Corporal Clement A. Grobbel — Company I, 339th Infantry

Posted on Sunday, October 18th, 2020


Clement A. Grobbel (1895-1977)

Corporal, Company ‘I’, 339th Infantry

 

Clement Grobbel was born November 2, 1895, and grew up on his parents’ farm, along with two brothers and two sisterGrobbel Clements. He attended local schools and graduated from high school.

In 1918, with the Great War roaring, Clement enlisted into the Army and after a short period of training at Camp Custer, MI, he was assigned to Co. I, 339th Infantry. Grobbel’s regiment was shipped to England, and from there, to Russia, arriving in Archangel in early September 1918. His company was assigned duties along the Archangel-Vologda Railroad, tasked with protecting the rail line, and driving the Bolsheviks (Bolos, as the doughboys called them) away from Archangel.

Grobbel was promoted to corporal in October 1918 and placed in charge of a Lewis machine gun squad.  The new NCO adjusted to life in Russia, and wrote his parents, “We have great sport with Russians during our relieved hour, learning them to speak English.” He also noted, “They [the Russians] are the greatest fellows you ever seen for tobacco. If they see you clean out your pipe or drop a cigarette butt, they flock after it like a flock of geese.”

A month later, while guarding the railroad line at a location called Verst 445, Cpl. Grobbel and his squad were attacked by a large number of Bolsheviks. The Bolos were able to advance quite close to Grobbel’s position; in fact some were near enough to the NCO he was not able to traverse his Lewis gun to get at them. These Bolos, heartened by the safety of their position put down a heavy fire upon the Americans. Clement, disregarding his own personal safety left the security of his position and advanced in front of the Americans’ lines until he found a place where he could fire upon the Bolsheviks—out in the open on top of the railroad tracks. From here, the resolute soldier “poured a merciless fire into the enemy and drove them off.”

Grobbel’s actions impressed nearby French soldiers and their commanders awarded him with the Croix de Guerre. Later, the U.S. Army awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross for valor. Clement wrote his parents, simply, “Well, we did our share, I think, out here.”

Corporal Grobbel and his comrades were sent to France in June 1919, their duties in Russia ended. Here they waited to be returned to the United States. He wrote his family, “I will close now, don’t have nothing much [to say] now, but will have more when I return home.” Then, once back in the U.S., and following a massive parade in Detroit, Cpl. Grobbel was discharged, to return to his parents’ farm in Warren Township.

Clement married Marcella Peters; he told his kids years later, “She was my first and only girlfriend.” He and Marcella lived not far from where he grew up, and they raised seven children. Clement, who liked to work with his hands, established a cement block company. Grobbel, in addition to making cement blocks, dug basements, built basement walls with his blocks, and also poured cement floors and sidewalks. Unfortunately, his business collapsed during the Depression. He then became the town’s policeman, and eventually its police chief. Clement followed this with the responsibilities as the local county water board supervisor.

Sadly, Marcella died in 1937, leaving Clement with several young children. He married again, to Roxanna Kennedy, and the two finished raising the Grobbel kids. Clement worked for his church as a sexton and janitor at its parish parochial school. This job also included the task of ringing the church’s steeple bell three times each day. Finally though, in 1974, the World War I veteran retired. Clement A. Grobbel passed away three years later, at the age of 81. His last words to his children summed up his life; “take a lot of pictures of your children and love them.”

 

 

 

 

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