THE word Kamerad has come to possess a significance not at all in keeping with its original meaning. On the western front the French and English have probably solved the problem of what to say and do when greeted by this well-known form of Boche salutation. Picture to yourself two trenches filled with soldiers, a barbed wire in front of each and "No Man's Land" stretching out endless between the two. French cannons in the rear are hammering away with remarkable precision, dropping deadly shells into the German lines, and all machine guns on the French front-line parapets manned and ready for business. At the same instant hands go up in the German trenches and soldiers climb out on top with the shout of "Kamerad" on their lips. Their arms are extended over their heads in token of surrender. They have no rifles and no side arms, nothing with which to attack and only the expression of joy upon their faces.
At this moment a battery of machine guns are trained upon them and ready to wipe out the handful of Germans in less than five seconds, but not a shot is fired as they advance. Men in the French trenches go so far as to expose themselves in order to assist the surrendering enemy on their way to the rear as prisoners of war.
Suddenly, at a distance of twenty feet, the hands of the Germans dive into their pockets and each man cracks the cap on two hand grenades, and, at this distance, throws them with deadly accuracy all along the machine-gun positions in the French trench, killing or wounding all the occupants and disabling their guns, thus allowing their own infantry to cross "No Man's Land" without danger.
Does not an episode of this nature afford us some substance for a moment's reflection? Suppose you had been one of the occupants of the French trench and had escaped injury, and the following week you were again detailed for duty in the front-line trench. Also, suppose you were at the trigger of a machine gun when a handful of men climbed out of a German trench yelling "Kamerad." Now what do you think you would do? You bet you would.
On a certain night when one could hardly see six feet away, a French patrol was sent through our wire into "No Man's Land." Headquarters had information to the effect that the German division in the lines opposite our position had been changed, and the patrol was to learn just what division had taken its place. To do this it was necessary to capture a prisoner and search him, for all men carry numerals on their uniforms as well as certain papers, which, even though they be of a personal nature, serve to identify them. I might here point out to what extent such data is of military importance.
French, English and German troops in their three years of war know from direct contact on different sectors of the front just which regiments of any army are "shocking" or attacking troops, and which are what we term "holding troops,"---used merely to defend trenches after they are captured. If a man is identified as belonging to a division of "shock troops," great precaution is taken by the different commands against what may be considered a certainty. Prepare for an attack---that's the rule. If he is merely of a "holding" division, there is not so much to worry about.
This is what happened that night. The patrol was instructed to capture a prisoner if possible and bring him in. just after dark two young French boys were posted in a shell hole in "No Man's Land" in front of the French barbed wire to await events. They felt quite secure of being observed from the enemy parapet, when star shells were sent up. They stayed in this position for quite a while.
At the expiration of a half hour three figures appeared in front of them, all walking cautiously. Suddenly they stopped, talked very low for a few moments, then separated. Two men went one way and the third in exactly the opposite direction, which was toward the position that the boys occupied. This man was instantly covered and could have been shot down had either of the French boys so desired, but he was allowed to proceed, and, at the proper time, was challenged and commanded to halt. The German, knowing full well that rifles were trained upon him, and that he had not the slightest chance to escape, called out clearly:
He was commanded to throw up his hands and advance, which he did. It was impossible to note that slung behind his uplifted hand was a Lueger revolver. On he came until he could discern both figures very clearly, and, at six spaces, fired pointblank at each.
One was wounded so badly that he died soon after, but the other so slightly that he was able to get in one good smash with the butt end of his gun, which laid the Hun low---then dragged him into a French trench.
The prisoner proved to be a German lieutenant, and, under pressure, gave out some valuable information. This goes to show that the code of surrender is violated by German officers, as well as by their men, and, while the two Frenchmen were instructed not to shoot, but to bring in a prisoner, no man is expected to take the least chance with an enemy. No bullets are fired nowadays just to wound an opponent. They are all fired for one purpose only, that is---to kill.
Another incident which impressed me as being a very sad one happened during an attack in the Somme, to a young lieutenant attached to the same division as I. He became noted for his fearlessness and daring. He was found in the very hottest of everything and always at the head of his troops in a charge across "No Man's Land." Not only did he enjoy the confidence of his men, but also the confidence of the government, which, in recognition of his bravery, decorated him with the Croix de Guerre (French War Cross) and the Medaille (Military Medal), two of the highest honors that can be conferred upon a soldier.
One day, after a very brilliant charge, his company captured the Boche front-line trench, and, as he was jumping down into the trench, he saw a German officer lying prostrate, his head and face covered with blood. At this instant a French poilu ran up and was just about to put the finishing touches on the German when the latter began yelling "Kamerad! Kamerad!" The lieutenant waved the poilu aside as the man seemed very badly wounded. He then asked the German if there were any men in a certain dug-out, pointing to one leading off from the front-line trench. The officer replied "No, but there are some in that one," indicating another located down a small communicating trench toward which the lieutenant forthwith started, revolver in hand.
But he had no sooner turned his back when the Boche officer rolled over on his side, whipped out a revolver, and shot him through the back, killing him instantly.
Bravery had brought this French lieutenant the highest honors in the army, and human consideration for a dying man brought about his own death.
Kamerad!---how I loathe that word in its German significance.
In another attack the French Infantry went forward and captured all the front-line Boche trenches on a certain sector. The artillery fire that had been directed against their trenches and the lines behind them rendered it impossible to deliver rations to their men in the front line for over two days before the attack.
This situation, coupled with the terrific strain of the intense artillery fire, had turned them into a pitiful-looking crowd. Finally, two Frenchmen started to bring the German prisoners back to their own lines and at this particular point the German trench was very deep and hard to climb out of . So they foolishly marched them along through their front-line to a place where they could crawl out more easily.
All along in a front-line are boxes filled with hand grenades with which to repel attack quickly. The line of march along the trench was zigzag, making it impossible for the front of the line to be viewed from the rear or vice versa, and, as they turned a corner in their line of march, a couple of the Boches dug into one of these grenade stations and killed nine infantrymen before they themselves could be laid low.
Take another instance, one that occurred during the recent invasion of Italy. The Austrian command instructed their troops to do everything in their power to gain the confidence of the Italians, in the hope of fraternizing with them, and when they had succeeded, the command secretly pulled out the supposedly friendly Austrian troops and put in their places German "shock troops," which fell upon the Italians like a stroke of lightning, and murdered them without mercy.
The same thing occurred in Russia, and, therefore, I hope that my countrymen will never make the same mistake. Never take your eye off the Boches. They are not to be trusted under any circumstances. I know that this is a very difficult attitude to assume, but chances should never be taken with men whose officers misuse Kamerad, and the terms of surrender. When I read that Germans are made prisoners I wonder why.
THE word camouflage has come into common use both here and abroad and I think it might be interesting to devote a little time to a brief discussion of the different uses of camouflage, or low-vision painting, and to tell you how extensively it is used and where it is most effective.
At the front there are many roads that pass over hills to the rear of the lines, over which supplies have to pass on their way forward, roads that are within sight of the enemy observation posts, and would prove easy targets for their guns should they be left clearly exposed to view. Many people believe that just because a road is camouflaged the enemy does not know the road exists.
This notion is erroneous in most cases, for they do know that the road is there behind the camouflage, but the object is to obscure from their view whatever is passing a given point. Otherwise it would be easy for the watchful enemy, with glasses, to see whether men were moving forward, or whether shells were being transported for the artillery. With the use of camouflage they are deprived of this data and the knowledge of just when or where on a road to put a shell so as to have it reap a plentiful harvest. Do not misunderstand me when I say that just because a convoy is passing along a camouflaged road that they are safe. Traffic moves along this avenue of supply with some degree of safety.
In some places the road will have camouflage on just one side. In other places it is necessary, in order to provide the proper protection, to put it up on both sides, and in other instances lines of brush are strung on wires every fifty feet or so to break the continuous stretch of road as it appears to an aviator from above.
The method that is employed is that of placing upright, twelve to fourteen feet high along the sides of a road, something not unlike a regular fence around a farm. Along these are strung wires, on which brush and weeds are hung and fastened at top and bottom so that the wind will not blow them down or to one side.
Under ordinary conditions at the front, this form of camouflage affords effective protection, for without it the enemy could shoot at convoys, etc., with some positive knowledge of just what was passing along the roads. One sees the camouflage roads of both sides on a front, knowing full well that men and supplies move along them, but just where they are at the time a shot is to be fired is problematical, and, with this uncertainty before them, only in time of undue activities on the part of either side is any attention paid to them, and then waste or no waste they are raked from one end to the other with shell fire.
Back of the lines at various distances are the batteries, and it is not always possible to locate them where they can enjoy the shelter or obscurity of clumps of woods, so often they have to be located in fields or in other open places. However, a battery is always located so that when firing the flash is obscured to the enemy, preferably behind some little hillock or rise in the ground, so there is never much chance to locate a battery by other means than observation balloons or aeroplanes.
Camouflage is employed here also and covers are so constructed that they hide entirely the location of the battery, leaving no opportunity for the gun to be seen. If a photograph is taken by an enemy aviator, when developed the battery takes on the appearance of an ordinary clump of brush in the picture, and surrounding it are so many just such clumps of brush that there is nothing showing at any particular place to give any information as to just which is a battery.
If a battery is being searched out and great uncertainty exists here, the enemy do take chances in shooting at the different clumps in the hope of getting a hit on a battery. This is where the anti-aircraft guns play an important part in keeping the observation plane up at altitudes where photographs do not give enough detail to reveal too much information, for, should they be permitted to get down close enough, they might be able to distinguish too readily the camouflage from the real.
Low-vision painting is another form used extensively. It is unusual to see a camion (auto truck) or any form of vehicle on the road that is not painted up so that, at a distance, it blends into its surroundings. Whereas, if it were not painted up, it would stand out clearly and the contrast to surrounding conditions would make it a target for the enemy guns.
The same condition exists on water as well as on land. Hence we see so many boats painted up for low vision. This does not mean that they are always obscure to the submarine, but with the mass broken and with the absence of defined contrast with the sky and water, they do not afford such a target to the enemy observing through a periscope.
In the rear of the lines at the front are little huts, in which are stored cartridges and shells. They are built very small so as not to be conspicuous. In all instances the additional precaution is taken by painting these huts so that it is practically impossible for enemy aviators to distinguish them at ordinary heights. One sees back of the lines in many places, in some instances fifteen or twenty of these huts one after the other like a little row of workmen's dwellings, and one might be struck at first with the thought that they could be seen, but the low-vision painting obviates all of this and they are quite safe.
An interesting experience took place at the front recently when two French artists conceived the idea of having some sport with Fritz. Some old canvas, such as had been used to cover wagons, was located and cut up in strips and joined so that they could be rolled up on a pole. Then, with a bucket of paint and several brushes, they set to work painting a railroad track with the ties, rails, etc., as it would look from above. It was painted with the purpose of attracting attention.
After working for some time, they completed quite a stretch of "railroad." When enough was finished they carried their railroad out on a pole and unrolled it, always running it from one small clump of woods to another, so that it would have the appearance of a battery location. It would be left here long enough to attract the attention of some Boche aviator and when he started back in his machine to report the existence of a railroad at this particular location the Frenchmen would roll up their "railroad" and put it away.
In a little while the shells would start coming in right where the "railroad" was. After a short time, or when they imagined the destruction complete, they would stop, then the Frenchmen would quickly unroll the "railroad" again and soon the Boche aviator would be seen flying over the lines to observe the destruction, but it must have been much to his surprise to see it there in the same place untouched. He would then fly back again and as soon as he turned his tail homeward in would come the "railroad"---shortly more shells. This unusual railroad could be shifted from one location to the other at will, and, whenever the Boche were in the air, it always came in for its share of attention, but, unlike most railroads at the front, this one was never hit.
FOR years we have heard of the efficiency of the Wilhelmstrasse, or Secret Service Police of Germany, and everything we have heard regarding them has proved fairly accurate, sometimes even beyond our wildest expectations. The Spy System of the German Government is a wonderful organization, any way we look at it. Since 1870 it has been in the making. Its agents are everywhere, they speak all languages fluently. This enables them to carry on their systematic work of uncovering every fact, rumor, or suspicion that may be of importance to the German Government.
England and France particularly, and all countries in general, have had convincing demonstrations of the thoroughness of German Secret Service activity for many years. Since the war broke out, they have been doing everything in their power to cope with the situation.
Now that we are at war with Germany, it is well to remember that in this country, as well as in those of our Allies, secret agents of the German Government are constantly seeking information. Therefore, one of the greatest injustices the people of this country can do our Government is to impart any information to anyone except a government representative. Our friends who may be inclined to talk too much should be warned in a friendly way to say nothing. We can never tell who is sitting next to us in a train, car, boat, or any other public conveyance, and the little remark seemingly of no consequence, that passes your unsuspecting lips, may be the nucleus around which the spider may weave his web.
There is no reason in the world why your friends or relatives in the American Expeditionary Forces over seas should not be permitted to write you in detail all those things that form part of their daily experience. Moreover, there is no reason for maintaining such a thing as a censor.
If all mail and information could be delivered into the hands of the ones they are meant for, I am sure there would be no reason for such strict regulations, but there is no assurance that letters will not go astray and information fall into the hands of our enemies. And, besides, there are a lot of people who unconsciously reveal things that are written to them, and in this way information gets out broadcast, which, in many instances, proves most harmful to proposed military operations. Therefore, we have the censor who keeps these matters under control and thereby eliminates a very fruitful source of information from falling into the hands of our enemies.
In France one is particularly attracted by placards on cars, station platforms, and streets, flashing these words, "Teshez Vous," which mean "Close your mouth." In other words, "The enemy is everywhere."
The sooner the people of this country "Teshez- Vous," the sooner they will begin to deprive the people who are seeking information of one of their richest sources. Remember the enemy is everywhere.
It is most surprising to find by what dark and devious paths one may be approached when one's information is valuable enough to be required, and the only sure way to keep from dropping threads of such information is to know nothing, and to discuss nothing with people one does not know---we cannot rely even on friends. We all have fool friends.
Just before leaving Paris, for example, I became acquainted with a man whom I remember very clearly as frequenting a certain café, posing always as a Hollander, but for a great many years past a resident of New York City. He manifested a great interest in American soldiers, and I have heard him ask the boys such questions as "How many Americans do you suppose there are now in France?" "How many boys in your camp?" "Where are you located?" "Are you specializing in any particular branch of fighting?" and a great many other questions along the same lines. As a demonstration of his sincere friendship for the American boys, he would say "Let me pay for this check." "Let's have another one for dear old America."
Suddenly he disappeared. I afterwards learned that he had been quietly camouflaged by the police and that he would not be around again soon manifesting so much interest in what America might be going to do.
It is very clear now to most people what took place in the case of a female German spy, a conspicuous figure in Paris, always seen in the characteristic garb of a South American lady. She was never known to wear a hat, and was seldom seen without the typical mantilla, thrown over her straight, black hair. She bad plenty of money, a Rolls-Royce always at her command, and everything that would allay the slightest suspicion that she might be an agent of the German Government.
Her game was meeting officers and seeking information from them. Working as agents with her were charming chorus girls from one of the most noted theaters in Paris. It was she who obtained the information regarding the extensive building program of English tanks and forwarded it to Germany. From her jaunty appearance, she was the last one to be suspected, but she turned out to be one of France's most dangerous enemies, and paid the price with her life before a firing squad in a French prison during the early part of last October.
When the Germans advanced on Paris in the early stages of the war, located in the department of the Oise some thirty kilometers from that city was the old chateau Bornel Bon Eglise, where was stationed a French garrison to resist the invader at that point. As the German Army advanced, the French garrison retired to this chateau, in preparation for the stand to be made when protected by its walls.
Everything was in readiness for the attack when, at the psychological moment, the gates of this castle were suddenly thrown open and the Boches captured the chateau with very little trouble. Upon investigation it was afterwards found that the gatekeeper, a trusted employee for many years, had been planted here for just such a service should the occasion ever arise when it would be necessary for someone to accomplish just the thing he did.
Such conditions can, without stretching one's imagination very far, be laid at the door of German Secret Service Agents. That is the kind of preparedness the Germans had been fostering for forty years.
In a little village on the eastern front of France this year two soldiers on observation duty in a front-line trench noticed a small white dog roaming about "No Man's Land." They followed his trail with much interest, and the last seen of him he was going under the French barbed wire toward the rear of the lines.
Nothing was thought of the wanderings of this dog until two nights later, when the same two men who happened to be on duty again observed the same dog crossing "No Man's Land" and crawling under the German wire. This aroused their suspicion, and, as they came off watch, the incident was reported to the lieutenant, but he thought nothing of it, as with all armies there are mongrel pets belonging to soldiers. However, a few nights later the same dog was again seen back in the French lines. This caused enough curiosity to bring him under closer observation, as it was quite unusual that a dog should frequent "No Man's Land" with such regularity.
That same night, in the glow of a star shell, our canine friend was seen wending his way toward the German trenches, and so orders were immediately issued to all the front line not to shoot the dog, as the command wished to investigate the haunts of the animal that seemed to choose "No Man's Land" as his favorite playground.
A few nights later our canine friend again appeared, and was seen crawling under the French wire and jumping over the front-line trenches, on his way back toward a little French village behind the lines. A couple of soldiers were detailed to follow him, which they did at a distance not calculated to alarm the dog, who walked along at a business-like gait until the outskirts of the town was reached. Then, with the suddenness of chain lightning, the dog bolted around a demolished wall down a side street and was lost to the view of his observers. It was impossible for his pursuers to give any information as to what had become of him.
It happened that he was again seen that same night, returning under the wires and disappearing behind the German line. These facts called for carefully laid plans by the Division Headquarters to intercept the dog in order to know more about his peculiar movements. After waiting a few nights he was seen coming for the French lines and was allowed to pass unmolested, several men having been secreted along the line that he was now known to travel up to a certain point. On came the dog in his business-like way until, again reaching the outskirts of the city, he broke into a run at top speed, dodged around tumbled-down dwellings, side streets, over walls, and again was lost to view. But on his return he was caught, and tucked away in his collar was a map drawn very small, but showing in detail the positions of some of the French batteries behind the lines at a certain point.
The paper was put back in his collar and the dog allowed to proceed on his way, for if he returned to the German lines minus this paper it would immediately cause suspicion that he had been interfered with and might end his visits before the one sending the information could be caught. Orders were immediately dispatched to the battery mentioned in the communication. to change its position. The next day brought the German shells to the exact location where the paper in the dog's collar had indicated this battery to be, but, of course, no damage was done, as the battery had been moved during the night.
A very careful watch was now kept for this dog, and, a few nights later, he was captured and a very fine thread tied to his collar in the hopes that it might be traced to the place where the information originated. The dog was permitted to proceed as soon as the thread was securely fastened to him, but when he felt the weight of the thread pulling on his collar he turned and retraced his steps. The thread was broken and the dog released in the hope that be would return for the information, but he balked and was soon back in the German lines.
The return of the dog without information must have caused a change of plans, as the dog did not appear again for several days. Finally he appeared, and in readiness for him was a French police dog, which was immediately put on his trail. The police dog, being allowed to go a little too soon, caught up with the German dog at the edge of the village. Here the German dog had always broken into a run, and, of course, the police dog became excited and downed the German dog in his tracks. Before they could be interfered with, the spy dog was very badly mutilated. Thus ended his visits.
Although merely a dumb animal he seemed to possess almost human intelligence, winning the respect of the French army men. It was not their intention that harm should befall him and they were much grieved that he went back to his own a cripple for life.
Carrier pigeons are employed as messengers in the spy service of the German Army. While in Paris I was with a captain of English artillery who became a very close friend. He related to me the following account of how his battery was sent into action on a certain sector which I know will prove of interest.
On a certain day orders were received from his Division Headquarters to take up a position near the village of R-----. The battery responded quickly and occupied the location for two days. It was most noticeable that very few shells came that way. On the morning of the third day quite a little aerial activity was evident, but nothing much was thought of it. The position seemed to be very secure, as it was in quite a heavy clump of woods. But shortly after noon the shells began breaking closer and closer until they got so hot that the position became untenable. Consequently the battery was moved to another clump of woods quite a distance away, where again all was quiet.
Next morning the captain was much surprised to see a peasant with two horses ploughing in the field just back of the new position and also that the Boche aviators were again hovering over the lines. Shortly after noon, as on the day previous, shells began to drop around the new location and in the field behind. It appeared to the Captain that it must be a pretty hot place for a farmer to be ploughing so serenely, therefore, he stepped out of the woods to investigate, but found the farmer had gone. The shells were coming in so close to the battery position that it was again found necessary to move, this time to a very heavily wooded location further on. to the right. After the move was completed all became quiet again.
The following morning the Captain observed the same peasant ploughing again in the field and also that an unusual aerial activity had opened near his new location. It seemed necessary to investigate so he went back to the location first occupied by his battery and found a double furrow ploughed behind the old battery position. Further observation disclosed the same double furrow directly behind the second location, and now the third furrow was being run. Sure enough these furrows were signals to the sky pilots, for shortly afterwards shells began to land around the new location, but the peasant was nowhere to be found. On orders quickly given the battery was at once moved back into the original position.
With the morning came the same peasant with his two horses and plough, but he had run his last furrow on this earth the day before. A blow with an iron wrench ended his activities forever. That afternoon enemy aeroplanes hovered overhead, awaiting the new furrow that was never ploughed.
August 25th, 1917
You no doubt think ill of me not to have answered your letter, but I know you will overlook my seeming neglect after you have read this.
Have you ever experienced a feeling of complete disaster when suddenly everything changed and you saw a decent place to get some sleep, and a good hot meal in the bargain? Well, that is what just happened to us after we left "Hell" behind, but, even now, when anyone drops anything, or yells, I find myself taking to cover. No, I haven't shell shock. I simply cannot fully collect myself.
No doubt by this time you are acquainted with the details of the recent attack at the Bois d'Avicourt, where the French just naturally kicked the stuffings out of the Boches and walked away with such positions as Hill "304," Avicourt, and Mort Homme (Dead Man). But, even if you are, I know you will enjoy some of my experiences during that fight---so here goes.
After leaving Paris we took the train to Chalons and there we got our cars. The whole section is made up of little Fiats, and so you see we got a good start. We were on our way across country passing through Bar le Duc and on up to a little town called Erize La Petite, about fifteen miles from Verdun. The town was misnamed by someone, for I think they meant to call it "La Petite Dump." However unfortunate that may be, we remained there for two weeks, sleeping in an old barn, until one night it rained so hard that we swam to our cars and finished our rest, soaking wet. We were all as disgusted as could be when orders came that we had been assigned to the 25th Division and were to move up to join it the following day for the attack, which was to take place three days later. The following day found us crawling up to the town of Brocourt, where the hospital is located. The Boches shelled this village with high explosives that night. A doctor informed me that they did this systematically every night at the same hour.
Morning came and we were ordered up farther front. From the way the shells were coming down on us I thought we were joining the German Army instead of the French. We halted in the village of Reciecourt. I want to state right here that I was perfectly satisfied with the place we had left, and La Petite Dump seemed to me like "Paradise Lost," for, on our way up to Reciecourt, we stopped four times to wait for the Huns to quit shelling the road ahead of us. Upon our arrival we began hunting for a house to use as a base, but the best we could do was to find one with two shell holes through the roof. We took it just the same.
Fig. 17. Sixty Feet From a German Front-Line Trench
That afternoon Singer, who is our chief, and Paul Hughes, our sous-chief, took two ambulances and drove with one man from each car up to the different posts we were to serve during the attack. Joe Widner, you remember him, is my teammate on our car, and I flipped a coin to see which of us would take the ride. I won the toss.
Ten of us got into one ambulance and ten into another. I went with Singer, and as I got. in I remember Singer threw the latch down on the back of the car and we could not get out, for it could be opened only from the outside.
Now this was my first experience under heavy shell fire, and I did not relish the thought of being sewed up in this ambulance, unable to get out if I wanted to, for I always have been a pretty good sprinter and I felt if it got too hot I might be able to beat a couple of shells down the road; but, with the door locked, what a chance! As we went forward, we passed several large French batteries beside the road, all of them hammering away at Fritz. The farther forward we went the more numerous the guns, all more or less concealed. The front of the car was open and right ahead of us there came a terrific crash. I heard Singer say, "That one sure came close."
"That what?" I yelled back.
"That shell," he replied.
Then I realized what a cute little place we were locked in, and, believe me, I got sick all over. I felt that my feet were shrinking and my shoes were falling off. My thoughts took on some speed. How gladly I would have changed this dirty shell-riddled ambulance for a Broadway subway. I kept my eyes glued on the floor of the car, with no idea of where we were or where we were going until we jolted around a sharp turn in the road and ran into a fallen tree. Naturally, the car stopped, and Singer opened up the exit and said, "This is the first post."
My release from that car gave me a new lease on life, and I began to take notice of the environment, after making sure that I was still intact. There were five or six dugouts here; in front of one were two men seated at a table. In front of them was a little plot of ground containing some newly made graves. Over to the right was a gang of men digging a long ditch about eight feet wide and eight feet deep. I thought it was a trench. Mills Averill, however, suggested it was to bury garbage. So we asked, in our sign language mixed with Franco-American French. One of the men looked up from his writing long enough to say, "Pour l'attack" (For the attack). Good God, Eddie, it was a grave big enough for a regiment, and just to think that it was for men who at that very moment were alive and in perfect health! I cannot tell you my feelings at this gruesome sight.
At this moment a wagon drove up. The diggers laid down their tools and went over to it. I am sure it was a dead man they lifted out, for I saw his feet on the stretcher, but the rest of the poor devil was in a burlap bag. I did not try to see the rest of the human debris that came out of this death cart. The men at the tables wrote some records, and the ditch received the mass. This was anything but a pleasant experience for green men, and only our first post at that.
We climbed into the car and visited each of the other posts, and as we went along the sights that met our eyes were always worse than at the previous place. As we pulled up in front of what we thought was our last post. Singer said there was one more, but we couldn't go up in the car except under cover of darkness. So we started out on our shoe leather, and it was some walk. The mud was knee deep and clingingly affectionate.
Nothing ever seemed quite so good as when we turned our faces toward the rear. That night, in my dreams, there seemed to be all sorts of little mistakes being made, such as planting me in the hole at Post No. 1, with the dead men. Tough stuff to dream about,---you can imagine how much rest I had.
The next day Joe and I went on duty. We had to stay through the entire morning of the attack, for all twenty cars were in use. Our post began in order from Reciecourt. Going out were P4, P2, PJ left, PJ right, P3 and R4. There were four cars at P4 and two at PJ right. If a car came down with wounded from PJ, left post, it would stop at P4, and a car would be dispatched from here to take its place. P2 and PJ right were on the same road, so, when a car came down from PJ, right, a car would go up from P2. The car coming in always continued on to the hospital. P3 and R4 were worked only on calls, and R4 only at night, for in daylight they would have been blown off the road. It was a sort of muddled schedule, but the shell fire was so heavy that no telephone wires could stand for a half hour. So we made the best of a bad situation.
The French were bringing up guns continuously, all sizes from 37's to large-caliber Marine pieces. They would take up firing positions alongside the roads and fire over our heads. When they let loose the ambulance would rock with the concussion.
We had two runs in from P4 during the night, and at three-thirty a. m. the barrage fire began and it was terrible. We could not hear the Boche shells break. It was all one great uninterrupted roar, made by four thousand cannons. Can you imagine such a thing in that small sector? Joe and I went up to PJ right about four a. m. As we turned a corner we found an artillery caisson that had been hit. The horses lay dead in the road. What had become of the men I do not know, and we did not try to find out, for when we saw that we could just barely get by we kept on going.
As we neared a crossroad we found the shells falling so thick we had to pull up and wait for an opportunity to dash by. It soon came. We did not have to listen for the Boche shells for we could see them break very plainly. Ahead of us was another sharp turn leading down into a little valley at the other end of which was the post. Suddenly a car appeared, running towards us like mad. As it approached we recognized Bud Riley and Eddie Doyle. Bud was driving, his eyes bulging out of his head as he leaned over the steering wheel watching the road. He never even glanced at us. His car was full of wounded and Eddie Doyle had to stand on the running board. As we passed he yelled, "God be good to you fellows for you are going into Hell!"
Joe was driving, and on receiving this news he let up on the speed a bit, for, if we were going where Eddie said, Joe thought we had better take our time about it.
He looked at me and I looked at him. I finally ventured to say, "Cheerful, isn't it?" but Joe must have been thinking of Flatbush. Then we turned the corner and we discovered that Doyle was right. The whole gully was a mass of dead horses and wrecked wagons and parts of human bodies. The Germans had put over gas and caught the wagon train in the valley. The horses were harnessed and could not get away. Evidently some of the drivers stayed too long. Paul Hughes, Singer, Armstrong, Halverson, Woodell and Colledge had gone up ahead of us, and were cutting harness and releasing some horses that were yet alive, and driving them up to higher ground out of the gas. They saved a great many by a little head work, and the Government rewarded them all with the Croix de Guerre.
We stopped, as there wasn't room to get by, but soon Hughes came up and told us to go on over the heads of horses that could not be saved, which we did, and were soon at the post. All day we ran to and from the front, with our car full of wounded and dying. For twenty-four hours the twenty cars never had a rest. And, remember, we carried only bad cases. The others walked.
The attack lasted five days, the German prisoners pouring in over all the roads. Frank Carleton was also hit by shell splinters in the leg. He also got the War Cross pinned on his chest. The whole attack was rotten, many suffering from chlorine and tear gas. Singer is in bad shape from it and I guess we all show the strain. But we are lucky with it all, for there was not a car in the whole lot that did not have shell marks on it.
The old Twenty-fifth Division suffered pretty badly, but the struggle was not without success, for Mort Homme, Avicourt and Hill " 304" are in our hands, and I hope they will stay there. Besides, we have plenty of German prisoners.
As this is the way I have been spending my time, you know I did not have much of an opportunity to write letters. I must stop now and get a little sleep. If they shell us here to-night I hope they choke.
Good luck. Ed Harding, Jim Baker, Baldwin, Creigier, Doyle, Riley, Joe, Tom and Armey are all O. K. and join me in sending you their best. Remember me to the bunch with you.
I have just returned here from the front, and learned from your letter that you are in France. You don't know how glad I was to hear from you. My prompt reply will bear me out, for you know I am not much of a hand at writing letters. Let me commence by saying that if they ever want you to come down here, don't you do it, for, if there is one place that the Lord forgot to fix up just enough to be decent it's this Bulgarian front, and, from what I have seen, all the Balkan States are no better.
Once in a while we get some papers which show pictures of the hardships the British Tommies are enduring with artillery, etc., in the Flanders mud. If they have anything on us they must surely be in a bad way, because ninety-nine per cent of our front is mud. The remainder is also mud. They have a roadway here and there at least. We never see what one would call a clearly defined path. It's just one big field of mud.
The Monastir road is the main artery of travel out toward our front, and this has been so cut up by the never-ending traffic and through lack of other parallel roads that it is about as bad as you can imagine it. At the end of the road (this end) conditions are barely tolerable.
The town Salonika itself is located on the sea in a sort of hollow, and around us like sentinels are the hills, which guard every approach to the city proper for miles. Members high on the staff say the city could never be taken from the land side, and from the supplies stored here I am sure they believe this to be a fact. I do not think it will be long before we will come in for our share of attention in the columns of the newspapers, for we have been expecting the development of military activity for some little time past.
The sanitary conditions are much improved here and everything is done to counteract disease. All kinds of improvements have been made, but the poor devils at the front are the ones that come in for their share. Men contract diseases here unknown to medical science, besides those that are known. Nearly everything reeks with malaria. I have taken enough quinine to run a drug store in the States six months, and while I, like many others, pride myself on the good fortune we are having, I am sure, in the days to come, we will see the effects which always follow.
No doubt you are familiar with the Venizelos régime. I see him about quite often. The men that are with him are all bright, smart, up-to-date fellows, and with the Allies hammer and tongs, and they are far more loyal to Greece than the King's party, who follow the instructions of Kaiser Bill.
Write me a long letter, for it helps a great deal in such a place as this, and if you ever get some American newspapers you might send them on when you are through with them. Keep in touch with me, but don't ever think of coming here unless they tie you hand and foot and send you.
Take good care of yourself and hand those wooden-headed Germans some hot ones.
ALL military observation balloons are practically "the eyes of the army." They are generally captive---always out of reach of enemy artillery fire. Of course, they may become the victims of surprise attacks from enemy aviators.
These sausage-shaped craft are very important adjuncts to the fighting forces, and they have regular habits. They go up every morning and come down every night. In this they are aided by the engine of some large auto-truck, which hauls them in or lets them go up, according to orders from the officer in charge. Their efficiency as posts of observation may be readily appreciated. There is nothing going on below for miles upon miles that cannot be distinguished through the use of powerful glasses in the hands of skilled lookout men.
With these fellows on watch very little can transpire that they are not likely to discover in a jiffy. The enemy tries to send a wagon train of ammunition to some point of advantage, when, bingo! some shells explode in their path---then it's a case of jumping and running for their lives. Troop movements are subject to the same kind of attack, in fact, everything is an open book to the trained observers, lolling about in the high altitude breezes, alert, however, to every little thing going on.
It is most interesting to watch the work of the observation balloon, which always anchors close enough to the front to give it the advantage of seeing everything, yet far enough to the rear to protect it from being shot at by the enemy anti-aircraft batteries. It depends upon the contour and character of the ground, and at just what elevation the balloon officials can best observe. The. great bag is held in place by a steel cable, and has direct telephone communication with the artillery field station.
This station is located so that all wires from the observation posts lead into it, as do also the wires from the field batteries along certain parts of the front. When anything transpires that seems of enough consequence to deserve a few shells, the observer phones the location as it appears on his chart, and a corresponding chart at the artillery bureau furnishes correct information to the officers in charge, as though they were looking at the very spot themselves. The range is computed and phoned to the battery that commands the particular location of the objective. The range is soon found and the firing begins.
It is then the duty of the gas-bag observers to inform the bureau the moment a shell explodes, setting forth the information that is necessary for corrections in the event that the shell missed; also whether it exploded before reaching the object or passed beyond. The moment this information is secured corrections in the range are immediately made, phoned to the battery, and the second shell is sent screaming on its way. After which corrections are given until finally the observer comes back with the word "hit." They then have the range and can hammer away at the position until they have completed the necessary destruction.
So accurate has this system become that, with an observation balloon to govern and observe, artillery fire, after the second and third shot, will come uncomfortably close to its objective, if it does not make a direct hit. The accuracy of cannon-fire nowadays is remarkable, and, although batteries may be located in clumps of trees or even hidden by hills, they have reached a perfection almost beyond belief. Thus it may be readily seen that the observation balloon plays an important part in modern warfare. Because of these observation balloons, there has seldom been, if ever, such a thing as concentrations of large bodies of troops for attacking purposes, or unending streams of caissons bringing up shells or supplies without coming under the eye of the observer.
One day on the eastern front an artillery commander in our division started out on a certain tour of inspection. He arrived at a certain position, where a new battery was being located in a clump of woods just off the roadside. In preparation for the new battery some concrete work was being done on foundations.
Pulling up on the road in a clearing, the officer and his aide stepped out of the car, followed by the chauffeur, and entered the woods to review the work. At a distance, so small that it could scarcely be seen, was a German observation balloon. The party had no sooner entered the woods when they were attracted by the explosion of a shell in close proximity. This was soon followed by a second, which landed in the road, and then a third, which struck beside the front end of the auto they had just left and blew it into fragments.
One thing that comes under the eye of a person traveling along the military roads in France is the large number of soup kitchens that lie toppled over along the roadside. The reason for this is that there are always so many of these soup kitchens going to and from the front along roads that can be seen from enemy observation balloons, and they can be shelled with deadly and unerring accuracy.
It is a most rare occurrence for the drivers of these soup kitchens to be injured or wounded, for they can hear the shell coming and dive off of the kitchens into the roadside or run for their lives. Meanwhile the shell will make a direct hit and blow the soup kitchen to pieces.
Observation balloons are a hindrance to operations that the enemy desire to be unobserved; therefore aviators are dispatched against them and instructed to clear them from the skies. Of course, there is no means by which an observation balloon can resist successfully an attack by an aviator, even if equipped with a machine gun, because the aviator will always attack it from above.
The best opportunity to destroy observation balloons always comes on cloudy days, when an aviator can circle around in the clouds until he gets directly over the balloon, and drop, unobserved, upon it. Then, with a machine gun, or an incendiary bomb, he can put it out of existence. When the observers see that they cannot get away from the enemy aviator their only chance is to jump from the basket with a parachute, as the moment the bomb strikes the gas bag and the contents ignite, it becomes an "inferno."
Two interesting incidents took place at Verdun in connection with observers and enemy aeroplanes after their gas bags had been struck and destroyed. In the first instance, the observer jumped from the basket, and was descending toward the earth suspended and swinging at the end of a parachute, like the pendulum of a clock.
The enemy aviator, for additional exercise and excitement, circled around and descended along with the parachute, shooting at the observer as he swung through the air, with his machine gun, until he got his man. But in so doing he descended closer to the ground than he had contemplated doing, and a well-directed shot from an anti-aircraft battery brought both himself and his plane tumbling to the earth.
The second instance was where a Boche aviator had dropped out of the clouds and an observer, seeing there was no chance to get away from him, quickly jumped from the basket of his balloon with a parachute. The bag was struck shortly after and burst into flames.
It must have been the intention of the Boche to have some machine-gun exercise with this observer, for he circled around and tried to get into a position to fire. Before he could accomplish this the observer, swinging through the air, drew an automatic revolver, and with a well-directed shot hit the aviator and killed him.
Observation balloon work is considered a very dangerous branch of the service, inasmuch as observers do not have an opportunity to protect themselves from enemy aviators and must rely chiefly on anti-aircraft batteries for protection.