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Section Ten

SSU 10, Albania 1917 Courtesy of the AFS Archives SSU 10, Albania 1917

SECTION TEN began and ended its history in the Balkans. It was sent to the Balkan front on December 26, 1916, arriving in Salonica January 8, 1917. On February 12 its cars and equipment were assembled, and it left in convoy for the Albanian front, taking quarters in the town of Koritza, and working postes at Gorica and Swezda. The first group of men to serve in the Section were relieved at the end of their six months, and left Koritza on July 4, when they heard that the new men had landed at Salonica. The new men of the Section, a Stanford University unit, found the cars at Koritza, and took over the work immediately. On September 5, 1917, it followed the French-Albanian offensive from Lake Malik to Lake Ochrida, and moved the postes on over the mountains to Pogredec and Lesnicha. When the Government finally took over the work of the American Field Service, and declined to maintain these sanitary sections against nations with which the United States was not yet officially at war, the cars, along with those of Section Three, were given to the French Government, and the men disbanded and returned to France.

'The Ambulance Sections', History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France" 1914-1917, Told by Its Members, Volume II (Boston and New York: Houghton and Mifflin Company, 1920)

SECTION TEN

 Soaring France!
Now is humanity on trial in thee:
Now may'st thou gather humankind in fee:
Now prove that Reason is a quenchless scroll;
Make of calamity thine aureole,
And, bleeding, lead us through the troubles of the sea.

GEORGE MEREDITH

 

I
DEPARTURE FOR MARSEILLES

Written on the train, December 27, 1916

Section Ten had its farewell dinner last evening and we then scrambled from the dining-room at 21 rue Raynouard into autos which took us to the Lyons Station, whence our train left about 10.50 P.M. for Marseilles.

We got through the long night somehow, sleeping on the floor or any place we could find. This morning we stopped at a little town on a canal and got some very poor coffee and a hunk of bread apiece. Some of us then went into an oyster and snail establishment, being attracted by some smiling maidens in the windows. As a result, Robbie and I barely managed to get on one of the freight cars as the train pulled out, while our French Lieutenant and a number of the others have been left behind.

December 28

Ten P.M. and we are still in this damned old train. The fellows who were left behind at Laroche got on an express train which passed us and when we reached Dijon there they were in the station, with wide grins on their faces. This morning's ride was perfectly delightful, for we are in the south of France, which is full of rocky hills, old, crumbling, ivy-covered towers, and gardens with palms growing in them. The sunshine makes perfect weather. Most of us rode on the freight boxes, where are our cars, in order to get a good view of everything.

December 29

We arrived in Marseilles after a journey of fifty-four hours in the train. I never saw respectable fellows as dirty as we. Bright sunshine and a throng of Orientals, English, Russians, and soldiers of all nations make the city most interesting.

 

ON SHIPBOARD IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

January 3, 1917

Got on board the Lotus, on which we sail for Salonica. Our rooms are down in the steerage, where "niggers" sprawl all over the passage, and there is no water for washing and no sanitary arrangements. A company of two hundred and fifty Russians is on board. Mules being hauled up with derricks. Our boat sailed at three o'clock, passing a steamer with bows all stove in. A pretty choppy sea outside the harbor made men all over the ship sick and the mules "galloped in neutral" at every jounce. It was too dirty below, so we slept on the floor of the second-class smoking-room.

January 5

We were off the islands all day yesterday, and the dark, grim-looking mountains with houses dotted over them made wonderful scenery. In the afternoon we met two small French cruisers which hung around till dark. A French torpedo-boat destroyer convoyed us all night. We slept on deck, using life-belts as pillows. This morning is fine. We have been about a mile off the coast of Tunis all morning. Supposed to be going to Malta next for coal.

 

LIFE IN SALONICA

January 9

We got into Salonica Harbor late last night. Since there were no buildings for us we had to pitch a camp of three bell tents which are very crowded. We eat in a long, low, wooden shed with the poilus and "niggers." It is rough food, but might be worse. And our table manners have become deplorable. " Grab what you can and eat it quickly before some one gets it away from you," seems to be the rule. Never saw anything so picturesque or so dirty as this extraordinary town with its mosques, minarets, and Oriental types. There are soldiers of all Allied nations, and natives with queer uniforms, baggy trousers, and tasselled shoes. We had a great view from the old Venetian wall this morning. We saw nothing at first but the tips of the Turkish minarets through the mist. Later the sun conquered the fog and we saw the whole city and harbor stretched out before us.

January 14

To-day was the Greek Christmas and a big fête day. All the stores were closed; the peasants did strange dances in the streets; and everywhere we saw queer-looking musical boxes carried through the towns on the backs of old bearded men, while young striplings walked behind turning the crank.

January 15

Several queer things happened this morning. While we were still in bed, we heard shots in the distance, and Mac happened to remark that nothing could get him out of bed but the actual bombardment of the tent. A few moments later, there was a little "smack" and a long rifle bullet ripped through Bruns's blankets and buried its nose in the ground. It only missed his leg by an inch. A Frenchman was hit in the head by another bullet and stunned. They were Greek bullets, but the mystery is not yet solved.

Batch and I went up to the old Turkish prison this morning, a place very dirty and interesting. Outside it was a Greek battery, and just as we got under it they fired about twenty salutes for Venizelos, who is in town. Afterwards, while we were in a café, a Greek priest came in, walked up behind the bar-boys, and splashed them with a bunch of flowers which he dipped in water carried by his little acolyte. When he had made three dabs on their faces, they gave him money, and he then left. They have queer habits in these regions!

 

OVER THE MOUNTAINS TO ALBANIA

Monday, February 12

We left camp in our ambulances this morning for Albania, over the Greek mountains, leaving on our right bare, brown-green hills and encampments, military bridges, very few trees, earthworks and barbed-wire entanglements, marshes and a desert, with sand all around. After sundry troubles, especially with the kitchen car which we could never think of leaving behind, we skirted under a high mountain, through some woods, and made camp for the night.

February 13

We stopped in Vodena, a quaint old town, for lunch. Here by Kimono Lake, where we longed to shoot wild ducks, we heard guns for the first time. We camped for the night on a freezingly cold plateau.

February 14

It is colder than ever and we're on the worst road yet. The morning was spent pushing. We had no food till we got to Ostrovo by a beautiful lake, the scene of a battle, with shell-holes all around. Farther on was another awful hill, on which we camped cold and tired after pushing each other's ambulances most of the way.

February 16

Two cars went into a ditch near Banitza, a very curious town. Bruns turned two somersaults into a ditch twenty feet deep. In the afternoon I carried my first Serb soldier. We are now on a fine road nearing big auto camps on the plains ahead. There is snow on the mountains as usual. By supper-time we arrived at Florina, where we got potatoes, meat, and beans in an old dirty tavern.

Sunday, February 18

We left Florina about 9 A.M. and faced the biggest climb yet, a perfectly terrific one, like the Grand Cañon of the Colorado. My car ran wonderfully and I was only pushed twice. It is lovely weather, but the road is covered with deep mud and ruts. Mules are there by thousands. Boche prisoners are working on roads. It was difficult driving between the mules and carts and the precipice. Later we splashed through swollen streams, and in one I bent the crank-case on a huge rock. Another car came up soon and we had lunch of singe and a little bread. After lunch all went on but Fitz and me. I was finally towed by a Packard six kilometres to camping ground. Eventually, I had to run the car as she was, despite the clanking noise.

 

WORK ON THE ALBANIAN FRONT

March 10

I was on duty at Gorica, near Lake Presba. I slept in a barn on dirty straw. This is a queer little village of wicker and mud huts. The women are hard at work carrying wood, while the men stand around doing nothing. The total excitement of the inhabitants is picking lice off each other in doorways.

March 11

Awakened by guns, I knew the attack had begun at last. Our cars went to a poste two kilometres over the Serbian boundary and got the wounded who came down the mountains slung on mules. They are horribly messed up, some of them.

March 20

Days of hard work, carrying wounded over awful roads, and on to Koritza. I shall never forget scenes in the hospital there, where wounded were dumped down on straw in fearful pain, many of them. The camp at Zemlak was bombed, and Henry Suckley, our Chef, was injured so badly that he died in a few hours. His funeral was held to-day at Koritza, where he was buried in the little Christian cemetery. Sous-Chef Kimberly Stuart will be in charge of the unit.

April 15

Our Headquarters are moved to Koritza, with postes at Swezda and Gorica. At Zemlak we live in a Turkish house. There is a knot-hole in the door between our room and that of the Turks, and it is usually occupied by an eye --- either belonging to us or to one of the natives. So neither of us feels sure of much privacy. But the little daughter, Litfi, comes in every day with a gift of an omelette, or some native dish; and they are very attentive. There is an older daughter, too, who is supposed never to be seen by any man outside her family; but we sometimes see her through the knot-hole. At Gorica we live near the lake, eating with some sous-officiers and sleeping in our cars. The scenery is beautiful, and there are bears and wolves in the forests near by.

Sunday, May 20

On returning from a trip to Zelova, I met a native bridal procession coming out of Koritza. In front were donkeys laden with brilliantly painted wooden trunks and boxes, and behind, on an ass, which her husband led, was the bride in a white veil. People thronged the streets everywhere to witness the ceremony. The couple cannot live together for two days, according to the custom. Marriage always takes place on a Sunday, and the festivities last a whole week. On the Monday the relatives, in a regular procession with music, go out to see the bride.

Monday, May 21

I took a walk with the Albanian from Bridgeport, and met a deputation of old women on their way out to visit the bride of yesterday. They all carried black umbrellas and were accompanied by a girl beating on a drum.

 

A NATIVE FUNERAL

June 3

In the afternoon I went with Mac to police headquarters to see the results of the new order disarming all Albanian and Turkish civilians. They poured in all day with every sort of weapon, from modern Turkish rifles to bent and battered muzzle-loaders, thick with rust. We examined the pile of junk, and I brought away as souvenirs the sights of a Turkish rifle and a small dagger.

Afterwards a native funeral came along the street and we followed. Singing a mournful song, the tall-hatted priests led the way through the cemetery to the old church where there was an open casket in the middle of the floor, and we went in. All, including ourselves, held candles. After a long chant the coffin was taken out to the yard, but not until all the relatives had kissed the corpse. Hired mourners kissed it again and again by the graveside, weeping and wailing frantically all the while. The body was that of a woman not over thirty, but very ghastly to look at. After the final kissing, a cross was put on the mouth, the body was covered with cotton cloth --- all except the nose --- and the coffin was then lowered into a shallow grave, about three feet deep. The priest threw in olive oil, and the spectators each tossed in a little earth. Finally a lid was put on the coffin and the grave filled up. Dry bread was given out at the gate of the church-yard. Every one seemed very hungry and many fought for it.

June 12

I got some Albanian kids to wash my car in exchange for some chewing-gum. We saw the Albanian Army marching downtown to-day. Its exploits are amusing. During one battle the only man killed was an Albanian captain who was quarrelling with another captain about who should ride the one horse. The Albanian Army came home for Easter, leaving the positions to the Boches, and the Senegalese "niggers" had to go out to save the town.

June 13

I was on call and made a trip to Kula Nora for three men suspected of typhus. In the afternoon I had another call to get a blessé from Voskop, a little town at the foot of the mountains toward Muskopole. None of our ambulances had been there before. The blessé turned out to be a Roumanian civilian who had been set upon by komitadji, or bandits, with knives, robbed of his money, and wounded ten times in the neck.

July 1

I made a trip to Zelova. If it's my last trip in good old 348, as it should be, I'm glad it was a pleasant one. The road is quite good now, except the "Biklista Bumps." I met thousands of ponies, asses, and goats, and three tortoises on the road.

HAMILTON LILLIE*
*Of Boston, Massachusetts; Cambridge University, England, and Harvard, '18; served in Sections Four and Ten from November, 1916, to November, 1917; subsequently became a Lieutenant in the U.S.A. Aviation Service. The above extracts are from his diary.

 

II
SALONICA AND ROADS TO ALBANIA

Salonica, January 21

Went downtown to a mosque to see a dervish ceremony, which consisted of a group of about sixteen men, all kneeling in a circle and chanting a verse which they repeated about a hundred times; then shifting to some other verse for another hundred, while swaying their bodies from side to side. Later, they chanted to a kind of tom-tom, or drum, going faster and faster. They were singing dervishes. We were disappointed, as we had hoped to see the whirling, dancing variety.

February 15

Got up quite late. We are on the side of the road in a kind of a ravine between two hills. On the right is a long, high ridge rising below us and coming to a summit opposite, and then rolling on beyond. It is a stony, gray, slaty hill, covered with a brown scrub. Halfway between us and it is a tiny little Serbian graveyard of about twenty wooden crosses, and right beside us is a single lonely grave of a man killed on this very spot by shell. All this country has been fought over many times. The big snow mountains in the distance, and the large, queer-shaped lake on the other side of us, make a very beautiful region, different from any I have ever seen. Every now and again we hear the rumble of heavy guns.

February 16

Very cold on the tops of the mountains, but a wonderful view of the country. Florina is just visible in the distance, tucked against the snow-capped mountains about twenty miles across a broad, level valley. It is a funny little town, like the worst parts of Salonica. At night it is as dark as pitch, all the windows and doors being boarded up.

 

TROUBLE WITH AEROPLANES

Zemlak, February 24

A fine, clear day in this little village and every one expected some aeroplanes to fly over. Suckley made us move the cars all round so that one bomb would not blow them all up at once. A couple of planes did fly over, but no bombs were dropped. One Boche, however, turned his machine gun on some troops down the road, and one Frenchman got excited and fell off his horse; he was the only casualty. From camp it sounded like quite a little battle.

March 9

I left camp for Soulim, where two of us are to be stationed for a few days. The road is an old Roman one, and a wonderful piece of engineering. It winds back and forth, zigzagging. At the top, you suddenly get a fine view of Lake Presba, whose water is strikingly green and brown, with white herons on its surface making a curious contrast.

March 10

Left Soulim about 12.30, as everything was moving to Gorica. We made Gorica with some difficulty as the road is terrible. There we got two malades for Zemlak. We had quite a bit of trouble in getting over the pass, as it is worse going that way. We got stuck about six times, but finally arrived at Zemlak at 6 and had supper, and then started back for Gorica at 9.30. The moon was quite bright, and it was a marvellous night, the snowcapped mountains standing out like purest crystal while the cloud-shadows on them were most curious. One place on the road, where it runs on the side of the hill with the lake about two hundred feet directly below, is especially beautiful. We got to Gorica at 12 P.M., and went right to bed in the car. The attack starts to-morrow, and about the whole Section will be up in the morning.

 

SHELLING BY THE AUSTRIANS

March 11

Got up about 7. About ten of our cars were sent up to the front. We stopped when in sight of the enemy. One car went on beyond and was shelled; so we all had to stay quite far back. The "75's" and the "220's" started at 7 and kept at it all day long. The advance moved but slowly, as the Austrians had lots of ammunition. About noon, the wounded began coming up the road on muleback.

March 13

Woke up at 4, and took two couchés to Gorica, returning about 6. Loafed around until 10, when three of us went down the road to watch a "120" firing. We were about one hundred yards away when suddenly the Austrians opened up on it. Three or four shells fell quite near it, when, all of a sudden, a shell came in and lit within a yard of the gun and in the midst of the ammunition; there was a crash and a flash, and in the light we could see three figures thrashing around. We went back, got a car, and carried the men who were wounded across the field to a hastily constructed dressing-station. One man was dying --- his head terribly burnt, a hole in his neck, a broken leg and arm. The other two were not so badly off.

About one o'clock, I took three assis to the hospital, and then got a little sleep. About 5.30 I left for Koritza with three assis; had no lights and the roads were very bad. To bed at Zemlak at midnight. It rained all night. Raining and drizzling when I woke up; started work on my car about 7. Lunch at Zemlak and left for Gorica at 12.30. Roads worst I have ever seen; they were like a boulevard before compared with what they now are.

 

LONG HARD RUNS

March 16

Still raining when I got up. Left for Zemlak with three assis. Roads pretty bad, but some of the worst places had been fixed. Car ran poorly at first, and I had to change spark-plugs twice. At Zemlak we had to go on to Biklista; the road was terrible --- worse than the mountains. Got stuck in a stream. Had a nice lunch at Biklista and started back. Got stuck in same stream with the car tilted so that the gas wouldn't run to the carburetor. After about an hour twenty-five Senegalese came along and pushed me out. Stayed at Zemlak for the night to bring up the ravitaillement. Got up at 6.30 and tried to start my car. The water in the gas-tank was at the bottom and had frozen. Had a terrible time; but finally got it started. Snowing all the time, and the road was difficult. Got to Gorica about noon and carried five blessés to Gorica là-bas. Up to the poste about 3.30, and made one trip with five assis. From then on until about 3 A.M. I made five trips. On one trip a man died on the stretcher beside the car, and another one died about ten minutes after I got to the hospital.

March 18

Woke up about 9 and took one couché and three assis to Gorica. Came back for lunch and filled tank. An avion flew over, and when it was directly over my head, I saw him drop three bombs, which fell in an orchard, about two hundred yards from the road. Back to the poste and returned to the hospital with a couché and three assis. Worked on my car awhile and am now at the poste waiting my turn to go up. Went up with two couchés and returned. Back again with two more and got something to eat. Heard that Suckley, Dufour, Michel, and Senel were all hit by avion bombs.

 

THE DEATH OF SUCKLEY

March 19

Got up early this morning and went to the hospital with one couché and three assis. We heard the terrible news that Henry Suckley was dying. The aviator flew down the road from Zemlak and dropped four bombs. Henry fearlessly came to the door of the tent when the aeroplane was heard, and one of the bombs fell about fifteen yards from him, to the front and a little to the right. He was struck in the groin. Though terribly hurt, he was never unconscious, and was rushed to Koritza in an ambulance, where he stayed until he died the next morning. Several of the fellows were at Koritza all the time, and saw him continually during the day and night. He was conscious all the time, smoking and chatting cheerfully with the men. He kept asking why there were so many of the fellows bothering about him when they should all be up at the front doing their work. He died quietly the next morning, about nine o'clock, and was buried that afternoon with military honors. All of us at the front were unable to go to the funeral, for the work had to be carried on just the same as if he were alive, which was what he would have wished.

WILLIAM DENNISON SWAN, JR.*
*Of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Harvard, '17; in the American Field Service from November, 1916, to August, 1917; subsequently became a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Field Artillery.

 

III
LEAVING SALONICA

Salonica, January 21

Very cold. Snow on surrounding hills. We have constructed stoves from gasoline cans. MacKenzie made an excellent one from a galvanized iron can. Have thrown the earth up around the bottom of the tent to keep the cold out and am comfortable now so long as the wood lasts. Stovepipes are protruding from all the tents and columns of black smoke belch forth. The orchestra, consisting of two mandolins, two guitars, flute, and violin, got together after supper and we had some lively music.

January 25

Great changes in temperature here. Boys went swimming in the bay again. The Packard camion section, that has been sharing the vacant lot with us, left this morning. A crowd of women had gathered waiting the moment when they could pounce upon the trash left there. It was a wild scramble and tussle for everything, even for bits of broken boxes. Four husky women would fight for an empty box, and the possession of an old home-made stovepipe was of more importance than a head of hair. Soon we saw that first possession meant nothing to the "might is right" "super-women." Here was the war all over again. The strong were snatching from the weak. They were amazed and indignant that we should do aught but look on and applaud their strength of arms. We interfered because we were for fair play --- namely, first come, first served. Any good American would do the same. The old lady next door had better keep her three fat ducks at home.

February 1

Wooden shoes have been issued to us. The old lady next door wants to know what has become of a duck. Only two quacking about this morning.

February 12

Up at four o'clock; packed tents and burnt all rubbish. The women will be surprised and disappointed when they see we have gone and left no trash behind.

February 14

To-night the ambulances are roosting here on the top of a steep hill, and this is how we got up this last big hill. When we saw it we knew we could not make the grade, so we stopped well back in order to make a run for it. But before making the attempt, we all walked up looking the road over and figuring out how we might best make it. Then we stationed ourselves at the places where we knew a push would be necessary, and signalled for a car to come on. A hundred yards from the top, it was necessary to go into first speed, which was good for about twenty yards and the rest of the distance it was push for all hands.

It is now 9.30 and I am writing in my car. The wind is howling outside and it is very cold. My ambulance is well made and closes up snugly, so with a lantern burning it is quite comfortable. Ellingston is on guard and one would know it is way below freezing by the sound of his feet upon the frozen ground.

 

A VISIT FROM SECTION THREE

February 17

Lovering Hill, Powell Fenton, and Bluethenthal came over from Monastir to see us. After lunch, Henry decided to send five ambulances on over into Albania and I was one of those chosen. We were told to travel light; so we carried only extra gasoline and personal effects. We started at 2 P.M. and reached the top of the pass at 11 P.M. Nine hours to go eleven miles! But the mud was ankle-deep, and near the top the deep ruts were frozen. We had to use the same tactics of pushing in relay. At one steep place several natives passed us and we made motions for assistance, when we received from one of them this reply, in perfect English : "Christ a'mighty, I have already done a day's work." We laughed, passed around cigarettes and shook hands with our interpreter's friends. He had worked in Gloversville, New York. Before going to sleep I made tea and we opened sardines and the army rum bottle and talked of what Albania might look like.

February 18

After lunch we stopped at the small village of Zemlak which is south of Lake Presba and lies to the north of and at the foot of a large butte. If we had searched all over Albania we could not have chosen a worse place to spend the next six weeks. Clouds continually hover about this mountain and we are seldom in sunshine, although we can look across at other villages basking in the sun and their white minarets beckoning to us.

February 19

Most of the other boys arrived to-day, We pitched one tent over an old Turkish burial-ground. The headstones have disappeared, but the turf is good. Sunken places show where the graves are. I carried two wounded Frenchmen from Biklista to Bresnica.

March 1

Bob Clark waked me up about four o'clock with, "Jim, the big tent must have fallen down; I hear them driving tent pegs." At seven we found to our great surprise four inches of snow. All this snow upon the tent had drawn the pegs and the boys had to get up and reset it. By noon there were seven inches of snow.

 

AN ATTACK

March (I think it is the 24th)

These last two weeks have been hard, indeed, and it seems like a dream. During the ten days of the attack I made nine trips to Koritza and back, 74 miles, and ten trips to the poste, an easy 750 miles, over roads beyond description. Selden Senter made eleven trips over the mountain in those ten days. There were stretches of road through the woods that had been made by cutting out the brush and levelling the ground. Softened by the rains, the ammunition wagons, artillery, and mule-carts had cut in, making deep mud-holes; and into these the natives had thrown stones. There were other stretches in low places where the mud was knee-deep. Many times I had to carry stones and reconstruct a surface under my wheels.

We start over the mountain with our blessés about 7 in the morning and get back during the night --- sometimes as late as 2 A.M. My greatest fear is that I may fall asleep at my wheel and crash down one of the many cliffs by the roadside. At one place the road skirts the lake, high above the water. We are often so fatigued with the strain and monotony of this unceasing grind that we fall asleep at the wheel, and run off the road. Recently, Gignoux ran over a high wall and his car turned upside down. Before I run past a dangerous stretch of road I stop my car, bathe my face in cold water, get down, and run up and down the road several times to convince myself that I am well awake. This fatigue of constant driving acts like a narcotic upon one. The mind becomes dull, and, though fully aware that I am going off the road, I am indifferent as to what follows. In this state of mind shadows along the road assume queer shapes and one is likely to see animals, men, and wagons that really do not exist.

 

SUCKLEY KILLED

March (I have lost track of days)

We are all broken up over Henry Suckley's death. He was one of the finest fellows I ever saw. Many of us were unable to see him before he died, or to attend his funeral. He was buried with full military honors and his remains lie in the. Christian cemetery at Koritza, among many whom he came out to serve. I regret that he did not live to see his efforts rewarded by the knowledge that we did the work that we came out to do. He was in constant fear that our cars could not stand the terrific strain of these awful roads, and yet during the attack we handled the wounded as fast as they were able to be moved and the Médecin Chef said it was doing almost the impossible.

Here are some details concerning Suckley's death. We had left our large tent (the one we ate in and the one we slept in), together with our kitchen car, and various impedimenta, back at the village of Zemlak, situated at the edge of a broad plain, and had come up here to the front with only our ambulances, bed-rolls, a few personal effects, and some pots and pans to cook with, intending to work from here. Zemlak is fully thirty miles back of the lines and Henry was down there looking after sundry details. It was about noon and he and Robert Wood, of Easthampton, Long Island, Joe Richardson, of Boston, the cook, his Albanian helper, and our Lieutenant's chauffeur, were standing about the camp watching the enemy aeroplanes fly overhead. At this moment, four bombs struck near by, the second one not more than twenty-five feet from the kitchen car, killing the Albanian instantly, wounding Henry mortally, and the cook and chauffeur in their legs. Joe Richardson was in the eating-tent and, on hearing the first bomb explode, threw himself on the ground, which probably saved his life. If Henry had done this, too, as he often urged us to do, he probably would have been saved. The shells exploded in rapid succession; then Joe got up and went to the door of the tent where Henry was lying, who said, "I am hit," or words to that effect. Thereupon Joe opened Henry's coat and saw at once that it was a very severe wound; so they put him on a stretcher and Robert Wood carried him to the best surgeon here. He was perfectly conscious and cool until that night. He died at eight o'clock the next morning and was buried by a Protestant clergyman with full military honors. Many of the high officials spoke, paying just tribute to his devotion to the work and love for France. Our French officer, Lieutenant Constant, put our feelings into words with moving simplicity and grace, saying:

Avant de donner sa vie au service de la France, Henry Suckley lui avait consacré ses forces morales, intellectuelles et physiques. Depuis deux ans aux armées françaises où il avait mérité la Croix de Guerre, il joignait aux plus hautes qualités du chef les humbles patiences du soldat. Il estimait que le meilleur moyen pour lui d'obtenir de ses hommes l'obéissance passive, c'était, en tout, de leur montrer l'exemple et il réussissait admirablement. Je me souviens qu'un soir, après une très longue et très dure étape, par un temps de vent et de neige, pensant que la garde de la nuit serait très pénible aux hommes fatigués, il me demanda, lui le chef, à prendre la première faction. Comment après cela, les hommes auraient-ils pu se plaindre? Il vivait avec eux, au milieu d'eux et travaillait de ses mains avec eux tout en les commandant. C'est le meilleur de nous tous qui est tombé.

Sa mort surtout fut héroïque. Dès qu'il fut atteint il demanda qu'on s'occupât avant lui-même des autres blessés, alors qu'il était de beaucoup le plus durement touché. Mais il ne pensait pas, il n'a jamais pensé, à lui; une cigarette à la bouche, comme on l'emportait à l'hôpital, il encourageait ses camarades. Il n'a pensé qu'à son service et à ses hommes et une de ses rares paroles fut pour me demander si tout allait bien là-bas.

Nous lui devons toute notre reconnaissance; il est mort pour la France en montrant sur cette terre lointaine quelle est la hauteur et la noblesse d'un cœur américain.

 

LIFE AND CUSTOMS IN ALBANIA

March 27

To-day I took a much-needed hot bath and changed my underwear for the first time since the beginning of the attack. So you see how pressed for time we have been. When we were not working en route, we were giving our cars much-needed attention, such as oiling, greasing, tightening up loose nuts, etc.

April 1

There is so much to write of in this strange land and we have been so busy the last month that I am sure I have overlooked many things of interest. For instance, we have moved to Koritza, quite a large place for this country, having about 18,000 inhabitants. It is very clean and orderly. We could not be in a healthier place, I am sure. We are at the foot of a line of mountains with a broad plain on the other three sides; so we get plenty of fresh air and water, the latter being from streams high up the mountain-sides. Snow still covers the mountaintops, but it will not last long with such weather as we have had yesterday and to-day, with every indication of continuing. It is really warm in the sun and very bright --- distinctly an Arizona day. The sky is a wonderful blue, and the mountains vary in color from a light blue under the snow to all shades of purple in the foreground; and the colors keep changing throughout the day.

We are quartered on the second floor of a very "spooky" house. The absence of glass in the windows does not worry us at all, for we expect the dry season is at hand. Curtains are not necessary, for the female population turns away at the sight of a man. This shunning of men does not speak well for those who have been here before us. Or, perhaps it is because they do not like our looks. As for the French, they are always gallant with women.

A few of the people here are attired in the European dress, but the majority wear native costumes. The men work a bit, follow a plough drawn by oxen, do a little spading and picking and drive a small bunch of pack-animals, donkeys or Albanian ponies, and very small horses. The women work much harder than the men. Many of the female peasants go barefooted the year round, are very hardy, and age very quickly. Great numbers of them work on the roads, picking up stones from the fields and hills near by and carrying them to the roads to break. They all seem more like animals than human beings, as they never smile and look so much alike. The only life and merriment is confined to the small boys who do about what American kids do. They are at the stage where they throw their hats and caps in front of our cars just as boys used to do at home.

 

MEDICAL AID FOR THE NATIVES

April 10

On the way back from Zelova, I was stopped by several peasant women, who had a small girl to be taken to the doctor. Her leg was terribly swollen from the knee down, and she was in great pain. I placed the girl in my ambulance, but her old mother refused to get in, too, and ran alongside for some distance. Finally I stopped and she got in, for she preferred the dangers of an automobile to being separated from her daughter. At Biklista I hurried to the office of the French doctor, a charming man, who looked at the swelling and asked me what the old women had to say. The situation seemed hopeless, as I could not speak Bulgarian. Something had to be done, as the doctor wanted to know how long the girl had been ill and the cause of the trouble. It occurred to me that some one in Biklista might speak English; so I ran out in the Street and called out: " Is there any one here who knows English?" Thereupon a long, lanky Albanian, among the crowd who came to see what the American wanted, came up and said he spoke a little English. So the doctor, who knew only French, conversed with a woman who only spoke Bulgarian, by this method: the doctor put his questions in French, I asked the same question in English, the Albanian translated it into Greek, and the little girl, who spoke Greek as well as Bulgarian, would communicate it to her mother; and then back would come the reply in the same manner. In the end, the doctor found out what he wanted so that he could diagnose the case. I got an Albanian to procure a room for her as she will be there at least ten days. When the child came from under the influence of chloroform, she kissed my hand. This and the look she gave me amply repaid me for my trouble.

Easter Sunday

The Médecin Chef gave us a formal dinner in honor of our entrance into the war. He is a charming man and desired to express his delight. We heard the news officially Saturday morning.

April 12

Made another trip yesterday, and en route took our little girl to the surgeon to have her wound dressed. This is necessary, for the bone is exposed, a fearful-looking place. The other fellows are all interested in the case and some of us stop each day to see her. We shall try to bring her here where we can see that she gets proper attention.

 

CAPTURING TWO GERMAN AVIATORS

Gorica, April 22

I am up here doing my four days poste duty. This morning I had two German aviators land at my feet --- a Lieutenant and a machine-gunner. America has been in the war only a few days; so I think I must be the first American to capture a Boche. I was alone in a large field near the lake when I saw the plane coming, descending all the while. Presently I heard the motor running badly; so I knew he was being compelled to land. He was making straight for this open space; so I got behind a small stump for protection. On he came, striking the ground not a hundred feet away from me.

The ground was rough, and his wheels getting into a ditch threw the plane forward, the propeller striking the earth and causing the plane to turn completely over on its back, throwing out the two aviators as if they were giant frogs. I walked toward the overturned plane, meeting the pilot coming toward me; whereupon I announced that they were my prisoners. He replied in better French than mine that he was well aware of the fact, his motor forcing it upon them. I took his picture with his flyingtogs on, just as he landed. All the while the other German was occupied about the plane, and presently I saw him take a clumsy pistol and fire it, which was followed by a flare of smoke. Then I realized that he wished to burn the machine. But in this he did not succeed, and the plane was left in perfect condition, save for a broken propeller and a damaged strut or two. The pilot told me he had dropped his last two bombs in the lake when he found that he would have to land. These he, no doubt, was saving to drop on us, as was his custom each day. Presently I could hear the French soldiers coming on the run, and I expected to see them carry out their oft-repeated threats as to what they would do if ever a German machine came down there; but nothing of the kind happened, for they seemed interested to hear what we were talking about. This was probably the man who had killed Henry and two others. In the end, they were marched off to Headquarters.

 

A VISIT TO THE TRENCHES

May 20

We are getting terribly bored with no work to do --- a fever patient every few days being the extent of our labor. Wakened as usual by the hum of "Fritz's" motor. He dropped four bombs, but did no damage. Bob Lester, Bob Clark, and I decided we would visit the front-line trenches up on the mountain; so we got a lunch from the cook and rode with Brace as far as the poste. We stopped at Regimental Headquarters where the Colonel granted our request to visit the most interesting points, and assigned one of his men, named Dard, to show us about. Before beginning our climb, we had a fine lunch with the non-coms, and I never enjoyed a meal more. It was served out under the trees, and was so well prepared that we could not recognize army rations.

After the meal, we climbed about fifteen hundred feet along the ground that the French had advanced over in March in deep snow, against machine-gun nests. We had so often had these positions pointed out to us by soldiers passing the poste that we were glad to see how they looked in reality. Here on the top the Saxon troops had rushed to stop the furious advance of the French and had placed machine guns there, which brought the advance to a standstill. The stone walls, which took the place of trenches, were not more than one hundred and fifty feet apart, and between them lay dead Turks who had fallen in a futile attack six weeks before. This accounted for the smells, which we at first thought might come from dead horses, until we realized that no horses could get up there. The soldiers have built here attractive little stone houses. Perhaps during centuries to come lone sheep-herders, grazing flocks high up there, will wonder who the queer people were who lived so far from water.

May 30

Batchelor and I have visited a native mountain village, and were interested to see the women carding wool and operating a loom. They twist the wool into yarn while they walk to and from work. Most of the men are in the Bulgarian Army and the women do all the labor. They use a crude wooden plough drawn by cows. Corn and hay seem to be the principal crops --- the latter being of a very inferior quality. All work for the French Army is paid for in bread.

JAMES W. HARLE, JR.*
*Of New York City; entered the Field Service in February, 1915, joining Section Two in April, and Section Ten in December, 1916; later served as a sergeant in the U.S.A. Ambulance Service. The above are extracts from his Diary.

 

IV
ROADS VERSUS MACHINES

Koritza, March 2, 1917

Any history of the Section's work in Albania would be imperfect without a reference to the roads, which is given in this paragraph from a letter of mine written to Paris Headquarters last month:

"I was very glad to get your note relative to the shipment of spare parts for our machines. No story that Brown could have told you can picture the state of the roads. Of four cars out the first day, three broke down with rear axle trouble, and now the springs are beginning to sag and what the future will give us, God only knows. One spring has gone already on the way here, and I expect others will go very soon. Hill can give us nothing, as he uses ten front and ten rear a month! You can get some idea of these roads when I tell you that our kitchen broke its rear axle and its coupling-hook the first day. We managed to make only fifty kilometres a day, running eight hours! I should add that these roads are dry and have not suffered from the winter. We have only been working two days, and have had five cars out of commission in that time, using up practically all our supply of spare parts. One French Ford-section has nineteen cars out of commission because of springs and axles. Out of 130 English Fords only four are running. And, believe me, we had some work getting up here. Six of us were ten hours crossing one pass of eleven miles, pushing every car part of the way."

HENRY M. SUCKLEY*
*Of Rhinebeck, New York; Harvard, '10; was in Section Three from its formation in 1915; became Chef of Section Ten in December of 1916; killed while serving in Albania by an avion bomb.

 

V
THE STANFORD UNIT

The Stanford Balkan Ambulance Unit was the second instalment of Section Ten in the Orient. Touring seemed to be the favorite pastime of the Unit, for in six short months the majority of the men "wandered" from the Stanford University campus in California, across America and the Atlantic to France, and from Bordeaux to Paris.

In Paris the Unit was offered the opportunity to go to the Balkans to replace men returning from Section Ten. We were increased by an addition of eight men from Section Fourteen and two from a third Stanford contingent. Carl A. Randau became Chef, and the trip to the unknown Albanian wilds began July 7, 1917. Along with fourteen men for Section Three, who were also going to the Balkans, the Unit was marked in traveling orders as "forty American aviators" that better accommodations might be extended along the trip. The French are clever at being kind.

Notable among the incidents en route was the "fig-feed" at the home of the American Consul in Livorno. There never were better figs than those in the Consul's garden when we arrived, and which were not there when we left. One hour of lightning sight-seeing in Rome, where an evening was made doubly enjoyable by the reception of the American Consul and the American colony. Next morning Mount Vesuvius obligingly belched out a cloud of smoke as we dragged by on the slow troop-train.

Salonica lived up to expectations with its harbor full of Allies' warships, with its soldiers of twenty-four nationalities flocking the streets and bazaars, with its minarets towering over the Turkish temples, and with its many narrow streets. We should have appreciated Salonica all the more had we foreseen the fire due to Turkish incendiaries, which destroyed the city a month later.

A night on a Greek train, packed among soldiers of all Allied varieties, brought us to Florina Station, near Monastir, whence we embarked in two Packard trucks for the trip over Pisadori Pass. Autos never ran over this pass until the war taught people new uses for them. Our first casualties occurred here --- two of our men succumbing to Balkan unsanitary conditions, the beginning of the epidemic of sickness which ran through the Unit during its entire stay. Fortunately they went to the hospital by ones and twos, leaving sufficient men to run cars.

 

TROOP-TRAINS AND PACKARDS --- BEGINNING WORK

Despite a run-down and worn-out personnel, due to three weeks of troop-train travel and the bouncing over mountain roads, the arrival at the cantonment at Koritza found us ready for an immediate introduction to work, especially as the former section had left when it heard of our arrival at Salonica, only Kimberly Stuart, the Chef, remaining behind. So next morning found every car that could roll out on the roads carrying malades and blessés, and that morning began a rush of work which lasted until the Section was recalled to France eighty-four days later. During this time an average of twelve cars were kept on the road, making thirty to ninety-five kilometres apiece per day. There is no en repos in the Balkans. In the first three days of running out along the shores of Lake Presba from Gorica in Serbia to Koritza in Albania, crossing Macedonia on the way, the Section lived on excitement and the newness of the situation, and carried 269 men 5450 kilometres.

 

FIGHTING IN ALBANIA

They had an old-style way of fighting down there in the Balkans. Trenches were not very practical except in a few of the valleys, for the warfare was from peak to peak.

Ambulancing there meant hauling the wounded and sick down from the mountains over roads that were formerly only meant for donkeys and ox-carts. Running out to Gorica you wound across the Koritza Valley, up a steep pass toward Monastir, along a mountain-ridge, and down along the shore of Lake Presba, with its pretty wooded island, once the seat of a Balkan Empire under the Bulgars. Looking across the water you saw the Boche side of the lake, and you could locate their positions on the slope opposite you. You were in just as plain sight of them as they were of you, which fact furnished fine copy for the letters home, though if you were honest you told, too, that the Boches had no guns that could reach you, and they probably would not have wasted any ammunition if they had had them, for it was hard to get ammunition up these Balkan peaks; so neither side wasted any. When they did fire, it was usually at strategic positions which both sides avoided.

The Gorica poste was a collection of mud huts and tents just out of range of Boche guns, but very easily located by aeroplanes, which may account for, but does not excuse, the fourteen different times the poste was bombed, despite the huge red crosses on the buildings and the grounds. One outpost was a little village up against a towering peak on which men fought, and the other was a tree on the road into Serbia, behind a hill which took all the punishment when there was firing going on, and down which men came straggling when sick or wounded --- being either carried by brancardiers or on pack-mules. Around the range lay Podgoritz and Swezda, where the lines were nearer. Farther back was Zemlak, where Suckley, Chef of the former Unit, was killed by a German aero bomb.

We soon learned that, along the Albanian front, the Boche aviators were our most dangerous enemies. They had a habit of bombing Koritza every morning as regularly as clock-work, while the French aviators were away scouting over the Austrian lines. Our cantonment had lost all its windows in one of those raids, and every few days women and children were wounded or killed near our quarters. The staff car had its side full of holes.

 

ROADS --- MOSTLY BAD

Probably our worst run was the Zelova with Russian evacuations. Zelova was fifty kilometres from the hospital at Koritza, over the bumpiest road an auto could travel, and the Russians were not good passengers. It was a daily occurrence for some machine in the convoy to break down, but it never remained broken more than one day at a time, thanks to the good work of the mechanics, Johnston, Massuttié, Villier, and Martin.

There was the Muskopole trip, across the valley and up the mountains over stones, bridges, and bumps sufficient to kill ordinary blessés and impassable to all four-wheeled vehicles except Fords and native ox-carts. Muskopole was in "No Man's Land," and was held by pro-French Komitadjis, or Albanian bandits, and by a few lonely Chinese sentries. The town itself was in ruins, having been systematically destroyed by the Turks, Bulgars, and pro-Austrian Albanians, along with practically the entire population. Muskopole used to be the Mecca of the Balkans, boasting over twenty churches with wonderful mosaics and fine metal-work. Now these ruined churches are filled with musty stacks of bones, each skeleton scrambled with the next one, and the only inhabitants are a few lingering natives who want to die among the remains of their relatives.

 

AN ATTACK AND AN ADVANCE --- THE ALBANIAN NAVY

On September 5 Section Ten followed the Albanian offensive from Lake Malik to Lake Ochrida. In five days the attacking divisions drove the Boches back some fifty kilometres more than the schedule laid out for two weeks' operations. Section Ten had to move postes northward day and night every few hours to keep up with the attack. An Austrian hospital one morning in Pogredec on Lake Ochrida was a French hospital in the evening --- beds, instruments, buildings, long, thin German Red Crosses, and all. Once the ambulances got ahead of the attack and established a poste in front of the infantry and artillery, with only a few cavalry to keep it company in case the Boches stopped running. Nothing could stop the wild charges of the Moroccan spahis except the order of the French General to slow down until the food trains could catch up. Only pack-mules and Ford ambulances were able to follow the army over the pontoon bridges and the bad roads left by the Austrians. On the steep hill coming out of Pogredec from Lake Ochrida, the General happened one day to see Lieutenant Daniel Faure and Chef Carl A. Randau. pushing an ambulance up the grade; so he ordered a dozen poilus to be stationed there to do nothing but this work. It was too steep even for Fords to climb without help. At a number of other places men had to be stationed to help machines through mud and bad places.

The success of the attack gave Section Ten two new cantonments, one at Lesnicha, where the hastily deserted headquarters of the Boche officers were turned over to the Unit, and another at Pogredec on Lake Ochrida. This latter cantonment was on a sandy shore, with a fine swimming-beach, of as pretty a mountain lake as can be found anywhere. Before the war the place was noted as a resort. Across the water was Ochrida, held by the Austrians, whence rafts armed with machine guns came out to worry the French. But the latter were more than masters of the naval situation with their two launches armed with cannon. These boats had been brought over the mountains on trucks and trains from Salonica and were manned by French sailors from the navy.

With no two weeks of work ever the same, life in the Balkans did not grow monotonous, largely because we were always busy. Thus, our repos consisted of coming in to the Koritza cantonment, where the men were always on call helping out the French ambulance service. The Unit averaged twelve cars on duty for eighty-four days without a break, and many times we had all twenty cars "rolling" up and down the mountains. In August, 2675 men were carried 40,506 kilometres. In September, 1779 men were carried 18,840 kilometres. The first twenty days of October saw 12,000 miles covered and some 800 men moved. At the end, three cars were always without wheels, owing to shortage of supplies, the wheels being switched from one machine to another as it went on duty.

Everywhere in the Balkans we encountered natives who spoke English and who had lived in America or had relatives who had been there. A large percentage of the Albanian population was of this sort, and all wanted to move to "the States" after the war. Their "Hullo, Johnny, how are you? What you want?" was the greeting everywhere, and their friendliness often came in handy when the Section wanted to buy something, or when we got lost on a strange road. John, the barber, became our authority for after-dinner discussions on Albanian life.

Food conditions in Albania were bad. People actually starved, and it was a common sight to see women and children picking up grains of corn and wheat from the filth of the gutter in front of the French supply headquarters. Sugar and flour could not be bought. The Army was forbidden to get grain from the natives, for the production of the soil was to be reserved for the civilian population which almost starved the year before. Army supplies were better, but were not sufficiently good to keep the men well even when they lived up to the rule of the doctors, "never eat anything not cooked an hour." Finally, Vern Caughell and Sedley Peck took over the cooking end of the Section's activities and we lived à l'américaine so far as style of cooking was concerned.

The valley in which the Section worked was, with the adjacent hills, known. as the Republic of Koritza, and with the help of the French the natives were improving conditions considerably. Toward the end of our stay the Albanians won to our good graces, though for a long time we considered them only a ragged, dirty, ignorant, and starving people who let the women do all the work while the men fought among themselves. The women were rough and ragged. Both sexes were hard to deal with as regards business, which could be conducted only after much Oriental bartering. But gradually we concluded that these were conditions brought on by over six years of war, in which the Albanians had been the victims of other Powers.

 

THE FAMOUS BAZAAR

In two ways the Section won for America immortal fame among the Albanians. The first was due to our bazaar. When the Section was ordered back to France, we were told to travel without much baggage. Having come down with a full winter equipment, we had much to dispose of, and an auction was started in the reception-room of our Koritza house. The word quickly passed around, and for a week the place was packed with bartering and bickering natives. They were eager to get anything American, having had no foreign goods for years, but insisted on the Oriental haggling before buying. Prices soared, but the goods sold.

The other cause of American renown was a farewell reception given us by the missionaries and Albanians --- Mahometans and Christians alike, where more than half of the natives were of Turkish faith. They called for musical selections from the Americans when we had gathered in the missionary school. So the missionaries asked Aupperle for some lively airs, explaining that he was an artist at "rag music." Aupperle took the stool, and as the piano began to shake and "Oh, Johnny, oh, Johnny" thundered out, heads began to rise out of the crowd everywhere to see what he was doing to the piano. The Albanians were dumbfounded. Then the reception needed a fitting climax. Translated speeches on both sides did not seem ample. Finally some one had the happy thought to suggest a college yell, and we gave a "Skyrocket" for Albania. When we had finished, they were too amazed for words, and it was several minutes before they could recover breath enough to clamor, "Do it again." We did, but even then they were not convinced that it was a human effort, and some of them visited the missionaries next morning to ask how it was that "the Americans cheered like a machine."

 

LEAVING ALBANIA FOR GOOD

Monday, October 22, after barely three months of service, the Section bumped for the last time over the narrow, cobbled, crooked streets of Koritza in the White truck and saw for the last time the Republic of Koritza.

The Field Service sections in France were being taken over by the newly arrived American Army, but the United States War Department, we subsequently learned, had refused to adopt the Field Service sections in the Balkans, because the United States was as yet at war only with Germany, and there were no German troops engaged on the Balkan front. It was considered unneutral to have ambulance sections serving with troops opposed to the Austrian and Bulgarian armies. Hence we had been recalled to France. Under orders from the Field Service Headquarters we turned over all our cars, tools, spare parts, and equipment to the French formations with which we had been serving, and made a rather hasty departure.

After twice almost going over embankments as the lorry skidded on the muddy Pisadori Pass, we arrived at Florina Station, and soon were off again on our wandering, going first to Salonica now ruined and blackened, then down the Greek coast in a little Greek liner, to Athens, where we spent a week, and then up to Bralo in Central Greece, over the Parnassus Pass to Itea, and on the Gulf of Corinth; to Italy, and thence by train to France, following in the wake of the Italian reserves.

Paris seemed like home after the crude customs of Albania, and it was days before we could pass pastryshops without entering them, or keep from staring blankly at every good-looking girl. A week after the arrival in Paris, we were in eight different branches of service, and Section Ten became only a fine memory of a wonderful five months of our lives.

FRANK J. TAYLOR*
*Of Los Angeles, California; Stanford University; served with Section Ten in the Orient from July to November, 1917.

 

VI
AFTER THE BATTLE

Koritza, Albania, September 21, 1917

Fighting on this front is very different from the species presented on the Western Front. There are few heavy guns and no massing even of soixante-quinzes. The French used only thirty, tout-ensemble, in this last "drive." The two factors which necessitate this difference are the great distance from supplies and the mountainous nature of the battle-front. All supplies from Salonica come on a little single track, then must be loaded on camions, the number of which is not sufficient to handle a great offensive; and from camions they must be again transferred to mules or two-wheeled wagons, on which they make another journey of some thirty kilometres to the front. The roads are not good, and lead over strenuous hills, making the camion part of the journey slow, tedious, and expensive.

The French attack occurred in the region of Lake Ochrida, the objective being to push the line forward to a point where it would interrupt the German supply artery from Durazzo to Monastir. Also the French wished to gain a road from Koritza to Monastir previously held by the Boche, and which wound around the northern end of Lake Presba. I was wakened at three the morning the attack started and was sent out to poste. I made the acquaintance of a French lieutenant, and we climbed up a hill to watch the sport. The French held one range of hills and the Austrians a parallel range of loftier mountains. Between was a green valley traversed by a small river. French batteries in the valley and others behind the French line of hills undertook to silence the Boche guns on the opposing mountains. We could see the flashes of the French battery in front of us in the valley, concealed from the enemy by a high grove of trees, then hear the nervous, metallic crack of the guns, and then, straining our eyes, could see the sudden burst of dust as the shell broke near the enemy trench. The French maintained a superior fire throughout, silencing most of the enemy guns, and ripping up some of their trenches. Then the infantry charged up the hill and took it. It was certainly some feat, for the other day Aupperle and I climbed up to the German positions, taking our time, and we were certainly winded and tired when we finally gained the summit. However, I am not sure how much resistance they met with, as they were opposed by Czech-Bohemians who surrendered more than willingly in the majority of instances.

From the first attack on it was "duck soup" for the French, who chased them over a dozen succeeding ranges of hills. The major part of the fighting was done by Moroccan horsemen, a wonderful body of troops, riding splendid stallions, who preceded the infantry, driving back the Boches and charging the most stubborn heights on foot. A regiment of Senegalese from Africa --towering, jet-black negroes --- also participated to a large and satisfactory extent.

Altogether the French pierced to a distance of some fifty-five kilometres, a distance, if gained on the Western Front, which would certainly make consternation reign in Berlin. We followed close behind the troops, preceding the ravitaillement, and driving over some of the damnedest roads I have ever seen. In some places it was so steep that every one, even the assis, had to get out and walk. On one grade a squad of brancardiers was detailed to help us over; they have a regular camp there now, whence they sally forth at the despairing sounds of our approaching Fords.

The French now have a boat on Lake Ochrida, to clear the lake of hostile craft, part of the shores of which they at present occupy. It was put on a train at Salonica, and then trucked by camion over all sorts of roads the last hundred kilometres. It weighs nine tons, and has a 58 mm. cannon, and a couple of machine guns. No "Dutch" periscopes have as yet been sighted on the lake, but they are expected daily. The whole business makes quite a refreshing piece of news after all the scientific and precisely manipulated warfare of the Western Front.

They took a bunch of prisoners, most of whom come either from Dalmatia or Bohemia. We talked with a lot of them, and they all seemed sincerely glad to be captured, as they had had little to eat and showed that plainly by the emaciated condition of their bodies. Most of them cared not a bit which side won, and some seemed to be in sympathy with the cause of the Allies. A few, however, thought that the war would last a considerable time, and the Boches be finally victorious.

Almost all of the French poilus whom I carry and ask when they think the war will end, say " Bientôt --- trois mois." They are all very fed up with being so far away from "la belle France."

BURNET C. WOHLFORD*
*Of Escondido, California; Stanford University, '18; in S.S.U. 10 of the Field Service, June, 1917, to November, 1917; served with the U.S.A. Ambulance Service during the war.

 

VII
MADE AN OFFICER

Koritza, Albania, September 21, 1917

Fighting on this front is very different from the species presented on the Western Front. There are few heavy guns and no massing even of soixante-quinzes. The French used only thirty, tout-ensemble, in this last "drive." The two factors which necessitate this difference are the great distance from supplies and the mountainous nature of the battle-front. All supplies from Salonica come on a little single track, then must be loaded on camions, the number of which is not sufficient to handle a great offensive; and from camions they must be again transferred to mules or two-wheeled wagons, on which they make another journey of some thirty kilometres to the front. The roads are not good, and lead over strenuous hills, making the camion part of the journey slow, tedious, and expensive.

The French attack occurred in the region of Lake Ochrida, the objective being to push the line forward to a point where it would interrupt the German supply artery from Durazzo to Monastir. Also the French wished to gain a road from Koritza to Monastir previously held by the Boche, and which wound around the northern end of Lake Presba. I was wakened at three the morning the attack started and was sent out to poste. I made the acquaintance of a French lieutenant, and we climbed up a hill to watch the sport. The French held one range of hills and the Austrians a parallel range of loftier mountains. Between was a green valley traversed by a small river. French batteries in the valley and others behind the French line of hills undertook to silence the Boche guns on the opposing mountains. We could see the flashes of the French battery in front of us in the valley, concealed from the enemy by a high grove of trees, then hear the nervous, metallic crack of the guns, and then, straining our eyes, could see the sudden burst of dust as the shell broke near the enemy trench. The French maintained a superior fire throughout, silencing most of the enemy guns, and ripping up some of their trenches. Then the infantry charged up the hill and took it. It was certainly some feat, for the other day Aupperle and I climbed up to the German positions, taking our time, and we were certainly winded and tired when we finally gained the summit. However, I am not sure how much resistance they met with, as they were opposed by Czech-Bohemians who surrendered more than willingly in the majority of instances.

From the first attack on it was "duck soup" for the French, who chased them over a dozen succeeding ranges of hills. The major part of the fighting was done by Moroccan horsemen, a wonderful body of troops, riding splendid stallions, who preceded the infantry, driving back the Boches and charging the most stubborn heights on foot. A regiment of Senegalese from Africa --towering, jet-black negroes --- also participated to a large and satisfactory extent.

Altogether the French pierced to a distance of some fifty-five kilometres, a distance, if gained on the Western Front, which would certainly make consternation reign in Berlin. We followed close behind the troops, preceding the ravitaillement, and driving over some of the damnedest roads I have ever seen. In some places it was so steep that every one, even the assis, had to get out and walk. On one grade a squad of brancardiers was detailed to help us over; they have a regular camp there now, whence they sally forth at the despairing sounds of our approaching Fords.

The French now have a boat on Lake Ochrida, to clear the lake of hostile craft, part of the shores of which they at present occupy. It was put on a train at Salonica, and then trucked by camion over all sorts of roads the last hundred kilometres. It weighs nine tons, and has a 58 mm. cannon, and a couple of machine guns. No "Dutch" periscopes have as yet been sighted on the lake, but they are expected daily. The whole business makes quite a refreshing piece of news after all the scientific and precisely manipulated warfare of the Western Front.

They took a bunch of prisoners, most of whom come either from Dalmatia or Bohemia. We talked with a lot of them, and they all seemed sincerely glad to be captured, as they had had little to eat and showed that plainly by the emaciated condition of their bodies. Most of them cared not a bit which side won, and some seemed to be in sympathy with the cause of the Allies. A few, however, thought that the war would last a considerable time, and the Boches be finally victorious.

Almost all of the French poilus whom I carry and ask when they think the war will end, say " Bientôt --- trois mois." They are all very fed up with being so far away from "la belle France."

BURNET C. WOHLFORD*
*Of Escondido, California; Stanford University, '18; in S.S.U. 10 of the Field Service, June, 1917, to November, 1917; served with the U.S.A. Ambulance Service during the war.

 

VII
MADE AN OFFICER

Albania, August 8

I am now an officer, the Sous-Chef of the Section, and quite largely responsible for the actual condition of the Corps, so that with the fearful rush we stepped into, I've been kept humping. And so, since it is my duty to supervise the spare parts department and be in command of the French mechanics who repair the cars, the combination of circumstances has provided what I've long been longing for on this side --- something real to do. The past ten days I have risen promptly at 6 A.M., worked all day with time out for meals, and knocked off at 8 P.M., reading from then until 9 or 10, when I have rolled under for the "eight hours."

Being an officer certainly has its advantages and its drawbacks. The chief of the latter is the being called on to order men I've "bummed" through college with as friends for two, three, or four years. I think it's as hard for them to obey, or rather acquiesce. The privileges are, primarily, better quarters, better accommodations, and better food when travelling, more opportunity for work, and a valet. Oh, yes, a valet! He's an Albanian who has been to America, and speaks English, Albanian, Greek, Serbian, and French. We call him "Rapide," because he is slow, and he helps in the kitchen outside of "office hours."

Carl Randau and I have for quarters a large room with five barred windows, in a one-story Albanian stone bungalow, quite near the Section's main quarters. The place is surrounded by a three-foot-thick, ten-foot-high stone wall, with a mediaeval fortress gate, barred at night by eight-inch square oak timbers. All this because of bandits, you see. The walls and ceiling of the room are tinted an exquisite pink; the fireplace and mantel between the two front windows are a glowing Lake Tahoe blue; while the row of closets at the back of the room is a livid green. The door matches the fireplace. The floor is bare, with holes in it. We each have a folding iron bed brought from the French front, and over them we have draped mosquito nettings, completely encircling each bed and extending five feet above them. They look like posters. Each of us has unearthed a table, and these are already covered with the usual litter of books and papers and lamps. With the officership goes a big, ugly automatic, all loaded, to lay on the table against assault and as a paper-weight. On the whole, everything is O.K., and we have made ourselves quite comfortable here.

 

FROM PITTSBURGH TO ALBANIA --- BARTERING

August 18

Recently I was sitting on my running-board waiting for my engine to cool after a steep hill, when along came a ballet-skirted Albanian clubbing a donkey. I was feeling "funny," so I called out in English, "Hello, Joe, what ye beating that donkey for?" And he came right back, "Hello!" And then admitted that he was from Pittsburgh, Pa., U.S.A. What a reversion! From Pittsburgh to beating a donkey across a lonely Albanian pass, the while clothed in that incongruous garb!

The Road is life! There's more music and religion in the Road, especially the Mountain Road, than in all the stone temples of the world.

September 17

I'm preparing to go to Koritza on the 1st and celebrate my twenty-first birthday. Such an unthought-of place for me to celebrate my majority! Still, I look at it as an omen of an interesting life. If I'm here now and I've seen what I have seen when I'm only twenty, what shall I not have seen and done when I'm fifty? It's a question and a promise, if only the war don't last too long to bring about a tragedy of lost ambitions and energies. If it lasts many years longer, that will be one of the tragedies --- broken, dismayed youth.

WILLIAM J. LOSH*
*Of San Francisco; Stanford, '17; in the Field Service, Section Fourteen, March to June, 1917; Section Ten, July to November, 1917, as Sous-Chef; subsequently First Lieutenant, U.S.A. Ambulance Service, with the French Army. These are extracts from home letters.

 

  • When: WWI
  • Where: Balkans
  • Section (WWI): S.S.U. 10