Memorial Day 1918 was a somber day in Davenport. Not only were local citizens remembering those fallen in wars past, they were also mourning the first soldier from Davenport to be lost (only weeks earlier, in France) in the current conflict.
It was not even known on that Memorial Day where the body of Private Arthur C. Franz was laid to rest, nor where in France he died in battle.
The telegram bearing the sad news was received by Private Franz’s brother-in-law, Mr. Arthur H. Beck, at his place of employment. It simply stated “Deeply regret to inform you that Private Arthur C. Franz, Infantry, is officially reported as killed in action April 20, 1918.” It was sent by Adjutant General McCain, United States Army, in Washington.
On May 13, 1918, Private Franz’s sister, Mrs. Myrtle Beck, received a letter from Adjutant General Austin A. Parker stating that no details about Private Franz’s death were yet known. He explained that due to emergency conditions, all fallen soldiers were being buried in Europe but that after the war, their remains would be returned to the soldiers’ families at the public’s expense. The letter concluded with directions on the proper departments to contact relating to a soldier’s personal effects, insurance issues, and salary owed.
Private Franz was just a few months short of his 30th birthday.
Arthur Charles Franz was born June 3, 1888 in Muscatine, Iowa to German immigrant Charles Franz and Iowa-born Frances Neff. His only sibling was his older sister Myrtle.
Charles Franz worked in the hotel industry and moved to Davenport when Arthur was very young. Arthur’s mother died June 1901 in Davenport from typhoid fever.
Siblings Arthur and Myrtle both attended Davenport schools. Local newspapers made mention of Arthur playing baseball on a local team in May of 1902 and graduating ninth grade from Davenport School No. 8 in June 1903. Although he also attended Davenport High School, his name is not listed on any of the school’s graduation lists.
Arthur eventually followed his father into the hotel business. He moved from Davenport shortly before the war for a job in Connecticut. Franz enlisted in the United States Army in June 1917 with the 102nd U.S. Infantry and had been overseas in France since September of that year.
The Scott County Council of Defense memorialized Private Franz and Miss Marion Crandell, who died March 20, 1918 in France while working for the Red Cross, on May 7th during a program held at the Turner Grand Opera House.
By chance, just hours after she received the telegram informing her of her brother’s death, Myrtle Beck received a letter from Arthur dated April 12, 1918. It was printed in the local newspapers along with the announcement of his death. It described the body lice and rats found in the trenches and the never-ending rain in France. Just before signing off from his letter, Arthur recommended his sister read [Arthur Guy] Empey’s book Over the Top to learn more about the life of a soldier in the war.
Private Arthur C. Franz is buried at Saint Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial in Thiaucourt, France.
The Daily Times, May 2, 1918, 1.
The Davenport Democrat and Leader, May 2, 1918, 1.
The Daily Times, May 14, 1918, 7.
The Davenport Democrat and Leader, June 18, 1901, 4.
The Daily Times, May 20, 1902, 4.
The Davenport Democrat and Leader, May 3, 1918, 3.
The Davenport Democrat and Leader, May 7, 1918, 13.