My Grandfather’s World War I Log Book – Part 19 – France

My Grandfather’s World War I Log Book – Part 19 – France

November 1 – 4, 1918

You could “read a newspaper” by the 3am Artillery Barrage

My comments: My grandfather was with the U.S. Army 111th Engineers battalion. In this excerpt from his Log Book, he describes a huge offensive starting in the Argonne, and he writes that he saw sights he hoped “to never see again.”

Bonus #1: As I researched what was happening on November 1, 1918 in World War I, I discovered that future U.S. President Harry Truman was in the Argonne offensive near my grandfather from September 26 to early November, and was one of the artillery officers leading the barrage that my grandfather writes about.  I am including several excerpts from a letter Captain Harry Truman wrote on November 1, 1918 to his sweetheart back home, Bess Wallace.

Bonus #2: I am including a humorous anecdote from the November 8, 1918 issue of “The Stars & Stripes” (official newspaper of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I).

Excerpts from Log Book*:

Saw sights in German trenches “that I hope to never see again.”

November 1st, 1918: Well, this is the day we start to raise a little hell of our own.  On the hike at 2:30 A.M.  Our barrage started at 3 A.M., and talk about being able to read a newspaper at night, you sure could then.  Our artillery was located at Fleville and everything was being fired from a rifle to the 16″ naval gun & it was some fireworks.  We reached St. George where Jerry (Germans) had their front line trench & saw some sights there that I hope to never see again.”

“Worked on road between St. George & Landes Georgine morning & between St. George & St. Juvin in afternoon.  Went back to Fleville for supper, our first meal today.  The dutch [Germans] tried to counter-attack but it wouldn’t work.”

World War I, artillery

U.S. Artillery in Argonne offensive (photo from Imperial War Museum)

Nov 2nd: On hike at 7:30 A.M.  Worked at St. George and like all other towns we went through just a city of ruins.  We worked on road toward St. Juvin all night.”

Nov 3rd: Moved to Inecourt working on road in town.  Our boys sure brought a number of prisoners through.  The boche [Germans] have retreated so far and fast, our boys can’t find them.”

Nov 4th: Moved to Sirry and repaired road in town.”     

Captain (and future President) Harry S. Truman

World War I, President Truman, Harry Truman

Harry S Truman’s Military Identity Card from the American Expeditionary Forces
Courtesy Harry S. Truman Library and Museum

[Bonus #1: Excerpts from a letter Captain Harry Truman wrote on November 1, 1918 to his sweetheart back home, Bess Wallace.”   At this time, he was the Captain of Battery D of the 129th Field Artillery Regiment of the 35th Division of the U.S. Army, fighting in the Argonne offensive not far from where my grandfather was.

“Dear Bess:

“I have just finished putting 1800 shells over on the Germans in the last five hours. They don’t seem to have had energy enough to come back yet. I don’t think they will.

“I got a letter of Commendation, capital C, from the Commanding General of the 35th Division. The Ordnance Repair Dept. made a report to him that I had the best conditioned guns after the drive that he had seen in France. The Gen. wrote me a letter about it. My chief mechanic is to blame not me. He knows more about guns than the French themselves. As usual in such cases, the C[ommanding] O[fficer] gets the credit. I think I shall put an endorsement on the letter stating the ability of my chief mechanic and stick it in the files anyway.,I am going to keep the original letter for my own personal and private use. It will be nice to have someday if some low browed north end politician tries to remark that I wasn’t in the war when I’m running for eastern judge or something. I’ll have the “papers” and can shut him up. If ever I get home from this war whole (I shall), I am going to be perfectly happy to follow a mule down a corn row the balance of my days – that is always providing such an arrangement is also a pleasure to you. I think the green pastures of Grand Old Missouri are the best looking of any that I have seen in this world yet and I’ve seen several brands.

I love you

Always

Harry

Harry S Truman, Capt. 129 FA, American E.F.”

If you would like to read the letter in Harry Truman’s own handwriting, it is at this link.]

World War I, Stars and Stripes

[Bonus #2:  Humor from the November 8, 1918 issue of “The Stars & Stripes” (official publication of the American Expeditionary Forces), Paris France:

“The officer, bent over the candle-lit task of censoring letters written from the Argonne battlefield, burst into a sweat and prayed for strength to resist a great temptation.

“There before him were two letters written by one soldier.  One was to a girl in Brittany, begging her to be true to him and murmuring sweet prophecies of the day when he could come for her and take her back as his bride to America.

“The other letter was to his real fiancée in Ohio.  And into the mind of the censoring officer had crept the mischievous notion that it would not be a bad idea to swap envelopes.

“At last accounts, he was still struggling with the temptation.”]

Next post will be — “liberated a number of French men, women and children”

Please share this with friends who might be interested so they can follow the story too.

*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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