Buffalo Soldiers

Black soldiers in WW1 (92nd & 93rd Divisions)

See the National Park Service history of the Buffalo Soldiers from the Revolutionary War through their integration in WWII. http://www.nps.gov/prsf/historyculture/buffalo-soldiers.htm.

Aaron Fisher, DSC

Aaron R. Fisher, Distinguished Service Cross

Indiana War Memorial documentation:

Aaron R. Fisher of Lyles, Indiana, enlisted in the US Army in 1911 and had risen to the rank of Sergeant before leaving for Europe on June 15, 1918. Shortly after arriving in France, Fisher was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the 366th Infantry Regiment of the 92nd Division. The 92nd then entered the French lines near Lesseaux.

On September 3, Fisher displayed exceptional bravery in action when his position was attacked by a much larger German force. Despite being severely wounded in the initial onslaught, he refused to abandon his post, ordering his men to stand and fight. Although it appeared that they would quickly be overwhelmed, Fisher’s men fought on against impossible odds until an Allied counterattack drove off the enemy.

Fisher was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for what U.S. Army called his “extraordinary heroism in action.” Furthermore, since Fisher's brave stand was made in support of America’s French allies, the French bestowed upon him the Croix de Guerre, acknowledging him as “an officer of admirable courage.”


Eugene Bullitt Cheatham, US Calvary, 1st Lt., Marion County, Indiana

Served 14 months in the ninth US Calvary, 1893 –1894

“I am both White and Colored.

“Occupied front-line trenches with my Regiment – 372nd Infantry from June 5 to and including the 10th of September, 1918 in Argonne Forest and the Verdun sector, France.

Was Judge Advocate of 372nd Infantry from June to September, 1918. Relieved from 372nd Infantry and assigned to Requisitions and Claims Service, September, 1918. Remained in service until sent back to United States and attached to Motor Battalion, 312th Ammunition Train, 87th Division, February, 1919. Attached to and did duty with Demobilization Group, Camp Upton, New York from March 14, 1919 to July 21, 1919.”


George Robert Hazzard, Sergeant, Air Service, Marion County, Indiana

  • 28th Co., 4 th Batt., Air Service Aeronautics
  • “First and only colored unit given intensive air service training.”
  • Trained at Ft. Wayne, Michigan & Mineola.

Buffalo Division Patch

Insignia of the 92nd Division, Indiana War Memorial Archives

The 92nd Div. was formed of "colored" soldiers from all states. This division advanced eight miles against enemy resistance, captured 38 prisoners and lost 176 men with 1,466 wounded.

Black Infantry units in World War 1, adopted the name given to the black cavalry troops by the Indians in the 1880’s.

Just over two generations had passed between the start of WW1 and the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery in the United Sates. Discrimination was still rampant. The US Army did not deem black soldiers able to handle the responsibilities of officers and most of the Pioneer Infantry sent to Europe were assigned to labor units in the back lines. The French saw this as a waste of talent and requested to utilize black soldiers within their forces. Many of the awards and distinctions achieved were granted by the French in gratitude for their services.

See http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/detached.htm for further information.

Black soldiers in WW1 were referred to as “colored”.   This designation appeared on all induction and discharge papers.

The story of the black soldier in WW1 was unrecorded still goes largely untold. Many of the following are stories of soldiers experiences that are taken from the Gold Star Honor Roll, a published record of Men and Women who died in service of the United States and the Allied Nations in the World War.

John Chester Smith, Private, Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Son of Charles and Maria Pettiford Smith; born February 2, 1897, Irvington, Marion County, Ind. Motor truck driver. Entered service September 25, 1918, Indianapolis, Ind. Trained at Camp Custer, Mich.; assigned to 3rd Provisional Company, Colored Detachment, 160th Depot Brigade. Died of pneumonia October 8, 1918, Camp Custer, Mich. Buried in Indianapolis, Ind.

Elisha Baker, Private, Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Son of Mitchell Thomas and Edith Belle Baker (both deceased); born November 18, 1891, Glasgow, Ky. Moved to Indianapolis, in 1902. Teamster. Entered service August 22, 1918, Indianapolis, Ind. Sent to Camp Dodge, Iowa; assigned to 65th Company, 163rd Depot Brigade; transferred to Company A, 809th Pioneer Infantry. Sailed overseas September 23, 1918. Died of pneumonia October 8, 1918, Base Hospital, France. (Place of burial unknown).

Walter D. Baker, Corporal, Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Son of Mitchell Thomas and Edith Belle Baker (both deceased); born September 14, 1895, Glasgow, Ky. Moved to Indianapolis in 1904. Laborer. Entered service August 22, 1918, Indianapolis, Ind. Sent to Camp Dodge, Iowa; assigned to 26th Company, 7th Battalion, 163rd Depot Brigade; transferred to Company M, 809th Pioneer Infantry. Overseas in September 23, 1918. Died of psychosis dementia September 8, 1919, in France. Buried "Somewhere in France."

Stanley McCinty, Colored Canadian Expeditionary Forces, Marion County, Indiana

Served in the Canadian Construction Corps. Battles: Amiens, Ypres, Cambria, Arias

Canadian soldiers

"Colored Canadians imitating the Germans that they captured in the dugout near the Canal du Nord, as they put up their hands and shouted 'Kamerad."

Canadian Official Photo, from US, America's War for Humanity

John Milton Lee, Bat. F., 349th Field Artillery, 92nd Div., Marion County, Indiana

While in position in Aton, France on October 21, 1918, about 10:25 p.m. I personally fired the first shot on enemy lines ever fired by a Colored artilleryman.

On the front continuously from October 19 to November 11, 1918. Occupied Marbache sector, attacked in direction of Corne, objective Metz.

Henry Spears, Private, Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Son of William and Jannie Spears; born December 12, 1896, Wilson, La. Farmer. Entered service June 14, 1918, in Indianapolis.  Sent to Camp Taylor, Ky.; assigned to 70th Company, 18th Training Battalion, 159th Depot Brigade. Transferred to Camp Humphreys, Va.; assigned to Company B, 541st Engineers.  Drowned August 25, 1918, Camp Humphreys, Va.  Buried at Wilson, La.

Green H. Spencer, Mechanic, Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Son of Henry and Hannah Spencer; born November 14, 1886, Junction City, Boyle County, Ky.   Moved to Indianapolis in May, 1912.  Laborer.  Entered service July 10, 1918, Indianapolis.  Sent to Camp Dodge, Iowa; assigned to 65th Company, 17th Training Battalion, 163rd Depot Brigade; transferred to Company K, 804th Pioneer Infantry. Went overseas September 8, 1918. Died of pneumonia March 5, 1919, Gustinville, France. Place of burial, Gustinville, France.

Ezra H. Borah, Private, KIA, Marion County, Indiana

Son of Mr. and Mrs. John Borah; born March 28, 1890, Owensboro, Ky.  Living in Indianapolis, Ind. when he entered service April 29, 1918.  Overseas in July, 1918; assigned to Company F, 368th Infantry.  Killed in action September 27, 1918, in battle of Argonne Forest. (Burial place not given).

Eugene Taylor, Private, Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Indianapolis. Private, Company M, 809th Pioneer Infantry.  Died of tuberculosis June 8, 1919, "Somewhere in France."

William Robert Johnson, 809th Pioneer Infantry, Marion County, Indiana

Embarked for France, September 22, 1918 on USS Mongolia.

“Volunteered my services during rage of the flu during our voyage at sea and was in full charge of all the officers who became ill during the 14 day trip, working day and night as a nurse.”

American Negro Infanty

"American Negro infantrymen advancing toward the front in the Argonne along a screened highway. It can truly be said of these American soldiers and there ilk in the campaign in France that 'the colored troops fought nobly'". Photo and quotation from "America's War for Humanity"

William J. Gregory, 809th Pioneer Infantry, Marion County, Indiana

Marbache sector: On February 12, a German mine exploded, seven men were torn into many pieces. I was knocked down was partially covered with the earth so I survived. Sent to first aid Station at Mars-la-Tours, France, left ear was cut, several small cuts about face and head.

Samuel Heater, Pvt., Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Son of William and Cleria Heater (both deceased); born May 3, 1890, Bowling Green, Ky. Employee of Indiana Foundry Company, Indianapolis. Entered service August 22, 1918, Indianapolis, Ind. Sent to Camp Dodge, Iowa. Transferred to Camp Upton, N. Y.; assigned to Company K, 809th Pioneer Infantry.  Embarked October, 1918, and died of influenza October 5, 1918, at sea.  Survived by widow, Emma Heater, and daughter, Mattie Margaret, Indianapolis, Ind.

George Whitman Chatman, Pvt., Co. E., 370th Reg., 93rd Div., Marion County, Indiana

Battles: Granville, May-June, 1918

St. Mihiel, June 22 - July 2, 1918

Argonne Sector, July 21 - August 15, 1918

Antioch Farms, ( Soissons) September 17 - September 27, 1918

“I was in the 8th Illinois National Guard. After going to France, our Regiment was changed from the 8th Illinois to 370th Infantry.  After arriving in France my Regiment was put into the French Division.  We were in the 10th Army, French and the 59th division, French.  We remained in the French Division until December 8, 1918, than we came back to the 93rd division, American.

After being in the hospital for about a month (gas wounds), I was sent back to my Regiment and we were fighting when the armistice was signed.  After going into a French division, we went into French formation, which were three machine-gun companies to one Regiment, and three battalion headquarters.  I was transferred from E. Co. to 2nd Battalion Headquarters and served as Liaison.

I was reported missing in action in September, in the meantime, I had been gassed and taken up from battlefield and sent back to a first aid station and from there to hospital.  It was not reported for a day or two that I have been gassed and sent to the hospital.  Nevertheless, after getting all right again, I went back to my Regiment, and was fighting when the Germans cried Comrade.”

I remain yours sincerely,

George W. Chatman,

823 Blake Street, Indianapolis, IndianaAfrican troops on R&R.


"African troops of the French Army en route to the Riviera to enjoy a well-earned ret after the battle of Douaumont, in which their ranks were considerably depleted. These colored fighters of France are commanded entirely by white officers and have done splended service."

U & U Photo, America's War for Humanity

Paul Bennett, PFC, Heavy Artillery, 351st Regiment, 92nd Division, Marion County, Indiana

“I was discharged from the military in good physical condition with my character rated as excellent.  My service record bore, no AWOL’s, no absences, in General Order 45, Washington DC, 1914.  I served my entire enlistment with one of the best and only regiments of Heavy Field Artillery, Colored, that the world has known.”

Received honorable mention from Major Field Commander, for successfully carrying messages between Field Headquarters to the trenches through shellfire. (Marbache Sector, Lorraine October 24 - November 11, 1918)

Additional information:

Pursuant to War Department Orders, the 92nd Division (1) was organized November 29, 1917, from the first contingent of Negro draftees arriving at the various camps and cantonments throughout the United States during the latter part of the month of October, 1917.  The entire enlisted personnel were made up of Negroes and represented practically all the States in the Union.  The Staff and Field Officers, officers of the Supply Units, Quartermaster Corps, Engineers' Corps, and of the Artillery Units, with few exceptions, were white.  The remainder of the commissioned personnel, comprising about four-fifths of the whole, were colored.

The plans of the War Department did not provide a separate cantonment for this division.  It was therefore necessary to distribute its various units among seven widely-separated camps.


10th Cavalry

The 10th Cavalry was one of the original segregated African American Army Units formed after the Civil War.  They fought in the Indian Wars, Spanish American War in Cuba and the Philippine-American War.  They served stateside during WW1.  Photo: America's War for Humanity





Jerry Bostick, Private, Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Son of Rose and Sallie Bostick; born November 24, 1895, Nashville, Tenn.  Came to Indianapolis August 18, 1916.  Laborer. Entered service June, 1917, St. Louis, Mo.  Trained at Camp Funston, Kans.; assigned to Company Ordnance Detachment, 317th Ammunition Regiment, Train Division 92.  Died of pneumonia March 26, 1919, Hoboken, N. J.  Buried in New Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Ind.  Survived by widow, Sarah Bostick, Indianapolis.


Charles Mentlow, Pvt., Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Son of Manual and Emma Mentlow (Young); born January 15, 1889, Cairo, Sumner County, Tenn.  Came to Marion County, Ind. in 1913.  Factory employee. Entered service April 29, 1918, Indianapolis, Ind.  Sent to Camp Taylor, Ky.; assigned to Company A, 317th Labor Battalion.  Overseas June 20, 1918.  Died of pneumonia May 9, 1919, Hospital, Dijon, France.  Buried in Cemetery No. 14, Dijon, Cote d'Or.  Survived by widow, Lucy Wright Mentlow, Indianapolis, Ind.


Arthur Rogers Cline, 1st Lt., 809th Pioneer Infantry, Marion County, Indiana

“The 801st Pioneer Infantry arrived in France in the middle of September, 1918. They were placed in the rear of the rear of fighting lines. They have been doing salvage work and are still in France.”


Bedford Crabtree, Sergeant, Co. C., 350th Machine-gun Battalion, Marion County, Indiana

St. Die, August 25 to September 20, 1918, Argonne Forest, September 26 to October 7, 1918, Marbache, October 8 to November 11, 1918.


Eugene T. Spering, Private, Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

From Indianapolis, Indiana. Private. Company M, 809th Pioneer Infantry.  Died of tuberculosis June 8, 1919.


William Carter, Pvt. Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Son of Samuel and Della Carter; born May 28, 1918, Hancock County, Ky.  Moved to Indianapolis in June, 1915. Laborer. Entered service in August, 1918, Indianapolis. Sent to Camp Dodge, Iowa.  Assigned to 163rd Depot Brigade.  Died of disease sometime in November, 1918, at Camp Dodge.  Buried in Military Cemetery, Camp Dodge, Iowa.


John Webster, Private, Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Son of Thomas and Louise Foster Webster; born December 11, 1890, Columbia, Tenn.  Living in Indianapolis when he entered service May 14, 1918, Williamson, W. Va. Trained at Camp Lee, Va.; assigned to Company A, 320th Labor Battalion, Quartermaster Corps. Transferred to Company C, 316th Labor Battalion.  Overseas September 15, 1918.  Died of pneumonia December 21, 1918, Lievres-lor-cher, France.  Buried, "Somewhere in France."


Rufus Hill, Private, Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Beech Grove, Marion County, Ind. Private, 4th Provisional Company, 160th Depot Brigade.  Died of influenza October 21, 1918, Camp Custer, Mich.


Mack House, Private, Gold Star, Marion County, Indiana

Indianapolis. Private, Company A, 414th Labor Battalion.  Died of tuberculosis June 10, 1919.

Indiana War Memorials