Friday, June 07, 2013

life in clippings: the mintzes in military service

this whole thing for me started with lawrence.

JUNE 29, 1889
APRIL 14, 1944

his headstone doesn't say he was a judge. his headstone says he was a second lieutenant.

he graduated from cornell university in 1911 and very soon after he received word  that he had been "designated by the state department to try examinations in Washintgon on Jan. 29, which, if passed, will make him eligible for appointment to a position in the consular service. "

this is front page news. his return from washington in 1912 following the exam is also reported, although i have seen no record of the result. in 1915 he is practicing law in ithaca.

about a month after president wilson announced the breaking of diplomatic ties with germany, he enlisted in the army. it is worth reading the newspaper account of his service record. most of the news items that exist about him talk of his appearance in ithaca with a recruiter, or his furloughs while he was still stateside, or his promotions.

there is little evidence he spoke much about his combat service with the 108th ny infantry, and you don't have to read too much of the regimental history to know more than maybe you want to know. there's a book kind of like a yearbook of this unit from 1918, and on page 27 you can find a little picture of color sergeant lawrence m. mintz. i'm going to encourage you to go to the digitized copy of the whole document and look at the faces of those men.

just because.

lionel was the baby of the family. he was a singer, a storyteller, and  a comedian. he was a frequent performer on local stages, and if a group of people went on an outing, he led a great deal of the singing. in high school he started a fraternity and got elected captain of the football team. out of high school, he was a volunteer fireman, and commissioner of the city baseball league.

he was such a large and flamboyant personality that newspapers even reported RUMORS about him, which then had to be retracted.

in march of 1918 he reported for duty to camp upton for radio classes with the 321st field signal battalion.

now, the actual service record of this unit is a bit of a mystery to me. there is a great deal of news from them while they are in training at camp upton, and a lovely photo of one of their radio training classrooms.

there is a news account that the unit has arrived in france, but after that, there is simply nothing i can find until the point at which they are shipped home.

i am going to assume, based on the mountain of information i have read about signal battalions in WWI europe in general that they did actually did do some stuff, but that the record of what they did may not be digitized and online.

that's kind of a key concept when you are researching historical events from old newspapers and obscure books: it used to be you had to track down everything and GO TO THE LIBRARIES and sit for hours with unindexed copies and nowadays anyone like me can just sit online and search (granted, you have to be good with search) the digitized copies.

but digitizing those copies is slow work, and while every day more and more of these records are available for public use, a great deal of it is simply hidden.

anyway, i'm assuming that lionel and his unit did some stuff.

in 1919 once he was stateside he did a series of big patriotic town meetings where he and two other guys who'd fought in europe, a latin professor (why?) and a musical ensemble made a tour of finger lakes towns telling people about it.

when gustave enlists it's a big enough deal to be covered in the paper, but it's already june of 1918. those three months between march and june make a big difference in how your war goes.

here is a thing i learned while working on this post: the gears of the great machine bringing american men into the army and getting them trained move so slowly that many of american men who enlist and train for world war I never actually get shipped out.

what i know for sure is that gustave shipped to washington for engineer training at camp a.a. humphreys and that of the ten regiments of replacement engineers authorized, only five were ever trained. i have record that the "first quota" (however many men that is)  was shipped to france and that shipments continued until armistice, but i have not yet seen any indication if gusatve is among those sent to france, or among those who were at home getting ready to ship to france when the war ended.

i am taking a flying guess based on gustave's popularity among the men of the ithaca chapter of the newly chartered american legion that he did manage to serve in france.

in any case,  when the ithaca daily news runs a full-page spread naming all the "The Boys From Tompkins County Who Did Their Share in the World War to Help Keep the Huns From Destroying Civilization", all three brothers ore on the list.

in the next generation, lawrence's son ben graduated from cornell in 1943 and reported to field artillery replacement training at fort bragg. it is possible that he served with the 690th field artilery battalion in europe and may have been be the author of a small (31 pages) volume titled From normandy to leipzig, the 690th Field artillery Battalion.

that volume was written by a ben e. mintz under supervision of a US army officer but -and this is a big "but"- the volume is in german, published in leipzig.

still, it may only be an excerpt of the army's own history of the battalion, one chapetr of which is titled, oddly, From normandy to leipzig, the 690th Field artillery Battalion.

OUR ben e. mintz, we know, served in europe in a field artillery unit. we also know he could write, so it's not a huge leap of imagination to think that he may have been one of the junior officers that wrote up reports.

he was discharged in 1946 a captain and returned to cornell to work in ints athletic department, eventually becoming the director of publicity for cornell athetics and being named to cornell's hall of fame.

meanwhile, aaron's son edward  (cornell AB 1931) was commissioned a 2d lieutenant in the army air corps in 1942 and was stationed at mitchel field. there's rather a lot written about his service in the CBI theater, which involved legal, insurance and disposition work with aircraft.

oh, and intelligence work.

they don't hardly mention the intelligence work, but talk a lot about insurance.

because he was an insurance salesman.

yeah, there was a little thing about being a lawyer and all that, but insurance.

and if you have the time and inclination and want to know a lot more about him and his service, you can inquire at the air force historical research agency or the library of congress.

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