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Henry Eugene Quinn

Submitted by: Diana Quinn Cotton {Granddaughter}

Henry Eugene Quinn

Henry Eugene Quinn born around 1899. Henry Quinn 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

 

PFC Henry E. Quinn served as a company runner in Co. F 28th Infantry 1st Division, American Expeditionary Forces, United States Army, during World War I and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Croix de Guerre, and Victory Medal with Five Battle Clasps.

My grandfather, Henry Eugene Quinn, was born in Anniston, Alabama, on January 31, 1899. He was the fourth of eleven children of William Eugene Quinn (1865-1945) and Emma Langdon (Fowler) Quinn (1873-1963). He stood 5’ 8” tall, had red hair, blue eyes, a fair complexion, and was covered in freckles. His nicknames were “Bud” (at home) and “Red” (in the Army).

In his World War I memoirs, written many years after the war, Henry wrote:

“March 1917—Applied for enlistment at Monroe (LA), was examined by a colonel Dr. who was rather rough in criticizing my physical condition, stated that I looked like a picked chicken, etc., account of being so skinny. I was not use to such criticism & talked rather rough to him in return. Sgt. was in the background motioning me to hush, etc., but I said my say. Col. flared up & stated, ‘He will do Sgt—I will get a waver on his weight tonight.’ I was 11 lbs. under weight.”

Henry briefly returned to Swartz, LA, to inform his family he had joined the Army and to tell them goodbye. His father “shook hands & told me that I had been my own boss for some time, but now I had a real boss.”

 

April 2, 1917, Henry E. Quinn #57664 enlisted into the Army and stationed at Fort Ringgold, Rio Grande City, Texas where “we were given cots, etc., then stationed in tents (squad) & quarantined for mumps, measles & meningitis, were drilled every day—burnt up in day time & slept under blankets at night”.

From Ft. Ringgold, Henry joined Co. F 28th Infantry; traveled by train for seven days to New York; “got on the transport USS Pastores & waited a day or so until the convoy formed—Saw the Statue of Liberty for the last time (for some time to come)”; and left the United States on June 14, 1917.

“Landed St. Naziare June 28th then hiked to Billets out of town several miles. Was there several weeks… Drilled & hiked every day… Left there one day on train, our first ride in the 40 + 8 cars (Note: car held 40 men or 8 mules), rode several days & finally detrained at Demange--& hiked to Treveray, was stationed there some weeks & later went to Naix Aux Forges—drilled, hiked & maneuvered all the time. Went to the front in November, rode in buses & almost froze stiff—Passed thru Nancy, saw where several bombs had hit houses. Spent the night a few miles from Nancy in a small town—Fritz bombed Nancy that night & we all came out in the street to watch the A.A. shells explode. Marched to a town named Seares or close to it, met French troops there—Later went into the trenches at night on trench digging detail—Stacked arms at the 3rd line & went on in unarmed & dug a trench in connection with No Mans’ Land—Dug for several hours—We were all scared—at least I was—wondering what chance we would have if Fritz came over & us with no arms—Finished before daylight & back to Billets, day or so later we took over a sector between the French—1st night up my squad was on outpost & listening post—Came very near getting shot up account of lighting cigarettes under a blanket. Some of the fellows back of us didn’t know we were out & saw the lights. Just before daylight Lt. Johnson came by with some men & took us out on a patrol in No Mans’ Land—got lost & a Frenchman came out & guided us back after daylight—Found out that the tails of the G/O issue overcoat were too long & collected mud.”

“One night while in the trenches—Fritz put down a box barrage some distance to our right & took his first American prisoners also inflicted some casualties. Back in Naix same old thing, drill, hike, etc.”

Henry’s World War I Memoirs continue with descriptions of death and injury of men he served with, but it ends abruptly. I do not know if he did not finish his memoirs, or if the remaining pages were lost. He also does not put these tragedies into context with which battle they occurred.

But I do know, while serving as a company runner, Pfc. Henry E. Quinn became a seasoned soldier and participated in the following fierce and bloody battles: Montdider Nazaire, May 28, 1918; Aisne Marne, July 18, 1918 - August 6, 1918; St. Mihiel, September 12 - 16, 1918; and Meuse Argonne – September 16, 1918 - November 11, 1918.

Henry was awarded:

Distinguished Service Cross (#149) - Cantigny, May 29, 1918. His citation reads “On May 29, 1918, at Cantigny, France, in response to a call for volunteers to penetrate a heavy enemy barrage and obtain definite information concerning tanks and conditions of enemy front line, he accomplished his mission to the imminent peril of his own life."

Silver Star – Cantigny, May 27-31, 1918. General Order No. 26 states “the youngest soldier of his company, displayed great bravery time and again; he voluntarily carried messages under heavy fire, captured a German officer and three men and showed good judgement in taking precautionary measures which prevented their escape.”

Purple Heart – Soissons, July 18, 1918, shell fragment in left shoulder, which was never removed.

Purple Heart – Muese Argonne, October 5, 1918; gassed.

Victory Medal with Five Battle Clasps - Montdidier-Noyon, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Defensive Sector.

Henry wrote in a letter to his sister: “There was a bunch picked out of each company to parade in Paris and I was one of the lucky ones. We paraded on the 14th, had a good time on the 15th, left on the 16th on a freight train, rode all that day and night, caught a truck next morning, the 17th, and rejoined our company that night. Went over the top next morning, the 18th, and here I am in a hospital with a slight wound in my arm pit, back in Paris. It strikes me that this is what one would call ‘active service.’”

The details of the events leading up to Henry’s injury were described in a letter dated April 7, 1919, from Bannberschied, Germany, to his father, William E. Quinn, Motor Route #3 North, Monroe, LA.

“Here is an account of the Soissons affair as far as I was concerned in it. When I left F Co. to go to Paris on July 13/18, they were located in a town named Bretenel not far from Beauvais where I joined them on the night of July 17th they were back of the lines from Soissons. All the men were in a large Valley loafing around & when the bunch I was with came up the Valley everyone began to shout that they were sorry for us. We didn’t know what it meant at first but soon found out. We moved out that night at 8:45 & hiked into the jumping off trenches. We arrived there about 1:30 wet & tired (of course it rained to beat the dickens). We were in a pine woods just on top of a large hill & the Germans were not very far away in front of us. They shelled the wood so we were getting in position & several men were hit. We were shelled off & on during the night but had very few casualties. About 4:30 the Germans got wise to something & put a barrage down on us & in front of us. We moved out at 4:35 & started through the German Barrage. I saw men falling on all sides of me. A Capt out of E Co. was about a yard in front of me to my right & a bullet hit him in the left hand & his automatic fell in front of me. We were just getting up to the German barb wire when I was hit. I went back to the Aid station & was sent to a French Hosp in Creehy from there to Paris there to Bordeaux & you know the rest. The Division continued driving until July 22nd & were relieved by the English & Scotch.”

After 27 months overseas, Henry returned to the United States September 13, 1919, and was honorably discharged from the Army September 27, 1919. He attended and graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in architecture. Henry married Elsie Violet “Jessie” Burkett (1903-1980) July 3, 1923, in Monroe, LA. They had three children: Emma Violet “Tiny” Pappas (1925-2003), William Eugene “Dean” Quinn (1926-2007), and Elsie Elizabeth “Betty” Mercer (1930- ).

Henry was a construction engineer who supervised the construction of post offices in Columbia, MS (1933); McAllen, TX (1935); Kingsville, TX (1936); Wharton, TX (1936); La Grange, TX (1937); Caldwell, TX (1937); Giddings, TX (1937); Elgin, TX (1939); Union, MO (1939); Starke, FL (1941); and Jasper, FL (1941).

Henry Eugene Quinn died from lung cancer January 16, 1957, and is buried at the Masonic Cemetery in Caldwell, TX. At the time of his death, Henry was employed by the U.S. Treasury Department as Chief of Construction and Supervision of Federal Buildings in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. He was survived by his wife, children, five grandsons (Tevis Eugene, James Peter, Jon Cody, and Dr. Paul Henry Pappas; Henry Gregory Quinn) and one granddaughter (Diana Marie Quinn Cotton).

All of PFC Henry E. Quinn’s World War I memorabilia has been donated to the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, Wheaton, IL, including his medals, citations, WWI memoirs, dog tags, compass, photos, military documents, “Big Red 1” patch, scrapbook contents, letters to and from Henry, souvenirs, and more. Among the 100-plus items donated is a photo in the June 13, 1926, edition of the Chicago Tribune of the annual outing of members of the 1st Division at Cantigny farm, now the location of the museum. Henry stands in the front on the left side of the group.

A brick placed in front of the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO, honors the memory of Pfc Henry E. Quinn.

An article titled “Private Henry Quinn’s Distinguished Service Cross from the Battle of Cantigny” by John Maniatis, Registrar, First Division Museum at Cantigny, was published in the Spring 2017 issue of the Bridgehead Sentinel, a publication of the Society of the First Infantry Division, Wheaton, IL.

Henry served under Capt. C.R. Huebner during the war, and they remained pen pals until Henry’s death in 1957. In a letter dated July 15, 1936, Major Huebner wrote: “Was certainly glad to hear from you as I always considered you one of my closest and truest friends of the entire war. You were just a boy but a very gallant one.”

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