Monday, February 15, 2010


Well, how do you do, Corporal William Montalto,
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
And rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1918

Words from the Song "Green Fields Of France" with a slight change.


William J. Mountalto 2nd Division 9th Infantry Regt. Killed in Action July 18, 1918
On the upper hill of St. Mary’s cemetery in Arnot’s Addition stands a lone statue of a World War 1 doughboy. This memorial honors a local hero from St. Clair who died while serving his country in World War 1. The statue honors Corporal William J. Montalto, a member of the 2nd Division, 9th Infantry Regiment, Company E. Who was killed in action on July 18th , 1918.

Unlike the more active soldier memorial figures this statue depicts the doughboy in the position of “Order Arms”. A position in the military manual of arms in which the rifle is held vertically next to the right leg with its butt resting on the ground. The statue stands at attention forever marking the heroism of one of Schuylkill County’s fallen.

It is a shame that I can’t find much on Corp. Montalto in our files at the Historical Society. I will continue to research him so that his story can be completed and he can be written back into history properly. What I did find came from the records of the 9th Infantry regiment n the day he was killed.

The derivation of the term doughboy remains in question. It was first used by the British in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to describe soldiers and sailors. In the United States the nickname was coined during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), and was widely popularized during World War I (1914–1918) to refer to infantrymen. After the war, in which Americans saw combat in 1917-18, numerous communities commissioned doughboy statues to honor the local war heroes. This is the only statue of a Doughboy I’ve seen that marks the grave of one individual soldier. I think this is the finest monument in all of the Schuylkill County cemeteries that memorializes the common soldier.

Over time the monument has suffered from the effects of acid rain and general weathering.

Corporal Montalto was killed during the 2nd Battle of The Marne. The Second Battle of the Marne marked the turning of the tide in World War I. It began with the last German offensive of the conflict and was quickly followed by the first allied offensive victory of 1918. The American Expeditionary Force with over 250,000 men fighting under overall French command played key roles both in the initial defense and the later advances. In the Second Battle of Marne with 30,000 killed and wounded, the United States started suffering casualties on the enormous scale usually associated with the battles of the Great War.

On the day Corporal Montalto was killed July 18th ,1918 the 9th Infantry was engaged in the Allied counterattack that involved attacking the entire west face of the Marne salient. This main attack was first to pivot on Chateau-Thierry; later the Allies in the region of Chateau-Thierry were to take up the attack. The Allies were also to attack that part of the German salient south of the Marne and to the southwest of Reims. The plan then really involved attacking the entire Marne salient, the principal blow falling at first on the west face, with the critical point, at which eventual success or failure would be determined, southwest of Soissons. The three divisions selected to break the most sensitive part of the German line were the 2nd American, the 1st Moroccan (French) and the 1st American. If these three divisions could seize and hold the heights south of Soissons the German position in the salient proper became untenable and it's ultimate reduction was assured.

At 4:35a.m., July 18th, after some of the American infantry had double-timed into line and when some of their guns had barely gotten into position, the 1st and 2nd American Divisions and the 1st Moroccan Division jumped off. Notwithstanding their desperate resistance the Germans were driven back and the results upon which ultimate success depended were secured.

the 2nd Division attacked on the other side of the Moroccans. It did not have the advantage which the other divisions of the corps possessed in being able to make reconnaissance Difficulties and bring the assault troops into position in Division" an orderly way. Only by the most unusual exertion did the front line units manage to arrive in time to participate in the attack. All during the night great confusion reigned among the troops. The traffic congestion compelled the infantry to follow the ditches which paralleled the trails, thus stringing out the columns and causing both the intermingling of units and straggling. Men cursed as they toiled on. Others too weary to march farther, threw themselves upon the ground, from which they were urged to their feet with difficulty. Teamsters cracked their whips and shouted; tanks panted over the greasy routes and crushed their way forward; light and heavy guns stalled in the mud or became entangled in the thickets, sweating teams laboring at the traces. Staff cars, trucks, and motor-cycles innumerable added to the difficulties of the men.

Not withstanding all this, however, the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry, relieved the front line battalion of the 48th French Infantry before midnight and attacked in good order at H-hour. The leading element of the 5th Marines on the left, and of First Division" the 23rd Infantry on the right, were deploying as the barrage fell. But the machine-gun battalions and companies, and the 37mm. and Stokes mortar platoons with their transport, were inextricably involved in the traffic congestion in the rear, and failed to arrive in time to accompany the infantry. The assault was made with the musket and bayonet supported by the artillery.

The troops advanced over ground which rose gently from the line of departure toward the northeast. Wheat-fields stretched as far as the eye could see, with lurking machine gunners carefully concealed in the tall grain. In the center of the sector, a kilometer or more in advance of the first objective, a group of strongly fortified buildings stood as an outpost at Verte Feuille Farm. Beyond this formidable obstacle was the stronger post of Beaurepaire Farm, marking the line of the first objective itself. Here, advancing with a rush, the 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry, reached the objective within fifteen minutes, and the 3rd Battalion of the same regiment followed in close support. The 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry, soon arrived on the right, followed closely by the 3rd Battalion, both of them having been misdirected by the French guides in getting into position.

Along this line is the probable place were Corporal William J. Montalto fell. He was listed as missing in action on this day, and later confirmed that he was Killed in Action.
Thus the 18th of July closed with the Twentieth Corps established throughout its entire length upon the line of its final objective for the day. So far as it was concerned, the first day of the offensive had been a successful one in every respect. The two American divisions advancing ahead of the French divisions on their exterior flanks, and at no time in rear of the Moroccans in the center, had driven a marked salient into the enemy's line, which had been everywhere forced back. The 1st U. S. Division had functioned like clockwork. The 2nd U. S. Division, though laboring from the start under enormous disadvantages and suffering from considerable confusion, had maintained its schedule in the advance. The Moroccans had lived up to their reputation.

The 2nd Division advanced 8 kilometers in the first 26 hours, took about 3,000 prisoners, 2 batteries of 150mm guns, 66 light guns and 15,000 rounds of 77 mm ammunition, besides much other property. This Division suffered some 4,000 casualties and, as it had made exhausting marches to reach the battlefield, and having recently been withdrawn from it's desperate fighting at Chateau-Thierry, the Division was relieved after the second day.

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