OSKALOOSA — Arthur S. Rogers, 23, of 1111 First Ave. W., Oskaloosa, was the last man alive of his machine gun crew at the Battle of the Marne.
In 1918, Rogers was a private in Company C of the Sixth United States Infantry Second Division. Six men lay dead around him, slain by German gunfire at the Marne River in France.
Rogers maintained a sweeping fire from an old Lewis gun, according to a Herald article from July 15, 1930, and drove back each rush of Germans, holding the bridge “against overwhelming odds at a crucial moment in the first major American engagement.”
Lying prone on the ground, according to the article, Rogers swept the opposite river bank, “feeding the gun with his feet as it played a deadly fire on the attackers.”
Rogers’ company commander signaled an order to “keep up the fire” as officers tried to reform the regiment and launch a flanking attack.
“So effective was Rogers’ gallant stand, that the remnants of his outfit not only cleared the bridge but took the 341 prisoners,” according to the article. “The bridge had been hastily built at 3 o’clock in the morning, once destroyed by a German attack, rebuilt by American engineers and again was the object of a stubborn German offensive.”
Rogers’ valor “is a matter of official war records,” according to the 1930 article.
Rogers did not prevail the conflict unscathed, however. Shrapnel “tore an ugly wound” in his forehead. That injury had scarcely healed, according to the article, when the butt of a rifle fractured his skull on Sept. 6, 1918, at the Argonne.
“For days his recovery was doubtful but medical sciences won and he finally left the hospital and rejoined his company, returning to the States Sept. 12, 1919.”
Life was not kind to Rogers in the postwar years. His hearing had been impaired by the fracture of his skull, which prevented him from obtaining “satisfactory employment.”
“The veteran has been forced to eke out an existence for himself and family with meager pay for odd jobs,” according to the article. “Jobless, Arthur has trudged the streets for days seeking work of any sort, uncomplaining and with a stout heart.”
A follow-up Herald article dated July 31, 1930, reported the medal ceremony scheduled for Aug. 1 had been postponed due to lack of communication from the war department.
No medal nor orders for the decoration had been received either by Rogers or at the office of Adjutant General W. H. Bailey at Fort Des Moines.
Mahaska County Historical Society President John Jacobs, as is his habit and hobby, had been flipping through old editions of the Herald and found the two articles about Rogers.
“I was going to flip by it and I thought, ‘well maybe I’d better read that,’” he said. “So it’s just darn lucky I went ahead and read it. And after I read it, I thought ‘wow.’ We’ve only got one medal of honor winner, Frank Friday Fletcher.”
Jacobs said he has found nothing further about Rogers or the medal.
Rogers died March 4, 1971, at the age of 76, and was buried in Forest Cemetery.
Mahaska County Veterans Affairs Director Curt Grandia, in April of 2019, sent a request for further information regarding Rogers’ medal to the National Personnel Records Center at the National Archives
The response from the center stated Rogers’ record was not in their files. A fire on July 12, 1973, destroyed the major portion of records of Army personnel for the period of 1912 through 1963. Rogers’ file would have been in the area that suffered the most damage.
Jacobs would like to hear from anyone who might have more information regarding Rogers.
“It sounds like he qualified for the medal of honor,” Jacobs said. “Is this a case of justice delayed and justice denied? “Does anyone have a picture of Mr. Rogers or further information on him?”