Charles R. Doe
Submitted by: Michael V. Grobbel
Charles R. Doe served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The dates of service are: Known November 21, 1917 to March 10, 1920 .
Charles R. Doe was born on March 21, 1892 in Coffin Township, near Bruce Mines, Ontario, Canada. In 1897, his parents moved the family to Brimley, Michigan and Charles became a U.S. citizen in 1905.
Charles was drafted into the U.S. Army on November 21, 1917 and was sent for basic training to Camp Custer, near Battle Creek, Michigan, where he was assigned to Company A, 310th Engineers, 85th Division.
Camp Custer was the training cantonment for the 85th Division, which was also nicknamed the Custer Division.
In July 1918, the entire 85th Division shipped out for England, where they continued to drill and train in preparation for deployment to the Western Front in France. However, once they arrived in England, the 339th Infantry Regiment, the 1st Battalion of the 310th Engineers and the 337th Field Hospital and Ambulance Companies were given orders to prepare for deployment to Archangel, Russia. General John Pershing had assigned them to the American North Russia Expeditionary Force pursuant to orders he had received from President Wilson to support the British and French armies in the Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War. Upon arriving in Archangel, the American troops were placed under British command and given orders to chase the retreating Bolshevik troops.
The 310th Engineers disembarked from their troop ship on September 7th and were immediately quartered in nearby Bakaritza. Company A of the 310th Engineers was soon ordered to the front lines while Companies B and C were kept in the Archangel vicinity to operate sawmills, streetcars and power plants as well as to construct warehouses and barracks.
Pvt. Doe arrived on the Dvina River Front on September 24th, where he worked on fortification projects near the front lines. At that time, the Company B of the 339th Infantry Regiment was still chasing the retreating Bolsheviks who were located near the village of Seltso, about 220 miles up the Dvina from Archangel. Seltso was the scene of fighting on Sept. 19th and 20th and again on Oct. 10th through the 14th. Pvt. Doe was severely wounded in the lower right leg by a high explosive artillery shell on Oct. 14th, the last day of the second battle of Seltso.
In Chapter III, the authors of "The American Expedition Fighting the Bolsheviki" described the events in Seltso:
The ensuing week we spent in Seltso, the Bolos occupying trenches around the upper part of our defenses. They had gunboats and naval guns on rafts and made it quite uncomfortable for us with their shelling, although the only American casualties were in the detachment of [Company A] 310th Engineers.... On the afternoon of Oct. 14th, the second and third platoons of Company B [339th Infantry Regiment] were occupying the blockhouse when the Bolos made an attack, which was easily repelled. As we were under artillery fire with no means of replying, the British commander decided to evacuate that night.
Chapter XI further explained:
Some things the doughboy and officer from America will never have grace enough in his forgiving heart to ever forgive. Those were the outrageous things that happened to the wounded and sick in that North Russian campaign. Of course much was done and in fact everything was meant to be done possible for the comfort of the luckless wounded and the men who, from exposure and malnutrition, fell sick. But there were altogether too many things that might have been avoided..... Lieut. Lennon of "L" Company reports that during the first action of his Company…. in the fall, there was no medical officer with the unit in action. The American medical officer was miles in rear. Wounded men were bandaged on the field with first aid and carried back twenty-six versts [16 miles]. And he relates further that one man on the field suffered the amputation of his leg…. with a pocket knife.
Many years later, Howard A. French, who had been a Corporal in Company A, 310th Engineers, remembered the events of that day:
“On Oct. 14th, I had some of the men making machine-gun emplacements…. We had built several blockhouses & surrounded them with concertina, which was barbed wire rolled loosely around poles.
"The Bolsheviks started shelling us with 6" naval guns. I was outside of the [block] house working with the men when the first shell hit the house…. When I came to, my head was against the felly of the tool wagon…. Charles Doe had his right leg, between the knee and hip, practically shot off, which I had to finish chopping it off and applied a tourniquet. August Lashinsky lost his left hand and part of his arm. Cpl. Lyttle had internal injuries and lived six days after that.
"There was a disorderly retreat at this time, by the infantry. It was almost dark, as I recall. I told the engineering boys that we were leaving and to take off. It was dark and raining and I got two Russian ponies and using two poles with cross pieces…. I tied Charles Doe, Lashinsky, and Lytell on them and started back in the rain. During the night some time, I heard a side-wheeler on the Dvina River and I rushed over to the bank and kept yelling the counter-sign, and somebody heard me. It was the hospital boat that was going to the front to pick up the wounded. I informed them of the retreat from Seltso and that I had three wounded men with me. They sent a small boat over and picked up the wounded men.”
The shrapnel from the artillery shell had damaged Pvt. Doe’s right foot and lower leg beyond repair. Pvt. Doe finally received the better medical treatment he deserved once he arrived two weeks later in Archangel, where another amputation procedure was performed at the military hospital. He continued convalescing there during the winter of 1918-1919.
On May 15, 1919, Special Orders No. 25 were issued by Brigadier General Wilds Richardson, which found Pvt. Doe and many others to be "unfit for further active service in North Russia" and ordered them transferred to London, England via the H.M.H.S. Kaylan.
Pvt. Doe returned to the U.S. on July 8, 1919 and was admitted to the Polyclinic Hospital in New York City. He was later transferred to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he remained until he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on March 10, 1920 with a 60% permanent disability.
Charles was now on his own for the first time in almost seventeen months, eleven days short of his 28th birthday and in possession of a government-purchased train ticket that would take him to Sault Ste. Marie and back to his parent’s farm in Brimley.
On October 11, 1922, Charles married Flossie Mae Wynn and they soon settled in Gardenville, MI, where they proceeded to raise a young family.
On January 25, 1935, with Flossie pregnant for the fourth time, Charles had to leave his family behind and travel to Chicago, Illinois for further medical treatment. He was admitted to the Hines Veterans Administration Hospital, where he was treated and released four weeks later on February 23rd.
Charles returned home in time to help his wife during the late stages of her pregnancy. However, on May 24th, Flossie went into labor and both she and her baby died during the attempted delivery, leaving Charles to raise his three young children alone.
In December of 1941, Charles suffered a heart attack and then contracted pneumonia. He passed away at 1:45 a.m. on Christmas Day and was buried alongside his wife and parents in Pine Grove Cemetery. In accordance with his will, his children were sent to live with his wife's nephew in Lapeer, Michigan.