A look back at Iowa's contributions to the Great War.

News Stand






     The following story of the heroic deeds which resulted in 25 Americans, among them three Centerville boys, being awarded French war cross for valor is told by Henry G. Wailes, International News Service staff correspondent, in a dispatch from the front in France published in the Chicago American. The exploits of the three Centerville men are specially mentioned. Sergt. Pearl Edwards is mentioned because of signal action after he had lost a superior officer. Just who this can refer to is not known, but it may have
been one of the men from Cedar Rapids or Mason City, they having about 100 men in the company. He may have only been wounded.
    With the American Army in France, March 15. Twenty five more American soldiers, including the chief of staff of a division, have been decorated with the French war cross.
    The Americans decorated belong to the same force that took over a trench in the Lorraine sector which they had compelled the Germans to evacuate by their concentrated and sustained artillery fire and by frequent spirited raids.
    The Americans now hold the new position, having occupied it at 4 o'clock on Wednesday morning.
    The enemy made a few feeble efforts to recapture their lost ground but were repulsed by the Americans in every attack.
    The Americans found the position badly battered by shell fire, but soon reorganized it and put it in good defensive shape.



    This was the first permanent advance the Americans have scored since they reached the firing line.
    A captured trench is nearly two miles long and is situated upon higher ground than the former advanced positions the Franco -American troops had held.
    The captured position has been the scene of bloody encounters between the French and the Germans in the past.
    The old German entanglements separating their front lines from their second line positions is now being used to protect the new American line, being enclosed with a new wire wall.
    The decorations bestowed upon the honored American fighters were presented by the French general commanding the army holding that sector of the Lorraine front east of Luneville, where the Americans
were sent in among the French troops to learn actual fighting conditions at first hand.


    The war crosses were given for acts of bravery in the various sharp engagements that Americans have taken part in since they took over first line positions.
    A couple of the Americans rewarded had been killed in action and their war crosses were spiked upon the lids of their coffins before the bodies were interred. Duplicates will be sent to their relatives in America.
    Most of the other honored men are in hospitals. Their decorations were pinned above their cots.
    Col. Douglas McArthur is the chief of staff who received a medal for "extreme valor in participating in a French attack with French troops in order to observe personally the methods used by infantry and artillery for such engagements, risking his life that the lives of soldiers in the future might be preserved, and capturing single handed a Bavarian officer."
    (Col. McArthur is chief of staff to the commander of the Rainbow division. He is the son of the late Maj. Gen. Arthur McArthur, who won fame in the Spanish-American war and the subsequent Philippine



     Another of the men honored was Capt. Thomas S. Handy, aid de camp to Col. McArthur, who, in order to get a better idea of the effect of artillery fire, followed assaulting waves of infantry into German front line positions, exhibiting "a fine example of coolness and bravery."
     Capt. Edward Stellar of Iowa was decorated for bravery and coolness with his troops with the enemy.
     Lieut. W. Alexander Terrill of Fort Worth, Texas, another of the honored soldiers, was seriously wounded during a bombardment.
     Lieut. A. Pailette was decorated for his action in organizing his men after an enemy attack and leading them in a counter attack which ejected the Germans from a trench they had occupied.
     The other men getting the war cross were:
     Capt. Charles W. Atkins of Winterset, Iowa who installed a platoon under heavy fire, in demolished terrain, repulsing an enemy counter attack.



     Lieut. Bernard VanHof of Grand Rapids, Mich., who, though badly wounded in the leg, exhibited coolness and bravery during an attack.
     Sergt. James West, who helped organize a detachment which routed an enemy patrol, capturing some prisoners.



     Sergt. Pearl Edwards of Centerville, Iowa, who organized the men after his superior officer had been lost, counter attacking the enemy and entering their positions.
     Sergt. Warner Hall, who met an enemy party while on patrol duty, but gave combat, bringing back prisoners to the American lines.
     Corporal Holmes Britten, who, having captured a German, shot down his prisoner, after the German tried to shoot him, Britten was compelled to fire in self-defense.



    Charles Gerdon, of Centerville, Iowa, who was wounded while in the performance of his duty, Gerdon was engaged in a counter attack against great odds when struck.
    Herbert Freeman and Amos Duke, who, while on patrol duty, met an enemy detachment and aided materially in capturing two prisoners.
    Second Lieut. Howard G. Smith, who led a counter attack and occupied a first line German trench, which the Americans succeeded in holding temporarily.
    Corporals Marvin Dunn, of Des Moines, Ia., Lewis Simons of Waterloo, Ia. (or El Reno, Okla.), and Russell Lewis of Red Oak, Ia., who were wounded on March 5 while combating enemy raiders.
    Private Percy Breese of Red Oak, Iowa; Charles Meffard and John Golix of Woodbine, Iowa, who were seriously wounded in repelling an enemy counter attack on March 5.
    Medical Sergeant Thomas Peterson of Minneapolis (dead), who was installed in an emergency dressing station in an advanced position, where he worked under fire until wounded.
    Private Lawrence Wenell of Minneapolis, who was killed while accomplishing an important mission under heavy fire.
    Second Lieut. Henry A. Peterson, who after the crew of a trench mortar had all been killed except himself, continued working the piece in the face of an enemy attack, until the ammunition was exhausted, shattering the German storming columns that were trying to advance.


     Frank Osgood of Centerville, Iowa who was wounded in the leg while in the performance of his duty in a valorous manner.
     Stung by the activity of the Americans in the Montsec region, the Germans are now using their five and six-inch guns more and more. A few weeks ago the Germans confined most of their shelling to three inch shells, but now only about 20 per cent of the shells that come over are of that caliber.
     The artillery activity throughout Tuesday was comparatively light, both sides shelling support lines and the areas back of the front, seeking out battery emplacements.
     The Americans have been active with rifle grenades, dislodging a German machine gun from an advanced position and forcing snipers to evacuate their camouflaged hiding places. The occupants of German listening posts were compelled to flee also.
     The boches are using a new style of hand grenade call a potato masher from its shape. It has a time fuse attached and bursts a few seconds after it has landed.
     The night was quiet on the American front at Toul, although there were outbreaks of artillery fire. There was no infantry action.

(~transcribers note: Sergt. Pearl Edwards is Polly Eckles grandfather)

~ source: The Semi Weekly Iowegian, Centerville, Appanoose Co., Iowa,  Monday, March 18, 1918


~ Submitted by Polly Eckles     ecklesp@ktis.net