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First Name: Needham

Last Name: Roberts

Birthplace: Trenton, NJ, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Date of Birth: 28 April 1901

Date of Death: 18 April 1949

Rank: Private

Years Served:
Needham Roberts

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)


Needham Roberts
Private, U.S. Army

Needham Roberts was born on 28 April 1901 in Trenton, NJ.

Roberts was the son of a pastor. In 1917, he left his job as a drugstore clerk to enlist in the U.S. Army and serve his country in World War I. He was 15 or 16 years old at the time, but lied to the recruiter and told him he was 19 so he could join.

He was assigned to the New York Fifteenth Infantry which later became the 369th Infantry ("Harlem's Hellfighters"). He was sent to France with his Regiment where they were put under the control of the French Army. The soldiers were issued French equipment and uniforms, and given basic training in the French language and military tactics. He and fellow member of the Regiment, Henry Johnson, were on watch in the Argonne Forest when they were attacked by a German raiding party of about 20 soldiers. Though both were wounded, they continued to fight the Germans and defend the French line.

Roberts' wounds disabled him sufficiently to allow the Germans to attempt to drag him away as a prisoner. He was saved from this fate by Henry Johnson, who attacked the Germans with a bolo knife, rescuing Roberts and repelling the attack.

For these events, both Needham Roberts and Henry Johnson were awarded the French Croix de Guerre Medal, the first Americans to receive that honor. However, neither received any recognition from the U.S. Army upon their return.

It was not until many years after his death that Needham Roberts was awarded the Purple Heart (in 1996).

Medals and Awards

Purple Heart
Croix de Guerre (France)

Death and Burial

Needham Roberts died on 18 April 1949 in Newark, NJ. He is buried at Fairmount Cemetery in Newark, NY.

Honoree ID: 3009   Created by: MHOH




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