George Dilboy

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George Dilboy, (Greek Γεώργιος Διλβόης) (born February 5, 1896 - died July 18, 1918), Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company H, 103d Infantry, 26th Division was one of the greatest Doughboys to enter into service and the first Greek-American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor during WWI, for leading an attack against the Germans and continuing to fire at the enemy despite being seriously wounded, killing numerous of the enemy and dispersing the rest. General John Pershing listed George Dilboy as one of the 10 greatest heroes of the war. Dilboy is buried in Section 18 of Arlington National Cemetery. The Dilboy Field in Somerville, Massachusetts was named after him.

Biography

Born in the Greek settlement of Alatsata, in Asia Minor, the Belleau Wood hero astounded Germans by singlehandedly attacking The Wood which was infested with machine gun nests, and wiping out three guns before the Germans fled. Equally astonished were his fellow Doughboys of World War I.

Dilboy's early years were spent living in a region of the world were feuding between Ottoman Turks and Greeks was an ongoing event for nearly 400 years. He and his family emigrated to America in 1908 and settled first in Keene, New Hampshire and then in Somerville, Massachusetts. Dilboy returned to mainland Greece in August 1914 as a volunteer, under priest Amvrosios Paraschakis, who unsuccessfully sought to cross over into Alatsata with his men to defend the local Greeks who were being persecuted by the Turks. Returning to Somerville in 1915, he went to school and worked for a few years before volunteering to fight in the US Army in the Mexican Border War in 1916-1917, he entered service at Keene, New Hampshire. He obtained an honorable discharge and within months thereafter re-joined the US Army to fight in France during WWI, where he was killed in 1918 at age 22.

At the request of his father, Antonios, Dilboy - originally buried in France - was reinterred at his birth place Alatsata, which was at that time a predominantly Greek town. After a funeral procession through the streets of his birthplace — said to have been witnessed by 17,000 mourners — his flag-draped casket was placed in the Greek Orthodox Church of the Presentation in Alatsata to lie in state before the high altar.

Rampaging Turkish soldiers in 1922 at the end of the three-year Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), seized the town. The church was ransacked and Dilboy's grave desecrated. The American flag was stolen from atop Dilboy's coffin. The coffin was overturned, after which — according to an account by Bishop John Kallos — the bones of the Greek-American war hero were scattered by the marauding attackers. President Warren G. Harding was outraged, he sent the warship, USS Litchfield, half way across the world to Turkey in September, 1922 to recover the bodily remains.[1] Harding also demanded an apology from the Turkish government. He got both. After a formal apology by the Turkish government, Dilboy's remains were collected and a Turkish guard of honor delivered his casket — draped once again in an American flag — to an American landing party in Smyrna. His remains were taken aboard the USS Litchfield and returned to the United States for their final resting place. On November 12, 1923, he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, where his gravestone proclaims his Medal of Honor status. Dilboy's fascinating incidences continued after his death into World War II, the 1990's and as late as 2005.

Dilboy had the distinction of being honored by three U.S. Presidents, Woodrow Wilson, who signed the authorization awarding the Medal of Honor, Warren G. Harding, who brought him back to Arlington National Cemetery and Calvin Coolidge, former Governor of Massachusetts, who presided at his final burial. Writer Eddie Brady, who believes Dilboy could have been America's Winston Churchill, has written a story retelling Dilboy's life in the book titled, Georgie! My Georgie!.

In 2005 efforts to re-name the Dilboy Stadium in honor of local politician, the late state Senator Charlie Shannon, stirred the wrath of those who honor the memory of the World War I hero, Dilboy, the renaming was scratched when it was rejected by veterans, family members and citizens alike, including Charlie Shannon's widow.[2]

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