Thursday, March 01, 2018

John Junius Lea (1895-1918)

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John Junius Lea (1895-1918)

When John Junius Lea registered June 5, 1917, for the World War I draft, he was single, and living with with his parents in Milton, Caswell County, North Carolina. He was described as a tall negro of medium build, with black eyes and hair. He was not bald and had no disability.

Registrant Lea was born August 1, 1895, in Milton, Caswell County, North Carolina, to John Lea and Maria Bell Scott Lea, who he listed as dependents on his draft registration form (but this may have been an error). John Junius Lea, who went by Johnnie, apparently could not write as he signed the registration form with his mark. He claimed no exemption from service. He had at least eight siblings.

Johnnie Lea was inducted into military service July 18, 1918, at Yanceyville, North Carolina, when his age was described as 22 11/12 years. From July 18, 1918, to August 25, 1918, he served as a private in "38 Co 154 Dep' Brig." From August 25, 1918, until his death November 6, 1918, he was assigned to Company D, 545th Engineers Service Battalion. He died overseas (possibly in France), where he had served since September 23, 1918. He received no injury or wound as a result of combat, and died from pneumonia. His father, John Lea (Route 1, Box 30, Caswell County, N.C.) was informed of Johnnie's death. Whether pneumonia was secondary to influenza is not documented.

Where Johnnie is buried is not known. However, his service and sacrifice apparently is recognized on the World War I memorial on the Square in Yanceyville, North Carolina.

The identity of the following is not entirely understood "38 Co 154 Dep' Brig." This could be Company 38, 154th Department of Brigade (or Depot of Brigade). Presumably, but not confirmed, this was an initial training assignment. And, based upon the following description of depot brigades, Johnnnie Lea may first have been assigned to Camp Meade, Maryland.

The role of depot brigades was to receive and organize recruits, provide them with uniforms, equipment and initial military training, and then send them to France to fight on the front lines. The depot brigades also received soldiers returning home at the end of the war and completed their out processing and discharges. Depot brigades were often organized, reorganized, and inactivated as requirements to receive and train troops rose and fell, and later ebbed and flowed during post-war demobilization.

Depot brigades were organized into numbered battalions (1st Battalion, 2d Battalion, etc.), which in turn were organized into numbered companies.

The major U.S. depot brigades organized for World War I, which remained active until after post-war demobilization included: 151st (Camp Devens); 152d (Camp Upton); 153d (Camp Dix); 154th (Camp Meade); 155th (Camp Lee); 156th (Camp Jackson); 157th (Camp Gordon); 158th (Camp Sherman); 159th (Camp Taylor); 160th (Camp Custer); 161st (Camp Grant); 162d (Camp Pike); 163d (Camp Dodge); 164th (Camp Funston); 165th (Camp Travis); 166th (Camp Lewis); and 167th (Camp McClellan).

Source: Wikipedia contributors, "152d Depot Brigade (United States)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed March 1, 2018).

Name of Organization: 545th Engineers (colored service battalion)
Date Authorized: July 29, 1918
Authorized Maximum Strength (enlisted men): 1,008
When Sailed for American Expeditionary Forces: September 23, 1918
Assignments Abroad: Advance section and 1st Army area on quarry and road work
When Returned to United States: June 27, 1919
When Demobilized or Transferred: June 30, 1919

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