Following up on last week's post about my grandfather's military service during WWI, I wanted to share a few other items I have found that shed light on his time in the Army.
On Fold3.com, a subscription site specializing in military records, I found my grandfather mentioned in a cablegram dated Feb 12, 1919. The cablegram had been sent from General Headquarters A. E. F. and listed the status of various soldiers for whom they had received inquiries. Thankfully, my grandfather was listed in the "well and with organizations specified" category. His entry reads "Reference letter January 11, 1919, Private Benjamin P Pace 1,026,434 Company F 309 Motor Repair Unit Q M C on duty at Motor Overhaul Park No. 2, Dijon". It would be interesting to know who initiated the inquiry about my grandfather. Was it family at home who were concerned about him? Or was it an internal army matter? Regardless, the entry is interesting because it gives a location where my grandfather was stationed in France. With this clue, I set out to learn more about the Dijon motor overhaul park.
Motor overhaul parks were one of three types of service centers in France operated by the newly created Motor Transport Corps. Service parks were mobile units that performed minor repairs, while motor overhaul parks were permanent or semi-permanent and capable of handling major repairs. Reconstruction parks were responsible for rebuilding or salvaging severely damaged vehicles. The motor overhaul park at Dijon was one of four located in France during WWI. A Google search uncovered an aerial photograph of the facility. The number of vehicles visible is impressive.
Newspapers proved to be a great source of information about my grandfather's unit. One particularly helpful article, which announced the homecoming of an Anthony, Kansas soldier, provided many details about the unit's activities during the war. I have created a map (below) to show relevant locations. According to the article, Repair Unit 304 (the first unit my grandfather was assigned to) was sent overseas in September 1918. They first went to Liverpool and then spent two weeks in England. They next sailed from Southhampton to La Havre, France. When they arrived in France, the unit was transferred to the Motor Transport Corps (this is apparently when they were called the 309th Motor Repair Unit). They travelled by train to Dijon and spent a few weeks in that area. They were eventually transferred to Langres and stayed there until the armistice, which occurred on 11 November 1918. The article does not mention the activities of the unit after the war officially ended, although they remained in France for eight more months. From the cablegram described above, it seems that they may have returned to Dijon for part of that time.
Other articles described the return of the part of 309th Motor Repair Unit to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. The 300 men in the unit sailed from Brest, France on July 14, 1919 and arrived in Norfolk, Virginia on 24 July. From there, the soldiers were sent to the camp nearest their home. Presumably my grandfather was one of those who arrived by train at Fort Sam Houston in the early hours of August 3. About two hundred people were waiting for them and the 309th Auxilliary Society had prepared a large meal with 100 watermelons. For some reason, they were not allowed to serve it to the soldiers, so a dance and feast was planned for the next evening instead. I wonder if anyone was there to meet my grandfather. It seems doubtful, since his family lived in west Texas. Most likely he boarded another train for home, where he was no doubt given a joyful welcome.
Organization of the Services of Supply, American Expeditionary Forces (Google Books)
Since it is Veterans Day, I wanted to share this photo of my maternal grandfather, Benjamin Perry Pace, taken during his service in World War I. My memories are of a grandfather who was bald and in his 80s, so it is amazing to see this dashing young man with a very full head of hair! I grew up hearing that Grandad Pace, as we called him, had spent time in France during WWI. I was afraid I would never know more than that about his service, because almost all the service records from that era were destroyed in a fire. So I was very excited when I came across the Texas, World War I Records database on FamilySearch. To my delight, it contained my grandfather's WWI service card, which detailed his training and service. I learned that he received about two months of training at Texas Agricultural & Mechanical College (Texas A&M), which had offered its services to the U.S. government. He was then assigned to QMC Repair Shop 304 which was stationed at Fort Sam Houston. I was a little confused by the note on the back side of the card which said "2/18 Rep Unit 309 to disch". However, after looking at other cards of men from QMC Repair Shop 304, I believe the date should have been 2 Sep 1918. This was just before Grandad was sent overseas, so it is probably the unit that he was assigned to before they left. Grandad Pace served overseas from 17 Sept 1918 to 26 July 1919, a little over nine months. While overseas he received two promotions, to Private First Class and then to Sergeant. He was honorably discharged on 6 Aug 1919, soon after his return to the U.S. I am thankful for my grandfather and all who have served our country!
"Texas, World War I Records, 1917-1920," database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV18-FJJL : 3 April 2015), Benjamin Perry Pace, 13 Apr 1918; citing Military Service, College Station, Brazos, Texas, United States, Texas Military Forces Museum, Austin.
Teresa is the the owner of KinSeeker Genealogy Services. She has a Ph.D. in Biology and a lifelong fascination with genealogy. She been researching her own family history for over 20 years and loves helping others "find their stories."
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