Famous Greek Americans: George Dilboy (Greek transliteration of Americanized name: Γεώργιος Διλβόης )
George Dilboy (Greek transliteration of Americanized name: Γεώργιος Διλβόης), (February 5, 1896–July 18, 1918), Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company H, 103d Infantry, 26th Division is thought to be the first Greek-American to receive the Medal of Honor during World War I, for leading an attack on a machinegun position and continuing to fire at the enemy despite being seriously wounded, killing two of the enemy and dispersing the remainder of the gun crew. General John Pershing listed George Dilboy as one of the 10 greatest heroes of the war. Dilboy is buried in Section 18 of Arlington National Cemetery.
The Dilboy Field and its Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Massachusetts were named after him, as was Somerville’s Dilboy Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The Dilboy post is VFW Post #529 and is located at 371 Summer Street. There is a monument and bust honoring Dilboy in front of Somerville’s City Hall.
Born in the Greek settlement of Alatsata, in Ottoman Turkey in Asia Minor, near İzmir, the Belleau Wood hero astounded Germans by singlehandedly attacking The Wood which was infested with machine gun nests, and wiping out three guns before the Germans fled. Equally astonished were his fellow Doughboys of World War I.
Dilboy’s early years were spent living in a region of the world were dangerous feuding between Ottoman Turks and Greeks was an ongoing event for nearly 400 years. He and his family emigrated to America, in 1908, and settled first in Keene, New Hampshire and then in Somerville, Massachusetts. But Dilboy returned to mainland Greece in 1909 where he volunteered to fight in the Greek Army in Thessaly during the First Balkan War of 1912. He remained there to successfully fight in Macedonia in the Second Balkan War of 1913.
Returning to Somerville, he went to school and worked for a few years before volunteering to fight in the U.S. Army in the Mexican Border War in 1916-1917, he entered service at Keene, New Hampshire. He obtained an honorable discharge, but within months thereafter, re-joined the US Army to fight in France during World War I, where he was killed in 1918 at age 22.
At the request of his father, Antonios, Dilboy was buried at his birth place Alatsata, which was at that time a predominantly Greek city. After a funeral procession through the streets of his birthplace — said to have been witnessed by 17,000 mourners — his flag-draped casket was placed in the Greek Orthodox Church of the Presentation in Alatsata to lie in state before the high altar. But rampaging Turkish soldiers soon seized the town and during the three-year Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, Turkish troops recaptured Smyrna from the Greek invaders. The church was ransacked and Dilboy’s grave desecrated. The American flag was stolen from atop Dilboy’s coffin. The coffin was overturned, after which — according to an account by Bishop John Kallos — the bones of the Greek-American war hero were scattered by the marauding attackers.
President Warren G. Harding was outraged and sent the warship USS Litchfield to Turkey in September 1922 to recover the bodily remains. Harding also demanded and received a formal apology from the Turkish government. Dilboy’s remains were collected and a Turkish guard of honor delivered his casket (draped once again in an American flag) to an American landing party in Smyrna. His remains were taken aboard the USS Litchfield and returned to the United States. On November 12, 1923, he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, where his gravestone proclaims his Medal of Honor status.
Dilboy had the distinction of being honored by three U.S. Presidents, Woodrow Wilson, who signed the authorization awarding the Medal of Honor, Warren G. Harding, who brought him back to Arlington National Cemetery and Calvin Coolidge, former Governor of Massachusetts, who presided at his final burial.
The Dilboy Stadium was constructed at Dilboy Field in Somerville in 1953. By 2003, the stadium was in disrepair. State Senator Charlie Shannon lobbied the state government intensively for money to demolish and replace the stadium. While the money, over $8 million, was obtained, Shannon died in April 2005, before the project’s completion, and efforts were made to name the replacement stadium after Shannon instead of Dilboy. The renaming was scratched after some controversy and the replacement Dilboy Stadium opened in September, 2006. Plans included placing a plaque honoring Shannon.
George Dilboy Memorial erected May 24, 1942 by the George Dilboy Memorial Foundation at the Hines Veterans Administration Hospital in Hines, IL (a western suburb of Chicago.)
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