By PVT Al Barker, No 118, 43rd CO, 5th Reg, US Marines
The US declared war upon Germany April 6, 1917. I was going to college at the time. I went to spend a weekend in New York City and happened to be in Union Square where recruiting of soldiers, sailors, and marines were taking place. A captain of the US Navy was speaking on patriotism. As I stood there and listened a thrill went through me and I decided to enlist at once. I chose the marines because they were always the “first to fight”. I was sent to Paris Island, South Carolina, for my training, where I spent three months, and on August 12, 1917, I was sent to Quantico, VA., for my overseas equipment. On August 21, 1917, I sailed for France.
The trip across was a very eventful one as we were twice shot at by submarines, but we succeeded in eluding them. Nine days later we arrived at Brest, France, where we were all stationed in barracks. My first real training began in France; drilled from morning to night, together with such things as trench digging, bayonet fighting, grenade throwing, and all other things necessary to an American marine. This lasted about three months. My first real encounter occurred when we were ordered to the Belgian Front with Australian Anzacs. There I had my first glimpse of the Germans. We battled with them for twelve hours and I received a bayonet thrust in my right foot which laid me up for three weeks, and I was sent to base hospital No. 3 near St. Lazarre. After I recovered I was again sent to the Belgian Front where, in the next encounter with the Germans, I was captured and sent to a prison camp, built in the German trenches. I was there with eight other marines, for twenty-one days, when a French air squadron descended upon the Germans and killed or wounded all of them. A French aviator–I do not recall his name–took me in his machine and we flew 102 miles to the French forces.