I'd known ever since I was a little child that my grandfather had come back from World War I as the most decorated soldier from Bradley County, Tennessee. I never really knew much about what that meant. War wasn't real popular in the Vietnam Era, and I just never asked about it, and he was a quiet man who didn't tell unsolicited war stories. But not only did he keep a diary during his time in the Marines, but he typed it up shortly after the war, so there is a permanent record of his experiences. He also kept many war mementos, some of which are on display in the Cleveland Public Library.
Granddad's war diary was serialized by his local newspaper, The Cleveland Daily Banner, in 1979, only a year before he died. Then, almost 20 years later, my Dad had a touch of nostalgia and patriotism and wrote a moving letter to commemorate Veterans day and to remind us of what Granddad did. At about the same time, I started corresponding with some of my relatives and friends through the Internet. And in an e-mail conversation, a friend who is a history buff expressed interest in Granddad's war diary. So I decided that the Internet might be a useful forum for sharing the war diary with... well, with the world. So, with considerable help from my Dad, who had the original diary, I "webified" it, and here it is.
To introduce it further, I've included the cover story written for the Daily Banner back in 1979.
- Robin Richmond
Now, at the age of 84, the Cleveland native vividly recalls World War I and has every minute of his days in service preserved in his "War Diary," which he will be sharing with Banner readers beginning today and climaxing on Armistice Day, 1979.Richmond was 23 years old and a student at the University or Tennessee at Knoxville, when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1918 and trained at Paris Island, S.C. He was sent to France on June 18, 1918 and suddenly the young soldier found himself on the battlefront. His courage and dedication to his country resulted in Richmond being decorated for numerous honors from several branches of the military, including the French military. He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre, the U.S Army's Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross and others. Remembrances of his year-long haul in the military are typed in a black leather folder, and a large green scrap hook holds his most cherished photographs of his youth and his service in the Marines. Today, through the permission of Richmond, begins a series of information taken from Richmond's War Diary. It gives detailed, daily accounts of a young man's impressions of World War I-from start to finish. On Oct. 3, 1918 in France, Pvt. Clarence L. Richmond "went through the heaviest machine gun and artillery fire, dressing and carrying the wounded. Disregarding his own safety, he refused to take rest or food while the wounded needed his help..." thus read the citation and news accounts of Richmond's participation in military strategics in the early 1900's. Richmond was assigned to the 43rd Company of the Fifth Marines, which was holding in the Bois de Balleau in the Chateau-Thierry sector. Accounts of that activity reveal: "during the latter part of September and early October, 1918, the French were fighting furiously to obtain possession of Blanc Mont Ridge ... which were of tremendous military value. The French had failed repeatedly. ... In the face of terrific machine gun and artillery fire, the Marines advanced and took their objective at the end of the day." Corp. Richmond was a stretcher-bearer during World War I. He recalls the battles which faced him, saying, "you don't have much time to think - you just wonder if the next one will get you - my division suffered 25,076." Although Richmond was not wounded during his service in the military, he did suffer intestinal difficulties "due to poor diet. When I left Germany, I weighed 180 pounds, and after I returned home my weight dropped to 139 In February, 1918; Richmond, like so many other young men, was sworn into the armed forces and sent to Parris Island, S.C. for the infantry training. When training ended in May, the slim soldier sported a badge as an expert rifleman. He didn't see his native Tennessee until the war ended. After training, he traveled to New York and a two week voyage across the Atlantic on the Navy transport USS Henderson, along with some 2,000 other marines. They landed in June and within days the fresh American troops were on the front lines. That's where they stayed for the rest of the year 1918, moving across northern France. Richmond recalls "the Germans were then about 20 miles north of Paris. That's as close as they ever got though. They were pretty rough, well disciplined. On the front lines there was always the sound of gunfire. There were always narrow escapes with shells falling close by. Although World War I has come and gone, memories of it still linger in the heart and mind of Clarence Richmond. His home on Clingan Ridge Drive is filled with keepsakes of his military fetes. He is a member of an elite last Man's Club in Cleveland, consisting of World War I veterans who meet once a year. Richmond vividly recalls Nov. 8, three days before Armistice Day, 1918. "Our unit had crossed the Meuse, and I walked across practically all of northeastern France. We carried wounded from the front-line fire. We started across two bridges, but one of them was shot out, so we had to use just one. After we had gotten across, we could hear Germans talking on the hillside. They didn't know we were there..." That's where the silence came. Richmond stood on a hillside near the Meuse River and wondered what all the quiet was about. "Around 11 o'clock, everything got quiet," he recalls. "We enlisted men didn't know what was going on. Perhaps some of the officers did, but we didn't. Then, they started coming around and telling us. Richmond would later be promoted and decorated for heroism for the part he played as a front line stretcher bearer during the months of hard fighting that led to Armistice Day, 1918. "Behind the lines, they gave me a rifle to drill with, then when I went to the front they took the rifle away," he says. "Stretcher hearers don't carry weapons of any kind." Promoted from private to corporal and sent with a unit into Germany near Coblenz as part of the occupation, Richmond recalls the "German people there were nice. There was not so much destruction then as in World War II, because there wasn't as many airplanes used." It was Armistice Day, 1920, when Richmond received his Navy Cross for his "extraordinary heroism in action near Blac Mont, France, 1918." Other citations came later and a copy of his memoirs have been placed in Cleveland Public Library, through the courtesy of Col. James F. Corn, historian. Richmond also, in 1974, donated a series of bound copies of "Stars and Stripes," a World War I publication, to the public library. Today's series begins a series which will enable Clevelanders to get a "vivid picture of the war through the eyes of a young soldier." Said Beecher Hunter, Banner editor. "The Banner readers should feel honored to have the opportunity to share the War Diary of Clarence Richmond. He's been an outstanding man in this community for many years and we feel honored he's willing to share a bit of history via the pages of this newspaper. In coming weeks, readers will read vivid accounts of World War I through the diary of Clarence Richmond. The first installment of his War Diary begins on today's Life Styles pages." A life-long Clevelander, Richmond was graduated from the old Cleveland High School in 1916. That same year, the county opened Bradley Central High School and he enrolled and became a member of BCHS's first graduating class in 1917. From there, he traveled to the University of Tennessee to study agriculture. Before the autumn of that year his student deferment was changed to 1A classification for the draft. Richmond joined the Marines and began his illustrious career in service to his country. (By Sandra M. Rowland, Cleveland Daily Banner Life Styles Editor)