WWI area

A native of Princeton, Indiana, Ross Gooch was an African American soldier in the 809th Pioneer Infantry Regiment, an African American unit serving in France during World War I. At that time of U.S. history, African Americans served in segregated units alongside French troops. Trained in both infantry tactics and combat engineering, infantry units built roads and pre-fabricated structures, in addition to performing a wide range of physical labor, such as loading and unloading ships, trains, wagons and more. Gooch enlisted on August 22, 1918 and set sail from New York City on Sept. 23rd, 1918 in the midst of the Spanish Influenza pandemic. Large numbers of soldiers contracted the flu and many died en route to France. Others died in France. Gooch was honorably discharged from Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio on July 23rd, 1919, and returned to Lyles Station near Princeton to farm, marry and start a family. This grouping contains Gooch’s uniform, dog tags and a picture of Gooch wearing the uniform, a rarity among African American soldiers during the first World War era.