WWI Portrait Photo – Lt. Carl Wehner, 141st Infantry Regiment, KIA at St. Etienne, France


A recent eBay purchase has lead me down a warren of research avenues that are helping shed light on the American involvement at the bloody fray at St. Etienne during the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge in October of 1918. The photo depicts Lt. Carl Wehner with the following inscription on the verso:

“141st Inf., 36th Div. Lt. Carl Wehner killed Oct. 8, 1918 by a German sniper.”

It was this writing that pushed me to purchase the photo at a reasonable $25.00 in hopes of researching and fleshing out the life of the young Lieutenant and Wisconsin native who was killed in action only days after his 26th birthday.

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Lt. Carl Wehner in France, 1918

This photo was most likely taken a month or so before his death in October, as he is sporting a 6 month overseas service chevron on his left cuff. August or September would roughly be six months after his arrival from stateside officers training. He was selected to be a Lieutenant with Company K of the 141st Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division – a unit comprised mostly of southern boys from Texas and surrounding states. Having been born in Lincoln, Kansas and spending most of his life in Madison, Wisconsin, he originally enlisted with the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division but elected to train to become an officer. At the time of his enlistment, he lived at 925 West Dayton Street in Madison.

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Carl’s WWI Draft Registration Card

And I was able to find a fascinating account of his death while commanding Company K following the death of his Captain (Source – Entry by RavenHawk)

…It was near St. Etienne, as his captain layed dead, Wehner led his unit forward, until he himself was struck in the head, by enemy gunfire, and killed. One account of the battle (perhaps a little exagerated), said: “Lieutenat Wehner died with three machine gun bullets in his forehead and a smile on his lips as he led Company K of the 141st Infantry over the top after his captain was killed by the fire of the enemy.”….In a letter signed by the Marshall Of France, Commander in Chief of the French Armies of the East, Petain, it was written: “Lt. Wehner displayed audacity and disregard of danger during the operations near St. Etienne. At the head of his men, encouraging them with his skill, he largely contributed to the success of the operations which made it possible to capture all objectives. He was killed at his post of combat.” For his bravery, Wehner was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm for bravery….As for Wehner’s family, they didn’t find out until after Christmas, that Wehner had been killed, in battle…Wehner’s body was returned to Madison in 1921, and reburied at Forest Hill on 10/21/1921.

Portraits of War: A Vermont Veterans Day 2015 Recap


It’s not often that I post material related to living veterans, but I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a group of local Vermont vets on Veterans Day 2015.  One of the events I attended this year was the Community College of Vermont’s Veterans Day interview panel.   I was blown away by the student attendance and the level of excitement in the room; the range of ages in the room varied from early twenties to Jack Goss’ 96. It was a fantastic event, and one that other local schools should promote.

Hell, I even called a few UVM WWII veterans to catch up.  Why can’t larger schools or alumni departments do the same? I digress…

 

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WWII 36th Division Veteran and POW Clyde Cassidy and Myself, Veterans Day 2015. Photo By: Josh Larkin, CCV.

Some of the WWII veterans I was able to shake hands with:

Gordon Osborne, 44th Engineers

Curtis E. Brown, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Division, Wounded in Action

Paul Bouchard, USN WWII Minesweeper, USS Signet, USS Tumult

Jack Goss, B-25 Pilot, 310th Bomb Group, Shot down on 40th Mission, POW for three years

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At 96 years old, Jack Goss was the oldest of the five veterans to speak at CCV on Veterans Day. Photo By: John Larkin, CCV.

Clyde C. Cassidy Jr., Fox Company, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Division, Wounded in Action and POW, Forced march for 70 days before liberated

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Calais resident and WWII veteran Clyde Cassidy was force marched for 70 days as a POW. Photo By: Josh Larkin, CCV.

Robert Picher, K Company, 346th Infantry Regiment, 87th Division

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WWII veteran Bob Picher spoke at CCV’s 2015 Veterans Day event. Photo By: Josh Larkin, CCV.

Robert L. Coon, G Company, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Infantry Division, Wounded at Bastogne

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Bob Coon at his home in St. Albans Town.  Photo By: Josh Larkin, CCV

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T/5 Robert Coon, G Company, 502nd PIR, 101st Airborne Division. Note PUC, CIB and campaign ribbon. SOURCE

 

 

 

 

One story that we didn’t hear at the CCV veterans day ceremony involves the water landing of Jack Goss’ B-25 in the waters off Italy.  The story actually involves one the P-38 pilots who continually circled his aircraft in hopes of aiding in the safe retrieval of the crew.  Sadly, his plane went down….. All the following info is from the US Army’s veteran service site.

https://army.togetherweserved.com/army/servlet/tws.webapp.WebApp?cmd=ShadowBoxProfile&type=Person&ID=223429

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P-38 Pilot Robert Smidt

Comments from Website Regarding Downing of Goss
Since creating this profile, I have contacted the P-38 pilot who was leading the P-38’s that were escorting the bombers (he also completed the Missing Air Crew Report) and one of the surviving members of the bomber crew.

The leader of the P-38’s emailed this message:

On August 19 1943, I led a flight of P38s in a 96th Squadron formation on a Bomber Escort mission to lower Italy.

 

As I did not have a regular flight with the same pilots each time, I don’t remember who was in my flight, but I don’t recall having to back off on any maneuvers because one or more couldn’t keep up.

 

After the target and crossing the coast of Italy, I saw a B25 land in the water and the crew get into a rubber life raft.  I drank enough water out of my canteen so it would float and dropped it to them  I started circling to keep them in sight while expecting the air rescue plane to show up.  Clayton Tillapagh saw us and flew high cover.  After some time, Clay and I decided the rescue plane was not coming and we each sent our second element to Palermo to gas up and try to get him to come.  Clay and I stayed until we had to leave to get gas and we went to Palermo.

 

We were able to convince the rescue pilot we could cover him and we went back to where we had left the life raft, but we were not able to find it.  We learned much later the crew had been picked up by an Italian Hospital ship very soon after we left them.  We went back to Palermo and spent the night before returning to Grombalia.  Landing at Palermo in a valley, on a runway that did not have runway lights, on a dark night is something I would rather not do again.

 

I am assuming Smidt was in my second element and after leaving to get help, I never saw him again nor ever heard why he ended up missing.

 

In retrospect, it never entered my young mind to ask if everyone knew their way home.
1st Lt Alan R Kennedy

FO Robert (Bobby) Smidt disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea in August 1943.  Bobby was piloting one of the P-38 Lightnings from the 96th fighter Squadron that was escorting B-25 bombers from the 310th Bombardment Group on the way to bomb Salerne, Italy.  One of the bombers went down in the Mediterranean and Bobby was circling over a rubber dingy that the bomber crew was in.  No one knew whether Bobby was low on fuel and left or just crashed in the sea.  Read some of the documents posted for more details.

I talked to SSgt Lamar Rodgers, Aerial Gunner, the bomber crew member on the telephone and he told me that a P-38 had circled them for 4 hours before it left.  One P-38 flew over them at about 40 feet and dropped a water canteen.  He said he remembered that day like it was yesterday.  They had spent the night in the dingy and turned on their emergency radio that transmitted an SOS in the morning.  The Germans were on them within 30 minutes of turning on the radio.  The six crew members spent 21 months in German POW camps and were released at the end of the war.  As of 2-13-2011, there are only two surviving members of the bomber crew; Lamar F Rodgers and the pilot Ralph R Goss.

 

 

 

WWI Panoramic Photo Yardlong – 36th Division, 131st Machine Gun Battalion in French Street – Check the Detail!


Click for Larger View

The large format of WWI panoramic photos is not an easy scan, but after scanning this yardlong photo in seven sections, I was able to seamlessly splice the photo together using Photoshop.  The results are an eye pleasing display of WWI doughboys sitting in a French street. One could spent hours looking at each battle wizened face, or the citizens and scenery in the background.

131st Machine Gun Battalion – 36th Division

Using the magical power of GoogleEarth, I was able to track down the exact street corner in this photo.  Not much has changed in 100 years!

Saint Aubin Des Coudrais, Sarthe France