Charles F. Minder
306th Machine Gun Battalion
Company B


Tuesday, October 1, 1918

The rumor is that the Germans are licked, but by the way they are bombarding us with their big shells, you wouldn't think so. For the past week, we have been getting them pretty heavy and it sure is demoralizing. Some of the fellows get down on their knees now and pray. The funny part is that the ones that are praying are the fellows who were always so tough and foul-mouthed back in Camp Upton. Since they have been in dangerous zones, with the ever-present danger of being snuffed out at hand, they have become very meek and pure in their speech. What a change comes over a man when death is all around him! It's remarkable!

There is one fellow in our platoon, his name is Hamilton, who doesn't believe in God at all. When he sees the fellows down on their knees, he ridicules them, and says, "What the hell good is all that praying going to do you? If your name is on one of those shells, you are going to get it no matter how much you pray.

Don't you think that the men who have been killed already in this war for the past four years prayed? Don't you think their wives and mothers prayed for them? What the hell good did it do them?" Of course, there is no answer. He seems to be right. Do you think, Mother Dear, that God knows what is going on down here? And does He let it continue? I tried to reason it out and came to the conclusion that He must know of it. He did give us a commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." We should obey it. I do not want to shoot to kill. I have sinned and will be punished for it. I am being punished every minute while they keep us up here in these trenches. It is terrifying.

I went on guard again last night from ten to twelve, but stayed awake by not getting in a comfortable position. The shells kept whizzing by over my head and exploded off in the distance. I laid down in the mud -hole we have here, from twelve to four, but couldn't sleep. If ve only had a dry place here, we might be able to get some sleep, but it's impossible. As soon as we shovel out the mud, it is wet again in a short time. It seems to be in the ground from so much rain that we have been having lately. The trench is so narrow that we get all cramped up.

Everybody stood to at their guns this morning until day broke, There was a real artillery duel on this morning. They were whistling by over our heads for an hour. For every one that Jerry sent over to us our Artillery would send about a dozen back. It's almost like a jungle at this point. You can't see more than ten yards away. We all keep as quiet as possible and listen. Plenty of machine-gun bullets are whizzing past us and we have to keep low. The Germans are pulling some of our stuff, giving us a machine-gun barrage. If they had shortened their range just a trifle, they would have! been dropping right on top of us. We were lucky.

I didn't go back for food but had to go for ammunition. We are shooting it faster than we can get it up. I sure had a narrow escape this afternoon. I was told to take an ammunition detail down this path about a hundred yards until I came to a cemetery. A narrow-gauge railroad with tracks about two feet wide runs thru the forest. It curved right around the cemetery and led to the German lines. A little flat car was on the track loaded with boxes of ammunition. It had gone just a little too far and the fellows who brought it up that far were both wounded. The

Germans could see it and shot at them. I started off with nineteen men, and when I got to the place, I fearlessly walked right down to it. The men quickly followed me and each grabbed two boxes and started back to the positions. There were just forty-one boxes in all, and I had to take the last three, two in one hand and one in the other. Make- out it wasn't some load!

I was the last one and quickly walked up the small hill where we turned to the right along the path. just as I turned-PING!-a bullet whistled right past my breast about an inch away. I was sick to the stomach. The fellow with me was panic stricken and I said, "Quick, flop! He'll think we're hit!" A quick glance over my right shoulder and I saw the two Germans about fifty feet away who had shot at us. They were walking in the direction of the cemetery and I lost sight of them in the dense underbrush. I was weary and crawled and dragged the three boxes the rest of the way. Not a man was wounded. It was just luck. The Germans evidently weren't watching at that moment. The graveyard is supposed to be full of snipers. Why they didn't take a shot at all of us is beyond me!

There are lots of German cemeteries in this forest where they have been burying their dead for the past four years. Six fellows in C Company were killed today by shells. They are on our left. The whole battalion is stretched out for about a mile all along this line, and all the guns are in position for action. We just received orders to get things ready. We move up tonight. They must be crazy. As soon as it gets dark, you won't be able to see a thing. You can't advance at night through a pitch-black forest like this. Must close. CHARLES.

Wednesday, October 2, 1918

As soon as it became dark last night, we picked up our equipment and started off in single file. It was some job going thru this jungle. We would trip and fall almost every step. We proceeded very slowly and made an awful racket. The noise of the artillery drowned us out and we were lucky. We marched for an hour and according to where I thought the front line was, judging from where I saw the two Germans yesterday that took a shot at me. We must have walked back of the German front line. There must have been a gap in their line and we marched right thru, just like I used to be afraid they would do to us down on the other front. There used to be a half-mile gap between our gun positions.

There wasn't any opposition and we kept on going until we came to these German huts and I wouldn't mind staying here for the rest of the war. They are nice and comfortable for cool days this time of the year. I went on gas guard from two to four this morning and sat out on the porch of this hut. The Germans certainly made a pretty job out of it. It looks like a hunter's cabin made out of logs. They have little gardens here in the summer time and boardwalks thru the forest. They sure must be sore to get put out of this nice forest. This is what I call fighting the war in comfort and style.

The Germans must know we are in here, because they have been making it pretty uncomfortable for us all day. The shells have been dropping with an annoying regularity. There must be about a hundred snipers up on the top of the other hill. They have been shooting over this way all day. The funny part is that we can't see them but they can see us. They know this forest like a book, for they've been in it long enough. The only thing we can do is to keep out of sight.

I slept all morning in these comfortable bunks they built and nobody disturbed me. The ammunition was very greasy and clogged up our gun too much and, as there wasn't anything to do, we took each bullet and wiped off the grease carefully.

It didn't look like we would ever eat again. Nobody knew if anyone had been sent back for food this morning or not. If they had, it should have been up. So, at three this afternoon, we decided to have some breakfast, our first meal today, by eating some of the reserve rations. We opened the cans of beans and ate them cold with some bread. It tasted good because we were hungry. We have only been eating one meal a day for the past three days. Our kitchen is back too far. We have been advancing too quickly. I doubt if they even know where we are. I wouldn't be able to find the kitchen myself now, except by walking south, using my compass as a guide.

Infantry men just came along, while I was writing, with forty-three German prisoners, all old men and young kids. They were an awful looking bunch. The Infantry fellows asked us, "How the hell do you get out of this jungle? We've been walking around all day, trying to get these Heinies back. If we don't find Headquarters soon, we'll have to kill them." He looked at them with a brutal stare and they trembled. They were scared to death. We told them to follow the path and keep walking south. It will be dark soon and I doubt very much if they make Headquarters tonight. There is no danger of the Germans escaping. They are glad to be made prisoners. They are tired of the war and don't look at all well fed. We are all going to stand to now, for what I don't know. The Germans can't come over in this dense underbrush.

So long, Mother Dear, I will write some more to morrow.

Thursday, October 3, 1918
After it became dark last night, we took the gun up the hill a little way, and the Lieutenant set the gun, and it looked to me as if we were shooting right into the hill on our left, about a quarter of a mile away. The Germans are on that hill. We shot away for about an hour, only shooting one clip every three minutes to conserve it as much as possible, or we'll be running short.

We haven't heard from the kitchen all day and had to dig into our reserve rations again, eating the salmon and the corned-beef, which tasted just like chicken. Nobody spurned the "goldfish and monkey meat," as they call these two fools. Everything gets a nick-name.

I went on gas guard from eleven to one while the others were sleeping. About twelve, while I was sitting there dreaming of the past, suddenly a whistling sound crept towards me, getting louder and louder, and then right over my head and-BANG! It exploded further up the hill, about fifty feet over to the left. It sounded like an earthquake. It was the biggest shell that ever exploded near me. The trees crashed, and rocks and dirt tumbled down the side of the hill like an avalanche. It scared the life out of me. Everybody woke up. I sat there for the rest of my guard trembling, and wondering how much that one shell must have cost, and what good did it do, to slam the side of the hill that way.

The snipers in this vicinity must have telephoned back to their artillery that we were in these huts, and they sent over that shell to wipe us out. They sure came close. At one, I was relieved and slept then until daybreak. The sun came out for the first time in a week and it gave us an opportunity to dry out things a bit. We overhauled the gun and got some of the carbon out of it which had been accumulating from shooting so much.

It was kind of quiet all day, only the intermittent artillery and rifle fire. The machine guns were barking away a good deal on our left this afternoon. There were at least a half a dozen German airplanes flying over us this morning, evidently trying to take photographs. There were no Allied planes in sight at all and the Germans did as they pleased. They were too high up for us to take a shot at them. Our airplane support on this front has been terrible. We haven't seen much of them since we've been here. If we can only see one occasionally, it braces us up, otherwise, we feel as if we are fighting the war alone.

The first platoon has been putting over a barrage for the last hour. We have been giving them our ammunition as theirs ran low. They are having a tough time down the valley a little way. The snipers have been wounding our fellows pretty badly. I hope I don't get wounded up here. There is no chance of getting you out and back to an ambulance. It's a wilderness here.

There is a stream down at the bottom of this hill. As soon as it gets dark, we will go down and get our canteens filled. We don't know if the water is clean or not, you either drink it or die of thirst. It's some job getting it, you have to keep on your hands and knees. When I went down last night for water, some German machine-gun bullets started whizzing past my head, and I flopped quickly and hugged the earth until it passed away, and then I continued on my way. I laugh now when I think of it-when I got up off the ground last night after dodging the German bullets, I smiled and stuck my fingers up to my nose and stuck out my tongue towards the German lines. It was pitch dark. They know that we go there for water and they play a machine-gun fire up and down it quite often.

I boiled a canteen cup full of water tonight over splinters. It took half an hour and I put some of the coffee-beans in my reserve rations into it. I haven't had anything warm in my stomach for a long time and that cup of coffee tonight braced me up.

My bones ache terribly and I have an awful cough. That came from sleeping in the wet and muddy trench. We certainly have had enough rain to flood all of France. Whoever called it "Sunny France" must have been kidding. It's getting on to stand-to, so will close and write some more tomorrow. There was just a terrible scream from down in the valley. Somebody must have been hit pretty badly.

Friday, October 4, 1918

Another night passed, and I had nothing to do but go on gas guard from nine to eleven. I was relieved then and slept until daybreak. It's pretty soft hanging around like this in these German huts, but as the fellows say, "It isn't going to end the war." I don't mind staying here if they would only bring us something to eat. We've been eating these canned goods that we were lucky to have with us, or we would have been starved by now.

The cooties have been bothering us something awful. They are lucky, for they always have something warm to eat. We take off our shirts and kill them by the thousands, and an hour later we are full of them again. I don't know where they come from so quickly. A mother cootie must lay a million eggs at a time.: The fellows kid about them in spite of being tortured. If one sees another holding his shirt up, looking for cooties, he asks him, "What's the latest news, buddy?" Of course, there is nothing to do but laugh. We all have them, from the highest General down to the lowest Private.

Our artillery has been exceptionally active today and it did my heart good to see the beautiful accuracy of,' our boys. The shells were dropping right on the crest of the hill in front of us. It started to rain this afternoon and it was very dreary.

We had the same menu today, salmon and corned-beef. We ate up all the bread we had, so had to eat our hardtack. I made another cup of coffee for myself and that took the chill out of me for a little while.

Two fellows from each squad are going to make a break for the ammunition dump tonight when it gets dark, as we are getting low. There is a rumor that we move up again tonight some time. I wish they would let us stay here for a while. So long, Mother dear! This will be some long letter when you get it.


Saturday, October 5, 1918
We didn't move out of this section last night after all, but sure did have some excitement. We all had to go up and help the Infantry on a raiding party. We couldn't see a thing most of the time, and the only instructions we had were to shoot at the general direction of a flash every time we saw one. We shoot thru burlap, and that covers the flash of our machine guns, and protects us, as we do not draw any enemy fire. We went over to the left about a hundred yards, and there were the Infantry fellows waiting for us. We mounted our guns a little higher up on the side of the hill and were told to shoot over their heads whenever we saw a flash from the other side of the valley. That was where the Germans were and also on top of the hill.

The Infantry started off, and in about five minutes little red flashes like fireflies could be seen all over the place. They even seemed to come from the top of the trees, as good as we could see in the pitch-black darkness. Every time we saw a flash, we sent a few shots over in that general direction. We were very busy changing the position of the gun from one point to another. In a half hour, it was all over, and we went back to our huts.

During all the racket we only lost two of our men, Lang and White were wounded. They received first aid treatment and went back to the hospital some time during the night. It was lucky they could walk. The fellow who took them back said that they were lucky to make it. They were shot at by snipers at least a dozen times. He stole a can of syrup somewhere, and we ate that and the hardtack, and some more bread we got from the other platoon. It sure was very generous of them to give us a loaf of bread. It's very scarce up here right now.

We didn't get a thing from the kitchen today and had to eat the monkey meat some more, and we were warned to go as easy as possible on it. It was the only meal I had today and am almost starved. A cup of hot coffee this afternoon braced me up for a while. I didn't sleep well last night. It was so cold even here in the hut, I woke up almost every half hour from freezing. My throat is very hoarse and it sounds very funny to me when I talk.

There were dozens of aeroplanes flying over our heads today, and I saw a real air battle, right up close over my head. Make out it wasn't exciting! They were shooting away at each other, making loop the loops. One would spiral down for a thousand feet, and I thought sure he was coming down to crash, then the other would swoop down, shooting away with his machine gun. Finally, the German straightened out his plane and he flew back to his own lines. We were all so absorbed in watching the air battle that we for-got all about taking a shot at the German.

The artillery fire was very active all day, and the shells were dropping all around us again, but somehow or other, they are always fifty feet off to the left or to the right. They always seem just a sixteenth of an inch off, when they are setting the range on the shells they send over to us. I hope they keep on missing us. It seems a miracle to me. A dud crashed right thru the roof of the hut that the third squad of the first platoon is in, over on our left, and wrecked it. It went right down into the earth and never exploded. Nobody was hurt but they were terribly scared. Who wouldn't be? Had that shell ever exploded it would have snuffed them all out in a second. They would never have known what hit them.

Well, it looks like we are here for another night. I wish we had our blankets with us. We are frozen. And make out we're not hungry! I don't know what became of our kitchen and the funny part is, they don't send anyone back for rations. It looks as tho they are starving us purposely.

I asked the Sergeant if I could go back and get some more bread, but he said we would have to wait until we move up farther. He seemed very worried about something, and I am wondering what's up' Maybe they expect a big German advance and all the men that can possibly be kept here must stay. There aren't so many of us left. The company is not up to full strength any more. It's almost dark and we are all standing-to tonight. The German artillery has been unusually active. It looks like they are trying to blow away the side of this hill. So long, Mother Dear!


Sunday, October 6, 1918
While we were standing-to last night, the Germans put over a terrible barrage on us and, there was nothing to do but take it. The hills reechoed each explosion, and made it sound worse than it was. How they ever missed us last night is beyond me.

The fellows of the other platoon told us that the Infantry outfits were cut to pieces. There doesn't seem to be any way to get them out. It's impossible to get an ambulance into this jungle, and we haven't any stretchers here, and haven't seen any medical fellows for a long time. The wounded are lying out there groaning and suffering and all they get is the first aid. They all seem to be out in the open in little fox-holes, as they call them. They haven't any deep trenches or shelter at all. We are about the luckiest squad in the company to get this hut, and I am sure grateful, now that I see what the others are putting up with. I'm not going to complain about the cold tonight.

I was on gas guard last night from ten to twelve and the whole section here sounded like a shooting gallery. The rifle shots were popping constantly. It's a queer sound when they whistle thru the air. The sound like-PING! As each one flew past me last night, it gave me a sickening feeling to think how near I was to being hit each time.

I took the canteens and went down for water at mid-night, crawling on my hands and knees most of the way. The bullets were flying up and down it, as usual, but too high to do any damage. It's the only time we can get water, when it's dark. In the daytime, you would be like a sieve in a few seconds if you went down for water.

It was raining intermittently all day, and the front was kind of quiet, so Harris and I took a chance on taking our gun apart and giving it a real cleaning, and it is now in first-class shape.

No food came up, and we had to eat hardtack and monkey meat, cold, for the three meals, and it sure is getting on our nerves. We haven't had a meal from the kitchen for a week, and we sure are lucky to have these reserve rations with us or we would be starving. The fellows all look pale and thin. I hardly recognize any of them from the red-cheeked, fat fellows they used to be. It's surprising how we have all changed, and I suppose I look the same way, only I can't see myself.

There was a rumor today-- one of the fellows from the other gun squad came over and told us-that our division would be relieved soon, and that we will go back for the 'Winter, and not see the lines again until next spring. By the way we have been hanging around here, it looks as if the war will never end. It's getting dark, the artillery opened up a few minutes ago, and it sounds like hell let loose again. My love to Mousie and you.

Monday, October 7, -1918

Last night, about ten o'clock, just as we were settling down for the night, we received orders to pick up our equipment, and we started off and hiked parallel to the front lines. There weren't any stars out, but the sky was kind of light, and we saw fairly well. We didn't hike very far and stopped and stretched out our machine guns about twenty-five yards apart. It was fairly open right in front of us, and we put over a barrage, all taking turns at the gun, firing a clip a minute all night long until day broke. The Lieutenant was there and checked up every so often with the prismatic compass.

We are now in another one of those narrow trenches. It is only about three feet deep and full of wet mud. A narrow-gauge railway runs right past us here. We ate nothing but hardtack and cold monkey meat again today. There is nothing else and you either eat it or starve. I feel rotten, coughing a great deal.

They asked for volunteers this afternoon to go back to the Infantry dump and get rations for the platoon. Somebody dumped a pile of it a short distance back during the night. I couldn't stand this narrow trench any more this afternoon. It was getting on my nerves and I went back to the dump and carried back enough for the whole platoon. We certainly had many close shaves on the way, and I didn't care whether I got hit or not. It's funny, but when you feel like that, nothing seems to hit you. It's the fellow who is scared the most that gets hit first.

Our artillery has been firing all day over our heads. We can hear them going over and exploding off in the distance. The German artillery is still laying them down nicely in this valley. They have the range down fine.

An Infantry runner came over late this afternoon. He looked like a skeleton. He asked us the way back to Headquarters, and we told him. He said they were shot to pieces, and that the wounded were suffering terribly. We gave him something to eat and then he kept on going. We are getting our guns ready for another 'barrage. We are all very sleepy, as we didn't get much sleep last night, there was too much noise. So long, Mother Dear, I will add on to this tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 8, 1918

Sleep was impossible last night on account of the activity of our artillery. They seemed to have moved right up here in the front lines. I swear they aren't more than a hundred yards behind us on the other slope of this hill. They seemed to be shooting straight up in the air and dropping down on top of the hill in front of us where the Germans are. The German shells were dropping right down into, the valley, practically all night, and this place has turned out to be a regular Inferno. It's awful, I wish we would get out of here.

The Infantry men were cut to pieces again last night, I heard. Many were injured from the artillery fire. Our wonderful luck seems to continue. We have many close shaves, and it's a miracle that none of our men are hit. We can't understand it at all. The fellows are all tired out and pale as sheets, but none complain. They have a wonderful spirit. My bones ache pretty badly and my throat is sore from hoarseness.

Sergeant Montgomery kept us interested for a long time this afternoon, telling us all about his duck farm back home, and it sure brings back sweet memories.

The ration detail got back safely again. No one was hurt. They left us some cans of tomatoes and salmon at the dump last night. We ate the cold tomatoes out of the can and it was a treat, because it was something different. It has been kind of quiet for the last two hours. We heard only an occasional shot. Sometimes, it was so quiet, that it sounded as if the war was over, but then another ash-can would come over with a loud bang, and we would say, "No, the war is still going on."

It's now four-thirty, and it's getting pretty dark, and starting to rain again. Of all places to be, out in the open in a shallow trench, and it's starting to rain! It looks like a tough night for us. I wish I was home.

Wednesday, October 9, 1918

As soon as it became dark last night, we received orders to gather up our equipment and we started off on a hike again. It was raining and we were all soaked. The mud was awful and we slipped and fell quite often. We finally stopped at some German huts and the one that we were in was light proof and we built a fire in the stove, which the Germans so lovingly left for us. We thought sure there was a stick of dynamite in it to blow us to pieces but we didn't care. We were so wet and cold that we started the fire just the same. Needless to say, we weren't blown up, and sat around the stove until the early hours of the morning, when we were so tired, that we fell asleep on the floor. It was cold this morning when we woke up.

The front was very quiet all night. When it rains there is little activity. At nine this morning, without anything to eat, we started marching some more. It was very misty in the hills. We loaded all our equipment on the little trucks on the German railroad. Each one was drawn by a mule which they brought up during the night.

The Germans retreated, and we had to follow them again. The men all walked in single file behind the trucks. Up and down hills, and around them, we marched and marched, until three this afternoon when we finally halted. The Germans must have retreated about ten to fifteen miles at least. Everything showed signs of a hasty departure. We reached a fairly open spot in the forest and it sure was good to get out of the jungle again. Our artillery was sending shells over to Jerry all afternoon, but we heard very little from him. We are now in a house which the Germans were in the other night. There are a number of such here, and the rumor is that we stay here until a definite line is established. Nobody seems to know where the front line is at all. We have been advancing too fast.

We saw some pretty bad damage all along the hike today. I saw at least two hundred dead bodies lying all over the place, in every possible position. I saw one fellow, with his head bandaged, down on his knees. He passed on while kneeling. One fellow was completely blown to pieces, and half of his body was hanging on a branch of a tree, one arm on the ground, and his two legs about ten yards away. It was the most ghastly sight I've ever seen. The smell of the dead is terrible in the woods. I guess the burial detail is on the job by now, it's some job to bury them. What I wonder about is how they are ever going to find the bodies, for the underbrush is so thick that it will grow over the graves and completely hide them. The whole ground is like honeycomb all thru this sector from the shell-holes.

The sun came out for about an hour this afternoon and it braced me up. Our kitchen must be about fifty miles behind us now. We only ate once today, and we were glad to get it, corned-beef, cold, and some more hardtack. I sure will be glad when we get a good warm meal again. I doubt if they will ever be able to drag our field kitchen thru this jungle. The engineers will have to build a road first. I'm grateful that we are going to get a good night's rest tonight anyway. We are all dead tired. So long, Mother Dear!

Thursday, October 10, 1918

We were all up at five-thirty this morning after a good sound sleep. We heated some water in our canteen cups and made some coffee with the beans we had in our reserve rations. It was a life-saver. We spent the morning cleaning the ammunition and guns, a job we are beginning to hate. At noon we had some corned-beef and hardtack again. Our limbers and the mules came along shortly and it sure was good to see them again. We loaded all our equipment and started off. The company looked shot to pieces, as so many of the fellows have been wounded and sent back to the hospital, and the company now is just a skeleton.

We marched for about three hours and passed through a town called Lancon, which, a few hours ago, was still occupied by the Germans. The Germans set fire to the houses before they retreated, and they were still smoldering.
We saw General Johnson on the way, he looked very bad, not the same robust-looking man that he was back at Camp Upton. I was surprised to see him so near to the front lines. It isn't very often that you can see a General way up front. They are usually away back in Headquarters somewhere.

We pulled up at the edge of a forest, having marched over some of the first open country in some time. The limbers are near by, and the mules are unhitched, and it looks like we are to stay here for the night. I hope not, because it is very cold tonight. If they would let us go back to the town of Lancon, we might be able to get into some of the deserted houses. The fellows found out that the Infantry kitchen is down the road, and we are going down to see if we can get a warm meal. With much love,


Friday, October, 1918

About a dozen of us sneaked down to the Infantry kitchen last night for a warm meal, but we were disappointed, they were cleaned out. I found a nice German blanket last night, and Harris and I slept on a slicker and threw our overcoats and the blanket over us, but we froze. The blanket wasn't wool, but some kind of composition which didn't keep in the heat at all. I guess a German threw it away as useless when they retreated, and I bet he wished that some American would freeze under it. His wish came true.

We froze. Just the same, I am holding on to it, as it might come in handy until we get our own blankets again. We left them so far back that I doubt if we ever see them again now, unless they bring them up to us.

At four-thirty this morning, everybody was awakened and, soon after, we started on the chase again to find the Germans. The Infantry men whom we saw coming back with the wounded, said that they were still on the run. All we can do is to follow until bullets stop us. There will be no relief for us until a definite line is established.

I saw Colonel Widenmeyer on the road last night. The roads are terribly congested. Most of the traffic is going up to the line. The roads are wet and muddy and reminds me of the pictures I used to see back home before we got into the war. It's a great sight all right. I wish I could sit back somewhere and make drawings of these scenes.

We halted at two this afternoon and I made a half-canteen cup of coffee. They gave us some more corned-beef and hardtack. That was our breakfast. We sure were hungry. I wish our kitchen would catch up with us. The Infantry fellows have theirs with them.

It was very misty all day, until about three this afternoon, when the sun came out and it was great.

It certainly does brace you up when the sun is shining. While we were resting, a battery of artillery moved in, and it was the first time I ever saw what trouble they have. I guess every outfit is about as bad as the other in this Army. I figured the Germans must be about two miles away from where the artillery outfit was and I was right because we marched but a short distance and halted. We were spread out and the guns put in position. Carlie, Harris, and I found some sheet-metal, and with four stanchions and two long poles we made a good cover for us in case it rains tonight. We just finished some more monkey meat and hardtack and cold tomatoes. When the war is over, I'll never look any corned-beef in the face again. It's getting dark, so will close, Mother Dear.

Saturday, October 12, 1918

Today was Columbus Day, a holiday back home, but here in France it doesn't mean a thing. It was a good day for us, in many ways; first of all, they let us sleep this morning until eight o'clock, and we all slept ourselves out for once. I borrowed a razor this morning and cleaned off my beard. I haven't any toilet articles with me at all. My pack, at the moment, consists of the German blanket. I am traveling very light.

The second good thing to happen this morning was that our kitchen caught up with us. The fellows all gave three cheers when they saw it. They gave us some hot rice and coffee. We filled up on it. There was nothing to do all morning and we just loafed and rested. At noon, we almost fell over when they gave us steak and onions, potatoes and coffee. With that good meal, the fellows forgot all about the cold meals they have been getting for the past several weeks.

It is just six months ago today that we left Camp Upton, and it seems like six years, we have seen so much, and have been thru so much in that time.

We were kept busy this afternoon getting water and wood for the kitchen. We don't mind doing this at all. The weather this morning was very dreary.

The sun came out for a little while only, and late this afternoon it started to rain. I am glad we have these pieces of sheet-metal over us, for that keeps the rain off a little.

We received mail this afternoon, and how I braced up when they had three letters for me! One was from you that you wrote on September 15th. It was good to see your handwriting again, and it made me feel homesick. Oh, if I could only put into words how I feel about all this mess! It seems so unnecessary. I feel more like a prisoner in jail than a soldier. The suffering and torture that we go thru is worse than you get in jail, I bet. We haven't done anything to have this punishment thrust upon us. Oh, I wish it would end soon!

The German artillery is in position again, and they are sending them over to us again. The shells are dropping near by, but not close enough to hit us. Our own artillery is barking back at them and the noise makes me jump. If I don't get away from this noise soon, I'm afraid I'll ger shellshocked.

We had goulash, potatoes, and some cocoa tonight. It's now five-fifteen and it is beginning to get dark. Harris is getting the bunk ready and it looks like we will turn in. There won't be any stand-to tonight. We are too far back, I guess. If the kitchen is with us, you can rest assured that the front is at least five miles away. So long, Mother dear!


Sunday, October 13, 1918

We just received orders to get ready to move up to the front lines tonight and relieve Company A of the 305 Machine Gun Battalion. One of their runners is here now and is going to lead us up to where they are. I haven't a thing to pack, except to roll up

German blanket, and a slicker, which I found, and better than I had. If a fellow is missing anything, he can replace it very easily, as the ground is covered with supplies which the Infantry fellows either threw away or lost.

While I am waiting I thought I would write a little. We slept until eight again this morning and had a good breakfast of griddle cakes and coffee. It was cloudy all day long. I don't think we have had a pleasant Sunday for the last two months. Whoever started that bunk about "Sunny France" was crazy. It rains almost every day over here. I retreated to my shelter and read my mail of yesterday over and over again.

I certainly had one of the most awful things happen to me this morning. It makes me laugh now that it's all over, but this morning it wasn't so funny. Wherever we camp, a detail is always appointed to dig a ditch about a foot deep and about six feet long. We put a pole over it, and the fellows use it for a toilet, we call it the Latrine. When the company leaves, the hole is always covered up with dirt. This morning as I was going over there and was just about ten feet from it, out of the quiet air came a rushing sound, with a loud BANG, so suddenly I didn't have time to flop on the ground. It landed directly in the Latrine, which was almost full and- the stuff splashed everywhere, covering me with filth from head to foot. What a sight I was! It was luck that none of the shell fragments hit me, to be wounded with all that filth over me would have been awful. I went over to the brook where the mules are tied up, and took everything off. It was cold and I almost froze. It took me an hour to get cleaned up, and, lucky for me, one of the fellows in the transport had a uniform that was in one of the limbers. It is a little too large for me but I am glad to have it, because it is clean and has never been worn.

The shells have been dropping all around us and I'll be glad to get out of here. They gave us steak and potatoes and coffee again this noon. I guess they figured that we would be going up tonight and it will probably have to last us for a long time. Some fools spread a rumor this morning that, after twelve o'clock today, there would be no more firing. They seem to take a keen delight to see how fast the false stories can circulate. The fellows are so desperate that they believe anything you tell them.

The town of Lancon received a terrible shelling this afternoon. It's only a short distance behind us. Smoke from fires has been pouring out of every chimney in the town for the past two days, and the Germans started to shell it. Thru the trees in the forest we could see the soldiers running for shelter. There was a sort of humor in it, the way they were running this ------ It is no laughing matter when you are right under it.

We get a newspaper occasionally called the Stars and Stripes. It is published over here by our own soldiers who have had newspaper experience. Some fellows do fall in soft and get an easy job. I wasn't lucky. How I long to get away from all this filth, dirt and mud!

It's good we are moving out, because a detail from a French artillery outfit has been up here about fifty feet over on our right all afternoon, digging an emplacement. Their guns are coming up now, and they are probably planning on doing some shooting tonight.

We had meat-balls, carrots, and onions, and I guess it's our last hot meal for some time. It's getting dark and we are going to move up soon, so will close. Love to you and Mousie.

Monday, October 14, 1918
We sure have been thru hell today, and I hope we never have another day like this one was. The German Artillery have been sending over big shells to us, great big ones, eight inches in diameter and when they explode, it sounds like the end of the world. One of those big shells killed four of our fellows this afternoon, Foster, Frengs, Hamilton, and Poulides. They were all snuffed out by the one shell.

Hamilton's head was severed from his body and when lying on the ground looked very gruesome. Poulides, poor fellow, was always talking recently about getting a furlough and going over to England to visit some relatives he had there. Frengs was an artillery man and was sent to our outfit to bring it up to full strength. Foster, poor fellow, was one of the nicest fellows you would want to meet. He was a western boy, who came from the 37th Division as a replacement. He was always sad, because his people never wrote to him. I tried to cheer him up the best I could, telling him that there must be letters for him, but he hadn't received them on account of having been transferred from one division to another.

Seven of our fellows were wounded pretty badly today also, and sent back to the hospital. Our company is now shot to pieces completely. There are very few left. My friend, Leonard, was wounded today, one of the seven. The others were Chorba, Dinola, Ken-nedy, Jordan, Johnson and Gorman. It will take some time to train men and replace them on the machine guns.

Last night, we marched up here. It took us three hours, and we relieved company A of the 305th Machine Gun Battalion, or what was left of them, for they had a tough time, too. It was two in the morning when they went back. We mounted our guns in position and Carlie and I took the first shift from two a.m. to four. The front was very interesting at that time of the morning, signal lights were going up constantly, just like a Fourth of July celebration. The shells were whizzing by over our heads all night and exploding off in the distance. Harris and Hendrickson relieved us at four, and we slept a little until eight this morning, and I went on again until ten o'clock. Two men are on all night, and one at a time, during the day.

About eleven, an artillery duel started between the Germans and ours. The noise was deafening. Many of the shells dropped close to us, and the fragments were flying over our heads. There was no place to go for shelter. We just had to make ourselves as flat as possible and hug the ground. It was awful! How we ever escaped being hit was a miracle!

We read in the Stars and Stripes that the Kaiser is withdrawing his army back to the border, as demanded by President Wilson. No doubt in order not to carry back all his ammunition, he let us have most of it today.

I had five hardtack biscuits this morning, and a little corned-beef. I couldn't eat much of it. We haven't any reserve rations with us this time, and it looks like we will have to do a little fasting.

We left most of our ammunition back at a dump in the forest, and this afternoon five of us crawled back and each brought up two boxes. The fellows who were on this morning put over a barrage and used up a lot of it. The fellows are all depressed about our casualties today.

As soon as it gets dark, some of us are going back to the kitchen to bring up some food for the platoon, or we'll starve. I am so tired and weak but must go. It means a three-hour hike each way.

The shelling has started again, and it sounds terrible. Everything is shaking from the concussion. It's getting dark, so will say goodnight, Mother Dear, God bless you. I will write some more tomorrow. I'd give everything in the world to be home with you right now, Mother Dear. I don't like the idea of going back for rations tonight thru that hail of shells.


There were no further letters. The author was gassed immediately after writing the foregoing letter and was incapable of writing again

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