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William Fred Louk
Soldiers of the Great War

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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William Fred Louk
1888-1918

"No commander was ever privileged to lead a finer force; no commander ever derived greater inspiration from the performance of his troops."

John J. Pershing

United States Army Private William Fred Louk’s parents were John Francis Helmick Louk and Elizabeth Jane “Mattie” Sponaugle Louk. William was born at Glady, Randolph County, West Virginia, on August 1, 1888. He had one brother, Webley, and five sisters, Flora Anna (Mrs. Elliot Daniels), Martha Jane (Mrs. Clifton F. Taylor), Ora (Mrs. Herman Sylvester Rhodes), Ida (Mrs. William Harvey Rhodes), and Jessie Lucy (Mrs. Orvil E. Kerr).

On September 15, 1914, William was united in marriage at Elkins, West Virginia, with Viola Virginia Smith, daughter of Gabriel A. Smith and Sarah E. Lambert Smith. Viola was born on January 23, 1889.

William registered for the WWI draft at Glady, West Virginia, on June 5, 1917, at which time he claimed an exemption because of his need to support his wife. His draft registration indicates that he was a woodsman employed by Glady Manufacturing Company. It also states that he was of medium height, was stout, and had blue eyes and dark brown hair.

According to his service record at the West Virginia Adjutant General’s Office, maintained at West Virginia Archives and History, he was inducted at Elkins on October 6, 1917, and received his training at Camp Lee and later at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Pvt. Louk then found himself in the 42nd Infantry Division. [It should be noted that while most documents indicate his rank as “private,” his service record states he was appointed private first class on February 10, 1918.] The 42nd was authorized by Secretary of War Newton D. Baker. It was composed of the best available men from all parts of the country. They came from 26 states and the District of Columbia. Included were National Guard units that had received training on the Mexican border. These troops were assembled at Camp Mills on Long Island, New York. They were dubbed “The Rainbow Division” by General Douglas MacArthur, who described the multistate unit as stretching like a rainbow across the United States.

The 42nd Infantry Division consisted of the 83rd Infantry Brigade, which was made up of the 165th Infantry Regiment and the 166th Infantry Regiment, and the 84th Infantry Brigade, made up of the 167th Infantry Regiment (Alabama Regiment) and the 168th Infantry Regiment. William F. Louk was assigned to Company A of the 168th Infantry Regiment, arriving in France in November 1917 and entering the front line in March 1918.

The 42nd participated in the Aisne-Marne campaign that lasted from May 27 until June 6, 1918. They were placed under French Fourth Army control for a time during the Champagne-Marne battle on July 14, 15, and 16, 1918, and earned a reputation as a fighting force.

From July 26 until August 2, 1918, the 42nd was engaged in battle against German forces at Croix Rouge Farm and on the Ourcq River in Picardie. Casualties for the U.S. “Rainbow” Division in that operation were 184 officers and 5,469 men. Pvt. Louk would be among those who succumbed during this engagement.

The 42nd then participated in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel from September 12 through 15, 1918. Also, they fought at the Côte de Châtillon on October 16, 1918, and they were present during the Meuse-Argonne offensive from September 26 until the end of the war on November 11, 1918. Altogether the 42nd saw 264 days of combat during which their losses included 2,058 killed in action and 12,625 wounded. One out of every sixteen casualties of the American Army was suffered by the forces of the 42nd Infantry Division.

Private William F. Louk received wounds in battle that would cost him his life on July 29, 1918. He was buried in Plot A, Row 4, Grave 82 in the Aisne-Marne Cemetery. This cemetery, about two miles west of Château-Thierry, is adjacent to Belleau Wood in the Department of Aisne of the French region Picardie, France. The American Battle Monuments Commission describes the cemetery thus: “[It] contains the graves of 2,289 of our [World War I] Dead, most of whom fought in the vicinity and in the Marne valley in the summer of 1918. From the hillside rises the memorial chapel decorated with sculptured and stained-glass details of wartime personnel, equipment and insignia. On its interior walls are the names of 1,060 who were Missing in the region.” The ABMC description continues: “Belleau Wood adjoins the cemetery; it contains many vestiges of World War I. At the flagpole is a monument commemorating the valor of the U.S. Marines who captured much of this ground in 1918.”
Aisne-Marne American Cemetery

Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

In the 1920 Federal Census his widow Viola was listed as living with her parents in Glady. She and William apparently had no children. In 1930 Viola participated in the U.S. World War I Mothers’ Pilgrimage, the result of a lobbying effort by survivors of veterans laid to rest in cemeteries near where they fell. Although referred to as the “Mothers’ Pilgrimage,” because of the larger number in this group, widows also took part. From 1930 onward, nearly 7,000 women traveled to Europe courtesy of Congress.

Article prepared by Leon Armentrout, whose father was a fifth cousin to William F. Louk, with editorial assistance from Patricia Richards McClure
December 2014

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William Louk

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