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1st Lt. Austin was born in Jamacia Plains, Massachusetts in 1897, the son of Francis Boylston Austin (H-1886).
He was a 10th generation descent of the Brewster family who were among the first settlers of Plymouth, Massachusetts. He went to the Pomfort School before Harvard where he played football and attended the Harvard ROTC program in Plattsburgh, New York.
On April 1918, he sailed for France on a ship which was almost torpedoed by a German submarine. In the 305th Infantry Division he was initially promoted to sergeant and later commissioned as a 2nd Lt. and transferred to the 109th Infantry.
He participated in the following engagements: Aisne-Oise and Meuse-Argonne offensives defensive but he was Killed in Action on the last day of the war, 15 minutes before the last shot was fired in World War I.
Distinguished Service Cross
Awarded posthumously for actions during the World War I
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant (Infantry) Francis R. Austin, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 109th Infantry Regiment, 28th Division, A.E.F., near Haumont, France, 11 November 1918.
First Lieutenant Austin led a platoon of machine guns and two 1-pounder guns with their crews under cover of a fog within the enemy's wire and attacked at close range a strong point held by twenty-five men and ten machine-guns. After this position had been reduced, concentrated machine-gun fire from the ranks forced Lieutenant Austin and his party to withdraw.
Exposing himself in order to place his men under cover, he was mortally wounded, but he directed the dressing of the wounds of his men and their evacuation before he would accept any aid for himself. He died a few hours later.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 37 (1919)
Action Date: 11-Nov-18
Rank: First Lieutenant
Regiment: 109th Infantry Regiment
Division: 28th Division, American Expeditionary Forces
His name appears on the World War I Memorial Rose Window in the First Parish Brookline Church, Brookline, Massachusetts.
His name appears on the World War I Memorial at Pomfret School, Pomfret Connecticut
From: On the Field of Honor edited by Paul B. Elliott
"It was my good fortune to be one of that small group of Harvard undergraduates who left college at the close of 1917 to enlist as privates in the National Army and attend the Third Officers' Training School at Camp Upton. Our thoughts and actions at college for the preceding year had had but one aim, to get into the service at the earliest possible moment, but until then we had all been prevented on account of our youth.
All of these men I had known at college, some fairly well, others only slightly, but in the life that followed I came to know especially well and to form the closest comradeship with three of them, Albert Angier, Francis Austin, and Eugene Galligan. Our life in the Officers' Training School passed quickly and happily enough until towards the close of March, 1918, when the SeventySeventh Division received its overseas orders. The school came to an abrupt close: men from the division were sent back to the ranks, some with the uncertain recommendation that they were eligible to receive the commission of second lieutenant when the War Department should see fit to grant it; others with nothing at all. The comparatively few men from college, of course, could not be ordered directly to the division, as they had not previously belonged to it. We were summoned privately, one by one, to the Commandant's Office, and given the choice of staying in America with the probability of receiving a commission very shortly, or of going overseas with the division as privates with great uncertainty as to when, if . ever, we would receive our commissions. Nothing was promised, nothing, in fact, known for a certainty. To the great credit of the boys it can be said that practically all volunteered to go over without the keenly hoped-for and long-sought commissions; getting nearer to the scene of action where our services might be of some value was the first consideration. So when the school broke up we were assigned to different companies in the division.
Austin, Angier, Galligan, and myself were fortunate in being assigned to the same battalion of the 305th. Gene was in Company B, Larry in Company D, and Al and I were together in Company C. Here we learned to pocket our pride, keep our mouths shut, and do what we could to help things in general, though apparently nothing was expected of us. We were mere odd numbers and the company organizations all complete without us.
The day for sailing soon came; we were packed in below decks in the cargo hold of the good ship " Vauban," and considered ourselves lucky in getting off to France after only three months and a half in the service. Arriving overseas at the end of April, we spent the next two months and a half in the dull grind of military training, performing the simple duties of private or corporal or sergeant as best we could, and always hoping the commissions would arrive. What an interminable wait it was and how often we were disappointed! Finally, however, they "came through," and on Bastile Day we were all sworn in as Second Lieutenants of the National Army. The commissions reached us just as we were to go into real action,thus bringing with them all the responsibilities and cares of handling men's lives in battle, but without any of the pleasant features which a commissioned officer enjoys in a period of training and preparation in camp or behind the lines.
The sad part about being commissioned was that we had to separate: Al and Gene stayed with the 77th, and Larry and I went to the 28th Division. It was a coincidence again that Al and Gene were together in the same battalion of the 308th and Larry and I in the second battalion of the 109th.
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