IN THEIR OWN WORDS ...
Time Frame: Final Battles thru the Armistice
October 1918 - The 1920s
79th DIVISION DEAD
| FINISHING THE JOB
We were most anxious to get into battle and have some kind of a record before this armistice was signed.
Maj. James Van Fleet, 17th Machine Gun Battalion
October 11, 1918
Just think, old Jerry Boche but 500 yards from where I am
writing ... We have given Fritz an awful tuning up, and he seems ready
to pass off. He has asked for an armistice and he is getting it in the
shape of [our shells] which are screeching over our heads and making
him duck ...
I hope Wilson grants no armistice, but will demand unconditional
surrender, and then talk peace. Otherwise, the only way we want to
talk is with our guns.
Lt. Ken Gow, 27th Division
While up front our kitchen was always a few miles in the rear and grub had to be carried up by a ration detail, early in the morning and after dark, also our water. We always got one hot cooked meal a day, if the ration detail did not get shot up or killed, it was a mean job to carry rations when the "Boche" was shelling the roads with gas and high explosive shells many times we had to wear our masks and carry grub.
Pvt. F. Rueppel. 311th Infantry, 78th Division
"Hard tack, hard tack in the rain; better than nothing to eat, but not much." was heard along the line.
1Lt Edmund J. Lilly Jr., 17th Machine Gun Battalion
On October 15th, 1918, we were charging machine guns and men were being cut down like grass all around me. Then I was hit and fell, and
couldn't get up. I laid there on the battlefield for three days and was assumed dead. Some man came by and said: Fields, what the hell are you doing laying there? The man picked him up, put him on his shoulder, and carried him three miles to the aid station.
Gangrene had already set-up, and they amputated my leg just below the knee. I was passing in and out of consciousness during the whole time and never recognized the man that carried me to safety. How he recognized me I'll never know because I was unshaven and was a mess. I've always regretted never knowing the man that saved my life.
Pvt. Clifton R. Fields, 32nd Division
Pvt. Fields Before His Wound
I did not care what or where I went at. I ask[ed] God to help me, and he did so. And that is the way I came though that trouble and hell[ish] place. For the whole enter battle [I] felt were hell, so it wer no place for any human being to be.
Cpl. Horace Pippen, 369th Infantry
Pippen would become a celebrated artist after the view. Click here to visit a slide show of his combat images painted from memory.
A LEGENDARY SOLDIER DESCRIBES THE LAST STAGES IN THE ARGONNE
Argonne Forest, France-- Well now, as we went on fighting our way through
the thick forest of the Argonne woods, we could hear the cries of our boys
who were getting shot, and oh my, we has to sleep by the dead and with the
dead. . .
Continued below ...
Getting Ready for the Last Push
Sommerance, The Argonne Forest.--We had got to Sommerance, and during
this time we had lost many of our men and were still losing them, as you
know that you can't fight in war without losing men, and the Germans was
shelling us awful with big shells, also gas, and the boys laying there that they
couldn't bury. Oh my, I can't tell you how I felt, and when those big shells
would come over and bust, then I heard my comrades crying and mourning.
All we could do was to trust God to protect us and look up and say--
"Good-by, old pals, your body sleeps here
'neath the sod;
Your soul, I pray, has gone home to God."
So we stayed in the front at Sommerance until we got relieved by the
Eightieth Division boys.
We stayed in actual fighting in the Argonne from the time we went in, which
was the morning of October 8, to November 1. Over three weeks. Fighting in
the front line all the time and through those terrible woods. And we were
mussed up right smart-the woods and us.
Continued below ...
Just Minutes Before the Armistice
There were not many of the Greeks and Italians left. But what were left were
still fighting like a sackful of wildcats. I sure did like those boys now.
The nearest I came to getting killed in France was in an apple orchard in
Sommerance in the Argonne. It was several days after the fight with the
machine guns. We had a very heavy barrage from the Germans suddenly drop
down on us and we were ordered to dig in and to lose no time about it. Some
of us were digging in under an apple tree. The shells were bursting pretty
close. But we didn't take much notice of them. Just kept right on digging.
It's funny: after you have been at the front a right smart while you can almost
tell where the shells are going to burst and what size they are. And this
morning they were close, but not close enough to scare us. And then they got
closer. And we dug faster.
I have dug on farms and in gardens and in road work and on the railroad,
but it takes big shells dropping close to make you really dig. And I'm telling
you the dirt was flying. And then , bang!- one of the big shells struck the
ground right in front of us and we all went up in the air. But we all came
down again. Nobody was hurt. But it sure was close.
Sgt. Alvin York, 82nd Division
Atop Monfaucon -- Argonne Forest
THE DEATHS OF FOUR OF AMERICA'S SONS
Private Oswold Englehardt was killed on the reverse slope of Hill
269 on the afternoon of October 9th by a sniper. Englehardt and I and
a couple of sergeants were in front of the company crawling toward the
[enemy] ... As I was telling the men to keep off the trail he was
shot ... The bullet struck [him] in the rump and went on up into his
body. His eyelids fluttered a little and he was dead.
Reported by Major Dickinson
The next we heard was that Lt. Pickering had practically
recovered from his wound, was walking around and would soon return to
the regiment. Then there was a long time when we heard nothing. Our
regimental surgeon, Capt. Baker, wrote to the hospital where Lt.
Pickering had been and in answer received a letter stating that he had
passed away on October 15th from pneumonia following influenza and
that he had been buried there at the hospital at Vittel, near
Neufchateau, Department of Haute-Marne.
Staff Report, 91st Division
Cook Odus McFadden
... was gassed October 5, 1918. He was transferred to an S.O.S. Hospital
October 10. Nineteen days later he recovered sufficiently to rejoin
his company. On November 3, 1918, he was struck by a shell, while in
action. His wound was so severe that he died before first aid could
Chaplain's Report, 84th Division
October 16, 1918
I am commanding the company, Walter. Just think, I am the last
officer left of five [of us who served together on the Mexican border].
It is an odd feeling to watch them go one by one until you are the
left. It makes one feel as though his time is coming with the
sureness of death ...
Lt. Ken Gow, 27th Division
(Lt. Gow was killed early the next morning leading his company in an
THE AEF WOULD SUFFER OVER 120,000 KILLED AND WOUNDED
IN THE LAST SIX WEEKS OF THE WAR
BUT THE END COMES SURPRISINGLY FAST
November 8, 1918
...the night of November 8 was indeed a wild one. It was on this night that the first report, or rather the false report, of the signing of the Armistice was received. Parades formed immediately: Flags appeared from every window and from all balconies. The cafes and restaurants were crowed to capacity. Everybody seemed happy. The next morning, however, the real facts were learned and the spiritsof the people somewhat damped.
Sgt. Albert Haas, 78th Division, In Vichy, France recovering from wounds
November 11, 1918: The AEF's Happiest Day
Again stern orders were given to roll our packs for a final drive. It was now twenty minutes to eleven, November 11th, 1918. We fell in line and marched onward.
We had had no official word yet that the armistice was to be signed. In fact we had heard so often about Germany's peace talk that we paid no attention to wild rumors.
Exactly at eleven o'clock, came the message from Marshal Foch's headquarters, the "Armistice was Signed." Instantaneously wild shrieks, shouts and yells of thousands and thousands of voices could be heard. The night had been a thing of horror! Daylight brought her joyful tidings to thousands of wearied fighters! Visions of home and dear ones, of transports homeward bound, waiting for the boys who answered the call of their country - the boys in khaki - the Yanks!
Pvt. Mathew Chopin, 356th Inf., 89th Div
As noon approached, we became conscious of an unusual quietness all around us. Firing of all kinds had almost entirely ceased. The Germans were not firing even a machine gun, though our artillery continued to send over a shell now and then. The Germans occupied the crest of the ridge along the river, and if they had had sufficient numbers, could easily have cleaned us up. After eleven o'clock, all firing ceased entirely, not a sound any where. Soon everyone was talking about it. No word had reached us yet.
A wounded fellow from our company was discovered, down near the river bank, where he had laid since before daylight. Getting a stretcher, McDermott and I went to him and dressed his wound. He was shot through the hip, and just about unconscious, as a result of his exposure to the cold. We wrapped him in a blanket, and laid him on the stretcher.
While we were getting ready to take our wounded man to the rear, a runner appeared' with the official news that an Armistice had been signed. Most everybody let out a few healthy yells, but I did not. For one reason, didn't feel much like yelling. I had some difficulty getting three more fellows to help me carry the stretcher. The one I did get had to stop every few minutes and rest. I kept urging the necessity of getting the fellow under medical care as soon as possible, for he was badly in need of attention. As we had to go back along the river bank to where we had crossed during the preceding night, I had a good opportunity to see just what we had done, and the hazardness of our undertaking.
Pvt. Clarence Richmond, 5th Marines, 2nd Division
FINALLY CAME NEWS of the Armistice. Somehow we could not believe it was true the war was actually over. Then, on Dec. 7, we saw a beautiful sight. Here came a passenger train flying U.S. flags. We climbed aboard. We were leaving German territory. I had been in a prison camp only 58 days, but felt as if I had been there 58 years
Pvt. Charles Dermody, 132nd Infantry; 33rd Division
Prisoner of War at Rostatt, Germany at time of Armistice
On November 11, the authorities deemed it advisable to keep all men off the streets and accordingly issued orders that all patients were to be confined to their quarters. Across the street from the Globe Hotel was a large bulletin board. About noon, a large printed poster was hung there which soon attracted eager and interested groups of people. After reading, they gave vent to their feelings in various ways. Some wept; some shouted for joy; some tossed their hats in the air and embraced their comrades. Little children and older men and women ran along the streets shouting 'Fini La Guerre.' In the evening a band appeared and judging from the general appearance of of the instruments, they had not been usd for some time. It was also quite evident that those playing them had not had a great deal of preliminary practice. The band passed in front of the hotel and we were able to recognize, by use of a little imagination, that they were trying to play The Star Spangled Banner. We appreciated the effort and applauded.
I thought of what had happened in the past two months, of what I had experienced in that short time and was swept by a peculiar and indescribable feeling. I was glad. Glad that the war was over, glad for those people who endured four years of misery and hardship, and who were now to know better conditions. I though of home and how the folks at home felt when they received the same good news; of other folks whose loved ones would not come home, and what the stopping of fighting meant to them. It was the end of the most terrible four years of warfare the civilized world had ever known.
Sgt. Albert Haas, 78th Division, In Vichy, France recovering from wounds
GREAT DAY !!! THE WAR HAS ENDED !!! PEACE HAS COME !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
While we were eating mess, a French soldier came running by waving a
flag and yelling "Finis la guerre!" Later, an official communication
affirmed the great news. We are all overjoyed ...
Sgt. Edwin Gerth, 51st Artillery
On Monday at 11:30 am when the sound of cannon boomed the joyful
news that the longed for peace had come ... The French seemed stunned at
first--they couldn't in a moment throw off these four years of horror
and grief. But [we in] the Red Cross turned out strong. [Outside, in
the street], a drum appeared from somewhere ... and in a moment the
crowd was singing the Marseillaise. So many people were crying that
it was a little difficult. Then a procession formed ... If you could
have seen me marching between a Tommy and a wounded Poilu, the
latter helping me carry the flag with his good arm. A French boy
scout carried the French Flag. The whole of Paris seemed to join in
the parade. You never saw anything like it.
Elizabeth Ashe, American Red Cross
Memoir, INTIMATE LETTERS FROM FRANCE & EXTRACTS FROM THE DIARY
Somebody came out waving a white flag. An American officer stepped forward to greet the German. Then the German kids started coming down. We celebrated that day with the German soldiers. They came down and we mixed all up. Some of them could speak English and we could speak German. . . They were glad to see it over with, too.
Gene Lee, USMC, 51st Company, 2nd Division
Interviewed at age 104, 7 November 2003
Paris: November 11, 1918
Nov 11: Fighting stopped.We hardly knew what to do with ourselves for a while it seemed rather queer to not hear the screech of a shell or the sharp reports of rifles and machine guns.
Tents were pitched in a nearby field the farmers furnishing straw to floor them with and we could have fires, smoke or anything else after dark.
On the morning of Nov 17th we started on a hike for Germany with the French making about 15 miles to a place called Dikilvenue where the company slept in a brewery and in the morning started on another hike to Borsbeke where we stayed for two days.
Pvt. Robert L. Dwight, 148th Infantry, 37th Division
PRESIDENT WILSON'S ARMISTICE MESSAGE TO THE NATION
After the Armistice, those of us not involved in the Occupation were encouraged to seek educational opportunities. I studied French at the Sorbonne. Later on, this training led to Douglas MacArthur appointing me to the faculty at West Point. It changed my life completely.
Lt. Ralph Smith, 4th Division
American Occupation Forces Cross the Rhine Into Germany
SOME DOUGHBOYS WERE STILL IN THE MIDDLE OF TROUBLE, HOWEVER
Ekaterinburg, Siberia, Saturday, July 12, 1919
The Siberian Army of 40,000 is retreating before an army of 37,000 Bolsheviki ... I saw one group of 500 Bolsheviki prisoners, and several groups of 15 and 20 being marched off to their destiny (execution)...
After breakfast, I went uptown and saw the home ... which was the prison of Czar Nicholas and his family, the barred window and the cross outside where the Czar worshipped, and the place where the Czar, his wife Alexandra, son and daughters were murdered.
Corporal Jesse Anderson, Guard Detail, 15th Red Cross Train
AMERICAN FORCES WOULD NOT RETURN FROM NORTHERN RUSSIA UNTIL AUGUST 1919 AND APRIL 1920 FROM SIBERIA
Hush little soldier,
Don't you cry,
We'll get orders
By and by.
April 9, 1919
Embark[ed] at 10am after marching down under full pack. Greatest day
I've spent in France ... Aboard the German [now U.S.,] ship Zeppelin.
Capt. Harry S. Truman, Batt. D, 35th Division
On ... Decoration Day, we sailed up the Delaware [River and then]
landed at the Snyder Avenue dock at about noon. We marched to a
waiting train which took us to Camp Dix ... On June 7th, my 27th
birthday, I was discharged form the army and went to my home, at that
time in Clarksboro, New Jersey.
Sgt. Maximilian Boll, 79th Division
Unpublished manuscript, FIRST JOURNEY
I don't believe you can appreciate what a wonderful feeling it is
to get back to the U.S. from France. It's beyond description...
Sgt. Sidney Adams, 91st Division
Unpublished manuscript, LETTERS TO MY FATHER, EPHRAIM D. ADAMS
After the war was over I returned to my old job with the General
Hardware Company and I've been there ever since. In my home town
people point me out to strangers and say, "You'd never believe that
fellow had a hat full of medals, would you ?" And the strangers
always say, no they never would.
Pvt. Harold Dresser, Company K
From the novel, COMPANY K by William March [Campbell]
THE LAST MAN
When I opened my stationery store in Richmond California, I began
to meet many of my fellow veterans from France. We had heard of "Last
Man" associations forming around the country so we decided to pass the
word and form a group here in Contra Costa County. We used to meet
fairly frequently - there were several dozen of us - and we chipped in
and bought a bottle of cognac to be drunk by the last man to survive.
I got to be the one to open the bottle, but the liquor didn't taste
AEF veteran Al Furrer of the 4th Ammo Train, "Last Man" of Contra Costa County, California, died shortly after this 1989 interview.
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