WW1 - a look through their eyes

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Jan 5, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Sergeant Vernon C. Coffey

    Sergeant Vernon C. Coffey, Headquarters Company, 806th Pioneer Infantry, later served as the color sergeant of his unit. African-Americans were segregated in their units, but his pride in the 806th Pioneer Infantry receiving a silver band for the regimental colors showed in the following letter.

    “We were awarded a Silver Band which was to bear the names of the Argonne and Meuse Offensive on it. It was to be placed on the pike of the regimental colors and we were also awarded a ribbon to be placed on our flag. This credit was given by the Commanding Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces who was General Pershing.”

    Sergeant Coffey returned to Kansas City, Kansas after the war, becoming an attorney and later an associate minister for the First A.M.E. Church there.

    “Near the Belliville front and the Metz Front we were assigned to build a ammunition park and we got busy. Two of our companies, E and F were stationed at Lima and Fliry repairing the Metz highway. We had to live in little pup tents again and it rained three times as often as in Brest.

    We were stationed there until October 18th or 20th when we moved 2 kilometers to Tremble Court where we got to enjoy our first building in France. About 1 a.m. the following night we got orders to move to the Front. We moved out at 8 a.m. We hiked to Limy where we were in reserve for some time.

    We were in the 3rd line trenches and I must say that we enjoyed some shocks from Old Fritz’s big guns. We stayed up near Limy until the Armistice was signed and we moved back to Tremble Court.”


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  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    John Lewis Barkley

    John Lewis Barkley was much like any other infantrymen: a farmer from Johnson County, Missouri, trained at Camp Funston and sent to the 4th Infantry, 3rd Division, but what he did on one day in the war earned him the highest awarded medal. After the war, he returned to the Kansas City area. He wrote a book of his experiences, No Hard Feelings, and remained active in Medal of Honor recipients and veterans affairs. He helped start the Johnson County, Kansas parks system. Barkley served as a trustee of the Liberty Memorial Association which owns the museum collection. He died in the late 1960s.

    October 7th, 1918: “How would you like to have been in the battle of the Argonne? There was not one second of this time but what there was a barrage from both sides of shrapnel and the strongest of gasses and the biggest of guns. The Germans shot some of the damnedest shells at us you ever heard of, bigger than nail kegs and four times as long and when one hit, you had better look out.”

    “Don’t think I am going to tell you anything about that tank deal. It is too bad to tell a civilized man. I played them dirty every chance I got and this is not the first time I ever did this.”

    “I fired my last round of ammunition from the machine gun but kept my automatic pistol for hand to hand fighting; plunged out of that tank with a sudden dash. I had three bullet marks in my clothes and a burnt legging string.” Corporal John Lewis Barkley, 4th Infantry, 3rd Division

    The War Department’s official description of Barkley’s deeds which led to the Medal of Honor related that: “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Cunel, France, October 7, 1918. Pvt. Barkley, who was stationed in an observation post half a kilometer from the German line, on his own initiative, repaired a captured German Machine gun and mounted it in a disabled French tank near his post.

    Shortly afterwards when the enemy launched a counterattack against our forces, Pvt. Barkley got into the tank, waited under the hostile barrage until the enemy line was abreast of him and then opened fire completely breaking up the counterattack and killing or wounding a large number of the enemy. Five minutes later an enemy 77 millimeter gun opened fire on the tank point blank. One shell struck the driver wheel of the tank but this soldier nevertheless remained in the tank and after the barrage ceased broke up a second counterattack, thereby enabling our forces to gain and hold hill 253.”

    There were over 4000 expended machine gun rounds found in the tank.


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  3. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Florence Edith Hemphill

    Florence Edith Hemphill was born February 28, 1887 in Wilson County, Kansas. Growing up in Chanute, Kansas, Florence was the sixth of nine children. According to family records, she completed her nurse’s training at Christ’s Hospital Training School in Topeka and she went onto work as a private duty nurse.

    With the United States’ entry into World War One on April 6, 1917, the demand for nurses was immediate. Only a small cadre of Army Nurse Corps nurses was available, so the calls went out, particularly among the American Red Cross nurses.

    The American Red Cross nurses were the reserve unit of the Army Nurse Corps and in wartime could, by their consent, be assigned to active duty with the Army Nurse Corps. They became subject to government regulations and also received the pay of a regular Army nurse.

    The first few hundred nurses slated for overseas service, during the formative period of the American Expeditionary Forces, were assigned to service with the British Expeditionary Force. They were to serve at six base hospital units. By March 31, 1918, there were 2088 American nurses in France, with over 700 in the British hospitals. On June 30, 1918, Army Nurse Corps nurses were distributed as follows: 755 with the British forces, 3323 with the American forces and 1258 were awaiting transportation or en route.

    Nurse Hemphill was in a supplementary group assigned to the British general hospitals in the Rouen area. Casual group A, consisting of 99 nurses, arrived in France in February 1918.

    France, March 25, 1918

    It is now 9:30 here and that means that it is just about 3:30 p.m. where you are. I wonder what you all are doing. I certainly would like to see you and the children.

    I certainly am glad I came although I am afraid it will ruin me for ever doing private nursing again. I certainly isn’t like anything I ever did before. The boys [are] mostly English, Irish and Scotch, we haven’t had any Americans here. They are certainly wonderful the way they endure pain without a word and are just as cheerful as can be. They can’t be beaten that’s all. They are so grateful for everything you do for them too. Thank you for everything, even a dose of castor oil.

    There has been some heavy fighting the last few days. I expect some of our boys are in that as there are some of them at the front.

    They say that the Germans or Jerrys as the boys call them have a gun that has a range of seventy five miles [the so-called Paris Gun] and that they are shelling the capitol of F. It seems an impossibility, doesn’t it. Everyone here has their wind up about it. That “has their wind up’ is a common expression here. Everyone uses it for being excited. Talk about American slang they aren’t in it. The English use as much slang as we do. “Carry On” is another expression used a great deal over here - the same as go ahead or keep right on - keep going.

    I wish Dr. Kline would come over here. It would certainly be a fine experience for him. The few operations they did at home seem nothing compared to what they do here. One M.O. [medical officer] did seventy five here himself yesterday. It’s all day long until one & two o’clock at night.

    March 30 [1918]

    Started this letter nearly a week ago and haven’t had a chance to finish it. Have been mighty busy. Have been transferred to another ward - all heavy cases - mostly chest cases with other things besides such as leg amputations, etc. Had several new Sisters [British Nursing Sisters] come today and they could use a good many more.

    We haven’t heard a word what our boys are doing at the front but of course they are doing their share...Well, it is almost time for me to go to my dinner which is 3:30 a.m.


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