World War I book follows exploits of Western Pa. soldiers in 313th Machine Gun Battalion
Andrew Capets already knows plenty about local history, having co-authored a book about Trafford’s past and served as an amateur historian for the Trafford Historical Society.
But he didn’t know as much as he wanted about the history of his own family.
“When I started to learn about my grandfather and his service in World War I, I began to come across firsthand accounts written by officers in his battalion,” said Capets, 51, of North Huntingdon.
Through the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, Capets tracked down the journal kept by Lt. Minard Hamilton, his grandfather’s commanding officer in the 313th Machine Gun Battalion, which drew men from the Erie County area and Western Pennsylvania at large.
“When he passed away, someone donated all of his letters and journals to the institute,” Capets said. “As I kept finding more and going through more, I spent several years gathering information and thought this would be a great opportunity to honor these men, some of whom didn’t come home.”
As the international community marks the 100th anniversary of World War I’s end in 1918, Capets has self-published “Good War, Great Men,” an exploration of the 313th Machine Gun Battalion’s wartime exploits.
The battalion participated in was the Meuse Argonne Offensive in the fall of 1918, a battle stretching the full length of the Western Front in which 1.2 million American soldiers fought.
“It was one of the bloodiest battles in American history,” Capets said.
More than 26,000 Americans and 28,000 Germans were killed during the battle.
Capets’ grandfather, whose name he shares, left the U.S. on April 5, 2018, at 22 years old. He boarded the U.S.S. Mercury and began the journey back home on May 21, 1919, and was honorably discharged in June of that year.
Capets said the journals helped him gain a much better understanding of what the men went through.
“I was able to sort of walk through the war with my grandfather,” he said.
He felt it was important to tell the mens’ stories.
“There’s no one surviving from the first World War, and a lot of times it gets overshadowed by World War II,” he said.
Capets will give a presentation on World War I and his book at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 5 at the Manchester Room in Trafford.
“I’ll talk about some of the local history from Westmoreland County and Pittsburgh, and then talk a little about the men from my book,” he said.
For more on the presentation, see TraffordLibrary.org.
“Good War, Great Men” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.