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.