For those who are not aware, I am the son of a career Air Force officer and the grandson of a career Army officer. I do not know much about my grandfather, as he died when I was five years old. What I know about him comes from “tales” told to me by my parents and the diary that he wrote while in combat in France during World War I.
His entry for the month of November reads
At the beginning of November, 1918, the 2nd Army was preparing for a major attack on the section of the Hindenburg Line in the Metz area. The attacks were scheduled for November 10th and 11th. At the beginning of the month, the 14th Brigade had been withdrawn from the front line and replaced with the 13th Brigade. While ostensibly a move to give the 14th Brigade time for additional training, it appears that this move also facilitated moving the 14th to its intended position of the planned series of attacks. The 34th Regiment found itself scattered throughout the section.
During the period 9 – 11 November, the Division executed local attacks and gained temporary occupation of a hill west of Preny (9 November), Hill 323 (1 km southeast of Rembercourt) on 10 November, and established a line from 310.2 to 287.1 in the Bois de Grand-Fontaine, captured the quarry near 278.7 west of Rembercourt, and the small woods .25 km south of Mon Plaisir Fme. on November 11th.
November 9, 1918
On way to front again. We are to attack tomorrow. Men have been hiking all day & night, then to go in an attack will sure be hell.
November 10, 1918
Attack held up by very strong machine gun fire and a cannon barrage by “Fritz”.
NOVEMBER 11, 1918. –ARMISTICE DAY–
November 11, 1918
A great day. The armistice was signed today. We were to resume our attack at 2 p.m. in case it was not signed. Slept in a German dugout last night.
From the second diary – Was in German dugout at points 242.4 & 365 (on the Thiaucourt 1 to 50,000 maps) on the day Armistice was signed. 34th Infantry Regiment captured 1 German officer, 32 enlisted personnel, and 3 machine guns during tour; advance the outpost line .75 kilometers to include Hills 311.2, 310.2, and 312.
Nothing in what my grandfather wrote tells me anything about his feelings on war. Any mention of death or destruction in the diary is rather simple. I think that this was because he used his diary as a drafting board. As the Adjutant for the 34th Infantry Regiment, one of his duties was to prepare the daily reports. Those daily reports, recorded in the unit history, are almost the same things I read in the diary. Still, it was what he wrote on the front page of the diary that tells me he saw war for what it was and what it could be.
If I should fall, will the finder of this take it on him or herself to see that gets to my wife, Mrs. Walter L. Mitchell, 4150 A De Tonty Street, St. Louis, MO., USA? By doing so, they were conferring a favor upon Walter L. Mitchell, Captain, 34th US Infantry, American Expeditionary Forces, France.