CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — On Saturday morning, March 24, 1917, a telegram messenger shouted the terrible information from the entrance gate, throughout the Poor household’s Illinois entrance yard and into their home windows.
Their son was useless.
Pvt. John Poor was killed the day past in a midnight shootout at Fort Williams, far-off, on the coast of Maine.
German spies have been considered accountable.
Although the nation didn’t formally enter WWI for one more 10 days, Poor’s loss of life whereas guarding the seaside battery in Cape Elizabeth, possible made him the primary serviceman to die within the line of obligation whereas serving in america’ armed forces throughout the “Conflict to Finish All Wars.”
A tiny, one paragraph, web page 4 merchandise within the March 28 version of the Ellsworth American newspaper predicted it.
“Future historians might file that the primary soldier killed within the efficiency of his obligation within the conflict between america and Germany was John Poor,” the unattributed piece stated. “The incident brings residence to Maine the truth that the conflict is critical enterprise and is getting close to residence.”
Congress declared conflict on Germany 4 days after the newspaper’s prophetic assertion.
By then, WWI had already ravaged Europe for 3 years. The USA entered the fray for a wide range of causes, together with Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare within the Atlantic Ocean and its alliance overtures to Mexico.
Although German submarines by no means sank a ship instantly off the Maine coast, tensions have been excessive. A U.S. Navy recruitment officer instructed one newspaper that an “assault on the Maine coast was certainly not unlikely.” Islands in Casco Bay bristled with manned gun emplacements. On the mouth of Portland Harbor, Fort Williams had two, massive 12-inch weapons able to firing out to sea.
Poor was guarding these weapons when he died.
Someday within the still-dark, early-morning hours of Friday, March 23, two unknown males tried to slide previous Poor, who was on sentry obligation. When the younger soldier noticed them, the 2 thriller males rotated and ran.
“Poor fired as soon as over their heads and ordered them to halt,” learn an article within the Lewiston Night Journal the following day. “One turned and fired at him with deadly impact.”
A .44 caliber bullet slammed into Poor’s thigh, bringing him down. The 2 males then vanished into the evening.
The 22-year-old soldier from Christian County, Illinois, died a couple of hours later, probably from blood loss. Transfusions wouldn’t grow to be routine till a number of many years later.
It was not the primary assault on the fort that week.
On the earlier Wednesday, one other sentry was fired on, the Night Journal reported.
“Suspicious characters have been noticed in any respect the fortifications within the Portland district,” it acknowledged. “Search lights have been put in use Friday night.”
Subsequent to that entrance web page report, one other stated safety had been beefed up on the new Bangor submit workplace on account of a “suspicious man” who had been noticed “skulking” within the adjoining alley.
Two weeks later, on April 14, the Bangor Day by day Information carried a narrative a few sentry attacked whereas guarding a railroad bridge in Portland. German spies have been considered behind that incident, as nicely.
William Hay, who was watching over the Grand Trunk Railroad bridge on the waterfront, noticed a person attempting to climb aboard the bridge from a motorboat. When Hay approached him, the person struck Hay within the head and fired a pistol at shut vary.
“The bullet handed via the sleeve of his coat and sweater and grazed his arm,” the BDN article stated. “Hay’s assailant and a companion escaped of their boat, exchanging photographs with him as they disappeared within the darkness.”
On the time, authorities have been satisfied Hay’s attackers have been the identical males who killed Poor. An intensive harbor hunt, together with many troopers and a Coast Guard cutter, turned up nothing.
A latest search of Maine newspaper archives discovered no proof anybody was ever arrested for any of the native suspected German spy incidents.
After Poor died, the commandant at Fort Williams despatched the telegram informing the younger soldier’s household in Clarksdale, Illinois. It needed to be shouted from the backyard gate as a result of Poor’s household was housebound underneath a smallpox quarantine.
In the meantime, the non-public’s mortal stays have been transported to Portland’s grand Union Station prepare terminal on Sunday, after a memorial service on the fort. Six troopers accompanied his flag-draped casket earlier than it was shipped again to Illinois, the place newspapers have been additionally writing in regards to the younger man.
“The boy was identified and preferred all through the county,” wrote the Day by day Overview in Decatur. “His loss of life offers central Illinois first blood within the impending German hostilities.”
The story additionally stated Poor enlisted within the U.S. Military 18 months earlier, in Springfield, Illinois, and was serving within the third firm of the Military’s Coast Artillery Corps when he died.
The Matoon Gazette carried particulars of Poor’s funeral on March 29 in Edinburg, Illinois, the place he’d lived along with his grandfather, earlier than becoming a member of the service.
“The enterprise homes of the city closed and faculty was dismissed, ” wrote the Gazette.
It additionally famous college kids marched to the cemetery with the physique whereas the native band performed.
A number of days later, the Illinois legislature handed a decision honoring Poor’s bravery and the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper in Utah declared him the primary soldier to die within the new battle with Germany.
However there have been many extra to come back.
All instructed, an estimated 117,000 extra United States service members would die within the conflict earlier than an armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918.
Just a little over 20 years after that, almost 4 occasions that many Individuals went on to perish in WWII.
Maybe that’s why Poor’s title subsided right into a historic footnote or trivia merchandise as an alternative of rising to a family standing. Immediately, his Illinois grave is marked with a easy, government-issued gravestone.
There isn’t any historic marker remembering him at Fort Williams.