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With her caterpillar tread,
With her armor-plated frown,
And her nose a-pointing down,
She keeps on wobbling right ahead!
See her rumbling,
Down a shell-hole, up a bank,
Bouncing shrapnel off her forehead,
Shedding bullets from her flank,
Prehistoric, modern, horrid,
Comes the Yankee's awful tank!
I. MOVING INTO POSITION
 THE Argonne-Meuse Battle, fought by the American First Army, was the largest battle in United States history. General
Pershing's engaged forces were about ten times as large as those of General Lee at Gettysburg. It was a vital
element in the subjugation of the German army, and America's main contribution to the war's decision.
The first great battle of the new British armies—the Somme—occurred twenty-three months after Great Britain entered
the conflict. The American troops went into their first great struggle eighteen months after declaration of
hostilities. At that, half or better of the troops and divisional staffs were green in the war game, the remainder
having had but comparatively scanty battle experience which had been acquired in the Marne-Vesle campaign under the
French and in their own brilliant operation at St. Mihiel. Their
 natural handicap in this respect was made more difficult by the fact that the terrain was extremely against them,
and that General von der Marwitz and his German troops were seasoned veterans well supplied with every modern
convenience of warfare.
On the morning of September 26th the Allied line from Switzerland to the sea was in contact with the main first
lines of the elaborate and formidable Hindenburg system of defenses. Everywhere the Germans held these lines intact
except in the old St. Mihiel salient. The Boche had the greatest confidence in the strength of these ingenious
bulwarks to Allied advance, and it was entirely reasonable for them to feel that their defeats in the preceding
months in a war of movement were no criterion by which to judge what they could do behind their much-touted and
really praiseworthy defensive system.
Marshal Foch's plan was for the British army to break through these lines in the neighborhood of Cambrai, and push
eastward; and for the French Fourth Army and the American First Army to drive northward on either side of the
Argonne Forest. This would crowd the bulk of the German forces back on the Ardennes Forest where their
transportation facilities were the poorest. If this scheme could be carried out rapidly enough to throw the German
con-  fusion, a large part of the enemy would be forced to surrender in the same general locality in which the French had
capitulated to German arms in 1870—that of Sedan. And—to get a little ahead of my story—this is exactly what
occurred. Foch, Pershing, Haig, Ludendorf, and Hindenburg are all agreed that the German army was beaten, and the
armistice (which was virtually a surrender) was signed to avoid a complete debacle.
As one of the first steps in the carrying out of its plan, the Allied High Command, between September 13th and
20th, moved to the Verdun-Argonne sector more than three hundred thousand American soldiers and the war
paraphernalia necessary to their operations. These men came both from the St. Mihiel district and the rest-areas
farther back. From officer to private every one of them was wild and eager for the change, as it promised another
chance to get in a telling blow at the enemy.
To move an army of this gigantic proportion is no small task. The transportation of the biggest circus is but a
drop in the bucket compared to it. To add to the normal difficulties of moving so many soldiers going to battle,
all traveling must be done at night, as the fighting zone is approached, and the greatest quiet and secrecy
maintained throughout the operation.
In the present instance the troops went for the
 most part in trucks, with twenty-four men to the vehicle. When you stop for a moment and consider that it takes
about one thousand trucks to carry the troops of one single American division of twelve thousand men, not counting
their own baggage train; that one division takes up approximately four miles of road, and that there were fifteen
divisions moving into this area between Verdun and the western edge of the Argonne Forest, the enormity of the
cavalcade can be somewhat realized. The truth is, the movement embraced as much as sixty miles of troops, not
including the artillery carts, supply wagons, ammunition trucks, motor kitchens, engineering supply vehicles, et
cetera. There is neither the heroism nor the drama about moving troops that there is about actual fighting, but it
is one of the most difficult and important features of the conduct of war, and this particular movement brought the
American army more praise in Allied military circles than many a spectacular combat in which its units indulged
while in Europe.
Quite a large proportion of the artillery, principally heavy, came from the French army, as America had not yet had
time to get suitable big guns in any quantity across the seas. Besides the railroad artillery units there were
thirty-five French artillery regiments. Not always were there plenty of guns at every point of the
battle-  line when needed, owing to the difficulties of transportation, but there was no lack in the aggregate.
In small arms, with the exception of one or two divisions which had the light Browning rifle, the American soldiers
were using the Chauchat automatic which they did not like any too well. Of minor but useful weapons such as
smoke-bombs and hand-grenades they had only small supplies. From their French brothers they had acquired one
hundred and forty-two tanks—really more than the nature of the ground permitted them to use, in addition to which
there were seventy-three tanks manned by and under the direct control of the French tank corps.
As for air service, when the battle began there were about five hundred airplanes attached to the First Army of
which about forty were French. Many more could have been profitably used by the American contingent if they could
have been secured. During the forty-seven days of battle the American air forces lost, in crashed and missing,
three hundred twenty-four planes, and had nearly that many replacements. It is a mooted question as to which side
had supremacy of the air, for many audacious and brave deeds were performed by airmen on both lines, and the
opponents sent hurtling to the ground, wounded before they struck or trapped helplessly in their
 flaming death-chariots, were pretty well distributed, although statistics show that the Allies got a little the
best of this type of fighting.
Physically the forty-kilometer front which the American Army was to attack was about the most difficult point on
the western front. For four years the Argonne Forest—a thick growth of trees and shrubbery, sudden rises and deep
hollows, intermixed with unexpected ravines and rough and rocky ground, much like the Wilderness of Virginia
military fame—had been considered impregnable. The Americans accepted this popular verdict also, in a broad
measure, for the plan of battle was for them and the French, from their separate sides, to outflank the position in
making it untenable.
The artificial difficulties—the defensive lines of the Germans—were perhaps even more formidable. Their lines
between Verdun and the Argonne were close together. Just in front of the Americans were three, and in places four,
well-prepared defensive lines of the main German artery of defense known as the Hindenburg Line. First came the
Hagen Stellung and the Volker Stellung branches. Behind these was the very strong Kriemhilde Stellung, and back of
that the surveyed but not finished Freya Stellung, the former being the basis of the thirty-day German defense in
the Meuse-Argonne soon to begin.
 These various lines consisted of trenches of unusually sturdy and permanent character, reinforced heavily in places
with concrete. Before them stretched miles and miles of barbed wire, woven in and out in a perfect labyrinth of
steel threads and wicked little spines, in some instances more than a half-mile deep, through which a woodchuck
could not crawl unscathed, much less a man. At advantageous positions were concrete pillboxes, shell-proof,
concealing deadly machine-guns. The dugouts were deep, also often made of concrete, and in the long months that the
Germans had occupied them unmolested had in many cases been sumptuously fitted out by their owners with fine
furniture and household accessories taken from nearby occupied towns.
A large operation such as the Argonne-Meuse Battle is very seldom a complete surprise to the enemy, owing to the
very immensity of the movements of troops and supplies that must govern it; but the elements of surprise may still
remain with the offensive in a very useful and marked degree if the enemy can be kept in ignorance of the exact
spot of attack until the moment arrives. It was so in this case. From confessions and documents taken from captured
German prisoners in preliminary trench raids, it became patent that the Boche were expecting either a demonstration
or a real attack somewhere
be-  tween the Argonne and Meuse, and were also nervous about the front east of the Meuse. But just where this offensive
would be precipitated, and how many and what troops were to make it, they were all at sea about and delightfully
 WITH everything in readiness, with all the big guns squatting firmly in position, almost in tiers in some stretches of
woods; with the completion of the spur track for the giant fifteen-inch barker, on a railroad mounting under a
fringe of trees behind a certain bluff,—with these and many other equally important preparedness features of the
attack all set, the big bombardment began at two-thirty on the morning of the 26th of September.
The timber also gave cover to all the American infantry which had been coming up to the front in the darkness.
French infantry had been holding the line in a thin screen until the night before, but now they had retired while
the nine American divisions slipped into their places, al-most automatically, without talking, without the least
 Added to the thundering roar of the American guns was the noise made by the artillery of the French troops on the
American left. Altogether the tumult was deafening. It was like a great electric storm suddenly let loose, only the
flashes were closer and more frequent by far, and the reverberations and fulminations more continuous and jarring.
There were darts of flame in the foreground from nearby batteries, while the leaping, constant flashes ran on in a
great cycle as far as the eye could see, giving little time for the velvety black background of the night to
swallow them up. Indeed, it seemed that all the world enclosed under the canopy of the shadowed heavens was aflame.
Piercing tongues of lightning and broad flashes of lightning! Livid sheets! Little lightnings of the "75's" lost in
the mighty lightnings of the big calibers!
It was the American challenge as an army to the big-bellied and sloping-shouldered enemy. The labors and sacrifices
of the people at home were concentrated in this inferno of accumulated preparation. American guns were speaking the
power of the States—of the Mississippi's flow, of the grandeur of the Rockies, of the salubrious climate of the
coastline, of the richness of the prairies, of the strength of the cotton fields and wheat fields and orchards, of
the great railroads and steel industry, the coal mines and granite
 quarries. And it was the thought of these men, handling these guns, the thought of the cause they espoused, which
made you who shuddered at the sight of blood, ardently pray that the shells they sent screaming straight toward
their tar-gets might accomplish their purpose!
The minutes pass as the lightnings continue their terrific witchery. It is five-thirty,—the "zero" hour. The signal
is given. With a yell of fiercest joy, not entirely free of threat, the infantry is off and away.
Moist and slow-breaking dawn revealed dark patches ahead to be woods, and white streaks became roads in the
developing outline of landscape.
The two battalions which comprised the attacking force of the Fourth Division were made up of two thousand
infantry, two machine-gun companies, and a few wire-cutting teams of engineers. From their position in the
battle-scarred French trenches on Hill 304, they shot forward with two more battalions as support. The battalions
of the other eight divisions were of course also in the charge at other points, but we shall for convenience follow
the fortunes of the Fourth.
MONTFAUCON—SHOWING GERMAN OBSERVATION POSITIONS CAPTURED BY THE AMERICAN ARMY.
Before the charging men lay the first obstacle—the Forges Brook. In the face of a heavy enemy machine-gun fire, the
 the stream, which was narrow. At once foot-bridges, previously prepared and carried by the engineers, were thrown
across the banks, and in a trice the men had surmounted the brook.
Along the opposite side of the stream was a lane of barbed wire, with other lanes immediately beyond. Through this
maze of tangled steel, some of which had been previously severed by wire-men just before the attack, the Americans
cut their way, and were upon the German first-line trenches. The German defense did not con-template attempting to
hold at this point, and had retired, the field-gun emplacements proving empty. Even at the second-line the German
defense was not serious. A few machine-guns tried to keep back the Americans for a brief time, then they were
When the Fourth Division stopped on orders, the German infantry and artillery in its front was still retreating.
But shortly afterward the Boche came back, straightened themselves out, and prepared for a better defense.
The American plan had been that the whole line should go forward after the manner of the Fourth, and after reaching
its first objective, should keep right on and try to break the Kriemhilde Stellung line, where it was expected the
enemy would fight its hardest. But Montfaucon was the stumbling block to carrying out this
opera-  tion. It lay in the path of the Seventy-ninth Division, composed of drafted men from Maryland and Virginia whose
sole training had been at Camp Meade in the United States and who were entering their first battle.
From the start this division encountered a good deal of difficulty. The wire in front of them was so thick that
they did not get through it in the allotted twenty-five minutes. Working on schedule, the barrage moved, and they
were accordingly left without its protection. This resulted in their having a harder time in subduing the
machine-gun nests encountered, especially those firing at them from the Malancourt, Montfaucon, and Cuisy Wood
ahead of them, and from the town of Malancourt on their right. The total result was that by dusk they were in front
of Montfaucon, but some four kilometers (2.4 miles) behind the line which the Fourth Division on their right had
reached at two-thirty.
This was the critical moment at which events were to decide whether the advance was to continue on with a rush, or
whether the attack was to slow up to hard plodding.
Orders came to make one more effort to keep the push going. The Fourth, the Seventy-ninth, and the next two
divisions on the left—the Thirty-seventh and Ninety-first—were all ordered to attack Montfaucon about dusk.
 This town is perched on a hill and flanked by wooded ridges, with the remains of its church in broken columns
against the sky-line—a very formidable position which the Germans had made theirs in 1914, when their initiative
left them a choice in defenses. A year before, its taking would have been considered practicable only after a long
artillery storming. Now, with the American engineers speedily completing a passable road through the sea of
shell-craters in No-Man's Land, the troops were to include Montfaucon in the day's objective!
Wounded men and occasional prisoners were coming across the fields. Had you been there, young reader, you would not
soon forget one of these wounded. In dressing the puncture from a bullet, the surgeon had removed his blouse which
hung over one shoulder, showing the white flesh of the other shoulder and his chest in contrast with the circle of
tan of his neck. Tall and spare, with his helmet on his arm, the afternoon sun turned his luxuriant hair to bronze
and threw his definitely chiseled and really handsome features into a glowing silhouette. His back was a straight
line, and his walk which had a great dignity, in keeping with the scene and the bare shoulder and breast, the
languid blouse, and the heroic helmet on his broad forearm, suggested the very aristocracy of democracy as a
 fit and militant answer to the glitter in the eyes of the typical Prussian officer. If there were ever a picture of
the crusader overseas it was this soldier, all unconscious of the symbolism.
With the help of two tanks, and screened by the darkness, the Seventy-ninth finally made its attack. They had gone
perhaps two hundred yards when they were deluged with machine-gun fire, artillery, and even hand-grenades. They
could not see the machine-gun positions, nor make any effective return fire. After a dauntless stand and suffering
heavy casualties, they finally withdrew to the woods.
But it was not to give up. The next morning the Seventy-ninth attacked again. From seven to eleven o'clock they
struggled to blot out the machine-guns ahead of them and take the town. Aided this time by the light of the day,
and by heavy tanks which crawled slowly over the wire entanglements leveling them to the ground, making great gaps
through which the infantry might follow, and by smaller tanks of swifter pace called "mosquitoes" and "whippets",
which were bullet- and shrapnel-proof and which were invaluable in reducing pillboxes, the task of taking
Montfaucon was at last accomplished.
At three-thirty the Seventy-ninth started north again from Montfaucon, and continued attacking until six o'clock.
But the advance was not
 very fast, and by night the men were badly exhausted. They were still about a kilometer behind the first day's
The American Army had now left the prepared positions from which it had started out, and was dependent for
everything on poor roads and few of them—roads which had had to be rebuilt entirely across pockmarked No Man's
Land, likewise repaired, where the Germans had mined them or blown up bridges. In addition to this a great obstacle
to advance was constantly encountered in the duplicity of the enemy in leaving in his wake ingenious and deadly
infernal machines. Captured ammunition dumps and dugouts were often found planted with explosives timed to go off
when in possession of the conquerors. Innocent looking baggage left behind, frequently was found by the cautious
Americans to contain a heavy powder charge calculated to destroy the life of the unsuspecting handler. Even the
bodies of the German dead, sought by American stretcher-bearers upon a recently-contested field, often proved to be
the abiding place for a deposit of powerful explosive that would be discharged when the body was moved.
On the 28th of September the two wings of the army made further progress, and on the 1st of October the center made
a small gain. In the meantime every one was working feverishly to
 get ready for another general attack which was scheduled for the morning of October 4th. The Seventy-ninth and
Thirty-seventh Divisions, which had thus far borne the brunt of the German resistance, were replaced by the veteran
First and Thirty-second.
III. TRIUMPH FOR AMERICA AND HUMANITY
ON the day set came the first general attack all along the line. It gained, though not largely, at every point.
Particularly it pushed forward up the Aire Valley along the eastern edge of the Argonne. By night the American line
was as far north as Fleville. In the meanwhile the French had been forging along on their side, following the plan
of forcing the Germans out of the Forest by a pincer process rather than a direct attack.
But the Boche, although threatened with being cut off, as at Montfaucon, stuck to their exposed position and kept
their artillery working savagely on the bared flank of the Americans. To cure this situation the Eighty-second
Division, which had relieved the Twenty-eighth, attacked due west on the morning of the 7th.
 What they did was one of the extraordinary feats of the whole battle. To pass over a flat valley under the fiercest
of artillery and machine-gun fire, capture a strongly defended town (in this case Châtel Chehery), get across a
river and up wooded heights on the other side, is a matter not to be lightly considered or undertaken. And yet
these fellows of the Eighty-second did it—and said very little about the feat afterward! With entire justification
they can, when they get home, discuss war on even terms with the vanishing remnant in blue who went up Lookout
Mountain in 1863.
By the 8th the French had closed in on their side of the Forest also. The next day the Germans began to retreat,
and by night on the 10th, the Seventy-seventh (New York City draft) Division had the satisfaction of emerging on
the north end of the Argonne. While greatly helped in its task by the pressure from the sides brought to bear from
its cooperating units, the Seventy-seventh deserves great credit for its share of the work, for it was consistently
ahead of its stated objectives, having maintained an unexpected aggressiveness in that hitherto impossible country.
It was during this forward push of the Seventy-seventh that Major Whittlesey and his historic "Lost Battalion" made
introduction to fame. Separated from its division in the depths of the
 rugged woods during a hot bit of skirmishing, and not immediately missed, this battalion had been finally cut off
from its main force by the enemy.
For four days, surrounded by superior numbers and subsisting on roots, bark and leaves when their rations gave out,
they fought like tigers at bay and held off the Germans who crowded in closer and closer. Many of the brave fellows
were killed. Their numbers finally became so depleted that even the wounded had to take their turn at guard duty.
One of the officers—a second-lieutenant—had eighteen bullet holes in his garments when later rescued, but had not
been injured. At one time the same man had his gas-mask cut away from his face by a German machine-gun less than
thirty feet away, yet he was unhurt. He seemed, truly, to bear a charmed life.
But the real hero of the occasion was a little blue messenger—Cher Ami. Cher Ami is the only pigeon on earth that
has ever been recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross.
It all came about because Cher Ami happened to be one of the members of Major Whittlesey's lost force. When matters
became very desperate with the battalion, and a canvass showed the officer that not a man of the troop would think
of surrendering in lieu of death while fighting,
 and every few minutes some poor chap was falling from exhaustion and starvation, Major Whittlesey bethought himself
of his little carrier-pigeon.
Fastening to it an appeal for help he released the bird, and all the beleaguered soldiers anxiously watched Cher
Ami wing his way out of sight over the tree-tops. They prayed that the watchful Boche might fail to hit the bird if
they saw him, and their wish was granted. It was just after midnight when an American airplane, hovering for an
instant over the hemmed-in Americans in the woods, dropped down into their midst a capsuled assurance that Cher Ami
had reached friends and help would speedily follow.
Soon came the rescuers. They rushed through the German cordon, breaking one defense after another, pocketed the
weary members of the battalion, and then worked their way out again to the main force, with the rescued in their
But this does not properly end the tale of Cher Ami. A little later it was this same feathered soldier who bore to
General Pershing the tidings that the Yankees had crossed the Meuse in the great battle of the Argonne. This time
unfortunately the German sharpshooters were on the lookout for carrier-pigeons, and a bullet cruelly ripped off
Cher Ami's left leg as he rose in the air, but the dauntless little bird flew straight to
 headquarters, thirty-seven miles away, with the crease of another bullet across his breast!
ARGONNE FOREST—SHOWING THE CONCRETE DUGOUTS OF GERMAN HEADQUARTERS.
Both armies spent the next twenty days knocking holes in the Brunehilde and Kriemhilde lines preparatory to further
It is very difficult to give a clear picture of the American fighting at this period, for it was neither like the
fighting of previous wars nor of the earlier parts of this war. The American line, for example, was not a line at
all, nor was the German, although as a last resort they had their trench and wire lines to hold. But the Germans
had much more than this. In the first place they had their artillery maps worked out so that they knew exactly
where the Americans could take shelter. These places they systematically shelled in the methodical Boche manner, at
a certain time, with shots just so far apart. For this regularity the Americans came to be very grateful, as it
usually gave them a chance, by anticipation, to better their protection.
Then, the enemy had their machine-guns planted in groups and well-sheltered. To hold a valley they mounted them in
the woods or on the hills, or in any favoring position from which they could sweep the declivity. Until an attack
was under way, no one could be certain from which direction the bullets which defended the valley would come. True,
American airplanes spotted
 many of these nests for their compatriots, and bombed out others, but there were scores and scores they failed to
either get or report.
Thus, to make any progress was a decidedly slow matter, involving usually the storming and capture of these
pestiferous emplacements by frontal attacks. But this was only the first round in the game. The Germans had
foreseen this and prepared from other positions a fire intended to be destructive enough to prevent the Americans
from holding what they had taken. Their third and favorite trick, if the first two failed, was to counter-attack
and snatch away the recently-won prize. If this also failed, their fourth procedure was to accept the advance,
retire a little way to their next combination, and try all four moves over again. As may be surmised this was a
pretty hard game to beat, especially when played by a superior force of the best troops in the German army.
Between the various attacks of the American troops, and the frequent counter-attacks of the enemy, the artillery on
both sides kept searching for the guns of the opponents, and the masses of opponents themselves. In this contest of
hide-and-seek, with its deadly penalty, the Germans had all of the advantage by reason of familiarity with the
ground and long-established dugouts. Wherever possible the Americans used the
cap-  tured dugouts, but mostly they made little fox-holes in the ground and crawled into them. All over the south side
of every hill in this section, if you go to the Argonne, you will see these American burrows, most of which are
just large enough for a man to lie down in. And all around them are the shell-holes made by the ammunition of the
enemy in an effort to make them untenable. These places were bad enough. The shelter in the captured villages was
worse, for villages have a particular fascination for artillerymen.
During all this time the American Aviation Corps was doing exceptionally good service. Not only were the bombing
planes doing destructive work in German trenches and occupied towns out of immediate reach of land fire, but
observation planes were bringing back valuable information and photographs of the enemy positions and movements. In
addition, combat planes were numerous enough and energetic enough to make the foe aircraft very cautious about
venturing over the American lines, and anti-aircraft guns did much to add to this fear by their accurate
Never had confidence in the winning quality of its air service been so strong as now. Early in the spring of 1918
the first Liberty motor had been received from America. This, an experiment, had not come up to expectations, and
 Expeditionary forces had been greatly disappointed. But now, thanks to the hardest kind of work by the home
country's foremost motor engineers and mechanics, a new Liberty had been produced which, in the most grueling tests
of the battlefield, was proving its superiority over anything of like nature the Germans could pit against it. So
swift were the planes equipped with it that Boche airmen took pains to keep out of reach except when their
preponderance of numbers promised a pretty certain victory. Equipped with the latest American warfare device—a
wireless telephone, by which the flying airman could at all times keep in verbal communication with his ground
officers—these airplanes were a constant source of wonder and dread to the enemy.
As a better insight of the character of the American aviation work in this battle than can be given in generalisms,
let me insert here the story of a morning sortie over the Argonne Forest made by a member of the Aviation Corps.
Our daily routine goes on with little change—but the things that happen in between are never alike, and stirring
enough at times to make you marvel when you get back to your base that you are still in the land of the eating and
Whenever the weather permits—that is, when it isn't raining, or foggy, and the clouds aren't
 too low, we fly over the Argonne battlefield and the German trench system at the hours indicated by General
Headquarters. As a rule the most successful sorties are those in the early morning. Sometimes we go out alone, but
usually we have company, and it's a lot safer, too.
We are called while it is still dark. Sleepily I try to reconcile the orderly's muttered "C'est l'heure,
monsieur" (John is a full-blooded Yank, but sometimes goes too far, I think, in his efforts to master French),
that arouses me from slumber, with the strictly American words and music of "When That Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves
for Alabam," warbled by a particularly wide-awake pilot in the next room.
A few minutes later, having swallowed some coffee, we motor to the field. The east is just turning gray as the
hangar curtains are drawn apart and our machines trundled out by the mechanicians. All the pilots whose
busses—that's what we Yanks usually call our planes—are in commission for this trip prepare to leave. A few are to
remain behind on guard. We average from four to six busses on a sortie, unless numerous flights are in prospect for
the day, in which case only two or three go out at a time.
Now the east is pink, and overhead the sky that was gray has changed into a pale steel-blue. It is light enough to
fly, and promises a fine day for
 the work in hand. We don our fur-lined shoes and combinations, and adjust the leather flying-hoods and goggles. A
good deal of conversation occurs—perhaps because, once aloft, there is nobody to talk to. And it is usually of a
jesting kind—perhaps because we are going on a grim sort of business.
"Hey, Bob!" one pilot cries to another, "I hope some Boche clips your memory short this morning, so I won't have to
pay you that thirty francs I owe you for that souvenir ring!"
"Oh, do you?" retorts Bob, who is next on my right, as he swings into his machine. "Well, all I've got to say is
just watch out, Gil, old top, that the Boche don't get you! If it hadn't been for me yesterday, saving you from
that Fokker over the Kriemhilde so I could get that thirty francs later on sometime, you'd now be in a German
prison-camp or worse. Fine sight you'd be in that Eskimo garb walking along the street of some Boche town, with a
sauerkraut and wienerwurst lunch sticking out of your pockets, a beer-swigging military guard about you, and German
women and children throwing sticks and stones at you, and dachshunds barking—"
The raillery is silenced by a deafening roar as the motors are tested. Quiet is briefly restored, only to be broken
by a series of rapid explosions incidental to the trying-out of the machine-guns.
 You loudly inquire at what altitude we are to meet above the field.
"Fifteen hundred meters—go ahead!" comes the answering yell of the squad commander.
"Oil and gas!" you call to your mechanician, adjusting your gasoline- and air-throttles while he grips the
"Contact!" he shrieks, and—
"Contact!" you reply.
You snap on the switch; he spins the propeller; the motor takes. Drawing forward out of line, you put on full
power, race across the ground and take the air. Swiftly the field drops away as the hood slants up before you, but
as you rise you seem to be going more and more slowly. (At a great height you hardly realize you are moving.) You
glance at the clock to note the time of your departure, and at the oil-gauge to observe its throb. The altimeter
registers six hundred and fifty feet. You turn and look back at the field. Others of your squadron are just taking
In three minutes you are at about four thousand feet. You make wide circles over the field, waiting for your
comrades, and slowly mounting. Five hundred feet higher you throttle down and keep on that level till the last of
the fellows come up to join you.
With them all caught up and well bunched, in V-shaped flying formation off you go toward the
 enemy lines. Again you begin climbing, and from time to time calmly survey the other busses accompanying you. You
instantly recognize the pilot of each by the marks on the sides of his machine—or by the way he flies, for aviators
have their peculiarities of "gait" just the same as pedestrians, I'll let you know. Of course all American planes
are marked on the wings with concentric circles of red, white and blue, the red being the "bull's-eye," and with
bars of the same colors on the tail, but most of the boys had whimsically decorated the fuselage of their busses
with some pet individual design, often calculated to represent national characteristics of the people back home, or
to instill a healthy terror in the hearts of the foe, and we soon came to know these as we knew faces below.
By now the country beneath us has changed into a flat surface of vari-colored figures. The woods of the Argonne are
irregular blocks of dark green, like daubs of paint on an artist's palette. Fields are geometrical designs of
different shades of green and brown, forming in composite an ultra-cubist production on canvas. Roads have taken on
the look of thin white lines of string, each with its distinctive windings and crossings—from which you determine
your location in many instances. The higher you are the easier it is to read the distant map far below you.
 Down there, to the right, you can plainly make out the Meuse River. It is sparkling in the sun-light like a
never-ending snake with a diamond-studded back, crinkling, crawling, but never going anywhere. On either side you
see a long line of sausage-shaped observation balloons, anchored and protected by obscure emplacements of
anti-aircraft guns. Some of these air elephants are the enemy's, some are our own. How you ache to make the enemy's
count shorter! But that isn't your business just now.
Immediately west and south there lies a broad brown band. It stretches away to the "S" bend in the Meuse and into
the Woevre plain, winding up near Verdun. From this height it is all plain. Peaceful fields and farms and villages
adorned that landscape a few months ago—before there was any Battle of Verdun. Now there is only that sinister
brown belt, a strip of murdered Nature. It seems to belong to Hades instead of the Earth. Every sign of humanity
has been swept away by ruthless hands. The woods, the roads, have been obliterated into shapeless, meaningless
things, as chalk outlines are semi-erased from a blackboard by the hand of a child. The great forts of Douaumont
and Vaux are outlined faintly, like the tracings of a finger in wet sand. You cannot distinguish any one
shell-crater, for at this distance they merge into a terrain whose
sur-  face seems only troubled with a rash. Of the villages, here and there, nothing remains but gray jumbles of stone.
Columns of muddy smoke spurt up as high explosives tear deeper into the ulcerated area within your range of vision.
The countless towers of smoke remind you of Gustave Doré's picture of the fiery tombs of the arch-heretics in
Dante's "Inferno." A pungent pall covers the sector under fire, rising so high that at the height of a thousand
feet, were you down there, you would be enveloped. At that lower level, too, airmen have had their planes cut in
two by the monster shells, and have been rocked so violently by the disturbed air currents when such shells came
close, as to scarcely be able to control their busses.
But there is no roar of cannon up here. For you the battle passes in silence, the only noise being the constant
roar of your motor which out-sounds everything else. In the green patches behind the brown belt, myriads of tiny
flashes, and the spouts of smoke from bursting shells, are all you see of the deadly duel going on beneath. It is a
weird combination of stillness and havoc, this Argonne conflict viewed from the sky.
Far below you the observation and range-finding planes of both friend and foe circle over the contested territory
like gliding gulls. At a feeble
 altitude, the target for scores of bullets, one can now be seen—one of your very own!—dashing back after downing a
German Fokker. Involuntarily you thrill, and give a cheer unheard, as you see the daring American airman regain his
own lines. Sometimes it falls to your lot to guard these machines from Germans eager to swoop down on their backs.
Sailing about high above a busy flock of them, you know, makes you feel like an old mother hen protecting her
At times the clouds pass between you and the earth, shutting out everything below. Again you become involved in the
midst of one. But that doesn't worry a man in the least. The fact is, many a time you and your mates seek such a
refuge to escape a superior force of enemy planes out looking for you, or to screen yourselves so that you can
swoop down unexpectedly on what seems promising prey.
Ah! here you go now behind a big gray cloud. your friends with you. Once there, you throttle down and linger along
in a huddled flock. The reason is quickly apparent: From back of the German lines you have seen three German planes
headed this way—mere specks—just your equal in numbers to a dot.
Closer and closer come the enemy, wary but unsuspecting. You maneuver to keep concealed, working behind an
overlapping cloud, but
watch-  ing the foe like a hawk. Now he is almost directly underneath you, his black Maltese crosses plainly showing
through rifts in your screen. By dipping your wings to one another signals have passed, and each aviator in your
squadron knows his part.
Now! Like veritable birds of prey you suddenly tip up your tails and pounce down upon your astonished foemen. In
irregular curves and circles you shoot groundward, at such an acute angle your upper body is almost horizontal.
Your own German—the one just a bit ahead of the rest—you do not hate, but nevertheless you have an obsessing
conviction that you must crush him, just as you would place your foot on a bug. That he may have the same feeling
toward you never occurs to you; you have no fear, absolutely none.
He attempts to wheel around and use his machine-gun on you. Even though caught at a disadvantage, if he can get in
the first shots—But you are too quick for him. Already your own, machine-gun begins to staccato as you press the
release. But hardly has it begun its chatter when, to your consternation, it jams and will not work. You are at his
mercy! He seems to know it. You fancy you can see the sardonic grin on his face as he drops suddenly to get under
your tail where he can rake you to better advantage.
 Of all things you know you must prevent that. Instantly you come up and go into a tail-spin. As you drop
erratically you are a most uncertain mark. He is puzzled to get your range, but takes a chance and begins firing
anyhow. All the while you work frantically to get the kink out of your gun. Once well below him, you recover and
slip off towards his rear. Several bullets have pierced the upper wing a few feet from your head, and one has
plowed across your left shoulder, but you are not worrying about little matters of that kind. No, not a bit! For
you are now the happiest fellow in France—Joy of joys! your machine-gun is out of jam and ready for business.
You note that your adversary, in his confidence of your helplessness, is now careless. After you he comes,
avariciously, recklessly, apparently not caring what position you get into as long as he can get you in front of
his nose once more.
A little more maneuvering, nicely done, and you are under his tail for a brief moment, although more holes have
been put through your buss in the meantime and one bullet has zipped off a fragment from your sleeve.
Put-put-put put! goes your little pet, no longer refractory. You cannot catch the sounds, but you feel the
vibrations in your controlling arm with a wonderful satisfaction.
 You cannot see your foe from your position, but his petrol tank—that is enough! Surely one of that fusillade of
tracer-bullets you are firing must reach the tank of that Maltese-crossed raven!
It does! All at once there is a burst of flames from the fuselage of the German plane. It quivers for a moment, and
then begins to drop earthward, a regular flaming torch. As it goes past you, you train your gun on the
terror-stricken pilot, doomed to a death more frightful than that of crushed bones or bullet. There is another
chatter from your weapon, and with a sigh of relief you see his head drop limply forward on his chest. Mercy!
Now, for the first time, you think of your comrades. Presently you are all together again, with two Boche planes
subtracted from the sum total of German aircraft. One, badly crippled, has managed to get back over his own lines.
Back you go to your base, after unsuccessful efforts to coax more enemy planes into combat—back a good bath and a
nice warm meal.
To return to the general description of the Battle of the Argonne-Meuse, it may be said that the fighting was of
the most stubborn kind in the efforts of the American Army to penetrate the staunch Kriemhilde defenses. The daily
ad-  vances were small, the losses heavy on both sides, but particularly so to the German. The thing to do was to give
him no rest in his sufferings, push him as hard as possible, and allow him no time to recuperate.
When the 30th of October arrived the American troops were through the Kriemhilde defenses in places. In others the
Germans still clung desperately to the fringes, but Von der Marwitz must have known, despite the fact that he was
backed up by forty-four German and two Austro-Hungarian divisions, that it would be only a matter of a short time
when he must fall back and lose his precious railroad. The truth is, it was at this very time that Hindenburg sent
his dispatch to his government telling them to make the best terms they could with the Allies as soon as possible,
as his armies were beaten.
However, while the German government tried to arrange most unreasonable terms, the German commanders did the best
they could to save as much as conditions would warrant from the approaching wreck. And Foch, having the enemy well
within his grasp, stimulated every Allied effort to hasten and enlarge the great consummation of four years of
The task of the American Army in this last phase was two-fold. First, its aim was to send part of its forces in a
drive to the north to gather
 the fruits of the previous thirty-five days' effort, and cut the railroad in the neighborhood of Sedan. Second, the
other contingent was to turn east and north in a drive on the eastern side of the Meuse toward Longwy.
The race for the railroad began on November 1st. The German resistance of the previous thirty days had disappeared,
thanks to the steady hammering blows of the troops from across the seas. By evening the Second and Eighty-ninth
Divisions, in the center, had gone five or six kilo-meters. The next day the same thing happened, and for five days
following that, until the American leading troops were overlooking historic Sedan.
Unable to stop these operations, the Germans could do naught but retreat, which they managed to do in a fairly
orderly manner, and when the armistice was finally signed, on November 11th, 1918, they were along the heights on
the east bank of the river from Stenay to Mezieres. South of Stenay, American troops had crossed the Meuse in the
drive toward Longwy. The enemy had lost practically every commanding position north-east of Verdun, and moreover
had been backed out into the Woëvre plain, with no natural defenses to rely on and no such artificial defense lines
as those they had lost.
Of the four hundred thousand Germans
 against the American First Army, about sixteen thousand officers and privates were made prisoners, or one in every
twenty-five. In addition, one thousand four hundred and twenty-one large guns were taken, and six thousand five
hundred and fifty-five machine-guns. The total enemy casualties are estimated at about one hundred thousand, or
about one-fourth of their forces. On the American side (including about seven thousand French casualties) the total
was one hundred twenty-two thousand.
The decisiveness and the significance of America's great battle in France will continue to grow as time goes on and
people continue to study the war. During the forty-seven days' fighting in the Argonne-Meuse, although mistakes
were made and graves dug because of them, the marvel is that untrained men and short-trained officers could ever
have accomplished what they did against the world-dominant military power that had been tutoring all its young men
and preparing for this very struggle as much as forty long years.