23 November 1918
La Neufor (near St. Menehould, France.)
My Dear Dad and All:
It seems strange to start a letter by naming a town, and stranger still this town, for this is where we started the great drive through the Argonne Forest to the Meuse, which we had crossed when the Boche quit.
…Since August 10th this regiment has slept under the open sky, right up until the 11th of November. On August 10th we went in on the Vesle River and scrapped there and to the Aisne. As soon as the Aisne was reached we came here, or rather to Givry in trucks, and started the greatest forest fighting in history.
…We have not had the publicity or the limelight of some others but Gen’l Pershing has said, “there is no better in the army and none that can be banked on to accomplish its task as well as the 77th.” That’s praise enough for us, and history will tell the story someday.
…Sept. 20th at 5 A.M. was the start of the attack with artillery. Lordy! How they did roar….The Argonne is as thick a woods as you have ever seen; steep ravines covered with thick underbrush, and it was defended by the 120th division Landwehr troops, who had been in these same woods for eighteen months. They were a first-class division, and made up of woodsmen who knew every path and trick in those damnable woods…
I’ll never go into the woods again or underbrush without my heart in my throat. It was literally impossible to discover a machine gun nest except by the sudden cutting down of yourself or someone else. The manual says that machine gun nests shall be destroyed by ‘flank attacks and by the use of hand and rifle grenades and the 37 mm. gun” Oh Jay! The man or board who wrote that knows nothing. Did he ever try to throw a ball and have his arm caught by brush? Or fire a rifle grenade which would be stopped by woods in ten feet? Or pull the lanyard on a 37mm gun knowing that the shell would explode as soon as it left the muzzle? You can bet something he wasn’t thinking of the Argonne. ‘Use your auxiliary arms” Another joke. The arms you used were your own and twenty-two days of hand to hand fighting was what we got. The regiment got just that and ended up with the brilliant and expensive taking of St. Juvin and Hill 182. That was in the open, wide open, and it was this that carried men forward who were so worn and weary that they would sleep when halted under the heaviest kind of shell fire. It was the relief after being stifled by underbrush and woods that made us take that hill and carried two and part of another battalion against three regiments of Germans – youngsters this time of a Guard Division – and we licked them to a standstill. Two regiments of Hell’s children counter-attacked…and they were literally beaten to death, those that didn’t get by as prisoners.
I’ll never forget the days of October 10th and 14th. It took twelve of my best friends in the regiment that one afternoon of the 14th, but they died the most glorious death in the world and we mourn them not….
…As for staying in the army, no. I’ve done enough. I’m tired, so damned tired I’ll never get rested it seems to me. Personally, the war has brought me knowledge of men and things, what they think even without their speaking. It has brought me a greater love for my country, it has brought me the satisfaction of doing my job well, and Dad, I’m through.
Will see you soon
Your affectionate son,
(Captain Bradford Ellsworth, Intelligence Officer, 306th Regiment, 77th Infantry Division)