Paul W. McQuillen

by Aileen McQuillen


   World War I began in 1914 when the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian terrorist. The Serbians were enraged with Austria for annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many countries entered to protect their alliances and their land. The United States didn’t enter the war till 1917. The Americans devoted all their resources to the war effort. Young boys were eager to enlist and prove their strength and loyalty to their country.  The war was a tragedy for the brave soldiers, their families and citizens who supported their soldiers, and all of the countries involved.  A soldier named Wilfred Owen was one of the first poets to write about the war. He was a soldier in the Manchester regiment. Owen was born in 1893 in Oswestry, Shropshire. This is an excerpt from his famous poem, Dulce et Decorum est,

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.”

Life before War:

    Paul W. McQuillen, my great grandfather, was born in Passaic, New Jersey. Paul was a bright young student who was smaller in size than the other kids. In grammar school, two classes were taught in the same room. The teacher would teach on one side then give the students work to do and then go to teach the other half of the class. Paul was quick enough to listen and complete the work for both sides of the class. He was able to complete two years of school in one and graduated at 15. After grammar school, Paul attended Xavier High School in New York. Xavier is well known for their academic achievements and military tradition. Since he had to take the train and bus to and from school everyday, Paul had to walk through bad parts of the city alone. Strangely almost everyday a rooster would follow Paul while he walked and squawk at the people who looked suspicious. After graduating from Xavier, Paul joined the American army. When he was in training his mother came to visit him, and became very distressed when she met the leader of his division because he didn’t have the proper gloves. So she went home and made him gloves and sent them to him. A few months after that he was enlisted in the 320th infantry, 80th division, set to go overseas into France, to fight in the First World War. Paul became a doughboy. A doughboy is an American infantryman in World War I. The helmets worn by the American soldiers during combat were called the doughboy helmets.

The Battles in France:

The Battle of St. Mihiel  
    After completing his training, Paul joined the 320th Infantry, 80th division in the U.S. army. His division was set to depart for France. In late August of 1917, the infantry proceeded to pass through Paris and were heading towards the Southeast of Verdun. On September 12th, under the leadership of General John J. Pershing, the infantry was ordered to move closer to St. Mihiel. St. Mihiel would soon become one of the first victories for the American army. This battle was the first and most important battle for Gaul’s regiment. The battle began with the placement of over 300,000 American troops facing the Germany troops protected by trenches. Paul’s regiment was prepared and ordered to move towards the front lines. Paul trudged along with his regiment over bad roads. All troop movement and advancement was done in secrecy. The American Generals wanted to catch the Germans off-guard. Therefore, all movement of troops and trucks was done at night. Paul witnessed and marched through the French towns of Seuzey, Dompierre, and Deuxnouds. All of these towns showed signs of the Germans having already come through. The Germans had tried to destroy all the buildings they had occupied.

The picture on the right is the 320th infanntry's course and date of arrival and departure in France.  It was also found in my great grandfather's war book.
asdasd   When the Germans finally learned of the American troops' advancement, it was too late.  Paul’s regiment was notified that the Germans had already retreated ten kilometers when their presence had been discovered. Although the enemy was retreating, the American army sped up to catch up with them in hopes of pushing them farther back. Once the two armies were engaged in battle, the fighting became very fatiguing and long-lasting. Along with his fellow soldiers, Paul fought hard. Once the Americans had ensured their victory they retreated as well. The troops began to move towards the Meuse River, which would become the sight of the next major battle Paul would see.  One memory Paul had of the war was when he was sitting on his horse being reviewed by one of the generals when the horse took off.  The General said, "and where do you think you are going, Lieutenant McQuillen?"  As he saluted, Paul replied, "I don't know, Sir!"

The picture on the left is a battle map that was in my  great grandfather's army book. The map plans out where the enemy was stationed and what course they took.

The Battle of Muese-Argonne:    

    On September 26, 19 days after the Battle of St. Mihiel, the 320th Infantry was well rested and began to proceed to the Northwest region of Verdun. The American army was still under the leadership of John J. Pershing. The American troops were heading to fight 40 German divisions that were stationed near the town of Bethincourt. The first battle of the Muese-Argonne took place in Bethincourt. The second battle took place in Nantilliois, and the third battle took place in St. Juvin. While Paul’s regiment prepared to fight in Bethincourt, they saw that they would be facing a one kilometer front.  The German defense held strong while the American army tried to break their lines, neither side was really successful. For the Germans had completely prepared and situated themselves inside of their trenches. This battle and many others were fought in trenches. Trenches were built in the ground and were used by each army as protection from oncoming fire. The troops would try to overtake their opponent’s trench and force the other to retreat. “No man’s land” was the barren space between the trenches. Soldiers spent gruesome weeks and months deep inside the trenches making little to no progress.  The battle fields in France were mostly covered in hills and posed as big obstacles for the advancement for either side of the battle. Although the fighting was gruesome, Paul’s regiment succeeded in reaching the Meuse River, and the first main part of their battle was completed.  On October 7th, Paul’s regiment attacked the Bois de Ogons. Paul’s regiment endured over two days of brutal machine gun fire that seemed to be overpowering the advances of the American army. It seemed as though the powerful Germany machine gun was more powerful than the American army itself. Luckily, Paul’s regiment was relieved by another regiment and Paul and his fellow solders marched on to St. Juvin, where he fought his last battle. This battle was fought on November 1. November 1 became the last day of heavy fighting for Paul and his fellow soldiers. Once relieved of duty, Paul and many other regiments began their final march out of France. They had to stop and take shelter in the towns of France due to a heavy winter and harsh weather conditions, delaying their early return home. Paul was among one of those unfortunate soldiers. They spent their days picturing their return home, and waiting for that day to eventually come. On November 11, 1918 an armistice was signed between the German and American armies, ending all fighting. sds

This is a picture of a battle field of Bethincourt, where the 320th infantry.  This is an example of one of the trenches that the Americans troops fought in. It was called the Trench de Kovel. My grandfathers division fought here on September 26, 1918.

After the war:

    The 320th
infantry received their clearance papers on May 20th. They were among many other infantries praised for their bravery and hard work by the President and their leaders. Paul was among many of the soldiers to return home alive and well. When he returned home, he married in 1919. He also attended Columbia Law School and was later hired into the Sullivan and Cromwell law firm. In 1920, he was assigned to Berlin for two years to study international law. He was also a member for the Council for Best Foods Corporation. He argued before the Supreme Court of Wisconsin that margarine should be allowed to have artificial color.
    Paul had a love for flowers and nature. He once found a patch of raspberries in his backyard. He watched them daily and was waiting for the right time to pick them. So one day he decided it was time to pick them and when he went out there they were gone. That night at the dinner table, he was very sullen and when he told his wife what had happened, his daughter said, “Oh those raspberries! We ate those.” My grandfather told me that Paul hardly ever swore after the war. The only time he ever cursed was when he was hammering and accidentally hit his thumb. He yelled, “God bless our happy home.” Sadly in 1968 Paul died of a stroke.
   He was not only a humble soldier, but fought bravely for his country. His accomplishments on the battle field and in the office were showed great intelligence and determination. My great-grandfather proved himself a strong-minded, and witty man. Since he passsed away in 1968, I was not able to speak with him directly but I spoke with my grandfather and I got most of my information from a book, called the 320th Infantry, 80th division. This book was given to my grandfather and all the other soldiers in his regiment. The book had assignments, battle records, and a detailed account of what battles he fought in and where they were fought.

The book  on the right was the book that my great grandfather and the rest of the 320th infantry were given after the war. The book held battle information, pictures, and messages that were sent from his officers to the troops.

Timeline of World War 1:

This is a brief outline of the exact times and dates of the war.


-    Austria Hungary declares war on Serbia
- Russia and France mobilize.
- Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated by a Serbian terrorist, over land dispute.
- Germany sinks British passenger ship, the Lusitania.
- U.S enters the war against Germany, due to increased unrestricted submarine warfare, and Zimmerman telegram.
- Russia withdraws from the war due to internal conflict.
- Allies defeat Germany at the Second Battle of the Marne
- Armistice ends the war
- Treaty of Versailles is signed five years after assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

The collage on the right I made with some of the battle messages that were in my great grandfathers book. The messages were battle assignments and messages of gratitude from their captains that were sent to the troops and too the leaders of the regiments.



1. History of the 320th Infantry Abroad. New York City: McGraw-Philips

2. Michael, McQuillen. Telephone Interview. 16 Nov. 2006.


 3. Hanlon, Michael E. "The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces." The GreatWar Society. 2002. The Doughboy Center. 25 Jan 2007

 4.  Peace Pledge Union, "20th century war and poetry." Learn Peace: A Peace Pledge Project. Peace Pledge Union. 25 Jan 2007 <>.