Maury High School alum Walton Marshall Ellingsworth served with distinction in the Army's 12th Field Artillery Regiment in the Great War. In his duties as a forward observation/reconnaissance officer Ellingsworth would be cited for extraordinary courage and coolness under fire. Earning a Distinguished Service Cross and French Croix de Guerre, Ellingsworth would serve as an instructor for future artillery observers after the war.
By the time the United States would declare war on Germany in 1917, public sentiment had largely shifted against the Kaiser, and many Americans were happy to see the United States do its part for the Allies. Maury High School alum Walton Marshall Ellingsworth was no exception. A senior in the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Ellingsworth would enlist with the US Army Field Artillery at Fort Meyer at the conclusion of the VPI spring term in May. Ellingsworth would train for the rest of the year at Fort Meyer and Camp Merritt, New Jersey, before embarking for Europe in January, 1918. Ellingsworth would see action in several major engagements, and soon had the opportunity to act upon the “anxieties” he had felt about war with Germany.
Ellingsworth’s 12th Field Artillery Regiment would participate in heavy fighting as part of the US 2nd Division. Ellingsworth saw action in defensive sectors at Verdun and Chateau Thierry, along with Belleau Wood, Soissons, and Port a’ Mousson. It was neary Vierzy, on July 21st, that Ellingsworth would truly rise to the occasion he had imagined in the build up to the war. Ellingsworth would be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre for his actions as a forward observer and reconnaissance officer. Official citations of his actions that day cite Ellingsworth’s “Great courage and coolness” under “heavy shellfire” that “aided materially in the efficient firing of his battallion”. Ellingsworth denied to provide any narrative accounts of his actions that day, or any account of his post war state of mind on his war history questionnaire. Like so many ordinary men who have been called to extraordinary duty in war time, Ellingsworth likely did not consider himself a hero. However, the United States Army recognized his capabilities as an artillery officer to be so great he was selected to be an instructor on preparative and reconnaissance duties at Field Artillery Brigade Training Center at Camp Knox, Kentucky after the wars end.