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World War I Centennial News


 

 

1000w q95Joint service pallbearers carry the Unknown Soldier remains of World War I from the USS Olympia to a horse-drawn caisson to transport the body to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., November 9, 1921. Among the saluting officers is Gen. John Pershing, who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces. New York Army National Guard Maj. Hamilton Fish, who served as commander of Company K, 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters,” an all-black unit of the New York National Guard, introduced the federal resolution in December 1920 as a U.S. Congressman to create an Unknown Soldier memorial on November 11, 1921. Courtesy photo. 

NY National Guardsman Led Fight for Tomb of the Unknown 

By Col. Richard Goldenberg, New York National Guard
via the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

LATHAM, N.Y. – The United States has a Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers today because a New York National Guard Major and freshman Congressman thought it was necessary 100 years ago.

Hamilton FishNew York Army National Guard Maj. Hamilton Fish, in an undated 1919 photo from World War I. Fish served as commander of Company K, 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters,” an all-black unit of the New York National Guard. After the war, Fish was elected to Congress in 1920 from New York and introduced the resolution to create an Unknown Soldier memorial. Courtesy photo.Hamilton Fish III was a 32-year old lawyer with a Harvard degree who could trace his roots back to the last Dutch governor of New Amsterdam, the original settlers of Connecticut, and the first Adjutant General of New York when he ran for Congress in 1920.

He was a progressive Republican member of the New York State Assembly before World War I and signed on to serve as a company commander in the 15th New York Infantry (Colored) of the New York National Guard.

When war came, he led Company K of what became known as the 369th Infantry Regiment, which went down in history as the Harlem Hellfighters.
He earned a Silver Star, and the French War Cross. He took the medals and his famous name and ran for Congress from the Hudson Valley.

The British and French had interred unknown Soldiers with great ceremony on November 11, 1920 to commemorate the 908,000 deaths sustained by the British Empire and the 1.3 million French dead.

Fish thought that the United States, which had suffered 116,516 deaths – 53,402 in combat and 63,114 to disease-- between April 1917 and November 1918, should do the same. He became the lead advocate for a memorial to an American Unknown Soldier.

The purpose, according to Fish, was “to bring home the body of an unknown American warrior who in himself represents no section, creed, or race in the late war and who typifies, moreover, the soul of America and the supreme sacrifice of her heroic dead.”

“There should be no distinction whatever either in the matter of rank, color or wealth,” Fish said. “This man is the unknown American Soldier killed on the battlefields of France.”

Fish introduced Public Resolution 67 of the 66th Congress on December 21, 1920 to do just that.

The resolution called for the return to the United States of the remains of an unknown American Soldier killed in France during World War I. Those remains were to be interred at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery. 

America’s war dead had been buried in France near where they fell in combat. At the close of the war families were given the option of having the remains returned or interred in American cemeteries being built in France.

There was a precedent for these Soldier cemeteries in the 108 national cemeteries built to inter the remains of Civil War Soldiers and veterans since 1862. There was no precedent to honor a single Soldier.

Read more: NY National Guardsman Led Fight for Tomb of the Unknown

 

Marguerite ID 1The identity card of Marguerite Martin, one of the U.S. Army "Hello Girls" telephone operators during World War I.  

Women Answered Call in World War I 

By Kate Kelly
via the americacomesalive.com web site

In World War I telephone operators were needed in Europe. General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, quickly saw that women—American women–would be better at telephone work than the men. The Signal Corps was all male, and they were not only assigned to string lines but to handle all communications and were not doing well at the task.

A call was put out throughout America for women to serve in Europe as operators. The preferred candidates were fluent in French and English.

Background on the U.S. and the War

When the U.S. entered the war in the spring 1917, the U.S. Signal Corps was immediately tasked with stringing new telephone lines. The communication system in war-torn Europe was in shambles. General Pershing even made sure that telephone elements were part of the equipment he brought with him on his arrival in Europe. He knew this was a priority.

As Pershing waited for the system to become operational, he saw that the men were skilled at stringing the lines. However, he noted they were slow and impatient when it came to plugging and unplugging the calls, as operators had to do at that time. The French offered their operators. Pershing tried the French women in the jobs for a time, but the women were not as adept as American operators, and the language difficulties were very frustrating.

Ads Sent Out in U.S.

In November of 1917, Pershing ordered that advertisements be run across America, seeking bilingual women operators—or bilingual women who were willing to be trained. One thousand seven hundred fifty applied; 450 were accepted for training; only 223 qualified to serve.

Marguerite Martin (1894-1959), a resident of San Mateo, California, was among those chosen for training. 

She had an ideal background. Her father was a Frenchman who contracted yellow fever when working to help build the Panama Canal, long before she was born. He was sent north to San Francisco to recover. While there, he met another French immigrant whom he married.

Together the French couple set up a happy household and soon had seven children—one son and six daughters, one of whom was Marguerite. When the only son died from illness, Marguerite’s mother was distraught. She had a mental breakdown and was unable to function. Her father could not raise six girls on his own, so he turned to the church and placed all six daughters in the Catholic orphanage in San Mateo. (During this era, orphanages were frequently used even when there was a living parent. Lee Duncan who served in World War I and found Rin Tin Tin grew up in an orphanage though his mother was alive.)

Read more: Women Answered Call in World War I

 

Des Moines Hosted First-Ever African American Officer Training 

By Roger Riley
via the WHO-13 television station (IA) web site

DES MOINES, Iowa — A page of Des Moines history is also part of Black history. In 1917, a thousand African American college-educated young men came to Des Moines for the Officer Training Program. They were joined by 250 Black non-commissioned officers for training from May through October.

“Des Moines has a really proud legacy of having Fort Des Moines, which is a camp where the first Black officers for the U.S. Army were trained,” said Leo Landis, curator of the State Historical Museum of Iowa.

One of the soldiers who came back after his military days was James B. Morris. He is remembered still at the State Historical Museum of Iowa.

“We do have a number of other items related to James Morris. We have his dog tags from when he served in World War I,” said Landis. “We have other materials connected to his service. His identification badge. We really were grateful to the Morris family for having donated these to the State Historical Museum several years ago.”

The museum also has his uniform jacket he wore in World War I.

“One of the features of the uniform of course is that the patch that these men chose to put on their jacket was the buffalo or bison patch,” said Landis. “That was because in the 1870s and 1880s and 1890s, Black men were serving in the western areas were often referred to as the ‘Buffalo Soldiers.'”

At the Fort Des Moines Museum, there is a large display dedicated to the Fort Des Moines Black Officers Training. There were several reasons the U.S. Army chose Des Moines for this training.

“It was established as a cavalry base, but the cavalry was deployed elsewhere, so this was essentially an empty base,” said Jeff Kluever of the Fort Des Moines Museum. “Another reason was because it was far away from major metropolitan areas and potential distractions for the men who were going to train there. The third reason was because Iowa was willing to welcome them.” 

Read more: Des Moines Hosted First-Ever African American Officer Training

 

How Rockford’s WWI Camp Grant led to an African American community center

By Eric Wilson
via the WQRF-TV (IL) mystateline.com web site 

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford is home to one of the oldest African American community centers in Illinois, a direct descendant of World War I’s Camp Grant.

For more than a year, Joyce Higgins has been the executive director of the African American Resource Center (AARC) at Booker Washington Community Center, 524 Kent St, but she’s been involved at the center for decades.

“The Booker Washington Center would not even exist if it wasn’t for segregation,” she said. “It’s an excitement to tell this history…there’s so much of it.”

Camp Grant was one of 16 cantonments across the United States, used to train soldiers. The camp, like the country, was racially segregated at the time.

“By November of 1917 to October 1918, a maximum of 13,898 Negro enlistees had come to the Rockford area,” Higgins said.

In the 1910 Census, Rockford had fewer than 200 Black residents, and soldiers volunteered for service, despite what many prominent Black leaders across the country were saying.

“Many of them were anti-war,” Higgins said. “They were like, ‘America is not gonna do anything for us.’ But, African Americans still lined up, 400,000 of them.”

Read more: How Rockford’s WWI Camp Grant led to an African American community center

 

Creede CO 1918 Mary Elting Folsom 1017 insetThe silver mining town of Creede, Colorado in 1918; (inset) Creede resident Mary Elting Folsom in 1017 

Creede, Colorado and World War I—A Knitter’s Tale 

By Robert Moll
via the History Colorado web site 

“Grandma, do you know how to knit?”

It was the summer of 2000 and eleven-year-old Lizzie, a beginning knitter, hoped she’d found a mentor—her ninety-four-year-old grandmother, Mary Elting Folsom. Lizzie’s question took Mary back to 1917, several months after the US entered World War I.

"Yes, Lizzie, I do know how to knit. I learned during the summer of 1917, when I was eleven. Surprisingly, my teacher was a British army recruiter who had come to my home town of Creede, Colorado."

Located high in the San Juan mountains of southern Colorado, Creede was a silver mining town when Mary was born in 1906. Silver had been discovered there in 1889, just before the US Congress passed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. This legislation required the US Treasury to make substantial monthly purchases of silver, for which it issued special silver-backed paper currency. The price of the metal quickly shot up, and in a matter of months Creede became one of North America’s wildest mining camps. The silver craze attracted more than ten thousand prospectors, miners, and adventurers, who took up residence in tent cities that ringed the town.

Legendary figures of the Wild West were among the town’s new inhabitants. Bat Masterson turned up, not as a lawman but as a saloon keeper. Bob Ford, killer of Jesse James in Missouri in 1882, also came, only to be gunned down himself in his own saloon in 1892. Swindlers and gunfighters, gambling halls and brothels—that was Creede in its heyday. 

Then, in 1893, an economic panic hit the country and people began exchanging their new silver-backed paper currency for gold coins. Fearing a run on its gold reserves, the US Treasury stopped buying silver altogether. The price of the metal fell dramatically, ending Creede’s three year run as a silver boomtown. Work continued at the largest mines, but the population of the town soon fell to about a thousand. Still, Creede’s early rowdiness remained a part of town life through the time of the First World War.

In the midst of Creede’s roughness, Mary grew up in a respectable middle-class family. Her father was a storekeeper who sold hay and grain for the town’s horses and mules. Her mother was a former schoolteacher who gave Mary a proper upbringing. When Mary asked why the women standing in front of a house down the street were wearing kimonos, her mother answered sharply, “You’re too young to know.” Years later she realized that the establishment had been a brothel. In summer the family retreated from rough-and-tumble Creede to Antler’s Park, a former dude ranch they owned west of town.

Read more: Creede, Colorado and World War I—A Knitter’s Tale 

 

 HUNTON WITH BLACK SOLDIERAfrican American suffragist Addie Waites Hunton (right) pictured with an unidentified Black American Soldier in France during World War I. Hunton served with the YWCA in France during1918 and 1919 in a variety of roles supporting the segregated Black troops stationed there.

African American suffragist supported troops in WWI YWCA 

By Kathy Coker
via the Richmond Public Library (VA) web site 

In preparation for Black History Month, I did a little research and uncovered some fascinating people like Addie Waites Hunton, an African American suffragist, activist, writer, political organizer, and educator.

Early Life

Born in Norfolk on June 11, 1866, Addie D. Waites lost her mother as a child and then moved to Boston to be raised by a maternal aunt. She was the first black woman to graduate from Philadelphia’s Spencerian College of Commerce. Waites then moved to Normal, Alabama, where she taught at the State Normal and Agricultural College (now Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University).

Marriage and Early Civic Work

In July 1893, she married William Alphaeus Hunton, who had come to Norfolk in 1888 to found and become secretary of a Young Men’s Christian Association for Negro youth. During the first years of her marriage, Hunton worked full time and also was her husband’s secretary. She became a member of the National Association of Colored Women, attending the 1895 founding convention in Boston as a delegate from the Woman’s League of Richmond.

After living in Norfolk and Richmond, in 1899 the Huntons moved to Atlanta, Georgia. She had four children, but only two survived infancy. After the 1906 Atlanta race riot, the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where the Huntons continued their activism. In 1907, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) appointed her secretary to work among black Americans. She toured the South and Midwest, attracting prominent black women to the YWCA.

Around August 1902, Hunton addressed The Negro People’s Christian and Educational Congress in Atlanta. Her talk was entitled “A Pure Motherhood: The Basis of Racial Integrity.” She began with:

"This great and unique Congress has rightly discerned the signs of the times inasmuch as it has given due recognition to the women of the race. For, in the discussion of these problems affecting the highest and purest development of our people, the relation of woman to that development cannot be ignored."

Hunton said women had shown their leadership in the church, in social and moral reforms, and in the business world. “To woman is given the sacred and divine trust of developing the germ of life….Upon the Negro woman rests a burden of responsibility peculiar in its demands.” Hunton called upon the “intelligent mothers of the race…to concentrate their efforts… [to] diminish the number of poorly born poorly bred and deformed children…out on the streets….”

From 1906 to 1910, she was a countrywide organizer for the National Association of Colored Women (NACW).

Read more: African American suffragist supported troops in WWI YWCA

 

F134 Nieuport 28 Fighter PlaneThough rejected by the French, the Nieuport 28 Fighter Plane was adopted as a stop-gap measure by the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War I, and saw extensive useful service in support of the Doughboys. 

French-Built and American Flown: Meet the Nieuport 28 Fighter Plane 

By Peter Suciu
via the nationalinterest.org web site 

When the United States military went “over there” to take on the Huns (the Germans) during the First World War, what it lacked in equipment it more than made up for in determination. However, it weapons were needed for the Americans to do the fighting.

This meant that Americans often relied on foreign equipment, and in the case of aircraft the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) used what it could get. After the French rejected the Nieuport 28C.1, which was introduced in mid-1917, in favor of the far sturdier and more advanced Spad XIII, the newly arrived Americans adopted the Nieuport 28 as a stop-gap measure.

Shortages of the Spad meant that the Nieuport 28 was issued to four American squadrons between March and August 1918, and quickly the American pilots made due with what they could. Those first American pilots who took to the skies in the lightly built aircraft soon discovered its reputation for shedding its upper wing fabric in a dive, but the pilots persevered. Soon after receiving the fighter, on April 14, 1918 American pilots Lt. Alan Winslow and Lt. Douglas Campbell of the 94th Aero Squadron each downed an enemy aircraft—the first victories by an AEF unit.

Even as the aircraft was considered practically obsolete by the time it was provided, the Americans who flew it maintained a favorable ratio of victories to losses. Many American World War I flying aces, including twenty-six-victory ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, flew in the Nieuport 28 at one point in their careers, and it was only in the summer of 1918 that the aircraft was rotated out of service.

Many of Rickenbacker’s victories were scored in the aircraft, but his impressive wartime career was almost cut short when the upper wing fabric of his fighter tore apart in a flight, while Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Quentin, and fellow U.S. fighter Ace Raoul Lufbery were each killed whilst piloting a Nieuport 28.

Read more: French-Built and American Flown: Meet the Nieuport 28 Fighter Plane

 

World War I Memorial Bladensburg Maryland 003World War I "Peace Cross " Memorial in Bladensburg Maryland was constructed in 1919 in honor of World War 1 servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Over the years, the monument has fallen into disrepair and is in need of maintenance.  

Black heroes highlighted in call for Peace Cross restoration funding 

By Matthew Delaney
via the WTOP radio (DC) web site 

The Bladensburg World War I Memorial, known as the Peace Cross, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, which includes the names of four Black soldiers who died in World War I, needs money for restoration.

Calls for funding are being made specifically during Black History Month.

“Funds are needed to begin this vital endeavor. To address the need, the Department of Parks and Recreation is fundraising to repair the Peace Cross,” Department Resource Development Officer Tracy Wright said in a news release.

“We encourage the community to join us and help support the restoration of this historical monument which honors our fallen Black heroes.”

Maryland State Sen. Malcolm Augustine called fundraising efforts a “worthy tribute to a worthy cause” in the release.

“As we honor the African Americans memorialized on the Bladensburg WWI Memorial, commonly known as the Peace Cross, during Black History month, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our thanks by contributing to the restoration of the Memorial.”

The African Americans highlighted on the Peace Cross are:

  • Clarence Butler (4/14/1890 – 10/6/1918), a farmer with his father in Nottingham.
  • James Cooper (3/1/1897 – 10/5/1918), a farmer in Aquasco.
  • John Seaburn (10/27/1897 – 10/4/1918), grew up in what is now North Brentwood.
  • Benjamin Thompson (1/11/1894 – 10/13/1918), was born in Waldorf and worked for himself as a farmer.

The Peace Cross memorial was constructed in 1919 to honor the 49 Prince George’s County residents who died fighting in World War I.

Read more: Black heroes highlighted in call for Peace Cross restoration funding

 

Elgin’s Black Soldiers Served Proudly in U.S. Armed Forces during WWI 

By Rebecca Miller
via the kanecountyconnects.com (IL) web site

Throughout our nation’s history, Black soldiers have served proudly in the U.S. armed forces.

Beginning with the Battle of Lexington and continuing to the present day, Black women and men have answered America’s call and served bravely. Their sacrifice often came at a time when the nation as a whole did not recognize the value of the Black community and offered only limited and segregated opportunities for military service.

Assigned to menial jobs and barred from advancement, Black soldiers were subjected to widespread racism while serving to protect American ideals that did not include them.

Elgin History RegimentThe 8th Illinois Regiment was originally formed in 1898 by Gov. John R. Tanner of Illinois. Tanner authorized the formation of a regiment of Black Soldiers recruited from communities in Chicago and Springfield. The regiment made history as it was the only unit to be led by Black officers to fight in the Spanish American War. Shown here in 1917, the regiment would become the 370th U.S. Infantry and go on to see action in France and Belgium. The 370th is one of few African-American regiments that served in combat in World War I and notably was the only regiment commanded entirely by Black officers. Photo provided by Jeff Williams, The Bearded Historian.

 Segregated Regiments

Black soldiers serving prior to 1948 were almost exclusively led by white commanders and lower ranking white officers. Black soldiers or all-Black units were reduced to support functions such as building roads or serving as cooks and porters.

Yet the bravery of these soldiers and the potential leadership among their ranks could not be ignored. In the period leading up to WWI, the 8th Regiment of the Illinois National Guard would make history. This unit would become known as the 370th U.S. Infantry and was made up entirely of Black soldiers, officers and commanders.

The 370th Infantry would see combat in France, becoming the first U.S. regiment in the French region of Alsace-Lorraine. Among its ranks was Elgin’s own Lewis P. Andrews.

Lifelong Elgin Resident

Born in Elgin on Aug. 5, 1879, Lewis Percy Andrews was already a veteran of the Spanish American War (1898) and had been a well-known star on the Elgin High School football team, where he played left defensive end. He was the son of Samuel Newser Andrews, a Civil War veteran who had served in Company B, 42nd Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry.

Lewis P. Andrews mustered into the 370th U.S. Infantry in 1917 as a supply sergeant assigned to the Quartermaster’s Corps. His incoming rank reflected his prior military service.

Read more: Elgin’s Black Soldiers Served Proudly in U.S. Armed Forces during WWI

 

 

A rifle and a shovel — As a wagoner in World War I, early Pablo Beach resident made his mark in history 

By Johnny Woodhouse
via the Beaches Museum (FL) web site

The oldest headstone in Lee Kirkland Cemetery, the historic African-American graveyard in Jacksonville Beach, belongs to Jessie Butler, a native Floridian who performed back-breaking work in a seaside mining camp known as Mineral City before serving his country overseas in World War I.

ButlerTombstone 450x600Wagoner Jessie Butler of Pablo Beach, FL, was one of more than 200,000 African Americans who served with the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front during World War I.The upright marble headstone, issued by the U.S. Government, denotes the little-known unit he served in during the war, and, most importantly, his rank – that of wagoner.

Born in Fort White, Fla., in 1892, Butler moved to Jacksonville with his mother and younger siblings on or before 1910, according to U.S. Census records. Fatherless at the time, Butler, then 17, and his family members lived in a boarding house where both his mother and younger sister earned money washing clothes.

According to census records, Butler worked two jobs in 1910, including as a carpenter for Jacksonville resident Pleasant Niblack. A skilled laborer for most of his short life, Butler listed his employer as Buckman and Pritchard, Inc. on his 1917 WWI draft registration card. 

Henry Buckman and George Pritchard began mining the beach for rare minerals in 1916 after discovering a huge vein south of the St. Johns County line, according to “Turning sand into gold” by late historian Don Mabry. “World War I was raging in Europe and these elements were extremely valuable in weapons of war,” Mabry wrote. “Extracting it from the sand required machinery and men.”

And mules.

According to a 1918 Duval County draft board record, Butler, then 25, listed his occupation as teamster. In those days, a teamster was not a truck driver but a driver of a team of animals.

At the Buckman and Pritchard mining operation, mule teams were used to pull slip pans across the sand in order to unearth raw minerals like ilmenite, the most important ore in titanium. In all likelihood, Butler honed his teamster skills at the Buckman and Pritchard sand plant in Mineral City, which later became Ponte Vedra Beach.

Driving mule teams was a skill that was sought after by Army supply units during WWI.

Read more: A rifle and a shovel — As a wagoner in World War I, early Pablo Beach resident made his mark in...

 

It's 58 feet long and 10 feet high: NJ sculptor's WWI monument will speak for a nation 

By Jim Beckerman
via the NorthJersey.com web site

"That's fitting for World War I" quipped artist's model Christian Ashdale.

It was a detached leg.

A casualty, not of war, but of the artistic process, explained Sabin Howard — the master sculptor behind an extraordinary First World War monument taking shape in Englewood.

"We're still redesigning on the fly now," said Howard, who on a recent Wednesday afternoon had that leg — literally — in hand.

A perfectly good leg. Or anyway, as good as a leg made of Styrofoam covered with a thin coating of Plasteline clay needs to be.

But it no longer seemed to work, in the context of the 38 figures that crowd and jostle on the enormous 58-foot long, 10-foot high tableau he calls "A Soldier's Journey." It would have to be redone. "Everything is relational," Howard said. "You see how we move things around."

Since August 2019, Howard and a dogged team of sculptors and models have been at work on what, for sheer scale alone, must count as one of the epic art projects of the 21st century.

His mammoth sculpture group, which will become the nation's official World War I monument when it's unveiled in Washington, D.C., in 2023 or 2024, may be the largest freestanding bronze relief in the western hemisphere. 

Read more: It's 58 feet long and 10 feet high: NJ sculptor's WWI monument will speak for a nation

 

New Book Gives Voice to the Men of the Famous Lost Battalion 

Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

71IRgfrrL8LIn the history of American participation in WW1, two stories remain the most recognized: that of Sergeant York, and that of the ‘Lost Battalion.’ Now another chapter in the tale of the Lost Battalion has been told in a new book by WW1 author and historian Robert J. Laplander titled The Lost Battalion: As They Saw It.

Most know the general story. Between October 2nd and October 7th, 1918 Major Charles Whittlesey of the 77th Division led nearly 700 men into the narrow Charlevaux Ravine during the battle in the Argonne Forest.

They were quickly surrounded by the Germans and during their five-day siege in that ravine endured starvation, continual enemy attacks, a mistaken artillery barrage by their own forces, and an eventual casualty rate of nearly 72%.

Many will recall the story of the "surrender demand" sent to them by the Germans, and Major Whittlesey’s supposed reply that they could ‘go to hell’, as well as the story of Cher Ami, the little pigeon that delivered the message that stopped the American artillery barrage. But few people have heard the stories of the men themselves. Until now.

Author and World War I historian Robert J. Laplander has been researching the Lost Battalion episode for 25 years, and has amassed an enormous collection of information concerning the story – including many personal remembrances. Much of his research was used in his first book on the subject, ‘Finding the Lost Battalion: Beyond the Rumors, Myths and Legends of America’s Famous WW1 Epic’ which was first released in 2006. Since then it has become the ‘bible’ of that event. The updated US WWI Centennial Edition was released in January, 2017.

“I have dozens of diaries, letters and memoirs from the men who were there,” Laplander says, “and everywhere I go to speak on the subject, folks ask me for more of the men’s stories.” And speak on the subject he does, all over the country, including a lecture recorded at the National WW1 Museum in Kansas City in 2018 and broadcast on CSPAN as Hell’s Half Acre: The Story of the Lost Battalion (available for viewing on YouTube).

Read more: New Book Gives Voice to the Men of the Famous Lost Battalion

 

From Clay to Bronze: The First Pour

By Theo Mayer
Chief Technologist, United States World War One Centennial Commission and The Doughboy Foundation

January 19, 2021 was a significant day for the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.

On this date, the 58-foot long, 38-figure Memorial centerpiece sculpture titled "A Soldier's Journey" reached a new milestone on its journey, as the sculpture's first elements were cast into bronze in a "First Pour." It was very exciting for members of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission staff, the American Battle Monuments Commission staff, Sabin Howard Studios, and the Doughboy Foundation who were privileged to take a virtual field trip to Pangolin Editions Foundry in the United Kingdom to witness the milestone event.

“This first pour was one more step toward fulfillment of a vision that was planted more than a decade ago," said Edwin Fountain, General Counsel at the American Battle Monuments Commission, and former Vice Chair of the WWI Centennial Commission. "By memorializing them in figurative bronze, we will honor America’s World War I servicemen and women in a noble and timeless medium that is fitting to their service.”

Sculptor Sabin Howard, after observing the first pour, declared that "With the clay sculpture now being cast in bronze, the sculpture will now outlast us all. This memorial will play forward the sacredness and importance of WWI; it is made for the visitors coming to Washington to see this country’s history."

Describing the Action:

Click on the image above to play the 5 minute video of the first pour. You will see a volume of molten bronze transferred into a big metal container called the crucible. According to the experts, it is usually made of graphite or silicon carbide, which can handle the extreme temperatures of the molten metal.

As you watch them fill the crucible, you will see the "Lead Pour", the person in charge of the operation, toss little nuggets of something into the crucible. It turn out that those are pieces of Silicon which helps the bronze flow better, makes it less brittle and reduces metal contraction as it cools. More than simply a large mechanical process, there is a a great deal of craft and art in the process.

Read more: From Clay to Bronze - The First Pour

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