After a long hiatus I’ve decided to come out of obscurity and begin posting to the blog again! A recent Facebook purchase from a WWI collecting colleague has proved to be a classic PortraitsofWar photo for interpretation. The photo depicts two US soldiers posed in a German studio during the postwar occupation of Germany in 1919. The soldier at right is shown with three overseas (OS) stripes on his left cuff denoting 1 1/2 years of overseas service as well as a French-style cap. Both soldiers are wearing 3rd Army patches on their left shoulders, which would have been worn during the postwar occupation period. The seated doughboy is sporting two wound stripes as well as two OS stripes and a Wisconsin collar disc on his cap. The reverse of the photo lists one of the soldiers in the photo as Robert B. Alexander of 914 Adams Street, Portage, WI. Given that the seated soldier is wearing a Wisconsin disc on his cap, it is presumable that the identification on the reverse is leaning towards the sitter at left.
Some quick research revealed that that Pvt. Alexander was born on April 20th, 1892 in the town of Portage, Wisconsin to Robert M. and Mary Alexander. He lived much of his teen years at 913 and 914 Adams Street in Portage and was listed as working as a switchman with the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad as of 1917 before he enlisted in August of that year.
Attempts to find a photograph of Robert Alexander using traditional research methods failed, but I was able to track down a yearbook photo of Robert’s youngest son. Claire Alexander sat for a yearbook photo in 1944; a side-by-side comparison leaves no doubt in my mind that Claire is a progeny of the seated doughboy.
Research into Alexander’s wartime service has revealed that Robert was involved in heavy combat in September of 1918 only months before the end of the war on November 11th, 1918. His accolades are laid out in an unlikely document:
This document confirms that Robert served with Company F of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division. He was wounded at least once and received the Purple Heart (After 1932) and also the Silver Star. Details about his wounding and SS are still pending… stay tuned.
Private Alexander’s 1956 headstone was made by the Acme Bronze Company of Maple Park, IL and was delivered to the family on November 6th, 1956 following Robert’s death on October 23rd, 1956.
Research into living members of the Alexander family have proven fruitful…stay tuned for details related to the reunion of this photo with a great-granddaughter!