'Imperial War' Veterans

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

'Imperial War' Veterans


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


America's two overseas wars-Spanish-American (1898) and Philippines (1899-i9o2)-at the i9th century's turn saw only 200,412 servicemen actually serve in the war zones-Cuba, Puerto Rico and Philippines-yet many left their imprints.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT

(1858-1919) b. New York City

26th President

Ranked No. 5 among U.S. presidents as a "near great," Teddy Roosevelt served two terms (igo-og). His accomplishments in and out of office were immense. He fought vigorously for the public interest, oversaw building the Panama Canal and won the Nobel Peace Prize !the first American to do so) in 19o6.

During the Spanish-American War, he led the ist Volunteer Cavalry Regiment ("Rough Riders") on Cuba, participating in the battles of Las Guasimas and Kettle Hill. In January 2001, T.R. was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. lie was a life-long proponent of veterans, joining the VFW in 1917.

Beyond politics, he was an historian, author, outdoorsman, naturalist, explorer, conservationist, reformer, assistant secretary of the Navy and creator of the modern police department.

WILLIAM C. GORGAS

(1854-1920) b. Toulminville, Ala.

Physician

Known once as the world's leading sanitation expert, William Gorgas eradicated yellow fever and malaria on Cuba and in Panama, making possible the construction of the canal on the isthmus. He was surgeon general of the U.S. Army Medical Department for four years (1914-1918).

Serving on Cuba from 1898 to 1902 as sanitary officer of Havana, he led a special commission responsible for eliminating yellow fever at the Siboney Army camp. He cared for diseased patients and controlled the deadly mosquitoes.

Gorgas was president of the American Medical Association (1908-09) and headed the International Health Board. He was awarded a gold medal for his "services to mankind" and knighted by the king of England for his service to humanity.

CARL SANDBURG

(1878-1967) b. Galesburg, Ill.

Writer, Poet, Folklorist

Literary champion of the common man, Carl Sandburg gained fame as a poet and then as an historian with his six-volume biography, Abraham Lincoln (1926, 1939). He won a Pulitzer Prize for that work 1940) and two for poetry (1918, 1951).

As a member of C Co. , 6th Inf. Regt., Enois National Guard, Sandburg served on Puerto Rico from July 25 through ugust 1898. His discharge papers read: "A good soldier, service honest and faithful "In later years;" wrote his biographer, "he valued his membership in the VFW (Post 1459 in Benton Harbor, Mich.)" of which he was the national historian in 1938.

As a journalist for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, he covered WWI in Europe, as well as other events of his era.

Many social commentators believe Sandburg achieved his goal of being the voice of the people and a spokesman for American democracy. Also, he gave public meaning to U.S. history. Sandburg died a much-honored icon of his time.

GEORGE W. GOETHALS

(1858-1928) b. Brooklyn, N.Y.

Civil Engineer

Besides directing the completion of the Panama Canal, George Goethals became the Zone's governor (1914-17). He was a hero to the work force as well as the American public, gaining fame achieved by few engineers in U.S. history. His later civilian projects mirrored the Canal in quality and durability.

As chief of engineers in the ist Army Corps, he directed gist Division (2nd Bde.) engineering operations on Puerto Rico from August through October 1898.

Recalled to active duty in WWI, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for reorganizing the Army's Quartermaster Department.

After WWI, he formed a consulting engineering firm that worked on the inner harbor for New Orleans and the Columbia Basin irrigation project. He was the chief consulting engineer for the Port Authority of New York, and a principal adviser for construction of that city's Holland Tunnel. …

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