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Source: Soldiers of the Great War, Vol. II
William Cross Hewett
Supply, Brunswick County, NC
September 19, 1917 – October 25, 1918
May 12, 1918 – October 25, 1918
Died of Wounds: October 25, 1918
William “Willie” Cross Hewett was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC. A partial family tree can be found in FamilySearch. Willie had a half brother who also served, Pvt Claudie Hall McCall. His WWI Profile will follow this one.
Willie’s World War I Draft Registration Card shows that he was single and farming his own farm in Supply, NC.
He was ordered to report to duty on September 19, 1917, and was accepted for duty on October 3 [Source: ancestry.com]. Pvt Hewett was originally assigned to HQ, 322th Infantry, 81st Division. Many from the 81st Division were moved to supplement the 30th Division and this included Pvt Hewett. On October 16th he was reassigned to Company C, 120th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division. He eventually began training at Camp Sevier, SC, as reported in previous posts.
Previous posts described the heroic battle at the Hindenburg Line, which was the turning point of the war. The battle was from September 29 – October 1, 1918.
Private Willie C. Hewett died of wounds on October 25, 1918. He was 23 years old. It is not known if he was wounded during the Hindenburg Line assault or the days after, which have been described in previous posts.
His NC WWI Service Card shows only engagements up to and including the “Hindenburg defensive” which could indicate he was wounded during those dates. But the service cards are not completely accurate and few actually include names of engagements. It is unfortunate that there is no information available to clarify when he was wounded.
Given that his half brother Pvt Claudie McCall served in the same infantry, hopefully he was able to give Willie some comfort before his death.
On June 19, 1921, the steamship Wheaton left Belgium, returning his remains along with thousands of others. This steamship made three trips, returning a total of almost 13,000 bodies [Source]
At the end of the First World War, 75,640 United States Dead were buried in Europe. This included all services: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Ambulance Services, YMCA, and others.
In January 1920, a plan was advanced by the U.S. Congress to bring all the American Dead home. This was projected to cost some $8,000,000. Immediately, a movement was mounted by parents of the Dead to allow them to rest in peace. The plan was scaled down to returning 45,000 and this was reduced further as time went on.
To further the pain of the survivors, there were reports of funeral directors and funeral homes profiteering from this movement. This misconduct affirmed many families not to have their dead returned. Measures were put into place to assure the remains would go only to the funeral directors of the families’ choice.
The steamship MERCURY arrived in the United States in April 1920 with 353 bodies (all but 80 who had been buried in France). Once the movement began in earnest some 2000 bodies reportedly arrived per week. In September 1920, 6281 bodies arrived in one transport.
When steamship WHEATON arrived at Hoboken, New Jersey, on 18 May 1921 with 5212 bodies (2800 received from Cherbourg and 1000 more from Antwerp) the total of dead was brought to 23,000. WHEATON made two other trips in 1921 carrying some 7600 dead. CANTIGNY brought 2804 more in two trips in the fall of 1921.
This serves to explain the relatively “few” American graves in Europe, considering the sacrifices made.
The number of Dead repatriated was approximately 33,400 from all services or some 44 percent of the total buried in Europe.
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