Emory Scott West Sr.

1874 - 1955

Spanish American WarWWI

Their Story

Emory Scott West was born on September 12, 1874, in Troy, West Virginia. He attended several schools there and would go on to further his education by graduating from Redfield College in Redfield, South Dakota. Not much is recorded of his early life, as he emerges primarily onto the historical scene during the Spanish American War. During this war he enlisted in the Army; either pursuing an existing military itch or developing one during the conflict. Either way, Emory Scott West would serve in the United States Army for nearly the entirety of the rest of his life, serving his country during its transformation into a global superpower.[1]

West served in the intrigue-riven conflict of the Spanish-American War in the Philippines. As part of the war between the United States and Spain, the US government sought to expel Spain from its colonial holdings in the Pacific. Chief amongst these was the Philippines, where revolutionary leader Emilio Aguinaldo was fighting for Filipino independence from Spain. In order to wrest the islands from the Spanish, the US Navy first crippled the Spanish naval power in the Philippines. The next step tasked General Merritt and Colonel MacArthur of the US Army to defeat the Spanish ground forces on the Islands. This engagement was fraught with poor communications and intrigue between enemy lines:

While Dewey blockaded the islands, the U.S. quickly organized an army to dislodge the 35,000 Spanish soldiers trapped in Manila. Brigadier General Arthur MacArthur, then a Colonel in the Adjutant General’s Office, was given command of the 1st Brigade of General Wesley Merritt’s 8th Army Corps, which arrived in Manila on July 31… Without telling MacArthur, General Merritt had secretly negotiated with the Spanish that they would offer only token resistance if the Americans kept Emilio Aguinaldo’s dangerous Filipino insurgents away from them. But the Filipinos joined in anyway, and unlike the other American brigade, MacArthur’s men actually met with resistance and took some casualties. Still, the Spanish were quickly subdued.[2]

It is unknown whether West was with MacArthur’s or Merritt’s men, and thus it is hard to gauge the ferocity of his combat experience in the Philippines. Regardless, West and the US Army had little trouble in accomplishing their campaign goals. Given that West was recorded as marrying his wife in Iowa the following year, it is likely that he did not remain in the Philippines to experience the resultant Philippine-American War.[3]

The next major assignment of West’s military career was serving as the executive officer of three Prisoner of War camps during World War I. In the lead-up to US involvement in the First World War, there was anxiety in the United States about the loyalties of German and Austro-Hungarian immigrants. The Wilson administration heightened these fears in order to secure their wartime ability to detain these immigrants:

For three years the Justice Department prepared lists of aliens considered dangerous and attempted to register all male and female German aliens. They numbered approximately 480,000 at the beginning of World War I. By the end of the War, the United States Government arrested more than 4000 of the aliens. While very little concrete evidence existed to justify the allegations of espionage and ensuing apprehensions of aliens, the furor created by the Wilson administration succeeded in giving the president the public support he needed for his 1917 war declaration.[4]

In addition to these 4,000 “aliens”, the US military also apprehended German merchant marines and Navy personnel. Though comparable to the later indenture of Japanese Americans during World War II in its goals, the indenture of Germans during World War I was by all accounts less harmful; German prisoners could retain wealth, were visited by family, could pursue hobbies and work, enjoyed high quality meals, and even competed in sporting events run by their military jailors. The deaths that did occur in these camps were primarily the result of the Spanish Flu.[5] As such, West did an admirable job in his role as executive officer of these camps, despite their questionable morality; they did not overly infringe upon the freedom of their captives, and safety was quite good.

West spent the remainder of his life involved in personal pursuits, in addition to active and reserve military duties. After the First World War, West served as educational and recreational director in the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth until his active-duty retirement in 1922. As a reservist, he was director of the Davenport ROTC, as well as a staff member at the Illinois Military School and the Aledo Military Academy.[6] He seemingly had extensive knowledge of world religions, serving as a witness and advisor in defense of Bishop William Montgomery Brown’s famous heresy trial. During this trial, West leveraged studies he had undertaken that drew connections between Christianity and other world religions.[7] In his local community, West was president of the Lions Club. He ultimately passed away on July 1st, 1955, survived by his wife, four daughters, and son Emory Scott West Jr.[8] He leaves behind the legacy of a diligent soldier that served his country through the time of its transition toward global superpowerdom.


[1]  “Lt. Col. E. S. West, Former Davenporter, Dies at 80,” The Daily Times, July 2, 1955, p. 9,

[2] “The Spanish-American War in the Philippines and the Battle for Manila,” American Experience (Public Broadcasting Service), accessed July 1, 2022,

[3] “Lt. Col. E. S. West, Former Davenporter, Dies at 80,” The Daily Times, July 2, 1955, p. 9,

[4] Mitchel Yockelson, “The War Department: Keeper of Our Nation’s Enemy Aliens During World War I,” May 17, 1998,

[5] Mitchel Yockelson, “The War Department: Keeper of Our Nation’s Enemy Aliens During World War I,” May 17, 1998,

[6]  “Lt. Col. E. S. West, Former Davenporter, Dies at 80,” The Daily Times, July 2, 1955, p. 9,

[7] “Brown Will Deny Teaching Heresy,” The Omaha Daily News, May 30, 1924, p. 3, “Sharts’ Proposed Witnesses,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 30, 1924, p. 2,

[8] “Lt. Col. E. S. West, Former Davenporter, Dies at 80,” The Daily Times, July 2, 1955, p. 9,