Friday, February 19, 2010

             The Rainbow (U.S. 42nd Division) got hit with a gas attack shortly after they moved in and a man who was there remembered later a doctor tearing off his mask to operate on a casualty, and later "…men were going blind one after another and being ordered to the hospital. Often by the time they got to the ambulance, the man leading was himself blind and both got into the ambulance together….By ten o'clock in the morning fully two thirds of the company had been blinded."            For variety, high explosives could come over instead of gas. A doughboy was in a dugout when a shell "hit very nearly in the center of the roof. Forty feet of earth poured in as if from a tunnel. The men in the center of the room were covered by it almost immediately. After the first roar of falling timber and earth subsided, I heard someone ask Norman how he was. Norman answered, "I have a plank through my stomach'….he did not die immediately, I could hear him in a constantly weaker voice giving comfort to those who were dying near and with him."            The narrator himself was buried in dirt up to his chin with more filtering down all the time. "I was terribly frightened. I prayed. I prayed for my father and mother individually and collectively. I prayed for all I knew. I recited the Lord's Prayer. I made my peace with God and was unafraid….It was only by shoving…earth over my left shoulder…that I kept from being completely buried."            He was trapped twelve hours before two buddies found him and scooped him out with their helmets.            The ultimate in Germanic attentions was a raid. First came a bombardment. "Suddenly, with the instantaneity of a lightning flash, the whole north seemed to rise up in flames and hurl itself forward…there is no need to waken anyone; air and earth tremble with the concussion of bursting shells…terrified bodies come rushing, flipping, stumbling, splashing to the dugouts, dodging bits of flying debris, ducking showers of dirt, their faces lighted by flashing explosions."            When the barrage lifts, the men are ordered back up into the trenches to face the Germans following close behind their shelling and firing as they come. "Six of them reached our dugout just as its four occupants had started up the steps. Without the slightest warning, a grenade burst in the midst of the Iowans and hurled them all to the bottom. Private Byron Van Raden fell dead…[the rest]…were badly wounded."            Less seriously, it fell to two of the Yankee Division to by convoying a large can of doughnuts to the forward positions one night when they were set upon by seven German raiders. The Yankees returned the fire, killed one doughnut snatcher, and arrived in the line with the report, "Never lost a doughnut."    

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