This week’s Past Tense focuses on two Camp Gordon soldiers, whose descendants have shared their photographs and history with me, Julius Lombardi of New York City and Edward Mauney of Blairsville, Georgia. The next Past Tense will tell the stories of George Shevenock, who came to Camp Gordon from Carlisle, Pennsylvania and Mabry Lunceford from Camp Hill, Alabama.
Julius Lombardi’s granddaughter shared his journey. He first came to New York City from San Marino with his family in 1907, at the age of 14. Ten years later, he was drafted and sent to New York’s Camp Upton and soon after to Camp Gordon in Chamblee, Georgia. Camp Gordon was one of sixteen training camps quickly constructed across the country as America entered World War I. The site was later the home of Naval Air Station Atlanta and today is the location of DeKalb Peachtree Airport.
Lombardi’s first letters home were in Italian, but he soon found that these letters went through a lengthy censor process and began writing in English. A friend from the Charlton Street Memorial Church encouraged Lombardi to write down his experiences in a journal and this same person kept the letters he wrote to her during his service. The church had helped the family when they first arrived in New York.
In his early days at Camp Gordon, Lombardi writes, “All the boys down here have it the same way and we need help and this we get at Y.M.C.A., the only place that makes us forget home-sickness. Every day we have one hour to sing because our Commanders know it is best to keep us in good humor.”
Julius Lombardi was part of the 82nd Division, 325th Regiment, Company I. The 325th Regiment marched from Camp Gordon to Piedmont Park, where they camped before continuing to Emory University on March 28, 1918. Almost four thousand soldiers marched through Atlanta to cheers as they prepared to travel by train to New York and then depart for England.
In England, the 325th Regiment had the honor of being reviewed by King George V in London. The 325th participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive beginning in September of 1918. Lombardi was taken prisoner on Oct. 11, 1918 and taken to Rastatt. After not receiving any letters from her son, Lombardi’s mother reached out to the Red Cross, who replied they will let her know as soon as they hear anything.
A postcard from Lombardi attempts to reassure his mother. “Dear Mother – Since I was captured the 11th of October I have been thinking of you as I know you will worry about me, I hope this card reaches you quickly. I am feeling fine. Don’t worry. Regards to friends. Kisses for you all. Your Devoted Son Julius.”
Good news came to the family in New York City by way of a telegram on Dec. 24, 1918, “Your son Corporal Julius Lombardi officially reported released from German Prison Camp at Rastatt and returned to France in good health.”
Edward J. Mauney reported to Camp Gordon on Aug. 26, 1918. Mauney was born in Blairsville in 1897 and lived there all his life. Dunwoody resident Mike Hill has the family Bible where his Uncle Ed recorded his journey during World War I. Mauney was a historian and genealogist for Union County and enjoyed sharing history with his family.
From Camp Gordon, Mauney reported to Camp Merritt in Cresskill, New Jersey on Oct. 22. Four days after arriving at Camp Merritt, he sailed to Liverpool, landing on Nov. 8. He was in Company E of the 329th Infantry, 83rd Division. Mauney and the 329th Infantry stopped at Knotty Ash in Liverpool for one week, then travelled to Southampton.
They crossed the English Channel, going from LeHavre to Le Mans to Aise, and then finally to Brest for three weeks. Mauney recorded that he spent a few days in the hospital at Le Mans, but he didn’t record whether he was sick or if he was helping at the hospital.
Since the war ended Nov. 11, the 329th returned to New York by way of the White Star Lines and Cunard Lines and Mauney was home on Jan. 31, 1919. Mauney kept a summer and winter uniform, helmet, foot locker, dog tags, and memorabilia, which are still in the family.