Ohioans in the Great War

In 1919, the 83rd Ohio General Assembly authorized the publication of a full roster of Ohio’s men who had served in the World War.  Under the direction of Governor Myers Y. Cooper, the resulting publication produced by the Ohio Adjutant General’s Office was entitled The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the World War 1917-18.  It was a 23 volume set.

The official act and first section as it was passed by the Assembly, read as follows:

This Roster is published under the authority of the following enactment of the Eighty-third General Assembly of Ohio, approved May 7, 1919, as follows :

Providing for the publication and distribution of the roster of Ohio soldiers, sailors and marines engaged in the war with the Central Powers of Europe.  Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio:

SECTION I . The governor, secretary of state and adjutant general are hereby authorized to prepare and secure the publication in book form of a complete roster of all Ohio soldiers, sailors and marines who entered the service of the United States in the war of 1917-19 with the Central Powers of Europe. The preparation of such roster shall be under the direction and supervision of the adjutant general who shall employ such assistants and incur such expenses as may be necessary and the compensation of such assistants and such expenses shall be paid out of the state treasury on the warrant of the auditor of state upon the presentation of vouchers signed by the Adjutant General.

The dedication page in each volume simply states:

(These Volumes are Respectfully and Gratefully Dedicated)

For me, the short little entry for Adam O. Brigner in Volume 2 became the sole source of information of my Grandfather’s service record, from which I was able to piece together the historical timeline.  I also discovered information for Private Brigner’s cousin Charles, which helped give context to some other bits of information I ran across.

I also discovered that there were exactly four men with the Brigner surname who served from Ohio:  Adam O. Brigner (Beaver), Charles Brigner (Piketon), Orren R. Brigner (Mechanicsburg), and Orville D. Brigner (Toledo).

Ordinarily, military service records are only available to the next of kin of a deceased veteran, but after 62 years from the date of military separation, these records are turned over to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) of the National Archives, whereby they become property of the public domain and accessible by anyone.  One only has to submit the proper forms with enough detail to allow NPRC staffers to locate the records.

However, in July, 1973 disaster struck when a fire gutted the NPRC facility in St. Louis.  The fire resulted in the total loss of approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files.  According to the Archives, the loss was estimated to be:

  • Army:  80% Loss – Personnel discharged November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960
  • Air Force:  75% Loss – Personnel discharged September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964

“No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained, nor were microfilm copies produced. Neither were any indexes created prior to the fire. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available. However, in the years following the fire, the NPRC collected numerous series of records (referred to as Auxiliary Records) that are used to reconstruct basic service information.”

According to the NPRC, the section of the archive that held WWI personnel records was the area most heavily damaged.

What a huge blow to our country’s historical record, and to the families of those who served her…

Where Did They Come From?

As one might expect, the WWI Doughboy hailed from all across the United States and her territories.

However, you may find it surprising to note that for its size, Ohio provided over 200,000 men, ranking fourth among all the states.