War record and
history of the 136th Machine Gun Battalion, 37th Division U.S.
Clyde E. T. Tousley
On the night of August 2nd,
the Battalion marched to Merviller, proceeding from there to the
front line, and relieved the 305th Machine Gun Battalion of the
77th Division. The Battalion remained in this Sector until
September 16,1918. No man's land was broad and the scheme of
defense included a system of petit-posts far advanced, with a
first and second line of trench systems in the rear. Battalion
and 74th Infantry Brigade Headquarters were at Merviller, five
kilometers advanced from Baccarat (Division Headquarters). A
number of internal reliefs were made during our occupancy of
The following report from Private Walter Suppes, Company B,
covers the situation pretty well:
Opportunities to make history on the Lorraine front were noted
for their scarceness. It was the first front Company B had been
on in France. Though they experienced no real action, it was
here that members of the Company felt the first thrill of being
under shell fire, desultory as it was, and also learned all
about gas alarms, but little about actual gas.
The Company spent 25 days, alternately in first and second line
positions, in this Sector. September 3d we were relieved and
went back several kilometers into a rest position at Gelacourt.
Six days later the Company was called upon to furnish barrage on
St. Maurice. The journey up was a hard, forced march through a
driving rain and mud that varied in depth from shoe-soles to
shoe-tops. The following night we placed our guns in position,
but were not called upon to fire. We returned to Gelacourt
midnight of September 11th, remaining there until the journey to
the Argonne began.
The following incidents are related by Private Charles Conaway,
Those members of the Company composing the Headquarters Platoon
and those of the First Platoon stationed in the vicinity of
Platoon Headquarters in "B" line of defense, near Vaxainville,
Baccarat Sector, received their Baptism of Fire about midday,
August 5th, the day following their advent there.
A carrying party, made up of Headquarters men, under the command
of Corporal Ivan Shanafelt, Signal Corporal, had been detailed
by the Company Commander, Lieutenant C. J. Rew, to carry rations
for the noon meal to the men in the trenches. The party left
Vaxainville encumbered with containers of food, and proceeded up
the open road in the direction of the second line, ignorant of
the covered road generally used for this purpose and advisable
for the use of parties of more than two men during the daylight
hours. The presence of Jerry's sausage, the ever present
observation balloon, hovering over the German town of Domerve,
had also been forgotten by all.
The trip was without incident until Corporal Shanafelt had
gained the shelter of the woods and was within sight of the
sheltering dugout occupied by Platoon Headquarters. The Platoon
Sergeants, Headquarters men and those of the squad stationed
nearby were lined up in anticipation of the approaching mess.
Suddenly from over the Boche lines came a weird sound, as of an
approaching hurricane. Louder and louder it shrieked, drawing
closer with the speed of an express train.
At the first sound one of the sergeants and the corporal of the
nearby squad looked at each other and simultaneously fell on
their faces in the shelter of the dugout. The others of the
party remained fixed in various attitudes, all as if paralyzed
by the strange occurrence.
With a final shriek the shell was upon them, exploding some
twenty-five yards behind their positions. The watchful balloon
had informed waiting battery of the stir behind our lines and
this was their reply.
The shelling continued until Jerry had placed an even dozen in
that particular locality, but a change had come over the "Trench
Rookies"-they had taken cover alongside their wiser companions.
On the night of August 17, 1918, the 30th U. S. Engineers
launched a gas attack in the Baccarat Sector, near the villages
of Migneville and Herbervillier. The attack was carried out by
means of trench mortars placed in the front line and was
intended as a complete surprise to the Germans.
Promptly at 12 o'clock midnight, the barrage opened.
The infantry units and the machine gun support had been
previously notified to "stand to" and be on the alert for an
At Herbervillier the American front joined with the French
Sector on the north, and while the American barrage was at its
height, a raiding party of French "went over" and took a number
Our Third Platoon was stationed in and to the right of
Herbervillier and were under the command of 2nd Lieut. John K.
North. They had received the general order to "stand to" and had
made all preparations to receive the Boche in case he essayed to
test their strength.
About the regular "stand to" hour (near dawn) the enemy
artillery opened up, and under cover of their barrage the German
machine gunners and infantry made an attack on the French and
American positions. During the scrimmage the French suffered a
loss of eight prisoners and the Americans their temper, because
existing fire orders had prevented them from taking an active
part in the fight.
The German guns dropped close to a thousand shells in the
vicinity of the town, and during this, Lieutenant North and
Sergeant Carl Hentz were busy going from one emplacement to
another. On one of their trips a shell registered almost a
direct hit on them, tearing a great gap in a nearby stone wall
and burying them under pulverized stone and debris. The
Lieutenant and Sergeant Hentz took cover in a barbed wire
entanglement and carried "wounds" the next day as a result.
While the Company was at the Gelacourt rest camp, the first
section of the First Platoon was detailed to the neighboring
village of Brouville for anti-avion duty near the American
observation balloon stationed near that place.
Although the element of danger was lacking in this assignment,
the excitement of keeping enemy aeroplanes away from the
all-important "sausage" more than compensated.
The section was under the command of Sergeant Chester Keyes, and
was made up of squads in charge of Corporals Demmler and Damicon.
The first squad was stationed on the crest of a hill overlooking
the village of Reherry and looking toward the front lines.
Corporal Demmler's gun was placed just outside the village in an
open space in the center of a plum orchard.
During their stay there, two attempts were made to burn the
balloon. On one occasion a single plane made the attempt and was
frightened off by the combined fire of the anti-aircraft seventy-fives,
near Vaxainville, and the machine guns.
A second attempt was made the day before they were relieved. A
number of planes appeared over the American lines and seemed to
be engaged in combat among themselves. The anti-aircraft guns
failed to fire upon them, fearing to hit our own planes. All at
once a single plane detached itself from the group and darted
toward Brouville and the O. B. The machine gunners on the hill,
seeing the error of the anti-aircraft guns, opened fire.
This was the signal to the other squad, and in a moment a
concentrated fire was opened from all quarters on the Boche.
Corporal Demmler's gun did especially deadly work, placing a
belt at close range. Finding the locality too warm, the enemy
pilot wheeled his machine and took flight in the direction of
his own lines, falling a few hundred meters inside German
While in the Baccarat Sector the following changes in official
Assigned and Attached -
Major William B. Hall, Commanding.
Captain Francis J. Scarr, Company D.
Captain Ernest L. Wingerter (attached).
2nd Lt. Frank J. Fullman.
2nd Lt. Paul G. Brigham.
2nd Lt. John K. North.
2nd Lt. Benjamin F. Malone.
2nd Lt. Lew Brouster.
2nd Lt. Samuel A. Miller.
2nd Lt. Dwight L. Brown.
2nd Lt. Frederick B. Wishard (assigned as R. T. O. at Toul).
2nd Lt. Harold E. Snell (assigned as Assistant Adjutant General
American Headquarters, London, England).
The following narrative of Captain F. L. Pierce, Company A,
relates in an interesting manner, an act of heroism for which
two of his men were cited in Division Orders:
While our occupation of the Baccarat Sector was more or less
free from actual warfare and bloodshed as compared with the
sectors we later experienced, there did occur, one bright Sunday
morning in September, an event which gave a Platoon of Company A
its first introduction to the grim toll of war. The 2nd Platoon
of Company A, commanded by Lieut. F. B. Wishard, was bivouacked
between the towns of Migneville and Reherrey in the second line
of defense. The Platoon Headquarters was located in a woods and
the men of the Platoon were grouped about in the same vicinity.
A company of Infantry occupied the same wood, and its kitchen
was set up there doing much business three times a day.
Whether the Boche was aiming at the kitchen, the nearby cross
road, or merely the woods, will never be known, but at any rate
on the morning of September 8th, at ten o'clock, he subjected
the length of the woods to a severe bombardment of shrapnel. He
searched it from end to end and caught the men of the 2nd
Platoon without warning and without protection. Most of the men
were sitting about under the trees enjoying the morning sunlight
and their thoughts were far removed from the possibility of an
enemy shelling. The attack came, however, and so suddenly that
the men were unable to seek the protection of nearby dugouts and
trenches before three of them had been struck by bits of
shrapnel. Sergeant Dietrich, Private Cellini and Private Cassler
were seen to be the first wounded, and other members of the
Platoon at once rushed to their aid. Private Books had sought
the cover of a trench when the bombardment started and was in
the act of leaving the trench to secure his gas mask when he was
struck and fell back into the trench mortally wounded.
It was at this time that two members of the Platoon, Corporal
John T. Allison and Private Charles L. Burns, especially
distinguished themselves in bravely exposing themselves to go to
the aid of their stricken comrades. Corporal Allison assisted
Sergeant Dietrich to Platoon Headquarters, where he administered
first aid and later carried him a distance of 100 yards to a
deep dugout. Private Burns, assisted by Sergeant Weirich of the
Infantry, exhibited extreme disregard for his personal safety in
three times exposing himself to the shell fire. He carried two
of the wounded men to cover and went
forth a third time in search of others. He later assisted in
aiding the wounded men and in securing medical assistance. For
their bravery, these three men, Sergeant Weirich, Corporal
Allison and Private Burns, were cited in General Orders by the
Division Commander as "having distinguished themselves by
gallant and meritorious conduct."
Sergeant Dietrich was wounded in the hand and leg, but recovered
after a long siege in the hospital. Privates Cassler and Books
were almost instantly killed, and Private Cellini died two days
later in the base hospital. This unhappy occurence, A Company's
first sacrifices to the great cause, had a decidedly sobering
influence on the entire Company, and every officer and man went
forward from that day with a new resolve to put forth added
effort to help win the war.
General Orders No. 76.
Headquarters 37th Division,
A. P. O. 763, American E. F.,
September 20, 1918.
1. The following enlisted men are announced as having
distinguished themselves by gallant and meritorious conduct:
Corporal John T. Allison, 1523834, Co. A, 136th Machine Gun
Battalion, on September 8, 1918, under
enemy shell fire, and disregarding his own personal safety, went
to the aid of a fallen soldier, brought him to cover,
administered first aid, and then carried him one hundred yards
to a place of safety.
Private, 1st Class, Charles L. Burns, 1523849, Co. A, 136th
Machine Gun Battalion, on September 8, 1918 under enemy shell
fire, abandoned his own shelter and without regard to his
personal safety, went to the assistance of a soldier who was
struck by shell fire, and, with the help of a comrade, carried
him to safety; returning to the shell fire area, he alone
carried a second wounded soldier to shelter and went forth again
in search of wounded, being exposed to heavy shell fire during
the entire bombardment. Upon the cessation of the firing, he
assisted in rendering first aid to the wounded and later went a
distance of one and a half miles for medical assistance.
By Command of Major General Farnsworth.
Dana T. Merrill,
Colonel, General Staff,
Chief of Staff.
R. E. Fraile,