SGT Henry Nicholas John Gunther

SGT Henry Nicholas John Gunther

Baltimore, Baltimore City, Maryland, USA
Death 11 Nov 1918 (aged 23)
Chaumont-devant-Damvillers, Departement de la Meuse, Lorraine, France
Burial Baltimore, Baltimore City, Maryland, USA
Plot Section W, Lot 301
Memorial ID 16204809 · View Source
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World War I United States Army Soldier. He is believed to be the last man killed in World War I. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, into a family of German descent, he was employed at a local bank when America entered the war in April 1917. Five months later he was inducted into the United States Army and appointed a supply Sergeant in Company A, 313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Division of the American Expeditionary Forces. His closest friend, Sergeant Ernest Powell, recalled that Gunther was miserable in the service and harbored resentment over anti-German prejudice leveled at him by his neighbors back home because of the war; and supply sergeants weren't exactly popular among the rank and file. Soon after arriving in France in July 1918, he was demoted to Private after Army censors intercepted a letter he had written to a friend urging him not to enlist. Around mid-morning on November 11, 1918, the 313th was ordered to advance towards Metz even though official word was spreading that the Armistice would go into effect at 11:00 a.m. Gunther's platoon, led by Powell, encountered two German machine-gun squads blocking a road near the village of Chaumont-devant-Damvillers and were forced to take cover; with the end of the fighting so near, the Germans apparently fired some warning shots over their heads and then stopped. During the lull an enraged Gunther got on his feet, and despite Powell's order to stop he charged one of the machine-gun nests with fixed bayonet. The Germans tried to wave him back and did not fire until he was within a few yards of their position. He was killed instantly. "Almost as he fell", noted his divisional record, "the gunfire died away and an appalling silence prevailed". What prompted his fatal action is not known but he may have suspected an enemy double-cross. According to most sources Gunther died at 10:59 a.m., one minute before the Armistice, and General Pershing recorded him as the last American combat fatality in the conflict; it was subsequently established that the final French and UK Commonwealth deaths occurred minutes before Gunther's. (Central Powers casualties are unconfirmed). He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. In 1923 his remains were returned to his native Baltimore. A French memorial for Gunther, placed near the spot where he died, was dedicated in 2008. On Veterans Day, 2010, the 92nd anniversary of Gunther's death, a memorial plaque was unveiled at his gravesite in Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 15 Oct 2006
  • Find a Grave Memorial 16204809
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for SGT Henry Nicholas John Gunther (5 Jun 1895–11 Nov 1918), Find a Grave Memorial no. 16204809, citing Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Baltimore, Baltimore City, Maryland, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .