WWI Medal of Honor recipient George Seanor Robb recognized
SALINA, Kan. — World War I veteran George Seanor Robb earned the Medal of Honor, one of only four native Kansans in the "Great War" so recognized, but visitors who happened on his modest headstone in Gypsum Hill Cemetery never would know it.
"He got his two daughters to agree they would not get a Medal of Honor arrangement for him in the cemetery here. He didn't want that," said David D. Robb, his nephew.
"So he doesn't have the Medal of Honor trappings that go with a person who earned that medal."
Robb spoke after a ceremony during which members of the Mary Wade Strother Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution planted a small blue flag at his grave commemorating the prestigious honor. The organization chose May 30 because it was the traditional date for "Decoration Day."
The holiday later was moved to the last Monday in May and its name changed to Memorial Day.
Robb said he has no idea exactly why his uncle didn't want the publicity that surrounds Medal of Honor recipients.
"I don't know. He was proud of it (but) didn't want it advertised," Robb said. "He kept it in a tackle box in his parents' garage on 12th Street."
The medal now is in a more prominent place. It and his World War I uniform, including his helmet with two bullet holes, are on display in the Kansas State Historical Museum in Topeka, Robb said.
Robb said his uncle was even reluctant to attend a ceremony at Fort Riley, mostly because he was still recovering from wounds that earned him the medal in the first place. So the ceremony came to him.
"He got a letter from the general at Fort Riley ordering him to come to the fort," Robb said. "This would have been about 1919, when he was living with his parents. He didn't feel very well."
Robb told the general to just put the medal in a box and mail it to him, but the general said it demanded more dignity than that.
"He ordered up a special train on the Union Pacific and came over from Fort Riley with a whole bunch of soldiers and a marching band," Robb said. "They marched from the Union Station over to the city park on East Mulberry behind the high school and presented the medal to him there."
Part of Friday morning's commemoration was a reading by chapter member Mary Clement Douglass, who also is a local historian and genealogist.
She said the presentation ceremony, presided by Brig. Gen. W.H. Sage, in 1919, attracted about 15,000 onlookers. According to the award citation, Robb, a second lieutenant, was leading his platoon on an assault near Sechault, France, at the end of September 1918, when he was severely wounded by machine gun fire. He stayed with his unit until ordered to the rear for treatment.
He returned within the hour and stayed with his men all night. He was wounded a second time in the morning but remained in command. Later that day, he was hit a third time by fragments from a mortar shell that killed his commanding officer and two others. He assumed command and led his platoon in clearing machine gunners and snipers. That contributed to his battalion achieving its objective.
He eventually recovered from his injuries and returned to Salina, where he sold real estate. He became Salina's postmaster in 1923. In 1935, he was appointed to the position of state auditor by Gov. Alf Landon. He retired in 1960 and died May 14, 1972, in Topeka.
He was born May 18, 1887, on a farm near Assaria, and after earning a master's degree in American history from Columbia University, New York, and teaching for a number of years, he enlisted in the Army in 1917.
David Robb was able to add more detail to his uncle's actions.
"He went to a dressing station at the rear and got sewed up," Robb said. "They told him to stay there but when they weren't looking, he sneaked out and went back to his regiment. He got shot again, in the back, and again went to the rear and they ordered him to stay put, but he was the last officer in his regiment and he figured his regiment couldn't do anything worthwhile without him, so he went back and stayed there."
Eventually, he was relieved by another platoon.
His fighting days over, Robb went first to a Paris hospital, then sailed on a hospital ship back to the United States, where he spent more time in a New York hospital before being sent to Fort Riley to be mustered out.