenant Alexander, face-to-face with the two German officers, was blown clear out of the building and into the middle of the roadway, but he was uninjured except for shock.

It was this almost uncanny facility of artillery fire for taking one man and leaving another when the two were standing close together that led to the fancy on the part of soldiers that it was useless to try to evade the big shells. This was predicated on the belief that, if “your number” was on one, it would get you no matter what you did, and if not it would pass harmlessly by. Thousand of men became absolute fatalists in this regard.

After the death of Lieutenant Colonel Fetzer and the injury sustained by Colonel Kemp, Major Martin took command of the regiment and won high commendation for his work during the next few days.



The taking of Roncheres fell to the lot of the 110th Regiment. This town, like all the others, was strongly held by the Germans, who had massed machine guns and fresh infantry for the sole purpose of making it's capture as costly as possible for the Americans.

Like every other village in this section the Boche had no intention of retaining it, but was concerned mostly with holding back our boys as long as possible in order to successfully get his armies and material out of the Soissons-Rheims salient.

With their characteristic disregard for every finer instinct, the Germans had made the church the center of their resistance. This church stood in such position as to front on an open square in the center of the town, and the enemy was thus able to command the roads which entered this square from different directions.

Every building, every wall, tree or fence corner sheltered a sniper or machine gun, and most of the enemy, at this point, kept up such a determined resistance that they died where they stood. In some instances, when an American was close enough to point the cold steel of his bayonet at a Boche, up would go his hands with a cry of "kamerad."

There was always something in the threat of the bayonet which the Hun could never withstand. However, it may as well be set down here as in the future that the men of the 110th took few prisoners, for they did not trust the cry of "kamerad!" They usually disposed of the foe with scant ceremony.


On previous occasions they had learned that the Hun was never to be trusted. They had lost comrades as the result of this treachery because a Boche might still have his hands in the air, pleading for mercy and at the same time have his foot on the lever of a machine gun. His hands in the air were frequently but a decoy to lure our men within close range of the deadly weapon, which he could set going with his foot.

So, in Roncheres, our men of the 110th played the old game of hide and seek and they were always “it.” To be tagged meant death for the Hun. They moved steadily from building to building until they came in range of the village church. Then their progress was stayed for a time.

On the roof of the church was a cross made from some kind of red stone. Behind it the Germans had planted guns. Three guns were hidden in the belfry from which the Huns had removed the bells and shipped to Germany. Stationed in every nook and cranny of the magnificent gothic walls and balconies were snipers, machine gunners and artillerymen with small cannon.

After much careful work, sharpshooters of the 110th finally picked off the Germans behind the cross, but the little fortress in the belfry still held out and was capable of doing considerable execution. Detachments let out to work their way around the outer edge of the town and thus surround the church.

Our Pennsylvanians would dodge in and out, from street corner to street corner, and from building to building ever seeking to escape the quick eye of the enemy snipers. When they found a house with sufficiently strong walls to withstand the foe bullets, sharpshooters would be stationed there to keep the Hun fire down until some of the men could rush into the next house. It was a fight every step of the way.


When the Pennsylvanians came to the roads which radiated from the square to the four corners of the village they had to pause and work out a new plan of attack. It was necessary to cross these roads in order to advance further, and to attempt the feat would have been nothing less than suicidal in view of the hurricane of bullets with which they were continually swept.

When sufficient detachments of our men had reached the various corners to provide enough strength for a sortie, a barrage of rifle bullets was put on the Germans. Sharpshooters were stationed at every possible point where they could watch the Boche, and they commenced to pump lead into every place where they believed the German bullets were coming from.

They did not give the foe a chance to show himself, but kept showering him with bullets. In this way the Hun fire was reduced to a minimum and the rush across the streets was made. Gaining the other side, the Pennsylvanians worked closer to the church along another row of houses, cleaning up the enemy as they progressed. It was slow and dangerous work but our boys never flinched.

During all this fighting the church remained the dominating figure, as it had been of the village landscape so many years. It's stout walls, gray with age and built to last for centuries, offered an ideal shelter for the vandals who were desecrating it's sacred precincts. Before our men could do anything more it was imperative that the enemy therein must be cleared out.

In previous fighting in this territory a German shell had opened a convenient hole in the masonry at the rear of the church and groups of the Pennsylvanians worked their way as close to this spot as possible without exposing themselves to the Boche in the church. Then they put down another rifle barrage using the same tactics whereby they were able to get across the fire swept streets.

A detachment of the 110th rushed for this hole in the wall and rapidly filtered through into the interior, which shortly became a charnel house for the Hun. They soon cleaned the foe out and then tackled the belfry where the little group of Boche still persisted in the defense.


One man led the way up the winding stone stairway, fighting every step of the way, and strange to relate he was able to reach the top despite the fact that many below him were caught in the rain of missiles hurled down by the frantic Huns who thus sought to stay this implacable advance.

When a few of our men had gained the top of the stairs one German junior officer, presumably in command of the group, leaped from the belfry to his death on the stones in the courtyard below. Then the three remaining Huns set up a loud plea for mercy, wildly waving their arms in the air, and yelled "kamerad!"

Whether or not their pleas were granted will probably never be definitely ascertained, as the Pennsylvanians who were there do not have any clear perception as to just what happened. However, the idea seems to prevail that no prisoners were taken in the church - at least some of the men say they didn’t see any brought out.

After the capture of the church it was a comparatively easy matter to mop up the rest of the town, but even then our boys had only a brief breathing spell, for the regiment was soon on the march again, swinging over a little to the northwestward towards Courmont, which was reached just in time to help the boys of the 109th in wiping out the last machine gunners there.

At Courmont our Pennsylvanians had almost reached the Ourcq River, where the enemy had taken advantage of the natural defenses on the other side of the stream to make a determined stand. In fact, there had been constructed a second line of defense, and here was fought one of the most stubborn and bloodiest battles of the war.


Our men faced the Guardsmen, Jaegers and Bavarians with contingents of Saxon machine gunners. These were the flower of the troops under the command of the Crown Prince. They had orders not to give way for even a foot of ground before the Americans. The enemy fought sullenly and with all the traditional vigor of the famed units engaged, but they could not hold against the irresistible Pennsylvanians.

The crossing of the Ourcq had been described as one of the finest feats accomplished by the Americans in the war. The Ourcq itself was negligible as an obstacle to the troops, for it is really only a little stream and the Americans called it a “creek.” At this point it is only about twenty feet wide and six inches deep. But what makes the Ourcq formidable is the heights beyond. The river being old, it has worn itself a deep bed with high banks on each side.

Just north of Courmont, and on the opposite side of the Ourcq, is the Bois de Grimpette, a small wooded track. Here was staged the most ferocious fight of the entire line. This particular phase of the battle has been described as “the One Hundred and Tenth’s own show.”

It was one of those feats which become regimental traditions, the tales of which are handed down for generations within regimental organizations and in later years become established as standards towards which future members may aspire with only small likelihood of attaining.


The operation, in the opinion of many high officers who witnessed it, compared most favorably with the never-to-be-forgotten exploit of the Marines in the Bois de Belleau.

There were these differences: First, the Belleau Wood fight occurred at a time when all the rest of the Western Front was more or less inactive, but the taking of Grimpettes Wood came in the midst of a general forward movement that was electrifying the world, a movement in which miles of other front bulked large in public attention; second, the taking of Belleau was one of the very first real battle operations of Americans, and the Marines were watched by the critical eyes of a warring world to see how “those Americans” would compare with the seasoned soldiery of Europe; third, the Belleau fight was an outstanding operation, both by reason of the vital necessity of taking the wood in order to clear the way for what was to follow, and because it was not directly connected with, or part of, other operations anywhere else.

“The Germans have a strong position in Grimpette Woods,” the 110th was told. “Take it.”

The regiment by this time had learned something of German “strong positions,” and so the men prepared to tackle a stiff job. In the early days of their fighting they had gone about such jobs with an utter disregard of the enemy machine guns, but they were now more experienced and knew that such recklessness did them no good, and was of no service to America, because of the useless sacrifices such tactics entailed.

Yet, when they looked over the territory which they were expected to rid of the Hun, they were convinced that they had no alternative but to do just that thing and face a well organized and strongly held enemy position. Grimpette Woods was fairly bristling with every sort of Hun weapon and gunners were chained to their weapons.

The underbrush was laced through and through with barbed wire, concealed strong points checker-boarded the dense, second-growth woodland. When the Pennsylvanians took one nest of machine guns they found themselves fired on from two others. This maze of machine guns and snipers was supplemented by countless trench mortars and one-pounder cannon.


The most difficult task in connection with the capture of this wood, the taking of the hilly section, was assigned to the 110th. The other regiment of the 55th Infantry brigade, the 109th, was ordered to clean out the lower part.

It was a murderous undertaking, for the nearest “cover” from the edge of the wood was at Courmont, more than 700 yards away. The men rushed out from the protection of the buildings in Courmont, in the most perfect and approved wave formations, and were immediately met by a hurricane of bullets. Some of the men said later that it seemed almost like a solid wall in places. There was not even as much as a leaf to protect them.

The rattle of the hundreds of machine guns in the woods gradually increased in volume, until they blended into one solid roar, and the one-pounder cannon played havoc with our troops. German airmen, who had almost complete control of the air in that vicinity, soared as low as 100 feet from the ground and poured a stream of machine gun bullets into the ranks of those dauntless Pennsylvanians. The airmen also raked the ranks with high explosive bombs. Our men were forced to organize their own air defense and proceeded to use their rifles, but without much deterrent effect on the Hun flyers.

How any man ever lived in that welter of fire is a mystery, but a few managed to reach the edge of the wood, and, flinging themselves down on the ground, dug in. A few of the others who were nearer the woods than the town did not attempt to retrace their steps in that awful rain of lead and steel, but flung themselves into shell holes or any slight depression in the ground which offered even temporary safety.

The high officers recalled the attack, realizing that the losses were beyond reason for the value of the objective. However, neither officers nor men of the 110th were satisfied, and they all pleaded for another chance. No matter what the cost this was Western Pennsylvania’s day against the Hun and the task had not been performed in accordance with all the traditions of that section of the great Commonwealth. Furthermore, there were living and unwounded comrades out there who could not long be left unsupported.

American soldiers in their foxholes, awaiting the order to advance.


The higher officers were impressed by this plea, and after the men had secured a breathing spell they were allowed to have another try. Forming again, they set their teeth and plunged into that storm of lead and steel. They didn’t even have adequate artillery support, for the guns were busy elsewhere and many batteries were still struggling over the ruined roads in an effort to get near the front.

On the second attack, another handful of men managed to filter through to the edge of the wood, but the main attacking force was driven back. It seemed almost as if nothing could withstand that withering enemy blast of fire. For three more times our boys, undaunted, attempted to cross that bullet-swept stretch of ground, and each time, they were forced back to the shelter of Courmont.

After this fifth attack headquarters had receive information, July 30, 1918, that the artillery had come up and would put a barrage on the wood. Major Martin, in command of the 110th, when he heard this said: “Fine. We will clean the place up at 2:30pm this afternoon.” And this is just what the regiment did.

The artillery put down a terrific barrage on the wood line and the Huns were driven to shelter. Holes were opened in the near side of the wood and the wire was cut in many places. The few Pennsylvanians who had won their way to the edge of the wood in the previous attacks had to dig in deeper and find whatever shelter they could, for they were forced to withstand the rigors of their own barrage. It was a terrible experience to have to undergo the bombardment of their own guns.


Then came the order to advance in the sixth assault on Grimpette Woods, and as the men rushed forward the barrage lifted. The big guns had given just the added weight to carry them across the open space. They were well on their way when the Germans were able to come out of their dugouts and take position at their guns. The first wave of Americans, angry and yelling like Indians, was on them before they could do much damage.

That was the beginning of the end for the Germans in the Bois de Grimpette, for our boys went through it in a hurry with man against man, using the bayonet unsparingly and unmercifully. Some prisoners were sent back, but this was the exception rather than the rule, and the burial squads put away more than 400 German bodies in Grimpette.

The American loss in cleaning up the wood was hardly a tithe of that. It was truly a dashing and heroic bit of work, typical of the gallantry and spirit of our men.

After the first attack on the wood had failed, First Sergeant William G. Meighan, of Waynesburg, Company K, 110th regiment, in the lead of his company, was left behind when the recall was sounded. He had flung himself into a shell, in the bottom of which water had collected. The machine gun fire of the Germans was low enough to “cut the daisies,” as the men remarked.

Therefore, there was no possibility of crawling back to the lines. The water in the hole in which he had sought shelter attracted all the gas in the vicinity, for Fritz was mixing gas shells with his shrapnel and high explosives.

The German machine gunners had seen the few Americans who remained on the field, hiding in shell holes, and they kept their guns spraying over those refuges. Other men had to don their gas masks when the gas shells came over, but none seem to have undergone the experience that Sergeant Meighan did.


It is impossible to talk intelligently or to smoke inside a gas mask. A stiff clamp is fixed over the nose and every breath must be taken through the mouth. Soldiers adjust their masks only when certain that the gas has dissipated. They dreaded gas more than anything else the German had to offer. It was the single worst thing in the dread category of horrors with which the Kaiser distinguished this war from all other wars in the world’s history.

Yet the discomfort of the gas mask, improved as the present model is over the device that first intervened between England’s doughty men and a terrible death, is such that it is donned only in dire necessity. Soldiers hate the gas mask intolerably, but they hate the gas itself even more.

Army nurses, corpsmen and orderlies at a front line field hospital wear their gas masks.

For fifteen hours Sergeant Meighan was forced to crouch in the water in this shallow hole with his gas mask on. But despite the terrible ordeal he still had plenty of fight left in him. When in a later attack on the wood, Company K reached the point where Sergeant Meighan was concealed, he discovered that the last officer of the first wave had fallen before his shelter was reached. Being next in rank he promptly signaled to the men that he would assume command, and led them in a gallant assault on the enemy position.


There were also many other men of the 111th who displayed marked gallantry and that spirit of sacrifice which made our boys so successful in the various enterprises in which they engaged. Lieutenant Richard Bullitt, of Torresdale, an officer of Company K, was struck in the thigh by a machine gun bullet in one of the first attacks, and although unable to walk he crawled 100 yards to where there was a squad with an automatic rifle out of commission and which the men could not operate.

The corporal in charge of the rifle squad seems to have been the only one of the men who could operate it. He had been killed and Lieutenant Bullitt quickly had the gun throwing death into the German ranks. While he was operating the automatic five more bullets struck him, but he kept on. He waved the stretcher bearers away who wanted to take him to the rear. Finally, another bullet struck him in the forehead and killed him instantly.

After the wood was completely in our hands, a little column was observed moving across the open space towards Courmont. When it got close enough it was seen to consist entirely of unarmed Germans.

Staff officers were just beginning to fuss and fume about the ridiculousness of sending a party of prisoners back unguarded when they discovered a very dusty and a very disheveled American officer bringing up the rear with a rifle held at the “ready.” He was Lieutenant Marshall S. Baron, of Latrobe, Company M. There were sixty-seven prisoners in his convoy and most of them he had taken personally.

The rough and ready commander of the 28th Division, Major General Charles Muir - “Uncle Charley” the boys
called him - and some of the principal officers who led the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
to glory in the great drive against the Germans in the Soissons-Rheims Salient.

(Major General Charles Muir, upper left; Major Edward Martin, lower left; Clockwise on the right - Colonel
George Kemp, Major Fred Miller, Colonel George Rickards, Lieutenant Colonel H.W. Coulter,
Brigadier General William G. Price Jr., Colonel Edward E. Shannon - center.)



The night of July 30, after the capture of Grimpette Woods, the regimental headquarters of the 110th was moved up to Courmont, only 700 yards behind the wood. Major Martin summoned his staff about him to work out plans for the next day. They were bending over a big table, studying the maps when a six-inch shell struck the headquarters building squarely.

Twenty-two enlisted men and several officers were injured. Major Martin, Captain John D. Hitchman, of Mount Pleasant, the regimental adjutant, Lieutenant Alexander, the intelligence officer, and Lieutenant Albert G. Braden, of Washington, were knocked about somewhat, but not injured.

For the second time within a few days Lieutenant Alexander had flirted with death. The first time he was blown through an open doorway into the road by the explosion of a shell that killed two German officers who were facing him, men he was examining.

This time, when the Courmont headquarters was blown up, he was examining a German captain and a sergeant, the other officers making use of the answers of the prisoners in studying the maps and trying to determine the disposition of the enemy forces. Almost exactly the same thing happened again to Lieutenant Alexander. Both prisoners were killed and he was blown out of the building uninjured.

"Getting to be a habit with you," said Major Martin.

"This is the life," said the lieutenant.

"Fritz hasn’t got a shell with Lieutenant Alexander’s number on it," said the men in the ranks.

The Regimental HQ in Courmont after being demolished by a direct hit on July 30, 1918.


The shell that demolished regimental headquarters was only one of thousands with which the Boche raked our lines and back areas. As soon as American occupancy of the wood had been established definitely, the Hun turned loose his artillery, making life miserable for the Pennsylvanians. In the 110th alone there were twenty-two deaths and a total of 102 casualties.

The village of Sergy, just north of Grimpette Woods, threatened to be another severe test for our boys. Like some of the other villages, it was understood to be strongly organized by the Germans, who were prepared to offer every possible resistance to the advancing Americans. The Pennsylvanians were sent into the direct assault in company with regiments from other divisions.

The utter razing of Epieds and other towns, by artillery fire in order to blast the Germans out of their strongholds, led to a decision to avoid such destructive methods wherever possible, because it was French territory and too much of France had been destroyed already by the ravaging Huns. The taking of Sergy was almost entirely an infantry and machine gun battle.

It was marked, as so many of the Pennsylvanian’s fights were, by the “never-say-die” spirit that refused to know defeat. There was something unconquerable about the terrible persistence of the Americans that seemed to daunt the Germans.

The American forces swept into the town and drove the enemy forces slowly and reluctantly out to the north. The usual groups of Huns were still in hiding in dugouts and cellars, and other strong points, where they were able to keep up a sniping fire on our men. Before the positions could be moved up and organized the Germans were strengthened by fresh forces, and they reorganized and took the town again.

Four times this contest of attack and counterattack was carried out before our men established themselves in sufficient force to hold the place. Repeatedly the Germans strove to obtain a foothold again, but their hold on Sergy was gone forever. They realized this at last and then turned loose the customary sullen shelling with shrapnel, high explosives and gas.


It was about this time that the Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvanians were suffering for lack of both food and sleep, and officers marveled at the way the men marched and fought when they must have been almost at the end of their physical resources. There were innumerable instances of their going forty-eight hours without either food or water.

The thirst was worse than the hunger and the longing for sleep was almost overpowering. The troops had been advancing so fast that it was almost impossible for the commissary to keep up with them and thus furnish the supplies regularly. Whenever opportunity offered, they got a substantial meal, but these were few and far between.

The 109th regiment had marched away to the west to flank the village and reached a position in the woods just northwest of Sergy. Scouts were sent forward to ascertain the position of the enemy, only to have them come back with word that the town already was in the hands of the 110th.

However, the 109th was in for some trying hours. A wood just north of Sergy was selected as an aboding place for the night and, watching for a chance when Boche flyers were busy elsewhere, the regiment made it's way into the shelter and prepared to get a night’s rest.

They had escaped the eyes of the enemy airmen, but, unknown to the officers of the regiment the wood lay close to an enemy ammunition dump, which the retiring Huns had not had time to destroy. Naturally the German artillery knew perfectly the location of the dump and set about to explode it by means of artillery fire.


By the time the men of the 109th, curious as to the marked attention they were receiving from the Hun guns, discovered the dump, it was too late to seek other shelter, so all they could do was to contrive such protection as was possible and hug the ground, expecting each succeeding shell to land in the midst of the dump and set off an explosion that probably would leave nothing of the regiment but it's traditions.

Probably half the shells intended for the ammunition pile landed in the woods. Terrible as such a bombardment always is, the men of the 109th fairly gasped with relief when each screeching shell ended with a bang among the trees, for shells that landed there were in no dangers of exploding that heap of ammunition. The night of strain and tension passed.

Strange as it may seem, the Boche gunners were unable to hit the dump, despite the fact that they knew exactly where it was located, and our boys began to have less respect for the accuracy of the enemy artillery fire.

In the night, a staff officer from brigade headquarters had found Colonel Brown and informed him that he was to relinquish command of the regiment to become adjutant to the commanding officer at a port of debarkation. Lieutenant Colonel Henry W. Coulter, of Greensburg, took command of the regiment. Colonel Coulter is a brother of Brigadier General Richard Coulter, one-time commander of the old Tenth Pennsylvania, and who was at that time a commander of an American port in France.

A few days later, Colonel Coulter was wounded in the foot and Colonel Samuel V. Ham, a regular Army officer, became commander. As an evidence of the vicissitudes of the Pennsylvania regiments, the 109th had eight regimental commanders in two months. All except Colonel Brown and Colonel Coulter were regular Army men.

The 110th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Division camped near St. Gilles in early August


August 1 and 2, the Pennsylvanians were relieved and dropped back to rest for two days. The men were nervous and “fidgety,” to quote one of the officers, for the first time since their innaugural “bath of steel” south of the Marne. Both nights they were supposed to be resting they were shelled and bombed from the air continuously.

Both days they were put in at the “camions sanitaire,” or “delousing machines,” where each man got a hot bath and had his clothes thoroughly disinfected and cleaned. There was evidently “reason” in large number why the men were “fidgety.”

Thus neither night nor day could be called restful, although it was undoubtedly a great comfort for the men to be rid of their well-developed crops of cooties and to have their bodies and clothes clean for the first time in weeks.

Anyway, the stop bolstered the spirits of the men, and when the two-day period ended they were on the march again towards the north. They were headed for the Vesle River, and in store for worse things than they had ever endured before.

It was about this time that the first of the Pennsylvania artillery, a battalion of the 107th regiment, came into the fighting zone where the division was operating. Soon, it's big guns began to roar back at the Germans in company with the French and other American artillery.

The gun crews had troubles of their own in forging to the front, although most of it was of a kind they could look back on later with a laugh, and not the soul-trying mind-searing experiences of the infantry.

The roadways that had been so hard for the foot soldiers to traverse were many times worse for the big guns. One of the Pennsylvania artillery regiments of the 28th Division, for instance, at one time was twelve hours in covering just eight miles of road.

When it came to crossing the Marne, in order to speed up the crossing, the regiment was divided, half being sent farther up the river. When night fell it was learned that the half that had crossed lower down had the field kitchen and no rations, and the other half had all the rations and no field kitchen to cook them. Other organizations came to the rescue in both instances.

At 6:00pm one evening, not yet having had evening mess, the regiment was ordered to move to another town, which it had reached at 9:00pm. Men and horses had been settled down for the night by 10:00pm and, as all was quiet, the officers went to the village.

There they found an innkeeper bemoaning the fact that, just as he had gotten a substantial meal ready for the officers of another regiment, they had been ordered away, and the food was all ready, with nobody to eat it.

The hungry officers looked over the “spread.” There was soup, chicken, cold ham, string beans, peas, sweet potatoes, bread and butter, jam and wine. They assured the innkeeper he need worry no further about losing his food, and promptly took their places about the table.

The first spoonfuls of soup were just being lifted when an orderly entered, bearing orders for the regiment to move on at once. They were under way again, the officers still hungry, by 11:45pm, and marched until 6:30am, covering thirty kilometers, or more than eighteen miles.


The 103rd Ammunition Train had also come up by now, after experiences that prepared it somewhat for what was to come later. For instance, when delivering ammunition to a battery under heavy shellfire, a detachment of the train had to cross a small stream on a little flat bridge, without guard rails. A swing horse of one of the wagons became frightened when a shell fell close by. The horse shied and plunged over the edge, wedging itself between the bridge and a small footbridge alongside.

The stream was in a small valley, quite open to enemy fire, and for the company to have waited while the horse was recovered would have been suicidal. So the main body passed on and the caisson crew and drivers, twelve men in all, were left to pry the horse out. For three hours they worked, patiently and persistently, until the frantic animal was freed.

They were under continuous and venomous fire all the while. Shrapnel cut the tops of trees a mere ten feet away. Most of the time they and the horses were compelled to wear gas masks, as the Hun tossed over a gas shell every once in a while for variety - he was “mixing them.” The gas hung long in the valley, for it has “an affinity,” as the chemist say, for water, and will follow the course of a stream.

High explosives “cr-r-umped” in places within 200 feet, but the ammunition carriers never even glanced up from their work, nor hesitated a minute. Just before dawn they got the horse free and started back for their own lines. Fifteen minutes later a high explosive shell landed squarely on the little bridge and blew it to atoms.


The 103rd Field Signal Battalion, composed of companies chiefly from Pittsburgh, but with members from many other parts of the state, performed valiant service in maintaining lines of communication. Repeatedly, men of the battalion, commanded by Major Fred G. Miller, of Pittsburgh, exposed themselves daringly in a welter of fire to extend telephone and telegraph lines. Sometimes they ran them through trees and bushes, and other times laid them in hastily scooped out grooves in the earth.

Frequently, communication no sooner was established than a chance shell would sever the line, and the work was to do all over again. With cool disregard of danger, the signalmen went about their tasks, incurring all the danger to be found anywhere, but without the privilege and satisfaction of fighting back.

Under sniping rifle fire, machine gun and big shell bombardment, and frequently drenched with gas, the gallant signalmen carried their work forward. There was little of the picturesque about it, but nothing in the service was more essential. Many of the men were wounded and gassed, a number killed, and several were cited and decorated for bravery.

When the grip of the enemy along the Ourcq was torn loose there was no other stopping place short of the Vesle. So, the Hun army hurried back toward this point as fast as he could move his armies and equipment to form a new defensive front.

Machine guns and sniping rear guards were left behind to protect the retreat and impede the pursuers as much as possible, but even these rear guards did not remain very long and it was difficult at times for the Americans to keep in contact with Jerry.

The 32nd Division, composed of Michigan and Wisconsin national guardsmen, had slipped into the front lines and, with regiments of the Rainbow division by their side, pressed the pursuit. The Pennsylvania regiments, with the 103rd Engineers and the 111th and 112th Infantries leading, followed by the 109th and then the 110th Infantry, went forward in their rear, mopping up the few Huns that the boys of the 32nd Division had left in their wake and who still showed fight.


It had begun to rain - a heavy, dispiriting downpour, such as Northern France is subjected to frequently. The fields became small lakes and the roads, cut up by heavy traffic, turned to quagmires. The distorted remains of what had been wonderful old trees, stripped of their foliage, and blackened and torn by the breaths of monster guns, dripped dismally.

In all that ruined, tortured land of horror there was not one bright spot. There was only one thing to keep up the spirits of the soldiers - the Hun was definitely on the run.

The men were wading in mud up to their knees, amid the wake and confusion of an Army’s passing, and always drenched to the skin. They trudged wearily but resolutely forward, seemingly inured to hardships and insensible to ordinary discomforts.

They were possessed of only one great desire, and that was to come to grips once more with the hateful foe and inflict all the punishment within their power in revenge for the gallant lads who had gone from their ranks.

And during this march there was hardly a moment when they were not subjected to long-distance shelling, for the Huns strafed the country to the southward in the hope of hampering transport facilities and breaking up marching columns.

At all times Boche flyers passed overhead, sometimes sweeping low enough to slash at the columns with machine guns, and, at frequent intervals, releasing bombs. There were casualties daily, although not, of course, on the same scale as in actual battle.


Through Coulonges, Cohan, Dravegny, Longeville, Mont-sur-Courville and St. Gilles they plunged on relentlessly, and close by the hamlet of Chamery, near Cohan, our boys passed by the grave of that intrepid soldier of the air, Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt, gallant son of the great American, the late Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. Lieutenant Roosevelt had been brought down there by an enemy airman a few weeks before and was buried by the Germans.

French troops, leading the Allied pursuit, had come on the grave first and immediately established a military guard of honor over it. They also supplanted the rude cross and inscription over it, which had been erected by the Germans, with a neater and more ornate marking. But it was always this way with both the men and women of France. The grave of an American was always sacred to them, and to care for it and do honor to the brave man who rested therein was a work dear to their hearts.

When the Americans arrived the French guard was withdrawn, replaced by comrades-in-arms from the dead lieutenant’s own country who mounted guard over the last resting place of the son of the former President.

Below Longeville, the Pennsylvanians came into an area where the fire was intensified to the equal of anything they had passed through since leaving the Marne. All the varieties of projectiles the Hun had to offer were turned loose in their direction. High explosives, shrapnel and gas rained down upon the Americans.

Once more the misery and discomfort of the gas mask had to be undergone, but by this time the Pennsylvanians had learned well and truly the value of that little piece of equipment and had a thorough respect for the doctrine that, unpleasant as it might be, the mask was infinitely better than a whiff of the dread, penetrating vapor with which the Hun poisoned the air.


The objective point on the Vesle River for the Pennsylvanians was Fismes. This was a town near the junction of the Vesle and Andre Rivers, which before the war had a population of a little more than 3,000. It was on a railroad line running through Rheims to the east. A few miles west of Fismes the railroad divides, one branch winding away south westward towards Paris, the other running west through Soissons and Compiegne.

The town was one of the largest German ammunition depots of the Soissons-Rheims sector, and second only in importance to Soissons itself. The past tense is used, because in the process of breaking the Hun’s grip on the Vesle, both Fismes and the town of Fismette, which was just across the river, were virtually wiped off the map. Here was the Hun’s Vesle River barrier, and when he was shaken loose he had option but to move hastily northward towards the next river barrier, the Aisne.

The railroad in Fismes and it's vicinity runs along the top of an embankment, raising it above the surrounding territory. There was a time, before the Americans were able to cross the railroad, that the embankment became virtually the barrier dividing redeemed France from darkest Hunland along that front.

At night, patrols from both sides would move forward to the railroad, and, burrowed in holes, the Germans on the north side and the Americans on the south, would watch and wait and listen for signs of an attack.


Each side knew the other was only a few feet away. At times they could hear each other talking, and once in a while defiant banter would be exchanged in broken German from the south, and in ragtime, vaudeville English from the north. Appearance on either side was a signal for a storm of lead and steel.

The Americans had an advantage over the Germans, knowing the Huns were doomed to continue their retreat, and that the holdup along the railroad was only temporary. The Germans, despite their customary arrogance, now realized the same thing. Therefore, the Americans fought triumphantly, with vigor and dash, and the Germans with sullen desperation.

One man of the 110th went to sleep in a hole during the night and did not hear the call to withdraw just before dawn. Obviously his name could not be made public. When he woke it was broad daylight, and he was only partially concealed by a little hole in the railroad bank. There was nothing he could do. If he had tried to run for his regimental lines he would have been drilled like a sieve before he had gone fifty yards. Soon the German batteries would begin their daily shelling, so he simply dug deeper into the embankment.

“I just drove myself into that bank like a nail,” he told his comrades later. He spent the day nailed into the earthen embankment and crawled away the next night.


Richard Morse, of the 110th, whose home is in Harrisburg, went out one evening with a raiding party. The Germans discovered the advance of the group and opened a concentrated fire, forcing them back. Morse was struck in the leg and fell.

He was able to crawl, however, and crawling was all he could have done anyway, because the only line of retreat open to him was being swept by a hail of machine gun bullets. As he crawled he was hit by a second bullet. Then a third one creased the muscles of his back. A few feet further on he was struck by two more, making five in all.

Then he tumbled into a shell hole. He waited until the threshing fire veered from his vicinity and he had regained a little strength, then crawled to a better hole and flopped himself into that. Incredible as it may seem, he regained his own lines on the fourth day and started back to the hospital with every prospect of a quick recovery.

He had been given up for dead, and the men of his own, and neighboring companies, gave him a rousing welcome. He had nothing to eat during those four days, but had found an empty tin can. When it rained, he managed to catch enough water to assuage his thirst.

Corporal George D. Hyde, of Mount Pleasant, Company E, 110th, hid in a shell hole in the side of the railroad embankment for thirty-six hours on the chance of obtaining valuable information. When returning, a piece of shrapnel struck the pouch in which he carried his grenades. Examining them, he found the cap of one driven well in. It was a miracle it had not exploded and torn a hole through him.

"You ought to have seen me throw that grenade away," he said.

Many of the brave leaders of the 28th Division - Clockwise from upper left: Captain Lucius M. Phelps,
Lieutenant Marshall L. Barron, Lieutenant John H. Shenkel, Lieutenant William H. Allen,
Captain W.R. Dunlap, Lieutenant Cedric H. Benz, Major Allen Donnelly
and Captain Charles McLain.



While the 28th Division was holding the enemy along the Vesle River, in front of Fismes, and awaiting the order to cross the river and start the Hun on another backward movement, it was decided to clean up an enemy position that was thrust out beyond his general line. A battalion of the 110th infantry was selected to do this work.

With the 110th was the Reverend Mandeville J. Barker, of Uniontown, an Episcopal clergyman. Reverend Barker had won a place in the heart of the boys with his sturdy Americanism, buoyant and gallant cheerfulness, and his indifference to hardship or danger. His tender attention to the wounded had also won for him the distinction of being the most beloved man in the unit.


The night the battalion attacked he went over the top, and although it was not his duty to go, and he would probably have been prevented had the higher officers known of his intention, nevertheless he believed he would be needed to assist with the wounded.

The Hun machine gun nest was wiped out after a sharp attack and our men then retired to their own lines, as ordered. It was a pitch dark night, and as a result some of our wounded were overlooked. Later the voices of the men who had been left behind on the battlefield could be heard out in No Man’s Land calling for help.

It was then that Reverend Barker performed one of his many acts of heroism, for, taking along some water and first aid equipment he spilled out into the darkness with only the voices to guide him, and sought out the wounded lying between the two armies.

He attended to the men’s wounds as best he could with the aid of a small pocket flash light which he had to carefully conceal from the enemy lookouts, or their would have been short shrift for the wounded and likewise himself.

One after another of the wounded the clergyman hunted out and did what he could to alleviate their sufferings. Those who could walk he started back towards their own lines. Some he assisted, while others drifted away to the Great Beyond while he was ministering to their bodies and their souls.

When he could hear no more voices, and thought his work of mercy completed for the night, he started for the regimental lines, when suddenly he heard some words in German. The wounded soldier was evidently pleading for help.

Reverend Barker turned right around and started back, groping in the dark for the sobbing man. He didn’t know if it might be another of the fiendish tricks of the Hun to trap Americans, nor did he care. All he could hear was the stern call of duty. There was a stranger out on the "Jericho Road" wounded and bleeding and requiring care.


He found a fair-haired German youth wounded so sorely that he could not walk, and he was in mortal terror, not of death, but of those “heartless Americans who torture their prisoners.” Like many other Germans, this one had been taught to loathe the Americans, and had been well-primed with harrowing stories of the cruelty of the men from the western world.

The clergyman treated the wounds of the German and then carried him back to the American lines, although it required considerable explanation to convince the German that he would not be put to some form of lingering agony. When the wounded boy was convinced, he kissed Reverend Barker’s hand and insisted on turning over to him everything he could remove from his person, including pistol, helmet, bayonet, cartridges, and other odds and ends.

An American sergeant, later describing the incident, said the "parson was all hung over with loot."

“The Fighting Parson” the boys called Reverend Barker, although he did not fight. However, he came very close to the line at times. One incident is related where snipers were bothering the men of the Tenth and the clergyman grabbed a pair of field glasses. After a careful survey, he located four Germans in a well-concealed position.

They were the responsible parties and he gave the location to the artillery. Then the big snout of a gun swung around slowly and barked a few times. The sniping from that direction was silenced. Two days later the regiment went over and captured that section of the German line and found what was left of the four snipers.

The Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvanians practically lived the lives of cave men during much of this period of waiting along the Vesle. The line was along the hills, on the near side of the river’s valley, and little shelter holes had been dug into the hillside along the little railroad which separated the American lines from those of the enemy.

Holes had been dug in the embankment. At night, our men raced for these holes in an effort to listen for signs of German activity on the other side. These holes were just about big enough to allow a man to protect part of his body. They were no protection against a one-pounder, but helped to ward off shrapnel fragments.

The shattered buildings of the town of Fismes lurk in the distance across No Man's Land.


It was ticklish and dangerous work, this race to the railroad embankment every night, and it was a crawling operation with every chance that if the enemy got to his side first and discovered the Americans were not in position, our men would be shot as they wriggled through the cinders of the railroad ditch towards the embankment.

The holes along the hillside on the heights were somewhat more comfortable than those in the railroad embankment, for the boys could crawl in them, out of the weather, and then with a blanket around them and some straw for a bed they could enjoy some real luxury in the way of sleep.

But they were only rest holes. Our men crawled into them as daylight approached, because that was the time when the German flyers came over along our advanced lines and attempted to get information, as well as hurl a few bombs on our troops. It was only in some of the larger caverns where the men could move about at will during the day or night. Always in the day they kept well hid and out of sight of those prying eyes in the air.

Most of the fighting took place along the railroad at night. There were numerous raids, some large, some small. They did everything possible to annoy and worry the Germans and to keep them in fear of the doughboys. The raiding parties would suddenly race out and rush over the embankment, and then on to the German dugouts. They would throw their hand grenades into these dugouts and then race back to their own territory.


One night a private went to sleep in one of the holes along the railroad embankment and did not hear the withdrawal in the morning. He was in a sorry predicament, for to try and run would have meant certain death. So he just wormed his way into the embankment until he was entirely covered, and he was very careful not to make any noise. There he remained all day while the sniping and bombing and artillery fire raged all around him.

John Freidberg, of Mount Pleasant, held a conversation with one of the Germans on the other side of the railroad bank one night and finally induced the Boche to come over and be made prisoner. He convinced the fellow that the best bet for him was to come over the bank and thus get out of the war, and also acquire some square meals in the Allie’s prison pens.

Frequently at night our men could hear the enemy calling: “American, American,” and there is no doubt that many prisoners could have been taken by merely inviting them to come over to our lines, assuring them that they would not be murdered. It was risky work, however, attempting to conduct these talks with the enemy, because the Hun was not to be trusted.

Occasionally one would make a dive for our lines. But the chances were that he didn’t get through, unless our men knew he was coming. If they didn’t, the German was likely to be under a cross fire before he took many steps, for he would be the target not only for our men, but also the nearest German officer, who was sure to try to drop the deserter.

An interesting story is told of how two of the men of the 110th were lost in a cave for forty-eight hours. By chance, Reverend Barker gave a movie entertainment in the mouth of this cavern, and while the festivities were under way the two lost soldiers saw the lights, thus finding their way out. They came blinking into the crowd, but in the confusion of war had not been missed, and no one in the audience was aware of their experience.

One of the lads asked for something to eat, and this interference with the performance was resented until it was ascertained that they really had been lost for two days in the cave. Then there was a rush to provide the two men with food.


Other incidents are related of how the Germans who crouched on the other side of the railroad bank at night were surprised to hear the Americans speak to them in their own language. There were many Pennsylvanians who could speak German fluently.

During one of these days, a little group of ambulance men from the 111th were carrying back a wounded German major, who was groaning and complaining. He cursed the Americans roundly at nearly every step the stretcher bearers took, until finally Thomas G. Fox, of Hummelstown, one of the bearers, translated the tirade.

Our men stood it for a while longer until the German made some particularly offensive remark, with the result that the litter was turned over and the irate officer deposited, not too gently, upon the ground. He continued to curse for a while, but when he learned that it did him no good he started to crawl back. The experience relieved him of some of his insolence.

Fismes was held by the Hun in considerable force, although he had moved his big guns across the Vesle, thus admitting that he did not expect to hold the south bank of the river. However, the strength left in the town indicated that there was to be the customary stubborn defense, and that every possible obstacle was to be placed in the way of the Pennsylvanians.

For two days our men kept to the woods and watched many French and American batteries coming up and taking position. It seemed as if they would never stop coming, for there was a large concentration of preparatory artillery planned for the attack. It seemed as if an attempt was to be made to literally sweep the country clean of the Boche with gas, high explosives and shrapnel before the infantry should be sent forward.

Men of the 28th Division camp in the woods near Fismes, out of sight of the German airmen.


Some French and American forces had crossed the river to the east and west of the town, and it was necessary that to straighten out the line Fismes must be captured, the river forced at this point, and Fismette, on the far side of the river, likewise removed from under enemy control.

Numerous feelers had been put out to ascertain the strength of the Germans in Fismes, and on Saturday afternoon, August 3, some of the men from the Rainbow Division had succeeded in getting into the southern part of the town, where they held on like grim death until the next afternoon. Then they were so deluged with gas that it was inadvisable to remain.

It was information they were after, and they were successful to such extent that the material they furnished the general staff did much to assist in formulating the plan of attack.

It was only a few hours after the return of these men of the Rainbow Division to their lines that the massed French and American batteries turned loose a terrific hail of shells upon the enemy in Fismes.

The fire was so intense that the German fire, which had been going on in spurts since daylight, was stopped completely. The entire country back of the enemy lines for miles was raked with every sort of death-dealing shell, and there was nothing for Fritz to do but seek cover.

The Pennsylvanians had been brought right up in front for this attack, and it fell to the lot of the 112th to lead the advance. After about an hour of artillery preparation the rolling barrage of shrapnel and gas was started. The 112th moved forward supported by the other regiments. The regiment raced for the southern edge of the town, and although harassed somewhat by machine gun fire, the boys never hesitated.


After reaching the town there was another session of street and house fighting. Scouts were sent forward to creep from corner to corner and work their way by any possible means. They hid behind any object that offered the slightest protection until they saw a chance to proceed further.

The streets were swept by machine gun fire, either our own or the Germans, and frequently some of our men and a squad of Germans would be in the same house, firing out of different windows.

The progress was slow, and it was soon evident to our men that the Germans were showing no disposition to retreat across the river. Later, it became apparent that they were left behind as a sacrifice in order to delay the American advance.

They had been ordered to die in their tracks rather than move, and thus they fought with all the stubbornness of wild animals cornered. It was a question of selling their lives as dearly as possible. They had no hope. This was not the first time the German Command had left men in such a predicament.

Most of the Germans carried out their orders and died, but a few threw down their rifles and squealed “kamerad” when convinced that their activities for the Kaiser were over.

Two officers and some wounded men forced their way into a house and there found two other Americans who had preceded them. After making the wounded as comfortable as possible, the two officers and an enlisted man started out to explore the house and neighborhood.

They crept out into a sort of walled garden and, taking a peep through, looked straight into the eyes of two Germans. One had a machine gun in his hand and the other had a grenade in each hand. Our boys call the grenades the Germans use "potato mashers," for they are fitted with sticks for handles. On the end is the explosive container, which looks like a tomato can.

German soldiers manning a machine gun post. One soldier prepares to arm a "potato masher" grenade.
At the end of the handle is a wire. Pulling on the wire arms the explosive in the can.


Both parties were startled and each paused to stare. Then the German with the grenades started to swing them, just like Indian clubs. Before he could let go, two shots rang out and, still clutching his grenades, sank slowly to the ground with a pair of bullets in his body. The other German beat a hasty retreat and ran yelling out into the street, where he became the target for some of our men. He didn’t go far before he crumpled up in a heap on the road.

It was thus that our boys took Fismes, and although this sort of fighting is usually costly, nevertheless they rapidly cleaned out every Boche in the town and wiped out the last foothold of the enemy in the Soissons-Rheims salient.

When the enemy on the other side of the river was certain that the Americans were in full possession of the town, a hail of gas, shrapnel and high explosives was turned loose from the heights were he had planted much light artillery.

The Germans, from their positions on the high ground, were able to observe all of the American movements in Fismes and the surrounding territory. Northward along the Aisne, where the Hun expected to make another stand, the heavy artillery had been placed in position, and as this was only about five miles away, our lines were well within range. The French and American artillery answered.

Night and day the duel raged as our gunners attempted to search out and silence enemy batteries. The firing became so violent on August 5 that observation was impossible for our forces, and maps had to be used in the attempt to destroy the Hun guns. The Germans were in much better position to inflict damage, for they had just been driven out of the area now occupied by our troops, and therefore were perfectly familiar with the terrain.

The German guns deluged every place within our lines with shells of all sorts and sizes, and the crushing blows of the four and six-inch shells were especially severe. The Pennsylvanians held on like grim death. When the town was safely in their possession plans were formulated for the taking of Fismette, just across the river.

Damaged buildings line the streets of Fismes after the tide of war had passed.


Fismette will long be remembered as one of the bloodiest spots in all the Great War, and in the taking of the town many a Pittsburgher and Western Pennsylvanian went to his death. The Germans, although not expecting to make any serious stand short of the Chemin-des-Dames, had evidently been unable to move their army, and vast quantity of war supplies, northward fast enough to keep away from the unrelenting Yankees, who were ever at their heels threatening to break through their rear guards.

Thus the enemy was forced, in order to save himself, to attempt a check on our advance at Fismette, and here was concentrated a major effort. The town was bristling with machine guns, well supported by artillery, and defended by fresh troops. They were the flower of the Kaiser’s soldiery, the Prussian Guards.

The plans for the assault called for units of the 108th Machine Gun Battalion to cross the river and attempt to establish a bridgehead on the north side. Major Robert M. Vail, of Scranton, in command of the battalion, sent over two companies. They waded across the river through a terrific hurricane of bullets.

The water was up to their armpits and they were forced to hold their rifles, cartridges and other material which might be damaged by the water, above their heads. The Germans took a heavy toll of the two companies during this crossing, but sufficient numbers of the boys gained the opposite bank to put up a demon-like scrap while waiting for reinforcements.

As the machine gunners waded, the 103rd Engineer Regiment was sent down to the river to throw bridges across the stream. The engineers were also subjected to a death-dealing fire of machine guns and shrapnel, but they never wavered and kept at their tasks. In addition to the steel showered upon them, some gas shells were mixed in, forcing them to undergo the added discomfort of wearing masks.


It was indeed a spectacle to see those engineers working out in the open with comrades dropping all around, and expecting every minute to go down themselves. It was one of the grandest examples of bravery ever recorded in the history of the American arms. The boys worked like Trojans, and when one would go down another would take his place.

They had been told to get those bridges over the river and they proposed to do it, even until the last man should fall. It is a wonder that any of them escaped the hatred which Fritz, from his vantage points on the other side of the river, poured upon that Spartan band.

Out in the water, they worked with the shells churning up geysers all around them, and when a man was hit the chances were that even if only wounded he would be carried away by the current and drowned.

When the first bridge was almost completed the engineers suffered the disappointment of seeing it split into a mass of splinters in the twinkling of an eye, for a big shell made a direct hit. Such an occurrence would have discouraged many men, but not so those Pennsylvania engineers.

They were determined to build those bridges across the river if it took until the crack-of-doom, and calmly set about rebuilding the structure which had already cost so many lives.


It was slow work to bridge the stream, and frequently another shell would come and destroy parts of the work, so that the men had to do it all over again. Time and time again this happened. Before the bridges were completed officers decided to make an attempt to get infantry across the ford, as the machine gunners had been successful in the wading operations and needed support on the other side.

Several detachments were sent over through the water and, when the bridges were completed, the process of getting troops on the other side was hastened considerably. Shells continued to hit the bridges occasionally in places, necessitating almost constant repair by the engineers.

Those who got across the ford or the bridges met a stone wall of resistance, for the enemy was fighting under orders to hold Fismette at all costs. The Germans made every possible effort to drive the Pennsylvanians back across the river, but attack after attack was met with a stubbornness which, each time, caused the Hun to fall back in dismay.

The French and American artillery support on the heights south of the Vesle did much to assist our men in warding off these counterattacks. They also had the satisfaction of knowing that it was their own Pennsylvania artillery in action at last, lending it's aid to their efforts.

Pennsylvania was now in the fight with a complete division, and such a remarkable division it was. Those doughboys proved themselves the peers of any fighting men the world has ever known.

Some of the gallant men of the 28th Division who helped push back the Hun. Center - Major Joseph H. Thompson;
Clockwise from upper left - Lieutenant Samuel S. Crouse, Sergeant Robert A. Floto, Lieutenant Claude W. Smith,
Lieutenant Gilmore L. Hayman, Captain William Fish, Captain William Truxal, Lieutenant Wilbur E. Schell.



While the penetration of Fismette proceeded slowly, the indomitable courage of the Pennsylvanians shone with a luster not to be discounted even in the face of weather conditions which were anything but favorable for their task. Rain fell incessantly. From a downpour to a drizzle it varied and back again, but it never quite ceased.

Friends and relatives at home learned later of the tremendous difficulties and disadvantages under which our brave boys labored at that time. That they dauntlessly, and without fear, faced and overcame not only the most destructive war weapons of the enemy, but the most discouraging forces of the elements, redounds to the credit and fame of the Keystone soldiers and would render their niche in the hall of fame.

At every point of contact between the attacking and defending forces the Germans displayed surprising morale and reacted viciously against the irresistible onslaught of the doughboys. Despite the stubborn resistance of the foe, many of whose soldiers were forced into battle and could have yielded to the Yankees only under penalty of death, the advance of the men under the Stars and Stripes was unstoppable.

True, it was slightly checked here and there at times, but always uppermost in the minds of the Keystoners was the thought of home and loved ones and the grim determination to win at all hazards and at the earliest possible moment.


The action consisted, in the main, of a series of sharp local engagements. This was as true here as at every other point of contact along the entire front between Soissons and Rheims. American bayonets played an important role in the hand-to-hand fights, which were frequent.

The Hun hated the “cold steel” of the bayonets, but he dreaded it still more. Unable to withstand the peppery rushes of the Americans, he preferred to stand off and shoot, or attack with gas and artillery. Fortunately, the Hun was not given his choice. The Pennsylvanians knew full well what weapon was deadliest to use, having been informed as to that by the British and French veterans, and they used it to the limit.

The flight of time in undistinguishable and unrecorded for the men who, amid the battle fever, know not what moment may prove their last. Friends of boyhood days, chums of later years, comrades of training camp and battlefield, disappear from human ken between sunrise and sunset, their lives snuffed out in the twinkling of an eye. Brave indeed is the man who can patiently and persistently “carry on” under circumstances like these.

Yet that is exactly what those heroes of ours were called upon to do, and how magnificently they responded! What imperishable laurels of fame must be theirs down through all the future years to the dim, distant end of earthly things, "when time shall be no more."

Certainly no honor their government and their countrymen can bestow upon will prove adequate reward for their long suffering and valiant fight for the preservation of the principles of democracy.


Amid the peace and quiet of home life it is difficult to grasp the psychology of the men going through these terrible trials. In a single hour a dozen, perhaps fifty or more, comrades and close associates of weeks and months of work and recreation may be wiped out of existence - soldiers with whom the survivors have walked and talked daily and with whom, perhaps, they were conversing when death stepped in to interrupt all these relationships.

Under such conditions, men’s minds become abnormal and they are prone, sometimes more from motives of downright anger than from any acknowledged line of human reasoning, to perform deeds of prodigious bravery and endurance, the like of which they could not conceivably achieve in the saner moments. The best there is in a man - and the worst, too, must come out at such crises in his career.

Loss of a relative, a friend or a close associate in the home life is apt to mean much to the civilian, far from the perils of the front line trenches, but it does not mean what the other thing does to the soldier. Man’s physical condition and his mental status both are affected.

Too hungry to eat, too tired to rest, the soldier after vigils of from 24 to 36 hours without sleep, all the while being under a continuous mental and physical strain, is likely to act as though he were under the influence of an opiate or some other drug. Long intervals elapse between meals and there is little to drink that is fit to drink.

Reaction comes unfailingly and therein lays the reason that the soldier’s first day in “repose” usually is worse than the battle itself. The longer his relief is postponed the greater the reaction, when it does come, is likely to be.

The sense of proportion with which men are gifted is lost, and in it's stead comes a feeling of bewilderment and perplexity as to the meaning of spoken or writen words or other communications from the surrounding world.

The physical being may support itself even without food, drink and rest over a considerable period of time, but the effect on one's senses is most marked and seemingly a man’s reason totters to it's downfall. As the sense of proportion vanishes, all things ordinarily of prime importance fade into the mental background, except, of course, the stern necessity of going on until at last the task in hand is accomplished and the time for rest has come.


In the midst of such stirring events the warrior feels inevitable that his individual fate is a matter of slight importance. He knows that he may “go west” at any moment, so he comes to regard his surroundings with almost indifference, except as to that subtle sense which keeps him ever on the lookout, subconsciously, to thwart the designs of the enemy.

Sublime forgetfulness of self, coupled with an ever increasing knowledge of how directly the welfare of his beloved home land may rest upon his own faithfulness to his allotted task, keeps the fighter keyed up to a pitch the like of which it is difficult for civilians to conceive.

Is it any wonder then that officers and men that returned from “over there,” even those who escaped being wounded, plainly tell us on their return home that one of their most difficult duties now is to “slow down,” to recover the physical and mental poise which was theirs before they personally entered the awful conflict?

That is exactly what Lieutenant Colonel Edward Martin, commander of the 110th infantry, told a little group of friends on a train en route via Pittsburgh from New York to his home in Waynesburg, PA, just after his return from overseas. Privates and officers of all ranks have said the same thing. Even the pleasant excitement of a baseball game causes a reaction which leaves it's impression on mind and body for some time after the contest is over.

Imagine then, if you can, what serious effects must follow the deadly physical and mental strain of days in the front line or the trenches, with scant food and drink and perhaps no sleep at all, exposed often to the rain, sleet, wind, hail or snow.


As the Germans hurled fresh regiments into the inferno which their fiendishness had created, the Pennsylvania soldiers became almost supermen. Representing a democratic and free people, to whom the thought of human servitude or slavery is unthinkable, the Yankee soldiers quickly displayed such prowess and such valor that their deeds of personal heroism multiplied rapidly.

Fear of death was abandoned and then came citations and decorations for bravery in action, though many of the most deserving deeds unavoidably were lost sight of in the heat of battle. It was enough for each man that he had seen his duty and had done it. All bounds of personal fear of death or injury were overstepped by the Yanks.

Small wonder was it then that the determined efforts of the Germans to dislodge the Americans from Fismette were futile. Only a handful of Pennsylvanians had yet gained a foothold in the town, but they held on desperately. They refused to retire beyond the river’s edge.

Fresh, vigorous forces hurled at the position five times by the German commanders were repulsed with heavy losses, despite the fact that all the time the Hun guns kept up an incessant cannonade both on Fismette and Fismes, the latter being the town across the river, and on the rear reaches of the Allied front, and that the attacking forces were strongly supported by the machine guns and airplanes.

Back and forth across the river swayed the tide of battle. The Americans succeeded in crossing once or twice, but were hurled back by numerically superior enemy forces, only to renew their advance against the foe with a dash and courage, a wonderful gallantry, that has never been surpassed.


The 111th infantry, formerly the old Eighteenth regiment, “Pittsburgh’s Own,” fought gallantly in the days and nights that followed. As a constituent part of the 28th Division, the 111th came into its own in the first penetration of Fismette.

It's officers and men took high rank in that heroic galaxy of fighters and, though the regiment’s total of casualties swelled rapidly in the fiercest of the fray, it's moral held true to it's traditions. It's record of grand merit in former conflicts remained unsullied and new achievements were added to it's already magnificent record.

Brave deeds without number, were inscribed in official records to the credit of the old Eighteenth’s members. One of the most noteworthy acts of individual heroism unquestionable was that of Corporal Raymand E. Rowbottom, of Avalon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, member of Company E, and Corporal James E. Moore, of Erie, PA, member of Company G.

In the house beyond the spinning mill on the western edge of Fismette, these two soldiers were on outpost duty together. With them were automatic rifle teams, defending the mill, which had been one of the most desperately contested strongholds of the Huns. The size of the mill and it's thick stone walls made it valuable to either side.

Had the firing post in the house beyond the mill been lost, a battalion which was coming up under Lieutenant L. Howard Fielding, of Lanerch PA, would have been left in deadly peril. Also the whole military operation which centered on that point would have been rendered much more difficult, if not indeed impossible.

The mill was one of the keynote positions of a considerable area about the town, hence upon the bravery of the men in the house beyond it depended in great measure the success of the efforts then being made by the American commanders.


On the night of August 12, 1918, a flare thrown from a German post landed in the room where Moore and Rowbottom were. The whole room was ablaze in a moment and it seemed impossible to save the house from destruction.

German snipers and machine gunners were thus given the chance they had been waiting to see their target. The attention of the American outpost was distracted, and they were threatened with being driven from their place of concealment.

It was then that Rowbottom and Moore displayed that singular coolness and initiative which had come to be recognized as a marked characteristic of the Yank soldier in any crisis, however unstable his nerves may appear to be in less dangerous moments. No water was in the house except the absurdly small quantity contained in the canteens of the men.

Despite the inadequacy of this supply of the precious fluid, Moore and Rowbottom used it to such good effect, and were so disdainful of the peril of burns on their hands and feet, that they quickly put out the blaze. They then calmly resumed their work with the automatic rifles.

Considering that this bit of fire-fighting was done in a room as bright as day and under concentrated machine gun and sniper fire, the feat may well be considered something more than merely remarkable. It was heroic, nothing less.

Hours without water to drink passed and the men suffered the agonies of thirst until their tongues swelled and their throats were parched. Both heroes were cited and decorated later for their brave defense of the house.


On August 10 a detachment of men from the 111th captured some ammunition and enemy machine guns. The machine guns captured were of the Maxim type, which few of the American soldiers knew how to operate. Only one man of this squad, Corporal Raymond Peacock of Norristown, PA, a member of Company F, could operate the Maxims.

Wounded so badly in the left shoulder just before this that his arm was practically useless, he nevertheless volunteered to operate the gun. Despite excruciating pain from his wound, he operated the gun in a spirited assault, firing the gun with his right hand until he was wounded again. For this heroic work he was given the Distinguished Service Cross.

Private Lester Carson of Clearfield, PA, a member of Company L, is another of the brave boys of the Pittsburgh regiment who distinguished themselves at about this point in the war. When an officer of the 111th called for a runner to take a message from Fismette back to Fismes, across the river, the path that had to be covered was raked with shells and machine gun bullets.

The man who volunteered was riddled with a score of bullets when he had gone only a short distance. Heedless of this sight and of the danger in which a second runner was sure to be in, Private Carson volunteered and was sent out with a duplicate of the message. His luck held good and he managed to get through over the same route on which the other hero had failed. Private Carson later was decorated for this piece of bravery.


At a point in the fighting a detachment of the 111th was called back hurriedly from an advanced post, which it was seen could be held only with great sacrifice. Five wounded men were left behind unavoidably. Volunteering to go back after them, Private Albert R. Murphy, of Philadelphia, a member of the sanitary detachment, exhibited great bravery.

Murphy stuck to his task in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and the incessant, and vicious, fire from the enemy guns. Three days and three nights of untiring effort were required before the last man was brought back. Superlative valor was shown by the rescuers and for his part in this work Private Murphy was cited and received the Distinguished Service Cross.

Lying in an exposed position was a sergeant of Company C, 111th infantry, who was shot and wounded August 10. It remained for Sergeant Alfred Stevenson of Chester, PA, a member of the same company, to volunteer to go to the rescue.

Successfully making his way through fierce enemy fire to the side of his wounded comrade, he leaned over the man and was attempting to obtain a firmer grasp so he could carry him to safety. Just then a sniper’s bullet struck Stevenson, who raised himself partly to his feet and said to the wounded man: “Gee, they got me that time.” Another bullet struck him and he fell dead.


In a clump of bushes lay the wounded men and there was a considerable open space between him and our lines. Stevenson not reappearing, Corporal Robert R. Riley of Chester, a member of the same company, with two comrades, begged permission to go after the two men. On their first attempt, all three were wounded and compelled to go back. Corporal Riley’s wound was not severe and he insisted on another attempt.

He went out again and found his old schoolmate, Stevenson, dead. The man for whom the effort was made was able to crawl back to our lines after being given first aid treatment. Riley was unable to complete the return to the lines without collapsing. He was carried in by Private Edward Davis and taken to a hospital. There he recovered and was given the Distinguished Service Cross for his conspicuous bravery under fire.

Private Fred Otte of Fairmount City, PA, a member of Company A, 111th infantry, during five days of the most intense fighting, from August 9 to 13, acted as a courier between his battalion headquarters in Fismes and the troops in Fismette.

After making several trips across the Vesle River under heavy shell and machine gun fire, Private Otte found that the bridge which he had been using had been destroyed.

He then continued his trips to and from headquarters by swimming the Vesle despite the wire entanglements in the water. He received a Distinguished Service Cross for his performance, which was one of the most notable individual stunts accredited to American soldiers "over there."


A Pittsburgher who distinguished himself was Bugler Harold S. Gilham of Company H, 111th infantry. He and Private Charles A. Printz of Norristown, a member of Company F, of the same regiment, not only volunteered as runners to carry messages to the rear, but on their return exhibited their contempt for the enemy by loading themselves with heavy boxes of ammunition.

The ammunition was needed badly, and it was largely due to the efforts of these brave men, and their worthy comrades, that the tide of battle did not turn against us in these critical days.

On another occasion, during some of the most critical and trying engagements of the now famous 111th, Sergeant James R. McKenney of Pittsburgh, a member of Company E, took out a patrol to mop up a lot of snipers who had been making havoc with some of our best forces.

Returning after a successful foray, he was exhausted and ordered to rest but he begged for and obtained permission to take out another patrol. It was just such spirit that enabled the Yankees to make such a splendid showing in the world war, even then pitted against the crack Prussian Guards and others of the Kaiser’s supposedly invincible forces.

Though gassed severely and wounded badly in the head by shrapnel, Sergeant Richard H. Vaughan of Royersford, PA, a member of Company A, 111th infantry, refused to be evacuated and, after having his wound dressed, continued to command his platoon until relieved four days later.

Sergeant Vaughan died soon after that, from the effects of his wound and the gas. The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded him and sent to his father, Doctor E.M. Vaughan, together with the text of the official citation. The concluding paragraph of the citation was as follows:


"By his bravery and encouragement to his men he exemplified the highest qualities of leadership."

Another hero who deserved, and won, official recognition and reward was Corporal James W. Gleason of Pottstown, PA, a member of Company A, 111th infantry. He was commended publicly and given the Distinguished Service Cross for his “great aid in restoring and holding control of the line in absolute disregard of personal danger and without food or rest for seventy-two hours.”

Three sleepless days and nights, aiding and encouraging their men to hold a position, were spent by Lieutenant Walter Ettinger, of Phoenixville, and Lieutenant Robert B. Woodbury, of Pottstown, the former an officer of Company D, 111th infantry, the latter of Company M of the 111th.

Scarcely second to the physical hardihood and bravery shown by the Western Pennsylvanians, as well as men from other parts of the state, was their moral courage. Far from home and loved ones, they waited often for the letter that did not come, the endearing message of encouragement that would have meant so much to the tired and battle-worn heroes.

Patiently they endured the discomforts which are the fortunes of war. Complaint was seldom heard from the men while there was yet fighting to be done. Grimly, tenaciously, with a depth of purpose known only to those who have been tried in fire and have come out pure gold, these brave boys struggled on until their task was finished - and they wrote cheery letters home. The world owes them a debt it can never repay.

Pennsylvania soldiers of the 28th Division - Center; Private Lester Pearson; Clockwise from upper left;
Lieutenant L. Howard Fielding, Bugler Harold S. Gilliam, Reverend Mandeville J. Barker,
Corporal Raymond E. Rowbottom, Sergeant James R. McKenny,
Private Fred Otte and Corporal Raymond Peacock.



Odds against them never seemed to count with the Pennsylvania soldiers. The heroes of the 28th Division seemed reckless at times in the manner of their advance against the foe, particularly when the latter was in superior force and in an apparently incontestable position.

In this seemingly uncalled for daring, however, there was always a deep purpose, the like of which the Hun has always been incapable of comprehending, and which the writer has not even a remote intention of trying to explain so that it's intricate principles might penetrate the solid ivory dome of the Boche.

When baseball becomes Germany’s national pastime, and even the windows along the Wilhelmstrasse are endangered by the ambitious efforts of irrepressible sandlotters with visions of being future big league phenoms, and when football demands the same autumnal attention in Prussia and Bavaria that it does in Pennsylvania and Georgia, then and not until then will the German intellect be capable of receiving impressions and reaching conclusions comparable with those of the doughboys.

When the Wagners and Cobbs, the McLarens and Guyons of Germany, if there are any, are accorded in the Fatherland the homage which for half a century has been paid there to silly Crown Princes and strutting military officers, then only can the German mind hope to attain the viewpoint which swept the gallant old “Fighting Tenth,” the wonderful old Eighteenth of Pittsburgh, the unyielding old Sixteenth, N.G.P. and other Western Pennsylvania regiments over the top and forward with a fury that no human defenses could withstand.


At risk of plagiarizing the famous remark of a certain British commander, it may be said that America’s part in the world war really was played during the past twenty years on more than 1,000 baseball and football fields throughout the United States. The initiative and skill, the never-say-die spirit and the inherent knowledge of strategy necessary to win were cultivated over here.

When the boys went "over there," they simply took those qualities with them. Being what they were, nothing less than what they did could have been expected of them. The quarterbacks among them knew enough to aim their heaviest blows at the weakest spots in the enemy’s front without waiting to be told by their officers to do so.

Outguessing the enemy and outfighting him aggressively was exactly what their coaches had drilled into them for years. They knew that a hit in a pinch was worth ten homers when their team was way out in front. Trench raiding wasn’t so much different from base stealing, if you look at it that way. The idea was to catch the opponent off his guard and go to it like a flash.

German prisoners have admitted that they had become so accustomed to fighting French and English, with time out for meals, that they simply couldn’t adjust themselves to the American style of fighting. Of course they couldn’t. Nobody ever expected them to. When they had numerical superiority on their side, not to mention better position, they methodically calculated that the Yanks would let them alone for the time being.

They fooled themselves and lost the war. The Western Pennsylvania troops out-gamed and out-pointed the crack Prussian Guards at every point of contact. The dash and aggressiveness of the Keystoners seemed marvelous in the eyes of British and French observers, but really not so very wonderful in the eyes of the folks back home, who knew all along just what kind of men they had sent into the fray.

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Martin of Waynesburg, commander of the old “Fighting Tenth,” who is authority for the statement that, in the battle of the Argonne Forest, the Americans “took a gambler’s chance on ending the war in 1918,” and he ought to know, for he was in the thick of it, also had something to say about athletics when he returned to his home town.


Commenting on the wonderful war work and fighting qualities of Captain “Buddy” Aiken and Major Joe Thompson, two famous Washington and Jefferson College and University of Pittsburgh football stars of former years, Colonel Martin declared emphatically that the football knowledge of these two men counted for a great deal on the battlefield.

"I certainly wish that every officer and man in my regiment had played football at some time in his life," Colonel Martin told a little group of friends soon after his arrival home. From the tone of his comment, it was inferred that he agreed, to some extent at least, with the views set forth above.

One of Western Pennsylvania’s great athletes who gave his life in France that freedom might not perish from the earth, was Lieutenant Levi Lamb, son of Mr. and Mrs. H.L. Lamb of California, PA, a little state normal school town up the Monongahela River about fifty miles from Pittsburgh. A few years ago he was a star tackle on the Pennsylvania State College football team and was the champion wrestler of that college.

Previously he had played baseball and football at the Southwestern State normal school, California, PA, and at Grove City College. Being six feet and six inches in height, he was affectionately known ten years ago in his home town as "Little Levi."

That he died bravely on the field of honor is attested by letters from his superior officers, and that any Hun who grappled with him must have fared badly will be attested by hundreds of men who have opposed him in friendly athletic rivalry in Western Pennsylvania in the past decade. A gold star in his honor adorns the service flag of Penn State, and his memory will never grow dim at that famous old school.

Literally thousands of high school and college athletes from Western Pennsylvania won imperishable renown “over there.” Hardened by intensive military training on this side of the Atlantic, under the tutelage of experienced French, Canadian, British and American Army officers, they were fit for the fray. Is it a matter for wonder then, that Europe respects the American soldier and the humblest American citizen now as never before?


Aside from the purely military, and economic or commercial, advantages gained by winning the war, there is a moral side to it all. Never again will the Kaiser or any other European monarch delude himself and his subjects into the belief that “Americans won’t fight.” But that is not all. The doughboys took with them to France, Belgium and Germany the spirit of fair play which is the essence of all real American sportsmanship.

Not only did they rever womanhood and seek to protect childhood and old age, as they had been admonished (rather than ordered) by Pershing to do, but they accorded even the enemy whatever admiration they could when his acts justified it, which was seldom. When Colonel Martin tells how a little group of American soldiers applauded the pluck of a German aviator attacking an allied observation balloon, when the odds were against the attacker, he tells what is at first thought incredible. But it really happened and, on second thought, it is not so remarkable.

There have been times in America when a visiting outfielder has been given a hand by the home crowd for making a marvelous shoe-string catch or a visiting slugger has been given his due even though he clouted a circuit smash off of the home pitcher’s delivery.

Probably it was that same sense of giving honor where honor was due that led the Yanks to applaud the Hun flier, even though nine-tenths of the German fighters were rotten at heart and deserving of no comparison.

In the second charge of the Americans during their attack on the town of Fismette, Sergeant Clarence Davidson of Tarentum was wounded. He was leading a platoon with great bravery at the time and, according to accounts of the occurrence given by some of his comrades, his coolness and courage under fire proved a remarkable inspiration to his men.

Just before that, while talking to a commissioned officer, Sergeant Davidson witnessed the death of Lieutenant Glendenning of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgher, who was not far from where Sergeant Davidson and the officer were standing, was killed by the explosion of a German shell.


Captain Orville R. Thompson of Pittsburgh, commander of Company M, 111th infantry, lost his life during the assaults on Fismette. Captain Thompson had been ordered to take his company and advance on a German position just outside Fismette. The men, with their commander in the lead, went over the top at 6:30am on August 11.

The enemy was in a well-fortified and well-wired place and capable of offering a strong defense. It was situated on the top of the little knoll, and this made it's capture doubly hard because the Boche could sweep the Americans with rifle and machine gun fire as they charged up the slope.

Captain Thompson was about fifteen yards in front of his men, urging them on. He had declined to remove the marks which designated him as a commissioned officer, thus making himself a target for which the German sharpshooters always looked. He had reached the barbed wire when a sniper’s bullet hit him and he fell without a groan.

Captain Thompson was a commander very much loved by his men, as he was always out in front whenever there was hazardous work to be done. He would never ask a man to take any chances he would not assume himself. He was a wonderful soldier, according to the testimony of the men of his command, and by his courage and daring he set an example that was emulated by the entire company.

Private George Geiley, of Mt. Mary’s, and Private J. Kelly, of Pittsburgh, both of Company M, performed distinguished service during this battle. Private Feiley was an automatic rifleman, and he was right up in the thick of it when a bullet hit him in the neck.

Although suffering terribly from the wound he refused to leave his gun and his comrades had to drag him away. Private Kelly then took over the automatic rifle position and hammered away at the Boche until the company got back to safety. He returned with several wounds and the gun.

August 12, the Germans put forth a mighty effort to drive out of Fismette the Americans who had managed to gain a foothold there. After putting an intense bombardment on the town, followed by a rolling barrage, they advanced in force.

There were too many of the enemy for the small band of doughboys to withstand the assault and, so to save as many lives as possible, orders were issued for our men to retire. But it was a stubborn retirement and they caused the foe many casualties while being forced out of the town.

A phosphorous shell explodes near an American soldier during the battle for Fismette.


When the Americans were again across the river from Fismette, and the town was in the hands of the Boche, the Franco-American artillery was given an opportunity to make life unpleasant for the enemy. The artillery had been massed to protect the advance of the Pennsylvanians and, when the guns unloosed their iron messengers of destruction, Fismette became a veritable inferno.

It was apparent that the Germans could not endure such a concentrated bombardment for long. Fismette proper was made untenable for the Kaiser’s hordes, and then the Americans set about planning for another attempt to capture the place.

The next advance on Fismette was led by men from Company A, 111th infantry, in the charge of Captain Archibald Williams and Lieutenant H.E. Leonard, both of Pittsburgh. This unit swam and waded across the Vesle under terrific shell and machine gun fire. They took to the water rather than use the bridges for the reason that the enemy was centering his fire upon these structures.

Our men were able to gain a foothold on the Fismette side, but they were in a precarious condition because they were unsupported on the flanks. In order to gain some protection from that hail of steel, they plunged forward into a little ravine, only to find that they were in the midst of a gas cloud. It seems that much of the gas with which the Germans had been sending into the town had, for some reason or other, settled in this ravine.

And it was a terrible mixture of all the deadly gasses which the Germans used. Mustard, sneeze, tear and chlorine gas made up one of the worst examples of Hun devilry, of this form, which our boys had met. Thus they were forced to fight with gas masks, but they went forward on the run, cleaning out nest after nest of machine guns.

The Germans would stand to their posts and fire until they caught the glitter of our bayonets, and then they either attempted a quick retreat or uttered their usual plea for mercy. In many instances they neither escaped nor had their “kamerad” cries given heed. The Americans were too busy to bother much with prisoners and they still had many scores to settle.


By this time a few more men of the 111th had managed to cross the river in support of Company A, and it was during this hard fighting that Sergeant Benjamin Prager, Company E, 240 Southern Avenue, Mount Washington, performed deeds of coolness and bravery under fire which won for him official citation and a recommendation for a commission.

Lieutenant James C. Boden, who made the recommendation set forth that "Sergeant Prager’s courage and leadership was unexcelled by any other soldier in command. As a leader he has been unexcelled by any other officer under my personal observation. He has never failed to carry out orders and, in the absence of a superior officer, has used his own initiative in commanding men, strengthening positions, etc."

The sergeant delivered his company under a heavy barrage to reinforce Company G without a casualty. On the same day at Chateau de Diable, near Fismette, he took charge of the left flank of Company E, which was under heavy machine gun fire.

He established a sniper’s post in a building from where our riflemen picked off great numbers of the enemy, especially machine gunners. He was wounded while directing his men but gamely dressed his own wound and remained at his post until relieved.

His wound sent him to the hospital for two months and it was November 10 before he was able to rejoin his command.

During the fighting on August 12, Sergeant Arnold H. Kegler of Pittsburgh, Company M, 111th infantry, was wounded severely while performing an act of bravery in attempting to rescue a wounded comrade who was in a shell crater in No Man’s Land.

Sergeant Kegler noticed a soldier in the crater and, together with Corporal Frank Aiken and Corporal Jordon of Pittsburgh, decided to get him out. Crawling on hands and knees, while machine gun bullets whizzed about their heads, they finally reached the edge of the crater and dragged the wounded soldier back to the American lines.

Just as they reached the line a big German shell exploded in their midst, killing Corporal Aiken and wounding Corporal Jordon and Sergeant Kegler. Sergeant Kegler was blown up a small hill, with several pieces of shrapnel in his leg, but was able to crawl to a nearby house. He remained there several hours before a patrol found him and removed him to a dressing station.


The manner in which this small force managed to win it's way into Fismette and stick there has been described "like a policeman’s boot in the door of a wrongdoer’s house." They refused to budge an inch, although treated to every form of diabolic, death-dealing device the Hun had to offer.

High explosive shells, all sorts of gas, furious infantry counter attacks, bombs and machine gun bullets were of the continuous variety. But the doughty Pennsylvanians did not have the slightest intention of being driven out.

While all this battle for supremacy was under way, the foe had demolished every bridge across the river except one, and that was so badly damaged as to be considered unsafe. Thus our men in the town were practically cut off from their comrades on the other side of the river.

All the little force could do was to fight grimly until it was possible to get reinforcements across. Many of the men had been wounded, and a group of twenty-eight sorely in need of hospital attention had been gathered in the cellar of a building to await the arrival of ambulances from across the river. Their comrades realized that every man in this little group of wounded must be given hospital treatment as soon as possible, in order that their lives might be spared.

How to evacuate them was, indeed, a problem. It seemed almost impossible to get an ambulance across that lone bridge, which was even then the target of the Boche artillerymen. It was then that some of the Pennsylvania doughboys rose to the pinnacle of human daring; they became supermen, performing the most arduous and perilous tasks without thought of fear and emblazoned their names at the very top of the scroll of fame.

To the men of the 28th Division’s sanitary train came word of these wounded in the cellar over in Fismette. The house had been struck five times by shells, and it was necessary time and again to clear the debris off the wounded. Captain Charles Hendricks, of Blairsville, together with a few men, remained in the building to look after the wounded.

Frequently, he and his men were buried under falling plaster and other material. After digging themselves out they would do likewise for the twenty-eight wounded lads. This went on for four days, and during all this time it had been absolutely impossible to send assistance from across the Vesle.


The men of the ambulance companies attached to the sanitary train decided that, no matter what the enemy had to offer in the way of destruction, something had to be done to get those wounded men out of Fismette.

The advance party of the rescuers set out from Fismes in a touring car which carried Major Frederick Hartung of Pittsburgh; Major Edward M. Hand of Coraopolis; Captain George E. McGinnis of Philadelphia and Privates Walter Frosch and Walter McGinnis of Philadelphia. All were members of the Medical Corps.

Frosch was driving the car, and they made a wild dash down the road to the river in full view of many enemy gunners. Their only hope was that speed might get them through. Their car was soon the target for the enemy, and how they ever escaped the rain of shells put upon that road is a mystery.

The car was hit several times, but Frosch kept right ahead oblivious to the danger. Reaching the unsafe bridge, they rushed across at top speed and, luckily, the structure held. Then through Fismette the car dashed up to the building around which the big shells were falling thick and fast, and in which the wounded men were awaiting removal.

The ambulances on the other side of the river had been made ready for a like dash when the signal should be given by Captain McGinnis. At this prearranged signal the ambulances were to dash from cover and attempt to rush across the bridge just as the officers who had gone over in the touring car. All these ambulances were marked conspicuously with the Red Cross, but that did not deter the Boche from shelling them.

Indeed, it seemed to spur him on to greater efforts to demolish these vehicles of mercy. The cars were manned mostly by men from Philadelphia and vicinity, namely, James T. O’Neil of Alden; James R. Gunn, Joseph M. Murray, Samuel Falls, Alfred Baker, Originnes Biemuller, John Curry, Harry Broadbent, Raymond Onyx, all of Philadelphia; John F. Maxwell of Williamsport and Albert Smith of Frankford.


When the signal was given, the ambulances rushed down to the shaky pontoon bridge and thence across the river, and although the Germans did their best to destroy them not one car was hit. Up through Fismette the train rumbled, and it was not easy going through the little, narrow streets of the town half choked with debris at many points.

The drivers pulled up beside the temporary refuge for the wounded. The stretcher bearers leaped out and prepared to load the men into the cars and make another dash back across the Vesle to the hospitals.

Some of the Yanks from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania who distinguished themselves during the drive
of the 28th Division. Left - Major Edward M. Iland; Upper right left - Lieutenant Harry E. Leonard;
Upper right corner - Captain Orville R. Thompson; Middle right - Private John E. Kelley;
Lower left - Private George Feiley; Lower right - Captain James A. Williams.



While the ambulances were waiting in the shelter of the building in Fismette to load the wounded into the ambulances, the Huns continued to pour forth their hate on that brave band of Pennsylvanians. It seemed as if they were determined to prevent the evacuation of those wounded men, if it took every shell in their possession to accomplish the nefarious task.

But the doughboys kept at their post with utter disregard for the death missiles falling all around them. Private O’Neil went back to the river to ascertain if the bridge was still standing, and while he was standing on the brow of the hill gazing down he happened to think of a cache of medical supplies in the side of the hill.

He calmly walked to the spot, despite the fact he was the target for many enemy gunners, secured the supplies and carried them back to the buildings where the wounded were being sheltered. Officers who witnessed the feat through field glasses from the far side of the Vesle have since declared that it was one of the most daring and fearless pieces of work of which they have knowledge.

When O’Neil brought back the supplies he reported that the bridge was still standing. At 3:00am in the morning they loaded the first ambulance and started on the perilous journey to the other side of the Vesle. Captain McGinnis went along.

Within a few minutes another ambulance was loaded and followed. At the same time O’Neil had been sent down to take another look at the bridge. Just as he arrived, when the first two ambulances were safely across, a big shell landed right in the middle of the structure and broke it in two.

O’Neil hurried back to his comrades to prevent any more ambulances from starting out until the bridge had been repaired. Just as he arrived, a big shell burst directly in front of the dressing station and several of the men were buried under an avalanche of earth at the entrance to the cellar.

The story is told of how one doughboy in an ambulance, presumably too severely wounded to move, beat an unwounded man into the cellar after the shell burst. Several of the men were wounded by flying pieces of shrapnel and some of the wounded also received new wounds. One of the ambulances had all four tires punctured and it's top punctured in hundreds of places.

After this happened the patients who had been loaded into the ambulances were carried back into the cellar to wait for the time when the enemy should decide to take a breathing spell. By 7:00am the bridge had again been repaired and two more ambulances got away, but when they reached the river front they found the bridge again a mass of ruins and had to return to the shelter.


Efforts to get the wounded men out of Fismette and across the bridge continued, but without success because of the heavy bombardment kept up by the enemy. The next day at 4:00pm, there was a lull in the fire and two more of the ambulances made a break for the river.

They raced out of the town and across the bridge, but arrived on the other side just in the nick of time to escape being thrown into the river. A big shell made a direct hit on the structure and broke it in twain.

This time the bridge was damaged beyond any hope of quick repair, so the ambulance men prepared to ford the river on foot and carry the wounded on litters. This was dangerous work with the enemy fire sweeping the stream, but our boys never hesitated for a minute.

There never seemed to be a task which they would not undertake in their determination to make an end to the Hun. The Fismette affair had become so desperate by this time, and the fighting had been so severe, that our boys were in a mood where they would have rushed into anything. They were not in the best of humor because of being held up by the staunch defense which the enemy was putting up.

In order to get the wounded across the river by the wading it was necessary to organize some sort of defense to keep down as much as possible the enemy task while the ambulance men were engaged in their perilous work.

In organizing this defense First Sergeant Thomas J. Cavanaugh, of Pittsburgh, a member of Company D, 111th infantry, distinguished himself in such a manner as to be cited in orders, and likewise to receive the Distinguished Service Cross.


Sergeant Cavanaugh performed some wonderful work in this instance, and by his courage and daring did much to assist in getting those wounded comrades back across the river to a hospital. He took a small force of his men and captured a small building on the outskirts of the village as a preliminary to the scheme of covering the evacuation of the wounded.

This he organized as a strong point. Then he took a position on a street intersection, where, by stepping around the corner he was protected from the snipers and machine gun fire, and by going around to the other side, he was a target for the machine gun fire sweeping the street down which the ambulance men had to rush with their cars to the river's edge.

German Machine Gunners

Cavanaugh took awful chances that day, for when the ambulance men were ready to move, he would step out into the street and, if the Germans were not firing heavily at that moment, he would beckon to the ambulance men that it was time to make a dash.

He was wounded by shrapnel but refused to go to the rear until he collapsed and was carried off a couple of hours later. The next day, after having his wounds dressed, he insisted on resuming his post and acting as the human target for the benefit of the wounded and the ambulance men.

When the ambulance men got to the river they calmly unloaded the wounded and, raising the litters above their heads, they waded through the water to the other side. All this time with the machine gun bullets and shrapnel churning the waters about them.

On the far side the ambulance men waiting to receive the wounded, and rush them to field hospitals, backed their cars almost to the water’s edge, oblivious to the death-dealing missiles falling like rain about them. They watched closely every move of their comrades in the water and called out advice as to the best way to proceed. In this way our wounded Pennsylvanians were removed to safety right under the noses of the enemy.


But Sergeant Cavanaugh was not the only man who exposed himself to the Boche fire on corners to assist in this evacuation of the wounded and it is but right that mention should be made of Captain Edmund W. Lynch, of Chester, commander of Company B, 111th, and Lieutenant Edward S. Fitzgerald, of New York City. Captain Lynch was killed a short time later. Both these officers took position on street corners during this period while the wounded were taken out and officiated as human targets.

And all this time the fight for Fismette went on ceaselessly. Many were the acts of gallantry and daring performed, but for the most part the work all called for exceptional daring, and so every man shared in it. The unusual acts were noticed in certain instances, but most of them will probably never be known as they were either unnoticed or forgotten during those strenuous days.

The 111th was relieved about this time by the 109th. Then, on August 17, the 112th went back into Fismette, and rotating by battalions assisted in holding the line.

Lieutenant Milton W. Fredenburg, of Ridgeway, an officer of Company D, 112th, had some ticklish work to do, for he was ordered to lead a party of machine gunners filtering through the German lines at night. They worked like Indians, a man slipping through here and another there. Then by an arrangement made previously they all assembled in some woods at the rear of the German line.

Next day when the fighting became furious and the Boche commenced to waver, the lieutenant and his little band threw consternation into the enemy by sending a hail or machine gun bullets into his rear. The Germans in this section were sure they were being surrounded, then broke and fled. The ground was strewn with dead Huns as the result of this bit of work. Our boys were able to get them coming and going.


The bridges were still down and in order to get more men across the river, Lieutenant Ripley L. Shearer, of Harrisburg, with men of Company G, 112th, had to cross the river at a place where it was unusually deep. Some of the shorter men of his command were obliged to either swim or be supported by tall comrades in order to complete the crossing.

They had the center of this advance and captured a building which had been a tannery, and which had been transformed by the Germans into a stronghold. Lieutenant Shearer and his men received high praise for this work as it was exceptionally hard and hazardous. It was likewise costly to our men in killed and wounded.

Company M of the 112th, commanded by Captain Fred L. McCoy, of Grove City, forged it's way down the river bank in one of the assaults and captured an old stone mansion held as a defense point by the Germans. From it's stout stone walls they had been able to pour an effective fire into the Americans. In capturing this stronghold our boys took about thirty machine guns, large quantities of supplies and many prisoners, as the defenders were caught like rats in a trap.

East of the tannery which had been captured by men from Company G, was where Captain Lucius M. Phelps, of Erie, commander of Company G, and Captain Harry F. Miller, of Meadville, commanding Company B, led other detachments in a brilliant advance and were able to turn their guns on the enemy clinging desperately to the northern fringe of the town.

Among the instances of individual heroism recorded around Fismette during these days of carnage and turmoil were the following:


Sergeant Ralph E. Ord, of Dravosburg, showed extraordinary bravery by his skill in handling his platoon, in addition to rescuing several wounded men and dragging them to places of safety away from the shot and shell swept area. With Sergeant Alois J. Guenther, he helped clear Fismette of snipers. One of their comrades was lying on the left bank in the open and the two sergeants got him between them, crawling on their knees, at the same time tugging and hauling the wounded lad into their own lines.

Private Michael Fisher, of Pittsburgh, was a runner who crossed the bridge many times under machine gun fire, while the structure was also under a deluge of three-inch shells. Another exploit of Fisher’s was to conduct twenty-five wounded men, one at a time, across this fire-swept bridge. His comrades declared that he seemed to bear a charmed life.

Private Fred Ott, another runner in the same outfit, carried messages between Fismes and Fismette for five days and, when the bridge was down, which was very frequently, he plunged into the river and either swan or waded across. He would appear at headquarters with his clothes dripping wet. Frank Prosta was another runner from this vicinity who performed many daring exploits.

Our Pennsylvanians were using some French trained dogs as couriers at times, but frequently the animals would fail to get through, and as wire communication had been cut it was necessary to call for volunteers to carry the messages. It is needless to say that there were many more doughboys offering for this hazardous service than could be used.


William Duff, of Pittsburgh, a mechanic, Maurice J. Hargrave, of Pittsburgh, and Private Paul E. Henderson, of Sagertown, were on duty as runners from August 9 to 13 carrying messages across the bridge to Fismette. On August 13, Duff and Henderson were in Fismette when the Germans made a violent attack and it was reported that our men were surrounded.

It was necessary to get a message across the river to our supports on the Fismes side, and as it was absolutely necessary that the message should get through. Two copies were made. Both Duff and Henderson, having begged for the opportunity, were sent away. Both got through and in the afternoon Duff returned with a load of much needed ammunition. Major Harry J. Kelly says they saved the day, for our boys were finally able to beat off the German attack.

Hargrave made about twelve trips across the river and back. Privates Albert R. Murphy, William J. Nixon, Philadelphia; George B. Matthews, Ardmore; Albert A. Paris, Albert A. Davis and Robert N. Andrews, of Pittsburgh, were first aid workers who distinguished themselves, making litters out of twigs. Private Lester Carson, of Pittsburgh, after a runner had been shot down, volunteered to carry a duplicate message over the same route and got through.

J.R. McKenney, of Pittsburgh, took out a patrol in the face of severe machine gun fire and snipers of the enemy. He was for twelve hours without food. Corporal Charles Reitf, of Pittsburgh, showed ardor and leadership unexcelled, for he was one of the first men to force his way into a stone house, occupied by Germans with machine guns, which dominated our flank.

He afterwards took charge of the defense of this house, from which seven German snipers were killed. Sergeant Raymond C. Reisker, of Lebanon, although not required to do so, dressed the wounds of sixteen men, being constantly under constant fire at the time, below the slim protection of a wooden bridge.


Captain Robert S. Cain, of Pittsburgh, armed himself with a rifle and led the men at one exposed ridge. In one place in the battle he found his company faced by 1,000 Germans, the remnants of three enemy regiments. He defeated them and captured half dozen German machine guns.

Sergeant John W. Thompson, of Pittsburgh, distinguished himself by conspicuous bravery, leading a patrol against an enemy machine gun nest of ten guns. In the face of direct fire they captured two of the guns. He taught the men to use them and turned them against the Germans. His patrol had much of it's equipment shot off, his own rifle being shot through by one bullet. He killed numerous snipers and his constant aggressiveness inspired the entire regiment.

Sergeant John Howard Earl, of Doylestown, not only took command and led a platoon to victory, but also dressed a major portion of the wounded.

Hospital men who showed conspicuous gallantry were Privates Carl J. Dunmeyer, of Johnstown, Gerald Maddowar, of Waynesburg, Ray Beck and Emil M. Lauff, Philadelphia.

Stretcher bearers who worked with special courage were Sergeants T. Siebert and J. McCune, Blairsville; Corporal Clair Medder, Zelienople; Privates George Best and Russel Smith, Pittsburgh; Private James Beach, DuBois; Private Edward Wilharn, Edgewood Park; Private Walter Vail, Punxsutawney; Private William Lohr, Ligonier; Privates Raymond Washabaugh, Guy Schorts, Yathboro and Thomas Smith, Washington.

Private Sam Saplio, of Pittsburgh, showed great heroism, being almost impossible to keep him from going alone into the German lines after the snipers and machine guns. So great was his enthusiasm, not withstanding that his canteen and part of his equipment had been shot off him.

Sergeant Robert C. Herrman, of Pittsburgh, took charge of the firing line when all the officers had been killed or wounded.

Sergeant Richard Vaughan, of Royersford, was conspicuous by his leadership and disregard of danger.


Mechanic Robert A Krans and Privates William L. Harris and Joseph A. Gehner, of Pittsburgh, won the plaudits of their comrades for their work in carrying the wounded back from the firing line under a heavy fire. While Bugler Roy Epley, of Jeannette, and Private Carl Otto, of Fremont City, without sleep or food for seventy-two hours, carried messages that were always delivered.

Others who showed extraordinary capacity and bravery near Fismette were Lieutenant Lee G. Fletcher and Godfrey N. Wyko, Sergeant James Mastrovitch, Pittsburgh; Sergeant Alfred Stevenson, Linwood; Sergeant Edwin McBeth, Pittsburgh,; Corporal R.R. Riley, Chester; Private P. Amuer, Dravosburg.

During all the time that this fighting was under way along the front lines, the Pennsylvania artillery stationed in the hills south of Fismes had been undergoing a thorough drenching of gas and shell from the German batteries. But our artillerymen gave two shells for every one the Boche sent over.

At one time just as a battery was geared up to move into another position a big shell dropped right in front of the lead team of one of the guns. The horses commenced to prance and tremble, and it was an ideal moment for a stampede, But the doughboys sat their plunging steeds as if on parade. By their coolness they prevented any further damage and won high praise from their commanding officers.


During the shelling, two men were killed and three wounded severely. Two of the horses were blown to bits, but the battery went on to it's position. The wheel driver hurried to a dressing station to seek aid for the wounded. He then sought out the ammunition dump and obtained a supply of shells. He proceeded on the gallop to the battery position to deliver it.

When he had completed his work he called to one of his comrades and asked him to help dress a wound in his leg. He had a bad gash from a shell fragment, but he had attended the other wounded and supplied his battery with ammunition before thinking of his own hurt. Such was the stuff of which our artillerymen were made.

Members of the headquarters company of the artillery regiments were called upon to maintain communications constantly, and they strung telephone and telegraph wires in the face of the deadliest enemy fire, and oftentimes in almost inaccessible places. They never faltered in the work for it was imperative that these communications be kept working at all times.

For them, to fail might have endangered the lives of the infantry out in front seeking to drive the Boche from Fismette. Men would fall at times, like wheat before the scythe, but always there were others to promptly step into their places. The signal detachments were also continually busy at this work of maintaining communications. They worked day and night, frequently without food or water for many hours.

Many of the heroes who distinguished themselves in the fighting at Fismes and Fismette. Center - Sergeant
John W. Thompson and Sergeant James R. McKenney; Clockwise from upper left - Captain Robert S. Cain,
Carl J. Dumeyer, Coporal Ralph E. Ord, Captain Fred McCoy, Sergeant Thomas Cavanaugh,
Maurice Hargrave, Corporal George V. Best and Michael Fisher.

NOTE: George Vincent Best, a member of the HQ Company of the 111th Infantry, was on assignment to the Second Battalion Medical Corps during the battle of Fismette. George was cited for bravery in evacuating wounded comrades in the 111th Infantry during a severe barrage north of Fismette in August 1918. Best was awarded the Silver Star citation and the Purple Heart for his efforts during that engagement.

Born on September 29, 1899, in East Liberty, the seventh of nine children of Isabelle E. and William J. Best. George enlisted in the Army on April 18, 1917 and was discharged on May 13, 1919. After the war, George settled in Brookline at 1444 Milan Avenue. He worked as a janitor at Dollar Savings Bank. George Vincent Best passes away on March 9, 1990 and is buried at Jefferson Memorial Cemetery.



Considering the hellish fury of the fighting which ensued in Fismes and Fismette, one cannot wonder or be astonished at statements made by Captain Robert Pollock of Pittsburgh’s own “old Eighteenth,” upon his return to Pittsburgh from France. While still a convalescent at the Parkview hospital, Captain Pollock one evening addressed an audience of men in the Grace Reformed Church, located at Bayard and Dithridge Streets.

“If I am shipped to hell,” said Captain Pollock, “I think I can stand what the devil had for me, after going through what the Germans had for us in Fismette. They used everything they had on us, from liquid fire down, and many of my best friends were killed or wounded there.” Captain Pollock himself was wounded soon after Fismette was cleaned out and the Americans started for the Ourcq River in pursuit of the stubbornly resisting Germans.

Here is the story of Fismette, as told by Captain Pollock:

"It was in this scrap that Captain Arch Williams was wounded and Captain John Clarke, of Wilkinsburg, and Captain Orville R. Thompson, of Pittsburgh, killed. We were advancing on Fismette when they fell."

"When we got into Fismette the real fighting started. German machine gunners occupied every window in every house in town. We had to clear those houses before we could clean out the town, and our men were dropping like flies. We had virtually no protection from that awful rain of fire from the machine guns."

"The doughboys, though, went forward, and they mopped up. They went into the first house in one block and you didn’t see them again until they came out of the last house on the block. They dug through the walls from one house to another, and every time they left a house the Kaiser’s Army was minus several more men."


"They asked no mercy and they showed none. They dug through those walls, often with their bare hands, and they tore at those machine gun men like tigers. No wonder the German defense cracked, no wonder that it fled before those American doughboys. Many of our men went down, too, but they got a couple for every one that went down. There wasn’t a live German left in town when they got through."

"One incident which occurred there is mighty strange. We found only one inhabitant, aside from German soldiers, in the town. This was a woman aged about fifty. She said she had stayed in town to protect her property. She started to tell some awful tales, but we hadn’t time to listen and sent her back to regimental headquarters. Subsequently the property which she had been watching was destroyed. We destroyed it. That was when the Germans recaptured the town and we had to shell them out."

"After we drove them out again, however, we went forward, moving toward our third objective; we had gained our first and second. The third was the plateau between the Vesle and the Aisne, northeast of Fismette. We were well up on this place when I was hit. Lieutenant Daniel W. Brooks, of Swissvale, was killed at the same time."

"He was one of those fine fellows every person likes. When I fell I didn’t lie long. They came along, picked me up and started me for the hospital. The last I saw of my men was when, led by Lieutenant Edward Z. Wainwright, they were moving over the brow of the hill on to their objective."

"Among the many strange things about the battles that the old Eighteenth participated in was that it once faced the Eighteenth regiment of the German Army. This sounded too 'fishy,' so Captain Robert Cain, of Pittsburgh, cut the shoulder straps from a captain of the German regiment, who had been killed, and sent them back to his wife as proof."

Reverting to the thread of our present narrative, the German guns from their hilltops still poured in a galling fire on the American positions. Still their snipers and machine gunners hung on in Fismette. To have attempted to cross the Vesle River under such bombardment would have been hazardous in the extreme. An attack in force was obviously impossible, and it was at this point in the campaign that the American and Allied commanders faced some of their most serious and perplexing problems.

The Yanks were chafing for more and more action, although their efforts to this point had bordered on the superhuman. They were like raging tigers when they remembered how many of their brave comrades had fallen victims of foe bullets and other means of human destruction.

All the streets of Fismette were filled with fighters. The combat continued with unabated fierceness and varying fortunes for either side until August 28, when the Germans came down out of their hills in a raging tide of savage and brutal destroyers. Bolting into Fismette, they drove the little force of Americans back to the river, where an amazingly few men managed to hold a bridgehead on the northern bank.


This desperate resistance, however, proved in vain, for the time being, and the town again fell into the hands of the German hordes.

The American gunners then began systematically to level the town, for the Yankee commanders had been forced to abandon all hopes of taking it by infantry assault without an unjustifiable loss of brave, wonderfully brave, men.

Elsewhere along the battle line great events of vast importance in a military sense had been taking place while these developments at Fismette were in progress. In Flanders the British troops, supported by American brigades fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with them, had been driving the Germans eastward, while further south the French were keeping the Hun on the run and demonstrating to the Berlin warlords in no uncertain fashion that the boastful and ruthless warriors from the “Fatherland” were by no means invincible.

American forces around Soissons were pounding away at the Germans in such fashion as to make the Teuton positions along the Vesle River untenable. Even the stubborn defenders of these positions soon began to realize that they could not hold on there much longer without tremendous losses of man power and guns and ammunition.

Among the brave Americans at Fismette, just at this time, little was known of the developments in the other sections. They fought on with bulldog courage, however. Even the junior officers of the Americans were greatly surprised when word came back September 4 that the patrols north of the river had met almost no opposition from the enemy in their latest forward movements toward the Rhine, which still seemed very far away indeed.

Next it was noticed that the foe’s artillery fire had fallen off to a little desultory shelling, so a general advance was ordered. Roads in the rear at once became alive with big motor trucks, bug guns, wagon trains, columns of men and all the countless activities of an Army on the march. It was a wonderful sight to see that main force crossing the river.

Officers standing on the hills overlooking the scene declared later that it was one they never could forget. The long columns debouched from the wooded shelters, deployed into wide, thin lines and moved off down the slope into the narrow river valley.

The ruins of the village of Fismette after the savage battle that raged for several days. The Germans held
stubbornly to the village and withdrew only after setbacks on their flanks forced a general retreat.


The villages and towns of the Vesle valley, pounded almost to dust by the thousands of shells which had fallen on them during the two weeks the armies contended for their possession, lay before the advancing Americans. Down the hill those brave Yanks went, moving just as they had done times without number in training camps and in sham battles and war maneuvers.

Occasionally there was a burst of black smoke and a spouting geyser of earth and stones to show that this was, after all, real warfare and that the lives of the advancing men were constantly “on the knees of the gods.”

Even these incidents had been so well simulated in the mimic warfare of the training days that they seemed to make little impression on the observers, held spellbound as they were by the dramatic values of the momentous and history-making drama being unrolled before their eyes.

The greatest ocular evidence that this indeed was real warfare came when now and then a man or two dropped and either lay still or got up and limped slowly back up the hill. Many of the officers who watched the whole performance compared it to scenes they had witnessed sometimes, in the safety of motion picture theatres.

Occasional casualties served not at all to slacken or impede the advance of the defenders of right, truth, democracy and justice. When the line, moving steadily forward, reached the river, there was little effort to converge at the hastily constructed bridges. The men who were close enough walked over them, while the others plunged into the water and either waded or swam across, according to the depth where they happened to be and the individual’s ability to swim.

On toward the Aisne River the column moved after reaching the northern side of the Vesle. Up the long slope the men went as imperturbably as they had come down the other side, although every man of them knew that when they reached the crest of the rise they would face the deadly German machine gun fire from the positions on the next ridge to the north.

Never faltering even for an instant, the thin line of Yanks went over the crest of the rise and disappeared from the view of the watchers behind. The German machine gunners resisted desperately, retiring only foot-by-foot. The Americans, seemingly glad that the fight was on once more, refused to be checked in their great advance.

Prediction had been freely made that the Germans would make their next stand on a high plateau between the Vesle and the Aisne rivers. The pressure elsewhere on his line made this impossible, and the Hun plunged on northward, while ever after came the inevitable, inscrutable, inescapable American doughboy.

Soldiers of the Keystone Division prepare to resume the advance after the capture of Fismette.


One of the American units which met real opposition at about this stage of the advance was the 109th infantry, which crossed the Vesle River from Magneux some distance to the west of Fismette. Colonel Samuel V. Ham, a regular army officer commanding the regiment, led the firing line across the river and in it's advance toward Muscourt.

During a hot engagement, he was wounded so severely that he was unable to move, but he declined to be evacuated. For ten hours after that he remained on the field, directing the attack and refusing to leave or receive medical or surgical attention until his men had seen every care and comfort which could be afforded them under the grim circumstances of such a battlefield.

For this great showing of bravery and heroic conduct, Colonel Ham was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation which accompanied the awarding of the coveted cross declared that "Colonel Ham exemplified the greatest heroism and truest leadership, instilling in his men confidence in their undertaking."

He was the third commander the regiment had since going to France. Colonel Brown had been transferred and Colonel Coulter had been wounded. All except these first two were regular army men and the regiment had eight commanders in two months.

Fifteen miles away, the towers of the Cathedral of Laon could be seen by the Americans. From the high ground ahead, to which the Yank heroes advanced with all possible speed, the lowlands to the north spread out before them. Laon had been, since 1914, the pivot of the German line. It was the bastion on which the tremendous front of the Hun armies turned from north and south to east and west.

The lowlands represented defiled and invaded France in a very real sense, and the sight of the cathedral towers, seen dimly in the misty distance, thrilled the tired fighters from across the Atlantic, even when much of their strength and their irrepressible enthusiasm had been spent in the terrible fighting of the past few days and weeks.

The 109th infantry covered itself with glory in the advance across the five miles of hill, valley and plateau between the Vesle and the Aisne. Company C of the 109th suffered heavy losses, and on the Aisne plateau this company displayed amazing morale and fighting ability and strength with tenacity of purpose, so characteristic of all the American fighters in the world war for freedom.

After the capture of a small wood below the village of Villers-en-Prayeres, which was described in an official communication as “a small but brilliant operation,” Company G of the 109th infantry ranked with Company B and Company C of the famous old “Fighting Tenth” for their gallant stand and heavy losses south of the Marne. There were 125 casualties in the company of 260 men.


At times during these extremely hazardous operations, following so soon after the taking of Fismes and Fismette from the Germans, the Americans were subjected to a heavy artillery fire, especially while crossing the plateau. During the advance over about the first two miles it was necessary for the doughboys to go forward in the open across high ground, plainly visible to the German gunners and constantly swept by their deadly and destructive fire.

There was little cover and, though it was very difficult later to obtain accurate reports of the losses, the Yank heroes are known to have suffered heavily throughout this part of their advance toward the homeland of the Hun.

Private Paul Helsel came out of this period of the fighting with six bullet holes through his shirt. Two bullets had gone through his trousers, the bayonet of his rifle had been shot away and a bullet was embedded in the first-aid pack he carried. It was considered miraculous, not only by himself but by his comrades and his superior officers, that he escaped without a wound of any kind.

Light and heavy artillery swept the plateau across which the Americans were advancing. Their losses would undoubtedly have been much heavier had they advanced in the regular formations. Instead of doing so, they were filtered into and through the zone, never presenting a satisfactory artillery target for the Hun gunners.

In their stand along the Vesle, the Germans had been able to save the bulk of the supplies they had accumulated there. That which they were unable to remove they burned, so that it would not be of any material assistance to the advancing Americans. Great fires sent up dense clouds of smoke, marking in the distance the spot where large ammunition dumps and other sticks of supplies were being destroyed.

During their progress forward from the Vesle, the American soldiers had presented before their watchful eyes a different vista from that which they had seen between the Marne and the Vesle.

There, the way had been impeded to a great extent in some places by the almost unimaginable quantities of supplies of every conceivable kind which the Hun had abandoned when force to hasty flight, for which he could not possibly have prepared adequately on such short notice as was allowed by the ever alert fighters for democracy and freedom.

On September 7 the pursuit had come to an end, and the Americans and French were on the Aisne River. The enemy again was bristling in his defiance across the water barrier.


The infantry regiments were followed by artillery as far as the high ground between the rivers. There the artillery took positions from which they started to blast the Huns away from their hold on the Aisne, and start them backward to their next line of defense, in the vicinity of the ancient and historic Chemin-des-Dames, or Road of Women.

Battery C, 107th regiment, of Phoenixville, commanded by Captain Samuel A. Whitaker of that town, a nephew of Samuel W. Pennypacker, one-time governor of Pennsylvania, was the first of the Pennsylvanian's big gun units to cross the Vesle at that point.

The night of September 7, the 107th was relieved by the 221st French Artillery regiment, near Blanzy-des-Fismes. The French used the Americans horses. They discovered they had taken a wrong road in moving up and, just as they turned back, the Germans, who had learned of the hour of the relief, laid down a heavy barrage.

Lieutenant John Muckel, of Battery C, with a detail of men, had remained with the French regiment to show them the battery position and bring back the horses. When the barrage fell, he was thrown twenty-five feet by the burst of a high-explosive shell, and landed plump in the mangled bodies of two horses.

All about him were the moans and cries of the wounded and dying Frenchmen. He had been so shocked by the shell explosion close to him that he could move only with difficulty and extreme pain. He was barely conscious, alone in the dark, and lost, for the regiments had gone on and his detachment of Americans scattered.


Lieutenant Muckel, realizing he had to do something, dragged himself until he came to the outskirts of a village, which he learned later was Villet. Half dazed, he crawled to the wall of a building and pulled himself to his feet. He was leaning against the wall, trying to collect his scattered senses, when a shell stuck the building and demolished it.

The lieutenant was half buried in the debris. As he lay there, fully expecting never again to rejoin his battery, Sergeant Ninner, of the battery, came along on horseback and heard the officer call. The sergeant wanted the lieutenant to take his horse and get away. The lieutenant refused, and ordered the sergeant to go on and save himself.

The "noncom" then committed the militarily unpardonable sin of subordination, by refusing to obey, and announcing that he would stay with the officer if the latter would not get away on the horse. At last they affected a compromise whereby the sergeant rode the horse and the lieutenant helped himself along by holding to the horse’s tail. Thus they caught up with the battery.

The 28th Division was relieved at the Aisne, September 8 and 9, and ordered back to a rest camp, after about sixty days of unremitting day and night fighting by the infantry and approximately a month of stirring action by the artillery.


The men were exhausted but were borne up and sustained by the knowledge that they had accomplished almost impossible tasks and had vanquished the most famed regiments of the Kaiser’s soldiery. It was after the completion of this work and their withdrawal from the Aisne that the 28th commenced to be spoken of as the "Iron Division."

Just who was responsible for this designation has not been definitely established, although the remark: “You are not soldiers! You are men of iron” has been attributed to General Pershing.

Anyhow the higher officers soon heard of it and it rapidly filtered down through the ranks, and likewise through the entire American Expeditionary Force, with the result that thereafter our old Pennsylvania guard unit was always spoken of as the "Iron Division."

And that it was a well earned title all will agree, for it is written upon the fields of France in letters of blood, and it is blasted so deep into the memory of the Hun that countless ages will not cause it to fade.

From the time of entering the conflict at the Marne when the enemy was turned back from the gates of Paris and started on that long retreat northward, from which he was never able to recover, until the Vesle River was reached, our Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania soldiers, as well as all those of the Keystone State, suffered terribly.

The toll of death and injury was heavy, and in some of the regiments as many as 1,200 replacements were necessary to bring them up to the required battle strength.

They were praised in general orders by both our own and Allied High commands, and they had long since been recognized as “shock troops,” the highest known type of soldiers.

Citations brought to the division the designation of “Red” and the men were accorded the honor of wearing upon their coats the scarlet keystone. And when you see a scarlet keystone you know that the wearer has proven upon the field of battle that he is the peer of any fighting man in the world.

After their days of strenuous work our boys were thinking of a well-earned rest from the rigors of the firing line for a few weeks, at least, but they were disappointed. The emergency which had caused General Pershing to brigade the Americans with the French and British had passed, and the First American Army was in the forming when the Pennsylvanians turned back from the Vesle.

While the 28th had been battling against the Hun, transports had been rushing many thousands of Americans to France, where they were given preliminary training. It was now proposed to have an entire Army, made up entirely of American troops, and responsible to only General Pershing and the Supreme Commander Marshal Foch.


While the men were grumbling over the change in plans whereby they were ordered into another sector to become part of this new Army ,they were cheered somewhat by the fact that their labors had not been unnoticed by those in the high places. In a general order from divisional headquarters read to all the regiments, the commanding officer General Muir set forth:

“The division commander is authorized to inform all, from the lowest to the highest, that their efforts are known and appreciated. A new division, by force of circumstances, took it's place in the front line in one of the greatest battles of the greatest war in history.”

“The division has acquitted itself in a creditable manner. It has stormed and taken points that were regarded as impregnable. It has taken numerous prisoners from a vaunted Guards division of the enemy.”

“It has inflicted on the enemy far more loss than it has suffered from him. In a single gas operation, it inflicted more damage than the enemy inflicted on it by gas since it's entry into battle.”

“It is desired that these facts be brought to the attention of all, in order that the tendency of new troops to allow their minds to dwell on their own losses to the exclusion of what they have done to the enemy, may be reduced to the minimum.”

“Let’s all be of good heart! We have inflicted more loss than we have suffered. We are better men individually than our enemies. A little more grit, a little more effort, a little more determination to keep our enemies down, and the division will have the right to look on itself as an organization of veterans.”


So away they went to the southeast and came to a halt in the vicinity of Revigny, just south of the Argonne Forest, and about a mile and a half north of the Rhine-Marne canal. Here they found replacement detachments awaiting them. And once more the sadly depleted ranks were filled.

The division was under orders to put in ten days of hard drilling there. This is the military idea of rest for soldiers, and experience had proved it a pretty good system, although it never will meet the approval of the men in the ranks. It has the advantage of keeping his mind off what he had passed through, keeping him occupied, and maintaining his discipline and morale.

The best troops will go stale through neglect of drill in a campaign – and drill and discipline are almost synonymous. As undisciplined troops are worse then useless in battle, the necessity of occasional periods of drill, distasteful though they may be to the soldier, is obvious.

"A day in a rest camp is about as bad as a day in battle," is not an uncommon expression from the men, although, as is always the case with soldiers, they appreciate a change of any kind.

Thus rest camp and it's drills were not destined to become monotonous, however, for instead of ten days they had only one day. Orders came from "G.H.Q.," which is soldier parlance for general headquarters, for the division to move almost directly north into the Argonne.

This meant more hard hiking and more rough traveling for horses and motor trucks, until the units again were "bedded down" temporarily, with division headquarters at Les Islettes, twenty miles due north from Revigny, and eight miles south of what was then, and had been for many weary months, the front line.


The doughboys knew that something big was impending. They had come to believe that “Pershing wouldn’t have the 28th Division around unless he was going to pull off something big.” They felt more at home than they had since leaving America.

All about them they saw nothing but American soldiers, and thousands upon thousand of them. The country seemed teaming with them. Every branch of the service was in American hands, the first time the Pennsylvanians had seen such an organization of their very own – the first time anybody ever did, in fact.

Infantry, artillery, engineers, the supply services, tanks, the air service, medical service, the high command and the staff, all were American. It was a proud day for the doughboys when showers of leaflets dropped from a squadron of airplanes flying over one day. They read on the printed pages a pledge from American Airmen to cooperate with the American fighting men on the ground to the limit of their ability and asked similar cooperation from the foot soldiers.


<>I"Your signals enable us to take the news of your location to the rear," read the communication, "to report if the attack is successful to call for help if needed, to enable the artillery to put their shells over your head into the enemy. If you are out of ammunition and tell us, we will report and have it sent up. If you are surrounded we will deliver the ammunition by airplane."

"We do not hike through the mud with you, but there are discomforts in our work as bad as mud, but we won’t let rainstorms, Archies (anti-aircraft guns) or Boche planes prevent our getting there with the goods. Use us to the limit. After reading this, hand it to your buddy and remember to show your signals." It was signed: "Your Aviators."

"You bet we will, all of that," was the heartfelt comment of the soldiers. Such was the splendid spirit of cooperation built up by General Pershing among the branches of the service.

General Jack "Black Jack" Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, inspects his troops.


To this great American Army was assigned the tremendous task of striking at the enemy’s vitals, striking where it was known he would defend himself most passionately. The German defensive lines converged toward a point in the east like the ribs of a fan, drawing close to protect the Mezieres-Longuyon railroad shuttle, which was the vital artery of Germany in occupied territory.

If the Americans could force a breakthrough in the Argonne, the whole tottering German machine in France would collapse. Whether they broke through or not, the smallest possible result of any advance would be the narrowing of a bottleneck of the German transport lines into Germany, and a slow strangling of the invading forces.

Of this first phase of the Argonne-Meuse Offensive, General Pershing in his report to the Secretary of War said: “On the day after we had taken the St. Mihiel salient, much of our Corps and Army artillery which had operated at St. Mihiel, and our divisions in reserve at other points, were already on the move toward the area back of the line between the Meuse River and the western edge of the Forest of Argonne.

With the exception of St. Mihiel, the old German front line from Switzerland to the east of Rheims was still intact. In the general attack planned all along the line, the operation assigned the American army as the hinge of this allied offensive was directed toward the important railroad communications of the German armies through Mezieres and Sedan. The enemy must hold fast to this part of his lines or the withdrawal of his forces, with four years accumulation of plants and material, would be dangerously imperiled.”

"The German army had as yet shown no demoralization, and, while the mass of it's troops had suffered in morale, it's first class divisions, and notably it's machine gun defense, were exhibiting remarkable tactical efficiency as well as courage. The German general staff was fully aware of the consequences of a success on the Meuse-Argonne line."

"Certain that he would do everything in his power to oppose us, the action was planned with as much secrecy as possible, and was undertaken with the determination to use all our divisions in forcing a decision. We expected to draw the best German divisions to our front and consume them, while the enemy was held under grave apprehension lest our attack should break his line, which it was our firm purpose to do."

"Our right flank was protected by the Meuse, while our left embraced the Argonne Forest, where ravines, hills and elaborate defenses screened by dense thickets had been generally considered impregnable."

"Our order of battle from right to left was the Third Corps, from the Meuse to Malacourt, with the 33rd, 18th and 4th Divisions in line and the 3rd Division as corps reserve, the Fifth Corps from Malacourt to Vauquois, with the 17th, 37th and 91st Divisions in line and the 32nd Division as corps reserve; and the First corps from Vauquois to Quienne-de-Chateau, with the 35th, 28th and 77th Divisions in line and the 92nd in corps reserve. The army reserve consisted of the 1st, 29th and 82nd Divisions."

"On September 25 our troops quietly took the place of the French, and thinly held the line in this sector, which had long been inactive."

Some fighting men of the 28th
Division. Clockwise from upper left - Captain Robert Pollock, Lieutenant Milford L. Gredenberg, Captain John M. Clark, Lieutenant Daniel W. Brooks,
Captain Harris F. Miller, Samuel A. Whitaker.



Preparatory for the great Argonne-Meuse Offensive by the First American Army, another division, composed for the most part of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania selective service men, was sent to join the First American Army to battle along with the 28th Division.

This was the 80th Division, which trained at Camp Lee, Virginia. The 319th and 320th infantry regiments of this division were made up almost entirely of men from this district, although many more were scattered through every part of the unit.

The division broke camp at Lee about midnight of May 23, 1918, and hiked down to the James River. Boats transported the division to Newport News. Troop transports were waiting, and the troops put to sea about 3:00pm on the afternoon of Sunday, May 26. The crossing was uneventful, and after fourteen days at sea the Pennsylvanians landed in Bordeaux, France.

Then the intensive finishing preparations for the battle front were begun and the boys were put through every conceivable form of tactics. It was train, train, train from that time until the division was declared ready to meet the Hun.

After a week at Bordeaux, the division entrained for Calais, where it encamped in a English rest camp. After four days there it was taken to Hesdenel and billeted in barns at Hesdin l' Abbe. After two days the men moved out into their tents. Almost three weeks were spent at Hesdin l' Abbe.

The place was close to Bolougne, and several nights there we watched the Hun aviators bomb the town. After marching to Desores and Samre several times, and attending musketry school at Carle, the infantry entrained for Boquenaisan and hiked to Ivergny, where the regiments remained for three weeks.

From Ivergny the boys hiked through Sus St. Leger to Saulty, from where they made several trips to the front line trenches in front of Blaiseville, just south of Arras. Several trips were also made into the lines at Bausart, and at times they were kept busy dodging shells.

The course of instruction on the Arras front was with the British, and various platoons and companies sent into the front line trenches at times had considerable actual battle experience as the result of desultory raids and other clashes between the British and the enemy. In this way our boys were prepared for the great work they were to perform in the Argonne.

The Eightieth was in line and ready to tackle anything the enemy had to offer when the word was given for the great Argonne-Meuse Offensive.

80th Blue Ridge Division Insignia                     80th Blue Ridge Division Coat of Arms


Major General Adelbert Cronkhite, Commanding

Chief of Staff - Colonel William H. Waldron
Adjutant General - Major Charles H. Jones
Inspector General - Major Albert C. Goodwyn
Judge Advocate General - Major Barry Wright
Surgeon General - Colonel Thomas L Rhoads
Ordnance Officer - Major Earl D. Church
Signal Officer - Major Stephen E. Kerigan
Division Quarter Master - Lieutenant Colonel Albert W. Foreman
Intelligence Officer - Major J. W. Stilwell
Aid - Captain Armstead M Doble
Aid - Lieutenant Horace Harding


159th Brigade - Brigadier General George H. Jamerson
317th Regiment - Charles Keller
318th Regiment - Colonel Ulysses G. Warrilow
314th Machine Gun Battalion - Major Jennings C. Wise

160th Brigade - Brigadier General Lloyd M. Brett
319th Regiment - Colonel Fred Buchan
320th Regiment - Colonel E.G. Payton
315th Machine Gun Battalion - Lieutenant Colonel Thomas A. Rothwell


155th Brigade - Lieutenant Colonel George B. Hawes, Jr
313th Regiment - Colonel Charles J. Ferris
314th Regiment - Colonel Robert S. Welsh
315th Regiment - Lieutenant Colonel William Tidball
305th Trench Mortar Battalion - Captain Paul B. Barringer, Jr


305th Regiment - Colonel George R. Spalding


305th Field Signal Battalion - Major Thomas I. King


305th Supply Train - Major Jeremiah W. O’Mahoney
305th Sanitary Train - Lieutenant Colonel Elliott B. Edie
305th Ammunition Train - Lieutenant Colonel Orlo C. Whitaker
305th Engineer Train - Captain Jacob Schlessinger


Headquarters Troop - Captain George Marvin
313th Machine Gun Battalion - Lieutenant Colonel Oscar Foley

And thus, with the stage set for the offensive which was designed to break the backbone of the German military machine, and force an early termination of the war, and with Pennsylvania’s two divisions ready, one a thoroughly tried and tested division of the highest type of shock troops, and the other trained to the minute and shortly to be designated as a "red division," the zero hour arrived.

But let an eyewitness describe that wonderful scene wherein the Americans gained the victor’s wreath. Thomas M. Johnson, staff correspondent of THE PITTSBURGH PRESS, stood at a vantage point where he could view the great panorama of battle and he wrote:

"In the great amphitheater of the Meuse heights, with the citadel and forts of Verdun looking down, the American First Army this morning struck it's second blow at the enemy."

"Before the blue gray mists of early morning had risen, khaki clad lads swept beyond the famous battleground, over line after line of German trenches. They were beyond Varennes, Montfaucon and Dannevoux, where the trenches were fewer and it is almost open country."

"They were writing new American history where 'They shall not pass' was born. Giving way before them are the troops of the Crown Prince. Thousands who could not escape are prisoners, while the American artillery has crossed the famous brook Forges, now firing from the old German trenches."

"Positions that the Germans have held since the big drive of 1916 have fallen before the Americans, at some places without the loss of a single man."

"At the first onrush our troops stormed Malancourt, Bethincourt and Forges of immortal memory."

"The Americans captured the German first and second positions at Dannevoux, Montfaucon and Varennes."

"Attacking the third position they over powered, with slight difficulty, the German forces, which included Prussian guards, who gave determined resistance to screen the German retirement northward, which already commenced."

"The way for the attack was blazed by a hurricane of shell fire, which commenced at 11:30pm last night and reached its climax at 2:30am this morning. Using liquid fire, a smoke screen and fleets of tanks manned by Americans, they captured prisoners and guns."


"General Pershing commanded the assault, and Secretary Baker watched the battle from one of the Verdun fronts. Some of the finest fighting of all was done by Pennsylvania, Kansas and Missouri troops who smashed the Prussian guards and forced their way up the valley of the Aire, capturing Varennes and the fortress of Vauquois Height, with it's miles of subterranean galleries, where the German dead lay thick, overcome by our gas."

“The infantry and tanks took Varennes, while the capture of Monfaucon, protected by deep trenches, was accomplished with the aid of these monsters driven by Americans, punching through the mists that swathed the ground. The air was filled with the clamor of thousands and thousands of guns, great and small, and the Forest of Hesse was packed with American artillery, when at 11:30pm the first great flash, and the flickering of fireflies, ushered in the concentrated bombardment that paved the way for the attack."

"From Fort De Marre, one of the famous Verdun fortifications, and later from the even more famous Morthomme Hill, the whole panorama of the Meuse heights and valleys filled with the smoke of our guns, and on the horizon the taller columns of smoke from the German ammunition and supply dumps which were burning."

"The infantry went forward, seemingly crawling yet actually moving rapidly, for our artillerymen nearby were already complaining that the infantry had got so far that it was unsafe for them to continue firing. A little earlier, Secretary Baker, observing the battle from Fort De Marre, stood spellbound at the sight of the smoke of our shells boiling up from the valleys."

"The Germans made a wild resistance in many places, but in others only a machine gun screen was encountered. As I watched from the hill the drumming sound died out, and the infantry pushed on."

"A little before noon, the early, low-hanging mists lifted and the sky remained cloudless and blue throughout the day, giving a chance to the myriad American and French airplanes which drove through the air singly or in flocks, maintaining complete mastery despite the later attempts of the Boche to wrest the supremacy from then. Within the first hours a score of the Hun airplanes had been brought down."

"Besides their blindness in the air, the Germans seem to have worked in the dark for two other reasons. The first of which is that our St. Mihiel attack drew their attention towards Metz, and the second that during the first two hours our artillery fire was concentrated on their positions east of the Meuse, so that they thought the attack was coming westward."

"Still, yesterday the Germans moved their artillery out of the sector before us. Some of the prisoners say they knew of the attack four days in advance, and others are amazed to find Americans attacking them."


"There was some heavy fighting at the Fayel farm, near Montfaucon, but the tanks came up in time and helped the infantry, who were aided also by flame throwers."

"From all sections of the front line comes the report that the German artillery fire was light, while for every enemy shell which burst, we saw a hundred from the guns of the Allies. Some divisions found German resistance not especially fierce."

"This is regarded as remarkable, for the Americans are attacking in country which is considered extremely difficult terrain. The heights of the Meuse are a constant succession of valleys, hills and ravines, often heavily wooded and strongly entrenched."

"All this ground now swarms with the greatest American Army ever assembled - veterans of the Marne, the Ourcq, the Vesle and St. Mihiel, intermingled with the newer troops eager to win their first laurels."

"They are all pressing forward, young in spirit. One of the wonders of Verdun is this road which is marked by signs worded in English, “Keep to the right,” with American policemen directing it's traffic. It seems that the spirit of those weary older men, clad in faded light blue, who went down that road to die looks down upon these young Americans beneath."

"There were two great places in Verdun from which to see the attack as it gradually emerged from the mist. The first of these was Fort De Arrme, which lies straight across the Meuse from the famous Vaux Donau Mont, and the second is Morthomme Hill, which means Dead Man’s Hill, and which is situated to the north of Fort De Marres."

"To reach Fort De Marres, one ascends a hill that once was supposed to be the abode of cavemen and monsters. The fort itself is built firmly of masonry and concrete, and is but little damaged from the shelling it received when the Boche held Morthomme Hill three miles away."

"It is currently held by a French Garrison, but on the highest peak of it's fortification were artillerymen from Buffalo who were acting as observers, watching for the bursts of American shells falling beyond the Brook of Forges, which two years ago ran red."

A section of trench on Morthomme Hill near Verdun. From here the 319th Infantry joined the attack.


"From the observatory of Fort De Marres, there is a broad view unfolded through the thick ground mist which filled the valleys with seemingly dark clouds. Seemingly on the horizon, but in reality only four or five miles away, dark smoke dimmed everything. It was the smoke of our barrage. In front and a little to the left was Morthomme Hill, and still further beyond was Hill 304."

"As the mists lifted more, the bursts of our shells became plain and were striking the German positions on the east bank of the Meuse. Our observer pointed out a little knoll, known to be a German observation post. Our shells were bursting all about, but the few Boche shells that came near us struck far down the slope. Thus were the German gunners smothered by the millions of shells, and the gas that we sent, wherever we knew that their batteries were placed."

"Off on the left, toward Montfaucon and Varennes, came the dread drumming of the machine guns which seemed to bode ill for our men. But a brief message which came back reassured us that the score of machine-gunners were in the Melancourt Wood, which was being pinched out by the converging advance upon Montfaucon. That large town itself stood out upon it's hill like a lighthouse, with spurts of our shell bursts all about it."


"The thick mists prevented our seeing the first waves of our advancing infantry, but beneath us we could see, crawling across the valley, some of the support troops with the machine gun carts and the wagons. The whole scene of the war was curiously peaceful. Before noon, however, many of our guns had ceased firing because the infantrymen had gone beyond their range, while whatever firing the German artillery was doing seemed to be on the front line."

"The sausage balloons hung overhead in bunches like clustering grapes. Never before were they so thick and undisturbed. Our airplanes were everywhere, swooping low to drop messages. Not far away some saw that they were practically all marked with the white centered target of the American Air Service."

"From the top of the Morthomme Hill, the top of which is simply skinned, leaving a spot miles in area on which nothing grows, a better view of the brooks and gorges was obtainable. Some distance beyond one could see Americans hauling guns across the brooks, and a little later the heavy traffic followed."

"While at this time just entering from the mist which still clung, although it was thinner, could be seen the first wave of our infantry advancing along the bank of the Meuse. They were apparently as undisturbed as though they were on a drill ground."


After the first tempestuous rush there was no swift movement. The Yanks gnawing their way to the vaunted Kremhilde line and hacked their way through it, overcoming thousands of machine guns, beset by every form of Hun pestilence.

Even conquered ground they found treacherous. The Germans had planted huge mines of which the fuses were acid, timed to eat through a container days after the Germans had gone, and touch off the explosive charge to send scores of Americans to hospitals or to soldier’s graves.

To the Americans, not bursting fresh into battle as they had done at Chateau-Thierry, but sated and seasoned by a long summer of continuous campaigning, fell the tough yet unspectacular problem of the whole western front.

While the world hung spellbound on the France-British successes in the west and north, with their great bounds forward after the retreating Germans, relatively little attention was given to the action northwest of Verdun, and not until the close of hostilities did America begin to waken to the fact it was precisely this slow, solid pounding, this bulldog pertinacity of the Americans, that had made possible that startling withdrawal in the north.

So vital was the action in the Argonne that the best divisions the German High Command could muster were sent there, and, once there, were chewed to bits by the American machine, thus making possible the rapid advances of the Allies on other parts of the long front.


The Pennsylvania men looked back almost longingly to what they had regarded at the time as hard, rough days along the Marne, the Ourcq and the Vesle. In perspective, and from the midst of the Argonne fighting, it looked almost like child’s play. Back home, over the cables, were simple announcements that a certain position had been taken.

Followers of the war news got out their maps, and observed that this marked an advance of only a mile or so in three or four days, and more than one asked: "What is wrong with Pershing’s men?”

It was difficult to understand why the men who had leaped forward so magnificently from the Marne to the Aisne, traveling many miles in a day, should now be so slow, while their co-belligerents on other parts of the front were advancing steadily and rapidly.

A very few minutes spent with any man who was in the Argonne ought to suffice as an answer. Soldiers who were in the St. Mihiel thrust and also in the Argonne, coined an epigram. It was: “A meter in the Argonne is worth a mile at St. Mihiel.”

The cable message of a few words nearly always covered many hours, sometimes days, of heroic endeavor, hard, backbreaking labor, heart-straining hardship and the lavish expenditure of boundless nervous energy to say nothing of what it meant to the hospital forces behind the lines, and to the burial details.

September 24, division headquarters of the 28th moved up to a point less than two miles back of the front lines, occupying old, long-abandoned French dugouts. That evening Major General Charles H. Muir, the division commander, appeared unexpectedly in the lines and walked about for some time, observing the disposition of the troops.

With the Iron Division now completely assembled, and every part working with the smoothness of a clock, each performing it's necessary and vital function to the other, the big unit moved with unusual celerity from the Aisne plateau forward into the western battle line, to engage in one of the greatest battles the world has ever known, during which the artillery brigade, of which the Iron Division boasted, laid down the so called "million dollar barrage," for it is estimated by officers and men alike that this barrage, the mightiest, and, considered from the standpoint of difficulty encountered, the most successful ever fired in the world war, cost at least this amount of money.

The advance from the Aisne plateau was somewhat hampered by the presence of the artillery brigade, as the heavy guns could be moved only by night, and at daybreak had to be camouflaged to prevent discovery by the watchful eyes of enemy aviators.

In the fight against time, the division, impeded by it's artillery, covered a distance of thirty miles in the space of one night, which is record time, especially when nothing but the solitary moon afforded light in the open lands, while travel through forests, was accomplished in almost total darkness.

To have a light of any kind burning meant a possible discovery, as the enemy aviators made frequent night forays. The lighting of a cigarette or pipe was strictly forbidden unless done with the utmost care and under cover.

Daybreak always found the division carefully hidden. When it rained, soldiers and horses alike felt gloomy, for they each knew that with the sinking of the sun, the task ahead would be harder. But their spirit never faltered. It was dogged determination that pulled the caissons with their full ammunition boxes through mud hub-deep, down a hill, through a valley, up a hill, across a level space, through a dense forest, over a stream and ever onward until day would again bring it's rest.

Added to the rain would be the possibility of no moon, and the night would be blacker than ever. Patrols sent ahead guided the artillery by means of the ghost-like, phosphorescent glow from radium wrist watch dials. It was uncanny the way these tiny bits of mechanism could be seen in the dense atmosphere of darkness. They served their purpose well.

At last, after many nights of this sort of travel, the artillery reached it's destined point in the heavy forest, from which the first bombardment in the big offensive movement was to take place. The infantry was several miles ahead, placing full confidence in it's artillery to lay down an effective barrage, beneath which it might advance against the enemy positions.


Concealment of the artillery positions in an engagement is regarded as one of the most vital points to be considered. To have cut down trees, and cleared spaces in the forest, in which to set the heavy guns, would have been utter foolishness, for enemy air observers were quick to see these openings, and immediately, before the batteries of the “Iron Division” could open fire, would have determined the range, and put then out of commission.

To overcome this difficulty, engineers of the division found it necessary to saw many trees partially through, and wire them rigidly together to prevent falling until the time came when the various batteries could open fire. In this manner the positions were so well concealed that not the keenest eye could detect their hiding place. A total of over a thousand trees were cut and wired together in this manner.


Within easy range of our guns lay the ramparts of the enemy positions. At dusk on the night of September 25, artillerymen cut the wires supporting the trees, and the monarchs of the earth, many of then centuries old, fell crashing to the ground, leaving the space cleared for the direct fire of the heavy guns.

With everything in readiness, every man in his position, lanyards in hand, stocks of ammunition piled high in the rear of the pieces, the moments dragged. They were tense moments, the nerves of every men tingling with excitement, muscles itching for action.

Hours passed. At last at 11:30pm, far down the line the signal rifle barked. It was only a faint report, yet it was heard distinctly. The echo was terrific.

An instant of time did not elapse until the great guns roared forth and sent their messengers of death hurling and whistling through the air overhead. Hundreds of guns were used, ranging in size from the light field artillery to the big naval guns, which fired a shell sixteen inches in diameter. Along the fifty-four mile front there were 3,000 guns, of which the 28th supplied it's recognized number.

The barrage beginning at 11:00pm that night lasted many hours. The cost in the shells hurled far exceeded a million dollars, but because of the magnanimity of the expression, it has become known as "the million dollar barrage."

The intensity of "drum fire" was exceeded. It was a continuous roar, and with the cannon muzzles belching flame and smoke, the area for miles about took on the aspect of a huge forest conflagration.

Shortly before morning a Trench Mortar Battery, consisting of twelve ugly, squat weapons, under Captain Ralph W. Knowles, took up position a little in advance of the artillery, and just to the rear of the infantry, which was patiently waiting. It was the purpose of the trench mortars to cut down the barbed wire entanglements before the enemy positions, and clear the ground of any obstacle that would be an impediment to the advancing foot soldiers.


As the gray dawn arrived, on the 26th, cold and damp, the artillery fire increased in intensity somewhat, and at 5:30am infantrymen emerged from their places of concealment and went over. The so-called “Zero Hour" is a dreaded moment to the soldier for it means that he is going out into the open to face the guns of the enemy.

It is far from a pleasant task, but the fighting blood holds sway over the minds and nerves of the men. There are few who do not go over with a prayer on their lips. The waiting is nerve racking. Officers as well as privates feel a sort of nauseating sickness, for death or a serious wound appears inevitable.

There can be no faltering. Every man is a component part of the machine. It is duty that must be fulfilled. Hysteria prevails in many cases. Here and there along the line, some soldier, with his thought of loved ones at home, will break forth with incoherent mutterings. More stable comrades comfort him. It is not cowardice, only a weakness found in all human beings when facing death.

The clocks of officers who are to start the advance into the open are all carefully timed together previous to the attack, so that when the zero hour arrives the action may be harmonious all along the line.

All signs of fear disappear when the signal is given. Those who have experienced the weakness of fear are instilled with new strength. The fighting spirit comes out stronger, and with bulldog determination to do or die, they go over the top.

The old National Guard of Pennsylvania was only one of the many divisions that participated in the Argonne Forest advance. The front extended for fifty-four miles, from the Meuse clear over to the Champagne, and formed a connecting link with the rest of the flaming western front. The American Army alone covered twenty miles of the attacking front, while to the west was General Gouraud’s French army, and beyond that the British forces.


The great effectiveness of the artillery fire preceding the advance became evident only after soldiers had gone over the top. The route ahead was virtually clear of all obstructions, but six feet of level ground could not be found. The whole field of the forward movement was pitted with massive shell craters, making the advance more like mountain climbing.

Observers in the rear could see the infantry, disappearing suddenly from view as they went into a hole, and then clambering up it's other side. Often a pool of muddy water awaited the soldiers at the bottom of a shell hole, as well as mud knee deep, so that climbing out was no easy task considering the weight of the heavy equipment each man carried.

Over this same field a part of the Battle of Verdun had been fought in 1916, and the holes scooped out by the artillery at that time, with those constantly added by the opposing forces in the meantime, could be distinguished from the newly made ones by grass which grew on the sides.

Occasionally a few bleached bones could be seen, grim reminders of the heroes who had died and were being avenged. Instead of disheartening the men, this sight only added to their ferocity. The graves of dead comrades have always brought sorrow to the hearts of soldiers, but as well, a greater hate for the Hun.

The early morning of the advance was gray and forbidding. The land was covered with a heavy mist which impaired the air observations. Overhead the sky was clear, and bore evidence of a warm sun which would soon dispel the mists and permit the work to go on unhampered. It was the season of the year when nights were cold and damp, and days fairly warm.

Consequently, infantrymen wore slickers when they started out in the chill of the early morning. These soon became unbearable, and an impediment to the rapidity of the advance. Hence, hundreds of men, in the heat of battle, discarded them. When night came again, they bitterly cursed their actions, for they were wretched in the cold.


With machine gunners ahead and behind, the infantry advanced rapidly into the domain of the enemy. The first German trench seemed to have been obliterated by artillery fire. It was easily detected, however, but found to be practically deserted of German soldiers. The advance beyond the first German trench was not so easy.

As soon as the artillery barrage had passed, Germans appeared quickly from their dugouts. Many of these were of the pillbox type, covered with a rounded mound of concrete about a foot in thickness, beneath which the machine guns were mounted a few inches above the ground level, their muzzles protruding through small oblong holes in the concrete.

The oblong holes permitted traversing of the guns and enabled a sweeping fire. These pillboxes were usually covered with leaves and foliage, and cleverly camouflaged. The machine gun was one of the most deadly weapons in the war, and one of them firing at the rate of 600 shots per minute has been known to cause havoc in the ranks of a whole brigade.

Keystone soldiers had profited in dealing with these machine gun nests by previous experience. When they discovered one of them spitting fire and flame in such deadly volume that a direct frontal attack would prove too costly, they flanked it on either side by passing around it to the right and left.

In case it could not be destroyed with grenades and rifles, it was left for the heavier guns advancing in the rear. Trench mortars usually had no difficulty in completely demolishing the pillbox type. Consequently Captain Knowles’ trench mortar battery had considerable work to do in the American sector of the advance.

For the pillboxes fairly dotted the surface of the territory. The capturing of a machine gun nest and it's gunners was a hazardous attack. It usually cost many lives, but the sacrifice was imperative, else the general advance would be greatly impaired.

Some Pennsylvania Artillerymen. Clockwise from upper left - Captain Josiah L. Reese,
Lieutenant Peter King, Captain Weaver, Captain Samuel A. Hollis,
Major William Reese, Captain Clinton T. Bundy.



The Argonne battle is noted for the large number of “clean” wounds sustained by the allied forces. A “clean” wound is one in which the bullet goes clear through the body. Such wounds are usually not vitally serious. A “clean” wound closed rapidly, and external as well as internal hemorrhaging ceases in a very short time.

This fact in the Argonne battle is attributed to the ineffectiveness of the enemy artillery fire. It is the shrapnel and big shells that tear men to pieces. This weakness of the enemy artillery was a surprise to the American Doughboys, and in view of the great number of men struck during this campaign, it is extremely fortunate, for had the German fire been as effective as it had been in previous battles, the American casualty lists would have been appalling.

When the infantry came to the second line trenches, a great number of Germans appeared from their dugouts, yelling “Kamerad” and offering absolutely no resistance. Some of them inquired the way back to American prison cages in the rear, stating that they were tired of the war, and wanted to quit. They testified to the havoc wrought by the artillery brigade. What few Germans offered resistance in the second line trench were quickly killed off by the “wipers” up, with hand grenades and rifle fire.


Across the second line trenches, which were just south of Grand Boureuilles and Petite Boureuilles, flanking the Aire River, German resistance began to stiffen. Our own infantry had now passed beyond the area in which the artillery and trench mortars had wiped out all barbed wire, and hence encountered much trouble from this sort of defensive preparation, which was woven around and between trees.

The wire was a maze, laced through the forest from tree to tree, and interwoven so thickly that many hours were consumed in making a distance that otherwise could have been accomplished in a few minutes. The doughboys had to literally cut and hack their way through yard by yard. Their clothing was torn to shreds.

It was a common boast of the Germans that the Argonne forest was such a great wooded fortress that it could never be taken. The Pennsylvania soldiers who participated in the fight are proud they had a share in displaying the vanity of this boast. But they went through an inferno to do it, and lost hundreds of men.

German stronghold in the Argonne. Nests and dugouts like this dotted the war-torn landscape.


The Pennsylvania infantry was advancing in two columns. The 55th Brigade, including the 109th and 110th infantry regiments, was pushing along the Aire River, and the 56th Brigade, made up of the 111th and 112th regiments, advanced through the forest on the west of the river. On the right of the 28th Division was the 35th Division, while on the left was the 77th Division, consisting of selected New York state troops. The 80th was about fifteen kilometers to the right of the 28th.

The towns of Boureuilles, great and small, were taken and cleaned up, after severe fighting, and the advance was continued up the valley of the river in the direction of Varennes, which stands in a bowl-shaped valley and is rich in historical significance, for it was here that King Louis XVI was captured when fleeing from France. When our troops entered it, it was gorgeous in autumnal coloring.

The “Iron Division” coming up from the south in the enveloping movement on Varennes forged ahead faster than the troops in the forest could advance. This fact became noticeable to the Pennsylvania commander when the enemy began pouring in a hot fire from pillboxes on the flanks of the advancing men.

Liaison men discovered this movement too late to apprise the marching division of it's predicament. Ordinarily it would have been held up, until the other section of the army had caught up, but under the circumstances it was allowed to continue onward, while an effort was made to hurry up the lagging divisions.

Major Thompson was dispatched to the east with a battalion from the 110th regiment to quell the flanking fire of the enemy. Shortly after he entered the woods with four companies of troops, increase in the sound of gun firing indicated they were hard at work. In a little over an hour the troops returned after silencing the enemy machine gunners. The division then had easier going.

The battalion discovered that German pillboxes were like a great many other German contrivances of the war - largely bluff. In instance after instance, where intensity of the fire from these places had led the Pennsylvania Troops to believe that a small garrison of men was manning the pillbox, a single solitary soldier was found in charge.

The German commanders, however, had placed at his disposal several guns so it would appear there were many men in the pillbox. Soldiers captured when a number of these pillboxes were taken, stated that their instructions had been to fire as rapidly and as long as possible, without thought of surrender.


At length the Pennsylvanians forced their way to the ridge at the south of Varennes, from which they could see the village spread out below them. A number of officers of the division stepped out into the open to determine the next movement of the division. Among the officers was General Muir, in command of the division.

German snipers still lined the edge of the Argonne on the right, and shortly after the officers had stepped into the open, got busy. Several bullets zipped overhead and a number stuck the ground in close proximity to the General. General Muir remained in the open until he had finished his calculations. He then turned to two of his aides, Lieutenant Raymond A. Brown, of Meadville, and Captain William A. Morgan, of Beverly, Massachusetts, and said:

"Get me an idea of what is over in that wood."

It was a risky mission. Lieutenant Brown borrowed a rifle and a cartridge belt from a private soldier, and the two set out on their mission.

Three hours elapsed before their return, but they brought important information, which changed the course of action somewhat from what General Muir had at first decided upon. They told nothing of their experiences, but Lieutenant Brown had added a German wrist watch to his possessions, while Captain Morgan displayed a German shoulder strap, showing that the Germans in the forest were Brandenburgers.

The troops were switched slightly to the south, well spread out, and the advance down the hill into Varennes was begun. Very little difficulty was encountered. The painstaking efforts of the Germans to make their dugouts and trenches as attractive as possible were seen. The entire slope was terraced off with great care, and the dugouts were arranged in tiers. The officer’s shelters were fitted out with porticos and arbors.

German trenches were evacuated quickly as the Americans advanced. The Huns had not dreamed that Americans could advance so fast through the wooded fortress of Argonne. As evidence, members of the 28th found a luncheon set out on a table in an officer’s dugout. It had not been touched and the coffee substitute was still warm.

In another dugout a piano was found. It had evidently been looted from the town below, and moved up the hill at the expense of much labor. It was in perfect playing condition. American soldiers who took the dugout gasped in astonishment when they saw real American ragtime sheet music on the piano.

Peculiar enough, this music was published long after America entered the war, as shown by the publishers name and the date on each copy. How the music got into the German hands was a puzzle to men and officers alike. No definite information concerning it's presence could be secured.

A number of crates of live rabbits and a few chickens were left behind by the retreating Germans. These were all collected, and when mess call was blown that evening, the officer’s mess was laden with fried chicken and rabbit a la Varennes. The dinner table was set in the open square of the little town, in the shadow of the gaping sides of it's ruined church.

Only a few of the buildings of Varennes were intact. The terrific cross artillery fire was so hot that the Germans evacuated the town long before the infantry arrived. The shells had cut off most of the structures near the second story.

An electric light plant, which the fleeing Germans had attempted to wreck before leaving, was one of the few buildings left intact. It's machinery was repaired by mechanics and engineers and, while the Pennsylvania boys were in the old town, electric light was enjoyed.

German occupants of the village had planted a large number of pretty little gardens, in which vegetables of different varieties were plentiful. Cabbage, radishes, turnips, cauliflower, potatoes, and other vegetables were added to the daily mess menu for quite a few days.

As dusk fell on the evening of the memorable 26th of September, the Iron Division rested safely in and around the once beautiful village of Varennes. Now it is ruined. Time or modern industry will never be able to wholly blot out the marks of war.


Despite it's dilapidated appearance, the Pennsylvanians, during their brief stay in Varennes, found the shelter of the half-ruined houses of much advantage. Of course, the town was not large enough to shelter all of the boys of the “Iron Division,” and those who were within the confines of the little city were envied by those who had had to pitch their “pup” tents in the surrounding fields, amid shell craters and greater desolation.

But they were all happy, and although tired, elated over their success in the big drive. They were commended by their officers. The first day of the campaign did not have Varennes for it's objective.

The boys of the 28th had exceeded the expectations of the commander-in-chief, and gone far in advance of the designated point at which they were supposed to have stopped. This was permitted for the infantry was going ahead in such orderly shape, that to have stopped then, in all doubt, would have injured the morale of the division.

The feelings of the infantrymen when they went over the top in waves, on the morning of that first day of the advance, were now forgotten. The heat of battle, and the encouragement of success, had strengthened them. They were hopeful, bright, and happy, over the prospect of the engagements to follow.

As one of them expressed it, “I was scared to death when we first started but now I can hardly wait until the next attack. You know, the sooner we reach Berlin, the sooner this thing will be over, and the sooner I’ll get back home to the wife and kids.”

Quite a number of amusing incidents occurred while the Pennsylvania troops were in Varennes, even if their stay was brief. During the night, enemy airmen dropped a number of bombs on Varennes. A few of the members of a squad which had found shelter in an old kitchen, got badly frightened. An old stove that was still intact was roaring with a healthy fire when the raid broke.

Two of them jumped from beneath their blankets on the floor, and lost no time crawling under the stove, feeling that the steel above them would aid in protection. Whether they considered the heat of the stove previous to the act is not known. They stuck it out until the raid was over, but for some time following, cronies noted that they rarely sat or lay down unless they could find a soft spot.

On another occasion, shortly after the boys had entered Varennes, and to be exact on the evening of the first day, just following mess, a big car rolled along the main road of the village, dodging debris here and there and finally coming to a stop where a number of soldiers were lying about in a group upon the ground. No sooner had the car stopped, they were all on their feet standing at the most rigid “Attention.”

"What town is this" said a tall, handsome looking man, as he returned the salutes of the soldiers.

“Varennes, sir,” remarked a private after a short silence, in which all of them had tried to say something, but couldn’t because their words got mixed up. They were grateful to their comrade for the reply. With a wave of his hand, and another salute, the big car rolled on while the parting words of General Jack "Black Jack" Pershing, for it was he, rang in their ears, "You boys of the 28th are fortunate. I'd like to lunch with your division today and enjoy your enviable reputation." He left a bunch of red-faced privates behind.


A great deal of credit is due the 103rd Ammunition Train, which kept all of the men supplied, without a break, with the necessary powder, hand grenades, cartridges and shells. The 103rd Engineers again covered themselves with glory in the Argonne battles. Many times they were sent out to repair those roads which existed after the heavy shell fire, and build new ones.

Often times they worked right under the heels of the advancing infantry. It was only after they had performed their work that supplies could be brought up to the fighting troops, and the artillery maintain their changing positions to continue the barrage ahead of the advancing soldiers. To the machine gun battalion supporting the infantry, considerable praise is due. While their work is more dangerous when a division is retreating, it is one of the greatest actors in the advance.

To some of them falls the duty of advancing immediately behind the infantry and throwing a time barrage just a few feet ahead of the first wave of advancing troops. Great care must be exercised to time these barrages accurately, lest the men run into the barrage and be subject to the direct fire of their own guns.

To others of the machine gun companies fall the privilege of advancing in the first line with the troops. A group of the enemy, which otherwise might sorely harass the troops from one of the flanks, can easily be put out of action by one of these guns correctly manned.

The 103rd Supply Train creditably maintained it's work in the face of almost insurmountable difficulties. Doughboys rarely thought to give a word of praise to the men who handled the motor lorries. More often they said "You fellows have a soft job riding around, while we have to walk in the mud."

But these men were continually subject to trying night drives over perilous roads, very often under enemy shell fire. Sometimes the roads were almost indistinguishable, so pitted were they with shell craters.

Many times those drivers were subject to long and continued work without thought of food, drink, or sleep for themselves. Their duty was to bring food to the hungry soldiers, who were fighting, and they did it in a manner well deserving of praise. If the doughboys didn’t get their “chow” when they were enjoying a breathing spell, then the supply train came in for no end of knocks.


Men of the four field hospitals supporting the 28th oftentimes found themselves nearer the front than they were required to go. So well had the opening attack been planned that it was realized the hospitals would have to be close to the front, in order to prevent too long a carry for the wounded after the first rush had been made, and the men beyond the “jumping off’ place.

The hospitals took their positions in the night, so they would not be subject to air bombing before the attack commenced, and so they would not betray the place of concentration of forces. French officers who passed along the front previous to the opening of the assault were amazed, for when the bombardment started, they discovered they had been squeezed in between the first line of infantry and the support.

They were far ahead of the big guns, with whom they were usually stationed. The position was well, for after the advance was started it went forward so rapidly that a great number of wounded men would never have reached the hospitals had they been at their regular station in the rear.

Throughout the Argonne campaign they performed their duties in a well-deserving manner, and found their chief source of recompense in the gratitude expressed by wounded and suffering men who passed through them, on their way to permanent hospitals in the rear, and who had been given the best of first aid treatment.

Men of the 28th Division advance toward the Brunhilde Line after liberating Varennes.


After a short time in Varennes and it's immediate vicinity, the Pennsylvanians again started forward. A double liaison service was maintained between the two divisions, by means of patrols of men, and also by telephone communication, which was established by the engineers. The liaison service was under the direct supervision of Colonel Walter C. Sweeney, chief of the divisional staff, formerly of Philadelphia.

The circuit of communication was not broken once, largely due to the efforts of the 103rd field signal battalion, and Lieutenant Colonel Sydney A. Hagerling, of Pittsburgh, divisional signal officer, who was untiring in his efforts. Lieutenant Colonel Hagerling has said that many times the communication threatened to break, due to the stiff fight the Germans were making, but that it's maintenance was the result of constant vigilance and work. He has been officially commended for his good work.

Each brigade commander was always kept informed of how far the others had advanced. Both of these were regular army men, and they united in giving credit for the remarkably successful advance of the troops to the “unexcelled” team work of officers and men, and to Brigadier General Price of the artillery, for the superb handling of his men.


Beyond Varennes, the infantry found advancing a tougher proposition than they had experienced on the first day of the attack. The Germans had their backs to the famous Brunhilde line, and fought with desperation to hold off the American troops, until the vast Hun armies in the North would have time to extricate themselves from the cunning trap which Marshal Foch had devised.

The great jaws of the pincer-like movement were threatening to close rapidly on the retreating armies, and if the Americans in the center could not be held, the retreat would be cut off, the jaws closed, and the Hun divisions surrounded and either captured of annihilated by enfilade or cross fire.

The advance now lay in the direction of Apremont. Flushed with victory the troops easily took Baulny and Montblaineville, two towns situated on the route to their objective. Apremont was located on the Brunhilde line, and it was here that the Yanks, with hard work, and after they had been partially checked by heavy opposition, broke through the line, and played an important part in the second great German retreat to the northward, which ended with the armistice.

When the artillery reached Varennes, they encountered a severe shelling from the enemy positions on the hills to the south. The artillery had previously cut a path in the Argonne forest advance two miles wide. Through it they gradually advanced right into Varennes.

The effect of their fire upon the green fields beyond the forest was noticed only when they came close enough to use powerful field glasses, when it could be seen that practically every few feet, a great hole had been torn in the earth’s surface. There were blackened mounds of dirt, beside each shell hole, covered with bits of burned foliage and brush torn from the trees as the heavy shells mowed through the forest. The ground appeared as if it had been visited by a forest fire.


Not only were the various separate units of the Keystone division officially cited for their work in the great Argonne campaign, but many individuals received official decorations for valor and bravery on the fields of action. The courage manifested by officers and men of the ranks alike, was of the sterling quality. A few of the instances are of note and are herewith recorded. Among the heroes are several from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Thomas Corry, of Pittsburgh, had a string of Hun prisoners tied to his record. A German sniper shot and killed his “Bunkie,” and Private Corry, being of a revengeful nature, started out to get the man who did the deed. He was gone all day. In the evening he came back with six German snipers. He had killed ten others who would not submit to capture. He has every reason to believe that he got the one who shot his pal, for he covered much territory and battled with every German sniper in the immediate vicinity.

Color Sergeant Miles Shoup, of Braddock, had a reputation of being a “remarkable soldier.” He was extremely fortunate on a number of occasions, and anything dare-devilish was in his line. One day Colonel Dubb of his regiment, the 112th infantry, became lost from the company. Shoup volunteered to look for him. He passed through terrible artillery and machine gun fire, located the colonel, and directed him back to the company.

An officer of the 112th noticed that every time he called for a runner, from any one of the three companies under his command, it was always the same man who responded and performed the difficult and dangerous duty. He made an investigation and discovered that Private Charles J. Ryan, of Warren, a member of Company I, had requested that the other runners permit him to do all of the work.

Those assigned to the duty from each company, should have taken turns in fulfilling the dangerous task. Ryan, himself, confirmed the information the officer gleaned from the other runners. He put a stop to the agreement. Ryan said “he wanted to do it all, because he liked it.”

As an example of the remarkable spirit within the division Major General Muir, head of the division, appeared in the trenches one day, just as the first wave of infantry was going over the top to take a machine gun nest. Three companies were to participate in the capture, and after standing around for a few minutes, talking to the commander of the engagement and acting in a rather fidgety manner, the General said “I guess I’ll command one of these companies today.”

And to the utter amazement of his men and officers alike, he did, with the commander of his chosen company becoming second in command. He leaped out over the parapet with the men of the company, and despite the fusillade of shells kept right on. Several shells fell near him, and grave doubts were entertained concerning his safety. One shell alighted about twenty-five feet from him but fortunately it was a “dud” and did not explode.

The machine gun fire from the nest under assault, as well as from surrounding nests was terrific. In a few minutes the General’s company played an important part in the short battle with the enemy machine gunners. The guns were captured and brought back to the trenches amid the cheers of those remaining behind. The General was a little more flushed of face on his return, but he remarked in glee, that “it took him back to the old days in the Philippines.”

A few days later the General was out again among the troops accompanied by Colonel Sweeney, Captain Theodore D. Boal, of Boalsburg, PA, Lieutenant Edward Hoopes, of West Chester, and Corporal Olin McDonald, of Sunbury, all members of his staff.

A group of German airplanes were hovering over the neighborhood, one of which suddenly swerved from it's course and swooped down to within a hundred feet of the little group. It began to spit machine gun bullets at them. Several of them landed close by. A rifle leaning against a nearby tree, served the purpose of General Muir. He picked it up, and placing it to his shoulder, fired several shots at the German aviator. Whether he scored a hit is not known. At any rate the flyer fled after the second shot.

Men of the 28th Division and some French Poilus rest upon a German dugout recently captured in the Argonne.


When the artillery was at Varennes, Sergeant T.O. Mader, of Audenreid, Luzerne County, a member of Battery A of the 109th artillery, performed the feats that won for him official citation for bravery and the Distinguished Service Cross.

A section of the battery was making it's way over a shell torn road, under shell fire. Eight men of the section and ten horses had been killed. One of the horses was being ridden by the sergeant himself when it dropped under him. A swing team was unruly under the fire. Sergeant Mader dismissed the driver and took charge himself. In the course of the procedure he was so badly wounded that he was no longer able to control the fractious team.

After refusing to have his wounds treated, he continued to direct the gun carriages to places of safety. Then, disregarding his own injuries, he directed medical officers to take care of the wounds of his comrades first. The official citation stated that the sergeant’s conduct was an inspiration to the men of his battery.”

One night the Germans suddenly and unexpectedly opened up on the 112th with a sharp barrage, in the excitement of seeking cover the men became separated. Lieutenant Smith got them together after considerable effort, and affected their complete reorganization. On another occasion, Lieutenant Smith was repairing a line of communication with a detail of Headquarters company men.

He ran out of telephone wire, but so persistent was he that he crawled through the German lines and cut sufficient wire from one of their lines to complete his own job. The men including Lieutenant Smith were working with gas masks on, for the Boche was mixing up the shells and occasionally sent over one filled with mustard gas.

Most of the men who distinguished themselves on the second day of the Argonne fight were those who had performed good work during the opening of the attack along the Vesle, Ourcq, Marne, and Aisne, but they were emulated by many men, inspired by their deeds, whose names previously had not figured in the “Iron Division’s” record of honor.

Men of the Trench Mortar platoons vied with the members of the Trench Mortar brigade, in efforts to help the advancing infantry. They carried their heavy weapons through almost fathomless depths of mud, in and out of shell craters. Throughout the heat of the day, and the chill of night, the Trench Mortar platoons, despite their heavy burdens, were always at hand, when the infantry became stalled by an entanglement of barbed wire or embankment of brush, and called for the men to open the way with shells from their short, stocky guns.

These shells were called "flying pigs," because they were cumbersome in their flight, and looked like a huge pig, waddling through the air. They seldom failed to do the work. Some of them were of the contact variety, and when their nose pushed into the wire, they exploded with a loud report, completely destroying the entanglement, and making a path through which the infantry could push forward.


In the United States Army, men of the cloth are exempted from actual military duty, but are offered an opportunity to serve their country and humanity, as well as their calling, by acting as chaplains to the fighting men. France puts her clergy in the field as fighting men, on the same basis as other fighting men.

On the second day of the Argonne drive, all the officers of the 111th infantry were incapacitated. Lieutenant Charles G. Conaty, of Boston, a Catholic chaplain, was the only commissioned officer remaining with the battalion. Although he had recently been gassed in the Marne-Vesle drive, and had not fully recovered, he immediately jumped to the breech, assumed temporary command, and led the men in a victorious charge.

An incident worthy or note befell Captain Burke Strickler of Colombia, PA, when he and a handful of men were separated from his battalion. They were acting as runners, and had been sent out from the 111th infantry to ask for aid from the 109th Machine Gun battalion. A guide was sent with them. They followed the guide over one hill and saw no signs of the enemy.

Captain Strickler then asked the guide if the machine gun battalion was far away. He replied not more than 100 yards, and started up the hill alone to make sure. The guide was riddled by machine gun bullets from the enemy, a nest of which opened fire from a masked position a short distance away on the left. The guide had not traveled more than twenty feet. Captain Strickler immediately realizing the danger he and his men were in, ascertained the location of the infantry line from a wounded soldier who happened along on his way to the rear, and started for them.

In the meantime the infantry, which had been having a tough time, had ceased fighting for a short period while the artillery was permitted to lay down a barrage fire. Unaware of this Captain Strickler led his men up the hill toward the infantry line, and ran into the edge of our own barrage. He immediately returned to his former position and waited until the barrage had advanced, when he finally reached the infantry lines. Fortunately none of his command was injured or killed.


While advancing around Apremont, the 111th ran into difficulties and was delayed. Runners carried the word to the 55th brigade and Captain Meehan with a battalion of the 109th was sent over to assist. They cleaned out the Bois de la T’Aibbe, which was garrisoned so strongly that it offered an almost impregnable front. Many men were lost in the capture of these woods, but it enabled the 111th to move up in the line with the rest of the regiments which were likewise engaged in the enveloping movement on Apremont, the fall of which was pre-eminent.

The effect of the American pressure was now being felt far behind the German lines of defense, back of the Brunhilde line, this was evidenced by great sheets of flame by night and heavy clouds of smoke by day. It signaled the burning of large heaps of stores, and the explosion of ammunition dumps far to the north, as well as the application of the torch to little French towns which they were evacuating. The knowledge of this only increased the ardor of the Pennsylvanians. They realized that they were breaking the backs of the German resistance, and it had a heartening effect upon them.

Soldiers of the old Eighteenth of Pittsburg who distinguished themselves in battle. Clockwise
from upper left - Romer Johnson, Chaplain Lieutenant Michael W. Kieth, Leslie H. Walter,
Daniel L. Minahan, Sergeant William B. Frederick, Sergeant Christ A. Meletis.



In taking Apremont, the “Iron Division” had the attack all planned, and the men were ready and eager to strike, when the Huns broke thing up in general with a bungling attack of their own. The assault on Apremont has been recorded as one of the bloodiest in the history of the war.

The Boche was not only the one to suffer, for the “Iron Division” lost hundreds of men, while thousands were wounded. Officers who participated in the battle have, under solemn oath, testified that the gutters in the streets of Apremont actually ran red with blood.

The enemy had brought up strong reinforcements of comparatively fresh troops and had apparently decided to make a stand. The importance of Apremont was great to them for it was on the Brunhilde line and constituted the first defense. On it, to a considerable extent, hinged the success or defeat and rout of the German armies to the north.

The town was held in force, much as were Fismes and Fismette, and presented the same problem to the Pennsylvania commanders. Every approach to the town was held by a concentration of forces manning machine guns, while snipers were in every vantage post possible.

Previously the Germans had left one man in charge of a machine gun nest, but now they were manned by small garrisons. The bombardment of the town was terrific, and hand-to-hand fighting raged for many hours which stretched into days, before the town was actually occupied by the Pennsylvanians.

This was the last big battle that they participated in before the signing of the armistice, although they continued the advance and fought a number of successive minor engagements later.

Not until compelled to do so, did the Germans relinquish their hold on Apremont, and when they finally did fall back, it was only to gather strength again, reinforce themselves with fresh troops and launch counterattack after counterattack. None of them were of any avail for the Keystone boys who, once inside the town, could not be shaken, and their heroism has never been equalled.

A Trench Mortar batallion of the 28th Division camps near the village of Apremont.


A few hours before the Americans were to make their attack the Germans broke loose with their attack. This was a surprise to the Pennsylvanians, and the result of it was more than the Keystone men had planned to receive in their own attack. Although reinforced strongly by machine gunners, the slaughter of Germans was terrible. The first wave ran right past our own machine guns into the hands of the infantry.

When those who survived saw the plight of their advancing comrades, but too late to escape, then made a half-hearted attempt to return to their own lines. In so doing they again ran past our machine gunners, who were secreted in shell craters, and they were mowed down almost en masse. The few who survived were lucky.

The American losses were not heavy. It was a blundering attack, and nothing was gained by it. It was planned to have a demoralizing effect upon the advancing Allies, but instead, like some of the previous German attempts to break up the offensive, had a heartening effect.

The attack caused some confusion in the American lines, and the assault that had been planned for 5:30am that morning had to be reorganized, but it went on just the same, and the Yanks entered the village of Apremont, just as they had intended.


After the Americans had entered the village the Germans, after extensive preparations, launched one great attack, by which they evidently had proposed to unseat the holders of the village and drive them back beyond it's limits and the surrounding positions. They came on confidently and with undeniable courage like gallant veterans, never flinching or giving an inch. The Pennsylvanians stood up to them, while wave after wave swept forward, and was mowed down in pitiable slaughter.

The fighting was desperate. In many instances it resulted in hand-to-hand grapples, as dogged and determined as the primitive struggles of man in the dark ages, and brutality reigned supreme. It was not for our men to fight this way, and they didn’t like it, but orders were orders - and hold they would, regardless of life or the methods that had to be resorted to in order to keep back the tides of enemy infantrymen that threatened to overwhelm them and sweep onward.

There was no time or inclination either, to take prisoners or surrender, and the only one eventuality under such circumstances was resorted to. They killed as swiftly and as mercifully as was possible. There were a few places where the Germans gained slight advantage. Many instances of personal and individual bravery worthy of note, took place during the desperate fighting that raged around Apremont and in it's streets.


It was at this time that Corporal Robert E. Jeffrey, of Sagamore, and Sergeant Andrew B. Lynch, of Philadelphia, distinguished themselves. As members of the headquarters company of the 110th infantry, they were in charge of a one-pounder trench mortar battery, located at a position slightly north of the village. Receiving orders to move their position to the rear, they did so, and shortly afterward learned that their commanding officer, Lieutenant Myer S. Jacobs had been taken prisoner.

Immediately the two men organized a rescue party consisting of five men and moved forward, attacking a machine gun nest manned by thirty-six Germans, who it was known, had Lieutenant Jacobs in their custody. The little party killed fifteen of the Germans, took three prisoners and released the lieutenant uninjured.

Immediately after his return to the American front lines, Sergeant Lynch took seventy-five fresh men, and with revolver drawn, led them against the enemy in a fresh attack. The group penetrated the German line to a depth of two-thirds of a mile and established a new position in a ravine north of Apremont. Sergeant Lynch was officially cited for bravery.


Although he had formerly distinguished himself at the Marne, Captain Charles L. McLain, of Indiana, again gained prominence in the Apremont fight. While engaged in fighting with his own company, he was informed that Company C of the 110th infantry was without officers. His own company was a part of the reserves and he had a number of junior officers under him.

Without a moment’s hesitancy, Captain McLain turned the company over to one of these and went to the aid of Company C. He personally led the first wave that this company made in a hot attack and was wounded himself. But his wound did not stop him. He went right along with his men, hobbling with a cane, until the objective was reached. Then he permitted them to send him to a hospital. He later recovered from his wounds and rejoined his company.

The 109th infantry bore the brunt of the second German assault on the American lines while they were in Apremont. Major Mackey, who, as Captain Mackey distinguished himself at the Marne, had established his headquarters in the basement of an old building, the top of which had been destroyed by shell fire.

With him were the battalion adjutant and a chaplain, members of his staff. When telephone communication was severed from his headquarters, and runners which had been giving him information from different points along the battle line ceased to come, he instantly knew that the Germans had gained some ground and were advancing. This would mean he would be captured unless the post was removed further to the rear of the fighting troops.

While pondering the threatening situation, he and his men suddenly heard the cracking of a machine gun, which had been set up on the floor over their heads. It blazed away merrily for a time, with its regular “rat-a-tat, tat-tat-tat” which sounds like a pneumatic riveter at work sealing together heavy cordons of steel.

Simultaneously he heard the bawling of commands in a hoarse German voice. This was sufficient to make the major aware that the machine gun above their subterranean post was manned by a crew of German soldiers.

Infantrymen of the Keystone Division enter Apremont on their way towards Pleinchamp Farm and more fighting.


When the last desperate German assaults were successfully stemmed, the American division forged ahead once more and advanced beyond Apremont. The fighting was severe, however, and the advance was made over ground that was contested every rod. Directly in the way of the advance was Pleinchamp Farm, which was cleared up only after considerable effort and some very brisk fighting.

The farm was a group of small buildings, as is usually the case when the term “farm” is used in France, and was so arranged that a body of men making an attack on one of the buildings would be subject to the whole fire of the Boche from the others.

The buildings afforded excellent places for the secretion of machine guns, automatic rifles, one pound mortars and snipers. The walls of the structures were usually of stone, very thick, and an excellent protection from invasion. The Germans were finally cleared out of Pleinchamp Farm, and the next objective, Chattel-Chehery, lay straight ahead.

Undaunted, the heroes kept right on going. There were a number of cases where companies emerged from combat under the command of a corporal, or some other non-commissioned officer, because all of the commissioned men had either been killed or wounded so badly that they could not direct the fight. The Apremont fight was a costly one, but through it the name of the Keystone division has been written in the records of time.

From Apremont, the course of battle veered slightly to the west, although it still followed the course of the river. The artillery now came into Apremont and there ran into severe shelling, the same circumstance that was met when it entered Varennes. One battery of the 109th artillery was almost completely knocked to pieces by the heavy shells.

Guns were torn from their carriages, caissons destroyed and men injured. Colonel Asher Miner of Wilkesbarre, PA, seeing the plight of the battery went out in person and supervised the work of reorganization of the battery and it's reconstruction. For his personal care, and the attitude shows he was commended very highly by Brigadier General Price - in the following words:

“Colonel Miner has shown bravery on many occasions, but it is when men do what they do not have to do that they are lifted to the special class of heroes. Miner is one of these.”

Colonel Miner was constantly looking after his men, and their equipment, and his general efficiency and ability are not questioned. It was shortly after the above quoted commendation that he was injured so severely that his foot had to be amputated. A piece of shell struck him in the ankle.

The 112th infantry took Hills 223 and 244, which lay directly in the path of Chatel-Chehery. These two hills presented formidable obstacles and were of considerable military value to the enemy. They were strongly garrisoned, but despite this fact the Americans never hesitated. Because of their vantage point at the top of the hills the Germans were only able to postpone the advance, for it took four days to capture both hills, in conjunction with Chene Tondu Ridge.

The Americans were careful, for it was a situation in which much might be lost, and where much might be gained. The methods employed were of the nature of a siege. The Pennsylvanians were familiar with this method of fighting. While some of the forces spotted the German firing positions and turned their guns upon them, keeping up a steady and non-intermittent fire, others crept forward to selected posts.

These in turn set up a peppery fusillade, while the others would advance up the side of the hills in the same manner. For four days this kept up, and finally when the doughboys were near enough to the tops they dashed over. For their faithful work that night, they were permitted to remain on the crest and sleep until morning. More of France’s territory was redeemed.

A German machine gun and communication outpost located on the hills approaching Chatel-Chehery.


On the night before the capture of Hills 223 and 244, afflicted with Spanish influenza and suffering from a number of wounds in his shoulders and legs, Sergeant Ralph N. Summerton, of Warren, PA, sat in the kitchen of his company, feeling mighty miserably.

The wounds were the result of a German "potato masher" as the German hand grenade is familiarly known, which went off close to him. Sergeant Summerton, despite his wounds, refused to go back to the hospital, but had been treated at a field hospital. He had a couple of metal tags with him to show for this. Hence he was not made to go to the rear hospital.

While nursing his troubles, Lieutenant Dickson, battalion adjutant, and Benjamin F. White, Jr., a surgeon, entered the kitchen. Sergeant Summerton asked how the regiment was getting along. He was informed there was no one to lead Company I into the attack. Summerton immediately applied for the job.

He was admonished to rest up by the surgeon, but Summerton refused to listen and started for the company. He assumed it's command, and was at the head of the first troops to go against Hill 244. He actually was the first person of the attacking forces to reach the top of the hill.

The brigade commander saw him do the deed and realized his courage, knowing that he was almost reeling from his illness and his wounds. Even after the soldiers reached the top he continued to lead the attack until a bullet in the shoulder forced him to retire.


With the principal defense out of the way, the “Iron Division” steadily marched up the valley of the river on to Chatel-Chehery. In the course of the progress the men captured a German railroad that had been a part of the communication system, with 268 cars and seven locomotives. The locomotives and cars were camouflaged cleverly to blend with the trees, ferns and bushes of the forest.

The locomotives were of a peculiar design, having a large boiler, small drive wheels, and a large fly wheel located centrally on top of the boiler. Four of them had been partially destroyed before capture, but the 103rd Engineers soon had them in order and they were running full tilt, performing valuable service.

Two other valuable captures were made by the “Iron Division” at the time of the fall of Chatel-Chehery. One of these was a saw mill and 1,000,000 feet of sawed lumber. The saw mill was an electrically operated one, and with it were several electric stations, all of which were immediately repaired and set to work for the conquering division. The other capture was perhaps of greater benefit.

It was a complete field hospital, consisting of fifteen cottages, built in an attractive spot on the side of a hill. The buildings were all connected with picturesque walks made of red brick and red painted concrete. A large building in the center, used as the operating quarters, was modernly constructed and equipped completely with a modern operating room.

A ghastly sight greeted some of the doughboys of the 28th when they entered this room. So hasty had been the German retreat that a patient upon whom they had been working was left on the operating table. He had one leg cut off, and was dead. Instruments being used in the operation were lying on the table, and it was evident that the patient had been left to die at the moment of operating.

Chatel-Chehery proved easier than had been anticipated. There was severe fighting which could end only in one way - the way the Pennsylvanians intended it to end. They entered the town on the same day of the opening attack.

The French village of Chatel-Chehery. It was near Chatel-Chehery that Sergeant Alvin York
of the 82nd Division was recognized for almost single-handedly killing twenty-one Germans,
and capturing 132 more while crossing behind enemy lines to search out and destroy
enemy machine-guns that were blocking the American advance. Soon he was
awarded the Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre.


Fleville lay in the path of the fighting division, and it was captured. The outskirts of Grand Pre, a formidable German stronghold, lay just ahead. The American division under it's able commanders immediately commenced to surround the city and capture it, when official orders were received checking them in their preparations and returning the entire division back into billets for rest.

It was stated in the order that fourteen days of continuous fighting was enough for any division. Another division took it's place before Grand Pre, and in one of the severest fights of the war, succeeded in capturing it just before the armistice was signed.

In the meantime the “Iron Division” was moved southward across the Aire, and finally came to rest in positions at Thiacourt, about four miles back of the front lines, and sixteen miles from the German fortress of Metz.

Following the capture of the St. Mihiel salient by the Americans and French, a general assault on Metz was being planned, but again the armistice saved a bloody combat, for the assault did not materialize. The Allied armies were ready however, and in all probability would have captured this fortress that hundreds of military men have pronounced invulnerable.

The route of the 28th Division up the Aire Valley towards Chatel-Chehery and Hills 223 and 244.


While the units of the Keystone Division were resting at Thiacourt, the artillery was detached and sent to harass the fleeing Hun on the roaring, blazing battle line in the north. The German Army was now rapidly nearing complete collapse, and the part the Pennsylvanians played in the achievement is one to be proud of.

Traveling to the northward for many miles, the artillery finally found itself in Belgium, that shell torn, scarred, black waste, over which armies had fought for four years. Here they were attached to the army of pursuit, which was intended to hound the fleeing Huns to the last stand.

The artillery of the "Iron Division," however, did not see action, for the armistice interrupted. To see the devastation, black ruin and bleak barren wasteland of Belgium incensed the gunners with an increased abomination of the Hun, and they are sorry they did not get to do the work that had been mapped out for them.

Unexpectedly, orders were received while the 56th Brigade was at rest near Thiacourt, two days after the arrival of the division at that rest camp, ordering them into the line extending from Haumont, Xammes, to Jaulny, evidently in preparation for an assault on Metz. This was shortly after the middle of October, and the men were looking forward to some more severe fighting. They had now become a part of the Second American Army.

The 55th Brigade was to have relieved the 56th Brigade in ten days, but this order was countermanded, and the brigade moved up in line with the 56th instead. A number of sharp engagements were fought, which unfortunately lost their importance and received very little publicity due to the rapid collapse of the German Army, which was now inevitable. Therefore it was in these positions that the armistice stopped the Pennsylvanians.

Six months overseas fighting, during which an enviable reputation was made, won for the Keystone men the right to wear the gold chevron on the right sleeve. After the signing of the armistice the whole division was moved back to a position near Heudicourt, where it enjoyed a fine rest with very little work attached to it. Daily drilling took the place of fighting. The men were kept in good condition by this process, ready for any emergency.

Finally when the Army of Occupation was well up to it's positions on the Rhine, the 28th was chosen as one of several divisions to make up a line of support to the troops entering Germany and were assigned a base in Lorraine. By being assigned as part of the army of support, the division was given a direct share in the final triumph, and the honor came as recognition of the excellent service and sacrifice it had made during the last months of the great World War.

Major General William H. Hay succeeded General Muir in command of the division after the armistice was signed, and General Muir was given the command of the Fourth Army corps. He left the 28th with deep regret. Before leaving he took occasion to once more commend the division in it's entirety for it's part in the war, and directed that special orders commending each unit, and mentioning some of the special feats it accomplished, be drafted and distributed to every man in the division. This was done. The communication in part read:

“The Division Commander desires to express his appreciation to all the officers and soldiers of the 28th Division and of it's attached units who, at all times during the advance in the Valley of the Aire and in the Argonne forest, in spite of their many hardships and constant personal danger, gave their best efforts to further the success of the division.”

“As a result of this operation, which extended from 5:30am on the morning of September 26 until the night of October 8, with almost continuous fighting, the enemy was forced back more than ten kilometers.”

In spite of the most stubborn and at times desperate resistance, the enemy was driven out of Grand Boureuille, Petite Boureuilles, Varennes, Montblainville, Apremont, Pleinchamp Farm, Le Forge and Chatel-Chehery, and the strongholds on Hills 223 and 244 and La Chene Tondu were captured in the face of strong machine gun and artillery fire.”

“As a new division on the Vesle River, north of Chateau-Thierry, the 28th was cited in orders from General Headquarters for it's excellent service, and the splendid work it has just completed assures it a place in the very front ranks of fighting American divisions.”

“With such a position to maintain, it is expected that every man will devote his best efforts to the work at hand to hasten that final victory which is now so near.”

Although the 109th, 110th and 111th infantries distinguished themselves throughout the Argonne-Meuse campaign, the 112th displayed equal valor, and took it's share of the severe fighting with equanimity of feeling, fulfilling each task with a thoroughness that only true Pennsylvanians can accomplish. Major C. Blaine Smather, of the University of Pittsburgh, who resides in Oakmont, during a portion of the offensive, was second in command of the regiment.

He later became it's commander when officers ahead of him received promotions. Major Smathers was gassed and was forced to undergo treatment at a hospital. He tells of many incidents that occurred to the 112th infantry which are interesting.

He tells of how previous to the opening of the Argonne-Meuse offensive, the 56th Brigade, composed of the 111th and 112th infantries, was stationed near Epieds, just north of the Marne River. A battalion of the 111th was in woods nearby and apparently was lost.

The exact location of the battalion could not be learned and the predicament was exasperating for the brigade artillery could not let go at the Boche for fear of shelling the lost battalion of the 111th. The one thing that had to be done was to locate the lost battalion, which was in command of Colonel Shannon, also commander of the 111th infantry.

Accordingly on the morning of July 28, 1918, the first battalion of the 112th, under command of Major Smathers, went forward to locate the lost battalion. During the advance through the woods the searching battalion was heavily shelled. It stopped to reconnoiter at a vantage place in the forest, and Captain James Henderson, of Oil City, with a patrol of men was sent out to locate Colonel Shannon.

He went several hundred yards, succeeded in locating the missing battalion and Colonel Shannon. But when returning with his command, the colonel was struck by a Boche high explosive shell and killed instantly. Location of the battalion, however, proved of decided advantage for it permitted brigade artillery to open fire on the Boche positions, and removed the danger of striking the lost battalion.


During the second Marne offensive, Brigadier General Weigle, in command of the 56th brigade, was promoted to major general and sent to the north to command a division. Colonel George C. Rickards assumed command of the 56th and Major Smathers was promoted to first in command of the 112th infantry regiment.

Just before the 28th was relieved at the Aisne, Major Smathers was gassed. He was leading an attack and going forward under difficulties. The day was a hot one, and the Boche persisted in sending over a gas shell every so often. “Mixing them up” the doughboys called it.

Major Smathers had trouble with his gas mask. The air was sultry and with the poorly functioning mask the major could not get his breath. Accordingly he removed it from his face for a minute or two and tried to adjust it. In so doing he inhaled a slight quantity of gas which later necessitated his removal to the hospital. He was confined there for three weeks but rejoined his command on August 19.

After a short rest the 56th brigade moved again up into the front lines. On the night of September 5, the 112th was located in a small patch of woods near the Vesle River. The divisional artillery was in the same woods with a large number of artillery horses.

During the afternoon of the following day a Boche plane flew overhead at an unexpected moment, located the small concentration of troops, and flew back to the German lines. That night, and it was not unexpected, bombing planes flew overhead and dropped several huge bombs in the midst of the troops. Many were killed and injured and fifty artillery horses were killed.

On the night of September 19 the 112th infantry relieved a French regiment in the front lines of the Argonne sector. For several days there was little action by either the Americans or the Germans in the trenches opposite them. On September 23, Lieutenant Colonel Bubb took command of the regiment, and then on the 25th the entire division was moved up into position for attacking.

The Argonne forest lay just ahead of the attacking armies and the offensive was carefully planned. Zero hour was set for 5:00am on the 26th. The 111th infantry was in support of the 112th, which bore the brunt of the first attack. The Pennsylvanians went over the top after an all-night bombardment, with the 111th following closely. Throughout the entire day the fighting was severe.

About evening the regiment drew an intense machine gun fire from the enemy, which resulted in heavy losses. The fighting regiment, however, kept on, and Company M, of the 112th, made up almost entirely of Grove City boys, saved the day.

Reconnoitering through the woods the company captured forty-nine Boche artillerymen that were about to man two German 77mm guns. They had been placed on the edge of the woods and commanded a considerable portion of the valley, up which the conquering armies were marching.

With their tremendous capacity, the German gunners could have swept the invading forces with such an intense fire that further progress would have been almost impossible. Fortunately Company M located them before they got into action.


Parallel with the conquests of the 28th or “Iron Division” are the deeds and fighting valor of the 80th Division, which was made up of men from Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. The 80th Division has been named the Blue Ridge Division, it's members being recognized by a shield insignia of olive drab cloth, upon which is superimposed in the center three blue hills, representing the Blue Ridge Mountains, all outlined in white.

This insignia is worn on the left shoulder of the uniform. The greatest number of Pennsylvanians grouped together in separate units of the 80th were in the 319th, 320th infantries and 315th machine gun battalion.

The Blue Ridge Division encountered it's severest fighting in the Argonne-Meuse offensive from September 26 on until the armistice. It advanced to positions father to the north than did the “Iron Division,” which had a more strongly defended sector to fight against and was materially checked by the concentration of troops around Varennes and Apremont. The part the two divisions played in the Argonne fight was intended to be different.

It was the severe defeat of the Germans at Apremont and Varennes that permitted the American armies to pursue the fleeing Hun so far to the north. Unlike the 28th division the 80th had no set battle front during the Argonne fight, once the offensive was under way, but was shifted from one place to another in the battle line. This shifting about subjected the 80th to many long, wearisome marches.


On September 25, after having marched two nights from a rest camp in the St. Mihiel sector, the Blue Ridge Division reached the Bethincourt sector of the Argonne-Meuse offensive, which place they had been accorded by the higher command. From the morning of September 26 until the 29th they advanced into the Argonne. From October 4th through the 12th they were in the Nantillois sector of the Argonne-Meuse battle, and were moved forward on November 1 to the St. Juvin sector where they fought until the 6th.

The Blue Ridge fighters, in their big drive of seventeen days from September 26 until October 12, and in their last days of the offensive, of November 1 to November 8, reflected the great manhood of the three Blue Ridge states: Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia. Recognition of the division’s great work was exemplified in the promotion of it's commander, Major General Cronkhite, who was placed in command of an American army corps.

The honor would probably have carried a three-star decoration had it not been for a war department order prohibiting promotion under certain conditions. Major General Sturgis, whose father held the same rank in the Civil War, was placed in command of the 80th after the promotion of Major General Cronkhite, and continued to command until the armistice was signed.

The 160th brigade, made up largely of scrappers from Pittsburgh and vicinity, was fortunate in having for it's commander Brigadier General Lloyd M. Brett, who had been in active command of troops for forty years. General Brett was rated among the A.E.F. leaders as one of the very best. His military genius was tempered so generously with fatherly action that he soon became dear to the hearts of the 7,000 troops who made up his command.

Officers at 80th Division Headquarters: Left to Right - Brigadier General
George H. Jamerson, 159th Infantry; Major General George W. Reed,
2nd Army Corps; Major General Adelbert Cronkhite, Commanding 80th
Division and Brigadier General Lloyd M. Brett, 160th Infantry.


General Brett was exceptional in his methods of fighting. He used military strategy that has not been surpassed, and in very few instances did he adhere to the set forms that were commonly known by the allied and German forces. Peculiar enough his many schemes resulted in decided successes. In the capture of machine gun positions, for example, General Brett employed a brand new method when it was found impracticable to use a flanking movement. General Brett’s orders were to have the men seek cover and re-form.

Meanwhile the artillery would be instructed to lay down a barrage over the positions infested by enemy machine gunners, which would be so severe that the Boche would be compelled to seek shelter in their dugouts. The order would be given for the barrage to cease, and suddenly, before the Germans could get back to their guns, General Brett’s men would sweep down upon them and capture the Hun crews in their shelters.

Another method employed by General Brett to combat the deadly machine gun was to resort to tactics which required the enemy gunners to maintain a continuous fire. Machine guns are capable of keeping up a sustained fire for a period of twenty minutes, when they become to hot to be efficiently handled. After the enemy would be kept busy firing for this period, and forced to change gun barrels to avoid overheating, an advance would be made upon them and their capture would be made possible at a minimum cost.

It was not an infrequent occurrence it is claimed, to see General Brett out in front in the thick of the fighting with the men of the units in his command. He was where his men were, and he was often seen giving water and aid to a fallen soldier. While at Camp Lee, and during the fighting in France, he was fairly idolized by his soldiers, and the men declare that he was more of a father to them than an officer, as he always had their welfare at heart. He was in touch with the men in the ranks and it was not an uncommon sight to see him chatting with them.

Some of the fighting men of the “old Eighteenth” of the 28th Division. Clockwise from upper left -
Earl A. Allan, Captain Frank A. McHenry, John A. Davis, John F. Austin,
Albert Heimann, Sergeant Thomas M. Jarrett.



In presenting this story of the activities of the 80th Division, THE PRESS has been fortunate in securing a copy of the diary of Corporal Arthur N. Pollock, Company F, 320th infantry, whose home address is 614 Wallace Avenue, Wilkinsburg, Cpl. Pollock carefully jotted down the events from day to day in the great Argonne-Meuse Offensive.

Perhaps no more faithful record of this great battle and the work of the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania men, who made up a large part of this division, could have been obtained, for it comes from a man in the ranks who was actively engaged out on the very brink of that far-flung battlefront, and who was gifted with the facility of observing and recording the swiftly moving panorama of that stupendous occasion. It is a wonderful, gripping story simply, and intelligently, and thoroughly told, and it is intimate, for it concerns our boys.

Future histories of that wonderful drive by the First American Army through a German stronghold reputed to be impregnable will no doubt give more detail in dealing with the operation from a military viewpoint, but they will not tell of the daily grind of the sons whom the fathers and mothers of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania sent into that contest for the freedom of the world, and of their achievements.

Corporal Pollock’s diary covers the work of our soldiers; of their dangers and their privations; and even amidst that awful carnage with death stalking on every hand; with throats parched with thirst; with stomachs crying out because of the gnawing pains of hunger; with their bodies weakened from incessant strife in the daylight hours and sleepless nights they still found time for humor and to laugh, and best of all, to "carry on."

Corporal Pollock and these lads of whom he speaks were one of the big factors in breaking the back of the German military machine; that mighty mechanism which had almost crashed it's way through to Paris, the sea, and victory before America answered with her unconquerable legions; those wonderful legions whose glittering steel withered the most famous of the Kaiser’s regiments and cut them down like wheat before the reaper’s blade.

Here is Corporal Pollock’s story as he set it down whenever he had a moment’s respite, while the events were fresh and indelibly stamped in his memory:

"On September 24 about 5:00pm, near Lempere, we rolled full packs and, in addition to the Chat-Chat automatic rifle, I had two bombs, one hundred rounds of ammunition in my belt and two bandoliers of 60 rounds each. At 6:00pm we had our supper of beef stew, bread and jam, Karo and coffee. On this date we received semi-automatic pistols of .45 caliber. Our iron rations, or emergency rations, consisted of four boxes of crackers, known as hard bread, and one can of corned beef. At 7:00pm we started on a twelve kilometer march toward the front."

"On this march we passed the great Verdun cemetery, where two million soldiers are buried, of which over one million are German and the balance soldiers of the allies. When near Germanville, the Hun started to shell the road we were marching on, so we put on our helmets. We marched through Germanville and up a long hill to the trenches and dugouts in the woods northeast of the village. Here we were about six kilometers from the front line with French heavy artillery all around us, some of it capable of firing eighteen kilometers."

"We arrived here shortly after midnight. F. Kirk Earls and I did not pitch tents but just rolled up in our blankets and shelter halves. For the first and only time in my life I slept with a pistol under my head. All night the Huns were firing shells over our heads into the town we had come through earlier in the evening, and how we hoped they would not shorten their range."


"On September 25 we got up at 6:00am. It was a very pretty morning and the weather was fine. We had breakfast at 8:00am, and Earls and I cleaned our automatic pistols and rifles, pitched our tent, and visited dugouts Number 6 which had been assigned to “F” company in case of an emergency."

"The main stairway down was fifty feet deep. One room at the foot of the stairs was fitted up with bunks and there was also on this floor a fully-equipped power plant for lighting the whole series of dugouts. About halfway down the stairs there was also another large room equipped with bunks. Electric lights were used throughout."

"At 2:00pm we had dinner – beef stew, potatoes, bread and coffee. At 3:00pm, Captain Maag gave us a lecture on the use and care of the pistol. At 5:30pm, we had supper, then the company was assembled and a bulletin was read telling of the good behavior of the men while in training and their determination to do their bit, and that now as the time had come to fight, they were to show the same determination to win and fight to the end."

"Later, we put our rations and toilet articles in one small pack and fixed up all our other belongings in a roll. At 9:00pm, we lined up at the kitchen wagon for another meal, this time – beans, bread, syrup and coffee."

"I had just left the wagon with my mess kit full when Jerry dropped a shell not fifty feet from me. It hit our limber, or supply wagon, for the kitchen, smashing it all to pieces and throwing our eats everywhere. He dropped quite a few shells there among us in the next few minutes, killing and wounding many of our regiment. We ran to dugouts and stayed there until things quieted down a little, then formed on the road preparatory to leaving the woods."

"While we were forming the shelling continued. One struck a tree by the road a glancing blow and the shell came rolling down the road not three feet from me. Luckily it was a ‘dud’ and did not explode. It was an awful sensation to lie there (I was in a ditch of gutter beside the road), and hear the boom of the shell as it left the German gun, then the whistling as it came toward us (more like a who-o-oo-oo-oop) and the bang as it burst around us, then the pitiful cries in the dark for help and first aid. Later we heard there were eleven killed and thirty-one injured while we were in this position."


"We left about 11:00pm on a six kilometer march for Bethicourt. As we left, the greatest barrage the world has ever known started. ‘The million dollar barrage’ it is called and it lasted for twelve hours. Had all the cannon used in this barrage been placed in line hub to hub, the length of the line formed would have been longer than the entire battle front in Europe."

It was about 4:00am when we were deployed and ready for the word ‘Forward’ over the top into ‘No Man’s Land.’ We rested until 5:03am. The 4th Division regular army was on our left, and the 319th infantry on our right. ‘G’ and ‘H’ companies were in the first wave, and ‘F’ and ‘E’ companies were ‘moppers up.’ The 305th engineers were with us carrying rifles on one shoulder and sections of bridges in the other."

"The Second battalion was covering a two kilometer front. The First and Third battalions were in support. The 317th infantry was in reserve for the 320th, and the 318th were in reserve for the 319th infantry. The great barrage was put over for our division by the 33rd and 82nd Division artilleries. There were about 600,000 Americans and 300,000 French soldiers engaged in this drive (Private Killinger was killed in the woods at Germanville.)"

"At 5:03am on September 26, the ‘zero hour’ arrived. The noise made by the cannon and machine guns behind us was terrific. You couldn’t hear the man next to you, but then he was about fifteen feet away in this combat formation. The fog and smoke was so dense, too, that one could hardly see the next man although the sun was slowly coming up."

"Soon after we started, Sergeant Halsey was shot in the neck and spit the bullet out of his mouth, dying later. In the confusion, the smell of smoke and powder was mistaken for gas and the awful masks were put on."

"As we charged down the hill through the smoke, fog and barbed wire entanglements with our masks on, we soon found ourselves in the cellars and ruins of buildings which the retreating Huns had left burning. Our squad had become detached from the rest of the company."

"After removing our masks we attempted to locate our company. Hearing familiar whistles to our right and ahead of us, we double-timed it in that direction and attached ourselves to Company C of the 319th infantry, which was in the front line of assault.

"So far our progress had all been down hill, and now as we charged up hill the fog lifted and we could see the work our artillery was doing. The whole side of the hill was filled with shell holes, some fifteen feet in diameter and nearly as deep. Barbed wire entanglements had been torn all to pieces, and trenches and dugouts completely blown up."

The 319th Regiment of the 80th Blue Ridge Division. Click on image for a larger photo.


"In spite of the great noise made by our artillery in the rear we could hear the German machine guns in front of us. We advanced up the hill by jumping from shell hole to shell hole. Sometimes the shells would destroy the home of a jack rabbit, and he would go jumping across No Man’s Land."

"Pretty soon a German popped up out of a trench ahead of us with his hands up and yelled ‘Kamerad.’ As no one fired at him he came toward us asking which way to go. Someone behind me told him ‘New York’ was back in the rear, and away he went in that direction on the double, hands up all of the time."

"I wasn’t advancing very fast, for the Jerries must have seen my automatic. Anyway when I wasn’t in a shell hole they were making it pretty warm for me, and the bullets were singing around my helmet at a great rate. Finally I made a dash the rest of the way up the hill and into their trench."

"There they were, two youngsters, one looked a lot like Frank Brosius and neither one looked a bit older. Both were crying ‘Kamerad.’ The German machine gun is a water-cooled affair and we had come upon them so swiftly, they hadn’t had time to connect it up but had fired it until it was so hot it wouldn’t fire anymore."

"I searched my prisoners, and as they had no arms I destroyed their machine gun and showed them the way back to the cage. You can understand why a guard is not sent back with two or three men when I tell you that about every three of four hundred yards there were lines of soldiers following the front line."

"Over on my right there was a great deal of cheering and yelling. The boys had captured a dugout in the same trench and twenty-seven ‘square-heads’ as we called them. They were filing out to be searched and started to the rear; some old men, some boys, but all appearing to be well-fed. A lot of ammunition and some German grub were captured in the trench."

"I might say right here that later reports showed that 1,500 prisoners had been captured in the first half hour of battle. That is a pretty good record considering that we occupied only two kilometers of the one hundred kilometer front."

"Then we went ‘over the top’ again and forward to the next German trench, leaving the ‘moppers-up’ to get all of the Germans out of the dugouts and take captured material back. The machine guns continued to fire on us and quite a few of our comrades were being wounded, but there were a great many of dead and wounded Germans lying around also."

"Before we reached the next trench a long string of Jerries came out toward us with hands up; some were laughing and seemed to think the war was over as far as their fighting was concerned. They handed our boys their watches, knives, money, cigarettes, etc. as they filed up to be searched. A dachshund dog came with them answering to the name of 'Kaiser' and followed the 'squareheads' back to the prison camp. Here is where we got the name of 'not knowing when to stop.'"

Americans advancing through the Argonne during the Meuse-Argonne Offensice in September 1918.


"In the excitement of taking prisoners we had charged forward too fast and were ahead of our own barrage, in other words, ‘between two fires.’ Quite a few of our own men were badly mangled here. Not being with my own company, I didn’t know any of the wounded, and it was hard to leave them, but for our own safety we were ordered to the right into some trenches."

"The doctors, first-aid men, and Red Cross, followed right up and took care of the wounded. Rocket signals were sent up and our airplanes which were flying overhead, hurried back to the artillery and soon the shells were tearing great holes in the earth ahead of us again. I was now with Company A of the 319th infantry."

"As we advanced again we came to a swamp where the engineers were putting up a pontoon bridge. After crossing this we ran into machine gun fire from some woods. Locating a machine gun and attempting to flank it, I found myself with Company G of the 319th, Karl Hewitt’s company. I connected myself to the company and was assigned to Corporal Shafer’s automatic squad. We soon captured the machine gun and advanced into the woods, and to dugouts, where we spent the early part of the night."

"On our left 25 to 30 Germans started toward us across an open field with their hands up. Some of the foreigners in the company opened fire on them. They fell back and gave us an awful battle. Later in the evening the German artillery got our range and airplanes dropped bombs on us. All told we spent a very uncomfortable night to say the least. Corporal Shafer is a Wilkinsburg boy, and worked at Hall’s Roundhouse on the Union Railroad."

"Soldiers killed or dying from being hit by shrapnel turned a horrible yellow color, but those hit by machine gun bullets turned blue."

"On this afternoon when Jerry was making things warm for us our artillerymen sent over some liquid fire shells which set fire to the woods which the Huns were holding, and with the officer’s field glasses we were able to see them retreating far over the hills."

"On September 27, at 4:00am (before daylight) we combed the woods which seemed to be a lumber camp or source of wood supply for the German army. Without a barrage we conducted a raid on a little town which the Germans had used as a hospital, and which as they retreated they left burning. We encountered a great deal of barbed wire before reaching this town."

"Passing through the town we went up a hill through another patch of woods, then down the other side of the hill to the edge of the woods overlooking the Meuse River. The city of Dunnsur Meuse could be seen in the distance. In the last woods we met several machine guns and captured them. We had reached our objective at about 10:00am, but the 320th infantry on our left had met with stiff resistance and had not advanced as far as we were."

Machine gunners of the 80th "Blue Ridge" Division man a position near the Meuse River.


"We dug bivrys big enough to shelter us from machine gun fire, and Company headquarters were established in what had been a German officer’s quarters. Here there was glass in the windows, lace curtains, a desk, a table, a big leather Morris chair, and a ‘regular’ bed in another room. The rooms were wired for electric lights. While here we were shelled quite a bit."

"They used gas on us in the woods. This little bungalow occupied by Company headquarters had also been a first aid station. We spent the night here, another company relieving us in the morning and at 6:00am we moved back to support trenches on top of the hill."

"On September 28, the 320th on our left, had still not reached their objective, and we were in a pocket being shelled from three sides, getting quite a lot of gas. German airplanes fired on us with machine guns but our planes drove them off. Towards night, to make matters worse, it started to rain and continued all night."

"We were in a shallow trench and had to stay down on account of the flying shrapnel and machine gun bullets. The ranch was soon a creek and we were soaked. German planes flew over us again, not a hundred feet above, firing their machine guns directly at us."

"On Sunday morning, September 29, around 5:00am we were relieved and started on our march back. Having no water in my canteen, it was on this march that I got so thirsty that I drank water from a shell hole. I had given nearly all of the water in my canteen to wounded men. It was very risky business to drink water out of a shell hole. A hole made by a gas shell leaves residue that poisons the water."

"On our way back we saw great quantities of ammunition and rifles, and even heavy artillery that had been captured from the enemy. Some of this artillery had already been turned around and our gunners were firing German ammunition from German guns. Our wounded had been taken care of and the dead were being buried. In some places there were great heaps of dead Germans. A great number of horses were dead along the roadside, most of them having been gassed. Some of then even had gas masks on, probably put on too late."

"The boys called these horses and mules 'more bully beef.' We passed several German airplanes that had been brought down and saw lots of terribly mangled soldiers when we passed a field hospital. Further back we met some of the little French whippet tanks, going like the dickens to the front. They were probably making fifteen miles per hour and are about the size of a Woods Mobilette with two men in each. We also met auto trucks full of ammunition and rations, and plenty of artillery was being brought up closer to the front."

"About noon we stopped in a woods and the kitchen wagons came up, but before we could get started to eat ‘Jerry’ commenced shelling the woods. About the same time we received word (by airplane, I believe) that the 79th Division, in front of where we were, was being driven back. There certainly were a lot of wounded soldiers being brought back."

"Without waiting for dinner and as tired as we were, we turned around and started forward to help our comrades. We had progressed only a short distance when another plane flew over us and dropped a message telling us the 79th Division had overcome the resistance and was again advancing. Then we had our dinner by the roadside, the first warm meal in four days."

"We marched past reserve trenches at Cuisy, where Corporal Shafer, Private Brooks and I dug a bivry and tried to sleep. We had just finished our little dugout when it commenced to rain. All night long the army mule rent the air with his unearthly braying. (The warm dinner consisted of stew, tomatoes, coffee, bread, jam and sugar.)"

"On September 30 we were moved to another part of the trench and made a new bivry and a fire. For dinner we warmed up some canned roast beef and bacon and made coffee. In the afternoon I cleaned up my equipment and rifle and at 6:00pm supper was served from the kitchen, which was now located in the trench. We had roast beef, beans, coffee, doughnuts, bread, syrup and sugar."

"On October 1, at 2:00pm, the men who had been lost came back to the company. Breakfast was at 8:00am consisting of bread, bacon, and coffee. In the forenoon I cleaned up for inspection, and also washed my feet before we had foot inspection. For lunch at 2:00pm we had fresh beef stew, bread, jam, coffee and sugar. In the afternoon the first mail came since September 22, via ‘G’ company. After supper at 6:00pm Shafer and I had a long talk about Wilkinsburg."

"On October 2, I was on gas guard from 1:00 to 2:30am. The Germans were throwing shells over our heads at artillery trenches on the hill behind us. Then we had breakfast. I was placed again on gas guard from 8:30 to 10:00am. We could see and hear the great shells going over our heads, and we could see them tearing great holes on the other hill."

"Dinner was good, consisting of steak, gravy, potatoes, bread, Karo and coffee. About 3:00pm, I located my own outfit (Company F, 320th infantry) in the same reserve trenches about two kilometers to the right. The boys made quite a fuss over me and seemed glad to see me again. Corporal Cast and Corporal Scheidor in particular seemed glad that I hadn’t been wounded or taken prisoner."

"I did not know until now that Kirk Earls had been killed and Lewis Gray wounded. I received three letters from him, two from brother Earl, nine from Florence, one from Cousin Pearl, one from Frank Gibson and one from Johnny Weaver, also two ‘Sentinels.’ This mail we were told was delivered by airplane. One of the letters from Florence had also made the trip from Washington to New York via airplane. I returned to ‘G’ Company for my equipment and Captain Smith gave me a very nice note to my own captain which I was permitted to keep."

"About 6:00pm, Joseph Herdman of 'D' company came to see me and told me Corporal Townsend of 'C' company had been wounded. Bienna and I made a bivry together. My roll had been opened and I lost many of my personal belongings, (I was wearing my heavy sweater, but a light one and my camera were among the missing articles.)"


"On October 3 I finished reading my letters after breakfast. I cleaned my equipment for inspection in the afternoon. I had a long talk with Worley Gilham in the afternoon and saw some American planes engage a German aviator. The German machine was brought crashing to the earth not far from where we were located."

"After supper I visited the 313th Machine Gun battalion and learned that Coyle Carothers of Wilkinsburg had undergone a successful operation for appendicitis at Base Hospital No. 38 at Chatalon, but would not be back to his outfit. The artillery’s captive elephant balloon (observation) had to be taken down several times this afternoon on account of German airplane attacks."

"Jerry sent over a good bit of gas at night and we had to put on our gas masks no less than a half dozen times. Some of us went to sleep with them on."

"We got up at 5:45am on October 4 and rolled our packs. This was done so that we could always be ready for any emergency. Corporal Martin came back from gas school today and joined the company. A jack rabbit running across the hill attempted to jump over our trench and fell into Corporal Timmor’s arms and we had rabbit for dinner."

"During the afternoon three Boche planes were brought down by American aviators within a very few minutes. It was rumored that the 318th had reached their objective and the 319th had gone forward to help the 317th. After supper we unrolled our packs and tried to sleep. We were gassed all night but had no casualties."

The route of the 319th Infantry on the night of October 4 was past these farmhouses and through the woods.
The Germans were driven from the farmhouses by rifle fire and grenades.

"On October 5, after breakfast, we rolled our packs, then cleaned up for inspection and wrote letters. After dinner we signed the pay roll. First Sergeant Thompson was sent to the Officer’s Training School for good work done in the line. German planes again attacked the elephant balloon a number of times, the operator dropping in a parachute each time, and the balloon being pulled down in time to save it. We unrolled our packs and slept in the trenches again."


"On October 6 we were up at 5:30am. In the forenoon I took a walk over the battlefields at Cuisy. In the afternoon German planes made four attacks on the artillery observation balloon, the operator getting away safely each time. Finally a Jerry plane dropped from a great height, firing white hot bullets which set fire to the balloon and it came down in smoke."

"The operator landed safely with his parachute. All the machine guns, automatic rifles and anti-aircraft guns fired at the enemy plane but it got away. I slept in the trenches again. In back of our trenches, the heavy artillery was throwing shells into the enemy lines a distance of about 15 kilometers. Corporal Castor was made sergeant for his exceptionally good work in the line."

"On October 7, we were treated to butter at breakfast. I worked in the kitchen all morning carrying water, shining pans, etc. – regular kitchen police work. At 3:00pm we rolled our packs and after a light supper at 7:00pm marched two miles to our left in a heavy rain to trenches back of Montfaucon."

"Here our coast artillery reserve guns were throwing eight-inch shells twenty-two kilometers into Anereville at the rate of thirty a minute, every other one being gas. It rained all night, and on the hike I tripped over barbed wire a number of times and fell into shell holes. Cope slipped and broke his leg on this hike. I was on gas guard two turns of one hour each in these trenches."

"On October 8, we again rolled packs and marched to our left to some other trenches. This march was not long and we reached our destination before noon. While cleaning my equipment in the afternoon rumors came in, supposedly by wireless, that peace had been signed by Turkey, and Germany was asking for an armistice. The dispatch was received by the artillery. The 308th engineers, of Ohio, formerly trained at Camp Sherman, were working on a road nearby. Airplanes flew low and dropped copies of newspapers."


"On our left we could see the ruins of a castle on top of a high hill, where it is reported the Kaiser watched the slaughter of his legions before Verdun, in the first Verdun offensive, through a million dollar telescope. The telescope could not be removed in time and was destroyed. The high hill was near Montfaucon. We went to bed shortly after supper."

"On October 9, we were up at 6:00am, rolled our packs but did not move out until 5:00pm. There were rumors that officers were betting five thousand francs (one thousand dollars) that no guns would be fired after the following Monday, October 14. As we moved forward from the reserve trenches to the support trenches, Dan Strang of Wilkinsburg walked along beside of me for quite a distance through the woods before we said goodbye and he returned to his company."

"We stopped near the top of a hill and dug in. Later we left again and went to trenches near Nantalois, about five miles from Cuisy. On this march we met a long string of German prisoners being taken back. As they passed we heard one German say in pretty good English: ‘The American soldier is not very big, but he knows how to handle the bayonet.’ They may have met some of the little Italian boys of our division, who certainly were adept in the use of the cold steel."

"One prisoner had been shot in the knee. He told us that he and four other Germans had started over to give themselves up. The others got scared and started back and were killed, but he came on and was wounded. He said they hadn’t eaten for ten days. Someone gave him half a loaf of bread and he devoured it quickly, in a manner supporting his statement."

"He told us there were not many Germans ahead of us, and that they had no soldiers in support or reserve, and practically no ammunition. He also told us the people back home (in Germany) were starving and he was glad to be in the hands of the Americans."

"He was well advised for he knew that nearly three million Americans had reached France, that Turkey was suing for a separate peace, and that Austria was liable to break with Germany at any minute. After a rest until 2:00am we carried rations up to the men in the front line."

"On October 10 at 11:00am we were ordered from the support trenches, with full packs, to follow up the advancing front line. On the way up we took our blanket rolls from our haversacks and left them by the roadside. A Jerry plane or observation balloon must have seen us, for soon after we started again the Huns shelled the road and blew our rolls all to pieces."

"I lost everything I had except my razor, shaving brush, soap and towel, which I was carrying in my haversack on my back. Corporal Kellerman, Bax and I found a trench, removed a dead soldier from it, and dug a bivry which we covered with a piece of tin we had torn from a destroyed German billet. The sheet-iron probably saved us from some painful scratches, for shrapnel was continually raining on it all night and set up a merry patter. All night we took turns on gas guard."

"Moving up through the German trenches, it was not an uncommon thing to stumble over a shoe with a foot in it, or a glove with a hand in it, and at one place I saw a helmet with brains in it."

Men of the 80th Division going "over the top" to attack a German position in the Argonne.


"On October 11 we were up at 6:00am, and at 8:00am we marched about one kilometer to other trenches at the front and went over the top at 2:30pm into the woods. Here Captain Maag was wounded in the chin by a rifle grenade, Corporal Herrig was killed and Corporal Kellerman wounded by machine gun bullets. Joseph Herdman was gassed here. As it got dark, Vogel, Semanchuch and I were ordered back into the woods by Corporal Schedemantel."

"We were met by 315th Machine Gun men who told us our division had been relieved. We went back with them to battalion headquarters, then to the bivry Bax and I made the day before, where we ate our canned salmon, beans and crackers and took turns on gas guard all night. About 3:00am Jerry sent over quite a bit of gas with his high explosive shells. I was very tired and slept with my gas mask off. Gas shells burst with a puff instead of a bang, throwing liquid which turns into gas when it evaporates."

"The Germans have a habit of sending gas over early in the morning along with high explosive shells. The liquid scattered by gas shells of this particular variety over bushes and grass doesn’t evaporate until the sun comes up, and one may be unsuspecting of gas until it is too late."

"Anybody lying on the grass or passing through bushes where the mustard liquid gas had been scattered usually gets terrible burns. German machine gunners have been wearing bands on their arms with a red cross on them. They are sometimes mistaken for our own first aid men."

"In these woods we found some trees which had two and three platforms built between the limbs, upon which machine guns were operated. There was also a large box buried in the ground under bushes at the foot of a tree, where another machine gun had been placed. Worley Gilliam was gassed today."

"Having been relieved by the 60th and 61st infantries on October 12, we moved back to support trenches near Nantalois where we washed up, shaved, and slept in the morning. While eating supper about 4:00pm, the Huns shelled the area, one shell knocking a horse from under a military policeman and blowing it all to pieces."

"An American soldier was bringing back six German prisoners when a shell killed all the prisoners, but only shook the guard up a bit. Stretcher bearers were bringing back quite a few wounded men, and many prisoners were being marched to the rear."

"At 5:00pm we started on an eighteen kilometer hike over very rough roads to woods near Avocourt, where the whole battalion was resting. We arrived here at 11:45pm, and as I had no shelter-half and no blanket, I slept with Semanchuch. We used our slickers for a mattress and threw his blanket over us."


"On October 13, bread, bacon and coffee were served for breakfast at 8:00am. Then Martin and I walked five kilometers for water and missed our dinner. We had a band concert in the afternoon. We also got two blankets and new clothes. The YMCA issued each man one and one-half cakes and two square inches of chocolate."

"After supper I visited with 'C' company. Learned that Hanley had been killed, and also about Herman’s wound. Artillerymen here tell of finding a German chained to his cannon, but who when released turned his gun around and made a direct hit on a German ammunition dump ten kilometers back."

"On October 14 we got up at 4:00am and had breakfast at 5:00am, then hiked four kilometers to Brizeaux. We were taken past the town about one kilometer and had to walk back. Here we were billeted in barns and old buildings. I was located in an old barn No. 26 and was under Corporal Sheidmantel."

"I soon found the remains of a cot, which I repaired and made into a comfortable bed. Here we were able to buy milk and Dutch cheese sandwiches. The kitchen did not arrive until the next day, and so we ate the iron rations we were carrying with us."

"On October 15 there was no reveille. We got up and got our own breakfast at 7:00am. We were issued more new clothes in the morning, and in the afternoon we had a hot shower bath. Our underclothes, being full of ‘cooties,’ had to be thrown away, and I had none for a few days. The kitchen came in the afternoon. It rained all evening. Three sick soldiers who hadn’t been able to keep up with their outfit stayed with us for supper and slept in our billet."

Some of the fighting men of the “old Eighteenth” of the 28th Division. Clockwise from upper left -
Earl A. Allan, Captain Frank A. McHenry, John A. Davis, John F. Austin,
Albert Heimann, Sergeant Thomas M. Jarrett.



The 53rd Artillery Brigade of the 28th Division, of which the famous 107th artillery regiment, comprised mostly of men from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania was a part, is the only unit of the American overseas forces that went directly into the thick of battle after receiving the necessary training.

Other units were usually permitted to visit some quiet sector of the line for a few weeks until they became accustomed to occasional shelling and the horrible sights before being transferred to a section of the line where the heat of battle was at it's height. The 53rd brigade, however, made such rapid strides during the training period that no hesitancy was exercised when the time came for them to see action. They were sent into the battles of Fismes and Fismettes, which were two of the fiercest and bloodiest engagements of the war.

The artillery brigade, after the splendid work it performed during the Argonne fighting, was detached from the 28th division as a part of the army that went into Belgium and was called the “army of liberation.” This was an honor and a recognition of it's former good service, for the Belgian liberation army needed confidence to go forward and, with the best American artillery unit behind them giving support and protection, their advance was rapid and their success all that could be desired.

107th Artillery Regiment Insignia                                    107th Artillery Regiment Coat of Arms


When the 107th regiment arrived in France it went into training at Camp Meucon, situated near the west coast of France, which is admirably adapted for artillery practice on account of it's magnificent range. It is said that it is the finest artillery range in the world. Almost immediately after it's arrival at Camp Meucon, intensive training was begun.

In the United States, the Pennsylvanians in training had used the American three-inch guns of the light field artillery. In France now, the famous French 75s were assigned. This made it necessary for the gunners of the 53rd brigade to learn how to operate the new guns. The French 75mm gun is regarded by military experts as the most accurate firing piece ever invented, and it's great work in the late war upholds their opinions.

The American three-inch gun which was used in training by the 53rd brigade at Camp Hancock, GA, is a close second to the French 75mm, although not as rapid or accurate. It's barrel is slightly shorter than that of the French gun.

The Pennsylvania men learned how to operate the French weapons in an incredibly short time. Every man in each of the regiments got personal training in handling the guns, and each battery was organized into four distinct squads of gun crews which became efficient firing units.

Besides the actual gunners, and as significant in importance, were the men who specialized in signal, telephone and instrument work, mechanics who mastered the intricate mechanism of the guns, and the drivers who drove the teams that brought the firing pieces up to the battle front. The latter found it necessary to learn part of the French language to make the French horses understand what they wanted them to do.

The unit trained for one week at Camp Meucon, learning the fundamentals, and then went to the artillery range. Here it went through conditions which were found later in actual combat. While at the range Battery “E” had the distinction of laying down the first successful barrage fired by the brigade. The fine range permitted the gunners to see where the fired shells struck, and the results were evidenced by the straight line of bursts and upheaval of earth.

It would have been impossible for a single living thing to have emerged from the barrage, and the men of the 53rd received a vivid impression of what these mighty little guns would do, and what power lay within their command.

A few weeks of this sort of training went by and then it was announced that the 107th regiment would engage in a firing contest with other regiments of the brigade. This placed new zest in the training and the gun crews immediately got busy with all the determination possible to win, perfecting their already skillful manipulation of the guns, and working early and late. This diligence by the 107th won for them the regimental championship honors when the contest was held.

To further stimulate the boys to good work, another contest was held - this time to ascertain the most efficient battery.


It was staged one Saturday morning in the rear of the 53rd Field Artillery headquarters, and consisted of all such conditions as would later by found existing on the front line, including the methods of fire, such as sweeping, progressive sweeping, barrage, and actual handling of the guns while wearing the gas masks. As the contest progressed it was clearly evidenced that Battery E of the 107th was leading in practically all of the events.

About three thousand spectators viewed the contest, but were barred from making any demonstrations whatsoever, and it was with difficulty they restrained themselves. The competition was keen, and when the outcome of the contest at times became in doubt, members of the different regiments which were participating found it hard to keep from encouraging their favorite gun crews.

American artillerymen wearing gas masks.

At last the contest came to an end, and after a conference by the judges, who were selected from the French Field Artillery, the commanders of the various batteries and regiments were called to the center of the field. It was announced that Battery E of the 107th regiment had won by a safe majority of points.

Then the great crowd broke loose and cheered. Captain Weaver was warmly congratulated by Brigadier General Price for the excellent work of his men, and was informed that Battery E would have the first opportunity to fire a shot into the German lines when actual combat was begun.

It was by hard, honest, consistent and diligent work that the boys of the battery carried away the honor. Every man in the battery showed a personal pride in being among it's numbers, and at all times tried to acquit themselves worthy of the great city in which the battery was organized - Pittsburgh.


The training at Meucon lasted six weeks, during which Battery E became known as “the pride of the 53rd.” It was in August that the brigade bade farewell to the comfortable quarters found at Camp Meucon and set forth for the battle line after twelve months of careful training and “make believe” fighting.

The men boarded a train riding in the famous French “Hommes 40 Cheveaux 8” box cars, which could not be praised to any great extent for their easy riding qualities nor comfort, and rode for thirty-six hours, finally arriving at Mezy at 3:00am on August 12.

The brigade detrained, and at daybreak crossed the Marne and marched forward on ground that had been recently won. The sight of newly made graves, and the sound of distantly rumbling guns, were sufficient to tell the men as they trudged silently along, each absorbed in his own thoughts, that war was really a serious thing, and that a great task lay before them.

It would be impossible to describe the thoughts of these men as they went forward beside the rattling guns and caissons. Back in the training camps they had heard the stories of the battlefields. To a certain extent they were nerved to expect the worst horrors of the war and if, in the gray dawn, the courage or confidence of any of the men of the 53rd was shaken it was not known. Later deeds prove that the grim determination they had so carefully fostered never faltered for an instant.


War’s desolation could be seen on every side. A number of hopelessly wrecked villages were sights that brought home the true gigantic destruction possible with artillery guns. Sometimes only a wall would be left standing, or a corner of a once beautiful chateau or church.

The course lay through dense woods about six kilometers from Mezy. Upon entering the little forest, the stench of dead bodies, human and animal, became so oppressive that it was almost unbearable. The odor from decayed bodies was one of the most reproachable things of the war.

Finally the troops reached the villages of Roncheres, where they were billeted in old barns and buildings, occupied by the Germans four weeks earlier. They remained here all night and the following day. While at Roncheres the troops witnessed their first air battle. The Germans succeeded in destroying an Allied Army observation balloon.

After the short rest, the batteries moved forward again on the evening of August 13, in the direction of Fismes, where they were told they would take up their first gun position. As they marched along they enjoyed the hellish fireworks of man’s ingenuity. Flares and star shells lit up the heavens. It was hard to associate their beauty and magnificence with the brutality they were intended to aid.

A German bombing plane flew overhead and dropped two large bombs about fifty meters in advance of the marching column. Protecting Allied planes immediately swooped down from the heavens and gave chase to the Hun aviator. A running fight ensued. and finally the merry spat of the machine guns died away in the distance. Apparently the German aviator had escaped behind his own lines.


Twice during the march, the French guide who was leading the column got off the right road and delayed the marching men. Finally, at 2:30am, they reached St. Martin and were met by Captain Weaver and other officers who had gone in advance to locate a gun position. The position selected was finally reached just a few minutes before daybreak, but the men, working with considerable rapidity, succeeded in getting the guns in position and camouflaged. The dawn found the artillerymen exhausted but “sitting pretty” in the little sector of the Western front. Forty-eight hours had elapsed since leaving Mezy.

The first day was quiet, and it was well, for it permitted the new soldiers to rest and become accustomed to the front. However, the German airman who had observed the marching column probably delivered his information, and that night, August 14, the “Fritzies” let loose with a terrific shelling and wound up with a five-hour gas-barrage. The fumes from the bursting shells filling the valley with their deadly poison. After the barrage ceased it was necessary for the men to wear their gas masks for an additional two hours.

The valley mentioned was known as “Death Valley,” and the Pennsylvanians were located in it. Jerry seemed to have a particular spite against the place and was continually gassing the area. Almost every night he would open up about midnight with hundreds of gas shells, and in an incredibly short time the poisonous vapor would fill the entire valley. Because of the pocket formed by the valley, the gas would hang close to the ground, creating a dangerous situation. The variety of gas used was mostly of the mustard type, and caused a number of casualties in the 53rd brigade during it's stay in Death Valley.

On the second day after arriving before Fismes the gunners of the 107th regiment prepared their guns, and that night got busy on the Hun. The French guns worked like charms, and it was only a short time after firing had begun when information was received by airplane that the gunners were doing good work in annoying enemy supply trains that were going to the German front line trenches. They also learned that they had succeeded in registering a direct hit on an ammunition dump. This sort of work spoke well for the Pennsylvanians.

There was little variance in the daily routine to break the opposing monotony of the cave-dwellers life which fell to the lot of a soldier in this strange war of wars. The days were more or less quiet, and were spent in fighting the flies and yellow jackets which annoyed them almost as much as the enemy shells, while the nights had plenty of work for everyone, as practically all of the fighting was carried on after nightfall.

As a rule it was possible to obtain a few hours of sleep in the early morning, but occasionally this sleep was interrupted, by one of the enemy’s gas barrages, in which case the soldiers were “outta luck,” since the extremely torrid weather and the flies rendered it quite impossible to sleep during the day.

American artillery battery in a camoflauged position, awaiting the order for fire support.


The Jerries almost hourly shelled a small clump of trees about 500 meters from the position of the 107th, which contained a large number of dead “Heinies” and a large number of dead horses. The enemy evidently believed that a battery was located in the woods, which accounted for their frequent shelling.

The dead bodies thus uncovered and stirred up created a terrible stench, which the wind carried down the valley to the Pennsylvania soldiers. It was so offensive that at times it became almost maddening, and invariably the shelling would take place about mess time, making eating impossible.

The infantry ahead of the artillery was doing great work. While the artillery laid down barrages and received the enemy’s barrages, they slowly and surely pushed the German hordes back to the Vesle River, where a short pause was made, during which the German forces were greatly strengthened by reinforcements.

But it was to no avail, for on September 4 the American doughboys crossed the river under a terrific shell fire and completely routed the enemy. The division suffered greatly in the effort, for company after company was almost completely wiped out. But, in the end it was a great effort, and a successful one.


The Story of the Artillerymen from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania attached to the Twenty-Eighth Division, is replete with instances of bravery and daring and unremitting toil under the most hazardous and nerve-racking conditions and the way our boys bore up through it all was at times almost miraculous.

On the night previous to the battle in which the infantry crossed the Vesle river the enemy began a heavy barrage at 10:30 o'clock which lasted all night and until 2pm the following day. This evidenced the fact that the Boches were trying to get rid of large stores of ammunition which they could not move before their forced retreat.

As soon as the enemy barrage ceased the men of the Fifty-third brigade were ready for them and let loose with a dose of the same medicine, only worse, hampering the retreat of the Germans to a considerable extent by wrecking the roads over which their heavy camions and motor lorries had to pass.

On the 5th of September the One Hundred and Seventh regiment got orders to proceed ahead across the Vesle and keep in touch with the advancing infantry.


With the final strokes of the "Second Battle of the Marne" in full swing the Fifty-third artillery advanced five miles to the river in broad daylight while German airplanes whizzed by overhead and dropped bombs on the men. The artillery wound around on open roads in clear view of the big German sausage balloons.

Coming to the Vesle the only bridge that was not destroyed was repaired by members of the One Hundred and Seventh regiment under the supervision of engineers. The first American artillery to cross the Vesle was composed of Pennsylvanians. The Germans knew the bridge was there, for they themselves were forced to cross the river on it. They attempted to destroy it, but did not have time before the advance of the infantry.

So they did the next best thing. Their gunners tried to get the range of the structure and thought they had it later, but their shells all fell amiss and the artillerymen advanced over it to positions on the German side.

With considerable difficulty a position in a clump of pine trees about 500 yards from the enemy first line was reached and the guns placed in firing position. This position was in reality taken up in the second line infantry trenches, a most unusual place for the artillery.

The position was in sight of the great cathedral of Rheims and in territory that had been hotly contested for four years. No orders came to fire and the men were uneasy. They knew the enemy was close and they wanted to give him a good reception with their 75's before it was too late. The truth of the matter was the batteries were so close to the allied infantry that to have fired would have endangered them.

After the position had been firmly established and the infantry got under way once more after crossing the Vesle, communication between the artillery and Second battalion headquarters was establiched and soon the order came to commence firing. The batteries of the One Hundred and seventh let go with a vengeance and showered the enemy machine gun nests with shrapnel.

Machine guns and snipers had been causing annoyance in the ranks of the infantry as well as in the batteries. Rifle and machine gun fire was very unusual for artillery to contend with, but in this case due to the close proximity to the enemy lines, the enemy rifle balls were kicking up dirt all around the guns. One-pounders came floating over from the German infantry and burst among the men. The men of the batteries were tormented to the point that they ached for a chance to go out and get the snipers, but stuck to their various tasks like veterans.

It was a new experience to every man. Just why the Boche did not centralize his artillery on the allied artillery batteries is not known. Fortune smiled on the Pennsylvania batteries, for no casualties resulted from the enemy rifle and machine gun fire. Darkness stopped the rifle fire, but brought on the gas shells from German guns and the German airmen, who menaced the Americans with their terrible bursting bombs.

The sights on the American guns were working well, however, and all night they gave back as much steel as they were given, never flinching in their task, and from the results noticed the next day, September 5, they must have caused heavy losses in the retreating German masses, for all day Hun prisoners and wounded men were being taken to the rear. The majority of them were big husky fellows, and from their insignia it was seen the Pennsylvanians were bucking against the crack Prussian Guards.

During the day a German airman came over and photographed the positons of the Fifty-third artlliery, paying marked attention to the One Hundred and Seventh regiment. It was evident that somebody had caused the Huns considerable trouble on the night previous. The observer could frequently be seen hanging far over the side of the plane, and he was not content merely to look at the positions and photograph them, but flew down and turned his machine gun on Battery E, which was helpless in its defense against him, for it possessed no anti-aircraft guns.

Occasionally he came so close he could be fired upon with pistols and salvaged rifles. *Sgt. Walcamp darlingly exposed himself in order to take a shot at the airman with a Springfield rifle he had picked up. Time after time this same German aviator came back over the American lines in his huge powerful plane and attacked the artillery observation balloon, sometimes referred to as the "eye of the artillery." (He was driven off by the American anti-aircraft guns on the other side of the Vesle each time.)

Following the trip over the allied lines by the German observer the German batteries broke loose and showered shot and shell on the American lines for several hours. Every sort of shell came over, air bombs were used, and about the only thing missing was the hand grenade.

The Germans weren't close enough to use them. A huge mine, evidently planted by the retreating Germans and set off by electricity, exploded in the American lines to the right of the artillery brigade. The concussion was terrific and shook the ground. The explosion caused a sun-like light and the whole valley for miles around was lit up as though in mid-day.

It was a moment for German airplanes hovering above. During that brief time they saw a lot of things they didn't know were going on. They flew back to their lines and presently bombing machines came over six strong. They flew so low to the artillery batteries that occasionally the black cross on the wings could be seen. They had plenty of bombs with them, too.

As the great bombs struck the ground and exploded the terrible report and the trembling air made the soldiers shiver. The artillery brigade was fortunate. No casualties resulted from the air bombing, but considerable damage was done to the lines in advance.


On September 7, at noon, French artillery officers arrived and the soldiers were told that a French regiment was to relieve them. Their guns were due up to the front line at nine o'clock and the American brigade would then remove their guns back across the Vesle, with the assistance of French limbers. At mess time that evening it started to rain and the Germans added to the elements by mixing in a shower of shell.

The Fritzies shelled every road with every gun they had in their possession. This fire held up the French guns and made their travel difficult. It was eleven o'clock before they arrived. The French guns were put in the places of those manned by the American gunners and the start to the rear was made.

Every man felt considerable uneasiness over the trip, for the road lay in a winding course and ran for some distance directly towards the enemy. It was also exposed. A small town lay in the path before the Vesle was reached. The troops finally came to the village, after experiencing only a few shells which burst near the marching line.

However after leaving the village, the road was suddenly shelled. The movement to the rear must have been known to the Germans, for their guns were exceptionally accurate. The rain prevented the gas from having much effect.

The night was one to strike terror to the heart of the soldiers but they kept up the steady march. Traffic in the opposite direction at times stopping the retiring doughboys, for at places the road was so narrow that two vehicles could not pass.

A French damion loaded with food supplies which was moving up to supply the relieving French soldiers was caught in the shell fire and completely destroyed. The only lights were those from the flashing shells whizzed all about and splattered against trees. Finally the Vesle was crossed , but not until the batteries of American artillerymen had sustained some casualties.


Finally the retiring artillerymen pitched camp in a small forest north of Dravigny. There was not an officer or man of the One Hundred and Seventh regiment whose nerves were not almost shattered, and who did not feel like collapsing under the strain. They were physically worn out. When the battery left Dravigny after a little sleep, it was the opinion of the men that they were going to a rest camp in the south of France.

They traveled all day long, and were later informed they were going to another sector of the battlefront. It was discouraging news, but the Pennsylvanians soon yanked up their heads and with the determination of veterans set out for the new task as they did for the first one. They knew they were going into battle again, but they did not know that this march was the march to the Argonne forest where the greatest assault in the history of the war was made.

The regiment made its way by degrees across the Marne river, down the valley towards the Champagne front. At the town of Vinay, Battery E was separated, some of it going with the guns and the remainder consisting of those slightly wounded and those more or less unable to keep up the killing pace set by the regiment, were carried in motor transports until St. Eulian was reached. Later orders were received to rejoin the men. The men who had gone with the guns had a gruelling night's for a distance of thirty-eight kilometers and finally united with the others at Ravigny.


From this point the marching was conducted with the utmost secrecy. As soon as darkness descended the troops would roll their packs, strike tents, and march until the dawn of the following day when they would be secreted in some forest of swamp until night fell again. Finally, on September 22, the batteries arrived at the famous Argonne Forest. Although the men were in dire need of rest, the guns were hauled up and immediately put in position.

Before any firing could be done it was necessary to fell a great number of trees. This task was accomplished by a detail of engineers aided by the boys from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. For nearly four days the ring of axes could be heard as the men worked diligently. At dusk on the fourth day, a change of orders necessitated clearing a wider space in the forest.

The gun crews kept up their laborious work until a space equivalent to one hundred square meters had been cleared. The trees were left standing and wired together so they could be pulled down when the guns began to bark. This ruse was adopted to keep the enemy from locating the positions of the artillery.


While the One Hundred and Seventh regiment was busily engaged in taking up its positions, other regiments, and whole brigades were taking up similar positions in what was sometimes called the "boundless" forest of Argonne.

It was all being done secretly, and as the men worked and the great scheme of the developing offensive became know to them, they exerted every effort to leave nothing undone, so that when the big movement was started there would not be a single hitch in the performance. The Germans were located on the eastern edge of the forest and believed their positions to be invulnerable.

Thousands and thousands of American troops were rushed into the line and were only awaiting the word to advance. No American troops were permitted in the front line before the Argonne battle opened, for had the Germans seen a single Yank in his khaki uniform they would have grown suspicious and probably secured heavy reinforcements.

Occasionally an American was in the front lines, but always wore a French uniform. A day or so previous to the beginning of the offensive, this caution was of course dropped, and the Americans went right into position in the front lines.

All this time ammunition trains had been hauling thousands of rounds of shell and shrapnel of every size and description to the massed artillery in the forest.


These hurried but careful preparations were finished a few hours before time. Events of overwhelming importance were to follow and each man realized, deep in his heart, that the whole of the great effort depended upon his individual action. At 1:30am on September 26, a hot meal was served to the gunners.


A few hours before this however, the heavy French rifles and howitzers had opened up with a slow desultory fire, which while seeming to portend the rain of steel that followed, was not of such character as to make the German armies grow suspicious.

They may have been wondering where all of the shells, even from that slow fire were coming from, when at 2:30am the maginficent "Million Dollar Barrage" broke forth from the allied lines with a stupendous roar that seemed to shake the heavens.

The guns of the One Hundred and Seventh regiment barked in a single voice when the command "Fire" was given, and threw their deadly charges of dynamite into the lines of the surprised foe. The great Argonne-Meuse offensive was on.

Everything was in order in the American lines. The section chiefs grew hoarse shouting commands to the men who were working like beavers. The gun corporals manipulated the gun sights with speed and accuracy and the crews eagerly put forth superhuman efforts in serving their pieces which were being loaded and fired as quickly as possible.

The terrific detonations shook the forest which seemed like a huge living monster vomiting fire, smoke, and destruction and roaring with a horrible voice. Every man in the gun crews of the One Hundred and Seventh regiment was rendered temporarily deaf by the heavy reports.

American Artillery
American artillerymen wearing their gas masks pound German positions.

Lit up by the ghastly flare from their own guns they looked like veritable devils working with a mad, fiendish joy, faces gleaming as they leaped into the gun pits to shift the gun trail or jumped to the wheels at which they pulled and tugged with might and main.

It was strenuous and tiresome work for the Pittsburgh men and the rate of fire was so rapid that many times throughout the long night, they were forced to wait until the sturdy little French 75s had cooled from the heat of many shells.

It was a thrilling sight to see a stalwart lad, bareheaded, eyes heavy and red from the burning powder gas, jaw firmly set, face dripping with perspiration, arms bare to the elbows and black with grease, standing by the gun swabbing out the bore with a slender rammer after each shot was fired.

A lanyard broke from too constant use on one of the guns, but the gunner did not pause. He used his fingers to draw back the "striker." Corporal Lamison, well known in Pittsburgh as a boxer, fell limp and exhausted into the gun pit. Members of his gun crew quickly pulled him to his feet, but he remained unconscious and lay quite still throughout the terrific barrage.

About six o'clock in the morning the gunners saw a wonderful display of shooting fire about a hundred yards ahead of them. It appeared like a fire works exhibition. It proved to be a barrage of liquid fire which the Germans used as a last resort before deserting their guns. It was fortunate for the One Hundred and Seventh that they were out of range.

The heavy booming of the guns, the rapid staccato of the machine rifles, mingled with the various tones from different caliber pieces and the screaming and whistling of shells as the carried their death and destruction combined into sounds of a massive iron orchestra which played a Wagnerian score of "defeat to German arms." The iron instruments were laid aside at 10 o'clock in the morning for the "Fritzies" had scampered away over the hills.


Early in the afternoon with no rest whatever the guns of the One Hundred and Seventh were advanced to keep within range of the retreating foe. As they moved slowly over the congested roads the local boys had an opportunity to see the effect of their shells. This is an opportunity that is seldom afforded an artilleryman.

The guns of the One Hundred and Seventh had been directed in particular against Hill 244, a German stronghold that had withstood the assaults of the allies for over three years. Barbed wire entanglements, which would have made infantry advance impossible, had been entirely removed by the artillery fire.

As seen in the distance from the road the hill looked like a huge mound of pulverized earth with nothing but the jagged stumps of trees that previously had been part of a forest which covered the slopes of the hill.

Continually subject to the fire of lurking machine gunners and snipers, the One Hundred and Seventh pulled into positions one after the other as the enemy kept retreating. One day they took up three different positions in order to keep hammering at the rear of the fleeing Huns.

On September 27 the artillery passed through the historic town of Varennes where they encountered severe shelling from a German group of batteries located on the edge of the Argonne forest to the right.

28th Division artillery outside the village of Varennes in the Argonne sector.

In Varennes the Germans had built some of their most palatial dug outs, but the Pennsylvania artillery had ruined practically all of them. Ludendorff is credited with making the statement that Varennes was such a German stronghold that it could not be captured. The ease with which the Pennsymvanians walked through the village must have been a surprise to him.

Even the town was a complete wreck, German dead were everywhere and it was in Varennes that the Pittsburghers saw General Pershing for the first time. Shortly after the capture he rode through in a large touring car, stopping only long enough to ask what regiments had effected the capture.


The batteries of the One Hundred and Seventh gradually advanced with the retreating enemy. The steady pounding, and never-stopping-to-test-and-aleep pace which was being maintained was commencing to tell on the boys. With no thought of sleep or rest the men endured their hardshops patiently, however, and advanced with the rest of the army. They were constantly under shell fire and suffered losses only occasionally. Their luck is a miracle in this respect.

The horses which were compelled to be in harness for days at a time without rest were becoming so weak that four of them could hardly pull a gun carriage. The boys gladly put their backs to gun carriage wheels and helped to push the heavy pieces forward.

At one time, Battery E took up a position near a large German gun which their own shell fire had destroyed. The retreat of the Germans was so rapid they could not take it with them on account of its massive size and great weight.

After this continual pushing forward, the regiment reached a crossroads near Montblainville where it was stationed for a few days. The position was under direct observation by the enemy. The Pennsylvanians kept throwing a harassing fire into the few remaining machine gun nests until October 10, when they were relieved. They had nobly and bravely acquitted themselves in one of the greatest tasks of the war.


Proceeding to the south they went into a rest camp for a few days, but were soon detached from the Twenty-eighth Division and attached to the Ninety-first which was to start after the fleeing Hun in Belgium, and liberate the Belgians. For this reason it was called the "army of liberation." The Fifty-third artillery brigade was proud of the appointment to go to Belgium.

It was a reflectiuon of the sterling quality of work with which they had been credited and it was a honor and privilege. Battery E of the One Hundred and Seventh regiment had the honor of leading the brigade into position on the line.

The soldiers of the Fifty-third found new conditions of fighting awaiting them in Belgium. As they proceeded to the front through Ypres and many other famous battlefields in that section of the battle area, where the British had fought so nobly and sacrificed hundreds of lives, it was evident they would meet with new experiences dissimilar to those encountered in the Argonne-Meuse fight. The terrain in Belgium is low and flat, and gun positions were hard to get. Nearly all of the best positions were occupied. These were in swamps that were hardly accessible.

Many English soldiers and horses had been lost in the quicksands while trying to cross these swamps. The Firty-third concealed its guns by placing them in hedge fences, or in old buildings and camouflaging the building with a huge net which each battery carried as part of their equipment. Similar methods had to be used with the horses.

Nothing will conceal the flash of a gun at night and this often revealed the location of the guns. An artillery observation balloon can observe for a distance of thirty miles, so it can be seen what great care was taken in camouflaging of positions. In France the guns could always be located in a ravine, a strip of woods or behind a hill, but not so in Belgium.

The first night the Pennsylvania boys went into positions in Belgium is one that will long be remembered and often recounted. It was as dark as pitch. The men could not see more than a foot ahead, and travel was entirely by the way the road lay. Many times the gun caisons slipped from the little shell torn path and it took superhuman effort to get them back on the highway. It had rained and mud was knee-deep.

Many times the weary horses were unable to pull the gun carriages from the deep holes, and then the men would literally lift the wheels free from the black, slimy, sticky mud. After traveling for several miles this way, the men reached the Scheldt River about four kilometers from the firing line. A pontoon bridge across the river was the only method of crossing.

When the Pennsylvanians started across the "Jerries" began firing. Evidently the location of the bridge was known. There was no doubt the bridge was the object of their fire, but because of the darkness of the night the Germans were unable to "unload" properly and fortunately none of them struck the bridge. Finally all of the guns and men were gotten over safely.

As the brigade continued Battery E became separated from the One Hundred and Seventh regiment and got on the wrong road. They finally pulled up to within rifle fire of the German lines before the mistake was discovered, however they soon ascertained their bearings and laded back with the regiment. The "Heinies" were none the wiser. Throughout the march, after they had passed the Scheldt River, the Germans put up a slow harrassing fire all around the column and added to the difficulty of travel.


Although the firing of the Fifty-third on the Belgian front was very effective, it was continually handicapped by the large numbers of Belgian women and children who came streaming through the German lines and rushed toward the Americans to safety. They did this as they were liberated by the German hordes which were beating a hasty and forced retreat.

The use of gas shells by the American artillery would have meant the death of a large number of these helpless people. Day and night through the cold, rain, and mud, Belgian civilians kept streaming back, many of them barefooted and scantily clad.

American Artillery engaged in barrage fire.
American artillery engaged in barrage fire with French model 1897 75mm howitzer.

Some were fortunate enough to possess a cow which they used to pull their wagons, loaded with a few household belongings, and many times infants could be seen riding on them, but more often they were carried in the arms of less fortunate mothers and fathers who trudged their way across the open stretch. Even when defeated the German arms were not content to let these tortured people go without some last act of devilry.

They told them the Americans were more cruel than they and would punish them and keep them in slavery or kill them. As a consequence many of the refugees fell on their knees when they reached the American lines and implored the soldiers for mercy. The kind treatment they received soon dispelled their fears and after four years of German tyranny their faces once more lit up with joy and thanksgiving.

A marked example of German inhumanity was perpetrated on the second night of the battle of the Lys River. The fire of the Pennsylvanians was evidently getting too hot for the retreating Huns, and to check it, they resorted to one of the kaiser's "ways and means" by sending a large bunch of Belgian civilians through their lines and into the American barrage. Out of humanity the Americans ceased their firing but not until they had killed a large number of the helpless victims before becoming aware of the situation.

On the following morning the troops got hold of all available ambulances and gathered up the dead and wounded. It was a sad and sorrowful sight, but it only served to increase the intense hatred for the Germans that was engendered in the heart of every soldier by the cowardly action often employed by the German commanders.

The slaughter of these Belgian civilians was not the only deed of cowardice the Americans had seen the boche perform. More than ever there was a determination to crush them forever, and so it was they went forward with increased ardor.


The effect of the hatred of the Americans was realized by the Germans. They started to retreat so fast that the artillery almost killed their own horses in trying to keep in touch with them. Occasionally the German rear guard would resist long enough to prevent a wholesale slaughter of the whole army. The batteries of the 107th were on their heels at all times and fired at every opportunity. Upon reaching the Lys valley, the Germans had flooded the surrounding lowlands and further advance was delayed for a short time.

The batteries of the Pennsylvania regiment took position on the west bank of the valley and set their gun sights toward Audenarde on the other side. The sights were then elevated so that the shells would not strike the town. For two days they shelled the area outside of the city, doing effective work. Their only target was over eight kilometers away. While in this position the armistice negotiations were begun.


When the armistice was signed, the Pennsylvania artillery moved across the Lys River and stayed in the old war zone for about a month, billeting from time to time in small villages and farm houses. A stall in a cow stable was regarded as a “good” place to sleep, the floor of a house “excellent” and to get a bed, “heaven.”

The artillery brigade from Pennsylvania finally moved back to Proven, Belgium, near the French border, and occupied a little camp which had previously been built up by a regiment of Canadians. This was almost a month after the armistice was signed. Christmas was fast approaching and the boys had nothing to do that day, but to "exist."

On Monday evening before Christmas, Battery E planned an entertainment at the suggestion of Captain Weaver. Sergeant Walcamp was appointed to arrange the program. No one had time to prepare anything and the acts put on by the men were entirely impromptu. The engineers found an old barn which, with a little fixing, soon included a stage and a few seats.

At 7:00pm, Christmas Eve, the show was on. From first to last it seemed like a show staged by professional artists. Chaplain Peters, Captain Bundy, Captain Reese, Lieutenant McGovern and several English officers who were present responded to the call of the footlights. There may have been better shows given by the soldiers in France, but none were appreciated more than this one.

On Christmas Day the cooks, using only the field kitchens and their accompanying utensils, prepared a dinner which was a pleasure and a joy to all of the men. The menu consisted of roast beef, rich brown gravy, Brussell’s sprouts, home baked beans, corn starch, home baked cake, tea or coffee, oranges and apples.

Sergeant Phillips took special pains to see that each man was filled up to the neck. No one applied for seconds, according to authentic information except Horseshoer Hedrick, of the North Side, Pittsburgh, and that was due to force of habit. Every man pronounced it an enjoyable Christmas.

Shortly after Christmas the brigade moved to France and was stationed at LeMans in a “homeward bound” zone.



The diary of Corporal Arthur N. Pollock, of Wilkinsburg, which appeared in Chapter 16 in connection with this history of the Pennsylvania troops in the war, revealed the activities of the 80th Division up to and including October 15, 1918, and only the first phase of the Argonne-Meuse offensive was set forth.

The troops of the 80th Division had been relieved at the front and sent back to Cuisy to rest. They had successfully captured Bethancourt, Montfaucon, crossed the Meuse, and at the time they were relieved were pursuing the rapidly retreating Hun to the northward. The 80th was not through with fighting, however.

They fought many important engagements before the armistice was signed. In this installment, the diary of Corporal Pollock is again taken up where it left off on October 15, and vividly portrays the final battles of the 80th, and the soldier life after the armistice was signed.

"After resting four days at Cuisy, the 320th and 319th infantries went back into the front lines, this time on the Metz sector, to relieve the 159th brigade of our own division. The enemy had just rushed up four fresh divisions from Metz, and in this encounter the Pennsylvanians were put to their first real test."

"Many airplanes dashed down from the clouds, turning their machine guns on us, and giving the enemy artillery our range. Whizz-bangs, mustard gas shells, and shrapnel tore the earth around us, while hundreds of machine guns poured a deadly fire into our troops."

"Yet the Pittsburgh brigade kept on and on, gaining yard after yard, until we wrested almost four kilometers from the enemy despite the fact that we were outnumbered four to one. Our brigade was later relieved by the 5th Division, but I regret to say not all of our boys went back into the rest camp. Beneath the moss, grass and forest ruins of the Argonne lay many of Pittsburgh’s best and bravest sons."

"After resting for two weeks in reserve quarters, the 80th Division, with the Marine Corps at it's side, attacked the German lines on November 1 at St. George. In company with it's worthy companions, they captured the town, then went on to Immecourt, Buzancy, and other small towns, which all fell after the severest of fighting."

"Many wooden crosses in this sector today tell the story of the men who gained the victories. A wounded Marine at Fleville, on November 3, spoke these words to me: ‘God bless the boys of the 160th brigade who fought with us today. America never produced better.’"

"A general order issued, while the battles from the 1st of November until the 5th were in progress, and signed by Major General Cronkhite, commending the 160th brigade, and stated that it had borne the brunt of the burden. Major General Cronkhite was in command of the division, and he further said that the brigade, during the five days of continuous fighting, had advanced a total distance of 153 kilometers and captured two Huns for every man wounded, besides large quantities of munitions and other stores, and accomplished these results with a far less percentage of casualties than any other division."

The terrain covered by the 80th Division on November 1. A captured German artillery piece is in the foreground.

"Our last push is over it seems. I am writing this by candle light on November 12, the day following the signing of the armistice. There was general rejoicing at the signing of the armistice, but most of the boys wanted to go on. From the dope we have now we will never have to go up front again. I was in it all, right to the finish, and I wouldn’t trade my experience for any in the world."

"No doubt the papers have been telling you about our last push. It was more like a ‘run’ and quite a success. I have been getting the copies of THE PRESS you have been sending and, when I came out of the trenches the last time, I got the box from Horne’s. I am feeling fine and getting plenty to eat. How’s this for a breakfast on the battlefield - Pancakes, syrup, rice, bread and cocoa, chewing gum and cigarettes? Sometimes we have doughnuts."

"We haven’t had the flu here but some of the men have had it before they arrived here. It seems great to have bonfires and candle lights, lights on autos and trucks, and funnier still to have everything so quiet, and no planes overhead. From THE PRESS clippings you have sent me, I judge the papers must be getting the right dope about our fighting. Pittsburgh people should not be ashamed of her soldiers. I believe that we have made a good showing over here, and we went “over the top” like a true fighting division."

"We have lots to be thankful for since Thanksgiving Day. Just two months before, I spent the worst and most awful nights and days of my whole life. How thankful I am that those nights and days are over for both me and for everybody."

"December 4 - I am writing this in the kitchen of an old French woman. She keeps talking away to me all the time in broken English, but mostly French. An interpreter informed me that she was telling me to be sure and write to my papa and momma, so I am doing that very thing. We are still in Nicey, south of Paris and not cold at all. I am gaining weight and I know the good eats and nice climate agree with me. The French women are good cooks, and we get the best of white bread. We received the Paris edition of New York papers here a day late and knew almost as soon as you did that the Fourth Liberty Loan was a success. We were glad to hear it, too, for we knew that the loan would help bring us home."

"December 20 - It looks very much like we will spend Christmas this year in Nicey, but I am hoping New Year’s Day will find us a little closer to home. We spend much of our days gathering around with friends talking over our experiences. There is a 'Y' and a canteen with services every Wednesday night, and on Sundays. The people all think President Wilson is the greatest man in the world. A few days ago we were issued new clothing and we got a hot shower twice a week, so that cooties have almost become a thing of the past."

"December 26 - Christmas Day has passed. It was unlike all of my other Christmas Days, but we all had a good time under the circumstances. The cooks fairly outdid themselves for us, and the French women of the town lent their efforts. They helped bake 65 pies for our company alone. In the afternoon I had my first ride on a French passenger train. Soldiers do not have to pay. The coaches look something like the Pittsburgh summer street cars. Give me the U.S.A."

"December 29 - We have been here now almost a month and indications are we will remain until we see how things come out up on the Rhine. There are rumors that we will get to sail for home soon, but we don’t put much credence in them."

Corporal Pollock’s story of the 320th infantry regiment ends here. The 320th regiment was never separated from the 80th Division throughout the fighting, and the account therefore can be taken as an authentic one of this famous division’s activities in the war.



Note: The following history of Base Hospital No. 28 was written by Max E. Hannum, Sergeant First Class, who was attached to the unit, and who is a member of the staff of THE PRESS.

The University of Pittsburgh Base Hospital Unit 27 was organized in response to Surgeon General Gorgas’ request that large medical schools, and hospitals throughout the country, prepare to supply commissioned and enlisted personnel for the medical service. The Medical Department of the Army evidently anticipated the actual declaration of war by some time, and thereby avoided considerable confusion in the quick mobilization of medical units.

When war broke out those medical schools which were connected with universities were urged not only to supply the necessary commissioned personnel of surgeons and physicians, but also recruit enlisted men from the university students and graduate nurses from the neighboring hospitals. The American Red Cross was to furnish the original equipment for these units and to keep in close touch with their needs throughout the war.

A gift of $25,000 by Mrs. H.L. Collins, of Sewickley, was the foundation upon which the Pitt unit was built. Realizing that the University of Pittsburgh provided a rich field in which to recruit a splendid organization, the government offered reserve medical corps commissions to twenty-five professors and instructors in the medical school of the university.

Dr. Robert T. Miller, Professor of Surgery at the university and surgeon for the Mercy hospital, was made director of the unit with the rank of Major. Dean Thomas S. Arbuthnot, of the University Medical School, also accepted a Major’s commission.

The names of the other officers, with their original ranks follow:

Majors J.D. Heard and H.G. Schleiter, Captains S.S. Smith, F.L. McCague, W.B.G. Ray, J.R. Simpson, P.R. Sieber, H.H. Permar and E.W. Zurhorst, Lieutenants J.W. Robinson, L.A. Fisk, B.Z. Cashman, J.W. Fredette, R.J. Frodey, C.B. Maits, R.R. Snowden, A.P. D’Zmura, F.M.Jacobs, J.H. Wagner, A.H. Colwell, Max Neal and H.C. Metz.


With all the commissions accepted, the recruiting of enlisted personnel began early in May, 1917. The unit was originally organized to care for a 500-bed hospital, which, according to the army tables or organization, required 153 enlisted men. Appeals were made to the university students and men from all departments flocked to the recruiting stations, with headquarters at the university and the Eighteenth Regiment armory. Contrary to general expectations, the physical requirements were rigid and many university men were rejected.

The ranks were filled up by non-university and other college men from the Pittsburgh district, lured by the prospect of getting overseas soon. Enlisted up to it's full strength, the hospital was distinctly a Pittsburgh district organization. Pittsburgh and it's immediate suburbs furnished the larger proportion of the men. Jeannette, Greensburg, Punxsutawney, DuBois, Beaver, Youngstown, Butler and other towns were represented.

Men who through athletic and other ability had become not only famous at the university, but also well known in Pittsburgh, were numerous in the enlisted ranks. Such men as "Andy" Hastings, "Jim" Morrow, "Jimmie" DeBart, the Younkins brothers, who helped to make football history at W & J; Heister Painter, a former Penn State center; Orson Wilcox, later fatally stabbed by an apache in France; Leon Kelly, and others whose names and faces are known to many people around Pittsburgh, were among the first to sign their enlistment papers.

The nurses, headed by Miss Blanche Rulon, of the Pittsburgh Eye and Ear hospital, were drawn from practically every Pittsburgh hospital, those trained at the Mercy hospital being in a majority. The complement of nurses was sixty-five, and many more responded to the call.

Major Royal Reynolds, an officer of the Regular Army Medical corps, was designated as commanding officer by the War Department and ordered to Pittsburgh. He arrived in the middle of summer. Establishing his headquarters with the Red Cross in the Chamber of Commerce building, he supervised the purchase of equipment and final preparations for mobilization. Captain W.D. Candler, of Washington, D.C., was ordered to Pittsburgh as Quartermaster.

The entire personnel were enlisted and ready for instant call by the middle of June. However, it was not until August 18 that the government was ready and able to order the unit to active service and assemble it in a mobilization and training camp. It was then instructed to proceed to Allentown, PA, where the training camp for medical units was located, and to arrive there by August 22, 1917.

Members of the unit were apprised of the orders by telephone and telegraph, and ordered to report to Red Cross headquarters. Departure plans were outlined and the men received their first army orders when they were told to be at Red Cross headquarters on Monday, August 21, at 6:30 pm. Base Hospital 27 was now in active service, governed entirely by Army staff orders.

A special train carried the officers and men to the preparation camp, but the nurses were sent directly to Ellis Island, New York, to be held there until the officers and men should be ordered to embark for foreign service. Arriving at Allentown early in the morning of August 22, the men, after drawing clothing and equipment, began their work of preparation.

The commanding officer and the top sergeant were the only men of previous military experience, and it must have been discouraging to them to have to whip into shape this rather motley band in a few short weeks.

A remark of Sergeant Ross D. Strock’s at this time to the commanding officer: "Sir, these damned college boys will never make soldiers," was afterward referred to one private by another during the Argonne offensive, after sixty sleepless hours of unloading trains and carrying stretchers. "No," said he, "they didn’t make soldiers of us, but we haven’t rivaled Rip Van Winkle the last month, either."


Drills, hikes, daily instruction in first aid and general hospital work, and working details gradually hardened the civilian faces, and educated the minds and hands for future work. The principles of discipline which were as necessary in the medical corps as in any line company, were also instilled in them.

Six weeks were spent in the vicinity of Allentown before embarkation orders were received. They arrived while the men were encamped near Easton. PA, training under field conditions for the contingency of being split up into several field hospitals, which was the prevalent rumor at that time. The orders directed Base Hospital 27 to move to Hoboken, NJ, and to report to the embarkation officer, August 27. Camp was broken in half an hour and the unit moved back to Allentown.

At midnight, August 26, the unit marched out of camp, through the quiet streets of Allentown, and boarded a special train. As the sound of 175 pairs of feet striking the pavement in rhythm reaching the people in the houses lining the streets, windows were thrown open, lights flashed, and the retiring townsfolk called out “Goodbye and good luck.” Few troops had moved out of camp, and there was little doubt in the minds of the residents of Allentown as to the final destination of these men.

By 10:00am, August 27, officers, nurses and men were aboard the English Black Star Lines “Lapland,” with the 103rd infantry regiment and other units of the 26th Division. At 2:00pm of the same day, the liner put out of New York harbor, all soldiers being ordered below decks. The anxiety of the men that they would not reach Europe before the war was finished had now disappeared.

At this time, Halifax, Nova Scotia, was a congregating point for vessels making the transatlantic trip, and the “Lapland” met the ten vessels which were to accompany her there on August 20. The trip across the Atlantic consisted of the zig-zagging and back-sailing tactics which characterized navigation after the increased activity of the German submarines.

Convoyed the entire journey by the British cruiser, “Columbella,” the fleet was met 600 miles from the English coast by eight destroyers, four of them flying the American flag.

The same evening, in the heart of the danger zone, the fleet experienced it's first difficulties. The mine sweeper of the “Lapland” became disengaged, necessitating a stop of several hours, and a small freighter, unable to equal the increased speed of the convoy in the submarine zone, fell far behind. Late in the evening all the destroyers turned and steamed swiftly to the rear.

The fleet stopped. The limping and unprotected freighter had been torpedoed and sunk. The destroyers were too late. Consequently of only ten instead of eleven steamers, the ships docked at Liverpool on the morning of September 10. The trip across had taken thirteen days.


On the evening of September 10, Base Hospital 27, and the 103rd and 104th infantry regiments, were in camp at Southampton, England, awaiting their turn to slip across the channel into France. For a week they remained at Southampton in the rain and mud, which are the only memories the men of the corps have of their stay in England.

The voyage across the English Channel was made without a mishap, and on the morning of September 17, the organization was located in Rest Camp 1, Le Havre, France. After a day in this camp, the unit entrained for it's final destination, which became generally known at this time as Angers, in the Department of Maine-et-Loire.

The picturesque cities of Rouen, Alencon, Le Mans and La Flech, through which the train passed in succession, attracted great attention, both for the historical anecdotes connected with them and the quaint style of their architecture and lay-out.

Arriving in Angers the afternoon of September 19, the nurses were detrained and taken to the hospital site in cabs. The men and officers marched there, the first body of American soldiers to parade in the town. The French, always a curious people, flocked quickly to the streets along the line of march.


It could easily be seen that Angers was a city of some size and consequence. By inquiry, it was learned that the pre-war population was 60,000. Since the war began, that amount had increased to over 100,000 by the influx of refugees. The streets were well laid out, but narrow and closely crowded to the sidewalks by plain, stone buildings.

There were trolley lines and the sight of the first trolley car, smaller by far than the ordinary American summer car, brought an involuntary laugh from the men. The people were decently clothed and seemed to be well-fed. There was an extreme dearth of young men among the crowds lining the curbs, and those who were in sight were evidently wounded and discharged soldiers, many of them with empty coat sleeves or wooden legs.

Great interest was evidenced upon approaching the hospital site. It would be the future home of the men for, they knew not how many, months or years. A large stone and concrete building, surrounded on all sides by high stone walls and sitting in the center of a spacious plot of ground, could be seen as the column passed two sailors guarding the great gates. Naval Base Hospital 1 was stationed temporarily at Angers.

The building was an old French monasterial school, but since the war, had been used for various purposes by the French, serving as French Hospital 57 just before being turned over to the American government. The officers, eagerly planned the future, remarked that there was sufficient land around the main building upon which to construct many frame annexes.

Extension and enlargement was in the mind of each of them before they were settled in their quarters. After almost a month of steady traveling, covering over 3,000 miles, the men were eager to get settled down and begin the work of constructing, repairing and creating a modern American hospital facility.

But an immediate commencement of the construction was not to be the job of all the men, for just two weeks after the arrival at Angers, orders for thirty men to proceed to Base Hospital 101, a regular army hospital, stationed at St. Nazaire, one of the ports of debarkation, were received. Medical work in connection with the debarkation of troops was becoming so heavy that assistance was necessary at Hospital 101. Thirty men were chosen.

They rolled up their packs and left Angers on November 10. The did not return for eight months. The remaining men were sorry to see the unit breaking up, and realized that the departure of the thirty meant more work for those who stayed behind. However they knew the causes which forced the separation and appreciated the difficulties of the then small A.E.F. Medical Corps. They also envied the departing men their opportunity of gaining valuable experience.

Settled down in a location which offered great possibilities for the construction and operation of a great hospital, the other men immediately set themselves to the preparatory work of construction. In the unit were men of practically every profession and trade. An enlisted man of Base Hospital 27 had the plans of all the additional wards and annexes completed by the time the constructing detachment of engineers was on hand.

An expert electrical engineer arranged and installed all of the complicated lighting and electrical appliances. With the arrival of a detachment of the 503rd engineers, the real work of construction began, and the work progressed so rapidly, and the facilities were so excellent, that notification was received from the office of the Chief Surgeon that henceforth Base Hospital 27 would be constructed and operated on a 1000-bed capacity basis, a doubling of the original estimate.

Within a month this capacity was increased to 1,500. The original equipment designated for the hospital was inadequate, by far, to provide for these increases. Soon, carload after carload of additional medical supplies, beds, instruments and appliances of all kinds were being rushed to Angers.


Long before the additions were completed, patients began to arrive at the hospital in the main building, which had been equipped immediately upon arrival of the unit and stood ready for just such eventualities. Men suffering from mumps, measles, pneumonia and minor injuries, to the number of several hundred were soon congregated in the hospital.

With the first trench raids, minor engagements or gas attacks sustained by the then small American Expeditionary Forces, victims of actual fighting only came in small numbers and were viewed with great interest by the Pittsburghers, who several months before were several thousand miles from the battle front. This interest would soon turn to concern as the occasional war casualty rapidly became a flood of war-torn soldiers.

Some officers of the Pitt Hospital Unit. Clockwise from left - Lieutenant Colonel J.S. Arbuthnot,
Assitant Director; Colonel J.O. Heard, Director of Medical Services; Major W.R.B. Ray,
Director of the X-Ray Department; Major J.R. Simpson, Head of Nose and Throat
Surgery; Captain J.L. Boots served as Surgeon General. All were from Pittsburgh.


A French railway system passed within a half a mile of the hospital, and a spur of track was laid from it into the hospital grounds, thus assuring rail communication between the receiving ward of Base Hospital 27 and any part of the front. Supplies were brought in on this branch by the car load, thus doing away with the necessity of trucking patients from the French terminal, in the center of the town, to the hospital.

When the 26th Division sustained the first German attack in force at Seichprey and Xivray in the Toul sector, the men of the hospital received the first inklings as to what their future work would be like. One day the news of the heroic stand of the New England regiments reached Angers, and next the human wreckage of the battlefield began to arrive at the hospital.

The casualties of these first engagements were light compared to later ones, and those apportioned to Base Hospital 27 were easily accommodated. The first stretcher case to be carried in was recognized as a fellow passenger on the "Lapland." Men who bore the brunt of this latest attack had crossed the Atlantic with the Pittsburghers. Many acquaintances made on the boat were renewed at bedsides in the hospital.

By this time the hospital grounds resembled a small city. Orders were received calling for indefinite increases in capacity. As soon as one frame structure was completed, work was commenced on another. Accomodations for more than 3,000 patients were soon to be ready. A plea was made to headquarters for additional enlisted personnel, but medical corps men were scarce, and additions to the Angers hospital were not made for some time.


When the great German offensive started in March, 1918, and General Pershing placed the entire A.E.F. at the disposal of the Allies, Base Hospital 27 was ready to do it's part in caring for the wounded. As Allied hospitals overflowed, and meager forces of Americans were placed at vital points in the straining lines, French, British, Belgian, Portugese and Italian, in addition to American soldiers, arrived for care in increasing numbers. Six nations might be represented in one ward. As the hospital filled up, trips to the little cemetery reserved for Americans at Angers, were almost daily.

These military funerals gave a keen insight into the character of the French people. A band played a dirge preceding the slowly moving ambulance which carried an American who had made the supreme sacrifice. As the procession passed along the street to the cemetery, people of all ranks and stations crowded the sidewalks and paid their last respects to the dead. French Generals stood at rigid salute.

Drivers of rubbish cars halted their teams and doffed their hats. During some 300 military funerals, no Base Hospital man ever saw a Frenchman standing covered. Of a very sympathetic temperament, French women often wept. On Sundays, the American cemetery was crowded with French people who came to place flowers on the graves of the dead American heroes.

When the American First Division attacked and took Cantigny, almost all the enlisted hospital corps men were in wards with the influenza. With about ninety of them incapacitated, the force was badly crippled. Consequently, the unloading of the first hospital train, which arrived about this time, proceeded with great difficulty.

Fortunately only slightly more than a hundred men were on this train. The train pulled into the hospital grounds on the spur track and stopped beside the receiving war. Stretcher squads assisted the train personnel in getting the men off. Each car of the train had twenty or thirty beds which could be detached from the sides.

If a wounded man was unable to be removed from his bed to a stretcher, the entire bed was taken out. The men were placed on the stretchers or beds, or on the floor of the receiving ward. Those whose clothing had not been removed were undressed. Physicians passed rapidly down the line, diagnosing each case. The men were then tagged and carried to a clerk who assigned them to wards. As each man was assigned to a bed, the clerk checked it off, thus preventing any overflow in a certain ward.

Patients who could walk entered the receiving station through a separate entrance, removed their own clothing, tossed it into a place provided for that purpose. They passed rapidly through a bath, then were escorted to the assigning clerk, diagnosed and placed in a ward.

By this system, a trainload of patients could be unloaded and gotten to bed in incredibly swift time. The discarded clothing was sorted. The serviceable items were removed and placed in the quartermaster’s clothing room for reissue. Clothing was scarce in France at this time. The unserviceable was carefully bundled and shipped to the American salvage depot.

Despite the scarcity of help, the officers all expressed their satisfaction with the detraining and subsequent activities, and were confident that in the future Base Hospital 27 would be able to take care speedily of all the men shipped in.


About this time relief for the over-taxed personnel seemed to be at hand, for a field hospital known as Unit K was ordered to Angers and arrived late in February. The unit was composed of about forty enlisted men, in addition to about a dozen medical officers. There was a sufficiency of work, and they were all put to tasks in the hospital. Their period of usefulness at Base 27 was not long, however, for on March 5 they departed for another station under orders from headquarters.

The town of Angers began to fill up with Americans. A western engineer organization, the 116th, established a replacement depot in town, and soon as many Americans as Frenchmen could be seen on the streets. With caring for wounded from the front, and sick from the surrounding areas, the hospital was taxed to it's capacity at this time. Angers was becoming almost an American center, with railroad yards, a large hospital, a replacement depot and camp, and truck trains passing through daily.

At this time the Pittsburgh boys had their first opportunity to participate in a review. Late in March decorations were bestowed upon French heroes in the town. In company with a French regiment of infantry, the engineers and the hospital men were formed in a large square in the town as the Guard of Honor at the ceremony. Being their first affair of this kind, the Americans attended the ceremony with great interest. Some thirty Frenchmen were decorated with the Croix de Guerre, the Military Medal and the Medal of the Legion of Honor.

During all this time, the great German offensive was proceeding with dispatch and initial success. The rapidly increasing American Expeditionary Force was being drawn more and more into action. With each additional sector taken over by the United States troops, the demands upon the medical corps became heavier. There were not enough medical men with the line troops, there was an insufficiency of field dressing stations, and the field hospitals were greatly over-worked.

Drafts upon the personnel of base hospitals had to be made in order that the front line work might be carried on. Base Hospital 27, like other organizations of it's type, was called upon to furnish surgical teams for duty at the front. Several of the surgeons received immediate departure orders and left for the front. Their work, under the most trying conditions, reflected great credit on the University of Pittsburgh organization.

A little incident, connected with the service at the front of one of the first groups of surgeons to be dispatched, shows that the nerve of the Pittsburgh surgeons was not confined to the operating room and the dressing station. Allied planes combating German planes behind the allied lines had forced one to make a descent.

Believing that he would be forced to land, and knowing that he was well behind their lines, the allied aviators did not follow the stricken German to the ground. He landed near a dressing station where the Pitt doctors were working. As it happened, no body of armed troops was in that immediate vicinity. The aviator stepped from his damaged plane uninjured and armed. Lieutenant Colonel, then Major T.S. Arbuthnot, in peace times the Dean of the University Medical School, though without arms, made the German his prisoner.

Thus the combat record of Base Hospital 27 up to this time was the following: Kilometers advanced under enemy fire, none; ammunition dumps destroyed, none; heavy guns captured, none; small arms captured, one; prisoners captured, one; planes captured, one.

Shortly afterward several more officers received orders to depart for various field hospitals and field dressing stations. Some of these men served long and arduously at the front, bringing great credit to their organization, their city and their university. The officers were not alone in actual front line service, for as soon as orders came in, nurses and enlisted men joined them.

Major R.T. Miller, the Director of Base Hospital 27, with Lieutenant B.Z. Cashman, Captain J.W. Robinson, Captain W.B. Ray, Nurses Mary DeLozier and Marjorie Aaron, Sergeant First Class D. Strock and Sergeants P.R. Bennett and H.I. Strasser left for the front about this time.

It was many months before the rest of the unit an Angers had the opportunity of welcoming them back again. They were attached to Mobile Hospital Unit No. 1. Their experiences while on this duty were varied, and at times, exciting. Working at high speed constantly, their services to the wounded doughboys and officers cannot be overestimated.

They were attached to the French forces, but soldiers of all the allies passed through their hands. In such high regard were their services held by the French that four of the team were decorated with the French order of the Service de Sante, “for tireless work and valiant service under shell fire. Those decorated were Captain Cashman, Nurses Mary DeLozier and Marjorie Aaron and Sergeant Strock.

Calls for service in evacuation and field hospitals and front line dressing stations were always liable to come at unexpected times, so ten teams of two surgeons, two nurses and two men each were always held in readiness for these emergencies.

While some of their comrades were experiencing life under actual fighting conditions, the rest of the unit was busy rushing the Hospital construction work to completion and organizing the departmental system for the rapidly approaching time when Base Hospital 27 would be crowded, and over-crowded, with wounded from the first big American action.

The motor transportation department, in charge of Sergeant William J. Mulherron, of Pittsburgh, resembled a modern garage in any American city. Many men had to be assigned to Sergeant Mulherron in order to keep this department in a constant state of high efficiency. Many more men had to be assigned to the quartermaster and the medical supply department.

It took many men to do the necessary work\ in the general and registrar’s office. There had to be men on the various cleaning and working details around the hospital. Most of the men were needed in the wards as ward-masters and orderlies. The workload was increasing and the hospital was running short-handed. Relief in a short time was promised by the Chief Surgeon.


About this time Base Hospital 27 lost it's first man. The unit had never been a large group during the months that had elapsed since it's call to service, it's period of training, it's trip across and it's preliminary work at Angers. The 153 men composing it had every opportunity of getting well acquainted and of becoming very much attached to each other. Consequently the first death in it's ranks was quite a shock.

Harold Rowland, a sophomore at the university before his enlistment, a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, popular alike in civil life and the army, contracted spinal meningitis, and in a few weeks was dead.

He was given a military funeral and laid to rest in the little Angers cemetery beside some of the soldiers of the first American engagements. The death of one of the happy-go-lucky “gang” caused a void which it seemed could not be filled. More deaths and separations came to the unit, but the shock of the first one always lingered.

By this time the grounds of the former Petite Seminaire de Mongazon d’Angers were completely filled with buildings constructed by the Americans. The rise of the great hospital can be compared to the mushroom growth of some Western towns.

The buildings were constructed in sections at a French factory in town, loaded onto trucks, brought to the hospital and assembled on the foundations which the engineers had already prepared. With all construction work nearing completion, the capacity of the hospital was close to 4,000.

It would have been manifestly impossible for 25 surgeons, 65 nurses and 153 enlisted men to run a hospital of this size. Other hospitals in France were in the same predicament, with actual construction and adaption to present conditions far exceeding original plans and specifications.

Men for the medical service began to arrive in France about this time, and as soon as they could be collected in a central place, were sent out to assist the over-burdened veteran personnel of the various hospitals. In due time Base Hostpital 27 got it's proportion of these men, It was not until the armistice was signed, however, and the work slackened slightly, that the personnel was ever entirely adequate for the tasks at hand.


New officers, nurses and enlisted men’s quarters had been completed by this time, and were now occupied. The unit had previously been living in empty wards. Situated in an isolated corner of the grounds, they were well-constructed and fairly comfortable.

Scenes at Base Hospital No. 27,
Angers, France. Top - one of the wards were our doughboys
were given the best care possible; Lower left - The first hospital train arriving with wounded
from the front; Lower right - Teaching disabled soldiers new trades was of top importance.


Storage sheds had been built for the supply detachment. A YMCA building had been constructed for patients and corps men. A Red Cross hut for nurses was in the process of construction. Plans for a large Red Cross amusement hall and auditorium were ready. The preliminary work was almost finished.

Technical and office organization was rapidly shaping up. The main department of the hospital was divided into two branches, surgical and medical service. Under these headings came all the surgeons, physicians, nurses and enlisted men doing ward duty. There were three groups of offices: the general office, the registrar’s office and the office of the supply department.

The general office was presided over by the adjutant, Lieutenant S.S. Rodman, who enlisted with the unit and received his commission before leaving the United States. All general hospital business and all details relating to the personnel were handled through this office. Captain E.W. ZurHorst held the position of Registrar. He was the commanding officer of all patients in Base Hospital 27. Patients were admitted through the registrar, kept track of by the registrar and discharged by the registrar.

The work connected with admission slips, card indexes, reports and discharge formalities was enormous, and a large office force was required to dispose of it. Accurate records and histories of every patient in Base Hospital 27 were accessible in his office. Captain W.D. Candler was the quartermaster. His duties were to feed, clothe and accumulate and dispense medical and general supplies for the entire hospital and everyone connected with it.

His office took care of maintenance and repair work, purchased supplies, paid all the troops in town, transacted business with the French, looked after any other odds and ends of business which were not handled by another department, and, until the advent of the hastily organized motor transportation corps, had charge of all the transportation. The work of his office also required a large staff.


With the preliminary work of construction and organization nearing it's completion, the monotony began to pall on the enlisted men of Base Hospital 27 who had not been detached for service in other parts of France. The novelty of the town and it's inhabitants had passed away, and with so much occurring in other parts of the country, it was not at all surprising that the men should find their positions a little irksome. The greater part of the enlisted personnel was made up of college men whose training and experience made them good commission material.

Consequently, it was not surprising that at this time, many of the men should get out copies of army regulations and general orders and circulars to learn how to apply for commissions in the various branches of the A.E.F. The first men to actually receive commissions were Sergeant Louis Broido, of Pittsburgh, and Sergeant Charles P. Herring, of Derry. They were commissioned second lieutenant in the Quartermaster corps after several months of study and a rigid examination at the service of supply headquarters in Tours.

Sergeant Burrell Huff, who afterwards died in the service, was detached to do liaison work in Paris. He was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Sanitary Corps shortly afterward, and placed in charge of evacuation of sick and wounded men at a large regulating station in St. Dizier. His work there won him commendation from his superior officers.

In a responsible and nerve-racking position, the constant strain of his work seriously undermined his constitution. When Lt. Huff was attacked with acute heart trouble, followed by influenza complicated with pneumonia, he was unable to resist the diseases and died January 12, 1919, after months of faithful and brilliant service.

Many high army officers of the allies subsequently paid tribute to the character of Lieutenant Huff’s work. He was a son of the late-Representative George F. Huff, of Greensburg. He was awarded a Medal of Honor by the French government for services rendered sick and wounded French soldiers. Although he did not live to receive the medal, it and the certificate accompanying it were sent to his mother, who treasures them among the remembrances of her son.

Brigadier General George V. Moseley, assistant chief of staff of the American Expeditionary Forces, said of Lieutenant Huff: “During the St. Mihiel and Argonne offensives he was largely responsible for the evacuation of our sick and wounded by rail, and due to his conscientious efforts and devotion to duty, nearly 200,000 sick and wounded were safely transported from the front to the hospitals in the rear without mishap.

During times of stress this often entailed day and night duty, and never did he fail to meet the demands the service made upon him. Words can do little to lessen the pain and sense of loss to his relatives, but the knowledge of the great and important work he accomplished for his country will be a source of comfort and great pride to them.”

Major L.C. Doyle, writing of Lieutenant Huff, said: “It was through his conscientious application to his work that his health was undermined and his resistance so weakened that his short illness proved fatal.” He was buried with full military honors January 15, 1919, and lies with sixty other Americans in a small military cemetery on the banks of the Marne River.


The success of these men encouraged the others. The A.E.F. artillery officer's training school was but eighteen miles northeast of Angers, and had long been the goal of ambitious would-be second lieutenants in that branch. The first Angers hospital man to receive an appointment to the school was Private Ray Huff. The course was of three months duration, and in the duly allotted time, Huff returned to Angers on a short leave, wearing the gold bars of a Second Lieutenant in Artillery.

Private George R. Sherrerd, who had been in charge of the work installing the complicated electrical system in the hospital, was next to have the satisfaction of knowing that his work had been noticed and was appreciated. He was examined for a commission in the corps of engineers, passed, and was granted a Second Lieutenant’s rating. However, his success did not stop there, for subsequently he was made a Captain.

One of his colleagues in the hospital construction work, James Hays, of Sewickley, was shortly afterward made a Second Lieutenant of Engineers. Meanwhile Privates George Perritt, of Beaver Falls, and Willard Ford, of Homestead, the latter of whom was among the men detached to St. Nazaire, were appointed to the Artillery Training school, graduated, and added two more to the list of ex-hospital commissioned men in the artillery service.

At this time there was a pressing need for more commissioned men for duty at the hospital. Consequently, the applications of Sergeants Bertram S. Webber, Roger B. McKahan and Edward I. Lovitz went in for commissions in the Sanitary Corps. Sergeant Webber was the first to receive his commission, as a First Lieutenant in the Sanitary Corps. Eventually he became adjutant of Base Hospital 27. Soon afterwards Sergeant McKahan’s commission arrived, and he was made mess officer of the hospital, a position of no little importance and responsibility.

Sergeant Lovitz’s commission came next and he was made medical supply officer, his duties being to collect, store, keep a record of, and dispense medical supplies. The responsible positions relating to the business activities of the hospital, as well as it's medical work, were being handled by Pitt unit men, rather than by imported outsiders. There was general satisfaction because of this.

Subsequently Sergeants Arleigh B. Williamson and John Garber and Civilian Employee Clifford A. Bayard received commissions as Second Lieutenants in the Sanitary Corps, and were added to the hospital staff on commissioned officers. Sergeants George R. Dickey and John C. Fryor received Second Lieutenants commissions in the Quartermaster Corps. The signing of the armistice kept a further fifteen University of Pittsburgh men from receiving their commissions.

It was a tribute to the standard and ability of the men composing the Pitt unit that so many of them should receive commissions, and that so many more should have the ambition to try to better their positions in the Army. When the armistice was signed there were very few men of the original unit who were not making some attempt to obtain commissions in the various branches of the Army.

We have now come to the time when the construction work of Base Hospital 27 was entirely finished: when everything was in readiness for the vital part it was to play in the efficient handling of our wounded soldiers.

With it's stately main building surrounded by row upon row of wooden wards hastily but strongly flung together by American engineers, it's many storage buildings, it's little railroad system, it's intricate layout of roads and passageways, it could be likened to a small city. When it was filled to capacity, it was a small city, with 5,000 inhabitants.

The speed of it's construction and the neatness and orderliness of it's appearance were a constant source of wonderment to the local French people, who were almost as proud of it as the American Army medical officers. As the hospital stood there were more than eighty wards, with an average capacity of about sixty beds. There was a series of isolation wards for the care of contagious diseases.

There was a large and well-equipped laboratory. There was the spacious “E” shaped receiving ward. There were two barracks for the officers, two for the enlisted men and one for the nurses. There was an evacuation ward for patients about to be discharged. There was one large Red Cross hut for the nurses and another for the men.

Top - Convalescent patients passing the time on the Recreation Court at Base Hospital No. 27;
Bottom - The Base Hospital No. 27 Band, all Pittsburghers led by Chaplain J.R. Cox.


There was a roomy and well-equipped garage. There were separate kitchens and mess halls for the nurses, the officers and the enlisted men. There were other kitchens and mess halls for the patients. In the main building, besides many large wards, there were the administrative offices, the operating room, the pharmacy and a large dining hall.

About this time, one of the enlisted men of the unit, Private Robert Titzell, became very ill and suffered some temporary mental derangement. It was decided by the authorities to send him back to the United States, as it was not possible to give him proper care and attention in France. Consequently he was started for home. Some weeks later the members of the unit were greatly shocked to hear that he had fallen overboard on his homeward trip, and had not been picked up. He was the second man Base Hospital 27 lost by death.

When the building work had been completed, the men were also trained to take care of their respective cogs in the hospital machine. Every man understood what was required of him, and everyone was able to do his individual part when the time came. Base Hospital 27 knew that American soldiers were on their way to assist the hard-pressed French.

Base Hospital 27 was prepared to receive a great influx of patients. The equipment of the wards and the operating room was carefully inspected and placed in the best possible order. All sick and wounded men who were on a fair road to convalescence were sent out to replacement depots.

When the First and Second Divisions went into action around Chateau-Thierry, it was like a dash of cold water on the spirit of a nation! Excitement did not run higher than in the French city of Angers, except for on Armistice Day.

Crowds thronged about the bulletin boards of the newspapers. The one thought in the public mind of France was: “We are saved. Have they not proven they can fight?” The famous remark of the commander of the First Division when his men were forced back on Jaulgonne: “Retreat? Sir, the American flag has been forced to retire, and my men would not understand did I not give instructions which would tend to reverse conditions. We shall attack immediately,” thrilled the citizens of Angers days before it was featured in American newspapers.

Americans can realize the effect of such dramatic events on the temperamental French. When the Marines wrested Belleau Wood from a greatly superior force of Germans and held their positions against odds never equaled since Thermopylae; when they carved a pathway through Vaux; when their comrades entered Chateau-Thierry, it would be difficult to attempt to describe the joy of the French nation. In their minds there was no doubt as to the final outcome of the war, for were there not 300,000 big, strapping Americans landing on their shores every month?


There was a peculiar contrast between the wild abandon of the celebrating French and the grim preparations that were going forward in the hospital. Those who had paid the supreme sacrifice would never know that hundreds of millions of tongues were shouting “heroes.” But there were other broken and twisted bodies to which life still clung.

For them such institutions as Base Hospital 27 existed. When the news came that the first train load of wounded Marines was approaching the hospital, a great crowd gathered around the receiving ward. As it pulled slowly down the track with it's suffering cargo, there was no hat throwing or cheering. These battered bodies were the ones that had barred the road to Paris. Their work for the present was finished. The hospital men’s was just beginning.

You could hear the phrase “Our cheerful wounded” until it means nothing to you. Could you have seen the first train load of Marines pulling into Base Hospital 27, you would never again pass over that phrase casually. Not all the men on the train were so badly hurt that they had to recline constantly. Here and there a grinning head was thrust through a window, answering questions and dispensing information without it's being solicited.

"Yes, most of us are Marines. No, these are not all the wounded from the Chateau-Thierry action. We left some more at another hospital up the road. Say, this is only the advance guard. You will have the whole Fifth and Sixth Marine Corps down here in a few more days."

Then the actual work of detraining began. It was almost a repetition of the detraining after Cantigny. There were several hundred wounded on the train, many of them badly injured. Under such unfavorable conditions had the fighting been pushed, that most of the men had received no previous medical attention. With their clothing torn, their bodies dirty, blood clotted on their faces, and here and there a crude home-made bandage showing, they fully looked the part of battle-stained heroes.

The stretcher cases were placed in bed immediately. The walking cases went through the showers first. Many were carried directly from the train to the operating room. The surgeons and their assistants prepared for a series of operations and dressings. The work of salvaging the most precious waste of a modern battlefield was begun.


Base Hospital 27 slipped into it's new era smoothly. The surgeons worked day and night as if they had done it always. Men who a few months before had been going to school, or working in offices, dressed wounds and assisted the surgeons and nurses like experienced hospital apprentices. Eager for first-hand information of the battle of Chateau-Thierry and other tales of the front, all the men made friends with the wounded, visiting them, supplying them with reading matter and chatting with them by the hour when they were off duty.

Not a few of the wounded were from Pittsburgh and vicinity, and more than once it happened that a hospital man unawares carried in an old friend of his, only to place him tenderly in a bed and hear him say, "Thanks, Ed," or "How are you, Joe?"

The world knows the story of the reduction of the Chateau-Thierry, Rheims, Soissons salient, but in measuring the glory of the achievement, and in praising the prowess of the American arms, that part of the world which never saw a hospital train picking it's way carefully along the hastily constructed tracks in the forward areas, with it's lights extinguished as a precaution against hostile planes, then gathering speed as it reaches a more solid roadbed in a less dangerous zone, thread it's way quickly and quietly to a hospital with it's load of patients, suffering ones - that part of the world can never realize the aftermath of a great victory.

Day after day the Americans and French pushed on the sides and center of the sharp point in the lines, and day after day more trains of wounded were rushed back to the hospitals.

The 28th Division went into action, and soon many Western Pennsylvania men were pouring into Angers, members of the old Eighteenth and the “Fighting Tenth.” When the Vesle was finally reached, and the last sharp struggles took place around Fismes and Fismette, the hospital was crowded and the personnel thoroughly exhausted.

Men had worked as they never had in their lives before. Called out to unload trains, or to leave for duty at the front, at all hours of the night, and keeping the hospital running in the day, taxed the woefully small unit to it's utmost. Not only was the personnel inadequate in numbers to care for the patients properly; but bed space was becoming very scarce.

So authority was requested, and received, to open an annex to Base Hospital 27. After some search and deliberation a building several miles distant, and on the opposite side of the Maine River, known as the “Seminaire,” was chosen. This building had formerly been occupied by a French school. Work to put it in order for hospital purposes was immediately begun. Partitions had to be torn out and beds and appliances installed.

Lieutenant S.S. Rodman, adjutant of Base Hospital 27, was designated as commanding officer of the annex, and some men and nurses from the main hospital were detached for service there. As the annex was intended primarily to house convalescent patients, a large part of the necessary work could be done by them. Lieutenant Bertram S. Webber became adjutant of Base Hospital 27, succeeding Lieutenant Rodman.


Plans were also gotten under way for a convalescent camp to be constructed near the Seminaire. The three organizations were to be known and operated as Hospital Centre, Angers. Major Reynolds, now promoted to lieutenant colonel, commanding officer of Base Hospital 27, was to command the group.

Work at the annex progressed rapidly, and soon it was ready to receive patients. The convalescent camp sprang up rapidly also. It was composed entirely of tents, one hundred of them. Captain A.A. Lawton was assigned to command the “Con Camp,” as it was known to all, and it was necessary to furnish him with more staff from the fast dwindling unit.

Just when it seemed that the men could no longer keep the hospitals running small additions of medical men would arrive, and the crisis for the present would be averted. The unit was also further relieved about this time by the return of the thirty men who had been detached to St. Nazaire. They had seen eight months of interesting service at the base port and brought back much encouraging news concerning the rapid arrival of Americans in France.

At the end of August, probably the saddest event connected with the service of Base Hospital 27 in France occurred. Leaves had been granted to many of the men and the work had slackened perceptibly. Everyone was in good spirits. Things looked bright for an early ending to the war and Base Hospital 27 was anticipating getting back to the States soon, perhaps by the 1st of January.

Breaking into the comparatively smooth life at the hospital at this time was the untimely death of Orson Wilcox, one of the most promising athletes ever matriculated at Pitt, and one of the most popular men in the unit. Returning to the hospital one evening he was waylaid by three French boys, who demanded cigarettes.

Being a non-smoker, Wilcox was unable to comply with their demands. They then attacked him with knives. Sergeant Elmer E. Rawdon, passing by at this time, rushed to his assistance, but was immediately stabbed in the neck by one of the boys. Meanwhile, several other members of the unit came up and removed Rawdon to the hospital. Just as more Base Hospital 27 men came up, Wilcox was seen to collapse on the ground. The boys got up and ran away.

Wilcox was hurried into the hospital, where it was ascertained that his death had been almost instant. A search for the murderers was immediately instituted and one of the boys was captured. He confessed, implicated the others, and they were apprehended the following day.

Just as Base Hospital 27 was leaving France, sentence was passed upon these boys. One of them was sentenced to hard labor for life, another to hard labor for several years and the other was released. The French system of hard labor is a very severe type of punishment.

The boys never recovered from the shock of “Willie’s” death. At Pitt he was captain of the freshman football team, besides playing on the freshman basketball and baseball teams. He was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

He was a splendid type of clean young American manhood, with a happy disposition and an even temper, a smile and a good word for every one, and a willing, conscientious worker, His memory will linger with the boys with whom he was associated as long as they live.

Upper left - Orson Wilcox, killed by Apaches; Upper right - Evacuating convalescent patients;
Lower left - Band concert; Lower right - Harold Dowland, died of spinal meningitis.


In the reduction of the St. Mihiel salient the first All-American engagement, the casualties of the First American Army were on around the 7,000 mark. Consequently, the strain upon the hospitals was not so great.

The wounded were distributed equally among the hospitals of the A.E.F. and as the medical service was reaching a high state of efficiency at this time, no trouble was experienced in handling all the injured men. During the drive, several surgical teams from the hospital were at the front continuing their service there throughout the Argonne Offensive.

During the lull between the battles of St. Mihiel and the Argonne, the activities of the enlisted men of Base Hospital 27 while not on duty can be described. Despite the fact that the men were forced to tie themselves down to their work pretty closely, there were many opportunities for amusement and relaxation.

Celebrations were in order upon the slightest provocation. They celebrated the anniversary of the call to active service, the anniversary of the departure from the United States, the anniversary of the arrival in France, and sundry birthdays and other occasions.

French restaurant and cafe keepers in the near vicinity of the hospital became moderately wealthy through the tendency of the Americans to celebrate. Each group of men had their favorite cafe or restaurant. None of the men will forget “Mama’s” or “Lizzie’s.”

To celebrate the close of the first year in France, the men had a picnic in the country. Through the kindness of the hospital officials, several trucks were placed at the disposal of the men to convey them, and the refreshments, to the scene of the festivities.


Through the efforts of Captain P.F. Bagley, Red Cross representative at Base Hospital 27, a clubhouse was erected for the enlisted personnel. This was tastily fitted out, and when work was finished the men would gather around a log fire for a half hour’s chat before turning in.

The hospital had a crack baseball team which met and defeated many other American teams in the district.

But the climax of the amusement activities came with a farce football game staged after the armistice was signed. Two teams of has-beens and mediocres were chosen and, togged in ludicrous outfits, they staged a side-splitting contest in the rain and mud of a typical French fall day.

The game was preceded by an orthodox parade, led by the Base Hospital 27 band. Stretcher and ambulance squads added touches of local color. The patients were loud in their praise of this event, which was gotten up mainly in an effort at diversion and amusement for them.


To return to the work, the hardest ordeal for all branches of the A.E.F. came with the Battle of the Argonne. It is not necessary to tell how the doughboys fought their way through almost impenetrable obstacles until they broke the back of the German defense system, and poured into Sedan just before the armistice was signed.

As a result of the stubborn fighting, hospital trains were working between the front and the hospitals night and day, and a steady stream of wounded men, dirty, disheveled and suffering, thronged all the wards, corridors, tents - in fact every place where a bed could be located. Except for redoubled energy and many sleepless nights, there was nothing new in the activities of Base Hospital 27 during the Argonne drive.


With the signing of the armistice, time began to drag for the Pittsburghers. But it was not until early January, 1919, that word was received that the unit had been ordered relieved. In a few weeks Base Hospital 85, previously located in Paris, arrived in Angers, and took over the work of the hospital center. In a month, Base Hospital 27 left Angers on it's way to a base port, and eventually the United States.

Tied up for a month at St. Nazaire awaiting transportation, it was not until March 24 that the men saw America again, after an absence of eighteen months, during which they had cared for over 20,000 wounded soldiers and made an enviable record among A.E.F. medical units. On April 10, the men were mustered out of service, and Base Hospital 27 existed only in the history books.



15th Combat Engineers Insignia                                    15th Combat Engineers Coat of Arms

To the famous Fifteenth Engineers, A.E.F., organized in Pittsburgh early in 1917, and then known as the Fifth Engineers, U.S.A., goes the glory of being the first complete regiment to leave the Steel City for that then mystically far away place "over there."

This may be said without in the least detracting from credit due other units that went later, or due the individual men by the dozens who rushed coincidentally with the embryo engineers to the local recruiting offices, but entered the Regular Army, the Signal Corps, the Navy or the Marines - and marched away with only a couple of non-coms or boatswain’s mates to see them safely aboard a train at the Pennsylvania Station.

It was only natural that the Fifteenth engineers, after nearly two years of service, and with a glorious record, should have been widely acclaimed and sent away by the Pittsburgh populace with a might ovation. They were the very flower of Western Pennsylvania’s young manhood, most of them college or university men, and all imbued with the spirit that made them first respond when “war’s wild alarm” sounded.

During their brief training period at Oakmont, the engineer's camp was visited each Sunday by monster throngs of loving friends and relatives, who were amazed even by the first stage of the transition which was to turn their boys from care-free laughing youths into disciplined, dependable veterans, fit to challenge the admiration of Europe.

Colonel Edgar Jadwin, long before Uncle Sam entered the world war, had conceived the notion that Pittsburgh would be an ideal city in which to recruit a regiment of engineers. When he was told by Washington to “go ahead,” he wasted no time. He recruited several hundred more than enough men to fill the regimental roster, then selected the best of what material he had and started with it for France.

That was characteristic of the way Colonel Jadwin, then and for some years previous in charge of the United States Engineer's Office in Pittsburgh, did things. He has since been promoted to Brigadier General. He and several other officers of the regiment had served in the Spanish-American War.

Enlistment paper for Thomas Knight

Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Eastern Ohio were well represented in the Fifteenth. Thousands of young men from towns near Pittsburgh swamped Colonel Jadwin’s office. Little was said about it at the time, nothing at all for publication, but it is an open secret now that the surplus problem left behind by Colonel Jadwin caused regular army recruiting officers and others to cudgel their grey matter and tear their hair.

Some of the things they said, at first, were unprintable, anyway. The boys who had “joined the engineers, but had been left behind, couldn’t be taken into any other branch of the service until a lot of red tape had been cut. Eventually, this was done. Meanwhile, they chafed because some of them thought their friends regarded them as slackers.


From the Pyle Farm, near Oakmont, where they pitched their camp May 22, 1917, and where they were augmented by other companies up to June 6, the engineers came into Pittsburgh July 4 and joined in a parade which was one of the greatest pageants ever seen here. A large gathering at Forbes Field in Oakland was a last chance for the citizens of Pittsburgh to mingle with these soldiers before they embarked on their great crusade.

Knowing that these brave lads were soon to go overseas, the Pittsburgh stay-at-homes, those who could not enlist and those who intended to enlist or be drafted later, spared no effort to make this farewell review all that any event of it's kind possibly could be. Enthusiasm was boundless, and it is scarcely too much to say that at this juncture came the first real thrill that brought home to the common people, with unmistakable force, that fact that the country was at war.

Jarred a little in their peaceful pursuits, the people had not yet comprehended the enormity of the task Uncle Sam had undertaken. As George Ade says, the war in Europe seemed too much like a close finish in the Pacific Coast League, “interesting, but too far away to arouse local excitement.”

The example set by the engineers, as they prepared for action, under Colonel Jadwin’s orders, was powerful. It was a great stimulus to recruiting. The more local boys joined the colors, the better the Red Cross and other like agencies were supported. The engineers and the old National Guard units led the way.

Thousands of brave boys enlisted, and opposition to the selective draft died away to a whisper. Pro-Germans sensed the change in public opinion, and changed their loud clamor to a subtle and cringing propaganda, and even that became hazardous when the fighting spirit of the Workshop of the World was fully aroused.

From the time the regiment broke camp at Oakmont, July 6, 1917, until it returned to Pittsburgh for a welcome home parade on May 7, 1919, the interval was filled with activity of many kinds. Disconnected reports of it's work have been gathered from many sources and every work printed concerning it has been read with interest.

Camp Gaillard in Oakmont, where the 15th Combat Engineers formed and were trained for duty in France.


On the morning of July 6, Colonel Jadwin issued orders that the regiment would entrain that night for an Atlantic port of embarkation. The destination of the engineers was not announced, but it was understood they soon would be "going over."

Special trains were sent over the Pennsylvania Railroad to Oakmont. Camp was broken, and the camp site was so thoroughly “policed” that scarcely a trace of the big military maneuver ground remained visible. Several hours wait in the stuffy coaches ensued, and quite naturally the men became impatient to be on their way.

Suddenly, notice came from the War Department at Washington to delay the start from here for 48 hours. A strike by stevedores in New York harbor was given as the reason for the delay. The men of the regiment were enjoined to secrecy about it, but they knew then that Gotham was to be the embarkation point from which they would jump off for the great adventure.

Not wishing to have the razed camp rebuilt, Colonel Jadwin took the troop trains to the Pennsylvania Railroad yards at Verona, and the men were told to remain aboard the trains. These coaches were their only homes for 48 hours and the discomfort was great, but the spirit of the men showed they had understood from the beginning that they were not out for a pleasure jaunt.

In the early part of Sunday, July 8, orders came for the regiment to move east. Trains bearing the heroes, for they were already that, left the Verona station at 9:15am, amid the cheers of hundreds of spectators.

Few events of importance transpired during the long rail journey to New York. There was a prisoner in one of the baggage coaches, closely guarded by Corporal Gordon Faust of Company F, son of Mr. and Mrs. Philip Faust of Monaca. The identity of the prisoner has since been kept secret “for the good of the regiment.”

It also came out, after the armistice was signed, that an attempt to bomb the engineers’ coaches and kill all on board was made while the regiment was en route from Verona to New York. Details of the alleged plot are scarce, except such as might be gleaned from the more or less fevered imagination of a hectic and excited “correspondent.”

After their arrival at Hoboken, NJ, the engineers were held for several hours, and there was another delay at Jersey City, where the regiment arrived July 9 at 5:45am. From the Pennsylvania Railroad ferryboat, the "Washington," the engineer's train next transferred to the White Star Line pier on the New York side of the Hudson River.

About 3:00pm the men boarded the White Star liner "Baltic," from whose broad decks they obtained their first glimpses of New York’s skyline. Soon they would enter the awful conflict in which great nations and millions of men were struggling for existence.


Sea sickness was one of the terrors encountered by the brave Pittsburgh district lads on their voyage across the ocean to France. July 10, at 6:45am, most of the boys were on deck. The "Baltic" was then 200 miles from New York, and a school of whales attracted the attention of the soldiers aboard shortly before time for lunch. Life boat drills started at 2:00pm that day, and were continued throughout the remainder of the ocean trip.

The "Baltic" took a northerly course about thirty miles off shore and maintained it until the waters in the vicinity of Newfoundland were reached. The boys studied the manual of arms while the "Baltic" headed directly for the English coast.

Cheerfulness and good humor marked the demeanor of the engineers, who endured the rigors of seasickness with a fortitude which caused Colonel Jadwin to say he was proud to be in command of such a capable and uncomplaining outfit. The ship’s hold contained a cargo of copper wire, wine, etc., valued at about $50,000,000. Guarding against U-Boat surprise attacks was one of the most constant activities of the gunners aboard the "Baltic."

Talks and sermons to the men were given daily by Bishop Israel, of Erie, PA. Times when the boys were not studying, drilling or at target practice they spent at ease on the decks and, being plentifully supplied with books and magazines, they read a great deal.

The engineers were compelled to scurry for cover when a heavy rainstorm came up on the morning of July 14, but there was an abundance of entertainment during the afternoon. Boxing matches were hastily arranged, and the engineers took great delight in watching the leather slingers. When a great ship, bound for New York, passed the "Baltic," about four miles away, the boys of the Fifteenth watched it until it disappeared below the western horizon, it being regarded by then as a connecting line with the beloved land left behind.

Warning was given that night by the ship’s officers that the "Baltic" was approaching the submarine zone and there was great danger. They boys spent a wakeful and anxious night, but nothing happened out of the ordinary. Communion service was administered by Bishop Israel, after which the engineers retired to the berths below, being driven from the decks by rain followed by a dense fog.


A coast patrol boat, which turned back on the first morning out from New York, escorted the "Baltic" at the start. Late in the afternoon of July 18, the coast of Ireland was in view, according to the ship's lookouts. The engineers first set foot in England on July 20, 1917, after which they were entrained at the docks and transferred to Camp Borden, in the southern part of England.

After a review by a British general, while thousand of Canadians, Australians and other British soldiers looked on, the engineers listened to a brief address by the reviewing general. He expressed his pleasure at welcoming the first armed forces of the American Expeditionary Forces, and the first armed legionary forces of a foreign power to land on Great Britain’s shores since the Norman conqueror, William I, landed at Hastings while defying Harold’s lances, nine hundred years before.

15th Engineers - First To England

The engineers a short time later boarded the channel steamer "Viper" and crossed the English Channel without mishap. They landed in the port of Le Havre, France, July 27, 1917. Strange sights met their gaze on every hand, but they were soon too busy to take much notice of the outlandish aspect of their surroundings.


As the boys reached the docks of Le Havre, they let go a real American yell, and were cheered loudly in response by thousands of peasants, French soldiers and British Tommies, gathered there to welcome them. Equipment was hurriedly packed and, at 9:00am, the march to the railroad station was begun. The engineers hiked ten miles, from 10:00am until 12:10pm.

In the camp where they rested at the end of the hike, the engineers met and mingled with about 1,000 British soldiers. The camp overlooked the Bay of Le Havre and, although it was 210 miles from the firing line, it had a warlike aspect because of the presence of so many soldiers and the almost daily arrival of more troops.

Rising at 5:45am the next day, the boys of the Fifteenth packed up and left the Le Havre camp, hiking three miles to a station where they entrained about noon on the Etate Railroad for "somewhere." Forty-four coaches were in the train, which was first-class and well-equipped. It traveled slowly, owing to the railroad congestion, and passed through Yootot, Rouen and Roudon. Rouen was a big railroad center, and there the Pittsburgh boys witnessed many sights similar to those enacted daily in the Conemaugh or other yards of the Pennsylvania railroad.

Much of the work then in progress there consisted of repairing many engines and cars that had been damaged while in use near the battle front. When the train stopped at Mantos, and the Pittsburghers were enjoying their mess, they also had their first glimpse of the strange troops Great Britain had called under her banner from the far outlands. More than 1,000 Hindus, on a train en route to the front, passed the Fifteenth Engineers and waved a cheery greeting.

The remarkable chalk hills of France, really mountains in many places as high as the Alleghenies in Pennsylvania, were the next scene which confronted the eager gaze of the engineers. These were a short distance from Mantos. The boys passed within eight miles of Paris when they went through Versailles, which they reached at 1:00am, while most of the boys were asleep in their train berths.

More than 350 miles the engineers traveled, and then a bugle sounded at 3:00am, July 28. The boys next gazed upon the city of Vierzon, which afterwards was frequently referred to in many official dispatches, being at various times the site of a dozen different division headquarters. After spending nineteen hours aboard the train, the engineers were indeed glad to hear an order to detrain, even though that meant that there was more work to be done.

Inspection followed, and then the boys marched to their camp outside Vierzon, which they reached at 10:00am, and where they found 160 new tents pitched and awaiting occupancy. Company F was assigned to pitch other tents in the camp.

15th Engineers enter Vierzon - July 28, 1917
The 15th Engineers enter the town of Vierzon on July 28, 1917.

The French peasants brought light red wine from their vineyards, and the boys enjoyed this, besides feasting on plums in a nearby orchard. Everyone was granted leave at 11:00am, and until 9:00pm the engineers spent their time in getting acquainted with the neighborhood and the natives, although the latter was a difficult task because the boys could not speak French and the natives could not understand much English.

A fifth inoculation against diseases was administered to the men of the regiment on July 30. Company D was withdrawn from the camp and sent to another camp “somewhere.” From this time forward there was no time when the regiment was together intact again until after the armistice was signed and the boys were ordered to assemble at Bordeaux.


Early on July 31, Company E was summoned and assigned for duty elsewhere. Company F was placed on guard duty. On August 1, Company F was doing detail and Company C on guard duty. Twenty-four members of Company F went to Vierzon, catching rides on army trucks toward town. They were sent to work in Vierzon, loading and unloading vegetable in cars. Fifty German prisoners, minus the arrogant air they formerly had assumed, were sweeping the platform and doing other menial work.

Some of them, talking with the Pittsburghers, said they had been forced into the Kaiser’s army, and that they never had wanted to fight. Rain fell that day and the air was cool. After finishing their labors about the depot, the engineers doffed their uniforms at a stream close by and enjoyed a refreshing swim, despite the chilly air. Company F went to Vierzon, where they demonstrated their expertness as wielders of billiard cues.

On August 3 it was rainy and cold, and all the men of the regiment were off duty part of the day. They were then supplied with books pertaining to the construction of railroads, barracks and docks. Most of the day was spent in studying these.

Upper left - Colonel Edgar Jadwin, who organized the pioneer regiment; Upper right - The
color guard marching to the station; Lower - The regiment boarding trains
preparatory to departing from Pittsburgh for the long trip to France.


As was previously stated, at no time after the arrival of the Fifteenth Engineers in France were the companies all together. Some were assigned one task, others were sent to different supply centers and depots, and still others to railroad centers, hence a continuous narrative of the adventures of the famous regiment on the battlefields of France is impossible.

However, by taking up the activities of the companies separately, a slight conception of the great work it wrought can be obtained. Mention of various companies will be made throughout this account, and efforts exerted to correlate the work and adventures of the entire regiment.

The work of a regiment of engineers is vastly different from the work of the combating forces. However, it must not be concluded that the Pennsylvania engineers saw a service that was devoid of thrills and the wildest of adventures, for even if they were not supplied with the combating equipment, oftentimes their work was ahead of the infantry in the very thick of the fighting, and upon hundreds of occasions they were menaced by airplane bombs and shells from enemy guns.

It was a particular delight, and, of course, one of the strategems of war, for the German airmen to pick out the regiments of engineers and harass them continually. The work of the engineers was to remove the obstacles of advance by building bridges, repairing roads, constructing dugouts for shelter, erecting hospitals, supply centers, laying railroads and repairing those destroyed by shell fire.

Within the regiments were men fit to do every kind of engineering work, from the repairing of a broken motor lorry to the digging of trenches. Without the aid of the engineers war would be an impossible thing.

The same can be said of all other units of an organized fighting force. Each has separate tasks, which, when timely performed, connected and organized, make war a business. A mail order concern would be useless without a shipping department.

An army would be useless without it's regiments of engineers. Realizing the part they were to play in the greatest of all war dramas, the Fifteenth Engineers vigorously entered upon their duties and performed them in a commendable manner under Colonel Jadwin.


Like a huge family, the Fifteenth regiment had lived for a few days at Vierzon, absorbing the conduct of the war from various experienced teachers, when suddenly on August 15 Company B received orders to pack up and entrain. Whither they were going was not known to them.

They were placed under sealed orders. The men of Company B, while not unwilling to meet their task, disliked the idea of separation from their comrades, but bravely packed up without a murmur of objection, marched into Vierzon and entrained for their unknown destination.

Company B was one of the busiest companies of the regiment throughout the war, and it's work was of a highly varied nature. It was transferred from one place to another, and during the whole period in France was in more than a dozen different places.

Sometimes it would be just starting a project when it would be ordered to leave. In it's path other companies of engineers followed and completed the job it had begun. Sometimes it completed a task before moving on, but more often it was used as an advance company. Occasionally, however, it took up a bit of work that had been left by other companies and completed it.

Before boarding the train under their sealed orders, members of the company sadly took leave of their pals who had been with them ever since the training period at Oakmont. Wishes of good luck and safety went with Company B, which, after two days of hot, sultry traveling in a French train, detrained at Lanuville, where over a month was spent in arduous work.


At Laneuville the men went into barracks, much more comfortable than the tents they had occupied at Vierzon. Military authorities of the United States had selected Laneuville as one of the base supply centers, and Company B was given work which is familiarly known in army circles as the S.O.S., or Service of Supply.

New men from the states were arriving here almost daily. Huge ships with supplies of every description assigned to Laneuville. Warehouses had to be built, additional barracks must be erected, new roads made, old roads repaired - and these tasks fell to Company B of Pittsburgh’s pioneer Fifteenth regiment.

In a comparatively short time new barracks took form, but the work that mostly engaged the Pittsburgh lads was the repairing of the roads about Laneuville. These were in almost impassable condition. They were not fit for travel, nor were the arteries over which men and supplies for the conflict raging in the north must pass.

It was labor that the men of Company B indulged in while preparing these roads, and as day after day passed the existence became monotonous. The heat was grueling, but the rain was worse. At times it rained torrents, which swept along the roads, making work on them impossible. But every shower that came and went was not a signal to halt.

The men kept at it, sometimes in mud almost knee deep toiling away like veterans. There were a few occasions when they studied books in regard to war engineering, but for the most part their days were filled with labor. Whatever the feeling in the men’s hearts as they worked, they always continued their task until completion.

From romping boys, they were suddenly transformed into hardened men, who worked with seriousness and determination that was unsurpassable. Had mothers and fathers from Pittsburgh chanced upon their sons while engaged in this work, they would have noticed and been amazed at the wonderful transformation wrought by the realization of duty which gripped every man of them and impelled them to do their best.

Combat Engineers spent much of their time repairing the road network in France.

French Poilus watched the work of the Americans in amazement. Their methods were new, and the rapidity with which they completed one thing and went to another was, to them, startling. They were the first engineering unit from America to actually engage in work in France.

Hampered by a lack of material, the French methods were slow, and when they did materialize the transformation had been so slow that nothing out of the ordinary was thought of it. Even the hardened British Tommies took notice of the work the Americans were doing and, through the part Company B was playing, came to realize most suddenly that America had entered the war in earnest.


Members of the Fifteenth who have returned to this country scoff at the methods of engineering used in France and England. Although these countries contain works bearing the admiration of the whole world, they employed antiquated tactics in hasty work of the war nature, and did not seem to work with the same zeal and determination as did the Americans. London, it is asserted by the returning boys, is 100 years behind the times. America is the new world, and industry has advanced in rapid strides here.

It should be realized that the old cities of the world are much harder to transform into places with all modern conveniences such as are had here. The railroad system in France and England has been severely criticized. No great moguls hauled all-steel coaches over the roads in France until America’s engineers reached there.

It was an ever source of wonder to the French peasantry and villagers to see the Americans lay the great steel rails and operate huge trains over them. All of the material necessary for building these roads, of course, was brought from America. So it is not a matter for much consideration that the French were astounded when they saw the power America meant to expend in their behalf.

There wasn’t any lolling around in the American camp at Laneuville. The Americans were absorbed with two thoughts: First, to make it possible for combating forces to wage a winning war, and second, to get the thing over with and get back to the U.S.A. The men had long since become aware that war was no play. It was serious business and far from pleasant. The desire to get back to their homes was a natural one, and sufficient to stimulate them to their greatest efforts.

Occasionally, passes for a few hours leave of absence were granted the boys by their commanding officers. On such occasions the fortunate recipients of the slip of paper that gained them admittance through the lines went to Laneuville and took part in what amusements the little city afforded. And Laneuville always knew when a bunch of Americans was in the city.


And so the days at Laneuville passed until finally on the night of September 19, after repeated rumors had been received concerning another move, orders came to break camp and move elsewhere. This time they went to Neufchateau, accompanied by what seemed to them the whole French army. Laneuville had profited much by their little visit, and they left it in a far better condition than they found it. The stay at Neufchateau was short, lasting only one day, during which the company rested.

On September 22 they again moved, and after an all-day trip arrived at Certilleaux, which is situated in the mountainous country of France. Here the pretty green hills met their gaze for the first time, and for seven days they enjoyed the relief from the chalk country they had been in for almost a month and a half. The mud was of a different variety, and this, too, was a source of delight to the Pittsburgh troopers.

The seven days was replete with work for the service of supply. Every day found them busy repairing roads and building a few small structures for the housing of supplies. Again orders came to move. The destination was Jonchery. Early on the morning of September 30, the company set out on one of the most tiresome hikes it ever experienced. By nightfall it reached Liffol-le-Grand.

The next morning it commenced a hike to Rimancourt, which was in the Haut-Marne sector. Arriving in Rimancourt after nightfall, the company enjoyed a real night of rest, but was hiking again at daybreak on the following morning. Bologne was reached that day, and then it was hike for another day until Jonchery was reached on October 2 at noon. The hikes were tiresome to the Pittsburghers, but they did much to condition them for the work that lay ahead.

Separated from their comrades, but a family within themselves, the men made Jonchery their home for eight long, wearisome months. They were only one unit of a great mass of engineers which had been brought to Jonchery to convert it into one of the greatest centers of military supplies in France.

Although far from the battlefields, the city was the scene of intense activities. Great barracks were constructed, huge warehouses arose rapidly and were filled with stores and supplies of all sorts; military railroads in the vicinity were given attention and new roads were built, over which passed horses, wagons, huge guns, ammunition, food and every article needed by the men who were stemming the advancing German tide to the northward in it's desperate effort to reach Paris.

The same determination shown at the other stations in which Company B had worked was in evidence throughout the long winter in Jonchery. The deep significance of the important work they were performing had penetrated the hearts of the heroic Pennsylvania men, and they worked from morning until night, desperate in their purposes to do everything within their power for the brave fighters facing death on the firing lines.


It was in Jonchery that Company B saw the summer die and winter come on with it's bleak coldness, spring dawn with the effulgence of youth and the hills and valleys again take on their new dress of verdure. They declared it was the longest, and worst, winter they had ever spent.

The long stay at Jonchery and the noble work they had done won warm admiration in the hearts of the French residents of the city, who did everything possible to make the visit of Company B a pleasurable one, but not withstanding their generosity, the hearts of the men rejoiced when on March 5, 1918, they received orders to break camp and move to Villers-le-Sec.

The order was carried out on the same day it was received. Villers-le-Sec was only a few kilometers from Jonchery, but the little change was what the boys needed. They were tired of the grueling work at Jonchery amid the same surroundings week after week.

Already the men had begun to have an itch for real action. The feeling was just commencing to gain a foothold, although it was not until after they had been at Villers-le-Sec for a few weeks that the fever broke out in such earnestness that their officers, influenced by the storm of requests, attempted, through appeal to higher authorities, to have the boys assigned to duty near the front lines. All the appeals they made, however, were refused, and the men of Company B being denied what they wanted, resigned themselves to their fate.

Combat Engineers construct a pontoon bridge across the Marne River on July 21, 1918.


From May 5 until August 6 Company B worked at Villers-le-Sec, but here they were engaged more generally in the service of supply. Every day news from the front line trenches filtered back to them, and fired their veins with the fierce desire to win themselves more glory. But they never reached the front line until November 11, the day on which the armistice was signed, and many times the brave lads have cursed their luck.

On August 7 the company moved out of Villers-le-Sec and went to Is-Sur-Tille and Lux, where it worked until August 27, and then began a series of trips from one place to another, which kept the lads for the most part on the hike, in trains, or in motor transports. They called themselves the “traveling engineers.”

On August 30 they arrived at Sorcy. On September 6 they went to Menil-la-Dour. Then they came back again to Sorcy, and from there, on September 7, went to Ansauville. The latter trip was made in huge army transports, and was described later as being one of the roughest rides the boys had ever had. At Ansauville the company commenced work on some barracks. They had hardly started them when they moved again on September 11 to Sampigny.


During the trip from Ansauville to Sampigny, some of the members of the company were forced to walk, while others rode in motor trucks. This was necessitated by a lack of a sufficient number of trucks. While en route to Sampigny a short stop was made at Vadonville, where some little work was done.

Sampigny was reached on September 15. Here the boys were enthused over the smell of powder, which floated back to them on the winds of sunny France. They were a good deal closer to the front lines now, and they believed they would get to see some real action. On September 18, orders came to prepare for a trip to the Argonne.

Secretly exhilarated, the men prepared to leave with considerable feverishness. It was in the Argonne that the infantry and artillery regiments of the 28th and 80th Divisions were spilling their life’s blood for the cause, and Company B was eager to help. The long hike was commenced on the following morning and, despite weariness from the weight of the heavy packs the men carried, they were light of heart and whistled as they trudged along.

The big drive was to start on September 26, but none of the boys of Company B knew it, or their hearts would have been lighter than ever.


The proximity to the battle line, and the danger of being seen by enemy aviators, now necessitated that all the marching be done at night and the sleeping during the day, under cover of a friendly clump of trees. On and on the company hiked, through Rupt, Beauzee, Raracourt and Clermont.

Finally, it reached the Beauchamp woods, on September 22. In the Beauchamp woods the lads of Company B worked until September 27, repairing roads over which hundreds of wagons of ammunition, heavy artillery, supplies of all nature, and men were passing almost continuously. In the meantime the great battle to the north had begun. The allies launched the famous Argonne-Meuse drive, the death-blow of the German autocracy, on September 26. Company B itched for a chance to go on. On September 27 orders came to move again.


They felt certain that this march was to take them far into the front, but it only lasted a half day, and the company came to a stop again, this time at Neuvilly. Here it remained until October 8, while their conquering comrades from Pittsburgh, who to them were fortunate enough to get in the real fighting forces, kept in hot pursuit of the fleeing Hun. It was a glum bunch of lads that remained at Neuvilly. According to them they had reason to be glum, but their work was just as important to the success of the great drive as was the work of the men who faced the bullets of the Germans at the front.


On October 8, the company quit Neuvilly and marched to Varennes. Here they were on recently conquered territory. All around them were the marks of the terrible conflict. The little town of Varennes had been one of the big points in the battle line, and it was here that the combating organizations of the Eightieth had wrested meter after meter of territory from the Germans. Company B was wide awake, but as one member put it, “it seemed like a mockery to arrive after all the fighting there was over, and see the place where many of their pals had bled and died.”

At Varennes, all sorts of rumors reached their ears. They heard the Kaiser had abdicated, that Hindenburg would have to surrender in a few days, that the war wouldn’t last a week longer. But as they worked, they hoped and prayed it would last long enough for them to at least see one gun shoot. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t. The company worked at Varennes repairing roads, packing supplies in motor lorries for the front, and doing a hundred other jobs until November 11, when it was ordered to Verdun.


“Verdun” - that was the word they had waited for. They hurried preparations for the march, but it was folly, for on that very day the armistice was signed and the great guns of the Allies ceased firing. The beginning of the end of the war had come. The cheer that burst from the throats of the boys of Company B, when the order to proceed to Verdun was received, died out in almost the same breath, for simultaneously the news of the armistice reached them.

The company, however, proceeded to Verdun, where it found everything in a dilapidated state and needing repairs. It was assigned to the task of rebuilding the railroads in and about the famous sector which the Crown Prince’s armies couldn’t take.

Day after day, even if the war was over, the men of the company stuck to their tasks of repairing the railroads. The rapidity with which they worked was marvelous to the French. The Army of Occupation was moving rapidly forward over the roads the company was repairing. It was at Verdun that Company B and other engineering companies from American regiments won the reputation of being real railroad builders.

But as the work neared completion, thoughts of home permeated the minds of the soldiers, and they gradually developed a longing that materialized January 18. At Verdun, practically the whole Fifteenth regiment had been brought together. On the day news came that they were really going to sail for home reached them, they were working on the Verdun-Sedan railway.


The orders to sail first leaked out when the men were commanded to police up the entire neighborhood in which they were stationed. News that they were to sail reached America before it reached the boys, but finally the engineers were ordered to entrain for Saulmory. Next the regiment arrived at Camblanes, where it was billeted. Anxiety to get back home died here, for the men waited until March 15 before more orders came to move.

The speculation concerning when they would reach America at first was hot and heavy, but it soon died out as they saw regiment after regiment reach Camblanes and march on the embarkation camps. To make the waiting a little easier, officers were lenient in the matter of granting passes and furloughs to the men, but they didn’t help the boys much, because most of them didn’t have enough money to go anywhere, even if they did get a furlough.

Finally, on March 15, the regiment moved up to Embarkation Point No. 1, at Geincart. On March 16, it moved to Embarkation Point No. 2, and was given an examination which, in the words of the soldiers, “consisted largely of red tape.” It took until March 19 to complete this episode, and then orders were received to move. The regiment went to Bassens, on the coast.

They boarded the boats and were taken to Paullac, the sailing point. Day after day passed here, and almost hourly the Pittsburghers saw huge transports dock and pull out again for the States with their cargoes of human freight. Bordeaux was near, and considerable time was spent there during the waiting days.

It was on Saturday, April 12, that the boys got word they were really to sail. On the following day, at 10:00am, after all preparations had been made, the regiment boarded the huge transport Santa Clara. With a last farewell wave at the land wherein many days of hard work had been spent, it sailed for “God’s Country.”


Company C was another company of the Fifteenth engineers which saw an unusual amount of activity. Shortly after it's arrival at Vierzon, like Company B, it was detached from the regiment and sent out on separate tasks. It worked in conjunction with engineering units from other American and French regiments, although it was sometimes detailed to a job alone. It worked throughout the war on many important projects, and like Company B, won singular praise from the French and English for it's splendid efforts.

A few days after the regiment arrived at Vierzon, orders were issued for Company C to move out on August 7, and proceed toward the coast. During the company’s stay at Vierzon, it made numerous visits to the city, which boasted of a population of 30,000 and consequently, when the order came for it to leave, the people of the village turned out to bid them farewell.

The Americans were more or less idolized by the French, and the Fifteenth Engineers especially, for their work kept them back of the lines for the greater part, and thus they were almost daily thrown in contact with the French people. The fact that the Fifteenth Engineers were practically the first American soldiers to be seen by thousands of French people had much to do with the great and hearty manner in which the French received them. At times they even seemed to be regarded with awe.

So it was when Company C took leave of Vierzon on August 7. Carrying their packs they boarded a train early in the morning, amid the plaudits of thousands of the townspeople, and set off. None of the members of the company knew their destination. As the train rolled through the beautiful valleys, magnificent in their summer grandeur, French people in many places were lined up along the tracks to gain a fleeting glimpse of the Americans.

Occasionally the train stopped at small villages through which it passed. The French, especially the girls at work in the vineyards, would gather about the windows of the long, low coaches and hand the boys fruits and sweetmeats, for which they disdained to accept remuneration of any sort. Their generosity was greatly appreciated. Finally, on August 8 at noon, the company arrived at Bassen, a few miles from Bordeaux, where it detrained, pitched tents and prepared for a stay.

Orders for duty came on August 9, when the company was detailed to assist in constructing a railroad along the river to Bordeaux. Over this railroad would come supplies for the construction of the great docks which had to be built there to take care of the enormous amount of materials and supplies which was arriving daily from America, across the seas.

Bassen at first was only a small bunch of houses in a huge field of clover. Shortly after Company C arrived it took on an entirely different appearance. Barracks sprang into existence like magic, and soon Company C was well quartered. In the meantime, work on the railroad was begun and the soldiers received their first real taste of what being a member of the engineers was like. They worked in the hot sun throughout the long days, keeping to their task like well-trained veterans of the railroad building industry.

Men of Company C 15th Engineers
Men of Company C 15th Engineers

But it was new work to the most of them, and there were many complaints about lame backs and calloused hands brought on by the work with the pick and shovel. The construction of a railroad bed is not the easiest thing in the world. This fact became impressed upon their minds very quickly. But the realization that the war was a serious thing, and they had been picked out for this individual task, predominated in their minds and spirits, and it was with dauntless morale and determination that they stuck to their laborious tasks day after day.


Occasionally the soldiers would be given passes to Bordeaux. Here great numbers of French wounded were seen, and the sight of legless and armless men, horribly disfigured faces, and blind soldiers sent the boys of Company C back to their road building tasks with new vigor, for they wanted such outrages to humanity stopped forever.


The Boys of the Fifteenth Engineers didn't think much of the weather of France and they were particularly disgusted with the seemingly endless seas of mud. The construction of wagon roads, railroads and barracks and other buildings fell to their lot and they eventually became very expert at their tasks.

On their passes in Bordeaux, issued while Company C was at Bassens, fights with British Tommies were frequent. There was keen rivalry between the American and British, and the Yanks didn't like the haughtiness with which the English looked upon them. So whenever the opportunity presented itself, a warm fight ensued.

Sometimes a single Yank would challenge a group of Britishers; sometimes the number on each side would be even; often two men would stage a fistic duel, and usually the Yanks came out on tip, for they were a bigger, huskier bunch, and had a little advantage over the Tommies. The Australians didn't even like the British in Bordeaux, and whenever they could they would always side in and help the Americans. No arrests were ever made over these fights.

Near Bassens was a great powder mill, which employed Indo-Chinese labor. These people were very filthy and dirty. They were not liked by the French, English nor Americans. They lived in a slovenly condition and all attempts to make them clean up failed.

The hatred that was thus engendered often culminated in a murder, in which the Indo-Chinese laborer would be the recipient of a bullet. The laborers were often caught stealing. It was not an uncommon sight to see one of this race lying dead in the early mornings. Nothing much was ever done about such matters, although it was generally understood these unfortunates had been murdered.


On September 10, the company completed its work at Bassens, and made ready to leave for some other destination. Orders were received to return to Vierzon on September 10, and after packing up, the men went to Bordeaux and bought candy and other delectables which they knew would help make their return trip a little more pleasurable. On September 11, the company departed. They following day, shortly after noon, it arrived at Vierzon.

Here they found most of the regiment had been broken up and companies sent hither and yon to perform tasks, just as Company C had been detailed out. However, a few comrades remained in the town and there was rejoicing at seeing them and getting news of where the other troops of the regiment had been sent. Next day the company was detailed to string telephone and telegraph wires in and around Vierzon. After completing this work Company C was ordered to Mehun, ten miles distant, and instructed to build twelve new barracks in which an oncoming bunch of American soldiers were soon to be quartered.

While engaged in work on the barracks many of the men were granted five and ten day furloughs, and went to Paris, that widely-heralded mecca of revelry. Paris was something new to all of the Pittsburghers. They were greatly impressed by the beauty of the city and spent many happy hours visiting the places of interest and watching the French models of Parisian style trip gaily through the crowded streets.

A notable feature, however, that caught the eye of every doughboy on his first visit to Paris was the great number of women in mourning. It seemed to members of Company c that every other woman, or so wore the black dress and veil, signifying the death of a husband, son, brother sister or sweetheart at the front. Sometimes the faces of the mourners were hard and drawn with expressions of sadness for the lost one.

More often, however, and peculiar enough, a brave smile lit up their features. They seemed courageous, and they acted courageously in spite of their tender bereavement, ant it was this factor that helped the French poilus leave their homes and enter the bitter struggle. The bravery of the French women has been hailed with glowing tributes.

No sacrifice to them was too great to save France from the threatened invasion of the Huns. They cordiality with which they treated the American trooers did much to show how sppricative they were in the nammer in which they were being assisted. The loss of life France suffered was appalling, but it did not sap all of the vitality of the French.


It took six weeks for the men of Company C to complete the barracks at Mehun. The conditions at Mehun were not of the best. Drinking and bathing water had to be carried in huge casks for over a mile to their camp. It rained and rained, and sometimes the water from the clouds was caught in barrels as it ran from the eaves of the completed barracks, and this a few trips were saved. Most of the time the troops worked in mud.

It grew deeper and deeper the longer they stayed at Mehun. It was a disgusting task, but the engineers stuck to the job until it was completed, despite the distastefulness of the surroundings and the conditions under which they labored.

Mehun in time, however, became unbearable and finally the company was ordered to Foecy, a short distance away, where it went into camp and hiked the interveining distance to Mehun to and from work. Foecy was a dream in comparison to Mehun. The barracks were completed in good time, and then the company was set to work on roads again.

The mud in this region along the highways was so deep and thick that a heavily-laden motor lorry could not travel over them. They tried it, but the sinkholes were so deep that invariably they had to be pulled out. For a time the mud threatened to stop all activities at Foecy and Mehun.

The heavy traffic over the roads had destroyed the bridges and culverts, and these were rebuilt by the engineers. During nearly all of their work in and around Mehun and Foecy it rained. It was a demoralizing influence. Continuous work in the mud was not at all pleasant, and many times the men of Company C got discouraged.

Day after day passed, and the mud grew worse and worse. Tired, soaked to the bone, dirty and longing for nice clean clothes and just a glimpse of the Sun, the men would finish up a day’s work and return to their quarters. Here they had longings for home.

America was a paradise in comparison with France, they thought, and it was a pleasure for them to talk about the happy times they had all had back in America, when they did not realize what a good and wonderful country it is. They each resolved that when they got back, they would never find any reason to kick about conditions here. The mud, the rain and the disagreeable conditions were a lesson. They compared their fortunes with those of the French and then thanked God they belonged to the ONLY country in the world – America.

True, they would have rather fought, because their work was so irksome, with nothing new from day to day to relieve the monotony. They lacked excitement. However, they worked like beavers – and “beavers” is good, because mud and water were so predominant in all their activities – and plugged up the sinkholes, filled ruts, dug drainage gutters, tore down old bridges, built new ones, mixed concrete and made culverts, and generally made the roads passable, although putting then in first-class condition was impossible.


Simultaneous with the repair of the roads came orders to engage in the construction of a huge railroad yard, capable of holding thousands of cars. It took until November to complete this task and, of course, Company C did not work alone at the immense undertaking. The yards covered several acres of ground, and while none of the tracks were long, there were many of them laid parallel to each other.

This necessitated the construction of a wide expanse of roadbed, and much hauling of dirt, gravel and cinders were done. Roundhouses were constructed. Several turntables were installed. While the work was nearing completion of Company C received orders to entrain for Jonchery.

110th Infantry Regiment    Company C 15th Engineers
Members of Company C 15th Engineers surveying and building a railroad line in France.

Jonchery was a new place to them, but they knew that Company B was there, and so it was with a willingness they laid down their railroad-building tolls at Mehun and Foecy and proceeded to Jonchery. It was known also that Jonchery was a much more desirable place than either Mehun or Foecy to spend a winter. It was December 7 that Company C arrived at Jonchery and greeted their comrades in Company B. The reunion was a joyful one.

The first cold days of winter were setting in, and as the men looked on the comfortable buildings of the little city they were glad they could avail themselves of their shelter in the long, dark wintry evenings that were to follow. The camp was in the open. However, the men visited much in Joncery, and this helped to dispel the “blues” considerably.

Chilled after the long trip, Company C men rushed the coffee pots in the camp shortly after they detrained for a nip of the warming fluid. It didn’t always have sugar in it, and practically never any milk, but it was good. A trooper who didn’t like coffee without either sugar or milk before the war soon learned to like it in this state after a few weeks of service in the field.


Company C, like Company B, wintered at Jonchery. The cold and bleak weather encountered here did not stop the work by any means. Company B had been engaged in railroad construction here for several weeks previous to the arrival of Company C. From time to time other units of the Fifteenth engineers arrived at Jonchery to assist in the work.

Although conditions were better here than in many other places where the engineers had worked, they soon became almost unbearable, hence Colonel Jadwin, who was stationed with the troopers at Jonchery, was lenient in grating passes. The little city boasted of several motion picture theatres, and these were nightly visited by hundreds of the Pittsburgh troops. Although the pictures were French ones and the boys could not read the captions, they enjoyed them just the same.

Company C had to erect barracks for itself, and this was the first task it was assigned to. In the meantime the other companies were engaged in the construction of huge warehouses. Company C, at the completion of their barracks buildings, switched over to the warehouse construction game also. Days stretched into weeks and weeks into months. The evenings found the lads around a fire in their barracks or in Jonchery trying to drive dull card away.

Home was the big topic among them, and they were all commencint to long for the liberty that marked their lives in the civilian days. Many long letters were written to relatives and friends back in the States, and the time otherwise whiled away when not a work. The men weren’t discouraged – only homesick,- and that was a natural feeling. The winter is always a sort of a “blue” time, anyway, even amide the pleasantest of surroundings.

Sometimes while the men were engaged in their daily work, blinding snowstorms would descent and try in vain to drive them away, but they failed, for the men stuck like leeches. The importance of completion of the work was impressed upon them by officers. Hundreds of American soldiers were to arrive here later and be quartered. It was a central distributing point for supplies and munitions. The warehouses were absolutely necessary, for each day saw trains arrive with great quantities of military stores.

Jonchery was well situated in respect to the fighting lines to the north. For supplies could be shipped out with directness and a saving of considerable time. Hence It was chosen by stategists as a supply depot.

Engineers working on railroads
Building railroad lines to keep supplies flowing to the front was a grueling task for the engineers.


A part of the Fifteenth engineer contingent at work at Jonchery was taken from the work on warehouses and roads, and set to work building railroad beds and laying rails. Company G, because of its experience at Joecy, was, of course, picked as one of the units to engage in this work. The yard was not to be as large as the one recently constructed at Joecy by Company C, and was to contain only about forty miles of track. However, it took much hard work. Engineer surveyors first surveyed the plot of ground on which the rails were to be laid and then the work of laying the bed was commenced.

The task was identically the same as that experienced at Joecy, and was nothing new to Company C. However, the company had profited by their former experiences, and the work went ahead much more rapidly, the system evolved at Joecy being carried out to the minutest detail, with the elimination of those features which had at first hampered their initial attempt. Colonel Jadwin was ever ready to grant short passes to small bunches of the men, and his leniency did much to keep the soldiers from Pittsburgh in good spirits.


As fast as the engineers constructed the railroad tracks trains would enter Jonchery and shunt long strings of cars on them. These would be immediately unloaded into huge motor trucks and rushed to the warehouses. The empties would be removed and another train would be stored, but almost as soon as they were stored they would be removed again and placed in trains going toward the front lines.

Shoulder Patch: Advanced Section [A.S.]
of the Services of Supply
Shoulder Patch: Advanced Section
[A.S.] Services of Supply

At the front end of the warehouses the soldiers worked with fury to store the supplies. At the other end men worked to remove them. The storing was essential, because requisition orders varied; sometimes a quantity of this would be taken, and at other times the same supply would not be listed on the requisition. It all depended upon the fighting forces needed.

It was therefore necessary to first store the supply before they were removed. This was exasperating to some of the men. For example, a trainload of shells would arrive today, and be unloaded and stored in the warehouses.

Tomorrow an order would come demanding every one of the shells just unloaded, and thus the reloading process would have to be gone through with again. Only in very few instances where the supplies taken from one train directly to the other. Occasionally a car was not unpacked at all, but switched directly to the track leading to the battle front. For the greater part, it was one constant grind of unload and load.


The work of building the warehouses and the railroads at Jonchery neared completion the latter part of February. Villers-le-Sec, a few kilometers distant, was the next moving point of the units of the Fifteenth engineers, and on March 24 they moved to this town. Here the work was the same as it had been at Jonchery. The building of warehouses, the unloading and reloading of trains, constructing of barracks, and repair of the roads.

While here the weather became gradually warmer and the snows of the winter turned to rain. Spring arrived, with budding trees, green grass, the singing of birds – and mud! All of the Pittsburghers concluded France was the muddiest country in the world. The downpour of rain, which seemed a daily occurrence, together with the thawing of the ground under the influence of the warmer sun, made a mushy mud surpassing description. In May the work at Villers-le-Sec was completed.


On May 4 the Pittsburghers left Villers-le-Sec for Abaineville, making the journey in trucks. At Abaineville headquarters was established and the troops thought they would remain there for some time. Their stay was a long one as far as headquarters was concerned, however, the Pennsylvania engineers were detailed to surrounding towns on jobs of similar and dissimilar natures. Sometimes they were absent from Abaineville for weeks at a time, at others only a few days, always returning to headquarters when a job was completed, loafing a couple of days perhaps, and then being detailed out again.

Abaineville was situated back of the front a distance of twenty miles. The frequent details provided the Pittsburghers with the opportunity they had waited for, because their work sometimes lay very close to the trenches in No Man’s Land. They had all wanted a look at the front and most of them got it during the stay at Abaineville. When off duty, the troops would visit the battlefields and gather souvenirs.

One of the tasks of the engineers while at Abaineville was to build a railroad from that city to the front lines. This work was not new to them and they built it in a jiffy. When the line approached the trenches, the engineers worked a great part of the time under shell fire. The nights they would spend in the dugouts, making frequent expeditions into No Man’s Land just for the experience of the thing. Some of them had exciting times, too, and some very narrow escapes.


Just as the railroad was completed, the American forces commenced their great drive in the St. Mihiel sector, completely wiping out the salient that had been held by the Germans for so long. Once the salient was wiped out, the task ahead was the capture of the great German fortress of Metz, and in preparation for this intended onslaught, the Fifteenth engineers were ordered into the St. Mihiel sector to build railroads and gun emplacements.

It was in the St. Mihiel sector that the engineers saw practically all of their excitement. Here they were attacked by enemy airmen frequently, worked under an almost ceaseless rain of bullets, and saw many pretty little Alsace-Loraine villages wiped out one by one as the Hun artillery got their ranges.

Several of the Pennsylvanians were gassed here, a few wounded, and a number killed by accidents. Often, as the men worked under the sweltering sun, thrilling air battles would take place in the clouds above. These always entranced the troops and upon such occasions they were permitted to drop their tools and perform the task of interested spectators.

One battle in the colds is recalled with vividness by the troops. Eleven French planes and three American planes attacked a raiding party of sixteen German planes late one afternoon, and succeeded in driving them away after five of the enemy machines had been dropped. The allied airmen lost only one plane, a French DeHaviland.

WW1 Air Combat

A small town in the near proximity of the camp of the Fifteenth engineers was totally destroyed one night by the enemy big guns. All the previous day the heavy artillery of the Huns had been quiet. About twelve o’clock that night the engineers were rousted from their tents by the whine of big shells and the bursting of bombs.

The whole sky seemed aflame. Enemy planes whirled overhead dropping bombs on the little village, which soon burst into flames and was burned. Later the American artillery got the range of the battery that had done this piece of work, and completely obliterated it.


As the engineers worked it was not uncommon for a swaud of enemy planes to fly low above them with bombs and machine guns. One afternoon as the boys were industriously building a railroad they were startled by the sudden staccato of airplane engines.

Looking above they saw three German machines approaching. Throwing themselves flat on the ground they awaited their arrival. The machines suddenly dropped from a great height, and swept back and forth over the prostrate lads, all the while belching machine gun bullets.

The engineers seized their rifles and fired almost continuously at the planes. Miraculously enough not a single engineer was wounded or killed by this engagement. The airmen finally gave up the attempt to annihilate them, after the rifle fire of the sturdy Pennsylvanians became too hot. This was only one of many such occurrences, however, and they soon got to be so common that the troops didn’t mind them at all.


The big drive for Metz was under contemplation at this time, and troops now commenced to arrive from all fronts in France. A portion of the Eightieth Division arrived in the St. Mihiel sector after grueling fighting in which the Hun had fallen back so hurriedly that keeping up to them with commissary wagons and heavy guns was almost next to impossible.

Members of the famous Iron Division or the Twenty-eighth from Pennsylvania next arrived in the sector, and preparations went quickly forward for the coming ordeal. Already America across the seas was anticipating the great attack, but due to the strength of German fortress of Metz it had to be a carefully planned movement.

It was known the United States command would not sacrifice men because of lack of preparation. As the time went forward the engineers from Pittsburgh played a bigger part than ever in the preparation. The great naval guns of the Americans were arriving on the sector, and it fell to the lot of the Fifteenth engineers to construct the concrete emplacements upon which they were to be mounted. Metz was in range of these guns. Not only were the Americans sending guns of huge caliber into the sector but the French and British added to the equipment with heavy field pieces.

Out on the forward-most points the American engineers worked with determination in the construction of these concrete emplacements. Their work was camouflaged as much as possible from the sight of air observers. While some were building the emplacements, others of the units of the Fifteenth were laying rails.

As fast as they were laid, locomotives moved forward over them with carload after carload of ammunition and supplies. Sometimes these locomotives would be within a few feeet of the hardworking engineers, waiting until another twenty feet of track was laid that they might advance that far. Some of the engineers manned locomotives, too. In fact there wasn’t anything the Fifteenth engineers didn’t do in France.

And so day after day the work in the St. Mihiel progressed toward the great day when the dogs of the American army would be unleashed and dash for Metz made.

Meanwhile another group of Pittsburghers, as was recounted in previous chapters, was at work in the Verdun salient. This group of the regiment had become separated from the others through the fortunes of war and had been assigned separate tasks, until now, in the closing days of the war, they were assisting the conquering allied troops by building portions of the destroyed Sedan railway, the chief artery of supply in the Verdun sector, and advancing its length into the lands recently vacated by the Germans in their headlong flight for the Fatherland.

It was the holding and maintenance of operation of the Sedan railway during the earlier months of the war, and later as well, that made Verdun invulnerable to the Germans early in 1915 and in 1917. Without this road the supplies could not have been brought to the besieged city and its rings of outer fortifications and surrender would have been inevitable to the brave French forces holding it.

It was at Verdun that the famous war phrase "They shall not pass" was coined, but few realize the part the little Sedan railway played in making that statement true. The terrific shelling of the Germans at Verdun badly destroyed the portions of the extreme end of the road.

French and British engineers were continually repairing it, realizing its importance. The Americans were engaged at the same task, when the backbone of the German army was broken, and the forces that had threatened the ramparts of the famous city for so long were forced to withdraw. The French, British and American forces in the sector were quick to see the break hurled themselves after the running Hun armies.

To bring up supplies, keep the lines of communication intact, and permit the allied forces to take advantage of the retreat, the Sedan railway had to be advanced and it was advanced by American engineers from Pittsburgh. They, like the men at St. Mihiel were putting every ounce of energy into their efforts.


And so in the midst of their most strenuous activities the armistice was signed and hostilities ceased. But November 11, 1918 did not mean rest for the Fifteenth engineers. They kept on with their work until the winter was well advanced. In the Verdun sector the contingent of Pittsburghers saw their fellow comrades, members of the Eightieth and Twenty-eight Division relieved from duty and their places taken by fresher troops. They too, hoped to be relieved but they were held repairing spots which had been devastated by four years of modern warfare.

The contingent at St. Mihiel was the first to break camp and progress toward the coast. This took place in the early part of January 1919. The men at Verdun knew then that it wouldn’t be long until they, too, would be homeward bound. Soon orders came to proceed and the whole regiment was assembled during the latter part of January at Camblanes, France. Here the troops went through a long and tedious wait.

Troops arrived daily at the camp, waited a few days, marched on to the sea coast and sailed for America while the engineers sweltered and fumed with impatience. Finally, orders were received on March 19 and the regiment proceeded to Bassens. Here another wait ensued until the necessary red tape of examinations and quarantine could be gone through with.

The regiment boarded the Santa Clara at ten o’clock on the morning of April 13, and sailed to America. It was a welcome day for the Pittsburghers and the trip homeward was a more joyful one that the trip going over. The men were tired of war.

Company C Homecoming Cartoon
Illustration that appeared in the Company C 15th Engineers 50th Anniversary photo album - 1969

On Saturday, April 26, the Santa Clara docked in New York. Hundreds of Pittsburgh relatives welcomed the boys there. At Camp Dix the lads went through their last quarantine period, and on Wednesday morning, May 7, 1919, reached Pittsburgh. In the afternoon they paraded through the downtown streets amid the applause of thousands of admiring people who welcomed them home with outspread arms.

That evening they proceeded to Camp Sherman, where during the next three days they were all honorably discharged from the service. Since then they have been gradually absorbed back into the civilian populations. They will never be forgotten. France does not forget such deeds of valor and sacrifice, and Pittsburgh will ever keep green the memory of what her stalwart sons achieved.



Note: This story of the Chemical Warfare Service was written especially for this history by G.K. Spencer.

Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania men took a major part in the chemical warfare service, both in this country and overseas, and they made Uncle Sam’s gas forces, both defensive and offensive, an important factor in deciding the Great War. Indeed this service had attained to such proportions and efficiency that it would have annihilated the German armies during the past spring if hostilities had continued.

The greatest slaughter of all history; the virtual nemesis of the manhood of a nation, would have occurred early in 1919 on the German southern battle line, the “Western Front,” if the armistice had not been requested by the German command, according to Colonel W.H. Walker, in chief command of the Chemical Warfare Division of the United States Army.

The German lines, at whatever sacrifice, it was panned should be driven back almost to the enemy frontiers, where a series of valleys were to be deluged with new and hitherto unutilized chemicals while the Germans were busied with their retreat.

In the opinion of Colonel Walker the war could not possibly have endured longer than the first of April. The enemy was aware of this, also. In March of 1918 he had precipitated his own gas coup de main which was supposed to fix a climax for the war and result in German victory. The British fifth army, however, be an admirable sacrifice in which it was practically destroyed, defeated the German hopes.


When hostilities were terminated in November, the United States Chemical Warfare Division had concentrated almost a half million tons of various forms of offensive chemicals along the western front. To this, other tons of more deadly gases were being added each week. At the present time one of the most intricate problems faced by the field command is how to dispose of these stores of gas. It cannot be safely kept, cannon be released for obvious reasons and it is impossible to reduce it.

Though they suffered from a lack of material, ordnance, munition and man power, the Germans were very successful in securing information of activities across the line. In numerous instance, this information procured at their own expense, gave birth to many misgivings in Boche minds. The enemy, it has since been demonstrated, was fully aware of the plans laid for the spring offensive of this year. To the ton they knew how much gas had been prepared by the Chemical Warfare Division of the Army of Penetration. He had even despairingly turned his hand to incipient preparations for defense.

Not only was this Chemical Warfare Division one of the most romantic and remarkably successful branches of the service, but the most obscure as well. If native pride exists in the hearts of Pittsburghers, it should not be lessened by knowledge of a war record which is not being claimed with sufficient ostentation.


The problem of chemical warfare was distinctly a Pittsburgh proposition from the very beginning, from the basis of materials, technical methods and leadership. So the great offensive, which would have been ordained had the military genius of Generalissimo Foch failed to bring capitulation when it did, would have been another Pittsburgh achievement.

In fact, the battle series developed by Foch through the month of August, September, October and November, depended to a large extent for their effectiveness on new and surprise gases evolved by the strategy board headed by Colonel Raymond F. Bacon, director of Mellon Institute.


New and horrible – there being no known defense against either – two concentrated gases, conceptions of United States chemists, would have transfixed the German army machine by a great coup de grace. There had been weary weeks of grinding trench fighting when it appeared as though nothing short of this application of the killing art would suffice to end the war.

Colonel Bacon and his conferees, in view of their taciturnity, their reputation for conservatism, cannon be accused of boyish enthusiasm when they now declare that “almost certainly, in view of exhaustive tests made by us no our test fields near Chaumont, we can say the enemy armies would have faced annihilation.”


One of the new developments evolved among the gas offensive weapons is “ultra-mustard’ which is described as being a burning compound greatly transcending the agony and effect of the German mustard gas, or that used by the Entente. Mustard gas, even in its mildest form, has no antidote in the way of clothing. But the United States mustard is explained by chemists to be eminently more vicious than the enemy prototype.

There is also a new phosgene achievement. Many varieties of phosgene gases were in use, and masks and other protective coverings were invented to counteract their attacks. But, according to Colonel Bacon, there is no reactive chemical to apply in defense against the new phosgene invented by American chemists. It is said, the enemy mask would be a failure in combatting it. In fact, the new phosgene will destroy even the masks in its ambitious effort to get right down to business.

Early in the progress of the war effort all chemical warfare problems were under the mentorship of the Bureau of Mines, and a very loose organization it proved to be.

Minds and plans focused, however, in early December, 1917, when Colonel Charles L. Potter, an officer of the regular establishment, was requested to form a “Gas and Flame” corps.


When the skeleton organization was decided upon, with four Pittsburgh men at the head of the four departments into which the corps had been divided, namely production, research, defense and offense, the concensus of opinion was that all hands and heads should concentrate on extreme measures of defense.

It came to light that the German gases had been very much over-rated. From the first it appeared that everything Berlin spread about their ‘wonderfully destructive “ gas implements, was taken up by the Entente and religiously believed. The Allied experts had admittedly failed to produce anything quite as deadly as the Boche in the way of gas and flame, and they were loud and long in their plaint that it would be quite impossible to surpass the Hun – whose deviltry was believed to be supremely artful.

However, the United States experts, on arriving in Europe to make researches into foreign formulae, found they had left a land behind that was potentially able to eclipse anything France of Great Britain had to show. True, the older warriors had advanced in design, from very necessity. So the United States, working at first on Entente original designs, eventually produced both offensive and defensive implements that were copied by the other associated nations.

To proceed chronologically, the Chemical Warfare Service is the present cognomen for what was the old Gas and Flame corps. This Chemical Warfare Service has been a special child of Providence. Time was when it was a polygon group of loosely coordinated activities under the Bureau of Mines. So Colonel Potter came in and organized the corps to function healthily and in a business-like manner. Then followed a phenomenon.


Colonel Potter needed first an expert to take charge of the manufacture of gases and subsidiary apparatus. W.H. Walker, originally of Pittsburgh, was very much interested in his work as head of Department of Chemistry in Massachusetts Institure of Technology. The colonel needed Walker. A month later Colonel Walker was directing the Department of Production!

Top - Painting shell with varied colored bands to identify the gases contained in them;
Middle - Mustard gas plant; Bottom - View of shell dumps;
Insert - Colonel W.H. Walker, commander of the United States division of chemical warfare.

Colonel Potter also needed a chief for the Defense Laboratories. Bradley Dewey, of Pittsburgh, chiefe chemist for the American Sheet and Tin Plate Company, at the colonel’s request secured an indefinite leave of absence from the Tin Plate company to accept a commission as colonel in charge of defense!

Then there was the Research Department. George A. Burrell, of Pittsburgh, who had acted as chief of research of the division, was prevailed upon to become Colonel Burrell, July 15, 1918. Colonel Burrell was formerly stationed at the Arsenal Park depot of the Bureau of Mines.

Fate seemed to rule things for every time Colonel Potter started out to chase up an expert, it was tit-tat-toe all over the rest of the industrial fields, with the decision always going to Pittsburgh. So to save time, he pounced directly on Pittsburgh for his chief of Offense. He found his man in Dr. Raymond F. Bacon, director of Mellon Institute.

Colonel Bacon was assigned to “observing” and “reporting” from a post in France the Allied advanced in the art of gas fighting. He was further placed in charge of all the division’s work in France as directing chief. So, for better or for worse, it was “up to Pittsburgh.”

On July 15, 1918, in view of the unexpected results attained by the Germans in the March offensive by the application of strategy in chemical warfare, Major General W.L. Sibert, who directed river and harbor operations in Pittsburgh from 1900 to 1907, as charge of the local United States Engineers office, and who went to France with Pershing, as second in command, took over the command of the organization Colonel Potter had arranged.

The service destined for actually “ending the war” now began to forge ahead in a series of astounding brilliant developments. With the enthusiasm of school boys and the experience of veterans the several chiefs in charge began dispensing Democracy to recalcitrant Jerry without mercy.


There were quite as many interesting features of the “Game” in America in the production and research program as there were in France in the defensive-offensive sphere and in combat strategy.

Early in 1918 Colonel Walker, chief of production, began his work of organizing a number of factories to produce gases, gas shells, masks and all the paraphernalia connected therewith. It was still early in 1918 when he announced that six of his “pets” were producing. They were situated at Niagara Falls, Hastings On The Hudson, Kingsport, Tennessee, Charleston, South Carolina, Bound Brook, New Jersey, and Edgewood, New Jersey.

The last named plant was producing in three months from the time the first crew of laborers walked over the site, armed with shovels and wondering who had gone crazy.

These factories produced thermite and incendiary bombs, all varieties of gases and liquid fire apparatus.

Throughout these factories the employees became enlisted men, but at the beginning, before a series of set-backs had occurred they were civilian workers, many of whom were southern negroes.


One day a great tank containing poisonous gas developed a very slight lead. Some experienced workmen casually walked up to it and began repairing it and were none the worse for the experience. However, among those not yet familiar with the manufacturing process and safety procedures, through the factory, from nervous lips to rolling eye, the word spread, “the gas is loose.”

In no time thousands of new employees left their important work in the buildings and commenced a frenzied rush for the open country, every one convinced in his own heart that death was right at his heels. Meanwhile the workmen who had repaired the leak were quite curious to know of the excitement. In time order was restored and soon all employees were made aware of the proper protocol for dealing with leaks and panic strewn instances like this were not repeated.

But it was not all farce. There were many instances where actual tragedy entered with real accidents. In fact, thousands of lives might be chocked up to catastrophes in the war plants. There is not a superintendent of department who will not emphatically assert that his men in the factory were in some cases entitled to more credit than the men in the line. The work is considered by those who know as very dangerous.

It is also interesting to note the every well-known chemist in the land was associated with one of another of these factories – taking his instructions from Pittsburghers. A great many were also located at the American University, where the research work was carried on by Colonel George A. Burrell.


Here, in the American University, at Washington, D.C., 1,400 notable chemists worked assiduously on research into death-dealing chemistry, types of flame-throwers, new gases, new defenses against gases. Always keeping several steps ahead of Fritz, they formed one of the vital brain centers during the war. It was these men who evolved the two new gas weapons.

And when they produced them, it was they who arranged to have general headquarters sanction an offensive for which they would be responsible – all to be carried out by their own strategy department in France. “We are satisfied we could have utterly destroyed the German army,” they said. The officials have refused to give the details of their new gases “because they will probably be legislated out by the Peace Conference; they are terribly destructive.”

Colonel Bradley Dewey, with his factories at Philadelphia and New York, employed 12,000 people, mostly women. Colonel Dewey, it will be remembered, controlled the department of defense.

This department produced all sorts of masks, horse masks and dog masks, protective suits for the artillery, dug-out blankets to seal in dug-outs and exclude enemy gases, and also protective ointments.

In every part of the process girls and women were the handiworkers. And only women-folk with brothers and sons, husbands and fathers in France were accepted. On all the walls throughout the workrooms appeared signs, “Make Certain of That Mask; Your Sweetheart May Wear It.” “Daddy Must Be Safe.” “Would You Want YOUR Brother to Put It On?” etc. Every mask must be perfect. Even an infinitesimal pin-hole would incapacitate a man.

In these factories 5,000,000 masks were made. At first they were duplicates of foreign masks. During the last four months of the war the British turned to United States masks entirely. They admitted thus the supremacy of Uncle Sam.

“Regarding masks,” said Colonel Bacon, head of the force in France, “there never was a time when we wanted for them; always had plenty. At times,” he went on, “that’s the only thing of which we did have plenty.”


According to authorities it was the German March drive that produced the American gas and mask supremacy. In that maneuver the enemy utilized mustard gas in great quantities and with peculiar strategy. “We knew we had to beat them and our men in the American University did it,” say the chiefs. Italy, after that action, also equipped her armies with the American masks.


Men from this section of the state were at the head of many important tasks allotted to the chemical warfare service of the army. Many useful and destructive devices for combating the enemy were invented and manufactured, and progress was made to such an extent that this arm alone would soon have been able to either force the enemy to surrender or be annihilated.

(Note: This section of the History was compiled and written by G.K. Spencer.)

While the Germans were enjoying their little game of “Kriegspiel,” things were happening. Colonel Bacon, in France, needed at once a first class laboratory. For the time it appeared as if the success of the United States gas and flame effort depended upon getting a laboratory, a good laboratory, in a marvelously short time at the test field of Chaumont, where headquarters was located.

“You want too much all at once,” Bacon heard on one side, and on the other, “It can’t be done, y’know.”

Bacon didn’t pretend to be an Aladdin, nor would he have rubbed a lamp if there had been one available. But he took the alternative of rubbing C. G. Fisher, president of the Scientific Materials Company, of Pittsburgh.

At the first suggestion, almost the first “rub,” one might say, the idea appealed to Mr. Fisher. “How soon do you want it?” was his query. “It is needed at once, has been needed for some time, but we would like to have it in any reasonable time, say two months,” was the reply.


In one month the best equipped laboratory in France or England was humming along under full steam at Chaumont.

The first thing Fisher did was to list every conceivable piece of necessary apparatus. And then his own company, and every company and laboratory in the United States which held any special instrument or piece needed, shipped it to France.

Colonel Bacon himself has termed it “not the best equipped WAR laboratory, but the BEST EQUIPPED LABORATORY in all France and England.”

The Chaumont experimental field is twenty square miles in extent. On the field are physiological and pathological laboratories. Trench systems and artillery batteries are laid out. All ideas are tested on a full battle scale. Following are a few of the results:

In the Argonne forest our troops encountered a great system of machine gun nests. The Germans had developed the machine gun to tremendous efficiency. Recourse was made to the chemical division to solve the problem. It was a big problem but the Division couldn’t afford to fall down on a solution to it. Besides, every day of delay meant that the nests were being set upon by the good old doughboys who perished by the score for every gun that was captured.

The special "gas and flame" troops set up machine gun nests at Chaumont and experimented. Before a week had elapsed the doughboys were welcoming gas and flame units equipped to throw thermite bombs and liquid fire over the nests. "It solved that problem," laconically commented Colonel Bacon.


The heaviest use of gas, however, came with the German March Offensive. While the British claimed to be aware of both the time and the place of attack, they were apparently surprised by the enemy, who “walked all over them” for a little while. The First Army suffered tremendously, and the Fifth Army was obliterated. Why?

It was a surprise tactic in gas warfare. The Britons held like heroes, to their glory, as they had held before at the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915, when the gas first struck them. Both times the German Army could have gone on through but, with all their preparation, they committed the fatal error of not having enough gas to “carry on.” This fault, says Colonel Bacon, “was the only thing that saved the allied armies from defeat.”

The British system of defense, up until March 1918, consisted of a lightly-held advance trench line with heavy groups of artillery and machine guns immediately behind the lines, entrenched on eminences controlling certain fields of fire by a criss-cross zone of action. All spots of the field could be fired upon and drenched with barrages. The theory was that the German troops might possibly come over and take a portion of the lines, but they, if it happened to be a mere trench raid, would be immediately ejected by a drench of artillery fire.

If it were a general attack, the front lines would fall, but the artillery from their secure eminences, which would have to be captured one by one, would place a double barrage in conjunction with heavier guns further to the rear, and the infantry in support trenches would move up and counterattack after the guns had cut off the enemy mass from retreat.

In the March Offensive, the Germans developed a mustard gas shell, threw it in great numbers upon the buttressed eminences, and silenced the big guns to a great extent. They then placed gas shells over the support trenches, and fired gas so heavily that in the Montdidier sector alone, on a five-mile front, 300,000 shells of six-inch caliber and larger were sent over in the space of 24 hours.

The support troops, due to casualties, and incapacitated by being compelled to wear their masks for 24 hours before when the attack came, couldn’t go into action.

The enemy attack infiltrated between the fortresses. There was no active infantry to meet it, and what appeared to be a great German triumph was about to be enacted. That the war was not won then and there, according to the gas and flame men, was only due to the magnificent willingness of the British troops to stand there ground. while entire brigades were wiped out, and to the fact that the German gas was not so plentiful at the finale of the action.

In that action eighty percent of all shells fired were gas shells. During the first two days of the attack, practically all the enemy fire was gas. Sneeze gas would first be thrown to force the men to take off their masks. Then they would be dosed with deadlier gases. So the war had evolved into one of gas into which the Chemical Warfare Division of the United States Army entered with a zest and won out over all.

American soldiers blinded by exposure to German gas move in a line.


The first use of “camouflage gas,” or innocuous gas used to force the enemy to fight with masks on, while your own troops, being aware of it's harmlessness fought without masks, was used by the British, who originated it. They began to build up huge stores of it along the front for a great surprise attack. But the German agents became possessed of the secret and the enemy “beat us to it,” as one officer expressed himself. It was largely used by both sides.

In the latter months of the war, the department under Colonel Bacon had felt that German chemists were becoming scarce. It is a custom for the chemists of one side to analyze the “duds,” or shells which fail to explode, of the enemy.

So the Americans, in order to keep the German chemists busy, too busy to have the time to make and research and evolve new mixtures, began to fill hundreds of shells with a mixture of all kinds of strange solutions, anything, in fact, that the wags among them happened to think of.

These they threw over to Fritz with insufficient charges to explode, whereupon he recovered them assiduously and sent them back to his chemists. This is how the report was born in Germany in the later days; that the Americans couldn’t make good shells. The Boche was too dumb to see the joke, until it was too late.


When the mustard gas shells were first issued to the German batteries, their infantry was informed of the dread properties of the new invention, which by it's mistral blight would win the war. This enhanced their morale very greatly, until the Allied batteries began to throw the same stuff at them. Then they had much cause for introspection. Upon finding they were being handed a thing that their own government had told them was so very dreadful, it detracted from their morale.


It was about August, 1918, that Quartermaster General Ludendorff began to issue his “advice to the troops,” dealing with the idiosyncracies of American gas. The shells were of inferior quality and the gas was largely of the innocuous type. Berlin was beginning to realize that, after all, they had judged the United States correctly.

Another little game that Fritz usually used to fall for was played like this: The infantry of a sector of trench line would be withdrawn and their trenches filled with mustard gas. Then Jerry would find out about the withdrawal and get his orders to “go over” and occupy the trench. When he reached our line, a “box” barrage would be laid down, on both sides and behind him. The barrage would be moved gradually in and Jerry would wander into the gas. It was a nasty trick, but the doughboys couldn’t be convinced that it wasn’t a good one.


In July, 1918, the United States Chemical Warfare Service organized a “Board of Strategy.” The principal consideration in gas warfare, next to discovering deadlier mixtures than those in use, is the strategy utilized in applying the gases already possessed. The enemy doesn’t come up and plead to be gassed. Means to lure him into gas traps must be devised.

Nobody ever heard of such a board of strategy before, but this one “brought home the bacon.” The German may be a slow thinker, but at the same time he is wily. Someone conceived the idea of taking natural quick thinkers and forming a “strategy board” to “think up” new methods of convincing Jerry out into the open for American gas displays.

Here was a good one. At his suggestion an airplane rose over the German trenches and commenced to fire off a lot of beautiful fireworks. This happened in the evening, about “retreat” call, when mess was being served. Then, for three evenings in succession the plane arose and fired it's pyrotechnical display, with no bombs or intent to injure Jerry in the least. The one concern of the Americans was to show him a good time.

On the fourth evening Jerry was out of his dugouts taking in the show of fireworks, when a couple tons of gas rained over him. When the Americans arrived in his trench he wouldn’t or couldn’t welcome them. Each German fell where he stood rubber-necking. It seems too simple, but it actually worked.


Another little stunt Colonel Bacon’s men cooked up to reduce the German molar movement into molecular movement, concerns a tactic with the Levins projector, a tube placed in the ground outside the trench system and connected by pipe line with the trench. These were always handled by the special gas and flame men. Needless to say the infantry always had very definite misgivings when these men appeared, for they would set up their gas apparatus, open the cocks, and “let ‘er fly.”

They would then get out of the vicinity while the German artillery, in an effort to “kill” the gas, pounded the sector, the doughboys taking the punishment. Always the German artillery retaliated for these displays. So, as it was becoming apparent that the enemy was in the throes of a lack of heavy caliber ammunition these Levins projectors would be installed and opened up. The doughboys would hunker down, and the gas and flame men would quickly detach and move on to another trench. Subsequently, Jerry would bombard the place until he got his fill of it.

Thousands of these little flourishes along the lines by Colonel Bacon’s jesters caused the German command to make various “protests” to neutral powers against the Yankees for their little pleasantries. They reasoned that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to stop playing with the A.E.F.

Also it might be noted that when the German artillery would concentrate on the Levins projectors, the Yankee guns would take full advantage of the event by noting the placements and ranges of the German guns, and then force him to move his guns or have them destroyed one by one. And then, adding insult to injury, Yankee infantry usually chose that time to attack when German heavy guns were not in a position to rake them.


A cablegram sent by General Pershing in August, 1918, reads: “Unless Levins projectors arrive offensive must stop.” It doesn’t make so much difference as to whom that cablegram was addressed to, but it is interesting that it was here again that a Pittsburgh firm saved the day.

Through the efforts of Mr. Taylor Alderdice, in three days the National Tube Company was turning our Levins projectors in capacity production. They arrived on time!


The close liaison of the United States chemists with the chemists of France and England had been productive of many lessons to all concerned. But to those who fear for the future of American chemistry, or that United States chemists can not hold their own with Europeans in peace times, Colonel, now Doctor, Bacon, for he is back at his old post as Director of Mellon Institute, has to say that he has found United States factories infinitely superior to their European counterparts.

Not only is their equipment better but he asserts that with the multifarious labor saving devices in American plants we can compete on equal terms with Europe despite the cheaper labor abroad.

An interesting problem which has to be met in France in the next few months is the destruction of the millions of tons of stored deadly gases which were to have been used in the upcoming February Offensive, which was no longer necessary due to Germany’s timely signing of the armistice. As it would be extremely dangerous to the public to release it under any conditions imaginable, the probability is that it will be burned with crude oil.

From top down - One, Filling shells with phosgene. These men work under battle discipline and
Suffer casualties; Two - Edgewood arsenal; Three - Chlorine plants; Four - Phosgene in
drums ready for overseas shipment. Each drum holds over 1600 pounds.


This completes the Pittsburgh Press mini-novel entitled "A Short History Of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania Troops During The War." It was transcribed exactly as it appeared back in early 1919, when the people of Pittsburgh were awaiting the return of their sons and daughters from France. Photos were added to enhance the story, in addition to minor text edits.

Below are a few additional sections dealing with the activities and experiences of Pittsburgh natives in the Great War.



Red Cross Insignia

The following are the personal recollections of Red Cross Nurse Helen T. Burrey of Mount Washington. Miss Burrey was a nurse at St. Francis Hospital who volunteered to serve as an army nurse and was assigned to Base Hospital No. 27. She served there throughout most of her wartime assignment, also spending time with a mobile train service. The following are excerpts from the Official History of the Red Cross, published in the 1920s, and some photos from Miss Burrey's collection of snapshots from Angers, France. This information was retrieved from a website in her honor, "My Mother's War - Mementos of WWI."

Helen T. Burrey

Helen T. Burrey, reserve nurse, Army Nurse Corps, a graduate of St. Francis Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pa., and a member of the nursing staff of U. S. Army Base Hospital No. 27, was one of the first three nurses to be assigned to hospital trains of The American Expeditionary Forces. She wrote:

Base Hospital 27, located at Angers, France, received the first official order dated July 14, 1917, to supply Army nurses for this service. Until this time, the Medical Corps attached to hospital trains were caring for the wounded. Through Miss Blanche Rulon, chief nurse of Base Hospital 27, Edna Cooper, Grace O'Donnell and I were detailed to Hospital Train 57.

When told that we were to leave the next day to board this train which was then stationed at Port Boulet, France, we were certainly filled with a spirit of adventure. We arrived at Port Boulet July 15, found our train and made ourselves known to the commanding officer, Captain Goodwin, who had knowledge of our coming. He received us very kindly and immediately showed us to our quarters.

We were agreeably surprised at the modern equipment. In our coach there were three compartments which consisted of a dining room and two sleeping rooms and a lavatory (tri-angular in shape) containing a small wash bowl and commode. The sleeping rooms were made up of a private room consisting of one berth and a wardrobe and a second room which contained a lower berth and an upper berth.

Of course, we all wanted the private room, but since it could not be private among three, we resolved to take "turns about" and rotate from upper berth to private room. The rule was one week in the private room and the next week, in the lower berth and the third week in the upper berth. As we had five months of this life, we had plenty of time for the private room. The dining room, which was also used as a living room, contained a table and two chairs and a side seat fitted to the wall.

Nurses take a break between shifts.

Miss Burrey described the accommodations of Hospital Train No. 27:

The rest of the train consisted of sixteen coaches, including one infectious car which carried eighteen beds; one staff car which carried eight beds; one kitchen and sitting sick officers' car which carried three beds and twenty seats; eight ordinary lying ward cars which carried 288 beds; one pharmacy car; one infectious case sitting car which carried fifty-six seats and fourteen upper berths; one kitchen and mess car with three beds for cooks; one personnel car with thirty beds and one train crew and store car; the total capacity of the train was thus 400 beds.

Each moving hospital was equipped with electric lights, steam heat, electric fans, lavatories and racks for personal belongings and even ash trays for the patients' indulgence. There were eight ordinary ward cars for patients containing thirty-six beds arranged in tiers of three. These could easily be converted into seats to accommodate patients who were able to sit up; they could also be used for stretchers in emergency cases or folded against the sides of the coach when the cars required cleaning.

U.S. Army Hospital Train

Miss Burrey wrote of the trial trip of Train No. 57, when for the first time American Army nurses were officially assigned to train service:

Our first trip was to evacuate patients from different hospitals who were able to be moved to a point of embarkation for the United States. Since we were the first nurses, Colonel Howard Clark, who was then in charge of the train service, made the first trip to these different hospitals; this was also the first trip for transporting badly wounded patients from the hospitals near the front to the hospitals near the point of embarkation.

We started July 17, passed through Tours, Bourges, Nevers, Dijon, Chaumont, Neufchateau, Contrexville, Toul and Savenay, stopping at several base hospitals and filling our train with wounded who were to be taken to Base Hospital No. 8 at Savenay. After seeing our work, Colonel Clark congratulated us and recommended that all the trains be supplied with three nurses.

We worked day and night with those patients; the pathetic condition of our boys who were very badly wounded made us realize that being wounded was hard enough to bear, without the jolts, noise and dirt connected with traveling on a train. These patients were in our care for two nights and three days before they were loaded at Base hospital No. 8.

I remember two patients who had broken backs and had horrible bed sores. You can picture the special care such a case would require, but our time with each patient was limited and we gave the best attention possible. We also had many patients who had amputations of legs, or arms, and many other wounds that caused much pain and constant attention from doctors and nurses.

One of the chief discomforts which we noticed that the patients met was caused by the tightening of bandages due to the restless position of the patient and by the moving and stopping of the train. This condition was also aggravated by the infected wounds and the patients were constantly calling for relief from the bandages.

During the drives which centered in the Chateau-Thierry sector, work on all hospital trains of the American Expeditionary forces was heavy. Miss Burrey wrote:

During the drive at Chateau-Thierry a great number of the hospital trains were mobilized at Pantin, a suburb of Paris, for duty into Chateau-Thierry. From Paris to Chateau-Thierry was about three hours ride and 57 was ordered to make the trip. The train was sent to evacuate patients from hospital No. 7, a mobile unit. These patients had received First Aid; major operations were called for. Some had hardly reacted from their anesthetic and most of them were in a pitiable state.

In the station and surrounding it were litters covered with boys; mud-splattered and torn were the uniforms they wore. They were patiently waiting to be to be taken, they did not care where but some place where they could be given proper care. After we received our train load, about 400 patients, one of the things that bothered both patients and nurses most were the countless numbers of flies that infested our train.

The odors from the wounds that had no care cannot be described but shall live in the memory of the nurses and orderlies. We made three trips to Chateau-Thierry. The third one was to a small town outside of Chateau-Thierry. It was after dark when we got there and we immediately started to load our train with patients that had been gassed.

At the height of our work, we had an alarm of the enemy airplanes which meant all lights out and we had to work in the dark getting as many patients under shelter as possible. We loaded our train without keeping count of the patients that could walk. After the train pulled out and we got to a place of safety, the lights were turned on and we found we had patients everywhere, in the berths, on the seats and crowded in the aisle.

Many of the doctors and administrators of Base Hospital No. 27.

Hospital service formed one of the most adventurous and interesting branches of war nursing. Miss Burrey wrote:

To get to a certain base hospital, which was in a mountainous district, the train had to be divided; the engine could not pull the entire train up the mountain. We got no instructions as to the splitting of the train, so it was just luck that all the nurses were not in one part of the train. I found myself on one half of the train, garaged in a railroad yard with about two hundred patients; the other half with two nurses was starting up the hill.

While they were gone, an engine was attached by mistake to our train and soon we were rapidly moving away. We traveled about eight hours before we finally found the rest of our train. We were surely happy to see them again, for they happened to have the supply and the kitchen car.

When the train was empty and we were moving, the scenery and the wonderful views of France thrilled us, but when the train stopped, we were garaged in some railroad yard. We might stay there an hour or maybe two days before our train was ordered to move. You can picture the average train yard in America; picture it in France in war times!

When we nurses would get off the train to stretch our leg we were greatly amused at ourselves. We felt like three geese walking along, for we noticed we trailed one another. Did you ever see geese walking, one in the lead and the other following? We used to do that till we realized we were not on the train any longer but out in the street, and then we would chuckle to ourselves. Our reason for doing this was that the aisle in the train was so narrow that we had to walk single file.

Miss Burrey's Base Hospital No. 27 identification card.



The following information on the Battle of Fismette was obtained at

The doughboys occupied the village of Fismette, on the north bank of France's Vesle River. German troops occupied the steep hillsides that dominated the village to the north, east and west. To the south the debris-choked river flowed forty-five feet wide and fifteen deep. A man could swim it if he didn't mind slithering across submerged coils of barbed wire and risking German machine-gun fire.

Otherwise, the only way across was a shattered stone footbridge that barely linked one bank to the other. Clambering over the bridge was a slow business, impossible in daylight, due to enemy mortars and machine guns, and risky at night.

For the past two hours the Germans had bombarded Fismette with every gun in their arsenal. Now dawn had broken, and German observers stationed on the hills above or flying in planes overhead would watch the Americans' every movement for at least the next twelve hours.

It was at this moment when the doughboys' situation seemed impossibly desperate the Germans chose to attack. A full battalion of elite stormtroopers armed with rifles, grenades and flamethrowers rushed the weak American line. As thick black smoke and flames spurted toward them, the ranking American officer, Major Alan Donnelly, could find only two words to say.

"Hold on!" he shouted.

The Pennsylvania National Guard's 28th Division, the famed "Keystone," was among the best the Americans had in France in the summer of 1918. "They struck me as the best soldiers I had ever seen," said Brigadier General Dennis Nolan, commander of the division's 55th Infantry Brigade. "They were veterans, survivors who didn't seem to be oppressed by the death of other men."

When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the Pennsylvania National Guard's 109th, 110th, 111th and 112th infantry regiments formed the 7th Division. Later that year the unit was redesignated the 28th Division, assigned to the American Expeditionary Forces and shipped to France under the command of Major General Charles H. Muir. Though grouchy and inflexible, Muir knew what fighting meant. Serving as a sharpshooter during the Spanish-American War, he had received the Distinguished Service Cross for single-handedly killing the entire crew of a Spanish artillery piece. Muir's men affectionately called him "Uncle Charley."

The Pennsylvanians entered combat for the first time in early July 1918, fighting as part of the American III Corps under Major General Robert Lee Bullard. As no independent American Army in France yet existed, however, they were under the overall command of Major General Jean Degoutte's French Sixth Army. Attacking northward from the Marne River about fifty miles east of Paris, they pushed into an enemy-held salient backed by the Aisne River.

On August 4 the Americans captured the town of Fismes on the south bank of the Vesle River. They had advanced twenty miles in just over a month and cleared out most of the German salient. Degoutte nevertheless ordered the 28th Division to cross the Vesle, capture Fismette and hold it as a bridgehead.

Muir and Bullard vehemently disagreed with Degoutte's orders. The bridgehead at Fismette was too vulnerable, they argued. Enemy-held hills overlooked it on all sides, and withdrawal under fire over the Vesle would be next to impossible. But Degoutte would have none of it, and the American generals had to swallow their objections. Until the independent American Army that General John J. Pershing had sought for so long became a reality, they had no choice but to follow the Frenchman's orders.

The Germans did not concede Fismette easily. On the night of August 6–7, troops of the 112th Infantry attacked the village, but German resistance was too strong, and they had to withdraw. They tried again the following morning after American artillery had laid down a heavy barrage, and after a savage street fight they gained enough of a toehold to hang on. For the next 24 hours attacks, counterattacks and constant hand-to-hand fighting engulfed Fismette in an inferno of flame, smoke and noise.

Lieutenant Hervey Allen, a literate young man from Pittsburgh who would later become a successful novelist, approached the riverbank opposite Fismette late on the evening of August 9. His company of the 111th Infantry had been fighting the Germans for six weeks and had not received rations for the past few days. Allen's thoughts were less than cheerful as he gazed across the Vesle at a churning cloud of smoke flickering with muzzle flashes and echoing with gunfire and explosions. Somewhere in there lay Fismette.

The infantrymen crossed the stone bridge just after midnight. As they picked their way forward, they prayed enemy flares would not light up the sky and expose them to machine-gun fire. Fortunately, the sky remained dark. Rifle fire intensified, however, as the doughboys entered Fismette. The Germans still held much of the village, and contested the Americans house to house. Allen's captain led them through the village, dodging and sprinting, until they reached its northern edge just before dawn. Ahead, on a half-wooded upward slope cut by a small gully, German machine guns barked at them furiously from the shelter of some trees.

The captain ordered an attack but was shot dead as he led his men into the open. Allen and the others continued forward another fifty yards before retiring to the village with heavy losses. The few remaining officers in Allen's company held a hurried conference in an old dugout. Their standing orders were to attack and seize the hills above Fismette, but this seemed insane when even survival was problematic. One of them, they decided, had to return to headquarters in Fismes and seek further orders. Allen said he could swim, so the other officers chose him.

Allen approached the riverbank by slithering down a muddy ditch, dragging his belly painfully over strands of barbed wire half-submerged in the mud. Small clouds of German mustard gas filled the ditch in places, and although he wore his mask, the gas burned his hands and other exposed patches of skin. Enemy shells fell nearby, stunning him into near-unconsciousness. Allen nevertheless made it to the river's edge, where he slipped into the water, discarding his gas mask and pistol.

The lieutenant crossed the Vesle beneath the bridge, sometimes swimming and other times crawling over submerged barbed wire. As he reached the opposite bank, Allen's heart sank. American and German machine guns constantly raked the shore. There seemed no way forward and no way back. "I lay there in the river for a minute and gave up," he later remembered. "When you do that, something dies inside."

After a moment, fortunately, Allen noticed a small culvert that offered just enough cover for him to make his way into Fismes. A few minutes later he was racing down rubble-strewn streets toward the dugout serving as battalion headquarters. No signposts were necessary. All he had to do was follow the macabre trail of dead runners' corpses. He arrived at the dugout to the sight of an unexploded German shell wedged into the wall just over the entrance.

Inside, Allen waded through a crowd of officers, wounded soldiers and malingerers to reach his battalion major. The major looked rather pleased with himself, for he had so far received only positive reports of the fighting in Fismette. Allen, as the only eyewitness present, quickly disabused him of his optimism. His duty done, the lieutenant saluted, moved to a corner and lost consciousness.

Several hours later an officer shook Allen awake and ordered him to guide a group of reinforcements back into Fismette. Night had fallen. Little remained of the bridge, and the surrounding area was strewn with shell holes, broken equipment and pieces of men. A sentry warned that the slightest sound would provoke German machine guns to open fire on the bridge, and that several runners had been killed trying to cross.

Waves of nausea engulfed Allen. For a moment his resolve wavered. "No more machine guns, no more!" he said to himself over and over. An American sniper, sheltering nearby and waiting to fire at German muzzle-flashes, hissed, "Don't stoop down, lieutenant. They are shooting low when they cut loose!"

Allen sucked in his stomach and led his men carefully over the bridge. As they reached midspan, an enemy flare lit up the sky. The doughboys stood frozen and prepared to die. "That," Allen later recalled, "was undoubtedly the most intense moment I ever knew." The flare seemed to float eternally, until it finally descended in a slow arc, sputtered and went out. Miraculously, the enemy had not fired a shot.

The hours that followed sank only partially into Allen's memory, passing in a haze of sights, sounds and impressions. What he remembered most was weariness. "In that great time," he later wrote, "there was never any rest or let-up until the body was killed or it sank exhausted." Around him, the fighting continued without letup.

Months afterward many members of the regiment would receive medals in tribute to their bravery in Fismette. Sergeant James I. Mestrovitch rescued his wounded company commander under fire on August 10 and carried him to safety. Mestrovitch would receive the Medal of Honor for this act of heroism, but posthumously, as he was died in an Army hospital on November 4, a victim of the influenza pandemic.

Lieutenant Bob Hoffman would return home with a Croix de Guerre. He spent his days and nights in Fismette scouting German positions and fighting off counterattacks. One morning Hoffman noticed German preparations for an attack and deployed his men in a block of ruined houses they had linked together with strongpoints and tunnels. The Americans had just taken their positions, poking their rifles through apertures in the crumbling stone walls, when German soldiers came rushing down the street.

Hoffman never forgot the sight: "Clumpety-clump, they were going, with their high boots and huge coal-bucket helmets. I can see them coming yet, bent over, rifle in one hand, potato-masher grenade in the other; husky, red-faced young fellows, their eyes almost popping out of their heads as they dashed down the street, necks red and perspiring."

Hoffman had positioned his men well. As the fifty or so Germans advanced further into the village, they stumbled into preset kill zones and were shot down to a man. During the fighting, a young German popped into the doorway of the house where Hoffman had taken shelter and paused to catch his breath.

Hoffman, standing in the semi-darkness of the ruined house, hesitated for a split second as he decided what to do, shoot the German, challenge him to fight or just stick a bayonet in him? He chose the last option and lunged forward. The surprised German died by the cold steel of the lieutenant's bayonet.

After three days of fighting the 111th seemed in no condition to withstand a determined enemy attack. But everyone knew one was coming. One evening Hoffman led a scouting party that captured a teenage German soldier. The frightened boy told his captors that German shock troops had arrived and were preparing an all-out assault on Fismette. Hoffman crept out along the village outskirts in a search for evidence to corroborate the boy's story.

He found Fismette strangely quiet. German artillery fired intermittently. Enemy snipers had gone dormant. American reinforcements had crossed the bridge without drawing fire. The only enemy activity seemed to be in the air. An unusual number of German planes were aloft, sputtering along slowly, and uncontested, above the village. A sense of stillness and expectancy reinforced Hoffman's sense of foreboding.

Back across the river in Fismes the 111th regimental officers thought the tide had turned in their favor. Muir kept relaying messages from Degoutte. "Attack, advance, attack." As the German guns fell silent, it seemed the Frenchman's persistence had borne fruit. The time had come, they thought, to clear the Germans out of Fismette and seize the surrounding heights.

Hoffman and Allen received their orders early in the morning on August 11. They must rouse every available man and attack at dawn. Fismette must be cleared. If the Germans fled as expected, the doughboys must also drive them from the surrounding hills.

"It was a frightful order, murder," thought Allen. He asked Major Donnelly, whose 3rd Battalion would spearhead the attack, to reconsider. Donnelly brushed him off. "Orders," he replied. They had no choice. The word "murder" also popped into Hoffman's mind as he watched Donnelly assemble his men, but he stayed quiet. Neither Allen nor Hoffman took part in the initial attack, but they would share in its aftermath.

As the 3rd Battalion moved forward, the German artillery burst forth with sudden, frightful intensity. It was, indeed, murder. After a few minutes a handful of doughboys, all that remained of the battalion, came staggering back down the hill, chased by German shells. Donnelly, who had sent them forward, watched in silence.

Then the American artillery retaliated, and Fismette burst into flames. Allen took refuge in a cellar, surrounded by the dead, the dying and men driven half-mad by shell concussions. Hoffman, delirious with exhaustion, made a feeble attempt to care for the wounded before he too hunkered down in a basement. There was nothing more any of them could do.

The German bombardment continued all the rest of that day and through the night. Toward dawn the shelling intensified. Then, as daylight broke, the German guns fell silent. "That," Allen knew, "meant only one thing." Hardly conscious of what he was doing, he ordered every man who could stand out of the dugout and drove them toward a wall to face the enemy attack.

"They are all dead up there along the wall, lieutenant," someone said. Hoffman, nearby and heading for the same wall, thought the same: "Everywhere I looked were dead men. There seemed to be no live men around to man the guns."

"Here they come!" someone shouted. "Hold on!" Donnelly cried.

Staring past the wall, Allen saw a sudden puff of smoke that rolled forward with a jet of yellow flame. Men curled up as smoke and flame rolled over them, and he dazedly thought of burning leaves. Another flash burst among some nearby houses. One of Allen's men stood up and whirled to face him, his body outlined against the flames. "Oh! My God!" he screamed, staring wide-eyed into the lieutenant's face. "Oh God!"

Hoffman felt the same knot of terror in the pit of his stomach as he watched the flamethrowers move forward, borne by men with tanks on their backs, clutching hoses that spewed liquid fire up to fifty yards. His body seemed to shrivel with the heat as banks of smoke wafted past him.

For all their terror and exhaustion, the doughboys held. From behind the wall and along the village perimeter, they opened fire on the German stormtroopers. They concentrated on the men with flamethrowers. Their morale soared when a bullet punctured a flamethrower tank and a German erupted into flames.

The other flamethrowers followed, one by one like roman candles, until all that remained was the smell of burning flesh. Rifle and grenade-toting German infantry surged forward regardless and managed to drive the doughboys from several houses. But the enemy had spent his energy. The American line held.

That night troops of the 109th and 112th regiments relieved the survivors. Hoffman's entire company had been reduced to just thirty-two men. Allen was in no condition to call roll for his company. Suffering from gas inhalation and burns, shrapnel wounds and shell shock, he was evacuated and spent the remainder of the war in a French hospital.

The tragedy of Fismette had yet to reach its denouement. The Americans cleared the village step by step, and on August 22 they declared it under control. The Germans continued to hold the heights, however, and were reinforcing their lines.

By this time the defense of Fismette had reverted to the hands of the 112th Infantry. Its commander, Colonel George C. Rickards, knew the division was exhausted and that it lacked further reserves to meet a German attack. On August 26, Rickards invited Bullard and Muir to his headquarters in Fismes.

After a brief consultation, all three men agreed the Americans must abandon Fismette. Muir promptly issued an order to evacuate the "uselessly small bridgehead," and Bullard approved. Unfortunately, Bullard's chief of staff tattled to Degoutte before Rickards could execute the order. Furious, Degoutte countermanded Muir's order and ordered Bullard and Muir to hold Fismette at all costs.

That night companies G and H of the 112th, 236 men in all, took up positions in Fismette. At dawn the following morning, August 27, German artillery laid down a barrage around the village, destroying the bridge over the Vesle and sealing off the beleaguered Americans. Twenty minutes later 1,000 German stormtroopers with machine guns, hand grenades and the dreaded flamethrowers descended on Fismette.

The Pennsylvanians held on doggedly for several hours, inflicting severe casualties on the attackers. The Germans nevertheless broke through to the river at several points, separating the Americans into isolated pockets, which were methodically destroyed. Just over thirty doughboys managed to swim across the Vesle to safety. Of the remainder, an estimated seventy-five were killed and 127 taken prisoner. Fismette was back in German hands.

Bullard blamed Degoutte for the disaster and wrote a letter to Pershing describing how the French general had countermanded Muir's orders to evacuate Fismette. Degoutte tried to make amends by publicly praising the 28th Division for its gallantry. Pershing was not mollified. A few days later he confronted Bullard at headquarters. "Why did you not disobey the order given by General Degoutte?" he demanded.

Nothing like Fismette, Pershing resolved, must ever happen again. From then on the bulk of American forces in Europe would fight under American command. On August 10, even as Harvey Allen and Bob Hoffman fought for their lives in Fismette, the independent American First Army was formed. It would spearhead the American drive to victory that ended with the armistice on Nov. 11, 1918.

Schwerpunkt at Fismette
August 27, 1918

The following information on Company G and H, 112th Infantry, 28th Division, was obtained at

In the early morning hours of August 27, 1918, 230 Pennsylvanians of the 28th Division trudged across the Vesle River into their defensive positions in the rubble- strewn village of Fismette, France. Less than an hour after taking up their fighting positions, these men would encounter the terror, confusion and savagery of the German principle of "Schwerpunkt," or focus of energy.

By August 1918, a series of Allied offensives sent the Imperial German Army reeling increasingly closer to its homeland. Although, the Allied attacks continually thinned its weary ranks, they did not lessen the ferocity of the veteran troops. Three years earlier, during the battle of Verdun, the German Army had implemented squads of heavily armed and fast moving assault troops. These storm troops would attack a specific objective on the Allied trench line.

Under the cover of indirect fire, the troops would move into position near the objective. Once the artillery "softened up" the objective, the storm troops would swarm and clear out the remaining defenders, using hand grenades, flame throwers and submachine guns. They defended the gap until follow-on infantry arrived to exploit the opening. Fismette proved to be the perfect place to apply these tactics yet again.

In late August 1918, the Germans were pushed north of the Vesle River, which became the front line for that sector. On August 26, after some ferocious fighting, the Doughboys of Pennsylvania's 28th Division, captured Fismette. This created a bulge in the German line. Across the Vesle was the larger town of Fismes, headquarters of the 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Division.

To the left of Fismes was the American 77th Division, and the right was secured by the 110th Infantry Regiment. On August 26, the American III Corps Commander, Major General Robert Bullard, inspected the defenses at Fismes. He conferred with the Commander of the 112th, Colonel George C. Rickards, who requested permission to withdraw his advanced post out of Fismette. General Bullard denied the request, stated he would look at other options, and departed.

The Doughboys from G and H Companies, 112th Infantry took up their posts in the pre-dawn hours of August 27. Approximately 30 minutes later, German artillery shells began to impact all around the defenders. The troops took cover anywhere they could find. Before the artillery fire shifted, storm troops attacked positions on the left and right flanks, driving the Americans in toward the center of the village.

Special flamethrower troops assaulted through the center of the town, flushing any remaining defenders out of the basements, while aircraft overhead were using the light from the flames to drop bombs on the U.S. garrison.

Some of the Doughboys attempted to flee on the one bridge that led across to Fismes until German machine gunners turned it into a kill zone. By the time the fighting ceased, 200 men out of the force of 230 were killed, wounded or captured.

Following Fismette, G and H Companies were never reconstituted, and surviving members were assigned to other Companies within the 112th. The village itself was never recaptured. The 112th was pulled from Fismes in early September and trucked southward to new positions in support of the Oise-Aisne Offensive. The Germans later abandoned Fismette as the war pressed them closer to their own border.

Fismette provided the world with a terrifying glimpse into the Schwerpunkt principle that the Wehrmacht would use twenty-one years later to take over nearly all of Western Europe and large swaths of the Soviet Union.

In that Second World War, however, the storm troops would be replaced by large armored formations with mechanized panzer grenadiers and ground attack aircraft operating in close support. In both World Wars, the 28th Division fought with great bravery on the Western Front.


Crossing the Vesle River in Fismes is the United States 28th Division Memorial Bridge. The bridge was erected in 1927 by the State of Pennsylvania to replace an earlier bridge destroyed in WWI, and to remember those of the 28th “Keystone” Division, which was made up of Pennsylvania National Guardsmen , who fell here in the late stages of the Second Battle of the Marne, in early August 1918.

The 28th Division Memorial Bridge in Fismes, over the Vesle River, built by the State of Pennsylvania in 1927.



Congressional Medal of Honor

Major Joseph Henry Thompson

Joseph "Colonel Joe" Henry Thompson was a highly decorated World War I veteran, recipient of the Medal of Honor, lawyer, Pennsylvania State Legislator, head football coach of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, and College Football Hall of Fame inductee.

Thompson came to the United States from Ireland in 1898 at the age of eighteen and entered Geneva College that year. He immediately became a basketball star and also participated in gymnastics and wrestling, but did not go out for football until 1900. He served as Geneva’s player-coach for three years, with his football teams compiling a 27-2-3 record.

Major Joseph H. Thompson

Thompson continued his education at the University of Pittsburgh, then called the Western University of Pennsylvania, where he played football from 1904 and 1906, during which time the Panthers compiled a 26-6 record. He captained the Pitt football team to its first perfect season in 1904. Thompson graduated from Pitt in 1905 and continued on with post-graduate work in the School of Law, completing his law degree in 1909. While at Pitt he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

Following graduation from Pitt's Law School, Thompson assumed the head coaching position at Pitt from 1909 to 1912 during which period he led Pitt to a 22-11-2 record. The highlight of his coaching tenure was the 1910 season in which Pitt went undefeated and unscored upon and was considered by many consider to be that season's National Champion While compiling its 9-0 record, Pitt outscored its opponents 282-0.

Thompson served as a member of Pennsylvania State Senate from 1913-16 and practiced law in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

Thompson entered the Army in 1917. He fought in Mexico, and then in France during World War I, where he was repeatedly wounded and became a decorated hero. In addition to the Medal of Honor, he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre, the British Medal of Honor, and the American Distinguished Service Cross. After the war, he served in the reserve corps.

Major Thompson, of the 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Division, received his Medal of Honor for his actions on October 1, 1918, in fighting near Apremont, France.

The text of his citation reads:

Counterattacked by two regiments of the enemy, Major Thompson encouraged his battalion in the front line of constantly braving the hazardous fire of machineguns and artillery. His courage was mainly responsible for the heavy repulse of the enemy. Later in the action, when the advance of his assaulting companies was held up by fire from a hostile machinegun nest and all but one of the six assaulting tanks were disabled, Major Thompson, with great gallantry and coolness, rushed forward on foot three separate times in advance of the assaulting line, under heavy machinegun and antitank-gun fire, and led the one remaining tank to within a few yards of the enemy machinegun nest, which succeeded in reducing it, thereby making it possible for the infantry to advance.<

Joseph Thompson died in 1928 from ailments aggravated by war wounds.

Congressional Medal of Honor

Sergeant James I. Mestrovitch

Sergeant James I. Mestrovitch, a native of Crna Gora, Yugoslavia, traveled from Fresno, California, to be inducted into the US Army from Pittsburgh, PA. He was in the Army National Guard's 28th Division. He was assigned to the 111th Infantry Regiment.

Sergeant James I. Mestrovitch

Sergeant Mestrovitch earned the Medal of Honor for heroism near Fismette, France, for his actions on August 10, 1918. During intense assaults upon enemy positions, his company commander was wounded and lying thirty yards in front of the line. The company had withdrawn to a sheltered position behind a stone wall.

Sergeant Mestrovitch voluntarily left cover and crawled through heavy machine gun and shell fire to where the officer lay. He took the officer upon his back and crawled to a place of safety, where he administered first-aid treatment. He was decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor for his exceptional heroism in saving the officer's life.

After surviving numerous combat actions, Sergeant Mestrovitch died on November 4, 1918, a victim of the influenza epidemic. Upon his death, his body was repatriated to his native Montenegro. He is buried in Sveti Jovan Church Cemetery in Montenegro, more than 5,000 miles from the country for which he served.


Distinguished Service Medal             Distinguished Service Cross             French Croix de Guerre

Among the many medals awarded to servicemen during World War I for bravery above and beyond the call of duty, in addition to the Congressional Medal of Honor, were the highly-coveted Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Cross, and French Croix de Guerre.

There were a total of 90 Medal of Honor recipients, two of these from the Pennsylvania National Guard 28th Division. The Distinguished Service Medal was awarded to 1,881 individuals, fifteen of them from the 28th Division and fourteen from the 80th Division.

The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded 6,041 times, and there were 111 recipients of the oak-leaf cluster, a higher degree of the award. Members of the 28th Division were awarded 172 Distinguished Service Crosses and 4 oak-leaf clusters. Men of the 80th Division were awarded 57 Distinguished Service Crosses.

The French Croix de Guerre, or War Cross, was one of the more common foriegn decorations awarded to American servicemen during the war, and one earned by many men of the 28th and 80th Divisions. There were a total of 11,589 War Crosses earned by U.S. servicemen during World War I.

WW1 Victory Medal             WW1 Victory Medal w/Silvar Star Citation             WW1 Occupation Medal

WWI Victory Medal Clasps

All United States servicemen who were deployed overseas in Europe, or in service on other fronts during the war effort, were awarded the World War I Victory Medal (left). There were approximately 2,500,000 of the medals presented to servicemen and women of all branches. The medal came with a clasp, or multiple clasps, showing the sector of the battle front, or the campaign in which the recipient served.

Another medal awarded for valor was the Silver Star Citation, which came at this time as a small Silver Star to be attached to the Victory Medal. In 1932 awardees could petition for an upgrade to the current Silver Star Medal. All awardees of the Victory Medal were also issued clasps to designate the various theatres of war or battles that they participated in. These clasps were attached to the ribbon of the medal.

As far as the clasps go, members of the 28th Division were awarded the Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, Meuse-Argonne and Defensive Sector clasps. Members of the 80th Division were awarded the Somme Offensive, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne and Defensive Sector clasps.

All members of divisions assigned to occupation duty in Germany after the armistice were awarded the Occupation Medal (right). Divisions assigned to the Army of Occupation were normally part of the regular army, with guard and selected service divisions sent back to the United States. Due to their valor and achievements during wartime, the 28th Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, was honored as a member of the Army of Occupation. Their stay was short, and the men were home by May of 1919.

28th Division Victory Medal28th Division Victory Medal

Men of the Pennsylvania National Guard received a unique Victory Medal, issued only to members of the 28th Division. In addition to this medal, members of the division are honored in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, located in Centre County. This is the location the 28th Infantry Division Shrine, with monuments to the various regiments and units that served in World War I. For more information and photos, click here.


110th Infantry Regiment    108th MG Batallion
The 110th Infantry Regiment and the 108th MG Battalion arrive back in the United States in May, 1919

Major General Muir and Staff    28th Division parades through
Philadephia on May 15, 1919
The 28th Division returned to America in May, 1919, and paraded through Philadelphia on May 15.

15th Engineers back home in Pittsburgh
The 15th Engineers parade down Fifth Avenue upon their return home to Pittsburgh in May 1919.



Captain William C. Truxal
Company C, 110th Infantry

Captain William C. Truxal, of Somerset, was the commander of Company C, 110th Infantry Regiment, of the Pennsylvania National Guard 28th Division, at the Second Battle of the Marne. It was the first day of the German Offensive and Captain Truxal's Company was in the front line as the waves of enemy storm troopers attacked. The following is his story:

We had been fighting with our backs to the Marne for approximately four hours. We knew that we were surrounded and that only good luck would get us out of our predicament.

There were about ten Americans left and approximately fifty Frenchmen. Our formation was somewhat in a V shape, Americans back to back with the French. The French were protecting our rear, facing the village of Courthiezy. We were facing the opposite direction. We were standing behind trees and stumps and using whatever cover was available along the road leading from Dormans through Chateau-Thierry to Paris.


Suddenly the German machine guns and automatic rifles ceased firing. I was standing behind a tree. When the firing ceased I turned quickly to the left and saw a German officer tapping the sergeant on the shoulder just as he was in the act of firing at some Germans and heard him say, "Finish." I turned a little further and saw within five paces the head of a German column marching on the road in close order with rifles slung across their backs. The French had surrendered without notice to me.

I turned a little further and saw proceeding up the hill a thousand yards to my rear and to the right, the German artillery. The column proceeded along the road, separating the remaining Americans standing on both sides of the road. I had my automatic pistol in hand, turned and walked through the advancing column without having a word spoken to me.

I went down over the side of the road into the culvert to French Headquarters and there it was that the French officer had surrendered in writing to a German officer. They both walked out leaving me behind in the culvert under the road.

I took my pistol, unloaded it, broke it and threw it in the mud and water underneath a plank. I took my orders and tore them up, throwing the fragments also under the plank. My compass, map, money, a large penknife with a saw on it, and a few other small trinkets I hid in my leggings and trouser legs. I had scarcely finished this when a German appeared at the mouth of the culvert and ordered me out.

I walked out on top of the road, and under a guard together with the other prisoners was made to cross the Marne River. Our artillery was pounding away heavily. The Allied airplanes were busy ground strafing and attempting to hinder the advance of the Germans. It was impossible for them to distinguish prisoners from the enemy, and we were therefore subjected to our own fire.


They led us back about three kilometers, marching along side their advancing troops, to their heavy artillery. We remained there approximately an hour when we were again taken out and led by the side of their advancing transport back toward the Marne to the village of Treloup, which was then being shelled by our artillery and bombed by our airplanes. They kept us there probably an hour and then, with a large number of French prisoners, we were moved back again to the heavy artillery, marching as before, along side their advancing transport.

During this time I was able to see the frightful execution of our automatic rifles and machine guns on the riverfront, as well as the execution of our artillery and aviators during the German advance. Luck seems to have been with the Allied prisoners during this forenoon, as, while the enemy fell by the dozen all around and close by our side, none of the captives were killed.

When I crossed the Marne I saw in echelon, beginning within fifteen yards of the riverbank, machine gun after machine gun, trench mortar battery after trench mortar battery wheel to wheel, graduated back to the light artillery, and then to the heavy artillery. The entire ground on the north side of the Marne was completely covered with German light and heavy artillery.

I saw piled up on the riverbank hundreds of Germans killed by our automatic rifles from the other side of the river. I saw the bodies of Germans floating in the Marne, and as I went back through our barrage three times I saw hundreds upon hundreds of Germans killed, and as many wagons and horses of their transport blown up by artillery and bombs.


I well remember a German officer riding within fifty yards of our column. He wore large tortoise shell glasses and sat a horse only as a trained German officer knows how. A shell struck directly underneath horse and rider, and the picture came to my mind of a boy making mud balls and throwing them into the air. As the mud ball gains in momentum a piece flies off here and there until there is practically nothing left of the ball. That is what happened to the German officer and horse.

Again, a company or two of Germans were hiding in a small French graveyard near Courcells. The graveyard was surrounded by a stone wall. One of our aviators saw them, gave their target to a battery of 75s, and they dropped sixty to seventy-five shells in the graveyard in as many seconds. Boche heads, arms and legs and tombstones came out together. A number of us laughed at this, which almost proved our undoing, as the Germans marching by our side began to mutter and curse and act in a very threatening manner.

Again, we were marching along side the transport going toward Treloup, when a German driving two horses with a heavily loaded wagon, without warning, with a fiendish grin on his face, pulled his team sharply to the right for no other purpose than to run us down or see us jump. In order to save ourselves from being run over three of us who were at the head of the column had to throw ourselves forward, while the men behind us were compelled to throw themselves back on the ground.

At this identical moment an Allied aviator dived and dropped a bomb, which was unquestionable aimed at us, thinking we were Germans. The bomb landed between the two horses, and as I slid forward rolling over on my back, (it all happened in a split-second), the horses had reared above me, completely disemboweled, and the German, with part of his head blown off was falling between the horses. And not an Allied prisoner of war was scratched!

I saw eight Germans at almost equal intervals around a shell hole, just as if they had been placed there, each one with his head at the edge of the hole as if taking a drink of water, and all of them dead. We saw transport after transport blown to pieces lying along the side of the road; hundreds of horses killed, and a frequent sight was a German still astride his horse, both horse and man killed.

I saw lying along the edge of the road German after German who had been almost blown to pieces. Part of the body still remained on the road. Evidently as their men were killed they pulled them to the side of the road, and if the leg or part of the body remained on the road afterwards, they did not take the time or trouble of removing it, but drove their transport over the piece of human flesh tramping and grinding it into the mud and ground. Such was their haste to reach Paris.


One question that has been asked me probably more frequently than any other since my return to America has been "How did they treat you?" In order that our treatment may be fully understood it is necessary first of all that the German character or the German at war be properly understood. And it must be remembered that in my statements I refer only to the German at war, to the German in Germany.

Probably eighty of the members of my Company including myself are of German descent. During the five years that I was connected with the Army my Company was always called the "Dutch Company." But the German in Germany and the German-American are two entirely different persons. In my opinion the German, and particularly the German officer, is the biggest bluffer, the biggest faker, the biggest braggart, the biggest liar and the most gullible man I have ever known. He thinks that he can lie and that everybody believes him, and that no person would ever think of lying to him; while the fact is that he is the poorest liar it has every been my misfortune to meet.

Shortly after being taken prisoner I saw a German officer reprimand a soldier. This officer was a Prussian and reprimanded him for not having me, an officer, at the head of the line instead of back where I was, marching with my men. For various reasons I kept away from the French and stayed back with my own boys, many of whom were wounded.

This German officer, over six feet in height and weighing over two hundred pounds, thrust his face within six inches of the face of the boy he was reprimanding, who was no more than eighteen years of age, about five feet in height and weighing about one hundred and thirty pounds, purple with rage, and he yelled at the top of his voice, waving his hands frantically, spitting as he talked, and cursed the boy from head to foot, calling him everything he could think of.

I made up my mind, as did every other American who heard this, that this German officer was a great big bluffer, that he was all wind or he would not need to talk in such a manner or act in such a way in reprimanding one of his men. Shortly afterwards when he was within a few steps of me he yelled at me at the top of his voice. I turned around, and though I did not know what he said to me and he did not know what I said to him, I yelled back just as loud as he had yelled. He came up and apologized saying that he did not know I was an officer. However, a few minutes later he did the same thing to a boy from the 109th Infantry from Philadelphia, and as this boy saw what I had done, so he turned around and yelled back at him just as loud as he had yelled. He apologized to the boy.

As our column moved back through the German lines and passed the artillery, the Germans called us names such as "Schweinhund." We laughed at them because at the same time, again and again, they exhibited their true feelings by yelling "You thought you were better than us, now here you are a prisoner, 'uh-huh.'" Every time a German yelled this you would hear an American doughboy somewhere in the line answer back "ja." The mere fact that this was on their minds was sufficient evidence to every American prisoner that we actually were better than they and that they admitted it.

We were beginning to understand the German better and better. Again, a German boy came up and attempted to take a raincoat I was wearing. I yelled at him to go away, I was an officer. He clicked his heels together and saluted and went on. Later I gave this raincoat to one of my boys who had been wounded. Two Germans came after the coat. I had a short struggle with them to save the boy, but they started in with their bayonets and got the coat.


The next question that has been asked me again and again is "What did they give you to eat?" I am fully convinced that all of the American prisoners of war owe their lives to the American Red Cross. True, the Germans gave us something to eat, but they did not give us enough to sustain life should any of us become ill.

I was taken prisoner on July 15th. On that day I received nothing to ear, but on the 16th we were told that we could get some rations. We did not have a knife, fork, spoon, mess-pan or tin cup. (One of the things that had stuck us all as rather strange was the fact that when the French were taken prisoner they came over with two or three days rations, plenty of tobacco and cigarettes and a complete mess outfit and toilet articles. In other words, they were prepared. The Americans, when they were taken prisoner, came in dirty, bloody, without blouses and sleeves rolled up and with the appearance of having put up a hard fight. The French were immaculate, or at least, as clean as they were before they were taken prisoner.)

We went out to the garbage pile and there hunted out the best looking tin can we could find, scrubbed and washed and scoured it with mud and water, and were ready for mess. About five of six o'clock we went up to the barnyard and there received our first German meal, consisting of one can of soup made with dried cherries and water boiled together, no fat, and a piece of bread. The morning of the 17th we got nothing to eat, and were lined up along with a lot of French officers and moved out about eight o'clock back toward Fismes.

All day long we marched, stopping now and then for rest and once for a drink of water. About five o'clock in the evening we arrived at Fismes, and there, after a rest of an hour, received our first big meal, at German hands, consisting of a tin can of barley soup, (barley and water boiled together without fat), a can of imitation coffee, a piece of bread and a small piece of Limburger cheese about one inch and a half square. We did not bother skinning the cheese. We ate it rind and all.

We then left and started again on the road. It got dark, and I do not remember where we marched to that night. About twelve o'clock midnight I turned to one of the officers and said, "I don't believe I can make it any further, I am all in." He replied, "Stick to it. I believe we have only about a hundred yards more." We started to move again. I became feint and dropped to my knees. They helped me up, and it started to rain.

The heavens seemed to open, it came down in torrents. We struggled on about a hundred yards into a corral, a low-lying field. There was about an inch of water covering the field. We were exhausted. We took our steel helmets, put them on the ground as pillows and lay down in the water, wrapped our arms and legs around each other and slept. We rested this way for probably two hours and then got up and walked to keep warm. It was still raining torrents. About nine o'clock in the morning it stopped raining. We took off our blouses and wrung the water out of them, put them back on, started a small fire and tried to get warm.

Shortly afterwards we were driven over into a barn. Here we found an imitation cot and some excelsior. Using the excelsior for cover we lay down and slept that day until our clothing dried on us, and it didn’t hurt a single one. The next morning we got up and got another can of soup. This time the soup had some nourishment in it. I think it was made of corn meal and water, there may have been a little fat in it, I do not know.

We started again and marched all that day, arriving at Laon in the late afternoon. We were exhausted and if my recollection serves me right we did not have a drink of water all that day until arriving at the outskirts of Laon.


An incident occurred on our trip to Laon, which will be long remembered by all the American prisoners of war. When we moved out in the early morning I noticed an old French priest with the French officers. He was a big, fine looking man with a long grey beard. He wore a heavy black robe reaching to the ground. He was between seventy-five and eighty years of age, and I wondered at the time whether this feeble old man would be able to march far or whether the Germans intended to haul him part of the way.

He carried a large staff to aid him on the march, and smiling he trudged along speaking words of encouragement to the men. The heat was terrific. As we moved along mile after mile I noticed a haggard expression gradually creeping over his face, yet without a complaint and smiling pleasantly when anyone spoke to him, he marched on. How long would he be able to stand it? How long would these German guards insist on making this old man march, was the question uppermost in the minds of the Americans.

We learned to love him for his pluck, endurance and cheerfulness, and yet we knew that it was only a matter of a few more steps before he would be entirely exhausted. A number of times we talked among ourselves, having in view making a request of the German guard to get some sort of transportation for him. Finally when within sight of the city of Laon, probably five miles distant, the old man sat down and said he could go no further. I have never seen such an expression of suffering and agony on the face of any human before. He had stuck to the march until almost the end before making any complaint.

I discovered a Frenchman who could speak German, and called his attention to the condition of the old man and suggested that he talk to the German in command of the prisoners. He said it would be no use, but I insisted, and the two of us went to the German and told him that this old man could go no further, and that it was not right to treat a non-combatant, a Chaplain, the same way that combatants were treated. At first the German was angry, talked loud and waved his hands as all Germans do.

As we were talking two Germans came by driving two horses in a sort of buckboard. As they came by I held up my hand and the German driving the horses stopped. I then called the attention of the German guard to this team and without saying a word he walked across the road and beckoned the old man to follow him. He brought him over and we helped him into the buckboard.

Later that evening the old man was awaiting our arrival in the city of Laon. We came marching slowly into the town and were met by this old priest smiling pleasantly to everyone as he had done during the march. After hunting the German guard and myself out he thanked us profusely for the interest we had taken in him. This incident and many others of a similar character that I experienced taught me that the German was practically devoid of all the finer sensibilities and seemed to be blind to the sufferings of others.


We received nothing further to eat that day, but the next day we were introduced to a new dish, and near starvation as we were, it was too much for the majority of the men. It was a soup made of large cow beets chopped in chunks, some as large as a fist, boiled with water and no fat. It was a purplish-greenish slime, with a bitter flavor. Some of us succeeded in eating some of it by dipping the black German bread into it, but the majority of men were nauseated from the odor alone.

It was at Laon that I came to the conclusion that the treatment of the prisoners depended largely upon the particular German with whom we came in contact. It was there that I saw two "English Tommies," half starved from lack of food and feint with fatigue, eyes protruding, faces haggard, ask a German sergeant permission to "lick out" a bucket from which they had been serving German marmalade. The German said "Ja," but as they hastily stepped forward to grab the bucket the German kicked it, and as the boys stooped over reaching for it the German kicked them both, throwing them head first on the cobble stones; and that German and a few others laughed heartily at the joke.

However, at that same camp they were serving beer to the German soldiers. I went to one of the American officers and said, "I am going to try to get some of that beer," being sure that there would be more nourishment in the beer they were serving to their own soldiers than all the food they had served to the prisoners. The American officer said, "Don't do it, you will only get yourself into trouble, and probably the rest of us. You will probably only get cursed out." I said, "I don't believe it, I am going to take a chance."

I got my tin can and walked down into the courtyard. A couple hundred Germans were there and they were gathering pretty thick around the place where the beer was being issued. I looked over the crowd carefully and finally picked out a boy about eighteen years of age, with red cheeks. I looked at him a minute, then winked and nodded my head backward as if I wanted to talk to him. He looked at me and then turning around to see if anyone was watching him, he stepped out cautiously to my side.

I could not speak German, but I said, "Kann ich nicht some Beer haben?" He looked at me about a minute and again very cautiously turned around as if he was afraid some person had heard or seen, and said, "Jawohl," jerked his head beckoning me to follow him, and we went pitter patter up three flights of stairs. When we got to the third floor, he motioned me to stand still, went into a room and came out with a bucket of beer. He filled my can.

He then said something to me which I understood to mean "your can is not large enough." It was "nicht zu fuhl" or something like that. I immediately ran to my room and said to the fellows, "For Heavens sake, give me another can, the biggest one you have got." One of the fellows threw one at me, not knowing what I meant or was about, but in those days questions were not asked, and it was nothing startling to see any particular fellow acting rather strangely. I ran back to the German and he filled this can. I offered to pay him for it and he looked up at me and said, "Nein, nein, kamerad."


We remained at Laon, I believe, about three days. Every night we were there the Allied airplanes came over. We were on the third floor next to the roof of what I suppose had been a large warehouse. As soon as our airplanes were sighted, we were locked and barred in while "Jerry" ran for his dugout. The station was about five hundred yards away. This was the target, and I assure you that every Allied prisoner fervently prayed that our airplanes might not miss the station.

At Laon we were loaded in boxcars. Prisoners had been brought in from the different fronts, and fifty-two of us were packed in one of the small French boxcars marked "36 Hommes" or "8 Chevaux." There was rather a heterogenous crowd in our car; thirty-nine Italian officers, thirteen Americans and a couple German guards. From time to time wounded German soldiers would crawl into our car for the purpose of talking with the Americans. We were in this car for four days and nights. It was too crowded for us all to lie down at the same time. It rained every day and the boxcar roof leaked. I believe it was three times in this journey that the train stopped and we were permitted to buy a bowl of some kind of soup and a piece of bread. We paid for it in French money.

We arrived at Rastatt in the morning about seven o'clock and were taken over to what was a German barracks. Most of the buildings were round, with exceedingly thick walls, covered with earth. The windows were barred as a jail, and the entire barracks surrounded by a high wall excepting where the outside of the buildings ran even with the street. We remained there about five days and met a large number of French officers and some American officers who had been assigned to the British and had been taken prisoners some months before.

It was there that we first learned that we could get in communication with the people at home through the International Red Cross, and that in the course of time the Red Cross would send us parcels of food. From Rastatt we were taken to Karlsrhue, and there placed in what had formerly been a hotel. Anywhere from one to six of us were placed in a room. They refused to allow any windows to be opened either at the top or the bottom; thus we could not secure any fresh air. However, a large padlock on one of the windows had been pushed up, but had not locked. As soon as we were left alone we unlocked the padlock and opened the window. Whenever we would hear the guard rattling with his key at the door we would quickly close the window and put on the lock and close it. Thus we were able to secure a little fresh air. All of us were dirty and lousy. We had no way to bathe or wash our clothes, so we spent the time "cootie hunting."


Much has been said about the German Intelligence Department, and we had been led to believe that the Germans had the finest and most complete intelligence department in the world. I believe that every officer dreaded the time when he would be brought before the department to be quizzed. It was about the first of August, and up to that time we had not had a single question asked us except by the German people along our line-of-march.

One day we were sitting in our room and a guard came in and asked for me. I went out with him, down to the office on the first floor of the building and there was met at the door by a tall German officer immaculately dressed. He bowed almost to the floor and spoke in perfect English, "Captain, I am glad to meet you. I am sorry to meet you under such circumstances and conditions, but it is the war. The war is awfully, awfully bad, do you not think so?"

I replied, "It is bad enough for me at the present time, I can assure you."

"Ah, that is true, but you must remember we cannot give you what we do not have."

The thought flashed in my mind for the first time that I was at last before the German Secret Service. He walked over to the table, and again bowing, he held a chair out for me as a waiter at a hotel would do, and said, "Captain, won't you please have a chair and make yourself as comfortable as possible? There are a few questions that I want to ask you and you can be perfectly free to tell me anything and everything about the war and how you were taken prisoner, and you can rest assured that I will never tell a single soul what you say. Everything that you say will be put away in what you call in your language, the archives, and nobody will ever see them again, so you must have no hesitancy and just tell me everything that I ask you."

I glanced at him just a moment to see whether or not he was joking. I saw that he was very sincere, and so looking as sincere as possible myself, I said, "Certainly, I believe I can trust you. Go ahead and ask me everything you care to ask and I will tell you all I know."


He sat down at the other side of the table, and said, "You are Captain …, in command of Company C, 110th Infantry?"


"You arrived at Calais, France, on the 17th of May, 1918?"

This question almost floored me. He was exactly right, but inasmuch as he had made a statement I did not answer the question, but waited a moment when he looked up and said, "Is that not so?"

"No sir."

"Well, when did you land?"

"I do not remember the date of the month, but it was some time before this."

"Well, where did you land?"

I said, "Boulogne," and was frightened because I was not sure that any ships landed there.

"Did you not come over with your own Division and Company?"

"No sir."

"Who did you come over with?"

"Oh, a lot of troops not assigned to any Division."

"Oh, I see," he replied, and carefully wrote it down.

I was beginning to feel much easier and was ready for any question that he might ask. He then said, "Did you not know these men before?"

"No, I never saw them before."

"Where did you join them?"

"In the front line."

"Where was the rest of your Battalion?"

"I don't know. I never saw them."

"How many ships were in your convoy?"

I said, "Sixty." (There were sixteen.)

"How were you guarded?"

"Do you think that the United States would send over such a large convoy without guarding them to the utmost?"

"Certainly not."

"Well, we were guarded by the entire American Battle Fleet."

As a matter of fact we had one Battle cruiser part of the way across, part of the journey without any protection whatever, and were met out of the Irish Sea by a number of British submarine chasers.

"Did you see any submarines?"

"No, I don't believe you have any. I think it is all a bluff."

"What kind of machine guns did you use?"

"Any kind we could get hold of."

"Do you mean to tell me that the Americans can shoot any kind of a machine gun?"

"I mean to say, that give any American any gun and he will know more about that gun and be able to shoot and handle it in one hour better than any German would in a month."

"Well, what kind of guns did you actually use?"

I told him we had the Lewis, Chauchot, the Vickers and some of the German automatic rifles and machine guns.

"How did you get the ammunition for all these different guns?"

I told him I didn't know, it was brought up to us. He then moved a map over in front of him and said, "How did you go from Boulogne?"

"We marched."

"Where did you stop the first night?"

I looked on his map, picked out a town and put my finger on the name. He looked again and said, "That would be impossible, that is sixty or eighty miles."

"Oh, wait a minute," I said, "I made a mistake."

And then using more care I hunted out some town closer to Boulogne. He then traced my movements to some town where I told him I left the men. From there I told him I was sent by train to a station, the name of which I did not remember, and finally sent up to the line without knowing anything else. He asked me how many Machine Gun Battalions were in our Division.

I replied, "Oh, I don't know."

"I will show you."

He reached down on the desk and pulled out a large pasteboard card, about fourteen inches wide by twenty-four to thirty inches long. It was dirty, showing that it had been printed a long time before and had been in use. On the pasteboard card was printed the complete organization of the American Army showing the Divisions, the number of Infantry, Artillery, Engineer and other units composing the same, with the number of men. When he showed me this, I said, "Why bother asking me questions? You know more about these things than I do."

"Where is your artillery?" he asked.

"Oh there you go again. You know very well where our artillery is."

"I mean your American artillery."

"Do you mean to tell me that you don't know where it is?"

He laughed and said, "Yes, your artillery units have not come across. The French artillery is backing you."

"That is right."


A few days later a lieutenant of the 10th Field Artillery, who had been taken prisoner on July 15th, was brought before him. I have often wondered what he thought of my story after meeting this artillery officer. After rather a long conversation he finally asked me the question, the one that's been asked hundreds of times. I felt I knew this German thoroughly, and had no reason to fear anything at his hands. So when he finally asked the question, "Why are you at war with Germany?" I turned to him and said, "What would be the sense of my attempting to tell you the reason we are at war against Germany?”

“You people cannot understand any nation having ideals,” I continued. “You are all materialists and the only way you can reckon anything is by measuring it in dollars and cents. You shrug your shoulders at the sinking of the Lusitania, and the rape of Belgium was a military necessity, but did you ever stop to think that the balance of the world might possibly be right and that the single nation of Germany might be wrong? No. Your minds do not work along those lines, so that it would be useless for me to attempt to say anything or give you any reason, but since you asked the question, I will tell you the real reason. We are at war with Germany to defeat Germany."

He jumped up from his chair and turning to me said, "Do you think that a nation that has for years withstood practically the entire world, a nation which has given all of its manpower, a nation which has practically starved itself, could be defeated? No. You will win the decision, but you will never defeat us. Of course, you know the last German drive was a failure, thanks to you Americans."

It was the first information of any kind whatever that I had gotten of the result of their attack on July 15th. We had heard rumors that all was not going well at the front for Germany, but that German evidently saw the pleased expression upon my face, and foolishly, instead of waiting, I asked, "How far did you get?"

He replied, "We don't tell prisoners that." Later on he said, "Why do you hate us so?"

"We don't hate you. We pity you."

Then after a conversation which lasted five or ten minutes in which I had told him that unless he were the exception, he would be the first German officer whom I had met who had the slightest conception of the meaning of the work "gentleman." Then proving the assertion made in the first part of this story, that the German is the most gullible man I have ever known, he turned to me and said:

"Captain, I am going to tell you something. I do not want you to tell what I say to you. Of course, it would not matter so much if you did, because if you did, I would say that you were a liar, and they would believe me. But, Captain, I am going to tell you that you are the first American officer who has come before me who had been willing to tell me the truth from beginning to end."

That is my experience with the famous German Intelligence or Secret Service.


From Karlsrhue the officers were taken by train to the prison camp at Villengine, Baden, and on this trip had an experience which will never be forgotten by them, and, I believe, shows the true feeling and spirit of the French officers who had been in the war in the early years. At Offenburg we changed cars and were taken to a small camp and given permission to buy some soup, and there we received our first meat, a piece of bologna.

A trainload of French officers, all of whom had been prisoners for four years and were about to be interned in Switzerland, met us. Some of them had chocolate and different kinds of food, which had been furnished by the French Red Cross. They simply turned their pockets and bags inside out and gave to us, who had just been taken prisoner, the food which they knew we would need so badly. The thoughtfulness and the kindness shown to the Americans by these French officers was one of the bright spots in my experience in Germany.


On arriving at Villengine, we found a camp consisting of a number of low buildings, of barracks, an office, a kitchen, and a sort of assembly room. The entire camp was surrounded by a pair of high, barbed wire fences. A ditch ran between the two fences and barbed wire was stretched along the ditch. On the outside, at intervals of about twenty-five yards was a sentinel box and sentinels day and night walked up and down outside the wires, while at the same time three inner guards patrolled the area within the enclosure.

About twenty-two American officers and a hundred of more Russian officers with fifty to seventy-five non-commissioned Russian officers were in this camp, and it was there that we received our first food of any consequence. We had been about three weeks with practically nothing to eat. The American officers had been in touch with the Red Cross for some time and had saved a quantity of food for incoming American prisoners.

Our treatment there was probably as good as we could expect. We were allowed to take a bath once a week. The Russians had a piano in a small room, which they called the Music Room. Finally we received some athletic equipment, and a few books from the Y.M.C.A. We received a baseball and volleyball with a net, and these things furnished us with a great deal of amusement.

The day's routine began about eight o'clock in the morning. Approximately twenty men were assigned to a barrack. Each barrack had a small kitchen stove in which we burned wood brought from the Germans. The twenty men in the room would divide up into families of four or five and run four or five messes. Taking the canned food furnished us by the Red Cross we would make all kinds of mixtures.

Breakfast was some time prior to nine o'clock. At nine o'clock we had a roll call, and from then on nothing until about six o'clock and then another roll call. By signing a parole card we got permission to take walks, under guard, through the Black Mountains (Swartzwald.) Twelve o'clock noon the Germans served lunch consisting of a thin soup and some kind of vegetable mixture that was hard to eat, and at six o'clock they served supper, which few of us ever attended because we could not eat the stuff.

An incident that might prove of interest and throw some light on the German character occurred in camp. One of the American officers had cut a picture of the sinking of the Lusitania out of some German propaganda. He made a frame for the picture and had it hanging on the back of his wardrobe. A search was made by the Germans for maps, compasses, etc., and this picture was noticed. It was broken by the officer conducting the search. Complaint of this was made to the Lt. Colonel, Commandant of the Camp. The commandant said, "That is not right. I will make him apologize," and he did.

Captain William C. Truxal and Captain Edward R. Taylor
in the German POW Camp at Villengine. Both officers were members of the 110th Infantry Regiment.


All the time the men were in camp they were constantly planning a way to escape. Finally the plans were completed about the middle of October, and thirteen of the men decided to make a try.

The windows of the barracks were covered with heavy iron netting. Wire cutters had been smuggled into camp. In three of the barracks different groups were going to make their getaway by means of cutting the wires and then thrusting out of the window a sort of ladder made from bed slats and pieces of board cut from the Red Cross boxes. Small strips were nailed across the board making a sort of chicken run. These ladders or runs were long enough to reach from the barracks across both fences where they would then jump down to the ground and run.

Electric lights were in the barracks and surrounded the outside and inside of the camp. Those on the outside of the camp and outside of the buildings were kept burning all night. The next part of the plan was to put out, by short circuiting, all the lights in and about the camp and then at a given signal all were to make their escape at once.


About ten o'clock the lights in the barracks were turned out. Five minutes were then to elapse and those selected to put out the lights were to act. As soon as the lights were out their escape was to be made. I was one of those selected to put out the lights. This necessitated a long iron chain to be made.

Someone had gathered together a lot of wire. From this wire they made chains with links about twelve inches long. I took a pair of socks, filled each of them with stones, and tied them carefully with strings and bound one sock on each end of the chain. The reason for this was, first, it would give me something to throw and second, the weight at the other end of the wire would act as a protection, for I thought I might in the excitement throw too far, and thus miss the wire.

All was ready at ten o'clock. Before that time I had taken my chain and hid it in a dark corner where I was going to do my work. The two wires ran around the outside of the fence about twenty feet from the ground. Over these two wires I wanted to throw my chain, so that it would come in contact with both wires. As the lights went out I put on my hat and walked up to the place I had the chain hidden.

A German guard was standing within five steps. He did not suspect anything so I walked right past him, and picked up the one sock filled with stones, took a step back and threw it. As the chain came in contact with the wire it did not short circuit at first and, as the wire swung out and touched the chain, fire flew in all directions.

The Germans yelled "Achtung! Achtung!"

The third time the chain swung the lights over the camp were extinguished. By the time it took me to run back to my barrack, probably fifty steps away, we heard shots fired, and the men were on their way. From all directions we heard the Germans yell and shots fired, and we all simply waited and hoped.


Three of the men, and probably the more spectacular escape, were at the other side of the camp. They had calculated that when the other men made their escape along the one side of the camp, the inside guard would be called out. They would then run down along the side of the camp with the guard and out of the prison.

These three boys dressed themselves like German soldiers. They made wooden guns or something that in the darkness would look like guns. One of the boys could talk German. It worked out according to plan, only the German guard was so slow in getting out that only one of them succeeded. He cut his way through the fence and started down, hoping to meet the guard and run out of the barracks with him.

Unfortunately the first man got there before the guard. Undaunted, he ran on to the gate, with the key to the lock in his hand. He ordered in German in a loud voice, "Open the gate," and the German guard unconsciously pulled the gate open and let him out. He was so far in advance of the other two men that it was impossible for them to proceed further and they had to come back without escaping.

Five out of the thirteen got out of the camp, with three escaping to safety in Switzerland and two re-captured, brought back to camp, and placed in confinement in a cell. After they served their time they were ordered to some dungeon in Berlin. The guard took them away about the first week in November. They got as far as Cassel, where the guard was disarmed by some of the German revolutionists and the men turned loose. They had no money, no food and did not know how to get out of Germany, so they got on a train and came back to prison camp.


As the German situation deteriorated at the front line, censorship of the German Press was gradually lifted and from then on we began to receive, I believe, more information than the people on the other side. We purchased maps from the Germans and traced the progress of the troops. At night when the lights were turned out we would lie on our bunks and sing to the German guards, "Ach due Lieber Hindenburg, Alles gebut."

After the armistice was signed we were given permission to go as we pleased through the city of Villengine, and there met the German people. Their one dread seemed to be that we hated them and did not respect them.

As a whole they looked up to the Americans and envied them. One German officer stated to me that "We are glad we lost the war because we lost the Kaiser. Had we won the war things would be worse than they ever were before, and now we can have peace and our own Government." He laughed very heartily and said, "If we won the war we would have to be in the Army of Occupation and would not get back home for a long time. Now you have to go in the Army of Occupation and you won't get back home for a long while."


On the day before Thanksgiving we were taken out of the prison camp. It was about four o'clock in the morning. Snow was on the ground and it was cold. We were lined up ready to move when the German Commandant came out and made the following address. We listened patiently. At its conclusion there was a moment of silence as if he was awaiting a reply. The only reply was a sharp command "Squads right," and we left the camp. The address was as follows:

"Sooner than you expected, your day of liberation has arrived. In a short time you will be back again with your own dear folks in American and England. Tell them that the German people have no more grievances against them. It does not consider itself as conquered, but as conquering as you can see by the troops coming back from the front; because it has won its own liberty.”

"Now it is your turn to give the German people a just place in the peace terms which will give them the liberty to live quietly and peacefully with the world at large, and which will leave no hate to again disturb the peace of the world. We all hope that you may reach your home safely and find everyone in good health."

“I again request you not to part from Germany with hatred against us, and to influence your people to look upon Germany as it is now, not as it has been judged, perhaps justly, up to the present time. The new Germany has a desire to live at perfect peace with the recent thirty enemies, but in the same manner claims an honorable peace, which will give her the possibility to live as promised by President Wilson. Again, happy returns."

This, I believe, illustrates very clearly the position held by the majority of the German people.

We arrived in Konstanz about noon and remained over Thanksgiving. Here we were taken through the city by guides and shown all the places of interest, and the next day we rode through the mountains of Switzerland to France.

All of our soldiers who were in the trenches and fought in the battles with the Germans had terrible experiences and know that the late war was the most frightful ever waged. Those taken prisoners did not expect mild treatment at the hands of the enemy. Their fears were realized but they were determined to endure their privations and hardships patiently and heroically. Their sympathies were with their comrades who were bravely waging the bloody warfare in the front lines.


Sgt. Raymond P. Cronin - United States Marine Corps
American Expeditionary Force (1917-1918)


"Brookline's Most Decorated Soldier"

Raymond Paul Cronin was born on September 6, 1893, the son of John W. and Edna A. Cronin of 1503 Berkshire Avenue. The Cronin family was part of the initial wave of new homeowners in the up-and-coming community of Brookline. They were also some of the original members of Resurrection Parish. In March 1917, Raymond had recently returned home after a four-year enlistment as a United States Marine and was an employee of the Postal Service.

On April 6, 1917, the United States of America declared war on the Empire of Germany and entered into the global conflict that had been raging abroad for the past three years. Two days later, while many of Brookline’s young men were joining the call to arms, twenty-three year old Raymond re-enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. On April 28th he was assigned to the USS New Hampshire, based in Norfolk, Virginia, and promoted to Corporal.

The Secretary of War made a formal request to President Woodrow Wilson that a regiment of Marines be included in the first contingent of troops sent to France. On May 27, the President directed the Secretary of the Navy "to issue the necessary orders detaching for service with the Army a force of Marines to be known as the Fifth Regiment of Marines."

Marine 1st Battalion 5th Regiment Patch

This unit was rapidly organized in Quantico, Virginia with Marines stationed in the U.S., Cuba, Santo Domingo, Haiti, and from various shipboard detachments. Added to this contingent of veteran soldiers was a liberal amount of raw recruits necessary to bring the regiment up to strength. Among the veteran Marines was Cpl. Raymond Cronin, who was assigned to the 49th Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment (1/5).


The 1st Battalion arrived in Philadelphia on June 11 and boarded the USS DeKalb, a former German mail ship once called Prinz Eitel Friedrich that was interned in 1915. The DeKalb embarked for New York Harbor the following day. When the DeKalb arrived outside New York, it anchored next to the Statue of Liberty.

Two days later, a convoy of ships set sail for St. Nazaire, France. During the two-week voyage, Cpl. Cronin was kept busy with compulsory shipboard drills, guard mount, frequent inspections, target practice, maintenance of clothing and equipment, lookout duties and details as a gun crew member.

USS DeKalb in Philadelphia Harbor - June 12, 1917
Marines boarding The USS DeKalb, on June 12, 1917. The ship set sail that day from Philadelphia harbor.

The trip across the Atlantic was accomplished without loss of life from enemy causes, despite a pair of encounters with German U-Boats. The 1st Battalion arrived at St. Nazaire in western France on June 26. President Wilson directed that the 5th Marine Regiment was to serve as part of an Army force, and the regiment was assigned to the U.S. 1st Division.

Cpl. Cronin’s battalion disembarked with little fanfare on the same day and marched five miles to the western outskirts of the city, to a British campground known as Base Camp #1. This was to be their home for the next couple of weeks. The Marines primarily busied themselves with marches and close order drills, sometimes marching back to the docks to spend time unloading ships.

Marines at Base Camp #1 - July 1917
U.S. Marines at Base Camp #1 in early-July 1917.


On July 15, the regiment moved to the vicinity of Gondrecourt in eastern France for its initial training as a part of the U.S. 1st Division. On the 21st, units of the 6th Groupe de Chasseurs Alpines, considered by the French to be among the finest units in their Army, were assigned as instructors for the regiment.

Instruction centered around the various phases of offensive and defensive trench warfare, including trench construction, grenade throwing, bayonet fighting, gas mask drill, weapons firing at land targets and airplanes, artillery and artillery-infantry demonstrations.

During this time they were visited by many military dignitaries, including General Pershing, Commanding General of the American Expeditionary Force, the U.S. 1st Division Commander, and General Philippe Petain, the Commander-in-Chief of all French Forces.

In September 1917, the 5th Regiment was reassigned to serve with the U.S. 2nd Division and moved south twenty-two miles to Bourmont. A month later, the regiment became part of the 4th Brigade of United States Marines, one of the two infantry brigades in the 2nd Division. In December, regimental maneuvers were conducted after the battalions had been trained in the relief of units in trenches and had held joint maneuvers with French troops.

It was during the early days of 1918 that Cpl. Raymond Cronin distinguished himself as a fine soldier and a competent leader. On February 12, he was promoted to Sergeant and assigned as one of the Section Leaders in the 49th Company.

On March 8, the 2nd Division was ordered to the front. They entered the frontline trenches in the Toulon Sector. Initially the 5th Regiment occupied the trenches centered near Les Esparges, in a quiet area twelve miles southeast of Verdun. In these areas Marines put to use against a live enemy the lessons they had learned in Bourmont against a simulated or an imaginary foe.

The procedure each regiment used was to have one battalion enter the trenches, opposite the German lines, remain for a specified time, then take relief from one of the two reserve battalions. Reserve troops, meanwhile, kept busy improving and repairing existing trenches and dugouts, digging new trenches, and stringing and repairing barbed wire entanglements.

Although some units in the division saw real action against the Germans, for Sgt. Raymond Cronin and the 49th Company, things were much quieter. They saw no enemy contact while in the trenches, and only sporadic shelling. In their area, the German trenches were quite distant, so far that they were difficult to see, even with field glasses.

U.S. Marines gather in French town
U.S. Marines gathered in a French town during training exercises in May 1918.

The 5th Regiment departed the Toulon Sector in mid-May, and proceeded to the Gizors training area, thirty-eight miles northwest of Paris. Here, the regiment engaged in ten days of open warfare training under the most hospitable conditions. The terrain was adequate, the surroundings beautiful, the weather enjoyable, liberty was available, and their spirits were high. Things would change dramatically very soon.


In March 1918, with nearly fifty additional divisions freed by the Russian surrender on the Eastern Front, the Imperial German Army launched a series of large-scale offensives (The Spring Offensive of 1918) along the Western Front, hoping to decisively defeat the Allies before the U.S. forces could be fully deployed. It began with the Somme Offensive on March 21, then the Lys Offensive on April 9. Both offensives gained ground in ways that threatened to break the back of the English defenses.

While the English struggled to meet the demands of these two breakthroughs, the Germans launched the Aisne Offensive on May 27. This third offensive, launched against the war-weary French between Soissons and Reims saw the Germans quickly reach the north bank of the Marne River at Château-Thierry, only forty miles northeast of Paris. The pivotal engagements that followed are often referred to as the Second Battle of the Marne.

The enemy advance was held at Château-Thierry and the Germans turned right towards Vaux and Belleau Wood. The situation had become desperate. The French and English commands were stretched to the breaking point. It was feared that if the Germans captured Paris then the French troops would lay down their arms and the entire western front could collapse.

Because of this, the sense of urgency was keen among both the attacking Germans and the defending French. It appeared that the climactic moment in the four year Great War was at hand, and it might take a miracle to save the day. That miracle would come in the form of the United States Marine Corps Leatherneck.


Suddenly, on May 30, the 2nd Division, now assigned to the French XXI Corps, French Sixth Army, received orders for movement eastward to stem the flow of onrushing Germans. What was supposed to be a day of rest in observance of the United States Decoration Day (Memorial Day) for the Americans quickly became one of frenzied activity.

Artillery, horses and supplies were jammed into railroad cars, then the Marines of Sgt. Cronin’s 49th Company ate a healthy breakfast, their last hot meal for several days. At 06:00 they left the Gizors area in trucks loaded with 18 to 24 men each, destined for the front lines. The ride was bumpy and uncomfortable.

Allied truck convoy in World War 1
A convoy of trucks carrying soldiers to the front line.

As part of a sixteen mile long convoy of trucks, the 49th Company rode for thirty hours to reach its destination. Along the way the company passed through several quaint villages where the locals waved enthusiastically and threw flowers into the trucks.

Retreating Allied soldiers and fleeing civilians choked the suburban Paris roads on which the convoy passed. After reaching Meaux, twenty-five miles northeast of Paris, the regiment continued on foot. Marching was made most difficult by the heavy loads on the backs of the Marines, the long grades over the dusty roads, the intolerably hot weather, and the sight of the physically tired and visibly dejected French soldiers who were in general retreat.

As the Marines came closer to the battle front, the sounds of war became louder and louder. The steady drum beat of the distant artillery was a constant reminder of what lie ahead. Every so often they would hear a thunderous boom. There was also a dirty haze visible on the horizon from the rising plumes of smoke.

Another interesting sight was occurring overhead in the form of the bright multi-colored planes of the German Air Force, all adorned with the Black Cross on their fuselage. Most were bi-planes and a few were tri-planes. Once commanded by the late-Baron von Richtofen, the "Flying Circus" had almost free reign in the skies over the battlefield due to the lack of Allied planes in this sector of the front.


On June 1, Chateau-Thierry and Vaux fell, and German troops moved into Belleau Wood. The U.S. 2nd Division, with the 4th Brigade of U.S. Marines, was brought up along the Paris-Metz highway. The 9th U.S. Army Infantry Regiment was placed between the highway and the Marne, while the 6th Marine Regiment was deployed to their left. The 5th Marine and 23rd U.S. Army Infantry regiments were placed in reserve.

U.S. Marines stand in review before the battle.
Sergeants saluting, U.S Marines stand in review alongside French soldiers before moving to the front lines.

Before dawn on June 2, the 1st Battalion was ordered to the front to assist the French in holding back the enemy and covering the withdrawal of French units still engaged. They began a six mile hike northwest through several eerily deserted villages, ending at the small town of Bois de Veuilly. Finally, in the early daylight they filled a gap in the French line and began taking selected aimed shots at the enemy.

When the sun set that evening, the American forces held a twelve mile front line north of the Paris-Metz Highway, running through grain fields and scattered woods, from Triangle Farm west to Lucy and then north to Hill 142. The German line opposite them ran from Vaux to Bouresches to Belleau.

German stormtroopers filter into Belleau Wood
German stormtroopers filter into the area around Belleau Wood in early-June 1918.

The Germans were unaware that the Americans had entered the fight and were perplexed as to how their men were being shot and killed up to 800 yards from the front. This was unlike anything they had ever witnessed from the French snipers. By mid-afternoon, the 49th Company and the rest of the 1st Battalion were called back into reserve.

By the next morning, the last of the withdrawing French elements had passed through the Marine lines. Fortunately for the Allies, the German advance had been so swift that their support artillery, food and ammunition trains were lagging far behind the front line troops. They needed to regroup for the final thrust on Paris. Despite these logistical difficulties, the veteran vanguard units were ordered to continue probing forward against the weak and demoralized French defenders.


In the afternoon of June 3, expecting token French resistance, the elite stormtroopers of the Prussian Guard attacked through the grain fields with bayonets fixed. The Marine riflemen waited until the Germans were within 100 yards before opening a deadly hail of accurate fire which mowed down several waves of German infantry and forced the survivors to retreat into the woods.

Having suffered heavy casualties, shocked by the unexpected presence of the American forces, and in overall need of reorganization, the Germans halted their drive on June 4 and dug in along a defensive perimeter from that extended from Hill 204, just east of Vaux, to Le Thiolet on the Paris-Metz Highway and northward through Belleau Wood to Torcy.

On June 5, Sgt. Cronin and the 49th Company found themselves in thick woods on an elevated ridge known as Hill 176. From this vantage point they could look down upon the enemy activity along Hill 142. The dug-in Germans continued mounting brief probing activities and pounded the Allied positions with long-range high explosive artillery. Called "sea bags," the sound of these approaching nine-inch shells tested the nerves of even the most hardened Marine.

With the rolling kitchens stationed five miles to the rear, the men of the 49th Company had eaten little but bread and hard-tack bacon for several days. The lack of food and incessant artillery were causing extreme agitation. Sgt. Cronin and his fellow Marines were itching for a fight, and that is exactly what they got.


The French Sixth Army command ordered the XXI Corps to make two attacks on June 6. The first, in which the 5th Regiment's 2nd Battalion took part, was intended to straighten the corps front. The second was planned to reduce the German salient, which now extended to Hill 142, Bois de Belleau (Belleau Wood), and the town of Bouresches.

Map of Belleau Wood battle plan - June 6, 1918

The 1st Battalion 5th Regiment was assigned to clear Hill 142 of Germans and then join a coordinated thrust towards the town of Torcy. The other regiments of the 2nd Division were to advance through Belleau Wood and Bouresches. The die was cast, and soon Sgt. Raymond P. Cronin of the 49th Company were about to enter into one of the United States Marine Corps' most famous fights.

Facing the Marines in Belleau Wood and the surrounding area were some of the best fighting units Germany had to offer. These highly respected and proven warriors maintained professional pride and instilled fear in anyone who opposed them. Defending Hill 142 were the German 273rd and 460th Regiments, with the 192nd and 193rd Regiments in reserve.

The 1st Battalion attack was to be launched at 03:45am on June 6, 1918. Captain George W. Hamilton, commander of the 49th Company, woke his men early to ready them for battle. Sgt. Cronin and the men were apprised of the plan and instructed to secure their lighter twenty-pound combat packs, check their rifles, fix bayonets, add an extra bandolier of ammunition, and get their minds straight.

To their front, the scattered wheat of early summer was roughly thigh high, lush green and intermingled with occasional clusters of blood-red poppies. Beyond the expanse of open territory were elevated dense woods with many conifer trees that had been well-maintained with selective cutting. There was very little distance between each tree, and one could see only about fifteen to twenty feet ahead.

Terrain around Belleau Wood
The terrain around Belleau Wood was open wheatfields and dense thickets of trees.

Around these woods were many thickets, hollows and underbrush, as well as boulders and woodpiles that provided perfect places to hide machine gun nests. This was the terrain that awaited the men of the 49th Company as they moved against the German’s well-prepared defensive positions.


At shortly after 3 a.m. on June 6th, Marines of the 49th and 67th Companies, both of the 1st Battalion, lay hidden in position on either side of Hill 142 southwest of Belleau Wood. According to the original plan, two additional companies, the 17th and 66th, should have been in position to join the assault, but these units had not yet been relieved by the French and were still deployed near Les Mares Farm.

The assault was also to have been supported by barrage fire from two companies of artillery and the 6th Machine Gun Battalion. However, the majority of these units were also tied up elsewhere, awaiting relief from the French. This meant that the two infantry companies of the 1st Battalion were supported by just ten field guns of 15th Company dug in behind them, between Champillon and Bois St. Martin.

At the designated time, there were a few moments of light artillery fire in advance of the jump-off, which was not very effective other than causing a commotion. When H-hour came, the Marines were to have a French unit to their left in support, but they also were not in position. At 03:50, without proper artillery or machine gun support, and missing the French units to their left, the 49th Company began their assault, as ordered, on Hill 142.

The plan was for the men to set off in ranked straight line formation across the wheat field towards a ravine and wooded tree line, as in military battles of old. The line formation in waves was used in the Civil War and recently taught to a limited degree by the French Chasseurs. The German defenders, used to facing weary French units, did not expect a determined assault, especially by U.S. Marines eager for a fight. It did not take long for this shock to wear off. The Germans soon let loose a deadly hail of machine gun fire.


Platoon leaders like Sgt. Raymond Cronin, wearing their Sam Browne belts, were leading the way. This prominent identification along with their forward movement was a special target for German snipers, as well as the machine-gunners, therefore they were often the first to fall as casualties. The advancing men hit the ground and hugged the earth. The Germans aimed their gun barrels low. The men could feel their backpacks being hit with bullets.

German Machine Gun Nest
German machine gun nests brought a hail of fire onto the advancing Marines.

German machine guns were everywhere. They were positioned in trees, behind boulders and woodpiles, and in trenches. Their deadly fire was tearing into the Marines. With men being shot and killed all around him, 49th Company Commander, Captain Hamilton, rose and began running through the field, encouraging each of his men to get up and make a dash for the wooded objective.

The Marines had not equipped themselves with mortars and grenades for this mission, and their best chance for survival was in the woods. Their mad rush caught the German defenders by surprise. When the Marines made contact with the enemy there appeared to be mass confusion. However, in reality, this is what the Marines had been prepared for.

Painting of Belleau Wood Battle
U.S. Marines and German troops engage in close combat during the Battle of Belleau Wood.

Undeterred by the deadly fire, the Marines close-combat skills shocked even the battle-hardened Germans. A few enemy leaped to their feet and ran. Those that did were usually fired upon and killed. Some manned their machine guns until overcome by the Marines. Others instantly surrendered, shouting “Kamarad!”


This was the type of rugged combat where natural instincts and the survival of the fittest mentality took control of the fight. It was every man for himself, kill or be killed. The Marines continuous charge, audacity and fierce determination under such horrific conditions, gave the Germans reason to call them “Teufel Hunden,” translated to “Devil Dog.” One personal letter that was later retrieved from the corpse of a German soldier, said, “These Americans are savages. They kill everything that moves.”

Sgt. Cronin and the men of the 49th Company performed admirably in the woods. Once the area was in control, it was time to pursuing their next objective. They now had to venture out of the trees and into the open again to close on the wooded Hill 142. Again the Marines rushed through the open field. Three German machine gun companies (the 9th, 10th, and 11th Companies of the 460th Regiment) and infantry awaited the onrushing Americans.

Painting of Belleau Wood Battle
U.S. Marines rout the German defenders around Belleau Wood, earning the nickname "Devil Dogs."

As before, the German defenders were overwhelmed and routed, but at a horrendous cost in life and limb. With the main objective now in hand, the remaining men of the 49th Company, including Sgt. Cronin, continued their advance to the outskirts of Torcy. Captain Hamilton, still leading from the front, soon realized that adrenaline had taken them too far. He ordered his Marines to fall back to the hill to regroup and establish a defensive position in expectation of a German counterattack.

Still suffering from a deadly stream of German defensive fire, Captain Hamilton organized the remaining men of the two attacking Marine companies. Uncertain of where the supporting French units were to his left, he sent out parties who attempted to establish contact.

Two of these brave men that set out under heavy fire to establish liaison with the nearby French units were Sgt. Raymond P. Cronin and Sgt. Arthur F. Ware. Both of these soldiers, who had up to now survived some of the most hellish wartime conditions, were shot dead attempting to make contact with their allies. They were among the 333 killed, wounded, and missing during the day’s battle for Hill 142.

The Germans launched five counterattacks against the Marine positions on Hill 142. Each was repulsed. After each attack, the Marines resumed digging in and awaiting further orders. Without word from Sgt. Cronin or Sgt. Ware on the whereabouts of the French units, Captain Hamilton spent that evening most concerned about his left flank. Luckily, the Germans were also suffering symptoms of nervousness. They drew back into their own hastily prepared defensive positions to await another mad rush from the American Devil Dogs.


When the day of June 6, 1918 was over, Hill 142 had been secured to a degree, and the Marines had established a firm foothold in Belleau Wood. The casualty count (including all engagements around Bois de Belleau), consisting of both wounded and killed was 31 officers and 1,056 men for a total of 1,087. This figure was more than the sum total of all Marine casualties over their past 143-year history.

Despite all the tragic details there was good news in that the Marines, in true fashion, had carried the day. Their message was clear to the Germans, and the news reverberated back home to America, and also east to Germany. The Marines had earned a measure of respect from both friend and foe. Much of the credit for the day’s success was owed to the basic training, grit and aggressiveness of each Marine Leatherneck and his Springfield rifle.

The Germans may have lost control of the elevated ridge, but they were not about to retreat or give up the thought of retaking the Hill 142. It would take several more days of action before the hill was finally secured. Claiming ultimate control of the Belleau Wood territory was a separate issue.

Devil Dogs and French Poilus at Belleau Wood
U.S. Marine "Devil Dogs" and French Poilus at the Battle of Belleau Wood.

Over the next twenty days the battle for possession of the entire Belleau Wood landscape was ceded back and forth several times. During this time, men from other battalions and companies within the Marine Brigade performed admirably. Even so, German long-range artillery persisted in harassing the Marines and the free-roaming planes of the “Flying Circus” continually dropped bombs at the worst possible moments.

On the morning of June 26, after repulsing a few final half-hearted German thrusts at their lines, the Marines succeeded in pushing the enemy from the area. For nearly a month, the leathernecks had fought a tenacious foe and, when the guns fell silent, had prevailed.

For the Americans, the cost to capture Belleau Wood was terrible. Casualties totaled 9,777, including 1,811 killed. Of that, the Marines suffered 4,298 dead, wounded or missing. Many of the dead are buried in the nearby Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. No accurate count of German fatalities was ever made. For the Community of Brookline, the count was one dead: Devil Dog Sergeant Raymond P. Cronin.

Raymond P. Cronin


Ecstatic that their capital had been saved from the Germans, the French High Command lauded the Marines with numerous awards and accolades. Belleau Wood itself was given the sobriquet Bois de la Brigade de Marine, or “Wood of the Marine Brigade.”

American commanders were also eager to award the valiant Marines who suffered and sacrificed so much. One of those recipients was Brookline’s Sgt. Raymond P. Cronin, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross and the Silver Star Citation (the second - Army, second - Navy and third highest medals awarded in the U.S. Armed Forces).

Generals Petain and Pershing in 1923
Generals Petain and Pershing at the dedication of a
war memorial near Belleau Wood in 1923.

Five years later, a monument was dedicated to the fallen near the battle site. The commander of the Marine Brigade, Army General James Harbord, spoke at the event. “Now and then, a veteran will come here to live again the brave days of that distant June,” he said. “Here will be raised the altars of patriotism; here will be renewed the vows of sacrifice and consecration to country. Hither will come our countrymen in hours of depression, and even of failure, and take new courage from this shrine of great deeds.”

General Pershing, Commanding General of the American Expeditionary Forces, referring to the events of June 1918, said, "The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle." Pershing also said "the Battle of Belleau Wood was for the United States the biggest battle since Appomattox and the most considerable engagement American troops had ever had with a foreign enemy."

Devil Dog Recruiting Poster

As for the Marines being called “Teufel Hunden” by the defending Germans; since the term is not commonly known in contemporary German, the more accurate German term would be "Höllenhunde" which means "hellhound." For the Americans who lived through the hell of the Battle of Belleau Wood, the term “Devil Dogs” would do just fine. The term was used for many years on recruiting posters and, to this day, is a common phrase used to describe a member of the United States Marine Corps.


When the initial rush of enlistments happened back in April 1917, another Brookline boy who joined the United States Marine Corps was Guido C. Boecking, an acquaitance of Raymond Cronin who lived at 1007 Brookline Boulevard. Guido was assigned to the 43rd Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

Guido's and Raymond's paths through France were nearly identical, and both ended up facing the Germans in the Battle of Belleau Wood. While Raymond lost his life in the Battle for Hill 142, Guido was wounded in the fight for the Bouresches and the main woods.

While in the hospital, Guido learned of Raymond's death and wrote home to his parents. It was the Boeckings who first informed the Cronins of their son's death. Raymond's father immediately cabled Major General Barnett in Washington, who in turn cabled General Pershing's headquarters.

The return message from France, received by the Cronins on August 15, 1918, confirmed that Raymond was killed in action. Two weeks later Sgt. Raymond P. Cronin's name appeared in the casualty list published daily by the Pittsburgh Press.

Marine Pfc. Guido C. Boecking survived went on to participate in the Battle of Soisson and the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. The 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment participated in the post-war occupation of Germany and returned to the United States in August 1919.


After a brief interment in France, the remains of Sergeant Raymond P. Cronin were returned to his family in Brookline. The highly decorated war hero was afforded a Military Funeral at his parent’s home at 1503 Berkshire Avenue and a blessing by Father Quinn at Resurrection Church on September 4, 1918. Raymond was buried at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, located at 45th Street and Penn Avenue in Central Lawrenceville.

Based on the medals that Sgt. Cronin received for his heroism at the Battle of Belleau Wood, he is officially the most decorated soldier in the Community of Brookline.

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The text of Sgt. Raymond P. Cronin’s Distinguished Service Cross citation:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Sergeant Raymond P. Cronin (MCSN: 81742), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving with the Forty-Ninth Company, Fifth Regiment (Marines), 2d Division, A.E.F., in action near Chateau-Thierry, France, 6 June 1918. Under heavy machine-gun fire, Sergeant Cronin attempted to establish liaison with an adjoining French unit, during which he was killed. War Department General Orders No. 101 (1918).

Distinguished Service Cross

Navy Cross

Silver Star Citation

Marine Expeditionary Medal

Purple Heart Medal

Expert Rifleman Award

United States Army (1775-present)  United States Army Air Services (1917-1947)  United States Navy (1775-present)  United States Marine Corps (1775-present)
United States Coast Guard (1790-present)  United States Merchant Marine (1775-present)

Sources And References

(December 29, 1918 through July 20, 1919)

December 29, 1918

December 29, 1918

January 5, 1919

January 5, 1919

January 12, 1919

January 19, 1919

January 26, 1919

February 2, 1919

February 9, 1919

February 16, 1919

February 23, 1919

March 2, 1919

March 9, 1919

March 16, 1919

March 23, 1919

March 30, 1919

April 6, 1919

April 13, 1919

April 20, 1919

April 27, 1919

May 4, 1919

May 11, 1919

May 18, 1919

May 25, 1919

June 1, 1919

June 8, 1919

June 15, 1919

June 22, 1919

June 29, 1919

July 6, 1919

July 13, 1919


July 20, 1919

The copies of the Pittsburgh Press used to create this page were found at the Google News Archive. There were four missing editions: May 4, 1919, May 11, 1919, July 6, 1919 and July 13, 1919. These editions were later found at Newspapers.Com. The information on Red Cross Nurse Helen Burrey, of University of Pittsburgh Base Hospital #27, was found at My Mother's War - Mementos of WWI. The information on Captain William Truxal was found in the book "History of the 110th Infantry (10th PA) of the 28th Division (1917-1919)". Other sources include,, and Google image searches. The image below shows the WWI Memorial in Washington D.C.

WW1 Memorial - Washington D.C.

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