Cpl. Doyle’s War Story of Soissons Fray.
Cpl. William J. Doyle, battery C, 12th Field artillery, Second Division. U. S. A., Now at new weld on the Rhine with the American forces recently one sixth prize to a competition among 2000 competitors who wrote for a Philadelphian newspaper. The gallant Cpl. is a son of the Shenandoah labor news editor and naturally his townsman and the people of the county are interested in his achievement. It is a thrilling story describing events in which he participated during the counter offensive ordered by general spoke and purging at soy sans, and indicates the splendid exploits of the regulars.
Superb artillery work Neuweld, Germany, February 27, 1919 second Field artillery brigade second division army of occupation Germany.
To the editor of war letters there were two American divisions the first and second summoned by general spoke for his counter offensive blow of July 18 upon Soissins. Being a member the 12th Field artillery of the latter division. It will to my lot to be one of those fortunate participating in the great stroke dealt the Bosche.
Our division was lying in support of the 26th division on the Château Thierry a front when the hurry up call came, and with the least display of any movement, that might appraise the enemy, we slipped away in the early morning of the 15th. We were well on our way when daylight came and night coming on so is still traveling in a line parallel with the front. We had stopped for a brief time, in which to feed both men and horses, traveling steadily all the night of the 15th and the morning of the 16th the result was that 10 A. M. Of the latter they saw the finish of one of the most remarkable marches ever affected by an army.
One piece (Canon) from each battery throughout the entire brigade was ordered into position for the night of the 16th with orders to adjust on the morning of the 17th. After these orders had been carried out, and they were of an extremely difficult nature, the remaining pieces from each of the batteries together with the ammunition trains, arrived and were placed in position. The result of the long march and sleepless nights was shown by the terror firing barraged the Allied artillery “put over” for their doughboys.
About 10 AM of the 18th we advanced 8 km. On our new position our regiment of batteries was lined up, hub to hub with the 17th heavy artillery, just across the road. We remained in this position until the night of the 21st without suffering any casualties although the Bosche Avion’s seem to have the supremacy of the air. The operators of enemy planes made matters quite interesting in the daytime by flying low overhead and shooting off their machine guns, and at night dropping bombs whenever they surmise our soldiers might be.
Well anyway during the evening of the 21st our battery commander gathered us around him in a rather fatherly sort of manner and confided to us the orders he had received. Our commander, Lieut. Mehl (he was killed on the same mission), told us that our work that night would be hazardous and in going about it we might keep absolute quiet. Every man in the outfit showed by the unruffled manner in which he received the news us stuff each was made of and they fully lived up to the my expectations during the trying hours of the next day. We had great difficulty in getting to the destination set by our regimental commander, on account of the extremely narrow road we traversed, with traffic trying to affect passage in an opposite direction.
After great delay (it had taken us almost 8 hours to travel a little over 2 km) we finally pulled into a field a little to the left of Bell Fontaine farm. Set up our guns and were given quiet orders to catch a little sleep. The men threw themselves down wherever there were shell holes so as to afford some protected from the cold win and drizzling rain that had set in. We were awakened in the morning by our battery commander, who gave orders for the lenders to come up. This signified that we were to advance. The morning began to clear up an observation was very good. The Dutchman’s observation post, presumably on the knoll of hills in front, would loose no time in getting an end just went on us. By this time our entire battalion of 75’s was ready to move forward.
Our battery being nearest the road received orders to regain the main road fork and proceed in the direction of the enemy. Fritz sent in a few, well to our rear, and we were counted counting ourselves lucky on his poor adjustment, when suddenly he began to adjust on the road over which we had orders to travel. His adjustment was perfect, and he opened up with a battery of 77’s, putting a barrage across the road.
During this time we were moving forward in an orderly manner, when the range of an enemy fire was extended to our very line of march. Lieut. Mehl calmly gave a left about, and on the execution of the order one of the poles of the first section limber was broken. Men rushed to the assistance of the drivers, unhitched the horses and pulled the case onto the rear of the Bell Fontaine farm. Lieut. Mel had in the meantime confided to the battalion commander that it would be fatal to attempt the passage over the showed road. Receiving orders to the contrary, he commanded his battery to again move forward, placing himself so some 50 yards in its lead. The shells were coming over pretty steadily now with a mixture of gas, high explosives and some shrapnel.
On account of the open nature of the country, the observation was perfect, and it seemed to me that an act of Providence was all that kept us from being annihilated. One of the shelves made a perfect hit on the road, just in front, and the flying pieces played a tattoo on the sides of the leading caissons. One of the noncoms, Sgt. James broth, took command and gave a left about knowing that by so doing he would save the command. Our battery, arriving at Bell Fontaine farm took the road to the right again moving forward but this time protected by an installation. The shell that caused the orderly retreat of the battery was also responsible for the brave commander’s death.
To return to the battery; the command fell upon a young Lieut. Wood by name who assumed charge and led the organization in its charge “over the top” the battery travel slightly to the right following the road and seemed from enemy view by the woods on both sides of the road. But now comes again and open space in the final – for a supreme position on the hill overlooking Parsy Tigny. The battery was, divided into sections with orders to Gallup, the Canon years cleaning for their lives to whatever they might lay their hands on during a wild ride. It was all over in a few minutes: the show was gained and the guns once more placed in position
Each piece had fired 50 rounds on the town from the new commander, Lieut. early, a ride with orders to retire. We had once more to Gallup in plain view of the enemy. All went well until we had gained the wooded road. The enemy, timing is sent his murderous shells over, killing one man and wounding another; one of the drivers had a horse killed underneath his while he escaped uninjured. Bringing along what material we could, we again set up in position in the road of Belle Fontaine farm. We curtailed all unnecessary movement, but the Bosch over Avalon’s, flying low, discerned our position and flew over the enemy lines with the news. About midday, while half the battery was eating in the farmhouse, the enemy opened up with terrific fire on his already adjusted territory, maintaining the bombardment, for almost an hour.
The men in the farmhouse ignoring danger rush to the aid of their comrades, performing deeds of bravery that demanded cool headedness and initiative. Our firing battery suffered casualties that they to the extent of two officers and six men killed, and about 25 wounded and gassed. We lost 15 to 20 horses rendering the battery in mobile for the time being. However, with the few remaining men, and under great difficulty the guns were removed that night. It was a moonlit night. The Bosche planes were flying low. These, coupled with the open nature of the country, rendered the task hazardous, especially so to the already exhausted and demoralize personnel.
The pieces and caissons were hauled by hand down a road leading to a wooded section. Many stops at the meme eight, when the steady hum drum of the Bosche machines was heard overhead for the enemy bombing planes were on the “warpath” that night. The men were sent to the ammunition train echelon for a night’s rest, where the battery was reorganized and sent up to the following night to once more take up its fight for liberty and democracy.
Such is the simple story of their heroic and sacrificing work of one battery of American artillery, and its symbolic of each and every organization in the second division.
Cpl. William J Doyle battery C, 12th Field Artillery, Army Of Occupation. Germany.