Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Remembering a Veteran: Captain Alan Waite, 372nd Infantry


Alan Waite was a white officer with the segregated 372nd Infantry that was detached from the AEF and placed under the command of the French Fourth Army in the last stages of the war. He was he was killed in action on 29 September 1918 in the Champagne as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive was unfolding just to the east. 

Alan Waite (Left) with His Brothers Stanley and Malcolm

He grew up in Yonkers, NY, where the local American Legion Post is named in his honor. He attended Dartmouth College, graduated in 1915, and studied law afterward. When America joined the war he enlisted in the infantry and was sent to the Plattsburg training camp, where he was commissioned second lieutenant in the Machine Gun Company of the 105th Regiment. Both of his brothers also subsequently enlisted in the Army. 

Waite then went to Camp Wadsworth and to Newport News, where he received his promotion to first lieutenant and was made battalion adjutant with the 372nd Infantry and sent to France. The enlisted ranks of the regiment were all black Doughboys, the officers a mixture of white and black. The commander was a respected and experienced West Point graduate, Col. Herschel Tupes.

372nd Monument, Monthois
The 172nd went into action on 27 September 1918 near the village of Gratreuill, advanced over the next two days, capturing Bussey Farm, and next to the west of Sechault, which they assaulted on the morning of 29 September. Their assault was beaten back, but the village was captured later that day by another American unit, the 369th Harlem Hellfighters.  Today Sechault is the location of a monument to the 369th, a similar monument to the 372nd is farther north at Monthois, the point of the regiment's farthest advance.

Waite was serving as a liaison officer and aide-de-camp to the headquarters of the regiment's parent unit, the French 157th Division, which carried the nickname "Red Hand of France." This was dangerous work requiring round-the-clock movement over unfamiliar routes, exposed to enemy observation and fire. The night of the 29th Captain Waite left divisional headquarters in Ripont on a truck with a French officer. En route to Bussey Farm the truck received an artillery hit. Both officers were killed. Capt. Alan Waite today lies buried at the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery in France.

Souces:  Thanks to Rolfe Hillman III, a great-nephew of Alan Waite for this material. It is derived from a talk his dad, Rolfe Hillman, Jr., gave in Yonkers on Memorial Day 1987. Roy Webb contributed the photo of the regimental monument.

1 comment:

  1. Great narrative. The picture of the brothers is incredible. They look like triplets.

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