October 13, 1881 (Stratford, CT) – August 30, 1918; 36 years old; unmarried
Last local address: 8 Warren Street, Norwalk
Enlisted in Connecticut National Guard on June 16, 1917; had prior service 1903-1906
No Army serial number
32ND DIVISION, 128TH INFANTRY
Worked as a Chauffer for Manuel Hatch of Norwalk prior to service.
Was the Head Coach of the Norwalk High School boys’ basketball state championship team in 1909-1910.
Was the Headquarters Company Battalion Sergeant Major of the 102nd Infantry when he departed from Montreal on September 20, 1917 for Europe.
Nephew Alfred Comstock was killed in action in Germany during World War II.
The history of Frank C. Godfrey written by Mr. Howard I. Comstock; this was read at American Legion Post 12 in Norwalk on June 21, 1922
You comrades have chosen to honor one who would have been of you and with you, by placing his name in perpetuity on the flag of your post — the Frank C. Godfrey Post of the American Legion. You took him on faith. What he had done on the battlefields over there, was sufficient in your minds, to make him worthy of the great honor you have bestowed upon him. It shall be my purpose to show you that Frank Chauncey Godfrey was, in the words of the poet, Alexander Pope, “in death a hero, as in life a friend.” Perhaps it will help to add to the glory of your post. Perhaps you will be proud, as we of his family are proud, to have it emblazoned forever on the records that you, heroes all who have only begun to enjoy the fruits of comradeship and of nobility of purpose that comes with unselfish work well-performed, have chosen as a post to take as your example, a hero from among you who the Almighty called to make the supreme sacrifice.
It is human nature to indulge in hero worship. It has always been so, and probably always will be. There is something noble and inspiring that is gained from contact with heroes and heroism. That such is the case is exemplified by the ardor with which you men have banded yourselves, that the nobleness and the inspiration what was gained, and is continually being gained by contact one with another, and the glorious memories obtained by such great sacrifices, shall not be lost. That which we expect and worship in a hero was ably summarized by the poet, Joseph Addison, when he wrote:
“Unbounded courage and compassion joined,
Tempering each other in the victor’s mind,
Alternately proclaim him good and Great,
And make the hero and the man complete.”
There are two kinds of heroes. There is the hero of action; and there is the hero of purpose. When there is praise to be sung in heroes’ names, it is more apt to be the hero of action who is being recognized and honored. For an heroic act attracts the attention of others, while one whose heroism is in his purpose and in his ideals, perhaps may go his way forever without being discovered.
The hero whose likeness decorates your walls and whose name you have placed on your flag was a hero of action. He died in battle, with glory to his name. But it will not be unseemly for me to say that even had Frank Chauncey Godfrey not been called upon to make the supreme sacrifice, he would have been nevertheless a hero. Perhaps I can show you. Those of you who were personally acquainted with Frank Godfrey remember him as a modest man, a quiet man, a man given little to words. Yet as others can testify from their own experiences, there come moments when something lifts us out of our exterior self; when modesty and quiet and humility serve merely as veils. Such a moment was the leave-taking of Frank Godfrey, a day or so before he left for France with his comrades of the 102nd Infantry. He was saying goodbye to his sister, Mrs. Bertha Amelia Comstock. It was a trying moment for pent up emotion. She remarked to him that he would be lucky to reach France at all, with all the subs waiting for the ships. Unhesitating, he replied, “well, sister, it isn’t the way you die that makes any difference. It is the way you have lived, and I am ready to go.”
That there was a chance, as he went into one battle, and then another, that he would meet his fate, he appreciated, as did all of you, each time you went into action. Yet we have an opportunity to see how he felt about it, for here is a letter he had written which was returned among his effects, months after he had been reported killed in action:
This will be my farewell letter to the family. If you receive it, it will mean that I too have paid the price that my dear friend, Major Rau, and so many other good Americans have paid for the sake of certain principles, we Americans believe in, and to keep our country one of the ideals and irreproachable before the world. I could write much about the war and my own impressions, but just this word: I have the same beliefs and ideals myself that I had previous to coming over. I have never been sorry I came. This was, and is, the place for me. There are many things I would like to look for, but if that is not to be, and I go, then I pray it may be in a way that will be a source of comfort and pride to those I leave behind, both here and over there. I would like to see the old town again, with the familiar faces and the dear friends. I shall miss them all, but I am certain we are all to meet again. Please say “au revoir” for me to all my friends. I am not very strong on the French language, but that word does seem to stay with me. It’s so much easier to say than good-bye. God bless you all and
Au revoir, Frank.”
Following the flag to France for him, we know, a crowning glory. He had followed the flag before, many times. His father before him had followed it in the War of the Rebellion. Two brothers had followed it in the War with Spain. In the days of uncertainty, when America lingered on the brink of war, he felt, he knew, that inevitably we must take our part, and for months he did little but read about the war and think about it, and talk about it, and think about it, and talk about it, preparedness in a small way to his friends.
Of what stuff are heroes made? I prefer to leave it for you to say whether or not, be antecedents, by instincts, by training, Frank Godfrey was not prepared for the new way in which he met his early end.
He was born in Stratford, Connecticut on October 13, 1881, a descendant through his father, of Commodore Isaac Chauncey, who the war of 1812 helped to enrich the pages of American’s naval glories by defeating the British on Lake Ontario. Commodore Chauncey was Frank Godfrey’s great-great grandfather. At the age of five, Godfrey moved with his parents to Norwalk, and he got his grade school and high school education at Center school, from which he was graduated with the class of 1898.
His father, Frederick P. Godfrey had served all through the Wars of the Rebellion. His father was a butcher, but when Sumter was fired upon, it was only a few weeks before he with other Stratford lads, answered President Lincoln’s call to the colors. Going into training with Company M, of the First Connecticut Volunteer Artillery, formed at Bridgeport, he remained with this regiment from April 20, 1861, until he was mustered out as Corporal Godfrey, on September 24, 1865, after taking part in Washington in the triumphant review of Grant’s Grand Army of the Republic. Corporal Godfrey’s brothers, Francis and Alpheus also served through the war.
When the war cry sounded, and Frederick Godfrey responded, he was twenty-four years old. But many years later, in 1903, Frank Godfrey heard the call to the colors at an earlier age, twenty-one years. He enlisted in the regular army, and was assigned to Company L of the Thirteenth Infantry, and after a short time went into service with the regiment in the Philippine Islands where the unruly Moros were now and then giving trouble. He was promoted to be sergeant, and when discharged, he was credited with “service honest and faithful”, and his commanding officer in a letter declared him to be “above the average enlisted man in intelligence and education” and most trustworthy and earnest in his work.”
Thereafter he was attached to the Connecticut National Guard almost continuously, with the various companies, first infantry, and then artillery, that have been maintained in Norwalk. He was a lieutenant in the Sixth company, Coast Artillery in 1916, when the call came for service on the Mexican border. Nearly 3,000 Connecticut National Guardsmen left Camp Holcomb in Niantic for the Mexican border. In March 1916, Pancho Villa and his men attacked Columbus, New Mexico and killed 18 civilians and soldiers. The border needed to be secured and the Connecticut 1st were sent to assist. Frank Godfrey applied to the adjutant general to be permitted to go to Mexico with the Connecticut troops as Second Lieutenant in Company M of the First Connecticut infantry, where he served at Nogales, Arizona, on the border from July 3 to October 18, 1916.
When the regiment returned home, he resigned his commission, since the company he was attached to was in Winsted and he could not keep up communication. Be he was impatient. He felt that there was work to be done, work over in France, and he wanted to get into it.
War came, and he got into it. He went back to the First Connecticut Infantry, as color sergeant, and when that regiment was merged with the Second Connecticut to make the 102nd Infantry, 26th division, he was made battalion sergeant major in Major George Rau’s headquarters. The latter was killed during the battle of Seicheprey, and many Norwalk boys were there when that happened.
He was with the 102nd in its tour of duty near Soissons on Chemin de Dames in February and March 1918, and again on Seicheprey in the Toul sector, in March and April. After that he was detached and sent to the Army Candidates’ school for the training to be a commissioned officer. In July he was graduated from the school and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, and after assignment to replacement depots; was sent August 23 to the 128th Infantry of the 32nd division, made up of boys from Michigan and Wisconsin national guard units. The story from there on is ably told by his commanding officer, Captain Edmund T. Czaskes, who wrote to his sister many months after his death as follows:
“Your letter of November 18, 1918, has just been received from the commanding officer of the 128th Infantry, same having been turned over to me, as Lieutenant Godfrey was with this company when he fell on the field of honor. He was assigned to this company August 23, 1918 and only a few days later we received orders to move to the front line to assist the French army on the Soissons sector. We slowly advanced against the enemy and had reached the outskirts of Juvigny on the 30th. Here we encountered many machine-gun nests and early in the afternoon of that date Lieutenant Godfrey fell while leading his platoon over the top. He was struck in several places by machine gun bullets and I think he died instantly. He was buried a short distance from where he fell, along with several of the boys that fell from this company. While only with us a short time, he had the esteem of all the officers and men of the company, who all felt his death very keenly, and I also want to state that there were many words of praise expressed on the way he conducted himself on the battlefield, as he seemed not to know what fear was, as he was always in front where the firing was severest.”
It happened that there were two Frank C. Godfreys in the United States Army. It happened that both were Second Lieutenants. It happened that one died of influenza in the United States. Shortly after the armistice, a War Department telegram informed his relatives here that Lieutenant Frank C. Godfrey of Norwalk had been killed in action on August 13th. This was known to be incorrect, as letters had been received from him dated August 26th, in which he said he was just then going into action.
It was Frank Godfrey’s dear friend and chum of basketball days, Lieutenant Jimmy Storey, who finally dug up the facts. Lieutenant Storey had been attached to the Central Records Office, and he verified the fact that Lieutenant Godfrey had been killed in action on August 30. He went to the grave in the American cemetery in France and sent photographs of the grave.
The body remains in France in ground consecrated with heroes’ blood in compliance with his wish that “this was, and is, the place for me.”
Nothing more needs to be said. There is no need for eulogy. The facts themselves are eulogy. I can think of nothing more appropriate and nothing of which Frank Godfrey would have been more proud, than your act in naming the post in his honor. From this fine home, where comradeship shall be ever, hangs a sign bearing, in letters plain and proud, his name – Frank C. Godfrey. This was the street along which he traveled many times a day, and the memory picture that is presented by seeing the name blazing forth does not need to be explained.
Namesake of American Legion Post 12 in Norwalk
Lieutenant Godfrey is buried at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial, Picardie, France; Plot D, Row 16, Grave 37.