Thursday, June 19, 2008
Richard Olyer Company A, 2 nd Pioneer WW1
Richard started life 24 mar 1893. at Lyon Mountain, the 4th son and 6th child of Henry Olyer and Jossie Sweeney. Henry was one of the first residence on Lyon Mountain, his father Philip Olyer was born in Denemora,Clinton Co. New York . So the Ancestry of our subject Richard has been in this area for at least 4 generations. The siblings of Richard's were very close, his sister Isabel wrote a note to Santa [in another post]but she made special mention of "Rickie" asking for a sled and skates for his 1901 xmas. At a early age Richard worked in the mines, as did almost everyone in the area. The photo is brother in law Allen Caswell in center, deep in the Lyon Mountain mines. You either worked in the mines or lumbering, a supporting industry for the mine. Richard, must have been Physicaly strong and good control of his mental state.
His World war 1 draft card , notes he was a mine worker, light blue eyes, light hair and single. Of course, being single, he was one of the first drafts- on 24 May 1918 he was ordered to appear on Tuesday of next week for the train to Camp Wadsworth, Spartensburgh, S.C. were they will prepare for oversea duty.
He was in, Company A 2nd Pioneer Infantry, a special unit cross
trained in infantry tactics and combat engineering. They would build and repair roads, bridges and anything else needed to keep regular combat troops on the move. His experience in the mines probably got him in this unit, just the kind of men the army wanted.
There were a lot of New Yorkers in the 2nd Pioneers, after basic in Camp Wadsworth, they were transfered to Camp Mills,New York. by July 1918 they were aboard a ship for France. The 2nd landed at Bordeaux and from there went to Bassens, in the Gironde to become "acclimated" and readied for service. The unit was about 200 men strong so you got to know and become close friends with each other, not good when these buddies are killed next to you.
The 1st and 2nd Pioneers were attached to support General Hunters Ligget t's First Army Corps and Major General Bullard's third army Corp. both of which were to participate in the joint Allied offensive to crack Marne salient. The 2nd Pioneers job was to build and maintain the roads, from the begining of the campaign the pioneers were under constant and often heavy fire from the Germany artillery including the famous "Big Bertha" a railway gun that fired a 500 pound projectile, thirty five miles, that when it landed created a crater large enough to hold four one family homes.
The photo does not show its awesome size, mounted on a railway
car. Being on the receiving end must have been nerve breaking for
Richard, If you think about it, at 20 years of age he probably had
never been over 50 miles from home, probably had never seen a
troop ship, or been on the water for days. In one shelling 5 of his friends were blown to pieces when a German shell hit there area. He was wounded twice, and gassed, at Aisne -Marne.
Not as bad as some of his friends, he was only temporarily blinded some of them were badly
burned and permanently blind, but he was in line with them at the medic center-the devastation and mutilated friends, must have effected him deeply.
Finally it was Armistice day but his unit was selected to stay on and help
clean up, defuse bombs, bury the dead, repair roads and bridges. It wasn't until Nov 1919 he arrived home. and went almost at once to Fort MacHenry Medical hospital, Baltimore ,Md. It was a long
way from Lyon Mountain, but his parents were able to visit him.
Richard finally came home for short visit 26 April 1923 .
When I read the following article "wondered were the reporter was during the war-"---
As reported by Plattsburgh Sentinel newspaper "Olyer was 27, a veteran of the late war, had been gassed and wounded, lately he had showed signs of being unbalanced."
4 Nov 1924 "Olyer appeared at the home of Section foreman Knoakes at Plumadore,N.Y. Thursday night and said he had been halted by two men in the woods and robbed of $174 and his gold watch and military things. He spent the night with Knoakes, in the morning he left for Loon Lake, where he was going to see his brother, Henry Olyer. That was the last seen of him alive.
Becoming alarmed when he did not hear from his brother and learning that he had left Loon Lake Friday morning, Henry Olyer began a search which ended Sunday morning around 9 o'clock when he came upon the body about two miles from Plumadore. Found in deserted cabin with the muzzle of Olyer's rifle near his head and a exploded cartridge in the barrel.
Authorities declare it was a plain case of suicide, giving little credence to the robbery story.
I guess every war has its share of "unbalanced" left overs, we can design better weapons to mame and kill-a little slow on repairing the obvious damage and almost oblivious to the unknown damage, shrug them off maybe they will go away.