War Mother to Woodrow Wilson


War Mother to Woodrow Wilson






1919 August 4


A war mother writes to Woodrow Wilson about soldiers who were killed by police when they returned home.


National Archives and Records Administration 230/06/41 file #158260 box #1276 NARA ID #106


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library






Letter written in regard to shooting our returned soldiers By war mother

San Francisco, August 4, 1919

President Woodrow Wilson -

Dear President - Pardon me for encroaching on your valuable time, but I as the mother of enlisted sons am deeply concerned over the shooting of our returned soldiers by policemen. Six months of the past year I spent in Omaha, Nebraska, where three of our returned heroes were shot - there should not be a man in the United States big enough to shoot a returned soldier after he saved the world from the Hun.

The first soldier shot had returned to his parents in South Omaha. He was playing craps with some old friends, when a policeman, with a notorious foreign name, came up and became abusive; the policeman claimed the soldier threatened to shoot him, I doubt it, he shot the returned soldier through the bowels, he lingered several days in terrible agony, then passed away. He was vindicated of course. Here is an other case, I am sure was a frame up by the Hun police - the Chief of police has the Hun name of Eberstein two of our boys were walking quietly up the street when a man in front of them began firing upon one of them ran away the other was shot down like a dog. The fellow testified he thought they were going to hold him up. Bystanders testified that the soldiers were not even noticing him. The next day he said he had been drinking he must have been crazy. Claimed to be from Carson, Iowa. I enquired of relatives living there if they knew of any such man, they did not - it is a small place where everybody knows each other. I read no account of anything being done with this man.

A third soldier slipped away from Camp Dodge came to his mother's home and married the girl he was engaged to; he perhaps grew impatient at being unable to obtain a furlough. Why a policeman should have been detailed to arrest a soldier when we have military police is something to be investigated. He saw a policeman when on the street with his mother, who informed him he was under arrest. The soldier replied he would be arrested by no "d-d civilian", whereupon he blazed away and shot the soldier. Witnesses testified it was an unprovoked shooting, the soldier had used no weapon, simply made the remark above quoted. The poor heartbroken mother knelt beside her son and took his head in her lap. The brutal policeman made her put down her boy and get away from him. Can you find anything worse among the Belgians?

I worried day and night over these terrible cases. Wrote my sons we would not locate where they shot soldiers on their return we would return to the coast, where they had enlisted - bought a ticket for Denver where I had decided to visit a few weeks with relatives on way back. Before I had been there two days some fellow with a Hun name who was employed by the morals squad as it was called went into a soft drink stand and returned overseas soldier saw there would be trouble turned to leave the place whereupon the Hun officer shot the poor fellow and he died. Saw his picture in the paper he was bright and noble looking. He was of Italian parentage. The Italians gathered by hundreds demanded justice but of course the fellow went Scot free. Here was an other heartache and occasion of wrath for me. That boys life was worth more than all the booze in Denver. Returned to our former home in San Francisco, here I read an account of our returned boys appealing to the mayor to see that justice was meated out to in the case of a soldier who had been shot by a policeman - so here I was in trouble again. Where can one go to escape the injustice in our land?

Also wish to speak of the negro question. A lady from Alabama told me two months after our entrance into the war, the Germans were circulating propaganda among the negroes of the south, offering to make them equal with the whites if they would turn against this country.

An illustration of how the Omaha police force protect the negro, married women were attacked in their homes, but never heard of a negro being apprehended.

A disreputable family of negroes rented a house near a family of my acquaintance they brought a vicious snapping cur. Said they did not need a tag were friends of the dog catcher. Snapped this friends baby, bit her husband, tore the laundry mans new corduroy pants bit the butcher bit other people who called at her door. She called up chief of police twice to have him have the dog taken away - all to no purpose. I called there it attacked me I requested the negroes to get rid of the dog. Went to the humane agent he was not in. Asked the young man if should leave the names of all those the dog had bitten, he said O no he would see if it had a tag - Dog still was at large weeks after personally called up police headquarters gave full details of parties dog had attacked. Did likewise with humane agents - who was a party to all the police do. - both were pledged to protect bootlegging negroes and ignore white people. Dog still lives. Congress should pass a law to do away with the police force, who are only paid criminals, and have a military system governing our country -

Original Format





Unknown, “War Mother to Woodrow Wilson,” 1919 August 4, TI00156, Race and Segregation Collection, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.