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Gibbons, Floyd / And they thought we wouldn't fight
Transcribers Notes

1. Passages in italics are surrounded by _underscores_.
2. Passages in bold are indicated by =bold=.
3. Minor printers errors have been corrected. A detailed list can be
found at the end of this text.
4. Text spelling was common at the time of its publication.
5. All dialect spelling has been retained.


* * * * *


"AND THEY THOUGHT WE WOULDN'T FIGHT"

FLOYD GIBBONS

[Illustration: FLOYD GIBBONS]




"AND THEY THOUGHT
WE WOULDN'T FIGHT"

BY

FLOYD GIBBONS

OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENT OF _THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE_,
ACCREDITED TO THE AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES


NEW YORK

[Illustration]

GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY




_Copyright, 1918,_
_By George H. Doran Company_




_Printed in the United States of America_




TO

GENERAL JOHN J. PERSHING

AND

THE AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES

I RESPECTFULLY DEDICATE THIS INADEQUATE RECORD
IN REVERENT MEMORY OF
OUR SACRED DEAD
ON FIELDS IN FRANCE




ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The author expresses his hearty thanks to
_The Chicago Tribune_ for the opportunity
he enjoyed as a correspondent of that paper,
in the service of which he secured the
material for these papers.

* * * * *




Personal.
AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES
OFFICE OF THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF

France, August 17, 1918.


Mr. Floyd Gibbons,
Care Chicago Tribune,
420 Sue Saint-Honore,
P a r i s.

Dear Mr. Gibbons:

At this time, when you are returning to America, I wish to
express to you my appreciation of the cordial cooperation and
assistance you have always given us in your important work as
correspondent of the Chicago Tribune in France. I also wish to
congratulate you on the honor which the French government has
done you in giving you the Croix de Guerre, which is but a just
reward for the consistent devotion to your duty and personal
bravery that you have exhibited.

My personal regrets that you are leaving us at this time are
lessened by the knowledge of the great opportunity you will have
of giving to our people in America a true picture of the work of
the American soldier in France and of impressing on them the
necessity of carrying on this work to the end, which can be
accomplished only by victory for the Allied arms. You have a
great opportunity, and I am confident that you will grasp it, as
you have grasped your past opportunities, with success. You have
always played the game squarely and with courage, and I wish to
thank you.

Sincerely yours,

John J. Pershing.

* * * * *




G. Q. G. A. le July 28, 1918.

COMMANDEMENT EN CHEF
DES ARMÉES ALLIES
LE GÉNÉRAL


MONSIEUR,

I understand that you are going to the United States
to give lectures on what you have seen on the French front.

No one is more qualified than you to do this, after your
brilliant conduct in the Bois de Belleau.

The American Army has proved itself to be magnificent
in spirit, in gallantry and in vigor; it has contributed largely
to our successes. If you can thus be the echo of my opinion
I am sure you will serve a good purpose.

Very sincerely yours,

(_Signed_) F. FOCH.

MONSIEUR FLOYD GIBBONS,
War Correspondent of the Chicago _Tribune_.

* * * * *




G.Q.G.A. _Le_ 28 Juillet 1918.

_Commandement en Chef_
_des Armies Allies_
_Le Général_


Monsieur,


Je sais que vous allez donner des conférences aux
Etats-Unis pour raconter ce que vous avez vu sur le front
français.

Personne n'est plus qualifié que vous pour le faire,
après votre brillante conduite au Bois BELLEAU.

L'Armée Américaine se montre magnifique de sentiments,
de valeur et d'entrain, elle a contribué pour une large part
à nos succès. Si vous pouvez être l'écho de mon opinion, je
n'y verrai qu'avantage.

Croyez, Monsieur, à mes meilleurs sentiments.


F. Foch

Monsieur FLOYD GIBBONS
Correspondant de Guerre du CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

* * * * *




GRAND QUARTIER GÉNÉRAL
DES ARMÉES DU NORD ET DU NORD EST
ETAT-MAJOR
BUREAU DU PERSONNEL
(Decorations)

ORDER NO. 8809 D


The General Commander-in-Chief Cites for the _Croix
de Guerre_

M. FLOYD GIBBONS, War Correspondent of the Chicago
_Tribune_:

"Has time after time given proof of his courage and bravery by
going to the most exposed posts to gather information. On June 5,
1918, while accompanying a regiment of marines who were attacking
a wood, he was severely wounded by three machine gun bullets in
going to the rescue of an American officer wounded near
him--demonstrating, by this action, the most noble devotion.
When, a few hours later, he was lifted and transported to the
dressing station, he begged not to be cared for until the wounded
who had arrived before him had been attended to."

General Headquarters, August 2, 1918
THE GENERAL COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF
(_Signed_) PETAIN

* * * * *




GRAND QUARTIER GENERAL
DES ARMÉES DU NORD ET DU NORD-EST

ETAT-MAJOR

BUREAU DU PERSONNEL
(Décorations)

ORDRE No 8809 D


Le Général Commandant en Chef Cite à l'Ordre de l'Armée:


_M. FLOYD GIBBONS_, Correspondant de Guerre du Chicago Tribune:

"A donné à maintes reprises des preuves de courage et de
bravoure, en allant recueillir des informations aux postes les
plus exposés. Le 5 Juin 1918, accompagnant un régiment de
Fusiliers marins qui attaquait un bois, a été très grièvement
atteint de trois balles de mitrailleuses en se portant au secours
d'un officier américain blessé à ses côtés, faisant ainsi preuve,
en cette circonstance, du plus beau dévouement. Relevé plusieurs
heures après et transporté au poste de secours, a demandé à ne
pas être soigné avant les blessés arrivés avant lui."

Au Grand Quartier Général, le 2 Aout 1918.
LE GÉNÉRAL COMMANDANT EN CHEF.

Petain

* * * * *




FOREWORD


Marshal Foch, the commander of eleven million bayonets, has written that
no man is more qualified than Gibbons to tell the true story of the
Western Front. General Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of the American
Expeditionary Forces, has said that it was Gibbons' great opportunity to
give the people in America a life-like picture of the work of the
American soldier in France.

The key to the book is the man.

Back in the red days on the Rio Grande, word came from Pancho Villa that
any "Gringos" found in Mexico would be killed on sight. The American
people were interested in the Revolution at the border. Gibbons went
into the Mexican hills alone and called Villa's bluff. He did more. He
fitted out a box car, attached it to the revolutionary bandits' train
and was in the thick of three of Villa's biggest battles. Gibbons
brought out of Mexico the first authoritative information on the Mexican
situation. The following year the War Department accredited him to
General Pershing's punitive expedition and he rode with the flying
column led by General Pershing when it crossed the border.

In 1917, the then Imperial German Government announced to the world that
on and after February 1st its submarines would sink without warning any
ship that ventured to enter a zone it had drawn in the waters of the
North Atlantic.

Gibbons sensed the meaning of this impudent challenge. He saw ahead the
overt act that was bound to come and be the cause of the United States
entering the war. In these days the cry of "Preparedness" was echoing
the land. England had paid dearly for her lack of preparedness. The
inefficient volunteer system had cost her priceless blood. The _Chicago
Tribune_ sought the most available newspaper man to send to London and
write the story of England's costly mistakes for the profit of the
American people. Gibbons was picked for the mission and arrangement was
made for him to travel on the steamer by which the discredited Von
Bernstorff was to return to Germany. The ship's safe conduct was
guaranteed. Gibbons did not like this feature of the trip. He wanted to
ride the seas in a ship without guarantees. His mind was on the overt
act. He wanted to be on the job when it happened. He cancelled the
passage provided for him on the Von Bernstorff ship and took passage on
the largest liner in port, a ship large enough to be readily seen
through a submarine periscope and important enough to attract the
special attention of the German Admiralty. He sailed on the _Laconia_,
an eighteen thousand ton Cunarder.

On the night of February 27, 1917, when the _Laconia_ was two hundred
miles off the coast of Ireland, the Gibbons' "hunch" was fulfilled. The
_Laconia_ was torpedoed and suck. After a perilous night in a small boat
on the open sea, Gibbons was rescued and brought into Queenstown. He
opened the cables and flashed to America the most powerful call to arms
to the American people. It shook the country. It was the testimony of an
eye witness and it convinced the Imperial German Government, beyond all
reasonable doubt, of the wilful and malicious murder of American
citizens. The Gibbons story furnished the proof of the overt act and it
was unofficially admitted at Washington that it was the determining
factor in sending America into the war one month later.

Gibbons greeted Pershing on the latter's landing in Liverpool. He
accompanied the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces across
the Channel and was at his side when he put foot on French soil. He was
one of the two American correspondents to march with the first American
troops that entered the trenches on the Western front. He was with the
first American troops to cross the German frontier. He was with the
artillery battalion that fired the first American shell into Germany.

On June 6th, 1918, Gibbons went "over the top" with the first waves in
the great battle of the Bois de Belleau. Gibbons was with Major John
Berry, who, while leading the charge, fell wounded. Gibbons saw him
fall. Through the hail of lead from a thousand spitting machine guns, he
rushed to the assistance of the wounded Major. A German machine gun
bullet shot away part of his left shoulder, but this did not stop
Gibbons. Another bullet smashed through his arm, but still Gibbons kept
on. A third bullet got him. It tore out his left eye and made a compound
fracture of the skull. For three hours he lay conscious on the open
field in the Bois de Belleau with a murderous machine gun fire playing a
few inches over his head until under cover of darkness he was able to
crawl off the field. For his gallant conduct he received a citation from
General Petain, Commander-in-Chief of the French Armies, and the French
Government awarded him the Croix de Guerre with the Palm.

On July 5th, he was out of the hospital and back at the front, covering
the first advance of the Americans with the British forces before
Amiens. On July 18th he was the only correspondent with the American
troops when they executed the history-making drive against the German
armies in the Château-Thierry salient--the beginning of the German end.
He rode with the first detachment of American troops that entered
Château-Thierry upon the heels of the retreating Germans.

Floyd Gibbons was the first to sound the alarm of the danger of the
German peace offensive. Six weeks before the drive for a negotiated
peace was made by the German Government against the home flank in
America, Gibbons told that it was on the way. He crossed the Atlantic
with his crippled arm in a sling and his head bandaged, to spend his
convalescence warning American audiences against what he called the
"Crooked Kamerad Cry."

Gibbons has lived the war, he has been a part of it. "And They Thought
We Wouldn't Fight" is the voice of our men in France.

FRANK COMERFORD.




CONTENTS


CHAPTER PAGE

I THE SINKING OF THE _Laconia_ 17

II PERSHING'S ARRIVAL IN EUROPE 43

III THE LANDING OF THE FIRST AMERICAN CONTINGENT IN FRANCE 61

IV THROUGH THE SCHOOL OF WAR 78

V MAKING THE MEN WHO MAN THE GUNS 96

VI "FRONTWARD HO!" 117

VII INTO THE LINE--THE FIRST AMERICAN SHOT IN THE WAR 134

VIII THE FIRST AMERICAN SECTOR 158

IX THE NIGHT OUR GUNS CUT LOOSE 182

X INTO PICARDY TO MEET THE GERMAN PUSH 199

XI UNDER FIRE 217

XII BEFORE CANTIGNY 235

XIII THE RUSH OF THE RAIDERS--"ZERO AT 2 A. M." 251

XIV ON LEAVE IN PARIS 266

XV CHÂTEAU-THIERRY AND THE BOIS DE BELLEAU 283

XVI WOUNDED--HOW IT FEELS TO BE SHOT 305

XVII "GOOD MORNING, NURSE" 323

XVIII GROANS, LAUGHS AND SOBS IN THE HOSPITAL 338

XIX "JULY 18TH"--THE TURN OF THE TIDE 354

XX THE DAWN OF VICTORY 376

APPENDIX

PERSONNEL OF THE AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES IN FRANCE 399




ILLUSTRATIONS


FLOYD GIBBONS _Frontispiece_

PAGE
THE ARRIVAL IN LONDON, SHOWING GENERAL PERSHING,
MR. PAGE, FIELD MARSHAL VISCOUNT FRENCH, LORD
DERBY, AND ADMIRAL SIMS 50

GENERAL PERSHING BOWING TO THE CROWD IN PARIS 50

THE FIRST AMERICAN FOOT ON FRENCH SOIL 66

THE FIRST GLIMPSE OF FRANCE 66

CAPT. CHEVALIER, OF THE FRENCH ARMY, INSTRUCTING
AMERICAN OFFICERS IN THE USE OF THE ONE POUNDER 122

IN THE COURSE OF ITS PROGRESS TO THE VALLEY OF THE
VESLE THIS 155 MM. GUN AND OTHERS OF ITS KIND
WERE EDUCATING THE BOCHE TO RESPECT AMERICA.
THE TRACTOR HAULS IT ALONG STEADILY AND SLOWLY,
LIKE A STEAM ROLLER 122

GRAVE OF FIRST AMERICANS KILLED IN FRANCE. TRANSLATION:
HERE LIE THE FIRST SOLDIERS OF THE GREAT
REPUBLIC OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, FALLEN
ON FRENCH SOIL FOR JUSTICE AND FOR LIBERTY, NOVEMBER
3RD, 1918 170

FIRST OF THE GREAT FRANCO-AMERICAN COUNTER-OFFENSIVE
AT CHÂTEAU-THIERRY. THE FRENCH BABY
TANKS, KNOWN AS CHARS D'ASSAUTS, ENTERING THE
WOOD OF VILLERS-COTTERETS, SOUTHWEST OF SOISSONS 226

YANKS AND POILUS VIEWING THE CITY OF CHÂTEAU-THIERRY
WHERE IN THE MIDDLE OF JULY THE YANKS
TURNED THE TIDE OF BATTLE AGAINST THE HUNS 226

MARINES MARCHING DOWN THE AVENUE PRESIDENT WILSON
ON THE FOURTH OF JULY IN PARIS 274

BRIDGE CROSSING MARNE RIVER IN CHÂTEAU-THIERRY
DESTROYED BY GERMANS IN THEIR RETREAT FROM
TOWN 274

HELMET WORN BY FLOYD GIBBONS WHEN WOUNDED,
SHOWING DAMAGE CAUSED BY SHRAPNEL 314

THE NEWS FROM THE STATES 346

SMILING WOUNDED AMERICAN SOLDIERS 346

(_Photographs Copyright by Committee on Public Information._)




"AND THEY THOUGHT WE
WOULDN'T FIGHT"




CHAPTER I

THE SINKING OF THE _Laconia_


Between America and the firing line, there are three thousand miles of
submarine infested water. Every American soldier, before encountering
the dangers of the battle-front, must first overcome the dangers of the
deep.

Geographically, America is almost four thousand miles from the war zone,
but in fact every American soldier bound for France entered the war zone
one hour out of New York harbour. Germany made an Ally out of the dark
depths of the Atlantic.

That three-thousand-mile passage represented greater possibilities for
the destruction of the United States overseas forces than any
strategical operation that Germany's able military leaders could direct
in the field.

Germany made use of that three thousand miles of water, just as she
developed the use of barbed wire entanglements along the front. Infantry
advancing across No Man's Land were held helpless before the enemy's
fire by barbed wire entanglements. Germany, with her submarine policy of
ruthlessness, changed the Atlantic Ocean into another No Man's Land
across which every American soldier had to pass at the mercy of the
enemy before he could arrive at the actual battle-front.

This was the peril of the troop ship. This was the tremendous advantage
which the enemy held over our armies even before they reached the field.
This was the unprecedented condition which the United States and Allied
navies had to cope with in the great undertaking of transporting our
forces overseas.

Any one who has crossed the ocean, even in the normal times before
shark-like Kultur skulked beneath the water, has experienced the feeling
of human helplessness that comes in mid-ocean when one considers the
comparative frailty of such man-made devices as even the most modern
turbine liners, with the enormous power of the wilderness of water over
which one sails.

In such times one realises that safety rests, first upon the kindliness
of the elements; secondly, upon the skill and watchfulness of those
directing the voyage, and thirdly, upon the dependability of such
human-made things as engines, propellers, steel plates, bolts and
rivets.

But add to the possibilities of a failure or a misalliance of any or all
of the above functions, the greater danger of a diabolical human, yet
inhuman, interference, directed against the seafarer with the purpose
and intention of his destruction. This last represents the greatest odds
against those who go to sea during the years of the great war.

A sinking at sea is a nightmare. I have been through one. I have been on
a ship torpedoed in mid-ocean. I have stood on the slanting decks of a
doomed liner; I have listened to the lowering of the life-boats, heard
the hiss of escaping steam and the roar of ascending rockets as they
tore lurid rents in the black sky and cast their red glare o'er the
roaring sea.

I have spent a night in an open boat on the tossing swells. I have been
through, in reality, the mad dream of drifting and darkness and bailing
and pulling on the oars and straining aching eyes toward an empty,
meaningless horizon in search of help. I shall try to tell you how it
feels.

I had been assigned by _The Chicago Tribune_ to go to London as their
correspondent. Almost the same day I received that assignment, the
"Imperial" Government of Germany had invoked its ruthless submarine
policy, had drawn a blockade zone about the waters of the British Isles
and the coasts of France, and had announced to the world that its
U-boats would sink without warning any ship, of any kind, under any
flag, that tried to sail the waters that Germany declared prohibitory.

In consideration of my personal safety and, possibly, of my future
usefulness, the _Tribune_ was desirous of arranging for me a safe
passage across the Atlantic. Such an opportunity presented itself in the
ordered return of the disgraced and discredited German Ambassador to the
United States, Count von Bernstorff.

Under the rules of International courtesy, a ship had been provided for
the use of von Bernstorff and his diplomatic staff. That ship was to
sail under absolute guarantees of safe conduct from all of the nations
at war with Germany and, of course, it would also have been safe from
attack by German submarines. That ship was the _Frederick VIII_. At
considerable expense the _Tribune_ managed to obtain for me a cabin
passage on that ship.

I can't say that I was over-impressed with the prospect of travel in
such company. I disliked the thought that I, an American citizen, with
rights as such to sail the sea, should have to resort to subterfuge and
scheming to enjoy those rights. There arose in me a feeling of challenge
against Germany's order which forbade American ships to sail the ocean.
I cancelled my sailing on the _Frederick VIII_.

In New York, I sought passage on the first American ship sailing for
England. I made the rounds of the steamship offices and learned that the
Cunard liner _Laconia_ was the first available boat and was about to
sail. She carried a large cargo of munitions and other materials of war.
I booked passage aboard her. It was on Saturday, February 17th, 1917,
that we steamed away from the dock at New York and moved slowly down the
East River. We were bound for Liverpool, England. My cabin accommodations
were good. The _Laconia_ was listed at 18,000 tons and was one of the
largest Cunarders in the Atlantic service. The next morning we were out
of sight of land.

Sailors were stationed along the decks of the ship and in the look-outs
at the mast heads. They maintained a watch over the surface of the sea
in all directions. On the stern of the ship, there was mounted a
six-inch cannon and a crew of gunners stood by it night and day.

Submarines had been recently reported in the waters through which we
were sailing, but we saw none of them and apparently they saw none of
us. They had sunk many ships, but all of the sinkings had been in the
day time. Consequently, there was a feeling of greater safety at night.
The _Laconia_ sailed on a constantly zig-zagging course. All of our
life-boats were swinging out over the side of the ship, so that if we
were hit they could be lowered in a hurry. Every other day the
passengers and the crew would be called up on the decks to stand by the
life-boats that had been assigned to them.

The officers of the ship instructed us in the life-boat drill. They
showed us how to strap the life-preservers about our bodies; they showed
us how to seat ourselves in the life-boats; they showed us a small keg
of water and some tin cans of biscuits, a lantern and some flares that
were stored in the boat, and so we sailed along day after day without
meeting any danger. At night, all of the lights were put out and the
ship slipped along through the darkness.

On Sunday, after we had been sailing for eight days, we entered the zone
that had been prohibited by the Kaiser. We sailed into it full steam
ahead and nothing happened. That day was February the twenty-fifth. In
the afternoon, I was seated in the lounge with two friends. One was an
American whose name was Kirby; the other was a Canadian and his name was
Dugan. The latter was an aviator in the British army. In fights with
German aeroplanes high over the Western Front he had been wounded and
brought down twice and the army had sent him to his home in Canada to
get well. He was returning once more to the battle front "to stop
another bullet," as he said.

As we talked, I passed around my cigarette case and Dugan held a lighted
match while the three of us lighted our cigarettes from it. As Dugan
blew out the match and placed the burnt end in an ash tray, he laughed
and said,

"They say it is bad luck to light three cigarettes with the same match,
but I think it is good luck for me. I used to do it frequently with my
flying partners in France and four of them have been killed, but I am
still alive."

"That makes it all right for you," said Kirby, "but it makes it look bad
for Gibbons and myself. But nothing is going to happen. I don't believe
in superstitions."

That night after dinner Dugan and I took a brisk walk around the
darkened promenade deck of the _Laconia_. The night was very dark, a
stiff wind was blowing and the _Laconia_ was rolling slightly in the
trough of the waves. Wet from spray, we returned within and in one of
the corridors met the Captain of the ship. I told him that I would like
very much to have a look at his chart and learn our exact location on
the ocean.

He looked at me and laughed because that was a very secret matter. But
he replied:

"Oh, you would, would you?" and his voice carried that particular
British intonation that seemed to say, "Well it is jolly well none of
your business."

Then I asked him when he thought we would land in Liverpool.

"I really don't know," said the ship's commander, and then, with a wink,
he added, "but my steward told me that we would get in Tuesday evening."

Kirby and I went to the smoke room on the boat deck well to the stern of
the ship. We joined a circle of Britishers who were seated in front of a
coal fire in an open hearth. Nearly every one in the lighted smoke room
was playing cards, so that the conversation was practically confined to
the mentioning of bids and the orders of drinks from the stewards.

"What do you think are our chances of being torpedoed?" was the question
I put before the circle in front of the fireplace.

The deliberative Mr. Henry Chetham, a London solicitor, was the first to
answer.

"Well," he drawled, "I should say about four thousand to one."

Lucien J. Jerome of the British Diplomatic Service, returning with an
Ecuadorian valet from South America, advanced his opinion.

I was much impressed with his opinion because the speaker himself had
impressed me deeply. He was the best monocle juggler I had ever met. In
his right eye he carried a monocle without a rim and without a ribbon
or thread to save it, should it ever have fallen from his eye.

Repeatedly during the trip, I had seen Mr. Jerome standing on the
hurrideck of the _Laconia_ facing the wind but holding the glass disk in
his eye with a muscular grip that must have been vise-like. I had even
followed him around the deck several times in a desire to be present
when the monocle blew out, but the British diplomatist never for once
lost his grip on it. I had come to the opinion that the piece of glass
was fixed to his eye and that he slept with it. After the fashion of the
British Diplomatic Service, he expressed his opinion most affirmatively.

"Nonsense," he said with reference to Mr. Chetham's estimate. "Utter
nonsense. Considering the zone that we are in and the class of the ship,
I should put the chances down at two hundred and fifty to one that we
don't meet a 'sub.'"

At that minute the torpedo hit us.

Have you ever stood on the deck of a ferry boat as it arrived in the
slip? And have you ever experienced the slight sideward shove when the
boat rubs against the piling and comes to a stop? That was the
unmistakable lurch we felt, but no one expects to run into pilings in
mid-ocean, so every one knew what it was.

At the same time, there came a muffled noise--not extremely loud nor yet
very sharp--just a noise like the slamming of some large oaken door a
good distance away. Realising that we had been torpedoed, my imagination
was rather disappointed at the slightness of the shock and the meekness
of the report. One or two chairs tipped over, a few glasses crashed from
table to floor and in an instant every man in the room was on his feet.

"We're hit," shouted Mr. Chetham.

"That's what we've been waiting for," said Mr. Jerome.

"What a lousy torpedo!" said Mr. Kirby. "It must have been a fizzer."

I looked at my watch; it was 10:30.

Five sharp blasts sounded on the _Laconia's_ whistle. Since that night,
I have often marvelled at the quick coordination of mind and hand that
belonged to the man on the bridge who pulled that whistle rope. Those
five blasts constituted the signal to abandon the ship. Every one
recognised them.

We walked hurriedly down the corridor leading from the smoke room in the
stern to the lounge which was amidships. We moved fast but there was no
crowding and no panic. Passing the open door of the gymnasium, I became
aware of the list of the vessel. The floor of the gymnasium slanted down
on the starboard side and a medicine ball and dozens of dumb bells and
Indian clubs were rolling in that direction.

We entered the lounge--a large drawing room furnished with green
upholstered chairs and divans and small tables on which the after-dinner
liqueur glasses still rested. In one corner was a grand piano with the
top elevated. In the centre of the slanting floor of the saloon was a
cabinet Victrola and from its mahogany bowels there poured the last and
dying strains of "Poor Butterfly."

The women and several men who had been in the lounge were hurriedly
leaving by the forward door as we entered. We followed them through. The
twin winding stairs leading below decks by the forward hatch were dark
and I brought into play a pocket flashlight shaped like a fountain pen.
I had purchased it before sailing in view of such an emergency and I
had always carried it fastened with a clip in an upper vest pocket.

My stateroom was B 19 on the promenade deck, one deck below the deck on
which was located the smoke room, the lounge and the life-boats. The
corridor was dimly lighted and the floor had a more perceptible slant as
I darted into my stateroom, which was on the starboard and sinking side
of the ship. I hurriedly put on a light non-sink garment constructed
like a vest, which I had come provided with, and then donned an
overcoat.

Responding to the list of the ship, the wardrobe door swung open and
crashed against the wall. My typewriter slid off the dressing table and
a shower of toilet articles pitched from their places on the washstand.
I grabbed the ship's life-preserver in my left hand and, with the
flashlight in my right hand, started up the hatchway to the upper deck.

In the darkness of the boat deck hatchway, the rays of my flashlight
revealed the chief steward opening the door of a switch closet in the
panel wall. He pushed on a number of switches and instantly the decks of
the _Laconia_ became bright. From sudden darkness, the exterior of the
ship burst into a blaze of light and it was that illumination that saved
many lives.

The _Laconia's_ engines and dynamos had not yet been damaged. The
torpedo had hit us well astern on the starboard side and the bulkheads
seemed to be holding back from the engine room the flood of water that
rushed in through the gaping hole in the ship's side. I proceeded down
the boat deck to my station opposite boat No. 10. I looked over the side
and down upon the water sixty feet below.

The sudden flashing of the lights on the upper deck made the dark
seething waters seem blacker and angrier. They rose and fell in troubled
swells.

Steam began to hiss from some of the pipes leading up from the engine
well. It seemed like a dying groan from the very vitals of the stricken
ship. Clouds of white and black smoke rolled up from the giant grey
funnels that towered above us.

Suddenly there was a roaring swish as a rocket soared upward from the
Captain's bridge, leaving a comet's tail of fire. I watched it as it
described a graceful arc and then with an audible pop it burst in a
flare of brilliant colour. Its ascent had torn a lurid rent in the black
sky and had cast a red glare over the roaring sea.

Already boat No. 10 was loading up and men and boys were busy with the
ropes. I started to help near a davit that seemed to be giving trouble
but was sternly ordered to get out of the way and to get into the boat.

Other passengers and members of the crew and officers of the ship were
rushing to and fro along the deck strapping their life-preservers to
them as they rushed. There was some shouting of orders but little or no
confusion. One woman, a blonde French actress, became hysterical on the
deck, but two men lifted her bodily off her feet and placed her in the
life-boat.

We were on the port side of the ship, the higher side. To reach the
boats, we had to climb up the slanting deck to the edge of the ship.

On the starboard side, it was different. On that side, the decks slanted
down toward the water. The ship careened in that direction and the
life-boats suspended from the davits swung clear of the ship's side.

The list of the ship increased. On the port side, we looked down the
slanting side of the ship and noticed that her water line on that side
was a number of feet above the waves. The slant was so pronounced that
the life-boats, instead of swinging clear from the davits, rested
against the side of the ship. From my position in the life-boat I could
see that we were going to have difficulty in the descent to the water.

"Lower away," some one gave the order and we started downward with a
jerk toward the seemingly hungry, rising and falling swells. Then we
stopped with another jerk and remained suspended in mid-air while the
men at the bow and the stern swore and tusseled with the ropes.

The stern of the boat was down; the bow up, leaving us at an angle of
about forty-five degrees. We clung to the seats to save ourselves from
falling out.

"Who's got a knife? A knife! A knife!" shouted a fireman in the bow. He
was bare to the waist and perspiration stood out in drops on his face
and chest and made streaks through the coal dust with which his skin was
grimed.

"Great Gawd! Give him a knife," bawled a half-dressed jibbering negro
stoker who wrung his hands in the stern.

A hatchet was thrust into my hands and I forwarded it to the bow. There
was a flash of sparks as it was brought down with a clang on the holding
pulley. One strand of the rope parted.

Down plunged the bow of the boat too quickly for the men in the stern.
We came to a jerky stop, this time with the stern in the air and the bow
down, the dangerous angle reversed.

One man in the stern let the rope race through his blistered fingers.
With hands burnt to the quick, he grabbed the rope and stopped the
precipitous descent just in time to bring the stern level with the bow.

Then bow and stern tried to lower away together. The slant of the ship's
side had increased, so that our boat instead of sliding down it like a
toboggan was held up on one side when the taffrail caught on one of the
condenser exhaust pipes projecting slightly from the ship's side.

Thus the starboard side of the life-boat stuck fast and high while the
port side dropped down and once more we found ourselves clinging on at a
new angle and looking straight down into the water.

A hand slipped into mine and a voice sounded huskily close to my ear. It
was the little old Jewish travelling man who was disliked in the smoke
room because he used to speak too certainly of things about which he was
uncertain. His slightly Teutonic dialect had made him as popular as the
smallpox with the British passengers.

"My poy, I can't see nutting," he said. "My glasses slipped and I am
falling. Hold me, please."

I managed to reach out and join hands with another man on the other side
of the old man and together we held him in. He hung heavily over our
arms, grotesquely grasping all he had saved from his stateroom--a
gold-headed cane and an extra hat.

Many feet and hands pushed the boat from the side of the ship and we
renewed our sagging, scraping, sliding, jerking descent. It ended as the
bottom of the life-boat smacked squarely on the pillowy top of a rising
swell. It felt more solid than mid-air at least.

But we were far from being off. The pulleys twice stuck in their
fastings, bow and stern, and the one axe was passed forward and back
(and with it my flashlight) as the entangling mesh of ropes that held
us to the sinking _Laconia_ was cut away.

Some shout from that confusion of sound caused me to look up. I believe
I really did so in the fear that one of the nearby boats was being
lowered upon us.

Tin funnels enamelled white and containing clusters of electric bulbs
hung over the side from one of the upper decks. I looked up into the
cone of one of these lights and a bulky object shot suddenly out of the
darkness into the scope of the electric rays.

It was a man. His arms were bent up at the elbows; his legs at the
knees. He was jumping, with the intention, I feared, of landing in our
boat, and I prepared to avoid the impact. But he had judged his distance
well.

He plunged beyond us and into the water three feet from the edge of the
boat. He sank from sight, leaving a white patch of bubbles and foam on
the black water. He bobbed to the surface almost immediately.

"It's Dugan," shouted a man next to me.

I flashed a light on the ruddy, smiling face and water plastered hair of
the little Canadian aviator, our fellow saloon passenger. We pulled him
over the side and into the boat. He spluttered out a mouthful of water.

"I wonder if there is anything to that lighting three matches off the
same match," he said. "I was trying to loosen the bow rope in this boat.
I loosened it and then got tangled up in it. When the boat descended, I
was jerked up back on the deck. Then I jumped for it. Holy Moses, but
this water is cold."

As we pulled away from the side of the ship, its receding terraces of
glowing port holes and deck lights towered above us. The ship was slowly
turning over.

We were directly opposite the engine room section of the _Laconia_.
There was a tangle of oars, spars and rigging on the seats in our boat,
and considerable confusion resulted before we could manage to place in
operation some of the big oars on either side.

The jibbering, bullet-headed negro was pulling a sweep directly behind
me and I turned to quiet him as his frantic reaches with the oar were
jabbing me in the back.

In the dull light from the upper decks, I looked into his slanting
face--his eyes all whites and his lips moving convulsively. He shivered
with fright, but in addition to that he was freezing in the thin cotton
shirt that composed his entire upper covering. He worked feverishly at
the oar to warm himself.

"Get away from her. My Gawd, get away from her," he kept repeating.
"When the water hits her hot boilers she'll blow up the whole ocean and
there's just tons and tons of shrapnel in her hold."

His excitement spread to other members of the crew in our boat. The
ship's baker, designated by his pantry headgear of white linen, became a
competing alarmist and a white fireman, whose blasphemy was nothing
short of profound, added to the confusion by cursing every one.

It was the tension of the minute--it was the give way of overwrought
nerves--it was bedlam and nightmare.

I sought to establish some authority in our boat which was about to
break out into full mutiny. I made my way to the stern. There, huddled
up in a great overcoat and almost muffled in a ship's life-preserver, I
came upon an old white-haired man and I remembered him.

He was a sea-captain of the old sailing days.



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