Sixteen of Crook County’s finest gave their lives in service during World War I. Sixteen men who crossed the oceans to defend the liberty of their homeland. Two decades later, a group of their peers cemented that sacrifice in the county’s history.
By Sarah Pridgeon
In 1941, veterans of the war gathered to organize an American Legion Post for the local area; they chose to call it Roy Montgomery Post #80. A familiar fixture in the Hulett community, it paid homage to the first Crook County soldier to fall in the war to end all wars.
Though born in Hanson County, South Dakota, in 1890, Robert Leroy “Roy” Montgomery moved to Wyoming at the age of five. Known to his friends as “Squirrel”, he homesteaded at Flag Butte near the head of Cabin Creek.
Montgomery entered service in 1917 as a National Guardsman, joining Company A-3rd Wyoming Infantry in Newcastle. He joined his company at Fort D.A. Russell, where he was mustered into the Federal Service.
His training took him to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was transferred to Battery D-148th Field Artillery, and then Camp Mills, Long Island, and Camp Merritt, New Jersey.
Eventually, his unit was attached to the 41st Division 66 Brigade A.E.F. in preparation for being sent across to Europe. On the morning of January 22, 1918, he boarded the S.S. Baltic, bound for Liverpool, England; the journey took almost a week.
From Winchester, England, Private Montgomery crossed the English Channel to La Havre and was transported in a box car to De Souge. He trained there until May 7, when he was sent to Castillion for final training and a short rest before heading for the front.
On July 4, he saw confrontation at Chateau Thierry. His service included Death Valley on the Aisne, otherwise known as the Second Battle of the Marne. It was the last German offensive and the first victorious offensive for the Allies in 1918.
Montgomery also served on the Marne Front and at Mountfaucon and Malancourt during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a campaign that stretched the length of the Western Front and was one of the largest in U.S. military history. Part of the Hundred Days Offensive, it was the campaign that ultimately brought the war to its end.
His service record also included Nantillois, a commune in northeastern France that was almost destroyed during the war but liberated by American troops on September 28, 1918. At Nantillois, Montgomery was heavily gassed.
The resulting infection and pneumonia sent him to a hospital, where he died on October 8, 1918. He was buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne, France.
According to the records of American Legion Post #80, a meeting of all service men was called in Hulett on September 13, 1941. The 11 attendees, all World War I veterans themselves, voted in favor of organizing a post and naming it in Montgomery’s memory.
“They were all World War I veterans, but none of them served with him as far as I know,” says Keith Davidson, member of the post since 1978, three-time Post Commander and post historian.
“The charter members of the post were the ones who made the decision to name the post after him, and the reason was because he was the first local guy who was killed in World War I.”
The Permanent Charter dates to June 25, 1945 and included 16 charter members. The first meeting was held on September 26, 1942 and the Auxiliary was created five months later.
In 1943, the post welcomed a special guest: Montgomery’s son, who presented the history of his father’s service to the gratitude of all in attendance.
During its 70-year history, the post has accepted 339 members, with around 30 to 40 on the register in an average year. To those members, Private Roy Montgomery, the first Crook County man to fall in modern warfare, remains a symbol of the service each and every one of them gave to their country.
“We remember him all the time. We don’t do any special tributes, but we named the post after him and we remember him,” says Davidson.