Trapshooting the Boche: How American Country Boys Stopped the Foe at Cantigny, Daily Racing Form, 1919-01-30


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TRAPSH00TING THE B0CHE. How American Country Boys Stopped the Foe at Cantigny. Grenades, Machine Gnus anil Aeroplanes All Cheeked with ShotgrnnK. Uncle Peter Sampson chuckled. The paper from which he was reading crackled as he twiddled it between thumb and forefinger. He was lolling back easily in the rustic chair before the fireplace of the Wellvale Gun Clubs .bungalow. The sudden winter dusk was coming on, but the dancing firelight fought it within doors. The trap boys streaming by home-bound whistled cheerily. Old Sandy Mulligan came in, afier locking the trap pits, and sat down to warm his hands before the fire. Horson Britten, opposite Sampson, glanced up at the chuckle, and inquired: "Whats the word from your nephew, Paul Ralston? You told me you had a letter from him that you were going to read over after we shot our string out, Peter." "Thats what Im chuckling at, Hors; his letter tickles me most to death." "Whats he been doing? Been getting decorated or captured the kaiser?" "No. Hes been trapshooting the Boche "What? Say it again, so Ill get it." "Trapshooting the Boche. Its time to let you and the other claybiril smashers know now the censorship is off about the greatest trapshooting tournament in history." Sampson folded up the paper, got out his pipe, lighted it. and while the dusk deepened and the firelight danced told his two friends. Britten, who sometimes outshot him. and Sandy Mulligan, ground-keeper, quoting from letters that he produced from lwcket after pocket and piecing the information in them together with his own comments and statements of facts as- he knew them: " Hors, this begins away back before America entered the war. Your secretary, John Keniver, was ml hot for action then and quit the club and went into an officers training camp as soon as he could. He used to come out here when he was home weekends and rag the boys of the club, young and middle-aged, who, under my nephews leadership, were plugging away at clay birds. He would complain because they, as ho said, fooled away time and energy on trapshooting instead of getting ready to enlist, saying he did not see how a man could bother over a stray miss or two, or fret because he made only ninety-five out of a possible 100 string. I was puzzled myself over the way those fellows stuck to it and kept noticing that they had plenty of ammunition that kept coming in cases labeled canned corn. I opened up a box of shells one day and saw marked on the shot-wad: " 2 drs. " VA UKs. "Then I thought the boys had gone crazy, but even when I asked Ralston about it he- only grinned and said it was a new stunt to make the boys hold in closer and not trust to the scatter of No. 8s. He was preparing the top string men of the club for a big tournament, he said. " National? 1 asked. " International, he laughed. THE WELLVALE SHOTGUN SQUAD. "I thought it was all a joke about the tournament because there could be none then, but they kept at it and always shot at unknown traps, unknown angles, so I began o susiect there was more to it, especially as Ralston one night showed me a letter he had written to Black Jack Pershing, the American general, who is an old trapshooter, you know, telling the general that the Wellvale squad of picked men were letter-perfect on the use of that xtraiige load and at unknown traps, unknown angles. Yet when every man in that squad kept delaying his enlistment I thought it strange, and when the first draft came and all of them claimed exemption they were all married, you know I began to get a bit hot at them. But it made no difference to them. They kept coming out here, early and late, and plugging away. You were on that western trip all last year and so didnt know how things were going here, Hors. "Then, of a -sudden, the whole crowd faded out of town between two suns, and all we could get out of the" women was that they had enlisted in a bunch and had gone off down to one of the Texas camps, under sjecial orders from Washington. We thought it was some sort of secret service work, or maybe tank service, that was to be kept quiet. After Paul got across I began to get inklings in his letters that prepared the way for what was to come, and now when that official German complaint against the actions of our Wellvale boys and others like them; well, I can make it all public, Ilorson. Like this: "Passing over the time spent in that training camp and what they did there, with the thousands of others who trained like them, lets jump, as they did, right over to the part of the front that the Americans took over ahead of Cantigny. You remember that that was where the Boche ran into something new and began to whine for the first time about what he called American barbarism.. "Paul Ralston and Hod Taylor and Billy Russell and John Martin and all the rest of our boys landed there in Cantigny alwiit the time, as was found from captured papers on German officers, that the German high command was ready to launch an attack on that part of the line. The Americans had an advanced set of listening posts established below ground there, under an old trench they had let the foe capture, so they wanted just to hold on there for the time being so that spy-post would be of use. The Germans wanted to edge forward; not attack in force, then. That gave our boys their chance to prove, on a small scale, that Black Jack Pershings idea was O. K. Later they and others proved it to the hilt in wider and wider areas, until the Hun ran home. VETERAN LAUGHED AT WEAPONS. "For when our fellows were sent out to the foremost angle the advanced American trench clement made over against the foe lines who should Ralston run into but your secretary, Keniver, all decorated with his Croix de Guerre, steady as a rock in command of a company, a regular veteran. Keniver ragged Ralston about his long delay in getting to the front and they jollied back and forth, and when Keniver saw the weapons our boys had, well, he laughed: " Shotguns to stop these geezers with! What next? " Youve tried everything else, from big guns to popguns, and you may have noticed that here and there, opposite the American lines, Fritz has been failing in his recent bombing attacks? Ralston said. Noticed that in recent official reports from other sectors? " Yes, but I thought that was due to some new machine gun. " You give us this trench to hold; its the apex of the situation here. If we break the attack here it will die. Your information is that its to be only a local attack, just what we want. "Keniver grumbled; so did some of his sergeants who overheard, but it was an order from Black Jack, so those apparently fool loys with their nice new automatic shotguns went out into that front line trench to face Jack Johnsons and machine guns and what not. It looked fair suicidal, Paul admits. "It was then about dawn, the usual attack hour. The opposing trenches were so close than an attack with hand grenades was first to be expected. Rals-"ton, Martin, Taylor and others waited, guns cuddled up. A stray shot or two came over, part of the morning strafe. "Suddenly from the German trench a hand grenade came over, lobbing, twisting, like a low-flying Jacksnipe. Ralstons sweet little gun swung onto it. Ki pulled. " Dead bird, joked Taylor as Ralstons charge of BBs smashed the bomb, exploding it in midair, so that the fragments went back Huuward, mostly. He had caught it just as it came up. A yell from that German trench anil arguments told that the thrower had been blamed for a bad throw and the damage it had done. The crack of the nitro in Ralstons load was like a rifle shot and the Huns didnt know what had happened. "Another grenade came over, more swiftly, right-quartering to Taylor. He snapped it like cutting down an October woodcock in a creek edge stubble. It, too, went up in smoke and flame. Now came other bombs, by ones, twos, threes, like clay birds from unknown traps at unknown angles. Each bomb was cut down, either in midflight or lcfore. After that first shot Ralston had waited, lie had the balance of his magazine loaded with shells carrying buckshot. Out of that early flight of bombs, all thrown by foes within cover of their trench, not one came into the American trench. TREATED GRENADES LIKE CLAY PIGEONS. "Suddenly the hand grenades ceased to come. Ralston tensed his muscles, waited. There was a muffled explosion from the opposing trench, and that told of the foes use of the trench mortar to send over a large bomb in a slow, lobbing flight, that they used at such close ranges. .The bomb made a beautiful target for a quick man. Ralston swung onto it; his buckshot crashed into it before it was near, and it, too, went up in a gust of smoke and flame. . "At once a dozen heads popped out of the Boche trench, one f them an officers. Exclamutions of wonder in German came to our fellows. Then a machine gun from our side sprayed the Germans off I he trench edge. "Grenades began to come now, faster and faster. The shotguns cracked. The bombs, smashed in midflight. faded from vision. A few got by, not many. Some damage was done in our trench, not much compared with what had been done in other close-up bombing operations. "Then there was a lull and our fellows knew it meant the attack. Suddenly the trench opitosite bristled with men in spiked helmets, eacli foe with his arms full of grenades, ready to do or die. " Meet them, men, Ralston ordered. "Our bovs swarmed, as the Germans started, readv to cast tlieim bombs ahead of them. The line of American gun-muzzles swung onto them, the automatic pumps went into action. The hail of pellets never slackened. It was snap-shooting most of the time like at woodcock in the brush, from the hip much of it. Grenades that got into the air were smashed there; then, as the Germans charged to come to close grips, at a word from Ralston the guns were turned onto the now close-up foes armfuls of bombs. There were severe explosions, at a safe distance for our boys to escape and there were no more Huns in sight. Live ones, that "Then there was silence for a time in that foe trench. At last the hum of a plane was heard and our boys knew that the German officers had called for a birdman to fly over and try to see what was opposing them there. Ralston chuckled at that sure sign that we had Fritz number and had found it to be 0. " Everyone down but me. he ordered. "Erect, daring the bullets of snipers, Ralston watched the plane appear in the faraway mist, coming straight toward our trench. She was traveling fast; 100 an hour, at least. The American anti-guns wove smoke patterns about her. A machine gunner off down our lines sprang his rattle at it, but failed to connect. Then the venomous Fokker swooped, seemingly ready to alight on the American trench, but really preparing to rake it with machine-gun fire as well as pick up useful information to carry back Hunward. HOW SHOTGUNS WRECKED A PLANE. "The German flier banked his machine and it made a perfect turn, right over our line and hung out there for a moment, just about seventy-five yards away, a beautiful mark for Ralston. Just as the Teuton machine-gun in the plane began to spit Ralston swung onto its pilot as the Hun plane man gripped Ids levers and blared down through ids great goggles. The right barrel crumpled the Teuton pilot; the left got the machine gunner on the plane. The plane plunged, a sudden wreck, lay in the forefield, a useless but attractive piece of debris for the Germans opposite. " Look out; theyll charge home now. to get their machine, if for nothing else; its one of their new models and they want us kept from getting one, that they may preserve the secrets of its engine construction, John Keniver warned Ralston, who nodded. "The enemy trench spewed forth now foes a full company at this time, bayonets fixed. Keniver pleaded with Ralston to let his riflemen in, but Ralston snarled that he had orders to go the limit with his trapshcoters and he did. For he called: " Up into the open, men of Wellvale Gun Club, and smash them there. "Halfway across the little bit of No Mans Land the German riflemen began to shoot wild. The American shotguns, each magazine fully loaded in the interval Ralston had been downing the plane, replied. Like bugs sprayed off vines the Teutons began to go down as the American shells, all buck-shotted to the limit in that lust reloading, crashed their hail into tlum. It was terrifically earnest work while it lasted. Right and left! But the men trained at the traps, each as quick as a wasp, each with a record of over ninety out of 100; several able to make straight strings, did not miss, often. Taylor, old chap, went down, drilled to this heart and Russell as well. Martin had an arm shot off, hut kept on. resting his gun across the bleeding stump, until his magazine was empty and then he fell. But they got him afterward in time and saved him. In a jiffy that German company, to a man, was wiped out. Then, as German machine guns began to stutter, the Americans leaped into the trench again, guns so hot the barrels could not be touched, some of them bleeding from slight wounds, all of them happy, for the American trapshooter had met the Boche on his own ground and smashed him flat. The attack was nipped in the bud. Ralston and his men got their crosses, too. AMERICAN SHOTGUN A SURPRISE. "Yes, sir. nors, many a fellow that stuck to fho traps after war began and was jeered at was quietly preparing, in secret, for just such work, enduring taunts of the unthinking, keeping his head, making ready to answer the call. It was cn- of the biggest surprises that Black Jack sprang on the enemy and the world and it vindicated the clean American sport of trapshooting. The trapshooter can hold his head up high, for, like the rifleman, the cannonier, the airman, the naval chap, he has his part in the scheme of national defense. An army of trapshooters would be chewed to bits against an army of riflemen, of course, and as against cannon the shotgun is useless by itself. But in its own way, used to solve some new problem in military affairs, it may at any time assume a great imnortance, as it did over there during 1918. "From" Catigny on, the shotgun was used, more and more. The Boche bombers were afraid to stand tin to it. In stopping massed or infiltrating charges" it proved itself superior to everything else. No Teuton unit ever got home into trendies defended by cool shotgun boys. "I havent told you all. That will be the task of the historian. I have given you a glimpse only of what the shotgun has done to help win the war for us. Maybe the whole of it never will come out. It may be kept as one of the secrets of the higher military powers, something in reserve for another great emergency. But enough is known and I can tell you enougli to make it sure that the American trapshooter played a big part in certain vital operations and the proof of it is in the whining protests the German government sent out against the use of shotguns by Americans which, the Potsdam oracles claim, was against The Hague conventions, although that claim was a lie. The truth is that the American shotgun got Fritz goat and he knew it, and it stopped him in certain sectors just as he was at the apex of his power and it helped pave the way for that great victory that followed. The German squawk against the American shotgun proved how badly it hurt, Hors. " "Right you are, Peter. And the best way we can recognize the good work those boys did is for us old stay-at-homes to get together a fund to put the club and everything connected with it in. the best possible shape and encourage our grand sport in every way, so that if another call should come, either we or the next generation shall be ready to take part in the defense of the country." George Gilbert in Field and "Stream.

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