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Bert C. Kines
1896-1918

"I have only 2 men left out of my company and 20 out of other companies. We need support but it is almost suicidal to try to get here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant artillery barrage is upon us. I have no one on my left, and only a few on my right. I will hold."

Marine General Clifton Bledsoe Cates, on the Battle of Soissons

Bert C. Kines was born in 1896 at Moatsville, Barbour County, West Virginia, to Zachariah I. Kines and Amanda Clem Kines in 1896. According to U.S. Federal Census records, Zach Kines was a farmer in 1880, and, by 1910, a merchant. In 1884, he had been appointed postmaster of Arden in Barbour County. By 1900, the family included Dova, Willie, and Bert, who was called Bertie on the census listing. A daughter, Cora, appeared with the family in the 1880 census, but was not found with the family on a census again, perhaps due to marriage. Another sister, Effie Nevada Kines (b. 1883) appears in Ancestry.com records, but in none of the census listings. In 1904, the family added another brother, Leslie Darl Kines. The 1920 census shows a Gail Kines (age 15) to be living with Zachariah and Amanda, possibly another daughter. The lack of 1890 census data adds to this confusion, as well as the surname being spelled Kinas in 1920 and Bines in 1900.

Little is known about young Bert Kines’ life and education until he enlisted in the Army in October 1916. He was originally placed with the 19th Infantry, Company A, until May 28, 1917. Pvt. Kines’ name is found on a passenger list of members of the 26th Infantry who were being sent overseas on June 14, 1917. This was only a month after the First Expeditionary Division was constituted from Army units serving on the Mexican border, and only a week after the 1st Division was reorganized in New York. (“1st Infantry Division,” Combat Reels, accessed 27 June 2017, http://www.combatreels.com/1st_infantry_division.cfm.)

While it is not possible to trace Pvt. Kines’ personal experiences in World War I, the Society of the 1st Infantry Division verifies that his unit sailed from Hoboken, New Jersey, on June 14, 1917, aboard the San Jacinto. The passenger list includes Pvt. Kines, indicating he was among the first to enter the European theater. The troops landed in Europe, specifically at St. Nazaire, France, and Liverpool, England. They continued on to a training area in France. (“History: World War I,” Society of the 1st Infantry Division, accessed 27 June 2017, https://www.1stid.org/historyindex.php.)

It’s often repeated that some units of the 1st paraded through Paris on the 4th of July. One of General Pershing’s staff said, “Lafayette, we are here!” when they reached the tomb of the Marquis de La Fayette as a tribute to the French Revolution and American Revolution hero. No record was found, however, of who called the 1st the “Big Red One,” but the association began and stuck. (“History: World War I,” Blue Spaders: 26th Infantry Regiment Association, accessed 27 June 2017, http://www.bluespader.org/history/.)

On October 23, 1917, the first American shot of the war was fired, and American casualties were claimed two days later. The Germans pushed to within 40 miles of Paris by April of 1918. The Society of the 1st Infantry Division provides the following account:

By April 1918, the Germans had pushed to within 40 miles of Paris. In reaction to this thrust, the Big Red One moved into the Picardy Sector to bolster the exhausted French First Army. To the Division’s front lay the small village of Cantigny, situated on the high ground overlooking a forested countryside. It was the 28th Infantry, who attacked the town, and within 45 minutes captured it along with 250 German soldiers, thus earning the special designation “Lions of Cantigny” for the regiment. The first American victory of the war was a First Division victory.

The First Division took Soissons in July 1918. The Soissons victory was costly—more than 7000 men were killed or wounded. (“History: World War I,” Society of the 1st Infantry Division, accessed 27 June 2017, https://www.1stid.org/historyindex.php.)

The webpage for the 26th Infantry Regiment Association (nicknamed the “Blue Spaders” and shown in the regiment’s patch) offers the following account of its World War I involvement:

Along with its sister regiments of the division, it earned more campaign streamers than any other regiments during World War I. However, they came at a terrible cost. Over 900 Blue Spaders lost their lives in a six-month period. At Soissons alone, the regimental commander, executive officer, two of three battalion commanders and the regimental sergeant major were killed in action; sixty-two officers were killed or wounded; and out of 3,100 Blue Spaders that started the attack, over 1,500 had been killed or wounded. But the battle was won and this turned the tide for the Allies at a crucial period during the summer of 1918. By war’s end, the soldiers earned seven battle streamers and two foreign awards. (“History: World War I,” Blue Spaders: 26th Infantry Regiment Association, accessed 27 June 2017, http://www.bluespader.org/history/.)

Bert Kines, who at some point had become private first class, died on July 20, 1918. On that date, his regiment was fighting the Battle for Soissons.

The book Blue Spaders: The 26th Infantry Regiment, 1917-1967 (Cantigny Military History Series. Wheaton, IL: Cantigny First Division Foundation, 1996) provides a history of the 26th in World War I in greater detail. The battle began on July 18th, 1918. The war was brutal in all regards, and this battle was no exception. The 26th faced the toughest terrain from which to stage their operations, helping to set up a surprise attack just before dawn. Major Theodore Roosevelt, eldest son of the President, wrote in “Average Americans”:

The troops all reached the position safely by about 4 o’clock. Our position lay along the edge of a rugged and steep ravine. The rain had stopped, and the first faint pink of an early summer morning lighted the sky. Absolute silence hung over everything, broken only by the twittering of birds. Suddenly, out of the stillness, without warning of a preliminary shot, our artillery opened with a crash. All along the horizon, silhouetted against the pale pink of the early dawn, was the tufted smoke of high explosive shells, and the burst of shrapnel showed in flashes like the spitting of a broken electric wire of a hailstorm. After the bombardment had been going on for two minutes, D company, on the right, became impatient and wanted to attack, and I heard the men call, “Let’s go, let’s go!” At 4:35 the infantry went over.

Thus began the first day, which ended in some victories, but also with failures. Day 2 could not be avoided and began at 4 a.m. Little progress was made by 9:00 a.m., and a setback was suffered to the tank division when they advanced into a well-fortified area. The account continues: “Then the sun, the lack of food and water, as well as the disorganization occasioned by casualties among leaders, asserted themselves. The 26th and 28th halted and dug in.” Day 2 ended with the 26th hugging its rolling barrage, and leading the 2nd Brigade in taking Hill 153. And then, some time on the Day 3, Bert Kines died from wounds received in battle. On that third day, the 1st Division crossed the high ground of the Paris-Soissons Road, headed to Berzy-le-Sec. The battle carried on through July 22. Of the battle, the Blue Spaders history offers: “At Cantigny the 1st Division won undying fame. At Soissons it acquired its soul.”

In the aftermath of a battle of the ferocity of Soissons, it is not always possible to identify the remains of individuals. World War I soldiers were often buried where they fell, moved temporarily to a primitive military cemetery, and finally to an American military cemetery in the country where they lost their lives. Consequently, Pfc. Kines is listed as missing in action and is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Aisne-Marne Cemetery in France.
window

A stained-glass window sits amongst the Wall of Missing in the chapel at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

headstone

Headstone for Bert C. Kines in Bluemont Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

No records could be found that indicate exactly when the Kines family moved to Taylor County, but they, along with other Barbour County family members, eventually settled in or near Grafton. It was there the family placed a memorial marker in Bluemont Cemetery. Bert Kines’ sister, Dova, died the year after his death, in 1919. By 1930, according to the census, Mr. Kines was working for the railroad in Grafton. He passed away in 1932. Mrs. Kines died in 1943. Bert Kines’ brother, Leslie Darl, died in 1989. All are interred in the family plot in Bluemont Cemetery.

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
June 2017

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Bert C. Kines

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