History of the
American Field Service in France

"FRIENDS OF FRANCE", 1914-1917,
TOLD BY ITS MEMBERS

Section Sixty-Four

THE STORY TOLD BY

I.

RICHARD WILBUR WESTWOOD

SUMMARY

ON June 11 Section Sixty-Four left for the training-camp at May-en-Multien. On June 21, it took over a section of French cars at Mouy-Bury and left for Rupt-sur-Moselle, in Lorraine. After a stay there, en repos, of almost a month, it was transferred to Rougemont-le-Château, later going on to Vesoul, in the extreme east of France, in the Haute Saône, back of the Alsatian front. After nearly a month of evacuation work here, it convoyed down into Lorraine by way of Contrexéville and Neufchâteau, and finally at Condé-en-Barrois was attached to the 19th Division. On September 12 it went to Glorieux, near Verdun, handling wounded from the postes of the Carrière des Anglais, Vacherauville, and La Fourche. On October 2 it was en repos at Vanault-les-Dames, near Vitry-le-François, and on the 10th left for Génicourt. There, on October 26, a section of Fords relieved Sixty-Four, its Fiats were turned in to the French parc, and the men left to enter other services or be reassigned in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.

Section Sixty-Four

You have become a forge of snow-white fire,
A crucible of molten steel, O France!
Your sons are stars who cluster to a dawn
And fade in light for you,
O glorious France!

EDGAR LEE MASTERS

I

MAY-EN-MULTIEN --- FRENCH AMBULANCES

AMONG ourselves, we used to call it the "Flying Sixty-Fourth," not because our cars had wings, but because we once hoped to be one of those mythical sections that hop around from offensive to offensive. In reality, we did not fly much, but we jumped a lot.

But before we can speak of Section Sixty-Four as such, we must make our start from the Yale Campus. Through the coöperation of some Yale men and the Yale News, sixty Yale men were enlisted in the American Field Service. They gathered in New York during the week of May 21, and, after some fine hospitality and a send-off from the Yale Club of New York, sailed on May 26.

We all enjoyed the voyage, the novelty of our first view of France, and of course, Paris. After a week of uniform-fittings, sight-seeing, and equipping, some of our unit entered the camion branch of the Service, but forty of us left for the ambulance camp at May-en-Multien, where we were drilled à la française. On the evening of June 20 our orders came, and we left the next morning under the leadership of Lloyd Kitchel. The complement of the Section of forty-five men was filled out with four men from Columbia and one from Syracuse University.

As an introduction to the discomforts of life in the ambulance service, our sojourn at Mouy-Bury boded much. Six days of sleeping in straw on the fourth floor in an old mill, with six hundred poilus beneath us; six days of --- well, perhaps they were intended as meals; six days of wading in mud---all these bothers were mitigated only by the fact that we had our cars. Here, too, Lieutenant Jacques Dumont and the French personnel joined us, and on June 26 we started off on our first convoy, headed in the general direction of the Vosges.

 

ON THE MOSELLE

OUR Jeffery cars, left-overs from a French ambulance section, behaved better than we anticipated, and after five days of a beautiful trip, fifteen of our cars --- we felt this a very fair percentage --rolled through the foothills of the Vosges and into Rupt-sur-Moselle, the headquarters of the Automobile Service of the Seventh Army. We celebrated the Fourth here, washed cars often and for no apparent reason, drilled more often, and on July 17 started away to Rougemont-le-Château.

Our arrival in Rougemont promised much, for French anti-aircraft guns were continually putting clouds in the sky in vain attempts to land a Boche. But this town provided only a little more work than Rupt.

Then on July 29 we left for Vesoul, where, on the night of our arrival, we did our first bit of real work by evacuating three hundred blessés from the station to the many hospitals of the city. Vesoul was indeed a city, not a town, and our life there was a permission with all expenses paid. Here it was that we made our home until August 24, patronizing the pâtisseries, the cinéma, and the hotel, holding dinner parties at will and writing distress calls to our Paris banks. Here, too, we accumulated a whole new set of Fiats, put them in good shape, and then sat on the front seats awaiting developments.

The developments developed on August 24 and we rolled off in convoy again, by way of Contrexéville and Neufchâteau, to Bar-le-Duc, where we expected to receive orders to go into action. But again we were disappointed.

 

VERDUN AT LAST

CONDÉ-EN-BARROIS was our next home, where we were at last attached to a division, and for two weeks we carried malades into Bar-le-Duc, watched "Fritz," from our barracks, bomb the city, and asked the Frenchmen when they would leave.

September 12 was a big day in the history of the "Flying Sixty-Fourth," and we were all happy as we dusted along the famous Bar-le-Duc-Verdun road in the direction of Verdun. This was the first time we had ever had a definite objective.

Until the first of October we made up for the time we had lost in the past. We knew shells and shell-holes, we knew dark nights, we knew pursuing avions with active machine guns, and we knew days and days of hard action.

From Verdun we went back for a week's repos and recuperation at Vanault-les-Dames. Then we moved to the Les Éparges sector, where we waited for another Section to relieve us. On October 24 the relief came and we retired to Bar-le-Duc, where a banquet celebrated the last night of the Section, and the boys separated to seek other fields. After it was all over, there was not a man in the Section who regretted these five months in the Ambulance Service, for though our seemingly endless repos was harder than work, we saw some of the beautiful parts of France, and we had done at least a little to help the cause.

RICHARD WILBUR WESTWOOD*

*Of Newton, Massachusetts; Columbia,'19; member of Sections Sixty-Four and Four of the American Field Service; subsequently in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service in France.

Section Sixty-Five

THE STORY TOLD BY

I.
LOUIS G. CALDWELL

II.
RAYMOND W. GAUGER

III.
PAUL A. REDMOND

SUMMARY

SECTION SIXTY-FIVE went from Paris to the training-camp at May-en-Multien in June, 1917. It left there for Courcelles, between Braisne and Fismes, on the Vesle, on July 4, taking over a section of French cars and being attached to the 68th French Division, of the Tenth Army. Its station was Vendresse, about three miles from the Aisne, with halfway stations at Longueval and Cuissy, with Paissy as advanced poste de secours, as well as serving at Œuilly by taking blessés to points farther in the rear. On July 11 the entire Division moved into line, and the Section was cantoned at Villers-en-Prayères. In addition the Section made call trips to Madagascar Hill, an artillery poste, and evacuated from Longueval, Saint-Gilles, Courlandon, Mont Notre Dame, and other hospitals.

Following this it went en repos at Bézu-Saint-Germain, and then for a week at Ronchères. On August 20 it returned to the old sector, with the same cantonment and postes. It was enlisted in the United States Army on September 8 and subsequently became Section Six-Twenty-Two.

Section Sixty-Five

I

AT THE MILL OF MAY-EN-MULTIEN

THE birth of the soul of Section Sixty-Five was not attended by anything heroic; it sprang into being around a huge manure-pile at the old mill near May-en-Multien. On the morning of June 19, 1917 --- and a hot sunny morning it was ---two small units of boys from the Middle West were assembled in the corner of the mill-yard, together with three rickety shovels, an old cart, and a mule. The latter had been captured from the Germans, which fact, according to its French owner, explained why it always did the opposite to what it was told; it did not understand the French language. Before the day was over, however, it had had a very good instruction in English and gradually grew to comprehend certain words excellently.

A week before about one hundred and fifty men had been sent out from Paris to form the first contingent at the newly installed camp at the mill and had been separated into four sections of between thirty and forty members each. There was one section composed entirely of Yale men; another of Princeton men; a third of unattached men, called "miscellaneous"; and fourth, our Illinois-Chicago Section, formed from the union of a unit of eighteen men mostly from the University of Illinois and a unit of twelve men who lived in or near Chicago. As this fourth section labored perspiringly on the manure pile, which they were removing, the other three were out on the near-by roads, drilling under the direction of an excitable French Maréchal des logis. Occasionally one section would march into the mill yard, execute a French manœuvre with questionable ease, and march out again, at the same time casting a sidelong smile at the section en repos. Down near the creek could be faintly heard the stentorian commands of the Yale leader, "A droite, droite! En avant, marche!" From amidst a cloud of dust on the road toward the château to the east came the nasal drone of the acting sergeant of the Princeton Section, "Un, deux, un, deux, un, deux, trois, quatre " --- keeping the tread of his forty men in unison.

The purpose of the camp at the mill was to train the incoming hosts of would-be ambulance drivers to handle cars until such time as ambulances could be supplied for new sections. For this purpose two aged Fords had been supplied, one of which would go and the other of which could be started---occasionally. To keep the men occupied, a daily drill was conducted according to the French manual. Every fourth day each section took its turn en repos.

The French drill gave us but one inspiration, the old section song which, though unprintable in parts, nevertheless found its way into the répertoire of most sections of the Service. For it was at Courcelles, a later cantonment, that several near-poets evolved the parent chorus from which later sprang a litter of verses, sung to the tune of "Drunk Last Night." The chorus ran as follows:

Rassemblement! Garde à vous!
En avant, Marche!
as the Frenchmen do;
Un, deux, trois, quatre,
What the hell do you think of that?
We never used to do like this before."

THE FINAL DRIVING TEST
---OBSTACLE DODGING

GENERAL VIEW OF THE FARM
AT MAY-EN-MULTIEN

On the memorable day of which I speak, the head of the camp, Mr. Fisher, who has been beloved and respected by all who have come under his direction, was absent, and a young graduate from the officers' school at Meaux was temporarily in charge. Anxious to have every one work as hard as the French had made him labor at Meaux, he set our squad en repos at the hardest job he could find. This was to transfer the aforesaid manure-pile, the accumulation of countless ages, from its ancient resting-place in the corner of the mill yard, into the near-by fields. Hercules could not have found his task of cleaning the Augean stables any more stupendous. Throughout the whole day and long after the other sections had ceased drilling, the cart was being filled, led away, unloaded, and brought back to be refilled. Finally, late in the afternoon, a merciful rain put an end to further work, but not until pictures of the Illinois-Chicago unit about the manure-pile, with cart and mule, had been taken and labelled, "Friends of France."

 

LEAVING MAY-EN-MULTIEN FOR THE FRONT

THAT night, at nine-thirty, the reward came. Rumor had had it that it might be a matter of weeks before ambulances for a new section could be supplied. Now, suddenly, however, the order was received from Paris to send in forty-two men, who were to go out immediately on French cars in a new section. So the Illinois- Chicago group was told to pack up and be ready to leave early in the morning, while twelve men were selected from the "miscellaneous" body to fill out the number. Consequently, at eight o'clock the next day we were assembled and marched to the railway station at Crouy-sur-Ourcq, the first section to graduate from the new camp. Most of us felt a tinge of regret at leaving the old mill; for a more lovely spot could scarcely have been found for an ambulance training-school.

That same night we left Paris for Beauvais and were there conducted to a palatial cantonment in a schoolhouse, where, on the following morning, we were introduced to our cars, twenty huge Berliet ambulances, which had been overhauled and put in excellent condition only a few days before. A week was spent in becoming acquainted with Berliet idiosyncrasies and in learning to drive in convoy over the hills in the surrounding country. On June 24, our French Lieutenant and fourrier arrived --- the former a jolly, short, fat individual named Blachot, and the latter a tall, excitable, hot-tempered chap named Floret.

We were now ready to leave for the front. On June 26, Section Sixty-Five became officially a part of the French army, and left Beauvais in convoy for somewhere in the region of Noyon. Twenty ambulances in convoy, at equal distances apart along a poplar-lined country road, is a fine sight, and our first glimpse of ourselves made us feel proud. The ride was one that none of us will ever forget. The coquelicots --- the French poppies --- were in bloom everywhere and spotted the fields with a brilliant crimson, while yellow and blue flowers varied the color scheme, so that in whatever direction one looked, the eye was met by a mass of color. We passed village after village, each with its little church and cluster of white dwellings with red-tiled roofs, then out again on the roads lined with stately trees. Now for the first time most of us began to realize how charming a country is France.

 

NOYON --- THE CHEMIN DES DAMES

IN the afternoon signs of the devastation of war began to appear. First came a line of trenches, with a maze of barbed wire before them, stretching away from either side of the road. Each hamlet we passed through had more of its dwellings in ruins and fewer inhabitants than the last, until finally the once beautiful town of Lassigny presented a picture of almost absolute desolation. Its large church was only a white ruin, little more than a pile of stones, and the only human beings to be seen were a few German prisoners and their guards, working over the débris of once happy homes. Surrounding the town the country was honeycombed with trenches running in every direction, amidst a vast tangle of barbed wire. On one slope across a valley from us the trenches made a web of white lines, diverging and intersecting, the white appearance being due to the white sand and stone which had been dug up in their construction. Shell-holes, abris, remains of log roads and miniature railways were everywhere. The trees, badly damaged or stripped of foliage and branches, stood up like huge skeletons. For a long stretch there were no trees at all, and, needless to say, not a sign of a dwelling. We were passing over the scene of the famous Hindenburg strategic retreat of March, 1917. Yet it was not an ugly sight, for everywhere, over the trenches and amidst the barbed wire, was a crimson mass of coquelicots.

We passed a week in the region of Noyon, at the little hamlets of Passel and Le Mesnil, and on July 2 we went to Courcelles, in a sector of the Chemin des Dames, where we were given a fine cantonment, an entire barrack, which we found highly satisfactory. We were about seven and a half miles from the front line, and were held in reserve until our Division, the 68th, should move into line.

The night of July 5, or rather at 1 A.M. on July 6, we had our first real thrill. We were awakened suddenly by a terrific crash which seemed to have taken place within an inch of our ears. The crash was followed by two more. Immediately the whole valley seemed alive with antiaircraft guns, searchlights and tracer lights. A French "75" bellowed forth within a hundred yards of the cantonment. In the short intermissions of silence we could hear, far above us, the faint purring of an aeroplane. We were in the centre of a German aerial bombing party. Altogether six bombs were dropped, the one that awakened us falling within a hundred yards of our cantonment. The following morning we were requested by French officers to take down the large American flag which flew over our barracks. It had been raised on the Fourth of July. In the opinion of the Frenchmen this flag had drawn the attack.

A couple of days after the air raid just mentioned, six of our cars were loaned to a French section during one of the hottest attacks of the season on the Chemin des Dames. The French section with whom our six cars worked had lost one man killed during the night. For hours our boys had run back and forth over roads strange to them, past woods full of French batteries. They had made one trip to Paissy, an advanced poste de secours, and the rest of the time had taken wounded from a triage at Œuilly to points farther in the rear, which necessitated crossing the bridges over the Aisne and the Aisne Canal on every trip, under regular shell-fire.

When that work was about done, the relief found these men sitting under a little tent at Œuilly, haggard and tired, too nervous to sleep. A few weeks later, when such experiences were an everyday occurrence, they could laugh at their emotions over the original trip to Paissy. All now freely admit that they had been scared. Long afterwards Fred Smith confessed that before going out to replace Swain and his damaged ambulance, he had hurriedly written home a "last letter," saying he did n't know whether he would ever come back alive.

All June, July, and sporadically in August and September, the army of the Crown Prince attempted in vain to push the French off the California Plateau and the Chemin des Dames --- a road coursing along the top of the plateau from east to west for about twenty-five kilometres, constructed by Louis XV to facilitate the visits of one of his daughters to her maid of honor. Attack after attack was delivered, masses of men were hurled lavishly into the attempt, but the French held their ground. Opposite Cerny the front lines were only forty metres apart, and the plateau became a great upheaved stretch of shellholes. Trenches disappeared and men lived and fought in improvised troughs between shell-holes.

Gas and liquid fire played their part in the struggle. The lay of the land was such as to favor the effectiveness of the gas, for by pouring gas-shells into the valleys which cut into the plateau, it would settle there, and traffic along the valley road for artillery trains, infantry, or ambulances --- be rendered very dangerous. Much of the artillery itself was reached by the fumes. It was estimated that the Germans were pouring forty thousand gas-shells a day into the ranks and rear of the French along that one small sector. Such was the sector to which we had come, all of us except our Chef uninitiated into the sights and sounds of war.

 

TAKING OVER THE POSTES

ON July 11 the 68th Division moved into the line and we took over our postes, the two little villages of Vendresse and Cuissy-et-Geny, the first-named being an advance station less than eight hundred metres from the Boche lines, and the latter an artillery poste de secours farther in the rear. Besides we made trips on call to Madagascar Hill, an artillery poste, and evacuated to a triage at Longueval. We maintained three cars at Vendresse, working exclusively between Vendresse and Longueval, and four cars at Longueval, evacuating the transportable wounded to hospitals at Saint-Gilles, Courlandon, Mont Notre Dame, and other towns. Ambulances were sent to the artillery postes only on receiving a call therefrom by telephone. The Section had been divided into two squads of ten cars, each under a Sous-Chef. Squad 1 was headed by Caldwell and Squad 2 by Quirin. The squads took turns of two days on duty and two days en repos, although it was soon apparent that with the normal number of accidents and mishaps, one squad was rarely sufficient to do the work required, and the other had to be called on for cars.

Our cantonment for the first two weeks at Villers-en-Prayères was worse than none. It consisted of a small ruined house of two floors, with one room downstairs and two above. The lower room was, with great difficulty, made to accommodate eleven stretchers. A whole division of rats was cantoned there also. Of the two rooms above, accessible only by a sort of ladder outside, one was fair, with not too many holes in the roof, while the other had approximately only three walls, and not all of either the floor or ceiling. Practically all equipment had to be stored in a little shed in the rear, which also served as a dining-room, and where there was place for only about two thirds of the Section to eat at one time.

Vendresse was a little town about three miles from the edge of the Aisne. The road crossed the Aisne Canal and River and the Oise Canal at Bourg-et-Comin, and passing through this town, coursed up the valley, over a hundred yards of poorly improvised board road past Madagascar Hill, the side of which was thick with French cannon, past the Moulins fork and the woods thick with hidden guns, to the left around a slight rise into a thoroughly exposed half-kilometre of road in plain view of the Germans on the plateau at the east corner of the valley. At this rise was a turn-out and sign-post directing all vehicles to turn there and go no farther. Such signs, however, are not meant for ambulances. In fact ambulances usually go anywhere in France, gendarmes and military zones notwithstanding, so complete is the right-of-way of the red cross.

Our way through Vendresse took us to the west end of the town, where we backed into a court between two stone walls. In the southeast corner of the court was a passageway, thatched and covered with sandbags, which led to a stairway down into the magnificent subterranean vaults which constituted the poste de secours, where were in all, three levels one beneath the other, each level containing spacious chambers and passages cut in the rock. To the north, a long passageway led beneath to a ruined château across the road, where stairs mounted to another outer opening. Northern France is replete with such caves and cellars. The one at our poste is said to have been used as the wine and mushroom cellar of the château. These caves and cellars furnished admirable refuge for the wounded in the Great War. Indeed the whole system of evacuating wounded was adapted to whatever happened to be the scheme of things as the Frenchman found it. There seemed to be no inflexible rule and system of postes and hospitals, and it was better that there was not.

Once inside the cellar at Vendresse, wounded, stretcher-bearers, doctors, and ambulance drivers were perfectly safe. Shells might land directly above the cellar, as they frequently did, creating no more terrifying manifestation than a dull thud and the shaking of a few chips of rock from the ceiling. It was always a relief to know that, having run the gauntlet of shells and gas from Bourg-et-Comin, one here was safe at least for a few minutes.

The story of our experiences at Vendresse, if complete, would fill a chapter in itself, and must necessarily be restricted. On their first trip to the poste, Gemmill and Myers, on Car 2, missed the turn-off into the town and continued on the Troyon road, climbing up the plateau. Suddenly they saw the heads of Frenchmen peering out of a trench ahead and arms in blue wildly gesticulating to them to turn back. It was the reserve line of trenches, the occupants of which were in terror lest the cloud of dust created by the ambulance might draw on them the German fire. Gemmill, who was an excellent driver, did not stop to turn around, but simply backed down the slope and around into Vendresse at full speed. Holton and Atherton, on Number 8, on one of their first trips, had the uncanny experience of seeing a Frenchman, some thirty yards ahead on the road, blown into atoms by an obus.

Cuissy, our artillery poste, was a different affair --- a cave hollowed out in the side of a cliff high on a plateau. There were two routes to it, one the road up over the plateau from Œuilly, the other an old wagon-road across a field, through the valley and up a steep slope --- a constant succession of shell-holes and, on rainy days, almost impassable. Though we made some twenty-five or thirty trips to Cuissy we miraculously escaped without having a single casualty among the men, but we did suffer seriously in regard to the cars. There was scarcely a car among the twenty Berliets but showed traces of its Cuissy trip, the damage being anywhere from the complete demolition of the ambulance to having a horn or a fender ripped off by éclats. Car 10 made a memorable night trip, with Lowes and Hawley Smith as drivers, in which the car was punctured with thirty-seven éclat holes and neither driver was hurt. Car 1, while its drivers, Page and Tallmadge, were standing only a few feet away, received a shell through the top, which, curiously, did not explode, and after going through the seat and tool-box, buried itself several feet in the ground.

 

A STRONG ATTACK

THE climax of our first visit to the Chemin des Dames sector came with the attack of July 30. Artillery fire in the afternoon further demolished the remains of the buildings above the abri and poste and the buildings around the court, as well as the two cars standing there at the time. When relief cars and the little Ford staff car containing the Chef and Sous-Chef arrived, they found every room of the poste packed with wounded. There had been a terrific German attack in the afternoon, in which the Boches threatened to break clear though the French lines. They had broken the first two lines of trenches at several points and advance bombing-parties had reached Troyon, a half-kilometre away. The French had been digging a new line of trenches about two hundred metres behind Vendresse, preparing to fall back. All the afternoon our boys had been in the poste, listening to the directions of the Médecin Chef as to the best way to gain safety in case this occurred. Two regiments of our Division, which had been relieved in the morning, preparing to go en repos, had been rushed back to attempt to hold the advance and to retake the lost ground.

Immediately the work of evacuating the wounded was undertaken. Before long we had to call on every car we had left, making in all thirteen cars serving Vendresse, four serving the halfway station at Longueval, and one reserved for Cuissy calls. As fast as one car was loaded and sent off, another was backed into the courtyard. Finally we reached a point where we had not a single car left, and with wounded still coming in. Then came the discouraging news that Number 2 had rolled off a wheel near Bourg, and had had to transfer its load to another car; that Number 5 had run into Number 19 near the curve at Vendresse, putting Number 5 out of commission with a bent axle; and that Number 11 had smashed its oil-tank on a shell-hole.

Thus crippled we continued to do the work, instructing every driver to lose no time. Providence was with us, however, for no sooner would we ship off the last car and start praying for another to arrive than we would hear the welcome whirr of a Berliet motor speeding up to Vendresse. Toward morning conditions were relieved by the decreasing number of wounded and by the return of car 2. By six o'clock we were able to send back all but three cars, and to arrange for hauling back cars 4 and 11. Car 3 could not be moved and had to be taken by a tractor on the following day.

In the afternoon of August 1, Henry Cooper performed a deed for which he deserves much credit. A wagon full of hand grenades had been wrecked on the Vendresse road and the grenades lay scattered around for a space of thirty or forty feet. Before Cooper arrived there with his ambulance several French infantrymen had been killed and many more wounded in walking over these grenades. Thereupon Cooper sent his driving partner on with the ambulance, while he himself remained behind and spent well over an hour in clearing the road of the danger and in warning Frenchmen who passed.

 

EN REPOS

IT was a tired Section that left Villers-en-Prayères on August 2 for a well-earned rest in the rear; and it was more than a tired-looking line of cars, not a single one of them having escaped some degree of battering. Yet it was a happy crowd, particularly so because we had not had a single casualty, whereas all the other sections in the sector, with less dangerous postes, had suffered at least one casualty --- Field Service Section Sixty-Six to the right having lost two men, the French section to the left, one, and the section which preceded us at our postes having lost three men. The graves of the latter at Longueval had held an ominous significance for all of us.

While we were en repos at Bézu-Saint-Germain, near Château-Thierry, we were given our divisional citation. The citation ceremony was a memorable event. We marched onto a large field presenting a glorious view of the Marne Valley. Here we found our Division, its ranks sadly depleted by the last three weeks of fighting. Many awards of medals were made, and finally came our turn. As the General turned toward us, the Division band played the "Star-Spangled Banner," followed by the Marseillaise. Never had we felt as we did then the stirring beauty of those battle calls of freedom, and never had we realized so strongly the bond of a common cause which linked us to those thousands of on-looking Frenchmen. There were tears in many eyes. Fred Spencer was the standard-bearer. The General of the Division pinned a Croix de Guerre on our flag and then kissed Fred on both cheeks. Fred turned around and grinned!

A week at Ronchères followed. Here we were given nineteen bumpy Fiats for our Berliets, and again attached to a division --- this time the 15 1 151st. In addition, we made the acquaintance of a regiment of Senegalese, whom Hawley Smith endeavored to teach the English language by offering them bribes of cigarettes.

 

THE RETURN TO THE SAME SECTOR

WHEN we returned to the front after our repos the Section was somewhat changed. Lieutenant Blachot had left some time previously to go into the Transport Service. Lieutenant Max Decugis, the tennis champion of France, had succeeded him, but he too left at the end of August, regretted and regretful.

On August 20 we returned to our old sector, the same cantonment and the same postes, with Moulins, Paissy, Pargnan, Jumigny, and work at Œuilly added. The situation had now quieted down so that we were able to do the work previously done by our Section and another. For the most part our second sojourn at the Chemin des Dames offers few unusual incidents. The wounded were less numerous, though more cars were actually on duty. Perhaps the most notable part of the four weeks was the nightly cloud of gas which the Boches poured in as regularly as clockwork. Many times entire trips to the postes had to be made through gas-fumes, and once in a while the gas crossed the Aisne and extended into Villers-en-Prayères, which was now occasionally under fire. The bridge across the Aisne to Œuilly was continually under shell-fire, and a rain of éclats pattered into the village, their force spent.

Another notable part of these weeks was running a gauntlet of air raids on the way to the hospitals. We no longer evacuated to Longueval and frequently had to go clear to Montigny, some forty kilometres away through Fismes and Courlandon. Every night Fismes, Courlandon, and Montigny were subjected to air raids, and our ambulances seemed to follow the planes from one town to another, arriving just in time for fireworks at each place.

 

A LUCKY ESCAPE

ON one day early in our second visit to the Chemin des Dames four of our cars were stationed near a château at Œuilly. The État-Major of the Division was lodged in this château. Suddenly a salvo of shells broke the tranquillity of what had been a very quiet day. The first of these shells which rained on the château lit about thirty feet in front of a row of four of our cars, on the road, awaiting their turn to go to their postes. It smashed the radiators of two of them and riddled them with éclat holes. Of our eight men, some sitting in front of cars, and some lying down inside, two, only, were scratched and the rest escaped unhurt. However, two Frenchmen much farther away were killed and some fifteen more wounded. Barker, sitting on the front seat of car 20, had his figure outlined on the wall of the car with éclat holes: one a half-inch above his head, another taking off the horn by his arm, and a third tearing through the fender and into the car just beneath his feet. The boys say he looked up in mild surprise.

 

PAUL C. BENTLEY KILLED

JUST before the official demise of the old organization, the tragedy occurred which marred the happy record of the Section and must always inject a sad note into memories of an otherwise glorious summer. I refer to the death of Paul C. Bentley,(32) who succumbed on September 16 to wounds received while on duty three days before. At the same time and by the same shell, Carson Ricks, a new member of the Section, suffered wounds which may cost him the use of one arm. Paul's brave fight after his wounds had laid him low was an inspiration and an example of quiet courage.

Gradually the complexion of the Section was changing, and one could not but feel intuitively that the days of old Sixty-Five were about numbered. In fact, at the end of September, the U.S. Army took us over. Eight members enlisted, the rest having made plans to go into other work, and thus ended the existence of Section Sixty-Five.

LOUIS G. CALDWELL*

* Of Oak Park, Illinois; Amherst, '13; North-Western, '16; served in the Field Service as Sous-Chef of Section Sixty-Five until September, 1917; subsequently a Sous-Lieutenant in French Artillery.

THE END OF AN AMBULANCE

II

REMEMBERINGS

AFTER Sixty-Five left May, it went by way of Paris to Beauvais, which had not seen many Americans before, and the élite of the town received us with open arms. We were curiosities in those days. Then there were the "vieilles dames, un peu sourdes," and toothless, who had to be reassured time after time that we really were Americans. "Vous-étes des américains, Messieurs!" --- "Ah" --- "Vous êtes nombreux en France?" "Ah! Tiens! Tiens!" "C'est loin l'Amérique, n'est-ce pas?" "Mais vous-avez tous des belles dents. Comment se fait-il? " They were a dear lot, those old, inquisitive, and kindly ladies at Beauvais.

Across the road from us at Courcelles was a Midi regiment from the 68th Division, to which we were later attached. We gave them cigarettes for songs, and wine for knickknacks and souvenirs. They made canes, hammered brass, and laundered during the spare time of waiting for the day of going up. Section Sixty-Five spent the time watching planes, peeling "spuds," writing reams of letters, and discussing the big issues of the war. The night before we went up with the Division we took a can of pinard out under the apple trees and drew over a group of poilus, who sang their songs of the Midi provinces --- "Montagnard," "Gardez mes amours toujours," "Ah, pays lointain," "L'Arlésienne" --- some gay, some passionate, and others sentimental --- so justifiably sentimental during those occasional hours of reflection and uncertainty. I remember afterwards looking among the regiments of the Division, after their hard losses above Craonne in July --- looking for these fellows from the Midi who sang for us under the trees at Courcelles. I wanted to learn all the words of "L'Arlésienne, la belle divine " but I never saw but one of the lot after they went into line: I carried him to Longueval. He sang a tune much different from the airs of Provence --- a blubber and an unconscious moan. We shall never hear those airs again and find them half so fine, for all they may be sung by finer voices. The background of those days will never be again. And if it should be, we would not be young and sensitive --- it would all seem changed.

At Villers-en-Prayères part of the church was still standing and l'Américain often dropped in off duty to play a bit of "Ziegfeld's Follies" on the wheezy harmonium. Why not? Was not "jazz" a sacred thing to him? An old woman used to pass the cantonment every evening on her way to the church to burn a candle for her son lost in the war. She was feeble and obviously poor --- and candles were high. Thereby hangs a tale of a man of Section Sixty-Five, who, though not outwardly so, was without a doubt the finest Christian gentleman we had. His particular charities were his sympathy and dealings with old ladies. He gave this particular one, as regularly as she came, a bottle of much-coveted and valuable petrol for her altar lamp; she gave him prayers and kindness in return. He may not have believed in the efficacy of the prayers, but he believed in sympathy and kindliness --- and he learned much from the "vieilles dames of our beloved France.

RAYMOND W. GAUGER*

*Of Champaign, Illinois; University of Illinois, '17; joined the Field Service in May, 1917; served with Section Sixty-Five; subsequently a member of the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.

III

SUMMARY OF THE SECTION'S HISTORY
UNDER THE UNITED STATES ARMY

SECTION SIXTY-FIVE came into Paris in September, 1917, with eight old members enlisted in the U.S. Army. Fourteen men from the newly arrived Syracuse Unit were placed in "Sixty-Five," and on the morning of September 22, 1917, with new Ford cars, and Lieutenant Sponagle in command, the Section left for the war zone again. It then took up life en repos, not being attached to any Division, but remaining at Fère-en-Tardenois from September until November, 1917. At about this time the Section was officially renumbered Six-Twenty-Two.

On December 22 we were attached to the 121st Division, .on the Chemin des Dames, and had Œuilly for a cantonment, with postes de secours at Oulches, Paissy, Verneuil, and Vendresse. It left the Aisne sector in April, 1918, with the 121st Division, and convoyed to Poperinghe, Belgium, in the Ypres-Mont Kemmel sector. The work was very hard and dangerous, but the Section finally came out, without any losses, in the last part of May.

Repos for ten days followed at Beauvais. Then the Section was ordered into line near Estrées-Saint-Denis, on the Montdidier-Noyon front. It continued in this Oise sector, near Compiègne, for some time, with its cantonment at Remy. During the attack on Ferme-Porte and Ferme-des-Loges in the first week in August, a big advance was made. Then followed the battle of Lassigny. The headquarters of the Section was at Bayencourt, outside Ressons-sur-Matz. Two men, Raymond Gauger and Leo Smith, were wounded here by éclats. Following the Lassigny battle and the German retreat, steady progress followed toward Saint-Quentin and La Fère. Then the 121st Division was ordered to the Chemin des Dames, and we followed, going into line at Vailly, between Soissons and Braisne, and having a poste at Ostel. It was here that Hugh McNair lost his right leg when he was struck by a large piece of éclat. It was here, too, that we received a section citation.

On October 13, 1918, we crossed the Chemin des Dames, following the German retreat, and had a cantonment at Bruyères, near Laon. We advanced steadily from this time, and the Armistice found us at Auvillers, near Rocroi, on the Belgian frontier. We returned to Samoussy, near Laon, until December 10. Then we started for Germany, the Division marching all the way, via Reims, Châlons, and Nancy, and across the Lorraine frontier at Nomeny to Saargemund. The Division then broke up and we went to Saarburg, and then to Saint-Avold, near Metz. On March 25 the Section was ordered in to Versailles, and the U.S.A. Ambulance Service Base Camp at Ferrières.

PAUL A. REDMOND*

*Of Syracuse, New York. U.S.A. Ambulance Service during the war.

Section Twenty-Nine

THE STORY TOLD BY

I.
JOHN TEMPEST WALKER, JR.

II.
RICHARD O. BATTLES

SUMMARY

SECTION TWENTY-NINE left Paris on June 30, 1917, and going by Châlons and Bar-le-Duc, reached Condé-en-Barrois on July 2. On July 23 it went to Ville-sur-Cousances (Meuse) and served the postes of Esnes, Dombasle, and Bois de Béthelainville. It evacuated to the hospitals of Brocourt and Fleury-sur-Aire. On August 22 it left Ville-sur-Cousances for repos at Menil-la-Horgne. On September 2 it went to Saint-Mihiel, serving postes at Belle-Vallée, Marcaulieu, Village Nègre, Pierrefitte, and Villotte. On October 17 it went en repos at Silmont-en-Barrois, and on October 26 it moved to a cantonment at Belrupt, Chaume Woods, and served at Carrière d'Haudromont, near Verdun. It was at this time that the Service was militarized and the cars of Section Twenty-Nine were taken over by members of old Section Seventy-One to be known thereafter as Section Six-Forty-One of the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.

Section Twenty-Nine

Again, again they come with shell and steel
To storm thee, and to crush thy ramparts down,
And trample over France with iron heel,
Burning and devastating field and town.
Yet, day by day, we see thy grim forts stand.
All hail, Verdun, defender of the land!

WILLIAM C. SANGER, JR.

I

PARIS TO VERDUN

ON the morning of June 30, 1917, Section Twenty-Nine rolled out of the lower gate of 21 rue Raynouard to begin its comparatively short but withal interesting career. We got out of Paris without mishap, although the movements and order of our convoy were not in every particular exactly according to Hoyle, and at noon all reached Meaux, where we stopped for a cold lunch of "monkey-meat" and bread. We arrived at Montmirail shortly before dark and, after another cold meal, set up our beds on the second floor of an abandoned school building. Châlons was our next official stop where we paused for lunch and essence, and then drove on to Bar-le-Duc, where we drew up about 7 P.M., placed our cars outside the automobile parc, and with the customary "monkey meat" and bread for dinner, took our beds into one of the barracks and bunked for the night. Next morning, July 2, we drove to Condé, where we found very comfortable quarters in a wooden barrack, formerly a hospital ward, located on the top of a high hill, above the town, overlooking in all directions miles of beautiful rolling farm lands.

On the morning of July 3, the General of our Division paid us the honor of a visit and reviewed us, and the next night we celebrated the Glorious Fourth in real style. Our cook outdid himself in producing a bountiful repast of many courses which the Colonel of our Service de Santé shared with us as our principal guest. After many songs, toasts, and speeches, the party broke up after the singing of the " Marseillaise" and the "Star-Spangled Banner" and shouting the customary "Vive la France!" "Vive l'Amérique!" July 14, the French national holiday, furnished a good excuse for a similar party, which possibly surpassed, as regards the menu, post-prandial oratory, and patriotic enthusiasm, the one given on the Fourth.

On the morning of July 23, we packed up and left Condé on short notice, and about noon reached. Ville-sur-Cousances, where we relieved Section Two, taking over their cantonment and their postes. Our front poste de secours was at Esnes, with a relay poste at Montzéville. We had a call poste at Dombasle, kept one car always on duty at a poste in the Bois de Béthelainville, and evacuated to Brocourt. On the night of the 23d four cars began the work, and from then on we had plenty to keep us busy, for the sector was not a quiet one.

 

NEWLIN KILLED --- ALLEN WOUNDED

ALL went well until the night of August 3, when a '77 fell only a few feet from the entrance to our abri at Montzéville, a piece of éclat striking Julian Allen in the knee and wounding him painfully, though not seriously, while another piece hit Newlin(33) in the back, hurting him dangerously.

Newlin's and Ball's cars were smashed almost beyond. recognition, and Martin and Hughes narrowly escaped being hurt. Allen and Newlin were rushed to the hospital at Ville-sur-Cousances and from there taken to the hospital at Fleury. The wound of the former, though more serious than we thought at first, proved to be not dangerous. At noon on August 5 he was evacuated to Paris. But Newlin's condition was critical. He was so weak that he could not be operated upon until the evening of the 4th. The operation was apparently successful and he showed signs of such great improvement that the French Commander of the Section, Lieutenant Latruffe, with four of the fellows, called on him on the afternoon of August 5 to present him with his Croix de Guerre and the Division citation. But at midnight we received word from the hospital that poor Jack was dead. It was a great shock to all of us, for he was a wonderfully brave and nervy lad and we had all grown very fond of him.

It was a blow to the Section to lose our Chef, Allen, and one of our men, after such a short time out at the front, and we had to go on as best we could without any authorized leader, though Paxton and Walker, who had been left in charge, succeeded, by dividing the work and the responsibility, in bringing us creditably through a long spell of hard, gruelling work. Later, on September 10, Fletcher, from Section Fourteen, came over to take Allen's place as Chef until the latter returned from the hospital.

 

VERDUN TO SAINT-MIHIEL.

ON August 21 we were relieved by a French ambulance section, and although we had seen enough of Esnes and Montzéville, we were sorry that we could not stay for the big attack which was imminent. We packed up our belongings and that afternoon moved, via Bar-le-Duc, to Menil-la-Horgne where we were en repos until September 2, when we followed our Division to the Saint-Mihiel sector, and made our headquarters at Rupt. After working near Hill 304 and Mort Homme, our new postes, at Belle Vallée, Marcaulieu, Village Nègre, Pierrefitte, and Villotte, seemed very tame.

At Rupt we had at our disposal only the cold, damp semi-cellars and draughty, leaky hay-lofts that the town boasted; so on September 20 we moved to Villotte, six kilometres from Rupt, with the expectation of finding better living quarters. But we had no luck, for we were ushered into a big hay-loft which, had it not been for the numerous and large holes in the roof, would have been very meagrely ventilated and lighted, as it had but two miniature windows. It rained hard the first night, and by morning our hoped-for appartement de luxe resembled a huge shower bath.

During all these long monotonous days and the longer and more monotonous evenings, the chief topic of conversation was the impending arrival of the U.S. recruiting officers and what the future status of the Ambulance Service would be. They finally arrived on September 29, but found rather slim picking in Section Twenty-Nine, for Ball, Alling, Smith, and Walker were the only men who signed up with the U.S. Army for the duration of the war.

Fletcher went to Paris on October 1 for forty-eight hours' permission, and almost as soon as he had stepped out of the train a taxicab knocked him down. He was taken in an ambulance to the hospital at Neuilly, where he was found to be so badly shaken up that he was unable to return to the Section, whereupon we all decided that the easiest and quickest way to get to a hospital was to be appointed Chef of Section Twenty-Nine.

LA TERRE PROMISE

On October 17 the glad tidings reached us that we were to be relieved by a French section, and the next day, shortly after noon, we were on our way, splashing and rattling through mud and rain, to Silmont for a short repos. Our new cantonment was much better than any we had seen for a long time, and we were near enough to Bar-le-Duc to be able to run in there for the day. So things in general began to take on a more rosy aspect.

General Mordac visited Silmont on October 22 in order to inspect the 38th Regiment of our Division --- the 120th. We were reviewed at the same time and were highly praised by the General for our work at Esnes and Montzéville during the month of August.

 

WORK AT VERDUN AGAIN --- SECTION SEVENTY-ONE

ON October 26 we moved to Belrupt, near Verdun, and at once jumped into hard, active work. Our poste was at Haudromont, not far from Hill 344 and the Chaume Woods, and we evacuated to Bévaux, just outside the walls of Verdun. The roads were very rough and muddy, winding up and down steep hills and around sharp corners, thus making driving very difficult and hazardous. The shelling during the day was very light, but at night the Boches kept up an almost incessant fire while the artillery and ravitaillement were being brought up. On account of the heavy traffic on the roads and because of the prevalence of gas, the ambulances were not allowed to run at night; so all our work was done between the hours of 6 A.M. and 5 P. M.

Section Seventy-One arrived on the morning of November 3, to take over our cars, and the next morning ten cars went up to the poste, each taking one of the new men in order to show him the road. When we reached Haudromont, several big shells came in uncomfortably close to us, which was the first time we had seen any such activity in this vicinity; and it was hardly a cordial welcome for Seventy-One. In the midst of it all, the Section Twenty-Nine men piled into two ambulances and drove back to Belrupt, where it took us only a short time to pack up our belongings, so that by ten-thirty the big camion was ready to leave. We pulled into the automobile park at "Bar" about three-thirty and were imprisoned until dinner time, when, only by dint of heavy persuading and a few "non comprends," we got permission to go out to the meal. We spent the night --- that is, what there was of it --- in one of the park barracks, most of us sleeping in true-to-form poilu straw and chicken-wire bunks, and at 3 A.M. turned out to catch our train for Paris, where we arrived shortly after noon, and, except for a big farewell banquet at the café La Pérouse on the evening of November 6, old Section Twenty-Nine had no more entries to make in its diary.

JOHN TEMPEST WALKER, JR.*

* Of Brookline, Massachusetts; Brown, '13; served with Section Twenty. Nine of the Field Service and subsequently in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service with the French Army.

II

SUMMARY OF THE SECTION'S HISTORY
UNDER THE UNITED STATES ARMY

ON November 3 Section Seventy-One arrived at Belrupt late in the afternoon to take over the cars of Section Twenty-Nine. The sector proved anything but quiet. During six weeks there we lost five cars at the abri, and Way Spaulding was severely wounded. Here the Section became officially renumbered Six-Forty-One.

On December 16 we convoyed to Andernay for repos. On December 27 the Section moved to Clermont-en-Argonne, where our Division went into line between Vauquois and the extreme left of the Bois d'Avocourt. Our hardest work in the Argonne came on the 16th of March, 1918, when one of our regiments went over in a grand coup de main, taking about one hundred prisoners and advancing as far as the German light artillery positions.

Later we were ordered to Rarécourt. We continued, however, to work the same postes as before. On May 16 we left the sector, going to Épense for a short repos. It was here that we became detached from the 120th Division, which was to move a long distance. We were not long detached, however, for after one day we were sent to Rambluzin and attached to the 17th Division, which was then in line at Saint-Mihiel. During the latter part of July, after a short repos at Vavincourt, the Division was ordered into the Tenth Army, and we followed in convoy. We were stationed at Vierzy, southwest of Soissons, and worked a poste from Ambrief. The work continued, and we followed up the German retreat. Evacuations were made to Villers-Cotterets --- a four hours' round trip. On August 11 we were moved back to Rétheuil, near Pierrefonds, for a week's repos. On August 19 we left Rétheuil for Cuise-Lamotte, from which place we expected to work postes. But the Boches were retreating so fast that, at two in the morning on August 20, we were routed out from under haystacks, cars, etc., to roll on up the Soissons-Compiègne highway, amid the heavy cannon thundering on every side, to cross the Aisne and pass through Attichy to the "farm" in question, where we waited until 2 P.M., when we proceeded. When we stopped our cars at the ordered point, we found ourselves --- cars, kitchen, and conducteurs --- at a reserve-line poste de secours, which, as a matter of fact, was still being used as Section Two's front poste! The battle was continuing, with the guns firing behind us, and now and then a battalion advancing in deployed order. A Moroccan officer stepped up to us and said, "What in hell are you young fools doing up here in convoy? Don't you know that a half-hour ago this was on the front, and a very unhealthy spot?" The smoke of a Boche barrage had hardly yet cleared away, and the occasional shells that fell in a field close by made us believe him unquestioningly. Prisoners were constantly filing back from the front. This spot was a few kilometers east of the famous village of Moulin-sous-Touvent, where such heavy fighting took place. But despite the warnings we were forced to stay here for two hours until new orders came sending us to a new and healthier destination. Our new destination was Sacy, where we spent one night, moving early the next morning to the outskirts of Vic-sur-Aisne.

About dark on August 21 we moved still farther up, this time to a point on the road about one kilometre from Morsain. We parked in a field, only to be driven out by a French artillery officer, who said he was going to use that position for his battery of "105's." It was the guerre de mouvement with a vengeance. Our Division went into line here, and we immediately received a call for all available cars. We worked here for seventy-two consecutive hours, the postes being Vassens, Bonnemaison, Saint-Liger, and La Croix Blanche. The work continued more or less steadily for two weeks, until Coucy-le-Château was reached, twenty-three kiIometres from Vic. Fearing was wounded painfully, but not seriously, at poste on the 26th. For our work on the 23d and 24th of August we received a sectional citation.

On the 10th of September we again moved up, this time to Vézaponin, and worked from there a relay poste at Vézaponin, and advanced postes at Leuilly and Blanc Pierre. The work was heavy and disagreeable, as it had been for the past two weeks, so it was with great relief and pleasure that we were sent back en repos on September 19. Repos took us clear back to Dammartin.

About the 10th of October we again moved to the front, this time to Acy, en réserve, with only the usual car or so on duty with the G.B.D. After a short time we moved farther up, going to Jouy, on the other side of the Aisne, where we spent ten days, living alongside the road and sleeping in our cars.

On October 24 we moved still farther on, going to Bucy-lès-Cerny, a short distance outside of Laon. From here the Section started working the postes of Verneuil and Maison Blanche. The work here was very active and unpleasant. It was at Verneuil that Way Spaulding received his second wound, a small piece of éclat piercing his hand. Swasey was also wounded these last few days of action, receiving a shell fragment through the calf of his leg. This was the beginning of the end. The Germans were holding on along the Serre River, but on November 4 the retreat started and we again commenced the tiresome following up.

The cars on duty had gone on with the G.B.D. and brancardiers, and no one knew where they were. How we ever moved over roads full of mine craters and with the flimsiest improvised bridges over the streams, no one will ever know. We did n't ourselves, but somehow we got there. We stopped at Marle eight hours after the victorious French infantry had taken it, and on seeing Americans for the first time the inhabitants, four years in German servitude, went wild. They were wretched specimens --- shadows of their former selves.

No one knew exactly where the Germans were. We could hear no guns, and the only news we could obtain was from the French civilians who had run back from their homes when the lines had passed eastward. Here for the first time in long months carelessness was shown as to lights. In two days we moved to Harcigny, near Vervins, not far from Hirson on the Belgian border. This was a move of thirty kilometres, and still there seemed to be no trace of the retreating Germans. Here we camped and lived with fires and lights as if we were a thousand miles from shells and bombing-planes. We started to work our postes from here, but the evacuations were 120 kilometres to the hospital and back, over terrible roads. Rumors of an armistice had floated about, but every one had taken them with the usual grain of salt. However, on the morning of November 11 a lieutenant from the French Staff stuck his head in the door of our shack at six in the morning and officially announced that the Armistice had been signed and hostilities would cease at eleven. There was not a sound except the moving of huddled forms under their blankets.... Finally some one said, "Is this a jam morning, or do we get only bread?" . . . Everything went on as before. Nothing seemed changed. What was it? Were we all too stunned by the news to feel any real emotion, or had we become immune to such things? We stayed in Harcigny until November 13, and then started our long convoy back into France, and on again into the armies of occupation. On the 12th, fifteen of us (the rest were still on duty taking care of their last blessés de la guerre) lined up as a guard of honor to our Divisional General, and watched our three French regiments, the 90th, the 355th, and 68th, march back from the lines --- their work completed forever. It was a moving sight. They filed by, dirty, lousy, with weeks' growth of beard, tired and weary to the point of exhaustion --- but never again to return to the hell of the trenches or the roaring, upturned fields of battle ... the fellows in blue with whom we had worked to the end, comrades every one. Every man's heart was with them, as they filed by, and always will be as long as the memory of that day remains.

RICHARD O. BATTLES*

*Of Boston, Massachusetts; served in Section Seventy-One of the Field Service and in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service during the war.

Section Sixty-Six

THE STORY TOLD BY

I.
STANLEY B. JONES

II.
WILLIAM GORHAM RICE, JR.

III.
PERLEY R. HAMILTON

IV.
WALTER D. CARR

SUMMARY

SECTION SIXTY-SIX began, after a period at May-en-Multien, at Cramaille. It moved on July 4 to Glennes, with Beaurieux as field headquarters, and worked the postes at the Moulin Rouge, Oulches, Flandres, and Village Nègre, and evacuated to Saint-Gilles, and Meurival. Then followed a repos near Château-Thierry, and moves to Nesle and Villomé in that neighborhood. On August 23 it moved north of the Aisne to Cuiry-les-Chaudardes, working postes at Monaco, Aurousseau, and Craonnelle, just under the Chemin des Dames. It was enlisted during September, 1917, in the U.S. Army Ambulance Service and subsequently became Section Six-Twenty-Three.

Section Sixty-Six

There's a strip of the Earth
That's of infinite worth,
Though a craterous, sterile space;
Its border's a trench
And the ground of it's French,
But it's leased by the human race.

JOHN FINLEY

I

THE BEGINNINGS OF SECTION SIXTY-SIX

AT rue Raynouard, a group of Dartmouth College men reported on June 13, 1917, and after remaining seven days were sent to the familiar old mill at May-en-Multien, where they received the addition of several other ambulance drivers and S.S.U. Sixty-Six became a reality. This was one of the Field Service sections, which, because of the shortage of Fords, was assigned to French ambulances. After a brief training at May they were therefore sent to the French automobile parc at Cramaille to get their cars.

The next day we met our Chef William G. Rice, Jr., who had served as a driver in Section One during the earlier days of the war. We also met Lieutenant Fries, our French Lieutenant, and several of the French sous-officiers, who were to be our allied companions during the months that were to follow.

It was at Cramaille that Sections Sixty-Seven and Sixty-Eight, haughty in new Fiats of uniform color and age, passed us while we sat gloomily surveying our mossy and doddering collection of Panhards. The departing Gallic chauffeurs boasted that the cars had not been touched in two years, and it was not long ere we believed them. "Danger" and "Innocent," les bons mécaniciens, looked over the heirlooms and asked for a release, which was refused, fortunately. After a day or two spent in tying the motors together with twine and wire, we clanked off to the aviation field at Sapony like the Anvil Chorus on parade, where we fell upon a fallen aeroplane like Indians, slicing off souvenirs in true American fashion. In the midst of all this, Halladay and Heywood excited the envy of the Section when they clattered off, tin hats and all, to carry Sixty-Six's first blessés.

Finally, after a Fourth-of-July banquet, we received orders to move. We packed up and rolled back north, knowing that at last we were to get into action. All day we skidded in the rain, and at last straggled somehow into the muddy courtyard at Glennes, with its tired poilus, stamping horses, and steaming manure-pile to bid us welcome.

 

GETTING TO WORK

WORK was soon going smoothly, with Beaurieux as field headquarters. We ran to the postes at Moulin Rouge, ruined Oulches, Flandres, and Village Nègre, the latter a bare post on a hill exposed to fire, with the valley at its base pitted with French batteries to draw almost continual shelling from the Boches --- a mauvais coin, fitted with an old and worn-out set of brancardiers.

Our second night in Glennes was signalized by a visit from Boche aviators. Searchlights combed the heavens incessantly, staring vainly for a sight of the invader whose humming motors we heard, punctuated by the metallic tac-tac-tac of the French mitrailleuses. The crashing became louder, and we huddled under the blankets.

For some days, in addition to the poste duty, we worked at the tiresome job of evacuating from the hospital at Beaurieux, standing day and night in line, awaiting the chance to drive a blessé to Saint-Gilles or Meurival and stop at Fismes for bread and butter on the way back.

 

GAILEY AND HAMILTON KILLED

IT was during the last week or so of July that Sixty-Six went through its first ordeal. We all know how it went, and we look back with pride on the part we played during that tense week so full of action and danger and of everything else save regular meals and sleep and comforts. We all know the climax --- the price that Gailey and Hamilton paid, killed at their post of duty; and certainly the honor given them by General Niessel at the military funeral will never be forgotten by any member of Sixty-Six. It was the war brought home to us as close as it ever could be.

At last the welcome repos came, and off we started for Château-Thierry, where we arrived in a most unmilitary manner, tearing up and down streets in search of a cantonment. At length we were installed in a loft, and the next day saw us all washed, both ourselves and our cars, and exploring the town. But after a most pleasant week there, we had to pull up stakes. We travelled all morning, and the afternoon saw us encamped on the bald top of a hill swept by wind and rain and blistered by the curses heaped upon it. Next morning we splashed down to one of our most pleasant places, the farm of Nesles. Ah! those Plums!

True to army custom, just as we were more or less comfortably settled, it was discovered that we were over a line, or under one, or, anyway, where we should not be. So up we packed and tore over to the wallow of Villomé with its knee-deep mud. But we were happily disappointed in Villomé; each one found some redeeming feature there.

It was near Nesle on August 19, 1917, that S.S.U. Sixty-Six lost its old Division and was attached to the 46th Division of Chasseurs of the Tenth Army. We will long remember the inspiring review of the troops on the plateau of Dravegny just before the Division went into the lines. How fortunate the Section was to be connected with such a Division!

On August 23 we packed up and headed back, through heavy dust, to north of the Aisne, where we lived near the village of Cuiry-les-Chaudardes, which boasted only one civilian, a man eighty years old. We immediately plunged into the Aisne, for a bath is doubly sacred in the war zone, and we took up our quarters on the river-bank, living in abris and a mule shed. We worked under a forty-eight-hour system here, at the postes of Monaco, Aurousseau, and Craonnelle --- just under the Chemin des Dames. Brown and Miles had their second car blown to pieces at the last-named poste, thus establishing a record, having driven two out of the three cars we had smashed by shell-fire.

And when, in the early autumn of 1917, the American Field Service was taken over by the United States Army and the old Section was split up, we had been together for three months of work and play, living under conditions which best show up what is inside of every one of us. We had had our high times and our low times together, and had joked over most of them; but the spirit which animated us was, in the main, well expressed by Condell, who, speaking of our purpose in France, remarked: "We did not come for money or for fun; we came as volunteers, to do what good we could."

STANLEY B. JONES*

*Of Brooklyn, New York; Dartmouth, '18; in the Field Service with Section Sixty-Six; later a Second Lieutenant, U.S. Aviation.

 

II

GAILEY AND HAMILTON

JUST one month from that 29th of June when most of the Section came from the "mill" to the automobile park and first looked on their ambulances and their French comrades, James Wilson Gailey and Perley Raymond Hamilton were killed as they were loading their car with wounded at the poste de secours at Village Nègre, a military settlement on an exposed hillside near the shell-ruined village of Vassogne, Aisne.

We had been in this sector of the Chemin des Dames three weeks when the tragedy occurred, working over abominable roads with unreliable cars, and from the 25th of July under heavy fire. That night of the 25th, the worst that our Division had yet encountered, we had our first casualty. While driving along a very dark road through gas, Durbin Rowland was changed in an instant from a driver to a blessé. His injury was so serious that he was not able to return to military service. That night every man in the Section did splendid work at a time when few but they were travelling those shelf-torn roads, so shell-torn that we had to drive along railway tracks and footpaths to get past the craters that completely blocked the regular way in several places. The next five days were both busy and terrible. On the morning of the 29th came the death of Gailey and Hamilton, as they were doing their duty with the care, coolness, and the dependability that had distinguished the conduct of every driver during those hours of trial.

These two boys had just loaded their car and were on the point of getting aboard when the fatal "105" fell a few feet from them and wrecked them and their car. A brancardier was killed too, and two were wounded, as well as the blessés in the car. Hamilton died instantly, Gailey in a few minutes in the care of the priest of the poste whom we all had long admired.

The following day we honored their memory as best we could when we buried their bodies in the military cemetery at Beaurieux, where row after row of French soldiers' graves preceded theirs and row after row have since been added. The ceremony was deeply impressive. Members of the Section bore the two coffins and laid them beside the open grave-trench, covered them with the French and the American flags, and surrounded them with flowers they had picked. In the presence of General Niessel of the Army Corps, General Lancrenon of our Division, Mr. Andrew the head of the Field Service, and many other officers and men, the Chaplain conducted the burial service, while the bang and burst of artillery were blended and contrasted with his words.

General Niessel, commander of the 9th Corps of the French Army, which was at that moment actively engaged in the line, came directly down from the trenches of the Chemin des Dames to honor our dead and the Field Service by his presence and by paying personal tribute to their sacrifice. The guns in the neighboring hills thundered as if in tribute, while the General said in French:

Gentlemen---

For myself and on behalf of the 9th Army Corps and of the armies of France, I offer my grateful remembrance to your brave comrades.

James Wilson Gailey and Perley Raymond Hamilton were students, under no obligation whatever to leave their homes, to join our Army, and to go into danger. But as soon as your United States understood that the enemies of humanity could be subdued and confounded only by strength of arms, without waiting the coming of your American Forces, they offered to my country, as you all did, gentlemen, their youth, their heart, their blood.

In these last hard days of fighting the soldiers of France have seen you, each one, going to your perilous duty, always laughing, lively, gay --- as you would enter a game. After three years of fighting our troops know how to gauge true courage, and they --- all of them --- say that you are, as I know you to be, brave men.

The glorious death of your two friends justifies that compliment and that trust. France cannot repay her debt to them, nor can I, but we can express gratitude and salute their memory in offering these Croix de Guerre to the two brave men who fell on the field of battle far from their cherished homeland:

General Order 243.

The General, commanding the 9th Army Corps, mentions in the order of the day the following soldiers:

Perley Raymond Hamilton, volunteer American driver of Section Sixty-Six.

An excellent driver, devoted and courageous, was killed in the accomplishment of his duty, while loading his car with wounded at the poste de secours of Vassogne on the 29th of July, 1917, at five o'clock in the morning.

James Wilson Gailey, volunteer American driver of Section Sixty-Six.

During the night Of July 25-26, 1917, while evacuating six severely wounded men, found himself blocked in Vassogne by a fallen building and numerous shell-holes. Although the road was being heavily shelled and in spite of the thick gas, he ran to the neighboring poste and brought a reserve car into which he transferred his wounded, then evacuated them to the hospital. He was killed the 29th of July, 1917, by a shell which fell squarely upon his ambulance filled with wounded.

Hamilton and Gailey, in the name of the officers and soldiers of the 9th Army Corps, your brothers in arms, I bid you a heartfelt Adieu!

General Niessel then laid the Croix de Guerre upon the two coffins and pinned it on the persons of three other members of the Section. As we went back to our cars and our postes, where our places had been generously taken for the moment by another section, every man's sorrow was mixed with pride that he was carrying on their work and with joy to have been their companions, though for so short a time, in the Great Undertaking.

WILLIAM GORHAM RICE, JR.*

*Of Albany, New York, Harvard, B.A. 1914; M.A. 1915; served with Section One of the Field Service from July, 1916, to January, 1917, and with Section Sixty-Six from May, 1917; remained as a First Lieutenant, U.S.A. Ambulance Service during the war.

 

III

LAST ENTRIES FROM HAMILTON'S DIARY

July 9

BOMBARDED again last night by aeroplanes and as yet have n't heard the casualty list. Eight of our men go to the lines this morning for wounded. One ambulance man from another section was killed last night by shell hitting his car. Also six of the wounded he was carrying were killed. Eight men left this afternoon instead of morning, and as my car is out of commission, it had to stay here for repairs. I went over on another ambulance to see the various postes and the trip proved very exciting. Shells were bursting everywhere about us, and, except when we were driving, we had orders to stay in the dugouts. We were initiated rather strenuously. The roads up the hills and within the lines were awful. The towns about were masses of ruins and the hills were treeless. Shell-holes everywhere. To-night from the village we saw an attack all along the line.

July 16

LAST night quiet and cloudy. Ride over to Beaurieux uninteresting. Spent the night there. Evening walk to an observation post over the third-line trenches gave us a great view of the fighting between trenches of both armies. Awaited call all night to one of the postes de secours, but we were n't called. Quiet night at the front here.

July 19

SPENT the night at Glennes and the attacks along the front were furious. Word came in this morning to rush all available cars to the front. Attack lasted all morning. We can't go until our engine is put in order. Mechanics are working as fast as possible with it. Enemy stormed our sector and took three trenches. Heavy casualties on both sides. This afternoon the French counter-attacked and took the three lines and the first line of the enemy in addition. Very severe fighting to-night. Large quantities of reinforcements were brought up to-night. It's a French attack, but have not heard results yet. Our ambulances have been working steadily for thirty-six hours, and the men are about all in.

GENERAL NIESSEL SPEAKING
AT THE GRAVE OF HAMILTON AND GAILEY
IN BEAURIEUX, JULY 31, 1917

July 20

LAST night was terrible on our men. We are still running after two days without sleep and the prospect is still slight for any relief. Many of our cars have broken down under the strain and that adds to the work. I have relieved Ralph Stoeltzing. Demorest and I are together. Ralph is all in and sick. We will take poste duty to-night. Plenty of rain and lots of work on awful roads.

July 21

LAST night we were busy as expected and got in at eight-thirty this morning from evacuation work. Ralph is better to-day and will relieve Demorest. I have been on the road all day and shall be busy right on through the night. Much fighting in our sector now. It promises to be one of the great battles of the war. It will undoubtedly be called the battle of the Chemin des Dames. Late to-night we are still on the jump.

July 22

RAN all night and have had only a few moments now and then for a nap. Am extremely tired and worn out. The fighting has been intense. The enemy has gained a footing near us and his best army is massed to do the job. We carried three enemy blessés who were overcome by their own gas attack. They wore the Imperial Guard uniform. Fighting continued all day with successive furious attacks, and all indications point to another night without that much-needed rest.

July 23

AGAIN we ran all night and carried terribly messed-up blessés. They say the fighting here to-day down at the first line and back through our sector is worse than the famous Verdun battle. The Colonial divisions are being brought up to throw against the enemy. I am absolutely all in, but still on duty and at this writing am next car out. Got mixed up in an aerial raid last night and one bomb came close enough to shower me with earth. Hope I may be relieved before morning.

July 24

WORKED all last night and this morning. Big attack at early hours this morning and French gained two miles of territory. Six hundred wounded were carried by our ambulances. Enemy desperately trying to break our lines here. Attacks are growing in intensity every day in this Craonnelle sector. Every night the French have been sending up big guns and regiment after regiment of fresh troops. Casualties are extremely heavy. I have just been relieved and am ready for a good long sleep. The work has been strenuous. Colored troops have just passed on to the first line which surely means a fierce attack.

July 25

HAD a great old rest last night, but feel a little off color to-day. Have been told to rest up for two more days. No aerial raids last night and that helped a lot toward such a sound sleep. Ralph and I slept at telephone post and figured in on night duty there. Ralph was able conveniently to handle all calls. Hot as the dickens to-day. Last night cold and damp. Starting at six-thirty to-night, a tremendous artillery duel is on. Seems to be heavier than I have ever heard before. Many clouds in the sky to-night, so there'll be no aerial raid.

July 26

ONE of the fiercest attacks of the enemy yielded three hundred yards of trenches last night. The officials say it was one of the worst battles of the war. More artillery than at Verdun. The Crown Prince is attacking our sector and is sacrificing thousands upon thousands of men to gain a hill within half a mile of our poste de secours. One of our fellows was wounded last night and many are ill from shock. Gill's car was found in the middle of the road with the motor running, but nothing has been heard of him for twelve hours. His driving companion is in the hospital recovering from shock and can't give any information yet, for his mind is cloudy. Great concern is felt among us for Gill.

July 27

SEVERAL missing men have all been found and the Section is again intact. The fighting to-day is very intense, and we have taken back most of the territory lost yesterday. Last night was a very active one, but not so dangerous as the evening before. To-day I am on poste duty and have been sent to the Moulin Rouge where the artillery is active this afternoon. Later, went to Flandres and stayed there several hours. The enemy shelled our poste continuously, and at night under cover of darkness we left for Beaurieux with wounded. Spent the evening at Beaurieux.

July 28

LAST night we slept at Beaurieux. The moon was clear and the aviators were busy over our heads, last night being the first night since arriving here that I have slept in an abri. The bombardment continues heavily along our front and we have held consistently. To-night I am on duty at the various postes. Many wounded nowadays.

PERLEY R. HAMILTON*

*Of Clinton, Massachusetts; served in Section Sixty-Six of the Field Service from the time of its formation. These extracts are taken from his Personal diary. A few hours after this entry, during the night of the 28th, the writer was killed by a shell while on duty at the advanced poste.

 

IV

SUMMARY OF THE SECTION'S HISTORY
UNDER THE UNITED STATES ARMY

ON September 9, 1917, S.S.U. Sixty-Six lost its Field Service identity, and became Section Six-Twenty-Three of the U.S.A. Ambulance Service. Many men left the Section, but there remained some fifteen to perpetuate its life as it was in the old days when it took up its work on the Chemin des Dames.

The Section was at this time on active service in the Craonne Sector with the 46th Division of Chasseurs. On September 22 it moved to Tannières en repos, and then to Port-à-Binson, where it left its old "Panhards" at the automobile park and entrained for Paris to take over the new Fords. Within the next three weeks the Section was again at work in its old Craonne sector, with its admirable new equipment.

Section Six-Twenty-Three was now working with the 61st French Division, and after spending several weeks at Cuiry-les-Chaudardes it moved to Vailly, where it took over the posts of Aizy, Jouy, Allemant, and Montparnasse. Repos at Rozières, in which the hardships and rigors of winter were felt perhaps more keenly than at any other time of the Section's existence, was followed by the comforts of Soissons which will always be remembered as the best of cantonments. From January 7, 1918, until June 3 the Section evacuated the postes of Crouy and Laffaux, and it was during that period that Lieutenant J. G. B. Campbell was placed in command to take the place of our former Chef and Lieutenant, William G. Rice, Jr. On May 27 the great German offensive was launched and for the next five days the Section was put to a most severe test. It worked its postes until Soissons was evacuated, and continued with its Division during the entire retreat. Each day the Section retreated as the Germans advanced and followed a route through the towns of Breuil, Saint-Bandry, Cœuvres, Longavesne, Pierrefonds, Taillefontaine, and Vez. At this last station active duty was resumed when the Division went into action at Villers-Cotterets. In recognition of the work done during these trying days the Section received its first citation to the Corps d'Armée

From Villers-Cotterets the 61st Division was sent to the Lorraine sector. It was a beautiful trip from Vez to Baccarat, the Section passing through Meaux, Coulommiers, Troyes, Chaumont, Jussey, and Epinal, and finally reaching its destination in late June, 1918.

At Baccarat the work was exceedingly light and the Section found some difficulty in adjusting itself to this tedious aftermath of its hard work. The months of July and August were spent in this quiet sector, with the towns of Saint-Clément, Badonvillers, Lunéville, and Nancy as theatres of the Section's activities.

In September, 1918, the Section began its long trip from Baccarat back to the active front. Rumors of a great Allied offensive in the Champagne had convinced us that the Section would soon see service in that sector. On September 21 it arrived at Cuperly, northeast of Châlons. The morning of the attack was announced by the rumble of the Allied artillery, and from that time the Section was involved in one of the greatest Allied offensives of the war. As the Germans retreated the Section advanced with the 61st French Division through the towns of Suippes, Souain, Somme-Py, Pauvres, Vouziers, Attigny, Amangne, Poix-Terron, and entered Mézières with the French on the night of November 10, 1918. An enthusiastic welcome was accorded us; flags of the Allied nations were everywhere in evidence, and triumphal arches welcomed the French back to a city which during four years had experienced the hardships of German occupation.

On the night of November 10, 1918, the hospital of Mézières was bombarded by the enemy, and here the Section received its second citation for evacuating the wounded from the hospital under fire.

On November 11 the welcome news of the signing of the Armistice was received with great enthusiasm and celebration and the Section learned that it was to proceed with its Division to the bridgehead of Mayence, Germany.

During the third week of November, 1918, the Section moved by stages along the route of Flize, Sedan, Sachy, Florenville, Rulles, and Arlon, passing through the southern corner of Belgium and arriving in the fourth week of November at Wiltz, Luxembourg.

But at this point orders were received that the 61st Division was not to proceed to Germany, but was soon to be demobilized. In March, 1919, we were separated from our French comrades-in-arms and it was not without a keen sense of regret and sadness that we said good-bye to those men with whom we had been associated for so many months during quiet and exceedingly strenuous circumstances. Then came our trip back into France and to the Ambulance Base Camp, where we paused before starting for the States.

WALTER D. CARR*

*Of Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts; Dartmouth; served in Section Sixty-Six of the Field Service from July, 1917; later a Sergeant first-class, and then a Second Lieutenant in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.


Section Sixty-Seven
Table of Contents