Honoring Arlington’s Veterans
Among the plaques that constitute the Arlington County War Memorial at 3140 Wilson Boulevard is one that honors thirteen Arlington County soldiers and sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in World War I.
An exhibit featuring their stories will be on display in the Central Library lobby this November, in honor of the 100th Anniversary of World War I.
One of those men was John Lyon, son of Arlington developer, newspaper publisher and lawyer Frank Lyon and his wife Georgie Hays Wright Lyon, who was born in Ballston in 1893.
After attending the University of Virginia and Georgetown University, Lyon began his World War I service in May of 1915 by volunteering as a Hospital Corps ambulance driver in France, predating the United States entry into the war by almost two years. After arriving in France, he was assigned to Belgium, where he transported wounded troops from field hospitals to larger facilities further from the battlefields.
After returning to the U.S. in December of 1915, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed on the Mexican border in Cameron County, Texas for the next six months.
Under the leadership of General John J. Pershing, Lyon was a machine gunner in the 29th Infantry Division as part of the American Expeditionary Force and was deployed to Europe on April 6, 1917, after the United States’ entry into World War I.
After returning to France, he was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant of the 166th Infantry of the 29th Division and quickly saw front line duty in the trenches. In September of 1918, the 29th Division became part of the Muese-Argonne Offensive, the final Allied offensive of World War I, which lasted 47 days, claiming 28,000 German and 26,277 American lives.
Lieutenant Lyon was a casualty of the Muese-Argonne Offensive on October 15, 1918, giving his own life to attend to a wounded comrade, Major H.L. Opie.
Opie wrote of Lyon’s valor in a letter to the Lyon family:
“Lieutenant Lyon had the guns of his platoon posted in partial shelter on my left, against counter attack. He saw me fall wounded and leaving his guns, ran directly to my assistance in the face of certain death. He was killed by the fire of an enemy machine gun and fell within a few feet of me.”
On April 20, 1920, Lieutenant Lyon was posthumously awarded the distinguished Service Cross, becoming Arlington’s most decorated World War I soldier. Arlington VFW Post 3150 was named after him on November 11, 1934.
The family name remains highly visible in present day Arlington County through Frank Lyon’s many contributions, including his development of the Lyon Park and Lyon Village neighborhoods.
The exhibit also includes biographical information on:
Robert Bruce, Frank Edward Dunkin, Oscar Lloyd Housel, Ralph Lowe, Arthur C. Morgan, Irving Thomas Chapman Newman, Frederick Wallis Schutt, Henry Smallwood, Edward J. Smith, Harry R. Stone, Harry Emory Vermillion, and Archie Walters Williams.
In assembling this exhibit, the Center for Local History librarians would like to acknowledge a very helpful article by Annette Benbow in the Arlington Historical Society Magazine (V15, #2, 2014), which gives a comprehensive description of the thirteen men from Arlington who died in WWI.