Merle David Hay 1896-1917
Posted By: Joe Conroy (email)
Date: 5/15/2010 at 22:06:07
The Carroll Times
8 Nov 1917
It was the lot of Carroll county, unfortunately, to contribute a name to the first casualty list of Americans killed on the firing line in France. Merle Hay, of Glidden, was one of the three Americans first to be killed by the guns of Germany.
Thus, as in no other way possible, is the horror of war brought home to our very doors. A young man, below the age required in the draft, he nevertheless responded to his country's first call as a patriot and a man. With him there was no thought of evasion, no consideration of a claim for exemption. He was single, without dependents, and he stepped into the ranks of the Defenders of Civilization in order that some other might remain at home and serve his country otherwise.
We cannot ever fully know, and we can but dimly realize, the sorrow of the parents and loved ones he has left behind. But while the sympathy of a nation is poured out to them for this, its first sacrifice, we, the friends and neighbors at home, can share in some measure their sorrow and their solemn pride in the sacrifice they have made on the altar of freedom, and we can the more firmly resolve to conduct ourselves as loyal Americans in order that this sacrifice shall not have been in vain.
The Carroll Times
28 Jul 1921
Thousands Honor World War Hero
Vast Throng Assembles To Pay Tribute To Merle Hay, Iowa Soldier.
600 "Vets" In Cortege
Body of Youth Laid to Rest With Full Military Honors by Members of the American Legion.
Ten thousand Iowa people gathered at Glidden Sunday afternoon to pay a last tribute to Pvt. Merle Hay, hero of the World War, who was the first Iowa youth to fall on the battlefields of France, having been killed in action on the western front November 3, 1917, with Corp. James B. Gresham and Pvt. Thomas Enright. These three lads were the first American soldiers to make the supreme sacrifice on the battlefield in the war with Germany.
It is estimated that more than 1,500 automobiles carried the great throng to Glidden to honor the fallen soldier. Hours before time for the funeral services hundreds of cars crowded the roads leading to the little city. Between Carroll and Glidden, a distance of only seven miles, the Lincoln highway was literally choked with dust-covered cars.
The funeral cortege left the American Legion hall at 3 o'clock headed by the Argonne post band of Des Moines, and moved slowly toward the school park where a platform had been constructed and decorated with flowers, bunting and American flags. Following the uniformed band marched 600 veterans of the World War, the hearse being escorted by members of the Merle Hay Post of the American Legion at Glidden.
Among the mourners were Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Hay, parents of the slain soldier; Basil Hay, a brother, and Mrs. H. Cromwell, a sister.
An army and navy sextet sang "Cover Them With Beautiful Flowers," and Mrs. Willis Barber read letters of tribute, one from Mayor John F. Grace, of Glidden, and C. H. Hall, president of the Community club, and the other from J. B. Harsh, department commander of the Iowa G. A. R.
Pvt. Chester Lampman of Jefferson, Iowa, sang "There Is a Land," and this was followed by the biography of Merle Hay, read by Capt. Claud C. Helmer, of Carroll.
Sheriff W. E. Robb, of Des Moines, chaplain of the 168th Infantry, delivered the funeral oration. He paid a fitting and eloquent tribute to American soldiers, pictured the horrors of modern warfare, told of his experiences at the front and closed his address with a stirring plea for a closer union of the nations of the world that would forever prevent the slaughter of brave men and the suffering of millions of innocent victims of war.
Services at the grave were brief and were carried out with military precision and dispatch. After the long funeral procession had moved to the little cemetery a short distance northwest of Glidden, Chaplain Sayers, of the Jefferson Post of the American Legion, read from the Legion ritual. The band played and the chaplain offered a prayer. A firing squad fired the army salute and the bugler sounded taps.
A part of the obituary read by Captain Helmer follows:
Merle Hay was born at Carrollton, Ia., July 30, 1895. He spent practically all of his life on a farm, with the exception of a few months before the entry of the United States into the war, when he worked in Glidden.
He enlisted in the army May 3, 1917, following a patriotic demonstration in the Methodist church at Glidden the night before.
The next day he and a group of youths went to Des Moines and "joined up." Hay was one of the first eight Glidden boys to join the colors. He reached France on June 27, 1917, as a meber of Company F, 13th Infantry, Third division.
He marched in Paris July 4, 1917, in the first public demonstration by American troops on French soil.
It was November 3, that year, that Hay, Enright and Gresham were caught, with two comrades, in a "box" barrage in front of the American lines near the little village of Bethlemont. Hay, Gresham and Enright were killed. The other two escaped back to the American lines.
Carroll Obituaries maintained by Rich Lowe.
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