Although he died in 1918, far away in France in the last month of The Great War, Private First Class Clyde R. Burdick is still remembered. The local American Legion post bears his name more than a century after his death.
Burdick wasn't a native of Neosho or Missouri. He was born to William and Sarah Burdick on January 28, 1894 in Red Oak, Iowa. By 1900, the family had moved to Benton County, Missouri and by the next census in 1910, the Burdicks called Neosho home. The family - parents, Clyde and two younger sisters, Gladys and Ora Mae - had become part of the local community.
In that same census, Clyde Burdick is sixteen years old and listed as a newspaper agent. Most likely that meant he sold newspapers but the exact meaning remains unknown. His father was down as a gardener and his mother as a seamstress.
The sole photo of Burdick found online states it's from the yearbook during his junior year at Neosho High School. The date isn't listed but since the brick Neosho High School (later Intermediate School and today the Greystone Apartments) wasn't built until 1916-1917, Burdick would have attended Central School in the same location as the present school with the same name. Neosho's first high school occupied space in the original Central School. Local stories tell how students wound their way down the hill from the school to the Big Spring to draw water for the students. The high school had a football team (games were played near the current Bob Anderson Stadium off what is now West Harmony Street) and students put on theatrical plays each year.
Meanwhile, the world headed toward a global conflict, the first of its' kind. On April 6, 1917, the United States joined the war with Allies Great Britain, France and Russia. By then, Burdick was a student at the Kansas State Teachers College in Pittsburg - an institution already known as Pitt State. Since the primary function of the college at the time was to educate teachers, it seems probable that Burdick planned to become one.
Although already a member of the Kansas National Guard, on June 5, 1917, Burdick completed his registration for the draft in Crawford County, Kansas. His address was on East Monroe Street, within six blocks and walking distance of the college. He also listed his employer as SMTN - which was the State Manual Training Normal School. So, Burdick worked at the college.
On the draft registration form, he noted he was of medium build with blue eyes and light brown hair.
As it turned out, Burdick didn't have to wait to receive a draft notice because the Kansas National Guard was mustered (today, it's called deployed). He was assigned to Battery C, 130 Field Artillery, 60th Brigade Field Artillery, 35th Division, which was part of the 130th Field Artillery Regiment. Burdick must have undergone training but in the spring of 1918, he shipped out to France.
Burdick was on the list to sail on May 19 that year but for reasons now unknown, his name was removed and he sailed aboard the SS Tennyson from Brooklyn on June 4, 1918. In France, Burdick and his unit served as part of the 35th Infantry Division.
That fall, Burdick would have been among the troops engaged in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a major component of the final Allied offensive of World War I that covered the Western Front. There were three phases and the first, September 26 through October 3, would prove fatal for Burdick.
On October 2, 1918, Burdick was run over by a caisson - a two-wheeled cart drawn by horses or mules to carry ammunition. Hospitalized with a broken leg, he had been expected to recover from his injuries but he died on October 9. The exact cause of his death isn't listed but could have been from infection, complications from the injury or illness, even Spanish Flu which was active in a pandemic on the front lines and back home in the States.
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest in United States military history, engaging 1.2 million American soldiers. There were over 350,000 casualties including 28,000 German troops, 26,277 American lives and an undetermined number of French forces.
Although originally buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery with more than 14,000 fellow Americans, Burdick's body was returned to the United States aboard the USAT Wheaton, one of several Army funeral transport ships in 1921. His remains would have been handled with respect and honor, draped with an American flag during the journey. His mother was listed as next of kin with a Neosho Rural Route 5 address.
His estate had previously been through probate court in Neosho on November 18, 1918 - seven days after the Armistice ended the war.
Once returned to Neosho, Burdick was buried with military honors at the IOOF (International Order of Odd Fellows) Cemetery. His grave apparently was unmarked until 1935 when one of his sisters made an application for a headstone, which was shipped at government expense to the American Legion post.
Today, more than a hundred years after the war in which he served ended and as the post that carries his name marks their 100th birthday, Clyde R. Burdick has never forgotten and will not be, as long as the Clyde R. Burdick Post #163 exists and heroes who fall for our nation are remembered.