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Shawnee County Casualties in WWI
Stories of Valor and Tragedy on the Battlefield

PFC John David RAMSEY, Medical Det (Med Corps 110 Engineers) HQ Train, 35th Div.
Headstone for PFC Ramsey

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DIA 4 Sep 1918 in an early morning shooting incident at the Corcioux-Vanémont railway station in the Vosges mountains, France.

The following is an extract from the account by Captain Ward Schrantz of this incident in the book "A Machine-Gunner in France: The Memoirs of Ward Schrantz, 35th Division, 1917-1919" published 2019 by the University of North Texas Press and edited by Jeffery L. Patrick. (See a link to this book following this extract, below):

"At 2:10 a.m. I was talking to a sergeant, 110th Field Signal Battalion, who was enquiring some directions, I apparently being the only officer awake at that unseasonable hour, when a man from the Headquarters Troop came up and told me a tale of trouble. In a car on No. 3 train, he said, there was a soldier flourishing a pistol and the men were afraid that he would kill someone. This didn't sound like a pleasant job, the more so since that was not even my train, but there was no other officer about so I went to the car accompanied by the man and the field signal sergeant.

There was a man standing in the door of the box car and he, it seemed, had been flourishing the pistol. I told him to step down and he did. He appeared quite normal as I questioned him, very soldierly in fact. He gave me his name and rank, and said he was not drunk and had not been drinking, and that there was nothing wrong with him - all these in response to questions.

"Where is your gun" I asked him.

"In the car, sir" he replied.

"Let's get it," I said.

We stepped up into the door of the car which was full of packs and recumbent men, apparently asleep but probably not under the circumstances.

"Where is it?" I asked.

"With my pack, sir," he said and pointed.

I started to reach for it but unhappily a thought struck me. He might think I was afraid to have him get it and give it to me. There was no reason I should be. I was standing at his right and could grab his arm if he tried to shoot me, as I thought possible.

"Get it and give it to me," I said

He bent over, reached - and instantly shot himself through the head. The pistol had apparently being (sic) laying on the pack and with the safety off.

He slumped forward on his face, his right hand still clutching the gun. The signal sergeant placed a first aid compress over the gaping hole in one eyebrow and I believe another, someone handed him, over the exit hole.

His outfit was in a nearby village and with it the battalion surgeon. And he had a truck. We loaded the man therein with two men in behind with him and took him there. The surgeon was a Lieutenant Greenberg whom I chanced to know. He looked at the man silently.

"What do you expect me to do with him?" he asked, gazing at the wound he had uncovered. "He's wounded and he's alive and you're a doctor," I said, "What you do is up to you and not to me."

So I departed, leaving him gazing at the unfortunate man who he knew it was beyond his power to aid. He told me later that the soldier died a few moments after I left.

I expected endless paperwork about this tragedy but in fact all I did was to write a letter the next day and handed it to his captain, the letter telling him the circumstances and giving names of witnesses. At the same time I turned over the pistol. He handled any paperwork there may have been in connection with the case as I never heard anything more about it officially. The captain said that the man had been brooding about an invention and had wanted to talk to him about it, but had been told to wait until the move was over. Evidently he had become mentally unbalanced.

As for me I reflected regretfully that if I had reached for that gun myself - if I had not the fear of being thought afraid - the poor fellow might have continued to live. But it had not occurred to me that he might shoot himself. I had thought only of the possibility that he might try to shoot me."

Book footnote: Likely this was John David Ramsey from Osage County, Kansas, a private first class in the 35th Division Headquarters. Ramsey, born in 1889, was buried in Osage City, Kansas.

Extract from the book "A Machine-Gunner in France: The Memoirs of Ward Schrantz, 35th Division, 1917-1919" by Ward Schrantz, as edited by Jeffery L. Patrick. Published by University of North Texas Press. Note: This extract is used with permission from University of North Texas Press.
Choose https://untpress.unt.edu/catalog/3836 for a link to this fine book.

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