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World War I Centennial News


Remembrance and the Great War 

By Douglas Feiden
via the Our Town newspaper (New York, NY) web site

It is the ultimate Upper East Side trivia question. But first, a warning: Most lifetime neighborhood residents get it wrong.

How did York Avenue get its name? Did it come from A) The Duke of York? B) New York City itself? C) Yorkville, the community it traverses? D) The Continental Army’s triumph at the Battle of Yorktown? Or E) None of the above?

If you answered “E,” give yourself a free, 1.6-mile victory promenade up York from East 59th Street to East 92nd Street.

York ceremonyRetired Col. Gerald York, the grandson of World War I hero Sgt. Alvin C. York, at the April 11 ceremony marking the 90th anniversary of the renaming of York Avenue, formerly Avenue A, for his grandfather. He is flanked by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (at left), state Senator Liz Krueger and state Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright. Photo: Courtney Ferrissey / Assembly Member Rebecca SeawrightThe 33-block swath between the Queensboro Bridge and Asphalt Green is actually named for Sgt. Alvin C. York, the citizen‐soldier-hero of the U.S. Expeditionary Forces in World War I whose exploits 100 years ago, under withering German machine gun fire, won him a Medal of Honor.

In the last great push of what was then known as the Great War, in the Forest of Argonne in France, on October 8, 1918, York’s company was trapped behind enemy lines, and with most of his fellow soldiers killed or injured, he advanced, all-but alone, toward a machine-gun nest.

By the time the smoke cleared, he had killed at least 25 German gunners, silenced 35 machine guns and captured 132 soldiers, who he then marched backed toward American lines, according to 1919 Army citations and contemporaneous press accounts.

Hailed as the “greatest civilian solider of the war” by General of the Armies John J. Pershing, York’s deeds were called the “greatest act by any private soldier of all the armies of Europe” by Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the French commander of Allied forces in World War I.

New Yorkers took notice of his derring-do: He got a ticker tape parade in 1919, the New York Stock Exchange halted trading as brokers hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him around the floor, and on April 11, 1928, after a vote by the old Board of Aldermen, forerunner of today’s City Council, the uptown portion of Avenue A was named in his honor.

Flash forward exactly 90 years: On Wednesday, April 11, outside the Webster Library branch, at 1465 York Avenue near 78th Street, a group called the East Side World War I Centennial Commemoration marked the anniversary of the street renaming and recalled York Avenue’s colorful history as part of the celebrations to mark the end of the war.

Read more: Remembrance and the Great War

NY Guard Soldiers survived subs, crowded ships deploying to France in 1918 

By Eric Durr
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, via the army.mil web site

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - As April 1918 became May, the 27,000 Soldiers of the New York National Guard's 27th Division left Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina, and boarded trains and ships heading for France where World War I was raging.

SS President GrantThe President Grant, the troopship which carried the Soldiers of the New York National Guard's 108th Infantry Regiment to France in World War I when the 27th Division shipped out for Europe in May, 1918. The 27th Division, which included all but two regiments of the New York National Guard, left New York in August and September 1917.

There had been a massive parade down Fifth Avenue when the division left, and then eight months of training began.

Led by Maj. Gen. John F. O' Ryan , the National Guard Soldiers built their own camp, dug practice trenches and lived in them, learned to shoot, and reorganized for war.

An influx of 2,300 "national army" draftees from Camp Upton on Long Island brought the division up to strength.

First to leave was the 107th Infantry Regiment, the old 7th Regiment of the New York National Guard. The 7th was famous as the "silk stocking regiment" filled with socially prominent members.

The regiment turned in old equipment and drew new gear, including swapping their 1903 Springfield rifles for the M1917, an American-made version of the British Lee-Enfield rifle.

The headquarters left Camp Wadsworth on April 28. The rest of the regiment left on April 29 for Newport News Virginia.

Read more: NY Guard Soldiers survived subs and crowded ships deploying to France in 1918

NCSU Belltower event to Commemorate end of WWI 

By Tim Peeler
via the NC State News web site

For alumni and military veterans Jerry Hester, Benny Suggs and Thomas Skolnicki, the May 1 U.S. World War I Centennial Commission celebration at NC State’s Memorial Tower is more than just a half-hour event on the list of 100 worldwide commemorations about the end of the great conflict.

belltower cu 600The North Carolina State University bell tower was originally dedicated as a World War I memorial for university alumni in 1949.It’s an opportunity for all to learn about the sacrifices made by NC State students and alumni, and the commitment that the school has made since its inception to military service and leadership. Nearly 2,000 students and alumni served in the global war, and the Belltower includes the names of the 34 who died in combat, in training and from sickness.

All three have worked tirelessly in making sure the only centennial commemoration event on a college campus will be loud, both in color and in noise, with a full military ceremony that will include a 21-gun salute and a flyover of F-15s from the 4th Fighter Wing stationed at Goldsboro’s Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

“We want to wake up the area with North Carolina’s major event to celebrate the Centennial Commission,” says Hester, a 1953 NC State graduate and retired U.S. Air Force veteran. “We have the nation’s only belltower that is dedicated to students [and alumni] who sacrificed everything in World War I.

“They deserve to be remembered with an event like this.”

Read more: NC State bell tower event to Commemorate end of WWI

He was a classmate of George Armstrong Custer at West Point

Hains Point in DC named for WWI US Army general...who also served in the Civil War 

via the Washington Times newspaper web site

One of the favorite picnicking spots in the Washington area is Hains Point, overlooking the Tidal Basin, now home to a baseball field, tennis courts, swimming pool and other sports amenities.

Early and latePeter Conover Hains (July 6, 1840 – November 7, 1921) was a Major General in the United States Army in World War I (right) but also a veteran of the American Civil War (left) and the Spanish–American War. The extremely large golf course dwarfs every other sports activity there at all hours of the day. Those of a certain age will recall it as an excellent viewpoint for the nightly submarine races in the area. Its view of the river through the towering weeping willows makes for a peaceful oasis in a busy city.

Few who go to Hains Point know the man for whom it was named. Peter Conover Hains was an officer in both the Civil War and World War I, and his engineering talent gave us the Tidal Basin and surrounding land.

It is a little-known fact that Hains fired the first shot at the Battle of First Manassas on July 21, 1861. He had been commissioned a second lieutenant in the artillery, and it was his responsibility to fire three rounds from the largest Union weapon on the field - a 3-ton Parrott gun firing 4-inch, 33-pound projectiles. This served as a signal that the attack had begun.

His target was said to be a white house beyond Bull Run, it not being known if this was the Robinson farm, the Henry House or perhaps another one. The battle would rage for some time until Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops sent the Union men packing.

Read more: Hains Point in DC named for WWI U.S. Army general...who also served in Civil War

The Living Legacy of WWI: The Politics & Medicine of Treating Post-Traumatic Stress 

via the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs web site

Note: Transcript of a podcast on April 19, 2018

REED BONADONNA: I'm Reed Bonadonna. I'm a senior fellow for the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, and I'm talking from the Carnegie Council building, here on Lexington and 64th in Manhattan. I'm the lead administrator for the Living Legacy of the First World War project that the Council is taking on today, and I'm going to be talking this morning with one of the nine Fellows who were selected to pursue research topics concerning the experience of the First World War.

SargentGassedDetail from John Singer Sargent's Gassed (1919). CREDIT: Google Cultural Institute/Imperial War Museum London Today's interview is with Tanisha Fazal. She is a professor at the University of Minnesota. I'll mention that in addition to the work that she is doing now for the World War I project she is the author of the recent book published by Cornell University Press, Wars of Law: Unintended Consequences in the Regulation of Armed Conflict.

Her project title for the World War I project is "The Politics and Medicine of Treating Post-traumatic Stress (PTS) Since World War I."

I would like to give Tanisha a chance to flesh out that introduction a little bit and say where she is calling from and anything else she would like to say by way of self-introduction.

TANISHA FAZAL: First, it is good to be with you. I am really excited about the opportunity to work with this project on the Living Legacy of the First World War. I am sitting here in my office at the University of Minnesota. It is a very foggy day, but I have nonetheless a very nice view of the Mississippi River, which has thawed out a little bit since the recent deep freeze.

REED BONADONNA: Yes, we're having a cold one here in New York, too. Not cold by Minnesota standards.

TANISHA FAZAL: Yes. Well, we are recent transplants to Minnesota, so we are adjusting.

REED BONADONNA: Right. Got it.

Why don't we start with an expected lowball question: How did you get started on this project concerning post-traumatic stress and the First World War?

Read more: The Living Legacy of WWI: The Politics & Medicine of Treating Post-Traumatic Stress

Ceremony honors Utah World War I Veterans

By Jasen Lee
via the KSL Broadcasting (Salt Lake City, UT) web site

SALT LAKE CITY — While many today recall the global historic impact of World War II, the effect of the "War to End All Wars" is seemingly less evident in current society despite its status as the initial worldwide conflict of the 20th century.

Elmer InmanElmer Inman, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6395, gestures toward an American flag during his remarks at a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War I Memorial at Memory Grove Park in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, April 19, 2018. The event, hosted by the Utah State Society of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, commemorated the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1918. (Photo: Adam Fondren, Deseret News) On Thursday, April 19, the Utah State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution paid tribute to those Americans who served in the First World War in recognition of the sacrifice so many people made in service of their country.

"It's very important to remember our veterans and the fallen," said Brenda Reeder, Utah regent for the Daughters of the American Revolution. "When we look back at our past, we can change the future."

The organization hosted a wreath-laying ceremony at the WWI Memorial located in Memory Grove Park in Salt Lake City. The event was part of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution efforts to highlight the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles as a national commemorative event, she said.

"When we review what has happened in the past, that can reflect upon our future and maybe we can make different decisions in how we view war," she added. "We should communicate and negotiate and not have wars that we send our young men (and women) off to fight. Diplomacy is definitely a better choice."

The organization includes more than 185,000 members in approximately 3,000 chapters across the country and numerous foreign countries, she noted. The organization strives to promote historic preservation, education and patriotism via commemorative events, scholarships and educational initiatives, citizenship programs, service to veterans, meaningful community service, she said.

Regarding the ceremony, she said all Utahns should be aware of and appreciate the sacrifice so many local families have made in support of national freedom.

"We had thousands of men from Utah — 10,000 men — go (to WWI) and not all of them came back," Reeder said. "We need to remember them and we need to honor them."

Read more: Ceremony honors Utah World War I Veterans

Can you help return WWI medal unearthed in N.J. woods to veteran's family? 

By Jeff Goldman
New Jersey Advance Media via the NJ.com web site

A man scanning public land in Wanaquen New Jersey with a metal detector last week made an unusual discovery -- a dirt-covered World War I service medal that apparently belonged to a former borough resident.

nj war veteran medaljpg a359ee0328ab0d4dA World War I service medal found in Wanaque last week. Police want to return it to a family member of Dan Battaglia.(Wanaque police) After finding the medal in a wooded area between Lakeland Regional High School and Midvale Cemetery, the man turned it into Wanaque police who are now looking for the veteran's family.

"It was caked in dirt and gunk," Capt. Ken Fackina said Friday, adding that the man who turned it in wants to remain anonymous. "Chief (Robert) Kronyak spent some time cleaning it up."

The chief's efforts were rewarded as the now-readable medal showed revealed a name - Daniel Battaglia.

Born in Black Rock, Washington on May 5, 1890, Battaglia is thought to have lived on Ringwood Avenue in Wanaque in 1942, according to police.

While officials aren't certain, they believe he is interred at Christ the King in Franklin Lakes. Some of the Wanaque's older military veterans told police they think Battaglia was a bachelor who never had any children.

Still, police are trying to find a relative -- even a distant one -- to give the medal.

The inscription on the medal reads, "presented to Dan Battaglia by the people of Wanaque in grateful recognition of patriotic service in the World War."

Read more: Can you help return WWI medal unearthed in N.J. woods to veteran's family?

Memorial Day Preview: The Sounds of WWI-Era Minnesota 

via the Lakewood Cemetery (Minneapolis, MN) web site

Minneapolis, MN — This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. At Lakewood Cemetery, we’re paying special tribute to this anniversary at our annual Memorial Day Celebration by remembering those who served at home and abroad during the Great War. Part of our tribute will be a special history exhibit that explores what life was like for Minnesotans in 1918 through the stories of individuals now buried at Lakewood.

Harry AndersonHarry Anderson, right, leads a community singalong in Powderhorn Park. Source: Minnesota Community SingsOne of those featured will be singer and music professor Harry Anderson, Sr. Born in the 1880s in England, Anderson was immersed in the WWI-era Minneapolis musical community as a professor and choral leader. But his story is about more than music. It’s a story of community, patriotism, and the impact of WWI on Minneapolis’s musical and artistic legacy.

Let’s set the stage. The United States was a tense place during WWI. Federal and local governments were suspicious of German-Americans’ ties to the Central Powers, who were vying for political, military, and imperial control over Europe. German-Americans were the largest ethnic group in Minnesota during the War. Many Minnesotans of all backgrounds were eager to display their loyalty to the U.S. and support the war effort.

There were a lot of ways for those on the home front to support the Great War. Women sewed bandages for injured soldiers. Children planted vegetables and grains in “Victory Gardens” so that large-scale food production could be directed toward the war effort. With suspicion rife, many Minnesotans (especially the 84% of the population that was foreign-born) could also use these public acts of support to demonstrate their allegiance to the U.S. and the Allied Powers. Parades dominated public spaces, raising morale and allowing Minnesotans an opportunity to put their patriotism on display. 

One of the most interesting ways of raising morale on the home front was through music. Patriotic songs dominated popular culture during the War: 70% of popular songs copyrighted in 1918 were WWI songs. Starting around the time that the U.S. entered WWI in 1917, an organization called the Minneapolis Civic Music League (chaired by William MacPhail, who also resides at Lakewood) and the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners hosted large-scale “sings” in many of the city’s parks—no audience, just participation. “Community Sings” of these patriotic and popular songs were led by neighborhood song leaders. These sings presented a way for residents to gather together to show their patriotism. It is even said that some local government officials would keep tabs on attendance in order to gauge individuals’ loyalty. Community Sings took place in every county and township in the state. It is estimated that 70,000 Minnesotans attended the group sings in 1918 alone.

Read more: Memorial Day Preview: The Sounds of WWI-Era Minnesota

Story of Choctaw Code Talkers told at Reims event

via the Choctaw Nation Biskinik newsletter

Tiajuana King Cochnauer presented Telling Our Own Story: Choctaw Code Talkers, at an international conference in Reims, France, in April.

LukeLuke Clay of Rattan, Oklahoma, great-great-grandson of Tobias Frazier, one of the original Code Talkers.This location is near the World War I battlefields where the 19 young Choctaws from Oklahoma were tasked to communicate military messages in Choctaw. Their messages confounded the German army because they could not translate the Choctaw messages. As a result of their successful efforts in October 1918, they later became known as the original Code Talkers.

CodeTalkerCoinTiajuana, a professional heritage and environmental interpreter, is a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation. She will leave Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma flags, provided by the Choctaw Nation, at the battlefields where these Choctaws fought.

Included in her presentation will be a video clip of young Luke Clay of Rattan, Oklahoma, who portrays his great-great-grandfather, Tobias Frazier, one of the original Code Talkers. Her international audience will also learn how the Code Talkers Association and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma are honoring and recognizing the contributions of these first Code Talkers.

Tiajuana is the Dyer, Labor, King and Cochnauer families’ historian and is a registered Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma artist. She has a Special Collections of Choctaw and family material begun at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City. She is donating a quilted wall hanging of the Code Talkers to their Association as a fundraiser. She resides in Aiken, South Carolina.

Read more: Story of Choctaw Code Talkers told at Reims, France conference

“America’s centennial book on World War I”

“Lest We Forget: The Great War” book now available 

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

Chicago’s Pritzker Military Museum & Library (PMML) has published what it hopes to be “America’s book on World War I,” in partnership with the United States World War One Centennial Commission. Lest We Forget: The Great War, with an introduction by Sir Hew Strachan and history by Michael W. Robbins, uses prints, photographs, and scholarship to tell the complex story of World War I. It is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to learn about World War One.

Lest We Forget jacketA companion exhibit at the PMML will run through mid-2019 that can be viewed in person or online here.

Half of net proceeds from the book will go toward building the National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The story of this epic struggle is told through many means, including the powerful and memorable art it spawned--the posters from all nations; a taut narrative account of the war's significant events; its major personalities, and it's tragic consequences; and the timely period photographs that illustrate the awful realities of this revolutionary conflict.

Most importantly, this book is a tribute to those who served: the Doughboys and sailors and the allies they fought beside to defeat collectively a resourceful and implacable enemy. it also serves as a lasting reminder that our world ignores the history of World War I at its peril--lest we forget.

“The 166 print reproductions and 180 photos and maps in this book represent only a small percentage of the PMML’s WWI collection,” says Kenneth Clarke, who served as Executive Editor and Creative Director for the book. “In the case of World War I, the prints tell an incredible story about how each government communicated with its people, its allies, and its enemies. They represent the first time that this kind of propaganda played a significant role in a war.”

Read more: “Lest We Forget: The Great War” book now available

6a35259vTown of Seicheprey, soon after the battle.

The Yanks of Seicheprey 

By Betsy Sheppard
Staff Writer, United States World War One Centennial Commission

On April 20th, 1918, in Seicheprey, France, near the St. Mihiel Salient, American soldiers engaged in their first significant infantry battle of World War I.

Connecticut croppedSoldiers from the 26th Division after the Battle of Seicheprey, 1918. Image courtesy of the National Archives.On the front lines, the St. Mihiel-Metz corridor was seen by General Pershing as the entrance to Imperial Germany. He considered it to be a key operating and training area for his growing force of soldiers.

In 1918, Pershing started sending a number of his divisions to the St. Mihiel Salient for combat exposure, and in situ training. This front-line training involved units from the 26th Division, known at the “Yankee Division”.

The battle of Seicheprey occurred on the southern side of the St. Mihiel salient. There, three companies of the Yankee Division's 102nd Regiment occupied a trench, known as the Sibille trench.

On April 20th, the German Army attacked from the northeast, north, and northwest, arriving at the town simultaneously in three different groups. This attack outmaneuvered the Americans, and inflicted a number of American battle casualties, which ranged between 400 and 500 people wounded & killed.

Read more: The Yanks of Seicheprey

Conference logoPictured above (left to right): General John J. Pershing, President Woodrow Wilson, Brigadier General Hunter Liggett, and Pershing’s aide-de-camp Colonel George C. Marshall

VMI and VA Commission present WWI Symposium

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

Do you have an ancestor who fought in World War 1? History buffs will enjoy this informative and accessible exploration of World War 1 from a political, military and social perspective.

As part of Virginia’s commemoration of the World Wars, this symposium marks the 100th Anniversary of America’s participation in World War I. Join us in the historic setting of Virginia Military Institute in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley as we hear from national and regional experts, who will explore the political and military leadership of World War I, the experiences of the soldiers and generals on the front and the role that Virginians played in the Great War.

The symposium will highlight Woodrow Wilson’s and General Pershing’s leadership, examine military strategies and the experiences of the Doughboys, including African-American soldiers’ contributions, and share the crucial role that Virginians played in the Great War, highlighting the contributions of VMI graduates, the Virginia National Guard, and other Virginia institutions to the war effort.

Read more: VMI and VA Commission present a WWI Commemorative Symposium

Treasure trove of WWI Diplomatic Courier Service Artifacts in en route to the State Department in Washington D.C. 

By Barbara Gleason
Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. State Department

For many, the term “diplomatic courier” might conjure up classic Hollywood images of movie heroes like Tyrone Power or Cesar Romero, adventuring through foreign lands, delivering our government’s most important communiques.

636590720554426940 DSC02864Wearing a protective glove, Robin Peaslee Dougall, the grandson of U.S. Army Maj. Amos Peaslee, shows off his grandfather's draft copy of the Treaty of Versailles. (Photo: Trevor Hughes/USA TODAY)These adventurous courier duties are still relevant today -- and they were particularly relevant in the pre-telephone, pre-radio, pre-internet communication era World War I.

Today's U.S. Diplomatic Courier Service traces its founding to December 2, 1918, when Gen. Pershing directed the creation of a group of handpicked Army couriers to perform host of diplomatic duties. This first group of couriers -- known as the Silver Greyhounds -- was created. organized, and led by Army Major Amos J. Peaslee.

Peaslee's Silver Greyhounds were tasked with reopening diplomatic routes to U.S. Embassies and diplomatic posts across post-war Europe, and into Bolshevik Russia. They were integral to the peace process that ultimately led to the Armistice, and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

When the Silver Greyhounds disbanded in 1919, their jobs were turned over to civilian management through the State Department, which still depends on its 100-strong Diplomatic Courier Service to oversee the secure transport of everything from top-secret reports to blank passports and visa paperwork to encrypted communications equipment and construction materials for new U.S. Embassies in unfriendly countries.

Read more: Treasure trove of WWI Diplomatic Courier Service Artifacts in en route to the State Department in...

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