[Reprinted from the original 1918 newspaper obituary]
Many Weeks Grand Haven's first soldier has fallen in battle in France in the great world struggle for liberty. Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Conklin, 1200 Washington Avenue, this morning received a message from Adjutant General McCain of the war department at Washington informing them that their son, Charles Conklin, 160th United State infantry died May 7, from wounds received in action in France. That meagre message contained all the information which the parents here have received concerning the death of their only son.
It has been known for some time that the unit to which the young soldier was attached was in action. In fact letters home to his parents and friend have contained meagre information concerning life in the trenches. In all of his letters there was never a complaint over the conditions on the battle line, and through them rang the note of patriotism and earnestness which is characteristic of the American soldier indicated that he was glad to be able to be in the fight for his country and for liberty of the world.
Charles Conklin enlisted in the Ohio National Guard troops at Cincinnati very soon after America entered the war with Germany. He was employed in the Ohio city at the time and responded almost immediately to the call to fill the ranks of the National Guard. When the war department began designating troops from the National Guard units of all states, Charles Conklin was selected in a detail of twelve men from his company to join the famous Rainbows. He reached France early in the present year, and with the Rainbow division began training behind the lines for service on the battle line. While no information has of course reached here, it is likely that he was with the Rainbows in the Toul section, held by the American troops. At any rate, he has been in action a number of times and his letters to friends declared he liked the trench live better than any part of his service thus far.
Charles Conklin or as he was affectionately known by his hundreds of young friends in this city, "Chuck" Conklin was an extremely popular boy. Genuine love and affection for the boy who has given up his life for his flag, was expressed today by hundreds of boys and girls with whom he associated in this city. The news of his death came as a severe blow to all of them. The young man was a member of the graduating class of 1914 of Grand Haven high school. During his school days he was prominent in high school athletics, particularly baseball and took a very active part in all school affairs. He was a very close friend of Lieutenant Victor Colson and Lieutenant Charles Robinson, both of whom went to France with Company F of this city. Not long ago Lieutenant Colson passed through the village in France, where his boyhood chum was located, and he vainly hoped to see him, but did not succeed.
Charles Conklin in the first Grand Haven had to make the supreme sacrifice on the battle field for his country and his flag. Mingled with the grief and sorrow of his parents and his friends, there is left the comforting thought of pride in his manliness and courage, in his devotion to his country and in his heroism. No man in all of history more than "Chuck" Conklin, a true American lad who met the danger with true American courage. As the years pass, and the sharp poignancy of the sorrow becomes less keen, the pride in the heroism of the boy will increase. It will be comforting to know that he met his end as thousands of brave men have met it for Old Glory, since that day in the road to Lexington. Over in France a few days ago this young man whom every body loved, died for the same principle for which brave men gave up their lives at Valley Forge, at New Orleans, and Monterey, at Gettysburg and at El Caney. His memory is a thing to prize and keep and cherish. He met the end, which thousands have prayed to meet - a soldier's death.
The young soldier was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Conklin. This mother and father have made their supreme sacrifice for their country. In this son, happy, cheerful and brave always, they centered many of their fondest hopes. The sympathy of the whole community is with them to day, and the pride of the community is with them also. Two sisters, Mrs. Arthur Nyland of Cincinnati and Miss Edith Conklin of this city survive the soldier brother. Today the flags on the staffs of the public buildings, and the factories and the armory were lowered to half mast throughout the city as a mute tribute to the memory of the soldier who was the first from this city to make the supreme sacrifice on the battle line "over there."
"Chuck" Conklin was glad to be "over there." His was the same spirit expressed by every soldier of America who has reached French soil. In a letter which reached here soon after his arrival in France the young soldier said: "We are all so much near the trenches now, which is what we all look forward to. As for myself, I would not have missed this chance for any money. Now that we are right in France we can realize the conditions better than we could before, or than any one who has not seen them. If any other says the war will be over very soon they disagree with me."
"Don't worry about me. I feel fine. I am please with the quarters and food and except for the fact that I am away from you. I am glad that I am here."
(End of newspaper obituary)
Charles Conklin was part of the 166th Machine Gun company. The 166th Infantry was stationed near Ancerville, France in the spring of 1918 during the German Spring Offensive. Their trench position was approximately two kilometers away from the enemy. On April 23, 1918, the 166th Infantry came out of the trenches and went to Deneuvre. During this time, careful preparations were being made for an operation that would take place on May 2-3. The German trenches were photographed by airplanes, and then recreated to scale in woods near Baccarat (HQ for US). Daily routine practices and simulations were conducted on the mock-German trenches until the French instructors were satisfied. For several days the American Artillery increased its fire on the sector which lay in the Bois de Chien. This wood jutted out close to the American lines, making a small salient which had the appearence of a good place to bag some prisoners. On the night of May 2-3 the artillery fire was greatly increased, and at daybreak the raiding party went over the top. The party crossed "No-Man's Land" under the protection of a heavy rolling barrage and penetrated the Bois-de-Chien, which was then cut off by a box barrage thrown around the sector to be raided. Everything went off according to the schedule and men got as far as the German third line trenches. The artillery preparation had been too thorough; the German positions were completely destroyed and made untenable and as a result the enemy had fled, and not a single live German was encountered. The party returned after blowing up Fritzie's dugouts, and reported a total of 21 casualties, of which two were killed. Charles Conklin died May 7, 1918--just after this operation. It is unclear whether Conklin was wounded during this specific operation or the few days following but it did happen in this area and time. He died four days after he was wounded in France.
(Sources: Raymond Minshall, Ohio in the Rainbow: Official Story of the 166th Infantry 42 Division in the World War (Columbus: The F.J. Heer Printing Co., 1924)