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Stories of Service

William E. Votruba

Submitted by: David C. Votruba {grandson}


William E. Votruba served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The dates of service are: Known April, 1917 - June, 1919.


William E. (“Bill”) Votruba was a 25-year-old sophomore at the University of Michigan when the United States declared war on April 6, 1917. He knew without question that he should—and would—willingly enter the service, but wrestled with how best to proceed.

Thinking first to apply for training as an officer, he was dissuaded by flat feet. Then, hearing a new unit was forming at the University of Chicago to augment and/or replace volunteers providing ambulance services at the fronts, he thought this might be a good fit. He jumped a train to get there as fast as possible but, on arrival, learned the recruitment quota for the unit was already filled. His disappointment was short, though, as he was informed by the recruiting officer that a companion unit was being raised at that very moment back at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. He rushed there in time to enlist in that unit. As it happens, the Ann Arbor unit (Section 591, U.S. Army Ambulance Corps) was one of the very few USAAC units to make it to the war.

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Linda Konover Meirs

Submitted by: Ann Meirs Honadle Van Hise

Linda Konover MeirsLinda Konover Meirs served in World War 1 with the Red Cross. The dates of service are: Known 1916-1919.


Linda Konover Meirs (1884-1972) grew up in Allentown, NJ and obtained her nursing education at the Philadelphia General Hospital School of Nursing and the Mayo Clinic. As a member of the American Red Cross Nurse Corps, she rode with General John Pershing in pursuit of Pancho Villa.

In August of 1916 she was sent with the first American Red Cross Relief Delegation on the USS Mercy Hospital Ship to the European War Zone.

In 1917 she was given a commission to Romania, where she spent a brutal winter. June of the next year, she was assigned chief nurse of Hospital #23, Jouy-sur-Morin, France, where, according to a report from the front, Nurse Meirs "won conspicuous recognition for bravery under fire." She had an old chateau converted into a field hospital, where they received wounded soldiers directly from the front. This was the first of her hospitals to be bombed by air.

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Robert Kynoch

Submitted by: Hal Pratt

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Robert Kynoch served in World War 1 with the the United States Navy. The dates of service are: Known 1917 to 1918.


Robert served as a Ship Fitter, Second Class, on the U.S.S. Prometheus AR-3. He contracted pneumonia due to the Spanish flu and died at Navy Base Hospital #5 in Brest, France in October 1918. He was buried at Kerfautras Cemetery in Brest. His body was returned to the family in 1922.






Harold Pratt

Submitted by: Hal Pratt {grandson}

Harold PrattHarold Pratt served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The dates of service are: Known 1917 to 1919.


My grandfather came to the U.S. from England as a child in 1907. He was naturalized while serving in the Army in Georgia in 1918.

Harold served as a drill sergeant, one of the shortest men in his company at five foot tall. A photograph shows him standing next to the tallest man in the company.




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James Widner

Submitted by: Madonna Jervis Wise {granddaughter}

James WidnerJames Widner served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The dates of service are: Known June 16, 1917 to May 9, 1919.


My Extraordinary Grandfather…James Widner

My Grandfather, James Widner, was a man’s man, and as a young girl, I admired his demeanor and no-nonsense manner without question! He was also an enigma because he had an impenetrable exterior to the world but a warmth and kindness to his grandchildren that included story-telling, harmonica playing, wrestling, and a tone of unconditional acceptance.

Even in 2017, my cousin, Marlyn and I love to reminisce about our grandfather and share stories of his tough-talking escapades in Delphi, Indiana. By occupation after the return from World War I, James leased the Perlman Brothers Junk Yard in Delphi; he traded hides, furs, and mussel shells in addition to junk. With several employees, James was a wheeler-dealer who did a great deal of the heavy lifting of his trade. In the early 20th century, it was what it was, simply authentic like my grandfather. My cousin reminded me recently of his charity. Each year he had a list of needy families in the community that he delivered Christmas presents to. She recalled, “If he saw a child who needed shoes, they suddenly appeared on the doorstep the next morning.”

Read more: James Widner

Owen J. Ambs

Submitted by: Kevin JC Gonzalez {grandson}

Owen J Ambs

Owen J Ambs served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The dates of service are: Known April 29, 1918 to May 9, 1919.


Entered service Michigan, trained in the 85th Custer Division, 329th Machine Gun Battalion, Company D. 85th Custer became thee 4 Depot Battalion, he became a replacement troop and entered into front line service in the 42nd Rainbow division, 151st Machine Gun Battalion, Co B. Arrived at front on September 1, 1918 in time for St. Mehiel and Argonne Forrest.

My grandfather.




Edwin Riley Bennett

Submitted by: Kevin Gonzalez

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Edwin Riley Bennett served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The dates of service are: Known 1917 to August 5, 1918.


Bennett was in the band, HQ of the of the 39th. On night of August 3-4, 1918 they relieved the 42nd Rainbow (my grandfather's division - yes, they knew each other- small farming town and all).

Morning of the 4th the 39th advanced on St. Thibaut and PC was established at 0800 in town. Bennett was in HQ Company, PC location.

"During the day of August 4th and the night of August 4-5th the area occupied in and around St. Thibaut was subjected to a heavy hostile artillery, minenwerfer and machine-gun fire." (Ref: 39th Inf. History)

The night of August 4/5, Edwin Riley Bennett 19 years of age was Killed In Action (KIA).

He was an only child. From Sherwood MI., engaged to my grandmother at the time of death.


Hyman C. Block

Submitted by: Carol Levarek {granddaughter}

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Hyman C Block served in World War 1 with the United States Army Air Corps. The dates of service are: Known 8/27/1917 - 4/1/1919.


Below is the description of my grandfather's experience in WWI, written by him in the mid 1960's.

I Flew with the 89th Aero Squadron
by Hyman C. Block

I was born December 18, 1896 in New York City. My family moved to Hartford, Connecticut in July 1897, so I spent practically my whole life in the Hartford area. I went through Hartford public schools, graduated Hartford Public High School in 1913 and worked for a couple of years before going to New York to attend Cooper Union School of Engineering.

While in New York, World War I broke out, as far as the United States was concerned.About June I decided to enlist in the Air Service. So I enlisted in the Signal Corps branch of the Army at Mineola, Long Island and was sworn in there on August 27, 1917. I was assigned to the Princeton University School of Military Aeronautics and started there October1, 1917 and graduated November 24m 1917. I was then assigned with four other graduates to North Island --San Diego, California -- for flying training.

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Raymond Kellam Denson

Submitted by: Judy Johnson

Raymond Kellam DensonRaymond Kellam Denson served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The dates of service are: Known February 15, 1918-June 14, 1919.


Raymond Kellam Denson (October 5, 1899- January 20, 1998) gave this account of his World War I experiences to his son-in-law, James B. Henry. It was published in the book, Ancestors and Descendants of Charles Denson and Mary Jane Wilkinson, by Billie Jean Denson Henry and Kathy Henry Sterne, 1995. It is used with permission of the authors.

World War I Experiences

Raymond Kellam Denson

Sully (Winifred Wayne) Kittley and I decided to join the army in February 1918. At the time we were attending Tanner Paint School between Rule and Sagerton, Texas where Ed Cloud was the teacher. Ed always said I preferred the army to going to school under his teaching. Sully was about to be drafted and we elected to volunteer. We did not tell either of our families we were leaving.

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Hugh Barr

Submitted by: Eimar Barr {grandnephew}

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Hugh Barr served in World War 1 with the the United States Army. The dates of service are: Known 11th July 1917 to 8th June 1918.


Hugh Barr, my granduncle, emigrated from Moville, County Donegal, Ireland to New York. He arrived at Ellis Island on the 13th October 1914. He worked and lived in Brooklyn, New York.

On the 5th June 1917 he, along with millions of young men, registered for the draft. However, he decided to enlist in the regular army and on the 11th July 1917 he enlisted at Fort Slocum, New York.

Hugh served with Company G, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division U.S. Army and was shipped to France in December 1917.

For three months he was stationed in the quiet sector at Ansauville. In early April 1918, Hugh, along with the other soldiers of the 1st Division boarded trains at Maron. The soldiers detrained at Meru in Picardy and marched to the town of Chaumont-en-Vexin where they were billeted. The 1st Division was preparing for the first battle by the American Expeditionary Forces in the First World War.

Read more: Hugh Barr

1st. Sgt. Wesley F. Pease, 26th YD

Submitted by: Shawn Pease

Wesley F Pease1st. Sgt. Wesley F. Pease, 26th YD, served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The dates of service are: Known April 1917 - March 1919.


In 1916 Wesley F. Pease joined the Massachusetts National Guard with some of his young friends. Enlisting the Massachusetts National Guard in 1916 may have been a way for Wesley to serve his country and have an adventure or two, as well as earn a regular pay for his service.

When the guard was called into service to protect the southern border in 1916 by President Wilson, Wesley departed from Newton, Massachusetts by train in July 1916 and served on the border at Camp Cotton, El Paso, TX. This experience would prove valuable, as in early 1917 he was called into service again as part of the 26th Yankee Division.

Read more: 1st. Sgt. Wesley F. Pease, 26th YD


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