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Mason County Memories


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History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



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In answer to my request for stories about local people who served in the military Benita Walters of fourth Ward sent in this piece about her uncle Sergeant Frank Lahaye to share with you this Memorial Day Weekend. Presented here in its entirety.

Frank "Moose" LaHaye was born and raised on Upper Hamlin Lake north of Ludington, Michigan. He spent most of his life in the Ludington and Manistee area.

"I tell you when a fellow is in a corner with death staring him in the face from every direction and hiding behind every bush, he is going to use his wits and try everything to get out. Any fellow will do that, it isn't any special courage, just love of life." That is the way Sergeant "Moose" LaHaye turns aside praise of the great deeds at Chateau Thierry and at Soissons where he was wounded, which won for him the Crois de Guerre and distinguished service cross along with national fame as a hero.

Moose entered the military service in April 1917- His first military experience started in October as he sailed to France on the cruiser formerly named the Crown Prince Wilhelm. When in sight of Jay of Biscay they encountered a submarine that only showed by its periscope.

When they landed they were put aboard a French boxcar, which are smaller then our railroad cars, they held about forty seated men. They traveled two days and two nights, hot, dirty, and very tired, before they arrived at Dan Blain. They trained there for some time. Then on May 29, 1918 they were ordered to leave for the front.

His first battle was in a wheat field. The Germans were headed toward the trench line but his outfit was in between. As the Germans approached, the Americans jumped up surprising them so much that they were easily chased back. On the afternoon of June 1, they were ordered to go over the top for the first time and had gotten to the little town of Ussiers.

He had lost his squad and was told to take half of the 49th rifle team and half of another squad to clean out a corner of the woods and stay at the bridge until reinforcements came. They got to the bridge, but found they had Germans behind them. They stayed all day and no reinforcements came. He lost all but one of his squad of eight men and that one had been shot in the arm. Moose told him to go back and traded him his rifle and gave him his revolver before he started. Sergeant LaHaye stayed there an hour and a half before he started back.

As he ran along in ditches he had to stop running several times as there were Germans in his way. He captured one of their machine guns and had to stay there until dusk because he was caught between the Germans and his own men. The smoke from the shells was so thick he couldn't get to his men, they thought he was German.

At dusk he started out again and met more German scouts. He over took the wounded comrade that he had sent back. When they neared the front line he left his comrade at the bottom of the hill. He wanted to make sure his men knew whom they were, but they fired on him thinking they were Germans.

He dropped behind a knoll and hollered until an outpost heard him. LaHaye was praised by his superior officers for not only his bravery but for the clever initiative displayed in outwitting the enemy against such odds and was decorated with the Crois de Guerre and distinguished service cross.

The bravery in Belleau Woods did not compare to the splendid courage of his voluntary acts at Soissons. for a time he was dispatch rider to Soissons. This was not easy, as the riders had to go over rough and shell torn roads at forty to sixty miles an hour, with the shells bursting around them. Then he was put back in the trenches again.

On the night of July 19th. he fought tanks for the first time. The 9th. infantry was with the outfit going over the top. They captured 80 German privates in one dugout. They had a moving soup kitchen so they kept the cook there to feed the American troops before he was also sent back of the line.

When his general asked for volunteers to draw fire so they could locate machine guns, Moose was one of three to volunteer. On this mission he took three bullets in the thigh and another in the stomach. He had been gassed before that so he refused to take an anesthetic at the small French hospital near Paris. He ran away from the hospital and made his way to an American hospital at Evreux.

Even with the severity of his wounds and the pain he endured on his hike to the American hospital he was back with his outfit in five weeks, He carried the bullet in his stomach rather than take a chance of having it removed.

He rejoined his outfit at San Mikiel. After going over the top four times he was badly burned by liquid fire and again sent to the hospital. This time the hospital was at Blois where injuries left him unfit for further service. When he was well enough to be moved he was sent to Brest where they stayed In Napoleon's old barracks for a time. He started his long journey back home on the cruiser North Carolina along with 580 other wounded men.

He said "the most welcome sight he had seen in a long while was when on arriving in New York harbor he saw the statue of Liberty welcoming him home, and that never again would he face it unless it turned "right about face". The good old U.S.A. seemed the dearest spot on earth." A furlough was granted him for ninety days to rest and heal from the burns. He then returned to Quantico, Virginia to receive his medical discharge. He married Nancy Medacco and took his bride to the South Sea Islands, where he combined a honeymoon with his business of selling automobiles.

If you have a story or photographs to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com

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