8 Orleans County soldiers perished on Sept. 29, 1918 in assault on Hindenburg Line
By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian
Illuminating Orleans, Vol. 2, No. 19
Eight young men from Orleans County were killed in a five-hour span on the fields of France on September 29, 1918. Twenty were injured. Two other young men had been killed on the previous day.
The men were members of the Second Battalion, 107th and 108th Infantry which was under the command of Major John Thompson of Medina. It included Company F. Medina, Company E of Niagara Falls and Jamestown, and Companies G and H of Rochester. They were part of the Allied final assault on the infamous Hindenburg Line, a German built defensive position on the Western front.
Australian, American, British and French soldiers participated in the marathon attack and successfully breached the line on Sept. 29.
Major Thompson described the action of that day in an article published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 25 November 1918:
“At 5:50 o’clock on Sunday morning, September 29th, the barrage from our guns was started. That was our signal to go ahead. Our 846 men almost as a unit went over the top with a dash and a song….From the moment the advance began until we stopped, three miles ahead, at 11:00, our men were in a hail of bullets and a cloud of blinding smoke. The barrage laid down by the enemy tore up the ground around the men and the noise was deafening.
The Second Battalion enjoys the distinction of being the only one which pierced the line at that dangerous and effective point.”
Five of the Second Battalion’s casualties on September 29, 1918, were from Medina:
- Cpl. James P. Clark, aged 19. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Butts-Clark American Legion Post #204 was named in his honor.
- Cpl. William J. Collins, aged 20.
- Mechanic Walter Lindke, aged 26,
- Pvt. Cecil Green, aged 21.
- Pvt. Albert E. Coon, aged 19.
Two of the casualties were from Albion:
- Sgt. James A. Sheret, aged 24. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
- Pvt. Egbert Sheret, aged 22.
One of the deceased was from Kent, NY
- Pvt. A H. Wilson, aged 19.
Pvt. F.J. Bloom and Pvt. Walter Gaylord aged 19, both of Medina, were killed on September 28.
Thirteen soldiers from Medina were injured in action on September 29:
Martin McKernan, M.D. Barrus, John S. Green, William F. Smith, W.F. Tripp. C.F. Fenton, Michael Smith, James G. Eddy, J.D. Clark, H.A. Durnell, Seth F. Clark, Fred Alloway and M.C. Ward.
Eight soldiers from Albion were injured:
L.W. Sanford, Carl Long, E.L. Wilson. Andrew E. Sheret, E.D. McGaffick, F.D. Depzynski, L.G. Williams and B.A. Perry.
In addition to Cpl. Clark and Sgt. Sheret, William F. Smith and Mahlon C. Ward of Medina, and Raymond F. Reed of Waterport were recommended for bravery.
Though faced with insurmountable odds, these men fought with distinction and were instrumental in breaching the last and strongest of the German army’s defense system.