Three Elizabeth City Boys Who Hit the Huns
Sergt. Reichle Gives This Newspaper an Account of His Adventures on Western Front
Sergt. Frank J. Reichle, one of the first Elizabeth City boys drafted in the great world war, writes to this newspaper from somewhere in France under date of December 31, 1918. His letter, just received this week, follows:
Saunders, Editor Independent:
Am just writing you a few lines to let you hear just what has happened to three of the first men who left Elizabeth City on September 5th, 1917, for Camp Jackson, Columbia, S.C., namely Corp. Scott B. Parker, Lloyd I. Barry, and myself.
We were together at Camp Jackson for several months training, from there being transferred to Camp Hancock, Augusta, Ga., where we prepared for overseas service. We left Camp Hancock around the second week of July and reached Camp Mills, New York, where we were equipped for foreign service finally sailing from New York Harbor on the 31st of July.
The first day on board ship the writer was put in charge as captain of the gun crew of a six-inch gun and altho we tried our hardest we were unfortunate in not sighting one of the Hun’s subs.
We arrived in Liverpool Harbor on Sunday, August 12th and traveled by train to Winchester where we stayed at one of the famous English rest camps. The following Friday found us on our way to Southampton for our trip across the English Channel to France, which proved uneventful as the Hun subs which we had heard so much about again failed us. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the Elizabeth City boys on our final lap to France, namely Private Jim Bagley, of the 316th Artillery, and it certainly was a big surprise to me as I was not aware that he was in the service, let alone in my division.
We landed in France on Saturday morning and was introduced to the famous side door Pullman that have over here which bears the inscription “Eight Horses or 40 Men.” After travelling about 36 hours we arrived at our training area where we put on the finishing touches to our training for our “Crack at the Hun.”
Our first look at Mr. German was up on the Alsace front where we put in 21 days finding out for ourselves just what trench warfare is. Our worst trouble on this front was getting used to the mud and we were glad when word was received to move out. The Hun didn’t give us very much trouble and altho we didn’t do very much fighting it prepared us for what was to come.
After being back of the lines for a few weeks which time we devoted to intensive training we moved up on November 1st and took over a sector of the Meuse front between Verdun and Metz. On Saturday morning, November 9th, at 6 a.m. our division with help from four or more American divisions went over the top and gave Fritzie all we had. The writer was platoon sergeant of the first platoon and had corp. Scott B. Parker in charge of Machine Gun Squad No. 2.
Trying to push the Germans back on this front proved a hard task as he was fighting with his back to the wall and putting up a game fight. He was using heavy artillery and machine guns in great numbers and using them with telling effect. There is nothing that will test a man’s nerve more than to be out in an open field and have machine gun bullets whistling all around him besides having high explosives, shrapnel and mustard gas shells bursting so near that it at times threw dirt up in our face. Our grit and gameness proved too much for the Hun and he started to retire slowly on the whole front.
On Sunday evening being pretty well exhausted our company came out of action for a few hours and retired to the rear where we received our coffee and beans from Cook Barry. Nobody was ever more welcomed than Barry that night. He braved the dangers of the trenches in bringing up our food and the boys certainly appreciated it. While eating supper we were advised that our Captain as well as our Signal Corporal had been killed and it cast a gloom over the whole company which was not dispelled for quite a few days as they both were dearly beloved by the men and their loss was a serious blow.
Monday morning at 4 a.m. found us again on the move towards the front to take up new positions in the line which at this time was further advanced than when we left off. We immediately went into action again and started hammering away at the German lines and was up to our neck in it when word was received that we were to stop firing at 11 o’clock as at that time the Armistice was to become effective. We were pretty well exhausted when the fighting came to an end and that night altho we fell asleep in dugouts or any place we could find, we were sleeping with thoughts that was joyful in the knowledge that we had done all that was expected of us and the job was finally through.
We are now located in a little village called Etrochy and are waiting for orders telling us we are homeward bound to our loved ones in Elizabeth City. We do not know just when that happy day is to be but whenever it does come it, will be greeted with open arms by the boys of Elizabeth City as well as the rest of Co. B.
I note the pictures of the two Hooper boys which appeared in the Independent of November 22nd and take exception to your remark in so far as they were fortunate in not having to come overseas. I sure think that they were very unfortunate in being cheated out of their crack at the Hun.
Sgt. Frank J. Reichle
Co. B. 316th M.G.Bn.
U.S.A., P.O. No. 791
American Ex. Forces, France