The East Coast Doughboys march in NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade
By YN1 Silvia Raya and YN2 Waltesia Crudup
via the Sextant web site
In order to fill severe clerical shortages caused by World War I, the U.S. Navy approved the enlistment of women in 1917. The Naval Reserve Act of 1916 made no specific gender requirements for yeomen, enlisted personnel who fulfill administrative and clerical duties.
So either by deliberate omission or accident, the act opened the opportunity to enlist women 97 years ago this week. One of the first through the door on March 17, 1917 was Loretta Perfectus Walsh, who became the first active-duty female in the Navy who wasn’t a nurse. Four days later, March 21, 1917, she was the first female to be named a chief petty officer. On April 6, 1917, Congress approved President Woodrow Wilson’s request to declare war against Germany.
The newly-enlisted Sailors were given the rating Yeoman (F), with the “F” designating female. More popularly referred to as “yeomanettes,” the majority worked in clerical positions, but they also served as translators, draftsmen, fingerprint experts, ship camouflage designers and recruiting agents.
Nearly 600 Yeomen (F) were on duty by the end of April 1917, a number that had grown to more than 11,000 by December 1918, shortly after the Armistice.
After the war, many “yeomanettes” continued in their positions during the post-war naval reductions. By the end of July 1919, there were just under 4,000 left in service, and all were released from active duty to return to their more traditional roles before the war.
Yeomen (F) continued on inactive reserve status, receiving modest retainer pay, until the end of their 4-year enlistments, at which point all women except Navy Nurses disappeared from the uniformed Navy until 1942.
Many honorably discharged Yeomen (F) were appointed to Civil Service positions in the same navy yards and stations where they had served in wartime. Entitled to veterans’ preference for government employment, they provided a strong female presence in the Navy’s civilian staff through the decades after World War I.
By Jeff Stoffer
via the American Legion web site
The American Legion organization’s 55 departments and nearly 12,500 posts across the country and around the world are celebrating a century of service to community, state and nation that began in Paris March 15-17, 1919, when war-weary members of the American Expeditionary Forces gathered for a “morale conference” that led to the creation of what would become The American Legion. Only 300 troops were expected to attend. Officially, 463 registered. Some have estimated that more than 1,000 came and went, with or without orders, during the weekend that launched a century of accomplishments unforeseeable, if not unimaginable, at the time.
Lt. Col. Eric Fisher Wood, a leader in the prewar Preparedness Movement who was wounded fighting with the British before U.S. entry in the Great War and was later gassed during the Meuse-Argonne offensive while with the U.S. Army’s 88th Infantry Division, served as secretary of the Paris Caucus’ first session and called it to order nearly five hours after it was scheduled to start.
Fisher Wood, who originally wanted the new association to be named the Liberty League and later designed the emblem of The American Legion, was joined at the Paris Caucus by Col. William Donovan, who would go on to become the father of U.S. intelligence; future Secretary of the Treasury Capt. Ogden Mills; and fellow founder Lt. Col. George A. White, a former editor of the Portland Oregonian. But this caucus was not going to be about officers.
In a telegram to Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., a week before the gathering, Fisher Wood stated simply: “Am inviting enlisted men.”
Pvt. George Munroe, who participated in the caucus, recalled in Thomas A. Rumer’s “The American Legion: An Official History, 1919-1989,” that he “saw no evidence of registration at the caucus. As far as I could see, anybody who happened to wander in could sit down and take part. It was somewhat of a madhouse. When I reported to the Cirque de Paris, I presented my travel orders to the soldier on duty at the door, and he looked me over, handed them back, and directed me to the section reserved for the 1st Division. After that, I came and went as I pleased.”
Amid the chaos, The American Legion formed its first four committees: Convention, Permanent Organization, Constitution and Name. Following the March 15 opening, the 15-member committees worked on their specific topics before reconvening March 17 before the entire group.
By Becca Martin-Brown
via the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette newspaper web site
Born and raised in Fayetteville, Joe Weishaar remembers standing on the Champs Elysees in Paris as a University of Arkansas student and thinking, "What in the world is a kid from Arkansas doing here?" As it turned out, it was just a peek at the international limelight to come. Weishaar was only 25 when he was selected to design the national World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Weishaar comes home April 3 to speak on "To End All Wars: The Fight for the National World War I Memorial" as part of the Honors College Invites lecture series at the UA. Here, he talks about his career thus far with What's Up!
A. The moment I knew it was what I wanted to do must have come in the first 10-20 minutes of my first studio class [at the UA]. The professor walked into the room, told us to forget everything we thought we knew about buildings and made us to go buy five sheets of the biggest paper I had ever seen in my life. I can't even describe how hooked I was from that point on, and I've never looked back.
A. I think I came across the World War I Memorial competition at the end of May in 2015. I wasn't even really looking for it; a link was just being hosted on one of the websites that I would visit for art and architecture ideas.
It would be entirely fair to say that up to this point in my life I knew close to zero about World War I. But I still clicked on the link. I cranked out a design in about three weeks, working after work and on weekends. Then I sent it off and completely forgot about it for the next two months.
By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission
The Centennial Commission's efforts in the area of Education are among our most important endeavors. Ultimately, the mission of the Centennial Commission is to educate people, especially our coming generations, as the stories and lessons of World War I are their inheritance. We are thrilled to help our Education Department to roll out a new tool for educators -- a brief video entitled "Who We Were", which helps to describe the various resources available to teachers and students of World War I. We spoke with our friend Ryan Hegg about the new video. Ryan has long been with the Centennial Commission as a volunteer and as a staffer, and he was part of the production of this new video.
The Who They Were promotional video introduces the activity to educators in both school- and non-school settings. The video provides an overview of the activity and its goals, as well as some initial guidance on how to utilize the downloadable Activity Toolkit and Educator Guide.
Who They Were is a project-based activity that engages students in exploring their community’s World War I history and encourages them to participate in local commemorative activities. Using the free Who They Were Activity Toolkit, students create a short narrative about what their community was like 100 years ago, and how it shaped the men and women who served in World War I. This narrative can then be presented at their school or at a local event, and shared on the national Who They Were map. The activity can be adapted to grades 4-12, and aligns with key educational standards.
By Aleks Gilbert
via the Index-Journal newspaper (Greenwood, SC) web site
“Wars bring terrible death, terrible destruction,” historian Courtney Tollison said Friday at Lander University. “Wars can also be incredibly beneficial for the economy.”
World War I was just that for the South.
Clothing, food, tobacco — European and American soldiers would need a massive amount of these goods, and the South was well positioned to provide them.
“This (WWI) is a real godsend, if you ask me, for the agricultural sector in the South,” said Ryan Floyd, Lander history professor. “It was a really wonderful time for them.”
Floyd, Tollison and two other historians began the second day of Lander’s symposium on the South and World War I with a pair of forums concerning wartime agriculture and economics.
Lucas McMillan, who moderated the panel on agriculture, said the two subjects could not be separated from one another in a region that defines itself with the production of cash crops.
“This structured the economy. This structured social life. This structured what we ate,” said McMillan, the dean of Lander’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. “Agriculture is in the heart of understanding Southern studies.”
By Lara Vogt
National World War I Museum and Memorial
At the time of the First World War, most women were barred from voting or serving in military combat roles. Many saw the war as an opportunity to not only serve their countries but to gain more rights and independence. With millions of men away from home, women filled manufacturing and agricultural positions on the home front. Others provided support on the front lines as nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, translators and, in rare cases, on the battlefield.
One observer wrote that American women “do anything they were given to do; that their hours are long; that their task is hard; that for them there is small hope of medals and citations and glittering homecoming parades.”
The nations at war mobilized their entire populations. The side that could produce more weapons and supply more troops would prevail in the end. Women took on new roles in the work force, notably in war production and agriculture.
In 1914, the German armaments producer Krupp employed almost no women. By 1917, women made up nearly 30 percent of its 175,000 workers and a nationwide total of nearly 1.4 million German women were employed in the war labor force. Britain also stepped up its arms production by expanding the employment of women. In July 1914, 3.3 million women worked in paid employment in Britain. By July 1917, 4.7 million did. British women served in uniform as well in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. In fact, the last known surviving veteran of World War I was Florence Green of the RAF, who died in 2012.
As women took traditional male jobs in the United States, African American women were able to make their first major shift from domestic employment to work in offices and factories. Recent research also shows that a limited number of African American women served overseas as volunteers with the YMCA.
But even women in more traditional roles contributed to the war effort. Every housewife in the U.S. was asked to sign a pledge card stating that she would “carry out the directions and advice of the Food Administrator in the conduct of my household, in so far as my circumstances permit.” This meant canning food for future use, growing vegetables in the backyard and limiting consumption of meat, wheat and fats. Most of all, women were expected to bolster the morale of their families at home and loved ones overseas.
By Christina L. Myers
via the Stars and Stripes newspaper web site D
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Pvt. Walter Beagles arrived at Camp Jackson, South Carolina, in 1918, an African American draftee in a segregated Army that relegated black soldiers to labor battalions out of a prejudiced notion that they couldn't fight.
More than 100 years later, his great-grandson now serves as the base's 51st commanding general.
Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle, Jr., a combat veteran who took command last June, admits that it gets to him, knowing he's serving where his ancestor served but under vastly different circumstances.
"It does become pretty surreal to know that the gates my great-grandfather came through are the same gates I come through," Beagle said. "You always reflect back to you're standing on somebody's shoulders. Somebody put that stair in place so you can move one more rung up."
Beagle hails from the same town where his great-grandfather came from: Enoree, South Carolina. The family dropped the "s'' from the end of its name during his grandfather's lifetime.
He says he felt compelled to enter the infantry as a young man at least partly because African Americans once were largely shunted aside — considered inferior and unsuited to combat.
"That was one thing I did reflect on. Somebody at some point in time said your particular race can't do that," Beagle said. "At some point our ancestors fought so we could be in those front-line units and those combat units."
Beagle has served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, among his many postings.
By Greg McQuade
via the WTVR-TV Richmond, VA web site
CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — Some sixth graders at Providence Middle School in Chesterfield County are getting a hands-on history lesson thanks to dozens of century-old letters from World War I.
Every other day Ms. Jennifer Covais’ students arrive to crunch numbers as they immerse themselves in the past using authentic dispatches written from war-torn France during WW I.
The author, Johnny Cawthra, was a disabled clerk with American Express who could not serve in the military because he was blind in one eye.
“They love writing. It's an elective. It is an honors writing class,” Covais said. "I like to make memories with my kids."
Students are transcribing Cawthra’s observations that range from his visits with wounded soldiers in a hospital and watching President Wilson to witnessing the ravages of war.
Student Karina Murcia said Cawthra's letters "describes the places.”
“It's pretty cool because I’ve never held anything this old,” Sterling Brummer said.
In March 8th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 113, host Theo Mayer spoke with Jim Theres, executive producer of 'The Hello Girls,' about the remarkable history of these women and his acclaimed film highlighting their service. The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for clarity:
Theo Mayer: And for our spotlight on the media segment, the Hello Girls has really become one of the great themes of interest for the WW1 Centennial. In 2017, author and historian Dr. Elizabeth Cobbs wrote a book about how, in 1918, the US Army Signal Corps sent 223 women to France. They were masters of the latest technology, the telephone switchboards. General John J. Pershing, Commander of the American expeditionary force, demanded female wire experts when he discovered that the inexperienced doughboys were unable to keep him connected with the troops under fire. And he was pretty clear that without communications, for even an hour, they would lose the fight. The Hello Girls story spawned the book. There's a stage play that was produced in New York. There was an initiative in the US Congress to honor these women with their own Congressional Gold Medal. And as powerful as anything, there was a documentary film that tells about these women and their struggle not only during the war, but for decades after, as they fought for recognition and their veteran's benefits. Jim Theres is the Executive Producer and Director of that documentary, and he's been on the podcast before. Jim is joining us again today. Jim, welcome back.
Jim Theres: Yes, hi. It's great to be back. Thank you.
By Mike Vietti
Director of Marketing, Communications and Guest Services, National World War I Museum and Memorial
From the earliest history of armed conflict soldiers have done their duty and returned to their homes and families. In the aftermath of World War I millions of servicemen and women came home from a war that was unprecedented in its impact on those who experienced it. For some who served, the war’s impact on their bodies and minds lasted a lifetime.
Beyond the dockside homecomings and the main street parades, what was the returning veteran’s experience in being a “civvie” again? Were they able to make this transition smoothly? Return to work or school and get on with their former life? Or, did they find it difficult and require help?
We’re Home—Now What? examines the challenging transition for service personnel from War-time duty to civilian life through archival materials.
The U.S. government offered financial, vocational and social resources to the nearly 5 million servicemen and women who began demobilizing in 1919 after nearly half served overseas in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). Finding a job was the first thing on the minds of most veterans, so the government encouraged businesses to hire them.
An article in the April 4, 1919 issue of The Stars and Stripes describes the plan of the American Expeditionary Force’s Department of Citizenship to hold “forums” to address three subjects of importance for US Army officials: “Home,” “Health” and “The Workshop.”
Servicemen were given an opportunity to ask questions about when they could expect to be sent home and discharged, the prospects for finding a job, how to maintain good health and sanitary practices for themselves and their communities and how to be aware of the influence of socialism in the workplace.
By Amy Baker
via the Army Women’s Hall of Fame
Last week, as our nation celebrates Women’s History Month & International Women’s Day, the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation recognized extraordinary Army Women by inducting the 2019 class of Army women into the Army Women’s Hall of Fame March 7th on Capitol Hill.
Among those inductees were, collectively, the U.S. Army Telephone Operators of World War I -- aka the "Hello Girls".
Representing those female World War I heroes were three special partners to the United States World War I Centennial Commission -- all members of the special Task Force for gaining Congressional Gold Medal recognition for the women:
By Charu Suri
via the Architectural Digest magazine web site
A brand-new “Great Women Sculpture Initiative” (GWSI), which aims to change the way women are portrayed in sculpture, is celebrating female leadership in human rights, civil rights, and women’s rights.
“Female figures have historically been hidden in a masculine archetype or shell,” sculptor Sabin Howard, who designed the National World War I Memorial, tells Architectural Digest. After having seen some of the photographs of great women like Coretta Scott King and Eleanor Roosevelt, he realized that these women, while they appear powerful on the stage, ended up looking really meek and submissive in sculptural form. Few sculptures show women having the energy or power that the Hellenistic Winged Victory (at the Louvre, Paris) possesses.
“The new GWSI sculptures are meant to embody a visual idea of women—specifically, a new aesthetic of empowerment. They are also intended to create conversation on a cultural level,” he adds.
The initiative is led by Howard as well as two other women: Desiree Watson, and Howard’s wife, Traci Slatton. Howard has spent over 50,000 hours sculpting from life models and has a vision of how he would re-create the figures of Coretta Scott King and Eleanor Roosevelt in bronze, a material he says “will far outlive us all.” With maquettes and drawings, he and his supporters have started the process to create a body of work of female sculptures to be shown as a traveling exhibit to museums. A book and documentary about the process of creation will follow.
This initiative hopes to dissipate a subterranean cultural notion that women are not supposed to take up space. “I want to sculpt women who take up space so confidently that they command the space,” he says. The typical female sculpture is passive, with self-contained gestures. She rarely has the energy of the Winged Victory. “The sternum of this (Hellenistic) sculpture is pitched towards the light; it leads the body and core’s energy forward,” observes Howard. This statue speaks of a universal, mythological female archetype.
The East Coast Doughboys march in NYC St. Patrick’s Day Paradeposted on 03/18/2019
“Yeomanettes” Paved the Way for Women of All Navy Ratings Todayposted on 03/18/2019
General's family: From segregation to command in 100 yearsposted on 03/16/2019
Women played vital roles in World War Iposted on 03/16/2019
The American Legion: It all began in Paris a century agoposted on 03/18/2019
Three Minutes, Three Questions Architect Joe Weishaarposted on 03/18/2019
Who They Were promotional videoposted on 03/17/2019
World War I was a boon to American Southposted on 03/16/2019
World War I letters give Chesterfield students hands-on lessonposted on 03/14/2019
Podcast Article - Jim Theres Interviewposted on 03/14/2019