Thomas Herbert Russell.

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passed from German to allied hands.

The tremendous German drive, which Ludendorff had confidently promised
the German people would bring a smashing and decisive victory, was
stopped. Retrocession began. On the Marne again, in July, 1918, in the
sector held by Americans an action began at Chateau Thierry which
forced the German retreat that in a few weeks was to shake the heart of
Germany, scare out Bulgaria, Austria and Turkey, in the early autumn
bring Germany to a plea for peace, send Ludendorff himself into
retirement, dethrone the Kaiser, do away with the imperial form of
government, set up a republic, and create conditions that would quash
for all time the power of Prussia to disturb a decent world.

Floyd Gibbons, correspondent of the Chicago Tribune, a noncombatant who
wanted to see the combat he was there to report, was in that memorable
action. He lost his left eye there, and was otherwise severely
shattered, but he got his story through. His home paper some months
afterward gave Gibbons well earned credit for that contribution to
current history. It said he "helped to put the Marines where they belong
in the war's history, for he was with them in their early exploits and
fell in one of their battles. Six thousand out of 8,000 engaged was
their toll. They fought with the French through Belleau Wood, heartening
the brave, tired, discouraged poilus, and after they came out upon the
other side the name of the battlefield was changed to the 'Wood of the
American Marines.' Mr. Gibbons says that when Marshal Foch began his
great offensive, which in cosmic importance is second only to creation,
he selected the units in which he had the most faith. These units were
chosen not because they were braver nor more sacrificial, but because
they knew. They were the Foreign Legion of France, two divisions of
American Regulars, and the United States Marines."

From that day there was no change in the favorable fortunes of war on
the western front.


An eyewitness of the first days of the Chateau Thierry battle thus
describes the capture of the Beauleau wood:

"The Americans moved stealthily with fixed bayonet until they got into
the edge of the woods and atop of the German machine gun-tiers. Then
the farm boys cheered, and the lumberjacks shouted, and the Indians
yelled. They were where they could mix it at close range with the Boche,
and that was what they wanted.

"Their yells could be heard a mile away. They were up against two of the
Kaiser's redoubtable divisions, the Two Hundredth Jaegers and the Two
Hundred and Sixteenth reserve division. They fought with vim and joy.

"They had lost comrades at the hands of the Germans and now were to
avenge them. No quarter was asked or expected. The Germans had orders to
fight to the death and the Americans needed no such order.

"Without much artillery on either side and without gas, the Americans
fought the Germans through that woods, four kilometers (nearly three
miles) long, for six hours. At last we got through and took up a
position across the northern end of the woods.

"Perhaps the most sensational part of the fight was when about
Germans got around behind our men. They were chased into a clearing,
where the Americans went at them from all sides with the bayonet, and I
am told that three prisoners were all that were left of the Germans."

"How did you do it?" inquired a dazed Prussian officer, taken prisoner
at Chateau Thierry by an American soldier. "We are storm troops."

"Storm hell!" said the American. "I come from Kansas, where we have

That was and is the idea. This spirit enabled American soldiers to go
wherever they wanted to go. A European officer on observation duty
with the United States force at Chateau Thierry wanted to know how our
soldiers got through as they did.

"They seem to have been trained somewhere," he said, "for they fight all
right. But that doesn't explain to me the way they keep going."

The American officer with whom he was talking gave this explanation:

"They were thoroughly trained in our camps at home in all but one thing.
They were not trained to stop going."

It was a splendid exhibition, the first of many of its kind.


The following is one of hundreds of thrilling experience stories that
could be told by officers and men who fought at that front.

Details of the participation of the United States Marines in the
counter-attack of the allies against German forces on the Marne, July
18, are given in a letter written shortly afterward by Major Robert L.
Denig, of the United States Marines, to his wife, in Philadelphia,
and which had been forwarded to Washington for the historical files of
the Marine Corps.

It is the best and truest form of war history, and important in that
it gives details of action during those July days when American troops
stopped the German drive.

It also establishes the fact that the Marines who helped stop the German
drive on Paris at Belleau wood early in June were honored by being
brought from this wood to Vierzy and Tigny, near Soissons, for
participation with a crack French division in the great counter-attack
which started the disintegration of the German front in the west.

Names that became familiar through the fighting in Belleau wood are
mentioned in Major Denig's letter as being prominent in the allied
counter-attack - Lieut. Col. Thomas Holcomb, Lieut. Col. Benton W.
Sibley, Lieut. Col. John A. Hughes, Capt Pere Wilmer and others who took
a prominent part in the fighting. The letter in substance follows:

"We took our positions at various places to wait for camions that were
to take us somewhere in France, when or for what purpose we did not
know. Our turn to enbus came near midnight.


"We at last got under way after a few big 'sea bags' had hit near by.
We went at a good clip and nearly got ditched in a couple of new shell
holes. Shells were falling fast by now and as the tenth truck went
under the bridge a big one landed near with a crash and wounded the two
drivers, killed two Marines and wounded five more.

"We did not know it at the time and did not notice anything wrong till
we came to a crossroad, when we found we had only eleven cars all told.
We found the rest of the convoy after a hunt, but even then were not
told of the loss, and did not find it out till the next day.

"After twelve hours' ride we were dumped in a big field, and after a
few hours' rest started our march. It was hot as hades and we had had
nothing to eat since the day before. We at last entered a forest; troops
seemed to converge on it from all points. We marched some six miles in
the forest. A finer one I have never seen - deer would scamper ahead and
we could have eaten one raw.

"At 10 that night, without food, we lay down in a pouring rain to sleep.
Troops of all kinds passed us in the night - a shadowy stream, more than
a half-million men. Some French officers told us that they had never
seen such concentration since Verdun, if then.


"The next day, July 18, we marched ahead through a jam of troops,
trucks, etc., and came at last to a ration dump, where we fell to and
ate our heads off for the first time in nearly two days. When we left
there the men had bread stuck on their bayonets. I lugged a ham. All
were loaded down.

"We finally stopped at the far end of the forest, nearing a dressing
station. This station had been a big, fine stone farmhouse, but was now
a complete ruin - wounded and dead lay all about. Joe Murray came by with
his head all done up - his helmet had saved him. The lines had gone on
ahead, so we were quite safe.

"Late in the afternoon we advanced again. Our route lay over an open
field covered with dead.

"We lay down on a hillside for the night near some captured German guns,
and until dark I watched the cavalry, some 4,000, come up and take

"At 3:30 the next morning the regiment was soon under way to attack. We
picked our way under cover of a gas infected valley to a town where we
got our final instructions and left our packs.


"We formed up in a sunken road on two sides of a valley that was
perpendicular to the enemy's front. We now began to get a few wounded;
one man with ashen face came charging to the rear with shell shock. He
shook all over, foamed at the mouth, could not speak. I put him under a
tent and he acted as if he had a fit.


"At 8:30 we jumped off with a line of tanks in the lead. For two 'kilos'
the four lines of Marines were as straight as a die, and their advance
over the open plain in the bright sunlight was a picture I shall never
forget. The fire got hotter and hotter, men fell, bullets sung, shells
whizzed-banged and the dust of battle got thick.

"Lieut. Overton was hit by a big piece of shell and fell. Afterwards
I heard he was hit in the heart. He was buried that night and the pin
found, which he had asked to have sent to his wife.

"A man near me was cut in two. Others when hit would stand, it seemed,
an hour, then fall in a heap. I yelled to Wilmer that each gun in the
barrage worked from right to left, then a rabbit ran ahead and I watched
him, wondering if he would get hit. Good rabbit - it took my mind off the

"About sixty Germans jumped up out of a trench and tried to surrender,
but their machine guns opened up, we fired back, they ran and our left
company after them. That made a gap that had to be filled, so Sibley
advanced one of his to do the job, then a shell lit in a machine gun
crew of ours and cleaned it out completely.


"At 10:30 we dug in - the attack just died out, I found a hole or old
trench and when I was flat on my back I got some protection Holcomb
was next me; Wilmer some way off. We then tried to get reports. Two
companies we never could get in touch with. Lloyd came in and reported
he was holding some trenches near a mill with six men.

"Gates, with his trousers blown off, said he had sixteen men of various
companies; another officer on the right reported he had and could see
some forty men, all told. That, with the headquarters, was all we could
find out about the battalion of nearly 800. Of the twenty company
officers who went in, three came out, and one, Cates, was slightly


"From then on to about 8 p. m. life was a chance and mighty
uncomfortable. It was hot as a furnace, no water, and they had our range
to a 'T.' Three men lying in a shallow trench near me were blown to

"You could hear men calling for help in the wheat fields. Their cries
would get weaker and weaker and die out. The German planes were thick in
the air; they were in groups of from three to twenty. They would look us
over and then we would get a pounding.

"We had a machine gun officer with us, and at 6 o'clock a runner came
up and reported that Sumner was killed. He commanded the machine gun
company with us. He was hit early in the fight, by a bullet, I hear. At
the start he remarked: 'This looks easy; they do not seem to have much

"Well, we just lay there all through the hot afternoon.

"It was great - a shell would land near by and you would bounce in your

"As twilight came we sent out water parties for the relief of the
wounded. At 9 o'clock we got a message congratulating us, and saying the
Algerians would take us over at midnight. We then began to collect our
wounded. Some had been evacuated during the day, but at that, we soon
had about twenty on the field near us.

"A man who had been blinded wanted me to hold his hand. Another, wounded
in the back, wanted his head patted; and so it went; one man got up on
his hands and knees; I asked him what he wanted. He said: 'Look at the
full moon,' then fell dead. I had him buried, and all the rest I could

"The Algerians came up at midnight and we pushed out. They went over at
daybreak and got all shot up. We made the relief under German flares and
the light from a burning town.

"We went out as we came, through the gully and town, the latter by now
all in ruins. The place was full of gas. We pushed on to the forest and
fell down in our tracks and slept all day.


"That night the Germans shelled us and got three killed and seventeen
wounded. We move a bit farther back to the cross road and after burying
a few Germans, some of whom showed signs of having been wounded before,
we settled down to a short stay.

"It looked like rain, and so Wilmer and I went to an old dressing
station to salvage some cover. We were about to go when we stopped to
look at a new grave. A rude cross made of two slats from a box had
written on it:

"Lester S. Wass, Captain U. S. Marines. July 18, 1918."

"The old crowd at St. Nazaire and Bordeaux - Wass and Sumner killed,
Baston and Capt. LeRoy T. Hunt wounded. We then moved further to the
rear and camped for the night. Dunlap came to look us over. A carrier
pigeon perched on a tree with a message. We decided to shoot him. It was
then quite dark, so the shot missed. I then heard the following remarks
as I tried to sleep: 'Hell! he only turned around!' 'Send up a flare!'
'Call for a barrage!' etc.

"The next day we were back in a town for some rest and to lick our


A French lieutenant thus describes the American fighting quality:

"The finest thing in the combat was the dash of the Americans. It was
splendid to see those grand fellows, with their tunics thrown off and
their shirt sleeves rolled up above their elbows, wading the rivers with
the water to their shoulders and throwing themselves on the Boche like

"Any one who has seen such a sight knows what the American army is good
for henceforth and to the end of the war. At the sight of these men,
magnificent in their youth, physical force, good temper and dash, the
Germans fled 'with every leg' or surrendered without awaiting the order
to throw away their arms and take off their suspenders, which is the
first thing a prisoner is told to do, in order that he may be compelled
to keep his hands employed and out of mischief.

"The Germans hurried toward our lines gripping their trousers, haggard
and mad with terror.

"Would that every mother in France who has lost a son in the war could
have seen that epic sight. They would have seen themselves revenged, and
it would have been some consolation to them in their sorrow."


The trench deadlock in northern France and Belgium was broken by
Ludendorff's fatuous drive in March, 1918. After the allies had stopped
it and inaugurated their counter-offensive all Europe made a startling
discovery. The Germans were tenacious enough in trench warfare; in
open fighting, known as war of maneouvre, they could not stand before
American and the allied troops. Incessant attacks, rapidly delivered at
the same time at many points on the long line between the North Sea and
the Swiss border, were more than they could withstand. The mechanically
trained troops of the central empires were futile before armies of men
who did their own thinking and delighted in fighting an enemy they could
see from the feet up. German armies had twice been almost at the gates
of Paris. The first time they were driven back they dug themselves in.
That was in 1915. The second time, in the spring of 1918, they were
allowed no time for digging in. From the July days of 1918, when
American soldiers at Chateau Thierry beat the best troops that ever
were trained in Prussia, they were kept going. How industriously may be
inferred from the story of the young corporal who was sitting on the
roadside trying to tie the soles of his shoes to the uppers, in a hurry.
Somebody asked him what was the matter.

"O, nothing much," said he. "Only I came over here to kill Germans, but
they never told me I'd have to run 'em to death."


There never was a war so prolific of personal incident in every shade of
experience possible to human life. The devastated provinces of France
offer perhaps more of these happenings than any other part of the
steel-swept, shell-wrecked fronts of all Europe. An Associated Press
correspondent tells one that is especially touching.

He was motoring toward Denaen, one of the cities the Germans had
occupied through four hard years, when a French officer going in the
same direction asked him for a lift, explaining that he had lived there
but had neither seen nor heard from his wife during all that time.

Entering the city and turning into his street the officer saw the first
house was in ruins. He gave a nervous start. A few doors farther on was
his home. The officer climbed out with an effort, his eyes fixed on the

There was no sign of life. The windows were shuttered and on the door
was a sign showing German officers had been living there. The officer
pulled the bell with shaking hand. No one answered. He backed away like
a man in a trance and leaned against the car, trembling.

Suddenly the door opened and an aged servant appeared, leading a
beautiful baby girl with a wealth of golden curls. The officer took one
step toward the child and halted. He was a stranger to his own flesh and
blood. The child hid behind the nurse, peering out in fright.

The half blind eyes of the old nurse had recognized her master and she
held out her hands, repeating, "Monsieur! Monsieur!" in ecstasy. He
crossed the road and grasped her hands, but the baby drew back.

A door opened end a comely young matron came to see what was going on.
She caught sight of her husband, then stopped. Her hands flew to her
breast. She swayed for a second. With a sob of joy she hurled herself
into his arms.

The correspondent moved away. And thus they were left, the nurse beaming
on the happy couple and the curly headed youngster looking with troubled
eyes at this strong man who had appropriated her mother so completely
without a word.


An American newspaper man who returned from Europe about the time
hostilities ceased was informed that General Pershing suggested to
Marshal Foch in June 1918, that he thought it bad policy to stick around
waiting for the boche and that he felt the time had come to jump in and
attack - "But" he was told, "we have not got the troops."

"Whats the matter with the Americans?" Pershing asked.

"They are not yet trained" was Foch's reply.

"Try them and see" said General Pershing. "They will go, anywhere you
send them, and I will bet my life on it."

Pershing took the initiative in urging the offensive, supplied the
troops that gave Foch his mobile reserve enabling him to strike his
blow, and those American troops "delivered the goods."


Official reports to the war department show that the general health of
the American army during the war had been surprisingly good. The death
rate for all forces at home and abroad up to August 30th, 1918, was 5.
per 1,000 men per year, or little more than the civilian death rate for
men of the same age groups.

There were 316,000 cases of influenza among the troops in the United
States during the late summer and fall of 1918 and of 20,500 deaths,
between September 14th and November 8th, 19,800 were ascribed to the


An official report shows that on the day the Armistice was signed more
than twenty-five per cent of the male population of the United States
between the ages of 19 and 31 years, were in military service, the army
having reached a total of 3,664,000, with more than 2,000,000 of this
number in Europe. As compared with an army strength of 189,674 in March
1917, one week before war was declared by the United States.



_First Major Action by All American Army - Stories to Folks at
Home - Huns Carry Off Captive Women - Hell Has Cut Loose -
Major Tells His Story - Enormous Numbers of Guns and Tanks -
Over the Top at 5:30 A. M. - Texas and Oklahoma Troops Fight
in True Ranger Style - Our Colored Boys Win Credit._

The first major action by an all American army was that which began
before the St. Mihiel salient September 11, 1918. The Germans had
occupied that salient almost four years, and had built it into what they
believed to be an impregnable position. The Americans, under direct
command of General Pershing, reduced it in a three days' advance.

The salient was a huge bulge, almost twenty miles in depth, turning
southwest from Combres at the north base and Hattonville at the south
and looping down around the towns of St. Mihiel and Ailly. It was
powerfully held by masses of enemy troops.

General Pershing's army attacked from the west, south and east all the
way from Bouzee to Norroy, and by September 13th had pushed it back to a
straight line drawn from Combres to Hattonville. The French attacked at
Ailly, the apex of the salient as it was on September 11.

The entire operation was conducted with rapidity and with irresistible
energy. The dash and enthusiasm of the American soldiers astonished
and delighted the French and British as completely as it staggered the

By September 13th the Americans had taken forty-seven towns and
villages, reduced the German front from forty miles to twenty, captured
the railway that connects Verdun with Commercy, opened the cities of
Nancy and Toul to the allies, and with the French and British on the
east, created a new battle front on a line running from Hattonville on
the west to Pagny on the east - Pagny being a town on the Moselle river,
at the German border.

The importance of this victory could hardly be overestimated. It opened
the way to and was followed up by the demolition of the whole German
line from the Swiss border to the North Sea, and hastened the great
German retreat. In the action itself, September 11 to 13, about 15,
Germans were taken prisoner by the Americans.


Sidelight stories of what happened in the St. Mihiel fight, mostly in
letters written home by men who were in it, go far toward showing how
completely the Germans were taken off their guard. Corp. Ray Fick of the
103d Infantry wrote home in this wise:

"We got into the woods and then kept on going until we reached a big
city where there was a brewery, but they had set fire to the whole city
before they left. We got some beer and wine just the same. It was a
little stale, but it was fine. The Huns' warehouses were all fixed for
the winter and the boys got cigars and cigarettes, but I was a little
too late to get in on it.

"The whole thing was very interesting all the way through. The Huns sure
did make themselves scarce in a hurry, but they kept many prisoners, a
troop train and an ammunition train.

"Cigarettes are scarce and we look for smokes all the time. The Red
Cross and the Salvation Army are the ones who look to our comforts. If
any one wants to give, tell them the Red Cross and the Salvation Army
are the ones to get it."


But Corporal Fick uncovers another Hun procedure that has no fun in it.
While the Huns lost no time in getting away from there, they took care
to carry off their captured women slaves.

"The women they have held captives for the last four years," he writes,
"were driven ahead of them, but they were brought back by the Americans.
Truckload after truckload passed us on the way, and they sure were happy
to be free again."


Another soldier wrote to his father telling about the first day of
attack as he saw it:

"Hell has let loose. The woods are a mass of whistling shell and
shrapnel. Every time the big twelves go off the flash lights up the
entire camp like a flashlight picture, then the ground heaves and
tumbles like old Lake Michigan does on a stormy day.

"The infantry have cleared the top and have gone on far in advance,
almost outside of the range of fire. Our big objective has been wiped
off the map and our men are preparing to keep right on going after them
and backing up the doughboys who are doing such great work.

"I went up to the front last night on an ammunition caisson (which is
the only way to get up there) and saw the thing commence. It started
with one solitary gun of ours (a big one, too). Then the others joined
in on the chorus, and it has been steady ever since.

"When the doughboys were told that they were going over the top at the

Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 10 of 49)