On Sunday, June 3, the centennial of Cpl. James Bennett Whipple’s death, Wilton’s American Legion Post 86 will hold a ceremony at its headquarters, 112 Old Ridgefield Road, at 11 a.m., to remember the first Wiltonian killed in action during World War I.

Whipple was born in South Wilton to Clarence and Florentine Whipple on Feb. 7, 1893. He enlisted May 18, 1917, and served in France with the 76th Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.

On June 3, 1918, Whipple’s unit was engaged in heavy fighting in the Château-Thierry region. The 25-year-old soldier died around 3 p.m. local time that day in Belleau, Aisne, France.

On July 16, 1918, The Ridgefield Press published an article — “Corporal Whipple First Boy Killed in Action” — about Whipple’s death and service.

“Corporal Whipple is the first Wilton boy to give up his life in the great cause for which the Allies are fighting,” The Ridgefield Press article says.

“Mrs. Henry Strauss of South Wilton, mother of the boy, yesterday received formal notification from the War department of the sad fact.”

The article concludes, “That the Wilton spirit would distinguish itself at the front has been confidently asserted and that her first hero should die in the ranks fighting with the famous old organization which is always first in the fight is cause for congratulation.”

Whipple is buried in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. He was awarded the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, the World War I Victory Medal, the Aisne Campaign Battle Clasp, and the Defensive Sector Battle Clasp.

Ceremony


Post 86 Adjutant Tom Moore said he wants people to realize “everybody has a story” and “that James Whipple is more than just a name on a monument,” and to do that, he said, “we need to know that there are family members.”

Moore has been in contact with members of the Whipple family and said several of them plan to attend the June 3 ceremony, including Fred Whipple — son of Cpl. Whipple’s younger brother, Joseph Reed Whipple — who will be joined by his son, Fred Whipple Jr.; Fred Jr.’s wife, Vaida, and son, Fred Whipple III; and Cpl. Whipple’s great-nephew James Whipple and his mother, Ida.

The event will include a flag ceremony and “remembrance of James B. Whipple,” said Moore.

“We will have the American Legion Department and district representatives, as well as the Wilton Police Department Color Guard,” he said.

“I will have a few words about James and his life, then end the ceremony with the American flag coming down the flagpole, folding it and presenting it to the Whipple family.”

The ceremony should take about 45 minutes and light refreshments will be served.

Information and questions may be directed to Moore at legionpost86@gmail.com.