Odyssey of the 166th Infantry
By Cyrus Moore III, Ohio World War I Centennial Committee
June 25, 2019
In 1917, as the American Expeditionary Force was taking shape, Ohio contributed a regiment, the 4th Infantry, Ohio National Guard, to the 42nd “Rainbow” Division. The division earned the nickname “Rainbow” early in its existence because it was comprised of National Guardsmen from states across the country, and stretched over the United States like a rainbow. Ohio’s regiment became the 166th Infantry, and it was supplemented by men from National Guard companies throughout the state. It was in this way a miniature of the division as a whole.
The 42nd Division landed in Europe in August of 1917, the first National Guard division to arrive in France, well-before most other U.S. divisions. It immediately began training in trench warfare. In 1918, the division served with the French and first saw combat when the Allies countered the German spring offensive. Until the Armistice, the 42nd fought in heavy action on the Western Front in the Aisne-Marne, at St. Mihiel, and in the Meuse-Argonne. When the Armistice went into effect on November 11, 1918, the 166th and the rest of the 42nd Division was on Western Front, in the French commune of Verpel. As a decorated combat division, the War Department gave the 42nd the honor of being part of the Army of Occupation.
A group of officers of the 166th Infantry Regiment in the Baccarat Sector of France. Via Ohio Memory.
The 42nd Division began its march towards Germany following the Armistice. After receiving new uniforms and automobiles, the division trekked through Belgium and Luxembourg, where they celebrated Thanksgiving Day. On December 3, 1918, the 166th Regiment entered Germany territory for the first time at Bollendorf on the Sauer River. Although the country had not been devastated by war, the men marched over muddy roads and steep hills with worn out shoes, before finally reaching the Rhine. The 166th Infantry took up positions along the Rhine north of Coblenz in the towns of Oberwinter, Rolandseck, Rolandswerth, and at the Ernich Schloss. Here the Ohioans of the Rainbow division spent four months, keeping a Watch on the Rhine.
On April 6, 1919, two years after Congress declared war on Imperial Germany, and two months before the war would formally end with the Treaty of Versailles, the 42nd Division began moving out of the Rhineland. A division review in March by General Pershing at Remagen foreshadowed their departure. Shortly after receiving praise from the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, the men received word that they would be going home. Trains returned the men to France. At the port of Brest they were deloused and once more received new uniforms. There was a delay, however, when the massive transport ship Leviathan needed to take on coal. Eager to get back to the states, the men volunteered to shovel the coal themselves. Encouraged by the regimental band and a burning desire to go home, hundreds of men loaded the fuel until by nightfall the ship was ready to steam. On April 17, the Leviathan set sail.
166th Infantry Band in Europe. Ohio Army National Guard Digital Collection via Ohio Memory.
The Leviathan entered New York harbor on April 25, 1919. The soldiers of the 166th were almost home. A large crowd welcomed the ship, and Ohio Governor James M. Cox met the returning veterans. The men stayed in barracks at Camp Merrit, but were nearly delayed there when Colonel Benson Hough of the 166th clashed with the Camp Commander. The Camp Commander chastised Colonel Hough for not removing his cap in the Camp Commander’s presence. Hough responded to the insult by stating how little he cared for the rules when he had so recently returned from fighting overseas, unlike the Camp Commander. Furious for the slight, the Camp Commander placed Hough under arrest. Incensed by hearing the story of their Colonel’s treatment, the loyal soldiers of the 166th nearly mutinied. Colonel Hough diffused the situation by telling the Camp Commander that he was sorry if he had broken any rules. Knowing he was in a potentially dicey situation, the Camp Commander took it as an apology and released Colonel Hough.
USS Leviathan in New York Harbor. Via Ohio Memory.
The 166th was back on track to return to Ohio. To expedite the process, men of the 42nd Division were to return to their home states directly from Camp Merrit. Saying good bye to comrades from other states, the Ohioans boarded trains and on May 10 were back in Ohio. In Columbus a grand parade welcomed the men. Their final stop was Camp Sherman, where they received their bonuses and honorable discharges. The 166th was the last Ohio National Guard unit to receive discharges, and had spent more time in Europe than any other unit from Ohio.
For a full account of the 166th Infantry Regiment during the war, see Ohio in the Rainbow; Official Story of the 166th Infantry, 42nd Division, in the World War by Raymond Minshall Cheseldine. (Columbus; The F.J. Heer printing co., 1924.)
Company B, 166th Infantry Regiment, "just returned from France." Ohio Army National Guard Digital Collection via Ohio Memory.
Lasting Memories of the First World War in Ohio
By Cyrus Moore III, Ohio World War I Centennial Committee
July 23, 2019
Scattered throughout the state of Ohio are reminders of the First World War. Not unlike the war itself, these mementos—be they statues, plaques, or markers—are often overlooked or not fully appreciated by Ohioans today. They are, however, vital to the state’s history. A century after the end of the war, they record the efforts of Ohioans who experienced the war firsthand, and they reminders of the strong desire to protect democracy that motivated citizens to serve their country in a foreign war.
Immediately after the war, when memory of the efforts and sacrifices of Ohioans was still vivid, communities celebrated their participated in the war with parades and memorial dedications. Veterans of the First World War were once a familiar sight at these events. One Hundred years after the end of the war, the veterans are gone; the last Ohio veteran of the war, Russell Coffey, having passed away in 2007 at the age of 109. Without any living memory of the war, monuments are all that remain.
Young veterans of the First World War, some wearing their service uniforms, participating in a parade sometime in the 1930s. Courtesy of the Baltimore Community Museum.
Perhaps the most prevalent reminders of the war are monuments erected by communities and dedicated to local soldiers. Most iconic of these are the large monuments prominently featuring statues of soldiers, called “Doughboys” in the era. Ohio is fortunate to have a number of statues, many of which were sculpted by Viquesney or Paulding, that portray Doughboys as they would have appeared when fighting overseas. They are dedicated to the Ohio soldiers who fought in the war and the communities that supported them. Not all monuments are topped with statues though. In some communities simple plaques or stones commemorate the sacrifices made by local soldiers.
Plaque dedicated to the Marietta College Ambulance Unit, located in Marietta. Photo by the author.
There are also monuments that remember the war effort on the home front. Communities were rewarded for buying bonds and participating in the War Savings Stamp campaign, in effect loaning money to the government. A plaque in New Philadelphia celebrates the large amount of stamps purchased by the people on Tuscarawas County in 1918.
War Savings Stamp Plaque in New Philadelphia. Photo by the author.
In addition to the monuments, there are other forms of memorials to those who perished in the war. Some buildings constructed after the war were dedicated to fallen soldiers. The most visible example of these are American Legion Posts, almost always named after a local soldier who gave their life fighting in the First World War. The Memorial Building in Jackson was built by the Works Progress Administration to house city offices and was named in honor of those who served. It also originally included space for an American Legion Post.
Sadly, though many monuments that remember the First World War survive in Ohio, some have disappeared since their inception. Most notable among these is the Ohio World War I Memorial, established at the Ohio State University in 1926. Four large bronze sculpted panels illustrating different aspects of the war were set in a marble rotunda with a stained glass dome. Unfortunately, the room was disassembled in 1970 and the bronze panels placed in storage, where they have remained since, despite efforts leading up the war's centennial to find a new home for them. Though plans to return the panels to a public space did not materialize, the centennial was an opportunity to rededicate, and in the case of the town of McConnelsville, restore First World War statues.
Ohio is fortunate to have such a wide assortment of memorials dedicated to the First World War. The many statues, monuments, and plaques are testament to the war's importance to Ohioans. It is important to appreciate, and at times protect these mementos, so that the First World War and what it meant to the people of Ohio are not forgotten.
The 37th Division’s Return to Ohio
By Cyrus Moore III, Ohio World War I Centennial Committee
June 11, 2019
When the Armistice of Compiègne went into effect on November 11, 1918, ending fighting on the Western Front, the infantry regiments of Ohio’s National Guard Division, the 37th “Buckeye” Division, were in Belgium, on the banks of the Scheldt River. At the same time, the 37th Division’s artillery brigade was in the Meuse-Argonne, part of American Expeditionary Force’s First Army, making a drive towards the city of Metz in Lorraine. Though the fighting had ended, the division would spend the winter in Europe, before returning to Ohio in the spring of 1919.
During their relatively short time in combat, Ohioans of the 37th Division had fought courageously. Under the command of Belgian King Albert, the Ohio Guardsmen had been part of a final push in the Ypres-Lys Campaign. After the Armistice a German officer noted that the German General Headquarters rated the 37th among the six best-fighting US divisions, and the King of Belgium personally met with and thanked the men who had served under his command.
Following the Armistice, the 37th‘s infantry remained in Belgium. The various regiments were stationed in towns throughout the lower part of the country. On November 20, a provisional battalion of the 37th had the honor of accompanying King Albert’s ceremonial return to Brussels. In early December, the 146th Infantry Regiment crossed No Man’s Land and entered areas that the Germans had controlled since the early days of the war. Here the men ushered in the year 1919.
As the threat of renewed fighting diminished, the US began making preparations to bring divisions home. Since the 37th Division was not among the US divisions selected for occupation service in the German Rhineland it was selected to return home. In January the men of division began boarding trains that took them to ports of embarkation in France. It was a slow and methodical process; on March 4, the first elements of the division to leave Europe boarded transport ships in Brest.
The 37th Division's 136th Field Artillery boarding the USS Connecticut on March 11, 1919. Ohio National Guard Digital Collection via Ohio Memory.
The 37th returned to the United States in March. Behemoth transport ships and even battleships moved the men back across the Atlantic. By way of Camp Mills, Long Island, New York, the division made its way to Ohio. In April, the division returned to its home state to great fanfare. Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Marietta held welcoming ceremonies and the men paraded through the streets. After the parades, the men proceeded to Camp Sherman where they received their Honorable Discharges and rejoined the civilian world.
The 37th Division's 147th Infantry parading through Cincinnati, April of 1919. Ohio History Connection via Ohio Memory.
Ohio’s returning soldiers had to adjust to social changes taking place in 1919. Women’s Suffragists who had largely suspended their activities during the war took up the campaign again to win the right to vote. Prohibition was also a major concern, with Dry activists gaining support for legislation that would permanently ban the sale of alcohol. On top of these issues, Socialist workers, emboldened by Communist revolutions in Europe, demonstrated publicly and violently clashed with police and soldiers in Cleveland on May Day.
Though their service in the military had ended, the men did not forget the role they played in the World War. Many joined veteran’s organization, and the recently-established American Legion quickly swelled in numbers as veterans established posts throughout Ohio. The 37th Division veterans formed their own association, and held reunions annually. For years afterwards veterans of the 37th Division, some still wearing their uniforms, were staples of Armistice Day and later Veteran’s Day parades.
Young World War Veterans in Armistice Day Ceremony in Nelsonville. Southeast Ohio History Center via Ohio Memory.
Camp Sherman versus the Mound City Earthworks
Camp Sherman contributes to the destruction, and ultimately the preservation, of an important Pre-Contact American Indian Earthworks
By Paul LaRue, Ohio WWI Centennial Committee
June 4, 2019
The Scioto Valley in South Central Ohio is home to numerous important Pre-Contact American Indian earthworks. The visible heritage of Ohio's Pre-Contact American Indians are the mounds and earthworks that dot the landscape in Southern Ohio. One of the most important Pre-Contact earthworks is the Mound City Earthworks, part of the Hopewell Cultural National Historical Park near Chillicothe, Ohio. The Mound City Earthworks had been explored and documented as early as the 1840's. In 2017, USA Today selected the Hopewell Cultural National Historical Park as one of its top ten sites in the country in an article titled Ten Great Places to Honor the Original Americans. Ohio fourth grade students learn of these Pre-Contact American Indians, who were the state's first inhabitants. One hundred years ago, the Mound City Earthworks were partially destroyed by Camp Sherman, a World War I cantonment.
Showing cuts made by street grading, Mound City Mound #23. A Camp Sherman barracks is pictured sitting atop Mound #23, part of the Mound City Earthworks. Ohio History Connection via Ohio Memory.
In 1917, after the declaration of war, the United States Government leased 9700 acres of land outside Chillicothe, Ohio. Two thousand buildings would be constructed on the leased land, making Camp Sherman the third largest cantonment in the country. More than 120,000 men from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia would train at Camp Sherman. Some of the 9700 acres of Camp Sherman were adjacent, and on top of, the Mound City Earthworks.
Soldiers of Company A, 325th Field Signal Battalion, standing on Mound #7 of the Mound City Earthworks. Ohio History Connection via Ohio Memory.
The roads, barracks, and latrines of Camp Sherman encroached upon the thirteen-acre Mound City Earthworks with its more than twenty mounds. Some mounds, such as the large mound #7, were spared. Others, like mounds #13 and #23, were "cut down" to accommodate barracks (though the barracks were built over and did not intrude into the mound). Unfortunately for the earthworks, World War I temporarily overshadowed their historical significance.
After Armistice, the Ohio Historical Society, along with local activists, lobbied the United States Government to restore and preserve the important Mound City Earthworks. In 1923, President Warren G. Harding designated the Mound City Earthworks a National Monument. Today, the Hopewell Cultural National Historical Park is a National Park Service site open to the public. Ironically, Camp Sherman, whose sprawl nearly destroyed the Earthworks, is no longer visible. One lone building stands from the more than 2,000 structures that was once a bustling Camp Sherman. The one remaining Camp Sherman structure does not sit on the grounds of the Hopewell Cultural National Historical Park. Visitors to the Hopewell Cultural Historical Park can walk amongst the sacred Pre-Contact American Indian Earthworks and not be aware it was also the site of one of World War I's largest training facilities.
The Ohio World War I Centennial Committee, the Ohio History Connection, and the National Park Service have partnered to offer a free lesson plan on the Mound City Earthworks and their relationship with Camp Sherman. The lesson plan has just been released (link below):
Camp Sherman and the Mound City Earthworks
Collaborative Akron Documentary receives State and National Attention
May 24, 2019
Recently Toivo Motter, Education Director at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, gave an interview for the National World War I Centennial on the documentary Lost Voices of the Great War: Summit County in the First World War. Lost Voices was a collaborative work that involved historians and archivists from Summit County. The film features letters written by soldiers and civilians, read out to a backdrop of original photos and modern recreations. Though the letters in the video come from Summit County servicemen, the resulting documentary speaks to the national experience during World War I.
World War I Centennial Commission: New Local WWI documentary from Akron, OH has wide appeal
The documentary has also been getting attention within Ohio. In April, Lost Voices received an Ohio Museums Association Award of Achievement for Best Community Project. Toivo and Vic Fleischer, University Archivist at the University of Akron, accepted the award at the annual awards ceremony on April 14. The film has also been nominated for a regional Emmy Award.
Toivo Motter and Vic Fleischer accepting an Ohio Museums Association award for Lost Voices
Lost Voices originally aired in October, 2018, and was screened at the Ohio Statehouse on November 11, 2018, as part of the Armistice Day 100 commemoration. You can view the documentary through the link below:
Ohio in the Army of Occupation
Cyrus Moore, Ohio WWI Centennial Committee
April 26, 2019
Spring of 2019 marks the centennial of the United States occupation of Germany. Following the Armistice of November 11, 1918, Allied forces entered German territory and established bridgeheads. These bridgeheads were footholds in Germany that would give the Allies a military advantage if peace negotiations broke down and war resumed. The US forces controlled a bridgehead around the city of Coblenz, at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. US forces in Germany were organized into the Third Army, known as the Army of Occupation. Within the Army of Occupation were many Ohioans, including the 166th Infantry Regiment—part of the 42nd "Rainbow" Division—and the 308th Engineers and 308th Field Signal Battalion serving with the III Corps, as well as the 158th Artillery Brigade, attached to the 32nd Division.
Souvenir poem of the Army of Occupation
The War Department chose highly decorated divisions for the Army of Occupation and treated the men well, especially compared to what they had endured fighting in the trenches. As they crossed into what had been German held territory, soldiers were able to light fires, take baths, and they received fresh new uniforms. The men made the long march into Germany over muddy roads, though the German countryside had been untouched by war. Once the army reached Coblenz, the command established headquarters and various unit took up posts in the city and surrounding villages. To keep morale high, show troupes and lecturers visited the men, keeping them entertained. The men of the 308th Engineers even wrote and put on their own play, which they called “Shell Shock.” Letters and care packages poured in from home. The YMCA stations entertained and provided the men with additional supplies for purchase. German souvenir shops opened up to ensure the Americans were well-supplied with keepsakes. General Headquarters opened areas for leave, which offered officers and men the opportunity to vacation as far away as the south of France.
Coblenz, Germany. Via Ohio Memory.
When the Army of Occupation first took up its position on the bridgehead, the men stayed close to their assigned posts, performing guard mounts and drilling often. By January the commanders deemed the occupied area safe for travel and men were allowed leave their billets and go out among the German population unarmed. The men took the opportunity to tour the German countryside, and found themselves often invited into the homes of locals. Some even made friends with the young women of the area and would sneak out after dark to avoid the MPs. Unit histories remark of the friendliness shown to the US soldiers by Germans, who increasingly grew to trust the occupying Americans.
Members of the 308th Field Signal Battalion on leave in Toul, France. Via Ohio Memory.
To be chosen for the Army of Occupation was certainly an honor felt by the men. Despite this, they had been away from home for months, or over a year for many, and desired to return to the United States. This feeling was only exacerbated when the Germans made it clear they had no inclination to pick up the fight again on the Western Front, owing largely to social turmoil and the Weimar Republic’s struggles against communists. To the men of the Occupation, the Watch on the Rhine, as they called it, became increasingly unnecessary. Politicians in the United States began calling for men’s return. In March, the 158th Artillery Brigade received orders to prepare to to leave Germany. Not long after they boarded trains destined for French ports and ships that would carry them back the US. The 308th Engineers and Field Signal Battalion were not far behind. The last Ohio outfit to leave Germany was the 166th Infantry Regiment. On April 6, 1919, two years after the US entered the war, the men left the Rhineland.
African American World War I Service in Contemporary Newspapers
Paul LaRue, Ohio World War I Centennial Committee
April 1, 2019
One hundred years ago African American World War I Soldiers returned to a country that did not understand or appreciate their service and sacrifice. Not only was their service unappreciated, the country they returned to was racist and segregated. In 1919 seventy-eight African Americans were lynched. Eleven of the seventy-eight lynched were ex-soldiers, and two of these ex-soldiers were lynched while still wearing their World War I uniforms. It is important that we recognize their selfless service today, especially considering this troubled past.
The World War I Centennial provides an important opportunity for students to examine the service of African Americans in World War I. Approximately 380,000 African American Soldiers served in World War I. 200,000 African American soldiers served in France. The vast majority of these soldiers served in labor regiments. More than 40,000 African American Soldiers served in combat regiments, but half of the African American combat regiments served under French Command. The best known African American World War I regiment, the 369th Infantry, better known as the Harlem Hell Fighters, served under French Command.
Private Anderson Lee's headstone, Meuse Argonne Cemetery, photo courtesy of the American Battlefield Monuments Commission. Private Anderson Lee, 372nd Infantry (native of Dayton) killed in action, his death in combat is described in article by Ralph Tyler titled "Stories of the Daring of Race Troops still come in from France."
The Stars and Stripes is a military newspaper that dates back to the 1860's. Today the Stars and Stripes is authorized by Congress and produced through the Department of Defense. The Stars and Stripes was one of a small number of newspapers that chronicled and recognized the service and contributions of African American Soldiers during and after World War I. The Library of Congress' Stars and Stripes collection is an extremely valuable resource for teachers and can be found at:
One of the best contemporary accounts of African American World War I service appeared in the Stars and Stripes. In the April 4, 1919 issue on page two, within the second column, the story of the service of African American World War I combat troops is told. The article, “Yankee Negroes in Horizon Blue Led Way to Rhine,” outlines the relationship between the French Army and African American troops. It can be found at:
Ohio has an important connection to contemporary newspapers and African American World War I service. Ralph Tyler served as the United States only official African American war correspondent during World War I. Before the war, Mr. Tyler was a newspaper reporter and editor in Columbus, Ohio. Emmett Scott in The American Negro in the World War writes: " ... the Committee on Public Information has designated Ralph W. Tyler, of Columbus, Ohio, former auditor of the Navy Department at Washington, as a regularly- commissioned war correspondent, to specialize on the conditions surrounding the colored troops in France and to make daily reports of the activities and engagements in which the soldiers are prominent...". Tyler's articles appeared in numerous newspapers around the country. Tyler reported on African American World War I service in articles with titles such as: "Dauntless Courage of the 372nd will Make Page in World's History". Ralph Tyler was a contributing editor for The Cleveland Advocate. The Cleveland Advocate carried Tyler's coverage of the service and sacrifice of African American World War I Soldiers. The Cleveland Advocate is available through the Ohio History Connection's, African American Experience in Ohio 1850 - 1920:
African American War Correspondent Paul Ralph Waldo Tyler. Courtesy of the Ohio History Connection.
Volumes four and five contain numerous articles on African American World War I service.
One hundred years ago newspapers helped tell the story of African American World War I service. Today these newspapers are a great resource to help students appreciate the service and sacrifice of these forgotten heroes. The Ohio World War I Centennial's "Ohio in World War I - Readings and Resources" contains lesson plans along with other resources and readings to assist teachers and students better understand African American World War I service:
“Little Stories of the Great War”
By Kristen Newby, Projects Coordinator, Ohio History Connection
March 18, 2019
In 2017, the Ohio History Connection embarked on a two-year digitization project titled Little Stories of the Great War: Ohioans in World War I, generously funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, to commemorate the World War I centennial by bringing Ohioans’ stories to life and sharing their experiences of the war. During an earlier planning phase of the grant, project staff identified World War I collections held by Ohio cultural heritage institutions (which you can search in our WWI Union Bibliography)--14 of these were selected as partners on this project, including local history organizations, university archives, public libraries, and art museums. When the project concludes in April, over 3,000 items from 61 collections representing 16 institutions will be freely available in the World War I in Ohio Collection on Ohio Memory, which include letters and diaries, photographs, posters, published works, cartoons, military records, museum objects, and more.
These primary sources tell the stories of the men who answered the call to arms, as well as the men, women, and children who did their part on the home front to support Allied troops at training camps and serving overseas. Over 154,000 Ohioans were drafted during the war, and a total of 200,293 draftees, volunteers, and Ohio National Guardsmen represented Ohio in the military. To meet the demands of troops mobilized at such a scale, the federal government constructed 16 military training camps across the United States, one of which was built in Chillicothe, Ohio. Camp Sherman, the third largest training camp in the nation, could house 40,000 men and 12,000 horses at any one time, and by the war’s end, over 120,000 soldiers had trained there. Photographs documenting the campus, regiments, camp staff, and candid shots of daily life, as well as letters from soldiers stationed there, provide insights into camp life and a typical training regimen.
Doyen P. Wardwell (back row, 4th from the right) is pictured here at Wilbur Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, with other pilots in training. He served as a combat pilot with the 103rd Aero Pursuit Squadron. Courtesy of Hocking County Historical and Genealogical Society and Museum via Ohio Memory.
Photographs of soldiers throwing grenades, shooting at ranges, putting on gas masks, and digging trenches show some of the rigorous combat training soldiers completed, alongside physical conditioning and more academic study. Soldiers’ letters to their families often describe their daily routines, training exercises, and places they visit throughout Europe, as well as their experiences fighting on the front lines, which can paint vivid pictures of the horrors of the Western Front and the terrible conditions they survived. Letters from members of the Armco Ambulance Corps to Armco’s president tell the story of a volunteer ambulance unit which retrieved wounded and dying men from the front lines and transported them to base hospitals for treatment, traversing treacherous landscapes and often under a barrage of gun fire. Diaries preserve unique and personal accounts of the soldier experience, as well as those who served beyond the traditional combat role of a soldier, like Chaplain Cecil Smith, or 166th Infantry Band member Burt Moffett who writes about his rehearsal schedule and performing for wounded soldiers at military hospitals and at fallen soldiers’ funerals in his diary.
This lantern slide shows soldiers firing French Chauchat automatic rifles at a shooting range during a training exercise. Via Ohio Memory.
The stories of those who served on the American home front are also well represented in the digital collection. Women and children, as well as men who were not drafted to join the military, were encouraged by federal, state, and local governments and organizations to support the national war effort in a variety of ways. Americans could purchase war bonds, called Liberty Loans during World War I, or war savings stamps to help finance the war and offset the national debt; ration food and other goods, like sugar, wheat, steel, metal, and fuel; grow produce in war gardens or “victory gardens” and can their home-grown foods; or volunteer their time with organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, or Y.M.C.A/Y.W.C.A. Women especially played an important role on the home front, as they were the top war bond sellers, led organized volunteer work to support soldiers, and assumed factory work that allowed wartime manufacturing to continue over the course of the war. Many women served in Europe as nurses, such as Mary Gladwin of Akron, who served in Serbia and Greece, and Mary Miller Hayes, daughter-in-law of President Rutherford B. Hayes, who served with the American Red Cross in France.
Although the Armistice on November 11, 1918, brought a long-awaited end to the war, work didn’t come to a halt to bring our troops home, and the effects of war continued to impact the lives of Ohioans. In 1919, women dedicated much time to selling the Victory Liberty Loan, the fifth and final war bond issue, specifically designed to raise funds to bring soldiers overseas home. The Anti-Saloon League, a national player in the prohibition and temperance movements based in Westerville, Ohio, continued their efforts after the war to secure the dry vote in January 1919. Upon their return, World War I veterans formed most of the national veteran organizations extant today, such as the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans, which continue to advocate for veterans’ rights and needs.
Illustrated by Frederick Duncan, this poster shows a woman in a Salvation Army uniform raising her hand for help for the men and women at her feet. Courtesy of Sandusky Library via Ohio Memory.
One of the ways we can remember World War I and commemorate those whose dedication and sacrifice supported our nation through the war is to remember their stories, learn from them, and share them with our fellow Ohioans and beyond. These men and women’s stories help us better understand our state’s history and contribution to the war, but also demonstrate Ohio’s important role in the nationwide World War I narrative.
In an effort to make these often untold stories more accessible, the Ohio History Connection developed an online transcription platform called World War I in Ohio Transcriptions (transcribe.ohiohistory.org). Users can help transcribe handwritten documents, primarily letters and diaries, which provides a unique opportunity for the public to engage with these first-hand accounts, while increasing their discoverability online by creating full-text searchable records. Full-text searchability allows Ohio Memory users to easily retrieve records that contain specific terms, such as the names of battles, places, military units, and soldiers. To date, 342 documents have been transcribed as part of this project, and we thank all who have contributed!
One of the goals of the “Little Stories of the Great War” project was to not only create a robust digital collection, but to make its contents easily accessible to teachers. Project staff created three bundles of educational resources, each focusing on a specific theme—American home front, soldier experience, and World War I technology—that put these primary sources at teachers’ fingertips for integration into lesson plans, homework assignments, and short and long-term research projects. These resources are available on our Educational Resources page under the heading For Teachers.
To learn more about Ohio’s role in the Great War, and the fascinating stories of Ohioans who experienced this impactful time in our nation’s history, explore the World War I Collection on Ohio Memory! You can search by format, subject, and place, and look for primary sources related to members of your community by conducting keyword searches to limit your results. New content will be added regularly through the end of April, so check back soon for more Little Stories!
World War I veterans at American Legion Post No. 463 in Waterville, Ohio. Photographs, his uniform, and other items related to Albert Graf's (far right) service in the 325th and 112th Machine Gun Battalions are on Ohio Memory. Courtesy of Waterville Historical Society via Ohio Memory.
A World War I Monument Dedication and its connections to the "Ohio Gang"
By Paul LaRue, Ohio World War I Centennial Committee
March 6, 2019
Numerous monuments were constructed and dedicated to World War I service members following the Armistice. These monument dedication ceremonies were major community events. The dedications often combined a welcome home ceremony for the troops returning to their communities from service in France, with a somber remembrance of the Soldiers and Sailors whom had lost their lives in the war. Washington Court House, and the surrounding community of Fayette County, held such an event on May 27, 1919. What is fascinating are the connections between the World War I monument dedication and the soon to be elected administration of President Warren G. Harding. These connections bridge the end of World War I with the events of the 1920's, and not without controversy.
The Ohio State Register began its reporting of the Fayette County monument dedication with “... Rousing Welcome Extended Soldiers, Greatest Event of its Kind in County's History was Thorough Success and 15,000 Persons Flock to City and Take Part in Extending Hearty Welcome to Fayette's Brave Soldiers and Sailors ...” The event both welcomed home World War I service men and dedicated the newly constructed Memorial Arch.
Post card of Fayette County Courthouse, circa 1920. Note the WWI Memorial Arch in front of the Courthouse. Courtesy of Kathleen LaRue.
The Memorial Arch had two bronze plaques with the names of forty-four Soldiers and Sailors from Fayette County who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I. Fayette County historian B.E. Kelley wrote that “... The Arch was largely the suggestion of Jess W. Smith member of the War Work Council...” Jess Smith served as grand Marshall for the accompanying parade while riding a "prancing" horse. Fayette County's returning African American Soldiers received a formal welcome from Mr. Fred Patterson from nearby Greenfield. Fred Patterson, owner of C.R. Patterson and Sons Company, is the first known African American car manufacturer in the United States. The event's keynote speaker was the Honorable H.M. Daughtery. The Ohio State Register described his remarks by saying “... his words were greeted with frequent outbursts of applause ...” The event concluded with a large fireworks display, and a dance that ran until midnight.
Several participants from the World War I welcome home event were later participants in another important chapter in United States history. One year later, Jess Smith served as assistant to Harry Daughtery, who managed the Presidential campaign of Warren G. Harding. Harding's slogan, "Return to Normalcy," referred to getting life back to pre-war conditions. Smith followed Daughtery to Washington D.C. and then served as his unofficial assistant.
Harry Daughtery served President Harding as Attorney General. Daughtery, possibly the most famous of Harding's "Ohio Gang," would draw scrutiny, though never found guilty of any crimes. Jess Smith was accused of influence peddling and committed suicide on May 30, 1923. Smith's World War I Memorial Arch also met a sad ending. The Memorial Arch (which was poorly constructed) was taken down in 1927. The two bronze plaques from the Memorial Arch were removed, then later placed on a new Memorial to Fayette County's World War I dead. This memorial still stands on the lawn of the Fayette County Courthouse. President Harding would die suddenly and unexpectedly, marking an end to this controversial chapter in Ohio and national politics.
Contemporary photo of Fayette County Courthouse. Note no arch; but the plaques on the WWI Memorial are from the earlier Memorial Arch. Courtesy of Kathleen LaRue.
It is striking to read the newspaper account of the welcome home event for the Fayette County's World War I Service members. The event provides a local account of a community ceremony not unlike others across the United States, but also an interesting early look at several members of the “Ohio Gang” – a foreshadowing of the dark days of the President Warren G. Harding administration.
Goodbye Cleveland, Hello France
Video tells the story of an Ohio Major who fell in France
By Claude Humbert, film maker
February 4, 2019
I could say the film is about the life of Arthur Samuel Houts (1880-1918), but it goes way beyond his individual destiny. It covers many pre-WWI events that prepared the U.S. troops to their arrival in the trenches of north-eastern France in the last year of WWI.
Houts served in the U.S. Army in 1898, during the Spanish-American war. In 1901, he enlisted in the Ohio National Guard. As a National Guardsman, he went to Washington for the inauguration of President Roosevelt, he assisted the population during the Great Dayton Flood, and dealt with the violent strikes of the early 20th century. In 1916, after the attack of Columbus, NM, by Pancho Villa, he was sent, with the whole National Guard, to the Mexican Border.
In 1917, the Ohio National Guard was called under federal service as the 37th U.S. Division. Major Houts trained the troops at Camp Sheridan, in Montgomery, Alabama, then at Camp Lee, Virginia, and Bourmont, France. He was leading his men during the Meuse-
Argonne offensive when he was killed in action. He was survived by his wife Georgina (born 1884), and his son Kenneth (1903-1985).
I did not choose Major Houts, I would rather say he chose me. I was fifteen when I discovered an old trunk in the attic, at my great-aunt’s, in a small French village. That was a few days after my aunt’s death. I had never been allowed to enter the attic before. That trunk bore a red disc, inside a larger white disc. I learned years later that it was a buckeye, the symbol of both Ohio state and the 37th U.S. Division. The trunk also bore the name of Maj. A. S. Houts, 145th Inf.
Major Houts's trunk, discovered by Claude Humbert in his aunt's attic
That was 40 years ago. Finding information proved difficult then. So, for almost two decades, nothing much happened. Then, the Internet happened, and, little by little, I found pieces of information. The heavy death-toll during the Meuse-Argonne offensive decided me to look into the lists of casualties. The American Battle Monuments Commission had the answer: Houts was killed in action on Sept. 29, 1918, and was buried at the Meuse-Argonne cemetery in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. I visited his grave as soon as I could.
I promised myself that, some day, I would travel in Houts’s footsteps, from Ohio to the Meuse-Argonne battlefield. Valerie and I finally came to the U.S. in 2015, having decided to document our journey with photos and videos. We agreed that, if the videos and the story proved interesting enough, then I would make a film out of it. I already had some experience in filmmaking, but this was a true challenge, especially since the story meant so much to me.
I wanted to tell most of the story in the soldiers’ own words. I read all the diaries, letters, articles, and veterans’ books I could find. Unfortunately, I could find no personnel correspondence or diary of Houts or his family. But he had several articles published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, mostly expressing his concerns about how the U.S.A. was military unprepared.
We came back to the U.S. in 2018 to present our film. It was premiered in Hoboken, New Jersey, the last U.S. town Houts saw before leaving to France. Later, while in Cleveland, we went to the Western Reserve Historical Society. There, after hours of searching through the 37th Division archives, as we were just about to give up, we found… the last message written by Major Houts. I already had a transcription of it, but this was the actual message he sent to General Farnsworth, and, unlike most of the other messages in all those boxes, it was handwritten, and hand-signed! Except for his trunk, it was the only object that could physically connect me to Major Houts. One hundred years ago, he had held this small piece of paper in his hands, and now it was in my hands…
Note written by Major Houts. Courtesy of the Western Reserve Historical Society
Mr. Humbert's video on retracing Major Houts's footsteps can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/278220140/5500ab95b8