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 Needham Roberts

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Needham Roberts

World War I US Army Soldier. Needham Roberts was the son of a pastor. In 1917, he left his job as a drugstore clerk to enlist in the Army and serve his county in World War I. He was 15 or 16 years old at the time, but lied to the recruiter and told him he was 19 so he could join. He was assigned to the New York Fifteenth Infantry which later became the 369th Infantry ("Harlem's Hellfighters"). He was sent to France with his regiment where they were put under the control of the French Army. The soldiers were issued French equipment and uniforms, and given basic training in the French language and military tactics. He and fellow member of the regiment, Henry Johnson, were on watch in the Argonne Forest when they were attacked by a German raiding party of about 20 soldiers. Though both were wounded, they continued to fight the Germans and defend the French line. Roberts' wounds disabled him sufficiently to allow the Germans to attempt to drag him away as a prisoner. He was saved from this fate by Henry Johnson, who attacked the Germans with a bolo knife, rescuing Roberts and repelling the attack. For these events, both Needham Roberts and Henry Johnson were awarded the French Croix de Guerre medal, the first American's to receive that honor. However, neither received any recognition from the United States upon their return. It was not until many years after his death that Needham Roberts was awarded the Purple Heart (in 1996).

Bio by: Anne Cady


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 16 Jul 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 20478373
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Needham Roberts (28 Apr 1901–18 Apr 1949), Find A Grave Memorial no. 20478373, citing Fairmount Cemetery, Newark, Essex County, New Jersey, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .