WWI Profile: Luther Marvin Benton 1891-1966

Source: 119th Infantry Unit Rosters for Company A to Company C, Page 2.
Luther Marvin Benton
Ash, Brunswick County, NC
US Army

March 21, 1918 – April 7, 1919
May 11, 1918 – April 2, 1919
Wounded: August 17, 1918; October 17, 1918

 Luther Marvin Benton was born and raised in Brunswick County. He was ordered to report to duty on March 22, 1918 [Source: ancestry.com]. His WWI Draft Card shows he was single and a farmer. He was sent to Camp Jackson, SC, then joined the 119th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division at Camp Sevier, SC, on April 24, 1918.

Refer to the previous posts outlining the history of the division. (Only information specific to the 119th Infantry will be included here.)

The 119th Infantry had been training since the Fall of 1917. From History, 119th Infantry, 60th Brigade, 30th Division, U. S. A. Operations in Belgium and France, 1917-1919

A system of trenches was constructed by the 105th Engineers and these used extensively by the Regiment, in order that the men might become somewhat familiar with trench life, and their tactical use. A large target range was also constructed and on this the men were trained in the art of shooting accurately and rapidly, in order that they might protect their own lines in time to come.

Pvt Benton had little time for training before boarding the British Steamship Ascania in May with the rest of Company A.

In May 1918 when they left for France, the 119th Infantry included 1,800 men from the State of North Carolina, 900 from Tennessee, and 700 from the States of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The company roster of enlisted men begins on page 60. The following Brunswick County men were located in the roster, which includes the date returned to service after injury.

Name Co. Returned to Duty
Cpl Mack D Atkins G Wounded: 09/11/1918 12/02/1918
Cpl Edgar L Ballard B Slightly Gassed: 10/29/1918 11/27/1918
Pvt Luther M Benton A Wounded: 08/17 & 10/17/1918 12/02/1918
Pfc John W Carlisle K Died of Disease: 02/16/1919
Pfc Perry G Carlisle I Sick: 10/31/1918 12/22/1918
Cpl Joseph W. Chinnis I Transferred: 01/29/1919
Cpl Calmer T Clemmons F Wounded: 09/29 & 10/18/1918
Wag William P Comron/Cameron Sup
Pvt John F Cox E
Cook Henry B Danford I
Pvt Herman D Fulford L Severely Wounded: 10/14/1918
Pvt Samuel G Fulford C Wounded: 10/17/1918 11/26/1918
Pfc James R Ganey MG
Cpl Elder E Heath I Severely Wounded: 09/29/1918 12/02/1918
Sfc Van G Mintz E Wounded: 10/10/1918 11/01/1918
Cook Alvah H Nance I
Cpl Lindsey Piggott B Severely Wounded: 09/29/1918
Pvt Herbert Rabon I
Cpl Rufus E Sellers I Wounded: 09/29/1918 10/17/1918
Pvt Everet J Skipper I
Cpl George L Skipper D
Pvt Benjamin B Smith A  Severely Wounded: 09/29/1918; Died of Wounds
Cpl Curtis L Smith G
Pvt Goodman Smith A
Pvt Percy A Smith H
Capt Benjamin West
Pfc Albert W Williams M Severely Wounded: 10/10/1918 11/14/1918
Cpl Henry D Williams M

Note: Pvt Samuel Claudius Swain and Pvt Harry Lee Dosher do not appear on the roster above because they were no longer among the 119th Infantry in May 1918 when the roster was created.

An earlier WWI Profile covered Pvt Swain’s death on January 7, 1918. He was in Company C.

Pvt Dosher was given a Surgeons Certificate of Disability (SCD) release on March 3, 1918. He had been ill for some time at Camp Jackson [Source: Wilmington Dispatch, 10 Mar 1918, p. 9] He was in Company G.

Additional note: Pfc Perry G Carlisle is listed as sick from October 31 – December 22, 1918. His NC Service Card does not indicate he was wounded or gassed, and no reports were found in newspapers that list the wounded. The assumption is he was actually ill, likely from the influenza pandemic of 1918.

Three British Transports, Ascania, Haverford and Laomadon met in the Harbor at Halifax, Nova Scotia, formed a convey with nine others, and sailed for England. The convoy was escorted by the British Cruiser Cornwall. On Friday, May 24th, the convoy reached the “danger zone”, and held numerous “abandon ship drills.” Many accounts and diaries of this time express gratitude for the US Navy. The following two excerpts are from the 119th Infantry document referenced above.

At daylight of the 25th several United States Submarine Destroyers were seen chasing all around our convoy, and remained as our best friends until the convoy landed.

About 11:30 p. m., May 26th, a German submarine was sighted within very close range, but it immediately submerged and was not seen again. The crafty Destroyers were on their job and dropped several “depth bombs” at the spot where the submarine had been seen. No disorder or confusion among the troops was caused during these crucial moments.

After reaching England, it took several days before the Regiment arrived in France.

About 9:30 a. m., May 27th, 1918, the convoy filed through the Irish Sea and in a few minutes docked at Liverpool, England. All troops remained on board until 5:00 o’clock that afternoon when the Regiment debarked, and marched a short distance to the train which left at 10:00 p. m., for Dover, England’s chief Channel Port for the exportation of troops. The train passed through London about midnight and arrived at Dover about 8:00 o’clock on the morning of the 28th.

Beginning at 11:00 a. m., on the same date, the Regiment moved by small detachments from Dover, England, across the English Channel to Calais, France, and by the afternoon of May 29th the entire Regiment was once more assembled in camp, located about one and one-half kilometers from Calais.

The 119th Infantry received their gas respirators, ammunition, and swapped their American rifles for British rifles, because they were to serve with the British.

The first night of arrival, the Regiment experienced their first air attack. Colonel Pratt, whose diary has been used in previous veteran profiles, wrote about the experience of an air attack.

You know you are perfectly helpless and if he can make a direct hit on your hut or tent, you are a “goner.” …as you lie in bed listening (if you are awake) to the air planes coming nearer, you and your tent or hut begin to grow larger and larger until it seems to you as though you were bigger than anything else out doors, and that you stand out so distinctly that you just know the air plane is going to drop its bomb on you. It is a very disagreeable feeling. It is a helpless feeling. There is nothing you can do to further protect yourself and you lie “awake” expecting the bomb to hit your tent or hut. It is not only one night, but night after night.

Source: NC Digital Archives
The 119th Infantry was the first American unit to enter Belgium. After endless marching, they finally settled in a camp two kilometers southeast of Watou, Belgium. (First Battalion, pictured at left, includes Pvt Benton’s Company A.)

Pvt Benton’s first injury occurred on August 17, 1918. At that time, during the night, the 119th Infantry was relieving the 98th British Brigade. The orders can be found on page 17 of the document referenced above. During this period of time, spanning the remainder of the month, 64 enlisted men were killed, 208 wounded, 12 Died of Wounds, and 2 were Missing.

Pvt Benton’s injury was not severe enough to be sent home, as he resumed serving and was wounded a second time, on October 17, 1918. Activities during that time will be covered in a future post. (Pvt Samuel Fulford was wounded on that date.) As the chart above shows, he recovered from the injury received in October and returned to service on December 2, 1918.

Pvt Benton returned home with Company A in March 1919. He married and raised his family in the area. Luther Marvin Benton was laid to rest in 1966. Military honors are shown.

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