Flanders Remembers concert commemorates U.S. entry into WWI
By Nicholas Polet
Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Flanders House, New York
On the occasion of Veterans Day 2017, the Annual Flanders Remembers Concert will present Distortion, a Hymn to Liberty on Thursday, November 9th at 7:30 PM (doors open at 7:00 PM).
One hundred years ago, the United States entered World War One. It was the arrival of fresh American troops that enabled the Allies to turn the tide of war and force the Central powers to sue for peace.
Nearly five million American veterans served in that cruel war; 116,000 men and women gave their lives; and 320,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coast guardsmen suffered casualties in service to this nation, during a war that changed the world.
The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was more than 41 million: there were over 18 million deaths and 23 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.
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"Numbers, statistics are not enough"
After almost a century, Carl Willig came home
By Noretta Willig
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site
In the American Cemetery at Thiaucourt, France, stands a Doughboy, larger than life. Dressed in a summer tunic, bloused pants, and leggings, this serious soldier notches his thumbs in his belt that holds his cased pistol and his field helmet. His still gaze looks out over the silent rows of white crosses. Strong, handsome and resolute, he seems so young.
Doughboy sculpture in the American Cemetery at Thiaucourt, France.Above his head, the inscription, in French, translates: HE SLEEPS FAR FROM HIS FAMILY IN THE GENTLE LAND OF FRANCE.
On the pedestal, below, the motto continues in English: BLESSED ARE THEY THAT HAVE THE HOME LONGING FOR THEY SHALL GO HOME.
My uncle, Carl Willig, died on September 16, 1918, at the battle of St. Mihiel.
Fifty-six days before the end of the war and thirty minutes before his replacement arrived, a high impact shell struck and killed Carl. According to an eyewitness, “He suffered no pain, dear friends.”
In what we now call “the fog of war,” Carl was lost. In the chaos of the shelling, his body was not immediately recovered from the battlefield, and was lost.
To his parents, his brother and all who ever knew him, he was lost forever. The next three generations continued to experience that loss, an unresolved sorrow that reappeared persistently.
But, over many years, Carl became an ancestral shadow, no longer a reality to anyone.
Then, on November 10, 2008, the eve of the 90th Armistice Day, my phone rang and a genealogist from Oregon working for the US Army identified me as Carl’s next of kin. “They have found something,” she said, explaining that she knew nothing more and that the Army would call me with the full story.
From that second, I was compelled -- I would even say driven – to write Carl’s Story.
My research took me first into old family photos. Looking at them, many for the first time, caused me to make connections with members of my family, some of whom I knew quite well and others whom I never heard of. The linkage and the irony that I discovered looking at those pictures brought meaning and understanding to relationships long cast away in memory.
Then, representatives of the Army visited my home and brought with them hundreds of pages of evidence illustrating the scholarship of JPAC – anthropologists, historians, and several forensic and materials specialists. The information they presented led to an indisputable conclusion. By the single most indestructible part of him, Carl had been found.
They also introduced me to a French organization called "Thanks, GIs", whose mission is to recover the lost remains of American soldiers. In World War I and again in World War II, Eastern France was liberated by the same 5th Division of the US Army.
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