The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces
91st Wild West Division
Diary & Photos
Battle in the Argonne
And Playing With
Sgt. Robert R. Gustafson
361st Infantry, 91st Division and
The General Hq. Band
Bandsman Robert R. Gustafson Preparing for France
About the Diary and Its Author
Robert Raymond Gustafson was born in 1888 and died in 1987, living to be 99. His hometown was Seattle, Washington although he lived in Mount Vernon, WA at one time. He was in the lumber business with his brother before the war. Upon returning home, he changed his name to Robert Gustafson Raymond because his brother had driven his lumber business into bankruptcy while he was gone. He reconstructed his lumber business with his newly changed name. He married and had 2 sons. Only one survived to childhood, Howard, stepfather of Andrea Linn who would in 2005 salvage Robert's diary and photos. He was a talented musician and played in the Seattle symphony for 30 years. He was an avid gardener, and especially loved Begonias. When Robert was 82 years old (1970) he was blinded by glaucoma. His wife died in 1979. He then lived alone until he was 95 years old in his own house in Seattle. Eventually he was place in assisted living, which he never was happy about. He was very independent (stubborn), blind and deaf towards the end.
He apparently was inducted into the 91st Division which was composed, mainly, of draftees from the west coast. His musical skills with the tuba earned him a position in the regimental band of the 361st Infantry. He earned promotion to sergeant and held that rank during the period covered by his diary. Bandsmen traditionally serve the role of stretcher bearers during combat. Robert played this part almost to physical exhaustion as the 91st Division went over the top on September 26, 1918 in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which until the Battle of the Bulge was the largest battle ever fought by America.
On the Way to France
After the opening phase of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the division was rested and redeployed to Belgium. As the division was preparing for combat in that sector, fate interceded. His diary ends with Sgt. Gustafson being called to duty to play in the band being assembled for the Headquarters of AEF Commander John J. Pershing. In early 1919, with the help of a buddy's diary, he reconstructed the events he experienced, mostly in the Argonne Forest, in diary form.
His diary starts after the 91st Wild West Division, which had trained at Camp Lewis, Washington, has arrived in France. It is in training in Eastern France to be part of the new First US Army. Robert Gustafson's first entry covers Sept. 1, 1918.
Diary of Sgt. Robert R. Gustafson
Our training. . .had--besides our medical drill and music--many practice marches. The last of these was on Sunday Sept. 1st. I will describe it. We started early in the morning with a full pack and marched to a point beyond Mogent. Here the division's [components] met, coming from different villages and we pitched tents. The kitchen got set up and we had warmed up canned salmon and tomatoes and coffee, bread or hardtack was missing. We ate at about 4pm. Then we struck tents and packed up ready to. We did not start until ten O'clock, though. For four or five hours we did nothing but stand around and feel chilly. For we were in summer underwear and nights are chilly over in France all the time.
We got back. . .about 1:30 am. We had covered twenty miles without much fuel for our stomachs and were pretty well fatigued. Up at reveille next morning. We had heard that the commissary at Moutigrey, three miles away expected some supplies about Monday. We used to walk there to buy jam or chocolate, but they were most always out of goods. There was a chance to slip away about the middle of the day, so several of us did so. They were out of stuff though, but we managed to get several bars of French chocolate at the YMCA there. You could only buy one bar at a time so I would go in with and without glasses, alternately, loan my glasses to the others and make other attempts at disguise.
We knew now that we were going in a day or so. We packed our instruments that afternoon. We had already given away or thrown in the salvage pile anything we thought not worthwhile carrying on our backs. That evening I took a bath in the creek as I thought it might be the last chance for some time, but it wasn't. We had some fine swimming at Demange later.
Next morning, Sept. 3rd, we got our reserve rations and packed up ready to go. At 9am we were lined up ready for the word. Our leaving the village was quite an event for Chauffourt as these people hadn't had Americans soldiers before and as we got along with them fine, they all turned out to give us a fond sendoff.
We marched as a brigade and assembled at Frecount about noon. We did not have any idea where were going. It was a hot day and our packs were sure heavy. It was not long before many began to drop out on the roadside. I am going to make a list of the things we packed than as I remember it now. One shelter half tent, two blankets, slicker, overcoat, tent poles, rope and pins, extra underwear and sox, extra pair of shoes, condiment can with salt, sugar and coffee in it. Mess kit, cup and canteen with quart of water, two cans of corned beef, sixteen hard biscuits and a chunk of bacon, pistol in holster, thirty-five rounds cartridges and first aid packet, soap, towel, tooth brush and shaving outfit.
We marched about fifteen miles and pitched camp for the night in a field. We waited for our kitchens but there was a mix-up or misunderstanding somewhere and they did not arrive until about 11pm. We did not get any supper but had beef stew for breakfast. We struck tents in the morning and marched to the Chalindrey, a railroad center near Lougres at 11 am. Pitched camp in a field just outside of town. Rested and wrote letter in the afternoon. At night we had violent thunderstorms. We tried to find something to eat in this town but edibles were scarce. I managed to buy a can of green string beans for about 3 Francs. We could buy some nuts also.
Location of the Meuse Argonne Offensive & the 91st Division Position
Next Thursday, Sept 5th, it rained hard a lot. We nevertheless went out for a little sham battle drill. While out, we took shelter in an old abandoned house. I picked up an old fireplace pothook of great age which would have made some souvenir, but couldn't keep it or send it.
Friday afternoon Sept. 6th we broke camp and boarded our boxcars about 6pm Twenty-eight of us tallest, biggest men got by chance, the smallest car on the train and we had miserable night as these French box cars are only about 8 ft by 20ft in dimension. The train was armed at intervals with anti-aircraft machine guns. In our route, we passed through the towns of Longres, Chaumont, Jormeville, Gondrecourt, and detrained at Demange about six in the morning.
At Demange we had a pleasant time. We put up in an old barn big enough to hold our whole company. Our kitchen set up in a sort of courtyard and for the first time used camouflage and hid the light of its fires at night. We were getting near enough to the front to begin precautions. We were not allowed to walk on the streets in the daylight and all lights were doused at night. They were guarding against aerial observation. Our own (French) planes flew overhead by the dozens.
But we had not much to do here. There was a Salvation Army canteen in the town where we could buy cookies and candy. We had several fine swims in the canal. At this place, we heard for the first time the distant boom of guns. At 9pm, Sept. 10th, we left Demange; you see we began our marching under cover of darkness. It was raining a little and the night pretty black. Marching with a heavy pack isn't as easy under such conditions as when you can see and pick your footing. We hiked until 2 am and then lay down in the wet brush and slept until 9 am. Breakfast was a failure. They put salt in the coffee in place of sugar and all else we had was a slice of bread.
In the afternoon we moved ahead to another patch of woods and pitched camp on a very steep hillside. We were near the village of Vacon, which is near a larger place called Void. We were told that were to remain at this point acting as a reserve force.
The St. Mihiel drive began that night, Sept 11, at about midnight [morning of 12th] with a big roar of guns. It was raining intermittently. We spent another night here and then packed up and marched to Void. Left Void in French trucks 8pm. Sept. 13. Passed through Ligny and Bar le Duc and got off the trucks about 4 am. Did not know where we were nor where we were going. The sky toward the front glowed red and the guns growled. We walked about three miles to a village called Marat and after the usual delays, always necessary when arriving in a town for billeting. We got established in our dirty, lousy looking quarters. Didn't get any cookies here though.
We stopped at Marat for Sept. 13 to Sept. 16th - three days. There were many aeroplanes in the sky during the day here as there was a camp nearby. Sunday afternoon and evening I visited this camp and saw much of interest. It was an American camp. The fliers were all Americans. All the machines were of French makes. I never saw nor heard of a Liberty motor in France. They had about 150 machines at the camp. The famous Eddie Rickenbacker was there. They were real busy while I was there, working on the St Mihiel drive. It took them only several minutes to fly over to the lines. They were busy at observation and strafing the Germans with machine gun fire. Also, [they went] after captive balloons. It was great to be present when they landed after a trip and here what they reported.
Advancing in the Argonne Forest
Some of the machines were pretty well perforated with bullets. When they patch up these holes they put a little black cross where the hole was. When the machines are out at night they shoot rockets and flares of different colors at the camp to serve as guide. It was at Marat that I found Mt. Vernon milk for sale in the French store for 2 1/2 francs. Wrote a few letters here. We got our band instruments and were just getting ready to play when orders came to pack up.
We left Marat la Grande at 8pm Sept 16th and march about 12 miles to Nubecourt arriving there at 1pm. We were supposed to bunk in a billet but the place was so dirty that several of us went out and slept under a tree. A heavy rain awakened us in the morning about 6 o'clock. The Aire river runs though Nubecourt so in the forenoon we went down stream a ways from town and packed a spot for a swim. A young lady herding cows came up and engaged us in conversation. One of us, Hoessley, is Swiss and can talk good French. He told the girl (she was about 18) that we were going to strip and swim but she wouldn't move so we went in. She watched us unconcerned for a few minutes before she went back to her cows.
On our March from Marat to Nubecourt we passed through several villages, which had been under shellfire a few years ago and razed. Mubecourt too was shot up badly. Often just a certain portion of the town is shelled. The church generally is not badly struck. The reason for this is, I have heard, that they use the church steeple as a marker to adjust their sights for the target. I noticed in Mubecourt a little frame house built within the broken down walls of the old home.
We had a good big supper and packed up ready to leave as soon as darkness came. That night we had a hard march. We cover between 12 and 15 miles some said 19 kilometers and others 22. We passed through Fleury, Ippecout, Froides and Jubecourt. Put up our dog [pup?] tent in Brabant woods about 2am. It rained the rest of the night. Spent a few hours in the morning eating beechnuts and blackberries. Blackberries were scarce but the little beechnuts plentiful. We ate two meals a day, always during the night hiking. While eating supper about 4pm, I saw for the first time anti-aircraft guns firing at aeroplanes. Black and white puffs of smoke from the shrapnel shells broke near the German plane but he didn't get damaged. Some shots were from our planes too, I guess. We couldn't distinguish between them. This was very exciting for us, but later became a daily occurrence.
We rolled packs and started out again for the front as soon as it was dark. This was Sept. 18, We only had a short march on this night but the rains had made some of our road awfully muddy. We passed through Brabant, a shelled village and stopped at Parois, a badly wrecked place. We put up about 11:30 in a house, which had lost part of its roof and walls. Twenty or thirty fellows scrambled into an old house of a couple of rooms [that were] dirty and unused, and brushed aside the debris, unrolled blankets and got to sleep on the floor without lighting a light as that is prohibited. This is something we became practiced in--crawling into any old barn we had never seen before and roll up on the floor and sleep. [Then finding] out where we were [the] next morning.
Next morning what do you suppose we experienced! Most of us had got up, some were yet asleep when --Whiz---- Bang! What was that! How scared most of us got and then more came over--about a half dozen in all, [with] intervals between. They placed these shells around a crossroads on the edge of town. Artillery and supply trains were passing there and that is what they were after.
That evening Sept. 19 we marched ahead a few miles. The traffic on the road as soon as it became dark was congested with motor trucks, supply weapons, ammunition caissons, light artillery, heavy French artillery with a dozen span of horses to each piece to draw it and artillery drawn by caterpillar tractors. We passed all this on the road and about midnight [and] plunged into very thick bushy woods and pitched tents.
Late in. . .the first or second night most of us were awakened by the hum of an aeroplane soon followed by the rat-a-tat of its machine gun. It sounded weird, but business like. Next day, we learned that it was after our supply trains having caught them out in the open in the moonlight. A few were injured.
We stayed here for several days. This was the Hesse Woods, part of the Argonne Forest. There had been some terrific battles fought in these woods three years before. The trees were all shattered with shell fragments. The ground was pitted with holes. There were trenches, barbed wire entanglements, artillery gun emplacements, big dugouts and French graves. A few days later the band was transferred from Headquarters Co. to Supply Co. Sept. 21. They figured then that the band's duty would be to help with the supply trains. However, we were only with them until the. . .drive began, Sept. 26. While with them, we had fine eats. The Supply Co. of a regiment always feeds best because they control the supplies. The fellows in the band had to work hard those few days with the supply trains throughout every night and the mud was ankle deep. Being a sergeant, I had it soft - had no duties.
There was lots of aeroplane activity overhead every day, but no real battles were seen as yet. They were just puffed at with anti-aerocraft - both sides. These woods became a regular ammunition dump. The woods were filled with piles of shells camouflaged with brush. By the way, everything was now covered with camouflage. While with the Supply Co. we all slept in dugouts-most [not] all--there was not room for all--as many of the dugout could not be occupied because there were old and rotted, in some cases filled with water. At best they were all damp and foul. But Corp. Newell and I found a little two-man dugout in fair condition, darkened it up, put in a fireplace and were quite comfortable.
Robert's Closest Friend
Every night the Huns now sent over about a dozen shells or so at the roads back of us. One evening we stood on the edge of the woods and watched. First came the boom of the German gun, then the slow whistle of the shell overhead and about the same time a puff of dust about a mile back where the shell lit and finally the report of the shell explosion. Our guns were being set up but they didn't fire back, but very little, just a shell or two each, I guess. The Germans were not supposed to know we were there, you see. On Sunday night Sept. 22, we had eight gas alarms during the night. When the Huns send over a gas shell and it comes near, the whole camp is aroused by the beating on gongs and sounding klaxons. We all slept on our gas mask. I used mine for a pillow all the time.
Monday night Sept. 24, we moved up some more. We located in woods on the reverse side of a hill close to the German lines. The shells banged around occasionally as we moved up. This place was known as Rendezvous de Chaty. Slept out without putting up tents. The nights were getting chilly.
On the afternoon of Sept 25, we rolled our tents blankets overcoats and extra clothing etc. into bundles to be left behind. Our doughboys went into the trenches in the evening. The medic major took charge of the band and stationed us in some dugout ready to be called any time [as stretcher bearers]. At 12 o'clock midnight our artillery opened up. The guns were hidden all around us in the woods. The din and roar was terrific. The sky glowed red. Hell was sure let loose! The feeling I had was of joy. We were all happy this first morning. Only a few German shells came back at us. They were too busy drawing back a little. The last couple of days they had got wind that something was going to happen and they were not taken very much by surprise. Our barrage kept on without relaxation until daybreak. The guns in use were the 8 and 6 [inch] and the French 75mm. All artillerymen were Americans with the exception of a few big long-range rifles of about 8" calibre which were manned by French. As soon as it became light enough to see our airplanes came over us flying everywhere and coming low over the guns with signals. Observations balloons, five or six in number were up close behind us.
At about 7am (Sept 26 the date the big drive began along the whole front and which date I shall always remember as plainly as my birthday) we secured stretchers and went ahead. When we got as far as the trenches, there was a delay for us of several hours trying to find where we were to go, so we did not reach any wounded until mid-afternoon.
German prisoners were coming-in in a single file - sometimes fifty or sixty in a bunch. I counted up to about 200 the first day. The French lines had been at the bottom of a hill and the Germans at the top and down the side a ways. Our artillery fire had covered almost every yard of ground around the German front line for a depth of about a quarter of a mile. This had been thick brush and tremendous quantities of barbed ware entanglements. The shells made such a mess out of the ground that progress was difficult. We found a way to the top of the hill and there was the end of a good road. A pit about thirty feet square and ten feet deep had been dug by the Germans across the road. Before we reached the point we saw a Hun aeroplane put two of our balloons out of commission.
German Prisoners Being Evacuated
The occupants of one balloon got down alright in their parachutes, but one fellow was killed when his flaming balloon caught up with him and dashed him to the ground. The Boche plane was fired on from the ground and chased by our planes, but got away.
Along this road we came upon our first wounded and dead. Four dead and mutilated Germans and one American were the first I saw. A half-mile farther along the road was a group of wounded, about fifteen. How horrible at first is the groaning of those in pain. Someone was crying for help off in the brush a ways. He had just been hurt by a piece of shell and we dressed him. We loaded our litters and carried men back to the end of this road. The man we carried died a few minutes after we set him down. His wound was a rifle bullet through the chest. He had been dressed by Dr. Coleman of our medics as shown by his wound tag. He asked for a cigarette while we were carrying him and smoked most of it.
We tried to find out if there was not some way for ambulances to come to this point after the men as it looked to us like an impossible task to carry them over those two miles of brush barb wire and shell holes. Two of us walked 3/4 of a mile to our right to see if we could find a way out. We came upon some concrete German dugouts, which we inspected hastily and with caution before returning to the rest of the fellows. No one had found how we could get the wounded out so we decided the only way was the way we came, so we started about an hour before dark. There were four each on all stretchers except one. We were not enough to go around so St. John and I took one man alone. He had a bad bayonet wound in his leg. Not from a German however, he was rushing through brush and the bayonet of a comrade's rifle thrust through his leg - such was his story anyway.
It got dark before we were halfway out and we had such a difficult time we almost had to give up. We would lose our way, get caught in barbed wire, step in holes and the work of carrying a man takes away ones strength in a short time. We got back to the traveled road about ten o'clock. Put some of the cases on trucks, which came along. Tried to get ambulances but couldn't. Then some German prisoners came along, about twenty. They were carrying one of their own wounded. We gave them our cases to carry up the road. The guards of these prisoners, two, one for the front and one for the rear of the column went on ahead and left me and Joe Cosco back with the four Germans carrying their wounded comrade. They were tired and dropped behind so we had them to ourselves. I did not know how they behaved so I saw to it that my pistol was ready and we got along fine. I was able to talk with them just a very little. After a mile or so we caught up with the rest, got our cases on ambulances and returned to the dugouts from which we had started that morning.
We were disappointed with the way things had gone the first day. There was lots of work to be done but nobody seemed to be doing it. There was no cooperation. We could not find any ambulances or medics. We could not get in touch with our major (Medical) whom we were supposed to work with. Bandleader Berger and a few others never went out of the dugout all day nor for several days. We did not get back to that group of wounded we left behind again. I suppose they lay there all night.
Next morning there was a little dissention in the ranks of the band. The duty sergeant, Rogers, was 'Yellow' and hesitated about starting right away, so ten of us decided to take litters and go to the front by a different route than on the first day. Those who went were St. John, Jones, Dyksterhuis, Newell, Secly, Nelson, Weir, Evans, Neal and myself. We went around through Avocourt. Along here the engineers were at work putting a road across the half-mile of ground which had been up heaved by shellfire. We got ahead and found dressing stations full of wounded, but they were 363 and 362 inf. stations. All that afternoon we carried men in for them. About the middle of the afternoon the rest of the band came up and got in the work. This was just plain hard work without much danger because the shells did not come around much. None lit near us. We were very tired and hungry at nightfall and started back to see if we couldn't find a kitchen but were unsuccessful. We had looked over a German dugout earlier in the day and went back there to sleep.
I found some of the largest most perfect cabbages I have ever seen there which the Germans had left behind in a sack. I cut a couple of them up and put them over a fire (covered to not show in the night) and cooked them a little before going to bed. The dugout was equipped with electric lights and while they did not burn at first, one of the boys was somewhat of an electrician and he connected them up with the storage battery so we had electric lights! There were bunks and German blankets and though they looked lousy and stunk, we were glad to use them. Had a fine night of sleep. I got up a little earlier than the rest and with Sealy for a helper fired up, put some corned beef with the cabbage and so we had corned beef and cabbage and coffee for breakfast.
This dugout, like most of the German dugouts was made of concrete. A narrow gauge railway came up to within a few yards of it. Alongside of the road near here there was a pile of iron pipes, electrical supplies, wires, etc. which the Germans had assembled ready to take back with them.
Next morning was the 28th of Sept. Saturday. After we had all the corned beef and cabbage we wanted we all started for the front. We had about three or more miles to walk. We followed a road. Alongside it was strewn the debris of war, dead horses, abandon guns, weapons, clothing, and equipment of all kinds. While on the way we had to pause a little to watch a big air battle overhead. Twenty or more machines were in it and I witnessed some wonderful acrobatics. Soon one machined acted crazily, like a wounded bird, swooping toward the ground. Part of the time he was upside down. When close to the earth, he nose-dived and crashed into some woods about an eighth of a mile away. They said it was German, but we could not tell. An allied plane came immediately and circled around a few times over what probably had been his opponent.
We passed through Very about 10am. About a mile past Very we found our regimental aid station with our doctors there. They had probably 25 wounded men lying on the ground. We were set to work at once by Dr. Coleman. He showed us the men we should take and carry back to Very where the ambulances could get them.
Village of Very
We had just lifted our patient onto the litter when whiz-bang, a shell lit a few feet from us and three of the Band boys were wounded - Williams, Devendorf and Wallick. I got a big scare, for a hunk of mud, or clod rather, about the size of my two fists struck me in the chest. That was when we made our first 'flop' - fall flat on the ground face down. We were a little slow the first time, as we didn't drop until we saw the surgeons and the rest duck. But after that first one we flopped flat as soon as we heard the whine.
R. Gustafson Passed by Here Many Times
They dropped about ten shells in succession here. After the fourth or fifth had burst and a couple of 'duds' had landed we snatched up our man and made off on a run. This patient was one of those I'll always remember for his coolness and grit. He was wounded in the head, body and leg and he said one side was paralyzed. There was a big hole in his helmet. He had lain on the field two nights with no protection from cold. Yet he had not a word of complaint. A soldier along the way had made some coffee. He gave our man a drink of it saying her had just refused a lieutenant who had offer him 50 francs for a cup of coffee.
We made several trips from the station to the old wrecked village of Very with stretcher cases. The road we used ran along the base of a hill on the protected side. It was made of sawn planks and built by the Germans. The distance was about a mile. We could not understand why the ambulances could not make it over because the shells couldn't reach it only in a few spots. Late in the afternoon they began to come over it, but they were too few in number. They could not catch up.
We carried about twenty out to the road and then went ahead over the hill. There were a number of dead on the hillside both Germans and Americans. We waited against a bank along the road for further orders for about an hour. The Germans were shelling freely but none came any closer than 50 feet. We were anxious to find out what we were to do so I went ahead about two blocks to see where they wanted us. I found an aid station in a dugout but Dr. Brown, whom we were working under, was not there. So I sent back again. In retracing path I was surprised to note how many new shell holes were along it having been gone only 1/4 of an hour. The band was not where I had left them but had started back, I followed.
On the way back over the plank road, I ran across Owen Crim's brother. He had a double wound in his arm. The valley along this road was now filling up with our artillery and supply wagons and kitchens. About the road were the bodies of 8 or 10 Americans left where they had been killed when advancing on the Germans two days before. Back of our spot, which served as a dressing station, I counted twenty American dead in a pile. All day long and into the night a German with a wounded face and head, his face covered with blood and greatly swollen sat on the ground in a fixed position, his left hand in his lap and leaning slightly on his right, which he placed against the ground. I saw him every time I came back from a trip. He never moved body nor face. Sometimes his eyes shifted their view a little, that was all.
In the evening it began to rain a little. The ambulances began to come through now, so we didn't have to carry any more back to Very. We stayed around the dressing station, carried the patients out to the road ready for the ambulances and did what little we could to make them comfortable - covered them with abandoned slickers, shelter tents, German blankets. The ambulances were coming slowly but the patients were all cleaned out about 11pm. Before that time though, we were sent back to Very to try to find a place to get some to eat and some sleep. We got some rations - Corned beef, tomatoes and bread - made some coffee in German semi-dugouts, and slept comfortable on chicken wire bunks with our slicker for covering. Bill Jones and I slept in a single bunk together for warmth. During the night, shells dropped around frequently. Our dugout was built on a hillside facing the Germans so were uneasy about being hit also on the lookout for gas and it did get pretty strong with it sometimes.
Next morning was Sunday, Sept 29. We got a hot breakfast of coffee, rice and syrup, bread. We went back toward the fighting, pass the point where the dressing station was the day before went on top of the hill where Epinonville, once a village, was and followed the road down into the next valley and left the road to go over another hill. On the side of this hill which faced the Germans, were some brick and log dugouts. They were built for protection from he other direction. Never the less, our dressing station was established here and remained there for five days. The brigade headquarters was also in the same building. It was a building more than a dugout for it had been used by the Germans as sleeping barracks and was about 200ft long. It paralleled the hill so one side went under the hill a little and the outside wall and roof were not any safeguard against a direct hit. The fighting was only a few blocks from this place. When I arrived I had to step over a man who lay dead in the doorway. He had been struck a few minutes before by a shell fragment as he was passing out of the door.
There were frequent 'sings' of bullets from a couple of snipers. We carried patients from this place over the hill back to the road in the valley behind us a distance of only about three blocks. We had to flatten out a couple of times for one sniper who made them sing over our heads. He kept working from about 11am to 4 pm. It did not seem to be anyone's duty to get him. While I never saw a sniper, I heard that they found them usually dressed in American uniforms and with a silencer on their gun.
All through the day we carried wounded of all description out to the loading point on the road. Of those I recall carrying was a lieutenant who had been gassed. There was so much gas in his clothing yet that it made us sneeze and shed tears.
Late in the afternoon, I had charge of loading out the patients for about an hour. I had to pick out of the group of usually about a dozen wounded men laying there, those who were to be put on the next ambulance. Could not put gassed patients in with wounded. There were two wounded I did not send because I saw they would soon die and one did before I left.
A Litter Team Picks Up a Wounded Man
About 5pm Capt. Brown took the band and about ten medics and we went from the dressing station with litters toward the front lines. We went through some woods, passed the supporting troops there and halted when we got near the outer edge of the woods. The Americans were to make a skirmish and advance just outside these woods so Capt Brown divided our party into three sections and sent one to the follow each battalion. Just as the division was being made, a number of shells came close to us and I was struck on the instep of my left shoe by a spent shell fragment the size of my finger. It made a sore spot, that's all.
Our group of. . .fellows--eight band men for the litters and three medics for first aid dressing--was to be guided to the rear of the 3rd battalion. The guide from battalion took us in front [of the battalion] instead of behind just as the skirmish was started. All the doughboys were flat on the ground or crawling and thousands of bullets were singing by. We 'beat it' as hard as we could run around their right flank and got in rear of them without a scratch.
We stopped for the next few hours in a pit known as the "the quarry", an irregular place dug out about fifty feet long and twenty feet deep wide and from six to twelve feet deep. We got several wounded and were about to carry them back when a group of Hun prisoners came and we gave them to them to carry. One was an officer, he said he would kill himself rather than be taken prisoner. One of our officers said, "go ahead" but he didn't. While the skirmish was going on just in front of our pit, a German airplane came from our rear flying about fifty feet over the ground. It flew right over us and rained bullets on our doughboys.
The German artillery began dropping some good-sized shells on the edge of the woods about a half block in rear of us. There were some buildings there. One of them was hit. Boards, dirt and debris flew and a couple of soldiers ran from it. I marveled that they were not killed. We sat back against our protective bank and watched this. Then the darn Hun shifted his range so the shells dropped around our pit. One lit right on the edge - wow, what a shock - and wounded three signal platoon men from the Hq. Co who were in the pit with us and shell shocked Kingsbury, the fellow who was such a good singer. Corp Everett was wounded around his ear and Sgt. Smith in the arm. I believe. I did not know the other one. The fumes from the explosion, so close, gave us the impression that gas had been sent over also, so we wore our mask for ten minutes. Corp. Newell took a few breaths before he put his on and all next day he though he had been gassed a little.
These patients could all walk in with assistance. Darkness was falling so we prepared to stay in the pit overnight. To get out of the rain we started undermining [?] a little. About 9 o'clock someone began hollering for help. The medic sergeant and I went out to him. The other side of his foot or ankle was shot and we though he could use the other leg enough so we could get him between us and carry him back to the brick dugouts. We had to give this up a quarter of the way in though and go back to the pit for more men and a stretcher as he became too weak.
This was a nasty night. It was raining, black, and the mud over the shoe tops most of the way we had to carry the men. This fellow groaned and made too much fuss over his wound compared to others who were torn up all over I thought. But when we got him to the dressing room, where it was light and saw a good portion of his ankle gone and the quantity of blood, he had spilled on the litter, I saw he had a right to holler.
Bill Jones and I slept together on a wire bottom bunk in the dressing station that night. We were fortunate to have one raincoat for bedding and a roof over our heads. So that was how I spent Sunday, Sept 29th the length of that day and others was amazing.
The next few days were hard ones. Our division had advanced faster than those on either flank. As a consequence we were getting infiltrating [enfilading] artillery fire while we held the ground we had gained. The killed and wounded kept piling up. We worked until 'all in' carrying from the first aid outpost back to the brick dugouts. Our dressing room floor was covered with blood and began to stink. Next morning it was blowing, raining and chilly. This was Monday the 30th. I can figure this out now with the aid of St. John's Diary, but at the front we lost track of days and dates.
Eight of us from the band and two medics went out back of the third battalion again and got two wounded who had not had first aid bandages yet. We had to carry them over a mile and a little to our right [because] the Germans were laying down a fierce Barrage. It didn't swing our way though. Saw a few ugly sights on this trip.
That morning a first aid outpost was established in a little frame cottage in the woods right back of the foremost lines. So, our job for the next few days was to get the injured into there to be dressed and then carry them back to the brick dugout - a distance of over half a mile. In these woods there were a few cottages and dugouts, which had been used by the Germans for the last few years. One of the buildings had been a motion picture theatre but only the walls of it were left. Nearby also was cemetery of German soldiers dead a few years ago. We passed though it every trip. The boards at the head of graves were most all splintered with bullets etc. and a number of shells had struck there and dug holes almost deep enough to bring some of the bones up. Our regimental p.c. - post of command, was in one of these dugouts, which I mentioned. In the forenoon while carrying back men on one trip Col. Davis, Capt. Smith, who was our adjutant, and other officers were standing in the path out in front of the p.c. They had to step aside when we yelled at them to let us by. We did not hesitate to order a colonel out of our way although it seemed strange. Capt. Smith was killed that afternoon and Col. Davis later in Belgium. I described in one of my letters about rushing out to get Capt. Smith when he was wounded. Major Farwell, Major Miller, Lieutenant Long of our company and Sgt. Raman and Corp. Sam Johnson were killed previous to this time.
We had systemized our work at the first aid station. As soon as a squad of four men finished carrying a patient, they would return to the aid station and if we were pretty well caught up with the work, wait there turn before going again.
Field Dressing Station
About ten of us were waiting in the aid station when an orderly rushed in crying out that Capt. Smith was badly hurt. One of the doctors call for six men to volunteer, bring a stretcher and follow him. The one who brought the message led the doctor back on the run. No one was in a hurry to volunteer. Ames went first, I grabbed the stretcher we needed. Cassidy followed and then Nelson. Four of us went instead of six. The guide led us out of the woods into the open but he had lost his bearings a little. He had left the wounded adjutant in a valley but in returning he led us into a valley closer to the Germans. As soon as this was discovered we turned our backs to the shellfire and ran over the bare hill. As we did this in full view we expect they would spot us and turn loose, but they did not. I give the Germans credit in the instance and in others, too, for passing us up on account of observing our litter. At the same time there were many times when they seemed to be trying to get us especially.
When we reached the Captain's side he was dead. On the way back we were given a lively shelling. I never saw one so scared as the Doctor. None were hurt. On this day also Mercer, who used to play in our University [of Washington] band back in about 1910 and who was a private in one of our companies, was wounded. We went out to get a man reported wounded at a certain place and found Mercer laying on his back with a shrapnel hole crosswise through his neck, right back of the Adam's apple. He had just got it a moment before. The shrapnel ball didn't not come out but came far enough so it bulged the skin out on the opposite side from which it entered. Of course he could not talk. I bandaged him myself. He was the only fellow I really knew well that I ever had to handle during all the time I as up at the front. I am glad of that.
A litter squad had to stay at the outpost dressing stations each night. Newell, Seelye, St. John and myself stayed the first night. We were fortunate to be under a roof I suppose, but 'wow" that was an ugly night to recall. It was a cold night. We had summer underwear. Had some corned beef and hard bread and then tried to sleep on a board bottom bunk but I was sick all night. It was the beginning of the diarrhea or dysentery which we all got sooner or later, and which we could not get rid of until a week or so after we left the front. This dysentery sure added to the misery and made everyone weak and gaunt. I understand the Germans have it as well as ourselves. Whether the gas or excitement or chill was the real cause for this, I have never been able to find out. At the time we all blamed it on to our diet of corned 'willy'.
The shells lit around these woods pretty thick that night. They kept our little cottage a quivering all night. I expected one to come crashing through at any time and they lit pretty bloomin' close. On the following night the shack was hit and two were injured but they were not band fellows. We of the band were lucky.
Tuesday Oct 1. We four who had stayed at the first aid post over night were sent back to the brick dugouts to help around there and take it a little easy. A kitchen sent up some fried potatoes, bread and coffee to the dugout that morning. This was not such a bad day as the others had been. We were busy enough carrying through and were getting worn out from fatigue, sick and our nerves badly on the bum. Major Selwood, our medic commanding officer, told us (the band) we could go back for the night and try to find a place where we could get a nights sleep. We went back to the same place we had slept three nights previous. I slept on a table with a blanket a fellow loaned me for cover as he had several - being with the engineers.
On the way back to this place in the evening we began to feel pretty good when we got back on the old plank road that runs along the bottom of the hill there. We thought we were back where it was safe then, but the Germans began shelling this hillside like the deuce just then. Some troops there had been observed, I guess by an aeroplane, and they had to scatter. One fellow came tearing down the hill scared to death. He had a shrapnel wound across his abdomen. He ran into the right fellows when he reached us for we fixed him up all right.
The next day I figure now was Wednesday, Oct 2. The early part of this day was not bad. We had some breakfast from an engineers regiment kitchen, went back to the brick dugouts and set to work carrying patients. We were not rushed badly. I saw along the road out beyond the first aid shack in the woods about twenty or more bodies of Americans in a bunch where they had been assembled. There were covered over a little with branches for camouflage I guess to prevent drawing shellfire.
About noontime I witnessed the most awe-inspiring sight in the air I have ever seen, or expect to see. There were perhaps ten aeroplanes high in the sky having a battle. We could not make out how many were from each side, but I think the Germans were outnumbered. There was some acrobatically maneuvering and machine gun firing at each other, and then a German plane nose-dived. A plane pursued him in the same manner close behind, firing incendiary bullets. The Hun plane burst into flames, one of its wings first. It whirled round and round and began to crumple up and drop. Before it was all aflame, an object the size and shape of a men's body appeared falling separately from the burning mass. It dropped faster than the remains of the plane and I am quite certain it was the man who was in the machine and jumped rather than to stay and be burned to death.
Stretcher Bearers Arriving at a Field Aid Station
About 4 PM the German's artillery opened up and made it awful hot all around. We worked late that night and, after we had gone to sleep in the brick dugouts, were called out several times during the night. We did not have cases for all to carry each time though. They had us out ready because the 91st Division was being relieved from the front lines that night and they wanted to get out any wounded along with the rest. I guess the Hun knew what was taking place for they sent over a barrage that we had to go through in order to get out next morning at daybreak. They did land close and plentiful around us. We left the brick dugouts single file ten-feet apart and ran for about half mile before we stopped. The troops had withdrawn alright during the night. We hiked back pretty lively through Very and back of that village about two miles we found our regiment again preparing to camp in some woods. This day was Friday Oct. 4th.
Our rolls with shelter tents, blankets and overcoats came and we lived high with them. We all were sick with the diarrhea yet but couldn't get enough to eat anyway. We swiped almost a full case of prunes from a supply dump. Next day we cooked them. That night the Germans had the imprudence to send three big shells crashing into the woods where we were. I think they just wanted to show us how wise they were.
I wrote a letter home next day, Oct. 5th. We took it easy that day and got our tents all ready for a good nights sleep. We packed up about the middle of the following day and started off away from the front. We only went a couple of kilometers and then pitched tents again in an open field. After getting ourselves fixed up in good shape to spend another night we got orders at supper time to pack up again, also to put our overcoats and personal stuff in roll, separate. That was how I lost my razor, fountain pen, souvenirs and other stuff, for I never got that roll again, nor did any one else that I know of get theirs back.
It was hard to believe that they were starting us back to the front again. Our ranks had been decimated so that some of the companies had very few men. We were all sick and weak and it looked like an impossible task to go at it again in the condition we were in. The 363 and 364 inf. did not go back. Just our brigade of the 361 and 362 inf. and 347machine gun battalion were called upon to go back.
We started at dusk. It was raining and cold. The mud was deep. We carried our blankets this time. It would have been well if we could have obtained winter underwear. On the road to Very, several caterpillars were bringing up some heavy artillery. After marching through Very and Epinonville, we had many delays before we could find where we were to be placed. Finally towards morning, the medical detachment separated from the rest and we took refuge in what looked like an old shell torn barn. In the blackness we unrolled our blankets and lay down and slept until daybreak. This building was in the village, of Eclisfontaine. We had touched this point when in a few times before. In the morning we went on a little farther to a village shown on the map as Jonsol Fme [farm]. Here we established our dressing station.
While back for our rest we had heard that the 32nd Division which relieved us, had pushed ahead 12 kilometers. But when we got back after two days we found instead that they had only gone about one or two kilometers at the most and had got pretty badly shot to pieces doing that. So our doughboys were back in the lines again, having come in late in the night of Monday Oct. 7th. There was not much activity the first day back and we did not have much to do. Our dressing station was established in a shack on one side of the road and we found a building across the road from it where we could sleep. On this first day, we did no carrying, except to load a few cases that were brought in on to the ambulances.
Wednesday, Oct. 9th, was a terror of a day. The medical detachment started out early in the morning far the lines. Through casuals and sickness our outfit was now made up of 24 band men, about 10 medics, 5 lieutenants, Capt. Brown and Major Selwood. It was a foggy morning, but the Hun artillery was busy from the start. Back of a hill we stopped and divided up into parties to follow up the different battalions. In the party which I was with were Lieutenant Smith, Medic Sgt. Tucker, a couple of Medics, and five or six from the band--Seelye, Newell, Nelson, Dunbar. We were sent to the third battalion and so followed along the bottom of the hill about a quarter of a mile to where their p.c. (post of command) signal wire was and we started to follow it over the hill. This was an open hill. It was still foggy, but there was a fierce battle going on around there. The machine gun bullets were thick as bees and the enemy artillery directed a barrage on the top of this hill. Across the valley to our rear and to our right, a distance of about three blocks, we could see our infantry making another skirmish but they were not men of our battalion.
When our medical detachment reached the top of this hill we stopped in the middle of the barrage and Lieut. Smith said "Wait here while we find the 3rd battalion". Then he and the Medic. Sgt. Tucker went back down the hill. We lay flat on our stomachs. The shells were striking all around us. Some of the splinters from the shells tapped us a little, one fellow on the helmet, I remember, and one dropped against my pack. I carried my pack with me until I knew there was not much danger of being caught out somewhere where I could not get back.
That was a fine way for the Lieutenant to treat us. Get us out on a bare hill where the whiz-bangs were falling thickest and say, "Wait here". We lay where we were far about five minutes and then backed up about fifty feet to where there vas a natural unevenness to the ground which formed a shallow trench a couple of feet lower than the rest of the surface. Here we lay for almost an hour, squeezing ourselves as tight against the ground as possible and arranging our packs and helmets to the best advantage for protection. Later in the morning we passed over this same ground and saw a shell had struck in the place where we had lain. It landed just about where Roy Dunbar had been and we were all within a few feet of him: Incidents like this are met with by almost everyone at the front. Every fellow can relate what might have happened but didn't.
Source of the Whiz-Bangs, the German 77
Some one who was hurt came running back through the fog and smoke. He said there was a wounded fellow ahead a ways. We went there but he able to use his legs, so we sent him back to a first-aid dugout. We went ahead a few yards more, to where the Germans had dug pits along a brush fence. A lot of their equipment was strewn around here and we were looking this over when a storm of bullets began to whiz around and over -us. We took shelter in the pits far a few minutes until this was over. I was in a pit about 30 feet from the others and I saw something that made me curious.
I thought I was going to catch a German, for what I saw was a large pigeon fly up out of another pit in the brush and fly east towards the Huns. I figured there must be a German there who was sending back a carrier -pigeon with a message. I got my pistol handy and investigated, but could not find what I looked for. I cannot imagine why a pigeon would stay around a place like that--shells roaring and bullets whizzing, unless it was on business.
Where the Lieutenant and Sgt. went after they turned back I don't know. I did not see them again until in the afternoon. We went back down the hill ourselves a couple of hundred yards to a dugout where several Medics were giving first aid. I remember a fellow came in just then with the neatest wound I ever saw.
On the outside of a persons arm, just below the shoulder, there is a considerable flesh on any one at all muscular. This fellow had lost certainly a half-pound of flesh off his arm at that point. It wasn't bleeding much and it wasn't jagged. He could not see it very well himself and was cool enough about it. We told him it wasn't bad at all and the Medic dressed it. A lucky wound, for the shell just trimmed him.
A fellow came in saying there was somebody wounded up the road a ways. We took a litter and went to find him. This road led to Gesnes, only a quarter of a mile away, We looked all around and went as far as into a part of the town but could find no wounded alive. We were a little afraid of the town because there was not a living person to be seen there, a strange thing because most villages are quickly occupied and use made of the protection and shelter the offer. I learned later that it was left alone because they were suspicious of its being mined by the Germans.
The shelling had almost subsided around here now. We went back to the dugout and got a patient out of there and carried him back to the main dressing station, a distance of about two miles over steep hills and some bad ground. We went back after another one in the afternoon and back again after we had supper and that was all we could do in a day.
But no one knows how hard work that was if he had not done it. It was the hardest work I have ever done. We all still had the dysentery of course, but we were getting fed here because the medics had got a hold of a stove or two, were drawing rations and doing the cooking for the band and medics. This took four or five medics to do the cooking and kitchen work so there was only about a half dozen to do first aid work. The band did a11 the carrying until there was more than we could do, so for a day or so they took the bombers and sappers platoon from Headquarters Co and had them carry stretchers.
As soon as we started back with our first patient in the morning they began dropping over shells just about where we wanted to go. There wasn't much around far them to be shooting at except us. It was too foggy for them to see us, so they were just sending them at random, which they often seemed to do. Our afternoon trip was quieter, I remember. We stopped long enough this time to- examine one of our tanks, which had been struck by a shell and abandoned. A little over half way back we met Col. Davis with a group of officers. He asked us who we were and what we were doing.
The evening trip was the exciting one of the day. Six of us went for this one man and he happened to be a light fellow too. Some of those we had to carry weighed nearly 200# and if they fussed around on the stretcher they make mean burdens. By using six men we were able to bring our patient in without a stop for rest over the two miles of hills. Two men walked alongside ready to relieve two as soon as they became tired. We did this in order to get in before it became very dark. It was fortunate that we could keep moving for they not only shelled around us but either through a machine gun sniper or by chance we were given a shower of bullets.
We were rushing along a road, which was on a hillside facing the Germans, with our stretcher on our shoulders when the bullets whizzed past us and struck in the bank alongside of us. Those at rear of stretcher say that some went under the stretcher.
Joe Coseo was hit in the leg by a piece of shell that day. The wound was pretty bad, because the band has not seen him since. Orland was hit in the leg by a rifle bullet. Evans was so frightened that he ran to the rear and we did not see him again for a week. St. John wrote in his diary for that day, "Shell hit too close - 10 feet.
Early in the morning (Thursday , Oct. 10th) my squad of four and a couple of medics were sent to be with the 1st Battalion. They must have been four miles away for it took us two hours to walk there. We passed over the usual type of country- three or four big rolling hills, mostly bare but always having patches of woods on them. I saw many bodies of American boys lying where they had been picked off by the German machine gunners in forcing an advance.
The German defense consisted entirely of machine gun nests and artillery. Our artillery could not drive the Huns out of their concealed pits. The only way was for the doughboys to rush up to their hidden position and get them. In those valleys and open hillsides one came first upon the sacrifice our men made. Passing on a few yards into the brush there was to be seen the nests of the machine gunners who had done the work. There was always a pile of empty cartridges on the edge of the pit. Generally, there was equipment strewn around such as cartridge, belts, guns, packs, helmets, and clothing - Often the dead German was also there - I will not describe them, only mention one I remember with five bullet holes back of his ear which explains how our doughboys got them.
We found the Post of Command of the 1st battalion in a very wild brushy, hilly section. Our duty was to remain with the P.C. until we got a patient to carry back. This was a fortunate day for us because no one was hurt so bad he could not walk during the whole day. We had a few reports of wounded and went out and hunted for them but could not find any who could not walk with the help of a crutch stick. We made them walk even when they thought they were not able to, because there were always worse cases that needed help.
Although we had an easy day we did not get by without some excitement. Every few hours the p.c. would advance through the brush several hundred yards. The p.c. consists of a staff of officers, a couple of sergeants and liaison runners. Once when we were moving ahead through the brush, a sniper spotted us and forced us all to flatten out in the brush. He continued to make bullets ping around us for about ten minutes, but after that we were able to go ahead unmolested. They sent over a shell once in a while but they went behind us. Just before dark we went back to our station. Because we had not brought in any cases that day, all the rest back at the dressing station were worried as they thought probably we had been hit by a shell.
In the night, our vicinity was bombed by aeroplanes, killing several and wounding about thirty. Some lit pretty close to where I slept , but I did not get out of bed. When a bomb comes one does not hear much of a whiz as with shells. There is the hum of the Hun plane then flash-bang, flash bang, a minute or so apart. We brought in only two men all of next day. That wasn't much but we had to pack them about three miles. During the day, the Germans sent over about six great big shells after a crossroads near where our kitchen was, but they missed their target a little for once. Generally they hit what they were after.
Saturday, Oct. 12th, we joined with headquarters again and marched away from the front. This time we were not shelled as we went out. Owing to our weak condition we did not step a fast pace going but slowly and steadily passed by the wrecked towns from which the Germans had been driven--Enclisfontaine, Epinonville, Very and Avocourt. Montfaucon, Ivoiry , and Cheppy we did not go through but they could be seen in the distance.
We covered at least 15 kilometers and, as it began to rain, in the evening we found shelter in some old French dugouts. These dugouts were big enough to hold about 500 men each. They were about 30 feet underground and 17 stairway entrances led into each one. They were damp, dirty and full of enormous rats. A storage battery lighting system was in working order, but only a couple of bulbs were good. We were very tired and, as it was already very dark and raining, these dugouts were a very welcome choice over pitching tents outside.
Our only meal for the day was salmon, tomatoes, bread and coffee at 7 PM. We marched 20 to 30 kilometers a day for several days. While we were grateful to be away from the misery and danger at the front, these were also days of toil and discomfort. The weather was cold and rainy and everyone was sick.
The most striking change as one leaves the front is in the absence of noise. After being between a continuous roar of cannon and guns and then moving off to the rear, the world is a different one at a distance of a few miles back. The impression one gets is that something is wrong. It is like a big machine has stopped running. It took a day or so to get used to this quietness. Another thing which we who were around the dressing rooms especially noticed a change in, was the smell. We had run up against many kinds of odors at the front- old blood, medicinal smell of old bandages gunpowder, gas, dead horses, filth and corruption of all kinds. It was a relief to get away from these. In the states you never saw a soldier that looked like any one of us as we came out. I will describe my appearance and I was an average specimen. My shoes, which had seldom been off my feet, were covered with mud. The leggings (the spiral wrap kind) were just about as muddy as the shoes and badly torn by brush in several places--near the tops [were] some blood stains. My pants were torn, muddy and blood stained. My coat, just torn and muddy. The steel helmet stood the wear and tear pretty well.
We marched back through the villages of Dombasle, Froides, Fleury, Nubecourt, Beouxes, Vanbecourt etc. and stopped at Mussey. After a couple of days there we loaded on boxcars and pulled out at 2:30 A.M. Oct. 17th.
We had no idea where me were going unless it was for a rest. We passed through Chateau Thierry 10:00 am. and went through Paris late in the afternoon. Then to our surprise the train headed North. We touched Calais and Dunkirk, went through historic Ypres and got off the train a few miles from there. Ypres and vicinity, is the most desolate land I have ever seen. For it was there that the worst battles of the war were fought and the Germans were halted. The low-lying ground is nothing now but shell holes filled with water. We managed with difficulty to find room to pitch our tents between holes. For miles and miles they were too close together for that. Twisted scrap iron, old artillery, old shells, old tanks, all kinds of wreckage are scattered about. The trees are nothing but fractured stumps. What is left of the stone and brick buildings is utilized for road building.
We had a long march into Belgium and camped for about a week near Roulers. The Germans had left a week before. They abandoned near our camp a big store of ammunition and all kinds of bombs and grenades. They had lots of turnip patches around so we ate turnips for a while.
Oct. 28th, we marched about 12 miles and put up in a schoolhouse near Inglemunster. The Germans came over every night now and dropped bombs. The people were very much frightened of this, but after the front they did not disturb us much.
I will, say a few words about the Belgian people. What I saw of them gave me a much better opinion of them than of the French. They are much cleaner about everything - their homes and their personal appearance. This is noticeable right away as soon as one gets from France into Belgium. They have their houses on their farms, which is different from the French way. Those not destroyed are beautiful, built of red brick close to the ground. Their level gardens are wonderful. They live on heavy whole wheat and rye (I guess) bread and porridge. The large bowl of porridge is placed in the center of the table and the family gathers around armed with immense long handled wooden spoons and with these dip out the of the common bowl and sup with a gurgle. Almost from necessity, since Belgium is set between, the average Belgian talks a little of German, French and English. We could converse with them pretty well. They were intensely interested in America and American soldiers and were always anxious to talk with us. We were interested in learning how they had got along with the Germans and what they had to say about the Germans viewpoint and conditions (the war was not over then).
Our regiment went to the front about Oct 30th. The band stayed behind. We went to Iseghem and took care of supplies. I remember the fine dinner I had the night we reached the town. It cost me 28 France. A T-Bone steak at the meat shop cost 12 Francs. Took it to the restaurant and had with it, French fried potatoes, Brussel sprouts, salad, bread and coffee.
On November 5th the telegram came which sent me to Chaumont; St. John had gone October 29. I did not expect to leave my regiment for good so left behind my souvenirs, etc. The German rifle especially is one thing I wish I had taken with me.
I took hellion bass, pack and bag and rode by truck to Roulers. There I caught the train and rode to Dunkirk. I had four hours to see the place and then went by train through Calais, Amiens to Paris. Was in Paris Nov. 7 from 8 am to 8pm and then took the train for Chaumont. Excepting for trips, I have been here since 3 am Nov 8 playing in General Pershing's G.H.Q. Band.
It is now 9:10 pm March 4th 1919. Au Revoir
General Headquarters, Chaumont
The Tuba Section
The Band with French Troops on Left
The Band is Welcomed Home
Sgt. Robert R. Gustafson
Am. E. F. G. H. Q. Band.
[American Expeditionary Forces General Headquarters Band]
Two Tired Bandmen
Sources and Thanks: Andrea Linn, Stepdaughter of Robert's son Howard, provided the text and personal photos from the family collection. The editor supplemented the photos with actual images of the combat in the Argonne from the Army Signal Corps collection. As you have read, Sgt. Gustafson was much too busy during combat to be taking photograhs. MH
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