The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/The boys in Camp Sherman

The Bohemian Review, volume 2, no. 3  (1918) 
The boys in Camp Sherman


In only two of the cantonments are Czechoslovak soldiers of the National Army found in large numbers, and that is Camp Grant at Rockford, Ill., and Camp Sherman at Chillicothe, Ohio. The boys at Camp Grant are not far from Chicago, and so they drop in quite frequently and receive visits from friends at the camp. Their officers know who the Bohemians are and that their hearts are anything but Austrian.

It has been somewhat different at Camp Sherman. There the boys are too far from Cleveland to keep in close touch with it, and their officers did not seem to be able to differentiate the Czechs and Slovaks from Austrians or some other little known races of Eastern Europe. Nothing will make a Bohemian more mad than to be taken for an Austrian. The boys at Camp Sherman felt that it was up to them to do something. They wrote to the Bohemian National Alliance in Chicago for books and pamphlets on Bohemia, and having received a sufficient supply distributed it with such good effect that few men now in that large cantonment are hazy about who the Bohemians are.

Recently an order came to the camp to send home all alien enemies. That seemed to include Bohemians and Slovaks, not naturalized, because they happened to be born in the domains of the late Francis Joseph. The more energetic spirits felt that it was not enough to say each for himself that he does not want to go home. Concerted action was necessary. Fortunately there happened to be at the camp Professor Adolph Miller of Oberlin College, an old friend of the Bohemians. He made arrangements for a meeting in the Y. M. C. A. hut, and had Father Oldřich Zlámal of Cleveland come down and address the Bohemian and Slovak boys. Nearly 1,500 soldiers were present. About 800 were not American citizens, and of that number less than fifty availed themselves of the chance to go home; but as Professor Miller testifies, even of them a majority really left, because they had dependents.

That seems to be a very creditable showing. If the soldiers in a New England or Southern cantonment were told that they were excused, would 94 per cent ask to be allowed to stay?

The boys in Camp Sherman organized a Czechoslovak Club for the purpose of spreading knowledge about their race among the soldiers, and each member pledges to contribute one dollar a year to the Bohemian National Alliance. The club will also arrange for meetings and Bohemian speakers. The first two speakers were Vojta Beneš of Chicago and Charles Bernreiter of Cleveland.

The whole thing is a very small incident in the great panorama of war. But it illustrates the lesson that Bohemians and Slovaks have a great deal of constructive and organizing ability. They are not one of the dumb, passive races. When you come across them, you will know them.