William Aschman Riheldaffer
William Aschman Riheldaffer, son of John C. & Laura [Aschman] Riheldaffer, was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, on July 27, 1892. The family moved to Chicago when William was a young boy, and lived there for a few years before returning to West Virginia. At first living in the Parkersburg area, in 1907 John & Laura Riheldaffer moved their family to a home on Quarrier Street in Charleston. John was the agency director for the Southern States Mutual Life Insurance Company.
|William graduated from Charleston High School in 1910 and found a job as stock clerk at the Capitol City Supply Company. He enrolled at West Virginia University and finished his freshman year there before transferring to the Armour Technical School in Chicago. After one year there, William returned to West Virginia University, where he completed his course work in electrical engineering and graduated on June 14, 1916. After graduation, William accepted a job with General Electric Company and moved to Schenectady, New York. He was living in New York in January 1917, when the United States severed diplomatic relations with Germany. The United States declared war on Germany and entered into World War I on April 6, 1917.|
William Riheldaffer immediately volunteered for service and was admitted to the Officer's Training Camp at Madison Barracks, New York, on August 15, 1917. He received his commission as 2nd Lieutenant and was assigned to Company L, 309th Infantry. William was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on January 24, 1918, and transferred to Camp Dix, New Jersey, where he received training as a brigade liaison officer.
When William arrived in Europe with the 309th Infantry on May 19, 1918, he was sent to a training camp in southern France. The men trained hard for several weeks in preparation for going to the front lines and meeting the German army. William transferred to Headquarters Company, 155th Infantry Brigade, on July 26, 1918. The 155th Infantry Brigade was included in the 78th Division, which was part of the American I Corps.
The I Corps participated in the St. Mihiel offensive, one of the most significant battles of World War I, which began on September 12, 1918. Their primary objective was to clear the way into the town of Verdun and capture the German rail center near Metz, and by September 16, this area of France was liberated from the Germans. On September 25, 1918, the 69th French Division along with the American 42nd, 78th, 89th, and 90th divisions made a series of raids upon the German lines to divert their attention from the movements of the American armies in the Meuse-Argonne area.
The units of the 78th Division were deployed between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest and held in reserve to support the American I Corps, and by September 29 they had advanced to the southwest area of the Argonne. Continuous fighting from the end of September through mid-October occurred along the whole battle front in the Meuse-Argonne area. Many divisions suffered heavy losses due to heavy artillery bombardments, machine gun fire, and shelling.
|On October 19, 1918, William Riheldaffer was wounded by shrapnel when a shell exploded near him. He was taken to a field hospital near Verdun, where he died on October 21, 1918. He was buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery at Romagne, France. A marker was placed for him in the Greenwood Cemetery on National Road near Wheeling, West Virginia.|
William's father John preceeded him in death on August 8, 1914. At the time of his death, William was survived by his mother Laura, his sister Mrs. B. R. Coleman of Chicago, and his brother Lawrence Riheldaffer, a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy.
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. For more information contact Constance Baston at (304) 558-0230.
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