Military Monday – World War I Soldier Michael Kokoska

Michael Kokoska was born September 28, 1891 in Chicago, the seventh child of Bohemian immigrants Joseph and Majdalena, nee Priban, Kokoska.  Joseph and Majdalena immigrated from the Pilsen area of Bohemia in 1881 on the Fresia. Their ship left the port of Hamburg, Germany on August 31, 1881 en route to Le Havre, France, and arrived on September 22, 1881 at the Port of New York, United States.

Less than a month after arriving in the United States, Joseph and Majdalena were living in Chicago.  They were married by a Justice of the Peace in Chicago on October 11, 1880.[1]  From this union were born 11 children, 10 of whom survived.[2]  These children were Joseph, born March 19, 1881[3]; Frank, born October 20, 1882[4]; Emilie, born June 12, 1884[5]; Charles, born January 28, 1886[6] (it should be noted the certificate was filled out incorrectly with Frank’s name rather than Charles); Mary, born October 1887[7]; James, born March 4, 1890[8]; Michael, born September 28, 1891[9]; Albert, born November 15, 1893[10]; Edward, born July 21, 1895[11]; Anna, born 1898[12]; and Emil, born March 5, 1901[13]. Emilie was the child who did not live to adulthood. Her death certificate and burial location have not been located but she does not appear on the 1900 Census which states Majdalena was the mother of 10 children, with 9 living.

The Kokoska family lived in several different houses after the births of their first five children.  In 1891 the family was living at 988 Van Horn Street in Chicago according to City Directories.[14] In 1892 they lived at 832 W. 18th Street.[15]  By 1900, the family had moved into their final home located at 988 W. 18th Place, Chicago.[16] When the Chicago street numbers changed in 1909, the house number became 2122 W. 18th Place.  Joseph and Majdalena remained in this home until their deaths.  In photographs, this house appeared to be a long and narrow, two story wooden home with a lower level below the street.

As a boy Michael attended school and learned to read and write English. It is unknown if he learned to speak Czech.  After finishing school, he worked as a coat maker in a tailor establishment.[17] By 1917 he worked at Coonley Manufacturing where he was a trucker before signing up for the Draft after the United States entered The Great War.  (Photo: Joseph and son Michael)

In 1914 the world was changing as Europe erupted in a war on many fronts. The United States avoided becoming fully involved until after the sinking of the Lusitania by the Germans and declared war on Germany April 6, 1917. The government then passed the Selective Service Act in May of 1917 in order to raise thousands of troops to prepare for war.

Michael registered in Chicago for the draft on June 5, 1917,[18] and he was inducted into the Army on August 10, 1917.[19]  He was assigned to the 32nd Infantry Division. This Division was organized on July 18, 1917 under War Department orders[20]  and was made up of men from Wisconsin and Michigan primarily. Within the 32nd Division he was in the 127th Infantry, Co. L.[21] which was under the command of Colonel Wilber N. Lee.[22]

 

Training for the 32nd Division was held at Camp MacArthur near Waco, Texas. The Division underwent 16 weeks of training which included learning to use new weapons, grenade training, the correct use of a gas mask, and trench warfare. Just outside the Camp, a system of trenches was constructed for use in training the men.  By November and December 1917, the 32nd Division was visited and deemed ready for action overseas.

January 2, 1918, saw the 32nd Infantry Division Headquarters staff move from Waco, Texas, to Camp Merritt, New Jersey, before going to the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, New Jersey, where they would set sail for France.[23] By January 24, 1918, the advance party of the 32nd Infantry arrived at Brest, France as the sixth American Expeditionary Force to arrive.

Much of the 32nd was made a replacement division in early March 1918, where it set up headquarters at Prauthoy, Haute Marne, France.[24]  The 127th Infantry was not included in this change.  The 127th was part of a group moved from base ports to Bordeaux, Dijon, St-Nazaire and Vaucouleurs for duty with the Services of Supply division.[25]  The 127th was ordered to rejoin the 64th Infantry Brigade, 32nd Division, at the end of March.  By April 10, the entire 32nd Infantry was removed as a Replacement Division, and it was sent to the 10th Training Area to prepare for the Front.

Conditions in the early part of 1918 in France were horrible. The men were cold, wet, and exhausted from training in bad weather and digging and building trenches. Despite the weather, they still trained on the rifle ranges, and practiced trench warfare tactics.

By May 14, 1918, the 32nd Division was moved to an area of the French 7th Army near La Chapelle-sous-Rougemont.[26] A few days later, the 32nd was given the order to move to the region of Belfort in Alsace, Germany. The 32nd Infantry Division became the “First on German Soil.”[27]

Between June 15 and July 15, 1918, the 32nd was in tactical command of not only their troops but also of the 9th French Division as well.  The 32nd was responsible for the sector from Aspach le Bas to Rhine-Rhone Canal. During this time in Alsace, training continued and there were a few raids but no major offensives. Some considered it a “quiet sector.” Patrols went out nightly into “No Man’s Land” and American control was kept. As the French troops were slowly withdrawn, however, the American Expeditionary Force became more active in this area. It was no longer considered a “quiet sector.”  By July 15 the 32nd was moved to the active Front.

Michael was stationed on the Front Lines, “quiet sector” in Alsace only 12 days before he was killed by Accidental Gun Shot near Manspach. Alsace is located just west of the Rhine River on the German border.

Joseph and Majdalena were notified of Michael’s death by Western Union Telegram on August 10, 1918. The telegram stated

Deeply regret to inform you that it is officially reported that private Michael Kokoska inf Died june twenty seven from accidental gun shot wound.[28]

During World War I, when a Soldier died, a Burial File was prepared and the deceased was referred to as Soldier Dead. Soldier Dead is a “phrase that, before World War II, was used to refer collectively to military personnel in all branches who perished while in the Armed Forces.”[29] The file contained different records for each Soldier Dead but typically contained the following described documents. Grave Location Blank describing where the remains were buried and identifying the next of kin. A description of how the death occurred. Correspondence after the war ended between the government and next of kin regarding disposition of the Soldier Dead. Disinterment reports indicating when the Soldier Dead  was removed from the temporary cemetery and reburied in a permanent cemetery overseas or shipped home to the family. A description of the condition of the remains of the Soldier Dead. Documentation regarding the arrival of the Soldier Dead back in the U.S. if that was the wish of the next of kin. Documentation regarding the transport of the Soldier Dead from the Port of Disembarkation to the home town. The file may also contain handwritten letters from the parents of the deceased.

Michael’s Burial File contained the following memo regarding the cause of his death.

 

Michael was killed the 27th or 28th of June 1918. He was temporarily buried in Morvillars Military Cemetery in France.[30] Joseph and Majdalena were notified by letter dated 19 January 1920, from the Graves Registration Service, where Michael was buried and given the option to have his remains sent home.[31]

 

Joseph and Majdalena were getting older and the process to return the Soldier Dead home seemed to take forever. Several letters were sent by Joseph to the Graves Registration Service where the reader can feel the pain of Joseph and Majdalena.

 

A letter dated 7 June 1920, written by Joseph stated,

 

War Dept

Office of the Quartermaster General, Graves Reg. Service Wash. D.C.

Charles C. Pierce, Dear Sir.

 

We beg to inquire of the body of Our Son, Pvt Michael Kokoska #275180 Co L. 127th Inf. Place of Burial: French military Cemetery, Dept. of Ter-de-Belfort. As we read by the papers about the bodies of our soldiers being brought here and of some that are from our own city. We would like to hear from you. It is over a year now that we received a card to fill out if we want the body of Our Son home we answered yes, we have been waiting patiently ever since. We have bought a burial lot on our Bohemian National Cemetery. A certain paper stated those wanting the bodies of their Soldier boys home to write for them. Hoping that this is the place to write to. We are asking if Our Sons Body could be sent home soon. As we are getting old we feel bad about seeing and hearing of others sent home and not Our Son.

 

Any answer from you will be appreciated.

 

Sincerely

Mr. J. & Madg. Kokoska

2122 W 18 Place, Chicago Ill[32]

 

Once confirmation of disinterment and reburial was received by the Graves Registration Service from the Kokoska family, the process began to bring Michael’s remains home. According to the Report of Disinterment and Reburial, Michael’s remains were disinterred 21 Jan 1921 from grave 154 Cemetery 282 by Group 1, Unit 1. His remains were evaluated and described and a physical examination was conducted and recorded.[33]

 

 

 

 

The Report of Disinterment, Preparation, and Shipment of Body stated Michael’s remains were shipped from the disinterment site 28 Jan 1921 to Cherbourg, France. They were received and held until 1 May 1921 when they were placed aboard the U.S.A.T. Wheaton for transport across the ocean back to the United States. His remains were received in Hoboken, New Jersey, 18 May 1921. They were shipped to Chicago 25 May 1921 via railroad.[34]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph sent a telegram to the Graves Registration Service in Hoboken, New Jersey on 14 May 1921 which stated,

 

86NY SC 34 COLLECTNL  OG CHICAGO ILLS MAY 13-14 1921

 

GRAVES REGISTRATION SERVICE                   HOBOKEN NJ

 

BODY OF PRIVATE MICHAEL KOKOSKA TWO SEVEN FIVE ONE EIGHT NAUGHT BE SHIPPED TO JOSEPH KOKOSKA TWO ONE TWO TWO WEST 18 PLACE CHICAGO ILL I WILL MEET BODY AT RAILROAD STATION[35]

 

Michael’s death notice was placed in the Denni Hlasatel newspaper in Chicago. The translation reads,

 

With deep dejection and grief we announce to all relatives and friends that, brought to us from far France were the remains of our beloved Son and Brother, soldier MICHAEL KOKOSKA from Company L, 127th Infantry where he was interred from 27 June 1918 at the Marvillars Herer Belfort Cemetery. The dear departed was born in Chicago where he was a member of Lodge Praha M.W. of A. 12042. The funeral will be held on Sunday 29 May 1921 at 2:00 P.M. from the Funeral Home 2122 W. 18th Place and then to The Bohemian National Cemetery. JOSEF & MAJDALENA KOKOSKA, Parents; Josef, Frank, Karel, Vaclav, Albert, Edward & Emil, brothers; Mary Darda & Anna, Sisters. Those wishing to attend the funeral come to the Funeral establishment of Marik and Sons. Telephone Lawndale 3972.[36]

 

A large funeral procession was held down 18th Place, past the family’s home before proceeding to Bohemian National Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

The Kokoska home is the wooden house on the left with the flag hanging out the top middle window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael was finally laid to rest in the Kokoska family plot at Bohemian National Cemetery on 29 May 1921. His parents, Joseph and Majdalena, lived until early 1940’s and were laid to rest next to their son. Thus ends the story of a brave man who fought and died for his country.

 


Bibliography

 

Ancestry.com

 

Baca, Leo. Czech Immigration Passenger Lists, New York Passengers 1870-1880, Volume 5. Privately Published by Leo Baca, 1993.

 

Center of Military History. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, vol. 1, American Expeditionary Forces: General Headquarters, Armies, Army Corps, Services of Supply, Separate Forces  (1937. Reprint, Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1931-1949), 1366.

 

Center of Military History. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, vol. 2, American Expeditionary Forces: Divisions  (1937. Reprint, Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1931-1949), 1366.

 

Center of Military History. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, vol. 3 part 1, Zone of the Interior: Organization and Activities of the War Department  (1937. Reprint, Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1931-1949), 1366.

 

Center of Military History. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, vol. 3 part 2, Zone of the Interior: Territorial Departments, Tactical Divisions Organized in 1918, Posts, Camps, and Stations  (1937. Reprint, Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1931-1949), 1366.

 

Center of Military History. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, vol. 3 part 3, Zone of the Interior: Directory of Troops (1937. Reprint, Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1931-1949), 1366.

 

Illinois. Cook County. Delayed Birth Records. County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, Illinois.

 

Illinois. Cook County. Birth Certificate. County Clerk’s Office. Chicago, Illinois.

 

Illinois. Temporary Boards for Projects. Adjutant General records. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.

 

Joint War History Commissions of Michigan and Wisconsin. The 32nd Division in the World War 1917-1919. Milwaukee: Wisconsin Printing Company, 1920.

 

Sledge, Michael. Soldier Dead. How We Recover, Identify, Bury, and Honor Our Military Fallen. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

 

United States Army. World War I Burial File. Military Textual Reference Branch. National Archives, College Park, MD.

 

Endnotes

 

 



[1] Illinois, Cook County, marriage license number 49003 (1880), Joseph Kokoska, Majdalena Priban: Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, Illinois.

[2] Ancestry.com, 1900 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004), www.ancestry.com, Database online. Year: 1900; Census Place: Chicago Ward 10, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T623_255; Page: 23B; Enumeration District: 269. Record for Joseph Kokoska.

[3] Illinois, Cook County, delayed birth certificate number 145949 (1944), Joseph Kokoska; County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, Illinois.

[4] Illinois, Cook County, birth certificate number 12756 (1882), Frank Kokoska: County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, Illinois.

[5] Illinois, Cook County, birth certificate number 58288 (1884), Emilie Kokoska: County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, Illinois.

[6] Illinois, Cook County, birth certificate number 97986 (1886), Charles Kokoska: County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, Illinois.

[7] Ancestry.com, 1900 United States Federal Census, database record for Joseph Kokoska.

[8] Illinois, Cook County, delayed birth certificate number 131473 (1945), James Kokoska; County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, Illinois.

[9] Ancestry.com, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Provo, UT, USA, The Generations Network, Inc., 2005), www.ancestry.com, Database online. Registration Location: Cook County, Illinois; Roll: 1493541; Draft Board: 26. Record for Michael Kokoska.

[10] Ancestry.com, U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 (Provo, UT, USA, The Generations Network, Inc., 2007), www.ancestry.com.au, Database online. Roll: 30955_165850; Local board:  ,. Record for Albert Kokoska.

[11] Ancestry.com, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, database record for Edward Kokoska.

[12] Ancestry.com, 1900 United States Federal Census, database record for Joseph Kokoska.

[13] Ancestry.com, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, record for Emil Kokaska.

[14] Donnelly, Reuben H., compiler. The Lakeside Annual Directory of the City of Chicago, 1891. Microfilm reprint. “Joseph Kokoska”

[15] Illinois. Chicago. Record and Index of Persons Registered and of Poll Lists of Voters, 1888-1892. Board of Election Commissioners, Chicago.

[16] Ancestry.com, 1900 United States Federal Census, database record for Joseph Kokoska.

[17] Ancestry.com, 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, The Generations Network, Inc., 2006), www.ancestry.com, Database online. Year: 1910; Census Place: Chicago Ward 12, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T624_253; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 583; Image: 380. Record for Michael Kokoska.

[18] Ancestry.com, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, database record for Michael Kokoska.

[19] Michael Kokoska entry, World War I Bonus Files; Temporary Boards for Projects Record Group 503.000; Adjutant General records. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.

[20] Joint War History Commissions of Michigan and Wisconsin. The 32nd Division in the World War 1917-1919.( Milwaukee: Wisconsin Printing Company, 1920), 27.

[21] Burial File

[22] Joint War History Commissions of Michigan and Wisconsin. The 32nd Division in the World War 1917-1919, 29.

[23] Joint War History Commissions of Michigan and Wisconsin. The 32nd Division in the World War 1917-1919, 33

[24] Joint War History Commissions of Michigan and Wisconsin. The 32nd Division in the World War 1917-1919, 35

[25] Center of Military History. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, vol. 2, American Expeditionary Forces: Divisions  (1937. Reprint, Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1931-1949), 181.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Joint War History Commissions of Michigan and Wisconsin. The 32nd Division in the World War 1917-1919, 41

[28] Michael Kokoska Western Union Telegram dated August 10, 1918, World War I Bonus Files; Temporary Boards for Projects Record Group 503.000; Adjutant General records. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.

[29] Sledge, Michael. Soldier Dead. How We Recover, Identify, Bury, and Honor Our Military Fallen. (2005. New York: Columbia University Press), 4.

[30] Grave Location Blank of Michael Kokoska; World War I Burial File; Military Textual Reference Branch, National Archives, College Park, MD.

[31] G.R.S. Form No. 113 Replay to G. inquiry dated 19 Jan 1920; World War I Burial File; Military Textual Reference Branch, National Archives, College Park, MD.

[32] Letter to Quartermaster General dated 7 June 1920; World War I Burial File; Military Textual Reference Branch, National Archives, College Park, MD.

[33] Report of Disinterment and Reburial dated 21 Jan 1921; World War I Burial File; Military Textual Reference Branch, National Archives, College Park, MD.

[34] Report of Disinterment, Preparation, and Shipment of Body dated 21 Jan 1921; World War I Burial File; Military Textual Reference Branch, National Archives, College Park, MD.

[35] Telegram from Joseph Kokoska to Graves Registration Service dated 13-14 May 1921; World War I Burial File; Military Textual Reference Branch, National Archives, College Park, MD.

[36] Death Notice, Denni Hlasatel

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