World War One Profile: The Boxer in the Suicide Club

Arthur O. Parmelee was born on December 15, 1894 in Huntington (now the town of Shelton) and was the son of Owen Parmelee and Pearl Cole.[1] In 1900, he can be found living with his parents and siblings on Huntington Centre Road in Shelton.[2] By 1909 however, the family had moved to New Haven, living at 751 Dixwell Avenue in 1909[3], 163 Chapel Street in 1910[4] and then 175 St. John Street.[5] Arthur went on to live with his older brother, Daniel, at 1272 Dixwell Avenue in Hamden. “Art” was a well known local boxer. [6]

On June 22, 1916, Art enlisted in the Connecticut National Guard at New Haven[7] and was involved in protecting American lives and property from violet raids along the Mexican border.[8] In and around Nogales, Arizona, Art would have learned to ride, shoot and mount guard as well as how to care for himself and horse.[9] On July 10 and September 6 1916, Art was appointed a cook[10] and under the direction of Sergeant Arthur J. Fisher, gained specialist knowledge in how to conjure food out of army rations.[11] After 4 months of experience in the field, Art’s Troop (Troop A) returned home and was mustered out of federal service.[12]

On August 3, 1917, the Troop was mustered back into federal service and Art was made a soldier of the U.S. Army.[13] During the summer, Art was likely based at Niantic, performing close order drill and road hikes. The Troop soon learned that their horses were to be replaced by machine guns, becoming members of what the British called, the “suicide club”.[14] The Troop initially became Company A of the 101st Machine Gun Battalion but then Company D of the 102nd Machine Gun Battalion.[15]

In October, the Company traveled to England and then onto France, staying in barracks about 3½ miles southeast of Neuf-Chateau. [16] Here time was spent gaining knowledge about the surrounding area and the “air-cooled, gas operated, strip-fed” Hotchkiss machine gun was issued. There were drills on how to handle the guns, gas masks were distributed and tested through a chamber filled with chlorine gas, mules were trained to haul gun and ammunition carts for example in preparation for the trip to the trenches and the Company learned about grenade throwing. It was during this time that five small pigs were dropped from a train near camp. Art, along with Private Minor, decided to capture and kill them and they were likely a welcome addition to army rations. The Company left the camp after 3 months, on February 7, 1918.[17]

Art was involved in the Aisne-Marne, St Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offences and Champagne- Marne defense. He also saw action in Chemin des Dames, Pas Fini (Ile de France), Touls-Boucq, Kupt and Troyon (Lorraine).[18]

In Chemin des Dames, Art and Private McAviney likely found trench warfare tedious and as a result “produced “life-size bombardments” one night” “by throwing hand grenades over the parapet until their tactics were discovered”[19] (parapet formed the side of the trench directly facing the enemy line[20]). In late March 1918, the Machine Gun Battalion was ordered to the northwest of Toul and until the Kitchen arrived Art and Private Ackerman prepared meals.[21] On April 9, Art was promoted from private to corporal[22] and on May 19th, Art was involved in a boxing match against Jenson of the 163rd Infantry, fighting six rounds. He won with ease and brought considerable wealth to his supporters (almost the entire company).[23]

In October, the Company moved north of Verdun, east of the Meuse River (Meuse-Argonne area) and took up new positions in woodland in Bois d’Ormont. Here the American and German lines were very close to each other but were at a stand-still until the 23rd when aggressive action was ordered. Artillery was fired by both sides and all about the line were the dead bodies of French, American and German soldiers. Company D were relieved on October 30th and on November 1st went to Bois des Caures, a quieter sector, slightly right of the positions they occupied in the Bois d’Ormont woods. The infantry cleared the woods of Germans on November 8th and the Company advanced toward Ville devant Chaumont, through the eastern edge of Champneuville woods. [24]

It was in this conquest that Art was wounded by machine gun fire and died on November 10th.[25] This was one of the “last battles on the western front”, the armistice being declared just one day later, on November 11th.[26]  Art was buried at the Meuse-Argonne American cemetery in Romagne, France.[27] During the fighting, Company D suffered 86 casualties, of which two thirds of these were caused during the last 3 weeks of war.[28]

 


[1]Huntington [Shelton], Ct., Births, 1879-1912, 3: 86-87, Arthur O. Parmelee Birth , 1894; Shelton Town Clerk, Shelton.
[2] 1900 U.S. census, Fairfield County, Town of Shelton (Huntington), Connecticut, population schedule,  p.255A (Stamped), enumeration district (ED)74, sheet 18A, dwelling 338, family 382, Owen Parmelee and family; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 28 January 2012); citing NARA microfilm T623, Roll 133.
[3] The Price & Lee Co., compilers, New Haven (Ct.) Directory (New Haven: The Price & Lee Co., 1909), 375.
[4] 1910 U.S. census, New Haven County, Town of New Haven, Ct., pop. sch., ward 11, p. 180B (stamped), ED 429, sheet 2B, dwell. 29, fam. 39, Owen Parmelee Family; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 28 January 2012); citing NARA microfilm T624, Roll 139. Also, The Price & Lee Co., compilers, New Haven (Ct.) Directory (New Haven: The Price & Lee Co., 1910), 392.
[5] The Price & Lee Co., compilers, New Haven (Ct.) Directory (New Haven: The Price & Lee Co., 1911), 402. Also, The Price & Lee Co., compilers, New Haven (Ct.) Directory (New Haven: The Price & Lee Co., 1912), 416. Also, The Price & Lee Co., compilers, New Haven (Ct.) Directory (New Haven: The Price & Lee Co., 1913), 694.
[6] “Quartet of Elm City Boys on Casualty List for Day”, New Haven(Ct.) Evening Register,  4 December 1918, p. 1, col. 3&4.
[7] Service Records, Connecticut, World War 1, 1917-1920, (New Haven, Ct.: United Printing Services, INC, n.d.) 2: 1960.
[8] Robert J. McCarthy, Editor,  A History of Troop A Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard and its service in the Great War as Co. D, 102d Machine Gun Battalion (1919), 5
[9] Ibid, p.6
[10] Service Records, Connecticut, World War 1, 1917-1920, (New Haven, Ct.: United Printing Services, INC, n.d.) 2: 1960.
[11] McCarthy, A History of Troop A Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard and its service in the Great War as Co. D, 102d Machine Gun Battalion, 7
[12] Ibid, p.8
[13] Ibid, p.11
[14]Ibid, p. 13-14
[15] Ibid, p.32
[16] Ibid, p.19-24
[17] Ibid, p.25-27, 31-33.
[18] Service Records, Connecticut, World War 1, 1917-1920, (New Haven, Ct.: United Printing Services, INC, n.d.) 2: 1960.
[19] McCarthy, A History of Troop A Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard and its service in the Great War as Co. D, 102d Machine Gun Battalion, 38
[20] Michael Duffy, Firstworldwar.com (http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/parapet.htm: accessed 30 January 2012), “Parapet”.
[21] McCarthy, A History of Troop A Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard and its service in the Great War as Co. D, 102d Machine Gun Battalion, 41-42
[22] Service Records, Connecticut, World War 1, 1917-1920, (New Haven, Ct.: United Printing Services, INC, n.d.) 2: 1960.
[23] McCarthy, A History of Troop A Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard and its service in the Great War as Co. D, 102d Machine Gun Battalion, 46
[24] Ibid., p. 66-71
[25] Ibid., p.71 & 81. Also, Service Records, Connecticut, World War 1, 1917-1920, (New Haven, Ct.: United Printing Services, INC, n.d.) 2: 1960.
[26] “Quartet of Elm City Boys on Casualty List for Day”, New Haven(Ct.) Evening Register,  4 December 1918, p. 1, col. 3&4.
[27] “WWI, WWII, and Korean War Casualty Listings,” database, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com : accessed 30 January 2012), database entry for Arthur O. Parmelee.
[28] McCarthy, A History of Troop A Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard and its service in the Great War as Co. D, 102d Machine Gun Battalion, 73.

*** Picture taken from “Quartet of Elm City Boys on Casualty List for Day”, New Haven(Ct.) Evening Register,  4 December 1918, p. 1, col. 3&4.

***A photograph of Art’s grave stone can be found here: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=55956464&PIpi=10987345

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