One of the Last to Fall

Special to VFW WebCOM:

On one of my visits this year to our family's cemetery plot in Henderson, North Carolina, I happened to notice the headstone in the adjacent plot, which had the name Lt. E. Cedric Harris,  81st Division, 321st Infantry, MG, with his 1899 birthdate and a date of death of November 11, 1918.   I knew WWI ended on that day but it seemed so unlikely that it would be the date of death of anyone I would encounter in any circumstance  (not to mention that I would have never have noticed it anytime in the half century of years I have walked by it), that I soon thereafter began searching the internet for something further on Lt. Harris. 

I found this:  

[HARRIS, EDWARD C.]

        HARRIS, EDWARD C., 2nd Lt., M. G. Co., 81st Div. 321st Inf. Born in Vance County; son of Edward W. and Meta Earl Harris. Entered service April, 1917, at Wendell, N. C. Went to Ft. Oglethorpe, Ga. Sailed for France Aug. 5, 1918. Wounded in France Nov. 11, 1918. Died Nov. 12, 1918. An exceptionally brave officer. Carried his machine gun through wire entanglement and put it in position under violent fire from three enemy machine guns. Fatally wounded, but commanded his men to leave him and continue fighting. Received Croix de Guerre with Palm and D. S. Cross for heroism at Grimancourt, France. Graduated from Trinity College, 1917. 


 (from page 64, http://docsouth.unc.edu/wwi/graham/graham.html)


I confirmed that Lt. Harris is, indeed, a listed recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross.  I found accounts of his division, the 81st, and the 321st, both in training in the U.S., and in France in combat.  I found the divisional citation upon which I am sure the Croix de Guerre with Palm award was based.   I found that he had been a student at Trinity College, which became Duke University in the 1920s, but the 1918 student Yearbook was not published because so many students left for military service, and it is quite unlikely that a 19 year old would have completed four years of college.  I found the record, in the same source, of a fellow solider who is surely his older brother, Talton, an artilleryman who apparently survived the war, and I think must have been older because Edward Cedric Harris was so young; he enrolled only after the U.S. Government, the preceding December, expanded the enlistment ages downwards to include 19 year olds, and Edward Cedric Harris enrolled as soon as the law permitted. 

I don't know if Lt. Harris is in fact buried beneath his large headstone, or if he is in France. I don't know whether he left behind any letters or pictures, or if any of his family yet remain, or if they would object to the attention that posting this information might bring. For one reason I have is, indeed, to encourage anyone with information about Lt. Harris to share it here, as I will share anything further I discover.  

The other reason is to honor him and through him his fellow veterans from all times and services.

Respectfully offered

Robert Brewer Jr

Fort Worth, Texas

Thank you Mr. Brewer for sharing.


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