World War I -- Life Histories/Section 018/General Frank Parker

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General Frank Parker


General Frank Parker served as Division Commander for the American Expeditionary Forces 1st Division. He participated in many major battles including the St. Mihiel operation and the Meuse-Argonne operation.


Before and during the War[edit]

General Frank Parker (1872-1947) was born in Georgetown, South Carolina.[1] In 1894, Parker graduated from West Point as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry.[2] By his request, Parker was transferred to the cavalry in October of 1894. Parker first served with the Fifth U.S. cavalry in Texas but then accompanied his regiment to Florida and Alabama during the Spanish-American War. He was stationed at West Point between 1900 and 1903 to teach modern languages. Then he was ordered to be a student officer at the cavalry school in France, where he graduated from in 1904. In 1906, Parker served in Argentina and accompanied the Eleventh cavalry in Cuba until 1912. Parker was sent to France as a military observer until the United States entered the World war in 1917.[3] He also participated in World War I, serving as a temporary brigadier general. He directed the First Brigade at St. Mihiel and early in the Meuse-Argonne operation. His actions led him to become a commander of the American Expeditionary Forces 1st Infantry Brigade for the last three weeks of WWI.[4] Parker served as Division Commander from 1918 to 1919.[5]

After the War[edit]

Parker continued to take part in the American Legion by working with National Security and representing the Department of the Philippines.[6] Parker also became a permanent general for four years as commander of the Sixth Corps Area in Chicago in 1929.[7] After the events of Pearl Harbor, Parker attempted to return to the military, but his age kept him from active service. However, throughout World War II, he helped Civilian Defense programs in Illinois, serving as an Executive Director for the Council of Defense, the Chief of Staff for the War Council, and as the Inspector of the Field Forces for the War Council.[8] On March 13th 1947, Parker died of a heart attack in Chicago, leaving behind a widow and two daughters.[9]

Social Issues[edit]

Service during World War I – St. Mihiel Operation[edit]

The American Expeditionary Forces was created when President Woodrow Wilson decided to enter the war. Wilson ordered General John Pershing to proceed into France. Pershing asked the War Department to send over 1 million men to help fight the war.[10] These men were assembled as the AEF, the first American military force to organize American troops overseas.

The first assignment of the American First Army under command of General Pershing was to reduce the St. Mihiel salient. The St. Mihiel salient was in an ideal location for the Germans to attack against Verdun and to keep the Allied forces from attacking Metz, a German occupied city in France. On September 12th in 1918, 550,000 Americans and 110,000 Frenchmen were positioned outside of the salient. The operation successfully reduced the salient, restoring 200 square miles of territory to the French and securing the troops for the Meuse-Argonne operation.[11]

The First Division, also known as the “Fighting Firsts,” was part of the AEF. Under the leadership of General Charles Summerall, the 1st Division, paired with the 26th Division, completed the reduction of the St. Mihiel salient. Specifically, the division “was especially charged with reaching Vigneulles…to cut off the retreat of the enemy’s troops.” As stated in The Independent, a war-time newspaper, the St. Mihiel operation was an example of the power and “concentrated might of America." [12]

Service during World War I – Meuse-Argonne Operation[edit]

On September 26, 1918, 600,000 men bordered the Germans on the East by the Meuse River and on the West by the Argonne Forest. The goal of General Pershing was to break through an important railway junction which would cut off supplies to the majority of the German army in France. During the next six weeks, over 1.2 million American soldiers fought in the battle. In the end, 26,277 soldiers were killed. The Meuse-Argonne is known as the single bloodiest battle in America’s history.[13] The signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 ended the Meuse-Argonne battle and concluded the First World War.

Upon entering the war, the First Division was unpracticed but determined. Pershing described the division, saying “it was thought reasonable to count on the vigor and the aggressive spirit of our troops to make up in a measure for their inexperience." In the Meuse-Argonne operation, the First Division took part by relieving other divisions but began to run low on artillery. They succeeded strategically in the offense of the operation. However, the division failed tactically but “proved it had come a long way towards marching its plans with its abilities and maximizing the results from its limited means."[14]

Parker’s involvement in the war altered the course of his life. Upon returning from the war, soldiers resumed their lives and tried to assimilate back into American society. Many returned to or sought after lifestyles that did not directly relate to the war. However, through the war councils in Illinois and various other organizations, Parker continued to serve the military throughout the rest of his life.

Works Cited[edit]

  1. "Gen. Frank Parker Dies in Chicago, 74." The New York Times 14 Mar. 1947. The New York Times. Web. 18 Mar. 2015. <>.
  2. "New American Commander: Maj.-Gen. Parker Sailing from U.S. in November." The North - China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette 27 Sept. 1933. The North China Herald. Web. 21 Mar. 2015. <>.
  3. "Major General Frank Parker Ends Notable Notable Career in Army Headed Largest Command." The State 28 Sept. 1936. The State. Web. 21 Mar. 2015. <>.
  4. "Gen. Frank Parker Dies in Chicago, 74." The New York Times 14 Mar. 1947. The New York Times. Web. 18 Mar. 2015. <>.
  5. "Maj. Gen. Frank Parker." The American Legion. The American Legion, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <>.
  6. "Frank Parker." West Point. U.S. Military Academy. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <>.
  7. "Gen. Frank Parker Dies in Chicago, 74." The New York Times 14 Mar. 1947. The New York Times. Web. 18 Mar. 2015. <>.
  8. "Frank Parker." West Point. U.S. Military Academy. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <>.
  9. "Gen. Frank Parker Dies in Chicago, 74." The New York Times 14 Mar. 1947. The New York Times. Web. 18 Mar. 2015. <>.
  10. Pershing, John. "American Expeditionary Forces." American Expeditionary Forces. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006. 149. Print.
  11. Smythe, Donald. St. Mihiel: The Birth of an American Army. 2nd ed. Vol. 13. Carlisle Barracks: U.S. Army War College, 1983. 47-58. Print.
  12. Hanson, Joseph Mills. "One Day's Work at St. Mihiel: The First Complete Story of Our Combat Operations." The Independent 19 June 1920. S.W. Benedict. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <>.
  13. Lengel, Edward G. "Meuse-Argonne." American Heritage 60.2 (2010): 30-39. EBSCOHost. Web. 19 Mar. 2015. <>.
  14. Grotelueschen, Mark Ethan. "The 1st Division: Training and First Battles." The AEF Way of War: The American Army and Combat in the First World War. 2003. 104-114. Web.