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Even Greater Ovation from Salient's Prisoners for First Poilu

Population, Fed on Four Years' Lies, Finds Own Soldiers Do Not Wear Paper Suits

Thiaucourt is only one of the many French towns which were liberated by American troops in wiping out the St. Mihiel salient. And the incidents of the liberation of Thiaucourt are only parts in the story of countless other places.

For four years the French inhabitants of Thiaucourt lived under German rule. Men, women and children. Old and young, they had all become accustomed to German newspapers, German money, German domination in full.

These French citizens bad been led to believe for months that Germany had already won the war to all practical purposes; that America had sent over no troops; that the French Army was in rags and badly starved; that it was just a question of a few more weeks or months until the final triumph. They had given up all hope, in the main, of anything but a German victory.

News of American Successes

Then, streak by streak, the light began to dawn again. First, there was the Seicheprey affair last spring. The Germans brought their American prisoners through Thiaucourt, the first time the inhabitants had ever seen any American soldiers. They knew then that America was in the war.

No further light streaked through for some time. Then came the first whispers of the Franco-American success on the Marne, merely rumors at first and, finally, verified reports from the German troops, who were unable to conceal their dismay.

Just at this time the adva[nc]e detachment of the Americans arrived. He was a member of a chasse squadron, brought down within German lines. His machine landed only a kilometer from the village where he was captured. When he was brought in three French girls made him an American flag which they presented one day when his guard was not guarding as well as he might.

These were all merely signs and tokens. There was still no definite proof that the Americans were really coming or that Germany was losing her four-year grip.

Then, just after midnight of September 11, the inhabitants of Thiaucourt avd their German captors heard the first rumble of a mighty thunder. It wits the preliminary American bombardment. They had heard three weeks before that the Americans were coining, but no one had believed they were coming so soon, so, even when the bombardment started, they were very few in Thiaucourt who knew just what it all meant.

As the barrage was extended beyond the advancing Yankee Infantry, its first wave reached the village. It is hard to say which were surprised the most, the Germans or the inhabitants. The former immediately began to leave in a rush. German officers left their side arms and field glasses; they left German gin, wines, cigars and money. One officer left a new, almost unworn overcoat upon which an iron cross was pinned.

The approaching barrage brought rout, to the German troops, but untold joy to the civilians. When it had first arrived the civilians sought their cellars for protection from the series of thunderbolts that were exploding up and down the streets. When it had passed on and they emerged they heard the steady tramp of many men, and peering out of windows and doors, they saw a column of American Infantry marching among them.

It was then that these American troops realized in full what they had done. For old and young, women and men, the released civilians rushed from their homes to bestow one of the greatest welcomes ever known to soldier liberators.

Many or them, weeping with joy, bestowed kisses and hand shakes, flowers and flags, until the bewildered Yanks were overwhelmed. They had never known a reception like this. The town was theirs, and the hearts of the natives went with the town. America had come to them—had come just back of a mighty barrage—had come with liberating bayonets to set them free from their four year term of captivity. And their captors were dead in the street, seized as prisoners or in wild flight over the hills beyond.

Enter the Poilu

As the first long line of Americans passed and the happy welcome grew, some one in the crowd that lined the way caught sight of the first French soldier swinging around a distant corner. It was the climax.

The welcome this first poilu received even surpassed the warmth of the reception given the Yanks. Here was one of their own people—and now at last they knew that France also had come to their aid.

They were surprised, too, to see that this Frenchman and the others that followed were all wearing good uniforms and were apparently well fed. They had been told by the Germans that the French army was in rags, wearing paper suits, and starving.

The story of Thiancourt is merely the story of dozens of other villages and towns in the old St. Mihiel salient. Yanks were soon busy everywhere, helping the old and young, bringing back refugees by scores and hundreds in trucks and wagons. And when the Boche, holding on for just a breathing spell, began to shell these towns, neither Yank nor native seemed to bother in the slightest. They both knew that the Hun's reign as captor was over.

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