Sol­dier with fa­mil­iar name died just be­fore ar­mistice

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - — John Ruddy

The cel­e­bra­tion of the ar­mistice on Nov. 11, 1918, might have meant the end of World War I but not the end of sor­row for New London fam­i­lies.

In the days and weeks that fol­lowed, word con­tin­ued to come from France of lo­cal men who had been killed in the war’s in­tense fi­nal days.

As to­day is not only the cen­ten­nial of the ar­mistice but also Vet­er­ans Day, it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing a New London sol­dier whose name is fa­mil­iar to lo­cal vet­er­ans.

Maj. John Cole­man Prince, the son of a New London den­tist, was in the thick of the fight in those last days. A sol­dier since 1911, he had served in the Philip­pines and at the Mex­i­can bor­der dur­ing the hunt for Pan­cho Villa.

While in com­mand of a cav­alry troop in Ari­zona, he ap­plied for duty over­seas and ar­rived in France in March 1918. In Septem­ber, when his par­ents last heard from him, he wrote that he was wor­ried be­cause he hadn’t heard from them in weeks. They ca­bled him that they were fine.

At the time, Prince, 29, had just com­pleted train­ing at an Army school and was await­ing or­ders. He soon was as­signed to the 365th In­fantry Reg­i­ment in the 92nd Divi­sion. Known as the “Buf­falo Sol­diers Divi­sion,” it was a seg­re­gated unit of black troops and mostly white of­fi­cers. Prince com­manded a bat­tal­ion.

On Nov. 1, he led a raid­ing party be­hind Ger­man lines and did not re­turn.

A month af­ter the ar­mistice, his par­ents re­ceived a tele­gram at their home on Vaux­hall Street that said their son was miss­ing in ac­tion. His mother ap­pealed for help to the Red Cross in the hope that he might turn up at a Ger­man hospi­tal or pri­son.

But an­other tele­gram ended her hopes a week af­ter Christ­mas. It con­firmed that Prince had been killed Nov. 1.

It was de­ter­mined that he had been shot dur­ing the raid, was taken pris­oner, and died two hours later. In a note of con­do­lence, Prince’s com­mand­ing of­fi­cer wrote that “his life though short in years was com­plete in things ac­com­plished.”

He was buried in France, but his name would soon gain lo­cal im­mor­tal­ity.

A few months af­ter the ar­mistice, lo­cal men or­ga­nized a post of a new vet­er­ans group called the Amer­i­can Le­gion. They named it for the high­est-rank­ing New Lon­doner killed in the war: Maj. John Cole­man Prince.

John Cole­man Prince

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