A North Texas man has made it his mission to piece together the military history of a Texan, killed in World War I.
Chris Manning, of The Colony, said he was also interested in learning more about a man in his family named Esca McCord. McCord was killed in action on the front lines in France in 1918. He was the uncle of Manning’s grandmother and though his story lived in family photographs and old letters, his death was a bit of a mystery.
“I started really trying to find out as much as I could, not knowing if I could find anything out,” said Manning.
He wrote to the National Archives in St. Louis, unsure if McCord’s records were still intact after a devastating fire in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Facility in St. Louis. Recently, Manning received a reply that included McCord’s detailed burial and regimental history. They explained McCord’s time and date of death, his burial in France and reburial in the U.S.
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“I was able to find out he died at 7 a.m., I have the field message sent by the commander at 8:30 am. I have four eye witness accounts of his death, I know what his last words were,” said Manning of the records.
Manning also supplemented the records with his own research. Manning says McCord had a gold watch on him when he died. Manning later learned it was a pocket watch, given to McCord by a girlfriend. Through his own research, Manning could pinpoint who the girl was and more of the McCord’s story before he went away to Army boot camp.
The military history is punctuated by reminders of the family’s sacrifice during World War I.
“When his body was brought back to Texas, his mother wanted to open the casket and we never knew why,” said Manning. “Well, I got his burial files and I know why.”
In the files is a letter from McCord’s mother to the War Department, insisting her son is not cremated.
There is also a record of the delivery of McCord’s remains to McCord’s father.
“That’s a very shaky signature in the heat of Texas summer and that had to be a very hard moment,” noted Manning.
Manning is the father of a Marine who served in Afghanistan. Manning’s son returned home, but Manning can imagine the McCord family’s anguish.
“I know what they may have felt like, you know,” he said.
Manning plans to hold a special ceremony for McCord this September, which will be the 100th anniversary of his death. It will be a way to honor the young solider from Texas who gave his life on the battlefields of France.
“He was a good man and his sacrifice ripples through history.”