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
May 27, 1918 – May 9, 1919
July 31, 1918 – April 25, 1919
Wounded: September 29, 1918
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.
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.
How strangely solemn, almost painful to ears long accustomed to the din and tumult of the front!
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.
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.
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