A Five-Part Series
Part III: Into the trenches and “over the top”
Hatfield Historical Society volunteer
When the officer leading the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Regiment’s Company L was killed in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel in mid-July, 1918, Lt. Jim Day was given a battlefield promotion to captain and put in command of the outfit. He now was responsible for leading men into combat. One of his best friends, promoted to the captain of another front-line company the same day, later was killed. Day reported that he wrote a condolence letter to the soldier’s family, not the last such letter he would compose during the war.
The U.S. forces kept up pressure on the German lines that summer. The enemy was well entrenched and resolute. Battles were hard fought, casualties high and progress slow. In a Sept. 12 operation, Day wrote, the “whole horizon erupted in flames” when the U.S. artillery opened up on the enemy. When the barrage halted, at daybreak, he led Company L, as he put it, “over the top” of the trenches to attack German positions. The operation was a success and Day’s unit took many prisoners.