– by Marc A. Hermann/Brooklyn Heights Blog
Brooklyn Heights has many connections to military history. Most notably, of course, is its role in the 1776 battle of Long Island. Eighty-five years later, the neighborhood was a hive of activity as regiments such as the 14th “Brooklyn” Militia and the 67th New York Infantry recruited and marched off to war. Indeed, the Heights would suffer quite a few losses during the Civil War, and bore witness to the shattered remnants of its legions stepping off boats at Fulton Landing after their enlistments expired. Through active veterans association, the memories of these regiments did not fade easily, and the Heights’ legacy of that period is readily recalled in military history circles.
Our proximity to the Navy Yard, and the benefit of being but one or two generations removed from, and, in some cases, first-hand witnesses to World War II, make that period seem close-to-home. Despite neglect over the years, the Brooklyn War Memorial in Cadman Plaza Park is a tangible reminder of hometown contributions.
Mention the First World War, however, and one does not immediately associate Brooklyn Heights residents with trenches, mustard gas, and barbed wire. In other neighborhoods around the borough, as well as in countless small communities across the country, you will find public spaces in which a bronze doughboy stands on a pedestal, a thin helmet perched on his head, a bolt action Springfield rifle clutched in his hand. At the very least, a bronze plaque with names of memorialized dead may be found, an appropriate tribute to hometown heroes—but not here. Indeed, I must admit, even as an advanced amateur student of military history, I had hardly considered that the neighborhood provided a substantial number of troops in that “war to end all wars,” much less suffered considerable casualties. It was a bit of a shock, then, to sift through the data compiled by the state that lists, where available, the names and addresses of New York’s war dead from 1917 to 1919, and to see familiar streets named—and to see some famous fighting units mentioned.
Tracing its lineage back to that same 14th Regiment of the Civil War, the 106th Infantry was one of the New York National Guard units that was federalized when, along with the standing army and the forthcoming pool of draftees, the Allied Expeditionary Force was created. Among its ranks was Thomas Crann, a Mechanic with Company E, and a resident of 118 Court Street. In Company C, Harry Hood of 65 Fulton Street shouldered a rifle, while Thomas Lang of 66 Boerum Place earned his corporal stripes in Company F. Within days of each other, in September, 1918, as the 106th was hurled against the infamous Hindenburg Line near Cambrai and Saint-Quentin, all three would be listed as killed in action.
A short distance down the trenches from their unit was another synonymous with New York’s military tradition—the 107th Infantry, the federalized incarnation of the honorable old Seventh Regiment. Although mostly home to sons of Manhattan society, one exception was Private Henry H. Karkala, who lived at 96 Pineapple Street. On September 29, 1918, the day the Hindenburg Line would finally be breached, Karkala was killed.
Whether or not they knew each other is not certainly known, but two neighbors somehow found themselves the odd Brooklynites among a unit of Pennsylvanians. John Gavin of 349 Furman Street and Dennis Sullivan of 20 Willow Place ended up in two different companies of the Keystone State’s 28th Division. Both were killed in October, 1918. Gavin, a member of the 109th Machine Gun Battalion, had attended St. Charles School, and was employed as a cooper before going to the front.
Meanwhile, Frank Dagnal Fairclough left his home at 90 State Street to enlist in the Marine Corps. He was assigned to the 5th Marines, which would gain a name for itself in a place called Belleau Wood. It was there on June 6, 1918, that Fairclough would be killed as machine gun and rifle fire from entrenched Germans, holding Hill 142, cut down the Marines as they charged through a waist-high wheatfield. His body rests in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. Modern-day Marines, studying the action in Belleau Wood, learn about the exploits of Sergeant Dan Daly, who implored his men to keep moving forward, while Fairclough has faded into obscurity.
I don’t doubt that the list I have compiled is incomplete, and I was very conservative in defining the borders of Brooklyn Heights. There are quite a few names of residents of the present-day DUMBO and Concord Village areas, likewise Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill, who do not appear here. However, I am glad to have uncovered as many names as I have, and hope that Brooklyn Heights residents take a moment to remember them on this Veterans Day. Despite the near-century that separates us from them, they are still our neighbors, and our hometown heroes.
Musician Frederick Allard, 104th Field Artillery, Pneumonia, 3/25/19 – 294 Jay St.
Private John Areomano, Co. A, 4th Infantry, KIA, 7/15/18 – 215 Pearl St.
Private Harris Blumberg, Med. Dept., 28th Infantry, Broncho Pneumonia, 9/21/18 – 165 Clinton St.
PFC James Boie, 481st Aero Squadron, Cirrhosis, 11/29/18 – 170 Hicks St.
Water Tender Thomas Clarke, USNRF, 1/20/18 – 16 Vine St.
Mechanic Thomas J. Crann, Co. E, 106th Infantry, KIA, 9/27/18 – 118 Court St.
Private Benjamin Cretton, Co. C, 105th Infantry, KIA, 10/18/18 – 63 Pineapple St.
Private Stephen Epp, Co. F, 11th Infantry, Died of wounds, 10/20/18 – 101 Schermerhorn St.
Private Frank Dagnal Fairclough, 5th Marines, KIA, 6/6/18 – 90 State St.
Private John Gavin, Co. L, 109th Infantry, KIA 10/3/18 – 349 Furman St.
Corporal Thomas W. Harrington, 2nd Replacement Bn, USMC, Wounds, 10/16/18 – 2 Middagh St.
Private Charles H. Holden, Sec. 559 Ambulance Service, Broncho Pneumonia, 10/4/18 – 294 Henry St.
PFC Harry H. Hood, Co. C, 106th Infantry, KIA, 9/24/18 – 65 Fulton St.
Corporal Morris B. Jackson, 2nd Casual Co., Pneumonia, 10/27/18 – 47 Willow St.
Private Henry H. Karkala, Co. L, 107th Infantry, KIA, 9/29/18 – 96 Pineapple St.
Private Albert J. Kern, Co. D, 6th Engineers, KIA, 3/29/18 – 9 Willow St.
Corporal Thomas Lang, Co. F, 106th Infantry, KIA, 9/27/18 – 66 Boerum Pl.
PFC Henry P. McCann, Co. C, 307th Infantry, KIA, 9/14/18 – 60 Schermerhorn St.
Private James D. McKeever, Co. D, 5th Machine Gun Bn., KIA, 7/2/18 – 45 ½ Hicks St.
PFC John A. McLoughlin, Co. E, 57th Infantry, Drowning, 3/15/18 – 22 Willow St.
Ship’s Cook 1st Class Jacob John Nowacki, USN, 5/31/18 – 92 Orange St.
Private N. Thermistocles Poulides, Co. B, 306th Infantry, KIA, 10/14/18 – 44 Willow St.
Private Charles E. Reardon, Ambulance Co., 80th Infantry, Lobar Pneumonia, 10/18/18 – 79 Tillary St.
Private Eichel Ruchman, Co. G, 9th Infantry, KIA, 7/18/18 – 101 Montague St.
PFC Robert P. Staats, Co. E, 3rd Regt. Traning Ctr., Camp Hancock, GA, Influenza, 10/13/18 – 68 Montague St.
Private Dennis Sullivan, 109th Machine Gun Bn., KIA, 10/4/18 – 20 Willow Pl.
Wagoner John Lawrence Sullivan, QM Corps, Accidentally Shot, 2/20/19 – 39 Joralemon St.
Sgt. John S. Syversen, Co. D, 407th Tel. Battalion, Broncho Pneumonia, 10/28/18 – 333 Furman St.
PFC Charles Enos Tayntor, Base Hospital 83, Pneumonia, 10/3/18 – 62 Montague St.
Wagoner Franklin Pettit Updike, Co. A, 104th MG Battalion, Wounds, 8/15/18 – 148 Willow St.
PFC George R. Waltman, 317th Supply Train, Wounds, 7/9/19 – 81 Henry St.
Sergeant Judson L. Weinand, Co. B, 305th MG Battalion, KIA, 10/6/18 – 94 Pineapple St.
Private Alarick K.R. Wolf, Co. C, 305th Infantry, Wounds, 10/16/18 – 280 Henry St.
Photo: Reenactors of the Great War Association peer over the edge of a “shell crater” during a WWI battle recreation in Newville, PA this past weekend. Photo by M. Hermann.