Noted Missourians of the First World War


Gen. John J. Pershing

Missouri Heroes and Heroines of the First World War

Distinguished Missourians in the First World War

St. Louis WWI Dead 

Missourians in the First World War (Main WWI page)

Gen. John J. Pershing

Gen. John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing, of Laclede, Missouri. "He was not the 'bright boy in school. Mythmakers have already begun to weave some strange webs over his early experiences. He was an average lad. He had the failings and the 'scraps' of the ordinary lad raised in the country town.  One thing said of him was that 'he always stuck to his task.'  'Johnny' Pershing had a lot of grit."   "...He was a broad-shouldered, strapping 6-footer.  This man came to St. Louis and got his start in this city.  He married near Warrenton, and made his home between Laclede and Meadville.  His home was more like a shanty than a palace.  In this rather uncouth home, made snug and comfortable by the young wife, John Pershing, was born.  It was on September 13, 1860..."  "Pershing's father, a general storekeeper in the town of Laclede.." Pershing's parents were very devout Christians, "The elder Pershing being the secretary of the committee which erected the Methodist Episcopal Church in the town. He was also a Sunday-school superintendent..." "Young Pershing worked hard.  He helped his father in his work and on the farm.  He studied and prepared himself to be a teacher.  At 18 years of age he taught the public school of Prairie Mound.  He thought of being a lawyer and later won a law degree.  He attended two terms at the Kirksville Normal School.  Through the kindness of a Missouri congressman and his own industrious efforts he got an appointment to West Point.  He passed his examination in 1882.  He was successful at West Point.  After finishing there he fought Indians in the West, Spainards in Cuba and the Moros in the Phillippine Islands.  In the latter place he had some thrilling experiences and some narrow escapes, but luck was with him.  He gave his best to every job and the characteristic noticeable as a lad on the streets of Laclede was always manifest. He always stuck and finished the job."--Rev. Dr. Benjamin Young, 1921, Centennial History of Missouri.

Pershing, "The Coolest Man Under Fire":  A sister suggest the try out in the competitive examination for West Point.  She objected to the military career but John told her there "would not be a gun fired for 100 years."  It is tradition that while the boy of seventeen was teaching school he whipped an angry man who came to resent the punishment of his son.  After service with Miles in the Apache war, Pershing got back to his early vocation of teaching.  He was an instructor at West Point.  In the charge up San Juan at the Battle of Santiago, Pershing led a Negro regiment.  General Baldwin said of him, "Pershing was the coolest man under fire I ever saw."

     The taking of the St. Mihiel salient was Pershing's own plan.  But it was only part of the plan.  Pershing was confident that he would push forward and take Metz, the door from Germany through which had come the armies which had overrun Northern France.  Pershing planned to take Metz with American troops.  Foch ruled against this.  Pershing was obliged to stop after wiping out the St. Mihiel salient with the capture of 16,000 prisoners, 443 guns, and the liberation of 240 square miles of French territory.  After the St. Mihiel success, Pershing was more confident than ever that he could go on to Metz, but the plans of Foch called for offensive "wherever the driving was good", as he said, and that was, in his decision, a smashing act for the Americans at the Argonne-Meuse.  Under the orders of Foch the Americans were pulled away from the St. Mihiel and rushed to the Argonne-Meuse attack." (p. 920 Centennial History of Missouri, by Walter B. Stevens, 1921, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., St. Louis, Mo. 1921.)

See also, Pershing Career Factsheet

and "THE CHARACTER OF JOHN J. PERSHING" Excerpted from; Chapter III, Until the Last Trumpet Sounds by Gene Smith.


Missouri Heroes and Heroines of the First World War


Charles D. Barger: Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company L, 354th Infantry, 89th Division. Place and date: Near Bois-deBantheville, France, 31 October 1918. Entered service at: Stotts City, Mo. Birth: Mount Vernon, Mo. G.O. No.: 20, W.D., 1919. Citation: Learning that 2 daylight patrols had
been caught out in No Man's Land and were unable to return, Pfc. Barger and another stretcher bearer upon their own initiative made 2 trips 500 yards beyond our lines, under constant machinegun fire, and rescued 2 wounded officers.

John L. Barkley: Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company K, 4th Infantry, 3d Division. Place and date: Near Cunel, France, 7 October 1918. Entered service at: Blairstown, Mo. Born: 28 August 1895 Blairstown, Mo. G.O. No.: 44, W.D., 1919. Citation: Pfc. Barkley, who was stationed in an
observation post half a kilometer from the German line, on his own initiative repaired a captured enemy machinegun and mounted it in a disabled French tank near his post. Shortly afterward, when the enemy launched a counterattack against our forces, Pfc. Barkley got into the tank, waited under the hostile barrage until the enemy line was abreast of him and then opened fire, completely breaking up the counterattack and killing and wounding a large number of the enemy. Five minutes later an enemy 77-millimeter gun opened fire on the tank pointblank. One shell struck the drive wheel of the tank, but this soldier nevertheless remained in the tank and after the barrage ceased broke up a second enemy counterattack, thereby enabling our forces to gain and hold Hill 25.

Helen J. Day, St. Louis. A Red Cross nurse cited for bravery by Gen. Pershing. Saved wounded soldiers from a evacuation hospital that was being bombarded by German shells.

Michael B. Ellis: Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 28th Infantry, 1st Division. Place and date: Near Exermont, France, 5 October 1918. Entered service at: East St. Louis, Ill. Born: 28 October 1894, St. Louis, Mo. G.O. No.: 74, W.D., 1919. Citation: During the entire day's engagement he operated far in advance of the first wave of his company, voluntarily undertaking most dangerous missions and single-handedly attacking and reducing machinegun nests. Flanking one emplacement, he killed 2 of the enemy with rifle fire and captured 17 others. Later he single-handedly advanced under heavy fire and captured 27 prisoners, including 2 officers and 6 machineguns, which had been holding up the advance of the company. The
captured officers indicated the locations of 4 other machineguns, and he in turn captured these, together with their crews, at all times showing marked heroism and fearlessness.

Arthur J. Forrest: Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company D, 354th Infantry, 89th Division. Place and date: Near Remonville, France, 1 November 1918. Entered service at: Hannibal, Mo . Birth: St. Louis, Mo. G.O. No.: 50, W.D., 1919. Citation: When the advance of his company was stopped by bursts of fire from a nest of 6 enemy machineguns, without being discovered, he worked his way single-handed to a point within 50 yards of the machinegun nest. Charging, single-handed, he drove out the enemy in disorder, thereby protecting the advance platoon from annihilating fire, and permitting the resumption of the advance of his company.

Jack Fleming, a Missourian of the 138th Infantry. Saved his comrades. "A live grenade had fallen among five soldiers, but because of irregularities of the trench he [Fleming] could not reach it before it burst.  He thrust his foot on it, thereby saving his companions from death or injury, but causing wounds that necessitated amputation of the foot."

Jesse N. Funk: Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company L, 354th Infantry, 89th Division. Place and date: Near Bois-deBantheville, France, 31 October 1918. Entered service at. Calhan, Colo. Born: 20 August 1888, New Hampton, Mo. G.O. No.: 20, W.D., 1919. Citation: Learning that 2 daylight patrols had been caught out in No Man's Land and were unable to return, Pfc. Funk and another stretcher bearer, upon their own initiative, made 2 trips 500 yards beyond our lines, under constant machinegun fire, and rescued 2 wounded officers.

Sammy Goldberg, St. Louis. A private who received the distinguished cross for action near Cheppy, France.

Waldo M. Hatler: Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company B, 356th Infantry, 89th Division. Place and date: Near Pouilly, France, 8 November 1918. Entered service at: Neosho, Mo. Born: 6 January 1894, Bolivar, Mo. G.O. No.: 74, W.D., 1919. Citation: When volunteers were called for to secure information as to the enemy's position on the opposite bank of the Meuse River, Sgt. Hatler was the first to offer his services for this dangerous mission. Swimming across the river, he succeeded in reaching the German lines, after another soldier, who had started with him, had been seized with cramps and drowned in midstream. Alone he carefully and courageously reconnoitered the enemy's positions, which were held in force, and again successfully swam the river, bringing back information of great value.

Charles Chouteau Johnson, Captain of the Lafayette Escadrille fighter squadron. One of four survivors, recipient of the French cross. Descendant of the founding Chouteau family of St. Louis.

Clay C. MacDonald, Sixty-one year old Army Major from the "Platte Purchase" region of Missouri. While assigned to non-combatant duties, after his son (Lt. Donald Malcolm MacDonald) was killed, MacDonald asked to be assigned to a battalion at the Battle of Argonne. At the end of the battle, three of the commanding officers were killed, but Clay MacDonald emerged in "mud-crusted overcoat, slit and torn by machine gun bullets, bearing witness to the nature of the fighting into which he went" through.

John Henry "Gatling Gun" Parker, Colonel, a native of California, Mo. Was an expert machine gunner in the Spanish American war. In France, Col. Parker  would fearlessly ride up and down the line, setting the example for his men. His coolness under fire "restored normal morale" even in the shallowest of trenches. After being severely wounded, he cited for his bravery.

John H. Quick, St. Louis. Sergeant-Major in the Marine Corps. Recipient of distinguished cross for his actions at Chateau Thierry.

Fred A. Renick, of St. Louis, was a recipient of the American distinguished cross and the French cross de guerre. He received nine wounds, lost an arm and deafness. 

James E. Rieger, Lt. Col., of Kirksville. 138th Infantry. Known as the "hero of the Argonne". "Rieger with his battalion made a frontal attack on the heights of Vauquois, capturing this almost impregnable position in forty minutes. Reorganizing his battalion, he pushed forward, and on the evening of September 27, without regard for his own safety, personally led the charge into Charpentry with such speed and dash that a large body of the enemy was cut off and captured.  This advance required wading through Aire river, passing through an artillery barrage and heavy machine gun fire. He participated in every advance, encouraging the men by words and deeds.  Col. Rieger and his battalion captured the foremost point reached by the 35th Division.  Unexcelled in soldierly qualities, admired and respected by his fellow officers and loved by the men with whom he fought, this officer has set a high example of leadership." (p. 900 Centennial History of Missouri, by Walter B. Stevens, 1921, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., St. Louis, Mo. 1921.)

Carl Ristine, of Joplin, Mo. Lt. Col. and former captain of the University of Missouri football team. "Led fifty of his men thorugh the ranks of another regiment and charged and killed the machine gunners who had halted the American advance.  He went ahead into the German lines, put on a German overcoat and helmet, and proceeded to locate stores of ammunition so that he was able to indicate the positions when he got back to his own line in the early morning. The information was given to the artillery and the ammunition dumps, with half a dozen gun positions, were blown up, and the way for the further advance was cleared." (p. 909 Centennial History of Missouri, by Walter B. Stevens, 1921, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., St. Louis, Mo. 1921.)

Harold L. Turner: Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Company F, 142d Infantry, 36th Division. Place and date: Near St. Etienne, France, 8 October 1918. Entered service at: Seminole, Okla. Born: 5 May 1898, Aurora, Mo. G.O. No.: 59, W.D., 1919. Citation: After his platoon had started the attack Cpl. Turner assisted in organizing a platoon consisting of the battalion scouts, runners, and a detachment of Signal Corps. As second in command of this platoon he fearlessly led them forward through heavy enemy fire, continually encouraging the men. Later he encountered deadly machinegun fire which reduced the strength of his command to but 4 men, and these were obliged to take shelter. The enemy machinegun emplacement, 25 yards distant, kept up a continual fire from 4 machineguns. After the fire had shifted momentarily, Cpl. Turner rushed forward with fixed bayonet and charged the position alone capturing the strong point with a complement of 50 Germans and 1 machineguns. His remarkable display of courage and fearlessness was instrumental in destroying the strong point, the fire from which had blocked the advance of his company.

Alexander R. Skinker: Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, 138th Infantry, 35th Division. Place and date: At Cheppy, France, 26 September 1918. Entered service at: St. Louis, Mo. Birth: St. Louis, Mo. G.O. No.: 13, W.D., 1919. Citation: Unwilling to sacrifice his men when his company was held up by terrific
machinegun fire from iron pill boxes in the Hindenburg Line, Capt. Skinker personally led an automatic rifleman and a carrier in an attack on the machineguns. The carrier was killed instantly, but Capt. Skinker seized the
ammunition and continued through an opening in the barbed wire, feeding the automatic rifle until he, too, was killed.

Distinguished Missourians of the First World War 

3) Harry S. Truman, President of the United States. Captain Battery D, 129th Field Artillery. See excellent article, "Capt. Harry Truman Artilleryman and Future President", by William J.Gilwee, of the Great War Society.

2) Walt Elias Disney, cartoonist, founder of Walt Disney pictures and theme parks. Resided in Marceline and Kansas City, Missouri. While Disney was too young to enlist as a soldier, this did not stop him from going to France and enlisting with the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. His ambulance was covered from stem to stern, not with stock camouflage, but with Disney cartoons.

3) Gen. Enoch Herbert Crowder, Judge Advocate/Provost Marshal of U.S. Army.  Born in Edinburgh, Missouri (five miles west of Trenton)

4) Gen. Omar N. Bradley, famous World War II general.  While he did not see action or go to France during World War I but was a Brig. General in the U.S. Army during this time period. During World War II, Bradley followed in the tradition of Gen. John J. Pershing  by maintaning control of U.S. forces, rather than have them broken up and distributed among the allies.

5) Admiral Robert "Bob" E. Cootnz, Chief of Operations, Puget Sound Navy Yard.  Native of Hannibal, Mo.

6)  Rear Admiral Leigh Carlyle Palmer, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, U.S. Navy.  Native of St. Louis, Mo. Responsible for enlisting 250,000 men into the Navy for the war.

7) David R. Francis, Ambassador to Russia. Former Governor of Missouri and Mayor of St. Louis. Kept the U.S. embassy open through the Bolshevik revolution, even challenging a communist mob that he would kill the first man that steps on U.S. territory of the embassy.

8) William H. Danforth, St. Louis. President of Ralston Purina, served with the YMCA in France, distributed supplies, to the soldiers and care of the wounded. In the summer of 1918, worked  under fire reaching soldiers cut off from communication with the Army supply depots.

9) George C. Davison, of Jefferson City. Invented the depth bomb (charge) that carried terror to German submarine crews. Davison also invented an "airplane rifle" which was also used during the war.

10) A.A. Kellogg, of Clinton.  Invented the "instantaneous detonator for shell" . This replaced fuses, and was more effective on German wire, trenches, or fortifications since it caused the shell to explode on impact.

11) L. J. Lambert, of St. Louis. Colonel. Invented a portable footbridge which consisted of canvas floats stretched over a wooden frame. This was successfully utilized in the hasty crossing of the Meuse river.

12) Julien A. Gehrung, of St. Louis. Lieutenant.  Invented an effective medical treatment for poison gas. Saved thousands of lives and "restored sight and hearing for many more."

13) Commander Joseph K. Taussig, of St. Louis, commanded the first flotilla of American destroyers to European waters.

14) Brig. Gen. Edgar Russell, of Pleasant Hill, Mo. served as the "Chief Signal Officer" of the U.S. forces in France.

15) Miss Cornelia Brossard, of Kirkwood, Mo. A volunteer teacher that taught (without compensation) French language to Red Cross nurses (Barnes Hospital)  and to soldiers at Jefferson Barracks . Was decorated by the French government.

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