January 15, 2004

One of the last of his cohort

When I was very young, I remember hearing of the death of the last Civil War veteran. He had supposedly been a drummer boy, though there was some doubt about him.

Now, the last American combat-wounded veteran of WWI has died at the age of 108! (Links here and here) There are only about 1,000 American WWI vets left alive.

....Born Jan. 17, 1895, in Everett, Mass., Mr. Pugh raised 16 foster children, played the organ into his 100s and was an avid football and baseball fan.

He is one of 10 veterans profiled in the book, The Price of their Blood, published last month and co-written by Jesse Brown, former U.S. secretary of Veterans Affairs.

He spoke French and was used overseas as an interpreter until the battle in the Argonne forest, when he inhaled mustard gas that left him unconscious and with chronic laryngitis.

After the war he returned to Maine and worked as a railroad telegraph operator for 12 years before delivering mail for 26 years....(Thanks to Dave Trowbridge)

Sounds like quite a guy. Pugh's outfit was the 77th Division. I wrote about them in the Melting Pot Division, the New York City division with an astonishing ethnic variety......The Jews, the Wops, and the Dutch and Irish cops
They're all in the army now!

Doughboys of the 77th divsion wait on the edge of the Argonne Forest, before the attack on September 26, 1918.

It looks like there are two French officers in the upper left corner. (By the way, my interest in WWI has had the result, that I don't find very funny the endless jokes about the fighting qualities of the French. They lost millions in battles whose sustained ferocity we can't even imagine. Likewise, don't sneer about Italians at war until you know something about the Battles of the Isonzo.)

Posted by John Weidner at January 15, 2004 3:35 PM
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