Thomas Enright

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Thomas Francis Enright (1887—1917) was one of the first three American soldiers killed in action during World War I.

Enright was born May 8, 1887 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Irish immigrants. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1909.

He, along with Corporal James Bethel Gresham of Evansville, Indiana, and Private Merle David Hay of Glidden, Iowa, all serving in Company F, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division (“The Big Red One”), were the first Americans to die in combat during the First World War when on November 3, 1917, German troops trench raided their position near the village of Bathelémont les Bauzemont in the Lorraine (region), east of Nancy.

Two days later, Enright, Gresham, and Hay were buried near where they had died. Alfalfa soon sprouted on their gravesites and their relatives harvested it, incorporating it into a family bread recipe. An inscription marked their graves: "Here lie the first soldiers of the illustrious Republic of the United States who fell on French soil for justice and liberty."

On July 16, 1921 Enright was reburied in Pittsburgh with military honors. That day began with his casket lying in state at Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial located in the city's Oakland section. It then was placed on a gun caisson drawn by six horses and taken to St. Paul Cathedral for a memorial Mass celebrated by Hugh Charles Boyle, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Pittsburgh.

From St. Paul's, a procession continued to St. Mary Cemetery in the city's Lawrenceville neighborhood. A wreath from General John J. Pershing was laid upon his grave.