Charles Jakiela in World War I

Proud to fight for his adopted country

My grandfather, Charles Jakiela immigrated to the United States from Lubatowa Poland in 1905.  He was married with two children when the time came in June of 1917 to register for the draft.

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Although he could have, he chose not to claim an exemption and left his wife, Antonia and two sons – Steven, 4 years old and Edward, 2 – behind in Southington Connecticut when he headed to Camp Devens in Ayer Massachusetts.  When asked why he enlisted when he could have been exempt he said it was because “he loved his country”.

The construction of Fort Devens started in early June, 1917, and was performed by a labor force of 5,000 workers which in just 10 weeks built a small city consisting of 1400 buildings, 20 miles of road, 400 miles of electric wiring and 60 miles of heating pipes in addition to water and sewer service. Due to the speed of its development, Camp Devens formally opened at the beginning of September, 1917. It was the first of 16 National Army cantonments to be completed in the country, processing and training more than 100,000 soldiers of the 76th and 12th Divisions from 1917-1919. (from http://www.worldwar1letters.wordpress.com). It was here at Camp Devens that Charles became a United States Citizen.

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Fun fact – 31 Liberty Street in Southington listed on the Certificate is the same location that cousin Steve Jakiela had his deli and catering business – Liberty Deli!

Based on his headstone, I knew that he was in Battery C 302nd F.A. (field artillary).  I really didn’t give it much thought until I saw Bill O’Reilly on an episode of Finding Your Roots and the host, Henry Gates, talked to him about his grandfather who was in the a division of the army out of New York and they talked about how he fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offense in October-November of 1918.  Something just made me start looking again because I knew there had to be more information for Charles’s service.

I found out that the 302nd field artillary regiment was part of the 151st Field Artillery, which was part of the 76th Division, which was part of the 5th Army Corps commanded by Major General Omar Bundy.  The 302nd field artillary regiment were trained with the 4.7″ artillery guns.  I also found the following online:

Seventy-Sixth Division (National Army)

Known as the “Liberty Bell Division.” Insignia is a blue liberty bell superimposed on a khaki square. Organized at Camp Devens, Mass., in Sept., .1917. The division was composed of National Army drafts from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The first units embarked for overseas on July 5, 1918, and the last units arrived in France on July 31, 1918. Upon arrival in France the division was designated as a depot division and ordered to the St. Aignan area. Here the division was broken up, training cadres were formed and the personnel used as replacements for combat divisions at the front. The special units, such as the Signal Battalion and Sanitary Troops, were sent forward as corps and army troops.

Commanding generals: Maj.Gen. H. F. Hodges,. Aug. 25 to Nov. 27, 1917; Brig. Gen. Wm. Wiegel, Nov. 27, 1917 to Feb. 13, 1918; Maj. Gen. H. F. Hodges, Feb.13 to Nov. 11,1918.

This division was composed of the following organizations: 15ast and 152nd Inf. Brigs.; 301st, 302nd, 303rd, 304th Inf. Regts.; 301st, 302d, 303d Machine Gun Bns.; 301st, 302d, 303d Fld. Arty. Regts.; 301st Trench Mortar Battery; 301st Engr. Regt. and Train; 301st Fld. Sig. Bn.; 301st Hqs. Train and M. P.; 301st Amm. Train; 301st Supply Train; 301st Sanitary Train (301st, 302d, 303d and 304th Field Hospitals and Amb. Cos.).

I also found somewhere else (really should have written websites down!) that the 302d and 303d FA Regiments were in the St. Mihiel Sector from 11/2-11/11/18.

He survived his time in France, although I’m told he was heavily gassed, only to have disaster strike on the way home.  According to both Auntie Helen and Uncle Eddie, on the way out of France (England?-It was never said where), as the train the troops were on went over a trestle, a previously unexploded bomb exploded!  Charles landed in a brook and his head was smashed.  Auntie Helen said he had a scar from the front of his head down the back.  A man from Bristol saved him.  Once they arrived home, every Saturday night “four guys on motorcycles” came to their South Center Street home in Southington to visit.  Auntie Helen said he received a pension because of his injury and he would routinely write letters to the government because they wanted to cut his pension!

In 2002, I requested and received a Certification of Military Service for Charles which told me he was in the Army from October 4 of 1917 to April 30, 1919.  Unfortunately, in 1973, there was a fire in the area that destroyed a major portion of records for Army military personnel from 1912 through 1959.

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He died at age 45 when Steve the oldest was 23 and John the youngest was turning 11.  But that’s a story for another time.  He’s buried in St. John’s cemetery.  If you go in the lower driveway to the end and the road curves to the left, he’s at the top of the hill on the right.  John always made sure there was an American flag by his headstone.  I think I will see that there always is.

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