After While" - the Death of
Company B, 339th
Born: May 15, 1893
||On 20 September 1918, Company B of the 339th Infantry
Regiment participated in the initial Allied attack on
Seltso, a small village on the Dvina River about 180
miles southeast of Archangel.
Total Allied casualties during this attack were three killed, eight injured and one missing in action.
Cpl. Morris J. Foley, Pvt. Peter Kudzba and John VanDerMeer were killed by Bolshevik rifle and machine gun fire during the initial attack. Cpl. Herbert A. Schroeder went out on a patrol earlier that morning to probe the enemy's positions. He did not return and his body was never found.
Sgt. Simon Davis, also of Company B, later recounted the events of 20 September 1918.
"On the morning of September 20th my squad was sent out in front as a feeler to find the enemy positions. We proceeded down through the woods, finally coming up against a road alongside a cemetery. We knew we were in close range of the enemy from the sounds of the fire. When we had gone as far as we could without exposing ourselves, we halted for the rest of the company to come up. They arrived immediately and Lt. [Albert M.] Smith told me it was a fine time to get my patrol on out across a strip of open ground. I promptly took the squad out across the open space and that opened up the Battle of Seltso.
"John Vroonland of Grand Rapids was farther out in the woods and he bombed out a machine gun nest with hand grenades. He said the enemy were blue jackets from a boat in the river. Cpl. John Adamson was shot in the knee. Right away, Lt. Smith ordered us to recross the open space and retire. I gave orders to the squad and immediately made preparations to evacuate our position. Lt. Smith was then shot in the side and I helped carry him along. Archie Perry was hit and Peter Kudzba, John VanDerMeer and Morris Foley were killed. Foley had his jaw shot off. I had always thought highly of him. When we went back later we found out that he had made his bed and had laid down on it."
[Source: "Quartered in Hell - the Story of the American North Russian Expeditionary Force 1918-1919", pg. 208]
Cpl. Morris J. Foley
(photo courtesy of John Tudball, great nephew of Morris Foley)
Pvt. Bill Henkelman, also of Company B and a good friend of Cpl. Morris Foley, remembered the attack on Seltso as follows:
"On the battle front in upper Seltso, all were woozy from a night of no sleep and wading in cold swamps. Wading waist-deep through tamarack swamp, our belts around our necks, we were to secretly attack where they least expected. At daybreak, the sun comes out and we nod awake and dry off. Patrols are busy. Officers stretch, then we all string out. Food arrives. We brew tea and open corn beef. We all pair up. My pal, Maurice Foley, and I share the same can of bully beef. I say to Foley, "Hey Maurice, let's save enough for after while." Maurice, on the last of the can says, "There might not be no after while." Then we form a skirmish line and charge the enemy's machine guns through a rye paddy.
"This is exactly the way Pvt. Kudzba died. In upper Seltso, our skirmish line was supposed to run parallel with the enemy. But our right flank ran ran smack into entrenched two-man trenches. Kudzba, a very large man, was the extreme man on the right flank, two feet ahead and one foot to the left of me. Next man to my left I have forgotten, but the fourth was Sgt. Silver Parrish with his pistol. Kudzba got a bullet through the brain. His gun pitched forward and he fell backwards and lay still. I hit the dirt. Rapid fire began. Pellets of death cut off weed tops. Kudzba's head was all bloody and his face was in a rivulet of water. I reached over and got him by his bloody hair and jerked his head from water to grass. Kudzba had died instantly. Then Cpl. Foley was hit and John VanDerMeer killed. Lt. Smith was shot in the side. We retreated, I helping the Lieutenant. We wheeled, then after our shell fire routed them, we went over the top again and jumped over Bolo dead and captured the village.
"Twenty volunteers lined up to go back and get the wounded. Fourteen fell from exhaustion. Six of us got there. Little Welch dying, calls for his mother [George T. Welch would survive his injuries - ed.]. Foley has half his face and neck gone, yet he has taken off one legging before he died. I just wondered, so there was no "after while" for him. Two of us carry him on a litter and I, in rear, looking at old pal, collapsed and passed out."
[Source: "Quartered in Hell - the Story of the American North Russian Expeditionary Force 1918-1919", pg. 219]
After the initial assault and retreat, their supporting Canadian Artillery finally arrived and was able to move within range of the village. They laid down a barrage that routed the Bolsheviks and allowed the Allied infantymen to capture Seltso and then go back to collect their dead and injured.
Cpl. Morris' body was buried nearby and remained there until it was recovered during the VFW mission in 1929 and brought back to Detroit, Michigan. His remains were re-buried next to the Polar Bear Memorial at the White Chapel Cemetery in Troy, Michigan on Memorial Day, May 30, 1930.Edited by Mike Grobbel
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