By Jack Thomas Tomarchio
Every November our Troop celebrates the anniversary of its founding with a dinner at the
Armory. One of the more solemn moments in an otherwise raucous evening is the reading of the
names of Troopers who have died in combat during America’s wars. When the names of the World
War I dead are read, one name called is that of Richard Stockton Bullitt, Volunteer Troop of 1917.
Our Archives contain a memorial book written about Trooper Bullitt which sketches out his life and
recounts his death as a member of the 110th Infantry, 28th Division.
Dick Bullitt was born in Philadelphia on April 22, 1896. His family was prominent; he was the
great-great-great grandson of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. A
graduate of Episcopal Academy and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Bullitt
moved to Detroit to begin his career in business one year before the United States entered the First
World War. He returned to Philadelphia and joined the Troop as a member of the Volunteer
Troop of 1917, replacing those First City men who had taken commissions in other units. The
Troop, now designated as the 103th Trench Mortar Battery went to Camp Hancock, Georgia on
August 25, 1917. On January 5, 1918, Bullitt was appointed as a cadet in the Third Officers’ Training
Camp. Of the 500 cadets in this camp he was one of 70 who won their commissions and was
commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry on April 19, 1918 and assigned as a Platoon Leader
in Company K 110th Infantry. The 110th sailed for England on May 2, 1918 and arrived in Liverpool
on May 16th. By July 15th the 110th was on the Western Front in France at a town called Conde en
Brie. On July 29th Company K was entrenched near the River Ourcq on a gently sloping hill not
far from a wheat field. The terrain they held was an open field except for a stand of woods on the
crest of the hill. These woods were the immediate objective of an attack Company K was to lead that
day. The woods were filled with German machine-gun nests. Without any cover whatsoever, and
without artillery support, Bullitt led his platoon across the field. The men had been without food for
two days, and water for 24 hours. The Germans were in the woods, waiting.
Lieutenant Bullitt led his platoon around the north side of the hill and was attacking the woods
from the northeastern approach when he was hit in the thigh by a machine gun bullet. He could no
longer walk, but seeing an automatic rifle squad near him he crawled over to them and finding its
corporal dead he manned the machine gun until his ammunition gave out. In the process he
received four more wounds in his chest from machine gun bullets. Several times he was approached
by stretcher bearers, but he refused to be carried from the field until all of his wounded men were
cared for first. Although suffering intensely from five bullet wounds, Dick Bullitt continued to direct
fire and encourage his men. A final shot struck him in the forehead, killing him instantly.
Bullitt was buried with his men in a shallow grave, the rifles of the dead stacked over their resting
place. Dick’s canteen hung from one of the bayonets. Inside a note was placed with his name and
the date of his death. Shortly afterwards, the men of the 103rd Trench Mortar Battery, First City
Troopers all, visited the grave to pay their respects to their fellow fallen Trooper. Later his body
was removed to the American Cemetery at Seringes et Nesles.
Dick Bullitt died a soldier’s death, but while he lived he lived a soldier’s life. Perhaps the most
telling aspect of how he saw himself and his duty can be found in a letter he wrote on July 14th,
fifteen days before he was killed.
“ I can truthfully say I am devoted to my work. I think more of my platoon than of anything else in the world. It seems as though every man in it had become a vital part of me. I am crazy about them all, and what pleases me most is to know that every man does what I order not because I hold a commission, but because they respect me and want to do things for me… I cannot express how wonderful it is to be the leader of fifty-seven men who will follow you through hell…They know my heart and soul is in my work, and they know I think of them first- myself last.”
This year, when we read his name and raise our glasses to “To His Memory” know that he was
more than just a name on a brass memorial plaque. He was a man, a soldier, a Trooper.
He was one of us.