This morning I was checking something on eBay, got distracted, wandered off, and wound up contemplating a Missouri antique dealer’s listing for a war souvenir: Old WW2 Silver Coin Soldier Engraved Germany LOOK. I scrolled down the page and looked. It was a silver coin from Germany that had been smoothed off and engraved on one side, like a primordial version of those souvenir re-stamped pennies you get at tourist traps. The rather elegant engraving on the coin appeared to say “Pvt. M. C. Mayfield, H. Co. 356 Inf. 2189159.”
I squinted at the lettering. Those were WWII-era letterforms? Sure didn’t look like it to me. Or was that lettering style still being used, twenty years after it was fashionable, by engravers of souvenir coins…?
I love Google because to think of a question is to begin to answer it. I opened a new tab and typed in H “356 infantry” mayfield. And lo, there was a listing for a book: “History of Co. A, 356 Infantry, 1st Battalion, 89th Division.” I thought it was a near-miss until I took a closer look at the sample text:
Marcellus H. Chiles, who had been in command of the Company for some time, …… Pvt. Maynard C. Mayfield, Oates, Mo. Pvt. Willie E. Long, Hinton, Alabama. …Huh. I went back and looked at the coin again. Could that be an A, rather than an H? It could. I clicked through on the link to the book:
Sometimes when you think you’re asking the internet an obscure question, the information falls right out of your screen and into your lap.
The World War with Company “A”, 356 Infantry, 89th Div., National Army: From Camp Funston, Kansas to Schweich, Germany, via Canada - England - France - Belgium - Luxembourg (Treves: 1919, Paulinus Druckerei)
Company A went off to the Great War on May 23rd, 1918, saw their first action on August 19th at Montsec Hill, and took part in the Saint-Mihiel Offensive. They continued fighting in the Meuse/Argonne until they were relieved on November 13th, at which point their score stood at 10 dead, 61 wounded (three accidentally), four cases of shell shock, one guy listed as “missing in action” because he was never seen again after a shell landed directly on his position, and three Medal of Honor winners.* They expected to go home after that, but due to their good record were made part of the Army of Occupation, which is how they wound up hanging around in Germany, buying souvenirs and publishing their unit history.
Right there on their roster was Pvt. M. C. Mayfield: Maynard C. Mayfield, of Oates, Missouri, which is a dab of a town about 140 miles from the antique dealer. Is it the same guy? I think so. The only WWII-era 356th Infantry I can find was a unit in the Wehrmacht, and I can’t find any other Mayfields in the the WWI-era American 356th Infantry.
Writing to eBay vendors about their merchandise is starting to achieve the status of an old habit with me. This one’s my favorite so far:
Sir, I don’t believe that’s from WWII. I think it’s from WWI: Pvt. Maynard C. Mayfield, of Oates, Missouri, Company A, 1st Battalion, 89th Division. Here’s their history: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/89thdivision/1bat89-coa.htm. Pvt. M.C. Mayfield is in their roster. You can pass that on to your winning bidder.He hasn’t written back. I don’t mind. It’s not his problem. This is an editorial compulsion: sometimes you just have to query.