Buried in an unassuming grave at Aultorest Cemetery lies the body of Corporal Fred J. Grant. Cpl. Grant was killed in action on November 10th, 1918, just hours before the armistice was signed on November 11th, 1918. He was the last soldier from Utah killed during WWI, and possibly the last American soldier killed during WWI.
Fred J. Grant was born in Ogden on January 14th, 1896 and before enlisting in the Army at Fort Douglas on May 11th, 1917 he lived in Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Logan, Utah. He enlisted voluntarily and was assigned to the Second Regiment of Engineers, Company B.
After enlisting he was sent to Camp Baker in El Paso, Texas for training.((Utah, Military Records, 1861-1970)) Four months later on September 10th, 1917 he boarded the ship that would take his regiment to France. Cpl. Grant participated in some of the most famous battles of World War I including Chateau Theirry, Soissons, St. Mihiel, Blanc Mont, and the Meuse-Argonne battles.
Cpl. Grant was responsible for constructing bridges during the war, and building the bridge at the Meuse river is where he would eventually be killed. In a letter written to Cpl. Grant’s father, W.T. Rossell, the Commanding Officer recounts the circumstances of his death:
On November 2nd, 1918, on the Argonne-Meuse front, North-west of Verdun, the 2nd. American Division, to which this regiment belongs, attacked and swept the Germans from their positions, causing them to withdraw across the Meuse river. On the night of November 10th the enemy was holding the North bank of the river, our forces to the South. On this night it was planned to force a crossing of the Meuse and establish a bridge head. This company and one other of the Regiment were picked to throw two foot bridges across the river near the little French village of Letanne.
The bridges were put in under a withering machine gun and heavy artillery fire, and the Marines crossed over and accomplished their mission, driving the enemy back on the North bank, but the bridges were not put in without casulties, your son being one of the unfortunate who were called upon to make the supreme sacrifice, the last night of the war.
Cpl. Grant was wounded on the banks of the Meuse river by a piece of shrapnel that entered his left side by his shoulder and penetrated his lung. As soon as they realized Grant was seriously wounded, his comrades quickly put him on a litter to get him to the first aid station. He died just a few feet from where they found him. That evening his body was left on the battlefield, covered by his overcoat. The following day, after the armistice had been signed, his friends returned with the chaplain and they collected Cpl. Grant’s body to bury him in the American Battle Area Cemetery, Commune of Villemontry, Ardennes, France.
For pictures of the area where Cpl. Grant was killed, click here.
Body of Grant Brought Home
In March of 1921 Cpl. Grant’s body was disinterred from the American Cemetery in France and was prepared to ship home to Ogden, Utah. It arrived on March 25th, 1921 and was announced in the newspapers of Utah. The funeral was to be held on Thursday, March 29th, 1921 at the Ogden Tabernacle.
Corporal Fred J. Grant’s funeral was a huge deal in Ogden at that time. His was the first funeral held in Ogden over the body of a soldier who died under fire in the field of battle. The Governor of Utah and the Mayor of Ogden spoke at the funeral, and flags throughout the city were ordered to fly at half mast. Cpl. Grant was given a full military funeral with firing squad performing a final salute.
His pallbearers were all fellow soldiers who saw battle in France, and attending the funeral were veterans of the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, and the World War.((Salt Lake Telegram · Fri, Apr 1, 1921))
You might recognize the name Fred J. Grant, he is memorialized by the Fred J. Grant VFW post on 12th Street near the freeway.