Mt. Carroll Boy, Decorated With High Honors By French
Modestly Refers To Receiving The Decoration Of Honor
From the October 12, 1917 edition of the Carroll County Mirror, published at Mt. Carroll, IL
Transcriber’s Note: Theodore Miles was born November 13, 1895 in Mount Carroll, Illinois, the son of Joseph Shirk and Mary Grace (Coleman) Miles. While attending Beloit College, in Beloit, Wisconsin, he volunteered to serve in France as an ambulance driver with the American Field Service. It was arduous work picking up the dying and grievously injured on French battlefields and transporting them down dirt roads full of shell holes and debris, often during heavy shelling and at night. He served with Section 27 of the French 132nd Division. The French awarded him the Croix de Guerre for his service. The Croix de Guerre is the highest award the French give. (I have been unable to determine the full name of the “ General H._____“ who presented Miles’ award.) Upon the United States’ entry into the war in 1917, Theodore Miles and other American Field Service ambulance drivers volunteered to serve the United States. Theodore Miles volunteered on January 26, 1918 at Chicago, Illinois and served in Aviation as a Cadet Flyer. He died March 12, 1974 in Seal Beach, California.
Photo was taken when he served the U.S. as Aviation Cadet.
The "Croix de Guerre Medal"
Dear Folks: It seems to me that yesterday was somewhere near the anniversary of J. and N.’s wedding. Yesterday I went through a ceremony hardly similar and much more spectacular. We were standing in line with a company of French soldiers from one of our leading regiments at four o’clock. Soon the higles sounded; we were called to attention. Then a long, uncomfortable wait for the general. Finally the higles sounded again and the general approached, a strong, confident man with a kindly face. He stopped before us, saluted and greeted us, “Bon jour Monsieurs.” Then we were lined up with four French soldiers who also had been cited, three for La Croix de Guerre and one for Medaille Militaire. We stood in front of the Tri Color and facing the general and several high rank officers. My case is similar to others; the citation was read by a captain; then General H. ________ drew his sword and said: “Miles Theodore, nous vous remettons la Croix de Guerre.” (Note: The translation is “We are giving over to you the Croix de Guerre“, which means “war cross.“) Then sheathing his sword he approached and attached the badge. He showed the greatest consideration when he said in English, “I am happy to give you this cross.” Then he spoke in French, shook hands and said: “Bein Merite.” (Note: This would have been “Bien Merite”, which translates as “Very Deserving.“) Then he put his arm around my neck and being a short man I was obliged to stoop when he kissed me on both cheeks. After the whole ceremony was completed he came again to shake hands and bid us goodbye. I met General H. _______ before and have pleasant memories of the way in which he kidded me about my French.
Tomorrow night I am going on permission to Paris with Ellwood Aldrich, Bill Huffman, Jack Hanscom and Vis Jouvenat and we hope to meet Bud and Sitterly there and have a reunion of our bunch who came over together.
Your letter of August 6th just now arrived and with it the information regarding our relationship to this service. You know it has been taken by the U.S. Happily my permission comes tomorrow night and I shall have the opportunity to go to Paris and investigate possibilities before the time for enlistment comes. I do not know what I shall do, but that will be decided within the next few days and for the duration of the war too.
(Transcriber’s Note: I don’t know why this part of the letter is the same August 30 date, since it’s apparent the events described took place either later the night of August 30 or the 31st, and would have been described on August 31 or later.)
Last night we enjoyed a fine dinner given in honor of us who have been recently decorated with the Croix de Guerre. As our guests we had two captains and a lieutenant and fine men they are. Of course we have Frenchmen with us who do much of the work not connected with the actual ambulance service. These men are also very likeable; we have come to be intimate friends. The dinner was most pleasant and we are all glad to be wearing the French war cross. The other boys who received the decoration are: Berkely Wheeler (chief) Concord, Mass.; Lars Potter, Buffalo; Williamson Anderson, Chicago; Lloyd Cotter, Marinette, Wis.
I shall be ready to paint up the old car in battleship gray after the war. I should like to see a khaki top on it too, so that I can feel at home. You understand that I feel at home here now, though I should rather feel at home at home.
Everything is well here.
The US didn't enter WWI until April 1917, but France advertised for ambulance drivers through the American Field service as early as 1915. They tended to run the ads near major colleges, mainly in the East, but apparently the ads were at least read by Beloit College men (don't know if the ads were actually run at Beloit College). They didn't pay salary to these American ambulance drivers but they paid their expenses. Once the US entered the war, American ambulance drivers left the American Field Service, went back to the US, and enlisted to serve the US in the war. Many of them, like Miles, enlisted to be pilots.
The Croix de Guerre is the highest military award the French give out, and they still give it out. They give it out to the French, but they also give it out to anyone else who serves France militarily. During the war, they didn't give it out to many American soldiers, but recently (say around 1998 or so), they began giving it out to any World War I veterans who were still alive and had served in France. They were still doing this as recently as a year or two ago. Presumably all the American World War I vets still alive (very few of those) who had served in France have already been awarded the Croix de Guerre.