Saturday, May 27, 2006

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife

For this Memorial Day, I wanted to gather all the information I could and
compose a tribute to my Great Uncle who died 88 years ago this month,
but I've been so busy with work and running with the kids to their sports
activities that this is still rough, even by "The Half S Ranch " standards.
William Alvah Staley was part of Company L, 167th Infantry, 42nd Division.
He died in a gas attack on 29 May 1918 at Baccarat , France.
I learned that the Division Chief of staff for the 42nd "Rainbow", the officer
responsible for coordinating the formation and deployment of this division was Colonel Douglas MacArthur.
A chapter of a doctoral thesis on General MacArthur contains the following, perhaps we can glean some of William Staley's life from the times and events:

"The 42nd "Rainbow" Division assembled at Camp Mills near Garden City Long Island,
New York between mid-August and mid-September 1917. (The 42nd Division was a melding of National Guardsmen from 26 states, William must have met men from all over the country) It began its deployment to Europe on 19 October,( 9 days after William's 18th birthday - how did he celebrate? ) and had all arrived in France by 1 November 1917.
From 7 November 1917 to 13 February 1918 (I wonder what the family sent him for Christmas.) the division was in training behind the front lines. This training was a requirement because of the short time between the division's formation and deployment to Europe. It was also essential because nearly all of the division's artillery pieces, crew served weapons, and heavy equipment were of French or British manufacture. Training in Europe also allowed the division to train with French veterans of trench warfare... The 42nd Division did not enter the line until February 16, 1918 when it occupied a quiet sector of the line near Luneville. Normal practice was to introduce new units into quiet sectors. (How did 18 year old William handle the wait for combat?)By the end of March, the 42nd Division would see significant defensive combat near Bacarrat.
(Where Willaim died 2 months later. What did he experience in those 2 months?
Do any letters home exist?)

There were 268 days between February 16, 1918, when the 42nd Division entered the line and November 11, 1918 when the Armistice took effect. During this time, the 42nd Division participated in combat for 162 days, the third highest total for the twenty-nine divisions assigned to the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). It also suffered the third highest number of casualties, and advanced the third longest distance of the AEF divisions. German intelligence reports rated the 42nd Division as one of the three or four American divisions on a par with elite French and British shock divisions. "
pages 81- 89
I gather that William died in a defensive battle, though his death came one day after this event:
"Near Cantigny on May 28, 1918, the U. S. 1st Division launched the first American attack of the World War." Perhaps the American forces were attacking at Baccarat also. From-
(The above site mentions Company L of the 167th in action in July of 1918.
I am grateful for his sacrifice,
and that of the thousands of soldiers who
never came home. I hope I can live a life
worthy of what it cost them.
It is an honor to serve this nation in the forces
which protect our country and our way of life.
Let us never cease to give honor to whom it is due.

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Til all success be nobleness And every gain divine!"
(America the Beautiful, Katherine Lee Bates).


WomanHonorThyself said...

Beautiful tribute...You have a great deal to b proud of.:)

Terry_Jim said...

A Niece of William wrote:

Thank you for that. I went to Bayliss Park with your mom and Uncle Jim the
day after the reunion picnic. It was truly a beautiful thing for Council
Bluffs to do for those who died. Unfortunately, the men of Iowa seemed to
walk into a place where death was the only way out. I bought the book "The
Price of Heritage" which has William's picture. About 1/3 died in the gas
attack, another 1/3 at the next battle and the last at another battle.
After reading the book, my opinion was this 167th was forceably a suicide
unit!! The memorial to our uncle and the other men/boys (many under age 18)
is truly appreciated. This week I'll be sending you some photos - didn't
get a chance last week due to 24 hour babysitting.

Have a Happy Memorial Day! Anita