Sunday, January 3, 2010

Researching a World War I Ancestor

"Tidewater Historian" is back from a longer than anticipated hiatus (a result of time limitations brought on by graduate school coursework and job responsibilities). Lately, I've been researching my ancestors who served during World War I. Interestingly, I have four great-granduncles (all brothers) who served in the U.S. Military during its involvement in the war - Bill, George, Roy, and Millard. All of them were Xenia, Ohio natives with Bill, George, and Millard entering the Army while Roy enlisted in the Navy. It appears that all of the brothers except Millard (shown here) served stateside during the war. Bill and George served at U.S. Army installations in Ohio while Roy served at the Norfolk Navy Base. Tragically, he died of pneumonia. Consequently, his mother (my great-great-grandmother) was a "Gold-Star" mother.

Enlisting on July 1, 1917, Uncle Millard (born in 1897) joined Co. I of the 148th Infantry Regiment, 37th Infantry Division and received training in Ohio and Alabama before shipping out to serve in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France. Promoted to Corporal in May 1918, Uncle Millard later served in the famous Meuse-Argonne Offensive from September to November 1918. Although it was one of the last campaigns of the war, it was also one of the bloodiest, with over 117,000 U.S. casualties - the highest casualty count of any single engagment in U.S. military history. Fortunately, Uncle Millard made it out O.K. and recieved an honorable discharge in September 1919. He later married, started a family, and lived a relatively long life. Uncle Millard was definitely one of the lucky ones! Fortunately, I possess some of his original wartime letters and other WWI-era historical documents belonging to his brothers. It all makes for fascinating reading!

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