I thought about my paternal grandfather this week leading up to November 11. In December, 1916, at the age of 19, my grandfather enlisted in the US Army. He was one of the younger offspring in a family of 12 children. His father had died two years before. His next older brother, Albert, had enlisted in June, 1916 and was in the 136th Infantry. (Albert was reportedly chasing Pancho Villa around the Southwest with General Pershing.)
Grandpa was sent to Fort Logan, CO and assigned to Company C, 4th Regiment of Engineers, and on April 30, 1918, he sailed for France on the Martha Washington. He was stationed in France on the Western Front, sometimes at the US camp at Allerey sur Saone. He sent home postcard photos of the camp. The header photo is of the Allerey camp, too.
Here is a photo of his unit. He is the second one from the left in the back row.
Grandpa was involved in the Second Battle of Aisne-Marne (Summer, 1918), the Battle of Mihiel (September, 1918), the Second Battle of Meuse-Argonne (Fall, 1918) and Alsace-Lorraine (November, 1918). According to one source I read, The Engineers were in charge of repairing the devastation of the war to expedite troop movements such as surveying, bridge and road repair, constructing buildings, maintaining communication lines, removal of land mines and “booby” traps, digging trenches and constructing shell, gas and splinter-proof shelters, providing clean water and constructing or removing barbed wire. They also launched gas attacks, built hospitals, barracks, mess halls, stables, target ranges, and repaired miles of train tracks. Their extensive and time consuming duties left them little time for rifle practice and drills and they were not relied upon for frontline combat, but the success of the Allied forces depended upon the support of the Engineer Corps.
When he wasn’t digging trenches or building bridges, he was chasing women. He is the man on the left. I have no idea how this photo has survived for 100 years, and why my grandmother never threw it out!
Once Germany surrendered, the 4th was marched into the northern Rhine as an army of occupation. He was near the Mosel and sent this postcard home
He sailed back to the US on July 21, 1919, on the von Steuben, a German ship captured by the US. He stayed in the army until June, 1920. He was a sergeant. He lived until 1980.
Grandpa had several studio portrait photos taken in France, and it is interesting to see how he changed over the course seven months. Here are some early ones. He looks so young.
Here is a later one.
Oh, the questions I have after putting this together! I doubt I will ever get them answered.
How did the First World War impact your family? After reading this, what questions would you have for my grandfather?