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Henry Schmuck

Submitted by: Darrell Sievert {great nephew}

Henry Schmuck was born around 1892. Henry Schmuck served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The enlistment was in 1917 and the service was completed in 1918.

Story of Service


HENRY SCHMUCK. Luverne, Minn.

Private, Co. "B," 307th Inf.. 77th Div.

Entered service May 27. 1918.

Trained at Camp Kearney. Cal. Departed

Overseas, August 8, 1918.

Battle: Argonne. Wounded, lost left arm in Argonne,

When: September 26 – November 11, 1918

Wrote Memoirs: Seven Seconds to Live

My short summary

HENRY SCHMUCK. Luverne, Minn. Private,

Henry Schmuck that served in the 159th of the 40th Division initially. It was designated the 6th Depot Division. When it arrived in Europe it was skeletonized, which means it men were reassigned to fill vacancies in other divisions. At that time he was reassigned to the 307th Infantry of the 77th Division. He was born on Sept 12, 1892 in Germany, resides in Luverne, depending on which document we look at.

He deployed to Europe on the Tereisas with the 159th Infantry on August 8, 1918 and departed Brest, France on the Agamemnon on March 3, 1919 with Detachment # 86 Brest, but his unit identification was Co B 307th Infantry. Attaching his draft registrations for WWI and WWII, the shipping documents and a map showing where the 77th was operating during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Following the dates on the map you can approximate where he was when he was wounded.

To obtain a copy of his WWI veteran bonus application and service card, contact the Minnesota State Archives at 651-259-3265. The documents will summarize his service – dates of service, time overseas, date of wounding, etc.

Co. "B," 307th Inf.. 77th Div.
Entered service May 27. 1918.
Trained at Camp Kearney. Cal. Departed
Overseas, August 8, 1918. Battle.
Argonne. Wounded, lost left arm in Argonne

September 26 – November 11, 1918

Argonne Forest, France – Western Front

The short Memoir 

Private Schmuck was tired. His stomach growled with hunger. He was decidedly disgruntled. He was alone in the Argonne forest. It was dark. Ghostly stumps of shell-torn trees were all about him. They disturbed his peace of mind. Too many of them looked like human forms. For all he knew, they might be German soldiers ready to bayonet him. But worse than this fear was the unearthly, spooky dread one feels when visiting a graveyard at midnight. Only the feeling was a thousand times more intensified, with good reason. Bodies of dead men were all around him. Some were headless. Some had no arms. Others had lost their legs. In the shadows he could see a dark form hanging over a limb a few feet away. Before it grew dark, he had inspected the object with a shudder. It was the body of a soldier blown into the air by a high explosive shell. What remained of the human form had caught on the limb where it hung in mute testimony of the tragedy.

But Private Schmuck was becoming used to these sights. He was hardened. If he hadn't been, he would have gone stark mad. He would have raced through the almost impenetrable woods shrieking in wild delirium in his effort to escape. He had felt like doing that two weeks before when his company had first been ordered to advance through the Argonne. But with his comrades all about him he felt safety in numbers. Now it was different. He was alone. He smiled grimly at his nerve. He was uneasy and wanted to join the company, but he was a good soldier and must obey orders. His lieutenant had instructed him to remain behind until the captain arrived. He was to lead the captain to the company headquarters.

The company had gone off “to the right.” Private Schmuck chuckled.

“A helluva lot I know of their location," he mused. “You could lose your own shadow in these woods in the daytime, let alone try to find anyone at night.”

The captain should have reported before dark. Private Schmuck waited. Hours passed by. Things were quiet tonight. Occasionally he saw a shell glow in a long, sweeping curve as it streaked across the sky. Then he would count 'to see how long it took the sound of the explosion to reach him.

Those shells streaking across the night sky always interested him. In the daytime you could only hear them whine or drone as they came and went. But at night they became white hot as they pushed against the air with tremendous speed. The shell did not seem to go so fast as his eyes followed it. But when he calculated that it covered seven, ten and more miles in the brief time of that graceful curve he knew it was traveling fast.

"I'd hate to ride with one, growled Schmuck to himself.

He looked at the lifeless body hanging over the limb.

“How about it, buddy?" he inquired. "Getting tired up there? Maybe I can help you get down."

He walked under the carcass. His nostrils tingled. That nauseating odor he knew so well almost strangled him. He retreated in disgust.

At eleven o'clock Private Schmuck decided the captain wasn't coming. His hunger was almost unbearable. He hadn't eaten since morning. He decided to join his company, if possible.

“They went this way," he mumbled, striking off to the right. For all he knew, his outfit was five miles away. Possibly the enemy was between him and his comrades: But he had a peculiar sense of direction. He was not guided by stars. He just "felt" he was going in the right direction. Walking was difficult as he encountered fallen trees, shell holes, brush, and dead bodies. Finally, he found what looked like a Cow path. It was going in the direction he “felt" his company had taken so he followed it. An hour later he stumbled suddenly onto his company.

The lieutenant was making the rounds when Private Schmuck arrived.

"Where in hell have you been?" asked the lieutenant. “I sent a detail out to find you three hours ago. The detail got lost and I sent out another to find it. We decided you were lost."

Private Schmuck grinned.

“I was back there waiting for the captain," he reported. "He didn't show up, so I followed you. When do I eat?"

The lieutenant regarded Schmuck critically. "The captain joined us by another route,” he said. “Schmuck, you're just the man I need for a runner in these woods. You can find your way around here with your eyes shut. All my other men get lost. Tomorrow I will have the captain assign you as my personal runner.”

"You know what that means, lieutenant?" he said quietly.

"Yes, I know," he acknowledged. "It means seven seconds to live when we get under real fire. That’s the average-life of. a runner. But what's the difference? If you're to get yours, you’ll, get it and if not, you won't. Are you game?"

The lieutenant was a regular fellow. He could have ordered Schmuck to take the job and that would have ended it. But he was still human enough, despite the hell of those last two weeks, to have a little sympathy for his fellowmen.

The lieutenant was a fatalist. Most of the men were. The horror of war had deadened their feelings towards life. Buddie; fell, coughing, moaning or silently at their side unnoticed. In an advance the orders were to keep going. Those who got theirs did not expect help until the first aid arrived. If it did not arrive in time, they quietly rolled over on their stomachs, rested their foreheads on their arms, buried their eyes in the blackness of this cover as if to shut out as much horror as possible while crossing the divide, and waited patiently for the end.

Did they think of their mothers, their sweethearts, their wives back home? Did the scenes of their boyhood, the old swimming hole, pass in review in those last moments? Certainly, they were oblivious to the groans of wounded comrades, to the shrieking and din of exploding shells and the spat of machine guns, for they lay so quietly and peacefully, face downward. Always face downward if they had time before death called.

Schmuck was not a fatalist. He reasoned his chances of living were better if he used as much caution as possible. Now the lieutenant was putting it up to him to throw caution to the wind. This was deliberate suicide. But Schmuck was no coward. He knew no fear. His knees had quaked many times as he had narrow escapes. But he didn't show the white feather. He didn't run. He kept going forward.

Schmuck straightened up and saluted It was the first sign of respect he had shown. His superior officer in several days. Somehow you forgot all military courtesy when in the heat of battle. Officers became one of the boys.

"I'll do it," he said simply.

The lieutenant patted him affectionately. "Report to me in the morning," he ordered.

Schmuck started on a hunt for food. It was past midnight. Food and sleep were what he craved most at this moment. On the morrow he would be busy running errands.

“Seven seconds," he muttered when he finally stretched out on the ground beneath a rude shelter. He closed his eyes. Snores announced he had lapsed into sound sleep.

The next day was an extremely busy one for Private Schmuck. His company was ordered to advance, and he had to maintain liaison between the lieutenant and captain. It was an easy matter to get lost in the Argonne.
The forest was so dense and cut up with branches interlacing as they fell from shell fire that the boys had to move forward by paths in many places. For all they knew the enemy was within a few feet of them. There was danger of being cut off like the e Lost Battalion'. A runner's life was extremely hazardous. He never knew when a machine gun nest would open fire. They were concealed like ant hills. But Private Schmuck stuck stubbornly to his running. His pack irked him. He was covering miles in running back and forth while his comrades covered blocks. At the close of the day he was exhausted. He was loaded down heavily with grenades.

“Lieutenant, I can't stand up under this strain," he reported on his last trip. “This load is too heavy, and I am wearing out."

“Let one of the other boys' carry it for you," replied the officer. Schmuck grinned. Every soldier was groaning under the load he was carrying through the woods.

“Any particular one?" queried Schmuck.

“No pick your man and tell him it is my order.”

In the company was one soldier who had complained bitterly of his hardships. His lamentations were getting on the nerves of his comrades. His chief complaint was carrying a burden on his shoulders.
Schmuck reported the lieutenant's order and left him with a double load. The beefing that started from the victim was like music to the runner's ears. He felt lighter on his feet and hastened away. He didn't even have a gun, and for 10 days totally unarmed, he carried on his dangerous mission, never knowing when he would meet an, enemy face to face.

One day he saw two German soldiers in a peculiar attitude. Being unarmed, he remained concealed for a few minutes while studying them. Their position puzzled him. One was lying on the ground. His comrade was picking him up, one arm being under the shoulders of the wounded man, who was half lifted from the ground. His rescuer was kneeling on one knee and his shoulder was resting against a tree.

“What's the matter with the darn fool?" muttered Schmuck. "Why doesn't he get up and carry his man away?"

But the two soldiers remained in the same position as if posing. After some moments Schmuck cautiously crept a little nearer.

“Is this a frame-up?" mused the runner. "Did they see me? Are they waiting to crack down on me when I get close enough?"

The attitude of the men remained the same. Schmuck could not resist his curiosity to solve the secret, although his better judgment told him to "beat it." He was unarmed and didn't have a chance in a fight with them.

Slowly he crept nearer. The faces of the men became clearer and the runner saw they were black as the ace of spades, yet something told him they were white men.

"They're dead!" exclaimed Schmuck. He hung back for a few minutes before boldly walking over to them.

Yes, they were dead. Their bodies had stiffened in the peculiar position. They had died suddenly not more than 36 hours before. Schmuck looked around for the cause. He could see nothing. Was it gas? He sniffed the air. Was it a high explosive shell whose concussion snuffed out their lives without further injury? There were so many shell holes around that Schmuck decided the latter cause was the most probable and their faces and hands being black was due to the burning explosive. His curiosity satisfied, he continued on his way.

The incident, though, aroused a desire for owning some kind of a weapon. About 50 yards from the dead Germans he found an officer's belt, with a new Luger pistol and loaded. He examined it carefully. There was a common expression among his comrades, and for good reason too, to “leave souvenirs alone.”

The retreating enemy left tricky explosives for the advancing American tide. What looked like an interesting souvenir often spelled death for the member?

Schmuck decided to carry the pistol, although a voice within him warned him to be careful. He stuck it in his belt and carried it for five hours, but always the voice within him grew more urgent.

"Throw it away; throw it away," it urged.

Schmuck got the “Jim-jams." The pistol grew heavier and heavier. The runner was under shell fire several times this day, and had several narrow escapes, but the German pistol caused him more worry than anything else. Finally, he became exasperated. Grasping the pistol, he pulled it viciously from his belt. He withdrew the magazine and threw it as far as he could in one direction, then he threw the pistol in the opposite direction. He was unarmed but relieved. Undoubtedly the pistol was all right, hit that voice within would give him no peace while he carried it.

The fighting was getting hotter now. Blood was spattered everywhere the runner went. His shoes were covered with it, although for a time he tried to avoid walking in it.

Once he came across a shoe, laced neatly with its thong lace, while within was a man's foot. The foot had been blown off at the ankle. Schmuck looked around for the rest of the body. It was nowhere in sight. He was accustomed to gruesome sights, hit somehow this foot in its shoe got on his nerves. He kicked it viciously to one side and hurried away. He knew the tragedy was a recent one because the meat and bone were freshly severed. It was still a pinkish white.

Schmuck had been without food for two days. The pangs of hunger were unbearable. Finally, he could stand it no longer. He came across a garbage heap. Poking around in it he found a head of cabbage. At home he detested cabbage, but today he peeled the outer leaves eagerly and ate the cabbage with great relish. If it was poisoned, he couldn't resist it. Luckily it was not poisoned.

One day he and the lieutenant were together. They came to a spring, the water gurgling from the earth with inviting music. Schmuck hastened to it.

"Leave it alone, Schmuck," commanded the officer. “Don't you know all this water is poisoned?"

"Not this water, lieutenant," responded Schmuck, “you never saw running water carrying poison when it comes out of the ground.

He drank to his heart's content and filled his canteen, but the lieutenant, although his lips were parched and his canteen was dry, refused to drink. Some hours later though, seeing that his runner was still alive and healthy, he begged a drink which Schmuck gave willingly with a grin.

One day a runner came over from a neighboring company. He had a brother in Schmuck's outfit he wanted to see. Schmuck offered to lead him to the company's headquarters. The company was advancing steadily now. The two runners made off in the direction the company had taken. Suddenly the visiting runner exclaimed, "Jump!"

Schmuck needed no urging. A machine gun had opened fire on them. The runners jumped behind trees while the bullets spat viciously.

Carefully the boys retreated through the underbrush. They had not located the nest and were puzzled. Could it be possible the enemy was cutting off the company?

“Jump!" again warned Schmuck's companion. Another machine gun had 'opened fire. Now they were in a nice pickle. Apparently, they had run into a swarm of machine gun nests. And they knew the company they sought was ahead. While they could retreat to their own line, each felt the necessity of reaching the company and warning it of the danger. Cautiously they squirmed and crept through the woods, keeping a wary eye. Schmuck was still unarmed. He chuckled at the kind of war he was waging. His legs were all he was depending on.

Again, he proved his uncanny ability of locating the company. The captain was warned and quickly took steps to retreat out of danger. His men cut back, ready to fight it out with the enemy. Several nasty skirmishes resulted, but the ambitious were foiled. Schmuck and his companion had saved the company.
Schmuck decided after this affair that he had better resume his pack and gun. His company was seeing more fighting every day. The enemy was retreating through the woods slowly. Finally, the Americans reached a trench which the Germans had occupied for four years. It was an elaborate affair, with concrete walks. Dugouts, capable of housing 600 men were found. They had been lighted with electricity. The first night Schmuck decided to remain in one of the dugouts with his company. Other outfits were also crowded into the hole. He had been sent on an errand and was returning about dusk. The enemy's artillery was shelling the trench with a vengeance. Just before he reached the doorway to the dugout, a shell exploded in its mouth, killing several men. Schmuck was knocked to his knees but uninjured. A few steps more and he would have closed his career as a fighting man.

When the confusion subsided and the dead and wounded men were taken care of, he crept into the dugout. Whom should he discover but a boyhood friend from his own county? The meeting of the two buddies, after the harrowing experiences they had gone through was touching. It was like walking into their homes in the States. That night, unashamed, they slept in each other's arms like two babes.

In the morning the stench in the dugout was terrible. It was found several bodies had been left behind by the retreating enemy. In the darkness of night and because of the crowded condition the dead soldiers had not been discovered. But now their presence was made known by the odor as their bodies decayed. Schmuck put on his gas mask as he crowded for the opening. He shuddered when he realized one of the bodies had lain next to him.

The sun was shining that morning and a lull was taking place between the opposing forces. It was an ideal combination. The day was warm and mellow, contrasting with the dark, gloomy, cold, and dismal weather the boys had been experiencing. Private Schmuck and a comrade peeled their shirts and made a bet on the number of cooties they could stick on a needle. The vermin were thick along the seams and in no time, each had a needle full. All the boys were waging war on the pests. They couldn't possibly get rid of them all, but at least they felt a diminishing of the number would give them a little peace.

The lull in the fighting lasted a couple of hours and then the artillery opened up with its steady pounding on the position held by the Americans. Schmuck was kept busy running errands. He was carrying his pack and gun, and as 'the day wore on the load became heavier and heavier. He had carried a message some distance to the rear and on his return to his company sat down on a log to rest a few moments. His attention was attracted to an object some yards away and he discarded his pack and gun as he walked to investigate. A few moments later a shell struck his pack, completely wrecking the outfit, including his gun.

"It wasn't my time," soliloquized Schmuck as he viewed what was left of his outfit. He was a fatalist now.
He returned to his company with an uneasy presentiment that he was going to “get his." So far, he had been lucky. But he felt his luck was changing. That night the atmosphere in his company was surcharged with anxiety. While the boys did not know what their orders would be on the morrow, each felt the time had arrived when actual hand-to-hand fighting would take place. The battle so far had been waged with an almost unseen enemy they knew was not far away. Occasionally they caught a glimpse of him.

Artillery fire had killed many and occasionally machine gun nests were encountered. But the enemy was making, now, a determined stand. The Americans were coming into the open. They were near Grandpre, strongly fortified by the Germans. The city must be taken. It would mean bayonets. The boys thought of their loved ones back home and many wrote their last letters that night.

Despite the misgivings that pervaded the spirits of his buddies in the trenches, Schmuck was so fatigued from his incessant running of errands that he quickly passed into oblivion in sleep. It was dawn when he finally awakened and went in quest of food. As yet no orders had been received to go "over the top," and the boys were more cheerful.

But the cheerfulness was of short duration. A messenger inquired for the company commander. Schmuck escorted him to headquarters. The messenger's words sounded like the tolling of a death knell. The company was to advance at once on Grandpre. This meant hand-to-hand fighting after advancing through a hail of machine gun bullets. The company would be assisted by other companies and the town was to be taken at all costs. The Germans were heavily fortified, and their machine guns were strategically located. A stream of bullets covered every inch of landscape over which the Americans must advance.

Machine gun fire was the worst the boys had to face. The guns were aimed low, sometimes not over six inches above the ground, the idea. being that when a bullet struck a leg the soldier went down and as the bullets were still coming low, the victim was quickly dispatched as his body absorbed a dozen or more bullets in the twinkling of an eye.

Announcement of the advance was received grimly. Muscles in the jaws tensed as teeth set firmly and lips were compressed tightly. Bayonets were inspected and the points wiped off by coat sleeves as thoughts of the work ahead raced through fevered brains.

Of Schmuck's company, only 20 went through unwounded. There were approximately 250 men in his company when the advance started. When Schmuck's company went over the top it advanced for some distance without difficulty. A railroad embankment offered protection from the machine guns in the town. Other companies were getting “hail Columbia" as they appeared in the open. German machine guns were rat-a-tatting incessantly. Schmuck knew the havoc they were creating and could picture the boys being mowed down as if cut by a sickle.

Finally, his company came to the end of its protecting embankment. It must now go over the top of the rails and make a rush on the city. The lieutenant was directing the company. The captain was some distance in the rear receiving orders from behind. Machine gun bullets were rattling on the rails like hail stones. The lieutenant shook his- head doubtfully. He was no coward, and neither were his men, but it was just plain murder to go over in the face of that rain of death. The Germans had spotted his company and were concentrating on the point where it must necessarily come into the open.

The lieutenant motioned for Schmuck.

"Go back and explain to the captain what we are up against," he ordered. “Ask him if we are to advance regardless of cost."

Schmuck hastened to the captain.

"Advance at all cost," was the terse reply.

As Schmuck came running to his lieutenant, he motioned the order with his arm. Without hesitation the lieutenant repeated the order to his men, but it was unnecessary; the men had already interpreted the sign and with a yell swarmed over. The machine guns did terrible execution. Many of the boys remained on the rails, their bodies riddled; others fell or stumbled over on the other side while still others, getting bullets in their breasts or heads as they came up even with the rails, keeled over backwards.

Schmuck hesitated a moment as he saw the terrible slaughter. Should he follow his company? It was up to him now. He had delivered his message and had a perfect right to remain in safety. But he hesitated only for a moment. His buddies had gone over, and he would follow. His place was with them as long as he could keep going.

"Keep going," half sobbed Schmuck. He knew his time was up.

“Seven seconds to live; that's my allotted time. But maybe I can do something worthwhile yet," he thought. Without further hesitation he leaped straight into the face of death. The bullets were coming in a steady stream. By the mercy of God, he was untouched and grinned at the thought. Arriving on the other side of the rails he saw a more appalling sight than he had yet experienced. His dead and wounded buddies were on all sides. A few had swept on toward the city, but only a few. Not more than 20.

Whether his lieutenant was one of them he never knew. Whether he ever came out alive he never knew.

As a messenger Schmuck did not have to follow through and be saw his buddies needing help. Despite a rain of machine gun bullets which still miraculously missed him he started giving first aid.

He patched one up, both sitting upright making a fine target. The Germans seemed to have some heart. They stopped until Schmuck helped the wounded soldier over the track to safety. But when he started back, they cut loose at him with a vengeance. But he bore a charmed life. He decided to take no unnecessary chances. He helped the second buddy and again the firing ceased while this buddy went over the track, but as Schmuck, this time crawling to keep out of the fire as much as possible, made his way to the third victim one gunner got his range and the bullets spat, and pecked all around him. But Schmuck wasn't thinking of his own danger now. His thoughts were of the wounded comrades.
He helped four buddies and was starting for the fifth, crawling like a snake when suddenly he thought of the gunner who was trying to pick him off.

“That bird has mercy," he growled. "He's getting too close for comfort; those bullets are just grazing my back."

A slight depression in the ground was making it difficult for the gunner to place a bullet in Schmuck's body. When he aimed a little lower the bullet would strike the ground and glance over. Schmuck thanked his lucky stars he didn't have a fat stomach. He thought of the many meals he had missed since entering the Argonne and gave them credit for saving his life now.

During those thoughts he was making his way slowly. He reached out his hand to touch the foot of the wounded buddy when he felt a terrific blow in his arm near the shoulder. He was dazed for a few moments but felt no pain. He thought of his buddy again and tried to crawl a little nearer but discovered his arm would not function. The machine gun bullets were ripping, zipping, and tearing over him now, so close they were flicking his clothes. The gunner discovered Schmuck was getting up a little higher.

Schmuck frowned in perplexity. What was wrong with his arm? He looked for it, cautiously turning his head, as a fraction of -an inch higher now would mean his death. Strange, he did not feel any pain, but there certainly wasn't any arm where it should be. Still hugging the earth, he carefully felt with his good arm and discovered what was left of the other arm was twisted up over his back. He pulled it around and marveled at the lifelessness of the thing. It was like a stick of wood. Could that be his arm?

He felt the bone protruding from the sleeve. Then he looked at the ground and discovered a rapidly widening pool of blood.

"Must have knocked me unconscious for a moment," he mumbled. “I must stop that blood before I bleed to death." He reached through the hole in the sleeve with his good hand and squeezed the flesh together. In doing this he exposed his good shoulder and felt a bullet zip through it, but not striking the bone, it was not injurious.

“Say, this is like a dream," muttered Schmuck. “Here I am being shot at and hit, yet I can't feel any' pain. Wish that bird would lay off me for a while. I'm tired."

But the bullets kept coming. They spat viciously like bees. Schmuck felt them cake his back.

He thought his steel helmet would deflect the bullets and he put it in front of him, meanwhile hugging the ground like a pancake. But the helmet failed to deflect the bullets. They came through* and singed Schmuck's rump. The helmet jumped with each hit and Schmuck watched it, fascinated. The runner held onto the stump of his arm and decided to play dead.

“If he thinks I'm gone he'll let up," he reasoned.

The reasoning was good. The bullets ceased. For some time, Schmuck lay perfectly still. Then he decided it was safe to crawl back to a little lower ground. But the moment he made a move the gunner cut loose at him.

“Son-of-a-gun,” murmured Schmuck, “he doesn't need to be afraid of me." He counted 13 bullets go over him in quick succession.

Schmuck lay still and the firing ceased.

For two hours Schmuck and the gunner played hide-and-go-seek, or whatever kind of a game you want to call it. Every time Schmuck moved the bullets came spatting like bees. Schmuck kept his wounded arm squeezed and wondered where his company was. Most of it he knew was around him, but he felt some of the boys went on.

“They must have gotten theirs before reaching the city though," reasoned the runner. Otherwise this gunner wouldn't be pecking at me."

Blessed unconsciousness finally stole over the runner. Several hours later he woke. All was quiet. He studied his surroundings. His dead and wounded buddies were still around him. He was terribly dizzy and thirsty. He decided to go back for aid and arose uncertainly on his legs, still holding his bad arm.

Artillery fire had opened up and shells were dropping around him, but he had small regard for such trifles now.

"Our boys are dropping their shells short," he thought. "Someone should tell them to elevate their range a little if they want to drop them into the town."

Gradually reason returned to him and he realized his peril. The shell fire was getting hot which indicated the town had not been taken and it would be shelled hard before another charge was made.

Schmuck walked about 200 yards before falling into a shell hole, too weak to proceed further. Here he found a wounded buddy with a bullet through his leg. The buddy disliked the looks of things and decided to cross the track and find aid.

"You'd better come along with me," he said to Schmuck. “This shell fire is going to fill the ground with holes and you'll never get out of here alive."

But Schmuck was too tired and too weak to go further.

"You go ahead," he grinned feebly. "This. is heaven to me after what I've been through out there. I'll wait." He felt no pain whatever, despite his mangled arm and other wounds. He went to sleep.

Schmuck remained -in his shell hole until dark. He nursed his mangled arm as best he could, stemming the flow of blood by pressing on the arteries with the finger of his other hand.

American artillery was shelling Grandpre preparatory to another drive by the infantry. The drive Schmuck had started on with his company had failed.

Despite the terrible wound in his arm which almost severed it and left three inches of bone protruding from his coat sleeve, the runner felt no pain. He knew other wounds were exacting their toll of blood, but he did not know how many. The machine gun bullets had raked his back unmercifully.
He waited patiently for help, but the infantry was being held back while the artillery pounded the town. Fearing to take further chances on loss of blood through delay, Schmuck decided on a supreme effort to get back to his own lines and a first aid station. His legs wavered beneath him, but he gritted his teeth and resolved to be strong. By the power of will alone he staggered out of his shell hole and across the tracks. Every step he feared would be his last, but determination forced one foot to pass the other. His head was light. He wanted to lie down and go to sleep but trudged on like a drunk man fighting back the almost overpowering weakness.

He covered a mile in this manner and just when it seemed he would have to give up, he was hailed by a friendly sentry. The division was preparing to advance on Grandpre under cover of darkness. Members of the division summoned a stretcher and the runner was carried back a mile to a first aid station.

The station was crowded with wounded. The doctors worked feverishly to keep up with the increasing work. Only the bare necessities of treatment were given before the patient was taken back to a hospital.
The doctor who took care of Schmuck hurriedly placed a tourniquet on his arm and then hastily glanced over his other wounds. He noted the torn clothing and asked, "Have you been in a barbed wire' entanglement?"

Schmuck shook his head feebly. "Machine gun," he answered.

The doctor examined the wounded back and shook his head. Long red streaks crossed the white skin. The bullets had creased and seared the flesh but had not penetrated, with the exception of one which cut a long gash across the shoulder. The bullet that went through his shoulder had made a clean wound without striking the bone.

“You'll do until they get you back to the hospital," said the doctor and hurried to another patient.

Schmuck was placed in an old Ford ambulance. His arm was bound tightly to his side. Another wounded buddy was above him. He listened to the groans and knew the man was in terrible pain, which made Schmuck thank his lucky stars he was not tortured with the feelings of a physical nature.

The Germans were shelling the roads to prevent the Americans bringing reinforcements and ammunition. All cars drove without lights and the ambulance was no exception. It bumped along blindly, jarring as it encountered debris and lost the trail. Suddenly it went headlong into a shell hole and the wounded buddy above was thrown from his stretcher on top of Schmuck. An agonized scream came from the lips of the man. The ambulance drivers hastened to untangle the wounded men and pulled out of the hole. It seemed like an eternity after that before the party finally reached the hospital.

Schmuck was mercifully lulled into sleep by unconsciousness shortly after reaching the hospital. Three days later he opened his eyes to find himself in a hospital ward. Cots occupied by wounded buddies were all around him. He tried to remember how he got there.

A nurse hurried to his side.

How do you feel, buddy?" she asked.

“Oh, I'm all right," replied the runner, "only my arm feels funny.

"Which one?" she queried.

“This one over there," said Schmuck motioning with his head.

"There isn't any arm there,' said the nurse quietly. “We had to take it off."

The room became black. Her voice seemed far away.

The nurse suddenly placed her arms around him and kissed his lips, his eyes, and his cheeks.

"Buddy! Buddy! You mustn’t take it that way," she half sobbed. “You are lucky to be alive; and it won't matter so much when you get well."

Schmuck for weeks had been in the Argonne; far away from the gentle influence of women. Everything he had seen and experienced tended to harden his finer sensibilities. The affection of this woman feeling her arms around him and her kisses on his face saved his life.

He forgot his arm, his wounds, the hell, and horror he had gone through. It was like being home with his mother. He had never had a sweetheart and did not feel the symptoms of love for this nurse. But it seemed like a great peace flooded his heart and mind. How many boys had their lives saved at the critical moment by a display of this nature can never be estimated, but the war nurses and doctors will tell you they were many. Affection snapped the war-crazed victims into another world with new interest and thoughts. The boys forgot the torn and mangled bodies of their buddies left behind and thought of the day when they would go home. That feeling of hope and expectancy was the best medicine obtainable.

Sometime later a doctor entered the ward and, seeing that Schmuck was conscious came to his cot with a cheerful smile and word.

"Well, buddy, the worst is over. Now you'll soon be on your way home."

Schmuck felt half-resentful toward the physician. It was probably this one that took his arm off. “But how about this?"

"Yes, I'll be all right," he replied, and he motioned toward the stump of his arm.

The doctor smiled.

“You'll never miss it, buddy. Why, they have patented legs and arms that enable the boys to walk just as good as ever; and talking about arms, when you get yours, you will be able to play a piano."

"Yes, I know," said Schmuck as he tried to restrain the tears. The thought of losing his arm almost overwhelmed him again. The nurse squeezed his hand and nestled her cheek against his. Schmuck grinned feebly.

"That's the stuff," said the doctor, and a sad expression crossed his features. "Look at the boys around you. Some will soon have the white sheets drawn over their cots. Buddy, it's tough to lose the old wing, but you are going to get well and go home. Some of these boys haven't a home to go back to, and there goes one now that won't see his mother again if there is one waiting."

The doctor walked sadly toward the buddy he last referred to. The nurse was drawing a white sheet around the cot. Silence stole over the ward like a pall. Death had entered and was administering his portion to the buddy behind the sheet. Soon the stretcher bearers took the body away.

Before Schmuck left this ward, he was to see the sheets drawn around seven of his buddies. Always he had the feeling that ‘I will be next.' Yet there was an air of cheerfulness in the ward at all times except when some buddy was “passing over.”

One patient in an adjoining cot liked to argue. He and Schmuck was always having a verbal combat. The patient would argue with anyone. He would argue on any subject. Death had not-made its appearance in the ward for a couple of days and the boys were feeling quite gay as their wounds healed.

Schmuck awakened one morning, and the verbal combat started as his buddy was waiting for him.

"I'm going to die today," he said in a belligerent tone.

Schmuck kidded him and the argument became hot. The nurse took part in it, and the doctor, too. None could get him off the subject.

"What makes you think you are going to die?" asked the runner. “You haven't a bad wound. Look at me; I'm harder hit than you are, and I am not going to die."

"You're not kidding me," responded the patient. “I know this is my last day."

The argument continued for several hours until Schmuck got peevish. It was uncanny; this man had no reason to die. But the nurse finally summoned the doctor. He took the man's temperature and felt his pulse.

“See, didn't I tell you I was going to die?" said the patient.

Schmuck remained silent. The ward quieted down. The patient still argued. The curtain was drawn around the cot.

"Well, am I right or am I wrong? Do you believe me now?" asked the patient with a ring of triumph in his voice. But no one answered. Did we say no one? That is a mistake. Death answered by sealing his lips.

Schmuck was heavy at heart for several hours after that. He tried to shake off the feeling that he would -be c next,' but it somehow clung to him. However, after a night's sleep, the ward regained its cheerfulness.

One buddy who maintained a cheerful attitude had the admiration of the entire ward. He set a wonderful example. He had lost both legs, and part of his shoulder was shot away. His case seemed hopeless, yet he clung to his life and was gaining strength. The attending physicians decided he would live.

The wounds were healing rapidly and a terrible itching set in. The fight against the scratching was the hardest one the boys had to bear now. If they scratched the wounds, it was possible to open an artery and bleed to death.

Schmuck and the brave patient chatted for some time before going to sleep one evening. About midnight Schmuck was awakened. Someone was groaning. The ward quickly came to life. Lights were switched on and the nurses and doctors hurried to the cot of the badly wounded buddy. Beneath his bed was a wide pool of blood which soaked through the mattress to the floor. The patient's cot was lifted high at the foot so his head would be down, and hurried efforts were made to stop the hemorrhage. It was too late. The victim had lost too much blood. The sheet was drawn around his cot and a brave man passed on. He had unknowingly scratched his healing stumps while sleeping and opened the arteries.

Shortly after this Schmuck was moved to another hospital. He still had one big ordeal to face. The medical staff was so busy with patients as the drive continued, that it was impossible to give the attention demanded by individual cases. For four days his stump of an arm had not been dressed. The flesh rotted and the stench became so bad he could hardly bear it. The stump swelled until it was fully nine inches across. The bandage dried on the wound, there were 60 patients in this ward. When the medical staff and nurses finally came in one morning to dress the wounds there was a sigh of relief. But before the staff finished its work buddy was crying like a baby. The doctors were forced to ruthlessly tear the bandages from the wounds. There was no time to soak them off. The seeming heartlessness of the physicians was almost unbearable, but late in the afternoon the job was concluded, and from then on Schmuck received every possible attention and gained strength rapidly.

Private Schmuck left Luverne, Minnesota on a beautiful sunshiny day in May, the 27th to be exact. On another sunshiny day, exactly one year and two days later, on the 29th day of May he stepped off the train in Luverne into the arms of his loved ones. He still had his cheerful grin. A lifetime had been crowded into that year. An arm that went with him to the front did not come back. And with his arm he decided to leave as much of the bitterness and horror as possible.

So today, if you can get him to talk, he will tell you only of the fun he had with his buddies, and the fine treatment he received when landing in New York, and the great joy to be felt when once more he walked up the main street toward home, which he had just as joyfully marched down a year before to meet his great adventure.

But once in a while a fleeting expression of sadness and a faraway look in his eyes will betray the appearance of some thought which he would like to leave with his arm "Over There.”

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