Monday, May 29, 2017

My Growing Family Memorial Day

When I was a child, Memorial Day meant that summer was officially here. That it was time for beach, barbecue, beach barbecue, frisbee, and best of all... no school!

We didn't have any close family who were lost in war, so we didn't have anyone to remember at a solemn cemetery visit. We skipped that, and moved directly on to the fresh ice cream and swimming lessons.

Life was carefree and untouched.  The meaning of Memorial Day was abstract and a little lost. Memorial Day honors those who have fallen in the line of service for their country. Not knowing any of those, we had to really stretch. We honored neighbor's cousins, friends of friends, veterans who died of old age, and even living veterans (forgetting that's what Veterans' Day is for).

As I've dug into our family history, I have found some of the fallen. Not very many, to be sure, but the list keeps growing ever year as I track down second cousins, third cousins, and more. Genealogy has many surprises, and finding relatives who gave up their lives for their country is one of the heart-stoppers for me (others include infant deaths and holocaust victims).

So on this Memorial Day here in the United States, I'm taking the time to list out my family's patriots who gave their lives in service to their country. Their home country is not always America, but it was the home country of my family. This is my personal memorial day, honoring those who've fallen in protection of their home and family.


The List of the Fallen



1915 Leo Martyn, Australian in WWI at Gallipoli

Leo Dorman Martyn (1892-1915)
Private Leo Dorman Martyn of the Australian Infantry was born in Moruya, New South Wales, Australia in December 1892 to policeman Thomas Martyn and his wife Emily Maude Smith. Leo was my grandfather Kessler's second cousin via the Lukes and Martyn families of Cornwall. Leo went to North Goulburn Public School in New South Wales, and was trained as a blacksmith.

Leo joined up with the 2nd Australian Infantry Battalion at Liverpool, New South Wales on 27 October 1914 -- service number 1381.

The 2nd Battalion was part of the 1st Brigade, charged with attacking Gallipoli. Leo was mortally wounded six months after enlisting during the first landing at Gallipoli in WWI on 25 April 1915.


Australian 1st Brigade landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 2915

During the Landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, the 2nd Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel George Braund's command, came ashore in the second and third waves, landing a total of 31 officers and 937 other ranks. Upon landing, the 2nd Battalion dispatched two companies, 'A' and 'D' to assist the 3rd Brigade who were pushing inland towards a high feature known as "Baby 700", which overlooked the beachhead. One of the 2nd Battalion's platoons, under Lieutenant Leslie Morshead, advanced further than any other Australian unit, making it to the slopes of Baby 700, before a determined counter-attack by Ottoman forces drove them back in the afternoon.

After landing, Leo Martyn was in the group attacking at the top of the ridge about half a mile from the beach. He was struck by a bullet and fell backwards down the cliff, breaking his back. Leo died a few days later on 2 May 1915, at the age of 22, aboard a hospital ship as it was leaving the Peninsula.

Leo Dorman Martyn, final military accounting
Sadly, as is often true in wartime, that neat and tidy description of his falling was confused, slow in coming, and filled with false hope and rumors. From the accounting above, you can read that his parents didn't really get full closure until 1922!

  • 25 Apr 1915 Leo is mortally wounded at the Gallipoli Landings at Anzac Bay
  • 2 May 1915 Leo dies aboard a hospital ship and is buried at sea
  • 15 Jun 1915 Military letter sent to Leo's parents informing them that Leo is "Missing" 
  • Aug 1915 first rumors about him being a POW in Turkey
  • 27 Sep 1915 Pleas from a District Railways Superintendent in New South Wales begging for any information about him being listed as "missing" for some time, which naturally distresses his parents.    
  • 13 Oct 1915 Letter from parents asking if rumors of Leo being wounded and a prisoner of war in Turkey can be verified.  
  • 16 Nov 1915 The matter is being investigated
  • 2 Dec 1915 Still missing
  • 12 Jan 1916 Unofficial POW report is just that. He is still officially "Missing" only. 
  • 31 May 1916 Official Court of Inquiry in Alexandria found "Killed in Action" confirmed and noted. 
  • Jun 1916 Telegram sent listing Leo as Killed in Action on 2 May 1915.
  • 11 Oct 1916 Father sends telegram asking for Death Certificate
  • 27 Feb 1918 Personal effects returned to the family: a mirror and 5 handkerchiefs. 
  • 13 Jun 1921 Leo's father Thomas Martyn writes that while he still has no official notice of the circumstances of his son's death, he has heard from a Chaplin that he was seriously wounded at the landing and was taken aboard a transport, and that he was likely buried at sea. A fellow solider also had told him that he'd spoken to Leo about noon on the day of the landing as they were heading for the cliffs, and that was the last he saw of him. 
  • 4 Aug 1921 Memorial Scroll delivered to father.
  • 8 Aug 1921 Father informs military that no medals have been yet received. 
  • 2 Sep 1921 Officer in Charge reports that medals are with Base Commandant at Victoria Barracks and have been dispatched to Mr. Thomas Martyn at the Police Station in Cobar. 
  • 1 Dec 1921 Medals and Memorial Plaque with King's Message received by family. 
  • 4 Oct 1922 Victory Medal delivered to family. 

The King's Message

I've seen the 1981 movie, Gallipoli, with Mel Gibson, but now I really need to see the movie again. Urgently.  With this new context, it will surely take on a new meaning to me. It will probably make me cry. I certainly didn't cry the first time I saw it back in the 1980s.

Leo Martyn is one of the honored heroes on the Roll of Honour each Anzac Day on April 25th. I only just discovered him recently, missing that date by about two weeks. Watch out for next year!

Leo was 22 years old, unmarried with no children.






1915 Arthur Bodenheimer, German in WWI Belgium

Arthur Bodenheimer's grave at Langemark
Landsturmmann Arthur Bodenheimer was the brother of Gustav Bodenheimer, listed below, and thus also my great grandfather Bodenheimer's third cousin.

Arthur Bodenheimer was born in Waibstadt, Baden on 11 Feb 1892 to Bernhard Bodenheimer and Adelheid Friedberger.

It took a long time to sort out and find his death, and I had to research every Arthur Bodenheimer to make sure that a certain grave on FindaGrave was actually his.   Through a process of elimination, I'm 95% certain that the grave at Langemark German Military Cemetery near Ypres in West Flanders, Belgium is indeed his.

Location of Ypres, Belgium

From the dates and places, it looks like Arthur and Siegfried Bodenheimer (listed next) were both killed about the same time at about the same place: May 1915 near Ypres.

Arthur's grave shows that he died on 9 May 1915 on the Western Front in Belgium, likely near Ypres.

Arthur was 23 years old, unmarried with no children.





1915 Siegfried Bodenheimer, German in WWI Belgium

Siegfried Simon Bodenheimer was my second great grandfather Benno Bodenheimer's third cousin on his mother's side. He was from the next town over, being born in Wiesloch, Baden on 5 Jan 1892 to Bernhard Bodenheimer and Mini Stauss. Siegfried is from the same Bodenheimer branch as ESPN's George Bodenheimer -- his second cousin twice removed.

Siegfried reportedly died in Aachen as a result of injuries sustained in the First World War on 31 May 1915.

After much research, I found a site devoted to the Jews of Aachen which lists Siegfried Bodenheimer, born 5 Jan 1892 in Wiesloch, living in Aachen of regiment 10. I. R. 161,  dying in Aachen on 31 May 1915, in their list of the fallen.

Getting the regiment was a huge breakthrough as with that I was able to figure out that between 11 Apr 1915 and 4 Aug 1916 10. Rheinisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 161 was part of the 29. Infanterie-Brigade of Aachen and 15. Division of Köln -- all part of the VIII Army Corps of Koblenz. And finally the 4th Army of the German Empire.   With that information, I was able to discover that the 4th Army fought on the Western Front at the First Battle of Ypres in late 1914, and then faced the British at Flanders for the rest of the war.

WWI - The Western Front (1914-1918)

During May 1915 the German Fourth Army was involved in the Second Battle of Ypres:
The Second Battle of Ypres began in the northern sector of the Ypres Salient. It started on 22nd April 1915 when the German Fourth Army carried out a surprise attack against two French divisions holding the Allied Front Line. On that day the warm, sunny spring afternoon was suddenly shattered at 5pm with a devastating and frightening new development in modern warfare: a cloud of poisonous gas. 
The Second Battle of Ypres comprised four phases:
  1. The Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge,  22-Apr-1915—23-Apr-1915
  2. The Battle of St. Julien,  24-Apr-1915—04-May-1915
  3. The Battle of Frezenberg Ridge, 08-May-1915—13-May-1915
  4. The Battle of Bellewaerde Ridge, 24-May-1915—25-May-1915
My best guess is the Siegfried was wounded at Ypres, and then died of his injuries at his home in Aachen. Otherwise if he died on the field of battle "auf dem Feld der Ehre," it was All Quiet on the Western Front the day he died as the battle ended on the 25th.  He died on the 31st.

Writing about the death of the fallen in the war, the journal The Israelite of 17 June 1915 covered the loss of Siegfried Bodenheimer:
Wiesloch, June 12 (1915). Even in the local community, the horrors of war have not left their mark. On June 1, Siegfried Bodenheimer died at the age of 23, the hopeful son of our revered head, Mr. Bernhard Bodenheimer. The family is deeply saddened by the heavy blow that afflicts them and the whole community with them. In spite of his youth, the too early departed was already a fully trained merchant, and he had sought to expand his commercial career in various large trading cities abroad. For a short time he was destined to fight against our Western enemies when the enemy bullet struck him. May the consolation of the grieving family be found in the thought of God, and further protected from all misfortunes. We will keep faithful remembrance to those who have passed away.His soul is bound in the covenant of life.

Siegfried was 23 years old, unmarried with no children.





1915 Max Wolff, German in WWI France


German War Cemetery Neuville-St. Vaast
Max Martin Wolff was my great grandmother Levy's first cousin. Max was born in Charlottenburg, Berlin on 5 July, 1890 to Leopold Wolff and his wife Ida Wolff, geb Lazarus.

Max was an Unteroffizier (non-commissioned officer) in the Artillery, a member of the Reserve-Feldartillerie-Regimenter No. 5 (of Würzburg), 9. Batterie.  His peacetime profession was listed as Studiert Mathematik in Charlottenburg, ledig.

Max died on the field of battle in France on 4 Jun 1915 during the Second Battle of Artois. His death was on the third day of intense French artillery bombardments, launched to prepare for a June 6 infantry attack.

He was first buried at Soldatenfriedhof Farbus. After the war, in 1919, all the nearby German graves were consolidated into the Neuville-St. Vaast German military cemetery, which is located about 8 km from Farbus.  Also called La Maison Blanche, after a nearby farm, it s the final resting place for 44,833 German soldiers.  8,040 were never identified and are buried in a common grave.

Max was 24 years old and unmarried.





1916 Gustav Bodenheimer, German in WWI France


Grave of Gustav Bodenheimer
Canoneer Gustav Bodenheimer was my great grandfather Bodenheimer's third cousin, and a first cousin of Ludwig Bodenheimer below.  Cousins Ludwig and Gustav were both from Waibstadt, so they knew each other. Gustav's brother Arthur Bodenheimer, listed above was also lost, and it looks like a third brother, Siegmund Bodenheimer could also have died during WWI, but only Arthur, Gustav, and Louis are listed as Gefallenen from Waibstadt.

Gustav's death certificate reads, the commander of the field artillery regiment nr. 241 reported, that the canoneer of the 7th battery of this regiment, merchant Gustav Bodenheimer, 30 years old, Jewish religion, last residing in Frankfurt/Main, Elbestreet 31, born in Waibstadt, county Sinsheim in Baden, unmarried, son of the merchant Bernhard Bodenheimer and his wife Adelheid geb Friedberger, residing in Waibstadt, at the battleplace Merancourt-Ferme (Verdun) at the 19th April 1916 past midday at 4 o'clock due to a wound is deceased.

Gustav is buried along with 7884 other German solders at German War Cemetery Hautecourt-lès-Broville near Verdun.

Gustav was 30 years old and unmarried.





German War Cemetery Hautecourt-lès-Broville





1916 Richard Lachmann, German in WWI Romania


Grave at Friedhof Ohlsdorf, Hamburg
Richard Julius Lachmann was my great grandmother Rosi's first cousin on her mother's side.  Richard was a twin to Edwin Julius Lachmann, both being born on 23 Feb 1885 in Hamburg, Germany to Julius Lachmann and Emma Rose. Richard's twin Edwin died at 21 in 1906.

Richard was a noted German geologist, famous enough to have his own Wikipedia article in Germany.

Richard's military records show that he was in the Jägerregiment, An Infanterie of the Jäger und Radfahrer Unit of Jäger-Regiment No. 3. 1st Battalion. (Oder Bayer Schneeschuh Bataillon 1). I think this translates to, "Bavarian Jägerregiment No.3 (1st Bavarian Ski Battalions)".  Jäger Regiment Nr. 3 was originally formed in May 1915 as part of the Alpenkorps.

Richard died on 7 Sep 1916 during the Battle of Transylvania against the Russians and Romanians in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania (Karpaten-kämpfen).
The Battle of Transylvania was the first major operation of the Romanian forces Campaign during World War I, beginning on 27 August 1916. It started as an attempt by the Romanian Army to seize the disputed province of Transylvania, and potentially knock Austria-Hungary out of the war. Although initially successful, the offensive was brought to a halt after Bulgaria's attack on Dobruja. Coupled with a successful German and Austro-Hungarian counterattack after September 18, the Romanian Army was eventually forced to retreat back to the Carpathians by late October. 
In the second phase of the offensive (3–10 September), the Romanian Second Army crossed the Olt river and captured Sfântu Gheorghe on 7 September. By the end of the second phase, the Second Army controlled all of the Brașov Depression, reaching the Cătălina-Arcuș-Vâlcele-Feldioara-Șercaia-Șinca Veche line. 
In September, the elite Alpenkorps was dispatched to fight in the Romanian Campaign. The Infanterie-Leib-Regiment suffered a number of losses in the mountain fighting in Romania.
The exact details of his last days are written in his obituary as:
Im September 1915 trat er als Freiwilliger Schütze in die Schneeschuh-Erstaz-Abteilung in Immenstadt ein. Im Juni 1916 kam er als Gefreiter des 3. Jäger-Regiments ins Feld und machte die Stürme auf Douaumont vor Verdun mit. Er erhielt das Eiserne Kreuz für das Eindringen in das franzosische Fort Souville, über das er seinem Regimentskommandeur Meldung erstattete. Am 7. September ist er in den Karpathenkämpfen durch Kopfschuß beim siegreichen Sturmangriff am Carny Czeremosz gefallen. 
This roughly translates to in September 1915 he joined as a volunteer Schütze in the snowshoe-Erstaz-division in Immenstadt. In June 1916, as a private of the 3rd Hunters Regiment stormed Douaumont before Verdun. He received the Iron Cross in the invasion of the French Fort of Souville, It was reported to his regimental commander that on September 7 he fell in the Carpathians from a headshot during the victorious assault at Cheremosh River.

Battle in the Carpathian Mountains during October-November 1916; German infantry firing rifles and machine guns and throwing hand grenades from a hill at left at Romanian and Russian troops, suffering heavy losses in foreground.

Richard was 31 years old, married with one child.





1918 Ludwig Bodenheimer, German in WWI France

Ludwig Bodenheimer (1879-1918)
Gefreiter (Corporal) Ludwig Bodenheimer was also my great grandfather Bodenheimer's third cousin -- a first cousin of Gustav mentioned above. I'm quite certain my great grandfather never met him and probably never even knew about him. However I have tracked down living descendants of Ludwig and reunited our Bodenheimer family!

Ludwig was born in Waibstadt, and died on the field of battle during WWI on 23 August 1918. He fought for Germany, and as I've read more of the history of WWI, it seems that the entire thing was a real mess and probably should never have happened.

From a single page of German military history, it looks like Ludwig was in 1 Infanterie-Regiment 87 as a Gefreiter, (Verlustmeldung 1874). That German regiment was stationed out from Mainz, only about 60 km south west from Bad Nauheim.  They were assigned to the 21. Division, which was at Schlacht Albert-Péronne from 22 August 1918 to 2 Sept.  So, from that, I can tell that Ludwig fell on the 3rd day of the Second Battle of the Somme, likely at the Second Battle of Bapaume.

While his body may be in a grave at Fricourt, a commemorative plaque to honor him and the other fallen of his hometown of Bad Nauheim was placed in 1921. Sadly, during the Nazi period, his part of the memorial plaque was defaced as he was Jewish. I've tried to do as many Photoshop tricks as I know to clean up the photo, but as you can see it's still a bit mangled. Many Jews fought for Germany in WWI, which is one of the reason that they didn't immediately leave when Hitler came to power -- they were decorated veterans or families of the fallen. What could be more German than that? His wife, what Americans would call a gold star widow, was killed by the Nazis on 30 September 1942 in Treblinka Concentration Camp.

Ludwig was 39 years old, married with two children.





1918 William Streeter, New Zealander in WWI France

William Sendall Streeter (1888-1918)
Lance Corporal William Sendall Streeter was my grandfather Kessler's 2nd cousin via the Lukes family. Both of their mother's were Lukes, and first cousins at that.  He is not blood related to Leo Martyn listed above, William is the great nephew of Leo's great aunt -- so basically second cousins by marriage of the Lukes and Martyn families.

William was born in Addington, Christchurch, New Zealand and somehow ended up in Perth, Australia as a young man, probably looking for work as a miner.  On January 9, 1917 he enlisted in the Australian Army.

He joined the 44th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force, Service Number 3351.  He headed for England in June of 1917 and saw battle at Flanders Field and other places.  The 44th was on-hand the day the Red Baron was shot down near Vaux-sur-Somme on 21 April 1918, and the current theory is that the Red Baron was shot down from the ground by Australian forces.

After that, in September 1918, he was promoted to Lance Corporal and the 44th joined the Americans at the Battle of St Quentin Canal in France.

He was killed in action on the first day of the main assault, 29 September 1918.   He was buried 1,300 yards South of Bony, just West of the Road (approx). After the war, his grave and others was moved to the main Bellicourt British Cemetery.

William was 30 years old, unmarried without children.





1943 Edward Fry, American in WWII Italy

Edward John Fry, Jr. (1922-1943)
My mother's first cousin is probably the closest relative we've lost in war. Corporal Edward John Fry, Jr. was killed in action in Italy during WWII.  He was born in Garrison, Benton County, Iowa on 3 December 1922. Edward Fry enlisted in the army on 3 October 1941 and went overseas with the first American troops following Pearl Harbor. He was in the US 133rd 34th "Red Bull" division, and after some training in Ireland they shipped out to North Africa. News that he was wounded arrived in Iowa in June 1943. At that time his division was securing the Chougui Pass near Eddekhila, Tunisia in preparation for the invasion of Scilly.

9 September 1943 was D-Day in Italy, as US troops landed at Salerno. It appears that Edward had recovered enough from his injuries to join his regiment as they crossed the Volturno river in Italy to secure the town of Alife.  He was killed in action near Alife on 21 October 1943.

Edward was 20 years old, unmarried with no children.





1944 Harris Fehr, American in WWII Italy


Harris W. Fehr (1917-1944)
Harris W. Fehr served in the same "Red Bull" division as Edward Fry. Harris served in Tunisia, Sicily, Italy; participated in Battle for Rome, 1944, invasion of No. Africa. Stationed in Algiers several months and was at one time attached dto Hqs. of Gen. Eisenhower as Honor Guard

He was born in Tama County, Iowa on 5 December 1917 and was Killed in Action on June 3, 1944 in Italy during the Battle For Rome, most likely near the town of Lanuvio , Italy as part of the 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division.

Harris is a little more distantly related to me, as he was the first cousin of Dean Gilliatt's wife. Dean is the next entry.

Harris was 26 years old, unmarried with no children.





1944 Dean Gilliatt, American in WWII in the Pacific

Dean Willis Gilliatt (1920-1944)
This is probably the story I know the most about, and I need to sit down and properly write the entire case up. It hit me the hardest.

Dean Willis Gilliatt was born in Benton County, Iowa on 6 December 1920.  He is my great uncle, Edward George Fry's first cousin twice removed. Edward Fry is indeed the father of the Edward Fry listed above, so that also makes Dean the second cousin once removed of Edward John Fry, Jr.

Dean was a Naval Aviator, flying off the U.S.S. Gambier Bay. He was killed in action off the coast of Saipan during the Pacific campaign. On 19 June 1944, the Wildcat fighter plane he was flying wasn't properly trimmed for takeoff and he crashed into the sea as all his shipmates watched in horror. His wife got the news of his death on the same day that his daughter was born.

The exact location of Dean Gilliatt’s fatal accident was 43.5 miles east of the island of Saipan in the Marianas at 15°12’00”N,146°27’00”E

Dean was 23 years old, married with one child.





1944 Leslie Martyn, New Zealander in WWII


Leslie Arthur Martyn (1911-1944)
Flight-Lieutenant Leslie Arthur Martyn was my grandfather Kessler's second cousin. I doubt they ever met, and I don't have any pictures from that entire branch of Martyn cousins.

Leslie was born in Kumara, New Zealand on 30 March 1911, the son of Edward Martyn and Jessie Andrews.  He was one of ten children.

On 21 November 1944, his Lancaster Mk.I NN745 AA-A took off at 13:46 with him in the pilot seat. This was a three-aircraft operation to lay mines in the Oslo Fjord. Two aircraft planted their mines in good visibility and without opposition. One aircraft captained by NZ417082 A/F/L L. Martyn, failed to return.

All seven crew are commemorated on the Runnymeade Memorial.
  1. F/L Leslie Arthur Martyn, RNZAF NZ417082 – Pilot.
  2. F/O Thomas Issac Elliot, RNZAF NZ421364 – Navigator.
  3. F/O Allan Roy Frank Dunkerley, RAAF AUS.423083 – Air Bomber.
  4. F/S John Calverley Crabtree, RAFVR 1492180 – Wireless Operator .
  5. Sgt. Charles Ronald Starkey, RAFVR 1863956 – Flight Engineer.
  6. Sgt. George Lindsay, RAFVR 1624589 – Mid Upper Gunner.
  7. P/O Andrew Roy Wright, RCAF J.88789 – Rear Gunner.
Leslie was 33 years old, and as far as my research shows no wife or children.





1968 Thomas Lukes, American in Vietnam War


Thomas Burton Lukes (1947-1968)
Thomas Burton Lukes is my mother's third cousin. I don't think she ever knew about him, as I'm not sure she even knew or met all her first cousins.

Thomas was born in Waterford, Pontiac County, Michigan on 18 December 1947 to my grandfather's second cousin, Thomas A. Lukes. His grandfather, Thomas B. Lukes was my great grandmother's first cousin. That's how cousining works.

Thomas was a member of company A, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry which served in Vietnam beginning on 22 September 1967. Thomas's tour of duty started 27 February 1968.

On day 137 of his tour, 13 July 1968, Specialist 4th Class Thomas Burton Lukes and another member of "A" Company (Ronald Pillow) were killed near the base of Cay Giep Mountain (about 14.346353, 109.085670) in Binh Dinh Province by a 105mm artillery shell that had been modified as a pressure detonated mine. Death was instantaneous.  Thomas was promoted to the rank of Sargent posthumously, and awarded the bronze star for meritorious service. He is honored on Panel 52W, Row 23 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC.

Thomas was 20 years old, unmarried with no children.





Memorial Day's Real Meaning 

I took an informal poll the last few days, with a sample size of about 4. Many people have been very lucky just like me. They didn't have any family members who were killed in wartime. They were able to enjoy Memorial Day without thought or pain. They honored the memory of those who've given their lives to protect our way of life, but it didn't really hit home. It wasn't really real. While I still can't even imagine losing a son, brother, father, or close friend; this growing still hits me where I live. It's real to me.

The lesson here is that genealogy makes history relevant and relatable. Memorial Day is not an abstract concept now. It's a real thing, and as you find your connections to history through genealogical adventures, you too will discover how many new things really matter to you. Truly matter.



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