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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum

Re: To Lloyd and Joe (371st Infantry Regiment, WW1

It would not be out of the question to find a man of Indian descent in any of the black regiments of the WW1 era. Something that not many people realize is that in the army at that time the term ďSEPARATEĒ not only applied to African-Americans, but to anyone who was not (or could not pass for) white. At various times between the end of the Civil War and the 1940s there were segregated units of Hispanics, Chinese, and Native Americans, besides those of African-Americans. As late as 1917 there was a full-strength separate battalion of Chinese in the California National Guard.

In localities where the population of non-black minorities was insufficient to form a separate unit, they were often put in the existing black outfits (or occasionally in white ones, as was the case with many units from the Southwest which were heavily manned with Mexican-Americans). I have found no less than 15 Puerto Ricans and Cubans in the 369th. Co. L 6th Mass. Infantry and 1st Separate Co. Conn. NG (Co's L & M 372nd Inf.) both contained a large number of Brazilians and Cape Verde Islanders. The 1st Separate Battalion DCNG had among its ranks a soldier of Chinese descent.

A check of the New York State Archives online database for the 15th NY/369th Inf. yielded the following men with the last name Lee as having been in the regiment in WW1:

Lee, Alfred
Lee, Allie H.
Lee, Clyde
Lee, Evander
Lee, Hezekiah
Lee, John
Lee, Leroy
Lee, Raymond E.
Lee, Wallace B.
Lee, Weston A.
Lee, William R.

There is no Thomas in the database. However, I think these records are only those of native New Yorkers and not of any of the combat replacements, who would have been from all over the country.

A check of the National Cemetery burial database resulted in the following men named Thomas Lee buried in the Natíl Cemeteries at Brooklyn and Long Island:

LEE, THOMAS PVT US ARMY DATE OF DEATH: 11/21/1886 BURIED AT: SECTION 2 SITE 4373 CYPRESS HILLS NATIONAL CEMETERY BROOKLYN, NY

LEE, THOMAS PFC US ARMY WORLD WAR I DATE OF DEATH: 12/02/1934 BURIED AT: SECTION 13 SITE 14921 CYPRESS HILLS NATIONAL CEMETERY BROOKLYN, NY

LEE, THOMAS ACOLIAN T/5 US ARMY WORLD WAR II DATE OF BIRTH: 07/25/1922 DATE OF DEATH: 12/24/1952 BURIED AT: SECTION P SITE 1235 LONG ISLAND NATIONAL CEMETERY FARMINGDALE, NY

LEE, THOMAS E PFC US ARMY WORLD WAR II DATE OF BIRTH: 03/28/1920 DATE OF DEATH: 03/30/1972 BURIED AT: SECTION 2Y SITE 3184 LONG ISLAND NATIONAL CEMETERY FARMINGDALE, NY

LEE, THOMAS J PVT US ARMY WORLD WAR I DATE OF BIRTH: 02/17/1884 DATE OF DEATH: 08/20/1944 BURIED AT: SECTION L SITE 21249 LONG ISLAND NATIONAL CEMETERY FARMINGDALE, NY

LEE, THOMAS JOSEPH SGT US AIR FORCE VIETNAM DATE OF BIRTH: 02/21/1951 DATE OF DEATH: 05/06/1975 BURIED AT: SECTION 3C SITE 598 LONG ISLAND NATIONAL CEMETERY FARMINGDALE, NY

LEE, THOMAS L PVT US ARMY WORLD WAR I DATE OF DEATH: 02/12/1937 BURIED AT: SECTION 1 SITE 16735 CYPRESS HILLS NATIONAL CEMETERY BROOKLYN, NY

I found an additional 5 Thomas Lees, who were enlisted men in the army during WW1, listed as being buried in other National Cemeteries around the country, but I strongly suspect that the second man on the Brooklyn/Long Island list above is your guy.

Without a service number you are probably not going to find much info or get much help from many bureaucrats. NARA goes by service number, so even if his records were not destroyed in the fire they wonít know if itís the right man without a SN... and will always respond in the negative. Some records can be obtained using Social Security number, but since he died several years before that program began this is not an option for you.

Other than the NY Archives database and NARA I canít think of a 'single source' where youíll find a full and complete roster of the 369th. Your only real possibility is to find a collector or collectors who possess ďRoll of HonorĒ lithographs from the 15th/369th. It has taken Mr. Ford and I the larger portion of 15 years to compile a roughly 70% complete roster of the 372nd Infantry, which so far has been drawn from approximately 100 distinct sources.

As far as the breakdown of the regiment, the 369th was organized in the same manner as every other infantry regiment (regardless of race) in the U.S. Army at that time (though the function of a couple of the companies was temporarily changed during their time with the French). The regiment, under command of a Colonel (Heywood), was made up of 12 line or rifle companies, a machine gun company, a supply company, a headquarters company, a medical detachment, and a regimental headquarters staff. Each company (approximately 250 men each) was commanded by a Captain (at least until the shooting was underway, then itís not uncommon to see Lieutenants commanding companies due to attrition). The regimental band, signal detachment, Stokes mortar platoon, and 37mm gun platoon were all part of HQ Co. The most basic unit within an infantry regiment was the squad, 7 men led by a Corporal.

At between 2,500 and 3,000 men an American infantry regiment was roughly equal in strength to about two-thirds of an entire French division, or just over half a British division. This was why the French and British were so adamant about wanting to use American regiments as replacements in their respective armies rather than allowing Pershing to field a homogeneous American army. This numerical superiority among American divisions was to be a nearly singular factor in the eventual turning of the tide against the Central Powers.

Iím also inclined to believe that this was one of the major reasons that the French were so happy when Gen. Pershing finally relented and gave them the four regiments of the provisional 93rd Div.(and eventually asked for all remaining his black troops). The addition of the US 371st and 372nd regiments to the French 157th Div. made them one of the strongest divisions (numerically)in the French army at that time, and thus contributed to their having been chosen to take a leading position in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.

This isnít a whole lot for you to go on, but hopefully it is of some help to get you started. K. Wyer Lane seems to have done more research on the 369th than I have and may be better able to point you in the right direction.

Best of luck.

Jim Ball


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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