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Grover Cleveland Bergdoll
Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, 1893-1966.jpg
From his wanted poster
Born (1893-10-18)October 18, 1893
Died January 27, 1966(1966-01-27) (aged 72)
Known for Aviator
Draft dodger

Grover Cleveland Bergdoll (October 18, 1893 – January 27, 1966) was an early aviator, and World War I draft dodger, who went to Germany to avoid service.

He was born in Philadelphia. In 1912, he purchased a Wright Model B biplane for about $5,000. After 748 flights it was placed in storage, and in 1936 it was donated to the Franklin Institute. To avoid the draft he eluded police for two years. He was arrested in 1920, then escaped to Germany. Bergdoll found refuge in Eberbach in the Neckar Valley, not far away from Heidelberg, where relatives of his were living.

In January 1921 two US-sergeants Frank Zimmer and Carl Neuf wanted to seize Bergdoll in the town, but only had an American arrest warrant. They met the fugitive at the local station, exchanged words with him, and he finally fled with his car. One American fired two shots on the disappearing car, wounding a 17-year-old girl named Lina Rupp on her right hand. Both sergeants were captured by the local police and later given jail sentences.

In 1923 a bid to kidnap Bergdoll from Eberbach was made. Two members of a gang of five were hiding in Bergdoll’s hotel room, where they wanted to overpower the draft dodger. But when Bergdoll entered the room, a fight started and he managed to shoot one of the kidnapers and injure the other one seriously. The four surviving conspirators were seized and sentenced to prison terms.

Finally in 1939 Bergdoll returned to the United States, was put on trial, and was imprisoned until 1944. He died in Richmond, Virginia in 1966.

The man drafted in Bergdoll's place, Russell C. Gross of Philadelphia, became a private in Company B of the 328th Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Infantry Division.[1] He was killed in action on October 24, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.[1] Gross was posthumously cited for bravery by Brigadier General Julian R. Lindsey.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Died Hero in Battle in Bergdoll's Place: Philadelphia Youth, Called When Slacker Failed, Was Slain in Argonne - Name Post for Him", the New York Times, June 19, 1921.

Further readingEdit

  • Roberta Dell: The United States against Bergdoll – How the Government Spent Twenty Years and Millions of Dollars to Capture and Punish America’s Most Notorious Draft Dodger, A.S. Barnes: South Brunswick and New York, 1977.
  • Sebastian Parzer: Der amerikanische Fahnenflüchtling Grover Cleveland Bergdoll – Über seinen Aufenthalt in Eberbach berichtete sogar die „New York Times“, in: Der Odenwald 58 (2011), p. 60-68 (in German).
  • New York Times; January 8, 1920 "Take Draft Evader After 2-Year Chase; Grover Bergdoll, Wealthy Philadelphia German, Defended By Mother with Revolver. House Veritable Arsenal. Bergdoll Said To Have Offered His Services to this country as an Aviator in 1918. Philadelphia, January 7, 1920 Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, wealthy son of a former brewer and charged with being a draft dodger and deserter from the army, was captured after a two-year chase today while hiding in the palatial residence of his mother on the outskirts of this city. Tonight he is a prisoner on Governors Island, New York, awaiting trial by court-martial.
  • New York Times; May 26, 1939 "Bergdoll Returns, Is Seized By Army; Grover Cleveland Bergdoll Then And Now. Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, America's most notorious wartime draft dodger, arrived in this country yesterday. He was placed under arrest on a charge of desertion by officers of the United States Army. Bergdoll was seized in the lounge room of ..."
  • New York Times; January 29, 1966 "Grover Cleveland Bergdoll Dies; Notorious Draft Dodger Was 72; Playboy, Who Fled Fort Jay With Story of a Pot of Gold, Found Haven in Germany. Richmond, Virginia, January 28, 1966 Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, the most publicized draft dodger of World War I died of pneumonia yesterday in the Westbrook Psychiatric Hospital here. He was 72 years old."

External linksEdit

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