Fred Frank Carson
Submitted by: Kevin Loren Carson
Fred Frank Carson served in World War 1 with the United States Army . The dates of service are: Known June 5, 1918 - Oct 1, 1918.
Fred Frank Carson’s journey from seminary student to the Battle of the Meuse Argonne was a brief one. Fred was born in Prescott, Washington near the Walla Walla River, June 5, 1897. He enjoyed the outdoors and was a fine runner, garnering awards for his speed in competitions.
Fred tried to enlist while he was at Spokane University but was initially rejected. Since he was a seminary student at the school, he was exempt from the draft. But Fred was determined, and he tried several venues until he was inducted into the Army at Camp Lewis, Washington, home of the 91st Division. It was his birthday, June 5th, 1918.
Fred’s Division was variously known as the Pine Tree Division, and the Wild West Division. Some called the soldiers ‘Westers’. The Division drew its strength of 22,000 soldiers from the western states.
Fred had a hasty training period of a few months. Late in June the troops began mobilizing. On June 19 the advance party left Camp Lewis. The rest of the Division followed by train to Camp Merritt, New Jersey. At Camp Merritt, the men were given complete new outfits, from steel helmets to two new pairs of hobnailed trench shoes.
Sixth Corps certified the 91st as fit to fight and then he was off to France by steamships. On the morning of the 6th of July the men were ferried to the docks and passenger liners which had been re-purposed as troop ships.
Twelve British destroyers met the transports on July 16 and guided them safely to Liverpool and Glasgow. As the convoy entered the Irish Sea, the destroyers were joined by a squadron of British dirigibles and hydroplanes and submarine chasers. Some of the men docked at Liverpool, while others disembarked at Southampton. Others sailed directly to France. The bulk of the troops across the English Channel and set foot on French soil on the morning of July 23rd. The final leg was transport by train to the interior of France.
According to the Story of the 91st Division, "This leg of the journey was made in the small "side- door Pullmans"The box cars were stenciled "40 Hommes — 8 Chevaux." (Forty men or 8 horses). It turned out that it was possible to pack about thirty-five men. “Three days in the cars and the men had all the "chevauxing" they desired for a long time to come.”
During the month of August Fred received his final training consisting of road marches, Unremitting drilling, and back-to-back field exercises prepared the Division. After training with French troops, the Division first gained some experience in a minor role during the first major American offensive at Saint-Mihiel, France September 11-13, 1918.
Thanks to the diligence of 1st Lieutenant Lawrence O’ Neil, commander of Company B, 348th Machine Gun Battalion, we know something about the events that took place in the vicinity of Bois de Baulny, near Very, France on October 1st. According to O’Neil, the 91st Division had advanced too far that night. The divisions on their flanks had fallen back. The 91st was taking fire from the front and on both sides. He wrote, “The German artillery was very good and they certainly had our range. It seems that Private Fred Carson was in a shelter he had dug with several other runners (messengers) when a six inch shell hit them and killed a man named Roberts (also a resident of Spokane) and Private Carson. The third man in the shelter, Oliva, died a few days later.
O’Neil said that they faced the 5th Prussian Guards during their first big fight, “We were in our first battle but we gave them a good trimming and drove them out of their defenses and across the country for several miles. Though truth to tell, there wasn’t much left of the 91st Division when it was over. There was a strip about six miles wide strewn with equipment and dead Germans and Americans.”
He solemnly wrote, “That one German shell got three of the best men in my company. In fact, in this war game it seems that we always lose our best men.”
Fred’s body was returned home and his funeral was conducted by the local American Legion Post. A total of 13 Dayton men died in the Meuse Argonne offensive. During this period the Legion was active in Dayton, Washington under the 1915 organization, prior to the later charter in 1919.
A boulevard in Dayton was lined with sapling trees in his honor. Ultimately, the Meuse battle claimed 13 men from the small town of Dayton. Many were “Westers”.
The legion post carries on today as the Frank E. Bauers American Legion Post 42. Only a few months ago the post oversaw the ceremony at the Dayton cemetery for my father Loren Arthur Carson, a Navy veteran and legionnaire. He was also Fred’s nephew. They now lay near each other in the family plot.
Kevin Carson 6/19/2017