Wayne County Wanderings — Memories of The Great War

It was known as “The Great War” and, for one generation in particular it was “The War to End All Wars.”

World War I officially came to a halt 100 years ago Sunday with the signing of an armistice at Compiegne, France. It went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918.

The actual cessation of fighting lasted 36 days as a formal treaty wasn't signed until a year later at the French city of Versailles.

At the time, it was arguably the most important event in human history, ending an unimaginably brutal conflict that engulfed the globe for more than four years.

Unfortunately, memories of World War I have faded into the mists of time. All of its participants and chroniclers are dead, so no one remains to remind us of its lessons...

Staggering Numbers

The United States entered World War I in April 1917.

Nearly five million men and women served their country in this global conflict. Of that number, about 2.8 million made it overseas to the various theaters of operation.

Casualty estimates are still debated, but it appears that there were 53,400 Americans killed in action. In addition, 63,114 deaths from disease are reported and approximately 205,000 were wounded.

World War I also played a major role in one of the deadliest epidemics the world has ever known: the 1918 influenza virus, which quietly killed a staggerind 50–100 million people.

More than 297,000 Pennsylvanians served in the war, with 10,278 combat deaths, and 26,252 wounded.

World War I also introduced humanity to mechanized killing on a massive scale. The conflict saw the first widespread use of machine flame throwers, guns, tanks and poison gas.

Sadly, this technology set the stage not for lasting peace, but rather for the next “War to End All Wars” which would begin just 20 years later.

Local Connection

Clarence A. Noble was born in 1896 in the rural Wayne County village known as Boyds Mills.

He grew up working on the family farm and was educated in local schools.

Clarence was 21-years-old when the United States finally entered World War I. He enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the 25th Balloon Company.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, Balloon Corps were utilized to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance. They were used on and off the battlefield, employing both traditional balloons and cutting-edge dirigibles in their operations.

Clarence took his initial training at a camp in Texas, then headed overseas to Europe in the waning days of the war. While he never saw combat action, Noble was deeply affected by the horrific suffering that surrounded him.

“My father was a quiet, private man,” said Clarence's daughter, Eloise Fasshauer. “He kept a lot of things to himself.

“He was a wonderful dad, but he never talked about his experiences during the war. I know he had terrible nightmares.”

Clarence was stationed in France when the ceasefire finally came. He attended the armistice signing, a story he recounted many times over the years.

Noble remained in Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Forces until late in 1919, after which he returned to the US and received his honorable discharge.

Clarence came home to Wayne County, took up farming again and started raising a family. He married the former Lucille Hopkins of Rileyville and the couple had five children: Eloise, Evelyn, Elsie, Arthur and Ida.

His grandson, Tom Fasshauer, has fond memories of Clarence.

“He was a kind man,” Tom said. “And very smart. He really kept up with the news. Salesmen who stopped by to see him always said he was the smartest farmer they knew.”

Two of Tom's favorite childhood recollections are riding in the back of his grandfather's Lincoln to a fair in Walton (NY) and listening to the radio.

“He had a really cool radio for the 1960s,” Tom said. “It picked up all kinds of stations and broadcasts from all around the world.”

Clarence was inquisitive by nature and loved to travel. He and Lucille drove through every state in the union, with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii.

He was also heavily involved in the community as his decades-long involvement with the American Legion shows.

Clarence passed away in 1972 at the age of 76.

Cast of Characters

While World War I deeply affected many small communities like ours, it also served to propel some very famous characters onto the global stage.

•A young anti-war journalist named Benito Mussolini enters the Italian military.

•Charles De Gaulle is wounded at Verdun and taken prisoner.

•Winston Churchill plans the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign and pays his penance by serving in the trenches.

•Harry S. Truman serves as an artillery officer on the Western Front, alongside George C. Marshall and Douglas MacArthur.

•George Patton develops a fascination with tanks.

•A young Walt Disney doodles cartoons on the side of ambulances he drives.

•Another ambulance driver, Ernest Hemingway, finds inspiration for his breakout novel “A Farewell to Arms.”

•Hermann Göring becomes a flying ace, while a young Erwin Rommel wins renown for his valor and tactics.

•And then, there's the odd, eccentric German corporal who volunteered early on and is nearly blinded in a gas attack.

Adolf Hitler regains consciousness in an army hospital and hears for the first time that Germany has lost the war...