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
39°10′27.6″N 84°31′30.0″W / 39.174333°N 84.525000°W / 39.174333; -84.525000
Nationality American
Alma mater Massachusetts Nautical Training School
Occupation Businessman
Title National Commander of
The American Legion
Term 1920 – 1921
Predecessor Franklin D'Olier
Successor John G. Emery
Military career
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Rank Army-USA-OF-05.svg Colonel
Commands held 147th Infantry Regiment

World War I

Frederic W. Galbraith (born Frederic W. Galbraith, Jr.; May 6, 1874 – June 9, 1921) was the National Commander of The American Legion, from 1920 to 1921. He was a decorated World War I veteran who was instrumental in helping to make the Legion the largest and most powerful war veterans' organization in the U.S.

Early life and education[edit]

Galbraith was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1874. His two brothers were college professors, but he 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 thirteen 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 a year and was soon a third mate on a vessel bound for Japan.[1]

When Galbraith was twenty-four 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.[2]

After six years at sea he returned to become 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.[2]

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. Frederic W. 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, Ohio National Guard. He was the colonel in command of the regiment when it became the 147th Infantry Regiment, an element of the 37th Division (later redesignated as the 37th Infantry Division). 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.[3]

The 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.[4]


Galbraith was killed in an automobile accident on June 9, 1921, in Indianapolis, Indiana. 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. During World War II a liberty ship, the S.S. Frederic W. Galbraith, was named in his memory.[2]


  1. ^ James 1923, p. 206.
  2. ^ a b c James 1923, p. 207.
  3. ^ James 1923, p. 208.
  4. ^ James 1923, p. 209.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Franklin D'Olier
National Commander of The American Legion
1920 – 1921
Succeeded by
John G. Emery