Chicago and the Great War

Chicago History Museum

Olivia Mahoney 

More than four thousand men and women from Cook County lost their lives in World War I. The Great War began in 1914 and pitted the Central Powers, led by Germany and Austria-Hungary, against the Allied Powers, led by Great Britain and France. The conflict claimed more than 17 million lives, left more than 20 million wounded, and shattered the illusions of an entire generation. The “war to end all wars” sowed the seeds for World War II and continues to influence our political landscape a century later.

The United States entered the war on the side of the Allies in 1917. Thousands of Cook County men served in all branches of the military, while many women volunteered as nurses with the army and the American Red Cross. Most served along the Western Front in France and Belgium, helping to end a bloody stalemate and achieve an Allied victory in 1918. Those who died were originally buried overseas, but many were later reinterred in Chicago-area cemeteries.

Between 1919 and 1921, Colonel E. E. Woods, then secretary of the membership committee of the Chicago Historical Society, compiled more than one thousand photographs and brief biographies of Cook County residents who died in the war. To do so, he placed advertisements in local newspapers asking readers to submit information about their loved ones. The portraits were originally exhibited in the main hall of the Museum’s former home at 632 North Dearborn Street. They were reinstalled at the Museum's current location and displayed from 1932 until 1963. By preserving the stories of everyday people, the collection provides a personal glimpse of the Great War and its painful legacy.

A gift from America’s oldest ally, this plaque depicts a female figure representing the Republic of France cradling a fallen American soldier. The inscription reads: “Tribute from the French government to the soldiers of Cook County who fell gloriously on the soil of France.” Rene Weiller, consul general of France, presented the plaque to the Museum in 1936. At the time, storm clouds were gathering for World War II, and France would soon fall to Nazi Germany.

This book contains the names of the men and women of Cook County who died while serving in the United States and Allied armies during World War I. Its title is derived from the wartime practice of placing a gold star in a window to signify the loss of a loved one in the conflict. The book remained on display at the Museum for many years along with photographic portraits of the deceased, some of which are reproduced on this banner.

Mrs. Edith Ayers
US Army nurse

Illinois Training School for Nurses, class of 1913. The first female member of the military killed in the line of duty on May 20, 1917, while with Base Hospital No. 12 aboard the USS Magnolia en route to France. The ship’s crew fired the deck guns during a practice drill, and one of the guns exploded, spewing shell fragments across the deck, killing Nurse Ayres. She was buried with full military honors at her home in Attica, Ohio.

Franklin B. Bellows (Second Lieutenant)
50th Aero Squadron, US Army Air Service

Born July 9, 1896, in Evanston, Illinois. While serving near Saint-Mihiel, France, Lt. Bellows with Second Lieutenant David C. Beebe, executed a reconnaissance mission early in the morning on September 13, 1918. Although subjected to severe fire from ground batteries, they penetrated eight kilometers beyond the German lines. The plane’s motor was badly damaged, and Lt. Bellows was mortally wounded. He died just after the plane landed safely in friendly territory and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

John Billhimer
Company A, 370th Infantry

Born in Harrisburg, Virginia, November 24, 1894. Enlisted about June 1, 1917. Trained with the 8th at Cicero and Camp Logan, Houston, Texas. Sailed for France in early spring of 1918. Killed in action November 3, 1918.

Curator’s note: One of Chicago’s most famous units, the 370th US Infantry, formerly known as the “Fighting Eighth” of the Illinois National Guard, was the nation’s only black regiment commanded by African American officers.

Harold De Vol Boswell
Company M, 131st Infantry, 33rd Division

Born September 22, 1899. Enlisted with the “Old Dandy First” and served on Mexican border. Sailed for France May 22, 1918. Volunteered to go over the top with the Australians on the Somme front, July 4, 1918. Died of wounds received in battle by shrapnel, July 1918.

Curry D. Breckenridge
American Red Cross nurse

Born September 1, 1875, in Lexington, Kentucky. Joined a Chicago hospital unit serving in France during the war. Died on June 23, 1918, at age 42, in Chicago, probably of influenza.

James M. Cole Jr. (Corporal)
Company C, 318th Infantry, 89th Division

Born January 17, 1891. Member of Company E, 342 Infantry, 86th Division, transferred in France to Company C, 318th Infantry. Killed in action November 5, 1918.

Sydney L. Crowley (First Lieutenant)
28th US Infantry

Born July 10, 1895. Graduate of Fort Sheridan Second Officers Training Camp. Made second lieutenant and assigned to 28th Infantry. Wounded in the Battle of Cantigny, May 28, 1918. Received citation and Croix de Guerre for bravery in action. Returned to service July 1918, promoted to first lieutenant. Killed in action October 7 in the Argonne Forest. Was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross.

Curator’s note: The Croix de Guerre, or Cross of War, is a French military decoration created in 1915 to honor individual acts of bravery.

Clarence J. Crump
Headquarters Company, 370th US Infantry, “Fighting Eighth”

Enlisted October 24, 1917. Honorably discharged February 24, 1918. Was gassed while in service in France, which was the cause of his death in November 1919, having been ill from the day of his discharge to the day of his death.

Oliver B. Cunningham (Captain)
15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Division

Born September 17, 1894, in Chicago, Cunningham graduated from Yale University and entered the US Army from Illinois. He fought at Chateau Thierry, Vaux, Belleau Woods, and St. Mihiel and was killed near the village of Jaulny, France, on September 17, 1918, his 24th birthday. A recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star, Cunningham is buried in the St. Mihiel American Cemetery in Thiaucourt, France.

Anton Duschanek
Company L, 131st Infantry

Born August 2, 1896, in Chicago. Killed in action on the Meuse. Buried in the American cemetery, commune of Sivry-sur-Meuse.

Curator’s note: The Meuse refers to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a critical forty-seven day campaign involving 1.2 million Americans that helped bring an end to World War I. Anton Duschanek was originally buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery but reinterred in Chicago’s Bohemian National Cemetery.

Jesse Duschanek
55th Transportation Corps

Born December 2, 1888. Enlisted May 20, 1918, with the 68th Engineers. Served as cook. Later was transferred to the 55th Transportation Corps. Died of pneumonia at Indre, France. Buried at Châteauroux (Indre) Cemetery.

Curator’s note: Although Jesse Duschanek was originally buried in central France, his remains, like those of his brother Anton, were eventually brought back to Chicago and reinterred in Bohemian National Cemetery.

Alma Marie Erickson
American Red Cross nurse

Born near Scandia, Kansas, on April 2, 1887. Received her diploma from the School of Graduate Nurses affiliated with the German Hospital in Chicago. Served with the American Red Cross at Fort Logan, Colorado, where she died at age 31 from influenza on October 28, 1918.

Joseph M. Flanagan
83rd Company, 6th Regiment, US Marines

Born in Chicago, March 17, 1898. Educated in Chicago public and parochial schools and graduated from Proviso High School in 1915. Enlisted May 15, 1917. Sailed for overseas June 2, 1917. Wounded at the Battle of Belleau Wood June 2, 1918 and died June 28, 1918.

Thomas H. Garnett
Company L, 265th Infantry

Born in Augusta, Georgia, October 12, 1893. Attended First Ward Grammar School in Augusta and moved to Evanston, Illinois, around 1911. Killed in action October 29, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Curator’s note: In August 1921, Garnett’s remains were returned to the United States for reinterment at Arlington National Cemetery.

Walter G. Gerke
Company A, 131st Infantry

Born September 15, 1896, in Indiana. Educated at St. James School, Chicago. Enlisted May 29, 1917. Killed in action August 9, 1918, at Chipilly.

Harold E. Goettler (First Lieutenant)
Pilot, 50th Aero Squadron, US Army Air Corps

Born July 21, 1890, in Chicago, enlisted in the air service July 9, 1918. Graduated from the School of Aeronautics, Champaign, Illinois. Further training in Texas, Canada, England, and France. On October 6, 1918, Goettler volunteered for a second trip to drop supplies to a battalion of the 77th Division which had been cut off in the Argonne Forest. Having been subjected to violent fire on the first trip, he attempted to come still lower in order to drop packages more precisely on the designated spot. Goettler’s plane was brought down by enemy fire resulting in his instant death. In performing this task, Goettler showed the highest possible contempt for personal danger, devotion to duty, courage, and valor for which he posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Curator’s note: Nine Chicagoans were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, more than any other city.

Ora M. Gore
US Army nurse

Born October 1889 in Chicago. Died March 9, 1918. Buried in Oak Woods Cemetery, Chicago.

B. M. Gorman
US Army nurse

Curator’s note: Personal information about Gorman is lacking, but she was one of more than 10,000 army corps nurses who served overseas during World War I. Nurses treated patients in difficult conditions near or just behind the front lines at hospitals, evacuation stations, or in churches converted into hospitals. Of the more than fie hundred American nurses who died during the war, about two hundred succumbed to influenza, contracted as they cared for patients.

William Earl Grieve (Corporal)
84th Company, 6th Regiment, US Marines

Born in Portland, Michigan, July 8, 1897. After finishing school, he attended business college for one year. Then went into the employ of Marshall Field & Co., Adams Street. When war was declared, he immediately joined the marines. Trained at Parris Island, North Carolina. Sailed September 1917. Killed in action September 15, 1918. Buried at the commune of Xammes, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France.

Paul A. Hansen (Wagoner)
Company C, 108th Ammunition Train

Born in Chicago, June 26, 1898. Graduated from public school and attended Carl Schurz High School. Enlisted April 1917 in the 7th Regiment, Illinois National Guard. Sailed for France in May 1918. Killed on November 2, 1918.

William E. Harwood
Captain and surgeon, US Hospital Unit No. 12 (Northwestern University)

Born in 1858 in Joliet, Illinois, Harwood attended Northwestern University and graduated from Rush Medical School in 1880. He practiced as a surgeon in Minnesota for twenty years before returning to Joliet to conduct X-ray research. Harwood served on the Mexican border in 1916 and volunteered his services for World War I the following year. He died near Boulogne, France, on January 4, 1918, in the midst of his work as a surgeon of the US Army.

John A. Keenan
Company D, 124th Machine Gun Battery

Born in Chicago, June 30, 1894. Enlisted July 10, 1917, in the old 7th Regiment, Illinois National Guard. Killed September 14, 1918, at the home sector near Verdun in northeast France.

Alice Lea
US Naval Reserve nurse

Born October 1, 1894, and died December 21, 1918, at age 24 from influenza at the Great Lakes Naval Station.

Antoinetta W. Lippold
US Army nurse

Born in Chicago on November 7, 1893. Died at age 24 on November 5, 1918, in service overseas.

William Lyman
Battery A, 124th Field Artillery, 33rd Division

Born in Chicago, December 27, 1902. Educated in Chicago Catholic schools. Enlisted August 1917. Trained at Camp Logan, Houston, Texas. Sailed for overseas May 1918. Killed in Meuse-Argonne. Buried at Romagne, France.

Joseph John Marcks
Headquarters Company, 28th Infantry, Signal Platoon, 1st Division

Died October 7, 1918, from wounds received while giving first aid to a companion at Chipilly-Meuse. Awarded a Croix de Guerre at the Battle of Cantigny. Cited for bravery at the Battle of Soissons.

Richard P. Matthews (First Lieutenant)
Aviation, 20th Aero Squadron, US Air Service

Enlisted June 1917. Took ground school work at Princeton University that summer. Sailed for France September 1917. Took flying instructions at Issoudun and Tours. Commissioned first lieutenant, April 1918. Sent to the front in September with 1st Day Bombardment Group, 20th Aero Squadron. Killed in action across the lines, over Dun-sur-Meuse, September 26, 1918. Buried beside three comrades at Pierrefont, France.

Joseph J. Mowiekaitys
Company B, 356th Infantry

Killed in the Argonne Forest, November 4, 1918. Had been in the army one year.

Norman E. Oftedahl (Corporal)
Company H, 131 Regiment

Born January 19, 1899. Enlisted on June 26, 1917. Fought in the Battle of Chipilly Ridge, August 8 and 9. Died of wounds August 11, 1918.

George E. Parker

Picture from Journal. Died of disease. No other data.

Millard O. G. Peterson
Supply Company,
312th Q.M.C. [US Army Quartermaster Corps]

Born in Chicago, March 20, 1895. Died at Gievres, France, October 13, 1918.

Edward L. Rezanka Jr. (Mechanic)
Company C, 111th Infantry

Born November 2, 1892. Studied two years in the Medill High School and also took a course in electricity at the Coyne Electrical School. Worked for the Commonwealth Edison Co. Killed in action, November 4, 1918.

Carl O. Rosequist (First Lieutenant)
Company B, 18th US Infantry, 1st Division

Born in Evanston, Illinois, October 7, 1893. Graduate of public schools, Lockport (Ill.) High School, Lombard College at Galesburg, class of 1916. Entered First Reserve Officers Training Camp at Fort Sheridan, commissioned first lieutenant at close of same and immediately sent to France. Was in Toul Sector. Division was ordered to Picardy front in April 1918. Fought at the Battle of Cantigny and was wounded May 9. Died May 10, 1918.

Curator’s note: Rosequist was a member of the first class of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), which was established with the National Defense Act of 1916.

Samuel Rubenstein (Corporal)

Killed in action. Picture from Journal. No data.

Thomas Schack

No data. Picture from Journal.

Frank G. Tenka
Company E, 108th Ammunition Train

Graduate of St. Michael’s School. Enlisted July 20, 1917. Died in service on October 2, 1918.

Zan L. Tidball (First Lieutenant)
9th Aero Squadron, 77th Division, US Army

Born in Chicago, September 19, 1890. Killed in action, October 10, 1918. Buried in grave 24, American section, French cemetery at Revigny, France.

Alex D. Weinberg
Company D, 39th Infantry

Born in Russia, July 4, 1897. Attended Chicago Public Schools. Volunteered for service, December 1917. Trained at Camp Grant [in Illinois] and Charleston, South Carolina. Sailed for France, May 1918. Killed in action, September 30, 1918, in the Argonne Forest.

Joseph Frank Young
Company B, 16th Infantry

Born April 9, 1895. Entered service May 27, 1918. Sailed for France July 22, 1918. Was in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel twenty days without even taking his shoes off; and was in the Argonne Forest a few days when killed by machine gun fire, October 9, 1918.

William J. Zalabak
Company C, 39th Infantry, 4th Division

Grammar school education. Died of wounds August 5, 1918.

Credits: Story

Curator — Olivia Mahoney
Designer — Daniel Oliver
Editor — Emily Nordstrom
Graphic Designer — Mark Ramirez
Digital Content Manager — Julius L. Jones


"Chicago and the Great War" was made possible through the generous support of the Pritzker Military Foundation.

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