An American in the Czechoslovak Legion in WWI


Today’s post comes after a bit of head scratching and internet searching that eventually lead to an interesting discovery (for me) of a WWI story that has somehow remained unknown to me until this blog post. It involves the Czech Legions of WWI…

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Emil Stedronsky in WWI

The above photo, and the postcard below, were sent to a Mike Stendronsky of Cleveland, Ohio in the waning months of 1918 from his brother who had just arrived in France to fight as part of the Czech Legion. Check out the video at the bottom of this post to learn a little about the Czech Legion in WWI…

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American and Czech Flags

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Emil Stendronsky in France, 1918

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Emil’s WWI Draft Card

100 Years Later: Vermont’s Entry into the First World War


It has been called THE GREAT WAR and THE WAR TO END ALL WARS.

According to Tweets from WWI, the American intervention in the war can be summarized as:

There is only room for one: ‘s idealism vs. German ‘s imperialism (US caricature).

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Today, we know it as World War One (WWI). It began in 1914 and ended with an armistice at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. The global toll had already reached nearly 40 million casualties, including American losses of 117,465 dead and 204,002 wounded.

100 Years Ago Today

After War was officially declared (House and Senate) on April 6th, 1917 the U.S. began preparations to enter the quagmire of European trench warfare.

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Vermonter John Corcoran (r) in WWI

In June of 1917, U.S. transport ships carrying nearly 15,000 U.S. troops (many from New England) in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) approached the shores of France, these soldiers would join the Allied fight against the Central Powers.  They disembarked at the port of Saint Nazaire; the landing site had been kept secret because of the menace of German submarines, but by the time the Americans had lined up to take their first salute on French soil, an enthusiastic crowd had gathered to welcome them. However, the “Doughboys,” as the British referred to the green American troops, were said to be untrained and ill-equipped, untested for the rigors of fighting along the Western Front.

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PortraitsofWar’s WWI Smithsonian Cover

As U.S. troops landed in France, Americans were mindful of a 125+ year old debt owed that nation. France had been the colonists’ most important ally during the Revolutionary War, having supplied money, material and military brains. The Marquis de Lafayette had fought beside Patriot soldiers, equipping some of them at his own expense. He won the affection of George Washington and became a hero to the young nation. Urged on by Lafayette, France had sent ships, troops, and arms that played a key role in the Patriots’ victory. In early July 1917, the newly arrived American Expeditionary Force troops marched under the Arc de Triomphe, cheered by the people of Paris. In a ceremony at Lafayette’s tomb, where the Frenchman lies buried under dirt from Bunker Hill, an American officer lay down a wreath of pink and white roses. Another officer stepped forward, snapped a salute, and declared: “Lafayette, we are here!”

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Earl F. Lavallee of Winooski, VT in Germany, 1918.

As followers of PortraitsofWar will know, we take a great pride in providing interesting and never-before-seen imagery and narration of wartime photography ranging from the American Civil War to the Korean War. In most cases, I take an authentic photograph from my personal collection and work towards uncovering various details that hopefully elucidate some aspect of the photo.

101st Ammunition Train

In this case, I worked the other way around. My familiarity with the First World War history of the State of Vermont is well known to followers of this blog as well as within my home state. One of my favorite Vermont units to serve in the war was the 101st Ammunition Train of the 26th “Yankee Division”.

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Jeannine Russell (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeology Officer), Myself (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeologist) and David Schütz (Vermont State Curator) inspecting WWI flags

Only a week ago I was lucky enough to be invited into the bowels of the Vermont Historical Society storage area to inspect a series of American Civil War flags with a few colleagues of mine from work. While in the holding area I mentioned that a series of WWI groups had donated regimental flags and/or guidons to the State of Vermont in the years following the war.

Although I can be a bit fuzzy in my recollections, I apparently had my facts straight and we moved a series of shelves to uncover the aforementioned flags. As I fingered through the labels I instantly recognized the attribution: 101st flags. Please see below for a bit of insight into my recollection…

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101st Ammunition Train Guidon Donation Alert, Burlington Free Press, February, 1919

Ok – So my first attempt at searching on the Library of Congress Newspaper website turned up only one reference to the flags, I kept searching (tried COLORS) and came up with this…

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Flags presented

The above snippit from a 1919 Burlington Free Press article reads:

Colors Presented

War Flags and Shields Presented to State

Montpelier, Oct. 23 – The presentation of the colors and shields of the organizations from Vermont participating in the the world war occurred this evening in the State House with some 200 veterans attending and over 400 spectators in the seats of the representative hall and balcony.

The services were fitting and were attended by many of the men who have been prominent in the connection with the war. Col. F.B. Thomas presided over the exercise and the program carried out consisted of the “History of the 57th Pioneer Infantry” Capt. Ernest W. Gibson – Brattleboro

Presentation of colors – First Vermont and 57th Pioneer Infantry, Col. F. B. Thomas… History and presentation of colors of 302nd Field Artillery , Color Sergeant Albert J. Seguin of Newport.

History and presentation of 101st Ammunition Train Col. William J. Keville of Boston Mass.

Presentation of guidon, Company E. 101st Ammunition Train, Capt. Harold M. Howe of Northfield, VT.

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Ca. 1919 Co. E101st Ammunition Train guidon photo (from Brennan C. Gauthier Collection)

Presentation of guidon, Company F 101st Ammunition Train, Captain McMath

Presentation of guidon, Company G, 101st Ammunition Train, Chester Mooney of Newport.

As I stated earlier, I remembered the fact that the 101st and the 302nd had presented the State of Vermont with standards and guidons from prominent units representing Vermont involvement in the war. The following photos show the results of my inquiries:

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Left to Right: Jeannine Russell (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeology Officer), Myself (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeologist) an David Schütz (Vermont State Curator)

In the above photo we have just unrolled the 101st Ammunition Train guidons from their muslin cocoons. Present are representative samples of Co. C, G, F and E of the 101st. Each of these matches with the above 1919 article. How amazing is it to read a 98 year old article about a presentation and see the EXACT pieces in living color?

I’m particular excited about the Co. E guidon. I own a ratty panoramic photo taken of the unit when they returned in 1919. Click here to see ever single facial feature of the men in that group.

Ok – so here’s a photo of the guidon taken right before donation in 1919:

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And here’s the guidon today (my big head is at the left edge of the frame):

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WWI guidons of the 101st Ammunition Train

Also, I requested that the regimental flag of the 302nd Field Artillery be brought out for photographing. Special thanks to Jonathan Croft for being the photographer!

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302nd Field Artillery

Has it really been 100 years?

WWI Balloon Company Winch Truck – A French Latil Mystery Story


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?

20th Balloon Company Winch Truck

20th Balloon Company Winch Truck

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!

Latil Truck

Latil Truck

 

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……

Mystery WWI Badge

Mystery WWI Badge

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….

Lentil Artillery Tow

Latil Artillery Tow

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.

 

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Latil in Action  – Courtesy LOC

Special thanks to the Transport Journal  blog!

Check out this specific post to learn more about the Latil:

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And another blog picked up the Latil story: http://justacarguy.blogspot.com.br/2015/11/ww1-observation-blimp-and-tow-truck-i.html

Dogs of War: A Saint Bernard Mascot – 67th Coastal Artillery Company Veteran “Barney”


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.

 

Barney the St. Bernard in WWI

Barney the St. Bernard in WWI

Women of the YMCA in WWI: Kittie Kunz’s Service in YMCA Hut 16


 

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.

Kittie Kunz's YMCA ID

Kittie Kunz’s YMCA ID

 

Kittie's YMCA Paris Travel Permit

Kittie’s YMCA Paris Travel Permit

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Kittie’s YMCA Paris Travel Permit Reverse

Kittie's Permit to Travel to Reims

Kittie’s Permit to Travel to Reims

YMCA War Service Pin Card

YMCA War Service Pin Card

YMCA War Service Pin Card Interior

YMCA War Service Pin Card Interior

Tea Service Notice for the 28th Division

Tea Service Notice for the 28th Division

 

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:

YMCA Women

Miss Gertrude Garden - YMCA

Miss Gertrude Garden – YMCA

 

Miss Dorothy Berry - YMCA

Miss Dorothy Berry – YMCA

Harriet McKenzie - YMCA

Harriet McKenzie – YMCA

Margaret Robinson - YMCA

Margaret Robinson – YMCA

Katherine Parks - YMCA

Katherine Parks – YMCA

 

Janet Kunz - YMCA (sister to Kittie Kunz)

Janet Kunz – YMCA (sister to Kittie Kunz)

Kittie Kunz - YMCA

Kittie Kunz – YMCA

Pauline Brown - YMCA

Pauline Brown – YMCA

 

Mary Waden - YMCA

Mary Waden – YMCA

Dora Lewis - YMCA

Dora Lewis – YMCA

Katherine Beakes - YMCA

Katherine Beakes – YMCA

Cora A. Kennedy - YMCA

Cora A. Kennedy – YMCA

 

RED CROSS WOMEN

Lois Loyhed - Red Cross

Lois Loyhed – Red Cross

Harriet Maxon - Red Cross

Harriet Maxon – Red Cross

Dorothy Peters - Red Cross

Dorothy Peters – Red Cross

Alice McCoy - Red Cross

Alice McCoy – Red Cross

Esther Edmondson - Red Cross

Esther Edmondson – Red Cross

Mary Jones - Red Cross

Mary Jones – Red Cross

Eleanor Little - Red Cross

Eleanor Little – Red Cross

Mary Healy - Red Cross

Mary Healy – Red Cross

WWI Vermont National Guard Photo – 1st VT Infantry Captain Portrait Mystery


This portrait photo recently arrived from an eBay dealer in New Hampshire and my research bug is in full throttle.  The photo was taken at the Burnham Photo Studio in Burlington, VT in 1917 and depicts a 1st Vermont Infantry Regiment Captain posing for the camera.  I’ve seen similar shots of other officers taken at the same studio.  Not much to go on in terms of an identification, but I feel that a little hard work will pay off.  I should be able to narrow down all the captains in the 1st VT and work from there.  Most officers would have their portraits listed in unit histories, so my journey may take me in search of obscure tomes.  All the more fun!

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Here’s the breakdown of the distribution from the 1st Vermont Infantry Regiment:

101st Ammunition Train, 26th Division

1 Major, 6 Captains, 3 First Lieutenants, 3 Second Lieutenants, 700 Enlisted Men

101st Machine Gun Battalion, 26th Division

2 First Lieutenants, 2 Second Lieutenants, 197 Enlisted Men

102nd Machine Gun Battalion, 26th Division

1 First Lieutenant, 2 Second Lieutenants, 212 Enlisted Men

103rd Machine Gun Battalion, 26th Division

2 First Lieutenants, 1 Second Lieutenant, 229 Enlisted Men

With this info in hand, I’ve been able to narrow down our sitter as a Captain who is most likely an officer with the 101st Ammunition Train of the 26th Division.  I’ve located a list of the captains of the 1st VT who were transferred to the 101st Ammo Train:

Captain Charles E. Pell, Co. B, St.Albans

Captain Haroll M. Howe, Co.F, Northfield

Captain Dowe E. McMath, Co.H, Montpelier

Captain William N. Hudson, Co.M, Burlington

Captain Richard T. Corey, Co.L, Newport

Captain John L. Shanley, Co.G, Winooski

Our sitter is one of the above-listed men.  Now to get down to some ancestry.com research……………..

I started with Captain Pell and quickly found a portrait of him.  His long ear lobes are quite distinct and are not a match for our sitter.

Captain Pell

Captain Pell

Captain Howe was next and I was able to find a shot from his 1911 Norwich University year book.  Not sure on the ID, so I will continue to search……..

Captain Howe

Captain Howe

Next step – locate a copy of the 101st Ammunition Train unit history.  Hopefully officer photos are listed!

WWI Vermont RPPC Photo – Herbert L. French of Stratton/Lononderry, VT 1918 France 78th Div.


WWI Photos of Vermonters are hard to find and I continually search for superlative examples at flea markets and yard sales.  This past May I was lucky enough to encounter a Vermonter dealer at a Massachusetts flea market.  Low and behold, the seller had a fantastic image of a WWI Vermonter for sale!   Herbert L. French is identified as being from Stratton, VT and as being a member of the 307th Field Artillery of the 78th Division.

Herbert L. French

Herbert L. French

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WWI Vermont Roster Entry

WWI Vermont Roster Entry

Misidentified WWI Veteran Grave Card

Misidentified WWI Veteran Grave Card

WWI Draft Card

WWI Draft Card

WWII Draft Card

WWII Draft Card

WWI Photo Identification: Mortimer G. Thompson of Knoxville, TN 117th Infantry, 30th Division


 

Another incredible set of portrait photos arrived on my doorstep today by way of a close friend and fellow collector.  Two portrait photos with incredible detail showing a clear 30th Division patch as well as a very uncommon 30th Division helmet.  Shots of WWI soldiers wearing their service helmets in a portrait studio are especially prized amongst collectors.  A big thanks to Chuck for parting with this set!  As always, I will delve into the genealogy of this soldier and hopefully find some interesting material using web-based resources.

Mortimer G. Thompson

Mortimer G. Thompson

Mortimer Grinnell Thompson was born on December 29th, 1897 (other sources say 1887) to C. Mortimer and Hattie C. Thompson in Knoxville, Tennessee.  He entered Federal service on May 21st, 1917 and eventually ended up as Sgt. with the 117th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Division. At this time, I can’t find much about his military service other than the basic facts.  With some more in-depth searching I may be able to elucidate some aspects of his service that have been all but forgotten over the past (nearly) 100 years.  He married after the war to a Celeste P. Condon and had at least two children named Mortimer G. Thompson Jr. and Harriet A. Thompson in the late 1920s.  Mort is listed as a painting contractor.

Incredibly I was able to find Mort Jr. on facebook!  A friend request is pending.  He appears to be quite active on facebook and I hope he responds.

MortJr.

“Mort” passed away at a young age in 1935 and is buried in Knoxville National Cemetery in Knoxville, TN.  His plot number is B,0,3993.

 

Mortimer Thompson's Headstone Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1252279

Mortimer Thompson’s Headstone
Source

Mortimer was the son of Charles Mortimer Thompson, better known as C. Mortimer Thompson, progenitor of  Thompson Photo Products of Knoxville, TN.  The Thompson family have been THE go-to family for photography needs in Knoxville for over 100 years. It’s no wonder the portrait shots of Mort are so detailed and well colored.  Charles was an architect, draftsman and photographer who had an eye for detail and a solid business plan.  His son Jim eventually became one of the best known Tennessee photographers of the early 1900s, capturing the rich visual heritage of the state in the first half of the century.  His works are held in collections across the country and are regarded as some of the best examples of Tennessee industrial photography.  A website of his work can be found here: http://cmdc.knoxlib.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p265301coll7

 

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WWI Vermont Veteran Photo – John J. Corcoran, 101st Machine Gun Battalion Wounded in Action


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

Dear Sister,

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-

John Corcoran

101st MG BN, AEF”

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John J. Corcoran(R)

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!

101st MG Bn. Unit History Roster Entry

101st MG Bn. Unit History Roster Entry

CorcoranWWIRecordVT

WWI Draft Card

WWI Draft Card

WWII Draft Card

WWII Draft Card

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…………………………….”

Unit History  Casualty Report

Unit History
Casualty Report

Corcoran038

CorcoranWounded

Death Registration

Death Registration