November 15 orders were received to mobilize the Company at Liny-devant-Dun and prepare to join the advance into Germany. The assembling of the Company was completed at 5.30 P.M. on November 16. Second Lieut. James F. Blake was attached to the Company at Liny-devant-Dun and also Second Lieut. Trowbridge with 37 men from the 301st Water Tank Train and 1st Lieut. R. V. Donnelly. Lieut. Rounds returned to the Company from Northern Sector Headquarters. A great deal of difficulty was experienced in assembling the men on such short notice, due to the fact that it was necessary to pick them all up during the night of the 15th. Those of the men who were not at Company Headquarters or with one of the advance working details were on guard or working as operators at the various water points which had been installed by Company F. At night there was very little call for water after eleven o'clock, and consequently the men were asleep in dugouts, old buildings, and in various out-of-the-way places in the woods, which made it exceedingly difficult
to find them. However, by working all night, Lieuts. Withington and Jewell finally collected all the men except three and brought them to headquarters on trucks. It had also been necessary to notify all the men of the 59th Pioneer Infantry to return immediately to their own company. The three men not collected that night were Putman, Turner, and Edward Thompson. The two former were on duty with the Quartermaster Corps, doing pipe fitting at a large gasoline station in Clermont-en-Argonne. Thompson was operating a pumping plant at Bantheville and could not be found, as he had gone to bed, it being nearly morning when the trucks arrived at his station. He remained on duty until all the American troops had moved away from his area, and when he could not get anything more to eat, he walked into Dun-sur-Meuse for rations and there found that the Company had gone into Germany. The three men, together with Sergt. Crank, who had remained with Capt. Horton as chauffeur, joined the Company at Mullenbach, Germany, being brought there by Regimental Chaplain Sterrett and Lieut. Sellnow of Company E.
November 17, at 1.17 A.M., orders were received to equip the Company with clothes and divide the Company, tools, equipment, and rations into two equal parts, — one part to report to the 32d Division at Marville and one part to 2d Division at Stenay, by 6 P.M. on November 17. The Company Commander was to alternate between the two divisions for one week at a time, and to spend the first week with the 32d Division. The detachment with the 32d Division was placed in charge of Lieut. Rounds and the one with the 2d Division in charge of Lieut. Levine. The total strength of the Company at the beginning of the movement with the Army of Occupation was 280 men and 10 officers. There were six 5 1/2-ton Mack cargo trucks, one 2 1/2-ton trailer, ten 3/4-ton White water-tank trucks, three motorcycle side-cars, one sterilab, two chloropumps, and one mobile laboratory, making a total of twenty-six motor-driven vehicles and one trailer. There were four complete sets of pipe-fitting tools, an assortment of pipe and pipe fittings, four complete sets of 75-ft. horse-watering troughs, several tarpaulins to be used as linings for storage reservoirs, four small power pumping units, six hand pumps with hose connections, an assortment of earth-working tools, four complete sets of
carpenters' tools and five days' rations. It was somewhat of a "hurry-up" job to divide the men and equipment into two parts, distribute new clothes, and complete the movement on time. However, by hard work, the task was accomplished, and at 4.30 in the afternoon the two detachments reported to their respective divisions, one and one-half hours ahead of schedule. A plan of action was mapped out by which the detachments would follow the advance section or reconnaissance engineers and do reconnaissance work in water supply. This work consisted of posting signs showing where potable water could be obtained and indicating which sources of supply should not be used for drinking. Sources of supply were cleaned up and repaired and bacteriological tests were made of many sources of supply.
The move into Germany was attended with a great deal of pleasure, although there was a certain amount of hardship. The work itself was not difficult, and new and interesting country was being seen daily. However, the weather was chilly, and for the most part the men were billeted in buildings without heat of any kind. Food was scarce with the detachment accompanying the 32d Division, due to the fact that insufficient trucks were available to make the long haul from the railhead. Two meals a day, consisting of black coffee, hard tack, and canned corned beef ("canned Willie") were often the order. The detachment with the 2d Division fared better in so far as rations were concerned.
A few prisoners were taken by a detail under Lieut. Withington. Three German soldiers had failed to clear the territory in specified time, and the detail, doing reconnaissance work with the advance guard, had run on to them. The prisoners were sent back to the military police.
The impressions gained of the German inhabitants by the men and officers of Company F were of a varied character, as was evidenced by the arguments which occurred after the return from Germany. All apparently seemed to think that any pleasant advances made by the inhabitants were merely as propaganda to gain favor with the Americans. The treatment was as fair, probably, as could be expected from a defeated people. Only in the city of Coblenz was there a wholesale evidence of the overbearing character of the Prussian, and it was exceedingly difficult to
refrain from taking offense at the impoliteness of the inhabitants. The inclination of most of the Americans was to settle difficulties right on the spot by means of the "manly art."
Under orders of the Chief Engineer, Third Army, Lieuts. Rounds and Donnelly were, on December 5, sent into Coblenz to make valuations and investigations of public utilities situated along the River Rhine. This work lasted until December 12, when the two officers returned to the Company. The work done by the Company was apparently appreciated, as it was several times mentioned by various officers of the two divisions.
It might be well to add that, due to the great lack of motor tank transportation, it was impossible to get sufficient gasoline to move the two divisions as rapidly as was desired. By an arrangement with the supply officers of the two divisional engineer regiments, a number of the water tank trucks with Company I, 301st Water Tank Train, were put into the gasoline service. The arrangement was very much appreciated, and was frequently spoken of as having made possible the forward movement of the truck transportation of the two divisions.
The line of march of the two detachments and Company Headquarters was maintained as indicated below:
After completing the march to the Rhine with the Third Army,
the reconnaissance parties were ordered to leave their respective
divisions and return to Neuendorf, on the Rhine, where the Company was to be assembled. Rumors began to spread rapidly that the four companies of the 26th Engineers which had remained in France were preparing to return to the United States, and that Companies C and F with the Third Army would be ordered to return to the Regiment and embark with them. Enthusiasm was displayed by the entire Company F in the daily drills at Neuendorf, and reached a higher stage when Company C of the 26th Engineers likewise began to assemble in Neuendorf. On December 18 orders were received stating that the work of the water-supply companies with the Third Army was completed and that immediate preparations should be made to return to the regiment in France. In compliance with these orders, the water-supply material and trucks were turned over to the Chief Engineer, Third Army. The following day the companies marched from Neuendorf to Coblenz, where they entrained at 10 A.M. for Sorcy-sur-Meuse, France.
December 20, 6 P.M., the two companies detrained at Sorcy and were billeted in the wooden barracks of the 22d Light Railway Engineers, near the railhead. The following morning, due to the congested condition of the barracks. Company C moved into the town of Sorcy-sur-Meuse, where Companies A and B of the 26th Engineers had assembled, the remainder of the Regiment having remained at Verdun.
From December 20 to December 30 Company F remained at Sorcy. Infantry drills were held each day, and the men were issued new equipment. On December 30 the movement to the base port was ordered, and after waiting three hours in the rain the regimental train, with Headquarters and Companies D and E, arrived from Verdun. At 9 P.M Companies A, B, C, and F had entrained, and at 11.30 P.M. the train left Sorcy. The next two days were spent on the train. The men were badly crowded in the freight cars, but, contrary to the usual custom of the French railroads, an excellent schedule was maintained, and the Regiment arrived at Bourg (30 kilometers from Bordeaux) at 6 A.M., January 2, where it detrained. The billeting accommodations in Bourg being very limited, Company F was marched to Pregnac-et-Gazelles (Plumet), 6 kilometers from Bourg. where billets had been secured by Lieut. Levine.
At Pregnac-et-Gazelles a schedule was adopted similar to the one used in Sorcy. Infantry drills were held daily, and preparations were made for the movement overseas. Although considerable impatience was displayed in the anxiety to start home, a great deal of pleasure was derived from the stay at Pregnac, and many pleasant memories of the quaint little village will ever remain with the Company.