World War I -- Life Histories/Section 018/Robert March Hanes

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Overview[edit]

Robert March Hanes (1890-1959) was a businessman, banker, government official, and served as an officer in World War I. He was inducted into the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 1989.


Robert March Hanes
BornSeptember 22, 1890
DiedMarch 10, 1959

Biography[edit]

Early Life[edit]

Hanes was born September 22, 1890 in Salem, North Carolina to John Wesley and Anna Hodgin Hanes. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1912 and was the president of his senior class [1]. He attended the Harvard University School of Business Administration from 1912-1913 before returning to Salem as secretary-treasurer of Crystal Ice Company from 1913 to 1917. Hanes married Mildred Borden of Goldsboro in July of 1917 [2].

Wartime Involvement[edit]

In 1917 Hanes enlisted in the army. He trained for World War I at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia and traveled to France to serve as Captain of Battery A, 113th Field Artillery, 30th Division [3]. His troops fought with the American First and Second Armies, seeing action at Saint Mihiel and the second phase of the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1918 (Hanes). Due to Hanes’s commendable war record he was commissioned major. Following the armistice of November 1918, Hanes remained abroad during the peace treaty negotiation process until the spring of 1919 [4].

Later Life[edit]

In 1919 Hanes joined the Wachovia Bank and Trust Company. He was president of Wachovia from 1931 until retirement in 1956. Much of Hanes’s work contributed to the economic boom of Winston-Salem in the early 1920s [5]. Hanes represented Forsyth County in the 1929 and 1931 North Carolina House of Representatives and 1933 Senate [6]. In 1939 he was elected president of the American Bankers Association. He received a Doctor of Law from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1945 [7].

Hanes also helped implement the Marshall Plan in post-World War II Europe. In 1949 he was appointed chief of the Belgium-Luxembourg mission of the Economic Cooperation Administration to Brussels and named the economic adviser to the High Commissioner of West Germany. There he worked alongside Konrad Adenauer, William Averell Harriman, Henry Morgenthau, John McCloy, and others [8].

Hanes returned to Winston-Salem in 1951, where he was the head of many community organizations. He was a member of Centenary Methodist Church and trustee of The University of North Carolina, the Morehead Foundation, Salem College, and Winston-Salem Teachers College. Hanes was one of the five founding fathers of the North Carolina Research Triangle Park in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area [9]. The first building was named in honor of Hanes. Hanes died March 10, 1959 [10].


Social Issues[edit]

Meuse-Argonne Offensive[edit]

The battles of Meuse-Argonne were a series of assaults that occurred on the Western Front from September 26- November 11, 1918 during the final phases of World War I. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest in American history up to that time, involving nearly 1.2 million American troops. French forces marched west of the Meuse River, and the American forces west of the Argonne Forest [11].

The American forces faced the most significant obstacle, the Argonne Forest landscape. Thomas Fleming describes that “Inside the Argonne Forest itself ravines, hillocks, and meandering little streams added to the obstacles created by the trees and dense underbrush that reduced visibility to 20 feet” [12]. Germans also added man-made defenses such as trenches, concrete dugouts, barbed wire, and machine guns [13].

The Meuse-Argonne battle caused the most American casualties of any battle in war history- 26,277 men killed and 95,786 wounded [14]. The heavy American casualties were caused largely due to a failure in administration to properly train and organize troops. President Wilson’s administration had been unable to mobilize the war industry and economy to support military forces, and the secretary of war was unable to mobilize the army [15].

In a letter to his wife, Hanes describes his involvement in the battle on October 7th, 1918- “Germans were shelling the woods with everything imaginable, gas, high explosives, large caliber guns- we had to wear our masks for about an hour” [16]. Hanes also writes that the 77th division suffered heavy causalities, referring to the Lost Battalion of Argonne Forest. These seven companies of the 77th division were surrounded by German forces in the Ravin de Chaulevaux from October 3rd- 7th without proper food or weaponry to sustain them [17] [18]. Casualties were almost 70 percent when survivors were rescued [19].

Troops and the Armistice[edit]

Hanes's diary entries from November-December 1918

The World War I armistice between Germany and the Allies was officially declared on November 11, 1918 [20]. However, The Treaty of Versailles was not signed until June 28, 1919. By January of 1918, Germany was acting according to President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points Doctrine. The armistice required an evacuation of German troops from Western territories. Germany also lost a considerable amount of artillery, aircraft, vehicles and other equipment [21].

A number of troops and officers, including Hanes, remained abroad during this negotiation process to ensure armistice terms were enforced [22]. Without many of his previous war duties, Hanes visited various French small towns, conducting friendly interactions with German soldiers. In his diary, Hanes wrote that “Within 50 hours after the Armistice was signed we were in the German lines drinking Schnapps with the officers” [23]. In his letter to his wife, Hanes describes that the men were “talking to these German officers as if nothing at all had happened or been happening between us. We were treated cordially all the time…” [24].


Works Cited[edit]

  1. “Laureate.” Communication Solutions, Junior Achievement of the Carolinas, Inc, 2003. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <http://www.historync.org/laureate%20-%20Robert%20Hanes.htm>.
  2. “Robert March Hanes.” Documenting the American South. University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://docsouth.unc.edu/wwi/hanesletters/bio.html >.
  3. Davis, Amy. “Robert March Hanes, 1890-1959.” Documenting the American South. University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004. Web. 19 March 2015. <http://docsouth.unc.edu/wwi/hanesletters/summary.html>.
  4. “Robert March Hanes.” Documenting the American South. University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://docsouth.unc.edu/wwi/hanesletters/bio.html >.
  5. “Robert M. Hanes House.” Local Historic Landmark Program. Forsyth County Historic Resources Commission, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2015. <http://www.cityofws.org/Portals/0/pdf/Planning/HRC/Local_Landmarks/LHL_Sheets/124_RobertMHanesHouse.pdf>.
  6. “Robert March Hanes.” Documenting the American South. University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://docsouth.unc.edu/wwi/hanesletters/bio.html>.
  7. “Laureate.” Communication Solutions, Junior Achievement of the Carolinas, Inc, 2003. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <http://www.historync.org/laureate%20-%20Robert%20Hanes.htm>.
  8. “Robert March Hanes.” Documenting the American South. University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://docsouth.unc.edu/wwi/hanesletters/bio.html >.
  9. Hanes, Robert March. Additional Documents. 30 April- 02 Dec. 1918. Robert March Hanes Papers (#4534). Documenting the American South, the University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 12 Feb. 2015.
  10. “Robert March Hanes.” Documenting the American South. University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://docsouth.unc.edu/wwi/hanesletters/bio.html >.
  11. “Battles of Meuse-Argonne.” Encyclopedia Britannica Inc, n.d. Web. 16 March 2015. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/378992/battles-of-the-Meuse-Argonne>.
  12. Fleming, Thomas. “Argonne: Paying the Price.” Military History, Suppl. America's Great Battles, 1775-2002 (2002). ProQuest. Web. 21 March 2015.
  13. Fleming, Thomas. “Argonne: Paying the Price.” Military History, Suppl. America's Great Battles, 1775-2002 (2002). ProQuest. Web. 21 March 2015.
  14. Ferrell, Robert H. America's Deadliest Battle: Meuse-Argonne, 1918. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2007. Xi. Print.
  15. Ferrell, Robert H. America's Deadliest Battle: Meuse-Argonne, 1918. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2007. 1. Print.
  16. Hanes, Robert March. Letters to Mildred Hanes. March 1917- March 1919. Box 1. Robert March Hanes Papers. Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 12 Feb. 2015.
  17. Ferrell, Robert H. America's Deadliest Battle: Meuse-Argonne, 1918. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2007. 76. Print.
  18. Lengel, Edward G. To Conquer Hell: the Meuse-Argonne, 1918. New York: H. Holt, 2008. 1st ed. 221. Print.
  19. Fleming, Thomas. “Argonne: Paying the Price.” Military History, Suppl. America's Great Battles, 1775-2002 (2002). ProQuest. Web. 21 March 2015.
  20. Duffy, Michael. “The Armistice.” First World War. n.p, 2009. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/armistice.htm>.
  21. Duffy, Michael. “The Armistice.” First World War. n.p, 2009. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/armistice.htm>.
  22. Duffy, Michael. “The Armistice.” First World War. n.p, 2009. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/armistice.htm>.
  23. Hanes, Robert March. Additional Documents. 30 April- 02 Dec. 1918. Robert March Hanes Papers (#4534). Documenting the American South, the University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 12 Feb. 2015.
  24. Hanes, Robert March. Letters to Mildred Hanes. March 1917- March 1919. Box 1. Robert March Hanes Papers. Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 12 Feb. 2015.