Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Remembering a Veteran: The Youngest Doughboy

Ernest Wrentmore of Ohio served the United States in three wars. His service included fighting with considerable distinction with the AEF's 5th Division in the Argonne Forest. There is one detail, however, that sets Wrentmore apart from all the other troops who served with the AEF. 

The photo shown was taken after the Armistice when Wrentmore was all of 14 years old—he actually had enlisted when he was still 12 years old! Later, he served in the Army Air Force and U.S. Air Force, attaining the rank of full colonel as an intelligence officer. After his death in 1983, a bill was introduced in Congress to award Wrentmore the Medal of Honor, but it was not passed. 

His grave marker at Arlington includes an entry on the back citing him as the AEF's youngest soldier.


  1. It would certainly be interesting to know the story of how he managed to enlist? And when did his true age become known? The youngest Brit to enlist was also twelve but when his mother found out where he was she raised hell until he was released from service

  2. It is interesting story. Like James, I'm curious on how he pulled it off. From the photograph, he does not appear to be eighteen years of age. Did he have a birth certificate or parents? I know many boys from all the warring nations enlisted in the forces. There was little checking if a boy who appeared to be the right age was taken at his word. It would be a fascinating story.

  3. I have a copy of his autobiography, and I highly recommend it:
    "America's Youngest Soldier: On the Front Lines in World War One." You can get it on Amazon fairly inexpensively.