July 12, 1918 – The march in the dead of night

On this night, 100 years ago, each man of the 301st Engineers was packed and ready to go.  Much of their gear had either been sent ahead or was being loaded onto the train as they arrived at the station.  They marched in the darkness (spies could be lurking nearby) with no real idea where they were going tonight.  The ultimate destination was, of course, known….they were on their way into the meat-grinder known as the Great War.

They’re ready.  Months and months of training must have changed Jay from the man he once was.  He was now a Dough Boy, one of millions of American soldiers making up America’s new fighting force.

I don’t think Jay was all that ‘tough’ before he was drafted; I imagine him as pretty low-key, shy and insecure.  But I have no doubt that my grandfather was a new man, ready for whatever life, and the Germans, would throw at him.

“It was the bewitching hour, when through the still air of a black night came the stern command in familiar accents loud and clear “A Company, fall in: put on your packs!” A shuffle, a few comments and mighty groans from “gallant youth” oppressed by weighty packs; then one more command and the valiant “A” Company was but a swaying mass of silhouettes in squads wending their way down to the Q.M. (Quarter Master) siding to the music of their own husky voices, “We don’t know where we’re going but we’re on our way.”  Right here and now let us make note, we’ve been that way many a time and oft, in this man’s army.  Camouflage affair that it was, under darkest cover of night, sans fond adieu or sweet good-bye, we shall never forget it – our last night at Devens with adventure stirring each and every soul to its innermost depth.”

– Our Memoirs: Company A, 301st Engineers

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