H. Irving Hancock.

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche online

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Produced by Jim Ludwig

Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche

By H. Irving Hancock


I. Dick at Training Camp
II. Greg has to be Stern
III. Bad Blood Comes to the Surface
IV. As it is Done in the Army
V. The Camp Carpenter's Talk
VI. The Enemy in Camp Berry
VII. At Grips with German Spies
VIII. With the Conscientious Objectors
IX. Order for "Over There"
X. On Board the Troopship
XI. In the Waters of the Sea Wolves
XII. The Best of Details!
XIII. Off to See Fritz in His Wild State
XIV. The Thrill of the Fire Trench
XV. Out in No Man's Land
XVI. The Trip Through a German Trench
XVII. Dick Prescott's Prize Catch
XVIII. A Lot More of the Real Thing
XIX. A "Guest" in Prison Camp
XX. On a German Prisoner Train
XXI. Seeking Death More Than Escape
XXII. Can It Be the Old Chum?
XXIII. The Dash to Get Back to Pershing
XXIV. Conclusion



His jaw set firmly, his keen, fiery eyes roving over the group
before him, the gray-haired colonel of infantry closed his remarks
with these words:

"Gentlemen, the task set for the officers of the United States
Army is to produce, with the least possible delay, the finest
fighting army in the world. Our own personal task is to make
this, the Ninety-ninth, the finest regiment of infantry in that

"You have heard, at some length, what is expected of you. Any
officer present, of any grade, who does not feel equal to the
requirements I have laid down will do well to seek a transfer
to some other regiment or branch of the service, or to send in
his resignation as a military officer."

Rising to their feet behind the long, uncovered pine board mess
tables at which they had sat listening and taking notes, the eyes
of the colonel's subordinate officers glistened with enthusiasm.
Instead of showing any trace of dissent they greeted their commanding
officer's words with a low murmur of approval that grew into a
noisy demonstration, then turned into three rousing cheers.

"And a tiger!" shouted a young lieutenant, in a bull-like voice
that was heard over the racket.

Colonel Cleaves, though he did not unbend much before the tumult,
permitted a gleam of satisfaction to show itself in his fine,
rugged features.

"Good!" he said quietly, in a firm voice. "I feel assured that
we shall all pull together for the common weal and for the abiding
glory of American arms."

Gathering up the papers that he had, during his speech, laid out
on the table before him, the colonel stepped briskly down the
central aisle of the mess-room. As it was a confidential meeting
of regimental officers, and no enlisted man was present, one of
the second lieutenants succeeded in being first to reach the door.
Throwing it open, he came smartly to attention, saluting as the
commanding officer passed through the doorway. Then the door

"Good!" cried Captain Dick Prescott. "That was straight talk
all the way through."

"Hit the mark or leave the regiment!" voiced Captain Greg Holmes

"Be a one hundred per cent. officer, or get out of the service!"
agreed another comrade.

The tumult had already died down. The officers, from Lieutenant-Colonel
Graves down to the newest "shave-tail" or second lieutenant, acted
as by common impulse when they pivoted slowly about on their heels,
glancing at each other with earnest smiles.

"Gentlemen, our job has been cut out for us. We know the price
of success, and we know what failure would mean for us, personally
or collectively. Going over to quarters, Sands?"

Thrusting a hand through the arm of Major Sands, Lieutenant-Colonel
Graves started down the aisle. Little groups followed, and the
mess-room of that company barracks was speedily emptied.

Hard work, not age, had brought the gray frosting into the hair
of Colonel Cleaves; he was forty-seven years old, and not many
months before he had been only a major.

The time was early in September, in the year 1917. War had been
declared against Germany on April 6th. In the middle of July
the Ninety-o-ninth Infantry had been called into existence. Regiments
were then being added to the Regular Army. Two or three hundred
trained soldiers and several hundred recruits had made up the
beginnings of the regiment. Prescott and Holmes had been among
the latest of the captains sent to the regiment, arriving in August.
And now Colonel Cleaves had just joined his command on orders
from Washington.

With forty men in the headquarters company and some fifty in the
machine-gun company, the rifle companies on this September day
averaged about seventy men. Nor had a full complement of officers
yet arrived.

Dick Prescott and Greg Holmes, lately first lieutenants, as readers
of former volumes of this series are aware, had received their
commissions as captains just before joining the Ninety-ninth.

"This regiment is scheduled to go over at an early date," Colonel
Cleaves had informed his regimental officers, at the conference
of which we have just witnessed the close. "Headquarters and
machine-gun companies must be raised to their respective quotas
of men, and each rifle company must be increased from seventy
to two hundred and fifty men each. New recruits will arrive every
week. These men must be whipped into shape. Gentlemen, I expect
your tireless aid in making this the finest infantry regiment in
the American line."

One or two glances at Colonel Cleaves, when he was talking earnestly,
were enough to show the observer that this officer meant all he
said. Shirkers, among either officers or men, would receive scant
consideration in his regiment.

Camp Berry, at which the Ninety-ninth and the Hundredth were stationed,
lay in one of the prettiest parts of Georgia. Needless to say
the day was one of sweltering heat and the regimental officers,
as they filed out of the company barracks that had been used for
holding the conference, fanned themselves busily with their campaign
hats. Each, however, as he struck the steps leading to the ground,
placed his campaign hat squarely on his head.

"Some pace the K.O. has set for us," murmured Greg, as he and
Dick started to walk down the company street.

"And we must keep that pace if we hope to last in Colonel Cleaves's
regiment," Dick declared, with conviction. "Time was when an
officer in the Regular Army could look forward to remaining an
officer as long as he was physically fit and did not disgrace
himself. But in this war any officer, regular or otherwise, will
find himself laid on the shelf whenever he fails to produce his
full share of usefulness."

"Do you think it's really as bad as that, Prescott?" demanded
Captain Cartwright, who was walking just behind them.

"Worse!" Dick replied dryly and briefly.

Cartwright sighed, then took a tighter grip on the swagger stick
that he carried jauntily in his right hand. Cartwright was a smart,
soldierly looking chap, but was well known as an officer who was
not addicted to hard work.

Past three or four barrack buildings on the street the chums walked,
Cartwright still keeping just behind them.

"Look at the work of Sergeant Mock, will you?" demanded Greg,
halting short as they came to the edge of one of the drill grounds.

Mock belonged to Greg's own company. At this moment the sergeant
was busy, or should have been, drilling what was supposed to be
a platoon, though to-day it consisted of only two corporals' squads,
or sixteen men in all.

Greg Holmes's eyes opened wide with disgust as he watched the
drilling, unseen by the sergeant.

The platoon had just wheeled and marched off by fours. The cadence
was too slow, the men looked slouchy and showed no signs whatever
of spirit.

"Perhaps the sergeant isn't feeling well," remarked Dick, with
a smile.

"He won't be feeling well after he has talked with me," Greg uttered
between his teeth.

To the further limit of the drill ground the sergeant marched
his platoon, then wheeled them and brought them back again. As
he came about the sergeant caught sight of his company commander.
In an undertone he gave an order that brought his men along at
greater speed than they had gone.

"Halt!" ordered the sergeant, and brought up his hand in salute
to the officers.

"Sergeant Mock," called Holmes, in a low, even voice, "turn the
men over to a corporal and come here."

Hastily, and flushing, Sergeant Mock came forward.

"How are the men feeling?" Greg inquired, after signaling the
corporal now in charge to continue the drilling.

"Tired, sir," replied Mock, with a shamefaced look.

"And how is the sergeant feeling?" Greg went on, as the corporal
led the men across the drill ground, this time at a sharper pace
and correcting any fault in soldierly bearing that he observed.

"All right, sir," replied the sergeant.

"Then, if you're feeling all right, Sergeant Mock," Greg continued
in as even a voice as before, "explain to me why you were marching
the platoon at a cadence of about ninety, instead of the regulation
hundred and twenty steps per minute. Tell me why the alignment
of the fours was poor, and why the men were allowed to march without
paying the slightest heed to their bearing."

Though there was nothing at all sharp in the company commander's
voice, Mock knew that he was being "called," and, in fact, was
perilously close to being "cussed out."

"The - -the day is hot, sir, and - -and I knew the men were about
played out," stammered Mock.

"How long have you been in the Army, sergeant?" Greg continued.

"About two years and a half, sir."

"In all that time did you ever know officers or enlisted men to be
excused from full performance of ordered duty on account of the

"N-n-no, sir."

"Then why did you start a new system on your own authority?" Greg
asked quietly.

Mock tried to answer, opened his mouth, in fact, and uttered a
few incoherent sounds, which quickly died in his throat.

"Sergeant Mock," said Greg, "we have just heard from our commanding
officer. He demands the utmost from every officer, non-com and
private. Are you prepared, and resolved, from this moment, to give
the utmost that is in you at all times?"

"Yes, sir!" replied Mock with great emphasis.

"You mean what you are saying, Sergeant?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very good, then," continued the young captain. "I am going to
take your word for it this time. But if I ever find you slacking
or shirking again, I am going to go to the colonel immediately and
ask him to 'break' you back to the ranks."

"Yes, sir," assented Mock, saluting.

"Are you fully familiar with all your drill work?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then remember that our enemies, the German soldiers, are men
who are drilled and drilled until they are perfect in their work,
and that their discipline is amazing. Keep the fact in mind that
we can hardly hope to whip our enemies unless we are at least as
good soldiers as they. That is all. Go back to your men, Sergeant."

Standing stiffly erect, Sergeant Mock brought up his right hand
in a crisp salute, then wheeled and walked briskly back to join
his men. Greg turned as if to say that he did not feel the need
of remaining to watch the rebuked sergeant.

"By Jove!" uttered Captain Cartwright. "I do wish, Holmes, you'd
come over and dress down some of my non-coms. I've been trying
for three days to put 'pep' into some of them, and the K.O. frowned
at me this morning."

"Non-com" is the Army abbreviation for "non-commissioned
officers" - -corporals and sergeants - -while "K.O." is Army slang
for commanding officer.

Arrived at an unpainted wooden barracks, in size and appearance
just like those of the enlisted men, the three captains entered
and walked up a flight of stairs to the floor above. Here they
passed through a narrow corridor with doors on both sides that
bore the cards of the officers who slept behind the respective
doors. Cartwright went to his own room, while Greg followed Dick
into the latter's quarters.

Plain enough was the room, seven and a half feet wide and ten
feet in length, with a single sliding window at the front. Walls
and ceiling, like the floor, were of pine boards. There were
shelves around two sides of the room, with clothing hooks underneath.
Under the window was a desk, with a cot to one side; the rest
of the furniture consisted of two folding camp chairs.

Entering, Dick hung up his campaign hat on one of the hooks, Greg
doing the same. On account of the heat of the day neither young
captain wore a tunic. Each unbuttoned the top button of his olive
drab Army shirt before he dropped into a chair.

"What do you think of the new K.O.?" Dick asked, as he picked a
newspaper up from the desk and started to fan himself.

"He means business," Greg returned. "I am glad he does," Dick
went on. "This is no time for slack soldiering. Greg, I'll feel
consoled for working eighteen hours a day if it results in making
the Ninety-ninth the best infantry regiment of the line."

"Can it be done?" Greg inquired.


"But I've a hunch that every other regiment is striving for the
same honor," Captain Holmes continued. "Ours isn't the only K.O.
who covets the honor of commanding the best regiment of 'em all."

"It can be done," Dick insisted, "and I say it must be done."

"Yet other regiments would be so close to us in excellence that
it would be hard to name the one that is really best."

"In that case we wouldn't have won the honor," Dick smilingly

"Then consider that fellow Cartwright," Greg added, lowering his
voice a bit. "He's a born shirker, and one weak company would make
a regiment that much poorer."

"If Cartwright shirks, then mark my word that he'll be dropped,"
Dick rejoined quickly. "But Greg, man, this is war-time, and
the biggest and most serious war in which we were ever engaged.
There must be no doubts - -no ifs or buts. We must have a regiment
one hundred per cent. perfect. I'm going to do my share with
a company one hundred percent. good, even if I don't find time
for any sleep."

Up the corridor there sounded a knock at a door. Something was
said in a low voice. Then the knock was repeated on Prescott's

"Come in!" called Dick.

An orderly entered saluting.

"Orders from the adjutant, sir," said the soldier, handing Prescott
a folded paper. He handed one like it to Greg, then saluted and
left the room, knocking at the next door.

"Company drill from one to two-thirty," summarized Prescott, glancing
through the typewritten words on the unfolded sheet. "Practice
march by battalions from two-forty-five to three-forty-five.
Squad drill from four o'clock until retreat. That looks brisk, Greg."

"Doesn't it?" asked Holmes, without too plain signs of enthusiasm.
"Company drill and the hike call for our presence, preferably,
and yet I've paper work enough to keep me busy until evening mess."

"Paper work," so-called, is the bane of life for the company commander.
It consists of keeping, making and signing records, of the keeping
and inspection of accounts; it deals with requisitions for supplies
and an endless number of reports.

"I have a barrelful of paper work, too," Dick admitted. "But
I'm going to see everything going well on the drill ground before I
go near company office."

"All good things must end," grunted Greg, rising to his feet, "even
this rest. Mess will be on in eight minutes."

The instant that the door had closed Dick drew off his olive drab
shirt, drew out a lidded box from under the bed and deposited
the shirt therein, next restoring the box to place bring out a
basin from under the bed and placing it on a chair, he found towel
and soap and busied himself with washing up. His toilet completed,
he took a clean shirt from a bundle on one of the neatly arranged
shelves and donned the garment. A few more touches, and, spick-and-span,
clean and very soldierly looking, he descended to the ground floor.
A glance into the mess-room showed him that the noon meal was not
yet ready, so be sauntered to the doorway, remaining just inside
out of the sun's rays.

Other officers gathered quickly. A waiter from mess appeared at
the inner doorway, speaking a quiet word that caused the regiment's
officers, except the colonel and his staff, to file inside.

Plain pine tables, without cloths, long pine benches nailed to
the floor - -officers' mess was exactly like that of the enlisted
men, save that officers' mess was provided with heavy crockery,
while in the company mess-rooms the men ate from aluminum mess-kits.

Most of the food was already in place on the table. The meal
began with a lively hum of conversation. Occasionally some merry
officer called out jokingly to some officer at another table;
there was no special effort at dignified silence.

"The K.O. has our number!" exclaimed an irrepressible lieutenant.

"How so?" demanded Noll Terry, Prescott's first lieutenant.

"He knows us for a bunch of shirkers, and so he gave us the 'pep'
talk this morning."

"Is the 'pep' going to work with you?" asked Noll laughingly.

"Surely! I wouldn't dare be slow, even in drawing my breath,
after hearing the K.O. talk in that fashion."

"Same here," Noll nodded.

"I've been working sixteen hours a day ever since I hit camp," chimed
in another lieutenant. "What's the new system going to be? Eighteen
hours a day?"

"Twenty, perhaps," said Greg's first lieutenant cheerfully.

The meal had been under way for fifteen minutes when Captain Cartwright
entered leisurely.

"I suppose you fellows have eaten all the best stuff," he called,
as he looked about and found a vacant seat, though he paused as
if in no great haste to occupy it.

"Same old Cartwright," observed Greg, in an undertone to Dick.
"He's late, even at mess formation."

But Cartwright heard, and wheeled about, looking half-angrily
at young Captain Holmes.

"Say, Holmes, you're as free as ever with your tongue."

"Yes," Greg answered unconcernedly. "Using it to taste my food,
and I've been finding the taste uncommonly pleasant."

"You use your tongue in more ways than that," snapped Captain
Cartwright. "I happened to hear what you said about me in Prescott's
room a few minutes ago."

"Eavesdropping?" queried Greg calmly.

"What's that?" snapped Cartwright, and his flush deepened. "See
here, Holmes, I don't want any trouble with you."

"That shows a lively sense of discretion," smiled Greg, turning
to face the other.

"But I want you to stop picking on me. Talk about somebody else
for a change!"

"With pleasure," nodded Greg, as he shrugged his shoulders and
turned to drop a spoonful of sugar in his second cup of coffee.
"There are lots of agreeable subjects for conversation in Camp

"Meaning - -?" demanded Cartwright, still standing, and scowling,
for, out of the corners of his eyes, he saw that several of his
brother officers were smiling.

"Meaning almost anything that you wish," continued Captain Holmes,
serenely, as he stirred his coffee.

"Sit down, Cartwright," urged a low voice. "This is a gentleman's
outfit," declared another voice, perhaps not intended to reach
Cartwright's ears. But he heard the words and his mounting rage
caused him to take a step nearer to Greg, at the same time clenching
his fists.

Greg, though he realized what was taking place, did not bother to
turn, but coolly raised his cup to his lips.

"Sit down," called another voice. "You're rocking the boat."

But Cartwright took a second step. It is impossible to say what
would have happened, but Dick Prescott, half turning in his seat,
caught the angry captain's nearer wrist in a grip of steel and
fairly swang Cartwright into a vacant seat at his left. Greg
was sitting at his right.

"Don't be foolish, Cartwright, and don't let the day's heat go
to your head," Prescott advised. "Don't do anything you'd regret."

Though Captain Cartwright's blood was boiling there was a sense
of quiet mastery in Prescott's manner and voice, combined with
a quality of leadership that restrained the angry man for the
next few seconds, during which Dick turned to a waiter to say:

"This meat is cold. Bring some hot meat for Captain Cartwright,
and more vegetables. Try some of this salad, Cartwright - -it's

Instantly the officers, looking eagerly on, turned their glances
away and began general conversation again, for they were quick
to see that Dick's usual tact was at least postponing a quarrel.

"It will be a hot afternoon for drill, won't it?" Dick asked,
in the next breath, and in a low tone.

"Maybe," grunted Cartwright. "But perhaps I shall find still
hotter work before the drill-call sounds."

"Nonsense!" said Dick quickly. "After the K.O.'s talk this morning,
don't start anything that will take our mind off our work."

"I've got to have a bit more than an explanation from Holmes,"
the sulky captain continued, though in a low voice.

"Cartwright," said Dick, in an authoritative undertone, "I don't
want you to start anything in that direction until you've had a
good talk with me!"

There the matter ended for the moment. Dick joined in the general
conversation. Presently Cartwright tried to, but the officers
to whom he addressed his remarks replied either so briefly or
so coolly that the captain realized that he was not popular at
the present time.

"Holmes will make trouble for any one who doesn't toady to him,"
thought Captain Cartwright moodily. "I can see that I've got
to make it my business to take the conceit and arrogance out of him."

At almost the same moment, over in a company barracks, Sergeant
Mock, as he chewed his food gloomily, was reflecting:

"So Captain Holmes will call me down before a lot of officers,
will he? He'll order me to show more 'pep,' will he, the
slave-driver? And if I don't he'll break me, eh?"

"Breaking" a non-commissioned officer is securing his reduction
to the grade of private.

"The captain is so lazy himself that he doesn't know a good man
when he sees one," Mock told himself angrily.

Then he added, threateningly to himself:

"He'd better not try it. If he does, he'll sure wish he hadn't.
Since this war began even the officers are only on probation, and
I've brains enough to find a way to put him in bad with the
regimental K.O."

"What's the matter, Mock, don't you like your food?" asked the
sergeant seated at his left. "You're scowling something fierce."

"It isn't the chow," Sergeant Mock retorted gruffly.

"Must be the heat, then - -or a call-down," observed his brother

"Never you mind!" retorted Mock. "And I'm not talking much now;
I want to think."

"Must have been a real 'cussing-out' that you got," grinned the
other sergeant unconcernedly.

Bending over a passing soldier murmured to Mock:

"Top wants to see you in the company office when you're through

The first sergeant of a company is also known, in Army parlance,
as the "top sergeant" or the "top cutter."

Though he dawdled with his meal Mock did not eat much more. Finally
he rose, stalking sulkily from the mess-room and across the central
corridor. Thrusting out a hand he turned the knob of the door
of the company office and almost flung the door open, stepping
haughtily inside.

"Mock," said First Sergeant Lund, looking up, "you're too old
in the service to enter in that fashion. You know, as well as
I do, that there is a 'knock' sign painted on the door, and that
only an officer is privileged to enter without knocking. Suppose
the captain had been in here when you flung in in that fashion?"

"He's no better than any one else!" retorted Mock.

Facing about in his chair Sergeant Lund briefly rested one hand
on his desk, then sprang to his feet.

"Attention!" he commanded sharply.

Mock obeyed, throwing his head up, his chest out and squaring his
shoulders as he dropped his hands straight along either trousers
seam, though he sneered:

"Putting on officer's airs, are you, Lund?"

"No; I appear to be talking to a rookie (recruit) who happens
to be wearing a sergeant chevrons," retorted the top sternly.
"Sergeant Mock, in this office, or anywhere in my presence, you
will refrain from making disrespectful remarks about your officers
And I'd advise you to adopt that as your standard at all times
and in all places. Do you get that?"

"I hear you," Mock rejoined, standing at ease again. "You wanted
to see me?"

"Yes. Shortly before recall sounded I looked out of the window

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