St. Lawrence Student receives national, international attention for WWI research
By Abraham Kenmore
via the Watertown, NY Daily Times web site
CANTON — Several million Americans served in the military during World War I, including a small but significant group of men who had moved to the United States from India before enlisting in the armed forces.
Now, 100 years later, St. Lawrence University senior Tanveer Kalo is working to bring the stories of these veterans to light — and receiving national and international attention for his scholarship.
Mr. Kalo, a government major and history minor from Queens, found this group of Indian-American soldiers by accident.
“A couple years ago, I was just wanting to find more about the Indian-American community,” Mr. Kalo said. “I was just goofing around with Wikepedia and found Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind.”
Born in 1892 in Taragarh, Punjab, Mr. Thind came to the United States in 1913 to study at the University of California, Berkeley.
He joined the Army in 1917, the first turbaned Sikh to serve, and was honorably discharged the next year at the rank of acting sergeant. He later unsuccessfully sought citizenship in the case Bhagat Singh vs. the United States, a Supreme Court decision that declared Indian-Americans were not white, and therefore could not be naturalized under contemporary law.
In spring of 2017, Mr. Kalo did an internship with the United States World War One Centennial Commission researching information for their website, and mentioned Mr. Thind to his supervisor.
His supervisor encouraged him to find more, and Mr. Kalo found digitized copies of “Young India,” a Indian-American publication from 1918, which included a list of “Our Men With Uncle Sam,” 10 Indian-Americans who were currently serving in the military.
After publishing the information about these soldiers on the Centennial website, Mr. Kalo continued to pursue the research, and is using it as the basis of a senior research paper. He traveled to Washington, D.C., to look through 1,000 index files from the Bureau of Naturalization, and combed through draft cards, passenger lists, and census data to piece together complete stories.
“When looking at the documents, you see basically someone’s life,” Mr. Kalo said. “It’s just incredible to see all this stuff.”
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