Tennessee Records Repository

Decatur Co. TN


From Lillye Younger, People of Action (Decatur County Printers, 1983).

Special thanks to Constance Collett and the estate of Lillye Younger for permission to make this web page.

Lillye Younger

Mr. Tolley and a Buddy in 1918

Mum is the word when it comes to information gathered from those who were engaged in the war to end all wars. It was World War I. It is the war which is listed as one of the most terrible wars of all time. More than eight and a half million men were killed or died wounds that they suffered in it. The war lasted more than four years, from 1914 to 1918.

The two sides were called the Allies and Central Powers.' The Allies originally included Great Britain, France, Russia, and Serbia. Later Italy, Romania, Greece, Japan, the United States, and other countries joined the Allies. Great Britain was joined by Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the Union of South Africa. The Central Powers were Germany, Austria-Hungary (which was then a large empire), Turkey and Bulgaria.

The principal fighting was done in France and Belgium and along their borders with Germany. This was called the Western Front.

It was in 1917 that President Woodrow Wilson's call to Congress was heard to throw all Nations Resources against German Autocracy. 500,000 men were needed at once to aid the allies. On April 6, 1917, three days after a resolution declaring war on Germany had been introduced in Congress, the United States entered World War I as a member of the Allies.

One Decatur County World War I Veteran, hesitantly reveals a bit of his experience in the conflict. This is John Tolley, age 82, whose mind is as clear as a bell and has more vitality than one half his age.

The stocky built agile veteran was inducted in the U.S. Army at Camp Gordon, Georgia, on October 15th, 1917 and returned to the states on July 5, 1919 six months after the Armistice was signed.

"I was transferred from Camp Gordon to Fort Jackson at Columbia, South Carolina, where I remained for eight months, going through basic training," the soft spoken gent revealed. From Fort Jackson he was transferred to Camp Sevier at Greenwell, South Carolina where he trained further as a Military Police. "Here I worked with the civilian force for two months, garnering further training in the field," he said.

Training was completed when the veteran was transferred to Camp Mills, Long Island, which was a port of embarkation. Here soldiers were transferred by ship to Liverpool, England. I embarked at New York at 12 noon on July 30 and sailed on July 31 at 2 p.m. on the Ship 'Megantic'."

"I was attached to Company B, Military Police, 1st Division and we disembarked at Liverpool, England on August 11th and hiked seven miles to Knotty Ash Camp with full pack." He describes his trek through England in a diary fashion, which he has kept and reads thus, "On August 12th, entrained for Winchester, England, five miles Morn Hill Camp. On August 16th, embarked for Southhampton, England, arriving at 4 p.m.".

On the Western Front, the German army under the command of Ludendorff, were very successful. They pushed the British back about twelve miles and captured many of their soldiers. Instead of having his soldiers charge right into the guns of the Allies, he had them first. find a weak spot in the lines, then pour through it and spread in all directions.

But this was the last grasp of the German army. After four years of war, the German soldiers were tired of fighting and the German people at home were not getting enough to eat.

A huge American army was sent to France, under the command of General John J. Pershing, but the American army did not get into battle until 1918. "Over the top" fresh American troops helped turn the tide of World War I after they did reach the front.

In addition to the British and French, there were more than a million fresh, eager, American soldiers in France and 300,000 more were arriving every month. The World War I veteran was among this number. He admitted that his company took part in the battle of St. Die and Argonne Forest. "Our job was to transport the wounded and dead from the front line," he said. He was engaged in the Argonne conflict when armistice was signed.

"We hiked 250 miles from the front lines after World War I came to an end on November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m. The hike took 14 days when they reached a rest camp from which they wove their trek homeward. His itinerary, which he prizes, reads thus: November 16th, went to Sommdieue, 3 kilos; Nov. 20, went to Bennoit Vaux, 16 kilos; November 22, hiked to Vaubecourt, 25 kilos; Nov. 23rd, hiked to Combles, 3okilos; on the 26th, to Marcally, 15 kilos; 27th, to Douvenant, 15 kilos; 28th, to Biernes, 28 knots; 29th, Vaudermon, 12 miles; Decembe: 1, Coupray, 23 kilos; December 2, Bisey La Col, 30 kilos, and on December 3rd, arrived at St. Colonne, Cote d'or, at 12 noon, a distance of 15 kilos; January 15th, left for Montiloit, which was 2 kilos.

Here they remained until May 15, when they left for Chatillons, Seins, a distance of three kilos and arrived at Ballon, Sirthe, on the 17th after hiking from Beaumont, 12 kilos. On June 15th they left Ballon Sirthe to begin the "'nicest part of the entire trip', "Homeward Bound!", he has recorded. On June 6th, they arrived at St. Nazaire to await embarkation orders, and on June 9th, left camp hiking to the water front and boarded the U.S.S. Ronake, destination "America."

"On our homeward trek, we got into a storm which lasted for 24 hours and instead of landing in New York, we landed in Charleston, South Carolina and from here to Camp Jackson then to Fort Olgethrope, Georgia, where he was discharged.

World War I caused a great amount of destruction and left many countries very poor," he smiled and said, still revealing many experiences, as does those who have survived Word War I.

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