Category: war is hell

                      “A feeling of helplessne…

                      “A feeling of helplessness and powerlessness that is most depressing.”


is nothing quite so uncomfortable to hear as the near whistle of a shell. The
more you hear the sound the more it affects you. There is something in the
sharp whine which seems to create despair and induce subconscious melancholy.
There is a feeling of helplessness and powerlessness that is most depressing.
The thunder of the guns or the crash of the bursting shells cannot be compared
with the sound of this approaching menace. It is as if some demon from the
depths of Hades were hurtling toward you, its weird laughter crying out,
calling to you and chilling your blood.

Later, after a close call, it is more of a nervous strain. It is
a curious fact that the longer a man has been under shell-fire the harder it is
for him to stand it. This is one of the forms of so-called “shell-shock.“’

WW1 American
ambulance/truck driver in France – The White Road of Mystery – Photo: WW1, France, American ambulance driver Harry Crosby, standing next to his destroyed ambulance. He never recovered from this close call while serving in France and died
in his 31st year in a murder–suicide.

“October 1st 1918 – Nearly every crossro…

“October 1st 1918 – Nearly every crossroads
is heavily mined and tho the engineers
move just behind the attacking waves to discover them and render them harmless, still many mines are left
to be exploded later by a horse’s hoof, a wagon wheel or a foot, causing numerous deaths and leaving huge holes.
Generally the mines are so laid that a piece of wire
when pulled or disturbed will detonate them tho often they are timed to explode
after a certain number of hours. We saw many Belgians grouped around horses who
had been killed by mines from which they carved off large lump of steaks.”

American ambulance driver’s diary in Belgium – The Compensations
of War
– Photos: October 1st 1918, mines on roads & streets in Noyon,
Northern France, not far from the Belgium border. See Google mapLa Contemporaine

                                      “We thou…

                                      “We thought the going would be easy, but it was not.”

September 27 1918, going from Bethincourt to Hill 304, France – “Hill 304 was covered with human skeletons, the meat having
long fallen from the bones. Who could they be? Yes both German and French, who
had been killed in the early part of the war during the great drive and who
could never be buried, because this had been ‘No Man’s Land’ for four years.
Those who were not buried were attacked and eaten by beasts of the field and
the vultures of the air. In walking over this hill plenty of human skeletons,
guns, bayonets, helmets, and scraps of uniforms scattered here and there could
be found.”

Photo: Transport Congestion, Hill 304, Bethincourt, 9-27-18, second day of Argonne offensive. History of the 318th Infantry Regiment

Meuse-Argonne Offensive: 80th Division – YouTube



September 13, 1918, St. Mihiel

In September 1918  in the St Mihiel drive, an immense dark cloud hung for days over the advancing troops.  As the French, German and
Americans nervously prepared for battle the cloud seemed eerie and
foreboding.  The Germans called it “the cloud of blood.”

WW1 Canadian illustrator,
Kerr Eby,

captured the scene: weary, bent men on the march under a massive, mysterious
and symbolic cloud, the human element being tiny and inconsequential.

After the war Eby wrote: “Maybe there is not one thing that can
prevent another war but I do know that if
everyone who has any feeling in the matter at all said what he felt in no
uncertain terms—and kept saying it—the sheer power of public opinion
would go far to make war impossible.

Sources: Hillstrom
Museum of Art at Gustavus Adolphus College

“Beer is the most popular drink in wide manufa…

“Beer is the most
popular drink in wide manufacturing districts in the North of France, and it
was just those regions invaded by the enemy that were the largest brewing centers.
There were about 1,800 breweries situated in the occupied zone the time of its
greatest extension in 1918. All these breweries were more or less damaged and generally
absolutely destroyed; other breweries were systematically stripped by the
Germans of all copper vessels, machinery, barrels, belting, and the like. But
spoilation by the enemy and bombardment by friend and foe alike were not the
only forms of destruction they suffered. Breweries are useful places to an
army: their vats make glorious baths, and their barrels are good for many
purposes. An immense loss was caused by their use for baths, and even for
firewood, at a time when barrels were beyond price, and replacement was
practically impossible.“

Journal of the Institute of Brewing – Photo: WW1, North of France partially or completely destroyed beer taverns and breweries.

“August 30, 1918- The last week has been a qui…

“August 30, 1918- The last week has been a quite strenuous one.
We worked right along with another attack. The nights have been so wonderfully
clear with bright moonlight that the aviators have been fierce, bombing every
place most incessantly and shooting off their machine guns in all directions
along the roads and into the towns, all flying very low. Last Tuesday, they
bombed and bombed the town and landed three
bombs on the church where we were taking the wounded. One bomb hit right on the
building used for the reception place. There were many, many killed and wounded
in the town that one night. They also bombed along the line, so it was lust
like running a gauntlet keeping out of the way of the darn things. Every night
has been more or less the same thing and I am pretty well fed up with bombs.’

ambulance driver, in the thick of the Oise-Aisne battle (scroll down the page), France – Vaughan Horner letter – WW1
in Ohio
– Photo: WW1, France, American, French, and British ambulance taking the wounded to the church converted to a First Aid Station. La Contemporaine.


                                                               ‘Completely exhausted’

‘Friday August 23 1918 – Guns
coming in our camp — moved across the road. Completely exhausted. Moving means unloading
& loading 20 cars, the mechanics shop, the kitchen 7 camion! All 20 cars
running & evacuating clear to Villers Cotterets, Vaux & Vassens. French advancing on left quite
rapidly. Heavy traffic
with many avions shelling the road. Many are killed.’

American ambulance driver, in the Aisne sector, France. See Google map. Diairies of Samuel Keplinger – Photo: August 1918, American ambulance drivers and several patients at a field hospital camp in the Aisne sector, France. La Contemporaine

                                    August 15,…

                                    August 15, 1918 – “Mopping-up” the enemy’s trenches

White phosphorus spontaneously ignites in the presence of atmospheric
moisture. If it touches the skin it can cause serious burns, very
painful and difficult to treat.

Phosphorus was
used to attack the machine gunners and drive them away from
their guns, to “mop-up” trenches and dug-outs by forcing the enemy into the open, or forcing him to wear a gas mask during the advance. This very successful method was used by the allies from July 1918 until the armistice.

Photo: night attack with phosphorus bombs in maneuvers.
First Corps School. Gondrecourt, France. August 15, 1918. Library of Congress

                    “For one mad moment the wh…

                    “For one mad
moment the whole slaughter whirls like a circus around me“

“We had fancied our task would be different, only to find we were to be trained for heroism as
though we were circus ponies.”

All Quiet on the Western Front – A must-read
novel about WW1 German soldiers by German soldier and writer Erich Maria
– Illustration: symbolic illustration depicting German soldiers in a sad & grotesque circus procession; the front being a cage, and,
just like circus animals, the trapped soldiers having little
control over their life. @

                     ‘The spire of the cathedr…

spire of the cathedral, a wonderful thing of delicate lines and love’

we would cross the river and look back at the cathedral, high and beautiful
above the huddle of old, old houses on the quayside, with a faint light on its
pinnacle and buttresses and immense blackness beyond them.

builders of France loved their work,” said Palmer. “There was always war about
the walls of this cathedral, but they went on with it, stone by stone, without

stood there in a long silence, many times, and out of those little streets
below the cathedral of Amiens came the spirit of history to teach us the
nobility and the brutality of men, and their incurable folly, and their
patience with tyranny.

“When is it all going to end, Palmer, old man?”

“The war, or the folly of men?”

“The war. This cursed war. This bloody war.”

“Something will
break one day, on our side or the other. Those who hold out longest and have
the best reserves of man-power.”’

That day came
indeed on August 8 1918, a
black day of the German Army’, when for the first time, the coalition of
Allied nations fought under one strategic command, using tanks and air power to
push forward.

Text: 1918, British
reporter Philip Gibbs in Amiens – Now It Can Be Told – Photo: Amiens, a view of the
Cathedral from the river.

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Centennial Commission,
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