, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 12, 2012

Of bravery and tragedy

WWI soldier's diary offers vivid details from front lines


The attack was a success, and Sanborn’s battle lust was now fully aroused. Germans were retreating, and he picked off three with his increasingly unsteady rifle aim. He aimed for a fourth when a shell hit in front of him, blasting his rifle apart.

“How I escaped I am beyond fathoming,” he wrote. Even so, he was thrown to the other side of the ditch he was in.

The blast shocked him. Now he was unable to stand up. He realized his thigh wound was far worse than he had thought.

“At this point, my mind went through a strange train of thought,” he wrote. He struggled to control an urge to run, but then, “the most wonderful frame of mind and comfort came to me.”


Sanborn realized he couldn’t go any further, he had done all he could do. He decided to crawl back to an aid station.

“After I decided to go back, the bursting shells and the singing bullets seemed much less dangerous to me,” he wrote. “I had stopped shooting at them and I sort of thought they had stopped shooting at me.”

He made it about 50 yards. Another bullet ripped through his leg, hitting him like “a sledgehammer.” He was knocked down flat. He could no longer crawl. Instead, he rolled. With the help of another soldier, he twisted a tourniquet tightly around his leg to slow the flow of blood.

That bullet angered him.

“I had been satisfied to quit and call it a day — but he wasn’t and it struck me as being quite unfair,” he wrote.

Sanborn was eventually brought to a field hospital, near the front. As he eased in and out of consciousness, the hospital came under German artillery fire. He was hit again, this time in the hand.

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