Life Story of George Arland Perkins by Lillian Viehweg Perkins with additions by Larry Perkins 2017
Contributor: BarbaraLeishman Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
George Arland Perkins was born January 3 1895 to Nephi Martin Perkins and Mary Elvira Mendenhall Perkins at their homestead home located approximately one half mile west of the mouth of Five Mile Creek at Dayton, Franklin County, Idaho.
He was the third of eight children, five boys and three girls. Everyone called him Al from his birth. He spent his childhood at the home on Five Mile Creek and attended school down in Dayton at the old two-story building in town.
When he was ten years old his father, Nephi, was called to serve in the Northern States Mission of the LDS church. After serving ten months, his father contracted a fever which they were told was malaria and died on October 10th 1906 at Portland, Jay County, Indiana. The body was shipped home by rail to Preston. The family met the train and brought the coffin home to the house. The funeral and burial took place on October 16th 1906 with more than two hundred people crowding the Dayton church. He was buried in the Dayton Cemetery. Virie was left to raise eight children on her own. Oneida LDS Stake and Dayton Ward took up a subscription to help Virie and the children by building them a new frame house closer to town. Property was obtained near where Five Mile Creek crosses the highway through town. The house constructed the year after Nephi's death.The family moved down later that year. Their lives were hard, and they suffered many privations and hardships, but with the help of the Mendenhall and Perkins extended families they were able to make enough get by. Despite the circumstance of her husband's death, Virie kept the family together and raised them faithfully in the LDS church.
As a grown young man Al stood five feet ten inches, slender build, and dark brown, wavy hair, and brown eyes. He worked on his Uncle David's place and other farms with his brothers to provide for their mother and brothers and sisters. He had a ready laugh and joked with his brothers about everything. He was a very pleasant and hard-working young man.
At age 21 he was notified by letter that he was to present himself to the Selective Service Committee in Preston to register for the draft on June 5th 1917; the US had just declared war on Germany. He was unmarried and was classified in category 1, those available for immediate induction, one of thirty-five men from Franklin County drafted as soon as the army was prepared to train the hundreds of thousands called up. The army was hopelessly unprepared for the numbers of draftees and stopped call ups until the spring of 1918.
Al was an infantryman with the rank of private, assigned to Company D of the 157th Infantry Depot Brigade with soldiers from several western states. The men were transported to Camp Gordon just outside Augusta, Georgia for six weeks of military training.The training suffered from a shortage of weapons, uniforms, and supplies that meant that many soldiers were not issued uniforms until they left for the coast and rifles until they reached France. Conditions were very bad. Weather was hot and muggy, housing was shoddy, facilities were unsanitary, and food was basic, officers were untrained, and discipline harsh. Many men were glad to head to France to escape the conditions at the training camp.
Al and his company sailed from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the 'City of Bombay' on 7th of August 1918 bound for France. The 157th was transported to the area around St Nizier and Revigny behind the lines in eastern France where they waited for assignments to other units which had been decimated by the fighting around Chateau Thierry. Arland's company was sent to reinforce D Company of the 109th Infantry at Apremont near Ardennes in eastern France. The 109th Regiment was nicknamed the 'Keystoners' because it was a Pennsylvania National Guard Unit. It had lost more than 500 men and officers since arriving at the front in July.
Beginning September 26 1918 more than 1.2 million American, French, British, Canadian, and Colonial soldiers attacked the Germans all along the front in an attempt to break through the German lines. The fighting lasted into October and was so successful that the Germans agreed to an armistice on November 11 1918, ending the Great War.
Unfortunately Al suffered serious injury during one of many mustard gas attacks in fighting at Apremont in October. The effects were horrifying and apparently he breathed in enough of it that his lungs were fatally damaged in addition to severe blistering of any exposed skin, and temporary blindness. The accompanying picture shows men from the 109th at Apremont being loaded aboard an ambulance after a gas attack in October. Al was hospitalized, most likely at Mesves, the closest large military hospital, where he spent just over six months. His visible wounds were healed enough that he was sent home for medical discharge. He left France on the 'Maui' April 21st 1919 from St Nazaire and arrived at Philadelphia May 3rd. He was transported by rail to Dayton, where his family met him. He was thin and pale, scarred by the effects of the gas and gravely ill, unable to breathe easily due to his condition. He suffered delerium about the horrors he had witnessed and was nearly invalid at his mother's home from May until December 20th 1919 when he died of infection and pneumonia from his injuries. Arland was buried beside his father in the Dayton Cemetery having given his life for his country.
His mother filed for the death benefit and insurance granted to families of those who gave their lives during the war in 1924, but her claim was rejected with thousands of claims like hers because he died after the war ended. Congress amended the law to permit those who died as a direct result of wounds received in the Great War to get benefits. With the $650 death benefit pay and the insurances, Virie was able to upgrade her home and install indoor plumbing for the house, which still stands across from Five Mile Creek in Dayton. She continued to receive payments, one small check and one larger one until her death. The amounts were set by law, six dollars a month, and the other for fourteen dollars.