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By Tiana Hall
Governor's Intern

Chapter Three
West Virginians who Fought in World War I or Aided Soldiers


AEF poster

Poster showing American Expeditionary Forces cloth insignia
West Virginia State Archives

There were nearly 60,000 men from West Virginia who fought in World War I.1 Men either volunteered or they were drafted.2 Generally, the lowest ranking army soldiers, privates, were paid a monthly salary of 30 to 40 dollars, 3 equaling between 600 to 800 dollars today4 and higher ranking soldiers such as corporals, sergeants, and sergeant majors were paid larger monthly salaries. Some soldiers returned home after the war, while others died overseas from battle wounds or influenza, an epidemic that killed many at home and abroad. Numerous men from West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania served in the 313th Machine Gun Battalion, the 314th Field Artillery, or the 315th Field Artillery, which were part of the 155th Field Artillery Brigade, 80th Division of the U.S. Army. Some also served in the 317th Infantry, 80th Division. The 80th Division was organized in August 1917 at Camp Lee, near Petersburg, Virginia, and it came to be known as the "Blue Ridge Division," a name that gave rise to its unique insignia of three blue mountain peaks and its motto, "Vis Montium" or "Strength of the Mountains." The 80th Division participated in the First Battle of the Somme, the St. Mihiel Offensive, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France.5 Notable men include Corporal John E. Craft and John M. Brawley, who served in the 80th Division of the Army; William Riheldaffer, with the 78th Division; and men serving in different branches of the military such as Arthur B. Greenlee, a marine, Cecil S. Hall, a seaman in the Navy, and aviators Lewis G. Burrell and Louis Bennett. Victory for the U.S. would have not been possible had it not been for these brave men, who should be honored and admired for putting their lives in danger for the sake of our country.
United War Work Campaign poster

YMCA United War Work Campaign poster
West Virginia State Archives

Registration Certificate

Registration Certificate

Registration Card

Registration Card

anti-militarist poster

Young Men's Anti-Militarist League poster

John Jacob Cornwell Papers, Ar 1734

men leaving Wheeling

Train to take Wheeling boys to Camp Lee, September 20, 1917. Mrs. Elmer Bibbee Collection

men leaving Wheeling

Train with Wheeling men leaving for Camp Lee, December 20, 1917. Mrs. Elmer Bibbee Collection

Victory medal

Certificate and 1914-1918 Inter-Allied Victory Medal
Boyd B. Stutler Collection


William Riheldaffer

Lt. William A. Riheldaffer, 1892-1918.
Charleston's Roll of Honor

William A. Riheldaffer was born in Wheeling and later moved to Charleston. When World I broke out, Riheldaffer volunteered for service and was sent to the Officer's Training Camp at Madison Barracks, New York, on August 15, 1917. He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant and assigned to Company L, 309th Infantry. Riheldaffer was promoted to First Lieutenant on January 24, 1918, and transferred to Camp Dix, New Jersey, where he received training as a brigade liaison officer. On May 19, 1918, he was sent to a training camp in southern France. Riheldaffer transferred to Headquarters Company, 155th Infantry Brigade, on July 26, 1918.

The 155th Infantry Brigade was a part of the 78th Division and American I Corps. The I Corps fought in the St. Mihiel offensive, one of the most important battles of World War I, which began on September 12, 1918. Their main goal was to capture the German rail center near Metz, and by September 16, this area of France was liberated from the Germans. A series of raids upon the German lines to divert their attention from the movements of the American armies were led by the 69th French Division and the 42nd, 78th, 89th, and 90th American divisions on September 25, 1918 in the Meuse-Argonne area.

On October 19, 1918, William Riheldaffer was wounded by a shell that exploded near him, which nearly crushed his shoulder, chest, and lungs. He was immediately taken to a field hospital near Verdun, but the doctors were not able to save him. Riheldaffer died just two days later and was buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery at Romagne, France. In Wheeling a marker was placed for him in the Greenwood Cemetery near the National Road.6

Meuse-Argonne mapr

Map to illustrate the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, 1918.
West Virginia State Archives

John Brawley

Corp. John M. Brawley, 1893-1918.
Charleston's Roll of Honor

John Brawley, a native of Charleston, registered for the draft in June 1917 and was accepted into the service on April 2, 1918. After being sent to train at Camp Lee, Virginia, Brawley was assigned to Company B, 317th Infantry, 80th Division. On June 9, 1917, he was sent to France and began training with the British Third Army for combat duty on the front lines. He was promoted to Private First Class on July 3, 1918, and then to Corporal on September 8, 1918.

Company B, 317th Infantry, and the 80th Infantry Division were assigned to the III Army and participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which was one of the largest American battles of World War I. Their principal objective was to capture the railroad hub at Sedan, which would break down the rail network supporting the German army in central France. The offensive lasted for six weeks, from September 25 through November 11, 1918, and was divided into three phases. September 25-October 13, 1918, was the first phase, which began with a heavy artillery barrage and ended with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) capturing the villages of Varennes and Montfaucon. The 317th Infantry and the 80th Infantry divisions were subjected to heavy artillery and suffered heavy losses, as they were placed front and center of the battlefield near the Meuse River. The AEF had limited mobilization due to the lack of passable roads in the Argonne area.

On October 4, 1918, John Brawley was killed in battle. Lieutenant Tracy Campbell of Company B, 317th Infantry, wrote a letter to Brawley's father, David Brawley, to inform him about his son's fate.

"He had just led his squad forward and was getting ready for another advance when death overtook him. He was shot through the heart, but while death was not instantaneous, he did not feel any pain, but continued the advance for about 10 yards. He was buried by the chaplain of the battalion on the spot where he fell with all the military honors possible under such circumstances. His loss was felt keenly by all who knew him. His actions and leadership under fire warranted him a sergeantcy if he had been able to accept the same." - Lt. Tracy Campbell

In honor of John Brawley and his service to our country, an American Legion post, called post 61, was formed on the west side of Charleston and was named after him in 1923. Charleston already had one post, the Kanawha Post 20, which had been formed in 1919, but in 1925, it was decided to combine the two posts into one large American Legion post, known as the John Brawley Post 20. The post was dedicated on November 16, 1925, at the Knights of Pythias hall on Charleston Street by Mayor W. W. Wertz and Governor Ephraim Morgan, as well as by various veterans' organizations.7

John Kraft

Corp. John E. Kraft (Craft)
Soldiers of the Great War

Army Corporal John E. Craft, a native of Braxton County, registered for the draft on June 5, 1917. Craft was assigned to Battery E, 313th Field Artillery Regiment, 80th Infantry Division, and sent to Camp Lee, Virginia, for training. After he completed his training, he was sent to France, where he fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and was badly wounded. Craft died from his wounds a few days later, on October 3, 1918. A soldier named L. M. McLaughlin, who saw him just after he had been wounded, wrote to Craft's wife to deliver his dying message. McLaughlin's letter, reprinted in the Braxton Democrat on March 20, 1919, is graphic in nature, but it serves as an example of the human wreckage and suffering the men had to endure.

Your letter dated February 16th to my home address (and forwarded to me) received, and in which you ask if I could give you more information concerning the way in which your husband met his death on the battlefield of France.

First, let me tell you why I am back in America. I was gassed on October 26, 1918, and was sent back to the hospital, and after spending several months in France, and the war being over, was sent back to America. I was discharged from the army and am now in the Navy Department.

On October 3, 1918, our regiment was located in some woods about two and one-half miles off hill 281, with the exception of Battery "E," and on this day "E" battery was coming up to take position with the other batteries. I had been forward with the rest of the regiment, and with two of my men was returning to the rear to get some telephone wire. This was about five o'clock in the afternoon, French time. I saw the gun crew which your husband was in, with the gun, coming up over hill 281. At that time I was about one mile away. The enemy was shelling that particular place, and I saw a shell hit just where your husband with the rest of the men were. I remarked to my men that that was the last of those poor fellows; but after the smoke died away I saw them take up the trot, and from where I was then it did not look like any one had been killed or wounded. Together we walked on in that direction until half the distance had been covered and I saw something lying there, and I said to the boys, "Some one has been killed, or possibly only wounded, and I am going to see and lend a hand if possible." I must say it was taking a chance, for the shells were falling thick and fast around there. When I got to him two other men with stretchers were there to take him to the first aid field hospital; but he looked like he was dead, and as we had no time to attend to the dead, or bury them, we left him. I had not gone far when I was tempted to look back, and I saw him move, and I turned and went back to your husband. He opened his eyes and I asked him if I could do any thing for him, and he said yes, to write to his dear little wife and tell her just how he met death; also to tell you that all was well with his soul, and for you not to worry; also to tell his mother and father good-bye, and that his last thoughts were of you. The little diary dedicated to his wife and mother he said for me to be sure to send it to you if possible. It was full of sweet thoughts and memories of you, and from that book I knew that his thoughts were always with you.

Your husband had both legs blown off at the knee, and one was just hanging where it joins the body. He also had other wounds in the body. You husband was dying when I left him. It was hard to leave him, but I could do nothing else, and wene [sic] to see if I could get some one to help me take him to the hospital. Before I left him he asked me for water. I was sorry, but I had none. I had been without for two days myself. He then asked me to turn him over, which I gladly did, and made a pillow for his head of his pack. You do not know how hard it was for me to leave him, but I thought I could find help, and when I returned he was not there. He had been picked up by an ambulance and taken back to the hospital, and he died a few days later. [It should be noted here that if this account is correct, the action is taking place on October 3 and his death would be a few days later, but other documents list his actual date of death as October 3.] You said that possibly he was in some hospital over there now. I really do not think so, for if this had been the case the war department would not have reported him dead, and then I am sure that a loving husband like yours would have written to you just as soon as he knew that he was taken care of. True enough, hundreds of boys live with both legs shot off, but with the other wounds your husband had I don't think it was possible for him to live. I asked your husband if he knew how badly he was wounded and he said, "Yes." I think he knew he was dying then, and the look on his face told me he was. I did not know your husband personally, but he was in the same regiment that I was in:the 313th F. A. I was in headquarters company and your husband was in "E" battery. He was a good soldier and was liked by his company.

Assuring you that I will do everything I can in regard to your securing the diary, and asking that you write me some time if you receive the book.

My deepest sympathy is with you in this your great sorrow.

Imagine how L.M. McLaughlin felt as he stumbled across Craft; he must have always lived with the image of Craft's injured body in his mind and felt guilty for leaving him to get medical assistance. However, McLaughlin account of Craft's death is a glaring reminder of the atrocities of war. It is rare that such detailed account of a soldier's death is recorded and sadly, there is more information about his death than his life. 8


Cecil Hall

Seaman Cecil S. Hall, 1897-1918.
Charleston's Roll of Honor

Seaman Cecil Smith Hall was born in Webster County and his family later moved to Charleston. Hall enlisted in the Navy on July 18, 1917, and was sent for basic training to Newport News, Virginia. He later was transferred to Boston to complete his training. Hall was assigned to the USS Manley.9 On March 19, 1918, physical contact between the Manley and the HMS Motagua led to the accidental detonation of depth charges onboard the Manley, causing an explosion that ripped through the ship's stern, killing 10 Americans, including Cecil Hall. He was the first man from Charleston to lose his life in World War I and on May 1, 1918, a public funeral was held for him at the state armory through orders by Governor John Cornwell. The service was attended by thousands, including Governor Cornwell and former governor William A. MacCorkle. He was buried in Spring Hill Cemetery in Charleston.10

"No finer epitaph could be written than that he died in the line of duty. He gave his life not only for his country, but in defense of the freedom of the seas, in defense of the men who sail them, in defense of the women and children who go upon them and in defense of International Law and Civilization. . . .

So, today, let us say to the lifeless body of this young man: "Cecil Hall, we are here," and let us mean as Pershing meant, that we stand ready to repay the debt of gratitude we owe to him for the sacrifice he has made for us." - Gov. John J. Cornwell11


Arthur Greenlee

Arthur Greenlee, 1918.
Arthur B. Greenlee Collection

Arthur B. Greenlee was born in Mason County and later moved to Raleigh County. Greenlee enlisted in the Marine Corps in May 1918, and did his training at Parris Island, South Carolina, and Quantico, Virginia. In August 1918, he was sent to France, where he served as a private until he was severely injured towards the end of the war in November 1918. After recovering from his injury, Private Greenlee was discharged and returned home to West Virginia on September 30, 1919. He died in 1947. Arthur Greenlee is a significant figure, as he is one of the few West Virginian soldiers whose life can be traced from the beginning of the war to its end and even post war. His letters take the reader on a journey from his military training in the U.S. to his time overseas, and then through his injury and feelings of grief after being hit by a shell. The letters from his family show how they responded to his letters and what was happening on the homefront.
Arthur Greenlee

Arthur Greenlee in his Marine uniform.

Parris Island

Maneuvering grounds at Parris Island.
Both photos from the Greenlee Collection

Arthur Greenlee letter

Letter. Arthur Greenlee to family, August 28, 1918.
Greenlee Collection

While serving both in the U.S. and overseas, he wrote letters to his family members which included his parents, sister Rosa, brothers Omer and Verner, and sister-in-law Ethel, as well as his girlfriend Doris Poole. He discussed his experiences but did not disclose specific details about battles. Like many other soldiers of the time, Private Greenlee's letters were censored by high-ranking officers, who marked out words and phrases they believed to be a threat to national security if seen by the enemy.12 In his letter written to his family on August 28, there is a word that was blacked out by the 2nd Lieutenant of Company 4th Training Battalion, First Casual Regiment of the Marines' Expeditionary Forces.13


Postcard from Arthur Greenlee while at Quantico, 1918. Greenlee Collection

When reading his letters, one can see the cultural importance of serving in the war, which was admired by many and critiqued by few, as it was considered the ultimate form of sacrifice, patriotism, and masculinity. For example, Arthur shows his prideful attitude and respect for the marines' toughness in a letter he wrote to his family, while training at Quantico, Virginia. He says, "I am in the Marine Corps and we work here and we work hard.and this life will sure make a man out of a fellow, for it takes a man to stand it."14 Additionally, there were pictures taken of him while at Quantico, Virginia, that capture his strength and bravery, as he proudly held his rifle in a shooting positon.
Arthur Greenlee

Arthur Greenlee at Quantico, 1918.
Greenlee Collection

Greenlee family

Henry and Sarah Greenlee with their grandson, Arthur Jr., 1920s.
Greenlee Collection

The Greenlee family wrote letters to Arthur from August 1918 until December 1919. After Arthur arrived in France on August 28, 1918, his family seemed to be positive and supportive of his efforts to win the war by defeating the German soldiers or "Huns," as they referred to them in their letters.15 His family also discussed what was going on at home, with the West Virginians efforts to participate in patriotic activities such as raising liberty loans. 16 In addition, the letters discussed how many people were affected by the Spanish Influenza epidemic and school starting dates that were postponed because of the rapid spread of the illness, which caused death. Influenza was not only prevalent at home but also abroad, as many soldiers died from it as well.17 The war ended on November 11, 1918, and his family seemed to be rejoicing in their letters to Arthur.18

Although the Greenlee family continued to write to Arthur, they had not received a letter from him since September 30, 1918. He had written a letter on October 18, but his family did not receive it or any letter after that from him and were growing increasingly worried about his fate overseas. On December 16, 1918, after not receiving a letter from Arthur for three months, his father, Henry Greenlee, wrote a letter in which he expressed his deep concern for his son's well being and undying hope to see him again, as he desperately urged him to write back.

Henry writes:

am writing a few lines to day with only a faint hope that you will ever see it as we have not heard from you for so long but if you are spared we certainly would be thankful. remember we are so anxiously waiting to hear yet fearing all the time that it will be bad news we will hear. if we only could hear that you was alive and well. our prayers go up for you. we want you to come back so much and we want you to be a good Christian boy so if we cant meet here we may meet in the sweet bye bye"
Henry Greenlee letter

Letter. Henry Greenlee to Arthur, December 16, 1918.
Greenlee Collection

Henry's reference to "bye bye" meant that if his son were dead he hoped that he had done enough good deeds to earn him a place in heaven or afterlife, as believed by Christians.

On January 15, 1919, roughly a month after Henry sent a sorrowful letter to his son, Arthur replied, writing that he was alive but had not written for a long time due to a severe injury he incurred during the war.

Arthur Greenlee letter

Letter. Arthur Greenlee to Henry Greenlee and family, January 15, 1919.
Greenlee Collection

Arthur writes:

.I am feeling fine, but find it hard work to write lying down with a broken finger, so will have to make my letter short. Was too tired to write that much the other time.

I was wounded on Nov. 1, by a bursting shell. I have a compound fracture of my right thigh, a broken finger, piece of shell in my right arm, one through my right foot, and several small pieces in my face. My face is healed up and there are no scars."


Red Cross Building, U.S. Naval Hospital, Pelham Bay Park, New York.

hospital ward

Interior, U.S. Naval Hospital, Pelham Bay.

Both photos from the Greenlee Collection

Arthur Greenlee

Arthur B. Greenlee when he was first able to go outside at Pelham Bay Hospital.
Greenlee Collection

Arthur also wrote to his girlfriend Doris Poole and informed her that he was alive. He had explained to Poole that he was injured at the end of the war and was sent back to the United States on January 4, 1919. He was in Ward A-31 at the Pelham Bay Naval Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. Arthur had multiple surgeries on his leg and was transferred to another Naval Hospital in Philadelphia for further recovery.
Arthur Greenlee letter

Letter. Arthur Greenlee to Doris Poole, January 1919.
Greenlee Collection

On January 24, 1919, Arthur wrote his family, replying to his sister Rosa's question about what he looked like now. He wrote, "No, Rosa, I guess I don't look like what I used to. You don't suppose I could go through what I have and seen what I have and come back with a smile on my face, do you? I may even have a few grey hairs." 19 Arthur was expressing that he was not the same person he was before going to war, because he experienced both physical and psychological trauma. Many other World War I soldiers experienced psychological trauma, known at the time as "shell shock," which got its term after a soldier had an unusual reaction to the explosion of artillery shells. Symptoms of shell shock, now commonly known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), include panic, nightmares, flashbacks to a traumatic event, and outbursts of anger. Shell shock was initially thought to be a result of brain damage from being hit in the head, but was later recognized as a psychological disorder. There was very little treatment after WWI, as reporting symptoms of shell shock had a stigma or was frowned upon by the public. Soldiers were expected to be "tough" and return to civilian life and work as normal, without any problems.20

Arthur Greenlee postcard

Postcard. Arthur Greenlee to Doris, circa 1919.
Greenlee Collection

Private Greenlee was one of many soldiers who felt compelled to get back to normal working life despite the trauma he experienced during the war. In September 1919, just after his recovery, he returned to the town of Glen White in Raleigh County on crutches. Arthur soon got married to his wartime girlfriend, Doris Poole and he had several jobs working for coal companies. He was later employed with the State Tax Commission, where he rose to chief auditor but retired due to failing health after two years. Greenlee died in 1947.21
Doris Poole

Doris Poole.
Greenlee Collection


Lewis Burrell

Aviator Lewis G. Burrell, 1892-1918.
Charleston's Roll of Honor

Lewis Burrell was born in Harriman, Tennessee, and later moved to West Virginia. In 1914, Burrell graduated from West Virginia University and was employed as an engineer by the Farris Bridge Company in Charleston. 22 When World War I broke out, he enlisted in the Aviation Section of the Army, because there was not an Air Force branch of the military at that time. The Army Air Corps, the precursor of the Air Force, was only beginning in 1917 and did not become official until after the war, 23 as airplanes were a relatively new development only invented by the Wright Brothers in 1903. 24 Burrell was sent to training at Princeton University in May 1917. After completing his training, he was transferred to Rich Field, Waco, Texas. On February 7, 1918, he was killed in trial flight, due to another plane colliding with his in the air. 25

Lewis Bennett Jr.

Lt. Lewis Bennett Jr. and dog beside plane in England, 1918
Goldenseal Collection, West Virginia State Archives

Louis Bennett Jr. was a Weston, West Virginia, native and the son of an affluent family involved in local politics. As a boy, Bennett showed signs of being mechanically inclined and at age 12 he built both a motorcycle and an automobile. Following boyhood, he was accepted into Yale University and had the ambitious goal of being a pilot. While in his sophomore year of college, Bennett learned to fly as a member of the Aero Club of America and the Burgess Company of Massachusetts. He realized that aviation, which was only about 10 years old at the time, could be a factor in the war.26 Bennett's realization of the airplane's military potential and his determination to play an active role in the war inspired him to create the West Virginia Flying Corps. The corps was located in Beech Bottom in the Spring of 1917 and was modeled after the French Lafayette Escadrille.27 Bennett secured the approval of Governor John J. Cornwell for the establishment of the flight school. Governor Cornwell extended a $10,000 grant to finance the project and Bennett received an additional $30,000 in private funds. Bennett had a hanger built to house the JN-4D airplane, known as the "Flying Jenny," which was the most popular plane to train pilots at the time. Additionally, he organized the West Virginia Air Craft Company in Wheeling to produce the JN-4D planes, with the financial backing of his brother-in-law, Johnson Camden McKinley.28 Bennett sought to train 15 West Virginians in Beech Bottom, with the hope that they could fly as a unit to defend their nation in the war. In order to train these men, he enlisted the help of Captain E. A. Kelly of the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC), the predecessor of the Royal Air Force, as well as veteran pilots Frank Stanton and Gustav "Slim" Ekstrom.29 Unfortunately, the War Department in Washington D.C. did not accept the West Virginia Flying Corps as an official military squadron and the U.S. Army Air Corps required every man to go through an additional training period. Airplanes were typically just used for observation and were only starting to be used in combat in the U.S. Army Air Corps, but the Americans were two years behind Germany in aviation technology.30
flying corps

West Virginia Flying Corps facilities at Beech Bottom.


West Virginia Flying Corps plane at Beech Bottom. Both photos from the John J. Cornwell Papers

Bennett letterl

Letter. Louis Bennett Jr. to
Gov. Cornwell, May 9, 1917.

Bennett letterl

Letter. Louis Bennett Jr. to
Gov. Cornwell, July 28, 1917.

Bennett letter

Letter. Louis Bennett Jr. to
Gov. Cornwell, September 9, 1917.

John Jacob Cornwell Papers, Ar1734, West Virginia State Archives

Bennett was extremely frustrated by the decision to not allow his squadron in the Air Corps and enlisted in the British Royal Flying Corps in Toronto, Canada, on October 5, 1917. However, before leaving the U.S., he arranged for the men in the WV Flying Corps to complete the remainder of their flight training with the Princeton Flying Corps in New Jersey.31 Bennett also underwent additional flight training at Camp Talliafero, Texas, which was sponsored by a U.S.-Canadian agreement. He briefly visited his family in Wheeling and his sister, Agra McKinley, Johnson McKinley's wife, gave him a golden locket with a picture of her inside for him to have as a memento. With his family's blessing and aspirations of winning the war against Germany, he set sail for England. After arriving in London on February 25, 1918, he was commissioned lieutenant and was later assigned to No. 40 squadron at Byras, France, on July 21, 1918.32 This squadron was considered one of the most decorated and feared groups in the force. He was assigned to C Flight, a single-seater British S.E. 5a aircraft, which was equipped with a 200 HP Wolsey-Viper engine and two machine guns.33 Bennett established himself as an ace, shooting down three German planes and nine balloons, a wicker basket equipped with wireless communication devices, binoculars, long-range cameras, and an observer whose job was to report front line actions and direct artillery fires against the British.34 On August 24, 1918, he was shot down and killed at the young age of 23, while attacking a German observation balloon.35 Bennett's aircraft was on fire and he managed to jump out of it before the plane burnt up, but his leg was broken and he was badly burned from his waist to his neck.36 A 20-year-old French girl, named Madeline Dallene, who was employed by the Germans as an assistant nursing orderly, recounted helping the doctor dress his wounds after he jumped out of the plane, Bennett died before the doctor had finished. Dallene said that before his death he attempted to speak to her, calling for his parents, as she discovered his sister's locket in his pocket.37

Bennett's squadron commander Major R. J. O Compston wrote a letter to his family to offer his condolences by praising his efforts: "Never have I seen such sterling work done in so short a time. He gave his whole heart to it. We shall miss him here, not for his work, but for himself. . . I recommended him for the Distinguished Flying Cross."38 However, he never received recognition from the U.S., Great Britain, or France, whose governments overlooked his great military achievements and the ultimate sacrifice of his life. Ironically, he was recognized by the German military, receiving the highest tribute by being buried in Wavrin German Military Cemetery with full honors. Deeply disappointed, Bennett's mother sought appropriate military recognition for her son by dedicating numerous memorials in his name both abroad and at home. Some of the memorials dedicated to Louis Bennett abroad include stained glass windows used to honor him and the British Flying Corps in Westminster Abbey in London, the sponsorship of the Louis Bennett Jr. Poem Contest in London, and reconstruction of Saint Martins Church in Wavrin, France. The memorials dedicated to Louis Bennett at home include a Louis Bennett Memorial Library in Weston, an airfield known as Louis Bennett Field in Lewis County, the Louis Bennett League in Weston, and the "Aviator," a statue at Linsly Institute in Wheeling.39
Memorial window

Memorial window at Westminster Abbey. Ms80-150,
West Virginia State Archives

African American Servicemen

Daniel L. Ferguson

William Stewart and Daniel L. Ferguson
Joseph Ferguson Collection

During World War I, African American males enlisted in the military because of a shortage of men volunteering. They felt their participation in the conflict would prove their loyalty, patriotism, and worthiness for equal treatment in the United States, where they had been treated as second-class citizens since their arrival in America. Despite their efforts, African Americans were only permitted to serve in segregated units and were only allowed to join the army, not the marines, navy, or coast guard. While serving in the armed forces, African American men experienced racial discrimination and mistreatment including violence committed by white soldiers and civilians, not being given proper clothing and being forced to eat and sleep outside.40 There were numerous brave African American men from West Virginia, who served in the World War I and several were high ranking officers including Daniel L. Ferguson and Guenette Ferguson. These men's contributions to the war effort were equally as important as that of the white soldiers.

Daniel L. Ferguson

William Stewart and Daniel L. Ferguson saluting
Joseph Ferguson Collection

Daniel L. Ferguson II enlisted in the army as a private in October 30, 1917, in the Engineer's Training Battalion, located at Camp Lee in Virginia. Shortly after arriving at Camp Lee, Ferguson was subjected to prejudice and discrimination and took the matter up with the Washington authorities, which resulted in his transfer. Not only did Ferguson stand up to oppression, but he set a precedence for other African American soldiers to became vocal about mistreatment. His outspokenness and the other men's threats to transfer afforded African Americans better treatment at Camp Lee. Ferguson was promoted to corporal after being transferred to Camp Grant, Illinois., where his brother, Captain G. E. Ferguson, was in command of Company M., 365th African American (Negro) Infantry. He was assigned to Company F of the same regiment and later transferred to Fourth Officers Training School at Camp Dodge in Iowa. Ferguson qualified for Machine Gun Training School and was sent to Camp Hancock, Georgia, where he was trained and received his certificate as instructor. On September 15, 1918, he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant and graduated with honors at the head of his class, with the highest general average in work and theory. He was put in command of 84th Company, 7th Group, M. T. D., which position he held until he was discharged from the service on January 6, 1919. Ferguson returned to West Virginia Collegiate Institute, now West Virginia State University, and he resumed his work there as chair of Economics and Sociology. He also served as Dean of College, as well as Professor of Sociology in the Collegiate Institute and Special Extension Agent for both the Institute and West Virginia University.41
Daniel L. Ferguson

Daniel L. Ferguson
History of the American Negro, West Virginia Edition

Guenette Ferguson, a native of Edgewater, West Virginia, and the brother of Daniel Ferguson, volunteered for World War I and went to the officers' training camp at Des Moines. He was commissioned as captain and sent to Camp Grant, where he trained Company M., 365th (Negro) Infantry. His command went overseas, but Captain Ferguson remained in America to defend some African American soldiers who were involved in a grave charge. His conduct of the case won for him the commendation of General Martin. Ferguson later went to France on a transport carrying 1,700 men. He was the ranking officer on board and was in command of the troops, which was significant, as he was the only African American officer who commanded a transport. After he was discharged from the service, he returned to Charleston to live and developed a plan for a modern hotel with a movie theater, cafe, pool room, barber shop, and convention hall, known as the Ferguson Hotel, which was built on Washington Street.42
Ferguson brothers
Ferguson brothers

The Ferguson brothers in uniform, circa 1918.
Joseph Ferguson Collection

Interviews with two World War I veterans from "West Virginians in War," West Virginia Public Broadcasting


Many doctors from West Virginia served in the army, navy, and the National Guard. Noteworthy doctors include Timothy Lawrence Barber and Hoddie Wilbur Daniels. In addition, numerous African American doctors volunteered for the Medical Reserve Corps, but only a few were called into service such as James M. Whittico.

Timothy Barber

Capt. Timothy L. Barber, 1888-1918.
Charleston's Roll of Honor

Timothy Lawrence Barber was a physician and surgeon in Charleston, and also the son of T.L. Barber, who established the Barber Hospital. When the U.S. entered World War I, the younger Barber organized an ambulance unit made up of men from Charleston, which was sent to Camp Fort Meade in Maryland. In July of 1918, he was transferred from the ambulance unit and sent to serve as a surgeon for the Second Battalion of the 313th Infantry in France, where he earned his title as captain. A few months later, Captain Barber and his regiment were sent out to locate an advance Red Cross Relief Station and came upon an abandoned mine crater, which had been camouflaged by the Germans. Captain Barber entered the crater and a bad explosion occurred. He suffered severe burns and although taken to a hospital, he died a few days later, on October 10, 1918. Four days before he died, Barber wrote a heartrending letter to his mother in which he explained his experience in the army with the dreadful living conditions, as well as the death and destruction he saw around him.

Barber writes:

Have been on the firing line a week and it was like a lifetime in hell! It was one of the worst and bloodiest battles of the war, and why or how I came through it is more than I can tell.

We have been going from one hill and woods to another ever since being relieved:sleeping in the rain and on the hillsides:no baggage, dirty, no water to wash in and very little to drink, marching 10 to 20 miles every night, the men all tired from the six days of continuous fighting. My mother, you cannot imagine what a terrible life this is! I am 10 years older already, and have seen all my friends and comrades blown to pieces beside me. The suffering has been great. We lost about 45 or 50 percent of our regiment."43

Barber's letter gives some insight of what war life was like and the hardships he and other soldiers had to face. It is a tragedy that Barber died just four days after this letter was written. His letter is an important piece of history that paints a picture of the poor living conditions and psychological trauma the soldiers endured on a day to day basis.

Hoddie Daniels

Hoddie Wilbur Daniels
West Virginia Veterans Memorial Archives, West Virginia State Archives

Hoddie Wilbur Daniels was a physician in Elkins and was a health officer for the city council. On July 28, 1917, Daniels enlisted in the army and left for officer's training camp on August 5. He was transferred to the regular Army, 38th Infantry, 3rd Division, roughly a month later. On March 25, 1918, he sailed to France and once he arrived he was made captain, as he was in charge of the hospital corps. He remained in France until his death on July 19, in which he was killed by a sniper. During the fighting, north of Chateau Thierry, Captain Daniels, a corporal, and eight privates, attempted to provide medical aid to a group of forty captured and wounded Americans who were being guarded behind an embankment by fourteen Germans. A correspondent of the New York Times, Edwin L. James, wrote on July 22, 1918, that Captain Daniels ".crawled on his hands and knees with his squad past our front line down into a deep ditch and drew near the Germans and the wounded captives. Crawling close to the group the Captain stepped boldly into the open and demanded the surrender of the wounded Americans." The Americans fired at the Germans, killing eight, while the other six surrendered. When Captain Daniels got back to the hospital, he discovered that two of his men in the regiment had not returned and went to find them. While on this mission, he was shot and killed.44

James M. Whittico, a native of Williamson, was called into service after volunteering for the Medical Reserve Corps during World War I. Whittico trained at Des Moines, Iowa in August 1917, where he was commissioned as First Lieutenant. In November 1917, he was stationed at Camp Meade, Maryland, as a member of the medical detachment for the 368th Infantry, an African American regiment of the 92nd Division of the army. Whittico was at Camp Meade for six months until he was transferred to France, where he continued to serve as a surgeon for the 368th Infantry. While in France, he participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in which his regiment was chosen to be the first to fight the Germans. His regiment had only been fighting in the trenches for a month when they were selected for the offensive and as result of their inexperience, 42 men were killed and 16 died from wounds, while 200 were injured.45 Fortunately, Whittico survived and was one of the doctors who tended to the injured soldiers. James Whittico

James M. Whittico
History of the American Negro, West Virginia Edition

After the war ended, he returned home to Williamson and took up his own practice. Years after the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud, he was the physician for the Hatfield family, despite initial racial tension that occurred at the beginning.46 This story shows the apprehension one of the Hatfields felt towards Dr. Whittico delivering his wife's baby:

. . . the white doctor could not be found. Some of the Hatfield sons summoned Dr. Whittico, the only doctor in town. . . old man Hatfield was sitting on the porch. He was upset when he saw that the doctor was black and insisted that he wasn't about to let no black doctor touch his wife. the boys tied the old man to the tree.they then untied the father to see the baby."47

Dr. Whittico and the Hatfields became close friends after he delivered their baby and he won the respect of everyone in the community. He later opened the Whittico Drug Store on East Third Avenue in Williamson. Whittico also helped establish the first local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).48


Lovie Rose

Lucinda Lovie Rose, West Virginia
Veterans Memorial Archives

Nurses from West Virginia who served in World War I included Lucinda "Lovie" Rose, Alice M. Young, and Charlotte A. Cox. Lucinda Rose, known by her middle name Lovie, was from Doddridge County and completed her nursing studies at St. Mary's Hospital in Clarksburg. Rose had served at Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg, South Carolina and in April of 1918, she volunteered for oversees service as a Red Cross nurse.49 The Red Cross enrolled many nurses, nurse aides and ambulance drivers to service the American Armed Forces, allied military forces, American and allied prisoners of war, civilian victims of war, and children. Nurses in the Red Cross were to aid orphans, work in hospitals, and on the front lines of battles.50 Rose was on a ship destined for France, when she became ill with influenza, which was pandemic at the time. She died upon reaching Portsmouth, England, on October 9, 1918.51 A tribute was made to Rose in England as well as in West Virginia by Governor William G. Conley in 1930 and the Lucinda Rose Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Affairs was created.52

The other two nurses were not volunteer Red Cross nurses but were employed by the Army or Navy Nursing Corps. Alice M. Young was an army nurse from Wheeling. In October of 1918, Young become ill with influenza pneumonia while at Camp Sevier in South Carolina and died.53 Charlotte A. Cox was from Martinsburg and also served as an army nurse. Cox died while serving at the 42nd Base Hospital in France on September 18, 1918 and her cause of death is unknown.54 Red Cross nurses

Red Cross nurses at parade in Parsons, July 4, 1918. Jane Barb Collection


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53. "Obituary: Body of Miss Young Arrives." Wheeling Intelligencer, 7 October 1918.
54. "Miss Cox Has Made Supreme Sacrifice." Martinsburg Journal, October 9, 1918.

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