Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Michigan in World War I

Following up on yesterday's post about Michigan's involvement in the Civil War, here are a few stories about the ways Michiganders made their mark on the war effort during World War I.

Harry Hill Bandholtz

A statue of Constantine native Harry Hill Bandholtz stands outside the American embassy in Budapest, Hungary. The statue honors the work that Bandholtz did to help restore normality to that country after World War I. During the war, Bandholtz served as a brigadier general, then as Provost Marshal General (basically, the guy in charge of the military police) for the American Expeditionary Force in France. After hostilities ended, Bandholtz was America’s representative on the Inter-Allied Supreme Command Military Mission, which is a fancy way of saying that he helped disarm Hungary’s military. (Hungary was one of the Central Powers that lost the war to Allied forces, including the United States.) Bandholtz also made sure that occupying troops left the country, and saved countless treasures in Hungary’s national museum from Romanian looters, allegedly by threatening the thieves with a riding crop. He died in 1925 at the age of 61 and is buried in the Constantine Township Cemetery.

Joseph Guyton

Like many patriotic young men, Evart native Joseph Guyton enrolled in the infantry during World War I. In 1918, he traveled to France, where he operated a machine gun. On May 24 of that year, Guyton was at the front line of a battle in the German territory of Alsace when an enemy bullet struck him in the head, killing him instantly. Guyton’s death gave him the unfortunate distinction of being the first American soldier killed in German-occupied land during World War I. He’s buried in Evart’s Forest Hill Cemetery. As an even-sadder coda, Guyton’s wife, Winona, died of the flu a few months after his death, and his only child, 11-year-old Olive, died of pneumonia five years later.

Robert Robinson

A bit of warning: this story isn’t for the faint of heart, especially those who get squeamish over injuries. Robert Robinson, a native of Wayne, was a Marine gunnery sergeant fighting enemy aircraft over Belgium when his plane experienced mechanical problems and became separated from the other craft in his formation. Twelve planes attacked Robinson and his pilot, but despite the fact that Robinson was shot 13 times, and received an injury so severe that a tendon was literally the only thing keeping his lower left arm attached to his elbow, he shot down one of the planes attacking him. Robinson’s aircraft eventually made it to the ground, his arm was saved, and he received a Medal of Honor for his bravery. Robinson spent his remaining years in St. Ignace, where he died in 1974 at the age of 78. He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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