The year was 1917. The war in Europe had been raging for almost three years. On April 20th of that year, a nineteen year old enlisted as a Corporal in the U.S. Army. He was like many other young men, eager to join the fight against the German Empire and its allies.
This particular soldier was Arthur E. Schoener, my grandfather, born 18 Nov 1897 in Mahanoy City, Schuylkill County, PA.
He was initially assigned to Co. E, 8th Infantry. Later transferred to Headquarters Company, 112th Infantry on 20 October 1917, he trained at Camp Hancock, GA. His regiment would become part of the 28th Infantry "Keystone" Division. Arthur would not sail for France until 6 May 1918 as part of the American Expeditionary Force, aboard the U.S.S. Aquitania.
He would participate in the following battles: Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, and Meuse-Argonne.
The Champagne-Marne Offensive took place between 15-18 July 1918. This was the last of five offenses made by Erich Ludendorf, the German Quartermaster General, that came close to breaking through the Allied lines. It was intended to take advantage of the Allies before the full deployment of American troops. The attack failed following a strong counterattack on the German's right flank that was supported by several hundred tanks. This victory marked the beginning of the Allied progressive advance that would eventually end the war.
The Aisne-Marne battle was a continuation of the above, starting on 18 July. The rapid advance of the Allies threatened German communications and the potential trapping of German troops around Château Thierry. The Germans retreated and established a new line along the Aisne and Vesle rivers. When attempts to break through this line failed, the offensive ended on 6 August.
On 18 August, the Oise-Aisne Offensive began when French troops attempted to dislodge the Germans from their new defensive position. The push continued until 6 September, at which time the Allies began concentrating their forces in preparation for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
Beginning 26 September, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest commitment of American troops in the war. George Patton would later recall of the three hours before the start of the battle that "the Allies expended more ammunition than both sides managed to fire throughout the four years of the Civil War. The cost was later calculated to have been $180 million, or $1 million per minute." While most of the American objectives were met, the 28th Division's advance came to abrupt halt due to stiff resistance from the German forces.
The photo above is of the crossroads at Le Chene Tondu. On the left was where two battalions of German held off the 111th and 112th Infantry Regiments, 28th Division for more than a week.
It was here that Arthur's experience in World War I took a reverse of fortune. On 1 October, he was wounded. On 4 October, Germany would seek an armistice with the Allies, but the war would not officially end until the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th Month 1918 when the armistice was signed.
In the meantime, Arthur would be sent to a hospital the south of France on the Côte d'Azur to recuperate. While there, he would write letters, two of which survive today.
The first letter was written on 9 October to his friend, Carrie Blew, the woman he would end up marrying on 25 June 1921.
He wrote to her about his experience:
Well, they got me after all; still I think I gave a fair account before they did. I am now in a Base Hospital in Southeastern France, so don't worry at all; I'm feeling fine.
It happened on Tuesday, Oct. 1st while our Regiment was making an advance in the famous Argonne Forest. Some dirty Hun just couldn't bear seeing us advance so he let fly one of his little 77mm shells. It killed 3 men, & wounded several others, yours truly being one. It knocked me out for about ten minutes, but after that I was alright. I was taken to the Field Hospital some distance to the rear and from there to the Evacuation hospital. I landed there (Evac. hosp.) on Wed. at 3 A.M., so you see I made very good time. I was operated on at 9 A.M. same day, and on Thurs. (Oct 3rd) noon came out of the chloroform. It had no after affects on me, which I am very glad for. On Saturday (Oct. 5th) I was sent to the Base, arriving there Sunday at 6 P.M.
My wound is on the road to heal up now, so have no pain at all. It is in my left shoulder, more toward my back, and about 2 inches from my arm. It was a piece of steel about 1 1/2 inches long and 5/8 inches thick and was 7 1/2 cm deep, so naturally they had some fine cutting to do to take it out.
Except for a bit of stiffness, I feel none the worse for my little experience.
The other letter dated 22 December was written to his friend Clement McLaughlin in Mahanoy City. It was later published in The Mahanoy City Record on 15 January 1919. "Capt" Schoener, as he was called by this friends, would recount his experience in a more cavalier way than the one he had written to Carrie:
So Quinny told you a Hun near got me, did he? Well, the "bloke" (as the English call them), had to have it at me from a safe distance anyway. That's their method of warfare it seems. But even at that, we beat them at their own game, so what's the use of arguing about it. You know I'm not very big and husky, but I'll just wager I could give that Hun an awful run for his money - I don't mean in a foot race either....At present, Mac, I am feeling good. Except for shots of pain now and then, I am none the worse for my little experience. My wound is about healed up, although muscles aren't responding to treatment as they should. However, I am looking forward to be in perfect condition when I "walk down the gangplank."
He would eventually return to the States aboard the U.S.S. Antigone and be discharged at Camp Dix, NJ on 1 February 1919. For his service, he received the Pennsylvania National Guard Service Medal, the World War Victory Medal and the Purple Heart.
Arthur would marry Carrie Blew, graduate from Temple University, raise three children and became head of the commercial department at Trenton Central High School. He would pass away suddenly on 12 July 1957 at the age of 59.