Oliver “Judd” Kendall was one of 16 Naperville men who answered President Woodrow Wilson’s call in 1917 to make the world safe for democracy. Kendall was a native son, attending Ellsworth Elementary, Naperville High School and then North Central College. He joined the army on June 14, 1917 and entered the first officer training camp before being assigned to the Army Engineers School. He received his commission as a second lieutenant and then as a first lieutenant. He served with the 1st Engineers attached to the 1st Infantry Division overseas in France.
Oliver "Judd" Kendall
On the evening of May 24, 1918 and into the early morning hours of May 25, Lt. Kendall led a 50-man infantry work party in forward trench areas to prepare for The Battle of Cantigny. Lt. Kendall heard noises in no-man’s-land, went with a private to investigate, and then told the private to wait for him. The private saw him disappear into the darkness, heard a noise like equipment dropping, then nothing.
At the time of his capture, 28-year-old Lt. Kendall had detailed maps of where to place the tools and equipment, but he did not know about the planned operation, which was scheduled for a few days later on May 28. Officers considered postponing or even canceling the operation because of his capture, but they proceeded. According to the First Division Museum at Cantigny, the Battle of Cantigny was a small battle by World War I standards, but it was America’s first significant battle and first offensive of World War I.
Months later, Lt. Kendall’s body was found buried several miles behind German lines and it appeared his throat had been cut.
In a letter to Kendall’s mother in August 1919, Col. E.J. Atkisson wrote, “It is believed that your son was killed by the Germans near Cantigny within two or three days of his capture for refusal to answer questions that would lead to the discovery of the proposed attack.”
This letter that is in Naper Settlement’s archives also noted that a German officer captured at Cantigny stated that he had heard that the American officer captured at the time refused to answer any questions concerning the Americans’ plans and that his behavior was worthy of an officer.
In honor of his bravery, in 1944, a group of veterans named Naperville’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #3873 after Judd Kendall. But the story doesn’t end there.
In 1997, VFW Post Commander Lew Breese discovered that Lt. Kendall had never received any medals for his bravery. As a result of his research, the United States Army awarded Kendall the Silver Star, Purple Heart and World War I victory medal, 80 years after his death.
City officials named a portion of Jackson Avenue, “Judd Kendall Memorial Way.” There is also a Naperville elementary school and a park named after this World War I hero.
Naper Settlement is proud to honor our veterans. The museum is the caretaker of our community’s collective memory. If we don’t know where we have been, we won’t know where we are going. As Naper Settlement looks to the future, we will continue to gather the stories like these that make a difference.