Treasure trove of WWI Diplomatic Courier Service Artifacts in en route to the State Department in Washington D.C.
By Barbara Gleason
Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. State Department
For many, the term “diplomatic courier” might conjure up classic Hollywood images of movie heroes like Tyrone Power or Cesar Romero, adventuring through foreign lands, delivering our government’s most important communiques.
Wearing a protective glove, Robin Peaslee Dougall, the grandson of U.S. Army Maj. Amos Peaslee, shows off his grandfather's draft copy of the Treaty of Versailles. (Photo: Trevor Hughes/USA TODAY)These adventurous courier duties are still relevant today -- and they were particularly relevant in the pre-telephone, pre-radio, pre-internet communication era World War I.
Today's U.S. Diplomatic Courier Service traces its founding to December 2, 1918, when Gen. Pershing directed the creation of a group of handpicked Army couriers to perform host of diplomatic duties. This first group of couriers -- known as the Silver Greyhounds -- was created. organized, and led by Army Major Amos J. Peaslee.
Peaslee's Silver Greyhounds were tasked with reopening diplomatic routes to U.S. Embassies and diplomatic posts across post-war Europe, and into Bolshevik Russia. They were integral to the peace process that ultimately led to the Armistice, and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
When the Silver Greyhounds disbanded in 1919, their jobs were turned over to civilian management through the State Department, which still depends on its 100-strong Diplomatic Courier Service to oversee the secure transport of everything from top-secret reports to blank passports and visa paperwork to encrypted communications equipment and construction materials for new U.S. Embassies in unfriendly countries.
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Quincy, IL doctor thought U.S. proved its might in World War I
By Arlis Dittmer
via the Quincy, IL Herald-Whig newspaper web site
Dr. C.D. Center took an unusual path when he served in World War I. He had been a respected doctor in Quincy for 17 years. He began his military career in 1905 as assistant surgeon for the Fifth Infantry of the Illinois National Guard. In 1910 he was promoted to captain and shortly after to major. Because of the ability displayed while on duty at Fort Benjamin Harrison in 1912, he was transferred from the medical corps to field and staff duty as a lieutenant colonel of the infantry. In that capacity he reported for duty March 26, 1917, shortly after the United States entered the European war, now known as World War I.
Physician and Col. Charles D. Center wore his World War I infantry uniform in this undated photograph. | Illustration courtesy of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County Charles Dewey Center was born in 1869 on a farm near Ottawa. While helping his family farm, he suffered a leg injury and developed a blood infection. Not being able to farm, he attended Knox Academy and Knox College in Galesburg. In 1890, his leg was injured again, and he spent months in Chicago at Presbyterian Hospital, which helped him decide to become a physician and where he met his future wife. He graduated with honors from Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1894. After graduation he was a surgeon for three iron mines on the Gogebic Range in northern Michigan before returning to Chicago to complete his internship.
Soon after, Dr. Center married his first wife, Edith, who had taken care of him in 1890, and who was a graduate of Illinois Training School for Nurses. At the time of their marriage she was assistant superintendent of the school. They moved to Quincy in 1896. Dr. Center first worked with Dr. Henry Hatch before he opened his own practice specializing in surgical services for women and diseases of children. He served on the medical staff of Blessing Hospital and was a lecturer for Blessing Hospital Training School for Nurses.
Dr. Center wrote scientific articles for medical journals on a variety of topics such as encephalitis, abdominal pregnancy, history of medicine, malaria, and the uses of X-rays. He was active in both the Adams County Medical Society and the Illinois State Medical Society, holding a various offices. According to the Quincy Medical Bulletin, he also was known as "a speaker of force and wit … on almost any subject." He and his wife had two sons, Donald and Arch, before she died of Bright's disease in 1908. Fourteen months later, he married a nurse he met while she was in training at Blessing Hospital. They had two sons, Charles and H. Allen.
Dr. Center was called to active service March 26, 1917. While at Camp Logan in Houston, the Fifth Infantry was transformed into military police, engineers,and machine gun battalions. In November he was placed in command of the 108th Ammunition Train. In December he received orders to report to Hoboken, N.J., where he boarded the ship Andania and sailed for France. In Blois, he was told he had been promoted to colonel before he left the United States. He was now in charge of a station of casual officers, those coming and going, but also those about to be discharged from service. His next assignment was with the 4th Canadian Division and then on to Staff College for a short time. Throughout these months in France, he received training on front line transport of men and materials, all of which prepared him for his job of transport command in the 33rd Division of the 2nd Army. After the war ended in November 1918, he was provost marshal for the Duchy of Luxembourg.
His oldest son, Donald, also joined the Army. He left the University of Illinois in May 1917 and enlisted in the Fifth Illinois Infantry. He went overseas with the headquarters company of the 129th Infantry. While in France, he was transferred and became a battalion sergeant-major of the 108th Trains and Military Police.
In the last chapter of his book, "Things Usually Left Unsaid," Dr. Center wrote, "It was not altogether a pleasant thing to be an American officer in France late in 1917 and early in 1918. … (Allied officers said) A year ago you would have been welcome; now your coming will merely prolong the struggle a few weeks or months, and we will have to pay a still greater penalty… ." He then asked, "What did we get out of the war?" He answered his own question by saying, "We prove again that the American Nation -- slow to take offense, dilatory perhaps in her methods up to the final moment -- will, when sufficiently aroused, fight, and fight hard."
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