IN THEIR OWN WORDS ...
Time Frame: First Action thru Chateau-Thierry
Late 1917 - June 1918
MEN OF THE SEGREGATED 92nd DIVISION
180,000 BLACK AMERICANS SERVED IN THE AEF
Our (first) trench was an old one and pretty well shot to pieces. The first night I was in it, it was very quiet; no artillery at all. The only thing that broke the silence was once in awhile a sniper would shoot at something, and the rats runing around sounded like someone chasing after you ... Standing post at night is something --you see there is thirty feet of wire in front of our trench and the posts are put in very irregular. It is almost impossible to find a place where you could see clear through the wire, even in daylight, and at night, every post or broken tree looks like a man and if you look long enough the object seems to move.
The first night I stood post I imagined the trees were men and at times I saw them stoop down and climb over the wire, but after that I was used to it and learned how to tell a man from a tree. If you give a false alarm it means that the fellows who are sleeping in dugouts are wakened and have to come up and "stand to". At the best, the fellows get very little sleep, and if there are any alarms, they get none at all; so the wise Hun has all kinds of ways to coax an alarm, cats are used; and they have whistles that make moaning noises. You hear a cat on the wire and one of these whistles are blown, and you look out and think there is a man cutting the wire, and let her go ... It rained only once while we were in and it was bad enough in dry weather, but when you have to stand in mud, it must be hell.
We were troubled quite a little by snipers, stick your head over and zip---they use a high power air gun and there is no flash, so they are very hard to locate.
Pvt. Sam Ross, 42nd Division
A Trench Raid
...The moon was bright but Lt. Holmes crawled up with his men, cut 12 strands of wire, and when the sentry looked out of the post, leaped on him himself. While Lt. Holmes was wrestling in the water in the trench with the first sentry, the second German shot at the lieutenant. Sgt. Murphy killed him with his bayonet. The prisoner was then secured, yelling, "Kamerade", and taken back over No Man's Land.
Reported by Major Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
Staff Report 26th Infantry, 1st Division
Sector Duty in the Vosges Mountains
I want to say right now how I felt in advancing in a front wave for the first time in my life against an enemy ... shells were shrieking ominously over our heads and their screams seemed to have a devilish joy in landing to kill some poor unfortunate mother's son ... The whining of bullets was enough to make you wonder how long a person could be missed by them ... I wiped my forehead and it was sweaty ... cold sweat.
Corporal Joe Rizzi, 110th Engineers
Memoir, JOE'S WAR - MEMOIRS OF A DOUGHBOY
An old story ... The new recruit asks, "Hey, Soldier, tell me, is it really as rough up there as we are told?" The classic answer, "Yeah, they shot a man up there one day last week."
Pvt. Elton Mackin, USMC, 2nd Division
Memoir, SUDDENLY WE DIDN'T WANT TO DIE
A Well Known British Nurse Observes the Doughboys
(One day) I was leaving quarters to go back to my ward, when I had to wait to let a large contingent of troops march past me... Though the sight of soldiers marching was now too familiar to arouse curiosity, an unusual quality of bold vigour in their swift stride caused me to stare at them with puzzled interest.
They looked larger than ordinary men; their tall straight figures were in vivid contrast to the undersized armies of pale recruits to which we were grown accustomed...Had yet another regiment been conjured out of our depleted Dominions? I wondered, watching them move with such rhythm, such dignity, such serene consciousness of self-respect. But I knew the colonial troops so well, and these were different: they were assured where the Australians were aggressive, self-possessed where the New Zealanders were turbulent.
Then I heard an excited exclamation from a group of Sisters behind me, "Look! Look! Here are the Americans!"
I pressed forward with the others to watch the United States physically entering the War, so god-like, so magnificent, so splendidly unimpaired in comparison with the tired, nerve-wracked men of the British Army. So these were our deliverers at last, marching up the road to Camiers in the spring sunshine! ... The coming of relief made me realize all at once how long and how intolerable had been the tension, and with the knowledge that we were not, after all, defeated, I found myself beginning to cry.
Nurse Vera Brittain, V.A.D.
Memoir, TESTAMENT OF YOUTH
In front of Cantigny, in woods on hill. Valley in front with main road from Montdidier to Amiens running through valley. Boche on hill across valley and in town of Cantigny. Heavy shelling; gas day and night. Parks and Wynn killed by shellfire. Relieved Algerians. No trenches, they stopped the Boche there. We are busy all night putting up wire and digging in. The ground is like chalk, easy digging. I've had a patrol out every night, protecting the wire stringers.
Sgt. Tom Carroll, 1st Division
After the Battle: Cantigny
Into the village of Cantigny we go. There remained nothing but
ruins. We passed on through to the other side of the village. Here
we encountered barbed wire entanglements but it was our good fortune
to get through these without any mishap. But once across I notice
that the boys are falling down fast. A shell burst about ten yards in
front of me and the dirt from the explosion knocked me flat on my
back. I got up again but could not see further than one hundred feet.
I heard someone yell "lay down." I knelt on one knee and wondered
what would come next...
We laid down and started to shoot and it was our good fortune
that the second wave reached the place at this time. About twenty
Dutchmen came out of the holes, threw down their rifles and stood with
their hands up. The doughboys didn't pay any attention to this but
started in to butcher and shoot them. One of the doughboys on the run
stabbed a Dutchman and his bayonet went clear through him...
The German artillery was in action all the time...I stopped at a
strong point and asked the boy in the trench if there was room for me
to get in. "Don't ask for room, but get in before you get your [!#%&]
shot off," a doughboy said...
We stayed there all that night and the next day, being relieved
at two o'clock the following morning, taking position in the first
lined of reserve trenches. We ate a cooked dinner at eleven o'clock,
that being the first meal we've had in three days.
Sgt. Boleslaw Suchocki, 1st Division
We held [Cantigny] for three days before being relieved by another regiment . . . It was three days of h..l, and the third day was worst of all, as the dead had begun to decompose, and our strength was about gone. Twice I was covered up with dirt when shells would cave in the trench but my lucky star was in the ascending I guess. I've had quite a few narrow escapes; once a bullet went through the bandolier of ammunition and coat, but never touched me . . .
Sgt. Hobart McKinley Thomas, 28th Infantry, 1st Division
In late May, the 2nd and 3rd Divisions of the AEF are asked to stop the German Army at the Marne River town of Chateau Thierry
Town Hall, Chateau Thierry
BELLEAU WOOD: BIRTH OF A LEGEND
"Retreat Hell, we just got here!
"Come on ya sons of bitches, ya want to live forever?"
"I have every man, except a few odd ones, in line now. We have
not broken contact and have held."
"Woods now US Marine Corps entirely."
I was wounded while we were making the attack. I lay on the
field three hours after I was wounded...I could not get up and leave
without drawing fire, so I lay with the rest of the boys. After it
got dark I went to the first-aid dressing station and had my leg
Compilation, DEAR FOLKS AT HOME...
Master Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly who asked his Marines if they wanted to live forever.
The German Army Evaluates Their New Enemy
The condition of the [American] troops must be considered
excellent. They are healthy, husky, physically well developed men of
from 18 to 28, who temporarily merely lack the necessary training to
transform them into really estimable opponents. The spirit of the
troops is fresh and harmlessly confident. Quite typical is the
expression of one prisoner, "We kill or get killed." Casualties of
the Marine Brigade [at Belleau Wood] are considerable. One prisoner
estimates them to be 30-40%.
Staff, German 87th Division
After the Battle: Belleau Wood
A German Soldier at Belleau Wood
In the field, June 11, 1918
Forgive me that I am answering your letter at such a late date,
but I could not do so before. We have Americans opposite us who are
terribly reckless fellows. In the last eight days I have not slept
twenty hours. My company has been reduced from 120 to 30 men. Oh,
Private Hebel, German 237th Division
Mother, I suppose you read all about the Marines in the New York
papers. Well, it was in one of those battles that I was wounded, but
before they got me I was able to get to the edge of the woods and help
to drive them out. When I was first hit I thought I was going to die,
and I was glad that I took the ten thousand insurance, but I did not
die. Well, Mother, I think I will close now as I will write a letter
to you once a week to let you know how I am getting along.
Pvt. Frank McCarthy, USMC, 2nd Division
The Marines fill the place to overflowing. The hospital
increased from 600 to 1500 beds overnight. The medical staff was
overwhelmed...I looked at the stump of a young Marine who's leg had
been amputated and said: "Now, my boy, aren't you sorry you didn't
stick to your drum?" He replied, "No, ma'am, this ain't no time for
Nurse Elizabeth Ashe, American Ambulance Service
Memoir, INTIMATE LETTERS FROM FRANCE & EXTRACTS FROM THE DIARY...
At Chateau Thierry the AEF begins taking the enormous casualties characteristic of World War I battles.
There are so many women [in France] wearing black and the other
[women] show what a strain they have been thru. There are scarcely
any young men seen except those who have returned minus some part of
their anatomy or else in such a physical condition that they are
almost helpless. All the men working are over fifty and then there
are lots of boys...
Pvt. Allan Neil, USMC, 2nd Division
Talk about a dead town ! Verdun is it.
It appears much as San Francisco did after the fire. Some houses
intact, even whole blocks only casually damaged and then -- great
areas in utter ruins.
For blocks, silence is supreme. Most furniture has been removed
but here and there a piano or some such cumbersome article stands hadf
crushed under the weight of a toppled wall.
Pvt. Otis Briggs, 1st Division
Unpublished Manuscript, A COMMON SOLDIER
[In Paris] Went to Notre Dame Cathedral ... luckily heard the grand
pipe organ. Thence to Hotel St. Anne where military police checked my
pass; then to the Madeline - another beautiful church like Notre
Dame ... Dinner at a French Restaurant, high priced. Visited Place
Vendome [and saw the] bronze cannons captured in the Napoleonic Wars.
Crossed the Seine over the Alexander III Bridge.
Went through the Louvre with the YMCA. Then visited the Garden of
Tuilleries ... It started raining ... paid 4 francs to stand in foyer of
Follies Bergere -- quite like our high class burlesque -- the lower
foyer is a grill and it's some live place. At 10 pm went to bed
which was provided by the Red Cross.
Corporal Eugene Kennedy, 78th Division
How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm, After They've Seen Paree?
Popular Song, 1918
Paris: Then and Now
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