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Doings Of Battery B

328th Field Artillery American Expeditionary Forces

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Serial No. 2,026,575
St. Louis, Mich.

Assigned for duty September 22, 1917, as a recruit.

Housel had a record in the St. Louis High School as a football player and athlete, and his training stood him well in army service.

He was promoted to Corporal November 11, 1917.

On December 7, 1917, he was made Duty Sergeant.

At Custer he was sent to the School of Fire, January 2, 1918, and returned to duty February 1.

Housel took to soldiering very fast, which warranted his promotions and gratified his aspirations for advancement. At Custer he was very popular with the boys, but as Sergt. Kelley was then in command, we could not know that in France he was to be our Top Sergeant any more than we could at that time picture the scenes of hardship through which we were to go with him.

On July 10th he left Custer with the Advance School Detachment for overseas and sailed July 21st on the steamship Canopic for England.

In France, during September, 1918, Housel was promoted to First Sergeant. Along with Sergt. Vigneron, Sergt. Dunn, Corporal McKenzie and Chief Mechanic Horton, he was assigned for duty with our Battery.

At Coetquidan they were sent to Liaison and Telephone Schools, where they were trained for army specialists, and after completing their course they returned to the Battery for duty.

Sergeant Housel was just getting himself re-associated with the Battery when Sergeant Kelley was recommended for Officers’ Training School. When Kelley left the Battery there was a question in the minds of the officers whom they should appoint to succeed him. Second Lieut. DaPrado was very much in favor of Sergt. Housel. Some anxiety was felt among the men of the Battery, as we feared we might get a First Sergeant who would not be approved of by the Battery. However, we felt pretty sure the selection for Sergt. Kelley’s successor would be Frank Housel, and on the morning following the First Sergeant’s departure, at reveille, when the commanding officer ordered Sergt. Housel to be promoted to First Sergeant, there was a feeling of general satisfaction among the men. We could not discern any difference of feeling toward us all, and his promotion did not seem to change him, except that he felt called upon to get a pair of whip-cord trousers.

At the time of Sergt. Housel’s promotion to First Sergeant the training was highly intensive and the time critical. Speed everywhere was demanded and the strength of the men was taxed to the utmost. We were preparing to qualify in firing for fitness to serve at the front. His duties were extremely difficult and he was kept busy administering the functions of his rank from early morning until late at night, going often without any sleep. At this time he was probably the hardest worked man in the camp.

During all this trying period the men cannot recall any unjust act by the Sergeant, or of his ever “riding” a man, as the army expression goes. He was absolutely impartial, would listen to the men, reason with them and assist where he could. By his example of hard work he steeled others to

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meet what was required of them and inspired willingness to cooperate with each other. He had the inborn faculty of getting from the men the very best that was in them ungrudgingly and without dissension. He was always cheerful in the execution of orders and frank in dealing with his men. Everyone in the Battery will remember how he gave the commands “Out in the Center— Hold it.” The Sergeant took keen pleasure in giving the commands “Right Dress—Line up,” and always finished with the snappy military command, “Front.” The Battery never lined up for anyone else as they did for Housel.

In the Puvenelle Woods the Sergeant assumed entire command of the Battery Combat Train and had responsibilities, many and different from the ordinary tasks required of a Top Sergeant.

One night, when the rain was falling in torrents and the men were living in pup tents, an order was conveyed to the Top Sergeant that a detail of men were to be immediately assembled and sent forward to the gun positions to assume guard and be on the alert for gas and give the alarm. The men, wearied by their long march and grooming of horses afterwards, were sleeping soundly in their tents. It was impossible for the Sergeant to know the location of men he wanted for this detail, so he yelled in every direction the names of the men he wanted. All was silent. The men knowing the Sergeant did not know their location, took advantage of this fact, hoping he might change his mind as to what men should make up the detail. Sergeant Housel was dogged and persistent, and continued to call the men’s names. No answer. Then the First Sergeant, in a voice that all the men could hear, said that he would call them once more and if they did not respond he would put the entire Combat Train on guard. It was very comical when he again called how the men yelled “Yo.” This conduct did not appear to antagonize Housel, for when the men were before him he merely instructed them as to their work and told them to go about their duty, letting the matter go at that, though his rank enabled him to inflict penalties on the men who had failed to respond promptly to orders in the line of duty. This was an example of his bigness of heart and his understanding under all conditions.

He had a great desire to be in the battle and see action. The opportunity was given him when he had to bring forward a detail of men to the gun position at Montauville, where our Batteries were busily firing on the enemy. Under the guidance of Private Barry, he was taken forward and shown the Observation Post, from where the fire of the Battery was being directed, and with him went out into the open, contrary to military orders, to a point of vantage that enabled both of them to lay their binoculars on the 92nd Division, which at the time was attacking the town of Noyon, on the other side of the Moselle river. The Germans were replying with a weak barrage, and when their shells started to creep up the hills in the direction of the two men, Housel laughed with the curiosity which indicated his poise and indifference to danger. Finally the scene was obstructed by having to put on gas masks.

With considerable difficulty Lieut. Hazelwood and Sergt. Housel brought the horses forward on the night of the 9th to move the guns from Montauville to the Euvezin Woods.

At the front discipline as to movement is necessarily relaxed and a man is supposed to direct himself within bounds. On this night the men were disheartened by strenuous marches, lack of food and sleep, and were inclined to do as they individually saw fit. The respect in which Housel was held was demonstrated when, with a few words from him, the men responded to his commands and resumed their duties quietly and willingly. The Battery moved on under the command of Captain Cherrill to the advance line, where we took up our sacrifice position at Tautecourt Farm. The Combat Train remained back in the Girard Woods.

On this night all were taxed to the limit in holding and quieting the restive, nervous horses, and with the help of Sergeants Kebbe and Young, Corporal Kern, Privates Tibbetts, Ranney, Cribley and Wolf, Housel succeeded in transferring the horses to a point in the woods which was thought safer.

On the night of November 10th Sergeant Housel narrowly missed death in crossing the road to the kitchen. About a minute after, a large shell dropped in his track, plowing a hole some six feet deep and about twelve inches wide.

On November 11th Sergeant Housel, knowing the Battery was about a mile in advance of the Combat Train and close to the enemy, was again seized with a longing to see action. Perceiving a French Observation Post on the top of a tree, he ascended and watched during the few moments of battle which preceded the signal “Cease Firing” at 11:00 a. m.

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On the Battery’s return to Pont-a-Mousson, Sergeant Housel’s health declined and he was confined to quarters for two weeks. Sergeant Schultz assumed his rank. Immediately after Sergeant Housel, in company with Sergeants Belbeck, Young, Dunn, Corporals Wilson, Waters, Kern, Oxley, Russel, Ordiway and Privates Ott, Hagar and Diekema, obtained seven days’ leave to visit Aix Les Bain and spend the Christmas holidays there, and they returned to the Battery January 1st.

Housel took great delight in writing to his father and hearing from him.

“One of the many good things one learns in the army is the power of reflection—to think of the important, eventful and pleasant things in a person’s life’s experiences.

“I have had many unusual experiences since I have left the good old U. S. A. I have crossed the ocean, I have been in England and have seen the cities of Liverpool, Winchester and Southampton. I have seen beautiful cathedrals and have visited many historical places in that country.

“I have crossed the English Channel, been in Le Havre and had the pleasure (?) of riding forty-two strong, packed like sardines in the now famous 40 Hommes and 8 Cheveaux box ears. I have traveled over a part of France about like one’s hand would run over a Ouija board, covering perhaps a distance of 300 miles to reach a destination which in reality was only 70 miles from the starting point. I have attended a Wireless Training School for six weeks to become an army specialist—instead I became a First Sergeant.

“I have followed the Artillery in eschelon any number of times on the road and in the embryo weeks of almost endless hikes to harden the men, to train them to endure the hardships of wearisome marches and to stand the test of battle.

“I have been to the front, I have wallowed in the mud, I have lived on short rations, gone without sleep for days and feared to look heavenward or to walk in the open. I have feared to carry my mess-kit in sight during daylight and have camouflaged my bed on a moonlight night to escape the photographic eye of the airplane. I have heard the ceaseless noise of machine-guns and the intermittent bellowing of the big naval guns and the 75s talk back with spiteful and incomparable effect.

“Dad, these are only a few of the myriads of experiences which flash through my mind’s eye on this New Year’s Day. I feel a great deal like I overheard one of the boys remark when it was said that we were going to Germany: ‘It will just be something more to talk about.’ But we did not go to Germany.

“Well, Dad, this being the first day of the year and I am so chucked-full of the things I want to talk about, I am going to take my grudge out on you and tell you of some of the incidents I have run up against since I have been a soldier. Mainly for the reason it will afford me a certain ease of mind and then again for the reason that you will read this, whereas if I aired myself to some of the boys they would not listen to me, for they are only interested in when we are going home.”

After returning from Aix, Sergeant Housel was hardly back with the Battery a week before he was troubled with a peculiar poisoning of the right eye, which caused his transfer to Hospital No. 45, at Toul, for treatment. The boys feared this would prevent his being with us on our return home, but after three weeks’ time he returned to the Battery and assumed his duties with the same commendable thoroughness which had marked all his work with the Battery and which continued until he was mustered out at Camp Custer.

On the Battery’s return to Camp Mills, the boys felt they wanted to show their appreciation of him for the man that he had shown himself to be. Under the leadership of one of them a collection was raised with which they purchased a solid gold Howard watch, which was presented to him in token of the esteem in which lie was held by the Battery.

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Data contributed by: Patricia Wazny-Hamp  Copyright © 2022