Downtown monument honors brothers who died days apart|[11/11/06]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 11, 2006

Vicksburg brothers killed days apart during World War I are among those honored by a downtown monument, a memorial to an armistice singed at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 – 88 years ago today.

Henry Cook Allein and William Weems Allein, sons of Mr. and Mrs. T.H. Allein of Vicksburg, were killed while fighting in northeastern France in October 1918.

Henry died in air-to-air combat and William died while fighting as a member of a ground-artillery crew.

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U.S. Army Pfc. William Allein, who a record shows was no older than 18, was in combat with an artillery crew in a hilly, densely wooded area of eastern France called the Argonne Forest when he was killed Oct. 5, 1918, by a bursting shell that struck him in the head and breast, a letter to his parents from an officer of the YMCA in Paris says. Fragments from the same shell also wounded a corporal of the same crew, the letter adds.

&#8220He was one of a crew of gunners who were trying to shell out a machine-gun nest on the opposite slope and drew retaliatory gunfire in return,” the letter says. &#8220All agree that they were firing from a relatively exposed position.”

William Allein had enlisted in the Army nearly a year earlier, in November 1917.

His likeness is one of two servicemen’s that are depicted in statues attached to the Memorial Rose Garden on the Monroe Street boulevard in downtown Vicksburg.

Neither serviceman is identified on the monument. The statue depicting Allein faces west. Facing east is a U.S. Navy sailor.

Engraved on its north and south sides is the inscription: &#8220Let Us Hold in Honored Memory Those Who Died For Their Country in the World War 1917-1918.”

Twenty-two days after William Allein was killed his older brother, 22-year-old pilot Lt. Henry Allein of the U.S. Army Air Service, was shot in the body in a dogfight with a German plane and was further injured in a crash while attempting to make an emergency landing on a U.S. landing field on Oct. 27, 1918, a letter to his father, T.H. Allein, from a U.S. Army Air Service officer says.

&#8220No one had seen the fight, but it is my personal opinion and (that of) the other members of the squadron that he brought the (German plane) down and then came to the nearest field for medical attention,” the letter says.

Henry Allein had been drafted into the service in April 1918, about four months before he died. A representation of the kind of fighter plane he flew, a French biplane called Spad XIII, is engraved on the south side of the rose-garden monument.

The Alleins – whose memory continues to be honored today by the name of the Allein Post 3 American Legion on Monroe Street – were not the first Vicksburgers to die in World War I, says an article on them published in the Oct. 17, 1974, Vicksburg Sunday Post. The post’s commander &#8220said the post chose its name because it was something unique to have two brothers from the same hometown killed in the same war days apart.”

The war had begun in August 1914. Germany declared war on Russia, to its east, on Aug. 1 and France and Belguim, to its west, on Aug. 3 and 4, respectively.

The U.S. joined the opposition to Germany in April 1917, with President Woodrow Wilson requesting a declaration of war. The first wave of American Expeditionary Forces arrived in France in July 1917 – just four months before the war’s end – and was assigned to an Allied command.

The Americans were assigned to a rugged zone along France’s northeastern border near the Meuse River and including the Argonne Forest. Their last offensive, called the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, began Sept. 26, 1918, and ended in the armistice, which was signed at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.

The Argonne Forest is hilly and densely wooded and the Meuse-Argonne offensive was &#8220rushed, chaotic, confused, slow and hard-fought,” University of Southern Mississippi history professor Michael Neiberg said.

&#8220It’s a very, very tough fight,” Neiberg said. &#8220Meuse-Argonne is America’s largest offensive of the First World War.”

The offensive was rushed in an Allied effort to win the war before winter set in, Neiberg said. A break in the fighting due to winter weather could have given the Germans an opportunity to regroup and prolonged the war into 1919, Neiberg added.

The war was the first major conflict in which aircraft, first successfully flown just 15 years earlier, were used.

Henry Allein was killed on the second day of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, said senior historian Dr. Roger G. Miller of the U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.

The Argonne Forest has &#8220very rugged terrain: lots of hills, a lot of woods,” Miller said.

&#8220The primary purpose of aviation in World War I was observation – to see what was over the next hill,” Miller said. &#8220People couldn’t do that before that war.”

World War I pilots dropped some bombs on enemy targets but large-scale bombing of rear areas was not done until later wars. The Spad XIII model Allein and those in his unit flew was, &#8220a heavy, strong little plane,” Miller said.

The squadron of which Allein was a member was called a &#8220pursuit” unit. Such squadrons were assigned mainly to defend Allied airspace, preventing enemy aircraft from observation there.

&#8220It came down to air-to-air combat,” Miller said.

The name of today’s observance, originally Armistice Day, was changed to Veterans Day by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1954. Millions of additional people had become war veterans during World War II, from 1941 until 1945, and the Korean War, from 1950 until 1953.


Veterans Day activities are scheduled for today in downtown Vicksburg, beginning with an 11 a.m. ceremony and continuing with a 2 p.m. parade. The ceremony is set for the Municipal Rose Garden on Monroe Street with Col. Benny Terrell as master of ceremonies and Vicksburg National Military Park historian Terry Winschel as the speaker. Members of the Vicksburg High School marching band and JROTC are among others scheduled to participate in the event. The parade will roll north on Washington from Belmont to Jackson Street. The parade theme is &#8220Veterans are the Foundation of Our Nation.”