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William Kelly Obituary, United States Marine, World War I, 1918

Private William Kelly Obituary
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3167-78A_B5_Kelly_William_Stephen
Document Description
Obituary of Albany, N.Y. native Private William Kelly, a United States Marine who was killed in action at Villemontrey, Meuse river, France on November 11, 1918.
To which branch of the armed services did William Kelly belong?
What religion was William Kelly?
When and how did William Kelly die? How old was he?
Why was the timing of his death so significant?
How did his local community respond to the news of his death and funeral?
Historical Challenges
What was the significance of the Western Front during World War I? How did the war on the Western Front affect the outcome of World War I? Why would William Kelly’s participation and death during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive make him an interesting and significant historical figure during this time period?
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write a short historical fiction about the life of William Kelly using the information found in the document. The short story should be five to ten pages long and include factual information and fictional accounts of the main character.
Lengel, Edward G. To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918. Henry Holt: New York, 2008.
Rickard, J (6 September 2007), Meuse River-Argonne Forest Offensive, 26 September-11 November 1918. Retrieved from:
Victory Medal, World War I. Retrieved from:

About this Activity


Lesson Topic:


Historical Context
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was part of the triple offensive launched against the Germans in September of 1918. This offensive was the largest battle fought by the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. The American and French forces worked together to break through the German lines on the Western Front. Battles took place along the Meuse River and in the Argonne Forest. The American forces were finally able to break through the German lines and take over the Argonne Forest. The French Forces pushed through 20 miles to the Aisne River. On the final day of the offensive the French took the city of Sedan. The offensive lasted from September 26, 1918 until the final armistice was signed at 11:00am on November 11, 1918.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive resulted in 117,000 U.S. casualties, of which 48,909 died. Private William Kelly was one of those 48,909. He was killed in action on the last day of the offensive, one hour before the armistice was signed. William Kelly received the World War I Victory Medal for his service during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The Victory Medal was awarded to those who served honorably between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1918. The battle clasps, or bars, were awarded to those who served in a particular battle during the war and were attached to the rainbow-colored ribbon above the medal.

Essential Question
How were individuals on the homefront affected by the war?
Check for Understanding
Summarize Willam Kelly's military service and explain the impact that his death had on his family and community using evidence from the documents.