WWI Photo – Silver Lake, MN Pvt. Edward Prochaska Killed in Action, 118th Infantry, 30th Division


Each of the 116, 516 US soldiers, Marines and sailors killed during WWI   deserve a narrative on the world wide web.  In this case, a photo of Edward Prochaska of Silver Lake, MN recently arrived in the mail from an eBay seller in the Midwest.  I purchased the photo after doing some brief research on the photo, finding that Prochaska was killed in action while serving with the 118th Infantry, 30th Division.

Ed Prochaska ca. 1918  France

Ed Prochaska ca. 1918
France

Incredibly, Prochaska is referenced heavily in a postwar book following the exploits of Private Oscar Dahlgren during WWI.  The full text version of the book can be found here: http://bit.ly/1bSx4h9

Some excerpts from the book are incredibly detailed and give us a unique view into the experiences of a doughboy on the frontlines.

Page 59

“In the evening of this day (August 4th, 1918), we started for the front line trenches carrying with us rations.  Myself and Prochaska toted a bag of coffee together changing off with other when tired.  Getting on the road just east of Valencies, we got caught in a shelling that Jerry put over on the roads every day at Valencies toward evening. The big shells dropped so close that we expected to be blown to pieces for every shell.  We threw ourselves flat, favoring the fall.  Luckily, my platoon got through the shelling without any casualties, except for a bag scare.  I could tell how bad when I noted how extremely pale they all got. It struck me so funny that I wanted to laugh.  Ed Prochaska noticed it too, and felt kind of ashamed saying he could laugh at death grinning us in the face.”

Page 105

“Again between August 26th and 27th Prochaska was with me when another heavy shelling took place.  The trench here was shot up bad so there was little protection.  A heavy shell tore into the bank behind our backs.  We both flopped down with pan.  I said it felt like my fingers had been shot off, but I found all my fingers there.”

Page 117

“It was dark and rainy as we walked up the line we had to step over German dead who were lying thick around there (sic) holes they had made in the ground.  When we halted we took into those holes which weren’t very deep.  The hole I got wasn’t more than a foot deep.  Schellenburger got to be my partner.  4 or 5 dead Germans lay dead by my hole.  Prochaska was close by digging in together with R.L. Ross, we not set to work and dug our hole 4 feet deep and wide enough to stretch out.”

Page 65

“Someone caught sight of one coming towards us from Company Headquarters.  He was already half ways and now there was some hollering for him to get down, especially by the sergeant.  It turned out to be Prochaska.  Poor boy – they had him pretty nervous before he came up.  He did not know we weren’t allowed to cross now……… They asked him what he meant by coming over…… He told them he had been at the canteen having bought some cakes, cookies and a can of salmon saying I wanted to bring Dahlgren some! ……. It touched my heart that he had so much friendship and love for me – he thought so much of me.”

And the sad details leading up to Edwards death:

Page 135/6

“I stopped to talk to Prochaska who had dug in deep by himself and was carrying straw to bed down with.  I and he had always dug in together before, but now as I was a runner, we were parted.  Well, he did not get used to his foxhole as he was put on guard at Company Headquarters where I was.  There in the hedges he slept when off guard, that being the last time I talked with him.  That night, though I had a warm bed, I was not able to sleep as the cooties and German fleas started going over the top and giving me no peace……

After getting through the hedge and the wire fence which separated us from the field, we noticed an observation balloon.  We had a funny feeling something terrible was in store for us. My heart made a few quick beats and I felt pale.  All of us runners said to the Captain that it would be suicide to cross the field……. I noticed dozens of Americans lying on the railroad bank killed and the rails lay twisted up…….. We now got to talk to some men of the 128th Regiment who said the same thing happened to them at Brancourt…… The first I got across, one of the boys called me and said, “Prochaska, Dahlgren is killed.”  He had out names mixed up.  The boys were lying close to Prochaska told me his head and shoulder were knocked off by a shell.  He had been my best friend for a long time……”

Prochaska

Prochaska

WWI Draft Card

WWI Draft Card

WWI Vermonter – 103rd MG, 26th Division – Walter J. Fuller Dies of Disease 1917 – Westminster, VT Native


WalterFuller365

Walter J. Fuller Poses in Westminster

A recent Walter J. Fuller poses for the camera near his home in Westminster before shipping off for training in 1917.  The photo was originally part of a much larger scrapbook which was broken up and sold on eBay in 2012.  Luckily they included a bit of context to the sale listing, enabling me to track down the identity of this brave Vermonter.  A member of the 103rd MG Bn., Walter shipped out from Fort Ethan Allen down to Camp Bartlett in Massachusetts.  It was here that he contracted the bronchial pneumonia and passed away at 3:30 (yes, we know the exact time!) on October 27th, 1917.  His family was contacted via telephone about his worsening condition and were able to be present when he passed away.

Fuller

Johnson, Herbert T. Roster of Vermont Men and Women in the Military and Naval Service of the United States and Allies in the World War, 1917-1919. Montpelier, VT: Tuttle, 1927.

I was able to track down a few articles in the 1917 Vermont Phoenix

Fuller1

“Soldier Dies in Westfield.” Vermont Phoenix, November 2, 1917, 2. Accessed December 4, 2013. ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov.

fuller2

Veterans Days 1921 – Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Ceremony Service Attendant


As of the fall of 1920, the US Quartermaster Graves Registration Service had successfully identified over 90% of the bodies of US servicemen who died overseas during WWI.  The nation was still in mourning from the losses of the war, and the government looked to other countries for a suitable ceremony to honor those whose bodies were never identified.  In the fall of 1920, the caskets of four unidentified U.S. soldiers were chosen for reburial in Washington D.C.  One pallbearer, SGT Edward Younger, chose one body to be the Unknown Soldier of WWI.

The remains were transported aboard the USS Olympia, the flagship of Vermont’s Own Admiral Dewey, and arrived home on November 9th, 1921.  The body lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda for two days, where over 90,000 people quietly filtered through.  This Unknown Soldier was buried with full services on November 11th, 1921.

As I pawed through my large collection of WWI and WWII photography looking for a suitable candidate for a Veteran’s Day post, I came across one photo that stood out as a perfect blogpost.

This veteran is wearing an Indian Wars medal on his chest, and looks distinguished in his black cap and jacket.  This photo was taken only moments after he was a member of the first Tomb of the Unknown Soldier ceremony on November 11th, 1921.  He inscribed a quick note to a loved one on the reverse.  I can’t find a list of the members of that first delegation anywhere, but I’m sure he is one of the visible veterans standing around the casket in this photo:

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Although his identity is a mystery to me, maybe his name will come to the surface after this post hits the web.  What a fitting photo post for Veterans Day!

Special thanks to David R. Berry for the following message:

May I submit to you that the identity of the distinguished gentleman is Mr. Isaac B. Millner. US Navy, Civil War veteran –a seaman aboard the USS HARTFORD, flagship of Adm Farragut at the Battle of Mobile Bay 5 Aug 1864. Millner had a life-long interest in Adm Farragut, attending several commemorations of Farraguts life and career.

He was affiliated with the Dept. of Anthropology at the National Museum; holder of several patents; a specialist in Native American and Micronisian Indian cultures; a modeler for the Smithsonian working in the medium of paper’ machete and a member of the US Geological Survey. Author of the book: The Last Cruise (1917)

You will find many notations for him in Google under his full name as well as his initials I B Millner. He is mistakenly noted in the 1920 Census as Isaac B Mi-(one L) ner. What his relationship with Mrs. Clara A Wright Of Wincasset, Maine, might be is unclear, but one might note that the description and the address texts on the back of the portrait were written in two distinctly different hands. It could be that Mrs. Wright was a friend of his wife Mrs. Mary Millner.

A 1929 photo of IB Millner appears here:

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3c31287/

WWI 107th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division NY KIA Portrait Photo – Harold E. Manners – Meuse-Argonne Offensive


I picked up this little gem in a Palmer Massachusetts antique store a few months back and never took the time to look at the photo closely until this past week.  The frame was intricately created; something not often seen in run of the mill WWI photos.  The gold stars on the corners and bottom of the image should have been a dead giveaway.  Once I  decided to look at the photo a little closer, I took the frame apart from the back and began to uncover the identity of the soldier depicted in the image.  I knew he was a member of the 7th Infantry Regiment; this was evidenced in the collar disc.  The 7th New York eventually became the 107th Infantry Regiment of the 27th Division.  Harold was in Company H.

The reverse of the photo was beautifully inscribed with everything I needed to know to track this fellow down.

Harold Edward Manners

Killed in France in the

Great War, Sept. 29th 1918

aged 23 years

After extensive research I’ve learned that Harold was killed during the operations before the Hindeburg Line east of Ronssoy, September 29th, 2918.  His citation for the day reads:

“This soldier, with great gallantry and determination, advanced against unusually difficult enemy positions composed of strongly fortified machine gun nests until killed.”

I found an auction result online that showed his medals which were sold in 2008 at an auction in NY. A beautifully inscribed NY veterans medal for a KIA was included.  I wish I had that grouping!

Harold E. Manners – KIA Meuse-Argonne 1918