Charles White Whittlesey
Overview
 
Lt. Colonel Charles White Whittlesey (January 20, 1884 – Presumed date of death November 26, 1921) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 recipient who is notable for leading the "Lost Battalion
Lost Battalion (World War I)
The Lost Battalion is the name given to nine companies of the United States 77th Division, roughly 554 men, isolated by German forces during World War I after an American attack in the Argonne Forest in October 1918. Roughly 197 were killed in action and approximately 150 missing or taken prisoner...

" in the Argonne Forest during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

.
Whittlesey was born in Florence, Wisconsin, but moved with his family in 1894 to Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Pittsfield is the largest city and the county seat of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is the principal city of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Berkshire County. Its area code is 413. Its ZIP code is 01201...

, where he graduated from high school. He enrolled at Williams College
Williams College
Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States. It was established in 1793 with funds from the estate of Ephraim Williams. Originally a men's college, Williams became co-educational in 1970. Fraternities were also phased out during this...

, where he was a member of St. Anthony Hall
St. Anthony Hall
St. Anthony Hall, also known as Saint Anthony Hall and The Order of St. Anthony, is a national college literary society also known as the Fraternity of Delta Psi at colleges in the United States of America. St...

, graduating in 1905.
Encyclopedia
Lt. Colonel Charles White Whittlesey (January 20, 1884 – Presumed date of death November 26, 1921) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 recipient who is notable for leading the "Lost Battalion
Lost Battalion (World War I)
The Lost Battalion is the name given to nine companies of the United States 77th Division, roughly 554 men, isolated by German forces during World War I after an American attack in the Argonne Forest in October 1918. Roughly 197 were killed in action and approximately 150 missing or taken prisoner...

" in the Argonne Forest during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

.

Early life and education

Whittlesey was born in Florence, Wisconsin, but moved with his family in 1894 to Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Pittsfield is the largest city and the county seat of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is the principal city of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Berkshire County. Its area code is 413. Its ZIP code is 01201...

, where he graduated from high school. He enrolled at Williams College
Williams College
Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States. It was established in 1793 with funds from the estate of Ephraim Williams. Originally a men's college, Williams became co-educational in 1970. Fraternities were also phased out during this...

, where he was a member of St. Anthony Hall
St. Anthony Hall
St. Anthony Hall, also known as Saint Anthony Hall and The Order of St. Anthony, is a national college literary society also known as the Fraternity of Delta Psi at colleges in the United States of America. St...

, graduating in 1905. He was voted the "third brightest man" in his class, and because of his aristocratic manner was nicknamed "Count." He earned a law degree from Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...

 in 1908. Soon after graduating he formed a law partnership with his Williams classmate J. Bayard Pruyn in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. Influenced by his friend and roommate at Williams, Max Eastman
Max Eastman
Max Forrester Eastman was an American writer on literature, philosophy and society, a poet, and a prominent political activist. For many years, Eastman was a supporter of socialism, a leading patron of the Harlem Renaissance and an activist for a number of liberal and radical causes...

, Whittlesey spent several years as a member of the American Socialist Party before resigning his membership in disgust over what he viewed as the movement's increasing extremism.

Military service

A month after the United States entered World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 in 1917, Whittlesey took a leave from his partnership and joined the Army. He shipped for France as a captain in the Army's 77th Division, also known as the "Metropolitan Division," because it was made up largely of New York City men, principally from the polyglot Lower East side
Lower East Side, Manhattan
The Lower East Side, LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is roughly bounded by Allen Street, East Houston Street, Essex Street, Canal Street, Eldridge Street, East Broadway, and Grand Street....

. Its members spoke 42 different languages or dialects.

By September 1917 Whittlesey was commissioned a major. On the morning of October 2, 1918, the 77th was ordered to move forward against a heavily fortified German line as part of a massive American attack in the Meuse-Argonne region. Whittlesey commanded a mixed battalion of 554 soldiers, who advanced forward through a ravine. Because the units on their flanks failed to make headway, Whittlesey's troops were cut off from their supply lines, pinned down by German fire from the surrounding 200 feet (61 m) high bluffs. The following days were perilous for Whittlesey and his men, as they were without food or water. Some of the men had never thrown a live grenade, but for four days, they resisted snipers and attacks by waves of German troops armed with hand grenades, and in one incident, flame throwers. During this period war correspondents seized on the incident and dubbed the unit the "Lost Battalion."

On October 7, the Germans sent forward a blindfolded American POW carrying a white flag
White flag
White flags have had different meanings throughout history and depending on the locale.-Flag of temporary truce in order to parley :...

, with a message in English:
Whittlesey's alleged reply was "You go to hell!", although he later denied saying it, saying a response wasn't necessary. He ordered white sheets that had been placed as signals for Allied aircraft to drop supplies to be pulled in so they would not be mistaken for surrender signals. That night, a relief force arrived and the Germans retreated. Of the original 554 troops involved in the advance, 107 had been killed, 63 were missing and 190 were wounded. Only 194 were able to walk out of the ravine.

After service

Whittlesey received a battlefield promotion to lieutenant-colonel and returned to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 as a war hero, receiving on December 6, 1918, one of the first three Medals of Honor awarded for valor in the war. (One of the other two went to his second-in-command
Second-in-command
The Second-in-Command is the deputy commander of any British Army or Royal Marines unit, from battalion or regiment downwards. He or she is thus the equivalent of an Executive Officer in the United States Army...

, George G. McMurtry
George G. McMurtry
George Gibson McMurtry was an officer in United States Army who received the Medal of Honor as the executive officer of the Lost Battalion during World War I.-Biography:...

.)

The story of the Lost Battalion was one of the most talked about events of World War I. In 1919, the events were made into a movie with many of the actual soldiers who were part of the Lost Battalion playing themselves, including Whittlesey.

He tried to return to his career, working as an attorney
Lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 at the Wall Street
Wall Street
Wall Street refers to the financial district of New York City, named after and centered on the eight-block-long street running from Broadway to South Street on the East River in Lower Manhattan. Over time, the term has become a metonym for the financial markets of the United States as a whole, or...

 firm of White & Case
White & Case
White & Case was founded in New York in 1901 and has grown into one of the world's leading global law firms. The firm has since expanded, and has practice groups in emerging markets including Latin America, Central & Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as in Europe...

, but found himself in constant demand for speeches, parades, and honorary degrees. The pressure wore on him; he complained to a friend: "Not a day goes by but I hear from some of my old outfit, usually about some sorrow or misfortune. I cannot bear it much more."

In November 1921, Whittlesey acted as a pallbearer
Pallbearer
A pall-bearer is one of several funeral participants who helps carry the casket of a deceased person from a religious or memorial service or viewing either directly to a cemetery or mausoleum, or to and from the hearse which carries the coffin....

 at the burial of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknowns
The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. It is located in Arlington National Cemetery in the United States...

 at Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...

, along with fellow Medal of Honor recipients Samuel Woodfill
Samuel Woodfill
Samuel Woodfill was a Major in the United States Army. He was a veteran of the Philippine–American War, World War I, and World War II. Woodfill was one of the most celebrated American soldiers of the early twentieth century. General John Pershing called Woodfill the most outstanding soldier in...

 and Alvin York
Alvin York
Alvin Cullum York was one of the most decorated American soldiers in World War I. He received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 32 machine guns, killing 28 German soldiers and capturing 132 others...

. A few days later he booked passage from New York to Havana
Havana
Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of — making it the largest city in the Caribbean region, and the most populous...

 aboard the , a United Fruit Company
United Fruit Company
It had a deep and long-lasting impact on the economic and political development of several Latin American countries. Critics often accused it of exploitative neocolonialism and described it as the archetypal example of the influence of a multinational corporation on the internal politics of the...

 ship. On November 26, 1921, the first night out of New York, he dined with the captain and left the smoking room at 2315 stating he was retiring for the evening, and it was noted by the captain that he was in good spirits. Whittlesey was never seen again. He was reported missing at 0800 the following morning. He is presumed to have committed suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 by jumping overboard, although no one reported having witnessed him jump and Whittlesey's body was never recovered. Before leaving New York, he prepared a will
Will (law)
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death...

 leaving his property to his mother. He also left a series of letters in his cabin addressed to relatives and friends. The letters were addressed to his parents, his brothers Elisha and Melzar, his uncle Granville Whittlesey, and to his friends George McMurtry, J. Bayard Pruyn, Robert Forsyth Little and Herman Livingston, Jr. Also in his cabin was found a note to the captain of the Toloa leaving instructions for the disposition of the baggage left in his stateroom. He left the famous German letter asking for surrender to McMurtry.

In 1948, the Charles White Whittlesey Room was dedicated at the Williams Club in New York City.

In 2001, U.S. television channel A&E
A&E Network
The A&E Network is a United States-based cable and satellite television network with headquarters in New York City and offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, London, Los Angeles and Stamford. A&E also airs in Canada and Latin America. Initially named the Arts & Entertainment Network, A&E launched...

 made a television movie called The Lost Battalion
The Lost Battalion
The Lost Battalion is the 1919 film about units of the 77th Infantry Division penetrating deep into the Argonne Forest of France during World War I. The soldiers under the command of Major Charles Whittlesey are then trapped and surrounded by German soldiers...

based on accounts of the battle. In that portrayal Major Whittlesey was played by Rick Schroder
Rick Schroder
Richard Bartlett "Rick" Schroder, Jr. is an American actor and film director.He debuted in the 1979 hit film The Champ, going on to become a child star on the sitcom Silver Spoons...

.

Medal of Honor citation

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Army, 308th Infantry, 77th Division. Place and date: Northeast of Binarville, in the forest of Argonne France, 2 – October 7, 1918. Entered service at: Pittsfield, Mass. Birth. Florence, Wis. G.O. No.: 118, W.D., 1918.

Citation:

Although cut off for 5 days from the remainder of his division, Maj. Whittlesey maintained his position, which he had reached under orders received for an advance, and held his command, consisting originally of 46 officers and men of the 308th Infantry and of Company K of the 307th Infantry, together in the face of superior numbers of the enemy during the 5 days. Maj. Whittlesey and his command were thus cut off, and no rations or other supplies reached him, in spite of determined efforts which were made by his division. On the 4th day Maj. Whittlesey received from the enemy a written proposition to surrender, which he treated with contempt, although he was at the time out of rations and had suffered a loss of about 50 percent in killed and wounded of his command and was surrounded by the enemy.

See also

  • List of Medal of Honor recipients for World War I

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK