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The current time is: 11/24/2017 12:46:33 AM
 (1914-1918) WWI Battles
, Posts: 3454
100 years ago: First American soldiers killed in action in France
Posted on: 11/3/2017 1:36:36 AM

* Thomas Francis Enright
* Birth - May 8, 1887 Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, USA
* Death - Nov. 3, 1917, France

Born in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Irish immigrants, Enright was the first child of his generation born in the U.S. He enlisted in the Army in 1909 and saw service in China, the Philippines, and, in Mexico, in both the Vera Cruz and Pancho Villa expeditions. Enright’s body was returned to the U.S. in July 1921, and he was given a week-long memorial by the city and citizens of Pittsburgh, including a lying-in-state in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.

* James Bethel Gresham
* Birth - Aug. 23, 1893 McLean County, Kentucky, USA
* Death - Nov. 3, 1917, France

A native of Beech Grove, McLean County, Kentucky, Gresham moved with his family to Evansville, Indiana, when he was eight. After leaving school he worked in a cotton mill and a furniture factory, then enlisted in the Army in 1914. He served in the 1916 Mexican Border action, and, as a member of the Regular Army, he was one of the first to be sent to France after war was declared in April 1917. Gresham’s body was returned to the U.S. in July 1921 and re-interred in Evansville.

* Merle David Hay
* Birth - Jul. 20, 1896 Glidden, Iowa, USA
* Death - Nov. 3, 1917, France

In civilian life Hay was a clerk in the Glidden farm implement store, and he enlisted in May 1917 not long after war was declared. Hay’s body was returned to the U.S. in July 1921 and re-interred in his home town. In 1929 the Iowa legislature funded a special monument for Hay in Glidden, as well as a cenotaph in Des Moines.

Hay, Gresham, and Enright were all serving in Company F, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division (“The Big Red One”) in trenches near the village of Bathelémont les Bauzemont in Lorraine, east of Nancy, in what was supposed to be a quiet sector, to allow the division some seasoning before being sent to more active sectors. On the night of November 2-3, 1917, the Germans, suspecting that the Americans had moved into the area, conducted a trench raid on the 16th’s position to capture prisoners for interrogation. Hay and Gresham were killed in the initial attack, not recognizing the Germans soldiers in the dark (one story has it that the gold watch Hay's mother had given him was found stopped at 0240), and Enright was killed as he resisted being taken. The Germans left with every piece of American equipment they could lay their hands on, as well as eleven prisoners. Hay, Enright, and Gresham were buried where they fell, the French Government erecting a monument to their memory on the spot, but it was destroyed by the Germans in 1940. The current monument near Bathelémont was erected after World War II.

...It was over in three dark minutes -- pistols, bayonets, knives. The platoon did not blench. It fought in the dark. There was no mad rush for a communicating trench or a deep dugout. The [German] Assault Company left on a precise schedule, taking their own wounded, together with a Doughboy sergeant and ten men, some of them wounded, too, and all of them stunned; dragging them back through the gaps in the wire as the open side of the box barrage again was closed with forbidding bursts. Another three minutes and all guns ceased....Three men lay dead in the muddy bottom of the trench. Corporal James B. Gresham, Private Thomas F. Enright, and Private Merle D. Hay. They were buried that afternoon near Bathelémont on a little rise of pasturage... (from the 1963 classic The Doughboys, by Laurence Stallings)

Current memorial at Bathelémont.

First Division shoulder sleeve insignia in World War I.

(text for comments sourced from
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5560
Re: 100 years ago: First American soldiers killed in action in France
Posted on: 11/3/2017 7:35:28 AM
Many thanks for the story of the Americans who were the first to lose their lives as members of the American Expeditionary Force, BW

May we also honour those Americans who fought and died prior to the US entry but as members of the Canadian Corps or the Royal Flying Corps and the French Armée de L'Air.

Like this man. His name seemed very "American" so I picked him.

Private George Washington Hill

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His name appears on the Vimy Memorial along with 11,000 others with no known grave. He died at Arleux.

There are many Americans buried in Commonwealth Cemeteries and they died serving before the US entry and should not be forgotten.