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Michigan People of the Great War

Michigan contributed a great deal to the war effort, this section is dedicated to those individual contributions which when added together is greater than the sum of the individual contributions.


 Major General  Harry Hill Bandholtz


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 Constantine,MI  (December 18, 1864 – May 11, 1925) was a United States Army career officer who served for more than a decade in the Philippines.He was a Major General during World War I, and the US representative of the Inter-Allied Military Mission in Hungary in 1919.

Bandholtz graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1890. From 1890 to 1898, he was active in the US Army and taught at the Michigan Agricultural College. Afterwards, he was involved in the Spanish–American War and was sent to Cuba.

In 1917, he became commander of the 58th Brigade of the 29th Division. He accompanied his unit to France in June of that same year, serving for three months. On September 27, he was named United States Army Provost Marshal General to General John J. Pershing's American Expeditionary Force in France. He held this position until 1919. General Bandholtz reorganized the Military Police Corps, established a Military Police school in Autun, France, and advocated a permanent Military Police Corps following the war. Major General Bandholtz is widely considered to be the "father" of the United States Army's Military Police Corps.

Between August 1919 and February 9, 1920, he was the US representative to the Inter-Allied Supreme Command's Military Mission in Hungary. The Military Mission was charged with disarming the Hungarian military and supervising the withdrawal of the Serbian and Romanian armies who were occupying the territory of Hungary. According to his own accounts, he is said to have prevented the arresting of Hungarian Prime Minister István Friedrich by the Romanians. 

"I simply carried out the instructions of my government, as I understood them, as an officer and a gentleman of the United States Army"

Harry Hill Bandholtz 1000

After World War II, the statue was repaired, 

but in 1949, it was removed by the new Communist government. In 1985, at the request of Ambassador Nicolas Salgo, it was moved from a statue boneyard to the garden of the US Ambassador's residence. It was placed back in its original place, in front of the US embassy on July 6, 1989, a day before President George H. W. Bush's historic visit to Budapest. The inscription was restored in 1993.



Colonel Harry Burgess

Soldier and Governor

Col. Burgess 16h Eng

He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1895, and was commissioned in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He served as  the District Engineer in the Great Lakes District before becoming the commander of the 16th Regiment of Engineers (Railway). The 16th Engineers were organized, mobilized  and trained in the city limits of Detroit. They trained at the Michigan State Fairgrounds before going to France at the end of July 1917. They built the railroad infrastructure for the American Expeditionary Force in France.

He Panama Canal maintenance engineer 1924-1928 and served as Governor of Panama Canal Zone from 1928-1932.  




George M. "Potsy" Clark

Detroit Lions First Coach and Coach of the 1935 World Champion Detroit Lions

 George Potsy Clark


 Born in a small farming community of Carthage, Ill., on March 20, 1894, he was christened George but at about the age of six he was nicknamed “Potsy” by a local veterinarian. The sobriquet followed him the rest of his days. The Clarks were a large family. The household included Potsy, his parents, grandparents, an uncle, four brothers, and three sisters. There were plenty of chores around the farm to teach a growing boy the value of hard work, but he still found time to compete in sports with his brothers and neighbors. His father’s death when Potsy was only ten perhaps served to increase his self-reliance and independence of mind. In 1909, Potsy entered Carthage High School and quickly established himself as the quarterback on the football team. Under his leadership, the squad went through two undefeated seasons and had a third within grasp until they lost the final game of his senior year. At Carthage, he also starred in track and baseball. His brothers had gone to William & Vashti College in Aledo, Illinois, and Potsy followed suit in 1912. His winning way went with him. The football team went unbeaten and he was named All-State College Quarterback for 1912. His teammates picked him as captain for 1913.

In 1914, Potsy entered the University of Illinois. The young Illini coach, Bob Zuppke, quickly installed Clark at quarterback. For the next two seasons, Illinois went undefeated, winning the Western Conference crown outright in his first year and tying for the title in his second. Some of Illinois’ greatest heroes played on those teams, including All-Americans Perry Graves, Ralph Chapman, Bart Macomber, and Harold Pogue, but Potsy was the leader. Many years later Zuppke wrote: “The basic attack of the 1914 team was the balanced formation now known as the I formation. This was supported by the spread and the deep T – a punt formation adapted to quick openings, wide-running plays, passes with the ever-present threat of the punt. This is the only team in all my career which had the necessary talent for that formation and that is why I like to say that the 1914 team played the most modern game yet attempted. Its decisive victories and the fact that it was my first great college team make me think it was the greatest of all my teams. Two of my greatest college backs played on this team, Pogue and Potsy Clark. The third was Grange.” This was not the only time Clark’s name was linked with that of the fabulous Redhead. In 1951, he was named the mid-century quarterback of an Illini backfield with Buddy Young, Jack Crangle, and Grange. Potsy continued to star on the championship Illini baseball team. He was a fine shortstop – good enough to be offered professional contracts by both John McGraw and Clark Griffith – but he had chosen coaching as his future.

In the summer of 1916, after receiving his B.A. from Illinois, he taught the first summer school classes for coaches at the U. That fall, he accepted a position as assistant football coach at the University of Kansas 1 THE COFFIN CORNER: Vol. 7, No. 2 (1985) for $1,400, reportedly the highest first year salary for a coach to that date. In the season’s second game, with the head coach ill, Potsy took the Kansas team to Champaign to play his alma mater. Although he was warmly welcomed with cheers and gifts, his team was routed 30-0. Before Clark could continue his coaching career, a more important conflict than any played on a football field intervened.

In May of 1917, he entered officer training at Fort Riley, Kansas. On August 15, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the field artillery. At first, the army was most interested in his coaching skills. He took the Camp Funston baseball and basketball teams to U.S.A. service championships. Grover Cleveland Alexander, the future Hall of Fame pitcher, assisted him in coaching baseball. That fall he organized the Camp Funston football team and led them to the Army-Navy title with a 7-0 victory over the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. In July, 1918, he was in England, and by September, he was in combat in France. After hostilities ended, Clark led the 89th Division to the AEF football championship. In June of 1919, he returned to the United States.

Zuppke hired him as an assistant at Illinois where he also taught the first four-year course for coaches. The following year saw him take his first head coaching assignment on the college level. He was named head football coach and assistant baseball coach at Michigan State (then called Michigan Agricultural College). His 1920 club finished only 4-6 but was noted for its wide-open offense. There, he also met the future Mrs. Clark, a coed named Janet Mahon. They were married in December of 1921.

By then, Potsy was head coach at Kansas. His five-season record was an ordinary 16-17-6, but his 1923 squad tied Nebraska for the Missouri Valley championship while giving up only two field goals all fall. He spent 1926 as an assistant to Dr. Clarence Spears at Minnesota and then accepted the post of athletic director and head football coach at Butler University. In three seasons, he brought Butler into the national spotlight, but his success cut two ways. Concern over the popularity of sports at Butler, coupled with a North Central investigation, cost him his job.

In 1930, he was out of coaching, having begun a successful insurance business in Indianapolis, but when he was offered the position as coach for the NFL Portsmouth Spartans, he returned to the game he loved. The Spartans hadn’t done much in their first season in the NFL. Under the slack reins of Coach Tubby Griffin, they wallowed to a 5-6-3 finish, far down in the standings. But the team had some real talent returning and more on the way, including all-time great backfielders Dutch Clark and Glenn Presnell. What was needed was a firm hand on the tiller. According to historian Bob Barnett in The Spartans and the Tanks: Clark established his authority early. On the first day of practice he threw Father Lumpkin (star of the ‘30 team) off the field for “too much horseplay.” The spectators and the team were shocked by Clark’s action, but it worked. The next day Lumpkin apologized to Clark, and Clark, with discipline established, named Lumpkin captain of the team. Glenn Presnell remembers Clark as an excellent coach. “Potsy trained us like a college team: hard physical practice, attention to detail, and discipline,” says Presnell. The Spartans drove to an 11-3-0 finish, good for second place in the NFL. Had the champion Green Bay Packers gone through with a tentatively scheduled final game, Portsmouth might have won the title.

In 1932, after tying the Bears for first place, the Spartans met Chicago in a specially-arranged indoor play-off at the end of the season. The game was one of the most significant ever played in the NFL. It helped convince the league to split itself into two divisions with a championship game at the end of the season in 1933. It was the inspiration for several important rule changes. It also left Portsmouth on the short end of a 9-0 score. 2 THE COFFIN CORNER: Vol. 7, No. 2 (1985) ln 1933, Dutch Clark announced his retirement, leaving Coach Clark without his greatest player. Nevertheless, the Spartans finished second in the new NFL Western Division as Presnell had an exceptional season. Potsy Clark was firmly established as one of the NFL’s finest coaches, but Portsmouth’s day in the NFL was over. The Depression had made it nearly impossible for small-town teams to survive in the NFL. As the ‘33 season closed, the players and coaches were paid in stock, rather than cash. It’s a tribute to Coach Clark’s leadership that the team continued to play their hearts out right to the end.

Radio executive George Richards purchased the team and moved it to Detroit for 1934. Potsy was retained as coach. The NFL had already failed three times in Detroit, but Clark’s Lions, decked out in bright blue and silver, quickly won fan interest. The unretired Dutch Clark and steady Presnell, along with a number of other stars, got the Cats rolling with ten straight victories, including seven straight shutouts. Reality set in at the end, and the Lions finished 10-3 behind the undefeated Chicago Bears. A four game winning streak at the end of the 1935 season brought Potsy’s Lions home in first place in the west. He had the league’s best running attack, with Dutch Clark, Presnell, Ace Gutowsky, Ernie Caddel, and Buddy Parker all lugging the leather. George Christensen, Ox Emerson, and Clare Randolph were line leaders. The championship game at the end of the season was no contest as the Lions roared 26-7 over the New York Giants. Potsy’s Cats were world champs.

Injuries and age kept them from repeating in ‘36, although they posted a creditable 8-4 record. George Richards was not the easiest man to work for. Impatient with the Lions’ third-place mark, he fired Potsy in a move that shocked Detroit. Coach Clark was not unemployed for long. Dan Topping, owner of the perennially losing Brooklyn Dodgers, quickly hired him to coach that team. The Dodgers were far below the Lions in ability, but after star quarterback Ace Parker joined them in November, they became respectable. Parker and Clark even got the Dodgers up to .500 in 1938, a feat that should have gained the pair of them instant immortality. However, in 1939, the Dodgers slipped back into the doldrums and Clark was out as coach.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, George Richards had been involved in a tampering scandal concerning college senior Clyde “Bulldog” Turner. The upshot was he sold the team to Fred Mandel, who hired Posty Clark in hopes of returning the Lions to their winning ways. Once more, Potsy had a great back in his lineup – league-leading runner Whizzer White. However, he didn’t have much else, and after a deserved 5-5-1 season, he resigned. His ten-year record as a pro coach stood at 64-42-12 for a .603 winning percentage. At the time, only Halas, Lambeau, and Owen had coached pro teams to more regular season wins. Potsy still had a lot to accomplish.

He took the head coach job at the University of Grand Rapids for 1941 and hired as his line coach a former University of Michigan center who later became quite successful in another line of work, (President) Gerald Ford. He produced a 6-2 season with the highest scoring team in Michigan. With the coming or World War II, Potsy entered the USNR as a Lt. Commander, serving at North Carolina Pre-Flight, Pensacola, St. Mary’s Pre-Flight, and with the Submarine Force Pacific through 1945. After the war, he coached at both Grand Rapids and Nebraska until 1949 when he became athletic director at the latter school. In 1954, he began a two-year stint as athletic director at California Western.

In 1956, after accomplishing more than most men could in several careers, Potsy left sports to enter a brokerage firm in La Jolla, California. As usual, he made a success of it. He retired in 1968, four years before his death. 


Ty Cobb

Baseball Player-Detroit Tigers


In 1918, Ty Cobb was in his 14th season in big league baseball, but he was still at the top of his game. That season he won his 11th batting title, hitting .382 to pace the American League easily. But he didn’t collect 200 hits or put up any other gaudy numbers, largely because the season was shortened due to the Great War. Baseball had decided to end the schedule on Labor Day due to the hostilities between the Allies and the Axis Powers in Europe.

Since America’s entry into the war in April of 1917, baseball had been in a patriotic mood. Frequently teams were marched onto the field carrying bats on their shoulders as if they were rifles, the players marching in formation. In both leagues, teams began drilling as if they were military units, with the Tigers being no exception. Each major league team was assigned a drill instructor, and when Detroit’s instructor (a Sergeant Thorne) was called to active duty, second baseman Ralph Young – who had graduated from a military academy – took over.

Unlike the Second World War, where the U.S. entered the conflict in the off-season and players voluntarily entered the service, America did not begin to call up citizens for duty until a few months after declaring war in 1917. Major League Baseball players, for the most part, did not enter military service during the 1917 season. Therefore, outside of the military drilling, the 1917 regular season was barely affected by the overseas conflict. Cobb also applied to the Augusta, Georgia Draft Board, making himself eligible for military service. Cobb was placed in a special class. The military would draft younger men before turning to Cobb’s group.

The War in Europe dominated headlines in 1918. On a road trip to Washington to face the Senators, Cobb visited the War Department, where he took his mandatory army physical and applied for the Chemical Warfare Service. Spurred by patriotism and the memory of his grandfather’s service in the Civil War hero, Cobb felt compelled to get into the fight. A few days later, while Detroit was in New York to play the Yankees, Cobb received word that he had been accepted into the Chemical Warfare Service. He was to report in October.

The Chemical Warfare Service had been organized by General John J. Pershing in response to several deadly poison gas attacks on American troops by the Germans. The attacks had generated considerable outrage, and the creation of the CWS was front-page news. The CWS was created to perfect methods to withstand poison-gas attacks, but more importantly (and controversially), it was charged with developing poisonous gas weapons to be used against the Germans in Europe. Other baseball figures who would also serve in the CWS included Christy Mathewson, Branch Rickey, and George Sisler.

Following the end of the 1918 season and a few weeks at his home in Georgia, Ty arrived in New York and reported for duty on October 1. He was commissioned as a captain in the U.S. Army, and after a relatively short time in accelerated training, he and his unit sailed for France. The Army hoped that Cobb and the other sports figures in the CWS would be effective in training enlisted men in the area of chemical and biological warfare. But according to Cobb, he ended up training “the darnedest bunch of culls the World War I Army ever grouped in one outfit.”

The training exercises in France, though they took place far behind the front lines, were extremely dangerous. Cobb would march his troops into an airtight chamber, where they were to quickly assemble their gas masks when they received a signal that the poison was about to filter into the room. However, on one occasion something went terribly wrong.

During one exercise, Cobb and his troops either missed or were slow to react to the signal and many of them stumbled from the chamber having inhaled the poison into their lungs. For weeks Cobb suffered with a hacking cough while a “colorless discharge” drained from his chest. Others were not so lucky – they died after the exposure. Christy Mathewson, the great National League hurler who also served in the CWS, inhaled so much of the gas while in France that he later developed tuberculosis. He died from the disease seven years later, in 1925.

Cobb had been in France less than a month when the war ended suddenly on November 11. The Allies, bolstered by the influx of American troops, had deflected the last German offensives and hurtled the aggressors back into the Rhine. When the Hindenberg Line was breached by the Allies, the Germans collapsed in disarray. Within a few weeks, Cobb was onboard the largest ship in the world – the U.S.S. Leviathan – one of the first transport ships back to the United States.

Cornered by newsmen in New York upon his arrival, Cobb spoke modestly of his brief foray as a soldier.

“I hardly had time to get used to the idea [of being in the Army]. I’m proud to have been in uniform in some small way and to see our great nation dispel the enemy in such miraculous speed.”

Despite hinting that he would never play baseball again, Cobb was back in a Tiger uniform in 1919, winning his 12th – and final – batting title.


   Karl Detzer

Soldier and Writer

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 Karl Detzer was a long time Michigan resident living in Leland and Ann Arbor, Michigan. During WW1 he was an infantry Captain and a member of the Criminal Investigation Division. Form by Brigadier General Harry Bandholtz, (Constantine, Michigan) Provost Marshall-General of the A.E.F. "Father of the Military Police" , he appointed Lt. Col. E.O. Sanders to the newly established post of Director of Criminal Investigation, with authority to organize a division of the army to fight crime. Captain Detzer was assigned to the LeMans District, a territory the size of the state of Illinois. One Hundred Thousand home ward bound men occupied his area at one time.
His duty was to reduce the percentage of crime, to apprehend lawless soldiers and civilians and cooperate with French and Belgian gendarmeries and the British C.I.D., (Scotland Yard) in capturing "Men Wanted".
Karl was a newspaper reporter before the war and went on to a very successful writing career. He wrote for a number of police and firemen stories having one of them, Car 99 turned into a Hollywood movie by Paramount studios. During WW 2, he was a Colonel and wrote a number of articles and books for the army. He received the Distinguished Service Medal for his war time effort.

 Charles Forsythe and the Khaki Trio

Soldier and Entertainer

Khaki Trio 1

The Khaki Trio was a soldier singing group that toured Europe as part of the American Red Cross's program to entertain the troops.
Charles Forsythe was the organizer and song writer. He grew up in Lawrence, Mi.










Roy Gamble

Soldier and Artist

Roy painting

Was a renowned American Impressionist painter,  muralist, and portraitist born in Detroit, Michigan, US. His studies in the fine arts began during his senior year of high school under renowned Detroit Artist Joseph Gies, continuing at the Detroit School of Fine Arts where Gies was on the faculty, and which was headed by nationally known art educator John P. Wicker. His studies in the fine arts took him to New York City as well as Paris, France where many of his works were exhibited at the world famous Paris Salon, and where he associated with the Left Bank movement which included world renowned artists Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, among others. In New York he entered the  Art Students League of New York where he studied under renowned artists William Merritt Chase, Jean-Paul Laurens, and Robert Henri.

The major influences on his work were  American Impressionism, Classism,  French Post-Impressonist, Social Realism and Ashcan School ideologies. He also acknowledged the influence of James Abbott McNeil Whistler. In Paris he studied at the prestigious Academie Julian of Rue du Dragon and the ACademie de la Grande Chaumiere, both schools being situated in the 6th Arrondisssment of Paris on the world famous Left Bank of the River Seine. There the young Gamble also socialized with legendary members of what came to be known as the Parisian avant-garde, among which were celebrated novelist Gertrud Stein and her brother Leo Stein, a well-known art critic.

Over his fifty-year career, Gamble painted a long list of noteworthy figures and civic leaders including Detroit Tigers legend Ty Cobb and former Detroit Mayor Albert E. Cobo. Yet another of his most notable portraits was that of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Frank Murphy. Justice Murphy had previously served as Governor of the State of Michigan and as Mayor of the City of Detroit. The Michigan State Capital building houses four official portraits painted by Gamble. The Michigan Supreme Court Hall of Justice building contains a total of nine. Counted among these are the official portraits of Justice Howard Wiest, Justice Leland W. Carr, and Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Louis H. Fead. 

Within the Art Collection housed at Wayne State University in Detroit there are twenty-two of Gamble's works, including a portrait of the first Dean of that institution, renowned Detroit educator David Mackenzie. Mackenzie had previously been Principle at Detroit's Central High School on Cass Avenue from 1904 to 1919, the very school from which Gamble himself had graduated in 1906. 

Roy volunteered for service with Base Hospital #36, (Detroit College of Medicine and Surgery, now Wayne State Medical School) as a medical orderly. His job was to clean and prepare the wound soldiers for medical treatment. During the war, he painted a number of scenes from his daily life. These are published in the History of Base Hospital #36. Base Hospital #36 was stationed at Vittel, France. 


Tillinghast L. Huston

Co-Owner of the New York Yankees and Commander of the 16th Engineers

TL Huston


Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston (July 17, 1867 – March 29, 1938), popularly known as Cap Huston, was co-owner of the Major League Baseball team that became the New York Yankees with Jacob Ruppert from 1915 to 1922. They had purchased the club from Frank J. Farrell and William S. Devery. He was responsible for making and keeping Babe Ruth a Yankee. In 1922, Huston retired and sold his share to Ruppert for $1.50 million but continued on as president of the club.
He was born in Buffalo, New York in 1867, and married Lena Belle Glathart. During the Spanish-American War he served with the Engineers in Cuba. He worked in the water treatment plant that provided clean water for the U.S. Army and later Cuba. In May of 1917, Huston arrived Detroit as a Captain in charge of Company A, 1st Battalion 16th Regiment of Engineers. He was one of the few officers who had prior military training. In the fall of 1917 in France, Captain Huston used his business and military experience to help the regiment build the infrastructure needed for the A.E.F. the in France. They built Camp Williams and Base Hospital 14. In the fall of 1918, he was Commander of 16th Regiment of Engineers (Railway) with rank of Lt. Colonel. After the war he was known as Colonel Huston, while he served as president of the New York Yankees. Huston died on March 29, 1938, in Darien, Georgia at the age of 70.



Oleda Joule

Head Operator Marine City, Michigan Michigan Telephone Company


From Marine City, Michigan, a 19 year old American of French-Canadian origin volunteer, she had been trained by Bell Telephone to train women to operate switchboards. She was a High School graduate which was rare for the times. 

Oleda had played piano for dance bands throughout the Thumb District of Michigan, for six years, since age thirteen, and she knew all of the World War One Popular songs. While sailing to France on the S.S. Olympic, which had been placed in quarantine at Southampton, England for two weeks because of the Spanish Flu pandemic, she entertained the troops. When she was asked by a Red Cross official to accept a position touring the camps and hospitals, she replied that she was in the Army and under orders for the duration of the war.

She was assigned to General Pershing's American Expeditionary Force Headquarters in Chaumont, France. Her service extended a year after the Armistice in order to operate the telephones for the arrangements to return troops home. 

When she returned after the war, she continued her dual career as a training supervisor for Michigan Bell Telephone and a professional piano player with dance bands, until she married in 1933. Her husband, Athanasius A. Christides was sent to France for the U.S. Government during the 1950's where Oleda visited the cafes in St. Germain des Pres and played the old WW1 songs that united the United States and France.




Leslie McLean

The youngest soldier to die in combat during the World War from Michigan


He was just a boy with a shock of long black hair who begged his parents to let him get into the war. Today, he is the youngest of Gratiot County’s veterans who died in the World War. His name was Leslie C. McLean from Alma and his story is a difficult and intriguing one.

        Leslie Clifford McLean’s story starts in 1902 when he was born to Edward and Ella McLean in Bethany Township on what was called the Boyd Farm.  The McLeans worked hard to clear the land and put up all of the buildings on what was considered a pioneer farm. The family later moved to the Delbert Conley farm near Alma. Leslie’s father was a farmer and he had two brothers. Although news accounts through the years would say that there were three McLean children, it was decades later that a descendant of the McLean family told an interesting story about a very young Leslie who once brought home a young boy in need of food and clothing. Soon, Ed and Ella McLean took the boy in and raised him along with Leslie like a brother.  Later after the war, Ella McLean would share her love for flowers and gardens with the communities where the family lived.  Edward would work as a repairer at the Republic Truck Company in town. Prior to the start of the war, the McLeans moved to Alma and lived there for four years while Leslie attended Alma High School up until his enlistment.

        In 1918, young Leslie McLean desperately wanted to enter the war while he could. Three days after his sixteenth birthday, Ella McLean signed the papers that allowed Leslie to do so. How unusual was it for a boy, barely age sixteen, to fight in World War I? According to Army census records, the average age of a soldier during the war was over the age of twenty-four, and most soldiers were in the range of twenty to twenty-five years of age. There were indeed instances of “kids” who went off to war, but there was not a lot who did so. Fourteen-year-olds (a total of 16), fifteen-year-olds (140), and sixteen-year-olds (935) did serve the country. McLean was only one in less than one thousand who did so. Considering that the minimum age for enlistment in 1917 was eighteen (seventeen if one could get a parent’s permission), it is surprising that the Army took these volunteers. Yet, in a time of war, they did so. McLean must have been one of those youths who believed that the Great War was the most important event of their young lives, and they were determined to play a part in it.

        Once young Leslie was in the Army there was not a lot to his story, however, some things are known prior to his death. He enlisted January 23, 1918, at the Alma recruiting office, but because his parents had moved to Midland in 1918, both Gratiot and Midland counties would count Leslie as one of their own. Leslie was sent to Camp Hancock, Georgia and arrived in France on April 7, 1918, with Company G of the 38thInfantry. It was thought that he was fighting in the trenches in May and that he saw several battles in July, which coincided with the Second Battle of the Marne.  McLean wrote one letter home in June shortly before he was killed. “I am feeling fine and hope you are the same.” He asked for some news clippings from the Alma Record “as I would like a to get a little news of the town.” He then told about the reality of being on the front. “A few shells bursted near us yesterday, but not close enough to hurt anyone. We have been very lucky that way so far, but it is hard to tell when one will drop in the middle of us.” He explained the importance of having one’s own hole to avoid the blasts, even sleeping in them at night, however,  they were damp. He thought that men in his unit slept quite well once they had obtained straw from a local farmer. His only regret was that they needed water, had not washed for two weeks and had only received two meals each day (one at ten o’clock in the morning and the other three o’clock in the afternoon). The men did receive a cup of coffee later in the evening. “We have had the same thing every meal now for over a week. We have some kind of French meat. It looks like horse meat and we have potatoes, bread, and coffee. Once in a while, we get a little rice or bread pudding without any sugar for dessert. “  With this closing, the letter contained the last recorded words that Leslie McLean shared with his family and Gratiot County. It would not be until a month after his death that his mother shared the letter with the public.

      Leslie McLean’s death was first reported on August 1, 1918, even though he died earlier than this. The Alma Record reported that “The hand of grim death, which is stalking over the blood-drenched battlefields of Europe, has reached forth its bloody dripping fingers and called to its own the first Alma man to fall on the battlefield, facing the scourge of the earth, the terrible Hun. Leslie McLean is the first Alma man called.” A week later, the Midland Sun also reported on McLean’s death. The Sun noted that Ella McLean had been notified of her son’s death by telegram and that his parents were living in Midland. Prior to Leslie joining the Army, Edward McLean had opened a pool and billiard parlor in the city and young Leslie had spent several months there helping his father to set up the business. The Sun also noted that Leslie had given his mother’s name as his “nearest friend” and had taken out the maximum government insurance policy of $10,000.

        When McLean’s death first became clear, it was announced that he died on July 20. Once the news reached Gratiot County there was an immediate desire to have a memorial service for him, even though his body was in France. At this time in Alma, a Chautauqua meeting was taking place and the tent was going to be used for the memorial service since the number of those expected to attend could not all fit into the McLean’s church, the Methodist Church of Alma. One of the key Chautauqua speakers, Captain George Frederick Campbell,  a British flyer who had fought in the war, even promised to stay an extra night so that he could be a part of the program. Churches in Alma closed up that Sunday evening in a show of unity across denominational lines in order to pay tribute to McLean. The service also had ministers from different churches who spoke about McLean. The tent was full that evening as Alma mourned Leslie McLean.  An estimated 1500 people attended the service.

        In early September 1918, the story of Leslie McLean had what would be the first of many turns. Through all of these events, there was a family that waited for more information about their son’s death. At times these turns seemed cruel and unfair. The September 12 issue of the Midland Sun surprisingly featured an article that “Leslie C. McLean May be Alive.” Five days earlier, Ella McLean received a letter from Leslie’s commanding officer, Captain J. W. Woolridge, that he was recommending that Leslie be sent back home because “he had done his bit,” he had been wounded in a “desperate battle” on July 15 and  Leslie was slightly wounded (the telegram was dated August 5, however, it took over a  month to reach the McLeans). For Ed and Ella McLean and their family, their grief had just been turned to hope that their son was alive. On October 31 the Alma Record also reported that Leslie was alive and that he had only been wounded. Even the Detroit Free Press carried a small announcement about McLean. What had happened? The McLeans and the town of Alma had held a memorial service almost two months prior to this and now the first Alma man to be killed in the World War was said to be alive? The McLeans and many others were bewildered by this news.

        Even more details about the death (or life) of Leslie McLean now started to filter into the press. Supposedly, he had been shot in the right thigh while fighting off a German attack near Metzy, France. Another telegram, dated September 21, told the McLeans that Leslie had survived, however, it was impossible to tell which hospital he had been sent to. The telegram also stated that the Army did not know if he was wounded, gassed or a victim of shell shock. Michigan Congressman G.A. Currie entered this story as he wanted an investigation into what had actually happened. Currie attempted to get more answers to the McLean mystery. Still, the investigation would linger another three months and the McLean family was left wondering what had happened to their son.

      In early January 1919, with the war now over, news came that friends of Leslie McLean who were in the Army at the same time Leslie was believed that he was indeed dead. Even more, the first installment of the government insurance policy was paid to Ella McLean’s policy that Leslie took out in her name. Another sad event happened when in February, Colonel Charles C. Pierce of the Graves Registration Service in France sent word to the McLeans that their son was “in a hero’s grave in the American cemetery at Jouy-sur-Moin, Seine-et-Marne.” The Alma Record also wrote that Ella McLean received a letter prior to this one that a St. Louis soldier told of meeting another St. Louis man in France who witnessed a wounded Leslie McLean on July 15, 1918, who was crawling to a first aid station “after having refused assistance” for help. He claimed that McLean died from blood loss due to his wounds. For the first time the press now openly addressed the mix-ups, delays and crossed messages that played a part in determining what really happened to young Leslie McLean. This was also the first mention that Leslie had been to a field hospital.

        In all of the confusion and renewed hope that her son was alive, Ella McLean returned the first insurance checks issued to her upon the hope that her son was not dead. No further checks came to her. For the remainder of 1919 and most of 1920, Ella McClain and her family lived with the uncertainty of their son’s death or existence. Burgess Iseman, who was a former soldier from St. Louis, wrote to the Quartermaster General in Washington and asked where Leslie McLean was buried so that he could visit the grave.  The Army wrote back and told Iseman that McLean was in grave #52 in the American Cemetery in Jouy-Sur-Morin. It is unclear if Iseman made it there or not, but at least there were others who were interested in keeping the memory of Leslie McLean alive.  In December 1920 the story took another turn. The Alma Record ran an article on December 30 that read, “PREY ON GOLD STAR MOTHERS: Crooks Attempt to Secure Funds by Sending Fake Reports by Telegraph, LOCAL WOMAN NEAR VICTIM.” It stated that “Mrs. Edward McLean is suffering from the heartaches of the noble mother who has given her son for the honor of her country.” Ella received a telegram that read, “Arrived today. Coming home. Wire $100.” It was signed Leslie McLean and it was sent from Brooklyn, New York. Was it possible that Leslie McLean was alive 2 ½ years after his death was first announced? Ella sent her son Herbert from Midland to Brooklyn, New York to find out who sent the telegram. Four days later she received a telegram that “The man is a faker” and that the first telegram was a hoax.  Fate was again playing with the family’s emotions.

       It would not be until the summer of 1921 that some closure came to the McLean family. It was then that someone answered an article in the American Legion magazine regarding what happened to Leslie McLean.  A Corporal Orman Egleston,  who was from Oswego County, New York, had served with Company G of the 138th Infantry, along with Leslie. He wrote to Ella McLean and detailed her son’s last days. On July 15, 1918, Leslie had been wounded across both of his legs and he was placed in the cellar of a hotel in Merzy, France. Egleston was in the cellar with McLean and a Frenchman. All three had been seriously wounded. Anyone in the cellar was told that if anyone could walk they were told to get up and leave with the retreating American troops as the Germans were soon to surround the town.  After two or three days, the Frenchman crawled out of the cellar and a scream was heard shortly afterward. It was believed that the Germans had killed him. With little to eat or drink and seriously wounded, McLean and Egleston were in the cellar until July 20, a total of five days. It was then that Egleston decided that he would crawl out, which he did. After crawling to his former headquarters in the town, he passed out. Although the Germans soon discovered Egleston, they did not kill him. The Germans soon left the town and Egleston was somehow reunited with his commanding officer. He told the officer about McLean being in the basement and a search party found him. However, after being evacuated,  McLean died on his way to the hospital. This testimony was now the concluding piece of the story of how Leslie McLean actually died.

        After years of grief, discouragement, hope and false hope, it was during the summer of 1921  that things happened that allowed Leslie McLean to return to Gratiot County. Ella McLean had made it clear that ultimately she wanted her son to buried in Alma and not remain in a national cemetery in France.  The Army exhumed the remains and upon a final autopsy in 1921 it was noted that although there was not a lot to identify Leslie beyond his dental records. However, it was recorded that his hair was “apparently black and plentiful.”  Several times the records stated “DWRIA” which meant “Died of Wounds Received In Action.”

                On July 2, 1921, the body of Leslie McLean started home aboard the SS Wheaton.  He ended up being one of 45 men from this group to return to Michigan that summer. On July 27, the McLeans received a telegram telling them that Leslie’s remains would be delivered to them on July 27.  The journey led to Alma and the McLean family held the funeral on Sunday, August 4 at the Alma First Methodist Episcopal Church. It turned out that another Alma man, Sergeant Harry Leonard, who also had been killed in July 1918, was also being brought home on the same transport with Leslie McLean. There were two World War funerals on the same day in Alma – and both were held at almost the same time, but at different churches. Both men were buried in Alma’s Riverside Cemetery and hundreds turned out for the two funerals. This was the second Alma funeral for Leslie McLean and people still came to pay their respects. The McLean family now had closure to the tragic death of their youngest son.

       As time passed the memory of Leslie McLean’s name appeared again. In March 1934 the Gratiot VFW Post in Alma was named in honor of him. Forty veterans attended the meeting and twenty-two signed the post’s charter that night. On September 10, 1937, Ella McLean passed away. In response to her youngest son’s death, Ella was made an honorary member of the VFW and American Legion, as well as an active member of the American Legion Auxilary. At her funeral, an American flag was placed on her casket. Her obituary also told more about her. After the moves back and forth from Midland to Alma (apparently during or just after the war), Edward and Ella purchased a home on Rockingham Avenue which was in a way a living memorial to their son. They created a beautiful garden which the town of Alma knew about because of its flowers. Ella grew tulips, gladioli, delphinium and perennials which decorated their garden. They often entered them in flower shows and they also created a business that sold flowers and bulbs. Ella would frequently take gladiolas to downtown Alma businesses for their display windows. When she passed, it was said that she was remembered as “a remarkable but modest personality.” Edward McLean lived until September 30, 1942. His funeral, like his wife’s, was held in the family home.

        In the early 1920s, a call went out to ask Gratiot County’s World War I veterans to share information for posterity regarding their service.  Leslie McLean’s file was basically empty, containing only an article from the Lansing State Journal published after the war about his death in a French cellar. That was all that it said. Not even his service serial number was listed (it was identified later as #2397908). When the Alma VFW Post dedicated its new building on May 12, 1973, on Wright Avenue in Alma Leslie McLean’s story was told again. Mr. and Mrs. Clare McLean of rural St. Louis, relatives of Leslie McLean, donated McLean’s picture and a clipping about him from the 1918 Alma Record. After the end of the Vietnam War, this brought the story of Leslie McLean to another generation of Gratiot County residents.

       Yet, McLean’s story came up again. In 2014, the Alma Public Library sponsored a program entitled “Remember Me – A Walking Tour Through Alma’s Riverside Cemetery.” Local historian Dave McMacken wrote the script that introduced several interesting and important people from Alma who were buried in Riverside Cemetery to those who wanted to learn about Riverside Cemetery. Those who went on the trip to the library and the cemetery to learn these stories heard McMacken tell the background of certain individuals who featured in the tour.  A local person dressed, read and acted out the part of the deceased. One of the stories featured Leslie McLean, who was portrayed by Ithaca High School student Dustin George. Finally, during the 2017 fall semester, a Fulton High School junior who was looking for a research paper topic relating to Gratiot County’s history came upon the story of Leslie McLean. She wanted to learn more about him. Brittany Barrus sought out McLean’s grave, searched through old newspapers and wrote a research paper about him.

        Now it has been a century since the service and death of one of Gratiot County’s most interesting and tragic stories concerning about men who died during the Great War. The boy with the shock of long, black hair, Leslie C. McLean of Alma, was one of these men. And he was only sixteen years old when died in France in 1918.

Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed

Major General George O. Squier

 Chief of Signal Corps, U.S. Army

George Owen Squier

George Squier wrote and edited many books and articles on the subject of radio and electricity. An inventor, he and Dartmouth professor Albert Cushing Crehore developed a magneto-optical streak camera "The Polarizing Photo-chronograph" in 1896 to measure the speed of projectiles both inside a cannon and directly after they left the cannon barrel. This was one of the earliest photonic programs. They also worked to develop synchronous AC telegraphic systems. His biggest contribution was that of telephone carrier multiplexing in 1910 for which he was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1919.

As executive officer to the Chief Signal Officer, U.S. Signal Corps in 1907, Squier was instrumental in the establishment of the Aeronautical DivisionU.S. Signal Corps, the first organizational ancestor of the U.S. Air Force. He also was the first military passenger in an airplane on September 12, 1908 and, working with the Wright Brothers, was responsible for the purchase of the first airplanes by the U.S. Army in 1909.

From May 1916 to February 1917, he was Chief of the Aviation Section, U.S. Army Signal Corps, the first successor of the Aeronautical Division, before being promoted to Major General and appointed Chief Signal Officer during World War One. In 1922, he created Wired Radio, a service which piped music to businesses and subscribers over wires. In 1934, he changed the service's name to 'Muzak".


 Eugene Van Antwerp

City Councilmen, Mayor of Detroit, V.F.W. National Commander and instrumental in making Armistice (Veterans) Day a National Holiday.

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He was educated in parochial schools and then at the University of Detroit and worked as an instructor in English at Gonzaga University in 1910-1911.He returned to Detroit, working briefly at the Detroit Police Department before going to work as a civil engineer. He did engineering work first for the Michigan Central Railroad and then for the Grand Trunk Railroad.Van Antwerp served as a captain in 16th Regiment of Engineers(Railway) from Detroit in the United States Army Corps of Engineers during World War I, and was among the first members of the Allied Expeditionary Force to land in France, serving in 1917-1919. He is leading company D 16th Regiment of Engineers (Railway) May 1919 in the picture above.

He returned to his position with Grand Trunk after the war. He was chief engineer for the National Survey Service from 1926–1928, after which he went into private practice as an engineer and surveyor.

Van Antwerp was elected to the Detroit City Council in 1932.He served continuously from 1932.to 1948, when he ran for mayor. During his time on the council, he ran unsuccessfully for county auditor in 1935 and served a stint as the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1938-39. During this time, he lobbied to get Armistice Day made a National  Holiday. It became Veterans Day after World War Two.

Van Antwerp served a single term as mayor, beating Edward Jeffries in 1947 but losing in the primary in 1949. He returned to the City Council in 1950, winning a special election in November of that year to replace Edward Jeffries after the latter's death.During his second time on the council, he ran unsuccessfully for state highway commissioner in 1952 and for United States Congress in 1955.

Colonel George H. Webb

IMG 0733 Copy

    Chief Engineer, Michigan Central Railroad


The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting

 the Army Distinguished Service Medal to George H. Webb, Colonel

 (Corps of Engineers), U.S. Army, for exceptionally meritorious 

and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, 

in a duty of great responsibility during World War I. Colonel Webb

 was entrusted with the execution of some of the largest construction

 enterprises in France. Confronted by difficulties of labor, material,

 and equipment, he set about his task with ceaseless energy, and by

 his resourcefulness, initiative, and skill he overcame all obstacles 

and completed these difficult projects with great success.

War Department, General Orders No. 59 (1919)

Born: at Dubuque, Iowa

Home Town: Detroit, Michigan


 Joseph B. Westnedge

 Michigan National Guard & Manager, Kalamazoo Paper Company

Westnedge sm

When the United States declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917, "Colonel Joe" was a manager at a Kalamazoo paper company. Answering the nation's call to arms, Westnedge remarked: "We are going, perhaps never to return, and the parting is hard, but a call greater than any other summons us away." Westnedge was one of the few National Guard officers to retain his command in the National Army, a tribute to his competence as a commander. Enormously popular with his troops, Westnedge was always concerned with their well-being. He commanded the 126th Infantry, an integral part of the famous 32nd " Red Arrow Division". One of the earliest American units to be sent overseas, the 126th spent the end of 1917 training in Waco, Texas, and arrived in France in March 1918. The 126th then participated in a number of key offensives in the summer and fall of that year. A few days before the armistice was signed, Colonel Westnedge had been sent to an army hospital in Nantes, France. He died there of complications of tonsillitis on 29 November 1918, only eighteen days after the war had ended.

 Two years later his body was finally brought home and reburied at Riverside Cemetery. Local mourning for "Colonel Joe" was widespread; thousands of people lined the streets for his funeral procession. West Street was renamed Westnedge Avenue as a tribute to the city's fallen hero. Cited for the Distinguished Service Cross and awarded the French Croix-de-Guerre, Joseph B. Westnedge had honorably served his country and his community.





Edmund Wilson

Writer and Literary Critic, Detroit became his second "Home Town"

220px Edmund Wilson

Edmund Wilson (May 8, 1895 – June 12, 1972) was an American writer and critic who notably explored Freudian and Marxist themes. He influenced many American authors, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose unfinished work he edited for publication. His scheme for a Library of America series of national classic works came to fruition through the efforts of Jason Epstein after Wilson's death.
Wilson was born in Red Bank, New Jersey. His parents were Helen Mather (née Kimball) and Edmund Wilson, Sr., a lawyer who served as New Jersey Attorney General. Wilson attended The Hill School, a college preparatory boarding school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1912. At Hill, Wilson served as the editor-in-chief of the school's literary magazine, The Record. From 1912 to 1916, he was educated at Princeton University. Wilson began his professional writing career as a reporter for the New York Sun. During World War One he served in the army with Base Hospital 36 from Detroit, Michigan. After a few months in France, he hated prepping the wound soldiers who came in from the trenches. He used his French Language skills and political influence to get a transfer and became a translator at A.E.F. Headquarters during the First World War. The few months he spent in Detroit had a great influence on Mr. Wilson, Detroit had become his second "Home Town". In his writings, a number of characters and stories revolve around the city of Detroit.  His family's summer home at Talcottville, New York, known as Edmund Wilson House, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Wilson was the managing editor of Vanity Fair in 1920 and 1921, and later served as associate editor of The New Republic and as a book reviewer for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. His works influenced novelists Upton Sinclair, John Dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Floyd Dell, and Theodore Dreiser. He served on the Dewey Commission, that set out to fairly evaluate the charges that led to the exile of Leon Trotsky. He wrote plays, poems, and novels, but his greatest influence was literary criticism.
He played a recurring role throughout Edna St Vincent Millay's life, from the time she was a foreign correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, 1921 to 1923, to the end of her life.
Axel's Castle: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870–1930 (1931) was a sweeping survey of Symbolism. It covered Arthur Rimbaud, Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (author of Axel), W. B. Yeats, Paul Valéry, T. S. Eliot, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein.
In his book, To the Finland Station (1940), Wilson studied the course of European socialism, from the 1824 discovery by Jules Michelet of the ideas of Vico culminating in the 1917 arrival of Vladimir Lenin at the Finland Station of Saint Petersburg to lead the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution.
In an essay on the work of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, "Tales of the Marvellous and the Ridiculous" (New Yorker, November 1945; later collected in Classics and Commercials), Wilson condemned Lovecraft's tales as "hackwork".
Wilson is also well known for his heavy criticism of J. R. R. Tolkien's work The Lord of the Rings, which he referred to as "juvenile trash", saying "Dr. Tolkien has little skill at narrative and no instinct for literary form."
Wilson was interested in modern culture as a whole, and many of his writings go beyond the realm of pure literary criticism. His early works are heavily influenced by the ideas of Freud and Marx, reflecting his deep interest in their work.
Wilson lobbied for the creation of a series of classic US literature similar to France's Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. In 1982, ten years after his death, The Library of America series was launched. Wilson's writing was included in the Library of America in two volumes published in 2007.
Wilson's critical works helped foster public appreciation for several novelists: Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Vladimir Nabokov. He was instrumental in establishing the modern evaluation of the works of Dickens and Kipling. Wilson was a friend of the novelist and playwright Susan Glaspell as well as the philosopher Isaiah Berlin.
He attended Princeton with Fitzgerald, who referred to Wilson as his "intellectual conscience". After Fitzgerald's early death (at the age of 44) from a heart attack in December 1940, Wilson edited two books by Fitzgerald (The Last Tycoon and The Crack-Up) for posthumous publication, donating his editorial services to help Fitzgerald's family. Wilson was also a friend of Nabokov, with whom he corresponded extensively and whose writing he introduced to Western audiences. However, their friendship was marred by Wilson's cool reaction to Nabokov's Lolita and irretrievably damaged by Wilson's public criticism of what he considered Nabokov's eccentric translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin.
Wilson was also an outspoken critic of US Cold War policies. He refused to pay his federal income tax from 1946 to 1955 and was later investigated by the Internal Revenue Service.
After a settlement, Wilson received a $25,000 fine, rather than the original $69,000 sought by the IRS. He received no jail time. In his book The Cold War and the Income Tax: A Protest (1963) Wilson argued that, as a result of competitive militarization against the Soviet Union, the civil liberties of Americans were being paradoxically infringed under the guise of defense from Communism. For these reasons, Wilson also opposed involvement in the Vietnam War.
Selected by President Kennedy to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Wilson, in absentia, was officially awarded the medal on December 6, 1963 by President Johnson.



Frederick W. Zinn

Patriot, innovator, aviator, politician, humanitarian,






Frederick  W. Zinn, he changed how America dealt with it's warriors missing in action.  Zinn, a native of Galesburg Michigan, graduated the University of Michigan in 1914 and set out to tour Europe.  He arrived just as the Great War broke out.  Zinn joined the French Foreign Legion and fought in several vicious campaigns before transferring to the French Air Service.  He was a member of the illustrious Lafayette Flying Corps and his former Legionnaire comrades served in the such squadrons as the Lafayette Escadrille.  
When America entered WWI, Fred Zinn was the first American transferred from French service to General Billy Mitchell's staff.  He was in charge of personnel and training - sending all of the American's replacement aviators and observers to the front.  When the war ended, he proposed an idea revolutionary to the War Department.  He said that he wanted to search for the missing men he had sent to war.  He felt that he could find them and bring home their remains, to bring closure to their families.  It was a concept that the American military had never even considered.  
He worked in a tiny office in occupied Berlin, even enlisting the aid of former German ace, Ernst Udet in his quests.  After months of painstaking retracing of final flights, Fred Zinn had recovered the bodies or personal effects of 195 of the 200 missing American airmen.  
When WWII broke out Zinn lobbied the War Department to set up a system to recover the remains of the missing aviators.  Leveraging his relationships with men like Eddie Rickenbacker and General Hap Arnold, Zinn created the Missing Air Crew Report System.  His techniques such as standardized serial numbers on aircraft parts ensured that countless families would learn the fates of their missing men.  
When the Army Air Corps would not let him continue his work, Fred joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor of the CIA.  There his ground search for missing airmen was to be his cover as he conducted work for X2, Counterintelligence.  Fred's painstaking efforts recovered the remains of hundreds of airmen while he spied against the Italians and Germans.  
Patriot, innovator, aviator, politician, humanitarian, and hero - Fred Zinn was all of these things.  His efforts changed forever how America dealt with its missing airmen.  His legacy lives on today in the Air Force Creed, "…I will leave no airman behind…"  

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