Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Doughboy in Battle

     What they observed on the battlefield troubled many of  these men, particularly those new to battle. They fought on a gloomy landscape with shattered stumps of trees and ruined buildings and ground so torn up that they could hardly associate it with the earth they had known. Everywhere they saw bodies of men and animals, blackened, maggot-covered objects. The sights made Corporal Vaughn E. Timmins vomit. Wilder C. Hopkins, a teenaged private, responded in a clinical way, taking careful note of the shapes and position of the dead: "In one place a man's head was lying with none of the body anywhere in sight. Another part...with all of the facial features remaining but the center of and back of the head completely gone as was the body." After a platoon in Corporal Ralph T. Moan's company attacked some Germans with machine guns and grenades, Moan noted in his diary that one of the Germans had his head blown off. "It made a ghastly sight, suspended in the barbed wire. " A shell landed not far from Lieutenant Lawrence, who had to walk carefully to avoid stepping into "a bloody mess of flesh and scraps of an American uniform."
     At Château-Thierry, German gunners made several direct hits on a trench near Hervey Allen. The next day, Lieutenant Allen and another officer took a detail to the trench and, using blankets and shelter halves, picked up hands, arms, and other parts and buried them. The explosions had smothered some of the occupants and shredded their bodies, which fell apart as Allen's men pulled them out of the dirt. Later, Allen came upon the wreck of a downed airplane. The aviator, whose buttons identified him as an American, was still sitting in his seat. He had been burned to death and there was nothing left of him but a "blackened, egg-shaped mass."

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