At Play In The Archive
Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a time when we honor the servicemen and servicewomen who shoulder the burden of our nation’s defense. In keeping with Margaret Madness and getting to know the Spielmann branch of my family tree better, here is a photograph of Margaret’s nearest sibling, her little brother Ernst Spielmann, serving in France during World War 1.
With help from several sources (listed below), I was able to get a sense of what his military life might have been like.
The disc on the right side of his collar (your left, gentle reader) indicates that he was enlisted in the US Regular Army. I used the loupe function in Aperture to enlarge it enough for me to identify it. The “T” disc on his left collar (your right) tells us that he was involved in supply trains and ammunition. On his left sleeve (your right) there is a patch that to my modern eye looks like a yin yang symbol, but one of the sources I consulted said that this patch is found on returning uniforms from the 29th Division 116th Infantry. It is also known as a “Bevo Weave.” So, this is a clue to the division in which Ernst served.
On his head is the “Overseas Cap” which was easier to stow in favor of a helmet than the standard brimmed hat worn in the US. Around his calves are “Puttees”, or leg wraps. Over his uniform he wears the standard issue service coat, and on the lower left forearm (your right), you can see his service stripe.
Each stripe, or chevron, stands for six months of service in the European theater, so at the time this photograph was taken, Ernst had completed six months of service. One source suggested that, “A 29th Division survivor typically has two chevrons and a replacement to the 29th may have one. (Got there after the Armistice). A veteran would be entitled to two gold service chevrons if he had been shipped to France in the spring of 1918 and remained until the spring or summer of 1919 (Army of Occupation).”
I’m not sure what the case was with Ernst, because the postcard is not dated, but I did find the one other image of him in uniform that IS dated on the back.
So, great-grand-uncle Ernst might have been in France fairly early on in the American effort. Since I don’t know the location where the image was taken, I can’t be sure, but now I’m more curious that ever to learn the full details of his military service.
The following sources were essential in helping me to interpret Ernst’s uniform:
Thank you to the kind souls who maintain this valuable information. Helping us all remember is another form of service, and I appreciate the effort very much.