Banner

 

Eugene Joseph Bernard Breen
Sergeant

1----COMPANY G. BOYS ANXIOUS TO PLAY “RUBBER” WITH T.F.O.P.
August 7, 1917-- Eugene Breen had served during the Mexican conflicts.  He was out of the service when War broke out with Germany and reenlisted on March 20, 1917.   Apparently, they were either still in town or close by at camp Merritt and they played this game on the Beech Street grounds, which would have been a field near the High School today. 
The article seems to not separate the two games but what I believe it is saying was that Company G. lost the first game they played against T.F.O.P. 13-1 and they won the second rain-delayed game 9-1.  Eugene Breen who coached the Company G. team was requesting a third or rubber match game to decide the short series before they shipped out to a southern camp. 
Note; I do not know what T. F. O. P. stands for as of June 2009?  In September of 2020, I took the time to look up what T.F.O.P. stood for and if I am correct, it stands for, Theater Force Opening Package.  

One thing is for certain many of the soldiers who left Hackensack to serve in the Great War loved Baseball!! At every camp whenever the opportunity rose, they seemed to play.  The influence of these men must have effected those that followed through both World War II and Korea, many soldiers from Hackensack during these wars always sought out baseball for their main activity.  In the movie  Brewster's Millions, made in 1985, had previously been made a movie seven times.  Based on the book written by George Barr McCutcheon’s 1902 novel Brewster’s Millions, the comedy depicted baseball and life in America at the turn of the century 1902.    The book mentions playing baseball in Hackensack, which makes one, believe Hackensack’s unusual commitment to the National Past Time was well known throughout the country at the turn of the century.


2----COMPANY G. BOYS WIN AT ANNISTON; October 11, 1917
Company G. moves to the Southern Camp and the most important thing to the men serving and the family’s back home is how good are our boys against anyone else’s nine on the diamond.  The article reports the boys are receiving the World Series scores by the inning. 


3----MAJOR BREEN PRAISES MEN; June 1, 1918
Eugene Breen who was serving his third enlistment with Company G. had been honorably discharged in January while at Camp McClellan at Anniston Alabama because of a slight physical defect.  I do not know what the defect was.  After a few months out of service, the National Army then drafted Eugene Breen back into the Army and this letter dated May 29, 1918, appears to be when he was making the trip to be stationed at Fort Dix.  The other men called Eugene Breen who was 26 years old, Major and I have no idea why?  He signs the letter –PRIVATE EUGENE BREEN, better known as “Major.”  By the tone of the letter, he appears to be in a position of responsibility even though he does not have rank yet.  He is obviously very well liked
and respected.


4----SOLDIERS HAD CHICKEN DINNER; June 18, 1918
            Eugene Breen in this letter again seems to be in a position of authority over the boys from Hackensack even though he is still writing as a private.  After telling of some activities, he brings up Baseball.  The NY Giants played the camp Dix team and the Giants won 5-3 in front of 20,000 soldiers at the camp.  He also mentions that the company had been quarantined for three weeks on account of measles breaking out in the Barracks.  This could have been the signs of the weakening immune systems of the men at camp Dix.  The unforeseen outbreak of the Spanish Influenza was about to strike over the next few months that would take a tremendous death toll on the soldiers at the Army Camps throughout the Country.   At this point in Eugene Breen’s life, at the age of 26, he was enjoying Baseball whenever the opportunity arose and serving his Country State side not far
from home. 


5----EUGENE BREEN HAS SPANISH INFLUENZA; September 30, 1918
            On this day, two small articles appeared in the paper, which was the beginning of the revealing of tragic events for three Hackensack young man.  A telegram was sent to Eugene Breen’s father telling him of the fact that his son was stricken with the deadly flu and was seriously ill. 

Another Hackensack young man Park Hart who lived on Prospect Avenue was seriously ill with the flu in a camp at Gettysburg.  I have not come across another article as of yet (June 14, 2009) mentioning he died from the flu but we do have a record of his death on the plaque at the Hackensack Library.  This plaque was put up by the Girls Patriotic League of Hackensack, N.J.  Man Killed in Battle or those who died of the Spanish Influenza were all listed on the plaque as having made the Supreme Sacrifice. 

On the plaque, his name reads HART, JOHN PARK.
A third man has some mystery as to his actual name and who he was.  The Article in the paper, which was right above the article about Eugene Breen, reads:

ARTHUR NICHOLAS DIES AT CAMP DIX FROM SPANISH INFLUENZA; September 30, 1918
            The article states that the local draft board has a Arthur Nicholas from Hackensack but the people of Hackensack seemed to think the only man with a similar name that they knew was at Camp Dix at the time was a “colored” man 24 years old named Arthur S. Nicklar


            To confuse this more, I received material from a Jim Wrocklage who corrects and updates memorials around
Bergen County for the past 25 years.  He spelled the name Arthur S. Nickles and he has his date he died as
September 26, 1918. 

            I am going to give you my opinion from the information we have as to what is correct.  I believe the man was
Arthur S. Nicklar the “colored” man, as they mentioned in the article, as the only man at Camp Dix from Hackensack at that time.  Nicklar is an odd spelling and that is how it is written on the plaque at the Hackensack Library, which was dedicated shortly after the War when people would have been most accurate.  Another thought to keep in mind was that Eugene Breen’s mother and sister came to Camp Dix to be with Eugene Breen when they had found out he was ill.  Being at the Camp, I would think they would have gotten word of the other boy’s death and would have brought that information back to the people who made the plaque after the War.  The date, which Jim Wrocklage gives, coincides perfectly with the man’s death when the article appeared in the paper only four days later.  People sometimes assume the way names should be spelled and there are many spelling errors all the time in the newspaper. 

   
What strikes me is with all the prejudice of the day there was this sense in the news article that a Hackensack young man had died and they wanted to honor him if he was one of ours whether he was “colored” or not.  The town’s people did just that on the plaque at the library, all names are listed together in alphabetical order with no segregation or mention of color at all
on the list.  


6----GENE BREEN DIES IN CAMP; October 5, 1918
            This article is the most comprehensive account of his military service. The article also reveals how well known and liked Eugene Breen was in Hackensack.  Eugene Breen died on October 4, 1918 and this Record newspaper article report was the very next day.   

        
7----SERGT. BREEN LAID TO REST; OCTOBER 7, 1918
            This article tells of Eugene Breen’s body being brought back to his parent’s house on Myer Street in Hackensack for burial. The service was held at Holy Trinity Church.    

     
8----CONDOLENCE FROM FRANCE; November 30, 1918
            This letter to Eugene Breen’s parents from Company G. Boys from Hackensack reveals again how well known and liked Eugene was throughout Hackensack.  The letter was written by a George E. Hedges and he had other men sign the letter who shared his sorrow.  I (Bob Meli) grew up in Hackensack and attended Fairmount School the Middle School and the High School and I knew a George Hedges very well during those years (1960-1973).  George’s family lived on Willow Ave. and then when George was 7 or 8 years old they moved to Catalpa during the early 1960’s.  George lived there until he married and his parents I believe were still there till they passed away.   His father was a firemen and I would think they are related to the
George Hedges who wrote this letter.  If anyone knows, please let me know. 

       Note:  I had raised the question under the 8th article on Eugene Breen’s page whether George E. Hedges was related to a George Hedges class of 1973, whom I graduated with, and the answer is yes. George E. Hedges, class of 1973, happened to see the website and the question.  He contacted me around Christmas time 2012 and said that George E. Hedges, who wrote the letter to Eugene Breen’s parents, is his grandfather’s brother.  George E. Hedges served as a Hackensack Firemen
after the
Great War.
                                                                                                    
Written by:
Bob Meli
June 15 2009

Revised by:
Bob Meli
 September 23, 2020

 

 

Click here to view the State of NJ Department of State of World War I Casualties: Descriptive cards and photographs researched by George Toriello.

 

Background image of Camp Dix during World War I obtained from:

http://www.mountmerinomanor.com/blog/2014/09/history-hudson-ny/