Company Commander 7th Inf 3d Divison
At midnight and morning of the 15th of July the Boche delivered an extraordinarily severe bombardment along the front, from Chateau Thierry to Rheims. The Company (7th Inf 3d Div) was in position on the south bank of the Marne directly in front of the village of Gland, occupied by the Germans who held the high ground across the river.. Gland is only a few kilometers east of Chateau Thierry. The unit been in position since the 2nd of July and the bombardment took was a surprise, as the first fourteen days were quite quiet. Major Reaney and his Orderly were killed- they were buried together.
Photo page 52 – 1919 Annual Report
Killed in Action July 15, 1918, in France, aged 26 years.
Of all those gallant officers and men who have stood the courage of battle and who now return with their comrades, in spirit only, but whose bodies remain over there as a monument to their divine virtues, none leaves a fonder remembrance among his friends than Major Jo Hunt Reaney, lovingly known to his friends as “Spec.”
Major Reaney was born in Osage, Iowa, October 17, 1891; graduated from West Point in 1915, and was assigned to the Infantry.
To his friends, who for years have known his charming personality, his loss means an absence that can never be replaced; and to his country is lost a soldier of the rarest quality. It is sad indeed that his death should come so early in his promising career. No man ever possessed a more wonderful combination of splendid traits. He was simple, fair, honest and industrious. His cheerful optimism was always present to lift the cloud of depression from a melancholy atmosphere. He was a man through whose friendship one felt the sense of having gained an indefinable something by simply having known him. Untiring in his efforts, moving steadily towards the possession of higher qualities of life, towards a greater usefulness and efficiency.
Major Reaney was devoted to his parents and his friends; his friendship was rare, possessing subtle qualities of a rich though retiring nature; he gave with the ease and unobtrusiveness of one who loves to give but knows not that he is giving. His balance and poise and keen sense of proportion were always a helping influence to those of a less stable disposition.
It is seldom that grief ever penetrates below the surface; a few weeks, a few months, a few years and all is forgotten, but men like our noble friend never die. Recollections of him are too firmly linked with our hearts, and while regretting his death we know that his life was a splendid preparation for a life beyond and that he was happy in contributing his part to the greatest cause the world has ever known.
Following are extracts from letters received from a brother officer to Major Reaney’s mother:
“Captain Reaney made the supreme sacrifice at probably the crisis of the many crises of the war, when -the Allies wrestled the initiative from the Hun and started him back.
At twelve o’clock midnight on the morning of the 15th of July the Boche delivered an extraordinarily severe bombardment on our whole front, from Chateau Thierry to Rheims. We were in position on the south bank of the Marne directly in front of the village of Gland, occupied by the Germans. Gland is only a few kilometers east of Chateau Thierry. We had been in position since the 2nd of July and the bom- bardment took us a little by surprise. The first fourteen days were quite quiet.
During the first two weeks, however, Captain Reaney, always a soldier and an expert machine gunner, had kept busy day and night, and had kept us busy too, preparing for what we knew was to come. By constantly looking for new positions, better positions, and plenty of alternative ones, he so protected our front with bands of fire when it came time to open up, that not a German crossed the Marne in front of us, although they had planned to.
His extreme conscientiousness, absolute fearlessness, his subjugation of personal safety and comfort to the immediate demands of the situation, were largely responsible for his personal sacrifice, but not until his work was completed.
Even when he did not show up at his headquarters, the next morning, his company as a result of his untiring efforts carried out his mission.
As to the facts. He decided to move his headquarters further front, and took over mine. I had moved forward to one of my section positions. He came through the barrage into my post of command about 12:30 a.m., after making arrangements for spare guns and ammunition to go forward. In addition to the high explosive and shrapnel, he had encountered some gas on his way down. The night was hot and blacker than indigo. He stayed with me fifteen or twenty minutes to rest and cool off a bit. He then started out with his orderly, saying that he was going to go to the other platoon P. C.’s to see that everything was all right. I know that his main idea was to encourage the men by his presence, to let them know that they had a company commander who would not ask them to stay at a gun while he remained in a dugout. That was the last any of us ever saw him alive: I left two or three minutes after he did.
Before dawn I had had occasion to return to my P. C., and was some thirty meters away from it on my return trip forward, when the concussion of a shell landed me in a ravine. I was overheated and took off a large sheepskin coat I had been wearing. I threw it to one side and it landed on top of a body. It was still too dark to recognize anyone
and as it was an urgent necessity for me to get back to my gun position, I didn’t investigate.
The next morning the Captain was reported missing. We sent out searching parties. As this little ravine where I had discarded my coat was under direct observation and constant machine gun fire in the day- time, it was not examined until dusk. Then the detail, seeing and recognizing my coat, knowing that I was all right, thought the Captain had been wearing it. They carried him back under cover and it was the Captain. He never suffered; he was killed instantly, with his orderly. We buried them side by side.
Captain Reaney’s loss was a severe one to the company and to the service. He was without doubt one of, if not the highest respected and best thought of officer in the regiment in the opinion of both his senior and junior officers. The men in his company thought there was never anyone like him. When you have said that, you have said all that possibly can be said about an officer.
Personally, I didn’t have a better friend in the army. I got very well acquainted with him in the States.
The bombardment was so sudden that some of us wrote a last note home. As he was killed instantly, there was no chance for the spoken word. But if he did not speak the word, he lived it. He honored me with his confidence once or twice -and I know that the reason for his clean living was that he might be able to go back clean to you, his mother.”
(Link to Google Books chapter)
At the time of his death he was writing and had nearly completed a “History of Knight Templarism in America.” Captain Jo Hunt Reaney was born at Osage, Iowa
(Link to Google Books chapter)
(Link to Google Books Chapter)
Gland France map at