by Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton
501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs
5/25/2015 - SURREY, England -- He wrote his mother every week.
Every week, Bettie Ingram would anxiously await the handwritten letter,
mailed from halfway around the world to her home on Third Street in
Pratt City, Alabama.
However, this week there was no letter, only news - the worst kind. Her
son, U.S. Navy Gunner's Mate First Class Osmond Ingram was dead - the
first casualty of World War I.
"My boy, my boy," she said over and over, while sobbing inconsolably.
Two days earlier, Oct. 15, 1917, Ingram stood at his post on the deck of
the USS Cassin as the ship pursued the German submarine U-61 off the
coast of County Waterford, Ireland. Out of the corner of his eye, he
spotted something breach the surface of the water and arc left, toward
the Cassin's aft section - a torpedo.
Acting without thinking, Ingram raced toward the aft section of the ship
with the intention to release the depth charges before the torpedo
struck. Frantically, he began throwing the ammunition overboard just as
he saw the torpedo break the water's surface one final time. Suddenly,
the Cassin lurched heavily to the side as the torpedo impacted the hull
just above the waterline. Ingram was killed in the explosion, his body
cast into the sea, never to be seen again.
"He was the only casualty of that attack," said U.S. Air Force Brig.
Gen. Dieter Bareihs, defense attaché at the U.S. Embassy in London, as
he spoke during a Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony at Brookwood
American Military Cemetery, England, May 24, 2015. "He saved his ship's
crew during that torpedo attack, yet perished himself."
Less than 50 feet from where the general spoke, nestled between trees
that seemed to touch the sky, stood a small, unassuming chapel with the
words "perpetual light upon them shines," carved into the white, stone
entrance. Inside are the names of 563 missing World War I Service
members, including Ingram's - which is the only name tinted gold and set
next to the words: "Medal of Honor."
"These individuals came from all walks of life," Bareihs continued,
speaking not only to the multi-national crowd in attendance, but also to
the 468 Service members buried at Brookwood, forever silenced as
casualties of war. "They were different, but they had much in common - a
sense of duty and a love of country. They were brave and bold, selfless
and resolute - dyed-in-the-wool patriots."
As one of eight permanent American cemeteries constructed outside the
United States, following World War I, Brookwood remains the final
resting place for patriots who died during the "war to end all wars."
"Many didn't volunteer," the general said. "Not all were eager to leave
the comforts of home to fight on distant seas, or in far off lands. But,
nonetheless, they answered their nation's call to defend the freedom
and liberties we hold dear."
Looking out once again, the general's eyes fell upon rows of Airmen from
the 422nd Air Base Group at RAF Croughton, standing alongside Soldiers
from the British Army Training Centre.
"For those whose service we honor today, we owe a promise," Bareihs
said. "We owe a promise that we will never forget them or their
sacrifices, a promise that their efforts were not in vain, that we will
remain strong, always prepared, and, if necessary, will fight to
preserve the freedoms and our way of life."