Exploring Missouri’s Involvement in WWI Through Leroy Robbin’s Scrapbooks
The year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the United State’s entry into WWI. Washington University in St Louis’s University Archives and Local History collections have an array of holdings that document our city’s participation in the war, including the diaries, correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, maps, and even uniforms of Washington University alumni who participated in the war.
One such holding is a scrapbook of newspaper clippings chronicling the formation of the Fifth Regiment of the Missouri National Guard during World War I (the 138th U.S. Army Infantry Division), compiled by the commanding officer of the unit and Wash U alumni, Colonel Leroy Robbins.
The scrapbook begins with newspaper clippings about the French War Commission’s visit to St. Louis in early May of 1917, when allied French Marshal Joseph Joffre, the former Commander-in-Chief of the French forces on the Western Front, presented Col. Leroy Robbins with a regimental flag. This flag was the first of its kind that Joffre had presented in America, and afterward the regiment became popularly known “Joffre’s Missouri Fifth,” or “Joffre’s Regiment.” At the end of Joffre’s visit, a parade was held in the French Mission’s honor, with Washington University at the end of the parade route.
Filling the Fifth
The honor that Joffre bestowed on the Fifth Regiment spurred several weeks of heavy recruitment. Below are a couple of ads from Robbins’ scrapbook urging recruitment with the slogan “Fill the Fifth.” The Fifth was filled to “minimum peace strength” in a record-breaking 14 days, after which there was a celebration to show off the unit. Around 100,000 people turned out to Forest Park in what a clipping from the St Louis Globe Democrat declares to be “The greatest military parade in the city’s history.”
Documenting History: Missouri Over There
In August, the Fifth left Missouri for training at Camp Clark in Nevada. Robbins’ scrapbooks contain several original photographs from their training period, including the one below. Other original photos from the scrapbook and other materials from Washington University’s WWI collections will soon be available digitally through the Missouri Digital Heritage project, “Missouri Over There: Missouri and the Great War,” a project to digitize collections of Missouri’s participation in the First World War. You can check out the project at http://missourioverthere.org/. To see more of Washington University’s holdings from Leroy Robbins, please visit the Leroy Robbins Finding Aid.