Thursday, November 12. 1987
under the sun
World War I Vet Sees A Changing World
BY KAHN ADAMS
“It's a different world, in a way.”
In his 93 years. World War I veteran Dorman Mercer
of Bolivia has twen both a participant and obsen'cr in
America's ongoing fight for freedom, and he has seen the
changes that have come along with it.
Mercer, who was a farmer, sawmill operator and
county forest ranger in Brunswick County before his
relirment, enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 1917, to fight
in what was then thought to l>e “the war to end all wars."
"I was hoping so-that it would Ijo the last of the
world wars.” Mercer said, “but wo ve had a lot of wars
The 22-ycar-old farinl}oy from Bolivia spent 18 mon
ths during and after World War I with the 117th Kngincer
Train in France and Gennany.
How did he feel about leaving his native Brunswick
County to fight overseas?
"I felt like it was the thing to do,” hesiiid. “I was ser
ving my country, and 1 don't think I would have felt right
to stay home at that time.
“Naturally, you'd rather be back home." he added.
"It was pretty rough sometimes, but you got by all right
most of the lime.”
Hls outfit was called the “Rainbow Division." he
said, because it was made up of soldiers from across the
"I was a wagoner, and I drove trucks and mules in
wagon trains,” said Mercer. "Our work was to haul am
munition to the front, and picks, shovels, and barbed wire
for the engineers to use.”
Stationed about 10 miles from the heavy fighting.
Mercer and his fellow wagoners were called on to deliver
ammunition and supplies to the front lines at all hours of
the day and night, anti he had several "close calls.”
The roads he traveled were the most dangerous,
because “that's what the Germans were shelling," he
Once while retreating from the front, a German shell
hit the roof of a nearby house and showered Mercer with
shrapnel and debris.
I^ss than two weeks later, he was gassed in an
engagement and required medical treatment, although
he said his injuries “didn’t amount to much.”
He said some of his e.xperiences in the war would be
better off forgotten.
"Some of the things I'd like to forget about." he said,
“but you just can’t forget about them.”
On May 11, 1919, Mercer received his honorable
discharge at Camp l^e. Va.. and the next day he was
aboard a Norfolk and Western train to Wilmington.
Although his family and friends were glad to see him.
VIA*f PHQIU BT AAHN AOAM)
WORLD WAR I VETERAN Dorman Mercer of Bolivia
looks over his U.S. Army honorary discharge notice
dated May 11. 1919.
he said his return was met with little fanfare.
“We didn’t have any great big celebration when I got
back,” he said, noting that he had remained in Germany
with the army of occupation for several months after the
war had officially ended.
In the years to follow, Mercer has watched war
develop from the trench fighting of World War I to the
technologically advanced warfare of today.
"It’s not ver>- much like World War I now.” he said.
DORi\UN MERCER sen ed as a wagoner for the U.S. Army in France and Germany during World War 1.
comparing his mule trains to the sophisticated transport
equipment used by today’s Army.
Mercer said last week he doesn't get “as much of a
kick” out of Vetenm's Day anymore, having seen so
many of them.
But he said he hoped people would turn out for
Veteran’s Day observances Wednesday (Nov. 11) here
and across the country ’ ju.st in honor of the people who
ser\’ed in the wars.
Diey «all vcteran.s» ser\’ed their country like
everyone else, he said. “They were fighting for
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