Louis Edward Kriedemann
My name is Louis Edward Kriedemann. I lived at 445 Center Street in East Aurora, New York. I enlisted in the war in May of 1917. (24) I’m proud to say I was the first East Aurora boy to enlist after the U.S. entered the war. (25) I remember the day. It was both cloudy and sunny. The town was filled with the fresh smell of flowers and homemade baked goods. I was in school with my friends, and the teacher was preaching about how we had to serve our country and flock to the red, white and blue. (26) So I said no more classes, no more chores, why sure I am going to war.
I went to training camp in South Carolina at a place called Camp Wadsworth. (27) Our training was as close to real life as it gets. “They have real battlefields with trenches, barbed wire entanglements, dugouts and everything. There is a tank in it too… They have soldiers dressed-up as Germans and they attack the U.S. soldiers…we have two battles every day, one in the afternoon and one at ten o’clock in the evening…”(28)
My commanding general was John F. O’Ryan. (29) I was at this camp for about six months with my new comrades, learning how to kill. We were placed in the 108th Infantry Regiment of the 27th Infantry Division. We entered the line around October 29, 1917. (30)
We were up against the Hindenburg Line, their defense line, consisting of trenches and a six to eight mile wide, manmade desert. It was in the area known as Le Catelet and went south to Nauroy. This portion of the Hindenburg Line used to be a deep canal. It protected the Germans very well from the many different types of artillery we used. (31)
I was at this post for almost a year, trying to stay alive by avoiding the bombs and shrapnel. (32) I learned quickly not to become attached to my fellow comrades. Many of them went insane during the war. Staying in cramped trenches, we hardly had room to breathe. They were extremely narrow and corridor-like. Then there was that horrible smell. I will never forget it. I can’t believe it didn’t kill somebody. I guess under those conditions anyone could go crazy. That’s why you cannot be attached. (33)
In the beginning my nose, throat, and stomach would burn because of the odors floating through the trenches. Soon I got used to it, and all these feelings became normal, just like everything else. I got to the point of only caring for myself, and I did whatever I could to survive. (34)
People back home may have thought of this as being selfish, but they did not understand. They were at home eating baked goods, cleaning the house, buying firewood, and going to the Fillmore Theater. (35) We were out fighting for them and surrendering our lives. They wanted facts and we wanted amnesia. Most of the time writing back home to our mothers and telling them everything was all right, really was a lie. We did it for the welfare of our mothers, so they did not worry about us. (36)
Following the letters written home by most of the men; we began getting orders around September 27, 1918, to advance forward. The 107th and 108th Infantry were told to march about nine miles to relieve the 106th. (37) As I marched, I gazed at the surrounding area and realized, “The once beautiful trees have all been cut down or shot down. The sun never shines in No Man’s Land, but here it peeped out for about five minutes…”(38)
After our march, the following morning at 2 A.M., the 108th Infantry marched to the front-line about six miles from their position. On our march to the front we were surrounded by shellfire, high explosives, mustard gas and machine-gun fire. On the day of September 28th, the visibility was fair, but it rained in the early morning. Our communications were frequently cut off by enemy fire, so we required the use of many runners. We just tried to ignore the bombing and waited for the following day to drop our rounds on the enemy. (39)
The next day was not just any day. It was the most important day of my life. Early in the morning of September 29th, my comrades and I were moved forward towards the Hindenurg Line. (4) We were jumping in and out of old shell holes, praying we would not be hit by machine-gun fire. I made it in and out of about three bomb craters. Then I was running forward towards the next hole and was shot down by a machine-gun.(41) I remember just before I died seeing my comrades running by me, not knowing it would be the last time I would see them.
My father, as next of kin, was notified of my death. I hope he realizes how lucky I was to die a quick death by a machine-gun bullet – a death with no prolonged suffering. I could have died like my East Aurora buddy Charles Clough, who joined the Marines in 1917. He was gassed and badly injured, spending time in five different army hospitals over a painful period of more than four months. (42) He was released to duty, only to die on Halloween, 1918- just 11 days before the armistice! (43) It was a tough time in East Aurora when the town found out that they had lost three of us in the period of two days. In the next battalion over from me in the regiment was Fred Bann. He got it the same day I did. We both died trying to crack the Hindenburg Line. The day before us, on September 28th, Ralph Schurr caught one as part of the 77th Division. (44)
Sometimes I am glad my life was taken in the World War because I heard horrible things about the men who went back home and had a difficult time adjusting to ordinary life. People always wanted to know stories about the war, and questioned us about our horrors, honor, and achievements. I guess people just do not understand the pain and memories we have and how much we just want to forget and try to start over. (45)