Today, Medal of Honor recipient George Dilboy would be called a professional soldier.
By the time he shipped out to France as part of Keene’s Yankee Division contribution, he was only 22, yet had already fought in three wars in three different countries.
While girls or new car models and moving pictures likely preoccupied most adolescent males, Dilboy liked fighting.
He added a year to his real age to fight for the first time in war. In the early 1900s he was 16 when he first stepped onto the battlefield, according to Arlingtoncemetery.net.
Born Feb. 5, 1896 in the town of Alatsata, Greece, for about 14 years Dilboy lived with his brothers Demetrios and Nicholas and his sister Marianthi and went by his Greek name, “Georgios Dilbois.”
In 1907 his father, Antonios Dilboy, left him for America. He settled in Keene, New Hampshire, where he waited for his son to meet him years later. While he waited, he worked at Boston General Hospital.
The hospital is also where George Dilboy’s siblings would later work when they came to America, Alatsata.net stated.
Antonios Dilboy moved to Somerville, Massachusetts not long after coming to the United States. In 1912, George packed his bags, said goodbye to his hometown of Alatsata and sailed to Boston as his final destination.
After a year of living in New England, “Dilboy returned to mainland Greece, after adding a year to his age, to successfully fight for Greece as a volunteer in the Greek Army in Thessaly during the First Balkan War of 1912,” according to Arlingtoncemetery.net.
Dilboy fought in his second war right after his first. The website also stated Dilboy remained in Greece to successfully fight in Macedonia in the Second Balkan War of 1913.
It wasn’t until the war was over that Dilboy returned to his immediate family in Somerville.
This wasn’t where he settled down though; battle was still in Dilboy’s future.
But for now, he put down his gun and picked up his books.
He went to school and worked a summer job in Keene, New Hampshire for a few years before volunteering for his third war in the U.S. Army, in the Mexican Border War in 1916-17, according to Arlingtoncemetery.net.
In the Mexican Border War, Dilboy obtained an honorable discharge. He did return home to his father, but not for long — and for the last time ever.
His dedication brought him to re-enlist from Keene, New Hampshire in the U.S. Army to fight in France in the Great War in 1917-18, where he was killed at age 22.
After surviving numerous wars, he died a hero in the Battle of Belleau Wood.
The Battle of Belleau Wood was the first large-scale battle fought by the American soldiers in WWI, it began northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road.
“In late May 1918, the third German offensive of the year penetrated the Western Front, within forty-five miles of Paris. U.S. forces under General John J. Pershing helped halt the German advance,” History.com stated.
On June 6, General John Pershing ordered a counteroffensive. Their mission was to drive the Germans out of Belleau Wood.
Under General Games Harbord, Americans led the attack against four German divisions positioned in the woods. Under order, soldiers covered the land while still trying to take cover for their lives. But by the end of the first day, the U.S. suffered more than 1,000 casualties. Using machine guns, artillery and gas, by June 26 Americans prevailed, but at the cost of nearly 10,000 dead, wounded or missing in action, History.com stated.
Dilboy led the attack in the Battle of Belleau Wood in WWI and continued to fire at the enemy despite being seriously wounded.
His bravery spurred him to kill many of the enemy and dispersed the rest of the machine gun crew, according to “Carved in Stone: The Story of George Dilboy,” by George Dilboy’s cousin, Richard Rozakis, who now lives in California.
“Dilboy was mortally wounded during the battle and became the first Greek-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor,” according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.gov).
George Dilboy was, “One of the ten great heroes,” who “died in the battlefield of France with superhuman heroism and valor,” Pershing said, according to“Immigrant Minds, American Identities,” by Orm Overland. Now buried in the Virginia, Arlington National Cemetery, Dilboy’s gravestone reads his death date of July 18, 1918, reports Arlingtoncemetery.net
On that day, he fought till death to protect his fellow Doughboys.
Dilboy’s courage to fight led to his legacy as the only New Hampshire resident honored with the Medal of Honor for WWI. Ultimately, Dilboy’s demise and his remains required attention from three U.S. Presidents over five years and became an international incident.
United States PresidentWoodrow Wilson, in the name of Congress, signed authorization to award the Medal of Honor to George Dilboy, Private First Class, of the U.S. Army, Company H, 103rd Infantry, 26th Yankee Infantry Division. Wilson presented Dilboy’s father with the Medal of Honor, saying, “In January of 1919, taking recognition for Dilboy’s courage and valor, on the Boston Commons, The Medal of Honor was presented to Dilboy’s father, Antonios Dilboy, whose parental role was recognized, “Your boy was born in a foreign land and, like you, he spoke the Greek language and with you came to his adopted country. You taught him of Flag and what American citizenship means. You made him appreciate blessings afforded to all aliens. You told him it was the greatest honor on earth to be chosen to defend with his life the freedom that you enjoy and you so developed his character and instilled into him this pride in your adopted country that no American boy excelled this boy in the supreme sacrifice he made,” he continued, “He was almost superhuman; he achieved things supposed above the limit of mental and physical endurance. His act cleared the way for his platoon to break through; that he died a splendid example,” wrote Andrew T. Kopan Ph.D. in “Defenders of the Democracy: Greek Americans in the Military,” about the Boston ceremony.
Dilboy was one out of 124 soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor in WWI, the Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s website.
Dilboy’s leadership was recognized. Right, left, right, left. Step-by-step Dilboy’s fellow Doughboys didn’t want to lose sight of him. They shadowed his lead and “The American doughboy Army followed Dilboy’s example and drove the Germans out of Belleau Wood and all the way back toward the German lines, as part of the Second Battle of the Maine, which saved Paris and the war for the Allies,” Arlingtoncemetery.net stated.
George Dilboy’s Medal of Honor citation explains what happened next.
“After his [George Dilboy’s] platoon had gained its objective along a railroad embankment, Pfc. Dilboy, accompanying his platoon leader to reconnoiter the ground beyond, was suddenly fired upon by an enemy machinegun from 100 yards. From a standing position on the railroad track, fully exposed to view, he opened fire at once, but failing to silence the gun, rushed forward with his bayonet fixed, through a wheat field toward the gun emplacement, falling within 25 yards of the gun with his right leg nearly severed above the knee and with several bullet holes in his body. With undaunted courage he continued to fire into the emplacement from a prone position, killing 2 of the enemy and dispersing the rest of the crew,” homeofheroes.com stated.
Yet, four years later Dilboy’s remains were first buried at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at Belleau Wood, France.
His body was later taken to his birthplace in Alatsata on the Aegean Sea across from Chios, Greece, upon his father’s request.
In Dilboy’s cousin, Richard Rozakis’ book, he wrote the hero’s funeral was said to have been witnessed by 17,000 mourners as his flag-draped casket was placed in the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, The Annunciation of the Virgin Mary.
Unfortunately, when rampaging Turkish soldiers ransacked the church during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1923, the American Flag on Dilboy’s coffin was desecrated.
Rozakis stated, “The coffin was overturned and the bones of the Greek-American hero were scattered by the Turkish attackers. President Warren G. Harding was outraged. A soldier who fought for this country, not to mention multiple times, was being disrespected beyond the president’s belief. Harding sent the U.S.S. Litchfield to Alatsata, Asia Minor in September 1922 to recover the body remains. Harding also demanded an apology from the Turkish government.”
Harding received that formal apology and Dilboy’s remains were collected and a Turkish guard of honor delivered his casket, draped once again in an American flag.
Soon after, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge presided at his final burial when his parents in Chios requested his remains be transported to the United States.
He was then sent to an American landing party from the U.S.S. Litchfield. On Nov. 12, 1923, Dilboy reached his final resting place at the Arlington National Cemetery, according to their website. With full military honors, he lies buried at section 18, site 4574.
Dilboy’s legacy is remembered with plaques placed in Keene, New Hampshire and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
There are also statues of the young soldier in front of Somerville City Hall and at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois. Since 1953 Somerville’s Dilboy Stadium bears his name. The Somerville Museum exhibit of 2006-2007 also honored George Dilboy. In addition to the landmarks and the book, “Carved in Stone: The Story of George Dilboy,” there is Edward Brady’s book titled “Georgie! My Georgie!” written about the hero, George Dilboy.
“He was almost superhuman; he achieved things supposed above the limit of mental and physical endurance,” Andrew T. Kopan wrote, quoting President Wilson at the Medal of Honor Ceremony.
Dilboy wasn’t from this country, but he learned to adapt and appreciated the Flag and what American citizenship was. “That he died a splendid example,” Kopan said.