10 Firsts in America’s Involvement in World War I

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9. First WWI Naval Death

Osmond Kelly Ingram was just 16-years-old when he joined the US Navy on November 24, 1903. When America joined the war, his ship, the destroyer USS Cassin, was assigned to escort American troop convoys to ports in England and France. On October 15, 1917, the US destroyer encountered the Imperial German U-boat SM U-61 off the coast of Ireland. The Cassin immediately pursued the sub but it somehow was able to let loose a torpedo that breached the water twice. Each time it came to the surface its path curved and by dumb luck slammed straight into the Cassin.

While on the deck of the USS Cassin, Gunner’s Mate First Class Osmond Ingram predicted where the torpedo would hit and to his great horror saw that it would ignite some depth charges on the destroyer’s deck. Valiantly, he started to throw the charges overboard, but before he could get them all the torpedo struck, igniting the remaining depth charges and killing him instantly. He was the first US Naval fatality of WWI. For his actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

8. First Artillery Salvo of WWI

Machine guns in World War One were the cause of death of many charging soldiers, but most battlefield casualties were caused by developments and innovations of WWI artillery. Some 60 percent of all casualties were caused by artillery fire. In 1917, when American forces landed in French ports, they did so with little to no artillery of their own. The French stepped up and supplied the Yankees with thousands of artillery and mortar pieces as well as the ammunition to fire them.

When the US forces moved to the front they brought these guns to bear against the Germans. At  6:30 AM October 23, 1917, Sergeant Alexander Arch of Battery “C” 6th FA Regiment, 1st FA Brigade, American 1st Division, shouted “fire” to the crew manning the French 75mm field gun. This was America’s first artillery salvo of WWI.

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