"I was there"
with the Yanks in France
C. LeRoy Baldridge Private, A.E.F.
"I WAS THERE"
WITH THE YANKS ON THE WESTERN FRONT 1917-1919
BY C. LEROY BALDRIDGE PVT. A.E.F.
TOGETHER WITH VERSES BY HILMAR R. BAUKHAGE PVT. A.E.F.
G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS NEW YORK AND LONDON The Knickerbocker Press 1919
Copyright, 1919 BY C. LEROY BALDRIDGE
TO OUR MOTHERS
Ours the Great Adventure, Yours the pain to bear, Ours the golden service stripes, Yours the marks of care.
If all the Great Adventure The old Earth ever knew, Was ours and in this little book 'Twould still belong to you!
These Sketches were made during a year's service as a camion driver with the French amry in the Chemin-des-Dames sector and a year's service with the A.E.F. as an infantry private on special duty with "The Stars and Stripes," the official A.E.F. newspaper. Most of them were drawn at odd minutes during the French push of 1917 near Fort Malmaison, at loading parks and along the roadside while on truck convoy, and while on special permission to draw and paint with the French army given me by the Grand Quartier Gnral during the time I was stationed at Soissons. The rest were drawn on American fronts from the Argonne to Belgium as my duties took me from one offensive to another.
It has been a keen regret to me that my artistic skill has been so unequal to these opportunites. The sketches do not sufficiently show war for the stupid horror I know it to be.
I hope, however, they may serve as a record of doughboy types, of the people he lived with in France, with whom he suffered and by whose side he fought.
Many appeared first in "The Stars and Stripes," "Leslie's Weekly", and "Scribner's Magazine", through the courtesy of whose editors I am now enabled to reprint them.
C. LeRoy Baldridge Private, Am.E.F. June 1919
I WAS THERE
Seicheprey, America's old home sector—first trenches entirely under their own command.
THE LINE Form a line! Get in line! From the time that I enlisted And since Jerry armististed I've been standing, kidding, cussing, I've been waiting, fuming, fussing, In a line.
I have stood in line in mud and slime and sleet, With the dirty water oozing from my feet, I have soaked and slid and slipped, While my tacky slicker dripped, And I wondered what they'd hand me out to eat.
Get in line! For supplies and for inspections, With the dust in four directions, For a chance to scrub the dirt off, In the winter with my shirt off, In a line.
I have sweated in an August training camp, That would make a prohibition town look damp, Underneath my dinky cap While the sun burned off my map And I waited for some gold-fish (and a cramp!).
Get in line! For rice, pay-day, pills, and ration, For corned-willy, army fashion, In Hoboken, in the trenches, In a station with the Frenchies, In a line.
I've been standing, freezing, sweating, Pushing, shoving, wheezing, fretting, And I won't be soon forgetting Though I don't say I'm regretting That I stood there, with my buddies, In a line.
The Lids We Wear—
The Ration Detail—a job which no one relishes. Each day the other fellow's artillery tries to lay down a fire which will keep these boys from getting back. They travel to where their supply company has dumped the food from mule carts—the point nearest front where creaking wheels may go. The man in the center is carrying a string of French loaves, the round black variety common before we got our own bakeries started.
The Headquarters Company of the Reserve Mallet taking its bath at Chavigeny Farm. The tub is a tin-lined cigarette box used by the Y.M.C.A. Water is heated in the old farm fire-place.
"PREPARE FOR ACTION"
I ran into Johnny Redlegs A-sitting on his bus, And I asked him why the devil He dropped half his shells on us. He just smiles and puffs his corn-cob, As peaceful as a Persian, And, "Buddy," says he, "you can't blame me, You gotta blame dispersion."
I says to Johnny Redlegs, "If I didn't have nine lives Your barrage would have got me With those lousy seventy-fives." He grins and puffs his corn-cob, And then he winks, reflective, And, "Buddy," says he, "you can't blame me If you pass your damn objective."
I says to Johnny Redlegs (Just kidding him, you know), "The trouble with your popgun is She pops too gol-darned slow." Then Redlegs drops his corn-cob And spits on both his han's, And, "Buddy," says he, "you can kid with me And the whole damned Field Artilleree, But there'll be a dud where you used to be If you kid my swasont-cans!"
"Johnny Redlegs"—guardian of the "Soixant-quinze." (the famous French "75")
...and the doughboy who tries to keep just the right distance from the covering barrage fire.
Among the first sent across/They served with the French in '17
American and French field artillery gun crews camped together in a wood near Charsoney. The canvas overhead keeps the fire from being observed by aeroplanes at night.
The linesman at the front—
Same old job with just a couple percent more risk than usual
Using a shell-shocked tree for a telegraph pole.
St. Mihiel 1918
bucks: "Maud" and "Mud"
Former refugee—now mascot and the only man in the outfit who likes monkey meat
z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-Z-e-e-e-e-E-E——————-b Boom! There's another! God, this pack is heavy. Glad I pinched the extra willy, Guess I'll need it. And the sweater, too, out there.
-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-Z-E-E-E-EEEEEE- - b Boom! There's another! Jesse! that was a close one. Wonder if......good Christ! Where's Charlie? Got him clean. God curse those Jerries! I'll get even,—p'raps— out there.
z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-E-E-E-E-e-e—————b Boom! There's another! Over! Well, if one has my name on it Then the guv'ment pays ten thousand. What's the use? I couldn't spend it. Leastways not— out there.
z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-Z-e-e-e-e-e-E-E-E-E——b Boom! There's another. Where'd I put that plug of Climax? Oh, I s'pose somebody swiped it. Gee, I never thought that Charlie... Glad I ain't out on the wire. This damn trench is dark—ouch! Damn it, Wait a minute.... Hell, I'm coming, I can't run in this equipment. What the hell's the rush to get— out there?
Coming up to the front lines through the communication trenches, which extend a kilometer or so. On these occasions little love is lost on "beautiful moonlight nights"
The roofs of Vaux after a few minutes of Yank barrage lifted—
In 1870 Grandpre was taken as a prisoner to Coblenz
Madam Framary who sewed on my buttons and who transformed miserable French army rations into marvelous dishes
Eraseme, the youngest son who starts his three years of compulsory training in the fall 1919
The eldest son. After his three years of training he was called to war. He has never come back.
Awaiting the signal to attack. The sergeant is ready to blow the whistle for his squad to follow him out through a path in the barbed wire. In another minute they will advance close behind the bursting shells of a heavy barrage which, lifting, will leave them face to face with German machine guns.
The "Territorial"—the name given French poilu between the ages of 34 and 40
The Paris Bus—many kilometers from the Place de l'Opra—used for transporting troops, horses, and fresh meat to the front
You can see 'em in the movies, With the sunlight on their guns, You can read in all the papers Of the charge that licked the Huns, You can read of "khaki heroes" And of "gleaming bayonet," But there's one thing that the writers And the artist all forget:
That's me! On K.P. In my suit of denim blue I am thinking—not of you— But the places where I'd like the top to be!
On the posters in the windows, In the monthly magazine, Are the boys in leather leggins Such as Pershing's never seen; Oh, they love to paint 'em pretty, All dressed up and fit to kiss,— Ain't it funny there's a picture That they always seem to miss?
Bless me soul, Loading coal! In my little shimmy-shirt, Eyes and mouth full up with dirt— (In the next war I'll be living at the Pole.)
Built for speed / and with light pack to match
R.B.—Belleau Wood / 1918 / A Marine
"Steady, buddy!" Baldridge Paris 1919
In an abri waiting for the "Gothas" (big German planes) to go home
The veteran of the Spanish-American war tells 'em how it ought to be done
Sketched at the Lafayette Escadrille field near Longpont as the aviator was getting into his "union suit" preparatory to flying in a Chemin-des-Dames engagement
Base port stevedores—Volunteers from the South who work eight hours a day for seven days a week—Bordeaux/18
A 26th Division Wagon Train moving toward Chasseurs wood—1918 Mule and Prairie Schooner in a country made desert by war
When we left the transport Back in St. Nazaire, Second thing you asked us,— "Quand finit la guerre?" Didn't know your lingo You weren't hard to get, Peace was what you wanted— And a cigarette.
Then up in the trenches It was just the same, "When's it going to finish?" Didn't seem quite game. Then we saw you strafing, Saw we had you wrong, Wondered how you stood it Four years long.
Drank your sour pinard, Shared what smokes we had, Got to know you better, Found you weren't so bad, Four years in the trenches! (One's enough, I'll say) How the hell'd you do it On five sous a day?
American being taught by Frenchman to drive truck so that the latter may return to his farm. France/17
Moving up— over a corduroy road hastily laid down by a grre (engineer) regiment in war-wasted land. The piece of wall on the right is all that remains of a French village of five hundred inhabitants
Arabian Knight] Between drives he works on the railroad] On other days he rides a camel in Algeria]
Senegalaise types / voluneers used for the attack and for labor on roads Vailly 1917
He handles a big naval gun mounted on railroad cars near Soissons
In the war of 1870 he drove a team instead of a camion.
Too old to serve in the active army and so assigned to the more unromatic, uninteresting but vital work of loading camions, tending horses, or building and repairing roads back of the lines. It has been said that the first battle of Verdun was won by the camion service. This is the kind of man who made that victory possible
A "walking case" — France, August -18
A wounded Chasseur and "Fritz" who has the next cot. They get the same treatment and neither seems to mind the proximity
An American ambulance at a poste de secours (first aid station) Ostel—1917
THAT QUIET SECTOR
Four hours off—two hours on— And not a thing to do but think, And watch the mud and twisted wire And never let your peepers blink.
Two hours on—four hours off— The dug-out's slimy as the trench; It stinks of leather, men, and smoke,— You wake up dopey from the stench.
Four hours off—two hours on— Back on the same old trick again, The same old noth'n' to do at all From yesterday till God knows when. On post or not it's just the same, The waiting is what gets your goat And makes you want to chuck the game Or risk a trench-knife in your throat.
Two hours on—four hours off— I s'pose our job is not so hard,— I s'pose sometime we're going to quit—
* * * * *
The ghosts we leave—do they stand guard?
The water wagon filled with red-hot coffee going to the ration dump via shell fire and not losing any time about it— Outside Belleau wood—June '18
He's been on every front from Chateau-Thierry to the Rhine
After the German Retreat Cleaning up old quarry used by Fritz as a barracks—Chemin-des-Dames
"Marraines" (Godmothers) who kept their poilu godsons at the front in good cheer with letters and packages from home, and who took their Yank cousins to their hearts in the same kindly spirit
in Paris and the provinces— A type to match the ideal of every man who looks
No one knows where the poilu slang word "Pinard" came from, but everyone knows what it means. It's half way between water and red wine, with the kick mostly in the taste. It is served as an army ration. The poilu's canteen is always full of it.
"We ain't no thin red 'eroes, Nor we aren't no blackguards too."
One of the Agent-de-ville = M.P. teams of Paris patrolling the boulevard. They have authority over both Yank and poilu.
The Tommy—Montdiddier 1918
Caught by a star shell at a listening post, and attempting to "freeze" like a rabbit with the hunter upon him, to look as much like a lump of mud as possible until the glare dies down.
French Colonial Types: White, black, and half-way From Algeria A Zouave From Morocco
"P.Gs" (prisonneurs de la guerre) who are keeping in physical trim by lumber work in a forest where once the kings of France took their morning walks
Croix St. Ouen 1918
A Yank going on leave having a midnight cup of "vin rouge" in a compartment of a Permissionnares' Train—with a soixante-quinze gunner, a sailor from a submarine, a chasseur, an aviation sergeant, and several infantrymen. For the next ten days of "permission" these men can forget war.
The barber shop quartette on the trip home— (no ocean rules about noise this time).
Coming Out! dirty, tired and grinning! Chateau Thierry June—1918
MAIL! Brought up to the front by the ration detail
Forty feet underground in an old stone quarry formerly used by the Germans as barracks. Near Fort Malmaux
This is the cellar of her home. The house above no longer exists. For her living she washes clothes for the soldiers. Her daughter with two young children is a prisoner in Belgium. A third grandchild lives in this cave
Poulet "Lui" This one has won three army citations "la soupe" Liaison dog to carry messages Red Cross dog Jack - a yank volunteer
French dogs loaned by private families and trained by the army for use as Red Cross aids, sentinels, and message carriers. Intelligence the only qualification—any breed goes
Knaro / S'ad Two dogs who worked together at Verdun
Sultane / Picard / Marraine / Filon
"mort pour la patrie"
"Pull the shades down Mary Ann"
A love song from The East—
Our own jazz band
Chemin des Dames—1918—
(Arabic script) An African Mohommedan, An Indo-Chinese Annamite and a prisoner who all crack rocks nine hours a day for the roads of France
French Colonials from Northern Africa used in shock troops
I'll be stepping wide in these russet shoes! Leather putts beside, honest I can't lose! Guess the guy that had 'em left 'em in a hurry! What the hell, he's S.O.L. I should worry. "That's my second razor!" "Then gimme the blades." "Whatcha got there, Buddy?" "Pair of tailor-mades!"
I'll be walking on air! Yes ... they was the top's! He won't need 'em out there - if a big one drops. "Going to keep that sweater?" "No, look at the dirt." "Put that on you, Buddy, "You'll have to read your shirt!"
If I get that leave I can use 'em to dance. Well, I should grieve, —he had his chance. "Nothing doing! Beat it!" "Saw that luger first!" "Ten francs says I want it." "Done. I'll cure this thirst."
Brand-new russet shoes, I'll be stepping high! Someone's got to lose, glad I ain't the guy. If I'm going to use 'em, guess I'll have to hurry, The next H.E. may be meant for me — I should worry!
In 1870 he lost an arm, in 1917 he lost a son and everything he owns
Lafayette Escadrille Men— Marcus who helps keep the big planes in order Pilot Observer Loupont France Nov—'17
Making brooms from brushwood at Antibes for use on army roads.
France, Aug 1918
Both under Arms—The "pepre" of the '89 class and the Marie-Louise of the last call
Caf group of poilus listening to an American popular song for the first time, sung by Yanks of The American Field Service
Vaux—the town American artillery blew off the map (together with the German inhabitants)
Dugouts built for German officers near Soissons used by them in 1915. Decked out with cement and mosaic floors, tile roofs and stained glass windows. Used by our troops in 1918.
The American Trained Nurse / Am. Hospital No. 5
Before leaving France 750,000 doughboys contributed enough to support 3,444 French war orphans for one year, and the "Stars and Stripes" newspaper left nearly three million francs toward their education
Annamites—French colonial troops from Indo-China. These paid Colonials were used as attacking troops, as laborers on roads and as drivers of light trucks.
(Blackened teeth are an aid to health and beauty)
An ancestral pipe and a French briquette to light it with
Le Sergent Tam / Lizy-sur-Ouneq(?)
The "white wing" of the French front—but when he puts on his heavy marching order it means there's an attack coming.
A King in his own country
The Loot is getting wabbly, With his dinky little pack,— He can hear the sergeant cussing But he doesn't dare look back.
But we ain't saying nothing Since we got the order "route," Too dog-dead for even wond'ring If we'll ever hear "fall out."
My damn rifle and my helmet Keep on getting in the way, And my brains are numb and dopey Try'n' to cuss and try'n' to pray.
My throat's as dry as sawdust And my right arm's gone to sleep, And the pack-strap on my shoulder Cuts a slit two inches deep.
I just lift one foot and shove it And it hits most any place, Then I lift and shove the other T'keep from falling on my face.
If the guide should change the cadence I'll be damned if I could stop; If you pushed me with a feather— Well, I'd just curl up and drop.
And I know damn well there's stragglers That'll ride up on a truck— Guess if you ain't born a quitter, You're just simply outa luck.
I suppose we'll keep on going— Huh? The Skipper's faced about? Halt!... I'm dreaming ... in the daisies ... You don't need ... to say ... "fall out!"
In an old Roman cellar two floors underground where civilians went during air raids as bombing planes passed over on their way to Compaigne, Paris, and interior cities. This "cave" was considered absolutely safe, but in October 1918 was completed demolished by one "155" shell.
Mess and distribution of mail at the "non-com" school for the M.T.C. at Longpont
Far from Broadway—S.R.O.—Christmas 1917 at a YMCA hut
"Mission Ambrine" Compigne Hospital for the treatment of burns
Americans quartered in the old abbey St. John de Vine of Soissons in the spring of '18
Henri, who tends sheep with his assistant (Leroy)
She teaches us French
Jean, who comes around at mess time for "confiture Americaine," and who has learned how to say "chewing gum" and "cigarette."
And Pierre picked the spuds
Chateau Thierry—France 1918
The town of Cuffies (sur Aisne) held by the Germans till 1916, when the old inhabitants began moving back in; they were assisted in re-establishing their life there by the American Red Cross
The site of the home of Madam Crpin where the Red Cross set up a barrack cottage for her.
Cut off from rations for three days in the wood—with one can of tomatoes for both food and drink—
It seemed years since I had seen one,— Years of hiking, sweat and blood, Didn't think there was a clean one In these miles of men and mud.
Well, I stood there, laughing, drinking, Kidding her in bon fransay But the things that I was thinking Were a thousand miles away.
Sewed my stripe on like a mother, Gee! She was a pretty kid.... But I left her like a brother,— Shake her hand was all I did.
Then I says: "Vous, all right, cherry—" And my throat stuck, and it hurt.... And I showed her what I carry In the pocket of my shirt.
Madelon of the village, who washed our clothes—and who still has some of those we had to leave when we pulled out of the sector in the middle of the night
Neat but not gaudy As we come home—on the transport.
Troops coming home from Marseilles go by way of Africa and stop to coal at Oran. Here the doughboy rests the French Arab soldier with whom He fought side by side at Soissons.
Reading the Draft Covenant for the League of Nations—Paris (President Wilson, center, reads, other figures labelled as) General Bliss Colonel House Secretary Lansing M. Clemenceau Mr. Balfour
Peace Conference Feb 14 1919
S.S. Canada 1919
Outpost at Molsberg, Germany, an ancient castle which stands just on the edge of the American occupied area and the Neutral Zone.
We stood up and we didn't say a word, It felt just like when you have dropped your pack After a hike, and straightened out your back And seem just twice as light as any bird.
We stood up straight and, God! but it was good! When you have crouched like that for months, to stand Straight up and look right out toward No-Man's-Land And feel the way you never thought you could.
We saw the trenches on the other side And Jerry, too, not making any fuss, But prob'ly stupid-happy, just like us. Nobody shot and no one tried to hide.
If you had listened then I guess you'd heard A sort of sigh from everybody there, But all we did was stand and stare and stare, Just stare and stand and never say a word.