I am writing this entry from an American field hospital, where I lay in incredible pain. The doctors don't quite know how I'll turn out yet, or they won't tell me, I don't know. Seeing as that I don't have much to do except sit around and get in people's way, I'll relate the battle.
Our battalion got the order to go 'over the top', or out of the trenches at dawn. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep the night before. They told us that we were going to be attacking at the same time as a number of other units and there were a lot of boys waiting behind us for reinforcements. I was put in the first wave. At 11 A.M., we left the trenches. This was probably the most awful moment in my entire life. Thoughts of heroism and courage left me when I was confronted by an enemy that I couldn't see who would kill me in an instant before I knew what happened. Then I thought of my cold, dead body lying on the battlefield and Momma cryin' back home, missin' me.
The first part of the ground we had to cover sloped gently down to a road, and then rose to the main positions. The Hun was droppin' a large amount of shells the whole time. One of them hit about 50 yards away from me, takin' out a lot of our boys. When we got to about 100 yards from the road, my heart lifted as I saw the first line of Huns retreat from the trenches. As we crossed the road, out line was raked by murderous machine gun fire, causin' a great deal of casualties. Miraculously, I crossed the road unhurt. Little did I know that it would be the first of many miracles that would get me off that battlefield alive that day.
What was left of our regiment continued up the hill and into the first line of trenches left by the Hun. By this time we had figured out that we didn't have the entire force that was supposed to be attacking with us. On the left flank, only about 50 boys made the charge, and there didn't seem to be anyone on the right flank. Once again we left the trenches, this time under an even greater fire from the enemy. As we ran up the hill, my heart was exploding inside my helmet.
The worst part was yet to come. When we finally reached the enemy lines, we found that the barbed wire had not yet been cut. We had been told that our artillery would clear most of the defenses, but obviously someone got the wrong orders. So there we were, in front of impenetrable barbed wire under heavy machine gunfire from 3 directions. Some people tried to get through the wire, but it was suicide. I saw one boy get about halfway through before he was shot.
The situation was desperate. After a gallant charge over more than 2,000 yards, we faced an unending wall of wire and bullets. Our battalion was getting slaughtered all around me. What were we supposed to do? Turn to our officers for orders? I learned later that only one officer was left unhurt out of the 25 that left the trenches.
Just then, my left shoulder exploded in pain. I turned to look at the wound in shock, barely noticing the bloody remains of my shoulder. By this time, the battalion was breaking up and running back down the hill. I summoned strength from some far-off corner of my body to stand up and run back with them. Even though I was completely exhausted, I still managed to run faster than I had my entire life. I couldn't see or hear anything. I just ran with my eyes clenched shut and screaming at the top of my lungs, which I could barely hear over the roar of shells exploding everywhere. Once I tripped over a body, but I got up and kept running without looking at his face.
A shell burst right behind me, imbedding shrapnel in my back and legs. There was no pain anymore. Finally, within about 20 yards of the last line we captured, the world went black.
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from Diary of a Soldier

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