Copyright
Arthur McKeogh.

The victorious 77th division (New York's own) in the Argonne fight online

. (page 4 of 4)
Online LibraryArthur McKeoghThe victorious 77th division (New York's own) in the Argonne fight → online text (page 4 of 4)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


back and waited.

"We hadn't waited long when the Boche attacked again. They started with
a machine gun barrage on our rear, and supplemented it with a couple of trench
mortar batteries, giving us a mighty merry time of it.

LACK OF FOOD BEGINS TO TELL

"We were beginning to notice our lack of rations now. We had been drinking
water from shell holes, and though we could feel solid substances in it, we were
thankful to have even that to drink. The men were restless and were popping
constantly out of their meagre shelters on one mission or another. And the Boche
was so close that a branch could not be moved without attracting a stream of ma-
chine gun bullets. I talked cheerfully with the men and distributed the few cig-
arettes that remained. They were stout-hearted fellows, all of them. When I
told them to 'Stick to it, boys/ they answered, each post in turn, 'Don't worry
about this post. We'll stick, all right.'

"One of them, Sidney Smith, was shot through the stomach. I told him he
could go over to a safer place, near battalion headquarters. He said, 'Why I
ain't hurt enough so I can't still shoot this gun.' Another little chap, Miller,
crawled out into the open after a sniper on his own initiative. His rifle cracked
and he turned his head and said: 'I got him.' But he couldn't get back himself.
A Boche sniper got him.

"The strain was beginning to tell on the men and their eyes took on an abnormal,
peculiar bulge.- We smoked dry leaves and ate twigs."

[24]



After detailing with a humorous touch how he interviewed a German prisoner
affecting total indifference the while to a two-hour German artillery strafe that
"nearly ruined the whole deatchment" and caused the prisoner to squirm in mighty
fear, Capt. Cullen, describes at length one of the five attacks, this time at night,
to which the outfit was subjected.

"We could hear the Boche around us shrieking and trying to intimidate us with
their schrecklichkeit.

" 'We have the Americans just where we want them/ they yelled. They closed
in on us. From the direction of his voice the leader was just behind my post of
command. He would call out: 'Eitel/ And a voice over to the left would an-
swer 'Hier/ Then: 'Adolph/ Another voice now on the front would answer:
'Hier/ Then: 'Sind deiner men da?* and the answer: ' Ja, Ja!* Then the son of a
gun would shout: i Alle zusammen!* (All together), and thereupon it seemed that
the law of gravity had been reversed and everything went up in the air. They
simply piled high explosive grenades in on us. Their trench mortars rained their
infernal shells. We couldn't see them, of course, due to the heavy brush, and
waited for them to rush us. During a lull their leader called out: 'Kamerad, vill
you?'

"He seemed to think that we were ready to surrender. That was about the last
straw for me. 'Come in and get us, you blankety-blank-blank!' I yelled at him,
using the few cuss words that I knew of his language.

"Then we opened fire on where we judged they were and gave them hell. That
settled that little attack. There was blood all round us the next day, and we knew
we got some of them.

"Airplanes circled above us trying to locate our position. It was a hard job for
them, concealed as we were under the trees. One day an aviator came down very
low. I jumped out into an open space, and, lying on my back, waved a dirty white
towel to him. He signalled: 'Understood/ I was rewarded with a shower of ma-
chine gun bullets which chirped all around me. The next day the aviators tried to
drop food to us, but we could not reach it. Think of Jerry getting it — chocolate,
cigarettes and bully beef!

"On the morning of October 8th, about I A. M., I was dozing in my bunk hole
when I heard a voice calling, 'Lieutenant, Lieutenant!' I thought it was time to
repulse another Boche attack. But it was my battalion runner with a little gunny
sack containing bread and two cans of bully beef. He brought a message from
the Major that our right flank had come up and that a patrol had reached us with
a few rations. I opened up the bully beef, took a fork from my mess kit and went
around my posts on a tour of inspection. I told the men what had happened and,
to prove the truth of what I said — it seemed so incredible — I gave each man a fork-
ful of 'bully/ We were ready to go on for another six days then."

So it was that relief came to the "Lost Battalion" — its whole significance, like
the significance of the great moments of life, being epitomized in a very little thing,
"a forkful of bully."

PERSONAL CONGRATULATIONS FROM GENERAL PERSHING

Lacking sleep, with only a minimum of rations, cold from the continuous rains,
reduced still more in number by their unstinted self-sacrifice in rescuing their sur-
rounded "buddies," the men of the 77th spurred themselves to the completion of
their task — the clearing of the forest.

[25J



Past the fateful Binarville-Viergette road they pressed into country that was
beginning to open up. The same deadly machine gun nests were encountered,
the same foot-by-foot fighting was necessary until the enemy fell back from their
main line of resistance, crushed in spirit at the square-chinned persistence of these
New Yorkers.

By October ioth, after a gain of several kilometers, the forest was solely Ameri-
can. It was a great day for the 77th when General Pershing himself came all the
way from Chaumont to visit them. Not that he could see them formally assem-
bled, of course, for the fight was still on. But he had come up to General Alexan-
der's Boche dugout over the identical entangled ground for which the "Liberty
Boys" had paid so dearly. The "C-in-C" himself knew now what it had been
like. And word trickled up along the line that the Commander in Chief had said
the whole American Army was admiring the 77th for its conquest.

What were Jerry's chances after that? What if he had thrown in three fresh
divisions against them? With the strange sun warm upon them again the division
sprang forward more than six miles during October 9th and ioth, occupying the
little villages of La Besoqne, Chevieres and Marq.

On October 12th there was more praise for the 77th in the following commenda-
tion:

"ADVANCED HEADQUARTERS FIRST ARMY CORPS.

Oct. 12, IQl8.

From: Commanding General, 1st Army Corps, U. S.
To: Commanding General, 77th Division, U. S.
Subject: Commendation.

1. The Corps Commander directs me to inform you that he feels once more
during the present operations called upon to express his gratification and appre-
ciation of the work of the 77th Division.

2. This division has been in the line constantly since the night of the 25th of
September under circumstances at least as difficult as those which have confronted
any other division of the 1st Army.

3 . In spite of these conditions your command has pushed steadily forward on a
line with the foremost, and today, after eighteen days of constant fighting, is still
ready to respond to any demand made upon it.

4. The Corps Commander is proud indeed of such a unit as yours and con-
gratulates you on such a command.

MALIN CRAIG,

Chief of Staff."

It must have been on words of encouragement that the doughboys kept going
these days. Even in their sore straits there was still another exacting task for
them in the attacks on St. Juvin and Grand Pre. But the thing was done somehow.

The Aire river offered a serious obstacle to both objectives. Swimming, wading
and on rafts, troops of the 153rd Brigade left the Aire at their back
on October 14th and under heavy artillery fire from heights to the north
forced their way into St. Juvin inside of an hour. The Second and Third Battal-
ions, 305th, supported the attack of the Second Battalion of the 306th. But it
was really a single company — and, at that, a company with less than 30 men left
when they invaded the town — which captured the strong point.

[26]




MONT-NOTRE-DAME O / OSTTHlBAUl/ \

vu.iesav0y&o/ /
che'ry-chartreuve o i \



o.Vmont 5? martin



/

/OMAREIHL- en-dole



J



FEREANC^HAy-



/



/



/

/ .DRAVEGNY



O ARCI5 -

L£- POMSAUT



/5E«N6ES-et-nesus /
r ONE5LE5

FERE-EN-TAROENOIS



/



/



SCALt-
Z 3



KILOMETERS



/ /'oCOULONGES-ih-tardemois

• 77»DM5IOfS •

• IN • THE.-

OI5L-AI3NL • OFFENSIVE.-



INFURIATED DOUGHBOY INTIMIPATES SCORE OF GERMANS

The story is told that a Jew and an Irishman were the first into St. Juvin as
scouts. Cautiously, they were proceeding along a village street when from a
window a Boche bullet sang past the Irishman's ear. He dropped. The Jew,
thinking his partner had been killed, rushed in terrible fury toward the house,
grenades ready, shouting: "Out — come out, quick."

The Irishman, to the amazement of his angry comrade, joined him, and between
them filed more than a score of weaponless Germans, headed by a battalion com-
mander.

In a short time the eighteen doughboys who were following the two scouts had
rounded up 360 prisoners. The odds had been 18 to 1 against the New Yorkers.
Who will venture to express the feeling of the Boche when they learned that fact?

While the enemy was futilely counter-attacking in St. Juvin on the following
day the 154th Brigade took Grand Pre, the 307th flooding in upon it from three
sides. The town was mopped up after the German flight and on the same night
the 78th relieved the exhausted New Yorkers.

Now, when they gather around the post-office stove in the years to come and
recapture Grand Pre nightly, no 78th Division man will ever concede that the 77th
took even a lamp post in the village. Nor will any 77th man, as he bites viciously
into another dried apricot, ever admit that the 78th was capable of taking anything
but — extreme care.

The dispute, at this early date, was best settled by a disinterested party in the
person of "The Stars and Stripes" historian. This authority states, in effect, that
Grand Pre was twice taken on different occasions, first by the 77th, and later by
the 78th. Which should make it unnecessary for the postmaster to put in a bill
for damages.

THE CAPTORS OF GRAND PRE

"The enemy resisted violently and the advance was slow," writes the mediator,
of the attack on Grand Pre, "but patrols of the 307th finally got across the river
(the Aire) by enfiltration, reached the town by 5:30 in the evening, and had it in
possession an hour later. Foot bridges across the river were built after the patrols
got over, the whole battalion crossed, and the next day the town proper was organ-
ized for defense along its west and north edges, exclusive of the steep hill at the north
end on which stand a chateau and park.

"Under these conditions, with the extreme left in not very complete contact with
the right of the French forces down the Aire below Grand Pre, the 77th Division
was relieved by the 78th.

"Moving up from the 1st Corps reserve near Montblainville and Varennes to
relieve the 77th Division, the 78th became somewhat confused on unfamiliar roads
and did not reach its positions as soon as was expected. The consequence was that
the 312th Infantry, relieving elements of the 77th Division in Grand Pre, did not
get possession of the whole town, into part of which the Germans returned and
were only ejected again after several days of severe. fighting."

If the officers* mess waxed tactical over the capture of Grand Pre, not so the
doughboys' crap circles during the two weeks' breathing spell accorded the 77th
in ex-German dugouts, just in back of the line, where they rested, drew equipment
and received "replacements" between October 16 and 31.

For the first time in the division's career in France, some leaves had been granted

[28]



for Paris and Nice. Then they weie rec'rllod. . :f ?7t!i Front and, Center!" was the
command. The American line was to go f inward toward historic Sedan on Novem-
ber I, and the old reliable 77th was to "lead all the rest" in the matter of gaining
ground during its second long "hitch" in the big offensive.

CRASHING THROUGH THE KRIEMHILDE STELLUNG

Once more the risky relief-attack was made, the Liberty Division taking over
from the 78th almost the identical line it had left. The artillery preparation was
superbly thunderous — two hours of winged hell for the Boche.

The 153rd Brigade led off against the renowned Kriemhilde Stellung, up a steep
hill towards Champigneulle. The resistance on the first day was intensely powerful
and little headway was made. November 2, however, saw Champigneulle and four
smaller villages in Yankee hands — Verpel, Thenorgues, Harricourt and Bar. The
irrepressible doughboy made his jokes about the last of his acquisitions. It was some
consolation, he opined, to descend upon a French Bar, even if someone had taken
from him a similar privilege in his native land during his absence.

The Boches were falling back headlong now, and the Yank was nearing the climax
of his Hun-hurrying. It was even contemplated sending the infantry forward in
motor trucks, but the roads did not permit.

Through Autruche, Fontenoy and St. Pierremont the 306th sped on November 3,
capturing two German batteries — light guns — that could not pull out in time, so
fast was the onrush of the doughboy. That blithe soul was now living largely on
German cabbage because the rations could not keep up with him.

On the fourth day of the advance the 154th Brigade "telescoped" the leading
brigade on the run — an exceedingly difficult form of relief that effects unchecked
progress. The town of Oches was taken that day, marking a total advance of about
fifteen miles since the start.

There was intermittent machine gun resistance and considerable harassing artil-
lery fire at all stages of the advance. In justice to the individual German machine
gunner it must be said that, generally, he knew how to die. Left behind by his
retreating organization on an assignment almost the equivalent of handing him his
death warrant, he stayed grimly at his maxim and sold his life as dearly as he could.
And this, to give his comrades more time to flee.

BUSY OCCUPYING SEVENTEEN TOWNS

Nine miles were added to the division's gain on November 6 after the occupation
of Stonne and La Besace. French civilians in these villages had been under Ger-
man rule for nearly four years. They had been lined up every morning by the
iinteroffizier and marched off to various occupations like serfs. With the advent
of the Americans they cried and laughed hysterically, even embracing some of their
liberators, much to the latter's extreme confusion.

By the night of November 6, the 77th was practically at the Meuse, having
gone through Flaba, Autrecourt and Haraucourt after stern opposition from artil-
lery and machine guns.

The next day — November 7 — the advance continued through Raucourt, Meuse-
la-Angecourt and Remilly. The 77th was now holding the Meuse heights, with
Sedan about five miles away and visible in the distance.

With the clearing of the Argonne Forest, and the whirlwind finish to the Meuse,
the New Yorkers had driven north for nearly 38 miles — the record gain for any

[29]



American division — and seventeen French villages had been restored to pathetically
grateful peasants.

The boys were on tip-toe for the crossing of the river, and patrols of the 305th
and 307th did force passages at Villers and Remilly, respectively, under withering
fire. The anticipation was that the "watermelon," of which the 77th sang so many
centuries earlier at Camp Upton, was really to be eaten "on the Rhine." But when
the tidbit was almost at their lips the armistice banished it as forbidden fruit.

This is not to say that there was disappointment at the termination of hostilities.
The "Cease Firing" order, however, had no such hilarious aftermath in the front
line as it did among the folks at home. On the contrary the armistice found the
men of the 77th quiet and deliberative. They were glad that the bloodshed was
ended — yes, a thousand times, but contemplative as to the future out of their
recent experiences — eager for stabilized peace; eager that their country might see
through their own lessoned eyes the error of unpreparedness, and yet fearful of
over-preparedness and its blight of militarism.

Better, more thoughtful, more loyal citizens they are for their warring — the men
of the 77th. And whereas New York City sent forth a heterogeneous mass, she
has welcomed back a unified class, annealed like tested steel in the fires that burn
out impurities— the fires that leave the American wholly American.



NOTE — This booklet, while accurate and complete in its treatment of the 77th Division's career, does
not pretend, of course, to set forth the divisional history as elaborately as, nor in the detail of an official
history published by the 77th Division Association in a volume of 250 pages, with many maps, illustrations
and photographs. The official history is sold for such laudable purposes as providing for dependent
families of men killed in France, aiding the disabled to start anew in life and offering a home to such of
New York's ex-soldiers as may need it.



[30]



ARTILLERY OF THE 77TH IN VERSE



(To the tune of "Home, Boys, Home!")

Oh, first we went to Baccaat to learn to fight the Huns,
And all we did was eat and sleep; we never worked the guns;
The Germans never fought by night, they never fought by day-
A quiet place to learn to fight was up in Reherrey!



Home, boys, home, its home we ought to be
Home, boys, home, in the land of liberlee
For the ash and the oak and the sour apple tree
They all grow together up in North A merikeel



Oh, then we went to Farm des Dames across from old Bazoches,
And took up a position for to harass Henry Boche.
But Henry shelled us night and day and gassed us in between —
As hot a spot was Farm des Dames as any I have seen.

Then we went across the Vesle and up to Vauxcerc,
The doughboys tried to catch the Hun, but he was on his way.
Yet when we settled in the town he ranged us to a dot,
And every time he wanted to he dropped one on the spot.

Then the Wops relieved us and we went out south by west
And hiked from Fismes to Menehould with never any rest;
We took up a position on a hill above Chalade
With all the big and little guns the U. S. Army had.

Then we fought the Argonne, from Harazee to Grandpre,

And took in Abri Crochet and La Viergette on the way —

We showed the Hun some fighting and some brand new Yankee tricks,

Then we handed Heinie's number to an outfit from Camp Dix.

Next we all were granted leave and hit the trail for Nice,
But first we spent a week in Paris dodging the police;
Then Pershing planned another drive and called us to the line
Because he knew without us" he could never cross the Rhine.

We started with a mighty push, and soon were in a race —
The nags the *Frogs had given us could never stand the pace,
So we parked the First Battalion in the city of Verpel
And sent the dizzy Second on to give the Dutchmen hell!

The Second started hell-for-leather riding over France.
They tried to catch the infantry but never got a chance;
McDougal got a section up and got it damn well hit —
And then the Boche decided it was time for them to quit.

Oh, now the war is over and we'll soon be safe at home,

All sitting in Bustanoby's and blowing off the foam,

The Germans fought a dirty war and raised a lot of hell,

But when they got the Yankee's goat, then they were **S. O. L.



French .

Surely "out of luck.




• mo\Lb^Am)mt forest ' H



Gay lord Bros.

Makers

Syracuse, N. Y.

PAT. JAN. 21, 1908



U.C. BERKELEY LIBRARIES




RETURN TO the circulation desk of any
University of California Library
or to the
NORTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY
Bldg. 400, Richmond Field Station
University of California
Richmond, CA 94804-4698

ALL BOOKS MAY BE RECALLED AFTER 7 DAYS

• 2-month loans may be renewed by calling
(510)642-6753

• 1-year loans may be recharged by bringing
books to NRLF

• Renewals and recharges may be made 4
days prior to due date.

DUE AS STAMPED BELOW
SENT ON ILL



JUL 03 2001



U, C.BERKELEY



12.000(11/95)





1 2 4

Online LibraryArthur McKeoghThe victorious 77th division (New York's own) in the Argonne fight → online text (page 4 of 4)