"Leaving my little pack, I wandered a few rods onto the battlefield, for I indeed was curious. There were fresh holes, thick in proportion as those in a sieve, and there were dandy rifles, now rusting, any one of which I would have welcomed with a scream of delight when a boy. Dozens of little bombs were scattered about, not yet exploded. There were machine-guns, all smashed up, with blood and helmets near. The German "potato-masher" bomb was everywhere. Whole bands of ammunition lay about. Little wires ran here and there all through the grass, and I was almost afraid to step lest I explode a mine or something. I sidestepped around many of the big shells, yet unexploded, and bent over close, time and again, to peek at those curious deadly little bombs half hidden in the grass. I wondered why so many good ones were there, but supposed someone got tired carrying them and dropped them or else in their flight the Boche had deserted them. Now I had seen a battlefield. Since a little chap, I had read of such things but little expected to see a real one."
"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 knew. Everywhere they saw the 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 positions 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 hand 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."
"The acrid scent of exploding shells and charred buildings, the odors of poison gas, of muddy ground, of excrement, and the sweetish smell of corpses that pervaded the battleground affected AEF troops deeply and lastingly. Corporal Pierce remembered traveling for two miles over a recent battle site that reeked of decaying flesh. Several days after the battle, Private First Class Thurmond Baccus of the Eighty-second Division wrote from an area where the burial squad still had not finished its work. "I had rather smell gas than the odor of men and horses." The men in burial details lived with the stench of the dead, which permeated their clothing and stayed with them when they went to eat and sleep. Major Raymond B. Austin of the First Division sent his men out to bury dead French Moroccans lying near his command post "or else be almost driven out ourselves. Sights don't trouble me, but the other—no one ever gets used to that."