Gordon Van Kleeck's war journal - part 5 - Ropage, France

Ancestral Photographs of Upstate New York

by Roxy Triebel

Pvt. Gordon Van Kleeck

Co. F. 51 Pioneer Inf.

American Expeditionary Forces

Part 5

Ropage, France.
Aug. 25

Last night we got orders to pack and move at once.  We left here about eleven oclock and was on the road all night and half of the next day.  I am now with a detail of twenty-five men in an old concrete fort about twelve or fifteen miles from the front.  It is called Ropage and was built in 1897 I think.  It is part of a system of defense for Toul and the wo(o)ds here are full of concrete and earthworks.  We releived some French soldiers who were there.  It was some hike and my feet are sore.  This is a pretty place and I hope we stay for awhile.

Ropage, France.
Aug. 26

Today this has been a sort of picnic.  Our rations were a little short and we got some vegetables of the Frenchman in charge of the place.  Red went out on a foraging trip and swiped a small bag full of some kind of peas and potatoes.  We had a fine stew.  About night a cook was sent up and Bundy who was sick and stayed behind came too.

Ropage, France. Aug 27

Most of us went down to where the rest of the platoon is last night and brought up more rations on a cart.  This morning some of us went for a walk to a French Y.M.C.A. near here and bought hot chocolate and bars.  In the afternoon we went down and got 120 rounds of ammunition per man.  At night Ray and I went to the Y.M.C.A. again and saw a French movie.  We did not care much for it but cant expect to see much better here.  The Y.M.C.A. is for American soldiers too and an American girl is there in charge of that part of it.

Ropage, France.
Aug. 29.

Not much doing for a couple of days.  We received a stove for our kitchens and wood.  Last night O'Hare, Ray and I went to the American Aviation Station near here and was in the Y.M.C.A. there.  The American had a couple of observation balloons shot down by the Germans within sight of our fort on the 28th but others were put up in place of them at once.  We think the American Army is making plans for a big drive in a few days.  We expect it about the tenth of next month.  Hundreds of guns are going to (the) front through this section.

Aug. 30 Ropage

We had a few mintes drill with bayonet this morning and I wrote a letter to Roxy.  Received one from Alice yesterday.  Lieut. Richardson and Capt. Tiffany were here and took dinner with us.  This afternoon we have been tearing (down) an old wooden barrack in the woods to make a kitchen and mess hall for ourselves.  It is some job.  We signed the pay roll a couple of days ago and I hope we get the money soon.

Ropage, France
Aug. 31.

Have our kitchen about half finished.  Last night was pretty noisy around here for the artillery was busy along the front.  The Germans got one of our ammunition depots with shell fire and the explosions and flames could be seen nearly all night.  One of the mechanics from the Aviation Station was here last night.  We hear that the people in Toul have been ordered to move out.  This will soon be a lively place I think.

Ropage, France.
Sept. 1.

I was over to the French Y.M.C.A. last night and found a picture of the drafted boys marching away from Kingston to the train.  It was in a French magazine called Le Mirror (should be Le Miroir).  I was surprised to find it over here.  Today was Sunday and our cook treated us to flapjacks and syrup for breakfast.  They were great we thought.

Ropage, France.
Sept. 2.

I was to the French and Aviators Y.M.C.A. both last night.  A German plane came over later and the guns kept us awake for awhile shooting at it.  The sergeant and corporal were away part of the day and I had to drill the men the for a couple of hours.  It is some job.  Did not go out tonight but wrote a letter instead.  It is clear weather so I suppose Fritz will be over to keep us awake tonight.

Ropage, France.
Sept. 3.

Things were rather quiet last night and we only had a little drill during the day.  Had a little practice in taking down and assembling a St. Ettiene (should be St. Etienne) machine gun.

Ropage, France.
Sept. 5.

Things were a little quiet for a couple of days.  A Hun came over on the 4th at night and the American guns turned loose for a while.  One of the Huns got an observation balloon and we saw it go down.  A bunch of Marines are in the woods waiting for the big drive on Metz.

Ropage, France.
Sept. 7.

The Marines are still here.  They are the same ones who did so well in the first part of the war and are quite sure they can repeat their other successes.  We have to put guards around the place now and I was corporal of the guard last night.

Ropage, France.
Sept. 8.

All was quiet last night except it rained very hard and is still raining.  I stayed in all day and wrote a letter to Everett.

Ropage, France.
Sept. 13

There was not much doing for a few days but now the Marines have left for the front and we had some job looking over the place where they camped.  It seemed as if they had left half of their equipment behind them.  We found everything from rifles to papers of pins.  Some of the boys found stuff very useful and a few German souviners that the Marines had brought from some other place.  The section of front near hear has been very lively for a couple of days now.  The drive has started on Metz and the Americans have made an advance of nine kilometres the first day.  They captured a bunch of Germans and had only a small loss compared to the Germans.  The areoplanes have been busy too but I dont know what success they had.  Just heard the ace Putnam was killed.  He had about twenty planes to his credit.

Ropage, France.
Sept. 17.

We had a couple of clear days for a wonder but today it rained again.  An ammunition train stayed in the woods here yesterday as they only travel by night.  Some of our areoplanes have been lost lately and things are rather quiet on this front I guess.  We cant seem to get any papers.  Austria is asking for peace we hear and all are hoping the war will be over soon.  I have received letters from Mother, Roxy and Genevieve.  Wrote one to Mother today.  I was over to the Aviation Station Sunday night and saw an areoplane that was shot full of holes and came in all right.  Had supper there with some of the mechanics.  They have several Liberty planes there and say they are fine.

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Gordon's Journal part 6:  Toul, France

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