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Harrington news

History honors medal winner George W. Witt


Partridge. Three volleys were fired over the casket which was draped in the folds of the American flag.” (Citizen: Nov. 1, 1918)

“George D. Witt Dies of Wounds. Sad News Received Tuesday Oct. 26. Buried in France. Details Lacking.

A telegram to George M. Witt received Wednesday evening brought the sad news that George Douglas Witt, his son, had died in France as a result of wounds received in action. Some weeks ago Mr. Witt had received a letter from George stating that he was in a hospital having been wounded but was getting along well. A later brief note stated about the same thing.

Nothing was heard for several weeks until the wire Wednesday stating that he had died Oct. 26, and that he had been buried in France, where the body would remain until peace was declared. The shock to the relatives and the entire community is great. George was well liked by all of us. He was born here and it seems that he belongs to all of us. He graduated from the local high school in 1915. In that class were four boys, and half of them have died for their country—the other being Wesley Miller. Little did that class realize in those happy days that the God of War should exact of it such a heavy toll. Following his graduation here George went to the state college where he was in attendance at the time war broke out. He enlisted in the medical corps and for some time was stationed at Mare Island in California. Desiring to participate more actively in this great conflict, he entered a branch of the Marine Corps and attained the rank of pharmacist’s mate. He had not been in France many months until he was wounded so severely that it cost him his life. Like so many similar cases, the details surrounding his injuries and death are but little known as yet. We know but the outstanding features of the tragedy; that he left us a short while ago in the vigor of youth, and that he has given his life in our defense. The highest tribute we can pay will not express the depth of obligation we owe to George and those like him who have died for us. Deceased is survived by a father, a step-mother, a brother Clarence, five sisters, Mrs. Maida Witt Martin, Florence, Vivian, Edith and Helen and a step-brother, Robert Brown.” (Citizen: 12-06-1918)

“G.M. Witt Gets DSM. George M. Witt received this week from the navy department the Distinguished Service Medal awarded posthumously to his son, George Douglas Witt, who lost his life in France as the result of wounds received in the Argonne fight. The letter accompanying the medal follows: ‘Navy department, August 29, 1919. Sir: It gives me great pleasure to forward to you a Distinguished Service Cross, issued by the war department to your son, George Douglas Witt, No. 1,648,474, who so nobly gave his life October 26, 1918, while serving in France as pharmacist’s mate third class with the sixth machine gun battalion. Although the department does not believe that this award will in any way lessen your great sorrow, it feels that this token and the words of the following citation will be a great source of consolation to you in future years: ‘Extraordinary heroism in action near St. Etienne-a-Arnes, France, October 6, 1918. Pharmacist’s Mate Witt displayed remarkable bravery and coolness in giving medical aid to wounded marines while going forward with the assault waves during the attack north of Blanc Mont Ridge and near St. Etienne-a-Arnes, France, on October 6, 1918. Later in the afternoon on the same date, while giving first aid to a wounded marine in an advance machine gun post, he was shot and seriously wounded by an enemy sniper.’ Very truly yours, W.S. Benson, acting secretary navy.’ Harrington Citizen.” (Davenport Times-Tribune: 9-25-1919)

“A memorial service was held in honor of Sgt. Wesley W. Miller at the Evangelical church Sunday morning, January 19, 1919. The church was appropriately decorated with flowers and flags. On the wall back of the pulpit the service flag with four blue stars and one golden star was displayed. Just above the service flag was a lovely picture of Wesley in his uniform with a U.S. flag on either side. Presiding Elder Rev. A. Zabel of Spokane was at his best, preaching a splendid memorial sermon full of gospel and hope based upon the words found in Heb. 13, 14 and Mathew 25:21.” (Citizen: 1-24-1919)

Wesley was a son of Solomon Henry Miller and his wife Susanna Pfrender Miller, who had married in 1893. They had two other children, a son, Henry, and a daughter, Mrs. W.J. Lamparter. Wesley was killed in action at Epinouville, France in the Argonne offensive during the World War. His body was later returned to the States and placed at Arlington (National Cemetery in Virginia).


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