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Clarence McGhee - My Grandfather's WWI Years

Updated on September 27, 2017
Virginia Allain profile image

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.

A Tribute to My Grandfather and His WWI Experience

The family retains a few pieces of memorabilia from my grandfather's service in the first World War. A few faded photographs and a sentimental card sent to his mother from France are the physical remnants from what must have been a major life event for him.

Clarence McGhee went from a small Kansas town to the trenches of France. Below is what I know about this time in his life.There's more that I'd like to know, so I'll see if my mother has anything more to add to this.

(photo of Clarence McGhee in his WWI uniform - from the collection of Gail Lee McGhee)

clarence mcghee
clarence mcghee

My Grandfather's Early Years

Background on Clarence Oliver McGhee

He was born in Hilltop, Arkansas in Boone County, on November 24, 1895. The 1910 census shows the family living in Kansas. They went there so his mother (Viola Matilda Tower McGhee) could help with the care of her mother (Nancy Angeline Long) who had suffered a stroke.

In the photo, Clarence McGhee is the smaller boy in the back. Photo belongs to Gail Lee Martin and cannot be used elsewhere without permission from her.

ruth vining mcghee
ruth vining mcghee

Clarence McGhee's Sweetheart

Ruth Vining

Ruth Vining lived with her widowed mother (Nancy Jane Babcock Vining) in Tyro, Kansas. The Vining family and the McGhee family lived on the same street in that small town.

On July 14, 1917 she and Clarence Oliver McGhee married. Less than two months later, he had to report for duty. He was 21 years old.

Photo belongs to Gail Lee Martin and cannot be used elsewhere without permission from her.

Clarence McGhee's Draft Registration Card from 1917

WWI Draft Papers
WWI Draft Papers

Copy from microfilmed public records.

Details from the card show this information:

He registered June 5, 1917. He was already a private in the Kansas National Guard, Company K, 3rd Infantry since May 1917.

He was age 21 with a home address of Tyro, Kansas. Born in Arkansas. Listed as a student, not employed and as single with no dependents.

It describes him as medium height, medium weight (not slender or stout) and having brown eyes and light hair color.

Source

Clarence McGhee's World War I Registration Certificate

He registered June 5, 1917 in Tyro, Kansas.

Clarence McGhee's Mobilization Letter - Telling him to report for duty in WWI

Source

The letter tells him to bring a blanket and a pair of overalls and a jumper (sweater). He should also take toilet articles, an extra suit of underwear, a couple of pairs of wool socks, a face and bath towel. Additionally he needed a 1 quart tin cup, 1 knife, 1 spoon, 1 fork and 1 tin plate (pie pan).

The letter said "We will be entrained and taken to a mobilization camp before our equipment is issued to us." He should bring a small grip with him to ship his belongings back home once he receives his uniform and equipment. (a small grip would be a suitcase)

The Training Camp That My Grandfather Went to

Source
Clarence McGhee in France during WWI.
Clarence McGhee in France during WWI. | Source

Clarence Oliver McGhee

in France during the Great War

This photo was one he sent home to his family from France while he was in the service.

He was in Company D, 3rd Infantry according to his mobilization letter.

Photo belongs to Gail Lee Martin and cannot be used elsewhere without permission from her.

Clarence McGhee's Journal - Click to See Pictures Larger & to See the Description

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Inside cover: Pvt. Clarence O. McGhee, Co. D 139, U.S. Infantry, A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Forces), France.At Marceliese (Marseilles) when the armistice was signed & also my B.D. on Nov. 10. Left 2 Dec. to village Nige. Left Dec. 9 to Vignat.Left Mar. 9 to Chanteloup, Mar. 12. Left 14 to Champagne rifle range and the Becquigny refuge camp. (cover of the journal)
Inside cover: Pvt. Clarence O. McGhee, Co. D 139, U.S. Infantry, A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Forces), France.
Inside cover: Pvt. Clarence O. McGhee, Co. D 139, U.S. Infantry, A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Forces), France.
At Marceliese (Marseilles) when the armistice was signed & also my B.D. on Nov. 10. Left 2 Dec. to village Nige. Left Dec. 9 to Vignat.
At Marceliese (Marseilles) when the armistice was signed & also my B.D. on Nov. 10. Left 2 Dec. to village Nige. Left Dec. 9 to Vignat.
Left Mar. 9 to Chanteloup, Mar. 12. Left 14 to Champagne rifle range and the Becquigny refuge camp. (cover of the journal)
Left Mar. 9 to Chanteloup, Mar. 12. Left 14 to Champagne rifle range and the Becquigny refuge camp. (cover of the journal)

Videos to Give You a Visual of My Grandfather's WWI Experience

First Video - Gives an overview of WWI

Further down the page, you'll see the following videos.

Second Video - Shows what basic training was like in WWI

Third Video - Shows construction of the trenches and trench warfare

Fourth Video - Interviews with the last surviving veterans from WWI

A Video Overview of WWI

A Further Tidbit about Clarence McGhee

Ruth Vining and Clarence Oliver McGhee were married July 14, 1917. He was ordered to report for duty in WWI on August 5, 1917. He was wounded in France on August 19, 1918, at the Battle of Meuse-Argonne and was discharged from the Army in May 1919. According to Edna McGhee, he was a conscientious objector and was wounded when he was delivering supplies to the Front.

A Short Film about the Training of the American Troops

What Was Trench Warfare Like?

Did You Watch the Videos?

Vote in the poll

See results

Photo Gallery of My Grandfather

Photos of My Grandfather - Click on Any to See It Larger & to Read the Captions

Clarence and Ruth McGhee
Clarence and Ruth McGhee | Source
Clarence and Ruth - I think this is their wedding photo.
Clarence and Ruth - I think this is their wedding photo.
Clarence McGhee before the war.
Clarence McGhee before the war.
Private Clarence McGhee in France.
Private Clarence McGhee in France.
Souvenir from France
Souvenir from France | Source
Souvenir from WWI
Souvenir from WWI | Source

My Grandfather and His Brother-in-Law Together in France

Places in the Following Story

A
Ribeaucourt, France:
Ribeaucourt, France

get directions

Where Albert Vining was stationed.

B
Gondrecourt, France:
Gondrecourt-le-Château, France

get directions

The location mentioned in the request for a pass to see his brother-in-law.

C
Tyro, Kansas, usa:
Tyro, KS, USA

get directions

The hometown for the two young soldiers. Albert sent a letter to his mother describing the visit.

Story of the Three Day Pass

My grandfather's request for a 3-day pass. Now he seems to be in Company D, 139th Infantry.  (all photos owned by my mother, Gail Lee Martin and are not for reproduction)
My grandfather's request for a 3-day pass. Now he seems to be in Company D, 139th Infantry. (all photos owned by my mother, Gail Lee Martin and are not for reproduction) | Source
Letter from Albert Vining to his mother in Tryo, Kansas. Albert was Clarence's brother-in-law.
Letter from Albert Vining to his mother in Tryo, Kansas. Albert was Clarence's brother-in-law.
Page 1 of letter from Albert Vining
Page 1 of letter from Albert Vining
Page 2 of letter telling about the surprise visit of Clarence McGhee.
Page 2 of letter telling about the surprise visit of Clarence McGhee.
Page 3 of letter.
Page 3 of letter.
Page 4 of letter.
Page 4 of letter.
Photo of Albert Vining at Camp Funston, Kansas before he went to France.
Photo of Albert Vining at Camp Funston, Kansas before he went to France. | Source

Albert Vining's Letter to His Mother, Nancy Jane Vining in Tyro, Kansas

Transcription of a Segment of the Letter

Feb 26 1919. Ribeaucourt, France.

"Mother, not changing the subject, but I'll bet you can't guess what rained down last Sunday morning? Well, I will try to tell you as best as I can describe it. It was a man about 5 foot and several inches with blue eyes and light hair. Maby that isn't plain enough so I will tell you his name so here it goes. He is a son-in-law of yours. Clarence Mcghee. He kind of tuck me by surprise. I was setting around the fire and he just sliped up on me before I knew he was in the room.

Say but maby (sic) you don't know how tickled two fellows was, but I think we were about the happiest 2 that ever met. He was on a 3 day pass and maby you don't think we didn't make use of that time. We sure had some good old chats together. We would talk ourselves to sleep every night.

He stayed one over his time, but I don't think he will get in bad over it. I have put in for a pass but don't know whether it will get through or not, to go up and see him and the other boys which are with him in the 139th. There are several other fellows going with me to the same place."

Clarence McGhee Was Wounded in the Battle of Meuse Argonne

Source

The mousepad above was created by Meuse-Argonne Mouse Pads by Dividenda and is available from Zazzle.

In my mother's memoir, she tells about her father being wounded in the Batttle of Meuse Argonne in France on August 19, 1918. In May 1919 he was discharged from the army.

Source

The Family Story about Him

He Received a Certificate of Honor Signed by Woodrow Wilson

Clarence was wounded in the Battle of Meuse Argonne in France on August 19, 1918. He was in Company D, 139th Infantry. He was discharged from the army in May, 1919.

From what his second wife, Edna told my sister, we don't think his injury was serious. He was delivering supplies to the Front when he was shot. He was a conscientious objector, so was assigned to non-combat duty.

Grandfather made the frame for his certificate. He liked doing woodworking projects.

(photo by his great-grandaughter, C. Kolavalli)

Source

Parade in Kansas

when the troops returned home from World War One

This photo belongs to my mother, Gail Lee Martin and cannot be reused anywhere on the Internet. This parade took place in Independence, Kansas.

Warhorse - An excellent movie of WWI

Source

Downton Abbey (Season 2) Includes Scenes of Trench Warfare in France

Episode one shows several of the characters in the trenches. You feel like you are right there with them in the mud with the bullets whistling overhead.

50 Years Later - My Grandfather in his WWI Uniform (it still fit) 1968

50 Years Later - My Grandfather in his WWI Uniform (it still fit) 1968
50 Years Later - My Grandfather in his WWI Uniform (it still fit) 1968

© 2012 Virginia Allain

Let Me Know You Stopped By

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    • profile image

      Dennis Perry BUCOJUCO68 

      3 years ago

      I'm trying to work thru all of this. Very interesting.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      How wonderful to be able to compile this history of your grandfather and his service during World War I. I wish I had time to watch the video just now, but I have wee ones needing my attention. I hope to get to some of your mother's stories as well, as I would like to know more about the conflict than what little I have seen in movies and read in novels. My own grandfather fought in that war, and I do believe it changed him. My last living memory of him is of him showing my brother and me his medals and other memorabilia. I often wish I had known enough to ask him questions, because he so seldom engaged with us.

    • amandascloset0 profile image

      amandascloset0 

      4 years ago

      very nice tribute to your grandfather. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 

      4 years ago

      Genealogy is so fascinating. It's wonderful you have some mementos of that time in your grandfather's life.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 

      4 years ago

      Wonderful way to share and preserve family memories!

    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      4 years ago from Canada

      I am so glad that your grandfather was able to return from the war ( a bit worse for wear but thankfully able to return to his family). I love your old photos. Your articles are always amazing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      I love stories from the war, and it is really special that you have these photos and stuff. So much has been lost over the years. I watched that movie War Horse too, it's pretty good. Thanks for sharing your Grandfathers story.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 

      5 years ago

      I enjoyed reading about your grandfather and seeing all the documents and photos. My grandfather served in WWII, but he didn't keep many photos or letters from that period, and he didn't really talk about it, so we don't know very much about his service. I think it's great that you've put this page together for your family always to remember your grandfather.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      @anonymous: Thanks for stopping by, Aunt Carol. I'll be making more family pages soon.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      I'm so pleased you've put this together, and so well! I often regret that I did not think to talk to my father about his experience. I knew he served in WWI, but it was never talked about, and, as we often do, I let it slip away. Carol

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 

      5 years ago

      Virginia - this is my favorite lens of all time, I think. I was so moved as I read the letters to 'Mother.' How wonderful that you have these things in your family. Way BLESSED!

    • debnet profile image

      Debbie 

      5 years ago from England

      Coming from the UK we hear tales of the trenches all the time but I didn't realise US troops helped out our boys in WW1. Thank you for sharing part of your wonderful family history. I love the old photos :)

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      @debnet: I'm always glad when one of my history lenses helps someone visualize an era or event. Thanks for the blessing.

    • MomwithAHook LM profile image

      Sara Duggan 

      5 years ago from California

      What a great memorial to your grandfather. You are blessed to have such memories of your family to pass on.

    • theallin1writer profile image

      theallin1writer 

      5 years ago

      We should always remember our loved ones, I am sure your grandfather would have appreciated this.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      How exciting for you to have a few personal pieces of your grandfather's time in service during World War I. Thanks for sharing this.

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