The Family Photo Album: Lucia Arras and Friends

childhood friends

The photo above shows my grandmother, Lucia Arras (second row without a doll), and her little sister Jeanne (second row left) with several childhood friends.  For the longest time, we didn’t know who the other people were in this picture.  Then, several years ago, my mom posted it online and someone came forward with the missing information.

Not only that, but she had another photo taken the same day!

childhood friends 2

Going back to the original photo, the other girl in the second row, Mary Etta Waltermire, was my grandma’s neighbor across the street.  The three remaining children in the photo were Mary Etta’s cousins, who were visiting from Toledo, just under 50 miles away.  Josephine and Mary Lou are seated in the bottom row and George, of course, is clowning away at the top.  Isn’t he hilarious?!  Pulling faces in both pictures, like you’d expect of a boy that age.

The funniest part was finding out who else Mary Lou, George, and Josephine were related to.  Mary Etta was their cousin through their mother, Alma Irene Cessna.  Her sister, Gytanna Cessna, had married Orville Waltermire.

Alma Irene Cessna’s husband was named Harold Clyde Benington.  His brother, Ralph Orlando Benington, who I’ve written about here, was my grandpa’s father.  Mary Lou, George and Josephine were Lucia’s future husband’s first cousins!

She would not meet their cousin, her husband, Clark, until high school.

I wonder whether Grandma and Grandpa ever recognized the connection!


The Family Photo Album: Bernice and Mary

Today’s photo is of my great-grandmother, Bernice (Kraus) Benington, wife of Ralph Benington whose WWI experiences are documented in this series.  Bernice is pictured standing outside her home at 420 Tiffin Avenue in Findlay, Ohio.  Above her, on the porch, is her mother, Mary Josephine (Groth) Kraus.

bernice and mary

Mary lived to a ripe old age.  Just recently, I found a newspaper article profiling her on the occasion of her 90th birthday:

Findlay Woman, 90 Today, Says Days, Years Go Faster The Older One Gets


“The older you get the faster the days and years go flying by,” Mrs. Mary Kraus, 138 Trenton Ave., commented yesterday. So it isn’t worrying her a bit that, although she will be 90 years old today, her birthday will not be celebrated until Sunday.

Her children are planning an open house from 2 to 5 o’clock Sunday afternoon in the home where Mrs. Kraus lived for 60 years and where all of her six children were born. Located on US 224 in Marion Township, it is now the home of one of her grandchildren, Mrs. Clyde King.

All of her six children, including two who live in Oklahoma, will be at the celebration. So will most of her 14 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren. Friends of the family are also expected during the afternoon to offer their congratulations.

Two of Mrs. Kraus’ daughters, Mrs. Malcolm (Glenna) McFarland and her husband and Mrs. Elton (Mabel) Rose and Mr. Rose are expected to arrive Saturday from their homes in Tulsa, Okla.

The other children, all of whom live in Findlay, are Mrs. Parker (Carrie) Ickes, Mrs. Bernice Bennington, Mrs. Virgil (Frances) Saltzman and Clarence Kraus, with whom Mrs. Kraus lives.

“After my husband John died in 1930, I gave up my home and tried living in an apartment but I felt so boxed up,” she explained. “Then I lived around with all of my children but that didn’t work, either. It seemed I hardly got settled in one place until it was time to go somewhere else. So, since last November I’ve been living here with my son and my children come and visit me. It’s a lot easier on me.”

Oldest of Seven

Mrs. Kraus is the oldest of seven children born to Mr. and Mrs. John Groth who came here from Germany. The family consisted of two daughters and five sons. Mrs. Kraus’ sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Russell, lives in Biglick Township. All of her brothers are dead except one — John Groth of Calypso, Mont.

“That’s the sad thing about living so long,” Mrs. Kraus said. “All my classmates at the old Wolfe School are gone, too, except Mrs. Effie Carter. I hope she can come to my party.”

Mrs. Kraus recalls wading through deep snow and mud many days to attend the little one room school. It was about a mile from her home.

She has been a Lutheran all her life, and believes she is the oldest member of Trinity Lutheran Church.

A lot of her time is spent crocheting.

“I’ve made scads of pot holders, pillow cases and covers for heating pads. My great-granddaughters have pillow cases I have made tucked away in their hope chests. I’ve crocheted better than a hundred rugs, too.”

She likes to make rugs better than any other crocheting she does, but admits they are getting a little heavy for her to handle. Her hands are badly crippled by arthritis but as she says, “I’m going to keep on crocheting as long as I possibly can. I think the exercise is good for my hands.”

Proud of Her Rugs

She is proud of her rugs. She makes all shapes and sizes but, “I can’t make them pretty if the rags aren’t pretty,” she pointed out.

Mrs. Kraus says her eyesight isn’t too good but so far that hasn’t hindered her in her crocheting. But she doesn’t care for television.

“My eyes are better than my ears,” she said, “so even if I can see the picture I don’t know what it is about because I can’t hear the conversation.”

No one ever sees Mrs. Kraus without her white hair neatly combed, rouge and powder on her face and wearing a pretty housedress, according to her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Clarence Kraus.

“Yes, I powder up a little bit,” confessed the peppy little woman who will be 90 years old today. “They say if you curry an old horse he’ll look better!”

Mrs. Kraus is looking forward to Sunday when she will be going back to the house where she lived the longest and most important part of her life and which is filled with memories, both happy and poignant.

With relatives and friends there to help her celebrate her ninetieth birthday the house will bring an experience which will provide her with another happy memory.


Ralph’s War: His Story is Your Story

I’ve checked the passenger lists for the Aquitania (2 Sep 1918) and the Santa Paula (14 May 1919).  The following men were aboard both ships with Ralph:

Co. D, 309th Infantry

Jacob S Applegate, Portsmouth, Ohio

Co. I, 309th Infantry

Arthur J. Brandt, Jewell, Ohio
Earl Gardner, McArthur, Ohio
Eugene Elliott, Bladen, Ohio
Elmo L Graham, Ambia, Indiana
Finley V Heistand, Redkey, Indiana
Anthony Kowalski, Toledo, Ohio
Charles W Losey, Gloucester, Ohio
Earl Kemmerer, Marion, Ohio
Harvey Adler Mayer, Columbus, Ohio
Tom Melvin, Martins Ferry, Ohio
William N Miller, Spencerville, Ohio
Jay C Mullet, Columbus Grove, Ohio
Joseph Powell, Marietta, Ohio
Robert E. Peyton, Indianapolis, Indiana
Edward Schilling, Clarington, Ohio
Clarence G Scott, Ravenna, Ohio
John S Scurlock, Thurman, Ohio
John W Skinnin, Crooksville, Ohio
Guy L Sweney, Hebron, Indiana
George C Strahm, Lima, Ohio
Samuel N Storts, New Lexington, Ohio
Carl Stevens, Fairmount, Indiana
James L Steger, Paducah, Kentucky
Lon Timmons, Bruceville, Indiana
John H Webb, Columbus, Ohio
Thurman Wisenberger, Steeze, Ohio

Co. K, 309th Infantry

Ernest Bisang, Columbus, Ohio
John Buhla, Cleveland, Ohio
Linton H Cutright, Akron, Ohio
Edward F Hoffman, Cincinnati, Ohio
Elmer Mossbarger, Gallia, Ohio
Samuel E Monk, Agosta, Ohio
Harvey L Roszman, Upper Sandusky, Ohio
Leroy F Steininger, Goshen, Indiana
Harry M Swihart, Bucyrus, Ohio
Linton Vorwerck, Cincinnati, Ohio

Co. L, 309th Infantry

Samuel O Johnson, Oregonia, Ohio
George Ostenforth, Indianapolis, Indiana
Ernest Reed, Worthington, Indiana
William D Williams, New Straitsville, Ohio
Joseph A Leathers, Chesterfield, Indiana
Earnie Potts, Bainbridge, Ohio
Leo F. Rodenberg, Evansville, Indiana
Arthur F Miller, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Ernest R Spriggs, Oak Hill, Ohio
Raymond H Phend, Elkhart, Indiana
Paul L Henderson, Riverview, Ohio
Carl E Enkoff, Montgomery, Indiana
Elmer A Bader, Toledo, Ohio
Harry E Fisher, Columbus, Ohio
William E Deer, Evansville, Indiana
Oscar C Sryock, Kenton, Ohio
Joseph T Mertz, Findlay, Ohio
Frank C Miller, Marion, Ohio
Thomas H McTigue, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Jacob A Hochstetler, Morocco, Indiana
Jonathon O Metherd, Kouts, Indiana
Harry Perkins, Utica, Ohio
Hugh Caldwell, Wellston, Ohio
Orville Bobo, Athens, Ohio
Herman McCord, Kennard (listed as Ohio on one list and Indiana on the other)
Noble C Benefiel, Sullivan, Indiana
Charles D McMichael, Grover Hill, Ohio
Orville F Longley, Little Hocking, Ohio
Lawrence Holsinger, Portsmouth, Ohio

Co. M, 309th Infantry

Fred E Bauermeister, Columbus, Ohio
Russell Branscombe, Carbondale, Ohio
John Brown, Barton, Ohio
William Cutter, Cincinnati, Ohio
Lawrence Buskirk, Chillicothe, Ohio
Frank O Derenburger, Shepard, Ohio
William Hertel, Salineville, Ohio
Meredith Hardesty, Canton, Ohio
Eugene W Geiss, Cincinnati, Ohio
Carl F King, Danville, Ohio
Raymond L Nickel, Chillicothe, Ohio
Walter E Porter, Lima, Ohio
Floyd A Riley, Mt Sterling, Ohio
Earl T Slough, Defiance, Ohio
Arthur J Snyder, Mt Vernon, Ohio

The men below were members of the 84th Division who sailed out aboard ships other than the Aquitania, but returned aboard the Santa Paula:

Co. D, 309th Infantry

Vern Martin, Steubenville, Ohio
George E Bell, Kimbolton, Ohio

Co. I, 309th Infantry

Story Bails, Frost, Ohio
Lew Baker, Miller, Ohio
Solomon Baker, Grays, Kentucky
Esther Bowersock, Spencerville, Ohio
John F Boydston, Portsmouth, Ohio
Walter Evans, Oak Hill, Ohio
Frank Donley, Defiance, Ohio
Howard H Dill, Linden Heights, Ohio
Clarence J Cox, Newark, Ohio
Joe Carpenter, Frenchburg, Kentucky
Albert F Garnier, Youngstown, Ohio
James E Gromer, French Lick, Indiana
Walter Hankins, Latham, Ohio
Edward C Harrigan, Urbana, Ohio
Floyd J Huffman, Mansfield, Ohio
Harry Kasler, Zanesville, Ohio
Cary Lytle, Bainbridge, Ohio
William A Riley, Coopersville, Ohio
Thomas J Ryan, Toledo, Ohio
Albert W Six, Nelsonville, Ohio
Charles R Thompson, Pinchard, Kentucky
Lee Roy Vance, Caney, Kentucky

Co. K, 309th Infantry

Henry J Billings, Jeffersonville, Indiana
Walter Cleveland Blake, Proctorville, Ohio
Samuel J Farr, Youngstown, Ohio
Paul T Dean, Brazil, Indiana
Fred E Hovious, Terre Haute, Indiana
Alois Moeder, St Henry, Ohio
William L Price, Brazil, Indiana
John H Spradlin, Wayland, Kentucky

Co. L, 309th Infantry

Edward Harold DeVol, Arcadia, Indiana
Crosby Funk, New Holland, Ohio
John Mehaffey, Cambridge, Ohio
Herman A Fisher, Eagle Port, Ohio
James F Fink, Mishawaka, Indiana
George Henry Russell, Paulding, Ohio
John H Komray, Warren, Ohio
Fred Sloan, Jefferson, Ohio
William H Pegorsch, Toledo, Ohio
William H Touby, Mansfield, Ohio
Marion W Reed, Gillespieville, Ohio
George W Grubaugh, Thornville, Ohio
Charles Lonberger, Jobs, Ohio
Oliver Maffett, Toronto, Ohio
Charles Wathen, Parrot, Kentucky

Co. M, 309th Infantry

Elery A Beans, Sherrodsville, Ohio
August H Bruns, St Henry, Ohio
Elmer L Davis, Minersville, Ohio
Everett F Cripe, Syracuse, Indiana
Sylvester Cornwell, Crawfordsville, Indiana
Benjamin Clark, Shelburn or Sheldon, Indiana
Earl Carey, Convoy, Ohio
George Dreydoppel, Lyons, Ohio
Samuel C Hopkins, Columbus, Ohio
John McGuigan, Muncie, Indiana
Walter E Morningstar, Fayette, Ohio
John F O’Rourke, Zanesville, Ohio
Grover C Penn, Rarden, Ohio
Ira Hall Polen, Amsterdam, Ohio
Llewellyn F Shaw, Middlepoint, Ohio
Richard R Spain, Evansville, Indiana
Edward J Stevens, Birdseye, Indiana
Albert Suver, Columbus, Ohio
Leonard R Young, McConnellsville, Ohio
Paul M Yauger, New Lexington, Ohio
Porter E Willoughby, Scottsville, Kentucky

If one of these gentlemen is your relative and you have any information to share, please do.  I’d love to hear more about him!

To read the posts about Ralph’s experience in WWI, follow these links:

Ralph’s War: How it Began
Ralph’s War: Camp Sherman
Ralph’s War: The Journey, Part One
Ralph’s War: The Journey, Part Two
Ralph’s War: The Yanks Are Coming
Ralph’s War: To the Front
Ralph’s War: The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Ralph’s War: One Step Forward, Another Step Back
Ralph’s War: The Grand Review
Ralph’s War: Cooties
Ralph’s War: Marching Orders
Ralph’s War: Homeward Bound

Ralph’s War: Homeward Bound

Arrival at the new billets in the countryside surrounding Bordeaux was no guarantee of immediate departure.  Days or weeks might pass before the troops would board a ship.

When a ship arrived, the Navy informed the personnel officer at the docks that transport was available for a set number of troops.  The dock personnel officer contacted his counterpart at the camp, who would then check his priority list and morning report to determine which units could ship out.  The message would be relayed to those units to report for embarkation.

As soon as a ship left, more troops would be called up from local billets to replace them at the Bordeaux Embarkation Camp.  All soldiers sailing from Bordeaux traveled through this camp, which was actually made up of two separate camps in close proximity.  The Entrance Camp, or Embarkation Camp No. 1, acted as a holding area.  As space opened up in Embarkation Camp No. 2, also known as Camp Genicart, units would be dispatched for delousing at “The Mill” and final preparations for embarkation.

camp genicart
Aerial Photography of the Embarkation Camp at Bordeaux, held by the Art Institute of Chicago:

A photograph of Camp Genicart can be seen at Yakima Memory

When Ralph’s unit, the 309th infantry, was called up, they would have proceeded to the embarkation building.  This was an enormous corrugated warehouse, large enough to hold thousands of men.

The building was divided into three sections.  The largest section was for well men, the smallest for stretcher cases.  The walking injured, aided by crutches or not, were held in the third section.

A kitchen was located off the smallest room.  Here, cooks prepared hundreds of sandwiches, along with huge kettles of coffee that could barely be lifted by two men.

Prior to boarding, the men were fed and given last minute supplies by the Red Cross.  These were often small items such as handkerchiefs, candy or cookies, and packets of cigarettes.

“Next stop, Hoboken!” was a common refrain.

From the time the Americans entered the war, they had relied on a number of sites within the Gironde-Garonne system to land troops and equipment.  A French military commission had recommended the establishment of a naval patrol station at Le Verdon, discharge of troops and supplies at Pauillac and the building of new docks at Bassens.  It was these new docks from which Ralph and his fellow infantrymen would sail.

gironde -garonne system

The Bassens docks were located between Bassens and Lormont, four miles from Bordeaux on the east bank of the Garonne.  Construction of the dock was complicated by the extremely low, flat terrain and unusually high ocean tides, which inundated the land twice daily.  In addition, rail facilities in the area were practically nonexistent.  However, such was the pressure to move troops into Europe that the docks and associated railways were constructed in less than six months by Army engineers, including those of the 15th and 18th regiments.  This was considered one of the greatest feats of modern engineering ever accomplished in such a short time frame.

bassens docks
Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, PA), 28 Apr 1919

The 309th Infantry sailed from Bassens docks aboard the Santa Paula on May 14, 1919.

santa paula

The Santa Paula had been built as a freighter for the Grace Line in 1917.  She was requisitioned in August 1918 and, prior to transport service, she carried military supplies to France.

Amazingly, video of the troops boarding the Santa Paula that day is available online through the National Archives.  After you click the link, scroll down until you see the following and click on the video labeled “13”:

how to

At 5:47, a band is playing as troops board the Panaman.  Immediately following this scene are several scenes involving the Santa Paula, ending with a group of officers watching the men board, seen below:

officers watching boarding

Imagine the excitement of these men, who had waited months to go home to their families.  In the case of Ralph and the others transferred from the 84th Division, they had spent more time in France following the armistice than they had during the war itself.  According to one reporter witnessing the departure of a ship from Bordeaux, “The hilarious happiness was infectious enough to make a stone dog wag his tail.”

another regiment gone
The St. Bernard Voice (Arabi, LA), 24 May 1919

Next Time: His Story is Your Story

Ralph’s War: Marching Orders

On April 2, 1919, an advance party from the 78th Division left Semur for the three-day train trip to Bordeaux.  Their mission was to make preparations for the advance of the rest of the division.  Division headquarters would be at Castres, while the infantry would be located around Cerons and St. Selve.

cerons st selve
Locations of Saint-Selve and Cerons relative to Bordeaux

In the meantime, the troops were given the order to “get clean and stay clean”.  If even one man was discovered to have lice, the entire division would be unable to sail until they had repeated the entire delousing process.  Men with venereal diseases were to be retained in Europe until they had been satisfactorily treated.

The soldiers were also assigned to clean and organize their billets.  Each village in which they were stationed would be checked for cleanliness by its mayor.  All would need to pass inspection before the troops could proceed to Bordeaux.

Anyone who went AWOL would be transferred to a labor battalion.  Instead of heading home with his fellow soldiers, he would remain in France indefinitely, cleaning up various camps after the troops had left.

On the 21st of April, surprise orders were received to send six trainloads of troops from the 78th Division to Marseilles, where several Italian ships had arrived unexpectedly.  Within the next three days, over seven thousand men, primarily taken from the field artillery and machine gun companies, departed from the entrainment points at Les Laumes, Montbard, and Semur.

Starting April 30th, the remainder of the division would begin its move to Bordeaux.  Ralph and the rest of 309th infantry were already stationed around one of the entrainment points at Epoisses.  Katherine Shortall, author of “A ‘Y’ Girl in France”, was there on the day Ralph left, serving the departing soldiers cakes and hot cocoa.  The weather that day was “abominable, a driving wet snow all the time”.  The loading of the trains took hours, but the men were no doubt buoyed by the fact that they were finally heading home.

Katherine Shortall’s passport photo, 1918

Miss Shortall’s emotional account of the departure of the 311th infantry, the unit to which she had been attached with the Y.M.C.A. at Pouillenay, demonstrates just how close these people had become over the last five months,.  Undoubtedly the men of the 309th would have formed similar relationships:

“The day of departure dawned, warm and cloudy. I was to ‘hike’ with my platoon over to Les Laumes, the entraining point, a distance of five kilometres. In my heart I knew that this was my last day with the battalion, though most of the boys expected me to go down to Bordeaux after them. But Y.M.C.A. headquarters had ordered me to stay three days at Les Laumes, serving cocoa. So we marched over.

In an hour we were at the ugly little railroad town where the Engineers have been quartered all winter. I left the battalion to march off to their lunch, while I went down to the Y.M.C.A. to help the cocoa contingent. There I found the other girls working. Pretty soon the boys came in to get their last sweet, hot, “hand out” from the “Y”, then I went with them to the station.

There at the railroad gate I said goodbye. How I shook hands! Sometimes my voice would break as I talked, which made me furious with myself. They had all gone through the gate and a group of officers stood around me to say goodbye. “Well, Sis, how are you standing it?” said one. “She hasn’t cried yet,” said another. “Don’t set me off,” I begged. So Lieut. M. mercifully stuffed a cake into my mouth, which made us all laugh. These kind boys! Well, they had all passed through the train gate. I didn’t follow them because I couldn’t seem to get command of myself and I wouldn’t send them off with anything but a smile.

I went back to the “Y” hut. There I worked like fury, and talked and laughed with the men, and in half an hour I was all right again. The long train of freight cars loaded with my family was still standing at the station. I went out on the platform. A cheer came from every carful. I started at the engine and went down the line, stopping at every car. I threw myself into a rollicking mood and got them all to laughing. “But we’ll see you in Bordeaux won’t we, Miss Shortall?” came from all sides, and I would have to explain.

When I got to the first platoon of F Co. Sergeant R. picked me up and put me in the car, and many were the half humorous, half serious threats of keeping me, and making me go with them. I certainly was tempted to do it. Major S. came along and found me there. How I hated to say goodbye to him, this kind friend whose attitude of respect, of comradeship, has typified that of the whole battalion toward me! He has been my great encourager through it all. The splendid morale of his men, as you must realize, has been largely due to his fine spirit which permeated the battalion.

And so—they were gone. Some strange officer in a car kindly took me back to Pouillenay. That deserted town! For me, its soul had departed. There was the familiar scene, inanimate. No figures in khaki anywhere, no one whistling to me or waving, nothing left of them but their fresh tracks in the mud everywhere, and wave on wave of loneliness surged through me, that was almost terrifying in its intensity. Thank heaven the sun had come out! I walked up my street, talking to the disconsolate French women who stood in the doorways looking out as though all the joy in life had departed. Truly, the best comment on the behavior of our boys is the genuine sorrow of the French at seeing them go.”

Next Time:  Homeward Bound



Ralph’s War: Cooties

Finally, the long-awaited news had arrived.  The 78th Division was headed home!  However, there was a bit of business to attend to first:

from “A ‘Y’ Girl in France” by Katherine Shortall, published 1919, p. 50

The delouser was a large steam-cleaning machine in which the soldiers’ clothing and gear were placed for 45 minutes to kill the “cooties” (body lice referred to during the Civil War as greybacks) and their eggs.

highly magnified views of male and female body lice (Source: flickr feed for National Museum of Health and Medicine)
from the flickr feed for the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Otis Historical Archives

While their clothing was being sanitized, the men themselves had a hot (if they were lucky) bath and a haircut.

The Morning News (Wilmington, DE), 29 Jan 1919

For most of the men, this was the first time in months that they had been free of infestation.  Cooties, also known as “seam squirrels” for the way they congregated in the seams of soldiers’ clothing, were a normal part of life for soldiers in the first World War.  Countless letters were written home about them:

Great Falls Tribune (Great Falls, MT), 19 Jan 1919

Some men even wrote poetry about the experience:

cootie poem
The Topeka Daily Capital (Topeka, KS), 12 Jan 1919

The notion of “cooties” had so thoroughly penetrated popular culture that by the Christmas season, 1919, a cootie game was being offered as a toy for children:



game of cooties
Altoona Tribune (Altoona, PA), 29 Nov 1919


Despite the humorous nature of the many descriptions of cooties, the creatures themselves were a rather serious concern.  Firstly, their bites were painful.  Many men described them as feeling as if the insects were treading over them wearing hobnail boots.

hobnail boots
Great Falls Tribune (Great Falls, MT), 15 Dec 1918

Transmission of disease was another significant problem:

The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), 5 Jan 1919

During the war itself, it would have been nearly impossible to rid oneself of a cootie infestation.  Troops at the front rarely had any quantity of fresh water to wash with and were often wearing the same clothing for long periods of time:

wearing same clothes
Boston Post (Boston, MA), 15 Jun 1918

The following training film from WWII contains images of the lice themselves along with much information that had been learned about them during the course of the first World War:

It was no doubt an incredible relief to Ralph and his fellow soldiers to finally be free of infestation.  Unfortunately, for the most part, this initial delousing treatment was not the only one they had to undergo.  Frequently, soldiers became reinfected aboard the ship home.  Another round of treatment was required at the base from which they were discharged.

Next Time:  Marching Orders

Ralph’s War: The Grand Review

The morning of March 26, 1919, witnessed 20,000 men up before dawn to march, in full battle dress, to the plain of Les Laumes.  Contemporary newspaper articles pointed out that the site was near the location where Vercingetorix, who united the Gauls in a revolt against the Romans, finally surrendered to Julius Caesar in dramatic fashion.

Poster for the French film Vercingétorix by Cândido de Faria for Pathé, 1909. Collection EYE Film Institute Netherlands.

On this morning, however, the men of the 78th would form up for review by the most celebrated American leader of the war, General John J. Pershing.

general pershing
General John J. Pershing (Source:

Katherine Shortall, a young woman employed by the Y.M.C.A. in Pouillenay, beautifully describes the scene in her book, “A ‘Y’ Girl in France”:

“I had not realized before what an immense body of men an Army Division is.  On the vast muddy field stood, motionless, ranks and ranks of khaki-clad soldiers, their protective coloring blending with the green-brown of the field.  Here and there the Stars and Stripes and the vivid blue and red of the Infantry and Artillery flags made bright spots on the monotonous brown scene.”

pershing le laumes

According to Miss Shortall, the general arrived on horseback an hour later than anticipated.  He rode around the formation and then dismounted to walk among the men:

pershing inspection
The Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ), 19 Apr 1919

This inspection lasted for nearly two hours.  Next, the colors of each unit moved to the front and General Pershing presented those who had earned the Distinguished Service Cross with their prizes, pinning them on the men and shaking each by the hand.

He then proceeded into the grandstand and the review began, described here by Katherine Shortall:

“The Infantry came first in their orderly files, dipping their colors as they went by.  Then came the Artillery in its seeming magnificent disorder.  The great horses plunging, caissons rattling, drivers holding the reins taut, scarlet flags fluttering, it galloped over the muddy, bumpy field with a wonderful rush.  This was followed by the Motorized Artillery which came out of the woods like a swarm of huge creeping beetles.  Weird monsters they were, and their deafening rattle reached us at a distance like some great magnified buzz.”

Generals Pershing and McRae on Reviewing Stand Pershing and McRae on Reviewing Stand

The 78th Division was commended by the general for their performance on this day:

pershings praise
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, NY), 25 May 1919

Certainly it was a matter of great pride for Ralph and the other men of the 78th Division, but, practical girl that she was, Katherine Shortall pointed out how tiring the day had also been.  The soldiers had been on their feet for nearly 12 hours and all welcomed the hot chocolate and fresh cakes available at the Y tents.

Mere days after General Pershing’s visit, the 78th received welcome news:  they had been given permission to head directly to Bordeaux without passing through Le Mans, the main embarkation center.  Ralph was no doubt pleased not to have to retrace his steps before he could finally leave France.

Next time:  Cooties