PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It was called the “war to end all wars,” which, sadly, it failed to do.
But the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I this Sunday is a time to recognize all veterans, including Thomas Francis Enright.
“He’s a Pittsburgh guy, and he would have been unknown except he happens to be the first American casualty in World War I,” Michael Kraus, curator of the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial, told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Friday.
The native of Bloomfield was the American-born son of Irish immigrants.
Enright joined the U.S. Army in the early 1900s and reenlisted for the war in 1917.
He was among the first sent to France to fight the Germans.
“Life in the trenches was really brutal. For British soldiers, it was a three- or six-month lifespan in the trenches,” Kraus said. “They weren’t expected to live past that. So you didn’t want to be there for a long time.”
It was tough man-to-man combat against the Germans, often with single-shell rifles and bayonets.
Kraus says Enright and two comrades, Grisham and Hay, were the first Americans to give their lives on the battlefields of France in November of 1917.
“Grisham and Hay were in the bottom of the trench, and they were dead, but Enright was halfway out of the trench,” Kraus said. “He had a dozen bayonet holes in him and his throat was slit, so they think that he fought. He actually fought hand-to-hand.”
Enright was buried on the battlefield, and he and his comrades were honored with posters back home.
After the war, in 1921, his body came home to Pittsburgh where his casket lay in state at Soldiers & Sailors, and he was reburied at St. Mary Cemetery in Lawrenceville.
“Thousands came to view his remains,” Kraus said.
Thomas Enright was a true national and Pittsburgh hero.
Many people may not realize that Soldiers & Sailors is a great museum with many exhibits.
This Sunday, Veterans Day, Soldiers & Sailors is open, free of charge, to everyone, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.