William Lester Haston, Sr. - Victim of WWI Poison Gas Warfare

Part 1 - Military Service

WWI - Wm Lester Haston -gaswarfare

The Story of a WWI (Haston) Veteran Who Ultimately Gave His Life for Our Country

Part 2 will be posted the weekend of June 3 and 4, 2023.

Not all soldiers who give their lives for our country die on the field of battle.  Some die in training exercises; some die of suicide from post-traumatic stress disorder.  And some, like our William Lester Haston, Sr., die of injuries or other life-shortening conditions they encountered during a war.  

In 1915, prior to the United States’ entry into World War I,
Germany surprised Allied troops by using poisonous gases.

On April 22, 1915, the Germans launched their first and only offensive of the year. Known as the Second Battle of Ypres, the offensive began with the usual artillery bombardment of the enemy’s line. When the shelling died down, the Allied defenders waited for the first wave of German attack troops but instead were thrown into panic when chlorine gas wafted across no-man’s land and down into their trenches. The Germans targeted four miles of the front with the wind-blown poison gas and decimated two divisions of French and Algerian colonial troops.  

The United States, which entered World War I in 1917, also developed and used chemical weapons. Future president Harry S. Truman was the captain of a U.S. field artillery unit that fired poison gas against the Germans in 1918. In all, more than 100,000 tons of chemical weapons agents were used in World War I, some 500,000 troops were injured, and almost 30,000 died, including 2,000 Americans.  Source

William Lester Haston, Sr.

Lester Haston, as he was called, grew up on the north side of Cane Creek across the road and creek from what is now “Bluebird lane” in Van Buren County, Tennessee.  The local, down-the-creek, post office for that area was known as Sweet Gum.

He was a 24-year-old single farmer when he registered with the Selective Service Board on June 5, 1917.

On May 24, 1918, Lester was officially inducted into military service and, the following day, was”entrained” (boarded on a train) for Camp Pike in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Military Service in the 81st Infantry Division, the "Wildcat Division"


Think about it: Lester Haston (and many others) was on the Western Front of World War 1 less than three months after he was inducted into the army.  Doughboys (term used for American soldiers in WW1) like Lester were sent into battle with very little (and inadequate) training.  This was because President Woodrow Wilson refused to prepare American men for the war.  Many of these young men died as a result of their lack of training. But by the end of the war many others (including Sgt. Alvin York) performed amazing well–even heroically–on the bloody battlefields of the war.


In the last days of World War I, the 81st Division attacked a portion of the German Army's defensive line on 9 November 1918, and remained engaged in combat operations until the Armistice with Germany at 1100 hours on 11 November 1918. The division sustained 461 casualties on the last day, 66 of them killed.

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