Current History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 online

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of the Bishops were unroofed, with tall pillars broken off below the
vaulting and an avalanche of white masonry about them. They were
clear-cut and dazzling under the blue sky, and one was hushed by the
tragic grandeur of these ruins.

One of the British airplanes flew low over the city, and its engine sang
loudly with a vibrant humming, and now and again the crash of a gun or a
shell loosened some stones or plaster below its wings. Other birds were
singing. Spring birds, who are not out for war but sweethearting in the
gardens of Arras.

America's Sacrifice

By Harold Begbie

[By arrangement with The London Chronicle.]

One of the finest moral actions in this war has been done by America. It
is action on a gigantic scale, and yet of a directly personal character.
Insufficient publicity, I think, has been given to this action.

Is it realized by the people of this country that America has already
saved us from capitulating to the enemy? Either we should have been
forced into this surrender (with our armies unbroken and our munitions
of war unexhausted) or we should at this moment be struggling to live
and work and fight on one-third of our present rations.

America is sending to these islands almost two-thirds of our food
supplies. Sixty-five per cent. of the essential foodstuffs eaten by the
British citizen comes to him from the American Continent. This in itself
is something which calls for our lively gratitude. But there is a
quality in the action of America which should intensify our gratitude.
For these American supplies, essential to our health and safety,
represent in very large measure the personal and voluntary
self-sacrifice of the individual American citizen. They are not crumbs
from the table of Dives. They are not the commandeered supplies of an
autocratic Government. They represent, rather, the kindly, difficult,
and entirely willing self-sacrifice of a whole nation, the vast majority
of whom are working people.

There is only one altar for this act of sacrifice - it is the table of
the American working classes. And the rite is performed by men, women,
and children, at every meal of the day, day after day, week after week.

This act of self-sacrifice, let us remember, is made in the midst of
plenty. Well might the American housewife ask why she should deprive her
children of food, why she should institute wheatless and meatless days,
when all about her there is a visible superabundance of these things.
Questions such as this are natural enough on the other side of the
Atlantic, and on the other side of the American continent, 5,000 miles
away from the battlefields of France.

But the citizens of America do not ask such questions. With a
cheerfulness and a courage which are as vigorous as their industry, and
with a moral earnestness which is by far the greatest demonstration
America has yet given to the world of American character, these people
so far away from us on the other side of the Atlantic have willingly and
with no coercion by the State denied themselves for the sake of the
Entente. They are going short, they are going hungry, for our sakes.
They are practicing an intimate self-sacrifice in order that we may hold
our own till their sons come to fight at our side. All over America the
individual American citizen is making this self-sacrifice, and making it
without a murmur. He is feeding, by his personal self-sacrifice, not
only these islands, but France, Italy, and many of the neutrals.

This great demonstration of character has had no other impetus than the
simple declaration of the facts by Herbert Hoover, the man who fed
Belgium. Hoover has told his countrymen how things stand. That is all.
The Winter of 1918, he declared to them, will prove to mankind whether
or not the American Nation "is capable of individual self-sacrifice to
save the world." His propaganda has never descended to unworthy levels.
He has appealed always to the conscience of his countrymen. He has
spoken of "a personal obligation upon every one of us toward some
individual abroad who will suffer privation to the extent of our own
individual negligence."

America has answered this appeal in a manner which marks her out as one
of the greatest moral forces in the world. It should be known out there,
in the farmhouses and cottages of the American Continent, that the
people of this country are mindful of America's self-sacrifice, and are



Brig. Gen. Benjamin Alvord,
(© _Harris & Ewing_)]


Brig. Gen. Andre W. Brewster,
(© _Harris & Ewing_)]


Brig. Gen. Edgar Russell,
_Signal Officer_
(_Underwood from Buck_)]


Brig. Gen. Harry L. Rogers,
(© _Harris & Ewing_)]



Brig. Gen. B. D. Foulois,
_Aviation Officer on Pershing's Staff_
_(Press Illustrating Service)_]


Dr. F. P. Keppel,
_Recently appointed Assistant Secretary
of War_
_(© Harris & Ewing)_]


W. C. Potter,
_Chief of Equipment Division of
Signal Corps_
_(© Harris & Ewing)_]


Brig. Gen. C. B. Wheeler,
Ordnance Officer on Pershing's Staff
_(© Harris & Ewing)_]

American Soldiers in Battle

How They Repelled an Attack at Seicheprey and Fought in Picardy

[MONTH ENDED MAY 20, 1918]

Seicheprey, in the Toul sector, was the scene on April 20, 1918, of the
most determined attack launched against the American forces in France up
to that time. A German regiment, reinforced by storm troops, a total of
1,500, was hurled against the American positions on a one-mile front
west of Remières Forest, northwest of Toul, after a severe bombardment
of gas and high explosive shells. The Germans succeeded in penetrating
the front-line trenches and taking the village of Seicheprey, but after
furious hand-to-hand fighting the American troops recaptured the village
and most of the ground lost in the early fighting.

Next morning, after a brief bombardment, the Americans attacked and
drove the enemy out of the old outposts, which they had gained, and thus
broke down an offensive which, it was believed, was intended as the
beginning of a German plan to separate the Americans and the French. The
French lines also were attacked, but the Germans were repulsed and the
lines re-established.

The losses were the heaviest sustained by Americans since they began
active warfare in France. In a dispatch to the War Department General
Pershing indicated that the losses among his men were between 200 and
300. According to the German official statement 183 Americans were taken
prisoner, so that the American casualties apparently came mostly under
the heading of captured. Official reports of the German losses,
according to a prisoner captured later, gave 600 killed, wounded, and


"Franco-American positions south of the Somme and on the Avre" were
officially mentioned for the first time in the French War Office report
of April 24, indicating that forces of the United States were there on
the battlefront resisting the great German offensive. The report stated
that an intense bombardment of the positions all along this front was
followed by an attack directed against Hangard-en-Santerre, the region
of Hailles, and Senecat Wood. The Germans were repulsed almost

Formal announcement that American troops sent to reinforce the allied
armies had taken part in the fighting was made by the War Department in
its weekly review of the situation issued on April 29. "Our own forces,"
the statement read, "have taken part in the battle. American units are
in the area east of Amiens. During the engagements which have raged in
this area they have acquitted themselves well."


Another heavy attack was launched by the Germans against the Americans
in the vicinity of Villers-Bretonneux on April 30. It was repulsed with
heavy losses for the enemy. The German bombardment opened at 5 o'clock
in the afternoon and was directed especially against the Americans, who
were supported on the north and south by the French. The fire was
intense, and at the end of two hours the German commander sent forward
three battalions of infantry. There was hand-to-hand fighting all along
the line, as a result of which the enemy was thrust back, his dead and
wounded lying on the ground in all directions. The French troops were
full of praise for the manner in which the Americans conducted
themselves under trying circumstances, especially in view of the fact
that they are fighting at one of the most difficult points on the
battlefront. The American losses were rather severe.

The gallantry of the 300 American engineers who were caught in the
opening of the German offensive on March 21 was the subject of a
dispatch from General Pershing made public by the War Department on
April 19. The engineers were among the forces hastily gathered by Major
Gen. Sanderson Carey, the British commander, who stopped the gap in the
line when General Gough's army was driven back. [See diagram on Page
389.] During the period of thirteen days covered by General Pershing's
report, the engineers were almost continuously in action. They were in
the very thick of the hardest days of the great German drive in Picardy.

General Pershing embodied in his report a communication from General
Rawlinson, commander of the British 5th Army, in which the latter
declared that "it has been largely due to your assistance that the enemy
is checked." The report covered the fighting period from March 21 to
April 3. The former date marked the beginning of the Ludendorff
offensive along the whole front from La Fère to Croisilles. It showed
that while under shellfire the American engineers destroyed material
dumps at Chaulnes, that they fell back with the British forces to
Moreuil, where the commands laid out trench work, and were then assigned
to a sector of the defensive line at Demuin, and to a position near

During the period of thirteen days covered by the report the American
engineers had two officers killed and three wounded, while twenty men
were killed, fifty-two wounded, and forty-five reported missing.


A correspondent of The Associated Press at the front gave this account
of the part played by Americans in the historic episode under General

A disastrous-looking gap appeared In the 5th Army south of Hamel in
the later stages of the opening battle. The Germans had crossed the
Somme at Hamel and had a clear path for a sweep southwestward.

No troops were available to throw into the opening. A certain
Brigadier General was commissioned by Major Gen. Gough, commander
of the 5th Army, to gather up every man he could find and to "hold
the gap at any cost." The General called upon the American and
Canadian engineers, cooks, chauffeurs, road workmen, anybody he
could find; gave them guns, pistols, any available weapon, and
rushed them into the gap in trucks, on horseback, or on mule-drawn

A large number of machine guns from a machine-gun school near by
were confiscated. Only a few men, however, knew how to operate the
weapons, and they had to be worked by amateurs with one "instructor"
for every ten or twelve guns. The Americans did especially well in
handling this arm.

For two days the detachment held the mile and a half gap. At the end
of the second day the commander, having gone forty-eight hours
without sleep, collapsed. The situation of the detachment looked

While all were wondering what would happen next, a dusty automobile
came bounding along the road from the north. It contained Brig. Gen.
Carey, who had been home on leave and who was trying to find his

The General was commandeered by the detachment and he was found to
be just the commander needed. He is an old South African soldier of
the daredevil type. He is famous among his men for the scrapes and
escapades of his school-boy life as well as for his daring exploits
in South Africa.

Carey took the detachment in hand and led it in a series of attacks
and counterattacks which left no time for sleeping and little for
eating. He gave neither his men nor the enemy a rest, attacking
first on the north, then in the centre, then on the south - harassing
the enemy unceasingly with the idea of convincing the Germans that a
large force opposed them.

Whenever the Germans tried to feel him out with an attack at one
point, Carey parried with a thrust somewhere else, even if it took
his last available man, and threw the Germans on the defensive.

The spirit of Carey's troops was wonderful. The work they did was
almost super-natural. It would have been impossible with any body of
men not physical giants, but the Americans and Canadians gloried in
it. They crammed every hour of the day full of fighting. It was a
constantly changing battle, kaleidoscopic, free-for-all,
catch-as-catch-can. The Germans gained ground. Carey and his men
were back at them, hungry for more punishment. At the end of the
sixth day, dog-tired and battle-worn, but still full of fight, the
detachment was relieved by a fresh battalion which had come up from
the rear.


Major Gen. James W. McAndrew, it was announced on May 3, was appointed
Chief of Staff of the American expeditionary force in succession to
Brig. Gen. James G. Harbord, who was assigned to a command in the field.
Other changes on General Pershing's staff included the appointment of
Lieut. Col. Robert C. Davis as Adjutant General, and Colonel Merritte W.
Ireland as Surgeon General.

The General Staff of the American expeditionary forces in France, as the
result of several changes in personnel, consisted on May 14, 1918, of
the following:

Commander: General John J. Pershing
Aid de Camp: Colonel James L. Collins
Aid de Camp: Colonel Carl Boyd
Aid de Camp: Colonel M. C. Shallenberger
Chief of Staff: Major Gen. J. W. McAndrew
Adjutant: Lieut. Col. Robert C. Davis
Inspector: Brig. Gen. Andre W. Brewster
Judge Advocate: Brig. Gen. Walter A. Bethel
Quartermaster: Brig. Gen. Harry L. Rogers
Surgeon: Colonel Merritte W. Ireland
Engineer: Brig. Gen. Harry Taylor
Ordnance Officer: Brig. Gen. C. B. Wheeler
Signal Officer: Brig. Gen. Edgar Russell
Aviation Officer: Brig. Gen. B. D. Foulois

President Wilson on May 4 pardoned two soldiers of the American
expeditionary force who had been condemned to death by a military
court-martial in France for sleeping on sentry duty and commuted to
nominal prison terms the death sentences imposed on two others for
disobeying orders.


Major Hugh H. Young, director of the work of dealing with communicable
blood diseases in our army in France, made this striking statement on
May 12 regarding the freedom of the American expeditionary force from
such diseases:

In making plans for this department of medical work in France it
had been calculated by the medical authorities in Washington to
have ten 1,000-bed hospitals, in which a million men could receive
treatment, but with 500,000 Americans in France there is not one of
the five allotted Americans in any of the hospitals now running,
and only 500 cases of this type of disease needing hospital
treatment, instead of the expected 5,000.

In other words, instead of having 1 per cent. of our soldiers in
hospitals from social diseases, as had been expected, the actual
number is only one-tenth of 1 per cent. There is no reason to doubt
that this record will be maintained. The hospitals prepared for
this special treatment are to be used for other cases.

This means that the American Army is the cleanest in the world. The
results, according to Major Young, have been achieved by preventive
steps taken by the American medical directors, coupled with the
co-operation of the men.

Overseas Forces More Than Half a Million

Preparing for an Army of 3,000,000

The overseas fighting forces of the United States have been increasing
at a much more rapid rate than the public was aware of. Early in May the
number of our men in France was in excess of 500,000. A great increase
in the ultimate size of the army was further indicated when the War
Department asked the House Military Affairs Committee for a new
appropriation of $15,000,000,000.

Mr. Baker, Secretary of War, appeared before the committee on April 23
and, after describing the results of his inspection of the army in
France, said that the size of the army that the United States would send
abroad was entirely dependent upon the shipping situation. Troops were
already moving to France at an accelerated rate.

President Wilson, through Mr. Baker, presented the House Military
Affairs Committee on May 2 with proposals for increasing the army. The
President asked that all limits be removed on the number of men to be
drafted for service. Mr. Baker said that he declined to discuss the
numbers of the proposed army "for the double reason that any number
implies a limit, and the only possible limit is our ability to equip and
transport men, which is constantly on the increase."

The Administration's plans were submitted in detail on May 3, when the
committee began the preparation of the army appropriation bill carrying
$15,000,000,000 to finance the army during the fiscal year ending June
30, 1919. Mr. Baker again refused to go into the question of figures,
but it became known at the Capitol that the estimates he submitted were
based on a force of not fewer than 3,000,000 men and 160,000 officers in
the field by July 1, 1919. The plan contemplated having 130,000 officers
and 2,168,000 men, or a total of 2,298,000, in the field and in camps by
July 1, 1918, and approximately an additional million in the field
before June 30, 1919.

Mr. Baker said that all the army camps and cantonments were to be
materially enlarged, to take care of the training of the men to be
raised in the next twelve months. The General Staff had this question
under careful consideration, and the idea was to increase the size of
existing training camps rather than to establish new camps. These camps,
it was estimated, already had facilities for training close to a million
men at one time.

The Secretary of War also made it clear that the total of
$15,000,000,000 involved in the estimates as revised for the new army
bill did not cover the whole cost of the army for the next fiscal year.
The $15,000,000,000, he explained, was in addition to the large sums
that would be carried in the Fortifications Appropriation bill, which
covers the cost of heavy ordnance both in the United States and
overseas. Nor did it include the Military Academy bill. It was
emphasized that, although estimates were submitted on the basis of an
army of a certain size, Congress was being asked for blanket authority
for the President to raise all the men needed, and the approximate
figures of $15,000,000,000 could be increased by deficiency

It was brought out in the committee that the transportation service had
improved and that the War Department was able to send more men to France
each month. It was estimated that if transport facilities continued to
improve, close to 1,500,000 fighting men would be on the western front
by Dec. 31, 1918. The United States had now in camp and in the field,
it was explained to the committee, the following enlisted men and

Enlisted men 1,765,000
Officers 120,000

Total 1,885,000

Provost Marshal General Crowder announced on May 8 that 1,227,000
Americans had been called to the colors under the Selective Draft act,
thereby indicating approximately the strength of the national army.
Additional calls during May for men to be in camp by June 2 affected
something like 366,600 registrants under the draft law. These men were
largely intended to fill up the camps at home, replacing the seasoned
personnel from the divisions previously training there. With the
increase of the number of divisions in France, the flow of replacement
troops was increasing proportionately.

In regard to the number of men in France, Mr. Baker on May 8 made the
following important announcement:

In January I told the Senate committee that there was strong
likelihood that early in the present year 500,000 American troops
would be dispatched to France. I cannot either now or perhaps later
discuss the number of American troops in France, but I am glad to be
able to say that the forecast I made in January has been surpassed.

This was the first official utterance indicating even indirectly the
number of men sent abroad. The first force to go was never described
except as a division, although as a matter of fact it was constituted
into two divisions soon after its arrival in France.

An Associated Press dispatch dated May 17 announced that troops of the
new American Army had arrived within the zone of the British forces in
Northern France and were completing their training in the area occupied
by the armies which were blocking the path of the Germans to the Channel
ports. The British officers who were training the Americans stated that
the men from overseas were of the finest material. The newcomers were
warmly greeted by the British troops and were reported to be full of

American Troops in Central France

By Laurence Jerrold

_This friendly British view of our soldiers in France is from the pen of
a noted war correspondent of The London Morning Post_

I have recently visited the miniature America now installed in France,
and installed in the most French part of Central France. There is
nothing more French than these ancient towns with historic castles,
moats, dungeons, and torture chambers, these old villages, where farms
are sometimes still battlemented like small castles, and this
countryside where living is easy and pleasant. On to this heart of
France has descended a whole people from across the ocean, a people that
hails from New England and California, from Virginia and Illinois. The
American Army has taken over this heart of France, and is teaching it to
"go some". Townsfolk and villagers enjoy being taught. The arrival of
the American Army is a revelation to them.

I was surprised at first to find how fresh a novelty an allied army was
in this part of France. Then I remembered that these little towns and
villages have in the last few months for the first time seen allies of
France. The ports where the American troops land have seen many other
allies; they saw, indeed, in August, 1914, some of the first British
troops land, whose reception remains in the recollection of the
inhabitants as a scene of such fervor and loving enthusiasm as had never
been known before and probably will not be known again. In fact, to put
it brutally, French ports are blasé. But this Central France for the
first time welcomes allied troops. It is true they had seen some
Russians, but the least said of them now the better. Some of the
Russians are still there, hewing wood for three francs a day per head,
and behaving quite peaceably.

These old towns and villages look upon the American Army in their midst
as the greatest miracle they have ever known, and a greater one than
they ever could have dreamed of. One motors through scores of little
towns and villages where the American soldier, in his khaki, his soft
hat, (which I am told is soon to be abolished,) and his white gaiters,
swarms. The villagers put up bunting, calico signs, flags, and have
stocks of American "canned goods" to show in their shop windows. The
children, when bold, play with the American soldiers, and the children
that are more shy just venture to go up and touch an American soldier's
leg. Very old peasant ladies put on their Sunday black and go out
walking and in some mysterious way talking with American soldiers. The
village Mayor turns out and makes a speech utterly incomprehensible to
the American soldier, whenever a fresh contingent of the latter arrives.
The 1919 class, just called up, plays bugles and shouts "Good morning"
when an American car comes by.

Vice versa, this Central France is perhaps even more of a miracle to the

Online LibraryVariousCurrent History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 → online text (page 6 of 30)