A Special Contribution From
Mike Pierson





BATTLE IN THE ARGONNE

FROM THE DIARY

OF

WAGGONER JAMES ELMER PIERSON



transcribed and edited by


GRANDSON MIKE PIERSON




Engineers in the Argonne Forest



Sept. 26, Bang, the big thing is on. this is some battle. are in no manís land to day. the first time it was safe to be here in the day light for over three years.

Sept 27th, The Huns are on the run. we have taken Mt. Laucoln [Monfaucon] one of their best fortified forts. dead every where.

Sept 28, Are building a narrow gage [sic] road over no manís land to put sulpher over the dead. found men in shell holes that have been there so long their clothes have all rotted away.

Sept. 29, Connected up with the German road have been running their engines. They left so quick they didnít have time to blow them up. all in good shape.

Sept 30th nearly got shot to day by aroplane [sic] machine guns. shot a car all to pieces, and I was under the one next to it. close call for me.

{Note: there are no entrys for October 1 and October 2}

Oct 3, 450 Americans laying in these woods and canít get them out. we that could walk got out, the roads to the hospital are all blocked. heavy rains and cold, had to pack grub up to the front on mules. drove the Huns but coundnít hold them, for lack of supplies.

Oct 4 Guns everywhere and lots of excitement. Roads are getting better. there are as many men working as there is fighting. built 3 miles of plank road the planks were captured from Bill.

Oct 5 Still going ahead but slow. all the Germans are using machine guns and they can shoot.

Oct 6 We are loosing lots of men. the 313 has been blown up entirely. those dam [sic] Huns are sure there with the machine guns.

Oct 7, pretty cold and wet, makes it hard to do anything. have to make new roads and it is slow work.

Oct 8, My birthday to day. they just sent a big berrage [sic] this morning and tried to make a big hill south of Mt. Laucoln [Montfaucon]. the fellows went up 5 times before they stayed. Those Germans in those pill boxes sure make a nasty fight.

Oct 9th are camped in no manís land, all it is is shell holes and barb wire.

Oct 10 The noise is over for a few day then we will move up again. this is a nice kind of a job where a fellow gets ahead of the guns. he is out of luck. we have lost quite a bunch on this setting. those who didnít get hit are sick. the air is full of poison and the ground is all iron and dead laying all over. it is a God send that it is cold and there is no flies.


Casualties Being Carried Out of the Argonne Forest



Oct 11, The only way I want to look at this country again will be from an aroplane [sic]. Mud and then some. a fellow is falling down all the time just slide and slip.

Oct 12, am running a 5 ton Pierce Arrow truck, or it is running me. a boat would be better.

Oct 13, this truck job is one that a fellow trades his bed off for a lantern and then canít use tha lantern. all the drivings done here in the dark, a fine thing. There is no stop.

Oct 14, I will be willing to work 24 hrs a day for two months if we can keep the Bosh [sic] on the go like we have for the past week. Can see the old N.Y. Harbor now.

Oct 15th Had a touch of the high life last night. had to take a truck load of bridge timber up to the front, and some of Bills men must have heard us comeing [sic] for he sent over a few just to let us know he had some left. no one hurt, but it isnít very pleasant to hear them crack near you.

Oct 16th got a can of water out of a shell hole and took a bath the first one in a month, and the first time I have washed my face in 5 days.

Oct 17th, took a bunch of men to the Hospital to day, a 5 ton truck isnít much to hall [sic] wounded in but it is better than nothing. they put through 15,000 men in three days, that is wounded and sick. are useing [sic] the German prisoners to load the men on the trains and *** ***.

Oct 18, out all night last night rain and cold. stayed in the dug out to day and slept. the first good sleep in a month. while I am writing this I am thinking of going to bed right away, but every time I fear any one call I shiver for fear it is for me to go out to night. when a fellow gets out in the morning isnít bad, but to leave a nice warm dug out at night is awful. it is raining and is cold, and I am going to bed.

Oct 19 Have been crazy with a tooth ache all day. caught cold and feel pretty bad.

Oct 20 tooth still acheing [sic] jaw all swelled up look fine but a fellow donít care how he looks here.

Oct 21 Tooth ache stopped very sudden last night at 11:30. was in the dugout wondering how I could pull the tooth, when a few bombing planes came over and dropped bombs on our camp. two hit close one about 100 feet the other 20 feet from the door. if I had been in a tent the concussion would have killed me even if a piece of shell hadnít hit me. it filled the air so full of dirt and dust I couldnít breath for a while. This is a lucky outfit. there were 10 bombs in all, and no one was hurt. when I got my senses together I had forgotten all about I ever had any teeth. Those bombs sure have an awful kick. I tarryed for a while my ear drums were broken, and I was ten feet under ground.

Oct 22, been out to the bridge with material and supplies. they are shelling the road all the time and makes driving hard. road is nothing but holes. the French are haveing [sic] a big celebration in honor of the big victory in Belgium. It seems that the Germans are putting all their men on this front to face the Yanks. the killing on both sides is awful. Horses and men are tired and stiff from cold and wet but keep going. the Hun has no chance to rest and that is what is getting him. lots of fresh divisions comeing [sic] in to day. and there will be hell to night.

Oct. 23. rain and mud. still working night and day there is no rest. the Germans seem to be loosing ground.

Oct 24. all the fellows are tired out but keep going. lots of fellows comeing [sic] in all the time. their outfits are all cut up. the 115 has all been blasted and are cut to pieces. three Majors dead and all crippled up.

Oct.25 took a load of t*** out to Ferges. Caught in a convoy held up for eight hrs. shelled all the time. big guns on the R.R. track. they are driving the Huns off the Muse [Meuse]. our men have crossed the river in lots of places. heavy fighting all along the line.

Oct.26 just mud fight blood and misery every where. some one is going to pay dear for this. if not on this earth it will be in the hear after [sic].

Oct.27 Went to Grand Pire [Grand Pre] to haul for Co. A. they lost a lot of men up there. grave yards every where. she is awful hot hole. Captured a $1,000,000,00 *** the Germans had near Grand Pire. dead are every where.

Oct.28 Captain in the river. Lutindant [sic] shot trying to get him out. both laying in the water dead. bad luck.

Oct.29 packs all along the road. blood every where. the boys either ran in to their own barrage or the Huns located them. they tried to dig in but some of them were to late.

Oct 30th Found a letter a fellow started to his girs and never finished it. a shell hit him dead center.

Oct 31 the mud is awful I am a regular cake. couldnít hear good and found out my ear was full. havenít washed for so long have forgotten ther is such a thing. the river is full of dead horses and men. the shell holes are full of green water all poison.

Nov 1, Old Hinne doesnít seem to have any gas shells left any way, he doesnít send over any.

Nov 2. Left for our camp. tires are gone on the truck.

Nov 3. got in camp at Dombarde [?}. hard trip had to go slow rubber all gone on wheels.

Nov 4-5-6 started for Borle Deuce [Bar-le-Duc] for new tires. had to go to Leanny [LIny?]. hard trip driving at night no lights. roads are good lots of travel.

Nov 7 Back to Lazolette [?} picked up a bunch of our men who were guarding the bridges that were mind [sic].

Nov 8 Moveing [sic] the company up on the Muse [Meuse] River above Ardenne [?]. are working on some bridges at Consanivy [Consenvoye]. a few of the fellows got to ambitious got ahead of the dough boy and got all that was comeing [sic] to them. I think they have all the records broken for a half mile run. two got wounded.


River Meuse at Consenvoye Looking West



Nov 9, some work day and night. these fellows can use more timber than any one I ever saw. work day and night, some mud.

Nov 10 are camped in an old German Hospital find quarters, the best we have ever had. Are 30 Kilos from Verdun. big gun here they had trained on Verdun. I guess the war is over. The noise of the guns are getting pretty dim. can only hear the big ones.

Nov. 11, This day will go down in History. it is a great day here. All the French soldiers are drunk. and all you can hear is Finis La Guere.



Biographical Sketch

I still donít know a thing about my granfather's childhood. He was born in Canadaigua, New York, a town just outside of Rochester, in 1888. Itís just speculation, but I think great-grandpa was wealthy because the family owned about 2 acres of land, a spit out into Lake Canadaguia named Pierson Point. It got sold a few years ago for back taxes; apparently my grandmother never told anyone that my dad and his sister had inherited it, so the taxes were never paid.

There are all kinds of things named after my family: Pierson College at Yale; Pierson Junior High School somewhere in Connecticut. Pierson Point in upstate New York. If I didnít even know my grandfathers first name, you can bet that I knew nothing about any of the rest of this. Thatís why this is called A Work In Progress.

After he got out of the Army, he was a miner in Arizona. One of the guys in his squad was mining with him; they were best friends. His nickname was 'Buzz', and he married my grandmother in the early 50's- long after Jim died. I have some vague recollection of him, and family mythology has it that he saved Jim's life once in a mining accident. I have many newspaper articles about him from the Flagstaff area press- mostly tombstone ads advertising shares in his silver mines.

About the only thing my dad remembers about his father is seeing him looking out a window at the Veteranís Hospital in Los Angeles. During the Great War Jim was gassed, and it apparently developed into tuberculosis.

He died of the TB on New Years Day, 1929. He died at Sawtell Military Hospital in L.A. and is buried at the National Cemetary there. Supposidly he came down with TB soon after the war, and it was generally attributed to the fact that he was gassed in late October, 1918. He even mentions it in his diary.

So my dadís only vague memory of his father is this partial ghostly refelction staring down at him a few weeks before he died. My dad had just turned eight.

Based upon his diary, it looks like he began to die around October 10, 1918. From Mike Pierson

Sources and Thanks: Mike Pierson did a wonderful job with the manuscript. He felt it was important to follow his grandfather's creative spellings, especially of French words. I inserted some corrected proper names, however. Regular DBC contributor Ray Mentzer helped with the photos. MH.



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