Frederick Parker Perkins is twice a hero. He served twice during World War I, first in an American ambulance company before the United States entered the war, and again in Headquarters Company, 77th Field Artillery, 4th Division with the United States Army.
In this second service he saw action at some of the major battles of that terrible war: Marne-Aisne, Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives. He was also (probably) the first New Hampshire man to be awarded the French Croix de Guerre during WWI for bravery under fire while driving an ambulance in 1917.
Frederic P. Perkins came to my attention through an interesting newspaper story which I now print in its entirety: “Boston Sunday Globe, 9 December 1917. MANCHESTER, N.H. Dec 8–Frederic Perkins of Manchester, the only man in New Hampshire who has been awarded the Cross of War by the French Government, is now at his home here. “The war,” he says “according to current opinion in France, will last at least three or four more years before the Allies will be able to overthrow Germany. France has thrown herself with renewed vigor and strength into the battle, and with the realization that she is backed by the United States, has withstood the onslaught of the Germans, and recovered trenches and ground previously captured from her armies. In the towns that have been recaptured, buildings are virtually without roofs and practically riddle with holes from the continuous shell and cannon fire. Work, however, has been inaugurated, with the help of the Red Cross and other units, to rebuild and rehabilitate them.” Perkins, as an ambulance driver, carried men who were wounded from the dressing station back of the trench lines to the fields hospital, a distance of 10 miles, but he says he never heard one groan from the injured. Of the four field service companies, the French, English, Russian and American, the last was the only one to receive a citation for bravery while on service. This was prior to the time that Perkins had joined. He received an individual citation when he brought his machine back after he had barely missed being killed. The Germans had sighted his ambulance and shelled it shortly after daybreak, long after the time when he should have returned. The machine was badly peppered and Perkins bare escaped death by plunging back into the trench. Afterward he ran back, and after much difficulty in cranking the “remains” rode back to the base with the hind part of the machine blown off and two of the three tires missing. He was noticed by an officer , who learned the manner of the mishap, and later presented Perkins the Croix de Guerre for his bravery while under fire. Perkins brought home many relics, among which are helmets, both a light French one, and the much heavier German helmet, fragments of shrapnel, un-exploded shells, canteens and a gas mask. “One thing that the American soldiers will have better than their French and English Allies is the food,” he said. “The French soldiers have only two meals a day, one at 10:30 o’clock and the other at 5 in the afternoon. Their meals invariably are the same, a plate of soup, a piece of meat, a vegetable, a quarter of a loaf of bread and a cup of coffee in the morning. The champagne that sells for $6 and $8 here can be purchased there for 3 francs. Perkins will enter school this Fall and will probably enter some branch of the military service in the Spring. He was a freshman at Harvard when he left to enlist.”
Frederic Parker Perkins was born 13 October 1897 in Manchester NH, son of David W. & Grace Adams (Parker) Perkins. His father David was a prominent New Hampshire attorney. He had one sibling, a sister Annette who died in 1936. Whether Frederic was able to return to Harvard right after his return from ambulance driving is unlikely, as by May of 1918 he was already on his way back to the battlefields of France, this time for the U.S. Army. U.S. Military Transport Passenger Lists show he departed for Europe on 18 May 1918 aboard the ship Hororata, and returned to the United States on 29 Jul 1919 aboard the ship Tiger.
Harvard’s Military Record in the World War, by Frederick Sumner Mead, page 747 gives details of his service. “PERKINS, Frederic Parker, c’16-18 [1916-18]. Ambulance driver, American Field Service, Section 13, April to October 1917, with French army on Champagne, Argonne & Verdun fronts. Entered service private May 17, 1918; assigned to Headquarters Company, 77th Field Artillery, 4th Division; sailed for France May 18; detailed to American Students’ Detachment, Clermont-Ferrand, March 1, 1919; returned to United States July 17; discharged July 24, 1919. Engagements: Marne-Aisne, Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives. Awarded Croix de Guerre with the following citation: “Volontaire plein de sang-froid. Vient de donner une nouvelle preuve de courage le 3 septembre 1917, en effectuant un dernier voyage au petit jour dans une zone ou le service des evacuations ne peut avoir lieu que la nuit en raison du bombardment. A eu sa voiture criblee par les eclats d’obus.” [Google translation: “Volunteer full of composure. Just gave another proof of courage on September 3, 1917, making a last day trip in an area where the evacuation service can only take place at night because of the bombardment. Had his car sifted by shrapnel.” Frederick P. Perkins appears in the 1920 Harvard University Class Album.
What happened to him after his return from the War is best shown in his obituary and funeral notice–he became an editor for New Hampshire and Massachusetts publications, married, and apparently had no surviving children.
Boston Globe, 7 Feb 1941. FREDERICK P. PERKINS, 42, member of the editorial staff of the Boston American and World War veteran, died at City Hospital today shortly after he had collapsed of a heart attack while at work. He leaves a wife, the former Frances Lucille Barry; an aunt and uncle.
Hartford Courant, 9 Feb 1941 page 37: Boston. Feb 8 (AP.) Frederick Parker Perkins, 42, news and feature writer for the Boston American-Sunday advertiser, was buried today with military honors. Perkins, who had worked on newspapers in New Hampshire and Boston for 20 years was a World War veteran and a recipient of the Croix de Guerre. He died Thursday. Burial was in Mt. Hope Cemetery, Boston.
[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I. Look here for the entire listing].