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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Young Soldier’s Diary: Carl Albert Janowski Goes To War and Back

Carl Albert Janowski
By Diane Janowski
©Copyright 2007 All rights reserved by author

My grandfather was drafted into the United States Army in the 4th year of World War I, almost a year after the U.S. announced its involvement. He was enlisted in the 78th Division (the Lightning Division) Company F, 309th Infantry and sent to France in May 1918.

I researched my paternal grandfather’s journey after finding a June 24, 1916 photograph of a group of soldiers, including my grandfather, taken just before they went to Mexico to take part in General John J. Pershing’s expedition against Pancho Villa. My grandfather’s name, however, was not on the list of those men who actually went the day after the photo was taken. His presence in the photo is a mystery to my family as my grandfather never mentioned Mexico.

From what I have pieced together - the dated Company L photo was taken at the corner of Church and State Streets in Elmira, New York on a Sunday, June 24, 1916. On June 25, 1916, the Elmira Star-Gazette reported that our church (the German Evangelical Church - now the First United Church of Christ) had discussed a call for soldiers that Sunday morning. This could explain my grandfather’s zeal to enlist, but it does not explain his change of mind later in the day. From what I can guess, Grampa joined the army after church, had his photo taken with the group in the early afternoon (judging from the direction of the sun) and then something happened that made him un-enlist. I have a feeling that his mother may have changed his mind for him. Grampa was one of three brothers who ran our farm after his father died. Running a farm was one of several reasons that one could be excused from military duty.

Grampa did finally go to war two years later in 1918.It was an interesting situation because he was American-born of immigrant German parents and went to France to fight against Germans. This included by German-born maternal grandfather who was in the German army, and also stationed in France fighting Americans and English. My maternal grandfather lived through World War I and II in Germany before bringing his family to live in American.

At 8:00AM, on the rainy morning of April 3,1918, Carl Albert Janowski and fifty-eight brave Elmirans reported for roll call at Elmira’s Armory building, and then to the steps of nearby City Hall to have a group photo taken by the Star-Gazette. The Star-Gazette reported that at 10:00AM the Red Cross distributed “komfort kits” containing sweaters and socks for their journey. Then a seventeen-piece band, the Home Defense Unit, two boy scout troups, Mayor Hoffman, and a great parade of hundreds of Elmirans followed the new soldiers to the Lackawanna Station. As they boarded the special train, the crowd sang “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” The train left exactly on schedule at 12:05PM bound for Fort Dix in New Jersey. Not a person in the crowd ceased shouting until the train had passed out of sight.

On April 15 the Star-Gazette had reported that, “The last contigents of Elmira’s drafted soldiers are in quarantine in Fort Dix. They have been assigned to the 309th Infantry, Company F, one of the best regiments in the entire division composed mostly of Buffalo [New York] men. The Elmira boys were the finest lot seen since September.” By this time in the Great War, the Allied forces were ready to break the stalemate along the Western Front in France.

In the following accounts, I have illustrated my paternal grandfather’s army days through his daily diary accounts, his hospital records, and through excerpts from the book A History of the 310th Infantry, whose travels mirrored my grandfather’s unit, the 309th Infantry.

CAJ (Carl Albert Janowski) denotes my grandfather’s words.
Words in Italics are from The History of the 310th Infantry.

May 20, 1918
History of the 310th: [at Camp Dix, NJ] “The hour was at hand. We knew it was a matter of hours. Orders followed all ‘secret and confidential.’ Part of the regiment was to embark at Philadelphia and the remainder at New York. Last minute details disposed of our baggage and policing of the area, and we were off.

CAJ: Left Camp Dix at 4:30AM. [Left] New York at 8:00PM.

May 24
History of the 310th: “Who will ever forget. Halifax, the assembling of the convoy and those gray days or the daily fire and sub drills?”

CAJ: Left Halifax [on the shop] KIA ORA.

June 1
CAJ: Met 8 destroyers at 6:30PM.

June 2
History of the 310th: “A morning came when we [saw] a sausage balloon [dirigible] and a British Destroyer, and almost instantly a dozen or more little ships, and we knew we were in the Danger Zone at last.”

CAJ: Met 1 dirigible and 1 airplane (Sunday at 6:30PM). Met 5 subs, destroyed 3.

June 3
CAJ: Met 1 more dirigible.

June 4
CAJ: Arrived in Southhampton [England] at 3:30AM, Folkestone [England] at 8:30PM.

History of the 310th: “Rail transport was waiting for us and a few hours brought us to Folkestone for 5 days rest from the rocking swells of the Atlantic.”

June 5
CAJ: Visited Folkestone which is a summer resort.

June 5 - 9
CAJ: Take hike every morning and have the rest of the time to ourselves. We go around the city.

June 11
CAJ: Left Folkestone at 11:55AM, arrived at Calais [France] at 3PM. Camping in tents in sand fields. Ship ARUNDEL.

June 13
CAJ: Left Calais and are camping somewhere in France. Hiked 9 miles to camp in barn. 21 miles from the Ypres Front at the village of Journy. Air raid at Calais. Walked from Cambrai to Journy.

June 14
History of the 310th: “Schools of every degree abounded, for both officers and enlisted men, from elementary map reading to staff work [also gas defense training, musketry, and bombing]; there seemed no end to the learning we must acquire to fit us for service.”

June 26
CAJ: Sent to bombing school at Meckeleghem [Merckeghem].

June 29
CAJ: Air raid on Meckeghem [Merckeghem] at 11:50PM. It sounded like the 4th of July for about 15 minutes. Aircraft gun and machine guns.

June 30
CAJ: Walked to Bollezeele. Air raids all night.

July 4
CAJ: Were firing fireworks until 11:00PM and Jerry (the Germans) came over to see what we were doing and we had to stop.

July 8
CAJ: Took exams on bombs today.

July 9
CAJ: Two German airplanes over Corps School at noon.

July 11
CAJ: Left school, walked to Watten and took train to St Omer. Went through a cathedral which was made [in] 1531 and saw figures carved out of stone in the year 1553.

July 12
CAJ: Arrived with the CO (commanding officer).

July 18
CAJ: Left Journy and went to Roellecourt and billeted (camped) about 3 miles from town.

July 23
CAJ: Went to a band concert and heard Elsie Janis sing and dance. Rained all day long and got very wet. Walked about 10 miles in the rain.

July 24
CAJ: Payday, band concert, two letters.

July 28
CAJ: Went to Saint Pol. Had two fine meals, went through church which was built in 1681.

July 31
History of the 310th “Our first experiences of the German night bombing raids began during our stay in the St. Pol area. Every clear night the Boche planes came droning over the towns, headed for St. Pol or division headquarters.

August [?]
CAJ: Hiked through Monty Bretton. Rained all day. Towns I have been in: St. Omer, Lumbres, Licques, Journy, Merckeghem, Watten Aire, St. Pol, Orlencourt, Osterville, Monty Bretton, Roellecourt.

August 15
CAJ: Hiked to Maisoiul [sic] and moved there.

August 16
CAJ: Pass to St. Pol. Fine food. Bought souvenirs.

August 20
CAJ: Loaded baggage for the 78th Division all day and night at Roellecourt.

August 21
CAJ: Entrained and traveled through St. Pol, Doullens, Amiens, Beauvais, Paris, Meaux, Chateau Thierry, Epernay, Chalons-Marne, Vitry-la-françois, St. Dizier, Chaumont. Detrained below Chaumont and hiked 20 miles through Bourbonne to Laferte, camped for 4 days, then hiked from Laferte to Concourt. Arrived August 28.

August 28
CAJ: Went swimming in a mill pond and had a great time.

September 4
CAJ: Leaving Concourt at 6PM and hiked until 3:00AM.

History of the 310th: “Orders arrived mid-afternoon directing marching by night and concealment by day. By dawn, we were some twenty kilometers closer to the war.

September 5
CAJ: Rained all day and camped in a tent. Was in Vauconcourt.

History of the 310th: “That night march will live long in the minds of all. Rain fell continuously, transforming the roads into seas of mud, ankle deep, soldiers struggled with their water-soaked packs. Blankets and shoes were saturated with water. Marching, always by night, over unknown roads to an unknown destination had now ceased to be a novelty. The question ‘When do we eat?’ was paramount. Cold food, and an empty stomach, and ceaseless rain spelled discomfort for all; a night march sounded promising; at least we could keep warm.

September 7
CAJ: Camping near Dommartin. Hiking every night.

Writer’s note * They were headed toward the town of San Mihiel to liberate it after four years of German occupation.

September 10
Writer’s note * They were hiking along Bois de la Cote.
History of the 310th: “Of course we had no idea where we were going, but if you can believe the trait possible in an American - we ceased to be interested. Yet, here we were, moving up into the San Mihiel Offensive. Our instructions were simple, to follow of the 309th (my grandfather’s unit). Our training was ended; we were now in the game we came to play. The marvelous spectacle, the continuity of it, the aweful splendor of it overshadowed all other thoughts.”

September 12
Writer’s note * The 309th was ordered to act as a reserve for the 1st Corps during this day’s attack, but later it was not needed as the 1st Corps had been successful. The fighting was in Martincourt, St. Jean, Mamey, and Fey-en-Haye (in the San Mihiel area) with 4,153 US soldiers lost that day and 284 missing. The constant bombing lasted until 8:30AM and accomplished its objective.

CAJ: Rained, and hiked all night. Very muddy. Saw the first guns fired in the attack on Metz at 1:00AM.

History of the 310th: “As the day advanced, the roar of artillery, became more distant as the attack progressed successfully.”

September 14
CAJ: Camped in woods [in the Limey sector], two days after Germans were driven out. They lived in fine dugouts.

History of the 310th: “The air had changed and the air grew stale and dead. We knew we were in what had been No Man’s Land. The ground had been churned by the fire of small arms and machine guns. Not one tree or flower existed.”

September 15
Writer’s note * The 309th was in combat liason with the 310th in the town of Thiaucourt.

History of the 310th: “As we were entering the town, an enemy battery opened fired with one casualty.”

CAJ: Under shell fire and spent the night in German dugouts.

September 16
History of the 310th: “Officially the San Mihiel Offensive ended at midnight.”

September 22
CAJ: Relieved in the trenches and are resting in woods.

September 26
CAJ: Up in support trenches.

September 30
CAJ: 4:00AM Raider machine gun position captured and one killed.

October 2
CAJ: Hiked through Lismy [sic], Hisrey [sic], and Mandres.

October 10
CAJ: Still hiking to another front.

Writer’s note * The Division was moved to the Argonne Front.

October 15
Writer’s note * The morning’s orders were to relieve the 77th Division in Grand-Pre/St. Juvin sector by 6:00AM the next morning.

October 16
History of the 310th: “First Phase [some sources list it as the second] of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. At 3:30AM, orders were received to attack all along the northern edge of the Bois des Loges. The 309th Infantry (my grandfather’s unit), which simultaneously on our right while the 156th Infantry Brigade was to advance on our left. 6:00AM was the planned hour of attack. The 309th Infantry, had gone into the line by way of the Fleville Road, had accomplished its relief, and had started its attack promptly at 6:00AM. At 1:45PM, when all troops were in position, they were subjected to an intense artillery and machine gun fire, losing men killed and wounded every few yards. Automatically, the men spread out to fill the gaps left by their comrades who fell. [Writer’s note * Now it was late afternoon and early evening.] The 309th Infantry, which had advanced towards the town of Champigneulle, had encountered heavy machine gun fire from the edges of that town, and after reaching the outskirts, had withdrawn to a ravine some four hundred yards south of that town. The 309th and 310th were now under fire [from the front and right rear], and the line was withdrawn after dark to a shallow ravine a few hundred meters to the southeast of the woods. Here they reformed and held on throughout the night under continuous, but decreased, artillery fire.”

Writer’s note * This battle was intended to be the capture of the town of Grand-Pre just west of Champigneulle.

CAJ: Wounded in face and left hand at 7:00PM by piece of shell on the Argonne Front.
Writer’s note * Grampa was injured while positioned in a ravine southeast of the town of Champigneulle.

HOSPITAL RECORDS: “Immediate treatment was A.T.S. [anti-tetanus serum] on hand 5:35AM on October 17. Incised wound across knuckles and index finger left hand. Extensor tendon and joint cut by fragment. Tendon and joint sutured. Splint applied.”

October 20
CAJ: Arrived at Base 52 Hospital at Remoncourt.

HOSPITAL RECORDS: “Arrived at Base #52 with G.S.W. [gun shot wound] condition S [severe]. Cut left hand by fragment of shell.”

October 24
HOSPITAL RECORDS: “Received 1000 units A.T. S. [anti-tetanus serum].”

October 30
CAJ: [Still] at base 52. I am 23 years old today.

HOSPITAL RECORDS: “Wound still discharging profusely.”

November 1
HOSPITAL RECORDS: “Hand dressed. Iodine. Splint applied.”

November 2
HOSPITAL RECORDS: “Dressed. Very little discharge.”

November 11
Writer’s note * Armistice Day and 26 days after Grampa was injured.

November 20
HOSPITAL RECORDS” “Great improvement.”

December 1
HOSPITAL RECORDS: “Wound healed - hand still in splint.”

December 4
HOSPITAL RECORDS: “Examined and dressed wound. Wound healing well but sluggishly.”

December 11
HOSPITAL RECORDS: “Wound healed on index finger. Splint off 4 days. Able to flex fingers slightly. No open wound.”

December 16
CAJ: Left Base 52.

HOSPITAL RECORDS: “Admitted to Base Hospital #20. Wound healed. Fingers stiff from disuse - joint and tendon functioning to moderate degree. Recommended return to U.S.A.”

December 17
CAJ: Arrived at Base 20 at Chatel-Guyon. Towns I have passed through are: Donzy, Sully-la-Tour, St. Martin-Laurent, Octroi, Pouilly-Sur-Loire, la Charite, Nevers, Saincaize, Mars, Montino, Bessay, Varennes, Crechey, St. Germain, St. Remy, Gannat, Riom. Chatel-Guyon is a summer resort and contains several mineral springs and is noted for its baths.

December 22
CAJ: Taking long hikes every afternoon. Visited castle at Chateau-Guyon.

December 24
CAJ: Went through castle which was built in the 13th century.

December 25
CAJ: Walked up to cavalry hills. Had fine dinner. Went to theater at night. Snow for the first time tonight.

December 27
CAJ: Leaving Chateau-Guyon at 3:45PM.

HOSPITAL RECORDS: “Admitted to Hospital Center.”

December 28
CAJ: Spending the night at Tours at Red Cross.

December 29
CAJ: Arrived at Bordeaux.

December 31
CAJ: Transferred to Base 114.

HOSPITAL RECORDS: “ Admitted to Base Hospital 114. Oblique scar 1 1/2 inches long over dorsum of index finger just above the metacarpal phalangeal articulation. Wound healed. Unable to flex completely the finger. Extension of the same digit weak but normal. Small scar 3/4 inch long over extended portion of superior left eye. Would healed. Patient sent to workshop. Considered: Walking Healed.”

January 22, 1919
CAJ: Still at Base 114 and waiting for service records. All ready to go back to the states.

January 29
CAJ: Reveille at 5:00AM. Left for ship at 6:45AM. On board ship SANTA TERESA at 11:00AM.

February 1 - 5
CAJ: Seasick.

February 10
CAJ: Severe storm.

February 12
CAJ: Arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey. Saw the Vaterland.


Corporal Carl Albert Janowski, ID #1,762,091, got off the boat with “1 barrack bag, 1 bed sack, 3 blankets, 1 belt waist, 2 pairs woolen breeches (one pair almost new), and 1 winter cap.”
After returning home to Elmira, New York, he married Loretta Worner and had two sons, and, eventually, two grandchildren. He was a vegetable grower on Esty Street on Elmira’s Southside until his death in 1976.

Elmira Herald, Elmira, New York, April 1918
Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmria, New York, April  1918
Association of the 310th Army. A History of the 310th Infantry, Seventy-Eighth Division, USA. New York City: The Schilling Press, 1919.
Janowski, Carl Albert. Diary. May 20, 1918 - February 12, 1919.

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