Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Kansas Colored Troops

805 Pioneer Infantry A.E.F. 
Corporal George Strader
805th Pioneer Infantry A.E.F., Company D, Camp Funston, KS.
27 Sep 1894 KY - 28 March 1954 CO
Buried: Ft. Logan National Cemetery, Denver Colorado 
The Colored Troops of Camp Funston, KS were not unique -  they too were patriotic, and wanted to serve their country.  They too declared their allegiance to the United States, the only country they knew; they too were Americans.  But like the other Colored Troops in America, they were waging a battle of their own:  the victory over racism, so that they could serve as American soldiers. 
Nearly 400,000 Negro Soldiers served in the United States Army in the Great World War. About 367,710 of these came into the service through the operation of the Selective Draft Law... It is a matter of pride, however, to realize that at the instant of the declaration of war, there were nearly 20,000 soldiers of the Negro race in the United States, uniformed, armed, equipped, drilled, trained and ready to take the field against the foe. Proportionately to the total Negro population of America, this was a splendid showing.[1]
In spite of the fact that the “Negro” soldiers of many troops, like Company D, 805 Pioneer Infantry, were ready to be deployed at the beginning of the war, they had to wait for acceptance.

 Finally on the 5 of Oct 1917, it was official, the Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker, was taking the Negro soldier’s interest seriously. 
"Secretary Newton D. Baker of the War Department announces that Emmett J. Scott, for eighteen years confidential secretary to the late Booker T. Washington, and at present secretary of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute for Negroes has been assigned to duty in the War Department as confidential advisor in matters affecting the interests of the 10,000,000 Negroes of the United States, and the part they are to play in connection with the present war."  5 Oct. 1917 [1]

Shortly after this appointment of Scott, the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), 805 Pioneer Infantry was engaged. 
It didn’t matter that it was the end of the war, it was the pride of the war for the Pioneer Infantry 805 and their sister troops, Pioneer Infantry 806.

Although they were on railroad duty, this too was an important and needed job. But they too wished to see a bit of combat, before turning home - which they did. The 805 Infantry was transported from Kansas to Europe. There they saw action.

Cpl. George Strader accompanied Company D as they traveled from Ft. Riley Camp Funston 25 August 1918 to Kansas City where they boarded the Wabash train to Detroit. They were able to stop in Moberly, Mo. for a proper military send off by the “colored citizens” of the town. From Detroit, they took passage by ferry to Canada, stopping in Niagara Falls for a short visit before reporting to Camp Upton, Long Island, 30 August 1918. On Sept. 1, they were shuffled off to Montreal Canada where they were shipped to Camp Romsey in England. Having yet to arrive in France, they crossed the English Channel for France on 28 September. The 805th landed in France and served in Europe until July 1919.  They were engaged in 39 days of action.[2]

Kathleen Strader Brandt
[1] The American Negro, The World War, by Emmett J. Scott, Chapter III; pg. 40 http://www.gwpda.org/wwi-www/Scott/SCh03.htm; accessed 10 May 2010
[2] Victory – History of the 805th Pioneer Infantry American Expeditionary Forces” Major Paul S. Bliss, 1919; pgs 107-111


  1. I was stationed at Fort Riley, KS for 4 years and this is a part of its history that I have never hear before. Thanks for the great post!

  2. Kathleen,

    Like Brian said, this is a part of history that I was not familiar with. Another great educational piece. Thank you for taking the time to research this.

    -A. CAIN

  3. Thanks for continuing to make us aware of these unknown parts of our history.

  4. Very interesting stuff! I love learning new things! I served 34 years in the military and my living immediate family has a combined 90 years of service. And not one of us had heard about this unit! That despite the fact that we are "quasi-Kansans" (from KCMO; spend time in KCK, Leavenworth, and Topeka."

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Today I also learned of the 805 Pioneer Infantry. I found an old, neglected cemetery in San Augustine, Texas where I found the headstone of Henry Dodd of the 805 Pioneer Infantry. Am going to make it my goal to find some family of Mr. Dodd or some of the others buried here to clean it up. Many stones are down and need "uprighting". The cemetery is, I believe, the old Antioch Cemetery. The old, abandoned Antioch Baptist Church is nearby.

  6. Jo, Glad you found this article. Keep us informed on your 805 Pioneer endeavor. I have photos of most of the soldiers in the 805 book, so if you need any look up's let me know.

    1. Hi, I have been looking for info on both my grandfather's and pics. How can I obtain the names and photos of them? I have never heard of this group before,thanks for sharing

    2. We have scanned the entire book, and it will be for sale, or as a "thank you" to qualifying donors of TracingAncestors.org. If you are looking for a particular name, our volunteers can look it up for donors to TracingAncestors.org. Min $4.00

  7. I love this post. My great grandfather served in the 812th Pioneer Infantry and I have bee searching for pictures and the book "History of 812th Pioneer Infantry". Thank you so much for sharing this. You give honor and a voice to our military.

  8. Thanks for this information. My Great Great Uncle Andrew Harris was a member of 805th pioneer regimental band. I am beginning to research his path in hopes of finding his family. Thanks again.

  9. I loved this post.I have always been in awe of these selfless and heroic ancestors. My true heroes. I served in the Army for 10 years and men like this have always been the backbone and drive for excellence in my life

  10. Is it possible to get a high quality scan of this page?

    1. This service is offered to donors of TracingAncestors.org. It's one of the "thanks for donating" services we offer from our internal library. Min. 4.00. Please know we own the original book, so the quality is from 1920's.