By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, I hope you’re having a good week. This year I am hoping to attend Veteran’s Day ceremonies and thought it might be in order to write about its origin.
The first World War had been raging for four years and Germany, France and England were on the edge of collapse. Only our intervention in 1917 brought about Germany’s defeat.
It was agreed that hostilities would cease at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month and an armistice went into effect at that time. My uncle, Joe Cooper, who had been on the front lines for weeks with the Rainbow Division, recalled the constant shelling was horrendous, but when it stopped the eerie silence was even worse.
He recalled seeing the Division Commander, Douglas MacArthur, pacing back and forth with no helmet, no side arm and swinging a riding crop. A few months later, in Paris, the American Legion was formed and they were largely responsible for having a national holiday designated as Armistice Day.
When World War II came along, the meaning of Armistice didn’t seem to fit and it became Veteran’s Day. Some of the incompetent public officials elected to serve in Washington came up with the bright idea of having Veteran’s Day and Independence Day fall on Monday to give everyone a long weekend.
Fortunately the good sense of American people prevailed and these holidays went back to their original dates.
In 1917 Water Valley raised an entire Field Artillery Battery, all volunteers which was Battery “A” 140th Field Artillery, 39th Division, U.S.A.
The Captain was Guy Nason and First Lieutenants were Edwin Romberger and Charles O. Anderson. Second Lieutenants were Willie Wright Frost and Vernon Gore. George F. Doyle was First Sergeant.
Other members included Mess Sergeant Hiram Tyler and Supply Sergeant Carl Blackwell. At this time artillery pieces were pulled by horses, so Stable Sergeant was Charles Redish. The saddler was Dick McMillan, horseshoers, Paton Mills, Lem Jones, and Charles Badley.
A driver was called a wagoneer. This unit shipped out to Camp Beauregard, La., on August 5, 1917, for additional training. After the training, the group was broken up and sent to different units. Battery “A” was headed to the Argonne Forest when the Armistice was declared, so they never saw combat.
One of their original members, Curtis Pass, was a Wagoneer with a combat unit when he was hit with a shell fragment and instantly killed six days before the Armistice.
The Legion Hut in Water Valley was named in his honor and his remains were returned to Water Valley and buried in Palestine Cemetery. Some of you might be thinking that most of these names mean nothing to you, but I’m going to explain that
Hiram Tyler was the father of Crip and Bob Tyler, Charles Badley was my uncle, and another uncle of mine in the unit was Porter Cooper.
Homer Spurgeon was the grandfather of Sam Goodwin, Willie Wright Frost was a deputy sheriff, sheriff and revenue Aaent for many years.
Dudley Wagner wrote the column “Here There and Elsewhere” for many years. P.J. Scanlon was the uncle of Edward Scanlon. His father, Tom Scanlon, and my Dad were in the war but in different units. John Horan was a well known attorney for many years and father of Ben Horan.
John “Pat” Holloway operated a laundry for many years and was the last survivor of Battery “A”. Howard Nolen operated a grocery next door to Blackmur Hotel for many years.
Dick McMillan was a Justice of Peace for years. Charles Doyle was Sheriff at one time. Frank “Dutch” was born of German parents in Chicago, but came to Water Valley and lived out his life. I profiled him in a column several years ago.
Marvin Groves was a barber in the Blackmur hotel for years and the father-in-law of Jack Gurner Sr. So you see, these unknown young men went off to a war not of their choosing, and came back to become important citizens in Water Valley. I hope to see many of you on Veteran’s Day and let me hear from you.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write meat P.O. Box 613189 Memphis,Tn 38101 and have a great week.