William Holland Gordon Meighen

The following profile was researched and compiled by Candice L. Buchanan and Glenn J. R. T. Toothman III, for www.RainDayBoys.com.

Birth: 22 October 1881 Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania

Parents: John Meighen and Lucinda Gordon

Residence at time of enlistment: Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania

Physical description: 5 feet 9 1/2 inches tall, fair complexion, blue eyes, dark hair

Death: Killed in action 27 September 1918 Varennes-en-Argonne, Lorraine, France

Age at death: 36 years old

Last resting place: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

Military rank: Serial No. 1241358. 1st Sergeant. Company K, 110th Infantry, 28th Division

Witness account of death: Statement given by Pvt. Harry B. Reach. "I was with 1st Sergeant William Meighen when he was hit by machine gun fire September 27th, 1918. He and Lt. Hendler and I were walking along in an open field when the Germans opened up fire on us. He was hit in the region of the kidneys just as we made an attempt to lay down. All that he said was "I am finished." This happened just beyond the town of Varennes on the hill. He was sent back to the first aid but died on the way back."

Additional information:

William Meighen was a heroic survivor of the Rain Day Battle. An account of his experience and leadership was published by John V. Hanlon in the Pittsburg[h] Press, the sixth in a series of articles titled "A History of Pittsburg and Western Pennsylvania Troops in the War." In this installment, Hanlon wrote in detail about the battle that began on 29 July 1918, to take Grimpettes Woods. Of Meighen, he told:

"After the first attack on the wood had failed, First Sergeant William G. Meigh[e]n, of Waynesburg, Company K, 110th regiment, in the lead of his company, was left behind when the recall was sounded. He had flung himself into a shell, in the bottom of which water had collected. The machine gun fire of the Germans was low enough to “cut the daisies,” as the men remarked. Therefore, there was no possibility of crawling back to the lines. The water in the hole in which he had sought shelter attracted all the gas in the vicinity, for Fritz was mixing gas shells with his shrapnel and high explosives.

The German machine gunners had seen the few Americans who remained on the field, hiding in shell holes, and they kept their guns spraying over those refuges. Other men had to don their gas masks when the gas shells came over, but none seem to have undergone the experience that Sergeant Meigh[e]n did....For fifteen hours Sergeant Meigh[e]n was forced to crouch in the water in this shallow hole with his gas mask on. But despite the terrible ordeal he still had plenty of fight left in him. When in a later attack on the wood, Company K reached the point where Sergeant Meigh[e]n was concealed, he discovered that the last officer of the first wave had fallen before his shelter was reached. Being next in rank he promptly signaled to the men that he would assume command, and led them in a gallant assault on the enemy position."

After enduring all of this and much more with the Company, Meighen lost his life in battle nearly two months later near the town of Varennes, France. The fighting was so heavy in this area, and Pennsylvania's soldiers so much represented here, that in 1927 the state constructed an impressive monument in the small town, to honor these fallen heroes. On the central feature of this incredible tribute is the inscription, "Right is More Precious Than Peace." Such a motto seems to well capture what these boys went to fight for.

William's father, John Meighen, was a Civil War veteran. He made the decision to see his son buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


  • Find a Grave, database and digital images (www.findagrave.com : viewed 2 October 2018), Find a Grave memorial no. 57193078 for 1st Sgt William Holland Gordon Meighen (22 Oct 1881–27 Sep 1918), citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia; maintained by Anne Cady (contributor 46985237).
  • "Greene County Soldier Buried in Arlington" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 18 August 1921.
  • John V. Hanlon, "A History of Pittsburg and Western Pennsylvania Troops in the War," serial article, chapter VI, Sunday edition, pages 70-71, The Pittsburg[h] Press, 9 February 1919, Chapter VI provides the history of the 110th Infantry, 28th Division - Battle of the Bois de Grimpette; digital images, Google News (https://bit.ly/2k7j13U : viewed 19 May 2018); transcription and reference to article linked from BrooklineConnection.com/history/Gallery/WWIPghHistory.html maintained by Clint Burton.
  • "Lieut. W. G. Meighen to Be Buried at Arlington" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 21 July 1921.
  • "PA National Guard Veterans' Card File, 1867-1921," digital images, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), Pennsylvania State Archives Records Information Access System (www.digitalarchives.state.pa.us/archive.asp: viewed 9 May 2018), William G. Meighen, Private, Co K, 10th Inf., P. N. G.; citing series #19.135.
  • "Sergt. Wm. G. Meighen Falls in France" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 24 October 1918.
  • "United States, Army Transport Service Passenger Lists 1910-1939," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=61174 : accessed 9 May 2018), William G. Meighen entry, line 1, page 29 (stamped), Ausonia, box 373; citing Lists of Outgoing Passengers, 1917-1938. Textual records. 255 Boxes. NAI: 6234477. Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985. Record Group Number 92. National Archives, College Park, Maryland.
  • "WWI Veterans Service and Compensation Files, 1917-1919, 1934-1948," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60884 : accessed 9 May 2018), Lucinda Gordon Meighen, mother of William Gordon Meighen - application no. 167418; citing World War I Veterans Service and Compensation File, 1934–1948 (RG 19, Series 19.91), Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.