The last day of Robert’s diary hiatus. Starting tomorrow, his entries start back up and the action heats up.
Chaplain Edwards, in From Doniphan to Verdun, helps to set the scene as the 140th prepares to leave Camp Marquette:
An extra issue was made of reserve rations and ammunition. Hand and rifle grenades were issued as the men marched out. The whole four days at Camp Marquette were occupied by hurried combat preliminaries. The men realized that at last they were to meet the acid test. Everywhere men could be seen reading over old letters from their sweethearts, mothers and wives. They wrote letters home, many being left in the Regimental Post office to be mailed only in case they did not return. A large mail arrived from the states just before we broke camp and greatly heartened the men.
Sergeant Triplet, in A Youth in the Meuse-Argonne, made a tactical error at this point:
There were lively rumors that we were going into a big battle, but where, when, how, and against whom remained uncertain. But one thing I was sure of, the supply system would never be able to cope with the situation and we would be very hungry after we’d used up our reserve ration. I decided to do something about it.
I emptied my meat can of toilet articles, went to the kitchen, and engaged First Cook Meagher in light conversation. While he was describing his current gripe in detail I snitched a couple of slices of French field bread and crumbled it into the meat can until it was well packed. Then I took the simmering pot of rendered bacon grease from the back of the range and poured the hot liquid fat to the brim over the bread. The resulting two pounds of congealed calories, cholesterol, and roughage wasn’t a balanced diet but it should keep a man going a couple of days.
It was a good idea and I tried to sell it to my comrades in arms but it didn’t catch on. Most of them simply shuddered at the idea or crudely questioned, “You gonna eat that stuff?” The more courteous begged off by pointing out that they already had all they could carry or had lost their meat cans.
Then a day or two later:
They started on their bully beef and hardtack and I opened my can of bread crumbs and bacon drippings. One bite and I realized that I’d made a serious mistake. The grease had been rendered from the saltiest side of bacon in the AEF – it just couldn’t be swallowed by a human being. If swallowed it would give one a bad case of sodium chloride poisoning as well as one hell of a thirst. So I regretfully discarded the well-preserved calories and opened a can of beef instead.
Here’s Sgt. Triplet’s meat ration can, more or less:
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.