DALTON SMITH HAYES WW I MEMOIR
Dalton Hayes was born June 22,1898 at Spiegel Grove, Fremont, Ohio. He was the son of Harry Eaton Smith and Fanny Hayes. He was the grandson of President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes. Dalton was a freshman at Princeton University when the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917. He joined the Princeton Battalion headed by Captain Stuart Heintzelman, U.S. Army. Later, he trained with the Princeton Officer Training Corps. On September 10, 1917, he enlisted at Camp Mills, Long Island in the 69th New York Regiment of the famous 42nd Rainbow Division in Co. D 165th Infantry. He served in the A.E.F. in all engagements participated in by his company, until he was seriously wounded on October 14, 1918.
On the twelfth of October 1918 we were lying in reserve, dug in on the reverse slope of a high hill, supporting our third battalion who were holding the front line. We had come to the Argonne direct from the reduction of the St. Mihiel salient by truck and by forced marches, and had been in our present position for two or three days awaiting our turn to go into the fighting, We were somewhere to the left of Montfaucon exactly where I cannot state as I saw no towns or villages after we left the main road.
Early on the morning of the thirteenth my platoon commander Lt. Catts or Ketch, I never did know which, called the platoon up and announced that the Germans had quit and that Peace would probably be signed in a fortnight. You can imagine the cheers and rejoicing that went up! “But,” continued the Lieutenant, “our third battalion is to go over early tomorrow morning, and one platoon from each company of the first battalion is to be attached as moppers up to an attacking company.” My platoon has been given the honor from D company. We will assemble here at 5:30 this evening [for orders] under full equipment.
Lovely! Here we are, peace already to be signed and we poor devils going over to see jerry the next day. As moppers up too! A hell of a job!
The moppers up follows immediately behind the first wave, takes charge of prisoners, sees that no enemy men are left overlooked in cellars and dugouts, and combs out woods which may have been left unsearched by the attacking wave. He generally carries beaucoup hand grenades which make a welcome addition to the trifling weight he has already strapped on. He can’t even have the sport of firing in all directions as he advances because of the men in front of him. All in all it is a thankless job. When he comes to a dugout or likely looking cellar he pulls the pin of a grenade and yells down, “Come on out you various unmentionables.” If any come out they are escorted to the rear and if not, he throws his grenade down to make sure they’re not merely playing possum. More often than not he throws his grenade and then asks the inmates in a polite tone to come forth. In these cases the report is invariably the same – “Dug out encountered, no inmates – now.” Whereupon the Loot. winks and the party moves on to the next hole.
However, at 5:30 on the evening of the 13th our platoon set forth for the front line only a kilometer ahead. As Ian Hay has already said, if a hundred men are walking in single file in the dark the last man invariably has to run all the time in order not to be last. True. On this occasion I was the last man with the ironical order to keep the column closed up. I had more than I cared to do to keep the column in sight much less keep it closed up. Finally the nightmare came to an end
as all nightmares must and we were at the front line. It
had only taken three hours (a record) and we had only been lost twice (another
record) so we were correspondingly elated. After we received our orders
attaching us to H company we had only to dig ourselves in and wait for 8:30
a.m. October 14th, which was the “zero hour.”
We spent a lonely night. It was cold and was raining with the gentle persistence with which it always rains in northern France. We were very hungry and to add to our comfort we had not had a bath or change for some six weeks, and consequently our little Play-mates – but enough, enough. Then, too, Jerry seemed to know of our fell intentions and bombarded us with everything but the kitchen sink. At about 4:30 just as it began to look as if there might be another day in the distant future he tried to raid us. He was repulsed without much trouble. At 7:30 our barrage which had raged since five o’ clock increased materially until 8:29:55 when it lifted, and we started over.
As we emerged from the shelter of the woods into the open one could see the ? lines of men reaching for miles apparently on each side of us. My platoon was about fifty yards in the rear of “K” company. We were divided into three groups with about three squads each advancing in open order. Each group was under the command of a sergeant or acting sergeant with two corporals next in command.
Our line advanced with no trouble up a slight grade but when we reached the top we encountered difficulties. There was a long downward slope ahead of us, then a rather steep hill on the top of which the jerries were deeply dug in. Their artillery was laying down a fearful barrage of 77s and 150s mixed with heavies and the storm of machine gun fire was terrible. Our front line wavered but pressed on and we followed taking advantage of all the cover we could find. Early in the fight we lost track of our lieutenant and the other groups but after a conference in a large shell hole Serg. Smith, Corp. Hogan and myself decided to press on immediately in the rear of K company as long as we could. At this time there were only six privates and us three N.C.O.’s left in our group and the casualties in the company ahead were very great although reinforcements were constantly coming up.
At about eleven o’clock we had pushed about two miles beyond our own front line and were holding on just below the crest of a large hill. The enemy machine guns were actually lowering the level of the crest. There was a sunken road about fifty yards in back of the remnants of K company and into this the “moppers up” leaped with a great sigh of relief, on my part at least! We were protected from the front and were practically safe from shell fire so we congratulated ourselves on our good luck. There were at least two German snipers who could see the road for we saw these two and I was sitting at the side of the road smoking a hard-earned cigarette when I felt a blow on the back exactly as if someone had hit me with a hammer on the shoulder blade. My left arm and side went numb, but there was no pain. The force of the bullet knocked me flat and dazed me for a moment or two. Then I tied the shoulder up with a little assistance and started for the rear, rejoicing.
I don’t remember ever having been quite as scared as I was just then. Of course you’re frightened more or less all the time at the front but at this time I was absolutely terror-stricken.
I found the first aid-station which had moved with the advance about a kilo to the rear. Here I got my blue tag and started for the ambulance station. That was about three kilos further on and I was pretty well all in when I finally got there, I had a new dressing put on there and got in an ambulance bound for the 160th Field Hospital. This was a ride of perhaps six kilos and when I got there I felt still more all in. The roads were in fearful shape and since every jar felt lovely, it was an awful trip. I got a cup of cocoa here and a jab in the tummy with A.T. mixture. It was about two when I started off again in another ambulance.
It was At about nine or ten in the evening when we
arrived at Mobile Hospital No. 10 I think it was. In the mean time my wound had
gotten cold and stiff and every movement was agony.
I was X-rayed here and immediately dragged off to the operating room and laid on the table. By this time I was so exhausted that I fell asleep on the table! They roused and gave me an Army jag and I woke up next morning in a ward in a nice white bed clothed in pajamas with American nurses all over. Absolute Heaven. We got two square meals and lots of chocolate and cigarettes and to my sorrow at five-thirty a lot of us were evacuated. At the station we saw Pershing and then were loaded on a French R.C. train. Then there was a nightmare trip of twenty seven hours with two meals and no cigarettes to help out. I was flat on my back on a very hard litter and could not move hand or foot. The Lord preserve me from another ride like that! Every jar on that rotten road bed sent a twinge all through me, Finally at seven in the evening on the 16th we landed in Beaune and I was taken to B.H. 61 given a bath and assigned to bed 39 ward 7. They gave me supper and I immediately fell asleep.
Of course I wrote Aunt Mary and sent a telegram to the Colonel and about ten days later Uncle Webb showed up. Later Aunt Mary came along and on the 16th of Nov. we all started for Nice. (Uncle Webb having secured a month’s leave for me in a most miraculous manner.)
The Riviera Leave Area was perfectly wonderful and I had a fine time. Every day I got my wounds dressed at the Hospital American. After nearly a month at Nice during which I made trips to Ca?, Menton, and Monte Carlo, news came that I was to be invalided home. Glorious news! Uncle Webb had again come to the fore. We started from Bordeaux Dec. 17 on the Niagara of the French line arriving in New York the 29th. We had expected to reach there before Christmas but the sailing date was put off four times.
We had an uneventful passage and none too good accommodations, but it was deluxe compared to the way I had come over in 1917 via transport Ascania.
|Dalton Hayes |
Recovering from Wounds Suffered in the Agronne
For several days prior to Sept. 12 we had been bivouacked in a dense wood miles from anywhere waiting for the big offensive which we knew was to come off sometime in the near future
For two or three weeks we had been having practice maneuvers a safe distance behind the lines at Viscount and we knew the signs. Then suddenly had come the order to hike and we had hiked – Lord! How we had hiked – always at night and always getting nearer and nearer to the rumbling of the guns. Finally we had reached a spot near Toul and there we had been waiting.
On the 11th we non-coms – proud title recently acquired – were called by our respective platoon commanders and the objectives and signals etc were explained to us. The first attack was to be made by the 1st battalion. “As usual” we groaned and cursed Wild Bill Donovan, our major, heartily. A company and G company were to strike the first blow with D and B in support in the second wave. This was a grain of comfort to those of us in D company. The barrage was to start at one A.M. and the infantry was to go over at five o’clock.
The officer very candidly told us that it would be a hard proposition and that preparations had been made for 50,000 casualties at least. Charming information! In that case it would probably mean the end of the Rainbow Division – a glorious end it is true but what good is glory to dead men?! We spent the rest of the day writing farewell letters and praying to get shot in the leg in the first minute of fighting.
At four o’ clock in the afternoon we were all packed and stood around in the rain until half past eight when we at last started off.
It was about 10 kilos to the front and we arrived after the barrage had started. Instead of getting into trenches we lined up in shell formation at the rear of A company. It was still raining very heavily and the ground was simply a quagmire. We had hiked for over four hours in the ditch on the side of the road – infantry always does this for some inexplicable reason – we were soaked through and the wind blowing right through us. It was only one-thirty and we were to wait there until five when we were to go like lambs to the slaughter. Jerry had a particularly strong nest of m.g. directly in front of us, we had been told and though it was practically shell-proof the artillery would try to wipe it out --- but some of the boys fell asleep. They have my wonder and admiration but I lay awake cursing the war, the Army and myself and shivered, not altogether from the cold.
At 5 minutes to five our machine gun barrage started – I would have sworn it was the Germans – and five minutes later we started through the lanes cut in our wire during the night. Every minute I expected would be my last, but the long seconds flew by and I was unhurt – nobody was hurt! The silence in front was absolutely uncanny! Presently we came across some smashed wire and a kind of furrow which five hours before had been a trench much as the one we had just left.
Not until then did the glorious truth come over us. The Germans had evacuated practically without firing a shot. A few prisoners dirty and scared, more dead than alive, passed us. One who could speak English said “Metz (?) gone for sure. Goodbye Germany,” and began to weep bitterly.
Somehow the pathos of it all struck me, and we went forward without any of the jubilation which might have been expected.
At about eleven o’ clock we relieved A company and took up the advance as leading company. We took the first town, Pannes, that day and found about 200 Boches hidden in cellars. A great majority of them were dead drunk. The canteen leader was the first one to run and the troops had raided his place. There were no officers there and we were told that when the news of the attack came all the officers had left in motor cars leaving the N.C.O.s in charge. We dug in on the hills around Pannes that night and had a pretty poor nest as it was cold and rained steadily.
Early next morning we started off and to our surprise could not come in contact with the enemy. We proceeded slowly and continuously for two or three days, passing several villages and
and camps in the woods. On the third day, Sept 15th
we had advanced about twenty kilos and were in a tiny village
(something-or-other Fenme.) We dug in and French troops came up and relieved
us. We had to patrol every night and almost every day in front of the French to
find what Jerry was doing
It was on one of these daylight patrols that I had what I consider my narrowest escape from death or capture, and at the same time was the most foolish example of inefficiency of command. There were three French N.C.Os, one American sergeant, and two squads of Americans, eighteen men. We had orders to proceed from our front line until we came in contact with the enemy. We proceeded along a road which led straight toward Germany, ten men on one side and eight on the other, in intervals so that we covered about 75 or 80 yds. on each side. We had no one on either flank and were to go on until we reached some Germans. At about 3 in the afternoon we were some four kilometres from our supporting outposts and no idea at all what was on our flanks.
We stopped here and sent back word of our position and what we had seen. Orders came back to “advance until fired upon.” (These words are the ones used by the way.) There was nothing to do but obey and so we started forward again. Soon we came near the end of the woods and could see a narrow lake in the open and then more woods. When we were about 50 yards from the open space, the French sergeant suddenly halted and half-turned around. Then Hades broke loose. 50 or 75 Boches sprung in to view in front of us and a very harassing fire broke out on both both flanks. I saw the French sergeant’s helmet give a jerk and he slumped in a heap. Our sergeant gave the word to fall back and we did so without any hesitation at all. Those Heinies were coming on the run and they sure did look big! They outnumbered us at least five to one and our movements to the rear were precipitous to say the least. In some mysterious way my pack was lost, I guess I just ran right out from under it, but it was an awfully heavy thing anyway and retarded me considerably!! When we got to our outposts there were only 10 of us left and I don’t yet understand how so many escaped. It seemed as if a line of bees was buzzing around our ears. One of our chaps had 4 bullets through his pack, luckily from the side, and one through his helmet.
The Germans had only followed about 50 yds or so evidently fearing an ambush so when a combat patrol went out one wounded man was rescued and the Fritzes were pushed back across the lake.
The next night we were relieved and the 89th American Division took our places. We went back and pitched pup tents in the woods and three days later took over the front line and finished digging trenches and consolidating our positions for the winter. After three or four days we were relieved again and after a day’s rest in the woods (Rest is the Army’s term - not mine) we hiked and went in trucks right into the Argonne drive which had started Sept 26.
It seemed to us that the 42nd was the only American division in France, for on the 18th of July we had just come from the Champagne in front of Chalons-sur-Marne, where we had helped the French repel the Crown Prince’s desperate attempt to reach Paris and now on the 27th we were told we were to attack in the morning following our counter-drive at Chateau-Thierry. We had hiked and come by motor truck to Ehrids (?) where we relieved the 26th Division and our 84th Brigade (Alabama and Iowa) started the ball rolling again towards the Burcq (?).
When we entered it the fires were still going and equipment of every sort was scattered around.
We formed attacking lines in the cover of the woods and pushed across the river on the first attempt. Then for three days there was a desperate struggle for possession of the heights across the river Every man in the regiment must remember the Meurcy Ferme (?) which was captured and lost half a dozen times. Finally the French captured on left captured the town of Fire-en-Tandenois (?) and our foothold in the hills especially Hill 212. On this hill alone after the fighting was over the bodies of over three hundred of both sides were buried. During this week I was a stretcher-bearer and we were on the ground (?) every minute.
The stretcher-bearer has a rotten job in open warfare. He advances with the attack and has not got even the feeling of protection that a rifle gives. Then he has the pleasure of carrying the seriously wounded back for attendance. And after the first hundred yards a wounded man is awfully heavy! Naturally he’s under fire as much as the rest, but he can’t dodge shells or fall flat when he hears one coming because of the wounded man, at Chateau-Thierry our “carry” was about a half-mile, and over almost impassable ground.
When we were finally relieved by the 4th Division we had driven Fritzie more than fifteen kilos and almost to the Vesta (?) River. In D company there were ninety odd men left out of 250 and we were not the worst off by any means. We moved back into the woods and camped in pup tents for about a week, where practically every man was down with dysentery. I imagine it was caused by drinking water from the river and polluted sources, and a steady diet of nothing but canned beef and mighty little of that. For four days we had nothing but our reserve rations to go on, as our kitchen got lost. D Company’s kitchen seemed to be lost most of the time. It was mainly the last one in on hikes and at last and in the Argonne had the misfortune to stop a six inch shell which ruined its [faculty?] and usefulness forever.
We hiked back almost thirty kilometers and got in the 40 hommes 8 chevaux box-cars and ended up in almost the same spot where we had trained when we first arrived in France, near Neuf (?) Chateau. We had confidently expected a furlough here and then a long rest but no – in fact we never did get a furlough in France, unless a 24-hour pass to Paris can be called one, and only 20% of the division got that. I was one of the lucky ones and had a marvelous time.
The crowds and theatres & cafes almost made me forget that there was a war. And the Parisiennes or “Leetle cheechens“ (?) as they liked to be called!!
We had two weeks rest (with reveille at 6:00 and drills all day) and then two weeks intense attack drill and we’re off to St. Mihiel.
Our first taste of real warfare came on July 15 in the Champagne near Chalons-sur-Marne. We had finished our training in the trenches of Lorraine in the middle of June and after a short rest had arrived on about the third of July at the Camp de Unalons, famous for having been built by Napoleon and from whence the French went out to defeat in 1870.
In WWII Dalton Hayes served in intelligence