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World War I Centennial News



sox 09 10 1918 2Opening game of the 1918 World Series in Comiskey Park, Chicago. The U.S. involvement in World War I prompted the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner during the seventh-inning stretch of Game 1. The Star-Spangled Banner would become a fixture of important baseball occasions — opening days and World Series — moving forward.

Before the 1918 influenza outbreak hit Camp Sherman during World War I, baseball was in action 

By Tim Vollet
via the (OH) newspaper web site

It was late afternoon on Thursday, Sept. 5, and there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the first game of the 1918 World Series. The visiting American League champion Boston Red Sox were clinging to a narrow 1-0 lead over the National League champion Chicago Cubs.

The sun was out at the Chicago ballpark, but the chilly winds off Lake Michigan had many fans wearing coats, including the numerous uniformed soldiers scattered throughout the bleachers. By the final inning of the pitchers’ duel, many fans had already headed home and the top tier of seats were nearly deserted.

The first two hitters in the Cub’s final at bat had been quickly retired, but the next batter managed to beat out a slow roller to third base, keeping the hopes of the hometown fans alive. Now, the on deck hitter stepped into the batter’s box, kicked up a small cloud of dirt and dug in at the plate.

The Red Sox southpaw pitcher stared into the catcher’s mitt and went into his stretch. He paid little attention to the runner taking a comfortable lead off first base. And just as the big lefty began his motion toward the plate, the Cub runner broke for second base. The hit and run was on!

The Cub’s slugger connected and launched the ball high into the bright blue sky in right field. The hopeful fans rose to their feet, but cheers instantly turned to moans after the Red Sox right fielder settled under the fly ball and squeezed it into his glove for the final out. Game one of the 1918 World Series: Red Sox 1, Cubs 0. The winning pitcher? Twenty-three-year-old Babe Ruth.

Read more: Before 1918 influenza outbreak hit Camp Sherman, baseball was in action


knittersKnitters from the Uintah and Ouray Indian Red Cross Auxiliary Division in Fort Duchesne, Utah in 1918, making warm articles of clothing for American soldiers fighting in World War I. An estimated 35,000 Native American adults and children knitted for the U.S. war effort.

Review: "First Americans: U.S. Patriotism in Indian Country after World War I"

By Matthew Villeneuve
via the H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online web site of the University of Michigan

Thomas Grillot's First Americans is a study of Indigenous patriotism in the aftermath of World War I. While the historiography on American Indian participation in the First World War often focuses on the battlefield experience of Indigenous people, Grillot's study examines the ways Indigenous veterans, along with their Euro-American comrades, made meaning out of Indigenous participation in the War to End All Wars after the armistice.

This is welcome analysis that acknowledges the presence of Indigenous people on the battlefield while favoring a closer study of the memory, discourse, and politics wrought in the commemorations, memorials, and holidays that came in the wake of the conflict. In so doing, Grillot sheds light on the process by which the symbolic repertoire for the expression of Indigenous pride came to include such icons as the American flag, citizenship, and the figure of the GI.

Grillot defines Indian patriotism as "the mix of gestures, ceremonies, and utterances demonstrating love of the country and military loyalty," which constituted Indigenous responses to an American "political ideology linking rights and military participation and a series of teachings, symbols, and ceremonies [which] centered on collective belonging" (p. 11). While military service generated political capital for Indigenous people and their communities, Grillot spends the first portion of the book examining the early twentieth-century period when patriotism was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, military service of American Indian men demonstrated the autonomy and capability that offered a means to resist the paternalism of the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA). On the other hand, celebrating that service and casting citizenship as a "reward" for battlefield sacrifice was just as often yet another front in a larger campaign by whites to impose citizenship on Indigenous people as a vehicle for their assimilation.

Grillot's history tracks how Indigenous veterans and the reservation communities of which they were a part consequently navigated "the intersection of universalistic soldier-citizenship and the particularistic condition of being Indians in the United States" (p. 162). In so doing, these veterans inaugurated a seemingly irrevocable shift from earlier Indigenous participation in armed conflicts alongside the United States as allies, to becoming American soldiers themselves.

Grillot's book contains many examples of Indigenous displays of patriotism that helped to cement this transition. For example, in 1925 the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma purchased one of E. M. Visqueney's now-iconic sculptures depicting an American soldier running with rifle in hand titled "the Spirit of the American Doughboy." Though the statue was identical to hundreds of others purchased by towns across the country, when it was installed in Muskogee, the tribes listed not only the names of their warriors who fell in battle in France but also a longer list of their nation's esteemed leaders and former war chiefs, some of whom had fought against the United States. Grillot argues that for the tribes, their longer martial tradition was not incompatible with their nation's service in the United States' military during World War I.

Read more: Review: 'First Americans: U.S. Patriotism in Indian Country after World War I'


These were the Mercy Dogs of World War I 

By Blake Stilwell
via the We Are The Mighty web site

Man's best friend has also been man's battle buddy for as long as dogs have been domesticated. The mechanical, industrialized slaughter in the trenches of World War I didn't change that one bit. All the belligerents let slip the dogs of war, some 30,000 in all. They were used to hunt rats, guard posts as sentries, scout ahead, and even comfort the dying.

The last were the mercy dogs of the Great War.

Our canine companions can do much more than just fight alongside us in times of war. Modern-day uses of dogs include bomb-sniffing and locating the bodies of the fallen. World War I saw some uses of dogs unique to that war, especially in terms of hunting the rats that spread disease and ate corpses in the trenches. Dogs were used in scouting parties; their unique senses, especially smell, allowed them to detect the presence of enemy troops long before their human counterparts. When on guard duty, sentry dogs alerted their handlers to even the most silent of a human presence. But the dogs of mercy were truly the most unique among them.

Mercy dogs, also called casualty dogs, were first trained by the Germanic armies of the 19th Century, but their popularity only grew. The sanitatshunde were trained to find the wounded and dying anywhere on the battlefield. Sometimes they carried medical supplies to help the wounded care for themselves until they could find care from a doctor or medic. If the soldier was too far gone for medical care, the dog would stay with him as he died, to ensure he wasn't alone.

Read more: These were the Mercy Dogs of World War I


WWI ERA ROUNDKelly and Shannon Thomas were working on their flower bed when they uncovered a live World War I shell. (Photo courtesy Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal) 

Maryland couple finds live World War I bomb in their flower bed 

By Robert Gearty
via the television network web site

A woman and her husband in northeast Maryland found a live World War I bomb while digging in a flower bed.

After the startling discovery Wednesday, Kelly and Shannon Thomas, of Belair, left the round where they found it and called the Harford County Sheriff’s Office.

“After examining the device, it was determined that the best course of action was to conduct an emergency disposal to render the ordnance safe,” the Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal said Thursday in a news release. “Bomb Technicians disposed of the potentially dangerous round on the scene.”

The unexploded military ordnance, determined to be a 37 MKI projectile, made its way to the Thomas’ flower bed from the Aberdeen Proving Ground on the Chesapeake Bay 10 miles away. 

“Unexploded military ordnance in the Bay and surrounding waters occasionally makes its way to the surface,” the news release said. “However, the discovery of military ordnance is not limited to tidal waters.”

Read more: Maryland couple finds live World War I bomb in their flower bed


Ire 1917 NYFPA Champs 768x477Samuel Bustard (first in the row, far left) with the 1917 New York Footballers’ Protective Association’s Ireland Team. Spalding’s Official Soccer Foot Ball Guide, 1917-18. 

Reading your own obituary: Samuel Bustard, the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, and the evolution of New York Metro Area soccer through World War I

By Kurt Rausch
via the Society for American Soccer History web site

“Bareheaded and with bleeding knees exposed to the winter’s chill” was the New York Herald’s description of the 1918 New York Footballers’ Protective Association (NYFPA) international series clash between Ireland and the team representing Continental Europe[1]. Entertaining New York area soccer fans since 1912, the NYFPA contests featured the top local players representing unofficial national teams of their country of origin. Ireland, the 1917 winner of the international series, defeated the stubborn Continental team at Manhattan’s Lenox Oval by 7 goals to 2. Samuel Bustard, center halfback and captain of the Ireland team, played a stellar game in the February freeze and scored two of the Ireland goals. No one at the time knew it would be Bustard’s last game before he would be reported dead from the Spanish Flu on October 14, 1918.

This article introduces Samuel Bustard, an Irish immigrant from Belfast, and details his journey through American soccer in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Although not a household name, Bustard played for several elite teams and experienced firsthand many of the major trends and events that transformed soccer in the New York Metro area during the 1910’s and 1920’s. These trends and events are addressed in detail and viewed through the filter of Bustard’s life and career. Bustard’s unique story also includes an encounter with the deadly second wave of the Spanish flu pandemic in October 1918. That encounter left Bustard’s family searching for answers and resulted in Bustard being “one of the few men who have been able to read his own obituary notice.”[2]

Bustard’s story starts in October 1912, when the Paterson True Blues were starting what would be a memorable season, culminating in the capture of the coveted American Football Association (AFA) Cup and a narrow second-place finish to West Hudson AA in the National Association Football League (NAFL). The True Blues’ first opponent in the AFA Cup competition was a plucky amateur eleven from Paterson named the Olympics. The Olympics were known as a strong amateur side, but the presence in Paterson of the professional True Blues, Rangers, and Wilberforce clubs ensured the Olympics received little press. Looking to strengthen their side before the upcoming match, the Olympics signed several new players including a diminutive 20-year-old Irishman living in Passaic, NJ, named Samuel Bustard, who was referred to by the Paterson papers as having played “on a fast team in Belfast.”[3] Nonetheless, the teams entered the weekend with the Blues as heavy 5 to 1 favorites to capture the cup tie.

“Taken by surprise and nearly played off their feet,” the True Blues managed to squeeze past the Olympics 2-1 on a late penalty kick by former Clark AA star Charlie Fisher.[4] The Olympics, however, protested against the similarity of uniforms worn by the True Blues, and won a replay that was held the following weekend at Paterson’s Willard Park.[5] Angry over the protest and now aware of the Olympics’ undeniable quality, the True Blues decisively won the replay 4-0. Samuel Bustard made ignominious history by scoring a somewhat comical own goal in the second half that secured the Blues’ victory.[6]

Read more: Reading your own obituary: Samuel Bustard, the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, and the evolution of New...


Texas researcher discovers, honors African American WWI vets 

By Connie Clements
via the Navasota Examiner (TX) newspaper web site

It was a single gravestone that prompted Carolyn Warren Bessellieu’s sometimes challenging, sometimes emotional but satisfying quest for African American World War I (WWI) service information. The Two Rivers Heritage Foundation chairman of African American History recounted her conversation with President Betty Dunn.

cwb 02After retiring from the Houston workforce, Navasota native Carolyn Warren Bessellieu has dedicated her time to researching the life and times of Grimes County’s African American population.Bessellieu said, “Betty had come across an unmarked African American cemetery and noticed a headstone of a WWI veteran. She asked if I could find out anything about him. His name was Tobie Harris. My great-uncle Holiday Bennett use to tell me many stories of World War II. I was fascinated to see what I could find on those who served in WWI.”

Research tools

The enslavement of Africans and their American-born progeny has made African American genealogical searches difficult but not impossible.

Bessellieu said, “I never start research with doubt about how hard the task will be. I immediately started reading, researching as though it was impossible to fail.”

She used several free sites beginning with the world’s largest genealogical library, the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints as well as RootsWeb which has local information.

Bessellieu said, “Grimes County has a genealogical site there that is excellent, such as a list of the cemeteries and their inventory, the 1870 census and much more. The Veterans Administration info is on the Latter-day Saints’ site. You can print the enrollment sheets and the records of service.”

Bessellieu’s biggest challenge was the sheer number of names of African American men who registered.

She said, “I had to check each one to see if they actually enlisted and served. Many did not. I think this might confuse some people researching family histories. They see a relative who registered and assume they actually enlisted. I had to find the records to back up their enlistment and time served.”

Enlistment records contained information about where they registered, enlistment camp, place of birth, age, rank, service, where they served, discharge dates and state of health at discharge.

Bessellieu’s research led to a personal discovery. She said, “I found my great-great grandmother Emmaline had three sons. All three brothers, Shedrick, Robert and Jake Linton, served at the same time in WWI.”

As did the Warrens on her father’s side.

Read more: Texas researcher discovers, honors African American WWI vets


Monument 372 infantryThe 372nd Infantry monument stands near a road approximately nine miles from Monthois (Ardennes) in the French countryside. It is one of the earliest monuments to the African American soldiers who served in World War I. Photos courtesy of Lillian Pfluke, Founder, American War Memorials Overseas Inc.

One of the earliest Monuments to African American WWI Troops 

By Paul LaRue
Ohio World War I Centennial Committee

A unique monument stands in the rural French countryside. It is a monument to the 372nd Infantry, an African American World War I combat regiment. The 372nd Infantry Monument represents one of the earliest monuments erected to African American World War I Troops. Of the more than 360,000 African American World War I soldiers, only 10% served in combat regiments.

The United States organized two African American combat divisions in World War I. The 92nd Division was organized as a complete division. The 93rd Division consisted of four infantry regiments that were transferred to the French Army. The French Army was very comfortable using African American troops; they had a long history of using Colonial Troops. Soldiers from Senegal and Morocco were an important part of the French Army. The French Colonial troops were considered fierce fighters, and were regularly used as shock troops.

The 93rd Division was quickly put into combat by the French Army. Ironically, the most famous African American regiment of World War I, the 369th, better known as the Harlem Hellfighters, was part of the 93rd Division under French command. The four infantry regiments in the 93rd Division were built primarily around state guard units from Illinois, New York, and Ohio. Ohio's 9th Separate Battalion Infantry was composed of nearly 700 enlisted men that formed the core of the 372nd Infantry.

The 372nd Infantry also contained soldiers from Guard units from the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maryland. The regiment was rounded out with men from Camp Custer (Michigan). On August 31, 1918, the 372nd contained 2708 men.

By late May 1918 the 372nd Infantry was in the front-line trenches in France. July and August saw the 372nd in combat. In late September and early October, the 372nd, 369th, 371st, and the 2nd Moroccan Division saw heavy combat in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, with American casualties of more than 2500 men (killed, wounded, and died of wounds). The 372nd Infantry's casualties were more than 600 men. The French awarded the 372nd Infantry with their prestigious Croix de Guerre and decorated the regimental flag. Today the regimental flag of the 372nd Infantry is housed at the Ohio History Connection in Columbus, Ohio.

Read more: One of the earliest Monuments to African American World War I Troops


Cole County's Grace Hershey remembered as World War I heroine 

By Michelle Brooks, Historic City of Jefferson
via the Jefferson City, MO News Tribune (newspaper) web site

gracehersheypassport9430580362 Grace HersheyOne woman is named on the Cole County World War I Memorial at the courthouse. Grace Hershey was a stenographer with the American Red Cross.

Highly praised for her clerical skills in contests and courtrooms, the 31-year-old took a significant pay cut when she left her job with the state insurance department to go overseas.

Her fiancé, Thorpe Gordon, had deployed to France in August 1918. Her departure only a month later was "her patriotic duty to do what she can to help win the war," the Abilene Weekly Reflector said.

After visiting her family in Abilene, Kansas, she boarded a ship bound for France only a month before the war's end. She died of pneumonia aboard the transport ship and was buried at sea.

Her family received two false communications before learning of her death. The first reported her safe arrival and the second that a "Winifred Heath" had been buried at sea. They had to telegraph Washington, D.C., for an explanation to learn it was their daughter and sister.

The American Red Cross still was a small organization, growing and developing its identity when Europe was thrown into conflict in 1914. Aid workers began serving immediately, though the U.S. did not declare war on Germany until April 1917. And their work continued for three years after the war ended in November 1918.

During that seven-year period, Hershey was one of 400 American Red Cross workers who died, including 296 women.

Nationally, Hershey is among 161 women on the Women's Overseas Service League's Gold Star Women list, compiled for Armistice Day 1922 to recognize "American girls who gave their lives in the world war." Most were buried in France, but others were in Siberia, Armenia, China, Manila and England. Four other women from Missouri are remembered — Katherine Hoffman, of Queen City; Catherine Cecil, of St. Louis; Margaret Keirn, of Schlater; and Ina Klinfelter, of Diamond.

In her hometown of Abilene, Kansas, the Ladies of the Presbyterian Church equipped a patient room in the local hospital where her name is among 51 gold stars of those lost from Dickinson County, Kansas, in the first world war.

Read more: Cole County's Grace Hershey remembered as World War I heroine


Red Cross nurse Mary E. Gladwin, WWI heroine

By E.M. Foxwell
via the American Women in World War I web site

Mary E. Gladwin (1861–1939) was born in Stoke-upon-Trent, England, and emigrated with her family to Akron, OH, becoming a naturalized US citizen in 1874. She graduated from Buchtel College (now University of Akron) in 1887 and taught at Norwalk (OH) High School. Gladwin then earned a nursing credential at Boston City Hospital and was superintendent of Beverly Hospital (MA) and Woman’s Hospital (NY). She served as a Red Cross nurse in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War, in Japan during the Russo-Japanese War, and in Ohio after the 1913 flood.

Red Cross nurse Mary E. Gladwin 1920Red Cross nurse Mary E. Gladwin 1920In World War I, Gladwin first went to Belgrade, Serbia, as reflected by her three letters dated from November 1914 to February 1915 in the 3 May 1915 Norwalk [OH] Reflector-Herald. The letters were carried by individuals and therefore did not pass through a censor:

Our big hospital is on the banks of the Sav River, and we look over into Ziemlin and Austrian territory. The town of Belgrade has been shelled every day since August 1. The big Austrian searchlights play all night. . . . . The big guns boom every night, and the other night as Dr. [Edward] Ryan and I stood on the steps, we heard one shriek quite plainly. It is a curious sound to hear, one going through the air. Shriek is exactly the word to describe it. (2)

Amid Gladwin’s accounts of tea with eminent people such as Lady Paget (the American-born Minnie Stevens), Sir Thomas Lipton (creator of Lipton tea), and Harry James (a son of philosopher William James who was working for the Rockefeller Foundation’s War Relief Commission) were some sobering details and evidence of her sang froid:

In one day, just before the Austrians left, 9,000 wounded passed through these hospitals, 6,000 being here for a few hours, then going to Zemlin [Zemun], 3,000 remaining here. Last night there was a sharp engagement. I awakened to see the flash of the cannon on my white wall, and then in a few seconds heard the report. However, it takes more than that to keep me awake. (2)

Gladwin also wrote in a 25 May 1915 letter to Buchtel College president Parke Kolbe:

Read more: Red Cross nurse Mary E. Gladwin, WWI heroine


Five Dog Breeds That Served in World War I 

By Emily Green
Founder & Chief Editor, web site

Dogs are man’s best friend, and at times that means we have brought them with us into the worst parts of what we do. The use of dogs in war is nothing new, but their role changed over time. In the First World War dogs were used extensively by all sides, with different breeds managing different roles.

Here’s a list of some that have made it into the annals of history.Dash the Border CollieDash, the border collie, was the regimental mascot of B Company 1st Regiment 6th Black Watch in the UK army.

1. Border Collies

The Border Collie is widely acknowledged as the most intelligent breed of dog, and their physical attributes made them perfect for many roles. They’re medium-sized, primarily darker in color, and their trainability made them an amazing asset on the battlefield.

Border Collies could carry messages, locate wounded soldiers, and alert their handlers to the presence of the enemy. While few attained much fame during the course of the war, they were undoubtedly an asset to any unit they were assigned.

Despite their faithful service during the Great War, their popularity wouldn’t surge until after WWII, however.



2. Boston Terrier

StubbySergeant Stubby, the highly decorated Boston Terrier who served with the US Army during World War I.Boston Terriers are an unlikely breed to find a place in war. They’re small companion dogs after all. Regardless, the breed produced the most famous Allied dog on the Western Front.

Sergeant Stubby was originally found wandering a campus during training exercises and took a liking to Robert Conroy, a member of the 102nd Infantry. When the time came to ship out Conroy brought the dog with him.

When found out, Stubby saluted the officer as he’d been trained to and was allowed to remain with the unit. Despite his breed, Stubby proved to be an invaluable member of the team. He was able to locate wounded soldiers, warn about gas attacks, and even led to the capture of a German spy.

For that last act, Stubby was awarded his sergeantcy. Conroy smuggled the dog back in when he returned to the United States and Stubby lived the life of a celebrity until his death.

Not bad for a breed that should have had no place on the battlefield.


Read more: Five Dog Breeds That Served in World War I


Spanish epidemic 1918 Army hospital Patients lie in an influenza ward at the U.S. Army Camp Hospital No. 45 in Aix-les-Baines, France, during World War I. In 1918-1919, over the course of 18 months, approximately 50-100 million people died from the flu, that is, 2.7-5.3% of the world's population. 

As the 1918 Flu Emerged, Cover-Up and Denial Helped It Spread

By Becky Little
via the web site

“Spanish flu” has been used to describe the flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919 and the name suggests the outbreak started in Spain. But the term is actually a misnomer and points to a key fact: nations involved in World War I didn’t accurately report their flu outbreaks.

Spain remained neutral throughout World War I and its press freely reported its flu cases, including when the Spanish king Alfonso XIII contracted it in the spring of 1918. This led to the misperception that the flu had originated or was at its worst in Spain.

“Basically, it gets called the ‘Spanish flu’ because the Spanish media did their job,” says Lora Vogt, curator of education at the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. In Great Britain and the United States—which has a long history of blaming other countries for disease—the outbreak was also known as the “Spanish grip” or “Spanish Lady.”

Historians aren’t actually sure where the 1918 flu strain began, but the first recorded cases were at a U.S. Army camp in Kansas in March 1918. By the end of 1919, it had infected up to a third of the world’s population and killed some 50 million people. It was the worst flu pandemic in recorded history, and it was likely exacerbated by a combination of censorship, skepticism and denial among warring nations. 

“The viruses don’t care where they come from, they just love taking advantage of wartime censorship,” says Carol R. Byerly, author of Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I. “Censorship is very dangerous during a pandemic.”

Read more: As the 1918 Flu Emerged during WWI, Cover-Up and Denial Helped It Spread


North Huntingdon, PA historian seeks volunteers to help digitize WWI burial records

By Patrick Varine
via the Tribune-Review (PA) news organization web site

Andrew Capets’ initial interest in World War I was finding out more about his grandfather’s unit, the 313th Machine Gun Battalion.

That research led the North Huntingdon resident and amateur historian to write “Good War, Great Men,” which focused on his grandfather’s battalion and its exploits, including fighting in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, in which more than 26,000 American soldiers died.

2681265 web1 gtr WWIburial1 052820Marine David Colvin of Greensburg was killed in action in Marne, France during World War I.Now, Capets has joined with a Nebraska man on a new WWI project: creating a searchable database of soldiers’ burial cards, some of which will be linked to a digital map showing where those soldiers are buried.

“We were both part of a World War I group on Facebook,” Capets said. “If one of us is looking for some information, we’ll talk with other members.”

Capets connected with Weldon Hoppe of Colon, Neb., who had recently returned from France, where he researched two men from his hometown who died in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Both men had made frustrating, incomplete discoveries in the National Archives. Capets found a database of burial cards for WWI soldiers, but they were simply scanned, rather than fully digitized.

“You couldn’t search them for, say, a specific name,” Capets said.

Around the same time, Hoppe came across four books showing burial plots for WWI soldiers, “but they weren’t in any specific order, either,” he said. “But they had coordinates on them. I work for an engineering firm that does a lot of mapping, so I transcribed the coordinate information and put it on a GIS map so you can visually see where they all are.”

Hoppe reached out to Capets through the Facebook group, and their undertakings have been mutually beneficial.

“We thought there had to be a better way (to find specific information),” Capets said. “Weldon came across the Zooniverse website and pitched this idea to them.”

One of the deciding factors was the backing of a few organizations such as Fold3, which is owned by and creates a sort of military family tree that veterans and others can search.

While Capets and a group of volunteers are building a fully searchable database using the burial cards, Hoppe is attaching that information to interactive maps of burial plots.

Read more: North Huntingdon historian seeks volunteers to help digitize WWI burial records


Fayette County's WWI Service Members lost to 1918 Influenza Pandemic

By Paul LaRue
Ohio World War I Centennial Committee

The opportunity to honor the men and women that have served in the armed forces is extremely important to us all. This year, unfortunately, there were no parades, no local high school bands playing patriotic music, no speakers' remarks honoring the service and sacrifice of our communities' Veterans, and no Veteran's organization programs. The playing of taps and the Honor Guards' 21-gun salute did not echo through the air everywhere.

image1The Fayette County, Ohio World War I Memorial.But, hopefully we all took time to think about and thank our communities' Veterans, whom have given so much for us.

The current pandemic we are living in provides us a window into an earlier time 102 years ago. On Memorial Day of 1918 the United States was in the midst of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic. The United States was also in the second year as a participant in World War I. The largest and deadliest World War I battles for US troops were ahead.

We associate World War I with poison gas, trench warfare, and machine gun fire, yet the deadliest killer of US troops was disease. According to official army records: 50, 280 United States soldiers were killed in combat; 57,460 US soldiers died of disease.

Influenza was the deadliest disease impacting service members. United States Naval records reveal a greater disparity: 2,892 sailors and marines were killed in action, while 4,158 sailors and marines died of Influenza.

Fayette County is less than thirty miles from Camp Sherman, just outside Chillicothe. Camp Sherman was a sprawling World War I military encampment, covering nearly 10,000 acres with 2,000 buildings. More than 123,000 officers and enlisted men transitioned through Camp Sherman in 1917 & 1918, making it the third largest World War I encampment in the US. Camp Sherman also holds the dubious distinction of having the highest influenza death rate at any military installation. 7,618 soldiers were admitted to the Camp Sherman hospitals, leading to 842 total deaths.125 soldiers died on October 8,1918 at Camp Sherman on the single deadliest day.

Read more: Fayette County's World War I Service Members lost to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

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