Corporal Elton Mackin

World War I Marine
67th Company 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment
United States Army Regulars

Private Elton Mackin


Born in 1898 in Lewiston, New York, Elton Mackin enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1917. After training at Parris Island, South Carolina, Mackin was sent to Europe, where he served as a battalion runner for the 67th Company 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, United States Army Regulars. This highly decorated Marine fought in every Marine Brigade battle from Belleau Wood to the crossing of the Meuse on the eve of the Armistice. Mackin was awarded the United States Army Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, and two Army Silver Star citations. He was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps in May 1919.

Mackin moved to Norwalk, Ohio in 1935. He began writing a memoir of his WWI experience. Excerpts from his manuscript, "Flashes and Fragments," appeared inLeatherneck Magazine. Essays that appeared later in the American Heritage magazine caught the eye of Marine Corps historian George B. Clark. Believing that Mackin's memoir provided a unique viewpoint of the war - that of a "young man who suffered" from "the enlisted man's viewpoint." Clark sought out the Mackin family. Although Private Mackin had passed away in 1974, his son, Wallace Mackin, shared the memoir and the taped oral interviews (digitized below). The oral account assisted Clark in developing annotations for the manuscript that was eventually published in 1993 asSuddenly We Didn't Want To Die: Memoirs of a World War I Marine.

The following is Elton Mackin’s oral interview conducted by the late Carl D. Klopfenstein, Professor of History at Heidelberg College. The interview was conducted at Mackin’s home at 116 Milan Avenue, Norwalk, Ohio on June 29, 1973. Following the interview, a rough draft transcription was produced. Using the draft and the audiotapes that are part of the Elton Mackin Collection at the Hayes Presidential Center, the following digitized transcription was created. Words in bold are those of Dr. Klopfenstein. Due to the poor quality of the audiotapes, errors exist.

Tape 1 Side 1

I was born February 22, 1898, at Lewiston, Niagara Falls, New York. I was the only child by my mother’s first marriage, and lost my father in the Niagara Rapids when I was six years old and grew up on the Niagara Frontier. Full of the lure of the frontier and through my paternal grandmother we were related to one of the old, old pioneer families of the Niagara area. I grew up under traditions of Washington, Lincoln and Decatur, specifically Decatur. Somewhat concerned with the fact that my country, right or wrong, but my country. Starting at the age of 6 I came under the influence of a wonderful stepfather. Who, while he was not cultured or an educated man, was a very smart man for his day and time, and he had a broad view of many things. He had never had any children. He took a deep personal interest in the boy he got out of his marriage. When my mother married him I hated his guts. I wouldn’t call him father. I wouldn’t call him dad. There was not enough discipline in the home to make me do so. My mother’s people, who had loved my own father, convinced me as a child that Mack, my father, who was dead, that I should not accept my stepfather Mr. Victor L. Chittenden. Those things do influence a child greatly. It wasn’t until I reached the age of 12 or 13 that I began to realize what a wonderful person I had for a parent. We grew closer and closer together. Much more closeness between stepfather and stepson than between the son and his own mother. We built up a companionship which was the envy of many people. He knew that I probably would not have too much of schooling. He pointed out to me that I probably would not get much of a formal education. And therefore, he told me that I should try to make it a rule to read one metropolitan daily throughout my life and that if I would do so, I would come to be recognized as a person who is well read. I have followed that advice wherever I have been. I have had a favorite, the Metropolitan newspaper. Usually the morning edition paper seems to me to have much more in them than the afternoon or evening papers. I have been, through him, a reader ever since.

Now to go aside from that. The first six years of my life I was a baby. The first grandchild in the home of my great grandparents, the Van Luens [Van Luvens?]. They loved me very, very much. I was the first baby they’d had in a number of years and they took care of me for six long years. When mother remarried, she abruptly tore me out of that home and took me to the home of this stepfather. That in turn left scars which stay with a child all through the years. The paternal grandparents, Edward and Olive Mackin, lived further up town in the other end of the village. They were able to borrow their grandchild for brief periods from time to time. While my grandmother, Olive Gillette Mackin, was the village washerwoman, she was an aristocrat. An old [inaudible] and highly respected and loved. For her day and time she had what would be considered quite a bit of education for a woman of that period right after the Civil War. She had four children, two of whom died of diphtheria during the epidemics of the late 1800s. Two sons who matured. The oldest son being my father, R.K. Mackin. The other son being Elton W. Mackin. The first gangster ever to…I got something from all of them; you know you do as you go down through the years. My grandmother Olive Gillette Mackin. I’m stressing that because she was a Gillette, lost two little children and my own father was drowned in the Niagara Rapids at the age of 26. And my uncle was a ne'r-do-well, over the hill. All that old motherly matriarch had to live for and talk to was the grandchild she was able to have from time to time.

Both sets of grandparents loved me. There were many of the Van Luen [Van Luven?] children, my mother’s people, and the Mackin’s wouldn’t any more than have me for a few days and the Van Luen [Van Luven?] child would come in and say, “Pa wants the baby home.” So the Mackins would loose me. However, as I say she was somewhat of an intellectual as was my grandfather. And in his way, heavy drinking Irishman, a Mackin, and a mean, wild Irishman. She was the custodian and caretaker of the village library, he in turn helped her with it. They had access to books and magazines. They brought them home. She was able to gather the surplus of magazines and newspapers in bundles and keep them in her home. They were stored in the shed and supplemented the fuel for the coal fire, the wood fire in time. However, the books I remember, the magazines and books I remember were specifically "Godey's" style of books. I couldn’t understand them too well, full of patterns and so forth, but they were there and the "Saturday Evening Post." And I seem to have a good memory of "Harper’s" and other publications whose names will come to me as time goes by. But she…the point is that both grandparents encouraged me to read, read, read. I did a great deal of it and have done so all of my life. Those two, the influence of those two grandparents, plus the influence of the stepfather, have much to do with making me aware of the world.

The stepfather especially was quite aware of geography, certain phases of history, the world as a general thing. He had a conception of it, which not too many people among our people had, and he passed that on to me. With a result was that when WWI broke in 1914, my world exploded into headlines, as it seems to me as a people we have lived on headlines ever since. I was 16. I immediately wanted to serve. And of course, I was a minor child still under my mother’s thumb. While I had been raised to be a patriotic American boy., it immediately became the case to let “George” do it, not her boy, let “George” do it. The upshot of it was the time rolled along. I came very, very, near to joining the Canadian Army in early 1916, because I knew the Canadians were filled up with American troops, American servicemen and in fact there were some several Canadians and Americans whom I knew for they were with the Canadian forces. I don’t know yet how it happened that I did not succeed in going overseas and serving with the Canadian Contingent. However, time rolled along and then I didn’t get along good at home. I had a very bitter, bitter, childhood. At the age of sixteen, before I was seventeen, summarily without warning, without the chance I was simply ordered out of the house and home at 4:30 of an afternoon in zero weather in January. Obstensively, with no place to go. Of course, I had these maternal grandparents still in the village and I had aunts and uncles scattered around. I did go down to that grandmother’s home and was made welcome of course. I left home without a nickel. I wrapped two blue sandburry shirts in newspaper and fastened them. I couldn’t find a string - wrapped them with a piece of baling wire and that was my luggage. Then I left.

My mother came after me and I refused to go home. My grandparents refused to run me out. I made my way to Niagara Falls to the home of an aunt and uncle. My uncle got me a job with the Carborundum in Niagara Falls. In a very short order I had a good job with overtime. The company was in great production. They needed all the help they could get and I was making good money for a boy. Being a country boy, being a village boy, having my heart wrapped up in two little sisters and a brother, and missing my stepfather, I, one day saw the ducks going north. I quit and went back down to the village, took farm work, what work I could get. Time rolled on and we came into 1917. America went into war and I wanted to enlist.

Not being allowed to enlist, I let myself be talked into taking over a small confectionary business, which had been started by a young fella who was being drafted. I, with my mother, who was my guardian, organized Mackin Confectionary in the village of Lewiston and stayed with it for several months. However, I come from a number of people who are very envious of each other, especially among my mother’s people. The kid of the family was making more money than all the rest of the family put together. The result was a great deal of interference from relatives. The fact of it is my mother did not have a nickel invested in that business. I had inherited some few hundred from my grandmother Mackin and [inaudible] upon her to put it into the business to help it get started. However, I was a minor and under New York state law I was under my mother’s thumb. The bank account for the business was a joint affair and very shortly, I discovered that I had no money in the bank. I didn’t have money in the bank from one week to the next because it was being withdrawn and used for other purposes. And, while I didn’t exactly go broke, I soon saw that the thing was a failure because I just couldn’t possibly make a go of it. I wasn’t allowed to handle the money or pay my bills and I reached a point of desperation and determination. Meanwhile, the war was going on. Some few of the boys had left the village. I got two of them and we made an inventory of everything in the store. Those two men, young men, were totally satisfied and that every nickel that had been invested in the store was there in merchandise or in cash. I borrowed $2.00 in cash from a schoolmate to leave town. I walked in on some relatives, dropped the keys to the store on the middle dining room table. My mother asked what my intentions were and I stated I was going to take a vacation. She said, “Well, I had been pretty busy, go ahead and take care of things.” I knew I was leaving to enlist. I went to Buffalo and played around a little bit with some young people. Had a job and tried to make up my mind which of the three branches of the service I wanted to go into - aviation, light artillery or the Marines. On the 11th day of December 1917, I was reading a "Saturday Evening Post" that carried a complete article covering the trip overseas of the 5th Regiment of the Marines, who incidentally went over with General Pershing. I threw the magazine across the room and I didn’t quit till I walked into the recruiting station at Lafayette Square and enlisted in the Marine Corps. I was under age. They didn’t need me.

The draft wasn’t accepting me and Christmas was approaching. They gave me eleven days to go home to say goodbye to my people. I went back to my hometown and in short, there was hell to pay because I was in the Marine Corps. My mother moved heaven and hell to get me out. But the law allowed if a boy was past eighteen, there was nothing a parent could do. She turned her lawyer on the job, but it didn’t do him any good. I stayed home till the seventeenth of December. Went back to Buffalo to go to Parris Island, South Carolina. And when I walked into the station, I reported in the federal building in Buffalo. I was told to go on home till after the New Year and come up when I was good and ready. Because there was no pressure for me, I walked down the street at Lafayette Square and stopped in front of a jewelry store. I studied the jewelry, picked up my suitcase, and walked back in and said, “The hell with it!” “I’m here, I’ve said my goodbyes. Ship me!” They shipped me to Parris Island that night. I wanted to enter on the side at that point. Little research would follow it. It would be natural at this point.

At the time, to the best of my knowledge, there were in all the world, only 17,000 Marines scattered all over the globe, lots of them on ships. In those days they had contingents on the battlewagons and on the cruisers. You had them in embassy station barracks scattered around the world. There were not many Marines. The first authorized strength, if I remember correctly, that the Congress allowed increase was to 30,000 men. It was my good fortune, on account of my age to be enlisted in that 30,000 as a regular. True, I enlisted for the duration of the war, but I was taken in and enlisted as a regular Marine. One of the amusing things about the whole thing is that later on when I went overseas whenever the pay call blew, the grizzled old timers of the Marine Corps, who had been all up and down the world, turned to the Boxer Rebellion and so forth. When pay call blew, they lined up for pay ahead of everyone else, except for the green kid. Mac was always sent up to the head of the line to be paid by the old timers. That’s an unusual thing, you will admit. The rest of us could not understand how the hell I happened to be a regular at my age. That’s just incidental too.

They shipped me down to Parris Island. I lived through it. I’m a graduate of the toughest military school under the American colors. Loved every minute of it. I loved every minute of it that I belonged to the Marine Corps, lived as though I was walking on air all through it. I was shipped overseas in April of 1918, landed in Brest on the sixth of May in 1918 with the Third Replacement Battalion. We went to Chalon Sur Saone, Chalon on the Char River briefly and then were sent for further training in bayonet work and grenade work over to the Swiss border. We were on the Swiss border just a very brief period of time when we got a sudden call to entrain and we came across France with a rush. Loaded in whole forty-eight cars with Marines just shouting at the engineer and firemen [inaudible]. We came across France in a hell of a hurry to be frank about it. I never forgot we pulled into the yards of Paris in early afternoon. We weren’t allowed to leave the train. I felt insulted by the fact that they put sentries on every car door so that none of us could go over the hill to see Paris. The train was shuttled around and we were headed north and we went out of Paris late of an afternoon and went as far north as Meaux. We detrained at that point and began marching. We began to see definite evidence of the war at that point. We didn’t know that it being the forerunner of the second Battle of the Marne. We didn’t know about the crack German [inaudible]. The Johannes had penetrated so far on the outskirts of Paris that they could see the Eiffel Tower. For further explanation, Russia had taken itself out of the war in late ’17. Dozens and dozens of gun fighting German divisions were transferred from the eastern front, from the Russian front, to the western front during ’17 and early ’18. They had the greatest mass of gun power and manpower and firepower all along the western front. They broke through and split between the British and the French.

[inaudible] in March of 1918 shoved the English back toward the coast and rolled down on Paris. There are two main roads leading into Paris from the area which they occupied and in those days roads were absolutely essential to transport because most of the transport was by horseflesh. The Third Division, United States Army regulars were sent out one road to Chalon Sur [inaudible]. The second division which was United States Army regulars was set out the other road. Now, it so happened that in the emergency, the Fifth and Sixth Marines were assigned to and became part of the infantry of the Second Division United States Army regulars. When as the result was, two regiments of regular army infantry and regiments of Marine regulars went out that road to meet the Germans together with the rest of the division as could be gathered from all over France.

Our engineers did get in pretty good time no matter where they came from. They came from all over France. Our artillery, a lot of our artillery, didn’t reach us for a few days. When the Marines made their essential assault on Belleau Wood on the morning of the 6th of June 1918, they were backed by our 75-millimeter guns. That’s all they had. I’ve quickly said, “I’ve missed part of Belleau Wood. I missed a small part of it, but a very critical part of it.” The Marine assault of Belleau Wood took place on the morning of the 6th of June 1918. I was coming to the front with the 3rd Replacement Battalion and I’m credited with having been there throughout the fighting of the 6th and 7th. When in fact, I missed it because I was coming, but I was in the A One of Le Bats That may have saved my life. I did get to the front on the afternoon of June 7, 1918. We got up onto the lines on Hill 142 by 1 o’clock in the morning. Of the 250-man-company, the 67th Company of the 5th Marines, there were 26 respective left on duty. They had burned their papers and blackened hands and faces so that any white faces were German.

Eighty green kids. Pardon me, 60 green scared kids, were sent up on Hill 142 to join those 26 survivors. We were told to dig in. We’d already come up under some machine gun fire and some shellfire through the night. We were told to dig in. The more we dug, the better we’d be because it was going to be hell at dawn, and it was. The Germans came across a thousand yards of open wheat. Just at dawn, they came four times in five hours; in what I came later to know was German mass formation. They reached our line twice. I saw men beheaded within twenty feet of me. But they did not take our hill. That was the initiation for a bunch of scared kids, many of whom died before noon that day.

Belleau Wood is an incident of history. We’ve all heard that expression “the invincible force and the immovable object.” Those two met on a section of road which happened to be Belleau Wood. And Belleau Wood was written into history. Actual figures show that we mauled the hell out of 8 German divisions. Maybe we didn’t whip them, but it took 33 days to go the length and width of Belleau Wood. Belleau Wood is three-quarters of a mile long and half a mile wide. Thirty-three days of more or less continuous headlong attacks against a strong disciplined army.

After 11 days at the line, we were relieved briefly. To use the language of that day “to get the belly wrinkles out.” We were taken to the rear to be fed and rested slightly and did get back down onto the river into a patch of woods and we were doing okay. That’s when I became a runner, while I was out on that rest period.

Now were you chosen to be a runner because you were young, younger than the rest? Or just by pure chance?

No, there are two or three angles to it. I’d come down off a firing line in front of Torcy with a small detachment of about 12 or 15 men of an afternoon to go back to Moravia Chateau to bring up ammunition. We were careless. The brush was fish pole growth, second growth, going down the slopes and around till we’d hit a tree, as the top would wiggle. The German observers could trace us like a snake going through the brush so we attracted shellfire and lost a few men. After which we traveled the rest of the way out of that sector on our bellies. However, we did make our way back to the Moravia Chateau and gathered ammunition. The ammunition most of us handled was boxes of Hotchkiss machine gun material. The boxes are like salesmen’s suitcases. They have a handle that is carried by [inaudible]. A man can well swing his rifle over his shoulder and carry two suitcases of machine gun ammunition. We stayed at Moravia Chateau until darkness began to fall. Then we began making our way back toward the front and by the time we got to the village of Lucy-le-Bocage, it was pitch dark. We had a guide, a guide, a runner guide and a lieutenant named Ball. I noted after we passed the Lucy-le-Bocage, we went out on the road. I saw the place in the hedge where we had come out earlier. Maybe no one else saw it, but the deadly ravine was right up ahead and we were walking ahead right into a strange area. The line whispered to a stop. Lieutenant Ball came back down the line, whispering to us - a small detail a couple 12 to 14 men. “We’ve got off the trail, does anybody know where the road is?” I told him, “Yes, if you were looking for the way you came out. The break in the hedge into the grave ditch was back of us by two or three hundred yards.” He said, “Come on with me.” He whispered and passed the word. And everybody turned around and went with Lt. Ball. I took the head of the line and went down and came to the gap in the hedge. Dropped down into a drainage ditch and into a field and was able to get over to Hill 142. Now that’s all I know about what might have caused my being chosen.

Tape 1 Side 2

I have never known, but probably, because I happened to be a village boy, a country boy with eyes like a cat. I’d go up in the fields in and around the Niagara Gorge. To see in the darkness was instinctive and much of the life along the front was conducted in darkness. That way I had an advantage. I have never known exactly how I happened to become a runner, except it was covered in "Leatherneck Magazine." The gunnery Sergeant Dave McClain, a grizzled gray headed old timer, sent for me while we were off the line and told me to sit down and get acquainted, which was unusual for a gunnery sergeant - talking to a new recruit. Then he explained that a runner named Fox had been bumped off during the night on the way coming out. The battalion headquarters had a need for a battalion runner. Did I want the job? There was no job I was ever asked to take in my life that I feared or dreaded more than that job because we had seen enough and knew enough and heard enough about runners to know that it was virtually sheer suicide. We were spoken of along with machine gunners as the people of the suicide squads. However, I couldn’t tell that wonderful old timer that I did not want the job. Therefore, when we went back onto the line, I went up as a battalion runner, which was a decided change from what I had been doing. A runner has a responsibility. Now in my day in the Marine Corps, a runner in our type of job was a volunteer. Your officers did not want you to be a runner if you had any doubt of your willingness to go. There is so much dependence on the individual that if you felt that your nerves were cracking or you couldn’t take it, "say so." There was no censure to it. They simply found another man to take your place. In a manner of speaking, I think I was a natural, one thing; I was not tied to a single spot or a single trench or outpost. A runner moves up and down the front of his own area and he gets to know the lay of the land. He gets to know the officers of the battalion. He gets to know the captains of the various companies and the personnel and knows who to find and where to go. He is really the liaison man. I would comment here that in those days we had no walkie-talkies, no radios. Telephones only reached indifferently toward the front and those that did get to the front were manned by artillery observers. Communication depended entirely on a little bundle of human flesh called a runner. No matter what the problem was, it took a runner to get the word through. In as much as I feared the job when I started I very shortly learned to love it because it allowed a man to freelance - to be an individual. Incidentally, while I was still at Belleau Wood, my luck was so evident that the survivors of the battalion gave me the nickname of “Lucky Mackin.” I have carried that nickname all down through the years and have the luck I’ve had and everything to go with it except money. There’s been enough of that mystique when I wanted it. So, to that extent I was “Lucky Mackin” and a runner.

Now I want to pause here to interject something about the TO - the table of organization of the old-fashioned WWI outfits. We were, what are now spoken of as the square, -the square outfit. An infantry company consisted of an infantry squad which consisted of 8 men - seven men and a corporal. A platoon was 8 squads or 64 men, more or less. Four platoons made a company of approximately 250. With super numeraries, you ran somewhere around 275 men to a company. There were 4 companies in a battalion and a battalion therefore was spoken of a thousand men and it ran around 1200 to 1300 men. That was a battalion. Each regiment had 3 battalions. Each regiment was spoken of as 3,000 plus men. Two regiments constituted a brigade.

We were - remember that we were Marines by order, detached from the Navy, assigned to the Army and under Army command and we were the Marine Brigade - two regiments of Marine Infantry and one machine gun battalion. The other regiments of our division were infantry regiments. In our division were the famous old 9th and 23rd Regiments United States Army Regulars. Of course, the Second Division Engineers. We used to say of them that they worked all night then fought all day, ‘cause more than once we were in a pinch and engineers came in to help hold things. Our artillery was three wonderful regiments - two regiments of French 75s and one of heavier caliber 59s, I think. We were a cohesive team. For the first time in history Marines and Army regarded each other, respected each other, and would die for each other. We had the utmost feeling for the rest of our division. Of course, a Marine never acknowledges but what he is the best in sight. That’s part of him and his training. But, with that in view, I would then pause again to pay tribute to the 3rd Division of the United States Army Regulars - and especially to one regiment of that division - the 38th United States Infantry. That division was sent out the road toward from Paris toward Chateau Thierry to meet the Germans. Whereas, our division was sent out another road north of Paris toward Soissons to meet the Germans. The Germans had to have those two roads as a matter of transport. The 3rd Division - the first element of the 3rd Division to reach the lines was the 7th Machine Gun Battalion of the 3rd Division, who went up to the lines with old Model-T Fords. Got to the Chateau Thierry Bridge and set up a defense and got ready to destroy it. Meanwhile, the rest of the division’s infantry was coming up as fast as they could. But the 7th Machine Gun Battalion with its Model-Ts held the bridge until it could be destroyed. The infantry of the 3rd Division too went up to the position on the bank of the {inaudible] Bank of the Marne, I should say, the Bank of the Marne. The Germans with the bridge destroyed could not force their way past at that point. They deployed and sent detachments around. They even brought up small portable boats to use for the assault. I personally talked with men of the 38th Infantry and the 7th Infantry and 3rd Division who tell me that they lay on the Bank of the Marne and fired into those boats until they would actually puke on the rifles. The Germans affected crossings on either side of the Chateau Thierry without being able to take any transport that amounted to much. They pushed back the three regiments, three of the four regiments of the 3rd Division. They pushed them back toward Paris. The 38th Regiment at the bridgehead made up of three battalions formed into a triangle at the Paris end of the bridge and refused to leave. Most of them died there. But the Germans were unable to move the remnants of the 38th United States Infantry, the United States Army Regulars off that road. And that was probably the key to the turning point of the second Battle of the Marne. That regiment is named now in history as the “Rock of the Marne.” That is a part of their story concerning Chateau Thierry.

Now the world knows when you mention Chateau Thierry that the Marines did the fighting at Chateau Thierry. Mention Chateau Thierry anywhere and the public thinks of Marines, Marines, Marines! When in fact there wasn’t a Marine died at Chateau Thierry or served in Chateau Thierry. We were kilometers off to the westward astride the other road. But we got credit for the defense of Chateau Thierry. To this day, it’s written in history - the Marines at Chateau Thierry. Hell man, we weren’t there!

Well there’s a piece of valuable information.

Yes, it is! But we weren’t there! Now how could we use the qualification “Chateau Thierry” in connection with our story? The Germans had broken through at Chamonix [inaudible] came down, driven down on Soissons and took Soissons. They’d driven in the other way and drove a wedge down toward Paris. That in history is known as the Chateau Thierry Salient a big expansive country. To that extent Marines can claim to have been in the Battle of the Chateau Thierry when in fact we never even got near it. At night, the gunfire was over there to our right. By golly, when the Germans were trying to push through, the sky would just be lighted up over there while they were fighting for their very lives, holding it back in that river as our men were at our side. That would explain Chateau Thierry Salient. It extended from Soissons, approximately Soissons, on the west to [inaudible] on the east. The wedge [inaudible] at the river and in front of Paris and was beaten back.

Americans say among themselves - feel among themselves - there’s two things the American man can do. He can shoot straight and play poker, and some play a pretty good game of poker and most all of them can shoot. They are free people. They grew up with guns and they learned how to use them and they learned well. European troops, in this case, Germans and Austrians for the first time in history ran into aimed rifle fire which begins to kill at 800 yards. I want to attribute that line to John W. Thomason the author of Fixed Bayonets, an officer of my battalion. But it was a fact that the enemy, the Germans, ran into aimed rifle fire which was disconcerting and impossible to counter. May I say of my outfit, in Parris Island, South Carolina, we had more, more, more, rifle training than we did of anything else. Our discipline was then in rifle training on top of that bayonet training. None of us could go overseas unless we qualified as marksmen or better. Therefore, we were an expert bunch of riflemen before we ever got to the front, which is not true of European troops. To be frank about it, I don’t mean to be contemptuous at any time of the enemy, but except for his snipers, which I believe are generally spoken of as the “jaegers” of the German Army, we paid virtually no attention to his rifle fire. His machine gun fire was deadly. Our artillery fire was magnificent. It was wonderful. Any man who has been there will tell you that nothing matches German artillery. They can knock you off from underneath your tin hat and never hurt the hat. They are good! Their machine gun work is wonderful as machine gun work. But, being European in this case German and Austrian, it applies just as fully to the French. They did not know how to be conservative of manpower. The leaders, actually the leaders of the British and the French on the one side, the Germans and the Austrians on the other, were totally unbothered by their losses. Now we Americans had our discipline and our training, but we were also taught to use our heads. Uncle Sam will spend a million in artillery shells to keep from losing a squad or a platoon or a battalion. To the European generals, including our allies, that meant nothing. They threw men away until at times we were appalled at the matter in which they threw them at us - even after they had experienced our rifle fire.

Incidentally may I say that while my papers show that I took part in 12 attacks and one defense against the German Army, an armed enemy of the United States, I never again saw the Germans come in what I call “mass formation” as they did that morning of June 8 at Hill 142 in the Belleau Wood. After that they came and they came to us, but never as such a mass, such mass targets - the most peculiar thing right there.

In other words, they had experienced good rifle fire, aimed rifle fire at them for the first time, you would say and they learned from that experience not to repeat?

Well, at least they didn’t, they would throw men away but never as they did the way they did around Belleau Wood - never in the same manner. Now, if and when the French ever learned, I don’t know because they still hadn’t learned in October. By God, the French could throw men away as [inaudible] as the British. As told of British officers by name in the histories of British officers rubbing his hands together cried because his men had suffered 73 percent casualties. We never had that with the American troops. We never have had it. When it’s time to sacrifice we’ll put that push to you, brother. Now we’ll put the push to you and put it right. If we have gunfire to cut away for us fine. But if we haven’t got it, if necessary, we’ll go in and do it. But we’re not treated like a bunch of cattle! There’s a point I want to make.

The value for human life has always been an important factor in our history .

In our history, but hadn’t been in Europe. It’s not with the Africans. I don’t know who else or who it might be with certainly - not with the Japanese. I don’t know of any forces that are conservative of their manpower, except the free peoples of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. Yet they get things done.

Now let me ask you one question relative to the actual fighting. You get the myth or the legend that American troops have never been very fond of cold steel bayonet attacks on them. How would you gauge that ?

I can only give you what I was and what I am. Nothing I dreaded so much in my training as bayonet work. By the time I left for overseas, I didn’t care how God damn many there were of them or how tough he was because I was a better bayonet man than he was. To this day I’m a bayonet man! We just, we were taught, we were trained to gauge with the scavenge on the bayonets. We were put up against men who came at us with German lunge. We were taught how to take care of them and how to take care of ourselves. I just don’t know how I can tell you how cockily confident I was and the men with me. We were! Now I will say this, I never killed a man with a bayonet. I don’t know whether I want this on tape or not.

We’ll put it there, if you don’t like it we can take it off.

I took out a German captain with a butt stroke. I mean I took that son-of-a-bitch out and I took him out good.

Did you have a lot of hand-to-hand combat in the woods?

Our troops went looking for it. He did not like it at all. Our people, there is just no great hesitation about it. I’ll give one of these little stories that’s in my mind. John and I was gunnery sergeant were in an outpost. It’s a hell of a critical little spot. You can’t stay there during the day too well. We stayed there at night because it’s a place where a Heineken can crowd in and this was at Belleau Wood. To get to that point I want to tell you something about Belleau Wood. When we went to the western front, it was understood that the attacks come in the morning. They’re like union men. They quit at five: European troops. Americans don’t! Germans damn soon learned around Belleau Wood that an American attack could come any hour in the twenty-four. Sometimes we’d throw a barrage ahead of it and sometimes we didn’t. Everything can be peaceful, decent and quiet at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Then all hell breaks loose. I mean a platoon gets up and charges. They go out there and take a little outpost. But they nibble and they nibble. By God, they’d get an outpost here this morning and heinnies are all excited and full of viciousness and madder than hell that some goddamn outfit will smash him at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. And that’s the way Belleau Wood was fought - from hour to hour from day to day. What was the question in there?

How much hand-to-hand fighting actually took place and how long a period of time would it transpire and then break off ?

Short and vivid!

and break off?

Nothing to it. Nothing sustained. I saw bayonet fighting near me on Hill 142 and twice on the morning of the 8th of June. I only saw little instances. Thereon, throughout the summer, they just, they didn’t seem to wait around for us. Our boys were, in my case, the troops I was with were just damned willing. Now, in other words, you're hearing out what is one of the traditional stories. I remember reading years ago that one of the surprises to the Germans was when the Americans came to the line was that the French and British, particularly when they would take in trench warfare, they would take a trench. They would sit down and somebody would say literally, “Have a cup of tea” to give the Germans a chance to regroup the second line of trenches. The Americans didn’t do this. They leaped for all the trenches and left the group to mop up and went on.

Now, would you say what you saw bears that out?

That’s exactly the way, now let me say it this way, and I have a story to go with this story that I picked right out of the blue on Armistice Day years ago. A story being that when America went into the war in April of 1917, the president, President Wilson, sent General Black Jack Pershing overseas to survey the situation and see what it would take to clean up the mess in Europe. As he went overseas, the first regular American regiment to go with him was the 5th Marines and one or two regiments of the first division. That’s all we had. Our troops were scattered all over hell. A lot of them still on the Mexican Border. I’ve always had to put up with the abuse and insults of the Army, the Navy, the National Guard and so forth. I’ve had to have my Irish answers as the years rolled by and this was one I picked up out of the blue on Armistice Day. A retired medical major, M.C. for the day said, “Well, we’re almost at the end of our [inaudible] and are getting empty and we’re almost at the end of our banquet hour. We’ve got one more outfit we got to hear from because if we don’t give them a moment on the floor, they’ll be offended with us. [Inaudible] So now we’ll call on our good comrade Mackin and first would you tell us Mackin, “Why in hell Marines, anyway?” Hell, a hundred-fifty of us there, all veterans. There were only four Marines and I was the only one who’d been overseas. I was the only one who could answer those things. I said, “Fellas we’ve had a good time, we’ve had a lot of laughter. Been some good stories and now it’s time to drop the levity, get down to something serious. An answer to a serious question.”

They got quiet, the laughter stopped and I said. “President Wilson sent Black Jack overseas to look over the situation to see what it would take to clean up the mess in Europe,” I said and his few words show that he figured it was going to take five years and five million men to do the job. I said, “America didn’t have them to spare. They drafted them by tens of thousands but they only succeeded in sending two million of Army overseas. So to make up the difference, they sent two regiments of Marines.” You could just hear the howls. I pert near got mobbed. To this day, some of the old timers still remember it, that insulting remark. That there was a stalemate. Four long years, as of 1918, it was four years old; they set there and faced each other and done nothing. The Americans come in, and by God when they got ready to get, when they went over there they went over to fight Germans. They didn’t go over to have tea as you say. They just didn’t. When you ran him out of that trench system, you kept that son-of-a-bitch rollin and you didn’t let him dig in. The only digging you did was with a rifle pit to cut him loose again and you went ahead again to dig another rifle pit and you hit him and you rolled him and you rolled him and you rolled him and for the life of me, I don’t know how the Germans were defeated in 1918. I don’t know how! I have the greatest respect for their discipline and for their training. Their discipline is done total and rigid.

Here they were reinforced from late ’17 up into early ’18 with fresh divisions of the Russian front. They had, well, I’ll tell ya. Men from my company had been on embarkation duty in England and told us; when they rejoined us during the summer, told us of setting in the English pubs listening to the English grieve at the fact they were going to lose their fleet. The British and French were whipped in the spring of ’18. They were, they were whipped! In fact, whipped to this extent. I can’t blame that poor Frenchmen too much. By God here was this young, well fed, fat, healthy, clothed American who had come 3,000 miles to straighten up Europe. Oh Boy! My little daughter saw me reading one of my books and she said, “Dad, if I were you, I’d shoot every Frenchmen in sight.” Because they could plan on everything. Let the American make that attack, let him make that smash. Don’t move! Let that crazy American make that attack. Don’t move on either side of him. That’s where one of my decorations comes from. While in fact, that on the assault on Mont Blanc ridge in October we took a whackin, it’s true.

But, the French didn’t go ahead. We took a ridge that they had held. It was the ridge in which the Reims Cathedral in the city of Reims was shelled through four years and we took that bridge, only we had to back off. We had to back 13 kilometers which put him out of gun range of the Reims Cathedral. But, the French didn’t advance on either side of us and we walked into what we call, in my writings and among us, as we used to talk what we call “The Box.” We went in with a thousand men and came out with 134. I know, I was the one who took count the morning we left. 134 men out of a battalion of a thousand. We had the ridge and we wouldn’t give it up and heinny kept coming back and coming back. Like that story about the captain, there’s only a few of us left out of his outfit. Just a few of us for we wouldn’t give up that ridge we had. We bought it. It was ours. He gave up with his.

The French hadn’t covered you on the flank?

Hell no! Oh, the General was clever. He was a soldier. When our outfit assaulted the ridge, when he had to leave it, he backed off and down the slope, across a wheat field into a patch of woods about 10 or 11 acres of woods. He backed off on either side and tightened up and he had us boxed. He had us all in a wheat field, below the ridge, an open stubble field in a patch of woods and by the [inaudible] was the patch of woods. Watch what was left of them. I made it into that patch of woods four times that day. I was the only runner that made it. We started in the morning with 16 runners and 6 o’clock in the morning it was 16 runners at 8 o’clock there was five of us left. Three of us came out of that scrap on our feet, three out of the sixteen. On a time during that day, that was the fourth of October, my captain, Captain Whitehead, that was a skipper who got wounded there said “Mackin, what the hell, ya carrying all the messages today. Where the hell's the runners?” “Captain, they’re all thrown dead, so far as I know.” I didn’t know two of them had been sent both over- one back to the regimental, one to another battalion to get a little help. I was at the moment the only one out of the sixteen, who was but still effective. Again and again, I crossed that wheat field four times.

Now is that where you won one of your decorations?

Yes, that’s where I got them all.

You got them all?

Not in that wheat field, in that area.

In that action?

Excuse the conceit. You can take this out some time later. They give a Navy Cross for sinking a Japanese battleship. They give a stinkin service cross for sinking a Japanese cruiser. I’m a buck private Marine Corps. We each won! Two silver stars and my daughter sits with me and laughs and so did my son. If ever a guy got a decoration on the fluke. My silver star, my first silver star I have the citation so I have the papers to cover it. But, a fluke? Jack Franklin got a [inaudible] for a year and I got a silver star. We should have been court martialed.

When you were a runner were there German snipers, sniping at you a lot?


They knew what you were doing?

You wore a red band. That was one thing. Plus another thing - you’d be the one that was up in sight going from this trench over to this trench, or going from town to the outpost or something. They were good. Those boys were pretty good. They watched for two things. They watched for officers in bars and they watched for runners. Yes, we did attract attention, but we wore that band. Now, another thing about that band. You were a trusted man if you were a runner. You could go back on the lines, walk right by the military police and sneer at him and he wouldn’t dare stop you. You didn’t even have to answer a colonel, unless it was your own colonel. You didn’t have to acknowledge an officer who wanted to know who you were and where you were going. Talk about independent. They allowed us to be, they told us to be, because we never knew who the hell we were telling it to. Just never know. The runner was a runner was a runner until he went down. They would send us out on messages when the going was rough with the same message, verbal or written, not send us together. They would send two so one of us would get through. They had to!

Wooo! You always got through obviously. Lucky Mackin, Lucky Mackin. Compliments.

I’d been a runner since June and we were getting ready for the assault on the morning of the 12th. That was a big sham out, that was a big battle. It was a big sham battle. It was a big sham battle. But we thought we were going into a bitch of a battle. Criminy, we’d held it for four years. Same as St. Mihiel. The whistle blew and we come to our feet and Major Hamilton turned around and said, “Mackin get four runners and stay with me.” We lost three of them that day. But it was Mackin! October we were getting ready for that assault at Blanc Mont. The 9th and 23rd Infantry and the 6th Marines that had carried the ridge assault up to the ridge itself. Our job, the 5th Marines, was to assault the town. We were getting into position and it was either the morning of the 2nd or 3rd of October and we were to kick off. I mean attack almost one of the most wretched places I ever saw.

When we saw it, we took over the trench that had just changed hands at sundown, still containing wounded French, wounded Germans and dead on both sides. We took over two trenches; one at the top of the straights and one right down below it. Now the thing in front of that thing was the ascent trench, the ascent that fortified till hell wouldn’t have them. My God, the thought of going up that slope was sure death. In terms of the trench at the bottom of the slope, our men had poured down in just at dark. And our runner came back of the rear out of breath, staggering and without a breath went up the slopes a few trenches. "Major, for God’s sake hold everything. Everybody didn’t get into position." Everything was delayed for 24 hours.

I had a friend named Eugene Clevenger out of the Ozark Mountains, one of the “Four Aces” or ace runners. The runner got Major Hamilton. He set down at a homemade wooden desk in a dugout, and said, “I want a runner, get me a runner.” McDaniel grabbed Gene to stand in front till he got right up and said, “I want Mackin to take this.” I had 7 minutes to get down to that other trench. I counted 33 dead men in that trench, who had died there before and right to the left of us, right to the left of that trench below the place. The French never did quit that damned formation. The French wedge, which was made up of a [inaudible] and a point about platoon size - thirty or forty men in a wedge, which they used for assault. They laid just as they had formed - that whole French wedge outside of this trench, not an open place. The machine guns from up in there had just simply mowed. They fell almost in formation. I got down there; I had 7 minutes to get down there with a message, stopping all movement that morning. "But I want Mackin to take this [inaudible] I got back to that barn with the horseshoe [inaudible] I couldn’t go anywhere and do anything.

Tape 2 Side 1


Maneuver Grounds, Marine Barracks, Parris Island, South Carolina

"On Work Detail Drawing Wood"

(Left to Right) Boetcher - Cincinnati; Fisher - Chicago; Ellsworth - Detroit; Elton Mackin - New York; Crandall - Buffalo; Vivere - Syracuse; Coyle - New Jersey; Townsend - St. Louis

Donated by Susan Smith

During World War 1 we had three types of army. That word army should be put in parentheses or dots because there was something the public never knew nor realized. You had the regular Army, a number of divisions. I can’t tell you just at the moment just what or how many there were of those. They numbered on to ten, but we didn’t have ten regular Army divisions. Then we had the National Guard which was another kind of an Army. National Guard division, and their numbers started in the 20s and ran up to the best of my knowledge to the famous Rainbow 42nd. Then above that, above the 50s, you had the National Army, the drafted divisions. Now that’s the way World War I was broken up. You had three types of Army, three types of armed forces. Now there was some damned good troops among the National Army and the National Guard. But the [inaudible] the assault troops, troops used to smash, were the first division, the Big Red I, the 2nd division, my division, the 3rd division, the 4th and sometimes the 5th. Though the 5th didn’t get into it quite so heavy and the 6th. They walked their ass off all over Europe, and was always late for the battle. I think it was the 6th and we had the 5th or 6th divisions overseas.

But another thing the public don’t know is I personally, and so many, virtually all of us, we are veterans of the French armies. I personally served in three French armies. I have decorations in they’re signed by [inaudible], whose body was stolen recently from that prison cemetery and then returned. I just sent a colonel, a Marine colonel in California, one of the four. I have four of those French army decorations. They are from three different French armies in which we served. Now that wasn’t individual - that’s where we were attached to - this army, that army, the other army, to do a job. What the hell’s the name of the Frenchman, one who escaped out of a German prison in World War II? [inaudible] A soldier in his army was known as the butcher. He was known as the butcher by the French and by the Germans. He’s the only French general during the war that had mutiny on his hands. The French [inaudible]. He was known as the butcher. Blanc Mont was under the butcher. That’s where we went in with a 1,000 men and come out with 134. So I have soldiered with them, alongside of them, and on overall command of the French several times.

What the American public don’t know is you had an army in Europe, but you never fielded an army until the 12th day of September at St. Mihiel and that wasn’t all American troops. That was French and American, but that was only 60 odd days before the Armistice that we put an army, an American army into the field. Up to that time, we jumped from here to there up and down the western front, alone, from first one French army then another.

Bolster up the French and British ___

Two of our divisions soldiered with the British. That was the Ohio’s 37th and I think the 38th served with the British, briefly.

Most of you were brigaded with French troops then?

Yes, most of us were brigaded among French troops. You know a place like Blanc Mont. We were the only American division that had a job and we walked into a trap and we held it. We held “The Box,” cut down and cut down and cut down. We were pulled out of that hole by America’s 36th Division, Oklahoma, Texas, National Guard, right off the boats – they came in there and pulled the craziest damnedest assault you ever saw without ever having heard gun fire. I mean they come off the boat. Some of them died on the boat from exhaustion. They assaulted right after they got in and that let us loose. With their arrival the Germans backed off and run another massive, twelve, thirteen kilometers away when that division came in. But the French didn’t free us. It was that Oklahoma, Texas, National Guard outfit.

I told you about a fluke. I told you about a silver star for one guy and a [inaudible] for another on the fluke decoration. There was a little town, a little town named [inaudible] how could I forget it? It’s one of my silver stars out there across the [inaudible] in front of you. The ridge we’d taken was here. The valley was a sea. A giant checkered board of trenches. I mean old, weed growth - deep. We come off the ridge. We’d been counter attacked several times. Marines don’t retreat. But when they get down to where you are low on manpower. You can stop them dead, see. So we were out there in an out form position. Heinny counter attacked, which he had learned to do. We counter attacked just at sunset. He got to us, but didn’t get through us. The first time I ever saw Marines run. We got a bunch of green guys just off the transports. We held it! We got the word along our line on the old trench. Two, three men at a time dropped back - back along the ridge. We could hold it from here to there with rifle fire. We were too spread out.

Well, sergeant comes along. He said to Jack, “You and Mack take three of the new men and slip away. Get out of here. Go back up on the ridge. The rest will be up as soon as they can." It was noon and the sun was directly up overhead. The trenches wound all over hell. The ridge was up there, but you’d go down another trench damn near as deep as this room and the sun is up high you don’t see which way the shadow’s going and the trenches wind all over hell. So Jack’s leading. I got three green ass guys - scared shitless - who had just come up off the lines within the last 48 hours. You can imagine how scared we were. Jack’s leading. Got three men between me and Jack and I’m bringing up the tail end. We were in this old trench with wanderers and we wandered with them. They were forgotten. Jack stalling up the trench with a 45 in his hand and all of a sudden he comes around the corner. POW! POW! POW! He hit that dead German about three times so God damn fast it made him dizzy. Jack was a dead shot. Well, we had attracted fire out there in those trenches - shellfire. We got one man pretty bad, the one man slightly and they were no use to us. Why we kept on going, I do not know. Almost certain we had a village ahead of us. It had Germans in it. We knew damn well it had. Why do a couple of damn fools keep on going? The trench we were in began to taper shallow.

We were up within striking distance of the last building, the furthest building out from the center of the village; it was only a small village. I still don’t know why we did it. They let us come. It shelled out to virtually nothing. We were all in, 100 yards of the nearest building and we were a long way across the valley from our own people. They decided to kill us. They shelled us. They machined us - machine-gunned us. I lay in a shallow trench, which was about like that. I’d say that deep. A package of cigarette papers felt awful thick. [There was] a patch of weeds growing right at a curve. They moved those off and dropped them on my face. They cut them off with a machine gun and dropped them in my face. Jack was laying the other way from me - slightly higher, a little on the back of a bank. He was screaming at me, “One finger, one finger, god damn and you can go to the [inaudible]. One finger!” I mean they were mowing me, mowing us both of us. This bank was a slightly deeper place. You're laying on your back, hands crossed, snuggling up under the bank and they just cut the top of the bank off. They threw it on top of him and I ducked away from the machine gun. They still didn’t hurt us. I said, “Jack, there’s a sweet little Christmas tree out there a few yards. I’m going to make a run and get back of that thing and see if I can’t get a bead on that gun.” He said, “You damn fool, you’ve lived this long. Stay where you are. Don’t you go over there.” I said, “Well, I think if I get over by that little tree I can get a shot at that gun.” He said, “Stay where you are!” Within a few minutes a shell hit right on that tree and turned it into a nipped skeleton what had once been that pretty little Christmas tree.

I was a smoker, pipe smoker. I filled my pipe, fished around and had no matches. Jack, as I say, was lying on his back. “Come on Jack. Fish me out some matches.” To do so he had to pull up his ankles and turn his ass. “God damn you, every time I get comfortable, you light that god damn pipe.” Just as he did, a shell broke right there. Right where his crossed ankles had laid. We dug out a piece of steel, a shell, ten to twelve inches long that came down edgewise right where his ankles had been. He told me about it after the war. Jack’s been dead since ’44. He died of cancer. But I won’t try to go into too many details on what happened. They didn’t send a squad down to get us. We began to understand after a while why not. The men began showing up. We were in a hell of a predicament - a perilous place. Sometimes there’s only one way to go and that’s forward. We went into that stone building, the two of us. We’d hold up and the Germans kept coming from house to house up the street. We realized we were being taken care of. Our boys back on the ridge, six to seven hundred yards away, aimed rifle fire. They said, “Oh! No you don’t.” When they came some were about done. We two guys slipped out of there. The rifle fire was just going over top of us. They could see us. They saw us leave and start to come back. We got citations for having gone into an enemy hill town on reconnaissance to estimate how many enemies were in the village. Hell, we didn’t go there for that purpose at all. We went there for souvenirs, I guess. I don’t know what the hell we went there for. I got a silver star and he got a [inaudible]. We used to write each other and laugh about those damn little things. They used so much ammunition that day that the whole German army retired the next day because they didn’t have anything to shoot with. They shot it away on two guys. But we did each get a citation out of it.

Where were you previously?

I think in October we were in the Somme Salient, weren’t we? No, in October that was the Blanc-Mont up in the Champagne Region. St. Mihiel was the 12th of September. It was a big sham battle. Everybody in the world knew Americans were attacking, including the Germans. They were all packed up and ready to go. The resistance they gave us was just enough to hold us back so we didn’t come too fast. Well, that day it was scheduled. It was going to take us 48 hours to work our way back to the Salient. The 9th and 23rd infantry led off the smash. It was their turn to lead off the attack. They led off the attack around pretty close to 6:00 in the morning. At sunset, they’d gone clear to the back of the Salient for the whole 48 hours. It was always, always, up above 12 to13 hours. They not only took their objectives, but they kept on going and took ours. I remember so well that we [inaudible] one place about 3 kilometers and only lost one man and that was to a stray shell. We had a vacation a sham battle and that place was full of stories too - just full of stories.

Now I’ll pick up again while what you were saying on the Somme Salient in September I believe, of 1918.

The 12th of September, I remember, late, late in the afternoon, very late in the afternoon before the evening, 9th and 23rd infantry were looking up ahead along the railroad bank and seeing the regulars charge that railroad bank and get hit and roll down, watching the Americans die along that railroad bank. But they carried it, and kept going. They took the Chateau at [inaudible] and in turn we deployed our battalion’s troops on the [inaudible] ridge and off to the left. I can’t tell you the name of the ridge. So we ended up that night, after we got dug in, holding. That [inaudible] ridge and further positions over to the westward of us.

The battalion’s headquarters was located in the Chateau building. The Chateau had a headquarters, a German headquarters. It had been a field station crew, dressing station. The beds - there were beds unoccupied with the sign below showing what the man had been hit with. This man was a pistol wound and somebody else was a bullet wound. The beds were there. Woody Wilson, Woodrow Wilson, of Cleveland threw down his pack and walked down to the bed. Boy, [inaudible] she’s a sick woman. If you don’t believe it, I got my monthlies. The crazy bastards. We bunked down in that Chateau. We were hungry. We had eaten up all our army rations the first two days, the first day or day and a half. Couldn’t get supplies to us. The crossroads were under shellfire. We couldn’t get our wounded out. Harley Gate [?] of Michigan was a runner. He got hit coming across an open place. A piece of steel went in Bubba’s knee and went out the other side and didn’t hit the leg. He wrapped a rag around himself and kept on crawling and came in with his message. We bandaged him up, put him down in the old wine cellars, deep cellars. The Chateau stood right on a giant rock. The cellars were three stories deep underneath them down to the river. A civilian population, a lot of civilians, were housed down in there. We had a few of our wounded, and a sick man.

Jack asked me afterward in Holland, Ohio, “Do you remember the one man who escaped shellfire, come up to the chateau and got one man.” I said, “Ya” “Do you want to meet that man?” “He is sorting mail in the post office in the booth next to me!” We shook hands. I said, “What the hell’s the story?” He said, “Mac, this was the first piece of food we ever had.” He said, “They sent in to get him, took him out through [inaudible], so he wouldn’t contaminate the rest of us.”

We put Harley down in the cellar in a bunk and of course he fevered in shock. He was only a kid. Red Van Galder of the [inaudible]. We all loved Harley. Red was a sergeant runner. Red Van Galder got on his knees alongside the bunk with a crock of water and dipped a rag in the cool water and put it on his forehead. You couldn’t do anything, with him cause you couldn’t get your wounded out. He was a brave little bastard. “Ah, this don’t amount to anything. This is just a good [inaudible]. I’ll be back up the lines in 30 days.” Red lay there loving him like a brother. He said, “Listen you little bastard, you been a good soldier. You’re just a kid. You’ve had to run away from home to get here.” He said, “Now I’m just telling you, if we ever catch you up front again we’ll kick your ass clean up over your shoulders.” He said, “Don’t worry Red. I’m coming back. I can’t leave my outfit. I’m comin back.” I can remember Red hugging him and saying, “Damn you. If we ever catch you on the lines again, you’re going to get your ass kicked.” It looked bad for us that next night. I give Harley my last 20 francs and my wristwatch. I figured I wasn’t going to need them anymore.

Big Chateau it was a big place. It’s in this thing. You’ll find the stuff. In one of the bedrooms was a woman’s nightgown and so forth. Somebody combatting, those heinny bastards lived real good. Didn’t they? Somebody finally told us. There’s a woman among the refugees in the cellar - and was a damn good looker. She was an attractive thing. When we took the place, there was two wooden barracks on in the garden. There were two dead German soldiers in the bunks. There was a hospital barracks out in the garden. Two dead Germans out there. A shell had hit the big stable and killed a big mare and she died with her colt hanging out of her and the big male farm horse was dead and 3 to 4 goats, a couple pigs and a German officer and two boys out in the garden. So we took a detail out into the garden. A great big shell [inaudible] and hauled in the horses and so forth with a rope or by hand or however you could get them. So we pitched them in a hole and pitched the Germans in with them and covered them up in the garden. The three-story building was stone. A shell came over, got the corner, spilled the [inaudible] there above the garden and killed two of our men. We dug graves and put them away before we quit for the day. In the stables, after getting the dead stuff out - was a flock of goats. One known nanny with nice tits and a good bag. In fact, he was thirsty and hungry. We all were. I write up in the story that he had a way with women. Anyway he coaxed her, he supported her, he babied her, and he petted her. He set the canteen cup on a window ledge - a great big thick wall at the corner of the stable. He put his canteen cup of milk up there, got some hay with oats, and paid the little ole nanny goat for his milk. He walked outside full of thirst and the sons of bitches had drank every drop of it. And [They] stood back laughing and oh that boy was furious. If he’d found out who stole that milk and oh he was furious. In the place we found a great big hogs head, fifty gallon or more is a big hogshead - half full of apple butter. We also found in the place a lot of German black bread. German army bread was black and thick. Typical potato bread is very nourishing - rather bitter to eat but very nourishing. But we ate great big thick slices of bread covered with thick slabs of apple butter which was spoiled. In damn short order we were a bunch of drunks. Spoiled apple butter smeared onto this black bread staggering around the place.

Now that’s a human interest story.

Alright. Just a little human interest story that you wouldn’t get any other way.

They got the ambulances through and brought Harley up the winding stairs, cold, damp, mildewed and deep. Brought him up in the civilian support. I was on the stairs and trotted out of the way to get out of the way to let the stretcher come around and bring him upstairs. He was shaking hands with us. Red was carrying his hand. A couple of us had the stretcher on the outside of the ambulance. You couldn’t take it out to the courtyard but we could take it down the street that way into the village cause the road came across and way up into the village and back up to the chateau. This was a shear drop about 50 to 60 feet down to the river. [There were] two bridges. Heinny wanted those two bridges. They had built one and the French civilian population had one. The two bridges ran like that in a “V” and they fired there for four days and never got either bridge. But they were after the bridges, not after us, but the chateau was in the way. So, they started in to get those bridges and that’s another story, I’ll get back to that. As they carried Harley up the stairwell, this beautiful girl laid her hand on his forehead. She was nicely dressed - laid her hand on his forehead as he went by. He’s just a sweet kid. I never saw him again. Don’t know anything more of his story. But on the stairs, one of the old grandmas stumbled and started to fall. This woman jumped in and grabbed her and you’d a thought hell broke loose. What names they called her I do not know. She just backed off in the corner. They just mauled her - they abused her. This German officers they just stood and abused her terrible.

When we got the wounded out and the civilians they must have figured it was alright. They began coming up out of the cellar and half way down through the village and down the prayer stone steps onto this road across these bridges and disappeared down the valley. The girl came up and went out on the courtyard above the bridges and stood there looking downward into France all by her stony lonesome and by her stony wall. Quite a picture. The boys were looking her over. Some were saying what a nice piece it would make and it would. She wasn’t encouraging anybody or anything. She was just minding her business and so were we. After a while she came up around the chateau and into the garden. She stood over the grave where we put the animals and officers and enlisted men. [She went] across the courtyard and down half way into town down the steps down in the valley across the bridges Just as the last of day, you could see that figure walking into the darkness down in the valley. A human interest story, huh?

Hmmmmm. Nowhere else would we have gotten it except out of your memory or somebody else’s.

I went out of the building, three stories high, built of stone. Oh you, you can’t [inaudible] on the skipper story. We was up on the lines and had no food. Clevenger was with one of his men and so was I. I was up on the lines with a message. He said, “Come here Mackin, peer your head around the corner just to a little pile of dirt. Those sons of bitches have fired seven shells right here where I am and not a damn one of them went off. Just count the holes, seven duds. "You know we can thank some good French prisoners for that.” When a shell was a dud we thanked the Frenchman that were being made to make them right in Belgium. Because they did have a surprising amount of dud material.

Anyway, he said “Anything to eat down in that town?” Boy, last night we had our belly full of black bread and apple butter.” “Good boy, what the hell’s the use of having 2-3 good men like you down around that place if you’re going to let the captain starve to death,” he said. I went down to town and I went to Clevenger come up near and told him about it. He said you guys watch things I’m going down into the village. He come back, he had potatoes till September. He had potatoes, turnips, and two rabbits. We had a kitchen we were using it for headquarters too. There was a big kitchen. The enlisted men was the cook for the major and his officers. We enlisted men had one side of the building. The officers had the other. No real division between the two. We had a lieutenant who had been a corporal at Belleau. He got a battlefield commission. I won’t use his name. He got a battlefield commission and a Croix de Guerre held at Hill 142 and took his promotion and he would never make an officer. He wouldn’t make a patch off of an officer’s ass. He might have been a good solider but he wouldn’t make an officer and he was trying and he was the battalion adjunct and he was ready to kiss the backside of any real officer that was around the place.

Clevenger took these rabbits and dressed these rabbits and went into the kitchen to get the cook to cook them for him. They smelled like a million dollars. Two rabbits all out in nice quarters were fried and Clevenger stood there with his wicker basket. He had a round basket, a woven basket and he was waiting for the rabbits to fry. Lieutenant came out (sniffed) “My” he said, “Something smells good. What have you got there cook?” He said, “I’m cooking some rabbits for Clevenger.” “Huh,” he says, “Don’t let those get away. We’ll serve those to the officers’ mess.” The cook was more or less helpless. Clevenger he was a deadly son of a bitch. Clevenger was deadly. He was a mountaineer and he was an expert shot, and he was an expert with a knife. He was an expert shot with a pistol or a rifle. He said “West." He didn’t say Lieutenant West. Walked over and picked up a long tined kitchen fork like that. He said, “West, one piece at a time no hurry into the basket.” West just stood there, West knew that he could die right there because Clevenger was that kind of a guy. Clevenger took his basket of rabbits and his potatoes and turnips and went up on the hill and shook his hand at the skipper.

Next night we got word they were going to counter attack. So they took the whole damn headquarters detachment out of the building except the Lieutenant - a brand new man, the Lieutenant and four runners. In case anybody come in from regimental for a message, that could be relayed out from the Chateau out to the lines. Part of the help had gone. I was one of the four men left inside and these big shells were coming in and I mean they tore the building down - a three-story building down. They tore it down over our heads and we were in this one room - a big window, oh, a great big window and all sealed up with blankets on this courtyard. Arthur Grimm and Pollthar Grimm - two Grimm brothers out of Cleveland, myself, and Hackey were in there with this Lieutenant. These shells kept slamming in, coming over the top of the building and tore out part of the courtyard and piled the courtyard wall right into the valley and Grimm said, “God damn it Lieutenant, will you do me a favor?” “What do you want Clevenger?” “Will you get your ass away from that wall from under that window and get over here with the rest of us?” He said, “Well why?” “Well, Jesus Christ, man if a shell ever hits outside there, you’re dead!” The guy thought it over, picked up his stuff and come along the side of the building like us. Shell come over and hit right outside that God damn window and removed the frame, casing, and everything else and threw it right out on top of us - right in on top of us right in that room. One guy was buried you could hear his muffled voice as we was trying to pull blankets and glass, frame and stove off the top of him. It was Polthar Grimm, and he was cursing like nobody’s business. The sons of bitches had cut that finger. His index finger was bleeding and he was so damn mad to think they had finally wounded him. All these little human interest stories.

That’s it. They’re all so wonderful. They don’t seem humorous at that given moment, but looking back on them they are quite humorous. Or did they seem humorous?

Yes, you laughed. You laughed in the face of death. I’m skipping one on Clevenger. Oh hell, you know only to laugh or cry.


I’m skipping one on Clevenger. I’m going back to July. So, I think July 19 at Vierzy. That’s when we tried the break through on the Chateau Thierry Salient coming in toward night, coming in from Soissons to cut off the German army. You don’t cut off a German army. They let us in from both sides. They had a full retreat, but they stopped us. They stopped us at Vierzy. We were dug in on a crest of the hill at Vierzy. A little town named [inaudible] right out across the wheat fields - 600 to 800 yards away, full of Germans. The boys were sniping at them.

The Germans formed up, went into the village and around the village. We knew a counter attack was coming and we were up there. We weren’t in very good strength in there. Coming up the road into Vierzy was a battery of French 75s, horses at full gallop, you know. Rippity rip! A major sent a runner down to stop them to explain if he could that the Germans were massing up over at [inaudible]. to come at us across the wheat. [It was] just late afternoon. He stopped them. They wheeled their guns and unhooked. Four French officers spread a map, about that big, on the ground near talking and just tabulating what to do next. The guns started to fire. There was a German standing up overhead spying and a shell hit right on the map. There was four dead men, some scraps of paper. Just that quick. Clevenger grabbed himself around the guts and laughed and laughed and laughed hysterically he laughed. We were all shocked. Four men had died. As we looked at them right down below the hill, right down there. Finally he said, “For Christ’s sake, Gene what is there to laugh about? What’s so funny?” He says, “Oh gees, I bet those bastards were surprised.” Oh boy!

That’s the humor of war isn’t it? That’s the humor of war!

That’s the humor of war.

Clevenger and Levins stood up in the wheat after the guns broke up the attack and they went back toward [inaudible]. Clevenger and Levins stood up in the wheat after the guns broke up the attack and went back toward [inaudible]. Clevenger and Levins stood up, now they were cutting up wheat around us with machine gun bullets heads flip down and flop on top of us. Most of us were damn glad to be down. Clevenger and Levins both expert shots and mountaineers - both of them mountaineers standing up there with their slings adjusted shooting with “Springfields.” “Got one Gene!” “Oh hell, I got two!” “Hell, I got three Gene.” “Hell, I got four.” Gene says, “Watch this one.” There’s a heinny. I mean he’s heading for a hole in the wall at [inaudible]. Gene says, “Come on you son of a bitch. Hurry up.” “POW!” The dirt kicked right under his feet. The bastard let out in a dash you know. He was already tired out. He runs a slow stomper. Clevenger said, “Come on you’re slowing down bastard.” “POW!” The guy - he put him in the gas again. Heading right toward a place where a shadow put a hole right in the wall of the village. Just as he got to that place to dive in. Clevenger said, “I’m going to scare the shit out of him, right.” “POW!” “POW!” He just knocked plaster off both sides of the poor guy when he dove. Didn’t shoot him.

Tape 2 Side 2

This is a little story Mr. Mackin is telling us about the use of switching from Marine green uniforms to Army khaki uniforms.

That was in September, just before the drive on St. Mihiel. We got a bunch of new men, fresh from the states. Just off the transports and dressed in greens and we had been moving up toward the front -moving at night and hiding out in the woods by day to cover the movement. We were on the top of a hill and in a grove of trees. When this column of green plaid troops came up the valley and they were Marine recruits - one of the replacement battalions. We flopped over to the side of the road to see them and kid them and call them names. “Marine, Huh!” “Who the hell ever heard of Marines?“ What are you - Cuban Army volunteers?” Any insult we could think of insulting the Marine Corps. We were having a lot of fun because we were in Army uniforms. One young guy pops up and says, “Shut up you drafted sons of bitches.”

We stayed in Belleau Wood actually until the 5th of July in 1918. Personally, I was lost between the lines on the night of the 4th of July 1918 with a detail of men and came very very close possibly to capture. On a previous night men of our 17th company had just at sundown made a quick attack on a German outpost and were holding it. It was imperative that these men, the 17th Company, be fed, because they needed food, water and ammunition. It was a runner’s job always to know as far as possible to know the trails at the points of departure and movement in no man’s land. I had personally gone with the little attacking force when they carried that outpost on the previous day. Therefore I was leading the relief force rationing detail back to that outpost - through the wheat near Torcy. We had a detail of twenty men, including a sergeant. They were all brand new - right off the boats. It was all new and frightening to them. It was bad that they had to be used for a job of this sort, but they had to be used. They were immediately in action. They were loaded with bundles of French army bread with canned goods and with big GI cans of coffee carried by two men. They moved like burdened camels. With their rifles slung over their back, carrying this water supply, coffee, food and ammunition out to the outposts. With a detail of that sort, the runners are in charge.

Therefore, going out to the outpost I was leading and in charge. Private Durry [?] brought up the tail end of the line, giving us a guide on either end. We went out through the lines of the 67th Company. Red Van Gaulder went with us down to the outpost, the final firing line and wished us well. We went out into the wheat of "no man’s land" toward what we came to call, “The Battleship Island.” It was a three- cornered grove of trees and rocks set in a sea of wheat - somewhat of a landmark. We knew to go out to the near corner and then skirt its western edge and go out to the point. We call the “flat iron point.” They had various names for these things, but they’re the names we had among ourselves. We went to the point of the flat iron, thence turn - almost sharp right to cross the big French road which comes down from Soissons and goes to Paris. We and our men were nervous. They kept bunching up. They were making a terrible amount of noise and there was always a danger of running into a German Patrol in a place like that. The Germans did from time to time have little floating machine gun crews that sometimes came amazingly close and you didn’t know when you were going to run on to them. Our job was to deliver our goods and not to fight unless we had to. It was almost impossible to stop the men from bunching up. I personally came to the shadows of the edge of that highway along this line of great shade trees and paused to let the column close in. I explained quietly and passed the word that we would cross that road a man or two at a time - going rapidly like shadows and gather on the far side. This green, new sergeant and he was the only authority these men knew. He was frightened, became rattled. He come up the line and said, “You bastards are lost. You don’t know where in hell you are.” “Let’s go back to the lines.” I tried to reason with him. But the men became restless. They knew him. They knew his voice and out there in that moonlight, we were in a terrific spot, twenty-two of us. He and nineteen of his men and Howard Durry? and myself. Durry come up from the foot of the line to see what the delay way. Just at that moment the sergeant said, “God damn it,” I said. “You’re lost and I’m going to yell and someone from the outpost will come and get us.” Before he could open his mouth Durry clapped his hand across his mouth, slammed a 45 into his guts. Held him. He said, “You son of a bitch.” One murmur I’m blowing your guts right out through your ribs.” I said. That stopped any action or movement on that part of the men and finally Durry slacked his hold slightly but he kept his hand on the man’s collar. The understanding that he, they were going to be together. I slipped across the road and men came to me 1-2 at a time. We gathered on the far side, I wasn’t far from the outpost. I led off and walked up into a bunch of rocks, and brush and so forth. No movement, no sound, no nothing. I whistled with a voice almost. Almost at my side said, “God damn your time.” I said. That sergeant, I think it was John Aylers, an old timer, said, “unload it, stack it.” “Get your asses out of here.” I said. Men began slipping off the knoll. We got rid of our supplies, formed our column and Durry led off back toward the highway.

Back across the highway and by chance he took the wrong trail in the wheat. I was bringing up the tail end and after a bit I realized that we were taking the wrong direction. We were traveling in a slow curve up toward German lines. Before I could pass the word to halt, the line came to a halt and everybody was lying down. I slipped up to the head of the line to Durry who came part way to meet me. He said, “Slim we’re lost.” “Where are we?” I said. “That’s German wire right there in front of you.” “If you listen carefully, you’ll hear voices.” We did! We could hear the voices, they were kind of concerned. There was something going on out in front of them. They might have let out and let loose of a machine gun at any time, but they didn’t. We whispered the line in that movement backward. Turned the other way and left there creeping through the wheat. Again I was in the lead because I had been in the tail position. We got back to “Flat Iron Island” or “Battleship Island” when we turned that corner. By that time we were running because in those days heinny just blessed everything with a shower of shrapnel at certain hours. You could almost set your watch by him and he was overdue. We didn’t want to be away from cover or shelter out in the open at such a tie. We came back to the line over a little dirt-covered footbridge. A gap in the wire and Red Van Gaulder was counting us, “18, 19, 20, 21, 2…..” Where the hell you been slim?” “You’re short a man.” “We were!” Red took the detail back up to the battalion PC. Durry and I went back into the wheat. We found B.B. Johnson of St. Louis. In the hurry and excitement he’d worked up side pains such as a runner gets and he quietly stepped to one side in the shadows to catch his breath and we’d left him. We had to account for him of course. He was delighted to see us. We took Johnson back through the lines.

You guys had guys! To go back out there again to find a man. But you would do it, of course, naturally.

We were in charge of that detail.

So you accounted for every many when you returned from a detail, one way or another. Yes, you didn’t go away and leave him. You see in our outfit, I don’t know. I don’t know how they do it. I don’t know how it’s done. If you’re in a tight spot and there’s ten of you, or five of you, or two of you. You don’t look around to see if the other guy ran away, because he didn’t. If he isn’t firing, he’s dead! You don’t give a thought to being deserted at a hot point of action. He is with you and you have that confidence in him no matter who he is.

Can I digress a moment to ask a question that’s popped into my mind from your experiences? Now maybe you can’t really answer this. Was there a distinctive difference between the army regulars in combat and the draftees? Or were they?

Largely yes. You see the brunt of the action of the campaigns of 1918 was carried by certain divisions that were credited with being assault divisions and generally the regular army divisions, including ours, were given the jobs of the initial assaults. It was the job of those certain divisions to cut the hole in the enemy lines. Other troops could poor in behind you and occupy. But to cut the hole it took assault troops. There were two or three remarkably good National Guard Divisions and 2 or 3 remarkably good National Army, draft divisions. It all depends on training and leadership. But among the regulars it’s rather assumed that their training and their discipline is just paramount. You just don’t give much thought. You know they’re going to be there. They’re going to go. If they’re supposed to come and pull you out of a hole. They come and pull you out of a hole or they stay there with you. You have that feeling about regulars. Now, there were certain divisions we didn’t want near us. We didn’t want them around us. It is a shame after all these years to designate those by name. We ole timers know.

And did you have much confidence maybe this is long after so nobody’s going to worry about it. Do you have much confidence in the French on to your flanks?

I’m sorry to say they were virtually to be despised. The French, with the exception of the elite, the French outfit, the Alpine Chasseurs, and again certain French African troops.

The Foreign Legion made up of a variety of types of troops were always dependable and trustworthy. The Senegalese were some of the wildest, craziest, most courageous people I ever saw in action. But it’s not an easy thing to say. It seems to me that the French population, France had been bled white and hers was a bright, new, young force of well-fed men, well told, well fed. Come to make the world safe for democracy and devil let them have it. We had a feeling that when we were detached and loaned, and that is the word. Loaned temporarily to a French army. It was a little bit worried, something to worry about to know that you were the only outfit in that French army, that you were going to be used for an assault in conjunction with the French. I hate to say this but we came to feel that we would make our assault and the French would not move forward a foot. That happened to us, not once, but more than once.

So you’d get out and wouldn’t be protected then on the flank where they were supposed to come up? Is that it? Course they’d been in four years of fighting. I suppose some of them….

They just led an assault on that ridge, Blanc Mont Ridge in October, the 9th and 23rd Infantry of the regular army and the 6th regiment of Marines out their way - all the way up to the foot of the main ridge. The 5th Marines followed a long, suffering some casualties but not actually in action to make the actual final assault. We made that assault. We sustained in that place I believe the highest proportion of casualties the Marine Corps had ever known. But we did carry that ridge. Good ole heinny, always a professional, always a soldier stiffened up, backed away after he lost the ridge, backed away carefully, and held the French tight on either side and allowed what was left of our battalion to walk into a trap.

Now this was the famous box you talked about last eve?


Right? But this was not the lost battalion?

No! Excuse me but we have a sense of humor in the Marine Corps. We do not have lost battalions. They know where they are.

I shouldn’t ask that question.

Well, I want to tell one that’s told about General John A. LeJeune at that place, about that point. The story is told of him that he was catching a little sleep, catching a little sleep under the railroad underpass and someone greatly concerned shook him awake and said, “Colonel, there’s a battalion of Marines surrounded on the other side of the ridge.” LeJeune said, “God help those Germans.” Rolled over and went back to sleep. That’s one of the stories about John A. LeJeune.

“God help those Germans.” Here I am digressing again. I was talking about that ration detail being lost between the lines on the night of July 4, 1918. On the 5th, we were all pulled out of there. If I remember the Yankee, the Yankee, the 26th Yankee a National Guard Division. Came in and took over the lines and we were pulled out and pulled back to the Marne River and had a few meals and thought we were going to Paris. The talk in the ranks was we were being relieved. We were going to Paris. Everybody was heading for Paris. Late one afternoon they broke us out in columns and took us down a road. We come to a curve in the road; this show is up Capt. John Dumminger Thomason story. Somebody said, “Uh oh, look at those damn cam[?].” And there was apparently miles and miles and miles of French Army came[?]. We knew we were needed someplace badly and we were gonna go there in a hurry. Incidentally those came[?], they did not run on gasoline. They ran on charcoal. They were equipped with little charcoal machines and they were crewed by two an[?]. Two an[?] to a unit. There was room in the seat for three men. So the officer or noncom of your detail, he had a chance to ride up in the cab with the two an[?].

The rest of us were loaded in packs, jammed on top of each other into the, what we now call a squad car, and just piled up to it. There was no circulation you could scarcely move. And finally that long line of cam[?] took off. We didn’t know too much. We hadn’t been told. But we went around to the southwest turned north. Which we later came to realize was up, we were going up in the direction of Soissons. And we rode all night. And we rode all day. And we rode up into the next night. And we didn’t stop at any point for any food. We were dying of hunger and thirst and weariness when they unloaded us in a forest. Very few of us had any idea where we were. We got food. We got rest. We realized we were in a great movement of troops pouring northward. We could hear the guns in the front quite some distance from us. We were well back. But we were headed towards a great forest. Which is to say that it was the Villas? Cot[?]Woods which lies virtually within sight of the outskirts of Soissons and to the southward of Soissons. It was, it is a magnificent beech forest. A great old giant beech trees with their light colored bark and not too much of underbrush.

When we were finally turned loose to head up to the actual lines we were given a privilege which many a European troops never seemed to have. We were lectured in small groups. We were shown maps and maps weren’t plentiful. We were told that we were going into that patch of woods and it was German occupied, held in part by the French and part by the Germans. That the direction of the attack would be straight north and the first objective would be to the clearing of the far edge of the Villas Cotteras Woods[?]. The drive will then take a ride bike passed through and beyond a little farm community named Laundupont[?] and cross the main highway below and head eastward. The first objective to clear the woods, the second objective to clear this highway, third objective part of the day was to be the town of Vierzy. We were told which direction we’d be in advised that we’d become scattered. We’d become lost. They did everything possible to make a runner see where troops could or would be. They tried to give you a certain amount of orientation by saying now you, after the woods are cleared here, the direction will be east and how fast things will go, we do not know. But your battalions and companies will be out there somewhere ahead of you and if you have to contact them you’ll have to go where you hear the guns. They put us on the road. We were late. And we hiked, and we hiked, and the French were in there with the artillery. A Senegalese were there. To the best of my knowledge certain elements of the Foreign Legion were there. We didn’t know it then, but off to our left were the American First Division. The “Big Red One”. We didn’t know they were there. We just simply hiked our asses off to get to a given point in time for zero hour. We almost didn’t make it. We were on a road and on that road ahead of us was a breast work of stone. We didn’t know it then but that breast work was the actual firing line. That stone was torn out of the road and piled up, and the Germans were on the other side of it. As the column come up the road, a single shell came in and hit right into a squad. Everybody seemed to know where they were supposed to go because instantly the road was empty. There wasn’t a man on it, except those who had been hit. The companies just swung into skirmish lines on either side and disappeared and everything was quiet.

As a runner, I was called before the major to explain that when the barrage came we were to sit tight. When the barrage lifted, the assault would follow the barrage through the woods and I was to go forward with the company. Two companies ___ of the battalion, to the edge of the woods, the first objective. I was to check with any officer near me as to the occurrence time and make my way back down along the margin of that road knowing that I would run onto the headquarters group also coming forward. I left the major. I went forward to be with the front elements. Things were quite quiet. There was a man scattered here, a man scattered there, a man back of this tree, a man back of that tree. Somebody down back of the stump. But I was looking for a company officer. Soon I was alone, and I was making my way through the woods. Still looking for somebody to be with. There was a yell behind me. I looked back and a figure jumped up and hooked his arm. Come back out of there, and in the instant I had turned to note that Callback a cypress bullet crashed and I know he thought he hit me because the bullet just passed my head. At the crack of his rifle, I went down. I fell in the brush at the edge of the road. He got the one shot at me. He knew he had me and he didn’t. I got back. I had passed right through the line and was walking right in on the Germans and they were waiting for me. That sniper was waiting for me. (P.K.) Your Irish luck held up there, didn’t it? (J) That’s my Irish luck! That’s why they name me, they gave me the nickname of “Lucky Mackin” and I mean it stayed with me. I was just born with a horseshoe in my diapers. I didn’t anymore then get back, but where I realized I was on a line with the infantry companies. And when that barrage hit. Among us there were watches that stopped on that instant that never ran again. I was on my feet when that barrage started and I was hurled to the ground with force of the explosion. I was stunned. For a while I was utterly unable to regain my feet because, that smashing artillery barrage was tearing that woods to chips right in front of us. Literally tearing it into chips. Great sections of beach trees came crushing down. It turned into a tangle of time. It literally crushed the German front line. He broke and retreated and I do not remember the time. I checked with the lieutenant when I saw that we were coming out into the open and checked with him as to when a, I told him I’d turn back and go down through the woods along the road till I met the major with the departure time. He roughly pointed eastward and said, “We’ll be going in that direction.” That’s all I knew at that time.

I was always observing things. Here was a remains of a beautiful home in a wide deep yard, shrubbery, landscaping. A gutted remains of what had evidently been a 3-4 story beautiful place. It was interesting. You don’t find many burned out houses in a country like that, that is full of stone. Built of stone, with the stone walls were standing with the chimneys. On this an iron fence along the outside of it on the mortar on the iron fence had partly been dismantled.

Lovely woman walking the paths and I spoke to her. A Yankee was new to her when she came to me talking English and we walked that yard together. Their daughter had been in England as a student. Her husband was a native Belgian. She was an English woman married to a Belgian. I discovered that he was in the underground. They came to get him. He resisted. She showed me where he died right on the front sidewalk where they killed him. He knew better than to surrender. She lived in a little outhouse in the back of the property. I got onto that simply because in another part of that little town in Lillagaro, Gilgar celebrated Thanksgiving Day with chicken dinner with Harlan Hower Harris out of Stowe Vermont, one of the finest kids I ever knew and bitter. I mean bitter, bitter as some men do turn bitter and we got to talking with people in the town Luxembourgers, Belgians and they told about the Germans coming back off the lines groping, hanging on each other in viles. Blind, blind, blind, with American gas. They could tell us how horrible the American gas had been and really I guess we really had some. Hell it was used. I mean when the Germans got the taste of American gas, they got gassed. I don’t know much about gas except I had my gas training and so forth. Now, where are we Doctor and what do you want to do?

Tape 3 Side 1

We left off at the artillery barrage into the beach trees in the woods and you were to head eastward, so we can pick up at that point.

I did make my way back through the woods and met Major Hamilton reported the clearance time and he told me to proceed back across the fields in the general direction and locate the companies, check with the line officer and again report back that he would be coming across country and would probably be out as high as the Soissons Road.

Now Major Hamilton was the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion. Terrell had been promoted to Lt. Colonel. So I left out across the fields. I want to take a little aside here; it’s not really out of the side, its part of the story. In my time up and down the western front. I never knew but about two days, in fact, two parts of days where America and France controlled the air. I was aware that we as a people gotten together 3 billions of dollars to buy airplanes, to build airplanes under the slogan, “Put out the eyes of the German army.” Here I was in Europe on the western front and there was nothing at all wrong with the eyes of the German army. Their planes held the air virtually every day we were at the front, except a brief half day on those wheat group fields on Soissons. Another brief day at a Blanc Mont Ridge back in October. Aside from that we simply knew the Germans had the air and they held it and they fought for it. I witnessed many, many dog fights.

It was blazing hot summer weather open wheat country. Rolling knolls covered with wheat. Certain amount of shade along that Soissons Road but the Germans had sawed down these magnificent old shade trees and toppled them. Across the road for better than a quarter mile to stop to block the approaches to Soissons. Incidentally we could see the outskirts of Soissons to our left and in the distance to the north of us. I got to that road, took time to rest out of the blazing sun. Couldn’t find any water. Canteen was empty. Laid quietly among the down trees in semi shade to rest for a while. Up the road, way up the road beyond the down trees a machine gun, a German machine gun rattle and the bullets come plowing right down that line of downed trees. I got the hell down off the side of that road.

I became aware of the tanks. Little French, whippet, two man tanks. Little fellers. I was enthralled at watching them in action. I was appalled at watching the effect of German gunfire on those tanks. A tank or two or three would roll across the wheat field and a single tank would come on top of the knoll and hienny hit him. And when he hit him he squatted and he began to smoke. Those tanks were always followed by a crew of three or four men on foot. They would run to that burning tank and try to get the tank men out and often did, but the tank sat there on the knoll and burned and I can’t be sure of those figures but I understood that within our view the French lost 17 whippet tanks that afternoon. I have a faint memory of hearing bagpipes and way out to the left what was told were British troops were closing into their right to cover our flank. That was the only time I ever heard bagpipes at the front. Also, I became aware that off there to that left below those troops if they were British were coming lines and lines and lines, wave after wave of American infantry. In checking I found that was the infantry of the “Big Red 1”. They were carrying our left flank forward. Later that day I was so thirsty that I did actually push the scum, the dead worms and the vegetation off the water of an old shell hole and drank the clear water underneath. In the story as the guy in the story, the runner come up the trench and a guy named Jim was dying that was part of the afternoon and that big big black Senegalese hit him in the crotch, dying hands gripped. No complaint, just pathetic patience. The blood squeezing between his fingers, black rich red blood, dripping, dripping, dripping. Here he was half squatted against the wall of the old trench, in that same trench further up after I got away from that threat of getting killed with these two German lads. So that story is in there.

That afternoon I never did catch up with the companies, rather the gunfire kept on ahead, always on ahead, always going ahead. Didn’t find any of the fighting companies, line companies and finally came to the outskirts of Vierzy. That was where that army, irate army, drizzled, bitter faced colonel came across the wheat fields in a stack car, the shells busting out around him. Terrall was still with us. Hamilton was the major and Terrall had been promoted and Terrall was with us. It was the first time that day I had saw him. The staff car came plowing into the outskirts of Vierzy and cloud of dust and we were in the ex-shelter of the ditches and a sniper was holding us from going anywhere and it was just a handful of runners and a group of officers. It’s in there, the story of the guy. “But they’re marines aren’t they?” “God damnit take that town!” and he meant it. Terrall use to soldier with his cigarette, he looked like a little dirty old hawk. He’d cock that cigarette up ____. Man, somebody blew a whistle and we started, another Mackin escape. That’s in the book too. Here’s a part that wasn’t in the book, I don’t think. ____ It’s alright son I want a machine gun. I brought up a machine gun rattled in into the walls of a brick wall of a factory building. The factory building held by Germans and somebody blew the whistle and it was time to go. I went around the corner of a factory building. A factory building held by Germans and somebody blew the whistle and it was time to go, and I went around the corner of that little stone building right behind a young sergeant and we went 15 or 20 feet and the bullets hit him. You could just hear them go thump, thump, thump, right into him. He threw up his hands, fell backwards into my arms. I went back and dragged backwards on his heels and around the corner of that building. I never got hit once and he was taking bullets all the time. He was dead to the best of my knowledge. Salasburry ran across a garden. A shell landed right underneath his feet as he ran, blew him into the air, he tumbled like a rag. I remember carrying him out. I never saw him again.

Hall, one of the runners, one of the runner group followed. Major Hamilton and Col. Terrall somewhere up in the village and we were aware that most of the machine gun fire was coming from the church tower. You take shelter, you take a curve in the street, you take advantage of it and duck over there to that walk to that side of the building. When you come to another curve you ducked across. Well, we were working our way up into the village when Hall was crossing the street when a machine gun caught him. They stitched him right across both legs upon the knees about half way up the thighs. I never saw him again.

We rushed the yard around that factory that brick walled factory and where the hell they come from, I don’t know. We suddenly, we had more damn prisoners than we knew what to do with. It was just a mob of them and not many of us. Because we’d made that attack with a bunch of runners and intelligence men, telephone men, signal men and what have ya. But fortunately our companies were off to the right up on the knoll and they saw our situation. They sent down a platoon and they sent some good rifle fire in there. But, in the one of the yards inside that factory on [?] came around the corner. The young German standing over the top of a maxi gun hands up “Comrade Comrade!” who told him to do what I don’t know. He dropped his thumbs on it. It sputtered and he died right there, he died on top of that gun, right where he was. Why did he do it? I don’t know. Somebody said watch him and my God I must had 50 or 60 men and there was enough German among us. They hollered “Line up!” had them practically in a squad column. I mean a company column, infantry column, 4 or 5 abreast on the street. Everything was quite, but there was only about 3 of us taking care of the bunch. I’ve often wondered why did they guy choose me. I’ll never know why the guy chose me, but that German Lt. walked right out of the ranks said “Hi buddy, I’m from Chicago.” “I was over here and got hooked into the God damn thing.” “Glad to see ya. I wanna give ya some cigarettes.” I said “Stay back heinny.” He said; “Oh hell, don’t take yourself seriously.” He was walking up on me. He was walking up on 15 inches of cold steel. Yet he saw that I was chicken. Do you believe that? He saw that I was chicken. Otherwise he wouldn’t have done it. I did something that was contrary to all my orders, and all my training, and all my discipline. I didn’t wanna hurt him. I backed off. I told him “Stay back God damn ya, stay back or I’ll kill ya!” And he had guts! He walked in on me again. That hand carrying part of a pack of cigarettes was out there for a grab. With that rifle, trying to get that close to me. When I swung, I swung a butt stroke bright up to the side of his jaw, just like that. He must have gone through the air I bet six feet before his shoulders hit the desk. He was just a trembling wreck. Some of his men dragged him in. We didn’t have any more trouble.

We went on through the town, through the cemetery up on to the hill. We could see Tigney out across the wheat ahead of us. The shells began coming in on us. The shells would miss the top of the hill. Smash into the cemetery below the hill, rip the old graves right open. Piled bones and boxes here and there. Knock over monuments. Somewhere right along our line, we had a Lieutenant named Mac. Beyond that I just don’t know if he was a new comer. One of these shells bored into the top of the hill and went off underneath him. Blew him through the air like a spread eagle right through the air and down. Went against the base of the wall. The wall around the cemetery. And he was practically stripped of flesh and cloth. He was just a wreck. A hunk of something blown right through the air.

In the excitement, in the travels and so forth. I want to enter a good a side right here at this point. I would remind my readers that Russia had been in the war until late 1917. What many people overlook was that Russia had sent a token army to France before it left the war.

I never have known just how many Russian troops were still with the French army, but they were serving with the French army all through that campaign of 1918. They were not dressed as French troops. They were dressed in a mustard color - khaki - a distinctly different mustard color khaki. On that highway and along those fields a guy hollered, “Hey yank, come here!” in English. I went over to a horse and a guy unstrapped one of these big one liter or two liter French army canteens. “Here you look tired have a slug of this!” I took a drink of venrough which is a French army ration wine. It nearly knocked me down, but it also braced me up. I was thirsty. I was hungry. I was weary and I was scared and he said he was from Buffalo and he was pleased to know that I had shipped out of Buffalo originally. He had worked in Buffalo. He had worked at the {inaudible] steel mills, outside of Buffalo. As a reservist he had made his way back to Russia early in the war and then been among what he said were approximately 5,000 Russians which were sent to France and were in service in France when Russia pulled out of the war. They continued to serve France.

Was he Polish?

No, a Russian.

He was a Russian.

A big husky Russian out of Buffalo, New York. You know among them prisoners, we met individuals every once in a while. There were lots of German reservists you know who made their way back home from America and Canada and other places. They were delighted to talk. They were delighted to talk.

Now this town you were just talking about, was this Vierzy?

Vierzy. You could look up on the map it’s on the railroad that runs from, I think it runs, I think the railroad runs from Paris to Soissons.

It will be in those maps in that book.

Ya, that railroad is in there. As is that highway from Belleau Wood up to Soissons. You know, a fella in my position has a very limited field of vision. A soldier, a line soldier, a rifleman does awfully well to see much more than 50 yards in front of him and for an indefinite depth forward. What he gets of a waming, he gets in a very limited manner. Ever realize that?

Right. Well that makes sense.

It took a while for me to wake up to the fact that I couldn’t see it all. You’re just seeing a little part of a little part to begin with.

I’ll refer to another part of this thing. Remember the story about the boy with no shirt, dripping water from his sunburn back? New kid, new at the front. That was his buddy. They put the shade over out by the cemetery wall. So far as impressions go and little memory instances that are worth recounting are concerned. I think I’ll now get away from the general theme of the story and rest for a while. My rifle number was 672036 issued to me in Paris Island. I had it clear through to the village of Joulney the following September. I lost it in the village of Joulney. In the courtyard of that chateau was a deep new, comparatively new cement pit of some sort - whether an ammunition pit or what. But it was well built, cement stairs, cement walls, cement top, but it was open - hell of a good place for shelter. Having business up on that Joulney Xammes Ridge and not having to carry a rifle unless I wanted to. I left my rifle, my pack, and such equipment as I had left down in that cement pit. When I came back down off the ridge a shell had hit directly on that entrance and my poor little old 672036 was buried in a rubble of concrete down in a hole. That was where I lost my rifle. There’s this about a rifle. In most anything that amounts to a damn in the line of action you can reach out and get a rifle. That’s one thing you can get is a rifle and ammunition. Ammunition for us, that’s rifle ammunition for us. We carried it by bales. We were known as “Pershing’s Ammunition Train,” “Walking Ammunition Trains.” Every man going to the front had the standard 100 rounds in his red belt, and two bandoliers at least of 60 cartridges per bandolier. Well, that gives you a lot, a lot of rifle power. You go through a whole battle, you can pass a trick only twice, a few times.

You use Springfields?

Yes. The regulars used Springfields, much of the National Guards used Springfields. The modified Enfield was more of the arm of the National Army troops, the draft army troops.

Now becoming a runner, as far as ground. For the life of me I just can’t tell you how I just got a hold of it. I got me a Colt 45 automatic and it had a long swivel type navy holster, clipped on your belt and tied on your leg. My 45 was strapped way down there, not up here where the conventional army holster is, mine was way down there. It was the envy of any number of the boys. Boy did I have to guard that thing to keep from losing it. And that leather flap; it had that leather flap topped over a button and I had a Marine Corps emblem in that leather flap. They became damn few and far between. I had to be careful to not lose my emblem, or my pistol, or my belt, or my holster, or my overseas cap. Cause I had a Marine emblem in that. And we’d steal those on each other. But God to keep a Marine emblem. One of these new men came in from the states and we’d bargain them out of everything they had that looked like Marine Corps stuff, then steal the rest of it.

Tape 3 Side 2

This is July, Friday the 13th, 1973. I am again interviewing Mr. Elton Mackin relative to his experiences as a Marine who performed during the first World War. And this morning we are going to begin with stories that revolve around a man named Swartzmen. So I’m turning it over to Mr. Mackin now and he can proceed with his vignettes on Swartzmen.

We finished our 12-14 weeks of boot training in Paris Island and prepared to leave for [?]. Unfortunately, the last few days I was there I’d developed quite a fever. I endeavored to hide the fact that I was all broken out with skin blemishes and I did succeed in hiding them until we came to our last inspection; physical inspection. A doctor looked out of the door of the medical building, and said, “Come here son!” Got me inside. Put me in the corner and set me in the chair. I broke down and cried cause I’d been sick then for 3-4 days. I had a massive dose of German measles. I was sick! I’d been sick and that sickened me because I knew the battalion would leave without me. So I was put in a tent, a quarantined tent - separated from my boot company - separated from the 89th Boot Company and Sgt. Wanscams and was a lost soul, feeling that in line of what they’d always told us about these things. Just as sure as you missed your departure with your battalion, you became a cook. You didn’t get a chance to go overseas. So I knew I was sentenced to be a cook or something around Paris Island for the time being. As soon as I finished up my two weeks of quarantine, I discovered that they had organized a casual company to go with the 3rd Replacement Battalion. The result was, we were left overs. We scattered ones were formed up into a casual company and shoved into Quantico, Virginia and attached to the 3rd Replacement Battalion, making in all five companies of infantry to go overseas at that time. I haven’t the exact figures, but we were probably pretty close to 1,500 men - because we were a four-company outfit. We had some big companies. We were only in Quantico a day or two. My other men had been there, my other comrades at boot camp had been in Quantico two weeks ahead of me and taken some extensive training. But when I caught up with them, I only had a matter of about 48 hours to be equipped, examined, inspected in full so that I could go with the battalion. And finally they got us ready to leave for League Island navy yard. They got us altogether in the Lyceum [?] building in Quantico. The departing troops were in chairs arranged in ranks on the floor. The families of many of the enlisted Marines,, the parents of a great many of our men, of our battalion and many of the officers and the other people of Quantico of the Marine Corps had seating. The had chairs around us and we had a songfest. There was “Kittie a K.T.” and some more and the Marine’s hymn. And one of the most touching things in my memory is the fact after the commanding officer at Quantico gave us a little address and wished us well and said, “We will, the battalion, will depart on signal.”

I had noted a curly headed handsome young officer who had been cleverly tickling the ivories. He was one of those types of fellas that radiated personality and charm - curly headed, a handsome young, male animal. And finally when we finished our singing the chaplain led us in “God be with you till we meet again” and of the closing verses the infantry companies booked out. When all good-byes had been said, we went directly to the train and left for [inaudible] Island navy yard, Philadelphia, headed for the transport. I had always remembered that young curly-headed, handsome, piano player and he stayed in my mind. I scarcely expected to ever see him again.

In October of 1918 up on the Champagne front we got ready to assault the Blanc-Mont Ridge. The attack was carried forward by the 9th infantry, the 23rd infantry of the regular United States Army and the 6th Marines. They fought their way through to the foot of the ridge. The final assault on the ridge itself with the double trench system along the top was left to be handled by the 5th Marines on the morning of October 4th. I don’t remember when this man Swartzmen showed up on my horizon again except that as a runner I was told that an officer had been attached to the battalion to act as an officer over the runner group. I didn’t really get more than a look at him. I met him in the half-light of very early dawn on the morning of October 4th and left with a message to the line captains. That when the barrage lifted and the assault was to go on up the slope.

The men of our battalion had come up onto that line during the night, passed through the 6th Marines and knowing they had the crest to take had edged forward, forward, forward from tree to tree, from clumps of brush, to old trench, to shell holes until they were literally massed right below the crest of the hill. And meanwhile, our artillery was cutting those two German trenches into shreds. Almost literally blowing the crest right off the ridge. However there were Germans up there and plenty of machine guns up there. The word had been that when the barrage had lifted, we were to go forward. To the best of my knowledge there never was any whistle or any order. Our barrage began to slack and just that suddenly we were caught in what is called “drum fire.” And drum fire is a concentration of every enemy gun within range of all types, all kinds, all sizes, hurled onto us along that slope. Below that crest, I’ll never know how many of the battalion died on that slope. We lost part of our runner group on that slope. We lost the “Missouri Mule”, Eugene Clevenger on that hill with a smashed hip. I’ll never know what the signal may have been. We were under gun fire, our barrage lifted off the peak and men who just couldn’t stand anymore, got up and charged. Our ranks were very, very, thin. And our men didn’t know caution or mercy. All they knew was they had to get that slope. And they got it. The enemy broke like a bunch of quail, fighting back in some cases going down a brushy slope behind the ridge out onto the stubble of a big field.

And across that field, I came to see later it was a very clever military maneuver. Because it led the men in my battalion to come on down and charge and keep pushing, pushing, while the Germans gave away on either flank and let us have a patch of woods that may been 10 or 11 acres; underbrush, woods, roads and paths. They let us have that. That was the section which among ourselves we named “The Box”. Because we went into it in the early hours of October 4 and the survivors came out October 10, and we held the ridge, the original ridge behind us. But "The Box" itself was death trap and we stayed in it until the 10th. We stayed there until we were, - till the 36th Oklahoma-Texas National Guard, a conglomeration of the craziest bunch of cowboys, Indians, and what have you - they cut us clear on the 11th and their final push was so great that history will show that the Germans backed off to a defensive line some 13 kilometers back of them. However, during those six days we were just slowly, reduced, reduced, reduced. And at one time I was the only one of the battalion runners still able to carry messages and be on duty.

I was coming back from what was probably my second trip into "The Box" to report our situation - to report our need for help and ammunition when I saw a figure coming diagonally toward me headed into "The Box." We were under shell fire at the time, small fire, small shrapnel fire from what we call 77s - a gun that corresponds to our French 75. The trail he was on and the trail I was on converged toward a point. Before we reached that point he was caught in a sweep of shrapnel fire and went down and immediately came up and continued to run on that trail as I did. I ran toward him. He went down in long falling strides. He landed across my shoulders. I didn’t quit running. I carried him to a nearby trench, shell hole combination and yelled for a first aid man. He was hit in the general area of both knees and hit pretty badly apparently.

I remember grinning to myself as I hacked these beautiful whipcord britches. I cut away his wrap leggings. I cut either side of the seams of those beautiful whipcord britches to well above his knees - bared both knees at about the time a first aid man got to me to bandage him up. He knew me and I knew him. It was the piano player from Quantico. And it was Lt. Swartzmen whom I believe was a graduate of Annapolis.

Two years later I was in Niagara Falls, New York. Saw in the Niagara Falls Gazette that a group of Marines called the “Robbing Marines” were going to put on a recruiting show at Niagara Falls Armory, and that public was welcome, especially veterans. Twas an evening show and because they were Marines, I wanted to see them. I came into the back of the auditorium. I saw the little skits put on. A couple of very clever boxers who didn’t really hit each other, but they were superlatively clever with their sparring. Two men illustrating stick fighting. Two men illustrating knife fighting. I was seeing my old Marine Corps. I started down the aisle and suddenly the man on the piano jumped to his feet and hollered, “Mackin you s.o.b!” He jumped right over the foot lights and came and got me and he bear hugged me and he mauled me, and he hustled me down to the stage. he hoisted me up over the temporary foot lights and this crowd gathered around me and then after beating me awhile, he turned to the public he said, “I want you to look this guy over.” “The last time I saw him he was cutting my beautiful whipcord trousers into shreds. You may notice that I limp a little bit. I still got some of that shrapnel in my knees.” But he said, “I’ll try to get out to where the companies were and he was one of the runners coming back and when I got hit, he caught me across his shoulders and never stopped running.”

Alright, we’ll pick up then with the story about Grandma edge.

Up in the Army of Occupation near Brebach Germany we played quite a bit of poker, especially after the paydays. We’d had a bunch of new men that had joined us through the course of the summer and had recently absorbed a bunch of men who had just come from Belgium. We called them the “Arlon Veterans.” They had never been under fire, but they were part of our fill-up strength. We were playing cards and card players do not like kibitzers. And Dizzie Walters came into the room. He didn’t speak to anyone. He almost never did. He came to the card table. He just stood by me, laid his hand on my shoulder, watched the game, still didn’t speak, patted me on the side of the head and left. And one of the newcomers said, “What’s the matter with that son of a bitch. What the hell’s the matter with him?” The gunnery Sgt., Phillip Judd, who called himself “Old man Judd’s son Phillip,” said, “Hold everything! You guys don’t know our Dizzie Walters. Mack was there when he got dizzy and I’m gonna ask Mack to tell ya what made Dizzie Walters dizzy, and after this none of ya ever speak of him in such a way cause he’s one of us. He’s one of ours. He’s a shell shock case, but he belongs to us.” He said, “Alright everybody be quiet. Mack tell them what made Dizzy Walters dizzy.”

We were not in a trench system. We were in a series of rifle pits and automatic pits in front of Torcy [?] - maybe four and five hundred yards between us and the Germans - sometimes as many as 40-50 yards between our rifle pits. Our pits were made up of, sometimes one man, usually of two. Then when they had an automatic rifle, there was at least three - a “show show” crew. We didn’t have enough men to have an established line. Our line was very thinly held. We were along the edge of the meadow, just in from the wheat, in this type of pit. It was a quiet summer afternoon. Ray Baldwin from Cleveland was my mate. He was asleep under the parapet of our little rifle pit. In a hollowed out space, catching his rest while I kept the watch. I was lying across the end of the pit. I had my chin resting on my hands peering through the dry brush of the camouflage. The parapet being made up of the dirt we had thrown out of the hole and then this withered brush giving us a screen. To my right about forty feet away were two men, Grandma Edge and Walters. I still cannot tell ya Walters first name. I think it was Harry. Their rifle pit was about 20 or 30 feet from that little stone building just off the [?] Torey Road. Walters was on the bottom of their pit catching some sleep, lying face up in the shade. Grandma Edge was laying like myself at the end of the firing pit, peering through the camouflage.

The Germans had a 77 Austrian gun which we called the “Whiz bang.” It was a gun that gave no warning. When it hit, it was there. When they fired, it was there! Flat trajectory and this was of a quiet afternoon. Most of the men were resting quietly, and we were just keeping watch across the wheat toward [?]. The “Whiz Bang” shell made a direct hit on Grandma's body. Literally, [it]almost literally cut him squarely in two, dropped him, guts down on top of Walters. I was the first one to reach them. I had a messy time and a hell of a time getting Edge’s body off the top of Walters and keeping Walters from going out in the open and exposing himself. And some of the other boys came and helped and we grabbed Walters and run him back through the brush. They took the two of us back into the woods and partly cleaned us off. I said that from that moment on Dizzy Walters was dizzy and he’ll be that way all of his life and don’t any of you goddamn Arlon Veterans ever call him a name again. "Old man Judd’s son, Phillip," d gunnery sergeant said, "Now you guys heard the story. Pass the word. We ole timers in this company will take no crap about our boy Dizzy. You be good to him, he belongs to us! Now you picked a personal thing. "

You saw so many of your buddies blown to bits. But how did you maintain your sanity?

I was a guy that should have been a stretcher bearer, a first aid man or a medical assistant - anything but a rifleman. Soft, sentimental, Irish, too young pitifully young, I had to just throw off everything which had been a background. The things a child learns on his mother’s knee, the things he learns from his teachers, the things he learns in his church, his Sunday school, you just throw it all on the shelf because it no longer applies. You can do it.

You have to! But…

You have to or just go crazy. Now Dizzy, clean, fine, pleasant, a good soldier, never a raised voice toward him. He was never out of line. He was never out of order. He bothered no one.

Did he stay in the… He stayed in the outfit then?

This occurred when I told the story. This occurred in Germany in Neidenbach, Germany after the war up about late December of 1918. He had had this happen to him in Belleau Wood.

The very beginning of the campaign.

He loved me. I know.

Well that’s a real story.

He would come to me, not to anybody else that I know of. He placed me in connection with that shock and he would come to me as he did in that poker game, just quietly rest a hand on my shoulder, never speak., watch me a while, watch the game a while. When he’d get ready to leave, he’d just pat me on the face and go. There’s something there. There’s a bit of a human heart that belongs to ya, and you belong to him.

Did you keep track of him later? Or did you lose all track of him?

I lost him. I left him in Germany when I left. And that was the story I told former gunnery sergeant and Lieutenant of Marines Charles Smith of Covington, Kentucky as I set across his table in his kitchen twelve years after the war when he first became aware of what had happened to Grandma Edge and when he died and how.

We had marched directly from that last [?] in Quantico to the trains. From there out right down into [?] Island navy yard, off the trains on the “S.S. Henderson.” The “Henderson” being a United States Navy transport built for that purpose. She carried as I remember five 5-inch guns and a Lewis gun mounting up at the crow’s nest. Those machine guns were mounted up at the crow’s nest. We filed aboard the “Henderson.” We had no bunks. We’d never seen, or many of us, had never seen or known what a Navy hammock was like. We were advised as to where we would find our hammocks. We didn’t even know how to tie up a hammock. Yet we were going across the Atlantic Ocean on the open deck of the “Henderson” - two decks down from the top hanging on hooks in any kind of weather. I said, “Are these the usual jokes?” Because we had among us fellas that had served with the fleet and knew their way around. They’re the ones that made it possible for us to adjust. And of course, the first thing they have to do is the appointment to feed the crows in the crow’s nest. Putting up the hammocks, they sent a guy down to get the hammock ladder.

They can make a fool out of you. Those little stories.

After we got out of the Navy yard as I remember on the tenth day of April, when we were about three days off the coast of France, we had an alarm. Our main convoy escort was the "Old South Seas," which for your information means the Old Battleship “South Carolina," called into the service as “The South Seas.” The "Henderson" was an armed Navy ship and was equipped to give combat.

Late of an evening when we were I think four or five days off the coast of Europe there was a flurry of excitement. One of the 5-inch guns was fired. The ship heeled sharply to port. "The South Seas," poured on the coal, ran in front of us and set up a smoke screen. We didn’t have any destroyers. The “Henderson” turned half about and somehow or other, though she was an oil burning ship, they poured the smoke out of her and the whole convoy turned and went off to the left, off toward England. The “Henderson” ran back and forth like a terrier back of them and out there beyond the smoke was the "Old South Seas." Well naturally, of course, when that 5-inch rifle went off and she heeled sharply, there was confusion. because the head on the “Henderson” is two decks down, up in the fore peak. Half the time it was slopped up and slopped over and you almost walked ankle deep in urine if the ship was rolling. Naturally, on that alarm, each person tried to get back to his station on board. And the general alarm being sounded, we got to our proper corners as quickly as possible. We men along the rails had no duties except to just assemble. There were no boats to take care of us. Each upright stanchion was equipped with a knotted rope down which we were supposed to make our way to the water and swim away in case we had orders to abandon ship. As we were trying to form up in all the confusion with the ship tacking here and there and turning and playing watchdog over the convoy. Private Bob Lenaker with whom I’d gone through training on Parris Island came up. He’d been caught in the head way down in the fore part of the ship two or three decks down. He came pawing his way through the confusion up to the proper deck until he hit our ranks.

A laugh to remember! As he made his way from one to another he was pawing his way pawing us apart saying, “Oh my God where’s my squad? Oh my God where’s my squad?” One after another, “Oh my God where’s my squad?” Finally I collared him and quieted him down. He found his squad. Bobby was killed in the Soissons drive at Vierzy, the following July as was William Dutcher of the detachment.

I never did like a trench. I would go into one unless I had to or even go down into the dugouts. There had been German dugouts and their, entrances were cut in the wrong way for our purposes. The plunging fire from German artillery, and it must be remembered, they held that area for four long years. They had everything spotted and the stairs and tunnels leading down into the dugouts slanted right down and turned the dugout right into a death trap. I personally preferred to get mine, when it came, on my feet in an open trench under any circumstance. I was very seldom in any type of dugout, except when I was so ordered. When we consolidated the best we could, it was in and around the old engineer camp in the section of Blanc-Mont, which we named among ourselves “The Box.” When we were surrounded by Germans on three sides with open field, machine gun covered, we simply settled down to take it and we took it. I was with John M. Frankie O’Hamilton, the runner, who is referred to as “Jack” in my manuscript. We chose a spot in the corner of the foundation of what had been a stone building. It was literally right up in the open. We didn’t have over two feet of shelter either way in that corner and then only a broken wall from that in either direction. And yet, Jack and I had come over along way, all the way from Belleau together - both of us fatalists and neither of us caring for dugouts. Harry Westre [?] came among the trees, through the things, one dugout to the other, one elephant arm covered hole to another seeking me out. He was horrified to discover where I was living in the corner of this of what had been a crawl space under a house that I’d already lived there two or three days. He said, “You come on with me. I have a wonderful dugout back here. There’s only five of us in there and there’s lots of room and its way underground. Mack, you come with me because I just don’t like to leave you in this place.”

Without permission he grabbed my pack, hollered to Jack to bring his and come on. He was going to take us and put us undercover. We went a matter of 30 to 40 yards and I said, “Harry hold it! We have lived for three days in the corner of that crawl space. We’re going back and figure to live three more.” We do not care for a dugout and don’t care to go with you.” He coaxed, he called us names, he abused us, because he loved us. Yet we were adamant. We took our packs and went back to that corner of a building. Twenty minutes after a big shell, a German shell, come in on a direct angle, down the stairs of that dugout and killed Harry and the other four in that dugout. My last view of Harry Westre[?] was lying in a corner with the top of his head folded up against an upright post. That is a view of a man that loved me.

Another bit of your Irish luck. You were right about the dugout.

Now I will give you another one. The gunnery sergeant that made me a runner down back at Belleau Wood in early June was named Dave McClain. We called him Uncle Dave. He had been in the corps more than twelve years. He was grizzled and gray, experienced, dependable and a senior non-commissioned officer. Over the course of the summer, and I don’t know exactly when, he was promoted to lieutenant. And he had command of one of our rifle platoons in “The Box” at Blanc-Mont. About the fourth or fifth night in there the ration detail - rations were brought in a one-mule German supply cart. Even the mule was wounded. It had an open sore on the side of his body. And he was meaner than hell. And Bob, who came from Kato, Missouri, was driving him, and he knew how. But somebody had turned two frightened stragglers over to Bob back at the ration dump and told him to take them up to the outfit. So, having brought them and unloaded his rations, he brought his two men to me and asked me to try to put them somewhere in shelter. Find a cover for them. And Bob left. I took the two men over to the steps entrance of one of these elephant iron-covered German buildings. Down the steps things were totally dark. And I said, “Anybody in here?” Lieutenant Dave McClain, the guy we called “Uncle Dave,” recognized my voice in the darkness. He said, “Yes, Mackin, we are full of wounded - hardly room in here to get in without stepping on someone. What’s your problem?” I said, “I got two stragglers that need shelter and cover.” He said, “Mack, please take them somewhere else, we haven’t got the room.” I said, “How are you lieutenant?”

Tape 4 Side 1

We’ll be continuing with the story of the stragglers at this point as we start this next tape.

Still keeping the stragglers near at hand, I hadn’t gone probably more than 40 feet before a large German shell - probably a 9-inch landed directly on the roof of that excavation, which as I had described before that had been covered with 3 to 4 feet of grass-grown earth and this heavy elephant iron. It was a direct hit and what had been a room probably 12 x 20 became a smoking hole in the ground full of dead men. One of the stragglers bolted. One went back with me. There was nothing I could do. Help came in from various directions. The man with me was panicked and shaking. I took him back to the same little excavation where I had lived for days and pushed him up against the wall in the corner, wrapped my arms around him and held him, trembling, till he quieted down. I never did learn what became of the other straggler or who he was.

About two days off the French coast just at dawn, we saw a spot of something coming up out of the eastern horizon, outlined against the rising sun. We watched anxiously and it grew and grew and grew. It came at great speed and gradually broke into two points of smoke, three points, four points and we were met by our American destroyers coming out of Brest to take us in. In due time, we landed in the harbor of Brest. We marched through the town. I got my first look at French civilians. A French city and French people so to speak on that long, long, hill through the city going out of town up to Pont-a-Mousson barracks, an old stone- walled stone building camp which had once been occupied by Napoleon’s troops. We shook down as best we could - exercised a little bit and went to the showers. Cam[?] came through the crowd yelling, “ Mackin, here’s somebody from your home town,” and sure enough, William Oswald Carpenter, a man three or four years older than myself. An old school mate had come in the same convoy and had known that there were Marines on the “Henderson” and had managed to follow us up out of the city and had come to Pont-a-Mousson barracks to talk with me. That night Carpenter, whom the world called “Jake,.” and I walked under the misty half rainy moon up and down the parade grounds at the old barracks and talked about the home town on the Niagara River. I said, “By the way Jake, what became of the combination padlock off of my canoe?” Jake laughed. He said, “Three thousand miles from home and you remembered that damn padlock.” He said, “Mack, I was able to work the combination on that padlock. That’s how I was able to use your canoe so often.” He said, “I got tired of working the padlock. I locked it on the branch of a willow tree on the Canadian shore on the mouth of the gully below the Arkin Farm.” That would be opposite Lewiston, New York. That was the last I was to see of Mr. Carpenter, Jake Carpenter, till after the war. His and mine, after the war, became much different stories.

We were billeted at Par-le-Neson - some of us in a building - many of us in tents, squad tents. For those who may not know the area of Brest on the peninsula, it gets an average of 233 days of rain out of every 365 - 300 and so out of 365. It rains virtually all the time and every day. We found it very depressing and uncomfortable. When it was time to retire for the night we were told to pick up our bunks. We didn’t know what was meant. We went to a building and were issued what they called a bunk which was an 8-inch board, 6 feet long with a 2 by 6 cross piece on either end. We set these down on the earthen, muddy floor of the trench. We were able to lay on an 8-inch board to keep from wallowing in the mud.

After 2 or 3 days, we entertained for the Marine replacement depot at Chalon-cher-car. To get there, we passed through Saint Argonne and hiked to Chalon which was a matter of maybe 7 or 8 kilometers beyond what we called Saint Argonne. A detail of us, if I remember, about two squads were quartered in a part of Chalon which was separate from the main town. Most of the Italians stayed in the town proper. Some of us went through the town by a winding country road down past the cemetery, down into the Cher Valley, to the edge of the Cher Valley into a farm establishment where we were quartered. I so often thought of that farm. Like so many French places, it was built of stone, thick, heavy, stone walls, all facing outward on three sides and built on three sides of a square with a stone wall across the entrance side. The house was heavily thatched. All the buildings really were heavily thatched. The rooms were continuous. The living quarters were on the one side of this rectangle of buildings next to the road. Right behind it was a room that you would call a grainery, a separate part of the house. Beyond that was the cow stable and they had some beautiful cows. If I remember, they were Jerseys. They had four or five cows. Beyond the cow stables were other buildings; housing chickens, doves, stored porridge, grain and at the farthest corner, the farthest diagonal corner of the house,

was a big stone pig pen. The yard held a lot of geese and ducks and chickens. There was a springhouse in that courtyard. What would be called probably a tool house completed the third side of the square toward the road.

We suddenly noted that the farm family contained a very attractive young girl. She, of course, caught our eye. She was I think about 18 or19, possibly 20. I don’t remember if I ever knew. But, of course, she got our attention and our interest. We were treated courteously. We were treated well, but out of all of us, only three of us were given any acceptance by the girl or her family. There was a wonderful homely, red-faced, big eared, homely, Swedish Irishman named Sergeant Smith. There was a lad, a typical golden lad of his day and time, named Perry and myself. Somehow we three Marines were given a place by the family.

So we did some drilling and a certain amount of hiking. Duties weren’t too exacting. We were given to understand that we would be leaving Chalon in very short order and go away for advance training onto the French. However, of an evening we liked to go up to the one café in the village and have wine or a beer or conversation. There were a number of Marines currently at the place and they delighted in misinforming newcomers. None of us could talk French. These men could do a pretty good job and were well understood. The café was a family affair, but there were so many of us when troops were in the town that they used young girls of the community as waitresses. One of the fellas wanting to make an impression on one of the girls asked a resident corporal how to order a certain something. He very carefully rehearsed him in what to say. Now this corporal was real proud of himself. He took her by the elbow. He asked her real plainly for a something. She picked up a wine bottle and smashed him right across the face and knocked him clear out of his chair. Of course, most of the men in the place howled with laughter. He was one of the most startled corporals you ever saw. No one seemed to take it seriously - neither the family, nor the other waitresses, nor the girl herself. She had been insulted by an American, who had somewhere picked up the wrong question. I won’t attempt the French word which the corporal asked her. Americans will laugh in the face of hell. That was one of the things we laughed about in the little old town of Chalon - Cher Char.

Of an evening, the girl who was, whose name was Audrea Frewlcault [?] would finish her daily chores and take the cows quietly down the slope and out on the lush, green meadow grass along that beautiful Char River. Sometimes I was allowed to go with her. Sometimes Sergeant Smith was able to go with her and quite often Private Perry was able to go with her. We were the only ones in the detail whom she allowed in her company. We were all descent and respectable and well behaved. Iremember so well showing her the picture of a girl back in the states who was waiting for me and the pictures of my kid sisters, kid brother and my family. She understood and we had a nice friendly relationship except that I could not talk French and she couldn’t talk a great deal of English. I so well remember making some sort of a gesture or pass or something as we set down there alongside of the river watching the cows graze. Audrea told me I was “detrough” and I didn’t know what she meant. I didn’t know what “detrough” meant until I got back to the states. I was simply out of place, but I hadn’t done any great harm. She didn’t ostracize me.

So one afternoon Audrea come out of the living quarters down under the overhang of the thatch and went into the room next to the grainery and was busy cutting great big sugar beets into chips to feed the cattle. I simply went into the place too. I didn’t anymore go into the place when Audrea calmly showed me how to turn the wheel while she dropped in an occasional sugar beet. I’d kind of grinned to myself. Course, she’d put me to work. Soon the door opened and Sergeant Smith came in to join us. Audrea calmly put him at the job of dropping the sugar beets into the hopper. Then she went about her business leaving the two of us preparing the cattle feed for the evening. Smithy ventured away from the grinder, went to the door, looked down a passageway, came back and tapped me on the shoulder. He said, “Come on sucker take a look!” Our dear little Audrea and Perry were openly in each others arms, standing up very, very, much in love.

We left Chalon Cher Char and went to a town named Maatz, way over on the eastern end of the western front and not far from the Swiss border. To the best of my knowledge, I could see one of the great famous Swiss mountains from where we were located. We were some miles east to the city of DeChaun which is not too far from the Swiss border. I always thought that what I saw was Mont-Blanc though I’ve never been sure. My stepfather and I had a lot of understanding. While we were under strict censorship as to telling anything about what or where we were or what we were doing he could read me between the lines. I told him that I had on a given afternoon had a swim in an ice, cold river that came right down out of the Alps. He caught the point. He looked up on a map and figured I was on the eastern side of France over near Switzerland.

Most of our instruction at Maatz consisted of communications, bayonet work, grenade work. That was where I learned the first things about being a runner. They practiced us on the handing of messages. Mostly verbal and we were carefully coached. That no matter what verbal message we got, we were to memorize it exactly as it was voiced and deliver it exactly that way because it might have another sort of meaning. I said we were taught observation. One lesson, which I have never forgotten was the simple thing of spreading a handkerchief, a white handkerchief out squarely on the ground and dropping on it several objects out of our pockets, covering it with a tin hat. Then we’d be called to take 30 seconds; pick up the tin hat, memorize what was under it, cover it up again, and be able to name the list of what was under it. I felt real good about my observation of what was under the tin hat. I got everything right except one item. I did not name the white handkerchief. Now isn’t that human?

Yes, the most obvious.

The most obvious, I just didn’t name it. Yes, we were given some training in that type of recognition.

Time rolled along and in due time, hell began to break along the front. We had known that the Germans had broken through at the Chemin-des-Dames earlier in the summer. We had known that we might at any time have to go to the front. We looked forward to meeting the enemy. We didn’t know any better. Late one afternoon, after a day of drill, we suddenly got the call to pack up to assemble. They hiked us double time to a little railway station outside of DeJan, put us on a train and we started across France. Somehow it came to us. Somewhere along the western front we were needed and badly needed. Among us, among our Marines were men with many, many trades and qualifications. They didn’t like the careful, good, safe way the French trainmen handled that locomotive. So they just shoved the French crew to one side and began shoveling their own coal. We came across France, excuse the term; “like a bat out of hell,” heading in the general direction of Paris. Beyond Paris came Maatz and beyond Maatz came the battle of Belleau Wood and the other battles of that summer. I was in the side beyond that early [inaudible]. Orders came through from the states for me to be transferred back to the states for discharge on account of my business back in my home village.

I, in due time, was part of a super numerary company that we put together to be sent back to the states. We had gathered in men from all over France, from parts of England, from the British Isles. Men who had been on excavation had been on embarkation. A great many of our men remained in England on embarkation duty. These men had come over from England after the Armistice. Men who had been on duty in Red Cross huts and detached duty in various places came back to the outfit and we shortly had hundreds more then the Table of Organization allowed for. A great many of them were non-commissioned officers. My orders were individual, but many of these men were being shipped because they were just too many of them. We had an overload of non-commissioned officers especially of sergeants. The day came when we were assembled at gate headquarters. We formed into companies to move out and go to the states. I lined up with Darby - Sergeant Darby, Brawden, Mulligins, Parker and so and so - 7 sergeants and myself in all. When we fell into ranks, I took my place in the rear rank. I was the junior-junior, a kid corporal and in a group of seven sergeants not one of who had less than twelve years in the corps. As we formed up our organization, Mulligins, who stood 6 foot 6 inches and I think 4 feet wide, turned around and looked us over and said, “By god this is a squad. Any goddamn squad needs a corporal. Come here you!” Mulligins took me by the shoulder and sent me down in the corporal’s position in the squad. He said, “Now you run this goddamn squad and take us back to the states son.” I can assure ya, I had fun. We had formations from here to there once in a while going home. We went down the Saint Argonne. We stopped at various places for an assembly. I was a hard, hard corporal. I would inspect those seven sergeants and inspect them with all the snap Parris Island knew. God help them if I found a button loose or a button unbuttoned or anything out of place and every time they fell in, I found something wrong. The old professional soldiers they could talk without opening their lips. I’d be putting them through their paces and they’d talk without opening their mouths. “You little son-of-a-bitch, just you wait till you get back to the barracks.” Sure enough when that squad was discharged and they got me back in the barracks, I caught hell. I caught hell. I was the youngest of the bunch. I was just a kid, just past 21 and they were men way up in their 30s and 40s. They’d been in the Marine Corps a long time and we had a ball coming home.

On the way home, I learned this about my drinking habits. I could sit up with troops out of that casual company, drink cognac all night, play poker all night, be cold sober and ready for the fall out for reveille in the morning, and never even stagger. The men of this squad were my responsibility, especially Mulligins, Darby, and Brawden. I’ll say this for Darby - he was probably damn near old enough to be my father. But they used to get quite drunk. I had to get them home. I walked from the poker game to the billets wherever we happened to be with a drunken sergeant across my shoulders - sometimes as many as three of them in an evening. Get them back to their blankets. But they were mine, the men of my squad. Now I want it understood that we had a marvelous, marvelous time coming home. We took from the 24th of March till up until May before we reached the states.

Aside at that point, coming down out of Germany our train took us to the big Saint Argonne, the big Army replacement depot. Which I previously named from the way we spoke it, as “Saint Agony”. But we knew that one night in Saint Argonne that Chalon Cher Char lay just 5 or 5 kilometers away up the valley and over the hill and I had little Audrea. on my mind. I quietly slipped away. I still had my tin hat. I had my American contract raincoat which wouldn’t hold out water out of anything and I just started up the roads for Chalon and it rained, and it rained, and it rained as it can only rain in central France. It was after dark when I came into Chalon, and passed quietly through the village, went down, around past the cemetery and down to this settlement of farm places along the river and it must have been 9:30 or10:00 at night when I came into the courtyard where the place where I had been once made welcome. I stepped under the overhang of the thatch on the main house and the upper half of a continental door was swung open. It was spring weather and the lovely girl was in that room. I said, “Bonn Swa Mademoiselle” and she was terrified for the moment. She looked up and I swept off the tin hat. She flowed across that room, tore that door open and came into my arms and said, “Ah Than Maquet.” She could just hang on to me after all that time. I had left there the previous spring. I’d been gone not quite a year. I’d been to the front and here she remembered my name. I had come back and we stood there in each other’s arms talking. She yelled. Her uncle came. He remembered me. Her aunt came. She remembered me. They broke out wine and I had to party pretty quick to get back to Saint Argonne. Her bed was in the living room of the home. Incidentally, she was not a member of that family. She was a relative. She was a refugee from northern France. She had come down to have safety among relatives south of Paris. So we talked. I was able to tell her about Haynes. Was able to tell her about Sergeant Smith up to a point. Her heart was in her eyes and asked of her “Perry.” She went all to pieces. She piled into my arms and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed and told me Perry was back to see her 2 weeks ahead of me - one leg gone, on crutches, heading for the states and they’d said goodbye. That’s one of my stories.

That’s almost the basis for a novel.

Ya, well I’ll give you one more. During the summer, I had become separated from Haynes, Perry, and Sergeant Smith. It happened they had gone to the 6th Marines. I soldiered with the 5th and I don’t know, I think it was at Soissons that Sergeant Smith got shot, one bullet straight through the lobe of his right ear - the prettiest hole you ever saw. He wouldn’t have it stitched or fixed. He was a droll, Irish Swede, a Norwegian. Always laughing about something, Smith deliberately carried the stub of a pencil hanging in that hold in his ear. He said by God it was his office. He always had his office with him.

Now this is the sergeant that you saw in Covington, later?

No. That was another one that was Charlie Schmidt. I never knew exactly. Later in the year, I was to find out Smitty died in front of a machine gun at Blanc-Mont. We had an advantage for the runners. We didn’t have to stand inspections. We didn’t have to drill. We didn’t have to do a god damn thing back at the lines, except see to it that among us we had 2 or 3 men on duty. The rest of us free-lanced. Nobody free- lanced coming down the front, like the runners. Hell, we’d go and visit this guy, that guy, the other guy with just no trouble at all. With that red band on your arm and a stern face, you could go anywhere.

I wanted to ask you one question. Maybe I asked you this the other day. Maybe you don’t recall. Sometimes when an event like this occurs you think you’re looking forward to it. Then at the time it comes, it’s really a letdown. But, do you recall your feelings the minute you knew the war was over, The Armistice? When you get word on the line the Armistice had been signed and the shooting stopped at 11:00 a.m. on the November 11, 1918?

We crossed that little bridge under fire. I lost friends that night that I’d been with all the way from Belleau. I lost guys that I loved. Morning came, but before morning the engineers got another bridge across. They brought an Army outfit. I don’t know which one. One of the national Army outfits came across. In the book and, I discovered that they built two bridges, one for the 5th Marines and one for the 6th. The artillery tore out the 6th Marines bridge. They went back into their blankets. They tore out ours right after we got across. Now the battalion of a thousand men, it happened that I had taken the count on the 7th of November, 3 days before. There were 353 of us on duty. I don’t mean all. Those others had been shot. We were losing men on account of flu, sickness and what have ya. But we had 353 men on duty on the 7th of the month and this was the evening of the 10th. And so in a battalion and how many of the battalion got across that bridge before the Germans blew it out? I do not know because if it hadn’t been for the fog we wouldn’t have survived. However, we went up on that sloped hill and tried to dig in on the edge of the road and then Van Galder from Detroit and I were the two runner sergeants still on duty - from Beloit not Detroit. We were the two runner sergeants still there. I was supposed to be a runner sergeant that night I had a detail of 40 odd men. That is, we had the scouts, the intelligence, the telephone men, and so forth. They worked under my leadership so to speak and a lot of runners. I lost a lot of them down there in that valley and on that bridge that night. The major told us to put out listening posts.

Well, Red put out two, and I put out two. Then Red took me outside the lines and into the woods to his two so I’d know where to find them. I took Red out to my two so he’d know where to find ours in case we had to bring in our listening posts. I didn’t fall out. In front of me, from here to that vacant lot down there, two, three properties away out there in the trees. We were taking shellfire and with the shell, in the trees and I heard him scream. I went out. I don’t know how bad he was hurt. A fragment shell, a piece of shell, had got him right in the back, somewhere in the general area of the kidneys or the spine. I never knew exactly. You couldn’t bandage him up out there. He was immediately stunned. He laid and talked with me, but he couldn’t move himself. I went back to the lines, crawled into the lines and said, “Send somebody out with a stretcher. Got a man out here.” I went back to where he was and I had a little coffee in my canteen can. I kept that coffee and kept that coffee and kept that coffee, because I wanted it in case I got hit. I waited there with him. He drank my coffee and after a while a couple of the boys came out with a stretcher and got him and took him away. And that’s all I knew about him except that captain Whitehead and Carnes of South Dakota and a couple more went on a little reconnaissance down in the Woods Road. It was foggy in bunches in the trees, in pockets. It was off to our right. All I did was try to get a line hoisted and Handel was trying to get a line on what our situation was. We knew the river was there. We knew the Germans were in the woods in front of us, but how many Germans and what? There was a road kind of along there and Whitehead and Carnes and a couple more walked down the road. A figure came walking to them in the mist. He said, “Good Daughin.” Whitehead said, “Just kill the son-of-a-bitch.” Kearns cut him down with a Browning, right at that point. It was getting down toward morning and everything kind of mellowed out in front of us. Some of the boys went down that road. McGuire went down that road with another guy. He came back with four Germans; a sergeant and 3 enlisted men, three other enlisted men. They brought them back at the point of a gun and by that time they had taken my wounded man out of the woods and he was there on a stretcher to be taken away. Somebody told the Germans to get a hold of that stretcher.

This guy I referred to who is out of the Creole country - later on, he got hit, he got a bullet went right in the heel of his shoe and cut a crease right in the callous, the whole length of his heel. He was limping. He walked on his toe. He was hurt. He had his shoe off, carrying it and the bullet hole was right lengthwise underneath the sole of his heel. He had a rifle and he was told to take those four prisoners and that stretcher and take them down to the river, to get rid of the prisoners and the wounded man. Take them down to the river and they motioned to them, “Get a hold of that stretcher.” This German sergeant and his three men grabbed the handles. He was a German sergeant. He never came so close to dying in his goddamn life. Capt. Malmes [?] of the 8th Machine Gun Company - woooo! Somebody had to stop him. He whipped out a 45 and somebody had to get ahold….. I think it was Handel got him by the wrist, because, he’d a just shot the guts right out of that guy right there. You should have seen that German sergeant get a hold of the corner of that stretcher.

The last I knew they went down - went away. He was willingly carrying the stretcher and I know this Creole. He had orders. If he refuses, just hit him and we’d a done so. He was a much older Marine than me. He was a man probably up in his 30s probably [inaudible] German corps. He would have done what he was told.

Anyways, you asked me how the Armistice itself was. We finally took our [audible] right through that woods. Alright, before I go away from there, there is Woody Wilson. You’ll run into him when you read about mail call. Putting his arm up against the tree like that and saying, “damn them,” along that hay road, farm road, just below the brow of the hill. Brush, brush on this side and the Germans in the woods, nothing behind us but a rolling meadow down to the flats. Woody was hit with a piece of shell that broke one leg above the knee. A piece of shell broke the other leg below the knee and he laid there cursing. I mean he could curse, “God damn all the way from Belleau Woods and those sons-of-bitches get me!”

I got a letter from Clevenger later on and said…….

Tape 4 Side 2

One day they took him out and took off a leg. Two days later they took him out and took off the other leg. Two days later they took him out. That’s the way Clevenger wrote it. So we knew Wilon was dead.

Anyway, along with that fact, oh another thing I told you. They put a second bridge across the river. A national Army outfit came down the line. It was the small hours of the morning. They marched them across the bridge out on to that flat meadow and they put them up in a column. I know Grimm of Cleveland and his brother, Art Grimm. Sgt. Runners[?], just raised hell. “Jesus! Ace! Christ! Scatter those men out, you’re within reach of the guns.” Nobody could tell them a goddamn thing. They just fell them in and started them right up around the shoulder of that godamn hill. That machine gun set right in the middle of that little woods road and they just cut the top off the column, just at the top of the hill, just where they’d got up just on our right along the brow of the river.

This is the morning of November 11?

The morning of November 11, just cut holes right…. Jesus god they’d just knocked the top of that column right off, just carved it and run away and left their guns set.

We had a hospital apprentice Navy man named Mismalley. [sp?], a hell of a good man. He went right out into fire and bandaged, and bandaged, and bandaged men. He got a DSC, or a Navy Cross or maybe both. I don’t know. I lost track of him after that.

Anyway, after a while we took up the advance going across this patch of woods. We’d heard about this armistice stuff. But there was nothing official. We were fighting Germans. We started to cross the woods and yet we could see a figure keeping away ahead of you, pretty well away ahead of you, one single gun barking. We were on the skirmish line coming across the woods. We had lots of help coming up from out of the valley by then - one single gun. By God, that shell would break 50 to 60 yards behind us. The more we walked, the more that shell would come in and kept breaking, one single gun firing and one single shell. Nobody around it followed us out of the woods, came to the edge of the woods and there was a drainage ditch dug just inside the fence into the trees. We fell into that to rest. The whistle blew and we fell into rest. The whistle blew and we fell into rest. This gun that had been firing quit. We were quite quiet and we heard a yelling behind us to let us know. A runner had come in and told the captain and the major. “Freeze everything right where you are, there is an Armistice. Don’t go any further.”

I was so goddamn tired, weary, sick, and hungry, beat, whipped. I got down on my knees in that drainage ditch. My rifle was sticking through and under the fence through at the Germans, towards the Germans. And that was into another [inaudible]. I laid my head over on my rifle and went sound to sleep. The next I knew was - I don’t know how much later, Red Van Galder landed on my back beating the hell out of me. “It’s all over!” You can pick up the rest of that picture in my closing story on the Armistice. We went down into Prele [inaudible ?]. That was a pretty good-sized little town and we were there, the afternoon of the 11th. We didn’t move out till the 17th and we moved around and got acquainted. The houses in these towns, they were still occupied by civilians. [They] had as large as possible big white flag on them, showing they were occupied to keep the artillery from going into them or keeping any fire from coming into the houses.

Those were occupied and maybe in that village of [inaudible] there was 8 or 10 or more houses still occupied or still with white flags on them. So, we discovered there was a hell of a good looking little girl of 16 and she was just full of gobble-de-goop, conversation and fawning so and so. She had been the woman of the commandant, the German commandant of trading men as they changed forces and she was 16 when we knew her. They got her when she was 13 or 14. She had two babies, two German babies. She’d tell you about it. She was an attractive little thing. She would tell you about it. The rest of the French in the town had no use for, no use whatever, cause that family had made out alright with this little girl’s ass. We had to put in a little time from the 11th to the 17th. I went down along the river and heard explosions. The detail of ours was trying to fish with hand grenades which is pretty good fishing. There was enough fish in the stream. They’ll stun and come to the top. I think what fish I saw were carp. Somebody come down and made us quit because there were bodies still in the river up where we’d been over the bridge - bodies still down there in that shallow stream.

Our next stop, we started out on our hike. That immediately took us in the corner of Belgium. We come around the curve in the road and right in the middle of the road coming to us was an English soldier, thin, white, a ghost of a man. [Inaudible] ripped toward the Yankees and he tried to put on speed and went right down on his damn knees, set right there and cried till ya picked him up, an English soldier. He was so goddamn glad to see us. I don’t know how badly beaten he was physically. He wasn’t in good shape. But I think it was emotional. He dropped right down on his knees when he saw us. Ya had to pick him up by his arms, put him on his feet. I do have pictures, don’t I?

Oh ya.

Further up by the crossroads, there was a big busy place, or could be a busy place, or had been a busy place. You could tell they had a dance hall. They had a bar room.

They had a store. They had a this, a that. They had about four girls. We were let known by the French authorities, they were just playthings of the Germans, had been for years, those four girls just grown up right there with the German troops. Now, you probably get some more ideas. [We] came out of the Champagne region and went back to the American First Army and went to the Argonne. We went by train. I don’t know why it wasn’t that far. We went by train. We detrained at St. Minehold [?]. It shows on the map Minehold[?] southern end of the Argonne. Two phases of the Argonne had already been fought. That had started in September and this was after that we fought in Champagne on the 10th. I’ve got a date somewhere of Saint Minehold.[?] Let me give a date - probably around the 24th or 25th where we detrained. Instead we went to the Argonne. The [inaudible] Battle was scattered all around through there. There weren’t many bodies around, but there was torn wire and broken guns. There was unexploded shells and so forth. We just marched our way up because two phases of the Argonne had come to a stop and we were going into the final drive of the Kremhilde-Stellung to get up to the river and the railroad. There was nothing too spectacular happened as we went up.

We just took a leisurely march through the Argonne, getting up to, getting a position and we were up near the lines, fully in gear on the lines by Halloween. We had not too rough a time going up and it was all very interesting. I don’t know why… It was late October, early November in the Argonne. As we worked our way up through, they fought over the Argonne Battlefield. I went into this ditch. Why? I don’t remember - not far off the road. It was three-quarters full of autumn leaves. You know it was something to kick your way through leaves. Those trenches along the road were damn near filled up. Beautiful leaves, autumn leaves, kicking my way I run into something, reached down, picked up something I’ve never seen again, never found out about it - an antitank Mauser gun. Now that tank Mauser was probably seven feet long and seems to have a caliber, at least, bigger than 4570, bigger than a 45. I don’t know how big it was. I found three cartridges, brass cartridges, about that long. It was a single shot, well built, single shot, Mauser with a bolt action. You pulled the bolt back and put in a single. It ran a tank. Only one that I ever saw. It was no use to me. I threw it over my shoulder and took it to Major Hamilton. They were tickled to death to see that German tank gun and three cartridges and he sent us back to see if I could find some ammunition for it. Naturally, it went to one of the supply companies and became the property of one of the officers. Now that’s somewhere among somebody’s souvenirs. I couldn’t take care of it. Honest to Christ that thing must have been a good seven feet long, beautifully built, machined just like any rifle. Had no receiver, no, it had a bolt, same old bolt action as the modern, but single shot.

Seven feet long, it almost have to be two-man operated, wouldn’t it, for the weight of it? Or not?

Yes, well you’d sure as hell lay that barrel down on something, because, but then if you was fighting a tank, you would. You’d lay it down on the parapet of a trench if you did nothing else.

Probably a WWI version of the later bazooka.

Something like that except this was a single shot rifle.

Now, while we’re talking just lightly here. Did you face German tanks at all in WWI? Or did they use them? I couldn’t even remember. Did they use tanks at all?

We captured two German tanks at Argonne. Why, I do not know. I saw two. I was one of the first two men on one of those tanks. One was disabled; the other one came to a halt. Whether it was disabled or not, I do not know. I was one of the first two men to that tank when the door opened. An officer and two enlisted men came out of her. And it was damn big tank. An officer and two enlisted men come out of her. This boy was from Shreveport, Louisiana who was with me. I have his name somewhere. We each had a 45. They come out with their hands up. The officer still had his Mauser hanging on him and his field glasses. Tyson, Tyson. Tyson.

Anyway, he stepped up to the officer, stripped a strap, one of these Mausers hangs on a shoulder harness. Stripped the Mauser off and field glasses. He tossed me the field glasses. He dropped the clip off the Mauser, put the clip in his hand and he threw me the Mauser. He started with his thumb. The third one down was a dumb dumb, split across the nose. He took a look at it. He took a look at the German. Seventh one down was a dumb dumb and he killed him right there in front. There we stood. I inherited that pistol. That was my souvenir. He had the field glasses. Up in Germany, he was assigned to a composite regiment for drill purposes and I was ordered to go home. He brought the glasses to me and I had the pistol. I was going to try to smuggle a pistol home. We didn’t have any right to have the pistol. You could have the glasses, but you had no right to have the pistol. I carried that pistol from Germany clear down across France and clear down to Camp Covington, Marseille and while we were in Covington, we had to fall out for inspection, a final inspection. We were going to the boat the next day. Went out on the drill field in the French camp. Inspection.

Following orders, we spread our blankets flat on the ground and laid out all of our various pieces of equipment on top of it. We already turned in all of our arms. What we had were our personal possessions and that was about all. My blankets were spread. My blankets and shelter half were spread out like every other guy in the line. These bastards over in the camp were evidently watching us with glasses. This swanky young lieutenant - and I still hate his guts - come walking down the line. He didn’t stop for anybody else till he got to me. He calmly picked up the corner of my shelter half, and blankets and tossed to one side. [He] picked up my holstered pistol, smiled at me, and left. I couldn’t do a damn thing about it cause you had no right to have pistols. Just beyond me was a Marine, who had a beautiful, beautiful brass German helmet. Now ordinarily those things aren’t military helmets. They’re policemen, they’re firemen, they’re public. Officials love helmets and they’re brass and they’re shiny and they got eagles on them and they’re pretty. This guy had a beautiful German helmet which I think was a policeman’s helmet and he didn’t have to hide it because you had a right to helmets and it set right in plain sight on his equipment. A snotty, swanky, young lieutenant came down the line. Puhhh! Reached over, picked up the helmet, and said, “Thanks!” That Marine just quietly stepped over the top of the blanket and said, “Put it down!” The guy, the Marine said, “Put it down buddy or I’ll kill you. Goddamn you, right where you are!” And every one of us that was around there knew that guy was standing within just a little bit of death because that guy would have cut his guts out. He still had his trench knife, which was a private souvenir and he would have killed that lieutenant right where he stood in front of hundreds of us. The guy took a look at that Marine. He walked back. He set that helmet right down in place. Now the field glasses, I had them with me, but I had rolled them inside the sleeve of my overcoat. I had an Army overcoat and I picked up a big harness safety pin somewhere. I had the strap doubled and had the strap pinned with that safety pin. Then I went out for inspection, warm weather in the spring with an overcoat hanging over my arm. My overcoat set there with a sleeve up and my name on it. Nobody ever saw the field glasses. I was able to bring them home.

Finish up that story.

Just between you and me, I took the glasses home. My friends, my family, they enjoyed it. This boy’s mother from Shreveport - he was still on duty in Europe. The lady wrote to me and said he had said that I had the field glasses. Would I please send them down? So I sent the field glasses and I lost my pistol. Those were the only two, only German tanks that I saw were those two. What the hell they were doing there and what good they were, I do not know.

Well the British were the ones that really tried to make use of the tank, didn’t they? But not enough

They introduced it. We invented it, you know? The American Army turned it down.

Just like a lot of things.

Ya. The Louis gun was an American.

elton mackin

Published by Presidio Press

Library of Congress Veterans History Project