World War I -- Life Histories/Section 019/Joseph Lucius Reed

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Joseph Lucius Reed
American troops marching through a French village
BornJoseph Lucius Reed
Asheville, North Carolina
DiedDate unknown
OccupationEnlisted soldier


Joseph Lucius Reed (1893 – Date of death unknown) was a soldier during World War I, who fought in England and France during the Ypres-Lys campaign in 1918.


Born in Asheville in 1893, Joseph Lucius Reed, was the son of Marcus Lafayette Reed (1853-1938) and his second wife Bethany Barbara Sales Reed. His father was a representative for Buncombe County in the North Carolina State Legislature and the chair of the Board of County Commissioners. Reed was the fourth of five siblings, including three older sisters and a younger brother. Other notable Reed family members include Reed’s grandfather, Joseph Reed (1827-1884), who served as a captain for the Confederacy during the Civil War and Reed’s nephew, Mark L. Reed (b. 1935), who taught English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

At the age of 24, Reed began his military life serving in the American Expeditionary Forces. He was first stationed at Camp Jackson in South Carolina in 1917. From there Reed trained at Camp Sevier, S.C., Camp Merritt, N.J., and overseas in England (1918) and France (1918-1919). During his service, Reed often wrote letters home to his mother and sisters in Asheville. He inquired about hometown friends and their statuses in the military. In his letters, Reed described his time in the army. He found that army supplies was limited, including a lack of adequate pillows and blankets for cold nights in the army tents. Reed would often ask his mother to send him extra blankets. He also talked about the trouble he experienced getting furloughs home, especially toward the end of the war when he was stationed in Europe. Many of Reed’s letters had words and phrases blacked out, ensuring that they did not address any specific details about battles or fighting that he experienced. This is attributed to the military’s strict censorship of postal mail during the war.

While in the army, Reed was awarded two medals, the WWI Victory Medal, for serving during the Ypres-Lys campaign in France, and a medal from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, for serving during WWI as a Confederate descendant. For his WWI Victory Medal, Reed was authorized to wear a “Defensive Sector” battle clasp, denoting his general military defense services. And due to his grandfather’s service during the Civil War, Reed received a Cross of Military Service from the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Political and Social Issues[edit]

The Ypres-Lys Campaign (1914-1918)[edit]

Starting on October 19, 1914, German and Allied forces began the fight for control over the city of Ypres in Belgium. For years, “fighting continued, with heavy losses on both sides."[1] “Over the course of the next several years” this city “would see some of the war’s bitterest and most brutal struggles” of the war in Europe.[2] After years of fighting, the German forces began to plan a “last-ditch” offensive attack on the Allied forces that would push them back for good. The Allied forces, who were strategically positioned on the River Lys in France, were able to hold off the Germans “thanks in part to a fresh influx of several thousand American soldiers."[3] Despite the German’s success during the beginning of the battle, the Allied forces proved to be better prepared. “The Germans managed to advance only 12 kilometers by the time [they] closed down the operation on April 29…morale on both sides of the line was at a low point, due to heavy losses, but neither was ready to give in."[4] Though the battle ended, the war continued on until November 11, 1918, when the Armistice officially ended the war.

Military Censorship[edit]

The mentality of ‘loose lips sink ships’ was in full force when the United States entered World War I. The U.S. military was so successful during WWI, in part, because of the censorship of enlisted soldiers’ letters home. Censorship was important because “they didn't want the soldier[s] to say anything that would be of value to the enemy, such as where they were."[5] Like many of Reed’s letters, soldiers’ words were often cut out, inked over, or in the extreme cases just never sent. If a military officer believed a letter was too careless with information, they could make the decision to not send the letter, without ever telling the soldier that their letter never made it home. Many of Reed’s letters experienced censorship. For example, he would write to his mother that he had sent her a letter, even though she says she never received it. This type of censorship continued through World War II, however it proved to be too time consuming and a waste of valuable resources, therefore the military stopped censoring soldiers’ letters with the beginning of the Korean War.[6]