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Section Fifteen (SSU 15) – Part II

Western Front, France

< Section 15 – Part I


Haie Claire, Monday, December 17

Snow! We woke to a world absolutely transformed. Snow on the little huts, on the trees, glistening on the ground, and the air crisp and tingling. On account of the danger of aeroplanes taking pictures of tracks in the snow, we had to cross the open places on a single path, and, in the big level place in front, the cars have to use one track only.

La Plaine, Christmas, 1917

We went wood-gathering beyond Thuizy in a forest of huge first-growth hardwood trees. Shells had done awful damage there. The magnificent trees were shattered and torn and thrown into all kinds of fantastic positions. One giant maple remained practically intact , with a tiny observation post riddled by éclats hidden away up at the top, perhaps a hundred feet in the air. The ground was torn up by the shells, and fallen branches lay around knee-deep, which added greatly to the difficulty of our work.

La Plaine, Monday, December 31

And So this is the end of 1917, --- the most thrilling, most inspiring, most profoundly influencing year of my life. I look back on it with a certain amount of satisfaction tinged with awe and wonder.


*Of Lexington, Massachusetts; Harvard, '19, entered the American Field Service in February 1917, and served with Section Fifteen throughout the war. The above are extracts from a diary.




Section Fifteen was enlisted in the United States Army at Jouy-en-Argonne as Section Six-Thirty-Three. About November 1, 1917, it moved to La Plaine, in the region of the "Mounts" in the Champagne district. During this winter period there was no particular action along the front, the principal thing of interest being speculation as to when and where the Germans would pull their much-heralded "kolossal" offensive. On January 15, 1918, the Section went en repos in this district, coming back again to the lines at Mourmelon-le-Grand, in the same region, but a different sector.

Section Fifteen, after the army took it over, almost qualifies for the title of the "One Sector Section." It remained here in the Champagne, in this immediate neighborhood, sometimes shifting to one or the other of the near-by "Mounts" sectors, but never going far away, until July 20. From the 15th of March until the 1st of April its Division experienced a number of small but annoying diversion attacks, usually accompanied by gas. At these times there were fairly heavy evacuations from Prosnes, Ferme de Moscou, and Constantine. The Section was cited in April for its work during these gas attacks.

During Ludendorff's famous "Friedenstürm" offensive in the Champagne, from July 15 to July 17, the work of the Section was very heavy. The main part of the action here stopped abruptly after the counter-attack of July 18 on the Soissons-Château-Thierry front. For its work during this defensive the Section was cited to the Order of the Army.

Finally, on October 5, the Section moved to the front near Suippes, in the Champagne. It took part in General Gouraud's attack here, advancing steadily with its Division to and across the Aisne at Vouziers, and was still going forward when the Armistice stopped operations. For its work in this last attack it was again cited.

After the Armistice it remained for some time at Montigny, moving on to Charleville, Brussels, and finally taking up a more or less permanent position at Grevenbroich, Germany. It was ordered in to Base Camp on the 27th of February, 1919, and sailed from Brest for home during the first week in April.



Jerome Preston

SSU 15