November 11: Member of the Famed Yankee Division the Last Connectican to Die in World War I


In many countries around the world, November 11 is Armistice Day, named in honor of the truce, enacted on November 11, 1918, that marked the end of hostilities on the Western Front between German and Allied forces. While a lasting peace was not formally established until the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, November 11 effectively signified the end of World War I. Today, in the United States, November 11 is celebrated as Veterans Day in honor of all American veterans, living or dead.

Sergeant Paul Maynard, Connecticut’s last World War I casualty. (Connecticut State Library

Connecticut contributed a great deal to the Allied war effort in World War I, both on the home front and the Western Front. While the state’s bustling factories churned out much-needed supplies and munitions (Bridgeport’s Remington Arms produced over half of the U.S. Army’s small arms cartridges), an estimated 63,000 state residents served overseas as part of the American army or other Allied forces. Among them was Sergeant Paul Maynard of Torrington, who served as a machinist in the famous 26th Infantry Division, known as the “Yankee Division,” as most of its men hailed from southern New England. After experiencing some of the fiercest fighting of the war in northern France, the 21-year-old Connectican was mortally wounded while attempting to protect comrades under heavy fire during the final days of the bloody Meuse-Argonne offensive. Maynard died from his wounds on November 11, 1918 — the same day the Armistice ended hostilities.

In 2010, members of Maynard’s extended family discovered a long-lost cache of the sergeant’s World War I letters, which shed light on the front-line experience of the young men who made up the bulk of the Yankee Division. In his final letter, Maynard confessed, “We’ve had a hard time with this front, and I’ll be glad when it’s over.” Thanks to the bravery exhibited by the young Torrington sergeant and his comrades, the war was finally over, though in a cruel twist of fate, Maynard did not survive to see the first full day of peace in Europe. In 2015, during the centennial commemoration of World War I, the American Battlefield Monuments Commission released a 24-minute documentary about Maynard, drawing extensively on his recently discovered wartime correspondence, and ensuring that he — and all the brave soldiers who fought alongside him — would never be forgotten.

Further Reading

Diane Lazarus and Mihai Tripp, “Connecticut Soldier Died on the Last Day of World War I,” Connecticut State Library

Susan Misur, “Letters from the battlefield offer glimpse into WWI soldiers’ trials,New Haven Register

Original World War I Documentary, “Never Forgotten,” Released,” American Battle Monuments Commission