Soldier’s Mail for November, 1917-1918

November, 1917: Neufchateau Training Area

The 26th “Yankee” Division had arrived in France during the month of October, 1917 as the first complete American division and also the first National Guard division to be deployed as part of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). By November of 1917, divisional HQ had been established at Neufchateau in the Vosges region of northeastern France, and a new AEF training center was constructed which would continue to be used throughout the war. Initially troops were billeted in lofts, stables and outbuildings in the surrounding villages until suitable facilities at the training base could be constructed. The 103rd Infantry was billeted at Liffol-Le-Grand and Villouxel to the southwest of Neufchateau. Advanced combat training in trench warfare immediately began under the supervision of the French Army, and additional training in hand-to-hand combat was provided to American officers and NCO’s by the British Army at Bazoilles. Read about the Neufchateau Training Area here. Also, read Sam’s November correspondence from Liffol-le-Grand as the weather grows cold and he prepares for war on the Western Front.

November, 1918: Meuse-Argonne Offensive

In November, 1918 the 26th Division moved into captured German defenses along the Kreimhilde Line with the 103rd Infantry’s center of resistance near Romagne.  The entire divisional front was subject to heavy gas and high explosive artillery fire as the German Army prepared to withdraw. On November 8, the 103rd Infantry responded to evidence of the German retreat with an advance into German front-line positions which they occupied before new advance lines were established. The 26th Division then attacked towards the southeast and remained on the advance until November 11. The 103rd Infantry made its final advance in line with the other regiments in pursuit of the retreating Germans, reaching the road south of Ville-devant-Chaumont before coming to a final halt at 1100 hours.  The men of the 103rd were occupied with clearing machine gun nests until the very last moment, and some were angered when their artillery support suddenly stopped before realizing that hostilites had finally ended.

Read about the Meuse-Argonne Offensive here. Also, read Sam’s November correspondence from captured German lines as he continues to endure both heavy fire and the loss of friends while also worrying about his family during the Spanish Flu epidemic.

The Soldier’s Mail correspondence is published here according to the sequence in which it was written. Therefore, letters are organized in “reverse order” with the most recent at the top. To read them chronologically, readers should start at the bottom and work upwards.

Happy Independence Day!

UncleSam4th

Original Portrait of Sgt. Sam Avery by Jack Skinner

1st Sgt. Samuel Avery, Hdq. Co., 103rd Inf., 26th “Yankee” Division

It has long been my desire to have an original painted portrait of my great-uncle Sam to accompany the book project which is a companion to this website. I turned to my colleague, friend and skilled New England artist Jack Skinner to assist in this endeavor. Over nearly two years, Jack rendered this astonishing work in acrylic paint based on some old photos and painstaking historical research.

This work pictures 1st Sgt. Sam Avery seated in front of the door to a French farmhouse in the Vosges region of France, his Springfield 1903 rifle propped behind him. On the front of Sam’s uniform blouse can be seen ribbons for the World War I Victory Medal with 5 Campaign Stars and the Mexican Border Campaign. Below the ribbons is the Sharpshooter’s Medal. On the left sleeve is found the 26th Division’s “YD” shoulder patch, 1st Sergeant’s chevrons, and Overseas Service Stripes (1 for every 6 months overseas) along with a “Sammy Star”  indicating Sam’s arrival among the first 100,000 AEF troops in France. In Sam’s lap is shown his M1917 helmet bearing the 103rd Infantry helmet mark.

Click here to discover other captivating original artwork by Jack Skinner available at FineArtAmerica.com.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 49,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 11 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

The YD’s Birthplace: Apremont Park, Westfield Mass.

The 26th “Yankee” Division was formed in August, 1917 at Camp Bartlett in Westfield, Mass (Read about the 26th Division here). In Westfield today, Apremont Park memorializes the sacrifice of the 104th Infantry Regiment during the Great War.

Following is a collection of photos courtesy of reader Donna (Anderson) Blews that show the beauty and detail of this memorial park.

Apremont Park Dedication (Donna Anderson Blews)

Apremont Park Memorial Walkway (Donna Anderson Blews)

Approach to Apremont Memorial (Donna Anderson Blews)

Detail of Apremont Memorial (Donna Anderson Blews)

Close-up of Apremont Memorial (Donna Anderson Blews)

Detail of Apremont Memorial WWI Flag Staff (Donna Anderson Blews)

Close-up of the Apremont Memorial WWI Flag Staff (Donna Anderson Blews)

Epilogue: Corporal Joseph Maus

The Somme Offensive was launched on September 24, 1918 with the objective of breaking the Hindenburg Line. As part of this operation on September 27, the 105th Infantry moved forward in attack and made initial gains near Quennemont Ferme, Guillemont Ferme, and fortified heights called “The Knoll”, before being driven back by German counter-attack. On September 29th, the 105th Infantry attacked “The Knoll” again but was checked with heavy casualties. It was during this attack that Corporal Joseph Maus was killed in action, one of 1,609 casualties in the ranks of the 105th Infantry during the war.

Grand Parade in Boston, 4/25/1919

On April 25, 1919 the men of the 26th “Yankee” Division participated in a hero’s homecoming parade in Boston. The painted helmet markings worn by the men helped distinguish the various units for the onlookers. The Boston Globe even published a Helmet Insignia reference chart for parade watchers:

Insignia Chart from The Boston Globe, April, 1919

The parade began at Beacon & Charles Streets and took the following route through the city of Boston: Beacon St., Park St., Tremont St., Boylston St., Arlington St., Commonwealth Ave., Charlesgate, Berkeley St., Boylston St., Massachusetts Ave., Columbus Ave., ending at Park Square. The wounded of the Division were driven in a phalanx of open-topped cars. Following is a set of photos which captures the event, found inside an old collector’s photo album and shared with the readers of Soldier’s Mail courtesy of Gretchen Gudefin.

26th Div. On March; Mass Ave, Boston, 4/25/19

26th Div. Parade Rest; Mass Ave, Boston, 4/25/19

26th Div. Wounded; Mass Ave, Boston, 4/25/19

(Special thanks to Gretchen Gudefin for sharing the above Parade photos.)

Here also is a 12-page tabloid insert from The Boston Traveler newspaper specially prepared for the event which featured songs for all spectators to join in singing. Also contained in this collectible was the parade route and other information on temporary billeting arrangements for the various units where banquets were held for the men and their loved ones.

Parade Bulletin from The Boston Traveler, 4/25/19 (Shane Colledge)

Parade Insert Page 2 (Shane Colledge)

Parade Insert Page 3 (Shane Colledge)

Parade Insert Page 4 (Shane Colledge)

Parade Insert Page 5 (Shane Colledge)

Parade Insert Page 6 (Shane Colledge)

Parade Insert Page 7 (Shane Colledge)

Parade Insert Page 8 (Shane Colledge)

Parade Insert Page 9 (Shane Colledge)

Parade Insert Page 10 (Shane Colledge)

Parade Insert Page 11 (Shane Colledge)

Parade Insert Page 12 (Shane Colledge)

(Special thanks to Shane Colledge for sharing the above Parade Bulletin photos.)

Epilogue

photo by Michael St. Maur Shell

After safely returning to the Port of Boston aboard the USS America, Private First Class Sam Avery traveled by train to Camp Devens in Ayer, Mass. where he was billeted with the rest of the 26th Division pending discharge from service. Following a Division Review by the New England Governors at Camp Devens on April 22 and a parade in Boston on April 25, the officers and men of the 26th Division received their discharges on April 28-30, 1919.

Sam returned to his former employment at the Bristol Patent Leather Company in Boston, eventually married and became a father. After the onset of the Great Depression, the Bristol Patent Leather Co. closed its business operations and Sam was fortunate to find a Civil Service position as a janitor at Bridgewater State College.

When the United States entered the Second World War, Sam reenlisted in the Massachusetts State Guard at the age of 50 and once again served as a First Sergeant with the 10th Co., 25th Mass. Infantry on the Home Front until his final discharge on August 31, 1945.

At the same time, the next generation of the 103rd Infantry Regiment continued its distinguished battle history as part of the 43rd “Winged Victory” Infantry Division (New England National Guard) starting in February, 1941. During that year, the 103rd Infantry trained at Camp Blanding, Florida and participated in maneuvers in Louisiana, North Carolina, Fort Shelby Mass., and Fort Ord, California. The regiment deployed overseas to the Pacific Theater in September of 1942, exactly 25 years after it had first sailed “Over There” to France with the AEF. The 103rd Infantry fought in the bloody Pacific campaigns at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, New Guinea and Luzon, taking part in the amphibious assault at Lingayen Gulf. The 103rd Infantry was one of the first units to land in Japan after the cessation of hostilities in August, 1945. After serving several weeks of occupation duty, the regiment returned home to the United States and was mustered out of Federal service in late October, 1945.

Meanwhile, the 26th “Yankee” Division was reorganized as a “triangular division” based on three infantry regiments and saw combat action once again on the battlefields of Europe. Shipped directly to France in August of 1944, the 26th Division landed at Cherbourg and Utah Beach in early September. In October of 1944, it fought over familiar ground during the Lorraine Campaign as part of the Allied drives on the Saar River and Metz. In December, 1944 the 26th Division participated in the Ardennes Breakthrough during the Battle of the Bulge and remained on the advance across the Rhine River. The division then moved into Austria by early April, 1945 where it helped liberate the Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camps. After advancing as far East as Czechosloviakia, following the surrender of Germany the 26th Division returned home to the United States and was mustered out of Federal service on December 21, 1945.

Telling War Stories in Camp, 1940's

Sam lived in Bridgewater and remained working at Bridgewater State College for twenty seven years, eventually becoming Chief Custodian until his retirement in December, 1961. Ever a believer in self-improvement, Sam could be frequently found auditing college classes in his spare time as an informal drop-in student. His humor and wisdom made him well-liked by students and faculty alike over the years.

Sam remained an active member of several veterans’ organizations including the American Legion until his death on March 21, 1974 at the age of 82. After a long struggle with emphysema from years of smoking, Same died peacefully at his home in the company of his wife Marion and was buried with full military honors at Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett, Massachusetts. Today, Sam and Marion continue to rest there together on scenic Celosia Path.

Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett Mass.

In commemoration of his military service, Sam was posthumously awarded a Presidential Memorial Certificate signed by President Richard M. Nixon which reads as follows:

The United States of America

Honors the Memory of

Samuel E. Avery

This Certificate is awarded by a grateful nation

in recognition of devoted and

selfless consecration to the service

of our country in the Armed Forces

of the United States.

Richard M. Nixon

President of the United States

As Sam himself would say, “Nuf Ced.”

 

Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1918

By the President of the United States : A Proclamation

“It has long been our custom to turn, in the autumn of the year, in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for his many blessing and mercies to us as a nation. This year we have special and moving cause to be grateful and to rejoice. God has, in His good pleasure, given us peace. It has not came as a mere cessation of arms, a mere relief from the strain and tragedy of war. It has come as a great triumph of right. Complete victory has brought us, not peace alone, but the confident promise of a new day, as well, in which justice shall replace force and jealous intrigue among the nations.

Our gallant armies have participated in a triumph which is not marred or stained by any purpose of selfish aggression. In a righteous cause they have won immortal glory, and have nobly served their nation in serving mankind. God has indeed been gracious. We have cause for such rejoicing as revives and strengthens in us all the best traditions of our national history. A new day shines about us, in which our hearts take new courage and look forward with new hope to new and greater duties.

While we render thanks for these things, let us not forget to seek the divine guidance in the performance of those duties, and divine mercy and forgiveness for all errors of act or purpose, and pray that in all that we do we shall strengthen the ties of friendship and mutual respect upon which we must assist to build the new structure of peace and goodwill among the nations.

Wherefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, the twenty-eighth day of November next, as a day of thanksgiving and prayer, and invite the people throughout the land to cease upon that day from their ordinary occupations, and in their several homes and places of worship to render thanks to God, the ruler of nations.”

Woodrow Wilson, President

Armistice Day, 11/11/1918

“Armistice Day” by C. LeRoy Baldridge, 1918

By Robert A. Anderson, 1985 (U.S. Postal Service Collection)

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