Who’s Who: Some of America’s Most Influential WWI Veterans


In its modern form, Veterans Day is the day when we honor and thank the men and women who served our nation in the military. But it is also Armistice Day – the end of the Great War, the First World War.

“The Great War” is one we don’t talk about much anymore. But what may not be widely remembered is that some of America’s most influential citizens were veterans of that war. Their time in the war changed them in many ways that shaped what they did for the rest of their lives.

Those Americans come from many different walks of life, but their contributions to American society were immeasurable. So who are these influential veterans of the great war?

The first: President Harry S. Truman. Truman was the only future president to be fought during the war and commanded an artillery unit in France. Truman’s unit also supported George Patton’s tank brigade. Dwight Eisenhower was in the United States Army at the time, but he served in a non-combat capacity at home.

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Sports heroes contribute to the war effort

We’ve all heard stories of baseball players leaving successful careers to enlist and go abroad during World War II, but one of the first baseball heroes also served in World War I: Christopher “Christy” Mathewson.

He played 17 seasons in the major leagues, spending part of that time with the New York Giants, where he practically invented the screwball and amassed a strikeout record that lasted nearly 50 years.

Mathewson was a little late when he joined the army at the age of 38. But he volunteered to serve his country and went to France. While still in training at Chaumont, he accidentally inhaled mustard gas. During a fight in Belgium at Flanders Field he was exposed to mustard gas for the second time.

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Hollywood and journalism do their part too

The Hollywood community was also known for its support of America during World War II, but even in its infancy Tinseltown had its share of patriots. Walter Brennan, one of Hollywood’s most successful actors, saw combat in France as a young soldier.

Brennan enlisted in the military and served in France from November 1917 to April 1919. He fought in several major campaigns, including Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. Brennan was also exposed to mustard gas, which caused him to lose several teeth and permanently damage his vocal cords.

We have all heard of the Hubble telescope and have seen great pictures of the universe taken through the telescope. But prior to his famous discovery that Earth’s galaxy, the Milky Way, was just one of many, Edwin Hubble served in World War I. Hubble served as a major in the 86th Infantry Division, but his service was short, not arriving in France until September 1918.

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Rounding out the most influential World War I veterans is Robert McCormick, editor and publisher of the TBEN. But before becoming one of the champions of journalism and press rights, McCormick also served in France as a member of General Pershing’s staff.

He eventually became the commander of the 5th Field Artillery of the First Division. His unit was instrumental in providing artillery support to other First Division troops in the Battle of Catigny, the first American victory of the war. By the end of his career he had risen to the rank of colonel.

This is only a partial list of the many Americans who have made tremendous contributions to American society, who began their adult lives as dough boys “out there.”

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