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_____      _____

 

Oliver Jacob BUSER
1st Lt., 332nd Inf., Co. "M"

Submitted by Lorie Culham, greatneice of Oliver J. Buser

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BUSER Co M 332Inf Feb24 1918World War I was an abstract concept for me illustrated by a song about the cartoon character Snoopy battling the Bloody Red Baron. Not until much later did I understand the significance of service by men like my great uncle and the men of his generation. My great uncle Oliver Jacob Buser or “Uncle Ollie” was a gentle and approachable elderly man who came to our family reunions. As a child with more interest in the ice cream being served than in his connection to the family, I only later came to know what a dedicated patriot he a was in a life that coincided with some of the darker days our nation has known. Based on a few facts and family stories, I hope I can honor this humble man for his service to our country with the 332nd and beyond.

Following are some details extracted from a family specific essay published in a History of Coshocton County (Ohio) publication that was written for the book by his daughter Gwenevere in the 1970’s as well as other sources.

Oliver Jacob Buser was born on August 5, 1887 near Chili, Ohio to Jonathan and Catherine Buser. He was the oldest of seven children, with one brother and five sisters. Like many, the family ancestors had come from Europe and family history tells of them arriving in the U.S. in from Switzerland.
Oliver’s family moved from their farm in Chili to Coshocton County, Ohio and at one point they farmed land that had been the site of October 1765 negotiations between Colonel Henry Bouquet of the British Army and a contingent of leaders from native Seneca-Cayuga, Lenape (Delaware) and Shawnee tribes to release over 80 settlers captured as hostages during a larger uprising now called Pontiac’s Rebellion.

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Like most children growing up in the latter years of the 19th century, Oliver grew up farming and knew the hard work and values of a farming community. An included photo shows young Oliver with his grandfather Jacob Buser and father Jonathan from the early 1900’s. It has a significance that established his lifelong code of service. In 1907, at the age of 21, Oliver began his military experiences enlisting in the U.S. Marines Corps serving in Hawaii and Alaska attaining the rank of Sergeant through four years of service. (from U.S Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798-1958). Later in life he would comment that he felt obligated to ‘sign up’ because his grandfather had paid someone to serve in his place in the American Civil War, a common practice at that time.

Life would become more challenging. In September 1911, after a picnic and baseball game in which his brother Jim played, his entire family and many others in the area contracted typhoid. Oliver’s brother and father both died as did many neighbors. Though in still in Hawaii, Oliver came home to Coshocton to run the family farm and to carry on with the obligations of life.

On April 4, 1915, Oliver married the girl who became his lifelong partner, Millie Lower, and though there was grim news of the bloody standoff in Europe, they continued to build a life of a young couple until the war intruded and the U.S. officially entered the war in 1917. And then Oliver was asked to serve again, this time as a 30 year-old family man. Registering for the draft in June 1917 and completing officer training on November 27, 1917 Oliver Buser served this time as a 1st Lieutenant with Company M in the 3rd Battalion throughout the 332nd Regiment’s travels. (Draft registration card, officer commission rosters, Indianapolis Star, Nov. 26-28, 1917)

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His story is the story of the men of the 332nd. Like men in the other companies, Company M’s officers and men faced the unknown with courage, boarding the Cunnard ship Aquitania in June 1918 to venture through submarine infested waters to England, then to France and ultimately to the Vittorio-Veneto sector in Northeastern Italy where they participated in an operation to deceive the Austrian forces into believing Italy now had substantial U.S. military support. Others report the grueling hikes in the foothills of the Dolomites on short rations. Details in other profiles in the 332nd ‘s site show that men of Company M were also near the dangers with one Co. M officer killed in a serious training accident that wounded scores of troops, postings to guard river bank positions throughout the Piave river attack on Austrian positions in October 1918, and the ever-present possibility of illness and injury. Remnants of Italian bunkers and pigtail pickets still exist in the area. A highway runs along the river, though with much less water than the U.S troops faced that October and November 101 years earlier. The armistice was only days away, but it took the 332nd several more months to complete their service in Italy. Eventually the troops and Lt. Oliver Buser returned home, leaving Genoa Italy on the White Star line ship Canopic on March 28, 1919 and arriving in New York on April 14, 1019.

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Returning to civilian life, he and Mille continued farming near West Lafayette, Ohio and raising two daughters Vivian and Gwenevere, until purchasing and operating a grocery store in the town until their retirement many years later. Through the 1920’s and 1930’s he and Millie continued in community service including serving as Superintendent of Coshocton schools until yet another call for service came- World War II. Re-enlisting on April 25, 1942, though now well into his 50’s, he was to remain in the U.S. serving as Provost Marshall at Fort Campbell, Kentucky until May 18, 1946, retiring as a Major. Oliver served in two wars and two military services finally assuaging his grandfather’s choice not to serve during the Civil War.

Millie and Ollie and the family celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on April 18, 1965 (Coshocton Tribune, April 19, 1965) and he continued to be a beloved husband, father, grandfather and great uncle until his final call to service on October 2, 1982 at the age of 96. We proudly honor and commemorate Lieutenant Oliver Jacob Buser, Company M, of the 332nd Regiment of the 3rd Battalion of the 83rd Division in World War I. Thank you very much for your service Uncle Ollie and Aunt Millie.

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