He Covered the Last Death of WWI. His Words Launched His Career

Years earlier than James M. Cain would develop into one among America’s most well-known writers—the writer of such sensational and controversial novels as The Postman All the time Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred Pierce—he pounded the pavement as a reporter for the Baltimore American and the Baltimore Solar. His fledging profession as a journalist was interrupted, nevertheless, when the USA entered World Conflict I. Drafted into the military, Cain was quickly shipped to France as a personal within the headquarters troop of the 79th Infantry Division, a unit raised at Camp Meade in his residence state of Maryland in 1917.

In 1918, within the opening days of the Basic John J. Pershing’s Meuse-Argonne Offensive—an enormous assault that may, it was hoped, deliver an finish to World Conflict I—the 79th Division was assigned the job of capturing Montfaucon, a German stronghold and commanding remark level that towered some 300 ft above the countryside. Cain was a runner through the battle, one of many bloodiest sieges of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, and later served because the editor of the Lorraine Cross, the 79th Division’s “trench newspaper.”

With the top of the conflict Cain returned to the Baltimore Solar, however not earlier than he’d filed a report from Europe on the dying of Henry N. Gunther, the 23-year-old son of German-American dad and mom in Baltimore, who would quickly develop into referred to as the final American killed in World Conflict I.

The U.S. Military later posthumously restored Gunther’s rank of sergeant and awarded him a Divisional Quotation for Gallantry in Motion and the Distinguished Service Cross. Gunther’s stays had been returned to the USA in 1923 after being exhumed from a navy cemetery in France and interred in his household’s plot on the Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Baltimore. His tombstone, inscribed together with his likeness and decorations, reads “extremely embellished for distinctive bravery and heroic motion that resulted in his dying one minute earlier than the armistice.”

As for Cain, he quickly started writing brief tales for the American Mercury, the celebrated journal that H. L. Mencken, the Solar’s influential and fearless iconoclast, had based in 1924. Cain’s first novel, The Postman All the time Rings Twice, was revealed in 1934, and his second, Double Indemnity, was serialized in Liberty journal in 1936.

He continued writing till his dying at age 85 in 1977.

Cain’s story about Gunther’s dying, reprinted right here, was preceded by a brief word from his editors and appeared within the March 16, 1919, version of the Baltimore Solar.


Henry N. Gunther Felt He Was Beneath A Cloud

Most likely Final Man Killed

Went Alone To Seize Machine Gun Nest

In The Final Minute of Conflict.

This account of how Henry N. Gunther, 3011 Jap avenue, was killed virtually for the time being the “stop firing order” was given, is by Personal James M. Cain, Headquarters Troop, Seventy-ninth Division, in France, who was previously a reporter on The Solar. It corresponds in all necessities with the report dropped at Gunther’s dad and mom by Chaplain George F. Jonaitis, however provides some particulars that Father Jonaitis in all probability didn’t know of. 

By Personal James M. Cain

Souilly, France (By Mail), Feb. 22.—The final man to be killed in motion within the Seventy-ninth Division, and maybe in the entire American Military, was Henry N. Gunther, Firm A, Three Hundred and Thirteenth Infantry. Gunther’s residence was in Baltimore, and he was killed at one minute of 11 o’clock on November 11, making an attempt to take a German machine gun place.

Till a short while earlier than the Three Hundred and Thirteenth completed its interval of coaching at Camplitte, Gunther was provide sergeant of his firm. A couple of days earlier than the regiment left for the entrance he wrote a letter residence complaining of sure issues about military life, and as this was a violation of the censorship rules, he was lowered to the grade of personal.

Based on his companions, Gunther brooded an awesome deal over his discount in rank, and have become obsessive about a dedication to make good earlier than his officers and fellow-soldiers. Notably he was nervous as a result of he thought himself suspected of being a German sympathizer.

The plaque commemorating Sergeant Henry N. Gunther at a Baltimore cemetery. (Harmony, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The regiment went into motion a number of days after he was lowered, and from the beginning he displayed probably the most uncommon willingness to reveal himself to all kinds of dangers and to go on probably the most harmful type of obligation. He acquitted himself splendidly within the Montfaucon struggle, and on the drive east of the Meuse he was chosen to behave as an organization runner—significantly harmful work, for a runner is the bearer of vital messages, and should get them delivered, even when his manner lies over probably the most uncovered nation.

Confirmed Scorn of Hazard.

Within the function of runner Gunther proved to be a person of the best mettle. He repeatedly volunteered for obligation when communication needed to be established over terrain raked by machine weapons and topic to heavy shelling. A couple of days earlier than hostilities ceased he was carrying a message, when a German bullet handed by means of his wrist. He mentioned nothing about his wound, nevertheless, when one among his officers, noticing his exhaustion, requested him what was the matter. Having already sure up his arm with a first-aid bandage, he replied that he was slightly drained, and thought he would take a relaxation. The subsequent day he reported for obligation and went on as common.

On November 11 he was nonetheless on obligation as a runner. His firm had been ordered to advance on Ville-Devant-Chaumont, within the excessive proper of the Seventy-ninth’s sector, and a number of other events had been already within the city. Gunther, with one or two different runners and a sophisticated occasion of riflemen from his firm, was simply on the outskirts. The order had already come that hostilities had been to stop at 11 o’clock.

Instantly forward there was seen a German machine gun nest. Gunther, in line with the boys of Firm A, should nonetheless have been fired by a need to show, even on the final minute, that he was brave and all-American. At a couple of minutes to 11 he introduced that he was going to take that machine gun nest, and although his companions remonstrated, and informed him that in a couple of minutes the “conflict could be over,” he began out, armed with a Browning automated rifle.

Germans Waved Him Again.

A German machine gun nest in World War I. (General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
A German machine gun nest in World Conflict I. (Basic Photographic Company/Getty Pictures)

When the Germans noticed him coming they waved at him and referred to as out, in such damaged English as they may, to return, that the conflict was over. He paid no heed to them, nevertheless, and saved on firing a shot or two from his automated as he went. After a number of useless efforts to make him flip again, the Germans turned their machine gun on him, and at one minute of 11 o’clock Gunther fell useless.

The weapons stopped firing at 11 o’clock—a number of seconds after—and some minutes after the German machine gun crew that had killed him got here out with a stretcher and positioned Gunther on it. They then carried him again to his occasion from Firm A he had left however a short while earlier than. They defined that that they had tried to maintain him from approaching, and that they needed to shoot him in self-defense. They insisted on shaking arms with the People, after which they set Gunther down and returned to their very own strains. MHQ


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