OCR Interpretation

The sun. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]) 1916-1920, June 23, 1918, Section 5 Magazine Section, Image 41

Image and text provided by The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundation

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030431/1918-06-23/ed-1/seq-41/

What is OCR?

Thumbnail for 3

Over the Top With the Johnny Rebs
Visit to Fighting Line
Shows American In
dividuality of Frontier
Days Still Existent
Author of "The Planter." "The Settler,"
"Orer the Border," Ac.
Copyrltht. 191S. by Herman WhlUktr.
7 OU are a writer," said the "run-
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
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
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

xml | txt