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Three thousand people crowded into the State Armory in Pittsfield, Mass., on Dec. 11, 1921, to mourn Lt. Col. Charles W. Whittlesey, famed leader of World War I‘s “lost battalion.”

Now he too was lost.

A century ago, every newspaper reader in America knew the story. Whittlesey, a tall, bookish soldier, had led 554 men of the 308th Infantry up a thickly wooded French ravine early on Oct. 2, 1918, then became trapped and isolated.

When relief finally came, just 194 soldiers could get to their feet; 107 were dead, 63 missing. And of those able to walk, only a half dozen were deemed fit to continue the advance.

The war would be over in a month. But not for Whittlesey.


Lt. Col. Charles Whittlesey, left, with the relieving officer from the 3rd Battalion. (Courtesy of Williams College Archives and Special Collections)



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On Veterans Day, a lost battalion. A war hero. And … – Washington Post