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01 May 2008

A Hero's Final Resting Place

William Harold Roberts is buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France near the place where he died. The cemetery is the final resting place for 14,246 soldiers, most of whom lost their lives in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive during World War I. It is the largest American military cemetery in Europe. Gary McMasters sees to it that Corporal Harold W. Roberts is honored every Memorial Day by having flowers placed at the gravesite from the soldiers and civilians at Camp Roberts.

On October 4, 1918, Roberts' company was engaged in a fierce battle in the Montrebeau woods. Roberts and Sergeant Virgil Morgan were in a two-man tank, a French Renault, weighing slightly over seven tons and with a top speed of seven miles per hour. Sergeant Morgan and Corporal Roberts saw a disabled tank with a soldier crouched by it. As Roberts stopped his tank, the soldier asked for help. The reply was given that they would return after the battle and they drove off.

In an interview with Sergeant Virgil Morgan, the gunner whose life Roberts saved, Morgan said, "Bob, as we called him, came to our company last summer and almost at once he was liked by everybody. By his good work he soon was promoted to Corporal. There never proved to be a better soldier."

The Medal of Honor was presented to Harold's father, John A. Roberts. The citation reads "Corporal Roberts, a tank driver, was moving his tank into a clump of bushes to afford protection to another tank which had become disabled. The tank slid into a shell hole, 10 feet deep, filled with water, and was immediately submerged. Knowing that only one of the two men in the tank could escape, Corporal Roberts said to the gunner, "Well, only one of us can get out, and out you go," whereupon he pushed his companion through the back door of the tank and was himself drowned."

Roberts was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palms, The French Military Medal, and the Italian War Cross.

This Saturday, May 3, 2008, Camp Roberts is celebrating sixty-seven years at an Open House at the Camp Roberts Athletic Field from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. McMasters plans to unveil the completed portrait of Roberts that he commissioned of a Sacramento artist. He promises to send a photo of the completed work.

McMasters still hopes to locate the missing yearbook so he can see a proper portrait of Corporal Harold Roberts. If you have a 1913 Wilmerding High School yearbook, or you are a descendant of the Seifert or Roberts family, please contact the society.

Read the entire series:

  • Part 1 — Searching for Harold Roberts
  • Part 2 — Roberts: What We Found
  • Part 3 — Roberts' Battlefield Letter
  • Part 4 — A Face for Harold Roberts