Author: Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist
Thomas Pinkney Shinn (who went by “Jack”) was born on April 20, 1896, in the town of Concord in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. He grew up in Kannapolis, N.C. Prior to serving in World War I, Shinn worked as an assistant secretary at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Kannapolis. He entered military service during World War I on September 7, 1917, at Concord, N.C., and was sent to basic training at Camp Jackson, South Carolina.
Thomas Shinn was assigned to Company B, 321st Infantry, 81st Division, U.S. Army. He served overseas in Europe from July 31, 1918, to June 20, 1919. He was involved in the military actions at the St. Die sector and in the Argonne-Meuse offensive in France. Shinn reached the rank of First Sergeant during his military career. He was honorably discharged on June 28, 1919, at Camp Lee, Virginia.
While he was serving in the military, Thomas Shinn kept a small diary of his experiences and his unit’s movements through the end of 1918. It captures the life of an Army soldier on the frontlines during World War I, and exhibits the writing skills Shinn utilized while working as a secretary prior to the war. Shinn also wrote postcards during his service to his girlfriend Mattie J. Krimminger in Kannapolis.
After the war, Thomas P. Shinn would marry Mattie J. Krimminger in Rowan County, N.C., on November 27, 1919. By 1928, the Shinns were living in Salisbury, N.C., where Thomas was working for Salisbury Marble and Granite Company. By 1930, the Shinns were living in the town of Leaksville in Rockingham County, N.C. Thomas worked in Leaksville as a secretary at the local Y.M.C.A., in which capacity he served through at least the early 1940s. Later in life, Shinn would live in Tennessee. Thomas P. Shinn died on July 25, 1988, in Greensboro, N.C.
You can read Thomas Shinn’s WWI diary online through the WWI collection of the North Carolina Digital Collections, a joint effort of the State Archives of North Carolina and the State Library of North Carolina.
To learn more about Thomas Shinn’s WWI service, check out his collection Thomas P. Shinn Papers (WWI 38) held in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C.
This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.
Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.