6. After Soissons,
My dear Parents,
It seems a crime to have carried a letter home in one's pocket for 12 days without getting it mailed but it was impracticable and in fact impossible to get it off to you. This one sheet of YMCA paper that I got from a French soldier is the first bit of paper I have chanced to lay hands on and I am using it in the best method possible. The night of the 15th shortly after I had finished my letter to you we got hurry-scurry mobilization orders. The Regiment was assembled and marched about 15 kilometers -- then camions (motor trucks), a long ride through traffic choked roads and lots of dust. Then an anxious wait of a few hours in the woods. About dusk it was announced to us that we were to go over the top at dawn. We had had nothing to eat since we started and had only our reserve rations with us but we made out as best we could and snatched an hour's broken sleep. Then we marched all night out toward the lines. A storm had blown up and the rain came down in torrents. Drenched and weary we still hiked on. All that kept us going was that little bloodthirsty spark of battle lure that was before each man.
Silently we moved along the traffic-covered road and just about the first break of dawn arrived at the ammunition dump. Nearby we left our blanket rolls in heaps and lightened our loads for combat. Then every one loaded up with ammunition and we moved out to the line. We passed the tanks that were to go over with us just before we reached the second line which was still well screened from the enemy observers; here we deployed and crept up stealthily into the French front line; there was many a grim handshake in that line of bayonet fixed swarthy complexioned gang of battlers in the next few minutes of waiting. The artillery had almost been entirely silent but at 545, zero hour [July 18, 1918] as we call it, Hell broke loose and with a yell of hopeful antagonism we went over.
The papers have probably told you how the tide overflowed the vicinity. The tanks in scores drove ahead and we followed and it was one long tragically hilarious lovefeast we gave old Heinie that day; cavalry, infantry, tanks, armored cars, aeroplanes with the good of .75's pumping cold and hot steel from the rear, all just made Heinie pick up and run, and we didn't stop chasing him till it was too dark to see and then went on next morning till we were so dog-gone tired and hungry we couldn't hardly see and then fresh troops from the rear came up and went over our heads and kept up the chase. Well we were relieved the next night after we got a bite to eat and here we are on our way to a rest after 4 months of pretty strenuous fighting Heinie's opinion of 'Our despicable little army" is changed.
John still in hospital. Expect him here any time.
Love to all.
Your own son Eugene.