My continued obsession with WWI Vermont material has landed me a new WWI photo taken in France in June of 1918. I literally stumbled across this listing; the seller didn’t mention the fact that the soldier was a Vermonter. Luckily I checked out the back of the photo before moving on to the next auction listing.
The photo was addressed to a Mrs. George Bolduc of Fitzdale, Vermont dated June 25th, 1918. The writer added the following info:
“June 25th, 1918
Am well and happy and hope you and children are well. Will write you a letter later, am pretty busy just now so am sending this in place of a letter. This is not very good but will have to pass some love to you all. From bro-
101st MG BN, AEF”
John poses in the above photo with an unnamed friend of his from the 101st MG Bn. sporting a beautiful example of a woolen M1911 sweater. I’ve attached below a period advertisement showing two versions of the service sweater. These were either hand-knit from patterns or could be privately purchased through various supply and retail companies.
I am fortunate enough to own a copy of the hard-to-find 101st Machine Gun Battalion unit history. Wagoner John J. Corcoran is listed with a frontal snapshot beside his biography. He was born on May 29th, 1890 in Maine and eventually made his way over to Vermont where he lived in Lunenburg, VT working as a paper maker with the Gilman Paper Company. He enlisted at Fort Ethan Allen on June 29th, 1917 with the 1st Vermont Infantry, where he was later transferred into the 103rd MG of the 26th Division. His WWI and WWII draft cards were both listed on ancestry.com and I’ve included them below along with a copy of his death record. He passed away in 1947 and is buried in Lunenburg. I hope to travel there soon to take a photo of his grave!
John was badly wounded on July 22nd, 1918 during an attack on the French town of Epieds. I’ve included a period map of the battle as well as an image of the location today. Not much has changed! This attack was coordinated only a few days after the Battle of Chateau Thierry. Luckily, John’s encounter with the Germans was noted in the 101st MG unit history diary section. I’ve transcribed the section:
“At daybreak both companies were sent into some woods overlooking Trugny to assist the attack of Major Rau’s battalion against the town. We could not locate any enemy to fire at, and the best we could do was wait to protect Rau’s left against possible counterattack. We were shelled and M.G. bullets flew pretty thick. Bristol of C Co. was wounded. After awhile(sic) the attack crumbled in spite of Rau’s gallant efforts against impossible odds, and the troops were withdrawn to the old positions. A little later C Co. was sent over to the right to join Rau. There they found him with only a few of his men left. The guns were set up on the edge of the woods in a defensive position. B Co. got orders to support an attack of the 102nd Infantry Regiment on the town of Epieds over on the left flank. The company formed a fourth wave behind the infantry, and spread out into a long skirmish line. The advance started over the open wheat field at a slow walk, with frequent halts during which each man flattened out so that no moving thing was visible in the field. M.G. bullets began to kick up little puffs of dust all around us, and the enemy artillery barrage came down fiercely just ahead. We knew we would have to go through this, and every nerve was tense. We soon found ourselves in the midst of it – direct fire at that, mostly from one pounders, and 105’s and Austrian 88’s which come with the shriek of a thousand devils. The fumes choked us and the concussion half stunned us. it was here that Hez Porter, following his platoon leader, was instantly killed. Corcoran, Dick and Wendt were wounded…………………………….”
2 thoughts on “WWI Vermont Veteran Photo – John J. Corcoran, 101st Machine Gun Battalion Wounded in Action”
Very nice research Brennan! Do you know anything about his life after the War? I wonder if the cause of death (liver-cirrosis; possibly caused by heavy drinking?) was somehow related to his WWI-experience?
I’m not 100 percent sure of the reasons for his death, but I suspect you’re on the right track. I do know that his children lived with their grandparents in Massachusetts and not with him in Vermont. Not sure if this has anything to do with the hardscrabble life of a paper mill worker in the 1930s, but I’m sure Gilman, VT was not a nice place to raise young children at the time. In fact, it’s the site of a major hazardous waste clean up operation today.
Thanks for the comment