Stephen F. Austin State University

Sgt. Abe Allen World War I Hero (August 2014)

By Rickey Robertson

It is hard to believe but as of June 28th, 2014 it has been 100 years since World War I began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand who was the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Little did people know at the time, but this assassination sparked a bloody 4 year war that involved nearly every nation in the world. The United States, however, did not enter the war until 1917. When the United States did enter the war, the army was filled quickly with draftees who began training to go and fight on the battlefields of Europe. My grandfather and many of my reader's family members entered the U.S. Army to fight in this horrible war in Europe.

When the American Expeditionary Force, commanded by General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing arrived in France they immediately entered the fight against the Germans. One unit that arrived was the 1st Infantry Division, known as the "Big Red One" due to the shoulder insignia that they wore on their uniforms. Assigned to Company B 28th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Division was a young corporal from Louisiana named Abraham (Abe ) Lincoln Allen . Abe Allen as he was known had been born in Nona, Texas but had lived most of his life in and around Walnut Hill and Leesville, La. in Vernon Parish. He had enlisted in the U.S. Army on January 16, 1917 at Jackson Barracks in New Orleans , La.

In the early spring of 1918 the German Army made an almost overwhelming attack toward Paris, France. If the Germans could capture the French capital, they could possibly knock France completely from the war and could then possibly sign treaties with the other nations so that they could hold onto all the territories they had captured. So the Germans thought victory was in their grasp. But they underestimated the fighting American troops blocking their route. Abe Allen and his buddies were about to be in a fight for their lives.

As the German Army neared Cantigny, they came face to face with the American 1st Infantry Division. The Germans unleashed a heavy and horrific artillery barrage against the whole American line of fortifications. Sgt. Allen's position received a heavy bombardment on it, with Sgt. Allen being severely wounded by shrapnel. Two of Sgt. Allen's comrades were wounded and buried alive when the position collapsed upon them. Despite his own severe wounds, Sgt. Allen dug his wounded comrades out by using his bare hands. Once he had dug his comrades out and saw they were severely wounded also, he carried his two comrades through another bombardment of artillery shells and heavy machine gun fire to safety. Only after getting his friends medical attention did Sgt. Allen let medical personnel treat his wounds. And his American comrades also held the line against the German onslaught. By this assault toward Paris being stopped by the American, British, and French armies, the Germans shortly surrendered.

Due to his heroism in battle, Corporal Allen was promoted to Sergeant was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Service Medal. He also was awarded a Silver Star to be affixed to the World War I Victory Medal presented to him. But he was also to be further honored. General John J. Pershing at the end World War I looked over all the heroic actions performed by American servicemen during the war. A total of 100 heroes were to be honored by General Pershing. These heroes became known as General John Pershing's One Hundred Heroes. And due to his heroic actions, Sgt. Abe L. Allen was the only soldier from Louisiana in World War I to be honored as one of Pershing's One Hundred Heroes.

After the war Abe Allen returned to Leesville where he and his wife Hazel resided. Abe became a Louisiana State Trooper and worked in the Vernon Parish area. But his war wounds always affected him and sadly on February 1, 1941, the World War I hero passed away due to heart disease and complications of his war wounds which included being poison gassed.

As you travel north on U.S. Hwy 171 at Leesville and as you near the Leesville Cemetery, you will notice a historical marker right by the roadway. The historical marker honors Sgt. Abe L. Allen. If you pull over and get out and read this historical marker, you will notice a concrete walkway named the "Abe Allen Walkway". If you will follow this path into the cemetery it goes straight to the burial site of Abe Allen, his wife, and daughter. This heroes grave is marked with a U.S. Veterans foot marker along with a tall American Legion monument that was dedicated in the bi-centennial year of 1976. Here lie's a true hero of a war long forgotten by so many. Honor this hero by stopping and visiting his grave site and paying your respects to him for his heroic actions so many years ago. Sadly all the World War I veterans from all the countries involved in the "Great War" have passed away. The last American World War I "Doughboy" was Frank Buckles who passed away at the age of 110 years of age in February 2011. He was a corporal and drove an ambulance in France during the war, and then during WWII as a ship's captain, he was captured by the Japanese in the Philippine Islands and was a POW for over 3 years.

The men who served in World War I came marching back home to their homes and families and helped build America into the great nation it is. Over 4 million men served in the American armed forces during the 19 months America was in World War I. And to give us insight into the horror of the war, over 116,000 Americans were killed in action and 204,000 were wounded and crippled for life. But all the boys who came marching home have now joined ranks again and are marching down the golden streets of Heaven with their comrades. Let us never forget the men who fought in the "war to end all wars" and the sacrifice that was made by them. And always remember the song that the American doughboys heard as they marched in victory parades throughout the United States.

When Johnny comes marching home again, Hurrah, Hurrah,
We'll give him a hearty welcome then, Hurrah, Hurrah;
The men will cheer, the boys will shout,
The ladies, they will all turn out,
And we'll all feel gay,
When Johnny comes marching home.

Painting of Sgt. Abe Allen located in the Vernon Parish Courthouse in Leesville, La. (Rickey Robertson Collection)

Historical Marker in honor of Sgt. Abe L. Allen on U.S. Hwy 171 north in Leesville, La. (Rickey Robertson Collection)

Abe Allen Walkway that goes from the historical marker to the grave site of Abe Allen in Leesville Cemetery. (Rickey Robertson Collection)

Memorial marker at the gravesite of Sgt. Abe L. Allen in Leesville Cemetery. (Rickey Robertson Collection)

Veterans Administration grave marker for Sgt. Abe L. Allen in Leesville Cemetery. (Rickey Robertson Collection)

American soldiers in the trenches in World War I scanning the skies for German aircraft. (Rickey Robertson Collection)

World War I American soldiers rolling up their equipment. (Rickey Robertson Collection)

World War I American soldiers undergoing inspection. (Rickey Robertson Collection)