INTRODUCTORY NOTE: On April 2, 1917, President Wilson told Congress that the United States was ready to fight to “make the world itself at last free.” Four days later America entered the Great War. At once a thrill of belligerency ran through the country not unlike that which once aroused the crusaders to set olf for the Holy Land. Among those who felt that thrill was Bernard J. Gallagher, a twenty-eight-years-old native of Waseca, Minnesota, then serving his internship at the Minneapolis City Hospital. He immediately joined the Medical Officers Reserve Corps, and when his first-lieutenant’s commission came through in the middle of July, he requested active service. Young Lieutenant Gallagher thought he would be given three or four months’ instruction at the Army Medical College and then sent overseas with the American Army. Instead, when he reported to Washington on August 13, he was told that he would be given no training, but would be sent overseas just as soon as he received his equipment, and then not with the Americans at all, but as one of 1,300 young American doctors attached to the British Expeditionary Force in response to an urgent request for medical help. By late September—long before there was any sizable contingent of American troops in Europe—Gallaghcr found himself in England. After two months at an army hospital there, he received orders on November 19 to embark for France.
His destination was Arras, north of the Somme River in northwestern France. The situation there was favorable to the Allies. During the winter and spring of 1917 the British had advanced their lines to include almost the whole Somme area, while the Germans had retreated behind their new Hindenburg line, giving up some 1,000 miles of devastated French countryside. In November the British had launched an attack against German-held Cambrai, just east of Arras, and driven the Germans back five miles. But toward the end of November, just as Lieutenant Gallagher joined the B. E. F., came a strong enemy counterattack. His own narrative of the subsequent events begins on the overleaf.