“HOME – HOME – There’s something familiar about that name.”

—Josiah P. Rowe, Jr., to his mother, 19181

Rowe_2With his father as mayor of Fredericksburg, it’s no wonder that Josiah P. Rowe, Jr., decided to enlist as an Airman to continue the legacy of bringing honor to his family and to Fredericksburg.  The Rowes were well-established, influential, and long-standing leaders of the community, so when young Josiah went off to war, he did not go alone—he went with the support of his family, the Fredericksburg community, and the students at the Fredericksburg State Normal School.2  The letters that Rowe exchanged with his friends and family back home, particularly the letters from his mother, form the narrative about one local man’s adventures, trials, and victories while serving as an aviator in the Great War.

Josiah was a student at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute when he enlisted in the Army at Fort Meyer, Virginia, in 1917.  Following his enlistment, Josiah graduated from the School of Military Aeronautics at Princeton University and subsequently went overseas with the American Expeditionary Forces until the end of the war.  While serving in Europe, Josiah wrote letters to his mother that detailed his adventures and trials, and he voiced his desperation to see “a good old Fredericksburg face.”3

Rowe_4Josiah’s mother sent him copies of The Daily Star, the local Fredericksburg newspaper, along with several care packages that she and the students at FSNS put together for him.  Josiah constantly expressed his gratitude for the letters and the support he received from home, and he thanked his mother and others for keeping him connected to Fredericksburg—he wanted more than anything to experience life at home again.  As sheer coincidence would have it, while he was in France in November 1918, Josiah actually met many “Fredericksburgers” abroad—doctors and nurses who had also volunteered to serve in the Great War.4

The following month, on December 7, Josiah received word that he would finally be able to return to Fredericksburg and ecstatically shared the news with his mother.5  Thanks to an Allied victory, the young soldier was able to return home to his family after serving as an aviator in the fight for freedom.  He lived the rest of his life in Fredericksburg, where he married, raised a family, and eventually served as mayor until his death in 1949.

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1.  Josiah P. Rowe, Jr., Letters from a World War I Aviator (Boston: Sinclaire Press, 1986), 105.

2.  Ibid., xi.

3.  Ibid., 105.

4.  Ibid., 21.

5.  Ibid., 140.

Image Citations

1.  Josiah P. Rowe, Jr., Letters from a World War I Aviator (Boston: Sinclaire Press, 1986), inside cover.

2.  Ibid., xii.

Voices of the Great War Citation

1.  “Alumnae Echoes,” Battlefield Yearbook, 1915, 135, Special Collections and University Archives, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington, https://archive.org/details/battlefield191500univ (accessed March 19, 2014).