Category Archives: WWI RS HOT Log1 2018

Leaving the Killingly Homefront – WWI

In 1914 began one of the most significant wars that happened across the world, World War I. President Wilson had campaigned on the slogan, “He kept us out of the war.” So in 1917, when he declared that the United States would enter the war, he needed to convince the homefront to support the war efforts. He created the Commission on Public Information (CPI) to persuade citizens to support the war. 

M Jacques Baseball KHS

Merrill Clinton Jacques

The activities of the CPI were successful in that there was a massive outpouring of support for the men when they left home for the armed services.

Here is the story of one young man from Killingly, Connecticut, Merrill Clinton Jacques, about the time when he left for the war and the support he received from family and friends. The photograph is of Merrill when he was on the East Killingly baseball team.

From his draft registration card, we learn that Mr. Merrill C. Jacques was a Caucasian male who registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 at precinct 3 in Windham County, CT, USA when he was 25 years old. He was born July 4, 1891 in Killingly, CT. He wasn’t married when he filled out the card.

M Jacques Draft Reg

Draft Registration Card

His physical characteristics were short, medium build, brown eyes, and he was bald. Mr. Jacques worked at White Stone Worsted Company, a cotton mill located in Elmville, CT.  An interesting entry on the card is that in response to the question on prior military experience he stated he had for two years and four months been a private in the C.A.C.

When it was time for Merrill to leave for the war, 75 of his family and friends gathered and gave him a party at his father’s house. There even was a dance! He was given a watch, and Mrs. R.P. Gates wrote him a poem, which was read at the party. The poem is about when you go to the war and you feel lonely, look at the watch and think of us, your family and friends.  Our prayers will be with you “until Merrill returns to us at last.” I found this poem in the Fall 2017 issue of the Killingly Historical Journal.

M Jacques Danielson Depot KHS

Danielson, CT Railroad Depot

The Historical Society has a 1917 photograph of crowds of people at the Danielson train station sending their men off to the war, the same station from which Merrill probably departed.  Merrill survived the Great War and at 50 years old was drafted in World War II. He is buried in the South Killingly Cemetery.

From this research, I Iearned that during the World War I period, the U.S. government wanted to convince people to join and support the war. I believe we need to respect and be grateful for the men who went to war.  If they had not done so, my classmates and I may not be able to come to this school and country to study. Thank You.

Sources:

“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZFK-X3M : 13 March 2018), Merrill Clinton Jacques, 1917-1918; citing Windham County no 16, Connecticut, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,570,495.

“When Leaving for World War I.”  Killingly Historical Journal. Fall 2017. Volume 23. Page 10.

Coolidge, Natalie L., and Robert A. Spencer. Images of America. Killingly. Arcadia, 1999.

Photo Credits:

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZFK-X3M

Picture of Merrill C. Jacques. Photo courtesy of Killingly Historical Society.
Picture of Killingly Railroad Depot. Coolidge, Natalie L., and Robert A. Spencer. Images of America. Killingly. Arcadia, 1999.

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A World War I Identification Tag

 

WWI ID Tag KHS 20180113_140343

Thomas Cuff’s 1918 Historical Dog Tag

Last January, my language skills class researched soldiers from Killingly, Connecticut, who fought in World War I. My soldier was Thomas Cuff who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on June 29, 1890. According to his June 5, 1917 draft registration card, Thomas was of medium height and build with black hair and grey eyes. He reveals that he had a broken wrist that was not set correctly and states that he had no prior military experience. Single at the time, he lived on Water Street and was employed as a teamster by a man named Leonard Morrison in Danielson, CT.

With the rank of private, Thomas Cuff was a motor machinist with the 36th Machine Gun Battalion. He enlisted on July 25, 1918 and was honorably discharged six months later on January 17, 1919. Thomas survived the war but sadly died on October 18, 1949 at 59 years old.  He is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Dayville, CT.

In the Killingly Historical Society’s museum, I found Thomas Cuff’s actual military identification tag, a discovery that led me to learn more about “dog tags.” I learned that early identification records were not very organized, but the soldiers wanted people to know who they were if they passed away. “During the American Civil War from 1861–1865, some soldiers pinned paper notes with their names and home addresses to the backs of their coats. Other soldiers stenciled identification on their knapsacks or scratched it in the soft lead backing of their army belt buckle.”  Although modern tags contain vital information such as blood type, Thomas Cuff’s WWI tag was a small circular disc with two punched holes and only his name and USA stamped on it. In 2015, the U.S. Army changed the “dog tag” for the first time in 40 years by removing the soldier’s social security number and replacing it with a random identification number. The change was to help guard against identity threat.

Sources:

https://www.armydogtags.com/dog-tag-history/

https://www.ancestry.com/

“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.” Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 20 September 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M1509. Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/results?count=20&query=%2Bgivenname%3AThomas~%20%2Bsurname%3ACuff~%20%2Bgender%3AM&collection_id=1968530

http://www.civilwar.com/

https://www.cnn.com/2015/12/10/politics/army-dog-tag-changes/index.html

Photo Credit:

  1. Levesque, by permission of the Killingly Historical Society

Adellard Barbeau, WWI Prisoner of War

 

Barbeau IRC1 C_G1_E_16_01_0001_1982_0

International Red Cross (IRC) Notecard showing Adellard’s POW camps

Although all men between the ages of 21 and 31 were required to register for the draft, not all of them were selected to join the army. I’m going to tell you the story of Adellard Barbeau, who was one of the first men to leave the small town of Danielson in Killingly in northeast Connecticut for the French front in World War I.

Adellard was born on August 24th, 1890, in Brooklyn, Connecticut, which is just a five minutes drive away from Killingly. He registered for the draft on June 5th, 1917, at the age of 27. According to his draft registration card, he worked for the Quinebaug Company, a textile manufacturer, as a cotton weaver. He had black eyes, black hair, and was of medium height. He was single at this time and declared that he didn’t have any physical injuries nor any prior military experience.

Barbeau IRC2 C_G1_E_16_01_0001_1983_0

IRC Notecard stamped “Released”

My class went to the Killingly Historical Society in Danielson, Connecticut, to find out more about the soldiers we are researching and to explore primary sources that are not available on the internet. At the library, I discovered a transcribed first-hand account of interviews with Adellard about his experiences during World War I. I was surprised to uncover that he was captured by the Germans and held as a prisoner of war!

Right before his capture, Adellard was in a “dugout” with some officers and telephone operators. The Germans “started their barrage which was terrific, our officers sent up flare after flare, calling on our artillery for a counter barrage, but there was no response from our guns… In about a minute hand grenades began to burst in the doorway and we knew the attacking forces were upon us.”

Barbeau IRC3 C_G1_E_16_01_0001_1984_0

Adellard’s IRC Notecard

The Germans were “holding our men in desperate fighting when someone happened to look around and there, behind us” were many Germans. “At this stage of the fight a rifle bullet caught me in the left shoulder and I fell. Falling I grasped out blindly for something to save me from sinking in the three feet of water in the bottom of the trench and my hand happed [sic] to catch the telephone wire that ran along that section….I was clinging to that wire in desperation then I heard a harsh ‘RAUS.’ I didn’t know what it meant then, but I well learned in the months that followed. I was a prisoner of the Germans, and was being ordered to get up and get out… Another ‘RAUS’ and I was moving forward under German guard down the American trenches that had fallen into their hands.”

Barbeau crop of German Prisoners Log

German logbook of prisoners in Camp Limburg a/Lahn

The story of Adellard Barbeau is very exciting, especially the part when they fought harder than ever even though they were about to be captured. It was also my pleasure to meet Adellard’s step-grandson in the Killingly Historical Society and to have a chance to interview him about the story of his step-grandpa. I also researched on the internet for more information about Adellard and found records on him from the Germans when he was imprisoned at Camps Limburg and Giessen. (See above the July 1918 German logbook of American prisoners at POW Camp Limburg a/Lahn in Germany. Adellard is listed on the first line.)  There also are notecards from the International Red Cross from the time when he was a prisoner of war that record that Adellard “disparu 4.20.18.” I felt relief when I saw the Red Cross card with “Released” stamped on it. It was a very good experience doing this research project, and I hope you all enjoy this story.

image.jpg

Prisoners at POW Camp Giessen in Germany

Sources:

“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZFK-8G6 : 13 March 2018), Adellard Barbeau, 1917-1918; citing Windham County no 16, Connecticut, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,570,495. https://www.familysearch.org/search/search/record/results?count=20&query=%2Bgivenname%3Aadellard~%20%2Bsurname%3Abarbeau~

https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Search/#/2/2/48/0/American%20(USA)/Military/barbeau

https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/List/5454741/890/225/

Barbeau, Adellard. “ Recollections of WWI Soldier.” Killingly Historical Journal. Fall 2017. Volume 23. Pages 50-51.

Personal Interview with Douglas Flannery, January 31, 2018.

 

Photo Credits:

https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Search/#/2/2/48/0/American%20(USA)/Military/barbeau

https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/List/5454741/890/143/

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/giessen-1917-telling-the-story-of-five-irish-pows-1.2125962

Clear or Yellow Lenses?

The American military soldiers in World War I carried upwards of a hundred pounds of gear and ammunition. As a part of their equipment, they were issued a canteen for water, a Browning machine gun, and a gas mask. Their rifles weighed in at about nine pounds, and the weight has not really changed since. It seems that the military created these infantrymen to become pack mules.  Nicandro Mazzarella, from Danielson, CT, was one of these infantrymen in World War I. From his draft registration card, we learn that he was of a medium height with brown hair and black eyes. When we think of the American military, we might assume that everyone is a United States citizen, but Nicandro lists himself as being a citizen of Italy. However, he had declared his intention to become a U.S. citizen. After coming to the States, he became a weaver and a farmer in Windham County in the town of Killingly.  

To find out more about Nicandro Mazzarella, my class traveled to the Killingly Historical Society, which has a small museum. Imagine my surprise to discover a World War I bayonet, gas mask, canteen, and helmet that belonged to my soldier, Nicandro Mazzarella. I wondered how that gas mask could  provide any protection for the soldier.

KHS Gas Mask 20180113_140506

Nicandro Mazzarella’s WWI gas mask at the Killingly Historical Society Museum

In my research about gas masks, I learned from Doran Cart, senior curator at the National World War I Museum in St. Louis, that if the lenses of the gas mask have a yellow or orange tint they have seen combat. I also learned that all soldiers were issued a shaving kit which allowed them to stay clean-shaven, which made it easier for soldiers to fit their gas masks snugly over their faces.

Gas masks were necessary in World War I because of the German’s use of poison gases such as mustard and hydrogen. For decades after WWI, gas masks were rarely used.  However, with the current threats of terrorism around the world, gas masks now are useful, practical, and popular again.

Sources:

“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.” Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 20 September 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M1509. Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/results?count=20&query=%2Bgivenname%3ANicandro~%20%2Bsurname%3AMazzarella~%20%2Bgender%3AM&collection_id=1968530

http://olive-drab.com/od_soldiers_gear_gasmask.php

https://www.c-span.org/video/?425800-1/100th-anniversary-us-entry-world- 

Photo Credit:

Author by permission of the Killingly HIstorical Society