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Appendix No. 8
The Foot Bridge Over The Meuse


The enemy held the wooded heights East of the Meuse, with machine gun nests and snipers in the clumps of brush and heavy woods along the East bank. Several batteries of 77s, 88s and 150s were in position on the heights about 2 kilometers East of Mouzon. These batteries enfiladed the entire valley from a point 1 1/2 kilometers Southeast of Mouzon to a point 2 1/2 kilometers Northeast of Beaumont, and covered all of the suitable bridge sites on this stretch of the Meuse.

On November 10, 1918, Companies "A" and "B," 2nd Engineers assisted by Companies "G" and "H," 9th Infantry, were ordered to throw two foot bridges across the Meuse at a point about 5 kilometers North of Beaumont, (Map Coordinates North 311.5 East 307.6 near the Northeast corner of the Bois de l'Hospice).

The zero hour of our covering barrage was 8:30 P. M.; and the bridges were to be ready for the Infantry by 9:00. The 8th and 23rd Machine Gun Companies were to accompany the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 5th Marines; the 3rd Battalion 356th Infantry (89th Division) and Company "C," 342nd Machine Gun Battalion, (89th Division) were to follow immediately after the others. At dawn the 1st Battalion 9th Infantry accompanied by Company "D," 5th Machine Gun Battalion, was to move forward in the support of the advances [sic advanced] forces, whose objective was the heights East of the Meuse.

 
Drawing showing the Meuse River foot bridge.
DRAWING SHOWING THE TYPE OF FOOT BRIDGE CONSTRUCTED BY THE SECOND ENGINEERS.
 

The footbridges were improvised of such scrap lumber as could be salvaged by wrecking old German barracks and partially destroyed buildings in Letanne and Beaumont. They were made up of a series of rafts, each 8 feet wide by 12 feet long, and fastened together by two rope lashings. Two pieces 2" by 4", 12 feet long, sniped at each end similar to sled runners were laid on the ground, and across these the 8 foot pieces averaging about 4"x5" were spiked. Three 1"x12" planks 12 feet long, in a good many cases German Ponton chess, were spiked on top of the 8 foot pieces to form the walk way. Each raft was supposed to contain a minimum of 25 cubic feet, but on actual measurement they were found to contain only 21 to 23 cubic feet, and averaged 600 pounds in weight. 32 of these rafts were made and some drill was had on the lashings that were to bind them together.

The rafts were loaded 4 to a wagon on the 8 escort wagons of the two companies. They left Beaumont at 7:00 P. M. accompanied by "A" Company, strength 200 men, commanded by 1st Lieut. J. J. Wall, Jr. and "B" Company, strength 150 men commanded by Capt. Robert J. Chrisman. At La Sartelle Farm Companies "G" and "H" of the 9th Infantry joined the column, which moved through the Bois de l'Hospice to the Northern edge and halted.

On account of the bright moonlight, the original plan had been to carry the rafts from this point to the river which was 900 yards away. However on arriving and seeing the river below covered by a dense blanket of fog, it was decided to drive the teams 500 yards down the ravine to the lower wagon road. Here the rafts were unloaded and carried 125 yards to the Railroad. At this point the 8 foot embankment caused considerable difficulty, as the men could not obtain a good foothold on the loose rock fill. Once over the Railroad embankment the rafts were easily skidded to their sites and assembled in the flat grassy fields which bordered the river on the West bank. From the Railroad the distance to the upper site, (A Company) was 250 yards, and to the lower site (B Company) 300 yards, the two being about 400 yards apart. The width of the Meuse at these points was 60 yards and the depth varied from 5 to 25 feet. By this time the enemy's counter barrage had started. Tlie location of the bridge sites had been discovered by the use of flares, and from then on the two crews worked under a hail of high explosive, sharpnel [sic shrapnel] and machine gun bullets.

Two 30 foot anchor lines were attached to each end of the bridge, and one long guy line to the center on the upstream side. Four 10 foot tag lines were tied to each section to pull on; four men to each rope. Two men were on the head end of each bridge to steer it across, and also to make it fast to the other bank by use of the two anchor lines. All was made ready, the lashings inspected, the signal given and the bridges launched.

The upstream bridge (A Company) was shot across, anchored and ready for the infantry just 7 minutes after the lashings were started, which was ahead of the schedule. Runners were sent back, guides posted and the Marines went over.

On the lower bridge things did not go so well. A lashing on the upstream side failed in about the center of the bridge just ahead of the guy line, allowing the forward half of the bridge to drift down stream until it was parallel to the banks, but still held to the other half by the lashing on the down stream side.

The long guy line was slacked off and the entire bridge floated in alongside the bank and repaired. The guy line was then fastened to the shore side in the center and the upstream end shoved out with two men riding it. The current quickly carried it across and it was anchored to the other bank. This accident caused the site to be moved down stream just the length of the bridge. The time on this bridge was 11 minutes and the Infantry were using it as soon as it was completed. Shortly after they crossed the machine gun nests which had caused a large percent of the casualties, ceased firing.

Details were left to keep the bridges in repair and to act as guides to the Infantry. About 2 A. M. a large shell made a direct hit on the lower bridge, but it was quickly repaired. At daylight the details were called back to their companies as there was no further need of them.

The casualties suffered by the Engineers were as follows: "A" Company, 2 men slightly wounded; "B" Company, 5 men killed, two died of wounds, 19 slightly wounded and 1 missing. The 9th Infantry casualties were—"G" Company, 7 men wounded, "H" Company, 28 men wounded.

 
United States, and W. A. Mitchell. 1920.
The Official History Of The Second Regiment Of Engineers And Second Engineer Train, United States Army, In The World War.
[San Antonio]: [San Antonio printing Co.].
 
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