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World War I Centennial News


Four Questions for Josef Kelly

"These pictures bore witness to suffering, hope, and sacrifice"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Josef Kelly is a professional artist based in the DC-area. He has recently become inspired by the stories of World War I, and started painting a series of pieces related to many themes found in the war. His work is remarkable, and it has earned him endorsement from the U.S World War I Centennial Commission, as a commemoration partner. We spoke with Josef recently about his work, about his inspirations, and about the series he is creating on World War I.

You are a visual artist with a unique WWI-themed style and topic-interest. Tell us about your work. What WWI-themed projects have you been working on?

The style of my work has been often been called “Impressionistic Realism” because it tends to take on a blend of the two genres. I LOVE the Impressionists - Monét, Van Gogh, Manet, etc. The time period of WWI came after the impressionist period. Yet, it seems to blend in with that era through the lens of time. I take my inspiration from the thousands of photos from WWI period. They convey drama, passion, grief and hope, victory and defeat, and countless story lines - both big and small. Champagne Front“On the Champagne Front” -- 16x20 acrylic on canvas

When one takes a look at the varied paintings that were created during WWI, there is a vast array of techniques, styles, genres. It was a time of rapid changes, and the art reflected that same pace. However one hundred years later, looking backwards and reflecting on this part of history and its stories, I think that my style of impressionistic realism seems to “fit.” The impressionist style with its sense of vagueness, colors, and often purposeful lack of definition goes well with the distance of a century. While adding a dose of realism to these paintings I hope conveys the value of focus and intentional clarity to certain aspects that I, as the artist, choose through both my eyes, and the historians who help to clarify the important parts of that time.

I feel that I am only beginning my WWI series. My goal is to finish one piece per month between now and the the centennial of the war’s end on Nov. 11th, 2018. Depending upon feedback, interest and time, the volume of work may either grow or shrink.

You have mentioned that your inspiration is limitless, from the thousands and thousands of faded black & white images that have been left behind for us from the World War I conflict. How does your creative process work? Where do you find your source material, how do you review it? What catches your eye, and why?

Wow, I love these questions! The thousands of images from the WWI era contain such a plethora of material for me as an artist. As one dives into the various story lines, the multitude of countries around the world who participated and sacrificed; men, women, children, old and young. As I search through the images I find dramatic pictures ranging from battlefields, factories, cavalry, tanks, ships, planes and artillery. Trenches... lots of trenches. These pictures bore witness to intense suffering, hope, and sacrifice and are worthy of recreating in a fresh medium to bring attention to some of the stories from that time.

Read more: Four Questions for Josef Kelly

American "Polonia's Army" fought for nation not on map in 1917

By Jan Lorys
via the Polish Museum of America

The enlistment of 30,000 men to fight for a country that had not been on the map of Europe for some 120 years did not resonate within the larger effort to raise the American Expeditionary Force that eventually grew to some 4.7 million men and some women. One of the first things I found when joining the Centennial Commission was that in 100 years little had changed. Sometimes the use of secondary sources can have a better impact than quoting dry primary sources, especially those written in another language. In order to “prove” the existence of the Polish Army in France, I found information in some unexpected sources.

Leslees The Illustrated Weekly NewspaperPhoto from Leslee’s The Illustrated Weekly Newspaper of December 8, 1917 in article Polish Army and its camp in Niagara, Ontario.Leslee’s The Illustrated Weekly Newspaper in its December 8, 1917 edition referenced the Polish Army and its camp in Niagara, Ontario. It states that “the men will be led by French officers, though they are to wear the British uniform. The various regiments are made up of Poles from Canada and the United States. A group is seen above beneath the flag of one of the Polish National Societies.”

There are a few mistakes. The enlistees were issued Canadian Army surplus and police uniforms, but it was always foreseen that they would be issued French uniforms with Polish distinctions. Based on some of the photographs in the PMA holdings, we can trace the “evolvement” of the Canadian and French supply systems. The early ones show some volunteers in Falcon field uniforms (US Army surplus) and others (like those pictured) in Canadian issue. After a few months, the officers are wearing French style uniforms, some produced in the USA. As the war progresses, recruits are given a mixture of Canadian and “Franco-Polish” uniforms, usually the four cornered caps.

While the senior officers in Europe were French, usually descendants of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Polish troops or of exiles from the 1830/31 failed uprising, (who usually spoke little or no Polish) many of the Polish speaking junior officers were trained in Canada and had been active in the Falcon movement.

The Canadian government did not encourage its citizens to enlist in the Polish Army in France, since it would take away from the Canadian war effort. The bulk of the volunteers were from the US. The flag in the photo does not belong to a Polish National Society, it is a recruiting banner.

Read more: American Polonia's Army fought for nation not on map in 1917

Rebecca and Charles: A testimony from beyond the Atlantic

On the Occasion of the Centenary (1917-2017) of the Arrival of the Americans at the Mars-sur-Allier American Base Hospital

By Lucy DeVries Duffy
Special to the U.S World War I Centennial Commission web site


My mother Rebecca Goethe DeVries wrote a letter to the Nevers, France newspaper, La Montagne, in 1968 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Armistice of World War I. I find it poignant that here I am writing about the war and my parents fifty years later. I remember my mother’s pleasure in having her letter published. It pleases me to honor my mother and her beloved village in this way.

Rebecca Goethe DeVriesRebecca Goethe DeVriesRebecca was 12 when the war began and 16 when the Americans came to her village. Her memories of this time were keen as evident in her writings in Vignettes de Moiry which tell of life in Moiry in the early part of the 20th century leading up to the war.

In her letter to La Montagne in 1968 Rebecca writes of her memories of the war, of how badly things were going for the French, her amazement with seeing the first American soldiers who came to build the camp, the arrival of the wounded in the trains that passed behind her home, of giving water to the wounded, the tremendous effect on the village of the American “invasion”, the warm relations which developed between the soldiers, the nurses, and people of the village, the daily sadness of hearing taps for those who died, her observation of the Annamites, the workers of the camp, her memories of the excitement when the war was over, the emptying of the camps and what was left, things: towels, shirts, socks, brick barracks, etc. and memories. The village was affected by the war but, nevertheless, it reverted back to the quiet life of a rural peasant village. However, for Rebecca life would never be the same. Rebecca wrote:

Wars are all the same... For certain people, they bring unhappiness, misery, mourning. For others, fortunes, and alas, profit and again, for others, a love so strong as to overcome time and distance, the differences of mores and of language, between two beings who could not live without each other. It is for this reason I left my pretty village, my dear country. I have returned there three times since the Armistice of 1918 and I hope to do it one more time.

I believe in my heart that Rebecca has returned again in spirit as the dear village of Saint Parize-le-Châtel and the hamlet Moiry honor the presence of the Americans who arrived there in 1917, and also the story of love that came out of a disastrous war.

Read more: Rebecca and Charles: A Testimony from Beyond the Atlantic

WWI well-represented on Memorial Day 2017

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

General Pershing would have been proud - our American World War I veterans were well-represented and well-honored this Memorial Day, thanks to the work of hundreds of volunteers across the entire country.

BostonPhoto of this year's Garden of Flags, placed in Boston Common by the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund.The U.S. National WW1 Centennial Events Register on the WW1CC web site showed over 50 Memorial Day Weekend events/exhibits/activities/parades on our Events Calendar, shared by groups and individuals in Arkansas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Ohio, and Florida.

The Centennial Events Register is open and interactive, and we welcome the addition of World War I-themed input from all sources.

In Boston, WW1CC Commissioner Tod Sedgwick was a featured speaker at the dedication of this year's Garden of Flags, sponsored by the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund. The Garden of Flags was 37,252 individual US flags placed in Boston Common, each symbolizing a Massachusetts resident lost in America's wars since the American Revolution.

The other speakers included Boston's Mayor Martin Walsh, and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

The WW1CC's new partnership with International League Baseball brought a week's worth of World War I-themed ball games across the league, offering giveaways, historical trivia, and honors for local veterans. Commissioner Sedgwick attended the Pawtucket Red Sox baseball game with Dr. David Kohnen, Director of Naval History at the US Naval War College, and Dr. Nathaniel Sims, grandson of ADM William Sims, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe During World War I.

Read more: WWI well-represented on Memorial Day 2017

Four Questions for Sabin Howard

"What the memorial needs to do is appeal to the general public."

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Last week, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts gave approval for the design-concept for the new National World War I Memorial in Washington DC. This vote of support was a huge milestone in the creation of the memorial, and came as great news to the World War I Centennial Commission, and to the Memorial Design Team. We spoke to the memorial's sculptor, Sabin Howard, about the approval, and what it means for the project.

Congratulations on the successful presentation to the US Commission of Fine Arts! Tell us about how you approached your pitch to them, and what you told them.

Howard at National ArchivesSabin Howard, shown speaking in April 2017 at the U.S. National Archives in Washington, DC.It is our job to create a memorial that will bring visitors to the site and with the purpose of creating something that will spark interest in a war fought 100 years ago. It is my job as an artist to bring the memorial to life; and there are two main components of creating this commemorative art.

First, I need to teach and excite interest in a way that can be understood by all sectors of society. The story is not only understood by your average visitor but has many layers of allegory and symbolism as well that a PhD in art history would appreciate.

The relief that I have designed would answer the question - What did World War I look and feel like?-So in the studio we assembled real people in uniforms from World War I and staged scenes based on photographs that we found as reference of what happened in this tragic and epic moment in history.. When we dressed up these young men and women and placed them underneath lights, certain feelings and emotions entered into the room. A relational energy was created as the actors fed off each other emotionally. It was powerful.

Through this process, my artistic approach changed from a more static classical format to one that was filled with drama and movement as I captured a single image (with multiple scenes) that would explain a complete movement and story.

I like to think of it as a spark that time traveled to my studio in the Bronx allowing us to feel what it must've been like for those young men and women fighting overseas.

The second component of creating this commemorative art was to establish a narrative of a war fought 100 years ago. Here, America is represented by this soldier that tells the story of World War I through an emotional truth. We have created a story that is inclusive of all sectors of society. And the characters depicted in the sculpture present all of the emotions that humans have; mad, glad, sad, and anger.

We very specifically picked a relief to tell the story rather than sculpture in the round. A relief is both pictorial and sculptural, giving tremendous range to tell a story in a space. I call this "spatial narrative." The relief is also very cinematographic which is something that our society understands well. Visual narrative through film is very similar to visual narrative in a sculpture, except in a sculpture the viewer is the active observer rather than a static observer.

Read more: Four Questions for Sabin Howard

Minnesota Doughboy rededicated 75 years after dedication

By Kevin Sweeney
via The Journal, New Ulm, MN

New Ulm Memorial Wreath 600Representatives of the American Legion Post 132 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1648 in New Ulm place a memorial wreath at the base of the “Spirit of the American Doughboy” statue.NEW ULM — Nearly 75 years to the day after the dedication of the original statue, New Ulm veterans, city officials and Brown County Historical Society members rededicated the “Spirit of the American Doughboy Statue” that has stood in the New Ulm City Cemetery Soldier’s Rest section.

The Doughboy, with a rifle in one hand and a hand grenade raised in the other, was designed to represent the grim realities of war that the average American soldier endured in World War I, Mayor Robert Beussman said. The designer, Ernest Moore Viquesney, didn’t want his statue to glorify warfare.

The statue is one of many created from Viquesney’s original designs across the nation, but it is the only one in Minnesota.

The statue that stands today is a rebuilt version of the original. In 1995, the statue was found on the ground, the apparent victim of vandals who had pulled it down. The statue was shattered, but pieces of it were used to rebuild a new statue. Beussman said it cost $45,000 to replace it, but the funds were quickly raised from local banks, businesses and private donors.

In honor of the American soldiers represented by the statue, George Glotzbach read the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Col. John McCrae, Canadian physician serving during World War I after the Second Battle of Ypres, where a friend and fellow soldier had died.

Read more: Minnesota Doughboy rededicated 75 years after dedication

Four Questions for Robert Laplander of Doughboy MIA

"Chasing their stories in order to understand what happened to them."

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

This has been a big month for our friend Robert Laplander. He is the leader of a small group of volunteers called Doughboy MIA, a group that does research into the 4,224 missing service members from World War I. They try to bring accounting for those missing, as the U.S. Department of Defense is only able to support MIA research going back to World War II. Laplander had a breakthrough discovery on the case of Seaman Herbert Renshaw, a U.S. Navy sailor who was lost at sea during an anti-submarine combat patrol, off the coast of Virginia on 22 May 1917. In the Renshaw case, the seaman's name was evidently omitted from those MIA's named on the chapel wall at Brookwood Cemetery. The Brookwood chapel is an American Battle Monuments site, in the UK, which bears the names of missing US sailors, soldiers and Coast Guardsmen who died at sea during World War I combat operations. Laplander's success with the case has brought him significant media attention, which may help the Doughboy MIA group's efforts. Robert spoke to us about the efforts, and what this new attention means.Robert LaplanderRobert Laplander

This week before Memorial Day has been a very busy week for you. Tell us about your news media activity.

The media interest has been extraordinary! I've had to take two days off from work just to cover everything on the heavy days, and spend a certain amount of time each day answering email, doing interviews and answering calls. It really has been amazing and humbling. I am very gratified as the response and at the level that people do care about what we're doing and these men. It really has been something.

The reporters seemed to really respond to the Doughboy MIA story. Were there any surprising questions, or surprising approached to the story from them?

I have been very struck at the depth of real interest that the reporters have shown; a genuine, deep desire to hear the story and understand the organization. No one has just been going through the emotions on this. They have all asked intelligent and meaningful questions with as much of a desire to know for themselves as to report to story to their listeners/readers/viewers. It's amazing to see.

What does this attention mean for Doughboy MIA? How does this change the game?

The attention the Renshaw case has brought us has enabled us to get the word to a much wider audience and all that brings possibility for more support. I've already been fielding inquiries from folks wanting to know how they can help.

What are your next steps? What else needs to happen for the Doughboy MIA efforts?

Moving forward, we continue walking the same path - chasing their stories in order to understand what happened to them. We are now looking closely at possible recovery attempts in France, as well as continuing to comb the government archives for the missing paperwork we've been seeking for 12 years now that will enable us to successfully at least one case.

Read more: Four Questions for Robert Laplander of Doughboy MIA

A Storyteller’s Memorial

Maryland Nurses fought death and despair in WWI France

By Diana Dinsick
via the Bay Weekly

EllouiseEllouise SchoettlerAmid the horrors of World War I, battlefield nurses were angels of mercy. America’s battered and beleaguered Doughboys knew that for certain, and you will, too, after listening to Maryland storyteller Ellouise Schoettler recount Ready to Serve: Unknown Stories of 64 World War I Nurses from Maryland.

The town of Chesapeake Beach takes Memorial Day seriously, with this year’s Stars & Stripes Festival commemorating the centennial of The War to End All Wars, the most substantial yet. Schoettler’s stories and slide presentation combine with three days of patriotic honors, music, an American Legion picnic, outdoor fun and a hefty dose of patriotism and local pride.

“My love of genealogy led me into storytelling,” says Schoettler, who has spent more than 30 years seeking forgotten stories of everyday women, then painting pictures of their lives using only the spoken word. “I see my family tree as scaffolding. But I always try to flesh it out with stories.”

Schoettler heard her first storyteller years ago in a church basement. She was hooked. “That night,” she says, “I decided I was going to do that, and people are going to listen.”

She did, and they have.

In the early 1950s, Schoettler left her native North Carolina for nursing training at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Love and marriage intervened. Later she earned an art degree.

As an Air Force doctor’s wife and mother of four, she moved around the world, learning to appreciate the sacrifice of service members and their families. Once her children were grown, she launched her career as a storyteller.

About four years ago, with the 100th anniversary of the Great War upon us, Schoettler began scouting for stories about women’s contributions to the war effort. At the Chesney Medical Library on the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus, she stumbled upon a treasure: 57 letters sent from France by a deployed unit of 64 World War I nurses, all graduates of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore.

Schoettler was ecstatic.

Read more: Maryland Nurses fought death and despair in WWI France

World War I represented at 2017 National Memorial Day Parade

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Dave Lockard in his beautiful 1918 Packard military truckDave Lockard in his beautiful 1918 Packard military truck during the Washington, DC Memorial Day parade in 2014.Our nation’s largest Memorial Day event, The National Memorial Day Parade will take place along Constitution Avenue in Washington DC, from 2-4 PM this Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2017. The parade, held annually, is organized by the American Veterans Center & World War II Veterans Committee. It is now celebrating its 13th year.

For the fourth year in a row, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission will be cheering on the volunteers who will represent the American veterans of World War I. These volunteers include:

  • Dave Lockard, driving his beautiful 1918 Packard military truck.
  • David Shuey, living history actor, portraying General John Pershing mounted on horseback.
  • The Young Marines JROTC students of West Palm Beach FL, who will be dressed out in doughboy uniforms, carrying parade banners and flags.

The parade will be aired live on local televisions stations across the country, starting at Monday, May 29 at 2:00 PM Eastern / 11:00 AM Pacific. A full list of stations can be found here. The Parade will also be streamed live by and YouTube.

Read more: World War I represented at this year's National Memorial Day Parade

Four Questions for Edwin Fountain

"We remain committed to beginning construction by Armistice Day (Veterans Day) 2018"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

On May 18, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) approved the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission’s design concept for a national World War I Memorial in the nation’s capital. Edwin Fountain, Vice Chair of the Commission, took some time to share his thoughts about the outcome of the hearing, and the way ahead for the Memorial.

May 18 was a significant milestone for this memorial project. Tell us about what happened.

Edwin Fountain w logoEdwin Fountain, Vice Chair of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission.Thursday’s decision by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts was a significant milestone for the WWI memorial project. Federal memorials in Washington, DC are subject to design approval by the CFA. On Thursday the CFA granted “concept approval” for the proposed memorial, which means the CFA endorsed our proposal to establish a memorial at Pershing Park in the form of a monumental work of bronze bas-relief sculpture. This sculpture will be the centerpiece of a trio of memorial elements, including the existing statue of General Pershing as well as a ceremonial flag stand that will offer additional opportunities for commemoration of the war.

It was said after the vote that "Now the real work begins". What do you mean by that?

Concept approval is just that – approval of a concept. The detailed work in designing the sculpture and the park as a whole remains to be done. Our sculptor, Sabin Howard, will continue to develop the sculptural themes and images, in consultation with the WWI Centennial Commission and CFA. The design team will continue to work on other aspects of the site design, including subsidiary commemorative elements, the fountain, lighting, seating, overall site engineering, and so on. And then of course fund-raising is still underway for the memorial.

Read more: Four Questions for Edwin Fountain

Four Questions for David Hall

"Highlight the NOAA Corps' century of service to the nation"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

With America’s entry into the World War I, a commissioned service of the Coast & Geodetic Survey (C&GS) was formed on May 22, 1917 to ensure the rapid assimilation of C&GS technical skills for defense purposes. During World War II, officers and civilians of the C&GS produced nautical and aeronautical charts, provided critical geospatial information to artillery units, and conducted reconnaissance surveys. Today, the work of the C&GS—and more—is conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps—one of the seven uniformed services of the United States—are the direct descendants of the C&GS of WWI. David Hall, Public Affairs Officer of the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations unit of NOAA, talked with us about the centennial, and the roles and missions of NOAA today.

NOAA plays an important role as a uniformed service. Tell us about it.

NOAA David L HallDavid L. Hall of NOAANOAA Corps officers are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The NOAA Corps traces its roots to the former U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, which dates back to 1807 and President Thomas Jefferson. Today, the NOAA Corps today provides a cadre of professionals trained in engineering, earth sciences, oceanography, meteorology, fisheries science, and other related disciplines.NOAA Corps officers command NOAA’s oceanographic and seafloor mapping ships, pilot the agency's environmental data-gathering aircraft (including "hurricane hunter" planes), manage research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout the agency.

NOAA and the NOAA Corps work every day on land, in the air, and on the sea to keep the nation secure and productive by providing products and services that support maritime domain awareness; help ensure safe passage of commercial and military traffic on our nation’s waterways; warn mariners, aviators, and the public of severe weather; aid search and rescue efforts; and conserve and protect our natural resources.

You played a major role in support if American efforts in WWI. Tell us what you did.

With the entry of the United States into the war in 1917, the commissioned service of the Coast and Geodetic Survey was formed. This allowed for the rapid assimilation of C&GS technical skills for defense purpose. Over half the commissioned officers of the C&GS served with the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps during World War I. They served as artillery orienteering officers, mine-laying officers in the North Sea, troop transport navigators, intelligence officers, and even on the staff to General "Black Jack" Pershing. Following World War I, the C&GS reverted to its role of peaceful surveyor and chart maker of the Nation. The young men who came into the Survey during this period spent years developing expertise in land surveying, sea floor and airways charting, coastline mapping, geophysics, and oceanography. This expertise was combined with the hardships of a lifestyle that was characterized by years in survey field assignments or attached to survey vessels.

Read more: Four Questions for David Hall

Volunteer sleuths ensure WWI MIA receives just due 100 years after death

By Christopher Klein

May 22, 2017 – One hundred years ago today, U.S. Navy Seaman Herbert Renshaw was Lost at Sea while serving his country during World War I. He then became lost to history, forgotten by the government he served, until an all-volunteer group hunting for World War I’s MIAs resurrected his memory and ensured he would receive the recognition he deserved a century after his death.

USS OzarkUSS Ozark, from which Seaman Herbert Hammond Renshaw perished in a storm in 1917.Seaman Herbert Hammond Renshaw staggered to keep his balance as the Atlantic Ocean vented its fury upon the sub tender USS Ozark. The Salisbury, Maryland, native had enlisted in the U.S. Navy in February 1914—just weeks after his 17th birthday and months before World War I ignited in Europe.

By May 22, 1917, the world had become as violent as the waves that tossed around Renshaw’s ship as he attempted to signal the minesweeper USS Thornton just hours after both vessels had departed Charleston, South Carolina.

When the roiling sea gave USS Ozark a particularly hard kick, Renshaw lost his footing and fell overboard. With the Atlantic too rough to launch a lifeboat, the young sailor’s shipmates furiously threw him life belts and ropes, but even a good swimmer such as Renshaw had little chance of survival. The turbulent ocean swallowed the seaman.

The following day, Renshaw’s father received the notice that his son had been lost at sea, his body unrecovered.

Renshaw’s hometown newspaper noted that the sailor was the first Marylander to lose his life in defense of his country since the United States had entered World War I the previous month. “The fact that young Renshaw was the first Maryland boy to give his life for his country will not be overlooked, and his memory will be kept among the records of the Navy Department,” reported the Wicomico News.

Read more: Volunteer Sleuths Ensure World War I MIA Receives Just Due 100 Years After Death

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 1917Herbert Hammond Renshaw (Wicomico News photo circa 1917, courtesy Stephen Gehnrich, 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.

Doughboy MIA logo 150“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.

Read more: Doughboy MIA makes sure missing WWI heroes get recognition

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