The Long Road Home
African American WWI Veterans return to their communities
By Paul LaRue, Ohio World War I Centennial Committee
World War I concluded on November 11, 1918, but in many ways, the war never ended for African American Veterans returning home to a segregated, racist America. In 1919 seventy-eight African Americans were lynched in the United States. Eleven of the seventy-eight lynched were ex-soldiers; two were still wearing their World War I uniforms.
In World War I, 380,000 African Americans would answer the call to serve, and 200,000 of these men would travel to France as part of the American Expeditionary Force. While serving in France, African American Soldiers were exposed to poison gas, machine gun fire, and high explosive shells. These soldiers also experienced a paradox while serving; the men received better treatment by French citizens and the French Army than their own Army.
The 372nd Infantry Regiment on parade in Columbus after returning from Europe in 1919. Via Ohio Memory
As soldiers returned to their communities they brought with them the visible and invisible scars of their war. Cincinnatian Lewis Higgins, while serving as a member of the 369th Infantry Regiment (better known as the Harlem Hellfighters), was severely wounded in action, and thus declared as 30% disabled. Sarah Good, of Cleveland, and also a widow of a Civil War soldier, described her son's condition following his World War I service:
“... My son who used to help me, went to the World War and came back, all a total wreck, and no health to do any work scarcely. They gave him eight dollars a month for a few months after his return home and then they taken that away ....”
The examination of data from the Ohio Graves Registration Cards of 165 World War I Veterans, buried in the Historic Union Baptist Cemetery between 1918 and 1940, reveals an interesting narrative. Twenty veterans’ records list tuberculosis as cause of death, while another twenty records list their cause of death as homicide. Two veterans’ cause of death is listed as suicide. It is impossible to know all the challenges these veterans faced in their post war experience, but life for African Americans in the 1920's and 1930's was not easy.
But even with the obstacles facing these returning veterans, many found success. Private Wilber Page of the 317th Engineers returned from France in 1919. Later that year, Private Page would become Reverend Page, Pastor of the Historic Union Baptist Church in Cincinnati. Reverend Page would lead the church for the next sixty-six years. Lieutenant Charles C. Jackson of the 370th Infantry Regiment (better known as the Black Devils) a decorated combat officer, moved his family from Akron to Cincinnati to become a successful independent realtor.
The service and sacrifice of African American World War I servicemen seemed to quickly fade from most Americans’ memory. After the parades welcoming the returning soldiers home were over, the stories of bravery and sacrifice were left to be told at African American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Posts. Few monuments or memorials were erected to African American World War I Soldiers and Sailors. One of the first monuments erected was by an African American combat regiment to commemorate its dead. The 372nd Infantry Regiment raised more than 10,000 francs before leaving France for home for the construction of a monument. The 372nd asked the monument be erected near a public highway, near the point of farthest advance by the regiment. Today the monument to the 372nd stands by a road near Monthois. The monument is not an official United States memorial, so appropriately it is maintained by the French and private funds.
Monument to the 372nd Infantry Regiment in Monthois, France. Photo credit to Lillian Pfluke, Founder American War Memorials Overseas
We can continue to honor the memory of African American World War I servicemen in our communities and classrooms. The World War I Centennial has provided opportunities for teachers and students to learn more about the service and sacrifice of African American World War I Soldiers. The Ohio World War I Centennial Committee and the Ohio History Connection offer several lesson plans on African American World War I Service:
1.) African American Combat Troops
2.) African American Labor Regiments
3.) Technology and the 325th Field Signal Battalion
4.) Veterans Organizations
Names on a Wall
Documenting Ohio's World War I Deaths in Service
By Paul LaRue, Ohio WWI Centennial Committee
Most Ohio counties honor their community's World War I service members with a list of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. My county, Fayette, is no different. On the Fayette County Courthouse lawn is a monument with two plaques containing the names of Fayette County's World War I dead.
The United States number of deaths in World War I was approximately 116,000. Ohio's eighty-eight counties contributed more than 260,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines to the war effort. Sadly, more than 6500 of these service members never made it home. I became curious about the sources available to locate or identify my community’s WWI deaths in service. These sources and data will vary from county to county. Here are the sources I used to develop a database of Fayette County's WWI deaths in service.
First, I started with the names on our local WWI memorial. Consult your county's veteran organizations and County Veterans Services for plaques and lists of WWI service members. Your local historical society can be helpful in locating local plaques, and/or memorials. Our local plaques (Fayette County) were dedicated May 27, 1919 and list the names of forty-four service members from our county that died in service. These names would have been collected from available local sources.
Second, local period newspapers are extremely helpful. Your local library or genealogical society can be an excellent source of local newspapers. The Ohio History Connection has an excellent collection of Ohio newspapers (Link: http://catalog.ohiohistory.org/Presto/home/home.aspx?ssid=Newspapers ). I used Fayette County's weekly newspaper of the time, the Ohio State Register. The paper contained an article listing the names of the local deaths in service as of December 6, 1918. The newspaper listed twenty-six names as deaths in WWI service. If you have been following my data, you should quickly see a problem. There are eighteen more names on the memorial plaques than listed in the newspaper. Following World War I, the United States government went to great lengths to identify and recover the dead in Europe. Initially, a large number of soldiers were classified as missing in action. The December 6, 1918 issue of the Ohio State Register reflects this fact. Lieutenant Paul Hughey, the namesake of Washington Court House American Legion Post 25 was shot down over Tronville, France on September 14, 1918. At the end of the war his death was classified as missing in action. Lt. Hughey's body was later recovered and buried in France before ultimately being returned to our community for burial in 1921. So, don't be surprised if the number of war dead from your community will vary from source to source.
Fayette County's War Dead listed in the Ohio State Register
My third source was shared with me by the Manuscript Curator for The Ohio History Connection, John Haas. In the source, Charles Galbreath's History of Ohio, Volume #1, Ohio's WWI dead are listed by county beginning on page 699. The listing includes both the date of death and the town or community the service member was from. Galbreath lists thirty-three names of deaths in service from Fayette County. Still, this number does not match either the plaques or local newspapers.
Next, I cross referenced the names from the three sources – local WWI War Deaths in service plaques, the local newspaper article, and Galbreath's Vol. 1 – against two other sources. The first additional source was the Ohio Roster of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines of the World War 1917-1918. The Ohio Rosters are extremely useful. The twenty-two-volume series contains the names and key data on the more than 260,000 Ohioans who served in the Army, Navy, and Marines. The names are arranged alphabetically, and contain information on the regiment, place and date of enlistment, race, and birth. Death in service information is also provided—the date, place, and next of kin notified. Volumes 1 - 19 contain the names of soldiers, volumes 20 - 21 contain the names of sailors, and volume 22 contains the names of Marines. These volumes can be found in most public libraries genealogy section, as well as online.
Finally, I used the database by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) ( https://www.abmc.gov ). The ABMC was established by Congress in 1923. It operates and maintains twenty-six American Military Cemeteries and twenty-seven Memorials in sixteen countries. The ABMC maintains a database of more than 200,000 names of United States service members from World War I through the Vietnam War. More than 35,000 names are of WWI Soldiers and Sailors. The database provides name, rank, regiment, state, and location of burial in an ABMC Cemetery. Roughly 30% of American Service members from WWI whom died in service never returned to the United States for burial. This makes the ABMC database extremely useful.
Once I had cross referenced the names, I was left with three names I could not verify in the Ohio Rosters, which bothered me. I reached out to an excellent genealogist in Cincinnati to get his thoughts. He suggested I look at the local death indexes, then check the local newspapers. I located two of the names this way. One soldier's name was misspelled on the memorial plaque and actually was in the Ohio Rosters. The second soldier's death was chronicled in our local newspaper. The newspaper article described his enlisting in Michigan, which would explain his not being listed in the Ohio Rosters. Only one name listed in the Galbreath records went undocumented. The service member served in the Navy, and I never could find a direct connection to our county.
The Fayette County Court House with World War I Memorial in the foreground
I also added several names to the database. Homer Lawson served in the 372nd, and was killed in action. He is the namesake of American Legion Post 653 in Washington Court House. Lawson's name was omitted, (I speculate) because his mother had moved her young family (including Homer) to Columbus long before the outbreak of the war. Homer Lawson's service is documented in Galbreath, listed from Franklin County. The Fayette County African American community claim Homer Lawson as a local son whom made the ultimate sacrifice. Private Lawson is also profiled in a book, The Gold Star of Victory Memorial. The text honors Franklin County's war dead, and can be found through the Columbus Metropolitan Library. This also highlights the value of seeking out local history sources.
I also included two names from the Village of New Holland. New Holland, like numerous towns and villages in Ohio, straddles two counties. Three quarters of New Holland is located in Pickaway County, and one quarter is located in Fayette County. The New Holland community lost four of its sons in the war. Following WWI the ARCH Post #477 American Legion was organized in New Holland. The name ARCH was an acronym created by taking first letter from the first names of the four fallen soldiers. Two of the four names appear in the Fayette County data. I chose to include the other two names, though technically they are from Pickaway County. I wanted a comprehensive list to honor as many service members sacrifice as possible.
My final database of Fayette County deaths in service lists forty-eight names. Eighteen of the forty-eight names list pneumonia as the cause of death. Fourteen of the forty-eight were killed in action. Two never left Ohio, dying at Camp Sherman and the Wilbur Wright Field. Ten of the forty-eight are buried in ABMC Cemeteries overseas, including four names listed on the tablets of the missing. The earliest death was in April 1917, the latest death was in July 1919. One death was of a soldier killed in a railroad accident in France, and one death was a sailor drowned in the North Sea when his ship hit a mine and sank. Each service member's story demonstrates incredible personal sacrifice.
My hope is that my trail of resources can assist you with your own research. Help Ohio commemorate the World War I Centennial by documenting and recognizing the service members that made the ultimate sacrifice from your community.
Teacher Resources Now Available: Technology and World War I
The Ohio History Connection is pleased to announce the third release of free World War I lesson plans, resource guides, and classroom activities as part of the Little Stories of the Great War: Ohioans in World War I project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Learn about technological advancements during the war, and bring STEM into the history classroom, by engaging students with primary sources focusing on communication, aviation, weapons and artillery, and warships and submarines.
Photograph showing a soldier operating a radio station inside a truck in France, with two observers using binoculars to detect aerial threats. Via Ohio Memory.
Through photographs and letters in the World War I in Ohio Collection on Ohio Memory, the World War I Technology Impacts Ohio lesson plan explores wartime communications, the role of African American soldiers in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, and Ohio’s impact on the growth of wartime aviation. The Technology of the First World War classroom activity includes four activities that require students to think critically about how soldiers’ needs and the new fighting style of trench warfare led to technological developments. The First Modern War resource guide provides sets of primary sources focusing on various aspects of technology that teachers can adapt for a variety of activities and assignments.
If you have any questions, please contact project staff at email@example.com.
Click here to download the lesson plan.
Click here to download the resource guide.
Click here to download the classroom activity.
On December 25, 1918, thousands of Ohioans were in Europe, serving as United States soldiers in the Great War. With the Compiegne Armistice of November 11 fighting ceased on the Western Front, but a formal peace had yet to be signed, and the soldiers remained near the battlefields on which they had fought. When Christmas came, Ohioans of the 37th “Buckeye” Division infantry were in Belgium, not far from the Scheldt River where they had been when the war ended. Artillerymen of the 37th were in France, close to the Meuse-Argonne where they saw action in the closing days of the war. Some, like the soldiers in the 166th Infantry Regiment and contingents of the 83rd Division, enjoyed Christmas in Germany as part of the Army of Occupation. Still others were scattered around France and Italy. Wherever they were, Ohioans made the best of celebrating the holiday while serving overseas, with gifts from home or organizations like the YMCA, and by blending their own traditions with local customs.
In Belgium, the infantrymen of the 37th Division spent Christmas near their billets. Packages from home arrived for many of the men, and the YMCA and Knights of Columbus stepped in and provided candy and cigarettes for those who did not receive anything. Celebrations were largely left to individual commanders, and the festivities were lavish for some units, with hot cocoa and gifts for everyone around. Their holiday celebrations mostly reflected American traditions, although with some improvised adjustments. In France, the 37th’s field artillery decorated their accommodations with locally-collected trimmings and feasted on chickens procured by their mess sergeants. They were also able to secure barrels of French beer to help warm their spirits. The highlight of the holiday season for soldiers of the 37th Division were the ample leave passes issued by headquarters. During and after Christmas, Ohioans took the opportunity to travel to the south of France and even Italy.
YMCA Christmas Card sent to Colonel Webb C. Hayes depicting Santa Claus as a French soldier. Via Ohio Memory.
For the Ohio soldiers of the Army of Occupation, Christmas came while they were keeping watch on the Rhine. Though part of an occupying force, the men were able to benefit from the generosity of German civilians in Coblenz, Oberwinter, and other towns in the Rhineland. In December, the Americans were still under orders not to fraternize with German civilians, however. The history of the 166th Infantry clearly summarizes how the men felt about fraternization: “Fraternizing? Well, what of it? Orders said not to fraternize, but who is going to gruffly refuse the proffered hand of friendship or the gift of cakes or fruit at Christmas time?” The history of the 308th Engineers shares similar sentiments, stating that quite often men spent the holidays in homes with new friends despite orders prohibiting fraternization. The men of the occupation were not offered the leave passes of the divisions in France, but they were able to celebrate the holiday with new friends, who had only months before been hated enemies.
Letter written by Ralph Roesch while in Italy on Christmas Day, 1918. Via Ohio Memory.
Even for all of the festivities, soldiers longed to return home. In a letter to his sister, Private Ralph Roesch wrote “I had the blues a good many times. But I never had them as bad as I did today. Every time anyone says ‘Merry Xmas’ it makes me feel like… I want to sit down and have a good cry.” At the time he wrote the letter, Private Roesch was serving with the 332nd Infantry in Italy. He also wrote of the YMCA providing chocolate, lemon drops, and cigarettes to the men, who were likely as homesick as Roesch. Fortunately for Ohioans who spent Christmas of 1918 in Europe, they had survived the fighting and not long into 1919 the War Department began bringing them home.
Cheseldine, Raymond Minshall. Ohio in the Rainbow; official story of the 166th infantry, 42nd division, in the world war. Columbus; The F.J. Heer printing co., 1924.
Cole, Ralph D. and W. C. Howells. The Thirty-seventh division in the world war, 1917-1918. Columbus; The Thirty-Seventh Division Veterans Association, 1926.
Roesch, Ralph. Ralph Roesch to Pearl Schalf, December 25, 1918. http://www.ohiomemory.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16007coll51/id/8151
With the 308th engineers from Ohio to the Rhine and back, 1917-1919. Cleveland; 308th Engineers Veterans Association, 1923.
"Where Do We Go From Here?"
World War I Veterans at Home
By Kristen Newby, Projects Coordinator, Ohio History Connection
The War Camp Community Service and other organizations published booklets like this one to help returning soldiers transition from military life. Via Ohio Memory.
November 11, 2018, marked the World War I Armistice Centennial, and Americans remembered the honorable men and women who served in the Great War. These types of anniversaries often inspire us to learn more about soldiers’ and sailors’ training regiments and daily life, as well as the harsh conditions they survived and the treacherous landscapes they traversed. But, another important aspect of World War I, or any armed conflict, is what happens to servicemen once they return home. After the parades and overjoyed welcomes from beloved family and friends, what resources were available to help the 4.7 million World War I veterans readjust to civilian life?
The history of government funded veterans benefits dates back to 1776 when the Continental Congress established the United States’ first pension law, granting half pay to Revolutionary War veterans suffering from serious disabilities. After the ratification of the constitution in 1789, the federal government assumed responsibility for veterans’ pensions, which were previously disbursed by state governments. Federal officials revised U.S. pension laws several times over the following decades, including a need-based service pension for Revolutionary War veterans. The almost 2 million Civil War veterans initiated more progressive laws and programs, including compensation for diseases incurred during service and a large-scale national effort to provide medical care for veterans.
This passage comes from an American Red Cross pamphlet titled “When You Get Home” which helps soldiers adjust to civilian life and covers topics including insurance considerations, legal advice, and government compensation. Via Ohio Memory.
Prior to America joining World War I, the Sherwood Act (1912) granted pensions to all veterans, regardless of disability, at age 62. Once the U.S. joined World War I, the unprecedented enormity of mobilized troops forced the federal government to ensure the well-being and financial stability of servicemen and their families. Originally passed in 1914 to insure American ships and their cargos, and later expanded to include men killed, captured, or injured while aboard merchant ships, the War Risk Insurance Act was amended in 1917 to offer three basic benefits—to support servicemen’s families through allotments and allowances; to compensate families in cases of death or disability; and low-cost insurance coverage.
This Act marks the first time the federal government offered family allowances to protect their finances while the main bread-winner is away. Servicemen paid insurance premiums out of their monthly pay, but could also pay a $15 monthly allotment so that the government would send monthly allowances of no more than $50 to their dependents, with the allowance amount based on family size. If injured or disabled, the government provided monthly compensation for men and their families. Soldiers and sailors received $60 upon honorable discharge, and were then responsible for maintaining their insurance coverage by continuing to pay their monthly premiums. Five years after honorable discharge, servicemen could decide whether they wanted to continue their coverage or start a policy with a private insurance company or employer. However, private companies often would not sign on men with serious war-related health conditions and charged more expensive premiums.
Although the provisions within the War Risk Insurance Act protected soldiers’ families during the war, veterans returned with physical and emotional scars, many of them permanently disabled and unable to work. The government paid for medical, occupational, and rehabilitative care for injured and disabled veterans, as well as monthly compensation. Veterans could enroll in government funded vocational training through the Federal Board of Vocational Education, and receive a training stipend of $65 per month or more.
This article from the July 5, 1918, issue of the Morrow County Republican describes the protections given under the War Risk Insurance Act (1917) and the benefits of enrollment. Via Ohio Memory.
Many organizations like the Red Cross, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and the War Camp Community Service distributed literature detailing how to receive proper medical and rehabilitative care, collect due compensation, find jobs, and how to handle financial situations that occurred while they were away, like lapsed mortgages and pre-war insurance policies. These organizations, particularly the newly formed American Legion, fought for veterans’ rights and pushed for increased educational benefits to help disabled veterans learn new hirable skills so they could work. Although partially disabled veterans received compensation through the War Risk Insurance Act, many veterans suffered financially because monthly disability compensation was often not enough to make up for the individual’s loss in earning power, as he could not return to work making his pre-war income. In 1917, the Red Cross opened the Institute for Crippled and Disabled men in New York to train amputees and individuals with decreased mobility, and by the war’s end most of its patients were veterans. The War Camp Community Service worked with companies to hire veterans and those whose war work jobs were now terminated. Many companies hired back previous employees once they returned from the service, and tried to open other positions to keep workers who temporarily replaced servicemen.
This poster encourages veterans to visit the U.S. Employment Service, operated by the Bureau for Returning Soldiers, to find a job. Courtesy of Sandusky Library via Ohio Memory.
Despite these combined efforts, veterans often did not receive the care and assistance they needed to reintegrate into society and gain financial stability for their families. Unfortunately, unemployment and poor housing conditions were realities for many veterans, not to mention the blatantly unwelcome reception of returning African American soldiers, leading to the 1919 race riots and the eventual Bonus March in 1932.
Although far from a success, one might consider the World War I era to be the United States’ first concerted effort to care for veterans and meet their needs. The government failed these men in many ways, but that doesn’t dim our gratitude and reverence for the men and women who served.
Ohioan Clarence Matlack submitted an affidavit complaining of lung trouble after gas exposure during World War I. Via Ohio Memory.
American Red Cross, When You Get Home. http://www.ohiomemory.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16007coll51/id/1025
Department of Veteran Affairs. VA History in Brief. https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/archives/docs/history_in_brief.pdf
Douglas, Paul H. “The War Risk Insurance Act.” Journal of Political Economy, May 1918. Accessed 12/13/2018. https://www.disabilitymuseum.org/dhm/lib/detail.html?id=3008&page=all
Meloney, William Brown. Where Do We Go From Here? War Camp Community Service. http://www.ohiomemory.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16007coll51/id/1016
Reft, Ryan, “World War I: Injured Veterans and the Disability Rights Movement,” Library of Congress Blog, December 21, 2017. Accessed December 31, 2018. https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2017/12/world-war-i-injured-veterans-and-the-disability-rights-movement/.
Colonel Charles Young was not Alone
The systematic destruction of the African American Officer Corps in World War I
By Paul LaRue, Ohio WWI Centennial Committee
The story of Colonel Charles Young's service, sacrifice, and disappointment at not leading African American Troops in France during World War I has been well documented. Unfortunately, his story was not unique; large numbers of African American World War I officers were systematically denied or pushed out of leadership positions. World War I was fought during the backdrop of Jim Crow and in a blatantly racist America. I suppose it should come as no surprise that African American World War I officers were treated extremely poorly. The level of institutional racism encountered by African American officers is shocking.
Charles Young wearing the uniform of the 9th US Cavalry. In 1917, the War Department forcibly retired then-Colonel Charles Young rather than risk having white soldiers serve under his command in France.
African American soldiers served both in the 92nd and 93rd Divisions. The 93rd was an incomplete division comprised of four infantry regiments. The 93rd Division was given over to French Command. The 92nd Division was a complete division which stayed under American command. The 370th Infantry Regiment was formed around an Illinois National Guard unit, and was part of the 93rd Division. The 370th is unique amongst African American regiments for being able to keep its African American command structure largely intact. Unfortunately, this was an exception for African American World War I regiments. Ohioan Lt. Charles Jackson served as an officer of a machine gun company in the 370th, and was decorated for bravery in combat.
It is hard to imagine the impact the destruction of the African American Officer Corps had on African American World War I soldiers and their service. One of the best descriptions of service by an African American World War I officer was written by Charles H. Houston for the Pittsburgh Courier in 1940. Houston, a prominent attorney and lead counsel for the NAACP, had served as a First Lieutenant in 368th Infantry, 92nd Division. He wrote a thirteen-installment series on being an African American officer in World War I. Houston masterfully chronicles the racism and bias faced by himself and his fellow officers. The insidious nature of racism is reflected in things both small and large. Lt. Houston reflected on the disparity Black Officers faced in camp "...The Negro Troops were not as well supplied with Coal as the White Troops..." Worse still was the attitude reflected by the senior command.
At Fort Des Moines, 1200 African American officer candidates went to train for service in World War I. Lt. Colonel Charles Ballou was the commander at Fort Des Moines, and later would serve as commander of the 92nd Division. Houston wrote: "... Colonel Ballou told the regiment that the camp was an experiment and the future of Negro Officers in the American Army depended on the record we made at Fort Des Moines; that he expected us to vindicate our friends and justify the decision to make the experiment of training Negroes as Officers by staying out of anyplace where our presence right or wrong might cause friction..." Apparently Colonel Ballou was not aware Colonel Charles Young, the third African American to graduate from West Point, had led the men of the 9th and 10th Cavalry in combat for decades, and was a far more logical choice to command both Fort Des Moines and the 92nd Division!
Many of the same attitudes toward African American Officers was found at the regimental level. Historian and author W.E.B. DuBois wrote of the 317 Engineers, a regiment organized at Camp Sherman, Ohio. "... There were two battalions and all the officers were colored, except four field officers. The Commanding Officers, however, were from the first determined to get rid of the Negroes. On May 10 the colored captains were relieved ... On July 22 all the remaining colored officers, except two Lieutenants, the chaplain and the medical officers, were relieved at the repeated requests of Colonel Brown of Georgia..." There seemed to a belief (at least by some) that white southerners were better suited to command African American troops.
Panoramic Photograph of Company D, 317th Engineer Regiment, taken at Camp Sherman. No officers appear appear in the photo.
This belief and practice continued into World War II. Robert Renshaw, an African American World War II Veteran from Dayton, Ohio, reflected on his experience in the Army: "... If you want the truth, now I'm going to give you the truth. We had four white, non-educated officers from Texas - very prejudiced, couldn't read and write. Our outfit was made of boys from Ohio, Detroit and Chicago ... We had education, they didn't ..."
The impact of institutional racism on the African American World War I Officer Corps is hard to measure. We can evaluate the impact by examining the exceedingly small number of honors and medals received by African American World War I soldiers. Putting aside the generous recognition by the French government, a disproportionately small number of African American soldiers received medals or commendations for their wartime service. Fortunately, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, along with the Congressional Black Caucus, are looking into this long overdue aspect of the story of the 380,000 African Americans that served our nation honorably in World War I. It is critical that their voices and stories are heard, including in our nation’s classrooms. Resources for teachers are available, such as the National Park Service's Teaching with Historic Places series that features a lesson plan focusing on the World War I service of Colonel Charles Young. Also The Black History Bulletin, Volume 80, Number 2: Titled: African Americans in Times of War. This issue provides educators resources and lesson plans that include content on: Colonel Charles Young, and Lieutenants Charles Houston and Charles Jackson.
Teaching with Historic Places lesson plan on Colonel Charles Young's WWI Service:
Saving the World for Democracy, by Charles H. Houston for the Pittsburgh Courier in (13) installments 1940: August 10th, 4th installment
Same as above; July 27, 2nd installment
An essay toward a history of the Black Man in the Great War by W.E.B. DuBois, The Crisis, June 1919
Robert E. Renshaw (Collection AFC 2001/001/49811), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
Spirits of Ohio’s Doughboys
Viquesney Spirit of the American Doughboy Statues across Ohio
By Cyrus Moore III, Ohio WWI Centennial Committee
Statues are a common feature of town squares and parks throughout Ohio. Often they are dedicated to local men who served in the Civil War, and feature soldiers, sailors, and depictions of liberty embodied. These statues reached the peak of their popularity in the early 1900s, when Cleveland and other cities erected enormous monuments covered with sculptures and reliefs. By the time the First World War ended such massive memorials were on the decline. In their stead came statues of an individual soldier representing the American fighting spirit. One design epitomizes the First World War statue, E. M. Viquesney’s Spirit of the American Doughboy, and Ohio is fortunate to have as many as fourteen throughout the state.
Viquesney’s statue shows a US infantryman charging through no-mans land in the First World War. In a pose reminiscent of the statue of liberty, he is holding a grenade as he moves forward. The Spirit of the American Doughboy is perhaps the most iconic of First World War statues in the United States. Viquesney sought to portray a soldier in combat—with rifle, bayonet affixed, and the ever-precious gas mask—showing as best he could the realities of war. Viquesney used not one model for his statue, but combined the features of some fifty veterans to create a composite soldier that represented all of America’s fighting men.
Viquesney came from a family of French lineage who had been stone carvers since the early 1800s at least. Born in 1876, Ernest Moore Viquesney, known as “Dick,” grew up in Spencer, Indiana, where he learned to carve stone. After serving in the Spanish-American War, Viquesney moved around the country, but spent the years between 1905 and 1922 in Americus, Georgia, before returning to Indiana. It was in Americus that he created Spirit of the American Doughboy.
Akron, Crooksville, Fostoria, Gallipolis, Marion, Newark, New Philadelphia, Swanton, Woodville, Zanesville all have statues that bear Viquesney’s name. St. Bernard in Cincinnati has a statue with the name of Viquesney’s business partner Walter Rylander. Blue Ash in Cincinnati and Warren both have copies made from Viquesney’s molds but by different foundries.
Viquesney Doughboy Statue in Newark, Ohio
Ohio’s Viquesney Doughboy statues began with Crooksville in 1922 (according to researchers Earl Goldsmith and Les Kopel). Many were dedicated in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and the last came in 1941 when the town of Warren dedicated its statue. Though anyone could purchase a Viquesney Doughboy, many were purchased by veteran organizations, like American Legion posts (New Philadelphia, Woodville), Auxiliaries (Gallipolis), and even the Veterans of Foreign Wars (Newark). Naturally, dedications usually occurred on or near Armistice Day (Akron, Crooksville, Fostoria, Marion, and New Philadelphia).
Though iconic, Viquesney’s Doughboy portrayal was not the first. Mere months before Viquesney began marketing his statue, sculptor John Paulding debuted a realistic Doughboy statue, Over the Top. If not for Viquesney’s aggressive marketing, Pauldings statue—an example of which can be found in Chillicothe—might have become the most iconic Doughboy statue to honor the war. Owing to their similarities, however, Over the Top statues are often confused for and referred to incorrectly as a The Spirit of the American Doughboy.
When you are traveling through Ohio, admiring its many historic monuments and statues, keep an eye out for Spirit of the American Doughboy.
Doughboy Viquesney Statue in Gallipolis, Ohio
This article borrows heavily from the excellent work found on the E.M. Viquesney Doughboy Database by Earl Goldsmith and Les Kopel https://doughboysearcher.weebly.com/
Angels of World War One: Nurses from Washington County, Ohio
By Jane Young
Ella Kathleen Hoff
In August 1914, the American Red Cross saw the conflict in Europe as a great humanitarian crisis and decided on a mission of neutrality, by providing medical aid to wounded soldiers on both sides of the war. Their plan was to ship medical personnel and supplies to Europe and then to disperse them in small groups to areas of need. The S.S. Red Cross left New York in September 1914 and headed to Europe. On board were 30 surgeons and 125 Red Cross nurses. The ship also carried 10,000 tons of medical supplies contributed by the American people. On the passenger list of nurses was E.K. Hoff, of Washington County, Ohio
Ella Kathleen Hoff served in a reserve hospital in Vienna, Austria. Ella had attended the Cincinnati Training School for Nurses and was working at the Cincinnati City Hospital when she joined the Red Cross Nursing Service. Ella and several of her coworkers were on the Red Cross mission to Europe. Nurses accepting this medical mission agreed to a 6-month contract and received $60 per month. On arriving in New York, the nurses received uniforms and other items needed for hospital work. The nurses were to wear their uniforms, including their Red Cross badges, on board ship for their protection as “neutrals.” During the voyage, the nurses attended classes taught by the surgeons to prepare them for the work ahead. The classes included the metric system and language instruction. The nurse’s lectures also included appropriate moral conduct. The Red Cross wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety in the formal cultures of Europe. At various ports in Europe, the medical teams of 3 surgeons and 12 nurses disembarked, destined for France, Germany, Russia, Belgium, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Ella and her team served in Vienna, at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There these medical teams began treating the wounds, infections, mustard gas burns and emotional injuries—shell shock—of the soldiers. By mid-year 1915, the Red Cross medical teams were called home due to lack of funds to continue the mission, along with the German blockade of Allied ships making it difficult for the Red Cross to send supplies needed by their teams. Ella Hoff is listed on the passenger manifest of the S.S. Frederik VIII. Ella traveled with seven other nurses from Cincinnati on the return trip. Ella had gotten sick while working in Austria and she died of tubercular pneumonia a month after returning home. Her obituary stated, “Nurse Dies a Heroine.”
Ella Kathleen Hoff’s photo included in the WWI Memorial in the Marietta City Hall building
Alice M. Young
After the United States declared war against Germany in April 1917, Red Cross nurses were called to work in training camps. City fathers of Charlotte, North Carolina, successfully lobbied for a camp, which they hoped would bring economic benefits to the city. Planners designed Camp Greene to support about 40,000 troops in training at any given time. However, the Army constructed the camp hastily which, as reported by the Representative from New Hampshire, resulted in very poor living conditions for the soldiers. The report cautioned about these conditions and the potential for infectious disease to flourish. This occurred in 1918 when the Spanish Flu epidemic hit Camp Greene. It was particularly deadly for those who cared for the sick. Washington County Ohio Red Cross Nurse, Alice Young was at Camp Greene in October of 1918.
Alice was born in New Matamoras, Ohio. She died, age 41, of pneumonia in October of 1918 while she was working in the hospital in Camp Greene. On Alice’s grave in New Matamoras, there is an outline of a Red Cross, with “Army Nurse Corporal,” and the Latin phrase, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” (It is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country). There are two photos of women in the memorial to those from Washington County who served and died during WWI. One is Ella Hoff, and the other is in a white nurse’s uniform is Alice Young.
Alice M. Young's photo in the WWI Memorial in the Marietta City Hall building
During the Great War, 23,822 nurses served with the American Red Cross, and of those, 19,931 were on active duty overseas with the Army, Navy, US Public Health Service, and the Red Cross. One hundred ten nurses died overseas due to illness and 186 died in the U.S. Many of the nurses were awarded medals of honor from Britain, France and other countries, including the United states. In researching the patriotic service of the Red Cross Nurse in the Great War, I found this metal sign that was inspired by the knowledge of the sacrifices made a generation ago by Red Cross Nurses. I think these nurses were truly angels to those they cared for during the Great War.
Conditions of Camp Greene. Speech of Hon. Sherman E. Burroughs of New Hampshire in the House of Representatives, February 22,1918 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1918) (http://docsouth.unc.edu/wwi/burroughshs/burroughs.html)
Contributions of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in World War I (https://e-anca.org/History/Topics-in-ANC-History/Conributions-of-the-US-Army-Nurse-Corps-in-WWI)
Davidson, Henry P., The American Red Cross in the Great War. New York: Macmillan. 1919.
Middleswart, Bell. History of the Washington County, Ohio, Chapter American Red Cross, April 10, 1917- April 10, 1927. Paper presented by request of Women’s Centennial Association and read, in part, before that organization in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross, April 10, 1027).
Sandusky Ohio Daily Register, July 16, 1915, page 3 column 2 “Nurse Dies a Heroine”.
S.S. Red Cross Passenger List 13 September 1914. gjenuick.com/PassengerLista/Hamburg-AmericanLine/Eastbound/1914-09-13-PassengerList-RedCross.html
Belgian citizens remember Ohio Doughboys
Veteran of 37th Division, interred in European cemetery, recently honored in his Ohio hometown along with other natives who died in WWI
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Mann
Ohio Army National Guard Historian
BREMEN, Ohio — Located a little over 4,000 miles east of this Fairfield County village is the Flanders Field American Cemetery in Waregem, Belgium. At this peaceful site rest 368 American dead, including 61 Ohioans, who gave their lives in liberating Belgium during World War I.
In the first row of plot C at Flanders Field American Cemetery lies the remains of Sgt. Willis L. Burnworth of the 145th Infantry, 37th Division, Ohio National Guard. Back in the Grandview Cemetery in Bremen is a stone cross wrapped in red flowers also inscribed with the name of a fallen Soldier: Sgt. Willis L. Burnworth.
Sgt. Willis Burnworth, a member of the 145th Infantry, 37th Division, Ohio National Guard, in a photo circa 1917-18. On Oct. 31, 1918, after successfully leading his platoon in capturing a German machine gun nest near Olsene, Belgium during World War I, Burnworth was killed when a large caliber shell exploded nearby. (Courtesy photo)
One hundred years after his death, nearly 50 people gathered at the Bremen Bethel Church to remember Burnworth and seven other Bremen natives who died during World War I. In the church was Peter Stassen and his wife Collette, two Belgian citizens who adopted the grave of Burnworth in 2014 and served as the driving force behind the ceremony in his hometown.
“Earlier this year I received a letter from Peter asking what Bremen was going to do to remember Sgt. Burnworth this year?” Bremen Mayor Mike Henwood told the audience. “I said I don’t know, but we need to do something.”
Stassen, a retired Belgian army sergeant major, said he and his wife, a retired Belgian navy master chief petty officer, visit the grave about once a month and place flowers at the grave regularly, and always on his birthday and the anniversary of his death.
Retired Belgian army Sgt. Maj. Peter Stassen and his wife Colette stand behind the grave of Sgt. Willis L. Burnworth at Flanders Field American Cemetery Aug. 5, 2018, in Waregem, Belgium. The Stassens adopted Burnworth’s grave through a campaign by the American Legion Flanders Field Post BEO2 adoption program that began in 2014. Burnworth, a member of the 145th Infantry, 37th Division, Ohio National Guard and a native of Bremen, Ohio, was killed on Oct. 31, 1918, near Olsene, Belgium during World War I. (Ohio National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Mann)
Burnworth was killed on Oct. 31, 1918, near the town of Olsene, Belgium. After successfully leading his platoon in capturing a German machine gun nest, a large caliber shell exploded nearby. The concussion killed Burnworth without placing a single mark on his body, Stassen told those gathered.
In 1919, his body was disinterred from its battlefield grave and the U.S. government gave Burnworth’s parents the option to have his body returned to Ohio or move it to the American Cemetery in Flanders. “His parents wanted his remains to stay in Belgium, as they felt his body would be taken care of,” Stassen said.
When Soldiers from the Ohio Army National Guard’s 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team visited Belgium this summer to commemorate the centennial of World War I, they were greeted by Stassen and a number of other locals who adopted 37th Division Soldiers and look after their graves. More recently, leaders of the 37th IBCT and the 1st Battalion, 145th Armored Regiment greeted Stassen here in Ohio and placed wreaths on white crosses at Grandview Cemetery to remember the eight Soldiers.
“These Soldiers gave their all for our tomorrow.” Stassen said. “We can live in freedom, but the price was very high. All they would ask is that we should never forget what they gave.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Schuster, command sergeant major of the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Ohio Army National Guard, places a shoulder sleeve insignia of the 37th IBCT on a marker for Sgt. Willis Burnworth Nov. 3, 2018, at Grandview Cemetery near Bremen, Ohio. Burnworth, a member of the 145th Infantry, 37th Division, was killed near Olsene, Belgium on Oct. 31, 1918, during World War I. Ohio National Guard Soldiers participated in a ceremony in Bremen to remember the eight Soldiers from that village killed during World War I. (Ohio National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Mann)
By Megan McCoy
Immortal. Hot-headed. Business savvy. Ace of Aces. Eddie Rickenbacker accumulated many adjectives on his way to becoming a larger-than-life legend, but he began with humble beginnings.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1890 to Swiss immigrants, Rickenbacker lived most of his childhood in a home his parents built on the east side of the city. The Rickenbacker family lived a simple life, and seven siblings crowded into the tiny home raising much of their own food on the surrounding land. There was no lack of excitement in young Eddie’s life however, as he quickly became known as a rowdy daredevil child who led a local gang of fellow rebels. Rickenbacker racked up near misses with death and the law despite his father and mother’s strict discipline.
That would all change, however, when Rickenbacker’s father died in 1904. After promising his mother to change his behavior, he quit school to work odd jobs and earn income for his struggling family. Eventually, Rickenbacker would find his way into a local car shop where he would begin by sweeping floors and work his way up to driver. He would go on to race cars for manufacturers and ultimately make a career of it. By the time the United States entered World War I, Rickenbacker was already wealthy and famous as a race car driver.
He had bigger dreams, however, and enlisted in the American Expeditionary Service hoping to serve as a pilot. Unfortunately, due to pilot requirements regarding age and college education, Rickenbacker was not qualified to fly. Instead, he served as a driver for various officers in France. A combination of luck and skill would lead to him driving Billy Mitchell, the commander of the Air Service, and the man who would help him skirt the regulations to become a pilot.
In his autobiography, Rickenbacker reflects on his training for flying – noting that he had an immense fear of heights and a tendency for motion sickness, both elements that made his work training as a pilot more difficult. Nevertheless, Rickenbacker quickly learned the ropes and was commissioned as a lieutenant. Rickenbacker joined the 94th Aero Squadron, better known as the “Hat in the Ring Squadron” as they were the first American unit to fly in combat. His first experiences in aerial combat were harrowing, and Rickenbacker quickly recognized that success in aerial combat would require shrewd intellect and careful calculation. After first flying with hand-me-down French Nieuport 28s that struggled to keep up with German planes, the A.E.F. would upgrade to the more advanced French Spad XIII. Rickenbacker, like other pilots, worked with his mechanics to give his plane distinctive style and modify his plane and guns to better serve his style of combat.
Dated 1917-1918, this photograph shows Eddie Rickenbacker, a fighting ace in the 94th Aero Squadron, sitting in a plane cockpit while stationed in France during World War I
American pilots quickly became locked in a race to the top of the score charts, each one vying for the coveted title of “Ace of Aces”. Rickenbacker received his first confirmed aerial victory in April of 1918. By May of 1918, Rickenbacker had been awarded the Croix de Guerre and achieved “ace” status after getting his 5th confirmed aerial victory.
Though older and with less formal education than many of the other pilots, Rickenbacker made friends with other famous aces like Quentin Roosevelt and Frank Luke. Rickenbacker noted in his autobiography that their deaths, as well as others like Raoul Lufbery, would change his approach to combat making him more circumspect about how he ran future missions to the front, a quality he adamantly tried to instill other pilots who were new to the front.
As American forces pushed north toward Sedan during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, Rickenbacker and his fellow pilots began accumulating aerial victories at a faster rate than ever before. In the fall of 1918, Rickenbacker ascended to command the 94th Aero Squadron and achieved the rank of Captain. Rickenbacker would also be assigned the title “Ace of Aces”, and by the end of the war, he had accumulated more than 24 aerial victories.
The Ohio History Connection preserves a piece of his famous Spad XIII in its collection, stripped from the fuselage by Rickenbacker before leaving France and donated to the museum shortly after the war. The other half was proudly displayed in Rickenbacker’s Eastern Airlines office.
This section of fabric came from the French-made Spad XIII fighter plane that was flown by Captain Edward "Eddie" Rickenbacker. On the right is the Hat in the Ring insignia of the 94th Aero Squadron, one of the first American air squadrons to fight in German territory during World War I.
In the 1930s, Rickenbacker received the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in World War I. Rickenbacker would go on to run Eastern Airlines and survive several more brushes with death, including more than 21 days at sea after a plane crash into the Pacific Ocean during a top-secret mission in World War II. Rickenbacker’s business acumen and seeming immortality, alongside his status as the American “Ace of Aces” in World War I, would make Rickenbacker a legend of Ohio history.
Fighting the Flying Circus - Eddie Rickenbacker
Eddie Rickenbacker: An American Hero in the Twentieth Century – W. David Lewis
Eddie Rickenbacker Papers – Auburn University Special Collections and Archives