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.

 

Inspired by Teaching History in England, I Explored the Unconventional Memorials Created by the Forgotten Female Veterans of World War I

By Allison S. Finkelstein
Special to The Doughboy Foudation web site 

For any American who has been in Great Britain during the month of November, the enduring relevance of the memory of World War I in British culture is hard to miss. From the tradition of wearing a poppy to the nationwide two minutes of silence observed on Remembrance Sunday, many Britons remain deeply preoccupied with the Great War. After living among these rituals while teaching in the history department of an English boarding school, I started to wonder: why does the memory of World War I remain so much stronger in Great Britain than in the United States? This question led me on a long path to the publication of my first book: Forgotten Veterans, Invisible Memorials: How American Women Commemorated the Great War, 1917-1945. By investigating the groundbreaking role American women played in the memorialization of the war, the process of writing this book uncovered new ways to answer this question and revealed significant but too often overlooked aspects of World War I’s history that have renewed relevance today.QUEENS CEMETERY PUISIEUX France CWGC May 2009 by ASF 100 4413Queen’s Cemetery in Puisieux, France, a British World War I cemetery run by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Photograph by Allison S. Finkelstein 

Book Cover Jkt Finkelstein MKTGThe seeds for Forgotten Veterans, Invisible Memorials were planted during my time in England. After participating in British remembrance rituals and taking our students on a trip to the sites of the Western Front, I entered graduate school upon my return home. At the University of Maryland, College Park, I focused my studies on military commemoration. Two summers spent interning at the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC)—where I would later work—steered me firmly toward the First World War as my area of focus. I dove into this question about the American memory of the war through archival research as well as fieldwork at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial in France.

By the time I selected my dissertation topic, I knew enough to realize that answering this question was far too big for just one project. Instead, I decided to approach the question by specifically examining how American women commemorated the war. Doing so, I hoped, might provide some explanation of America’s waning memory of World War I. Little did I know that my research would do more than just shed light on answers to this question, but it would also help to resurrect a forgotten group of American women from the recesses of history. The more time I spent researching these women as I transformed my dissertation into a book, the more passionate I became about sharing their stories.

In its final form, Forgotten Veterans, Invisible Memorials investigates how American women who somehow served or sacrificed in World War I commemorated that conflict. I argue that these female activists considered their community service and veterans advocacy projects to be forms of commemoration just as significant and effective as traditional memorialization methods such as monuments and statues. In other words, these women sometimes preferred projects that helped a broadly defined group of male and female ‘veterans’ as an alternative to physical monuments and memorials. These are the invisible memorials mentioned in the book’s title.

 

 A scene from the stage production of The Great Forgotten.  The successful off-Broadway play about nurses who served in WWI is aiming to become a TV show soon.A scene from the stage production of The Great Forgotten. The successful off-Broadway play about nurses who served in WWI is aiming to become a TV show soon.

The Great Forgotten: A Television Series Honoring the Nurses Who Served in World War One 

By Kacie Devaney & Karen Devaney
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site 

Have you ever dreamed of watching a TV series set in WWI France, side by side with the aftermath that follows in New York City’s Roaring 20s? And told through the eyes of nurses? Two sisters, to be precise? We have, a lot! That’s why, in 2019, we turned our play, The Great Forgotten, into a Pilot.

A Pilot is the first episode of an episodic television series. After years of aiming for Broadway, and after a sold-out run in the 2015 New York City International Fringe Festival with our play version, we were asked one evening by a prominent theatre Producer, “Ever think of turning The Great Forgotten into a TV series? It’s epic, and you have so much to tell.” “No!” We hadn’t. And that’s where our journey began.

In 2019, we started the arduous climb of transitioning from playwrights to television writers. From studying books on the craft to bingeing series, and listening to podcasts, it wasn’t until we started working with other writers in the industry that we truly blossomed.

2021 threw a wrench in our momentum. The Great Forgotten had landed in the hands of a few successful production companies in both Paris and Hollywood, things were looking up, and then, the Global Pandemic swept through the USA with a vengeance.

In the melee of trying to tell the nurses’ story and fighting to stay afloat during an international shutdown, there was a silver lining. We were forced to grow as writers. Being trapped indoors for hours on end allowed us to fine tune our skills and focus on what was and wasn’t working in our narratives. Additionally, we had extra time to learn the business and weed out who and who not to trust. Had we sold our show right out the gate, we wouldn’t have the incredible team we have now, confidence in our abilities as budding writers for TV, and the creative collaborative control that’s essential for us to maintain as we push forward.

 

 Soldiers dressed as Doughboys in processiont Nov 11 21 U.S. Army photo by Sgt Charlotte CarulliSoldiers dressed as Doughboys in procession on Nov 11 2021. U.S. Army photo by Sgt Charlotte Carulli

Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration

By Allison S. Finkelstein, Ph.D., Senior Historian, Arlington National Cemetery
Special to the  Doughboy Foundation web site

In 2021, Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) served as the designated government leader of the congressionally mandated Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration. This centennial recognized the 100th anniversary of the Tomb’s creation at ANC on November 11, 1921.

As the culmination of years of work by the entire ANC team, this yearlong commemoration produced a wealth of content for the public about the history and meanings of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, much of which focused on World War I (WWI). We are excited to share these resources with readers of the Doughboy Foundation Dispatch Newsletter so we can continue to raise awareness about the Tomb’s significance.

Over the next several months, we will be contributing a series of articles that highlight the different projects we created for the Tomb Centennial. Just as the 1921 ceremonies for the burial of the WWI Unknown Soldier involved mass public participation, the Tomb Centennial engaged the public through a variety of means: exhibits, publications, webinars, videos, digital media, an education program, and participatory ceremonies. For more information on the Tomb Centennial, please visit the following websites:

This month, we are sharing our Commemorative Guide to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the years leading up to the Centennial, the ANC History Office undertook in-depth research into the history of the Tomb and its legacy. This research will eventually yield two publications.

 

Fighting For Respect – African Americans in World War I France 

via the Blue Lion Films web site 

Postcard imageBlue Lion Films, Inc, the authors of the award-winning documentary 'Paris Noir – African Americans In The City Of Light' has launched a new film in their series examining the African American experience in France. 'Fighting For Respect – African Americans in WWI' digs deep into the often overlooked yet compelling story of 200,000 Black soldiers willing to fight for democracy abroad while it was violently refused them at home. The film shows why this story still matters today.

The one-hour documentary challenges America's notions of patriotism, equality and citizenship. Jim Crow discriminatory laws dominated every aspect of the Black inductees' experience - from induction, in training, and in placement. In late 1917, 200,000 segregated US Army troops, including a handful of officers, were shipped across the Atlantic towards the battlefields of France. They wanted nothing more than to prove their loyalty and valor to America and the world by going to the Front. Most got no closer than toiling in the Services of Supply, gruelling labor battalions modeled after Southern chain gangs.

The lucky ones were 'loaned' to the depleted French army who trained them in trench warfare. Amid the grimness and carnage of the Western Front, these undervalued regiments performed admirably, leading to victories for the Allies. Hundreds of them earned medals of honor, including the Croix de Guerre. The most renown regiment – the 369th Harlem Infantry - musician-soldiers introduced jazz to France as they marched and so began a cultural exchange between Black America and France.

Laborers or combat soldiers, their experiences left an indelible mark on them. For the first time in their lives they were treated with respect, and it came from the French military, officials and townspeople.

Returning home in 1919, veterans expected that their services and heroism would translate to civil rights at home. Instead, they and their communities became the target of unspeakable violence waged by white supremacists during the fiery Red Summer of 1919 and beyond. But the veterans fought back.

World War One did more than transform the world at large. It led to a radicalized political consciousness at home. Testimonies from several distinguished soldiers gave traction to the fight for equal rights in America. Black leaders, intellectuals and the Black press including WEB Dubois, Marcus Garvey, and Harlem Renaissance literary authors built on the growing movement for civil rights, justice and respect.

Says director Joanne Burke, “Fighting For Respect grew out of my deep passion and commitment to tell the exciting but also heartbreaking stories of African American soldiers during WW1.”

 

Mustering Out: the Navy’s First Black Yeowomen

By Cara Moore Lebonick
via the National Archives' Rediscovering Black History web site

The United States entered the Great War, now known as World War I (WWI), with a surge of new enlisted and conscripted soldiers hitherto unseen. These new soldiers went through various mustering depending on their branch of service. For the U.S. Navy (USN), one division monitored and tracked all of these soldiers throughout the war: the Mustering Personnel Division. It was lead by John T. Risher, a Black seaman, and the active service personnel for the bulk of U.S. involvement in WWI were Black Yeowomen (a Naval member who performs administrative duties).

Jones Olga F 1446172 NVOMPF PartialRecord file envelope for Olga Jones, one of the first 14 Black women to serve in the U.S. Navy in World War I.These first Black yeowomen to serve in the U.S. Navy were later referred to as the “Golden Fourteen (14),” a nod to the Golden 13, the first Black Navy Officers who would not come until WWII. These fourteen women were first written about by Kelly Miller. There, he provided a listing of their names. These names had some spelling variations that made future research more difficult, but not impossible thanks to their available National Archives Catalog entries.

While Black individuals had an established history in the military leading up to WWI, in the USN most Black seamen served as non yeoman in the mess department. Black and white women also had military related history, largely limited to civilian or nursing roles. The 1917 draft included Black men for the first time, but the Navy still limited the roles they could hold in their service. They were allowed to serve on ships with white seamen but those who remained stateside were limited.

Women were not subject to the draft and Black women, therefore, followed the same role limitations as Black men. They were not thought to be part of the Navy yeoman rank prior to President Truman’s 1948 Executive Order 9981, which officially desegregated the Armed Forces. In Marie Mitchell’s Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) we can see that she was serving in the mess unit prior to her transfer.

The beginning of women in the Navy starts with the loophole of the Naval Reserve Act allowing women to enlist, a fact exposed by Loretta[o] P. Walsh. She enlisted in the Naval Reserves on March 17, 1917 as a Yeoman (F), which would later become known also as Yeowoman and Yeomanette. As the history goes, more white women followed by enlisting and filling clerical vacancies as Yeoman (F), with the Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels in full support. Armelda H. Greene, though, enlisted August 13, 1918 becoming a Black Yeoman (F). She was assigned to the “Division of Enlisted Personnel, Mustering”, referred to as the Muster Roll Division, the first of the Golden 14.

Contrary to what some histories may claim, the records of the Golden 14 are not lost, it just takes a bit of specialized reading and interpretation of records to piece together the whole unit. For example, Kathryn E(ugenia) Boyd nee Finch (one of the 14), is commonly misspelled as Catherine. Misspelling the name can make it difficult to discern if the correct individual has been identified. Through these women’s records we can glimpse not just Black service in the Navy, but the service of Black females decades prior.

 

2018 cemeteryA World War I helmet with the 27th Infantry Division insignia. The NYD stands for New York Division. Our local soldiers in the 107th New York infantry Regiment fought under this symbol. This picture was taken at the Somme American Cemetery on the centennial of the Battle of the Hindenburg Line, Sept. 29, 2018. Behind the helmet is the burial ground of the soldiers who were killed in action including many from Orange County.

Orange County Historian to host trip to Europe to pay tribute to the Harlem’s Rattlers (the 369th New York Infantry Regiment) in World War I

Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site 

Goshen, N.Y. – Orange County Historian Johanna Yaun will host a trip to Belgium and France next year to honor the soldiers who served in the 369th New York Infantry Regiment. The trip will take place from July 10 -19, 2023 and will explore locations that served as notable backdrops during World War I.

For more information about the trip, log onto https://www.grouptoursite.com/tours/WWI-tour-with-johanna. Space is limited to 45 guests.

Harlem’s Rattlers, the 369th New York Infantry Regiment, later nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters, was a regiment of soldiers of African American descent from New York City, the Hudson Valley and other parts of the county. Major Hamilton Fish, who set up recruiting stations at Newburgh, Middletown and Goshen, N.Y. later stated, that the members of the regiment, “[had] comparatively little camp training on this side, as their assignment to railroad building on the other side, and when this was over, their placing in the frontline trenches to do battle with the enemy…they were placed in the same line as the French troops, and they held their own against all comers.” They would spend 191 days in combat, a longer span than any other U.S. unit.

During the journey to Belgium and France, we will pass through Givry-en-Argonne to see where the 369th shed their American weapons and were assigned to French command, visit the battle site of Belleau Wood and the tiny village of Séchault to view the memorial dedicated to the famous Harlem Hellfighters. We will also pay tribute to the fallen soldiers who are buried at the Meuse-Argonne cemetery. Throughout the trip we will discuss important members of the group including the artist Horace Pippin from Goshen, N.Y. and Elmer Earl of Goshen/Middletown, N.Y. who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions as well discussing the long-lasting impact of the regimental band led by James Reese Europe.

The group tour will also include visits to sites of significance related to the 107th New York Infantry Regiment. Over 40 soldiers from Orange County perished on September 29th, 1918 during a the breaking of the Hindenburg Line and are buried at the Somme American Cemetery.

Suggested reading: Duty, Honor, Privilege: New York’s Silk-Stocking Regiment and the Breaking of the Hindenburg Line by Stephen L. Harris, and Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: the Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality by Jeffrey T. Sammons and John H. Morrow, Jr.

For more information about the trip, contact Johanna Yaun via jyaun@orangecountygov.com or to sign up for the Orange County History newsletter visit http://www.johannayaun.com/


 

 

Mrs. Dawson’s  book was a thoughtful gift.

Mrs. Dawson’s Wartime Memories 

By Thomas Emme
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site 

It all started with a gift.

It was a thoughtful gift; the giver knew that I had an interest in the history of the Great War and it was a book full of World War 1 photography. It was over a hundred years old but in bad shape. The binding was broken and unravelling, and the cover almost fell off when I opened it. I took the book home and set it aside for a more careful look.  In the back of my mind, I thought if it wasn’t salvageable, I might be able to turn it into an art project.

Collier’s Photographic History of the European War

Collier’s Photographic History of the European War

Collier’s Magazine was a general interest magazine, founded in 1888 and published weekly until 1957. This “photographic history” was one in a series of five books published by Colliers between 1916 and 1919 to document the war. Before television or the internet, books like this defined what war looked like to the average person. This image is of the cover page from the first volume published in 1916 and the title refers to the “European War”. This was because the United States had not yet joined the war. Future editions included pictures of soldiers from the United States and the series was renamed to the photographic history of the “World War”.

 

the 1918 influenza pandemics impact on movie theaters 1050x700With World War I coming to end, 1918 should have been a good year for the movies. Then along came influenza. 

The 1918 Flu Pandemic’s Impact on Movie Theaters 

By Betsy Golden Kellem 
via the JSTOR Daily web site 

With more than $700 million in revenue, Spider-Man: No Way Home is having an uncharacteristically large cinematic moment in the post-COVID world. As of this past weekend (1/23/22), Deadline reported the movie hit #6 on the global all-time box office list and had made $1.69 billion, inspiring a Saturday Night Live sketch in which the show’s Joe Biden stand-in attributes the nationwide rise in coronavirus cases to the fact that every human in the country has seen Spider-Man.

Jokes aside, Spider-Man is the first movie in a long while to suggest a return to pre-pandemic box office figures and theater attendance. Movies have been hard hit by two years of pandemic pressures, resulting in hybrid releases, “theater at home” streaming arrangements, and the closure of many theaters. After the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, which similarly hit the movies hard, the film industry responded with massive structural change and a booming return to filmgoing. Will our current environment and its aftermath spur the same sort of change?

The year 1918 should have been a good year for the movies. War films and newsreels had kept theaters humming (film was considered an “essential industry” in World War I America), and as the war was coming to an end, there was every reason to expect a busy fall season in the amusement industry. But, after its initial discovery among military service members in the spring, and a mild first wave of infection, influenza took hold on the east coast in September 1918. Extending westward in the sort of six- to eight-week surges that have become all too familiar to us today, the pandemic roared across the United States and caused nearly two hundred thousand deaths in the month of October alone.

If attendance didn’t go down on its own as the flu raged through a given community, venue closures would eventually keep people out of the movies. According to film scholar Richard Koszarski, “Health officials would eventually order the closing of movie theaters along with other places of amusement, as well as schools, churches and (more rarely) stores.”

In October 1918, the National Association of the Motion Picture Industry decided to “abandon production as far as possible, stop the release of all new feature subjects and confine exchange activities to the immediate circulation of serials and news weeklies.” The shutdown was necessary from an economic perspective as much as a public health one: the American movie industry was a chain of relationships between the studios who made films, the exhibitors who showed them, and the ticket-buying public, and the pandemic affected them all materially. If studios weren’t making movies at the usual rate, and there wasn’t anyone to pay to rent the print, much less buy a ticket, the industry was left hard up.

 

Doughboy Family Memories Etched in Architectural Art

By Benjamin S. Dunham
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site

My first Brewer purchase was only a copy of a Brewer. I didn’t know it was a copy when I saw it in an antique booth in New Bedford. I signaled to my wife and asked, “Doesn’t this look like one of the cathedrals done by the brother of your great grandmother’s second husband?”

Rheims Cathedral 1914 West Front 1914“The West Front of Rheims Cathedral,” an etching by James Alphege Brewer published in December 1914. Inexpensive copies were hung in the parlors of American families in support of the Allied effort.The distant relative was the British artist James Alphege Brewer (1881-1946), and some years later, a family downsizing brought a few of his etchings into our home. After that, during a two-year stretch, I bought just about every Brewer etching that came on the market.

In the process of collecting Brewer etchings, I learned a lot about the artist and his family, and I discovered that the print I found in New Bedford was a copy of his first version of the west front of Rheims Cathedral, published in December 1914. It was this etching that made Brewer’s fame as a young artist, especially in the United States, but at first I didn’t understand its significance in regard to the Doughboys of WWI.

German advance through Belgium August 1914German advance through Belgium, August 1914As my collection increased, however, I began to see a relationship between the subjects and publication dates of Brewer’s etchings and the battles of World War I. The etchings he did in 1914, 1915, and 1916 included threatened and damaged historic buildings in Brussels, Antwerp, Namur, Dinant, Huy, Louvain, and Malines, all of which are identified on a map showing the course of the German attack.

When I compared these magnificent edifices to the photographs of the ruins that resulted from the wartime damage, I realized that Brewer’s wartime etchings showed the buildings as they once were, not as they appeared after the attacks. The images must have been captured in some way before the war began.

Brewer could have seen newspaper articles in 1913 about the course of a possible invasion of Belgium. For instance, in September 1913, after the Belgians had finished their summer war games, the Paris correspondent for The Times reported that the French grumbled about the defensive exercises near Dinant and Namur. This, the French thought, was a course that was “considerably to the north of that which a German army would follow if it violated Belgian neutrality.” But only a year later, that was exactly where the Germans attacked.

Reading reports like this in 1913, Brewer might have been able to envision a series of etchings showing scenes from the heart of Belgium. As Barbara Tuchman pointed out in The Guns of August, the Schlieffen Plan (even with Moltke’s adjustments) was based on a German advance through the whole of Belgium. Schlieffen said, “Let the last man on the right brush the Channel with his sleeve.”

The impact of Brewer’s etchings in America was almost immediate. A March 1915 ad for Closson’s art gallery in the Cincinnati Enquirer was headlined “Etchings from Warring Europe,” and the text continued, “We have just received about a dozen new subjects by Mr. Brewer, some of which were sketched in cities mentioned in the war despatches of recent months.” More would follow throughout the war. As a group, these etchings—which were, in essence, anti-war or, at the very least, nostalgic for an earlier era of peace—argue for their inclusion in surveys of important and influential political art.

  

Group closer to finding remains of WWI soldier from McKean County

By Marcie Schellhammer
via The Bradford Era newspaper (PA) web site

BRADFORD, Pa. — Kane-area native James L. Uber has been missing in action since Oct. 8, 1918, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France in World War I.

However, since his dog tag made its way to the Pennsylvania National Guard Museum in 2019, a group of volunteers have a pretty good idea of where the young corporal is buried.

James UberJames UberRobert Laplander and Mike Cunha of Doughboy M.I.A. have done the research, combed volumes of historical records, maps and photos, and even visited France, walking the ground of that deadly battle of more than a century ago.

A death statement uncovered through research read that Uber was struck in the temple about 11 a.m. Oct. 8, 1918, by a “(machine gun) bullet. He lived about 15 minutes and was on his way to dressing station when he died. His body was taken care of and buried by a detail from Co. B, 112th Inf.”

Laplander explained information from World War I is hard to track down. A massive fire in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center destroyed much of the information.

“They didn’t throw anything away,” he said, adding that officials have been trying to rebuild the records ever since. “There is no list of what was salvaged and what was not.”

Uber’s file is thought to be among the lost. Laplander has a copy of his “grave location blank,” which is filled out by whoever oversees the burial of the lost soldier. Uber’s didn’t give the grave’s specific location.

When someone died in battle, they were buried in “private cemeteries,” of which about 1,700 were identified by the end of the war. The soldier’s dog tags were separated, one stayed with the body and one went on a makeshift grave marker.

It is Uber’s grave marker tag that Laplander believes was found and returned to the U.S.

The remains of most soldiers were retrieved and taken home. However, many of the burial spots were lost to time.

“There was still heavy fighting in that area for a few days after (Uber) was killed,” Laplander said. The marker was likely separated from the grave.

Because Uber’s remains were not located, he did not have a casualty record. So researchers looked for files of others who were killed in the same location during that battle “to give us more clues of what happened to those guys.”

 

Edith Rose Tench, only Fredericksburg area woman who actively served in WWI

via the National Park Service Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park web site

Edith Rose TenchEdith Rose TenchAlthough the vast majority of the graves in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery are soldiers from the Civil War, there are a handful of veterans of later wars within the cemetery walls. One of the most unique graves belongs to Edith Rose Tench. Tench served as a Yeoman, 3rd Class, in the United States Naval Reserve Force (USNRF).

Edith was born in 1890. She lived with her parents and four siblings on Caroline Street in Fredericksburg until she married Samuel B. Tench of Petersburg in 1917.

When World War I began, Edith joined the USNRF, which was created in 1916 to meet a shortage in clerical personnel. The enlistment of women began the following year, just before the United States entered the war. It was the first large-scale employment of women by the Navy.

By the time the war ended, more than 11,000 women had served in the USNRF.

Women of the USNRF were popularly referred to as “Yeomanettes” (a name they detested) though their official designations was Yeoman (F). In a similar linguistic turn, anti-suffragists of the same period used the "-ette" suffix to describe suffragists, intending to belittle their cause.

Yeoman (F) performed a variety of tasks, including clerical duties, designing camouflage for battleships, and acting as translators, draftsmen, fingerprint experts, and recruiting agents. After World War I, the Navy released all Yeoman (F) from active duty. With the exception of nurses, women would not serve as uniformed personnel in the Navy again until 1942.

Although a few went overseas, most Yeoman (F) were assigned to duty in the continental United States. Such was the case with Edith, who served at the Norfolk Navy Shipyard. She is likely the only woman local to the Fredericksburg area who actively served in the military in World War I. After World War I, the Navy released the Yeoman (F) from active duty. With the exception of nurses, women would not serve as uniformed personnel in the Navy again until 1942.

 

 023 Grimsley Halyburton four otherPOWS 1917 NARA 1280Pvt. Clyde Grimsley & Sgt. Halyburton with four other U.S. soldiers, photographed after capture in 1917, prior to transport to German prison camps. Image courtesy of the National Archives & Records Administration.

Halyburton and Grimsley - Story of U.S.'s first POWs in WWI 

By Nalia Warmack, National Cemetery Administration history intern
via the United States Departments of Veterans Affairs History Office

On the night of November 2, 1917, Company F of the 16th Infantry Regiment, First Infantry Division, held off a night raid from German forces at Bathlémont, France, and sustained the first of many combat casualties of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I (1917-1918). Among these casualties were Sergeant Edgar M. Halyburton and Private Clyde Grimsley, who were captured by the Germans and became some of the first American prisoners of the war (POW) in the conflict.[1]

Sgt. Halyburton of Stoney Point, NC, enlisted in the U.S Army in 1909 and served in Mexico during the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa (1916-1917). He was deployed to France shortly after the United States entered into the war. When captured on the night of November 2, Halyburton and other captured Americans were eventually taken to Tuchel Prison Camp in West Prussia where they encountered harrowing conditions. Faced with lack of food and clothing, they were forced into heavy labor; tasked with harvesting lumber and carting wood miles to camp through the winter. Halyburton quickly sought to improve camp conditions for himself and fellow prisoners. He began sending postcards to the Red Cross asking for parcels (which included food) to be sent to the camp so that those imprisoned could be sustained throughout the winter.[2] Four months later, Red Cross parcels were finally received.

After seven months, Halyburton was transferred from Tuchel to Rastatt Prison Camp (Baden, Germany) where he remained until the armistice. At Rastatt, he made it his mission to establish a sense of order in the camp and eliminate German propaganda from influencing the morale and loyalty of American prisoners. His 500 fellow American prisoners elected him as their camp commander to attain this mission.[3] Halyburton established a firm camp structure that assured each man a job and handpicked an intelligence staff to monitor the effectiveness of German propaganda on POWs.[4] Recognized as head of American prisoners by the Germans running the camp, Halyburton was officially recognized as the leader of all present and incoming Americans in the camp.[5] For his leadership during while imprisoned, Halyburton was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal – one of the first enlisted men to receive the honor.[6]

Pvt. Clyde Irving Grimsley, an accomplished cornetist, enlisted in 1917 as a commissioned band leader. Eager to fight, he requested a transfer to the infantry with the hopes of joining the action in France.[7] Originally from Stockton, KS, Grimsley was captured with Halyburton and was taken to Tuchel Prison Camp after spending 30 days confined at Metz (in German occupied France).[8] After being at Tuchel for three months, Grimsley contracted tonsilitis and bronchitis and was admitted to the camp hospital.[9] After a five week recovery he took on the role of orderly, assisting two American doctors in the camp.[10]