My grandfather, George Manfroid, served in France during WWI. He died when I was eight years old so I never heard about his war experience in France. All my father ever said was that his father was in France during WWI. That was it the end of the story. I did not think much about it until one day when I was reading his enlistment and discharge papers. I was going to use these papers for a class that I was teaching. I wanted to show an example of things that you might find in your possession or in the possession of a relative, and how they can be used to help you trace your ancestors. I had read these papers before but all I really cared about back then was where he was born, date of birth, etc. But since I knew all that I took a closer look and thought about what they said. He was inducted on September 19, 1917 in Maywood, Illinois. His vocation was a millwright, he was 25 years old, blue eyes, light complexion, 5 feet 10 inches tall, and single. His character was excellent, his service honest and faithful. He was part of the A.E.F. France, received no wounds, and was entitled to wear the Blue Service Chevron. He was at Camp Grant, Illinois when discharged on January 19, 1919.
After studying the papers, I was curious as to what A.E.F. stood for and why he received the Blue Service Chevron. I look up the A.E.F. and found it stood for American Expeditionary Forces, and the Blue Service Chevron was given to soldiers who served overseas. I Googled my grandfather’s name and found his name in a book titled The Official History of the Eighty-Sixth Division. He is listed as serving in 311th Trench Mortar Battery. According to the book he left New York Harbor on September 17, 1918 aboard the Lapland for France. He spent his time in Vitrey and Chauvirey-le-Chatel. The 86th division was to be sent to the Lorraine Front on November 14, 1918 with other American Divisions and thirty French Divisions to capture the Metz. The 86th was to participate in what the supreme war council had planned as the Allies’ mightiest endeavor of the war. But on November 11, 1918 came the news of the signing of the Armistice. He returned to the United States on January 9, 1919 aboard the Georgia.
The men prepared for a year to battle on front lines and for some this was a disappointment. I don’t know my grandfather’s feelings because nothing was ever said. I think about the part fate played here. If he fought and was killed, I would not be here. We take for granted our lives and the lives of our ancestors. But one little twist of fate could change everything. Even though he never fought on the front lines, I am still proud that he served his country honorably and faithfully during this time. Thank you Grandpa for your service to this country!