Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grandpa Sam's First WWI Battle: The Champagne-Marne Defensive

Grandpa Sam was a member of the 41st Division of the American Expeditionary Forces. He fought with the 66th Field Artillery Brigade, in the 146th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Battery E.

(All this is helpful in knowing exactly where he fought during World War I.) 

His discharge report states that his first series of battles was the Champagne-Marne Defensive, from 15-18 July, and then the Aisne-Marne Offensive, from 18 July - 6 August 1918. 

On Christmas Eve 1917, the 146th Regiment embarked on the S.S. Lapland from Hoboken, New Jersey. 

(Grandpa Sam says he didn't leave until March. I'm still trying to figure that one out.)

 En route to France, the regiment stopped in Liverpool, England, where they spent time at an American rest camp near Winchester. From England they sailed to La Harve, France. 

After another rest camp near La Harve, the regiment traveled south to Camp de Souge, near Bordeaux.  

This is where Grandpa Sam learned to become what he called a "powder monkey," operating heavy artillery guns. 

Artillery training was completed near the end of April 1918.  After training, soldiers were shipped off to small towns in the countryside to await the call the the Front. 

Grandpa Sam was sent to the town of Les Martres-de-Veyre where he made friends with Marcel Forissier, a prominent Distiller. 

Three days before the call to the front, M. Forissier wrote Grandpa Sam's  parents expressing how he enjoyed spending time with Grandpa Sam, "Talking together every day, about your Mormon religion and I am very interested and moved by the Faith of which your son is spirited." 

 On 1 July, orders came to move to the Front. Guns, ammunition, and soldiers were placed on trains and shipped as close as they could get to the town of Chateau Thierry

Near Chateau Thierry, the artillery guns were offloaded from the trains, hitched up to tractors, and pulled to their positions. 

In May, Germans troops had broken through the lines of the Western Front; lines the exhausted French and British troops had been defending for over four years. 

Axis powers' goal was to take Paris, 50 miles to the south, and then to help themselves to what was left of the country. 

Under the command of Lieutenant James C. Barclay, Grandpa Sam's battery moved into position, 

1 kilometer west of the village of Villiers sur Marne.

From 15 July, when the battle began, through 6 August, the American and French Forces stopped the advance of the German troops and beat the front lines back nearly 40 kilometers. 

Grandpa Sam started the battle outside of Villiers sur Marne, and moved north to Coupru, Chateaux Thierry, Bezu St Germain, and Beauvardes, ending the offensive in the hamlet of Loupeigne

On 13 July 1918, two days before the bullets and shrapnel started flying, 

Grandma Jennie, gave birth to a daughter:

It was after I went to the front line trenches that I got news of the birth of my first child. They named her Sammie "T" after me. My dear ones at home had not seen me once since I left them and they didn't know whether they would ever see me again so they thought I should have a name sake even thought it happened to be a girl. 

It was just as well for we never were blessed with a son.


  1. Gorgeous--story, writing, photos, way you ended this. Heartache and beauty. Ranks in my top 3 all time faves of yours.

  2. You post this really beautiful entry on the same day that I've had thoughts of my own ancestors and their stories--and what I must do with them.

    You're in my head, Bartholomew.

  3. Thats pretty awesome! My first choice going into the National Guard was to be an artillery crewman, since that was the only open position here in Rexburg. But because of my eyesight they wouldn't let me. I didn't know that he was in an artillery brigade!

  4. Wow, thanks for sharing Chris. I am going to share this post and copy it for myself...if you don't mind. I'm lucky to have you as a cousin!

  5. Thanks Chris for putting this together. I didn't know all the details about Grandpa Sam in WWI.