John William Tarter
Submitted by: T.J. Cullinane, community historian
John William Tarter born around 1895, John Tarter served in World War 1 with the United States Army . The enlistment was in 1917 and the service was completed in 1919.
Story of Service
John William Tarter was a soldier of the Great War who was felled by to disease rather than German bombs and bullets.
He was born in Hartline, Washington on April 3, 1895 to Joseph Henry Tarter (1862 – 1925) and the former Nancy Ann Epperley (1864 – 1945). Hartline is a small town in Grant County located in central Washington. Tarter had four siblings: Joseph Clinton Tarter, Bonnie B. Tarter Neal (1886 – 1983), Maude D. Tarter Zetty (1890 – 1979), and Lonnie Clinton (1893 – 1966).
From John’s draft registration card, we learn that was tall with a medium build and had blue eyes and dark brown hair. When the United States entered the war in 1917, John was employed as a miner with the Federal Mining and Smelting Company in neighboring Shoshone County, Idaho.
At some point in 1917, John journeyed back home and enlisted in the Washington National Guard. He was given serial number 76284 and assigned to Company H of the 2nd Infantry Regiment. The insignia for this unit can be seen on the collar disc affixed to John’s uniform in his Army photo. John’s unit was called into federal service on March 25, 1917. In a series of consolidations carried out by the War Department, John’s unit was combined with elements of the 3rd Infantry Regiment belonging to the District of Columbia National Guard. The new unit was re-flagged as the 161st Infantry Regiment and assigned to the 41st Infantry Division.
John’s newly formed unit sailed to France on December 13, 1917 from Hoboken, New Jersey on the U.S. Navy transport U.S.S. President Lincoln. Just five months later, the Lincoln, a German liner seized from the Hamburg-American Line, was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of France.
Researching John’s experiences in France and ultimate demise is somewhat problematic as his unit was not committed to combat. Instead, John and fellow troops were used as replacements for other units. We do know that he was promoted from Private to Corporal while serving in France. According to The Official History of the Washington National Guard Volume 5, The Washington National Guard in World War One, John was one of 240 soldiers from Washington who died from disease while overseas. The dates on his tombstone would indicate that John died after the war ended in 1919. Perhaps he fell victim to the worldwide influenza epidemic which swept the globe at the war’s end.
John’s body was brought home on the U.S. Army Transport Mercury which left Brest, France on June 6, 1920 and reached Hoboken on June 29 of the same year. John was buried in Hartline Cemetery under a privately purchased tombstone. The inscription on his tone reads, “CORP CO H 161st INF U.S.A.” It is hoped during this Centennial Observance of World War One, that we as a nation collectively remember and reflect on the sacrifices of John Tarter who during his short time on this earth knew only of the privations of the mining industry and the harsh lot of the infantry soldier during the “War to End All Wars.”
In compiling this summary, I am indebted to “Find-A-Grave” member Teresa for the photo of John’s grave and the genealogical information she posted in “Find - a- Grave” memorial number 26511175.