The German fights for elbow room and ambition; the Frenchman fights "pour la Patrie;" the Turk to see life blood flow, and the American and the Englishman, the greatest sportsmen in the world, fight for liberty.
According to the Germans, however, the American [f]ights for souvenirs. He really doesn't, but it must be admitted that he is always keen about gathering them in when opportunity affords.
Many tales, both sad and humorous, both true and fictitious, are told of what the interesting doughboy used to do under fire, but here's one about a squad of engineers that is hard to beat, and it's true:
On the night of June 12, 1918, in Belleau Wood, an officer of the first battalion of the Sixth Marines was in the act of verifying the consolidation of positions after the second battalion had attacked on his left, when he came to a gap in the line. As expected, he noticed two Boche trying to work their way back to their own lines from a machine gun nest which had been passed unnoticed in the attack. The Huns fired at him.
Wise enough not to attack them alone, and fearing there were many more close by, he went to the nearest group of friendly troops he could find, and as it happened they were from the Second Engineers, who had been acting as infantry throughout the Belleau Wood attacks. There were about forty of them, and they were busily engaged in "digging in" alongside the marines.
"Would you like to go with me to get some Boche?" the officer said as he approached them.
"I say we do!" chorused the gang, dropping their tools and rushing at the officer.
Eight was all he wanted, so he chose a corporal and had him pick seven men. The rest, grumbling, went back to their work.
While leading the men back to the spot where the two Germans had been seen, the officer found a Luger pistol, which he strapped to his body. The men noticed the pistol, and everyone of them was heard to say that he just had to have one.
When the spot was reached, the men were deployed and told to lie down and not fire before the signal was given.
In a short time a lone Boche appeared. He was creeping along, dodging from tree to tree, and from one rock to another. Occassionally [sic] he would signal to others hidden behid [sic] him.
This Hun and his comrades were in the rear of the American line, and their presence there constituted a grave menace. The Americans waited, watching their commander for the word to act. Nearer and nearer crept the German, until he was within 40 paces.
"Halt," called the officer commanding the Americans. The Hun dropped to the ground and fired. A demand was made upon him to surrender. The only reply was another pistol shot. He was given one more chance to obey, and then the command to fire was given. Several bullets found their mark.
Every man in the American squad, although fully aware that other Germans were coming up, made a dive for the dead Boche. One of the men obtained his pistol and belt after a scramble, and the Americans waited for the next to appear.
Eleven Germans came up, and a hot little fight ensued. They fired at the Americans, and the Americans, creeping from tree to tree, and rock to rock in true Indian fashion, fired back. After eleven of the Germans had been killed the sole survivor surrendered.
The fight lasted half an hour, and a dangerous little Hun patrol was put entirely out of action. Every man in the squad of engineers made a rush, for the positions held by the little band of Germans, and another scramble for souvenirs ensued. Some of the men obtained automatic pistals [sic] , others got iron crosses, caps, and other trophies. Then the engineers hid themselves again.
A long wait and no more Boche. The officer thought it was time to clear out, so he issued orders and they started away. A moment later he noticed that there were two who were not with them. Looking back, he saw them lying there "all set" for the next pistol carriers. They went with him, but reluctantly. He thanked them for their services; they thanked him for taking them with him, and he went on to battalion headquarters with his prisoner and his report.