I just saw the posting of the photo of the 163 Ambulance Co., thank you, my Grandpa Cornelius McCarthy was in this company.
I looked at the photo of the company, I have not been able to figure out which one he is in the photo (if he indeed is in that photo), I will try to do a little more investigation on that front.
Family lore, background story:
Cornelius “Con” McCarthy was born in November 1886 in Ireland, about the 4th oldest of 9 in his family. With the older sons getting the farm, he emigrated to the US when he was 19, graduating with what would be considered a high school education. He came through Ellis Island and New York, but soon headed west, settling in Cupertino, California, in 1907. He became a US citizen. For work, he became a clerk at the Cupertino General Store, and also got a few acres of land and planted prunes on it. He became engaged to Honore Fleming (my Grandma) in 1917.
When World War I started, it was a European conflict. One comment that Grandpa made to me many years later was that many of the Irish immigrants (including his younger brother Flory) did not want the US to take the side of the British, who had ruled over Ireland for over 400 years. In any case, the US did get into the war in April 1917, and began a military draft, effective in June 1917, for men age 21 to 30. Con was very near the age limit – he would turn 31 in November. He later said to me that he had thought he could have tried to stall the draft until he passed that age limit, but he felt that it was his duty to support his country, so when his notice came, he made plans to be inducted into the Army. As part of his preparation, he got married in August, which was earlier than previously planned.
Con’s Honorable Discharge Papers: Some of what is revealed on the Enlistment Record part of that document:
Inducted: October 4, 1917.
Grade: Private 1st Class; male nurse.
Marksmanship: not qualified
Horsemanship: not mounted
Battles, engagements, skirmishes, expeditions: Left US for foreign service Dec. 12, 1917; (a) Aisne-Marne offensive July 20-Aug. 6, ’18; ( Somme offensive Aug. 8 to Aug. 10, ‘18© St. Mihiel offensive Sept 12 to Sept 16, ’18; (d) Meuse Argonne offiensive Sept. 26 to Nov. 11, ’18; Returned US May 9, 1919.
Remarks: No UWOL or absence under GO 45. 163 Ambulance Co. Entitled to travel pay to San Jose, California.
Signed by: J McIntosh, Captain Infantry, Commanding Causual (sic) Co
More family lore, Con’s story during and after the war:
The ambulance company set up field hospitals in tents, very close to the front. Con’s assignment as a nurse had him tending many grievously wounded people in the field hospital. Those brought in and treated in the hospital included any wounded who were brought in, which included many Allied soldiers and also many of the enemy German soldiers. Many of the soldiers died in the field hospital, and Con knew that the soldiers’ families would appreciate having the personal belongings the soldier had carried in their wallet or pocket sent back to them. Since he was one of the few who knew how to write, he wrote many letters that were sent back to the families of the dead soldiers, including the German families, and include any artifacts that he could.
After the war was over, the Company was still in Germany for several months. During that time, there was a recurring poker game. Con was good at numbers and math, and when he joined the game, he had a very hot streak, which he combined with the Luck of the Irish, and he won most of the money in the game. He was very excited, as with this money, he would be able to go back to Ireland and visit his family, and told everyone of his plans. Unfortunately, some unknown person managed to secretly steal the stash. When the others in the Company heard of this theft, they got together and took up a collection, and presented it to him so he did have enough money go back and see his family in Ireland.
More family lore, return home after the war:
Honore, Con’s new bride, waited for his return, and he sent her word ahead of time that he would be arriving on the train. She went to meet him there, along with a friend who had not met him before. She told the friend to look for the guy with the curly hair. When the train arrived, Honore spotted him, but not by the curly hair—he was almost completely bald. The hair never returned.