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Five Questions for Tanveer Kalo

"We all came together when the call went out for war"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Tanveer Kelo 300Tanveer KeloThe U.S. World War I Centennial Commission (WW1CC) is blessed to have a number of remarkable people. One of them is intern Tanveer Kalo, who comes to us from St. Lawrence University. Tanveer is a history buff, and also a talented researcher. During his internship period this spring, he decided to use his talents to create something that really didn't exist -- a collection of information on Asian Indian people who served in the U.S. military during World War I. These stories are being published on the WW1CC web site's Vande Mataram in the USA section, as well as in the Stories of Service section.  We spoke to Tanveer about his project, and his motivations for creating this great new resource.
Tell us about your special WWI project. What information are you collecting?

My project is on Asian Indians who served in the U.S. military during World War One. I am collecting their World War One draft cards, enlistment records, U.S. military passenger lists, photographs, naturalization documents, and any other documents and any other information regarding their military service and life in the United States.

How did the idea come about? Was it through your activity as an intern with the Centennial Commission?
This project developed from a simple conversation for a special side project. The idea came up when I talked with WW1CC web site Publisher Chris Christopher about Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind, an Asian Indian and Sikh who served in the U.S Army during World War One. Mr. Christopher encouraged me to find other Indians served during the war. I dug through the web and found a journal and magazine called Young India on the South Asian American Digital Archive’s website. Young India’s October 1918 and August 1918 issues had images of Asian Indians who were serving overseas or in training camps during this time.
How has the research process worked? What was your plan? Where did you go to find information?

After finding the names of the Indian soldiers from Young India, I used Ancestry Institution to find information on them. Finding information was easier because Dr. Bhagat Thind’s son, David Singh created a website to honor his father’s legacy and life. It was difficult at times to find information because some shared similar names or no information could be found. However, I kept moving forward and tried to find at least one piece of information. In total I have found information on 8 Asian Indians were served in the United States Army during World War One.

What have you taken from the experience of working on this project? What did you learn about those who served 100 years ago?

Bhagat Singh Thind squareDr. Bhagat Singh ThindI learned how to conduct in depth historical research and further developed my writing skills. It is amazing that I helped bring to light the stories and experiences of these brave men to the American public. I also learned that World War One was truly a conflict that brought together Americans and would-be Americans from multiple backgrounds together to fight for their home or adopted home. Many of the Indians who served in the U.S military during this time came to the United States for education and a better life. They wanted to give back to what this country gave to them. It is also important to note that after the war, some of these soldiers, like Dr. Thind were denied citizenship because they were not white and would finally receive it later in life.

Why are these stories important? World War I happened a long time ago. It was an awful war. What do these stories mean? Why should these stories be remembered?

These stories are important because many people do not know that Indians served in the First World War for the U.S alongside African Americans, and other minorities which makes it imperative that Americans do not forget that this group of brave men also played a part in the service of our country during the war. Their stories reflect our country’s strong multicultural history and how we all came together when the call went out for war.