Monday, April 30, 2018

Remembering Major Edward C. Allworth


In 2017, the Oregon Legislature designated the section of U. S. Highway 20 within Oregon as The Medal of Honor Highway.  Twelve signs along the route recognize the 26 Congressional Medal of Honor winners who lived in Oregon before or after their military service. On Wednesday, May 2, the last of the signs will be revealed at a ceremony on the Oregon State University campus.  This sign will honor the state's only veteran to receive this highest honor for actions during World War I:  Major Edward C. Allworth.

Although born in Washington in 1895, Edward Allworth attended Oregon State University (or Oregon Agricultural College as it was known then), participated in football and wrestling, and graduated in 1916.  In 1917, he enlisted, joining the 60th Infantry Regiment of the 5th Division.  In a radio address from 1929 he recalled his days as part of the American forces  in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. This speech was later printed in the Oregon State College Bulletin (#470) on the Memorial Union from which the following excerpts were taken.

“The morning of October eleventh, when we took our positions, after marching all night, began a period of tremendous and harrowing activity....the terrific shell fire we took all day...the wild look on the faces of the boys from the other companies as they filtered back from their all-day struggle to capture the woods in front of us....darkness and a nervous, watchful night; daylight in a heavy fog; ordered back to reorganize for a new attack.  

“We go over the top the next morning, across a field alive with bursting shells and crackling machine gun bullets; we gain the woods full of smarting high explosive powder.... We push on till night—dig in, determined to hold—the ground is too rocky. An Austrian fieldpiece shoots pointblank at us all night; morning comes at last.  We are organized to continue the attack. The German machine guns glisten opposite us...we can't make any headway with so few men.  Dig in again.  Rain fills up the holds and we lie in water; night again, the fourth with no sleep and little food.”

The next day, after getting new men, “We get orders to cross [the Meuse River] –are worn out when we reach the bluffs over the river but scramble down to the bottom and wade through the marshes, waist deep—cold....We steal across the engineers footbridge and reach the canal on the other side of the river; Germans, suspicious, and firing constantly, puncture pontoons across canal, and the bridge sinks, leaving part of our outfit on the German side alone.”

In his account, Allworth omits what he did next.  According to the citation for the Medal of Honor, “Seeing his advance units making slow headway up the steep slope ahead, this officer mounted the canal bank and called for his men to follow.  Plunging in he swam across the canal under fire from the enemy, followed by his men.  Inspiring his men by his example of gallantry, he led them up the slope, joining is hard-pressed platoons in front.  By his personal leadership he forced the enemy back for more than a kilometer, overcoming machine gun nests and capturing 100 prisoners, whose number exceeded that of the me in is command.  The exceptional courage and leadership displayed by Capt. Allworth made possible the re-establishment of a bridgehead over the canal and the successful advance of other troops.”

Allworth also received several other awards:  a purple heart, the French Croix de Guerre with two palms, the French Chevalier Legion D'Honneyr, the Italian War Cross, and the state of Washington's Levy Diamond Medal.

After the war, Allworth returned to Oregon State University, where he was secretary of the Alumni Association. He played a key role in planning and raising funds to construct the Memorial Union to honor the service of those from OSU who died fighting in the Spanish American War and World War I. For the next 38 years, he managed the building.  For these roles he was been called the father of the MU. 

Program for a dance held in the Memorial Union
featuring a photograph of Edward Allworth.
Not only will Allworth's name be featured on the highway sign to be erected near Reser Stadium, but  it also the name of the Oregon Veteran's home in Lebanon. 

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

1 comment:

  1. The dedication event and it's significance are featured in the Gazette-Times: http://www.gazettetimes.com/news/local/a-highway-for-heroes/article_21aaf099-28cf-5649-9b35-623f94acbe8f.html

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