This post is focused on my great grandfather Private First Class (PFC) John Thomas Henry Heron.
There are a lot of Herons, and many are named John. I had placed a request with the website Findagrave.com for a photo of my great grandfather's resting place so I could isolate his date of birth (another John Heron was born 1892 in NY). I would do it myself, but I live 3000 miles away from my old home of New York.
I'm thankful the volunteer not only shared the photo, but also captured my great grandmother Augusta E Jost's resting place at Long Island National Cemetery as well.
John passed 20 years before I was born; Augusta passed 13 years before I was born.
The 77th Division
John's tomb listed his service as a PFC (Private First Class) in the 77th Division, 304th company. The 77th, known as the "Statue of Liberty Division" was mostly made up of proud Knickerbockers, sent to Camp Upton (today known as Brookhaven National Lab).
"The recruits represented all races and all creeds - men who had only recently been subjected to the pogroms of Russia, gunmen and gangsters, a type peculiar to New York City, Italians, Chinamen, the Jews and the Irish, a heterogeneous mass, truly representative both of the varied human flotsam and the sturdy American manhood which comprise the civil population of New York City." - World War I draftees from New York City made history in the 77th Division
By the end of the war, 69 officers and 1,299 enlisted men of the 77th had been killed in action. Another 198 men died of their wounds. https://www.ny.gov/new-york-state-wwi-centennial-commission/77th-division
Where the hell is Yaphank?
John's unit, the 304th Field Artillery, was organized Aug-Sep 1917 at Camp Upton, NY, as component of 77th Division (152nd Field Artillery Brigade) [75mm gun]. Moved overseas April 1918. Returned to the US April 1919. Demobilized 19 May 1919 at Camp Upton -
Camp Upton was immortalized in song by another solider, Irving Berlin, as "Yip! Yip! Yaphank!" and later adapted into "Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning". Berlin also wrote the song "God Bless America" while serving there.
Camp life is well captured in a number of books in the public domain. I was able to find a photo of one of the artillery companies that John belonged to.
Riding the Leviathan
Using the DOD MWR Library account, I was able to search FOLD3 and quickly find John's muster sheets for the trip across the Atlantic. He crossed the Atlantic on the Leviathan. The ship was formerly known as Vaterland, before being seized by the US government and converted into a troop carrier.
John got underway on the mighty ship 24 April 1918, six days after the razzle dazzle photo was taken.
Remarkably, several videos of the ship moving troops have been preserved from over 100 years ago.
The ship became infamous in history as one of the sources of the Spanish Flu outbreak, and was featured in the book Pandemic 1918.
The 77th goes to War
I'm not going to rehash all of the battles; I have pulled some snippets about the 77ths heroic deeds in Europe. I recommend glancing through several of the fine books free in the public domain.
American Bound on Agamemnon
The 304th returned to America onboard another confiscated German vessel - the Agamemnon. FOLD3 had the muster sheet, and the unit's history captured that the boat had four bands, and even movies playing for the troops.
The 77th was honored with a victory parade through the heart of New York City.
“I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline... When I see the city from my window - no, I don't feel how small I am - but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.” Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead