My Grandfather’s World War I Log Book – Part 12 – Town “looks as if an earthquake struck”

My Grandfather’s World War I Log Book – Part 12 – France September 28 – 29, 1918

Town of Vauquois ” looks as if an earthquake struck”

My comments: My grandfather was with the U.S. Army 111th Engineers battalion.  In this excerpt from his Log Book, they are now repairing roads at the battle front in the Argonne Forest in France.  For American troops, this was the largest battle in all of World War I.

The task facing my grandfather and his battalion: The roads “were almost entirely obliterated in what had been no man’s land. In order to move troops, food and ammunition forward, and the wounded to the rear, these roads had to be practically rebuilt while in use.”

World War I, France

Vauquois Memorial – former site of village of Vauquois, France

Photo above is the former site of the village of Vauquois, now a memorial to the estimated 8,000 soldiers who died fighting for this hill from 1914 to 1918.  Both the Germans and French dug mine shafts into the hill, detonating explosives that created hundreds of small and huge craters, in attempt to gain an advantage.  Note my grandfather’s September 29 Log Book entry that his platoon was “bridging a mine hole, which tore the road away, just about 300 yards east of #60 (Vauquois hill).” (Photo by TCY)

World War I, France

Vauquois village before World War I

This photo is the town of Vauquois before World War I, home to about 170 people. Location of church is where the monument in photo above is located.  (Photo from: http://roadstothegreatwar-ww1.blogspot.com/2014/02/vauquois-four-year-battle-for-strategic.html)

Here is a description of what my grandfather and the 111th Engineers were up against as they worked in the midst of the Argonne offensive. “The area near the former front lines had been torn to pieces by shellfire during the preceding four years and the few roads leading across it were almost entirely obliterated in what had been no man’s land. In order to move troops, food and ammunition forward, and the wounded to the rear, these roads had to be practically rebuilt while in use. The difficulty of the task was increased by inclement weather, frequent hostile artillery bombardments, and the limited number of engineer and pioneer troops available.”

From the book: American Operations in the Meuse-Argonne Region, pages 176-177, American Battle Monuments Commission. https://www.abmc.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Section4.pdf

Log Book* quotes:

28th – The boys worked by reliefs all night on the roads.  Corporal McCray, Pvt. Cummings and Pvt. Shannon were sent back to the infirmary yesterday.  Just have 23 boys with the platoon now.  Pvts. Cude & Watson were sent to the infirmary today.”

29th – Sunday but it’s not any different than the rest.  Our hike at 6:30 A.M. arrived at Cheppy at 8 A.M.  Our boys left here this morning and advanced about 8 kilo.  The town is sure being shelled.”

“There are eight wounded Germans here and they say that the war can’t last much longer as they have hardly any infantry troops at all.  They are using men from 16 to 60.”

World War IWounded German soldier during Argonne offensive, 1918 (photo from National Archive)

Log Book* quotes continued:

29th continued – The hills around here are just covered with dugouts & trenches, and we sure played hell with them on the night of the 26th when the artillery put over a barrage of 550 shells to the kilo square.  Went on the famous hill #60 where the town of Vauquois was and it sure looks as if an earthquake struck it, as the town and hill are one big crater now.  The platoon is bridging a mine hole, which tore the road away, just about 300 yards east of #60.  Sgt. Sands has been acting top cutter since Sgt. Worrall left for the hospital on the 25th.”

“Not a stone had literally remained on the other at Vauquois.” (from a German soldier’s diary)

Here is a description of the battle for Vauquois from a German soldier’s diary: “The artillery of both sides bombarded the place to such an extent that not a foot of ground could be found that was not torn up by shells. Thousands upon thousands of shells of all sizes were employed. The bombardment from both sides lasted three days and three nights, until at last not a soldier, neither French nor German, was left in the village. Both sides had been obliged to retreat before the infernal fire of the opponent, for not a man would have escaped alive out of that inferno.”

“There was no trace of trenches at Vauquois. All that could be seen were pieces of stones. Not a stone had literally remained on the other at Vauquois. That heap of ruins, once a village, had changed hands no less than fifteen times.”  Quote from: https://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/XXI_IN_THE_HELL_OF_VAUQUOIS

Next post will be — “Shells were falling fast around us”

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*Quotes are from my grandfather Sergeant 1st Class Lou Sheckard’s World War I handwritten Log Book.  He describes his experience with the U.S. Army 111th Engineers from March 1, 1917 to June 15, 1919.  To learn how I discovered this 100-year-old family treasure, click here.

Peter Finkle bio: Husband, Father, Writer | Herbal Health Researcher | Co-Founder: Vets Vites dietary supplements

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