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World War I Centennial News



Special Memorial Day Mass in Baltimore for AEF and Polish-American 'Blue Army' WWI vets

By Irving C.J. Porter
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

The Maryland Catholic War Veterans (CWV) and Auxiliary hosted the Maryland “Catholic War Veterans Centennial World War I Memorial Mass” this past Sunday, at Saint Casimir Church, Baltimore, Maryland.

Polish Army in FranceRecruiting poster for the Polish Army in France in WWIThe Services honored the veterans of World War l, as well as the veterans of General Joseph Haller’s 'Blue Army' Volunteers of WWI.

In the ceremony, the American Legion's General Joseph Haller Post 95 was recognized on its 100 Anniversary. The Post was formed in 1919 and incorporated in Maryland on March 20, 1920. The Post’s founders were World War I veterans.

St. Casimir Church was selected because of its size and original center of the Polish Community in the 1917. St. Casimir Church is the largest church in the Baltimore Archdiocesan. It is also the home parish for St. Casimir Catholic War Veterans Post 766/1764 and Auxiliary Post 766.

Each Memorial Day, the Maryland Catholic War Veterans sponsors a Memorial Day Service to “Remember and Honor all Men & Women who have service America in the Armed Forces". In past years the MDCWV honored the POW/MIA, Vietnam War Veterans, Maryland Missing Veterans and decease veterans from all wars. This year, they specifically wanted to honor those forgotten heroes of World War l.

To that end, Commander Gilbert Barker, and Irving C. J. Porter, Judge Advocate met with Fr. Dennis Grumsey, OFM, Pastor of St. Casimir Parish and Chaplain concerning a Memorial Mass for the World War 1 “forgotten veterans”. It was also agreed to include those Polish & Maryland Polish-American volunteers who traveled to Canada for training under French military.

Read more: Special Memorial Day Mass in Baltimore for the AEF and Polish-American 'Blue Army' Veterans of WWI


5cd4f3efd5f72.imageSt. Louis' own 138th Infantry Regiment returns from World War I with a parade through the city on May 9, 1919. The formation is marching south on 12th Street (now Tucker Boulevard) at Olive Street. Just out of view to the left was the Shubert-Jefferson Theater in the Union Electric Co. building, where organizers of the American Legion were holding their first meeting in American on the same day. The city had erected the pillars to make 12th Street a "hall of honor" for veterans returning from the Great War. (Post-Dispatch) 

100 years ago: St. Louis throws a homecoming party for the ages 

By Tim O'Neil
via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper web site

ST. LOUIS — The Doughboys formed ranks in favor of "100 percent Americanism" and against the city of Chicago.

The veterans of World War I who created the American Legion first met on American soil in a theater downtown on May 8, 1919. The killing had ended six months before. They adopted a national constitution, promoted employment for veterans and cheered Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., a war hero and son of the late former president.

The 1,079 delegates gathered in the Shubert-Jefferson Theater of the Union Electric building, Olive and 12th streets. By happy coincidence, St. Louis also was hosting a raucous welcome home for the 138th Infantry Regiment. The unit had formed here and fought in the Argonne Forest in France in the last weeks of the war.

On May 9, the 138th's soldiers marched through cheering mobs and passed in front of the Shubert-Jefferson, which became a convenient reviewing stand for legion delegates who mingled with the crowds.

"What a handsome leader," a woman shouted to Sgt. Ross Koen as he led L Company down 12th (now Tucker Boulevard). Jimmie Dutton broke through the police line and hugged his marching big brother, W.B. Dutton. Choruses of church bells and locomotive whistles added to the racket.

The 138th had paid dearly for the honor — of 3,500 men who signed up, 230 were killed in combat. Accidents and wounds increased the casualty rate to almost 50 percent. The survivors stepped off trains at the Wabash station near Forest Park and marched downtown in formation with rifles, packs and helmets.

Read more: 100 years ago: St. Louis throws a homecoming party for the ages


Through her eyes: Exhibit offers glimpse of WWI through diaries of Hatfield woman

By Luis Fieldman
via the Daily Hampshire Gazette (MA) newspaper web site

HATFIELD — Around a century ago, Marian C. Billings left her family’s tobacco farm on Main Street at the age of 37 to join the Red Cross as a canteen worker during World War I. Of the 103 people from Hatfield who enlisted to serve in “the war to end all wars,” she was the only woman.

6e1fbe312a494c9394620ac68d0beb1bHatfield native Marian Billings, pictured in 1918, served as a Red Cross canteen worker in World War I. An exhibit at the Hatfield Historical Museum gives a glimpse into her service in France through diaries and photographs. A new exhibit curated by the Hatfield Historical Society shares stories of Billings’ time nursing and feeding soldiers from 1918-1919 in France, as well as presents stories pieced together about the town’s WWI soldiers.

“Through Marian’s Eyes: A Red Cross Canteen Worker Recounts World War I” opens on Sunday at the Historical Society Museum at 39 Main St., which is directly across the street from Billings’ old farmhouse, and runs until next spring.

Also on display are wartime photographs and the flapper-style dress Billings wore to a Victory Dance in France. Descendants of Billings donated the collection to the town’s historical society, and now the public can learn from her firsthand account of the Great War.

“She not only tells about what it was like to be a canteen worker — what they ate, what they served and when the guys came through — but she tells lots of stories about the soldiers, ‘the boys,’ as she calls them,” Kathie Gow, curator of the exhibit, said on Saturday.

“You get the war through her eyes. She had some maturity and a thoughtfulness, and her journals are quite moving.”

A stark picture of the war emerges from the selected passages of Billings’ journal that Gow has printed on small cards for the public to read.

“Last night a group of shell shocked patients came in,” Billings wrote in an entry dated September 11, 1918. “It was pitiful to see them, some of them unable to keep from throwing their arms, and heads and legs.” 

A passage from October 12, 1918 reads: “Always here one does the best one can and forget that things were ever different. It’s a great game to play. Granted you haven’t knitting needles — how are you going to mend a boy’s sweater? Wire hairpins did the work splendidly.” 

 One hundred years after the formal end to the Great War, Gow said that curating the exhibit served as an impetus to rediscover the history of those who served in WWI from Hatfield.

Read more: Through her eyes: Exhibit offers glimpse of WWI through diaries of Hatfield woman


Father's memory of WWI hero Alvin C. York is poignant

By Lynn Walker Gendusa
via the Tennessean newspaper web site

It is doubtful anyone loved their country more than the fallen soldier. 

Lynn Walker GendusaLynn Walker GendusaAlvin YorkSergeant Alvin YorkThe warrior who one day walked onto a battlefield with fierce determination to protect and defend his beloved America only to never return to its shores. Not including the Civil War, we have lost almost 700,000 service members on battlegrounds because of such courageous love.

These soldiers were born into families of different religions and different ethnicities. They were Republicans or Democrats or neither. However, where they were, it mattered little because they were all in the same mud, the same trenches, experiencing the same horror and fighting together to save their country. 

They gave their lives for all Americans to be treated equally, all religions to be freely worshipped and for all to have the freedom to speak and vote.  

My daddy always said, “When our country starts losing its way and folks no longer take pride in America is the day war will begin, or a tragedy will occur to wake up the spirits of the fallen soldiers. It is the day we become unified and one. Our backyard debates and political party arguments are silenced. We all realize at that critical time what matters most is saving our land of the free.” 

When my father was around 13, his widowed mother ran a boarding house near Jamestown, Tennessee. He was the youngest of four children who regularly helped his mama with the chores and duties of running the inn. 

"Ray, you need to go to the train depot in the car to pick up Sergeant York and take him to his home," she yelled from the kitchen.

Yes, the same Sgt. Alvin C. York, World War I hero and recipient of the Medal of Honor and numerous other awards. 

Read more: Father's memory of WWI hero Alvin C. York is poignant


5cea14ce5ce0f.image LEFT: Johnnie Pustejovsky holds his father's World War I uniform jacket, helmet, dog tags and the diary he kept during the war. RIGHT: John Pustejovsky in uniform in a family photo. 

Veterans’ Voices: John Pustejovsky

By Mary Drennon
via the Waco Tribune-Herald (TX) newspaper web site

It’s small enough to fit into the palm of a hand or slip into a pocket, yet its contents are invaluable. They contain a tiny record of life in the trenches during World War I for one John Pustejovsky, an Abbott resident born on June 25, 1893, near West.

Pustejovsky grew up working on the family farm. In October 1917, at age 24, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. As a sergeant during WWI, he was a member of Company A, 111th Engineers, caring for the Army mules and bringing supplies and ammunition to troops in the field. He fought in France in the battle of St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the latter of which cost 26,277 American lives, making it the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I. With the end of WWI and the signing of the armistice, Pustejovsky received an honorable discharge on June 18, 1919.

Returning home, he married Annie Bezdek on Nov. 26, 1919. They moved to Abbott, farming and raising cattle for a living. Pustejovsky was a prominent member and leader of the Abbott community, serving on the school board and helping organize the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church and Fatima Cemetery.

Read more: Veterans’ Voices: John Pustejovsky


Soldier describes close calls with death in the trenches of WWI 

By Al Edenloff
via the Park Rapids Enterprise (MN) newspaper web site

Alvin Victor EdenloffAlvin Victor EdenloffIt’s hard to visualize what American soldiers went through while fighting in faraway lands most people will never see.

It’s impossible to imagine the horrors they saw, the sounds they heard as shrapnel fell or the feelings they had when their war buddies standing next to them were shot down by enemy fire.

Many of those in the battlefield didn’t live to tell the tale. Many of those who got through it closed that part of their life up, not sharing it with friends or family – living through it once was enough.

But in the last few months, I’ve been able to relive the experiences of my grandfather, Alvin Victor Edenloff, a private in World War I. While leafing through the delicate, yellowed pages of the Osakis Review from 100 years ago, history columnist Marcia Lips came across several letters my grandpa wrote to his folks back home in Osakis while he was serving in the infantry.

His writings were filled with razor-sharp details, wry observations and honest terror. Reading them — for me, anyway — was like taking a time machine back to the foxholes of France in the Great War. It was like I was right there with him, watching him joke with his fellow soldiers, listening to him talk about how badly he longed to come home when the war ended, and seeing him have more than a few close calls with death.

Grandpa, who died in 1971 when I was 11, didn’t talk much about the war. I remember digging around in his garage one time when I came across some of his military possessions — a gas mask, a bayonet, a medal. I asked about them but he didn’t offer details. He said something like, “That was a long time ago,” before he got back to playing cards with the adults in the family while sipping on his Grain Belt beer.

I never pictured him as a young soldier, laying his life on the line for his country, with just fluke luck or providence determining whether he’d return home in one piece or in a box.

He wrote his last letter two days before the armistice to end the war was signed. His division made a charge across the Meuse River in France. They captured one town that morning and advanced on another in the afternoon. Midway between their starting point and their objective — a copse of woods — was a graveyard.

Here, in my grandpa’s words, is what happened next:

Read more: Soldier describes close calls with death in the trenches of WWI


IMG 6649 1100x733University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod speaks on Monday, May 20, 2019, during a rededication ceremony of "The Victory Eagle" sculpture, a World War I memorial honoring Douglas County residents who died during the war.  

KU rededicates WWI memorial ‘Victory Eagle’ in new location on campus 

By Dylan Lysen
via the Lawrence Journal-World (KS) newspaper web site

For the third — and likely final — time, the University of Kansas on Monday dedicated “The Victory Eagle” statue in honor of the Douglas County residents who lost their lives fighting in World War I.

“Monuments like this ‘Victory Eagle,’ commissioned to honor those from Douglas County who answered their country’s call, makes this world history our local history,” said Lorie Vanchena, who is a KU associate professor of German Studies. “Eighteen of the 68 individuals whose names appear on the plaque were KU students and alumni. So this monument makes this world history our university history.”

The university rededicated the World War I commemorative statue because it was moved to a new location on the east side of Memorial Drive in April. The statue was previously displayed on Jayhawk Boulevard near the front of Dyche Hall but was moved closer to other war memorials on campus.

The bronze eagle statue, which had been sitting in front of Dyche Hall since 1982, depicts a female bald eagle defending her nest. The sculpture was originally placed on the Douglas and Leavenworth county line in 1929 but was removed in 1980 because of vandalism. The sculpture was rededicated on KU’s campus two years later.

The KU sculpture is one of six eagle statues produced in the 1920s to be placed along “Victory Highway,” a planned roadway from New York to San Francisco that was meant to honor those who died in WWI, but the plan was never fully realized.

Read more: KU rededicates WWI memorial ‘Victory Eagle’ in new location on campus


Harlem Welcomes The 369th Experience for Memorial Day Weekend Concert 

By BWW News Desk
via the Broadway web site (NYC)

Harlem One Stop today announced a free special Memorial Day Weekend concert by The 369th Experience in celebration of the Harlem Renaissance Centennial and the Harlem Hell Fighters. The ensemble will perform a program of music by ragtime and early jazz bandleader James Reese Europe. The free outdoor performance will be presented from 7:00-8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 25 at Marcus Garvey Park (Mt. Morris Park West between East 120th-124th Streets) in Harlem.

3369th experience concert poster 500Created to honor and preserve the memory of World War I-era African American and Puerto Rican service members, The 369th Experience program recreates performances by its namesake regimental band. The original musicians were drawn from the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as the Harlem Hell Fighters, led by Lieutenant James Reese Europe.

"Prior to his enlistment, Europe made history with his Clef Club Orchestra, which in 1910 became the first act to perform jazz at Carnegie Hall," says Harlem One Stop founder Yuien Chin, who organized the Memorial Day Weekend concert. "During his military service, his 369th Infantry Regiment band played for British, French, and American troops and civilian audiences in France, where these 'Harlem Hell Fighters' also made their first recordings."

Today's band represents students from Benedict College, Delaware State University, Florida A&M University, Howard University, Jackson State University, Morgan State University, North Carolina Central University, Prairie View A&M University, Southern University A&M College, Texas Southern University, and Texas Tech University. The 369th Experience is a project of The United States World War One Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library with support from The Coca-Cola Foundation. The band is in New York to participate in a series of events and performances to celebrate Fleet Week

"The students performing James Reese Europe's works today are carrying a grand legacy of Harlem creativity and patriotism and giving a new generation an opportunity to appreciate the original band's star power and sacrifice," Chin says. "Particularly in connection with Memorial Day, we are honored to have the opportunity to raise awareness of this amazing piece of Harlem's musical and civic history."

Harlem One Stop, a leading uptown destination marketing organization and tour operator, is the originator of the Harlem Renaissance 100 celebration, which is co-presented with Harlem Cultural Collaborative Partners. The Centennial launched in late 2018 and runs through 2020. For a full list of events and the most up-to-date information, visit

Read more: Harlem Welcomes The 369th Experience for Memorial Day Weekend Concert


This year's Navy fleet week New York has WWI theme 

By Blake Stilwell
via the We Are the Mighty web site

WATM artU.S. troops from New York State march down the streets of New York City during World War I.This year, just like every year, America's port cities will receive a series of special guests, American sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. But instead of just flooding the city streets with 2,600 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen complete with dress blues and white cracker jacks, this year's Fleet Week in New York is bringing a theme: "Remembering World War I."

The official centennial of the Armistice that ended the Great War may have come and gone, but the pageantry and tradition that surrounds the 100-year anniversary celebration of the end of World War I lives on. The U.S. Navy is partnering with the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, in a number of activities to tell the story of the 4 million American men and women who wore the uniform a century ago.

For the Navy's annual visit to New York City, the story will also include the City's role in the War to End All Wars. Notable events include

  • The horrible Black Tom explosion which damaged the Statue of Liberty.
  • The Ill-fated Lusitania's departure for her last voyage from Pier 54 on Manhattan's West Side.
  • The local men and women who fought the war, including the Harlem Hell Fighters and the Rainbow Division

But the history of New York in the Great War is more than just a series of milestones. New York City is also an important place in U.S. Navy history, especially as it pertains to World War I. Half of the U.S. Navy's World War I ships were built in Brooklyn. Half of all U.S. troops departed from and returned to the piers of Hoboken. The biggest Victory Parade of the war took place down 5th Avenue.

To help tell these incredible stories, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is offering subject matter experts, who can help local audiences understand this rich local history, and to possibly connect with their own World War I veteran family members.

Read more: This year's Navy fleet week New York has a WWI theme


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Commission activities honor America's World War I Veterans during Fleet Week 2019 

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

NEW YORK, NY — The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, in partnership with the U.S. Navy, will host a number of cultural activities, and commemorative events, during the U.S. Navy's upcoming Fleet Week New York, from 22-27 May 2019.

Commission Fleet Week LogoA full list of the WWI-related activities can be found at These events will help tell the story of the 4 million American men and women -- many from the greater New York area -- who stepped forward to serve during World War I, 100 years ago.

The activities include:

  • Performances by the '369th Experience', a jazz tribute ban that honors the original 369th Infantry "Harlem Hellfighters" Regimental Band of World War I.
  • Free copies of the "WWI Genealogy Research Guide", with special appearances by the author, for questions and advice, to help people connect to their WWI heritage.
  • Appearances by Sawyer the Sea Dog, mascot of the U.S. Navy Museum, in Washington, DC.
  • A special Time Square tribute to the Navy cruiser USS San Diego, which was sunk by an enemy sub, just off of Fire Island
  • World War I exhibits by the U.S. Navy History & Heritage Command
  • Displays by World War I-period Navy and Marine Corps reenactors, including the Living History Crew of the USS Olympia museum ship, in Philadelphia.
  • Many other activities!

All these are free, open to the press, and open to the public.

Specific times and places are as follows:

May 21

Miller Field Youth Day, Staten Island
Time: 10:00 am-12:00 pm
Location: 722-734 New Dorp Ln, New York, New York 10306
World War One living history will be part of pre-Fleet Week activities with a two-hour exhibition at Miller Field in Staten Island. The U.S. WWI Centennial Commission will have exhibition space with WWI living historians presenting period displays, equipment, uniforms, and more. Learn more about New York’s role in WWI, from recruiting to training.

Fleet Week New York will have active duty U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps personnel on hand, with aviation units, to include include military displays of aviation and personnel equipment, static displays, demonstrations. New this year will include a combined team of members from U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) will present a fast rope demonstration showing how an EOD team can be inserted into an area too dangerous for ships to navigate. The U.S. Fleet Forces "Brass Band" will perform.
All events are free and open to the public.

Read more: Commission activities honor America's World War I Veterans during Fleet Week 2019


100 Years Ago “Hello Girl” Grace Banker receives Distinguished Service Medal 

By Carolyn Timbie, granddaughter of Grace Banker
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

IMG 0662Grace BankerIn 1917, General Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in WW1, made a request for women telephone operators in France. It was apparent that Doughboys, inexperienced in telephony, could not efficiently complete this vital task. In 1918, the U.S. Army Signal Corps sent 223 women telephone operators to France. These women became popularly known as the “Hello Girls”

Grace Banker was the Chief Operator of the first unit of 33 bi-lingual women who embarked for France to support the telephone systems of the American Expeditionary Forces. After spending the first 5 months at General Army Headquarters in Chaumont, Grace banker and a small group of women were chosen to operate the switchboards in the advanced section at First Army Headquarters during the AEF battles of St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne.

The women worked tirelessly during the drives. Grace states in her diary on Sept 25th:

“Busy again. Don’t believe anyone not here can realize what busy means. 11:15 pm, the new drive is on......The cannons are roaring. 12 midnight. Capt. Scott, Miss Russell and myself went outside for a minute to look at the sky. There are great flashes of light all along the horizon like Northern Lights. 2:50am, the night railroad guns are beginning to roar.....such a noise. Worse than a heavy surf in a storm and here there is a beautiful moonlight. The old flimsy barracks shake and the beds rock as though in a miniature earthquake.....”

Grace took great pride in “her girls“. “Resting up after the drive. Never spent more time at the office and never enjoyed anything more. My girls work like beavers” she states in her diary.

Read more: 100 Years Ago “Hello Girl” Grace Banker receives Distinguished Service Medal


wwi memorialThis battle scene is part of the design of the World War I Memorial, which is to become part of Pershing Park along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.  

Fall start envisioned for WWI tribute; concept for monument in D.C.‘really coming along,’ says Arkansas designer 

By Frank E. Lockwood
via the Arkansas Democrat Gazette newspaper's web site

WASHINGTON — With many of the bureaucratic hurdles overcome and much of the fundraising complete, supporters of the new World War I Memorial say they’re hopeful they can break ground this fall.

“We’re getting close to wrapping up the design. We’re about 75% of the way through,” said Joseph Weishaar, the project’s architect and a Fayetteville native. “It’s really coming along.”

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts signed off Thursday on the monument’s “interpretive elements,” including the quotation that will be carved in dark granite above the “peace fountain.”

In April, commissioners had weighed in on the site’s walkway configuration and its “lighting strategy” as well as an updated version of the bronze sculpture that will be the memorial’s centerpiece.

The commission will discuss the memorial again at its July meeting, the 13th time the memorial has been on the agenda since November 2015.

Officials say they don’t know how many more meetings will be necessary.

“It’s progressing toward a likely approval later this year. But, of course, the commission has the final say,” said longtime fine arts commission secretary Thomas Luebke.

The memorial elements will be added to Pershing Park, named for the leader of U.S. forces in World War I, Gen. John J. Pershing.

Read more: Fall start envisioned for WWI tribute; concept for monument in D.C.‘really coming along,’ says...


Roman High School hallwayFirst-floor hallway at Philadelphia's Roman Catholic High School. Fourteen boys who walked these halls died in the Great War.

In search of Roman’s ‘lost boys’ of World War I 

By Chris Gibbons
via the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper's web site

"I resolved to find what remained of Company D for (my grandfather), and for (his fellow soldiers), and for myself, as well, and complete a story begun on a hot July day so long ago, when young men raced across open fields toward machine guns and disappeared into history."

— From "The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War" by James Carl Nelson

As I recently walked down the first-floor hallway of my old high school, located at Broad and Vine, my footsteps sharply echoed off the walls, a stark reminder that it was late afternoon and that I was alone in the normally bustling, but now deserted, corridors.

Before that day, I had been poring over old yearbook photos, and I immediately noticed that the interior, with its beautiful early 20th-century architecture, looked strikingly similar to the way it had looked in 1917. Sunbeams escaped through open classroom doors, and their ribbons of light streamed across the hallway. Dust motes hung motionless within their illumination, but then suddenly swirled into motion. Just an errant draft? Or do the spirits of the boys I had been searching for still walk these halls?

I stopped at the end of the hall and looked up at the plaques that display the names of Roman Catholic High School alumni who had lost their lives in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf wars. As I stared at the long list of names, well over a hundred of them, I knew that the young men who had been eluding me would not be found there. However, I hoped that my visit would serve as motivation to not give up on what had now become a very difficult task.

I touched the raised metal letters of the names on the plaques and could only shake my head in frustration. "Who were the boys from World War I?" I softly whispered. I futilely hoped that the ghosts of the past would somehow miraculously answer my question, but the deserted hallway remained silent.

Roman was founded by Irish immigrant Thomas Cahill in 1890, and was the first free Catholic high school in the country. By the time the United States had entered World War I in 1917, the school was already more than a quarter-century old. Yet many alumni, myself included, had long assumed that there was no commemorative plaque for World War I because no Roman alumni had died in that war. However, as my interest and knowledge of the Great War deepened over the years, I began to doubt this assumption. After I read James Nelson's brilliant book The Remains of Company D, I resolved to finally learn the truth regarding World War I and the lost boys from Roman.

Read more: In search of Roman’s ‘lost boys’ of World War I

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