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A Hoosier Sacrifice

The World Wars have a special connection to Evansville.

Thousands of ammunitions, LSTs, and P-47 Thunderbolt planes were manufactured in the city during World War II (read more about the war effort in the Jan/Feb issue of Evansville Living

When it comes to World War I, the impact was not as intensive in Evansville as its sequel. However, it still is regarded as an important piece of the city’s history.

At the time, Evansville was the home of James Bethel Gresham. The 24-year-old Army corporal is now known for being the first Hoosier serviceman and one of the first Americans killed in action. He died in a German artillery assault on a small fraction of U.S. and French soldiers encamped in a trench on French soil.

In honor of his service and to memorialize his sacrifice, Evansville built a home in 1918 at 2 Wedeking St. and presented it to Gresham’s mother Alice Dodd. Pictured in this photo taken in 1917 and featured in the Literary Digest magazine, Dodd is shown with an American flag draped over her.

After her son’s death, Dodd was named an honorary president of the War Mothers of America, a group which found its start in Evansville thanks to resident Gertrude Schulz and that would eventually receive a national charter. The War Mothers grew across the country and consisted of mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of servicemen, all working toward helping war efforts overseas as well as actively supporting their relatives in war.

When she passed in 1927, Dodd was given a full military burial. The home gifted to her was renovated in 2017 to be used as a base for the ECHO Housing Corporation’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program.

Photo provided by Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library Digital Archive

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