Many Manchesterites are aware of the William M. Jutras Post #43, an American Legion Post that has been around since 1919. But not many outside of that organization can tell much about the man the post is named after. In addition, at the location where the Jutras Post building originally sat (228 McGregor Street), a plaque can be found in McGregor Park on the northwest corner of Amory and McGregor Streets. That plaque reads: “LT. WILLIAM H. JUTRAS. CO. A 103rd INF. 26th. DIV. KILLED IN ACTION SEPT 26, 1918, AT RIAVILLE. FRANCE. AGE 26."
Photograph and copyright by Kevin Cronin. Used with his knowledge and permission.
Perhaps the best way to know is to read the original commendation that describes his heroic action for which he was awarded (posthumously) the Distinguished Service Cross:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant (Infantry) William M. Jutras, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 103d Infantry Regiment, 26th Division, A.E.F., near Riaville, France, 26 September 1918. When the platoon on the right flank of his company was threatened by an enfilading movement of enemy machine guns, Lieutenant Jutras carried a message to the commander of that platoon through deadly machine gun and minenwerfer bombardment. It then was necessary to establish liaison with the company on the right to save this platoon from annihilation, and knowing that he faced almost certain death, this gallant officer unhesitatingly volunteered for this mission and crossed a terrain swept by converging machine gun fire. Mortally wounded, he delivered his message in time to save his platoon.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 142 (1918)
Action Date: 26-Sep-18
Rank: First Lieutenant
Regiment: 103d Infantry Regiment
Division: 26th Division, American Expeditionary Forces [Co. A]
Photograph of William H. Jutras recognition plaque, located in Manchester, NH, at the corners of Amory and McGregor Streets. Copyright of Martin Miccio for the City of Manchester, and used here with permission
William Hilair Jutras, son of Alfred & Mattie/Martha (Barbeau) Jutras, was born on 19 September 1891 in Peterborough, Hillsborough Co. NH. By 1900, the Jutras family had moved and were living in Manchester, NH, at 377 Carter Street. William’s father was a roofer by trade (as was his own grandfather). William probably attended the local schools and then began working in a local grocery.
In June 1917, at the time of his military registration for World War I, he indicated he had formerly been a shoe worker at J.M. Hoyt Co. This form shows William’s birth year as 1890 and that he had been serving already for 8 years. This leads me to believe that when he initially enlisted in New Hampshire’s National Guard’s 1st NH Infantry [about 1909], he probably indicated on the paperwork that he was a year older in order, as he was underage.
Portrait of William H. Jutras standing by the side of the road next to a wire fence on the Mexican Border, possibly Bigford, Texas, 1949. From MHA Photoprint Collection, Manchester Historic Association Collection
For the Mexican border crisis of 1916, New Hampshire deployed one infantry regiment (1st NH Regiment, Company A) to Laredo, Texas, and William M. Jutras was with them. 58,664 Guardsmen had been mobilized from every state (except Nevada, which had no National Guard in 1916) by President Woodrow Wilson to guard the U.S.-Mexico border against bandit raids from Mexico.
When America entered WWI (1917-1918), the 1st New Hampshire Infantry sailed to France and became the First Army Headquarters Regiment. Most of the rest of the state militia was assigned to the 26th Division and fought in six campaigns in France. Lt. William H. Jutras was assigned to 26th Division, 103d Infantry, Company A, also known as the “Yankee Division” for its preponderance of the division’s New England origins.
The book “With the Yankee division in France,” by Frank Palmer Sibley, published in 1919, goes into great detail about what the brave men, including William H. Jutras, experienced in Europe, so I will not repeat most of what is printed there. What is known from the citation above is that he risked and lost his life for his platoon. An addendum to the story is that three men–Andreas Nilsen (a Red Cross man from North Dakota), Cyrus Wallace (of Dexter, Maine), and Corporal Herve L’Heureux (of Manchester, NH) volunteered to help recover the badly wounded Jutras from the battlefield, despite the grave dangers. They were successful, William H. Jutras delivered his message to save his platoon, but he died shortly afterward. He received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously (see newspaper notice below).
October 13, 1918, Boston Herald Newspaper announced: DIED OF WOUNDS
JUTRAS, LT. WILLIAM H., 185 Beech Street, Manchester, N.H. A Company, 103d infantry. Unofficial.
A Manchester Union newspaper headline soon after.
SECOND OFFICER FROM CITY DIES: First Lieutenant William Hilair Jutras, Company A 103d Infantry, Succumbs to Wounds.
Lieutenant William Hilair Jutras of Company A, Old Lafayette Guards, 103d Infantry, died September 26 from wounds received in action, a telegram received last night from the war department announced. The word came to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Jutras of 185 Beech Street. The local officer who has been in the Lafayette Guards for nine years was made First Lieutenant two months ago. He had held the rank of Second Lieutenant for some time. He is the second Manchester Officer to give his life for his country. Lieutenant Donor Genard [Editors Note: Aimee D. Genard] of the same company dying early in the summer. Lieutenant Jutras’ name had not been in a casualty list among those wounded. It is believed he received his death wound in the Saint Mihiel battle. In the last letter from him, dated September 8, he wrote that he was well. “Don’t worry,” wrote Jutras, "I am always enjoying the best health and am always on the job. Believe me, I love it. This is the life for a man who wants to work and you can imagine how proud I am of my commission as First Lieutenant.” The soldier stated in the same letter that they were not working hard then. He said he was living in a “chateaux” 18 feet underground. “However we are not complaining at all, we have plenty to eat and we are comfortable for the time being. We have traveled almost to the four corners of this country and since we have been overseas, I have seen many beautiful places. Coming here, we passed the village of Barleduc. First, we were at Liffol-le-grand, in the Vosges, which we left February 4 for the Toul sector, but we are far from that place now.” Lieutenant Jutras was 27 years of age. He was a shoemaker, conducting a cobbler shop until he went to the Mexican border. Upon returning from Texas, he went to work in a shoe factory. His long association with the Lafayette Guards made him one of the best-known of the younger military officers in the city. He leaves, besides his parents, two brothers, Ernest and Romeo, and two sisters, Aldea and Rosalma.
View of William H. Jutras flag-draped casket, St. Raphael’s Parish. The casket is on a caisson with soldiers on both sides of the street. MHA Photoprint Collection, Manchester Historical Association.
The body of William H. Jutras was brought home for burial and placed in St. Augustin Cemetery, in the Jutras family plot. The Manchester Union newspaper announced the following.
BURROUGHS EULOGIZES LIEUTENANT WILLIAM HILAIR JUTRAS
The funeral of Lieutenant William Hilair Jutras of this city, who was killed in action during the famous Saint Mihiel drive and whose body was returned to this country for burial, was held Sunday afternoon in what is considered to be the largest attended military funeral that has been conducted in this state since the World War.
Governor Albert Q. Brown, unable to attend the funeral due to official duties, sent the following telegram to the Jutras Post Officers: “I shall be unable to stand with you at the bier of Lieutenant Jutras, but his name and fame will remain with me while memory endures. Let us bear in mind that it is not the length of life but the fullness that makes for service and for glory.
Congressman Sherman E. Burroughs, representing Governor Brown, gave the funeral address at the Post Hall. He referred to the problems of “immeasurable magnitude” which face this country and declared that it should be possible and would be possible to make the proper readjustments necessary in this country if there is the same unselfish interest in the country’s welfare on the part of all the citizens” manifested so splendidly in the service and sacrifice of this gallant young soldier.”
Congressman Burroughs, in the opening, pointed out how “wholly cheap and inadequate” were any words to express the sentiments of those attending and himself. They were there, he added, to pay the homage of respect to one who gave all he had to give–even to his life–for the institutions and ideals of America.
Following the beautiful ceremonies at the Post Hall came the funeral procession to Saint Augustin’s Church and from there to the cemetery. At the church, Father L. A. Ramsay, a former army chaplain and chaplain of the Jutras Post, was the officiating clergyman and delivered the oration. He was assisted by Father C. M. Burque as a deacon and four former servicemen. The servicemen who assisted at the church were George Robitaille, Ernest Bernir, Adelmore Letendre, and Wilfred Remillard. At the cemetery, five buglers sounded “Taps,” and as the body was lowered into the grave white carnations were thrown upon the casket by the members of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Jutras and Sweeny Posts.
B. C. Lambert and Company were in charge of funeral arrangements.
December 15, 1919, newspaper clipping about the award of Distinguished Service Cross. From the Boston Herald newspaper (Boston, MA)
On Monday, December 15, 1919, the Boston Herald (Boston, MA), page 4, announced, D.S.C. GIVEN TO MOTHER OF DEAD LIEUTENANT.
Legion Post for Whom Hero Was Named is Formally Dedicated.
Dec 11–Mrs. Martha Barbeau Jutras, mother of Lt. William H. Jutras, who was killed in France, and after whom a local American Legion post is named, was this evening decorated with the D.S.C. awarded her soldier son posthumously by Maj. Oscar G. Lagerquiest, officially representing Maj.-Gen. Clarence R. Edwards, under whom Lt. Jutras served in the 26th division. Presentation of the cross took place at dedicatory exercises held by Jutras post. Gov. John H. Bartlett, Maj. Frank Knox, Mayor Moise Verrette, and Capt. D.S. Robinson made speeches.