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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

U.S. Navy in WWI

The last post noted the demand for new ships to carry goods to Britain and France after the onset of World War I.  Although the United States was neutral until 1917, few goods went to Germany or Austria Hungary.  Britain's strong navy had enabled the Allies to deprive the Axis powers of over 60 percent of their merchant ships. Also, the British navy's presence and the mine fields they established in the seas between Scotland and Iceland prohibited ships from reaching German ports on the North Sea and blocked access through the Straits of Gibraltar to Austrian ports on the Adriatic Sea.

Beginning in 1915, Germany responded by using submarines (U-boats) to attack both naval ships and merchant ships carrying military supplies. For a time, pressure from the U. S. forced them to spare passenger ships and to limit where submarines operated. Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare (firing on any ship headed for an Allied port) on February 1, 1917.  They calculated that they could sink enough ships in 5 months to starve Britain into surrendering before the United States could mobilize troops to enter the war.  After 3 American merchant ships were destroyed by U-boats, the United States declared war on Germany and its allies on April 6, 1917.

WWI U.S. Navy uniform
at Benton County Museum
War called for an increase in the size of both the army and the navy.  In 1916, the U. S. Navy totaled 10,601 active duty sailors.  That number increased to 52,819 by 1918.  One of those sailors was R. E. Minard whose uniform is in the Benton County Historical Museum collection. Minard served on the USS Oregon which was called back into service during World War I as a reserve battleship in the Pacific. After the Russian Revolution, the USS Oregon escorted the American Expeditionary Force Siberia troops on their way to help stranded Czech forces and protect stockpiled war material from falling into German hands once the Bolsheviks signed a peace treaty with Germany. 

Some sailors served on large battleships which helped Britain lay mines and contain the Germany fleet in port. The primary task of the U.S. Navy, however, was to protect convoys of merchant and troop ships as they sailed across the Atlantic. By August, thirty-six of the fifty-one U. S. Navy destroyers were escorting convoys.  If a U-boat did torpedo a cargo ship, the faster destroyers would catch up to it and drop explosive depth charges. Although U.S. Navy ships destroyed relatively few submarines, they played a key role by ensuring that 1.4 million American troops made it to France. 

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Logging Circa 1920

By the outbreak of World War I, steam power extended the areas that could be profitably logged.  Steam donkeys moved the downed timber as in these photographs from the 1914-1925 era.

Marys River Logging Company train
Logging companies built railroads to the area being logged and used steam engines, not teams of oxen, to transport the timber to the mill.
The opening of the Panama Canal in 1915 lowered the time and cost of transporting lumber to the east coast to replace dwindling supplies of southern pine.

During World War I, Britain and France relied on American supplies of products. By the war's end, Britain alone had purchased more than $3 billion worth of goods from the United States. Ships were needed to transport these goods and to replace those destroyed by the Germans. This created a demand for wood as wooden schooners (2-masted sailing boats) were still used for carrying cargo such as lumber. As west coast shipyards expanded Oregon loggers responded with increased harvests.  For example, Oregon’s production of Sitka spruce increased from 63 million board feet to 215 million board feet during the war years.   

The photo shows a spruce “ships’ knee” being transported from Blodgett to a shipyard in Portland, Oregon.  Ship knees are naturally curved pieces of wood used as braces inside boats.
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon