Frederic W. Galbraith

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Frederic W. Galbraith, Jr.
Nickname(s) Fritz
Born (1874-05-06)May 6, 1874
Watertown, Massachusetts
Died June 9, 1921(1921-06-09) (aged 47)
Indianapolis, Indiana
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States
Service/branch Army
Years of service 1917-1919
Rank Colonel
Unit 147th Infantry Regiment
Commands held 147th Infantry Regiment
Awards Distinguished Service Cross

Frederic W. Galbraith (May 6 1874 – June 9, 1921) [1] (his first name is spelled "Frederick" in most other sources) was the second national commander of the American Legion. He had been highly decorated as a soldier during World War I and was instrumental in helping to make the American Legion the largest and most powerful veteran organization in the world at the time of death.


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 Academy. 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.

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.[5] He also received the Victory Medal for his service in the First World War and was posthumously eligible for the Purple Heart when it was re-established in 1932.

Second National Commander[edit]

At the second national American Legion convention in Cleveland, Ohio in 1920 Galbraith was elected as the national commander to succeed Franklin D'Olier. He worked to enact legislation for aid to disabled 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]

See also[edit]

Decorations of Colonel Frederick W. Galbraith, Jr.

Find a Grave


  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.