Another victim of the worst killer in WWI- disease
George Rom Hardesty was born in Wake County on July 17, 1882 to Washington (1825-1904) & Katherine (1845-1914) Hardesty.
He attended North Carolina State University (known then as NC State A&M) and graduated in 1907 with a degree in electrical engineering. While at school he was a member of the literary society and served in the college military department as captain of Company B.
In 1909 Hardesty moved to Goldsboro to take a position as an engineer at Cherry Hospital, a job he held until 1917.
With the US entry into World War I in April 1917, George joined the Army and was sent to the newly formed chemical weapons base at American University in Washington, DC. This camp developed and tested chemical weapons and was home to over 100,000 troops. One hundred years later the cleanup continues in the neighborhoods where the base once operated.
At the end of the year he shipped off to France, assigned to the 92nd Division as its division gas officer (DGO). The DGO was responsible for training troops in the use of chemical weapons as well as defensive instruction, primarily gas masks. The 92nd is interesting in that it was the only active all-black army division of WWI; the officer corps was primarily white.
Capt. Hardesty fell ill and died near Soissons, France on October 5, 1918, the victim of lobar pneumonia. This variation, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, affects one lung (a lobe) and causes fever, chills, shortness of breath, and sharp chest pains from inflammation of the membrane that lines the lungs. Of the 50 men that died from Wayne County, seven were due to lobar pneumonia.
His body was brought back from France in February 1921 and interred at Arlington National Cemetery. He is one of 35 men memorialized at the NCSU Bell Tower, alongside two other Wayne County WWI dead- Lt. Guy Jennings Winstead and Lt. Gaston Lewis Dortch.
Cherry Hospital recognized his sacrifice in 1924, naming the hospital power plant in his honor. The building still stands although has not been used in some time.
Video of the 92 Division during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, September 26 – November 11, 1918. Capt. Hardesty became ill and died during this offensive. Courtesy National Archives, via archive.org