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Guardsmen served in Mexico, then WWI

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

Findlay’s National Guard company went into World War I right after it had just completed another military assignment.

The unit, Company A of the 2nd Ohio Infantry, had been called into federal service June 28, 1916, almost a full year before the country had became a belligerent in World War I, in 1917. During 1916, a Mexican outlaw, Pancho Villa, had been causing trouble along the international border and had entered Columbus, N.M., in a bloody raid that cost American citizens’ lives. President Wilson ordered Villa pursued and named J.J. Pershing, then a colonel in the U.S. Army, to head a force to hunt him down in Mexico. National Guard units of some of the states were called upon to join the Pershing force, among them the Ohio Guard. The Ohio Guardsmen returned home March 24, 1917. Villa eluded the American troops and the chase was given up.

The United States entered World War I in April. The Findlay Guard, as were the units across the state, was kept at its barracks, upon its return from Mexico, in anticipation of a call for duty in World War I. A recruiting campaign was conducted to bring the company to its full strength and the members of the unit were daily drilled on Broadway. Frank J. Moyer was the captain of the company, which had its own headquarters on the second floor of what is now (1967) the Findlay Publishing Co. building on Broadway.

While the company was still here, a call came for some members of Company A to go to Columbus to join a regiment which was being put together from over the entire state, with soldiers from each National Guard company. The new infantry was to be named the Rainbow division and was to be the first to go overseas from the Ohio Guard. A half-dozen of so of the Findlay members of Company A left to join the newly formed regiment.

The local company left in July 1917 for Camp Sheridan, Montgomery, Ala., to train for its service overseas. Other units of the 2nd Ohio regiment came from Ada, Lima, Paulding, Van Wert, Hicksville, Spencerville, Bowling Green, Kenton, St. Mary’s, Sycamore and Ottawa. Col. J. Guy Deming, of Ada, was the commander.

At Sheridan, the 2nd Regiment was “taken apart” and the troops assigned to various units. Part of Company A, of Findlay, went to the 145th Infantry, part to the 146th Infantry and part to the 147th Infantry. Other regiments also were divided. The Ohio guardsmen remained in training at the southern camp through the ensuing winter, preparing for service abroad. It was not until the spring of 1918 that orders came to leave for Europe.

The division from the Buckeye State, hearing the title of “37th,” went into action in France and then in Belgium. It participated in many engagements and won many honors for its brave and courageous battle performance. A substantial number of officers and enlisted men received decorations, in recognition of their records.

The report of the American Battle Monuments commission, in reporting on the 37th division casualties, said battle deaths totaled 1,066 and the wounded 4,321. There were 655 who were killed in action. The remainder of the battle deaths consisted of men who died of their wounds later. A total of 1,041 were gassed. Eighteen officers were killed in action. Some of the battle casualties and the wounded were from Findlay and Hancock County.

The history of the 37th division in World War I was written by Col. Ralph D. Cole, of Findlay, who was with the division train and military police. Assisting him was W.C. Howells, of Cleveland, a Cleveland Plain Dealer staff member. The history is in two volumes, which are in the Findlay public library. They contain more than 1,100 pages of historical matter, including a list of those who lost their lives overseas.

Col. Cole represented the 37th division at Paris in the spring of 1919 when the leaders met to form the American Legion.

Most units of the 37th division were discharged in April 1919.

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