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Pvt. James C. Maitland: Company 'M' 339th Infantry

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

(Pvt. James C. Maitland, Courtesy of Carolyn,

James C. Maitland born January 23, 1893. His parents, John and Mary Maitland were both Scottish immigrants, who had moved to American a few years before James, their fifth child, was born. James’ father was a carpenter, who also worked a small family farm not far from Watertown, MI, while his wife raised their youngsters. Their township area was a small community, numbering less than a thousand people. James, along with his brother, John, and their four sisters, Eleanor, Claire, Helen, and Caroline attended elementary classes at a local school. James’ father lost his job, forcing him to seek employment in Detroit, which meant James had to drop out of school after completing the sixth grade, to work the farm.

James, as the years went by, continued to live at home, and when his father returned to work the farm, James took on work as a paid farm laborer on his neighbors’ farms. Then, soon after the United States entered the Great War, he received orders to register for the draft. The young man, in June 1917, listed his occupation as, ‘farmer’, and was described as of medium height, with dark brown hair, and having dark blue eyes.[1] A year later he found himself learning to be a soldier at Camp Custer, and being assigned to Company ‘M’, 339th Infantry. From there, he along with his fellow riflemen ended up in Russia, battling the Bolsheviks on the Railroad Front as the weather turned towards winter.

On November 11, 1918 the Great War ended, leaving Pvt. Maitland and his fellow comrades wondering why they could not go home. Maitland, like many in his company, believed, “This is a hell of a place, and the U. S. can’t get [us] out of here any too soon.”[2] They couldn’t leave, and would not for another seven months. Private Maitland survived his battles with the Bolsheviks, and endured the rigors of Russia’s Arctic winter, until finally in July 1919 his regiment returned to Camp Custer and he was discharged.

James moved to Watertown, MI, rented a farmstead and never left. He married Margaret McElroy in 1920 and the couple raised three children together. A grandnephew would later write, “Jim was a hard working farmer; always driving Ford and John Deere tractors [who] rais[ed] Polled Hereford cattle.”[3] James’ wife passed away in 1972, and he died a few years later in 1977.

----------------------------- [1] Maitland, James, WWI Draft Registration Card. National Archives, 1917-1919. [2] Ramsey, Leon, “Two Points of View,” Newspaper Clippings, Leon Ramsey Papers, 1917-1919. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. [3] Graham, James W., “James C. Maitland.” Find-a-Grave, May 1991.

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