'Great War' Vets Shaped Decades to Come

By Kolb, Richard K.; Moran, Joe | VFW Magazine, May 2001 | Go to article overview

'Great War' Vets Shaped Decades to Come


Kolb, Richard K., Moran, Joe, VFW Magazine


World War I (1917-18) produced some of America's most prestigious leaders from among the 2 million doughboys who served overseas. Every facet of society benefited from their contributions.

HARRY S TRUMAN

1884-1972) b. Lamar, Mo.

33rd President

Ranked No. 7 (a "near great") among U.S. presidents, Harry Truman (1945-1952) brought the Pacific war to a swift end in 1945, launched the TIruman Doctrine to contain communism, authorized the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, helped establish NATO, presided over the Berlin Airlift, desegregated the armed forces and unified them under a single secretary of defense.

As captain of D Battery, 129th Field Artillery Regt., 35th Inf. Div., he fought in the Vosges Mountains and St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives. Truman served in France from April 13, 1918 through April 9, 1919.

A biographer wrote, "The decision to go into the Army during WWI was the crucial event in Harry Truman's life." Truman agreed: "My whole political career is basted upon my war service and war associates." He was a lifetime VFW member.

EDWIN P. HUBBLE

(1889-1953) b. Marshfield, Mo.

Scientist

Regarded as the greatest astronomer of the 20th century, Edwin Hubble determined that galaxies exist outside of and are receding from the Milky Way. He made landmark discoveries at Mt. Wilson Observatory in Pasadena, Calif., and was instrumental in building the Palomar Observatory (1948), from which he conducted research until his death. "Hubble's constant" profoundly effected cosmology (study of the universe).

A major in the 2nd Bn., 343rd Inf. Regt., 86th Inf. Div., Hubble arrived in France on Sept. 23, 1918. He spent only a brief time at the front. After occupation duty in France and Germany, he left Europe from England in August 1919.

During WWII, Hubble was chief of ballistics at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and director of the Supersonic Wind Tunnels Laboratory, earning a Medal of Merit for his work.

ROBERT R. McCORMICK

(1880-1955) b. Chicago, Ill.

Editor & Publisher

One of the giants of journalism, Robert McCormick influenced public opinion for five decades. He made the Chicago Tribune the largest circulation newspaper in the Midwest and the world leader in ad revenues, and he pioneered "vertical integration" in publishing. He championed the cause of a free press during his entire career. Some say he invented the modern newspaper and shaped the political times.

Commanding two batteries of the 5th Field Artillery Regt, 1st Inf. Div. and later the 122nd FA Regt. (33rd Div., Illinois N.G.), McCormick served in France from July 1917 to August 1918. He fought at Mont Sec, in various other sectors and at Cantigny, where he was knocked unconscious by a German shell.

Service in the "Big Red One" was a source of lifelong pride. He renamed his estate Cantigny, hosted veterans reunions, helped unemployed vets, provided wheelchairs to the disabled and aided war widows. He was buried in his WWI uniform.

DEWITT WALLACE

1889-1981) b. St. Paul, Minn.

Editor & Publisher

Creator of Reader's Digest-the world's most widely circulated periodical-- DeWitt Wallace managed the magazine from 1922 until 1973, when it counted 30 million subscribers worldwide. With 39 editions printed in 15 languages, Reader's Digest ultimately reached revenues of more than $1 billion.

Eventually a sergeant in F Co., 139th Inf. Regt., 35th Inf. Div., Wallace arrived in France on May 11, 1918. He was wounded by shrapnel during the Meuse-- Argonne offensive on Sept. 29 and spent nearly the next six months in the hospital recovering. He left France in April 1919.

Dedicated to informing and educating others, Wallace also was a benevolent employer, bestowing generous benefits upon Digest staff members. In 1972, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. …

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