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History of 318 Field Hospital

History of 318 Field Hospital

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History of 318 Field Hospital

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Apr 20, 2017


The History of the 318th Field Hospital has been timely written for the 100 anniversary of the United States entry into WWI, the Great War. The story will take you from the early days in Georgia, Camp Oglethorpe, as the medical specialist begin to learn about army life. Onto the Camp Lee, Virginia, experience, where non specialists learn quickly how to become soldiers. Experience the journey across the Atlantic Ocean and into the north east corner of France where men heard and saw the rigors of a horrific scene from their field hospital. You won’t forget this first-hand account, from the story written by the solders, as they use humor to cover up what they actually saw and felt. As it is sometimes called, “humor in uniform”, will help you see their journey to and back from war, as they record life in the army. Individual short biographies of each soldier will answer your question, “What happened to these men after the War?”

Apr 20, 2017

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History of 318 Field Hospital - Thomas Nelson


America Enters the War

When America entered the war, the War Department immediately went into conference. Where can we find, said the chief of staff, an outfit which is A-1 in drill, A-1 in saluting, and A-1 in general military efficiency to use as a nucleus for the 80th Division?

Such an outfit was very difficult to find. Some organizations that were A-1 in a military way would receive their pay, and about thirty-seven would be AWOL the next day. Others would step out with the mademoiselles and forget to come back.

Finally, the Army War College was consulted. We have just the outfit you want, they said, Field Hospital No. 22, Captain Elliott B. Edie, commanding, stationed at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. You will find that they meet the severe qualifications required.

Fort Oglethorpe at this time was the training camp for the Medical Department of the Army. The company at this time included the following: Sergeant Duncan, Vale, Hurd, Feiro, Eyrich, Holter, Fortenbaugh, Niggerhunter Hoover, Johnson, Lentz, Kreighbaum, Hardiman, Devine, and others who had come to Fort Oglethorpe from Columbus Barracks, Ft. Slocum, and other points throughout the country.

Field Hospital No. 22 was a part of the Regular Army and was being trained at this time for the duties of a field hospital on the battle front. Some stories are current about what happened to the various members of the company at the camp.

On one occasion, a list of twenty gold bricks was made up to go to another camp, and when the list came out, Bob Hoover’s name appeared at the top. This was found to be in error before Hoover went. The mistake was that Hoover’s name should have appeared at the top of a list of privates recommended for promotion to corporals for military efficiency.

Another story was to the effect that Hoover, who was only seventeen years old, had put in for a pass to go home to Gordon, Pennsylvania. The pass was refused, and Hoover remarked, It’s a darn shame you can’t go home when your grandmother is dead.

Hoover’s entrance into the Army is very interesting. It seems that he was then just past sixteen and suddenly developed the war fever on seeing the drafts of soldiers boarding the trains. When the idea was submitted to those in control of Robert’s destiny, the lid was put firmly down on the suggestion, but Bob managed to get to the railroad station, with the members of his family in close pursuit, boarded the train along with others who were in civilian clothes, and reached the camp.

Figure 2. WWI echelons of medical support (source: Lynch, Ford, and Weed).

Orders to Camp Lee

Orders were accordingly issued for Field Hospital No. 22 to entrain for Camp Lee and for several high-ranking officers of the Army to review the company as it arrived at the camp. On the day set apart, the train came into the railroad yards made up as follows: Three standard Pullman sleepers, three box-cars and one caboose. The reviewing officers had formed in line, waiting for the company to issue forth from their compartments, but the company did not issue forth as expected. First, the door of one of the box-cars burst open, and out sprang Buff Devine with a pair of runaway mules and disappeared in a cloud of dust. Box-car No. 2 opened, and out came McCord and another pair of runaway mules and disappeared up the road. Pullman car Aurora opened, and out came Pat Day bearing indications of having passed through the moonshine district of Georgia and supported by Hartley, Hever, and O’Meara. Then the caboose opened, and Jablonowski was seen debauching with about seven lady friends.

Figure 3. Pullman car (sleeping car)(source: Wikipeida)

This is some outfit, said one of the major generals reviewing. Let us take shelter behind these rocks. Maybe a runaway machine gun will burst out next.

The company at length lined up in company front as well as they could and proceeded up the road. MPs had begun to make their appearance at this time in the vicinity and accompanied the marching column with fixed bayonets. Halfway to the barracks, pandemonium again broke loose. The canteens, which they had ordered Doc to fill with moonshine, had been filled with gasoline instead, owing to Doc being full himself when he conducted the operation, but the MPs restored order by securing a few recruits for the guardhouse, and at last, the barracks was reached. The review being over, the major generals and other reviewing officers returned to their private car and indulged in caustic comments.

How would you like to be commanding officer of an outfit like that?

I would sooner be shot at sunrise.

Did you see Hennessy full as a goat?

Did you see the one they called Pat Day with the medical best around his neck, making for Fortenbaugh with a tomahawk?

Wasn’t Jablonowski right there with the ladies?

Did you see the medical officers galloping over from the station? The Medicos will have them all down on Zero Street before retreat.

I told the MPs to keep them surrounded until we can get them under control. A bunch like that would contaminate the whole camp.

Camp Lee at this time was in course of erection. Peanut vines were still growing on the parade ground, and the stumps of pine trees were everywhere visible. These were later to be removed by the inmates of the guardhouse to which Field Hospital No. 22 was to furnish its quota. Field Hospital No. 22 and Ambulance Company No. 22, which had also been transferred from Fort Oglethorpe, were the first troops forming part of the 80th Division, to arrive at Camp Lee.

Figure 4. 1916 Ford Model T Field Ambulance WWI (source:

The summer of 1917 had now arrived, and Field Hospital No. 22, together with Ambulance Company No. 22, suffered a change in name. These two organizations were to form the nucleus of the Field Hospital Section and the Ambulance Section of the 305 Sanitary Train. Field Hospital No. 22 became Field Hospital 318, and the Ambulance Company was similarly changed.

As the new soldiers began to arrive to make up the personnel of the other three field hospitals, 317, 319, and 320, Field Hospital 318 was drawn on to furnish noncommissioned officers for the other three companies. Jaisland became mess sergeant of 320 Field Hospital, and Santee and Bremer were sent to Field Hospital 319 as noncommissioned officers.

Camp Lee, Virginia

Figure 5. Camp Lee overview (source: Camp Lee-Nelson).

Camp Lee

was named for General Robert E. Lee of the confederacy. It was located a short distance from Petersburg and about two hours’ train ride from Richmond. It occupied what had been the most sorely contested ground in the Civil War. Grant’s Wilderness Campaign was fought here. The remains of the Petersburg mine, later called the Crater, which was planned by the Union Army investing Petersburg, were close by.

During the winter of 1917–1918, the company was engaged in varied activities. Part was sent to the base hospital when the influenza epidemic was at its peak. Hallgren was hauling coal, Housworth driving a team of mules, etc. Only a skeleton of the company remained in the barracks when the spring of 1918 came. Then came an addition in the shape of eighteen or twenty recruits from Philadelphia and vicinity. These were Robinson, Jones, Hamm, Tecklenburg, Stack, Shaak, Larson, and others. They, enlisting about April 3, 1918, were sent to Depot Brigade, were taught a little squad drill, and about two weeks later, marched across the parade ground with their bed sacks, suitcases, etc. to their future home.

When the new arrivals came up to the barracks, the older members of the company came to the window to look them over and remarked, They look like a bunch of leftovers. I guess the Depot Brigade must have it in for 318. But the new recruits soon fell into the new life. Some of the older members of the company, hearing that the newcomers were from Philadelphia, thought that they would be ordering some fancy drinks with the menu provided by the mess sergeant and looked to see some gin rickeys added to the table. In this they were disappointed.

From this time on, the new members were drilled daily by Lieutenant Rinehardt, Lieutenant Murray, and Sergeant Duncan in the school of the soldier, and they were soon able to go through evolutions as well as the older members of the company. The company was then drilled as a whole. Stable call showed that some of the recruits were sadly lacking in horsemanship.

Figure 6. Drilling in front of barracks at Camp Lee (source: Campbell).

Occasionally in the evening, all the soldiers in the part of the camp surrounding the sanitary train would gather in the YMCA building, where they would sing songs then popular all over the country: Somewhere in France is Daddy, There’s a long, long, trail a-winding, Where do we go from here, boys, where do we go from here? A little gray home in the West, Smile awhile, I’ll bid you sad adieu, K-K-Katy, The style that Eve wore in the garden is the style that appeals to me, You’ll never be rich, you’re in the Army now, Someday you’ll find the bugler dead.

Medical inspections were held at frequent intervals. One day when the company was lined up inside the barracks with Pat Day, all set for inspection, the wife of one of the officers walked in. Pat was as much embarrassed as was the lady, but while he stood his ground, the lady beat a hasty retreat. They should have put guards on the doors to keep out lady visitors.

I was sent in the kitchen one Saturday morning and saw the preparations for meeting the rigid inspection. I heard Doc Hennessy ask McDonald if he had cut up the menu, and when it was placed on the wall, I walked over to see what we would have for dinner. It was the finest menu I ever saw. It could not have been surpassed by a first class hotel. It consisted of a ten-course dinner, starting with oyster cocktail and going through, pompano with sauce, roast duckling, caviar, orange sherbet, coffee demitasse, and bonbons. I thought what a wonderful menu that was when I heard Doc say, Won’t that tickle them? They’ll wonder how we can do all that on a ration of forty-one cents. The reviewing officers came and looked carefully over the menu and praised Doc for his expert management. After the officers had gone, the ten-course menu was thrown in the stove and the regular menu of Brazilian beans and onions substituted.

Figure 7. The Cooks’ and Bakers’ School, Camp Lee (source: Camp Lee-Nelson).

I remember the first time I was on guard at Camp Lee. I had done a turn from ten to twelve and went into the guardhouse to sleep awhile when Harry Conner and Fortenbaugh asked me if I had been to the banquet.

What banquet? I asked.

Why, the banquet for the guards in the kitchen? If you haven’t been there, I guess it’s pretty near all gone.

Well now, I would like to see any banquet being eaten up while I was anywhere within range, so I quickly put on my hat and ran over to the kitchen. They called after me, It’s in the icebox, but that wasn’t necessary. If there are any banquets around, leave it to me to find them. Well, I went in the door and turned on all the lights so as not to miss any of the banquets. I didn’t see any signs of any other guards having eaten. The kitchen was just like it was left for the night. Well, I opened the icebox, and lo and behold, my heart sank. I didn’t see any banquet, hardly. There were a few steaks, some French-fried potatoes, canned peaches, raspberry jam, and some ham and eggs, but this wasn’t any banquet. Well, I was on the point of thinking maybe it was some joke when a second thought struck me. I said to myself, This is the army, dumbbell, did you think it was Rector’s or Delmonico’s or the Biltmore or some such place? Did you think to find some caviar or honeydew melons? Or maybe some pompano with sauce and coffee demitasse? Well, you will find the steaks etc., which you now look on with disdain, will many a time make you wish you had them before you, are many days in France. So just hustle up and eat the banquet before they change the guard again. So I got out the banquet—the ham and eggs and steaks and French fried potatoes and peaches and jam and lemonade—and spread it on the counter, and then a couple loaves of bread and butter. Then I was ready to start, but I thought, What better cut a half a dozen off the hind of beef. Well, I walked to the icebox and put the hind of beef on my shoulder and was right near the door when in ran Doc Hennessy in his pajamas.

Hey, you, he said. Where are you going with the hind of beef?

Well, you could knock me over with a feather. I put the beef on the counter and looked up. Why so, who so, said I. This is the banquet.

What banquet? said he.

The guards’ banquet, for the guards walking post all night.

Who are you? he said.

I’m a guard.

Where do you come from?


How long have you been here?

About a week.

Where do you belong?

The 80th Division.

Who told you to come in here?

Fortenbaugh. Now I thought I would ask a few questions myself. Who are you? I said.

The Mess Sergeant.

Well, Mess Sergeant, I said, I should think when serving a banquet you wouldn’t make the guests cook their own vitals. And they’re ice-cold. They’re enough to give me cholera morbus. If I’m sick tomorrow, I’ll report you to the top sergeant. I have been to several banquets in my time, but I never ate one of leavings from the supper, nor did I have to cut up a hind of beef for the meat course. If you ever go to New York, stop in at Delmonico’s by all means, and you see how they serve a banquet. No leftover ham and eggs and canned peaches and lemonade! What is that to drink? I’m cold enough already. If you had announced it as a cold banquet, by golly, that would be true enough. It’s cold all right. But you’ll learn in time. Now just to show you I’m good-natured, I will cut you some steaks. How many will you have, four or five? I’ll have some coffee in a jiffy.

By this time Doc was laughing. Oh, I see, you’re the new man that eats so much. Double Rations, they call you. No thanks for the steaks. I only eat three meals a day. Clean up this mess when you are finished, he said and walked out.

Well, I got another can of peaches and managed to get by, but believe me, that was the greatest banquet I ever attended.

Retiring for the night at Camp Lee was an amusing experience. Those coming in late from the theater of Petersburg would find their cots on top of the stove or suspended from the ceiling. One night when Jablonowski was out late, preparations were made to receive him in an appropriate manner. The fire extinguisher was turned upside down, the stream of water being held back in such a manner that it would not release until the door opened. The preparations created so much noise in the squad room that Sergeant Duncan ran upstairs to find out what the commotion was about. When he opened the door, he got the full stream from the extinguisher.

On another night when Belles had gone to Petersburg, a bucket of water was fixed above the door in such a manner that it would upset when the door was opened. After the bucket was in position and the culprits were getting into their bunks, Sergeant Vale ran up to see what the excitement was. The bucket of water was precipitated on his unsuspecting head.

Bob Hoover had a sweetheart in Petersburg. She was a colored girl, but Hoover thought she was the cutest thing that ever came down the pike. He used to get as sore as a boil when anyone would ask him: Hoover, what did you do to the colored girls in Petersburg?

Figure 10. Where do we Go from here, Boys? (source: Camp Lee-Nelson).

Preparations were now being made for the 80th Division to go overseas. All over the camp, soldiers could be seen engaged in rolling packs. Wagons were being crated, and the weight of each crate marked. About May 15, the company was confined to the area enclosed by the sanitary train and guards posted. Mail was no longer sent. The division was now ready to sail. On the afternoon of May 17, orders were issued to roll packs and prepare to leave. Supper was served for the last time at Camp Lee. We had a special addition to the menu—ice cream. Bishop’s mother was there to say good-bye. She the only visitor we had. Hard water soap was issued to be used on board ship. The barracks bags had been filled and shipped the previous day (May 16). Each bag contained as much tobacco as the owner could purchase as we had received information from those already on the other side that tobacco in any form was next to impossible to purchase. The company as it sailed for France was organized as follows:

Company Organization

Figure 11. 318th Field Hospital (source: Nelson).


Dr. Hugh Thomas Nelson Jr., 205 East High Street, Charlottesville, Virginia


H. E. Wheelock, Madison Hotel, Chicago, Illinois


William S. Wiley, Bristol, Virginia.

Stacy H. Rinehardt, Washington Square, Pennsylvania.

CR Murray, 117 West 58th Street, New York City

Edwin Pyle, 46 East 64th Street, New York City

First Sergeant

William B. Duncan, Box 114, Waldo, Arkansas

Sergeants First Class

CA Hurd, 605 East Faith Street, Syracuse, New York

Milo Ferris Vale, c/o Kelley, Glover and Vale, 19 East 6th Avenue, Gary, Indiana

Mess Sergeant

William Joseph Hennessy, c/o Acorn Candy Shop, Grand Central Terminal, New York City

Supply Sergeant

George V. Bishop, c/o Guaranty Trust Company, 140 Broadway, New York City


Donald Crighton, c/o Hollow Hill Farms, Convent, New Jersey

Raymond Marshall, Logansport, Indiana (deceased)

Oliver Eyrich, 178 West Green Street, Reading, Pennsylvania

Gilbert Lewis Feiro, DuBois, Pennsylvania (deceased)

Jack G. Bernstein, 361 Livonia Avenue, Brooklyn, New York

Stable Sergeant

Harry T. Holter, Middletown, Maryland


George Alexis Amyotte, Route No. 3, Pinconning, Michigan


Martin Hallgren, Youngsville, Pennsylvania


Lawrence Falls, Central, South Carolina


Edward Eugene Blackburn, Ward 2, National Sanitarium, Tennessee

Russell J. Hardiman, 236 East 22nd Street, Paterson, New Jersey


Bernard J. McDonald, 334 Bond Street, Elizabeth Port, New Jersey

William C. Hollar, 323 West Park Avenue, Columbus, Ohio


Howard S. Custer, South Forks, Pennsylvania

Fred E. Beckman, Pinconning, Michigan

Delbert L. McCord, Fenwick, West Virginia

John Davenport, RD No. 1, Harbor Springs, Michigan

Harry Lane, Rittman, Ohio

Thomas E. Williams, 1819 Carey Way, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Harry W. Cree, 287 Hawkins Avenue, North Braddock, Pennsylvania

Christopher F. Braun, West Elizabeth, Pennsylvania

William Devine, 397 East 19th Street, Paterson, New Jersey


Emerson Hughes, Ashland, Pennsylvania

Alfred R. Hall, 59 Austin St., Lowell, Massachusetts


Montgomery Johnson, Weeksburry, Kentucky

Raymond Pearson, 5515 North 3rd Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Edward J. Walsh, Hazleton, Pennsylvania (deceased)

Harry Henderson, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (deceased)

Edward Greeley, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (deceased)

Harry Peberdy, 929 West Silver Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (deceased)

John Hresko, Hazelbrook Pennsylvania (deceased)

John Gallagher, Hazleton, Pennsylvania (deceased)

Joseph A. Finney, 415 Clairton Street, Crafton Post Office, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

John S. Leonardi, 320 East 45th Street, New York City, New York

James W. Davidson, Fayette City, Pennsylvania

Robert Hoover, Gordon, Pennsylvania

Harry Conner, 1555 North Albert Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (deceased)

Harry Summers, 2526 Federal Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Walton K. Lentz, 654 Spruce Street, Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Patrick F. Day, Box 23, Richland, New Jersey

Howard Housworth, Devault, Pennsylvania

C. Raymond Cornwell, 6427 Lebanon Avenue, Overbrook, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Josiah E. Jones, 5246 Hazel Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Cecil Trim, Bangor, Michigan

Elmer C. Reilender, 1943 Wylie Street, Cleveland, Ohio

Frank Hoag, 115 Selden Avenue, Detroit, Michigan

Robert Shaw Jr., 2726 North Hicks Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Augustus Larson, 2227 North Franklin Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Gaetano Garbini, Crabtree, Pennsylvania

Pacifico Zandegiacomo, 86 Germania Street, Galeton, Pennsylvania

William F. Rose, 4830 North Front Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Freeman L. Kreighbaum, Elkhart, Indiana

David Starrett, 2101 South 60th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

W. Jablonowski, 447 Spring Garden Street, Reading, Pennsylvania

Wm. B. Easton, RFD 4, Sharon, Pennsylvania

James J. O’Meara, 14314 North 10th Street, Reading, Pennsylvania

James F. Hever, 25 Chapel Street, Orange, New Jersey

James Hartley, 253 West 23rd Street, New York City

Eugene Lawville, 29 New York Avenue, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Thomas L. Redd, 2914 Huntington Avenue, Newport News, Virginia

Albert P. Snyder, 1532 North 18th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

George Hamm, 1684 North 54th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Roger W. Taylor, c/o SS White Dental Mfg. Company, 211 South 12th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Howard W. Belles, 1501 Scott Street, Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Reid H. Fortenbaugh, Marysville, Pennsylvania

Harry Shaak, 4634 North 121st Street, Philadelphia. Pennsylvania

George L. Campbell, Route No. 2, St. Johns, Ohio

Maurice Baxter, 3227 Higbee Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Charles B. Weaver, Andreas, Pennsylvania

Paul A. Hintenlang, 447 South Fairview Street, Lock Haven, Pennsylvania

Clarence B. Fowler, Route No. 1, Box 49 East Orlando, Florida

James L. Burgess, c/o Broadway Drug Company, Broadway, North Carolina

Antonio DeSantis, 220 Lancaster Street, Leominster, Massachusetts

J. Washington Robinson, 3924 North 16th Street, Philadelphia. Pennsylvania

Harry Stack, Palmyra, New Jersey

Robert Fichter, East Riverton, New Jersey

William C. Tecklenburg, 1947 Church Lane, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

George Vaughan, 1401 - 4th Avenue, Juniata, Pennsylvania

Ellis Roberts, Bangor, Pennsylvania

John F. Jencik, RFD 7, Greenburg, Pennsylvania

Donald D. Metcalf, 506 Lindsey Avenue, South Bend, Indiana

Figure 12 Corporal Blackburn’s Post Card on May 24, 1918 (source: Blackburn)

About 10 pm on May 17, the company formed in. Company front roll call was held, and everybody found present. We could see the other organizations in the camp, the infantry, supply trains, machine gun companies, etc. marching down the road toward City Point.

About midnight (May 18), the Sanitary Train was given orders to move. We marched out to the main road and said good-bye to Camp Lee. City Point was about three hours’ march from the camp and was reached about four o’clock, the inhabitants of the town coming out to say good-bye.

We boarded a small river steamer, and about six o’clock, we started down the James River—the first troops to be seen on the James River since the Civil War. About eleven o’clock, Newport News came in sight. We reached the pier, left the boat, and marched up to a hill on the outskirts of the town. The company here received a final medical inspection. The people of Newport News wanted to show their hospitality and brought out everything in the line of eatables that could be thought of—ice cream, jellies, etc.

Transport to France

About four o’clock, all the troops in the town marched down to the transport, the Mercury, at the wharf, and each man was checked as he answered to his name at the gang plank. We reach the lower decks where the bunks were located and were assigned to whatever bunk happened to be nearest. Those who were lucky managed to secure a bunk waist-high and near the foot of the stairway. Others less fortunate secured one way off in the corner as hard to get to as it was hard to get out of when they were once there. I happened to secure one at the foot of the stairway, the second from the floor, which was ideal, and within an hour, I was offered ten dollars to trade with a machine gunner from Lynchburg who had secured one away off in the corner. He told me he was a manufacturer of overalls in Lynchburg, was making about $1,000 a week, had invented a rolling kitchen that had been adopted by the Army and on which he was drawing a royalty. But he had been drafted, couldn’t get a release, and here he was, a buck private in a machine-gun outfit. I turned down the proposition to trade bunks, but might have been $10 ahead, because I never used the bunk all the way across. I slept up on deck every night.

Figure 13. SS Barbarossa (USS Mercury Full Load of Troops)(source: U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

At 8 pm stores were still being brought aboard, and a detail was sent from the company to help get the beef on board. The ship was being coaled at the same time. The soldiers on board took possession of the deck, and those who could find room decided to sleep in the open instead of below.

The next morning (May 19) the Mercury was still at the wharf, but about ten o’clock, it steamed out, and the voyage had begun. Everybody took a last look at the American shore. Many of them were never to see their country again.

Figure 14. USS Mercury troops and sailor on board, circa 1918–1919.(source: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

The Mercury was at this time alone and was still alone at nightfall, but at eight o’clock the next morning (May 20), we found we were in a convoy of eleven ships, all of them camouflaged in the latest fashion. We had a battleship and three torpedo boats. The convoy stayed together all day but about nightfall separated. All lights were put out, and the ship appeared alone on the ocean.

Figure 15. USS Mercury sailing in convoy—note the ship’s camouflage. (source: Dept of Navy)

Going to mess on the Mercury was much different from what it had been in Camp Lee. We used to line on the deck about an hour before mealtime and move about one foot every ten or fifteen minutes until the stairway leading to the kitchen was reached. Here the advance was more rapid. Four lines were formed, and the soldiers on being served ate from small swinging tables suspended from overheads.

Figure 16. USS Mercury troop messing (source: Dept of Navy)

Going to the mess-kit water was much different from what it was in Camp Lee. The rolling of the ship when the wind arose made walking a ticklish proposition, especially when some unfortunate soldier had made a miscalculation and fallen with his soup or coffee on the slippery deck. Just inside the door where the hot water was located was an officer whose duty it was to inform all those coming through to keep the mess kits in the right hand with the lid off.

Figure 17. Troops at mess on board USS Mercury (1918–1918) (source: Dept of Navy)

used to gather together in groups at the rail about sunset and watch for submarines, whales, or porpoises, and wonder, as they saw the red disc of the sun disappear, if they would come back over the same ocean. About ten o’clock, the shop was pretty quiet, and anyone walking along near the rail had to pick his way carefully to avoid stepping on the sleepers curled up in their blankets. Many of the soldiers slept out on deck all the way across.

About five o’clock (May 21) in the morning, the convoy would again come together. Some ships came up astern, others we would overtake, while the rest came up rapidly from the north and south. About nine o’clock, the whole convoy was again together.

When we were halfway across, drill was begun with the life belts, and what was just about possible up to this time—that is, getting to and from the bunks to the stairway—was now an almost impossible task. With the life belts on, each man had a diameter of about two feet, and when two bodies, each two feet in diameter, attempt to pass in a space of one foot across and when about fifty men try to pass fifty others going in four different directions, the result is highly amusing, but by some men jumping up to the top bunks, other crawling on the floor, and with others throwing orders to the winds and crawling through with the life felt trailing behind, everybody managed to get up on deck. Every organization had a rallying point to which it was to come, in case the boat was torpedoes and orders were issued to keep the man in front in sight, so in that way the whole company managed to reach the point decided upon.

Figure 18. USS Mercury berthing space (source: Dept of Navy)

Orders were issued for everybody to be up on deck from eight to ten in the morning. This was to enable the officer to discover anyone sick who might otherwise not be found.

The convoy followed a zigzag course as could be ascertained by watching in what direction the sun appeared to be at different times during the day. From the coolness of the air and watching the direction that the ship seemed to take in respect to the sun, I gathered that the convoy ran up pretty close to Iceland then turned southeast and kept on that course as it neared France.

About the twelfth day of the voyage, we entered the submarine zone, and extra precautions were taken to prevent any mishap. About dusk, details from each company were placed at different parts of the ship to watch for lights on the ocean or any suspicious signs. These soldiers were given a certain station that had a speaking tube close at hand. If any light or suspicious object appeared on the water, they immediately notified the ship’s officer. The story goes that Tecklenburg was on duty one night about nine o’clock and saw a strange light on the water. He so reported to the proper officer. Great excitement prevailed. Everybody watched for the light to appear again. It did appear again in about fifteen minutes. It was the full moon.

Arrival in Bordeaux, France

When we were well into the submarine zone, the torpedo boats became very active and circled about the ship as if it were standing still. On June 7, the convoy separated, and the Mercury proceeded along. A French balloon came out to meet us and flew overhead somewhat in advance of the ship until we entered the Gironde River. On this day, we sighted France.

The ship anchored to await the flood tide along with several other merchant ships, and on Sunday afternoon at five o’clock, June 8, we reached the wharf at Bordeaux.

I remember the first civilians I saw on French soil. They were three Chinese laborers brought from the French colony of Indochina. We were to see more of these Chinese laborers later on.

Figure 19. Private Feiro note home upon arrival in France (source: Feiro).

March to Camp Genicart

The company, with the exception of about fifteen men, started off for the camp, located about six miles away. I was detailed with the others to unload officers’ baggage from the ship. About 2:00 am we were finished, and under Sergeant Crighton, we started to rejoin the company at camp. I remember thinking as I marched along how much the French houses and streets of cobblestones resembled the pictures of French cities in the books of Victor Hugo and Dumas. About 4 am (June 9), we reached the company. They were already in their bunks. An officer of 319 Field Hospital met us as we entered the camp and informed us that Camp Genicart was not like Camp Lee. We found it was quite different.

The barracks had a dirt floor, and we slept the first night on the bare boards. I climbed up to an empty bunk and found out that my neighbor who was already asleep but who awakened was Bob Hoover. His salutation was Sunny France. So this is Paris.

The company was up bright and early the next morning (June 10) about six o’clock, and we found that although it was sunny France, the nights and early mornings were very cold. It was the month of June, yet all the ground and roofs bore signs of a heavy frost.

We marched down to a field where bales of hay had been left and filled up our bed sacks. We wouldn’t have to sleep on bare boards anymore in this camp.

Camp Genicart was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence, and orders were issued not to approach nearer than eight feet to the fence. This was a kind of quarantine until we should be passed as full-fledged members of the AEF.

The French people now came to our notice for the first time. Just outside of the barbed-wire fence, French children and French women were selling oranges, tangerines, figs, and chocolate to the newly arrived American soldiers. We would hand over the money in either French or American coin and secure the articles we wanted.

The YMCA had a canteen in the camp where we would change our American money into the French equivalent. We were cautioned here to notice the difference in the French paper money. The national currency, which was good all over France, was one thing, but the local paper money, which was good only in a certain section, would not be accepted elsewhere.

Here we caught sight for the first time of the famous French mademoiselles. Young girls about seventeen would come into the camp to collect laundry or to sell candy. They sold considerable candy but didn’t collect much laundry as we did not know how long we might be here.

At Camp Genicart occurred the famous episode of the GI can and the applesauce. The four field hospitals had to have the mess cooked in one large kitchen, and Doc Hennessy, rather than share his authority with the other three mess sergeants, volunteered to assume full responsibility and run the whole mess. Each company was to furnish two cooks in its turn. Now these cooks who had been accustomed to making dinner and supper for about ninety men were suddenly called upon to prepare meals for four hundred, and in some cases, the quality and the quantity of the mess served out were not quite equal to that in Camp Lee.

For instance, the beef stew previously served out had been 50 percent fluid and 50 percent beef and potatoes, but it now came to us in the shape of 90 percent fluid and one-half of 1 percent beef. This was true even though the KP, who was detailed to stir up the concoction with a baseball bat, stirred his mightiest. Try as he would, the beef and potatoes were conspicuous by their absence. Now soldiers like beef stew to be beef stew and don’t like to be served our consommé, and when the matter was brought to the attention of Sergeant Hennessy, he would explain it by saying the cooks didn’t know the proportions.

Now to get back to the story of the applesauce and the GI can. Several new GI cans had been sent to the kitchen from the commissary to be used in preparing mess, and as Sergeant Hennessy had suddenly decided to have some applesauce appear on the menu for variety, he picked out one of the new GI cans for the receptacle. The applesauce, which was made from evaporated apples, was accordingly made to specifications, allowing the apples to stay within the can while cooking. Now galvanized GI cans are nothing more than iron cans coated with zinc, and zinc is freely acted upon by any acid. As the boiling process continued, the apples supplied the acid in copious quantities, and when the applesauce was served out to the battalion of five hundred men, the fun commenced. The human stomach is not intended to handle such a food as the applesauce had now become. Any ordinary layman who observed members of the company half an hour after the mess had been served out could easily discover that the applesauce so served was not a perfect food.

Figure 20. M1910 meat pan (No. 9), Army issue three-compartment condiment can for coffee, sugar, and salt (No. 8), M1910 fork, knife, and spoon (No. 7) (source: Fort Eustis).

We staying in Camp Genicart for about one week, but during this time, every day was filled to overflowing with various incidents. Each day saw the company up at the usual hour for reveille, and about eight o’clock every morning, we were out on the road on practice marches. Army exercises were always given the first thing in the morning before breakfast.

On one occasion, Lieutenant Rinehardt took the company out for a march as officer in charge and to show that he had the boys’ interest at heart, he wanted to treat each man to a quart of cognac. We were all lined up in company front of the cafe when Lieutenant Rinehardt made the kind suggestion. All the boys were very willing, but Sergeant Duncan, who had a strong recollection what the company was like when only four or five partaken of a quart of cognac, knew pretty well what he would have on his hands when about eight-five had partaken likewise, so he persuaded Lieutenant Rinehardt to postpone his kind offer until a later date.

The following day came, the day’s leave in Bordeaux. We reached the city about six miles distant on the road about 10:00 am. We were treated to a full-course American hotel dinner at the YMCA with a prominent New York society woman acting as hostess. After the dinner, we were free to see the sights of Bordeaux as we chose. It was our first sight of the French people at close quarters. Hoover and Hughes were soon acquainted with a couple of swell mademoiselles from Paris.

Figure 21. Mademoiselles from Paris (source: Feiro)

Within a half hour after arriving at Bordeaux, the whole company without exception had made acquaintance with the famous French mademoiselles. I was sitting in a park and watched them go by. Amyotte and Hallgren went past with two girls from Marseilles; George could parlez-vous and was making great headway with his French vocabulary. Fowler and Belles walked past with two maidens from Lyons. Sergeant Duncan had a damsel from the French Alps. Milo Vale, a charmer from Brittany. Cognac Jim, a girl from the Riviera. For once, Cognac had all his buttons fastened and his cap on straight; he was cutting quite a dash with the French mademoiselle. Pete Snyder strolled by with a blonde beauty who was a knockout. Fortenbaugh was right there with a beauty from the Mediterranean. Alfred Hall had a countess from Monte Carlo. Buff Devine, a maiden from the Rue de Morgue. Paul Hintenlang had a stunning blonde from Nice. George Bishop, a demure little miss of seventeen summers. Sergeant Hurd went by in earnest conversation with a jolly mademoiselle from Normandy. Frank Hoag had a beauteous maiden from Orleans. Joe De had a dashing brunette, and Jablonowski, a tall blonde from Picardy.

Dreams of fair women! What a day it was! What a day for the French mademoiselles! What a day for 318! Everybody was stepping high, wide, and pretty!

I took in the sights of Bordeaux alone and didn’t see the company again until five o’clock in the afternoon when we assembled in a small park. The company as it appeared then was a very interesting picture. Ordinarily, soldiers on assembling remain on their feet, but on this occasion, a great many of them felt more secure resting against lampposts, park benches, and chairs. Sergeant Duncan appeared, and the boys were at length persuaded to stand up, those who were able supporting those who were less able. American drinks can be purchased in any part of Bordeaux.

Then the march to camp began, and by resorting to about eight halts for recuperation and to enable those in the rear to rejoin the company, we at length reached camp. This march is known in the history of the company as the Retreat from Bordeaux. Several battles were waged along the road.

As I have said before, Camp Genicart was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. MPs mounted constantly road around this enclosure to see that the orders issued to those inside were obeyed.

Hoover offered to carry the laundry home for two pretty mademoiselles, but the MP on guard at the gate turned him back with the words You’re in the Army now. Hoover was always strong for the mademoiselles.

Train for the Training Area

A few days (June 18) later, we left Camp Genicart and marched to the railroad to take the train for the training area near Switzerland. The train was made up and waiting when we arrived. A French passenger coach is divided into compartments, furnished with wooden seats, each compartment holding eight men and communicating with the outside by a small door. A running board, such as is seen on some American electric cars, ran on the outside the full length of the coach. This running board was used by the French conductors in collecting fares from passengers. We were issued rations to supply us for the three-day trip. Each squad, which filled a compartment, was given enough hardtack, corned-beef hash, etc. to give each man his allowance for that time. These rations were taken into the compartments, and in a short time, the train started.

We were now touring sunny France, and it was some tour. All went well until nightfall when we prepared to sleep, when it was discovered that the compartment was rather crowded, containing as it did eight men and eight packs. The only way to go to sleep was to fall asleep in the position we occupied all day long—that is, sitting up. I had seen a shelf overhead, which was there to receive packages belonging to passengers, and I conceived the idea of getting up on that shelf where I could lie at full length. This I did, although I had to hold on when the train backed or went around curves, as it seemed to be doing constantly. An unexpected lurch threw me halfway off the shelf, and I decided I was safer below.

Our squad contained Amyotte and Hallgren, the company mechanics, and the compartment, containing as it did the largest men in the company, was crowed. The two mechanics by investigation had discovered that just ahead of our coach was an empty box car, and on this box car, they took possession. We did not enjoy their society again for the remainder of the three-day train ride. But one thing they forgot—they forgot to take with them their allowance of the rations. On the second day, Amyotte, coming back about noontime half-starved to join in the repast, was informed that the rations were fin. This was certainly hard luck for George as the train had been running at express speed through tunnels, around curves, past jutting rocks, etc., which made it impossible for him to establish liaison with the food supply. When the train did stop, which happened to be at twelve o’clock noon, George immediately appeared and expressed his opinion that the man who ate up all the rations had no principle. This episode is what is known in company history as George, who stole the hash?

Figure 22. Boxcars were used to transport troops in France (source: Fort Eustis Museum).

During this three-day (June 18–20) train ride to Switzerland, we left the train just once. A welfare organization was serving out hot coffee to the troops passing through. Some of the boys did not leave the train at all, but I managed by staying in a long line to get half a cup of black coffee without sugar or milk.

The second night on the train, we ran into a thunderstorm, and the rain came down in torrents. No lights were visible in the surrounding country, and the number of tunnels, curves, etc. seemed to indicate we were passing through a mountainous section of France. The train often stopped entirely, would back for half a mile, then go forward and we

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