Military Funeral for Negro Victim of War
“A military funeral will be given to Merle [sic] Billings, a Negro veteran of the late war, who died at his home, 1334 Prospect Avenue, Saturday from the effects of poisonous gas he received during a charge in the Argonne Forest. Funeral services will be held in Washington Avenue Baptist Church, followed by interment in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.
"Billings was the only Negro from Springfield to receive the French decoration of the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action. It is stated of him that in the latter part of September, 1918, he and three privates volunteered to silence a troublesome machine gun. They succeeded in doing so, though one of the number was killed. They also succeeded in killing three Germans and capturing four others and destroyed the machine gun nest.
"The decedent was a member of colored post, American Legion and was a son of Tilda Billings, who survives him. He is also survived by one brother and one sister.”
News-Leader, November 9, 1920.
This obituary misspelled Mr. Billings’ first name; which should be spelled Myrl. His siblings' names were Eugene and Ella. Ella married Homer Massey. It seems Mr. Billings did not marry or have children.
The library is searching for Mr. Billing's original Croix de Guerre medal and the certificate. Older photocopies of the medal and certificate exist. The Library wishes to scan and photograph the items and add the digital copies to the Library's website Missouri Over There, which pays tribute to the Missouri men who served during WWI. If you have information about the location of Mr. Billing's Croix de Guerre medal and certificate, please call the Library's Local History & Genealogy Department at 417-616-0534.
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