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Comfort to the Mother—Pal Also Writes—
"Come on, Boys, Be Game."


Clarkston, Feb. 13—Additional information about the circumstances of the death [of] William Whittaker, Clarkston boy who gave his life on the battlefields of France in the cause of liberty, has been received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Whittaker. Two letters were received from Lieutenant C. Van Hapert, company D. second engineers, of which Will was a member. The letters of the officer speak in the highest terms of his personal bravery and courage in time of death. A letter from Earl Provost, who was engaged in the same work as the deceased, tells more in detail the circumstances and pays a big tribute to Private Whittaker's courage.

William Whittaker was killed at Belleau Wood, Chateau-Thierry, doing his duty with the engineers which acted in the capacity of infantry besides performing their own work of bringing in ammunition and provisions for the marines. They releived the marines of a part of the front. It was the action at Chateau-Thierry which broke the Hun morale and begun the last great victorious drive of the allies.

The letters from Lieutenant Van Hapert are in part as follows:

"Your boy, William John Whittaker, was killed in action at 4 a. m., June 13, 1918, in performance of a duty which demanded extreme courage and bravery, and met his death along with several others of his comrades who were performing the same kind of duty. My dear madam, as I know, or imagine, the feelings of a mother who has sent forward a boy never to return, I can only ask you to be brave and have an everlasting memory that your boy has given his life for a noble cause for which we all are fighting and striving. Dear madam, knowing your memory will often cast a dreadful thought on your mind, that your boy has died suffering, I wish to inform you that your boy was killed instantly by shell fire and never suffered the horrible feelings which so many others have to endure before giving their lives.

"I am very anxious to state that your boy has been under my command for the past several months and has always performed his duties very well and bravely, and I surely considered him as one of my best soldiers, who always performed his duties faithfully and without hesitating, and I regret very much the loss of as brave and good a soldier as he has proven himself to be.

"Accept, my dear madam, my heartfelt sympathy for you and your family over the loss of your son and brother, and rest assured, I will always remember your boy's conduct as a fitting example of a brave and devoted soldier.

"He was buried by his comrades in my presence on the battlefield June 13 about 8 a. m. I regret very much I cannot give you additional information, but I will gladly answer again any letter which you desire to send me concerning your boy. In fact I will gladly answer any mother's letter who seeks information concerning her boy, although I cannot surpass censorship regulations."

The second letter is:

'I had made a very prompt answer to your letter, but as I was about to go into action I did not have the opportunity to mail it, which I have now found in my pocket, after being brought to a hospital badly shaken to pieces in our last fight. I am now a little further away from the front. I might mention in this letter that your boy is now buried in an American graveyard in the rear of our lines, the location of which I do not exactly know, but I can assure you that all American graves are being taken care of by a number of French ladies, and I will try hard to obtain some additional information concerning your boy's grave, as I am now behind the lines. I might also state that I personally searched your boy's body for his personal effects, but have found nothing except two or three letters from home which were turned over to the commanding officer. Otherwise nothing was found on his person.

"You are at perfect liberty to use my letter as an assurance to all his friends and relatives that your boy has at all times set an inspiring example to all his comrades who so bravely fought alongside of him."

Earl M. Provost, company E, 2nd engineers, wrote on October 19:

"Dear Mrs. Whittaker: This cannot convey the sympathy and comfort I would have it bring to you, but perhaps it will relieve some of the thoughts and questions that have come up since you received the telegram notifying you of Bill'[s] death. Bill was a pal to me, always good natured and ready to lend a hand, never making a complaint. I couldn't believe that they had taken him. He and John Partridge were brothers to me, and now they have given their all that some other boys to come may not have to make the great sacrifice.

The day before the company went back into line he came to me and asked if I had heard from Slim, my cousin; then he sat down on my bed. We were just back of the lines in reserve in a little wood, and we talked of the things back home. He was so cheerful and joking about it all. Then that night they went into line again. Later I talked with Dewey Wardrobe, the boy who was in the same hole with Bill ... He said that they had taken over the line, which consisted of oblong holes in a sort of line, a man in each end of the hole. They were shelling them and the shells were lighting close to them. One struck the edge and Bill said 'I am wounded. 'They called a first aid man and laid him on a stretcher to carry him back; then another shell hit close and he was hit again. He said: 'It's no use boys, I am done for,' and he only lived a few moments. He was in very little pain. He was buried close to the place where he was hit.

"To you, his mother, there is little I can write to tell you how bravely he lived, how always ready he was to give anything he had—the truest pal a man ever had, and though now he has gone, somehow I never feel as though he were lost to me. Always when things are hardest, when skies look darkest dear old Bill seems to come and give me that cheerful laugh and whisper 'Come on, boys, be game.'

"Seems like it's all planned out, and one goes on doing his part till that time comes. After all, why is it, anyway? Still, because those Huns would vandalize the world, we must 'carry on.' I see only that ahead—duty. Who knows, perhaps my call may come tomorrow, and if it does, all I ask is that they may say that I lived and died as bravely as Bill Whittaker.

"I hope these few lines may give you some comfort, and should you wish to ask something more I will be more than glad to have you ask.

"God keep you and give you the hope and strength to forget your grief, remembering the sorrow and loss as he would have you remember it."

William Whittaker was killed at Belleau Wood Original image of this newspaper article cotributed by Mike Duka.
 
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