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World War I Centennial News



Photo 4U.S. World War I Centennial Commission Vice Chair Edwin Fountain (left) shakes hands with U.S. Commission of Fine Arts Commissioner Justin Shubow, after the CFA gave final approval to the design for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC on September 19.

Commission on Fine Arts gives final approval to National WWI Memorial design

WASHINGTON, DC (9/19/2019) — The design for the new National World War I Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC received final approval on Thursday from the United States Commission of Fine Arts (CFA).

“This is a day that all who have worked hard to bring the National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC from concept to reality are very happy to see,” said Terry Hamby, Chair of the U.S World War I Centennial Commission. “This final approval takes us a giant step toward beginning the construction of this long-overdue tribute in our nation’s capital to the 4.7 million Americans who served in America’s armed forces in World War I.”

The Memorial design now goes for final review by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). With the CFA and NCPC design approvals in hand, the Commission will coordinate with the National Park Service to finalize the construction permit so that work can begin this fall to restore Pershing Park and build the Memorial.

The Memorial is being built under the Commission’s authority by the Doughboy Foundation.

Key Congressional sponsors of the Centennial Commission legislation were pleased with the final design approval. “It’s important that we have a tribute in our nation’s capital to the millions of men and women who served during WWI so that future generations may come to understand the sacrifices made on behalf of liberty,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II of Missouri. “This moment has been a long time coming, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.”

Former Congressman Ted Poe of Texas hailed the approval decision. “All the Doughboys and Sailors of the Great War are gone, but now after 100 years, America will trace their long patriotic journey through this magnificent memorial,” he said. “We shall remember them all, because the worst casualty of war is to be forgotten.”

Read more: Commission on Fine Arts gives final approval to National WWI Memorial design


Biplanes and Brews WWI airshow October 5/6 at Military Aviation Museum 

via the Cision PR Web web site 

The Military Aviation Museum’s Biplanes and Brews World War One Air Show soars into action October 5-6, in Virginia Beach, Va. Spectators will be transported back to the days of World War One with a weekend of live music, reenactors and aerial performances. Craft beer connoisseurs can pair the day’s entertainment with a brew in hand and food from vendors like Pittsburgh’s Best Food Truck and Red River Smokehouse.

This year’s featured aircraft is the Thomas-Morse Scout (S-4), which was the favorite single seat training airplane produced in the U.S. during WWI.

A selection of libations will be offered from the following breweries: Smartmouth Brewing Co., Parkway Brewing Co., Reason Beer, Stone Brewing, New Realm Brewing, Pleasure House Brewing, Reaver Beach Brewing Co. and Potter's Craft Cider. Visitors may partake in vintage lawn games including: lawn bowling, badminton, cornhole, horseshoes and croquet.

“The Biplanes & Brews Air Show showcases the museum’s magnificent collection of flying WWI era aircraft, allowing guests to get up close and also watch the skies fill with the brilliant colors of battling opponents. We’re excited to welcome so many Virginian breweries to our event,” said Jarod Hoogland, Director of the Military Aviation Museum.

Read more: Biplanes and Brews WWI airshow October 5/6 at Military Aviaton Museum

Purple Hearts Reunited announces September family return ceremonies

The Purple Hearts Reunited foundation has announced the return of two awards earned in World War I to the families of the soldier recipients in New York and Maine during September.

On 05 September 2019, Purple Hearts Reunited reunited the lost Lady of Columbia Wound Certificate of WWI hero Corporal (CPL) Frederick W. Beisswanger with his daughter and grandson. The event will took place at the family’s home in Saratoga Springs NY.

Purple Hearts Reunited logoKnown as a Lady of Columbia Wound Certificate, these lithographs show a toga-wearing woman knighting an infantry soldier on bended knee. They were awarded to wounded or killed World War I military members; prior to the Purple Heart being established in 1932. World War I service members who had already received a lithograph became eligible for a Purple Heart at that time. As time passes, certain circumstances can lead to these medals or wound certificates being misplaced, lost, or even stolen. Below is a short biography of CPL Frederick W. Beisswanger.

CPL Fredrick W. Beisswanger was born 22 June 1895 in Elmira, NY to German immigrants, Martin and Catherine (Fitzer) Beisswanger. CPL Beisswanger was inducted into the US Army at Wellsboro, PA on 18 September 1917 and assigned to Company B, 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division. He served overseas from 8 July 1918 to 11 February 1919 and was present for all engagements at Malancourt, Montfaucon, Nantillois and Argonne. CPL Beisswanger was severely Wounded in Action on 2 Oct 1918, taking large amounts of shrapnel to his right leg. He returned to the US and was honorably discharged on 1 March 1919.

Read more: Purple Hearts Reunited announces September family return ceremonies


20190912 122321 22110 E SC 100th anniversary ED 9 12 NOISY CMYKVeterans carrying the World War I Centennial flag passed cheering Sea Cliff residents during the ceremonies in honor of the eight Sea Cliff residents who died in World War I in Europe.

Sea Cliff, NY centennial anniversary honors WWI vets 

By Mike Conn
via the Long Island Herald newspaper (NY) web site

For over a century, Clifton Park has been a hub of outdoor events in Sea Cliff. From games to concerts to picnics, the park has seen it all, as have the eight giant oak trees that stand along its perimeter. Those trees are turning 100 this year: They were planted in 1919, in honor of the eight Sea Cliff residents who died in World War I in Europe.

Hamon speakingDavid W. Hamon, Veterans Service Organizations & Military Director for The United States World War 1 Centennial Commission, speaks at the Sea Cliff ceremonies.While the trees are grand tributes on their own, on Sept. 6, 1919, the village celebrated the return of 169 soldiers with a parade and picnic. The soldiers, and their eight fallen comrades, are memorialized on a plaque on the memorial rock in the park.

Hundreds of people gathered on Sept. 7 to celebrate the anniversary of the soldiers’ homecoming. The event kicked off with a parade from the intersection of Prospect and Sea Cliff avenues to Clifton Park. There community leaders spoke to the crowd about the importance of the day and how it symbolizes Sea Cliff’s dedication to its residents past and present. There was a picnic and a visit from Mr. Softee, and the festivities concluded with a concert by the North Winds Symphonic Band and the Sea Cliff Rock Jam Band.

There was fun throughout the day but the theme was paying tribute to veterans. David Hamon, veterans service organizations and military director of the United States World War One Centennial Commission, told the crowd that occasions like this are a fine example of how heroes, and history, should be remembered.

State Sen. Jim Gaughran, a Democrat from Northport, was one of several elected officials and local dignitaries there. Paying tribute to veterans of the past, he said, is also a way to honor today’s veterans, because it shows that they will never be forgotten.

“You look at the size of the rock we put up” for the World War I soldiers, said Ted Kopczynski, vice commander of the James F. Brengel American Legion and the 100th anniversary parade’s grand marshal. “Those men are not forgotten. The Sea Cliff residents who have no idea who they were 100 years later — we’re still not forgetting. That is just, I think, a real tribute to this community.” 

Read more: Sea Cliff centennial anniversary honors World War I veterans


5d770021eeda9.imageDavid McKee (right) was reunited with his father's World War I gun, medals, and a check left in a bank safety deposit box. The items were returned to McKee from the Unclaimed Property DIvision of the State of West Virginia by State Treasurer John Perdue.

Huntington, WV man reunited with father's WWI items 

By Fred Pace
via the Herald-Dispatch newspaper (Huntington, WV) web site

HUNTINGTON, WV — An American World War I soldier's gun and medals left in a safe deposit box were returned to his son on Monday thanks to the West Virginia Treasurer's Unclaimed Property Division.

David McKee, 75, of Huntington, said he was shocked to find out his father, Mason Shelby McKee, had taken the gun, medals and other items to a Huntington bank's safe deposit box department for safekeeping. After Mason McKee died in the early 1970s, the items remained unclaimed and eventually ended up in the custody of the state Treasury.

"Until I was contacted by the West Virginia Treasurer's Office, I had forgot all about dad's gun and medals," David McKee said. "I vaguely remember something about dad taking them to a bank, but I had forgotten all about it over the years."

West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue presented the gun and some medals left behind in the box to McKee in a ceremony at his home on Thomas Avenue in Huntington. Some other box contents already had been auctioned, generating more than $400, which Perdue also presented to David McKee.

The safe deposit box also included Mason McKee's World War I victory medal, chronicling the three battles in which he fought; his sharpshooter medal; and his dog tags, which were in the form of a bracelet then.

Read more: Huntington, WV man reunited with father's WWI items

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Born in the Month of August   

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WWI Birthday CakeFrom August 26th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 137, our very own Dave Kramer introduced us to several important people who played a role in World War I and were born in the month of August. One was a Hall of Fame pitcher who suffered a terrible malady during his war service. One went on to run an influential newspaper. Another was a woman who may have played both sides during the war. And the last eventually ascended to higher office. Think you have the right guesses? Read on to find out.  

Theo Mayer: It's time for our new monthly segment called Born in the Month of, where you'll meet some of the famous, notorious, and influential people whose lives and careers were affected by World War I. Now, as you hear the facts about them, can you guess who we're talking about? And if you can't, don't worry, we'll tell you. Born in the Month of August will be presented by Dave Kramer. Dave!

Read more: Podcast Article - Born in the Month of August


5d743d0fb496d.imageJames Carucci, an archaeologist and longtime Lompoc Museum Trustee, unveils the revitalized World War I monument Saturday in front of the museum. 

Reborn WWI monument revealed at Lompoc Museum 

By Lorenzo Reyna
via the Lompoc Record newspaper (CA) web site

“The eagle has landed,” Lompoc Museum board of trustees member Don Adams told a crowd in front of the newly resculptured World War I monument Saturday.

After nearly three years of raising money and implementing repairs, the city now has a reborn World War I monument that sits in front of the city’s museum on 200 South H St.

And now the monument has a new feature sitting atop of the revitalized structure: a bronze bald eagle.

“There was a missing piece, and that very important piece now sits at the top,” Adams said over a microphone, drawing applause from the nearly 100 attendees.

“This is a celebration today, but it also continues to be a remembrance and honor to remember those who fell in this war so long ago.” 

Read more: Reborn World War I monument revealed at Lompoc Museum


'That legacy needs to be carried on'

Vets worried as Michigan WWI monument faces demolishing

via the Fox 2 Detroit television station web site

DETROIT—A colonel is hoping for some help as an eight-story tall WWI monument faces demolishing if enough money isn't raised to move it.

The Michigan War Veterans Memorial was erected in 1939. The 40-foot stone monument sits at the southwest corner of the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

"There are stones from cities all over Michigan represented here," said Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Craig Stigleman.

But the monument was slowly destroyed. The copper pipes inside have been stolen, and the stones are crumbling. The eternal flame on the top has since been turned off.

"It was turned off about 20 years ago and the monument allowed going to decay," he said.

And now, the new owners of the property, Magic Plus LLC, want to redevelop the state fairgrounds. The monument, which is owned by the state, has to go.

"We truly have until the end of September to figure out how to get something done and move this someplace in storage so we can re-erect it," Col. Stigleman said.

Read more: Veterans worried as Michigan WWI monument faces demolishing


 WWI saddle gifted to veterans museum

By Brad Stacy
Via The Daily Independent newspaper (Ashland, KY) web site

5d701bf6b9375.imageScott Barker with the Rowan County Veterans Foundation accepts a unique, restored saddle from local craftsman Rick Waltz.The Rowan County Veterans Museum received an unusual and unique donation in June.

Sisters Joy, Cindy and Diane James donated a saddle passed to them from their step grandfather, Charles B. Proctor.

They advised that the saddle had belonged to Ezra Proctor who served in WWI.

As luck would happen for the museum, Rick Waltz was delivering items to the museum on the same day and observed the aging piece of history.

Waltz proceeded to give the curator a history of the saddle. Waltz actually restores historical saddles and described it as a 1904 McClellan Cavalry Saddle.

Waltz agreed to restore the saddle for presentation in the museum.

This past week he delivered the saddle back to the museum in a restored condition for display.

Research by the museum curator found that the saddle owner was William Ezra Proctor, who served in WWI in 1918.

Records reflect that he was a Captain in the 38th Division, 75th Infantry Brigade, 149th Infantry, Company B. Captain Proctor passed in 1966 and is buried in the Caudill Cemetery in Rowan County.

The Rowan County Veterans Museum extends its appreciation to the James family for the donation of the saddle and to Rick Waltz who donated his time and materials for restoration.

Read more: WWI saddle gifted to veterans museum


9222867 SJ.CITpurpleheartP.090519 3Pauline Labbay Blais of Greene accepts her father’s Purple Heart medal from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Gen. Douglas Farnham in Collins’ Lewiston office Wednesday afternoon. Pauline’s father, Arthur Labbay, was a World War I veteran who was severely wounded while fighting in France.  

After 101 years, World War I veteran’s family receives his Purple Heart 

By Steve Sherlock
via the Portland Press Herald newspaper (ME) web site 

LEWISTON, ME — Arthur Labbay was scrambling from foxhole to foxhole reloading machine guns during a fierce fight in France on July 18, 1918.

It was his first day on the front lines in World War I.

During the firefight, an enemy bullet struck the private’s throat. Despite the seriousness of the injury, Labbay stayed on the job reloading machine guns. Before the day ended, Labbay suffered a second wound, this time to his arm.

The injuries were life-threatening. Labbay stayed in a French hospital for several months recovering from his wounds before he could return home.

“He told us a quarter of an inch more, he would have been gone,” his daughter Pauline Blais said of the throat wound.

More than 101 years later, Labbay finally received the Purple Heart he earned that day. Whether through missing paperwork, the fog of war or an administrative mishap, he had never received his medal. 

Read more: After 101 years, World War I veteran’s family receives his Purple Heart

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Remembering Veterans: The Revitalization of American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood, CA   

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In August 26th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 137, host Theo Mayer spoke with Lester Probst and Fernando Rivero from Hollywood, CA's American Legion Post 43. Started by WWI vets, Post 43 has had a distinguished membership, including many famous names from the film industry. Over time, the Post fell into disrepair. However, an effort spearheaded by Mr. Probst, Mr. Rivero, and others to remember WWI in the Los Angeles area and inject new life into Post 43 has been wildly successful; it has grown in numbers and once again become a community focal point. Read on to learn more about this remarkable transformation. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity:

fernando riveroFernando Rivero is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and Post 43's past commander and chairmanlester probstLester Probst is a Korean War veteran and the chairman of Post 43's Americanism CommitteTheo Mayer
: For Remembering Veterans, it's the 100th anniversary of the American Legion. Having been conceived in Paris as the war ended by veterans who served in World War I, the American Legion, its history, its advocacy on behalf of veterans, and its accomplishments are truly amazing. But one of the more interesting aspects of the organization, and one that I've come to appreciate during my years working on the World War I Centennial project, is the American Legion's structure and organization. It seems to me that it's all about the actions and activities of individual Posts that gives the organization its real strength. So with that as a set up, I'd like to invite you to join me in exploring one of those Posts, its history, and its unusual role because of its unique location. It's Post number 43 in Hollywood, California. And joining us to talk about the Post's history and its current projects are Fernando Rivero, the Post's past commander and chairman and founder of the Legion Theater, and Lester Probst, Post chairman of the Americanism Committee, which is one of the four pillars of the American Legion, and co-chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee. Gentlemen, welcome to the podcast!

Fernando Rivero: Hi Theo. Thanks for having us.

Lester Probst: Yes. Thanks very much, Theo.

Read more: Podcast Article - American Legion Post 43

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Spotlight on the Media: Over There With Private Graham   

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In August 19th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 136, Bruce Jarvis and Steve Badgley joined the show to discuss their new book, Over There With Private Graham. Drawing on a Graham's own accounts of his service, which he intended to publishing during his lifetime, Jarvis and Badgley have assembled an impactful, first-person account of the Great War. As the authors discuss, Graham's background, including his age and police career, and Military Police role gave his writing a distinct perspective. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity: 

overthere coverTheo Mayer: For Spotlight on the Media, the story of a new book. An article from military history now opens with quote, "Few if anyone today will remember the name of William J. Graham. The anonymous Doughboy was one of more than two million Americans who fought in the first World War, yet the 39 year old Philadelphia native and Private in the US Army's 28th Infantry Division, kept a series of remarkable detailed diaries of his 16 months overseas. In fact, Graham hoped to one day get them published so that he could share what he'd lived through with future generations. Unfortunately, he died in 1940 before he could make good on his promise. Now, 100 years later, two book publishers are finally realizing Graham's long forgotten dream." With us today are the two publishers who got this compelling personal account out. Steve Badgley is an author and owner of the Badgley Publishing Company, and Bruce Jarvis, a collector and public historian with a special interest in World War I. Together they compiled and published, Over There With Private Graham. Gentlemen, welcome to the podcast.
Bruce Jarvis: Thank you, Theo.

Steve Badgley: Thank you.

Bruce Jarvis: I'm glad to be here.

Theo Mayer: So let me open with a question: how did the two of you come together to create this project, and how did you come to the project in the first place? Bruce?

Bruce Jarvis: Back in 2001, I acquired a manuscript of approximately 600 pages that were anonymous at the time, but many clues contained in it to figure out who had written it. Over years, I put the pieces together to figure out who the writer was. My intent was to use it as part of a larger work involving firsthand accounts, letters, diaries and what have you from different sources to tell the story of a common America soldier in the first World War. Mr. Badgley, I met his acquaintance as an editor as publisher of local authors and historical works. I was intrigued and we talked and hit it off. I think we started work on it in 2009. We made the acquaintance of distant relatives, granddaughters, great-granddaughters of William Graham, who miraculously had other pieces of his writings from after the war, and in one case, someone who had the very end of the story and the very beginning of the story. So basically three different sources all came together. These things survived by a miracle and were able to find each other. We were able to obtain permission to use those and put his entire story together. That's an unusual situation to begin with.

Read more: Podcast Article - Over There With Private Graham


Henry Johnson, the One-Man Army Who Fought Off Dozens of German Soldiers During WWI

By Jake Rossen
via the Mental Floss web site

It was after midnight on May 15, 1918 when William Henry Johnson began to hear the rustling. Johnson was a long way from his home in Albany, New York, guarding a bridge in the Argonne Forest in Champagne, France. Sleeping next to him was Needham Roberts, a fellow soldier. Both men had enlisted in the New York National Guard just a few months earlier and were now part of the French Army, donated by U.S. forces to their understaffed allies in the thick of World War I.

Henry JohnsonHenry JohnsonAs Johnson continued hearing the strange noises late into the night, he urged his partner to get up. A tired Roberts waved him off, believing Johnson was just nervous. Johnson decided to prepare himself just in case, piling up his assortment of grenades and rifle cartridges within arm's reach. If someone was coming, he would be ready.

The rustling continued. At one point, Johnson heard a clipping noise—what he suspected was the sound of the perimeter fence being cut. He again told Roberts to wake up. "Man," he said, "You better wake up pretty soon or you [might] never wake up."

The two began lobbing grenades into the darkness, hoping to discourage whoever might be lurking around the perimeter.

Suddenly, in the middle of the French forest, Johnson saw dozens of German soldiers come charging, bayonets pointed toward him. They began to fire.

What transpired over the next hour would become an act of heroism that prompted former President Theodore Roosevelt to declare Johnson one of the bravest Americans to take up arms in the war. Johnson would even lead a procession back in New York City, with crowds lined up along the street to greet him.

Read more: Henry Johnson, the One-Man Army Who Fought Off Dozens of German Soldiers During World War I

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