Tales of the Battlefield

THE 77th Division


Tales of the Battlefields



THE 152D FIELD ARTILLERY BRIGADE was the first National Army Artillery Brigade to go into action. The first shot was fired in the Lorraine sector, the afternoon of July 12, 1918, by Battery A, 305th Field Artillery, with a French 75 millimeter piece. Lieutenant-Colonel Henry L. Stimson, former Secretary of War, was in command of the First Battalion, and Captain Anderson Dana in charge of the firing battery. A reconnaissance was made by Lieutenant Camp and Lieutenant Thomas N. Brassel, of Battery A, with Lieutenant Riveau of the French Artillery. Corporal Andrew Ancelewitz laid the piece; Sergeant Fred Wallace repeated the Com-manding Officer's order to fire, and Private George Elsnick pulled the lanyard, sending the first National Army shell whistling across the Boche trenches. The piece was in position close to the standing wheat at the edge of La Haie Barre Woods, a mile and a half from the village of Neuf Maisons.


COMPANY " K," 306th Infantry, claims the honor of having taken, on August 17th, the first prisoner for the 77th Division, in an account of the fight on the Vesle by one of the unit's officers.
"About 10 o'clock one night," the officer says, we heard alot of firingtotheleftofourposition near Bazoches and up went a rocket signaling for a barrage. A Boche patrol had attacked our flank and several of them had crept down a spur and got in behind our platoon. Both sides began to throw hand grenades and there was considerable rifle fire.
"When the skirmish was over a Boche was found lying in a shell hole nearby. He was disarmed at the point of the bayonet and found to be wounded. It was the division's first prisoner."

RAP!-RAP!-RAP!" Major Holland Duell, of the 2d Battalion, 306th F. A., knocked impatiently with his riding-crop on the tarpaulin of the last of a line of stalled fourgon- wagons. He was hauling one six-inch howitzer of his battalion well forward, on a sniping expedition. The gun must be in position one kilometer behind the front line before the betraying daylight, and he little liked being held up like this. The road forward from La Harazee, in the Argonne, was dark, full of holes, shelled and much-used. The ungainly big gun, its eight horses tugging and straining, floundered and clanked along, unwilling to go so far forward.
Again the resounding thwacks of the Major's riding-crop smote the night's stillness. The wagon's curtain trembled uncertainty, then parted, revealing a woolly black head beneath a helmet askew, and a pair of glittering, terrified eye-whites, set in a countenance of jet.
"Kamerad! Kamerad!" shouted the affrighted apparition. "Ali surrenders, Boss, toot-sweet! "
The darky wagoner thought he had crossed into the German lines, and that his surrender was being demanded.

UTENANT JOHN SWEENEY, Company H, 306th Infantry, was in command of two platoons acting as a covering party for the attack on Bazoches, August 27, 1918. The day following the attack, he received orders to change his position, which was exposed on the rear and right flank. He had just completed preparations for the operation when the Boche laid down. a heavy barrage, forcing him and his men to hug the railroad embankment, against which they had dug-in. When the shelling ceased the party moved by the left flank, taking the wounded with them. They looked around in time to see their former position well-illuminated by the light of a semicircle of liquid fire, and flashes of machine guns, against which was silhouetted the black figures of scores of enemy vainly searching for the former occupants. They could not keep from smiling at the thought of the Germans' surprise in finding only empty shelters. Lieutenant Sweeney later was killed-a few hours before the notification of his promotion to captaincy arrived.


HE bore an important message. He crawled and snaked his way through the dark, damp and tangled Argonne. Four pairs of messengers had started out together from 2d Battalion Headquarters, 307th Infantry, with orders for four companies to attack in the morning.
Private Joseph Passafiume, runner, knew the contents of the order. He might have to destroy it quickly. Snipers had filtered through our lines everywhere, and he stood in imminent danger of being surprised and made prisoner. The lines cut in and out with the lay of the land, like the teeth of a saw. Now and then a branch snapped, and from out of the darkness a machine-gun sputtered at him. His company had moved last night in the attack on the Depot des Machines, as had all the companies. He wasn't sure he could find it, but he "carried on" with the messenger's instinct and sense of direction until he reached the Company P. C.
"Orders is orders," said Passafiume to himself. Clearly his work was done. He, thought of the "plus." He remembered that all runners previously sent out had reported that, owing to the absolute blackness of the night, they had been unable to find their companies. Runners incoming could not find their way back. So Passafiume, after finding his company, explored his way through the forest, around enemy machine-gun nests, across streams and morasses to each of the other companies of his battalion, and gave them the message. It was as he had feared, the others had failed. The attack was made as planned, due to the sagacity of one man-the runner.


0UTSIDE the town of La Besace, nose in the ground, lies the wreckage of a Boche flying machine. Its canvas is scorched and ripped to ribbons, and its framework is torn and twisted, the story of a battle lost.
One hundred allied planes were traveling toward the German lines, one afternoon in November, at a height of about two thousand meters, heavy bombers, preceded, flanked and followed by a protection of light pursuit machines. Still higher up, so high that they appeared as tiny black specks against the sky's arch, five Boche were circling like vultures-observation planes, not daring to dive down within reach of the "antis."
One of the allied rear guards, an American by his marking, dropped behind-something went wrong temporarily, and the convoy rapidly increased the space between it and the laggard. One dare-devil Boche, from the eiry heights, spiraled and spiraled until he was swooping over the wings of his enemy, who had not seen him as yet, and could not bear him because of the buzz of his own motor.
The Boche, nose down, rained machine-gun bullets into the American, who speeded up his engine, raced away for half a kilometer, curved swiftly about like a swallow on the turn, on the tips of his wings, his machine almost vertical, and met his adversary head-on before the latter had recovered entirely from his dip. The remaining four Boche kept well above the shrapnel bursting below them, making no efforts to comedown. "Archies" and machine guns on the ground ceased clattering, for the machines were too close together now, and it was their battle alone.
The moment of passing was the critical one, for two planes racing toward one another at a mile a minute are two mile s apart at the end of the next. "Rat-tat-tat!" Both guns barked, both machines rocked, and a collision seemed inevitable. Suddenly the Boche motor groaned, then ceased bumming; the enemy careened wildly, and went into flames, tank hit. The Boche slithered and flapped toward earth. The American tipped his nose into a cloud and disap-peared. Soldiers pressing along the crowded road toward the retreating German army, who had been spectators of this dramatic incident, found pilot and gunner dead. Whether they had met their fate in air, or in the final crash, no-one knew.


BATTERY of 75's was in an open field near Chery-Chartreuve, and in the afternoon the Boche threw half a dozen heavy caliber shells into the position. An officer went to the first piece to lay the guns for parallel fire, and almost immediately the Boche started fire by rapid volleys. One of the first shells landed alongside the first piece, almost touching the right wheel. Three cannoneers toppled on top of one another into the gunpit, instantly killed. The others at the gun, the lieutenant and two corporals, were seriously wounded. The explosion lifted the gun bodily out of the pit and turned it around fully thirty degrees. But the gun, although much closer to the shell than the killed and wounded, was not even scratched except for a tiny hole through the leather sight-case.


THIS tribute to the 302d Engineers is taken from a soldier's diary written at the time. No reference is made to the continual shelling of the spot by the enemy artillery that began an hour later and continued throughout the next two days. The bridge was put up and kept in repair in the face of this fire, permitting long columns of artillery to cross the Vesle.
"When I crossed the Vesle the morning after the Boche had pulled out I saw several platoons of our engineers toiling as I have never seen men toil before. Along the roadside reliefs of exhausted men lay sound asleep in the bright sunlight. Three or four squads were making a road through the marshy lowland to the uncompleted bridge being constructed. Other sweating men struggled with big wooden girders and putting them in place. A small gang were pulling apart a truck that had been destroyed by a shell and left where it was. On either side of the river were the dead, German and. American."


Verpel, where Division Headquarters had halted momentarily in its rush to keep up with-its advancing troops, in an old, half-destroyed stable, the temporary prisoners of war cage, were huddled a dozen Boche prisoners waiting their turn to be questioned like culprits awaiting trial.
Most of them were asleep in a sodden, muddy heap. To them the war was over and nothing more mattered. A few stared about them, dazed at the strangeness of the situation. Two unter--offiziers, obviously the superiors, lounged about.
One youngster, the last brought in, stood stiffened at attention. He said not a word and appeared as if frozen with eyes wide open. He had not the gaunt expression nor the seasoned appearance of his companions. His clumsy boots and big, loose coat seemed not to suit one so young. His German trench cap gave him the appearance of a baker's apprentice.
Shortly his turn came. His response to the preliminary routine questions was in gulped monosyllables. Beyond these he became silent and although his lips moved they gave forth no sound. The officer, questioning with great patience, tried to draw out by friendliness anything the man may have known. Finally the youngster asked, "When are you going to kill me?"
His officer had told him that when the Americans captured less than ten prisoners they killed them after they learned what was wanted. The boy was captured alone.

IT was on a road near the front lines where our transport was held up waiting for the column to move on that a big limousine attempted to pass, making a detour to an adjoining field," says an infantry sergeant-major. "There the automobile sunk deep in the mud.
"An officer hopped out and called for a detail from the waiting transport. No one paid much attention to the officer remaining in the car, but knee-deep in the mud the men tugged, strained and pushed, while the big automobile seemed to sink deeper and deeper into the muck. The rear wheels spun around, but the car did not move an inch.
"Then out jumped the man in the car. 'Come on, boys, let her go,' he cried, and taking bold of the rear fender pulled along just like any other man in the detail, and incidentally got just as muddy. The wheels began to take hold. Lurching like a clumsy turtle, the big car reached terra-firma and with a 'Thank you, sergeant,' Major-General Robert Alexander jumped into his car and was off."


T was the first day after the Boche had relinquished his grip on the Vesle. He had retired,
but not beyond view of our observers. Along the Vesle river, pushed well forward in an almost
cloudless sky, were our balloons. Off beyond the Aisne, almost dots in a clear sky, could be discerned the German Drachens, safely to the rear and up only at intervals through the day.
All morning our planes had patrolled the sky, swooping eastward and westward like swallows. High above, squadrons of enemy reconnaissance planes buzzed around inquisitively, in triangle battle formation. Below, the creatures of earth labored northward, concerned not with what was above them, but what was ahead.
About two o'clock in the afternoon, a long, streamer-like cloud lazily shifted across the horizon. Suddenly from out of it three small scout aeroplanes were seen to dash in different directions. Outward and downward they swooped like darts, each diving toward a balloon. Simultaneously began the rattle of machine-gun fire. About the planes appeared the answering bursts of our anti-aircraft artillery. It was over in a second. Although separated by a mile's distance, two of the big gas-bags burst into flames and slowly dropped to earth. The third balloon, either too quick or the aeroplane too slow, was hauled down to safety, and its pursuer was forced to beat a quick retreat. The culprit planes turned tail and fled northward, our scout planes in close pursuit.
All the observers jumped, and their parachutes floated down to within our own lines.


CAPTAIN M. G. B. WHELPLEY, of the 305tb F. A., was sent on the night of August 21 to Captain C. F. Harrington, or the 308th Infantry, to confer on an artillery plan. When he arrived there the enemy was placing an annihilating barrage on the position, and fifteen minutes later an attack followed. Captain Whelpley took three riflemen to protect the infantry captain's left flank. Two Germans whom they encountered were sent back prisoners in charge of one of the men, and a third was wounded. Later, Captain Whelpley ventured out again with seven men, and was attacked by an enemy patrol of thirty men. Holding their fire until the Germans came close, the Americans killed seven and drove off the remainder. Later, two more men, one apparently an officer, came running from the east, over the same ground covered by the patrol. Captain Whelpley held fire as before, until they approached very close, when, in his own words, "We opened fire and killed them both."


WHETHER going in any one of the four directions about that region in the Argonne Forest where the two great forces had struggled for four years, the traveler is bound to see a sign, "This way to Binarville." Some credulous officers and men of the 77th Division believed these signs, even believed their maps, which showed in outline a town of prominence for that country.
One day an orderly riding through the country and being of an inquisitive turn of mind. decided to find this town. He rode down the main road until he reached a point that he was sure he was beyond. Turning back, he slowly retraced his route homeward. Like most inquisitive orderlies he was persistent, and still looked at either side of the road. Shortly he espied a dugout, a counter-part of many dugouts thereabouts. Here and there were scattered and broken rocks and a few moss-covered timbers in no semblance of design or place. He approached and saw a scrawled sign nailed to the entrance of the dugout.
This is Binarville, " it read.


IT is a misnomer to speak of one organization in the Division as the trench mortar battery, for the men in this unit never fired a shot from their awe-inspiring Newton-Stokes.
Instead this unit spent most of its time in collecting German shells of weird and ter-rifying markings and sending them back to the Boche. It was in the " Advance on Sedan " that this particular branch of the artillery distinguished themselves. In the early stages of the operation the trench mortar men found four 105 howitzers, and with the ease of veterans soon had them tossing shells up and down the valley in front of Champigneulle.
When the German lines wavered these monster guns were timbered to trucks and taken forward. This operation was repeated several times before the Meuse River was reached.


BEHIND the man behind the gun is the man who backs him up; the man who by night and sometimes by day brings up the fuel for the man and fuel for the gun, ammunition and supplies. Be the transport horsed or motorized, it carries with. it the responsibility to get through. To get through involves in the forward areas long hours of eye-straining vigilance, of peering ahead in the darkness, of maneuvering wagons or, still worse, great Packard or Quad trucks through roads that would normally be considered impassable; and the harassing of enemy artillery. Often great skill is required to so maneuver a truck under fire to save it from being hit. A driver must know the traits of artillery fire and must quickly hedge about or speed up as his judgment deems best.
There is no exhaustion so complete as that of long hours spent along strange or blackened roads, many times under the strain of twenty-four or more hours of continuous travel, here stuck in a shell hole, there being followed by a plane that suddenly swoops down to machine gun or bomb the helpless convoy. They are combatants who cannot retaliate. They are soldiers who work, not in the beat or battle, but alone and unenthused. Their reward is not the victory, but the satisfaction of work well done.
Below are a few examples of the spirit and determination of these men. Big lumbering trucks, easily discerned targets, are many times called to go where even spider-like side-cars would be subject to fire. Wagons and carts must continually ply this area.
On August 16th a Packard truck belonging to Company D, 302d Ammunition Train, operated by Wagoner Every, left the dump loaded with infantry ammunition. Their destination was the infantry reserve line at Mont St. Martin. About a kilometer from their destination enemy planes appeared. Flares and machine-gun bullets were the visitor's contribution to the truck, after which the enemy artillery laid down a raking fire on the road. Upon arriving at Mont St. Martin, Wagoner Every found that of his crew of four, Private Stanyzewski had been killed and Private Clark severely wounded.
In the Argonne, truck No. 53 of Company C, 302d Ammunition Train, was attached to the 3d Battalion of the 306th Field Artillery. Their first trip consumed forty-eight hours running and standing time. They unloaded and immediately attempted a second trip to the 2d Battalion of that regiment, at the time near Lancon. In this attempt they passed through a barrage which splintered the body of the truck and tore off the cover, but did not harm the engine. During these days repairs were a matter for the ingenuity of the mechanics, as tools and spare parts were not obtainable. Quad hub caps were made by threading 105 millimeter shell cases.
During the advance on Sedan the horse Section of the Ammunition Train carried reserve ammunition for the artillery in case of a swift and strong counterattack. Company F's wagons, in charge of Ist Sergeant Frank, spent eighteen hours in the sticky mud between Fontenoy and The-norgues. The trip covered fifty kilometers, not counting detours around mired motor vehicles along the route. During this trip they were fired on by aircraft with machine guns and bombed three times. In detouring around the craters that had completely obliterated the road at a point between La Basace and Raucourt, G Company won the commendation of the division commander. On that occasion eight horses hitched to each wagon had proved insufficient, and every man in the company pulled in a giant tug-of-war, which dragged the wagons through the quagmire.
The Supply Train kept two companies continually on special forward work, sometimes bringing up wire for advance signal stations, materials for the engineers, and other equipment. This was especially true in an advance or anticipation of an advance, where everything must be on hand at the jump-off.
Corporal Johnson and Private Beach, of Company D, 302d Supply Train, with a sergeant of the engineers as guide, was detailed to take pontoons and bridge material to the Vesle at the point where it was contemplated to bridge the river in the advance. An enemy plane sighted the truck as it was going forward and swooped down to within fifty yards, firing a steady machine-gun fusillade. Friendly anti-aircraft machine guns on armored motor cars opened fire and the plane was forced to beat a hasty retreat. The truck went forward, through shell fire most of the way, to the desig-nated place, a spot that the Germans had been in possession of only a few hours before. While the truck was being unloaded the enemy sighted it and tried to destroy it, but by good fortune succeeded only in tearing up the road on all sides, making it almost impassable on the return trip. Going back through Chery Chartreuve a shell struck a house almost in front of the truck, demolishing the house and showering the truck with debris.


0F all the things that might happen to a man during the war, capture by the enemy was the one thing I had never considered in relation to myself," relates Lieutenant Ginter, of the 308th Infantry, in telling of his stay in Germany as a prisoner of war, which is as humorous as it is full of thrills. "But there I was," he says, "in the hands of the Boche and was soon on my way through our own shell-fire toward the German S. 0. S."
Lieutenant Ginter later was joined by three other officers of the 77Lh Division who were taken prisoners. They were Captain F. E. Adams of the 307th Infantry, Lieutenant Frank Walther of the 306th Infantry and Lieutenant Mowry of the 308th Infantry.
While the American prisoners were being transferred from Rastatt prison to Villingen in the Blach Forest, Lieutenant Mowry contracted pneumonia and died.
"His death brought about a typical sample of German diplomacy," Lieutenant Ginter continues. "We were all permitted to attend the funeral, which was similar to that accorded a German officer. The minister who conducted the services was an English-speaking German and in his sermon he regretted the fact that he was not personally acquainted with the deceased and could say nothing regarding his past life.
"At the time one of our aviators was in the town hospital with pneumonia and immediately after Lieutenant Mowry's funeral the minister went straight to the hospital and visited the sick aviator. He explained the difficulties he had just experienced by not having any facts regarding the life of Lieutenant Mowry. 'Therefore,' he said, 'I thought it best to come and see you right away, while you were still conscious.' The flyer disappointed the minister by recovering."


WAR, with all its grimness, has amusing phases, and probably the most humorous of these is related by the mess sergeants of the 308th and 306th Infantry, who, during an advance, are under the jurisdiction of the regimental supply officers.
"Supply officers, as a rule, have the hardest job of them all in and out of lines," one mess sergeant of the 308th Infantry says, "because they are responsible for the feeding of the troops up forward. On one particular occasion I remember we were five kilometers behind the front line and the supply officer was planning a night move so that the doughboy could have a hot breakfast.
"Well, we hiked all night behind our heavy rolling kitchens and about six o'clock in the morning we pulled into the town of Oche. After we had prepared breakfast the first 'wave' of the advancing infantry swept by, stopping long enough to get a hot cup of coffee. I have heard of many funny incidents, but this is the first time I have ever heard of capturing a town with kitchens."
A similar account is told by sergeants of the 306th Infantry. At one stage of the advance on Sedan the overzealous supply company advanced the kitchens far in advance of the point where the infantry troops were.


A BARRAGE of no great density and of the shortest reasonable duration, sixteen minutes, bringing into action a regiment of twenty-four 75 mm. guns (3-inch), costs in shells $10,070. The destruction of Bazoehes required only 3,000 of the 155 mm. (6-inch) howitzer shells, at a cost of $105,000.
The 152d Field Artillery Brigade fired in France, including training, 250,000 75 mm. shells and 54,000 155 mm. howitzer shells. Figuring the cost of the first at $15 each, and the latter at $35 each, the Brigade fired $5,640,000 worth of shells. This does not include the thousands of rounds of Boche ammunition fired back at them from captured Boche guns.


HE GROWLED, an unmistakable canine growl, equally understandable by American and Boche. It said, "Keep away. I guard here." He guarded faithfully, and while he guarded, the German High Command moved out, the hard-pressed German troops retired, and the Americans surged forward. He lay across the grave of a German sergeant near the battered old Chateau Fere. It was here that Sergeant Glass, the orderly to the Division Commander, found him, lean and weak, and at enmity with all the world but his master, who lay buried there.

Here was not only a souvenir, but a companion. As the sergeant approached, the dog snarled, "Hands off." He wore the German Red Cross harness, with a flask on one side of the Deck, a first-aid kit on the other.
The second day the dog growled and would let no one approach. The third (lay the sergeant pushed some food out on the end of a stick. The following morning the food had been devoured, and be was able to touch the dog. That evening he took him to the chateau and tied him up, but the dog chewed the rope and returned to the grave. After another trip and a double rope the faithful dog finally became convinced of his new master's intentions. He decided that the new sergeant was worth following.
The dog is now all American. To seethe sergeant is to see his inseparable companion, "Fritz." When first call sounds, if Sergeant Glass has not begun to roll on his leggins be gets a determined tug at his leg. He has not been late for reveille since " Fritz" began taking care of him.


THE first ray of daylight on October 15th saw Lieutenant Robert Andre, with sixty-seven pounds
of Hotchkiss tripod hanging over his shoulder and thirty-two pounds of boxed ammunition
in his hands, crawling and worming his way along the road-side ditch , toward the outskirts of
St. Juvin. Crawling in his wake was one Rodriguez, of Spanish Main ancestry, snaking along
the gun and more ammunition. The two were looking for a spot where "enfilade fire" could be
made and delivered. They found it in the rock -strewn front yard of a ruined house, across the
interior of which, and through a rear window, ran a perfect line of sight along the entire crest of
Hill 182 to the northeast. The ruins gave splendid concealment to the position.
The Germans, hit from an unexpected quarter, were taken completely by surprise. Rodriguez gave them point blank all the enfilade fire that a Hotchkiss at full speed can pour from its barrel. They dropped in rows-victims of a very beautiful example of Yankee-made "Surprise Effect."
Baffled in their efforts to locate the gun, the succeeding lines of attack fell before it, the Germans were demoralized, and our infantry shot down or captured the survivors. This was the end of the counter-attack on St. Juvin.
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