Over 2,000 men from Lynchburg answered the call of service between 1914 and 1918. Countless others stayed behind and aided the war on the home front. Here are a few of their stories:
Lt. George "Preston" Glenn 1894-1918
Preston Glenn was born in Lynchburg and served in the “Musketeers”, a National Guard unit from Lynchburg in 1916. Enlisting in the Aviation Section of the Army in 1917, Glenn trained at air bases in Texas, Canada, and England before serving in France as a fighter pilot in the 17th and 23rd Aero Squadrons.
During aerial combat with a German plane, he was shot down on July 20, 1918 and soon died in a German prisoner of war camp. Glenn was the only Lynchburg aviator to die in WW I. He is buried in Flanders Field American Cemetery in Waregem, Belgium.
Lynchburg’s airport was created in 1931 and named Preston Glenn Airport. The airport was renamed Lynchburg Regional Airport with the completion of new facilities in 1992.
Mrs. E.A. Watson 1894-1988
Lucille McWane Watson was born in Lynchburg to Henry and Blanche McWane. Her father Henry McWane was president of the Lynchburg Foundry Company. She attended Lynchburg High School and graduated from Bristol School in Washington D.C. in 1916.
With the United States’ involvement in World War I, Lucille quickly became active with the American Red Cross. Canteen service at Kemper Street Station officially began on September 25, 1917 when a group of ladies prepared lunches for soldiers headed to Camp McClellan in Alabama. Due to the railroad network, soldiers were constantly passing through Lynchburg on their way to southern training camps and to northern ports for passage overseas. The canteen grew rapidly as Red Cross workers tried not only to provide basic needs such as sandwiches, teas, and cakes, but also musical entertainment, drinking water, and showers.
In June 1918 Lucille was named commandant of the canteen. During her tenure as commandant, the Red Cross also began to help victims of the Spanish Flu that swept through Lynchburg, killing approximately 300 people. At the close of the war in November 1918, Lucille transferred to Camp Humphries (Fort Belvoir) to serve as a junior hostess for the YWCA Hostess Camps for soldiers mustering out of the army.
After the war, Lucille devoted the rest of her life to civic works and scholarly pursuits. In 1926, she married Edwin Alban Watson of Amherst County. For many years she worked alongside her husband editing and contributing articles to The Ironworker. She helped provide a replica of Mount Vernon for a 1932 exposition in France, provided leadership to the Lynchburg Sesquicentennial in 1936, and assisted with the furnishings and restoration of buildings at Appomattox National Park. She also authored many articles on antiques and local history. She passed away in 1988 and is interred at Spring Hill Cemetery.
Alfred D. Barksdale 1892-1972
Born to a prominent Virginia family, Alfred Dickinson Barksdale from a young age knew what his duties and responsibilities were. His father William had established himself as a judge in the community and held several positions of rank within the court systems. Shortly after graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1915, Alfred returned to Lynchburg as a lawyer. After a year in private practice, he served in the United States Army from 1916 to 1922. For his service with the Virginia-based 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division in Europe during World War I, he received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Croix de Guerre, and the Chevalier Legion of Honor.
Barksdale’s citation for his Distinguished Service Cross reads: “Alfred D. Barksdale, captain, 116th Infantry. For repeated acts of extraordinary heroism in action near Samogneux, France, October 8, 1918; near Molleville, France, October 12; and in the Bois de la Grand Montagne, France, October 15, 1918. Commanding a support company during the attack of October 8, Capt. Barksdale discovered that his battalion had advanced ahead of the unit on the right flank, and was suffering heavy losses from machine gun fire. Without orders he attacked and captured the guns, taking many prisoners. On October 12 he worked for over an hour, exposed to a terrific bombardment, binding the wounds of his men. On October 15 he advanced alone in a thick wood and, with the aid of his pistol, put out of action a destructive machine gun which was pouring such a deadly fire his men could not raise their heads."
Returning to civilian life, Barksdale again practiced law in Lynchburg from 1922 to 1938. He served as a member of the Virginia Senate from 1924 to 1928, and was judge of Virginia's Sixth Circuit from 1938 to 1940, the same position which his father, William R. Barksdale, had filled for many years. Barksdale received an appointment from President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 19, 1939 to the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Judge Barksdale was a member of the Board of Trustees of Hollins College for over thirty years and was a member of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia from 1945 to 1957. Judge Barksdale died in Lynchburg in 1972.
General Samuel D. Rockenbach 1869-1952
Samuel Dickerson Rockenbach was born on January 27, 1869 in Lynchburg, Virginia. He graduated with honors from the Virginia Military Institute in 1889 and in 1891 was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant. In 1898 he went to Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War. By the beginning of World War I, he had seen tours of duty in Cuba, the Philippines, various U.S. posts, and served as a military observer in Germany. His service in the U.S. armored forces as well as his post-World War I devotion to the training of servicemen in tank warfare earned him the title: “Father of U.S. Tank Corps.”
Rockenbach arrived in France in June 1917 with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). His first duties were as a cavalry colonel and quartermaster in charge of port operations at St. Nazaire. By the beginning of 1918, he was in charge of the American tank corps in France. The tank corps for the Army was developed based on the experience gained by the British and French armies with this new technology. After the war ended, Rockenbach took over the training of the Tank Service and Tank Corps and implemented a standing division of tanks in the regular army.
For his service in the war, Rockenbach was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, was made an Officer of the Legion of Honor, Companion Knight of Bath, and received the Croix de Guerre with palm. From 1917-1919 he served as chief of the newly formed Tank Corps, AEF.
At the end of the war, Rockenbach continued his work with tanks, serving as the Army's Chief of the Tank Corps and as Commander of the Tank School at Camp Meade, Maryland. He was the principal speaker at the unveiling of The Listening Post on Lynchburg’s Monument Terrace in 1926. General Rockenbach died in 1952 at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. at the age of 83. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery.