This is the second in a series of posts based on the book Gold Star Honor Roll: A Record of Indiana Men and Women Who Died in The Service of the United States and The Allied Nations in The World War 1914-1918 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Commission, 1921). To view all posts in this series, click on the "Gold Star Honor Roll" label at the bottom of the post.
When the Indiana Historical Commission decided early in 1919 to issue a series of publications recounting the history of our State's part in the World War, it was agreed that the first volume should be dedicated to the Gold Star men and women of Indiana. Believing that first honor should be paid to those heroes who had laid down their lives for their country's honor, it was decided to give special attention to their records, and to prepare a volume worthy of their sacrifices.
A careful check was made from the daily casualty lists published in the United States Official Bulletin, beginning with the first name printed, that of James B. Gresham - who was not only the first man from Indiana, but the first of the Americans to fall in battle after the United States entered the war, - on through the entire list. The checking of names was continued until the publication of the Official Bulletin was suspended. The name and address of every man and woman reported from Indiana as having been killed in action, died from wounds, died of disease, or from other causes, was copied and classified according to the county in which they had lived.
In addition to this, a careful check was made of the casualty lists published in the Indianapolis newspapers, covering the entire period of the war, and running on down until the close of the year 1920, with the view of obtaining the name of every Indiana soldier, sailor, marine, and nurse, who had died while serving with the fighting forces of the United States and the allies during the World War. Also, an examination was made of the casualty lists sent out by the Adjutant General in Washington to the state Adjutant General of Indiana in the July, 1920, with the view of including any additional names that had been omitted from the files of the Official Bulletin or from the lists published in the newspapers.
The names prepared from all these different sources were then classified according to counties, and the lists were in turn sent to the local county committees to be verified. A special questionnaire was printed and also sent to the committees to be filled out for each name. When the records were completed they were returned to the office of the Historical Commission, and from these the biographical sketches were prepared for the volume.
None except those directly connected with the details of the work in assembling these thousands of records can ever realize the immense amount of labor involved in preparing a memorial volume of this kind. An effort has been made to obtain the following information for every record included in this volume: Names of the parents, date and place of deceased's birth, his occupation, the date and place where he entered service, camps where trained, a brief statement of his service record, the date and place of his death, and the place of burial.
Special efforts have also been made to obtain a photograph in every case. This part of the work has been unbelievably successful. Photographs of every imaginable description have been received. In numerous cases the parents have entrusted to us the last and only photograph in their possession, showing their eagerness to cooperate in this memorable work. Had this phase of the work been delayed for even the short period of two or three years it is doubtful if fifty per cent of the photographs could have been obtained. It is indeed a great satisfaction to us to be able to report that in the handling of the thousands of pictures, not one has been lost.
The chief regret in assembling a memorial volume of this kind is the physical limitation that prevents giving greater space to the individual records of these heroes. If it were possible, an entire page or more should be given to each record. Copies of letters written by the chaplain, nurses, and comrades, who were present during the last moments lived by these men and women have been gathered and filed with most of the records, but unfortunately they can not be printed in the limited space alloted [sic] in the volume. Under the plan adopted, that of placing five records to the page, together with their photographs, it has made a volume of considerably more than six hundred pages. But to have condensed the sketches more than has been done, or to have reduced still more the size of the photographs, would have been entirely unwise, if not ungrateful.
In preparing a volume of this kind where the records run into the thousands, it is too much to hope that the work will be entirely free from errors. Especially is this true in regard to the military and naval units mentioned in certain cases. Oftentimes utterly contradictory reports have been received regarding the same individual's record. But in every case a sincere effort has been made to determine the exact unit and branch of service in which he was enrolled, and to give a brief sketch of his service record. If from the brief sketches herewith produced the sons and daughters of later generations learn something of the heroic services rendered by these men and women, and of the sacrifices they made, then this volume will have served the purpose for which it was published.
Special mention should be made here of the splendid work performed by the local committees in the different counties in collecting the Gold Star records. Too much credit can not be given to these loyal, earnest workers, who so nobly assisted in this great cause. Without their cooperation this volume would never have been a success. Earnestly and patiently they labored, week after week, and month after month, going about over the county, interviewing the parents and next of kin, in an effort to secure the information asked for on the questionnaire, and to obtain a photograph of these heroes. They gave their time and labor freely in this sacred work, and many of them expended considerable sums out of their own private income in order to gather the records from their county and permanently preserve them. To these earnest and untiring workers, the Indiana Historical Commission is forever indebted.
To Lee Burns of Indianapolis, the editor is especially indebted for his many valuable suggestions in helping to select the cover design, paper, and binding used in preparing this volume for publication. His advice and professional services have always been at the disposal of the Commission, and his council has been of great help.
State House, Indianapolis, February 26, 1921
John W. Oliver, Editor
Indiana Historical Commission.