Excerpts from my Grandfather’s World War I Log Book – Part 8
France September 11 – 13, 1918
Road Building at the St. Mihiel Battle Front
Digging up Bones of Dead Frenchmen
111th Engineers rebuilt a road similar to this one on September 13, 1918 (Photo from National Archives)
My Comment: The 111th Engineers Battalion has finally made it to the battlefront. My grandfather is proud of the work the men are doing under difficult conditions, including shells “dropping thick” around them as they worked.
Here is a historical note for context:
“September 12, 1918: On this day in 1918, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) under the command of General John J. Pershing launches its first major offensive operation as an independent army during World War I.
The attack began on September 12, 1918, with the advance of Allied tanks across the trenches at Saint-Mihiel, followed closely by the AEF’s infantry troops. Foul weather plagued the offensive as much as the enemy troops, as the trenches filled with water and the fields turned to mud, bogging down many of the tanks. Despite the conditions, the attack proved successful—in part because the German command made the decision to abandon the salient—and greatly lifted the morale and confidence of Pershing’s young army. By September 16, 1918, Saint-Mihiel and the surrounding area were free of German occupation.” (from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-launches-saint-mihiel-offensive)
My Comment: My grandfather used multiple terms to refer to the German troops. In his September 11 Log Book entry he calls them “dutch” for some reason. Then in his September 12 entry he refers to “Boche” aeroplanes. Boche was a slang term for Germans picked up from French soldiers.
Log Book* quotes:
“11th– Arrived at woods just beyond Griscourt at 6 P.M., where we pitched our pup tents. Great drive started. The long range cannons sure were talking to the dutch. Started at 10 P.M., lasted all night.”
“12th– On hike at 8 A.M. with full packs. Reached temporary camp in ravine at 1:15 P.M. Up hill all the way. 9.2 [howitzer] hidden all around us spitting fire.”
9.2″ British howitzer 1918 (photo from Library of Congress)
“12th(continued) – Raining and cold. Was visited by Boche aeroplane party.”
German (Boche) airplane 1917 (Photo from Library of Congress)
“13th– Friday and our lucky day. Our hike for front at 3 A.M. reached Reguieville right after Germans made retreat. Started work building up old road to front between 1st and 2nd wave infantry. Germans used old road for trenches, so built road through ruins of houses; it seemed impossible, but the company put one through in 6 hours, where heavy artillery and all transportation went over it.”
“Dug up bones of dead Frenchmen in building road, [bones] which had probably been there the past four years when the Germans first took this territory. Shells sure dropping thick around here. 111th Eng. made Corps Eng. of the 1st Army Corps and taken out of the 36th Division. We were all commended on our work.”
Next post will be — St. Mihiel offensive continued: Big aerial battle, Brass beds and Player piano in German trenches
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*Quotes are from my grandfather Sergeant 1st Class Lou Sheckard’s World War I handwritten Log Book, describing his experience with the Army 111th Engineers from March 1, 1917 to June 15, 1919. To learn how I discovered this 100-year-old family treasure, click here.
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Peter Finkle bio: Husband, Father, Writer | Herbal Health Researcher | Co-Founder: Vets Vites dietary supplements