Serving America

In this fifth installment of our blog, we trace how three Texans answered the call to serve: first in the armed forces of World War I and later in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

 


 

Nearly 200,000 Texan men served in WWI. Their experiences varied widely: some remained state­side, others went abroad. Some fought the enemy from the trenches, others on the high seas, or even in the sky.

Fifteen years later, when veterans-only CCC companies formed to provide down-and-out former servicemen temporary employment, such differences mattered little. No matter the service branch or assignment, Texan vets came together again to support Amer­ica—and themselves—during a time of great need.

Exploring the individual experiences of Texans who served in WWI and the CCC helps us understand how a global conflict, and later, an economic collapse, affected them on a personal level. We’ve woven together short profiles for three men, using WWI draft registrations and service cards and CCC yearbook rosters.

Service Profiles

Frederick Holman

WWI

Soldiers walking and riding on tanks proceed down a road away from the camera.
Members of the 111th Engineers with tanks in France (Portal to Texas History)
Postcard showing an officer looking over troops standing at attention - text says "Souvenir of Camp Bowie, Fort Worth, Texas."
Souvenir of Camp Bowie, Fort Worth, TX (Portal to Texas History)

Answering the call to enlist in 1916, 25-year-old Frederick Holman served in the Texas National Guard with the 111th Engineers. He was initially stationed at Camp Bowie, Texas, where his unit con­structed a mock trench system to train soldiers.

The 111th left for Europe in the summer of 1918. They built and repaired roads and railways to move troops and supplies, sal­vaged material, destroyed enemy mines, and filled enemy trenches. The unit pro­vided crucial support at two important battles in France: Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne, the war’s bloodiest. Holman was honorably discharged in 1919.

CCC

As a member of Goliad State Park and Historic Site’s CCC Company 3822(V), Holman helped reconstruct the park’s signature feature, Mission Espiritu Santo de Zuniga, between 1935 and 1941. The group was entrusted with the project due to their maturity and experience. Several men took advantage of the CCC’s educational and vocational evening classes, honing their professional and entrepreneurial skills. Furniture-making classes, for example, outfitted their families’ homes and offered a possible post-CCC career path.

CCC men posting - some standing and some squatting in a long line.

Toy Askew

WWI

Complete roster of the Camp Travis brigade with photo at the top.
Roster of 21st Company, 165th Depot Brigade, Account of Camp Travis in WWI, 1918 (University of California)

Group of black soldiers standing around a counter.
Stamp Counter, Army YMCA Building 1, Camp Travis, TX (University of Minnesota)

Twenty-three-year-old farmer Toy Askew was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1918. He was assigned to the 165th Depot Brigade at Camp Travis, Texas, which processed recruits and discharged returning soldiers.

African-American sol­diers in WWI typically filled non-combat posts such as drivers, laborers and cooks. But this was not across the board. A small number of Afri­can-Amer­ican men were commissioned officers or served in combat. No matter their rank, racist assumptions shaped the black soldier’s experience. Af­ri­can-American service­men served in seg­re­gated units and faced undue dis­crim­i­nation. Askew remained at Camp Travis until his honorable discharge in 1919.

CCC

During the Great Depression, Askew was part of CCC Company 1823(CV), a “colored veteran” unit. Initially CCC companies included white and black enrollees, but public pressure led to separate all-black units in 1935. Askew, shown here in a group photo at Kerrville State Park (now Kerrville-Schreiner Park), again ex­per­ienced a segregated program. The social and cultural mores of Jim Crow continued to define Askew’s public service.

Men posed in a long line, some standing and some squatting

Norfleet Bone

WWI

Sepia image of pilots sitting in front of plane
Bone and other pilots pose with an aircraft (UTSA)
portrait of Norfleet Bone in military uniform

Norfleet Bone, a 25-year-old civil en­gi­neer, enrolled in the U.S. School of Military Aero­nautics at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas at Austin in 1917. Post-grad­uate flight instruction followed in Ten­nes­see and Ohio. Bone shipped overseas in October 1918 and con­tinued training in France. At the war’s end, he joined the First Aero Squadron in Germany and flew reconnaissance and photographic missions.

Upon his return stateside, Bone received medical treatment for a nervous condition. He resumed his studies after recuperating and earned a degree in Landscape Archi­tec­ture from Texas A&M College in 1923. Bone con­tinued his military pilot training through the 1920s as a member of the Air Corps Reserve.

CCC

Poster showing important people in Bastrop's CCC company
Landscape Architect as noted in The Pines, the CCC company annual of the park (TPWD)

Bone found work with the National Park Service during the Great De­pres­sion. As a landscape architect he ensured a park’s natural and built elements worked in harmony. Bone was first assigned to work at Balmorhea State Park but soon trans­ferred to Bastrop State Park. His landscape plans used native plants to com­pli­ment the NPS-archi­tec­ture built by the CCC, provide shade, and delight visitors with their beauty. Bone also designed built features such as dams, foot bridges, overlooks, and picnic tables.

In the following decades as a Texas State Parks employee, he continued to improve the landscapes at other CCC-developed sites, including Lake Corpus Christi, Cleburne and Possum Kingdom.

Two men standing on a bridge over a drainage.
Bone examining a bridge at Bastrop State Park (TPWD)


 

logo for WWI centennialThis blog series is a collaboration among Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Historic Sites and Structures Program, Interpretive Services Program, and Battleship Texas State Historic Site. Stay tuned for our next post!