Nightmare on the Western Front


In 1918 Arthur M. Schlesinger, a younger historical past professor on the Ohio State College, was appointed the chairman of the Historic Fee of Ohio, which Governor James M. Cox had created to gather and protect all kinds of data referring to the state’s position in World Battle I. For a lot of the following two years, Schlesinger, with the assistance of a colleague on the Ohio State college, despatched letters to former college students serving abroad with the American Expeditionary Forces, asking them to narrate their experiences within the warfare. Considered one of Schlesinger’s correspondents on this effort was Non-public E. Allen Pastelnick, then in France with the a hundred and fortieth Ambulance Firm of the one hundred and tenth Sanitary Practice.
Pastelnick, who was born in Russia in 1895, had grown up in St. Louis and attended the College of Missouri earlier than making his method to Ohio State in 1914. He registered for the draft in St. Louis in 1917, noting that he had served three years within the Missouri Nationwide Guard however was at present a scholar. To assist pay his method by way of school, each evening at round 9 p.m. Pastelnick loaded two huge baskets with home made sandwiches, pies, and truffles and started making the rounds of the fraternities on campus. His common revenue: about $12 per week—sufficient, he advised a reporter, “to undergo faculty comfortably.” 
In a typewritten letter to Schlesinger, reprinted right here in calmly edited type, Pastelnick describes the “nightmare” of being within the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a significant a part of the ultimate Allied offensive of the warfare and the second deadliest battle in U.S. historical past. “That is one dream,” he advised Schlesinger, “that I’ll ever bear in mind.” Pastelnick used underscores as a substitute of place names in his letters, as U.S. Military censors would have reduce them out had he not.
Pastelnick survived the warfare, was married in St. Louis in 1921, and launched into a profession as an actual property developer within the western suburb of Kirkwood. He modified his final identify to Pastel someday within the Twenties, and in 1950 he and his household moved to New York, the place he later grew to become energetic in Democratic Social gathering politics. He died in 1970 at age 76. 
After energetic service, 
Oct. 3, 1918.
Prof. A. M. Schlesinger:
Obtained your letter whereas I used to be going through what you point out in your letter as a “unhealthy dream.” Actually it has been a nightmare, and thank God I’m through with it and nonetheless in a position to write you. At present is the third day since we have been relieved, however the incidents of the battle might be no much less vivid on the third 12 months than they’re now or than they have been three days in the past. That is one dream that I’ll ever bear in mind. The preparations for the battle have been made within the week previous Sept. 25, and on that evening we poured a steady stream of shells into the German traces. At the moment we have been nonetheless behind the traces awaiting orders. On the twenty sixth of Sept. our “doughboys” (amongst whom have been a lot of my former associates and mates) went excessive. What these boys did, I used to be in a position to see the following day after we have been ordered ahead to ascertain a dressing station. The infantry had pushed Jerry about six kilometers to the north of this city, the place we have been ordered to solely that morning. We obtained on vans about 9:00 A.M., though we have been woke up at 4:00 A.M. that morning. The journey was most uneventful besides that we have been going over the battlefield of the day prior to this. The street had been crammed up and put in fine condition instantly after we pushed Jerry away, and the vehicles made good time till we reached _____, the place a bridge had been blown up and a board street had been constructed across the bridge and over a shallow a part of the water. Later we got here throughout a number of such momentary roads which went round deep shell holes. All alongside the street there [was] loads proof of what had occurred on the twenty sixth of September. By the point we reached _____, we had stop shuddering on the ghastly sight of the lifeless and the wounded. Each American soldier seen lifeless on that street was able dealing with the enemy. This was not true of the German troopers. At _____ there lay an American doughboy and a Jerry dealing with one another. They’d discovered one another’s Achilles’ heel. The American lad had his hand over his coronary heart. I didn’t take any explicit discover of the lifeless Jerry.
U.S. Marines make their way through a cratered battlefield in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. (U.S. Marine Corps History Division)
U.S. Marines make their method by way of a cratered battlefield within the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. (U.S. Marine Corps Historical past Division)
Earlier than reaching _____, we needed to go over a hill in plain view of the enemy. Once we reached the highest of that hill, the enemy weapons began shelling us. Two fellows have been sitting on the aspect of the truck on all sides of me when the primary shell exploded about twenty ft from us. All of us fell to the underside of the truck each due to the concussion and through intuition. I noticed the cloud of dust uprooted by the explosion, and I noticed three wounded males fall to the bottom. Then on lifting my head I noticed one in every of these males crawl to a shell gap. Simply then one other shell exploded and all of us scrambled off the vans and ran from the street to neighboring dugouts—all besides the drivers, who drove the vehicles off the crest of the hill, then joined us. When the bombardment was over, we went again to the vehicles.
Once we obtained to _____ it was crowded with artillery ammunition caissons, wounded, and Crimson Cross staff. We unloaded the vans in a rush, and in a single instantaneous a gaggle of detail-dodging males have been metamorphosed into the toughest, most uncomplaining, most self-sacrificing group of males I’ve ever seen.
I noticed a wounded man who had gone to the officers coaching faculty with me. This man had been shot within the left hand. Anyone had put a primary assist bandage over it and despatched him again. He took a gassed man with him, taking care of the gassed man higher than he did for himself. After exchanging greetings, I requested him what I might do for him. He requested me for a brand new fuel masks, as a bullet had ruined the [canister] of his personal masks. After I gave him the brand new masks, he turned the fuel affected person over to me and refused additional medical consideration due to the big variety of extra critical instances that have been congesting the dressing station. Then started the actual work. We despatched the litter males ahead and began engaged on the sufferers who had walked in. We labored the remainder of that day with out resting a single minute for any goal no matter. Altho we had eaten nothing all day, we took time to drink a cup of cocoa every now and then—in any other case the wounded wanted all our time and we gave it to them. On one event, one of many litter bearers introduced me a cup of bouillon and two slices of bread and butter. I noticed three sufferers who have been in a position to eat. One slice went to every one of many sufferers and the soup to the third one. Then I went again to my grim work. About 10:00 P.M. the sufferers stop coming in, because it was too darkish for the litter bearers to search out them, and all these in a position to stroll in had are available in by that point. We then drank some cocoa and grabbed a number of moments’ sleep beneath probably the most antagonistic situations possible. Our dressing station consisted of two cellar rooms that had been coated with a thick layer of earth. The rooms have been about 16 ft. sq., and there was solely the door through which gentle might are available in. These rooms have been a part of what was a house. A few hundred ft from us, two batteries of artillery spat fireplace all day and many of the evening. Via these two rooms, and through two related dressing stations on all sides of us, handed all of the wounded in our division. We labored incessantly that day till about 10:00 P.M. after we huddled collectively and tried to get some sleep. Earlier than we referred to as it quits for the day we mounted all the things in order that on the morrow we’d be in fine condition to renew our gory job. These two rooms introduced a grim look that evening. In a single nook have been all of the bloodied bandages that we had eliminated through the day. Within the reverse nook have been a few drugs trunks with pile after pile of gauze and muslin bandages on them—able to do their bit on the next day. In one other nook was a pile of blankets over which three shell shock sufferers hovered. The remainder of the ground house of the entrance room was coated with drained humanity.
All around the flooring of each of the rooms—true democracy was in proof. The identical was true in doing our work. A Lieut would take orders from a personal simply as simply as he was wont to present them earlier than. The one ruling need was to decorate the injuries to our greatest capacity and to get them again as quickly as doable. All different issues have been put away in the intervening time anyway. In speaking about our work there we at all times give credit score to the opposite boys, though all people might simply declare the credit score for themselves.
On the very first morning time all of us obtained up, and the day’s actions started. I went out with a litter squad, not wanting to attend till the sufferers have been introduced in, when a few of the boys had laid in some moist shell gap all evening struggling untold agonies. The artillery was placing on a heavy barrage fireplace after we went on the sector. Below this barrage fireplace we picked up our sufferers and returned to the dressing station. It was nonetheless that darkish that we had to make use of lanterns in doing our work. Each time the battery in again fired a volley, our lights would exit, and the shock sufferers would need that they have been out of their distress altogether. Nicely, the identical story of the day earlier than was true on today. Loads of work beneath plenty of difficulties carried out in a most self-­sacrificing method by all people. The day earlier than introduced a tough downside for the evacuation officers, however today noticed an answer of this downside and the speedy evacuation of the sufferers. Throughout the day prior to this three sufferers had died whereas ready for evacuation, and one man had died within the dressing station earlier than we might work on him. This man had been given plenty of morphine to alleviate his ache. Then we tried to heat him up in order that we might work on him, however he expired on the “shock desk,” his final phrases being “Hiya Invoice.” At the very least he was glad when he died. One of many options of the day’s actions was the verification of the tales that the Germans didn’t respect the Crimson Cross insignia. On one event our ambulances—on the sector—have been shot at by a German aviator, two mules being killed. Later a German aviator pumped a stream of machine gun bullets right into a trench the place the boys had gathered plenty of the wounded. “The unspeakable Hun” has to reply many an analogous indictment.
ounded soldiers are treated in a church in Neuvilly-en-Argonne, France, being used as a field hospital. (Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo/Alamy Stock Photo)
ounded troopers are handled in a church in Neuvilly-en-Argonne, France, getting used as a area hospital. (Sueddeutsche Zeitung Picture/Alamy Inventory Picture)
Now to renew the narration of the occasions of Sept. twenty ninth. The division had suffered heavy losses and was just about performed out—all people was praying for reduction—when the Dutchman let free his counterattack. It got here all of the sudden and was robust. For a time it appeared to succeed, however historical past will inform that we repulsed it and gained some extra territory doing it. The engineers had been introduced up the evening earlier than to dig a line of trenches for the boys to carry onto till relieved. They dug these trenches beneath fireplace [and] then retired. About midday of the twenty ninth, the story that our boys have been retreating started to flow into. This was on account of the truth that the infantry had retired to the road of trenches simply dug for them. We stored on working unconcernedly, assured of the power of our boys to carry the road. Then, about 3:00 A.M., the order got here for us to evacuate the dressing station. The opposite ambulance corporations left earlier than we did, in order that after we did depart, it appeared that we have been too late.
The division had retired to a spot near the place our dressing [station] was, and the enemy was urgent their robust assault. At this junction of the day’s occasions, many people went through a metamorphosis of opinion on many topics. Personally, here’s what occurred to my notions conceived through earlier footage. Within the first place I had come to the conclusion that the outdated time battle scene the place the commanding officer stands together with his arms folded, calmly ordering the boys, was an impossibility in trench warfare. Main [Norman B.] Consolation, a St. Louis acquaintance of mine, modified this conclusion. As our firm was going again, I noticed him standing in that picturesque pose telling the infantry what to do, stopping anyone who had no orders to return, commanding machine weapons—actually, he gave the impression to be directing the entire battle. All this was completed very calmly and intentionally, altogether unmindly of the shrapnel that was bursting throughout him. The battle scene itself was very like what I had imagined as happening in 1862. In again of me the American artillery was spitting fireplace as quick as the boys might feed the weapons. On each side there was “doughboys” working their weapons beneath their officers’ orders. Machine weapons have been put-put-putting their shells at Jerry on each side. Then in entrance of me—I knew that Jerry was coming. We got the orders to maneuver again, and we packed unexpectedly and began what we now laughingly time period “our strategic retreat.” It was no laughing matter at the moment, as shrapnel and fuel shells have been bursting throughout us, as Jerry was placing over a barrage. I took my time firstly, harboring my energy for the highest of the hill the place I supposed to make a touch till I used to be over the crest. I had thrown my pack away as extra baggage.
Simply earlier than I reached the highest of the hill, the fuel alarm was given. I placed on my masks, however after stumbling over some wire and working right into a mule I pulled the masks from my face, deciding to run through the gassed space. I obtained a few whiffs of the fuel—which was mustard fuel, however it didn’t damage me. After I reached the highest of the hill, I began working however had run just a few yards once I heard a shell coming from one in every of Jerry’s weapons. I jumped behind a tree and dropped to my abdomen simply because the shell exploded inside a radius of thirty ft. This shell was fuel, and all it did was to throw plenty of dust on me and trigger me to place the masks on and transfer. This time I obtained my breath beneath the tree earlier than resuming the “strategic retreat.” Earlier than I began once more, the shelling had change into fairly intense, so I hesitated somewhat longer than I had supposed, hating to depart the seeming shelter of the tree. Lastly I obtained up and ran over the longest crest I’ve ever been on—shrapnel falling throughout. Two of our males have been hit by shrapnel on this crest. 
That evening the division was relieved, and the brand new males coming in on each side reduce off a complete lot of Jerrys and captured them. It actually had been a contemplated strategic retreat. We then pushed Jerry 4 kilos additional again than he had been earlier than his counter assault.
We camped in a area till the following morning. Tho it rained all evening and I had no blankets, I slept soundly, not waking till 8:00 A.M. subsequent morning.
We have now obtained the information of our victories all alongside the road and of Bulgaria’s capitulation—you’ve rejoiced on the identical information. Undoubtedly you’ve additionally rejoiced on the information [of the] victory of the American boys west of Verdun. What I’ve simply written is about that victory. It was a “unhealthy dream,” however those that get up from it have come out far for the higher for having gone through the crucible [of] self-sacrifice, lack of all petty jealousies, a higher confidence in all individuals no matter race, shade or faith—all besides the Hun. How we did pray for the coloured boys to come back to alleviate us. How we smiled at them and inspired them as they handed us on the street! How we determined that “Froggies” had pep after we noticed them bringing their tanks and their “75’s” on the double time. How a few of our boys took off their brassards and joined “a decrease” department of the service, deciding that the doughboys have been the very best department of service.
All that may by no means be advised in press experiences of the American victory west of Verdun. Many experiences within the papers have been confirmed true in our experiences right here. Sure, the doughboy smiles over his wounds and says, “I need to get effectively in order that I can get one other wallop of the [dirty] _____.” You possibly can consider that now. After seeing what I’ve seen and listening to what I’ve heard, I consider with most of our courageous doughboys that we must always take no extra prisoners and that we must always devastate a German metropolis for every French, Belgian, or Serbian metropolis they’ve ruined. No, it isn’t the Kaiser that has introduced this world to this nice warfare. It’s the Prussian individuals. The lads against us have been Prussian Guards, and I’m firmly satisfied that they’re altogether in sympathy with the Kaiser’s ambition. I absolve the smaller German states as I feel they’ve actually been compelled into it.
The final a part of this letter was written after I got here again from the funeral ceremony of one in every of my comrades, who died on the sector, hit by that terrible stuff—shrapnel. Don’t really feel like writing dispassionately at this time so will shut with my honest regards. Luck to your work of preserving data of this warfare for Ohio. MHQ

This text seems within the Spring 2021 problem (Vol. 33, No. 3) of MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Navy Historical past with the headline: Expertise | Nightmare on the Western Entrance

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