Battery B was composed principally of men from the 37th Co. Long Island Sound, formerly members of the Conn. Coast Artillery and members of the National Army most of whom came from Connecticut.
When Battery B sailed with 176 enlisted men aboard the HMS Olympic on 28 March 1918 the Battery was commanded by the following officers and noncoms:
Captain Mogens Jens Mogensen, CARC, Battery Commander
1st Lt. Robert Samuel Stewart, CANA
1st Lt. Herbert Bartlett Courteen, CANA
2nd Lt. James Anthony Dawson, CARC
2nd Lt. George Beverly Walker, CARC
1st Sgt. Thomas Harris Shipman, 623554, Battery First Sergeant.
Captain Mogensen according to the 1930 Federal Census lived in a rented house on Howe Street in new Haven Connecticut. He immigrated to the States from Denmark along with his parents and became a U.S. citizen in 1913. He spoke Danish and in 1930 listed his occupation as office manager in the hardware business.
Grave marker of Cpl. Jesse Edward Beitz, 259828 Battery B, 56th Artillery. Jesse was a West Virginia native and was born August 31, 1893 and died April 5, 1962. On the right is a photo of Cpl. Beitz while in uniform holding a dog. Below is a short biography of Cpl. Beitz by his grandson John Beitz, who also provided the photos.
Jesse Edward Beitz
Jesse Edward Beitz was born August 3, 1893 on Clear Creek near Rupert West Virginia. He was the son of Joseph Beitz and Florence McClung and the great great grandson of a Revolutionary War veteran. After leaving school at an unknown age he worked as a logger in the area around Richwood West Virginia. The details of his entering the Army are unknown to me. He did mention to my father Norlan Beitz that along with a buddy he attempted to volunteer for any unusual duty that was offered. No details about this are known. After leaving the service he traveled to Colorado where he worked on a beet farm. After some period of time he returned to Rainelle West Virginia where he worked for Meadow River Lumber Company and at times for a coal company. As I understand it he was not a deep miner but worked in the preparation plant. While working in Rainelle he meet Neta Hedrick whom he married in April 26 1922. Sometime after 1924 he bought a farm in Clintonville West Virginia and spent the remainder of his life as a farmer. During my early years I remember that he had two cannon shells sitting beside the couch in his front parlor.
Cpl. Beitz was not listed with the passenger manifest of Battery B when they sailed on 28 March 1918 aboard the HMS Olympic. He is however listed with the passenger manifest of Battery B when they sailed on 5 January 1919 aboard the USS South Dakota. Most of the men in Battery B had service numbers that began with 623 and Jesse's number was 259828 suggesting that he may have been a replacement into Battery B at an unknown date.
In April of 2003, I was contacted by a gentleman who lives in Coulonges, France which was the headquarters in August of 1918 for the 56th Artillery. His name was Cyrille and he had found some graffiti on a door in a building in Coulonges. It was from a man in the 56th Artillery. The above photo shows this inscription which has a water stain on it which makes it somewhat hard to photograph but it can be read in its entirety. This is what it says: "Ralph Chapman, Battery B, 56th Arty Regt. C.A.C. American Ex Forces, France. From Fort H. G. Wright, New York" According to Cyrille this cross was on the same door and may have been left there by Ralph Chapman, but no way to know for sure.
Cyrille also had bought this brass Coast Artillery Corps Officer collar insignia from the 56th Artillery. These collar devices were worn on the left and right sides of the officers uniform collar. It was told to Cyrille that the officers name was CARL DIETZ. I have not been able to find this officers name yet but when I do I will make updates to this information.
Les Green contacted me about his father, Lester E. Green and Uncle, George E. Green. Both were from Connecticut and served in the Coast Artillery Corps. His Uncle, George Edward Green served with the 56th Artillery, Battery B. He is listed on the passenger manifest of the HMS Olympic as Pvt. Green, George Edward 623730 and he listed his mother Marry Ella Green of 58 Princeton Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut as the person to notify in case of emergency.
Les Green's father Lester E. Green, according to the 1930 Federal census was a foreman for the town and he was listed as serving in the World War. At the present time we are trying to find out additional infortmation on what unit Lester E. Green served in. He was living at 314 Kings Highway, West Springfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts, with his wife Sylvia M., 24 years old and their daughter was Grace M., age 9 months. Les Green relates; "Lester E. was my father, Syvia his first wife. I was raised in West Springfield. He was a past commander of the American Legion Post there. Grace is now in her seventies and failing health. There were stories of mustard gas causing his later fatal heart attack. Until I earned too much money as a teen I received Veterans benefits for support." Les gave me a copy of an undated and unidentified newspaper article. At the top of it were at one time photos of George and Lester Green. All that is left now is avery small protion of the bottom of each photo and each brothers names. I have transcribed this newspaper article below and from where it starts I'm not sure if this was the begining or if there is more after the ending, some of it has been lost over the years.
|French people dropped flowers from buildings along the routes taken by the Yanks of the 56th Coast Artillery Regiment as it paraded through Clermont-Ferrand shortly before going to the front, according to privates George E. Green of #49 Alfred Street a member of Battery B. Private Green whose brother, Lester Green, is also in the service, tells an interesting story of the doings of the Regiment from the time it left Fort Wright.
"We went over on the Olympic, which was at the time the second largest boat afloat. We were seven days in making the trip, landing safely at Brest. We stayed there for three days at the end of that time being packed into freight cars for our journey. About half the size of the American freight cars. There were 40 of us in each one, and you can judge how much room we had."
Ride Three Days
"For three days and nights we wrote it in the freight cars. We had to take turns at sleeping. Corned beef and hard tack were the only food we had. We finally arrived at Clermont-Ferrand the, a good-sized city with a population of 150,000. After two days there, we marched to a little town called Le Cendre. It was too small for the whole regiment, so batteries A and B stayed there while the rest moved out to other little towns nearby."
"There was an interval of three days before our big guns are arrived. The officers kept us busy hardening up for the front. Three times a week we had to hike 20 or more miles with full packs on our backs. The rest of the week we were drilled nine hours a day."
Drill On Guns
"It was not so hard when the big guns are arrived. We drilled with them for three months. Four miles from Le Cendre is a big Mountain, said to be the largest in France. There we had target practice for three days. We made some great hits. Then we started for the front."
"On the fourth of July, just before we left for target practice, we paraded in Clermont-Ferrand. Our airplanes flew overhead, the aviators doing all sorts of stunts. The women and girls, some laughing and others crying, drop bushels of flowers on us from the big buildings as we went through the main streets."
Arrived At Front
"Three more days and nights were consumed in our trip to the front. We detrained at La Fert, arriving there early in the morning and began early, the work of unloading the guns and tractors. These tractors have Caterpillar wheels and will travel anywhere. They pulled our guns about."
"These Guns were French, they call them 155 mm GPF and they are about 6 in. in diameter and weigh 15 tons or more. These Guns have a range of 13 miles. Each Battery had four of the guns, 20 trucks and four Tractors."
"From La Fert we moved to a town called Charley, which we occupied two days. There we could hear the booming of the big guns and at night the sky was lighted with shells beginning to arrive. The Germans shelled us with shells ranging in size from three to ten inches. Their airplanes came over, dropping bombs, some of which when they struck, made holes in the earth 10 and 12 ft. deep."
"I saw some of these bombs dropped by a railroad track," said Private Green. "One would lift a freight car from the rails and toss it 20 ft. away. After the German planes had finished the work of dropping bombs, they turned their machine guns on us, and one could hear the bullets whistling by through the trees which screened our position."
Finally Chase Huns
Private Green said the Germans did everything possible to wipe out the regiment. The boys stuck to their jobs, however, and after a month of constant action had chased the Huns back 20 miles. After that the Artillerymen, who were with the First Army, were moved to another front, being about eight days traveling. But at the second front, the French released the 56th Artillery and the Regiment moved down into the Argonne Forest.
The Regiment was placed about 12 mi. from Verdun, where the French halted the Germans in 1914, losing 500,000 men. "We had some job ahead of us," said Private Green. "The Germans had been in the woods since 1914 and were heavily-armed. Some of their dugouts were 60 ft. deep."
Argonne Forest Battle
"The light field artillery started firing into the Germans and the American drive open there on September 26th. At 11 O'clock that night we opened up with the big guns and the ground shook with the concussion. You can bet that we started the Huns running and daybreak found them in retreat. But it was more than a month before we had cleared the woods of Germans. The Argonne Forest is very dense. We chased them out into the open fields, where we could get a look at them and there we made it hot for them and were up there until after the signing of the Armistice, being near Sedan, a big city near the Belgian border. We would have swept them off the earth if not for the Armistice being signed."
"War is surely an awful grave." Private Green when on. "I have seen men blown to pieces. I have seen a time when 100 Americans could not move up in advance, so one of us went ahead clearing the way of bodies."
Tough Trip Home
"Two days out from Brest, France the USS South Dakota was struck by a storm. A good many of us thought we would never reach this country. Waves dashed clear over the ship which did everything but turn over and sink. One of the waves at least 45 ft. high, came over and smashed the pilot house, injuring at the Captain of the ship and some of his officers."
Boxing matches, motion pictures, minstrel shows and music served to keep up the spirits of lads of the 56th Artillery. Some of the boys slept nights on the deck of the ship.
Thousands of leaflets of German propaganda were dropped on the 56th Artillery in the Argonne Forest by the German aviators.
©2002 Joe Hartwell
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