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Captain John R. Drake
166th Ambulance Company
117th Sanitary Train, 42nd Division 1917-1919

John R. Drake was born on October 16th 1886 in the state of Kentucky. John’s father was Henry B. Drake born in September of 1866 in Kentucky and he supported the family as a Huckster. A Huckster is a long dead occupation and was one who sells items on the street such as a peddler or hawker. One might compare that to the hotdog vendor at the street corner. In June of 1900 when John was 13 years old the family lived in Mason, which is in Grant County, Kentucky. John’s mother’s first name cannot be read on the 1900 Federal Census but she was born in Kentucky in April of 1868. John at the time had one younger sister named Zady and she was born in September of 1889. Zady later married Charley Conley of Wayne, Kentucky.

John R. Drake previous to the First World War went to Medical school and became a doctor. As America entered the war in April of 1917 America was in need of doctors who would be able to treat the coming casualties. At the time Dr. John Drake lived at 755 Manassas St. in Memphis, Tennessee and may have already been in the Army before April of 1917. A search of WWI Draft Registration rolls does not show his name and so it is not known if he was drafted or he volunteered for service. He was a 1st Lt. with the 166th Ambulance Company, which was one of the four Ambulance Companies within the 117th Sanitary Train of the famous 42nd Division.

It is known that the 166th Ambulance Co., sailed aboard the USS President Grant on October 18th 1917 at 9:30 P.M. 1st Lt. John Drake would have been among the 5 officers and 138 enlisted men that sailed that day for Liverpool, England. The other troops on Board the USS President Grant were the Headquarters of the 84th Infantry, the 168th Infantry, 149th Machinegun Battalion, 117th Field Signal Battalion, Headquarters 117th Sanitary Train, Field Hospital No. 166, Ambulance Company 165 and several casual officers and enlisted men. When the USS President Grant sailed on the 18th she sailed in convoy with six other troop transports guarded by one cruiser and several destroyers. The transports in the convoy were the USS Henry R. Mallory, USS Covington, USS Tenadores, USS Pastores, USS President Lincoln and the USS President Grant. Of the six ships the Covington and President Lincoln would not survive 1918 being sunk by German U-boats. The Henry R. Mallory would survive the war but on February 7th, 1943, a U-boat with terrific loss of life would sink her in the icy North Atlantic.

After a short stay in England the 166th Ambulance Company was moved and arrived in Le Harve, France. During the later parts of February and early March 1918 the 42nd Division goes up on the front lines for the first time in the Lorraine Sector. 1st Lt. Drake would have seen his first actions on the line during this time.

During December of 1918 the 42nd Division moved into Germany on Occupation Duty and on 23 December 1918, 1st Lt. John Drake received a promotion to Captain. After Occupation Duties the 42nd Division receives orders to return to the States and from April 9th through May 1st elements of the 42nd Division sail from France to the United States.

After the return of the 166th Ambulance Company to the United States Captain John Drake was demobilized from the Army and returned to civilian life. He went back to his home at 755 North Manassas St. in Memphis, Tennessee. John was still practicing medicine and was married to his wife, Mildred F. Drake who was born in Kentucky on September 6th, 1892. John and Mildred were married about 1914 before he was in the Army. John and Mildred would have 3 children , eldest son John, jr. was born about 1915 daughter Charlotte H., born about 1918 and youngest son James D. born about 1926. By 1930 the family had moved to a new home located on 1911 Lyndale Street in Memphis, which was owned by John and Mildred and was valued at $10,000. John Drake was still a general practice doctor at the time of the taking of the Census in April of 1930.

John and his wife Mildred may have at some point moved to Indiana as Mildred applied and was issued her Social Security Card number from Indiana before 1951. At the time of Mildred’s death on May 28th of 1979 she lived in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky. It is not known when John passed away.

This Page is owned by Joe Hartwell, ©2005. Last Updated Saturday, June 23, 2007

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