Veterans Day – France 1918

Veterans Day observed annually on November 11, honors our military veterans. Uniquely it coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. November 11, 2018 marks 100 year since the end of WWI.  My Grandfather William Strubeck, who I never met, fought and survived the war and although his unit was only deployed during the last two months of battle in France their contribution to ending the war is remarkable. Many years ago while doing some research I came across the History of the 314th Field Artillery Division compiled and presented by Linda Cunningham Fluarty on http://www.wvgenweb.com

Part of that history includes rosters where I found my Grandfather’s name and hometown, Hughestown, PA. Also included are some diary entries from the various gun batteries, and photos from Fort Lee, Virginia where the 314th was commissioned and where the division would return after the war. For many this would be their first and last home in the Army as they returned to the railroads, farms, coal mines, factories and other cradles of the continuing industrialization of the United States that would soon usher in the Roaring 20’s.

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Pvt. William G. Strubeck, 314th Field Artllery
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my Grandfather’s Draft Registration Card

September 23, 1918 —

Batteries “B,” “C,” “D,” and “E” left camp under cover of darkness
and marched north, toward their positions on the southern slope of Le
Mort Homme. Traffic was so congested that they were unable to reach
their destination before daybreak and so were forced to take cover in
the woods near Montzeville where they remained the following day.
The ammunition train was not functioning properly, which was a cause
of worry to regimental and battalion commanders. All wagons in the
regiment were used to haul ammunition. They were out all night on
heavily shelled roads carrying shells to the gun positions. This was
the first time that our regiment had been under fire.

Battery “E,” 314th F. A., made their first appearance in actual
warfare September 25, 1918, at Dead Man’s Hill. The position was
shelled lightly but the men were cool and collected at all times. As
we were not to fire until 5.30 A. M. of the 26th, we spent all our
spare time in making preparations to give the Boche hell. On the
night of the 25th the heavy artillery in our rear opened up for the
big drive and presented a wonderful scene which will be carried
forever in the minds of those present. At the hour our guns fired for
the first time against the Germans in the form of an offensive
barrage supporting our 80th Division Infantry, who were near
Bethincourt. There were several gas alarms, but these were false, so
there was nothing to hinder the firing of the barrage, which was a
success from the start to the finish two hours later. Several men
were lost in this position. Corporal Kirkpatrick had his leg broken
helping to move a gun, Private Dobbins and Cook Pultz were sent to
the hospital with influenza.

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314th F.A. Fort Lee, Virginia – prior to shipping out for France

Below are a few MEMORIES OF BATTERY “E”

On the morning of the 26th we moved forward to Hill 277 where we
went into action in old-time open warfare style. An O. P. was
established on the hill and the guns fired without putting up their
camouflage, for the infantry was being held up by machine guns. It
was in this position we experienced our first air raid when ten
German planes, flying very low, fired on us for nearly half an hour,
but luckily no one was injured. The men also had their first
experience in digging dugouts. They worked several nights on them but
just when they were finished and ready to use we were ordered to
move. Our kitchen had not yet come to us but the men were cooking
their own meals, for we were getting rations daily. It was in this
position that the men gathered a bunch of old and new German
equipment and it was a common sight to see the men wearing German
shoes. Some men also gathered up German blankets, but were sorry
later, for they turned out to be inhabited extensively by cooties.
There were numerous gas alarms given in this place and on one
occasion an alarm given caused our Battery Commander to break all
records for a kilometer dash for his gas mask, but it proved to be
false. The machine gun section had an elaborate dugout, and when
Lieutenant Forst took it over for an orientation room he did not take
the good will of the section with him. Sergeant Vees found a keg of
German beer in an old dugout which proved to be a healthy beverage to
more than one of the Outfit; in fact, canteens carried very little
water as long as it lasted. Private Hackett was sent to the hospital
and Private Coleman Was very ill in an old German dugout. In the
echelon Private Steil was injured and Private Schnelle’s tent was hit
by a shell, but he was not injured.

October 31st to November lst. Hell on earth, or the Bois de
Rappes. When coming from the Romagne position the battery was lost
for a short time but after going through a small barrage, they
arrived at the Bois de Rappes, where there were both artillery and
infantrymen to help manhandle the guns into position. This was a very
dangerous job, for the flares from the German front lines lit up the
country and our horses and carriage’s could be seen very plainly. The
woods were shelled continually and thoroughly all night. Telephone
wires were being cut by shells every minute and it was a difficult
job to keep up communication. It was three o’clock before the guns
were properly placed and even then they only fired fifteen rounds,
Lieutenant Fiske acting as cannoneer. Corporal Falland was wounded
while helping carry other wounded men out of the woods. Privates
Smith and Nelson were seriously wounded, both dying later; Sergeant
Howard, Corporal Graves, Privates Miller and Hart were wounded.
Sergeant Wolfe’s gun was hit by a shell and put out of commission.
Lieutenant Robinson made a great impression on the men by his bravery
in looking out for them all the time we were in this position. We
were ordered out of here at one o’clock P. M. on November 1st with a
Halloween celebration in our minds that won’t be forgotten for some
time to come.

From November 2nd to 4th we were located southeast of Andevanne
and this proved to be our easiest position. The nerve of the German
aviators was displayed here when a German plane came over so low that
Lieutenant Fiske said that if he ever saw the aviator again he would
recognize him. In this position we received our first news of the
proposed armistice and of Austria’s defeat for the Allied planes
dropped circulars of information. We moved from here, for the Germans
were driven out of our range, and on this move the men forgot all
about the armistice and Austria. We pulled out in the evening during
a hard rain which had been coming down steadily for a day or so. It
was very dark and shell holes of all sizes were numerous. The roads
were unfit for traffic and in one place several trucks were broken
down so we had to resort to the field on the side of the road. It was
a tired and wet bunch that arrived in the Bois de Mont.

November 4th to the 10th, Bois de Mont. After making our worst
march we landed in the worst position for firing that we had during
our period of service. Trees had to be cut down for the guns to be
put into place and also to facilitate the delivery of fire. It was in
this position that we first had a good look at the Meuse River, and,
incidentally, also a good view of a hostile battery of 77’s which was
firing on the town of Mont devant Sassey. Battery “E” opened up on
them promptly and in a short time the Boche lost all interest in the
scrap and headed for Berlin.

November 10th we arrived at Mouzay, our last position. As
we were going into Mouzay we were held up by a slight road jam. In
reply to a question as to whom we were a machine gun sergeant from
the 90th Division said, “Let them go through, they are the 314th
Field Artillery and are fighting sons of –.” We were backing the
90th at that time and all of us felt that this was a tribute worth
having. After putting the guns into position about 500 meters out of
Mouzay the men, with Lieutenant Bailey and Lieutenant Robinson in
charge, were placed in houses in the town. Later Lieutenant Fiske,
coming in from the position, expecting a corn bill breakfast, found
Lieutenant Bailey and Lieutenant Robinson sitting before a big fire
drinking champagne, which the old French lady had hidden from the
Germans to give to the first Allied officers that entered Mouzay. It
did not take Lieutenant Fiske long to impress upon her that he was
one of them. We fired from here, but on November 11th, as we were
getting ready to move forward to pick a new position, the message
came in that the Armistice had been signed and that hostilities would
cease at 11 A. M. On November 12th General Bryson inspected “E”
Battery’s material and found it to be in fine condition, especially
Wolfe’s section, to whom he paid a very fine compliment.

November 11, 1918 —

The batteries delivered some previously planned fire on the Bois-de-
Chenois, Femme St. Martin and road forks and ravines north of Baalon.

At 9:15 word was received by telephone from Brigade that Germany had
agreed to an armistice and that hostilities would cease at 11:00 A.M.
We were to cease firing at once.

This news was transmitted to the battalions. The message had hardly
been sent when Brigade called us again and ordered fire on a battery
that was shelling Mouzay. This order was countermanded before it was
executed. We were told not to fire unless we were actually fired on
and then to only return shot for shot.

39 men from the 314th F.A. died in action or due to illness and 115 were wounded. _________________________________________________________

I hope you enjoyed reading these accounts as much as I did. They paint a vivid picture of what war was like then and now. I am grateful to all who have answered the call to serve America and protect the freedoms we all enjoy.  Below are some family photos of our legacy of service.

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Why we fight for freedom
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Riverine Squadron One – deployed to Haditha Dam on the Euphrates River
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LT Joshua Strubeck – United States Naval Academy, Class of 2004 (award the Bronze Star for action in Afghanistan).
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Welcome Home!
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LT Strubeck on patrol as part of a multi-national force in the mountains of Afghanistan
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My father Seaman 1C Robert B. Strubeck – WWII Saipan and Tinian
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With my parents at my retirement ceremony after 22 years of service
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My hero
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Builder Construction Apprentice Jerry Strubeck – Naval Mobile Construction Battalion THREE – Okinawa, Japan
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Grateful for their sacrifice – the day I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer

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