Frederic W. Galbraith

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Frederic W. Galbraith
Born Frederic W. Galbraith, Jr.
(1874-05-06)May 6, 1874
Watertown, Massachusetts
Died June 9, 1921(1921-06-09) (aged 47)
Indianapolis, Indiana
Cause of death Traffic collision
Resting place Spring Grove Cemetery
Cincinnati, Ohio
Alma mater Massachusetts Nautical Training School
Organization American Legion

Frederic W. Galbraith (May 6, 1874 – June 9, 1921) was the second National Commander of the American Legion (1920-21). He had been highly decorated during World War I and was instrumental in helping to make the American Legion the largest and most powerful veterans' organization in the U.S. at the time of his death.[1]

Early life[edit]

Frederick W. "Fritz" Galbraith, Jr. was born in Watertown Arsenal, in Massachusetts, in 1874. His two brothers were college professors, but Galbraith left school at the age of 10 to go with his father to California for work. He was soon the youngest track-walker on the Southern Pacific Railroad. At 13 he returned to Massachusetts and began working in a manufacturing plant. At night he studied for the entrance exams at the United States Naval Academy. Denied admission because he was six months too old, he then entered the Massachusetts Nautical Training School. He completed its three-year course in just one year and was soon a third mate on a sailing vessel bound for Japan.[2]

When Galbraith was 24 he was a master of a ship. On one occasion in the South China Sea he rescued the entire crew of another vessel that had caught fire in a storm. This feat of heroism was widely celebrated at the time in the Asiatic region. He was presented with a silver medal in recognition of his actions.[3]

After six years at sea he returned to Massachusetts and became the treasurer of a bankrupt paper box company in Springfield, Massachusetts. The next year he was able to use his management skills to save the company $100,000 and thenceforth his rise in the business world was rapid. He eventually became an officer or director with several large corporations.[4]

On November 1, 1905 Galbraith was elected as a hereditary companion of the Ohio Commandery of Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States by right of his father's service as a brevet lieutenant colonel and aide de camp in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Galbraith, Sr. served as aide to Major General Oliver O. Howard at the Battle of Gettysburg and during Sherman's March to the Sea.

World War I[edit]

In 1917 when the United States entered World War I he became a soldier by joining the First Infantry Regiment of the Ohio National Guard. He was the colonel in command of the regiment when it became the 147th Infantry Regiment of the 37th Division. Colonel Galbraith was later wounded in combat, cited for valor, and decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, the French Legion d'honneur, and the Croix de Guerre. He also received the Victory Medal for his service in the war and was posthumously eligible for the Purple Heart when it was re-established in 1932.[5]

American Legion[edit]

At the second national convention of the American Legion in Cleveland, Ohio in 1920 Galbraith was elected as the national commander. He worked to enact legislation for aid to disabled U.S. veterans and for a scheme to pay veterans of the war an "adjusted compensation" for their service. He became friends with President Warren Harding and was considered the leading spokesman for veterans around the nation.[6]


Commander Galbraith was killed in an automobile accident in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 9, 1921. The vehicle in which he was riding took a turn too quickly and flipped off of the road. Galbraith was ejected from the car, struck his head on a piece of concrete that had been left by a road crew, and died instantly. His death made national news and thousands attended his funeral in Cincinnati, Ohio. His widow refused an offer from President Harding for him to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery[dubious ]. During World War II a liberty ship, the S.S. Frederic W. Galbraith, was named in his memory.[7][8]


  1. ^
  2. ^ A History of the American Legion by Marquis James, page 206. William Green, 1923.
  3. ^ A History of the American Legion by Marquis James, page 207. William Green, 1923.
  4. ^ A History of the American Legion by Marquis James, page 207. William Green, 1923.
  5. ^ A History of the American Legion by Marquis James, page 208. William Green, 1923.
  6. ^ A History of the American Legion by Marquis James, page 209. William Green, 1923.
  7. ^ A History of the American Legion by Marquis James, page 207. William Green, 1923.
  8. ^ New York Times June 10, 1921.

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Franklin D'Olier
National Commander of the American Legion
Succeeded by
John G. Emery