Some Notes on the 108th Infantry.
of the 108th Infantry
J. F. OAKLEAF
formerly Captain 108th Infantry, U. S. A.
Regimental Scout Officer
Printed for the first Reunion of Company "I"
108th Infantry, U. S. A.
April 13th, 1921
Olean Times Publishing Company
[Note: The 2nd American Corps, comprising the 27th and 30th Divisions, were attached to the XIXth Corps of the 2nd British Army under General Plumer.]
The following information while dealing with the 108th Infantry gives an exact although somewhat technical account of what happened to our own Olean Company "I," which served as a unit of the 108th Regiment. It is compiled partially from my diary together with copies of two official reports, made by me during the campaign.
Taken as a whole the facts cover the entire period from May 31st, 1918, to the signing of the Armistice, November 11th, 1918, during most of which time the Olean boys were in the battle area. Events which occurred during the balance of our duty overseas have not been compiled for this occasion.
The map references giving battle positions, sectors, and the like, as well as the names of places are accurate and should correspond with War Department records, of which they form a part.
J. F. O. (4-5-21).
Our regiment, (The 108th Infantry) arrived at Brest in the spring of 1918, on two separate convoys, those arriving in the first Headquarters, First Battalion, and named companies stepping foot on French soil on May 24th, while the detachments consisting of the Second and Third Battalions disembarked on May 31st. The former contingent was camped at Fort Bougon on the outskirts of Brest, while the latter was quartered at Pontanezen Barracks, between two and three miles from the city. The latter place is of particular interest historically, as it was at one time a barracks and retaining headquarters for the Armies of Napoleon. The barracks proper were surrounded by an old stone wall, enclosing stone buildings of considerable age. These were being used at the time for much the same purpose as they had in the past, such as quarters for troops, warehouses, jails or guard houses, hospital, commandant's headquarters and officers' quarters. The accommodations were much too small to care for incoming American troops. For this reason various fields for many miles on each side had been taken over for camp sites, while others were used simply for bivouac shelter tent camps. Apparently this port had not been used for disembarking purposes sufficiently long to enable the authorities to provide adequate facilities for caring for the incoming troops.
Camp sites had been well chosen, but there were no means available such as tools, lumber and the like to put troops on a self-supporting basis in this regard. There was also an evident shortage in fuel, rations, mess equipment, such as stoves, kitchen utensils and the like. Facilities for bathing and washing clothes were absolutely lacking, and such results as were accomplished in this area developed from the use of streams. Fortunately the weather was continuously fair and warm so that privations which would have loomed large under other circumstances were lost sight of in the novelty experienced by newly arrived troops. The change from a regular and fairly abundant ship's mess to that supplied by entirely inadequate issue from the camp commissary was very noticeable. To add to the difficulty most of the units were at once put to work on the docks in conjunction with negro troops unloading freight from the transports, which work was kept up during 24 hour shifts and should have been backed up with hearty well cooked meals, but in spite of these draw-backs work was carried on with great cheerfulness on the part of the men. One redeeming feature of this work was the liberal transportation supplied between the camp site and the docks, in the form of big American trucks. Units not engaged in freight handling were taking practice marches, bathing and washing clothes in way-side streams.
Details were also sent to the sorting yards where incoming baggage and freight was sorted for rail shipment. Noon meals were served at the yard, for both the details at the yard and those engaged on the docks. Officers marched their details to the mess area, obtained tickets for their men, who fell into line and marched past a battery of field kitchens operated by negro troops. Here a poorly prepared mess of beans, bread and coffee was thrown at the men, who were herded and treated like a bunch of cattle. Officers in charge of troops fared as poorly both in the matter of food and lack of courtesy on the part of officers in charge of yards and messing. In fact the treatment which we received in and around Brest was a disgrace to the American Army. That such procedure is entirely unnecessary in the handling of large army business, we later learned from our British associates.
After about a week of this duty which served well for loosing our sea-legs and once more teaching us to shift for ourselves, we entrained by battalions and similar units for a three day train trip, ---destination, of course, unknown. Later developments proved that we were on our way to the Abbeville Area to join the British Forces with which we were to be affiliated. The trip was planned with three days' rations, but with no means for cooking food or heating drinks enroute. The only attempt made to serve troops with hot drinks was at the so-called "Coffee Stops." These occurred at rare intervals subject to the caprice of the French Railroad officials; at these stops our men clambered from the cars, formed in line, and were served a luke warm, nauseating liquid, presumably charged up to Uncle Sam as a real substitute for the good old issue. It was on this trip that our men first used that antiquated and battle scarred side-door pullman, henceforth to be known to the doughboy as "40 HOMMES, 8 CHEVAUX" In these carriages, scarcely larger than a piano box, were crowded thirty-two men plus their equipment and rations, and although subjected on this and future movements to considerable scorn and ridicule, this means of transportation served its purpose throughout our continental traveling experience. These troop trains carried no conveniences such as heat, water, urinals and the like, so that it was only on occasional stops that the met had an opportunity to relieve themselves, refill their canteens and take a hurried run around a square or two to warm up. Our destination was Noyelles, north of the Somme, a place used by the British for handling troops sent into the Abbeville Area for training.
The train schedules were apparently so arranged as to bring all arrivals to Noyelles in the morning to allow time for detraining, messing and turning in surplus equipment preparatory to marching into billets in the Abbeville Area. Our arrival at Noyelles marked the time at which we were supposed to leave behind the customs and traditions of the U. S. Army in, which we had been so carefully brought up, in order that we might study and adapt ourselves to those of our Allies, the British, with whom our lot had been cast for the duration of the war. It was, therefore, with a chip on our shoulder that we climbed out and organized our forces under the supervision of British Officials. A 48-hour train trip with meagre fare and sleepless nights added nothing to the frame of mind with which we met our future comrades in arms.
We were hurried by detachments for mess to an unusually dirty area, set aside for feeding detraining troops, and at this point received our initiation into the mysteries of the British issue. It consisted of two hardtack, one-half cup of tea and one-fourth tin of "bully-beef" per man. Poor fare after the famine of a three-day train trip. After messing was finished the troops were arranged by units in surrounding fields and relieved of all surplus property so that when finished each soldier carried away what later proved to be the regular fighting equipment carried by American Soldiers with the British Army. The surplus property was stacked in piles, each of its kind,---blankets, shoes, blouses, breeches, underwear, etc. These were quickly made into bundles and re-loaded onto the cars under constant attention of a swarm of civilians and British Tommies bent on equipping themselves for life with the surplus property of the American Army.
The town of Noyelles being a considerable railroad center and used for troop movements, had been picked out as a desirable object for air-raids by the Germans. Rumors were rife of much damage caused by air-raids at this point several days previous to our arrival. These were substantiated by numerous shell holes and fresh graves which gave the first touch of real war conditions we had experienced.
After going through the preliminaries of reduction in weight, packs were made and troops formed for a march to Nouvion, our camp site for the night. This camp was located on a bare slope about three miles from Noyelles and was in the form of conical tents thoroughly camouflaged. We were again rationed by the British, having received neither equipment nor supplies of our own. At this point the shortage of water began to make itself felt, but little did we realize how much greater would be the shortage in days to come. Before taps troops were formed and sectors designated into which we were to deploy in case of air raids. Fortunately we were not subjected to attack and had the first full night's sleep since leaving Brest.
From Nouvion the regiment marched to its billeting area. Headquarters and the Third Battalion being at Canchy at a distance of about five miles, while the Second and First were at Domvast and Froyelles respectively. The Division, less artillery, eventually reached this area with Headquarters at St. Riquier and under the Commanding General of the Fourth British Army, who assigned to us a "Cadres,"---meaning corps of British Instructors, both officers and N. C. O's. Judging from later experiences this billeting area would be called fair, but to green troops straight from our well regulated camps in the States, it was a great source of disappointment to take up living quarters in French barns, lofts and chicken coops. Most of these humble quarters were usually bounded on several sides by barn-yards and manure piles, and although our men tried hard to clean up and keep things tidy, the French people were so slack in sanitary ways that it was rather discouraging and uphill work for the men to maintain any kind of self-respect while living under such conditions.
With the British cadres acting in an advisory capacity, schools were started in all branches of the military game, such as for the Lewis gun, bayonet work, gas mask drill, hand and rifle grenades, intelligence and the like. There were also lectures on these subjects given by the British Officers to-both our officers and men. At the start of the school work it was planned to include first all officers who later took over the class training themselves, aided or hindered, as the case might be, by the advice of the cadres. A few skeleton maneuvers were also attempted by the different units and the Division as a whole. Much time was wasted going over ground already carefully covered during the training at Camp Wadsworth. On the other hand a great many improvements in methods of warfare were learned which had developed during the year or more which elapsed between the time of the adoption of our system of training in the States and our arrival in France. Many of these points were such as could only be learned by direct contact with men who had been in the fighting themselves.
Another phase in the training was the sending of men and officers to different specialty schools located in various places in the British back areas, also a very practicable source of information consisting of sending officers and N. C. O's on a tour to the front line trenches for the purpose of observation. Most of these trips were made to the line in the neighborhood of Albert.
Very shortly after our arrival in Canchy we began to receive British equipment. The Eddystone rifles were taken up and the British service rifles issued instead. We were also provided with gas masks and helmets, the former being tested on the men in a gas chamber while in this area. At the same time our transport arrived, together with saddle and pack animals; Field kitchens; water carts; mess carts; maltese carts; G. S. Wagons and L. G. S. Wagons.
During these early days we were having a hard struggle with the British Ration, which at the time was made up of the following constituents per
|1 lb. fresh meat||9 oz. can meat|
|1 can M. & V. (3 men per can)|
|1 lb. bread||10 oz. hard bread|
|1 oz. rice|
|1 oz. bacon|
|1 oz. cheese|
|8 oz. fresh vegetables||2 oz. dry vegetables|
|3 oz. jam|
|1/2 oz. tea|
|2 oz. sugar||2 1/2 oz. sweetened condensed milk|
|1 oz condensed milk|
|One-fourth oz. salt, pepper, or mustard as needed.|
|Oatmeal, oleo, pickles (occasional issue).|
|2 oz. tobacco and 1 box matches per week.|
In feeding, the difficulty experienced was not due to lack of quality; the quantity, however, was of such serious shortage that every one felt that our men were not getting sufficient food to keep them in working condition. Outside of the change in the new ration, our cooks experienced the greatest difficulty in getting sufficient of any one constituent to ration an entire company. Mess sergeants were accustomed to working with a reserve of two or three days' rations, while under the British system the entire issue came in daily quantities. Bread would come partially in loaves and partially substituted with hard tack. Fresh meat was rarely received in sufficient quantity to ration more than one platoon, while the balance of the meat and vegetable issue would be a kind of a canned stew, also called "M. & V." or "Machonachies." Rice never came in a full issue. There was no coffee, (perhaps the greatest hardship of all to the American doughboy), although as time went on we became quite habitual tea drinkers. Later, after many bitter complaints, we received a regular coffee issue. Our cooks were sent to British cooking schools and introduced to the art of disguising bully-beef and the preparation of divers puddings and other weighty stodges so dear to the British Tommy. On the whole we gradually became accustomed to this kind of fare, but for many weeks the ration was a bone of contention between Company Officers and Mess Sergeants on the one hand and their British Instructors on the other. It was hard with American ideas of messing for Commanding Officers to try to divide five bottles of pickled walnuts equally among a company of two hundred-odd men without showing partiality to some. However, after weeks of study with many long and well founded complaints we got results. Our final liking for the British Issue was in part accounted for by the fact that the quantity was increased and although on occasions we, like the British, found it necessary to adopt the platoon system of messing, this latter was not desirable and was only resorted to when absolutely necessary. Their system and ration was entirely a result of long experience and it would have been strange indeed had we not been able to adapt ourselves to its peculiarities eventually. The fact that we had any trouble at all was due, no doubt, to a difference in the taste between our two nations and the fact that the British are by nature frugal in their eating and drinking. For some few days in Canchy, in fact, until the rolling kitchens arrived, we were under considerable difficulty with cooking arrangements. It was here that we learned of another great British institution, the so-called army "dixie." Little did we realize at this time what a friend this useful article would come to be. When the kitchens arrived they were promptly put into action and in ensuing months became as much a part of our daily existence as the ration itself.
In handling rations the first consideration is the transport by which means it is brought up from the seaboard or source of supply to troops in the line. To begin with, the Regimental Supply Company was divided up among the battalions leaving a nucleus for administrative purposes with Regimental Headquarters. Each battalion, as well as the named companies, had its supply and transport officer, the latter having charge of the animals and transport issued to the battalions. All supplies, ammunition as well as food, were handled by this means. Supplies were brought from the seaboard to the railhead, when troops were not in the line, and the G. S. wagons, similar to U. S. Combat wagons, were used for drawing supplies between the rail-head and the divisional dump. The L. G. S. wagons, or limbers, were used for handling from the dump to the battalion distributing dumps.
The British back areas were remarkable examples of economy, system, and ingenuity---the time honored adage regarding the parentage of invention was never more fully exemplified than in British methods covering water and food supplies, sanitation, bathing, salvage, and all the varied operations necessary. to keep a well regulated army in the field. The operations of their army service corps covering road building, engineering and transportation problems was a constant source of interest and admiration.
The water supply of Northern France was dangerous and scanty. A corps of chemists and inspectors established the status of all wells and sources of supply before troops could use the water. Carts provided for hauling water were handled by men trained for the work and all water hauled received a proper sterilizing treatment usually with chloride of lime. Bathing, washing and delousing facilities commensurate with the fuel and water supply were diligently and ingeniously operated. Cases were observed where water supply was so short that it was necessary to save waste water, treat it chemically, settle it, and use it over again.. It took some time for our troops to adjust themselves to these conditions, but eventually, when the necessity arose, a man could wash face and hands, shave and rinse his tooth brush in, a half canteen cup of water. The need of good water for thousands of horses was another factor of extreme importance especially in overcrowded areas near the front. Horse troughs as well as water points (tanks) for troops were established at all fairly copious sources of supply. We have seen as high as nine and even twelve thousand horses taken care of at one water point in the course of 24 hours in the battle area near Villers Faucon.
After we had been in the Abbeville area for about ten days and training had been well established, it was decided to move the division to the St. Valery area just south of the Somme. The reason given was that this area afforded better training facilities. Pursuant to these orders the regiment marched on June 18th, a distance of some twenty-one miles:---Regimental Headquarters being established at Elincourt, a chateau near St. Blimont. The march was extremely difficult owing to the distance and the fact that no opportunity had been given to harden the men since leaving Wadsworth. The weather was hot and as the wearing of blouses was insisted upon there was a tremendous amount of straggling on account of exhaustion and blistered feet. French roads are very hard and this trip stands out in memory as far more difficult than even our forced marches into the line.
Reorganization of school work had scarcely been accomplished when conditions on the Arras Albert front made it necessary to move the division to a position as. reserve in the G. H. Q. line west of Arras. On June 21st the regiment marched back over practically the same route as covered on the 18th, and was billeted for the night about 11/2 miles north of Abbeville. The following morning we embussed on a convoy of lorries proceeding to a point about ten miles west of Arras and six miles northeast of Doullens with regimental headquarters at Sus St. Leger. The transports of the various units made the trip overland, arriving from 12 to 24 hours after their units. Troops being rationed previous to the arrival of rolling kitchens by cooking in "dixies" carried with the rations on the lorries. Schools were at once established and immediate steps taken to include rifle and automatic arms firing in the work. Ranges were located and repaired and some short ranges improvised.
Within a few days reconnoisance parties of officers were sent forward to the G. H. Q. line preparatory to occupation. This line of entrenchments had been prepared earlier in the season and was practically complete. with the exception of shelters for troops. Posts of command, battalion, company and platoon headquarters were located. Also fields of fire for automatic arms, gun emplacements, aid stations, latrines, and in fact all the customary requisites for a fortified position of this character. During this time march tables and plans of defense were prepared, routes reconnoitered, and on June 27th the line was occupied in the sector assigned to the division. This was a practice movement and only continued one day. There was a very noticeable lack of co-ordination throughout the movement., However, the experience was valuable and served as a stimulus for further effort in perfecting ourselves especially since we were working within sight and sound of air craft, artillery and other activities of the battle area.
On Sunday, June 30th, we had our first day of rest since leaving the boat a month before, a game of ball was arranged with the 3rd Canadian Division Signal Co., in which we were badly beaten. Officers and men found a great many acquaintances in the troops from home and much of the vin sisters (blanc and rouge) was consumed to the health of our Canadian cousins, a fine lot of fighting men.
Owing to conditions on the Ypres front we were again moved on July 2nd to the vicinity of St. Omer, about 25 miles east of Calais. Entrainment was at Bouque Maison, including transport and after a seven hour train trip we detrained at St. Omer, making a night march from that city to a bivouac camp at Buysscheure. This trip carried us via St. Pol very close to the lines and through the first really devastated country we had seen. The effects of bombing raids and artillery fire on railroads and towns was a thrilling sight while batteries of camouflaged guns, observation balloons, distant roar of guns and the troop concentration brought the fact home with much force that we were speedily getting into the game.
By the night of July 3rd the regiment was again thoroughly established. On July 4th a review of the 54th Brigade was made by the Commanding General, P. E. Pierce. The afternoon was devoted to band concerts, boxing and wrestling matches, until the spectators were scattered by a fleet of "Jerry" planes. It was conceded by practically everyone that we had very quickly learned the art of taking to cover.
At 8 a. m. on the morning of the 5th, the regiment marched on Zermezeele. Later events proved that this was the first day of our march into Belgium. That night we bivouaced in the vicinity of Zermezeele, ten miles from the Belgian frontier and due west of Ypres. The 6th was spent in resting and washing up. On the 7th the march was continued via Cassel and Steenvoorde, when in the early afternoon we crossed the Belgian frontier and earned the distinction of being the first American troops to enter Belgium. In this, the St. Eloy area, regimental headquarters was in an abandoned British aerdrome near Abeele, while the 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions were at Beauvoorde Woods, St. Eloy and Trappist Farm respectively. Very few billets were available, making a bivouac camp necessary which was bad owing to the fact that the weather which for nearly two months had been ideal for campaigning, suddenly changed to a series of thunder storms with much rain.
One of the outstanding memories with all officers and particularly those who were doing administrative work, is the recollection of the night hours devoted to movement for the following day. For weeks our change of station was so continuous that reasonable advance notification was impossible. The result was that orders were late from division to regiment; from regiment to battalion; and so on down to the platoon commander. This meant that after a hard day's march all hands were engaged far into the night in getting out or anticipating plans for the following day. Officer's call or a midnight messenger ran through our dreams and one eventually acquired the habit of expecting or being prepared for anything at any time. But this is nothing more than the essence of the soldier's existence, so that by the time we had accepted this mode of life and become experienced in its teachings, we were ready for the final duty---to Fight!
The 2nd American Corps, comprising the 27th and 30th Divisions, were attached to the XIXth Corps of the 2nd British Army under General Plumer. About July 7th therefore, we found ourselves established west of Ypres with Division headquarters at Oudezeele and Watou, respectively. We had been moved into this area in anticipation of a big German push on the Ypres sector. The enemy intention being to break through our lines to the sea, Calais on the channel being only 40 Miles from the Bosche lines.
For defensive purposes our division was given a certain sector of the East Poperinghe Line which was a switch line constructed in support of the Scherpenberg-Dickebush system which latter was the main line of defense at that time. Incidentally a portion of it covered a section of the famous Kemmel Hill held by the Hun.
As soon as the regiment was established in the St. Eloy area, training was commenced while commissioned and enlisted personnel started reconnaisance of the East Poperinghe line. Our sector of this line was about 6000 yards front extending that distance south from the southern edge of the town of Poperinghe. The center of our billeting area was about five miles from the line to be occupied. At first glance this seems strange, but was due to the fact that our entire sector was under direct enemy observation from Mt. Kemmel. The slightest activity was therefore promptly shelled. The trenches were not provided with dugouts or shelters and the amount of work necessary to put them into condition for occupancy even though done at night could not have been camouflaged sufficiently to keep the entire sector from being blown to pieces by the enemy at any time he chose. Therefore, it was deemed advisable to keep no large scouting or working parties in the area except at night and to have plans prepared for immediate occupancy from the rear in case of alarm. With this in view, observation posts were established well forward of the position and reports rendered night and day by wire and runner direct to regimental headquarters.
The regiment was disposed with the 3rd battalion on the left, the 2nd in the center, and the 1st on the right. The proper dispositions were made by personal reconnaisance of officers from all units. Various headquarters, ammunition and supply dumps, signal centers, telephone cables, routes for troops and separate routes for transport were all laid out by small carefully conducted parties. Machine gun nests and strong points were also planned. During the progress of this work our billeting area was also subjected to periodical shelling and air raids both day and night. We were being constantly warned by the British of an impending push by the enemy which was expected about July 18th. Other units of the division had not yet come up, so that our regiment was to hold the position at all costs even if we were wiped out in doing so. We were thus in probably the most critical position held by the regiment during the entire campaign.
As the 18th drew near, other units of the division were coming up and a shift of units within the divisional area was planned without affecting our control of the position we were to hold except to put our billeting areas farther west. This necessitated revising routes and changing our march tables to conform to the greater distance to be covered in reaching the line. On July 17th the 2nd and 3rd battalions moved from the St. Eloy area and were concentrated around Winnezeele, while at the same time other units of the division moved into the forward area. Winnezeele was the terminal of a meter gauge or light railway used in bringing troops and supplies into the Ypres sector, from the railroad center around St. Omer. As the units in the forward area began to work up their positions, our regiment was assigned to portions of the Boeschepe and Godeswarvelde lines, which were flanking positions for the right of the East Pop. Line. These entrenchments were reconnoitered and plans of defense worked up for several days, but as critical conditions had developed for the enemy farther south on the western front, the strain of an impending push relaxed and the regiment was scheduled to entrain for St. Momelin for a period of rest and training. The regiment, less the 2nd battalion, moved on July 23rd, entraining at Winnezeele in a terrific rain storm; arrived at St. Momelin late in the afternoon. The units marched to the best billets we had had, with regimental headquarters at St. Martin.
The 2nd battalion had sent two companies into the East Pop. Line on July 19th, occupying the line for several days. On July 23rd, Co. F. had two men killed in action by the explosion of an enemy shell, Corp. Morris Lynchick and Pvt. Grant C. Colton. These were the first casualties which the regiment had experienced in action. After this duty the battalion joined the regiment in the Tilques area on July 25th.
The regiment was in the Tilques training area for eight days, during which time intensive instruction was given in target practice as well as all the specialties before mentioned. Battalion and smaller units also held field work in various battle formations. Considerable property was issued here, so that altogether when we left here for the St. Eloy area on Aug. 1st we felt much more confident in our fighting ability.
During our absence from the line some changes in plans of defense had been made so that on our return all units took their original positions except the 3rd battalion, which billeted at Steen Aaker, just south of Abeele. The 1st and 2nd battalions made immediate preparations for going into the front line of the Scherpenberg-Dickebush sector in conjunction with the British Durham Light Infantry and the 23rd Middlesex Regiment. The 3rd battalion was to relieve the 1st battalion eight days later merged with the 10th Queens. During the interim the 3rd battalion occupied the right sector of the East Pop. line at Condiment Cross. One platoon was sent in every 24 hours, while large working parties were furnished for laying cables and salvaging huts for 54th Brigade headquarters.
In general, the plans for merging our battalions with the British was to combine two units of approximately equal size down to platoons or sections. These composite battalions then relieved battalions in the front and support lines. After the relief any given battalion sector would have one composite battalion in the front line and one in support with British Officers in command. At the end of three days the support battalion changed places with the first line. After another three days the British troops in the front line were relieved by the Americans in support, thus for the last two days the front line was held by Americans with American officers in command, supported by the British battalion with which they had originally been merged. In spite of all predictions to the contrary, the scheme worked out very nicely and our troops left the line with a vast amount of experience that could not have been gained so quickly in any other way.
Front line duty in this sector was almost a typical example of position warfare as developed during the past four years. There was no general advance on our lines, but numerous small raids and counter attacks, together with artillery counter preparation and gas shelling kept us very busy. We also did a great deal of trench digging and wire work, the latter along the front line which was a series of organized shell holes held thinly by Lewis Guns and rifle posts. Our casualties were fairly light during the action, but as we were experiencing our front line "baptism of fire" they weighed rather heavily. However, our morale was excellent, so that, after the last unit was relieved and had had a few days' rest we felt like veterans and were again ready for duty.
Our next move into the line came on Aug. 23rd, just four days after the last battalion was out of the previous action. At this time the 27th Division relieved the British 6th Division in the Scherpenberg-Dickebush Lake system. The 53rd Brigade was disposed in the front and support lines of the divisional sector while the 54th Brigade was in reserve, the 108th Infantry being on the left of the reserve sector. Regimental headquarters were just south of the town of Poperinghe. The 1st and 2nd battalions were in the vicinity of Ouderdoom and Bussboom, respectively, in the Westoutre, Goed, Moet Mill line, backing up the 106th Infantry, while the 3rd battalion was further west near Mandalay Corners.
For the next eight days our duties in the reserve were chiefly maintaining liaison with forward units, sending out scouting parties, mapping and reorganizing our position. We were intermittently subjected to all kinds of artillery fire which was directed by the enemy against battery positions and roads. Air activity was considerable and resulted in severe casualties in Company I, when five bombs were dropped, one of which went through the roof of a billet, killing two and wounding nine others, two of whom died later in the hospital. The 1st battalion suffered considerably from shell fire directed on railroad lines in their vicinity. The strain of enduring shell fire in reserve areas and waiting for something to happen far forward is very wearing, so that when the news came on Aug. 28th that, the bosche were evacuating Mt. Kemmel and falling back all along the line, it was received with much relief. Word was received to be ready to move forward at a moment's notice, and we remained ready for twelve hours, but no word came.
In the meantime the 53rd Brigade advanced, suffering severe losses from machine gun nests, which had been left by the enemy for rear guard action. They continued their advance, however, to Vierstraat Ridge, which they held until the division was relieved by the British on Aug. 31st.
We moved out of the line at this time and concentrated around Winnezeele, preparatory to entraining for a rest area near Doullens. Casualties suffered by the regiment during the campaign in Belgium were as follows:
Killed---10. Wounded---56. Missing---4.
J. F. OAKLEAF,
1st Lieut. 108th Infantry, U. S. A.
American E. F., France
In compliance with memorandum, 27th Division, 2nd October, 1918, the following is a report of the 108th Infantry from September 27th to October 2nd, inclusive.
Pursuant to Field Orders 19 and 19A, 54th Infantry Brigade, September 26th and 27th, and orders 93 and 94, 27th Division, the Regiment marched from bivouac camp at J 10 b 8.3; on RONSSOY via AIZECOURT-LE BAS-LONGAVESNES-ST. EMELIE-BEAUSEJOUR-TEMPLEAUX LE GUERARD as covered in paragraph 3 of Field Order 19A; a march of approximately 8 1/2 miles. Bivouac was made at F 25 c 2.4; map reference 62c N. E., just west of TEMPLEAUX LE GUERARD on the afternoon of September 27th. Under above orders representatives of each company and Battalion Scout section reported at the 106th Infantry (27th Division) Headquarters at map reference MONTBREHAIN F 21 b 3.4 at 1100 hour September 27th. It was impossible to arrange the details of relief at the time owing to the disorganized conditions existing in the line to be taken over. Routes were reconnoitered and all possible information gathered as to the location of units and headquarters which were to be relieved. At 0200 hour September 28th the march of the Regiment was resumed, with the exception of the 1st Battalion and one platoon of the Machine Gun Company which later were acting in support. The march into the front line positions was approximately six miles, and was accomplished while roads traversed were under enemy shell fire, including high explosives, mustard gas and machine guns, a few casualties from shell fire resulted in the Regiment. The 2nd Battalion, plus one platoon from the Machine Gun Company, one 37 MM cannon section, and two Trench Mortar sections, moved into position via RONSSOY-HARGICOURT Road and TEMPLEAUX Switch Line, occupying trench lines between the following coordinates, F 29 d 1.0; to F 23 d 8.8; with Battalion Headquarters at F 28 b 8.1. The 3rd Battalion plus two sections 37 MM Cannon and four Trench Mortar sections, and one platoon from the Machine Gun Company took position via the RONSSOY-GILLEMONT Road to DUNCAN POST. No representative of the 106th Infantry (27th Division) being present to define the position, it was daylight before a complete occupation of the line could be made and contact gained on the flanks. Coordinates of position when established were as follows:
From F 23 d 8.8; to F 17 d 7.5; (DUNCAN POST) with Battalion Headquarters at F 17 d 4.7. This Battalion suffered considerably from machine gun fire during the above period and several casualties resulted. Regimental Headquarters was established in a double entrance dug-out at F 28 c 9.5; and the Regimental First Aid Post established about twenty yards, from Regimental Headquarters in a dug-out which had a connecting passage to Headquarters. Immediately, after the Regimental Sector was established combat patrols were sent out to gain contact if possible with detachments of the 106th Infantry Which were supposed to be holding isolated positions forward of our lines. One officer and seven enlisted men of the 106th Infantry, all of whom were wounded were picked up by our patrols. Our patrols were strengthened during the day by order of higher command and an attempt was made to secure the line which had been the objective of the 106th Infantry in their attack of September 27th. Later it was necessary to recall these patrols owing to strong hostile resistance. They were brought back to the line and consolidated in preparation for the morning attack. During the whole day of September 28th visibility was fair, it rained during the morning. Our front line trenches were subject to considerable machine gun fire and the roads used by transports subject to shell fire all day, both high velocity and high explosive shells being used. Wire communications between Regimental and both Battalion Headquarters were frequently interrupted by hostile shell fire, and it was necessary to use extra runners during the repairs of these communication lines. At Regimental Headquarters every effort was made to maintain a complete record and system by classifying messages received by telephone and runner from the forward positions, noting all minute information and verifying positions on the double set of reference maps kept for quick reference.
In case of important field orders or memorandums to forward commanders, a message map properly marked to eliminate errors would accompany. such message. The Regimental Message Center under direction of an Australian Lieutenant was operated in a very efficient manner.
A conference of Battalion Commanders was held about 1800 hour, September 28th, at which final arrangements were made for pegging and taping the departure line for the morning attack, zero hour was announced, supplies and ammunition checked, and a discussion held in regard to the timing, interval, distance, etc., of the barrage. Runners were sent out to inform the Commanding Officer of the Support (1st) Battalion to take position. In the preparation for the morning attack all Non-commissioned Officers of each unit were informed of the attack to be made, and were given detailed instructions as to the position of the departure line, etc.
The 2nd Battalion Sector was pegged and taped in a line, starting from BULL POST, F 23 d 8.8; to F 30 c 5.9; at which point we were in contact with Company H of the 119th Infantry (the American 30th Division). The Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion was instructed to use great care in taking up the distance between his actual position and the jumping off line. This distance varied from 600 yards at the South to zero at the North of the area, the form of a triangle, with a base of 600 yards at the Regimental southern (also Divisional) boundary from F 29 d 9.8 at the West to F 30 c 9.2 at. the East tapering North to an apex at F 29 b 9.8. Later results proved that this was done. (The jumping off line is shown in green on attached map.)
The 3rd Battalion Sector was pegged and taped from F 23 d 8.8; to F 17 d 9.6 by the Battalion Scout Officer and the attached Australian Intelligence Officer. The Battalion was formed on the line of departure at 0415 hour, September 29th and the 2nd Battalion was on the line at 0530 hour. The 1st (Support) Battalion forming on the line at 0550 hour. Reports show that every unit went "Over the Top" in perfect order, and at the start, maintained an interval from 20 to 50 paces between waves, for quite some distance. As the first wave reached the area swept by our barrage, visibility became poor, due to unfavorable atmospheric conditions and our smoke screen to cover our advance. It was difficult to see more than a few yards because a heavy fog hung close to the ground. Advance was then made by compass reading and as orderly as possible under an enemy counter. barrage, the first wave suffered many casualties during the initial advance.
Owing to a persistent impression that remnants of the 106th Infantry (27th Division) were in No Man's Land along our front, it was considered necessary to fix the barrage start at a point 1000 yds. in advance of the line of departure. It is agreed by all observers that this great distance between troops and barrage was in a large measure responsible for the severe punishment received by our first waves, this because there were many enemy machine gun nests and outposts in the dead space between our troops and barrage. Also because enemy opposition had too much time to reorganize after the passing of the barrage.
The Right, (2nd) Battalion encountered early resistance in the vicinity of A 25 central in the form of machine gun nests, which were broken up by outflanking and the use of hand grenades and rifle fire.
The advance was then continued with little resistance until the remaining troops arrived at the first wire entanglements of the HINDENBURG LINE. At this point they met the full resistance of a fortified position such as the world had never known. However by desperate fighting and on account of the fact that our tremendous barrage had opened devious ways through acres of barbed wire, portions of our 2nd Battalion were able to establish themselves in the Main HINDENBURG System. The position was held against severe counter attacks and enfilading artillery and machine gun fire from the direction of BONY, until reinforced by troops of the 3rd Australian Division at 1030 hour. After which our troops aided the Australian troops in cleaning up many enemy machine gun nests in that vicinity. Late in the afternoon the Battalion moved to the rear to reconsolidate on the original line and act as reserve. The furthest distance as shown on attached map was from a point on the Southern Regimental and Divisional Boundary near A 27 central, North to A 21 central. Communication was established and maintained with the rear and with the 119th Infantry (30th American Division) on our right.
The Left (3rd) Battalion met strong resistance in the GILLEMONT TRENCH and GILLEMONT FARM after jumping off, and under difficulty went "Over the Top" in good order, being organized and maintaining intervals between waves of twenty or forty yards. The first wave was so cut up between this position and CLAYMORE VALLEY by hostile machine gun fire and the enemy counter barrage that only a small portion were able to penetrate into DIRK VALLEY, where they took cover in a sunken road directly in front of BONY. At this point they were also subject to such terrific fire from both machine gun and artillery that further advance was impossible. The situation was relieved by reinforcements from the 3rd Australian Division at 1730 hour. Our troops aided the Australian troops in cleaning up a few enemy machine gun nests and assembled at 1830 hour to begin their rearward march to reconsolidate on the original line and act as reserve.
The 1st (Support) Battalion forming on the departure line at 0550 hour immediately took their position as Moppers Up for the entire Regimental Sector and followed the advancing waves and support companies of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions by approximately 100 yards, raiding several machine gun nests with the aid of hand grenades, and gathering many individual prisoners of war whom under the confusion became detached from the enemy ranks, as well as other escorted prisoners of war from the other two Battalions. These prisoners were sent to the rear under guard and in many cases were used as stretcher bearers for our wounded. It was very difficult to keep platoons organized due to the poor visibility and the enemy counter barrage as well as machine gun fire from low flying enemy aeroplanes.
During the morning of September 29th from the hour that our barrage started until the early part of the afternoon practically all means of wire communication were interrupted by hostile shell fire. Visual signalling was not practical with the forward positions because of the dense fog that hung close to the ground. It was therefore necessary to rely on our runners for message service.
Information received at Regimental Headquarters from .the Battalion Intelligence Sections as well as the Regimental Intelligence Section (the latter being sent on special missions to verify our forward positions as well as the position of the enemy) was used to advantage in issuing orders and verifying the messages received from the forward commanders. Members of the Battalion Intelligence Sections were also used at both ends of the advancing wave with instructions to keep the line as near as possible to compass reading.
The tanks assigned to us in this attack were put out of action shortly after the zero hour (0550) as it afterwards proved they were good targets on the skyline for the enemy artillery, practically no assistance in wiping out machine gun nests was rendered by the tanks.
At Regimental Headquarters special attention was given to assemble all stragglers and slightly wounded soldiers who had received medical attention, these reporting to a sergeant who replaced any lost equipment, enabling them to be returned to the forward positions, carrying with them boxes of hand grenades; in every case these groups were escorted by a returning runner who knew the way.
The Supply and Battalion transports were operated with great efficiency and every attempt was made to convey rations to the forward line. Favorable comments were made by the Australian Officers attached.
The Medical Detachment operated its various First Aid Posts in a very efficient manner, giving prompt attention to the slightly wounded and evacuating the more seriously wounded to the rear.
Orders were issued from Regimental Headquarters for details for burial and salvage parties. These parties were left behind under an officer and very satisfactory results were accomplished.
It was evident that there was not sufficient care given to Mopping Up, since several enemy machine guns operated after the advancing Battallions were well past them, these machine guns succeeded in wounding and killing many stretcher bearers who were carrying the wounded to the rear, and were not put out of action until these casualties reported the source of attack.
The exceedingly high morale of the men of this Regiment during the whole operation was beyond reproach, especially when preparations for the attack were being made and at zero hour when the final order "Over the Top" was given, the eager spirit and determination to make the attack a successful one was noted all along the line. Comments made by a high Australian Officer after his observations at an inspection of the battle field showed that in every instance a dead American soldier lay in a position indicating that he died facing the enemy. This is substantiated by the heroic deeds accomplished by many individuals and small groups of men in raiding machine gun nests to enable platoons to go forward, also by the quick action of Non-commissioned Officers, both sergeants and corporals, in taking charge of platoons, and in some cases remnants of companies when their superior officers or non-commissioned officers were either wounded or killed.
Prisoners of War captured---16 officers, 594 men. Machine guns captured---36 (various types).
Our casualties for the above period were as follows:
J. F. OAKLEAF,
Capt., R. I. O.
NOTES ON RECENT OPERATIONS OF 108th INFANTRY
Covering the Period of October 2 to October 24, 1918.
After the action at BONY, this regiment upon its relief, proceeded by marching to BUIRE, the night of October 1st being spent in bivouac at SAULT-COURT Woods. The march was resumed at 1100, and finished at BUIRE on the afternoon of October 2nd, where the regiment remained in bivouac for the next few days. During this period a rapid reorganization was completed in order that we might return to the line in support of the 30th American Division.
At noon of October 5th, the first move toward the line was made when we marched to BUIRE woods to a hutment and bivouac camp which we shared with the 107th Infantry, the 54th Infantry Brigade being assembled in the immediate vicinity. On the night of October 8th-9th a very excellent night march was made to NAUROY, a distance of twelve miles, via ROISEL, TEMPLEUX LE GUERARD, HARGICOURT and BELLICOURT. Bivouac was made at NAUROY between 0300 and 0400 on October 7th. At 1500 the same day the Regiment again took up the march via JONCOURT, WIANCOURT and MONTBREHAIN to a field just west of BRANCOURT where bivouac was made about 1900. The march was continued on the 16th at 1500 to PREMONT, bivouac being made at dusk at the end of the village. The march was resumed at 0700, October 11th and bivouac made at noon on the. east side of BUTRY woods near the main MARETZ-BUSIGNY highway, the final phase being completed when the regiment moved into the line that night.
This four day forced march made by the Brigade should be considered one of the great achievements of the campaign. The distance covered being fully 36 miles, map distance or conservatively figured a continued march on the average of 10 miles per day. The courage and endurance of our men and officers, coupled with the fact that the test came so closely following their first big battle, is an accomplishment to be praised and honored for all time.
During the afternoon of October 15th, Regimental Headquarters was established at LE TROU AUX SOLDATS. At 1730 an order was received from the Brigade Commander to send officers to the Headquarters of the 119th Infantry to make arrangements for taking over the line. After this was done the regiment resumed the march and positions were taken up according to the following plan.
M. R. Sheet 57-B-S. E., 1-20,000;---
The front line held by the 119th Infantry, extended along the high ground west of the LA SELLE River from the south side of the town of ST. BENIN to a point about 500 yards south of the town of ST. SOUPLET on a line whose coordinates were approximately Q 21 central to W 3-b 9.8 or about 3,000 yards front. This was divided by the C. 0., 108th Infantry into right and left battalion sectors with battalion dividing line at Q 27 d 9.4.
<A HREF="mapg5.gif"><IMG SRC="map5tn.gif" WIDTH="144" HEIGHT="91" ALIGN= "RIGHT" NATURALSIZEFLAG="3"></A>The 3rd Battalion was disposed on the left with two companies in the line and two in support. The 1st Battalion was on the right with--- two companies in the line and two in support. Two companies of the 2nd Battalion were attached to the first and used on the right flank as support to the right regiment in whose sector was a very bad re-entrant which exposed our right flank. The other two companies of the 2nd Battalion were held in reserve near LA HAIE MENNERESSE. Only six heavy machine guns were available from our organization. Four of these were assigned to the left battalion and two to the right battalion. Relief was completed at day-break with the exception of units of the 106th Machine Gun Battalion, which were assigned to the Regiment. These latter were completed during the day. The position of the regiment as of the morning of October 12th is shown on the attached map in broken black lines The Regiment first came under fire in this action on the afternoon of October 11th, at which time hostile gas shelling commenced and during the evening a considerable concentration of gas was laid down between BUTRY wood and BUSIGNY. About 1100 considerable H. E. shells were thrown into BUTRY Woods, causing several casualties before the battalions left for the line. It was found desirable on the 13th, on account of the long distance between the various Headquarters, to move the P. C's, closer up. Accordingly Regimental Headquarters moved to ESCAUFORT at 1600 of the 12th. The 1st Battalion from LA HAIE MENNERESSE, ---the latter movement being accomplished after dark.
Our entire front during these operations was exposed to direct and indirect machine gun fire and sniping as well as all kinds of artillery fire. The enemy used a large amount of gas shells, especially along the river in front of ST. SOUPLET and in the low ground through which ran the main road from LA HAIE MENNERESSE to ST. SOUPLET. These towns as well as ESCAUFORT were subjected to intermittent shelling with H. E. and gas. Our artillery which pushed up and was distributed from ESCAUFORT to the river also received considerable shelling. The damp misty weather which prevailed caused a slight dilution of gas to hang in the low spots most of the time, greatly hindering operations.
The high ground above the river, especially north of ST. SOUPLET and the low ground south of the town where our lines joined the right regiment were so exposed during the day that it was only possible to push out strong outposts at night toward the river. At some points at the north edge of the village we maintained rifle pits during the day in the hedges bordering gardens above the river. It is believed that here our men did considerable good work by sniping. Several excellent O. P's., were established, the best one being in the garret of a house on the north edge of ST. SOUPLET, from which position the railroad and high ground east of the river could be carefully watched. Many enemy machine gun nests as well as several batteries were discovered from this point and reported for artillery action. Visibility during the entire period was poor.
Plans for attack developed the necessity of information regarding the LA SELLE River. Patrols were sent out during the night of October 13th, but were not particularly successful owing to difficulties from enemy fire and gas. The best information was obtained on the night of October 14th, and largely through the efforts of Lieutenant Cross of Company L, who personally waded the stream from the mill down to a point where the main bridge had been. The stream was reconnoitered from Q 28 a 3.3 to Q 34 a 3.0. Banks average from 5 to 6 ft. in height and are steeper on the east bank than on the west. The stream itself averages from 10 to 20 ft. in width and from 3 to 4 feet in depth. Bed of stream near edge is soft mud but has firm gravel bottom in center. The ground from the river bank to the railway track has a gradual upward slope.
The patrols mentioned above also had the mission of capturing prisoners, but conditions along the river were so difficult that results were nil. This resulted in an order from the Division Commander to put on a daylight raid under the support of an artillery barrage on October 14th at 1600 for the purpose of capturing prisoners and obtaining information regarding the river. Lieutenant C. E. Fritz was designated for this duty and led a detail of 52 volunteers from the six companies in the right battalion sector. The main road bridge of the river east of ST. SOUPLET was picked as the crossing point. A creeping box barrage was laid down starting on the west side of square Q 34 and advancing at the rate of 100 yards in four minutes with a twenty minute halt at the finish. This made a total of 50 minutes of fire. The square was surrounded on three sides by bursts, and at the same time a smoke barrage was laid down in the north of this point as a blind, and a slight amount put down in ST. MARTIN RIVERE. The raiding party found the bridge over the LA SELLE blown up, but managed to cross the stream at good speed over the old masonry. After crossing the stream the party divided into several groups which scouted through the buildings that border the highway between the river and the railway embankment. Twenty-three prisoners were taken with little resistance, the largest number coming from a dugout in the railway embankment. The party assembled and returned, arriving at 1st Battalion Headquarters twenty-five minutes after the start. A white rocket was fired announcing the return of the raiding party. In this action only a few were slightly wounded and one man failed to return. The prisoners were all from the 414 I. R. recruited in WURTEMBURG.
For purposes of attack it was found desirable to reduce the frontage of the Division. As a result the regimental dispositions were changed on the night of October 15th, the positions of the units after the change are shown in dark blue on the attached map as of the morning of October 16th. The Regimental sector extended from the north coordinate line to the south coordinate line of square Q 33 with the battalions disposed in depth.
Orders were received on the morning of the 16th that the advance would be taken up zero hour (0530) October 17th. A conference of officers was held at 1300 at which plans were carefully gone over and a further issue of marked maps was made. A complete set of aeroplane photos were also discussed and issued to each battalion. The Brigade Commander was present at the meeting and took up in detail each point covered by the orders as well as many matters pertaining to the ultimate success of the operation.
The barrage start line in our sector as shown on the attached map was the west coordinate line of square Q 34. The departure line was taped 200 yards behind the barrage line. Troops east of the tape line were not withdrawn until just before zero hour to prevent enemy surprise. The 1st Battalion formed the attacking wave with two companies in the line and two in support. The 3rd Battalion following at about two hundred yards to do the mopping up, the 107th Infantry being in reserve on the ESCAUFORT---ST. SOUPLET Road.
The advance from the tape was well timed, the river. crossing was accomplished for the most part with little difficulty by wading. Some of our men got into deep enough water to wet their gas masks, rendering them useless (most of these masks were replaced by night from our reserve supply). The first strong resistance was met in the form of machine gun fire from a slope west of the railway embankment. This was disposed of by the first wave as later waves reported no resistance at this point. Attempts were made to reorganize the line as it reached the railway, but owing to fog and smoke this was very difficult. By the time the troops had arrived at the railway the barrage was in advance, it being impossible to cover the broken ground with the small number of troops in the smoke and fog and still keep up with the barrage. Contrary to expectations little resistance was made at BANDIVAL Farm. The enemy seemed to have had his machine gun nests more in the open and on the high ground above the railroad. However, a large number of prisoners were taken at this farm. An Aid Station was established there, but the farm was subjected to more or less artillery fire during our entire occupation of this sector. Our greatest casualties this day were experienced in the sunken road north of BANDIVAL Farm, where great resistance was met. The British on our left also received severe casualties at this point, so that the sunken road was thickly strewn with American, British and German dead:
About 0900, some of the units of the first line arrived at the road which runs diagonally through G 30. At this point resistance was met on the high ground at Q 23 d and R 25 a, in the form of frontal and flanking machine gun fire. The road was held for some three hours, but the resistance during this time developed into a counter attack on the British right, causing them to fall back several hundred yards. This necessitated the retirement of our line some 300 yards to the reverse slope of the ridge Q 29 b 3.7 and Q 30 c 8.0. Our troops consolidated and dug themselves in at this point. The ground covered and the line at the end of the day is shown on the attached map in red.
At zero hour on the morning of the 18th, the 107th Infantry, which had been in reserve at Q 29 d 0.3 along the line Q 35 central, took up the advance after passing through our lines. They soon met resistance from JONC DE MER and LA ROUX Farm and were obliged to dig in along the road R 19 a 0.9 and R 19 d 4.0. Our position in reserve was along the ridge A 24 d and R 25 a, from 0900 until midnight. These positions are shown in purple on the attached map.
During the day considerable artillery fire was laid down on LA ROUX Farm, JONC DE MER farm was mopped up. Our patrols in conjunction with the British on our left cleaned the woods west of LA ROUX Farm. These operations enabled the 107th Infantry to push forward about 2100 to the road running across our sector just west of the dry stream R. ST. MAURICE. The 108th Infantry in reserve dug in for the night along the slope east of the river JONC DE MER. The position of the two regiments after the move on the night of the 18th are shown on the attached map in green. On the night of the 19th we were ordered to relieve the 107th Infantry in the front line. The order reached our line at 2300 and was completed about 0200 October 20th. Our final position along the front is shown in red. It was from this line that we were relieved by the 6th British Division on the evening of the 20th. The relief was completed at 0200 October 21st.
The Regiment came out of the line approximately 500 strong, and were billeted in ST. SOUPLET until 1200 of the 21st, when a march toward the entraining point at TINCOURT was commenced. The first stop was at BUSIGNY, where the Regiment was billeted in the outskirts of the town with Headquarters at our Details Camp which had been established--- at LE TROU AUX SOLDATS before going into the line.
The next day, Tuesday, October 22nd, we marched to NAUROY, a distance of sixteen miles. This march was accomplished in a drizzling rain with a great deal of mud under foot. Upon arrival at the town it was found to have been destroyed, affording very little shelter for the troops. Billeting parties were sent ahead from here to the CORBIE area, about ten miles east of AMIENS. On the 23rd the march was continued to HAMEL, where the Regiment spent the night, entraining at TINCOURT on the 24th at 1630. Troops were detrained at VILLERS BRETTINEUX at 1930. Regimental Headquarters, Headquarters Company and 1st Battalion marched to FOUILLOY, while the Machine Gun Company, 2nd and 3rd Battalion marched to AUBIGNY where billets had been provided in partially destroyed houses.
The night of October 24th closed the campaign of eighteen days, the first five of which were spent marching into the line in reserve of our 30th Division, the next nine being spent in active operations on the front, and the last four in making the march to the billeting area. During these days the distance covered by marching was over eighty miles. The nine days of fighting, only three of which were spent in actual advance, pushed our line a distance of 6,000 yards or nearly four miles from ST. SOUPLET to the southern edge of BASUEL. Prisoners were taken to the number of 1059 men and 17 officers.
Guns and material were captured as per following list:
First Battalion Heavy Machine Guns 16 Light Machine Guns 18 Minnenwerfers 6 Field Guns 4 Anti-Tank Guns 12 Second Battalion: One minnenwerfer Battery 4 guns Heavy Machine guns 14 Field pieces (Artillery 77 mm) 6 Anti-Tank guns 2 Stereo Periscope 1 Third Battalion: Light and heavy machine guns 55
Report of Regimental Surgeon of captured German hospital: "On the entrance of the 1st Battalion, into St. Souplet, Lt. Palmer, Battalion Surgeon, took over one complete German Hospital of forty beds and a German Medical Supply House of great value containing medicines, dressings, splints, anesthetics and much other Medical and chemical material of great value. This was reported to me on visiting his station the following day and the same was verified and inspected by me. I immediately informed Regimental Headquarters and the office of the Division Surgeon, and as other Regiments moved Into ST. SOUPLET, I informed the Medical Officers of these units that the goods were used by us in the care of our sick and wounded and helped materially in alleviating suffering among the wounded of the Division. The stores were ultimately taken over by the
27th Division Sanitary Train and a hospital was used as Advance Dressing Station by the 27th Division Sanitary Train.
(Signed) G. W. LYNN, Major, M. C."
Our casualties for the period were as follows:
October Gassed Wounded Killed Missing 12th 0 13 4 2 13th 0 4 4 0 14th 71 5 4 1 15th 89 13 2 2 16th 36 7 1 2 17th 11 69 7 4 18th 6 34 2 4 19th 1 4 0 2 Officers 4 2 2 0 148 151 26 17 Total 342
The high percentage of gas casualties for the three days previous to the first attack were not believed to have been the result of carelessness. The cases were slight and were not due to the fact that the men failed to use their masks. The companies suffering these casualties were bivouaced on ground which had been previously subjected to mustard gas shells. Practically no blisters were received by the men. The casualties developed in the form of irritated eyes and it was believed by our gas officers who visited the ground several times after casualties began to develop that hands and clothing of the men had become contaminated by contact with the ground and thus transferred to the eyes. Troops were moved from the danger as far as the limited amount of cover would permit.
J. F. OAKLEAF,
1st Lieut, 108th Infantry,