Monday, December 31, 2018

January 1919: “I belonged to the Rainbow Division.”

by Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

As the New Year approached, the Soldiers of the 151st settled in for what they hoped would not be a long occupation duty in Kripp and Bad Bodendorf, Germany. The men of the 151st Machine Gun Battalion were lodged among the civilian population and were thoroughly briefed on expectations of military courtesy.[i]

In this composite image, a Soldier of the 151st MGB patrols a street in Bad Bodendorf Germany during occupation duty in 1919.  Original image courtesy of The National Archives Records Administration.  Photo by Capt. Dan Nichols. Composite by Maj. William Carraway

While acclimatizing himself to his new surroundings, Sgt. Robert Gober Burton learned from correspondence that his parents had wired the house for electricity, prompting him to express anticipation of returning home to have a reading lamp in his old room.[ii]

As the terror and maneuver of combat duty transitioned to the static routine of occupation, Burton’s letters reflected the Soldiers ruminations over all they had experienced in combat and of how they would adjust to life back home. Anxious families back home awaited updates expecting “the boys” to come home now that the war was over. Burton grew testy when his mother expressed exasperation over the delay in mail.

“I am with a fighting outfit and we don’t hang around the base parts and the cable offices. Where we are, there are no cable offices. If there were, I would have answered your cable. But don’t worry about me mother dear for I am fine now.[iii]

The last days of December 1918 were chilly with light snow falling on the Rhine. The days were short with darkness falling at 4:00 pm. To keep the Soldiers occupied and to keep thoughts from wandering homeward non-commissioned officers presided over drill and ceremony. Soldiers rotated through guard mount and various details. The men received new clothing issue and, at long last, leave was granted for up to seven days. The Soldiers were able to venture about Bad Bodendorf or visit the YMCA for coffee and writing material to pass the time. Sergeant Burton availed himself of the writing material to increase his rate of correspondence home.

Dec 31, 1918
My dearest Mother,
You see I am writing quite often now as we are stationary and don’t have so awful much to do. I write every time that I think of it. As you see by the heading, we are still in Kripp and we are enjoying ourselves very much.
There are reports and they come from good sources that we will leave here on Jan 10 on our way home. I surely do hope that we do. As rule, I am rather skeptical about rumors, but the officers are talking it and from the records and things they are taking up it looks as if we are about to sail. Oh boy, won’t that be great business.
I appreciate everyone’s good wishes and I certainly do thank them for it. But Uncle Sam won’t consent so will have to make the best of it.
I don’t care anything about parading in Washington. There is only one place in the U.S. that I want to parade in and that is Monroe. I don’t doubt tho that we will parade quite a bit when we come over. We have about forgotten all the parade soldiering that we knew. We know the other kind now.
Tomorrow is New Years and we are going to have fresh pork for dinner. We bought three nice little shoats and are going to have them for dinner tomorrow. You see we are faring quite well.
Well mother dear, am always looking for a long letter from you.
Your ever devoted

One week later, writing in response to a letter received from home, Burton expresses his pride in being a member of the 42nd Division and his contempt for reports of hardship in Germany.

Kripp Germany
January 5, 1919
My dearest Mater,
I haven’t heard from you I about a week or so but will write just the same. I am getting along fine. As you will notice, we are still at Kripp. The place is not so large, but it is quite a nice place. I am still living in the same house and like it just as much as ever.
Rumors are flying fast now to the effect that we are soon to return to the U.S. the latest dope is that we are to be decorated by the French and given a pin that we can wear when we are discharged. I doubt if there is any truth in it tho so don’t believe too much of it. Take it with salt. But I do think that it won’t be long before we are home.
The Germans don’t seem to mind our being here anymore than they did at first. We are being well fed and have good places to sleep so all that we have to worry about is going home.
I want to take some schooling when I get home, but I will be a little too old to commence again where I left off, so I think that I shall take some kind of a special course. What do you think about it? Is that a good idea or not?
There is one thing that I will always have to be proud of and that is that I belonged to the Rainbow Division. It is a great outfit. I believe that it will go down in American History as the greatest of American Divisions. I am proud to belong to it and justly so.
Listen mater, when they tell you Germany is starving for food don’t believe it for she is not. The people look slick and well fed and they dress as nice as the people at home do. I haven’t seen anyone suffering for food yet and I have been in Germany for a month. We came into Germany on Dec 3. Everywhere I have been the people seem to have plenty. There is not as much of course as prewar days but no one is starving. The restaurants of Coblentz and Cologne are running full blast and there is no limit to what you can buy. So don’t be fooled when you are told that Germany is starving.[v]
Burton closes his Jan. 5, 1919 letter with a bit of branch rivalry inspired humor at the expense of the aviation. After learning that the sons of one of his former neighbors in Monroe were aspiring aviators, Burton chided them with a song sung to the tune of the popular bawdy British tune Mademoiselle from Armentières:

“I appreciate Mrs. Nowell’s interest in me, but I wonder why her boys didn’t come earlier to help win the war. They think that they are getting into a bomb proof job when they get in aviation, but they haven’t seen what I have seen of the aviators. It will be entirely different from what they think. I am not the least bit envious of them nor am I jealous. I wouldn’t take worlds for my experience as a machine gunner, but I think that the next war will find me in the service of supplies. We have a little song that we sing about the aviators. It goes like this:
The aviators so nice and fine
Parley Vous
The aviators so nice and fine
Parley Vous
The aviators so nice and fine they won the war behind our line
Hinkey Dinkey Parley Vous

Sgt. Burton's signature on his correspondence of
Jan. 5, 1919.  Georgia Guard Archives.
But I know who won the war: The Doughboys.
Well mother dearest I must be in a bad humor tonight so had better close.
Your ever-devoted son.
Sgt. R. G. Burton
Co. A. 151 M.G. Bn
American E.F.[vi]

[ii] Robert G. Burton to Mrs. R. F. Burton. Dec. 31, 1918
[iii] Robert G. Burton to Mrs. R. F. Burton. Dec. 31, 1918
[iv] Robert G. Burton to Mrs. R. F. Burton. Dec. 31, 1918
[v] Robert G. Burton to Mrs. R. F. Burton. Jan. 5, 1919
[vi] Robert G. Burton to Mrs. R. F. Burton. Jan. 5, 1919

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

November to December 1918: “We will probably have to go into Germany”

by Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

First Sgt. Lucius G. Hughes,
Company A 151st Machine Gun Battalion 
On November 17, 1918, the 42nd Division was designated to take part in the American Army of Occupation. Three days later, the 42nd Division was on the march. Leaving Brandeville France November 20, the 151st Machine Gun Battalion marched to Belgium and arrived at Septfontaines, Luxemburg Nov. 23, 1918 where they would remain for the next seven days.[i]

Four days after arriving in Luxemburg, Burton wrote to Mrs. Bessie Aycock, wife of his former company commander during the Mexican border mission.
Septfontaines Luxemburg
Nov 27, 1918
My dear Miss Bessie,
I feel very much ashamed for not having written you, but it looks as if mama was the only one I could find time to write while the war was on, but now, is it over or am I merely having a glorious dream? Will I wake up after a while and find myself in the trenches again? I can hardly grasp the fact that the war is over. It is too much of a daze to take all at once.
We were in the lines when the war stopped, and we couldn’t sleep for the quiet. The “Rainbow” was racing the 1st Division for the heights of Sedan. You have probably read in the papers about the last great push in the Argonne Forest. Well, we were in it.
The lucky seven from H Co were in all the engagement that the Americans took part in. I don’t mean to be bragging but that is a fact.
Ed (Sgt. Augustus Williamson) is mess sergeant in this Co. Tom (Hensler) is off at some machine gun school as instructor. Haley Moore and I are line sergeants. (Leonard B.) Chandler is a corporal and (Waymen G.) Guthrie is a 1st Class private. A pretty good record. Six non-comms out of seven.
I thought that Noria (New Mexico) was a big battle but it wasn’t I was pretty scared there, but oh day, some of these over here. Chateau Thierry – wow-.
But God was good and spared us thru.
Ed has been recommended for a D.S.C. Distinguished Service Cross for bravery under fire ad well he deserves it too.
I have about learned to speak French. I can speak enough to understand most anything they say and make them understand most anything I say.
I spoke excellent French last winter. The Frenchmen admitted it, it was so good that they couldn’t even understand it.
Well, it looks as if another Xmas will see me away from home, but I think that the next one won’t.
Please write me if you have the time.
Sgt. R.G. Burton[ii]

While still in Luxemburg, Burton wrote home to his father and related some of the exploits that he could not previously share due to the censors.

Septfontaines Luxemburg
Nov 29, 1918
My dear papa,
As the censorship has been lifted so will write to tell you what I have been doing since I left home and the U.S.
We sailed from New York on the 31st of October and came in sight of land on the 12th of Nov. On the night of the 9 of Nov, one of the ships in the convoy ran into us and we had quite a scare.
We landed at Brest France Nov. 17. We then went in to training around Chaumont France at a little village called Viller sur Suize.
We left Viller sur Suize and went into the trenches in the Luneville sector. The exact place was a little place called Ancerviller. The first time in we stayed 10 days. The scaredest 10 days of my life. We stayed in this sector for four months.
From Lorraine we went into the sector Champagnes, before Chalaus. Here, we helped to stop the great German offensive of July 14. We stayed here from July 4 to the 18.
We moved from the Champagne to the Marne Salient. Here we threw the famous Prussian Guards. It was here north of Chateau Thierrey that I was wounded on July 31.
I stayed in the hospital about a month and 1 days. I then went back to old A. Co. and it was like going home again almost.
I came to them just after they had started the drive in the Saint Mihiel Salient. So, I got into that also.
From here we went to the Argonne forest. Thru there was tough going and the weather was bad.
From the Argonne we went into the (final) drive, the one that ended the war. We were in the front line when the armistice was signed.
I haven’t missed a single big fight that the Americans have been in.
Christmas has come again, and I can’t be at home which makes the third, but I think that next years’ Xmas. I think that we will come home by March 1.
I certainly will be glad to come back to the U.S.
Well, here’s hoping for you and all a Merry X Mas. I hope to be with you for the next one.
Write me a letter soon.
Your Devt son,
Sgt. R.G. Burton
Co. A. 151 M. G. Bn.[iii]

On Dec. 1, 1918, the 151st MGB resumed the march and passed into Germany on December 3. For the next six days marching to Boos, Germany, the Soldiers endured their most difficult marching since their 70-mile march to Rolamport the previous year.[iv]

Eisenach, Germany. The 151st MGB marched through Eisenach on Dec. 4, 918 on the way to occupation duty. Photo by Capt. Dan Nichols 

This is the only road from Bettenfeld to Neichen, Germany. It was along this route that the 151st MGB experienced its hardest marching. Photo by Capt. Dan Nichols

The battalion rested in Boos before resuming their march to the Rhine. They arrived in the towns of Kripp and Bad Bodendorf five days before Christmas and received new clothing and billets among the civilian population.

On Dec. 15, 1918, the 151st MGB’s marching route took it through Waldorf Germany. Photo by Capt. Dan Nichols

Writing home, the day after Christmas, Gober related his experiences spending Christmas on occupation duty.

Kripp Germany
December 26, 1918
My dear mother,
Well, it is the day after Xmas and all is quiet along the Rhine tonight. I spent a very nice Xmas and enjoyed myself lots better than I did last year.
Our mess (the Sgts) had quite a nice diner. We had light wine as an appetizer, soup, chicken, chicken soup, dressing, fried rabbit, potatoes, apple sauce, tapioca pudding, coffee and cigars. I think that considering everything it was quite a nice dinner. We have our mess in a pretty villa overlooking the Rhine. We have plates, cups, saucers, silver knives forks and spoons that the lady that owns the house kindly lent to us. We do not sleep here but down the street in another villa that is just as pretty as the one in which we have our mess.
The man that lives where I am staying is certainly nice to us. Last night he and his wife brought us in an Xmas tree all lighted up with candles and decorated up with the things that go on a Xmas tree. There are no children here, so he must have fixed just for us. There are eight of us that sleep here. In former days he was an artist and his sketches are on the walls. They are good too. Some of his paintings of the Rhine in winter are great. He and his wife can’t seem to do enough for us.
There is a rumor out here that we start for home on Jan 10 and that the Rainbow parades in Washington Feb 22. I don’t hold out any false hopes, however. That is rumor.
To think that we will be over here so very much longer. So little mother be patient and your war-boy will be home before long a very peace-loving citizen of the United States of America.
The Y gave us an Xmas tree yesterday and each of us got some smoking tobacco, chocolate and cookies. They were certainly appreciated. Our Christmas boxes haven’t come in yet, but we are expecting them every day. I had about as soon have a letter from home as the box. When I have received the box, I will write Miss Griffin again and thank her for this candy. I certainly do appreciate her sending it.
I have written all the children a card wishing them the merriest of Xmas and the most prosperous of New Years.
Have you received the souvenirs I sent home? I will have quite a collection. Save the letters and I will explain them all when I get home. There are lots of things interesting that I can’t write but can tell you all about.
I am looking for a long long letter. My love to Ida and Toombs.
Your ever-devoted Son,

Post card sent home by Robert Gober Burton from Kripp Germany Dec 21, 1918.  Georgia Guard archives

[iii] Robert G. Burton to Mr. R. F. Burton. Nov. 29, 1918
[iv] Peavy, Arthur and Miller, White, The 151st Machine Gun Battalion 42d (Rainbow) Division: A Battalion History and Citations of the Rainbow August 13, 1917 to April 26, 1919. J. W. Burke Co., 1919, 21.
[v] Robert G. Burton to Mrs. R. F. Burton. Dec. 26, 1918

Thursday, November 8, 2018

October 17-November 17, 1918, The Drive for Sedan: “Can it really be that we have won the war?”

by Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

Non-commissioned officers of Company A, 151st MGB.  Sergeant Burton is third
from the right. Georgia Guard Archives

October 28, 1918
(Exermont) France
My Dearest Mother,
Well, will drop you another line tonight. I am as well as fine as can be.
I know no especial news to write only that we are still giving the Boche no rest and I believe “Daddy” Foch won’t until he has them across the Rhine and back into Germany.
We received some German propaganda today. I wish that I could send you one of these. They are real funny. They say come over and be a free boarder in Germany till after the war. They don’t mention the work nor do they send the prison camp menu. This is very neglectful of them. The boys had a great laugh when they read it. It was certainly absurd, to say the least of it. They consider that we are as the German Soldier, block minded and they treat us as if they thought we were children. It was great.
Well fall and winter have and are rolling round again. I suppose the people at home are killing hogs and having fresh meat. Gee! Wouldn’t some fresh sausage and spare ribs and backbone taste good. We get plenty to eat and all the time, but some homemade fresh meat would sho go good.
Ed (Sgt. Augustus Edward Williamson) has been recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross and I hope he gets it for he certainly deserves it. He is Mess Sergeant now. He has all the feeding to look out for and he does it in great style. We get lots to eat.
You already know that I have received the box but that the watch was broken. That was hard luck, but I think that if I ever get to go to Paris I can have it fixed. I am writing with the pen now and it surely does write good. I am also smoking one of the cigarettes while I write. The box they came in is serving as a writing desk so all around the whole outfit came in handy.
I have written you about my girl in Macon. She is the best looking girl in Georgia, “That’s all they are too it.”  She has asked me several times if I have written you about her. This is the most serious affair that I have had I think. I think a heap about her. I also think lots of her. She is certainly a fine girl. I have already told you I think she was a cousin to Rob and Hiram Nowell.
You know about the seven boys that transferred from old H Co. to the 151st? Well six of them are non-commissioned officers.  5 Sergeants, 1 corporal, 1 private. That is a pretty good record, don’t you think?
Tell Frank, Rache and John that I will write them when I have more time. It takes most all the spare time to write to you and Mary, so when an opportunity presents itself I will write to them. I know Lois and little Gene are interesting now. Tell them their Uncle Gober thinks of them heaps ad sends lots of love and a big hug for each one of them.
I appreciated Ida’s letter a whole lot and will answer it when I have the time.
Ere you have received this I suppose you will have received the little slip to send me an Xmas package. It is only three pounds, but it is that much and it will come in good about Xmas time. You will have to comply with the directions on it for me to receive it.
I told you in the letter what to send in it I think.
Well mother dear, this will make the third Christmas from home but I am quite certain that war won’t be the cause if I am away Christmas a year from now. For the war will finish before then and peace will be in the world.
This is long mother so will ring off for this time. Write me long letters. I like to receive them.
Your ever devoted son,
Sgt. R.G. Burton
Co A 151 M. G. Bn[i]

The 151st Machine Gun Battalion remained in position near the Cote de Chatillon and Exermont through November 1, 1918 and supported an assault made by the 2nd Division on that day.[ii] Once the 2nd Division’s assault moved beyond the range of supporting fire from the guns of the 151st MGB, the battalion was relieved. Transferred to the First Corps, the battalion began movement towards Sommerance the next day during a pouring rain. The battalion moved on to Immercourt the next day and forward to front line positions near St. Piermont, arriving on November 5, 1918. With German resistance rapidly collapsing, the Americans maintained a rapid pursuit driving north. At one point, the companies of the 151st found that they had actually advanced ahead of the infantry units they were assigned to support.[iii] 

Thelonne, France.  Photo by Maj. William Carraway

On November 7, the 151st reached Thelonne, a small village set among hills just south of the Meuse River and the important supply hub of Sedan. While in Thelonne, the battalion was subjected to severe German artillery fire. The next day, Cpl. Charles B Long of Company B died of wounds. The 28-year-old native of Macon, Ga. was the last battlefield casualty of the 151st.

The battalion was relieved from their front-line positions November 8, 1918. On November 11, 1918, the day the armistice went into effect the 151st MGB was on the march from Grand Armoises to Germont.[iv]

Sedan, France as viewed from the final position of the 151st MGB.
Photo by Maj. William Carraway

On November 17, 1918, Sgt. Burton was availed of the opportunity to write home for the first time since the armistice.
November 17, 1918
East of the Meuse River
My dearest mother,
Well will write you for the first time since the war has finished. Can you realize that the war has actually finished? For the first day or so I could not grasp that we would not have to go back up and fight some more. I am becoming more convinced each day that it has finished.
Long lines of Frenchmen pass each day and all day long coming from Germany. Most of them have been prisoners for four long miserable years. And they tell some horrible tales of those four years.
I have received several letters from you but as we were in the last fight I could not very well answer them at the time so will try to do it with this one.
Yes as I have already written you, the box came OK. I am writing you with the pen now and have not smoked all the cigarettes yet. Ed and I have both been smoking on them. He is Mess Sgt. of the Co. now and had room to carry them so we have both been smoking on them. As I have written you the watch was broken but I think that I will be able to have it fixed. It was certainly the very thing that I wanted. It is surely a cracker jack.
I am glad that the allotments have begun to come in as I had about decided to stop it and get it straightened out. It has been changed to $15 a month. They owe me $60 now, so I suppose you will get $30 and papa the same amount. Be sure and keep it for now the WAR IS OVER I may be calling on you and papa for some money. This won’t be until I come back to the States. I should have some money from the $12 a month allotment that I made June 1917. You know I will have to have a new outfit when I get home and I certainly do mean to have good goods. I am going to have at least one tailor made suit. But at that I won’t have to buy as much as most fellows for I have enough shirts to last me for some time to come.
I would like to shove my feet under that dining table and eat some real home cooked food. That would be the life and I think that I wouldn’t weaken a bit on it.
We will probably have to go into Germany and quiet down the population so that they can distribute food and the like. But that won’t last always and Mch 1 will see us in the U.S. if not at home. Just to be in the U.S. will surely be a relief from war-torn France. Even now, the work of restoration has started and in 5 years there will be little signs of war for France is an energetic country and thrifty too. I am real sorry that it could not be that I could be home for Xmas. But I thank our Heavenly father each night that he spared me so miraculously through the year of the war. We have only been over here only a year but we have certainly had some experience, one that I will ever forget.
Can it really be that we have won the war and that we won’t have to go up and fight any more? That the Germans won’t shoot us anymore?
Great have been the celebrations in France since the Armistice was signed. Frenchmen coming back to their homes and the meeting of brothers and fathers and mothers and old friends. The Americans were certainly warmly received in the towns which they liberated. They have liberated many French towns and many thousands of the inhabitants.
Well mother dear, will close for this time. Am waiting for a letter from you.
Your ever devoted son,

Burton was correct. While the war was indeed over the battalion would soon head into Germany for occupation duty.

Next Chapter:  The Rhine

[i] Robert G. Burton to Mrs. R. F. Burton. October 18, 1918
[ii] Peavy, Arthur and Miller, White, The 151st Machine Gun Battalion 42d (Rainbow) Division: A Battalion History and Citations of the Rainbow August 13, 1917 to April 26, 1919. J. W. Burke Co., 1919, 17
[iii] Peavy, Arthur and Miller, White, The 151st Machine Gun Battalion 42d (Rainbow) Division: A Battalion History and Citations of the Rainbow August 13, 1917 to April 26, 1919. J. W. Burke Co., 1919, 18
[iv] Peavy, Arthur and Miller, White, The 151st Machine Gun Battalion 42d (Rainbow) Division: A Battalion History and Citations of the Rainbow August 13, 1917 to April 26, 1919. J. W. Burke Co., 1919, 20

Thursday, October 11, 2018

September 25-October 16, 1918, Meuse Argonne: “What is death for your country, for God and country?”

by Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

Map of the 42nd Division's units during the actions to reduce the Cote de Chatillon and Hill 288. (Reilly)

On 25th September 1918, in accordance with General Orders No. 127, Cpl. Robert Gober Burton was promoted to sergeant. At the time of his promotion, Burton, and the 151st Machine Gun Battalion were quartered in former German barracks that had been abandoned in the German retreat from the Saint Mihiel salient.

Writing home on September 29, 1918, Burton apprised his family of his situation.

The Germans claim that there are only two divisions in France the 42nd
Shoulder strap sent home by Sgt. Burton in
his Sept 29, 1918 letter. Ga. Guard Archives
the Rainbow. I am sending a shoulder strap from the coat of one of the famous Prussian Guards. We have run into this same regiment four different times and at four different places and it was one of these that said that there were only two American divisions over here. I am also sending you two citations that we have won since we have been over. This is what they think of the Rainbow.
The boys from Monroe were certainly lucky. Only two of us were hurt and one not seriously. Guthrie and I were the only ones hurt.
I was made a Sergeant soon after I came back to the company. “Slowly but surely.”
As I told you we are quartered in some German barracks. The boys are singing and talking and laughing so that you can hardly hear yourself think. It is surely a relief from duties in the lines and we are taking full advantage of it.
Well I don’t write much more and get all the souvenirs and the envelope too so will close.
As ever,
Your devoted son,

Burton wrote home three days later. The tone of this letter was darker than any of his previous correspondence.

October 2, 1918
My dearest Mother
Well here comes again another letter. You see, I am writing as often as possible and sometimes when it is not possible. I don’t like to write letters as you know but I don’t mind writing to you so much. We have to write in some peculiar places and at peculiar times, but at that, we get off a lot of correspondence as the mail report shows.
Before I quit to night, I think that I will write to Frank and Rache. I have the spirit a little tonight and I can write some.
Mother dear, you know I have been thinking lately of what about getting killed over here for my country. It wouldn’t be so bad. I would merely have made the supreme sacrifice. That is about all that the American Soldier can ask for. What is death for your country, for God and country?
This is not a pessimistic letter. I was just thinking about it. So, I should happen to “go west,” over here, hold your head high with the realization that I only made the supreme sacrifice. It will have been for you and Auntie and Ida and all the rest, and rest assured that I have given it gladly.
After what I have seen what the Germans have done in Northern France to a peaceful country, and to the womanhood and to the homes of these people I have heard somebody say that they would fight when it came to our country but would rather that it would be kept where it is.
Well mother, this will do for this time. Am waiting for a letter.
Your devoted son,

On October 4, 1918, the 151st MGB resumed the march and on October 6, 1918 bivouacked in the Bois de Montfaucon[iii]. Their position was near the front lines and the Soldiers were once again subject to German artillery and machine gun fire. Private Carlton Barton of Company C was wounded October 6[iv]. On October 10, Sgt. William O. Williams of Company A received his second wound of the war.[v] That same day, Pvt. Scott Cook of Company C was severely wounded. He would remain hospitalized until December 10 before shipping home. He was discharged February 17, 1919 with 25 percent disability.[vi]

From October 11 to 12, the 42nd Division relieved the 1st Division, then occupying a position in the line running northeast from the Cote de Maldah just east of Sommerance, France through the Bois de Romagne. The 32nd Division was in line to their right while the line their left was reinforced by the 82nd Division.[vii]

As part of the relief of the 1st Division, Maj. Cooper Winn and his company commanders conducted a reconnaissance of the machine gun positions of the 2nd Brigade. They found that the machine gun battalion for the 2nd Brigade had been employed as the 151st had been during the Aisne Marne campaign, that is, rather than positioned as a battalion support by fire element, the machine gunners had been parceled out to battalions of the brigade’s infantry regiments[viii]. Rather than assuming these positions, the 151st MGB established a firing line just east of Hill 263. Gunners from Company B and D established this line on October 12, 1918 while under heavy fire. This line had barely been established when the battalion received orders to support an infantry assault on the Bois de Romagne and Hills 288 and 243 as well as the Cote de Chatillon which served as an important observation point for German defenses on the Kriemhilde Zone of the Hindenburg Line.

View of the Cote de Chatillon from the firing position of the 151st MGB. The Musarde Farm is visible in the foreground.
Photo by Maj. William Carraway
On October 13, the four companies of the 151st MGB moved into position on the forward slope of Hill 263. Before them was an open valley over which the infantry regiments of the 84th Brigade would have to cross. At the base of the Cote de Chatillon, 1,200 meters from the guns of the 151st MGB, sat the Musarde Farm, a two-story stone farm house and collection of out buildings which would provide shelter for German firing positions. To the rear of the Musarde Farm, circling the Cote de Chatillon were a network of reinforced German trenches which ran from the nearby town of Landres et St. George over the Cote de Chatillon and to the crest of the neighboring Hill 288. Between the latter two heights was Hill 242.

German trenches at the base of the Cote de Chatillon.  Photo by Maj. William Carraway
On October 14, 1918, at 8:15 am, the 84th Brigade began its assault. The 151st MGB provided an overhead fire barrage which suppressed the German trench positions so effectively that the 167th Infantry Regiment was able to traverse the valley all the way to the base of the Cote de Chatillon where their forward progress was checked by barbed wire. Simultaneously, the 168th Infantry Regiment surged forward and, despite heavy casualties, seized the crest of Hill 288. The following day, the 167th Infantry Regiment was unable to advance their position, but the 168th succeeded in driving Germans from Hill 242.

On the evening of October 15, Col. Douglas MacArthur met with Maj. Gen. Summerall, commander of the 5th Corps. Summerall ordered MacArthur to take the Cote de Chatillon on October 16, or report 5,000 casualties. MacArthur replied that he would take the hill or report no brigade.[ix]

For two weeks, the Cote de Chatillon had withstood assaults by three American divisions. For two days, the 167th Infantry had been paralyzed by the defensive German works to their front.

The Musarde Farm today.  Photo by Maj. William Carraway
At 10:00 am, on the morning of October 16, the 151st provided concentrated machine gun fire on the Cote de Chatillon and Musarde Farm. By this time, the 151st’s complement of 48 guns had been augmented with an additional 12 Hotchkiss guns.[x] With the fire support from the 151st, he 168th Infantry breached the German defenses, their assault carrying them to the crest of the Cote de Chatillon. The 168th was unable to hold this position and was forced to retreat to the base of the hill. Taking advantage of the progress of its sister regiment, the 167th Infantry shifted right into the area of advance of the 168th, cleared the barbed wire obstacles and, at 2:00 pm attacked along with the 168th. This coordinated attack successfully repulsed a German counter attack and its momentum carried the men to the crest of the Cote de Chatillon. [xi]

Casualties for the 151st MGB were relatively light compared to previous engagements. The battalion suffered 13 wounded but miraculously, none were killed in action. The attacking infantry regiments had suffered fewer casualties than anticipated. The 167th suffered 117 killed and 554 wounded while the 168th lost 143 killed and 566 wounded.[xii]

The role the 151st MGB played in the reduction of the Cote de Chatillon and Hill 288 so impressed Maj. Gen. Summerall that he called for a conference of his machine gun battalion commanders where the newly promoted Lt. Col. Winn briefed his battalion’s actions in the assault.[xiii] MacArthur cited the 151st MGB for their role in the assault and recommended Winn for the Distinguished Service Cross.

Next Chapter: The Drive for Sedan

[i] Robert G. Burton to Mrs. R. F. Burton. September 29, 1918
[ii] Robert G. Burton to Mrs. R. F. Burton. October 2, 1918
[iii] Peavy, Arthur and Miller, White, The 151st Machine Gun Battalion 42d (Rainbow) Division: A Battalion History and Citations of the Rainbow August 13, 1917 to April 26, 1919. J. W. Burke Co., 1919. 15
[iv] Georgia, World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013
[v] Georgia, World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013
[vi] Georgia, World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013
[vii] American Battle Monuments Commission. 42D Division Summary of Operations in the World War. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1944, 53
[viii] Peavy, Arthur and Miller, White, The 151st Machine Gun Battalion 42d (Rainbow) Division: A Battalion History and Citations of the Rainbow August 13, 1917 to April 26, 1919. J. W. Burke Co., 1919. 15
[ix] N. P. Parkinson and Joel R. Parkinson, Commanding Fire: An Officers Life in the 151st Machine Gun Battalion, 42nd Rainbow Division during World War I. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub., 2013,157
[x] Henry J. Reilly, Brig. Gen., O.R.C., Americans All: The Rainbow at War. F. J. Heer Printing Co., 1936, 713
[xi] American Battle Monuments Commission. 42D Division Summary of Operations in the World War. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1944, 65
[xii]Frazer, Nimrod T. Send the Alabamians: World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2014, 187
[xiii] [xiii] Peavy, Arthur and Miller, White, The 151st Machine Gun Battalion 42d (Rainbow) Division: A Battalion History and Citations of the Rainbow August 13, 1917 to April 26, 1919. J. W. Burke Co., 1919. 16