George Vonland wore many hats in his lifetime: military man, war hero, pilot, saloon keeper, chauffeur, mechanic, and funeral director. Born on 19 January 1897 in St. Louis to John Adolph Vonland and Marguerite (Hassett) Vonland, George also had a brother, Adolph, born in January 1900.

George served as a “1st Class Private, Company H, First Infantry in the Missouri National Guard, on the Mexican Border, 1916.” In 1918, George was involved in a battle which would earn him the Distinguished Service Cross in 1934, “to Sergeant George O. Vonland . . . for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with Company H, 138th Infantry Regiment, 35th Division, A.E.F., at Hilsenfirst, France, 6 July 1918. Just as a raid was about to be launched, Sergeant Vonland assumed command of a section almost demoralized by being deprived of its only officer, led it to its objective, and protected the left flank of the company. Having accomplished this mission he then assisted the wounded back from the enemy trenches despite heavy machine-gun and shell fire.” His acceptance of responsibility and his bravery “demanded exceptional courage and leadership, and were an inspiration to his comrades.”

George was wounded on September 26, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. He “received a commission as a second lieutenant after recovering from his wounds and commanded the 55th Company, 324th Motor Train through the end of the war.” He also received the French Croix de Guerre, Purple Heart, and numerous other medals for actions in both WWI and WWII. His journal, entitled, My Days in France, describes several battles in France and his impression of the country during WWI. The Missouri History Museum Archives in St. Louis has a copy and it is also online.

The 1920 census shows George “Von Land” living with his wife, Gertrude, daughter of William and Lizzie Mahoney, on Easton Avenue in St. Louis, working as a mechanic. He and Gertrude had two sons; Raymond John was born at the St. Ann’s Children’s Asylum to an unwed mother on 5 June 1922 and was taken by the Vonlands on 9 June 1923. No adoption was recorded, but he was raised by them. George Oliver Vonland, Jr., known as “Buddy,” was also born at St. Ann’s on 14 April 1925. His adoption status is unknown; however he died on 26 May 1940, at the age of fifteen.

The 1940 census identified George “Von Land” as an undertaker, age forty-three. As a captain in the 407th Infantry of the Reserve Corps, in 1943, Lieutenant Colonel George Vonland served at Headquarters, Camp Crowder, as the 26th Battalion Commander.

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on 17 June 1956, spotlights the Reveille Club, filled with military memorabilia and owned by George. On 31 January 1957, George retired from the Army with the rank of colonel.

George Oliver Vonland died on 5 February 1969, at the age of seventy-two, with burial at Memorial Park Cemetery. George was survived by his wife and son Ray, who died on 21 April 1969.

(Sources include family papers and the “George Vonland Collection” at Missouri Over There Institute of Museum Library Services.)

Written by Barbara Vonland Morris
April 2017

© 2017 St. Louis Genealogical Society


Vonland Family
The Vonland Family
Photo in the collection of Barbara Vonland Morris
Used with permission
George Vonland's Medals
George Vonland’s Medals
Photo in the collection of Barbara Vonland Morris
Used with permission

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Last Modified: 25-Oct-2018 21:53