Tag Archives: WWI

For Those Who Made The Sacrifice

I recently received a number of surprise emails with attachments from the sister who happily dives into piles of old photos and documents, sending me anything that she thinks might catch my fancy.  Louise had turned up a number of WWII era letters to and from Alvin D. Saucier (my father’s younger brother) after his enlistment; the kind of letters that say a lot without saying anything at all.  The folks at home trying to make out like things were normal, and the son in the service so obviously lonely for news of home and family.

I’ve had a wonderful time working through the letters; simple, everyday chatter of babies getting heat rash because the summer had been so very hot that year, the menfolk getting in quality fishing time, but who didn’t catch a lot because the summer had been so very hot that year, and recent overnight showers that cooled things down a bit and will do the garden good because the summer had been so very hot that year.

There was even news of Mrs. Sweeney returning home after an extended and mysterious absence, and that piece of news prompted me to ask myself a few questions:

  1. Who on earth was Mrs. Sweeney?
  2. I wonder where Mrs. Sweeney went for a number of weeks in June & July of 1943?
  3. I wonder if Mrs. Sweeney went to Chicago and took her cow along?  No. Wait. Back up. That was Mrs. O’Leary along about 1871.
V-Mail to Alvin D. Saucier from his mother, Ida Hoffmann Saucier

V-Mail to Alvin D. Saucier, from his mother, Ida (Hoffmann) Saucier, wife of James Garfield Saucier

(Note: You can click on any of these items for an embiggened view.)

The answer to my first question was buried in the pile of email in another letter to Al, this one from Bill Sweeney, dated 21 September 1945.  My best guess is that Bill was the son of the much-travelled Mrs. Sweeney, and in his letter, Bill made no mention of the weather.  His talk was all soldier-to-soldier, mostly concerned with daydreams of life after mustering out.  He did, however, mention that he was just back from “a typical sailors’ leave, one that he wasn’t much proud of, but had to admit it was fun”.  Okay.  A period can be put on that topic.  Moving along.

letter from Bill Sweeney to Alvin D. Saucier dated 21 September 1945

Bill Sweeney and Al Saucier - 1945

Bill Sweeney and Al Saucier – 1945

More letters, more news from home, and the very last attachment included assorted photographs that Al had saved – one photo in particular caught my eye, it was older than the WWII items – and then I realized what I was seeing…

Battlefield burial site of Charles Clide Saucier near Nancy, France

Battlefield burial site of Charles Clide Saucier

And For Those Who Made The Supreme Sacrifice

Charles Clide Saucier 1895-1918

Charles Clide Saucier 1895-1918

The photo was a burial registration photograph for Charles Clide Saucier, who on 27 September 1918, died of wounds received during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  This photo managed to reignite my search for great-Uncle Charlie’s final resting place, and allowed me to close another mystery – the date on great-Uncle Ben’s letter home during WWI.

Along the way, I’ve discovered a few more documents and newspaper clippings that not only shed a little light on Charlie’s time in the Army, but from his draft registration, we know a bit about his physical characteristics as well: tall, gray-eyed, with light colored hair.

WWI Draft Registration Card Charles Clide Saucier 5 June 1917

WWI Draft Registration Card Charles Clide Saucier 5 June 1917

Franklin County Tribune (Union, Missouri) Friday, 8 Nov 1918 page 4

Franklin County Tribune (Union, Missouri) Friday, 8 Nov 1918 page 4

From the clipping above, I think that it’s safe to infer that Ben’s letter home was one of the letters written on September 25, 1918.  In the letter, Ben wrote of being bivouacked outside of Nancy, describing his surroundings along with non-battle related experiences in a very general way.  The American Expeditionary Forces had liberated Nancy September 16, 1918, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive began ten days later on September 26, 1918.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Tuesday, 5 Nov 1918 (Main Editiion) page 4

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Tuesday, 5 Nov 1918 (Main Editiion) page 4

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Thursday, 14 Nov 1918 page 6

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Thursday, 14 Nov 1918 page 6. The Mrs. Thomas O’Donnell referenced in the clipping was Louise (Lulu Saucier) O’Donnell, one of Charles’ sisters.

Application for Military Headstone/Marker - Charles Clide Saucier

Application for Military Headstone/Marker – Charles Clide Saucier. The application was made by Mrs. Wm. Pace of Washington, Missouri aka Henrietta (Hattie Saucier) Pace, another of Charles’ sisters.

St. Anthony's Catholic Cemetery, Oak Grove (Stanton), Franklin County, Missouri.

St. Anthony’s Catholic Cemetery, Oak Grove (Stanton), Franklin County, Missouri.

I’d long assumed that Charlie’s headstone at Stanton, Missouri was a cenotaph, no remains, simply a marker for family members to take comfort in.  I’ve been through every database I could find, the final say coming from the American Battlefield Monuments Commission – there is no record of Charles Saucier being interred in any of the recognized cemeteries overseas.  Which brings me to the conclusion that Charlie was, after all, brought home.  The one unchecked item remaining on my to-do list is to apply to the Joint Mortuary Affairs Center for Charlie’s repatriation records.

Wish me luck that the records survived the fire of 1973 at the Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (records for Army personnel discharged November 1, 1912 through January 1, 1960 equaled an 80% loss).

Save

Block Forty-Eight: Fair Play

For Every Fighter A Woman Worker by Ernest Hamlin Baker. Photo Credit Library of CongressForty-eight blocks down, and only one block remaining.  This week’s block in Grandmother’s Choice: The Fight For Women’s Rights quilt project is in remembrance of the Canadian women who stepped forward during World War I to support the war effort both at home and abroad.  They not only filled the labor force vacancies left by the men that went to war, but also as nurses at the battle lines.  In fairness, Canada awarded women the right to vote in 1917 for the services they provided.

Our foremothers in the United States were no less patriotic, yet they were still denied the right to vote.

WWI ranks highly among the most deadly conflicts in U.S. history.  We suffered a casualty list of 323,155 during the 19 months that constituted our involvement in WWI.  The need for trained nurses was great.

Anticipating the possibility of war, the American Red Cross Nursing Service was organized in 1901 by Jane Arminda Delano, a professional nurse who also possessed outstanding administrative skills.  Jane Delano created the service by uniting the American Nursing Association, the Army Nurse Corp, and the American Red Cross.

Jane Arminda Delano, 1862-1919WWI Nursing poster by Howard Chandler ChristyAnd I Was Talking About What?

I nearly always get derailed by WWI posters, the propaganda and iconography are so compelling.  My first experience with this art form was during a visit to the National WWI Museum at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri; a recruiting poster by Fred Spear that shamelessly depicted innocent victims of the torpedoing of the R.M.S. Lusitania on 7 May, 1915.  Simple, yet effective.

lusitaniaThe American public did not want to become involved in a war in Europe, but propaganda posters, a popular method to attract attention and fire patriotism, were soon being seen across the nation.  James Montgomery Flagg, one of the first great propaganda artists, was commissioned to wake America up with a bugle cry for Liberty.

wakeupAnd our government wasn’t kidding about every man, woman, and child.  J.C. Leyendecker, known for his Arrow© collar and shirt illustrations, depicted a young Boy Scout arming a warrior-like Lady Liberty with sword and shield.

USA Bonds - Boy Scouts of America by J.C. Leyndecker.  Photo credit Library of CongressDon’t make the mistake that sex sells was an invention dreamed up by ad men of the television era, it’s been around a long, long, long time.  Howard Chandler Christy, a combat artist during the Spanish-American War, figured if the lure of action, adventure, and heroism in the recruitment posters didn’t float the boats of red-blooded American men, there was a good chance that the pretty girl next door just might do the trick.

Howard Chandler ChristyChristy devised a backup strategy as well… if sex didn’t sell, a pretty girl casting aspersions on American Manhood – Be A Man And Do It – was certain to compel the most craven of stragglers to the recruitment stations.

WWI poster by Howard Chandler ChristyWomen provided additional services to the war effort aside from being used as a reminder to the boys why they should fight.  With approximately 17,000 casualties per month, female nurses, ambulance drivers, clerks, and switchboard operators freed their male counterparts to fight.  Would you like some numbers?

America provided 21,480 U.S. Army nurses, all women, who served on the home front and abroad.  More than 400 of these nurses died in the line of duty.

The U.S. Army Quartermaster’s Service employed 283 bilingual women as telephone operators and stenographers.

13,000 American women enlisted in the Navy and Marines.  305 women served as Marine Reservists in a clerical capacity, while the yeoman recruits served as couriers, draftsmen, fingerprint experts, masters-at-arms, mess attendants, paymasters, recruiters, switchboard operators, and translators.  They received the identical pay, $28.75 per month, as their male counterparts and were treated as veterans after the Armistice.

Need more specific information?  Loretta Perfectus Walsh became the first active-duty U.S. woman in a non-nurse occupation when she enlisted 17 March, 1917.  Walsh became the first woman U.S. Navy Petty Officer when she was sworn in as Chief Yeoman, 21 March, 1917.

Charles Dana Gibson and Clarence F. Underwood were recruited to create posters that helped fuel the the drive for volunteers and funding.

American Field Service by Charles Dana Gibson.  Photo credit Library of CongressBack Our Girls Over There by Clarence F. Underwood. Photo credit Library of CongressOn the home front, a women’s organization called The Woman’s Land Army of America employed over 15,000 women, many college educated, to replace farmers called up by the U.S. military.  A number of well known illustrators and artists provided propaganda posters for the Woman’s Land Army of America, including the man who became known as the the father of the American poster, Edward Penfield.

The Girl On The Land by Edward Penfield. Photo credit Library of CongressThe Woman's Land Army of America by Herbert Andrew Paus. Photo credit Library of CongressDid You Think That I was Off-Topic?

Canada may have seen the logic of enfranchising women who, in peace and in war, did so much for their country.  The United States, however, continued to ignore the lengths that American women were willing to go in service of their homeland.  American women waited 22 months after the Armistice before the 19th Amendment was ratified by Congress on 18 August, 1920.

Fair Play Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's Choice

The Great War, A Biplane, & Damson Plums

Ben Saucier Ree Heights South Dakota 1920

The following is the transcription of a letter written by my granduncle, Benjamin Harrison Saucier – that’s Ben in the photograph above – addressed to his younger sister, Josephine (Saucier) Cowan.  The letter came to me through a Howell cousin, who was also the source of the bios written by Henrietta (Saucier) Pace.

Dear Jo,

Yes, I hear from you from time to time but not as often as I’d like, so get on the job and show your class – Am writing this in a greenhouse that is attached to a chateau that’s surrounded by the most beautiful grounds you ever saw.  We are in a small village 6 or 8 miles from Nancy and about the same distance from St. Nicolas – both good towns.  

With the possible exception of the day I was born, yesterday was possibly the biggest day of my life.  Two of my corporals & myself were strolling around a little and wandered over to the aviation field – going down I remarked that all I needed was to take a fly over Nancy.  They ran out a light bombing plane and one of the assistants asked – Who’s going along.  I said – “I am” first, so we soared for awhile — He started straight for Nancy and reached it at an elevation of 5000 feet.  The view was something that I shall not soon forget.  

We circled over the city rising to 8000 feet in doing it, then went out in the country.  It seemed more like a dream than anything I’ve ever experienced – We went to 11,000 feet high and came back over Nancy at that height at a speed of 96 per.  Could only see the earth then in spots for the sky was cloudy & the clouds were all below us.  

The only thing I regret is that I did not enlist in that branch.  It’s too late now to think of transferring.  We were up for about an hour and I wouldn’t exchange it for any other hour I ever spent.  It sure was great – The clouds as seen from above with patches of mother earth here and the mountains in the distance etc. etc. is the most wonderful picture I’ve ever seen.

We came back from the front lines again a few days ago and will most likely be back for a month or 6 wks.  We are altogether yet and feeling fine. – We are out of the mountains – in a beautiful rolling country almost level and for a change it looks pretty good.

There are worlds of damson plums in this vicinity.  I wish you might see this country – Pass this on to some of the rest for I’ve neither time nor stationery to write to all – been writing to Mother at Stanton today — Haven’t seen anything of Eugene’s bro. yet.  Would like to run across him.  Write – Good luck & lots of it to both of you —

Ben — Cack is right with me & is ok.

Sleuthing: It’s Not Just For Hard-Boiled Detectives

Many happy hours I’ve spent daydreaming while reading this letter.  Besides the letter being a cherished piece of family history, I’ve often wondered what kind of impact it may have had on my father, who later became a pilot.  Dad would have been eight years old at the time this was written, and it’s easy for me to imagine the family gathered to hear Uncle Ben’s letter from France being read.

What’s hard for me to believe is that this letter has been on my ‘to-do’ list for well over a decade – funny how time gets away from you.  My goal was to date it as closely as I could with something other than “Sometime during WWI: April 1917-November 1918”.

I was recently provided with a new clue from a Cowan cousin that rekindled my interest in the letter.  That one item, along with the clues supplied in the body of the letter itself have allowed me to narrow down the date considerably.

the clue

For a dove of long standing, I find it just a little embarrassing to admit to an interest in military history, but it helps that I’m aided and abetted by a husband who shares that interest.  Sifting through source material is an engaging pastime for us – so here’s hoping that you don’t find the journey a dry one.

Look Out… This May Be Your MEGO Moment

Shoulder Insignia of th 35th "Santa Fe" Division, WWIBenjamin and his brother Charles ended up in the 138th Infantry, Company E of the 35th “Santa Fe” Division made up of National Guardsmen and draftees from the states of Missouri and Kansas.  They trained for over seven months at Camp Doniphan near Fort Sill, Oklahoma (which by the way, is located less than fifty miles from my back door).

Those seven months must’ve been eye-openers for a couple of farm boys hailing from a green and ‘water fat’ state, finding themselves just a stone’s throw from the 100th Meridian, the onset of the great American desert (only about sixty miles from my front door).

As mind boggling as southwestern Oklahoma may have been to them, the pair probably had little time to gape – the infantrymen of the 35th were drilled intensively by British and French instructors in the use of bayonet, hand grenades, and gas masks.

I’ve provided a few online sources below that you may find interesting, but what it boils down to is this: the 35th division was mobilized, leaving Camp Doniphan in late winter, 1918.  They were moved to the east coast by train, embarking from New York Harbor arriving at LeHavre, France May 10, 1918.  The infantry received additional training in Amiens until June 6, 1918.  Then traveling by rail – 40 men and 8 horses per boxcar – the destination was the Wesserling sub-sector on the Western Front in the Vosges Mountains where they remained through mid-August.  On September 1st, the 35th moved forward to St. Mihiel where they fought their first battle.  Between September 12th-16th, the American Expeditionary Forces liberated the town of Nancy and the 35th bivouacked in the Foret de Haye just a few miles west of town.  The Meuse-Argonne Offensive began September 26, 1918 lasting until the Armistice, November 11, 1918.

The 35th Division collapsed after five days of fighting in the Battle of the Argonne, which has been described as the greatest battle in the history of the American military.  In little more than four months, the division casualty list totaled 7,296 (killed in action – 1,018; wounded in action – 6,278).

It saddens me when I think of Ben’s last line: Cack is right with me & is ok… less than two weeks later, Cack was killed in action.

Charles Clide (Cack) Saucier born April 6, 1895 in Sullivan, Franklin County, Missouri – died September 27, 1918, age 23, in the Argonne Forest during the second day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Chas_Saucier Headstone App

Sources:
United States, Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976 (p. 191-2)
The 35th Infantry Division in the Great War
The Diary of a Doughboy
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive
From Vauquois Hill to Exermont by Clair Kenamore