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Jason White

Courtesy Carolyn Burt, granddaughter

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

Remember...

Jason White
1892-1918

"The [year] 1918 has gone: a year momentous as the termination of the most cruel war in the annals of the human race; a year which marked, the end at least for a time, of man’s destruction of man; unfortunately a year in which developed a most fatal infectious disease causing the death of hundreds of thousands of human beings. Medical science for four and one-half years devoted itself to putting men on the firing line and keeping them there. Now it must turn with its whole might to combating the greatest enemy of all—infectious disease. . . ."

Journal of the American Medical Association (28 December 1918)

Little is known about Jason White’s early life. Family tradition says that he was born to very young parents and was raised in a home for boys. His parents were Dee D. White and Jemima Frances White. While Jason White’s World War I draft registration card indicates his uncertainty of his date of birth, he did state he was born at Job. Family members place his year of birth at 1892, but the West Virginia Adjutant General database gives August 2, 1891, as his birth date. His younger sister, Stella Frances, was born in 1896 and was married to Solomon Carr Jr.

Jason White was joined in marriage at Wymer, Randolph County, on August 10, 1912, to Lillian “Lillie” Elza, daughter of Joseph Sylvester Elza and Martha Louella Carr Elza. To this marriage was born a son, Clarence, on May 14, 1911. Lillian died of tubercular meningitis on September 21, 1917, and was buried in the Joseph Sylvester Elza Cemetery at Wymer. Jason and Lillie’s son, Clarence, was raised by Lillian’s parents.
Jason White
Lillian White

Jason and Lillie White. Courtesy Carolyn Burt

Following the sinking of American merchant ships by German submarines, the United States declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917. When the call for volunteers failed to produce the needed one million troops to support the war effort, the Selective Service instituted the draft with the first registration on June 5, 1917, for all men between the ages of 21 and 31.

draft registration

World War I draft registration card for Jason White. National Archives and Records Administration


Jason responded to the call for the initial World War I draft by registering on June 5, 1917, in Randolph County. He was 26 years of age, but was uncertain of his date of birth. His draft registration card indicates that he was tall and slender and had blue eyes and light-colored hair. He claimed exemption from the draft because he provided sole support to his wife and child. When called into service, Jason reported to Camp Lee in Petersburg, Virginia. He was later sent to Camp Greene in North Carolina, assigned to Company B of the 148th Machine Gun Battalion, 82nd Brigade Infantry, 41st (“Sunset”) Division. Following a period of training, the first units of the 41st Division embarked for duty overseas. They arrived in France on December 27, 1917. The last unit of the 41st was aboard the SS Tuscania, when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sunk off the coast of Northern Ireland on February 5, 1918. Approximately 210 of the troops and crew were lost. British destroyers Mosquito and Pigeon rescued several survivors. Upon arrival in France, the Division was broken up, and units were reassigned as replacements for combat units at the front.

The American forces commenced the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on September 26, 1918. The objective of this campaign was to repel the Germans eastward from the Hindenburg Line to deny them access to important rail lines supplying the German front. Thirty-seven French and U.S. divisions were opposed by 24 German divisions.

By early October, the German Army was exhausted, demoralized, and plagued with an influenza outbreak. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which lasted until the Armistice on November 11, was the largest in U. S. military history. It was also one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history. More than 95,000 American soldiers were wounded, and over 26,277 were killed during the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives.

In the fall of 1918, even as the war was winding down, the world was gripped by another menace that resulted in many deaths: the influenza epidemic. Many World War I deaths can be attributed to this massive epidemic and numerous subsequent cases of pneumonia, which may or may not have been caused by the worldwide spread of flu. While no vaccines were available at the time for either influenza or pneumonia, the epidemic did cause the medical community to examine its handling of infectious diseases. Private Jason White was one of those soldiers who died, not in battle, but of pneumonia. His death was recorded on September 9, 1918; thus his time on the battlefield was limited. He was originally buried in the American Cemetery at Is-Sur-Tille, Cote-D’Or, France.

letter
letter

Courtesy Carolyn Burt

An American Red Cross representative at the time, Dorothy Mallett, documented a Memorial Day ceremony at Is-Sur-Tille Cemetery honoring American soldiers interred there. The moving text of her letter provides some detail of the respect the local and American attendees felt toward those honored:

Is-Sur-Tille
France
June 1 - 1919

To the relatives and friends of Jason White.

Dear Friends -

It is with the deepest sympathy that I write to tell you of the ceremony which took place on the 30th of May in the little cemetery near Is-Sur-Tille where Jason White is buried with his comrades in the A.E.F. The services were attended by the soldiers from Camp Williams and the women workers. “Nearer My God to Thee” and “America” were the hymns sung. The most impressive feature of the occasion was the laying of the flowers on the grave of each boy who had given his life for his country. This was done by the women of the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A. and the Jewish Organization. The flowers had been given by the French people who literally stripped their little gardens in appreciation of what these boys had done in France. I will always consider it one of the greatest privileges of my life to have been present at this memorable Decoration Day celebration and to have been the representative of the nearest relative of Jason White whose grave lies on the Field of Honor in France.

Most sincerely,
Dorothy Mallett
Rep. American Red Cross

In World War I, the remains of some soldiers were buried several times—first in battlefield graves, then in U.S. cemeteries in Europe, and finally in the United States. At the conclusion of the war, France resisted removing bodies for reburial, but in 1920 the French agreed to the return of American soldiers to the United States. The remains of 46,000 war dead were returned to the U.S. at a cost of over $30 million. On January 14, 1921, Jason White’s body was returned to the United States and laid to rest in the European Section of Arlington National Cemetery.
grave marker

Grave marker for Pvt. Jason White. Courtesy Arlington National Cemetery

certificate

Courtesy Carolyn Burt

A certificate of award was presented by the President of France in honor of Private Jason White’s sacrifice. The translation is as follows:

To the memory
of
Jason White, Private, Company B, 148th Machine Gun Battalion
from the United States of America
who died for freedom
during the Great War
Homage from France
The President of the Republic
Raymond Poincaré


Article prepared by Leon Armentrout
July 2016

Honor...

Jason White

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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