Extracted (with editing for brevity) from the History of the 353rd ‘All Kansas’ Infantry Regiment 89th Division, National Army September 1917 – June 1919, by Capt. Charles F. Dienst and associates, published by the 353rd Infantry Society in 1921.
‘Terrific shelling and gassing together with close-up machine gun and sniper fire from all directions, indicated that the woods had not been cleared of the enemy. Relief could be effected only with great difficulty and severe losses. The situation was reported to Brigade Headquarters. An order came in reply directing 1st Battalion of the 353rd Infantry to advance to the north edge of Bantheville Woods and clean the woods of all the enemy. The time for the jump-off from the funk holes which had been occupied by the relieved elements was set for one o’clock without barrage.
Companies A, D, C and B formed in line from the western to the eastern edge of the woods. In the morning of October 22nd, the day of this advance, the two companies of the 356th Infantry moved northward in the woods and were located in the northern and eastern interior of same where they were practically cut off until the time of their relief by our advancing companies later in the day, as they passed through their positions to the edge of the woods.
Lieutenant Chalmers, historian of the 1st Battalion, tells the story:
“It was nearly noon on October 22nd when the order came to complete the mopping up and advance to the objective–a sunken road at the northern edge of the woods. Companies A and D formed on the left and C and B on the right. By this time it was 1230 and the jump-off was to take place at 1300. There was to be no artillery preparation and no barrage. Two large patrols were out and in danger should our Stokes mortars, one-pounders, and machine guns be used for barrage purposes. Their return at 1250 brought a profound feeling of satisfaction. All watches had been synchronized. The forward movement began simultaneously all along the line.
The advance had progressed but a few paces when it seemed like all of the machine guns in the world were put into action. Deadly flanking fire came from a clearing to the left front. The Stokes mortars section had only nine rounds of ammunition. It was a short range of two hundred and fifty yards. When the direction and range had been indicated, Sgt. H. E. Bailey of the one-pounder section, placed the mortar between his knees and fired the whole nine rounds. The machine guns in this quarter were completely out of action. Later Intelligence charts showed a great number of German dead in this particular spot as a result of Sergeant Bailey’s work. The advance continued in skirmish line by filtration process.
At length a path was reached. It had to be crossed quickly for it afforded a field of fire for a machine gun on the flank. Madly a sergeant dashed forward. He made it safely but the whole woods was alive with the rapid firing guns. He ran directly into the face of another nest. With a bullet hole through his chest Sergeant McDaniels came to his last halt. His body remained standing, braced against a low bush. Even in death he leaned forward as if to push aside all resistance. Nearby another dropped, crashing down through the dense undergrowth. The branches and leaves sprang back into position, covering the body from view. ‘Will he ever be found?’ was the wild thought of the moment. But it was only for a moment. The line must go forward. The woods must be mopped up. Thus, foot by foot and yard by yard, the advance continued until the edge of the Woods was reached. Ahead lay an open field with another forest just beyond. The enemy were running across the open ground to secure cover. ‘Give ’em hell’ was the cry. Loud oaths rang out when a shot missed its mark. The fleeing figures disappeared into the forest like rats into their holes. It had been a nerve-racking ordeal; some cried, some swore, and others yelled at the top of their voices.
The enemy attempted no counter-attack but his artillery continued its activity with increased effectiveness. The advance had been trying enough but the Battalion would have to hold its position in the little salient that had been won for nine more days. Day and night, the enemy kept up his firing with machine guns, trench mortars, ‘Aussie Whiz Bangs’, and every other type of available artillery. Enemy planes swept low back and forth over the woods registering new targets on every appearance of occupation. Every little depression in the terrain was filled with poisonous gas. Every day the casualty lists thinned our ranks.
The personnel shifted in rapid succession. Captain Barnett was relieved by Major Peatross on October 22nd. Lieutenant Dolan, in command of Company A, had given way under the strain and Lieutenant Hulen took command. Captain Dahmke took command of C Company. Sergeants were in command of platoons and corporals in command of sections.
Every hour brought its hair-raising episode and miraculous escapes. One of our own big shells came over. It somehow dropped short in the midst of our own soldiers. Four were killed and eleven wounded including one officer. ‘Don’t tell the captain I’m hit until the rest of the men are taken care of,’ was the self-sacrificing statement of Lieutenant Metzger. One hysterical man cried out, ‘Let’s go back.’ ‘Nobody goes back. To the holes at once,’ was the command of Captain Wood. Obedience was mechanical in its execution. A rocket notified the artillery of their short range.”
While the 1st Battalion ‘carried on’ out on the outguard line, the 3rd Battalion held the support position farther back in the woods where shelling and gas were but little less severe. The 2nd Battalion formed the Brigade Reserve and was located on the south slope of Cote-Dame-Marie, known to us as ‘Horseshoe Hill.’ Immediately after the 1st Battalion had advanced to the edge of Bantheville Woods, Companies G and H were added temporarily to the 3rd Battalion in support.
Men of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions carried food and supplies to the 1st Battalion over a muddy, slippery path through the woods. The enemy knew this path to be our only line of communication and shelled it heavily at all times. Marmite cans scattered at random along the way and occasional doughboys covered with blankets, sleeping their last sleep, told the story of many a party that had been shelled out before reaching its destination.
Along this same road, Captain Fox and his first aid men had held on with their station until the last one of them had to be evacuated to the base hospital. All day long stretcher bearers carried the wounded and gassed to the rear. Cost what it would, the men of the 353rd Infantry hung on. They did more than hold their positions, they made preparations for offensive action. Reconnaissance parties from the 2nd and 3rd Battalions moved out daily toward the front line to inspect the jump-off positions and take a glimpse of ‘No Man’s Land.’ As soon as the other units along the line were ready, the regiment was prepared to go over the top. Thus, time dragged on to the day of the final offensive on November 1st, 1918, which marked the beginning of the end of the World War.”
The fallen of the 353rd Infantry that are buried at Meuse Argonne Cemetery are listed here.