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Friday, November 19, 2010

Homer Dahringer (1890-1918)

When World War I erupted in Europe after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, on June 28, 1914 by the Black Hand, the United States pursued a policy of non-intervention.

However, former president, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), strongly supported the Allies and demanded a harsher policy against Germany, especially regarding submarine warfare. In 1917, Roosevelt visited Fort Sheridan (shown in photo) to give a passionate speech about the importance of rallying troops for mobilization for the war.

By 1916, the United States had begun to enlarge its army in preparation for war. At Fort Sheridan, much of the training focused on mastering trench warfare. Soldiers constructed and used an extensive trenching system simulating, as closely as possible, the trenches in the European war. (Officers Training Camp trenches at Fort Sheridan, circa 1917).

On April 6, 1917, the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany. Lake Countians began to volunteer for service in the war, and the Lake County sheriff was under orders to arrest all “slackers” or any man who wouldn’t register.

Homer Dahringer of Waukegan (right), who had gone through the First Officers Training Camp at Fort Sheridan in 1916, was commissioned August 15, 1917. He studied aviation in Austin, Texas, and was ordered to France in March 1918.

He was attached to the First Aero Squadron as an observer. In June 1918, he was promoted to first lieutenant. His job was to fly behind enemy lines in a two-seat reconnaissance plane, make observations and collect information and photographs of value to American gunners.

Dahringer had been a star athlete at Waukegan’s Central High School, and captain of the basketball team at the University of Illinois. By all accounts, he was outgoing and well liked.

Homer Dahringer (2nd from right), circa 1913.

Homer Dahringer (left) with friends. Mr. Steinhaus (2nd from right)
was Dahringer's business partner. In 1908, just after graduating
from high school, they formed Dahringer & Steinhaus
Restaurant, Ice Cream and Confectionary
at Genesee and Clayton Streets, Waukegan.

On September 16, 1918 he to wrote his parents from France:

“I am going on a dangerous mission, but we are all keyed up for it and do not anticipate any trouble. Tomorrow’s work is rather a culmination of all my efforts. We are going over the top together with the infantry. I am scheduled to fly an Infantry Liaison plane. It is the worst kind of work and everything rests with God. If I do not come back, you may know that I gave my all and my best to my country.”

He and his pilot, Lieutenant William Cowart, never came back from that mission. Their plane was shot down by a German Fokker, and they were reported missing in action on September 17, 1918.

Dahringer's family clung to the hope that he was alive and would come home from the war. The local paper ran headlines "Vanished Behind Foe Lines in Plane; Homer Dahringer, U.S. Air Observer, Missing in Action." Even the American Red Cross investigated and reported that he was alive and had been taken behind enemy lines. Soon even that report was questioned, since the family never received a letter from their son or any other news.

The Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, but it was not until January 3, 1919 that Dahringer's family received another telegram from the U.S. Army stating:

"Your son, Lieut. Homer Walston Dahringer reported by message dropped from German plane as dead in Germany. Date and cause of death unknown. Will notify of any future information."

Still, the family refused to accept the news. Within weeks, his body was brought to France for burial and it was the final proof that his family needed.

Real photo postcard of the University of Illinois' soccer team, 1910.
Homer Dahringer is seen smiling in the back row, third from left.
He sent the postcard to his sister Edna who was living in Los Angeles
at the time. He wrote: "This is the new game I am playing now.
We played against St. Louis and lost 5-0. Then we played Chicago
at Chicago and won 3-0. Today we played Chicago down here
and won 6-1. This was our last game this year. I am going home
for Thanksgiving soon.
Wish you were going to there too."
Signed, Homer "Darrie" [his nickname].
On October 28, 1919, the newly formed Waukegan American Legion Post was named in honor of Dahringer. Three years later, Dahringer’s body was brought back from France to be buried in Waukegan.


Anonymous said...

He is buried in Beach Park Illinois. Pine View Memorial Park.

Roxi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Roxi said...

He is a hero of WWI. Why then does his grave look like it has been abandoned and forgotten by the people in Lake County. Can't the local VFWs, or American Legion take care of it?

Diana Dretske said...

It's always sad when a cemetery is neglected.

Here is a list of American Legion District posts:

Here's an interesting site with photos of the cemetery: