World War I -- Life Histories/Section 019/Robert March

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Overview[edit | edit source]

Robert March Hanes (1890-1959) was a North Carolinian businessman, banker, and government official. He served as a Captain in WWI fighting in the battle at St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early Life[edit | edit source]

Robert March Hanes was born in Winston-Salem, NC on September 22, 1890. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1912, he studied business administration at Harvard University. In July 1917 he married Mildred Borden. They had two children [1].

Military Service in WWI, 1917-1919[edit | edit source]

Hanes joined the army in August 1917 and trained at Camp Sevier in South Carolina. He was a captain in the 113th Field Artillery of the First Army’s 30th infantry division under General John J. Pershing. They arrived in Brest, France on May 18, 1918 and trained at various camps before going to the front lines in late August [2].

On September 9, they began the march to St. Mihiel where they participated in the U.S. Army’s first independent offensive from September 12-14, 1918. On September 26, 1918, the Meuse-Argonne offensive began. The 113th Field Artillery fought in the offensive until a French battalion relieved them on October 6[2]

The 113th Field Artillery remained relatively inactive for the rest of the war, mostly converting old German military positions into new Allied ones. The war ended when the Allies and the Axis Powers signed an armistice on November 11, 1918[2].

After the War[edit | edit source]

In 1919, Hanes joined the Wachovia Bank and Trust Co. In 1929 he was elected into the North Carolina House of Representatives. In 1931 Hanes became the Wachovia Bank and Trust Co.’s president and saw it grow into the largest bank in the Southeast. He served another term in the NC House of Representatives that year and was elected into the North Carolina Senate in 1933. He was a strong supporter of the sales tax[1]

During the Great Depression (1929-1941) Hanes helped develop a national program to bail out banks, the National Credit Association. In 1939 the American Bankers Association elected him their president[1].

From 1949-1951, Hanes served with the Economic Cooperation Association, the organization that carried out the Marshall Plan in Europe. He was first in charge of the Brussels-Luxemburg Mission and then became economic advisor for the division in West Germany[1].

Hanes spent the rest of his life in North Carolina serving on various trustee boards and doing acts of public service. He died on March 10, 1959 at the age of 68[3].

Political and Social Issues[edit | edit source]

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive: September 26-November 11, 1918[edit | edit source]

The first U.S. military presence in WWI was the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). This small, inexperienced force relieved veteran French and British infantrymen and gunmen under French and British command. General John J. Pershing, however, intended to make the AEF an independent force. By late August 1918, the AEF was the First Army, an independent U.S. force that controlled over 100 miles of the Lorraine Front in France[4].

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was not the First Army’s first offensive, but it’s most important. The goal was “to [cut] one of the most important railroad systems of the German army and one of the two great avenues of retreat” at Sedan[5]. Three sectors of the First Army surrounded the German positions around Sedan: one at the Argonne Forest, one at Montfaucon Bastion, and one along the Meuse River. The 113th was in the center at Montfaucon[6].

On September 26, after firing on the Germans for about three hours, the First Army attacked. By the next day, the Montfaucon sector took the German defensive position at the top of Montfaucon Bastion. The rest of the First Army and the newly formed Second Army cleared the Argonne forest, pushed the Germans West of the Meuse, and were preparing to cut the railway lines at Sedan when the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918[4].

The Meuse-Argonne offensive was the bloodiest campaign of the war for U.S. forces, claiming a total of 117,000 casualties and wounded[4].

Trench Warfare[edit | edit source]

The Western Front which ran through France and Belgium was the most active front of WWI. A system of complicated trenches that, according to Les Jenson of the North Carolina Museum of History, “could be very confusing, especially in the dark” zigzagged over the Western Front causing communication problems within the troops. Runners, or communicators sent from the officers at the back of the trenches to the infantrymen at the front, often got lost in the maze or stuck in the mud of the trenches. This delayed crucial information and confused or delayed military activities[7].

Trenches were fragile, dug in mud and reinforced with anything that could be found. When soldiers were in quiet sectors or at the back of the lines for rest, they spent their days reinforcing and repairing old trenches or building new ones[7]. Troops not in active combat complained about this daily chore[2].

At the front lines, soldiers had only the trenches for shelter and rations for food. Rations, or portions of portable and nonperishable food, usually consisted of hard tack, or stale biscuits, and corned beef. Rations were not enough to feed all the troops, and even if they were, the difficulty of trench warfare caused them to be delivered late[7]. Because of this, soldiers often had to live off the land for extended periods of time while in active combat.

General References[edit | edit source]

"LIFE IN THE TRENCHES A CONTINUED MISERY." Los Angeles Times (1886-1922): 1. Dec 27 1914. ProQuest. Web. 17 Mar. 2015 .

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Gatton, Harry. "Robert March Hanes, 1890-1959." Ed. William S. Powell. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 3 Mar. 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Hanes, Robert March. WWI letters. August 1918-December 1918. Folder 17-26, Southern Historical Collection. UNC Libraries. Chapel Hill, NC. 3 March 2015.
  3. "R.M. Hanes, Banker, 68." The Washington Post and Times Herald [Washington, D.C.] 12 Mar. 1959, City Life sec.: 82. WP Company LLC D/b/a The Washington Post. Web. 3 Mar. 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Daly, R. W. "Meuse-Argonne Offensive." Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003. 338-339. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
  5. Correspondent, A. "THE STRATEGIC PIVOT." The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959): 6. Oct 21 1918. ProQuest. Web. 17 Mar. 2015 .
  6. Braim, Paul F. "The Meuse-Argonne Offensive (1918)." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Ed. John W. Chambers. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2004. N. pag. Oxford Reference. Web.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Jenson, Les. "WWI: Life on the Western Front." NCPedia. State Library of North Carolina, n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2015.