Marked in history

Morgan Walker, adjutant for the American Legion Post 5 in Jefferson City, stands next to a sign denoting the post’s namesake, Roscoe Enloe. Enloe fought with a Missouri National Guard unit federalized during World War I. He was the first Cole County resident killed during the war.

Morgan Walker, adjutant for the American Legion Post 5 in Jefferson City, stands next to a sign denoting the post’s namesake, Roscoe Enloe. Enloe fought with a Missouri National Guard unit federalized during World War I. He was the first Cole County resident killed during the war.

Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the first world war, a conflict serving as the trigger point in the transformation of Europe and the approach by which wars would be fought for decades to come.

From this bloody epic that took the lives of more than 116,000 U.S. military personnel rises a tale of service nearly forgotten, yet carried forth through the dedication of a local American Legion post.

Such history includes the heroism of Roscoe Enloe — a local soldier killed in combat — and his father, who succumbed to the grief associated with the loss of his young son.

“We really don’t know much about Roscoe Enloe,” said Morgan Walker, adjutant for the American Legion Post 5 in Jefferson City. “Occasionally we have distant relatives that come in and ask us about his service, but we don’t know what to tell them.”

The abrasive edges of time may have begun to whittle away at Enloe’s memory, but information gathered from historical sources has helped recreate the details of the sacrifice made by the young soldier.

According to documentation found through the Missouri Digital Heritage site, Enloe was inducted into the Missouri National Guard on June 30, 1917, just shy of his 22nd birthday. He was later assigned to Company L, 2nd Missouri Infantry.

“Company L was inducted into federal service and became the 130th Machine Gun Battalion,” said Charles Machon, director of the Museum of Missouri Military History.

Referencing a historical annual of the Missouri National Guard dated 1939, Machon said, “The unit was mustered into federal service in 1916 to support the Mexican Border War and returned to the states in early 1917. Just months later,” he added, “they were mobilized for service in Europe in support of World War I.”

There is little else to be gleaned from a search of public research forums regarding the details of Enloe’s service, but a copy of a letter that Enloe’s twin brother Robert penned to his father helps shed some light on the young man’s battlefield service.

A copy of the letter found in the January 1919 issue of The Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association notes that Enloe was participating in a major drive (Meuse-Argonne Offensive) on Sept. 29, 1918, and volunteered to take a position in front of the gun squad to “observe the enemy and direct machine gun fire on them.”

As his brother Robert explained, Roscoe was behind one of the unit’s guns when a German machine gun opened fire and shot him through the right lung. Robert, who was with Roscoe at the time of injury, received only superficial wounds, and was able to carry his younger brother to safety so that first aid could be administered.

Enloe passed away later that evening at just 23 years of age, making him the first Cole County resident killed during the war. Prior to his death, he made a final request of his brother: “Tell the folks and Olive good-bye for me, Rob.”

Their father, Dr. Isaac Enloe, a physician in Mid-Missouri, died on Feb. 15, 1921, at age of 61, just a little over two years after the death of his son. His obituary explained the death of Roscoe weighed heavily on Dr. Enloe and was the “beginning of a breakdown from which he never recovered.”

Although the fallen soldier was laid to rest in an American cemetery in France, a localized dedication exists through a marker placed in the Enloe Cemetery near Russellville to honor the memory of a native son killed and buried thousands of miles from home nearly a century ago.

In 1919, the Roscoe Enloe American Legion Post 5 was chartered in Jefferson City, and to this day, prominently displays the name of the long-deceased soldier on the exterior of the post facilities to serve as a reminder of sacrifices that can easily become lost in history.

“We (at the American Legion) really feel as though Roscoe is part of us … part of the Legion family,” stated Walker. “He really must have made an impact so many years ago to have had the post named for him … and I think that it is our responsibility to help make sure his story is never forgotten.”

To read more about historical information available through the Missouri Digital Heritage site, please visit www.sos.mo.gov/mdh/.

For information on the Museum of Missouri Military History, please visit www.moguard.com and click on the “Veteran/Retiree” link.

Jeremy P. Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.

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