Peter Alphonse Connelly
Submitted by: Chris Connelly
Peter Alphonse Connelly served in World War 1 with the United States Marine Corps. The dates of service are: Known January 1918 to August 1919.
Peter Alphonse Connelly served with the United States Marine Corps 5th Regiment from January 8, 1918 through August 9, 1919.
Peter Connelly was born in the small Indiana hamlet of Oldenburg Indiana in 1896. The town settled by German immigrants and named after Oldenburg Germany, the birthplace of many of the settlers. While growing up living and working on a farm, Peter was an avid hunter and honed his marksmanship skills.
Soon after registering for the daft, Selective Services notified Peter he had been selected for service in the United States Marine Corps. Peter first reported to Paris Island, South Carolina in February 1918 for basic training. While there, Peter spent extra time on the rifle range sharpening his marksmanship skill and eventually qualifying as a Rifle Expert. In February, Peter’s regiment transferred to Quantico, Virginia for pre-deployment training and inoculations. On February 25 1918 he was deployed to France.
After arriving in France Peter participated in key campaigns and battles as part of the 5th Marines. In the Spring Peter and his regiment had their first intense combat operation in the battle of Belleau Woods. Having earned the Rifle Expert award and with his ability to accurately hit targets in excess of 600 yards, he served as a Scout in the regiment.
Peter and the fifth subsequently participated in the offensive campaigns at Aisne, the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge, and in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Peter and the Fifth Marines also participated in the campaigns at Toulon-Troyon, Château-Thierry, Marbache and Limey.
During his time in France, Peter faced many harrowing experiences. One tale he told involved reading a map of France with two comrades when, from out of nowhere, a German soldier snuck up upon them and began firing at the map. Bullets pierced the map, narrowly missing Peter, striking and killing the soldier next to him. In early June of 1918 during combat operations fragments from an exploding shell struck Peter and causing him to spend time in the infirmary for treatment.
Among other accounts told by Peter was one of shooting down an airplane with his rifle. According to Peter, whenever an enemy plane passed overhead you would always take a couple of shots at it if it was within a reasonable distance. On one of those attempts, the plane appeared to have been hit by his fire and subsequently crashed.
As a Scout Peter used the standard 1903 Springfield fitted with a scope. Later on in the war, the Marine Corps issued Peter a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). After the cessation of hostilities, the 3rd Division held a marksmanship competition. Peter placed first in the competition using the BAR. The picture included with this article shows Peter posing with his BAR after winning the competition.
Compared to most Marines, one unusual item about Peter is he was an avid photographer. Peter carried an early Kodak box camera and took some amazing photos of combat action from an infantryman’s perspective.
From late 1918 until 1919 the regiment participated in the occupation of the German Rhineland. While serving during that time Peter collected postcards from the region. In August 1919 Peter was transferred back to Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia and soon discharged.
For his service in France Peter was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palms for exemplary service and bravery during combat. He also received the Purple Heart for wounds suffered during an artillery attack.