Aitken, Lieut. William G. (World War I) (1921)
Posted By: Paul Nagy, volunteer (email)
Date: 1/12/2012 at 23:31:49
Contributed by J. Williams.
LIUET. AITKEN ARRIVES HOME
First Buena Vista County Man to Reach France is Out.
SAW MUCH HARD SERVICE
Was Within Artillery Range for Nine Months on Different French Fronts—His Story.
Lieut. William G. Aitken, the first Buena Vista county man to go over-seas, the first Buena Vista county man to receive an army commission and the first Buena Vista county man to get into the actual fighting, landed in Storm Lake on Monday afternoon [27 Jan 1919]*, after having been in the service for more than eighteen months. Like all of the men who have actually been up against the great and terrible thing we know as war, he is modest, almost reticent and singularly without seeming bitterness.
Lieut. Aitken enlisted in the first officers' training school at Fort Snelling May 12, 1917, and received his commission as second lieutenant on August 15. After a furlough of two days spent with his mother and sisters in this city, he went to New York and on September 1, went across attached to the first division, Twenty-Sixth regiment, Co. F. After landing at Liverpool he was soon transferred to an infantry school in England and also was ordered to the small arms and machine gun school in England, and it was while in training there that he came in contact with some coke gas which kept him in a hospital for two months, most of which time was spent at Camiers, France. He went back to his regiment in March, 1918, when they were ordered into the Toul sector and from then until he was wounded and gassed in the Argonne forest late in October, he was never beyond the range of artillery fire save for a day or two at a time. After several weeks spent in the Cantigny and Montidier regions, his outfit was sent to Soissons where they were in eleven counter attacks in three days between July 18 and 30, and where he received a slight wound which sent him into a rest camp for a few days and he and his outfit were permitted to remain in a quiet sector until August 14 when he was sent to a training, school for some special work before going into the Argonne fight. He was not in the St. Mihiel affair but describes it as more or less of a big maneuver as the Huns offered little resistance. On September 30 he marched from early in the morning until 9:30 the following morning straight into the very thick of it and dug in under fire. They staid [sic] there until October 4 when they were sent over in the second phase of the great Argonne fight which broke down the German army and they failed to reach the objective in the first days fighting. During the fighting he received one dose of mustard gas, and got hit with shrapnel and a machine gun bullet and was carried off. After recieving [sic] first aid, he was sent to base hospital 44 and was in various convalescent camps from then until January 13 when he sailed, landing January 22. He has been discharged and his home to stay. While he is still weak and suffering from the effects of the gas, it is believed that a rest and good air, aided by some of mother's cooking will bring him around in good shape.
Lieut. Aitken says that about the time the war was over, the American army was getting organized and prepared to do something. He does not think a great deal of the efficiency of the army but believes that it was rounding into shape. He takes no stock in the stories of the lack of war weapons of all kinds on the part of the Germans or of the air supremacy of the allies and believes that it was internal troubles at home which caused the downfall of the German army. In fact, he is very unenthusiastic over American participation in the war. He says the best fighters from every standpoint in the entire war were the Australian troops. He says that they are magnificent men in every respect and believes that the morals of the soldiers from the great island were better than that of any other soldiers, although the American soldiers behaved themselves. He says that it was literally impossible to keep the men from gambling when they were in the rest camps but that aside from this there was little immorality. He does not have a very high regard for the morals of the English people nor does he think much of their tight little island. He pays every tribute to the spirit of the French people and believes that the world will never again witness the manifestation of a more noble and patriotic spirit.
In speaking of the work of the different organizations over there, Lieut. Aitken says that the Salvation Army was the greatest of them all. He says that at Soissons for five days about all his outfit had to eat was what they got from the Salvation Army lassies who were right up in the front line trenches. The Red Cross also did great and wonderful things on a most boundless scale but he says that the Y. M. C. A. "did not function." He says lack of proper leadership over there and the lack of proper workers was largely responsible for the failure of the Y. M. C. A. to perform properly.
It is indeed a happy family at the Aitken home when "Bill" reached home on Monday and since his arrival, he has been given nothing short of an ovation whenver [sic] he has appeared. He is through with the army and has no taste for the life and after a good rest he will return to civilian life for good.
*The most likely date he returned home since he was discharged from the army at Camp Dix NJ, on 25 Jan 1919. See link below.
“Lieut. Aitken Arrives Home.” Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune. Storm Lake, IA: Jan 1919. (The exact date of publication is unknown.)
Honor Roll of Buena Vista County : Returning Veterans
Buena Vista Documents maintained by Lynn Diemer-Mathews.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen
Buena Vista Documents maintained by Lynn Diemer-Mathews.