Merrithew-Buxton Letters Time Period – September 16, 1929 – May 16-1935
On September 16, 1929, Corporal Otis B. Merrithew received a letter from Colonel Leon B. Kromer that indicated he was invited to the annual military exposition and carnival being held in Washington DC. (view this letter) The purpose of the event was to reunite the survivors of the October 8, 1918 battle that led to the MOH to Sergeant Alvin York. Each survivor was invited and all expenses would be paid for by the Army.
The surviving soldiers of the platoon attended the event at the Army War College and each had an opportunity to speak with their commanding officers, Major G.E.Buxton and Captain Danforth.For most of the soldiers, it was the first time in over 10 years that they had seen each other. From the letters that were written after the War College event, it seems that Corporal Merrithew talked extensively to both Colonel Buxton and Major Danforth about the events that had taken place during the October 8, 1918 battle. These conversations that Merrithew had with his two (2) superiors would start his letter writing campaign to Colonel Buxton that lasted untilMay 16, 1935.
A total of 27 known letters were written by Colonel Buxton. Although we do not have copies of the letters that Corporal Merrithew wrote, we believe that he wrote at least 30 letters to Colonel Buxton.The letters indicate a willingness from Buxton to look “further” into the events that took place on October 8, 1918. Buxton also advised Merrithew to” avoid controversial or disputed points and take the attitude that there was glory enough for all the leaders in this exploit”. Buxton also recommended that Merrithew obtain signed affidavits from as many of the surviving members of his platoon as to what happened on the day in question.
One of the most important letters that have been uncovered is a letter dated April 18, 1930. This letter indicates that all of the soldiers involved in the October 8, 1918 event that was led by Sergeant Bernard Early should have been given citations as a result of their actions on this day. This letter is significant due to the fact that a “Superior Officer” (General Lindsey) recommended each of the soldiers to receive citations. This is the only document that we know of that indicates that each soldier had a significant role on the day that Sergeant York “single-handedly” captured and killed German Soldiers.(view this letter)Without the continued and persistent correspondence by Corporal Merrithew, this letter would have been lost and forgotten.
In a letter dated February 21, 1930 Colonel Buxton made it clear to Merrithew that it was impossible to get anything done until Congress passes a bill allowing for an extension in awarding citations for WW1 soldiers. Secondly, he states that if affidavits are collected from the other surviving soldiers, they “must be more nearly in agreement, on the general story, with the affidavits made immediately after the fight”.Based on this statement, it seems that Colonel Buxton wanted the story to remain unchanged even if other participating soldiers had a different recollection as to what took place.
After reading through these letters, it seems that Colonel Buxton was willing to listen and respond to Corporal Merrithew. With each letter that Buxton sent, it seemed there was always an additional item he would need in order to proceed with a recommendation for a citation. As indicated in the affidavits that were compiled by Merrithew and signed by Early, Sok, Donohue and Beardsley, Merrithew stated clearly that he would ” not havebeen so anxious to press this claim if it were not for the urging of my fellow survivors and friends who think a great injustice has been done”.
Unfortunately, due to reasons unknown, his five (5) year correspondence with Colonel Buxton stopped without any citation for him or the other soldiers that were not recommended by their superior officer.