Seventeen relatives met to honor soldiers of the Great War
WILLIAMSPORT – “The United Sates ranked 17th in military strength when entering World War I, we were a small player then,” said Nancy Schaff who spoke Sunday, July 15 at the Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society in Williamsport. Schaff of Maryland, is president of the organization, “Descendants and Friends of the 314th” (D & F 314th) who carry forward the history of the regiments participation in the Great War.
The speaker said, “In the first six weeks after war was declared in April 1917, only 73,000 Americans volunteered for military service. As many more were needed, President Wilson instituted the draft.”
In defining the states role, Schaff said, “Pennsylvanians were generally part of three divisions – the 28th, the 80th, and the 79th of which the 314th was a part. They trained at Fort Meade, a camp named for George Meade, a General of Civil War fame from the battle of Gettysburg. The government spent 16 million dollars to erect the camp in Maryland having buildings that housed 40,000 trainees with construction ending Nov 30, 1917.”
Of the 314th, the speaker said, “Recruits came from 45 states as well as those listing their homes as Canada, France, Ireland, Italy and Mexico.”?
Sixty six percent of the recruits came from Pennsylvania, primarily the coal mining regions of the state.” As an example. Schaff named her grandfather, the late Corporal John Blazosky of Port Matilda, Centre County. “Men were assigned to units according to their specialty. My grandfather excelled in marksmanship, as did 31 percent of the other recruits,” she said.?
When winter arrived at Meade, the men built a log cabin where they would convene to have a pleasant time. Currently, a site is sought as a permanent home for the cabin, stored unassembled at Camp Meade after its removal from grounds within the National Park at Valley Forge.
In the spring of 1918, the troops returned to full training mode and in early July, the regiment sailed from Hoboken to France. To confuse Germans on submarines as to which direction the ship was sailing, the Leviathan was painted in a design known as ‘razzle dazzle.’ A safe and successful voyage was made ending at Brest, France. Schaff shared that, “Requirements were that newly arriving troops were to have 12 weeks training on the foreign ground. The 314th had only six weeks before facing the enemy on Sept 26, 1918. They were the greenest division assigned the most difficult task. When the war ended in the Argonne, they were lauded as performing the greatest drive east of the Meuse River.”
When Schaff’s grandfather captured 24 of the enemy, the speaker explained how he did it. “The Slovak immigrant, fluent in the language of the foe, convinced them ‘this is not your war.’ They agreed and in a peaceable fashion, readily became prisoners.”
While sailing home late in May 1919, the men decided to form a regimental organization. Regions were mapped and officers elected with plans to meet that September. This was to honor the 362 comrades who did not return, with the reunion date coinciding with the regiments first to go against the enemy. It was noted that on five occasions, annual reunions were held in Williamsport.
Recently in marking the war’s centennial year, observances were held last February in France. Representatives of the 314th were invited to have a part and Schaff went as envoy. While there, she inquired of the French and Canadian delegates if any WWI groups continue to meet in their countries. After some checking, it was determined the ‘D & F 314th’ here in the U. S., is the only group in existence honoring a WWI regimental group. As president, Schaff is an energetic advocate for its continuance.
Embedded within the speaker’s power point program, were 122 men from the regiment who in 1922 gave their residence as being in Lycoming County. A printed copy will be forwarded to the museum.
Among the 55 individuals attending the recent program, 17 were noted as related to members of the 314th. Those late veterans from Lycoming County and their representatives included: Ray Confer, son of Raymond CONFER of Muncy; Kay Bitner, relative of Jersey Shore recruits William K. CAMPBELL and Samuel ENGLISH; Susan Smith and mother Frances Bigger, niece of E. Frank GARDNER of Unityville; Evelyn Seaman, daughter of Otto HASS of Williamsport; Helen Mayer, daughter of Harold LAUCHLE of Huntersville; William Olson, son of Carl F. OLSON of Duboistown; and William and Thomas Nicholson, grandsons of Evan R. ROSSER of Williamsport.
From neighboring counties were: Leigh Rood and Mary Ann Williams, son and daughter of Homer M. ROOD of Morris Run, Tioga County; Paul Seaman, nephew of Samuel SEAMAN of Morris, Tioga County; Patty Lane, granddaughter of James J. LANE, Sr of Dushore, Sullivan County; Don Baylor, nephew of Ralph BAYLOR of Mooresburg, Montour County; Krystna Yarish, relativce of John SHETLER of Danville, Montour County; Ralph LYONS of Millville, Columbia County and E. Frank GARDNER of Unityville, Lycoming County. And, Carol Shetler, relative of the aforesaid LYONS and GARDNER.