Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Some set backs. We threw a track on the bulldozer Wednesday afternoon. There is never a good time to throw a track, but it doesn't get much worse than sixty hours before The Great Pumpkin Shoot. Matt reviewed his profanity and it was impressive!
The area is cleared for ACE IN THE HOLE, our non-alcoholic tent saloon, and it is ready to be assembled and stocked.
The Great Pumpkin Shoot sign is ready to go by the road.
Hangman's kitchen area has been prepared and a supply of wood laid in.
Guest quarters...are a work in progress.
The modern day out house arrived this morning. When the man called and asked about how to find the place I told him to look for the Big Green Army Truck.
"Which side of the road," the man ask?
"It will be the only Big Green Army Truck parked on the road."
Targets are being set up.
Last but not least Peppi the porch cat, another one (Groan), went with us for Helene's walk this morning. This was a regular occurence until Wally, the big tom, got tired of being run off the food dish by the "Pocket Panther" and she spent several days recovering.
This morning Peppi tried to walk with us but it was just too hard, so she went for a carry.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
In the next couple of days ACE IN THE HOLE, our non-alcoholic tent saloon will be up and ready to dispense water, tea and sodas under the watchful eye of Miss. Maggie. Hangman will have the coffee.
Our shy and retiring range cook, Hangman will be arriving this Friday evening and getting ready to perform his magic starting with breakfast for those there early enough. We will have the site of his field kitchen ready and waiting.
A new American Flag will grace the gate post. Folks (probably short folks) will be on hand to direct parking. It will be best to ride to the shooting range in one of our conveyance. Experience shows us too many vehicles collecting on that road are a problem.
In 1921 Whittlesey was promoted to Colonel and given charge of the reserve division of the 108th. This was a position he wasn’t seeking but didn’t feel he could refuse.
In November of that year the war was brought back to him in a most sobering manner. Whittlesey was asked to be a pall bearer for the remains of a World War One service man being laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. This was yet another honor / duty he felt he could not refuse. The ceremony took place on November 21, 1921. Any misgivings he had were kept to himself as was his fashion.
Unknown to family and friends, Whittlesey booked passage on a steamship, the S.S. Toloa bound for Havana three days later – November 24, 1921. His affairs were in order. His rent was paid up a month in advance. Letters, addressed to relatives and close friends, were left in his cabin. The letters gave instructions for disposing of his estate but made no mention of his intentions.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
In a wild part of the Argonne Forest is a deep almost rectangular ravine surrounded by steep wooded slopes. The terrain is unsuitable for crops or grazing. The result is a thick tangle of trees, vines and undergrowth of a sort that can only be the product of undisturbed centuries.
The U.S. 77 Division had been advancing against heavy German resistance in the Argonne Forest for several days. When Major Charles Whittlesey, the commander of the 308th. Infantry, advanced into a valley known today as The Pocket, flanking units were not able to keep pace. By October 3, 1918 the 308th and elements of other American units were surrounded.
Whittlesey’s command was subjected to constant machine gun, mortar and artillery fire for several days. At one point inaccurate coordinates resulted in “friendly fire” striking their positions. Thankfully correct coordinates were delivered by the unit’s last homing pigeon and the barrage was lifted.
The shelling and rifle fire added to an already miserable situation. The troops had advanced with one day’s rations and were not carrying blankets or overcoats. For more than 100 hours Officers and men of The Pocket were without food. Their ammunition supplies were low. Constant rain and cold weather compounded their misery. Water was the worst torture of all. A stream ran through the ravine where the men could see, hear and smell water but snipers made sure no one got to it. Even in the darkness machine guns trained on the stream bed would spit death at the slightest sound.
After several days, planes from the 50th Aero Squadron, A.E.F. located the Lost Battalion. On October 6, 1918 De Havilland D.H. 4s from their unit made history air-dropping supplies to the trapped men. Fifteen missions were flown that day to deliver food. German machine gun fire brought down one of the planes, killing the two man crew. To add insult to injury only a small part of the supplies got to the besieged Americans. Several soldiers were captured trying to retrieve the air-dropped packages.
Early morning on October 7, 1918 the German Commanding Officer sent one of the captured Americans back with a letter to Major Whittlesey asking for his surrender. Whittlesey declined to even answer.
As it turned out the siege was almost over. That evening advancing troops broke through to The Pocket. Of the estimated 550 men Whittlesey started with 194 Officers and Men were able to walk out under their own power. Only 107 could be officially listed Killed in Action. That leaves 249 un-accounted for.
How can that be you might ask? Some of it can be in record keeping. Many of the soldiers from The Pocket went strait to hospitals. Even men who and not received battle wounds were weak from lack of food and water and prone to illness. Some soldiers returned to their units, or were transferred to other units, and were never recorded as having served in The Pocket.
With the confusion of an army on the ropes (the war ended 35 days later) even the Germans don’t know how many prisoners they took from The Pocket.
Bodies of World War one soldiers are still being found today.
So why do I take such pride in this story? These men were in their actions the best kind of soldiers any nation can hope to have. This was not a suicide mission. None of them wanted to die gloriously for the cause. They wanted to live to go home and get back to their lives.
But they didn’t give up. When surrounded without adequate food or ammunition they dug in and fought. When word got around that the Germans had demanded their surrender the soldiers answered in words…I can’t use here.
Tomorrow I will conclude with the after math and legacy of the Lost Battalion.
Monday, October 5, 2009
I have yet to find two sources that agree on the numbers of men involved and the causalities that resulted. The Army's offical report reads in part as follows:
A force of 550 men under command of Major Charles W. Whittlesey, was cut off from the remainder of the Seventy-Seventh Division and surrounded by a superior number of the enemy near Charlevaus, in the Forest d'Argone, from the morning of October 3, 1918 to the night of October 7, 1918.
Without food for more than one hundred hours, harassed continuously by machine gun, rifle, trench mortar and grenade fire, Major Whittlesey's command, with undaunted spirit and magnificent courage, successfully met and repulsed daily violent attacks by the enemy. They held the position which had been reached by supreme effort, under orders recived for an advance unit, communications was re-established with friendly troops.
When relief finally came, approximately 194 officers and men were able to walk out of the position. Officers and men killed numbered 107.
The rest of the offical report will be presented in the next post.
The photograph above shows the officers and men who got out and were able to pose for a snap shot rather than being taken to a hospital.
If this account leaves you with more questions than knowledge gained, I understand and agree. Those who have run the numbers know it leaves over 200 men unaccounted for. I will get into some of the details in my next post.