In honor of Memorial Day 2019, we are highlighting one of the founding members of Haddam who had a history of military service in this three part series compiled by Stew Gillmor. Part One of the series can be found HERE.
On October 1st 1917, Hezekiah “Hez” Scovil Porter left Yale, traveled to Niantic, Connecticut and joined the 101st Machine Gun Battalion, 26th Division. And he left immediately for France via Montreal and Southhampton, England. Hez wrote to his sister Louise that he saw no submarines on the way other, that German prisoners were working at the English camp, and he greatly missed sugar in his food. He was soon in France.
Brother Phil had joined the fledgling Army Air Corps in 1917 and went to Cornell University in the School of Military Aeronautics, then to Ft. Worth and then San Antonio Texas for actual flying training in a Curtiss JN4 “Jenny.” Hez wrote to sister Louise in Spring 1918 that the food was good in the trenches and in June, that he felt that brother Phil would be over there soon as a flyer. He also noted that he saw a number of Choate and Yale students in his area and enjoyed talking with them. Brother Phil did soon graduate as a flying officer in the US Army Air Corps, on August 13, 1918. But he never got out of Texas. The war was over in November and he was discharged on January 11, 1919. Phil’s Army Air Corps uniform hangs today in the Haddam Veteran’s Museum.
Ironically, young brother Hezekiah Scovil Porter had been killed three weeks before Phil graduated from flying school, by artillery shrapnel and machine gun fire, on July 22,1918. This occurred during the Second Battle of the Marne, July 15-August 6th, 1918, the last major German offensive on the Western Front. In total the battle cost 280,000 men dead or wounded, including 12,000 US troops. Private Hez Porter’s unit’s machine guns were set up on the edge of a wood in a defensive position. They got orders to support an attack by the 102nd Infantry on the town of Epieds, north of Chateau-Thierry. They were walking across a wheat field and machine gun bullets kicked up “puffs of dust all around us and enemy artillery came down fiercely…one pounders and 105s and Austrian 88s…with the shriek of a thousand devils…It was here that Hez Porter, following his platoon leader, was instantly killed” [notes compiled by a YMCA Chaplain from fellow soldier’s statements and diaries]. The firing was too heavy to bury Hez that day, so his buddies returned three days later and made a temporary grave. Hez is buried today at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois (Aisne). The cemetery is located about 70 miles northeast of Paris. Today Hez’s name is chiseled in a tribute in marble in the Choate School Memorial Hall, named for the 16 Choate alumni who died in service during the First World War. His name, military unit and Yale Class is also etched in marble in the Memorial Rotunda at Woolsey Hall at Yale, in a section remembering all Yale alumni who perished in war. Two other Haddam boys also died in World War I, Hilmer D. Johnson, and William T. Woodruff who died in October 1918 just weeks before the end of the war.
Soon after the end of WWI, brother Phil was married to Orvilla Virginia Benson and was living in a very large house at the intersection of Brainerd and Christian Hill Roads. Phil had two sons, Philip Wells Porter, Jr. (whom everyone called “Bud”), born June 19, 1919, and John Scovil Porter, who died as a newborn infant, and a daughter Winifred Lucile Porter, who was born November 1921. Phil Senior worked at the Russell Co. in Middletown for a while and then at the D & H Scovil company, where he rose to company President. When Bud was 6, the large home on Christian Hill burned down and the family moved to 8 Landing Road, which Bud called his Higganum home for the rest of his life. Interestingly, Bud at age 6 thought he had set the house on fire because he remembered running out of the house with his mother and little sister Winifred. In fact, the source of the fire was in the topmost part of the house. Bud’s mother Orvilla took Bud and his young sister and locked them into an automobile on the property to keep them out of the way of the conflagration. Bud’s dad, Phil Senior, was active in local things, including being Chair of Haddam’s Board of Education during Bud’s high school years. To be continued…
I am grateful to several persons for information and photographs for this article. Especially I am in debt to Charles Rounds, Jr, and members of the larger Porter family, to the Choate Rosemary Hall School archives, to Elizabeth Malloy and the Haddam Historical Society, to the Haddam Veteran’s Museum, and to Bud’s life-long friend and neighbor Jack Calhoun.
Photo Credit: Biplanes (US Army photo), Hezekiah photo courtesy of the Choate Rosemary Hall school archives. Phil Porter Sr. photo is courtesy of Charles Rounds, Jr.