No. 5870 Class of 1918 (Aug. 1917). Captain Wilson was noticed to go down on one knee, just as a large shell struck close by him, however, he was up again in a second and bravely struggled forward. Advancing about twenty feet he fell mortally wounded on October 15th, near Ferme Madeline – close by the village of Cunel, France, October 15, 1918. Aged 21 years.
Ben, as he was lovingly known to his relatives and friends, came to the Academy at the early age of seventeen years. He was the son of Captain and Mrs. Ellsworth Wilson, having been born March 28, 1897, at Athens, Tenn. As a true product of the sunny south he held a shrine in the heart of every man, woman and child who knew him, for to know him was to love him. From early boyhood Ben showed a great interest in history, especially in the events surrounding France, and often expressed an intense love and admiration for that country, and a determination to see it. While a member of the corps he planned and looked forward to his graduation leave which he counted on spending, in part at least, in that country, but his wish was realized much sooner than he had anticipated by reason of the early graduation of his class, which would not under peace conditions have been graduated until June, 1918.
When the opportunity came for overseas duty he was most happy, but his career was cut short, for with but six months’ foreign service while with the 15th Machine Gun Battalion, he met his death as a true soldier would wish it – on the field of honor – where he fell on October 15, 1918.
The circumstances surrounding his ‘last acts can best be described by the following remarks made by Major W. W. Grimes of the same Battalion:
“He was beloved by all of us in the Battalion; he was a fearless officer and died most gloriously for his country, and his loss, not only to the Battalion but also to his country, has been deeply felt by all who ever knew him. I don’t believe I ever saw a finer boy, nor one whom the future had so much in store for. I had recommended him for a Captaincy for his brilliant leadership at Frapelle – where he was cited in Orders for his leadership and gallant conduct of his platoon, at St. Mihiel he again gave proof of those soldierly qualities of sterling leadership and devotion to duty under most trying conditions. For his gallantry in the above actions coupled with his superb ability as a leader he was placed in command of C Company, which organization he was so ably leading when he was wounded.
He was mortally wounded on October 15th, near Ferme Madeline – close by the village of Cunel, France. He was advancing with a portion of his company, but finding that part of one platoon had become disorganized, he returned through a barrage to collect missing men. He was noticed by Lieut. Kopmehl, one of his lieutenants, to go down on one knee, just as a large shell struck close by him, however, he was up again in a second and bravely struggled forward. Advancing about twenty feet he fell unconscious. He was carried on a stretcher to the First Aid Station, a few hundred yards away, and died in about five minutes. A piece of shell had struck him close to his heart. He was buried in a large American cemetery along with a number of his comrades of our Battalion, near Ferme Madeline which is about two kilometers south of Cunel, France. We mourn the loss of one of the bravest, cleanest and finest fellows that ever lived.”
Soon after his death Lieutenant Wilson was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross as a result of his extraordinary heroism in the historic battle in front of Sedan in the Argonne Woods that was won by the American forces after a most heroic struggle, in which this young American made the supreme sacrifice that places his name upon his country’s scroll of fame with many others of the Class of August, 1917, who willingly gave their lives in the great conflict.
Lieutenant Wilson leaves a mother and father with a host of friends to mourn,his loss, but who will also cherish his memory.
Enter Wilson Josephus at http://www.abmc.gov/search/wwi.php