History of Camden County in the Great War, New Jersey
Records and facts published in this history were gathered from authoritative sources. When the Publicity and Historical Committee was authorized by the Victory Jubilee and Memorial Committee to compile this history the Government was asked for an official list of the heroic dead of Camden county. The War Department replied that it was a physical impossibility for their bureaus to furnish such information because of the great number of men in service of the nation. The members of the committee, with the aid of the police, secured the information for their records by visiting the homes of those who died in the war and having their relatives fill out questionnaires printed by the Victory Jubilee and Memorial Committee.
The members of the Publicity and Historical Committee were newspapermen of the city and county and the facts relative to Camden county's part in the war were gathered from accounts written by them during the war. The histories of the famous Twenty-ninth and Seventy-eighth Divisions were written from the records published in official newspapers of the American Expeditionary Forces and from data supplied by officers of these divisions.
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When war was declared by the United States against the Imperial Government of Germany after many overt acts that had aroused the ire of every patriotic American, Camden entered into the preparation made throughout the country to administer the decisive blow against the enemy with a spirit that evidenced its thorough sincerity in the great cause of civilization. Men and women in all walks of life not only volunteered their services for whatever work that might be assigned to them, but were so insistent in being accepted that those in charge of the various phases of the war program had great difficulty in making selections. As time went on there was real work for everyone and it may be stated there were no shirkers in Camden city or county.
At the very outbreak of hostilities many Camden county boys enlisted immediately in the various army or navy services. They were scattered over the country in many camps and on the high seas. Particular interest was manifested in the old Third Regiment, with a glorious history stretching back to the days of the Sixth Regiment formed soon after the Civil War; Battery B; the newly formed company of Engineers and the Naval Reserves. Their service has cast enduring honor upon Camden and all the towns and boroughs within the county. Some failed to return because they made the great sacrifice, either on land or sea, and these will remain Camden county's heroes.
Charles H. Ellis, Mayor of Camden, formed a Public Safety Committee of the city's leading men early in the war, and this body of staunch Americans looked after the many problems that presented themselves in the preliminaries. This body continued in service throughout the war and took an active part in the various activities. It was finally resolved into the Victory Committee after the signing of the armistice and under this name planned the home-coming receptions to the heroes of the city and county.
From time to time there were campaigns, drives and the like and in every instance the county arose to the emergency. In the four Liberty Loans and one Victory Loan nearly $39,000,000 was raised by the citizens, giving substantial evidence of regard for country. In the Red Cross, Y. M. C. A., Knights of Columbus, Salvation Army, Y. M. H. A. and other drives, including the United War Work Campaign, there was even more than generous response, because in every instance the quota sought was exceeded. It was not only the man of means who subscribed, but the man or woman who worked for comparatively small wages who was willing to make the sacrifices necessary and thus exemplify their sincere patriotism.
In an industrial way Camden has occasion to feel very much elated over what was accomplished. The great shipyards, employing thousands of men, worked day and night under the Emergency Fleet Corporation turn- ing out ships "and more ships," establishing a world record at the New York Shipbuilding plant in launching the Tuckahoe in twenty-eight days after the keel was laid. The factories were transformed into munition works and throughout the city and in various parts of the county everything was given over to a variety of work necessary to the war. Camden workers not only made ships, but airplane parts, ammunition and all sorts of machinery. All entered into the task with the true American spirit to accomplish the work presented to them and it is unnecessary to add their efforts were not in vain.
In connection with the work of the draft boards it was a revelation as to the manner in which the young manhood responded. As members of the 78th Division or other units that went over the seas they acquitted them- selves with honor. The draft boards were composed of some of the county's leading men who devoted much time without compensation. That it was hard and difficult work was recognized by all who came in contact with the task.
When the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, Camden was in the very midst of wartime activity. It was rather difficult for a time to retard the motion of this rapidly moving machine, but in the subsequent months of reconstruction, as important as in the height of war itself, the city and county continued to do their share of the work in bringing back normal conditions. There was co-operation along all lines, evidencing the very sensible balance maintained here as distinct from the upheavals that marked some places in other parts of the country. In looking over the two and more years of war and reconstruction in which the community played a prominent part, the citizens cannot help but feel very much gratified with what was accomplished. What was done, what our boys did and the many activities incident to Camden in wartime is given in the succeeding pages in some circumstantial detail.