Thursday, September 20, 2018

July 29-August 6 1918: “I Have Been Wounded”

by Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard 

Envelope received by Cpl. Burton's mother informing her that her son had been wounded in action.  Georgia Guard Archives

After suffering severe casualties during the July 28, 1918 assault on Hill 212, the 151st Machine Gun Battalion continued to support infantry assaults to dislodge German positions on July 29 and 30. Rather than employing the machine guns in support by fire positions, the Soldiers of the 151st MGB were compelled to move forward with the onrushing infantry, a situation lamented by Maj. Cooper Winn, commander of the 151st MGB and machine gun officer of the 84th Brigade.

“In our attack on this hill above Sergy we overlooked again an ideal opportunity to effectively use concentrated machine gun fire.”[i]
 In this Signal Corps image, Maj. Cooper Winn, commander of the 151st Machine Gun Battalion stands
second from the left with officers of the 84th Brigade and 42nd Infantry Division. - Georgia Guard Archives

Winn had the opportunity to personally explain the advantage of concentrated fire positions utilizing the favorable terrain to Col. Douglas MacArthur, chief of staff of the 42nd Division who had moved forward to personally inspect the terrain. As Winn noted further:

“As it was, during the five days we were fighting on the Ourcq River, the only used made of a machine gun was in the defense of the line against counter-attacks attempted by the Germans… It greatly aggravated me not to have been able to take advantage of such a perfect opportunity to employ machine guns with decisive effect.  All the more so when the guns of the battalion actually accomplished so little, we suffered a loss of 27 men killed, five died of wounds, 23 gassed and 147 wounded by machine gun fire or shell fire.”[ii]

Top Left: Cpl. Clarence Fordham, Company C, 151st MGB of Dublin Ga.  Killed July 30, 1918
Top Right: Pvt James Mason, Company B, 151st MGB of Dublin Ga. Killed July 29, 1918.
Bottom Left: Sgt. Bernard Green, Company A, 151st MGB of  Gray, Ga. Killed July 29, 1918.
Bottom Right: Pvt. Jesse Bridges, Company A, 151st MGB of Sylvester, Ga. Killed July 30, 1918.
The casualties of July 29, 1918 are as follows:
·       Pfc. Wiley Aids, Company A, wounded
·       Bugler William M. Cleveland, Company A, wounded
·       Pvt. Robert D. Collins, Company A, killed
·       Pvt. Herman K. Davis, Company A, killed
·       Pvt. Henry W. Dickerson, Company A, slightly wounded
·       Cpl. Frank Enters, Company A, killed
·       Pfc. Wesley Johnson, Company A, wounded
·       Pvt. Clifford Phillips, Company A, killed
·       Cpl. Calvin C. Climer, Company B, killed
·       Pvt. Emmett L. Martin, Company B killed
·       Pvt. James G. Mason, Company C, killed
·       Pfc. Joe Phillips, Company C, slightly wounded
·       Pfc. William C. Pope, Company C, slightly wounded
·       Pfc. Ira A. Wilkinson, Company C, killed
·       Pvt. John T. Williams, Company C, slightly wounded
·       Pvt. John Harkcom, Company D, killed

Cpl. Robert Gober Burton, Company A,
151st MGB.  Georgia Guard Archives
On July 30, Cpl. Robert Burton was leading his squad forward in the vicinity of Sergy. It had been nearly a month since his last letter home to his brother Frank after arriving in the defensive sector near Suippes, France. Fate finally availed Burton of the opportunity of writing home.

August 2, 1918
Mother Dearest,
I know that you have been worried because you haven’t heard from me, but Mother I have been a pretty busy man the last month and a half. But I am still in one piece.
Now listen, I have been wounded but not seriously, so when you see my name in the casualty list don’t think anything about it for I am all OK. I am in the hospital now and well cared for and well fed and am not feeling the least bit bad.
Listen and I will tell you all about it. We were over the top and I was advancing my squad and I was just going to advance again when something picked me up and sat me down about 3 feet from where I was. I didn’t feel any special pain right at the time, so I advanced my squad about 150 yards farther along. I then began to feel a sharp pain in my right arm, but I looked down and I didn’t see any blood and then I began to feel, and I found a hole in my coat sleeve and looking inside my coat I saw a bullet sticking about halfway through my coat. It had gone through the fleshy part of my arm and thru the bible that Auntie sent me and had stopped there. The bible was all that kept it from going all the way thru. No mama, don’t you worry the least bit about me for I shall be ready to go back to the company in a few days. Just keep sending my mail to the old address.
The testament of Cpl. Robert Gober Burton. Burton's Bible absorbed the impact of a German bullet July 30, 1918.
This is just a note to let you know that I am OK and for you not to worry.
I don’t know how the other boys from home are. I haven’t seen any of them in two or three days. I think tho that they are OK. Write often.
Your devoted son,

Burton had been wounded in action while moving in support of the 167th Infantry Regiment during an advance near Sergy, France. Eleven other Soldiers of the 151st Machine Gun Battalion became casualties on the same day:
Pfc. James Guerry, killed in action July 31,
1918. Georgia Guard Archives

·       W. G. Crapps, Company A, wounded
·       William Ira Pittman, Company A, wounded
·       Jesse D. Bridges, Company A, killed
·       Charles Ernest, Company A, slightly wounded
·       Bernard F. Greene, Company A, killed
·       Raleigh Poole, Company A, slightly wounded
·       Robert Foster, Company B, slightly wounded
·       Boyce Miller, Company B, wounded
·       Daniel Dunwoody, Company C, slightly wounded
·       Cecil Joiner, Company C, slightly wounded
·       James H. Wooden, Company C, slightly wounded

While Burton chafed in a hospital writing of his desire to return to the 151st, his comrades continued to press the attack. As they did so, they were unable to receive food and resupply through their battalion supply chains as they were dependent upon their supported infantry units. Nevertheless, Pfc. James Guerry heroically volunteered to deliver food to Soldiers at the front lines. While engaged in one such resupply trip on July 31, 1918, Guerry was killed.

Other casualties of July 31, 1918:
·       Pvt. Edgar Bateman, Company A slightly wounded
·       Cpl. Robert H, Farkas, Company A, slightly wounded
·       Pvt. Thomas Hollis, Company A, killed
·       Pfc. John Tinker, Company. A wounded
·       Cpl. James T. Whittlesey, Company A, slightly wounded
·       Pvt. Fred Ligon, Company C, wounded
·       Pfc. William A. Marion, Company A, slightly wounded

Casualties of August 1, 1918:

·       Pfc. John T. Ozburn, Company A, slightly wounded.
·       Capt. James Palmer, Company A, wounded (gassed)
·       Pvt. Hoke S. Palmer, Company A, slightly wounded
·       Cpl. James C. Dismuke, Company C, slightly wounded

Casualties of August 3, 1918:

·       Sgt. Willie G. Dickson, Company C, wounded

In addition to Pvt. Harkcom and Soldiers killed on July 28, 1918, Company D of the 151st MGB reported 33 Soldiers wounded in action.[iv]

Hill 212 and the 13th-century Church of Saint Brice dominate the landscape near Sergy, France. These hills and environs encompassed nearly one week of desperate combat in July and August 1918. Georgia National Guard photo by Maj. William Carraway 

As Burton’s letter was making its way from the hospital to his anxious family in Monroe, the 151st was pulled out of front-line positions for the first time in nearly a week of constant combat. On August 6, 1918, Col. Douglas MacArthur was given command of the 84th Brigade becoming the youngest general officer in the army. In the coming campaign he would heed Winn’s advice and deploy the 151st MGB as a battalion rather than parceling them off to individual infantry battalions. Winn’s theories would be put to the test during the St. Mihiel offensive.

Next Chapter:  St. Mihiel

[i] Henry J. Reilly, Brig. Gen., O.R.C., Americans All: The Rainbow at War. F. J. Heer Printing Co., 1936, 228A
Walter Binford Diary, n.d., 433-434
[ii] Henry J. Reilly, Brig. Gen., O.R.C., Americans All: The Rainbow at War. F. J. Heer Printing Co., 1936, 228A
Walter Binford Diary, n.d., 434-435
[iii] Robert G. Burton to Mrs. R. F. Burton. August 2, 1918
[iv] Parkinson, N. P., and Joel R. Parkinson. Commanding Fire: An Officers Life in the 151st Machine Gun Battalion, 42nd Rainbow Division during World War I. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub., 2013, 104

1 comment:

  1. My Great Grandfather, Ira Pittman as mentioned above, wounded July 30th.
    Thank you for sharing this information. I try to learn as much as I can about his experience as I can.