Robert Dutro Post 486 remembers its namesake

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By Rick Palsgrove
Southeast Editor

Photos courtesy of Rober Dutro Post 486 American Legion
Private Robert Lincoln Dutro of Groveport at Parris Island, S.C., for Marine Boot Camp during World War I in June of 1917.

From July 17-19, 1918, 1,431 United States Marines lost their lives in the Aisne-Marne Offensive, also known as the Second Battle of the Marne, in Europe during World War I.

One of the Marines who was killed was a young man from Groveport named Robert Dutro.

When the call for soldiers came in 1917 during World War I, 15-year-old Robert Lincoln Dutro left behind his school books at Groveport Madison High School and joined the U.S. Marines, becoming a member of the 6th Marine Regiment.

Though Dutro was too young to enlist, he was tall and wiry and he convinced the Marines to let him join, according to Rick Compton, Past Commander and current finance officer for Robert Dutro Post 486, American Legion, Groveport.

Post 486 is named for Dutro and on July 21 Post members and others honored the 100th anniversary of Dutro’s passing with a ceremony at his gravesite in Union Cemetery in Columbus.
Groveport City Council President Shawn Cleary and Mayor Lance Westcamp were among those who attended the ceremony.

“It was an honor to attend this ceremony. The American Legion is a big part of our community and Robert Dutro’s story is important to remember,” said Westcamp.

Westcamp spoke about how he never knew the story behind the name of the Post and he thanked the Post for it’s continued service to the community, especially its handling of the Memorial Day ceremonies in the township and Groveport.

Robert Dutro’s grave at Union Cemetery in Columbus.

Compton said Dutro was originally buried in France, but he, along with many others, were brought back to the United States in 1921.

“Robert is the namesake of our Post,” said Compton. “His older brother, John, as well as several other local World War I veterans, started this Post and named it after him. This year is the 100th year anniversary of the end of World War I. Along with that it was 100 years ago that this 16-year-old kid died in the service of his country near Soissons, France. We felt that he and all the others who didn’t come home should be remembered. His is an interesting story having only been 15 when he enlisted in the Marines and then dying a year later.”

At the ceremony, American Legion, Department of Ohio Past Commander Carl Swisher spoke about the need to remember and that this is the purpose of the American Legion, to remember the sacrifices of the military and to take care of those in need.

Compton spoke about Dutro and the battles he fought in, including Belleau Woods and the Second Battle of the Marne.

“I was able, using official histories of the 6th Marine Regiment and some pictures and family history to provide a timeline of his movement from Parris Island, S.C. to Quantico, Va., through the embarkation port of Philadelphia to France.”

Family members provided copies of pictures, letters, and documents so the Post could keep his story alive.

“Pvt. Dutro is just one of many men from the Groveport area who served during World War I,” said Compton. “We are fortunate to know his story.”

He said Dutro is an example of the American spirit.

“We, by nature, are not a warrior culture like many other countries,” said Compton. “But when challenged our citizens will rise to the call. We’ve seen this in April 1917, Dec. 7, 1941, and most recently with 9/11. When something happens, our citizens flood the recruiting stations. Robert didn’t have to go. He wouldn’t even have graduated from Groveport High School until 1920. But he accepted the call. It’s an example worth remembering.”

Dutro’s story
“Dutro came from a military family,” said Compton in a 2017 interview. “His brother, John, was a sergeant in the U.S. Army. Robert wanted to serve, too. Maybe it was for the adventure. He, and other young men like him, didn’t know what war was, but they wanted to do their part.”
Compton said the day Dutro died, July 19, 1918, is considered the bloodiest day in the 6th Marine Regiment’s history, and this is a unit that fought through the Pacific Islands during World War II.

Compton said on the day Dutro was killed, the Marines did not get much artillery support.

“They had to cross a level, barren, open field with not much cover, except for a wheat field,” said Compton. “The Germans unleashed intense machine gun fire and artillery, which pinned the Marines down about halfway across the field in ‘no man’s land.’ It must have been a living hell. Some units lost 50 to 70 percent of their men that day. Of one unit of 400, only 12 survived.”
Compton said the specifics of how Dutro was killed in the battle are not known.

“It says a lot about Robert that, at age 15, he joined and fought,” said Compton.

The Groveport Madison High School class of 1920, Dutro’s classmates, remembered him by dedicating the 1920 school yearbook, “The Flashlight,” to him with the words, “Robert L. Dutro, Class of 1920, Who gave his life for his country in the Second Battle of the Marne, July 19, 1918.”

About Robert Dutro Post 486
Robert Dutro Post 486, American Legion meets the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Madison Township Administrative Building, 4575 Madison Lane, Groveport.

The Post was established in 1921 with 20 members. Compton said the Post now has more than 60 members.

“That’s not bad considering when we re-started the Post in 2014 there were around 21,” said Compton. “We have received awards for the last two years recognizing our growth and we are at an all-time high regarding membership.”

He said the Post includes Sons of the American Legion and the Legion Riders, a motorcycle group.

“Our Sons of American Legion is pretty strong and has been extremely beneficial to the Post,” said Compton. “Most of our honor guard are SAL. Our Legion Riders group, while small, is pretty active.”

Compton said the Post provides speakers to local schools, assisted living facilities, and other civic groups.

“In the past we helped move and refurbish the Groveport Food Pantry,” said Compton. “We have had a presence at almost every civic event the city has held and participated in the Fourth of July parade, as well as provided the Honor Guard for the Zucchini festival parade in Obetz.”

Compton said he recently worked with the Franklin County Veterans Administration to obtain over 100 new veteran era markers for the Groveport Cemetery.

For the last two years the Post has sent a candidate to Buckeye Boys and Buckeye Girls State. The Post also is responsible for the Memorial Day ceremonies at Asbury and Groveport cemeteries in Madison Township and Fernwood Cemetery in Hamilton Township.

Follow the Post on Facebook @ groveportamericanlegion.

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