Sons of Men - Evansville's War Record
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Capt. Austin Lee Loer
151st Infantry, 38th Division
December 20, 1889 - October 13, 1918


     Teacher, business man, journalist, man of affairs, splendid
soldier, popular everywhere, respected and beloved by all, Austin Lee
Loer met an unusual fate in the midst of an energetic and patriotic
career.

     He was born December 20, 1889, at Herbst, Ind.  His elementary
education was obtained at Merbst and Swayzee, but he went to Marion,
Ind., for his secondary education.  When he graduated from high school
he took a teachers' training course for a year at the Marion Normal
School.  For a year he taught in a rural school in Grant County,
and then entered the business world as a salesman for the Indiana
Iron & Brass Bed Company of Marion.  His territory was in Michigan
and Kentucky.  In 1912 he did secretarial work at Indianapolis for
Senator Beveridge.  He was on the editorial staff of the Indianapolis
News for a year.  In 1913 he came to this city to continue journalism
as the sporting editor of the Evansville Journal-News.  A year before
he enlisted he became assistant secretary of the Evansville Chamber
of Commerce, and was actively in charge of the Convention Bureau.
His popularity gained him admission in different social circles.  He
identified himself with several organizations, such as the Press Club,
Motor Club and Rotary Club.

     Loer did not wait for the draft when we entered the war.  On
April 2, 1917, he enlisted in Troop A, under Capt. Orion Norcross and
was commissioned a second lieutenant, Cavalry, Indiana National
Guard, by Adjt.-Gen. Harry B. Smith.  The unit was called to federal
service on August 5, and with Troop A, he left for Camp Shelby,
Hattiesburg, Miss., on the twenty-first of that month.  In October
the Indiana Cavalry was disbanded and Loer was made second lieutenant,
U.S. National Guard, 151st Infantry, Headquarters Company.  At the
end of November he was promoted to first lieutenant and was named
intelligence officer for the 151st Infantry.  In June, 1918, he
received another promotion; he then became Capt. Loer, with the title
of regimental intelligence officer.

     The following September Capt. Loer left for Camp Mills, N. Y.,
with the 151st Infantry.  Three weeks later he sailed to Montreal for
embarkation on the North-Lord, a British vessel in a British convoy.
The weather was disagreeable and cold.  On October 5 he reached
Quebec and remained there for twenty-four hours.  The day was very
cold, a high wind was blowing and the river was very rough.  The
weather caused considerable sickness on board ship.  Capt. Loer
suffered from a slight cold, but apparently it was not alarming. He
went on with his work in censorship matters and wrote out a number of
confidential orders.

     On the second day out of Quebec Capt. Loer admitted that he
would have to give up and go to bed.  Spanish Influenza, which he
contracted, was developing pneumonia.  Red Cross nurses and doctors
did their utmost to save him. Col. George H. Healey, who was
with him later, described the circumstances of his death.  He said:
     "I realized twenty-four hours before his death that he had small
chance of living and I spent much of that time very near his bed.  At
about seven o'clock 1 went to my stateroom, knowing that the end was
not far away. That was Sunday evening, the thirteenth.  At just
8 o'clock Major Gardner, the senior medical officer, entered my room
and announced that the end had come.  We had had several deaths
previously and had found out that British vessels do not carry caskets
nor embalming chemicals and there was no manner of preserving the
body.  It was thus unavoidable to bury his remains at sea.

     "The service was a most impressive one, being conducted by Rev.
John South, our beloved Chaplain, and attended by all the officers of
the regiment and the Red Cross and Y.M.C.A. men and women. The
body was wrapped in an American flag and cast into the sea amid
the most sorrowful surrounding I have ever witnessed."

     In a letter to Capt. Loer's mother, Col. G. H. Healey gave the
following eulogy of the earnestness, loyalty and devotion of Capt. Loer:
     "I wish I could convey to you the full appreciation I had for
your son. He was the embodiment of honor and sincerity.  He spent many
hours with me in connection with his work as intelligence office
and was absorbed with his task.  I am certain had the regiment ever
gone to the front with him in charge of his section, we would have
made a record for ourselves because of perfect handling of the
intelligence and liaison work.  He came to me daily to report the
progress of the training of the officers and men of the intelligence,
sniping, observation and scouting sections and was so absorbed in his
work that I am sure he never gave a thought to anything else than the
performing to the highest ideal his part in the war service.  I feel
sure that he took his work to bed with him and got up with it in the
morning, and I fear he took it to his sick bed with him and that he
thought of it in his rational moments.  He seemed destined to die as
he did and I can pay him the highest tribute that I can feel for any
man I have ever known.  He was loyal, industrious, painstaking,
thorough and his qualities of mind and heart were of the highest type.
The sacrifice of a son is a great one, but the satisfaction of
knowing his life was pure and his purpose set in the right direction
is a recompense that makes sorrow give away to pride.  Austin was a
hero just as much as though he met his death on the battlefield."
_____

Sons of Men: Evansville's War Record,
Compiled by Heiman Blatt,
Published by Abe P. Madison, 1920
pp. 106-108

cdmyers@wowway.com
October 25, 1998