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This is a contributing entry for Waukesha World War I Heritage Trail and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
Sotirios (Sam/Pat) Patrinos returned to America after World War I, an immigrant, a severely wounded soldier, and a highly decorated war hero. In 1909, a seventeen year old Patrinos stepped off a ship onto Ellis Island in New York. Patrinos emigrated from Filiatra, Greece to Waukesha, Wisconsin where he had family who had previously immigrated. Patrinos fought and served in World War I and returned home to make a life for his family. Patrinos and immigrants in the United States served their new country in World War I and returned to make a new life for themselves.

Sam Patrinos with his military medals.

Sam Patrinos with his military medals.

Sotirios worked in a shoe repair shop in Waukesha that was likely owned by his family before enlisting in the war. Sam Patrinos enlisted in the United States Army on April 18th 1917 and became a member of the 16th infantry of the 1st division at Camp Zachary Taylor, in Kentucky. Patrinos and thousands of immigrants made up eighteen percent of U.S. Forces in World War I. He was among the first doughboys to be sent overseas to fight in the war. His battle record includes high profile battles across France, including the Montdidier-Noyon defensive, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne offensives to name a few. During the Marne offensive, Sam was struck by machine gun fire, and hit by shrapnel in the back leaving him severely injured taking him out of the war.

Patrinos was awarded multiple honours from two nations for his service. The first award Sam Patrinos received was the Silver Star with one oak leaf cluster, which represents courage in the face of enemy fire, and the oak leaves represent that it occured on at least two occasions. Secondly, Sam received the French Fourragere which was given to specific American G.I.s that served exceptionally with French troops. This award is the same colours as the French “Croix de Guerre”, which is the top military award in France. Third, Sam received the Purple Heart which acknowledges that Sam was wounded in action while serving. Patrinos also received the Verdun Medal, a medal that testifies that he was an American who fought alongside French troops at the battle of Verdun. The last medal that Sam received was the Battle Medal, which was given to every American fought on foreign soil during the war. In addition to medals, Sam received two citations from the Commander of the 1st division that cited his “Gallant and courageous service”. These honours made Sam Patrinos one of the most decorated veterans in World War I.

Many Greek immigrants who came to the U.S. ended up returning home, but of those who stayed, a relatively large amount of them became small business owners. In a short chapter of the book, Immigration and Ethnicity: American Society—”Melting Pot” or “Salad Bowl”?, Alice Scourby suggests that this could be due to the determination that Greeks demonstrated to succeed. Once the U.S. became involved in World War I, immigrants, of all nationalities joined the U.S. Military either through enlistment and draft. Immigrants who enlisted did so to demonstrate commitment or loyalty to their new country; “...immigrants were over drafted: nearly 18 percent of enlisted men were foreign born despite making up less than 15 percent of the nation’s total population.” Many non-citizens died during World War I, but those who returned found that their path to naturalization was easier to obtain. In the Naturalization Act of May 9th, 1918, the U.S. Congress granted a less strict path to naturalization for those that served in the U.S. Army or Military. Those who were honourably discharged, had proof of U.S. residence three years following their petition for naturalization, and two witnesses were able to be naturalized. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “This opportunity allowed more than 300,000 immigrant soldiers to eventually become citizens of the nation they swore to defend.” Sotirios Patrinos was one of the 300,000 soldiers, and was naturalized on May 3rd 1920.  

Upon returning from the War, Sam was so injured that he spent four years at Resthaven, in Waukesha. At this time however, Resthaven, which had been known as a hotel and spa had been taken over by the government and became Army Hospital No. 37. In September of 1922, Vasiliki (Bessie) Panteli arrived at Ellis Island in New York awaiting a marriage to Patrinos. They married in Manhattan, four days after her arrival before moving back to Waukesha. The Patrinos’s operated a tavern at 143-145 West Main and later opened the Majestic Cafe at 854 Martin Street where they served sandwiches and drinks. Sam and Bessie operated the Cafe for around twenty seven years until Sam passed away in 1953. After the death of her husband, Bessie kept the property and liquor rights for the building until the late 1990s. Sam and Bessie Patrinos had three daughters, Annie, Mary, and Amelia Patrinos who all kept connections to Waukesha.

Bernhardt, Gene. Immigrant Youth Left Waukesha for Army; Returned Hero. Waukesha: Waukesha Freeman, April 10, 1953. ****(source) (accessed February 25, 2020).

Daniels, Roger. Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life. (New Jersey: Visual Education Corporation, 1990), 202.

New York County, Marriage Record, Sotirios Patrinos and Vaseliki Pandeli, 05 Sep 1922, FamilySearch, Accessed on March 3, 2020.

New York Passenger Arrival Lists. Database with Images. New York: Secretary of Commerce and Labor of the United States, February 20, 1907. FamilySearch, Accessed on March 3, 2020.

New York Passenger Arrival Lists. Database with Images. New York: Secretary of Commerce and Labor of the United States, September 1, 1922. FamilySearch, Accessed on March 4, 2020.

Northern Illinois, Northern District of Illinois and Immigration and Naturalization Service District 9. NARA Microfilm Publication M1285. U.S Department of Labor, Immigration, and Naturalization Service, May 3rd 1920. FamilySearch, Accessed March 4, 2020.

Schoenknecht, John. From Prairieville to Waukesha: Columns Published in the Waukesha Freeman2008-2010. Waukesha, Wisconsin: John Schoenknecht, 2010.

Scourby, Alice, “Mobility and Ethnicity: The Case of Greek-Americans,” In Immigration and Ethnicity: American Society—”Melting Pot” or “Salad Bowl”?, ed. Michael D’Innocenzo and Josef P. Sirefman, 49-53. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992.

****United States Congress. House Committee On Immigration And Naturalization, and Adolph Joachim Sabath. To amend the naturalization laws... Report. [Washington, Govt. print. off, 1918] Pdf. Accessed on March 4, 2020.

Reft, Ryan “World War I: Immigrants Make a Difference on the Front Lines and at Home.” ed. Wendi Maloney, Library of Congress. Library of Congress, September 26th, 2017. Accessed on March 4, 2020.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “The Immigrant Army: Immigrant Service Members in World War I.” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, July 17th, 2017. Accessed on March 4, 2020. 

“Waukesha County Military Service Record of Sotirios Patirinos”. Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum, World War I Military Registration Cards. Hard Copy Original. (Accessed February 20, 2020).

Image Sources(Click to expand)

From "From Prarireville to Waukesha" from Leni Karter Hoff