The Edwards Agency

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A World War I Special

Walter Forse

This is a reprint of the 1917 photo of Walter Forse. I've sent the original to the man's son, where it'll remain for generations to come, a reminder of their ancestor hero from WW I (1917-18).
Oscar Roloff reprint.

Oscar Roloff by Oscar Roloff
Among my collection of rare photos is one I have of a young fellow who became quite a hero for the Marine Corps Recruiting Service.
   When on April 7, 1917, skinny kid Walter Forse heard via radio that we'd declared war on Germany, he jumped up and ran down to the Marine Recruiting Office and said, "I want to enlist."
   The officials looked him over and noted he had no trigger finger. He'd lost it in an accident. It was no soap for him, so he went to the Army, then Navy recruiting office. Same rejection.
   Walter told his Pa what happened and said, "In the morning, I'm heading for Washington, D.C. to ask if the Marine Corps Commandant would overlook my missing finger."
   "We have no money to send you there. From our home in Binghamton, N.Y., it's quite expensive to travel," his Pa said.
   "I'm going to walk," replied the son.

Shoving off
   The next morning, young Walter filled a pack with clothes, socks, and food, and took off with a long walking stick. Quickly, word spread along the 400-mile route about Walter's plan. They met him at the edge of the many towns he went through.
   Young kids followed him; lithesome lasses bussed him; warriors of the Spanish-American War of 1898 donned their uniforms, dangled their medals, and urged him onward; mothers handed him sacks of cookies.
   At every town, Walter would stop on a street corner and talk to the people about patriotism and love of country. When his shoes wore out, cobblers made new pairs for him. Took him eight days.
   Soon, the Marine Commandant heard of his coming. His aide reminded the boss that Corps regulations to not permit entry if one had no trigger finger. The Big Boss said, "When he arrives, bring him in to me."

Arrival day
   When Walter stood at the General's desk, the latter got up, walked up and said, "Let's see your lost finger." He did, then looked at the sturdy lad, and nodded.
   After war's end on November 2, 1918, Walter went home quite a hero and was much beloved by the nation. He became a teacher and rose to high rank in the Boy Scouts organization.

World War II (1941-45)
   The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941), Walter rushed down to the Marine Recruiting Office, but was rejected due to poor health.
   Dejected, Walter went home and told his son Richard he'd been rejected. Up jumped Richard, and he headed for the Marine Office. "Poor eyesight." Same statement at the Navy office. At the Army office, they took Richard. He was happy.
   It took a long time to track down the family. Finally, I located Richard. "My dad died in 1965 at age 69," he told me.
   Over the years, I've written about Walter and his patriotism and sent copies to his son. One day he wrote and said, "I am a reserve Army officer and if I can arrange reserve duty this summer, I'll fly out and thank you for the nice things you wrote about my father."
   He couldn't arrange it. The original Corps photo I'm sending to Richard to keep in the family. He said, "On each Armistice Day of November 11, we get the kids together and talk about our illustrious grandfather. He's quite a hero in our family fold."