"To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die."
Lieutenant Laurens Corning Shull made the supreme sacrifice for his country
when fatally wounded in the famous Chateau Thierry drive, at Soissons, France,
but he will live on in the hearts of the many who knew and loved him. Born in
Sioux City, Iowa, on the 17th of January, 1894, he had reached the age of
twenty-four years when he gave his life for democracy.
Deloss C. Shull, the father of Lieutenant Shull, may without
invidious distinction be termed the foremost lawyer of Sioux City, if not of
Iowa. The son attended the grad schools in his native city and entered the
high school there in February, 1909, completing the four-year course in three
years and a half. During his high school course he was prominent in all
activities in the school and especially in athletics. He won his letters in
basketball, football and baseball each year he was in school, and in his senior
year he was captain of both the football and basketball teams. In October,
1912, "Spike," as he was affectionately known, entered the University of
Chicago, being graduated from that institution in June, 1916. In the course of
his university career he was elected to most of the leading student
organizations and held offices in his classes and positions on committees. He
was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, the Three Quarters Club, the
Skull and Crescent, the Order of the Iron Mask, the Owl and Serpent and in his
last year was selected a University marshal. He was president of the Young
Men's Christian Association during his junior year and attended the Y. M. C. A.
conference of student leaders at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. His
chief fame at that time, particularly in the outside world, was gained through
his athletic reputation, and his gigantic figure became a familiar one on the
baseball, basketball and football teams of each of his last three college years.
His play at whatever game he attempted was marked by a conscientiousness that
set an example for every college athlete of his time, and his skill, aided by
the extraordinary strength of his great stature, was excelled by few of his
fellows. He was best known as a football player. His sophomore year he played
on the 1913 University of Chicago championship team of the Western Conference.
He was chosen by most critics at the close of that season "All-Western" tackle,
and was unanimously selected by all critics as "All-Western" tackle in 1914 and
1915. In 1914 he was favorably commented upon by Walter Camp and other critics
for "All-American" elevens. He was captain of the baseball team his last year
in the university. During his course he won eight athletic "C's," three in
football, three in baseball and two in basketball, having dropped basketball his
Upon graduation from college Laurens C. Shull became associated
with the Messrs. Charles and Clyde Brenton, bankers in Des Moines, Iowa, who
were warm friends of his family. He was sent to one of their banks, the
Farmers' Bank of Woodward, Iowa, where, beginning at the bottom, he was rapidly
promoted within a year's time to the position of vice president. During his
stay in Woodward, a town of one thousand population, he coached the high school
football team, and began refereeing football and basketball games throughout the
state of Iowa for various colleges. While at Woodward he became affiliated with
the following fraternal organizations: Woodward Lodge No. 460, I. O. O. F.;
Peaceful Lodge No. 454, A. F. & A. M.; and B. P. O. E. Lodge No. 407, which was
at Perry, Iowa, a short distance from Woodward.
On May 15, 1917, he resigned his position in the bank and
entered the First Officers' Training Camp, which opened on that date at Fort
Snelling, Near Minneapolis, Minnesota. At the end of the training he was
commissioned a second lieutenant in the Infantry Reserve Corps, and because of
his unusual ability as a soldier and a commander of men, was selected for
immediate duty in France. After a two weeks' furlough at home he reported on
the 26th of August, at Hoboken, New Jersey, for assignment to a transport.
Sailing on the 7th of September, his ship landed at Liverpool, England, whence
he was dispatched to France for training in a British Army School. Completing
his course, he was assigned to the Twenty-sixth Infantry, Company F, First
Division, in December, when that division was occupying a portion of the line in
the Toul sector. Company F was in the battalion commanded by Major Theodore
Roosevelt, Jr. He was later transferred to Company G, of the same regiment,
which company he was commanding when he was fatally wounded on July 19, 1918, at
Soissons, in the famous Chateau Thierry drive. For his action in leading his
men against a German machine-gun nest on that day he was awarded the
Distinguished Service Cross by his commanding officer.
The following intimate review of the life and character of
Lieutenant Shull appeared in a memorial booklet: "Of the many who gave their
lives in the World war there was one whose sacrifice was complete. With
everything before him that youth, health, seriousness of purpose and the love of
literally hundreds of friends could offer, he laid down his life willingly for
his country's sake. It was with mingled emotions that Laurens Corning Shull
answered the call to war in the spring of 1917. But because his feelings were
mixed should he be considered the more valorous soldier and should his memory be
richer. His was a nature which abhorred war, shunning instinctively not only
war's barbaric practices but the stiffness and ceremony of things military. He
deplored dissension. Disagreement of any kind, regardless of whether he was
involved, always depressed him. He rebelled moreover at an exacting discipline
which implied both punctiliousness and subserviency, and knowing army
discipline, neither the pride of soldiership nor any thought of the rewards of
victory heartened him as he enlisted. But he did enlist and at the first
opportunity, because deep in his nature was an immediate response to duty.
Never in his life inspired with the spirit of adventure, this conflict between
duty and dislike of the job to be done had been continuously in the back of his
mind from the time when the possibility of America's entrance into hostilities
first became apparent. When the day for action came, however, his decision was
instantly made; and at once he left for camp.
"In a time of war's aftermath, when encomiums and stories of
heroism are common, the phrase 'a sense of duty' loses force by repetition. But
those who knew 'Spike' can utter the phrase in connection with him only with a
consciousness of its fullest meaning. This was once said of him: 'Spike never
failed to square up with his duty as he saw it, even in things like football.
He never liked the game, but he thought he ought to play it, and he always went
in with all his tremendous might.' Instantaneous response to duty was a tenet
of his philosophy and in the crisis it immediately fought down his dislike of
war. His battle with himself, however, though decided instantly, was no mere
contest with a doubt, but the smothering of a profound instinct. And for this
reason he deserves added tribute.
"The coming of war found 'Spike' vice president of the Farmers'
Bank of Woodward, Iowa. To Woodward he had gone from college, chiefly for
experience, as his plans were still vague. By sheer application, hard work
after hours, he had earned promotion to the position of a vice president in the
bank. Of no petty aid, it must be remembered, to his rapid promotion was his
genial, lovable manner with everybody he met. After seriousness of purpose this
lovableness was the most outstanding of his obvious characteristics, and his
command of the affections, the sentimental affections, of the men around him was
constantly the wonder of his friends.
"He was supremely happy in his work at Woodward. Writing on
July 5, 1918, from France, to Clyde E. Brenton, of Des Moines, he said: 'Two
years ago today I went to Woodward to gain my banking career. I remember well
how Mrs. Brenton drove us over and just how I felt in landing in that town of
seven hundred people. Determined to stick it out and learn something, I went to
work on that bloody adding machine. I was off some twenty thousand dollars when
I finished, and Dick thought it a good joke. Honestly, my back almost broke
over that machine. But I'll never forget that ten months, especially that
mortgaged property which so gallantly stands unmoved, and those two ball games
on the Fourth two years ago - the last I have played.'
"Though when he went there he knew nobody in town, he soon made
friends, and, besides, he ploughed into the mass of work before him with all the
tremendous earnestness that typified him. His soul was essentially a peaceful
soul; his dreams were dreams of peace, and he found much of content in the
simple life of the town. His easy smile at once won him an enviable position in
the hearts of his new friends. His great stature (he was six feet four inches
tall) had earned him the sobriquet of 'Spike' as early as his high school days;
and at Woodward, too, he at once became 'Spike,' rather than 'Laurens,' to the
"When war was declared the following spring, 'Spike' entered the
First Officers' Training Camp at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, electing to serve in
the infantry. Without fondness for the work, he nevertheless, as a matter of
course, threw all his consciousness into the grind, and in August was
commissioned a second lieutenant in the Infantry Reserve Corps. His diligence
was rewarded, moreover, by selection as one of sixty from the camp of
twenty-five hundred for immediate overseas duty. A two weeks' furlough was
allowed this special detachment of officers for a visit home; then they reported
for duty in the early part of September at the port of embarkation, Hoboken, New
Jersey, sailing for France on September 7, 1917. The convoy landed at Liverpool
and the detachment was dispatched to France. 'After a very short stop in
England,' says one of his letters, 'I found myself in France one crisp September
morning, and I traveled for the first time on a French railway (two miles per
hour), the trip lasting several days, but finally reaching our destination, the
Third British Army School.' Here the men for a month were rushed through a
course of training at the hands of British instructors, comprising chiefly
raiding, bayoneting and the latest phases of the technique of trench warfare.
'Finishing my training there,' he adds, 'I spent several more days on a French
local, at last joining the First Division, American Expeditionary Forces,
Company F, Twenty-sixth Infantry.' This was on November 12th, when the
Twenty-sixth Infantry was billeted in the little village of Giveroval in the
Gondrecourt area, a training area later to become familiar to many other
"In this dreary spot 'Spike' first felt the pangs of the hunger
for letters from home; letters, of course, written but interminably delayed in
those first days of un-organization. He writes: 'Letters mean a great deal to
one so far away, especially when one is unfortunate enough not to be able to
parley French. I never, as a result, have a chance to elevate myself by talking
to a woman; it is always to some private or brother officer. I know my parents
will start educating me all over again when I return home.'
At the time of 'Spike's' joining his division, the Twenty-sixth
Infantry had just returned from its first occupation of the trenches. Though
the Twenty-sixth was in what was officially dubbed a 'rest' period, army men
know well that a unit was usually relieved at the front so that it might take up
even more strenuous activities behind the lines. So with this regiment, though
the weather at that season was fearfully cold an damp, the men 'rested' by
beginning a series of maneuvers over the training area which often kept the
troops out for several days and nights without cover.
After two weeks of training at Giveroval, 'Spike' was granted
his first leave, which allowed him a week-end in Paris. On his return to camp
he became quite ill with a persistent case of grippe and was left behind on two
maneuvers that lasted the greater part of a month. * * * The long
training period finally ended the last week of February, 1918, and the
organization broke camp, preparing to move up to the lines. At four o'clock on
the morning of March 3d the troops moved out from Giveroval and were transported
to the Toul sector, that portion of the Allied line particularly identified with
the American effort. The Twenty-sixth Infantry relieved part of the First
Infantry Brigade of the same division, which had held the line since the latter
part of January.
While encamped here, 'Spike' wrote to his father one of his
most charming letters. 'I am writing this letter,' he says, 'on a cigar box by
candle light. The paper belongs to the company clerk and the pencil to the
first sergeant. The cigar box contains about forty American cigars which the Y.
M. C. A. man brought to this forsaken village. As I told the Major tonight, the
only satisfaction in life around here was this box of cigars. He helped himself
and that's why I have only forty. My room is only half mine, as the company
commander sleeps with me, or rather I sleep with him. We have a bed just five
and one-half feet long and four feet wide. He is a big ox like myself, so you
can imagine how comfortably we rest. His being in bed is probably the cause of
this letter, as I was kept up tonight figuring how I was going to get in. The
reason we are so selfish about this darned bed is that it is the first one we
have seen since March 1st. I almost wrote you for a picture of a bed, but now
that we have one of the precious things it will not be necessary.
How we got to this town is quite a story. One fine cold rainy
day (as usual) we packed up and set out. We finally landed in a ditch or
series of ditches resembling Perry Creek more than anything I have seen since
the good old days back in the Bancroft school. Inasmuch as I have reached the
doddering age of twenty-four I can assure you I did not enjoy the mud holes as
much as when I was ten. I can imagine my delight fourteen years ago if only
such a place had been at my disposal. But the real beauty of the place was the
big hill directly in front of us. This was known as Mt. _____. I might as well
as not tell you the name of the mountain, as I saw it printed in the Sioux City
Tribune, but as all good officers say to their men, Obey the Censor's rules.
Well, it was a great place. Every night we put up sandbags and revetments in
the endeavor to cut off the view from that demned mountain, only to have them
blown down in the daytime. As the company front was so wide, it was necessary
to establish a system of outposts, and as second in command of the company I had
to visit these places every night. Between the German planes and occasional
shells, plus the fire of my own company, I managed to have several very
interesting times going from position to another.
'One night, especially, I was ordered to patrol all the wire
in front of our section, which was a distance of one and one-half kilometers. I
picked three men and started out. We found plenty of wire and old trenches, all
of which helps to give a man the shakes on a rainy night such as it was. I
finally reached a position where I had agreed to meet a gallant officer of our
company, but I found him missing. I walked along the parapet of the abandoned
trenches searching for him and after some hesitation I started to examine the
wire. As there were several belts, it necessitated my going through wire for
some distance in front of the position where we had agreed to meet. After
examining each belt I crawled under and stepped over the wire until I arrived
back at the position, but still no officer. My pet sergeant and I walked along
the parapet of the old trench wondering where he could possibly be. All of a
sudden, "Halt, who's there?" rang through the air. It was one of those
Tennessee Halts which is Bang-Halt! I doubt if you could have put a dime
between the side of my head and that bullet. I dropped in a shell hole between
the wire and the parapet and found my sergeant had beaten me to it. How we both
got in that little shell hole is more of a mystery than this bed proposition
which now confronts me. After firing twelve rounds of pistol ammunition at us
at a range of about fifteen yards, they notified a close-by automatic gun post
to open up on us, which was done. Being close to the old trench I managed to
crawl out of our shell hole during a short lull in the proceedings and make
myself known to an officer who was just getting ready to throw a hand grenade
into the shell hole. He had his orderly with him and was having him wind up,
too. This was the officer I was suppose to meet and he had either forgotten
about my being out there or he was mistaken about the time of my arrival.
Anyway, he took me for a German in spite of my frequent call, "It's Lieutenant
Shull." I told the Major it was safer in front of the German trenches than in
front of ours. Little things like that are bound to occur, especially since the
Americans aren't acquainted with the appearance of the German soldier and
particularly because they're all too damned anxious to shoot the enemy.
'One dark night after we were thoroughly fed up with the
place some good old Irishmen from New England relieved us. Long hikes in
artillery formation and other long hikes in location formation, a trip in motor
buses, a twenty-four hours' ride in French box cars and two days' more hiking
put us in this little abandoned village. We all know what we are here for. The
British are having a fight for their position, and we are with the French army
and hope to hit them soon. This will be my last letter for some time. Don't
worry, as I am feeling fine, and with fire in my eye. I am good for ten Germans
if the artillery misses me. Of course, this might be bragging a bit - but, Dad,
I'll try hard to get all I can.
'This bed begins to look better each minute and my captain
sprawls out a little more each ten minutes and if I hesitate much longer I'll
never be able to get in. Send me socks, candy, tobacco and the Sioux City
On the night of April 1st 'Spike's' brigade was unexpectedly
relieved by the Twenty-sixth Division. Withdrawing several kilometers the tired
troops rested for a few days and then entrained for the Gissor training section.
Here they maneuvered for two weeks preparing for what portended to be the
greatest of all attacks. The First Division, together with an English and a
French Chasseur division, formed the infantry in the maneuvers, and, according
to the plan, they, supported by the tanks and artillery and cavalry, were to
make the first real counter attack at Albert. At this time, the German
offensive was at its height, and as soon as it lost its momentum the counter
attack was to be launched.
During the spring of this year both the troops and officers of
the Allied armies were concerned over the plans of the coming German offensive,
which everybody knew would be launched as soon as the bad weather lifted and the
roads dried. It was consequently the first mission of the infantry holding the
lines at that time to capture prisoners for cross-examination. Company G, to
which 'Spike' had been transferred, received orders almost nightly for
prisoners, and the men and officers of the company patrolled constantly.
'Spike,' oblivious to danger, did a great deal of patrolling - in fact,
practically all of the patrolling for his company - and supervised all such work
for his battalion, of which he was raiding officer. This work, some of the most
hazardous and nerve-trying of modern warfare, gave him his first real
opportunity, and his devotion to his duty and his skill earned him the trust and
admiration of his commanding officers and his men. And it was as much the
loyalty of those serving under him as the confidence of his superiors that won
him a cherished reward, a recommendation for promotion. Though he never lived
to pin on his silver bars, Major McCloud's testimonial swelled his heart with
pride, particularly the frank admission of his inability to appoint 'Spike' to
company commander when he was ranked by three brother officers. Major McCloud's
recommending letter follows:
Headquarters 2nd Bn., 26th Infantry.
France, June 18, 1918.
From: The Commanding Officer, 2nd Bn., 26th Infantry.
To: The Commanding Officer, 26th Infantry.
Subject: Promotion of Officer
1. It is recommended and requested that 2nd Lieut. Laurens C. Shull,
U. S. A., 26th Infantry, be promoted to the grade of First Lieutenant.
2. This officer has been in France for nine months, six months having
been spent under my command, and I have found him to be an excellent man,
a born leader. His services in the trenches have been performed in the
most efficient manner.
3. It is my intention to make Lieutenant Shull a company commander
when his present company commander leaves for the U. S. as an instructor
on or about July 6, 1918, but as he is only a Second Lieutenant and is
ranked by three Lieutenants in his Company this is hardly practical.
4. I consider that this officer is the best in my battalion under the
rank of Captain.
5. Prompt action is therefore requested.
U. S. R. A. 26th Infantry.
In the meantime a sudden change in the orders directed the
First Division to Montdidier, and the division entered the lines on the
outskirts of that village, then held by the enemy and merely a mass of ruins
from artillery fire.
'This was real war,' reads Lieutenant Small's diary. 'We had
no trenches and were forced to organize shell holes as best we could. The enemy
fire was terrific and we were gassed almost nightly. The nights were terrible
sessions, since we had to remain quiet lest our locations be revealed and we be
bombarded with gas shells. During this period we made the first real American
attack, capturing the village of Cantigny, giving us the advantage of a great
observation point and straightening out our line. We patrolled and raided
continuously and 'Spike' did his share and more. On one evening when Spike and
I were on a raiding party we took up our position at 7:45 P. M., but did not
attack until 11:45 P. M. During this time Spike and I sat in a shell hole
looking up at the sky, talking over old times and wondering if those selfsame
stars overhead were the ones we had seen on peaceful nights at home. The time
passed wonderfully fast and we were so surprised when the attack started that we
both forgot our guns, which were beside us with bayonets fixed. The party was,
however, a success and it just happened that our guns were not needed.'
The division was withdrawn from the Cantigny sector on July
10th and after a few days' rest received re-enforcements to replace the hundreds
of casualties sustained in the now celebrated Cantigny engagement, the first
action on a major scale carried out by American forces. A forced march
immediately followed and on July 18th the First Division made the famous counter
south of Soissons. On the second day of this attack Lieutenant Banyon, of the
Twenty-sixth Infantry, lay wounded in a shell hole when 'Spike' came by in
command of his half company. He stopped on seeing Banyon, gave him a cigar, lit
it for him and then continued on his way to the front, less than a thousand
yards away. Moving into position in the line, Company G joined in the attack.
Through two separate advances on that day 'Spike' led his men with exceptional
courage and skill, but in a third attack, while charging a German machine gun
nest, which had blocked the advance of his men, he was hit in the abdomen by a
machine gun bullet. The bullet passed through the liver, striking the hip bone
and then lodging in the leg. He was transported to American Red Cross Hospital
No. 1 at Neuilly, a suburb of Paris, where for some days his condition showed
gradual improvement. Infection had set in in his leg, but with the fine care
given him by his nurses and doctors it was thought he might recover. Nowhere
did his popularity show itself more than during his sickness. His men, as well
as his brother officers, made most frequent visits to him, and the radiance of
his personality gained the love of those attendant upon him. The medical
officer in charge of his case, Dr. Clarence Wilton Way, said he was the nerviest
and bravest man he had ever known. On August 5, 1918, he died, the poison from
the bullet having spread through his system. The words of his hospital
chaplain, Rolfe P. Crum, testify to his love of his God:
'My dear Mrs. Shull:
'I know how grief-stricken you are at
this time when you have just received the news of your son's death in this
French hospital. I wish to extend to you in this way my sincere sympathy.
I attended your boy up to the last day and had prayers with him on that
day. He was quite conscious and wanted me to write to you and his father
for him, telling you he was getting along all right.
'It must be a comfort to you to know
in his last hours he thought of you at home and of his Father in Heaven.
He died bravely, like the true soldier he has always been. I do not
think he suffered nearly as much as many I have attended. It was rather a
'How proud you ought to be of that
boy! In college, a well known athlete (all the men know him by
reputation) and one who in life played the game well and stood for honor
and fair play in the world. The gift of his life to his country and
beyond that to the cause of liberty and righteousness in the world, which
is God's cause, partakes of the nature of the sacrifice on Calvary.
Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his
friends. To this end he was born and for this purpose he came forth in
the world.' "
Lieutenant Shull was buried in the American cemetery at Suresnes,
on a lovely hillside overlooking Paris. Upon receipt of the news of his death,
letters, telegrams and all manner of testimonials poured into the home of his
parents. The few that follow typify the hundreds that were received, indicating
in particular the wide range of his friendship.
"My dear Mr. Shull:
"Words cannot express my appreciation
of that beautiful picture. It is now being framed together with the
letter and will always hang in the most prominent part of my library.
"I am witnessing a sight from my
office window that I shall never forget and that have never seen the like
of though I have lived in Chicago fourteen years.
"The stores have all closed, 3:30 P.
M. The streets are packed full. The city is ablaze with flags. They are
throwing confetti out of the office windows till the streets look like a
big snow storm.
"The noise is so great I can hardly
hear my typewriter click. What will it be tonight? This is what dear
'Spike' and his noble brothers have accomplished, and there is not
sentiment enough in the world to express our love and admiration for them.
* * * I wept over 'Spike's' picture. We all did. And I cannot keep
back the tears when I go into the street and see this celebration,
thinking of him.
"Most sincerely yours,
"Schuyler C. Brandt."
My dear Mr. and Mrs. Shull:
I appreciate more than I can tell
your sending me the photograph of 'Spike.' I have been at the point
several times of writing you but I could not gather heart to do it. Words
on such occasions are meaningless unless you know the soul which utters
them, and I have hesitated to break in upon your holy grief.
The news of 'Spike's' passing came to
me most unexpectedly because I had not known that he was on the fighting
line, and like hundreds of his other friends, I was greatly shocked. I
have thought of him and of his supreme sacrifice it seems almost every
day, since the news of his death came. 'Spike' had made a host of friends
in Chicago and he is being frequently spoken of.
The last time I saw him was when the
big handsome boy appeared in my office and asked for a recommendation to
an Officers Training Camp. He told me that he wanted to get into the Fort
Sheridan Camp where so many of his friends would be, and in his droll way
(referring the draft) said, 'Mr. Stagg, they'd get me the first thing, I'm
so big. So I'm going to fool them and enlist.'
From his talk I gathered that 'Spike'
did not look upon his enlistment in the boyish spirit of adventure but as
a duty. He gave me the impression that he felt that there was no
sufficient reason why he should not go and he was going to offer his
During the three years I was his
coach in football, I got a good insight into his nature and character and
I grew to appreciate and to admire and to love him. 'Spike' had an
unusually true and honest soul with a serious-mindedness to duty which
does not come to many people until well along in middle life. I remember
the serious manner in which he came to me privately on two occasions and
told me that I was mistaken in my criticism at a certain time that
afternoon so far as he was concerned. I assured him that what he said was
true and that he should have been excepted from my comments, but that in
making criticisms, for the sake of emphasis I sometimes generalized and
made them inclusive to produce an effect on the men as a whole. This
frank straightforward protest seemed to me to be simply the expression of
his splendidly true and conscientious nature and I respected him the more
'Spike's' life at the University was
clean, sincere, manly and brave. He was universally respected and loved
by many. Speaking of him as I knew him, I have said several times that I
did not know any young man more fit to appear before his Maker. His life
has been beautifully true and his death has been supremely noble.
I shall frame his photograph and
place it in our Honor Gallery among the athletic trophies which 'Spike'
fought so hard and loyally to bring to his University.
With deepest sympathy, I am,
A. A., Stagg.
C. P. Summerall, major
general in command of the First Division of the United States army, wrote in
part as follows:
|I know of no officer
in the records of this division whose service has been more gallant and
whose character as a man has impressed itself more lastingly upon the
division. The fact that he was beloved by his men gives proof of the fact
of his genuineness of character and straightforward manliness which
appeals to a soldier. May I express to you my sympathy in your loss and
my pride as his division commander in his record as a soldier?
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore
Indeed I do remember Lieutenant Shull. He was a very
good fellow. He died of wounds, as I recall, which were received at Soissons.
I always noticed in him devotion to duty, fearlessness and real capacity
for leadership. In the final analysis a man's command are those who form
the best estimate of him. A good leader invariably has the devotion and
confidence of his soldiers. Lieutenant Shull had this to a marked degree.
He was a fine type of American, one of whom we may all be proud.
The concluding pages of the memorial booklet previously
mentioned are herein quoted: "The test of worth by which the gold in a
character is assayed is the persistency of a memory to abide and the freedom
with which homage is offered. Judged by this, 'Spike's' was a nugget of rare
value, for some of the expressions that followed the news of his death and the
services held in his honor revealed a feeling among hundreds that amounted to a
virtual idolatry. The preceding letters are eloquent testimony of the affection
he unconsciously created for himself in the hearts of whomsoever he met. They
were, moreover, a spontaneous tribute, and they were followed by a succession of
memorial services from the summer of his death to the winter of 1921 - surely
proof that his memory is engraved beyond erasure in the minds of the host that
loved him. The first of these services was held at Woodward, Iowa, where
'Spike' so promisingly began his business career. It was apropos that this town
should first do honor to him, for the people there were the last to come into
the warm radiance of his personality. They really loved him. The news of his
passing was like a bombshell to them, and the farmers of the adjacent country,
who all knew him through their transactions with him at the bank, bought Liberty
bonds like men suddenly possessed with the imminence of danger to their land.
Liberty loan sales mounted and mounted, as the result of the taking of this
loved friend, and placards appeared bearing his photograph and the inscription:
"Will You Buy Bonds For Him?"
The service took place on the 25th of August, 1918, as soon
after the receipt of the word of his death as a gathering could be arranged. A
friend, present during the ceremonies, describes the setting: 'There is a
beautiful grove located in the south part of Woodward, and here had been
constructed a platform which was decorated with flowers and flags, and over
which was suspended the flag later to be unfurled, carrying one hundred and four
service stars, representing those who had entered the service from that
community. A little above the center of the flag, surrounded by the other
stars, was one golden star, symbolizing the completed career of Laurens. North
from the platform were constructed seats to accommodate a large audience, on
three sides of the grove there was a large circle of closely parked automobiles
facing the platform, and back of these was another tier of automobiles, all of
which were filled with people. It was difficult to estimate the number of
people present, but I should say at least two thousand were there.'
The ceremony comprised addresses by men in public life in that
part of the state, among whom was Charles R. Brenton, of Des Moines, and singing
by soldiers from Camp Dodge, Iowa.
The next service occurred a few days later, on September 1st,
in the First Baptist church at Sioux City, 'Spike's' home church, and where his
mother for so many years was organist. The series of addresses considered him
from infancy through the chief phases of his life. G. Y. Skeels spoke of him as
'One of Our Boys,' William Mckercher talked of 'The Boy in High School,' C. W.
Britton considered him as 'The Man in College,' E. E. Lewis spoke of 'The
Spirit of the Soldier,' and the Rev. E. H. Stevens, pastor of the church, closed
with 'The Supreme Sacrifice.'
Another service was held on March 20, 1921, in the Hyde Park
Baptist church, Chicago, Illinois, the pastorate of the Rev. Charles W. Gilkey,
'Spike's' close friend and advisor during his college years, and who united him
with the church. This service was, in addition, the occasion of the dedication
of the Soldier's Memorial Window, installed to commemorate those of the church
membership who had lost their lives during the war. Letters were read about
these men, and among them one written by A. A. Stagg, athletic director of the
University of Chicago, appearing on another page.
On stone columns near the Memorial Window are set bronze
tablets; that for 'Spike' reads:
In Memory of
LAURENS CORNING SHULL, D. S. C.
Second Lieutenant, Company G
Twenty-sixth Infantry, First Division, U. S. A.
Born January 17, 1894
Died August 5, 1918
Of Wounds Received in Action
In the Service of His Country
A most enduring honor is the dedication to him of one of
the memorial columns of the new University of Illinois Memorial Stadium at
Urbana, Illinois. These columns, commemorative of war heroism and sacrifice,
were designed to consecrate the memories of those of the University who served.
As a mark of regard for other college men in the service of their country, the
board of trustees decreed that, symbolic of their respect for these men,
reverence should be paid them, and the name of Laurens Corning Shull was
selected for one of the columns. This selection was significant in its
representation of an institution which was Illinois' keenest athletic rival, and
indicative of a generous esteem for a young warrior who fought his hardest
against Illinois' teams.
Probably the most impressive ceremony was the funeral at Sioux
City on December 11, 1921. The body, after resting three years in the American
military cemetery outside of Paris, was returned and laid to rest on that day in
the family vault in the mausoleum in Graceland Park cemetery after a whole city
and hosts of friends from different parts of the middle west had paid their
tribute. The morning before there appeared in the Sioux City Tribune a
characterization by a close friend, Lieutenant Fred W. Pierce, describing with
intimate touch the place 'Spike' occupied in his homeland: 'The home - Iowa -
was the shrine of the boyhood of this great son. He found joy in the study of
its natural grandeur. To know, and to know how to live, Iowa was a privilege
this man held dear. The meadows, the hills and the forests thrilled him. He
loved to walk with his chums out into the countryside * * * where his spirits
were bathed in the cheer of the blossoms. Often the setting sun looked back to
meet the admiring gaze of the boys-Laurens and his chums sitting on a grassy
crest in the hills that border the Sioux, watching the colors that played in the
skies. * * * Tomorrow the setting sun will bid peace to the homeland that
has laid to rest a defender-a prince of the land of Iowa.'
The church services were held under the auspices of the Edward
H. Monahan Post of the American Legion and the Laurens C. Shull Post of the
Veterans of Foreign Wars, and were attended by hundreds of the townspeople,
friends and relatives, and the Laurens C. Shull Post of the American Legion of
Woodward, Iowa. The funeral address was delivered by Charles W. Gilkey. Mr.
Gilkey, in telling the story of 'Spike's' uniting with the church, revealed in
vivid words the more fundamental significances of his character: 'In the
perspective of the three years and more since Spike gave up his life for his
country and the greater cause which she had made her own, w have come to see
more clearly some things to which, in the shock and sorrow of that first
terrible news, our eyes were blinded with tears. Plainest among these is the
real secret of his enduring memory and influence among us. It was natural, and
perhaps inevitable, that not only the newspaper pictures but our own thoughts of
him that were most frequent then, should be those that recall him in his
football helmet, his baseball suit or his military uniform: the worthy
representative of young American manhood at its best, whom we all remember as an
all-around athlete on many a hard-fought field, as a college leader dominating
the campus, as a handsome young officer off for France. But now, after this
interval, we can begin to see that what distinguished him among many notable
athletes and campus leaders in the rapid succession of college generations, what
underlay both his athletic achievement and his magnificent record as a soldier,
was something deeper and more characteristic than his uniform, his superb
physique, or even his lovable personality-it was the stuff of which his
character was made. * * * His conscientiousness was no gloomy
hairsplitting; it was the driving force that made his achievement so honorable,
and his character so triumphant. And it was most of all characteristic of the
religion about which he talked little, but felt very deeply-in and by which he
lived and died. I shall never forget the night he knocked on my door in
Hitchcock Hall, and opened the conversation with characteristic directness:
"Mr. Gilkey, I want to join the church." When I asked him what lay back of his
apparently sudden decision, he went on: "My father is the finest man I know;
and I've been realizing lately that if I don't put up my flag as a Christian and
keep it up, I'll never get to be the kind of man my father is." '
Following the church service, the funeral cortege consisting of
scores of automobiles, more than five hundred ex-service men in uniform, and led
by the American Legion band, proceeded to the cemetery. In the Mausoleum the
full funeral ritual of the Veterans of Foreign Wars was performed by the Laurens
C. Shull Post of that organization. The title of Past Post Commander was
awarded and the badge of the Cross of Malta placed upon the casket. Three
volleys were fired and Taps, the ultimate tribute and the final farewell, was
G. C. Rippetoe, captain of infantry in the United States army,
wrote D. C. Skull, under date of October 27, 1924, as follows: "I met your son
in September, 1917, at the Third British Army Infantry School and was later
joined the Second Battalion, Twenty-sixth Infantry. We became very good friends
and were much together up to the time he was fatally wounded. I was within
seventy-five yards of your son when he was hit and saw him fall. I knew by the
way he fell he was very badly wounded and sent a first aid man to him. Hard as
it may seem, we have not the time and would be severely dealt with if we stopped
to help our friends who fall. In this attack we were pushing forward many of
the officers of the Second Battalion had already fallen. Your son was then
commanding the remnants of G Company. I had the company on his left. We were
advancing across an open flat field. 'Spike,' as we called him, was leading his
attack with his pistol in his hand when I saw him suddenly go down. I was sorry
I could not go to him, as we had been very good friends, but it was necessary I
carry on the attack. Your son was one of the most popular officers in the
Second Battalion, Twenty-sixth Infantry, with both officers and enlisted men. I
have seen two or three of the men who served under him, since the war, and they
mentioned little things he had done for them."