Sometimes a little research and hard work pay off. In this case, I received a WWI 26th Division portrait in the mail from a friend in Pennsylvania. I knew it was a good image given the subject matter and the fact that the soldier was likely from the Lewiston area given the photographers embossed stamp. Not an easy task. I counted a dozen or so guys in a thirty mile radius of Lewiston that were possible contenders. Lots of Maine men were members of the 26th during the war, and it’s not always easy to associate a location given a photographers stamp.
With a little forensic work I was able to figure out the identity of our mysterious hero. Since I’ve handled thousands of vintage photos and negatives, I know that photographers often penciled info on the back of the print, or etched names/numbers on the bottom of the original negative. The numbers would cross reference to a name and address to ship the photo. In this case I was lucky to find a name etched on the original negative. Obviously it was in reverse on the positive image, so I flipped it 180 degrees with photoshop and tweaked the contrast and brightness. Bingo, a name appeared. Tuttle. A quick search found a Mellen F. Tuttle from New Gloucester, ME who served as a private in Company B of the 103rd Infantry Regiment.
Further research shows that his actual name was Francis Mellen Tuttle, but he went by Mellen F. Tuttle during the war. After an hour of searching in vain for the death records of Mellen F. Tuttle, I decided to search for birth records for the Tuttle family in Maine. I came across a Francis M. Tuttle Jr. and clicked on the birth record. His father was Francis Mellen Tuttle! Everything fell into place after that. Please see the end of the article for a photo of his grave showing his name as Francis M. Tuttle. Somehow he made it all the way to Los Angeles and passed away in 1961!
His feat of bravery occured on July 20th, 1918 on Hill 190 near Rochet Woods, Chateau Thierry. Mellen was with an automatic rifle team of Co. B of the 103rd when all of his fellow soldiers wounded. He single-handedly advanced on an enemy MG nest and forced them to retreat. His detachment was able to advance due to his bravery.
Name: Mellen F. Tuttle
Serial Number: 67163
Birth Place: Freeport, Maine
Age: 22 6/12 yrs.
Residence: New Gloucester
Comment: Enl: NG Augusta, May 30/17. Pvt 1st cl Jan. 2/18; Cpl July 18/19. Org: Co B 2 Inf Me NG (Co B 103 Inf) to Mar. 6/19; 291 Co MPC to disch. Eng: St Mihiel; Defensive Sector. Awarded French Croix de Guerre; awarded DSC. Overseas: Sept. 26/17 to Aug. 3/19. Hon disch on demob: Aug. 8, 1919.