By Philip R. Devlin
Born in Brooklyn, NY, on November 20, 1887, Herve Gordon Chasseaud (usually written as “H. Gordon Chasseaud”) joined the service in the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant during World War I. Chasseaud was usually known to his friends and neighbors as “Gordon.” Gordon Chasseaud initially kept a home both in Brooklyn and in Haddam, where he lived with his wife and his mother, Emma. In 1912, his parents bought a summer home at 946 Saybrook Road from the Smith family. Later, after teaching French for many years at St. Albans School, Chasseaud spent his retirement years in the Higganum section of Haddam, living near the Shad Museum.
Chasseaud’s facility with French became enormously important during the war, as most of the major battles in the Great War took place in France. He served as a liaison officer between the French government and the United States Army during the war. Later, he served with great distinction on the Commission for Relief in Belgium (the CRB) during and after the war. Following is a summary of the CRB’s mission:
Herbert Hoover founded the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) in London in October 1914 as a private organization to provide food for German-occupied Belgium. Belgium’s attempts at resistance to German military demands at the outbreak of the Great War had aroused much popular sympathy in England and the United States. A densely populated, industrialized country, Belgium depended on imports for three-quarters of its normal food supply. When the German Army began to requisition local foodstuffs and the British blockade cut off imported sources, 7 million Belgians faced severe hunger as the winter of 1914-1915 approached. When the American ambassador in London, Walter Hines Page, met with Belgian representatives, they concluded that Herbert Hoover was the best choice to administer some emergency relief action. The comprehensiveness of the program, however, was the result of Hoover’s personal determination to feed the entire nation.
The CRB conducted its humanitarian work on an unprecedented scale and with a unique administrative organization… The basic facts hint at the scope and complexity of the undertaking. Between 1914 and 1919, the CRB dispensed nearly $1 billion in order to feed 9 million Belgian and French citizens behind German lines.
Gordon Chasseaud received two medals for his distinguished service for helping the people of Belgium and France. Here is an article from the Hartford Courant describing one of his awards:
“Haddam, Aug. 28, 1919: H. Gordon Chasseaud of Brooklyn and Haddam has received the following notice: “By a dispatch of …His Majesty the King of Belgium has conferred upon you “The Medal of King Albert.” In recognition of this high distinction, His Majesty has voiced the sentiments of gratitude of all the Belgium People.”
Gordon Chaseaud lived on Old Saybrook Road in Higganum for many years. He died at age 79 in 1967 and is buried in the Haddam Cemetery with his parents, Jasper and Ella, and his wife, Marion, who died in 1978 at age 87. He had no children.
Below is his biographical sketch from Chasseaud’s Amherst College yearbook:
CHASSEAUD, Hervé Gordon, Jasper В and Ella Rosslyn (Foley) b Brooklyn NY Nov 20, 1887. BS Amh College; MA Johns Hopkins 1927. Officer de Liaison between French War Office, Paris and USA; member Hoover’s Comm for Relief in Belgium 1914-16; decorated by King Albert with Médaille du Roi Albert, m Mar 11, 1959, Marion H Springer (Fitchburg ТС) Dr. Eugene Hubbard, Leominster. res Higganum Conn.
Quotations/Memories of Gordon Chasseaud
- Taught French 23 years St. Albans School
- Created school library
- Won the jackpot on “What in the World?” (TV game show that began in 1950 in which scholar-contestants tried to identify artifacts to win a jackpot.)
Note: Haddam residents Tom Levine and Tom Furtado get an assist for this tribute. Tom Levine acquired Gordon Chasseaud’s medals a number of years ago and wanted to preserve them to honor his memory. Tom Furtado, a neighbor and friend, used to live near the “Professor” and often talked with him. Tom Furtado took me to the graveyard where the Chasseaud family is buried.