Traveling on High Street in downtown Jefferson City, Mo., you pass by the Cole County Courthouse where a slender memorial topped by a bronze eagle is displayed. On this small edifice are 58 names—a nearly forgotten dedication to the many county residents who lost their lives during the First World War.
Within this list is embedded the name of a local Marine killed in combat nearly a century ago, and whose memory has been carried forth by a local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post.
Born in 1896, James “Roy” Sone had the reputation of being an excellent baseball player, “real major league material,” noted his nephew and namesake, James R. Sone, based upon recollection of conversations with his father, Guy Sone.
According to documentation found through the Missouri Digital Heritage site, Sone was inducted into the Marine Corps in June 1918 and went on to complete training at Parris Island, S.C.
The VFW’s Official Convention Book from 1928 provides additional clarification of the circumstances of Sone’s overseas service and his ultimate sacrifice. As the book notes, the young Marine left Quantico, Va., on August 1, 1918 and was assigned to Company 47, 5th Regiment, 2nd Division upon his arrival in France.
According to the VFW, the Second Division participated in several missions together with French Divisions, and was “assigned the task of forcing the Germans from Mont Blanc Ridge, situated north of the Argonne Forest”—a position they had held since 1914.
On the evening of October 4, 1918, the 47th Company was dug in for the evening when moans of a wounded comrade pierced the night air and volunteers were called to assist. Four Marines responded to the request and traveled into the darkness to retrieve the wounded man.
They retrieved the wounded Marine, placed him on a stretcher and headed back to their line. But during their return journey, an artillery shell struck near the group and exploded, killing everyone except one Marine who helped bear the stretcher.
It is uncertain, the VFW book explains, whether Private Sone was the wounded Marine in the stretcher or one of the brave men who volunteered to help rescue their injured comrade.
Private Bay Sone, Roy’s brother who was serving with the Headquarters Co., 349th Infantry as part of the American Expeditionary Force in France, was granted a furlough in 1919 to locate the grave of his younger brother.
In a letter he penned to his mother regarding his ascent of Mont Blanc Ridge and viewing his brother’s grave, Bay said, “…upon the very highest point he lay with three comrades and just a few feet further was where they had ‘dug in’ for the night. I couldn’t help it—I broke down and cried.”
Though his grave might have seemed unadorned and primitive to his older brother at the time of discovery, Roy Sone was not destined to remain at rest on foreign soil.
His body was returned to Jefferson City and buried in Riverview Cemetery on August 14, 1921, nearly three years after his unfortunate end. A local paper, The Daily Capital News, noted the services were conducted by the American Legion—who had formed just two years previous and was named in honor of another local fallen hero, Roscoe Enloe.
As Tom Ward, commander of the VFW Post 1003 in Jefferson City, explained, the post obtained its official charter on October 5, 1922 and took on the name of Roy Sone to honor a sacrifice made by a local boy serving under hostile conditions thousands of miles from home.
“Every Memorial Day we have a ceremony at Roy Sone’s gravesite (in Riverview Cemetery) to honor him as our namesake and keep in everyone’s mind the fact that he laid down his life on our behalf.”
Calmly, he continued. “These are the types of stories that we at the VFW don’t ever want to be forgotten…the stories that our community should be aware of.”
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Silver Star Families of America
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