Follow-Up to Last Month’s WWI Article on Captain Reddan; Shout-Out from Granddaughter

Bodies being prepared for burial after the WWI battle of Bois d’Ormont.

Last month I posted an ironic and funny story of how a teacher I work with told me about her grandfather’s experience in World War I. She had given me a rather large family photo album containing information and pictures pertaining to her grandfather, Captain William Redden, and his time in the army. The irony of the whole situation was that the regiment he served in was identical to the one my friend is writing a book about, and which I just read an excerpt of a few days before. It was just one of those things that get us history buffs excited. Any way, I had to put it on my blog because of how astonished I was, and she thanked me for it and said she would share it with her family members. Sure enough, tonight I received a message posted to the wall of this blog’s Facebook Page, from one of Capt. Reddan’s other granddaughters, Lynn. I thought I would share it with you all here:

Greg, my sister told me about your encounter at school with regard to our grandfather’s experiences in World War One, and I’ve read your blog on my grandfather Captain William J. Reddan, author of “Other Men’s Lives”. We are only here because our grandfather survived the Battle of Bois d’ Ormont—fought on 10/18/1918. He was ordered to take over 200 men into battle and returned with only 13. My father, his youngest son, was born 10 years after he came home from the war. The part you mentioned about his refusing to shake the governor’s hand occurred on page 397 of “Other Men’s Lives” when he saw the sickening “hero’s welcome” and welcoming parade which we still do one hundred years later (for killing people?) and here I quote grandfather after being introduced to the governor of NJ: “The Governor complimented the regiment on its work in France and remarked ‘It was hard going, captain. The enemy put up a strong resistance’.”

Grandfather replied “The enemy in front of us put up a good fight and we knew it, but they were not nearly as dangerous as the enemy in rear of us, in our own organization”. My grandfather gave all he had in World War One (ironically then called the War to End All Wars). And by the time World War Two came around, he saw his oldest son, Bill, then his next oldest, Doug, go off to fight and when his third son, Corr (born with a hearing disorder) was (finally) accepted to go abroad (that’s now three sons fighting “the good fight”), he had a heart attack in July of 1944 and died immediately on the beach of Manasquan. His 4th son, my father, Joseph, would also later serve in that war. There are only a few “Other Men’s Lives” around. Thanks for your blog.

I really appreciate the note, because it kind of brings the story full circle. The relative I know, Kimberly, had told me how the Captain died in the summer of 1944, which actually occurred right after the D-Day Invasion (June 6), which you could say marked the beginning of the long road towards the end of World War II. This was a man who had survived the First World War, and then was able to witness most of the second, even though upon the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, many proclaimed it would be the “War to End All Wars”—no nation on the planet would be foolish enough to wage war again after so many millions had died. Oh, how wrong they were, and how we still have not learned since.

It is also ironic the quote that Lynn posts from the book, in which the Governor told Reddan , “It was hard going”, to which he responds that it was only made that way because of the people in command. This is a stark comparison to a scene in Gods and Generals, at the end of the battle of Fredericksburg during the Civil War, in which countless waves of Union troops were sent in to their deaths, attacking a heavily entrenched Confederate position behind a stone wall. As Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his 20th Maine regiment are retreating after the battle, with heads hung low, Major General Joseph Hooker rides along side him and says, “We had a hard chance, Colonel. I’m glad to see you out of there.” Chamberlain answers back, looking the general right in the eyes with great bravado, “It was chance, General. Not much intelligent design there…we were handed in piecemeal on toasting forks.” I guess you could say history does repeat itself after all, though in many different forms.

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26 thoughts on “Follow-Up to Last Month’s WWI Article on Captain Reddan; Shout-Out from Granddaughter

  1. where did you get that photo? Bois d’ Ormont is a particularly tough battle to find data on. I have my grandfather’s combat helmet sitting above my desk. 100 years old and tough as nails. One other note is that grandfather signed a copy of his book, inserting a personal note to each of the 13 survivors. 2 summers ago, Kim and I went to look at a nursing home for our dad which was located 10 minutes from my home. I asked the social director of the home the ages of the residents and she said “40 to 109”. So I immediately asked if the 109 year old man was a WW One veteran and she said “yes”. She said he was a POW in France and was only 16 when he entered the military. So I went home to grandfather’s book “Other Men’s Lives” and he has a list in the back of the book of all who served with him. and right there was this man’s name which was Alfred Littlfield. Someone who had served under Captain Reddan in 1918 lived 10 minutes from me. Before I could arrange to talk to the man he passed away.

    1. Got the pictures from BING image search. I will ask some of my contacts in the field if they have any others, or know of any. I’ll try to print some out and give them to Ms. Reddan when I’m at the school Wednesday. My printer isn’t great, so if the quality is good, I’ll give it a shot.

    2. And that’s just an amazing story about that survivor. It’s really why we get interested in this subject so much, because of the little things like that. I’m trying to find some more info on Bois d’Ormont and even I’m having some difficulty.

    3. I am also actively researching the engagement at Bois d’Ormont. I agree details are difficult to find. Once found sorting them out is another challenge. What I am finding is often incomplete, ambiguous and even conflicting. Ironically, my work began recently on October 12th when a photograph of the headstone of a WW I Texan in the 114th appeared on a Facebook page I follow, Traces of Texas. My curiousity on that rainy day led me to this topic that I now cannot put down.

      My Texan, Private Paul Young, died from wounds, likely received on October 12, 1918, at Bois d’Ormont. He may have been in Company A of the 114th. Other references put him in Company I. Regardless, I’ve tabulated KIA for the 114th during their entire active duty. Based on my tally, 86% occurred on that day at Bois d’Ormont.

      Company A was the lead assault unit on the left of Company B during the attack on Bois d’Ormont. There was a French company between the two American units, another French company to the right of Company B. It is those two French companies that failed to advance creating a gap between Company A & B and exposing the right flank of Company B. With language issues, drastic differences in experience, incomplete training, confusing and conflicting orders a bad situation became worse. Then there was the unexpected fierce resistance, gas, artillery and strafing by German planes. But you likely know all that and more.

      Regardless, I’ve assembled quite a collection of resources and am continuing to assemble and compile more. I’d like to collaborate with others on this research. The story of Bois d’Ormont deserves to be revisited and retold. Your grandfather’s account is the core of that retelling. How my lone Texan came to find himself in France with a bunch of New Jersey National Guardsmen is an interesting aside that led me to Bois d’Ormont.

      Thanks also to Greg for his serendipitously bringing this thread together. That is a story in itself.

      1. georgerva

        Interesting stuff? I just happened upon this thread and I can’t stop doing the research. My great uncle 1st Sg George Hedges Co C 114th supported Company A. I’ve read the accounts from ” History of the 29th / Blue & Grey and now seek other sources.

      2. Jeff Maltese

        My grandfather was in Co A and spoke to us as children about trying to help some lost foreign troops during a battle. Seems like that might have been the French unit between them and Co B. I don’t remember him ever being bitter. He remained fiercely patriotic the rest of his life. Fascinating stories here!

  2. Rob Naccarella

    Hi,
    My Grand Uncle PFC Antonio Naccarella (Father’s Uncle) died at Bois D’Ormont on the 12 of October 1918. He was part of the 29th Division 114th Infantry Regiment Company B which was headed by Captain Reddan. I managed to get a copy of Other Men’s Lives sent to me in Australia. Definitely a very passionate telling of the futility of war.

    If you do find some more info on Bois D’Ormont please let me know.

    Ironic you mention D-Day. It was the 29th Division “Blue and Grey” which were one of the first who landed on Omaha Beach.

  3. Neal Sadler

    I read with great interest the above blogs and comments Capt. William Reddan and Company “B”. I have just recently read of his company’s annihilation in the Bois d’Ormont as described in To Conquer Hell. My grandfather participated in Meuse-Argonne also. He spoke very little of what he experienced, but he spoke about a day trying to capture a German machine gun position. Over 200 began and he was one of only 13 who returned. He always considered 13 to be his lucky number after that. We do not know for sure what division or battlion he was in (it seems to be different in every record we have), but his story sounds very familiar to the story of your grandfather’s company. The only discrepancy is that my grandfather was from North Dakota and not New Jersey. Lynn, you indicated in your comments that in the copy of your grandfather’s Other Men’s Lives that he lists the names of those he fought with. Can you check the names and see if my grandfather is there? His name is Willie (or William or Bill) Sadler. Thank you very much. Neal Sadler

  4. Rob Naccarella

    There was no Sadler in Company B 114th infantry. Though there was a W E Sadler PVT 1st Class in Company L 115th Infantry in the 29th Division.

    Cheers
    Rob

    1. Neal Sadler

      Thank you for your assistance. We have found out that he was in Company “B” of the 23rd Infantry of the Second Division. Do you know if there are detailed accounts of the Meuse Argonne Battle for each regiment? I have looked a little online and have found some general accounts, but nothing very specific.

      Thanks,

      Neal

  5. On rereading, I noticed the date October 18, 1918, associated with Bois d’Ormont a few times. According to official records and other sources, the assault on Bois d’Ormont began at 0700 hours on October 12, 1918. While operations continued in that area for another few days, that one day was where Capt. Reddan’s Company B was decimated and the 114th sustained the bulk of its casualties, particularly KIA.

    Also, regarding the image of the burial detail at Bois d’Ormont, it first appeared in “History of the Twenty-ninth division, ‘Blue and gray,’ 1917-1919” by Cutchins and Stewart (1921). The “Honor Roll” in that volume and the Roster in the appendix are my sources for the KIA tally and the conflicting company assignment for Private Paul Young. I have reason to believe the “Honor Roll” is incomplete, but as a statistical sampling for KIA dates may be satisfactory.

  6. William Reddan

    This article is about my great-grandfather… I am the grandson of his oldest son Bill… I realize you posted this 2 years ago, but thanks for posting

    1. James Campbell

      Hi Mr. Reddan . My grandfather served in the 29th division, 113th infantry. He was an ammunition wagon driver and participated in the Bois D’Ormont and the battle for Etraye Ridge. He was gassed on October 23rd, 1918. He recovered long enough to get married and half two children, including my father. He subsequently died at the age of 37 from chronic lung problems from the mustard gas. I am very interested in reading your great-grandfather’s book to learn more about what it was like to be there. Do you know where I can get a copy of his book? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! James Campbell (named after my grandfather)

      1. Lynn Petrovich

        Hi Mr. Campbell. I just now read your post. I am the granddaughter of Captain William J Reddan, author of “Other Men’s Lives”. I sit here looking at my grandfather’s book and note the names he fastidiously listed in the back of this book which he pays tribute to. You didn’t mention your grandfather’s name but there is a “Piercer Campbell” listed, Private 1st Class, in the appendix, page 331. Would that be your grandfather?

      2. Lynn Petrovich

        Also Mr. Campbell, I highly recommend you read “The Last of the Doughboys” published about 5 years ago. I could not put it down. The author spent years talking to the last of the WW1 veterans as they were all over 100. Now they are all gone. He also explains WW1 in great detail. It is an exceptional and amazing piece of art/history. It should be required reading for all.

  7. Todd Reddan

    I have been reading these posts. I am another grandson of Captain Reddan. My father told me, after the war, everyone called him “skipper”, or “cap”. Anyway I am particularly drawn to Neal Sadler’s post where he mentions his grand uncle fought in the Muesse-Argonne offensive and was one of 13 survivors from 200. 13……Too much of a coincidence. Apparently there was more than one American company nearly annihilated in those few days. In Other Men’s Lives, “A reckless exposure of infantry” was written in the field book of a German soldier found in the carnage soon after this battle. He was referring to the American assault at Ormont Farm. A phrase that has stuck with me after I read it. it describes the battle and the losses in that phrase.

  8. Lynn Reddan-Petrovich

    I am writing this on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the US attack at Normandy Beach in France. My grandfather, William J. Reddan, Captain of Company B, 29th Division, 114 infantry (a member of the NJ national guard) has been mentioned in this thread and it has been heartwarming to read everyone’s thoughts on the Battle of Bois D Ormont of which grandpa was one of 13 survivors. Opening his book, Other Men’s Lives, we see on page iv under The Honor Roll (after the forward) the name Anthony Naccaralla who was mentioned above “….K.I.A 12 Oct 1918”.
    Shivers.
    After the war, my grandfather kept a scrap book of newspaper clippings to follow his dogged pursuit to honor the dead. He spoke publicly about the horror which happened in France and he followed all military affairs regarding investigations about the war. His scrap book was titled “The Answer to “Other Men’s Lives” ‘History repeating itself”.
    Of course it is about 80 years old and delicate as a dried leaf. The articles from the NY Herald Tribune, The Newark Evening News and many others follow the trail of military postulating on “what went wrong” in France.
    The very last article is from the NY News dated June 17, 1944 and is entitled “US Invasion losses 15,883” was of course referring to D-Day of which Company B had a leading roll. My grandfather had 4 sons, two of which had been in the war from the beginning. His third son, Corr, was about to be deployed to the Pacific Theatre. My father, his 4th son, was just finishing high school. Two weeks after this article was cut from the newspaper and mounted as the last entry in his scrapbook, grandpa suffered a massive, fatal heart attack at the BEACH in Manasquan, NJ.
    He will be gone 70 years this July 1st.

    1. Michael Clark

      Hello, Captain William Reddan was my grandfather’s commanding officer in the 114th Regiment, 29th Division, A.E.F at the Battle of Bois D’Ormont in Belgium on October 1918. Captain Reddan recommended my grandfather, Sgt. Thomas J. Hynes, for the Distingushed Service Cross, which he received along with the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Croix de Guerre and the Chevalier King Leopold II of Belgium. I have an article to this effect. Thomas Hynes lived and worked as a police officer in Jersey City, NJ and died in December 1945 at age 56. I have some information regarding the Battle at Bois D’Ormont and I plan to visit the battle site near Verdun, France. I would be pleased to view Captain Reddan’s scrap book and book “Other Men’s Lives”. Michael Clark: michaelclark@verizon.net

  9. Richard Knapp

    First I must say I loved reading and seeing the interest of something so long ago. I have been working on my family genealogy on and off for several years. I always knew my uncle was in WW1, but did not know the details. After months of work and talking with my oldest brother, whom I found has some information. We have been able to trace the unit he was assigned. Co. D , 113th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division. One of the stories I remember my Aunts telling me, and the don’t remember all the details was that not many of his unit lived. His name was Pvt. Frank Knapp for Danbury, Connecticut. From the reading I have found this unit fought with the 114th at Bois d Ormont. His obituary states that he recieved the Corix de Guere and served in 5 major offense news. If you or any of the reader help me with more information about the unit or my Uncle I would love hear from you.

    1. Lynn Petrovich

      Richard Knapp, This is Lynn Petrovich, my grandfather is William Joseph Reddan.
      We looked in Other Men’s Lives and Frank Knapp is not listed. Have you ever seen the movie The Lost Battilion? Keep us posted on your journey. We met TODAY, MIchael CLark (who posted above) and who is the grandson of one of the 14 survivors of the battle of Bois de Ormont.
      WOW! almost 100 years later. We talked, and shared objects (like his grandfather’s WW1 helmet with the bullet hole in it from when he was shot in this war). We are all related.

  10. georgerva

    My name is George Hedges & my great uncle, 1st Sgt. George Hedges was in Company C 114th Infantry and earned a Silver Star on Oct 12,1918. He left behind his photo album from the war and one of his pictures on the back says ” Dead Man’s Hill “. Is there a number assigned to this hill?
    I read in part online how deadly this hill was and am researching that along with whatever else I can find. Company C had many soldiers from Hackensack NJ where our families grew up. Would love to share information with anyone so inclined.
    George Hedges
    Richmond VA
    George.RVA@gmail.com

    1. Ron Blake

      I think I have info on that hill. I’ve not seen that name before. It is likely the hill where KIA were temporarily buried until reinterred in France or shipped home. I’m researching a Texan who likely was assigned to the unit with your New Jersey boys. He was wounded on that hill and died about a week after the Armistice.

  11. Jeffery Maltese

    My grandfather, Paul Cardiello from Garfield, NJ, served in A Company, 114th Reg. 29th Div. I know he was hit by machine gun fire in the leg and was also gassed by the exact details of when and where are unknown. I suspect it happened during the assault on Ormont Farm on October 12th. I would also like to visit the site of the battle one day but can’t find much about what is there today. If anyone has any info or sources that I can research, please let me know.

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