B A E S E   L   F A M I L Y
"Greater Love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13
Albert Edward Baesel March 21, 1890 - Sept. 27, 1918*
* The second day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive September 26, 1918 to November 11, 1918
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SAVING CORPORAL RYAN
Albert Baesel was born in 1890 in a frame farmhouse that still stands on Sprague Rd. near Marks Rd., Berea, Ohio. He was killed in action Sept. 27th 1918 near Ivoiry, France while attempting to rescue a wounded corporal. He was the first Ohioan to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor for action in WW I (Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker's didn't come until 1930).
Baesel enlisted as a private in The 5th infantry regiment, Ohio National Guard, In 1916. He was soon promoted to Corporal, and served with that rank until he resigned on May 9th, 1918 to accept a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 148th Infantry Regiment, Ohio National Guard, which would be federalized for duty in France.
As a 2nd Lieutenant in Company B, 148th Infantry, the 28 year old Berean served in the opening phase of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive with the 37th "Buckeye Division". Colonel Ludwig S. Conelly of Cleveland, commander of the 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry, stated the incident leading to Baesel's medal occurred on "the ridge" north of Ivoiry about thirty minutes after the 1st and 2nd battalions had taken the town of Montfaucon and were advancing toward the town of Clerges. Conelly said:
"During the attack, Lieutenant Baesel was on the right flank and exposed to heavy machine gun fire. The best corporal of his platoon, Sterling L. Ryan (a squad leader of his platoon), fell mortally wounded while attempting to capture an enemy machinegun nest about 200 yards in advance of the assault line. Lieutenant Baesel pleaded with his captain, Robert L. Tavenner, to be permitted to rescue the corporal. So persistent was he that the permission was reluctantly granted even though the company was being hit by heavy artillery, rifle, and machinegun fire, and a heavy deluge of gas. The lieutenant weathered a withering fire and reached the corporal's side. On the return trip, however, both were riddled with bullets. When I saw the dead hero, he was lying on his back with both his arms around the corporal, whose body lay across that of his friend."
Other accounts indicate that Baesel had been killed by machine gun fire from enemy pillboxes. Yet another account claims that "the bursting of high explosive shrapnel" felled the hero as he was leading his men forward." Whatever the case, Baesel's company fashioned a grave using a mess kit for a digging tool, constructed a crude cross from tree branches tied together with boot laces, and attached one of Baesel's ID tags to it before moving on.4>
Pvt. Carl V. Schmidt, Headquarters Company, wrote of Baesel's character in a letter to his own parents from Champagne France, Dec. 9th 1918:
"there is no question of Lieutenant Baesel`s bravery and gallantry. His men all loved him - this I know because I had the honor of sharing my bunk at meals with him for nearly a month on the Lorraine front while operating a buzzer-phone station on the American outposts which were in advance of the front lines at the edge of a forest.
He led raiding parties into the enemy trenches and the men say he was fearless. Men of his type are those who have won the war but he was just like a big brother to the men, looking after them when sick and often at night in the dark and rain and mud he would take hot coffee out to the men guarding the outposts."
The War Department awarded Baesel the posthumous Medal of Honor In 1922. In early 1926 French farmers, plowing for unexploded artillery projectiles near Ivoiry discovered Baesel's grave and notified authorities. One account claims the original grave had been further buried by earth thrown up by exploding German artillery rounds. Within a short period of time of its discovery Baesel's remains were returned to Berea for a proper burial.
The funeral service was held at Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory (now Baldwin Wallace College) in Berea almost eight years after Baesel's death and four years after the posthumous awarding of the Medal of Honor. The remains were transported to Woodvale Cemetery in Middeburg Heights, Ohio on a flag-draped, horse-drawn caisson with the Cleveland Grays, a militia unit formed in 1837, acting as honor guard along with contingents from the units Baesel had served in. Two other Medal of Honor recipients were present - Leroy W. Williams a Civil War veteran and William G. Keller of the Spanish- American War. The traditional booming of blank howitzer rounds ended the ceremony.
It was one of the largest funeral processions the area has ever seen with thousands of people present.
Few Bereans remember Baesel. Most of his family no longer live in the small community. A newspaper clipping file and a few photographs at the Berea Historical Society are all that keep his memory alive.
The Albert E. Baesel American Legion Post No. 91 in Berea was named in his honor. The family donated the Medal Of Honor to the post but unfortunately, the Medal and a excellent portrait of Baesel sprouted wings a few years ago. Seemingly, Baesel's rendezvous with death has turned into a rendezvous with obscurity.
Albert Baesel receives Grindstone Award posthumously. - Nov. 11, 2004 (Sun-News article no longer available).