Trench Warfare in France during World War I: The Story of SGT Maniphe Stonecipher

Maniphe Stonecipher was born on July 5, 1892 in Glen Mary, Morgan County, Tennessee to Curtis and Polly Lewallen Stonecipher.  I have no idea where his given name came from, because I have not encountered it anywhere in the Stonecipher family.  Possibly the name comes from his maternal ancestry which I have not researched.  By early 1916, Maniphe was living in Marion County, Illinois and it was then that he married Hattie S. Wham.  On December 7, 1916, Jesse Wham Stonecipher was born to the couple.  Shortly afterward, in early January of 1917, Maniphe registered for the draft for World War I.  Maniphe Stonecipher, Draft Card 001

It is not clear if he was drafted or enlisted in the US Army, but by late May of 1917, Maniphe was on his way to New York.  He was assigned to Company M, 28th Infantry, 1st Expeditionary Division.  on June 8, 1917, his unit departed from New York Harbor headed for France.  By June 29, 1917, the 28th Infantry had landed at Saint Nazaire on French soil.  They inhabited barracks abandoned by the Germans.  The barracks were roughly constructed by German prisoners of war, and had none of the comforts of home that the new troops were used to.  They underwent extensive training for the kind of combat they were to experience.  This training went on for months.  At Christmas of 1917, the American troops wanted to share their Christmas and they purchased all of the candy, cakes, and chocolates they could find in the surrounding villages and gave them to the French children who had little to smile about since the war began about three years earlier.  Their towns and villages were left as rubble by the invading Germans, and what had been rebuilt was done so with the idea of survival.

On January 5, 1918, the 28th and the rest of the 1st Division relieved the 1st Moroccan Division north of Toul, France.  They were not quite on the front lines, but they were experiencing what it was like to live in trenches.  By April 20, 1918, they had advanced to the Cantigny Sector, more toward the front lines.  Trenches were dug.  Shelling near Cantigny was constant with almost no interruption at any time of day.  On May 14, 1918, the 28th Infantry replaced the 16th Infantry on the front lines in the trenches.  After dark, the cooks with their rolling kitchens, accompanied by a water cart, brought food, water, and coffee as close as they could to the trenches.  It was the only cooked meal of the day that the soldiers would get, and even then the food was cold, the coffee was cold, and the water was lukewarm.  The soldiers were supplied with new rounds of ammunition after dark also.  Between May 28 and 30 of 1918, the American Infantry supported by the French planes and American Artillery and Machine Gunners, made a determined offensive against the Germans and drove them from Cantigny.  Quoting from the text of the History of the First Division, “In recognition of the heroism and sacrifices of the 28th Infantry in the assault and capture of Cantigny, the regiment received the following letter of commendation from the Division Commander.”

DSC06900

From the text of the History of the First Division

Again, quoting from the text of the History of the First Division, “Life in the trenches was one great hardship.  The men had an average of one meal a day, and nothing short of extreme hunger could have made that palatable.  Water for washing was unknown.  No issue of clothing could be made.  Lice infested the garments worn, and it was only during the rest in the back area that delousing could take place.”  The rest in the back area only took place about once each one and a half to two months.

By early July of 1918, there was a critical buildup of troops in the area between Soissons and Reims.  The objective was a massive attack against the Germans along the Marne River to halt any opportunity of advance toward Paris.  The movements of troops was done only during the hours of night.  They marched from July 11, 1918 and were nearing their destination by July 14, 1918.  Finally, on July 17, they had reached their point of attack and made preparation for the assault.  On July 18, 1918, the Infantry, aided by all forms of Artillery shelling and machine gunning, began their advance toward the German lines early in the morning.  For four days they continued to march forward in spite of great losses, fatigue, hunger, and undoubtedly the fear of dying.  They were continually taking prisoners and killing enormous numbers of the enemy.  The farther along the troops went, the closer the fighting became, and much of it resulted in hand to hand combat.

American Troops Attacking Germans, 1918 001

American troops emerging from trenches and attacking the Germans. Originally published by Editions de la Martiniere, Paris, France.

On the fourth day of the battle, on July 21, 1918, the advance toward the enemy began again at 4:45 a.m.  In the process of this assault, Maniphe Stonecipher lost his life in defense of his country and its allies.  Maniphe Stonecipher KIA report of Soldiers from Illinois 001

In all, through the four days of fighting with bayonets and close proximity firing, over seven thousand soldiers lost their lives in this most brutal of warfare.  This has been referred to as the Second Battle of the Marne.

Maniphe Stonecipher - Headstone 001

Headstone of Maniphe Stonecipher in Iuka Cemetery, in Iuka, Illinois.

Even though his father lost his life in World War I, Jesse Wham Stonecipher fought in and survived World War II.  He served in the US Navy.

May this be a tribute to SGT Maniphe Stonecipher, who gave his life so that we can all remain free.  I’ll see you on down the road.

Uncle Thereisno Justice

 

 

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