WWI Profile: Willie Hasper Hewett 1896-1962

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Henry Lindon Clemmons (center) is shown with the six other men from Brunswick County ordered to report for duty on October 15, 1917. Beside him (order unknown) are Luther J. Inman, Owen R. Mintz, Willie H. Hewett, Robert W. Holden, Mack Leonard, and Isaac Fred Edge.
Contributed by Gwen Causey, granddaughter of Henry Lindon Clemmons

Willie Hasper Hewett
Shallotte, Brunswick County, NC
US Army

October 15, 1917 – January 26, 1919
July 31, 1918 – December 20, 1918
Wounded: November 10, 1918

Willie Hasper Hewett was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC. His family tree is located in FamilySearch.

Willie’s WWI Draft Registration shows he was single, living in Shallotte, and working as a barber, farmer, and laborer in Supply and Shallotte for parents and himself. He was described as medium height, weight, with blue eyes and light hair. (If anyone can identify each man in the photo based on their physical descriptions, please contact Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range.)

He was ordered to report for duty on October 15, 1917, with the other six men shown in the above photograph. All were sent to Camp Jackson, SC, and officially accepted on October 26. [Source: ancestry.com], then assigned to Company F, 322nd Infantry, 81st “Wildcat” Division.  (Robert Holden and Owen Mintz would be reassigned before leaving for Europe, while Isaac Edge was honorably discharged with a disability in Dec 1917.)

Willie served as a bugler. The previous WWI Profile of Bugler William Ralph Smith included details and pictures of buglers and their dangerous mission communicating orders to the troops. Brunswick County had four known buglers; all served overseas. Two were wounded.

From previous posts, the 81st Division had completed their operations at the St. Die sector, then left on October 19, 1918 at 2:30 am. They hiked 50 km in two days with full packs, then rested and trained for their entrance in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.

Passing through St. Mihiel gave the division their first view of the destruction in France. Reading the entries in the diary of Thomas Shinn helps us understand their experience as they marched through the countryside.

Monday, November 3, 1918
We passed through St. Mihiel which was once a beautiful city but now hardly a stone was left unmoved.

Churches and school buildings were piled up as a whirlwind piles up loose sand in March. Great steel manufacturing plants looked as tho’ a flood had struck them. Great fields which had once supplied France with grain are now covered in barbed wire and shell craters. Great forests which would have supplied France with wood to burn and lumber to build were [illegible] down as a mower cuts his hay.

The closer they moved to the front, the more detailed the diary entries became.

Tuesday, November 5, 1918
Eight o’clock caught us hiking again. It was a long hard hike and we didn’t have much to eat.

We were entertained in the day time by air battles between planes, at night by the flash of guns and the pretty colored flares that signify orders for the artillery.

I went 6 weeks without pulling off my clothes and 35 days without pulling off my shoes and had cooties on me at the same time but that’s not a disgrace for every soldier has them on the front. He doesn’t have time to think of clothes baths beds or how deep the mud is but he only wonders how he can save his skin and kill the Hun.

They arrived in Verdun, a town that was previously home to 25,000 but was now “torn to pieces, not a wall was left standing.” The 81st Division was to relieve the 35th Division.

At 10pm, they were called to move into the reserve trenches. Called the “Underground city of Verdun” it had never been taken by the Germans.

Thursday, November 7, 1918
The top of the ground was a solid mass of human and horse bones.

It is said that more than 700,000 bodies are buried on this hill.

I looked upon the skeletons of many horses and men buried together and had been blown up by the big shells that are still coming over. In so many cases a ring or any metal thing that the man had in his pocket still lay there and by the bones of horses still lay parts of the saddle and the bridle bits between his teeth.

We are getting used to cooties by this time. The only thing I was scared of in the dugout was rats. We had some there as big as common house cats.

On November 8, orders were received to attack early the next morning. They were to take a line from Fresnes-en-Woevre to Parfrondrupt, the infantry in positions from right to left: 324th, 323rd, 322nd, and 321st. The attack was to be directed toward the road. This was the first time the 81st Division would go over the top. The 322nd and 324th Infantries would lead the way, with the other two in reserve.

Bugler Willie Hewett was wounded on November 10, degree undetermined. The wounds were severe enough to be sent home. (More details of the battle will follow in the next profile post.)

In those three days fighting, there were 178 killed, nearly 800 wounded, 57 captured, and 6 missing.

On December 8, 1918, he left Beau Desert, a 550 acre hospital about 5 miles west of Bordeaux.

Beau Desert
Total number of admissions to April 1, 1919: 47,238
Of those, transferred to the United States: 22,880
Returned to Duty: 12,699

He boarded Mallory, destination: Ellis Island. The passenger list included the description that these were “patients needing dressings” which indicated his wounds were not yet healed. [Source: ancestry.com]

Bugler Willie Hewett was honorably discharged on January 26, 1919. He had no reported disability.

Willie was married in January 1920. The 1920 Census shows he and his wife were living in Southport, rooming with a John C. Fulbright and his wife. John Fulbright was from Louisiana and served at Jackson Barracks, Louisiana, during the war, re-enlisting afterward. The census shows Willie Hewett as also continuing to serve with the US Army. Willie’s military headstone application [Source: ancestry.com] shows he re-enlisted on October 1, 1919, with an honorable discharge on October 19, 1920.

He and his wife raised several children in Brunswick County. Willie Hasper Hewett passed away on May 22, 1962 at age 66. He had spent the previous 4 years in a nursing home. He was laid to rest in Gurganus Cemetery in Shallotte. A military marble headstone was approved and shipped but it is not shown in findagrave.

Johnson, Clarence Walton (1919) The history of the 321st infantry, with a brief historical sketch of the 80th division, being a vivid and authentic account of the life and experiences of American soldiers in France, while they trained, worked, and fought to help win the world war. . Columbia, S.C., The R. L. Bryan co.

Thomas P. Shinn’s Wartime Diary

81st Division Summary of Operations in the World War, US Govt, 1944

If you would like to help us honor Willie Hasper Hewett 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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