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THE SUN, SUNDAY, JUNK 28. 1918.
Over the Top With the Johnny Rebs Visit to Fighting Line Shows American In dividuality of Frontier Days Still Existent B7 HERMAN WH1TAKER, Author of "The Planter." "The Settler," "Orer the Border," Ac. Copyrltht. 191S. by Herman WhlUktr. 7 OU are a writer," said the "run- 'Y ncr" as we walked along. "I've read a lot -of this war stuff, but I've never seen that correctly described. -How would you go about to do it?"' "That'' happened lo, be the whistling rush of a minnenwerfer shell high over head. While listening till it merged in a distant explosion I also realized that it had never been described for a cogent reason ; it can-'t be done. When I say that it is a cross between a whinny, a whine and a whistle I'm as far from the mark as the best of them. The note of a high explo.-ive shell that followed was shriller nnd eleaner cut, but equally indescrib able. When it pliiggrd a big hole, like one sees in the battle pictures, close to our roatU.1 got my first real war thrill; one that was keener perhaps because I really had no business there. Moil Careful of Correspondent. You see (i. II. Q., alias general head quarters, is more careful of its corre spondents than their own mothers could possibly be. Both for their sakes and that of the troops upon whom German fin; might be drawn we arc restrained from unnecessary movements along the front. Very politely, but most positively, I had been informed that an "observation" post" usually a few kilometers behind the front trenches wonld be about the best (1. II. Q. could do for men Thanks, however, to a lucky combination of low visibility, produced by a misty rain, and a complaisant Southern Major whom I found with his staff burrowed under the' ruins of a village, hero was I marching nlong a camouflaged road to the music of bursting s-hells to spend the night in a front line trench. Through shell pocked fields and past shattered farmsteads the ''runner" led on into a wet wood. Now tiian a weeping wood in winter one can hardly imagine anything more comfortless, and the pros pect was not improved by zigzag lines of clayey trenches fenced with belts of rusted wire that crisscrossed it every where. I Stat pei haps because of a faint resemblance to their own Southern "piney woods" the troops that held it appeared quite at home. Though it was just past 5 supper was in full swing. Blue smoke from half a hundred shacks and dugouts hung low on the wet air mingling with satisfying odors. Introduced by the "run ner" at "Dclraouieo's," a real Bairnsfatber shack, I joined a brace of Lieutenants in soldiers' chow of steak and potatoes, bread and coffee, topped off with rice and syrup. It was still light when wc finished and viewed through a thin haze of tobacco smoke from the changed viewpoint in duced by comfortable repletion, the shacks and dugouts, clayey trenches, rusted wire tangles, even the weeping wood, appeared if not homelike at least livable. ' One could understand how a man can get so accustomed to shrapnel helmets, trench coats, mud boots, gas masks and other im pedimenta as to feel uncomfortable with out them. Typical Southern Types Seen. Through the open doorway I could sea men passing to and fro along the duck boards that led from post to post. They were strong Soiilhcrn types mouths thin lipped and firm, eyes steady, brows broad hut sloping quickly to short sharp chins. The faces, quiet almost to the point of sullenness, bore in hard print the whole story of the South, mountain vendettas, family feuds, moonshining, the Ku Klux Klan, race wars, all of that dread atmos phere which Mark Twain caught so won derfully in 'Huckleberry Finn." 'They're shuah natural soldiers." The elder Lieutenant confirmed my impression in a slow, Southern drawl. "All have twenty generations of private wa'h be hind them. Very few of their ancestors, s'eh, ever died in their beds, and even yet a revenue officer isn't what you could call a good insurance rink in the back counties. Instead of a rattle their mothers gave them n gun to play with in the cradle. At 5 they'd be knocked head over heels by the JBfilnL'' 3mmmmmLB lmmmmmHm0T HHnBmnmBwiEsHlmGKE rnHFjT' "Hmmnmmr .mmmmmmKBKVTmmHnHmmB9mlmwHM (wawawawawawaKaEtfcea'' -Tnawv 'nffiilBfllKMSiflllHiaH KaHaKaBS&9B9!59IB 11 'I Eerie sights are witnessed in front line trenches when working parties are revealed by the light of star shells. recoil of pop's shotgun. At 10 they'd be trailing deer in the mountains. Shuah, they're sullen fighters, and tbar goes a fine specimen." In the face of the man who passed just Uicn was concentrated all of the hard ness, almost vindictive reserve, undiluted by the softer qualities that toned it in the others. Carrying his rifle in the hollow of his arm, he lounged along in a swing ing hunter stride quite unmilitary. One glance at him supplemented the Lieuten ant's short biography. 'He was a Tennessee moonshiner and simply can't stand discipline. But he's the finest shot we've got; can pick the eye out of a Bochc at 300 yards. To get the best out of him we just gave him n pass good anywhere along the lines and let him go to it. So every day ho goes on his lonclyto stalk Bodies through No Man's I.and. When he draws a bead on one it's good night, nurse, for he never lets loose till he's certain. Some day Fritz will get him, I suppose, but not before he's pajd an awful price in lives." "Raw Americans" Alarm Fritz. "And he's not the only one," the other Lieutenant put in. "We have a dozen snipers that go out like that not to men tion the raids we pull off almost every night. Fritz over thar tho'ght he was going to have a cinch with us raw Ameri cans. But he's found our chaps so nasty I believe he'd just about as soon change back to the French:" "They so keen for it," the other con tinued, "we have an cmbarr'sing choice of volunteers for the raids. All to-day they've been sidling up to me in ones and twos and threes 'Any chance to-night, s'cht' When I say no they look glum as a pack of girls that have bees done out of a dance, but if I'd taken all that offered we shuah would have had to attack in fo'ec. If you want some action for yu' money, s'eh," he concluded, "you had bet ter come along." "Better come alongt" I, whose ambi tion had been to "go over tb.e top" ever since the beginning of the war! Lives there a correspondent who would not have jumped at the chanccf I saw myself put ting one over on our dear grandmother, the G. II. Q., and I took him up at once. It was then only half past 5. The patrol would not go out till 0 and I spent the remainder of the daylight following a ''runner" through the wicker lined trenches from one to another of the company's four posts. The more I saw of them the more I wondered that troops could ever be got to go up against them. Imagine thousands of miles of rusted barbed wire running in a tangled belt forty feet wide in front of a trench laid out with frequent salients that permit enfilading fire on at tacking troops. Behind the first line a second wire belt, then another trench sys tem, finally belt after belt of wire run ning back into the open country through which I had coma, Though it had been raining for days steady pumping had kept the water below the level .of the duckboards in the trench bottoms. The "runner" spoke quite proudly of their "dryness," and I suppose they were as dryness goes in a wet wood. The dugouts, too, each had a well below the floor level, from which excess water could be pumped out. Judged, by war standards these Southern troops might be said to be. living in the lap of luxury. At Post 2, from where the raid was to be launched, I looked airosSjNo Man's Land at: a low ridge that marked the first Boche itrench. The dull prospect, misty with rain nnd partially veiled in evening gloom, appeared so quiet and peaceful it were , difficult to imagine, the Bodies over there on .sentry in their dugouts eating, drinking, sleeping, just like the men .about "me. But, proving their pres ccce, a minnenwerfer shtlj pawed over head 5, p 11 "BeUc not look too Idrfg, ;s'eh," tho "ranner warned. "It's true' 'they kain't see y'u, but they have! 'maehine guns trained pn this post and, jin irem loose now and: then on gen'ral prineijtaet." In a dugout, six by five outside of the bunks, I sat ont the remainder of the eve ning with its inhabitants, three Lieuten ants. The' eldest could- not have been 24, but all had led night raids on the Boche trenches; and while the guttering candle lifted and lowered their bright boys' faces in and out of the gloom they drawled with the soft Southern speech' 'of risks and dangers :that if they knew of them would turn gray the hair of their friends at home. ' Maa Himself a Target. One had been shot tn rough the shoulder only a couple of- weeks ago white stalking a Boche sniper out on No Maa's Land. Grinning, he explained, "You see, s'eh, thar happened to be two of him and just when I was about ready to draw a bead on one the other plugged me. What did I dot Run, by golly! Shuah, how I do run. A bounding buck had nothing on rue. I leaped sideways and endways, just tangoed it over the tops of the brcsh, for three of my snipers were squirming up behind them and I knew if they kept firing long enough something was due to happen. It did, too, for my boys got Loth of them." Fine work ! But fancy making a shoot ing gallery out of yourself for the bene fit of your'snipers! Though I did not catch the name I felt sure it was he the patrol was discussing wltile an hour later we filed along the duckboards on our way to Number Two. "He's a nervy cuss, that Lieutenant. But if he don't take care Fritz is going to present him with a steel medal one of these days." That was something of a march through wet woods in black rain along narrow duckboards that crossed deep trench systems and threaded barbed bells of wire. Though I held on to the belt of the man ahead he was invisible. Some times, too, we left the duckboards and wallowed along snaggy paths that I found difficult enough to follow in broad day next morning. How the leader found his way I cannot say. But a subdued chal-. Icnge presently told that he had. While wc filed up to go over the top and out through the 'wire I grinned guiltily but delightedly a3 I thought how cleverly I was doing up G. H. Q. They eould not stop me now. I was going over the top even if I got sent home for' it or was shot at sunrise.' But, alack and alas, through that black rain G. H. Q. extended its mandate from headquarters forty miles away. The soft drawl of the Lieutenant sounded close to my car. "I really didn't think you were serious, s'eh. I'd shuah like to have yon go with me, but I'd never fo'give myse'f if you got you'self killed. It's contrary to o'ders, too. If -G. H. Q. cvJh found it out I'd shuah get myself co't-martiallcd. If it's the same to you, s'eh, I'd rather you didn't come." Disappointed but Still Came. I was not going to increase that Una boy's embarrassment by putting up a dis appointed howl. So though it wasn't "the same to me" by any means, X shook hands and wished him good luck, then joined the sentry up above and listened to the rustle of their passing through the wire till it was downed by the pattering rain. It was eerie watching there hour after hour in wet black silence that was broken only at long intervals by the boom of a distant gun, shriek of a passing shell. Imagination people the utter darkness beyond the parapet with sinister shapes. Small noises took on vast importance. Once I saw the dim form of the sentry stiffen in breathless attention. Rifle at hip, leaning slightly forward, he stood rigid, absolutely motionless, for fully ten minutes. My straining ears had also picked up the sound clip, ping! clip, ping! the exact noise made by nippers severing wire! The Boche! I know that in the sentry's place I shoujd have fired. But he stood frozen still and soon his whisper fell down through the darkness. "It's water, s'eh, dropping from a tree onto the wire." Shortly thereafter a star shell on our left suddenly laid out the wood's dark out line and No Man's Land under, its bright blue flare. Came the sentry's hissed whisper: "Don't move! As the light faded, he said: "A German sniper might be out thar. If a light goes up when we're out on patrol we freeze with one foot up, if it chances to be raised. So long as you don't move they kain't sea you." Just then a second star shell broke on high followed by a burst of machine gun fire, rapid in its reverberation as the rip ping of canvas. For five minutes it con tinued, but the pictures of German at- Cxiitinued on Sixth Fage.) j