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Not for one moment has there been any thought of making light of that
splendid, almost foolhardy, bravery which has characterized the
American soldier. It was he himself who made light of it, as he did of
the whole war, and probably would of doomsday.
Nor is there anything unkind or deprecating in his attitude toward the
Frenchman. He met a race so distinct from his in ideals and customs
that there was no basis for understanding. Failing to understand, he
followed his usual rule in such instances and laughed.
One of those veterans of a dozen battles, chancing to glance over
these pages, may say that the dangers and horrors of those last five
months have been underrated. They, however, belong to a comparatively
small and enviable minority. Those who turned the tide in July, 1918,
and who knocked the line at St. Mihiel into its proper place in
September, also bore the brunt on the Meuse and the dreary
mud-spattered monotony of the Army of Occupation. The great mass of
the American army saw but a few brief weeks of fighting during October
and November. Thousands of other Bills, equally brave and more eager
because it was denied them, never heard the sound of guns except on
the target range.
This is not a treatise on International Relations. It is not a
chronology of battles. It is not a memorial of brave deeds. It is
merely a few impressions of Pvt. William Smith, Buck, placed in a
situation so new, so incomparable, that it had wiser men than he
guessing. He was one of those who left their reasons for being "there"
to be analyzed by men not so occupied in the business of keeping
alive. He would have been bored to death if you had tried to explain
them to him anyway. His loyalty and patriotism were so unquestioned
that its discussion was absurd. Sentimental, yet so sensitive to
obvious sentimentality that he died many times making fun of the
things that he was dying for.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"Marched till my pack gained a hundred an fifty pounds"
"Everybody had a beard on both sides of his face"
"Beat the buttons off them with a big board"
"Everyone tucks there napkins under there chins"
"They just ishued us overseers caps an rapped leggins"
"Will have to lean them up agenst something"
"Tyin it under your chin like a bib"
"Mike Whozis, the Captins orderly"
"Ive found the first real use for my tin derby"
"Another boiler blew up right in front of us"
"Lem Wattles what never had his name in the paper"
"Were livin right up in the trenches now"
"It doesnt look as if it had ever exploded"
"There was the Lootenant boostin the Major out of the trench"
"I stuck my head around the bush"
"You ought to have seen those two Lootenants come down"
"'Do you happen to have any lemonade?'"
"Tried to make a blanket roll in six inches of mud"
"All I do is scratch, scratch, scratch"
"The people here wear wooden shoes an have no shapes"
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