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First Name: Oliver

Last Name: Ames

Birthplace: Boston, MA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Date of Birth: 08 April 1895

Date of Death: 29 July 1918

Rank: First Lieutenant

Years Served:
Oliver Ames, Jr.

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)


Oliver Ames, Jr.
First Lieutenant, U.S. Army

Oliver Ames, Jr. was born on 8 April 1895 in Boston, MA. He was the third child, and elder son, of Oliver and Elise Alger West Ames. His grandfather, Frederick Lothrop Ames, was a Harvard graduate, Class of 1854 and was, from 1888-93, a member of the Harvard Corporation. There was never any doubt that Oliver was to attend Harvard University.

Oliver began his preparation for Harvard by attending Noble and Greenough's School in Boston. In 1907, he entered the first form at St. Mark's School in Southborough, MA, where he remained for the six years of the School course.

While attending Harvard, Oliver was a member of the Harvard Regiment and, in 1916 at the Plattsburg Camp, he first learned military discipline. After graduation from Harvard in 1917, he entered the Officer's Training Camp at Plattsburg in May. At the conclusion of the camp, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry and detailed to the 151st Depot Brigade at Camp Devens, MA, for further assignment.

Ames was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 165th U.S. Infantry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division. The 42nd "Rainbow Division" was comprised entirely of National Guard units. The 165th Regiment was formerly known as "The Fighting 69th." Ames' unit sailed from Montreal on 27 October enroute to France. Upon arrival, the 165th spent the next three months in training.

In November 1917, during the training phase, Major "Wild Bill" Donovan placed Ames in command of a Fatigue Detail of 62 men. He wrote to his mother that he liked having his own independent command; it made him feel as proud as a general. He also said that Donovan was "darn nice" to let him have the command.

Oliver Ames and Donovan had become close friends and Donovan assigned him as the 1st Battalion Adjutant on 27 January 1918. Ames wrote his mother that it was the "greatest honor" he had ever received.

After the completion of training, the front lines to which the 165th would be assigned for the remainder of Ames' lifetime were in the Luneville Sector, 21 February-23 March; Baccarat Sector, 1 April-21 June; Esperance-Souain Sector, 4-14 July; in the Champagne-Marne Defensive, 15-18 July; and in the Aisne-Marne Offensive through the days beginning on 25 July.

In mid-July, Ames wrote his mother that Colonel Douglas McArthur wanted him as his Aide-de-Camp, but he felt that he wouldn't like it.

The following information was contained in a personal letter, dated 4 September 1918, from Donovan to Ames' wife, Caroline.

On 29 July 1918, during the Battle of the Ourcq River, Donovan heard that an officer in charge of the first group of troops had been wounded. He placed Ames in charge of Headquarters and told him he was going forward. As he ran forward through machinegun fire, he heard footsteps and turned to see Oliver coming. He told him to go back but Oliver said 'No,' that he was going to take care of him [Donovan]. Donovan lay down by a small creek and Ames came over beside him. The next two sentences are verbatim: "A sniper, undoubtedly trying for me, hit him in the right ear. He died at once, painlessly."

A Lieutenant Connelly reported that, while Ames was accompanying Donovan, he was shot in the right ear and killed by a German sniper who was hidden behind a dead horse. Donovan was wounded in the right hand by a second shot. Pete Gillespie, one of Lieutenant Connelly's men whose machinegun was out of order, was intent on avenging Ames' death. All stopped to watch him and his rifle. He had noticed movement behind the dead horse, so he cuddled his rifle, waited, and fired. They could see the sniper behind the horse half rise, and then drop. Lieutenant Ames' death had been avenged.

The men of the 1st Battalion buried Ames with honor near where he fell. The next day, 30 July, the poet, Sergeant Joyce Kilmer, who served in the same unit, was found and he, too, had been shot in the head. Kilmer was buried next to Ames by the men of the 1st Battalion. The men had placed grass sod on the graves and marked them with crosses.

Although Ames was unaware of it, he had just been promoted to First Lieutenant on the recommendations of all three Battalion Commanders.

Distinguished Service Cross

First Lieutenant Oliver Ames, Jr. was posthumously awarded The Distinguished Service Cross by order of Commander-in-Chief General John J. Pershing upon the unanimous decision of his immediate commanders.


In the city of Boston, the open space at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue with Fenway Park was named Oliver Ames, Jr. Square in his honor.

A tablet has been erected to the memory of First Lieutenant Oliver Ames, Jr. in the church at North Easton, MA, bearing the inscription: "In loving memory of a gallant soldier and high-minded gentleman . . . pure in heart, unfailing in duty, he died as he lived, without fear and without reproach."

In the 1940 Warner Brothers film, "The Fighting 69th" Ames' character was played by actor Dennis Morgan.


On 6 October 1917, Oliver married Caroline Lee Fessenden, daughter of Sewall Henry Fessenden (Harvard Class of 1886). They had one child, a daughter, a few weeks before Oliver's death.

Death and Burial

First Lieutenant Oliver Ames, Jr. was killed in action by a sniper on 29 July 1918 during an attack on Bois Brûlé, at Meurcy Farm in France.

Ames was initially buried near where he fell; the poet Sergeant Joyce Kilmer was buried next to him the following day. The remains of both men were later moved to the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial in Fere-en-Tardenois, France. Their graves are located in close proximity.

Honoree ID: 2064   Created by: MHOH




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