Gaston Lewis Dortch was born February 18, 1893 in Goldsboro to William and Elizabeth. He had two brothers, Hugh & Redmond, and four sisters, Elizabeth, Mary, Anna & Helen. The family lived at 212 N. William St., near where the post office downtown now stands.
His father was a United States Marshal and his grandfather was William Theophilus Dortch, a well respected lawyer. Gaston attended both UNC and NC State and after graduation followed in his father’s footsteps as a marshal. He was assigned to the Raleigh district, led by his father.
After the outbreak of WWI Gaston received an exemption from service because of his job in law enforcement but eventually decided to enter the service anyway.
He received officer’s training at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia and Camp Greene in Charlotte. Upon completion he was commissioned a lieutenant in the 119th Infantry, 30th Division alongside dozens of other Wayne County men.
On October 18, 1918 the 119th held a position just outside the northern French town of Ribeauville. Orders were to take the town but the men fell back due to intense artillery and machine gun fire from the German defenders. During the assault Gaston Dortch lost his life. Another Wayne County man, Bruce Blevins, also fell that day in the assault on the town.
Tragically, Gaston’s father William died the same day only one hour apart from his son.
Dortch’s final resting place is the Somme American Cemetery (above left) in Bony, about 300 miles to the northwest of where he fell in combat. His family placed a marker at Willow Dale Cemetery (above right) to honor his memory locally. He is one of 35 alumni honored on the NC State belltower, built to memorialize WWI graduates killed.
Previous Wayne County WWI posts:
– King David Simmons
– Andrew Best
– Miles Faison Harris
– Charles Rom Hardesty
– Ezra Alphonso Mayo
– Grover Summerlin
– Camp Royster, Wayne County Fairground
– John Burt Exum
– Boys Battalion, 1905
– Remembering the Forgotten Dead of a Forgotten War
– North Carolina National Guard on the Border
– World War I & North Carolina: 30th Division, 119th Infantry