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Small city, big contribution: Ironton, Ohio, and the Great War 

By Joe Unger
via the Huntington Herald-Dispatch newspaper (WV) web site

Ironton, an Appalachian city of 12,000 in 1910, is nestled on the Ohio River in an iron-rich region. In 1917, the Ohio National Guard had a detachment, Company I, 7th Ohio National Guard, hailing from the city. Mustering into federal service on July 15, 1917, the strength of the company was 60 men, commanded by Capt. M.W. Russell. The training was strenuous in the hikes through the Appalachian Mountain foothills surrounding Ironton. It is stated that:

Brig. Gen. James T. DeanBrig. Gen. James T. Dean"Arrangements were made to use the Lawrence Street Public School Building as a barracks, and immediately intensive training was begun to fit the boys for the strenuous overseas service. Long hikes were taken over many hills surrounding Ironton, and through the benefit of these and the close order work, the company soon began to take on a very military aspect under the able officers mentioned above. While two-thirds of the boys were raw recruits, before many days had passed, they bore the ear-marks of old time veterans. The work on most of the boys was entirely different from any they had ever engaged in, but nevertheless, they plunged right into it, never thinking of their blistered feet and aching muscles, but thinking only of the joyful day when they would take a crack at the heinous Hun. It was only for this reason that they withstood the unaccustomed training so splendidly" (Role of Honor of Lawrence County, OH, Miller, 1919).

In September 1917, 16 boys from Company I were sent to Camp Perry, Ohio, to begin the process of transfer to the famous Rainbow Division. The balance of the company entrained for Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, arriving there on the 16th of October 1917. These men were transferred to Company A, 148th Infantry, 37th Division. In May 1918 the 37th was sent to Camp Lee, Virginia, and received equipment for overseas service. Company A participated in all of the combats of the 148th Infantry, including the front lines of Baccarat and the Pannes, the Meuse-Argonnes offensives, and the Ypres-Lys offensives. It was in this latter campaign that the 148th had its crowning achievement, it was the first Allied unit to cross the Scheldt River in Belgium on Nov. 2, 1918. This dangerous crossing, under murderous machine gun and artillery fire, inspired the regimental motto: "We'll do it!"

After the war, the men of Company I returned home to Ironton, and marched in the Decoration Day Parade in 1919. It was their victory parade. Other WWI soldiers and airmen, all Irontonians, marched through the streets of the city: Brig. Gen. James T. Dean, Brig. Gen. George Richards, Brig. Gen. James Ancil Shipton, many lieutenant colonels, and its most famous son of the Great War: Capt. William C. Lambert of the Royal Flying Corps, the second-highest scoring American ace with 22 1/2 victories (see "Bill Lambert, WWI Flying Ace" by Sam Wilson).

Read the entire article on the Huntington Herald-Dispatch web site.

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