Thursday, November 16, 2023

Chester Booher, WWI and the Spanish Flu

In October of 1918, a Louisville newspaper reported that Chester Booher, who had fought in Germany during WWI, had become the first Clinton County soldier to die of the Spanish influenza. He was 21.

When the war in Germany was declared on April 6, 1917, young Booher was at New Castle, Indiana. He enlisted there and after receiving training at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, arrived in France in November and participated in several battles, including helping to capture Cantigny, the first town taken by the Americans on May 28, 1918.

Booher was a bugler with Company M of the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He was present during the Battle of Soissons that began on July 18, 1918, which was part of the much larger Allied Aisne-Marne counter-offensive. In four days of continuous attack from the line, Saint-Pierre L'Aigle-Cutry, the First Division AEF penetrated 11 kilometers into the German lines, capturing by assault on the morning of July 21st the Chateau and heights of Buzancy and the village of Berzy-le-Sec, which were the main supply routes for the German forces. Germany never regained the initiative and would be on the defensive until the end of the war.

During the second day of the battle, Booher sustained multiple wounds to his left arm, rendering it useless, a devastating occurrence for a horn player. Sadly, while recuperating in the Boston City Hospital, he succumed to the Spanish Influenza pandemic and died there on September 28, 1918, even though he had been pronounced out of danger. His grave marker at Tuggle Cemetery says he died while being treated for wounds received in the war with Germany and his name is listed as one of the casualties of war on the War Veterans Monument that stands in the courthouse yard in Albany. His name is also on a monument on the Soissons - Château-Thiery road west of Buzancy, France. It honors all First Division soldiers who died in the Soissons campaign. 2, 213 soldiers were killed during the offensive and 6,347 were wounded.

Robert Chester Booher was the seventh of thirteen children born to George Washington (G.W.) and Freely Clementine Choate Booher on Dec. 30, 1896. They lived at Brown's Crossroads and he had attended school at Five Spring before joining the Army.

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 infected an estimated 33% of the world's population. There were no effective treatments and no widespread efforts to prevent the spread.

Over a period of 13 months, 243 men were inducted or volunteered for service in WWI from in and around Clinton County.

The G.W. Booher family. Chest Booher is at the far right on the very end.

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