Synthése faite par Bradley Omanson, merci pour son aide
Thank you to Bradley Omanson, Editor
SCUTTLEBUTT & SMALL CHOW, An Irregular Quarterly of the Old Corps, 1898-1941 from J.E. Rendinell's ONE MAN'S WAR: THE DIARY OF A LEATHERNECK, 1927.
[note: the innumerable errors of spelling & grammar of Rendinell's original diary were transcribed faithfully for the published edition in 1927. I have transcribed them faithfully as well, proofing every post to ensure all errors are copied intact-- Bradley].
I quit my job & went to see Mr. George Hainey, chief electrician, and Mr. Elliott Lewis, asst. chief electrician, and told them I was enlisting in the Navy. They wished me good luck and assured me my job would be waiting for me when I got back & I thanked them. Shook hands with the boys. I was the first from the line gang to enlist.
Next morning I went to Cleveland and stayed for three days to get away from home until Mother stopped her crying. I went and registered to be drafted. Some of my friends were there and I asked them to come with me and join the Navy, but none wanted to so I went alone. The first man I met was a U.S. Marine. He sure looked fine, too.
He showed me the Marines' posters, first to fight on land or sea & I was so impressed that I signed. He was a fast worker alright. I passed the examination & then the Dr.'s examination. I was fit. I reported back to the recruiting station & he had me ready to ship to Cleveland that same night. I asked for 2 days before I could leave & he said Sure. I told him I would report in Cleveland June 7th, 1917. O.K. with him. In the meantime my boy friends seen Dave Felch and told him I went and enlisted in the Navy. He went to town and enlisted in the Navy.
I got back home and told Mother and Dad that I had enlisted and nobody was going to stop me. It was like a funeral around home. That night I went to say goodbye to my friends. They told me what Dave Felch had done and I looked all over for him. Early next monrning, June 6th, I got Dave out of bed & told him I had enlisted in the Marines & was leaving next morning. He dressed and he and I went to where he worked, quit his job, and I took him over to the Marine recruiting station and told the Sgt. what he had done.
The Sgt. said he would fix it up O.K. So Dave enlisted in the Marines, but was five pounds underweight. I asked Sgt. Fuller to let him go with me but he said "Between now and time you go to Cleveland, eat all the banans you can hold and drink all the milk and water you can get down so you will be able to pass the examination in Cleveland." We got our orders to be at Erie station 8:30 a.m. We certainly were a happy pair of boys.
June 7: Joe says goodbye to his family, takes the train to Cleveland with his friend Dave Felch, and reports at Marine Hdqtrs. Both boys pass their examinations. They spend the night in a cheap motel. The bedbugs are so bad Joe passes the night walking the streets.
June 8: They travel by train from Cleveland to Columbus and on to Cincinatti, becoming so rowdy the conductor locks them in their coach. They break the windows.
June 9: They arrive in Atlanta at 9 a.m.. A Marine escourt took us in charge, and with a report from the railroad Co. for damages done to windows. We paraded in Atlanta to boost for more recruits. We put up at the Kimble House that night.
[We] left next morning [the 10th] for Augusta, Ga, with another Marine escourt. There was 93 in our party now & some party it was. Poker games, craps, was the order of the day. Every time the train would stop we were out, yelling and taking things from station. In one town in Ga. when the train stopped, we saw one of those old-fashion horse cars. The gang got off & started to go for a ride over the protest of the owner. We almost missed our train. Pork Chop got a bottle of corn and passed out.
We arrived at a little town and had to change trains. We saw a Marine Sgt. talking to our escourt & then this Marine took charge but didn't say a thing till we started to raise a rough house & Oh, Boy, from then on we sure knew we were in the Marine Corp. He sure was tough. Offered to lick any guy in the car. He had us sitting in our seats like school boys. That .45 he had looked too big, anyhow.
Road all afternoon. The train stopped and he yelled "Everybody out, and make it snappy." There were Marines everywhere. Dave and I wondered what place it was & one of the Marines said Port Royal. What a place! I looked around and saw a few old houses and a barge. No ocean liners. I could not believe my eyes. Thousands of boys that came after us felt the same way about it. A gov't tug come along side and our tough sgt. marched us on two by two.
Dave and I were buddies, bound for Paris Island, one hour's sail from that Port Royal. We were both sore. He blamed me for getting him into such a place. Later on we had lots of fun about Paris Island.
We finally arrived at Paris Island with all the palm trees & brick barracks. There were thousands of Marines there, and the remarks they passed! "Join the Marines & see the world." "Join the world & see the marines." "Pull in your ears, low bridge. Oh, look at the guy with the face."
They knocked my hat off & pulled my shirt out. "What will you take for your shoes?" They would trip you & down you go. Well, I wasn't the only one, the other 92 got theirs too. A form of inisiation. Those that came after us got theirs, too, so it's all even.
Our tough Sgt. marched us three miles from main barracks to quarantine station -- the little Red House without no lights & the bunks close together in one big room. It was here we stopped & was given mess kits & cups.
"All right, boys, those of you that want chow fall in line and make it snappy."
I went along with the rest. The first fellow passed out bread, the next slum. It looked as though it was made of beef stew, boiled potatoes, hash, dish rags, and a few old shoes mixed together, as close as I could figure.
I stepped up to the next guy, he spilt coffee. Spilt is right. I held out my cup & he poured hot coffee all over my hand & it certainly was hot. To make a long story short I did not have any supper, that dam fool burnt my hand & I dropped everything. I was sore. What I told him was a plenty.
The rest of the boys who passed up the coffee, ate, & those who didn't were on my side. No supper. I didn't bother to pick up my mess kit. Oh, what a dull place this quarantine camp is. No lights anywheres. The sgt. called us over.
"This way, men. Each man grab himself a bunk."
"Say, soldier, where's the lights? Turn them on will you?
"How do you get that way? Where the Sam Hill do you think you are anyhow? At home?"
That tough Sgt came in at 6 A.M. & told us to dress. I didn't have to dress, I slept with all my clothes on. There was no place to hang them except the floor. That tough sgt. started to tell us about the Germans & then Hell must of broke loose. It was rifle fire. I looked at him and he started to run to the door & he yelled "Everyone duck, they're shooting."
Everybody did not duck--only those who fell in a rush to get out.
Here was the joke. The rifle range is about 1/2 mile away and the marine recruits are taught to shoot there.
"All you boys who came in last night, fall out here."
We weren't the happy bunch that left Cincinatti. Boy, I was home-sick. Some of the boys were slow coming out.
"Out here, you wooden men. Can't you understand?"
We formed a semi-circle around a desk & it was no one else except Capt. A.D. Biddle, the Philadelphia sportsman. He gave us a nice talk about the Marine Corp & welcome to Paris Island, S.C. "Now, boys, don't judge the Marine Corp by what you seen last night & today." He was real nice.
That tough sgt took us in tow again. We lined up for mess. Bacon & rice & bread. I passed up coffee. Back to the little Red House & that call, "All you boys that came in last night fall out for submarine drill."
He took about 20 boys & a corporal marched them away. He took 20 more for a yact drill. I was in that. Not so bad, I thought, take a ride in a yact. Another Cpl. marched us right into the kitchen where we given knives and told to embaras potatoes.
The other boys in submarine drill were diving alright, diving for pots & pans. The rest of gang got hooked on police detail. My buddy thought he was going to be a cop and he swelled all up. Sure he was a cop--with a rake & shovel.
After dinner we all lined up again & they started calling for more details. Buddy & I beat it around back of Red House & right into the Cpl's arms. He took the both of us to the kitchen. I washed dishes & carried water all afternoon. My buddy cleaned the stove.
After supper we were transferred into tents. That night another party of recruits come in. For coursity sake I went over to our coffee friend to see how he worked on this new bunch. He burnt more hands that night.
"All you boys report to the Hospital."
We were marched into a big room & were stripped & he examined us thourly, put eyes to test, & ears. We were all weighed & looked for identification marks, finger prints taken, and those who were not perfect were sent back home.
A major come in with a bible & we took the oath. We were vaccinated, & a shot in the arm. It made me terribe sick. Marched out to quartermasters & received hats, shoes, stockings, underwear, shirt & overalls, blanket.
After supper a couple of old marines marched us out to parade grounds.
Paired us off. "You box this guy." Everyone had to box. He picked a nice tough-looking old timer for me. I knocked him cold in the first round. I was sorry, too.
(In his diary, J.E. Rendinell covers the first five weeks of training at Paris Island in a single entry. These five weeks covered the first two stages of training received by all recruits at Paris Island in 1917.
The first stage, of approximately three weeks duration, took place at a location known as the "Maneuvering Grounds", and here the new recruits received instruction in close-order drill, physical exercise, swimming, bayonet fighting, personal combat, wall-scaling, rope-climbing etc.
I have broken Rendinell's long entry into two parts to correspond with the two stages of training prior to instruction on the rifle range. The second stage occured at a different location known as the "Training Camp".
Rendinell's description of his time at the Maneuvering Grounds, from approximately June 13 to July 3, follows:)
Cut my foot & could not report with my buddy, so I missed his company & next two days got in the next company. Drill, drill, drill, early morning to late at night. Day after day, Sunday & every other day for 3 weeks.
Squad left, squad right, then that seven mile hike out to the manoeuvering grounds. Ninety in the shade & no shade. More drill. Up at 5 A.M., drill till 6.30, breakfast at 7.30, drill until 12. Dinner. From 1 P.M. to 3 P.M. out on beach with our water buckets picking oyster shells to carry them a mile, making road. Checked for every bucket or trip we made, too. 3 P.M. to 4 P.M. wash clothes.
Supper at 6 P.M. and drill till 8 P.M. Fall out. Next day the same, & so on. We drilled on the beach. There was thousands of land crabs. We marched right on them. Sgt. Elmer was in charge of my company & a real fellow. Kind & he was proud of us. One morning he had us on the beach and gave us a command to forward march. He stood in rear & we marched right to the edge of the water & stopped.
"I did not give you no command to stop! Forward march!"
Right up to our waists in water. Then a command to the rear March & out we come good and wet. We stacked arms. Took off our clothes, laid them on the beach to dry and, "Those of you who want can go in swimming." The water was fine, a whole lot better than drilling where it was 90 in the shade & carrying oyster shells when it got hotter.
(Wherein Joe Rendinell describes his last day on the Maneuvering Grounds:)
We had four weeks of this drilling. The last day two thousand marines that were drilling out on the manoeuvering grounds were marched out to the beach. A steamer towed a big lumber barge half a mile from shore & we waded out in water to unload it. They had us form eight lines of men from the shore to the barge. One gang unloaded the lumber from barge into water & we pushed it ashore. Another gang on shore piled it up. We had six hours of this. It was raining all the time, but it didn't make much difference for we were working in water with our clothes on. We marched back to camp and had a good night's rest.
(In the following brief entry, Joe Rendinell conflates his (approximately) two weeks training at the Training Camp.)
Next morning we marched back to the main camp. Say, it was fine-- new barracks, shower baths, Y.M.C.A., K.C., outside picture show, real beds to sleep on. Our mess hall was new & we had dishes. It was a whole lot better than eating out of a mess kit.
We were drilled to scale a 15 foot wall. This was the last of our hard drilling on Paris Island. Then the best part of all--the rifle range.
(Joe Rendinell's training on the rifle range lasted approximately three weeks, from about July 20 to August 7.)
We had early mess the next morning & marched out to the rifle range. We were assigned 16 men to an instructor, teaching the fine points. How to hold & aim our gun & to adjust the leather sling on our left arm; how to load & unload & to squeeze the trigger & not pull it. It was real interesting.
We were taught how to fire either standing, sitting, squatting, or from standing position to fall down on our stomack & not get hurt, & fire ten rounds in 10 seconds & hit the targets. We had a week of this training.
Then the first day of real firing. Each recruit had a coach. We started shooting at 200 yds slow firing, the first day. My first shot I missed the target completely. The coach sat on my back & said "Squeeze that trigger, don't pull it. Keep your eyes open, too. Now fire."
I did better. Back to 300 yards, a little better still, for I was getting to know my gun. That was all for one day. The next day rapid firing at 200--300--500 yards & slow firing at 600 yards. We had two weeks of steady firing on the range every day.
Then came record day. I blacked my sights so the sun would not reflect on the middle. That morning was wonderful, an ideal day. We got our instructions & down we went to 200 yards. Qualified. 300 yds., same. 500-600 yards, same. At 1000 yards I missed one and got nine bull's eyes & qualified as a sharpshooter, 251 out of 300 points. I sure was one happy boy. That meant three dollars more a month.
Next day we were given 45s to shoot at targets 200 feet away & I qualified as an expert pistol shot. Our sgt. was pleased with most of the bunch. Won't the Germans get hell when this gang is turned loose on them?
The next three weeks we labored digging ditches, making roads, building concrete foundations, mixing concrete, helping the carpenters build barracks, & kitchen police duty. Another inoculation, too. Since we have been at the main barracks, we were issued new uniforms and taught how to take care of them. Clothes were washed & inspected, beds were made all regulation-- everything had to be in shipshape order, just so. We were inspected every day. They taught us how to perform guard duty & now that our preliminary training is over, we are leaving Paris Island in the morning (on 1 Sept.)
They wanted me to say on the island as an electrician. I told them "No, I enlisted to fight the Germans."
We marched to the pier. Went aboard a barge and were towed to Port Royal. It seemed like years that I was here before. It sure was nice to ride a train again & to be out in civilization & see white people, for on that island there is only colored.
What real fellows they were in my company. Alarm Clock Bill from Chicago, he was the first man up every morning. Wild Bill Reed from Kentucky, the champion snoorer of the company. If he got to sleep first, the rest of us could not sleep. Hall, the big Texas ranger. Tourchy Vermilion, the bell hop from Indiannapolis. Schonlaub, the bar tender from St Louis. Joe Springfellow had a girl in every town. Bill Sweeney, the bank teller from Cleveland. Matthews, Keller, Rider & Dandly, the boys from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. They don't make them any nicer.
Joe Springfellow & Sweeney are the boys out of whose heads we used to get the latest dope. "We are going to Hati in the morning," and we believed it.
Arrived in Quantico, Va. Sept. 3rd. Lt. & captains took us in charge & marched us to the barracks and formed the 97th Company, 6th Marines. Lt. Marshall was commander of our platoon, a man that never would say Die. He told us as soon as the company was formed and got situated, we would get a ten-day furlough.
Left quarters on our furlough. We scattered north, east, south & west, everyone to their homes. We were like birds let out of a cage. No reverly or taps until we got back. I boarded the first train for home. All the Cleveland boys were on the same train.
Mother didn't know I was coming. A surprise is the best of all. What rejoicing when they saw me. Those ten days were entirely too short & the sad farewells again. I was heartsick going back.
We arrived in Washington next morning, met my Cleveland buddies of the Plain Dealer. We were comparing notes about how we spent our furlough & everyone was downhearted. Matthews said, "This is a hell of a war." I seconded the motion.
I played a joke on Matthews in a restaurant that morning. I had the waiter bring him a plate of beans & set them right in front of him. He took a look & grabbed the dish & threw it out of the window. The window was closed. "They can't give me beans when I'm paying for my meals." Gee, he was sore.
We went sightseeing & then went back to camp.
Reported in the next morning for roll call, everybody was present. We were all formed in platoons & were taught baynote drills, throwing hand grenades, machine-gun drill, digging trenches, how to cut enemy bob wire without making any noise, how to lay our own bob wire. Taught the international Morris code, dot and dash signaling, receive & send messages, firing Lewis machine guns on the rifle range. How to dismantle & rebuild machine guns blindfolded. Paraded three times a week for Allied diplomats; guard duty once a week. That's the training we got at Quantico.
We are ready to go across and be parts of the A.E.F. Got our orders to stick around the barracks, and know what is coming. Goodbye U.S. Hello France.
I wrote home and told them not to write until they heard from me again.
At 3 p.m. entrained for Philadelphia Navy Yard. Loaded our sea bags on a barge & went aboard & were towed out to the U.S.S. Von Steuben, formally the Crown Prince Wilhelm. We went aboard up rope ladders & it wasn't easy with a heavy marching pack & rifle. Next morning Oct. 25th, shoved off up the river for New York. Dropped anchor 500 feet from Statue of Liberty.
31 October 1917: The Von Steuben steams out to sea and joins the convoy. Left N.Y. and steamed out to three mile limit. The rest of our convoy was there waiting for us & we headed out for sea. I was assigned to guard duty. Got terrible sea sick. Corp. of guard forgot to bring my relief & I was left on post for 12 hours.
NOV 1st ~ Everything quiet aboard ship. Getting accustomed to sea life.
NOV 2nd ~ Drilling aboard ship.
NOV 3rd ~ More drilling. Fed fishes after supper. Got awful sick.
NOV 4-5-6 ~ Drilling & baynote [bayonet] exercises.
Nov. 7th.~ Have not seen any submarines yet. About 6 P.M. the gunners fired at a porpoise & thought it was the parascope of a submarine. The other transports came in close. One cruiser & two destroyers keeping a close watch.
Nov. 8th.~ Transport dropped anchor while destroyers took on oil. Target practice with seven-inch rifles. Targets in tow of other transports.
Nov. 9th.~ Target practice. At 6.25 P.M. we had a terrible collision with one of our transports, U.S.S. Agamemnon. We were rammed right at the bow. Plates were ripped open. No lifeboats left on starboard side of our ship at all.
U.S.S. Agamemnon with boys of 42nd Division were out of luck for lifeboats, too. We were playing cards below when the crash come. We thought sure we were torpedoed. We were thrown against the bunk heads. Confusion in general. A rush for life belts. Orders were to wear life belts all the time & we were using ours for cushions. Everyone made a run for life boats & when we got on deck, there were no life boats. Major Barnett gave order to "Stand where you are. The ship won't sink."
The bow of our ship was pancaked & water was rushing in. The ship's crew worked all night to erect a false front. The U.S.S. Von Steuben turned the searchlight on the U.S.S. Agamemnon & the cruiser South Carolina steamed up along side us. "Put out those damned lights, do you want to be torpedoed?"
Nov. 10th.~ We're out here alone. Nearest land is at the bottom 2 miles. We cannot make much headway. We were ordered out with our machine-guns & rifles on starboard and port decks, to be ready for any ememrgency. Eat & sleep with our guns. At 4 p.m. we spied a dot on the horizon. Our guns were pointed, they were coming toward us. Suspense was not long. It was some of Admiral Sim's destroyers, painted beautiful colors. According to their paint we could not tell whether they were coming or going.
At 5.30 P.M. lookouts in crow's nest reported a submarine off our port bow. Destroyers went rushing everywhere. Gee, they're fast. But the submarine got away. All is well. We are making a dash for port.
2-17 November 1917, Arrival and first days in Brest, France
Nov. 12th. Just came off gun watch. Sighted land at 9 A.M. There are a lot of mine sweepers, torpedo boats, English & French destroyers around.
Aeroplanes came out to meet us. Whistles were blowing as we steamed into the harbor of Brest. Dropped anchor at 12 noon. Our other destroyer pulled alongside of us & wished us "Good-luck, we're going right back to
N.Y." How I would like to go back with them.
French fishermen sold wine & beer & Cognac brandy, and did a land office business until the skipper ordered them away.
At Brest, we seen the U.S.S. Finland in drydock with a hole in her side made by a U-boat.
I growed a moustache aboard boat and I thought it was the berries till we landed in France, when a Chink in the French colonial army went by and Pvt. Kerr up and says, "Gee, Joe, that's just like yours." So I shaved mine off.
Nov. 13th to Nov. 17th. Unloading ship of supplies. On guard duty last day.
18 Nov 1917, Brest, France
Off guard. Leaving for a hike. We all have sea legs. The first marine I saw in France was no other than my dear Buddy Dave Felch. Gee, I was glad to see him. His first words were: 'Let's go have a drink,' & we did. Took
a bottle back with me and passed it among my buddies.
We hiked five miles through little French villages. Men, women & children wear wooden shoes & poverty prevails.
19 November 1917, Brest to Bordeaux and Camp Lormont We left our transport & hiked to railroad yards to our Pullman train, 40 hommes or 8 chevoes, box cars. Women brakemen & women firemen. There
were 34 in our box car. We were so crowded we could not sleep & one of the wheels was flat. We road two days & one night. Left cars at Bordeaux& marched to Camp Lormont. What a hike that was. Raining steady.
Camp Lormont was a sea of mud. No windows, no floors in the barracks. Wooden bunks, chicken wire for springs, no stoves, everything wet. There are a lot of German prisoners here. Gee, how I would like to be back home.
20 November 1917, Liberty in Bordeaux Our first liberty in Bordeaux I went in to buy me a pair of sox. I
could not make the French girl understand & could not show her what I wanted because I had my leggins on. So I did the next best thing & reached down and touched hers. She said I rubbed them. She went away & brought me a pair of women's stockings. It took me 20 minutes to get what I wanted.
Four of my buddies picked up a peachy French blonde apiece one night and of course the skirts steered them into a swell restaurant. My, how those girls did order food. They must of been starved waiting for the
Americans to get to France. Then they topped it off with four bottles of cognac. The bill those birds got must of been the number of U.S. troops
in France. Between the four of them marines they had exactly 27 francs, so they told the girls to wait a minute, they would be right back. I am wondering how long they waited.
On the way back to barracks one night a bunch of the boys got on a little dinky street car. A frog was motorman and conductor too. He tried to collect fairs from a gang that was broke. He would not move his car.
They had to be back at Barracks by 10.30 or the guardhouse for them. They put the frog off & operated their own street car & it was the fastest run ever made on that line.
23 November to 5 December 1917, Life at Camp Lormont
Nov. 23rd & 24th. Digging ditches. Plenty of mud, more rain. This man's army must sure be short on shoes. Each squad was issued four pair regardless of size. When we went to work in mud, argument started who was
going to wear shoes first. Corporal he took one pair for himself so it left six men with one shoe apiece.
Nov. 25-26-27-28. Building docks on the Bordeaux river. Plenty of van rouge and cognac to keep the dampness out of our system. The French kids going to school each carries a bottle of wine. We trade them cigarettes
for wine. The are good traders, those little frogs.
Nov. 29th. Thanksgiving Day. Slum for dinner. Washed clothes in afternoon.
Nov. 30-Dec. 5. Building docks.
6-25 December 1917, from Bordeaux by rail to La-Courtin, Vosges
Dec. 6th. Twenty of us were picked with Lt. Marshall with orders to pack. Left camp Dec. 8th & hiked to Bordeaux, ten miles. Entrained & arrived at La-Courtin in the Vosges
Dec. 9th. Close to the front lines. We can hear the canons shooting. The snow is two feet deep here. There are over thirty thousand Russian soldiers that quit fighting & are all in a stockade guarded by French soldiers. We have a nice stone barracks. Nice big stove & comfort a plenty.
Dec. 10th. Unloading coal.
Dec. 11th & 12th. Unloading wood from box cars.
Dec. 13, 14 & 15. Unloading more coal. Jesus!
Dec. 16th. We were called to arms to help guard the Russian soldiers. They pulled a mutiny.
Dec. 17th. We marched them into box cars & shipped them away.
Dec. 18th-23rd. Unloading coal.
Dec.24th-25th. Drill in front of French soldiers. After mess we went out & picked some holly & decorated our canteen. We had four turkeys, nuts & all the trimmings. Plenty of wine of all kinds for our Christmas
dinner. There was 21 in the party. It was a merry Christmas all around. Cares forgotten for one day. Lt. Marshall went back to his quarters & we celebrated the occasion with plenty of cognac & singing. When Good
Fellows get To-Gether & we all passed out. What a headache I enjoyed next morning. But the rest of the boys felt no better.
Dec 26-29.~ Unloading flour for baker.
Dec. 30-31st.~ Cleaned barracks.
Jan 1st.~ Fifteen thousand U.S. soldiers have arrived from States. One of the boys died & we acted as a firing squad.
Jan. 2-7th.~ M.P. duty to keep the soldiers from drinking all the wine in the country & to keep them from getting lost.
Jan. 8th.~ We are ordered back to the company.
Jan. 11th.--Arrived in camp with the rest of the boys. These barracks are like ice. No fires in the day time. It is cold & damp. My feet are almost frozen.
January 12.--Chaumont-a-ville. My birthday. We are in barracks & they moved 10 men out, with me in charge, into a French barn that used to be a chicken coop & pig pen. It was a sight. We all turned to and cleaned it.
Got it fixed up fine. Even built a fire place in there out of mud & rocks. Every billet allowed so much wood from the company supply, enough to burn one day if you're stingy with it. Out billets had plenty, believe me. Never mind where we got it. We have real American barbecued chicken every night too.
We are miserable in this training area. Gee, we'll all be glad to get to the front. Our feet are nearly froze all the time. Our company commander makes us take our shoes off and rub our feet with snow to keep from getting chilblains. I have to keep moving all the time to keep warm.
Each squad has 2 automatic rifles & 4 ammunition bags of 25,000 rounds to carry. We take turns carrying the ammunition bags.
When they checked up after a hike my squad had only 1800 rounds left all told. What a bawling out they give us. Each of the boys throwed away a couple of handfuls every time it come his turn to carry. I throwed away
Jan. 14-18.--Drilling in mud. There isn't a dry spot as big as a dime around here.
Jan. 19th.--We hiked twenty-five miles. We could hardly walk, it was so slippery & muddy. It's like a lake of mud. My feet are cold. Raining steady.
Jan. 21st.--I am going to N.C.O. school.
Jan. 22nd.--They took the Lewis machine guns away from us & gave us French machine guns.
Feb. 11.--Drill & hike every day since Jan. 23rd. Sham battle to-morrow between 1st and 3rd Battalions. Next day sham battle, 5th and 6th Regiments.
Feb. 14th, 15th, 16th.--Firing on the range. At eleven o'clock at night we hiked nine miles to practice going in and out of trenches and had a sham battle. Left Feb. 16th and hiked back to camp.
Feb. 17th-18th.--Hauling manure for the frogs. Phooey! Cleaning streets & making ourselves generally useful.
My buddy, Dave Felch, come over to see me. His company just got paid. And by the roll he showed me he must of had it all. Dave is a real good crap shooter.
Feb. 19th.--Hiked twenty miles.
Feb. 20-21.--Drill, hike & inspection.
Out for a morning drill. I chew tobacco now & again in ranks. The lieut kept watching me close & I could not spit. My mouth was full & I wondered would he ever move. He stood right in front of us for about 20 minutes,
pretending to give us a little lecture. He was watching me all the time.
Finely I had to swallow it to get rid of it. Gee, I was sick for a couple of hours.
What a hike we had yesterday. Our sgt called Sick Call.
"Outside, all you sick, lame and lazy."
My feet were as sore as a boil. I thought my arches were broken down, so I fell in line with the rest of the boys for sick bay. I might as well stayed back in the barracks for all the good it done me. I dined on C.C. pills.
The doctor said, "What's the matter with you marines anyhow? Can't you take a little hike of 20 miles without getting sore feet. I made that hike yesterday too & you don't hear me complaining." Sure he did--on a horse. I wish he would carry a 60 pound pack, rifle, baynote, machette, trench knife, .45 Colt, 220 rounds of ammunition. The weight grows the further you go till it bends your back like a U. When our lieut. gives a command, Fall out on the side of the road, we drop and never move a muscle for 5 minutes. We curse the army, the French & the Germans, but most of all the General who called for hikes.
Feb.23rd.--Sham battle between 1st & 3rd Battalion. We laid in a puddle of water for six hours. When we got back we were ordered to clean up & fall out for inspection. My clothes have been damp ever since we come
here. I wasn't the only one though. I told the sgt what happened in ranks the other day. He knew about it
all ready because the lieut told him he was going to break me of the habit of chewing in ranks. Yesterday I had a wad in my mouth again and of course the lieut seen me. He stood right in front of where I was and watched me like a dog at a rat hole for about a hour. He never took his eyes off me. I guess he wondered why I did not swallow. Then he walked off. The wad in my mouth was paper this time.
February 24.--On wood detail. There is a order you can not hit a horse or a mule. Coming out of the woods two lead mules turned right around and just stared at us right in the eye. They would not budge. We tied them to a tree and busted that order with a trace chain.
Feb. 27th.--Hiked twelve miles. It rained a cold rain all day.
Feb. 28th.--We drilled & hiked.
March 1st.--We were sent to load manure for the frogs.We thought we would make a little something on the side out of it. Who would give us the most cognac, we would do the work for them. One old Frenchman promised us a bottle so we loaded up his wagon first and went in his house to get the bottle. Nothing doing. He turned us down. We went out & unloaded the wagon.
The captain sent for us.
"What the hell's the matter over there?"
"What is the trouble, sir?"
"Why, a frog says you loaded his wagon & then unloaded it."
"Oh, that? Why we thought we must of loaded the wrong wagon when he hollered, sir, so we unloaded it."
"That'll be all from you," the captain says.
March 2nd.--Guard duty.
March 3rd-13th.--Digging trenches.
March 14.--We got orders to go up to the front. All of us boys went out visiting these French people in town. We told them we were going to Verdun because a lot of them have brothers & kin folks there. Some cried,
so we cried too. We sure put on a good act because they kept fetching out the wine & cognac. I guess I must of cried at every house in the village.
The town crier here is sore at us. He comes out & stands in the street to spread the news & every time he stops, he rattles his drum. So the boys always turn out & sing "Hail, hail, the gang's all here." He did not give us any wine or cognac when we told him we was bound for Verdun.
March 15th.--Arrived at Dugny, ten kilometres from Verdun. We come up here in box cars. We were packed so tight it was hard to lay down & stretch our legs without shoving them in some guy's face and there would be an argument. Sgt Richardson would yell, "Pipe down, you leathernecks" & that would end it for a while. My legs were so numb I could not stand up because 3 Marines laid on them.
The first stop our train made I left the gang & went in a mule car where there was 8 mules & 5 of us marines. At least we had a little more room and this car had straw too & the marine car had nothing. In the morning we had hardtack & canned tomatoes for breakfast.
March 17th.--At 1 o'clock we hiked to Chateau-Manvers at the front line trenches & relieved French troops. They gave us instructions & it was a bon sector. We boys were ordered not to smoke or talk out loud.
March 18th-21st.--Everything quiet.
March 22nd.--Enemies sent over barrage. No casualties.
March 23rd.--Baled water & mud out of trenches & at 11 o'clock we sneaked out & climbed on top of the chateau & got some honey from a bee hive. My face was a sight where the bees lit.
Each of us has his place in the trench & there are so many men assigned to each dugout and a guard at the entrance for gas duty. If he smells gas, he gives the alarm.
In the daytime hardly anybody is in the trenches but only lookouts 50 feet apart. They get relieved every hour. The rest of the boys stay under cover & kill cooties or write home or shoot craps. We never leave go of our rifles and ammunition belts.
At 6 P.M. we stand to & every man is at his post till 10 o'clock. Then half the company goes in to the dugouts to rest and the others stay on watch but at 2 o'clock the whole outfit stands to till daybreak. Every man is on the firing-step in back of sand bags & we got men in listening posts out in front of our bobbed wire. Four men & a machine-gun & hand grenades.
Gee, how long the night is. The lieut walks up & down the trenches to see everything is OK and the boys are all in their place. My eyes got sore looking out in No Man's Land. The bobbed wire posts & stumps of trees looked like they moved & many a time I let fly thinking they was Germans. The early morning hours is when a guy's morale is lowest & that is when the enemies send over their raiding parties.
[The Second Division, from mid-March to about mid-May 1918, as the final stage in their training under the French, occupied a relatively quiet stretch of the front lines along the heights of the Meuse southeast of Verdun. Rendinell's battalion (3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, 4th Brigade of Marines), on the evening of March 18th, was assigned a front-line position in the Mont-sous-les-Cotes subsector, Bonchamp, about one kilometer north of Les Eparges. Rendinell's company (the 97th), was placed in reserve at Camp Fontaine St. Robert, behind the three other regimental companies in line. I can find no information as to the location of the "Chateau-Manvers" mentioned in Rendinell's diary].
March 24th.--We were relieved & hiked to second line of defence.
March 25-28.--Digging trenches at night.
March 28.--Verdun sector. These rats are terrible. We cant lay down without them starting in to nibble at our legs. They are nice & fat from eating dead Frenchmen & Germans. Now they want American meat. Those
babies will find it pretty tough, I bet.
The Company P.C. is in the bottom of a ravine and yesterday I was on gas watch up on a hill above the P.C. Every time a shell would come anywheres near I would throw a rock and hit the P.C. and the old top-kick
would make a running dive for the dugout.
March 29th.--We left second line of defence & hiked all night in rain & mud to the town of Sommedieu. The town is a complete ruin.
They issued French shoes to us. They asked us what size we wore, then they gave us just one size 19 by 21 French style. It is American style No. 11. You can put them on either foot and they fit just as good. We
could not line up for inspection. You are supposed to get your toes in line, but with these French shoes when your toes were in line your shoes stuck away out beyond.
March 30.--It rained all day and we were repairing roads. I changed my sox. Put the left on the right & the right on the left. It's the same pair I been wearing since we left Chaumont-a-ville two weeks ago.
What a nice beard we all have got. Dirty clear through, plenty of mud right to the skin. The cooties are their work cut out, digging through to our skin. This afternoon we had cootie races.
March 31.--Sommedieu. Easter Sunday. Our company officers got some nice turkeys & roasted same just like home. Sweeny gets the cook by the name of John away from the kitchen to give him a drink of vin & I reached into the oven & grabbed one of those fine turkeys. Gee, it was hot. It burnt my fingers but I kept a hold of it & ran. So we boys had turkey too.
The first real meal I've had since Christmas, where I really had enough to eat. Only wish now that I had a good bed to sleep & a chance to take my clothes off for a real rest but no such luck. Mud & water, man-eating rats & cooties in a dugout--that is our hotel at the front.
March 31.--At seven P.M. raining heavy & we shoved off for a nine mile hike to Camp Never Rest, second line of defence.*
*(identity & location of Camp Never Rest unknown)
April 1st.--Still raining. I wonder if it is ever going to stop. We rested all day. Ten P.M. we hiked seven miles to the front & dug more trenches till 4 A.M. Hiked back to Camp Never Rest.
April 2-5th.--Working only at night, digging trenches and stringing bob wire. This land is nothing but mud & swamps. Say, the frogs should give it to the Germans & apologize for the bum condition it's in, let alone fighting for it. Coming in on these hikes after digging trenches, my feet are all sore and when we get to our dugouts we fall down in the mud & sleep & wake up as stiff as a board. Our eyes are swollen & red from the cold and damp.
April 4th.--Got 24 packs of cigarettes from home. I wonder how they got through the S.O.S. without being opened. I shared up with the boys. We have been smoking dry leaves off of the trees. Not a cigarette in the outfit. I kept 9 packs for myself and then they got me into a crap game & I lost all my money. I sold some of my cigarettes & finely lost the whole works. So I borrowed a franc and went off & played blackjack with some
birds who were cleaned too & I won 15 francs in that game. We call it chiselin'. So I won all the francs in that game which they had & went off & played stud poker with some guys in a larger game. Luck was with me. Won 120 francs. That game was too slow, so I went back to the big crap game. Gee, things sure broke pretty for me. I busted them all--2300 francs. There is no place to spend it though.
April 5th.--I asked the captain how about sending my money home. He says, "How can you send it from here, with everything shot to pieces. Wait till we get to a postoffice or some place." I have got a roll big enough to choke a cow and no way to spend it. It is too big to go into my pocket, so I put a rope around it & carry it hung from my belt. It sure makes a lot of these birds' eyes bug out.
April 6th.--While we were digging trenches the enemy must of heard us out in No Man's Land. He sent over a barrage. Two of my comrades wounded.
April 7th.--We left Camp Never Rest & went in Second line trenches, backing up 1st Battalion.
April 9th.-- I asked Lieut Kennedy if I could take a couple of boys & go back to a canteen to buy some eats. He said, "Sure, but be mighty careful you come back, get me?" We hiked about 9 miles through bob wire and trenches, being challenged about every 50 feet. "What outfit, soldier?" Finely landed at a French canteen. Say, we bought him out. He had one case of canned goods left. I asked him if they was good to eat. "Great," he says. So bought those too. We did not know what they were. The only thing the frog had left was a few pipes, so he closed shop.
Back to the front. We passed our cakes & candy among the boys. That case of canned goods turned out to be fishes' eggs. They were awful salty but tasted fine. A guy that eats them should stick around a pump for a couple of days.
They spent all my francs but we sure had a good time.
April 10th-12th.--Digging more trenches. Solid rock, too. Our dugouts are 30 feet deep. I wonder how the frogs dug them.
April 13th.--Baling water out of trenches.
April 14th.-15th.--Repairing bob wire.
April 16th.--Enemy sent over hundreds of gas shells. They all went over us & landed in third line of defence. 76th Company of Marines were there. Casualties were heavy.
April 17th-18th-19th-20th.--Resting. Everything quiet.
April 21st.--At 2 A.M. the enemy sent over a heavy bombardment. Shells were bursting everywhere. Enemy attacked front line trenches on a raiding party. I stood at my post, got everyone out of dugouts & ran to front line trenches. Enemy was repulsed. Our casualties were few.
April 22nd-23rd.--Everything quiet.
April 24th.--Repairing trenches.
April 25th.--We were relieved and hiked to Camp Rosslier & rested all day & hiked all night to Death Valley. [6th Regiment history reads: "On the night of April 24th the 3rd Battalion was relieved by the 3rd Battalion, 20th French Regiment, and went into reserve at Camp Chiffoure]. The reason for name: in 1916 this was where the French made their wonderful stand with heavy losses and stopped the German Crown Prince's armies from entering Verdun.
The rats here are terrible. At night they crawl over us & bite our fingers. The cooties are working overtime & life is scratch & kick.
April 28th-29th.--Digging trenches. It rained all night. We are hardly getting enough to eat. Our supply must of been relayed somewheres else.
Rations very low.
April 30th.--Rested all day. Hardtack biscuits is all we had to eat.
May 1st.--We hiked all day, & went into the front line trenches at Haudiomont. Relieved the French troops. Everything quiet at the front. No excitement.
May 5.--We got a green lieutenant here, first time up. Say, he sure was nervous first night. At every little noise we was ordered to fire. We liked that, so last night we tied cans on our bobbed wire with a rope leading back to the trench and when he come by we pulled the rope. Well, he listened a minute then he yells, "The Germans are coming, Fire at will" & he ran and lit a flare. It was the wrong flare. It called for artillery to increase its range when they was not even firing. The enemies opened up on us with machine guns then. I wonder what they thought of us crazy Americans.
Another lieutenant, Lieut. Moore, a Princeton graduate in command of 2nd. Platoon, has a police dog by the name of Straff and he won't eat the food they hand out to us. The call for mess is "Come and get it, or I'll throw it away." Many and many a time I've gone hungry because I could not get down the chow we get & so have a lot of the boys. Letters from home tell about the meatless sugarless and wheatless days they have to save for the boys at the front. Well, here we are. Where is that food?
May 8th.--At 7 P.M. Lt. Marshall, Sgt. Crow & myself went over to the enemy lines on a scouting party. Got back to our lines at 2.30 A.M. good & wet. I fell in a shell hole full of water and did not like it. We crawled around No Man's Land on our stomack, listening. It was the first time I ever was that close to the enemy lines, & every little noise, I made sure the Germans heard. I was sure scared. Our lines never looked so good as when we got back. But it wasn't the place we started from.
We came in front of the 86th Company & their night patrol thought we were Germans. We heard him holler "Germans", I thought we were done for.
Lt. Marshall yelled for them not to shoot, we were marines from the 97th Co. on their right. About that time the whole outfit had their guns pointed out to where we were. It was pitch black & they were not taking any chances, so Lt. Marshall he stood up & walked over & was recognized.
They we followed & began to see how lucky we were. We went back to our own front line then.
May 10th.--Everything quiet. This town, like all the rest, was plumb shot to pieces. At 11 p.m. we were relieved by French troops & marched to Haudainville.
I got a cablegram from the States. It worried me so I begun to shake. All my buddies come over wondering what was in it, Show us, Joe. I figured the worst. Someone was dead at home, sure. So I would not open it.
I asked Lieut. Kennedy if there was a chance to go back to the States if someone was dead in my family. He says, "Huh, not a chance in the world. The whole army'd be getting cables."
So I tore the cable up & burned it without reading it. Oh how I prayed everything was all right at home. I wrote to my sister to find out. We use the back of our mess kit for a desk to write letters, but the trouble is you have to carry them around ten or fiftenn days before they can get censored and mailed home.
May 14th.--[At 1 p.m.] Marched to Ancemont & entrained in box cars [departing at 6.30 p.m.~ arrived Blesmes 3:30 a.m., marching without breakfast] to Vauvray-le-Petit. ...hiked to Vauvray-le-Grand.
May 17th.--We hiked to Doucey & it is a nice town. Plenty to eat and good quarters. Received pay, & crap games the order of the day. Champagne at 4 francs a bottle. We were the first American troops in this town & it was here our company took its much needed baths, washed clothes & had the run of the town.
Lt. Marshall called me over to his quarters & gave me the sad news that he was promoted. He is going to Battalion Intelligence. Gee, I hated to see him go. Such is war.
We went into the village wash house where they wash all their clothes & took a bath. Along come some French women to wash their clothes. "Hand me my pants. Gimme that shirt quick."
Not necessary. They didn't pay us no attention. We are supposed to be shock troops & we didn't shock them at all.
May 18th.--We got ready to leave. Lt. Marshall bid us goodbye & when we marched away I looked back & he was crying. All the boys in our platoon brought along plenty of Champagne & cognac brandy on this hike to drown our sorrows for losing a real man.
[Left at 10 p.m., 19 May]. Arrived at Vitry-le-Francois [4 a.m., 20 May]. Rested & entrained, arriving at Isly-Adam [6 p.m, 20 May]. Marched to Nele-le-ville. Rested all night & hiked [leaving at 8 a.m., 21 May] all day to town of Marines [arriving 4:45 p.m., 21 May]. This place is where I paid four (4) franc for a nice big feather bed. Sgt. Crow, Joe Rumbler & myself got supper, four bottles of wine for three franc & we all slept in the feather bed & could not sleep at all, not being used to it.
May 22nd.--Marched to Montagny. We had monkey meat for mess. After eating a can of it you are ready to climb a tree. Four cans, and you would grow a tail. The poor French people would not eat it. It was South American beef & carrots & tasted like coal oil.
May 23rd.--Brigadier-General Harbord is in command of the Marines & was here watching us drill.
May 29.--Got paid today. We had a lot of francs & no place to spend them. Father Darcy told us we was going up to the front & would not need any money up there so a lot of us gave it to the church. "Well, that's one kind act I done, anyhow," a guy says to me.
May 30th.--Decoration Day. I was transferred to Battalion Intelligence under Lt. Marshall. At 6 PM [30 May] orders to pack double quick and marched [3 a.m., 31 May] to Serans. Bivouacked all night out in open fields & boarded camions in morning [8:30 a.m., 31 May] for a rush to the front lines. The Germans have broke through and are headed for Paris.
Everybody excited. At last we will have a chance to do some real fighting.
The long caravan of camions took a route that brought us close to Paris. The people in these small villages ran out & yelled, "The Americans are coming." Most of these people never seen American marines & soldiers in great numbers as there were now, miles & miles of camions all loaded with American soldiers. We were kidding & joking with them as if we were on a picnic. Children were yelling "Vive l'Amerique."
On the edge of Meaux we seen refugees. The roads were crowded with them. A steady stream of carts with the few belongings they could take along. Some of the peasants pulled their carts themselves because they did not have any cattle. Old women & young women with babies at their breasts. Children hung on to their skirts & they all looked tired & were crying. Hundreds of them knelt on the side of the road when they seen us go by & prayed for us. It sure was a pathetic scene. We were not laughing now like we were before. Ths was the saddest procession I ever seen.
We were on the road in camions about 33 hrs. We reached a little town [Montreuil-aux-Lions, on the morning of 1 June] & left our camions and bivouacked for the night. [Actually, the 3rd Battalion first rested for several hours in Montreuil, then marched along the Chateau Thierry - La Ferte road to a wood northeast of La Voie du Chatel, arriving late in the day, 1 June, and took up position there in the wood]. We could hear the
artillery booming away in the distance & Boche aeroplanes was dropping bombs somewheres near.
The French were retreating. Thousands of them passed us & only the French rear guard were checking the Germans till the main body could beat it. As they went by they shook their heads & said Good bye to dear Paree.
They felt sure it was all over now. The situation was mighty bad, at that. A few more miles and the Boches could shell Paris. We were ordered to move & support position in back of French. [This order actually did not arrive until 5 p.m. the following day, 2 June].
June 2nd.--The Germans made another attack on the French, who were forced back through our lines.
June 4th.--On June third, about 5 o'clock, the enemy attacked again & then we were ordered to open fire. "Make every shot count, men. Pass the word on down the line. Do not waste ammunition."
It was machine-gun & rifle fire. How we raked the German ranks. We all took carefull aim before every shot. My gun got so hot I could not touch it, so I crawled over & took one of my buddies rifles for he was done for and I used both guns, alternating as they got too hot.
The Germans kept a-coming though. Then they would stop and seemed wondering what kind of fighting is this, anyhow? At last they broke and started to beat it. A French observer reported he had never seen such accurate shooting as what we did.
Then the German batteries opened up and it was Hell sure enough. Shells bursting everywhere.
That night Lt. Marshall, Pvt. Moore & myself crawled out to the German lines to find out if they were getting ready for a counter-attack. We just reached their lines & started to crawl snake fashion down into a small ravine when Marshall signalled to me & I crawled up close to him.
My heart was going mighty fast--what we saw there was hundreds of Germans. It looked like they were going to attack & were just waiting for orders, so we crawled away from there to go back to our own lines & we encountered a German patrol who were scouting in our lines like we were in theirs. They never got back to their lines. We killed them all in hand to hand fighting. No attack came from the Germans that night.
Back of Lucy-le-Bocage. We were laying out in a wheat field. Runners come back from the 95th Company [with the message] that the French were retreating. Major Sibley says, "Well, I can't help that. Let them go through. We have no orders to retreat."
He sent Marshall & I into the town of Lucy to see what the trouble was.
A shell come along & hit a wall & knocked me into a Frenchman. I lit right on top of the frog and knocked him ten feet. It knocked Marshall down too. I got up & shook myself to see if I was all there and the lieut says, "You don't need to worry no more. You wrote home & told your mother the Germans did not make the shell with your address on it, didn't you?"
I says, "Yes, but they are sure knocking next door."
Them fool Germans will hurt me yet. We got back from scouting this afternoon & I laid down in back of a tree and it seems like Fritz won't leave me rest. A shell bust close by & killed a mule and a piece of the shell tore a hole in my tree big enough to put my head in.
My feet are tired. I have not had my shoes off in four days. Also, no sleep. I have eat very little. Seemed though I was not hungry. I don't like artillery fire at all.
June 5th.--Major Sibley, Lt. Marshall & myself inspected our front line & he ordered all the companies to dig in. "Hold what you got," the Major says.
This is what we seen out there. Some of the boys was using dead marines for breast works. At another place there was a pile of them, arms and legs lying around. The Major ordered them buried. The boy he gave the
order to says, "Major, they were buried once, sir, but the Germans artillery blowed them out again."
Same night.--We were relieved [by 1st Bttn, 5th Marines] & marched to the Paris-Metz road & camped the rest of the night in the woods [at Ferme Blanche].
At 4 p.m. June 6th we were ordered to leave everything but our emergency rations & we marched through open fields & were ordered to deploy in battle formation [Rendinell's company, the 97th, was positioned in support of 84th Company on the front line. The objectives of the 3rd Battalion were the village of Bouresches, including the railroad station, the brook crossing at 173.9-264.1, Hill 126 & Hill 133]. There was 7 enemy observation balloons directing their artillery fire at us. Their range was good too.
Lt. Marshall called me over & showed me a map. "See this line here?
It's this little ravine, about 4 feet deep. Take any three men you want & go until you see Germans & find out where their machine-gun nests are and keep ahead of our line about 500 feet & send runners back so we'll know where they are." So I said a little prayer. It didn't look to me like there was any chance of coming back at all. My buddies from my old company said goodbye & wished me luck & I could tell they didn't ever expect to see me again neither.
I took Pvt Moore as the get-away man, Sleet & Pvt Howe to guard my flanks and to keep me in sight always for any signal. If I got bumped off, for Pvt Howe to take my place. We hunched along with our heads down.
I spotted a bunch of Heinies around the bend of the ravine. I signalled back to Pvt Moore, he rushed back to headquarters, & then the attack started.
We stopped where we were until our men cleaned out that machine gun nest. I heard some shooting about 15 feet in back of a tree & I could not see this Heinie, so I crawled out of the ravine and walked on the side, stooping real low, & then I saw him in the bushes, so I took careful aim& fired & I got me another belt buckle.
I looked across the wheat field & there were our buddies still coming along through the machine-gun bullets. As fast as they would drop, another marine would take his place. Pvt. Howe didn't keep down and was hit.
I kept on crawling ahead & run into twenty more Germans. They were beating it for their own lines as hard as they could go & I helped them along with the old rifle. Lt. Marshall come up & said, "Form an outpost here and don't retreat, understand? We expect a counter-attack.
He sent up more men to reinforce us. The boys out in the wheat field--what was left of them--were digging in. The enemies' artillery were sending hundreds of shells into our lines. Lt. Marshall come back & stayed with us a while & said, "Guess we've got them going today all right." He asked me how I felt and I said, "Nervous, and this waiting for a counter-attack is enough to drive a man crazy." I asked him, "Where the hell is our artillery? We sure could use those babies today."
The Germans counter-attacked in about an hour & I thought Hell had broke loose. They sent over high-explosive shells, gas shell, & their machine-guns were working overtime. Their infantry started advancing toward our line, but they never got there. My gun was good & hot from firing it so much & my ammunition was running low. Lt. Marshall sent back for hand grenades and rifle ammunition.
There was no more counter-attacks from the Germans the rest of the night, but their artillery sent over thousands of shells. Lt. Marshall stood guard while we laid down trying to get some rest. [Rendinell's position here is uncertain, but most of the Battalion was pinned down at the edge of a wood near Bouresches by very heavy artillery & machine gun fire. According to Akers' HISTORY OF THE THIRD BATTALION,
SIXTH REGIMENT U.S. MARINES, a small detachment from 97th Company made it into Bouresches about 10 p.m.].
Early the morning of June 7th he told us "Stand by, they're going to counter-attack." We repulsed them again. After about two hours everything was quiet.
Lt. Marshall, Pvt. Trindad, Pvt Moore & myself crawled across the open wheat field to the town of Bouresches. This town was taken by Lieut. Robertson of the 2nd Battalion with about twenty men, all that was left of his company. He took that town & he held it. The 97th Company went in and reinforced them.
When we got into the town we scouted around for German snipers. They were hiding any place for shelter. They were up on roofs, in trees, every point of vantage. We located a few and silenced them & while we was scouting around, we found a hog that the Germans had butchered, so being very hungry Lt Marshall sent the other boys to find some cooking utensils & salt in order to have a meal. I was the chief chef & fried the whole hog before we'd had enough. The remains was put in our pockets for an emergency.
At dusk we started back for our outpost & ran across from the town through the wheat fields, zizzagging, to this little ravine. The German snipers cracked down on us but they missed all their shots at us. We all felt better because that was our first meal since May 31st--a whole week.
The other three companies of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, were having Hell in Belleau Woods. Our commander sent Lt. Marshall & myself into the woods to find out & report to him how the attack was progressing. The woods was trackless jungle and there was Germans in trees, behind woodpiles, in ravines, hid in piles of stone. We had to advance from tree to tree, looking all around to see where those shots were coming from. It was like playing Hide & Seek, only if you lost you were out for keeps.
We got back to hdqrs O.K. and reported there was Germans everywhere and the only way to get them out is blow the woods off the map with our artillery. We went back to our outposts to spend another night there. Lt. Marshall went on another scouting party.
About 1 AM the Germans opened an artillery barrage with hundreds of gas shells and I couldn't keep my gas mask on manoeuvering around in those bushes & the next thing I knew I woke up in a Field Hospital. I was gassed and hit in the head with a chunk of shrapnel.
My wounds were dressed and I was sent to Paris Base Hospital. There were hundreds of ambulances taking wounded back. The French people ran alongside our ambulance & gave us cookies and some were crying. They were tears of happiness as well as sadness, for the Germans were checked and their beloved Paris was saved.
In the hospital I met a lot of my buddies and we fought the battle of Belleau Woods all over again. Among the casualties that was told were a number of my dearest friends. Pvt Danley of Cleveland, Ohio, was one of them. While I laid there in bed & thought of how I ever come through alive, and all of the dead laying out there in the wheat fields--poor mothers, fathers & wives, they will hear the sad news your boy was killed in action, or your boy died of wounds or missing in action like Alarm Clock Bill from Chi, I forget his name, but a shell exploded under him & we found only his shoe.
Our emergency first aid station was in a little culvert under a road, four feet wide, eighteen feet long. That was where all the wounded were brought back & given first aid & they waited there for Ford ambulances that came there only at night, loaded up with wounded & drove without lights across fields to field hospital Bezu-le-Guery, about six miles in back of our lines. The wounded were transferred to G.M.C. ambulances to base hospitals & then hospital trains to the interior.
The dead out in the wheat fields near Belleau Wood laid where they had fallen. We had no chance to bury them. There were Frenchmen, Marines & Germans laying to-gether. One place, a Marine corporal & three Germans laying to-gether in a heap, a Marine in a prone position with his rifle to his shoulder & finger on the trigger, just as he died. Another with his baynote still in a German and both dead. Such were the scenes they told at the hospital.
Young Venn from Detroit & Beatty from the same state, coming out of Bouresches, a shell lit under both of them. Venn was only 17 yrs old. He got in as a bugler and changed for a rifle.
The only thing left alive in Lucy was a chicken. We took it and kept it for the 3rd Batt. pet.
June 21.--I was evacuated [June 12] from the base hospital in Paris, put aboard hospital train to base hospital in Torys. Stayed there one week & was evacuated to Casual Camp St. Argonne. I called it St. Agony. It was worse than being up at the front.
I was equipped with rifle & heavy marching order & went back to the front. Arrived to battalion hdqrs 6th Marines on June 21st. They were in reserve then. Lt. Marshall come over & shook hands with me & wanted to know what happened & I told him. He said, "you are just in time, we go back in again tomorrow."
About 3 p.m. that afternoon he & I went back to the front line through the town of Lucy-le-Bocage. It's on the edge of Belleau Wood. What a difference there was since the last time we went through on June 3rd. Not a house left standing. Ammunition dump under a big tree in the center of the town was blown to pieces. The tree was only a stump now. A water cart was full of holes. No wonder we never got any drinking-water. Supply wagons with dead mules alongside the road. There was bread, hardtack, canned Billy scattered everywhere. Dead horses & cows laying out in the fields. So this was the price of war.
We left the town & went up that same ravine but it was different now.
We toured the front line. The 7th Infantry was there, of the 3rd Division. They sure was a happy lot of boys when they heard they were going to be relieved next midnight.
On way back to their company P.C. we saw a lot of our dead Marines just as they had fallen. The stench from the unburied bodies was terrible. Lt. Marshall asked their commander why he hadn't buried the dead. He answered that the casualties had been so heavy it would take weeks to bury them all.
Lt. Marshall told him to have his men ready at eleven o'clock tomorrow night, we were going to relieve them. We went back to our headquarters to get ready to go back in the line.
June 22nd.--At 12 o'clock Major Sibley, three captains & myself for guide, went back to the front lines to find all the companies that were to be relieved and where all the P.C.'s, or headquarters, was. Each capt got his own instructions, what section he was to relieve etc., and then was shown where Battalion Hdqrs would be & returned to our headquarters.
At 10 o'clock I was appointed to lead the battalion to the front lines.
It was like a funeral procession, everything was so quiet. The last relief got in place at 3 a.m. & I went back to Battalion hdqrs & helped dig a dugout for headquarters. Through with that, we started to dig foxholes for ourselves.
We had plenty of picks & shovels now. It wasn't like before, when we were told to dig in & had to use baynotes for picks & hands for shovels.
We looked more like a labor gang on a railroad than soldiers. They could borrow my rifle, but not my shovel. Was offered fifty franc for it.
Sgt Bill Barnett & I shared one dugout. We had it fixed fine, covered half way. When we were in, our legs were sticking out--Marine strategy for a rest. It would be nice to get hit in the legs, a nice trip to the hospital. But to be hit above the waist, it might mean pushing up daisies.
Our dugout had a large limb of a tree in the middle for centre support and a lot of branches, two German overcoats & four feet of earth on top.
It was 3 feet deep & four feet wide. Bill said we could use it for a grave easy. It sure was a tight fit for Bill & I. When I wanted to roll over I had to wake Bill up & he would turn too, & vice versa.
Today two runners sent out, boy by name of Reynolds & self. We both started out with a message apiece to same commander, 2 different routes.
I delivered my message & on way back I came across Reynolds. He had no head. We did not have anything to eat. I rolled him over & looked in his pack for bacon & found only a set of barber tools.
The Germans must of knew we were going to relieve the 7th Infantry, Third Division. They were shelling the cross-roads & roads leading into Lucy-le-Bocage, when we was on the way up. I led the battalion across the fields as guide & into that ravine I went through June 6. We lost 18 men.
Not so bad for going in.
June 23.--Pvt. Byington, a Tennesee mule skinner who drives a ration cart, was trying to get food up to the line. Up on a ridge one of his mules balked when the Germans was shelling the road. There he was in plain view. He busted the General Order and beat them up a while. They would not move. He left those mules & carried some of the rations on his back. "All right, you bastards, stay there & get killed. I don't aim to."
Oh yes--while we was in reserve position our chaplain would have services Sunday morning in a little shanty or any place he could find under cover. We went with our rifles just like the Pilgrims & one Sunday we had to carry out the dead first that was laying in our little chapel before we could get in. There was room for maybe 50 men inside and the rest knelt outside on the ground & prayed. Protestant and Catholic alike was there for we had only one chaplain but he sure was a dandy. Well, I finely heard from Sister what that cable was about I would not open. They wished me a happy Easter. Can you beat that. I wrote Mary to please send no cablegrams again & if anything bad happened, not to tell me about it till after the war. What is the use.
Everything quiet. I gave a few of the boys up in line a haircut. A few shells came over, but no damage done. We climbed trees to try & snipe a few Heinies, but it was just like hunting rabbits. Did not see any. Will try again tomorrow.
At 12 pm Lt. Marshall & myself went to our front line, crawled out to No Man's Land towards German lines on a scouting party. Did not find anything out. It was too light, moon shining bright. It would of been suicide to go further, so we crawled back.
Some of the boys back in S.O.S. wonder why we are not hit by our own artillery when we go out in No Man's Land or in the German lines. Well, we notify the artillery we are going out in a certain section & for them to lay off & we will be back in our own lines at a given hour. You bet we have to be back on time or else we would be out of luck.
June 24th.--Four of our snipers went out. Three came back. Two Germans did not come back. The Germans are using a whizz-bang on us. You hear the whizz of the shell, the bang and the report of the shell all at once & it is impossible to duck them.
Our artillery is sending plenty of shells over. They sound like a freight train going over. One of our planes brought down a German plane about 200 yards from us. Aviators taken prisoner.
No scouting party tonight. I am glad of that. The hard part of scouting is waiting until zero hour. It is nerve-wrecking. Your whole life is a motion-picture in front of you. No wonder my hair is gray at twenty-three years old.
June 25th.--Five of us were given the same message to be delivered to First Battalion, 5th Marines Hdqrs, and each took a different route. I put the note in my mouth, got over & back again on the run all out of breath.
"I wish I had a good drink of water," I says.
"Try and get it here, ha ha."
We are going to take the rest of the [Belleau] Woods tonight. 5th Regiment is going to attack on our left & we are taking back to prepare for an attack. 3rd Battalion of 6th Regiment stretched out and took their
places in line.
At 4 pm our artillery-- 12th, 15th, 17th-- laid down a terrific barrage. Those boys sure know their stuff.
First Battalion of the 5th Regiment went over at 6.30 pm. Lt. Marshall sent Pvt Trindad & myself to get down to the 67th Co., but "Follow around the edge of the woods & see how the attack is progressing." We started out on a run but didn't get very far. I heard a noise, a sort of moaning & crying. We listened to hear where it come from. There, out in a shell hole, was one of our buglers acting as a runner, with a leg shot off. I put a tournet on his leg to stop the flow of blood, gave him my canteen of water & left him to carry out my orders.
We got around the woods pretty fast. "Hurrah, Belleau Woods is all ours." I told Trindad to get first-aid men up to that wounded bugler and I would meet him at our Hdqrs.
There was hundreds of prisoners going back. Gee, they were scared, for their own artillery was sending over a small barrage. I met a sgt who had two prisoners.
"Here, corp, take them, I'm in a an awful hurry."
"So am I, Sarge," I says.
I saw him a few minutes later. I asked him who took those prisoners back. He said, "Oh, they had the dropsey disease, they both died of heart failure."
German artillery opened up a heavy bombardment on our newly won woods.
I turned & ran through that barrage and over fallen trees to the 67th Company again. Got in touch with Lt in charge & told him I was sent from the 3rd Battalion Hdqrs for any message.
"Get me more rifle ammunition & hand grenades and tell the artillery to raise their shots."
Back through that barrage again to Hdqrs & reported to Major Sibley & Lt. Marshall and then into my dugout for a rest.
June 27th.--Everything quiet. My uniform is all tore.
Some funny things come off. Pvt Humler & Kerr were ordered to take 28 prisoners tback to regimental headquarters. When they got there they had 43. It sure did surprise them. They could not figure it out & nobody else could. Some of the German dead they passed must of come to life & joined the parade.
The boys sure do hate this digging in. In Belleau Woods they would all get mighty busy when the shelling was hot. As soon as it eased off they would quit digging until the Germans opened up again.
Going through that barrage with a message I kept throwing myself flat when one busted close to me. Once I fell right on top of a dead German.
He was fat and ripe and his face came away under my hand.
When I was trying to make the 49th Company, a sniper cracked down on me. I never did see where he was shooting from. I wriggled around in every direction and finely shook loose.
June 28.--Some of the boys heard I had barber tools. Their hair was getting all matted up under their helmets & they asked me to cut it. OK.
We were standing in some fox-holes when they asked me. I sat on the parapet & they stood up and I gave 15 or 16 of them a haircut apiece. One bozo says, "Joe, the last guy who cut my hair got bumped off." He didn't get no haircut from me.
Corp. Truitt & Daly went out yesterday and sniped a German. These telescopes on our snipers' rifles are the berries. You can bring a Heinie down at two thousand yards.
A detail of thirty went back for rations. I wonder who won't come back?
Food is cooked about 4 miles back of our lines & they have to go and get it. The only time we get water is when the water cart does not get hit and that is mighty seldom. We hold pebbles in our mouth to keep it moist.
That ration detail came back with eleven men. The other nineteen killed or wounded.
June 28th.--Brigadier-General James G. Harbord came to 3rd Battalion Hdqrs for inspection & to tour front lines. Major Sibley sent me as a guide. I was wishing the Germans would send over a few shells just to see if he could duck them. No such luck. It was quiet all day. He talked to the boys from the 97th Co., sat right down among them. He's a real fellow.
We got back to Hdqrs OK & he left us. I told Lt. Marshall, "If I was a General I would never come up to the front lines at all." Colonel Catlin, in command of the 6th Regiment on June 6th, must of thought he was a buck private or something. Got out there with the rest of us & got wounded.
At 10 pm we were relieved & went back in reserve in a woods.
The only time we do not growl about a hike is when we are going back to reserve positions. The 26th Division relieved us in Belleau Woods & we ran practically the whole distance back. Did not even feel tired, but oh that death march going in! You hardly say a word. How we envy a guy going back to hospital with a nice wound, maybe an arm or a leg off. There will be no more war for him.
Our dugout in Belleau Woods had a log through the middle. One day when it was quiet, all us battalion scouts were sort of celebrating by singing songs. We was singing Back Home in Indiana. A sgt was frying some bacon & potatoes at the door of the dugout.
Along come a German airplane and dropped a bomb in the middle of the song. It tore up the ground about twenty feet from us. We all took a header for the dugout. I sure did make fast time. When I dove into the dugout I smashed into the sgt at same place. He was sore. He says to me
"Joe, you ought to let me go first."
"Don't you know I am married?"
"I can't help that."
After the shelling was over I crawled out for a look & told him to come on out, his potatoes were burning.
"Hand them down," he says.
I says, "No, come on out and get them."
He did not come out, so I ate everything & the sgt reported me to the lieut. Marshall give him the laugh.
June 29th.--Having it easy. [In Bois-de-Gros Jean on the east side of the Paris-Metz Road, two kilometers north of Montreuil]. YMCA, Red Cross & KC passing out cigarettes, chewing tobacco and candy. Got some writing paper and wrote home. All is well.
After dinner we had a shirt reading contest to see who had the most cooties.
June 30th--July 5th.--Just laying around, getting 3 squares a day & sleeping on leaves. No blankets.
That chicken we found in Lucy which was 3rd Battalion pet. Some sucker has gone and ate it. We sure were fond of that bird too.
I met our old top-kick Heinie on the Paris-Metz road.
"Say, sarge, they tell me you had a dugout in Belleau Wood 20 feet deep."
"Aw, don't believe them guys, Joe. It was only 12," says Heinie.
Then he says, "Say, do you remember all those shells the Fritzies sent over? Well, most of them landed slam on my dugout, and right where my head was there was only one foot of ground." And then Heinie whistled a bar of the National Anthem like he always does after he says something.
"How did you find that out?" I says.
"Why, Hank Springer, the Company's runner's foot come through the roof."
Good old top, he did not know he was digging himself out the deeper he dug in. His dugout was on the side of a hill. There is no braver man in the AEF than Heinie.
This is the way he crosses the Germans up front. Heinie says in a loud voice in dugout, "Say, you know where regimental headquarters is?"
"Sure, I do."
"Well," he says in a low voice, "I don't want you to go there. I want you to go to battalion headquarters."
July 2nd.--Word reached me that my pal Dave Felch was in hospital, shot through the hip in Belleau Wood.
[Note: On July 2nd, eighty men and four officers from the 3rd Battalion left for Paris to take part in the July 4th celebrations there. Joe was not among them].
July 6th.--26th Division relieved us & we hiked to Bezu-le-Guery division reserve. Lt. Marshall was decorated with DSC. He sure deserved it. If he was in the French army, he would be all covered with medals. He is a man that would not let you do anything he would not do himself.
July 7th.--Our kitchen has not showed up yet. It must of got lost. I turned cook, got some potatoes, beans & peas from a garden, cooked them all together. What a stew it was. Potatoes cooked, peas & beans were not, but we were hungry & it did not matter.
Borrowed a razor and got shaved to-day. First shave since leaving hospital June 20th.
July 8th.--Kitchen arrived late last night. They told us a sad tale. I think it was a windy though & wish I had been along to help them drink what those birds had.
Beans for dinner & they were burnt. Truitt & myself went on a scouting party for eats. Brought back a cow we found. Steaks for supper. Fresh meat for two days.
July 9th.--Feeling fine. We had some more shirt reading and played jawbone blackjack. I won one hundred and fifty thousand jawbone franc.
"Try & collect."
After dinner went down to field hospital to help care for the wounded. They were boys of the 26th Division, who were getting Hell in Belleau Woods. The Germans loaded them full of gas shells. They were a sad looking bunch. This battle was some different from Seicheprey.
July 10th.--News came to us that the 26th Ambulance drivers stationed here had a calf locked up somewheres in a house and were anticipating a big blow-out. They brought wine from Paris to go with the feed, too. I called Truitt over.
"Let's go get that calf tonight."
We went over & told Lt. Marshall there was a calf in a field with his leg broke & would it be alright to go & gt it tonight? O.K. with him.
At 9 pm Truitt, Albaugh, Trindad & myself hunted around the different houses & found the calf hid in a small shed. It was funny, the calf did not want to go. We pulled & pushed & twisted its tail & finely had to carry it to our camp. We carried it alongside of a fence and gave it the works. It was some job skinning it. Each of us got a hold of a leg and carried it to camp & had 2 guards stationed near it the rest of the night.
I was chief cook again. Major Sibley & his staff got away with the whole hind quarter & we finished the rest. It certainly was a meal. Too bad we didn't get their wine too.
At 3 pm got orders to shove off & hike to Nanteul. It's located on the River Marne. Arrived there at 6 pm, went in bathing & threw hand grenades in the water & killed fishes. Took them to a French lady. Fish & wine for supper. Boy! A perfect day.
July 11th.--Lt. Marshall sent 15 of us with instructions to make a sketch of what we seen along the river up to the next town of Charley Cross over that bridge & come back the other side. We had picnic that day like young school boys. We were shooting at trees, went in bathing, scouted around for chickens, found a horse & played cowboy. Everybody wanted to ride.
We got to the town & found a company of engineers & told them we were lost & mighty hungry & bummed chow from them. We crossed the river & rode a French ammunition train back to Nanteul across the river from our camp.
We laid under a tree & made a sketch. We just guessed at it. Got back to camp, reported to Marshall & got Hell. It didn't correspond with the map.
July 12th.--Went bombing fishes. Had a boxing exhibition after dinner. Marshall & myself boxed four rounds, honors even.
July 13th.--Hiked back to Bezu-le-Guery. Roads are full of artillery going to the front. As far as the eye can see, ammunition trains. Something big must be going on up there.
July 14th.--Aeroplanes overhead. We were out waving at them. They were our planes, with a star, & they were flying close to the ground. We sure was surprised when he dropped a bomb. The other brought down our observation balloon. They were Germans in our planes. I'll wave at no more planes from now on.
July 15th.--At 5 am we were woke up by our guard. Hell must of broke loose again. Heavy artillery bombardment up at the front ten miles from here. Major & his staff are looking over maps. I wonder what's coming off. This life is too good to last, anyhow.
July 16th.--Orders to move to Nanteul again. Sure enough, boarded camions for a trip, road all night & next day. At 7 pm arrived at Brassoir & hiked to Foret-de-Retz.
July 17.--When the 6th Regiment was on the move, going up to relieve the 5th, we passed a food dump. Everybody loaded themselves with bread, bacon & jam. We stuck our baynotes through the bread & carried it that way. On the right of us an officer was trying to shoot his horse because it was wounded. He could not hit that horse. He missed it four times. It sure was comical.
I seen the prettiest sight of all today. A French 2 seater airplane tried to shake a German off his tail. What lovely manoeuvring that frog made. He dove within ten feet of the ground, then straightened out & flew over the top of some French cavalry. It sure did scatter them. The Fritzie was flying about fifty feet above shooting down with a machine-gun. We all brought up our guns and took a crack at him and finely brought the German down as dead as a doornail.
Coming up here I never seen such a jam on the roads. We hiked from Bassoir to Foret-de-Retz. They was full of artillery and ammunition trains and big tanks and baby tanks and cavalry and ambulances and food carts and wagons. Plenty of troops too, white & colored, because besides us boys from the U.S. there was the Moroccans with the French. It was so crowded on the roads we marched single file along the edge and the rain kept pouring down. Gee, the mud was terrible. We slopped around in it and if you stopped a minute, you sank up to your leggins.
It looked like it never aimed to stop raining. Trucks got stuck and guns too, and then we would get in back of them and shove. When they would not move, over into the ditch they went. We just hove them over.
The road had to be kept open.
The night was as black as ink. Orders come down the line "Hold on to the man in front of you. No smoking! Cut out that talking."
You bet we hung on to the man in front. A lot of the boys were walking in their sleep, we was so all in, and we only kept up by hanging on to each other. I've seen that happen often, when we was coming back from digging trenches all night.
Now and again there would be a crash and rattle of a rifle. Another soldier down for the count, passed out. Peopole wouldn't hardly believe what men can stand up under when they got to, though.
Oh, how it rained! We marched through that sea of mud until I could hardly move my legs and we got into position about 1 a.m. We got into position near the edge of the woods.
Boy, the artillery around here! The guns are hub to hub. It sure did me good to see those babies. I run into a French lieutenant who has been fighting for four years, he says, and when I asked him what was coming off, he says he never knowed what was coming off till after it happened, in all that time.
July 18.~We sat there and waited. Waiting around is the worst part. When you know you're going over next day it sure does make you think back. You wonder about everybody you ever done a wrong to & you don't hardly say a word to anybody. You don't seem to recognize anybody. I hardly seen them and that's a fact. You're sort of walking in your sleep. Then every so often you begin to figure "Well, what'll we find over there in the enemy's lines?" And also, "What'll they do to me if they catch me?"
That waiting around before you go over always gets my goat. Gee, it makes me nervous. After I get started it is different, but that waiting around sure gets on a guy's nerves. It makes your mouth dry. Everybody kept asking last night "What time is it?" They would ask it a thousand times.
We waited there about three hours, I guess. At 4 a.m., still raining. Then Bam!~a 105 cut loose on our side. Then another one and another & in a minute the whole woods was roaring & spitting flames. Boy, oh boy, it sounded pretty! We thought our ear drums would bust and the ground begun to rock and shake. What a barrage! Those artillery boys sure know their stuff.
Well, we stayed there and listened to that barrage for two hours. We did not mind how long they took. They could of shelled them for hours and it would of been OK with us. But we all knew zero hour was close.
At 6 a.m. The first wave of Marines went over and about seven o'clock the sun come out. There was mists hanging low down close to the ground but it was a right pretty day. Too nice a day to die. The country was rough and a hard one to fight over. Plenty of woods and wheat fields and there was stone-quarries, too, all full of Germans. The wheat stood as high as your waist in the fields.
We could not see the battle from where I was. Nothing except the flashes of the guns and the shaking of the ground. Then Lieut. Marshall sent Trindad, Albough & myself to go find out how the attack was progressing and we got out where the battle was.
Away over where the enemy's positions was I seen a cloud of smoke and dust boiling up. All along that line was flickerings like heat lightening and it made a sort of bubbling sound, like oatmeal when it boils. That was the shells busting. It sure was nice.
Then we seen our boys. They were going forward in waves across the wheat fields, one line about ten or twenty paces behind the other. They were walking slow and held their rifles at the firing-from-the-hip position. They had pretty good distance, too, about five paces apart.
Sometimes there would be a gap before you seen how, then another man from the rank behind stepped up to fill the place. In five minutes I seen one man move up from the fourth line to the first. But that good old front line kept right on going no matter how many dropped.
We had to get in there so we followed along behind some baby tanks.
Shells were screeching above our heads and a lot busted all around us.
What I liked, though, was a sort of heavy rumble up in the air like a freight train going through a tunnel. That was our big stuff going over to pay Fritz a visit.
Then tat-tat-tat-tat! Another machine-gun cracking down on us. They had them hid out in the quarries and behind trees, and a bunch of them was camouflaged in the wheat fields shooting point-blank at our boys as they come.
When we was following that baby tank, it spotted a machine-gun nest and headed straight for it. No place for me. I quit that baby tank and watched it from a shell-hole instead. The Heinies tried to shoot it up, but it kept right on like it was too busy for fooling. Then the Germans run out with their hands up, yelling Kamerad. The tank did not pay them any attention but went right on through and over the nest and flattened it out.
There was a lot of these tanks moving about the fields and the German artillery was trying to hit them. Whenever a tank spotted a gun-nest that was cracking down on our boys, it turned and headed for that place and the Heinies there were sure glad to call it a day.
Well, we got up and followed along again. A guy had to watch where he was stepping, though, or he would fall into a shell-hole or maybe bust himself against something. There was airplanes going overhead and all of them were ours. They flew low toward the enemy positions and it was pretty to watch. Then back they come shooting off Very lights with their pistols. That's the way they signal the range. I would see five stars and then three stars, whatever they happened to use for the signal.
Ahead of me our boys kept on going. A lot of men went down but the lines never stopped. I would see a man walking across the fields with his rifle at his hip and suddenly he would take another step and there wouldn't be no step there and he would go down. Some fell flat. Some grabbed at their wounds and sort of crumpled down. And some would sit down slow like they were sitting down in a chair. I don't remember ever seeing a man throw up his arms and fall back. Maybe that's because they are moving forward and they've got the weight of the rifle and baynote in front.
I passed a lot of dead and wounded. It was terrible to hear the wounded moaning and crying.
"First aid! First aid! First aid men here!"
The ground was getting rougher. It was all tore up with shell holes. The shells kept coming over faster all the time. Oh, that horrible screeching sound! One exploded near me and knocked me flat. It felt like somebody trying to tear my clothes off in a hurry.
I seen a beautiful bird flying around right in the middle of all those shells screaming over us and I looked up and says to Trindad, who was walking along near me, "If I didn't have any more business around here than that fool bird, I'd sure fly away."
The air was sort of blue and smelt like sulphur. After a shell exploded, little green flames kept curling and licking around in the centre of the hole it made in the ground.
Right in front of us was a German .77, buried in a hole in the ground and covered with wheat. It was firing point-blank at us. Some of the boys circled around and got in behind and then it was a hand to hand fight.
You bet there was no prisoners there. They gave them the baynote. A shell exploded not far in front and when the smoke cleared away, I found five men hit. Four were dead and the other dying. When I went fix that poor boy up, the whole side of his head was gone and I knew it was no use to bandage him.
They kept on going, those waves of Marines. Across the fields, through the wheat, down into a ravine, up the other side, into a stone-quarry, over a ridge~ they kept right on through that artillery barrage and machine-gun fire.
I looked back and seen our .75's on the move. They had pulled right out into the open and begun to crack down. Nice work.
We came to what was left of a town and cleaned it out, mopping up from house to house. The name was Versey (probably Vierzy), or something. I saw a right funny thing happen in that town. A Marine was down on one knee picking off the Germans with his rifle as they beat it back out of the town. Say, he picked those Heinies off like you would pick off the moving figures in a shooting gallery. He was sure having a good time.
Stretcher bearers were on the run everywheres now. They kept coming back, carrying the wounded. German prisoners was coming back, too, hundreds of them. The dust and smoke and flashes of our barrage looked closer. Pretty soon we got close enough to the German positions to see them operating their big 155's. The barrels stuck straight up in the air.
The enemy never got away with these guns. Our boys killed the crews or took them prisoners.
Germans were jumping up on all sides with their hands up. A few put up a fight but not many, and they got baynoted. The rest was sent back as prisoners. I started back to report to Marshall that the Marines had taken all positions and advanced about six miles. Also they captured thousands of prisoners, a world of machine-guns and .77's and big guns.
There was a lot of German wounded laying out side by side with our boys. They was crying for help. We did not have time for them just then.
An officer spotted me and sent me back with seven other boys to escourt four hundred prisoners. Along come a Marine all by himself with a German Colonel. That bozo had the German colonel marching in front and the colonel was carrying the marine's pack. He made him step lively, too, because shells was busting all around.
The boys stopped him and some of them tried to get the colonel's shoulder straps for a souvenir. The way they held the colonel's head and tugged at the gold braid to get it off made the colonel plenty mad. But the German privates who were prisoners seemed to think it was a good show.
We marched those prisoners back as far as Vivieres and we did not waste no time about it either. On the way we passed hundreds of dead and dying. The ground was covered with them. We saw a lot of other prisoners too. Some were helping stretcher-bearers carry in the wounded, both our boys and their own. Say, those German hospital attendants sure know how to bandage. I seen some German officers looking on. They will never do a lick of work. They were prisoners and we needed every man we could get to carry in the wounded but they could not be made even to help with a stretcher.
Laying out in the fields in shell holes and in the wheat were hundreds and hundreds of wounded. They kept crying out to us for help, or for God's sake to put them out of their misery. We sent all the stretcher bearers we could find.
Some French cavalry come along and passed us, going up to the front. They looked dandy too, with their spears and everything. There seemed to be thousands of them and they were going fast.
Further back, doctors were performing operations under trees, Gee, it was pitiful. Some of the wounds were enough to make you sick to look at.
Trucks and ambulances were starting back along the roads with the wounded. And no matter where I looked, there was some more prisoners, standing round or hiking to the rear under guard. They was all in and covered with mud and dust, and looked scared half to death. A lot had cheap glasses on. I bet they woundered what we would do with them.
When we got back to Vivieres with our bunch, then came the job I liked best of all~searching the prisoners.
Oh, boy, when you get back to your own lines! You are walking on air.
It don't matter how hard the enemy is shelling~you're with your buddies again and the place seems as safe as home.
I told Lt. Marshall, "This man's war ain't such a bad old war."
He said, "Wait till they counter attack. We're going in tomorrow morning to relieve the 5th."
We got on the move right after that & hiked five miles up, to be in position to relieve the 5th at 4 a.m.
July 19.~This is a funny war. Yesterday we had hundreds of airplanes.
Today there's nothing but German planes. What has become of our guys, anyhow?
German planes are giving the wounded hell on their way to field hospital. They flew about 20 yds above their heads & fired machine-guns & dropped bombs. Their artillery sent over shot after shot of G-I cans, trying to hit their own ammunition dumps we had captured in this town of Verizy (probably Vierzy). They hit everything else but.
I wonder how those boys lived through that. Like Father Darcy of the 6th. He went around taking care of wounded, saying a prayer over the dying & dressing wounds. Never got a scratch.
July 20.~The whole 6th Regiment moved up with tanks & artillery. First Battalion are attacking. Third Battalion is following them up. The Germans are sending over a peach of a barrage.
Lt. Marshall took five men as runners & up to the line he went. Major Sibley sent me out with two more boys, up to the 1st Battalion to act as runners.
July 23.~We were running across a field & that is the last I remember. When I came to, the sun was away up in the sky. I tried to get up but could not. My combat pack was full of holes, my rifle was broken. I crawled over in a shell-hole. My nose & ears was bleeding, blood ran out of my mouth. I thought I was going to die. My dear mother & father, would I ever see them again?
Shells were busting everywhere. That screeching sound, it is fierce. There was hundreds of wounded, going back. I yelled for help. Then I crawled out of the shell hole & started back to Hdqrs on my hands & knees.
Albaugh & Trindad come back looking for me. They found me crawling along.
"Gee, kid, I thought you was a goner. We left you for dead. The shell lit about 3 feet along side of you. It knocked me down. We got up & seen you still laying there."
They asked me where I was hit. "I feel a pain in my right leg," I says, "right in the knee."
Well, there was a big shrapnel wound there, so they carried me back to field hospital.
At the field hospital I seen Joe Humbler. He was suffering terrible. He died in my arms. Seen Bill Sweeney, he was hit in the leg. When he was going up to the front line I wished him Good Luck & God bless you & he
said the same to me. We talked about this.
"Well," says Bill, "we'll get a nice rest now, anyhow."
The field hospital was in a big cave & was full of wounded & the moaning was pathetic. Pvt Vance came in with a half a jaw shot off. I'm lucky.
Keeler, from Cleveland Plain Dealer, was shot in arm. "I'll get a good fine rest now," he says.
Later Sweeney, Keeler & myself left the cave to go back & find an ambulance. Keeler run after a truck & got on. A shell hit right in the centre of the truck & killed seven & took Keeler's arm clean off.
Two other wounded boys come by & I asked for help. One of them got me a branch of a tree for a crutch & we got going to the rear. We got back about 3 miles and stopped to rest, but one of those long distance shells exploded near by & we moved. Got into a French truck & it took us to a French field hospital at Creppy (probably Crépy-en-Valois).
There was German wounded, French, Americans, Moroccans there. They gave us a hot soup & wine & loaded us on trucks & took us to railroad yards. Laid us along side of tracks.
That night German aeroplanes were dropping bombs on the railroad yards & there we were and could not move. We laid there until 7 a.m. My leg got paining terrible.
A French train pulled in. We were all loaded on & started for the interior. Road all day, all night. Next morning arrived at Caen and a French hospital. We were given shots to prevent lock-jaw & our wounds were dressed.
July 24 to September 20: no entries.
Sept. 21.~I laid there at Caen a week. Then they put me aboard an ambulance and I took a railroad train & was sent to Pont-Andemmer, another French hospital. I was there until Sept. 16th.
They issued me a French uniform. I looked like a frog right. Then they put me in charge of a detail of 19 men with traveling orders for Le-Mans.
We had to change trains in Paris, so we did the town while waiting for the train & I told them all to be at the depot again shart at 8 p.m.
I sure hated to leave dear Paree, but I couldn't go anywheres much because I was broke. Got back to depot on time but nobody showed up. Not a doggone one. I slept in depot that night.
Next morning I went out looking for those birds, but they was nowhere to found. They must of been still fighting the battle of Paris.
A city for officers only, now. Every place an enlisted man wanted to go in, there was a sign up For Officers Only. I hope the next war will be for officers only. Was stopped 15 times by military police wanting to know what I was doing in a Frenchman's uniform. I told them it was issued to me in a French hospital. I wish I had some of those MPs up in the front lines with me & see how tough they could be. I got discusted with all those MPs & went back to the depot & took the first train to Le-Mans Casual Camp.
Reported in to the commanding officer with my travelling orders. He asked me, "Where are the men?"
I said, "In Paris."
He said, "What the hell are they doing there?"
I said, "I don't know. If you will give me a pass, I will go up & find them."
He said, "Fat chance. I would have to send out and find you."
Sept. 22.~Have been in this camp four days & haven't done a thing but answer roll call. The flu epidemic here is killing the soldiers off as if they was in battle.
December 1.~ Left that madhouse [LeMans Casual Camp, where he had been since September 18] on October 1st and started back for the front. Road all day & night & till noon of next day. Then I got off the train. Could hear the artillery & I hiked until two in the morning of Oct. 3rd.
I could not locate my company. I was on the wrong road. They told me to cut across the fields about 3 miles & I would find them at Blanc Mont on the Champagne front. What a night! Raining & shells busting everywhere. Most of them gas shells, too.
I put on my gas mask & crawled into a shell hole. It must of been full of gas. I walked back to a French field hospital and was sent to the interior, to a French base hospital at Blois. They kept me in bed for seven weeks & I was there when the armistice was signed.
To be burnt with mustard gas is the worst torture a man can suffer. It is worse than any wound.
from J.E. Rendinell's ONE MAN'S WAR: THE DIARY OF A LEATHERNECK, 1927
[note: the innumerable errors of spelling & grammar of Rendinell's original diary were transcribed faithfully for the published edition in 1927. I have transcribed them faithfully as well, proofing every post to ensure all errors are copied intact-- Bradley].
Bradley Omanson, Editor
Scuttlebutt & Small Chow: An Irregular Quarterly of the Old Corps, 1898-1941
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