Thacher, John H. Papers

Dates: 1918-88; bulk dates 1918-19

Commander, Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 1918; Adjutant, 1st Battalion, 129th Field Artillery, 1918-19; Commander, 110th Ammunition Train, 1919

The papers of John H. Thacher consist of correspondence and excerpts from correspondence written by Thacher to his law partners in Kansas City, describing his combat experiences in France and his service as a U.S. Army officer during and after World War I; subsequent correspondence between Thacher, President Truman, and others; and additional items relating to Thacher's life and military career.

[Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List]

ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Size: Less than one-half of a linear foot (approximately 90 pages).
Access: Open.
Copyright: Nicholas G. Thacher donated his copyright interest in writings in this collection to the United States of America. Documents created by U.S. government employees in the course of their official duties are in the public domain. Copyright interest in any other writings in this collection is assumed to remain with the authors of the documents, or their heirs.
Processed by: Jon Kurche as part of the Internship Program at the Truman Library.
Supervising Archivists: Randy Sowell and Amy Williams

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

1872

 

Born, Kansas City, Missouri

1895

 

B.A., Princeton University

1906

 

Married Edith Gilman

1908, 1910, 1915

 

Children John, Edith, and Nicholas born

1912

 

Joined Missouri National Guard

1915 (October 6)

 

Commissioned Captain in the Missouri National Guard, 1st Missouri Field Artillery Battalion

1916 (June 19)

 

Ordered to active duty from Kansas City, Missouri

1916 (July 4 to December 15)

 

Served on the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas

1916 (December 22)

 

Mustered out of the federal service at Fort Riley, Kansas

1917 (August 5)

 

Drafted into federal service as member of Field and Staff, 2nd Missouri Field Artillery Regiment

1917-1918

 

In training, Camp Doniphan, Fort Sill, Oklahoma

1918 (February 16)

 

Assumed command of Battery D, 129th Field Artillery Regiment

1918 (June 9)

 

Unit arrived at Le Havre, France

1918 (July 11)

 

Relieved from command of Battery D, replaced by Captain Harry S. Truman; appointed adjutant, 1st Battalion, 129th Field Artillery

1919 (February 27-28)

 

Promoted to Major; assumed command of 110th Ammunition Train

1919 (April 29)

 

Received honorable discharge

1960 (February)

 

Died, Saratoga, California

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COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The papers of John H. Thacher consist mostly of correspondence and other materials relating to his service as an U.S. Army officer during and after World War I. Before the war, Thacher was a prominent Kansas City attorney with the firm of Rozzelle, Vineyard, Thacher, and Boys. For a brief period, he served as assistant city attorney. He joined the Missouri National Guard, and served on active duty with his unit on the Mexican border in 1916, during the U.S. military campaign against the Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. A year later, Thacher was again called into federal service when the United States entered the World War. His National Guard unit, the 2nd Missouri Field Artillery Regiment, was federalized and became the 129th Field Artillery Regiment of the 35th Division. During training at Camp Doniphan in Oklahoma, Captain Thacher was named commander of Battery D of the 129th Field Artillery. He commanded the so-called "Dizzy D"-a battery comprised in large part of rowdy Irish Catholic boys from Kansas City-during their voyage across the Atlantic and their first month in France. In July, 1918, he was replaced as commander of Battery D by a brother officer and friend, Captain Harry S. Truman. Thacher was then appointed adjutant of the 1st Battalion of the 129th Field Artillery, and held that post for the remainder of the war. He was promoted to Major in February, 1919, and assumed command of the 110th Ammunition Train of the 35th Division. Along with his unit, he returned to the United States shortly thereafter and was honorably discharged. Thacher kept in touch with Truman and other old comrades from the 129th Field Artillery through the decades that followed. He died in California in 1960.

For the most part, Thacher's papers consist of his correspondence and typescript excerpts from his correspondence, documenting his service as an officer in France during and after the war. Thacher dispatched a number of letters describing his experiences in the Army to his law partners in Kansas City, who in turn submitted excerpts from this correspondence to his home-town newspaper, the Kansas City Star, and to friends who had contributed to Battery D's mess fund. The correspondence, dating from May 12, 1918 to March 10, 1919, furnishes insight into the experiences of an American artillery unit during World War I. The letters include colorful descriptions of long marches, combat during the Meuse-Argonne campaign, conditions in the trenches, and the months spent waiting to return home after the Armistice was signed in November, 1918. Thacher's letters are frequently enlivened by his sense of humor and his flair for language. In his letter of June 26, 1918, he mentions sitting at the same mess table with a Captain Truman from Grandview-"a bully young chap." Additional items pertaining to World War I in this collection include a field map of France; humorous cartoons depicting Captain Truman and other officers of the 129th Field Artillery (drawn by Private Lyle E. DeTalent of the Headquarters Company of the 129th, who was wounded in action); newspaper clippings; and notes apparently written by Thacher's daughter, Edith, introducing and commenting upon his wartime correspondence.

The collection also contains a few letters exchanged between Thacher and President Truman from 1947 to 1958; a stock certificate for the Truman & Jacobson haberdashery, issued to Thacher in 1921; letters to Thacher from the Battery D veterans' association; and letters written by Thacher's children detailing his life, military service, and relationship with Truman.

Other materials at the Truman Library relating to John H. Thacher's service in World War I and his connection with Harry S. Truman include the Records of Battery D of the 129th Field Artillery (Record Group 391); the Records of the 35th Division Association; the Harry S. Truman Papers: Papers Pertaining to Family, Business and Personal Affairs; the Edward Meisburger Papers; and the Edward McKim Papers. A rare published history of the 129th Field Artillery is in the Library's collection of printed materials: The Artilleryman: The Experiences and Impressions of an American Artillery Regiment in the World War, by Jay M. Lee (Kansas City, 1920).

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SERIES DESCRIPTIONS

Container Nos.

 

Series

1

  SUBJECT FILE, 1918-1988 (Bulk Dates: 1918-1919)
Correspondence, typescript excerpts from correspondence, handwritten notes, newspaper clippings, cartoons, a map, and a stock certificate documenting Thacher's life, his service as a U.S. Army officer during and after World War I, and his postwar relationship with Harry S. Truman. Arranged in approximate chronological order.
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FOLDER TITLE LIST

Box 1

SUBJECT FILE, 1918-1988 (Bulk Dates: 1918-1919)

  • World War I Correspondence and Related Material, 1918-1919
  • Correspondence with Truman and Related Material, 1921-1958
  • Correspondence from Thacher's Children, c. 1988
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