Cpl. James Bethel Gresham remembered 100 years after being killed in WWI
EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - 100 years ago on November 3, Corporal James Bethel Gresham became the first Hoosier to die in World War I.
It is possible he was even the first American soldier to die in the war.
Consul General Guillaume Lacroix said, "He is a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, but also for my country."
The French Consul traveled from Chicago to Evansville for the first time to thank Corporal Gresham's family for his sacrifice 100 years ago.
"Representative of France, the oldest ally of the United States, and I'm very proud of that," said Lacroix.
He says Americans saved the French twice in the 20th century, and for that, they are forever grateful.
George Patton Waters, grandson of General George S. Patton said, "This young man was a hero long before he arrived in your beautiful country of France."
Dozens of Gresham's family members came to honor his life. Gresham was born in 1893 in McLean County. He moved to Evansville when he was 8 years old where he went to school and worked before joining the Army. Just before daylight on November 3, 1917, Gresham was killed by Germans raiding France. In 1921, Gresham's body was brought home and buried at Locust Hill Cemetery. The arboretum bearing his name, now receiving accreditation.
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke made that announcement leading into the upcoming Veteran's Day.
"This is a special time of year as we begin to celebrate the great sacrifices that all veterans have made and continue to make on our behalf and to be here to celebrate James Bethel Gresham is very special not just for the people here but for our entire city," said Mayor Winnecke.
In honor of Gresham, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb is keeping a photo of the soldier in his office until March.
There was a monument at the battle site for Gresham and the other fallen soldiers. Germans destroyed it during World War II, and it was later rebuilt.
Lacroix announced Friday that France plans to build another monument at that site to honor Gresham.
Lacroix said, "Corporal Gresham is famous here but he is maybe even more famous in France because the region where he was killed in action keeps the memory alive of himself and his two companions who died with him."
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