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West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


James Gibbons Cruise

"World War I claimed an estimated 16 million lives. The influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people. One fifth of the world�s population was attacked by this deadly virus. Within months, it had killed more people than any other illness in recorded history."

The Deadly Virus: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918, National Archives and Records Administration

James Gibbons Cruise was born on October 20, 1895, at Frostburg, Maryland, the youngest of eight sons of Joseph Arthur Cruise and Mary Bridget Ellen McCaffrey Cruise. Joseph and Mary were married on November 21, 1885.

James' father, Joseph Arthur Cruise, was born in April 1858 at Frostburg, Maryland, of Irish parents who arrived in New York on June 27, 1837, aboard the ship John Taylor out of Liverpool. He died of Bright's Disease on February 14, 1914, at Luke, Allegany County, Maryland, and was buried in St. Peter's Cemetery, Westernport, Maryland.

Mary Bridget Ellen McCaffrey, mother of James, was born May 26, 1866. Her parents were Patrick and Catherine Frances Welsh McCaffrey, who had emigrated from Ireland. Ellen died of broncho-pneumonia at Dayton, Ohio, on March 17, 1918, and was buried in Calvary Cemetery, Kettering, Ohio. Her son Charles was a resident of Dayton.

Joseph and Ellen were the parents of eight sons and three daughters: William Arthur, Joseph Patrick, George Emmett, Charles Parnell, John Lafayette, Edward McGlynn, Russell, James Gibbons, Kathleen (died young), Mary A. (married names: Geiser, Welsh, Fowler), and Ellen Nellie C. (married name: Mrs. Harry K. Oxrider).

James Gibbons Cruise became eligible for inclusion on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial because, as census records show, in 1910 Joseph and some of the Cruises worked for the railroad or in the coal mines of Tucker County, West Virginia. Joseph was a blacksmith as well as a coal miner. Several of his sons later served in the U.S. armed forces during WWI, and sadly three did not return home because they succumbed to the epidemic that ravaged the military (as well as civilian) world in 1918. James Gibbons Cruise, who succumbed on October 5, 1918, was the first to die. William, a private in the U.S. Marine Corps, died on October 8 at his home in Westernport. William was a mine superintendent at Hubbard, Maryland. George Emmett, a private in Company A of the U.S. Army 603rd Corps of Engineers, died later in October of lobar pneumonia at a base hospital in France. Considering that their mother had died in March of that year, 1918 was a tragic year for the Cruise family. ("Death's Doings: William and James Cruise," Piedmont Herald, 1 November 1918; "George Cruise Dies in France: Third Brother to Succumb to Disease since October," Piedmont Herald, 10 January 1919.) [William and George are not listed on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial because they maintained Maryland addresses.]

Three other sons were also veterans of The Great War. Joseph Patrick was an engineer in the 57th Transportation Corps. Edward McGlynn was a musician in the Headquarters Company, 332nd Infantry Battalion of the 83rd Division, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Russell served as a private in the 60th Infantry Battalion.

World War I, the "War to End All Wars," began in 1914 when a Serbian nationalist assassinated the heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne. On April 6, 1917, following the sinking of American merchant ships by German submarines and an attempt by Germany to engage in a military alliance with Mexico, President Woodrow Wilson reluctantly committed the United States to join the Allied countries in the war against Germany. When the call for volunteers failed to produce the needed one million troops to support the war effort, the Selective Service instituted a draft with the first registration on June 5, 1917, for all men between the ages of 21 and 31.

James Gibbons Cruise registered for the first registration of the draft at Albert, Tucker County, West Virginia. He was employed as a driver for a coal mining company, and his widowed mother was dependent upon him for support. Although photos of World War I veterans are not always readily available, we know from James' registration that he was of medium height and build with blue eyes and brown hair.

draft registration card

World War I draft registration card for James Gibbons Cruise. National Archives and Records Administration

When James Gibbons Cruise was called to serve in the U.S. Army, he was assigned to Company K of the 18th Infantry Replacement Battalion. In October 1918, he became ill with influenza which degenerated into broncho-pneumonia. 

Carol R. Byerly, writing in "The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919," reports:

The American military experience in World War I and the influenza pandemic were closely intertwined. The war fostered influenza in the crowded conditions of military camps in the United States and in the trenches of the Western Front in Europe. The virus traveled with military personnel from camp to camp and across the Atlantic, and at the height of the American military involvement in the war, September through November 1918, influenza and pneumonia sickened 20% to 40% of U.S. Army and Navy personnel. . . .Influenza and pneumonia killed more American soldiers and sailors during the war than did enemy weapons . . . .

The Army and Navy medical services may have tamed typhoid and typhus, but more American soldiers, sailors, and Marines would succumb to influenza and pneumonia than would die on the industrialized battlefields of the Great War. The story of the influenza epidemic in the military is often lost in the historical narrative of the Great War, included merely as a coda to that four-year horror, coinciding with the final battles and the Armistice. . . .

Influenza sailed with American troops across the Atlantic and when it exploded in late August and September in Europe and the United States, medical officers found themselves on the front lines of an epidemic worse than any of them had ever seen or imagined. Many were among the most knowledgeable and skilled physicians in the country and had just recently entered military service. They did their best to save those stricken by influenza, but could do little more than provide palliative care of warmth, rest, and a gentle diet, and hope that their patients did not develop pneumonia.

One of the tragedies of the influenza epidemic is that by the 1910s, the medical profession held many of the scientific and epidemiological tools to understand the nature and extent of the damage influenza and pneumonia were wreaking on their patients, but lacked the tools to effectively fight them.

The deadly second wave of the epidemic lasted about four weeks in individual camps and ran its course in the Army in about eight weeks, roughly from September 15 to November 15, 1918. (Public Health Report 2010, 125[3]: 82-91.)

Private Cruise died on October 5, 1918, in the base hospital at Camp Lee, Virginia, and was buried on October 7 at St. Peter's Cemetery, Westernport, Allegany County, Maryland.

Article prepared by Leon Armentrout
June 2019


James Gibbons Cruise

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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