Charles F. Minder
306th Machine Gun Battalion
Company B


Sunday, June 2, 1918
Leonard and I just got back from the village. We were over there tonight at a farmhouse and had a feast of eggs, potato chips, and wine. These French women make some extra money by serving meals to the soldiers. There is something about home cooking which you cannot get in the army. The army cooks do not know the first thing about cooking. They get away with it, tho.

Altho it was Sunday, we were routed out this morning after breakfast, lined up, and marched away to the rifle range where we spent the morning shooting fifty shots apiece. I missed church services again, the third in a row. We were dismissed for the rest of the day and didn't have to stand for Retreat. Leonard and I spent the afternoon under a big tree alongside of a wonderful field. There sure are some wonderful spots around here. We killed time writing a few letters, studying our French book, and talking of the good old U.S.A. How I wish we were back there now!

We saw a bunch of German prisoners being marched back this afternoon. They looked awfully sloppy. Everything was stripped from them, no buttons on their coats at all. The soldiers cut the buttons off all the coats of the prisoners and keep them for souvenirs. The English Tommies all have belts just full of buttons of many different outfits. The German prisoners have only coats and trousers, and they look like civilians. The only part of them that looks like a soldier are the feet. They have army boots on, and the funny little round caps they wear.

Yesterday was a very busy day, and they worked us late so I never got a chance to write you. I was busy up to nine o'clock, checking up the equipment and cleaning the machine gun and my rifle. We had been out on the parade ground all day getting instruction on sighting and aiming and lining up a battery of machine guns for barrage firing. I went over to the Estaminet with Leonard and we had some nice cold ale, which is a very good drink in this kind of weather, and especially when you feel tired out.
It's late so with love to you both from CHARLES.

Monday, June 3, 1918
Well, I had a great time tonight, riding on a bicycle, which I borrowed and rode over to Eperleque to the British Canteen to buy a watch, which the Tommies told me I could get there. They had sold the last one, so I was out of luck. My watch stopped suddenly and there is no place to have it fixed. The ride was great, up and down the hills. I was all by myself and enjoyed it immensely. I felt like a kid again riding my own bicycle. We were paid again this afternoon. I received one hundred and one francs and fifty centimes and feel like a millionaire, even though it only is eighteen dollars and twelve cents in our money.

We were up to the gas school this morning, and we had our first experience in a gas-shell attack. Every detail was carried out exactly as it is up on the front line. They banged empty shells, blew horns, and used rattlers to give the alarm, just as they do up in the trenches when a gas-shell explodes. This warns the men to put on their gas-masks. It sounded just like New Year's Eve on Broadway. What a noise! This afternoon we were exposed again on the parade ground, getting some more instruction on barrage fir-ing and Infantry work. The artillery is at it hot and heavy at the moment. The Tommies say that it is about this time that new troops come up to the front to relieve the old ones. The object of the artillery barrage is to demoralize them and take all the fight out of them.

Most of the prisoners coming back recently surrendered themselves. It must be pretty desperate in the German Army if there are so many that surrender. When the Tommies go over the top, they kill all they come in contact with, they say, and no prisoners are taken. I swear that it must be a couple of battalions of prisoners I have seen since we arrived here. They all voluntarily surrendered, marching over to the English trenches with their hands high up in the air. They don't shoot these. Well, Mom dear, it's time to hit the floor, as hard as it is, it feels good when you're tired. I can sleep on hard floors now, cobblestones, anything. In fact, I think I could fall asleep on a tight wire. God bless you.

Tuesday, June 4, 1918
I just got thru writing a lot of letters. We had quite an exciting day, and a busy one. This morning they took us up to the parade ground again. The mules and limbers were there, and we were instructed in how to load them as compactly as possible, and also in keeping the equipment evenly spread out in weight, so that too much wouldn't be on one side. Our ma-chine guns were there, and they had us hopping all over the place with their rapid-fire commands, and we were all perspiring in a short time because it was so warm.

Right after the noon meal, the Captain formed the company and announced that tomorrow we leave for the southern part of France and could have the after-noon off to get things ready. We were all glad to hear we were going to get away from this part of the country, and have an opportunity to see more of France.

The fellows who took a walk away from the Camp were lucky because, about an hour and a half later, the command, "Turn out with full packs!" breezed across the air. The fellows were sore. We made up our packs as quickly as possible. When the company was formed, the Captain announced that there was a delay down the line and we wouldn't leave tomorrow after all but a few days later.

We stood around a while wondering what was going to happen next, when the Lieutenant appeared with a nice broad grin on his face, as much as to say, "Well, you poor slobs, I've got you where I want you." He bawled out, "Squads right, forward march!" and away we went on a hike for three hours. It was hot and sticky, and the pace that the Lieutenant kept at the head of the line was awful. We were in misery. The names that the fellows called that bird aren't fit to write. I thought a lot, but didn't express myself. That's the disadvantage of being a Corporal, you've got to act as if you side with the officers, otherwise you would have no control over the men at all.

When we got back, I was all in. The fellows who sneaked away earlier had the laugh on us. I guess the Lieutenant felt like taking a walk, and didn't want to go alone and talked the Captain into giving us some exercise. Or maybe it pleases his vanity to be at the head of a mob of men and know that they have to obey and follow him. I'll bet my hundred francs right now that he doesn't lead us into the front lines later on as swiftly as he hiked us this afternoon. These kind of men are all four-flushers. I've read too many books on the war. They have them in all armies, loud mouthed and bold back in training camps, and whimpering and meek in the trenches.

I cleaned my rifle earlier this evening. This has to be done every day. It's best to do it at night and leave a thin coating of oil on it so the wet air of the night doesn't rust it. Well, Mother dear, it's getting late so will close with all my love to you and Mousie. How is she by the way? Is she going to be promoted? It won't be long now and school will be out and she'll have a nice long vacation. How I wish I had been born a little later and was going to school now instead of being where I am! Good night, God bless you.
Your boy,


Wednesday, June 5, 1918

Leonard and I just got back from the Estaminet where we had our fill of wine again. I guess you must think I'm becoming a drunkard the way I have been drinking lately. But, Mother dear, if you could only see what we have to go thru, for there isn't a day that we don't have some misery or torture, then you would excuse me, I know. When we are tired out, a glass of wine or ale braces us up, and makes us feel better right away. For a little while, we forget all about the darn army and the war and the unreasonable officers.

The Tommies get a ration of rum every day, it braces them up. In our army, we have our canteens filled with rotten water, full of chloride, or chlorine, I don't know which it is, but it makes the water taste terrible. You can't drink it. The chemical's supposed to purify the water. All over France, the water isn't fit to drink and has to be purified. It doesn't surprise me at all. The ground is rotten, I guess, because there have been nothing but battles all over France from the beginning of history and lots of blood has been shed. Just think how much blood has flowed into the ground in this country in the last four years with the millions of men that have been fighting here!

I wonder how much longer this war is going to last! It's just a year ago today that we all had to register in New York City for the Draft. A lot of things have happened in one year, I never thought that I would ever be over so soon, but here I am, right in the midst of it.
This morning we all had to clean our rifles and smear them up with cosmoline and pack them away, I thought we were going to keep them for good. I was glad that they took them away from us as they were too heavy to carry. I feel sorry for the boys in the Infantry outfits.

From nine to twelve-thirty, we received instructions in regard to firing data and map reading. This afternoon we were taken on a long hike with our packs again and didn't get back until five. We were almost dead. just before we fell out, we were told to get ready for Retreat with our rifles. The darn fools had us pack them away this morning and they were full of cosmoline. There was a mad scramble, the boxes were opened, everybody grabbed one and started to clean it. Retreat was at six, an hour later., and in that time we cleaned the rifles ourselves, and arranged things in the huts for the inspection of quarters, and also gulped down some food. How we did it, I don't know. That's why we went over to the village after that for some drinks. There is nothing better than to drown your hard feelings and after the first drink, I forgot everything. I wonder what's in store for us tomorrow.
Good night, Mother Dear, God bless you.


Thursday, June 6, 1918.

Well, we left Monecove today, and I guess forever. We'll never go back there now. We started marching this afternoon at one and we hit these woods at ten--thirty tonight. We were walking for eight and a half hours today, resting five minutes every half hour. At one place we stopped tonight for an hour and our kitchen fed us the beef stew, which was cooking all the time we were on the march. It is quite a novelty. I hope the kitchen sticks with us everywhere we go. Our limbers are with us, one to every squad and mules draw them. All our machine guns, ammunition, and equipment are in the limbers. Back in 1915, I remember seeing moving pictures in New York City of the German army on march walking across Belgium, and I remember the rolling kitchens and supply wagons going along with the troops. That's the way it was with us today, and my thoughts wandered back to 1915 when I saw those moving pictures and how, at that time, they fascinated me, but I never dreamt that some day I would be doing the same. Strange, isn't it?

I am writing in a pup-tent which I am sharing with Carlie, one of the fellows in my squad. My candle is stuck on my helmet and we are stretched out with raincoats on the ground, and a blanket and overcoats over us for covering. It doesn't feel bad at all, I guess, because we are too tired to notice how hard the ground is. There are woods all around us and our tents are pitched in between the trees.

This morning at Reveille, the Captain announced that we would be on our way today, so the whole morning was spent loading the limbers with our equipment. We turned in our ammunition and it was packed away. Thank goodness, we didn't have to carry it today. We sure did work this morning, and were all played out by noon. They issued us our iron rations, and strict orders that under no circumstances were we to touch them until we had received orders to do so. This consists of hard tack, some bacon, can of corned beef, coffee, and some sugar.

At one o'clock we left Monecove with three cheers from the Tommies. We sure did look military all right. It was a very hot day and I became thirsty and drank a little too much water, I guess, because before an hour had passed, I became dreadfully sick and flopped. I didn't know where I was for a couple of minutes. When my eyes opened, the company was marching on, and about a half a city block away, and I was stretched alongside of a ditch at the side of the road. Captain Campbell rode back on his horse and bawled me out. "Let me see your canteen, Corporal," he said. I handed it to him and it was only two-thirds full. "Weren't you instructed not to touch this stuff?" he asked. "Yes, Sir," I answered, "I couldn't help it, my throat was parched."

The perspiration was pouring from me. It was the hottest day we have had yet over here and the sun was beating down on us something awful. "Let me have your pack," he said. I took it off and he put it over his shoulders and carried it for me the next hour, walking himself. In fact, he didn't get on the back of his horse but very little this afternoon, only when he had to go up and down the company. I got up and followed along and, at the next rest period, I was back with my squad. Walking for an hour without my pack kind of rejuvenated me and I was all right for the rest of the day.

The Captain did other wonderful things for the fellows. I saw him give a couple of fellows some water from his own canteen. He walked his horse instead of riding him, and that's something that few officers would do. We stopped at six and ate and it was a good rest. The fellows suffered awful today. How they stood it is beyond me. The fellows who have charge of the mules are having an awful time tying them up over in the woods. They have to take care of the animals first and then they pitch their tents. We call them the mule-skinners in the company.

Well, Mom, I can't mail this letter to you so will have to carry it along with me and perhaps add on to it each day as I did coming across on the Karoa. I am anxious to hear from you about that long letter. How long did it take you to read it? Well, Mom dear, I know I won't have any trouble sleeping tonight. Thank goodness, there isn't any artillery around here. That is, I haven't heard any as yet. I might be surprised, tho, before daylight. The mules must be obstinate, I hear them hee-hawing over in the woods and the mule-skinners are using some terrible language.

Friday, June 7, 1918

Today was another terrible day of hiking. We are in a town called Crequy. We are up in a hayloft of a farmer's barn stretched out on straw. The fellows are all talking about cooties and if we don't get them tonight, sleeping on this straw, we never will. Soldiers have been here before. This barn has been used for billeting for the last four years. All the outfits that have been here left their trade-marks on the wall. There are a great many French outfits designated on the whitewashed wall, but I can't make them out. I guess many of them who have slept here are now sleeping on some battlefield forever.

They woke us up at five-thirty this morning and altho I was sleeping on the ground, I had trouble in getting up, it felt so restful. Somebody must have put glue under me. We ate breakfast, made up our packs, and at six-forty-five we were on our way. We marched and marched and, as the morning wore on, it became hotter and hotter. It was terrible, the sun was so hot. The hard roads almost burned the soles off the shoes on our feet. Many of the fellows dropped out today, sat down on the side of the road and later in the day caught up with the company again. I was surprised that the officers left them behind. As they dropped out, the fellows were told how to follow us and catch up with us later.

I wrote down the names of the towns we marched thru, and if you can get a good map of France, you can probably find these towns and know where we hiked. The first town we hit was Theimbrounne, then Williametz, St. Martin, Renty, Remeaux, Coupelle, Vielle, and then late this afternoon we marched into this town called Crequy, where we are billeted for the night. We washed up at the pump and then got in line for food, which our rolling kitchen had been cooking for us on the hike. The third platoon is billeted in four different barns, one squad in each. The first and second platoons are in one great big barn. Gus Weber is bunking in with me tonight. Poor Wilmarth, the frail lad in our platoon, is very ill tonight with a fever. He's game to the core. He never complains, and endured the hardships today as well as the biggest ones in the company. When a frail kid like him can stand it, the huskiest fellows have to stick it out, too, otherwise the fellows kid the life out of them. Weber and I have spread our shelter -halves over the straw and a blanket under us and one over. We ought to sleep good tonight.
God bless you.

Saturday, June 8, 1918
Well Mom, I bet you thought of me today, all right, my birthday, and now I am twenty-three years old. Gus Weber, Koehler, and I went over to an estaminet tonight at a town called Tenears and drank some wine to celebrate. We are camped right outside of the town. I never slept so soundly as I did last night. My, but we were tired! They woke us up at five, and at six--fifteen we marched over to where the other platoon was billeted and ate our breakfast. At nine, the day's marching commenced. We stopped at twelve to eat and rest and then started off again.

Today we marched throtgh Reausseauville, Caulers, Crepy, Tilley Capelle, and at four we landed outside of Tenears. The whole Battalion is camped together and the rows of tents sure look pretty. There are lots of trees about us and we are pretty well protected from being seen by German aviators. It is a most wonderful spot, a canal runs alongside the Camp.

When we arrived here this afternoon, we pitched our tents and then were free to do as we pleased. Every-body who could swim, took off his clothes, and dove into the canal. Make out it didn't feel good after the two days of heat and hiking! It was some sight to see the American Army in its nudity. There were some French peasant girls over on the other side of the canal, and they just stood there and looked at us as unconcerned as if we had bathing suits on. A couple of fellows yelled over to them and the Captain came along and bawled us out and made everybody dress. We non-coms got the worst of it. He told us that we should know better than bathing that way in broad daylight so near the town, and that we should set a better example and so forth, but he's a good scout, because he told us we could swim again later when it became darker.

Our meal tonight was the best we ever had. The fellows are all in good spirits and contented this evening. They forget the misery of the army quickly. Good night,

Sunday, June 9, 1918
Weber, Bardes, Schlaich, and myself, all boys of German descent, took a walk over to the town this morning to see the sights. By the way, we sure have a lot of boys of German descent in this company. This town has been bombed from the air in the last four years, some of the houses smashed to pieces. If there is a chance to get some eggs, we always take advantage of it, no matter how full we are. We came to one house where we saw chickens running around. Schlaich said, "Ali, eggs!" and before we knew it we were knocking on the door and a sweet French girl opened it. We smiled and asked in French, "Pardon, Madamoselle, avey voo des oofs, dey freit." She laughed out loud at us and didn't seem to be able to stop. We stood around acting kind of sheepish and didn't know what to do.

When she got through laughing, she said in perfectly good old American language, "Why, certainly, boys, come right in. How many would you like to have?" We were dumfounded. Well, we had a wonderful feast there, eggs, potatoes, some wine, champagne, and coffee. We were there for an hour talking with her. She told us that she has relatives in Illinois and had lived in America for three years when she was a young girl, and that's how she learnt how to talk English. We got back to Camp at twelve-thirty just in time to eat again.

At three o'clock, we received orders to move, took down our tents and made up our packs, and at four--thirty we left. Some fast work! We promised the French girl that we would be back tonight to eat some more, and I guess she thinks we were dirty liars because we are now miles away from Tenears. I bet the poor darling prepared a lot of food for us tonight. If I only had asked her name, I could send her a letter of apology. Her last words when we left her this morning were not to disappoint her. That's the worst of the army, you don't know where you'll be from one minute to the next.

We thought sure, on account of this being Sunday, that we would have the day off. We hiked from four--thirty until eight-thirty tonight, passing through the towns of Anvin, Monchy Cayeaux, Santicourt and Wavians, and then landed in this big field alongside of a forest. We were told not to pitch tents as we leave tomorrow morning at three-thirty on a train. It started to rain lightly and it is no joke sitting out in the rain, so Weber and I started down the road and hit an English Tank Corps camp. There were about a hundred Tommies inside the hut that we walked into and we almost fell over when we saw them. The air was thick with smoke. When they saw us, they hollered, "Hello, Yanks!" and dragged us in. We told them who we were and that the rest of the company was down the road waiting for the train at three-thirty. They asked us if we played a piano and I told them that my buddie did nothing else but. Of all the men in that hut, where they passed the time away, there wasn't one that could play the piano decently.

Gus Weber is a diplomat if there ever was one. The first song he thumped off was, "It's a Long Way to Tipperary." Well, Mom, it's pretty hard to describe the scene, everyone of them joined in and sang the loudest he could. You would think the roof was coming off of the hut. It brought a lump up in my throat to see the Tommies put their hearts and souls into that singing. Gus had to play it over and over again, and how he does play! Gus played a lot more from some English music they had. He didn't know what he was playing but he plays anything at first sight and they all sang. Gus was the hero of the evening.

At ten the noise had to stop, so we talked, and finally they went off to sleep and told us we could stay as long as we wanted to. Two of the fellows took me outside to the shed while Gus was playing and showed me their tanks. A crew of eight manages to get inside of them somehow. How they all get in is beyond me, because the space is so small. A great big six cylinder engine takes up the most room. I took advantage of the opportunity to write you, it's twelve--thirty now and Gus is getting kind of nervous to get back to the rest of the company. It doesn't look like I am going to get any sleep tonight, my eyes are be-ginning to close now, but I must keep them open. Can you imagine anything more silly than this, keeping us up to get a train at three-thirty in the morning? They could just as well have let us sleep and get it at five-thirty or six. We lose a whole night's rest. That's the way they do things in the Army. It stopped raining, thank goodness, we are going to start back to the company, now.
Good night, Mother dear, God bless you.
Love from

Monday, June 10, 1918
I am writing this on a freight train. There are twenty-three of us crowded in it. Straw is spread all over the floor on which we slept last night. We are rolling along slowly, to where, we don't know. It's seven in the evening and we have been riding all day. We started this morning three-forty-five, leaving from Wavians. We were all soaking wet from the dew which was very heavy and moist.

Our kitchen must have been cooking while we were waiting, for they surprised us with hot coffee at three A.M. just before we got on the train. It braced us up. Horses had been in it before and there was a terrible aroma. Just the same the fellows spread the straw which was at the station, threw themselves down on it and fell asleep. I was wide awake, the train stopped after it left the station for a half hour, everybody was sawing wood and I just sat there dreaming until it started again at four-fifteen. I kept track of the stations we passed when it became light and noticed we were going back thru the towns we had marched through the last two days with so much suffering, the first one I noticed was Renty, then St. Martin, Williametz, and Theimbrounne. Why we had to march so far and then ride back past them, I don't know. It got my goat. I became very tired and fell asleep dur-ing the day in spite of all the noise and bouncing of the train. These French freight trains are awful.

The train stopped long enough tonight for us to get something to eat from our kitchen which is on one of the cars up ahead. They handed us cans of corned beef and hard tack. That was all we got. We were hungry and it tasted good. The fellows are playing poker to pass the time, some are sitting at the door watching the fields go by, others are resting, and I am over here in the corner trying to write. This has been terribly monotonous. There isn't much to -write except to say that I wish I was home right now.
Love to you and Mousie.

Wednesday, June 12, 1918

All day yesterday, we just rode and rode. We passed through Dulans at seven A.M. After having a very restless night, I couldn't sleep at all, I thought the night would never end. At eight-twenty we hit Candas and at ten the first town that we have heard so much of during the war, it was Amiens. At eleven-thirty we passed through Calleaux.

We stopped for a few minutes and they passed out some cans of salmon to us and some more hard tack, which we ate cold. The fellows managed to get two tin cans which the hard tack came in, some bricks and some small pieces of wood and we managed to build a fire right here in the train and heated the water and dumped some tea leaves in it which one of the fellows had. Make out that tea didn't taste good! We all needed something warm in our stomachs. How we managed it without setting the car on fire is beyond me. We were all ready to kick it out of the car in case anything did start to burn.

At one-thirty we passed Poix, at two-fifteen Pouilloy and, later on, Abancourt. I started to play poker after that to get my mind off the trip. I lost twelve francs, but I didn't mind as the card-playing occupied me for a while. I fell asleep last night at eight on a handful of straw, I, was so tired, and was dead to the world until seven this morning. I had a wonderful sleep and never woke up once. At seven-twenty-five this morning, the first town we passed was Sauvoy.

I imagine we are traveling south on account of having been on the train so long. Then came a town called Vold, Sorcey, Pagney sur Meuse, Fong, and then came a big city called Toul. Then came Liverdun and then another famous town since the war, Nancy. It was 10 A.M. then. Then came a town with a long name, Champigneulles. After that Jarville la Mongrange, then St. Nicolas. Guess that must be where Santa Claus hails from. Then came Dombasle du Mertheau, then Bayon, Chaune, and at last, we reached our destination at one-fifty. It was a town called Dulache.

When we hopped off the train, we could hardly move our legs. It's surprising how a train ride can stiffen you up. In spite of having only eaten cold meals, the fellows were all in good spirits. I felt rotten and can't understand how fellows can feel good, suffering such inconveniences. We all had to unload the cars and clean them and it wasn't until three p. m. that we started to hike. We walked fifty minutes and then rested for ten. At six we stopped and ate, our rolling kitchen heated up some beans and with coffee, it tasted good, because it was something warm. At seven, we started off again and hiked until ten, making a total of five hours of marching. We cover at least three miles an hour at the pace we hike, so the fifteen miles took all the stiffness out of our legs.

We stopped at a square cut into the woods, a beautiful spot, as much as we can see in the moonlight, and we pitched our tents. Weber and I are bunking together tonight. He's fast asleep already and I am writing by candlelight. It's eleven-fifteen and will close with love to you and Mousie. I hope you will be able to find all the French towns on the map, so you can follow our traveling for the past three days. This sure is a gypsy life. We sleep anywhere. Thank goodness, it's quiet. There is no artillery around here to jar our nerves. We must be miles behind the front somewhere.
Good night, Mother dear.


Thursday, June 13, 1918

Well, we had a good day of rest, most of us spent it in getting cleaned up and looking respectable again. This morning I enjoyed a rare luxury, considering that I am in the army. I had breakfast in bed. Good old Dinola, an Italian member of my squad, a very funny fellow, he is always making some funny remark to make us laugh, got my mess-kit while I was sleeping, had it filled with flap-jacks and syrup and brought it to my tent and woke me up. I thanked him and felt like a General for the time being. It was seven and we never had to stand for Reveille this morning. I guess the officers must have been all in.

At ten, we were told we could leave the camp for two hours. Whenever we get a chance to get away from the company, we go looking for eggs, You sure can get some fine fresh eggs from these French farmers. Weber, Bardes, Koehler and I stumbled across a farmhouse and the old lady there sold us five eggs apiece and some bacon. When we got back to camp, we made a little fire and I made a bacon omelet frying it in my mess-kit. I was so full I passed up the army food and only took bread and coffee.

The Top-Sergeant told us there would be an inspection this afternoon but didn't tell us what time.

We got everything ready and ourselves cleaned up and had to wait around all afternoon for the officers to show up. They are billeted somewhere in a farmhouse. The soldiers sleep on the ground under their pup-tents. They finally showed up about four o'clock and looked everybody over. Nobody was bawled out. The sun beat down on us all day and I don't think there is any better tonic to make a fellow feel good than a sun bath. A Small brook runs alongside of us here and it sure was a very pleasant day and I enjoyed it, the wonderful scenery and trees and the babbling brook. I wish we could stay here indefinitely, it is just like being on a camping trip.

The fellows were allowed to leave camp tonight until nine. There was no place to go, for we are far out in the country somewhere. I don't know exactly where but it's fifteen miles or so from Dulache. In which direction from Dulache, I also do not know. Some of the fellows are playing cards, others are writing. It is so restful around here that very few of the boys left the Camp. We do enough hiking when we have to, without going out at evening. Well, I'm glad they gave us this rest today. Tomorrow they'll make up for it and probably walk the legs off of us again. I'll mail this letter the first chance I get.


Monday, June 17, 1918

I haven't written you since last Thursday, I think, and must apologize to you for having neglected my duty. We have been so busy since then, studying night and day, learning all we can about the new French machine gun called the Hotchkiss. Back at Upton we had the Colt, up at Monecove, we had the English Vickers, and now we have to learn all about this French one. It has been raining cats and dogs ever since we arrived here. We are in a village called Fraimbois. Last Friday, they put fifty-four of us on motor trucks and after five hours riding, we were dumped off at a city called Luneville and then we were hiked here. This is a French sector and a French sergeant who can speak English pretty good has been instructing us.

We have been soaked ever since we arrived here. It was the first time that we gave our raincoats a practical test and they are utterly useless. The rain soaks right through them. They are no more protection to us than cheesecloth would be. Our supposed-to-be waterproof shoes leak like sieves. We have an extra pair of shoes and they are wet, too. It has been raining so steadily that you can't get a chance to dry your clothes or shoes. I wish the sun would come out again.

The only part of this that we have enjoyed are the meals. The Captain sent Freddie Schlaich along with us to do the cooking. I don't know where the rest of the company is, I suppose they'll be along one of these days. These six squads here now might have to instruct the others later on. Freddie sure is a magician when it comes to preparing dishes. How he does it, all alone, for fifty-four men is a miracle. Were it put to a popular vote, our Mess Sergeant would lose his job tomorrow, the dirty Greek.

I am now billeted with seventeen others in a barn. We sleep on straw. It is raining something awful at the moment. The thunder and lightning are quite severe. It makes me jump every minute but I'm not complaining because I'm thinking of the poor devils up on the front line, it sure must be rotten up there tonight and I'm thankful that we are in a dry spot.

Six of the fellows are stripped to the waist and are looking over their woolen undershirts to find the lice that have been biting them. This barn is lousy with cooties and we all are lousy with them now since we came here. I found two on my undershirt earlier this evening. They are perfectly disgusting and annoying things. When we catch them, we put them over the candle flame and kill them. It is quite a picture. These fellows sitting over candles and looking for lice. The candles cast huge shadows up on the roof of the barn and we all look like giants.

Well, Mom, I guess I'll close, I'm tired. I was asleep once this evening from six-thirty to nine, when Kimberly awoke me and said I better undress and go to bed decently. I took advantage of all the lights burning to write you.

Tuesday, June 18, 1918.
I'm back with the company now and we are billeted in a town called Baccarat in the barracks occupied by the French soldiers. The place is just alive with lice and we are all in for it now. They are something you can't help getting. The soldiers have been coming back and forth from the trenches since 1914 and every place that they have ever stopped at, they leave behind lice for the next group to get. Almost everybody is busy tonight looking for them. No more than you kill off the few you find, it is only a short time after when a new flock of eggs seem to hatch out and you have dozens more over you. They bite and annoy you something awful.

When we arrived here tonight at nine on motor trucks, we ran into the good old 69th Regiment of New York City. They have been over here for some time and now wear a six months' service stripe on their arms. It sure did make me feel good to talk to some of them while they were waiting to pull out of here. They left to go up on the Somme front, they said. They are sure going up to a hot sector and I don't envy them in the least. Many of them will not come back, you can rest assured of that. They have been in action already and have had many casualties. They have been back here resting and filling in the gaps with new men to get their outfit up to full strength again.

It was great to meet a fellow from your old home town, even if you didn't know him. One fellow I was talking to lives at 28th street, the block we used to live in. We gave them three cheers and they all marched away. It made me feel sad for a moment and I felt like a civilian looking on, forgetting that I was in the army myself, all I could think of was that in a short time many of them would be food for the cannons, snuffed out in a moment, maybe. They were all singing and whistling and in such good spirits, I pitied them. It seems they have no realization of what's ahead of them. I wish I could feel so light-hearted about this butchering business of war. I think it's awful.

I had a good sleep last night and was up bright and early. The sky was cloudy in the morning but it wasn't raining, and before noon the sun came out very hot and we all managed to get dried up again.

We spent the whole morning over at a rifle range shooting the Hotchkiss and practicing mounting the gun as if we were going into action. The ground was occupied by the Germans for two weeks in August Of 1914. Their old gun emplacements and plenty of shell holes were all over the place and it made it very realistic of the front line and made an excellent place for training of troops.

After we ate at noon, we were told to make up our packs as we would leave at four. When we started to leave, the whole village turned out. A band of French soldiers came along from somewhere and lined up in front of our column of squads. There were only fifty-four of us, six squads. Why this honor was bestowed on us is beyond me, except that we might have been mistaken for some other outfit. We haven't been in the front lines yet and didn't deserve any such demonstration. When they played our National Air before starting, we all stood at attention and it's hard to describe my feelings in writing. Lumps were in my throat. It felt good to be an American. It didn't help to destroy my hate for war, however. I never will get over my feeling of the terrible slaughtering that goes on in war-time. I hope this will be the last war. Civilization has advanced too far to keep up this sort of thing. To be patriotic doesn't mean that we have to go out and destroy and kill.

They marched us for an hour to where the trucks were. The French people cheered us all the way and it was the warmest feeling of friendship I've seen for some time. We piled on to the trucks, gave the band a "Viva la France!" and then started off and rode and rode over bumpy roads and got a good shaking up. At nine o'clock, we pulled into this town, which is one real city, if you ask me. The scenery on the ride was wonderful and I enjoyed the sunset, which words can't describe.

The fellows sang every song that they ever heard, some of them harmonizing, and all in all, it wasn't such a bad ride. They are all turning in to sleep, one by one, we have straw mattresses on the floor, they are full of lice, and we have our choice, to either sleep on the hard floor or on the soft but lice mattresses. Most of them are sleeping on the mattresses already. I am going to tackle the hard floor.


Friday, June 21, 1918
We are in a town called Pexonne. It's eight o'clock and we are waiting to move on again. We are making one-night stands now. Yesterday we rested practically all day, and at nine, started for the hike to this place. They let us rest today and now we are waiting to move on again. I guess it's dangerous to move troops up here in the daytime, as we are pretty close to the front lines.

Weber and I saw the ruins of Jerry's bombardment yesterday at Baccarat while we took a stroll through the town for two hours. It was as if an earthquake had hit it. Many of the French civilians were killed. Of course, we visited the Y, and in almost every one you can find a piano. Weber always sits right down and starts to play and for a while I forget the war and everything. When we returned, they ordered us to make up our packs. Then we had to load our limbers. We had new Hotchkiss guns and ammunition issued to us earlier in the day and it sure looks like business now. The rumor is we are bound for the front.

After we ate, we had to clean up the quarters we had occupied. Our Captain is very strict in cleaning up places before we leave them. Other outfits leave all their filth behind them when they go. We haven't hit a place yet that we didn't have to clean up.

At nine last night we started to march. We thought it would never end. Before long we were very tired. At twelve-thirty, we had halted and were resting alongside of a church in a little village. It was very quiet and suddenly the bell struck once. It startled us and most of us jumped. The Lieutenant standing near by brought us back to serenity by remarking, "That's darn good shooting Jerry's doing tonight, hit the bull's eye." We couldn't help laughing, the way he said it.

It started to rain something awful but we had to keep on marching just the same. There was no shelter anywhere. We were away out in the country. The lightning flashes scared the life out of us, they struck so close. Almost every step we took, our shoes would stick in the mud, which made the walking all the harder and the packs never seemed so heavy. It was two when we marched into pexonne. We were led to a hayloft. How we ever find these places is beyond me. I dropped on some hay, took off my shoes, and was dead to the world immediately, and slept until ten this morning when breakfast was served. There were millions of bugs and spiders all over the place but they never disturbed our rest last night.

The Captain wanted another sign made reading "Company Headquarters." I went over to the Y near by and luckily they had some paint and I found a board and lettered it. We loafed and rested all day, and had a wonderful meal this noon of steak and potatoes. Where they got the steaks from is a mystery, that's officers' food. One of the fellows remarked, "I bet this is horse meat." The French eat horse meat. They have parts of dead horses hanging in the butcher shop windows, just like our butchers back home hang parts of beef and lamb up on the hooks. After he made that remark, my imagination got the best of me and my stomach turned upside down and I couldn't eat any more steak. It's funny how a remark can upset you. Guess I must be over-sensitive.

One of Jerry's aeroplanes came over this afternoon and we all ducked for cover so that he wouldn't see us. They shot at least thirty shells at him but he was traveling so fast that they couldn't hit him. He must have taken- some photographs and he turned around and went back to his own lines. At six, we received orders to make up our packs and then clean up the place. We smiled at that because this is about the dirtiest place we have ever been at. The dirt has been here for years. The Captain will not come up here so we are leaving it as we found it.

It's nine now and we are still waiting for orders to turn out and start off. It isn't raining at the moment but no stars are out and it looks like we are in for another mud bath tonight, I thought I'd take advantage of this opportunity-while we are waiting-to write you. I mailed a bunch of letters to you from Baccaret yesterday which I hope you get all right. It was quite an accumulation. I'll save this one and mail it the first chance I get. God bless you and Mousie. How is my little sister?


Saturday, June 22, 1918
Well, your boy is in it now. We are about a mile away from the German front lines, the closest we have ever been to them. They call this the reserve line where we are now. In case anything happens up on the front, we are here to help them out. We are lucky and have huts so that we can sleep indoors. That's better than holding a trench and sleeping out in the open or in a dugout.

Last night we started to march at ten o'clock, and it was past twelve when we hit our destination, here in the dense woods. It took half an hour to unload our limbers, we were slipping and tripping all over the place. On one slip, I wrenched a muscle of my right leg, which was very painful but much better tonight.

It was raining when we hit here, and we were tired, wet and miserable. It was one-thirty before we got to sleep and they didn't wake us until nine this morning. I heard the call, "Come and get it!" This means breakfast is ready. We dress quickly and rush to get on the line for food. Our toilet is usually attended to later, food comes first.

This is a wonderful dense forest full of pine trees. The front line has practically been the same for the past two years down here. The Germans had all this ground all the way to Baccarat at one time but were driven back to where they are now. No doubt they slept in these huts that we are in now. We cleaned our machine guns, ammunition and equipment this morning and got everything in order in case of emergency.

The weather was very unsettled today, one minute the sun would be shining and the next it would be cloudy. Then it would drizzle for a little while. Once the sun came out suddenly and the fellows shouted. We ran to the edge of the forest. We thought an air battle was on but it turned out to be the most wonderful rainbow that I have ever seen. The colors were the most intense ones imaginable. The fellows were gleefully exclaiming that it was a sign that the war would soon be over. I hope so, but it looks doubtful, unless these millions of Yanks coming over now scare the life out of the Germans.

One of our sergeants whose name is Holmes came back to the company today without a pack. He lost everything. When we were up at Monecove, he was sent away to the English Army on the Somme front for instruction purposes, and to get some dope on conditions at a lively section. One morning after he had removed his pack and stood it against the trench, a German shell came over, made a direct hit on it and blew it to pieces. There wasn't a thread of it left and lucky for him, it wasn't on his back.

This afternoon, we discovered an artillery outfit about a quarter of a mile away from us. They let loose with a roar and this forest acts like a sounding board and the sound of every shot goes echoing along all thru the forest. When they fire at night, we are going to be out of luck for sleep, it's a terrible noise when the artillery starts to fire. It's about the most nerve- wracking sound there is. This afternoon everybody received a holster and a Colt automatic pistol. These we keep until the war is over. We are fully equipped at last, thank goodness, and we feel a little safer.

I went out into the woods tonight and gathered a bunch of pine tree leaves and with the shelter-half over them, I ought to have a good sleep tonight. The air here in the pine tree forest does smell good, I wouldn't mind staying here for a while. God bless you.

Sunday, June 23, 1918

We were up at six this morning and had to stand for Reveille. They are always surprising us in this army. It was quite a novelty to have a company formation considering that we are in the reserve lines. The Sabbath was not kept holy at all. All of the non-coms who were at Fraimbois had to teach the other half of the company all about the Hotchkiss gun. So I had my first experience today in instructing a large group, telling them the names of all the parts, and showing them how to take the gun apart and put it together again. I am thinking now how foolish it was to bring half a company up so close to the front lines without knowing anything about the Hotchkiss gun.

While we were at Fraimbois receiving instructions, the rest of the company spent every day marching to where we are now. They weren't on a single motor truck. I was lucky, to escape all that hiking. This afternoon we had plenty of gas-mask drill. We were told that altho we are in the reserve line, our training would continue as usual. We also had to inspect all our ammunition and clean our guns again this afternoon, which is some job and keeps us busy and out of mischief.

I had to letter another "Company Headquarters" sign later in the day, I guess they lost the last one I made. We are not allowed to leave the vicinity, I had planned a short walk tonight but was disappointed. The artillery was very active all last night, there were plenty of aeroplanes overhead and I didn't sleep well at all. Carlie, one of the fellows in my squad bad an awful crop of hair on his head so I had my first experience as a barber tonight and trimmed him up with a small scissors and made him look decent again

A small brook runs past the huts and tonight managed to clean up an accumulation of dirty clothes I had. I hope the soap will kill off the eggs of the cooties which some mother cootie laid there in my underwear. A new crop seems to hatch out every day and we all have the time of our lives looking for them.

They sure are annoying things, the way they can bite! The weather was nice today and we all felt happier. I am very sleepy and am going to sleep now and hope the artillery takes a vacation tonight. All my love to you and Mousie.

Monday, June 24, 1918

Oh, what a night we had! The bombardment was terrific! It was the first time that we ever had the German artillery fire at us, my heart was in my mouth. Aeroplanes were flying overhead. We were in the pitch-dark huts not daring to light up for fear of detection. The road to these huts is torn up from the shells they threw over last night. They are darn good marksmen, if you ask me. Their target was the ammunition dump of the artillery outfit. The nearest shell-hole to the dump is only twenty-five yards away from it. That's pretty good shooting and if that one shell had been just a little further over, it would have set all the ammunition on fire and I know the forest would have started to burn and we with it. It sure was a narrow escape for us. I get sick when I think of it and I wish we could get a little further away from these artillery outfits. They make too much noise and every time they shoot, I jump.

This morning we instructed the men some more on the new machine gun and had more gas-mask drill. This noon we all received our overseas caps and spiral puttees. What a difference in appearance! The old canvas leggings looked terrible alongside of these. We sure do look snappy now. This afternoon devoted to more gun instructing and gas-mask work.

Tonight I had some more experience in cutting hair, my victim this time was Selig, a Jewish fellow,, in my platoon. He's a nice chap and one of the smaller men of the company, who have stood up so well en-! during all the hardships of hiking and carrying the, pack as well as the bigger fellows.

We have about every nationality you can think in my company. There sure is some mixture, and think it is about the finest thing in the world for anyone, who like myself, has always suffered with, race-prejudice, to be mixed up in an outfit like this. The last six months of my life in the army, living and" suffering with these fellows, has done more for me to get rid of race-prejudice than anything else could" have done. I am beginning to get a better realization of the different things I have read and heard on the "Brotherhood of Men" and "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." I am beginning to see more and more how we are all one common herd, ruled by another class that has more power than we have. We are told to go and fight and kill and we must go, even tho it is against our highest sense of right to kill another. They seem to even mock God, the Father of us all, when they make His children slaughter one another.

I saw for the first time a number of our own American Red Cross ambulances come back from the front this afternoon on the road near here. This sector is held by American troops and altho I couldn't see in-side the ambulances, I know there must have been a lot of our boys shot up last night during the bombardment the Germans sent over.

We devoted an hour tonight in digging a big hole in the ground to dump in a pile of garbage which another company had left near our hut. The flies were buzzing around it today. We have a reputation for cleaning up the mess of other outfits. It protects us, so I am glad our officers are particular in that respect. I am very tired tonight and hope I will be able to sleep.


Tuesday, June 25, 1918

Tonight I am on guard duty, my shift is the third one and doesn't go on until twelve o'clock so I am going to write a little and then try to get some sleep before twelve. I am very tired, this morning I was awakened at four-by the Top Sergeant-not of my own accord. He told me the first platoon was going up the line and that two men of each squad of the second platoon were to escort them up and carry ammunition. We dressed in the dark, put on our helmets and carried our gas-masks upon our chests, ready for instant use. All grabbed two boxes of ammunition and away we started.

I don't know how I felt, one minute I was scared to death, the next minute I was eager for the opportunity to see the front lines, to see just what it looks like up there as I have read so much about it. I knew that at daybreak was the hour that both sides started blazing away at each other with artillery. We did everything in the pitch-dark and walked along silently like dumb animals. The ammunition boxes weigh about eighteen pounds each and they pulled my hands away from my wrists. They became heavier and heavier.

We finally reached the communication trench at the edge of the forest and had to put our gas-masks on because the air there was thick with mustard gas. That was the spot where the Germans sent over the barrage yesterday morning and they certainly did wreck the place. The country was open at that point and you could look away over to where the Germans were and see No Man's Land. It was covered with barbed wire for miles. A single white streak shot up into the air and burst open into a beautiful white light, burned for about a minute and then went out. Then a green sky rocket flew up into the sky. It was a signal for something and everybody was told to duck and lay low. We were all nervous and breathing heavily. Nothing happened so we went on a little way down the trench leading up further to the front line.

We finally stopped and placed the ammunition into a dugout and the fellows of the second platoon started the walk back to the huts, leaving the first platoon in the lines. They have the honor of being the first up.

It sure was thrilling up there this morning and I got quite a kick out of it. I have been very anxious to see what the front was like. It is exactly as I had mentally pictured it. I don't know how long the first platoon is going to stay up but the rumor is that when they come back, we of the second platoon relieve them. It was seven o'clock when we got back to the huts and luckily there was some breakfast left for us. They didn't expect us back at all and as nobody knew that the first platoon was going up to the lines, they cooked enough food for the whole company.

Of course, everybody asked us questions all day about how it looked up there. They were surprised this morning when they woke up to find the first platoon gone. The company looked wrecked. A couple of fellows were kidding the more timid ones, making it worse than it really was, telling them that they tripped over dead bodies, and that No Man's Land was full of skeletons, and that a barrage came over when we were up there. The funny part was that they believed it all.

What was left of the company, spent the rest of the day getting machine gun instruction and more gas-mask work. At six, we mounted the guard. I am free until twelve and am going to take a snooze now, My eyes are closing, no undressing until six tomorrow night when we will be relieved. Good night.


Wednesday, June 26, 1918

At quarter-to-twelve last night, Leonard awakened me to get my men ready to go on their posts and relieve his men. It was the first quiet night we have had and I could have had a good night's rest, undisturbed, but that's my luck again to be on guard duty. It sure was hard trying to keep awake and I stood up for the two hours at the road. I was all alone, everybody else was sleeping in the camp, with the exception of my men, posted at different places thru the forest and along the road. It gives me the creeps to stand like that all alone. I imagine all kinds of things, every lit-tle sound, even the noise of the breeze blowing against the trees startles me. I seem to be on edge.

I was thinking last night of how silly it all is and what fools we are. It's the poor people, the working people, who have to go out and fight each other and, besides enduring physical suffering, we also have to help pay for it financially. For it's the taxes we pay that furnishes the money for war. I wished last night that women would have something to say whether their country should go to war or not. I think their natural instinct of thrift, if not their abhorrence of brutality, would sway them to abolish war. Just think to what good use all this money spent in the last four years could be used? If it were equally divided among the needy, poverty would be unknown.

No one cares a rap about the poor man, they don't even think of him, they are all too busy storing up their dollars like misers. But when a war comes along, they put a uniform on him and make him fight, whether he likes it or not. I wish some of those patriotic birds would help you along with a few dollars, so that you wouldn't have to go to work. I wish now that I had claimed exemption when they asked me; like a fool I said, "No," just because I was too much of a coward to be a Conscientious Objector. I was afraid of what others would think of me. I never thought of how you were going to get along. But never mind, Mother Dear, when I get home again, I'll work real hard, and you will have it nice and easy again. That was about all I could think of from midnight until two while I was on guard duty. I figured out that I was being punished good and plenty for having made such a quick decision in my emotion of patriotism. I have since seen that one can be patriotic without wanting to go to war and destroy and kill.

It will take years to repair the damage that has already been done over here, and never in a life-time will those who have had dear ones killed off be able to forget.

Nothing happened the two hours that I was on guard, except being scared. I don't like the dark, walking from one post to another. I tripped a number of times and twice went sprawling but didn't hurt myself. McGarty and his men relieved us at two and we hit the hay then, until quarter of six this morning, when Leonard woke me again to relieve his men. A heavy barrage was going on further up the line this morning, they kept firing for over two hours and I guess a big advance must be on. Being on guard today had its advantages, for it enabled me to visit the brook and wash my clothes and also myself and get rid of some of the cooties which had hatched out again.

It was a very peaceful four hours I spent while off guard duty. The forest is very dense and the sunlight peeps thru in spots. I found a big spot and sat in the sun for an hour naked from the waist up, it felt good. We were supposed to be relieved at six tonight but on account of having received orders this afternoon to make up our packs as the rest of the company goes up to the line tonight, we are doing this extra shift from six to eight. Everybody is ready and waiting to move up as soon as it gets dark, I suppose. I think there is an advance on the program. They say this line hasn't moved one inch for the past two years one way or the other, and it looks like we are going to do the moving. My men are on their posts now. It' s seven--thirty, and in a half hour I will bring them in. I took advantage of this wait to write a few lines to you. There is no chance of mailing it so will have to carry it along with me for a while.


Thursday, June 27, 1918.

We are now up in the front line and it sure is exciting. The Infantry is about a block away in front of us. Then across No Man's Land is nothing but barbed wire on posts stuck in the ground and the Germans are somewhere behind that. As far as you can see are nothing but trenches. There sure has been a lot of digging going on up here.

They marched us up here about midnight last night. The whole company is stretched out for about a mile, I should think, because the nearest machine gun of our company is about a block away on both sides of us. The gun is in a big shell-hole with three small trees covering it. To me, it looks very conspicuous and the Germans must be awfully dumb if they can see the spot and think that three trees could fall on one spot like that. It has made me very uneasy because I am sure it is going to draw their artillery fire. If shells start dropping around here, there isn't much shelter anywhere and we'll just be out of luck.

One man is always at the gun and peeking out looking for anything suspicious. How the Germans ever found out that we were coming up last night is a mystery to me. No more than we had started, they started to bang away with their artillery but we were lucky for the shells always passed on over our heads and landed in the forest with a crash. Had their range been a little bit shorter, they might have got us. I feel sorry for the poor fellows who have to walk back for the food. They bring it up in Dixies to us. It is about the most ungrateful job imaginable and very dangerous for you never know when you are going to get hit. Today especially, the Germans kept dropping them over intermittently practically all day.

The day passed rapidly, there was nothing to do but loaf. We have to be careful to keep out of sight for the Germans have men on the look-out also and when they see a Yank, they start shooting at him. I heard a number of rifle shots during the day. Whenever you see anything moving off in the distance, you take a shot at it. It's been like a holiday up here today, and if there isn't any more activity here in the future, I'm afraid the war will continue for another four years.

In one way, I guess it's best that our first day in the lines was a peaceful one. We can get used to it gradually, for I know it isn't going to be as peaceful, like this day was, for very long. We are sleeping in a shell-hole right under a big cherry tree tonight out in the open. Guess we won't have our pup-tents for some time now. As soon as it gets dark, we are going to dig the gun emplacement just a little deeper, it's too high now.

I'm terribly hungry and we are waiting for the fellows to bring us some food. They should have been here an hour ago and I hope they didn't lose their way. Our artillery opened up while I was writing and I can see the shells exploding off in the distance. Well., Mom, guess I'll close and add some more to it to-morrow.

Friday, June 28, 1918
The fellows were lost last night and didn't get up with the food until ten o'clock. We ate the Dixies clean and they looked as if a hungry dog had licked them after we got thru. We were so hungry. They were delayed for about an hour while a heavy barrage was going over from the German lines and they had to lie in a ditch alongside of the road for protection.

About eleven last night, the Lieutenant came up out of the dark from somewhere and we got the machine gun ready and placed a spirit level on it, and elevated it to a certain degree, and then we started to shoot. The bullets coming out of a machine gun at night make a flash and can be easily seen by the enemy, so we placed a piece of burlap up on two sticks stuck into the ground and shot thru that.

The Lieutenant figured it out so that the bullets would be falling somewhere back in the German lines about a mile away. The machine gun was supposed to be trained on a road somewhere back there. We couldn't see if we hit anything and just trusted to luck that the bullets were landing on the road where German soldiers would probably be walking at the time. He called this "putting over a machine gun barrage," which is similar to the artillery barrage. We would shoot about fifty shots and then elevate the gun a little and then shoot another fifty. We kept this up for about an hour and the gun became so hot, you could fry eggs on it.

The German artillery sent over a few shells trying to locate us but they fell far back into the woods. I figure they will be on a look-out for us tonight. I fell asleep for awhile and at three, the sergeant came along and kicked the soles of my shoes and said, "Get up!" Everybody has to be up at three and stand-to, as they call it, ready for action in case the Germans come over the top. We all watched for an hour and day broke. It was very mysterious at that hour of the morning and when daylight broke, we were glad. We took the gun back to the alternate position the fellows dug last night nearer to the cherry tree so we will not have to crawl out in the open during the daytime. We spent the day digging it deeper under the camouflage we have over the hole which makes us less conspicuous. If the Germans knew we were under the camouflage, they would start to shell us. This seems to be a game of hide and seek.

A German aviator came over this afternoon and started firing down at the Infantry in the trenches in front of us. He was only a hundred feet above the earth. The anti-aircraft guns started to shoot at him, so we started to open up with our machine gun, too, but nobody brought him down as he was traveling about a hundred miles an hour, and before you could get the gun trained on him again, he was off and back for his own lines. This morning, we had the surprise of our lives. I am wondering where the Mess Sergeant got them. He sent up two soft-boiled eggs for every man and two flap-jacks with plenty of syrup on them. They sure were good and it was the best breakfast we have had for some time. The Sergeant and I made a few corrections on the gun emplacement this morning and outside of that did nothing all day but loaf. It was just like being on a picnic today.

About two o'clock this afternoon, I was so sleepy that I fell asleep and slept until seven this evening when they brought up some more chow to us. The right side of my face was terribly swollen, an insect bit me while I was asleep this afternoon. My lips are puffed up, too. The Lieutenant came around and when he saw me opened up his first-aid kit and he had some mentholated vaseline and that relieved the pain. It's getting dark rapidly now and we are waiting for him to return as we do some more firing tonight. So long, Mother Dear!

Saturday, June 29, 1918

The Lieutenant came back about ten last night with the spirit level and elevated the gun at a certain degree. Then he turned the gun to the left and I had to go out in front of it, about ten feet, and stick a branch into the ground about three feet high. Then he turned the gun to the right to a certain point, and I stuck an-other branch into the ground at that point directly in front of the gun. Then we started to shoot from right to left between the two branches, and the bullets were supposed to fall on a crossroad somewhere behind the German lines where they probably were marching.

The Lieutenant told us that we did a great deal of damage. How they get this information is beyond me, unless there are spies behind the German lines who signal the information over, or, maybe, the airplanes flying over in the daytime see plenty of ambulances going back. That's a sign that many German soldiers have been wounded.

They started to shell us last night, landing a little closer, they must have an idea where we are. I was glad when the hour of shooting was over, so we could get back to the deep trench that we dug that gives us plenty of protection from shell fragments. At three this morning, we all got up and stood-to for an hour again but nothing happened.

The Lieutenant invited himself to sleep alongside of me last night, and the only thing I hope is that he didn't catch any of my cooties. After breakfast, he took me along with him over to the other gun positions so I would get acquainted with where they were in case of emergency. I enjoyed the walk as my knees were getting stiff but I didn't like the idea of expos-ing myself the way he did. I had to go right along with him. The Germans surely must have seen us at certain points, where we walked out in the open, and why they didn't take a shot at us is beyond me. I was trembling inwardly and he was walking along as unconcerned as if we were miles behind the front line. The German front line was only about a block or two away. All I could do was to pray, which I did. When I came back to my gun position, I walked back to the woods, went into them deeply and started walking rapidly and got back safely.

I cleaned and oiled my pistol this afternoon to keep busy and also got out my little water-color box and painted a little landscape sketch and forgot all about the war. It was a wonderful clear day and very quiet, only once in a while a shell would go swishing thru the air over our heads and land somewhere in the distance with a crash. Otherwise, today was just like be-ing on a vacation to me. I have been writing while we were waiting for the food to come up. I see them coming now between the trees over in the woods so will close and write some more tomorrow. So long, Mother, Dear.

Sunday, June 30, 1918

They brought up stew to us last night, and it sure did taste good, and I remembered how I used to spurn it back at Camp Upton. Last night it tasted like chicken, I was so hungry and lapped it up clean, gravy and all. The Lieutenant came over later and got the gun trained on a certain spot and we started firing away. The Germans finally got wise to where we were, and, very shortly after we started, a shower of shells came over on us. While I am writing of it now, I am still trembling and wondering how in the name of heaven nobody was hit. They were shells from the German 77 gun. They are about a foot long and about three inches in diameter, small, but what noise they make! The French have a similar shell and call theirs a 75 millimeter, I think. The shells burst all around us and we all laid flat on the ground until it was over, and then immediately started in shooting again to deceive them. We must have fooled them and they elevated their guns because, after that, the shells dropped farther back of us into the woods.

I slept for a couple of hours and then stood-to from three to four watching the sky get lighter and lighter. This is a very strange experience for me and I haven't got adjusted to it yet. I, who never used to get up out of bed until seven-thirty in the morning.

All morning there were plenty of airplanes overhead and we had to keep out of sight. They were looking for the machine gunners who have been annoying them so much the last few nights. There was lots of ammunition wasted trying to hit one of them, but they fly so fast that it's almost impossible to get the gun trained onto them. I suppose they took photographs from the air and probably are shelling the place tonight but we fooled them, because we are no longer there, but in another spot farther over on the right.

We are in an abandoned house, just outside of a village called Badenwiller, and we sleep indoors tonight on the floor of one of the rooms. Our gun is mounted outside in the open field behind the house. Two men are on guard at the gun all the time. The house is right on the road and the Germans have the range on it and have hit it a number of times already. The whole top of it is shot away and shell-holes are all around the place. It's better than sleeping out in the open tho, and another advantage is that we can have a light at night. The windows are covered with heavy burlap and no light creeps out at all. I am writing on the floor by the light of a candle stuck on the top of my helmet.

We all sneaked back into the woods tonight and marched single file about three feet apart coming over here. We stopped for a rest and the 308th Infantry was stretched out along the road, and I found out from one of the fellows that it was A Company. That's the one my friend Sumner is in. I haven't seen him since we were at Camp Upton. So I inquired for him and, unfortunately, at that moment ' he wasn't there. They had sent him back to Battalion Headquarters for instructions. He is a runner for the company. I don't envy him at all, for it is a very dangerous duty. No matter how much shelling is going on, runners have to go thru it and deliver messages when they are ordered. I told the fellows in his outfit to tell him I was looking for him. Our machine gun company is attached to his outfit and we support them wherever they go.

MacGarty and his squad are over in the woods about a block away, right on the edge of it. I don't know who is luckier, he out in the open or I in the house which is a favorite target for the German artillery. it's almost eleven now and I must close as Dinola and
I are going out to the gun for two hours, then Chorba and Purcell relieve us. Good night, Mother Dear. God bless you.

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