Thanks to Rick Riehl, who give us this diary, from his Uncle


Entry Forty-one


The Tommies died off faster than any other nationality. They could not stand the hardships that the rest of us could. They seemed to lose all hope as soon as they were captured. They gave their bodies very little care and seemed to look on the dark side of things rather than the bright. I have seen them flock about a bed when one was dying, when they knew he was going to die. AS soon as he drew his last breath, they stripped him of all. One got his trousers, another his coat, and another grabbed what part of his ration of bread might be under his bed. Another got his boots and then out they would go and sell these things. Some wanted smokes worse than eats and would trade what they got for a few cigarettes. I have seen them trade half of their small ration of bread for a cigarette. The Italians and Russians are quick to take advantage of this, and shortly after bread issue they can be seen lined up with a few cigarettes, waiting for some Tommie to trade his bread with them. I have seen only one American trade his bread for cigarettes, and the rest of us sure got after him for it. I have seen Tommies trade their bread for cigarettes when they were so weak that they couldn't walk. They had no willpower whatever; at least they didn't use any.

In Saal 20 the French were in the majority and the soup was dealt to them first. If there was any left we got some; but often we did not get our share. Some times we got the water, after they took what thick stuff there was. There were ten of us Americans in this one saal and we complained. If there was a moldy loaf of bread among the issue, the Yanks got it. We couldn't do much as there were over a hundred French there besides us in this one room. There were from 1200 to 1500 in this camp all the time. One day we decided to make a formal complaint. Another American who could speak good German and myself went to the German who seemed to be a pretty decent sort of fellow. We explained our case to him and he went to the cookhouse and got us some soup. From then on we drew our soup extra and when we fell short at least we knew that nobody was taking it from us. One of the Americans was detained to work in the cookhouse, and whenever he got hold of our pail he would put just a little extra in if he had the chance. The French noticed this and gave a holler, even though it was nothing taken from them.

All nationalities seemed to stick together by themselves pretty well, but no two seemed to get along very well with the others. I don't know, but it seemed as though one was always jealous of the other. Some would have us believe that the Americans in France were a detriment, and that they would be better off without the Americans. We always stood for the U.S. and couldn't be told that we were no good! We had most of our scraps with the "Limmies" as we called the English because we could handle their language and they ours. Either the English people misuse the language or we do. They laugh at the way we use the language and we laugh at the way they do. We never had any fistfights, but have had some pretty strong arguments and a few Americans hold a lot of ground against a bunch of "Limmies".

Entry Forty-two


After I was at this place about six weeks or so, I was detailed to work in the operating room. I knew that I wouldn't like this work; as I never cared to see a bad wound, say nothing of working about one. About the first week I kept the fires going and carried that water away and acted the part of a "flunky." This suited me O.K., as it was a pastime and was much cleaner and easier than working on the men.

This room was about twenty feet square and had a long homemade counter on which were several paper bandages, a couple pairs of shears, some salve very frequently used, a bottle of benzine, a little iodine, a couple steel rods like the one that had been stuck into me, one knife and few other little things, three stools, or small benches, an operating table made of unplanned hardwood boards by some one who couldn't have been a carpenter, and a bench about six feet long.

This room was in charge of a German sergeant, not a doctor, and a private.

Prisoners of war were detailed, as I had been, to work in there, to do the work of an experienced doctor under the direction of the German sergeant. During the time I was there, there was a Russian, a Frenchman, two Italians, and myself. We had a couple hundred men to attend to each day, as all who were at this place were in need of attention. I used to get the Americans and most of the English, as I could understand their lingo. The Russian got the Russians and the Italian, the Italians, the Frenchman, the French. The extra Italian attended to "scabies"-flea bitten bodies; he painted the bodies of the inflicted person with some yellow dope. Whoever got through first would help the others.

Because I was an American my extra duties were to get there before the rest of the "doctors" and start the fires and get things ready for the day.

Right after breakfast the work started. The patients would line up in the corridor and the German sergeant would open the door and let about twenty or twenty-five in. Each of us "doctors" had one of the little benches about two feet high, two feet long and a foot wide in front of us. The patients would come in and line up behind these stools. If he had been there before he might escape being inspected by the Hun and then we treated his wound or wants as best we knew how and let him go. If the patient was a newcomer he usually knew it before he got away. The German sergeant always inspected the new ones and all who were very bad. He most always had one of the steel rods in his hand and would come up to the worst wounds and give them a jab. If the patient made much of a fuss he very often got jabbed again or received a slap. If it was just a "dressing," we were told to dress it. If it was a bad boil we were told to cut it. We used to have to make four cuts on an ordinary boil with a pair of sharp pointed shears. At first we had to stick the point of the shears into the head of the boil and cut up and then down then to one side and then to the other making an "X"-(a cross). A knife was never used to lance it. These shears were always used and were busy a good share of the time. All the while I was there I never saw any anesthetics of any kind used, nor were there any to use. No need saying that a great deal of water was used to bring a great many back to life that had fainted away. There was always a lot of crying and yelling around this room. The patient cried or yelled from pain. The Huns tried to make more noise to show their authority. On account of the poor and watery food, boils were very frequent and very often a man would have more than one. Swollen limbs were also very common and these were very often lanced. Whatever the Hun sergeant told us to do we had to do and it was always very hard for us to work on our own men in this way. It was a pity to see some poor fellow, who had had a dose of it, stand in line waiting for his turn to come. He would be trembling with fear, and perhaps crying.

Entry Forty-three


We very often cared for wounds that had not been dressed for a long time. The patient may have been on the train or had no one to take him for treatment. Often times we had to use the tweezers to remove the maggots and then wash the wound with benzine. Then the Hun would come and look it over and tell us how to bandage it. Very often we had to bandage with wet paper and then wrap with dry paper. This was "fiech fur bund" meaning damp dressing. "Drugo fur bund" meant dry dressing. "Schnida" meant an operation or amputation of some kind. If it was just a small cut we seldom needed help, but at times we were all holding on while the Hun did the cutting. I am sure that I never did any more than I had to. I would enjoy carving that Hun up right today but being forced to cut out my own men was an awful thing to do. An American by the name of Tripp came in one morning. He had a hard swelling at the top of his limb. The Hun cut that with the shears and left a gash about three inches long. I don't know why it was cut, and neither does the Hun. There was no matter or pus there. Tripp was suffering very badly the last time I saw him about two months after that. Since returning to the States I met one of the boys who was with him and he said that Tripp had been left behind. The wound had gotten larger and was killing him. He was too weak to move and was left behind in Germany-undoubtedly dead.

Entry Forty-four


Several who had been prisoners for some time were sent here. They had perhaps been working at "Kommander," mostly building railroads, and smashed feet were quiet common. I dressed several bayonet wounds that prisoners received because they were not strong enough to lift certain things or didn't work fast enough, or some other little thing. Because these men were helpless they were stuck with the bayonet.

Had we had one, the Hun would have been run through, even though he was armed. A Hun will always take advantage when the other fellow is empty handed or down and out, but he would never stand up and fight like a man. It was his delight to be brutal to a prisoner of war.

After all the walking patients would be brought in, there were usually some horrid sights. I cannot tell all of the cases, as it would take a very long time. I can only mention a few but as I have stated we had hundreds to take care of every day.

Entry Forty-five


One day and English aviator was brought in. After a few dressings the Hun Sergeant decided to amputate his leg just below the knee. He was put upon this crude operating table and a two-inch strap was buckled around him over his chest. One fellow held his left arm, another his left limb and another his head and I held his right arm. The German Sergeant did the work. He used a small saw and a knife. The poor Englishman got nothing whatsoever to deaden or stop the pain and we had quite a time holding him down. He sure did a lot of yelling and also fainted away a few times. He was "feich fur bund" (given a wet dressing) and orders were given to have him brought back the next day. The poor fellow could always be heard coming after that. He sure made a lot of noise and the Huns used to tease him a lot. The paper often stuck to his wound and the Hun always jerked it off and then used the tweezers to get the small pieces off. Often he would get hold of the flesh and the patient would yell. We always had to hold him while being dressed, as it seemed, try as he would, he couldn't possibly hold still. Often the Hun would think he was having a good time. He would make motions as if he was going to strike the wound or stick it with something. He did this just to cause the Englishman to yell.

As I am not a physician I am unable to say whether or not this limb needed amputation, but neither was the Hun. The Huns think it a joke when this poor fellow has to be dressed and when they would hear him coming they would start to laugh and talk about him.

Entry Forty-six


Another Englishman had been wounded by a piece of shrapnel through the right lung. He used to have to set up on the operating table and cough. As he did so, matter would shoot out. After he had done enough coughing to suit the Hun we had to shoot benzine into his wound or into his lung and then he would have to cough again until this was out and then he was bound with a paper bandage. This poor fellow lingered on for a long time but finally died. I happened to be in the room where he was kept at the time and saw him die.

Entry Forty-seven


Another American from Alabama had been hit in the back near the bottom of the spine. All of the flesh had been torn away and he was paralyzed from the hips down. He was also a frightful sight. He begged and cried for water and eats, but got little of either for a long time and finally got none. The Germans had given orders to the fellow in charge of that "saal," who was a Frenchmen, for him to have a few spoonfuls of some liquid to drink and only a very little to eat. This poor man could be heard groaning, crying or begging very often. I seldom went near him because he always asked for something to eat or drink and it was impossible to give it to him.

One day he was brought into the operating room. His wound was very peculiar looking. Instead of looking like any ordinary wound, it looked as though it was decaying. It was dark brown and there didn't seem to be any blood circulating through or around it. The Hun looked it over and gave orders to cut all of the brown flesh off until blood came. We were told to take the shears and one had the shears and other the tweezers. First one would take hold of a piece of flesh and hold it out while the other cut with the shears, and then we would change off. As this part of the American's body was paralyzed, he didn't have any pain, but we still did not enjoy our work. It was not what we "enjoyed" doing, but we had to do what we were told to and didn't dare to even look or hint that we didn't want to do it or we stood a good chance at getting a poke or a kick.

Being yelled at like a dog, called "Amerikaner Schwine," "Hundts," being cursed, scolded and pushed about and kicked now and then when we were told to do something and didn't "snap" at once, was common. Could we have given the Huns the treatment that we had to give some of the prisoners of war, we would have taken a great delight in it.

Entry Forty-eight


An Englishman was brought in with a swollen leg. It was very large and he suffered much pain. The German looked at it and ordered it cut about half way between the ankle and the knee in the calf. A cut of about two or possibly three inches was made, with another cut of about the same size close to the ankle, and another about two inches below the knee on the side, three cuts in all.

The small steel rod, which I had run into my hip, was then brought into action. It was inserted into the first or middle cut and forced down to the bottom cut underneath the hide. After a hole or passage way was poked, he then got hold of either end and worked it back and forth so as to enlarge the hole and then pulled another piece into it and left it there. He then started at the first or middle cut again and forced the rod through up to the upper cut and went through the same performance. I did not have part in this, but I did have to help hold the poor fellow. The Hun did the dirty work. I suppose he thought he could make the poor fellow suffer more than we could. The Englishman went through all kinds of motions one can imagine. He foamed at the mouth, cried, prayed, begged, yelled, tussled and did everything else imaginable. It was not always an easy matter to hold a man down while going through this treatment, even though he was weak- because we were weak also. Usually one man was assigned to each arm, one at the head and one at each leg, and in bad cases, a two inch strap was used around the chest, strapping him to the operating table. When there weren't enough men in the operating room anyone was asked to help hold the unfortunate victim down. Very often these inexperienced helpers weren't onto their job and might get a kick or slap or some similar harsh treatment. Often they were kicked out and another called in. This operating room was the worst of places, and if anyone was not wounded or suffering he was very often made to suffer.

Entry Forty-nine


As I have stated, it was my duty to get there in the morning, before we received our ration of bread, and get the fires started. After I had gone there for several mornings some French civilians got "wise" to where I was working. They were employed there as cooks for the German staff and were not allowed to speak to us and neither were we allowed to speak to them. One morning a lady handed me a bottle and said "E-od," meaning iodine. I tucked the bottle away and never stopped walking. This lady had no more said, "E-od" and she was out of sight. I built the fires and after straightening things around for the day's work I filled the bottle with "E-od" and again concealed it. There was a small room off of the operating room, used as a sort of a stock room where a few things like this were kept, although the large majority of the stock was paper bandages.

When I returned to my "bed" to get my ration of delicious "bread" the civilian was waiting for me. I got out the bottle ready and never stopped but handed it to her as I passed. She said "Merci," meaning "thank you," and as I could get by with a little French, answered "oui oui," and added "Onchore?" meaning "some more." She must have understood me because the next morning I received another bottle and it seemed as though she had told the rest about it, because I received quite a number of bottles and filled them all as long as the "E-od" (iodine) held out.

When I built the fires I had to carry coal, so I usually dumped from one to two bucketfuls into a mud hole. I most always got rid of one bucketful this way and very often part of another. I was trying to do my bit helping to put Germany to the wall. I knew they were short of everything and if I could help to make them still shorter it was my delight to do so. I surely was going to work against them all I could and I did. I did most of my dirty work in the morning while getting ready for the day, although very often I would get it in the afternoon to sweep up for the following day and would get hold of a few handfuls of pills or something else.

There were a few pills at this place but the individual couldn't get any. There were some French Catholic sisters or nuns who were also prisoners and these pills were issued to them and they passed them out. However, they could not pass them out very freely, because when they asked for them they were only given a few rolls and as there was only five pills to a roll the didn't go far. Naturally the French got theirs first and even then they didn't all get them.

I used the to carry a pretty good assortment of them in the lining of my coat and often dropped some in the top of my breeches and these would go down as far as my leggings or stockings and stop and then I could easily reach them. At noon and right at suppertime was my best time to issue these, as there were seldom any Germans around. All of the older prisoners got theirs from me and the newer ones soon learned. Whenever I took more that I could give away I very often threw some into the mud hole. I often gave the Sisters some and would hold my finger on my lips, meaning not to "tell." Most of the fellows who were prisoners and worked in the operating room used to carry pills. We were not supposed to, but we could easily "swipe" them and we did. The other fellows never had the chance to get the "E-od" that I did and I also had a better chance to get the pills, etc. Some of these pills are good for a cough or cold, come were a substitute for aspirin and other were good for dysentery, although nothing seemed to help the latter. I have several of these pills that were still on my clothing when I left Germany and now I value them as souvenirs.

Entry Fifty


To keep fellows from the operating room, a favor appreciated by them very much, I dressed several wounds or sores on the outside, but if I had ever been caught at it I can't say what would have happened.

Very often I would give a roll of paper bandage and some salve to some one who needed it, and often I would dress their wounds, but if it wasn't so bad that they didn't need help, I would furnish the needed articles as best I could and let them do their own dressing, as I would not be taking such a big chance that way.

If all the coal, pills, bandage, iodine, salve, etc., that I gave away and destroyed were in a heap, it would be quite a little pile. I might say that all that I stole, and all and I threw away or gave away, I had to "steal," but I have no guilty conscience, because what I gave to others who were in need helped them and helped put Germany to the wall, and what I threw away help to make Germany put her hands up. Whenever the supply in the stock room run down, two men-of whom I was very often one-were taken to the village by a Hun with a rifle and bayonet to get more supplies. We were always glad to get out from behind the wires. It sure seemed good. The rifle and bayonet didn't seem near so bad.

This town, Trelon, was inhabited with French civilians and they had seen very few Americans. As we would go down the road they would come out a and very often say "Bon fur Amerika" or "Amerika Tres Bon." Le Guerro Finis Toot Sweet," meaning "Hello America," "America very good," "The war will soon be over."

These French civilians, who were prisoners under the Germans, appreciated our services in the field more than the people in France, but they were also prisoners, and they can tell untold tales of misery.

One day the guard halted me out in front of some sort of a large hall and he went in. A French civilian, who was going the same way that I was and was talking a little bit to me, told a large crown of people there that I was an American. These people were waiting to be issued their small rations for their families. When they were told that I was an American they formed a circle around me, and of all the blessings, real blessings from their hearts, which they bestowed, were not a few! Some could speak enough German so that I could understand and was told that if America hadn't sent them food that they would have died of hunger. They stated that they weren't getting all that was sent but they sure appreciated what they got. Then they talked about the war coming to an end and I tried to encourage them. I told them of some of our "rumors," which were so common around the camp.

The guard came out and after getting near me yelled out, "Loose" meaning for me to go. As I started out some of the civilians yelled out "Americk Tres Bon," meaning "America very good," and then they would all answer "ah oui," or "oui oui," meaning "yes, yes."

Entry Fifty-one


One time when I was down to get supplies I was allowed to sit outside and wait for the guard while he placed the order. There were a great many Germans stationed in the village, living in the homes of the French people who had to leave to make room for them. There were also several hospitals here, as all large buildings were used for that purpose. Whenever an officer was anywhere around we were required to stand at attention, for as far off as we could see him coming and then salute him when he got near us. The French civilians had to remove their hats to all officers. Once in a while they would return our salute, but most of the time they did not.

Several French passed with their small rations-a piece of bread and a few potatoes, according to the size of the family. One young fellow stopped and gave me piece about two inches wide and it sure went good as it was of a little better quality than what we got at the camp.

I had just got through eating this piece of bread when an officer and a German nurse came up the road. I stood at attention and when they got close enough I saluted. They both laughed and stopped and the nurse inquired "Anglise?," meaning English. I answered "no; Amerikaner," meaning "American." She came closer to me and said "Deutsch?" I said "Nein," meaning "no". She said "Deutsch sprechen?" I answered "etwas," meaning "a little." She then asked in German "Why are you in the war?" and I answered that our country had declared war on Germany. She was very angry and as near as I could understand, said: "I believe that you are German and still you fight against us." (This is as near as I could understand to what she said.) As she said this she curled up her nose. After spitting in my face she started off and they both laughed. She turned around and yelled back "Schwine!"

I thought that if there were any "schwines" around she sure was one, as she looked like a sack full of hay with a string tied around it.

I was very angry and if I had had a gun I surely would have used it if it had cost me my life. I would rather have had a horse or cow sneeze in my face than a Hun spit in it.

I made several of these trips and always enjoyed getting out from behind the wires. Very often we received words from the French that made us feel good. We really believed that we had not lost all friends and there were some wise people left in the world.

Entry Fifty-two


One time when I was down to get supplies I was allowed to sit outside and wait for the guard while he placed the order. There were a great many Germans stationed in the village, living in the homes of the French people who had to leave to make room for them. There were also several hospitals here, as all large buildings were used for that purpose. Whenever an officer was anywhere around we were required to stand at attention, for as far off as we could see him coming and then salute him when he got near us. The French civilians had to remove their hats to all officers. Once in a while they would return our salute, but most of the time they did not.

Several French passed with their small rations-a piece of bread and a few potatoes, according to the size of the family. One young fellow stopped and gave me piece about two inches wide and it sure went good as it was of a little better quality than what we got at the camp.

I had just got through eating this piece of bread when an officer and a German nurse came up the road. I stood at attention and when they got close enough I saluted. They both laughed and stopped and the nurse inquired "Anglise?," meaning English. I answered "no; Amerikaner," meaning "American." She came closer to me and said "Deutsch?" I said "nine," meaning "no". She said "Deutch sprechen?" I answered "etwas," meaning "a little." She then asked in German "Why are you in the war?" and I answered that our country had declared war on Germany. She was very angry and as near as I could understand, said: "I believe that you are German and still you fight against us." (This is as near as I could understand to what she said.) As she said this she curled up her nose. After spitting in my face she started off and they both laughed. She turned around and yelled back "Schwine!"

I thought that if there were any "schwines" around she sure was one, as she looked like a sack full of hay with a string tied around it.

I was very angry and if I had had a gun I surely would have used it if it had cost me my life. I would rather have had a horse or cow sneeze in my face than a Hun spit in it.

I made several of these trips and always enjoyed getting out from behind the wires. Very often we received words from the French that made us feel good. We really believed that we had not lost all friends and there were some wise people left in the world.

Entry Fifty-three


As I worked in the operating room I always knew when the stock was getting low, and would put the boys wise by telling them to get ready so that if I was sent to get supplies they could go at once. They usually all wanted to go, but always decided among themselves, which one would go. One time when two of us were down town a French man gave us each a sugar beet. We sure thought that we had some feed and appreciated that more than we would a good square meal now. We very often returned with our pickets full of grass that we would pull along the road.

We considered ourselves lucky to be able to get what grass we could eat and have our pockets full besides. More than once I have dug down and about the prison yard, as have many others, to get the roots of the grass to eat. We weren't very particular, even though they did have a little dirt on them. They were not always plentiful.

Very often we received moldy bread, which always was very apt to make the one who ate it quite sick. If we could pick up enough sticks, twigs, etc., we used to boil this moldy bread into a soup and it seems as though the mold disappeared-at least we couldn't see it and it didn't seem to make any one sick. We called this "bread pudding." "Sawdust pudding" might have been just as good of a name for it.

A few times the bread did not hold out and we were issued some little square things. They were about three-quarters of an inch square, about as thick as an oyster cracker, and were made of white flour. They were not large, and we received very few of them, but the change was appreciated. These were issued in a small sack and ran from sixty to seventy in a bag. One bag was divided among two men. Thirty or thirty-five of these crackers about the size of an oyster cracker but more solid did not go very far toward three meals or a full day's ration of bread. After I had been put to work at this place I was quartered with some other men who were held at this place for work. Our place was no better than the others, but was more private, and then we were to be where we could be gotten hold of in a hurry in case we were wanted.

At about noon the supplies came in and we had to assist in unloading them. There was usually one big wagon- load of bread, but sometimes there were two. Other times some shredded mangles and meat were received.

The meat was usually horseflesh, but occasionally we would see beef. All the good it ever did us was to look at it and wish we had some, as the Germans got all of the meat. About a half of a dozen times while I was there we had some horse heads in our soup. We always knew when we were going to have these as we always had to unload them. They would always come with a wire through the mouth to hang it up. The hide would be taken off but otherwise it was just as the horse was when alive. There was a ring of hide around the eyes and ears. The nostrils were very often discharging. The eyeballs were never removed from any that I saw. The hay and grain that usually gathered under the tongue was there. These were put into a large cooker and boiled until the meat would leave the bone and then the wire lifted the bone out. If any meat remained on it, it was scraped off and all chopped up very fine and then mixed in with the soup. The soup consisted of one of these three- grass and water, shredded mangles and water, and once in a while barley and water. This soup was never thick but the meat always gave it a flavor. As the insides of a horse's mouth seems to be rather tough, very often a piece perhaps the size of a nickel would be found in a chunk in the "soup." It did not boil apart or cut as easily as the regular meat and whoever found a little piece of this floating around always considered himself lucky to get it.

Entry Fifty-four


About every ten days the French and Belgian civilians who were in this place for treatment received their issue of stuff that had been sent to them by the Americans. We would stand along the walls and watch them get it. They received a few spoonfuls of each thing-usually rice, cocoa, lard, sugar, a small can of milk, and a few large pieces of hardtack.

I saw one of the Americans buy a can of the milk from a Belgian civilian for nine marks, or two dollars and twenty-five cents in U. S. money.

Money was very scarce with some at this place. I had sold a fountain pen and wristwatch, but my money was about gone. I had just six marks left one day and was able to buy some cigarettes from a German who looked after the "Saal" that I used to be in. These wholesaled and retailed for twenty-five pennies each, or four for a mark (twenty-five cents). By buying six marks worth I got twenty-five-one extra-and by selling these I would be one cigarette richer. After I had changed my money four times I would be one mark richer by selling the four extra cigarettes. As I have already stated, smoking material was very scarce at this place and the purchaser always appreciated what he could get to smoke. Very often one customer would buy the whole six marks worth. Sometimes I would make a couple of marks in this way, but not frequently, as the cigarettes were not always to be had. These marks would always help out whenever there was any chance of getting anything to eat. I often bought other little trinkets of different kinds from prisoners for a certain amount and would sell them for a mark or a half mark more than I paid for them.

My shoes had been stolen from me the day that I was captured. At first I went around in my stocking feet. Later I got two pieces of cloth (parts of a blanket) and wrapped these around my feet. After wearing these for a while I got a pair of clogs from a Frenchman.

Entry Fifty-five


Once when a trainload of prisoners was leaving, a Tommy happened to speak to me. He had a pair of shoes on and a pair of high-top Jerry boots in his hands. He knew that he was going to Germany and that they would be taken away from him. He had evidently stolen them from some Hun. As he passed me he said "Here, Yank, take these and give me something for them." I didn't have any thing to give for them. I looked for some cigarettes, and after looking for a while I found a mark's worth. I caught the Englishman and gave them to him. As they passed out the gate each man was checked and I had plenty of time to reach him. I then went back and put the boots on. I was not proud of the Hun boots, but they felt better than the wooden clogs or going barefooted. My socks were pretty well worn out, so I unraveled some yarn of the top of one and mended them as best I could.

Entry Fifty-six


"Eats" are about the same all the while, sleeping quarters the same, and as fall came on, more patients entered this place from "Kommandor," a place where they had been working.

It got to be very crowded here and the halls or alleyways were full of men sleeping one beside the other.

The Huns were quite busy about this time getting their own men and what ever else they could back to the Front. More prisoners kept coming into this place, and none were going out. Some had coats and boots. Those who did were lucky; others usually went without.

The nights were always cool, as I have stated, and as this was getting up into October, quite often the nights were very chilly. Some of the fellows would get up and walk about to keep warm, but the guard usually drove them back in a hurry.

We were quartered by ourselves; those of us who worked about there. An Englishman, who worked in the office was also with us. It was his duty to keep track of all the English and American names and numbers of English and American prisoners. When one died it was his duty to make note of it, get the man's number and any personal effects, which he was supposed to turn over to the Huns. Whenever there were less than forty of fifty men dying in a day he would always remark about it. I remember one day in particular this Tommy thought that something was going to happen, as only twenty-four had "gone west" that day. We were trying to decide whether or not the food was getting better or what was the reason.

There were also some French and Belgian civilians quartered with us who worked about there also. These poor fellows, although not prisoners of war, were civilian prisoners, and they could tell stories that would make one's hair stand on end.

Entry Fifty-seven


My work kept on at the operating room, as usual. We were under the Germans and whatever we were told to do, we had to do it, no matter how bad it went toward the "grain."

Very often one of the boys would come in and ask for pills. I would tell the German what they wanted, even though I knew that it would do no good. I wanted to show the fellow who was asking me that I was doing my best. Sometimes they got out with just a yelling at, but very often they were led to the door by their ear and then given a push or a kick. Sometimes they were given a push or kick before they got to the door. If the victim was not strong enough to balance himself he went sprawling to the ground and would lay there until he gained strength enough to get up or someone came along and helped him up. I sometimes helped them up and got them started, when I was not busy, but we didn't dare leave our work when there was any one there.

About the middle of October, the Germans started one evening a rumor, as we found out, that an armistice was on. We were fools enough to believe them and as another American and I were the first to hear it, we ran down through the place telling everyone we saw, stopping in every "saal," telling someone who could understand either English or German. Instead of a hospital, that place sounded more like a baseball park or a horse race track at an exciting time. It was a pity to see some of the poor fellows who were down and out trying to be happy with the rest. Some cried, some yelled, some prayed and others were jumping around singing and shouting.

This other "Buddy" with me named Max and myself commenced to think that we had better make ourselves scarce and we did. We commenced wondering what would happen to us if some of the German officers would hear this celebrating and get into our wool for it. We were so happy ourselves to get it that we couldn't keep it and it did us a lot of good to see the rest of the boys feel good once. It was quite a contrast to what we usually saw. We didn't get much sleep that night. We were talking about what we would do when we got out, what we would eat, and everything else imaginable.

The next morning we could hear the big guns in the distance and we knew that the war was still on, which made everyone seem to feel all the more "blue" because of the disappointment.

Entry Fifty-eight


The Germans were quite fond of starting rumors among us, very often apparently designed to create hard feelings with other nationalities. They had us believing that "Japan had taken arms against America and had the Americans on their knees." "New York was no more than a mass of ruins." "France had also turned against us and was killing our men and sinking our ships."

The English and the Russians were scrapping among themselves in camp. The Germans had made them believe that Russia and England were having some awful battles. This caused hard feelings among the prisoners of war, and that is what the Huns wanted.

Entry Fifty-nine


An American named Blinny asked for some clothes. The German guard said that "he" should have stayed "eber der wasser" (over the water) and he wouldn't have needed clothes "over there." The rest of the Americans didn't try to get any clothes. Blinny didn't have any coat or shirt and his breeches were in very poor shape-they were merely an "outline." I was very angry and said something to him (Blinny) in German, as though he could understand, just to make this Hun rave. He was a young fellow and liked to show his authority. He did a lot of yelling and he came to this camp after I was there. He stopped me from going through the building one day. I was glad he did because then I had a good excuse for not being on the job. When I did get there, I told the Hun sergeant and, of course, I was told to show him the fellow that stopped me. The sergeant didn't talk very pleasant to him and this fellow never bothered me after that; in fact I have been pretty bold in front of this fellow. These boys left in the morning and that evening more prisoners came in than had left; among them four Americans. These prisoners had been held at German hospitals acting as orderlies and had gotten plenty to eat, a chance to get cleaned up, and didn't know what hard times were. When they saw some of the ways we had to do things they were sure surprised, and wished that they were out of here. The hospital that they were at was close to the Front and had been evacuated. They said, "We expect that the Allies have that place by this time."

Entry Sixty


As the time passed slowly on, we knew by the roar of our large guns, by the way our hospitals and prison camps were being evacuated, by the uneasiness of the Huns, and most of all by the rumors that new prisoners brought back, that the Allies were advancing very fast. Wagon trains were passing this place continually. Some who could see them told us about the hundreds that went past. One day about noon as I was going to my quarters I saw a great many men looking toward the road. Prisoners weren't allowed up there, but some who were working around that area could see, and as my quarters were near there, I could get a glimpse also. I climbed part way up the steps and watched. There were hundreds and hundreds of civilian prisoners being driven past. I say "driven" because they were being driven away from their homes and their land by the Germans. Everything of real value that they owned had been taken by the Germans. What few little things they still had, they were trying to carry with them. As they marched along, it was surely a sad sight. Little children, old men and women stooped with age, and mothers carrying babies and a pack of clothes on their backs. It seemed as though some could hardly get one foot ahead of the other. There were Germans on horseback leading them. Every once in awhile they were hurry up alongside as though one of the poor, helpless prisoners could run away if they wanted to.

They were marched in small groups and very often at the end of each group would be a wagon that was supposed to be pulled by horses or oxen. Instead of that, the wagon was pulled by old men, young girls, and even old women. Anyone who could help was enlisted. These wagons were full of little bundles of clothes or other little valuable keepsakes. I wonder how it would be possible for them to get those wagons up hills, of which there are many in France. This was surely a sad sight, but behind it all was the one consolation that our men were coming, and coming fast.

Several head of cattle were being driven back from the Front and one night some were stopped in an open field not far from where we were. A German guard took some Russian prisoners out to milk these cows the next day and we all had some milk in our soup instead of water. It sure was a change and was relished by all.

Early one morning, just as I got through making the fires and getting ready for the day's work, I was on my way for my small piece of bread. I was stopped by one of the Germans who worked about the place. He said, "Komm Mitt" and I responded, "Ich musz arbeiten und habe nichts su essen gehabt". He motioned me to hurry and I decided that I had better move as he directed. He had a little extra work for me and, as it wouldn't take long, I suppose I thought it would just be a little more punishment for an Amerikaner.

I went as he directed down between two high barbed wire fences. When we got to a turn he halted me and unlocked a big gate. I went out and he didn't lock the gate, but followed me to a garden. As we passed some cabbage I pulled off a few leaves and ate them. He halted me among some red beets, started pulling, and told me to do the same. I pulled a while and then asked as best I could, "Kann ich eins essen?" He answered "Yah" and so I did. When the basket was full, I was given orders to take it to the kitchen. I did, but I also poked a few into my pockets. He stayed out in the garden and I made a hurry-up trip to my bed and unloaded what beets I had in my pockets. I then went back to the garden with the basket and refilled it. I only got a couple of beets this time as the Hun went with me and I didn't want to let him catch me helping myself. When we got to the kitchen I looked at the Hun. He said, "Das ist alles", and I left. I had already had some cabbage leaves and a beet to eat, so I only needed a couple of mouthfuls of bread. I got to work a little late and explained as best I could that I had been working. The sergeant didn't say much so I went to work.

That noon I took up a few sticks of wood from the operating room and hid them in my bed. I told Max, the American who worked in the kitchen, what I had gotten and asked him to try to get some vinegar. He finally got one of the French civilian girls who worked in the kitchen to give him some. He took that to our quarters. I swiped a little more wood and a little coal. When we thought the Germans would be least apt to visit our place, I started a fire and boiled the beets- perhaps ten in all. After we had boiled them we cleaned them a little and sliced them. This was an awful temptation, but we had decided not to eat them all until we had them fixed. We put the slices in the vinegar to sour. The next morning we ate a few and, believe me, they were very good. Before we retired that night we had finished them. Any little change was appreciated as an alternative to the water soup and bitter bread.

I had a gold ring that my parents gave to me when I was 21 years old. I kept the ring pinned inside my watch pocket for a long time. Gold was very scarce in Germany, as all had been called in. I have seen prisoners of war have the gold knocked out of their mouths. I had always valued this ring a great deal and now I thought even more of it and was afraid of losing it. Several times when I have thought that I could go without food no longer I have unpinned this ring from my pocket and started out to sell it for something to eat. Whenever I got to where I was headed I would turn away and again fasten the ring back in my pocket and sit down to cry it out. I was hungry and this ring would get me something to eat- but only once. I rationalized that I would get hungry again, even though I had gotten enough to eat that once. I have manged so far to keep the ring.

While in the Army we used to get hungry quite often. The longest that I have gone without anything to eat or drink was three days and three nights. We had been hungry, but now the hunger was different. It was starvation. Very many died from it. When a man was dying from starvation we could tell it. He couldn't eat even if he tried. Whatever he put to his lips seemed to choke him and he had to remove it. When he got to this stage he didn't usually last very long.

When I entered this place I had no towel or anything to take the place of one, except the end of my shirt. The shirt had to answer for that purpose. Neither had we any soap. Soap was a very scarce article. We used sand or a handful of any gritty earth. This would help as the sand scratched off the dirt. It was not very pleasant to see, but better than nothing. While working in the operating room I used to wash with some imitation soap. This was a small piece a half inch wide, two inches long, and a half inch thick. It would not form a lather and when put in very hot water it would dissolve very fast- similar to ice.

One day I discovered a coarse towel in the operating room and I picked it up. "Nicht gut?" I asked. I knew that it was but I wanted it and didn't want to be turned down. "Ya, Ya...das ist gut" he answered.

"Ich habe nichts" I said. He then told me to take that one. The average American would pronounce it as "homespun linen" even though it is made out of pure paper. I surely appreciated it.

The dead bodies were piled up in a morgue or "Tot Haus" which was a lean-to on the main building. Very often these bodies were left in there for days at a time, one piled on top of the other. The clothing was stripped off of them and as they were carried in on a stretcher, the thing was just given a slight tip or a toss and the corpse would either roll off or pile up onto the other bodies. The odor about this place was fearful. It was enough to make any man sick and feel that he would never want to die.

At first wooden boxes were made to bury the bodies in. Later on, just paper was used. French civilians were detailed to make these boxes, wide at the head and tapered toward the feet. If the body was that of a large man, it was often necessary to jostle it so as to get the cover on. The Russian soldiers were usually of good size. Some of the English were very small and often two bodies were put in. Then it was necessary to jostle these in so as to get the cover on. Then were then piled into wagons belonging to French civilians and hauled away. The paper was a large, oblong sheet with a string on each corner. The corpse was laid in the middle with the sides and ends folded over it. The two top strings were tied around the neck and the lower ones around the feet or legs according to the size of the corpse. Italians were detailed to do this work.

The average wagon in France has a little rack or fence upon it. The platform of this particular wagon was about five foot wide by about ten foot long and had a two foot fence around it. The bodies were wrapped in the paper befor the wagon got there. When the wagon arrived it was loaded. Italians did this as well. They would take hold of a corps, wrapped in paper, one at the head and the other at the feet. They would swing it three times, counting Italian, and toss it up into the wagon. It was necessary to throw it quite as high to get it over the fence. When these bodies had been piled up on this wagon and not dropped very carefully, very often the ones on the bottom burst from the weight and rough handling and the "contents" would leak out.

While working in this operating room I was very often sent out to put some white stuff that we had in a large pail in the operating room on this excretion that had run onto the ground from these dead bodies. I do not know what this was, but think that it was air slacked lime.

The bodies were taken a little way out of Trelon and buried. I cannot say just how and where they were buried as I never saw that part of it. I was told that they were buried a little way from Trelon, where a long ditch or trench was dug and the bodies were put into it and covered.

There was an old German at this place who worked in the operating room, he being the private I have mentioned several times. He, of course, was under the Sergeant's orders. He was quite an old man and was the best German I ever saw. He was mean at times but was just a little bit better than the rest or average German. He would very often ask me about the ways of doing things in the U.S. and we very often talked about the war. One day while talking to him I said that Germany as a nation would be looked down upon by all other nations for several generations to come. When he wanted to know, "Why," I said, "for the way you have treated prisoners of war and civilian prisoners." I then related several things that I had heard as to the way the French and Belgium women had been misused by them, also of treatment of their prisoners that I had experienced, and some that I have heard of. He told me a whole lot more in regard to the women; statements that wouldn't pass through the mail if I should write them, and some treatment that he knew of that prisoners of war received that made me think that I knew "nothing."

I made some mention about them cooking the bodies of dead men to get the grease and he told me that was necessary to make ammunition.

This German admitted that the treatment received by the women and prisoners was brutal, but said that he had always been an honest man as he had a wife and two daughters at home. I never saw this particular German be extremely cruel, although I have received several pushes from him when he would be trying to make me understand something. I have also seen him lead other prisoners to the door by the ear and give them a kick as they passed out. At that, I have always said that this fellow is the best German I have met while a prisoner of war in their hands. This fellow also told us about quite a little news that he would get from the newspaper that he received daily.

Our armies were getting closer and the guns could be heard plainer, and at night the flashes in the sky could be seen of each explosion of a shell. The Germans had received orders to be ready to move and all the guards and those who worked about the place had their packs all made up and ready to pull on a minute's notice.

We were all quite glad of this, as we understood them. Our men were getting close up, and possibly the Huns would have to get out on the run and leave us there. That is what we wanted; to be recaptured. Some things were packed up ready to be shipped- if trains could be gotten in time.

There wasn't much rest. The prisoners were uneasy, and they were also quite happy. Rumors helped to make them so. The Germans were also very uneasy, because they didn't know how soon they would be captured. We sure would have taken a delight in having some of those fellows as some of our prisoners instead of being theirs just for a change.

Reports came in that there would be a train to be loaded on a Sunday. On account of the heavy traffic on the railroad it was impossible to get these men out. They had very little clothing, and nothing to eat. After they had been there a day, soup was taken down to them. Some got a portion and some didn't. The next day it was decided to march these men back to the camp until a definite time could be arranged for a removal. When they got back to camp they told of their journey, also how many men had died in their car. One would say, "Two men died in the car I was in." Another said, "That's nothing. There were four people dead in the car I was in and we left two people there who are almost dead- they were so far gone that they wouldn't live much longer."

Toward evening the Italian detail was called together and they started out to clean up the cars. The next day three more men left. We then received word that the Allies had been driven back a good distance and that the Germans again held Laon. Our hearts dropped lower than ever but we hoped this was a false rumor.

Several German guards were there the next day to get some prisoners to take to work. They were from Hirson, a small town about thirty kilometers from Trelon. As I passed one of them he looked back at me and kept looking. I looked back, wondering if he saw anything "green" on me. Soon he beckoned out, "English!" I hollered back, "Nein." He beckoned me toward him. "Was bist du?"

I said, "American."

"Bist du Amerikaner?"


He, like other Germans, seemed to think that we should look different than other people. He then said, "Amerikan soldat papier". He meant that we were paper soldiers. He said that our troops had been coming fast, but that they were going the other way now and soon the German army would be in Paris.

Soon word came out that we would be leaving. Max and I didn't much care about getting away from our forces further than we had to. We knew that we were still alive at this place and didn't know what the next place would bring. Of the places that we had been, each one had gotten worse. We commenced looking for hiding places, and decided to conceal ourselves if our men came in a hurry and the Germans should try to run the prisoners out in a hurry.

About 2:00pm on that day we lined up to move. We reached the railroad station and were loaded. Most of the windows were broken out and we could see a cold ride ahead of us. At 6:30pm we received bread instead of soup for our supper. This was the night of October 27th, 1918. We began to move at 8:00pm but didn't make any headway. We nearly froze to death all night. The next morning we pulled into a railroad station at Hirson. From there we boarded another train.

Dame Rumor got busy and soon up and down the line of cars went rumors of different kinds. One was that "the allies had advanced and had us surrounded and we couldn't go any farther as the Allies were holding the track a little farther up." This sounded quite reasonable to us, as we could see the flares at the front all night, we also could see the flash of the guns. Another was that "we were going to be unloaded and the Germans were going to turn us loose and try to get their own men out alive. We commenced discussing how we would make it to our own lines, but the excitement was short-lived.

The next day we were loaded on train cars. Like all the other trains that I saw in Europe these were compartment coaches with side doors and once got in you were there to stay until let out. Night came on but even though we were sleepy we were too hungry and uncomfortable to sleep; also too crowded, as each man had a little bundle with him. Some of us had an old overcoat and these we had to use as a cover for over our knees. The morning of the second day dawned, and still there was nothing to eat. About two o'clock that day we reached a fair-sized town and were unloaded and lined up. Just to get out and stretch was a great relief. Soon some French women came down a long stairs carrying a very large kettle containing some soup. This soup was of a better quality than we had been getting, for which we were very thankful indeed. It took an extra force of guards to hold the fellows back in their places. Hungry to start with and having nothing for two nights and almost two days made some like savages. A starving man is worse than a drunken man. Each man was given one dipper full of this soup and it didn't take him long to dispose of it and be looking for more. When we received our dipper full, which was one liter, we were marched back in front of our coach. When the kettle was emptied the women left for more.

The last time they returned the bunch that had been fed knew that there was more than enough soup there to feed the few remaining who hadn't received their liter full and everybody was after it. Everyone was knocking one another down trying to get a little extra. The women were crowded so that they dropped all and ran. The guards could not do any thing, only knock a few down around them. Officers were yelling, but it did no good. As to the soup that was left, no one got enough to make any mention of, as most of it was spilled in the tussle. Two Tommies fell into it in the start and under any other circumstances it would have been very comical to see them "licking" their hands and clothes so that none of it went to waste. This little soup made us feel a lot better. It was warm and did a lot of good, but came a long way from satisfying our hunger.


ENTRY 63 TO 78