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William Franklin Waychoff
Soldiers of the Great War

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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William Franklin Waychoff
1891-1918

"The 42nd Division stretches like a Rainbow from one end of America to the other."

Douglas McArthur

William Franklin Waychoff was born to Hugh and Margaret (“Retta”) Thomas Waychoff on November 19, 1891, in Carmichael, Pennsylvania. He was joined by sister Ethel in 1893, by brother Edwin Lester in 1897, and sister Ocie in 1901, all in Pennsylvania.

The 1910 U.S. Federal Census taker found the family still living in Greene County, Pennsylvania. Hugh Waychoff was noted to be a stone contractor in the monuments industry, and William Franklin, known as Frank, was teamster in the stone industry.

By 1917, Frank was residing in Westover, Monongalia County, West Virginia, and betrothed to Mattie Warner. The two obtained a marriage license in November 1917 and were married on November 10 in Morgantown in the Methodist Protestant Church, according to the marriage license and minister’s certificate. To them, one daughter, Frankie, was born.

In 1918, Frank Waychoff was working for Central Garage. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 28, 1918, and left for Camp Lee. (“Corporal Frank Waychoff,” West Union Record, 20 October 1921.) After enlistment, he was assigned to the 54th Company, 14th Provisional Recruiting Battalion, 155th Department Brigade, until June 19, 1918. From there, he served in Company E, 8th Training Battalion, Infantry Replacement Training Camp at Camp Lee until July 24, 1918.

A record of Frank Waychoff’s whereabouts is next found on July 31, 1918, in an army transport service manifest of passengers. Frank Waychoff is listed among the passengers in the 25th Provisional Company July infantry replacement draft aboard Re D’Italia. Private Waychoff’s next-of-kin was listed as his wife, Mattie.

Until August 17, he was with the 25th Provisional Company. He was with Company D of the 162nd Infantry until September 21, 1918, when he was assigned to Company C of the 167th, of the 42nd, the Rainbow Division, of the American Expeditionary Force.

The Rainbow Division was a nickname derived from the way the division was organized. The division was made up of National Guard soldiers from twenty-six states and the District of Columbia. The 42nd Division also included four infantry regiments from New York, Ohio, Alabama, and Iowa. Major Douglas MacArthur remarked that the division “would stretch across the country like a rainbow.” The nickname stuck, and a shoulder patch made for the division was the depiction of a rainbow. The division was one of the earliest to reach the battlefields of the Western Front in November 1917 and saw action alongside the French beginning in February 1918. The Rainbow Division was a prominent force in the Second Battle of the Marne, the counteroffensive at Saint-Mihiel, the attacks at Château-Thierry, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. (“The Rainbow Division,” First World War.com, accessed 27 July 2017, http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/rainbowdivision.htm.)

World War I infantry soldiers were reassigned as need dictated, and this ended up being the purpose of the 41st, to which the 162nd belonged, in Europe. Trench warfare dominated day-to-day operations. Battlefield casualties were great, up to 50 percent, as October approached, and so it seems likely that Frank Waychoff was part of a group of replacement soldiers that left the 162nd to fight with the 167th on the front lines.

A succinct but informative account of the fighting of the 167th (Alabama) Infantry Regiment during September and October follows:

The 42nd Division, reequipped and brought back to full strength, was ordered to take part in the all American attack at St. Mihiel. After more than a week of night marches to the jump off position, the division attacked on September 11, 1918, delivering the main blow in the direction of the heights overlooking the Madine River. Just as at the Croix Rouge Farm, C Company and D Company of the 167th (Alabama) led the “Rainbow” assault force. The attack was a total surprise to the Germans and came at a time when they had begun to retreat. The 167th objective was accomplished by nightfall of the first day. Thirteen American divisions, about half a million men, took part in the highly successful operation.

The 42nd then moved sixty miles to join the million men of the 1st US Army massing for the attack in the Argonne. The operation fell three weeks behind the schedule that General Pershing had agreed to with Generalissimo Foch: its October 4, 1918 attack was pushed back and the Americans retreated for the first time in the war. Battle tested American divisions were brought into the battle. On October 11, the “Rainbow” replaced the exhausted 1st US Infantry Division, “the Big Red One”, which had lost 1,750 killed in a week long unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the Kriemhilde Stellung of the Hindenburg Line at the Côte de Châtillon.

The “Rainbow” attacked there with all regiments abreast on October 14, 1918. The 166th (Ohio) and the 165th (New York) regiments were forced to pull back. (“167th (Alabama) Infantry Regiment,” Croix Rouge Farm Memorial Foundation, accessed 27 July 2017, http://croixrougefarm.org/history-167th/.)

The description continues:

The burden of taking the Côte de Châtillon shifted entirely to the infantry of the Alabama and Iowa regiments. The 3rd Battalion of the 167th (Alabama) had taken up the point of the attack at the base of the Côte, Hill 260. It made no progress on the first or second days (October 14 and 15). Its soldiers suffered without shelter other than a wet blanket.

Also under constant fire in the rain and mud, the 1st Battalion of the 168th (Iowa) gained high ground at Hill 288, on October 15. With heavy casualties and through hard fighting it created a position on the forward slope from which it could cover the assault of the 3rd Battalion of the 167th (Alabama) on October 16, 1918. Also key to that attack was the concentrated fire for 45 minutes, about a million rounds, from the 151st (Georgia) Machine Gun Battalion from the forward slope of Hill 263. Major Cooper D. Winn, Jr. had personally placed every gun and assigned targets. Elements of the Alabama and Iowa regiments closed on the German position at the Côte de Châtillon at the same time and held it against a counterattack, sharing equal honors.

On October 21, 1918, Frank Waychoff was killed in action in the Argonne Forest in France. Casualties from August through September during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive numbered 110,508. (George Thompson, “American Military Operations and Casualties in 1917-18,” Medicine in the First World War, accessed 27 July 2017, http://www.kumc.edu/wwi/index-of-essays/american-military-operations-and-casualties.html.)

According to the death notice for Frank Waychoff in the West Union Record, “Through five battles Corporal Waychoff fought nobly, falling before the German shells in the last. In the fourth battle in which he took part, his courage secured recognition from his superior officers, and he was decorated for bravery.”

The death announcement in the December 11, 1918, edition of the Dominion News in Morgantown revealed that the family was notified in December of the October death, when Mrs. Mattie Waychoff received the news by telegram. Said the Dominion News, “It became known last night that Morgantown had contributed one more life to the cause of world democracy when a telegram came from Adjutant General Harris saying that Private [sic] Frank Waychoff was killed in action October 21.”

Burial was listed as October 21, 1918, which indicates, since the family did not receive word until December, that Cpl. Waychoff was first buried overseas. When the U.S. government finally received permission from France to repatriate the remains of the fallen in World War I, Frank Waychoff was returned home for burial in East Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown in 1921, which was a typical route home for World War I casualties.
headstone

Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
May 2017

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William Franklin Waychoff

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