Contrasting lives: WWI Black Veterans Everett Johnson and Robert Chase 

By Dr. Richard Hulver
via the Veterans Administration VAntage Point web site 

Battery E, 349th Field Artillery Commander Lieutenant Everett Warren Johnson (1896-1964) and one of the non-commissioned officers in his unit, Sergeant Robert Chase (1891-1958), entered the war from similar backgrounds. Johnson volunteered for an officer training program and Chase was drafted, but they fought on the same battlefield and chose similar post-war professions.

War impacted their lives in profoundly different ways.

Everett Johnson

Everett JohnsonEverett JohnsonThe Philadelphia born Johnson left Penn State College two months after the United States entered WWI and enlisted in the Army’s only Black-officer training program at Fort Des Moines, IA. On October 14, 1917, he was commissioned a first lieutenant and assigned to the 349th Field Artillery at Camp Dix, NJ. After additional training at the Army’s artillery school at Fort Sill, OK, he went to Philadelphia to recruit African Americans with the technical education necessary to serve in the field artillery.

Shortly later, Johnson sailed to France, where was given command of Battery E. He led them in action during the final weeks of the war and was honorably discharged on April 15, 1919, a month after returning home.

Johnson resumed his studies and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s in education in 1924. He devoted his life to advancing the opportunities of African Americans through education and religion. He held leadership roles in Christian education organizations and advocated for Black Veterans.

In 1939, Johnson headed a coalition of Veterans groups in Philadelphia lobbying for a Black unit in the state’s National Guard. He retired from teaching science in 1963 at an accelerated Veterans Program at Benjamin Franklin High School. He died of cancer a year later in the city’s Veterans Administration Hospital. He is buried in Beverly National Cemetery, NJ (Sec. Y, Site 2171).

Robert S. Chase

Baltimore native Robert S. Chase served in Johnson’s battery. He studied chemistry at Howard University and graduated in 1916. WWI interrupted a budding teaching career in Delaware when he was drafted into service in the spring 1918. Chase sailed for France less than two months after leaving Wilmington for training at Camp Dix.

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