On 24 May 1918, Private William Thomas Graham of Watts, Arkansas was discharged from the National Army after serving for only five months.
The first paragraph tells us what’s happened here and to who it’s happened. William Graham, service number #2,109,438, holding the rank of Private and assigned to Company F of the 348th Infantry of the National Army, is hereby Discharged from the military service of the United States by reason of a Certificate of Disability, per 4th indorsement, Headquarters, Southeastern Department, Charleston, South Carolina, dated 13 May 1918.
The National Army was the wartime name of the force, consisting of the Regular Army, the National Guard, and state regiments of draftees.
H. SED refered to Headquarters, Southeastern Department, one of six military districts created within the United States to support the war and commanded by Major General Leonard Wood in Charleston, South Carolina.
Notice the parts that have been stricken. “…The United States Army, as a Testimonial of Honest and Faithful Service…” and the word “Honorably.” This is not an indication that the character of William’s service was bad. Simply, his medical condition had denied him the ability to provide honest and faithful service, and since no service was provided, it could not be characterized as honorable. A discharge for medical reasons is technically not considered an honorable discharge, but rather a general discharge under honorable conditions.
The next section provided a description of William. He was born in Watts, Arkansas, and enlisted when he was 24 years old. His occupation was farming. He had dark brown eyes, black hair, a ruddy complexion, and was five feet, eleven and a half inches in height.
In this context, the word enlisted refers to when William joined the service. On its own, it doesn’t say whether he volunteered or was drafted. These days, after almost fifty years of the United States having an all-volunteer military, the word enlisted is synonymous with voluntarily joining, but that was not always the case. Make no mistake, William was drafted.
The next section tells us that William’s discharge was approved by Lieutenant Colonel George F. Juenemann, Medical Corps, United States Army on 24 May 1918 at Fort Logan H. Roots, Arkansas.
Fort Roots was located near North Little Rock in Pulaski County, Arkansas. It was established by the Army in 1893 and was a major training facility in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. At the outbreak of the World War, the Army constructed a larger training facility in Pulaski County that could accommodate the influx of draftees. The new facility, named Camp Pike, assumed Fort Roots’ training mission. However, Fort Roots remained in use by the Army because it had a military hospital. In 1921, the fort was transferred to the state of Arkansas for use as a veterans hospital. Today, Fort Roots continues to serve veterans as part of the Veterans Health Administration.
Details about William’s pay were written in the margins around Lieutenant Colonel Juenemann’s approval. It reads:
May 24 1918 - Office Camp Quartermaster, Fort Logan H. Roots, Ark. Paid in full $81.63. Ern Enders, Capt. Q. M. Corps, Captain, Q. M. C. N. A. Washington, D. C. June 11, 1919 - Paid $60 under act of Congress approved February 24th, 1919. C. E. Gray, Major, Q. M. C.
Honestly, the Quartermaster’s name looks like it reads Ern Enders. A little research revealed that Fort Roots’ Quartermaster was Ed Norment Enders, Captain, Quartermaster Corps, National Army.
I didn’t find anything about Major Gray, but then, I didn’t look too hard since he’s incidental here.
The act of Congress mentioned was Section 1406 of the Revenue Act of 1919, which provided, “That all persons serving in the military or naval forces of the United States during the present war who have since April 6, 1917, resigned or been honorably discharged, or who at any time hereafter (but not later than the termination of current enlistment or term of service) may resign or be discharged under honorable conditions, shall be paid, in addition to all other amounts due them in pursuance of law, $60.00 each.”
All together, William was paid $141.63 for his brief service, which is about $2,594.26 in 2021 dollars.
The right half of this certificate is titled Enlistment Record and gives us a summary of William’s military service. It begins by restating his name and grade: William Graham, Private. Inducted (notice that Enlisted is struck out) into the service 3 December 1917 at Marshall, Arkansas.
William was serving his first enlistment period and had no prior service.
He was not a noncommissioned officer (enlisted rank of corporal or above).
He had no weapons qualifications, no horsemanship qualification, and no engagements with the enemy.
His vocational knowledge was farming.
He had received no wounds in the service.
His physical condition was poor, hence why he had received a medical discharge. Unfortunately, this record doesn’t explain why he was in poor health or what medical conditions he had.
He had received the triple typhoid vaccine on 12 December 1917. The triple typhoid vaccine was developed by the Army in 1917 and provided protection from the main typhoid strain and two paratyphoid strains. This is why the next line for paratyphoid prophylaxis reads “no record” – William didn’t need a separate inoculation for paratyphoid.
William’s marital status was initially entered as single, but then struck out and replaced by married, followed by the initials of the man who made the correction, G. M. W. William married Virgie Copeland on 4 November 1917, one month before he entered the Army.
William’s character was described as excellent.
In the remarks section, it was written that William had no incidents of absence without leave (AWOL) and “no absence of duty under proof of” General Order number 45, War Department, 1914.
The “Signature of soldier” line was not completed by William. The handwriting is the same as the entire form and belongs to the man listed next, George M. Watson, Captain, Medical Reserve Corps, United States Army. Captain Watson commanded the Detachment of Patients at Fort Roots.
The foregoing Honorable Discharge and Enlistment Record was admitted to record on 15 June 1921, but William had died the previous September. Finally, the record was signed by Deputy Clerk James G. Turney and Clerk Leonard Mathews.
“Arkansas, Military Discharge Records, ca.1917-1969”, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:D68V-5WW2 : 2 December 2020), William Graham, 1921.
Wikipedia contributors, “Fort Logan H. Roots,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fort_Logan_H._Roots&oldid=1014908364.
Silva, Rachel. “Fort Logan H. Roots Military Post Historic District.” Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Central Arkansas Library System, 16 Oct. 2020, encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/fort-logan-h-roots-military-post-historic-district-5807/.
Moore, John Hammond. “Charleston in World War I: Seeds of Change.” The South Carolina Historical Magazine 86, no. 1 (1985): 39-49. Accessed June 1, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27567883.
“$81.63 in 1918 → 2021 | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 12 Nov. 2021, https://www.officialdata.org/us/inflation/1918?amount=81.63
“$60 in 1918 → 2021 | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 12 Nov. 2021, https://www.officialdata.org/us/inflation/1918?amount=60
“Army-Navy-Air Force Register and Defense Times, Vol 65.” Google Books, Google, 13 Nov. 2013, books.google.com/books?id=b0s-AQAAMAAJ&lpg=PA274&ots=pq6cX_5Cjl&dq=Section+1406+of+the+Revenue+Act%2C+approved+February+24%2C+1919%2C&pg=PA274#v=onepage&q=Section%201406%20of%20the%20Revenue%20Act,%20approved%20February%2024,%201919,&f=false.
Cole, William H. “Anti-Typhoid Vaccination in the American Army.” Current History (1916-1940), vol. 12, no. 5, University of California Press, 1920, pp. 895–902, http://www.jstor.org/stable/45329003.
“Arkansas, County Marriages, 1837-1957,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NMV4-PZG : 9 March 2021), William Graham, 4 Nov 1917; citing Marriage, Searcy, Arkansas, United States, county offices, Arkansas; FHL microfilm 1,031,124.
Ancestry.com, Arkansas, Death Certificates, 1914-1969 (Lehi, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2019), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Arkansas Department of Vital Records; Little Rock, Arkansas; Death Certificates; Year: 1920; Roll: 4. Record for William Thomas Graham. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=61777&h=95573&indiv=try.