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Harry FLINN les américains libèrent Montblainville 27 septembre 1918

28 septembre 2018

Aujourd’hui je souhaitais rendre hommage à Harry Flinn, blessé en libérant Montblainville le village de mes ancêtres en publiant trois textes écrits par son petit fils.

Le premier le 18 juillet 2018 pour commémorer la date de prise de vue d’une photo dans son uniforme de 2ème lieutenant.

« 100 years ago today, my grandfather, Harry Flinn, stepped into the studio of a Parisian photographer to have this portrait made of him in his new 2nd Lieutenant’s uniform. He’d been drafted in August 1917, trained at Camp Upton on Long Island (now the site of Brookhaven National Laboratory), been made a Sergeant (he was 26 and could type) and shipped over to « the old world » in April 1918. After two months of learning the front line with the Scotch Guards, he was promoted and assigned to Company A of the 110th Infantry in the 28th Division, formerly the Pennsylvania National Guard. Later the same day he departed to his new unit. The American Expeditionary Force was just getting started on rolling back the German salient that was threatening Paris and had reached Chateau Thierrey. In 10 days, he would wind up the only surviving officer in his company after the assault across the Ourcq River at Bois de Grimpettes. « The French used us like cannon fodder, » he would remember with a cool bitterness. Although the number of American casualties in WWI were relatively small compared to the French, British, and Germans, the fighting in July 1918 took an enormous toll as the fresh US troops were used in wave attacks across open ground. »



Le second, daté du 27 septembre 2018,  raconte la libération du village par le 110e régiment d’infanterie et la capture de 37 ennemis dont deux officiers.


photo Randy Gaulke – vue du lever de soleil à Montblainville le 25 septembre 2018

« 100 years ago today, the 110th Infantry captured Montblainville and secured the northernmost point achieved by the US First Army after the second day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. My grandpa Flinn described the 27th of September, 1918, in a letter to his wife written two months later in a field hospital. The action picks up at sunset on the 26th:

« Well we all flopped into shell holes on this line and prepared to spend the night there, of course, during all this time we were under direct observation of the boche. All these shell holes were partly filled with water and that is where we filled our empty canteens, for it had been a warm day from both the sun and Jerry. We dug into the sides of the shell holes, digging a place just large enough to sit and have your head below the surface of the ground. Jerry pretty soon opened up with everything he had and we kept our heads pretty low for about an hour, and with darkness coming on he quit.

“I pushed out some outposts to protect my part of the line and also an outpost on my right flank. I snatched about 30 minutes sleep during the night.

“The next morning about 6 AM we started over with 4 tanks ahead of us to break thru some wire but we had to climb and creep thru it – 4 tanks can only make 4 holes thru barbed wire and they didn’t make them in front of us! — we took the town or what was left of one; one wall standing in it.

“Then we came to Montblainville. We were held up here by very heavy MG fire from about 10 MG nests. I discovered that by keeping low my company could get thru MG fire and come up on the town from the right, and that we would be under protection most (perhaps) of the way. I gave the order to advance by saying « Lets go: Follow Me. » and thru a lot of good luck we penetrated a road on the extreme right of the town.”

[Montblainville stood atop a bluff overlooking the Aire River to the East and a tributary stream’s valley to the south. About 100 feet above, the German position at Montblaineville was a formidable block that stopped the 110th cold. Only A Company, down along the river, had sufficient cover to approach the position without being cut to shreds by the German machine gun nests. Flinn describes how Montblaineville was taken:]

“The first thing I saw was a white horse whose left hind leg had a bullet hole thru and who looked at us with very sad eyes. We moved cautiously along this road and as we came into the streets we started dropping bombs into all dugouts etc. We passed on thru the town and coming out on North side of it we were again held up by MG fire.

“My company was the only company to come thru the town, the center and left of our line was still being held up by 3 nests in the town; I went back with 8 men and of course it was a very easy thing to get those nests for us as we came on them from the rear. We dropped about half a doz. bombs in each nest and they stopped and joined a war in hell somewhere.
“I sent back word for the other companies, to come up and then we looked around out of curiosity and located a german supply dump. We got cigars, cigarettes, jam and his bread which was not bad. We cleaned up. We captured one German cook getting breakfast ready for 120 men. It was just about finished, it consisted of a very watery coffee (I don’t think it was coffee; it had a color somewhat like it tho). There was also a sort of a cereal it looked like a cross between sawdust, oatmeal and cornmeal. I would not let the men taste it.”

[The German cook told Flinn that the breakfast was for a relief unit that was due to arrive that morning. At about 11:30 in the morning, the relief column approached. Company A was ready for them:]

“We then moved out and I selected a shell hole for company HQs in the line I had already formed. We were about 100 yds north of Montblainville in a line, the men being at intervals of from 12 to 15 yds. We were on the plateau and on our right was the Aire River valley about 200 feet below us and about 110 yds wide.

“I had been back from our clean up of the nests about ¾ of an hour when the man I had watching up the valley reported a large body of Boche coming along the valley in our direction.
“I walked over and watched them coming along and I had my runner get about 10 men who I lined up along the top of the plateau about 6 or 7 feet apart, with hand grenades. I told them not to start throwing. the HGs until I give the signal; I waited until they had passed us and then I gave the command.

“Whee! They were some surprised and scared bunch. They were so frightened.that they stood still for fully a half a minute but in the meantime we had been dropping bombs so damn fast that they didn’t get a chance to do anything then a few started to run back towards their line but I doubt if any made it for we were now using our rifles and believe me it is great sport shooting at them, they were very big targets and very close to us so we easily dropped those that were running away.

“Those that were now left were all down on their knees with their hands in the air squealing for mercy. Well we let them surrender. I think that there were about 37 of them left. It was some slaughter Their eyes were sticking out of their heads about 6 inches and they were as white as this sheet I am writing on. Among them were two officers and from one of them I took a fine pair of field glasses. It has since been lost to me. During all this great sport the Boche did not fire a single shot.

“About 400 yds in front of us on the plateau the Boche had two MGs and a skirmish line like ours. After he saw or discovered what had happened to the men of his in the valley he started abandoning his position in front of us. Then we had some more sport — in going back they had to expose themselves across a small space, but even as small as this space was we winged six out of about 60 or so. My Sgt., my runner and myself were the only ones that could see them on account of the terrain.

“Well we held the line here that afternoon repulsing two counter attacks and then came the last night I was to spend in the fighting line.”


Le troisième est l’attaque d’Apremont par la 1ère armée et le récit de la blessure d’Harry Flinn. Il a été blessé par une balle de mitrailleuse. Tout le restant de sa vie il souffrira de cette blessure.


« 100 years ago today, the 1st Army began the attack on Apremont. My grandfather’s letter about his time concludes with the story of that attack and his wounding. The previous day, after Montblaineville had been liberated and defended, as evening came on the 55th brigade commander and staff arrived and demanded to know why the advance had stopped after taking Montblainville. My grandfather explained that the 110th had no contact on the right with the 35th Division and no contact on the left (the Argonne Forest) from anyone in the 55th or 56th brigades. After inspecting the position north of town the staff officers complimented Flinn and they all returned to the rear (Darrah, the general, was cashiered 36 hours after this performance). The 110th was deep in German territory and faced a difficult night:

“I did not get a chance to sleep this night, just as soon as it got dark, I, took out a patrol to locate the boches we had winged in the afternoon and to reconnoiter the ground. The boches we had wounded were out there and one of them had a powerful voice and he-was calling out at the top of it “Jesus.” It sort of gave us the creeps. We could not locate them exactly, for whenever we got near them, they heard us and stopped all their noise and I was not going to lead my men into what might be one of their traps.

“I came back from patrol, and spent the rest of the night going back and forth between Battalion PC and my PC.”

[Plans were made for the next morning’s advance. The goal was the town of Apremont, which stood on the next plateau. The 110th would have to fight their way across the rest of the Montblaineville plateau, cross another ravine, and then fight across the Apremont plateau and take the town. On the evening of the 28th the Major in command of the 110th would win the Congressional Medal of Honor during the fight for the town. Flinn would not be there for the fight:]

« The next morning Sept. 28, 1918, we went over, we mussed up a few of their MG nests and advanced a couple of kilos, when I got mine. I had just come up a hill and was just past the crest and about 10 feet ahead of my wave when a MG bullet passed right thru me as if I was a piece of paper. No pain or anything but plenty of blood. I did not fall at once but advanced a couple of paces and down I went with my face down. »

[The war was over for 2nd Lt. Flinn. Two months later, as he completed his letter, he finally tells his wife just how seriously he was wounded, and how close he came to being killled:]

“I don’t think I have accurately described where the wound was. I cabled that I was hit in the right shoulder so you all would not worry. I knew that so long as I did not die on the field I would not die in the hospital so I cabled as I did. It was centered 1 1/2 inches to the right of the two bones shaped V below the neck and just missed the other bone leading from this shape V to the top of shoulder. The bullet came out just below right shoulder blade and about 1 3/4 inches to the right of my spine. It passed thru the lung. Everything is all healed up now including lung. And the only reason they would not let me away from here now is that there is a little fluid on lower edge of my lung which is being absorbed very quickly by my system.

“All Drs. have wondered and told me that I had a very close shave. I laid on the field for about 4 hrs before I was picked up by my men and carried back to lst Aid station which was some distance behind our starting point in the morning. I reached the Base Hosp here 2 days later after being carried on a litter for about 6 miles, on ambulances about 80 miles, and finally by train. This traveling was what made all of us suffer and I had my share of it. The roads here are not as smooth as 5th Avenue, particularly after being shelled.”

[Harry Flinn came to realize that he’d survived because he had been struck by a tracer bullet: coated with hot phosphorus to allow the gunners to see the trajectory of their stream of bullets, it cauterized his wound as it passed through him, minimizing both blood loss and exposure to infection. But now, in an Army hospital, he finished his letter:]

“And please hon stop this hero stuff I was only one out of 2 million tell everybody else who starts this hero stuff the same thing, now I don’t want you to become offended but look at it from my point of view over here, I am no hero.

“I can safely say this is some letter, it is a young book. It is an outline of my travels since leaving the old country. I am feeling as good as I ever did I eat sleep and smoke and act like any ordinary human being so you can easily see that I am as good as I ever was.

“I will let you into a little secret I have been keeping from you now for several weeks. I bet your curiosity is running away with you by now and that you are very anxious to come to the secret well I won’t keep you guessing any longer. You know that I have never even in my heaviest days been a giant. Here it is. I lost about 45 lbs in weight but I have got it pretty nearly all back now or I would not tell you of it now. About 2 weeks after being hit I weighed about 90 lbs, so you can imagine how I looked. All bones.

« Pardon my sense of humor but I had you guessing I know* I will have to close now or I never will be able to get all this letter in one envelope Merry Xmas & Happy NY. to all, I am your loving and devoted husband, Harry J. Flinn, 2nd Lt. »

He was 27. He passed away at 83, having lived the rest of his life with a collapsed lung. A 51 year employee of Armstrong Cork, he sold enclosures to the fashion industry in Manhattan. He and Marion had 3 children; 2 are still alive. He has 11 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren, and 5 great-great grandchildren.


Très bel hommage à Harry Flinn par son petit-fils.

La traduction du récit d’Harry Flinn ==> ICI 


Carl Miller




Carl Miller qui faisait partie du 3ème groupe de brancardiers, raconte la blessure d’Harry Flinn : « Il avait un trou dans le haut de son poumon droit et Carl pouvait entendre ce son distinctif de l’air sortant de son poumon. »

Carl Miller sera tué le 28 septembre 1918 en essayant de sauver son camarade blessé.

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