It was 100 years ago this month that the first world war would begin, during which more than 9-million soldiers were killed, including a spy from Naperville.
In 1944, a group of proud veterans from that war created Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #3873 in Naperville as they prepared for and celebrated the return of those fighting in World War II.
“They said, ‘Hey, let’s name it after our old friend Judd.’ And so the name was quickly changed to the Judd Kendall VFW and we’ve carried that name proudly ever since,” said past commander Phil Maughan.
Oliver Julian Kendall grew up in Naperville, and it’s believed his home was where Quigley’s Irish Pub now stands. When World War I began, he volunteered to join the Army.
“He was a lieutenant when he joined the Army. This is usually-based on rank in society but also based on hard work like if you went to training at West Point,” said Brian Ogg, Curator of Research at Naper Settlement. “His father was also Superintendent of Schools and was mayor here in Naperville so I think he came from a family of standing.”
While leading 70 infantrymen Lieutenant Kendall was captured and killed in 1918 on the eve of the pivotal battle of Cantigny.
“The reports that the national archives sent me showed in his dental records that he had been missing nine teeth. They were either pulled or knocked out,” said Lew Breese, past commander of the Judd Kendall VFW. “And the blood pattern on his shirt showed that his throat had been cut. It shows that he was captured. He was alive. They interrogated him [and] performed atrocities on him to try to make him talk. When he didn’t, he was of no use and they killed him.”
Over at Naper Settlement, there are copies of letters that the Army had sent to Kendall’s mother describing his heroism.
“Colonial Atkisson says ‘One German officer captured at Cantigny had stated that he had heard that the American officer [Kendall] captured at the time had refused to answer any questions concerning the Americans’ plans,’” Ogg read from one of the letters. “And that his behavior was worthy of an officer.”
“Lieutenant Kendall, even going through all of the pain and suffering that he went through, took to his grave the secret that we were coming and were going to take over that particular town,” said Breese. “If he had given out the information, there would’ve been a heck of a lot more people killed because they knew we were coming [and] they could prepare.”
Kendall’s willingness to accept death to protect his country has been an inspiration to many to this day, including those at the VFW.
“It’s an example of the sacrifice that ordinary citizens have made to this country throughout its history and it’s still relevant today and it’ll be relevant 100 years from now because our freedom is not guaranteed,” said Maughan. “It’ll come under threat from time to time and we have to respond to that and he did and we’re grateful.”
In 1997, past commander Lew Breese began a research project to learn the identity and history behind the post’s namesake.
As a result, Breese helped get the United States army to award the Silver Star, Purple Heart and World War I victory medal his hero, Judd Kendall nearly 80 years after Kendall’s death.
“A hero in my estimation is somebody who does the right thing at the right time regardless of the sacrifices that have to be done to do it and he certainly hits that.”
Kendall is also remembered with an elementary school and park that bare his name.
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