Doughboy MIA makes sure missing WWI heroes get recognition
By Scott Calvert
via the Wall Street Journal
One of the earliest American casualties of World War I will soon have his name etched in stone at an overseas U.S. military cemetery, a century after the 20-year-old sailor’s death.
Herbert Hammond Renshaw (Wicomico News photo circa 1917, courtesy Stephen Gehnrich, Delmarvanow.com) Seaman Herbert Renshaw fell overboard off the coast of South Carolina during a naval patrol on May 22, 1917, weeks after the U.S. entered the war. But probably due to a clerical error by Navy officials, he was never listed on a monument to the missing at Brookwood American Cemetery in England.
That is about to change after Robert Laplander, a Wisconsin songwriter-turned-historian, documented the omission with help from a biology professor in Maryland. The Federal agency responsible for U.S. cemeteries and memorials overseas says it will correct the oversight.
“We want to make sure every American is appropriately commemorated,” said Timothy Nosal, external affairs chief at the American Battle Monuments Commission. Its acting secretary last month approved engraving the seaman’s name, possibly this summer.
The Brookwood chapel’s interior walls are inscribed with the names of more than 560 U.S. soldiers, sailors and Coast Guardsmen lost at sea during World War I, many near the U.K. and France. Though Seaman Renshaw perished far from European shores, he died in “outside waters” in wartime and was technically on the battlefield.
Seaman Renshaw’s 70-year-old niece, Gail Renshaw Blackwell, was born 30 years after her uncle’s death and didn’t know there was a memorial to the missing in England. Still, she said she is grateful his name will be added. “I just really appreciate it,” she said.
For Mr. Laplander, this is the biggest success yet of the Doughboy MIA project, a citizen-led effort he launched in 2015 to investigate cases of the 4,223 service members listed as missing in World War I. About half died on the battlefield, the rest were lost at sea.
While the Defense Department has a unit dedicated to accounting for missing personnel, that effort applies only to conflicts since World War II. One goal of Doughboy MIA—doughboy was a common term for troops deployed to Europe—is to put a name to soldiers buried in graves marked unknown. In the Renshaw case, it instead found that one of the missing never received his due recognition.
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Four Questions for The Prima Vista Quartet
"To unveil the Great War through the eyes of the men, women and children who lived though it"
By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission
Many World War I commemoration events took place last month across the country, marking the April 6th centennial of the U.S. entry into the war. One that stood apart, as a very special and unique tribute, was a concert tour provided by the Prima Vista Quartet. The Prima Vista Quartet is a group of world-class musicians from France. To honor the Americans who served during the war, they employed their incredible musical talent to create a live score for the World War I-themed film WINGS. WINGS was the first film ever to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, and it was directed by William Wellman, a combat veteran pilot for the American Expeditionary Forces in France during the war. During April, Prima Vista performed their live-accompaniment for audiences in five locations in the United States.Baudime Jam is the founder, composer, artistic director and violist of Prima Vista. We talked to him about World War I, about the tour of the United States, and about Prima Vista's future efforts.
The Prima Vista Quartet performed a special series of World War I-themed shows in the United States. Tell us about them -- the film, the live accompaniment, the tour.
The silent film « Wings », produced in the USA in 1927, commemorates the Saint Mihiel battle which was the first fight on the French battleground of the US Army, placed under the command of General John J. Pershing. The film director, William Wellman, was a veteran himself, member of the famous Lafayette Escadrille, which adds to the historical signification of this film.
Baudime JamThe purpose of this project has been to allow a wide contemporary audience to discover a film which was shot ten years after the end of WWI and that evokes eloquently and dramatically the first US involvement in this war.
We saw a film concert “Wings”, therefore, as a unique occasion to illustrate and evoke a major historical event of WWI, while at the same time offering a rare artistic experience which blends film on screen and live music on stage.
Prima Vista Quartet toured the United States in April, starting in New York at the Florence Gould Hall at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) on April 6. This date marked a historic occasion as on April 6, 1917, the United States officially entered into World War I.
The other cities where Prima Vista performed were: Chicago at the Music Box Theatre, Washington D.C. at the Maison Française at the Embassy of France, Saint Louis at the Winifred Moore Auditorium - Webster University, and Minneapolis at the Landmark's UptownTheatre.
Who is the Prima Vista Quartet? How did the group come together? What was your mission & vision as performing artists?
The Prima Vista Quartet is a French string quartet which was founded in 1997 and therefore celebrates their 20th anniversary this very year. During those two decades, we have had the opportunity to appear in many festivals and prestigious venues in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, England, Russia, Poland, Africa, China, and the USA.
Read more: Four Questions for The Prima Vista Quartet