Although Portraitsofwar of tends to deal with the United States during WWI, this video seemed like an interesting contrast and comparison between the European forces during WWI.
I paid a pretty penny for a dozen photos from the 20th Balloon Company (WWI, American) specifically for this photograph. I’m attracted to obscure and strange photography, and this photo is an anomaly for WWI image collectors. What the heck is going on?
The vehicle/tractor/truck in the image was something I’ve never encountered. I knew it was related to a balloon company, and the large drum on the back alerted me to the fact that it likely was meant to hold and retract cable wire. But how could I figure out the make and model of the vehicle? Balloon Company information is difficult to identify through google searches, but I was able to make some leads by searching in French!
My first hit came with a French search for “winch truck” and provided the above image. I now knew that the Latil Company made heavy 4×4 vehicles for the French army during WWI and provided the American Expeditionary Forces with balloon winches!
I couldn’t quite make out the grill badge in the image I purchased……
But I was able to figure it out after my French language search…
The Latil trucks/tractors were originally made to tow 155mm guns, but they were retrofitted to accept heavy-duty winches to support the observation balloons used by the 20th Balloon Company. The Latil company would later be absorbed into Renault….
And according to a ca. 1919 publication, only 50 of these trucks were made specifically for the AEF during WWI. They were outfitted with Cachot power winches (seen in the rear of the head image) to retract the balloons after observation was achieved.
Special thanks to the Transport Journal blog!
Check out this specific post to learn more about the Latil:
And another blog picked up the Latil story: http://justacarguy.blogspot.com.br/2015/11/ww1-observation-blimp-and-tow-truck-i.html
A recent eBay purchase has been incredibly fun to research and has yielded some solid and fulfilling results. I purchased a group photo of four US soldiers posing in an American studio immediately following the war. How do we know they are in an American studio? The veteran at center is wearing a WWI Discharge Chevron, also known as a Discharge Stripe or Honorable Discharge Stripe, which indicates that the soldier has been discharged from his service and can wear his uniform in public with the proviso that he affixes the chevron. Apparently, it was possible to be arrested for wearing a service uniform without the stripe after three months following discharge.
A fellow WWI researcher (Brian – AKA WWINERD) posted the following information on a popular militaria web forum:
“Thus far, I’ve been unable to locate any specific General Orders either from the War Department or from the U.S. Army concerning the red discharge chevron, which I believe was adopted early in 1919. However, I do know that:
- Each discharged soldier was issued with three discharge chevrons. Officers had to purchase their own.
- Upon being discharged from service, the uniform could be worn for a maximum of three months without the red discharge chevron.
- If the uniform was worn after the three month period had expired, the person wearing it could be charged with the offense of impersonating a soldier.
- If the uniform was never worn again the discharge chevron did not have to be sewn on.
- As soon as a soldier received his discharge papers he became a civilian, and he was no longer obligated to salute a superior officer.
These and other facts pertaining to the uniform and discharge chevron were explained in a post war pamphlet handed out to Doughboys before they mustered out of the Army. It partially read as follows:
If it is your desire to go home in uniform, it is your privilege to do so, under full grant of an act of Congress. You may wear your issue uniform as long as it hangs together if you wish. It is yours. But do not let a minute pass, after being discharged, until you have sewn on, or had sewn on a red chevron, point up, midway between the elbow and the shoulder on the left sleeve.
The wearing of any gold, silver, or metal device indicating service is forbidden. Only regulation service chevrons and collar insignia are authorized by law and regulations. Wound and service chevrons for service in any of the Allied Armies are included in that authorization. Can all camouflage.
Remember in wearing the uniform, that all of its privileges are yours, with none of the restraints. You are a civilian. There is no law or regulation or tradition requiring you to salute an officer. But so long as the O. D. or the Navy blue or the Marine green covers your body, it should be your pride as one with a military training, and as a soldier who participated in the Great War, to be courteous.”
Where Do We Go from Here: This is the Real Dope, 1919, William Brown Meloney, page 21, 22
Ok – so we know the photo was taken stateside at some point after the war, but recent enough to warrant a group shot of all four men in uniform. The photo trifold mount had “Ward Boys” scribbed on it with no additional identifying information. The seller was from Ohio, so I started with a basic search for Ohio veterans with the last name of Ward. Big mistake……. There were nearly a hundred men with the last name of Ward who served in Ohio during the war. Take a deep breath…..
I needed to narrow down the search and the image itself provides a very good way in which to identify one of the soldiers based on his patches.
See those patches on his left sleeve? They’re from a very famous unit that served in Italy during the war. In fact, this is an incredibly rare shot that depicts a soldier wearing regimental, divisional and army level patches along with the discharge chevron previously mentioned. Ok – so we know one of the Ward Boys was in the 332nd Infantry Regiment. Since the typical US regiment during the war varied between 1000-2000 (roughly), it’s highly unlikely that two men with the last name of Ward were likely to both be from Ohio. Luckily, my research gamble paid off……
Bingo! After interpreting the abbreviated information in the Ohio WWI book, I was able to determine that Clayton was born in Defiance, Ohio, was 24 years of age, and served with Company H of the 332nd Infantry Regiment. With the place of birth info, I was able to identify all the additional men in the photo using clues present on each of their uniforms.
A quick search for the 1910 US census record for the Clayton Ward provided me with the names of his brothers:
With the census in hand, I was able to make out a few names of brothers who were of-age to serve during WWI. Clint (short for Clinton) and Perry were easy enough to research. The same Ohio reference book provided the following:
Based on the information provided in the reference book, Clinton Ward, age 26 1/12 at the time, enlisted with Company G of the 6th Infantry of the Ohio National Guard. This unit was federalized and became Company G of the 147th Infantry Regiment. He rose to the rank of Private First Class on May 15th, 1918. Since I’ve memorized the rank insignia of the AEF, I was able to quick pick him out.
See the round patch on his right arm? That’s the rank insignia worn by a Private 1st Class during WWI. I’m including a generic view of the patch below:
Since he’s the only one wearing a Pvt. 1st Class patch in the photo, plus the addition of infantry regiment collar discs, he’s almost certainly Clinton.
Although it’s tough to make out in the scan, the soldier is clearly wearing a collar disc that depicts a set of crossed cannon. This would indicate service in an artillery unit during the war. Perry’s reference in the aforementioned Ohio WWI book shows that he served with the 52nd Coastal Artillery Company during WWI, which would be supplied with these exact collar discs.
At this point, I’ve been able to identify three of the four soldiers in the photo based on archival research, visual interpretation and identification of key pieces of military insignia, and a gut feeling. The last soldier, shown sitting turned out to be a tough nut to crack.
Ok – so what do we see in the photo?
- A seated male, appearing to be the oldest based on facial details
- A 37th Division patch on the left sleeve
- A discharge chevron and overseas service chevron
- Corporal rank insignia on the right sleeve
- Infantry collar disc
In essence, we have an older-looking corporal from the 37th division who served for at least six months (the service chevron) overseas in an infantry regiment. A detailed search of the Ward’s who served from Ohio in WWI yielded the only possible candidate:
John Alvin Ward was a brother who separated from the family early in life (no idea why) and eventually rose to the rank of corporal in WWI as part of the 147th Infantry Regiment. It was tough to parse out the details regarding his upbringing, but the following Social Security information confirms that he was indeed from the Ward family of Defiance, Ohio.
At first I was confused about the portion mentioning his father being identified as a William H. Ward, but upon further genealogical research it became clear that his father commonly switched his first and middle names; this is a common practice that becomes terribly difficult for researchers.
So, we have the older brother who left the family and posed with his brothers after returning home from war in 1919. Sadly, the photograph was discarded at some point and made it’s way into the eBay chain; eventually ending up on the desk of an intrepid WWI researcher (Me!) who was able to bring some context to the photo using easily-accessible internet resources. I hope I’ve inspired some readers to delve into their own collections of photos in hopes of giving a name to the faces sitting in photo binders and dusty drawers.
Interested in researching Ohio World War One veterans? Check out the following book:
The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917-18. Columbus, OH, USA: The F.J. Heer Printing Co., 1926.
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here to PortraitsofWar, so I’m taking a quick moment to add a recently acquired real photo postcard of a St. Bernard mascot from the 67th Coastal Artillery Company. He’s even sporting his own uniform! Check out the 1st Army variant patch with the 67 denoting the unit number and a double overseas chevron for a year of service. Good work Barney!
Mascot photos are one of my favorite avenues of WWI photo collecting. They are relatively hard to come by and are tough to research. All the better for a unique challenge when trolling through the pages of eBay.
The identity of the sitter is lost to history, but I’m hoping someone on the WWW may help put a name to the sitter. US Marines sporting District of Paris patches are hard to find photographically, and this unnamed leatherneck is begging to be identified.
Material related to wartime (and postwar) activities of the YMCA can be easily researched through the help of internet databases, digitized books, collectors forums and various other digital avenues. What is lacking, however, is information directly related to the individuals who volunteered their time and money to travel to a foreign county to serve donuts to war-weary doughboys waiting to return to their families in the US.
I was lucky enough to track down a large grouping of ephemera collected during the war by a YMCA canteen entertainer, a Miss Kittie Kunz. Included in the grouping is a selection of rare YMCA “unit history” paperwork which gives names and identities to many of the women and men who served alongside Kittie. I researched each of the names in hopes of tracking down passport application portraits. I was overwhelmingly successful and found nearly 75% of the names in the US Passport database that matched perfectly. Each was listed as being a member of the YMCA or Red Cross, and each matches the date range for the YMCA hut. A neat find! Please read on to see the faces of the women who served alongside Kittie. You will also find a smattering of hard-to-find ephemera related to the YMCA. It’s amazing that Kittie saved some of these items. Not all the paperwork is contained in this post, but the scanned material gives a quick glimpse into the typical material a YMCA canteen worker would deal with.
Here is where my favorite piece of researching WWI material came handy….. I was able to research the names of the women listed in the distribution section and track down their WWI era passport applications. Here are my results:
RED CROSS WOMEN
When searching for new portraiture to add to PortraitsofWar I generally tend to look for material with identifiable soldiers, uniforms, medals and other researchable information to help shed light on life during wartime. In this post, I will be researching a photograph of a US Navy sailor who caught my eye during a recent eBay search.
The information written on the back of the postcard shows an identification of the sitter as a B.G. Miller. He is identified as being a Pharmacist’s Mate 1st Class from Salt Lake City, Utah who was on duty at one point at a hospital in Samoa on August 1st, 1918. Additional info added to the photo includes an anecdote about his position as a Mormon missionary in Germany during the breakout of the war between Germany and France.
With a little luck and a lot of research I was able to track down our mysterious B.G. Miller. Byron Gardener Miller was found listed in the Utah World War 1 Military Service Questionnaire on ancestry.com. Please see his card below:
It looks like Byron attended the University of Utah for a year before being shipped off for his overseas missionary work. This is likely the reason for his service as a Pharmacist’s Mate with the US NAVY as can be seen in the details of his uniform.
The reference to his missionary service in Germany during the outbreak of war in July of 1914 is partially confirmed through my discovery of his listing aboard a ship ledger arriving in Montreal, PQ in September of 1914.
His service in Samoa has also been confirmed through the same series of records.
Sadly, his arrival back in the US in 1919 wasn’t likely a time of joy for the Miller family; a Utah death certificate shows that he died of influenza only a few months later on February 7th, 1920. Interestingly enough, my research into the US Hospital in Samoa shows that a MASSIVE flu outbreak in the Samoan Islands lead to the deaths of nearly 25% of the population. The US Navy set up an epidemic commission to deal with the issue. The results of the intervention in American Samoa were incredible. Apparently the method of using maritime quarantine lowered mortality rates to nearly 1%. It’s strange that Byron would die of influenza only a few months later while in the United States……
For the 1919 report please CLICK HERE
One of the main goals of this website is to help share photos and pertinent military service information with the families of the men and women depicted in the images I collect. In this case, I’m hoping a Miller family representative will discover a rare image of their ancestor who witnessed a formative time in history.
William W. Putnam of Thomaston, Maine came to Vermont as part of the Machine Gun Troop of the 310th Cav in 1918. He posed for a photo in a Burlington, VT photo studio while training at Fort Ethan Allen. He had his photo taken in Burlington after his promotion to sgt (1/1918) at the studio of H. Raymond Paige of 22 Church Street.
Maine service record:
Name: William W. Putnam
Serial Number: 371805
Birth Place: Brewer, Maine
Birth Date: 03 Sep 1897
Comment: Enl: Ft. Slocum, N. Y., May 10/18. Pvt; Sgt Aug. 1/18. Org: MG Tr 310 Cav to disch. Overseas service: None. Hon disch on demob: Dec. 20, 1918.
eBay has been a consistent source of fantastic portraiture for PortraitsofWar for over five years. The material that pops up on the web is easy to acquire and makes for a fun and interesting research project. In this case, I was able to track down an identified photo of a US airman wearing a brim-up cap and sporting a light beard. The photo is identified on the reverse as a Harry Kolacinski.
Harry was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI. His major biographical information can be found below:
Harry’s 1936 Yearbook
Harry passed away in 1986
One of the most difficult aspects of WWI photography collecting is presenting it in a manner that allows for many people to view and appreciate the content. Each of my scanned panoramic photos takes at least an hour to scan in sections, and subsequently digitally splice together. This post is a particularly good example of a panoramic taken of H Company of the 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division. Note the Native American soldier as well as two soldiers wearing the ribbon for the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Sorry about the large file size.
I actually was able to do some research on Company H of the 115th and found some info on a few members that I was able to identify in the photo.
2nd Lt. Patrick Regan
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Second Lieutenant (Infantry) Patrick J. Regan, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 8 October 1918, while serving with 115th Infantry, 29th Division, in action at Bois-de-Consenvoye, France. While leading his platoon against a strong enemy machinegun nest which had held up the advance of two companies, Second Lieutenant Regan divided his men into three groups, sending one group to either flank, and he himself attacking with an automatic rifle team from the front. Two of the team were killed outright, while Second Lieutenant Regan and the third man were seriously wounded, the latter unable to advance. Although severely wounded, Second Lieutenant Regan dashed with empty pistol into the machinegun nest, capturing 30 Austrian gunners and four machineguns. This gallant deed permitted the companies to advance, avoiding a terrific enemy fire. Despite his wounds, he continued to lead his platoon forward until ordered to the rear by his commanding officer.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 50 (April 12, 1919)
Action Date: 8-Oct-18
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Regiment: 115th Infantry
Division: 29th Division
I was recently (11/2014) contacted by a grandson of Lt. Regan alerting me to his presence in the photo. I had no idea he was present in the photo based on my prior research and the visual evidence in the photo. His double wound stripe stood out but wasn’t enough to make a 100% identification. Upon contact with Lt. Regan’s grandson, I was able to confirm that this is a previously unknown and non-digitized version of the Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. I’m posting the publicly available photo here:
BOLTON, ARTIE E.
Captain, U.S. Army
Company H, 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, A.E.F.
Date of Action: October 16, 1918
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Artie E. Bolton, Captain, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action in the Bois- de-la Grande, Montagne, France, October 16, 1918. Having been ordered to take up his position on the final objective, Captain Bolton made a personal reconnaissance of his company front line, during which time he was subjected to the artillery fire of both friendly and enemy guns and machine guns directed on his position. He again went out on the same mission and captured 20 prisoners who were carrying a machine gun.
General Orders No. 44, W.D., 1919
Home Town: Wingina, VA
Robert S. Landstreet
Place of Birth: Maryland, Baltimore
Home of record: Baltimore Maryland
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Infantry) Robert S. Landstreet, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, A.E.F., near Bois-de-Consenvoye and Bois-de-la Grande Montague, France, October 8 – 16, 1918. On October 8 First Lieutenant Landstreet led his platoon through machine-gun and rifle fire in an advance which resulted in the capture of 300 prisoners and 12 machine-guns. On the morning of October 16 lie volunteered, with one sergeant, and straightened out the line of an adjacent unit. His movements were under constant machine-gun fire, and so close to the enemy that he, with his sergeant, captured two prisoners while accomplishing their mission.
Hugh P. McGainey
Place of Birth: Maryland, Baltimore
Home of record: Baltimore Maryland
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Sergeant Hugh P. McGainey (ASN: 1285511), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, A.E.F., near Verdun, France, October 8 – 15, 1918. In the Bois-de-Consenvoye, east of the Meuse, Sergeant McGainey, in command of his platoon, led his men, under heavy machine-gun fire, and captured approximately 500 prisoners, three fieldpieces, and many machine-guns. On October 15 he voluntarily exposed himself to warn his men against gas, and was wounded by shrapnel. He refused to go to the hospital until ordered to do so by the medical officer.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 3 (1919)
Action Date: October 8 – 15, 1918
Company H, 115th Infantry. For extraordinary heroism in action near Verdun, France, October 17th, 1918. In the Bose de Consenvoye, east of the Meuse, Pvt. De Berdaninis, acting in the capacity of a runner, carried three successive messages through heavy barrage of both own own and the enemy’s artillery, traversing a patch where two men had previously been killed by the same barrage.
Home address: Louis Brino, 3921 Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD.
FERGUSON, JOHN E.
Corporal, U.S. Army
Company H, 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, A.E.F.
Date of Action: October 8 – 29, 1918
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to John E. Ferguson, Corporal, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Samogneux, France, October 8 – 29, 1918. Throughout the offensive east of the Meuse, near Samogneux, Corporal Ferguson displayed exceptional bravery and endurance as a battalion runner, repeatedly carrying important messages through intense artillery and machine-gun fire after other runners had been killed in traversing the same routes. On numerous occasions he alone was responsible for the maintenance of both forward and rear liaison.
General Orders No. 37, W.D., 1919
Home Town: New York, NY
Paul Reed Gilbert
|Name: Paul Reed Gilbert
Address: 510 N. Pulaski St., Baltimore
Birth Place: Baltimore, Md.
Birth Date: 22 Feb 1898
Comment: NG pvt; pvt 1c 4/20/17; corp 5/25/17; sgt 10/27/18, Co L 5 Md. Inf; Co H 115 Inf 10/1/17, Hon disch 6/5/19, Overseas 6/15/18 to 5/24/19, Center Sector; Meuse-Argonne
|Maryland in the World War 1917-1919; Military and Naval Service Records, Volumes I & II
Order of St. Sava
Paul’s grandson alerted us to his presence in this photo. Thanks!
Thomas F. Streb
Place of Birth: Maryland, Baltimore
Home of record: Baltimore Maryland
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Private Thomas F. Streb (ASN: 1285690), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with Company H, 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, A.E.F., near Verdun, France, 17 October 1918. In the Bois-de-Consenvoye east of the Meuse, Private Streb operated his automatic rifle on a post enfiladed by direct machine-gun fire during a desperate counterattack by the enemy until the rifle was damaged by the enemy’s fire and he himself was wounded. He remained on post continuing to defend same with an ordinary rifle. He was later gassed and refused to go to the hospital until ordered by his company commander.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 27 (1919)
Action Date: 17-Oct-18