The American forces who fought in Belgium demonstrated a remarkable level of courage, competence and sacrifice. This tour will take visitors to five graves of those who demonstrated courage and heroism during combat.
John Mc G. Grider
Attached to the British Air Service
1st Lt. John Grider, the son of a planter, entered the U.S. service from Arkansas. Before entering the service, he was married to Marguerite Samuels and had two sons, John and George. John went on to be a captain in the U.S. Navy during World War II and the Korean War. George became a naval officer as well, and eventually a U.S. Congressman.
Grider divorced his wife shortly before departing for World War I. He traveled to Chicago, Ill., and enlisted as a cadet in the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He arrived in England in October 1917, and was stationed in Oxford. Because the United States had not yet organized its own air service, Grider was assigned to No. 85 Squadron of the Royal Air Force.
Grider had only been in France for one month when he was shot down on June 18, 1918. His aircraft disappeared after shooting down an enemy plane near Armentieres, France. His body was never recovered, but a German pilot confirmed his death.
Grider kept a diary during the war, which was later published and inspired a documentary. Grider’s diary describes his experiences as a member of the “Three Musketeers”, three U.S. southerners who flew with the Royal Air Force.
John Mc G. Grider is memorialized on the Walls of the Missing at Normandy American Cemetery.
Kenneth Mac Leish
United States Naval Reserve
Plot B, Row 4, Grave 1
Lt. Kenneth Mac Leish served with the U.S. Navy during World War I as an aviator flying with the Royal Air Force. He was born in Glencoe, Ill., on September 19, 1894. He attended Yale College as part of the class of 1918. He became as a volunteer with the First Yale Unit, the first naval reserve unit, created by Yale students in 1916. On March 26, 1917 he left school at 22 years old . He entered the Naval Reserve Flying Corps as an electrician, second class. On August 31, 1917 he was appointed as an ensign in the Naval Reserve Flying Corps, and was promoted to lieutenant in the summer of 1918.
He participated in air raids over enemy lines from airfields in France, but was transferred in September 1918 to Eastleigh, England where he participated in raids with the Royal Air Force. On October 14, 1918, his Sopwith Camel aircraft was shot down, and Mac Leish crash-landed near Schoore, Belgium. He escaped the crash but was found dead nearby, and was buried in a temporary grave by a local.
He was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously. After the end of the war his remains were transferred to the Flanders Field American Cemetery.
Awards: Navy Cross
Kenneth Mac Leish is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot B, Row 4, Grave 1.
George P. Howe
Medical Reserve Corps
Plot C, Row 4, Grave 1
1st Lt. George P. Howe served with the Medical Officers’ Reserve Corps, British Expeditionary Forces (Attached) 37th Division in France. Howe was born in Lawrence, Mass., on December 11, 1878. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1904. He worked at the Boston City Hospital for two years, and then traveled to northern Alaska to work as a surgeon with an expeditionary group between Point Barrow and the Canadian border.
Howe returned to Massachusetts in 1907 and eventually returned to Harvard to study anthropology and archaeology. After graduating, he conducted ethnographic research in Yucatan for a year. He then married Marion Dudley on September 20, 1911. He returned to work as a doctor in Boston during the initial years of World War I.
Howe volunteered for the Medical Officers Reserve Corps in 1917. He was commissioned as a lieutenant and assigned to a British engineer battalion. In September he wrote home to his class secretary that, “We are just down from a week’s service in the trenches and have just had nice hot baths and cleaned up. I like service with the English and expect to stay with them to the end of the war.”
Howe was killed on September 28, 1917 at 9:00 a.m. near Tower Hamlets, Belgium, while assigned to the 10th Royal Fusilier Battalion of the British Expeditionary Forces. His orderly wrote a letter to his wife describing his death: “he was slightly wounded by a Whizz-bang shell. I patched him up and asked him to take cover in a trench nearby. I regret to say that he did not get into the trench, but insisted upon sitting on the parapet. Shortly afterwards a 5’ 9” shell landed on top of the trench, killing the doctor instantly and several others nearby.” He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the citation of which reads, “Although wounded in the head on the morning of September 28 during the operation on the Tower Hamlets Spur, Lieutenant Howe displayed conspicuous courage and devotion in attending to wounded under very heavy and continuous shell fire, refusing to leave and continuing at his aid post until killed by a shell.” He was buried at God’s Own Farm on the Vierstraat Cross Roads in Belgium before being reinterred at the Flanders Field American Cemetery following the end of the war.
Awards: Distinguished Service Cross
George P. Howe is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot C, Row 4, Grave 1.