Corporal William Howard McCracken, Service Number 1308125
William was born on 10 August 1895 in Johnson City, Washington County, Tennessee. He was working as a Repairman for the Federal Dyestuff and Chemical Corporation in Kingsport, Sullivan County, Tennessee when he enlisted in the National Guard in Johnson City on 16 July 1917 at the age of 21. William was assigned to Company F, 3rd Infantry Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard stationed in Johnson City with the rank of Private.
The 3rd Infantry after being called to active service in the United States Army on 25 July 1917 would soon become part of the 117th Infantry Regiment, 59th Infantry Brigade. They were dispatched to and arrived Camp Sevier, Greenville, South Carolina for training on 8 September. There they would join units from North and South Carolina, as well as those from Tennessee to form the core of the 30th Division, later known as the Old Hickory Division in honor of General and President Andrew Jackson. William was promoted to Private First Class on 20 October 1917 and was reassigned to the Headquarters Company on 3 April 1918 from Company F.
William departed Camp Sevier on 5 May 1918 with the Headquarters Company for Camp Mills, Long Island, New York to await transportation overseas. After boarding the SS Orduna they set off for Liverpool, England on 11 May and arrived on 23 May. After disembarking the ship he and the Headquarters Company boarded a troop train and were taken to the port city of Dover for the channel crossing the next day. They arrived the port city of Calais, France on the 24th. As the 30th Division piecemealed into France just as they had done into England, they were taken to Audruicq by train and marched the short distance to the various villages known as the Eperlecques Training Area in France. William was billeted with the Headquarters Company at Nortbecourt and began Phase “A” Training with the British 39th Division on 10 June 1918.
Phase “A” was to be completed on 10 July, but was extended to the morning of 16 July. Phase “B” began the same day for the 30th Division with a three day march into Belgium. Upon arriving the Poperinghe Area, the Headquarters Company was billeted in one of the numerous camps and were intergraded over the next month into actual battlefield operations and trench warfare conditions with active combat units. Phase “B” was completed on 10 August and Phase “C” the last training phase was cancelled and the 30th were declared combat ready. Operational orders came in on the 14th and the 30th Division was to relieve the British 33rd Division starting the night of 16 August in the Canal Sector near Ypres, Belgium. The Ypres-Lys Offensive began on 19 August 1918 and the 30th would be in the thick of the fighting to the very end of the war.
William and the 30th were given a breathing spell after being relieved from the Ypres-Lys Offensive on 5 September and were entrained to the St. Pol area and were billeted at Siracourt, France to resupply, do some more training and get a little rest from all the heavy artillery explosions. On the 17th the 30th Division made the move to the Puchevillers Area where they would come under the control of the 4th British Army on the 21st as would the American 27th Division to join in the Somme Offensive, also known as the One Hundred Day Offensive.
William was promoted to Corporal on 14 October 1918. Three days later on the 17th, William was Killed in Action on the first day of the Battle of the La Selle River near Molain, Aisne, France. He participated in two Unit Campaigns: Ypres-Lys Offensive in Belgium and the Somme Offensive in France. He also fought in the Battle of Bellicourt on the Hindenburg Line. William was 23 years old and is interred at the Somme American Cemetery, Plot D, Row 13, Grave 10 in Bony, France.
–Submitted by Allen D. Jackson, USAF (Ret)