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A Tradition of Service Logo 75John O. Thompson

Submitted by: Lieutenant Colonel Steven Goligowski (USA, Ret.) {Grandson}

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John O. Thompson born around 1894, John Thompson served in World War 1 with the the United States Army . The enlistment was in 1918 and the service was completed in 1919.

Story of Service

 

My grandfather, John Thompson, was a 23 year-old bus driver for the then-new Greyhound Bus Company, which was founded in 1914 in Hibbing, MN, until he was drafted into the U.S. Army in April 1918. He was initially sent to Camp Dodge (Des Moines), IA and assigned to the 88th Division for training. Someone apparently noticed his pre-war bus driving experience because in August 1918 he was transferred to the 20th Division, a new Regular Army division then being organized at Camp Sevier (Greenville), SC.

My grandfather was assigned as a truck driver in the 20th Ammunition Trains, providing transportation support for the 20th Field Artillery Brigade, the artillery support unit of the 20th Division. This meant that my grandfather’s unit actually lived and worked at Camp Jackson (Columbia), SC, about 120 miles from Camp Sevier.

The 20th Artillery Brigade and 20th Ammunition Trains were stationed at Camp Jackson rather than Camp Sevier to take advantage of the extensive artillery live-fire ranges available at Camp Jackson. My grandfather’s primary duty was hauling ammunition for live-fire training by the 20th Field Artillery Brigade. When not driving truck his duties included maintaining the trucks and performing other required military training and duties. He continued to serve as a truck driver in the 20th Division until his discharge in February 1919, as the 20th Division was being deactivated.

While the 20th Division did not deploy to Europe to face fighting in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, there were still deadly dangers even in the United States in 1918 and 1919. The most deadly risk for soldiers and civilians alike was the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919, which struck Camp Jackson with its first cases on 18 September 1918. Soldiers began dying of the disease within days. One thousand soldiers were hospitalized with flu in the first week. The situation is described by writer Carol Byerly:

“On September 19, 1918, 21-year-old Army private Roscoe Vaughan reported to sick call at Camp Jackson, South Carolina, feeling achy and feverish. He was promptly hospitalized along with eighty-two other soldiers that day. Influenza had reached the camp only the day before and would send 1,000 men to the hospital within a week. Medical officers at Camp Jackson implemented a special treatment program for respiratory diseases, holding sick call twice a day to examine the men for the flu and sending anyone with a temperature over 100 degrees to the hospital. Despite their efforts, influenza sickened more than 10,000 of the 38,000 men in the camp, killing 400, including five nurses who were caring for the soldiers. Private Vaughan was one of the unlucky ones who developed pneumonia; he died on September 26, just weeks after he had left home to join the Army. …

"Roscoe Vaughan was a victim of one of the deadliest disasters in human history. Coming on the heels of World War I (1914–1918), influenza followed wartime transportation routes across oceans and continents, sickening at least one-quarter of the world’s population and killing an estimated fifty million people in just eighteen months. This figure far exceeded the toll of twelve to sixteen million wartime casualties. The influenza outbreak devastated a world already struggling with the mass death and destruction wrought by more than four years of modern industrial warfare.

"The pandemic came in three waves, the first in the spring of 1918, the second and most deadly wave in the late summer and fall, and the third weakened but still lethal wave in early 1919. In the United States an estimated twenty-five million people became ill and 675,000 died. The disaster was so powerful in 1918 that it reduced American life expectancy statistics by almost twelve years.”

My grandfather continued to serve as a truck driver in the 20th Division until his discharge in February 1919, as the 20th Division was being deactivated. After discharge, he returned home to Minnesota and resumed work for the Greyhound Bus Company. After finding that driving required too much time away from home, his wife, and his growing family, he quit driving and returned to farming. He had farmed prior to becoming a bus driver.

The attached picture shows my grandfather and one of his matched pair of Percheron draft horses, Maud and Fanny, that he used for farming.

John O Thompson

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