WWI Portrait of Pvt. Louis Alterici of the 1st Gas and Flame Regiment in WWI


Pvt. Louis Alterici

I apologize for not posting more frequently, but I’ve been focusing on preparing presentations and talks for local historical societies here in my home state of Vermont. Tonight’s post is the first that focuses around a recently-purchased portrait photo. A dealer from the Philadelphia area has been selling off what appears to be an entire collection of WWI portraits from a Charleroi, Pennsylvania photo studio. Of the several dozen portraits sold by this seller in the past two months, I’ve been lucky enough to pick up two photos. The best of the two is the image photograph presented below:

postlow

Louis Alterici of Charleroi, PA

At first glance, this photograph clearly presents evidence of damage in the hands of an ink-wielding enemy. Who knows how this was damaged, but it didn’t seem to impact the final value of the photograph, which sold for a healthy $68.00. The particularly interesting elements of the photograph are presented here:

headsthot

English Style Cap and Engineer Collar Disc

patch

French Croix de Guerre medal w/ silver star and 1st Army patch variant

 

After a bit of research into the sitter above, it quickly became clear that he was an engineer with the 1st Gas and Flame Regiment, previously the 30th Engineer Regiment. As a Private with the regiment, he would’ve been involved in the maintenance and mobilization of Livens gas projectors during the last several months of the war.

Born on April 21st of 1897 in Naples Italy, Louis emigrated to the United States on May 26th, 1910 in hopes of linking up with family members in Pennsylvania. He gained his citizenship when he was naturalized in May of 1928 due to his service for the U.S. during the war.

The men of the 1st Gas and Flame would be charged with maintaining, resupplying and moving the Liven’s projectors during the tail end of the war. What did this involve?

LivensProjectorDiagramWWI

Levin’s Projector schematic

 

Louis is sporting a wound chevron in the portrait photo above – he was gassed on November 1st, 1918 only ten days before the Armistice of November 11th.

wounded

Note wound chevron (stripe) on right hand sleeve

 

It’s unclear through the records on how he received his gas wounds, but it’s highly probable that his gassing took place during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, when the 1st Gas Regiment was actively moving forward during the “third-phase” of the offensive. The attack in which Louis was wounded began at 5:30 on the morning of the 1st of November. Sadly, the gas mortars that were projected that morning were done so under less-than-ideal conditions and it appears that shifting wind blew toxic gas back towards the 1st Gas Regiment. All those who were gassed during this event were brought off the line to Sommerance, France where they were treated. All of this information can be found in the unit history of the 1st Gas Regiment, which is hyperlinked here.

gassed1

Louis’ War Record (Note gassing date)

What Louis achieved after the war is unknown to me, but I hope that he lived a full and rewarding life. His war record and portrait will remain a part of my website, but I hope to pass the photo along to a relative one day.

Sharpshooters and Snipers in WWI: The Story of a US Marine


The nature of the prolonged war that was WWI and the stalemate and boredom of life in the trenches left a lot of soldiers with time on their hands. Additionally, some soldiers were raised hunting deer, boar and other game in the forests of Europe and North America in the early 1900s. A rifle in the hands of these men could become a weapon that could do immense damage from one concealed trench to another. Today’s post will highlight a United States Marine who was shot through both eyes by a German sniper in October of 1918. But first, please check out this video on snipers during WWI by The Great War, a youtube channel with daily videos about events during WWI.

 

PFC. Andrew H. Knebel, 18th Company/5th Marine Regiment

PFC Andrew H. Knebel, 18th Co./5th Marines – Lost both eyes during WWI

The story behind the above photograph of PFC Andrew H. Knebel of the United States Marine Corps is one that pulls at the heartstrings of the American populace during the war. I was lucky enough to acquire the photo from a fellow collector/friend of mine who I had helped aid in the identification several years previous. A faintly scribbled name on the reverse of the image took several weeks to properly identify, but we were eventually able to track down the story of the blinded Marine in the photo. Taken in a Paris studio in 1918, PFC Knebel is posed with a French nurse who has taken the time to wheel him (note the wet wheelchair marks) into the studio from a nearby hospital.

Details of Knebel’s wartime epic were tracked down in a Detroit Free Press article from 1919:

ANDREW KNEBEL (1897-1968), of the United States Marine Corps, had been fighting the Germans for ten months before a sniper’s bullet, on October 4, 1918, entered bis left eye, passed through the right. The last, thing he saw on earth was light. The last sight he saw on earth was a clump of wet trees glistening in the morning sunshine in the Champagne sector. But it took a better marksman than the German sniper in one or those trees to pond a shaft through Andrew’s heart. Dan Cupid did that job, which has counteracted the calamity to such an extent that the twenty-two-year-old marine is ready to tell anyone that the law of compensation Is the surest thing in the world. Andrew Knebel, on July 11, married bis nurse. Miss Anna D. Kelley who took care of him at the Baltimore Institute for the Blind. “If I hadn’t been blinded I wouldn’t have met Anna” he philosophized. “And I wouldn’t give her up for the sight, of my eyes not on your life. She’s the dearest, gentlest girl in the world. I guess one reason why I always liked her was because the treated me as if I wasn’t blind at all. She never pitied me. She’s a wonderful gal.

“Are you there, mother, old dear?”

He called, peering with empty eye sockets towards the kitchen, from which came a delectable aroma of baking apple pie. “May I have a light, mother?” “Destiny is a funny old bird,” the bride remarked, while Andrew’s rosy-cheeked mother was lighting his cigarette. “I didn’t want to go to the Baltimore institute to nurse blind boys. I did everything I could to avoid going. I was nursing at the Army Hospital at Camp Wadsworth when the chief superintendent asked for volunteers to go to Baltimore. I shied away from that chief superintendent for a week. But it was no use. She sent four or us.

knebel

“The Institute for the Blind at Baltimore is a beautiful place on a 100-acre estate which was. loaned to the government by Mrs. T. Harrison Garrett. When I’d see those boys feeling their way along the paths in that wonderful Elizabethan garden it took all the grit I had to keep from crying all the time and me an army nurse! Everything there is so beautiful that it hurt me to think they couldn’t see their own place.”

Institute for the Blind in Baltimore

“Then I got acquainted with Andy. I had often heard him singing, but hadn’t paid much attention to him. We nurses were pretty busy and we hadn’t much time for anything but work. He has a splendid voice sang second tenor with the battalion quartet, and he just couldn’t quit singing. They call him ‘the songbird of the Marines.”

“We were supposed to be cheerful to the patients, but Andy turned the tables and jollied the nurses. I’m afraid he jollied me a good deal. I got into tho habit of forgetting his handicap. Somehow I never can think of him as being blind. He finds his own collar buttons and adjusts his own neckties, and it’s almost uncanny the way he knows whether his clothes are pressed and bis shoes shiny. When he puts on his dark glasses and goes walking with me I don’t think a stranger would know he is blind. And you just ought to see him dance!”

“I’m being introduced to all sorts of new interests. For example, I never used to read the sporting page In the newspaper. Now, of course, it’s the first page I open, because Andrew is always in a hurry to learn the baseball and boxing news. I’m getting to be quite a fan myself.”

We were sitting in the dining room of the Knebel homestead at Irvington, N. J., where the young couple spent their honeymoon with tho bridegroom’s parents. Whatever life has in store for this youth who lost his eyes in the country’s service, anyone could see that there was a good deal of compensation in his convalescence, while two were engaged in a sympathetic rivalry which could do the most for him.

“Anna understands him so much better than I do,” his mother admitted. “I am so glad to have my boy back that to be doing things for him all the time. I keep reminding him that he’s blind, but his wife seems never to think of that. It’s wonderful to think that she’s going to care for him his whole life.”

Post-Identification

After identifying the photo and posting it to PortraitsofWar, I decided to do a little more digging and was eventually able to link up, via eMail, a few of the family members. I offered the photo to them, but apparently they had an exact copy (in much better condition). Out of gratitude, they sent me a few scans of other photos of Andrew as well as some honey from the apiary at the Monticello!

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Andrew Knebel in the 1930s

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Andrew in the 1950s enjoying a cigarette

WWI Ohio Soldier Research – Defiance, Ohio Soldiers Identified as Ward Family Veterans


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.

Ward Brothers

Ward Brothers

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:

John Ward's Discharge Stripe

John Ward’s Discharge Stripe

The Uniform

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.

Clayton Ward

Clayton Ward

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……

Clayton Ward, H Co. 332nd Infantry Regiment

Clayton Ward, H Co. 332nd Infantry Regiment

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:

1910 US Census

1910 US Census

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:

Clinton Perry

Clinton Ward

Perry Ward

Perry Ward

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.

Clinton Ward

Clinton Ward

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.

Perry Ward

Perry Ward

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.

WWI Artillery Collar Disc

WWI Artillery Collar Disc

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.

John Ward

John Ward

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 Ward War Record

John Ward War Record

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.

Social Security Records

Social Security Records

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.

The Mystery of the German POW of WWI: A Photographic Study


It’s been a long month for us here at PortraitsofWar, and we apologize for a lack of posting since the last photo on April 3rd.  In today’s post we will be looking at a different side of the war than normally highlighted on this blog.  Normally focused on American portraits, photos, and slides, we will be dissecting the story behind a German prisoner of war being held in Marseilles, France in 1918.

Unteroffizier Grießbach as a POW in France

Unteroffizier Grießbach as a POW in France

Before delving into the biographical information hand inscribed on the reverse side of the image, we will inspect and identify the visual imagery captured on the obverse.  The first thing of note is the format of the image.  The photo was printed as a real photo postcard (RPPC) and was likely obtained in a pack of 6 or 12.  It’s not uncommon to see identical copies of WWI RPPC’s pop up on the market from time to time.  The consistent size, quality and subject matter of these images make them a highly collectable form of WWI militaria.

The three major identifying features present on the front of the RPPC will need some research using easily-accessible internet resources.

  • Buttons
  • Collar Insignia
  • Cap/Headgear

Buttons

Upon quick glance it’s clear to see that the buttons running down the center are a rimmed (see the raised edge along the outside of the button) with a crown in the center.   This type of button is widely known as the standard button of a WWI German soldier and were made to be removable to allow for the cleaning of the uniform. This was a common standard of many nations during WWI.

Rimmed Crown Button

Rimmed Crown Button

Collar Insignia

The next identifiable feature of the tunic is the visible decoration of the collar. Here at PortraitsofWar, we’re use to identifying WWI doughboy collar insignia, but had to rely upon outside sources to help with this particular post.  The first thing to call attention to the neck region is the disc on the left side of the sitter’s uniform.

Collar Details

Collar Details

The disc on the left hand side of the photo is known as an Non Commissioned Officer collar disc (sometimes as disk) and can infrequently be seen in period studio photographs.  A lengthy internet-based search only turned up a small handful of images, the best of which can be seen below.

NCO Discs

NCO Discs

dscn1209r

NCO Discs

Headgear/Cap

The third and final identifying feature of the obverse side of the photo is the headgear worn by the sitter.  It appear to be an easily bendable version of the Prussian feldmutz field cap.  This style of cap was popular with NCO’s and were easily folded or packed for transport.  WWII versions were popularly known as “crushers.”

Prussian Feldmutze

Prussian Feldmutze

Cap Cockades (Kokarden)

The circular insignia seen on the cap above are known as cockades, or kokarden in German.  Sadly, the photo we’re working with is in black and white, but typically each cockade color helps identify the unit type, region and era of creation.

Visual Observations

So what do we know just by viewing the front of the image?  We certainly know the soldier is an NCO in the German Army during WWI.  He’s sporting all the fittings associated with a non commissioned officer of the period, but doesn’t have all the extra tidbits normally associated with a WWI period phograph. Where are his ribbons, medals and weaponry?

Hand Written Reverse Side

In the world of identifying WWI photos, the really important research material is always included on the backside (reverse) of the image.  In this case, the German soldier oddly wrote in French to an unmarried friend or relative of his who was living in Dresden during the time. It’s very likely that he was writing to a girlfriend or close female friend, as the wording is very proper.  Please see below for a low resolution scan of the backside.

Photo Backside

Photo Backside

What does the backside tell us? 

Firstly, it’s clearly a real photo postcard created to be sent to recipients.  The CARTE POSTALE header is a clear indicator of it’s origin: France.  The sender of the postcard notes Marseille as his current location, and Dresden, Germany is the destination.  How do we interpret a real photo postcard without knowing anything else about the people included?  Isn’t it strange that the postcard doesn’t include a message?  This infers a close connection between the writer and recipient.  Perhaps she already knows about his wartime status.

Writer Section

This section is typically reserved for messages but, in this case, relays the status of the photographed soldier’s military situation.   His handwriting is careful and is strangely written in French without the normal stylistic handwriting nuances of Germanic writing of the period, it becomes easy to make out the passage.

“Uzfdir. Griessbach

pris. de guerre

6283, depit de Marseille,

detacbhment coulou

(Ceceille) france”

The surname of the sitter is uncertain at this point.  Is is Greissbach, Greissback, Greissbarf or possibly Greiss back?  The prefix Uxfdir. is short for Unteroffizier and can be easily related to a rank between corporal and sergeant most worldwide military rankings. It’s odd that an Unteroffizier would wear an NCO collar disc, but that is an issue best left to the armchair historians who browse this blog.

Who was it sent to?

“Frau Gerfrun Griecfsbahn

Dresden-U

Weinbergstraße 1/73 I”

Was this woman living in Dresden at the time?  Does Weinbergstraße 1/73 I correspond with an apartment number in the city?

If so, this is the location of the house the postcard was meant to be delivered to:

Weinbergstraße 73, Dresden

Weinbergstraße 73, Dresden

And is this the house that the card was meant to be sent?  I recognize the Audi in the carport! I used to have the same model.

Weinbergstraße 73

Weinbergstraße 73

I need the help of German speaking friends to help decipher the last names of the sitter and the recipient. Hopefully we can narrow down the search using the power of the internet.  If you have a clue that may help, please don’t hesitate to comment on this post!

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

 

Mortimer318

WWI 1st Division Chaplain 26th Infantry Regiment – Chaplain Roberts Williams, Silver Star Recipient


Chaplain Roberts Williams in Germany

Chaplain Roberts Williams in Germany

chaplain151

Obverse Side

Another incredible WWI portrait photo has come across my desk via my dedicated searching regime on eBay.  I bought this shot with the knowledge that the sitter was a chaplain.  Chaplain shots are far and few between, and to have an ink identified example is very uncommon. In this case I was able to ply the internet and dig up some wonderful information on our sitter. Chaplain(Protestant) Roberts Williams originally enlisted as a private in the 17th Engineers but was eventually hooked up with the 26th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Division.   He was awarded the Silver Star and was recommended for the Distinguished Service Crossed by his commander, Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.  He was gassed and the wound chevron can be seen on his right sleeve in the above image.

Here’s a quick transcription of his war service courtesy of a post-war Princeton Alumni newsletter.  Interestingly, he graduated the same year as his commander, Teddy Roosevelt Jr.

“Chaplain Robert Williams, chaplain of the 26th Infantry of the First Division, has returned home, 55 Park Ave., Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to enjoy a brief leave of absence after twenty-one months’ service in France.  Mr. Williams enlisted as a private in the 17th Engineers and served ten months at St. Nazaire.  This regiment was among those composed of railroad men, to be reviewed by King George in London.  During May, 1918, Private Williams was commissioned a chaplain.  Immediately thereafter he was sent to the trenches where with the First Division he spent fifty-four days in the fighting of the Picardy front, culminating in the capture of Cantigny, the first planned American offensive.  Withdrawn for a rest, his unit was unexpectedly sent into the fray again at the pivot of Marchal Foch’s counter attack northeast towards Soissons to cut the Soissons Chateau-Thierry railroad, which supplied the Germans in the Marne Salient.  During this battle Chaplain Williams was gassed and here it was that his commander cited him for bravery and recommended that the DSC be conferred upon him. Chaplain Williams also spent three months in Germany, his unit being engaged in outpost duty twenty miles from the Rhine within Hunland.  He says the Germans are very hard up for raw materials and that soap is worth more than money.”

RobertWilliams

RobertWilliams2

I was also able to find a transcription of a letter Chaplain Williams penned to the family of a soldier killed in action:

“His battalion had gone over the top that morning, across a great
National Highway, the Paris-Soissons Road. The German machine-gun fire
was extremely severe, and we suffered heavily.

“A detail of four soldiers was given me by Major Legge to bury Captain
Richards and Lieutenant Boone. We buried your husband where he fell
and marked the grave with a cross upon which his identification tag was
placed. His personal effects, as I found them, were removed, and later
placed in his bedding-roll. We endeavored to remove his ring, but found it
impossible to do so, so we buried it with him. Records of the location of
the grave were sent to the Adjunct General, American Expeditionary Forces,
and to the Graves Registration Service; so his grave can be readily found after the war is over.

“It was remarkable what a peaceful and spiritual expression was upon
the face of Captain Richards. It did not seem as if he had suffered greatly,
and we could fancy that he seemed well pleased to pay the supreme sacrifice
upon the field of battle.

“I have heard among the enlisted men and officers who knew your
husband many, many remarks as to Captain Richard’s ouiet thoughtfulness.
his constant care for those under his command, his unfailing cheer, and his
courage, and efficiency as a soldier and leader of men. His memory lives
with us, and inspires us to emulate his devoted service to his Country.

“We ask that you will accept our sincere sympathy for the burden of
grief you bear; but we trust that your pride and joy in your husband’s
noble life and glorious death will enable you to bear his loss with courage.

“May God strengthen and help you, and may the promise of our
Savior comfort you with the thought of meeting your husband in a better
world.

Sincerely yours,

Robert Williams,
Chaplain (Protestant), 26th Infantry.”

Williams' Silver Star Citation

Williams’ Silver Star Citation

World War One 1st Division Portrait Photo – First US Soldier to Fire During WWI! Alex Arch


The world of WWI photo collecting is becoming increasingly expensive; good identified photos are beginning to bring big bucks in the eBay world.  I was lucky enough to “steal” this gem of a portrait from the realm of auction obscurity.  Identified to a Sgt. Alex Arch of C Co.  6th Field Artillery, 1st Division.  I was blown away when I learned that Mr. Arch was the first US soldier to fire against the Germans on October 23rd, 1917.  He technically pulled the firing cord of a French 75mm while in Xanrey in the Luneville Section.  A great addition to the collection!


 

WWI 310th Engineer “Polar Bear” in Archangel Russia, 1918 – US Northern Russia Expedition


310th Engineer in Archangel, Russia

Don’t know too much about the US involvement in Russia during WWI?  Don’t worry, neither did I until a few years ago.  The above photo was acquired from a poorly listed eBay auction, and depicts a 310th Engineer posing for the camera in a Russian studio in the city of Archangel.  Photos of “Polar Bear” soldiers are incredibly rare, especially front-taken studio portraits.  I’ve seen a FEW example of Polar Bears posing back home, but only a couple taken overseas.  This one is particularly rare, as it shows a member of the 310th Engineers, who only sent ONE battalion of soldiers up to Russia.

Want to read more about the Polar Bears?  Visit the site below!

An excerpt taken from the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan’s website:

(http://polarbears.si.umich.edu/index.pl?node=polar%20bear%20history)

“The American military intervention at Archangel, Russia, at the end of World War I, nicknamed the “Polar Bear Expedition,” is a strange episode in American history. Ostensibly sent to Russia to prevent a German advance and to help reopen the Eastern Front, American soldiers found themselves fighting Bolshevik revolutionaries for months after the Armistice ended fighting in France.

Because many of the American troops involved in the intervention were from Michigan, the Michigan Historical Collections has long been interested in documenting this episode. This guide describes the Collections’ holdings of manuscripts and photographs as well as maps and primary printed source materials relating to the Polar Bear Expedition.

During the summer of 1918, the U. S. Army’s 85th Division, made up primarily of men from Michigan and Wisconsin, completed its training at Fort Custer, outside of Battle Creek, Michigan, and proceeded to England. While the rest of the division was preparing to enter the fighting in France, some 5,000 troops of the 339th Infantry and support units (one battalion of the 310th Engineers, the 337th Field Hospital, and the 337th Ambulance Company) were issued Russian weapons and equipment and sailed for Archangel, a Russian port on the White Sea, 600 miles north of Moscow.

When American troops reached their destination in early September, they joined an international force commanded by the British that had been sent to northern Russia for purposes never made clear. Whatever the reasons for the intervention, however, the force was fighting the Bolsheviks who had taken power in Petrograd and Moscow the previous winter.”

WWI 26th Yankee Division, 102nd Field Artillery Doughboy – Walter Laskowski


Originally a member of the 8th Co. Coastal Artillery based out of Narragansett Bay (RI) until April 1918, Walter eventually joined the 102nd Field Artillery of the 26th Yankee Division.  I was lucky enough to acquire two inscribed photographs depicting Walter in both roles.  His seated portrait was taken before his June 1918 departure for overseas service.

An interestingly decorated backmark shows that the seated portrait was taken in at 162 Thames Street in Newport, RI.  The Electric Studio’s logo includes a fanned array of lightning bolts emanating from the written portion of the backmark.

For further information on the Rhode Island National Guard unit Walter belonged to, click the link below:

http://www.or.ng.mil/sites/RI/army/56tc/a219sf/default.aspx