Soldier’s Mail for October, 1916-1918

October, 1916: South on the Border

In October, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade embarked on a 60-mile campaign march to Fort Selden in New Mexico (today both a National and New Mexico State Monument). The entire marching column contained 18,000 National Guard troops from Massachusetts, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and South Carolina. Heading relentlessly northward through scorching desert heat, many men were felled by heat exhaustion and lack of water. Near the end of the march, the troops from Massachusetts were ordered to immediately retrace their steps across the desert to Camp Cotton where they awaited relief by newly-arrived troops from Georgia.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Read the page October, 1916 to learn more about the Long March to Fort Selden. Read Sam’s correspondence to his family as he relates his ongoing experiences of camp life and the hardships of service on the border.

October, 1917: The Long Voyage

Following the formal entry of the United States into the Great War, the U.S. Navy was challenged with organizing the greatest sea lift of soldiers and supplies in history up until that time in order to effectively fight in Europe. Never before had American military might been projected so far from home for so long and on such a scale. The overseas troop transport effort became known at the “Bridge of Ships,” accomplished by assembling a large collection of passenger liners, borrowed British ships and seized enemy vessels to help carry more than 2 million men and 7.5 million tons of cargo across the Atlantic.

Sam Avery and other men of the 103rd Infantry sailed aboard the S.S. Saxonia from Hoboken, NJ to Halifax, Nova Scotia before crossing the North Atlantic in convoy to Liverpool, England. After traveling by train to Southampton, they crossed the English Channel to Le Havre, France before traveling by train once again to their final destination at the new AEF training area near Neufchateau.

Read about the “Bridge of Ships” here. Also, read Sam’s October correspondence which details his Long Voyage from America to embattled France.

October, 1918: Meuse-Argonne Offensive

In early October, 1918 Sam Avery finally returned from the hospital to the 103rd Infantry which had been severely battered during the St. Mihiel Offensive. Immediately upon his arrival, the Regiment was on the move again to Verdun with the rest of the 26th Division where it took up defensive positions before joining the AEF’s final attack during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Sam would bring home shoulder-straps cut from the uniforms of German troops captured during the final advance.

Read about the Meuse-Argonne Offensive here. Also, read Sam’s October correspondence from Verdun 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.

Soldier’s Mail for September, 1916-1918

September, 1916: South on the Border

In September, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade continued to secure the Border from their base at Camp Cotton (the “City of Tents”) outside of El Paso, Texas. The National Guard troops were inspected by the Regular Army to ensure their compliance with Federal standards for training and performance. In mid-September, there was a Brigade March to test the men’s strength and endurance after three months of active duty. This was followed by a military parade to Fort Bliss which formed the largest military column seen in the United States since the Civil War.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Read the page September, 1916 to learn more about the living conditions of the Massachusetts troops at Camp Cotton as they continue to secure the Border. Read Sam’s correspondence to his family as he relates his ongoing experiences of camp life and the dangers of patrolling along the border.

September, 1917: Watchful Waiting

Following the formal entry of the United States into the Great War, in August 1917 1st Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the 8th Mass. Infantry were mobilized once again for federal service. The encampments used by the men of the 8th Infantry for training and reorganization were at Lynnfield and Westfield. During this time, the 8th Mass. Infantry was disbanded and Sam found himself reassigned to the 103rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. Read Sam’s diary notes and letters about life in the encampments, being reorganized into the 103rd U.S. Infantry and preparing to sail to France.

September, 1918: Recovery in the Hospitals

In September, 1918 Sam Avery remained in the AEF hospital system while he recovered from severe gas poisoning. At the same time, the 103rd Infantry participated in the St. Mihiel Offensive with the rest of the 26th “Yankee” Divison. Read about recovery in the AEF base hospital system here. Also, read about the St. Mihiel Offensive juxtaposed with Sam’s September correspondence which reveals a rare parallel narrative.

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.

Soldier’s Mail for August, 1916-1918

August, 1916: South on the Border

In August, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade continued to secure the Border from their base at Camp Cotton (the “City of Tents”) outside of El Paso, Texas. The troops received word they would not be needed  to invade Mexico after all, which resulted in a loss of morale made worse by a lack of promised financial aid from the State for troops with hardships.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Read the page August, 1916 to learn more about the living conditions of the Massachusetts troops at Camp Cotton during the Texas rainy season. Read Sam’s correspondence with Em for August as he relates his experiences of camp life and the dangers of patrolling along the border.

August, 1917: Watchful Waiting

Following the formal entry of the United States into the Great War, in August 1917 1st Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the 8th Mass. Infantry were mobilized for federal service. The encampments used by the men of the 8th Infantry for training and reorganization were at Lynnfield and Westfield. Read Sam’s diary notes and letters about life in the encampments and being reorganized into the 103rd U.S. Infantry.

August, 1918: Recovery in the Hospitals

In August, 1918 following the Aisne-Marne Offensive, Sam Avery was hospitalized due to the effects of severe gas poisoning. Read about recovery in the AEF base hospital system here. Also, read the August correspondence of Sam and his sister Em which reveals a rare and fascinating dialogue across the miles in wartime. Em’s letters were “Returned to Sender” as Sam moved through a series of hospitals over two months,  and thus are preserved for us to better understand life on the Home Front during the Great War.

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.”

 

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