I’ve been looking through newspaper files, focusing on events on the front page, to see what my great uncle was seeing and reading while living in Seattle in 1940. The war was on, but America was not yet directly involved in the hostilities.
Douglas MacArthur wrote the following about July 26, 1918, the day one of my great grandmother’s brothers was dropped by German machine gun fire. He was hurried to a field hospital, the 165th, which was attached to the 165th regiment of Ohio, where he died days later.
“…the 167th Alabama assisted by the left flank of the 168th Iowa had stormed and captured the Croix Rouge Farm in a manner which for its gallantry I do not believe has been surpassed in military history. It was one of the few occasions on which the bayonet was decisively used.”
“ . . . the Great War, as it was initially called, sucked up lives at rate of almost 50,000 a day at one point. The Germans committed atrocities against civilians in Belgium, and reduced the Cathedral of Arras to rubble. The soil of Northern France, pockmarked with war craters, is all one big burial ground for lost souls — the graveyards you see, 410 military cemeteries, and the graveyards you don’t see.
When the war ended, after 17 million deaths worldwide, a headline in Britain’s Daily Mirror proclaimed: ‘Democracy Triumphs Over the Last of the Autocrats.’”
My great-great uncle was one of those 17 million.
I have been looking through some imagery created by the talented artists of the AEF, the American Expeditionary Forces, during the nastiness that was the First World War, and I came across this one, a new favorite, of a soldier carrying his wounded buddy. A sketch by Harry Everett Townsend using charcoal on paper, it hangs in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum.
Once again, some fanatic, no doubt inspired by the radical teachings of an imam somewhere, has killed dozens of innocent civilians. This time it was in France, yet again, in the town of Nice.
“Mmmgood french food..right up my French alley..”
My mother added a bit about the family history, ending her comment with a smile emoticon. She probably knows more about emoticons than I do.
“You are so right! 1/8th French from great grandma Poteet!”
Their conversation prompted me to lookup the name on the Google, leading me to two men: one named Francis Poteet and the other named Jerry.
Francis was from England and was recorded as living in Maryland in 1667.
Jerry Poteet is more recent. He was a master of an eclectic and hybrid form of martial art fighting called Jeet Kune Do who learned from Bruce Lee.
The name Poteet is thought to be of French origin. The named is associated with early 18th century Maryland and later with North Carolina and South Carolina.
“If it is French, it is probably a Huguenot name. It may be an altered form of French Petit, or possibly of French Pottet, which is from a diminutive of pot ‘pot’, in any of several senses: a metonymic occupational name for a potter, a nickname for a market trader, or a nickname for a rotund individual.”
Ninety seven years ago yesterday, my great grandmother’s younger brother Leslie died from wounds in France while serving on the Western Front during the First World War. He had been cut down by German machine gun fire four days before and taken to a makeshift field hospital, what had been what’s called a sanitary train, a place where the wounded and sick were tended by medics and nurses. Maybe I’ll get a chance to visit his resting place and the area of operations in France on the 100th anniversary in 2018.
NO greater LOVE
LAY DOWN one’s life
for his FRIENDS.”
This July is replete with significant milestones in our family.
My great uncle celebrated his 99th birthday two weeks ago. He has led a remarkable life. His love of funny stories and anecdotes has entertained us for decades. Thankfully, I’ve been around to hear many of them, and I’ve even recorded some on video.
He was a mere toddler when his uncle, Leslie Darling, went off to France to fight the Hun1 after America became entangled in the First World War. His uncle, Private Darling, died in late July of 1918, succumbing to a wound from a German machine gun crew he encountered near Épieds, France.2
“ . . . the 167th Alabama assisted by the left flank of the 168th Iowa had stormed and captured the Croix Rouge Farm in a manner which for its gallantry I do not believe has been surpassed in military history. It was one of the few occasions on which the bayonet was decisively used.”
I should probably be there in person, in France, for the 100th anniversary in 2018.
1. Hun was a derogatory word used to describe the Germans during both world wars.
2. Leslie Warren Darling died either July 28 or 30, 1918. I would suspect the 28th is the correct date, since a letter is signed noting the day and details. A book compiled by the unit chaplain lists the 30th, but this is most likely a mistake.