Sons of Men - Evansville's War Record
Gold Star Biographies
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|Pvt. Douglas Viele
First Officer's Training School, Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana
April 21, 1891 - July 7, 1917
Douglas Viele, the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward N. Viele, did not have the opportunity to serve on the battlefields of France, but, with his noble character, intrepid courage, and devoted loyalty, is there any doubt that he would have reflected glory, both on him- self and his community? He was born April 21, 1891, of one of the oldest families in Evansville. Reared in a home of culture, Douglas Viele had a splendid education. After attending the local high school, he entered Holderness School, Plymouth, New Hampshire, in 1908; the year following, he was graduated from the Princeton Preparatory School in Princeton, New Jersey. He then entered Purdue University and in 1914 he graduated with honors. After an European tour, he returned to Evansville, Indiana, and was associated with his father in the wholesale brokerage business. His pleasing personality and lovable disposition gained him many friends. As a student, he became a member of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. He was a member of the St. Paul's Episcopal Church, and also a member of the Country and Crescent Clubs. Throughout his life he cherished the ambition of aiding his country. He wanted to be a soldier. While in Purdue University, he was First Lieutenant, and later, made Captain of the Purdue Cadets. He held this rank for two years. His military training gained him ad- mission to the Scabbard and Blade, an organization composed of men holding commissions in the cadet corps of various colleges and universities in the country. In 1915 he attended the training camp at Fort Sheridan; in 1916 he also attended the famous military training camp in Plattsburg, N.Y. He was the only local man taking that course. When America entered the war, Douglas Viele was one of the first to offer his services to his country. Before going to the training camp, he helped drill the Evansville Service Corps. He entered the officers' reserve camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison, and would have received a commission as Captain. He was taken ill early in the morning while in line waiting for military inspection, and then asked permission to go to his barracks. Two hours later he was found unconscious by his college roommate, Carter Logan. After a week's illness of Cerebral Spinal Meningitis, he died in the Camp Hospital at Fort Benjamin Harrison. Douglas Viele was buried with full military honors. A firing squad of nine men was sent from Fort Harrison to accompany the body to Evansville. The funeral was held in St. Paul's Episcopal Church; the burial followed in Oak Hill Cemetery, where the squad fired the last volley and taps were sounded over the flag-draped casket. The following worthy tribute to this splendid soldier was given at the funeral services by Rev. A. L. Murray: "To lay down one's life for others is enough in itself to immortalize a man; but when this young man laid down his life for his country, he gave a magnificent physique, a clean and trained mind, and a manly religious spirit, a spirit that was the esteem and affection of his comrades, who discovered him to be the whitest kind of a man. With a true soldier's spirit of uncomplaining devotion, he made rapid advancement. He was born to lead. We expected him to receive further orders of advancement, and he has, but not in the way his friends expected. God accepted his self-offering and called him to a higher service and commissioned him for a ministry whereby the good work begun in him will continue. He has been privileged to make the great adventure. To be worthy of fellowship with those who by consecration to the world's great cause give themselves thus willingly, we must our- selves be heroes, and at this hour strike the glory of the passing of a man who has not failed to interpret life with a splendid sense of God and a faithful service to human need." Douglas Viele was the first Evansville soldier who died while in service. On Decoration Day of 1919, his memory was honored by an impressive ceremony, and a fitting memorial arranged by the Board of the Rathbone Memorial Home. Prominent citizens of Evansville, and several of his comrades in arms, participated in the dedication of a bronze memorial tablet. The inscription on the tablet reads: "To the Memory of Douglas Viele, the First Evansville Soldier who Died in the Service of His Country in the Great War. July 7th, 1917 born April 21st, 1891." This tablet marks the Victory Oak Tree on the lawn of the Rathbone Memorial Home. _____ Sons of Men: Evansville's War Record, Compiled by Heiman Blatt, Published by Abe P. Madison, 1920 pp177-179.
October 25, 1998