The American Expeditionary Forces was a cross-section of America, with draftees fighting alongside volunteers. National Guard units started out with local identities and newly organized units initially reflected a regional flavor, but mass mobilization, individual replacements and the rigors of combat soon mixed Americans from across the country and from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds together.
Albert M. Clostermann
362nd Infantry Regiment, 91st Division
Plot D, Row 3, Grave 4
1st Lt. Albert Clostermann served with the 362nd Infantry Regiment, 91st Division during World War I. He grew up in Portland, Ore., one of two boys born to German immigrants. His parents travelled to Denver, Colo., from Munich in the late 1890s, eventually settling in Portland. Clostermann graduated from Washington High School in 1904. He worked at a bank and then joined the Oregon National Guard, serving with the 3rd Oregon Infantry Machine Gun Company near the Mexican border.
Clostermann entered into officer’s training in San Francisco, Calif., at the Presidio. He rose to the rank of second lieutenant and joined other soldiers to form the U.S. Army’s 91st Division, also known as the “Wild West” Division.
With Company E of the 362nd Infantry Regiment, Clostermann set sail from New York, N.Y., to France on June 28, 1918 to reinforce the French army in Belgium. In a letter to his parents dated September 1, 1918, Clostermann wrote:
We have no effective lights, no matter of sewage systems, not streetcars or any kind of amusement, excepting what our government has brought over here… I have met several of the 3d Oregon boys over here with whom I was down on the border. They were all feeling fine and I sure was glad to see them…
The 91st Division took part in three major battles. The final one was the Ypres-Lys Offensive, which began at the end of October 1918. On November 3, 1918, just eight days before the war’s end, Clostermann mustered his men at 5:00 a.m. for combat anticipated in the nearby area of Knok. He was hit by an artillery shell and died within minutes.
Albert M. Clostermann is buried in Flanders Field American Cemetery Plot D, Row 3, Grave 4.
Alfred J. Foster
363rd Infantry Regiment, 91st Division
Plot D, Row 01, Grave 22
Sgt. Alfred John Foster served in the 363rd Infantry Regiment, 91st Division during World War I. Born on his father’s farm in Orland, Calif., on September 1, 1894, Foster was one of 15 children.
Foster was fifth on the draft list of Glenn County, Calif., and the four before him were exempted. Thus he was the first to serve. He traveled by train to Camp Lewis, Wash., to begin his training and was promoted to corporal shortly thereafter. He participated in the formation of the 91st Division, the “Wild West” Division.
Foster was known for being cheerful and helpful, and demonstrated competence that led to his promotion within the ranks. He was promoted to sergeant in late 1918 after gaining some battlefield experience.
Foster arrived in Cherbourg, France in July 1918 with the rest of the 91st Division. The division was in reserve during the St. Mihiel offensive, and fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
The 91st and 37th Divisions were tasked with reinforcing the French in Belgium to maintain the momentum of Allied attacks in the region. The division went over the top at dawn on October 31, and Foster was hit almost immediately. He was killed on his first day of battle.
Alfred J. Foster is buried in Flanders Field American Cemetery Plot D, Row 01, Grave 22.
347th Machine Gun Battalion, 91st Division
Plot D, Row 1, Grave 20
Pvt. Stanislaw Labno served in the 347th Machine Gun Battalion, 91st Division during World War I. He was born on November 10, 1892 in Skrzyszow, Poland. The region at the time was Galicia, a part of Austria-Hungary. The Labno family was very poor. The parents and six children worked on a small plot of land for their own sustenance.
In 1913, Labno’s brother Antoni immigrated to the United States. That same year, Labno had the opportunity to buy a small farm in Poland, but didn’t have enough money, so he decided to move to Omaha, Neb., following in the footsteps of his brother.
In 1917, Labno was requested to register for the draft. He was called to arms in June 1918. He completed boot camp with the 163rd Depot Brigade at Camp Dodge, Iowa. He was soon reassigned to the 84th “Lincoln” Division and deployed with it to Europe. In Europe, the men of the 84th Division were reassigned as replacements to other divisions.
Labno was assigned to the 91st Division on October 6, 1917. He was killed by shellfire while fighting around Waregem, Belgium; this was his first and last battle. He was buried in Anzegem, Belgium. At the time it was assumed that he was a Polish citizen. He was reinterred at Flanders Field American Cemetery after the war's end.
Stanislaw Labno is buried in Flanders Field American Cemetery Plot D, Row 1, Grave 20.
148th Infantry Regiment, 37th Division
Pfc. Sol Holtzman served with the 148th Infantry Regiment, 37th Division. He was born into a Jewish community in Sakiai, now in Lithuania. His date of immigration to the United States is unknown, but by the start of the war he was living in Rochester, N.Y., with his four siblings, and had spent time running his own clothing store in Penn Yan, a small village in upstate New York.
Holtzman entered the service on April 28, 1918, training with the 153rd Depot Brigade, and was assigned to the 148th Infantry Regiment of the 37th Division on June 5, 1918. His unit embarked for Europe on June 22, 1918. He was promoted to private first class on October 28, 1918.
The 37th Division replaced the French 132nd Division on October 30 to reinforce the Ypres-Lys Offensive in Belgium. They pushed the German line backwards and crossed the Escaut/Scheldt River.
Lt. Wesley Morris Jr. wrote that Holtzman “was always ready for duty. His specialty was rifle grenades, and he had no equal in our company… I was talking to Private Holtzman on the afternoon of November 4th. He expressed a desire to visit his parents before returning to the United States after the war.” Holtzman was killed in action by an exploding shell on November 4, 1918, the last day before his unit went into reserve.
Sol Holtzman is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Flanders Field American Cemetery.
William A. Leonard
107th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division
Plot B, Row 2, Grave 14
Cpl. William “Billy” Leonard served in the 107th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division during World War I. He worked as a journalist in Flushing, Long Island, N.Y., and volunteered for the 7th Infantry Regiment New York National Guard shortly after the declaration of war on Germany. A journalist by trade, he became a contributor to the Seventh Regiment Gazette. Leonard wrote about his adventures and misadventures working as a kitchen aid and falling in love with a curly haired nurse. He also wrote about his more meaningful experiences as a soldier, having his measurements taken for his uniform, and hearing children cheer as the 107th Infantry Regiment marched through France.
On July 14, 1918 Leonard volunteered for a dangerous mission that called for repairing barbed wire in the trenches close to Mount Scherpenberg. An artillery barrage was launched, and Leonard was hit in the stomach with shrapnel fragments. He was dragged to momentary safety, but died before he could reach medical aid. He was the first soldier of the 27th Division to be killed in action.
William A. Leonard is buried in Flanders Field American Cemetery Plot B, Row 2, Grave 14.
Thomas J.E. Shannon
106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division
Plot B, Row 3, Grave 20
Sgt. Thomas Shannon served in the 106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division during World War I. He grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., with his parents and five siblings. In 1909 he took a job in the advertisement section of the Brooklyn Standard Union. He was known for being a devoted and competent employee.
Shannon volunteered for the 23rd Infantry Regiment, the local regiment of the National Guard, on April 20, 1914. He served for three years during the raids of Pancho Villa along the Mexican border. He was promoted to corporal on July 23, 1916 and then to sergeant on October 31, 1916.
On September 1, 1918, Shannon was shot in the stomach. He died of wounds six hours later. His mother originally wanted his remains repatriated to the United States, but the parents later decided that he should remain buried alongside his brothers-in-arms.
Shannon’s fiancée, Helen McGrath, was devastated to learn that her husband-to-be would not be returning from the war. She decided to join the war effort, and became one of the first female military personnel in the U.S. Navy. Two years after armistice, Helen married Shannon’s brother, Charles.
In 1930, his mother, Mary Shannon, wrote the following message that was published in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, on the outset of the Gold Star Mothers’ pilgrimage to their sons’ graves in Europe:
My boy, Sgt. Thomas J., of the old 23d Infantry, Company E. was one of the best ever raised in Brooklyn. He was preparing to celebrate his 22d birthday when he was shot at the front. His captain told me that he is buried in Flanders Field although the War Department has written me that the interment was in Lyessenhoeck, Belgium. Anyway, I am going to find his grave and after that I’ll feel a whole lot better. It’s a funny thing, but Tommy never liked to have his picture taken – I guess lots of growing boys are that way—anyway, this little snapshot is all I have to remember him by. It was taken with a group of his buddies after he enlisted. I’ve had it enlarged and framed. A little paper snapshot instead of my flesh and blood boy, it isn’t much, is it? But mothers are all foolish that way, I guess.
Thomas J.E. Shannon is buried in Flanders Field American Cemetery Plot B, Row 3, Grave 20.