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Going and Coming
Going and Coming
By ELMER H. CURTISS
Formerly of Company K, 161st Infantry, Sunset Division
Company H, 102nd Infantry, Yankee Division
Copyright Applied for September 25, 1920, by
ELMER H. CURTISS
F. A. STUART <i^^ THE PRINTER
PALO ALTO. CALIFORNIA
ELMER H. CURTISS
Formerly of Company K, 161st Infantry, Sunset Division
and Company H, 102nd Infantry, Yankee Division
Going and Coming as a Doughboy
;ITH a suitcase well packed with things I expected to
need on the journey I left San Francisco for Kaiser
Bill's dugout November 3, 1917. I stepped off the
train at Camp Lewis exactly three days later. We
spent that day answering to roll call, getting a
physical examination, assignment to quarters, lis-
tening to instructions on army life, standing in line to get our
equipment, and sending our civilian clothes home.
We were called out at 5 : 45"^ the nexH morning for our first
reveille, and lined up for exercise aV 5 :30. The morning was
bitter cold. After breakfast we drilled for four hours. We
hiked three miles after dinner to get a thorough physical exami-
nation and our first typhoid innoculation. My arm was very
sore, and two men fainted near me. Out of 40,000 men in the camp
700 of us were picked to start to Camp Mills the next afteroon.
As our sixteen-car train passed through Seattle we shook
hands with hundreds of pretty girls who swarmed along the
sides of the train. We took a run in Spokane the next morning.
At Troy, Montana, the people turned out with fruit and candy.
Minot, North Dakota, met us at 11 o'clock at night with hot
coffee and a regular banquet, anything almost that we wanted.
We paraded in Minneapolis for the exercise. This stunt was
repeated at St. Thomas, Ontario, and at Niagara Falls, where
we crossed over to the American side.
At Camp Mills I was assigned to Co. K, 161 Infantry, made
up mostly of the Washington National Guard. My first task
was carrying wood for the kitchen. This work was interrupted
frequently by drill calls, various shots in the arm, or some kind
of an inspection. Our quarters were squad tents. The assign-
ments of ten men to a tent made moving around difficult.
In the morning we were given only five minutes to dress in the
bitter cold. We were immediately given some vigorous exer-
cise which would warm us a little. We then went to the mess
kitchen, drew our rations and ate them out in the open in front
of our tents. We were taught not to throw anything: away, and
encouraged to obey this rule by the guard posted over the
An officer told us all about the advantages of War Risk In-
surance and I took the limit, $10,000, which cost me $6.70 a
month. I received my second shot in the arm immediately after
signing for my insurance.
We received rifles and ten rounds of ammunition November
22. That day I walked three miles to a hotel and got a bath.
There was no charge for soldiers who furnished their own soap
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
and towel. I washed out a pair of sox and hung them under
my bed to dry. They were frozen the next morning. After
that I got up every morning at 2:30 and started a fire to keep
I spent Thanksgiving in New York. My ticket cost me $1.20.
That left me 30c for candy. The next day we hiked 15 miles,
carrying our rifles. It was chow time when we got back and
we lost no time scampering to the mess hall. The next day we
practised squad and platoon drill in our company street. A
large blister on my left heel kept me wide awake all the time.
At night we usually chipped in and bought a pie or two and
sat around swapping yarns. One night a sailor who had just re-
turned on a ship which had carried officers to Engrland spent
the night in our tent.
My squad was on fatigue in December. We did all kinds of
work around camp, including K. P. The marking of our cloth-
ing at this time led us to believe we would be leaving shortly.
We worked for several days on a large ditch to carrv off storm
When the wood supply in our tent was exhausted we organ-
ized a foraging party and came back loaded in no time. Then
we made a fire that would have warmed up the DeVil himself.
I received my 4th shot in the arm early in December. The
Q.M. was busy boxing all supplies and material on hand. I be-
gan breaking in my trench shoes, and my sox, which were
about a quarter of an inch thick, never kept my feet warm.
One of the boys in my tent was sick, and we were out under
quarantine. The doctor never even came to see the fellow to see
what was the matter. That night I washed a suit of underwear
and dried it in front of the stove. We sat around the next day
raising Cain, picking dust out of the air, and waiting for Saw-
bones to inspect us.
I had an awful appetite the next day. I made seconds on the
stew, hot prunes, and coffee, and put away 7 slices of bread.
Snow the next day was followed by rain and a young cyclone
which kept all hands holding the tent down. There was a bread
shortage the next day, and we bought a 15 cent loaf for the
December llth we packed everything in our barracks bags and
shipped them ahead. We emptied the straw out of our ticks,
turned in our cots, and had nothing to sleep on for two nights.
We stood in line four hours on the dock in Hoboken before we
were checked off and allowed to board the "President Lincoln/*
which was a former Boche freighter taken over by the govern-
ment and converted into a transport.
After we had found our bunks on the third deck I managed to
get a few lines started to the home folks by way of the tug which
drew up alongside after we left the harbor. After lying at
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
anchor for two days we started across via the long southern route
in order to avoid submarines and icebergs. I was glad to get
my feet on solid ground again after eighteen days at sea and
two more at anchor outside of Brest.
We were taken off in lighters and marched immediately to
the train. Here we had our first glimpse of German prisoners
of war loading coal under guard. At first glance the French
freight cars seemed about the size of a match box and capable
of holding about a dozen men, but by the time they called our
car loaded there were forty-two of us packed into the car like
It was the last day of the old year. We feasted on corned
Willy and trench pastry, called hard tack in the history books.
Sleep was out of the question. We swapped yarns instead of
throwing confetti and blowing horns as we stood there in the
swaying car, so close that when one man moved the whole
Our first stop was for two days. We were lucky enough to
get a little straw on which to spread our blankets out under the
stars. Then we were shipped on to Mehon where we unloaded
our packs. My squad was detailed to handle the supplies. We
were glad, for it saved us a long hike and we were very tired.
As we rode along that five miles of ice-covered road I thought
the truck would skid off the road every minute.
The coffee served to us by the French was stronger than Atlas
with no sugar nor milk.
January 12th it rained all night, melting the snow, and the
next morning we started building railroads. The hardest part
of this work was lifting the steel rails and ties soaked in water.
I received my first pay January 25th, amounting to 264 francs.
I started 200 francs for home in the first mail. The Y. M. C. A.
had just completed a splendid building containing a stage, pool
tables, reading and writing tables, best of all a canteen where
we could buy a number of articles.
January 29th I received a package from home containing some
oil of wintergreen which helped a cold I had been unable to
break up. We had to get up at 5 :45 and be out at 6 for fifteen
minutes exercise. By this time we had finished our mess hall
and no longer had to eat out in the open where we were always
February 6th a man was discovered in my company who had
been sent over by mistake. It seems that he had a wife and one
child dependent upon him for support.
We had a hard time getting used to French time. 1 p.m. with
them is 13 o'clock, 2 p. m. 14 o'clock, etc.
February 9th I received a box containing fruit cake, peanut
candy, nigger toes, and a pair of gloves from my father. I
managed to get a pass to town Sunday. Joan of Arc lived there
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
at Mehon for some time, part of the time in a large tower 200
feet high. We paid the woman at the entrance 15 sous and were
permitted to climb to the top of the tower from which we
could see the level country stretching away for miles on every
side. We could see one of the numerous French freight canals
running through the village.
We visited the dungeon where political prisoners were kept,
and then went over to a very beautiful church. We could not
see much of the church, as services were being held just then,
so we left in a few minutes and went to a French cafe, where we
ordered eggs, potatoes, bread, butter, and wine.
Our next stop was at a photograph shop, where we went
through the agony of posing for a picture. The price was 8
francs for a dozen to be finished within a week.
After the railroad was completed we built three warehouses
for storing ammunition, 1000 feet long and 100 feet wide. My
company unloaded a string of forty cars in one night. Each car
contained an average of 140 boxes of French 75 shells, six to a
box. These were used principally in shooting at aeroplanes or
for barrages in small attacks. We had to work fast to keep
February 21st I was paid 64 francs, and I sent some more
money home. I was doing guard duty at the warehouses, four
hours on and eight off. We had to walk two miles to get to
our posts. It took me fifteen minutes to make the rounds.
When relieved we spent our time sleeping or talking. There
were five of us together, so we did not get lonesome.
One day I was put on what we called the "Cossack Post." We
had a tent full of dynamite and blasting powder for the en-
gineers. It was placed out in a large open field. We had to
walk around and around this tent all night, with fixed bayonets.
I solved the problem by getting a box on which I could sit
down when I got tired. I placed it where I could spot any
one immediately who tried to sneak up on me.
I received my photos February 28th. Gas masks had just
been issued to us, and we certainly looked like monkeys. -I
thought for a while that the weight of my steel derby would
dislocate my neck.
When orders came for us to move we packed up our belong-
ings and boarded a train of third class coaches, eight men to a
compartment. The train stopped at the first village, where I
gave a Frenchman ten francs to get us some nuts. He came
back with about a bushel, which soon disappeared.
After a long ride we were unloaded and drilled a while in a
large field. Few of us had any idea what was coming, as the
officers would not tell us anything. Two days travel landed
us at Men La Tour, the supply base for the Toul front, about
eight miles back of the lines.
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
We could hear the roar of the guns and we could also see an
occasional flash on Mont Sec where the French lost 35,000 men
in half an hour trying to hold the death trap after they captured
it from the Germans. We had men up in observation balloons
so high that they could see everything that was going on and
could direct our artillery fire. Now and then they were at-
tacked by Boche planes. If the Boche got close enough under
cover of a cloud to set fire to the balloon the observer had to
come down in a parachute.
After a hike along a muddy road we found our quarters in
the woods about nightfall. We piled our packs and rifles on
the mud and unloaded our supplies which had to be carried a
considerable distance to our mess kitchen. Every one helped,
and the job was soon finished. We had the time of our lives
trying to locate our packs in the darkness as no lights were
allowed. The barracks which were to be ours for a few days
were not yet completed and were also filled with snow. I found
a thick coating of ice on my bunk, but I was so tired that I had
no trouble sleeping until the bugler got started at 5.45.
It took us two days to finish the roofs on the barracks and
install some stoves which warmed them a little. The mud,
however, remained very much the same. Our shoes frequently
sank to the tops.
The Germans sent enough shells over to keep us on the watch
for gas. While on guard we had to be especially watchful, chal-
lenging every one. When the gas alarm sounded we were to
run through the barracks and give the alarm. One morning
while I was sleeping the guard gave the alarm and we had to
wear our masks for two and one half hours before we could
take them off. The gas sergeant went back and forth and nab-
bed any one who took off his mask. The punishment was walk-
ing around wearing our masks three or four hours the next day
under guard, so we kept them on as ordered.
My company was put at work digging trenches six feet deep
for telephone cables. Overhead or surface lines were not a
success, as even the concussion of the bursting shells seemed
to cut the wires. We usually laid four one inch cables in each
trench. We passed through several villages, until we reached
Beaumont. We had been under shell fire every day, and it was
particularly intense here, where they gave us gas every night,
and we kept our masks at alert all the time. After the slightest
warning of the gas guard we would all be masked in six seconds.
A Klaxon horn which could be heard for miles was the gas
alarm most popular with us. The French sometimes used
church bells. One Chinaman in my company had such a broad
flat nose that the nose clip on the American mask would not
fit. He used a French mask which slipped over his whole face,
so that he breathed through medicated gauze.
8 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
We were the constant targets of Boche snipers who were
watching for a chance to pick us off. One night a Boche drop-
ped two bombs near us from a plane. We knew it was a Boche
by the peculiar hum of the German motors. The explosions
shook us up considerably, but we could not find where the bombs
fell the next day.
March 9th we set our clocks and watches ahead an hour, and
we found the mornings a little darker and much colder for a
while. Our vigorous exercises always warmed us up consider-
ably, however. I had my hair clipped close, and my head felt
much cooler in the heat of the day.
There were two dangerous places near us. We crossed one
place called Hell's Half Acre. Another place was called Dead
Man's Curve. It was a good name, for the Boche had a good
view of that bit of road and were ready with their shells every
time anything passed in the daytime, and they shelled it con-
tinually at night.
We were sorry to hear of the sinking of the ship which
brought us over. It was homeward bound, so few lives were
While we were out working an aeroplane was hit by shrapnel
which damaged the propellor and the wings. It landed near
us, and we went over and took a look at it at lunch time. We
were careful to remain at a respectful distance, as we were
afraid the Germans might use the plane as a target.
Constant rain made each day like the last. The Y. M. C. A.
established branches in our vicinity where we could buy a few
things, write letters, have some music, which we all enjoyed,
or play a game of checkers.
We all had to go into a gas tester for five minutes. After
trying our masks for the length of time we had to take them
off and take a whiff of the; gas so that we would be able to re-
cognize it during an attack. The tear gas made my eyes watery
for a long time.
April 16th, while we were working at our ditch job, shells
began dropping mighty close. We all Jumped into the ditch
and wished It was six feet deeper for a while.
I slipped in the dark the night of April 19th and cut a painful
gash in my knee cap. Then my luck turned. I found a ten
franc note which came in mighty handy as I happened to be
financially embarrassed. Then a box of candy arrived from
home. Nothing ever tasted better. .
While I was wondering how I could manage to get a photo-
graph of myself and all my equipment up there under shell fire
I discovered a French artilleryman billetted in the woods near
by who had a special permit from the French government for
doing this kind of work. I finally made him understand what
I wanted by making an initial payment of tobacco, of which I
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
had a good supply as I seldom smoked. I paid him eight
francs for a dozen pictures.
I received 128 francs for February and March. The govern-
ment commissary truck came around to us every other day, so
that we could buy all the cakes, tobacco and candy we wanted,
and best of all, canned fruit, which drew many a franc from
my pocket. It helped to keep me healthy, and some of the
pies I got by taking a big can to the mess kitchen were cer-
tainly great. Of course the cook got his share, but they were
Prices were very reasonable, only a little above cost. A large
can of peaches cost one and one half francs or thirty cents. Soda
crackers were thirty centimes or six cents a carton.
April 27th orders were issued prohibiting the people at home
sending packages to us, in order to make room for ammunition
and other necessary supplies. I sold a watch that refused to
run for seventeen francs. I have never seen the man since,
so I supose he and the watch are still going.
We tore down our barracks and moved up through the woods
to a position close behind some of our big guns which were
firing at Metz. How the ground did rock ! I had a tremendous
appetite and seldom got enough to eat. I ate heartily, but I
was still hungry after many of my meals. I ate canned apri-
cots when I could get them, and the mess sergeant let me fry
eggs in my mess kit. I bought them in a village near by. The
day we moved I received a large supply of envelopes, enough
to last me until I might have a chance to ask the Kaiser for
I received a card from Washington acknowledging the re-
ceipt of my application for insurance. While the third Liberty
Loan was in full swing I suggested that any one owing
the Kaiser some money might make him happy by sending him
Butter was worth six francs a pound, eggs cost four francs,
sugar could not be had at any price, but my bunkie and I man-
aged to get a dandy peach pie. We had general inspection Sat-
urday morning of all our equipment, including rifles, beds, sox,
underwear, blankets, towel, soap, tooth paste, brush, comb, and
razor. Sunday they let us sleep till 7:45, a real treat to us
We were getting more and more accustomed to the hardships,
but most of us had decided to postpone our immediate return
home, as the Kaiser seemed to be deeper in than many of us had
thought. The next day we had a terrible thunderstorm and the
heaviest rain we had seen for weeks.
Mail call after lunch May 9th came while I was lying down
resting a while, but I was up and after it as usual, and was re-
warded by six letters. We all wrote home Mother' Day. We
10 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
had all been urged to do so, but I needed no encouragement.
The boys kept the graphaphone in the Y. M. C. A. running
We had a ball team and we played many a hot game with
the 23rd Engineers who were billetted in the woods close by,
and with the observation balloon men, who found time, once
in a while for a game.
I sent my mother congratulations for her birthday coming in
July, telling her I was sorry I could not be at home that day, that
we were moving all the time from one place to another, and
that it seemed just like beating it out of rooming houses without
I had so much trouble keeping my rifle clean that I made a
case for it. I had to spend a lot of time cleaning it, for I did not
like the idea of getting any extra duty for having a dirty rifle.
The least speck of dust was considered grounds for a "bawling-
out" before the whole company. At the same time my gun
was always ready for any emergency.
One morning while my company was going to work we were
turned back by some Military Police who said the Boche had
broken through the lines and were attacking the village of
Sicheprey. The Americans in the village were outnumbered,
but they held on stubbornly while we went back to our barracks
in the woods, where we wasted no time getting our rifles and
ammunition. We were lined up and given instructions in range
rinding and handling ammunition. We were even shown how
to eject the empty shells from our rifles. The Boche soon hit
the back trail, after a sharp fight at close quarters, with ma-
chine guns, rifles, and bayonets. Both sides lost heavily.
I was put on K. P. duty May 16th. After a day of scraping
kettles, peeling spuds, and serving chow my pal and I got passes
to the village. A long walk took us to a small restaurant near
Men La Tour, where we feasted on scrambled eggs, fried pota-
toes, and lemonade which seemed to have considerable kick.
We managed to make known our wants with the few French
words we knew, aided by gestures. Beer signs were scarcer
than hen's teeth, and with all our rubbernecking we failed to
The Y. M. C. A. tent in Aunseville was hit by a shell which
partly demolished it, luckily at night after the canteen was
closed. I will never forget that place nor the three cups of
hot chocolate I drank there one bitter cold day while the snow
was still on the ground. A few boys just back from the front
were sitting there eating cakes or whatever they could buy. I
sat down and asked them a few questions so I would know what
to do if I was rushed up front in an emergency.
Two spies were caught in our vicinity. One Boche at Mandre
dressed himself as a peasant woman and went around leading a
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 11
cow. When a bunch of soldiers were passing the cross roads
he would signal with his rope, and the Boche gunners made a
good many hits until a French officer saw a trouser leg one
windy day. The firing party was on the job in about two
The Boche had a young French boy perched in the garret of
an old abandoned stone house. When supply wagons, ammuni-
tion carts, or troops were passing a certain point the boy signal-
ed with a pocket flashlight until the French caught him.
May 22nd we were treated to a band concert under shell fire.
The music sounded mighty good to us. The flies were getting
thick, and increased our discomfort considerably. The whole
country was green by this time, and the birds never stopped
chirping throughout the night. We wondered if the shell fire
kept them awake. I slept whenever I got the chance, for I
never knew what night I would be wakened by a gas alarm or
As I was going to town to the dentist I saw several old French
people busy in the fields. One old man was plowing with a
donkey, a horse, and old Nellie, the family cow a queer com-
Orders came for another move May 29th. After packing our
belongings and wrecking our barracks we loaded everything on
trucks, rode four miles, and were then given until nightfall to
erect them again. We got the mess hall busy first, and then had
our shelter all complete before dark.
Then orders arrived to break up our company and use it for
replacements. We hiked twelve kilos to Men La Tour, on the
Toul front, where we were billetted in what had once been the
Red Cross hospital. The patients had all been moved back to
a base hospital, following a threat by the Boche to bomb the
place. We were glad to get away from there.
We spent June 1st turning in all excess baggage to the Quart-
ermaster. The next day I landed a K. P. job. The mess ser-
geant was trying hard to spend our mess fund, and we had
meat, potatoes, salad, olives, jam, gravy, lemonade, and bread.
The time of our feasting was short, for we had our last roll
call June 5th. Our officers and friends shook hands with us
and bade us good luck. With the cheers of a few non-com-
missioned officers who were left behind ringing in our ears, we
boarded a string of little flat cars and pulled out on the narrow
gauge railroad to Bouc where we were given the choice of four
I chose Co. H. 102nd Infantry, in the 26th or Yankee Divis-
ion. We lined up for chow, consisting of a little soup, bread
and coffee, rested a little while, and then started off on a forced
march of about 15 kilos. We carried all our equipment, and
the new rock surface on the road made walking far from easy.
12 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
For hours I felt like dropping with fatigue, but I stuck it out.
When we entered an old stone building at 2 a. m. and threw
our packs on the ground I was all ready to join the all down
and out club, and for once I paid no attention to the shells flying
The building was half wrecked already by shells, which had
nearly demolished the whole village. Mandre had a population
of 1000 before the war, but every one had been driven out at the
beginning. I needed no second invitation to hunt up the mess
kitchen the next morning. It was camouflaged in an old stone
building in order to hide the smoke in the daytime, for the
Boche shelled the place at the slightest sign of life or activity.
The town was full of dugouts. Signs were posted telling how
many men they would hold, and their location, so that we would
know just where to go in case of an attack. We saw air bat-
tles or enemy planes every day, coming over in search of in-
formation and taking pictures of the village.
I sold a lot of stuff that I did not need, keeping one extra
suit of underclothes, two blankets, two pairs of sox, a towel, a
shaving outfit, and my reserve rations, consisting of four boxes
of hard tack and one can of beef.
After a few days we were moved to a part of the town which
drew less shell fire and quartered in an attic reached only by
a very shaky ladder. I made a bed out of grass which was plenti-
ful everywhere. I went out in several working parties at night,,
fixing barbed wire entanglements in front of our lines.
The Salvation Army maintained a canteen in what had been
a dungeon under a church. Only an expert could locate the
entrance among the debris. When I stood up straight my head
struck the ceiling. A few planks here and there helped to keep
our feet out of the water which covered the floor. Most of the
time we could buy eggs in the canteen. We fried them on a
dinky little stove and ate them with slices of bread furnished
by the army. We just grabbed a loaf and cut off a slice when-
ever we were hungry. Occasionally we were able to buy six
doughnuts for a franc.
A big gun located near our billet kept me awake a good many
hours. I kept well and as clean as possible. We bathed in
the town wash house which had a large shell hole through the
roof. We were glad we were absent when the hole was made.
We assembled our squads in front of our billets at 9 a. m.
the night of June 16th and started for the trenches. The village
was under heavy shell fire, and we crept from building to build-
ing. The team drawing an ammunition cart was frightened by
a bursting shell and ran away, with the driver doing his utmost
to stop them. Outside the village we marched along a shell
lit road, used by all kinds of traffic on the way to our front
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 13
Our batteries were busy giving the Boche three for one. They
were so well camouflaged that detection was almost impossible,
even in the daytime, when the Boche observation balloons were
up, and when our guns were put out of commission it was only
by a chance hit.
We passed the dangerous points in safety, and made our way
to our position, known as "Jerry Woods." We could barely see
our hands in front of us in the darkness. Now and then some
one would stumble into a shell hole, pick himself up with a
grunt, and drop into line again. The rainfall had made the
going very slippery, and I had hard work keeping up. I did not
want to get lost from the others as my eyesight was very poor.
At last fourteen of us entered a dugout, where we lay down on
the straw. I was introduced to my first cooties a few minutes
later. I staged a big game hunt the first thing in the morning,
and captured a dozen graybacks. It took 100 to buy a cigar, but
[ did not give up hope. The rats made life interesting, too.
We had to stand guard over our hard tack, and it was a race to
see which of us would get to eat it. The woods were full of
them at night.
Every night for a week I went out into No Man's Land with
nine others. We carried rifles and three or four hand grenades.
We were prepared to give a good account of ourselves if we
ran into a Boche patrol, for the grenades exploded in five seconds
after we hit the cap, and it was regarded as a healthy practise to
throw them immediately. Our rounds took us past the listening
posts. In some places the trenches had been flattened so that
we had to crawl in the open where we could be seen by the
light of the Boche flares, which revealed everything for hundreds
By throwing ourselves flat on the ground we managed to
escape detection and made our way through the winding
trenches to the farthest outposts known as the "sacrifice post."
The machine gunners here kept very quiet, listening for sounds
of activity or attempted raids. A few of those machine gun-
ners could hold off an army, for they could cut advancing troops
down as fast as they appeared.
Later five of us were assigned to a listening post in charge of
a corporal. Two men were posted on the parapet watching the
Boche lines for raids or attempts to cut the wire. If a bar-
rage, which usually preceded Boche attacks, had been thrown
over, we would not have had much chance for escape, as there
was no place to hide at that particular point.
Our meals were carried out to us in the dugout by a food
detail in big cans which kept everything nice and hot. The
kitchen was nearly two miles back of the line, but the kitchen
force had to suspend operations frequently when the shells be-
gan dropping too close for comfort and safety. The Boche lines
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
were only 500 yards from our post, and we often heard them
talking or singing during the night, and sometimes we heard
working parties repairing the wire in front of their trenches.
We- were relieved about 2 a. m.tjuly 2nd by a division of
fresh troops just arrived from the states. Our. sector was re-
garded as a quiet one well suited for, breaking new, troops into
the joys of trench life. I had considerable difficulty explaining
our duties to the relief how to challenge a person approaching
through the trenches, and more important* tot the relief, how to
use the hand grenades in case of; an attack. I had been keeping
two dozen within reach under a little brush heap all the time.
&hefe 'was a battery just behind us, much to our disapproval,
for the shells which fell short from both directions landed in
our neighborhood. Every night and in the early morning the
Boche shelled the woods about us, and I soon learned to lie
down flat in the trench at certain hours. One morning they
dropped thirty Austrain 88 mm. shells rather close to us. The
report; ofc the gun,, always follows these small shells, so the guns
are hard to locate/ The report of a big gun precedes the shell,
and we soon learned to tell the direction from which the big
shells ''came. >'. r " ^ < -. - - ' , '
Another; time I .thought my time'' had* come. I heard a big
sheir coming my direction and threw myself flat in- the bottom
of the trench. There was' a terrific explosion not more than
fifty feet away. Shrapnel flew in every, direction, and part of
the trench caved in on me. I managed to rise to my knees and
keep my head above the falling dirt. The corporal came to
mfr onf the run, but found me only badly frightened. I could
not hear anything for two hours. When our relief arrived I
wasted no time getting out of that locality.
After packing up our belongings we started back through
the woods along the same road by which we had gone to the
front. The night was remarkably quiet, with very little shell-
ing.. ...We rode into Men La Tour on flat cars. At Andelli we
found ^a- harvest regiment of Chinese coolies. A long day's
hike- brought us to Fontenoy, where we found nearly all hous-
ing space already taken. A bunch 'of -us made for an^old 'water-
power sawmill. My pal and I pitched our tent by the river bank,
and spent a good many hours in the water. We, had to go into
tow.n for our meals. One day, after drawing our rations, we ^bought
eggs, cheese an4 butter at a French farm house. They gave us
a handful pf-de4ici:0us .strawberries -for good luck.
We put two bottle's of beer in the river to cool, fried the eggs
in our-mess kits, and had some feed. It seemed as if we were
on a vacation, so far away from the roar of the guns. A bunch
of us helped the old people stack their hay in the fields. It
only took us a few minutes to do what was for them a long
day's work. I talked with an old woman who had been parti-
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 15
ally paralyzed by a bomb dropped on the village where she
lived. One of her sons had been killed and the other was a
My feet were very sore from the long hike, but after ten
days rest I was able to fall in with the others when we started
to join the reserves back of Chateau Thierry. Each of us carried
an extra bandolier of rifle ammunition, making 200 rounds in all,
and it took a mighty good man to stand that long hike. We
stopped now and then to rest, once for three hours, but the
time flew so fast it seemed no more than half an hour.
Again and again I nearly fell in the pitch darkness by step-
ping into small ruts, but I plugged away, hoping that our des-
tination would soon be reached. The hike continued through-
out the day, for my company, but not for me. When I saw a
sign announcing it was 29 kilos to Chateau Thierry my heart
sank and I knew I could not last, as several had already fallen
out. There was a number of Boche prisoners here piling lum-
ber and moving supplies and ammunition, as it was the dis-
tributing point for this sector.
We were going into reserve for the big drive, so we could not
stop, and kept on until we reached the top of a long cobblestone
hill. Nearly every man was having trouble with his feet, and
we received orders to rest a while at the top of the hill. I took
off my shoes and used my pack for a pillow. My feet fairly
burned, and it was a welcome relief to get those heavy trench
shoes off for a little while.
A large truck loaded with four pound loaves of bread baked
by the French for the American army climbed the grade while
we lay there. I suggested to the man next to me that a couple
of those loaves belonged to us, and he took the hint, without
letting the driver see him. We were hungrier than rats, and
that bread did not last any time at all. I lay down for a little
snooze, expecting my corporal to wake me, and woke up about
four hours later, with my company nowhere in sight.
I pulled my trench shoes onto my swollen feet and started
out with hopes of overtaking my company somewhere along
the roadside. I met several officers and asked them if they
could direct me to the 26th Division. One of them consulted
a map and sent me on down the dusty road. After climbing
what I took to be the longest and steepest grade I had seen in
France I lay down beside the road for a rest.
Then I saw what I had been looking for a pump ! I found
a sign on the pump stating in French that the water was not
fit for drinking, but that did not stop me from bathing my feet,
so I took off my shoes and sat on the top of the well, working
the pump and holding my feet under the cool water. What
a relief it was ! The burning sensation left, I was revived to
16 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
a considerable extent and given courage to keep on, tired as I
I came upon a supply truck company billetted in the woods.
It was just about mess time, and I took off my pack and rested
until the company had been fed. I then went up to the mess
sergeant and explained my troubles, and asked him for a hand-
out. The meal of roast beef, spuds, string beans, rice pud-
ding, bread, butter and lemonade that he gave me was a dis-
tinct surprise, up there so close to the front line, where it was
often difficult for the boys to get enough hard tack and corned
I found an old friend who was in another company, and we
talked for a while and took a good rest. We entered a big
Chateau near by and found the building empty. I then left my
pal and went on in search of my company. After hiking several
kilos I turned off toward what I took to be an abandoned build-
ing, in which I found several Frenchmen busy cooking a meal
on a dinky stove. I managed to make them understand that
I wished to warm up my can of corned Willy. I soon had it
sizzling in my mess kit. It is really good when properly pre-
pared. I gave the Frenchmen some hard tack, and they gave
me a cup of hot coffee. The French hard tack is more like a
dog biscuit, and has to be soaked about five minutes before it
can be eaten by anything less than a rock crusher.
The lines were not far away, and I could hear the guns
booming away incessantly. I picked up my few belongings
and started on my way, although I did not know whether it was
right or wrong. But I was game, and covered several more
kilos before night. About 9 p. m. I spotted a grain field on the
left which looked like a good place for my night's lodging. I
spread my shelter half on the ground, wrapped my two woolen
blankets as tightly around my body as I could, spread my slicker
over me, and went to sleep.
I slept twelve hours without opening my eyes once. I don't
believe I could have found a better tonic than that night's rest.
I rolled up my pack, strapped it on my back, and started off
down the road, never dreaming that my company was less than
an hour's walk from that wheat field. The commissary depart-
ment reported that my reserve rations had all been consumed,
but I discovered a chunk of stale bread in my rain coat pocket
that satisfied my appetite for an hour or two.
The first man I met directed me down a road where I found
a part of the 26th Division. They set me on the right track.
I reached Division Headquarters about lunch time, and I de-
cided it would pay me to linger until the Headquarters com-
pany had mess. I discovered several men from my company
who had fallen out during the hike. The mess sergeant told us
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 17
to wait for a few minutes until the cook could prepare something
for us. An old plow formed a convenient seat for me.
After we had eaten a guard was put over us, and we were
told that Col. "Roaring Bill" Parker wanted to see us. I knew
we were in for a lecture, for one of my comrades had told me
what the colonel had said to him out on the road during the
hike. The colonel came along in his luxurious touring car and
noticed the man slowing down a little, and called him about
everything that isn't in the dictionary, including ''Yellow Belly"
They lined up fifteen of us and marched us over to Division
Headquarters, where the colonel appeared, looking for all the
world like a buck private just back from wire detail. His
uniform was tattered, and he had no Sam Browne belt or a
sign of shoulder strap to indicate his rank. While a number
of French officers stood looking on, and American officers grin-
ned at us from the windows, the famous Courtyard Lecture com-
I do not know how long it lasted. It consisted mostly of
various forms of profanity. He called us deserters, yellow bel-
lied, cowards, etc., and informed us that the next time it hap-
pened he would see that we were kept in the front line trenches
for six months straight, and that he would not wait for any slow
moving court martial but would line us up and shoot us himself.
We were glad when a guard was assigned to escort us to our
company, which was only a few hundred yards away. We were
immediately ordered to report to the major. We left our packs
in the woods with our company and started. The colonel fol-
lowed us in his machine, and ordered the corporal to get us into
squad formation instead of letting us string along the road. So
we hopped into squad formation to the tune of the colonel's
motor and advanced on the major's office.
Upon arriving at the major's office the colonel went inside,
leaving us standing out in the hot sunshine. Our canteens were
empty, and we slipped over one at a time to a well not far
away where we drew buckets of exceptionally cold water with
which we quenched our thirst and filled our canteens. After
something over an hour the colonel appeared again and walked
around us making some more remarks about drafted men not
having the guts that his regulars had.
The major waited until the colonel was gone, and then came
out and asked us one at a time just what our trouble was. We
admired him for the way he talked to us. He said it was not
customary to fall out while on the march to the front lines,
and that we must all try not to let it happen again.
After making our way back to camp across the fields, I
looked around for a suitable sleeping place. I made a nice
soft bed on some straw under a large tree which would pro-
18 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
tect me somewhat from a rainstorm. We stayed there two
days, cleaning our rifles, playing cards, shooting craps, and
keeping under cover of the woods in the daytime so that the
Boche aviators could not spot us, for discovery meant a bomb
dropped from the sky or an artillery bombardment. The
Germans had long range guns for such work, planted behind
the hills twenty miles away.
Then orders came for us to move up into reserve, and at
dusk we started on another long hike. My feet were still on
the bum, and I had an awful time keeping up with my com-
pany. The sergeant kept telling me all the time to hurry up.
I replied that I was doing my best. I had to watch for chuck
holes in the road, for I would have fallen at the slightest
stumble. An M. P. stood at a cross roads and directed us to
some woods facing towards Chateau Thierry.
The woods were blacker than ink. We bumped into tree
after tree, growled something about hard luck that we could not
even see where we were going, until we reached a well con-
cealed position. My pal and I cleared a little space of twigs
and roots sticking out of the ground. It was a good thing
for us that it did not rain that night, for we were all in.
The next morning we all went to work putting up a camou-
flage for our location. We gave particular attention to the
mess kitchen, which we covered with trees and what loose
brush we could find. No trees could be cut down except in a
case of absolute necessity.
My pal and I pulled up what roots we had missed in the dark
and pitched our tent, made out of two strips buttoned together.
We had to be very careful when crawling into these tents, but
once on my back I was soon asleep providing the shells were
not coming too close for health.
We stayed there three days. A Y. M. C. A. man came
around several times selling stuff. Whenever we saw him com-
ing the whole company got into line, and the poor fellow at the
end of the line had to wait for a long while and often could
not get what he wanted after all.
A guard was posted all the time to keep every one under
cover of the trees. We had to go nearly a mile for drinking
water. We always went two at a time, with twenty or more
canteens swinging from a long pole resting on our shoulders.
Some marines kept busy digging trenches and putting up
barbed wire entanglements so that if the Boche did break
through we would be ready for him.
I was put on K. P. duty July 16th. I managed to get a
little sleep now and then, in spite of occasional shells, the bray-
ing of the mules, or the swift flight of an aeroplane on its
journey of destruction. The ground where I slept was very
damp but it was the best that I was able to locate near by.
When orders came to advance we stopped about five kilos
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 19
behind the company. I visited the graves of two Americans
killed by a bomb dropped by a Boche plane. We sent the food
up in large Marremeat cans which kept the stuff hot for some
time if the lids were screwed on tightly. The mess sergeant
always went with the ration cart to see that it was delivered
to the right men. It took at least five hours to make the round
trip over the shell swept road, and more than one detail never
came back at all. That one trip gave the boys all the hot food
they got for that day.
We sent up all the food we could, because none of us knew
when the drive would start. We made 800 doughnuts in one
day. Several times steaks and stew came back to us turned
green by gas, so that we had to bury it immediately.
I made the trip one night with a water cart as extra driver.
If anything had happend to the driver it would have been up
to me to go ahead alone. There was not water supply out
where the boys were, and the precious fluid was worth its
weight in gold many times over to a fellow lying wounded -on
the field of battle, with an empty canteen and fever rising.
They were under constant shell fire, mostly gas. They had
to keep their masks on for hours at a time, and they never
had any peace. They dug holes in the ground for protection
from shrapnel and machine gun bullets. As we made our way
up to them along the shell swept road we never knew but
that the next one had our name and number on it.
As we passed one of our batteries hidden in the woods along-
side the road, all the guns were fired almost together, and the
noise was terrific. The flash nearly blinded us, so that we
could not see the road for some time. The mules, frightened
by the roar and flash of the guns, tore down the road at break-
neck speed with the driver doing his best to stop them. I
hung on blindly to the tool box in the rear. The cart seemed
to hit every shell hole in the road, but I stayed with it, and
was there at the finish. It took us half an hour to empty our
precious load into the barrels which were buried in the ground
beside the road.
Several men that I knew came to fill their canteens while
I w r as there, they could only come out at night, as they were
close enough to the front lines, to be seen in the day time.
There was no water available for washing even if the shells
had stopped falling long enough to give them time to think
about such luxuries. They were a tired and haggard looking
bunch. Some of them had been able to sleep a little in the
fox holes which they dug to escape the shells; others had not
had any rest for days.
On our return trip the battery beside the road waited until
we were close to them, and then they whispered something to
the Kaiser that started the mules on another wild run, but this
time we were headed toward camp. Shells were piled six feet
20 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
high alongside the road, all covered with brush, so there was not
much danger of us getting off the road. The mess sergeant
met us before we reached camp, wanting to know if everything
was O. K. I was certainly tired after that ride, which had
Paul Revere's ride skinned a mile for speed and ducking G. I.
cans, and I beat it for my pup tent out on the damp ground,
where I sawed wood until they shook me up at noon.
July 14 the Red Cross man came along and gave us choco-
late, cigarettes and writing paper, of which I had none left,
as I had been writing a good many letters. We could not
buy anything in that vicinity, as the Y. M. C. A. men seldom
came around, and they had very little if any stock left.
A motorized machine gun battalion camped near us in the
woods. They were used as hole pluggers, rushing here and
there where the Boche threatened to break through. They
used Ford cars, and they were always at the right place at the
right time. I wrote several letters the day before our company
went over the top, which was at five o'clock in the morning,
July 18. I did not expect many chances to write while the
drive was on. The boys advanced behind a heavy barrage,
and must have surprised the Germans, for those who did not
start for Berlin on the double came our direction yelling "Kam-
erad" and clawing the cobwebs off the milky way. Large
batches of prisoners streamed down trie road all day. Some
of them had been merely stripped of their arms and told to
hit the trail for the prison camp.
The Americans never hesitated to shoot a German who did
not have his hands straight up. Many of them were very
treacherous. A favorite trick was to advance with a small
grenade bomb in their fists, throwing it when sure of a mark.
Dozens of them were shot when these bombs were found in
The next morning the kitchen was ordered to advance to some
woods far in advance of the place where the company had gone
over the top. As we were passing through the ruins of a little
village, a messenger from our company ran his bicycle into an
officer's horse. Both the bicycle and the horse were making
extra good time, but no serious damage was done. I ran over
and picked up the runner and helped him get started again,
and then rejoined the kitchen detail.
I noticed a tall tree with a rope ladder running up to the
top, where a comfortable chair, neatly camouflaged, had pro-
vided an observation post from which the country could be
seen for miles. An officer with a good pair of field glasses
could get a lot of valuable information from such a post. Of
course he had to keep absolutely quiet in the daytime.
A last the driver turned the kitchen up a narrow road where
we had to help it over the ruts now and then, until we were
well back from the road. We got busy with a couple of axes
COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
and cleared a space of brush and stumps. Then we discon-
nected the two parts of the kitchen, or rather the pantry from
the kitchen, bracing the sections on their two wheels so that
they would not tip over. We prepared the food in the pantry
and did the cooking in the kitchen. We set them on opposite
sides of the road so that it was only a step from one to the other.
When the meat supply ran short we resorted to stew, so that
it would go around.
After spreading my blankets on the ground under a large
tree I went exploring with the rest of the detail. The woods
had been fought over just the day before, and they were full
of equipment thrown away by the advancing Americans. They
discarded everything when they went over the top except re-
serve rations, helmet, gas mask, rifle, ammunition both in
belt and in an extra handolier of 100 cartridges thrown over
I found a new Springfield rifle and gave it to a man who had
lost his off the kitchen, to which he had strapped it to save
carrying it. From the edge of the woods we looked out on an
open field where we could see several duds unexploded shells
but there were no bodies in sight. We had expected to
find some, as we had heard that a number of the boys had been
When we returned to the kitchen we learned that orders had
been received for another move after nightfall. It was only 4
p. m., so we had some time to wait. After getting everything
ready to move on a minute's notice we made our way to a small
farm house to get some drinking water. On the way we learned
that two of our boys were lying near by where they had been
killed. I went over to see if I could identify the bodies.
One was a corporal from my company. His forehead had
been split by a large piece of shrapnel. I noticed that some
one had taken his automatic. The other boy was one of my
pals. Apparently a piece of shrapnel had struck his bayonet
scabbard, for it was bent almost double. A dozen letters were
scattered about on the ground, still unopened, mute as to the
suddenness of the order which had sent him to his death. One
of his arms and a leg had been torn off, by a high explosive
shell, I was told.
The time for the kitchen to advance was near at hand. As
I went on to a farmhouse where I could get good drinking
water, I noticed a great red flare far to the east, which I took to
be an ammunition dump set on fire by the retreating Boche.
As the Americans had captured a number of their guns, the
enemy tried to destroy the shells they were unable to use.
We started forward with the kitchen about 9 p. m., July
19th, up over a long hill, topped by the ruins of a little village
through which the Boche line had run for a time. There was
a story in circulation that the Boche cooked here in the daytime,
22 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
and that the Americans cooked that night in the same place.
The road through the village was badly cut up by shell fire.
Many trees hit by shells had fallen across the road, blocking
it until the engineers arrived. They kept busy during the
drive keeping the roads open for traffic. Filling the shell holes
with crushed rock was a big task.
Nearly every building in the next village we came to had
been entirely demolished, and those which had not been wreck-
ed by exploding shells showed great holes where duds had
passed through. However, the railroad bridge in this town had
not been damaged. Most of the trees had been killed by the
gas, so the scene was far from attractive.
We passed through a number of these small villages, and saw
several bodies lying on the ground, apparently snipers and
machine gunners left behind in a vain attempt to stop the ad-
vance. Most of these fellows got what they deserved. Their
favorite stunt was to keep on shooting until they saw them-
selves in danger and then cry Kamerad.
When about three kilos from the front line where the
Americans were resting the mess sergeant returned reporting
that the boys were in some woods, and got ready for business
by disconnecting the kitchen.
We found the woods full of small dugouts, about three 'feet
under ground in solid clay, so we knew there was no danger
of their caving in. My pal and I could not find any cooties,
so we spread out our blankets in one of them and were soon
sound asleep, in spite of the exceptionally heavy barrage with
which the Boche was trying to check our advance.
The mess sergeant soon received orders for a hot meal, all
we could send, as it had been four days since the company had
had a hot meal. All the boys had to eat in that time was the
reserve rations in their packs. We were all on the job at once.
We kept the stove full of wood and soon had the coffee boiling.
The canned corn, of which we had a large quantity, and the corn-
ed Willy were soon hot, the bread was cut, everything loaded on
to the ration cart, and the mess sergeant and the driver were
As our division was waiting for relief, they merely held the
Boche in check and watched for a counter attack. After an
hour's search the company was located, and the food was dis-
tributed, not without difficulty, however, as the Boche machine
gunners were not far away ready to pick off any one who care-
lessly exposed himself to view.
When the mess sergeant returned he reported that the boys
were all worn out by the eight days of constant strain, hard-
ly any sleep even at night, when their only protection was
usually the fox holes they dug for themselves. Five men had
been killed by one shell which dropped into the trench in which
they were standing.
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 23
We found many heaps of ammunition scattered through the
woods, covered with grass to camouflage them from low-flying
aeroplanes. As for equipment, most anything could be had
from a messkit to a suit of clothes. In some of the dugouts
I came across women's shoes and clothing.
Our greatest difficulty was the scarcity of water. The
country had been entirely devasted while in the possession of
the Boche, especially the wells, most of which had been poison-
ed. The water in every well had to be analyzed before it
could be used for drinking.
I was sent out with the driver of our water cart to a des-
tination unknown, as our orders were merely, "Go get some
water." Making our way with great difficulty over and
around the pits left by thousands of exploding shells to the
nearest village site, where once a dozen happy homes had stood,
we found the water in the well unfit for drinking.
We went on for about a mile through some woods formerly
held by the Boche to a farmhouse which resembled a fort, on
account of the heavy stone wall surrounding it. We found
the well dry at this place. There were a number of French
soldiers resting in the house. They were a funny looking lot on
account of the odd sizes of the men. Several of them were at
least fifty years old, others not yet twenty-five. The tall ones
carried short rifles and the short ones long rifles. We saw
several graves beside the road where Boches had been buried.
It was nearly dark by this time. The mules were well nigh
starved and very tired, so our progress to the next village was
decidedly slow. We found some Americans billetted in a
stone building. We saw a large pond here, but we could not
use the water. On we went to the next village, where we filled
our fifty gallon tank with good clear water drawn in a bucket
from a well.
In opening a box of prunes (we called them "army cherries")
I discovered that the box was put up by my uncle who used
to run a packing house at Los Gatos, California, which is my
We had to wear our helmets all the time and our gas masks
at alert. The helmets worn by the Boche were almost twice
the weight of ours.
After being at this place a couple of days we were ordered
to fall back about three kilos.' We reached the place in about
four hours, and hastily camouflaged everything with brush and
trees. We had no orders to cook a meal, so we looked over the
position a little. The place was one taken by my company in
the drive. Soon after we started out on our souvenir hunt we
found a patch of bushes which had made an excellent position
for a machine gun nest.
The first thing I picked up was some canteen paper money
which was issued to the soldiers in advance and charged
24 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
against his pay. These checks enabled the soldier to purchase
necessities at the army canteens. I sent home three bills, of
one, two, and four marks. At the other end of the patch of
bushes I found a machine gun pit dug in the ground, about four
feet deep. The gunner had stood in this pit, ready to sweep
the country for miles with his machine gun.
Every fifth bullet was explosive, making a very nasty wound
when it struck one. The belts carried 200 cartridges, the
longest that I had seen. The belts were provided with hooks
at the end, so that a never-ending stream of cartridges could
be fed into the gun. The French shosho guns used by my
company could fire only twenty cartridges at a time, then
another holder had to be inserted.
My friend picked up an American automatic which had been
struck by a piece of shrapnel. The fragment had cut into the
chamber in such a way that the trigger could not be pulled.
We found several dead Germans lying where they had fallen
four days before. They had turned black. The helmets of
two of them could be seen peeking over the edge of a shell
hole. They were no doubt machine gunners who fired until
the Americans were close up and then tried the "Kamerad"
stunt. But as they had killed many of the Americans and
wounded others all they got was three of four bayonets in the
Another Boche stood in a trench with his hands in the air.
He had been shot through the heart. The following day fif-
teen of these bodies were collected and buried in a large shell
We slept out on the bare ground at this place. Two days
after moving we moved back, and after a stop of half a day
we again moved forward.
A battery o*f six French long range guns about a kilo from us
made the ground tremble every few minutes, and we could
hear the shells shrieking through the air. Their range was
twenty-two kilos. As the boys advanced, these guns had to
be moved forward, those from the rear going to the front be-
I counted eighteen observation balloons, the eyes of the
artillery, in a straight line about ten kilos long. They had a
fleet of aeroplanes to protect them from the Boche aviators,
who tried to get close enough to shoot them down with ex-
plosive bullets, setting the balloons on fire and compelling the
observer to leap for his life in a parachute.
I discovered a three inch rapid fire gun abandoned by the
Boche. It had been neatly covered with straw. The barrel
was all that I could see.
Returning to the kitchen we found orders for a hot meal to
be sent up to the lines as soon as possible. The water tank
was empty, so I started out with the driver to hunt for water.
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 25
There had been some heavy fighting here. I saw several Ger-
mans lying where they had been killed. The sides of the road
were honeycombed with small dugouts where they had lived
like rats, with just room to lie down. Further up the road
I saw a large grave containing the bodies of twenty men from
the 26th Division who had been killed by French shells. I
looked at each of the little wooden crosses to make sure that
none of my company were buried there.
To one side lay a little village which had been nearly de-
molished by the retreating Boche. A party of French engineers
was clearing the wreckage from the streets so that the traffic
could pass. By saying "Delooh" and pointing to the tank I
made them understand I wanted water, and they directed me
to the town washhouse where we filled our tank in about ten
minutes with a small pump which the French had installed for
our benefit. The water was very good.
As we left the village we had a steep hill to climb. The
mules were tired, and I got off and pushed all I could. While
we rested at the top some French ammunition carts came along
loaded with shells for the front. We met a large batch of
Boche prisoners in charge of an M. P. on horesback. They
followed wherever he went. They were some sorry looking
lot. None of them had had a shave or a bath for weeks, and
their clothing was no more than rags. Their leader, who did
not look much like a German to me, was a good six feet six
inches tall. As they passed the Frenchman who was driving
stopped and stood up, griting his teeth and shaking his fist at
When we reached the kitchen we emptied the tank into our
three big double boilers and one single one. Orders came for
another move the next day. When we started out after water
we found some in half an hour, but the stream from the faucet
here was so small that it would have taken us all day to fill
the tank. Some intelligence officers were examining fifteen
prisoners in the courtyard, going through their pockets in search
of information of value. One of them could talk English.
When asked if he thought the war was going to last much
longer he replied that he did not know. Some of them were
eating some food out of cans. One fellow threw away half a
can, and one of the officers remarked that food must be plenti-
ful in Germany.
We started for a place about ten kilos distant where I knew
the water was plentiful and good. We were gone six hours,
and the mess sergeant was angry. I explained that my orders
were to get water, and that I had obeyed my orders.
Our division was relieved soon after that. We moved to
the rear under cover of darkness, after preparing a good hot
meal. When we reached the company we found only fifty-five
left of the 200 who started in the drive. All the rest were
26 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
either killed or wounded. They certainly looked tired after
that ten days of hell. We gave them all they wanted of every-
I was completely worn out myself. I slept with two of my
pals who were without shelter. They had discarded their
packs during the drive so that their movement would not be
hindered. One of these two boys, named Manning, was killed
later in the St. Mehiel drive.
I was kept on the water wagon job during the rest that fol-
lowed. I met the Colonel one morning. He seemed to be in
good humor, saying "Good morning" when I saluted. He
certainly must have had a grouch on that day he bawled me
out for falling out of the hike.
The watering place was some grand mud hole. I had to
walk through mud over my shoe tops to fill the bucket from a
small stream running out of the hillside. It was near a large
tunnel on the main railroad line. The entrance to the tunnel
had been closed by American artillery fire, so that the Boche
could not retreat through it. The rails had been dynamited,
making extensive repairs necessary before the Allies could use
it for hauling supplies, and to bring up the big long range naval
guns on flat cars which could be readily moved from place to
place, fooling the Boche gunners who were trying to get the
These naval guns threw a large projectile twenty-five kilos
and kept the Boche on the run. Large heaps of ammunition
led us to believe the Boche had plenty of ammunition instead of
the scarcity reported. Several shells had come over made of
all sorts of material such as aluminum, glass, brass and copper.
Many of their shells failed to explode.
We started for our rest camp August 2nd. We passed
through mile after mile of war torn country, where we were
hindered in our march by the shell holes in the roads. We had
to help the mules pull the kitchen more than once. We went
to the rear by the same road up which we had advanced, march-
ing until we were tired, and then resting a while. We soon got
out of range of the Boche guns, and it was a wonderful relief to
get back where all we could hear was a niose far behind us not
unlike the booming of distant surf.
As we passed through a small village a Frenchman came out
with a bucket of water which was a lifesaver for many of us.
There was a pump nearby, but we were not allowed to stop
until we reached the top of the hill. I found a box of trench
pastry in one of the boilers and satisfied my hunger. The
march was resumed after a brief rest. We had to block the
wheels going down several hills, as there were no brakes on
the kitchen trucks, and the mules could never hold them back.
After staying three days in the identical place where we had
prepared for the drive, we passed on through a little village
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 27
where our first dressing station had been located in the church,
and up over the hill on the way to our rest camp. My teeth
were beginnig to bother me. The bridge work had been worn
out on both sides by the hard tack.
We had regular hours in the rest camp, reveille at 6 a. m. and
taps at 9 p. iru We were given plenty of time for recreation,
and we played baseball, cards, and other games. Some of us
who were lucky were allowed to visit the nearest large town
where they could get a good home^cooked meal in a French
home. The women treated us fine, serving wine wherever
we went, as the water was undrinkable.
I wrote home that I would be lucky if I came back from the
war, and received a note from my mother acknowleding the
receipt of a check from . the government, the ten dollar allot-
ment that was to start in January. I had expected the govern-
ment to add at least ten dollars to my ten.. I urged every one
at home to go the limit on the Fourth Liberty Loan, as I had
seen things and knew that the government needed the money
to equip and feed the boys on the line and the others on the way,
for a boy can not do much fighting with no ammunition and a
wooden gun and with his stomach empty. I had been in twice
and come out without a scratch, although I had been so badly
frightened at times that I had forgotten to pray for the good
health of my folks at home and for my own safety.
Up to this, time I 'had ncdfye,1;,een a t,ank. I had heard how
they wiped! out the, Boche .machine gun, nests, nothing stopping
them but direct hits by heavy artillery, usually fatal to the
crew of two or three men.
I received, a good conduct pass Augus.t 6th and went to the
nearest village with another member of the kitchen detail. We
walked down a path to the main road running toward Cha-
teau Thierry. There were plenty of auto trucks passing. We
flagged the first one and got a ride to La Ferte, a good sized
town where we could get almost anything by paying an ex-
orbitant price. Two small green pears cost one and one half
francs, four small but fairly good peaches, two francs; a fist
full of grapes, two francs; two small oranges, one franc. I
could have bought the whole lot for twenty cents in New
We saw many .things which were used extensively in the
army,- suc,h as sweet potatoes (canned)^ all -varieties of evapor-
ated vegetables, brought to trieir- normal size 1>y r two to three
hours .soaking in water. Tfiey came in fifteen pound cans, con-
venient for keeping part if we did not use the whole can at one
time. Potatoes came in two different forms small cubes and
thin slices for frying. Karo corn syrup made a hit with the
boys some of them were wild over it, spreading it on their
bread every time they could get it. I often served three and
four ten pound cans to the company for one meal.
28 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
Our coffee was excellent. Oleomargarine was the best sub-
stitute for butter. It would not keep very long, so when we
managed to get a surplus we flavored our boiled spuds and car-
rots with it.
I had a dandy place for my sleping tent. My pal and I
covered the ground with six inches of straw and made a fine
August 7th the rain came down in torrents. After a hard
day's work I crawled into my tent to rest and write a letter or
two. I did not dare touch the canvass, as that made it leak.
The boys from Connecticut received money that day from the
Spanish War Veterans, and I began to wonder if California was
getting up some benefit for the boys from that state. I de-
cided that she must be holding it up her sleeve until we got
I had the afternoon off August 9th. There was no laundry to
which we could send our soiled clothes, and I spent the afternoon
boiling and washing my clothes, using plenty of soap. I was
sure I killed all the cooties that time. But no matter how well
we cleaned up they were always just as bad the next day, and
the only way to keep them from crawling away with us was to
get the shirt reading habit, and do the once over every day.
The next day I sent home imprints of the different coins I
happened to have in my pocket. The old copper five centime
piece had been superseded by a new one made of aluminum with
a hole punched in the center. The ten centime piece was a
little larger, with a hole in its center. The twenty-five centime
piece was a little larger than the franc.
We were told that the coins were called in to get the copper
for shells and parts of the big guns, and to do away with the
confusing of twenty-five centime pieces with francs. The
holes in the ten centime pieces helped to distinguish them. At
one time there were five different coins in circulation in France,
(five) England, Belgium, Switzerland, France, and sunny Italy,
and the five coins all had equal purchasing value in all of the
five countries mentioned.
I received a watch from my brother. I could not make it
run for some time until I discovered that the minute hand was
striking the second hand at the tip. I sent my mother a small
silk handkerchief with a letter for her birthday.
August 18th our regimental band played for the boys in the
village. Listening to music is certainly more soothing to the
nerves than ducking shells. I heated water for a nice hot bath
over the coals in the mess kitchen. We had moved into a
house in the village, and I had a dandy straw bed in a room
where there was a stone floor and a fireplace.
I had got the smoking habit by this time, like all the other
boys. I liked the French wine, but the beer was rotten. I
was firmly convinced that my numfrer was not on any of the
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 29
Kaiser's shells. The weather was very warm so that I did not
mind sleeping out in the open.
The dentist was working on my teeth so that they bothered
the life out of me every time I ate. I changed my insurance
papers so that my father would get $3,000 and my mother
$7,000 in case anything happened to me while in the service.
There were not many aeroplanes to be seen around our rest
camp, we were far behind the lines, away from the continuous
shell fire and strain. We did not get many newspapers there,
as the village in the vicinity were not reached by a railroad.
The nearest railroad station was twenty kilos from us.
Nearly all the people remaining in the village were elderly
people who toiled all day in the fields, I noticed one woman
who must have been at least eighty, cutting hay like a young
We were paid August 24th. A little Frog, well into his fourth
summer, came along while I was drawing water from our cart to
make Java. His shoes were in tatters, especially the backs. I
picked up a nail and sewed them up as well as I could with some
heavy twine, so that they at least kept his feet off the ground.
I do not claim to be an expert shoemaker when the tools of the
trade are on hand, but I made that little shaver happy.
A member of my company was sent back to the States August
24th, on account of the dependency of his wife and two children.
He had been sent over to France through some error and had
been to the front twice.
The town pump went dry, and I had to haul water from a
spring beyond the next village. The water was exceptionally
clean and cool. The town crier was making his rounds as we
passed through. He assembled the villagers by beating a drum
and then announced the latest dope on the war or anything of
interest or importance.
We spent several days on the road until we reached some dark
woods about two o'clock of a very dark morning. The road was
well supplied with shell holes which hindered us a good deal.
We stopped one day, and then took another fifteen kilo hike. I
had had almost no sleep for two days and could hardly keep up
with the kitchen. We had been taking turns sleeping on top of
the kitchen while on the march. When it came my turn I was
soon asleep, with my head hanging over the fire box. The link
connecting the front to the rear slipped out, and I took a com-
plete somersault in the air and landed on my feet. As soon as I
got my eyes open and realized what had happened I ran down
the road to stop the driver, who did not know that he had lost
an important part of his load.
While on the march the ration cart always followed the kitch-
en. Whenever we got hungry I grabbed a loaf of bread and
cut it up. Sometimes we had jam, or olemargine, too.
When we reached our destination we found that part of the
30 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
division had already arrived, and a number of kitchens were set
up in the woods, which looked very much like a village soon
after dark, with nothing to be seen but a few lights here and
there. After placing our own kitchen we looked around for
a good place to sleep. We slept from three o'clock in the morn-
ing until nine. Soon after a hasty breakfast of coffee and bread,
we were all treated to a general bawling out of the officers by
our friend the colonel, known intimately as "Roaring Bill." He
said that we should have camouflaged the kitchens with trees,
and then reminded us all that the French did not want any more
trees cut than was absolutely necessary.
Two days later we moved to a better location one kilo nearer
the front. That was the shortest and perhaps the slowest hike
I ever took. We spent five hours doing little more than wait for
orders to move on another hundred yards, but we finally ar-
rived, unhitched the mules and put them in their corral, and then
all hands returned to the kitchen. I don't think I ever swore
so much in all the rest of my life as I did the next hour. We
had to work the kitchen into a clump of bushes. It wasn't the
lifting and pulling and pushing that worried us. The bushes
were equipped, with long thorns which made us forget about all
the barbed wire ever invented. We had to get the job done,
too, before we could get any sleep. I slept where I dropped
until wakened by the mess sergeant who told me to hustle some
water. I had to go back eight kilos.
September 8th, just after I had finished cutting five 10 pound
tins of bacon, the knife slipped while I was skinning the rind
and nearly finished a finger for me. Our first aid man fixed
it up with iodine and a bandage which I soon lost, as I kept right
on with my work.
The French were busy placing long range guns along the road
and camouflaging them overhead so that they could not be spot-
ted from aeroplanes, doing everything at night, of course. It
rained every day, with regular cloudbursts between showers.
Two of us fixed up a pup tent with the mess sergeant. We put
several empty sacks on the ground first of all, covering them
with three wool blankets, leaving three more for cover.
Just before mess one day we went over to the extra fireplace
dug in the ground to get a large boiler of coffee. Before we
carried it thirty feet the clouds seemed to burst, and we were
soaked to the skin before we could reach cover. Luckily I had
extra sox and underwear. I dried my shoes as well as I could
over the fireplace.
Orders came for us to move towards the front September 12th.
The company left about nightfall, followed by the kitchen about
an hour later. We advanced four kilos through the woods.
The mud was the thickest I had ever seen. After a few hundred
yards we would stop to rest. I threw myself on the^ ground be-
side the road to get a wink or two of sleep every time I got a
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 31
chance, as I did not know when I would get another good night's
rest. After much delay we found our location in the woods and
darkness and rainfall. We unloaded our supplies and piled them
on the ground under the large canvas cover which we carried
for protecting our flour, sugar, and such provisions, and then
went dugout hunting.
I found our officers and a few men in a little dugout. They
were a funny sight all piled in there together. It was two
o'clock by that time. I used my helmet as a chair, because the
floor was very damp, told the gas guard to call me at four
o'clock, leaned back against a post, and slept till he woke me.
We had to keep our gas masks at alert all the time, for we never
knew when gas shells would be dropped on us.
We carried the cans of bacon into a dugout, where we used
an empty box as a cutting table. The water cart had gone for
water, but failed to return, and the boys did not get any coffee
that morning. They were bitterly disappointed, as there is no
better tonic on a cold morning than hot coffee. We cut the bread
by the flashes of the big guns, which were throwing a terrific bar-
rage over on the Boche. Nevertheless, we had to be very care-
ful with our fire while we cooked the bacon. We covered the
firebox with wet sacks.
We rested all that day. At nightfall the company was order-
ed forward into a village which was under constant shell fire.
The kitchen followed. Two of us were left behind to guard the
supplies until the return of the ration cart which had gone to the
rear to draw our daily allowance. The kitchen had gone on
when the ration cart reached the village, so the driver went on
in the wake of the company and followed it around while the
drive was on.
Our orders were to stay with the supplies until we were sent
for, so we stuck, while the boys went ahead and helped to cap-
ture Mont Sec, on the Toul front. The Americans surrounded
the hill, forcing the Boche to evacuate. Soon after they captured
a little village a long train rolled in bearing several carloads of
ammunition, a complete brass band, and several carloads of re-
enforcements for the front lines. The 26th Division took them
all prisoners after a sharp fight.
In the meantime my pal and I were guarding the supplies left
in our charge. After waiting all day for the ration cart
to come we dined on bread and water. I tried to sleep sitting
on a box of corned Willy, with a couple of sacks thrown over
my shoulders, but the night was too cold. The next morning
we discovered the most comfortable dugout that I had ever been
in, containing chairs, tables, bunks, and best of all, a large fire-
place with a large exit for smoke.
We lost no time moving in the supplies, which included 45
loaves of bread, 100 pounds flour, 150 pounds spuds, fifty pounds
carrots, 50 pounds of bacon fat obtained by trying out our bacon
32 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
before the kitchen left, sugar, and coffee. Our menu that day
included samples of about everything, and we wound up with
hot cakes and fried bread.
We crawled out of bed the next morning at 6:30, and soon
had some spuds peeled and fried in a tremendous frying pan we
discovered there. We did not care how hard it rained, as we
had plenty of wood to keep the fire roaring.
The next day, Sunday, turned out to be a glorious day. We
could not find a line of reading matter anywhere. Newspapers
were scarcer than hen's teeth. We rose at 8 :30 that morning,
and feasted on fried spuds and toast, washing them town with
most excellent Java. We had everything our own way, going
to bed and getting up when we felt like it. My pal was lucky
enough to pick up a deck of cards which helped us to pass the
We spent September 16 exploring the dugouts in the vicinity.
They were occupied by the French before the drive commenced.
One of the dugouts was at least fifty feet deep and very dark, so
that we had to feel our way around very cautiously, I washed
my clothes in a shell hole and took a much needed bath, after
boiling the water to make sure there was no gas in it.
When we ran out of drinking water we hiked four kilos to the
nearest village where we filled our canteens and a couple of large
cans. We found a company of engineers laying a railroad to-
wards the front, on which supplies and ammunition could be
carried forward. They were colored troops, and a happier crowd
was nowhere to be found. Soon after we returned to the
dugout my throat began to get sore. I gargled it with the best
thing I could think of salt and water.
Our alarm clock had not yet appeared, so we slept until eleven
the next morning. We needed the rest, and we took advantage
of the opportunity. The rain encouraged us to stay inside where
it was dry and warm. Writing, playing cards and eating kept
us busy. We had not seen a newspaper for a week, and the
only news we had received of anything we had to pry from roam-
ing Frenchmen we met while strolling in the woods.
The lieutenant and the supply sergeant came after us Septem-
ber 19th. We loaded the supplies which were left on the ration
cart. All the bread had to be thrown away as it had begun to
mold. We had eaten all the potatoes, and some of the other
stuff would have been used up if we had stayed there much
longer. We had collected a number of souvenirs in the dug-
outs, but the lieutenant was angry because they had had to come
after us, and he made us discard everything that we did not
really need. I managed to smuggle three blankets onto the cart
when he was not looking. He made us carry our packs on our
We left all the soap with the commissary sergeant in the near-
est village. When the lieutenant went ahead on horseback, we
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 33
laid our packs and rifles on the back of the cart. We soon
passed the old front line trenches. At one of the cross roads we
saw a skull lying where a shell had disturbed some one's grave.
Quantities of Boche equipment which had been thrown away dur-
ing the retreat lay alongside the road. We saw graves here and
there, and many elaborate dugouts fitted up with glass windows
by the Germans during their long stay. They used large sheets
of steel which they struck with a hammer for gas alarms.
In one village we found a party of Frenchmen placing an ob-
servation balloon to aid in keeping tab on enemy movements.
In another village we learned that a number of our boys had been
killed there the day before by a shell. They were working on
the road rilling shell holes at the time.
We saw a Frenchman washing his clothes in a water hole.
He seemed to be contented and happy, even in those gloomy
surroundings. We took our time on the long grade just be-
yond, as the lieutenant was far ahead. Now and then a shell
went whizzing over our heads on its mission of death and de-
We found a French battery around the turn at the top of the
hill barking away at the Boche, three kilos away. They had
plenty of shells piled up alongside the road. Our kitchen stood
near by, rather scantily camouflaged amidst the trees. The mess
sergeant was surprised to see us. After a hasty meal we were
sent down the hill again with the water tank. We soon had
the tank filled, and then took our time on the return trip.
We pitched our tent near the kitchen that night, but my pal
did not like the continual booming and barking of the guns,
so he went dugout hunting in the morning. He located a large
dugout, the headquarters of our regimental band, fifty feet under-
ground, where nothing could be heard except the explosion of
a shell near the entrance.
I stayed outside alone several nights, but I began to get a little
scared myself out there in the pup tent sometimes, especially
when I could hear the motors of the Boche bombers humming
overhead, and I began to wonder how I would look if they drop-
ped one in my front yard.
We were about two kilos from the front lines. From our
position we could see a level plain about six kilos wide, half of
it still held by the Boche. We could see Boche ammunition
factories working full blast. We did not shell them because, we
did not want to kill the Belgain, French, and American prison-
ers working there.
An Austrain 88 gun gave us a lot of trouble. We could not
hear the shells coming, and we had no time to duck. It shelled
the woods every day, remaining quiet for a while and then
throwing over four or five in rapid succession, sending us scamp-
ering to whatever shelter we could find.
One day while I was busy cutting bacon, and the company
34 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
was lined up for mess, one of these shells landed about forty feet
from the kitchen. It did not explode until it had buried itself
in the ground, and the dirt went straight up into the air. No
one was hurt. When the dust cleared away I found myself
flat on the ground. The place was deserted in about three
When we finally served the meal only ten men were allowed
to come up to the kitchen at a time. We did everything we
could to camouflage our smoke.
High explosive shells burst overhead frequently, throwing
out buck shot in all directions. A piece of metal missed me
just five feet one day. I had replaced the cover after stirring
the stew and stepped back, when bing ! said piece of the shell hit
the cover of the kettle. Several mules were killed near the
kitchen by a shell which dropped among them.
Another day, soon after I had finished taking a bath out of
a large can, a large shell landed where I had been for the
last half hour. They seemed to be getting the range, and it was
not long before we were ordered up closer to the lines where we
had better protection and a dugout in which to sleep.
After packing everything onto the carts we moved out of the
protection of the woods. It was after night, and the road was
camouflaged by a high brush fence, so that the Boche could not
have seen us from their lines. The most dangerous spot, where
shells landed frequently, was a steep grade where we had to
block the wheels with long poles run between the spokes.
After we had made the sharp turn at the bottom in safety, the
plateau lay before us.
(We backed the kitchen into a safe place and unloaded the
supplies, covering the kitchen with large trees to scatter the
smoke. The next job was a trip with the water cart. I had
to walk over a hundred feet through mud over my shoe tops
to get to the water, and I had to feel my way to the spring,
the night was so dark.
After filling the coffee boilers from the tank, we looked
around the dugout for quarters. It was built about ten feet
under the surface of the road, with several passageways run-
ning out of it to other dugouts. It must have been the
Boche headquarters in that sector. Some of the passages were
400 feet long. The passage running to the Red Cross first aid
station was very damp. The first chance I had the next morn-
ing I made a block for that passage out of a large potato sack
and strips of wood.
The doorway to the dugout was less than four feet high, so
we had to almost crawl into it. By night I had everything
fairly comfortable. I had a box to sit on while reading or writ-
ing. "Canned Heat" provided warmth. For a bed I spread
several sacks on the board floor, covered them with one
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 35
blanket, and then covered myself with three blankets and my
I never undressed at night, for we never knew what minute
we would be routed out by a gas alarm or orders to move.
I kept my gas mask and helmet right by my head ready for
instant use at all times. The company was scattered along
the lines in platoons, each of which sent a food detail for each
meal, provided the shell fire did not prevent. The food was
carried as usual in large cans.
I was up against it for cans until I made some out of 10
pound bacon tins, hammering down the rough edges at the
top so the boys would not cut their hands. I fitted each can
with a handle made out of heavy wire. I kept plenty of boil-
ing hot water, very soapy, for washing the cans, and towels
to wipe them dry. We used all the flour and sugar sacks for
We made doughnuts whenever we could get the flour, some
days three of four for each boy. The bread came in 5 pound
loaves, enough for ten boys. We served jam when we got
enough to go around.
The plateau was a grand sight in the daytime, when we
could see everything that was going on. There was a con-
crete pill box on top of our dugout which must have held a
machine gun or two during the drive. A big vegetable gar-
den near by was visited every night by some of the boys.
The Boche must have been wise, for he plowed the place
every night with all kinds of shells. I could hear the shells
coming from the inside of the dugout, and they always seem-
ed to be coming straight for me.
On clear days we could see dozens of aeroplanes, many of
them maneuvering to get pictures of any place that looked
different or suspicious. Our anti-aircraft guns were always
barking away at them, and once in a while we sent them back
in a hurry. We had to keep on the watch for planes, and keep
well under the trees so that we would not be seen.
The country was well nigh desolate. None of the farmers
had come back. For weeks I did not hear or see anything of
a cow or a hen. How I longed to hear a rooster crow again!
We found an elaborate power station in one dugout, from
which the Boche had provided electricity for lights in differ-
ent places, through power lines running along the ground.
I woke up one morning with an itch which I blamed on the
cooties, but the Doc said I had the German itch. I believed
him. A day or so later I developed a large boil behind my
ear down there in our Half Way to Hell Hotel, and after the
Doc finished lancing said boil I had another count against
I found my glasses broken the morning of October 2nd. My pal
must have stepped on my blouse while I was asleep. I
36 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
managed to find time the next day to wash all my clothes and
take a much needed bath. The next day was one to remember,
for a K. C. man came around and gave us cigarettes, tobacco,
and chocolate, free of charge. fThere was no Y. M. C. A. near
October 6th I woke up with sharp pains in the muscles
above my knee. The Doc gave me aspirin tablets to take
every four hours and told me to rest a while. The weather
was very cold. The next day I was no better, hardly able to
crawl around and pack up my belongings before the ambu-
lance arrived to take me to the hospital. Every seat was
taken by men who had been wounded or gassed, and I had to
stand on one foot, trying to save my bum leg. The pain
The road seemed all shell holes, and every little while a
shell or two whizzed by overhead to give the engineers some
more trouble on down the road. We found the first aid station
nice and warm. It was located in a half-ruined church.
They examined me carefully and sent me on in another am-
bulance. jThe boys who had been burned by gas were put on
tables and scrubbed with hot water to relieve the pain. All
my equipment was left on a salvage pile.
The ride to the field hospital was made with great difficulty,
on account of the heavy rain. We skidded from one side of
the road to the other and back again, but we finally arrived
without any upsets. After a good sleep that night I rode
twenty kilos further to Evacuation Hospital No. 6, near the
old Verdun front.
It was a clear day. I managed to get the end seat so that
I could ease my leg from the continual jarring. We passed
through the old Boche artilery positions, all of which had been
well camouflaged, where equipment lay in heaps alongside the
road. I saw a number of soldiers in one large village which
had either escaped destruction or had been repaired quickly.
The road was smooth after this, and we made a good forty
miles an hour for a while. We passed by a camouflaged fence
at least five kilos long. The road here could be seen twenty
miles away on a clear day from the Boche observation balloons.
Soon after passing a French hospital we arrived at our des-
I was able to walk into the hospital along with a number
of our wounded, besides a bunch of German and Austrain
wounded. Most of the stretcher bearers were prisoners. They
were very careful in handling all litter cases, as many of them
were very badly wounded. They took down all my history
and then assigned me to a ward. The bed was the softest
I had seen in France.
My company was nearly wiped out soon after I left it by
machine gun fire. While in the hospital I learned that only
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 37
eight men were left. I saw 300 aeroplanes go over that day.
They were flying in V-shaped battle formation, and certainly
must have made a big hole in the Boche morale. The man
who can face an aeroplane flying at him with a machine gun
firing three hundred bullets a minute without running for a
dugout is decidedly rare. A moving aeroplane is very hard to
hit, and it takes a direct hit to damage them.
I was sent to Base Hospital 26 October nth, where an X-ray
showed pus pockets on my leg, caused by some injury, they told me.
They cut into the pus pockets October iQth, and inserted a row of
drainage tubes. I was in bed there until November 2Oth, when I
was carried aboard an American Red Cross train. I was glad when
I saw it was American, because the French carried wounded in box
cars and gave little or no attention to a man who could not take care
I stayed three and one-half months in Base Hospital 8 at Savenay.
I went through "Marble Hall" (the operating room) twice. When
we were told the armistice had been signed all I could do was shed
a few tears, for I was flat on my back and nearly all my pals were
Fortunately I had a little money with me. The French woman in
charge of the diet kitchen bought eggs for me in the village, at six
francs a dozen. We feasted on roast ruck, mashed potatoes, pud-
ding, bread, and coffee, Thanksgiving Day. Usually corn meal mush
was all we got for breakfast, and the eggs were a great help. Once
in a while we had corned beef hash, and then I always wanted sec-
I received no mail for three months, although I notified my or-
ganization and the main postoffice. The first letter I received came
February 2nd. It was dated October 5th.
I was operated on for the third time February 7th. They gave
me gas at first and then ether to make me sleep a long while. They
scraped the. bone, and cut away a lot of decayed bone and a growth
around the bone.
February I4th a sergeant looked me up to see how I was getting
along. Apparently the folks were not receiving my mail, either.
Three days later the nurse from another ward where I had been
several weeks brought me thirty-three letters which had been loop-
ing the loop, some of them for five months.
While lying in bed in the hospital I made a great many souvenirs
and useful articles. I made a table mat out of string, and followed
that with a "Lazy Squaw'' (basket), a most appropriate name, con-
sidering the time I spent on it. The more I tried to strengthen it
the more lop-sided it became. The Red Cross furnished us with
a number of one pounder shells on which we painted various de-
signs. We gave our first efforts to the Red Cross. I painted a
caduceus on mine. I sent the next one to my uncle.
February 28th the Doc said I must try to get up and walk around
on cruthes. The orderly helped me lower my leg to the floor and
38 GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY
to stand up. I had been in bed five months. How my feet did burn !
I did not walk any that day, but the next day I got to the next bed
without a tumble, and in a little while I was down to the end of the
I left the hospital March 7th for St. Nazaire, where we boarded
the transport for the States. We had the first real mush, rolled oats,
for breakfast at St. Nazaire, that I had seen in months. H]ow tired
I was of that corn meal mixed with water !
Hundreds of soldiers were boarding the transports. I saw many
prisoners working about the port. For some reason all the French,
both men and women, seemed to be in a great hurry, and moved
around on the jump. I rode to the dock in an ambulance. They
took my papers at the checking station and up the gang plank I went.
I was assigned to an upper bunk where I had plenty of room to
move around. The food was excellent. I made away with my
share, all right, as I had been without proper food so long.
At 10:30 a.m., March Qth, the band struck up a lively tune, the
anchor was pulled aboard, and we started down the canal toward
the open sea. The banks were lined with little Frogs who scrambled
eagerly for the pennies and cigarettes thrown to them by the boys
on the decks. Even the smallest of them, not over five years old,
were crazy for the smokes, and puffed away contentedly when they
got a light.
I managed to take in some of the scenery through the port hole.
We were soon out on the briny deep, and I was on my way to see
the Girl 1 left behind me, more popularly known as the Statue of
Liberty. The first day a lieutenant came around exchanging some
of the real stuff for our French money. I had fifteen francs left to
turn in. They passed out mince pie as a little hint of what was com-
ing, and it did not take me long to get acquainted with it again.
The sea was rough all night, so I did not sleep much. The Red
Cross man brought a graphaphone into our compartment. That
music was certainly grand. They brought us something extra every
day, fruit or chocolate or tobacco.
March i6th I found my bunk too narrow and moved up on deck,
where I threw all my worries overboard. I found a box to sit on
while I took in a little ocean scenery. We celebrated St. Patrick's
Day by starting off with bacon, eggs, mush, bread, coffee, and or-
The next day we lost six 1 hours when the ship sprang a leak and
the fires were put out in the engine room by the water rushing in.
The hole was plugged at last, the water pumped out, and we went
merrily on our way, making port on the 2Oth. We were taken off
in a driving rain. The first people to greet us were the Red Cross
women with baskets of sweets.
I rode in an ambulance to Camp Stewart, Virginia, where, as soon
as I got the chance, I downed five dishes of ice cream at the Red
Cross house. After a good dinner I went to bed. I had a lot of
GOING AND COMING AS A DOUGHBOY 39
dental work done there. They pulled off all my bridge work and
yanked out two badly decayed roots.
We started on the last lap of the long journey back to the Golden
West on the last day of March. The food on the train was of the
best, bacon and eggs every morning with several other things thrown
in. We were allowed seventy-five cents a meal while traveling.
Nearly every town and city had some treat waiting for us. Bakers-
field gave us a lot of fine oranges. The reception at Fresno was
great. The eats included ice cream, jello, fruit, and the famous
I tried to phone my folks from the Oakland Pier, but Central was
asleep or worse. That was about midnight. After breakfast the
next morning the lieutenant gave each of us $6.85, the amount due
us from our ration allowance. We were met at the train by am-
bulances, which took us across the bay on the nine o'clock ferry,
and landed us at Letterman General Hospital in short order.
After several X-ray and culture tests the clinic prescribed mas-
sage. I needed it all right, as there was practically no play or bend
in my knee. While in Ward 26 (we called it the dugout) I spent
my time studying spelling, arithmetic, grammar, shorthand, typing,
and Spanish, besides making bead chains and baskets which brought
me some extra dollars. I had twenty-two chains at one sale at the
I wrote a little nearly every night on this story, and managed to
keep very busy all the time. There were many opportunities for
amusement and recreation, moving pictures and vaudeville at the
American Red Cross house and outdoors, as well as chances to go
on auto rides and to shows down town. When things got a little
tiresome one or more of our friends always came along with a pic-
nic, and many people came to see us afternoons.
I was glad to be so near the folks, so I could run home now and
then for a good home-cooked dinner.
PVT, ELMER H. CURTISS,
Co. H, 102 Infty.
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