Fulks, Kirby served and died in World War I
Note: Second in a series, this article honors Madison residents who died in military service during World War I. These men are memorialized at the Wall of Heroes in Captain Jesse Ollie Wikle Jr. Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Madison. Madison Legionnaire Richard Lewis Blanton Jr. was major contributor for this article.
MADISON – Private Dennis Fulks of Madison was one of many thousands of men who entered military service for World War I in 1918.
Fulks was born March 6, 1893. He was married to Rose E. Fulks of Madison and inducted into the U.S. Army at Huntsville on Sept. 1, 1918.
Originally, Fulks was assigned to 71st Company, 163rd Depot Brigade at an all African-American training facility at Camp Dodge near Des Moines, Iowa. He then transferred to Company K, 809th Pioneer Infantry Regiment, likely at Camp Funston at Fort Riley near Junction City, Kan.
Disembarking from Hoboken, N.J., 5,000 soldiers were on board the U.S.N.T. President Grant. During the 14-day transit to Europe, about half of the soldiers contracted Spanish influenza. “This influenza traveled reached every corner of the world by Spring 1919,” Madison Legionnaire Richard Lewis Blanton Jr. said.
In a single year, Spanish influenza claimed more 20 million people worldwide.
During the Atlantic crossing, an undetermined number of individuals were buried at sea. Arriving in France, about 75 men of the 809th had the grim task of removing the remaining bodies who had died, Blanton said.
Private Fulks died of lobar pneumonia less than 10 days after arriving in France on Oct. 8, 1918. His remains were returned to the United States on board the S.S. Princess Matoika, which departed St. Nazaire, France and arrived in Hoboken. His remains were returned to Madison.
Another Madison native who died in World War I was Private First Class Jim Kirby. In the U.S. Army, Kirby was assigned to Company F, 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division and departed Hoboken, N.J. on board the S.S. Vauben on June 14, 1918.
Originally, PFC Kirby was listed as severely wounded-in-action, but his status was updated to killed-in-action on Nov. 11, 1918. Tragically, he died on the date the guns fell silent, and the First World War ended.
Kirby was interred in the St. Mihiel American Cemetery, Section 20, Plot 1, Grave #13, Thiaucourt, M-et-M., France.
His next of kin was his mother, Jennie Kirby, Route 1, Madison. She made the pilgrimage to France as a Gold Star Mother in 1930 to visit her son’s grave.