The Turning Of The Tide





A division of marines and other American troops were rushed to the

front as a desperate measure to try and stop a gap where flesh and

blood, even when animated by French heroism, seemed incapable of

further resistance. They came in trucks, in cattle cars, by any

conceivable kind of conveyance, crowded together like sardines. They

had had little food, and less sleep, for days.



When they arrived, the situation had become such that the French

command advised, indeed ordered, them to retire. But they and their

brave general would not hear of it. They disembarked almost upon the

field of battle and rushed forward, with little care for orthodox

battle order, without awaiting the arrival of their artillery, which

had been unable to keep up with their rapid passage to that front.



They stormed ahead, right through the midst of a retreating French

division, yelling like wild Indians, ardent, young, irresistible in

their fury of battle. Some of the Frenchmen called out a well-meant

warning: Don't go in this direction. There are the boches with

machine guns. They shouted back:



That's where we want to go. That's where we have come three thousand

miles to go. And they did go, into the very teeth of the deadly

machine guns. In defiance of all precedent they stormed, with rifle

and bayonet in frontal attack, against massed machine guns.



They threw themselves upon the victory-flushed Huns to whom this

unconventional kind of fierce onset came as a complete and

disconcerting surprise. They fought like demons, with utterly reckless

bravery. They paid the price, alas! in heavy losses, but for what they

paid they took compensation in over-full measure.



They formed of themselves a spearhead at the point nearest Paris,

against which the enemy's onslaught shattered itself and broke. They

stopped the Hun, they beat him back, they broke the spell of his

advance. They started victory on its march.



A new and unspent and mighty force had come into the fray. And the Hun

knew it to his cost and the French knew it to their unbounded joy. The

French turned. Side by side the Americans and the French stood, and on

that part of the front the Germans never advanced another inch from

that day. They held for a while, and then set in the beginning of the

great defeat.



I was in Paris when the news of the American achievement reached the

population. They knew full well what it meant. The danger was still

present, but the crisis was over. The boche could not break through.

He could and would be stopped and ultimately thrown back, out of

France, out of Belgium, across the Rhine and beyond!



The aid for which the sorely beset people of France had been praying,

had arrived. The Americans had come, young, strong, daring, eager to

fight, capable of standing up against and stopping and beating back

German shock troops specially selected and trained, and spurred on by

the belief in their own irresistibility and the exhaustion of their

opponents. The full wave of the hideous instruments of warfare which

the devilish ingenuity of the Germans had invented, liquid fire,

monstrous shells, various kinds of gases including the horrible mustard

gas, had struck the Americans squarely and fully, and they had stood

and fought on and won.



The French, so calm in their trials, so restrained in their own

victories, gave full vent to their joy and enthusiasm at the splendid

fighting and success of the Americans. The talk of them was everywhere

in Paris. Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers already in

France, thousands coming upon every steamer, millions more to come if

needed--and they had shown the great stuff they were made of! All

gloom vanished, overnight. The full magnificence of the French

fighting morale shone out again--both behind the lines and at the

front. Ils ne passeront pas! On les aura. [1]



And the Bolshevik-Socialists, Boloists, weak-kneed pacifists, and that

whole noisome tribe slunk back into their holes and corners and hiding

places, and never emerged again.



And, as the people of Paris and the poilus at the front correctly

interpreted the meaning of that battle in those early days of June, so

did the supreme military genius of Marshal Foch interpret it. He knew

what the new great fighting force could do which had come under his

orders, and he knew what he meant to do and could do with it. It is an

eloquent fact that when six weeks later he struck his great master

stroke which was to lead ultimately to the utter defeat and collapse of

the enemy, American troops formed the larger portion of an attacking

force which, being thrown against a particularly vital position, was

meant to deal and did deal the most staggering blow to the enemy; and

other American troops were allotted the place which from the paramount

responsibility attaching to it, may be termed the place of honor, in

the center of the line, in immediate defense of the approaches to Paris.



They made good there--officers and men alike. They made good

everywhere, from Cantigny to Sedan. They made good on land, on the

seas, and in the air; worthy comrades of the war-seasoned heroes of

France and Great Britain, worthy defenders of American honor, eager

artisans of American glory. When for the first time the American army

went into action as a separate unit under the direct command of its

great chief, General Pershing, Marshal Foch allotted them ten days for

the accomplishment of the task set for them, i.e., the ejection of the

German army from the strongly fortified St. Mihiel salient, which the

enemy had held for four years. They did it in thirty hours, and made a

complete and perfect job of it.



I have had the privilege of seeing these splendid boys of ours, in all

situations and circumstances, from their camps in America to the front

in France--the boys and their equally splendid leaders. The sacred

inspiration of what I have thus seen will stay with me to my last day.



I confess I find it hard to speak of them without a catch in my throat

and moisture in my eyes. I see them before me now in the fair land of

France--brave, strong, ardent; keen and quick-witted; kindly and clean

and modest and wholly free from boasting; good-humored and

good-natured; willingly submissive to unaccustomed discipline;

uncomplainingly enduring all manner of hardships and discomforts;

utterly contemptuous of danger, daring to a fault, holding life cheap

for the honor and glory of America. What true American can think of

them or picture them without having his heart overflow with grateful

and affectionate pride?



As I observed our army over there, I felt that in them, in the mass

of them, representing as they do all sections and callings of America,

there had returned the ancient spirit of knighthood. I measure my

words. I am not exaggerating. If I had to find one single word with

which to characterize our boys, I should select the adjective

knightly.



A French officer who commanded a body of French troops, fighting

fiercely and almost hopelessly in Belleau Wood near Chateau-Thierry

(since then officially designated by the French Government as the Wood

of the Marine Brigade), told me that when they had arrived almost at

the point of total exhaustion, suddenly the Americans appeared rushing

to the rescue. One of the American officers hurried up to him, saluted

and said in execrably pronounced French just six words:

Vous--fatigues, vous--partir, notre job. You--tired, you--get away,

our job. And right nobly did they do their job!





[1] They shall not pass! We will get them.



*******************



Almost every soldier who goes into battle leaves a letter to be read in

the event of his death. Sturgis (Spud) Pishon, a former famous

college athlete, serving in the American air forces in Italy, before

his fatal flight wrote this letter, so full of the strength and

simplicity of a great soldier:



What little I have to give to my country I give without reservation.

If there ever was a righteous cause it is ours, and I am proud to have

worked and died for it.



Pray God this war will be over soon and that it will be the last war.



I leave you with a smile on my lips and a heart full of love for you

all. God bless you and keep you.



STURGIS.





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