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Ohio in WW1 - Articles

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.

166th Officers in FranceA 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 Band166th 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 LeviathanUSS 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.)

166th Infantry Company BCompany 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.

IMG 5821Young 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.

IMG 6885Plaque 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.

IMG 5108War 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.

136th FA boarding USS Connecticut March 11 1919The 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.

147th Infantry marching through CincinnatiThe 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.

Veterans in Armistice Day Ceremony NelsonvilleYoung 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.

Image LaRue Paul Camp Sherman 1Showing 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.

Image LaRue Paul Camp Sherman 2Soldiers 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.

IMG 6608Toivo 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:


Lost Voices Title v3 




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.

IMG 5829Souvenir 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 GermanyCoblenz, 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.

308th FSB Toul 1919Members 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.

Image LaRue Paul Anderson Lee MarkerPrivate 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:


Image LaRue Paul Ralph Waldo TylerAfrican 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.

Image Newby Kristen HCHGSM Wardwell 07 01Doyen 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.

Image Newby Kristen AV65 B02 013This 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.

Image Newby Kristen SL ManMayBeDownIllustrated 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!

Image Newby Kristen american legion watervilleWorld 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.

Image LaRue Paul Ohio Gang 1Post 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. 

Image LaRue Paul Fayette County Court House with WWI MemorialContemporary 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

 goodbye us1

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.

majorhouts trunkMajor 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…

 2018. OH. Cleveland. Western Reserve Historical Center 304Note 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


The Long Road Home

African American WWI Veterans return to their communities

By Paul LaRue, Ohio World War I Centennial Committee

 January 15, 2019

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.

Image LaRue Paul 372nd Infantry Columbus 1919The 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.

Image LaRue Paul 372nd MonumentMonument 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

January 7, 2019 

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.

LaRue Paul Image Ohio State Register Fayette County War DeadFayette 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.

LaRue Paul Image Fayette County Court House with WWI MemorialThe 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

January 2, 2019

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.

SA1947AV B01F02 004Photograph 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 ohiomemory@ohiohistory.org.

Click here to download the lesson plan.

Click here to download the resource guide.

Click here to download the classroom activity.  





Christmas 1918

Cyrus Moore, Ohio World War I Centennial Committee

December 21, 2018

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.

Article Moore Christmas 1918 Image Hayes CardYMCA 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.

Article Moore Christmas 1918 Image LetterLetter 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

December 17, 2018

Newby Kristen Image MSS1612AV B01F11 001The 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.

Newby Kristen Image MSS1612AV B01F21 03This 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.

Newby Kristen Image 0688This 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.

Newby Kristen Image SL JobsForFightersThis 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.

Newby Kristen Image VFM4667 002Ohioan 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

December 12, 2018

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 YoungCharles 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.

Co D 317 EngineersPanoramic 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




Ohio World War I Centennial Committee

Contact: Sara Fisher, Ohio History Connection: sfisher@ohiohistory.org

Committee Members:

Ron Chapman, American Legion Department of Ohio

Steve Ebersole, American Legion Department of Ohio

Shannon Kupfer, State Library of Ohio 

Paul LaRue, High School History Teacher (Ret.)

Dr. Paul Lockhart, Wright State University

Pete Lupiba, Ohio Department of Education

SFC Joshua Mann, Ohio Army National Guard

David Merkowitz, Ohio Humanities

Colonel Thomas Moe, United States Air Force (Ret.)

Cyrus Moore, Ohio History Connection

Toivo Motter, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens 

Becky Preiss Odom, Ohio History Connection

Kyle Yoho, The Castle Historic House Museum




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