Louis Ernest Chartier was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1898 to first-generation French parents, Louis and Louise Chartier, who immigrated to the United States from France in 1894.
On April 13, 1917, at age 22, Louis Chartier enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. In February of the following year, he was mustered into the 66th Company, 5th Regiment. Little did he know that the 5th and 6th Regiments of the U.S. Marines would become two of the most well-known and decorated regiments for their extraordinary service in France during the First World War.
Though very little is known of Chartier’s personal military experiences, we know that on July 6th, his parents were falsely informed that he was killed in action in several state, regional, and national newspapers. False information related to soldier deaths, wounds, and location was common, due to the limited means of communication methods and the hectic and confusing nature of the WWI battleground. In the December 24, 1918 issue of the Champaign Daily Newspaper, “Louis E. Chartier, Chicago” was listed under the heading “In Hospital, Previously Reported Killed”. No other reports of Louis Charier’s status appear in available resources, and it is unknown if he recovered from his wounds and returned to the battlefield, but records indicate he served in the U.S. Marines until July 1919.
In the spring of 1918, Chartier’s 5th Marine Regiment was given the nickname “Devil Dogs” after their heroic involvement in the Battle of Belleau Wood, offensive campaigns at Aisne, the Balle of Saint-Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. As the son of French parents, it must have been surreal for Louis to be fighting a battle on the very soil from where his family was from.
The 5th Marine Regiment’s actions during WWI have contributed to a special decoration worn on today’s members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments. These two regiments were the only regiments in the American Expeditionary Force to be awarded three Croix de Guerre citations from the French Government, earning the right to a braided and knotted green and red cord, called the Fourragere. Since the First World War, 5th and 6th Marine Regiments have proudly worn Fourragere on their uniforms and continue to display it on their left shoulder today. According to the Marines Official Webpage:
This braided rope and spike embodies and recalls the courageous conduct and fighting spirit of Marines and Sailors who have gone before us. It marks us as warriors, a proud battalion, and a grand regiment. Wear the Fourragere with pride, dignity, and honor and remember always in whose footsteps you tread.
Louis Chartier received the Purple Heart and a Gold Star for his military service. Although he was likely most proud of the red and green Fourragere that he and his comrades earned for their extraordinary involvement in battles that ultimately resulted to the victorious outcome of the war.
In 1919, Chartier returned to the U.S. and began a life-long career in his hometown of Chicago as a milkman with Borden Dairy Company. By 1930, Louis was married to Austrian-born Anna Holzgethan and soon had 2 sons, Robert, born in 1927, and William, born in 1929. Sadly, the following announcement appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, May 29, 1945:
Mr. and Mrs. Louis E. Chartier of 7642 Morgan St. have been notified that their son, Marine Pvt. Robert L., 19, died May 16 on Okinawa from wounds suffered in action. He also leaves a brother, William. Robert entered the marine corps after his graduation from Calumet High School in January 1944.
The news that Louis, a WWI veteran, received about his young son’s death was all too common. The mere 22-year years between American involvement in the First and Second World Wars would have subjected many sons of First World War veterans to military service in the early 1940s. Though surely overcome with grief and loss, Louis and Anna Chartier must have felt extremely proud of their son’s service and sacrifice as a Marine. He is buried at grave 347 E, Rock Island National Cemetery.
Louis Chartier lived to be 75 years old and died on March 24, 1973. He is buried at grave 627 J, Rock Island National Cemetery – just yards away from his son.
 “6th Marines, 2d Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, NC.” Marines – The Official Website of the United States Marine Corps.Accessed June 2, 2022.