Figure 1. Hoel monument. Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA. Photo: author.

When I find a monument to someone who is explicitly said to have died fighting in the U.S. armed forces I feel obligated to dig a little deeper to see if the date corresponds to some notable action. This was the case with:

Private
Warren Lewis Hoel
206 Field Artillery
Battery D.,
Born April 11, 1891,
Killed in Action
Aug. 26, 1918.
Son of
Lewis and Martha Hoel

The date corresponds to major action in the second Battle of the Somme, but there things become harder to trace. This monument is in Glen Dyberry Cemetery in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, yet the 206th was an Arkansas National Guard unit that was organized and sent over to France after 26 August 1918. There is no record among Pennsylvania war dead of a private Hoel in the 206th. But it was an Arkansas unit, so maybe Hoel’s parents (buried next to his monument) moved from Arkansas to Pennsylvania after his death and either repatriated his remains here or erected a cenotaph. It happens.

So imagine my surprise when I went through the casualty lists in World War I for the state of Arkansas and turned up no Hoels. Perhaps he was an early victim of the Spanish Flu, whose second wave took off in August 1918. Yet we’re explicitly told he was “killed in action.”

So, let’s assume something went wrong in the carving. The granite and the light in the cemetery did not help the legibility of the numbers. However, comparing the ‘2’ in “206” (figures 2, 3) with the “2” in “August 26” (figure 4), it seems that what looks like the number ‘206’ might in fact have been cut down after the fact to resemble a ‘3’.

And at this point we quickly turn up Hoel among the dead of the 306th Regiment Battery D, on 26 August 1918, organized from New York State National Guard units. (See page 199 of the New York documentation here.) The 306th Field Artillery Regiment (not to mention Battery D) has somehow managed to escape any kind of a detailed account online. As the 77th Division (of which it was a part) was involved in the Hundred-Days’ offensive in the Battle of the Somme, I assume they were there, and that Hoel was killed in that extended series of battles.

The moral: double-check, whenever possible!

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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