Lest We Forget

The stories of three fallen soldiers (Victor Freed, Victor Hanson and Clarence Johnson) who died in World War I and are memorialized in Bellevue, Washington.

Bellevue WWI Memorial

Stories

To learn more about the stories of these three Bellevue sons, click on their names below.

Victor Freed: A medical student who died of typhoid fever in France while tending to the American wounded after World War I.

Victor Edgar Hanson: A son of immigrant Swedish farmers who died fighting in the Argonnes forest with the 308th Infantry Regiment and the Lost Battalion.

Clarence Oscar Johnson: A dairy truck driver who became “one of the best line men in Company L”, killed in the beginning of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive at Miller Hill.

A Monument

In 1920, the Bellevue Minute Women of Washington state planted three elm trees in remembrance of local area men who had died during World War I. The trees symbolized the supreme sacrifices made by Victor Freed, Victor E. Hanson and Clarence O. Johnson.

Six years later, an official dedication of this small war memorial would go on to add a large white pole atop a square concrete base nestled among the small grove of trees.

Memorial Dedication 1926
Bellevue Reporter/EHC (l) and East Side Journal, November 18th 1926 (r)

A plaque set atop the concrete base includes the inscription “Lest We Forget”, a popular phrase from the 1897 poem Recessional by Rudyard Kipling which had become a common epitaph for war memorials at the time.

A Restoration

Almost a century later, this monument sat forgotten in the middle of what is now Bellevue Park, the flag pole long missing and the concrete base showing its age with a large crack. But a local resident, Robert “Bob” Shay, made it his mission to revive this forgotten monument and remind the community of the three long-dead soldiers it humbly commemorates.

With the help of the local VFW and the Eastside Heritage Center, Mr. Shay was able to raise funds to repair the concrete foundation, commission a new statue (a flag with three roses) and add a new sign that describes the history of the three men.

A few years ago, Mr. Shay and other local veterans honored these lost sons of Bellevue at a World War One centennial anniversary event in the park.

A Walk in the Park

I happened to stumble across this monument while walking through the park recently and knew that I had to learn more about the lives of the three men that it commemorates. As with other military history research projects that I’ve worked on this past year for friends and family, I’m always amazed by the stories that can be pieced together to try and get a sense of what someone’s life might have been like while at war.

It’s a never-ending journey to find more snippets of information and try to tell a richer and more compete story about someone’s life. After a month of piecing together their stories, for now I’ll close my chapter of research on these men.

Lest We Forget

Victor Freed: A medical student who died of typhoid fever in France while tending to the American wounded after World War I.

Victor Edgar Hanson: A son of immigrant Swedish farmers who died fighting in the Argonnes forest with the 308th Infantry Regiment and the Lost Battalion.

Clarence Oscar Johnson: A dairy truck driver who became “one of the best line men in Company L”, killed in the beginning of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive at Miller Hill.

Bellevue WWI Memorial