The Young Man

Major Bernard C. Pittman
212th (Winnipeg Americans) Battalion
BCPittman

Ability not age is the dominating factor in promotions over there. Major Bishop of the Canadian aviation corps, the most brilliant aviator in the British army is 18 years old. There is a brigadier general in the British army who is 28. This general enlisted from civil life as a private and worked his way to the top.

This war has proven that only young men and those of good physical ability can stand the strain of battle. Look at the order of General Pershing sending home all brigadier generals over 45 years of age.

(Pittman’s speech, Ellensburg Daily Record, 23 Jan 1918, 1)

Bernard Cleveland Pittman was born on 21 March 1887 in Independence, Missouri. In late 1915, the young National Guardsman travelled to Winnipeg to join the 101st Battalion and offered to raise an all-American company. After the formation of the 97th American Legion he went to Toronto to became the battalion junior major. When a regional American battalion was formed in the west, Pittman headed back to Winnipeg to take command of the 212nd.

Continue reading

The Brooklyner

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.

Continue reading

The Berserker

Major Axel “Rass” Rasmussen †
97th (American Legion) BattalionRasmussen

Rasmussen was a big, handsome man; fearless in war and pitiless to four-flushers anywhere, any time.

(J. W. Pegler, Evening News, 26 June 1918, 2)

“But so far I’ve always found that a man has time to get down to avoid the fragments— if he moves fast. If it’s got your initials on it— well, no one but a prime so-and-so wants to live forever!”- Maj. Rasmussen

(E. S. Johnston,  Americans vs. Germans: the First AEF in Action, 1942, 33)

Axel Thorvald Rasmussen was one of the American Legion’s most famous members. The thirty-eight year old, Danish-born resident of Oregon was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. During the Mexico Revolution, he fought in support of General Obregón’s army. Regarding his previous fights as “mere skirmishes,” in 1916, Rasmussen traveled to Canada in order to join Lieutenant Colonel Wade Jolly’s 97th American Legion.

Continue reading

The Mercenary

Lieutenant Colonel Wade L. Jolly
97th (American Legion) BattalionJolly

Of course the adventure spirit is a motive with all of them. But so it was with the Crusaders, whom history has granted a halo of glory. In fact, what made the military expeditions to the Holy Land so attractive to the men who dressed in steel was that on those pious but martial junkets they could satisfy both the physical and spiritual sides of their nature. So the American Legion offers satisfaction to both the love of battle and the consciences of its members.

(The Outlook, 28 June 1916, 504)

Born on 18 January 1878 in Iowa, Wade Lytton Jolly was an American soldier, adventurer and businessman. At the age of 19, he enlisted to fight in the Spanish-American War. In 1899, he joined the United States Marine Corps. Serving for fourteen years, he saw action in many overseas military campaigns including China and Panama. During the Boxer Rebellion, Jolly distinguished himself in several acts of “conspicuous gallantry.” His superior, Major Littleton Walker, enthused, “The reports of Mr. Jolly’s conduct are most flattering and they come in from all sides. This is the second time I have had occasion to make special mention of this young officer during the week.”

Continue reading