Major George C. Hart
97th (American Legion) Battalion
Major G. C. Hart, a big muscular soldier with a scowl engraved on his leathery face…
(J. W. Pegler, Altoona Mirror, 23 Nov 1916, 2)
George Clark Hart was a twenty-year veteran of the New York National Guard who fought in Cuba during the Spanish-American war and Mexico during the revolution. He was born on 16 April 1875 in Elmira, New York. He was also military drill instructor and disciplinarian at the Elmira Reformatory.
In April 1916, the forty-one year old Hart went to Canada, lied about his age and enlisted in the 212th Winnipeg Americans as a lieutenant. By the time that the American Legion battalions were merged into the 97th, Hart was a major. He went overseas, reverted to captain, served in the trenches and was wounded at Vimy Ridge.
When told by a newspaper reporter that his Brooklyn Robins had lost the 1916 World Series to the Boston Red Sox, a disappointed Hart admitted, “It wasn’t that I thought they’d win, but I had enough patriotism for old Flatbush to back them for a little.”
After the United States entered the war, Hart transferred to the 309th Machine Gun Battalion in the 78th Division. His son Joseph also enlisted in the American Army. During the Argonne Offensive, Hart won a Silver Star Citation and the Distinguished Service Cross. His citation read:
On October 25 Captain Hart volunteered to lead his company into a particularly dangerous sector on the ridge north of Grand Pre, offering their use practically as infantry. His act was of inestimable value in strengthening the morale of the Infantry battalion which had suffered very heavy casualties and had no prospect of relief. On the morning of October 26 during a counterattack he not only personally directed the location of his machine guns in the outpost line, but by his splendid example of fearlessness he rallied and commanded the Infantry when no other officer was available, and was an inspiration to both the infantrymen and machine gunners in holding the ridge. He fought valiantly until very seriously wounded by enemy machine-gun fire.
In Elmira, Hart’s parents were relieved when they received a short telegram from their son a few weeks later: “Wounded—doing well.”
After the war, Hart assumed an active role in the California chapter of the American Legion veterans’ association. Hart died on 27 May 1968. He was buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery.
RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4118 – 7
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