1st Lieutenant Clarence Primm – Company M, 339th Infantry

Posted on Saturday, October 31st, 2020

Clarence J. Primm

 Clarence J. Primm was born June 8, 1886 in South Dakota; his parents, Sarah and John Primm who had begun his career as a physician out on the frontier. The family soon moved to Door, I5-Primm ClarenceL and here, ‘CJ’, as everyone called him, attended school. Primm graduated from high school, and went on to Park College, IL, where he graduated with high honors. Primm continued his education, earning a M.A., in 1908 from the University of Kansas in political science, economics, and sociology; his Master’s thesis entitled, “Has Control of the Central Government Unduly Increased?”

CJ took on a job as a teacher and soon afterwards married Marguerite Christensen (1890-1955). The couple moved to New York and in 1913 had a son, John (1913-2006). Then, they moved to Wisconsin, where CJ was the secretary for the First Manitowoc (WI) Chamber of Commerce. He gave up this position when the Great War began, passed the military exam to become an officer, and in 1917 was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant.
Lieutenant Primm went to Camp Custer, MI and in 1918 was assigned to Company M, 339th Infantry. Primm’s unit was sent to Russia and by mid-September of that year was engaged in fights with the Bolsheviks along the Archangel-Vologda Railroad. A month later he led two platoons from his company as well as a contingent of French soldiers in a successful assault against a Bolshevik position at Verst 445. The Allied force, once the Bolos were driven from the field consolidated their defenses and the position would be held until the Americans left Russia. Lieutenant Primm was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and the Russian ‘Cross of St. Anne’. He wrote Marguerite, “We have not been able to relax our personal vigilance.”

Lieutenant Primm remained as a platoon leader in Company M until May 1918, when the newly appointed American general in Russia, Brig. Gen. Wilds P. Richardson selected him as his personal adjutant. CJ wrote his wife, “I have been handed a new job. It may be temporary only … I cannot foresee how long I shall be busy with it.” He soon discovered his new responsibilities would extend his duties. Primm, a month later, watched his company board a transport ship, to head for home. He penned a note to Marguerite, “[I] surely have had a necklace of horseshoes to play with.”

Lieutenant Primm remained in Archangel throughout the summer of 1919, being part of a small contingent of Americans tasked with collecting the bodies of their dead soldiers. These fallen were placed in caskets and loaded aboard a transport to be shipped home to the United States. He noted, “So far as I know now, I shall be assisting in … getting our dead out of North Russia … until all are removed.” In November 1919, Lt. Primm arrived in the U.S., presiding over nearly 150 American dead, the men then to be sent to their families. He was discharged from the Army not long afterwards.

CJ and Marguerite moved to Chicago, where he worked at a number of jobs during the next decade, including as a store manager, insurance agent, and as a teacher. Primm also retained a position as an Army reserve officer, assisting in the training of new recruits. He would finally retire from the Reserves as a lieutenant colonel. Meanwhile, Marguerite raised their son, John, worked as a librarian, and as an “instructress of library science.” They moved to Manitowoc, WI and retired. Marguerite passed away in 1955, and Clarence not long after; January 1, 1957, aged seventy.








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