WWI Profile: Forney Boston Mintz 1892-1960 (Part 1)

To view this or an earlier profile at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Source: Photo from Adams, John Wesley; McCollum, Lee C. Our Company. Seattle, Lumberman printing co. 1919
Forney Boston Mintz
Mill Branch, Brunswick County, NC
U.S. Army
Sergeant

Served:
January 9, 1918 – January 8, 1929
Overseas:
April 6, 1918 – April 28, 1919
Wounded: August 15, 1918; September 27, 1918

Awarded Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star,
Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster

Due to the amount of documentation about Forney Mintz, along with his multiple medals and association with a famous event, his WWI Profile will be posted in two parts.

Forney Boston Mintz was born and raised in Mill Branch, NC. He was the third of four brothers, all serving in WWI.

Forney was the first brother to enlist in the US Army in 1913 at age 21. His enlistment, found in Ancestry, shows his height was 5′ 5 3/4″. He was transferred to the Army Reserves on January 8, 1916, then returned to active duty on August 22, 1916.

Half brother Samuel Leob Mintz enlisted in 1916; brothers Martin Newman Mintz and Owen Ransom Mintz were drafted.

All four brothers served overseas. Like Forney, Martin and Owen were wounded. WWI Profiles have been posted for Martin Newman Mintz and Owen Ransom Mintz.

Leob and Forney made a career in the Army.

Forney was the only soldier from Brunswick County to serve in the 77th Division. He was assigned on September 5, 1917, to Company A, 308th Infantry, 77th Division. At that point he had been promoted to Sergeant.

The 77th Division, first called the Metropolitan Division but popularly known as the “Statue of Liberty Division” due to the insignia shown, was organized from New York City draftees. Most of the enlisted men were recent immigrants or were poor working class from the streets of New York City. This gave rise to the popular theory that fighting from a young age for food and other attributes acquired on the streets contributed to their survival in the Argonne.

Soldiers from 25 different nationalities were part of the division, reflecting the melting pot of NYC.

“The recruits represented all races and all creeds – men who had only recently been subjected to the pogroms of Russia, gunmen and gangsters, a type peculiar to New York City, Italians, Chinamen, the Jews and the Irish, a heterogeneous mass, truly representative both of the varied human flotsam and the sturdy American manhood which comprise the civil population of New York City.”

One of those members was songwriter Irving Berlin, then age 30. Berlin who was already famous, wrote and produced a musical show called “Yip, Yip, Yaphank” about the experience of training at Camp Upton.

The show featured the song “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in The Morning” which Berlin performed. The song related how the Soldier hated the bugler who woke up the troops each day.
Source: World War I draftees from New York City made history in the 77th Division

Photo source: Library of Congress; Lady Liberty striking the Kaiser
Sgt Mintz trained with the 77th Division at Camp Upton, one of the two military bases on Long Island. The other was Camp Mills, where the 42nd Division was assembled. (Recall that the 42nd Division included many Brunswick County men.) Both divisions captured the hearts of the citizens of New York.

The photo below is included in “Our Company” a book about Company A of the 308th Infantry. This photo was used to isolate Sgt Mintz, pictured at top of page. Sgt Mintz is in the second row, fourth from the right.


The book is in rhyme form. About Sgt Mintz, the book includes the following:


On April 6, 1918, Sgt. Mintz sailed on Lapland for France. The 77th Division was the first draftee division to arrive in France and the first to take front line positions.

By the end of August, the division had losses equal to nearly one third of its strength.

In early September, the Regiment was moved to the Argonne Forest as part of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest and deadliest battle in US military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers. It occurred at the same time influenza was raging, claiming lives in Europe and back home. The 308th had been continually in the front line from June 20th until September 15th. Facing the Argonne Forest, the 77th Division was positioned at the left flank of the American forces, with the 308th Infantry at the extreme left. The exhaustion from continuous fighting, the pandemic, and the soon to be exposed left flank all contributed to the tragedy that followed.

To the 77th Division was assigned the task of direct attack through the forest. After the first day, this Division operated alone within the confines of this forest, and fought its way through its entire length.

On the night of September 25th, the Infantry of the 77th Division quietly moved into the front line.
~ History of the 77th Division

The battle began in the early hours of September 26, 1918, through a dense fog. That day, Pfc Louis “Lolly” B. Doerr, from our World War I Wall of Honor, was KIA. He served with the 302nd Engineers of the 77th Division.

The “Wilderness Battle” of the Great War had begun. Overcoats and blankets had been discarded and very limited amounts of food were carried by each man.
Through a tangled jungle of trees, clinging vines and thickly braided brush, through swamps and muddy morasses flooded by constant rains that were falling, over steeps and across wild valleys, through the mud and the wet and the cold, the unfaltering soldiers of the 77th Division were obliged to push on day after day, against invisible machine guns, against trenches concealed by foliage and underbrush, against positions whose forward areas were perfectly protected by numerous lines of barbed wire and chicken wire interlaced among trees, against an enemy who could not be seen to be fired at and who could only be nosed out and routed by attacking parties that crawled along the ground and scouted from tree to tree until they could engage him in hand-to-hand combat.

Told to “push forward without regard to flanks”, by October 2, six companies of the 308th Infantry, commanded by Major Charles S. Whittlesey, along with one company from the 307th Infantry and two companies of the 306th Machine Gun Battalion, penetrated a gap in the German trenches and advanced to a ravine at Charlevaux Mill. At this point, a total of about 700 men were cut off and surrounded on all sides by the Germans and remained there for five days. Food and medical supplies depleted, men were lost one by one, shot while trying to find food or water or retrieve supplies dropped in the area, fallen by illnesses or effects of no food and water, or died of wounds.

Communications were a problem. Runners couldn’t successfully deliver messages, so homing pigeons were used. In one incident, when the battalions were being hit by American artillery, a homing pigeon sent a famous message to stop the barrage and became a hero.

“Five days later, 194 survivors walked out of the ravine and into history…”
~ Robert J. Laplander

WWI Profile: Cher Ami 1910-1919

Cher Ami (“dear friend”)
US Army
Served:
1914-1918
Wounded: October 3, 1918
Awarded Croix de Guerre Medal with a palm Oak Leaf Cluster

Cher Ami carried the famous message back to headquarters.

We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heavens sake stop it.

While the artillery had discovered their mistake minutes before Cher Ami returned, she nevertheless became a hero. She had been shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, and had a leg hanging only by a tendon. 77th Division medics worked to save her life. Her leg could not be saved, so a small wooden one was carved for her.

When she died in 1919, Cher Ami’s body was mounted by a taxidermist (who discovered the male pigeon was actually a female) and put on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

Sgt Mintz had been wounded on September 28. Was he a member of the Lost Battalion? He did not appear on the Lost Battalion list. Robert J. Laplander, the world’s leading historian of the Lost Battalion and WWI Centennial Commission’s Managing Director of Finding the Lost Battalion, was contacted to confirm. No, Sgt Mintz was not a member of the Lost Battalion.

“Sergeant Mintz was rescued from the field after he was wounded by Private Stephan Wondowlowsky [a Polish immigrant living in Brooklyn] of Company A, who dressed his wounds and carried him back to a safer area, from which Mintz then rounded up the two prisoners and headed back to a first aid station behind the lines. His combat days were pretty much behind him after that, although he did return to Company A and was with them for the final drive to the Meuse River and returned home with them on April 28th, 1919.”

Three members of the Regiment were awarded the Medal of Honor for their service during the First World War. Two of these men, Major Charles W. Whittlesey and Captain George G. McMurtry, were recognized for their actions during the “Lost Battalion” period while in command of the units trapped in the ravine. Additionally, seventy-five members of the Regiment were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and a further two the Croix de Guerre.

Sgt Forney B. Mintz was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The following citation accompanied the award.

“Forney B. Mintz, Sgt. Co. A, 308th Inf., for extra ordinary heroism in action near Binarville, France, Sept. 28, 1918. Sgt. Mintz, in command of a platoon, worked his way through the enemy rear guard and captured 5 machine guns and an ammunition carrying party. Although badly wounded when an organized position of the enemy was encountered, he made his way back to request reinforcements and brought with him two German prisoners from whom valuable information was obtained.”

Throughout its service in France the 77th Division sustained 10,194 casualties: 1,486 killed and 8,708 wounded.

The story of the Lost Battalion was one of the most talked about events of World War I. It even made its way into a soldier’s diary. Diary of a Rainbow Veteran (source listed at bottom) entry of October 9, 1918, includes the following.

The division that is now getting the “razz” is the 77th (New York). Their emblem is the Statue of Liberty. Now since the lost battalion has become famous, all the other divisions say that this insignia represents a French mademoiselle carrying a torch and looking for the lost battalion.

The WWI Profile of Forney Mintz will be continued next week.

Sources:
Adams, John Wesley; McCollum, Lee C. (1919) Our Company. Seattle, Lumberman printing co.

Laplander, Robert John (2017). Finding the Lost Battalion: Beyond the Rumors, Myths and Legends of America’s Famous WWI Epic. Waterford, WI: Lulu Press.

Sherwood, Elmer W. (1929). Diary of a Rainbow Veteran. Terre Haute, IN: Moore-Langen.

History of the 77th Division (1919). NY: 77th Division Association

If you would like to help us honor Forney Boston Mintz or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

Click the category: Veteran Profile here or at the bottom of any veteran profile post to see all of the veteran profiles published. Follow or subscribe to the blog to stay updated on all new profiles.

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WWI Profile: Jesse Lee Fayette Inman 1891-1935

To view this or an earlier profile at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Source: Soldiers of the Great War, Vol. II
Jesse Lee Fayette Inman
Freeland, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private

Served:
May 27, 1918 – May 9, 1919
Overseas:
July 31, 1918 – April 25, 1919
Wounded: September 29, 1918

Jesse Lee Fayette Inman was born and raised in Freeland, NC. A partial family tree is located in FamilySearch. Jesse’s brother Joel “Joe” Robert Inman also served in WWI.

Jesse’s WWI Draft Registration shows he was single, living in Ash, and working on the family farm.

Jesse and his brother Joe were ordered to report for duty on May 27, 1918, along with 35 other men from Brunswick County [Source: Ancestry]. Included in the 37 were John Hillery Caison, David Bertram Frink, and Zade McLoud Williams (NC WWI Service Record not found). Jesse, John, David, and Zade were sent to Camp Jackson, SC, to train with the 81st Division, but transferred to the 42nd Division in August. (His brother Joe Inman was honorably discharged with a Surgeon’s Certificate of Discharge in September, classified as 33 1/3% disabled.)

Jesse Lee Fayette Inman and John Hillery Caison became replacements for Company A, 168th Infantry, 42nd “Rainbow” Division. David Bertram Frink was assigned to the 166th Infantry and Zade McLoud Williams to the 167th Infantry, all with the 42nd Division.

Previous posts described the formation and training of the 42nd Rainbow Division, along with the months in France up to August 17, 1918, when the Rainbow Division, victorious in many battles, was finally given a chance to rest and resupply. Replacements such as Pvts Caison, Inman, Frink, and Williams arrived to serve with the battle hardened troops. Those drafted at a late date such as these men were typically not trained and never even held a rifle before boarding ships to France. They were given uniforms and sent overseas quickly, which earned them the gruesome nickname “Cannon fodder.”

Pvt Caison’s WWI Profile described the St. Mihiel Offensive, the first all-American offensive of the war, along with casualty totals. Pvt Inman was reportedly “slightly wounded” during the operation on September 29. No details are available.

On October 1, 1918, the 42nd Division withdrew and went south. They were a shock division now, elite troops, and must wait until they were needed.

Note: Source information for the diary entries can be found at bottom. Corporal Sherwood served in the 67th Artillery Brigade of the 42nd Rainbow Division from April 12, 1917 until May 10, 1919.

This gang doesn’t act like lambs going forth to slaughter. In fact, we are happy that the Rainbow is going into the line.

We turned into blankets early to the sound of a fierce cannonading from the distant battle front, and in my sleep I dreamed, not of war, but of home and loved ones waiting there, of those at home who really suffer and endure more of the mental agony than we who are in the midst of the war.
~ Diary of a Rainbow Veteran, October 3

Along the way, when troops ask their outfit, they sometimes respond with pride, “Rainbow.”

This always has the desired effect of creating a wholesome awe and respect among the bystanders who watch us pass, and many are the remarks of encouragement and references to our past victories addressed to us.
~ Diary of a Rainbow Veteran, October 4

As they started for the front, the destruction around them was devastating.

In our path lay the four-year-old trenches and defenses of both French and German. What a picture of desolation! We came into what had been a great forest, now shorn of life. What few trees remain standing are naked, burnt and scarred. Gas has killed every living thing.

Our engineers are busy building bridges across this forsaken country, for shell holes are so thick that a gun or even a cart can’t start across it without upsetting. In fact, it is all a foot soldier can do to walk across it.
~ Diary of a Rainbow Veteran, October 6

The 84th Brigade (167th Infantry of Pvt Frink and 168th Infantry of Pvt Inman) relieved the 1st Division in the front lines north of Exermont on October 13, 1918. Their attack began at 5:30am.

The Rainbow attack today netted four kilometers and a great number of prisoners, but our losses exceeded a thousand. For the first time since we have been on the line in this drive the fog cleared away today and a great rainbow emerged from the clouds. Our men regard this as an omen of good luck, and shout to each other encouragements and orders to press on.
~ Diary of a Rainbow Veteran, October 15

I talked to a sergeant whom I had known back in Lorraine. He told me that replacements had filled the great gaps in the lines of the old regiments until only non-coms and a few officers remained of those who had come across with the Division.

He said the new men were filling the places well and got right into the spirit of the Division.
~ Diary of a Rainbow Veteran, October 17

The captain read an order this morning to the non-coms of the battery stating that since our infantry has been so terribly shot up it will be necessary for each artillery outfit to furnish 68 privates, seven non-coms, and one officer to go into the line as infantry on the next advance. …every man volunteered to go over the top with a rifle and doughboy pack.
~ Diary of a Rainbow Veteran, October 22

Replacements are coming in regularly now to fill up the gaps in our ranks caused by losses in action. At first the men of this outfit hated the idea of rank outsiders getting into this volunteer outfit, but of course it has to be done. Then we are Americans after all, and all have one purpose – to win the war; so we have assimilated the green drafts from the States and find that, generally speaking, they make good soldiers.

The new men bring into the outfit news of the States and what the folks at home are doing. They also bring along various training camp songs and jokes.
~ Diary of a Rainbow Veteran, October 24

The 42nd Division broke through the Hindenburg Line in that area and were relieved on October 31 by the 2nd Division. Troops of the 42nd still held the front line but the 2nd Division passed through the lines and attacked the morning of November 1.

The hard-boiled Rainbow infantry doesn’t like the idea of letting the marines make the attack. [November 1]Many Rainbow doughboys pressed on in spite of orders to hold up and let the marines filter through.
~ Diary of a Rainbow Veteran, October 31/November 1

The Division moved further north, past the areas that had seen years of fighting.

The villages we now occupy are not demolished and ravaged by war like most of the communities we have been used to seeing along the front. Aside from a few bullet marks and an occasional shell hole, these are peaceful looking villages and hills. These villages had been occupied since 1914.

The French peasants were overjoyed. They hung out of their windows hastily made replicas of “The Stars and Stripes” and wept and laughed and sang.
~ Diary of a Rainbow Veteran, November 4

The enemy was in full retreat. The 42nd attacked once more from November 7 until November 10 when they were relieved by the 77th Division, ending their participation in the war. It is not known whether Pvt Inman was in combat during that time.

The air is charged with expectancy today, as we await word of peace.

At eleven, the great rumble of artillery and small arms was stilled.

Eleven o’clock!

How strangely solemn, almost painful to ears long accustomed to the din and tumult of the front!

Our men seem strangely silent. Our thoughts in this hour of triumph cannot but turn to those missing comrades who have shed their blood yielded up their lives for America.

We think, too, of their sorrowing mothers who will have no sons to welcome home.
~ Diary of a Rainbow Veteran, November 11

The 42nd Division had suffered nearly 15,000 casualties during the war. Its total days of combat has been claimed as the highest of all American divisions during the war at 264 days.

Their service not complete, they were chosen for the Army of Occupation and began marching for Germany on November 20. The first troops crossed into Germany on December 2. They remained there until they left to return to the US.

Pvt Inman left Brest, France, on April 18, 1919, with the other members of the 168th Infantry [Source: Ancestry]. On May 9, 1919, he was honorably discharged.

Jesse Inman returned to his family in Waccamaw Township (1920 Census) to continue farming. He married Virginia Dare King the next year. The 1930 Census shows him living in the same area with his wife and working on his own farm. There were no children.

Sadly, his wife passed away in 1931 at age 26 from an embolism after surgery. Jesse also passed away at a young age, 42, in 1935. They were both laid to rest in New Britton Church Cemetery in Ash, NC. No military honors are shown.

Sources:
Reilly, Henry J. (1936). Americans All, The Rainbow at War:Official History of the 42nd Rainbow Division in the World War. Columbus, OH: Heer.

Sherwood, Elmer W. (1929). Diary of a Rainbow Veteran. Terre Haute, IN: Moore-Langen.

Thompkins, Raymond S. (1919). The Story of the Rainbow Division. NY: Boni & Liveright.

World War I American Battle Monuments Commission (1944). 42d Division Summary of Operations in the World War. Washington DC: GPO.

If you would like to help us honor Jesse Lee Fayette Inman or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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A new year brings new goals

Caswell Beach Mayor Deborah Ahlers poses in front of the WWI Monument after receiving the WWI Centennial Memorial Certificate

A year of hard work, contributions, and support from the community for the Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran program culminated on Veterans Day 2018 with the installation and dedication of the Brunswick County WWI Monument at the Fort Caswell Rifle Range.

We thank the community for their help and for sharing the stories of the sacrifices made not only by the men, women, and families of Brunswick County during World War I, but our ancestors around the country. (Posted Brunswick County WWI Profiles begin with Wagoner Dorman Mercer, while submitted photos and stories can be read on our WWI Wall of Honor.)

In a few weeks, we’ll conclude the weekly WWI Profiles on the website for Brunswick County veterans identified as wounded or died while serving. WWI Profiles will then be posted for the Brunswick County veterans on the WWI Wall of Honor. (Note that the website is about 5 months ahead with profiles that The Brunswick Beacon has not yet published.)

We are grateful that The Brunswick Beacon continues to publish the weekly WWI Profiles. To see the list of the profiles published on the website and those in The Brunswick Beacon as well as other local newspapers, see the list here.

WWI photos and information are always welcome.

New Goals

Stabilization of the target pit has been achieved; restoration is next. A book is planned this year, which will require funding. The Honor a Brunswick County WWI veteran program will continue; donations of any amount are encouraged to honor all of the Brunswick County WWI veterans. To date, 401 of 724 have been honored.

Goals and a detailed list of funds needed will be posted soon.

Events

The Fundraising tab at the top of the website has been replaced by the Events tab. There are several events already planned, such as commemorating the US Entry into WWI, the Armistice, and the Installation and Dedication of the military marker to honor the only known WWI POW Pvt Robert Bollie Stanley.

New Fundraisers

2018 was the sixth and last of the Kentucky Derby Day fundraisers. New fundraising events are planned. These will be posted in the Events section of the website.

New Board Members

With the completion of the memorial and the designation of the Fort Caswell Rifle Range as an official US WWI Centennial Memorial, new board members have been selected. Information will be posted soon.

Thank you for your support!

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WWI Profile: John Hillery Caison 1895-1984

To view this or an earlier profile at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Source: findagrave
John Hillery Caison
Supply, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private

Served:
May 27, 1918 – April 8, 1919
Overseas:
July 31, 1918 – March 21, 1919
Wounded: September 23, 1918

John Hillery Caison was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC. His younger brother, James Cline Caison, and brother-in-law, Herman Dan Fulford, also served in WWI. There is a partial family tree in FamilySearch.

His WWI Draft Registration card shows he was single, living in Supply, and working on the family farm.

John was ordered to report for duty on May 27, 1918, along with 36 other men from Brunswick County [Source: Ancestry]. Included in the 36 were Jesse Lee Fayette Inman, David Bertram Frink, and Zade McLoud Williams (NC WWI Service Record not found). All four were sent to Camp Jackson, SC, to train with the 81st Division, but transferred to the 42nd Division in August.

John Hillery Caison and Jesse Lee Fayette Inman became replacements for Company A, 168th Infantry, 42nd “Rainbow” Division. Jesse’s WWI Profile will follow this one next week. David Bertram Frink was assigned to the 166th Infantry and Zade McLoud Williams to the 167th Infantry, both with the 42nd Division.

Previous posts described the formation and training of the 42nd Rainbow Division, along with the months in France up to August 17, 1918, when the Rainbow Division, victorious in many battles, was finally given a chance to rest and resupply. Replacements such as Pvts Caison, Inman, Frink, and Williams arrived to serve with the battle hardened troops. Those drafted at a late date such as these men were typically not trained and never even held a rifle before boarding ships to France. They were given uniforms and sent overseas quickly, which earned them the gruesome nickname “Cannon fodder.”

During the 42nd’s rest in Bourmont area, changes were made. General Douglas MacArthur had been made a Brigadier General and placed in command of the 84th Infantry Brigade, which included the 167th and 168th Infantries. Pvts Caison and Inman served in the 168th. The men from the 168th were originally National Guard members from Iowa. With ranks depleted from the heavy fighting, replacements had to be accepted.

Note: Rosters of Brunswick County veterans and Organizations of the Divisions can be found on the World War I Army/Marine Division Roster webpage.

Excerpts below taken from The Story of the Rainbow Division, source listed at bottom.

Replacements, those freshly arrived, untried soldiers at whose advent the veteran survivors of hard battles look askance, and without whom no division could continue its career as a division, came to the Rainbow in great numbers. The gaps in the ranks were filled. Lost and battle scarred equipment was replaced by new, up-to-date fighting material. The Rainbow Division, in a sort of new Camp Mills, having found its fighting spirit in the field, now was being made over—getting its second wind, so to speak.

The WWI Profile of Herbert Burnell Ward (5th Division) described their next battle. It was the first all-American operation of the war: St. Mihiel. Fourteen American divisions were gathered for the operation: 1, 2, 4, 5, 26, 42, 82, 89, 90; Reserve: 3, 35, 78, 80, 91.

The Rainbow Division had started forward on August 30. Moving always at night and resting during the day in inconspicuous places (for the attack was to be a surprise) it marched about one hundred and twenty kilometers to the Foret de la Reine. There it went into camp in shelter tents. It became a division of mud-dwellers, lying quietly in the sticky black muck all day and wallowing about in it through the night, for by daylight no movement of men or transportation was permitted.

Rain fell steadily and the roads became horrors. Through the downpour and the absolute blackness the men of the 117th Supply Train and the 117th Ammunition Train struggled forward inches at a time with the deep mud sucking their trucks back and the pitch-dark roads seeming to fall away beneath them. Nearly always about twenty-five per cent of all the Rainbow’s transportation was stalled impotently in the mud and wrecking crews were at work day and night.

Soldiers of the 167th Infantry (42nd Division) dug in near St. Benoit on the Meuse River during the St. Mihiel offensive in September 1918. (National Archives)

The attack began on September 12. Brunswick County men Pvt Jimmie Griffin from the 2nd Division had been killed by sentry the night before, while Cpl Herbert Ward from the 5th Division was KIA that day.

The Germans were taken by surprise.

Intelligence found on captured prisoners showed that the Germans did not expect the attack during the rain, and that they considered it a rather mean thing to do—an advantage that would not have been taken by the French and British.

The Germans retreated to the Hindenburg Line, which they thought was impenetrable. It too would be defeated soon.

Under constant fire from the German artillery, the Rainbow Division remained in place, sending raiding parties out to keep the Germans unaware of the Army’s plans elsewhere. The 42nd remained in the area until October 1.

Pvt Caison was severely wounded on September 23, while the Division remained in the area. It appears that he did not return to combat. During the operations, Pvt Caison’s 168th Infantry reported 61 KIA, 30 Died of Wounds, and 289 Wounded.  Pvt Inman was also wounded during these operations (WWI Profile to follow this one next week).

Source: Ancestry.com. U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Pvt Caison returned to the US with other casualties from North Carolina on March 6, 1919, from Marseille Embarkation Camp, as shown in the passenger list above. There are no details of his severe wound or if he was recovering from that one or a new illness/injury, but his status is indicated as “B2” which means he could no longer serve in combat. That seems to indicate his injury was disabling but there was no disability at discharge reported on his NC WWI Service Record.

According to the 1920 Census, John returned to Lockwoods Folly to the family farm. When his father died, he remained with his mother (1940 Census). There is no record of him marrying.

John Hillery Caison passed away in 1989 and was laid to rest with his family in Holden Beach. A military flat marker is shown.

Sources:
Reilly, Henry J. (1936). Americans All, The Rainbow at War:Official History of the 42nd Rainbow Division in the World War. Columbus, OH: Heer.

Sherwood, Elmer W. (1929). Diary of a Rainbow Veteran. Terre Haute, IN: Moore-Langen.

Thompkins, Raymond S. (1919). The Story of the Rainbow Division. NY: Boni & Liveright.

World War I American Battle Monuments Commission (1944). 42d Division Summary of Operations in the World War. Washington DC: GPO.

If you would like to help us honor John Hillery Caison or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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WWI Profile: Dorman Lowell Mercer 1894-1996 (post #2)

To view this or an earlier profile at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Photo reprinted with permission by The Brunswick Beacon
Dorman Lowell Mercer
Bolivia, Brunswick County, NC
National Guard
Wagoner

Served:
July 24, 1917 – May 12, 1919
Overseas:
October 18, 1917 – April 24, 1919
Wounded: July 27, 1918
Gassed

Note: Dorman Mercer was the first Brunswick County WWI Profile published in the blog. Because the profiles following his became more detailed, his profile has been rewritten. Read the previous post about him here.

Dorman Lowell Mercer was born in Brunswick County, NC. His brother, Edward Mercer, also served in WWI.

In June 1917, Dorman registered for the WWI Draft as required. His registration shows he was single, living in Bolivia, and farming.

A month later, Dorman enlisted in the NC National Guard. In October he became a Wagoner. He left for France with most of the 42nd Division in October 1917.

“I was a wagoner, and I drove trucks and mules in wagon trains. Our work was to haul ammunition to the front, and picks, shovels, and barbed wire for the engineers to use.” ~Dorman Mercer [Source: The Brunswick Beacon]

The previous post described the formation and training of the 42nd Rainbow Division, along with the months in France up to March 21, 1918, when the German offensive was unleashed.

The Rainbow Division remained in the Baccarat Sector for nearly three months, until the end of June. The Champagne-Marne Defensive and Aisne-Marne Offensive immediately followed.

The following was used to determine where and when Wagoner Mercer was injured.

July 14th was the start of the Champagne-Marne Defensive. On July 25, the 42nd Division prepared for the Aisne-Marne Offensive. According to his NC WWI Service Card, he was wounded on July 27.

“Once while retreating from the front, a German shell hit the roof of a nearby house and showered Mercer with shrapnel and debris. Less than two weeks later, he was gassed in an engagement and required medical treatment, although he said his injuries ‘didn’t amount to much.'” [Source: The Brunswick Beacon]

From this description, it seems his first brush with injury was in the Champagne-Marne Defensive, while his official gassing injury was during the Aisne-Marne Offensive.


This map segment shows Paris on the left. The Allied Champagne-Marne Defensive is marked. Following that, the 42nd Division moved to Chateau-Thierry [sha-tohtee-uh-ree] (west at the top of the salient) to push the enemy to the north during the Aisne-Marne [ayn-mahrn] Offensive. At the far right is the St. Mihiel [san-mee-yel] salient, the site of the first all-American operation which the 42nd joins later among a total of 14 American divisions.

The Champagne-Marne Defensive, referred to as “the last and greatest trench battle,” was planned by the Germans for July 14th, French Independence Day. According to a captured enemy soldier, it was the hope of the Germans to face only drunk and surprised French soldiers with what was to become their last offensive move against the Allies. This information gave the Allies the chance to prepare.

The French filled the first line of their trenches with decoys, sacrifice troops, to keep the enemy fooled and delay their advance.

The second line was occupied by infantry from the American 42nd. Beside them, the 117th engineers were serving as infantry. Behind that line were the animals and transportation, artillery, and “great heaps of ammunition.”

At five minutes past midnight on July 14, on a front of 42 miles, the German barrage began, four continuous hours.

Exceprts below taken from The Story of the Rainbow Division, source listed at bottom.

There was death and destruction in the very air; it seemed to be reaching out with hungry, clutching hands, sweeping victims in; the sky swished and swirled like a hurricane, bringing a rain that burst with a red crash when it landed, and the clean night breeze became a deadly draft of poisonous gas.

For years to come Americans who lived under it will shake their heads and fail for words when you talk of the first part of that night in the Champagne.

At four in the morning, the German infantry began the assault, not knowing that the French were prepared for them.

[The Germans] found nobody to fight; nothing but mines that roared up beneath their feet, and thick gas clouds and shells tearing great holes in their ranks. And in little torn forests of wire the men of the French sacrifice companies now came out of their holes like small swarms of angry bees and stung them with bursts of machine-gun fire.

The Allied artillery began to fire.

Direct hits from high explosive shells began piling into the German attackers. But still they kept on, thousands more climbing over heaps of bodies to fill the gaps. And finally, by sheer disregard of losses, they came to the intermediate line—the Allies’ first real line of defense.

Then and there the Battle of the Champagne became a rough-and-tumble fight with bare knives—man against man; with knives, fists, teeth and rifle-butts.

Machine-guns were spraying the Germans, hand-grenades bursting in groups of them, rifles were spitting at them from the parapets, but still they came on.

The [167th Infantry of the 42nd Division] went in by platoons, winding through the trenches, crawling over heaps of dead French, Americans and Germans, and labyrinths of tangled wire, into the melee. Of the first platoon none ever came back.

Thus they were still fighting while the sun rose high and the air grew warm and the day advanced, and the first shock of the last German offensive had fallen on men who would not yield an inch.

By noon they had gained a foothold seven times in the [165th Infantry, 42nd Division] trenches and seven times had been hurled out. That evening at six o’clock they tried it again and were beaten off.

All night bombs and shells fell on the fighting lines and rear areas ; steady showers of them on hospitals, towns and roads. There was no rest from them, especially the bombs. By day the sky was literally dark with German aeroplanes; every French plane had been chased away.

The German aviators would hover above trenches like hawks circling to pounce on chickens, then swooping low, cut loose with machine guns and showers of steel darts upon the heads of the infantry. Carrying parties with ammunition had to dodge these planes as they would swarms of bees. Stretcher-bearers carrying wounded men through trenches and along roads were shot down by low-flying aviators.

At six o’clock on the morning of July 16 the Germans attacked again [and were again thrown off].

On the night of July 16 the Germans gave up hope, and the hand-to-hand fighting ceased. The Allied line in the Champagne, though it had bent in and out during the two days’ battle, was reestablished with not a foot of ground lost; the German offensive had crumpled in the early hours of the first day. The decisive battle of the war had been won.

Now the Hun became spiteful. Raging in defeat he shelled the rear areas as far back as Chalons, and sprinkled the earth with bombs from the sky.

Back there where the ammunition and supplies had come from and where the wounded had been carried, the scene was indescribable.

Dead horses lay everywhere—simply spattered about the landscape. The big American hospital at Bussy-le-Chateau had been wrecked by bombs—several wards full of wounded soldiers destroyed and the men killed.

Roads were obliterated for miles; a blight seemed to have descended on trees and vegetation; everywhere within a radius of twenty miles the earth was torn and tortured. But the line had held; the bodies of Americans of the Rainbow had barred the road to Chalons; and some were in huddled, shapeless heaps in the trenches and some were wiping off their bayonets and crying.

They said the Rainbow Division had put a new spirit into France; that before the battle their mere presence had been a tonic; that their resistance during the battle was like a promise of new life. And he announced for the first time the successful launching of an allied offensive between Soissons and Chateau-Thierry.

Officers who had not slept for days—covered with the dirt and blood of the trenches—shouted with joy. Camps of men just out of the jaws of death rang with laughter and song. The tide of war had turned. The French celebrated their Fourteenth of July on July 19, and champagne ran like water.

Wagoner Mercer’s official wound (gassing) was yet to come, recorded as July 27.

The Allies were ready to take an offensive position and this began with the Aisne-Marne Offensive on July 25th, mere days from the beating above. There was no rest for the 42nd Division. They boarded the trains that would take them there.

The long trains that carried the Rainbow rolled through [suburb of Paris] there between July 21 and 24. It was a beautiful day—warm and mellow—and wherever they could find holds for hands and feet, the men clung to open flat-cars, taking the air. Bridges across the railroad yards were crowded with Parisians, mostly women and girls. For nearly four years they had had no chance to celebrate a victory, but now they had one, and here, within sound of their voices, were the Americans who had stopped the Germans in the Champagne.

They cheered wildly and threw kisses and flowers at the men in olive-drab. The men cheered back; their spirits had returned, they had seen the worst of war; there was nothing they could not tackle now. It was good to be alive on this warm July morning with Paris cheering you as a conquering hero. This was the “sort of stuff you read about.”

It was thus the Rainbow Division went toward the Aisne-Marne Offensive for what was to be the bloodiest battle of the outfit’s history. For at this stage of the war it was “Push while the pushing is good,” and no division of soldiers with such reputations as the Rainbow for steadfastness and valor could be permitted to rest while there were such possibilities of getting the enemy on the run, not even when that division had been in actual combat without rest since midwinter.

The 3rd Division had just completed blocking the Germans at the Marne, as detailed in James Isaac Jenrette’s WWI post. The 42nd Division was now joining them in the area of Château-Thierry for the first Allied offensive.

The 42nd Division Memorial at Croix Rouge Farm

The Aisne-Marne Offensive included the capture of La Croix Rouge Farm: a clearing surrounded by forests on four sides with a road running diagonally SE to NW. The road and woods were lined with German machine gun nests. The 42nd Division relieved the 26th Division. The artillery of the 26th Division stayed in position to assist.

Much has been written about the La Croix Rouge Farm battle, which is too long to recount here. One source: http://croixrougefarm.org/history-battle/

The 42nd began the attack on the morning of July 26. Six days and nights of constant fighting of the hardest kind ended on August 1st when the Germans stole silently away at night.

Source: Official History of the 42nd Rainbow Division
The Rainbow had outwitted, outgamed and outfought the best soldiers in the German army. They were now in full retreat. The weather was hot, and the country full of ruined villages, dead, unburied bodies…and thousands of dead horses.

The men were dirty; baths were next to impossible. But instead of being withdrawn from the salient which seemed on the verge of becoming a pest-hole, the Rainbow Division infantry was held in reserve for nearly a week. Sickness broke out.

There were gaps in the ranks of the Rainbow now—big gaps.

On August 17 the division was loaded into cars marked “Hommes 40, Chevaux 8,” and rolled off to the Bourmont area. It was booked for a period of “intensive training.”

At that point, many replacements for the infantry arrived. The division had over 5500 casualties just in the Aisne-Marne Offensive alone.

For the first time, the Division was being resupplied and rested.

Five replacements were from Brunswick County and only recently inducted into the Army. Two would be wounded in the coming weeks (their profiles will follow this one).

Fortunately, as stated in his interview, Wagoner Mercer’s wounds were slight and he returned to duty.

After the Armistice, Wagoner Mercer served in the Army of Occupation, then returned with his unit in April 1919. He rejoined his family in Bolivia, married Annie Mae McKeithan in 1925, and raised a family. He was a farmer, sawmill operator, and county forest ranger before his retirement.

Dorman Lowell Mercer was laid to rest on December 6, 1996, at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Bolivia, NC, beside his wife. He was 102. No military honors are shown.

Sources:
Reilly, Henry J. (1936). Americans All, The Rainbow at War:Official History of the 42nd Rainbow Division in the World War. Columbus, OH: Heer.

Sherwood, Elmer W. (1929). Diary of a Rainbow Veteran. Terre Haute, IN: Moore-Langen.

Thompkins, Raymond S. (1919). The Story of the Rainbow Division. NY: Boni & Liveright.

World War I American Battle Monuments Commission (1944). 42d Division Summary of Operations in the World War. Washington DC: GPO.


If you would like to help us honor Dorman Lowell Mercer or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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Donor honors WWI POW Robert Bollie Stanley with military marker

On February 28, 2018, The State Port Pilot (Southport) published a story ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ served in the Great War about Brunswick County’s WWI Buffalo Soldiers.

WWI Profiles had been featured on this website about the three Brunswick County African American men who were wounded or died while serving with the 92nd Division “Buffalo Soldiers”:

Pvt William Frederick Brooks (Died of Disease),
Pfc William James Gordon (Wounded), and
Pvt Robert Bollie Stanley (Wounded, POW).

While reading the final words in The Pilot (shown below) about Private Robert Bollie Stanley, Brunswick County’s only known WWI Prisoner of War who also lost most of his right leg, donor Allen Dunstan was inspired to come forward and offer to honor the soldier.

“No one requested a military headstone, so this brave soldier’s sacrifice for his nation is not readily apparent.”


Allen contacted The State Port Pilot and requested information about the Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range. Eventually, he was able to share the story of how he came to be in Southport and what inspired him to make the donation.

“I arrived in Southport 5 years ago and a romance was kindled. I had never heard of Southport before I came to work at the Duke Energy power plant. Noticing a modest cross-hatch on the roadmap, and that it was near the plant, I decided to check out the area. Seeing the quaint town and waterfront, it was no decision to remain in Southport.

“Exploring the town and surrounding area, I had visited the two cemeteries in town plus the one near Old Brunswick Town. The markers tell a lot more than simply what’s written on them.

“When I read the ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ article in The State Port Pilot, I was touched by the sentence, ‘No one requested a military headstone, so this brave soldier’s sacrifice for his nation is not readily apparent.’ He remains unknown but to God.

“On the one hand, I hope we as a nation never learn the identities of the interred unknown soldiers. They must remain unknown but to God, and thereby provide a measure of hope and comfort to many families in that these tombs could be the final resting places of their loved ones. On the other hand, the resting place for Robert Bollie Stanley is known and I thought it would be an encouragement to his family to have his service recognized.”


The Stanley Cemetery (photo above) is now surrounded by the Brierwood Golf Course.

The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range reached out to identify the owners of the cemetery as well as locate a descendant for permission. Findagrave photos shown above are courtesy of Marcus Stanley (unrelated) who suggested we contact Joe Stanley for help. Joe Stanley (also unrelated), assisted in finding Pvt Stanley’s grandson because the last remaining survivor, Pvt Stanley’s daughter, had just passed away. We thank everyone for their help.

The permissions have now been received, and the military flat marker ordered and paid for by Allen Dunstan. Installation and dedication is planned for May 7, 2019, at 11:00am.

Thank you, Allen, for your thoughtfulness in honoring Pvt Stanley’s sacrifice!

ROBERT B STANLEY
PVT 365 INFANTRY
92 DIVISION “BUFFALO SOLDIERS”
WORLD WAR I
NOV 6 1894 SEPT 22 1961
PURPLE HEART & EX-POW

Note: The three soldiers listed above were casualties while serving with the Buffalo Soldiers in WWI. Four additional men from Brunswick County have been identified as serving in the infantry for the Buffalo Soldiers. Their names are listed on the 92nd Division rosters.

The Brunswick Beacon also featured the Buffalo Soldiers in their March 1, 2018 issue.

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WWI Profile: Jackson Berry Potter 1896-1972

To view this or an earlier profile at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Photos of her great uncle Jack contributed by Dale Coleman Spencer
Jackson Berry Potter
Winnabow, Brunswick County, NC
NC National Guard
Wagoner

Served:
July 12, 1917 – May 12, 1919
Overseas:
December 8, 1917 – April 28, 1919

Jackson Potter was born in Brunswick County, NC. A partial family tree is located in FamilySearch.

In June 1917, Jack registered for the WWI Draft as required. His registration shows he was single, living in Town Creek, and farming and supporting his parents.

A month later, Jack enlisted in the NC National Guard. He initially was a Horseshoer but in October he became a Wagoner, which he held throughout the war.

What is a Wagoner?

Horses and mules were crucial in this time period.

“Horses and mules carried men to battle and wounded men to safety. They transported food, water, medical supplies, guns, ammunition, and artillery to the front lines through appalling weather, over unforgiving terrain, in horrifying situations, and surrounded by dead and dying men and animals. Yet they continued to do their part, in spite of being terrified and often while sick and wounded themselves, and they worked until they were annihilated by guns or poison gas, or simply died in their harnesses from exposure and sheer exhaustion.” [Source: Fran Jurga’s blog]

Eight million horses and mules died in WW1. And Wagoners were some of those responsible for their well being.

Greg Krenzelok, Historian for the US Army Veterinary Corps Historical Preservation Group (Facebook link), details the many and overwhelming duties of the U.S. Army Wagoner here.

Army vehicle transportation by animal consists of spring wagons, ambulances, and escort wagons. The Wagoner must have the skills to care for the animal and machinery, plus understand how to handle both. He is responsible for his team, harness, and wagon, tools and spare parts, and the condition in which he keeps them is a measure of his efficiency. A successful Wagoner is one who keeps his wagon and animals in good condition and gets his load to its destination at the proper time. This requires constant attention from morning until night.

Recall the WWI Profile of Martin Newman Mintz in which a lack of horses and mules forced his Artillery Brigade to withdraw. Horses and mules and those who cared for them and handled them were crucial in war.

With the country still struggling to heal following the Civil War, the formation of the Rainbow Division offered an opportunity to unite. August 1917, the Rainbow Division was formed with National Guard troops in 26 states from California to Oregon to New York and Alabama. It was an all volunteer division.

The Washington correspondents who had grabbed the story from the War Department and flashed it red-hot all over the nation had many glorious words to say about the fact that America’s sons from the north and the south, the east and the west were at last going to fight side by side to make the world safe for democracy. America was sending a “Rainbow” of hope to Europe. ~The Story of the Rainbow Division (1919)

Wagoner Jackson Potter

The rainbow became the name and insignia of the division that stretched “over the whole country like a rainbow.” Its initial design was a half arc, but later modified to a quarter arc to memorialize half of the division’s soldiers who became casualties during WWI.

This photograph of Wagoner Jackson Potter shows the insignia on his shoulder as a quarter arc, which indicates it was taken near the end or after the Great War. The two chevrons on his lower sleeve indicate 2-6 month periods of service overseas, another indication this photo was taken after the war.

Camp Mills, Long Island
Source: Library of Congress


By mid-September 1917, 27,000 men were assembled in Camp Mills on Long Island. The entire country was vested in their success.

The North Carolina National Guard was chosen to provide the troops for the 117th Engineer Train. The table below shows those from Brunswick County. Most were also Wagoners.

42nd Division, 117th Engineer Train

Name Co.
Wag Joseph L Clemmons Transferred 09/27/1918
Wag Pearl Collum
Wag John B Cox Transferred 05/19/1918
Horseshoer James E Gilbert
Wag Erie J Gore SCD 10/10/1917
Wag David M Hilburn
Pvt John H Holden
Wag George Floyd Kirby
Saddler Josiah C Maultsby SCD 01/12/1918
Pfc William O McKeithan
Wag Dorman L Mercer Wounded 07/27/1918
Wag Joseph E Mintz
Mess Sgt Clyde Needham A Bugler at discharge
Wag Walter D Nelson
Wag Adrian Phelps SCD 10/10/1917
Wag Jackson B Potter
Pfc Vance Reynolds
Wag Herbert T Sellers
Pvt Oscar David Sellers SCD 10/10/1917
Wag James D Skipper
Wag Wesley W Skipper

Shown below are the pages from the 1917 published roster. All of the Brunswick County men are included; not all appear in alphabetical order.

“Roster of the Rainbow Division (Forty-Second)”

Most of the 42nd Division left the United States on October 18, 1917, straight for St. Nazaire, France. It was one of the first divisions to arrive in France. Some units, including a ship of infantry that was forced to return early in the trip due to engine trouble, did not begin the journey until December. Pvt Potter boarded at Newport News, VA,  on December 8, 1917, joining the Division during their intensive training in France.

The day after Christmas, the 42nd began a 100 kilometer march to a new training area. This march was later known as “The Valley Forge Hike.”

The supply system had not yet been established, which meant the soldiers had little food, no overcoats, and no spare shoes. A blizzard created huge drifts of three or four feet deep. Men were often marching barefoot through the snow, creating bloody tracks similar to Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. They huddled together to keep warm at night, as temperatures dropped below zero. Many became ill and could not continue.

The Americans’ respect for the French grew, as they contemplated four years of war and the possibility of never returning home.

Upon arrival, the engineers (and trains) were busy day and night.

Source: US Army: Rainbow Division soldiers get ready for war in the winter of 1918

A French instructor introduces National Guard Soldiers of the 42nd “Rainbow” Division to life in the trenches during World War I. French instructors taught American Soldiers the basics of trench warfare as the Americans prepared to enter combat in the winter of 1918. ( Courtesy New York State Military Museum)

Rainbow engineers from the 117th Engineers, originally from North and South Carolina, had worked tirelessly to improve conditions during the division’s time at the training area near Rolampont. The regiment built 80 barracks, 70 horse stables, 18 bath units, pigeon lofts, latrines and reworked electrical and water systems for the thousands of Doughboys now preparing for combat.

The engineers then went on to conduct their combat training at night, providing classes for officers and NCOs or small arms ranges, marches and drill.

In February, the 42nd Division prepared to enter the front. They quietly took their places in the trenches in the Luneville sector in Northeast France, without alerting the enemy. This was previously a quiet sector but the Americans were anxious to prove themselves. Soon they were in the thick of an active sector.

A month later, the Division was ordered to rest. However, the German offensive was unleashed on March 21, 1918. The Division was ordered to return. The Rainbow Division was given the honor of being the first American division to occupy a divisional sector on its own and under its own command.

Over and over again, the Division was ordered to rest, but was unable to do so. It is credited with 264 days of combat, with half the division becoming casualties. It holds the record for continuous duty at the front line for three months straight. Following the Armistice on November 11, 1918, the Rainbow Division became part of the Army of Occupation, remaining in Germany until April 1919.

Details of the 42nd Division’s record of continuous duty at the front line will be included in the posts following this one.

In April 1919, Jack returned to the United States with many of his fellow NC wagoners. He returned to the family farm. He married Fannie Lewis in 1920, raising a family in Brunswick County.

Source: findagrave
In 1972, at the age of 75, Jackson Berry Potter passed away. He was laid to rest in Peace Memorial Baptist Church Cemetery in Winnabow. A military flat marker is shown.

Sources:
Johnson, Lieut. Harold Stanley (1917) “Roster of the Rainbow Division (Forty-Second)”. New York, Eaton & Gettinger, Inc. Printers.

Reilly, Henry J. (1936). Americans All, The Rainbow at War:Official History of the 42nd Rainbow Division in the World War. Columbus, OH: Heer.

Sherwood, Elmer W. (1929). Diary of a Rainbow Veteran. Terre Haute, IN: Moore-Langen.

Thompkins, Raymond S. (1919). The Story of the Rainbow Division. NY: Boni & Liveright.

World War I American Battle Monuments Commission (1944). 42d Division Summary of Operations in the World War. Washington DC: GPO.

If you would like to help us honor Jackson Berry Potter or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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WWI Profile: James Isaac Jenrette 1894-1973

To view this or an earlier profile at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Insignia of the 3rd Division
James Isaac Jenrette
Ash, Brunswick County, NC
Regular Army
Private
Served:
November 22, 1917 – January 10, 1919
Overseas:
April 6, 1918 – December 31, 1918
Wounded: July 26, 1918

James Isaac Jenrette was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC. A partial family tree is located in FamilySearch. James had two brothers who also served, Wendell Vivian Jenrette, who served stateside in the Army, and Walter Regan Jenrette, who served in the Navy.

His WWI Draft Registration shows he was single, living in Ash, and working for his father on his farm.

James did not wait to be drafted, but enlisted in the Regular Army on November 22, 1917, at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He was assigned to Company G, 4th Infantry, 3rd “Rock of the Marne/Blue and White Devils” Division.

On April 6, 1918, Pvt Jenrette boarded Great Northern [Source: Ancestry] at Newport News, VA, with the rest of his unit [Source: Ancestry].

Pvt Jenrette was present when his Division earned their nickname “Rock of the Marne” after famously holding back the Germans on the Marne River on July 14, 1918. Their commanding officer cried, “Nous Resterons La” (We Shall Remain Here), which became their motto. General Pershing called this stand “one of the most brilliant pages in the annals of military history”.

Source: Wikipedia: 2nd Battle of the Marne
The Second Battle of the Marne (July 15 – August 6, 1918) was the last major German offensive on the Western Front. The attack failed and marked the start of the relentless Allied advance which culminated in the Armistice with Germany about 100 days later.

The Germans’ target was the salient, shown at left, in the shape of a triangle with Château-Thierry at the apex. The other sides, about 45 km each, were formed by the cities of Soissons and Reims.

Source of map, photo, and descriptions below: The Journal of the World War One Historical Association: Rock of the Marne, from a lecture in the 1930s for the US Army Infantry School at Leavenworth, KS

This map shows the Marne River and the location of Pvt Jenrette’s division, which was under French command. The 3rd Division is in the lower section of the map, which includes four infantry regiments: 4th, 7th, 30th, and 38th. Pvt Jenrette served in the 4th Infantry.

The Army’s defensive positions had not been completed before the enemy struck.

At midnight, July 14-15, the Germans began the artillery barrage. At 3:50am on July 15th, the enemy began their advance.

With hard fighting occurring all around them, the sector occupied by the 3rd Division faced the severest fighting by the American troops.

The Marne River in this area is 30-40 yards wide and too deep to ford. There were no bridges, and forests concealed the enemy’s approach. The area being defended by the 3rd Division was a vantage point desired by the enemy due to its tactical and strategic point of view.

As the enemy began to cross the river, Pvt Jenrette’s 3rd Division gave everything to prevent them from landing. Those Germans who succeeded in reaching the banks wiped out several platoons.

“At 3:30 am the general fire ceased and their creeping barrage started—behind which at 40 yards only, mind you, they came—with more machine guns than I thought the German Army owned.

“The enemy had to battle their way through the first platoon on the river bank—then they took on the second platoon on the forward edge of the railway where we had a thousand times the best of it—but the [Germans] gradually wiped it out. My third platoon [took] their place in desperate hand to hand fighting, in which some got through only to be picked up by the fourth platoon which was deployed simultaneously with the third. By the time they struck the fourth platoon they were all in and easy prey.

“It’s God’s truth that one Company of American soldiers beat and routed a full regiment of picked shock troops of the German Army. At ten o’clock the Germans were carrying back wounded and dead [from] the river bank and we in our exhaustion let them do it—they carried back all but six hundred which we counted later and fifty-two machine guns.

“We had started with 251 men and 5 lieutenants. I had left 51 men and 2 second lieutenants.”

~ Capt. Jesse Woolridge, Commander of Company G., 38th Infantry, 3rd Division


A German Officer’s Impressions

“I have never seen so many dead. I have never seen such a frightful spectacle of war. On the other bank the Americans, in close combat, had destroyed two of our companies. Lying down in the wheat, they had allowed our troops to approach and then annihilated them at a range of 30 to 50 yards.’The Americans kill everyone,’ was the cry of fear on July 15—a cry that caused our men to tremble for a long time.”

~ Lieutenant Kurt Hesse, Adjutant, German 5th Grenadiers

By the end of July 15th, the 3rd Division had not only stopped the two attacking enemy divisions, they had blocked the important Surmelin Valley and thereby halted the entire German advance. The last German offensive of the war had ended.

“A single regiment of the Third Division wrote one of the most brilliant pages in the annals of military history in preventing the crossing at certain points of its front, while on either flank the Germans, who had gained a footing, pressed forward. Our men were fighting in three directions, met the German attacks with counterattacks at critical points, and succeeded in throwing two German divisions into complete confusion, capturing 600 prisoners.”

~ General Pershing

Department of Army Poster, US Army Center of Military History
Near Mézy, France, July 1918. Here the German Army made its last great attack of World War I. It struck in the Marne River area along the road to Paris, and the weight of the blow fell on the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment under the command of MG Ulysses G. McAlexander, of the 3rd Division. This was their first fight. Firing in three directions, blasted by artillery fire, taking all flesh and blood could stand, the regiments held on doggedly and threw the enemy back across the Marne. This defense checked the Germans’ assault and made an Allied offensive possible. General Pershing called it “one of the most brilliant pages of our military annals.”


Pvt Jenrette’s NC WWI Service Card shows he was slightly injured on July 26, 1918. No details are available and it is not known when he returned to service.

The 3rd Division was not relieved until July 31st, totaling a bruising 70 days in continuous front line service.

During the operations in the Marne area, the 3rd Division suffered the following casualties:
1096 KIA
4833 Wounded
1777 Gassed
231 Missing
34 POW

In all, the 3rd Division was credited with the following operations:
Somme defensive
Lys defensive
Aisne defensive
Montdidier-Noyon defensive
Champagne-Marne defensive
Aisne-Marne Offensive
Somme Offensive
Oise-Aisne Offensive
Ypre-Lys Offensive
St. Mihiel Offensive
Meuse-Argonne Offensive
with the total number of battle casualties 16,456.

On November 14, 1918, after the Armistice, Pvt Jenrette transferred to Prisoner of War Escort until December 1918. According to his NC WWI Service Card, he returned on December 31, 1918. The Passenger List [Source: Ancestry] shows he boarded Ryndam for the return home on December 18, 1918, with other sick soldiers. The excerpt below shows him classified as “B-1” or “Available for limited military service.” Although unconfirmed, the likely reason is a temporary illness such as influenza. He was honorably discharged with no disability on January 10, 1919.

Source: Ancestry.com. U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

He returned to farming at his family’s farm in Ash. Soon after, he married and raised a family, continuing to farm in Brunswick County. Years later, his son, James Herman Jenrette served in the US Army after graduation from Mars College (now Mars University) in Asheville, NC.

James Isaac Jenrette passed away on November 13, 1973, in Elizabethtown, Bladen County, NC. He was laid to rest in McKeithan Cemetery in Ash, NC, with other members of his family. Military honors are not displayed.

Sources:
Hemenway, Frederic Vinton (1919) History of the Third division, United States army, in the world war : for the period, December 1, 1917, to January 1, 1919. Andernach-On-The-Rhine: M. Dumont Schauberg

The Journal of the World War One Historical Association: Rock of the Marne, from a lecture in the 1930s for the US Army Infantry School at Leavenworth, KS

If you would like to help us honor James Isaac Jenrette or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

Click the category: Veteran Profile here or at the bottom of any veteran profile post to see all of the veteran profiles published. Follow or subscribe to the blog to stay updated on all new profiles.

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Ethan Pannkuk achieves Eagle Scout rank with rifle range project

Yesterday we received exciting news from Ethan Pannkuk. The previous evening, January 7, he was awarded the highest rank from the Boy Scouts of America, Eagle Scout.

Ethan chose the Fort Caswell Rifle Range as the focus of his Eagle Scout Project. He spent many months researching, planning, and raising funds.

Then last March, Ethan and members from BSA Troop 210 of Carolina Beach spent two grueling days working on the target pit at the rifle range.

Ethan is shown at right with his proud father.

The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range are proud of Ethan’s achievement and appreciate his and his troop members’ hard work on the rifle range.

Stories and photos showing the progress last year can be found here: Day 1 and Day 2.

The State Port Pilot newspaper article about the work can be found here.

The Brunswick Beacon article is here.

The Star News article is here.

Note: The Brunswick Beacon announced Ethan’s milestone in the January 24 edition. Read about it here:
Ethan Pannkuk earns Eagle Scout ranking

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WWI Profile: Guy Ellis Watson 1895-1918

To view this or an earlier profile at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Guy Ellis Watson
Leland, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private
Served:
March 21, 1918 – October 21, 1918
Died of Disease: October 21, 1918

Guy Ellis Watson was born around 1895 in either New Hanover or Brunswick County, NC, and raised in Brunswick County. The 1900 Census shows him born in June 1893 (with brother Quincy Manual born in March 1893, clearly a mistake was made), living in Town Creek, Brunswick County, with father Wiley Worth and mother Eliza Jean Watson.

The 1910 Census lists Guy as 15 years old, a laborer at the farm. His brother Quincy is now reported as 17 years old, also a farmer. There are a total of seven children reported as born, all living.

Guy’s WWI Draft Registration Card (listed as Ellis Watson) shows him born in New Berlin, NC, on June 9, 1894, living in Leland, single, and working at a sawmill (Appomattox Box Shook Company). His NC WWI Service Card lists “Hanover, NC” as his birthplace.

Ellis Watson was ordered to report for duty on March 22, 1918 [Source:Ancestry] and sent to Camp Jackson, NC.

On April 24, he went to Medical Detachment, Embarkation Hospital, at Camp Stuart, VA. At the same time, Brunswick County Privates Willie Winfield Millinor (on our WWI Wall of Honor) and Roy McKeithan (later Sgt) were assigned, presumably making the trip with him.

Note: More Brunswick County men could have served there. NC WWI Service cards of those serving in Medical Detachment units do not always include the location of the hospital.

Embarkation Hospital, Camp Stuart.
Source: National Archives

There were many responsibilities at the hospital, and no information to determine exactly what Private Watson did while serving. Some of the more interesting duties include mosquito control due to Camp Stuart located within a swampy area; the control of flies, many because of the holding area for horses to ship overseas and the dumping of manure into the swamp; the control of bedbugs, cockroaches, fleas and lice; and embarkation and debarkation delousing stations.

In 1918, over 273,000 troops moved through the embarkation port.

Private Watson was attended from October 9, 1918 to October 21, 1918 in the Camp Stuart Hospital for influenza. During that time, his older brother Quincy Watson passed away from influenza/pneumonia on October 11 in the High School Emergency Hospital in Wilmington, NC, where many were dying from the influenza pandemic [Source: Death Certificate in Ancestry]. Read more about how influenza affected NC in Robert Guy Farmer’s WWI Profile post.

Guy Ellis Watson eventually succumbed to acute lobar pneumonia on October 21, 1918. [Source: Death Certificate in Ancestry] Historical data shows a peak of patients and deaths occurred in the hospital during the month of October 1918 during the influenza pandemic with a total of 5,562 patients (4,425 new cases of influenza) and 204 deaths.

Guy Ellis Watson was laid to rest in Benton Cemetery in Maco, Brunswick County, NC, joining his older brother, Quincy Manual Watson. His headstone, shown above, gives no indication he died while serving his country.

Source: The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, Volume IV, Activities Concerning Mobilization Camps and Ports of Embarkation. Washington : US Govt Printing Office : 1928, Chapter 24

If you would like to help us honor Guy Ellis Watson or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

Click the category: Veteran Profile here or at the bottom of any veteran profile post to see all of the veteran profiles published. Follow or subscribe to the blog to stay updated on all new profiles.

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