Homer Peckham, Franklin, CT's only African American WWI veteran
By Matthew Novosad
via the Norwich Bulletin (CT) newspaper web site
Homer Eugene Peckham was born in May 1890 in Willimantic of African American descent. By the middle of the 1910s, Homer Peckham had started working as a farmhand as his father, George Peckham, had. This work led him to Blue Hill Farm in Franklin where he lived and worked under Felix Garceau, Sr. Homer Peckham is part of a long history of African American farm laborers who, while living and working in Franklin, served in the military.
On April 6, 1917 the U.S. declared war on Germany and entered World War I. A draft law was soon implemented and Homer Peckham registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 alongside many other Franklin residents. His draft card was marked with an “X”, meaning that he could not read or write. Almost a year later, on April 30, 1918, Homer Peckham was drafted into the U.S. Army.
African Americans had limited options when serving in the U.S. military during the war. The Navy only allowed African Americans to work as messmen and cooks, while the Marine Corps barred African Americans entirely. The Army did allow black men into its ranks, but the vast majority were relegated to labor roles where in many cases they were not even issued the standard khaki uniform.
However, Homer Peckham was not assigned to a labor unit. He was instead assigned to ‘C’ Company, 367th Infantry, 92nd Division. This was one of two African American combat divisions to serve during the war, and the only to serve under the American flag. The other, the 93rd Division, served under the French.
Homer Peckham arrived in France on May 10, 1918. In France, the 92nd Division would face not just the Germans, but also prejudice from its commanding officers and fellow American soldiers. “Jim Crow” followed the army to Europe. In this violent, tense atmosphere the 92nd Division was trained by the French, and in late August 1918 they served their first period in the trenches of the Western Front in the Saint-Dié sector.
There, on Sept. 5, Homer Peckham was “lightly” wounded in action. After recovering from his wound, he saw action during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive which was one of the bloodiest battles in American history.
Read the entire article on the Norwich Bulletin web site.
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