Rediscovering Our Greatness

 Grandaddy Irvine's WW
I Diary


After a couple of years in archives and collecting and reading
old unit histories from the 42nd, published as early as 1919 while the
Division was still in Germany as occupation troops on the Rhine, up
until about 1932, and written by the men who were participants, I
thought I should write a little summary for my extended family about my
Grandaddy Irvine and his outfit.

attachment is what I wrote for them. I have tons more stories, some
heartbreaking and some hilarious, and often thought I might have enough
material for Spielberg to do a movie topping Saving Private Ryan, what
with characters like William "Wild Bill" Donovan. The battery men were
used as runners for then Col. Douglas MacArthur during part of the
Meuse Argonne Campaign, and they wrote of trying to sleep in the stable
while they heard his bootsteps pacing back and forth in the house
overhead, then being called to deliver messages at 3 am for the day's
fighting. The Rainbow was at Suippe Souain July14-17 1918 in the last
battle of the Champagne, and it was the earlier version of the Saving
Private Ryan Normandy Beach scene, but instead of 6 hours, it lasted
three days.

The trench mortar Irvine's battery used was a French 52mm No. 2, which
doesn't sound like much. The 52 mm was the gun bore, but the bomb was
outside the bore on the end of a 52mm rod, and carried about 35 lbs. of
high explosive or gas about 500-100 yds max.. They said it would blow
men out of their clothes. Pic of their mortar HERE:

Tailgunner Dick

have a childhood memory of wearing my grandfather's "iron derby" and
gas mask, although I never had a chance to talk to him.  He died
in 1936, before I was born, but his entire uniform, medals, diary,
letters, souvenirs and some equipment were stored in my grandmother's
basement, and I used to play with them when I was small. 
Regrettably, much of it is gone (my grandmother threw them out) except
for some of the letters, his medals, diary, dog tags, and patches. For
forty years after, I knew almost nothing about his service.

My wife and I have hosted ten foreign exchange students, so we have
extended family all over Europe.  In July 1993, we took a train
from Frankfurt to Paris, en route to Normandy to visit Anne, our French
exchange student "daughter."  As we moved along, I saw the names
of many cities and villages as we went through their railroad
stations.  Somehow, they seemed familiar - Bar-le-Duc, Chalons,
Epernay - and many others.  We went for miles along a river
running parallel to the railroad, looking at pretty farms as we rolled
on toward Paris.  My wife asked "Is that the Seine?"  "No,
the Seine runs mostly to the northwest of Paris.  We are east of
Paris." I answered.  When we came home, I looked at a map, then at
my grandfather's war diary, and realized that the river was the Marne,
and many of the villages and cities were places named in the
diary.  That was first time that I knew I must learn more about my
grandfather's service. I began to read, and think, and remember.

When I was a boy, my mother used to tell me about my grandfather
Irvine, saying "He was in the 117th Trench Mortar Battery.  They
were part of the famous Rainbow Division in WW1."  "Rainbow" did
not mean a thing to me then.  There were only a few specific
things she could tell me about his service; that he was the bugler,
that he joined when he was only 18 years old, and that he was gassed.


She also told me that he had one of the finest baritone voices in
Baltimore, and loved to sing church music, especially Handel.  In
one of his letters to his mother from France, he mentioned that he had
a sore throat, and had not been able to sing for a while.  We now
wonder if he was recovering from a gas attack and did not want to worry
his mother.  Many of the Rainbow doughboys did not consider being
gassed as being wounded, and did not bother to wear a wound stripe for
this.  All of his letters except one say nothing about his nine
months of combat, only day-to-day small talk about how people are doing
and his often strange accommodations, as if he were simply in the army,
without a war going on around him.  That one letter is very
moving, speaking volumes about his combat experience in a few
sentences.  On November 13, 1918, two days after the Armistice, he
wrote a letter to his mother in which he stated that "…after the
horrors I’ve seen and the hell I've been through steadily since last
February, I hold you and Pop much dearer to me now than ever
before.  It sure does make a fellow think…." 

He had much to remember.  The 117th left Baltimore on August 25th,
1917 for Camp Mills, Long Island, New York, where they joined the rest
of the 42nd Division.  The 42nd was composed of picked National
Guard units from 26 states and the District of Columbia and did not
exist before America entered the war.  Secretary of War Newton
Baker formed the division when he was trying to choose National Guard
divisions to fight in France.  Deciding the first to go posed a
political dilemma for him:  Whether the chosen division made a bad
showing or covered itself in glory, Baker would be criticized for
making the wrong choice, each state wanting the chance to show what its
men could do.   A young major in Baker's office suggested
that a composite division, with good units chosen from many National
Guard Divisions, would solve the political problem and also allow the
very best to go to France first.  Per the major, the new division
would "stretch like a rainbow across the nation."  Baker
enthusiastically approved the idea, promoting Major Douglas MacArthur
to Colonel and Chief of Staff of the 42nd (Rainbow) Division.  It
comprised four infantry regiments from New York, Ohio, Alabama, and
Iowa.  Men from many other states, among them Illinois, Minnesota,
Kansas, California, Maryland, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and
Oregon, also joined the division and became artillerymen, machine
gunners, ambulance drivers, supply wagoners, and military police, in
all totaling about 28,000 men.

The Rainbow Division was the fourth American division to arrive in
France, with most of its units arriving November 1, 1917

In late February, 1918, they first saw action as they trained with the
French in the trenches around Luneville, in Lorraine. From late March
until late June 1918, the 42nd moved to Baccarat and became the first
American division to hold a sector on its own.  From Baccarat,
they moved east of Rheims, to Suippe-Souain, where on 14-18 July 1918
the Division, acting as part of the 4th French Army, assisted in
crushing the final German offensive at the Battle of the

From July 25 through August 3, 1918, the Division then moved to the
offensive, crossing the Ourcq River northeast of Chateau-Thierry in
their first offensive battle.  The Rainbow Division had 6,459
casualties during those decisive few days of battle at the Ourcq. 
In General Douglas MacArthur's own words, "We...took Meurcy Ferme in a
hand-to-hand fight... But the center at Seringes et Nesle still
held....  Their artillery was concentrated; their machine guns
east and west of the town raked us fore and aft; but nothing could stop
the impetus of that mad charge.  We forded the river; we ascended
the slopes; we killed the garrison in the town to a man.  At dusk
on July 29 we were in sole possession."

"On August 1 there was a general advance all along the line, and the
Allies carried the whole line of hilltops from Plessier-Huleu to
Meuniere wood....  The work done in their debut...was
magnificent.  They fought against victorious soldiers sure of
success and whipped them.  They were engaged on a difficult
terrain.  In the south they were obliged to cross a broad river
and wide valleys, to scale cliffs bristling with defensive
positions.  In the centre they were confronted by a confused
entanglement of broken ground, hills and ravines, woods and open
fields, bisected by a deep valley half-concealed by trees.  In the
north they became acquainted with the snare formed by plateaus falling
abruptly away into the wolf-trap of ravines, where the enemy, lying in
ambush, refused to give ground.  The Americans triumphed over all
these obstacles, and deserve to be reckoned the peers of the best
soldiers in the world."

(From "An American Battlefield: from the Marne to the Vesle" by Raoul
Blanchard in the Atlantic Monthly, December 1918)

The U.S. Army’s first offensive occurred on September 12, 1918 at St.
Mihiel, with the Rainbow driving 19 kilometers as the spearhead of the
assault.  Within four days, the U.S. and French troops reduced the
salient, which until then had withstood Allied assaults for three

On the night of October 13-14 the Division relieved the 1st Division
near Sommerance.  The terrain in the Meuse-Argonne was rugged,
exceptionally arduous, and at this time, waterlogged and littered with
the dead and destruction of the efforts of the 1st Division.  Upon
this terrain, the Rainbow, which over the previous forty-five days had
been fighting, bivouaced in wet woods, or marching, made its entrance
into what would become known as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  Worn
by its hard service, reduced in strength by casualties and sickness
that days in the cold and wet were bound to cause, the Division drove
into the heart of the greatest German defenses in France, the
Kriemhilde Stellung.  By November 7, the troops of the Rainbow,
fatigued by constant employment and exposure, with animals exhausted
and dying, by traveling and fighting in woods, in fields, on roads
slippery with shoe-top deep mud, by fording swollen creeks, carrying
carts, wagons and even animals across them, had conquered, driven and
pursued the enemy more than 25 kilometers, until they overlooked the
historic city of Sedan, the furthermost advance of American troops
before the Armistice.  On 11 November 1918, the Armistice was
signed at Compiègne in France.

These nine months of effort, marking the Rainbow as one of the best
American divisions in France, cost the Division more than 16,000

During his nine months in battle with the Rainbow, Granddaddy Irvine
saw and experienced both the horror and valor that the Great War was
known for.  The 117th made their most significant contribution to
the Rainbow history at the Battle of the Champagne (2nd Marne), July
15-18, 1918 near Suippe-Souain.  In four great offensives in the
Spring of 1918, the Germans had driven the Allies back miles and were
within a day’s march of Paris. The following first person accounts of
Rainbow Division soldiers capture those days:

The following orders were issued just before the battle of the
Champagne (July 15-18, 1918) by Gen. Henri Gouraud, Commander, 4th
French Army to his troops, which included the American 42nd (Rainbow)
Division.  His army, with the 42nd Division playing an important
part in the center of the line, shattered the last German offensive of
the war.


To the French and American Soldiers of the 4th Army:

We may be attacked from one moment to another.  All of you realize
that a defensive battle could never have begun under more favorable

We are warned and we are on our guard.

We are powerfully reinforced by artillery and infantry.

You will fight on a terrain which you have transformed by your
persistent work into a formidable fortress, into an invincible
fortress, if all the passages are well guarded.

The bombardment will be terrible.  You will stand it without

The assault in the clouds of dust and fumes of gas will be
strong.  But your position and your armament are formidable. 
In your breasts beat the strong, brave hearts of free men.  No one
will look behind; no one will give way one step.  Everyone will
have only one thought:  to kill, to kill many, until they have had
enough.  And this is why your General says to you, "This assault,
you will break it and this will be a grand day."

    Chalons-sur-Marne, July 7, 1918


July 7, 1918 - Irvine Carroll, 117th Trench Mortar Battery:

“We arrived in this area a few days ago.  The French and Germans
have been fighting here for more than three years.  The ground is
white like chalk and chewed up with trenches and blown out dugouts and
tangles of wire.  There seems to be nothing alive here except
cooties, rats and us.  At least it’s quiet, but the word is we’re
going to have a big battle.  We dig all night and are not allowed
to move in the daytime, so we try to sleep, but it is some hot….

Observation Post July 14-15, 1918 -   John C. Redington 149th
Field Artillery:

"At the touch of the second hand on 11:45 p.m., a 75 far off to our
rear left shattered the silence and by the fraction of a breath started
one of the most intense and devastating counter preparation artillery
fires of the war.  The battery telephone rang, and Lieutenant
Eells reported to me that the battery was firing and confirmed his
range, angle of sight and rate of fire.  To our direct rear and as
far as we could see to our right and left, the earth blinked with
seemingly a million flashes of light, and the roar of sound was
overwhelming.  I had to put my mouth close to Hutchinson's ear to
shout to him to be in readiness to use the projector. 

Overhead the shells, the big ones from away back, the 155's and the
75's, zoomed and boomed and shined their loads of death
German-wards.  But from the north there were no flashes, no
shells, no signs of answering battle.  I wondered again and again
where my battery's shots were falling, and, by the light of the
electric flash, I pored over our map with its plainly marked firing
objectives and hoped to God that our map work had been accurate. 
I twice phoned back to get the reassuring news that our guns had their
sights properly set at our checked map ranges. 

Meanwhile our watches were traveling swiftly toward 12:10, and I
confess that my stomach felt hollow, and the faces of the men standing
at the peep hole reflected my own soberness.  We had fired many
times from the trenches of Lorraine and had had our baptism of fire and
death, but there we were in dugouts and only had to reckon with
desultory fire.  For years we had read of the might of the German
offense, and here we were facing it, and, as we waited for it, I think
all of us felt that we were looking point blank at the unknown. 

Sharply at 12:10, as if some giant hand had opened the door of a vast
inferno, the hills to the north from the Montagne de Rheims to the
Foret de Argonne burst into a frenzy of flash.  Angered by our
starting fire, the German guns double the ordinary rate of fire, and in
an instant we sensed, like a great oppressive weight, rather than heard
the bursting of enemy shells around our position.  This fire was
being directed at all of our known strong points, batteries, roads,
towns and ammunition dumps.  The babel of sound and the
everlasting illumination from horizon to horizon is as indescribable as
are the wonder colors of the Grand Canyon at sunset.  In the
darkness, in the immediate front of our observation position, we could
not see the effect of the shelling, but our telephone line to the
battery went dead within five minutes, and a little later our other
wire to Major Hammond was cut.  Upon investigation by one of our
telephone men, both wires were found to be cut in five places within
100 meters from the O.P.  It was useless to risk men in the
attempt to mend the lines, particularly now that we had donned our gas
masks.  The enemy was mixing gas with his high explosive shells,
and we had to keep our masks on almost continually till
daybreak....Gradually, as the time drew on to 5:30, we could see the
advancing clouds of dust kicked up by the enemy barrage, a line of dust
that stretched from east to west and came ominously toward our
hill.  Behind it might be the line of gray soldiers..." 

P.C.  July 15, 1918 -  Col. George E. Leach, 151st Field

“At 12 a terrific bombardment commenced and extended along a front of
100 kilometers.  At 3:45 A.M. the Boche left their trenches and
started over, and at 6:15, while I am writing this, they have reached
our lines and all guns are going top speed.  The aviators report
that they are attacking our front with six divisions and we have only
two.  At 8:40 we started a counter attack and are regaining some
lost ground.  Noon and we have had four guns destroyed and a good
many killed and wounded and it has been a perfect hell.  Our
balloon came down in flames but both observers jumped safely.  The
prisoners were assembled at my P.C. to be sent to the rear and I saw
many pitiable sights…

July 15 - Martin J. Hogan, 165th Infantry:

The "Rainbow" was being sent into the line to dam the German
flood.  It did this. It absorbed the best efforts of the best
German shock troops, and shocked them, I'm afraid, much more than they
shocked it.  The "Rainbow" didn't give, bend or budge...

Warning came down to us to be ready to go into action at a moment's
notice.  There was a frequent but desultory fire along the front,
a sort of mutual feeling out of one another.  Then on July 14,
about six or seven o'clock at night, all firing seemed to die away;
things were abnormally, unpleasantly quiet; it was the calm before the
storm wind...

"I wonder if they've found out that the Irish are here and quit," one
querulous voice complained. 

Towards midnight our own guns started an insistent tune - irritated,
made suspicious, probably, by the enemy's silence.  Their roar
increased to an awful strength, which seemed to jar and rock our
trenches and the wood that sheltered them.  Then came the reply
from the guns of the Germans, and through the chaotic din they seemed
to scream to us: "We are ready." 

The German answer grew and grew and grew into a mighty symphony, which
pounded upon us until each nerve was raw and stinging, into such a
terrible symphony as seemed to tear the very being from its body - and
this symphony through the morning grew and grew. 

The ground heaved under the vast detonation.  The imagination
could almost detect the searing winds belched from the hate-flaming
mouths of the myriad guns.  Shock on shock, the shells exploded
until the din touched men on the raw and made them ache all through,
until for very noise one could go mad. 

The enemy were reaching all areas.  The fire kept up undiminished
all that day and night.  Hell, bedlam and chaos combined can only
convey a weak idea of that twenty-four-hour tempest.  There was no
sleep that day nor that night, and when the big fight finally came, it
came as a blessed relief and every man in the "Rainbow" did his best to
show the enemy his appreciation of their frightful music. 

At five o'clock, on the morning of July 15, the third battalion was
moved up to reinforce the first and second battalions.  The
excitement of being on the move into the thick of it for the time made
us forget the shelling... 

The German shells were pounding our new line into powder, and up until
nine o'clock the force of his bombardment seemed to mount and
mount.  The men patiently waited, each sunk in his own thoughts,
occupied with his own emotions and sensations, the spirit of each
bending before the tremendous gale of explosives. 

About nine o'clock, or a little later, the heavy drum-fire snapped
short.  Over the lip of the trenches we saw the gray-clad figures
shuffling down the hill, coming as thick as bees at swarming

There was a sigh of thankfulness all along the line that the shelling
had decreased, and all prepared with a will for repulsing the
assault.  Bayonets were tested and then rifles laid on the enemy,
while the men leaned against the trenches staring at Fritz - thousands
of him - with keen interest. 

The moving clusters of tiny figures gathered and gathered over the brow
of the hill, the front-most wavelets scurrying jerkily toward our
lines.  We waited and watched until the leading flecks of the
stormers came near enough for us plainly to distinguish one individual
from another; then we swung ourselves out of the trenches and lay down
in skirmish line. 

Rifle fire cracked down our line, and then stabbed at that line of gray
with increasing rapidity as it scampered toward us.  Machine guns
and rifles clicked out their messages as fast as the men could work
them, but, though many of the bullets found Germans and halted them in
giddy contortions in the midst of their career over the field, the
others kept grimly on, and over the brow of the hill fresh swarms kept
continually gathering. 

There were mad minutes of this race between our little leaden missives
and the remnants of the storming Prussian Guard, when, closing in
compact bodies, they broke furiously upon our line and the line of the
Sixty-ninth became a dizzy whirl of hand-to-hand combats.  A
fraction of the first German waves had reached us, but behind them were
spurting other gray lines to reinforce them. 

Clubbed rifles were splintered against skulls and shoulder bone;
bayonets were plunged home, withdrawn and plunged home again;
automatics spit here and there in the line; grenades exploded; while a
man occasionally shot his dripping bayonet free from his enemy's
body.  Our front line became a gruesome mess. 

Before the gray wave was conquered, reinforcements reached it and
freshened the blinding fight.  The New York boys and the Germans
were thoroughly mixed up by now in a seething, churning, convulsing
line.  Sometimes there were snatches of such quietness here and
there, in this death agony of the German's offensive strength, that one
could hear the laboring breath whip, as men struggled for an opening to
plunge their knives home through an enemy's neck or bowels.  The
picture of the wildly struggling men in this line is burned and seared
upon my memory! 

Dawn July 15, 1918 - Minnesota’s Louis Collins, 151st Field Artillery:

“As dawn broke on July 15th, the brilliant pyrotechnical display of the
artillery gave way to a smoke dust and gas-covered valley where
glimpses of fighting were occasionally exposed to the view of
observers, who experienced some tense moments in their posts on the
hillside south of Souain.  As it grew lighter six huge German
tanks, three to the left of the sector and three to the right, could be
seen lumbering forward across trenches and through wire.  The
117th Trench Mortar battery, a Maryland organization, was waiting for
them and quickly put four of these moving arsenals out of
business.  The men at the trench mortars did some of their most
effective work against the tanks after an order had come to destroy and
abandon the mortars because the German infantry was so near.  They
ignored the order and fought their guns…”

July 15, 1918  Another St. Crispin's Day

During the Battle of the Champagne on July 15, 1918, the 117th Trench
Mortar Battery became particularly bonded to the 167th (Alabama)
Infantry Regiment.  That July 15th, 1918 was a St. Crispin's Day
(see Shakespeare's Henry V, IV.iii.20-67  King Henry V made a
rousing speech to his soldiers before the Battle of Agincourt, a battle
in which they were outnumbered  five to one against rested troops,
while the English have been marching en route for months. The English
routed the French on that St. Crispin’s Day.)  for the Baltimore
boys of the 117th Trench Mortar Battery.  After being told there
was no place for the short-ranged trench mortars, Captain Gill selected
the exposed position for the battery, on a hill in no-man's land, the
most advanced position in the entire allied line, because his gunners
could fire into the defilade on the German side of the hill, an area
where other artillery would be least effective.  At midnight July
14-15, the German bombardment lit up the entire northern sky.  Not
even the French veterans of Verdun had ever seen or heard anything like
it.  It reached everywhere, shrieking and howling and roaring as
shells from thousands of guns clawed for victims in the Allied trenches
and dugouts.  After enduring more than four hours of the German
artillery pounding without answering fire, the Baltimore gunners manned
their guns after two waves of German infantry had already swept over
them, catching the successive oncoming waves of German infantry in the
open, as they instinctively sought shelter from the murderous Allied
artillery fire behind this little hill.  As the Germans came
forward, the 117th Trench Mortar Battery, working in gas masks, poured
its devastating fire into the German infantry and armor.  The
Alabama Rainbow, the 167th Infantry Regiment, was just behind the 117th.

July 15, 1918 - Indiana artillery observer Elmer Sherwood diary:

"The Alabama Rainbows, 167th Infantry, were so infuriated at seeing
their comrades killed that without orders, it is said, came out of
their trenches with a scream and attacked the Boches with Bowie knives
after the ammunition had run out.  They cleaned up on the enemy,
but it is no surprise to any of us, because they are a wild bunch, not
knowing what fear is… They wander all over the landscape, killing
everything… " 

July 16, 1918 - Henry Stansbury, 117th Trench Mortar Battery:

"Advancing through murderous shellfire, sleeves rolled up, bayonets
fixed, the Alabamans came.  Passing our position some big fellow
called out 'You all Maryland boys can take it easy now; we're takin'
charge of them Boches.'  And they did, with hand grenade, trench
knife, rifle and bayonet they fought in the choking dust and gas and
blazing sun; wave after wave of gray-clad Germans dashing themselves
against our lines only to be shattered and driven back to reform and
come on again.  By evening the infantry's fury had spent its force
and collapsed.  Then the enemy renewed the attack… I never saw
that big Alabaman again....Forty German airplanes flew overhead, raking
the trenches with machine gun fire....for twenty four hours we had been
without water in the burning heat, and about forty-eight hours without


July 16, 1918 - Elmer Sherwood diary

 "…Our trench mortar battery, composed of volunteers from
Baltimore, has been knocked completely out of commission during the
fight.  They had been put in front of the main line of trenches
from whence they fought the advancing Germans until they were out of
ammunition, out of guns, and out of men."  The French command
credited the 117th Trench Mortar Battery, at 177 men and officers the
smallest unit in the Rainbow, with killing 2,400 German infantrymen and
destroying 25% of their tanks. 

July 16, 1918 - Lost Innocence:

The night of July 16th belonged to German aircraft, which bombed and
strafed facilities and troops alike.  The Rainbows had developed a
very real hatred for the Germans.  During the bombardment, the
doctors and nurses moved what wounded they could to a dugout under the
rear area hospital, and the once callow Lieutenant van Dolsen recoiled
in horror at what he saw:

"Well we got down into the dug out and my dear mother such a shamble I
never hope to see again.  A long black tunnel lighted just a
little by candles, our poor wounded shocked boys there on litters in
the dark, eight of them half under ether just as they had come off the
tables their legs only half amputated, surgeons trying to finish and
check blood in the dark, the floor soaked with blood, the hospital
above us a wreck, three patients killed and one blown out of bed with
his head off.  Believe me I will never forgive the bastards as
long as I live."

July 17, 1918 - Mary Ann:

Indiana artilleryman Elmer Sherwood noticed that there was an
overwhelming stench of death in the air.  One could not escape
it.  The artillery fire slackened, rumors started that the
Rainbows were to be pulled out to rest, the gunners packed up their
tents, rolls, and knapsacks in anticipation of the move, the skies
opened up, and the rain poured down.  Amid the general rejoicing,
Sergeant Lawrence Quigley sat by his gun, tears mixing with rain
rolling down his cheeks.  His gun, his beautiful Mary Ann, had
started the Champagne defensive well-oiled and clean.  Now the 75
mm gun was mud-splattered, scratched, and gouged from German
shrapnel.  After firing for seventy two consecutive hours, Mary
Ann just died, shot out, and would be left behind.  Quigley was
saying goodbye to an old friend.

July 19, 1918 - With All My Heart of a Soldier, I Thank You

            SOLDIERS OF

During the day of July 15th you broke the effort of fifteen German
divisions supported by ten others! 

They were, according to their orders, to have reached the Marne in the

You have stopped them short at the point where we desired to engage in
and win the battle! 

You have the right to be proud, heroic infantry and machine gunners of
the outposts, who signaled the attack and interrupted it, aviators who
flew over it, battalions and batteries who broke it, staffs which so
minutely prepared the field of battle!

    It is a hard blow for the enemy!

    It is a great day for France!

I count on you that it may always be the same each time he dares to
attack you, and, with all my heart of a soldier, I thank you.

    Chalons-sur-Marne, July 16, 1918


General Gouraud, on hearing of the work that the 117th did in this
battle declared that these men should be decorated, but by then, the
Rainbow Division had moved out of his command, and on to their next
battle at the Ourcq.  He thought so highly of the Rainbow, and
they of him, that the Rainbow Division Veterans Association to this day
lists General Gouraud on their letterhead as Permanent Honorary
President, the only non-American in the organization.

Granddaddy Irvine was overseas from October 1917 until April 1919, was
in all the Rainbow battles, and also fired in support of regiments from
other divisions.  He came home relatively unscathed
physically.  I suppose he was lucky - the 117th sent 179 men over,
received 50 replacements in France, a total of 229 men, but only 97 men
marched in their welcome home parade in Baltimore in May 1919. 
They had about 50% casualties, and the 117th was one of the more
decorated units in the Rainbow, its men having received two
Distinguished Service Crosses, many Silver Stars, dozens of Croix de
Guerre, and too many wound stripes, or what we now call Purple Hearts.

When my Granddaddy came home, he worked as an auto mechanic and
continued to sing, becoming a professional soloist in the Handel Choir
of Baltimore, and singing in two others.  He also sang with his
friends, going down in the cellar where they brewed beer and sang
popular songs of the time in four-part harmony.  My mother told me
that during the Great Depression, when the family sat in the living
room at night, listening to the radio in the dark (to save
electricity), she and her sister Ruth heard him crying softly in the
darkened room.  They ran to him, and asked "Daddy, why are you
crying?  What's the matter?"  He answered through his tears
"They used chemicals..."   He died of pneumonia in March,
1936.  Our family physician, Dr. Harbold, told us that men who
were gassed were often killed by pneumonia later in life. He was only
37 years old when he died.  I wish I knew him. 

A French historian told me that the Rainbow is held in such high esteem
in France that the holes and caves in which they sheltered during the
Battle of the Ourcq are regarded as national treasures.  Now on
private property, one is considered honored if one is allowed to visit
them. Here in the USA, we often hear about WW2 and Vietnam veterans,
but it seems that no one here remembers the boys who went to France in
1917.  In August, 1917, when the 117th left Baltimore for Camp
Mills, Long Island, and again in May, 1919 when they came home from
France, there were huge parades in Baltimore to celebrate the
Battery.  Tens of thousands of people were in the streets to see
them.  At their homecoming in May, 1919, the city arranged an
entire week of festivities to honor the 117th.  I went to
Baltimore in the summer of 1998 to the War Memorial Plaza, the very
place where the 117th paused in their victory parade to receive honors,
and I was disappointed that there was no plaque outside in their
memory. Once inside the War Memorial building, I found the great stone
wall panels inscribed with the names of units from Maryland who served
in the Great War, with a list of their battles. The tiny 117th Trench
Mortar Battery's panel was completely filled, by far the longest list
of battle honors of any unit on the walls. I have since learned that
the last member of the 117th died in 1996, so there are none of them
left to champion their memory.  According to Bruce Catton, a
soldier from the Grand Army of the Republic (American Civil War
Veterans) said "First we were honored, then we were tolerated, and
finally we were forgotten."  I hope the Boys from Baltimore are
never forgotten.

For the Rainbow -     “Tail Gunner” Dick

Outstanding! - TRKOF

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