Fighting in the Meuse-Argonne sector brought American soldiers face-to-face with the horrific conditions of the war. Troops faced trench warfare as well as poison gas attacks and incessant massed artillery fire. The broken terrain in which they fought, the density of the Argonne Forest, and unrelenting rain, cold, and fog as the fighting progressed into October and November challenged the relatively inexperienced American troops.
Furthermore, 1918 saw an massively destructive flu epidemic, known as the Spanish Flu. Globally, the 1918 flu killed over three percent of the world population. It killed primarily healthy young adults, and was incredibly deadly when combined with the conditions of warfare. Close quarters and malnutrition led to the flu’s rapid spread among those fighting in the First World War. More American soldiers died of influenza than by battle inflicted wounds. In addition, the pandemic depleted desperately needed resources for combat support to caring for those affected by the pandemic.
Math L. English
344th Tank Battalion, Tank Corps
Plot A, Row 7, Grave 26
Capt. Math L. English served in the 344thTank Battalion of the American Expeditionary Forces near Cheppy, France. During an attack on Cheppy, English dismounted from his tank and, under heavy machine gun fire, supervised the cutting of a passage for his tanks through three hostile trenches. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his extraordinary heroism in this action, surviving the dangerous maneuver. On October 4, 1918, English was killed when he left his tank in order to make a personal reconnaissance.
Awards: Distinguished Service Cross
Math L. English is buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery Plot A, Row 7, Grave 26.
Calvin T. Funk
9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division
Plot A, Row 46, Grave 15
Sgt. Calvin T. Funk entered the service from Oregon and arrived in France on September 19, 1917 where he became a Sergeant in the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division. He declined a higher promotion in order to stay with his company.
Funk wrote a letter to his mother about the trench warfare tactics that were characteristic of WWI. He wrote that he had “gone over the top seven times without a scratch.” On October 3, 1918, Funk’s luck ran out. He was hit in the forehead by a machine gun bullet.
Awards: French Croix de Guerre
Calvin T. Funk is buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery Plot A, Row 46, Grave 15.
George Merrick Hollister
61st Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division
Plot B, Row 44, Grave 24
Upon his arrival in France, 2nd Lt. George M. Hollister was attached to the 137th French Division. In August 1918 Hollister became a Battalion Scout Officer for the 61st Infantry Regiment.
"It is hard to say what the last two weeks have meant to me," he wrote after the a battle near Verdun, “to see all that is finest in life and all that is most damnable. . . Now, with it safely over, life takes on a new glorious splendor. I do not even try to explain to myself why my share seems done, probably it is not...."
Hollister died on October 13, 1918 after being hit by an enemy shell. He died in the arms of one of his close friends.
George Merrick Hollister is buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery Plot B, Row 44, Grave 24.
Marion G. Crandall
Plot F, Row 1, Grave 24
Secretary Marion G. Crandall was educated at the Sorbonne University in Paris. She then became a French language teacher at St. Katharine’s School in Davenport, Iowa. In January 1918, Crandall left for Paris, believing that her knowledge of the language would be helpful in the war effort.
She joined the U.S. Christian Commission of the Y.M.C.A., working in the canteen of Le Foyer de Soldat, a rest area for soldiers. She died of a shell explosion during a German artillery bombardment of the town where she was working. She was originally buried in a French hospital cemetery, and eventually transferred to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.
Marion G. Crandall is buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery Plot F, Row 1, Grave 24.
Timothy L. Barber
Medical Detachment, 313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division
Plot F Row 32 Grave 4
Capt. Timothy L. Barber was a physician and a surgeon in Charleston, W. Va., when the United States entered the war. Barber organized a medical unit made up of local men. In July 1918, he was detached from his unit stationed in Fort Meade, Md. and sent to France to fight in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
On October 10, 1918, he died in a field hospital after triggering a German mine.
In a letter to his mother, Dr. Barber wrote:
Just a line to assure you that I am all right. Have been on the firing line a week and it was like a lifetime in hell! It was one of the worst and bloodiest battles of the war, and why or how I came through it is more than I can tell.
We have been going from one hill and woods to another ever since being relieved—sleeping in the rain and on the hillsides—no baggage, dirty, no water to wash in and very little to drink, marching 10 to 20 miles every night, the men all tired from the six days of continuous fighting. My mother, you cannot imagine what a terrible life this is! I am 10 years older already, and have seen all my friends and comrades blown to pieces beside me. The suffering has been great. We lost about 45 or 50 percent of our regiment.
Have received a number of letters which I will answer as soon as we stop long enough to get my mind together, and paper enough to write on.
We leave tonight for the front again.
Timothy L. Barber is buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery Plot F Row 32 Grave 4.
Danforth Brooks Ferguson
42nd Coast Artillery Regiment
Plot G, Row 27, Grave 30
While studying in Paris, Pvt. Danforth B. Ferguson was taken by the “national heroism” that he believed to be holding the country together. He enlisted in Section 2 of the American Ambulance Field Service early in 1915. In a letter, Ferguson wrote:
I’m out here doing a man’s work. While we don’t get into a great deal of danger, at least we can feel that we have had the good fortune to have lived and studied in France can in a small measure repay her. And when the United States finally comes to help La Belle France, perhaps the entente cordiale of these few ambulance sections will help the good feeling along.
In another letter he wrote, I carried forty wounded today and am dead tired. Perhaps a great many of the wounded won’t live for more than a few hours, poor fellows.
Danforth died of influenza on October 20, 1918.
Danforth Brooks Ferguson is buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery Plot G, Row 27, Grave 30.