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Don Bennett's War

Chapter 10 - Epinal France

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On the afternoon of the fourth day, we arrived at Epinal (the end of the rail trip), four days and four hundred miles from Aix. This station was pretty well blown up, as had been many of the other stations on the way up. From here we transferred to trucks and motored about fifteen miles up to Bruyeres and a few miles from the front. We left the town and walked out to a partly wooded hill and were told to camp down for the night. It was getting dark then, and we scrambled around in the underbrush trying to find a good spot for the night. I thought I saw a good spot in some leaves under a tree, but it was ankle deep with mud. We climbed up the hill, sometimes knee deep in mud, and settled for some mushy wet ground in some maple and fir trees for a campsite. We set up a halfway tent, and after a try at getting a good meal, we lay down on the wet ground to attempt to rest and sleep. The morale was very low that night.

The next day we were told to cut down on our "luggage" and keep with us only what we could carry. I put souvenirs, pictures, blankets and extra clothes in a barracks bag, tagged it well, and put it in a pile with my gas mask. I never saw either again.

That night, our squad was chosen to guard one side of our Battalion. We had two outposts up next to field by a farmhouse. While on guard, many thoughts went through my mind. All by myself, and not knowing how far away the Germans were or how friendly the French were around there, I was a little scared, and watched every bush and forest edge with close scrutiny. Sometimes a lone bush would seem to look just like a man and I wouldn't take my eyes off of it for many minutes. Sometimes I would also want to try my rifle to make sure it was working all right, but didn't because it would put the whole camp on pins and needles. In the morning some farmer came out and started plowing the field 300 yards from me.

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