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Private | Infantry

By 1918 the machine gun had become a definitive weapon of the trenches and wastelands that were the battlefields of World War I.  To be included in a unit devoted to the weapon was simply an assignment to the young men in those companies or battalions - they were, however, saviors for the riflemen in front of them, slinging lead above their heads so that they might survive the charge to the other side.


Before America's involvement in the war, Clarence was employed as an ice peddler  with the Pitman & Dean Company out of Detroit, Michigan.  He was middle child of twelve - ten years younger than his oldest sister and 15 years older than the youngest.  The seven boys worked the farm with their father, Solomon, and the girls helped in the house with their mother, Kate.  At least in 1910 - when he enlisted for the draft in 1917, Clarence was selling ice and following the war his father worked at a brewery and the boys were employed elsewhere.

It is unclear if Springer was drafted or enlisted, but on March 28, 1918 he was a Private in the U.S. National Army and was soon a part of the 323d Machine Gun Battalion, 165th Infantry Brigade in Ohio's native 83d Division.  Two months later, the unit sailed from Montreal, Canada on June 6 after extensive training at Camp Sherman.  After the six day journey to Europe, the 83d Division joined the Allied Expeditionary Force as a depot division supplying replacements to both new and battered units on the front.

Fall came and the allied forces were organizing a push to end the war.  Springer transferred to Machine Gun Company, 117th Infantry  on October 15.  The 117th was organic to the 30th Division, now assigned to II Corps with the 27th Division under British command.  From the 83d 'Depot' Division rear position to the front lines, Springer noticed a slow but obvious transition to land ruined by war.  Trees stripped of foliage and most of their branches protruded from the mired earth and deep trenches laced the endless battlefield.  The regiment he arrived to was in the middle of much needed rest, but the next morning were moving back to the line near the Selle River, committed to combat and the horrors of the Great War.




(1) Benson, Albert Emerson. Saint Mark's School in the War against Germany. Norwood, MA: Priv. Print, for the School, 1920. 251. Print.

(2) Hartwell, Joe. "117th Infantry, 59th Infantry Brigade, 30th Division 1917-1919." 117th Infantry, 30th Division WWI. N.p., 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.

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