Thomas Rogers was born on June 4th, 1890 to a prominent Arikara family on the Fort Berthold Reservation. When the US declared war on Germany in 1917, American Indians volunteered to serve in large numbers. Like many of these sons and grandsons of Warriors from earlier times, Thomas Rogers was raised with the elder’s stories of the Warrior tradition. On April first, 1917, Thomas traveled to Bismarck to enlist. On New Year’s Day, 1918, he arrived in France and served with Company A of the 18th Infantry.
Rogers was assigned to the intelligence section and served as a battalion runner and sniper. During the night, Rogers job was to scout the front lines to determine enemy positions and to capture German sentries. If the enemy refused to surrender, Rogers killed him and brought back his uniform jacket. During these silent night raids, Thomas carried no weapons and used only his hands to deal with the enemy. On 30 strait nights, Rogers killed or took prisoner, 33 German soldiers. After the Battle of Soissons, Rogers was cited for bravery in capturing many enemy sentinels that when questioned provided valuable intelligence.
During the day, Rogers proved himself as a sniper. An excellent marksman, he scanned the enemy lines and dispatched dozens of the enemy. In recognition of his prowess as a night raider and sniper, he acquired the nickname that was known by friend and foe alike, “The Specter.” Rogers was promoted to Sargent and recognized as a man of great courage, initiative, and intelligence, a soldier of the highest quality who volunteered for the most dangerous missions.
After the war. Rogers came home to North Dakota and married Lucy Coffee. In recognition of his solitary night raids, Arikara elders gave Thomas the name, “Charges Alone.” In 1926, Rogers received a presidential citation from Calvin Coolidge for Valor and Very Extraordinary Meritorious Service in the Defense of our Country.
Although much renowned for his service in France, Rogers was a quiet man and would not talk about the war. He was humble and unassuming, qualities much admired in a Warrior. This is the anniversary of Rogers’ last full day on earth. The next day, April 17th, 1965, Thomas died in a car accident at age 74.
Dakota Datebook by Scott Nelson
Article by Carole Barrett and Calvin Grinnell for the United States World War One Centennial Commission.