December 6, 1918

Dwight Stone Writes of Narrow Escape From Bursting Shell

Tells of Donald Russell

Extracts from letters written home by Dwight Devereuz Stone of the Signal Corps. son of Dr. and Mrs. B. D. Stone
of 84 Fairmount Avenue:

In France.

We are still in the place from which I last wrote. This is a great war. You have the slightest idea of what the morrow will bring forth. You may think you are going to move and after you are all packed and waiting in line you get word to stay where you are. Such things make you wonder what the higher moves are all the more.

Here is a riddle: I was within one of the greatest of French fortifications. Where was I?

The Y. M. C. A. man just opened up a canteen, the first we have had in a long time. They formed four lines, each of which became such a seething mass of men that the salesman had to threaten to discontinue selling, if we did not stop pushing.

You don't make me sad, but I'm just waiting to get home by the kitchen fire and again be mamma's official cake tester. I know I will be expert without any practice. Anyhow, if once is not sufficient I will test everything twice.

We know you are back of us, but you are 3,000 miles back, with the Atlantic between, and that is quite a ways, but it looks as if the war was coming to an end before long and I guess most of us will come back.

Duty alone can stand between one and coming home, for I am distinctly American and have not seen here France has anything on America, or comes anywhere near our native land. “Lives there a man with soul so dead” you know the rest, well, that applies to me and the other U.S. boys over here and those are our sentiments.

October 29 th . Just a word to let you know I am all safe and sound and have come out with a whole skin, unscratched and that I did my duty faithfully.

God surely was with me to save me, for the day before I was relieved a six inch shell burst at the door of my dugout eight feet from me, moving the whole wall four inches and blowing a hole you could just about encircle with your arms, through twenty four inches of concrete – all that saved me. It only blew off my helmet and about suffocated me with fumes and dust.

One company fared all kinds of fire while at work on the lines. We were under constant bombardment.

An hour after that shell which nearly got me came, another shell burst in the door of the dugout next to where I had gone to get my breath, slightly injuring my sergeant. We all left that other dugout and all those there and went stumbling up the muddy trench to the next dugout, a much deeper one.

The Germans pounded us all night long in this new place too, flying shell pieces and dirt, yet I don't know of any of our company actually killed.

Our division received commendation from the General commanding the army corps we were with.

Nov. 5 th . All last month our division was up at the front with Gen. Pershing's first army of the ----. I was there from Oct. 8, to Oct. 29. Get the old papers from the communiqués and you will see what we did.

At the start we had Austrians ahead of us who surrenderingly retreated but they were reinforced by the 102 nd Saxons and the 179 th Prussion Guards. They never cry “Kammerad” but contest every inch of ground by machine gun fire and artillery and we got orders to take no prisoners. Having retreated, they had the range of our dugouts and proved themselves dead shots when they wanted to hit a place. They had observation on outposts in many places and hammered one deep dugout I was in (It was 30 or 40 feet under ground, thanks fortune) off and on, but mostly on, every day and night we were there. They made a good many direct hits.

One day just after we had arrived, we were watching our boys advance over No Man's Land, which was not more than 200 yards from us, when to our surprise and consternation, the Botch threw a 75 into the intrenchment there we were landing 20 feet away. We all took our first dugout slide, (a retreat into a dugout entrance at four steps to a jump, generally caused by a bursting shell, 50 feet or closer). You soon get used to the cadence. I lost all optical interest in that battle as did the rest. We were new then and that was our introduction to German artillery at close quarters.

Later as our lines would go down, we faced and went through all kinds of barrages.

I went through lots of gas but was not caught or hurt thereby.

November 6. The General of a Division who had his men at St. Mihiel and Chateau Thierry said that neither of those places was to be even compared to our own front. He said that he would not so much as even stick his head out of the regimental dugout during a certain bombardment. We were out shooting trouble on his lines that very night.

The dead of both sides cover or lie thick along the front, but our Division opened a drive that other American and French divisions have failed at and in a month four systems of defense have been taken.

Yesterday (Oct. 28 th ) I stood on a railroad bridge free from the constant nervousness that the ever present “whiz-bangs” (shrapnel) gave us, and thought of the saying, “It is good for us to be here,” with a greater appreciation of its meaning than I had understood before.

In his letter of Nov. 7 th , he writes: ----unreadable--- killed on our first drive and just the day before he was to be relieved.
Capt. Doremus was reported killed. They said he was fearless and right with the men. Some change for Cliff Myers, but I guess we all have had our experiences.

I met William Wray of Oradell just back from the front.