James Edward Coffey

Submitted by: Donald P. Vincent {Namesake of my Nashua, NH American Legion Post 3}

James Edward Coffey

James Edward Coffey born around 1897. James Coffey served in World War 1 with the United States Army . The enlistment was in 1917 and the service was completed in 1918.

Story of Service

 

About James E. Coffey

James Edward Coffey, the first soldier from Nashua, NH to die in battle in World War I, was born on April 22, 1896, to Daniel J. and Catherine (Dillon) Coffey.

He attended Nashua schools and St. Patrick Church, and in June 1917, became one of the first Nashua men to enlist in the Army at the outbreak of the war. He was assigned to Company D, 103rd Infantry, 26th Division, and trained in Concord and Westfield, Mass.

Coffey and his unit, the famous 26th Yankee Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Edwards, deployed overseas in September 1917.

In the early morning of May 10, 1918, During the Apremont battle in St. Agnant in the Toul sector. He was serving in the front lines when the Germans put down a heavy barrage, which included poison gas shells. The Nashua youth was a victim of a poison gas attack about one o'clock on the morning of May 10, 1918 and died later that same day.

The telegram bringing news of his death was sent to his parents at 51 Broad St., as was a subsequent, March 1921 letter from the War Department. That residence is no longer there, but it probably sat between Sullivan Street and the railroad tracks.

The telegram bearing the sad news of Private Coffey's death was followed on May 27, 1918 by official confirmation from Maj. Charles C. Pierce of the Graves Registration Service in France and on July 16, 1918 from the office of Austin A. Parker, Adjutant General at Washington.

Later, his mother received from the office of Lieut. Col. C. A, Stevens, division adjutant, the formal citation for bravery. The citation is signed both by the adjutant and by General Edwards personally, and it reads:

"Pvt. James E. Coffey, Co. D. 103rd Infantry."

" I have read with much pleasure the reports of your regimental commander and brigade commander regarding your gallant conduct and devotion to duty in the field on May 10, 1918, while under heavy enemy gas attack and shell fire, St. Agnant, Toul sector, and have ordered your name and deed to be entered in the record of the Yankee Division."

"C. R. EDWARDS, Major General, Commanding 26th Division."

Coffey was awarded the French Croix de Guerre. He also received the Purple Heart and citations from General John J. Pershing, President Woodrow Wilson, and the President of France.

Private Coffey is buried in the St. Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial in Thiaucourt Meurthe et Moiselle, France. The pastoral, handsomely appointed cemetery is 40 acres and contains the graves of 4,153 American casualties.

Coffey is one of an estimated two dozen New Hampshire soldiers buried at St. Mihiel. According to one World War I casualty record, two other Nashua soldiers – Eli Bouley and Capt. Wilkie I. Elliott – are also buried there.

About American Legion, James E. Coffey Post 3, Nashua, NH

For God and Country, after the Memorial Day Parade in 1919 in Nashua, a group of local World War I veterans met at the National Guard Armory and formed a veteran’s group call "the American Legion". In 1920, a special committee in the American Legion was named to ascertain whom the first Nashua Boy was to be killed in World War I. After considerable correspondence, and much research, the committee reported that James E. Coffey was the first to die, although several other Nashua boys died later the same day. The American Legion then named the Local veterans organization, The James E. Coffey Post No. 3, The American Legion of Nashua, New Hampshire. The James E. Coffey Post 3 will be officially 100 years old on 1 July 2019.

5d20fccf15866 Private James E Coffey photo in 1917 before he shipped out to Europe

5d20fccf162f8 Photo of the grave marker of James E. Coffey 

 1919 Aug 15 Telegraph LEGION POST SELECTS NAME OF FIRST SOLDIER KILLED IN WORLD WAR