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The ‘Fairfax Four’

Legion Post named after WWI fallen soldiers

Charles Buehler is buried in France. No photo available

The last “No Man’s Land” battles during the final three months of WWI claimed the lives of thousands of men on both sides including four Fairfax soldiers who were all killed within 32 days of each other during ferocious fighting leading to the terms of the Armistice Day signing with Germany on Nov. 11,1918, to “end the war of all wars.”

The Fairfax Four fought in places like the brutal Meuse-Argonne Forest offensive northeast of Paris, where the American Army, under the command of Gen. John Pershing, endured barbed wire, trench warfare, machine guns, lethal poison gas, tank attacks, artillery barrages, rain, mud, rats, sickness and disease.

This battle, beginning in September 1918, was the largest in American history at the time. It lasted 47 days and raged over difficult terrain. The killed and wounded from open-field tactics mounted to 120,000 doughboys or 10 percent of the American total fighting force in France.

From the time the United States entered the war in April 1917 until November 1918, 1,432 Minnesotans died of wounds and 2,175 more died of other causes.

The four Fairfax men killed near the end of the war included William Bruggeman on Sept. 16, 1918; Charles Buehler, Sept. 29, 1918; Clarence Buehler, Oct. 5, 1918 and Raymond Mantel, Oct. 17, 1918.

They are the four soldiers for whom in 1919 the newly established Fairfax American Legion BBM Post 205 was named, to honor the sacrifice they made nearly 100 years ago on the battlefields of France.

The following are the stories of these men.

William Bruggeman

William Bruggeman Contributed photo

William Bruggeman was born on July 26, 1889, in Mankato but moved to Fairfax when he was 3 years old, where he grew up on a farm a few miles from town.

In 1913 he accepted a position with the Dickmeyer Implement Company in Fairfax and worked there until he entered military service on Sept. 19, 1917.

He was assigned to the 151st Infantry and sent to Camp Dodge, Iowa. Next, he was transferred to Camp Gordon, Ga. on April 15, 1918, and joined a medical detachment on April 20. He sailed overseas and arrived in France with medical corpsmen on May 25, 1918. His duties were to take wounded men to dressing stations and to hospitals.

Bruggeman saw action from June 15, 1918, until he was wounded three months later on Sept. 15, 1918, at Dienland, France. He died the following day on Sept. 16 at age 29 in a field hospital from shrapnel wounds in the chest.

In July 1921 his body was returned to Fairfax by train from Hoboken, N.J. He was buried in the St. Andrew’s Catholic Cemetery north of town. A Fairfax Legion Post burial honor squad fired three volleys and Taps was played over the grave.

Charles Buehler

Charles Buehler, the son of Joseph and Amelia Buehler, was born in Germany in 1887. He immigrated to America in 1895 and lived with his family when they moved to Fairfax in 1900.

Later, Charles moved to Michigan where he worked with his brother in Detroit before entering military service in that state and was assigned with the 119th Field Artillery Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division.

He was sent overseas on March 6, 1918, and died in France on Sept. 29, 1918. The commander, Col. Chester B. McCormick, later wrote about the movements of the 119th regiment upon entering the Muese-Argonne Forest offensive.

“Beginning Sept. 16 there followed seven nights of exhausting forced marches in rain and mud which was a severe test upon the morale of men and horses,” McCormick noted.

“On the night of the 24th the regiment entered the lines. On the morning of the 26th, after a tremendous artillery preparation the infantry went ‘over the top’ on the same ground where a half million perished on either side in the operations around Verdun in 1916.

“After many hours delay in the preparations of roads across ‘No Man’s Land’ you succeeded in reaching enemy positions. Supporting artillery batteries suffered one of the most trying ordeals of their experience in the war.

“Occupying in what were impossible positions in the face of terrible destructive fire of the enemy with its toll of death, you without flinching, again demonstrated that indomitable dogged spirit of true artillery and stuck to your guns.”

Buehler’s body was never returned to the states, and he’s buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France.

Clarence Albert Buehler

Clarence Buehler Contributed photo

Clarence Albert Buehler, son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Buehler ,was born Oct. 11, 1889, in Fairfax. After completing his education in Fairfax Public Schools, he traveled to Minneapolis and Spokane, Wash., where he was employed by the Northern Pacific Railroad Company before enlisting for the service in Washington state.

After training, Buehler went to France in May 1918, where he was assigned to the 28th or Keystone Division, 110th Infantry. He went into action on Sept. 29, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Forest offensive and was listed killed on Oct. 5 during heavy shelling at a position near the colonel’s dugout.

With communication wires cut, Buehler was detailed as a dispatch runner, and he and another buddy were sent back of the lines to bring up Company M of the 110th to their assistance, as they were badly in need of reinforcements.

His partner, Ernest Davis, later gave an account of the last time he saw Buehler. “I was with him as runners on Sept. 27 in bringing reinforcements up to the line. When we found the company we went back with it to the front line through heavily shelled areas. From here we were again ordered back to regimental headquarters which was stationed in a dugout,” Davis explained.

“Clarence assumed the outside post while I went in to see the colonel. When I returned he was nowhere to be seen. All the while the shelling of the ground was very, very heavy. So I think Clarence must have been hit with a big shell and couldn’t have suffered much. There were companies of soldiers all around lying in trenches, and he was close to the dugout when hit,” he said.

Back home the Buehler family received a telegram about their son from the War Department on Nov. 24, 1918 which stated he was officially reported missing in action. Four agonizing months later a second telegram came from the War Department confirming that Clarence had been killed in action. His last letter home was dated Sept. 20, 1918.

One of the outstanding achievements of the 110th Infantry during the war was the rescue of the famous “Lost Battalion” of the 77th Infantry Division in the Argonne Forest Sept. 26-Oct. 9.

During operations in the Argonne the 110th Infantry, 28th Division bore the full brunt of the German bid to break through and capture Paris.

General Pershing gave the unit the name “Iron Horse” and declared that the 28th soldiers were “Men of Iron.” The 28th developed a red keystone shaped shoulder patch, officially adopted on Oct. 27, 1918, 23 days after Buehler’s death.

In September 1921 Buehler’s body was brought back from Hoboken, N.J. A funeral service was held at the Ft. Ridgely Amphitheater, and he was buried in the nearby Ft. Ridgely Cemetery by the United Methodist Church with full military honors provided by the Fairfax Legion Post.

Raymond Arthur Mantel

Raymond Mantel Contributed photo

Raymond Arthur Mantel, the grandson of two Civil War veterans, was born on a farm near Fairfax in 1892 and grew up in the Fairfax community.

He decided to move to Montana in 1916 and took up a homestead. When the United States entered the war in April 1917, Mantel tried to enlist but was rejected for physical reasons. Later, however, he was called to service in the Selective Service Draft and sent to Camp Lewis, Wash., and assigned to the 158th Infantry.

He was transferred to Camp Kearney, Calif., and Camp Mills, N.Y. before leaving for overseas duty in August 1918. After arriving in France he optimistically wrote home in September that he hoped to be in Berlin by Thanksgiving Day. But he was at the front just 22 days, dying in France on Oct. 17, 1918, from wounds received in action in the Meuse-Argonne Forest.

A buddy sent home a humorous poem about Kaiser which Mantel was carrying in his uniform pocket when he was killed. This stained and worn piece of paper and a certificate signed by President Woodrow Wilson telling how Mantel served with honor in the war by dying in the service of his country, were precious possessions of the Mantel family after his death.

Mantel’s body was returned to America in July 1921. A funeral was held at the Fort Ridgely Amphitheater and he was buried by the Fairfax Methodist Church with three parting volleys fired and Taps sounded by BBM Post 205 at a location near Clarence Buehler’s gavesite.

The BBM post initials, for Bruggeman, the Buehlers and Mantel, have been a lasting tribute for nearly 100 years to the men who paid the ultimate cost of losing their lives when they answered the call to serve and became heroes remembered.

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