START OF JULY ALLIED DRIVE DESCRIBED BY LETTERS FROM AMBULANCE CAPTAIN AND INFANTRY LIEUTENANT
"The Boches Tried to Fool Our Boys With Their Comrade Surrender," Writes Captain W. J. Bingham '16. "They Did This Just Once, and if There Ever Was Real Hate, Our Men Have It."
The CRIMSON has permission to publish the following two letters received by Professor Copeland, the first from Captain W. J. Bingham '16, U. S. A. A. S., first marshal of his class, and captain of track '16; the second from a recent graduate of the College, now Infantry Lieutenant serving in France, whose name is withheld.
With the French Army, August 7, 1918.
If I wrote to you as often as I wished, I am afraid I should be classed as a menace, for it is the truth that I never see any interesting things at the front but I want to write to tell you just what I see. I know, however, that all of your English 12 men feel the same way, and because of English 12, I am now able to see many things which ordinarily I never used to see.
Since the last of June, I have been in this sector, and while I cannot tell you exactly where I am, I can at least tell you that immediately north of me the Boches have been running like hell for three weeks. About midnight on the 14th of last month, the Germans started this drive in our sector, and never have I heard such a barrage. Last summer, when the section to which I was attached worked in the Verdun sector, I thought that I had never heard a barrage as intense as the French barrage of the 20th of August, but this one seemed to be multiplied by a hundred, and as one American officer remarked from a stretcher, "How is a man expected to live through such a thing as this?" The next morning the wounded started to pour into this little village, and this time the sight was especially sad, because among the many were not a few of our boys. I left for the front that afternoon, and I do not think I shall ever forget the trip. The Boches were meeting with a very stubborn resistance, and the roads were terrible. I saw men and horses knocked dead ahead of me, and as always, the cross roads were a mark for the 77's and larger German guns. The dead were just dragged to the side of the road. It was blazing hot, and you can well imagine the stench which prevailed with all of those dead men and horses around. The woods were a hive of living and mechanical apparatus, while the air howled with the crash of guns and the buzz of aeroplane motors.
Avlators Drop Bombs by Day.
The aeroplane used for bombing was hithertofore considered a feat for night, but bombing in done now in the daytime. Bombs are dropped on billets and both sides sweep down on roads with machine gun fire directed on camions and troops. Three times this happened on our roads, and the aviators on both sides have become remarkably effective. Of course there are many air flights, and these are always interesting. I visited nearly all of my sections. They had been rolling steadily for more than twenty-four hours. No less than four of the sections had had men killed the first day, three others had men taken prisoner and all of them had men wounded. I did not get back to my cantonment until after midnight, and left early the next morning to see the remaining sections. It was just the same in these sections, and the barrage was equally intense in this particular part of the sector, in fact not until the French started their counter attack on the 18th did we notice any difference.
German Dead in Piles.
As the Boches started to retreat, the sections followed up their divisions. The sights which I saw last Sunday, I shall never forget. In some places the Boche dead were literally piled one on the other. None of them have been buried, and the ground is just scalded by shell fire. I saw one Boche holding on to the trigger of a machine gun, while three yards ahead of him was a dead Frenchman who had fallen flat on his face. He, no doubt, had been killed by this machine gun, and a little later someone had killed this Boche. I hope that they will leave these Boches lying there for a year. It is terrible for the people who have to look at them, but these beasts are deserving of nothing better. After they had made this drive against our divisions, and at first had gained a little ground, they burried their own dead, and left all the others where they fell. Our boys, when they took this ground eight days later saw their comrades where they had fallen, with the result that the Americans take few prisoners now. The Boches tried to fool our boys with their comrade surrender. The trick is for some of them to go ahead holding up their hands. These "Kamerads" protect the machine gun men who in turn mow down our boys. They did this just once, and if there was ever real hate, our men have it. We all have it, and I hope that we shall never lose it until the war is over.
Americans Pouring In.
Our boys, Copey, have done remarkably well. I am with the French and I know how the French feel. We have bragged a lot about what we should do, and the best of it is we are going ahead of what we really thought we were able to do. The American is no longer a curiosity on this side. We see hundreds of them every day, and it is wonderful to see the way they are pouring in.
Each day I meet some of my old pals, and our meeting always ends up with the same question: "When will it end?" We do not dare guess, but I think that we have them on the run now, and perhaps it will end before we realize it can now. My best wishes to you, and I would give a lot to be able to go up to Hollis 15 tonight.
Infantry Lieutenant's Experiences. American Expeditionary Force, July 28, 1918.
I believe I wrote you a little note some two weeks ago--promising to write more fully almost immediately--if not sooner--and there I've allowed all this time to slip by with never a word. But--when you get this--you will allow your mind to slip back through all the weeks that will have elapsed since my last hurried little note, and recall some of the things that were heralded in the papers of the 15th to 22nd of July you will perhaps see why I did not keep my promise more punctiliously--for you will recall that on July 15th at 12.10 the Boche let loose one of his most completely devastating artillery preparations, which as far as my outfit was concerned consisted of a barrage which continued for seven hours--5 1-2 of which seven I spent in a gas mask. Then, at daybreak, and before his barrage had lifted, word came that the Boche had crossed the river and was upon us, so out I went into my platoon and took up a position to meet him--and just in time, too, for he was not 500 yards away. Then followed a week--or 6 days to be exact--of holding the Boche on the other side of our line, and of driving out small parties which broke through, of sitting tight under his artillery fire, of dodging his rifle and machine gun bullets of smelling his gas and then scrambling into nose-bags, of eating one meal a day on feast days, and none at all on fast days, of staying aware day and night except for an, occasional forty winks stolen when things were more or less calm--in fact six days of pleasant contact with Mr. Boche, which, however, totalled up for all the outfits along the line, smashed his drive on the nose and started him going backwards. Then we moved out--up to the river the first day, and across the second, and on into the forests and fields and thicket-covered hillsides where he had left his rear-guard detachments, bristling with machine guns, to cover his withdrawal. So on we went all that day, through wheat and grass, and potato fields, through tangled thickets and stately groves and along roads and trails--all under a beautiful clear blue cloudless sky, through which the sun sailed merrily on, and through which, also, a flock of Boche airplanes soared and wheeled, directing the batteries on our poor tired devils, dropping bombs and spitting machine gun bullets. Then, about 4 in the afternoon we ran into a machine gun nest which wouldn't give in. One company tried to smash it, failed and fell back. We took up the job. We reduced its fire and charged and were thrown back, and then, while trying to reform the line, some great ton of steel lit on my head and down I went. I thought it was a 77 which had gone on through, and I waited for it to explode. As nothing happened I felt of my poor old dome and, finding it still attached to me, I stood up. Instantly I was in the road again, flat on my nose. A shell had gone off just behind me, I learned later. I was unhurt save for a little scratch on my head and a great roaring in my ears and a great craziness in my head. So they sent me back along the endless chain of hospitals--this is the 6th--to rest. That is rather a joke, too, the rest part of it, for you no sooner get settled down than you are evacuated. But even so, I've gathered up a lot of sleep and stored it away, and now I'm all ready to go back again--just as soon as they'll let me, which ought to be in a couple of days at the most