No. 4158. Class of 1903. Dennis Nolan said of him “I conversed with him shortly after he was wounded and gave him the information that his regiment had just completed taking its assigned objective, Hill 244, (Chatel Chehery) in a splendid attack. Though mortally wounded, he had me tell him the details of the attack that had occurred after he was wounded, and he interrupted me frequently to say,
‘That’s fine; that’s fine,’ speaking of the conduct of his officers and men which I was describing to him.” October 8, 1918. Aged 39 years. Distinguished Service Cross. French Croix de Guerre.
Mortally wounded in action at Chatel Chehery, October 7, 1918.
Jimmie Shannon, or “Shanno,” as he was familiarly called by his classmates, was born at Granite Falls, Minnesota, May 25, 1879. It is interesting to note that this “man of character” was of Scotch – Irish descent, Scotch Covenanter and Irish Protestant. In him were combined the best’ qualities of each deep religious conviction, as well as a keen sense of humor, and good fellowship. He early conceived the idea of going to West Point and for a number of years followed a schedule of preparation including the time from 5 a. m. to 9 p. m. In this program was included a daily period of exercise in the gymnasium at Duiluth and here Jimmie began his boxing for surpassing skill in which he was so noted as a cadet.
He entered the Academy in June, 1898, and at once attracted the attention of his classmates. His unusual personality was remarked. His purity of thought, strength of character and deep religious convictions, combined with his lovable nature and athletic prowess made him not only loved and admired by his classmates, but also impressed them with a sense of wonderment, and one might almost say, of reverence.
During those early days was heard the remark, many times re peated in later years, by men of every degree, “I believe Shannon is the finest character I have ever known.”
At the Academy, Shannon was very prominent in athletics. He was noted as the best boxer and fighter of his weight. He was winner of the 440-yard run and was one of the best quarterbacks who ever played for the Black and Gray and Gold, inspiring the team ever with his own indomitable fighting spirit.
Upon graduation, Jim was assigned to the 7th Cavalry at Chickamauga Park, Georgia. He served with this regiment at Camp Thomas and at Fort Myer and in 1905 accompanied it to the Philippine Islands. After a short period of service there, he was made aide to General Tasker H. Bliss and remained with him in the Islands until 1908. He was present in the engagement at Bud Dajo.
Shannon rejoined the 7th Cavalry at Fort Riley in 1908, and was there married, ‘on September 5th, to Imogene Hoyle, daughter of Brigadier General (then Lieutenant Colonel) Eli D. Hoyle. The atmosphere of his happy home life will be long remembered by his friends who were so fortunate as to have opportunity to look in on the little household, a refreshing stronghold of love and happiness. One daughter, Imogene, was born at this Fort on August 5, 1909.
While at Riley, Jim developed into one of our leading army polo players as a member of the 7th Cavalry team. He graduated from the mounted Service School, 1909-10, and was admittedly one of the best riders in that class. He returned to the Philippines in 1911 with the 7th Cavalry, serving with this regiment until 1913 at Camp Stotsenburg. At this station was born on September 12, 1911, his second daughter, Frances Shannon.
In 1913, Jim became aide to General Eli D. Hoyle and remained in this capacity until the retirement of the latter in 1915. His activity in polo circles in the Islands is well known by all army poloists. As a member of the 7th Cavalry team he participated in many a hard fought tournament on Forbes Field.
Returning from the Philippines in 1915, Jim was assigned to the llth Cavalry at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Here was born, on October 8th, the third daughter, Mary Elizabeth.
He went into Mexico in 1916 with that regiment during the pursuit of Villa. When the special squadron 11th Cavalry was found under command of Major Robert L. Howe to make a rapid dash into the interior, the Apache scouts were attached to the column and placed under command of Shannon. As hardy and enduring as the Red Men, he made an ideal commander for them, and during all the arduous scouting and fighting that ensued, he handled them in such manner as to secure the high praise of his commander. Among the engagements in which he led these scouts was that of Ojos Azules.
Returning from the Mexican border in the spring of 1917, he was assigned to duty with the Harvard Reserve Officers’ Training Camp. Here begun in earnest his activities in the Great War. Admirably suited by training, temperament and character for this important task of training young men for war, he soon enthused this splendid body of youth with his own high conceptions of the standards to be attained by them as prospective leaders of men. His character and personality deeply impressed itself upon their minds and they threw themselves into the work with zealous enthussiasm and energy. Harvard men speak in highest admiration of his excellent service for which he received also official commendation. The records of these men during the war is high testimonial as to their training. A remarkable demonstration of the affection of Harvard men for him occurred when, prior to his departure, they marched en masse to his home to say good-bye.
Upon leaving Harvard, Shannon was assigned to the 42nd or Rainbow Division, as assistant commander of trains and military police. He served with this division at Camp Mills and in France. A short time after arriving in France, he was detached and ordered to General Headquarters to organize the personnel bureau. His important work in this connection can scarcely be estimated. In this position, where recommendations were made as to assignments, promotions, awards of decorations, it was essential to have a man of well poised judgment and absolute fairness. Because he possessed these qualifications to a superlative degree, he was chosen for the place and so well did he administer this difficult and perplexing task that although essentially a fighting man and pining for a fighting command, it was deemed inadvisable to release him, although several requests were made by higher commanders that he be assigned to command a regiment. Whenever possible, however, he made trips to the fighting line and it was such a visit that found him with Bennie McClellan in the Argonne in late September.
The fighting had been heavy and the casualties severe. The need of field officers of experience was urgent. Those who know Jim may readily imagine his delight when offered the command of the 109th Infantry. To have at last his cherished wish – “The command of a fighting regiment.” During the subsequent heavy fighting, he commanded first the 109th and later the 112th Infantry.
His service is thus described by his Brigade commander, Brigadier General Dennis E. Nolan:
“I am writing to you as the commanding officer, 55th Brigade, in which he served for several days during the battle as commander of the 109th regiment and also as his commander in the action at Chatel-Chehery, in which he was mortally wounded, the 112th regiment having been attached to my brigade for that attack. As commander of the 109th regiment for several days during the battle under my immediate command, he rendered very distinguished service, being an inspiration to the officers and men of that regiment. Similarly, while commanding the 112th regiment in the reconnaissance preceding the action and during the action, when at the head of his regiment he was mortally wounded, he displayed extraordinary heroism. I conversed with him shortly after he was wounded and gave him the information that his regiment had just completed taking its assigned objective, Hill 244, in a splendid attack. Though mortally wounded, he had me tell him the details of the attack that had occurred after he was wounded, and he interrupted me frequently to say, ‘That’s fine; that’s fine,’ speaking of the conduct of his officers and men which I was describing to him.”
Following is the citation for the award of Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action near Chatel Chehery, France, October 5-6, 1918:
“Lieutenant Colonel Shannon voluntarily led an officers’ patrol to- a depth of three kilometers within the enemy’s lines. As a result of his exceptional bravery and skill in leading this patrol in its contact with the enemy, vital information was obtained at a critical period of the battle, to which much of the success of the next few days was due.”
Among the mass of letters of tribute to his memory are selected the following extracts:
“He was a true Sir Galahad. No one knows that as well as you. His unspotted career is a priceless heritage for the army. I rejoice to think of the men who have been influenced by him for good. He is one of those characters who will live on in the lives of others. His piety was incorporated in his daily life. He had a covenant with God and he kept it.”
“He lived and died so nobly that so far as he himself is concerned, our feelings are only those of admiration. Here at the headquarters we talk of him all the time as though he were off on a trip. We each of us feel that Jim. meant a little more to us than he did to anyone else.”
“At the head of that gallant band of men who faced death properly and showed the world what American manhood means, and as this last year draws farther and farther away, I shall always see clearly a man who to me represents all those qualities that will keep our nation strong, honorable and wise – my friend Shannon.”
“The death of Colonel Shannon wounds the very heart of Harvard, for he had made himself one of the great characters of our college.”
“Someone said a new Colonel had joined the regiment that evening. Well, lead me to him, and who do you think I found. Colonel Jim Shannon. I asked if he knew me, and he said, ‘Certainly,’ so we walked down the street together. He had the same indomitable smile, and on the way stopped to fix his boot or something, just as though nothing was the matter. As soon as he took hold, everything straightened out. What had been the nearest thing to a panic became a victory in a manner seemingly most easy. It was four days after that he was killed, but in that time his whole regiment came to love him just as we all did at Harvard. I believe Colonel Shannon the finest man I ever knew and I believe all others who really knew him feel the same way.”
The following by a Sergeant.
“I am not much of a Christian man myself, but I was very much impressed with the fact that Colonel Shannon was. Frequently, when he was under fire from German snipers or machine gun bullets, as the case happened to be, I have seen him either sitting or standing unconcernedly humming or whistling an old Christian hymn which seemed to be his favorite and the name of which I don’t recall, with absolutely no fear of death or danger and without any regard for his personal safety or security. He only commanded our regiment three days and I was constantly with him all this time. On the night we finally captured Hill La Chene Tondue, he made me sleep in the room with him on the floor of a German hospital at the top of the hill. He came to us and took command of the 112th Infantry as a perfect stranger. We had not heard of him before, but we all took to him at once and we all felt we would go the limit for him, and which we did, as tired out and exhausted as the men of the regiment were. He always led the way himself at the very head of the column, and it was due to this act that the village of Chatel Chehery was taken, as well as Hill No. 244 commanding it, where he met his end. He led the men of the headquarters detachment of the 112th Infantry into the village of Chatel Chehery capturing the village in the early morning of October 7th, surprising the Germans completely. Not being content with this, he continued at the head of his men and took Hill No. 244, where he was shot.”
“Jim’s service under my command, as his service has always been since he joined the army, was marked by efficiency and a whole-hearted zeal to duty. After a long period of useful organizing work at general headquarters, for which he was chosen because of his preeminent characteristics of honesty and fairness, Jim had the chance that he longed for, of commanding a regiment in battle. He died as he had lived, a gallant leader of men.”
The news, “Shannon was killed,” meant more to those who knew him than the passing of a human being. It meant the transference from this life of the most remarkable character of their experience. It meant the removal of the one man who stood highest in their estimation of what a man should be. In short, it meant the passing of the man who exemplified to them more than any other the true disciple of the “Man of Calvary.”
J. K. H.