Memoirs

Excerpts from GySgt Don Paradis’s Memoirs re Frank Glick

       As their battalion rushed to the front to stem the seemingly unstoppable German push toward Paris he writes of June 1, 1918: “We could hear the rifle and machine gun fire and see the canon shells bursting in the fields in the air ahead of us as we passed a battery of French 75mm canon. They were shooting in the open staying close to the road in case they had to move back quickly. A shell lit in front of Major Holcomb’s truck. He pulled off the road and gave the signal to disembark and the signal was passed from truck to truck. Companies formed and marched to a cover of woods about fifty yards to the left. Here they were ordered into wave formation, two waves to a company, and marched forward toward the front lines. It was, we soon discovered, a formation which neither fit the terrain or the war, but we still had much to learn.

This was a false start. The shell was apparently intended for the French cannon battery we had passed, for as I remember, we moved forward without another shell near us, although there were many bursts near the battery. No one had yet thought to warn the American headquarters otherwise. So Major Holcomb established his battalion headquarters in the Triangle Farm buildings, and put three companies, the 78th, 79th and 96th forward to relieve the French soldiers in the line, while my company, the 80th, was kept in support and billeted in the main barn of Triangle Farm, a tragic mistake.

When the companies deployed from the trucks Major Holcomb sent details to pick up ammunition nearby. Just before dark these details were returning with bandoleers of ammunitions strung on poles, when about a half mile from Triangle Farm and in plain sight of us and the Germans also, the German artillery opened up. This was really our first sight of our own men being wounded. One of my own buddies, who had also enlisted from Detroit, Charlie Munn, was wounded and never returned to active duty. The detail staggered across the field, with heavy loads of ammunition. Shells dropping all around them and we could see those who were wounded or killed lying amidst the smoke of the shells. As the smoke would clear, after each round of shell burst, we could see but were powerless to help them or retaliate in any way.

Hospital corpsmen, always too few, and too slow, and extra details were sent to rescue the men and the ammunition. The major’s post of command was the main living quarters of the farm while we runners were quartered in the horse barn in the center of the courtyard in front of his post.

As I remember it, the night of June 1st was quiet. I slept until almost daylight when the major sent me to Captain Donald F. Duncan of the 96th Company, It was my first trip to the front line and I had quite a time finding the captain. I found that three companies had dug in regular lines and all French troops had vacated our section of the front just as we had shown up. So here we were with the Germans not 1000 yards ahead of us and good chance of trying to get through us that day, June 2nd.  The enemy had been advancing from five to ten kilometers each day against the worn French troops and were the second closest to Paris (37 miles) since the blitzkrieg of 1914.

I had just returned to battalion headquarters and was about to have my breakfast from my reserve rations when the shelling started. One of the first shells came through the roof of the barn where my company was billeted, wounding several men in the barn. Then Sergeant Liptac of my platoon had lost his foot, crushed by the falling walls. The men rushed out of the big double doors of the barn and into the crushed rock road toward the woods 100 yards away, like a pack of sheep seeking questionable safety. A shell hit in the middle of them killing seven and wounding ten or twelve.

Where I sat, near headquarters, I knew little of this except that the main barn had been hit.  I lay down against the wall of the horse barn as they put over ten or twelve shells; then all was quiet. I told the other runners to stay where they were and I would see what the majors orders were.  I crossed the courtyard to Major Holcomb’s post of command, and found Adjutant, Captain Pete Wilmer pacing the floor, very excited. He said that the major had gone to the woods and left word for all runners to join him in the woods near the Paris-Metz highway. Why he did not quit his pacing and come across the courtyard to tell us, I will never know.

There was a cobblestone road that ran from the Paris-Metz road along the woods for a quarter mile into Triangle Farm, past the barn on one side and a high stone garden wall on the other. Now as I ran past the barn, there were wounded and dead lying on both sides of the road. Top Sergeant Frank L. Glick laying on his stomach, facing me, both legs off just above the knees. He raised his head and smiled as I went by. This smile was to bring me back to the rescue, as the Germans were shelling the Triangle Farm area.  Major Holcomb and a bunch of men and officers were standing on the edge of the woods. I threw my pack and rifle on the ground and said “My God, who will go back and help those men!?” Corporal Archie Smith, Sergeant Major (Ingram) and 1stLt John Schneider all shouted they would.

I picked up a shelter half and we ran back to the men. Private Fred E. Lomax lay to the right side of the road shouting for help. I went to him at once, while the other men were examining the wounded, but all were dead. Lomax’s leg was broken, near the hip, and lay at right angles to his side.  He kept trying to raise up.  I could see from the gray look in his face that he was in shock. I spread the shelter half out along side of him and called, “Let’s get Lomax out. He’s alive.”  I straightened his leg and then with two men on either side of him we managed to move him over into the shelter half.  Just as we moved him two more shells hit within 25 yards. We flattened out My head lay beside Lieutenant Schneider; he cried “My God, my God, help us!” We picked up Lomax on the shelter half and managed to get him to the edge of the woods and laid him in a ditch beside the road with the other wounded. ….

The 80th Company support line was made just inside the woods along the road to the Triangle Farm. We wasted no time digging foxholes now, our first at Belleau Wood……

It was a sober bunch of Marines that buried thirteen men outside the woods that evening,  not far from the barn where they died. They were laid side-by-side in a common trench. We were not allowed to witness the burial because of the danger of shellfire.  Old man Fear joined us that day and remained with us, as far as I’m concerned, every moment we were within German shellfire and rifle fire. We each reacted to this emotion in various ways, over the next 32 harrowing days.

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