Profiles from the Archives: Leo H. Hardy

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

[CAUTION: This blog post contains a 1920 letter with an extremely graphic description of torture proported to have been used during the Russian Revolution, as it was told to Leo H. Hardy while he was in port in the Black Sea with his Navy ship. Please do not read this post if the content could be too upsetting, and do not allow children under the age of 16 to view this post without the supervision of a parent or guardian. The description of the torture by Hardy is descriptive of similar torture used during and immediately after the WWI period in different parts of the world, which is why it has been included with this post.]

Leo Hartland Hardy was born on December 1, 1894, in Beaufort County, N.C., to Joshua Albert and Mary Magnolia White Hardy. By 1900, the Hardy family was living in Beaufort County, and Joshua Hardy was working as a farmer. Nothing is known of Leo Hardy’s life prior to World War I, other than that he was working for the Virginian Railway Company. He enlisted for military service for World War I in the U.S. Navy on April 14, 1917, with the rank of Apprentice Seaman. Hardy is listed for having enlisted at the actually ship the USS Oklahoma (BB-37), a Nevada-class battleship.

Hardy served aboard the Oklahoma until September 21, 1917, when he was sent to the USS Solace (AH-2), a Navy hospital ship (possibly due to illness or injury). By this time, he had reached the rank of Seaman Second Class. Leo Hardy appears to have been severely ill or injured, as he was next sent to the U.S. Naval Hospital in New York on, where he remained from September 23 to October 3, 1917. Hardy’s next stations were as follows: U.S. Navy receiving ship in New York City from October 3 to November 3, 1917; USS Oklahoma again from November 3, 1917, to January 26, 1918; and USS Frank H. Buck (ID 1613), commissioned into Navy service from the Associated Oil Company of San Francisco in 1918 as an oil tanker, from January 26 to at least November 11, 1918. The Frank H. Buck made six round-trips to Great Britain in 1918 to transport oil fuel for WWI Allied operations.

The U.S. Navy stopped official documentation of Hardy’s WWI Navy service under active service on Armstice Day, but he continued to serve through 1920. Hardy was assigned to the USS J. Fred Talbott (DD-156), a U.S. Navy Wickes class destroyer, which was ordered with a number of other Navy vessels to operate off the Russian coast between 1918 and 1920. They were there in support of American, British, and other Allied countries’ troops that were sent there in support of the White Russians who were fighting against the Bolsheviks as part of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The U.S. had sent 4,500 men and over 500 had been killed for this military action between September 1918 and July 1919. Hardy’s ship also went to a region then under Austria-Hungary and other ports in the Mediterranean Sea during this period.

Hardy and the Talbot left from the U.S. for Mediterranean Sea port of Spalato, Dalmatia in then Austria-Hungary (modern-day Split, Croatia) around July 1919, arriving at the U.S. Naval Base in the Azores Islands, on July 16, 1919. By the fall of 1919, Hardy was stationed in Spalato aboard the J. Fred Talbot with 215 officers and sailors. By February 11, 1920, the Talbott, which had headed into the Black Sea, was docked in port at what was then Odessa, Russia (now Odessa, Ukraine). By February 16, 1920, Hardy and his ship was stationed in the port of what was then Batoum, Russia (now Batumi, Georgia) on the Black Sea. Hardy notes that the American Society for Relief in the Near East was ultimately responsible for helping to stave off a total annihilation of the Armenians in the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire during WWI, and he saw battles from the Talbott in Odessa and Batoum involving the local populations.

By March 15, 1920, Hardy and the Talbott was stationed in Venice, Italy. Although he thought he would head back to the U.S. by early April 1920, Hardy was issued a job in Italy related to WWI at the end of March 1920. He was ordered to travel throughout a number of small Italian towns, gathering the bodies of American Navy sailors killed in Italy during WWI. Hardy located the bodies in wartime graves in the Italian towns, preparing them for transportation back to the U.S., aboard the USS Nereus (AC-10), one of four Proteus-class colliers. A collier is a bulk cargo ship designed to carry coal, that apparently was converted to carrying the bodies and coffins of the dead sailors. After Leo Hardy returned to the U.S., he was discharged from active service in the U.S. Navy on June 30, 1920.

It appears Leo Hardy married Lillian W. Neal by 1922. By 1930, Leo Hardy was living in Charlotte County, Virginia, where he worked as a railroad agent. By 1933, he and his wife were living in Norfolk, Virginia, working as a railroad signalman. By 1940, Hardy was living in small town of Cullen in Charlotte County, Virginia, where he worked as station agent for the Virginian Railway. Leo H. Hardy died on July 29, 1974, and was buried in Roanoke Presbyterian Cemetery in Aspenwall, Virginia.

To learn more about Leo Hardy’s WWI and post-WWI service, check out the Leo H. Hardy Papers (WWI 113) in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C.

This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.

Associated Files