Quentin Schillare | Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
April 2017 marks the centennial of the United States’ entry into what British author H.G. Wells called “The War to End War.” Through November 2018, the Army will commemorate its participation in that conflict and its role in making the United States a military power.
For the Army, 20 months of preparation, deployment, combat, redeployment and demobilization is not such a long time when compared to participation in World War II or more recent conflicts in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the lessons learned as the Army expanded from a small constabulary and coast defense force to a mobilized giant of more than 4.7 million men and women paid dividends 20 years later.
More soldiers are memorialized in streets, buildings and locations on Fort Leavenworth from World War I than from other American wars. Forty-five officers who served overseas and stateside have their names on the land. The Civil War, a much more important milestone in the nation’s history, is remembered in places named for 38 officers and noncommissioned officers.
There are several reasons for the large number of World War I namesakes. The 53,402 combat deaths and 117,465 deaths from all causes was the largest since the Civil War, and the Army suffered the most. Those who survived were their classmates, friends, and comrades of those lost and they wanted to remember. The Army building boom following the war with Spain also provided a lot of opportunities for commemoration. The individual buildings and streets associated with Artillery and Infantry Barracks awaited names.
All wars are fought by two generations — the old timers, those leaders at senior command and staff levels, and the young bucks of the next generation at company and lower field grade levels on their way up. The former recognized on Fort Leavenworth include Charles H. Barth, Robert Lee Bullard, Joseph T. Dickman, James G. Harbord, Edward L. King, John Pershing, Hunter Liggett and Eben Swift. Some of the names are familiar to students of military history while the others remain obscure although they commanded brigades, divisions, corps, and armies in combat on the Western Front and later on occupation duty in Germany and in Italy.
The latter category has more recognizable names, probably because they are nearer to us in time and achieved renown in World War II — William M. Hoge, George S. Patton, George C. Marshall, Joseph W. Stilwell, Charles Pelot Summerall, Jonathan M. Wainwright and Walton H. Walker. They served overseas in staff and combat leadership positions.
They are joined by a group of officers who did not serve overseas in World War I and remind us that much of combat experience is as a target, and that competent command and staff leadership on the home front is still career building and necessary, including Omar N. Bradley, Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., Dwight D. Eisenhower, Edmond L. Gruber and Edward L. Munson.
Page 2 of 2 - Of those local namesakes who served in the war, six were killed in action or died of wounds. Lt. Col. John M. Craig was the executive officer of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division, when killed in action on July 21, 1918. Lt. Col. Robert J. Maxey commanded the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division, when mortally wounded on May 14, 1918. Lt. Col. Emory J. Pike commanded the 321st Machine Gun Battalion, 82nd Division, when wounded on Sept. 14, 1918. Col. William D. Davis was killed in action while commanding the 361st Infantry Regiment, 91st Division on Nov. 1, 1918. Col. Hamilton A. Smith was killed in action on July 22, 1918, while in command of the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division. Brig. Gen. Edward Sigerfoos died on Oct. 6, 1918, of wounds suffered while in command of the 56th Infantry Brigade, 28th Division. He was the most senior Army officer killed in action in World War I. Four are remembered as the namesakes for Infantry Barracks buildings and two for Artillery Barracks buildings on post. All served at Fort Leavenworth.
The Army did not wait long to commemorate these soldiers. On Sept. 27, 1921, General Service Schools general order 66 memorialized these six soldiers from the Great War along with four from the war with Spain, seven from the Philippine War, two from actions in Mexico and one from the Indian campaigns. The building names remain to this day. As the Army commemorates World War I, look around — there are many reminders of that conflict on Fort Leavenworth.