Remembering Judd Kendall

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November 11 is Veteran’s Day, and this year, it’s also the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. That makes it the perfect time to remember the story of local war hero, Judd Kendall.

Oliver “Judd” Kendall was just 28 years old in 1917 when he enlisted in the army to fight in the first world war. He was assigned to the Army Engineers School and rose to the rank of First Lieutenant.

The U.S. was new to the war and some felt the American troops would struggle with trench warfare and should be used as filler in the British Army.

“Finally, the British and French said, ‘fine, we’ll give you this sector of the line across from the village of Cantigny and when you get situated there you can formulate an attack plan and if that’s successful we’ll recognize you are capable of fighting in this war,” said Phil Maughan, a past Commander of the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873.

It all hinged on the Battle of Cantigny. Kendall led a party out onto the battlefield a few nights prior to the scheduled operation to prepare the site for the U.S. troops.

“At one point, Judd Kendall heard a noise and asked one of the privates in the group to come with him to investigate,” said Jennifer Bridge, curator of exhibits and interpretation at Naper Settlement. “And then he told the private to stay back and wait for him and the private saw Judd Kendall move off into the distance and then he heard a noise that sounded like some equipment being dropped. And then he heard nothing and Kendall did not return. So it was assumed he had been taken prisoner by the Germans.”

Kendall’s capture was a concern for the entire U.S. Military. As an officer, he was aware of the army’s battle plans for Cantigny. If the Germans could force him to give up information, it could mean thousands of lives lost.

“He knew the secrets, as they say. And he kept them,” said Pablo Araya, the Judd Kendall VFW’s current post commander. “He kept his mouth shut and he did it to save the attack, to save his fellow soldiers and he made the ultimate sacrifice.”

The Battle of Cantigny became the U.S.’s first victory in the war. However, Kendall’s body was found months later buried behind enemy lines.

In a letter to Kendall’s mother, Captain Shipley Thomas wrote that if Kendall had given away intelligence, 12,000 American lives could have been lost. “In my opinion, the gallantry of your son prevented this and saved the American army.”

When the Naperville VFW opened in 1944, it was named in Kendall’s honor. Lobbying done by the post in the 1990s led to Kendall posthumously being awarded the Purple Heart, Silver Star and the French Croix de Guerre.

A fitting legacy for one of Naperville’s greatest veterans.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.