Burt A. Markham
2nd Marine Division, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 80th (G) Company
Before the War
Burt Austin Markham was born on April 5, 1889, in Waseca, Minnesota. He grew up on the family farm in Alma City with his parents John and Nessie, brother James, and sister Ella. Markham graduated from Janesville High School in 1906. He played both the clarinet and the violin. After graduating from high school, Markham moved to Minneapolis and worked as a stenographer for the National Novelty Company.
Markham continued his education at the University of Minnesota in 1913. While there, he played the violin in the University Symphony Orchestra and was a member of Sigma Delta Chi, the society of professional journalists. Markham loved to write.
During his time at the university, Markham worked as a journalist writing about agricultural issues for the Barron County News, in Barron, Wisconsin. Due to the outbreak of World War I, Markham never graduated.
Markham joined the National Guard’s 2nd Minnesota Field Artillery in October 1917. He drilled with the unit until it was disbanded in April 1918. Markham immediately enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and began basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, on May 13, 1918.
After completing the seven-week boot camp, Markham was sent to Band School on Parris Island from July 1 to 23, 1918. On July 25, he transferred to Company B, 5th Separate Battalion in Quantico, Virginia, for three weeks of additional training before departing for France.
On August 17, Markham boarded the USS Von Steuben and departed for Europe the next day, arriving after nine days at sea in Brest, France on August 27. He received two more weeks of training in preparation to move to the front. On September 11, Markham joined his combat unit, 80th Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment at the front.
The St. Mihiel Offensive was scheduled to commence the following day, September 12. Markham and his new unit moved into position at night to remain unseen by the Germans. It rained throughout the evening, and on the morning of September 12, the men were wet and muddy. The offensive began at 5:00 a.m. with Markham’s 6th Marines following in support of the 2nd Division’s lead units. By midday, the division pushed forward five miles and reached the operational objective: taking control of the high ground north of Thiaucourt.
On September 13, the 6th Marines relieved the lead unit, set up their defenses, and prepared to push the remaining Germans out of a forest to the north. At 5:00 a.m. on September 15, Markham’s 80th Company led 6th Marines, 2nd Battalion on a patrol into the forest to clear the German defenses. The patrol route was flanked by two steep hills, which unknown to the Marines, concealed two German companies. Shortly into the patrol, German machine guns raked the 80th Company from both sides. Markham was shot multiple times, amputating his left arm and breaking his femur. He was treated in the field hospital but ultimately succumbed to his wounds the next day.
John and Nellie Markham were informed of their son’s death on December 14, 1918. They decided to leave him buried in France because, as Nellie wrote, that is where he “fought and died.”
In 1929, Nellie Markham was invited to join the Gold Star Mother Pilgrimage to visit her son’s grave. She accepted the invitation and began the journey from Minnesota to France on July 19, 1930. After ten days of travel Mrs. Markham arrived in Cherbourg, France and on August 4, Nellie Markham stood at her son’s final resting place.
Burt Austin Markham is buried in Thiaucourt-Regniéville, France at the St. Mihiel American Cemetery, plot D, row 29, grave 28.
2nd Division; Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I), Records of Combat Divisions, 1913- 1939, Record Group 120 (Boxes 51-58); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
A Brief History of The Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. Washington, DC: Historical Branch, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps, 1962. http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/parris.txt.
Barron County News-Shield. “Bert Markham Dies of Wounds in France.” December 20, 1918.
Bonk, David. St. Mihiel 1918: The American Expeditionary Forces’ Trial By Fire. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2011.
Brennan, Carl A. Over There: A Marine in the Great War. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1996.
“Burt A. Markham.” American Battle Monuments Commission. Accessed April 2, 2018. https://abmc.gov/ node/501098.
Burt Markham, Official Military Personnel File, Department of the Navy. U.S. Marine Corps, Record of the U.S. Marine Corps, RG 127, National Archives and Records Administration - St. Louis.
Burt Markham. U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1893-1958. National Archives and Records Administration. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.
Burt Markam World War I Burial Case File; Correspondence, Reports, Telegrams, Applications and Other Papers relating to Burials of Service Personnel, Records of the Quartermaster General’s Office, 1915-1935, Record Group 92; National Archives and Records Administration - St. Louis.
Burt Markham. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. National Archives and Records Administration. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.
Clark, George. The Fourth Marine Brigade in World War I: Battalion Histories Based on Official Documents. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2015.
Delta Sigma Phi, University of Minnesota Yearbook, 1918. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1990. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.
Graham, John. The Gold Star Mother Pilgrimages of the 1930s. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2005.
History of the Sixth Regiment, United States Marines. Tientsin, China: The Tientsin Press, 1928. https://ia601603.us.archive.org/34/items/historyofsixthre00tien/historyo...
Map of St Mihiel. Photograph. National Archives and Records Administration (111-SC 160591). Image. Marine Receiving First Aid.... Photograph. March 22, 2018. National Archives and Records Administration (111-SC-12151A). Image.
McClellan, Edwin. The United States Marine Corps in the World War. Washington, DC: Historical Branch, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps, 1920. http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/war.txt.
Minneapolis, Minnesota City Directory, 1908. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. Digital Images. http://ancestry. com.
Minnesota. Waseca County. 1900 U.S. Census. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.
Owen, Peter. To the Limit of Endurance: A Battalion of Marines in the Great War. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2007.
Starting a shelter at headquarters, 6th Regiment, Marines.... Photograph. June 25, 1918. National Archives and Records Administration (111-SC-12153). Image.
University Symphony Orchestra, University of Minnesota Yearbook, 1916. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1990. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.
Victory: Waseca County Minnesota in the World War. Waseca: The Journal Radical, 1919. https://archive.org/ details/victory00wase.