Thursday, Sept. 5th
RAIN. Plans to go to the research meeting in Paris spoiled by the advent of teams requiring instructions. A visit from Jim Perkins, who is in this area on a Red Cross mission---also Hugh Scott. We are green-eyed with envy at sight of the Pierce-Arrow limousine in which they travel. George Brewer back from his tour of the base hospitals, much encouraged by the condition in which the wounded have arrived there.
Arrangements made with Dexter for a combined tour of the Souilly hospital group in anticipation of the attack we have been told would open there to-morrow on the west of the St. Mihiel salient. Fisher, however, has just brought word from Chaumont that only one division of the 5th Corps remains in that area. In fact, they have us guessing, and probably the Boche too. The whole operation may be shifted to the Franco-British sector, where the enemy are rapidly falling back to their old line. Foch presumably knows, but who else?
The remnant of the Boche's Marne "salient" is caving in. The Vesle was crossed yesterday by Franco-American forces west of Fismes. This largely the result of Gen. Mangin's dogged pressure north of Soissons.
Friday, 6th. Benoite Vaux
. . . On through Euville, encountering more of the 1st Division---Commercy, scarred by bombs---Lérouville, and along a camouflaged road in view of the distant enemy positions---Sampigny, where a French guard warns us that this is our limit, for the Commercy road soon passes dangerously near the tip of the salient and the Boche lines. So to the left to Menu-aux-Bois behind more camouflage of the brush-mat variety, through woods of pine, birch, maple, and oak full of French artillery---to Baudremont past extensive dumps, along a beautiful road now parallel to the lines---past fields purple with. colchicum, in which women are cutting and gathering a late crop of sweet-smelling grass---Villotte-dev.---St. Mihiel-Nicey, where are some outposts of the 80th Division and where we miss our turn and proceed east to Rupt---dev.-St. Mihiel, where a French triage and poilu cemetery make us suspicious of our error---so back to Pierrefitte and across country via Courouvre, and in a sudden downpour we reach our destination.
Salmon's newly established hospital---a triage for acute neuroses---is on the road to Issoncourt just west of Benoite Vaux. It is surrounded, wonder of wonders, by an extensive truck garden, and occupies the huts of a former French hospital of small size, with the officers' quarters in cabins on a hillside behind. We plant ourselves there for the night and in the absence of patients find beds, food, and a welcome.
Then to Récourt, where Mobile No. 2 sits in its bones on a hillside---the canvas ready to put up when the show opens and not till then, lest the erection of hospital tents betray the coming operation. There a pot of tea---a pleasant novelty in the A.E.F---.and a conference with Neuhof, who is to do the head cases.
So on to La Morlette just west of Ancemont to locate Mobile No. I to which Dowman is attached---our way via Villers-sur-Meuse with lovely views to the east, though much of the roadway was screened. The presence of the 4th Division assures us of four in this area despite the rumors down the line. Then back to Benoite Vaux for a six-o'clock supper with Allison and Salmon's eager youngsters, Lt. Stout the C.O., Cannaday, Leavitt, and Sands. At twilight the rumble of passing guns and transports begins---twilight gives way to darkness and then pitch darkness with heavy rain, out of which emerges one of Allison's capable young divisional people named Grady who had come in a side car from somewhere---the 33rd moving up to Blercourt west of
Verdun to be brigaded out with the French---never in the line before and after only a short British experience---no splints whatsoever and what shall they do? So that accounts for a 5th division in this sector.
Saturday, Sept. 7th
. . . Dexter is easily prevailed upon by Garcia to remain up here and care for the gassed cases, and I leave him happy at the hospital at Rambluzin where they are to be routed . . . . At Souilly---or just west of Souilly---alongside the railway and adjacent to a huge dump with a mountain of fodder in its centre, Evac'n Nos. 6 and 7 sit conspicuously, inviting air raids, on the side of a hill in two old French H.O.E.'s. They are well equipped and well cared for with terraces, dugouts, flower beds, and duckboards indicating long and fond tenancy. Here will go the severely wounded, as is true of Evac'n No. 8 at Petit-Maujouy. (Harrington is at No. 6, Sam Harvey at No. 7, and Hanson at No. 8.) No. 9 at Vaubécourt is for sick and slightly wounded. Nos. 1 and 2 Mobile are for non-transportables, with Dowman and Neuhof for cranial wounds. The psychiatric cases to Benoite Vaux of course, and the gassed to Rambluzin; while all French casualties, so far as sorting permits, go to Fleury, where they retain an H.O.E. It will be a difficult triage.
Later to see Lt. Hanson at Evac'n No. 8 on the Génicourt-Ancemont road just west of Macrae's outfit. Hall very well fixed in another H.O.E. with a fine well-lighted operating hut holding 18 tables for which he has too few teams. Lunch there and back to Souilly where Allison and Col. Beeuwkes were struggling to get up and distribute supplies of hip splints for femurs. A few Boche planes over, followed by shrapnel---let's hope they learned little. Nothing more that I can do, so back to Neufchâteau to turn in the car as agreed, via Bar-le-Duc; a French officer just from ruined Reims is picked up, and with him to Ligny. Gondrecourt, where we passed the 91st Division moving up---very fine-looking lot from our Northwest. Finally Neufchâteau in 3.5 hours' fast going.
On Thursday, British troops took "Plug street" and Hill 63 and have passed some of their old positions near Givenchy. Toward Cambrai they are up to the Canal du Nord and report 16,000 prisoners in the four days since the battle of the switch opened.
Yesterday the enemy withdrew rapidly all along the line toward their positions of March 21st, and late in the day the French took Ham and Chaulny. The Americans are approaching the Aisne and the Boches will probably make a stand on the Chemin des Dames. They meanwhile have begun a "peace offensive" and Hindenburg gives out a manifesto warning the troops against our propaganda---"our bombarding their front with a drum fire of printed paper." The Crown Prince also gives an inspired interview with quite a change of face---so far as his mousy face can change.
Sunday, September 8th. Benoîte Vaux
They are certainly provident people, the French---so it was not all British talk, after all. The 2nd Division, hustled into French motor trucks, was thrown into the line west of Château-Thierry. The Marines stuck up their flag and refused to retreat---the Boche was checked and probably Paris saved. On the first of the month our government got a bill for 280,000 francs for the use of the trucks for which we had provided the essence---the bill was paid. Whether this is truth or fiction I can't presume to say---rumors which often prove false circulate over here amazingly and facts get distorted in the process. After all, a tendency to drive a close bargain is also a Yankee characteristic, and this war is being fought in France, not New England.
It is Sunday afternoon in this Field Neurological Hospital No. 1 on a road over which goes at night an incessant traffic of lorries and artillery and tanks---predatory creatures which conceal themselves in the wood by day. Imagine a tar-paper hut of rustic French pattern perched on the side of a hill at the edge of a beech forest looking down over the cluster of ten or twelve Adrian huts composing the hospital group. This particular cabin, with its two cots, measures about twelve by eight feet, and I am to share it with Dexter. Allison and Salmon are close by in another, and innumerable paths wind in and out of the forêt rising up on the hill behind us.
While preparing---each of us in his own line---for something soon to happen to the St. Mihiel salient, we meanwhile, on getting back here nights when possible, may be regarded as psychiatric patients-all colonels come more or less in that category, anyway. Salmon has pinned over Allison's cot this medical card:
A real feeling of autumn in the air, with driving clouds, and before reaching here late this p.m. we passed through a heavy downpour. But the water soaks in fast and the rain helps road making.
Yesterday the British reached Beauvois, on their way to St. Quentin, and the French crossed the Crozat Canal. The captured Huns are said to be much depressed, and Hindenburg's power wanes. But the 26th Division is much more interested in the fact that the Cubs beat the Sox in the second game of the series. "Boy Howde!"
Monday, September 9th
It's interesting that eight out of the first ten patients admitted to this hospital had widely dilated pupils with hallucinations---a few being actively excited. One of them this morning was clear-headed enough to recall that, in addition to some blackberries, he had eaten about five large ripe berries, which grew on a bush four or five feet high, and they left his mouth puckery. So Dexter and I struck off into the woods this afternoon on a botanizing expedition---and incidentally to find a short cut over the hill to his hospital at Rambluzin. An incomparable beech forest with an occasional mountain ash and white oak, carpeted with delicate wood ivy and blue Canterbury bells in profusion.
There were innumerable crisscrossing paths which were dry despite the downpour this morning, but which were also confusing, and, having no compass, we got well lost. Most of the woods hereabouts are jam-packed with troops, but we saw not a human being---not even a lumberjack, though there were plenty of recently felled trees trimmed and ready to go to the mill at Benoite Vaux.
We finally, after about two hours, came to the top of a hill where the ground was badly torn up and the trees all dead within a circle of some one hundred yards across. The place was guarded by a single barbed-wire strand fastened to the trees, and within were eight huge perfectly formed craters about thirty feet across and thirty feet deep. We ventured under the wire and found the ground strewn with rusty Mills' hand grenades, almost all of them exploded. I picked up from the rubble a perfectly formed fossil bivalve which had been blown up out of the chalk---also a fossilized mandible, ape-like in form. The trees above a six-foot level had been so completely riddled they had died---certainly, a year or two ago. What is the explanation?
From this place we took another path, and, as luck would have it, encountered a Chasseur Alpin sitting on a log. He pointed the way to Rambluzin and casually remarked that the branches with the big black berries we had in our hands were poison---belladonna, as every Frenchman knew. There was only one variety, he was sure. Our quest was satisfied, and not three hundred yards away we came to the edge of the woods and found ourselves looking down on the huts of Dexter's place.
Tuesday the 10th. Benoite Vaux
The weather has certainly broken-rain a-plenty. This morning Dexter, Allison, and I in the Dodge to Souilly and beyond, while Salmon and Bailey conspire here. The 5th Corps Hq is moving up to Ancemont and it is rumored that the 3rd Corps is to come to Souilly.
Nat stops at his splint dump while Dexter and I, with Marshall Clinton, who is acting as 5th Corps Consulting Surgeon, push on in a driving downpour, well soaked, to Robécourt to visit No. 9 Evac'n. They too in a well-planned French H.O.E., though bedraggled as a lot of chickens in a wet henhouse. The C.O., a man named Johnson from the Surg. Gen.'s Office, and a major of the same name from Beverly, Mass., the Senior Surgeon. A very promising outfit, and after lunch we hand over such instructions and information as we think they will absorb and tolerate. As they have just come over we tread cautiously.
Back to Souilly over bad country roads, cheered by. patches of sunshine. Pretz---Beauzée-sur-Aire---Amblaincourt, all of which must have been about on the edge of the 1914 German advance, for the hamlets are badly tumbled and many isolated graves dot the fields and line the roads---French with the tricolor---one Boche painted black---"Allemand inconnu." Serancourt--Rignaucourt---Heippes, and again on the wide-sweeping military highway to Souilly. Clinton is dropped, Allison rescued, and we return to Benoite Vaux to find Salmon and Bailey impatiently awaiting their only means of transportation.
I go on with them to locate the triages, which we find are not yet established. To Récourt and across the Meuse behind the camouflaged roads. Génicourt-sur-Meuse, a red-roofed intact hamlet in the western lee of a hill---no plans as yet. Then Rupt-en-Woëvre, where the YD has its headquarters---nothing there as yet. So we give up the triage business; and since Bailey wishes to see Verdun, though rather late, we go up the east bank of the Meuse along the canal. This full of canal boats, many of them sunk---in all probability cached there since 1914---now occupied only by an occasional cat, a box of geraniums, and a bedraggled old man or woman.
Across the Meuse things are lively---the familiar zone of activity behind the lines when something is coming off. We soon run into another heavy rainstorm and, after completely missing Verdun to our left, find ourselves confronted by a lone French guard at a crossroads on the ridge of a hill, who says we are at Bras, headed for the Boche lines some 4 km. away. So we turn about and go through the outskirts of the tottering and riddled town, but get so confused in the surrounding park full of wire entanglements that we never even located the citadel. All this brought us back late to supper and we are now warming and drying ourselves at a small stove newly installed in Salmon's cabin.
During our absence Fisher and Baer appeared on a coat-tail visit to the Evac'n Hospitals. Finney has returned-General Gorgas said to be coming. Finney and Thayer to be generals. How silly they will feel---or will they? It may well curtail their activities, and mean their sitting on waffle chairs at Tours. Others of us also to be moved up, it is said. This too has its drawbacks. No more operating at Evacuation Hospitals for a Lt. Colonel.
Wednesday, September 11th
9 p.m. Sam is as black as the ace of spades and says if he can only "git one foot on de aidge of the U-nited States he'll sure quick find his way back to Co-lumbia, South Ca'lina---jes' one foot, yaas sah!" He's been sent in here as simple-minded (probably by some Yank M.O.), whereas he's just nigger. You should hear Cannaday, a Virginian, draw him out regarding his experiences in the trenches.
"Sam, what did the regimental doctor ask you?"
"Oh, he done ask me who's de captain oh de U-nited States." "What did you say?"
"Oh, I done said Washington, he's de captain ob de U-nited States, an' Paris, he's de captain oh France, an' Berlin he's de captain ob Germany---yaas sah!"
"Sam, who are we fighting in this war?"
Sam, hesitatingly: "Why, we's fightin' de Germans."
"Who else, Sam?"
"We's fightin' de Australians, too---yaas sah."
Sam is good at finding bits of wood and we again have a fire in Salmon's leaky hut to-night, hoping to dry our things out, for the rain has kept up all day.
7 a.m. "Hullo, Sam, what are you doing in there?" From Sam, evidently proud of his difficult task: "Ise wakin' de colonels, yaas, sah." But why wake the colonels? The 26th Division captured one yesterday in a raid---an evidence, as someone remarked, that they must have gone in very far---for colonels and higher ranks usually remain securely in the rear. A general is said to have accosted a supposedly exhausted but actually drunken soldier lying by the roadside, thus: "Where is your unit, my lad?" The d. s., rousing himself: "Must be a hell of a long way off if you 're up here, old man." This is a story with applications.
Sunday afternoon, September 15th
Much has happened since Wednesday night, when, unaware of its imminence, we are fretting over the delay in the offensive. The French generously give our troops the credit: ´L'attaque américaine dans la région de St. Mihiel," and so forth. Luck was certainly with us.
Thursday the 12th opened raw, cold, and rainy. There had been heavy gunfire during the night, but the strong westerly wind and storm had completely muffled it from us. Salmon unhappily had ventured to go down to Neufchâteau, where "the offices" had grabbed Sullivan and our pilfered Dodge car and we were legless in consequence. But during breakfast the good Lord sent out of the rain a fiivver containing Cannon, Yates, and Middleton, who dropped Dexter at his Poison-Gas Station and carried Allison and me over to Souilly. There, to our astonishment, Garcia, who is G-4 under Colonel Stark in this area, told us the show had opened.
Dropping Allison at his splint dump, which grows apace, we went on to No. 1 Mobile at La Morlette. There, about 11 a.m., Macrae and his officers, unaware of what was going on, were found sitting at a practice conference while the first ambulance of wounded actually stood unannounced at the Admission Hut. Cannon and I then hustled to the F.H. 101 triage at Génicourt, expecting to find an overcrowded and busy place full of wounded ---"shocked" from cold, wet, and exposure. But no such thing. A mere handful were dribbling through, and Captain Taylor had them well in hand.
Thence on to the headquarters of the 26th, to see the Divisional Surgeon, but he was away and we learned that the attack had opened with a heavy barrage at 2 a.m. which kept up till five; that the boys had gone over at daybreak; that so far very few wounded had come through; that General Edwards's billet was just around the corner.
Hyatt, at the headquarters, insisted on our going up to the Divisional P.C. on the side of the hill just east of the town---the Bois des Trois Monts, I believe---where we should find the General in one of the dugouts. We did, and passed a most exhilarating hour---like listening to election returns when things are going one's way. The place was full not only of the General, but of maps and telephones and aides and liaison officers and messengers coming and going---Peter. Bowditch; Captain Simpson; Major Pendleton; Colonel Alfonti; Captain Malick, formerly Joffre's A.D.C., and a lot more. The advance on the whole was going well---St. Rémy and Dommartin-le-Montagne taken---but somewhere we were being held up by a machine-gun nest and C.E. became greatly exercised and characteristically profane.
In the midst of all this someone announced that thousands of prisoners were coming in. The General looked skeptical, remarking that prisoners always dwindled in number or else about half of them got away. Still, we went out and stood on the slippery duckboards commanding a view along the valley where masses of Boches were being herded down the road. Soon word came from somewhere that a whole battalion had been captured with its officers, a medical officer among them.
"That means a job for you after lunch," said C.E. "Find out if Hindenburg is in Metz; where their artillery is; what divisions there are---anything you can." He held us to this, and after a brief lunch in his billet Cannon and I were left to interrogate the young M.O. whom Captain Horsman, the Divisional G-2, soon showed in. We gave him food and pumped him in a language somewhat halting from disuse, but he gave forth what he knew. . .
A young, spectacled, erect, square-headed Prussian named Pick---in 1914 a student of Garré's, at Bonn, now Battalion M.O. in the 13th Landwehr Division---for the last 12 days in the trenches after a rest period at the lazaret in Dompierre. Yes, he had had as good a lunch as this yesterday; possibly the bread was not so good. The offensive a complete surprise---thought the barrage meant only a strong local attack, but it kept up so long they grew suspicious.
The first thing they knew they were surrounded by Americans. No artillery behind them---had been none for a long time---no Flügers either---High Command might have known of attack, of course, and withdrawn guns---Austrians in south of his division---no knowledge of other wing---nor of Hindenburg, who still dominates the situation despite our rumors to the contrary---we'll have peace this autumn because the French and English and Americans will be satisfied with these recent advances.
Get into Germany? Never! There are three strong lines of defense to fall back upon---stronger than the Hindenburg Line by far---if the Allies have any such idea it will be a long war. Knew that Americans were over here, but did not know any were on this side of the salient---had seen them, but thought French were wearing khaki for purposes of deception. Yes, three fourths of the German people wanted peace, but they were well controlled. Give up the Hohenzollerns? Never.
How about the Bavarians and Württembergers? They are very good Germans but not good Prussians. The morale of the troops? Not as good as formerly---the Stosstruppen a mistake, as divisions had been weakened---but this would be corrected. Worst trouble due to the reclaimed Germans who had been prisoners in Russia and who refused to go into the front lines again. Bolshevism? "Das ist möglich." The U-boat campaign a recognized fizzle and von Tirpitz now discredited.
There was much more that I need scarcely set down; we broke up and, after an exchange of compliments, I presenting him with a cigarette and he me with his peculiar gas mask, which he will no longer need, he was returned to the waiting sergeant.
Then in a heavy downpour back to Génicourt, passing a long column of Austro-Hungarian prisoners. Only 490 wounded through F.H. 101, including wounded Boches. Up the river road to Haudainville to the 28th F.H. behind the 4th Division, which apparently has not yet been in action---no wounded whatsoever. In turn to No. 1 Mobile via Ancemont, where Yates has been wallowing all day in chest cases sorted out and routed there for his benefit. Supper with them, and back to Benoite Vaux by moonlight---a clear night promising well for the morrow.
Pte. Jeremiah Sullivan, cursing picturesquely, has just returned from Neufchâteau with our ramshackle and uncertain Dodge. We thought best to ask no questions regarding the source of two new tires!
Friday the 13th, after a downpour during the night, opened raw and rainy. Cannon appeared in his precious flivver and with him to Pierrefitte, and from there along the recently forbidden road direct to Commercy via Rupt-devant-St. Mihiel with its French triage, where they have had but few wounded---Kur-la-Grand, much knocked about---and so along the road, camouflaged from the heights of St. Mihiel and the sharp hill of the Ft. du Camp-des-Romains, to Sampigny, with a lovely outlook over the Meuse and its canal. This road around the tip of the salient must have been under the Huns' view nearly as far down as Commercy, judging from the varied kinds of protections set up to conceal it.
At Aulnois, from 11 a.m. Thursday to 11 a.m. to-day, 201 cases with 170 operations by seven teams. The triage at Raulecourt not very effective; nor was it well done at the hospital itself, Kerr having had none of the head work. Flint at Mobile No. 39 very busy having to "mother" No. 11 Evac'n, a new unit just moved in to Sorcy, as well as his own enlarged hospital group. He has already been warned that he may have to move again.
After lunch, on to Sebastopol; and while Cannon investigates conditions of shock I learn that 1100 wounded have passed through Evac'n No. 1, which includes Mobile No. 3, though the latter unit was being dismantled to move to Royaumeix. Later at Toul we find that 3000 casualties have passed through the Justice Group, 2000 of them wounded. Cutler's Evac'n No. 3, operations in the first 22 hours out of their 730 cases all told.
An unexpected gathering of people at Col. Maddux's office; George Brewer, who says the outposts from west and south have met at Vigneulles, that Thiaucourt has been taken, and there are rumors of 13,000 prisoners. Thiaucourt fell within the first six hours, the plan having been to reach it on the second day. Finney appears, beaming as usual, glad to be back in this juncture, though confessing that he has lost hold. Gen. Ireland with him. Thayer, Crile, Gibbon, and others also appear.
At 6 p.m. we started back, passing on the way to Pagny a long procession of Boche P.O.W.---two to three thousand at least, and from every side joyful children were pouring down the road from the adjacent villages to see the sight. Then a mile or two of French lorries drawn up beside the road waiting to pick up the 91st Division, one regiment of which, the 363rd, we saw coming up the road from the south and deploying into a big open field spread out at our feet---a fine-looking lot, thrilled at the sight of the Boche prisoners and impatient to get to the Front and join in the fray.
On Saturday the 14th, as there promised to be no work, Cannon and I went on a round of the triages and found the Corps moving out, the map people gone and---what for us was more serious---no essence to be had. We finally wangled some from the forester squad. Through Rupt-en-Woëvre and toward the line through Mouilly, the road much torn up and undergoing repairs by the French "Jennys" (génie du soldat). They were also laying a Decauville,(44) meanwhile uncovering the real roadbed a foot or more below its present covering of mud and rocks tossed up by the barrage. Many old French cemeteries, large and small, along the road. Mouilly on the sheltered side in ruins, with No. 114 F.H. in what is left of its church. Capt. Frank Stevens of Bridgeport, the C.O., told us that in the first 36 hours, 2160 prisoners were taken by the 26th, and that only 348 casualties came through; but they were no longer coming down, the church was emptied of patients, and a table was set for lunch in the wreck of the chancel.
Stevens accepted our offer to accompany us and we took the much shot-up road toward les Eparges and soon emerged from the fairly well-preserved wood into the strip of No Man's Land ---always a staggering spectacle with its stumps of trees, its wire, its trenches and shell holes. "Jenny" was busy here also remaking the strip of road which during all these sad years had totally disappeared. Now partly repaired, the worst half mile was jammed with every kind of vehicle, horse, mule, and gas-drawn, trying to get through.
The delay gave us time to look into the trenches---what was left of them---for the 26th certainly had put up a devastating barrage. What remained, however, showed how well the Boche trenches had been made---largely of concrete with extensive and intercommunicating dugouts, the names of the officer occupants carefully lettered on the blocks that formed a part of the parapet. Many of our doughboys were wandering about gathering souvenirs of every imaginable kind, those that interested me most, in view of Hindenburg's recent address to the troops, being the Allied propaganda, many samples of which were being blown about everywhere.
The block finally opened up and the procession moved forward. We left the les Eparges road and turned right on the Grande Tranchée de Calonne which led to Vigneulles, and I may add that the Boche front-line trenches lay west of this crossroads, not east of it as all of our maps have shown. We soon got on to the well-kept highway which served as the enemy's L. of C. and went on through the beautiful Forêt de la Montagne, chiefly of beech, still fairly well preserved. It probably covers many dead, recent and unburied as well as long since buried, for German graves are numerous along the roadside---numerous and ornate, with massive stone of concrete headstones, elaborate in the Boche fashion.
The road crosses several large traps for tanks, great pits with branches thrown over them, out of which a tank would have great difficulty in climbing. German signs, also, everywhere, the one which chiefly interested us being ZUM VERBANDPLATZ with an arrow pointing down the road. On past big gun emplacements, the surroundings littered with green wicker baskets over three feet in length, each containing the brass shell case of a 150 mm. gun---the shell cases filled with long strands of cordite. In the woods were little houses, rustic in style, reminding one of the houses in Grimm's Fairy Tales, tucked away here and there in the forest.
The "Verbandplatz" was in the middle of the forest, about opposite Dompierre-aux-Bois---a so-called "Lager Rubezahl." Here Capt. Blair of Providence had already established his field hospital, and they were caring for about 100 men who had just come in, victims of a German bombing raid which had occurred somewhere in the neighborhood of Vigneulles. The German aid station was in an old quarry, extraordinarily well made and protected. There were many underground chambers with all sorts of interesting medical supplies, bandages and equipment of various kinds, all evidently left in a great hurry---possibly by Herr Dr. Pick himself---even the record sheets of recent patients lying about---some of them evidently Hungarians, judging by the Hungarian newspapers among the litter. The conditions within Germany were made apparent by the bed mattresses, which were covered with a very stout paper difficult to tear, out of which they are said also to make clothing.
After a frugal lunch with Col. Hobbs of the Engineer Corps, who is in charge of the road reparation in the area, on along the Grande Tranchée until suddenly we burst out of the forest on the edge of the high plateau of the Côtes de Meuse which shelves off abruptly to the plain, giving, both north and south, most extraordinary views, the ruins of Hattonville lying at the end of the road.
One could see many burning villages to the north; a Boche balloon shot down in flames; Woel burning; a French officer looking through a large stationary binocular pointed out the Lac Lachaussée behind the Bois des Haudronvilles, with Jonville beyond, which was being shelled, and we could see Chambley and perhaps also the chimneys of Conflans across the level plain at our feet. Far to the south the highlands of St. Mihiel stood out, and possibly Montsec, though we were not sure of it, and farther west the familiar heights flanking Toul, 30 or more km. away---an unforgettable spectacle of a promised land.
From Hattonville we wound down the road to Vigneulles, which is on the level of the plain, the road lined by the peculiar Boche camouflage resembling latticework strips of cloth woven obliquely in and out of the wire mesh, as well as kinds made of rushes, much neater than the French brushwork gabions. Vigneulles, like all the other villages, had been burned in the retreat, though not to the ground, for French stone houses are gutted by fire, not burned down. The pungent smell of charred timbers permeated the place, now occupied by Americans, for it was here that they met coming from the two sides of the salient.
We delayed briefly to interview the civils. One weazened old woman whom I asked for recent German papers took me into her ruined house---until yesterday occupied by Boche officers, while she slept in a little back room and cared for them. She produced some papers, among them the Gazette des Ardennes with its illustrated weekly supplement, published for distribution among the French civils.
I asked her if she had any German money, and after some hesitation she closed the outer door to her tumbled combination of kitchen and bedroom, and in the corner under her bed disclosed a trapdoor leading into the cellar with a rustic ladder down which she went, to reappear shortly, burdened with a small trunk simply filled with paper money, German and French, old and new. There were all sorts of promissory notes, as well as German paper money. The promissory notes had been issued, as she explained, by the local French banks in the captured communities; also that the French civilians were paid for their services with these notes "guarantis par les Communes"---certainly an effective way of getting an indemnity out of a community without actually demanding a cash payment outright from them. I purchased some of these bills from her and she drove a very close bargain, demanding full price for the French notes, and insisting that the mark was double the franc in value---the poor old thing.
Then on by the aid of very admirable Boche road signs, down between the forested hills leading to St. Mihiel---Creue, well burned, even its Lichtspielhaus---Chaillon, also in cinders, the residence of its Ortskommandant and all else. Then on along a road which had been thoroughly shelled, now lined by happy poilus who waved gayly at us, across many narrow-gauge Decauville roads with their "Achtung: Feldbahn," and so to the edge of the hill leading down to St. Mihiel.
Here a puncture gave us a chance to walk down into the town, at whose outskirts, on the side of a hill, was a beautifully kept Boche cemetery of large size dominated by a huge Hindenburgian concrete monument bearing an Iron Cross at the hill's crest. Almost all of the many graves were marked with more or less elaborate and massive headstones, ornately figured and with well-kept flower beds and ivy---graves dating back to '15 and '16, most of them. The finishing touch to the scene was furnished by groups of poilus in their ciel-bleu regarding wonderingly the "Hier ruht im Gott"; "Den Heldentod fürs Vaterland."
In the town itself an old man told me that there had been about 2000 civilians, and that he himself had lost 26 kilos in weight; he looked well enough, however, as did the many children who were about, though I cannot say they were Mellen's Food babies exactly. He added that, had the attack been made 24 hours earlier, we would have taken many prisoners, for the last of the German troops did not leave until then. As it is, they had sucked the orange dry and really very little of military value appears to have been left in the salient. Flags were out in the town, French and American; and, our car catching up to us, we proceeded up the east bank of the Meuse, crossing again the double line of trenches near Meizey, where also were French "Jennys" filling up the holes in the shell-torn roads and the trenches which crossed them.
To our left, Chauvoncourt across the Meuse lay in ruins, and on the right of the road were the two heights of more than 300 metres which gave the Boche his dominating position so long retained in this area. Such masses of wire, all the way from here up the river, I have never seen, and the Boche trenches themselves were very beautifully made with blocks of concrete as neat as a Roman bath; but they had tumbled wire into the trenches, and probably burned out the dugouts before leaving.
As we crossed the French first line of trenches about half a mile beyond the German first line they were just filling in the road, so we again had to wait. I climbed down into the trench where were some poilus, one of whom pulled off from the side a French wooden sign reading VERS P. P. DES ÉTATS-UNIS, with an arrow pointing to the petite poste de secours of their advance line. This he presented to me with many smiles and bows.
So on to Rouvrois-sur-Meuse, quite demolished---the road thoroughly camouflaged against the view from the heights to the east. Then Lacroix-sur-Meuse, and Troyon, which must have been a fine place in its heyday, judging from the ruins of its musée, before which a colossal though somewhat chipped Jupiter and Minerva still stand with the bare sky above their surprised heads and no longer a portico for them to support. As the road went north it was screened first on one side, then on the other; at Troyon there were Boche and Hungarian prisoners, and we left the French and found the Yankee Division again; then Génicourt, and Rupt, where Capt. Stevens was dropped, Ancemont and No. 1 Mobile, where Cannon in turn was dropped, and I to Rambluzin for supper.
There a long powwow on organization with Dexter and Allison, in the midst of which Salmon and Bailey appeared after a day's survey of the Southern Corps fronts. The 1st Corps, so far as I can judge, did not make as much progress as was expected, the positions probably being stronger and the terrain more difficult. The 4th Corps to their left, and the 5th---the 26th Division being its only unit in action---did better as far as the depth of the advance went.
To-day, Sunday, has been a perfect day, warm and cloudless. Sullivan not having appeared with his broken-down Dodge, Bailey's borrowed car supplied our great need and we proceeded in a body to Souilly, where we were warned of a forthcoming movement on a large scale, with 15 divisions. The present operation may therefore be considered to be about over.
Col. Garcia indicated to us where some of the new hospitals that are moving up were to be placed, and we visited Evac'n No. 4 near les Souhesmes, and No. 5 at Ville-sur-Couzances, both of them tumbled into temporary quarters with their supplies in a mess until they could be told where they were finally to go. It's going to be difficult, this hospitalization business.
My impression of these last few days is that the enemy made an extraordinarily good get-away during Wednesday night, and though we are cheering loudly and much elated over regaining the salient, it has not been a great military victory. Though everything went smoothly enough, there is no knowing what would have happened had there been serious resistance and had we received large numbers of wounded. Our Medical Corps has yet to meet the consequences of stubbornly resisting picked troops such as we grew all too familiar with in last autumn's battles at Passchendaele. It will surely come---perhaps south of the Argonne, where we must next lay plans. Meanwhile we gain experience.
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