No. 4: “I don’t know if they found out!” This utterance marks the return of our most disenfranchised relative, Cecil Farabaugh. His much older half-brother Walter was reportedly gassed in WWI. When Walter was exhumed from a temporary grave in France (marked by the cross above) and brought to Carrolltown for reinterment (the headstone above), there was an inspection of the remains to see if it was really him. It was conducted by Walter’s father Joseph, and by Dr. Charles Farabaugh, brother to Walter. The results were not shared with 12-year-old Cecil, hence the exclamation.
Walter was a Corporal in Company H, 16th Infantry, First Division. Various independent sources (local to Cambria County) state that he encountered mustard gas released by German forces at Julvecourt, France, on October 3, 1918, and died the next day. However, Walter’s death occurred in the second phase of the Battle of the Argonne Forest, and I cannot locate any account of mustard gas being deployed then. As explained here, the First Division was at the forefront of the assault on Oct. 4, Walter’s date of death. The Division advanced a mile and a half at great loss of life, but succeeded in creating a gap in the German defensive line.
In order to investigate this further, we are going to have to order Walter’s records from the National Archives. I did this years ago to learn about the WWI service of my grandfather Bede Bender. The oral tradition was that he was a radio operator on a submarine, but it turned out he was an operator on a submarine tender. If you, gentle reader, wish to take on Walter’s records be my guest. I certainly encourage it because I’m not sure when, if ever, I’ll get around to it.
The Daily Tribune, now the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, reported on 14 Jul 1921 that Walter’s remains arrived in Hoboken, N.J. Cecil recalled that when the casket came to Carrolltown, a guard was assigned to it at all times. Yet, there was enough family doubt that a private viewing of the remains was requested. So, there is some unfinished business in order to better understand and honor our brave relative. I suppose there is a certain romantic appeal should the mustard gas story be verified. But that was certainly a horrible, suffocating death. I’m starting to prefer the image of him charging across an open battlefield instead.