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Clarence Mcghee - My Grandfather's World War I Years

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.

Photo of Clarence McGhee in his WWI uniform - from the collection of Gail Lee McGhee

Photo of Clarence McGhee in his WWI uniform - from the collection of Gail Lee McGhee

clarence-mcghee

A Tribute to My Grandfather and His WWI Experience

The family retains a few pieces of memorabilia from my grandfather's service in the first World War. A few faded photographs and a sentimental card sent to his mother from France are the physical remnants from what must have been a major life event for him.

Clarence McGhee went from a small Kansas town to the trenches of France. Below is what I know about this time in his life.There's more that I'd like to know, so I'll see if my mother has anything more to add to this.


Clarence McGhee is the shorter boy in back.

Clarence McGhee is the shorter boy in back.

My Grandfather's Early Years

Background on Clarence Oliver McGhee

He was born in Hilltop, Arkansas in Boone County, on November 24, 1895. The 1910 census shows the family living in Kansas. They went there so his mother (Viola Matilda Tower McGhee) could help with the care of her mother (Nancy Angeline Long) who had suffered a stroke.

In the photo above, Clarence McGhee is the smaller boy in the back. Photo belongs to Gail Lee Martin and cannot be used elsewhere without permission from her.

Ruth Vining Who Married Clarence McGhee

Ruth Vining

Ruth Vining

Clarence McGhee's Sweetheart

Ruth Vining

Ruth Vining lived with her widowed mother (Nancy Jane Babcock Vining) in Tyro, Kansas. The Vining family and the McGhee family lived on the same street in that small town.

On July 14, 1917 she and Clarence Oliver McGhee married. Less than two months later, he had to report for duty. He was 21 years old.

Photo belongs to Gail Lee Martin and cannot be used elsewhere without permission from her.

Clarence McGhee's Draft Registration Card from 1917

clarence-mcghee

Copy from microfilmed public records.

Details from the card show this information:

He registered June 5, 1917. He was already a private in the Kansas National Guard, Company K, 3rd Infantry since May 1917.

He was age 21 with a home address of Tyro, Kansas. Born in Arkansas. Listed as a student, not employed and as single with no dependents.

It describes him as medium height, medium weight (not slender or stout) and having brown eyes and light hair color.

His Certificate for Registration for the Draft

He registered June 5, 1917 in Tyro, Montgomery County, Kansas.

He registered June 5, 1917 in Tyro, Montgomery County, Kansas.

Clarence McGhee's Mobilization Letter - Telling him to report for duty in WWI

clarence-mcghee

The letter tells him to bring a blanket and a pair of overalls and a jumper (sweater). He should also take toilet articles, an extra suit of underwear, a couple of pairs of wool socks, a face and bath towel. Additionally he needed a 1 quart tin cup, 1 knife, 1 spoon, 1 fork and 1 tin plate (pie pan).

The letter said "We will be entrained and taken to a mobilization camp before our equipment is issued to us." He should bring a small grip with him to ship his belongings back home once he receives his uniform and equipment. (a small grip would be a suitcase)

The Parade to Honor the Soldiers

clarence-mcghee
Edited version of the photo

Edited version of the photo

Parade in Kansas

When the troops left home for World War One

This photo belongs to my cousin and cannot be reused anywhere on the Internet. This parade took place in Independence, Kansas.

I found a newspaper clipping on Newspapers, Inc. that told about plans for this parade.

"NEXT SUNDAY SOLDIER'S DAY; MONTGOMERY COUNTY TO HONOR HER FIVE MILITARY UNITS

Special Trains to Transport the Companies, and Visitors Coffeyville and Caney Parade Ied by Band of 100 Pieces. The citizens of Montgomery County will meet to honor its soldiers next Sunday at Riverside Park. It is to be known as Montgomery County Soldiers' Day. If all reports are true Independence will have one of the greatest crowds ever meeting in this city.

The plan and date were decided upon at a dinner given by Mayor R. R. Bittmann at Hotel Booth last night to the following guests: Lieut. Col. H. E. Floyd of Governor Capper's staff, Captain Geo. II. Wark of Caney; Captains Ralph Fulton and Edgar Dale of Coffeyville; Captains R. T. Fry and Bob Lewis of this city; Mayor Milton Cook of Cherryvale, President Geo. T. Guernsey, Jr., of the Independence Rotary club, President J. M. Macdowell of the Commercial Association, and representatives of the local press.

Special trains will be engaged to transport the military companies and visitors from Coffeyville and Caney and every provision made for their entertainment. Fair weather permitting, all roads leading into Independence from the most remote sections of the county and even beyond the confines thereof will contain long processions of automobiles, for Soldiers Day is to be a real county event, affording final opportunity for homage to the seven hundred and fifty young men comprising the five military units of Montgomery.

A parade of the soldiers led by consolidated bands of more than 100 pieces will be one of the leading features. It is expected that Governor Capper and members of his staff will review the parade from a stand in front of the city hall on Sixth street. The parade will occur during the forenoon and following it will be staged appropriate ceremonies at Camp Humphrey.

Basket dinners formed the most practical solution of the problem of feeding so many people, and every citizen is invited to have his basket sufficiently filled to share It with four or five soldiers. The afternoon will be devoted to social intercourse between soldiers and civilians, with such diversions as may be announced later by the committee.

Lieut. Col. H. E. Floyd as acting chairman last night appointed the following committees, after first expressing gracious acceptance on behalf of the military of Mayor Bittmann's invitation to co-operate: Executive committee Mayor R. R. Bittmann, chairman: Captains Fry and Iwis, J. W. Macdowell and Geo. T. Guernsey. Jr. Financial J. W. Macdowell. Music Prof. Paul O. Goepfert; L. W. Davis, Elk City; Mayor Milton Cook, Cherryvale; Harry Balcom, Caney; Captain Ralph Fulton, Prof. Herbert White and Prof. Robert Reed of Coffeyville.

General: The mayors of Coffeyville, Caney, Elk City and Cherryvale were named as committeemen in 'general charge of arrangements In their respective cities. Publicity Lieut. Col. H. E. Floyd, H. J. Richmond, Earl Cox, Clyde Knox, C. A. Connelly, W. H. Burge, Fred C. Oehler, C. B. Hill, Jas. A. Brady, Hugh Powell, H. M. Gregg, Stanley Platz and.L. W. Davis. The executive committee will meet early today to formulate details for the week.

The reason for selecting next Sunday for Soldiers' Day was due to certain military orders which makes it imperative to stage the event not later than that date. All citizens who expect to provide basket lunches are urged to notify Secretary Jim Adam of the Commercial association by telephone 600 as early as possible. Information on any other matters pertaining to the query by telephone or otherwise at the event will be supplied upon inquiry by telephone or otherwise at Mayor BIttmann's office. At the conclusion of the banquet, Captain Wark of Caney thanked the Mayor and his associates for the hospitality of .the city and all concurred in seconding this."

The Evening Star
(Independence, Kansas)
22 Aug 1917, WedPage 1

Instructions for the Draft

This clipping is from the South Kansas Tribune, 09 Jan 1918, Wed, Page 1. A long list of names, including my grandfather's, followed the instructions. It's interesting that it tells married men to bring their wife in requesting exemption.

This clipping is from the South Kansas Tribune, 09 Jan 1918, Wed, Page 1. A long list of names, including my grandfather's, followed the instructions. It's interesting that it tells married men to bring their wife in requesting exemption.

The Training Camp That My Grandfather Went to

clarence-mcghee

Leaving for France

The Ancestry website just made available the troop transport records from World War I. It showed that Clarence McGhee sailed from the port of NY, NY on April 25, 1918, on the Caronia. I found that the HMS Caronia was a British vessel and there are quite a few photos of it too.

Due to copyright issues, I can't show it here. Just do a Google seach on "Caronia 1918" to see some pictures.

Clarence McGhee in France during WWI.

Clarence McGhee in France during WWI.

Clarence Oliver McGhee

in France during the Great War

This photo was one he sent home to his family from France while he was in the service.

He was in Company D, 3rd Infantry according to his mobilization letter.

Photo belongs to Gail Lee Martin and cannot be used elsewhere without permission from her.

Clarence McGhee's Journal

Inside cover: Pvt. Clarence O. McGhee, Co. D 139, U.S. Infantry, A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Forces), France.

Inside cover: Pvt. Clarence O. McGhee, Co. D 139, U.S. Infantry, A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Forces), France.

At Marceliese (Marseilles) when the armistice was signed & also my B.D. on Nov. 10. Left 2 Dec. to village Nige. Left Dec. 9 to Vignat.

At Marceliese (Marseilles) when the armistice was signed & also my B.D. on Nov. 10. Left 2 Dec. to village Nige. Left Dec. 9 to Vignat.

Left Mar. 9 to Chanteloup, Mar. 12. Left 14 to Champagne rifle range and the Becquigny refuge camp. (cover of the journal)

Left Mar. 9 to Chanteloup, Mar. 12. Left 14 to Champagne rifle range and the Becquigny refuge camp. (cover of the journal)

Videos to Give You a Visual of My Grandfather's WWI Experience

First Video - Gives an overview of WWI

Further down the page, you'll see the following videos.

Second Video - Shows what basic training was like in WWI

Third Video - Shows construction of the trenches and trench warfare

Fourth Video - Interviews with the last surviving veterans from WWI

A Video Overview of WWI

Further Tidbits about Clarence McGhee

Ruth Vining and Clarence Oliver McGhee were married July 14, 1917. He was ordered to report for duty in WWI on August 5, 1917. He was wounded in France on August 19, 1918, at the Battle of Meuse-Argonne and was discharged from the Army in May 1919. According to Edna McGhee, he was a conscientious objector and was wounded when he was delivering supplies to the Front.

A Short Film about the Training of the American Troops

What Was Trench Warfare Like?

Did You Watch the Videos?

Read More about What It Was Like in the Trenches

Photo Gallery of My Grandfather

Photos of My Grandfather

Clarence and Ruth McGhee

Clarence and Ruth McGhee

Clarence and Ruth - I think this is their wedding photo.

Clarence and Ruth - I think this is their wedding photo.

Clarence McGhee before the war.

Clarence McGhee before the war.

Private Clarence McGhee in France.

Private Clarence McGhee in France.

Souvenir from France

Souvenir from France

Souvenir from WWI

Souvenir from WWI

My Grandfather and His Brother-in-Law Together in France

Story of the Three Day Pass

My grandfather's request for a 3-day pass. Now he seems to be in Company D, 139th Infantry.  (all photos owned by my mother, Gail Lee Martin and are not for reproduction)

My grandfather's request for a 3-day pass. Now he seems to be in Company D, 139th Infantry. (all photos owned by my mother, Gail Lee Martin and are not for reproduction)

Letter from Albert Vining to his mother in Tryo, Kansas. Albert was Clarence's brother-in-law.

Letter from Albert Vining to his mother in Tryo, Kansas. Albert was Clarence's brother-in-law.

Page 1 of letter from Albert Vining

Page 1 of letter from Albert Vining

Page 2 of letter telling about the surprise visit of Clarence McGhee.

Page 2 of letter telling about the surprise visit of Clarence McGhee.

Page 3 of letter.

Page 3 of letter.

Page 4 of letter.

Page 4 of letter.

Photo of Albert Vining at Camp Funston, Kansas before he went to France.

Photo of Albert Vining at Camp Funston, Kansas before he went to France.

Albert Vining's Letter to His Mother, Nancy Jane Vining in Tyro, Kansas

Transcription of a Segment of the Letter

Feb 26 1919. Ribeaucourt, France.

"Mother, not changing the subject, but I'll bet you can't guess what rained down last Sunday morning? Well, I will try to tell you as best as I can describe it. It was a man about 5 foot and several inches with blue eyes and light hair. Maby that isn't plain enough so I will tell you his name so here it goes. He is a son-in-law of yours. Clarence Mcghee. He kind of tuck me by surprise. I was setting around the fire and he just sliped up on me before I knew he was in the room.

Say but maby (sic) you don't know how tickled two fellows was, but I think we were about the happiest 2 that ever met. He was on a 3 day pass and maby you don't think we didn't make use of that time. We sure had some good old chats together. We would talk ourselves to sleep every night.

He stayed one over his time, but I don't think he will get in bad over it. I have put in for a pass but don't know whether it will get through or not, to go up and see him and the other boys which are with him in the 139th. There are several other fellows going with me to the same place."

Places Pertinent to the Letter

  • Ribeaucourt, France - Where Albert Vining was stationed.
    Gondrecourt-le-Chateau, France - The location mentioned in the request for a pass to see his brother-in-law.
    Tyro, Kansas, usa - The hometown for the two young soldiers. Albert sent a letter to his mother describing the visit.

Clarence McGhee Was Wounded in the Battle of Meuse Argonne

In my mother's memoir, she tells about her father being wounded in the Batttle of Meuse Argonne in France on August 19, 1918. In May 1919 he was discharged from the army.

Learn More about the Battle of Meuse Argonne

  • The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the final Allied offensive in World War I that pushed the Germans to surrender on November 11, 1918. Read more at Meuse-Argonne Offensive - World War I.
  • If you like learning visually, then visit this gallery of images from the Meuse-Argonne offensive in World War I. Meuse-Argonne Image Gallery It includes 16 photos. I squinted at the faces of the wounded soldiers in a truck. Could one of them be my grandfather?
  • Harry Drinkwater signed up in 1914 and was sent to the front line. In these diary extracts, he writes about his brutal introduction to trench life. The diary was lost for some time but now you can read it online


The Troops Return From France

The records show that Clarence O. McGhee, serial number 1,456,444, returned on the S.S. Nansemond. It left St. Nazaire, France, on April 15, 1919. The troops were traveling in third class.

Searching in Newspapers.com, I found mention that it arrived at night on April 28, 1919, at Newport News, Virginia.

There was a homecoming parade in Caney, Kansas, on May 9, 1919, for the troops.

Parade at Caney, Kansas

The troops return from France. My thanks to Andy Taylor for permission to use this wonderful photo.

The troops return from France. My thanks to Andy Taylor for permission to use this wonderful photo.

The Community Held a Festive Celebration When the Troops Returned

A Perfect Day

"Saturday, May 17, was a day that will be remembered by our citizens as a wonderfully happy occasion, not alone because we were celebrating the return of our victorious boys, but also because the informal method used to welcome them proved a success. The little grove by the Union church was gorgeous with bunting, flags and its lines of red, white and blue pennants.

A free canteen soldiers' booth was in gala dress and three long tables were invitingly decorated. Ten pieces of the Coffeyville band enlivened the gathering and as the boys arrived they were hurried to the canteen to be given numerous treats, registered, and a rose pinned to their coats.

Shortly after noon, mess call sounded and the guests went to the tables. There were so many people present that it required the third time of serving before all were fed but there was an abundance of food and to spare. Despite the fact that he said he was "too full for utterance" Capt. George H. Wark, One Hundred Twenty-ninth Machine Gun Battalion, made a very interesting address.

Then things drifted back to visiting and the soldiers and sailors seemed so glad to just hear in real English and see the changes which had taken place since they "went over." At 6 o'clock they were served a splendid lunch by the A. O. U. W. lodge and in the evening there was dancing in the Dabney Hall and on a platform on Main Street.

As Captain Wark entered Hugh Hill's car to be driven to Dearing he remarked that "I call this the end of a perfect; day; both weather and the reception."

Clipped via Newspapers.com from

The Coffeyville Weekly Journal
Coffeyville, Kansas
22 May 1919, Thu • Page 4

Certificate Honoring My Grandfather's Service

Photo by his great-grandaughter, C. Kolavalli)

Photo by his great-grandaughter, C. Kolavalli)

The Family Story about Him

He Received a Certificate of Honor Signed by Woodrow Wilson

Clarence was wounded in the Battle of Meuse Argonne in France on August 19, 1918. He was in Company D, 139th Infantry. He was discharged from the army in May, 1919.

From what his second wife, Edna told my sister, we don't think his injury was serious. He was delivering supplies to the Front when he was shot. He was a conscientious objector, so was assigned to non-combat duty.

Grandfather made the frame for his certificate. He liked doing woodworking projects.


50 Years Later - My Grandfather in his WWI Uniform (it still fit) 1968

50 Years Later - My Grandfather in his WWI Uniform (it still fit) 1968

50 Years Later - My Grandfather in his WWI Uniform (it still fit) 1968

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Virginia Allain

Let Me Know You Stopped By

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on April 05, 2020:

Thanks so much, Ken Meek, for this great information. I'll work it into my page so it will be more complete.

Much appreciated!

Ken Meek on April 05, 2020:

Thanks for posting this information about your grandfather's service. The photo of the troops leaving for camp was taken in Caney, rather than Independence. When Clarence McGhee was called up, you might notice that he was ordered to report to Company D, 3rd Kansas Infantry, which was based in Caney. I have a roster of the 3rd Kansas which identifies him as an "Attached Reservist" in Company C. It is probable that each member was ordered to report to the nearest unit of the Kansas National Guard. ( Company K was in Newton and Company C in Junction City ). The 3d Kansas was merged with the 4th Missouri Infantry to form the 139th Infantry which served in France as part of the 35th Division. The captain of Co. D was George Wark, who as General Wark, was instrumental in having a large Armistice Day celebration in Caney each year.

Dennis Perry BUCOJUCO68 on November 17, 2014:

I'm trying to work thru all of this. Very interesting.

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on May 26, 2014:

How wonderful to be able to compile this history of your grandfather and his service during World War I. I wish I had time to watch the video just now, but I have wee ones needing my attention. I hope to get to some of your mother's stories as well, as I would like to know more about the conflict than what little I have seen in movies and read in novels. My own grandfather fought in that war, and I do believe it changed him. My last living memory of him is of him showing my brother and me his medals and other memorabilia. I often wish I had known enough to ask him questions, because he so seldom engaged with us.

amandascloset0 on April 30, 2014:

very nice tribute to your grandfather. Thanks so much for sharing!

AlleyCatLane on March 18, 2014:

Genealogy is so fascinating. It's wonderful you have some mementos of that time in your grandfather's life.

goldenrulecomics from New Jersey on November 28, 2013:

Wonderful way to share and preserve family memories!

Lorelei Cohen on October 06, 2013:

I am so glad that your grandfather was able to return from the war ( a bit worse for wear but thankfully able to return to his family). I love your old photos. Your articles are always amazing.

anonymous on July 09, 2013:

I love stories from the war, and it is really special that you have these photos and stuff. So much has been lost over the years. I watched that movie War Horse too, it's pretty good. Thanks for sharing your Grandfathers story.

LisaDH on May 28, 2013:

I enjoyed reading about your grandfather and seeing all the documents and photos. My grandfather served in WWII, but he didn't keep many photos or letters from that period, and he didn't really talk about it, so we don't know very much about his service. I think it's great that you've put this page together for your family always to remember your grandfather.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on May 28, 2013:

@anonymous: Thanks for stopping by, Aunt Carol. I'll be making more family pages soon.

anonymous on May 28, 2013:

I'm so pleased you've put this together, and so well! I often regret that I did not think to talk to my father about his experience. I knew he served in WWI, but it was never talked about, and, as we often do, I let it slip away. Carol

gottaloveit2 on March 13, 2013:

Virginia - this is my favorite lens of all time, I think. I was so moved as I read the letters to 'Mother.' How wonderful that you have these things in your family. Way BLESSED!

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on February 14, 2013:

@debnet: I'm always glad when one of my history lenses helps someone visualize an era or event. Thanks for the blessing.

Debbie from England on February 14, 2013:

Coming from the UK we hear tales of the trenches all the time but I didn't realise US troops helped out our boys in WW1. Thank you for sharing part of your wonderful family history. I love the old photos :)

Sara Duggan from California on October 30, 2012:

What a great memorial to your grandfather. You are blessed to have such memories of your family to pass on.

theallin1writer on July 30, 2012:

We should always remember our loved ones, I am sure your grandfather would have appreciated this.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on July 27, 2012:

How exciting for you to have a few personal pieces of your grandfather's time in service during World War I. Thanks for sharing this.

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