In Honor and Memory of Otto Madary

13 January 1890 - 1 November 1918

In Flanders Field by Major John McCrae In Flanders Field, Where Poppies Grow… Rests Otto Madary
By Christopher SIMS and Régine BRINDLE

For me it all started when our HighSchool choir sang In Flanders Fields, 4-5 years ago. The song lingered in my heart. The only sad note was that the director had not seemed to know the context in which the poem was written and ever since I had wondered if we might have a veteran buried there, though I had never enquired. The commemoration of the centennial of WWI this year and next provided a unique opportunity to discover who were the men from Miami County Indiana who served during WWI, and in the process of identifying them we have used newspaper articles, death records, draft registration cards and other military documents such as Transport papers and Requests for Military funeral markers. This is how we became aware of Otto Madary and of his resting in the Flanders Field American Cemetery. My Belgian friend Paul Callens has had much experience piecing things together for other Americans before and he kindly contacted Chris Sims, co-author of “The Soldiers of The Flanders Field American Cemetery” with Paul Lernout. He kindly agreed to help me retrace Otto’s footsteps in Europe and shine some light on the circumstances that led to Otto’s death. Though the following account is the result of our combined work here and in Belgium, Chris provided the real substance for the story and for this I want to especially thank him. We are grateful to the Miami County Museum for making the old newspapers accessible, especially to Shirley Griffin for finding the document signed by General Pershing. We were also fortunate to receive some help from the Fulton County Historical Society’s historian Shirley Willard thru Caroline Jones and Annette WISE who found living relatives for us to contact.
But enough said, let me introduce you to one of the heroes of WWI who sleeps in Flanders Field: Otto Madary

Otto D MADARY was the son of Albert MADARY and of Susan ZABST.
But where and when was he born?
Albert and Susan were married in 1878 in Fulton County, Indiana and they started their family there.
First John Monroe MADARY came along in 1878, then Ida Mae in 1880.
Then there is a big gap, which is explained in Susan’s obituary that states she lost 3 children in infancy, probably born between
1880 and 1890.
Otto D came next with his twin brother Herbert L then another brother William Paul.
Otto’s record trail leaves a lot of discrepancies in dates and places. His Draft Registration card (in Ohio where he was working
as a fireman for the railroad) states that he was born 13 Jan 1891 in Peru, Miami County, Indiana. The 1900 US Census has him
and his twin born in January 1889 in Fulton County.
Neither Miami or Fulton County can verify these dates.
Herbert L MADARY, Otto’s twin registered in Peru, IN and gave his birth date as 13 Jan 1890 in Fulton County.
William MADARY, the younger brother registered in Jasper County, IN, farmer residing in Wheatfield. He gave his birth
information as born August 13th, 1891 in Fulton County, Indiana.
Some newspaper shorts indicate that Otto lived “near Twelve Mile”, in Grass Creek at some point.

Grass Creek is located on 114, south of Kewanna, IN, just North of Lucerne, in Fulton County. A 1883 map shows that Grass Creek is actually right on the Cass County/Fulton County line, so there is a good chance the records could have been in Cass County had Cass County started keeping birth records in 1890 but they didn’t until 1907. With the consistency of the twin brother Herbert’s information and the August birth of William I believe we are pretty safe adopting Otto’s birthdate and place as 13 January 1890 in Fulton County. Grass Creek map
The parents moved their little family around as in 1900 we find them residing on East 8th Street in Peru (Miami County). In 1910 they were in Cass County, then in 1920 back in Fulton County. Between 1920 and 1930 Albert and Susan moved to Bunker Hill where Albert’s parents had first settled. They passed away respectively in March and in April 1930 and were both buried in Fulton County.

By 1910 the family shows signs of scattering as the sons left to start their own lives.
  1. John Monroe MADARY was born 1 July 1878 in Fulton County, IN.   He was married twice. His first wife was Flora Mae (or Isabel) WESTWOOD on 29 March 1913.  She died of blood poisoning on 24 October 1942 in Rochester, Fulton County, IN and is buried there.
Together they had:
  • Ralph MADARY (27 May 1917, Rochester, Fulton County, IN – 8 Mar 1978, Grand Junction, Mesa County, Colorado).  He married Zanna Dorine REDDINGER in Fulton County on 5 Dec 1947.  WWII veteran
    • Marc Anthony MADARY (3 Jun 1956, Peru, Miami County, Indiana – 31 Mar 1995, San Francisco County, CA)
  • Albert MADARY married Lynn WILSON (pictured)
  • Margaret Marie MADARY (26 Nov 1929, Rochester, Fulton County, IN – 20 Nov 1991, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County, California). She married Leo BROWN with whom she had 4 children:
    • Diana BROWN
    • George BROWN
    • Janice BROWN
    • Priscilla BROWN 
  • John Lee MADARY (28 May 1927, Fulton County, IN – 24 Apr 1962, Fort Wayne, Allen County, IN) married Wanda RICHIE. He worked for the Peru Transit Company.
  • Lyman Eugene MADARY (8 Apr 1932, Rochester, Fulton County, IN ‐ of Peru married Juanita M HANAWAY on 22 December 1951
  • Donald MADARY of Michigan

  • In 1947 John married Vernie Pauline BUSBEE. John died in Peru, Miami County, IN on 17 February 19561 . He was buried in Fulton County.

    2.    Ida Mae MADARY was born in June 1880 in Fulton County, Indiana.  She married Edward SHERBONDY on April 24th, 1901.   She died 7 Feb 1956 in Peru, Miami County, Indiana.  She is buried in Fulton County. They would have 3 sons:
    • Eldon SHERBONDY (15 Nov 1903, Peru, Miami County, IN – 17 Sep 1971, Argos, IN), He married Helen SAUSAMAN on 4 Nov 1939 in Rochester, Fulton County, Indiana.  He is buried in Fulton County.
    • Lewis Albert SHERBONDY (18 Aug 1909, Peru, Miami County, Indiana – d.  5 Jun 1956 in La Veta, Huerfano County, CO). On 31 Dec 1930 he married Leota Prissler or Kaunada

Madary 5-generation photo
1 Published in the Rochester (IN) News-sentinel, Saturday, February 18, 1956, Peru, Ind. -- Funeral services for John M. MEDARY, 77, will be at 2 o'clock Monday at the Drake-Flowers funeral home. Burial will be in the Fulton I.O.O.F. cemetery. Mr. Medary died at 7:30 a.m. Friday at his home 218 West Tenth Street, following a five week illness. He was born July 1, 1878, in Fulton County to Albert and Susan MEDARY. His first marriage was to Flora Mae WESTWOOD, who preceded in death. In 1947, he married Pauline BUSBEE. Mr. Medary was a member of the Moose lodge and the Literary Aid society. Survivors are his wife; two daughters and four sons, Mrs. Lynn WILSON, Logansport, Mrs. Leo BROWN, Peru; John, Fulton; Lyman, Peru; Donald, Michigan; three stepdaughters, Mrs. Clarence WINGARD, Mrs. Zelbert PHILLIPS and Mrs. Verlin METTLER, all of Peru; a stepson, Calvin BUSBEE, Rich Valley; twenty-one grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Pharos Tribune of 29 March 1924, Logansport, IN

  • Arthur Lee SHERBONDY (28 Dec 1918, Peru, Miami County, Indiana‐3 Mar 1974, NH). He is buried in the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.  

3. Herbert Lee MADARY
married Minnie WENDT on Oct 1, 1926 in Peru, IN.   Herbert died on 1 November 1971, 53 years to the day after his twin Otto fell on the field of battle in Belgium.  Made me wonder about the special bond that exists between twins.    He is buried at St John’s Lutheran Cemetery, in Peru, away from the rest of the family,similarly to his twin Otto who rests in Flanders Field.   
Herbert was named administrator of his twin’s estate, which totaled $2,546 in 1930.
Herbert & Minnie Madary stone in St. John Lutheran Cemetery, Peru

Webster Anniversary
4.     William Paul MADARY (13 Aug 1891, Fulton County, IN – 21 Oct 1968, Peru, Miami County, IN) married Olive Lenora AUSTIN on January 1st, 1913 in Fulton County.  He retired from the C&O Railroad Company in 1962 after 40 years of service.  He lived in Peru for 44 years then moved to Lake Manitou 4 year before his death.  He was buried in Fulton Cemetery, Fulton County.
    • Mildred Josephine MADARY (2 Sep 1917, Jasper County, IN – 4 Jun 2005, Peru, Miami, IN).   She married Berton O WEBSTER on 1 May 1936.  They had one son
      • Jerry O WEBSTER (1938) with whom she opened Webster’s Florist in Peru.   
    • William Paul MADARY Jr, (b. 3 Oct 1920, Ashtabula, OH – d. 4 Jan 1972)   married Carol NEEDHAM. He is buried in Bunker Hill, Miami County, IN.
    • William Paul MADARY III, b. in Peru, IN.  Retired from being a firefighter in Indianapolis.
With this in place, let’s pick up the story in 1917.
Like all young men between the ages of 21 and 30, Otto and his brothers were require to register for Selective Service aka the Draft. Otto worked for the Wabash Railroad, as a fireman, out of Toledo, Ohio which is where he registered on 5 June 1917.
Madary images

He began his military service on October 2nd, 1917 and completed his basic training with the 158th Depot Brigade in Camp Sherman, OH. He was devoted to the cause and as an exemplary soldier was promoted to corporal before the division sailed for Europe.

As part of the 74th Brigade, the 148th Infantry Regiment was split in two groups for embarkation.

The first group consisting of 148th Infantry 1st and 2nd Battalions sailed on the Susquehanna on 22 June arriving at Brest, France, on 5 July 1918. Otto’s group, consisting of the 3rd Battalion of the 148th Infantry Regiment, embarked on the Duca d’Aosta2 on 22 June and reached the dock at Brest, France, on 5 July.
Working in the trenches
Camp Entrance
The men came ashore, formed companies and detachments and marched 4 miles to their first rest camp at Pontanezen barracks.
S.S. Duca D'Aosta, 1909 Italia Line
SS Duca d'Aosta was an Italian ocean liner for Navigazione Generale Italiana named after one of the Dukes of Aosta. Launched in 1908, she sailed between Italy and New York and South America for most of her career. During World War I she was employed as a troopship carrying United States troops to France as part of the United States Navy Cruiser and Transport Force. She was scrapped in 1929.

The next day the men awoke to their first day on French soil. For many a welcoming relief after experiencing so many days and nights being packed like sardines in narrow bunks on a swaying ship. The men were not allowed to leave the limits of the camp but they did exercise by marching into the small villages close by under the watchful eye of their company commanders. On 5 July they received their first orders. Over the coming days units were to march to the railroad station at Brest and board French troop trains with destination Bourmont Training Area. (500 miles east of Brest). Travel rations were issued for three days. Between 8 and 11 July, the 74th Brigade arrived and established their Headquarters at Bourmont. Otto Madary and the 148th Infantry was assigned in the area of the village Chaumont-la-Ville.


Troops arriving in the village were allowed forty-eight hours for general cleanup and establishing billets; arrangements for kitchens, necessary shelters, etc. Each individual was responsible for cleaning their own clothing, taking care of their equipment and organizing their billets. After the forty-eight hour period the training commenced and was scheduled for six days a week. French officers were assigned to assist in training procedures consisting of target practice, drills, the art of digging trenches, musketry, bayonet, sniping, automatic rifle, grenade and gas instruction.
French Independence Day (14 July) was a holiday with athletic events. One of these events, the 100 yards gas mask race, was actually won by the US 145th Infantry. As of 16 July campaign hats were ordered to be turned in and the overseas cap and wrapped leggings were issued. Beginning Sunday 21st of July, all men were ordered to carry steel helmets, gas masks and cartridge belts when more than twenty-five yards away from billets and barracks. The 37th Division were now fully engaged in the training area around Chaumont. On this day the 3rd Battalion Company L (Otto Madary), were treated to a medical checkup.
On 27 July, the 37th Division received an announcement that they would be relieving the 77th New York National Army Division in the Baccarat Sector. (100 miles east of Chaumont-la-Ville)
Orders were issued on 31 July with troops moving during the night of 2-3 August. It was known as the quiet sector where French and German troops were sent to rest and where the American command had sent the division for additional training.
The quiet sector would consist of intermittent day or night bombing by enemy planes. Shelling here and there with no particular target priorities. Raids against their lines by sometimes only a few Germans, other times a platoon. Artillery barrages were called in against such attacks and during some of these skirmishes machine guns, rifle fire and grenades were used to drive off the enemy. Patrols into No Man’s Land were also organized every night and progressively moving forward into enemy lines for the purpose of identifying opposite units and on the off chance of capturing a few German prisoners.
When not in the front line there were always training schools and an excessive number of drills. The men were kept active at all times repairing trenches and defenses.
The division was not only assigned to the sector to take over the trenches. Their main objective was to take over the ground between them and the enemy. German troops would soon experience the fact that they were not facing exhausted French troops but battle eager and determined daredevils.
The duty tour in the trenches of the Baccarat Sector would harden the 37th Division troops and prepare them for a more strenuous combat service in the near future. And so on 12 September orders were issued for the 37th Division to move out of the sector into another livelier theatre of operations. The French 131st Division would at that time relieve the 37th Division.
On 17 September the 37th Division proceeded by rail to the new area detraining at Robert-Espagne which was close to Bar-Le-Duc in the Meuse region. The map reference to “Verdun” seemed very significant. The 148th Infantry detrained and set up camp near the village of Fains. (photo of train station circa 1914)
On 19 September they received additional orders that they were to move to yet another new area. This would be the division’s first experience in moving by bus. Otto Madary and Company L, 148th Infantry left Fains the next day arriving at Recicourt and the wooded area close by on 21 September. They now found themselves in the Avocourt Sector where they would take part in one of the largest battles along the Western Front, known as the Meuse-Argonne offensive. The front occupied was to be between the river Meuse and the Argonne forest.
Avocourt - destruction
The village of Avocourt was nothing more than a pile of rubble.

The Meuse-Argonne offensive was launched on 26 September at 05:30 am. Major General Farnworth’s official report describes the first day’s action as follows:

“Destructive fire by artillery commenced at 23:00 hrs on 25th September, increasing in intensity at 05:00 hrs on 26th September. The division moved forward from the jumping-off trenches following a rolling barrage and with comparatively little opposition from the enemy’s infantry but with much machinegun opposition.
The 73rd Brigade reached the ridge beyond the north edge of Bois de Montfaucon and the 74th Brigade (comprising the 148th Infantry Regiment) penetrated a point of the enemy position directly south of Ivoiry that evening

The 37th Division was assigned to the center of the sector between Avocourt and the woods of Montfaucon. The right boundary line past left of the village. The left boundary line to include the village of Ivoiry. Enemy trenches were about 1100 yards north of Avocourt.

Preparing for attack on Avocourt
Men of the 37th Division preparing for the attack, Avocourt, 26 September 1918

In the War Diary of the 37th Division for 27 September it is mentioned that the advance continued. The town of Ivoiry was taken mid-morning and 500 meters north of the town the Germans delivered their first counterattack. The attack was repulsed and the advance continued towards Montfaucon facing heavy resistance by the enemy. However Montfaucon was taken in the afternoon and by late evening troops were in line along the Ivoiry-Montfaucon road. On this day the 3rd Battalion of the 148th Infantry had been moved back to Bois de Montfaucon in division reserve.

The ruins of Montfaucon 1918
The weather had turned against them. Heavy rains made roads impassable. Due to these conditions it was difficult to forward supplies. In spite of the adverse weather conditions, enemy planes continued to harass the infantry with machinegun fire and directing enemy artillery.
On 28 September orders were issued to continue the advance. “Move forward and occupy the enemy’s second line position, organize the position and prepare to resist counter-attacks”.

Enemy artillery and bad weather resulted in complete exhaustion of the troops and prevented them of making any considerable advance. They were compelled in taking cover in shell holes, digging in and trying to hold their positions. Road conditions prevented bringing up of supplies and so there was also a shortage of food and ammunition. The number of casulaties were rising……….By the end of the day morale was low. For the majority of the troops there had been no hot food for two days, only a minimum of cold food, no water or very little. They hadn’t slept since the start of the offensive, now lying in mud and in sodden garments.

29 September, Field Orders No. 45: “The attack will commence not later than 7:00 o’clock. Division will advance independently of each other, pushing the attack with utmost vigor and regardless of cost.”

It was apparent that high command had no ears for the current battlefield conditions. As one Company Commander noted in his diary: “The brain and body are stiffened and cannot respond as under normal conditions. It is hard to do, hard to know and it is inevitable that orders miscarry or fail of execution when expected. It is inevitable that misinformation filters back and that other orders, based on the situation which the commanding officer of the unit believes to exist-but in reality do not exist at all. The picture cannot be accurate, cannot be complete, but sitting at brigade headquarters and watching this board over which animated chess men are moving, and watching it through a haze, and without the noise and confusion of battle and sudden death around and overhead ……………….”

News of the enemy retreating, the attack resumed and attempts made by the 3rd Battalion 148th Infantry as part of the 74th Brigade were succesful entering the village of Cierges but were forced to retreat.
During the night of 29-30 September, based on battlefield reports and one in particular message: “Request our units be relieved immediately” it had finally become apparent that conditions were worse than first thought by higher command. Field Order No. 46 followed: “the attack of the Corps will not be continued tomorrow. The present lines will be held and every effort made to prepare for a resumption of the offensive the following day”. The order now established a line of defense one kilometer north of the village of Nantillois.
Aerial View of Destruction
Village of Nantillois
There would be no further attack. At 5:45 on the evening of 30 September Field Orders No. 48 were issued: “37th Division to be relieved by 32nd Division effective immediately” Relief of the 37th Division was set in motion and by midnight the 32nd Division had taken over command of the sector. 37th Division troops were assembled and moved back to the rear in the vicinity of Récicourt.
Total casualties for the 37th Division during the Avocourt and Meuse-Argonne campaigns amounted to 3,443 of which 2700 were wounded, 128 died of wounds and 615 were killed in action.
The total casualties for Otto Madary’s unit, the 148th Infantry, were 768 of which 630 wounded, 33 died of wounds and 105 killed in action. Pagny-sur-Meuse On 4 October the division was on route to Pagny-sur-Meuse near Toul. What was thought to be a period of rest in a quiet billeting area was short lived. On 5 October the order was issued “the Pannes sector will be taken over by the 37th Divison” Map reference was Thiaucourt which was the area of another great American battle, the St. Mihiel offensive. On 7 October the 37th Division relieved the 89th Division in the Pannes sector. It turned out to be a dismal, trying experience and so when on 15 October they received a warning order that they were going to be relocated to another area, the men were all relieved.
The 37th Division was ordered to Belgium.
Pagney Sur Meuse

 By Chris SIMS and Régine BRINDLE
Continued from In Flanders Field, Where Poppies Grow… Rests Otto Madary, Belgian Laces #153

Monday 14 October 198:
Marshal Ferdinand Foch sends an urgent telegram to General John J. Pershing (Message Center, First Army, No. 4779):

"The action that has been taken today by the Belgian, French and British troops in Belgium has made sufficient progress to enable us to expect important results if it is pushed through, and with that object, followed up with sufficient forces. Under those conditions and to that effect, I order that two American divisions chosen among those that have taken part in offensive operations, be sent to that region. The first of these divisions will be ready to entrain by October 16 by noon, the second on October 17. One of these divisions could be sent without artillery.
Please let me know by telegram on October 15 before noon the numbers of these divisions, which, it seems, ought to be chosen among the 26th, 89th, 90th or 78th Divisions.
It is always understood that this reduction of American forces will to no extent change the mission assigned to the American Army especially between the Meuse and the Aisne.”

The following coded message was eventually sent to King Albert of Belgium: "Deux Divisions américaines sont désignées pour être mises à disposition du Roi. La 91ème avec artillerie, la 37ème sans artillerie" (Two American Divisions are made available to the King. The 91st with artillery, the 37th without artillery)

Le Lt.Col. chef mission belge G.Q.G. Fr. à Chef Q.G. belge le 17/10/18

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