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Army Boys in the French Trenches by Homer Randall

As wire entanglements were uprooted


Nearer

and nearer. Then like so many thunderbolts at a hundred different points they struck the German lines and the tanks went through!

CHAPTER XIII

CAUGHT NAPPING

Nothing could stand before the terrific impact of the war tanks.

There was a grinding, tearing, screeching sound, as wire entanglements were uprooted. These had been strengthened in every way that German cunning could invent, but they bent like straws beneath the onslaught of the gray monsters. A cyclone could not have done the work more thoroughly.

There was no need now for further secrecy, and with a wild yell the Allied troops swarmed through the gaps, sending a deadly volley before them, supplemented by thousands of grenades.

At the same instant, the Allied artillery opened up and laid a heavy barrage fire over the heads of the onrushing troops.

The blow came down on the Germans with crushing force. The surprise was complete. Every detail of the great drive had been mapped out with the precision of clockwork, and so nicely had it been timed that on every part of the long line the shock came like a thunderbolt.

A horde of Germans rushed up from the trenches and poured in a great stream into the open. The earth

seemed to disgorge itself. They came shouting and yelling in wild consternation, their eyes heavy with sleep and their faces pallid with fear.

Fear not so much of the Allied troops rushing upon them. These they had faced in many battles, and though they knew the mettle of their foes, they were still men who could be faced on even terms. But their courage gave way when through the spectral mists they saw the wallowing monsters bearing down on them like so many Juggernauts, crushing, tearing, mowing them down as though they were insects in the path of giants.

The men fled helter-skelter in the wildest panic that had come upon them since the outbreak of the war. In vain their officers shouted and cursed at them. The iron bonds of discipline snapped like threads. Soldiers rushed hither and thither like ants whose hill had been demolished by a ruthless foot.

Many fled back toward their second line, pursued by a withering blast of rifle fire that reaped a terrible harvest of wounds and death. Others rushed back into their trenches, crowding and treading upon one another. But even here they were not safe from the great tanks, which lumbered down into the trenches and up on the other side, leaving devastation in their wake, spitting out flame from the guns they carried, while they themselves in their iron armor went on uninjured.

Not only were they frightful engines of offense, but they served as well for defense of the troops that followed after them.

For the first few minutes the slaughter was awful, and it looked as though the whole German line would be forced to give way without putting up any resistance worthy of the name. Prisoners were rounded up by the hundreds. There was no time then to send them to the rear. So they were gathered together in the open spaces, their suspenders were cut so that their trousers would slip down and entangle their legs if they tried to escape in the confusion, a small guard was put over them, and the tanks and the troops went thundering on toward the second line.


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