Late in the afternoon of May 30, 1918, Company "C", then stationed at Parnes, Oise, received orders to be ready to move at any moment. Trucks were to be provided if possible. Otherwise the move would be made on foot. Heavy packs were made, the wagons loaded and the billets and stables cleaned in the characteristic style of the American Army. The company fell in, stacked arms and unslung equipment. Then they fell out again, to get an much rest as possible.
About 3:00 A.M. orders came to march to about four kilometers away. Arriving there the whole regiment found themselves together for the first time since their landing in France. Word came in that the trucks could not be expected before eight or nine o'clock and a hurry-up call was sent in for the rolling kitchens, which had been left behind to follow with the wagon train. It arrived about seven o'clock, and the company received a meal that was to be remembered for many days.
About 8:30 A.M. the trucks arrived. They were little light French ones, driven by French and Chinese drivers. The regiment loaded on and started for they knew not where.
The men were packed rather tight and the sun kept, getting hotter and hotter. The dust arose in great clouds and the men were soon covered with a thick grayish powder. The truck train headed toward Paris, that fact giving rise to all sorts of speculations. Civilians all along the route waved and shouted, and at every halt gave the men water etc. Shorthly before midnight the train was
halted just outside of Meaux, Seine-et-Marne. A German bombing squadron was doing its work there. The road was almost blockaded by truck loads of men and ammunition moving northward and by hundreds of refugees moving toward Paris. The bombardment lasted but half an hour, and the train was quickly moved forward once more. Arriving about 5:00 A.M. June 1st at May-en-Multien, Seine-et-Marne, the regiment unloaded, the companies formed and roll was called. Here it was discovered that several of the trucks had not arrived, so the order was given to fall out for a short time. The men made the most of their opportunity by washing in a couple of tiny springs and eating a portion of their reserve rations, and also filling their canteens. A little before six o'clock the regiment marched out of town and split into two battalions at the first crossroads. The first battalion marched all day under a very hot sun, arriving at Montreuil-aux-Lions, Aisne, late in the afternoon. The men came in tired but in very good condition considering the hardships which they had already endured. This was due, mainly, to frequent rests while on the march, and one long rest early in the afternoon in a place where they could cook a little food and wash themselves as much as possible.
Camp was made in a wood near Montreuil-aux-Lions, but too late to make fires and cook another meal. However, the French soldiers had their kitchen with them, and they gave coffee and food to the men until their kettles were empty.
Early next morning (June 2nd) the Battalion broke camp and split into companies. Company "C" moved out to Coulombs, Seine-et-Marne, where it joined the 23rd Infantry and split into platoons, one platoon of Engineers to each battalion of Infantry. The Infantry battalions moved up to their positions on the front, followed by therir [sic their] Engineers. The Germans at this time had been almost checked, but they hadaittle or no artillery to support them, while the Americans and the French were well supported by French artillery. However, the Germans did have a few guns, and when they caught sight of that long line of Yankees moving toward them, they opened fire. The only casualties were in the 3rd Battalion of the 23rd Infantry. They lost two men killed and three wounded.
The evening of June 2nd, and all day the 3rd and 4th were spent by the company eating, sleeping, digging trenches, Putting up barbed wire, etc. Rations were very hard to get, and when they were obtained, they consisted chiefly of French bread, and a vile concoction of what had once been beef, known to the soldiers as "monkey meat". Gradually the lines were definitely established, cavalry gave way to Infantry, and the men, with a strong barrier between them and the enemy, felt more comfortable.
The evening of June 4th, Company "C" was ordered to return to Montreuil-aux-Lions. They marched all night, arriving in the woods near that town about five o'clock in the morning of June 5th. Here they rested all day, but as soon as darkness fell, they started once more, this time up the-Paris-Metz road toward Chateau-Thierry. About 2:00 A.M. they reached a wood just west of Le Thiolet Farm. Here they waited until daybreak, when they started at once to construct dugouts for themselves. This required almost the entire day. Tired and hungry, they were just ready to enjoy a much needed rest, when orders came to be ready to follow the 23rd Infantry over the top at any moment. Light packs were made, picks and shovels given out, and in a long, sinuous line, they fell in behind the Infantry and moved out through the woods, over the trenches, and into No Man's Land. The first man had no sooner shoved himself into the open than the machine-gun bullets began to whistle round. Advancing in a formation of squad column, casualties were very few until the leading column reached the crest of the hill on which the enemy had intrenched himself. Then the order to deploy as skirmishers and fix bayonets was given. The number of casualties began to increase. On
the right, the Infantry advanced into a wheat field. The 2nd Platoon of Company "C" followed to a point about twenty yards from the German position. They waited in vain for a signal to advance still farther. They attempted to advance anyway, but the machine-gun fire was too hot and they were forced to drop to the ground again. On the left, they advanced beyond the Infantry, but having no support, they could not get within striking distance. Shrapnel began to
burst behind them, but did no damage, as the Engineers were too close to the Germans for the latter to take any chances of decreasing the range An airplane was constantly flying back and forth over the field, its machine-gun spitting spitefully, its big black cross showing ominously in the declining light of the setting sun.
For over two hours the Engineers lay there, not knowing wether to advance or retire. As no reinforcements came up, it seemed folly to advance and retirement was against their principles. They stayed where they were. Machine-gun bullets sung around them from three sides. It was impossible for a man to raise himself off the ground. Men's packs were filled full of holes, but hugging the ground and digging shallow trenches as they were able, they managed to escape with very few casualties.
Just after sundown a machine-gun company advanced to the line on the left. Orders were given to retire on the right, but the orders never reached their destination. The enemy sent out a flanking party on the right. It was quickly discovered by the Engineers. They were unable to stop them, but by constant firing they managed to keep the flanking party back until they could reach their company farther in the rear. Two wounded Engineers and two wounded Infantrymen were brought in during this retirement. They took
refuge in a deep ditch, fronted by a hedge. The wounded, all of whom were able to walk, were sent back to the First Aid station. In the meantime, the flanking party succeeded in reaching a position where they could enfilade the ditch. Orders were given to evacuate the place, but these orders moved slowly, and many never got out. Two men from the 2nd Platoon, Privates Regan and Drake, remained behind, against orders, in the attempt to wipe out the Boche. About half the remainder of the men managed to escape. This fact was due entirely to those two men. They succeeded in killing all but one man of that enemy party, before they themselves were killed. The survivor stood up on his feet in the attempt to give himself up, but he had hardly uttered a word when a dozen rifles cracked and he crumpled up in a heap.
But now the Americans were under the fire of their own machine-guns from the trenches at the foot of the hill. They did everything to attract attention but the bullets still whined around them. Finally a wounded infantry sergeant offered to go straight down the hill toward the guns if a couple of men would help him. The little party started. For a moment the fire increased. Then as they were recognized, it ceased. The Engineers now joined the machine-gun company on the left. There they remained till long after midnight, digging in for themselves and the machine-gunners. Then the order was given to fall back to the old lines.
All day June 7th the men, dead tired after more than thirth-six hours of hard fighting and working, slept. But at night fall they were ordered out again to dig trenches and construct machine gun emplacements. The night was quiet until shortly after midnight. Then the Germans attempted to come over. A machine gun spit out the warning and as the men dropped into their trenches a flare went up. By its light the enemy could be seen advancing in what appeared to be almost a mass formation. Firing side by side with the infantry, the engineers reveled in the excitement. This was their chance to get back at the Boche. For half an hour or more the attack continued, the enemy never even getting close. Then the
order to cease firing was given. What was left of the Germans had
scurried back to their trenches.
From now on the work was cheifly of a routine nature. The
trenches were finished, barbed wire strung in front of them, machine gun emplacements dug, etc. On the night of June 14th the company moved from their position near Le Thiolet to the wood near Coupru where the rest of the battalion was encamped. It was well that they did so, for their old camp, which had been shelled more or less before, was almost completely destroyed just after they
left. Working sometimes at night, sometimes in the day, they established a complete support position. They were getting hot food now, the first since they left Parnes, though the shells drove the cooks to shelter more than once. Everyone was more comfortable in the new camp, the dugouts were bigger and there was more room to move around. The Y.M.C.A. came around at least every other day with chocolate, cakes. and tobacco. There was but 3 casualties in this camp while in the other there were 11.
Then, late on the night of June 30th, orders came in to move along the lines to the left. The[y] halted for the day (July 1st) in the rear of the lines encircling Vaux. Barbed wire stakes were cut and everything put in readiness to follow the infantry as soon as they attained their objective. At 5:00 P.M., July 1st the attack started, after an intense artillery preparation. About five o-clock the comapany moved forward through moderate shell fire to a big ravine, called by the men later, "Suicide Trench" because of the heavy fire directed upon it. Here they suffered a few casualties. Shortly before dark, with wire and stakes, the first, second and third platoons climbed out of the ravine, over the old front line, crossed the Paris-Metz road and went into the woods on the other side where the infantry had established themselves. The fourth platoon remained behind as a carrying party.
Shelling had practically ceased on the new front line but it was still intense in the rear. The first and third platoon succeeded in finishing their work and returned to camp, but the second, after using all the material they had were forced to wait until almost daylight before more came up. Then it being too late to do anymore work they "stood to" till after daylight. The day was spent in digging trenches and in placing two German machine guns which later did very effective work. A quantity of wire and stakes, left behind by the retreating Germans was found and everything made ready to finish the work. Although two attempts were made, the almost constant shell fire caused the night of July 2nd to pass without a foot of wire being placed. The night of July 3rd passed in almost the same fashion except that a part of the Infantry had left without being relieved, the Engineers had the added burden of holding a section of the lines. On the night of July 4th the third platoon came up and with its assistance the wiring was finished and the men returned to the company. They ate ravenously that breakfast on July 5th for they had had nothing except a little sardines and salmon that had been brought out by the runners and some "pumpernickel" or black bread that had been left behind by the Germans.
Once more the old routine work was resumed but only to be discontinued because of the much welcomed news that the 101st Engineers would relieve them. About midnight July 7th the company started out, passing part of the 101st on their way in. The march was discontinued at daybreak and July 8th was spent in resting in the woods near Bezu-le-Guery.