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JIM: Armistice day stories of three brave Adair County soldiers

Heroism of Noel Thomas of Milltown, PFC Deed Smith of Pelham Road, and Carley Ballou, of a 'few miles north of Columbia
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"People in this community celebrated the signing of the armistice by the Germans, by blowing horns, ringing bells and making all sorts of noise." Glens Fork community newsletter in the Adair County News, November 20, 1918.

World War I - sketches of three Adair Countians

On September 29th, 1918, members of the 120th Division Regiment, 30th Infantry, AEF (American Expeditionary Force), along with many other US and European troops, "went over the top" (of the trenches) in an effort to break the Hindenburg Line.

The 120th Division included several young Adair Countians. In this violent late September clash, two from Adair County gave the "last full measure of devotion" of which President Lincoln so solemnly spoke and another received serious wounds at the hands of the enemy.

Noel Thomas of the Milltown section suffered near-fatal injuries when his unit went over the top that fateful autumn morning. A report in the News in mid November 1918 stated he was some three hundred yards beyond the trenches "when a bomb fell at his feet breaking his left thigh, also a very severe flesh wound on [his] left arm and bone fractured." By the time the article appeared, he had undergone several surgeries and was recuperating at the Beauport War Hospital, Bristol, Fishponds, England.

In November, the paper stated of Noel,

"He was wounded in the left thigh and left arm on the 29th of September [1918], lying on the battle field twelve hours before being taken up and sent to the hospital. His wounds were severe and he was in the hospital from the day he was wounded until the day he started home."

After several surgeries and a long stay in European hospitals, young Thomas made a triumphant return to Adair County. He arrived in Columbia on Tuesday, January 14th and next day, "he was given hearty greetings, upon the public square, by friends of Adair County."

Noel Thomas was eight days past his 25th birthday when the German bomb nearly ended his life.

His friend and comrade-in-arms, Pfc. Deed Smith of the Pelham Branch section, fared less well. The News noted that Smith "was killed a few minutes before Noel was wounded...and when he [Smith] fell they were only about twenty feet apart."

A word-sketch tribute penned by "a neighbor" appeared in the News in February 1919, stating in part that Pvt. Smith was "one of Adair County's noble sons who gave up his life on the battlefields of France that the principles of humanity and Democracy in the world might be perpetuated."

The writer went on to say of Deed, "To his many friends and neighbors he was a gentleman of unchallenge[d] integrity and in his service to his country he proved himself to be a patriot, a soldier, and a hero. May his name remain ever fresh in the memory of his countrymen."

Private Smith's remains were interred in perpetuity in the Somme American Cemetery near Bony, France. He died five weeks and three days before his 33rd birthday.

In early November, the family of Carley Ballou, who lived "a few miles north of Columbia," received a dispatch that Pvt. Ballou had been killed in action on September 29th. His death drew but scant mention in the News but military records state he was killed in action; that he was a member of the 120th; and that his remains were interred not far from those of his comrade and fellow Adair Countian, Deed Smith, in the Somme American Cemetery, France. He was four months short of his 28th birthday.

Forty-three days later, the guns of Europe fell silent, and for the first time in over four years, a mantle of peace lay across the war-torn land.

Over the centuries, many thousands of Adair Countians have answered when called and have served with honor, both in war and in peace time. To echo a sentiment expressed above, may your names remain ever fresh in the memories of your countrymen. -JIM

This story was posted on 2016-11-11 05:11:28
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