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9. Last Days In France


HISTORY
of
THE 308th INFANTRY

By

L. Wardlaw Miles

Chapter 9
Last Days In France


THE long expected day had arrived. As has been often told, the moment brought little emotional response. All was over but the cheering. And there was no cheering. Doubtless in the hearts of men-inexpressible to others, and only dimly perceived by themselves was the sense of profound gratitude for the cessation of weeks of hunger, wet, and cold, carrying the constant menace of injury and death. For the moment, the future seemed a rosy vision with warm billets, plenty of food and rest at the front of the stage, and at the back an inclined gangplank, mounting straight to Hoboken and, Home, the equivalents of Heaven.

On the afternoon of November 11th, the 308th celebrated the occasion with suitable solemnity. It took its first real bath since the beginning of the Argonne. True, only one minute was allowed under the steaming showers, scarcely time to wash off the soap beneath a tantalizing trickle, and then the cry of "Into the drying room with, you! Make way for the next lot!" Scarcely a wash. Certainly only the hyperbole of enthusiastic exaggeration, could call it a bath. Still what little water there was certainly possessed the blessed qualities of warmth and: wetness-and the War was over!

Next morning the sun rose bright and cheerful on a new world, a world in which the rumble of guns was of' course to be forever silenced. In the little towns of Raucourt and Haraucourt, the soldiers had tumbled out into the streets for a morning's stretch, and for the enjoyment of the new life of peace. Then far down the road to the south an old and familiar sound could be heard, faint at first but growing louder. Curiously the men were listening, heads and eyes turned south. What was it? Now even the quiet little villagers, but lately freed from four years of German rule, had crept out of their homes and. stood by their doors, to join the soldiers watching, and waiting, and listening in the streets.

Now all could hear. It was the strains of martial music. The thump and roll of drums. The shrill piercing notes of a clarinet. A band playing! The music grew louder, and then far down the road, a long brown winding column rolled into view, with a band playing madly at its head, and behind a troop of gayly decorated horsemen bearing the flags and standards of France.

The French Colonials were coming! A sudden thrill went through the little group of villagers at the first sight of their own soldiers and countrymen for whom they had been waiting for so many years. One little woman began to weep hysterically. Pride and joy swept over all their faces. "Vive la France!" they cried and clapped their hands, as the column of poilus rolled grinning and slouching by. The 77th Division was being relieved. That morning the 308th rolled, packs and marched out, headed south by the same route, which only a few days before had been their guiding line northward.
By 1 p.m. the column was well on the march. Packs were heavy and drizzling rain marred a promising day. But who cared? To be leaving a shell-torn area, a land of crumbling houses and battered ruins, and for the first time since their arrival in France to be headed south towards a country of peace and plenty, was enough to make hearts light and faces cheery.

Through the little town of La Basece, where a few days earlier some of the men had drunk German acorn coffee served by the French women, the road led on ever southward avoiding the heights of Stonne, where the explosion of a German mine had torn a gigantic crater in the road on the 5th, and completely blocked all traffic. Westward through the woods, the village of La Berliere came suddenly into sight. From its church tower, the white flags put up eight days before, when the Germans had evacuated the town, still waved beseechingly. The column continued over the intervening slopes, and into the valley hiding Oches, where at intervals it arrived by battalions between 4 and 5 P.m. They were met by advance billeting officers and N. C. O's. who directed them into the narrow tumble-down buildings and shacks. At rest from the machine guns and heavy artillery, which had swept the town a week before, the Regiment slept soundly.

Lieutenant-Colonel Herr, until now with the 305th Infantry, took command of the Regiment this day.

The 13th of November opened auspiciously with clear sun and bright sky, but it brought proverbial bad luck. An order delivered at 2 P.m. directed: "Retrace route and move to Beaumont." Germany had broken the Armistice! The Division was once more headed for the front! At least so ran the rumor. Packs were rolled in ten minutes: in half an hour the entire Regiment was on the move. The battalions jumped into harness quickly, each Major eager to have his men the first out to reach the best billets. "First come first served," the Colonel had announced, with the result of the quickest move on record: over 3,000 men on the road with full equipment in 30 minutes-and no previous warning.

It was only an average hike of fourteen and two-third kilometers, and the prospect of warm billets and hay to sleep in carried a thrill of general cheer. "Beaumont is a big town; there must be beaucoup room," said someone and the column burst into song.

The 2nd Battalion in the lead was met at the outskirts of the village by the advance billeting party, a dejected little group of two officers and four enlisted men.

"Did you get us good billets, boys? " called out Captain McMurtry. "Remember the best is none too good for the 2nd Battalion."
"There are 5,000 men in town already, Captain," came the reply. "Orders are that we sleep out tonight."

Peace hath her S. 0. L. no less than War! It was a weary crowd of men that executed column right into the field south of the road. Yet in spite of dashed hopes and the cold night wind, in which it was necessary to sleep with only one blanket and a shelter half, there was little grumbling. Soon fires were lit, and in half an hour the Regiment gathered around cheerfully crackling piles of brushwood and timber, which in earlier days would have brought down a barrage of German shells.



At 7.30 next morning the column moved out once more, on a straight road towards Mouzon and the Meuse River, where the Marines of the 2nd Division had gone over the top during the very last hours of the War, and, with considerable loss of life, had established their position on the northern bank of the river. Gradually it became clear why the 77th Division had moved north again. They were scheduled to relieve the 2nd and 89th Divisions, who were to draw back and get fully equipped, preparatory to moving forward with the Army of Occupation.

It was but a temporary measure and meant only a few extra days of duty in the forward line. The 1st Battalion took up a position in support at La Falbourg directly opposite Mouzon, and the 2nd and 3rd pitched camp and established outposts on the heights north of the river, at Belle Fontaine and Senegal Farms, respectively. Regimental Headquarters were located at La Falbourg. Mouzon, itself, was under guard to be entered only at the cost of breaking the Armistice terms.

The Intelligence Summaries for the next four days reported "no signs of the enemy." A few Russian, British, and American prisoners turned loose by the Germans on the 11th crossed our lines and were sent to Headquarters for examination. Except for several raids on an abandoned German supply dump upon the western banks of the river, yielding quantities of mirrors, rifles, Luger magazines, and a few officers' helmets, the sentries reported all quiet along the Meuse. Only the Marines' battered tin hats and scattered bits of blood stained olive clothing and equipment were left as evidence of the terrific fighting in the War's last hours.

Until November 18th, the Regiment did little except maintain a few outposts, collect souvenirs, and speculate on the possibility of becoming a member of the Army of Occupation. Rumors flew hard and fast, but early on the morning of the 18th, arrived an actual move order, directing that the Regiment proceed to Beaumont, there to be really housed in billets. At noon the column was on its way, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions recrossing the river on the rickety little pontoon bridges and proceeding for precaution in single file and five feet apart. That afternoon the Regiment reached its destination, and occupied the town, comfortably housed and warm. There it remained the following day and on the 20th arrived at Buzancy, eighteen kilometers away, after a long hike over muddy roads.

At this time a persistent rumor, which had started six days previously in La Falbourg, and had gradually gained headway, was the sole topic of conversation. This was nothing less than that the 77th Division was scheduled for an early trip home. Gradually growing in definiteness and strength, the rumor brought to many complete assurance that the Regiment would be home by Christmas. The thing was settled.

Thus it was with a settled conviction that all was right with the World and the Army, that the Regiment pulled out for Chatel Chehery on the 21st. It was a long hike of twenty-six kilometers, with nothing particularly luxurious in the line of billets when it was over, but the thought of a speedy return home did much for lame backs and sore feet. The 3rd Battalion, a part of the 2nd, and Head-quarters and Machine Gun Companies were quartered in the town. One whole company occupied the floor of a ruined church. The rest of the 2nd Battalion took to the German dugouts outside the village, and the 1st Battalion found shelter beneath the roofs of some neighboring barns. Next morning the entire Regiment tramped to Vienne Le Chateau, near La Four de Paris and La Harazee, where on September 26th, nearly two months earlier, it had gone over the top at the jump-off of the Argonne offensive. That night the elaborate system of dugouts along the roadway was again occupied by American troops. Regimental and 2nd Battalion Headquarters were established on the following day at Florent. The 1st Battalion located at Camp Croix Gentin and the remainder of the Regiment at Petit Batis, where it remained for three days, resting tip, cleaning up, and thinking up new rumors. Here on Sunday, the 24th, was celebrated a Mass participated in by all the Catholic Churches in France-La Messe de la Victoire. Many of the Regiment, who were not Catholics, attended as well.

One day was now allowed each Battalion to take a much-needed bath, the last before arrival in the Chau-mont area one month later. From Florent on November 25th, the Regiment marched to Nijour le Clour near Les Islettes for a Brigade Review held by General Alexander, which marked the first occasion on which any considerable part of the Division had been drawn up in one formation on French soil. On a soggy field, under a rainy sky, with Colors paraded, and band playing, but with no civilian spectators, since the scene was still the heart of the devastated district, the review took place, and while the troops stood at attention, the first Distinguished Service Crosses awarded in France were presented to Captains Cullen, Jenckens, and some others. That evening the troops returned to quarters, prepared to start next morning on the long hike to the 9th Training Area in Chaumont. "Home by Christmas " had gone the way of a thousand rumors.

The subsequent ten days of grueling march were perhaps the hardest of the many hard hikes made by the 308th in France. Tired and worn-down by continuous fighting without rest in the Argonne and on the advance to the Meuse, weary and strained by an even one hundred kilometers of march from Haraucourt to Florent, and suffering from the inevitable nervous relapse that follows days of ceaseless endurance in the forward areas, the Regiment was in poor condition for one hundred additional kilometers of march. Fifty per cent of the men had sore feet and lame backs; many were suffering from dysentery. Nearly everyone had an ailment of some sort or other, and was in low condition physically. Nevertheless on the morning of November 26th, the w. k. packs were slung as promptly as ever before, and the column was under way.

Probably there were few who did not at some time feel that one of these days might be his last, and that he might be obliged to fall out by the wayside. just how the Regiment did it, no one knows, but it did do it, and late in the afternoon of December 4th, reached its destination in the Training Area. To ask just why the march should have been made in so needlessly severe a manner would, of course, be beyond the office of the present chronicler. Dead-beat, the men wearily crawled into the billets of seven towns, disposed as follows: 1st Battalion-Pont la Ville and Cirfontaines; 2nd Battalion, Regimental Headquarters and Supply Company-Orges; 3rd Battalion-Vaudremont and Braux; Headquarters Company -Aizanville; Machine Gun Company-Essey les Ponts. The big hike was over-two hundred kilometers passed and covered, from the extreme northern point of the Meuse, near the heights of Sedan, to the heart of the peaceful and quiet Chaumont in Haute Marne, from a country of bleak devastated ruins to a land of green grass and herds of cattle, and every inch covered on foot!


The first order issued from Regimental Headquarters directed an immediate cleaning up of town, person, and equipment. For the first time in the history of training, drill was superseded by soap. Street cleaning departments were organized at once in each village; inspectors appointed, and fatigue squads rushed to police up streets, which had never before felt the disturbing bristles of a broom. The native civilians looked on astonished, but one by one the Maires gradually came to express in glowing terms to the Military Town Commandants their appreciation of what had been done. Pont la Ville, occupied by A and D Companies, was adjudged the cleanest town in the Division area.

But the name Training Area signified something beyond police details, and very soon there began to descend from Division Headquarters countless memoranda and bulletins concerning drill schedules and programs to be followed. A long and intricate system of terrain exercises and maneuvers had-been worked up and upon these all kinds of training were based. Innumerable pamphlets and booklets were showered on unsuspecting Company Commanders. "I Have Captured a Boche Machine Gun. What Shall I Do With It?" "Important Duties of the Gas Officer." And the already familiar: "Questions A Platoon Commander Should Ask Himself On Going Into The Trenches." These and others like them fell ceaselessly upon officers and N. C. O's. alike. Men who had fought in Lorraine, on the Vesle, Aisne, Meuse, and in the Argonne, were instructed by the pamphlets in the correct way of capturing an imaginary German machine gun nest, how always to blacken one's face before going out on a patrol, and how, when the enemy projected a gas attack, never to forget to use the chemical sprayers in clearing out the gas! Fired upon by a hostile machine gun, one should advance; send word back immediately to the Battalion Commander of the exact coordinates and location of the enemy emplacement, and instruct him to send up one pounders and Stokes at once !

So said the booklets, and Company Commanders accepted them with proper seriousness, while Battalion Commanders worked up innumerable problems. Machine gun after machine gun was captured with unfailing regularity. Constant liaison was maintained with either flank, with the rear, with the artillery, with everybody. Pigeons (there were no pigeons), semaphore flags (they. had long since been turned in), T. P. S. and wireless (no one had ever seen such things), and speeding motorcyclists and mounted orderlies on dashing steeds (the Regiment's supply consisted of a few shell-shocked beasts from the Transport)-all of these were recklessly employed according to orders. And G. H. Q. expressed its pleasure at the success of the exercises and mentioned the " remarkable interest displayed by all concerned." So what else mattered?

Perhaps the inspectors would have been a trifle puzzled and perplexed had they read a bit more carefully some of the battalion attack orders:

Munition Dump and Battalion P. C. will be located at Caf6 du Centre. First Aid Stations at the Butcher Shop and Cemetery. Especial care will be taken in crossing the river that Lt. McIlwain is watched; physical restraint will be offered in case he attempts to jump in.

Or this, sent during the heat of battle by a Company Commander: "Hostile band of wild women sighted on horizon to the south. What to do? " To which the Battalion Commander promptly replied: "Capture and hold women. Battalion P. C. will be located there!"

And-though this really came somewhat later, there was the matter of the Regimental Goat. He started with the 308th early in its career and marched over Lorraine's red roads, through battered Fismes, up and down the hills of the Argonne and Ardennes, twice into the Chaumont area. In these campaigns, Tony Maggi, Headquarters Company Stable Sergeant, was his particular pal. Then at Brulon, Tony went on a ten days' leave, and the goat apparently fell in with Sergeant Childs of E Company. Rival claims of ownership were advanced. With all due form Colonel Averill appointed Captain

Popham of the Red Cross as " Regimental Goat Stabitizer," for the goat had threatened to upset the equilibrium of the Regiment. Captain Popham in turn scratched his head and crystallized his profound thought upon the matter into these two questions:
"Who gets the goat?
"Whose goat does the goat getter get?"
As a brilliant and searching statement of the problem to be solved, these questions were unsurpassed. As a solution of the problem they were futile.

The last scene in the goat story is a dramatic one. Into the center of the entire Regiment, assembled in hollow square, the goat is reluctantly induced by Captain Popham.

"Sergeant Childs and Sergeant Maggi, come here," booms the Colonel. Sergeant Maggi has been detained at home by other duties, and so Mess Sergeant Rechen of Headquarters Company represents him.

"In one of these envelopes," announces the Colonel, "is a paper which says 'Goat'; in the other is a paper which says 'Nit.' The man who picks 'Goat' gets him. Take your choice."
"Well, sir," begins Sergeant Childs, "my company doesn't- "
" Tut, tut, " interrupts the Colonel, " take one!
Both men grab at once, but Sergeant Childs is the first to find his paper.

" Come on, goat, " he yells, " eat this! You're mine!
And the goat, chewing contentedly at the orders, which had settled his affairs, trots off, behind his owner's heels after the long column of Company E already starting westward.


Plans for making Christmas Day, 1918, a real anniversary, had begun back in November, before the Armistice was concluded, and while the Division was still fighting its way forward in the advance to the Meuse. On November 9th, several thousand miles away from the scene of that fighting, a letter had been addressed by the President of the 308th Infantry Association, in its New York office to the Commanding Officer, 308th Infantry. It contained the news of a gift to the Regiment by the Association of $5,000, for the purpose of financing a Christmas celebration. A check for this amount was forwarded to the Equitable Trust Company in Paris, placed there at the disposal of the Regimental Commander. Lieutenant Colonel Herr immediately appointed a committee of officers, who started early in December to arrange for the festivities. Captain Popham, Harry W. Blair of the Y. M. C. A., and Mr. Zindorff were called into consultation at once. Then began the plotting of dark schemes, secret missions to Paris, by representatives of the committee; the raiding of numerous Y., K. of C., and Red Cross warehouses, as well as the scouring of the surrounding country. The results began to be apparent when the shrill notes of a bugle in seven towns sounded an 8 o'clock breakfast mess call.

It was a never-to-be-forgotten day in the seven quaint, red-roofed, white-walled little peasant towns. The sedate village fathers had cast aside for once their huge wooden shoes and corduroy trousers, and appeared dressed in clothes worn only once or twice a year on most ceremonious occasions. Village bells tolled out Christmas carols, Messieurs les Curgs held High Mass, and the town criers pounded their drums and stentoriously read off the Maire's proclamation wishing everybody a Merry Christmas, while the doughboys cheered.

In the morning and afternoon the soldiers were entertained with track and field meets, potato sack and three legged races, cover games and basket ball contests, not to mention Charlie Chaplin at his best. Boxing matches were held between representatives of the Companies with silver wrist watches from Tiffany's in Paris as prizes. Entertainers from the Y. M. C. A., brought from Chaumont and Paris, performed in the evening, followed by Company dances in the town halls. The townspeople enjoyed the opportunity of hearing the Regimental Band, which visited each town in the area by truck, and gave a concert in the village squares. The children of all the seven villages had a royal Christmas, through the efforts of the committee, who provided real Christmas trees gayly decorated with swinging lanterns, paper dolls, puppets, cornucopias full of candy, cakes and various dainties, and an individual present for each child.

But naturally the biggest feature of the day was the Christmas dinner. Apparently a corner on all the turkeys and geese in that section of France, had been secured by the committee, with the volunteer help of Major Roosevelt, and these with innumerable issues of chocolates, cigars, cigarettes, cakes, fruit-drops, and candies from Mr. Blair's never-failing store; jam, milk, bar-chocolate, ham, and fruit from Captain Popham; and countless packs of chewing gum, sweet milk chocolate, and other delicacies from Mr. Zindorff, added to what the limitless ingenuity of fifteen unscrupulous mess sergeants could devise, resulted in a dinner, which to 4,000 bully-fed-up doughboys was little short of heaven. Here is a sample menu from one of the companies:

CHRISTMAS, 1918

Menu
BREAKFAST

Stewed Peaches
Oatmeal and Cream
Coffee Bread Butter jam

DINNER
Punch a la Wilson
Celery Mixed Olives Mixed Nuts
Canopie a la Company Commander
Cream of Celery Soup CroAton SouffId
Entrie
Filet of Beef-Cooper Sace with Saute Potatoes
Roast
Turkey with Dressing~Giblet Sauce
Mashed Potatoes-Vegetables in Season
French Endive Salad and Rochefort Dressing
Orges Beer
Dessert
Allied Apple Cake
Coffee with Crearn-Cigars-Cigarettes
Assorted Chocolates
SUPPER
Roast Beef a 1' Alexander
Potatoes a la Foch
Fritters a la Petain
Rice Pudding a la Pershing
Tea Bread Assorted Preserves
Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Herel
5
On Christmas Day a picked provisional company from the 308th, with other units of the 77th Division, was reviewed by President Wilson and General Pershing at Langres. Colonel Herr took the company from Orges, and it was paraded under the command of Captain Allan J. MacDougall.

On January 4th a Regimental Review by General Alexander took place on the Orges parade ground, and was the occasion for the presentation of the Croix de Guerre to the second platoon Company C, for heroism as a unit in the Badonviller raid, and of the Distinguished Service Cross and Croix de Guerre to certain other members of the Regiment. On the following afternoon, Memorial Services in honor of the dead were held before the assembled Regiment. Bishop Brent, Senior Chaplain of the A. E. F., and General Alexander delivered short addresses.

The last month in the Chaumont area saw the return of two of the Regiment's original members, two men who had done so much to make its spirit and morale in the days of Upton, Baccarat, and the Vesle: Colonel Averill and Captain Lindley, formerly Regimental Adjutant. Colonel Averill returned to the Division straight from the Army of Occupation, following a special request from Division Headquarters for his transfer back to the 308th Infantry. The night of his return was the occasion of a great celebration and of good cheer, not only for himself but for all officers and men of the Regiment. His Joy to get back to his original command was perhaps best expressed in his speech at the celebration in Orges that evening. He declared:

When I received the order telling me of my transfer, I started out for the 9th Training Area at once, and believe me you could scarcely see me for the dust! It took me just twenty-four hours to get from the banks of the River Rhine to this little town of Orges, hundreds of miles south in the Chaumont area.

On February 1st, men and officers of the Regiment gathered in Orges to witness a regimental drill competition and transport contest, for which the various companies had been strenuously training. Companies D, E, and I, representing the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions respectively, were matched in competitive drill under the leadership of Captain Knight, 2nd Lieutenant Cecil J. Smith, and Captain Rennie, in the order named. Each of these companies had previously eliminated the three other companies in their respective battalions. The board of judges, after considerable debate, awarded the prize of 1,000 francs to Company D, with Company E under Lieutenant Smith running an extremely close second. In the Transport Contest, the Supply Company carried off first prize and Headquarters Company second and third. The Regimental Transport had suffered more during the four months of active campaign than during an equal number of years with the British. The good results of the effort to get it back into shape were apparent when it was turned in before entraining for the Embarkation Area.

The period of training in the Chaumont Area now drew to its end. It had been a time of much drill, of many maneuvers, and of considerable rain; but its few hardships were negligible, compared with the preceding half year of privation, suffering, and death. Warm billets, good food, and comfortable mess-shacks, town dances, and various entertainments provided by Company and Battalion talent and the Y. M. C. A., had left in the men's hearts a kindly and homelike feeling towards the seven quaint little villages. Somewhere in minds and hearts the memory of red roofs, stone walls, manure piles, town criers, and estaminets will probably always remain, connected intimately and happily with the two months of rest spent in north central France, among the green and gentle valleys of Haute Marne.
Pays, douce et belle, adieu!


On February 12, 1918, the 308th began the last long drive of its history. Starting from the Chaumont area, it was henceforth to push steadily westward, with three main objectives in succession: the Le Mans Area, then the Port of Embarkation, and finally-Home.

Early dawn of the 12th found the Regiment assembling at the railhead at Bricon. Between the bare and rolling hills, columns of men, bent under the weight of full packs, and sliding and slipping on the icy roads, wound down the snow-covered valley. Once formed along the track, the packs were dropped, and to the music of rattling mess kits, everybody lined up for steaming hot cocoa and sandwiches. An hour later all were aboard the familiar "40 Hommes and 8 Chevaux" cars. Once more the engine whistled its shrill warning, and then with much groaning and creaking, the Regiment started on the first lap of its long journey home. That night, rolled up in blankets and overcoats, the men slept again as they had first slept ten months before on the straw covered floors of the "side door Pullmans." Not luxurious travel, but each rattling kilometer was bringing them nearer to the coast. For two days they continued through Nevers, Tours, and other towns, and on the dawn of the third reached the little station of Brulon, in the beautiful Loire valley, department of Mayenne.

That afternoon the villagers saw an American soldier for the first time, and soon learned his universal passion for ceufs, vin blanc, and beefsteak with pommes de terre. Meanwhile there was an extensive schedule to occupy the long weeks of waiting for final transportation. First in importance came the bathing and delousing processes. Before the impatient doughboy could be permitted to ascend the gangplank, it was necessary for him to part company with many close companions acquired during the recent months. Two afternoons week men were marched to the Infirmary for cootie inspection. Each as he entered the door, shed his blouse, and advancing in turn, pulled his shirt over his head, while a keen-eyed medical officer searched the seams. Any man found in-fected was segregated from human companions for a few days, which he devoted to bathing and boiling his clothing.
horse
The symbol of the 77th Division borne on a caisson.

There was the usual morning schedule consisting of short hikes and a modified form of close order work -comparatively easy after the intensive training in Camp Upton and Flanders. Noon mess was followed by baseball games and various athletic sports on the company drill fields. For diversion, entertainments were organized all over the Regimental area. Some of these were big shows with elaborate costume and scenery; others, simply impromptu comedies, but all toured in turn the several towns in the Area, playing in everything from the electric lighted municipal opera house to cramped and leaking barns. The 77th Division, with its metropolitan origin, possessed a particular wealth of material for such entertainment. Besides the famous Argonne Players, each battalion had its own shows containing among them several Keith Circuit stars.

And at Brulon occurred one happy event which cannot be left unmentioned in this history, the marriage solemnized by Father Halligan of Miss Margaret Rowland of the Red Cross to Captain Delehanty, now Operations Officer. After the ceremony the bridal couple passed under the customary arch of bayonets made over their heads by the men of the Signal Platoon of Headquarters Company.

Now too entries for an athletic tournament were posted on the platoon bulletin boards, and elimination contests took place in each company. A regimental training table was established where the men who had qualified in the company try-outs underwent a course of training for the coming Brigade and Divisional meets.

No less important than entertainment, or drill, or athletics, were the inspections. It had been said that two things are necessary to get a soldier aboard a transport-a gangplank and a Service Record. The experience of the weeks in the Le Mans Area showed an equally necessary third factor-"full Class C Equipment." Consequently, there were full pack inspections, by every one from the Platoon Commander to the Division Commander himself. If the weather permitted the inspection was held in the fields. If the countryside happened to be submerged under a foot or so of water and mud, the inspection took place in the billets. Everything was laid out on the bunk, each article having its designated place; an empty space on the blanket, immediately indicated that something was lacking, Thus day by day, deficiencies were finally made up, with the result that when the final inspection by the Embarkation Officer arrived, everybody was fully equipped with everything from identification tags to two cans of dubbing.

At Solesmes, Mayenne, on the memorable morning of February 24th, the 77th Division was reviewed by General Pershing. It had been raining the night before, but now a brisk, cold morning wind was rapidly driving the black clouds back across the hills, while the sun threw great scudding shadows along the valleys. Drawn up on the field compactly in mass formation, in columns of squads, stretched company after company and battalion after battalion, the solid mass of khaki relieved by helmets and fixed bayonets glistening in the morning sun. Looking down the line of brigades, one could see the different regimental colors, whipping straight out from their staffs in the wind, and flanked on the rear end by the bright red guidons of the artillery,

Suddenly the ranks came to attention, and there was silence. Then from the other end of the field, sounded a flourish of trumpets and with a thudding of hoofs on the soft turf, General Pershing and his personal staff trotted rapidly down the line. As he reached the left flank, he turned and rode back to the center of the line, where the 308th Infantry was posted, then wheeled and faced the troops. Again sounded the triple flourish of trumpets, The Division came to present arms, while General Pershing sat on his horse, motionless with his hand raised to the salute. As the General's hand dropped from his cap, a bugle sounded squads right.

An instant later the Division had changed its front to the right ready for the inspection. The Commander-in-chief, now on foot, passed quickly down the front of each company, and thence around the rear, constantly stopping to speak to the men in the ranks. " Where were you born, young man? " To another, " How old are you?

Again, "How did you get wounded? " And passing a certain company: " Captain, you have a very good-looking personnel here!" So it went for two hours, the General's keen eyes inspecting every man on the field. Now the bugle sounded again, and the Division swung quickly back to its original position. All the regimental colors were brought up and massed in the center, while in front of them a small group of officers and men formed before General Pershing. A bugle sounded attention. Then the General stepped forward and pinned the Distinguished Service Cross on the breast of the first man in line, while one of his staff read a citation of the particular act of gallantry, for which it was awarded. On he went down the line, until one hundred and twenty-six officers and men had been decorated.

As the General stepped back, the massed bands crashed into a stirring march. Orders were shouted from regiment to regiment, and then, with colors flying and with bayonets flashing above the glistening helmets, the whole Division moved forward en masse. Here at last was that often described and seldom-found thing, the authentic
"Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war."
Toward evening as the red ball of the sun began to slip behind the hills, it silhouetted long, winding columns of troops marching down the muddy roads to their respective billeting areas, after the greatest review of the Regiment's history.


Less than two months remained of the Regiment's stay in France. On March 11th, there was a Review of the 154th Brigade by General Alexander. On March 4th, there were Battalion athletic meets, and on the 8th a dual track and field meet with the 307th at Fontenay. And on the 15th, a Divisional meet at Parce. Finally on the 27th, 28th, and 29th, was held the American Embarkation Center Athletic and Military Tournament, in which the 308th Infantry received twenty-five medals. On March 26th, in General Orders No. 23, from the Division Headquarters, appeared a letter from General Pershing to General Alexander, which is published in the Appendix and which it is hoped will be read with pleasure and pride by all members of the 77th Division for many years to come.

Drill, athletics, and inspection-these three abided to the end, but the greatest of these was inspection. And at last, the last of inspections ended on April 9th. General Order No. 28, signed by Colonel Mitchell declared: "It is the consensus of all the Inspecting Officers that this inspection was by far the best and most satisfactory that we have ever made."

Doubtless in proportion as the time of stay shortened, there grew in intensity the desire to leave. Four lines, better than any others known to the present writer, expressed the deepest yearning in the hearts of the A. E. F.

Sick of the smell of billets-
Sick of the chow-
Wanta leave France and put on long pants!
Wanta go NOWI

And now at last on April 14th, the troops are transported by motor trucks to Sable, where they entrain at 5 P.M. for Brest. Now, at noon, April 15th, they reach Brest, where four nights are spent under tents at Camp Pontanazen, and final inspections and other details necessary to embarkation are gone through. Now early in the misty morning of April 19th, they are marching down the back roads on their way to the quay, singing

Home, boys, home.
It's home we ought to be.
Home, boys, home
In the Land of Liberty.

They are inspected as they pass down the road. Embarkation lists are checked up, and men are conveyed to the S. S. America on lighters. And now-altogether incredible and yet somehow actual fact!-now, at five minutes past 6, on the afternoon of April 19th, the America has weighed her anchor, and together with 3,160 others, each individual on board has really started for home.

In addition to the 308th Infantry, the America carried five companies of the 307th, about 150 Casual Officers of various ranks, as well as some Army nurses, and some sick and wounded. It is said the trip was "uneventful," which in the circumstances, seems a curious word to describe days which brought men hourly nearer and nearer that which they had so long desired. Surely it was eventful to arrive off Ambrose Channel Lightship at midnight of April 28th. Surely it was yet more eventful to reach New York Harbor at 8 o'clock next morning, and then-surely most eventful of all-to land at Hoboken. The troops proceeded by ferryboat to Long Island City, and then to Camp Mills. Although many received passes, Camp Mills remained the Regiment's official home until May 5th, when the Regiment reported at the 8th Coast Artillery Armory, Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx, again reporting at 5 A.M. the next day for the parade on May 6th. On May 7th, the Regiment returned for the last time to Camp Upton, to be mustered out two days later where it had begun.

This history started with the statement that one can-not name the day and hour when the 308th Infantry came into being. Its final hour as an active unit of the United States Army is likewise somewhat indefinite. All day and night, through the 7th and 8th, the examining teams of Medical Officers worked in relays, and, except for cases of doubtful physical condition, all men were mustered out on May 9th. Company musters were held in the morning. Men were then marched to the Office of the Campaign Master, there paid off, and then marched to the trains. All of this took place in the rain, which lasted all day. Officers were examined that night, and, with the exception of a few who took a fifteen day leave to look for a job, were discharged May 12, 1919.

What may perhaps be regarded as the real last day of the 308th Infantry's existence in connection with the Great War, was that of the parade on May 6th. This day in contrast to that of the mustering out, was one of brilliant spring sunshine. Through it up Fifth Avenue there marched for the last time together the men who had seen what they had seen, done what they had done, and shared what they had shared.

army
The finished product. The final parade of the 308th.

No more fitting ending for this history can be found than General Order NO. 3, in which Colonel Averill bade his regiment farewell.

HEADQUARTFRS, 308TH INFANTRY CAMP UPTON, N. Y., May 8, igig.

General Orders No. 3.

1. Before the 308th Infantry is demobilized and the officers and enlisted men return to their homes, I desire to publish in general orders my tribute to their extraordinary devotion to duty, to their heroic valor in the field, and to the splendid spirit with which they met every task which was assigned to them.

2. First of the National Army to sail for France; first of the National Army to shed blood in inflicting casualties on the Germans at Badonvillier; first to demonstrate on the Vesle that the new army of the United States could withstand, without loss to morale and effectiveness, all the bewildering blows dealt by the Hun war machine; first to penetrate the dense woods of the Argonne Forest in that advance which, because of the stand made by Whittlesey's command at Charlevaux Mill, has already become the classic epic of the Great War-such is the record of the 308th Infantry. And above all, the regiment has been first in the hearts and minds of those officers and men who fought to maintain its high traditions.

3. You have rendered magnificent service. You have earned the eternal gratitude of your country. You are the finest body of men that any officer ever commanded. I wish you all God-speed.
H. K. AVERILL,
Colonel, Commanding.
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