The Arlington County War Memorial at 3140 Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon is comprised of plaques with the names of men and women who gave their lives in service to their country during times of military conflict. The first plaque commemorates thirteen soldiers and sailors from Arlington County who died in World War I. Additional plaques now include the names of Arlington’s dead from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and most recently those who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every year the living remember the dead here.
But who were the men whose names were first memorialized for their sacrifice? As the world remembers the one hundred year anniversary of the start of World War I, the Arlington Historical Society began research to uncover who these thirteen men were. Some remain a mystery, others have left a legacy that we can share here. On July 12, 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri destroyed approximately 16-18 million official military personnel files. This affected eighty percent of U.S. Army personnel discharged between 1912 and 1960. No duplicates of these records were maintained. If any reader has any information about any of these men, please contact the Arlington Historical Society so that more about their short lives can be made known.
World War I started for the rest of the world in the summer of 1914. Despite efforts to remain neutral, the US entered the war in April 1917. The American Expeditionary Force led by General John Pershing, began reaching Europe in July of that same year. Thirteen months later, fighting ended on November 11, 1918 on what is now known as Armistice or Veterans Day. Of the more than four million U.S. personnel sent to Europe, 116, 708 American lives were lost; 53,402 were battle deaths but more than half, 63,114, were non combat deaths included training accidents and the Spanish flu.
Our thirteen young men reflect these numbers. The causes of their deaths are not all known, but of those for whom information is available, four died from illness – disease or the Spanish flu – and one died in an apparent training accident. There is an eyewitness account of one heroic death in battle but the circumstances of remaining five deaths are, as yet, unknown. At least nine of the thirteen are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The commemorative plaque, itself, provides few clues. Eleven of the men were white. Two men were labeled on the 1931 plaque, in the vernacular of the day, as “colored.” Three were Navy men; the remaining ten were Army. Among them was an engineer, an aviator, and one was in a field artillery unit. Here are their biographies, their lives cut short by war and the details of each are now incomplete due to the passage of time.
HENRY GRAFTON SMALLWOOD
The first Arlington resident to die during the war was Henry Grafton Smallwood. He was born on May 21, 1895 in Bluemont, Virginia. He was the 5th child and first son of six children born to Henry Lee and Ida May Smallwood. His father was a farm laborer.
In early census records, he is listed as Grafton but as he aged, he made himself known as Henry with the middle initial G. He became a carpenter and lived in Clarendon. He was not married. He described himself as being of medium build with auburn hair and blue eyes. He enlisted in the army on June 5, 1917, soon after war was declared. He was in Supply Company 313, of the Infantry.
Private Henry G. Smallwood died on December 31, 1917 while in training at Camp Lee, in Petersburg, Virginia. He is buried at the Ebenezer Baptist Church Cemetery, Bluemont, Virginia near his parents and other family members.
HARRY EMORY VERMILLION
The second man to lose his life was twenty-seven year old Harry E. Vermillion, on March 15, 1918. Harry Emory Vermillion was born on October 23, 1890 in Washington, D.C. The federal census in 1900 revealed that at that time he lived at 1696 Columbia Road in Washington D.C. and according to the next census, he was still living there 10 years later with his father and family but his mother, Lillian, was no longer living in the household. It is likely that she died possibly because she gave birth in quick succession to four boys. In that era, childbearing was a leading cause of death for women. The census also recorded that, Harry’s father, Charles, was a carpenter and the family had a live-in housekeeper. We can assess from this that Harry’s father made a good living and that the family was middle class.
Seven years later when Harry filled out his draft registration card on June 5, 1917, he was living in Cherrydale. He described himself as tall and slender with blue eyes and dark brown hair. He worked as a mechanic in the Signal Corps Laboratory in Washington which helped develop wireless radio communications and was a predecessor of today’s Naval Research Lab.
According to the Washington Post, Harry E. Vermillion departed for Camp Lee, near Petersburg, Virginia with twenty-eight other draftees on November 1, 1917 at 12:16 in the afternoon. U.S. Army records show that most of his unit consisted of men from the Shenandoah Valley and Tidewater area. Private Vermillion died at Camp Lee on Friday, March 15, 1918 at 27 years of age. He was in E Company, 318th Regiment, 80th Division of the U.S. Infantry. His division, known as the “Blue Ridge Division,” began leaving Camp Lee for Europe on May 17, 1918 without him.
The cause of Harry’s death is unknown. However, according to the personal account by a newly married wife visiting her husband at Camp Lee, she described conditions in the camp as “miserable.” Recent research on the effects of the influenza pandemic on troops in World War I, stated that 77 percent of deaths from influenza and pneumonia at Camp Lee were among men with less than three months in service. It is possible that Harry died of a training accident, but it is much more likely that he died of the “Spanish Flu.”
The name, “Spanish flu” is misleading. To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States, but newspapers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain. This created the false perception that Spain was the source of the flu, hence this pandemic became known as the Spanish flu. Flu outbreaks usually effect the young, elderly, or already weakened patients, but the 1918 pandemic predominantly killed previously healthy young adults – including troops. Military training camps were natural concentrations of likely patients whose immune systems, compromised by poor food and over exertion soon became breeding grounds for the flu.
Harry’s funeral was held the Monday after his death at Epiphany Church in Cherrydale. His father was not the only mourner. According to a local newspaper account, “A large and sorrowful crowd gathered at the church.” On the flag-draped casket was a guitar and the newspaper noted that “no more on earth would they hear him play.” Harry was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
EDWARD J. SMITH
The next Arlington boy to lose his life was Edward J. Smith. He died on the night of May 25, 1918. As with others, there is little available information about Edward. He was a private in Battery A, in the 110th Field Artillery Division. According to Army records, the 100th Field Artillery Division was composed of National Guard units from the District of Columbia. He died at 22 years of age on the night of May 25-26, 1918 at Camp McClellan, Alabama. The cause of Edward’s death was listed on the death certificate as “disease or other cause.” He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Camp McClellan, where Edward was based, was one of 31 camps formed to quickly train men to fight in World War I. It is likely that the same poor conditions that may have exposed Harry Vermillion to the deadly flu also existed at Camp McClellan. The camp consisted of hastily built wooden buildings for headquarters, mess halls, latrines, and showers, with rows of wooden-floored tents to house the troops. The first troops arrived in late August 1917; by October there were more than 27,000 men from units in New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia training at the camp.
OSCAR LLOYD HOUSEL
Captain Oscar L. Housel was the fourth Arlingtonian to fall in service to his country. Oscar Lloyd Housel was born on July 5, 1877 in Galesburg, Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois where he majored in mechanical and electrical engineering. He was a member of the Army and Navy Club and earned the title of Lieutenant Colonel of the University Regiment—likely a forerunner of today’s Reserve Officers Training Corps or ROTC.
He interrupted his education by enlisting in the U.S. Army on April 26, 1898 to serve in the Spanish American War. According to his enlistment record, he got his first taste of Virginia then, when his unit, Company C in the 6th Illinois Infantry, was sent to train in the newly established Camp Alger near what is today the Dunn Loring area of Falls Church in July 1898. Accounts of Camp Alger described deplorably unsanitary conditions at the camp. Perhaps that was what spurred Oscar to be assigned to the Army Hospital Corps where he served in the invasion of Puerto Rico. He was discharged on November 6, 1898.
Oscar was apparently among the middle class, judging from his ability to travel because in September 1900 Oscar returned from a trip to England aboard the S.S. New England. This was a time when most middle class families took extended trips to Europe. Oscar’s passport was issued on June 11 and on it, Oscar wrote that he planned to spend several months traveling in Europe. So he apparently spent the summer there and returned to Illinois in time to start his last year of undergraduate work. He described himself in his passport application as being five feet eight inches tall with blue eyes and brown hair. He graduated in 1901 from the University of Illinois at Urbana with a degree in engineering. He is shown here in his graduation photo. After graduation, Oscar worked for a time as an Assistant in Military Science at the university. The next year he was in the Testing Department of General Electric and served in his reserve military capacity as the Post Engineer at Fort Yates, in North Dakota and Fort Yellowstone in Wyoming, according to a University of Illinois publication providing information about alumni.
On June 1, 1904, Oscar married Marion Alberta Nelson, a native of D.C. and they had a son named Robert who was born the following year on July 3, 1905. By then Oscar was employed at the Navy Yard as an electrical engineer and draftsman for the Bureau of Yards and Docks where he made $1,200 per year.
Initially, Oscar made his home at 39 Seaton Place, N.W. Washington, D.C. but by 1910, he had moved to Clarendon where he and his family were renting. His occupation was noted in the 1910 census as an electrical engineer working for the “Public Service Commission.” In August 1914, Oscar was appointed assistant engineer in the valuation bureau of the Public Utilities Commission of the District of Columbia.
As a member of the D.C. engineer reserve corps, Oscar again was called to duty for service in America’s next military conflict, World War I. This time he was in Company A of the 38th Engineering Corps. He reported for duty in Washington, D.C. on November 17, 1917. According to U.S. Army records, he died on August 19, 1918 at Bordeaux, France from disease and was buried in the American Cemetery in Talence, Gironde, France. No historical record revealed what disease he died from, although the influenza was again the most likely cause.
What might Oscar have done as a member of the Engineering Corps? During World War I, they were in charge of repairing the war zone infrastructure to expedite troop movements. The Corps repaired bridges and roads; maintained communication lines; removed land mines and “booby” traps; built shell, gas, and splinter-proof shelters; and constructed or removed barbed wire. They also built hospitals, barracks, mess halls, stables, target ranges, and repaired miles of train tracks. These duties left the men little time for front line duty and they were not relied upon for combat. Nevertheless, Allied forces depended upon their support. 
On November 15, Captain Housel was returned home from his grave in France to be reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery. The D.C. District Building lowered its flag to half mast and the District’s electrical department closed all day to honor the captain. Members of the Vincent B. Costello Post, American Legion served as pall-bearers.
Oscar Housel is not only commemorated here in Arlington, but in two other memorials. His name is inscribed on a memorial sculpture called “The Supreme Sacrifice,” that was dedicated in April 1920 in the D.C. District Building. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels addressed the crowd. President Wilson’s daughter Margaret unveiled it. Sculpted by Jerome Connor, who described it as “an undying American soldier just before he makes the supreme sacrifice.” The names of thirteen men who worked in the District are engraved on the statue along with the department for which each worked and his reads: “Capt. Oscar L. Housel, electrical department.” In 1923, his name — along with scores of other University of Illinois students — was also enshrined on a column of the University of Illinois Memorial Stadium built in 1923 as a memorial to Illinois men and women who gave their lives for their country during World War I.
ARCHIE WALTERS WILLIAMS
Details about the next Arlington boy, Navy Yeoman, Third Class, Archie Walters Williams, are also limited. He died of influenza (noted also as bronchial pneumonia on his death certificate) in the US Naval Hospital in Philadelphia on September 30, 1918. Born in 1898, he was just 19 years old.
On April 25, 1917 Archie enlisted as a member of the US Navy Reserve Force in Washington, D.C. No records were found to say how he served his country or to which ship he was assigned. However, he most likely saw active service, because in 1920, the French government honored his memory and his sacrifice and that of scores of others at a ceremony held at the Central High School auditorium in the District.
The U.S. Navy Reserve Force, or Navy Militia, was formed by the Navy Act of March 3, 1915 – . Archie enlisted just nineteen days after the US declared war on Germany. All state—and the District’s—navy militias were activated and Archie may have been influenced by the profusion of enlistment posters that sprang up like the one shown here. Anecdotal information among young men who enlisted about the same time as Archie later recounted that within three months of enlistment, navy men were trained and assigned to US ships on their way to France protecting convoys of US troops from German U-boat attacks. Naval reservists were also radio operators and aviators but many more served aboard ships protecting troop convoys bound for Europe. It is likely this is the service for which the French government paid homage to America’s sons.
Archie was only in the hospital for four days, according to his death certificate—testament to how quickly the influenza ran its course in its victims. His parents, William and Emma Williams, of Cherrydale, held his funeral on October 14, and he was buried Arlington National Cemetery.
FREDERICK WALLIS SCHUTT
Frederick Wallis Schutt was the next Arlington military man to die in World War I. He died . Frederick enlisted as an apprentice seaman in D.C. on July 31, 1918. He died at the Naval Hospital at the Naval Base in Hampton Roads, Virginia from pneumonia or “respiratory disease” on October 7, just over a month before the 1918 armistice was declared.  He was interred at Arlington National Cemetery on August 4, 1921
The 1900 census recorded that Frederick was born in May 24, 1900. He had an older sister, Marie, and a younger sister, Cora, who was born in 1902. In 1900 the census records that the Schutt family, including his mother and father, Belle and Wallis Schutt, lived in Cherrydale. When a commuter railroad was established in 1906 connecting the District with emerging suburbs, the Schutt family property was the first area developed along what are now Lee Highway and North Quincy Street. The first residential subdivision in Cherrydale included 12 lots known as Schutt’s Subdivision along the north side North 20th Street. By The 1900 census listed his father’s occupation as dairyman, but by 1910, the census recorded Mr. Schutt as a general contractor, perhaps reflecting the economic change sint he area as farmland began to be turned into the suburbs..
Frederick Schutt’s family planted the First Memorial Tree in Virginia to honor World War casualties . His aunt, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Ellen B. Wallis, planted the tree in Cherrydale in memory of her nephew on May 25, 1919. This was the first of 6,000 memorial trees to be planted by the Rotary Club of Virginia and it was registered in the national honor roll of the American Forestry Association.
Only five days after Frederick Schutt died, so did the next Arlington casuality. Harry Stone died on October 12, 1918, found drowned in a canal in France along the Western Front. He was born in Washington, D.C. in December 1895. The 1900 census recorded that he lived with his mother and father, Lizzie and George Stone and his two sisters and three brothers at 1037 30th Street. His father was a barrel dealer. In 1915, Harry was a bugler in the boy scouts and in October of 1915, at a flag raising by Troop No. 48 at the dedication of a new boy scout clubhouse, Harry recited the history of the troop.
On July 4, 1917, the Washington Times printed an interview with Harry’s mother on the front page. Now living in Clarendon, she was making the supreme sacrifice of motherhood by encouraging her two sons, Harry and James, both below conscription age, to enlist in answer to President Wilson’s call to arms. She said she did not believe that young men of Virginia were coming forward fast enough and said it was up to someone to set an example in patriotism in Virginia. Harry Stone not yet 20, joined Company H, Third Regiment in the District’s National Guard. His brother James joined the Navy.
Two years later, the Washington Times announced that Company H of the 162nd Infantry, composed of men formerly of the old District National Guard, arrived from France on May 20 on the transport Rochambeau. Harry Stone was not among the 241 men who returned to America that day.
According to the company commander, Company H. sailed for France on December 11, 1917. The men from the District were put in charge of the direction of troop movements out of Lehavre [sic], France. They were attached to a British camp and some of the men were transferred to the First Army Corps. The officer recounted that the men never saw direct action so it is unsure how Harry found himself in the canal where he drowned.. Private Harry Stone was interred at Arlington National Cemetery on August 4, 1921
John Lyon is the most decorated of the Arlington men who died in World War I. He died trying to save another man’s live on October 15, 1918, just three weeks before the armistice.
John was born in Ballston on April 2, 1893. His father, Frank, was a lawyer, a newspaper publisher, and a land developer as today’s Lyon Park can attest. John went to Western High School in the District at 35th and R Streets NW (what is now the Duke Ellington School for the Arts). According to reminiscences of his younger sister, Margaret, John and their older sister, Georgia, rode the electric cars to Rosslyn, the end of the line, then walked across Aqueduct Bridge to their schools. He graduated in 1910.
After graduation, John attended the University of Virginia for two years and was elected an officer of the student body in 1911. The next year he was elected secretary of the Jefferson Literary Society. He returned to northern Virginia and became editor and publisher of the Alexandria County Monitor for two years. He also studied law at night at Georgetown University. Even though the U.S. did not get directly involved in the war until 1917, many Americans, such as John, heard the call and volunteered to serve in France. John’s passport application is witnessed in signature by his father so Mr. Lyon must have at least condoned his son’s early departure, if not encouraged it.
In his passport application dated April 30, 1915, John wrote that he planned to return to the U.S. within twelve months and intended to go to France to be an ambulance driver in the Hospital Corps. He may have been moved by news reports of increasing German aggression, first of German Zeppelin air raids on England followed by Germany’s declaration of a submarine blockade of Great Britain that declared any ship approaching England would be considered a target.
John described himself in the application as being five feet and seven and ¾ inches tall, with brown eyes and medium brown hair. He also stated that he was living with his parents at Lyonhurst, their stately mission-style home built in 1907 at what is now 4651 North 25th Street. This residence, called Lyonhurst was said to be the first home in the county to have electricity.
John left the U.S. in mid-May 1915 for France. He wrote home often and his father published two of his letters in The Alexandria County Monitor. In a letter to his younger sister dated August 1915, John wrote that he was based in Westvleteren, Belgium, just a few miles from Dunkirk. He went on “evacuation runs to carry the” wounded “from the field hospitals” that may have been a house or a barn “to bigger ones further back.” He downplayed how close he came to the front lines and the danger involved by writing that he did a lot of chauffeuring of doctors. However, he admitted that he and his fellow ambulance drivers only went out at night because in the daytime Germans would see them and “mistake” the ambulances for ammunition or supply wagons. He said that as they approached the front lines “things certainly take on a grimmer and more serious aspect.” He wrote that closer to the front where they picked the wounded up “They never laugh down there. All is grim, and the poor wrecks … sing no songs and bring no captured banners back; only memories of lives offered on firey alters.” In an earlier letter written in June of 1915 to his mother, John described a trip along the Seine that bears little resemblance to the candid description to his sister of what he saw near the front. For his mother—and perhaps for military censors–he described driving two officers to the suburbs of Paris and strolling through a park looking at flowers and trees.
John renewed his passport application at the U.S. Embassy in Paris in November 1915 for six more months of hospital work but a passenger list for the U.S.S. Philadelphia showed that he returned to the U.S. on December 16, 1915. He enlisted in the U.S. army and was stationed for six months on the Mexican Border.
A letter to the Washington Times dated August 17, 1916 from John Lyon posted from Brownsville, Texas offers a glimpse of his personality. His letter that lightheartedly asked that Sarah Bernhardt, a famous French singer and actress who had recently toured America, visit U.S. troops along the Mexican border just as she had visited French troops in France. His letter gently complained that life for Company G of the First Volunteers was easy duty but he also may have hinted that he missed home by writing, “Life here is as quiet, so far as danger in concerned, as it was on the farms or in the villages back home.”
Even before Lt. Lyon arrived in Texas, the Mexican border was patrolled by the U.S. Army. In March of 1916, Mexican revolutionary leader, Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico, killing ten civilians and eight soldiers. General John Pershing led an expedition into Mexico to capture him and U.S. troops remained to patrol the border against more incursions.
The border remained troublesome to the U.S. military. Germany had long sought to incite a war between Mexico and the U.S. to divert American attention and slow the export of American arms to Europe. In February of 1917, the British government exposed a coded telegram from German Foreign Secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, to the German ambassador to Mexico instructing the ambassador to approach the Mexican government with a proposal that Germany would provide funding and assistance for Mexico to reconquer Texas and the Southwest if it looked like the U.S. was about to enter the war.
These same troops under General Pershing, including the First Virginia Regiment were trained and the best prepared to deploy to Europe once the U.S. declared war in April 1917. Lyon returned home briefly and then promoted to sergeant in his company, departed with his men for Camp McClellan, in Alabama on September 25, 1917. From there Lyon shipped out to France. Probably because of his experience and his level of education, he was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to the machine gun company of the 116th Infantry of the 29th Division. Composed of men from both the north: Maryland and the south: Virginia, and North Carolina, the 29th Division was nicknamed the “Blue and Gray” a reference to the blue uniforms of the Union and the gray uniforms of the Confederate armies during the Civil War. These fresh troops were immediately deployed to the front. Letters from John to his family led them to believe that he served almost the entire time in front lines trenches.
In late September 1918, the 29th Division was ordered to join the U. S Army‘s Meuse-Argonne offensive. This campaign was part of the final, and most bloody, Allied offensive of World War I. For the next 47 days—including the rest of Lt. Lyon’s life–the 29th Division advanced seven kilometers. The battle was the largest in United States military history to date and involved 1.2 million American soldiers. Thirty percent of the 29th division became casualties with 170 officers and 5,691 enlisted men killed or wounded. John Lyon was one of those men who died in this final Argonne push to break through the German lines. The Argonne offensive helped bring an end the war.
Ten days after peace was declared, The Washington Post reported that John Lyon’s parents had received notification from the War Department that their son was killed in action on October 15. Months later, Frank Lyon received a letter from Major H. L. Opie of the 116th Infantry. The letter told the bereaved family how Lt. Lyon had died near Bois De La Grande Montagne.
Lieutenant Lyon had the guns of his platoon posted in partial shelter on my left, against counter attack. He saw me fall wounded and leaving his guns, ran directly to my assistance in the face of certain death. He was killed by the fire of an enemy machine gun and fell within a few feet of me.”
For this act of valor, on April 20, 1920, Lt. John Lyon was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award that can be given to a member of the US Army. It is awarded for “extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.” The Distinguished Service Cross was established in January 1918 specifically to honor those who deserved recognition for their heroic service in World War I.
Besides Arlington County’s memorial to its dead in World War I, several other memorials in Washington D.C. and in Arlington honored John Lyons:
- In December 1920, Georgetown Law School alumni marched from the law school to Dahlgren Chapel for a special military mass attended by students, alumni, and the relatives of those who had died.
- In 1921, the American Legion was engraving the names of each of Washington D.C.’s war dead on a copper plate to be mounted on a concrete post near a tree dedicated to each on Sixteenth Street between Allison and Alaska Avenues, N.W. A dedication ceremony was planned for Decoration Day (now called Memorial Day).
- In June 1921 Georgetown again commemorated the 28 law students who died in the Great War with a bronze tablet inscribed with their names placed in the law library.
- In 1927, Georgetown also planted 53 elm trees as a living memorial to each of the students.
- Finally, on November 11, 1934, The Veterans of Foreign Wars instituted the John Lyon Post No. 3150 in Arlington to honor him.
John Lyon was laid to rest among his family in Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg, Virginia. The inscription on his gravestone says simply, “In the Argonne”
FRANK EDWARD DUNKIN
Frank Edward Dunkin died less than two weeks after John Lyon on October 28, 1981. Frank was born on February 21, 1891 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His father had been born in New York and served in the Civil War as a Second Lieutenant in the 162nd New York Infantry. According to the 1900 census, the family owned their home at 148 Seventh Street, Washington D.C. N.E.
As a youngster, Frank Dunkin took piano lessons with Mrs. Wilma Benton-Smith and for several years each spring he performed in a recital with her other students. In 1902, Frank’s father, Thomas, died and was buried in Arlington national Cemetery. In April of 1910, the census showed that the family no longer owned a house but was renting a home at 709 Third Street, N.E. in Washington D.C. It may be that the family fell on harder times with no senior bread winner. Frank, then 19, was a copyright clerk in the Library of Congress.
At 26 years of age, Frank registered for the draft on June 5, 1917. By then he was living in Clarendon. His stated profession was a statistician but records do not list his employer. He was single. He also note don his application that he had previous military service as a navy yeoman for three years and 19 days. He described himself as being tall and of medium build with gray eyes and brown hair. Frank’s maturity at 26 and his professional work experience likely propelled him to quick promotion to corporal in the 54th Infantry Regiment of 6th Division. He shipped out with his division to France in July 1918.
The service patch for the 6th Division that Corporal Dunkin wore on his shoulder was a small six pointed red star similar to the Star of David, with a small “6” in the center. Once the 6th Division arrived in France, these inexperienced troops continued training which mostly consisted of marching throughout western France. British and French veterans, usually non-commisioned officers, taught the green American troops how to survive tranch warfare, a skill few Americans then had acquired. The division marched so much, they earned the nickname “Sight-Seeing Sixth.” Finally, on August 31 the division was assigned to the Vosges mountain region east of the Argonne to defend 21 miles of the front line.
The troops patrolled rough terrain and were often behind the German lines. They faced daily German artillery bombardment and frequent German raids that used flame throwers, grenades, and gas. Just before the Meuse-Argonne Offensive began, the 6th Division cemented its nickname when it was ordered to conduct fake marches to make the enemy think that a major attack would occur in the Vosges region rather than in the Argonne. The troops were often under heavy enemy artillery and air bombardment. Corporal Dunkin wa skilled just before the final Allied push to end the war began on November 1. .
Frank Dunkin was originally buried in France, but he was reinterred with his father in Arlington National Cemetery in May 1921. In December 1920, the Library of Congress planted a memorial tree, a Japanese elm, on the south side of the Library of Congress to honor four of their staff who were killed in the war. Like John Lyon, Frank Dunkin’s name was also inscribed on the copper plates near trees planted on 16th Street that were dedicated to DC’s war dead in 1921.
IRVING THOMAS CHAPMAN NEWMAN
Twenty-two year old Irving T.C. Newman died on November 2, 1918. Irving was born on February 20, 1896 in Washington, D.C. According to the 1900 census, he was living in D.C. with his mother and two younger brothers: Eugene who was two years old and Allen who was three months old when the census was taken. The head of the household was not his father but his mother’s father, Chapman Godfrey. His mother, Mary, had been married for five years. His father, George R. J. Newman was living in D.C. on B. Street., S.W. and he was an engineer for the government. In the 1910 census, Irving’s father, George R.J. Newman, was listed as living with his family in D.C. on Virginia Avenue and Irving was the oldest of now four sons, including one more brother, James. George stated that his profession was a stationary engineer. This is someone who operates heavy machinery and equipment that provide heat, light, climate control and power. Stationary engineers are trained in many areas, including mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical, metallurgical, computer, and a wide range of safety skills. They typically work in factories, offices, hospitals, warehouses, power generation plants, industrial facilities, and residential and commercial buildings.
On June 16, 1916, Irving graduated from McKinley Manual Training School at 7th Street and Rhode Island. In the District. McKinley Manual Training School was the city’s first purposely built manual training school.
Ten days later, Irving was getting ready to ship out with the Signal Corps to the Mexican Border as a private. Irving joined the Washington D.C. Signal Corps and served in the Punitive Expeditionary Force to quell Pancho Villa’s activities along the border. Private Newman’s dutiesin the Signal Corps are unclear He might have kept communications up and running between the US side of the border and Pershing’s camps in Mexico. He could have been one of the soldiers marching into Mexico to find Pancho Villa in the Sierra Madre mountains in Chihuahua. He would almost certainly have seen the aircraft used for the first time in military operations. As a graduate of McKinley, he may have worked on them. Because of the thin dry air in the mountains, the aircraft—often Curtiss JN or “Jenny”—needed constant care and attention.
Irving returned to DC and went to work for the Department of Commerce in January 1917 as a laboratory apprentice for a salary of salary was $540 a year. The 1918 Washington DC City Directory listed Irving Newman as residing in Cherrydale.
He signed up for the draft and rejoined the US Army Signal Corps, this time in its Aviation Corps as a pilot. History records that Second Lieutenant Irving Newman was killed while training at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. The death certificate stated that he died of a fracture of the base of the skull, or a broken neck. US Army Signal Corps records reflect that he was flying a JN-4D aircraft that crashed.
The JN-4D was a Curtiss “Jenny” like those used in the Mexican border action. These aircraft were considered the Model T of the skies because it was the first aircraft purchased in quantity by the American military and as a result was the first mass-produced American aircraft, like Henry Ford’s Model T was mass produced starting in 1908. It was used to train over ninety percent of American pilots during WWI. The Curtiss Jenny biplane was not easy to fly. It was underpowered and its nose tended to dip during turns. It was considered an unforgiving airplane, as evidenced in the many crashes that took place while training. Strickly used as a trainer, the Jenny never saw service in combat during the war. Second Lieutenant Irving T. C. Newman died training in a Jenny after having served his country honorably elsewhere. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
ARTHUR C. MORGAN
The last veteran listed on Arlington’s memorial is Arthur C. Morgan, who lost his life on December 3, 1918, three weeks after the Armistice. Unfortunately there are few surviving records for Arthur. He was born in Langley, Virginia on June 28, 1887 so he was among the oldest of Arlington’s veterans lost in World War I. According to the 1910 Census he was a laborer working for the Arlington Experimental Farm. A member of the county’s African-American community, he was listed as single in the 1910 census, but when he registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, he was married and living at Hall’s Hill. He described himself as being of medium build with black hair and black eyes and he admitted he was slightly balding.
The Arlington Experimental Farm was the main research facility for the US Department of Agriculture in the Washington area from 1900 until 1941. Experiments in fertilization, farming methods, and irrigation took place on a portion of the Lee estate. The facility was under the direction of the USDA’s Bureau of Plant Industry so no livestock was there. As a laborer, Arthur may have worked to build the tile drains under the experimental plots, greenhouses, barns, or laboratories.
View of the Arlington Experimental Farm, on the southern bank of the Potomac River, October 1907. Part of this land is now the site of the Pentagon. The Custis-Lee Mansion can be seen on the hillside in the distance.
Arthur Morgan was reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery August 3, 1920.The cemetery’s “Report of Interment” form states that he was in Company A, 550th Engineer Service Battalion. When he died on December 3, 1918, he was first buried with hundreds of other Americans in American Cemetery #153 in Lambezellec, Finistere, France.
When President Wilson stood before Congress and asked Congress to declare war on the German Empire on the evening of April 2, 1917 he declared that “The world must be made safe for democracy.” These words resonated with many African Americans who viewed the war as an opportunity to bring about true democracy in America. As the United States mobilized for war and the draft began, most African Americans saw the war as an opportunity to demonstrate their patriotism and their place in the country as equal citizens. Even though Arthur was the head of the family and likely the only bread winner, his registration for the draft in early June 1917 may be testament to those sentiments.
The U.S. armed forces were rigidly segregated during World War I. Still, many African Americans eagerly volunteered to join the Allied cause . By the time of the armistice with Germany on November 11, 1918, over 350,000 African Americans had served with the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front. The General Staff believed that since most blacks had been manual laborers in civilian life, they should be laborers in the Army and Black service troops received little or no combat training. Unlike white draftees, when Arthur reported for active duty, he was almost certainly given fatigue uniforms and immediately put on work details. As a result, approximately ninety percent were relegated to support roles and did not see combat.
Among the first American troops to arrive in France in July 1917, were African-American stevedores. They worked day and night bringing war materiel ashore at the docks of Brest, St. Nazaire, Bordeaux, and other French port cities to load and unload crucial supplies. Soon they became known as Services of Supply (S.O.S.) units and they provided the basis of military logistics system in Europe. The S.O.S. also dug ditches, cleaned latrines, transported supplies, cleared debris, and buried rotting corpses. Their hard work earned official praise but did not warrant promotion or reassignment. Blacks were limited to all ranks of corporal and below. Arthur Morgan died a private.
When the war ended on November 11, 1918, most combat troops came home as soon as transportation could be arranged. Service troops, however, particularly blacks, remained to clean up the battlefields, tear down the unneeded fortifications, and dismantle military installations. It was backbreaking, dirty, dangerous work. We do not know how Private Morgan died, he may have been injured or he, like thousands of others may have succumbed to the influenza still raging among troops.
Robert Bruce was the last Arlingtonian to die in service to his country in World War I on on December 23, 1918. We know precious little about him. His tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery says he was a corporal in Company D of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, also known as the Second Dragoons.
During World War I, the regiment participating in several battles, including the last German offensive, the Aisne-Marne Offensive. Corporal Bruce’s unit was among last elements to engage the enemy mounted on horseback. This Allied victory signaled the beginning of the end for Germany because not only did the Germans fail to win the war with this offensive, they lost ground to the Allies. Disheartened, some German commanders concluded that the war was lost and the German Army did not launch any further large-scale offensives during the remainder of the war. Aisne-Marne took place over the course of July 15 through August 5, 1918. Casualties were high, more so among the German forces than among the Allies. Germany lost 168,000, France suffered 95,000 casualties, Britain incurred 13,000 losses and the U.S. 12,000. Corporal Bruce may have sustained injuries that ultimately caused his death several months later. It is also possible that he, like so many others, fell ill after battle and died of the influenza.
What little else we know about Robert Bruce, emerged in 1931 when Arlington County unveiled the tablet inscribed with the names of the thirteen men killed in the war. The Washington Post reported that Katherine Bruce, thirteen year old daughter of Corporal Bruce unveiled the memorial upon which her father’s name was inscribed. Katherine would have been born in 1918. A baby when her father left for the war, it is to to consider that perhaps her father never had the chance to hold her before leaving for the war
One last name appears on the plaque, that of Ralph Lowe. Like Arthur Morgan, he is labeled as “colored” and separated on the plaque by a space below the white names. No other details of his life are available, but thanks to this plaque, we know he also gave his life in service to his country. The plaques tells us all we can find. He served in the U.S. Army. Like all the others, he died and his name at least is remembered.
Since this article was published in 2014, the World War I Commission has information that three more Arlingtonians were killed in World War I but not listed on the memorial. These men are:
- Stanley E Bernard
- Paul J O’Donnell
- William Thomas
The Arlington Historical Society is conducting research now to learn more about each of them. If you have any information about these men and their connection to Alexandria County–renamed in 1920 as Arlington County–please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
(This article is excerpted from the 2014 edition of the Arlington Historical Magazine, the flagship publication of the Arlington Historical Society. It is copyrighted. Members of the Society receive a free copy. Copies can be purchased at the Arlington historical Museum. Please contact AHS for permission to use it.)
The author wishes to thank J. Gary Wagner, Adjutant, John Lyon VFW Post 3150 in Arlington for sharing a treasure trove of details about John Lyon and his military service including rare published copies of his letters home. Dr. John T. Snow of Ohio University also provided invaluable help and perspective in conducting research using military records of the era. Steven Suddaby, past president of the World War I Historical Association, pointed me to a plethora of useful online research links for World War I military records. The Arlington Public Library Center for Local History offered the starting point for much of this research. Finally, Dr. Mark. E, Benbow, Assistant Professor of History at Marymount University provided historical context for events surrounding the lives of these thirteen Arlington men.