During my stay in Chicago I visited
many places of interest usually accompanied by both Lutrelles.
I made it
back to camp okay and spent some time with the company while they were
still in quarantine. Every one got a large dose of castor oil.
Camp Logan, Houston, Texas
About the middle of March 1918, many of my buddies were being
transferred to units going overseas; so when I was asked what I wanted
to do (I was a Corporal by this time and acting Sergeant), I was offered
a choice of getting officers training and staying in the states or being
transferred to an outfit soon to go overseas. I chose to go overseas.
The number in our company was getting thin by this time.
transferred to the 33rd Division, National Guard outfit from Illinois,
which was stationed at Camp Logan, Houston, Texas. It took us several
days to get there as we went through the several states of Kansas,
Oklahoma, and into Texas and saw large wheat farms and oil wells along
the tracks and country we passed through.
We lived in large tents to
begin with and I was assigned to Company C, 132nd Infantry. Our Colonel
was Davis, a hard spoken man that rode around on a beautiful white horse
and had us stand at attention in the hot sun until some men fainted, and
he would bellow "Take 'em out to the woods and shoot them."
this time we had been issued our wool underwear and olive drab wool
uniforms and steel helmets and a Springfield rifle in preparation for
our departure for overseas duty. I heard remarks about the accident he
would have when he got "Over There." I will say this for his
favor, that after he heard a few shells and bullets sing past him he
could not do enough for us boys.
We received intensive training in
target practice on the target range, which was six miles distance from
the camp. I made a score of 8 bulls eyes at rapid fire on an 8 inch
bulls eye at three hundred yards and only shot eight times but was
supposed to shoot ten times and that included loading the rifle with a
clip of five cartridges in one minute's time.
Traveling to New York
The 33rd division pulled out of Camp Logan about May 10, 1918 and we
rode trains through Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio,
and on to Hoboken, New Jersey and Camp Mills, New York.
We arrived a few
days before boarding a transport steam ship that was captured in Boston
harbor when the United States declared war on Germany. There were three
large steamships captured: the Father Land ["Vaterland",
renamed "Leviathan"], the Crown Prince ["Kronprinz
Wilhelm", renamed "Von Steuben"] and the Crown Princess
Cecelia ["Kronprinzessin Cecilie" renamed "Mount
Vernon"], the one that I went to France on, which was over 800 feet
long and had 38,000 horsepower. It carried 7000 soldiers besides a crew
We went onboard ship May 15, 1918. When we passed out of
Hoboken harbor we caught sight of the Statue Of Liberty given to the
United States by France. We wondered if we would ever see the old girl
again holding high the torch of liberty. We did see it again a year to
the day; that is, some of us, but others that left on the same ship were
sleeping beneath the sod in France.
Onboard the Mount Vernon
I went over on the Mount Vernon and came back on it. I was on the
galley detail carrying the food up the long flight of steps to the first
deck where the food was served. When the bow of the ship dipped the
kettles would be light in our hands, but when it came up they were so
heavy we could hardly h old on to them.
But going to France, we were free
to walk around on deck. There were three decks of them, or if you felt
nauseated or sea sick, you laid in your bunk. There were a couple of
days that I thought I might feed the fish, as they must have figured at
least some would, as they gave us corn beef slimy soup.
cannon were mounted to swivel, one on each end, and a constant alert was
maintained for the sight of a periscope or U-boat. We were drilled with
life preservers to abandon ship if the occasion came or there was fire.
We reached France in eight days and were in a convoy of about eight
ships including destroyers. At one time they thought a periscope was
sighted and the gun crew manned the cannon but it proved a false alarm.
We sighted several large whales near the ship both going and also
dolphins which followed the ship to pick up any garbage thrown overboard
which was not allowed as it would give away our position.
On the Western Front in France
When we got to
Brest, France the ship was anchored some distance from the shore and we
disembarked into boats to go ashore where we were assigned to what was
known as Napoleon Barracks for the night of May 24th, 1918. Later on one
of our moves we slept at Verdun. Now as we got nearer the front battle
line we could hear the boom of cannon and shells exploding.
The Somme Front
We were sent
immediately to the Somme Front where we received training in digging
trenches and other experiences as we joined them in holding the trenches
as reserves doing patrol between Albert and Amiens where we saw many
gruesome sights including skulls and skeletons, broken equipment and the
like, at Dead Mans Hill.
We were issued the Enfield rifle the same as
the English Tommies used and the Lewis automatic rifle and I was
assigned to the automatic rifle squad. As I sat on the firing step of my
trench I noticed movement in the loose dirt and after that I had body
lice as long as I was in France. We had a name for them,
We were under the severest shelling we experienced while on the Somme
Front especially at Nine Elms Trench, where it was concentrated on us
for two hours with out let up and several were killed or wounded
including one of my comrades, Ferdinand Estenson. My Corporal Severson
was shell shocked and I got a Corporal by the name of Ott. One man put
his finger in front of the barrel of his rifle and shot off a finger
just to get a "blighty" as the English called a wound that got
them off the front. We were on the Somme Front until about September
"Over the Top" for the First Time
On August 2nd, I went "over the top" for the first time and
crawled through shell holes and Canadian thistles being shot at by a
German in a foxhole with a machine gun. I didn't have a rifle or pistol
as there was a shortage and the Lieutenant had my .45 pistol. I was
carrying two hand grenades and a pouch of several pans of ammunition for
the Lewis automatic rifle and a bayonet in its scabbard that I borrowed
from another rifleman.
It ended up with us losing one man from a hand
grenade and me firing the Lewis gun until it jammed on the 2nd pan after
firing three shots. There was a light rain falling all the while but I
took the gun apart and put it together several times as we could not
have any light showing. It took me the most of the next morning to get
the mud jammed in the gun out before it would work when I shot in the
air to test it.
Casualties of War
The day Ferdinand was wounded in the side and ankle, I saw him
carried from the trench July 25th, 19l8. The English made a daylight
raid that day and lost seventy men; many of them never got beyond the
trench, and others were killed in the shellfire.
I and a Garret Decker
carried a stretcher out in "no mans land" and picked up a
young Tommy with a large piece of shell in the back of his waistline
that paralyzed him from the waist down. He wanted us to hold his hand
and rest every so often, which we did although we did not know how soon
the firing would be resumed. The Jerries were out there also and picking
up their dead and wounded at the same time but did not fire at us. These
boys we picked up were from the Tenth London Regiment.
St. Mihiel and the Argonne
After the Somme we went to be with French and would relieve each
other around St. Mihiel and the Argonne, where I never had all of my
clothes off for a period of forty-five days except part of my under
shirt when I would pick off the cooties and eggs. We were soaked to the
skin and dried out again with the clothes on our back time and time
In the Argonne we came up on many dead bodies rotting out in the
open of both horses and men also had keen competition with rats that
would try to get our food even though we hung it under a tent roof.
November 11, 1918
Finally after taking the towns of St. Maurice and Consenvoye in
October, and many prisoners and German machine guns, and on the 26th of
September, forges wood and prisoners, the armistice took effect November
11, 1918, as Jerry was ready to give up the fight.
I was staying at St.
Maurice, France, but on the eleventh of November the whole company was
called to replace the 131st Infantry Company at the front who had had
considerable losses. As we came near, we saw dead Americans everywhere,
and bodies leaning against trees, and bodies lying here and there among
the trees, and were struck with fear. A young man from the cook's detail
was with me as we dug a foxhole among the jack pines. He didn't have a
gas mask or helmet and was so scared that he was useless when twigs
would fall from the pine to the ground when hit by German rifle fire.
It was very foggy that morning of the eleventh so that visibility was
only about one hundred feet, and the Germans were not much further than
that from us. Then all began to get quiet. The rifle firing ceased and,
gradually, the boom of cannon. Two sergeants from my company that spoke
German went to meet German soldiers that came to meet them. The
sergeants told me to let them have it if they showed any shenanigans,
which they didn't, and there was a great shout among the entire front,
and the Germans shot fireworks that could be seen for miles. We, the
Americans, could hardly believe the war was over.
That afternoon it snowed about two inches and the weather was mild. I
remember helping to carry a copper wash boiler of black tea and going
back to St. Maurice to my cabin lighted by carbide and heated by
charcoal and enjoyed a box spring mattress, which we had captured from
The Winter of 1918-1919
They Said We'd Be Home by Christmas
When we were told that we would be home by Christmas we did not mind
when they told us to drill on the natural parade ground at St. Maurice
on top of a hill. It was for toughening us to make a 200-mile hike with
extra ammunition and equipment that weighed nearly 100 pounds.
the distance in seven days sleeping on the cold ground or in some shed
maybe filled with dry leaves and snuggled together like pigs for warmth.
We arrived at Saarbourg, Germany Dec. 7, 1918, and slept in a high
school for a week.
In the Army of Occupation in Luxembourg
Then we became a part of the army of occupation in Luxembourg, where
I spent the winter and was trained for General Bell's Honor Guard and
was called upon to parade at special occasions of the 33rd Division.
While at Junglinster, Luxembourg, I was also selected to go to a bombing
school near the Swiss border and saw the castle at Viandon. Here we
threw dummy grenades for about a week.
The middle of April 1919, we started to move toward Brest, France, by
trucks called lorries and by train. I passed through Paris and viewed
the Eiffel tower and the Arc de Triomphe. When we got to Brest, we
boarded the Mount Vernon and were on our way back to the States.
When I got back to New York I received 3 one day passes from my
Captain to go up the Hudson River shore by train to Camillus, New York,
a small town near Syracuse, to visit some second and third cousins:
Sybil (Conway) Munro, Fred Munro, and daughter Genevieve. Gen wrote me
while in the Army and for time after I got home. Sybil was Uncle Edwin
and Aunt Sarah Conway's daughter. Gen was quite a horsewoman. She
married but don't remember the name for sure.
They showed me a good time
and paid my way putting me on a Pullman sleeper to return to New York
where I found the Company about ready to leave for Chicago, where we
paraded the 27th of May 1919. Our Pullman car was pushed onto a side
track where some porters went through it, cleaning not only the car but
got away with some of my choice trophies received off German prisoners
and some new underwear and an iron cross.
After the parade, the train
left for Flint, Michigan, where we got a feed at the Rio truck plant and
Lansing, Michigan. After arriving at Camp Grant, Illinois, we were
offered a chance to re enlist, which very few did.
I was discharged on a Saturday* and on Sunday we started for different
points along the way. I say we because we got to Bluff Siding and East
Winona with no trains on Sunday and got on a hand car driven by a gas
engine which took us to Independence and there we hired Reuben Lyngdahl
Model T Livery to take Peter B. Moe and I home to the town of Pigeon
where dad's farm, Dissmore Homestead was located in Dissmore Coulee.
oldest brother, who had served in the Navy at Paimboeuf, France with
dirigible balloons, Elbert, was home and had a girlfriend. It sure was
nice to be home where there was no fear of being shot at or being
gassed, especially the mustard variety. I wore the gas mask many times,
and because they were only good for so many hours, I was on my second
gas mask, which I was permitted to take home with me. It was borrowed by
the Fred and John Jacobsons at Coral City when they fumigated their
To my knowledge I never killed any Germans, but very possible as I
shot in their direction many times, especially at night when on twelve
patrols out in "no man's land." After the war many of the men
would experience hair-raising nightmares when they would cry out in
their sleep "GET EM! GET EM!"
In conclusion surely God was merciful to me a sinner now saved by
grace. The Germans had a large brass buckle on the front of their shiny
black wide belt with "Gott Mit Uns." I hope He was. The cause
they were fighting for was wrong.
I stated in one of my letters to the Wilsons while still on the Somme
Front and viewing the terrain pocked with shell holes and all dug up
exposing the skeletons of buried men and equipment who had fought at
Dead Mans Hill, I called it a God forsaken place, and they wrote back
telling me that God had not forsaken any of his creation but called it
good. I'm sorry that at that time I did not know Christ as my personal
Savior and could not tell any of my comrades how to be saved: that
Christ had died and shed his blood at Calvary so that through grace and
faith in him our sins can be forgiven and we will receive eternal life.
If we believe.
Our chaplain was Catholic and would seek out the Catholic members of
the squad I was in to give them absolution as we approached the front. I
was looking to works to save me, the way I see it now. However, God was
merciful to me and spared my life while others were shot down on either
side of me or were wounded. Surely He caused His guarding angels to
encamp around me and protect me, so that I didn't get so much as a
scratch or have a cold while over there.
I did get scratched while
picking black berries out in the woods when I picked a gallon of the
berries to supplement our rations when it was difficult for the detail
to bring them to us. Then most of the time it was butterless bread cut
into thick slices to last us all day if the rats didn't get it first. We
never starved and God always provided and we got lots of sugar.
water it was different. Much of the water near the front was poisoned
and one day I carried eight canteens slung over my shoulder to go back
two miles to fill them with water on a bright sunny day. Most of the
canteens were U.S., but I had three French make and they were shiny. I
was shot at from a distance, which whizzed over my head. I got back okay
as I walked a narrow gage railroad track I saw lizards. The bread was
exposed to rain as they pushed along the track but it had a crust that
looked like sawdust that shed water very well.
One time when picking
berries, a dogfight was taking place above me and anti aircraft shells
bursting flack landed near. I picked it up -- it was HOT.
*Clinton was discharged from service Saturday, May 31,
1919, and returned home on Sunday, June 1, 1919.
Clinton Rogers Dissmore
Whitehall, Wisconsin 54773
December 10, 1976