”Honor the Past; Deserve the Present“

Maurice Barnett

Private, Army
5/4/1889 – 9/22/1937

Documentary materials provided by
Rande McCabe (grandson of Maurice Barnett) and Rande's Wife Cindy McCabe

Background

  • Maurice Barnett was the maternal grandfather of Rande McCabe
    • Note—Rande McCabe's maternal grandfather, Clarence McCabe, also served in WWI; he and Maurice Barnett were friends from Gloversville, NY [Cindy McCabe, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 9 April 2009]
  • Maurice Barnett's parents were Samuel Barnett and Lena Mendelson
  • Maurice was the seventh of eight children and the only one to marry and have a family
  • He graduated from high school
  • Barnett was at the St. Mihiel front when the war ended
  • In the fall of 2000 the McCabes sent copies of letters to Andrew Carroll of the Legacy Project
  • About eight months later Carroll called the McCabes to say he could not use letters in his first book War Letters, but would use excerpts of one letter (dated 11/14/1918) in a second book; that book, Behind the Lines, was published in 2005

Enlistment

  • Barnett enlisted in the Army on September 17, 1917 [Cindy McCabe, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 9 April 2009]

In France

  • As war ended he was on the St. Mihiel front

Armistice Day

  • In the morning of November 11 "we got good news, for the report was that the big show would be over this a.m. at 11 o'clock." Shelling on both sides continued in the morning. Barnett wrote that "words will never be able to explain the noise that went through that woods. The Germans' barrage and ours, which was ten times worse than theirs, was just one roar." By 10:45 a.m., he knew that if "the Lord would only spare our lives for just fifteen minutes . .. we would see the end of the war." In the last few minutes before 11:00 a.m., "every gun on the front opened. I can't see how all the shells could crowd through the air at once." It was, he wrote, "the biggest noise I ever heard in my life, and believe me I've heard some rackets." Then, "All at once every gun stopped, it was quiet, not a sound could be heard, the like of it I have never heard since being in action, for there are always guns firing. About one minute past 11, a yell went up, and our boys and the Germans cheered till they were hoarse. It just echoed through the woods and over the fields, for at last the curtain was pulled down and the most horrible, bloody war that this sad old earth has seen, had come to a close, and the show was over." [Maurice Barnett, letter to his mother, brothers, and sisters, ts., 14 November 1918]

After the Armistice

  • "Five other boys and myself went over to the German lines to talk with the men we tried to kill and those that tried to kill us. They met us with a salute and a more tickled crowd of men you never seen than were those Germans. Some were fifty and sixty years old, some were only young boys." [Maurice Barnett, letter to his mother, brothers, and sisters, ts., 14 November 1918]
  • He wrote to his family three days after the Armistice, "Now that the war is over let me tell you I came through it all without a scratch and in perfect health." He mentions that "brother Mennie," who did not get to the front, is also "in perfect health" [Maurice Barnett, letter to his mother, brothers, and sisters, ts., 14 November 1918]

Salvage Work

  • In late November his company did "salvage work" on St. Mihiel front, collecting U. S. materials left after battle. Some areas of "no man's land" "looked like a bone yard. There were skulls, arms, legs and ribs, strewn all over. They were Germans for I could tell by bits of their uniforms. Many an arm and leg was still in its coat sleeve and pant legs. By looking in a boot you'd find a leg or just a foot." [Maruice Barnett, letter to his wife, ts., 25 November 1918]

The Red Poppy

  • While doing "salvage work" Barnett also reached for a red poppy. He wrote to his wife, "I'm enclosing a flower, the Poppy, that I picked in 'no man's land' on the St. Mihiel. They look so pretty out there and surely a place like that needs a few flowers to take away a little gloom." [Maruice Barnett, letter to his wife, ts., 25 November 1918]
    • Note— Unusual quantities of red poppies appeared along the Western Front in northern France and Flanders in the first year of the war, in the spring of 1915, apparently because artillery fire disturbed the soil and brought to the surface additional poppy seeds that otherwise would have remained deeply buried and dormant. The Canadian doctor Lt. Col. John McCrae immortalized the red poppy in a poem he was moved to write, following the death of a friend in battle near Ypres. That poem, "In Flanders Fields", is one of the most enduring poems of the war. About eight months after he wrote it, McCrae died of pneumonia in Boulogne, France. In the United States and elsewhere the red poppy quickly became a symbol of remembrance used by, for example, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

Awards

  • Brought back two medals—
    • One reads: "France"
    • Other reads:
      • "Oise-Aisne"
      • "Meuse-Argonne"
      • "Defensive Sector"
  • On reverse both medals have same inscription—
  • France US Great Britain
    Italy Belgium
    Serbia Brazil
    Japan Portugal
    Montenegro Rumania
    Russia China
    Greece
  • Barnett was honorably discharged on May 7, 1919 [Cindy McCabe, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 9 April 2009]

After War

  • After the war Maurice went home to Gloversville, NY, and started a tannery business
  • He died at age 48 in 1937; at that time he had a 14-year-old daughter, Naomi (she became mother of Rande McCabe) and an 8-year-old daughter, Helene


(rev.5.13.09)