- Associated Press - Thursday, February 16, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Workers replacing a bridge at Camp Lincoln in Illinois found an artifact tied to African-American soldiers who fought with distinction during World War I.

Workers found a collar disc, which slightly larger than a quarter, that contains the insignia of the Eighth Illinois Infantry, The State Journal-Register reported (https://bit.ly/2lWVu4O ). The segregated unit fought as the 370th Infantry in World War I.

Illinois State Military Museum officials believe an Illinois guardsman lost it between 1923 and 1936.

The museum’s curator, Bill Lear, said the artifact was caked in mud and dirt. He says it cleaned up nicely and is now on public display.

“It had 80-plus-years of dirt all over it,” Lear said. “For the most part, it was in OK shape. Once we cleaned the mud out of the crevices and got it in here, it almost looks new.”



Illinois National Guard command historian Adriana Schroeder said the Eighth Infantry was deployed to the Mexican border during the 1916 Pancho Villa Expedition. Afterward, the unit was re-designated the 370th and sent to fight under the French in World War I because the American military was segregated.

“They probably should have received some Medals of Honor,” Schroeder said. “Instead, they received a lot of French awards and a couple of Distinguished Service Crosses on the American side.”

Post 809 commander Randy Boschulte said the French were impressed by the courage shown by the men of the 370th Infantry.

“When they had to fight, they fought,” Boschulte said. “The French were amazed at the amount of valor they had.”

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, https://www.sj-r.com

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