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Franklin Theodore Rhodes

Submitted by: Debra Dudek {Grand Niece}

Franklin Theodore RhodesFranklin Theodore Rhodes born around 1902. Franklin Rhodes served in World War 1 with the United States Army Air Corps. The enlistment was in 1917 and the service was completed in 1919.

Story of Service

 

Franklin T. Rhodes, known as Frank to his friends and family, enlisted in the Army Air Corps on November 17, 1917. Although he was only fifteen at the time, Frank and a group of friends joined the service together at the Army enlistment office in Fort Wayne.

Frank's parents, Elmer and Ida (nee Pope) Rhodes may have supported his bid to enlist in the Army at such an early age, however, no documentation or official release records exist. Frank recalled later how the the enlistment officer looked him, a strapping farm boy of 5'6 claiming to be 18, and how the officer did not hesitate to accept his enlistment papers.

It is possible he enlisted without his parent's permission, and they simply accepted the decision out of patriotism and Frank's ability to send money home for the family. Frank's older brother, George A. Rhodes had joined the 303 Motor Transport Corps in Detroit, MI around the same time. The Rhodes family had two sons in service, one in the air and one on the ground.

After completing bouncing around to several training camps, including Fort Thomas (Kentucky), Kelly Field (Texas), and Scott Field (Illinois), Frank completed his flight training in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada). He joined the 86th Aero Squadron and sailed to England, where he joined his unit in Shoreham-by-Sea. The government had placed an airfield in Shoreham-by-Sea, and the 86th Aero Squadron lived, worked, and ate along side UK soldiers.

Frank came down with Spanish Flu in July, 1918, and he was sent to the Canadian hospital in Brighton, England. He was in the hospital for 10 days, and upon his return, he was told the 86th was headed for France.

Although he'd been trained to fly airplanes for the air service, there were not enough planes available to pilot when he arrived in France. Instead of flying, Frank's unit was assigned to assist with salvaging parts and usable items from downed airplanes for a repair park located nearby. He also provided logistical assistance for the repair park as needed, helping to load and unload new engines, spare parts of all sorts, ammunition, bombs, gasoline, and other sundries.

When the war ended, Frank stayed in Europe assisting on several logistical projects. On May 11, 1919, he left Bordeaux, France bound for Newport News, Virginia. After a through delousing, he broke outfit at Camp Lee in in Petersberg, Virginia, and from there the men of the 86th Aero Squadron were sent to various camps near their homes for discharge. After being sent to Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville (KY), Frank was discharged on May 29 1919.

Frank joined his family back on the farm for a time in Fort Wayne, before moving to Michigan to be close to his brother George in 1920. In the photographs of George's wedding in 1920, Frank is no longer the skinny 5'6 soldier. He and his brother were both over 6 feet tall, and looked so much alike it was hard to tell each of them apart.

After the war, Frank took up a career as a police officer in Fort Wayne, and was very active in his local American Legion Post. He was the long-time treasurer of the Fort Wayne World War I veteran's association, and was the last surviving member of the group until his death in 1994.

Uncle Frank was very vocal about his wartime experiences, and left a recorded oral account of his service. He also left behind a collection of photographs, postcards, and letters from the war.

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