Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day Salute: Donnie Alva Vickers

Part of the 306th Ammunition Train, 81st Infantry Division
Photo from
 the North Carolina State Archives

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

During World War I, Donnie Alva Vickers, a 24-year-old from the farming community of Vashti, Alabama, enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 26, 1918. He eventually became a private first class in Company F of the 306 Ammunition Train of the 81st Infantry Division.

As a member of the ammunition train, Donnie's job was to transport ammo for the artillery and
Donnie Vickers

infantry to the front line area. He and the other men carried the ammo in horse-drawn wagons, trucks or sometimes by a literal train on tracks.

The 81st Infantry Division arrived in the Vosges Mountain region of France in mid-September. Here they had to deal mostly with German trench raids and artillery fire.

In mid-October, the Army moved the division to the American 1st Army area and on Nov. 6 the division entered the front lines near Verdun, east of the Meuse River.

The division attacked German positions on Nov. 8 and ran into heavy enemy machine gun and artillery fire. By midday, the doughboys had pushed the Germans back, but intense enemy fire halted the advance.

Two days later the division troops attacked again, only to be forced back at nightfall by intense enemy artillery fire.

The 81st Division commanders didn't receive word of the armistice that was to being at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 and pushed ahead with an early morning attack. At daybreak, the doughboys went “over the top” and fought their way toward the German trenches.

Then at 11 a.m. the firing stopped. The war was over.

The men of the 81st Division remained in France for five months before being shipped back to the United States. The Army discharged Donnie on May 5, 1919, at Camp Gordon, Georgia.

After the war, Donnie married Hazel Lee Pierce (1905-1985) and the couple moved to Akron, Ohio, where
Donnie worked for the General Tire and Rubber Company. The Vickers eventually left Akron for the Alabama farming community of Faunsdale, not far from where Don grew up. There they owned and managed a 600-acre farm specializing in cattle.

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