Co B 128th MG Bn
Our Bates County Veterans Of WWI
The year was 1917, and the Great War was upon us. Brave Americans answered Woodrow Wilson’s call for a “war to end all wars” and volunteered to “make the world safe for democracy”.
Young men from Bates, Vernon, Cass, and their surrounding counties were among the mulitudes of Americans who proudly stepped forward. Many of our local boys found themselves training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, ultimately assigned to the 128th Machine Gun Battalion of the 35th Division. This battalion’s B Company contained eleven Adrian boys - ready to do their part.
*Guy Sollars, Charles Norris, William Oates, Earl Chapman, Willard Courtney, James Moles, George Tabler, Elbert Chapman, James Brown, Roy Chapman, and Omer Muchmore. The three Chapman boys being first cousins, how profound it must have felt for their fathers – three brothers sending their sons off to war, together.*
This call to action took these men from their MIssouri homes to Oklahoma, then through New York on their way to Liverpool. They departed U.S. soil on April 25, 1918, and would return from St. Nazaire, France exactly one year later. However, only ten of these men would return together. Absent from their ranks was Sergeant Earl Chapman.
In late February, just weeks before he would have returned home, Chapman was killed when his supply truck crashed into another in the dark of night. His parents and siblings did not grieve alone, though. In the months and years after his loss, the community continued to remember their fallen hero by establishing the Earl Chapman American Legion in Adrian. There were flowers sent to American graves in France in his honor, and talks of dedicating a roadway to Altona in his name.
It seemed the remaining ten veterans would resume Missouri life, but unfortunately, Willard Courtney was only home for five months before losing his life after an appendicitis. Company B – and the Adrian community - had now suffered two devastating losses in 1919.
Thereafter, the other nine men were able to continue on. Sollars, Norris, Oates, Moles, Tabler, Chapman, Brown, Chapman, and Muchmore all lived for decades thereafter. Although a few scattered to the wind, many of them remained, and their famililes still hold a well-established place in our community.
Earl Chapman’s name has not been listed with his Company B brothers since they left for war. Soon their names will be reunited in brick, with Earl Chapman’s service enscribed in granite and placed at the Lt. Charles Garrison Veterans Memorial.