Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 13, 2011

Hero's Death: TC's most-honored WWI soldier

TRAVERSE CITY — Harry Holliday had everything going for him in 1917.

Optimistic, bright and thoughtful with a great sense of humor, “Hick” Holliday was respected by his many friends and idolized by his parents and sisters.

He graduated from Traverse City High School in 1912 and completed his studies in 1916 at Olivet College, where he helped win the 1913 Michigan intercollegiate football championship and also participated in the glee and oratory clubs.

He was 24 in 1917, living and working in Detroit. A bright future awaited.

Then, on April 6, the United States declared war on Germany. Harry answered the call and applied for admission to Officers Training School at Fort Sheridan, Ill. He was accepted and entered training in late August.

Within 14 months, he would die a hero in an American Red Cross hospital in France of wounds received in the Second Battle of the Marne — a monstrous fight  that turned the tide of the war in the Allies’ favor.

He was posthumously awarded the nation’s Distinguished Service Cross for “extraordinary heroism in action,” the second-highest military decoration next to the Congressional Medal of Honor. France also decorated his entire unit, the 30th Infantry, with Croix de Guerre with Palm and the French Legion of Honor for extraordinary bravery and skill.

Harry Holliday is Traverse City’s most-honored soldier of World War I, remembered in the name of Bowen-Holliday American Legion Post. No. 35.

His memory is preserved in 350 letters by his father, Dr. George A. Holliday, a military transport ship physician who wrote almost daily to wife Jennifer and daughters Margaret and Dorothy. Dr. Holliday’s two grandsons — Larry and Jack Bensley — came across the letters in 1956 as they helped their mother and aunt clean out the Holliday attic after their grandmother’s death at age 90.

The Holliday story and the stories of the 116,516 Americans killed and the 204,000 wounded in that “war to end all wars” are the reason Congress designated Nov. 11 as Armistice Day in 1919. The national holiday originally honored the 4.3 million Americans who served in World War I, but was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to celebrate all American military service veterans.

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