W Is For WWI And Clarence McGhee


I’ve written quite a bit about my grandfather’s WWI experience and placed it on a web site (Clarence McGhee in WWI) Thinking I’d exhausted that topic, it was with surprise and anticipation that I read this week an email sent to me from France.

clarence mcghee WWI postcard tanks in France

Two years ago, they started an association called The Americans of Gondrecourt Area 1917/1919. Their goal was to preserve the memory of the American presence in the villages of the old canton of GONDRECOURT LE CHÂTEAU and neighboring communes from the time of World War I.

Our grandfather had been in the area of ​​Gondrecourt and Ribeaucourt where there was a training center for the US Army and Gondrecourt had a hospital where 130 US soldiers died as a result of their injuries. At the time there were also two US airfields, in the nearby communes.

I responded that I’d be delighted to have our ancestor’s photos and information included in their preservation effort. I’m very interested in finding out more, if possible, about Clarence McGhee’s role at this location. Was he training soldiers, taking training, working at the hospital, treated at the hospital, or serving in some other role?

Slideshow of Clarence Oliver McGhee – WWI

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In a follow-up email, they provided this information:

The small town of RIBEAUCOURT served as cantonment to the troops who came to rest. After the armistice of November 11, 1918, the US troops remained in the villages until 1919. We did some research in this commune and found in the old houses inscriptions of soldiers and letters left on the spot. All of them are 100 years old. On our sector, we find a lot of graffiti left by the soldiers. As soon as we can have the name of a soldier, we are looking to contact the family. But it is very hard to find these because between the address left by the soldier in 1918 and that of today, often people have changed. That’s why we created our site and our association, which allows us to reach people in the United States.

The association, Les Américains de la Gondrecourt Aréa, has a web page and a Facebook page. “Every day we put a different picture. Our project is to create a museum dedicated to the American soldiers, which will collect the objects, uniforms, letters of soldiers coming on the sector and preserve the patrimony of the sector. All that we can find, buy or recover, we will put it in the museum, which will be in the town of HOUDELAINCOURT, 10 km from GONDRECOURT and 10 km from RIBEAUCOURT.”

U is for Uniforms


I wish I had a photo of my great-great-grandfather in his Civil War uniform, but I’ve never found one. A distant cousin thought that he had one, but upon investigation, we realized that it wasn’t Abraham Bates Tower. Sigh. You can read more about that in So Sad – The Photo Was Not My Ancestor. 

I do have photos of my grandfather Clarence McGhee and a great-uncle Albert Vining in their World War One uniforms. My mother even had Albert’s helmet from that war.

I also found a photo of my 3x great-uncle, Elias Babcock. Here’s his photo from the Civil War. It was shared on Ancestry by “Jatpainter” who must be a distant cousin of ours.

elias babcock civil war soldier from jatpainter1

Elias Babcock, Civil War soldier from jatpainter1 on Ancestry.

I researched Elias Babcock and wrote about him on my blog, Finding My Civil War Ancestor. Take a look there for more details about him.

This one isn’t an ancestor, it’s my brother, Owen Lee Martin. He trained at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and then was stationed in Germany. This was during the time of the Vietnam War.


Owen Martin – U.S. Army (Vietnam War era)

I’m hoping over time that more of our family photos of ancestors in uniform will get shared. Their experiences must have been life-altering and we need to remember their participation in what now is history.

Ralph Martin – Airman from Kansas

Ralph Edward Martin in WWII

Ralph Edward Martin – U.S. Air Force

A second cousin 1x removed in California sent me 4 photos of my uncle, Ralph Edward Martin. Ralph originally sent these to his cousin during the war.

I’ve been cleaning and purging and I was going through some old photos from my grandmother. I came across 4 photos that Ralph sent to her while in the Air Force. He signed one: “With all my love.” She wrote on the back: “Cousin Ralph Martin.” I wanted to know if you would like them

How thoughtful of her to pass these along to those more closely related to the person in the photograph. Now, I’d like to forward them on to even more direct relatives of Ralph, his two sons. Over the years, I’ve lost touch with David and Michael. Unfortunately, finding them online is quite difficult with the names David Martin and Michael Martin being all too common.


Martha (Clopton), Ralph Martin and their children David and Michael.

So, to take on this challenge, I’m posting some cousin bait here. The bait that I hope will attract my cousins, David and Michael, is information about their dad’s life.

Ralph Edward Martin

When Ralph Edward MARTIN was born on May 18, 1922, in Madison, Kansas, his father, Charles, was 30 and his mother, Cora, was 25. He married Martha Alice Clopton on November 23, 1946, when he was 24 years old. They had two children during their marriage.

Some of the places that Ralph lived over his 85 years of life:

  • Eureka, Kansas, in 1925
  •  Madison, Kansas, in 1930, 1935, 1940 (according to the census)
  • At age 20, he was working at Boeing Aircraft in Wichita Kansas. It was 1942.
  • He went into the Air Force and rose to the level of Lt. Col.
  • I’m sure that being in the Air Force, he was stationed in many places between the Kansas and Nevada parts of his life. I know there was China, Tokyo, but not sure about where else.
  • Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1993 where he lived during his retirement from the military. He died on September 29, 2007, in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the age of 85.

His father Charles Lorenzo “Ren” Martin passed away on March 28, 1968, in Emporia, Kansas, at the age of 76 and his mother Cora Myrle Joy passed away on November 16, 1969, in Madison, Kansas, at the age of 72.

Ralph Martin was featured in an article in the Kanhistique magazine by his sister-in-law, Gail Lee Martin. You can read that online WWII Kansan and his P-38 the Jayhawk.

2008-08-17 gail and ks photos 108

There’s a book about Ralph’s brother. It contains memories about Clyde Owen Martin and stories about his parents, Lorenzo and Cora (Joy) Martin, his siblings, Dorothy (Martin) Jones and Ralph Martin. It also has family history stories about his uncle Ivan Halligan, and his grandparents, Alfred and Marie (Kennedy) Joy. There are photos and essays about John T. Martin, David Greacen Kennedy, Elizabeth Rosebaugh, Moses O’Neil. Gail Lee Martin and her daughters gathered and wrote much of the history. The book is available from Amazon or the print-on-demand site blurb.com or from the historical museums in Eureka and El Dorado KS.

This is week 2 of the 52 Ancestor in 52 Weeks. The topic for the week was #Challenge.