Charles Antonio Etheridge
Backstory and Context
VMI graduate Charles Antonio Etheridge served with great distinction in France, and was one of countless gallant United States Marines who earned the Corps its “devil dog” nickname at the Battle of Belleau Wood and other western front engagements. Etheridge was a lifelong resident of Norfolk, and his family’s residence at 811 Colonial Avenue still stands. Etheridge would commission into the Marine Corps upon his graduation from VMI in May, 1917, and spent only a few short months at Parris Island and Marine Corps Base Quantico before shipping off to Europe in September, 1917. He would first see action in March of 1918, and served with distinction at the Aisne defensive sector, Chateau-Thierry, Champagne, and the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
Etheridge’s war record is emblematic of the brutality Marines and other troops saw on the frontlines. Etheridge would be promoted twice in two days due to casualties sustained at Chateau-Thierry. He would be promoted from 2nd to 1st Lieutenant on July 1st, and received the rank of Captain on July 2nd. Etheridge would first be cited for “inborn ability, cool courage, and unerring judgement”, and awarded a Silver Star for his actions at Belleau Wood June 10th-13th of 1918. Spotting German machine gunners setting up position at a vulnerable spot in the American lines, Lt. Etheridge led eight privates of the Army engineers against this position and killed or captured all the Germans, bringing two captured machine guns back to the Allied lines as trophies. Etheridge was wounded less than a month later near Vierny in July, and spent most of the remainder of the War away from the front in hospitals. Etheridge remarked later that he had always looked favorably upon military service and had been glad to be called to serve. The attitudes and actions of men like him were instrumental to the American military legacy that was forged in France a century ago.