“Soon, we were in the thick of things. Bullets were flying by from the German trenches perhaps a quarter of a mile away. I was hardly out of the trench when some great force pushed me, knocking me over. I didn’t know what had hit me, but I felt blood running down my right eye. After that knockdown, I rejoined the line of troops and kept moving.
Perhaps, the Germans were too startled by the size and ferocity of our force to fight well for a minute. But it seemed like a group of big men who had met a lot of boys playing soldiers. One push and the German rifle was knocked from his hand. A long thrust with the bayonet and that unfortunate man had reached the end of his life. I could still see the faces of these men. Their evident terror, their astonishment at the number of men who leapt at them from above their trench. Their helplessness. There was not time for them to surrender.
They had jumped up with bayoneted rifles, and in a moment or two, it was all over. Our advance troops had passed me by. I could see dead German troops laying everywhere. Right near me were two of them laying close together. One of them was a big old man with a Prussian mustache. His hands still clasped the point in his stomach where the bayonet had gone in and been withdrawn.
The young man next to him lay all twisted up. He too had been bayoneted and it seemed that his bones had been broken from the strokes of the butt of a rifle. A rifle is a wicked weapon when swung by a powerful man, and there were many strong men in action that day.
The Germans weren’t giving out without a struggle. We had heard a lot about ‘chained machine-gunners’, but these men weren’t chained, and they were fighting to the bitter death. Our men were constantly rising and falling; some of them never to rise again. Our ranks were becoming rapidly decimated and there were few of us still going forward at this point. I have never seen an authentic list of casualties for A Company that day, but I know this; I never saw a single one of those 58 men that went over the top with our company ever again.”
– Private Bob Hoffman, United States Army, World War One, France. 1918.
As we always say here at Battles and Beers (TM) Every soldier has a story, and every story deserves to be told.