Tucker, James N. (P1, C2 L1)
Private James Norman Tucker, 21, of Alton Station, Anderson County died in a train wreck on 26 October 1918 less than a week after his arrival in France. The wreck occurred at Gael, France on 26 October 1918. He was serving on federal active duty with the 138th Field Artillery Regiment, 38th Division.
He joined the Kentucky National Guard’s Company H of the First Kentucky Infantry Regiment on 16 June 1917. In September he transferred to Company E which transitioned to Battery D of the 138th Field Artillery. On 6 October 1918 he was transferred to Headquarters Company of the 138th.
According to accounts published after the war Tucker had his thumb shot off during his first encampment with the Guard at Camp Zachery Taylor. This apparently did not bar him from further military service. He went with his unit to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for training. They left Camp Shelby on 18 September 1918 and set sail from New York on 6 October 1918. They arrived in Liverpool England on 18 October 1918 and in Cherbourg, France on 22 October 1918.
According to correspondence by Captain J. C. Hobson, Jr. of the 138th - At 8:50 P. M., October 26, 1918, while enroute from Cherbourg, France, to a training camp at Meucon, France, a train carrying the 113th Ammunition Train collided with the 138th Field Artillery, which had just stopped at the station of Gael, France. The 138th train reportedly had had mechanical difficulties in the trip up to that point. Headquarters Company of the 138th occupied the last six cars of the train—the compartment and three box. All six cars were completely demolished. Other accounts report that 14 train cars were “telescoped” in the event. There are many conflicting secondhand accounts of the incident published in newspapers at various times with variation in the numbers of injured and dead and even the location of the wreck. The location had also been reported as St. Main / Mein and Mellistroit.
It was some time before any help or trained medical personnel arrived on the scene. Reportedly wires on both sides of the station were downed in the wreck and a messenger was sent on foot to the next nearest communication point five miles away. Troops and ambulances arrived at the scene at 1 a.m. the following morning presumably with medical personnel from Camp Coetquidan some 20 miles away and all the injured and dead were removed from the scene by 3 a.m. presumably back to Camp Coetquidan.
The men who were killed in the wreck were initially buried October 28th, in the U. S. Government cemetery No. 18 at Camp Coetquidan, France. Tucker is now buried in plot C row 16 grave 15 Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France. Tucker’s name appears on the Anderson County Veterans’ Monument located at the Courthouse in Lawrenceburg dedicated 11 November 1936 by the American Legion.
The other ten members of the Kentucky National Guard Killed in the incident are: William E. Aubrey; Buford G Craig; Norbert V. Henry; Frank James; Charles Lucas; Watkins A. Moss; Walter C Nagle; Roy V. Ogle; Ralph Rose and Garland W. Wells.
The Anderson News, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky printed a letter from Tucker after he had arrived in England.
Somewhere in England
Dear Folks at home:--
Will write a few lines to-night. Am well and like it fine here. I certainly did enjoy my trip over. We are in a rest camp now. I guess you have received my card telling you I have arrived overseas. Leonard is well. Give my love to all and answer soon.
Pvt. Norman Tucker.
Hdq. Co. 138th F. A., A. E. F.
Norman Tucker Dies In France
Camp Mills, N. Y.
Mrs. Margaret Edington,
R. F. D. No. 1, Alton Sta., Ky.
You have undoubtedly been informed of the death of your grandson, James Norman Tucker, by an accident in France, but I wish to take this opportunity of giving you further particulars. Regulations of A. E. F. prohibited this being done from France. The facts are as follows:
At 8:50 P. M., October 26, 1918, while en route from Cherbourg, France, to our training camp at Meucon, France, a train carrying the 113th Ammunition Train collided with the 138th Field Artillery, which had just stopped at the station of Gael, France. Headquarters Company occupied the last six cars of the train—the compartment and three box. All six cars were completely demolished. Fourteen men of the company, including your grandson, died instantly, forty-two received various wounds, most of which were broken arms and legs.
The men who were killed, including your grandson, were buried October 28th, in the U. S. Government cemetery No. 18 at Camp Coetquidan, France, with full military honors. The ceremony was simple. It was attended by three Generals—two American and one French, with their staffs, as well as several hundred soldiers of the A. E. F.
Your grandson’s effects were turned over to the Effects Department, A. E. F., according to Army regulations, to be forwarded to his family, and will no doubt be received in due time.
Assuring you of the sympathy of the officers and men of Headquarters Company, I remain,
J. C. HOBSON, Jr.
Captain 138th Field Artillery.
From Tucker’s Kentucky Council of Defense War Record, written by Mary D. Bond, Anderson County Historian.
The bullet evidently was not molded that was to claim Pvt. Tucker on the front lines in battle, but accident trailed him from the first encampment at Zachary Taylor, where his thumb was shot off, after this injury was healed he went to Camp Shelby, Miss. Thence to a port camp and overseas while en route from Cherbourgh Fr. To Meucon Fr. An ammunition train collided with the train on which the 138th Field Artillery was entrained at the station of Gael Fr. Headquarters Co., occupied the last six cars all of them being demolished, fourteen men, including Pvt. J. N. Tucker, were instantly killed and forty-two received injuries, Maj. Chas. N. Kavanaugh (Anderson County native) was one of the first surgeons to arrive at the scene of accident, Maj. Kavanaugh was a member of the 138th F. A. and his heroic services at the time merited for him a citation for bravery, Pvt. Tucker was killed Oct. 26th, 1918, on Oct 28th the fourteen accident victims were given a burial with full military honors in the U. S. Government cemetery No. 18 at Coetquidan, France.