This page is dedicated to African Americans from the state of Kansas who served in the armed forces during the First World War. Unlike other “Great War Kansans,” most of these soldiers do not have photographs or images by which to remember them, and so we honor them now with special mention.
Earlier posts referred to the Officers Training School for African American soldiers at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. We listed the names of those from Kansas that attended the school.
One of those was First Lieutenant William D. Bly of Leavenworth, who was later promoted to captain. Bly had been in the regular army for at least eighteen years, although tracking this is a bit sketchy. There is a reference indicating his service started on June 20, 1896 (another source says 1899), and that he was in the Spanish-American War. Perhaps someone can add information in a comment. What does make sense, however is that those invited to the school either had a college education or had been a non-commissioned officer. We might assume that Bly was just that in his long service, as the 1940 census says he completed his second year of high school. He was clearly a career man, leaving the service on September 15, 1925.
In the previous post about Clemmie Parks, we mention that he attended what was an officers’ training school for African Americans, as segregation was very much a part of the Army. This school was held at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, and was made up of 1,250 candidates. 1,000 of these were made up of college graduates; the remaining 250 were men who were or had been non commissioned officers in the four units referred to as the Buffalo Soldiers–the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry, and the 24th and 25th U.S. Infantry.
World War I is different from previous wars in that while the Federal Army was still segregated, there was not a specific African American regiment from Kansas. In the Civil War there was the First and Second Kansas Colored Infantries; the Spanish-American War had the 23rd Kansas Infantry.