American Jewish Committee Office Of War Records. World War I
Brian Ferber, Elana Horowitz, 1995
(part of the AJHS-JGSGB Project)
American Jewish Committee Office Of War Records. World War I. This collection offers a good amount of in-depth data regarding 4-5,000 Jewish soldiers that served in the U.S. military during World War I. It was donated many years ago, at the insistence of Max Kohler (1871-1934), a lawyer and historian who played a critical role in the project, and who was also a devoted member of the AJHS.
Following World War I, in 1921, the American Jewish Committee undertook a project to document the military service of those Jews that served in the United States Armed Forces during the war. Cyrus Adler was Chairman of the Board of the A.J.C. at the time, and had a hand in planning the community surveys. The A.J.C. was able to determine who in the military was Jewish through the records of the various American Jewish communities, and through the records of the Office of Military Chaplains, a section of the War Department.
In all, about 250,000 Jewish soldiers served in the United States military during World War I, 40,000 of whom volunteered. About 3500 Jews were killed in action or died of wounds. Jews, who made up 3 per cent of the United States population, contributed 5% to the entire death roll of the U.S. Army. The number of Jews wounded was estimated at 12,000.
According to a cover letter sent with each questionnaire, over 150,000 Jewish servicemen took part in the study. This figure is hard to prove, and is probably an exaggeration, an attempt to coax more former soldiers into taking part in the survey. In any case, the surveyors were especially interested in documenting those whose service was exemplary, i.e., Jews who were wounded or killed, or, received a citation, or were officers. Recent inquiries to the American Jewish Committee in New York City could provide no concrete information as to the whereabouts of additional survey responses.
Each four-sided survey questionnaire is entitled, "WAR RECORD OF AMERICAN JEWS," with the following explanatory note: "Compiled by the Office of War Records of the American Jewish Committee, in cooperation with the Jewish Welfare Board and other leading organizations, as a permanent memorial of Jewish Service in the World War and as a contribution to American and Jewish history."
Each questionnaire asks for the following information: "name in full; present service or business address; legal residence; date and place of birth; birthplace of parents; education (if college or univerity graduate, give name of institution, date of graduation and degree obtained); brief summary of civilian career before joining service; full name and highest rank; arm of servie (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Uniformed Auxiliary Service); branch (such as Infantry, Field Artillery, Medical Corps, Pay Corps, etc.); method of entrance into service (enlisted, enrolled, drafted, commissioned, or volunteered); date of entrance into service; rank or rating upon entrance into service and first organization, unit, station, or ship; promotions or official recommendations for promotion received, with dates thereof; length of time spent overseas or afloat, counting toward service chevrons; duties and general location of organization, unit or ship; participated in the following actions; casualty--killed in action or by accident, died of wounds or disease, gassed, shell-socked, or taken prisoner--please give circumstantial details as to nature of casualty, time and place, name of hospital, etc., etc. Copies of official documents are particularly desired; names and addresses of other Jews in the service, particularly--Jewish commissioned officers, Jewish casualties, Jewish citations."
The American Jewish Historical Society collection contains about 4-5,000 of such questionnaires.
Answers are handwritten on the forms, and photographs and related correspondence are occasionally attached.
The collection "American Jewish Committee Office of War Records" consists of twenty-one boxes. The war records begin in box two, and the war records of Jewish soldiers continue from there until box 18. Box 1 consists of inter-office correspondence of the A.J.C., and boxes 18-21 consist of letters to the A.J.C. of non-Jews mistakenly sent war records questionnaires who wished to qualify that they were not Jews. The records are divided into different headings. For example, some records are filed according to the city they come from, and some are filed according to the branch of service and rank, and some according to both. Others are filed according to soldiers with a certain rank that were wounded. Each file in itself is in alphabetical order. Upon looking at the files, everything is self explanatory. An interesting file is folder #9 in box 1. It includes correspondence from those Jews that, while they admit to being Jewish, refused to take part in the survey for one reason or another.
The boxes of war records (#2-18) are labeled more or less along the lines of the following three parameters. It is therefore helpful, but not essential, to know into which of these categories a serviceman fit in order to search:
--Private, or Non-Commissioned Officer, or Officer
--Army, Navy, Aviation, Airforce, or Civilian War Worker
--Citation, Wounded, Casualty, or Dead.
A finding aid has been prepared by Brandeis student researchers Elana Horowitz and Brian Ferber.
Office Correspondence and Reports between Mr. Cyrus Adler V.P. and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Jewish Committee, and Mr. Julian Leavitt Director of The Office Of War Records of the American Jewish Committee.
The box includes:
Plans and suggestions for the organization of community surveys regarding the collection of the war records.
FOLDER 1: Dec. 1917 - Nov. 1918 - letters from the American Jewish Committee.
FOLDER 2: August 1919 - December 1919
FOLDER 3: Correspondence, 1920 - 1 article and one handwritten
FOLDER 4: A few from 1921, the rest from 1926
FOLDER 5: requests for information
requests for war records cards to send in to Bureau of Jewish Statistics - the cards assure a permanent record in roster of Jewish war service - many hand-written.
FOLDER 6: reports on filing
registration card filing
FOLDER 7: reports on circulation
records concerning # of registration cards received
FOLDER 8: no folder
preliminary list of casualties, including cause of death.
FOLDER 9: responses from those that do not wish to be listed
FOLDER 10: 77th Division Report
chart of names of casualties
FOLDER 11: List from West Indies of Jews from Jamaica who served with the Colcurs.
BOX 2: GENERAL FILES, ARMY and NAVY
FILE 1: War records of Privates and Non-Commisioned Navy Officers
FILE 2-: The rest of the files are the war records of Privates, A-Z, for the Jewish War Records collection.
Some false death letters were sent.
BOX 3: BALTIMORE, CANTON & CLEVELAND, OHIO.
FILE 1: BALTIMORE - NAVY, PRIVATES AND NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS
2: Baltmore A-F
3: Baltimore G-K
4: Baltimore L-R
5: Baltimore S-Z
6: Baltimore Privates and Non-Commissioned S.A.T.C.
7: Canton, Privates A-Z
8: Cleveland, Privates A-G
9: Cleveland, Privates H-P
BOX 4: CLEVELAND, NYC, PITTSBURGH, ST PAUL, WASHINGTON DC
FILE 1: Cleveland Q-Z
2: Cleveland, Prvts. and Non Commissioned, Navy
3: Cleveland, Privates and Non Commissions, S.A.T.C.
4: Lists of dead and wounded, Manhattan and the Bronx, casualties, May 11, 1921, & May 18, 1921
5: Pittsburgh, A-G Privates
6: Pittsburgh, H-Z Privates
7: Pittsburgh, Privates, N.C.O.'s, from Navy
8: Pittsburgh, Privates, N.C.O.'s, and S.A.T.C.'s
9: St. Paul, Privates A-Z
10: St. Paul, Privates and N.C.O.'s, from Navy
11: St. Paul, Privates, N.C.O.'s, S.A.T.C.'s
12: Washington DC, Privates and N.C.O.`s, Navy
13: Washington DC, Privates A-Z
14: Washington DC, Privates, Non Commisioned S.A.T.C`s
BOX 5: Tabulated Data (basically more war records sheets)
Folder 1: "RECEIVED SINCE TABULATION, WOUNDED STRAIGHT CITATIONS"
-large folder, some pictures
-hundreds of casualties with descriptions and correspondence, dates included
-these casualties came in after tabulation
Folder 2: "RECEIVED SINCE TABULATION, COMMISSIONED OFFICERS", also,"ACTED UPON"
-hundreds of injured commissioned officers
-some contain typed info cards, "name, rank, injury"
-these forms list on the back other known jewish service men
-some contain honorable discharges
-some deaths, some injuries, some photos
Folder 3: "PRIVATES, NON-JEWS, NON SERVICE, ETC., NOT TABULATED
-many of the non-Jew records are simply correspondence statements that they are not Jewish
Folder 4: "NOT TABULATED, DEAD"
-privates, non-jews, etc.
BOX 6: "CASUALTIES"
-wounded privates and N.C.O.`s ("E" for all last names)
-descriptions of injured
Folder 2: "Wounded privates and N.C.O.'s, from "Goldstein" to "Gon"
-same as above
-same as above, but Goo-Goz
-many records of gassing in all
Folder 4: GR-GRN
BOX 7: WOUNDED PRIVATES, AND N.C.O.`S (many gassed)
Folder 1: KI-KQ
BOX 8: WOUNDED PRIVATES AND N.C.O.`S
Folder 1: PERLM-PZ
3: RO-ROSENBERG, I
4: ROSENBERG,J - ROSZ
5: ROT - RUBENSTEIN, L
6: RUBENSTEIN, M - RZ
BOX 9: WOUNDED PRIVATES AND NCO'S
Folder 1: SIM-SOL
2: SOM - STEIN, G
3: STEIN, H - STN
4: STO - TD
7: WEIN - WEIR
8: WEIS - WH
9: WI - WZ
10: X - Z
BOX 10: "CASUALTIES, AIRFORCE, NAVY, CITATIONS"
Folder 1: "WOUNDED, PRIVATES, AND NCO'S AV"
-very small file, "B" records enclosed
2: "WOUNDED, PRIVATES AND NCO`S, NAVY A-Z"
-only three records
3: "WOUNDED, PRIVATES AND NCO'S - CITATIONS A-B"
BOX 11: "OFFICERS, ARMY" - (includes college and career info.)
Folder 1: "COMMISSIONED OFFICERS" A-ANS
5: BER - BEZ
11: COHEN, A - COHEN, J
12: COHEN, L
13: COHEN, R - CZ
BOX 12: "ARMY OFFICERS" folders "DEI" - "LET"
BOX 13: "ARMY OFFICERS" folders "LEV" - "STA"
BOX 14: "ARMY OFFICERS" folders "STE" - "Z"
Folder 1-2: "COMMISSIONED OFFICERS, AVIATION - P-Z"
Folders 2-13: "COMMISSIONED OFFICERS, NAVY - A-Z"
BOX 16: "OFFICERS, CITATIONS, CASUALTIES"
Files 1-6: "COMMISSIONED OFFERS, CITED - A-Z"
Files 7-8: "COMMISSIONED OFFICERS, CASUALTY CITED - K-Z"
Files 9-14: "COMMISSIONED OFFICERS, WOUNDED - A-Z"
BOX 17: "OFFICERS - CITATIONS, CASUALTIES, CIVILIAN WAR WORKERS,
PRE- AND POST-WAR SERVICEMEN"
Folder 1: "DEAD COMMISSIONED OFFICERS"
-many clippings, pictures, and letters
Folder 2: "COMMISSIONED OFFICERS, AVIG - CITED, WOUNDED"
Folder 3: nothing
Folder 4: "COMMISSIONED OFFICERS - AVIA - CITED - CASUALTIES"
Folder 5: "COMMISSIONED OFFICERS, NAVY - CITED"
Folder 6: "COMMISSIONED OFFICERS, NAVY - WOUNDED"
Folder 7: "CIRCULATED INCORRECTLY"
- INCORRECTLY SENT WAR RECORDS SHEETS, FOR EXAMPLE,
SENDING A DEATH RECORDS SHEET TO SOMEONE WHO WASN'T
EVEN IN THE WAR
Folder 8: "CIVILIAN WAR WORKERS"
- pictures and letters
Folder 9: "ANTE AND POST-BELLUM"
- letters included
Folder 10: "CIRC. INCORRECTLY"
- more incorrectly mailed war record sheets sent by the AJC
Folder 11: "CIRC. INCORRECTLY"
Folder 12: "TO BE TABULATED"
- duplicated to be filed
- some mistakes (circ.)
BOX 18: "NON-JEWS"
Folder 1: "NON-JEWS PRIVATES A-Z"
- correspondence stating that they are not jews
Folder 2: "NON JEWS, COMMISIONED OFFICERS - A"
- statements that they are not jews
Folder 3: same, B
Folder 4: C-E
Folder 5: F
Folder 6: G
Folder 7: H
BOX 19: "NON JEWS"
Folder 1: "NON-JEWS, CASUALTIES, WOUNDED - A-BEQ"
- correspondence stating that they are not jews
Folder 1: "CASUALTIES WOUNDED" - S-SIK
- correspondence A
5: "DEAD" - B
BOX 21 "NON-JEWS, DEAD"
Folder 1: I-J