Les textes suivants nous ont été transmis, des USA, par Anne Slatter. Son grand père a combattu dans la 38ème Division US, en tant que Médecin, au cours de la 2ème Bataille de la Marne. Merci à Anne.
February through December 1918
Henry B. Davis, MD,
1st Lieutenant, Medical Corps, U. S. Army,
(109th MG Battalion, 28th Division, Pennsylvania National Guard)
Transcribed, edited, annotated by his granddaughter, Anne Slater
The Battle of the Marne, in September of 1914 effectively scotched German hopes for a speedy victory in France. "The German armies failed to reach Paris or to destroy the Franco-British forces. What might have been a six weeks victory was turned into a four years struggle". "The obsession of German invincibility was dispersed" wrote Churchill, and in the instructed circles of the Allies, none doubted which way the final issue would go. (First World War Atlas, page 17)
The Second Battle of the Marne was fought four years later. "Terrific battles, ushering in the dawn of victories which will ensure the freedom of the world, were fought in July and August, 1918, between the Marne and Vesle Rivers, from Chateau-Thierry to Soissons and Fismes. In this soul-stirring struggle the young American troops played a large part, and played it with heroism and success."
The battles of the Marne were fought in the area known as the Ile de France. "With its undulating plateaus, pleasant vales, broad green valleys, forests and greensward, chateaux and villas, small towns, and dear old villages.... the district between the Marne and the Aisne was peculiarly representative of France-- the France of the Merovingians and Capets as well as of the twentieth century."
"The Orxois [pronounced oar-zwah] is a plateau extending north of the Marne to the Soissonnais, at a mean height of 160 metres." The geological make-up of the plateau renders it an rippling terrain based on limestone. "Thus the whole plateau is a series of elevations and depressions, running from east to west, which form just so many obstacles to an advance from south to north like that of the Allies. Luckily they approached this locality at the same time from the west, which enabled them to outflank the obstacles simultaneously with their approach from the south."
North of Chateau-Thierry, a few kilometres from the Marne, the plateau is broken only by the Clignon valley over which the plateau "forms a species of promontories on which are built villages...... The American troops had held their positions there during the last part of June and it was there that the heroic marines halted the enemy in his march upon Paris. And again, it was there that they assumed the offensive on July 18, to outflank Chateau-Thierry from the north. On that day they carried the ridges of Torcy and Belleau [the famous Belleau Wood]; on the 19th they pressed beyond Bouresches; and on the 20th they forced their way into Etrepilly and Chateau-Thierry. [Underlined and with this comment by HBD: I was in on the riot].
Immediately beyond the terrain is not so difficult.....Toward Bezu-St-Germain and Epieds lies a comparatively open plain....In this more open region the progress was more rapid; on July 22 the American troops took possession of Epieds, 12 kilometres from Bouresches, their starting point." The battle continued throughout the remainder of the month of July. "On August 1 there was a general advance all along the line, and the Allies carried the whole line of hilltops from Plessier-Huleu to Meuniere wood.........The work done in their debut....was magnificent. They fought against victorious soldiers sure of success and whipped them. They were engaged on a difficult terrain. In the south they were obliged to cross a broad river and wide valleys, to scale cliffs bristling with defensive positions. In the centre they were confronted by a confused entanglement of broken ground, hills and ravines, woods and open fields, bisected by a deep valley half-concealed by trees. In the north they became acquainted with the snare formed by plateaus falling abruptly away into the wolf-trap of ravines, where the enemy, lying in ambush, refused to give ground. The Americans triumphed over all these obstacles, and deserve to be reckoned the peers of the best soldiers in the world."
(from "An American Battlefield: from the Marne to the Vesle" by Raoul
Blanchard in the Atlantic Monthly, December 1918)
The first letter was postmarked Augusta, Georgia, February 12, 1918
Monday Morning, 11 Feb 1918
My dear Mother:
Just a line to let you know that I have not forgotten about next Wednesday being your birthday. I never can remember the number but anyway I wish you many more happy birthdays and hope that the next one I will be able to celebrate with you in Burlington. Am surely glad that you are so much better than you were last fall and hope that you may keep real well.
There is nothing more for me to tell you in the way of news so with very best wishes for your birthday and lots of love, I am
Very affectionately your son,
P. S. See by the Lancaster paper that Mr. and Mrs. Spangler of Marietta have been married 71 years and that he is 95 years old. Will try and get a paper for you. H.
From John W. Davis to his son on the eve of Henry's departure for France in 1918:
Your great-grandfather Davis was brought to this country an orphan by those in whose charge he had been left because it was the land of freedom. Grandfather Davis though far beyond the military age left his team in the field and flew to the defence of his country when Lee invaded the state. He willingly gave his four sons to the Army. Your Uncle Sam left the schoolmaster's desk, William the blacksmith's forge, Henry his team in the field and Miles, only 16, went the second year of the war. I once heard Mother say her only regret was that I was not old enough to go also.
As you see, you come from stock who have always stood for human liberty. I pray God you may be kept safe from harm and be returned to us and I feel sure you will. Do your duty and do not flinch. We are all proud of you.
Your loving father [John W. Davis]
In the months following his departure for service in France as a physician, Henry Davis wrote letters, reproduced below, to his parents in Burlington, New Jersey. Spelling, spacing, and abbreviations are reproduced as they appear. The itinerary is as reported by his father to Henry B. Davis, jr, by whose kindness it appears.
June 2-6, 1918, were spent in a rest camp near Le Havre. On June 8, date of the first letter from France, the 103d Sanitary Train arrived at "Fays Billot" where it was "lost for a month. We rather enjoyed being lost."
Postmarked "Officers' Mail July 8, 1918
Lt HBDavis Officers Mail
103 Sanitary Team[?]
Amer. Ex. Force [YMCA stationery ]
WITH THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCES [printed]
June 6, 1918
Somewhere in France
My dear Folks at Home
Well here is Henry in France at last. You would have been amused to see me trying to do some shopping this afternoon-- in a French store with my small supply of French & trying to handle francs and centimes at the same time, but I managed to get the little that I wanted-- also my correct change.
I surely have seen some country & sights since I left you in Philadelphia.
We were in England a while as I suppose you know and it is the only place I would put ahead of Lancaster Co. for neatness. It would just suit you mother. Some day I hope I may be able to take you & Father over there. Have not seen a great deal of France but what I have seen does not please me quite as much as England. Suppose I have not seen the best part. Suppose we will soon be seeing all sorts of sights. Have written you two or three letters since leaving N. Y.-- 1 at pier, 2 on boat & 2 since landing-- hope you got them all. Am sorry that censorship rules prevent me telling you more things of interest but I'll have a long tale to spin when I come back.
The people in England & France surely gave us a royal welcome all along the line-- especially the kids. Often they would run along & take your hand. One little girl in the south of England took my hand and ran along for quite a ways. She was just about the size of Nancy. Some of the children of the lower class es[pecially] in France are great beggars and kept asking for "une pen nie."
Yesterday I took a ride on a trolley car ("tram" if you please) some 5 miles for 15 centimes, about 1 1/2 cents in honest to God money. That beats our 5 cent fair [sic]. Some things are ridiculously cheap & others very dear 35 cents for a 15 cent cake of chocolate, 20 cents for a half decent cigar. So I will smoke the pipe.
I got part of my pay--you know I made 100 allotment to Annie & the 7.30 insurance also comes off every month so I just have enough & get on comfortably I think & some a letter [?]. I have 215 francs in my pocket now. Sounds quite a pile-- but when you divide it by about 6 it is no great heap.
I am very well and my uniforms are getting too tight. I had to let out some buttons this morning. When we get to business I will have to pull in the slack I guess. But I have never felt better physically & get good grub-- the only trouble is the long distances from my loved ones and that is a large burden but I try to keep it down as there is no use worrying.
"Trust God, keep your bowels open & your tin hat on" I have always managed to [follow] this & I am going thru with this. Now I must run along. Loads of love to all.
From your son Harry
112 Amb. Co.
103 Sanitary Train
care of Cox & Co 16 Charing Cross London S W 1
7 July: By train to La Rousset. Here we camped in an apple orchard until 21 July. Here we heard the first shells & at night could see the light of exploding shells. Here's where we had the 1st letters from home and where we received our ambulances.
21July, Sunday morning, We started our ambulances for Chateau Thierry, going thru Charly on the Marne, where we saw the first destruction. At Chateau Thierry we had a dressing station in the home of Monsieur Fillet.
From here I made 24 hr trips with litter bearers following up the 112th Infantry (also the Pennsylvania National Guard). These trips took us to Etripilly, Grand Farm, Bezu-St. Germain, Epieds, Trugny, La Charmel Wood, Chamery (where Quentin Roosevelt is buried), Dravegny and Mt St Martin, which stands about 200 yds from the road which leads to Fismes. The little stone tool house right on the road is where I had the dressing station. 11 (?) August: at Cohan. Hill above it where Field Hospital was bombed by the Germans.
20 August At Abbe d'Igny formerly a chocolate factory run by Monks. Heard Chaplain Cutler, 55th Co, hold a very interesting service.
24 August (Saturday) Was sent to take charge of dressing station at Courville. Chaplain Shawl there at the time. We bunked together. Was there until 10 Sept. Up to this time we were within the sound of shell fire and under it the greater part of the time.
Hq. Field Hospital No. 109, 103rd Sanitary Train
American E[xpeditionary]. F[orce]. August 30, 1918
1st Lt. Henry B. Davis, M. C. U. S. A.
112th Ambulance Co.
You are directed to report at Field Hospital No. 109 at Cohan France, ___________,1918, at _________M. for examination for promotion to grade of Captain. [following typed onto form] between the hours 10 AM and 4 PM without delay.
By direction of,
Lt. Col. Wm. J. Crookston,
Division Surgeon, 26th Division, A. E. F.
(Verso of this very flimsy slip, in pencil:)
Would or could you kindly relieve Lt Davis with some of your officers, [???] error to comply with this order. I can't relieve him myself because I must relieve Lt Moore at S------- Ex Arriving [?] Station. Kindly grant me this favor if possible.
10 September (Tuesday) Left Courville and went on to Pierry by way of Dormans and Epernay. Stayed at Pierry until the 14th and from there to Andennay from the 15th to the 18th. Then to Rarecourt until the 19th and the 20th was sent to take over a dressing station from the French at Croix-St-Pierre in the Argonne Forest. This dressing station was covered by 10 [?] of solid concrete and was called La Poste Vieux Branchardie.
September 20, 1918 "nearer Germany"
My dear Mother:-
There has been more time between this letter and my last than I intended but have been on the move a great part of the time. Hope soon to be settled for a longer stay sometime. You know this victory you are reading about means lots of moving for us, too, for we must not let the line get too far ahead. In the drive we made from Chateau Thierry to Fismes there was plenty of motion, and while I think of it, the Illustrated London News (you can get it in U.S.) of Aug. 3rd on page 127,-8 & -9 shows several pictures of chateau Thierry. I was in the places (streets) shown in all the pictures and they are all very good pictures.
Have had no letters from you since long before I wrote you from the "Hole in the Wall". Suppose when we finally get settled somewhere I will get a batch. Since then I wrote you from the chocolate factory where we stopped a few days & from Courville where Chaplain Scholl & I bunked together. Since then we have made the stops all in "civilization" and it surely was a wonderful sensation to return from the business end of things where there is so much destruction etc to see women and children and "whole houses" or rather houses without holes.
The last place we stopped for 3 days I set up my tent & lived in real Camp Hancock style. The last evening we were there the Y.M.C.A. gave an entertainment which seemed very good. Two girls sang & played the violin & recited. One of our American fliers who has brought down several German planes told us how it was done and then we had two 6 reel movies. They were the first movies I had seen since leaving the states and they seemed very fine to me. I am now writing in a nice little room at the hospital. Each officer has a little room in himself [sic]. Fortunately we have no patients and [I] think we will leave before long to go I don't know where.
I suppose Annie has told you that I was complimented on the way my patients were taken care of at my last dressing station. I will tell you more about it when I see you. Annie's last letter enclosed one you had written her about Nancy's visit to you. I surely did enjoy it. You do not need to put the Cox & Co. address on my letters after this.
Now I must go to bed. Tell Dad I have a Lueger pistol I got from a German officer. This bed looks good. So you can think of me as having a good nights sleep as I did last night. [This part very cramped] But the night before I slept in a woods under the stars. And it rained like the devil during the night, but I did not know it until morning. You know I know how to be comfortable in the mud. And I have a good orderly.
Lovingly your son, Harry.
About 2 or 3 hours after the shelling began for the Argonne Drive, on the 26th September I moved up to Neuvilly. This was the only place I had to conduct funeral services in the absence of any chaplain. Buried William E. Brown, 112th Infantry. 30 September (Monday) Was moved up to Viennes and had dressing station there in old German dressing station. Here between 30 September and 9 October we handled 1400 wounded. This was the station where the shell exploded on the day after we left.
9 October Back to Neuvilly and then supposedly for a rest to Bouberon. 16 October I was sent to St Mihel sector and had a dressing station in the Chateau of St Benoit. The Chateau I think belonged to a family by the name of Bachelier, and had at one time been a German Division HQ. Dressing station was in cellar under front step.
21 October Went to Pannes. Here I remained with the company until 6 January 1919, so was there when the Armistice was signed. From here I visited by ambulance Toul, Nancy, St Mihiel, Verdun, Chambley, Conflans, Briey, and Metz: the latter of course after the Armistice and while there saw President Poincare. While in Verdun came very near to being bumped by a shell. Just beyond Pannes at a place called Dampitoux the German soldiers took us over the line and into their dugouts.
November 16, 1918
My dear Mother:-
Just a few lines to let you know that I am well and happy that the war is over. As you once said I could get thro anything, somehow I have so far shifted safely thro hell & back.
Your letter of Oct 20th arrived today & of course I was very glad to hear from you. Yes I sure was sorry about Helen Clark. Last week I sent you a pair of kid gloves that I bought in Monnes. Did not see a thing that I could send that I thought would be suitable for Dad but next chance I get in a decent town I will try to get some Xmas remembrances. Have been in this place, Pannes, for about a month but will soon leave. The few days that I wrote about in my letter turned out to be only a myth as we went the next day to the Argonne Forest drive & then to St. Mihiel. But now the party is over and I suppose there will be plenty rest [sic]. Russel will be heading home for leave, I suppose. Hope this influenza has quieted down & that you & Dad have not gotten it.
Guess that you think that I am the poor letter writer. But take it from me it is the hardest work I do. However the letters from home that I have rec'd are and have been a great boon.
Wrote to Russel day before yesterday. Suppose there are great doings at home over the turn affairs have taken. The excitement over here is of course intense. You should see the French business coming back. A great many Italians have passed thru here. And they sure are happy to be free once more and told of how afraid the Huns were of our planes. I'll have lots to tell you when I return & lets hope it will be soon.
Probably I'll look like a Xmas tree. Our division sure did make good. We now wear a gold service stripe (6 mos overseas). Am also wearing a red keystone of felt on the left shoulder for being mentioned twice in orders and I understand [we] are to have a special card for the second battle of the Marne. It is hard to realize fully that the war is over and it is only slowly coming. Guess it is too much to expect to be home for Xmas, and I doubt that we will be but am sure it will not be long. How different the outlook now from when we started the 2nd battle of the Marne!
Now I must go to bed. Love to all & a Merry Xmas.
Your son Harry
Nov. 24th 1918
This is the Sunday supposed to be set aside to write a letter to "Dad" so here it is. But I was going to write anyway as I have the time now as well as the inclination.
Rec'd Mothers letter of Nov 1 and am glad that you are all well & have not been bit by the "Flu". From all accounts the conditions at home must have been terrible-- almost as bad as the war over here. Hope by this time the disease is under control. Too bad about Arthur[?] Whitcomb and Tom Allen as well as Howell Smith. Give my sympathy to their families.
Before you get this you will probably have the pipe I bought in Nancy for "Our John", "The Hangman" and Bill and the "Country Gentleman from Alexandria." Suppose Russel will not have to go away which I am sure will please you all.
It hardly seems possible that you have had another birthday. It can't be true for when I left you seemed as young as when I first knew you. Sorry I could not be home for the wedding anniversary. Hope to do better next year. Yes I surely would like some of the lemon merangue [sic]. Get plenty to eat but no good desserts & not much variety.
Would like to hear what you have to say as to the outcome of the war. Suppose you are very much pleased. Needless to say that I am.
Tell Mazie the cooties & fleas are not biting me now. I am very comfortably fixed here in Pannes where I have been for the past five weeks. There is a good shower bath. Capt Scholl has been made Corp[s] Chaplain so I have not seen him for a month. Do not know just where he is. Glad Raebling gave you the $10.00 & the boots. If you were here now I could give you another pair. Be sure & go to Diamond Valley. It would do you good. Of course I have not made it plain where I was for the reason that the censorship would not permit it.
Yes the Captaincy sure is a sore spot. I was in Federal Service a year on June 23rd and according to how it was done then was examined by a board and recommended by the Div. Surgeon for promotion. There are some others in this outfit in the same fix. Perhaps you can dope out where the hold up is. Especially when men were coming in at this late date & those in the states are being promoted -- especially men like Denlinger --- and here I have been in service almost 2 years & then 6 mos in this Hell -- and no increase in rank which is due us. Fortunately it will soon be over & then----------- we'll forget it all - perhaps.
Suppose you know that we were in the Chateau Thierry drive, the Argonne drive starting September 26 and then after that came to this front (before Metz) Oct 16. Spent a week in old Chateau at St Benoit which was then about 1 kilometer from the Bosche [sic] line. Have been here ever since (Pannes). Was also in Verdun & St Mihiel for a very short time. But of course the chances are we will move from here real soon and no one knows when we will be headed for home. All kinds of rumors. But I sure will be glad when we head for the U. S. A. Am anxious to tell you all about it.
Must close now. Love & a Merry Xmas to you all. Write whenever you can.
Marseille, le 15 Dec 1918
My dear Mother:-
Just a line to tell you that I started my leave on the 12th and am seeing some more of this country. Came thru Paris & was there 24 hrs. Then to Lyons and now for about 2 days at Marseille. Lt Dietrich is with me. Tomorrow we expect to start for Nice & remain there about a week taking a side trip to Monte Carlo. On return trip expect to have Xmas dinner in Paris. If I could only have it at home. The trip is doing me good. Merry Xmas & love to all.
Memes Maisons: Golf Hotel a Hyeres-Golf Hotel a
11 December 1918 George Dietrich and I left on a leave, visiting Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, Monte Carlo, Monaco and Mentone. Left Nice and returned to Paris by way of Digne in the Basse Alps. At Digne we had tea with the Rev. Contesse and wife, Protestant missionaries. Then back to the mud in Pannes on the 26th of December. 6 January 1919 Left Pannes for Allamps where I was billeted with a family by the name of Contal.
16 January on temporary duty at Camp Hospital No. 6
20 January visited Doremy [sic] birthplace of Joan of Arc. About this time Marshall was taken sick and I was sent to Barizzy au Plains as Surgeon of the 107th MG Company.
23 February On 3 days leave to Paris
27 February received my promotion to Captain.
16 March Visited Vaucolears, Neuchateau
19 March took two days on train to camp at Le Mans
8 April Took another trip to Paris with Ned Hager [dear friend from Lancaster, Pa], met Harry Fulton [physician, also of Lancaster]. On the trip visited Chateau Thierry, took pictures of our old haunts and visited Belleau Wood.
18 April entrained for St Nazaire
4 May 1919 boarded U. S. Calameres, arriving New York on the 14th.
Raoul Blanchard: "An American Battlefield from the Marne to the Vesle," in
The Atlantic Monthly, December 1918.,
United States. American Battle Monuments Commission. A guide to the American Battle Fields in Europe. Washington, D. C.; United States Government Printing Office, 1927.
United States Army. Center of Military History. American Armies and Battlefields in Europe. Washington, D. C. 1992 (Originally published in 1938.)
Martin Gilbert: First World War Atlas. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970.
Richard Natkiel: Atlas of the 20th Century. New York, Facts on File, 1982.
RETOUR VERS LE MENU AMÉRICAIN
RETURN TO THE MENU IN ENGLISH