I was free to do almost as I pleased, as I was not under the platoon commander as pertaining to formation. After seeing that all the stretchers were along, McDermott and I decided to look for a few souvenirs as we journeyed along. We took the "souvenir craze" and began to look into every nook and pack for some valuable souvenir. We even got in front of our formation once.
We found a silent occupant of a shell hole, who had been unable to continue his journey towards the Fatherland. His pack lay untouched by his side. While Mack tried to take a couple of rings off his fingers, I looked through his pack, and was rewarded to find a nice little automatic and holster. Nothing else of interest was In the pack. We got quite aways to the right of our company, and even ventured to enter a small village. As far as we could see, the place was deserted, and pretty badly demolished. A barb wire barricade had been put across the road passing through the place. I was just a little afraid to "poke" around much, so soon left the village and got in line behind the company.
In crossing a newly dug trench, I picked up a ribbon to an Iron Cross. Someone had evidently already gotten the Cross, and left the ribbon.
Several of our planes come over but soon went back and left us to our own resources. On the other hand, the German planes seemed to be constantly on the job, and very much to our discomfort. There was a large turnip patch at the edge of another small village, which offered a meager meal to several of us. A concrete bridge had been blown up, one that spanned a small stream, and our Engineers were repairing it so our Artillery could get across. One battery was then setting up near us and soon began firing away over the hill in front of us. As if in reply, some shells fell uncomfortably close, before we passed on. We moved on and about mid-after noon, we dug in on the side of a hill, about three quarters of a mile from Nouart. Just before we dug in, we found an abandoned German kitchen, which contained some warm coffee (?) and a few other articles of food. I helped myself to some of both.
Some distance in front of us, could be seen the front wave crossing an open field. I saw several of the fellows fall in the face of what was evidently machine gun fire. Several shells also fell right among them, but they never faltered, but kept on. The fellows were all firing from the hip as they advanced.
While we were preparing our positions on the side of the hill, enemy planes continually harassed us, flying very low, and turning their machine guns on us. We returned their fire with rifles and machine guns. We knew what the result would be, and in a few minutes, a battery began to drop shells right among us. Shells rained thick and fast for several minutes, wounding a number of the battalion. A one pounder was pulled to the top of the hill and trained on the battery, which was in plain sight, and after a few direct shots, we were not bothered any more from this particular battery. The one pounder is a 37 mm gun mounted on small wheels and drawn by hand. Before the shelling commenced, the fellows were all scattered all around gathering grass for bedding. One fellow, coming in with an armful of grass, upon being hit, threw up his hands and cried: "My God, Iím hit", and fell. After the shelling ceased, I made several trips back to the dressing station at Nouart with wounded.
One fellow I helped carry back kept begging us to carry him easier. We were handling him as easy as we could. He did not seem to be able to stand any pain at all. He was quite the opposite of a fellow on the Champaign front, who had told us not to mind his pain, but to go on.
Our artillery was coming up as we came back from the dressing station the last time. An officer asked me how far it was to the front line. I told him that he didnít like much of being right in it, as he soon found out. The battery immediately began to set up for business. One of their guns was put out of use by a direct hit. It sounded good to hear that particular report of those 75's right behind us. Nothing seemed to raise our morale more than the sound of a battery of 75's behind us.
It was dark when I reached the company to turn in for the night. Rain had set in, and I had no hole for a place to bunk. A little food was brought to us about midnight. My bunkie and I covered up the best we could with our shelter half, and did not get very wet during the night. However, the next morning, our blankets were soaked. The rations we received from the kitchens during the night was the third meal we had had from them since the night of October 31st.
Before dawn on the morning of Nov. 4th, we rolled our wet packs, and in a cold rain, we continued our march towards Berlin, or somewhere else, still in support of the 9th Infantry, which we learned had quietly passed through the German's weak lines, early in the night, and was quite a ways in the enemy's rear at daylight. This was a very bold maneuver, but resulted in the capture of hundreds of prisoners. Many are the thrilling stories told of that bold move of the 9th Infantry. One was that while some of our troops were resting along side the road, a bunch of Germans came along and fell out on the other side.
The roads we traveled over were so muddy as to be almost impassable. All along the side of the roads the Germans had thrown away all manner of equipment, such as clothes, rifles, machine guns, ammunition, packs, and even a barrel of real German sauerkraut. We did stop to wonder if it had been poisoned, but everybody grabbed a hand full and ate it as we waded on through the mud. One fellow offered to buy some of mine, but divided some with him freely. While we were stopped at noon, a few shells dropped close by, wounding a few.
We entered a rather dense forest, which was being shelled pretty heavily. A number of wounded were being brought back along the road we traveled. The story was told that four stretcher bearers and their patient were killed by a shell. We turned off from the road and dug in about a hundred yards from the road. Just as we turned off from the highway, l saw a dead horse that had had some meat cut off from its hind quarter. Suppose it must have been used by the Germans for food.
We lost no time in getting down in the earth, though it was rather hard digging in the woods, on account of the tree roots. I bought a pair of German field glasses from a fellow in the 9th Infantry for fifty francs, and added them to my already fast increasing supply of souvenirs.
Cpl. Fritz, a young fellow who had come over in June, 1917, and had recently been transferred from our platoon to another company in the battalion, was wounded and died the next day in the Field Hospital. Several German planes circled just above the tree tops for several hours, and kept a steady fire of machine guns at us, and dropped a good many bombs around close. We only got relief from this harassing fire when darkness came.
About nine o'clock, we moved along a narrow gauge railroad track, and then over a yet muddier road to a new position. This time we settled down near a farm house on the edge of this forest, connecting the 9th Infantry and the 89th Division, there being a gap between these two units. The Battalion Commander made his headquarters in the farm house or barn, and the next morning found a German machine gunner and his machine as a fellow occupant. My bed for the remainder of the night was my stretcher. The cold from the wet ground came up through the stretcher and chilled me through and through.
At daylight the next morning, all of us moved back into the woods, and proceeded to dig in, for protection from both the weather and shells. We dug a place long enough for our bodies, and about two feet deep, then covered the top, all but a hole big enough to crawl in. We piled dirt on top. In time we had a fairly good place to sleep, as well as protection from shells other than a direct hit. The day passed quietly, were not shelled any. At night we received "chow", which was served a short ways from our bunking place. As it was pitch dark, we had a lot of trouble finding where we were to eat. Someone had swiped my mess pan, so I had to do likewise to another before I ate. It was some job to get back to our right places in the darkness.
Outside of falling through an officer's den and several other "holes", I managed to get back to my underground palace within the course of a half hour of so. We aided each other, when one of us would reach the right place, by calling out to those who were located near by, and in that way we expedited matters to some extent. I was very thankful that I was not eligible for any watches. I lay in my hole and listened to the rain, feeling so thankful that I did not have to stand out in it.