Thomas Herbert Russell.

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zero hour, you never heard shouting to equal it; the Board of Trade on a
Monday morning was just a whisper in comparison.

"Dad, that is the general feeling of our boys over here - always waiting
to move up. I told a lad in one of the outfits that the artillery was
right back of them and would blow them through to the objective if they
did not make it, and he laughed and said, 'Hoboken by Christmas.' They
were all in the best of mood and roaring to go."

These letters are good specimens of the thousands that have come over
the sea. They not only give good sidelights on an event that will loom
large in history, but they show the indomitable cheer and high spirit of
our soldiers.


Concurrently with the action that originated at St. Mihiel on September
11, 1918, another great battle developed northwest of Verdun. It lasted
about three weeks, and is graphically described by Lt. Col. B.M.
Chipperfield (then a major) of the 23d Division. Lt. Col. Chipperfield
was a participant in as well as an eyewitness of the whole engagement.
Under date of September 29, 1918, the described it substantially as
follows, in a letter to a friend at home:

"For several days preparations had been in progress for the action that
began on Thursday, September 26th. The American troops were moved up
by night, jamming the roads with their advancing columns and transport

"Thousands and thousands of them," wrote Major Chipperfield, "trudged
along without a light and in almost quiet.


"Tanks and cannon and guns of all sorts, every kind of vehicle,
ambulance wagon, and transport passed in this continuous procession. It
seemed that there was no end to it, and one could not help but admire
the wonderful resources that had been gathered together by the United
States to help perform its part in this great struggle for freedom.

"I think the greatest collection of guns that has ever been gathered
together for participation in any conflict of the world was taken to the
front where the attack was about to be made. It is estimated there
were 6,000 of these guns, and the soldiers that were gathered together
numbered hundreds of thousands.

"These guns and soldiers were conducted to their places so secretly and
quietly that, although they marched many miles, the enemy did not even
know a small part of the strength and could only speculate what it all


"In the arrangement of the plan of battle our division was on the
extreme right. Across the river was a German stronghold. Here there
were located a large quantity of artillery and many machine guns. Our
officers understood that it was going to be a difficult advance, for a
bridge had to be built across a creek, but everything in our division
went like clockwork. It had all been planned in advance, and the plan
was carried out exactly as made.

"It was arranged that at 11:30 o'clock on Thursday night the battle
was to begin. Before that time I had reached my destination at the
headquarters of the other division, and together with the rest of
the headquarters staff we were in a favorable place to watch the

"At 11:25 it was silent as the grave, and the night was beautiful.
Precisely at 11:30 from every conceivable direction the great
bombardment commenced. In an instant the whole night was filled with a
roar and thunder and reverberation of the cannon from, every quarter.
The shriek and whistle and whine and clamor of the shells made a fearful
chorus as they were hurled in the direction of the field occupied by our

"From every quarter came the flash of the explosions, until the night
was lighted as bright as day. Signal rockets rose from every portion and
part of our lines and also from the enemy lines. It looked as though the
heavens were ablaze and raining fire. It was a scene which has probably
never been seen before upon any battlefield and may never be witnessed

"Apparently this fierce bombardment took the enemy entirely by surprise
because our fire was so deadly and the extent so great that they could
only make uncertain reply. They seemed to be stupefied.

"For six hours this terrific bombardment continued. It is estimated
that each of the guns fired an average of three shots a minute and that
1,000,000 projectiles and charges of ammunition were used.


"As 5:30 approached the bombardment increased. The machine guns joined
in the chorus and a curtain of steel and fire was placed in front of our
troops and rained upon the guns and cannon of the enemy.

"After a brief period of this fire our men started over the top, and as
they did so they swept the enemy before them in their irresistible rush.
They advanced kilometer after kilometer. They could not be resisted or
stayed at any stage of the attack.

"Soon the prisoners commenced to come in, and they told of the terrific
effect that the great bombardment had upon the Germans. They said the
bombardment was so terrible that it disrupted their plans so that they
could not be carried out and that they could not resist the attack.

"Several times during the night I went out to witness the scene and as
long as life lasts it will be remembered.


"Once when two of our regiments came over a hill and saw the
valley that lay before them being terrifically shelled by the cannon
and assailed by hail from the machine guns, the whole column was
seen to pause and a look of worry came over the faces of these men
that for just an instant was pitiful. They knew that ahead of them lay
death for many and it is not strange that for several seconds the
lines were held up, but then a look of fierce determination and of
courage took the place of the former expression and with a great
resolve and courage, dash, and daring, the lines shot forward at a
redoubled step and the determination to do or die was manifested in
every action.

"These machine guns were speedily put out of business, and
then the attack would go on. That portion of the lines that the
division of which I am a member was given for the purpose of the
attack, it was thought would take the entire day, but our division
was on its objective by early afternoon and had commenced to dig
in, from which position they could defy the Germans with impunity.

"While the attack was going on I went up to Dead Man's Hill.
This hill is the last word in the destructiveness of war.

"It is literally rent to atoms. Dugouts have been blown to
pieces. Hundreds of thousands of men had been killed in the earlier
battles before Verdun, and many of the bodies could not be reached
for burial, the place was so torn up."


Many other personal glimpses of the fighting come from officers and men.
One division was made up largely of Illinois regiments, among others the
3d Illinois Infantry, commanded by Col. John V. Clinnin. The position
held by these troops was vital to the entire advance, and it required
rapid action on the first day to reach the objective at the same time as
the other units.

Menomme creek is a little stream which is not shown on maps. It runs
eastward from the village of Septsarges to the Meuse. The stream holds
vivid memories for the Illinois infantry. It was there that it met the
most severe resistance, the Germans catching our men just as they were
relieving other young soldiers. The men fought their way down to the
creek. On the other side along the highway between Septsarge and
Dannevoux the Germans had entrenched themselves and were shelling the
road which the Americans had crossed. They were also using intrenched
machine guns at the edge of the woods.

"I heard bullets whistling overhead," said a wounded soldier in
a hospital. "We were lying near the edge of the creek at the time
and knew that a machine gun was shooting at us, so I just started out
and got it."

"Our colonel was right up there with us getting into line." said Private
Hiram E. Burnett. "One night when the shells were bursting all around
and several men were wounded the colonel went over the top just like any
of us."

The Bois des Forges has been a battle ground since the war began, with
trenches in front and miles of barbed wire, machine gun nests and
concrete pillboxes inside. A frontal attack on such a stronghold
apparently meant suicide, but the Illinois men, led by Col. Sanborn and
Col. Abel Davis, took it so neatly and quickly that they bagged nearly
1,000 soldiers, fifteen officers, twenty-six guns ranging from 105s
down, 126 machine guns, twenty-one flatcars, two rolling kitchens, an
ambulance and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

"We were looking for you in front," said a captured German officer. "We
did not expect that you would come through the swamp and outflank us. We
did not think that any Yankee outfit was so foxy."


"It was a great show when we crossed that river and rushed on through
the woods, cleaning up machine gun nests," said Private Gray McKindy of
Woodstock, "The machine guns in the woods started throwing bullets as
soon as we reached the river. They thought they could stop us from going
up the opposite hill, but we did it and got every gun there."

Private Kenneth W. Steiger was one of those who went in on the second
night when his captain called for volunteers to make up a patrol.
Steiger became separated from the others in the darkness and ran into a
party of three Germans. Quickly covering them with his rifle he brought
all three back.

Private Bernard Snyder returned with prisoners before dark on the first
day. Making use of his ability to speak German, he induced a dozen
Germans to lay down their arms, pick up stretchers and carry American
wounded back five kilometers (three miles) to where ambulances were


Lieut. Jorgen R. Enger, the chaplain of a Kansas-Missouri outfit,
carried the wounded for three days from the Montfaucon woods two miles
to the ambulance. Searching in the woods in the darkness one night with
shells bursting and bullets whistling he found a husky sergeant wounded
in the foot and growing weaker and weaker from loss of blood. The
chaplain shouldered the man and carried him back to a dressing station,
saving his life.

"I didn't think a chaplain would do a thing like that," said the
sergeant. "I would rather save you than save a general," replied the

When not searching for wounded hidden in the tangle of under-brush the
chaplain was busy helping the surgeons at a first aid dressing station.

"I never thought any clergyman would have the opportunities for doing
good such as I am haying," he said when I saw him.

Col. Eugene Houghton, Wisconsin, who was a British major until America
entered the war, distinguished himself by personally leading a unit of
New York men. According to them he escaped death repeatedly as by a


Capt. Carl F. Laurer while assisting in the examination of German
prisoners, was surprised when an American prisoner was brought before
him. "Where do you belong?" asked the captain. "I am with an aerial
squadron in the south of France" replied the prisoner. "I walked
fourteen days to get here." "Did you desert?" asked Captain Lauer. "No,"
the man replied, "I want to fight. That is what I came to France for.
When I get home the folks will ask what I did in the war and when I
answer 'worked' they will say 'Why the devil didn't you fight?'" The
boy's wish was gratified and he was sent forward.

"We have everything good and plenty - rations, ammunition and other
things. It looks like a regular Sunday."


In this district, the 36th Division, made up of troops from Texas and
Oklahoma, veterans and raw recruits together, showed splendid fighting
form. They were under terrific shell fire day after day, but they met
several murderous attacks firmly, and drove the boches back in brilliant
counter attack, chasing them in true Ranger style. All these men showed
the same spirit that animated Roosevelt's renowned Rough Riders in the
war with Spain, so many of whom were Texas and Oklahoma men.

Reporting this fight, General Naulin, commanding the Corps of which the
2d and 36th Divisions were parts, said "the 36th Division, a recent
formation not yet completely organized, was ordered into line on the
night of October 6-7 to relieve, under conditions particularly delicate,
the 2d Division, and to dislodge the enemy from the crest north of St.
Etienne and throw him back to the Aisne. Although being under fire for
the first time, the young soldiers of Maj. Gen. W. R. Smith, rivaling in
combative spirit and tenacity the old and valiant regiment of General
LeJeune, accomplished all the tasks set for them." Every American knows
full well the bright record of the 2d Division of Infantry, the regulars
of which were composed of the 5th and 6th Marines and the 9th and 23rd
Infantry. These are the boys who stopped the Germans up in Belleau Wood
when the boches were headed for Paris and cocksure of getting there,
blandly unaware that they were goose-stepping toward an American


American negro troops had a considerable share in the last few months of
fighting, and acquitted themselves in a highly creditable manner. They
were great trench diggers and trench fighters, and their endurance on
the march was a marvel to the allied armies. They were very popular with
the French people, who were delighted with their good nature and their
never-ceasing songs. Regular negro melodies these songs were, nearly all
of them of the camp-meeting variety - and sung with that choral beauty
which especially distinguishes all of their musical performances. The
negro notion of war and indifference to death was instanced in the case
where a white officer overheard one of them at the zero hour call out,
"Good night ol' world! Good mawin,' Mistah Jesus!" as he went over the

"The colored boys," said Charles N. Wheeler, a distinguished
correspondent with the American armies, "are great fighters, and
are no better and no worse than any other group of American soldiers
in France, whatever the blood strain. They do take pardonable pride
in the fact that 'Mistah' Johnson, a colored boy, was the first American
soldier in France to be decorated for extraordinary bravery under


"The color line has about died out in the American army - in
France. They play together, sing their songs together - the blacks
and the white - and they go over the top together. They come back
together, too, the wounded, and there is no thought of the color of a
man's skin. They mix together on the convoy trains going up to the
front, and all sing together, sharing each other's dangers and their
joys. It is not an uncommon sight to see a crowd of white doughboys
around a piano in some 'Y' or Red Cross hut, singing to beat the band,
with a colored jass expert pounding the stuffing out of the piano. The
white boys enjoy immensely the wit of the colored comrades, and
many a bleak and drab day of privation and suffering is made a bit
brighter by the humor that comes spontaneously to the lips of the
'bronze boys.'

"The children of France love them. I suppose that is because
they wear American soldiers' uniforms. I have seen scores of white
children holding the hands of colored boys and trudging along on
the march with them or romping into their tents and sitting on their
knees and just exuding the affection that all the children of France
have for anything and everybody from the United States."



The Hughes report on air craft, submitted in October, 1918, contained a
full account of the difficulties, drawbacks and questionable management
that had held back the manufacture and shipment of airplanes to Europe.
In September there were on the French-Belgian front between 300 and
machines, all of which were in the scout and observation classes, with
no regulation combat planes of American build; but American airmen had
conducted many successful actions against German battle planes, and a
good many Americans were operating French and British battle planes in
action back of the German lines. The combined American, British, French
and Canadian planes had before that time cleared the air of German
observation and other machines in front of the allied lines, thereby
preventing hostile observation of allied camps and artillery positions
and movements of troops preparatory to attack.

The efficiency of this combined air service is credited with having
contributed in an important degree, first to retarding the movement of
supplies from the enemy rear to the enemy fighting line, and next
to disturbance of the enemy in retreat. The Americans especially
distinguished themselves by flying at high speed along the last of the
enemy trenches and clearing up the German troops therein by continuous
streams of machine gun fire. American flyers also made successful raids
across the German border, blowing up munitions works, railway centers,
and German troops at concentration points. Between early September and
late October, 1918, they dropped thousands of tons of high explosives
inside of Germany. At the same time, in association with British and
Canadian aviators, they put a definite end to German air raids upon the
British Isles and interior France. The Canadian air service during the
summer and early autumn of 1918 increased at the rate of 300 planes per
month, all manufactured in Canada.


After July, 1918, the output of Liberty motors for the Government caught
up with the immediate demand. It increased until in October it reached a
rate of about 5,000 a month. The Ford factory at Detroit alone reported
at the end of October an established monthly rate of increase of over


American flyers made a great record in the closing days of war. In the
period from September 12 to 11:00 o'clock on the morning of November 11,
American aviators claim they brought down 473 German machines. Of this
number, 353 have been confirmed officially. Day bombing groups from the
time they began operations dropped a total of 116,818 kilograms of bombs
within the German lines.


Aviation is the most perilous of all services, calling for young bodies,
high spirit, quick wit, personal initiative, and unshakable nerve. Thus
it has drawn in the best and brightest of America's sons - brilliant,
clear-eyed, steady youths, who take the air and its perils with joyous

The danger, the romance, the thrill of air fighting, are things that
never were known in war until this one called into being vast aerial
navies that grappled in the sky and rained upon the earth below "a
ghastly dew" of blood.

There are no tales of this war more fascinating than those that have
been told by these men. Courage and modesty being inseparable, our
aviators avoid print and cannot be interviewed with any satisfaction.
But sometimes they write home to a mother, a sweetheart or a pal, and
these letters now and then come to light.


"I cannot describe my feelings, right off the bat," said Eddie
Rickenbacker, the ace of American aces, the day following the signing of
the armistice. "But I can say I feel ninety-nine per cent better. There
is a chance of living now and the gang is glad." Rickenbacker became a
captain during the last phase of the war and has twenty-four victories
over enemy airmen to his credit. To Rickenbacker, whose home is in
Columbus, Ohio, the allied command gave the honor of making the last
flight over the German front and firing the last shot from the air on
the morning of November 11, 1918.


In reporting this most remarkable occurrence Edward Price Bell, an
American correspondent, wrote as follows from the front:

A British observer, flying a powerful machine at 16,000 feet over
Ostend, had the machine's tail shot off by the direct hit of a shell - a
very unusual occurrence. The machine turned upside down, out of control,
and the pilot was thrown out of his seat. By some inexplicable maneuver
he managed to clamber on to the bottom of the fuselage of the machine,
astride of which he sat as if he was riding a horse.

Though the machine was out of control, owing to the loss of its tail
planes, yet by moving forward and backward he so managed to balance it
that it glided fairly steadily downward, although upside down.

He successfully brought it across the German lines, and came safely
to within a few hundred feet of the ground. Then he crashed and was
injured, but is now recovering in a hospital.

When it is considered that this incident occurred at a height of 16,
feet, over hostile territory, and that during the airman's terribly
precarious ride he was subject to antiaircraft fire, and liable to the
attack of hostile scouts, it is not too much to say that his was a
record achievement.

Recently, another airman was shot down, out of control, from 13,
feet, and fell fluttering like a leaf, toward the ground. At a height of
9,000 feet he fainted. Shortly afterward he came to and found himself in
the machine upside down, in a marsh, absolutely unhurt. Many airmen, of
course, have been through several "crashes" without sustaining so much
as a broken collar bone.


This story of Lieut. Manderson Lehr, who refused a transfer home and
shortly after died in combat, is taken (by permission) from his personal
letters written to a friend in this country. It is typical of many that
might be told by or about brilliant young Americans who would not wait
for America's participation in the war, but went voluntarily, with high
hearts and eager hands, to help those other boys of France and the
British Empire to whom had fallen so large and so momentous a part in
the world's salvation.

Nearly all of these American lads, the choicest spirits of our nation,
took up whatever work they could find - anything, so long as it was
useful, or contributed in any way to winning out against the German
hordes, or stem the flood of German crime that was sweeping over Europe,
that would later, if it were not stopped, cover our continent with an
inundation of blood and desolation. Most of them, like Lieutenant Lehr,
went into ambulance service; and afterward when the air planes were
ready and needed men to fly them, took to the air. These were the men
who "put out the eyes" of the German armies and piloted the allies
to many a victory. And alas! Many of them, like Lehr, gave up their
lives - though not in vain, nor without having sent down to crashing
death, each one, his share of the flyers of the foe.


Lieutenant Lehr's story begins with a letter from France just after
his arrival in Paris on May 15, 1917, when he joined the Ambulance
Corps - later entering the air service. It covered a period of more than
a year's experiences at the front.

The last letter from Lieut. Lehr was dated June 14th, 1918, when the big
German drive was about at its climax. According to news reports from the
front Lehr had a period of intense activity up to July 15th, when he
was reported missing. "Bud" was regarded as one of the most adept of
American fliers.

One of the last news reports from the front told of him still flying
under French colors and having twice returned from raids with his
passenger killed by enemy attacks and of his being awarded the war
cross. The same report told of a 150 mile raid into Germany with eight
other French Machines - when a patrol of twelve German planes were
attacked and three of them sent down in flames, while all the nine
French machines returned safely.

The following are a few of Lehr's later letters from the front:


Sector - - at the Front, Oct. 12, 1917. - It's blowing terrifically,
wind and rain. You can't imagine how I picture you people at home, warm,
happy and safe. I've been out here a week now. Three days of it has been
flying weather. Up 25,000 feet and ten miles into Germany is my record
so far and I've actually had one combat with a boche. He was below me,
at first, far in the distance. I was supposed to be protecting a bombing
expedition of ten machines. I saw this spot, started away from the rest
and through excitement, anticipation and the goodness knows what, I

Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 11 of 49)