Honoring Veterans Day and Remembering Granddaddy Rex on Armistice Day

Armistice Day was officially authorized by Congress in 1938 to honor the veterans of WWI. In 1954, after both WWII and the Korean War, the original Act of 1938 was amended to replace the word “armistice” with “veterans”. November 11th has been Veteran’s Day since then, with the exception of a few years in the early 1970’s.  Regardless, remember all veterans and thank them for their service to our country.

Granddaddy’s French helmet, red cross armband and other personal effects.

On November 11, 1918 the Armistice between Germany and the Allies was signed, ending the War to End All Wars. The guns on the Western Front fell silent. My grandfather, Rex R. Forsyth, was in France that day still serving in Section 625 of U.S.A.A.S. (United States Army Ambulance Service) while attached to the French Army. He volunteered, learned to drive the Model T ambulances in the Allentown, Pennsylvania fairgrounds, and was soon shipped overseas. His unit was part of the Allied Army of Occupation and was stationed during 1919 at Kaiser Wilhelm’s castle in the Black Forest.

Haversack for carrying personal items

Rex’s dog tags, with “E” added to his name!

 

 

 

 

 

Granddaddy Rex did share stories of his time overseas with me as I was growing up. He never spoke of the horrors of war that I know he witnessed, but he  did share day to day stories. He told me that when Bosch (German) POW’s were brought to holding areas they were stripped of helmets, medals, belts and even uniform epaulettes. We have many examples of these spoils of war. He did share that once a Bosch soldier tossed a grenade while standing in line. Fortunately it was a dud, and a Poilu (French soldier) “dispatched him right away”.

“Iron Cross” Bosch medal, W is for Kaiser Wilhelm

Pickelhaube, a German spiked helmet

Captured Bosch officer’s epaulettes

Note the Indian Head design on the back panel of the vehicle

This framed Indian head came from his ambulance

Shown is Colonel Bertrand, 162nd French Infantry, pinning the Croix de Guerre on the coat of Rex Forsyth. Note that the helmet Rex is wearing is shown in a photo above, and also note in the right background that you can see the front end of one of the Model T Ford Ambulances.

His Croix de Guerre (Cross of War)

My grandfather was a true hero. On May 2, 1918 members of U.S.A.A.C. Section 625 were awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery in action on April 17, 1918, having crossed a “zone violently bombarded by the enemies artillery” to continue to remove wounded from the battlefield. Our family is so fortunate to have his diary and photo albums of never published photos. His Unit was allowed to take photos being attached to the French Army.

 

WWII Gun Emplacements still overlook Puget Sound

The Army had plans in place to upgrade the Puget Sound harbor defenses when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The attack prompted a feverish scramble to implement those WWII plans.
Fort Ebey was constructed from 1942 to 1944. It overlooked the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the open Pacific Ocean. It was the first of a series of defensive positions that also included forts Casey, Worden and Flagler, also on Puget Sound.

Date on the main bunker entrance

Historic Fort Ebey State Park on Widbey Island is home to the remains of Battery 248 of the Coast Artillery Regiment of the Washington National Guard. The guns are gone, having been melted down for scrap at the end of the war. What remains, however, are the two circular gun emplacements and the supporting large concrete bunker where ammunition, powder bags, and other equipment was stored. 

Forward observation post facing Puget Sound

In front of the bunker towards the edge of the steep cliff you will see the forward observation bunker. A narrow slit provided a panoramic view of the waters. No ships could enter the Sound without being spotted.

One of the remaining two gun turret foundations

The main armament of the fort was provided by two guns on swivel turrets. These guns fired a 108 pound shell with a range of 15 miles. The 26 man gun crews could fire a round every 12 seconds.
Take a step back in time with a visit to Fort Ebey State Park. Walk where the artillerymen walked. Explore the bunker. Stand near the forward observation position and imagine being on the lookout for enemy ships trying to invade the Puget Sound. More information about Fort Ebey State Park may be found at the park website.

Remembering Granddaddy Rex on Armistice Day and Honoring Veterans Day

Granddaddy’s French helmet, red cross armband and other personal effects.

On November 11, 1918 the Armistice between Germany and the Allies was signed, ending the War to End All Wars. The guns on the Western Front fell silent. My grandfather, Rex R. Forsyth, was in France that day still serving in Section 625 of U.S.A.A.C. (United States Army Ambulance Corps) while attached to the French Army. He volunteered, learned to drive the Model T ambulances in the Allentown, Pennsylvania fairgrounds, and was soon shipped overseas. His unit was part of the Allied Army of Occupation and was stationed during 1919 at Kaiser Wilhelm’s castle in the Black Forest.

Shown is Colonel Bertrand, 162nd French Infantry, pinning the Croix de Guerre on the coat of Rex Forsyth. Note that the helmet Rex is wearing is shown in a photo above, and also note in the right background that you can see the front end of one of the Model T Ford Ambulances.

My grandfather was a true hero. On May 2, 1918 members of U.S.A.A.C. Section 625 were awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery in action on April 17, 1918, having crossed a “zone violently bombarded by the enemies artillery” to continue to remove wounded from the battlefield. Our family is so fortunate to have his diary and photo albums of never published photos.

Armistice Day was officially authorized by Congress in 1938 to honor the veterans of WWI. In 1954, after both WWII and the Korean War, the original Act of 1938 was amended to replace the word “armistice” with “veterans”. November 11th has been Veteran’s Day since then, with the exception of a few years in the early 1970’s.  Regardless, remember all veterans and thank them for their service to our country.