Mississippi Armed Forces Museum receives first Mississippian WWI memoribilia from Picayune native

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Mississippi Armed Forces Museum recently received a donation that should bring a lot of local interest to the museum. It received World War I memorabilia from the family of Joseph Megehee, a late Mississippian who was stationed at Camp Shelby. The donation is a first of its kind for the museum.
During World War I, many soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby were from across the nation, from the West Coast to New Jersey, but rarely were there native Mississippi soldiers enlisted at the camp, Liz Frankum, Megehee’s granddaughter said.
A trunk full of the Picayune native’s war memorabilia was donated to the MAFM to display the history of the area and one of its local soldiers. The items inside the trunk include hand-written letters Megehee wrote home during the war, a complete service uniform, medals, a wool sweater, dog tags, a German bayonet and scabbard he collected during his service as a guard, a sharpening razor and shaving kit, numerous photographs of Megehee at Camp Shelby, booklets, charcoal sketches of him done by a French artist and what Frankum considers most appealing, a short diary of his experiences during the end of the war.
Although Megehee did not document every day of his service during the final year of World War I, his diary did contain fascinating insight on what life was like at the time.
Megehee was the youngest son in his family, living on a 160-acre farm in Picayune. When the United States became involved in World War I, many of the men in his community enlisted, except Megehee. He had been deferred because he was taking care of his mother at the time. Frankum said it was said that someone went to the draft board and told them, “Send them on, we will take care of their mothers.” And just like that, Megehee was drafted on June 5, 1918 and reported to Camp Shelby 10 days later under the Company C, 151st Infantry, 38th Division, she said.
In Megehee’s diary, it explains that because the war was winding down, he saw no action in Europe. Instead he saw the hardships and devastation caused by the war, Frankum said.
“He nearly starved to death, at first, and had to sleep on the ground in the snow,” Frankum said, reiterating a passage inside Megehee’s diary.
However, things got better for Megehee. He later became a guard of captured German soldiers, which came with better living conditions and is believed to be where he received the German bayonet and scabbard, Frankum said. Megehee served in Europe until September 1919, and returned to U.S. soil on October 4, 1919, she said.
Ten days later, Megehee was discharged from Camp Gordon in Georgia and arrived back in Picayune a day later.
From his story, and marking the first bundle of memorabilia coming from a native Mississippian World War I soldier including a complete uniform, Frankum said Museum Director Chad Daniels had “sparkles in his eyes” when he saw what was inside Megehee’s trunk.
“They seemed very excited about receiving this memorabilia. It’s something that really tells the story of a local soldier’s life in the biggest war in the world at the time,” Frankum said.
An exact date when the items will be displayed at the MAFM is unavailable, but Frankum said Daniels estimates the items will be ready for display as the feature exhibit during the museum’s 100th year anniversary celebration July 15.

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