As you probably know, February is African-American history month and 2018 is the 100th year anniversary of World War I. Much is being written about the important sacrifices African-Americans made in the Great War, the war to end all wars.
If you read Fort Polk's weekly paper "Guardian" dated Feb. 9, 2018. On pages 13 and 14, Col. Richard Goldenberg of the New York National Guard wrote an article titled "African-American Troops Fought to Fight in World War I". The article points out the difficulties African-Americans faced when fighting the enemy and their own government.
The first injustice was the higher probability of serving in Europe as an African-American. Of America's World War I 4,743,826 troops, 4,363,826 were white and 380,000 were African-Americans. Of America's 4,363,826 white troops, about 1,800,000 served in Europe (41%) and of America's 380,000 African-American troops, 200,000 served in Europe (53%).
The second injustice was the placement of African-American soldiers in SOS (Services of Supply) units such as butchery, stevedore, engineer, labor, depot, and pioneer units.
Only 20% of African-Americans served in combat units. The 92nd and 93rd Inf. Divisions of the North and Northeast were the only two units in which African-Americans engaged in combat.
Southern troops which served in SOS units came into contact with disease more than combat units. They handled the diseased dead, dug the sewers, disposed of waste, performed custodial duties, etc. Of the 116,114 American troops that died in World War I, 63,114 (54%) died from disease and 53,000 (46%) died from combat.
Vernon Parish WWI Gold Star Members
Vernon Parish lost 41 troops in World War I, excluding Jim Denison of Pickering. The bronze tablet displayed in a monument in the State Capitol included him, however, military records could not be found.
Of the 41 from Vernon Parish, 31 died from disease (18 stateside and 13 overseas), 5 from combat, 4 from accidents, and 1 from suicide. Stateside and overseas deaths were 20 each and 1 death was lost at sea (John Joseph Cain was declared lost at sea when the USS Cyclops failed to report in the West Indies.
Vernon Parish WWII African-Americans Gold Star Members
Of the 41 troops from Vernon Parish who died in World War I, 13 were African-Americans. All died of disease and none were involved in military engagements. All served in SOS units such as depot, labor, engineer, and development (development units were for men with physical or/and mental defects) units. Note that one died before the war's begin date of Apr. 6, 1917 and four died after the war's end date of Nov. 11, 1918:
Steve Brinson, Hornbeck - died Oct. 16, 1918 from disease at Camp Pike, Arkansas; burial unknown; Pvt.; Army; Co. D, 14th Repl. & Tng. Bn.
Jonas Brown, Leesville - died Feb. 8, 1919 from disease at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana; burial unknown; Pvt.; Army; Co. A, 2nd Dev. Bn.
Thomas "RC" Dixon, Elmwood - died Dec. 14, 1918 from disease at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana; burial unknown; Pvt.; Army; 161st Dep. Brig.
Dan Fortson, Neame - died Oct. 16, 1916 from disease at Camp Grant, Illinois; buried in Allen Baptist Church Cem. in Robeline, Louisiana; Pvt.; Army; Co. B, 4th Dev. Bn.
Frank Gallaspie, Leesville - died Oct. 6, 1918 from disease at Camp Grant, Illinois ; buried in Garden of Memories Cem. in Leesville, Louisiana; Pvt.; Army; Co. A, 4th Dev. Bn.
Albert Hall, Neame - died Oct. 16, 1918 from disease in France; buried in St. Mihiel American Cem. in Thiaucourt, France; Pvt.; Army; Co. C, 334th Labor Bn.
Jeff T. Hayward, Farwell - died Apr. 26, 1918 from disease at Camp Pike, Arkansas; buried in Little Rock National Cem. in Little Rock, Arkansas; Pvt.; Army; 162nd Dep. Brig.
Albert Kelly, Cravens - died Apr. 20, 1918 from disease in France; buried in St. Mihiel American Cem. in Thiacourt, France; Pvt.; Army; Co. B, 508th Engrs.
Tommy Mack, Cravens - died Oct. 3, 1918 from disease at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana; burial unknown; Pvt.; Army; 161st Dep. Brig.
Willie Mackie, Fullerton - died Nov. 5, 1918 from disease in Europe (probably France); buried in Black Creek AME Church Cem. in Greensburg (St. Helena Parish), Louisiana; Pvt.; Army; Co. D, 325th Labor Bn.
Willie Parker, Farwell - died Aug. 10, 1918 from disease at Camp Pike, Arkansas; burial unknown; Pvt.; Army; Co. 5, 162nd Training Brig.
Dink Rogers, Fullerton - died Dec. 7, 1918 from disease at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana; burial unknown; Pvt.; Army; Co. A, 350th Labor Bn.
Hamp Thomas, Farwell - died Jan. 4, 1919 from disease at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana; burial unknown; Pvt.; Army; Co. B, 416th Labor Reserve Bn.
Seven of the thirteen African-Americans that died were in training. Burial records could not be found for many of those who died at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, blacks and whites. The pandemic of 1918 was so massive the camp hospital was moved several miles away to the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy campus and called Stafford Hospital.
According to records, hundreds died every month and unofficially, mass burials were necessary to decrease the likelihood the pandemic would spread. Perhaps, we will never know.