WWI Memories of Cpl. Oscar Lubchansky, Co. G, 2nd Battalion, 313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Division, 1st Army, AEF, as recalled by his grandson Gene E. Fax of Newton, Massachusetts, after the passage of 50 years.
My grandfather and his comrades had an insatiable desire for fresh eggs.
Whenever they were en route and a halt was called, the soldiers would crowd around the kitchen door of the nearest farmhouse shouting, “Oofs! Oofs!”
The farmwives would be frightened at first, but would soon figure out that the Americans wanted des oeufs and would pay for them. After that, all went well. [I have been able to partially corroborate this story. Bruce Bairnsfeather, the British war cartoonist, talks in his memoirs about the American soldiers’ astonishing capacity for eggs.]
My grandfather and another soldier were sent to reconnoiter the front line.
My grandfather happened to be wearing flared cavalry pants. He was lying on the ground observing through his binoculars when a German plane came over and strafed him from dead ahead. The ground exploded in dirt and noise, and my grandfather was momentarily stunned. He couldn’t feel any sensation below the waist. He asked his companion, “Look down and tell me if my legs are still there.” His buddy said, “Yes, but you won’t believe what happened.”
The German machine gun had shot the flares off both sides of his pants, but left his legs untouched. (He went through the war unwounded. According to family legend, immediately upon disembarking from his troopship back in the States, he was bitten by a dog.)
In the last days of the war, the German soldiers fought fiercely as long as they were protected by their trenches. As soon as an American soldier appeared on the parapet, however, they threw up their hands and shouted, “Kamerade.” At that point, they felt they had done their duty and only wanted to be captured so they could eventually go home. [This sounds true, because the German line in Lorraine, by late 1918, was held by static “trench” divisions, as opposed to the better-trained “shock” divisions, which had largely been expended in Ludendorff’s spring offensives. I can still see my grandfather, eyes wide and hands over his head, shouting “Kamerade” in a mournful voice.]
[I have been unable to corroborate the following story, and it sounds
suspiciously like the kind of tale a veteran would tell his grandchildren.
But it’s good, so I have always chosen to believe it. There are no real châteaux in the Verdun sector, but there were several freestanding fermes on the battlefield that Americans might have referred to as “chateaux.”] A squad (section, to the British) from my grandfather’s platoon was told to take over a ruined chateau in no-man’s land to use as an observation post.
They went forward and occupied the place without incident. Upon settling in, they found that the wine cellar, which had apparently been covered over by shellfire earlier in the war, had been opened up in a recent bombardment.
They proceeded to occupy the wine cellar and get royally drunk. While they were there, a German patrol came forward and occupied the first floor, not noticing the unconscious Americans beneath them. When the main American forces attacked the next day they chased off the Germans and found their soldiers, still drunk, in the basement. The squad members were arrested and brought before the Major General, who asked his adjutant what he should do.
“I see two choices,” said the adjutant. “You can have them court-martialed for dereliction of duty and drunkenness in the face of the enemy, and possibly shot. Or, you can give them medals for holding their position in the face of an enemy attack.” “Which is less paperwork?” asked the general.
“The medals,” said the adjutant. “Fine, give them medals,” replied the general.
|Title||WWI stories of Cpl. Oscar Lubchansky, 79th Division, AEF|
|Item Date||September - November 1918|
|Creation place||Lorraine province, France|
|Copyright||The Great War Archive, University of Oxford / Primary Contributor|
|Digital repository||The Great War Archive, University of Oxford|