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Family of World War I soldier from Berea awarded Medal of Honor to gather for tribute

July 5, 2018 GMT

Family of World War I soldier from Berea awarded Medal of Honor to gather for tribute

CLEVELAND, Ohio – On July 7 the bell at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Berea will toll at noon in a family salute to hometown hero 2nd. Lt. Albert Baesel, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during World War I.

Some 150 Baesel family members from across the country are gathering for a private reunion that organizer Gary Cole, 67, of Berea, described as both a get-together and a tribute to the lost soldier.

“We still tell stories about him,” said Cole, great-nephew of Baesel. “He’s a legend in the family.”

Albert Baesel was born in a farmhouse in Berea in 1892, and later enlisted in the Ohio National Guard.

He was serving in the Army’s 37th “Buckeye” Infantry Division in September of 1918 when it joined the Meuse-Argonne offensive, one of the bloodiest battles of the war fought by U.S. troops, with more than 26,000 doughboys killed.

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The Medal of Honor citation describes Baesel’s actions on September 27: Upon hearing that a squad leader of his platoon had been severely wounded while attempting to capture an enemy machinegun nest about 200 yards in advance of the assault line and somewhat to the right, 2d Lt. Baesel requested permission to go to the rescue of the wounded corporal. After thrice repeating his request and permission having been reluctantly given, due to the heavy artillery, rifle, and machinegun fire, and heavy deluge of gas in which the company was at the time, accompanied by a volunteer, he worked his way forward, and reaching the wounded man, placed him upon his shoulders and was instantly killed by enemy fire.”

Baesel’s body was hastily buried, then later recovered and re-interred at Woodvale Cemetery in Middleburg Heights.

Cole said artifacts including photos, letters and possibly the flag that covered Baesel’s casket, will be brought and shared by family members at the reunion.

He noted that the flag is still a lingering bone of contention among some family members in that it was not given to the soldier’s mother, but to his wife.

The family will peruse “all kind of letters from Albert to mom and sisters, and some to John Baesel, his brother and former [Berea] mayor,” Cole said. “There will also be pictures that nobody has seen before.”

Cole said one letter from Baesel, his last, is particularly poignant.

“I don’t care if you have a thousand people here, you’ll be able hear a pin drop,” he said. “Talk about a patriotic letter. This kid was all gung-ho America. He couldn’t understand why everybody wasn’t over there fighting on front lines if could be.

“He’d just got put back on front lines a week or two before killed,” Cole added. “He wanted to get back up there so bad.”

Baesel died 44 days before the war ended on November 11, 1918.

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The bell will be rung by Cole’s son, U.S. Air Force Captain Jason Cole, and a contingent from the Albert E. Baesel American Legion Post 91 in Berea will provide a color guard and rifle salute.

Many of the items brought by family members will be donated to the Berea Historical Society, where they can be viewed by the public, according to Cole.

Those items won’t include the actual Medal of Honor that was awarded to Baesel. Cole said the medal was kept at his namesake American Legion post for a while, then disappeared.

The family is hoping to either find the original or get a duplicate for the historical society.

Cole said the family regularly held reunions from 1913-1980, and sporadically since then.

The family is excited at the prospect of meeting together again at Baesel’s birthplace, according to Cole.

So much so that one 99-year-old family member living in Virginia is “trying like hell to get here, but the doctor won’t let her go,” Cole said.

“She’s pretty stubborn,” he added. “We’ll see who wins.”