September 25, 1918 – Full diary entry:
“Had two men wounded.
I + Cooper took them back to wait for the ambulance.
Got separated from Co. B.
Marched all day but have not found the Co. yet.”
(This is the second of two diary entries labelled “September 25th.” This one was originally written in the space for September 21; Robert has scratched this out and written 25th.)
Chaplain Edwards, as always, describes the scene beautifully in From Doniphan to Verdun:
From Camp Marquette the 140th marched into Aubréville. We left camp about 8 p.m., rifle ammunition and hand and rifle grenades were distributed as we marched out. It was a short two hours hike, but we were twice that long on the roads, which were blocked from time to time, and jammed with traffic all the way. We would pass the big guns, and hear the men softly swearing at the tired horses; then the guns would rumble past us, while our tired men waited impatiently.
For almost a month the regiment had been on the move, sleeping generally in the open, and undergoing every physical discomfort. We had lacked water, we had lacked opportunity for bathing and cleaning up, we were wet and cold and tired and dirty — but not discouraged.
As we tramped into Aubréville after midnight, I was thinking “It has been difficult, but we have fooled Fritz. He does not dream that we are near!” Just then— whang! a shrapnel burst in the very center of the road forty yards ahead. Its brilliant light made one think of fireworks, and its sound caused one to think of many things.
We marched through the ruins of the town, with several casualties in B Company, and the regiment rested on a protected hillside about four hundred yards beyond. I heard an indignant doughboy say “Protected hill-side hell! Protected by Providence.”
I can’t help connecting Chaplain Edwards’ mention of “casualties in B Company” to Robert’s report of helping to transport wounded soldiers back to the ambulances.
Sgt. Triplet in A Youth in the Meuse-Argonne describes how the 140th was briefed prior to moving out:
On the afternoon of September 25, all platoon sergeants and Lieutenants Gardner, Salisbury, Holden, and Compton were called into the captain’s hut. He had a map spread out on a table and gave us the big picture. The enemy was the Second Prussian Guard Division, which had a good reputation. They occupied Vauquois Hill and the trenches in front and both flanks of the hill. Mont Vauquois was heavily fortified and tunneled, supplied by narrow-gauge railroad, and had cost the French ten thousand men so far.
Our division was to attach at 0530 next morning with the Sixty-ninth Brigade in assault and the Seventieth in support. We of the 140th would follow the assaulting 138th in their attack on the hill and when they got worn down we’d pass through them and finish the job. After taking Mont Vauquois we would be relieved by a reserve division and go back to a rest area. We’d been hearing rumors along those lines for the last couple of days but went back now, turned out the platoons, and were able to give them the official version…
We started moving up to the front at 2030 that night and it was the same old nightmare of a night march, only we were interested and fresh enough to keep awake this time…
The night was dark and quiet except for flares of light on the skyline and once in a while a shell that would screech in and blast near the road. We got it first at a crossroad in a badly ruined little town called Aubréville. I heard it was coming close and dived for the ditch just as it exploded. Felt a cramping pain in my ankle and instep, tried to stand up, and floundered around knowing damned well I’d lost half my leg. Reached down to feel the wound and found that I’d jumped into a battered old iron bucket that was way too small for my foot…
We re-formed, moved on, and passed a couple of men out of the first platoon who hadn’t made it to the ditch in time. Stretcher men were working on them. Enough to put a man in a sober frame of mind.
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.