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A tribute to Ammon K. Gibble
Ammon K. Gibble, who resided on a farm outside of town, was the first boy from the Manheim community to lose his life in France during World War I. He was less than one month short of his 20th birthday. The whole town was in mourning.
On Aug. 2, 1918 at 12:01 a.m., while Gibble’s Army unit, the 110th Infantry Regiment of the Pennsylvania 28th Division was dug-in and sleeping in the woods in France, an enemy airplane passed overhead, dropping six “monster” bombs on the camp. Twenty-two doughboys were killed and 80 wounded. Regimental records were blown to bits or covered with debris. Among those wounded was Gibble, who lost his life several days later from his injuries. He was listed as killed on Aug. 7.
A meeting was called of all Manheim Service Men on Nov. 7, 1919, for the purpose of organizing a Post of the American Legion. Chairman Dr. D.W. Martin entertained discussion for the naming of the Post and the name Ammon K. Gibble was chosen by secret ballot. Dues were set at $1 per year. There were forty-eight charter members. The honorary naming of the Legion Post brought Ammon K. Gibble close to the hearts of the community and especially to the hearts of his military comrades.
Ammon was born to Ephraim G. Gibble and Lizzie (Keener) Gibble. Both parents had local extended families reaching back into the 1700’s. They lived in Rapho Township outside of Manheim, towards Mastersonville. Lizzie was a member of Hernley’s Mennonite Church. Ammon lost his father at the age of eight and was eventually raised by his grandparents: Benjamin G. and Mary B. Gibble (as listed in the 1910 census).
Life was not exactly blissful for Ammon, being an orphan, subject to the rigors of farm work. This could have been the cause for his voluntary enlistment in “the guard.” Here was the chance for him to get out on his own and get to see the world outside of Rapho. The postmaster was the recruiting agent in those days.
During the summer of 1921, the widow, Lizzie Gibble, became lonely and lackluster. She missed her son immensely. She contacted the Army and requested her son’s body be returned to her. She contacted the Legion Post for assistance in these matters and the eventual military burial of her son. The Legion was glad to help her.
Gibble’s body was exhumed and brought back to the United States and finally arrived at the funeral home of Undertaker W. P. Keech in Manheim. His mother requested a military funeral conducted at her home church with the American Legion in charge. This information was given to Rev. John Snavely, preacher of the Mennonite congregation of Hernley’s Church and Dr. D.W. Martin, of Manheim, Commander of the Ammon k. Gibble Post American Legion, who would work out the details.
Things became stressful when it was learned that no decoration was allowed in the Mennonite Church, including the flag draped over the casket. The Manheim Legion notified the Legion Department of Pennsylvania headquarters for advice in the matter. Soon, word got around the State through the Legion network about the dilemma. Unfortunately, Rev. John Snavely was held totally accountable for the problem. Letters came pouring in to Manheim with support from other Legion Posts and many other Patriotic Orders as far away as Massachusetts, but no real advice was offered.
The unpleasant controversy gave parties a great deal of newspaper publicity and editorial comment since the plain sect churches were not understood in their conservative thinking and house rules. As is often the case in such matters, the facts in a number of instances had become quite perverted and criticism was most severe. The Manheim Sentinel newspaper ran a lengthy editorial letter in defense of Rev. Snavely. The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States was mentioned.
After a conference between American Legion Commander Martin and Mrs. Gibble, it was decided to hold the funeral services in Salem United Brethren Church in Manheim, with Rev. A.L. Haeseler officiating. The flag could be displayed there. This provision honored Mrs. Gibble’s request of a proper military funeral with interment in the family plot at Hernley’s burial grounds adjoining Hernley Mennonite Church. A great sigh of relief was heard throughout the community when Ammon K. Gibble was finally laid to rest on Aug. 5, 1921.
A Welcome Home Celebration for the “Sons of Manheim and Vicinity” who served in the World War was held in Manheim on Oct. 17-18, 1919. Listed on the event program were 140 servicemen returned, 12 dead. Their occupations included: bugler, aviator, signalman, infantryman, field artillery, engineer, medical corpsman and musician.
Ammon K. Gibble served with his regiment nineteen days in combat at Champagne-Marne and 19 days at Aisne-Marne, with the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) For this combat service he was eligible for one victory medal clasp each. He was eligible for the WWI Victory medal. Of course, he was eligible for the “wound stripe” which is today’s Purple Heart decoration. There is no record he ever received any of these decorations. He did receive the French Death Memorial Certificate along with eleven other Manheim area doughboys. His French Death Memorial is displayed at the American Legion Post in Manheim. A special memorial service was held at Manheim Lutheran Church on Feb. 29, 1920, honoring those recipients.
Through its service in France and Germany during WWI, the 110th Regiment earned high praise and recognition in various offenses. Their casualties were 15,433 &tstr; the highest among any national guard unit. The Germans called the unit “The Bucket of Blood” because of the red keystone patch on their uniform. The mules that pulled their gun carriages were given gas masks in preference to the men because the men could be replaced, but the mules could not.
Submitted by Richard E. Martin, Ammon K. Gibble Post 0419, Adjutant