As I find names of men who served in this Battalion I will add them here with what I know of each. If you know additional facts about these men or others who served in this Battalion please e-mail them to: Joe Hartwell
Cpl. William J. Curtis, Jr.
Written by William J. Curtis III, the son of William Joseph Curtis Jr.
William Joseph Curtis Jr. was born in Rockaway Beach NY October 31, 1897. Rockaway Beach then was a summer playground and destination for New York and New Jersey city dwellers for a day at the beach and a meal in the various restaurants and hotels. They arrived via the Long Island RR and steamboats.
My Grandfather William J. Curtis, Sr. owned and operated "Curtis' Gem of the Sea" a restaurant, and bar, with rooms for rent on 103rd street in Rockaway Beach. My father, as a young man was my Grandfather's "Jack of all trades". Grandpa owned the restaurant, and three homes on 104th street. One home they lived in, and two were rented out for summer vacationers. The whole community opened on Decoration Day and closed down Labor Day. My father was Grandpa's chauffeur besides being the resident carpenter, plumber, and electrician. There was no end to the repairs needed in the restaurant and three homes because three of the four had their water shut off for the winter, and on again in the spring.
My father was a very resourceful self-taught man with little schooling. Two things about plumbing he taught me were, "If its not leaking don't touch it" and "Never do plumbing on Sunday." There were no stores open then if you needed a part. I don't think he went beyond grade school, but given time he could figure out any problem and solve it.
The United States declared war on Germany April 6, 1917 and William who was known as "Bill" enlisted April 28th in a local unit called the 24th Company 9th Coast Defense Command that had formed the day before in Far Rockaway, New York. The Company consisted almost exclusively of enlistees from the area. On May 7th the Company was mustered into service in the NY National Guard. Initially they drilled at a local golf course, and in July of 1917 they traveled to Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook NJ. There they trained on the big coast defense guns. The Company trained for almost a year, becoming very proficient operating the heavy artillery. Bill became a 2nd class gunner February 15, 1918. The Company received their new designation, Battery E, 57th C.A.C. and shipped out for France on the liner USS Rijndam on May 10, 1918. Bill's safe arrival postcard from Brest indicated he arrived May 27th 1918.
Winter 1917 with the 24th Company at Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook, NJ, which was one of the Coast Defense Forts at the entrance to New York Harbor.
Cpl. Curtis is identified with the arrow and "Bill" marked on the left of the photo.
Front and back of Cpl. Curtis's Red Cross Safe Arival Card, addressed to his parents in Rockaway Beach.
In France the 57th received French tractor-drawn 155MM GPF rifles. They familiarized themselves and trained with them until they were expert with these foreign but excellent artillery pieces at Libourne and Camp de Sourge.
Bill being quick to pick up on anything was promoted to Corporal on June 4, 1918. Finishing training with their new weapons, their first taste of battle was during the Saint Mihiel Offensive. September 12-15th the batteries took up positions in Sampigny and in a few days their fire support allowed the ground troops to rout the German's strongly fortified positions in the Saint Mihiel salient. Numerous prisoners, supplies, guns and ammunition were captured in the battle.
Following this victory the Battery saw heavy and continuous action with the American Army in the Meuse-Argonne sector. Starting on September 25th they moved steadily forward driving the enemy from Montzeville, Avocourt, Malancourt, Iovry, Mountfaucon, and Bois de Romagne. The Battery fired shell after shell in support of the infantry as they assaulted the German lines.
Bill unfortunately didn't get to celebrate his 21st birthday nor the Armistice with his buddies. He was wounded in the left ankle by a machinegun bullet on October 30, 1918 the day before his birthday. He assumed the bullet was from an air battle taking place overhead where allied planes were battling German planes trying to shoot down the battery's observation balloons. My father told me he came down with influenza while in the hospital with his wound. He said he awoke in an area of soldiers that were dying of, or who had already died of influenza. He considered his recovery as a miracle.
The Armistice of November 11th ended the war for the 57th Artillery regiment, and they returned to Brest and embarked on the United States Armored Cruiser USS Huntington January 2nd 1919. Within a few weeks most of the men of the 57th Artillery were mustered out at Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook, NJ.
How Bill returned to the U.S. isn't known. He was discharged from Camp Upton Long Island, N.Y. on February 13th with a $2.44 ticket to Rockaway and $18.05 in his pocket. In the spring of 1919 each member of the 24th Company was presented with a medal from the grateful citizens of the Rockaway's. His discharge also notes that on "October 8, 1920 a silver Victory Button was issued to the holder of this discharge".
Following Bill's release from the army he joined the New York City Police department. He worked briefly as a policeman and then transferred to the New York City Fire Department. His marriage in 1926 to Adeline Egel produced three children. (Myself, William J. Curtis III), Carol Wright, and (Wallace J. Curtis, deceased). Bill steadily rose through the ranks serving as a Lieutenant and retired as a Captain.
Bill's 24th Company had a 10th Anniversary reunion dinner in 1927 complete with a printed Company roster and group photo. A dinner again in 1940, and a 30th anniversary dinner in 1947 where more than 50 of the surviving members of the 24th Co. attended. At that dinner Bill addressed the assembled members, and then read the names of the 16 members that had passed on. Bill was then made President of "The Last Man's Club"
My father, William J. Curtis, Jr. died in 1968. He was a wonderful father and friend from whom I often sought advice. Regretfully I never really questioned him about the details of his military service. This quest via the internet and some material my sister had obtained have answered most of my questions, but to have heard all the little day to day happenings from Bill would have been priceless.
The 10-year Reunion dinner and group photo. William J. Curtis Jr. is identified in the 3rd row left of center with his face circled. There are two other men identified, Joe in the upper right side and Spatz in the lower left side. The man identified as "Joe" is Pvt. Joseph F. Egel, who was a relative to Cpl. Curtis, "Spatz" is Cpl. Harry C. Spatz.
|Above are the medals Cpl. Curtis recieved along with the bullet that earned him his Purple Heart. Bottom on the left is the from side of the WWI Victory Medal, and on the right is the local medal he recieved from Rockaway, NY.||This is what is commonly known as "WWI Trench Art" This example Cpl. Curtis brought home is a Crucifix made from an upside down large calibre bullet and casing, with 3 more bullets forming the top of the cross. In the center is a German Army belt buckel with the German words "Gott Mit Uns" on it, which translated means "God with us." Christ then hangs from the buckel.|
Above are the collar insignia from Cpl. Curtis's uniform.
These photos of Pvt Egel were shared by William J. Curtis III, the son of Cpl. William Joseph Curtis Jr., also of Battery E, 57th Artillery. Pvt Egel was the uncle of William J. Curtis III. Both Cpl. Curtis and Pvt. Egel photos are noted in the group attending the 10-year reunion of Battery.
Joseph Fay Egel was born on April 28, 1899 in Far Rockaway, New York. Egel and his brother-in-law to be, William J. Curtis, both enlisted into the 24th Company, which was made up of men from throughout the Rockaways. Headquarters was in Far Rockaway, New York. Egel served in France with the 57th as a Wagoneer. After his discharge from the army in 1919 Joseph returned to Far Rockaway to live with his parents, George and Clementine Egel, where he took a job as an automobile mechanic. About 1929 or 1930 Joseph married Mary Walsh, who was born on July 20, 1906 in New York. In April of 1930 Joseph and Mary rented an apartment in the village of Valley Stream, Nassau County, NY. Joseph then worked for a Far Rockaway Veterinarian, Dr. Crawford whom he had worked for before enlisting in the army. They then lived briefly in a rental in Far Rockaway, followed by having a home built in Neponsit NY. Joseph became an employee of the New York City Highway Dep’t as a road roller operator. When Joseph retired he and Mary moved to Breezy Point NY. Joseph passed away September of 1987, and Mary on February 16, 2001 in Princeton Junction, Mercer County, New Jersey.
Pvt. Joseph F. Egel, Battery E, 57th Artillery
Pvt. Egel posing next to a motorcycle while in France. He had a motorcycle before he went in the Army and the story was that he took it with him to France.
The following was written by Kent Young who's neighbor, Francis Ray Liller, was the son of Sgt John F. Liller. Kent Young recognized the significance of the diary and transcribed it and the Liller family has given their permission to published it here in this web site.
Kent Young give a brief background about Sgt. Liller. "I believe I have most of the place names right and dabbled a bit at trying to identify some named in the diary. It belongs to my neighbor. Her husband, Francis Ray Liller, was a son of John F. Liller. I recognized the significance of the diary and transcribed it. She gave me permission to send it to you for your website."
John F. Liller was born on February 10, 1892, in New York City. He was a son of Frank and Annie Liller. By 1900, the census shows that the Lillers lived in Brooklyn, New York on Greene Ave.. John's father, Frank, was called a "piano polisher."
In 1910, John F. Liller continued to live with his parents. At that time, they lived on West 37th St. in Manhattan. John was called a piano tuner in this census. John had siblings, Margaret, born in November, 1894, Leonard, born in July, 1896, Anna born in 1900, and Frank born in 1908.
According to the Register of Enlistments for the United States Army (1798 to 1914), John F. Liller first enlisted on February 25, 1913 at the Columbus Barracks in Columbus, Ohio. It is unclear why he had traveled to Columbus, Ohio to enlist, but the record indicates that he did so. He was enlisted by Major Woodbury there for a period of 7 years. This was John's first enlistment. This document states that John was born in New York and that he was 21 years old at the time of enlistment. His occupation before that time was a piano tuner. John had blue eyes, light brown hair, a fair complexion and he was 5'4" tall.
During this enlistment, John served in the 15th Cavalry Regiment, Co. F. He was called a Trmptr (a trumpeter). Although no reason was given, John was discharged from the army on May 28, 1914. The document shows that he was discharged at Ft. Bliss, Texas, S.O. 98, South Dept. 1914. Trmptr, Exclt (probably Excellent) h.?f.
During the period John served with the 15th Cavalry Regiment, this regiment was in Texas patrolling the Mexican border and searching for Poncho Villa. The 15th Cavalry Regiment was not the same as the 15th Cavalry Division (which contained 3 regiments). This division was also stationed in Texas at Fort Bliss at this same time.
Although John was discharged on May 28, 1914, he would serve once again, during World War I. It is unclear when John reenlisted into the Army. Perhaps he was reactivated from the reserves, once America became involved in WWI in April of 1917. It is certain, however, that sometime before January 1, 1918, John had become a Sergeant serving in the Coast Artillery Corps. It is obvious from his writings that he served as a bugler. In one entry he called himself a non-comb (non-commmissioned).
John's military service during the war fortunately was preserved in detail in two diaries dated 1918. Within his first diary, in the section for identification, his weight was recorded as 142 pounds, his shoe size was shown as 7 and his hat size was shown as 7. His diary also indicated that Frank Liller (obviously his father), of 528 E. 88 St., NY should be contacted in case of an accident. In the address section of the diary, John lists the address of his future wife, Elsie Schelhorn, as 363 Willis Ave., Bronx, NY.
By January 1, 1918, his diary indicates that he was in the 22nd Co. of the C.A.C. (Coast Artillery Corps.) and that on that day he was the acting 1st Sergeant of the Company (probably in place of 1st Sergeant Hogan, who was away on a pass).
After the war, John married Elizabeth "Elsie" Shelhorn (Els mentioned in the diary). The 1920 census shows John as aged 26, and Elsie, as aged 19 (born May 24, 1901). They lived on East 142nd St. in the Bronx. They had not yet had any children. Again, John was said to be a piano tuner at the factory [apparently the Steinway Factory].
In 1930, John, aged 37, and his family lived on Tomlinson Ave. in the Assembly District of the Bronx. The census shows Elizabeth, aged 30, and their children, Barbara, aged 10, Raymond, aged 7, and John J., aged 6. John continued to work as a piano tuner and he was listed as a veteran of the World War.
John was a piano tuner of the famous Polish pianist, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, apparently while Paderewski lived and toured in America. Paderewski also served as Prime Minister of Poland in 1919.
John Liller died on December 31, 1939. His wife, Elsie died in 1943 or 1944.
Sgt. John F. Liller, Battery E, 57th Artillery, CAC
|Sgt John Liller on the right with his brother Frank Liller seated on the chair. Frank was not in the 57th Artillery but did serve at least 6 months over seas as he is wearing a Service Stripe on his left lower sleeve, just as John is wearing.|
Bellow are the transcriptions of Sgt. Liller's diary written by Kent Young. There are a great many misspellings but they are left as written by Liller and Comments were added in brackets.
|Fri Jan 11 22nd Co. transferred to 57 Artillery C.A.C. Battery E.||Sat Jan 12 Moved back to Bloomfield Camp.|
|Sun Jan 13 Lost 13.00 in poker.||Mon Jan 14 Charge of K.P.|
|Wed Jan 16 Lost 5.00 in poker. Allen caught by ??? marked cards.||Thur Jan 17 Pvt Allen got beat up in lavatory for marked cards.|
|Fri Jan 18 Snow.||Sat Jan 19 Got on Pass. B. Ball.|
|Sun Jan 20 From ball to Els house from there to 87 St. church arrived home at 8 A.M.||Tues Jan 22 No outdoor drill. Snowstorm.|
|Wed Jan 23 Charge of quarters.||Thurs Jan 24 Didn't drill on acct bad shoes.|
|Fri Jan 25 Snow shoveling.||Sat Jan 26 On Pass to Loewys with Els.|
|Sun Jan 27 With Els to Miners Meet. Eblings in evening. Quarrel. Anna Harvard spend week with Ma.||Mon Jan 28 Guard Sanitaries. Chg of guard.|
|Tues Jan 29 Come of guard||Wed Jan 30 Shovel snow.|
|Thurs Jan 31 Kept in gym at Ft. Hancock on account of trial of high explosives, muster.||Fri Feb 1 Kept in gym. Same account|
|Sat Feb 2 No inspection Sergt Tug Wilson body sent away funeral. Band and escort.||Sun Feb 3 10 o'clock Mass went to eve service and throat blessing.|
|Mon Feb 4 Old guard fatigue. Shoveled carload ?eval? At pump sta. 8 men Ft. Hancock.||Tues Feb 5 Very cold. Indoor drill. No lights at night.|
|Wed Feb 6 Drill on Batt[ery] Peck. Warmer. Indoor drill. Manned arms to draft men.||Thurs Feb 7 Payday.|
|Fri Feb 8 Art[illery] Drill. A hearing to two officers about piano at Gym. All OK. Bonns to guardhouse dirty rifle.||Sat Feb 9 Went on pass Rec'd ring from Els. Dance at Bronx Mullers $2.00 from Mary. Walked with Els fr. home to home.|
|Sun Feb 10 Birthday. At home all day. Mary in evening. Rec'd tobacco from Paps. Francis sick Mum.||Mon Feb 11 Arrived in time.|
|Tues Feb 12 Awoke at 4 A.M. sick from macaroni report at hosp. at gym in aft[ernoon] to see if vaccination took OK.||Wed Feb 13 Report a hosp for bad cold. Recovered in evening To church in eve - Ash Wednesday.|
|Thurs Feb 14 To learn buglers calls on beach at 10 A.M. every day.||Fri Feb 15 Examination for 2nd class gunners. No returns. Co. on guard.|
|Sat Feb 16 Inspect of ?sentry? Old guard fatigue for Co. Started book "Riders of the Purple Sage"||Sun Feb 17 Arose 7:30 A.M. to 10 o'clock Mass - eve to service heard Monsig[nor] Lovells of St. Patrick's Cathedral, NY.|
Mon Feb 18 Dupory returned from pass with black eye rec'd from Greenwich Village bunch. 2nd time this occurred. Sgt. Cliff Marsh and Hogan caught with booze under Marsh's pillow on Mon.
Tues Feb 19 Tue indoor instruct rain. Letter from Mr. Schmidt reg P. B????
|Wed Feb 20 Rain indoor inst. Special delivery from Elsie.||Thurs Feb 21 1st Class Gunners exam. Chas Steffins come to post and mother died. Done bugler guard. Stevenson died.|
|Fri Feb 22 At 2:15 P.M. Battery quarantined diphtheria. Two more case. My section Diphtheria.||Sat Feb 23 All our passes revoked. No mail out. Charge Waters.|
|Sun Feb 24 Rec'd inspection of diphtheria antitoxin. Stevenson body sent home to Rochester.||Mon Feb 25 Quarantined 4th sect. from all other sections. Nothing unusual.|
|Tues Feb 26 Some fellow fell off 10' gun broke back taking muzzle cover off at Ft. Hancock.||Wed Feb 27 Received our identification numbers. Prepare for muster. Smith, Cpl Shalle - Campion, Scheidel busted.|
|Thurs Feb 28 Muster quarantine lifted.||Fri March 1 Blew fire call. False alarm.|
|Sat March 2 Inspection compliment Lt. Greenwood ?abort? rifle. From Battery Pl. home Chas. ????? auto. Rode with family in auto.||Sun March 3 10 o'clock Mass Els had dinner with us auto with folks to Bklyn, J??? bid relatives good bye.|
|Mon March 4 Missed auto ride from Red Bank to Post arrived 7 A.M. nothing said.||Tues March 5 Old guard fatigue on road - beat it in afternoon. Letter to F. Martin.|
|Wed March 6 Met Neuman this man soldier'd with in Ft. Leavenworth.||Thurs March 7 Sgt. Santantonio and Oksner pictures and name in Rochester Democrat newspaper. (probably Sgt. James Santantonio 11/6/1895 - 8/19/1977) (Sgt. Simon Oksner)|
|Fri March 8 First parade of 57 Artillery. On main parade grounds.||Sat March 9 Inspection call on inspect quarters. Fritz and Allen - 1 week extra fatigue duty.|
|Sun March 10 Very windy day met folks in auto at Hyde Went home with folks on Chitters pass.||Mon March 11 Made reveille all OK about pass. Someone told Capt Baldwin.|
|Tues March 12 Blew retreat with F Batt buglers. Target practice - pistols.||Wed March 13 Evening social in Mess Hall. Qualified pistol practice preliminary shooting.|
|Thurs March 14 Nothing unusual.||Fri March 15 Rifle practice - issued pistol.|
|Sat March 16 Went on pass. Confess[ion].||Sun March 17 9 o'clock mass. Afternoon to Br. Miners. Supper to Mary. Left Els house at 11:30 P.M. Arrived on time.|
|Mon March 18 Nothing unusual.||Tues March 19 Rifle target practice in mrn. - Aft Pistol target practice preliminary.|
|Wed March 20 Nothing unusual.||Thurs March 21 Made record "81" 2nd class pistol marksman, everyone had to shoot over.|
|Fri March 22 Went on guard Thurs. Spoliny? In and ?bye? Formal guard ?out.||Sat March 23 Inspection. Battery making side-walk around quarters.|
|Sun March 24 Anna and Els come down on visitors pass.||Mon March 25 Went on pass at 4:30 boat to NY. Supper at home. Els with us. Then to Els house.|
|Tues March 26 Slept until 12 N with Els to Top Sergt house with package. Explosion in Jersey Erie Terminal samples of sootash.||Wed March 27 Braid Capt. Baldwin arrived 4:30 at post ?? Pleased with his shoes.|
|Thurs March 28 Co. on old guard fatigue. Examinations of heart and lungs passed.||Fri March 29 Drill with Battery. Called for bugle drill calls. Capt. Baldwin compliments.|
|Sat March 30 Inspection - Bugle Drill call with drill until 10 A.M. No passes issued.||Sun March 31 Muster - saving daylight schedule set clock forward 1 hour. Splendid easter. No drill account of passes issued Sunday 12:20 until 8:20 Monday eve.|
|Mon Apr 1 Boat.||Tues Apr 2 21 mile hike. Cpl. Moran, Lansiziero, J.D. Brown only ones to drop out. Battery on guard.|
|Wed Apr 3 Nothing to do. Maj. Allen inspect pistols. Expected to go on pass.||Thurs Apr 4 nothing to do all day.|
|Fri Apr 5 Drill Went on pass at 4:30 boat. To Elsie's house.||Sat Apr 6 Slept till noon. Aft to H. Waters went to Myers with bunch. E. Lou, Anna and Joe to Supply Co. ?? at 22 Armory.|
|Sun Apr 7 Aft to Els for walk evening at my house. Left on 8 o'clock boat. President.||Mon Apr 8 Went on guard with Sparling. Papa and U[ncle] Jacob had row.|
|Tues Apr 9 Come off guard. Letter from Anna about row with Pop and Jacob. Man in 5E suicide.||Wed Apr 10 Rain Music from Els. Shucky won picnic at raffle. Wrote letter. War Risk Ins.|
|Thur Apr 11 Payday Batt. Els ???||Fri Apr 12 Inspections of Heavy Marking order indoors. Rain and snow.|
|Sat Apr 13 Rain. Showdown inspection.||Sun Apr 14 Ma - Els and Frank paid me visit could not go back with them. Pass 9 P.M.|
|Mon Apr 15 Slept in R.R. station a Red Bank until 5:50 train with Els to Bronx Pk met Kate, Ed O'Brien in eve.||Tues Apr 16 Showdown inspect.|
|Wed Apr 17 Quarantined Barracks disinfectant had 2 gun sect.||Thurs Apr 18 Drill in A.M. Hike in Aft [noon]|
|Fri Apr 19 Quarantined.||Sat Apr 20 Jumped quarantine at Highland Guards went to Connors Hotel at Water Witch. B??? Rotchford and I.|
|Sun Apr 21 Rainy day no visitors account of quarantine measures.||Mon Apr 22 Hell about Mask and Top Sgt on pass.|
|Tues Apr 23 Hike. Change of quarters.||Wed Apr 24 Hike and shelter tents near Highland Road. Went on quarantine.|
|Thurs Apr 25 Guard.||Fri Apr 26 Drill.|
|Sat Apr 27 Telegram Pop sick. Argument with Top Sgt.||Sun Apr 28 On pass at 10:30 A.M. NY at 3:30 P.M. Met Els going out.|
|Mon Apr 29 With Els to show. At Mary house in eve, supper at house with Els.||Tues Apr 30 Telegram from Top Sgt report for muster and duty. Reported at 8 A.M.|
|Wed May 1 Drill||Thurs May 2 Hike to Seabright 24 miles.|
|Fri May 3 Busted A. Miller arrest in quarters.||Sat May 4 Pass go home. Met Els - walk.|
|Sun May 5 Josie and M??? visit from Bklyn - Els to home for supper, 8 P.M. boat to post.||Mon May 6 Packed up to leave. Fr. Byrnes heard confession. Gang parade.|
|Tues May 7 Mass and Communion in field outside barracks. Battery paid.||Wed May 8 [Blank]|
|Thurs May 9 Left Ft. Hancock.||Fri May 10 Sailed.|
|In the back of this diary, he recorded his identification number as 267011, his equipment # as 267210, and his pistol number as 22586 [dated April 1, 1918].||The 57th Artillery was originally organized at Ft. Hancock, NJ in January of 1918. In May of 1918 the Regiment moved to its Port of Embarkation - Hoboken, NJ, and sailed for the war.|
|Wed. May 8, 1918 Shipped barrack bags, made our packs ready to move. 6:30 P.M. had a ragamuffin parade around post led by 57th Band.||Thurs. May 9, 1918 Left Ft. Hancock 5:15 A.M. To Pier 86 N.R. Left for dock at 2 AM Sailed from Sandy Hook at 5:35 A.M. on "Grand Republic" Post band and residents of Sandy Hook, officers and soldiers give us a farewell. We docked at foot of West 46 St. about 8 A.M. Red Cross give us buns and coffee went good as we were hungry. Boarded ship U.S.S. Rijndam formerly Dutch steamer for fruit. Received slip with boat and bunk number.|
|Friday May 10 All day at West 46 St. pier ???? below about 5 P.M. sailed 6 PM, were allowed on deck when we were in bay, a terrible storm came up lightning and thunder as we passed statue of liberty stayed up till 9 P.M.||Saturday May 11 Arose at early hour weather was beautiful joined by 8 more transports during the night.|
|Sunday May 12 Band give concert in evening.||Monday May 13 Picked up 6 more transports during the night, we had ship drills, band played and singing.|
|Tuesday May 14 Two ship drills and ship target practice. Gun crew made 19 out of 20 hits, afternoon band concerts, weather fine.||Wednesday May 15 Picked up 2 more transports, boys give a Vaudeville show.|
|Thurs. May 16 Sea begin to get rough towards evening.||Fri May 17 Very rough was not sick, but felt uneasy lot of boys were sick.|
|Sat May 18 Arose 2:30 A.M. hot coffee on account of being in war zone, boat crews slept in life boats, had to sleep with cloths on and life belts.||Thurs May 23 Sighted land about 8 A.M. Anchored outside Brest 9:30 A.M.|
|Fri May 24 Still anchored and aboard U.S.S. Rijndam unloading Barrack bags.||Sat May 25 Transferred to smaller boat. Sailed about 20 min for land (Brest) there hiked through slums or outskirts of Brest 4 miles. Kids looking for cigarettes and pennies, in dog tents, civily tents, moved 3 times. Pitched Tents 11 PM|
|Sun May 26 Paid 3 francs for bottle of vini Ruse.||Mon May 27 Had breakfast 3 A.M. marched to Brest qt 3:30 AM, 7:15A.M. went to R.R. sta or yard, reached about 8:15 Complete Regt with band. We were working Mon. We boarded cars marked "8 horses or 40 men" (a type of rail car) about 10:30 A.M. had rations in these for 5 days, stopped at every little station.|
|Tues May 28 Rode through beautiful country, stopped at Nantes and got coffee which was in a wine barrel and tasted like poison could not sleep On train guard, terrible cold. Finally reached Libourne about 9:30 P.M. Which was just as good as the other at Nantes. Slept in cars that night.||Wednesday May 29 Woke up charge of details for auto trucks to move kitchen supply rode up in auto truck, rest of battery had to walk to Arveyres nice little French town where we were to be stationed for training, got charge of Billett #60 had most men in charge, billet like a big barn, mice and spiders galore, but beautiful surroundings with a nice yard at foot of hill.|
|Sat June 1 Inspection went on hike till 11:30 A.M. another at 1:30 P.M. until 4:30 P.M.||Sun June 2 Went to Mass at 8:30 A.M. In same town, church seats were chairs. After mass visited church graveyard, instead of flowers, they are artificial flowers made of beads and are beautiful, bunch of fellows sent to auto school.|
|Mon June 3 Ten Non combs (noncommissioned) sent to gun school, I among them.||Tues June 4 Started to put gun in firing position.|
|Sat June 8 Sgts Oksner and Ins sent to gas school Finish schooling on gun on Friday June 7.||Wed June 19 Drill on Drill guns.|
|Sat June 22 Inspection on guns 8 P.M. call to arms.||Wed June 26 Call to arms at night. Gypsy shot by 1st Battalion. Who put him under arrest and he ran.|
|Sun June 30 Muster 9 A.M. went to 11 o'clock Mass.||Mon July 1 Boys came back from Libourne auto school.|
|Thurs July 4 Athlete meet at Libourne. Boys came back from Indon auto school. Boxing bouts at night.||Mon July 8 Rec'd instructions on gas mask and gas.|
|Sun July 14 Went to 8 A.M. Mass.||Mon July 15 Got paid in French money.|
|Wed July 17 Gun crews drill all day and evening from 8 P.M. till 12 P.M.||Thur July 18 Gas drill from 8 to 9 P.M.|
|Fri July 19 K of C priest heard confessions in French church at Arveyres and I went. Frank [T.] Scheidel [born May 15, 1875] was killed in motorcycle accident at Vayres, the first day we rec'd the motorcycles.||Sat July 20 Went to 5:30 Mass. Had bkfst at 7 A.M.|
|Tues July 24 Twenty men transferred to Battry C and 20 men from C to ?R? Battery C turned into 477 R.A.||Wed July 25 Rec'd smell of gas in gas chamber.|
|Aug 9 Wed Band played in front of Battalion Headquarters.||Aug 13 Tues Left Arveyres for Camp De Sourge. Went through city of Bordeaux then to Sourge about 45 kilo, guns pulled by F.W.D. camped in Pine woods.|
|Aug 16-19 Forest fires every day.||In Charge of car, Cpl Martin, Sgt Panerella|
1st Section: Sgt Liller, Cpl Jenkins, 1 McCaully, 2 Martin, J.V., 3 Martin, J.B., 4 Mervill, 5 Crawford, 6 Levinson, 7 Van Asch, 8 Scheible, 9 McClure, 10 Moran, Leo, 11 Gassity, 12 DePierno, 13 Dickman, 14 Mohr
2 Section: Sgt Sant Antonio, Cpl Kirby, 1 Adamowicz, 2 Williams L., 3 Maddox, 4 Younghaus, 5 Ghyse, 6 Alney, 7 Leffler, Cpl Swanson, 8 Rossmeisel, 9 Bost, 10 White, 11 Arvis, 12 Lindgard, 13 Falconi, 14 Hoskin
3rd Section: Sgt Smalley, Cpl Rotchford, 1 Koehler, 2 Mount, 3 Roegner, 4 Ellison, 5 Kugelman, 6 Heiderman, 7 Farrar. Cpl Puschett, 8 Firtner, 9 Collazzi, 10 Witzel, 11 Parascondolo, J. (possibly Joseph J. Parascondolo), 12 Young, 13 LeFrais, 14 Bell
|Aug 30 Turned in our barrack bags.|
|Aug 13 Revelle 3:30 A.M. Left for camp De Sourge. Guns pulled by FWD (four-wheel drive).||Aug 14 Forest fire.|
|Aug 18 Met H. Bayer. To Bordeaux on pass.||Aug 21 Target range with 75MM gun.|
|Aug 27 Left 75 M.M. gun to 155 Battery.||Sept 3 Target practice. Back to camp in pine woods.|
|Sept 7 Left camp met George H. at Camp De Sourge while entraining.||Sept 8 Train pulled out 7 A.M.|
|Sept 10 Arrived void 6 P.M. Detrained until 2 A.M.||Sept 11 Arrived St. Auban 8 A.M. left St Auban 1:30 P.M.|
|Sept 12 Arrived Lahmbeaux 4 A.M.||Sept 14 Convoy San Pigney 11 A.M. Left 9:30 P.M. convoy all night.|
|Sept 20 Arrived at Chevelmont at 11:30 A.M.||Sept 21 Left Chevalmont 4:30 P.M. arrived Munseyville (Montzeville) 8:30 P.M. Baptismal fire.|
|Sept 25 Zero Hour 11:30 P.M. Smith gassed.||Sept 26 Baty (Battery) opened fire 2:30 A.M. gun bad. Inft [Infantry] over top 5:30 A.M. H. Hour.|
|Sept 28 Moved after dinner arrived 7 P.M. rain all night slept in F.W.D.||Oct 2 Moved after dinner arrived 6 P.M. Laid gun platform at Montfaulkon (Mountfaucon) being heavily shelled.|
|Oct 3 Our machine guns got airoplane.||Oct 4 Six Airoplanes dropped. My gun moved. Worked all night put in position.|
|Oct 10 Lt. Cameron made capt.||Oct 13 Moved to Epinonville stuck all night on hill of Montfaulkon (Montfaucon).|
|Oct 14 Arrived at place about noon.||Oct 16 Col. Austin (Elmore F. Austin) relieved by Col. Buoyers.|
|Oct 25 Moved to Romagne (Bois de Romagne).||Oct 27 Hambright & Bladdnoman returned DeMinter wounded lip.|
|Oct 28 Conway killed, Duffey wounded.||Oct 29 Jewett & Wright wounded.|
|Oct 30 Maj Allen place hit. Lt Col. Wallace wounded and killed (Col. Elmer J. Wallace wounded Oct 29 and died Nov 5). Also new Lt seriously wounded.||Nov 1 H Hour 5:30 A.M. Baty (Battery) opened [fire] at 3:30 A.M. until 2:20 P.M. Capt to hospital. Glick (possibly Capt Glick to hospital).|
|Nov 7 Attached to 5 Corps, 1st Army, no longer Army Artillery.||Nov 8 Bombed twice in evening.|
|Nov 11 Armistice signed.||Nov 12 Capt came back from hosp.|
|Nov 25 Left gun posit[ion] at 8:30 passed through Narcourer Neuvilly (where travel most camped) Camped beyond Claremont.||Nov 26 Went out 10 A.M. Camped at Neuvercourt (Vavincourt).|
|Nov 27 Rec'd at Narbencourt.||Nov 28 Thanksgiving. Left at 6:30 A.M. 5 Kilos from Burleduc (Bar-le-duc).|
|Nov 29 Passed Burleduc (Bar-le-duc) Camped at Mordey.||Nov 30 Started 7:30 A.M. Camped at Ville De Chenes 2 Kilo from Dulevant.|
|Dec 5 Sgt Ingram broke leg.||Dec 11 Deloused at Dulevant.|
|Dec 15 Left Villers noon. Entrained at Vigoury left 8 A.M.||Dec 18 Detrained Brest 2 P.M. Dec 19 Breakfast, Pruns and Beans. Dinner, Beans & Prunes. Supper, Beans. Dec 20-23 Ditto.|
|Dec 24 Detail at docks Xmas eve.||Dec 29 Wooden billets.|
|Dec 31 New Years eve Detail Dock.||Jan 2 Embarked USS Huntington 2 A.M. Jan 3 Storm.|
|Jan 14 Passed Sc land light 6:30 A.M. Arrived 10 A.M. at Camp Merritt [A major assembly area for the Army's Hoboken port of embarkation]||Jan 15 Deloused at Merritt about 12 midnight moved on Erie to Dock Str. Newburgh to Sandy Hook.|
In the back of Sgt. Lillers Diary were several names. They are presented as written and seem to be men in Squads and Platoons that may have been arranged while on the Huntington.
George S. Miller, 52 Miller St., Rochester, NY
|D.M. Fritz, 31 Earl St., Rochester, NY. Milk dealer||G.M. Beck, Olivera, Iowa. Lock box 444|
|B? Bravard, Brookville, Ind.||Ste. Duyn Fils||Morvaix|
|????? Jaffre||Usines a Lillers (P de C)||Finistere|
|Mr. Ed O'Brien|
Above is one of Battery E's guns emplaced under camouflage net with shells and powder at the ready. (Cpl. Curtis collection)
Another gun of Battery E, this time set up in a line of trees. The gunners are using a ram rod to set the shell into the breech and then will place a bag of powder to finish the charge before closing the breech door. (Cpl. Curtis Collection)
Battery E on the road ready for the next emplacement. This is how the gun and carriage looked when in road position. The gun carriage is being transported by a truck. Sometimes a Holt tractor was used but here a covered truck is towing the rig. When a move was made the gun crews road on top of their gun and every thing they need for the next emplacement need to be carried with them, even if it was a chair to set on. You will note the chair hanging on the muzzle of the gun upside down. These guns were extremely heavy and used solid rubber tires due to the weight. (Cpl.Curtis Collection)
Battery E being moved into the next firing position. Now off road the extreme weight of the gun could be a problem in soft ground, so the crews have put on the mud lugs onto the solid rubber tires to help with mobility. Mud was the constant enemy of the gunner, note the knee boots each man has on. (Cpl.Curtis Collection)
By Patricia A. Farnkopf
Sgt. Andrew A. Biroc
My Grandfather, Andrew A. Biroc, served as a Sergeant in Battery “E”, of the 57th Artillery, Coast Artillery Corps with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. I recently learned the details of his service when my uncle loaned my husband and I a notebook that contained my grandfather’s military records, letters, and commendations, as well as a small box that held his war medals and souvenirs from the Western Front. Most importantly, this box contained a personal war diary of my grandfather’s experiences in the great St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives of that war.
As a small girl growing up in Staten Island, NY, I knew my grandfather as a boisterous banjo player and a wonderful family man. He was a kind and loving grandpa, a great storyteller, and, as past commander of Staats Post #517 of the American Legion, he was even somewhat of a local celebrity. But I knew him mostly in his old age, (he was 62 the year I was born) and in a childish way I saw him only as a local man, a retired insurance agent who struggled to make ends meet for his wife and two children during the depression, yet had a big enough heart to make room in their home for two foster children. Throughout my childhood I had heard bits and pieces of my grandfather’s experiences in the Great War, but it seems that the details of those experiences may have been too much for me to absorb as a young girl. By the time he died in 1984, I had a husband and two babies of my own, and precious little time for studying family history.
Twenty-six years have flown by since my grandfather passed away. Here I am in 2010 reading his war papers, and running my fingers over his old medals and patches, and I am just beginning to understand a side of him that has eluded me for all those decades. Now, I know that a little light reading about WWI does not suddenly make me a war expert, but I have learned enough about the horrors of that war to see why a child’s birthday party or a Christmas celebration were certainly not the places to discuss a WWI battlefield; with heavy artillery and machine gun fire causing inconceivable death and destruction, and the terrifying threat of poison gas constantly in the air. Clearly, these were not the kind of things that grandfather’s casually discussed with their granddaughters.
Above all, I can now appreciate that once, long ago, an 18 year old kid named Andrew Biroc had rushed off to enlist in the military when news broke of a war in Europe. When the US entered that war, his regiment had sailed off to France and played a part in driving the Germans back in horrific fighting in the Meuse-Argonne, where 26,000 Americans died in a crucial six week battle that helped end the war. He had suffered greatly after being exposed to poison gas at the front, and had been shipped off to a base hospital where he was expected to die, and nearly did. But a tough upbringing in NY’s Hell’s Kitchen had somehow prepared him for this adversity, and he recovered to return home, where he led a noble and productive life. He raised four children and had many grandchildren, all of whom loved and adored him.
You may regard the pages that follow as my attempt to pay a long overdue tribute to my grandfather. I am certain he would have cherished the chance to be back, once again, among the brave men of Battery “E” 57th Artillery CAC, proudly serving the US Army, “Over There.”
BIOGRAPHY of SGT. ANDREW A. BIROC, BATTERY “E” 57th ARTILLERY, C.A.C.
August A. Biroc was born in Manhattan, New York, on April 1, 1896 to Lucian B. Biroc and Lucy Gilbert. Sometime during his childhood his name was changed (apparently unofficially) to Andrew A. Biroc, and he went by that name for the rest of his life. When Andrew, or “Tut” as he liked to be called, was a small boy, his father left the family. His mother took him and his sister Camille to live in NYC’s West Side neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen. At the turn of the century, this was a poverty stricken neighborhood of immigrants and tenements which was dominated by violent street gangs.
Andrew was in the 6th grade when his mother died in 1908 of tuberculosis. He was forced to quit school and went to work to help support the family, probably as a delivery boy. He was just 12 years old. When he was a teenager Andrew often earned extra money by boxing at neighborhood gyms. One of his favorite stories involved a time when he lost his temper after losing a fight he thought he’d won. He ranted and raved and threatened to beat up the man at the cashier’s window if he wasn’t paid for his efforts. As he told the story, “The guy just laughed and said, ‘Kid, you’ve got a lot of heart,” and then paid him a winners share of the purse. Only later did he learn that the man at the window was boxing great Abe Attell, in his prime at the time and considered by experts today to be the best Featherweight fighter in boxing history.
World War I began in Europe in July of 1914. The German army, believed to be one of the best fighting forces in the world, invaded Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. Advances in weaponry, combined with imprudent and reckless infantry tactics would lead to horrendous casualties during the war, as 16 million people would die and 21 million would be wounded. Within the first year, the German Army would use poison gas for the first time to kill French and Algerian troops in Western Belgium.
Andrew A. Biroc was just 18 years old when he enlisted in the New York National Guard just days after the war in Europe began. He was assigned to the 22nd Company of the Coast Artillery Corps, 9th Coastal Defense Command, He was 5’6” tall with black hair and brown eyes. He was trained as an Artillery Observer Class 2. His NYNG Unit had been nationalized many times in the past, and had a 100 year history of distinguished National Service, fighting in the War of 1812 and the Civil War in battles including; Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and Cold Harbor.
Andrew Biroc was promoted to Corporal on April 22, 1915. That year he (and probably his whole regiment) apparently received the 9th New York National Guard Regiment 100% Duty Service Cross with a 1915 Top Bar Brooch, inscribed with “RATIONE AUT VI.” (By Reason or By Force).
On April 6, 1917 the United States declared war on Germany and Andrew Biroc re-enlisted for another tour in the NY National Guard. Andrew Biroc was promoted to Sergeant on May 21st, and on August 5th, 1917, the New York National Guard was once again nationalized, and drafted into the service of the United States. The 9th Coast Artillery Corps became part of the Regular Army of the United States, and was designated the 57th Artillery (CAC). Sergeant Andrew Biroc was assigned to Battery “E.” The regiment trained for nearly a year on the coastal defense guns in Sandy Hook, NJ.
On May 10, 1918, the 57th Artillery CAC sailed for France aboard the USS Rijndam. The regiment arrived in Brest, France on May 25, 1918. They immediately began training on the French 155MM GPF Rifled Cannon. During this training period Sergeant Biroc also served as a Military Policeman.
In early September, 1918, the 57th Artillery CAC was moved up to the Western Front in support of the two major Allied offensives aimed at driving the Germans out of the entrenched Hindenburg Line. Sergeant Biroc’s military papers show he saw combat service at St. Mihiel from September 12 to 13, 1918, and in the Meuse-Argonne offensive from September 26 to October 18, 1918. He fought at the battles of Montzville, Avocourt, Cuisy, and Epinonville. He was apparently wounded in a poison gas attack a few weeks before the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. He was taken off the front lines and sent to an unknown base hospital, where he recovered and rejoined his unit shortly after the armistice. The war was over. He sailed back from France and arrived in the United States on January 14, 1919. He was discharged from the United States Army six days later at Fort Hancock, NJ.
Sergeant Biroc’s WWI collection includes several battlefield maps tracking his combat movements during the American offensive in northeast France. The 57th Artillery CAC supported the Third and Fifth Corp movements at the center of the advance of the First Army, which was commanded by John J. “Black Jack” Pershing. The offensive was "probably the bloodiest single battle in U.S. history", in the sense that it had the largest number of U.S. dead in a single battle. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive cost Pershing 26,277 killed and 95,786 wounded. Interestingly, Sergeant Biroc’s movements on the battlefield correspond to some of the most famous and heroic events of the American experience in that war. For instance, he was on the battlefield within 10-miles of the following events as they occurred;
After his discharge from the Army, Andrew Biroc worked at several odd jobs before launching a successful career as an agent with the New York Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. On December 16, 1919, he married Amelia Mohr on Staten Island, NY. They had two children, Marjorie C. Biroc (later Furlong) in 1924 and Eugene Biroc in 1927. During the Depression, the Biroc’s took in two foster children, Sven and Edith Cedarholm, who remained with them through their adulthood. The family lived on Staten Island for the rest of their lives.
Andrew A. Biroc always spoke with affection about his time in the Great War. He stayed close to military veterans and was a lifetime member and former Commander of Staats Post #517 of the American Legion. After his career at Met Life, he worked for several years as a local representative of the Veterans Administration. He also ran unsuccessfully for Assemblyman on Staten Island in the 1950’s.
Like many WWI veterans, Andrew Biroc’s lungs had been weakened by his exposure to poison gas in France. Throughout his life, he was susceptible to repeated bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. Yet an inner toughness, forged in his childhood and on the battlefields of the Western Front, allowed him to live to be 88-years old. He passed away in 1984 of emphysema.
WAR DIARY OF SERGEANT ANDREW A. BIROC
NOTE: I have added some town locations based on Sgt. Biroc’s Battlefield maps.
The first page has the notations;
Left NY, Friday, May 10, 1918
Arrived Brest France, May 25, 1918
Left Brest, France, May 27, 1918
This listing of names appears under the heading June 12, 1917
DeCarin, J. D. Brown, Agnello, Rossneirsel, Griffin, Arnold, Mohr, Urdell.
[DeCarin is Pvt. Vincenz DeCarn; J. D. Brown is Pvt. James D. Brown; Agnello is Pvt. Giuseppe Angellon; Griffin is Pvt. Max Griffin]
September 16, 1918 Sampigny, France. Been in this dump two days now, after coming back from the Woods of Marcaulieu, where we had our guns in position to fire. We didn’t, because the Germans retreated too fast. Our field was St. Mihiel but it was captured before we could do our share. Hell!
September 17, 1918 - Sampigny, France. Still here,” resting”. Hell! This morning up at 4:30am, packing our packs. 8:30am, big inspection by a Colonel of the Inspector General Department. He gave us a few knocks! My feet were clean but it wasn’t because of all the water we had. Finished policing up the camp. Resting! Expect we’ll go to the front again tonight. Not sorry to leave “resting” camp.
September 18, 1918 - Sampigny, France. Still here. Slept this morning. After “chow,” told to get ready to leave. Played poker till midnight with Cliff, Johnnie, Jack, and Simon.
September 19, 1918 - Sampigny, France. Up at reveille. Went to trenches near St. Mihiel looking for souvenirs. Haven’t moved yet. 3:30am, orders to move. Moved at 9:30am. Past through Sampigny, Pierrefitte-sur-Aire, Lemmes, Verdun. It rained all night. Convoy stopped at 3:30pm this afternoon. Everybody played out, no sleep for two days and one night. Waited for supper, and went into a big stable for some sleep. Awakened 8:30pm, big Air-raid. Nothing hit. Woke again at 11:30pm to find Corporal and three Privates to move guns. Went to sleep again 12:30am.
September 20, 1918 Area of Verdun, France. Up at 9:30 am. Breakfasted in pouring rain. Orders to move after the “big lunch”. Moved about 10 miles and saw a big air battle. We hid till dark outside of a big town, then past through and into our positions. Worked all night in pitch dark. All the while the Huns were banging away at a town behind us. At 2:30am they sent a big bunch of shells right where we were working. Put on our gas masks and we beat it as best we could to some dugouts on the roadside. “Some” experience. It lasted about a half hour and then we returned to our work. We were sure “baptized” for our first night. We finished camouflaging and walked with our packs to Marre about one and a half miles, then we tried to find some shelter from the rain. We were sure tired and hungry. We didn’t eat since yesterday noon.
September 21, 1918 Area of Marre, France - 6:30am. Found a small iron folding bed. Slept like a top under a little shack. Every house is in ruins. Big breakfast but I couldn’t get up. Got up at 5:30pm. Stew for supper, it sure tasted good after my long fast. Now ready for what may come tonight, for we have to put our guns in position.
September 22, 1918 West of Cumieres, France - Put guns in with two tractors. Pouring rain all night. Drenched, cold, tired out and hungry. Finished at daybreak. Back to find our packs all wet and the dirt floor soaked. All mud. Looked for other quarters. Found a little dugout about 40 feet underground. Plenty of rats. Got in the hay at 8:30 am. No eats! My crew is exhausted, but we’ll stick it out. Awakened at 12:30pm after 4 hours of sleep. Ordered to eat at once “Red Andy?” and get up to the guns to prepare to fire. Worked all afternoon and till midnight and were then relieved. Is now 1:30am and if we receive orders to fire Lieutenant Curn erow? said he’ll send for me and the crew. (Hope he does).
September 23, 1918 - West of Cumieres, France - Not sent for during the remainder of the early hours. Gun all ready to give the [unreadable] Dutchman Hell! Capital H. Up for breakfast. Coffee, prunes, and pork steaks. Back to the “hay” until they call me. We are right next to the famous “Hill 304” and “Hill 314” and on our left dead mans hill (Mort Homme). The Dutchman will have to move - though I’m afraid we are about 4 kilos from Verdun. Just saw were a shell landed about 2:00 this morning, about 200 feet from our dugout. It did not wake us up though. Up and had a shave and wash for the first time in a week. Feels great. Back on the guns at 2 pm. Fixed old Betsy up in great shape. All afternoon the Allied Planes were teasing poor Fritz, he didn’t hit one out of about 20 planes. Came into town again for a “rush” supper. Lay around the gun fixing a little shelter for our crew. 6am, just quit. Walked back through all the mud. Tired. No breakfast until 8 o’clock. Fine Army. Slept. Ate and up again at 2pm. Saw Lieutenant and was told we would fire sometime this evening. 11pm, ordered to fire at a big German concentration. Have forgotten the date.
(September 24, 1918?) West of Cumieres, France - We fired all night in a cold muddy rain. Betsy went fine until about the 30th shot then we couldn’t close the breech. Matty put on a new block but had to take it off and put on the old one again. Then she went fine. 3:30pm, my head aches from all the shooting. They say it’s the biggest fire of artillery since the war. The whole front gained 20 kilos. Some work. Everyone “all in”. Stayed by the gun. At 5:30pm, they told us to fire again as fast as we could load. The Germans were keeping our infantry out of a town with their machine guns. We got them with 3 shots. 8:30pm Ordered to put gun in traveling position. No rest and very little to eat. Haven’t slept in two days straight. Put gun in position and were pulled off the field at 6am. All in. Past through Montzeville and were told to stop for a bite to eat. Oksner's [Sgt. Simon Oksner] gun and Liller's busted. They are going to relieve us. 11am going to hit the hay..Oh boy! Up at 4:30 pm. Some sleep but we feel much better. Our guns have gone ahead. We ate (pork steaks again and Java) and off to find our guns in some rain and mud. Rode all night. Still raining. Lots of our boys getting wounded. Lots of German prisoners. Heard Metz was captured. We are now between Avocourt and Esnes. Our guns are in position and expect to give them some more hell. We sure did take the Dutchman by surprise. This is the third day and our artillery is still firing as fast as they can load. My gun just about ready. Heard the British captured St. Quentin. Pop Smith died. Somebody says it’s the 31st of September but nobody seems to know for sure. We are lucky to know what month it is.
About October 1, 1918 - Between Avocourt and Esnes, France - Found out it is the date of October 1st, but still not sure. We slept all last night but the rain didn’t come in my “pup tent.” At 3:30am the horns started going, gas alarm. Mike hollered right in my ear, “Gas” and it was some effort to wake up so quick and put on my mask. We kept them on until Charlie Quinn? “Gas Sergeant” gave the Ok to take them off. We are going to another position, probably tomorrow. Sorry to leave here because we are eating almost three times a day now. Got 4 letters this morning; 3 from Kitty and 1 from Joe, Pop, and Rita, a combination 3 in 1 letter. Sure did enjoy them. Haven’t written home in a month now, (but should, as the) Officers have no time to censure mail while at the front.
About October 7 or 8, 1918 Montfaucon, France - Today is Sunday around the 7th or 8th of October. Since writing the last letter we have had considerably more experience. We moved from Avocourt and are now up around Montfaucon which was taken a week ago. This is some place. It took me, my gun, and my crew almost two days to get here as the 3 tractors we used to pull us broke down on the road up to here. No sleep, no eats. Put gun into position with the usual amount of rain and mud to make things more pleasant. Fired all of the third night continually. Slept for about 12 hours, got some water from a shell hole and washed. Now awaiting firing orders. The Fritz aeroplanes are coming over in droves every 15 minutes and so far have gotten away without any trouble. This is by far the most active sector we have been to so far. Received quite a few letters from home last night, Pop, Joe, Emma, Edward, Janette, Kitty. Glad Leon is now in the army because he [unreadable] of the fact someday. I wouldn’t want to be home now for the world, though I won’t be sorry when they say our work is done here. Hope Leon never needs to come across though, for it’s enough if I come through ok. Sometimes when Fritz sends them over I doubt if some of us will go back. Saw a little bunch of graves yesterday of some of our “Doughboys.” Sure a pity. But the Dutch Sons [unreadable] will sure pay for the poor lads. We are right near a place called Cuisy. Just received a few more letters from Frances, Kitty, Chris Fetzer and Emma. Chris says he’s been to the front and is now resting. We’ve been battling now since the latter part of August and still no signs of a rest. Frances wants me to let them know if we are at the front yet. I won’t let them know any more than I can help.
October 9, 1918 Near Cuisy, France - Since writing the above have been working like a dog. Day and Night firing. Lay down in the mud for a few minutes and then another, “Sergeant Biroc, get your crew.” Am sure getting thin and feeling pretty sick. Hope we get a rest soon, though the officers in our outfit will see that we keep ourselves, and the rest of the men, busy. They are certainly slave drivers. But this won’t last forever and we may all meet again. A German aeroplane came well into our lines this morning, got one of our balloons and got away amidst a terrific fire from our machine guns. It was the prettiest trick I have seen a plane do yet. The Germans are sure some daring aviators, but they have nothing on our boys. Heard that Germany wants peace, but I guess that’s more rumors. Haven’t seen a newspaper for a long time now. This afternoon we are to have an inspection. Who has ever heard of inspections at one of the busiest fronts of the war? There’s a nut loose somewhere. Have fired about 200-rounds since we’ve been in this position. Everything covered with mud.
October 11, 1918 - Near Cuisy, France - Been pretty sick the last few days but coming around all right now thanks to Robbie Pratte. Robbie is sleeping with me and Mike Nichols [Pvt. Murray "Mike" Nichols]. We sleep right with the Betsy Girl all the time. The Captain just told me that the shooting of two days ago by my gun crippled the German roads and convoy so badly that they have to bring rations to their troops by aeroplanes now. Also the town of Ville Something had been captured immediately after our barrage of gas. Not so bad, eh? Somebody just said some mail just came in. Got a few more letters.
Have advanced again, this time two kilo’s behind the “Doughboys.” (near Epiponville, France?) All day and night, “Gas,” “Gas,” “Gas,” but the Dutch Sons [unreadable] are going back fast.
October ?, 1918 - Gassed, and Taken off the Front, Location Unknown - On my way to a hospital. Riding now for 2 hours. Pretty sick.
October 17, 1918 - Location Unknown - Rode in an ambulance from the field hospital for about 30-miles to an evacuation hospital. Red Cross woman gave us some cigarettes and cocoa. This is sure some miserable looking bunch of men. Lousy, unshaved for weeks, covered with mud. And I am one of them! But it’s all in the game. Midnight now, on trains with big red crosses on each side. Rode for 10-hours, arrived at a big base hospital and every stitch of clothes taken away and given a bath. Boy, I could kill a million Germans now. We are now in a little ward. Some patients were gassed, shrapnel wounds, and other casualties. Fine treatment here. Like HELL! Two guys died in the last two days in the little end room. I’m feeling weak but otherwise ok.
October 24, 1918 Base Hospital, Location Unknown- Had 102 degree fever since yesterday and they wanted to put me in the same room where the other two guys died, but I kind of talked them out of it. I am much better now and I am going to try and get back with the boys before I croak in this place. The war is better then this. I had to go out in a suit of pajamas and stand in the rain in line for mess. And after coming out of a hot bath, too! This is the first cold I’ve had slept in the mud, water, rain, filth and punk and had to come to a hospital to catch a cold. Got some clothes today and went to town. Bought a bottle of rum and got quietly stewed all by myself. It busted up my cold alright!
Today some phony Captain wanted a few of us to go out and do “Light Duty” pushing a freight car loaded with coal. I gave battle immediately and because of battle was excused and ordered to take a dose of salts as I said “I came here to get well, not to work,” and he said, “If you’re not well take a dose of salts.” Needless to say I didn’t take the salts either. It’s a shame to make these poor guys work who have been sick and wounded. Goddamn these heartless, stupid, [unreadable]!
Early November, 1918 Base Hospital, Location Unknown - Being discharged tomorrow. Hear the Germans want peace.
End of November, 1918 - Dulivante? France - Waiting for the outfit. Not going to write in this book anymore. The armistice is signed now, and these notes were only in case I got “bumped off,” so my folks would know what I did before I “cashed in.”
|Sgt. Biroc's WWI Victory Medal with St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Defensive Sector clasps. Medal on the right is the WWI New York State Service Medal.||9th New York National Guard 100% Duty Service Cross, with 1915 top bar, inscriped with the Artillery slogan "Ratione Aut Vi" (By reason or by Force)|
Upper left: Dog Tags of Sgt. Biroc. Lower left: Uniform collar buttons of Sgt. Biroc. Upper right: Shoulder patches from Sgt. Biroc's uniform.
Sgt. Biroc's letter of commendation dated 23 January, 1919 at Fort Hancock, New Jersey. The signature is likely that of 1st Lt. William D. Cameron who was at the time in command of Battery E during the war. 1st Lt. Cameron was advanced to Captain on October 11, 1918 while Battery E was positioned near Avocourt, France.
|Members of Battery E in France. Sgt. Biroc is not in this photo, but identified is "Bob" last name unknown and "Charlie" who was in fact Sgt Charles A. Quinn of Battery E, and Sgt. Biroc mentions in his diary above. The men are shown driving a FWD truck, which was one of the regiments trucks.||Sgt. Biroc shown on the right with Private Rob "Robbie" Pratte on the left somewhere in France.|
|Left to Right; Sergeants John F. Liller, Henry "Cliff" Marsh, Andrew Biroc, and Rudolph "Rudy" Mandell. This photo was taken in Angers, France. This group of 4 Sergeants are likely the 4 gun commanders of Battery E. Each gun in the Regiment was named by thier gun crews. Sgt. Brioc's gun was named "Betsy Girl" and another of the guns of Battery E was named "Matty" but the other two gun names are not known.||Photo of Saats American Legion Post #517 Commander Andrew Biroc sometime during the 1950's|
Grave marker of Pvt. Frank Joseph Sheedy from New York. Battery E, 57th Artillery CAC
Born November 29, 1887 Died October 12, 1970
Frank Joseph Sheedy was a member of Battery E, 57th Artillery, CAC during the entire time the 57th was in France during WWI.
Sheedy was born in Cork, Ireland on November 29, 1887, and had immigrated to the United States about 1892. It was sometime in 1900 that Frank Sheedy became a Naturalized citizen. Early on Frank Sheedy and his younger sister Margareta lived in the Borough of Wood-Ridge, New Jersey. There Sheedy lived in the Allan and Mary Gray home. Mary Gray was Frank and Margareta’s mother, and Allan Gray was their step-father. Both Allen and Mary Gray were born in Ireland and had come to America in 1893. Frank and his younger sister Margareta, had come to America at the same time, which may have been a year before Mary and Allan Gray came over.
In April of 1910, Frank was 21-years old and worked for a shipping company as a clerk. By 1915 Frank was married, and her name was Mary. She was the same age as Frank, and was also born in Ireland. At that time, they lived in Brooklyn, New York where Frank was working as a printer.
It was on April 19, 1917 that Frank Sheedy enlisted into the New York National Guard. On July 28, 1917, Sheedy was mustered in as a Private into the 22nd Company of the 9th Coast Defense Command, New York National Guard. In the summer of 1917 the 9th Coast Defense Command was Federalized at Fort Hamilton, and the 30 Officers and 656 enlisted men began to form a new Artillery Regiment for duty in France. On January 11, 1918, the entire 22nd Company, in which Pvt. Frank Sheedy was in, along with extra drafted men from Rochester, New York, became Battery E of the 57th Artillery, CAC.
Pvt. Sheedy was on January 16, 1918, advanced to Private First Class. PFC Sheedy was in the Second Squad of Battery E. The Second Squad was made up of Sgt. John F. Liller, Sgt. Simon Oksner, Sgt. Charles A. Quinn, PFC Frank J. Sheedy, Pvt. Irving Kahn, Pvt. Thomas M. Cook, Pvt. Charles J. Rantz, and Pvt. John F. Terry. Sheedy, Kahn, Rantz, and Terry all served as Cooks. Sheedy had been advanced in grade from PFC to Cook on April 11, 1918.
The 57th Artillery began its movement to France by boarding the transport ship USS Ryndam, a Holland American Line passenger ship used for the Rotterdam to New York service. On May 10, 1918, the entire 57th Artillery was loaded aboard the Ryndam, passenger manifests filled out and bunks were assigned to each member of the 57th. PFC Sheedy was listed in the Second Squad, Battery E, with his Army Service number, 627081, and his next of kin, his mother Mary E. Gray of 131 Larch Ave. Bogata, New Jersey. As they left New York and the Statue of Liberty behind them, Sheedy may have had thoughts of would he ever see that lady with her torch of Freedom raised so high ever again. One thing was for sure the men of the 57th aboard the Ryndam, were not alone on the Atlantic. For sure they knew there would be German eyes peering through German periscopes at their ships, but that day 13 troop ships set out under escort across the Atlantic. The Germans under the sea likely could not sink all of them. The convoy had an escort, to keep them as safe as they could. Among the escorting ships was the armored cruiser, USS Huntington, who with her four-stacks and guns bristling from her sides gave the appearance of strength. PFC Sheedy would, on the return trip after the war, return aboard the Huntington.
Once in France, the 57th would see action at the front lines, first at the St. Mihiel offensive, and actions in the Muse-Argonne offensive, and in the Defensive Sector. Once the war had ended the artillery regiments that had come over first were the ones to go back home the soonest. Being that the 57th was one of the early units to go over they did not have as long to wait to return back home. By the second week in January 1919, the 57th Artillery had made its way to Brest, France to await transportation back across the Atlantic to home once again. On January 14, 1919, the 57th saw a welcome sight, that of the armored cruiser USS Huntington, the same cruiser that was part of their escort across, back in May.
As Cook Frank J. Sheedy, and the Second Squad of Battery E went aboard the cruiser, and he found his berthing space, Sheedy was by now an old hand at ocean travel, as this was his third trip across the Atlantic, once when he came to America for the first time from Ireland, the trip across to France back in May, and now this final trip back home. On the return trip, the Second Squad now consisted of; Sgt. Alfred E. Smalley, Sgt. Thomas F. Moran, Sgt. F. Wakefield, Sgt. Sam J. Burden, Cook Charles J. Rantz, Cook Frank J. Sheedy, and Cook Irving Kahn. Only Sheedy, Rantz and Kahn were with the Second Squad throughout the entire time they were in France.
Once the Huntington reached New York and off loaded the men of the 57th Artillery, the drafted men and those who were New York National Guard were to be discharged. The Regular Army personal would remain with the 57th after demobilization. Sheedy was Honorably Discharged on January 25, 1919.
After his discharge, Sheedy returned back to his family then living in Englewood, New Jersey. By 1920 Frank Sheedy was living with his mother and step-father Allan and Mary Gray. On the Federal Census, he is listed as being single, so his marriage to Mary must have been over for some time by then. Frank was then employed as an accountant in a bank.
Within 5-years in 1925, Frank Sheedy was living on his own in Mamakating, New York, which is located in Sullivan County in the south-east part of New York State. Sheedy at the time was unemployed and living in a rented apartment or room. During these years, Sheedy was struggling and in the early 1930’s had moved again, this time to Connecticut. By 1935 he was still single and lived as a lodger in the home of Bessie Bennett located on highway 203 in the Willimantic section of Windham, Connecticut. Bessie Bennett may have been some family relation to Sheedy. On the 1940 Census, Sheedy was still living there and was not employed. But in the years before WWII, Windham was a center for the production of silk and cotton thread, so he may have worked in and around the mills there. Bessie Bennett’s eldest son Richard who was 27-years old, worked at a gas station and possibly Frank may have also helped there too.
By the time WWII began, Frank Sheedy had to register for the draft in the spring of 1942. He listed his home address as living at the Nathan Hale Hotel located at 56 Park Street in Willimantic, CT. He must have been also working there as he listed his employer as the Nathan Hale Hotel, and a Mr. W. McGrath as the person to contact. Sheedy would live throughout the 1950’s in Connecticut before moving back to New Jersey towards the end of his life. Sheedy never remarried and was single the rest of his life. When Frank J. Sheedy passed away on October 12, 1970, he was living in Old Bridge, Middlesex, County, New Jersey. Today Frank Sheedy lies buried in the Park Cemetery located in Tilton, New Hampshire, and a flat granite military grave stone marks the spot where an American Soldier lies resting in peace.
Corporal Frank Kiernan was another man from Rockaway, New York in the 24th Company, C.A.C., and also was in Battery F, 57th Artillery.
Tom Fannin tells that his wife said her father had always told her that his father, Frank/Francis Leo Kiernan, had met General Pershing when he was in WWI in France. Tom Fannin goes on to tell the story, "When we cleaned out their house in Louisville a few years ago, I kept a set of old books which included General Pershing's Memoirs of WWI. As I read them, a newspaper clipping fell out. Very yellow. Seems a guy wrote into the Times to say that he had read an installment of the memoir published in the NY Times (1931) and recognized an incident where he and another soldier were surprised to find General Pershing, the highest ranking general we had, the President of France, Poincare' and the president's wife walking through a ruined estate. Their first instinct was to quickly disapper, but when the General told them who he was and who was with him, they took it as an introduction and quickly shook hands with a surprised French President. This was recounted in the book as an illustration of the naiveté and openness of the young American soldiers but the soldiers names were not given. This fellow, upon seeing the story, identified himself and Frank Kiernan as one of the two soldiers. He said that Frank was living in Far Rockaway, New York. This must have been about 1931. Just as described in the article, the account is in the book and the family story is proved out."
Frank Kiernan joined the Army on April 17, 1917. He sailed for France May 10th with the 57th Artillery, and did not leave until January 1919. Cpl. Kiernan participated i the following engagements: St. Mihiel Salient at Sampigny Sept. 12 to Sept. 19, 1918, Argonne Meuse Sector Sept. 21 to Nov. 25, 1918, at Montzelle, Avocourt, Malacourt, Iverny, Bois de Romange. Cpl. Frank Kiernan was the company clerk of Battery F.
Before the war, Frank lived with his parents John and Elizabeth Kiernan at 23 Kane Avenue, Rockaway Beach. John Kiernan was a policeman and next door lived his brother Francis Kiernan who was a fireman. Frank lived after the war at 260 Beach, 136th st. Belle Harbor until his marriage in 1922. After the 1929 crash, Frank had problems with depression and alcohol. The family split up and like many "black sheep" no one kept up with his story.
Left, Cpl Frank Kiernan, right Jack Kiernan
Battery F, 57th Artillery, C.A.C. in France. Cpl. Frank Kiernan is seated first man on the left with the hat on.
Two days before Congress declared war against Germany and her allies in April 1917, “Rockaway's Own", a company of artillery, composed of residents of the Rockaway’s and vicinity was accepted, by the Regimental Commander, as the 24th Company of the 9th Coast Command. On May 7th 1917, they took the oath of allegiance and were mustered into service in the National Guard of New York.
The Rockaway Company had its own headquarters in an old hotel, since torn down, at Cornaga Avenue and James Street, Far Rockaway, and used the Ocean Country Golf course for drill maneuvers. The other eleven companies of the famous “Ninth New York", which is said to be the oldest regiment in the country with a glorious record of victorious engagements in past wars, had their headquarters and armory at 125 West 14th street, New York. The regiments, which with the Ninth, made up the Artillery Brigade of the New York National Guard, were the Eighth of the Bronx, Twelfth of Manhattan and the Thirteenth of Brooklyn.
In August of 1917 the Rockaway Company, having previously been mustered into Federal service in July, 1917, was ordered with the other companies of the Ninth, from Far Rockaway to Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to man the big coast defense guns there, which next to the fleet, were the main protection for New York Harbor and City.
As the 24th Company of 120 officers and men marched through the streets of Far Rockaway to entrain for Sandy Hook, they were given a rousing send-off by almost the entire populace, who lined the streets, cheering, weeping and calling encouragement to the, by then, well-trained soldiers, who, with the national colors at their head, stepped smartly and alertly to martial music, on their first lap to France and eventual participation in smashing the German army.
The organization of the 24th Company began in November 1916, when the writer, after a number of conferences, secured permission from the Lt. Colonel John J. Byrne, Commanding Officer of the Ninth, to form a detached unit of the regiment in the Rockaways.
In 1916, the Ninth had eleven companies numbered from 13 to 23, but as 12 companies were necessary to bring the regiment to full strength, the Rockaway’s were given the honor of raising the last or 24th Company. This honor almost went to New Rochelle, from which city there was strong agitation for permission to establish a company there, but the Rockaway’s won out, partly because Lt. Colonel Byrne owned a summer home in Far Rockaway and had a sentimental feeling for this section where he had spent so many happy years. In so far as I know, the Rockaway’s were the only community permitted to organize their own company for the purpose of participating in the World War.
The cream of the youth of the Rockaways were in this company; their esprit de corps was second to none; their personnel far above the average, and needless to say, their distinguished record in battle an honor credit to the Rockaways.
After permission for organization of the company was secured, the writer, who had been local correspondent for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and reporter for the Rockaway Journal, was able to give considerable publicity to the formation of the company. Lists were circulated for the signatures of those desiring to join, mass meetings were held in Nebenzahl’s Hall, which meetings were addressed by the Commanding Officer of the Ninth, members of his staff and prominent citizens, the Ninth Regiment band, almost a hundred strong, was brought to Far Rockaway, where, in the Depot Plaza they gave concerts of military airs, attracting large crowds; and personal recruiting was done by the writer and several others who volunteered to assist.
From the beginning, John C. Young, then editor of the Rockaway News, gave his enthusiastic and wholehearted support to the campaign writing and publishing articles for the News and other local and city papers and lending his efforts in every way possible to the formation of the company.
John J. McCarthy of Woodmere, a former Sergeant of the 69th New York, is another deserving special mention, for he gave considerable time and assistance in recruiting, and, through his zealous efforts, personally enlisted a number of young men from Woodmere and other branch villages.
Among the first to sign up were: Edward Lee, James Caffrey, Harry Nebenzahl, Anthony Marasco and Elias Brower. These first recruits immediately lent their efforts to securing other recruits. After a lull in recruiting, during the Christmas holidays, members signed up rapidly so that by mid-March, the full company strength of 120 officers and men had been pledged.
In the meantime, Harrison’s Hall had been leased by the State as an Armory, and physical examinations were begun under the capable supervision of 1st Lieutenant A. S. Tepper of Far Rockaway, who had been commissioned as a medical officer of the Regiment. The Commanding Officer designated the writer, as First Sergeant, Edward Lee as Supply Sergeant, and Harry Nebenzhal as Mess Sergeant, and they were detailed for a few days to Ft. Hamilton for instruction in their duties.
Three officers assigned to the Company by Regimental Headquarters, namely, Captain F. O. E. Knudson; 1st Lieutenant J. G. Davis and 2nd Lieutenant Walter Seligman. These experienced officers were well liked by the members of the Company and, in a short time; under their able guidance the raw rookies of the 24th Company became a well-drilled body of soldiers.
Early in June 1917, examinations for non-commissioned officers' vacancies were held and those receiving the highest marks were appointed on July 12, 1917. Sergeant Daniel E. Barry was promoted to First Sergeant, succeeding the writer, who was assigned to a vacancy as 2nd Lieutenant in the 21st Company of the Ninth.
The proficiency of a company unit depends to a great extent upon the ability of the First Sergeant. The Rockaway Company was fortunate in France such an outstanding leader as First Sergeant Daniel E. Barry, whose soldierly appearance, untiring work ability, patience and solicitude for the welfare of men earned him their sincere esteem, and, the highest commendation of his officers.
Aiding First Sergeant Barry, with exceptional ability and intelligence, were the non-commissioned officers of sergeants and corporals, who carried out the multiplicity of duties and special details imposed them in a manner meriting the highest praise.
At Sandy Hook, where the Ninth drilled and received instructions in the handling of the big guns while waiting for transportation to France, the men of the 24th became efficient artillerymen. On weekends and holidays, many residents of the Rockaways visited them at Fort Hancock bringing food delicacies, cigarettes, hand-knitted sweaters and other presents.
Lt. Colonel John J. Byrne, the Commanding Officer was in the meantime promoted to a full Colonel, later becoming a Brigadier General in command of the Artillery Brigade of the New York Guard and was retired with honors about three years ago  as a Major General. He frequently visits Far Rockaway, renewing old acquaintances of war days.
Practically the entire Rockaway Company remained together through out the War, serving: in France under their new designation of Battery “F” 57th Heavy Field Artillery, A.E.F. They were classed as Army Artillery, attached to no division but used as heavy artillery for whatever divisions they were ordered to support.
However, a few of members of the company who chose to take the examinations, were promoted to commissioned officers and assigned to other units, so that there were representatives of the Rockaway Company in the Field Artillery, Trench Artillery, Coast Artillery and Railway Artillery and Quartermaster Corps.
The high quality of the entire personnel of the company was such that they would have distinguished them selves as non-commissioned officers or commissioned officers in the newly formed National Army, but so great was their esprit de corps, the majority preferred to serve together as unit.
Among those whose outstanding qualifications earned them promotions were Sergeant William H. Doolittle to 1st Lieutenant, Field Artillery; Corporal John Faber to 1st Lieutenant, Field Artillery; Sergeant Howard Sterne to 2nd Lieutenant, Trench Artillery; and Sergeant William Meissel to Sergeant Major Coast Artillery.
In May 1918, the Regiment sailed for Brest, France, on the S.S. Ryndam. After training at Libourne and Camp de Sourge where they were equipped with the famous French, tractor-drawn, 155mm guns, the 57th, including Rockaway’s Own, were sent to the front. Their first engagement was in the Battle of St. Mihiel, where they went into firing positions at Sampigny. In a surprise attack, the American Troops, in a few days’ time, completely routed the vaunted German forces opposing them, administering a serious defeat to the enemy by conquering the entire strongly fortified St. Mihiel salient of many square miles, capturing numerous prisoners taking quantities of guns, ammunition and other supplies.
Following this victory. Battery “F” saw heavy and continuous action with the American Army in Meuse-Argonne sector, where without being relieved from September 25th to November 11th, they fought valiantly against the picked shock troops of the enemy and over rough, hilly and heavily wooded country.
Although the “clam-diggers” as Rockaway’s Own termed themselves were out to raise "hell" in general when off duty or in camp and to give their officers many an uneasy moment with their horse-play, riotous good humor and minor infractions of discipline, which served to let off the steam of their high spirits, when it came time for serious attention to their job, they rose to the occasion, working as a team and giving the best they had in them.
Never once in the Argonne did the boys from the Rockaways yield ground but moved steadily forward, helping to drive the fiercely resisting enemy from Montzeville, Avocourt, Malancourt, Iovry, Mountfaucon and Bois de Romagne. At each of these places, Battery “F” fired shell after shell into the enemy lines, destroying ammunition dumps, wrecking concrete pill-boxes and fortified positions, blowing up roads, railroads and bridges, disorganizing supply services and laying down barrages on the enemy trenches to clear the way for the American Infantry.
While the Rockaway Company was at Bois de Romagne, the badly defeated and demoralized German Army gave up. The Armistice was the occasion for a joyous celebration in the front lines by the tired but happy boys of “Rockaway’s Own”, who with the tension over, gave vent to their pent up feelings, shooting off their revolvers and automatics, harmonizing with war songs and sentimental songs of Home Sweet Home, toasting their comrades with what wines of France were available and in general whooping it up as far as the facilities of the battle front allowed.
Ordered back to Brest, the regiment embarked for New York on January 2nd, 1919, on the United States Cruiser “Huntington.” A few weeks later Battery “F” was demobilized at Fort Sandy Hook, New Jersey. As each man was mustered out and given his honorable discharge, his happiness, at being free to come home again to his family and friends, tinged somewhat with sadness at the thought of parting from his buddies, who for more than a year and a half, had shared with him the pleasures and undergone with him the hardships and horrors of war.
But it was a gala and joyous day in the Spring of 1919, when the people of the Rockaway’s officially welcomed home their boys with a celebration and proudly presented to each one of them a medal, on which was engraved, “Awarded by the Citizens of the Rockaways to One Who Served the Nation with Honor the World's Great War 1917-1918-1919”
Although the 24th Company was for many days under heavy enemy shell fire, and had two of their own guns accidentally explode while firing, excepting for a few who were gassed or slightly wounded, there was only one fatal casualty of a local member.
In the latter part of October 1918, Private Frank J. McGinn of Inwood was killed in action by enemy shellfire near Bois de Romagne, France. His genial disposition and soldierly qualities had endeared him to all his buddies, who were intensely shocked and saddened at his loss. In Regimental Headquarters of the Old Ninth on 14th Street, New York, a bronze tablet on which Frank J. McGinn’s name is recorded, together with the names of other members of his regiment who were killed action, has been unveiled, as an expression of the high esteem in which these heroes were held by their comrades-in-arms.
In this space limited article, written principally from memory, grown hazy with time, only a few high lights have been touched upon. It might, however, be mentioned that so well and favorably had the 24th Company made themselves known wherever they went in France, that even General Pershing in his book on the World War, recalls an amusing incident resulting from his counter with some the Rockaway boys at the front. It is with regret the writer omits stories of individual heroism, arduous and dangerous tasks meritoriously performed, hardships of war undergone without plaint, humorous encounters with the French language and people and numerous other anecdotes of camp and front line that will linger forever the memories of the "buddies" of the old 24th.
Neither does space permit the story of the company of the New York Guard composed of local residents, who replaced the 24th in Far Rockaway, when the latter left for war; nor the story of the presentation to the 24th Company in the hall of the Church of the of Good Counsel, Inwood, of the National Colors in silk, by a ladies committee headed by Mrs. Michael O’Rourke; nor stories of raising company funds by Private William Morrison and Corporal Gerald Ryan through benefits and personal appearances, assisted by prominent local citizens; nor does space permit recording the later history of the 24th Company, which after the War, continued in existence in the Rockaways for some ten-years longer with headquarters in an Armory at Rockaway Beach, except to state that the new and younger members did their best to carry on in peace time the splendid traditions and high standards set for them by their predecessors of the war period, gaining many honors and commendations for proficiency in infantry and artillery drill and for accuracy in the firing of sea-coast and 155mm guns.
Since this is a brief story of the 24th Company in War days, suffice it to say, in conclusion, that every one of the members were for and deeply appreciative of the enthusiastic and affectionate support given to them by the citizens of the Rockaways.
In the Mt Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York lies an unassuming grave stone, simply marked, “G. S. Hancock 1890-1918 Wagoner Bat F, 57th Art., C.A.C.” This man served his Country and died while doing so and he deserves to be remembered.
In May of 2016 Jackie Forbes was in the Mt. Hope Cemetery and came across this grave stone. It seemed to call out to her to find out who this 28-year old solider was. This is his story.
G. S. Hancock is Gordon S. Hancock the son of John E. and Caroline L. Hancock of 159 Warwick Street in Rochester, NY. Gordon was born on July 14, 1890 and seems to be the only child of John and Caroline. John Hancock worked as a clothing cutter in a tailor shop to support his family. When Gordon finished school he went to work as a clerk in a factory that made thermometers in Rochester. But by late 1916 or early 1917 Gordon was self-employed working as contractor.
America in the spring of 1917 had now entered into the war in Europe, and the first call up for the draft was called for. On June 5, 1917 Gordon S. Hancock, a slender, single young man with light brown eyes and brown hair registered in Precinct 19 in Rochester as he was required to do. The summer and fall of 1917 passed while young Gordon Hancock waited for his time to serve his country.
That call came and he was drafted and inducted into the army from his home town of Rochester. At the same time the 57th Artillery, Coast Artillery Corps was being formed for duty in France. Battery F of the 57th was made up of men from the 9th and 24th Companies New York Guard, Coast Artillery Corps, and the balance of the men need came from Rochester drafted men. This is how Gordon S. Hancock came into Battery F. Gordon was given a uniform, assigned his service number of 627346 and began to train for whatever the army would ask of him when he was in France. His rank was Wagoner, which was about the same as a Private First Class, and the job of a Wagoner was like a truck driver. He would have to drive trucks with the equipment his Battery would use as they moved to the battle lines once in France.
But Wagoner Hancock would not make the trip to France with his unit. On April 19, 1918 Wagoner Gordon S. Hancock died in the post hospital of Pneumonia about a month before his unit was set to sail to France.
His parents had prayed that when he went to France that he would be kept safe, but now they had to bury their only son. And that is the story of the solider who lies beneath the lonely stone in the Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Gordon S. Hancock
July 14, 1890 - April 19, 1918
Wagoner, Battery F, 57th Artillery, CAC
Date this page was last updated
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