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Bill Thayer

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The following text is reproduced from (the report of the) Fifty-First Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 14th, 1920.

[image ALT: A photograph of a particularly handsome young man in a West Point cadet uniform. He has regular features and a rectangular face, and wears a straightforward expression, although somewhat introspective, with the faintest hint of a smile. He is Albert Francis Ward, the subject of this webpage.]

Albert Francis Ward

 p67  Albert Francis Ward
No. 6010. Class of June, 1918.
Killed in action in Siberia, June 22, 1919, aged 24 years.

Lieutenant Albert Francis Ward, son of Albert J. and the late Margaret Goodman Ward, was born in Chicago, October 3, 1894. He received his early education at St. Vincent's School, and at De Paul University, Chicago, at which latter institution he received a scholar­ship and from which he graduated, receiving the degree of Bachelor of Arts, in June, 1915. He entered the U. S. Military Academy from the Ninth Congressional District of Illinois, in June, 1915. During his youth and until his admission to the Military Academy he was a member of the 7th Illinois Infantry, which participated in the late war as the 108th Ammunition Train.

While at the Academy, he was not the type of man who could claim that the whole corps of cadets knew him personally. He was modest and retiring, slow to make close friendships, but once having made a close friend, never lost him.

Graduating from the Military Academy in June, 1918, he was appointed a Second Lieutenant of Infantry and proceeded to the Infantry School of Arms, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, as a student officer for a two months' intensive course of practical work. While at Fort Sill, he received his assignment to the 1st Infantry, which he joined at Camp Lewis, Washington, in September, 1918.

Shortly after the armistice an order was published to the 13th Division stating that the War Department wanted two hundred First and Second Lieutenants to volunteer for service in Siberia. Ward was among the first to volunteer, and the only reason his name was not at the head of the list was because the clerk that made out the list did it alphabetically. His application was approved and he sailed for Siberia from San Francisco on February 25, 1919.

At this time I knew him and liked him, but did not number him among my closest friends. However, it was but natural that, when two classmates, and two only, were placed together on a small ship full of strangers, the two should have something in common to begin with. It was during the thirty-day trip following our departure from San Francisco that I learned to know the man as he really was; behind his quiet, smiling demeanor something three years as his classmate at West Point had not taught me. At the end of that trip I knew why it was that he never lost one of his friends; I realized what a great desire he had to do something in Siberia to repay the government for what it had done for him at West Point; I realized how clean a life he led, and how absolutely fair and square he was with everyone; I understood, when one of his sergeants came to me later and said that all of Lieutenant's Ward's company worshipped the ground he walked on, why this was so.

During those thirty days of most intimate companion­ship, I never heard him once make a slighting remark of anyone, friend or enemy. He said very little, and if he could not say a good word, he said nothing. It was also during this time that I realized how much he suffered from the loss of his mother some time before, and of his brother, whom he loved like no one else. Sometimes it was terribly hard to have that ready smile and good word for everyone.

Upon our arrival at Vladivostok he was assigned at the base, and I saw what a disappointment it was to him to realize that he could not go into the interior where, it was reported, action was taking place. As the train bearing the officers who were going inland pulled out, we shook hands, and I saw his eyes fill with tears and he turned his back because he was not lucky enough to go. From then on his letters showed how he chafed under the restraint at the base. It was only when he was detailed as Adjutant of the Allied Mine Guard, with the thought of action in view, that he became himself. His duty as a staff officer in the Suchan Mine district did not prevent his getting into action when there was action in progress. When several Americans were carried off by the Bolsheviki, it was Ward that commanded the organization that went out to effect their release. The story of Sergeant Herbert L. Reeves, a sergeant in that organization, who was with Ward at the time of his death, and later joined my organization is probably the best insight into his character and manner of meeting death that can be given.

"The organization was marching to the town where the American soldiers were imprisoned, and as we were not really at war with the Bolsheviki, it had been decided to first request the release of the Americans before we took them by force. Lieutenant Ward and his orderly rode into the town bearing a flag of truce. Suddenly two shots rang out, and Lieutenant Ward and his orderly both fell from their horses. The shots came thick and fast then but I managed to get to Lieutenant Ward and got him back to cover. He was shot through the head and I knew he was done for. I think he knew it, too. As I picked him up, he said, 'Don't mind me, Sergeant; look after Jim. He is hurt worse than I am.' He said no more, and he died a couple of hours later, before we could get him back to the hospital. But think of what a man he was, sir; his first thought was of the poor kid who was serving him and who was dead when we picked him up."

It is but natural to expect, from a glimpse of Lieut. Ward's character and the soldierly instincts that appear to have been born in him, that the rest of his family should be represented in the World War. This is borne out by facts, as his four brothers volunteered and served in the war; one of them, Sergeant Oliver Gregory Ward, being killed in action in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, October 8, 1918. Besides his father and brothers, Lieutenant Ward is survived by many friends who admired and liked him, and by a score who loved him as one can love only his best friend.

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.W. C. C.

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Page updated: 8 Dec 13