World War I Centennial News



CT 11 13 Cordova Chronicles 1 696x522At Mile 34.6 the sign on the last bridge standing on what remains of the Copper River Highway honors Lucian Platt, a Cordovan who gave his life in World War I. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/The Cordova Times

Seven bridge signs honor fallen World War I Alaskans from Cordova

By Dick Shellhorn
via the .thecordovatimes.com (AK) web site

Last week article’s about bridge name signs gave some background into the process that resulted in their installation to honor Cordova veterans who gave their lives defending our country.

This week the focus is on bridges named for servicemen who were lost in World War I. In a way, it seems logical to start in that order, although the bridges are named in the opposite order, with the bridges furthest from town being named for WWI honorees.

In an unfortunate twist, three of the bridges that were to have names are no longer intact or approachable, due to the washout at 36.2 Mile.

One of these bridges, listed as #345, is at Mile 37.9 on the other side of the washout. It was to be named the James Bennett Bridge.

Bennett was the first Cordovan lost in World War I. He was born on April 7, 1892 in Canada, and while assigned to Company C, 18th Engineers Railway Regiment, died on June 29, 1918. His assignment to a railway regiment makes sense, as he was formerly an engineer on the Copper River and Northwestern Railway (CR&NWR) that hauled copper ore from the mines at Kennecott to Cordova.

Bennett left Cordova on March 15, 1918 by the steamer Northwestern to enlist in the Thirty First Engineers at Fort Lawton, Washington. He drowned while swimming in a river near his camp in Samur, France. The Aug. 26, 1918 edition of The Cordova Daily Times stated that “The sad news is conveyed in a copy of ‘The Spiker’, published by the men of his regiment.” Cause of death was believed to be heart failure while in the water. He was buried in the cemetery near Base Hospital No. 6. in France.

Bridge #342, at Mile 37.0, also on the other side of the washout, was to be named the William Morris Jones Bridge. Jones was born on March 1, 1895, in Remsen, New York, and died on July 26, 1918. He served in Company C, Thirty-first Engineers, and was formerly a CR&NWR locomotive fireman. He died of head injuries while performing his duties on a moving train. Jones complained of not feeling well, went to an open window for fresh air, and was struck by a pole. It was stated that clearance on the French railroads was not as wide as it was on American railroad.

The Flag Point West Bridge at Mile 26.7 is named after his brother John W. Jones, who died in action three months later on Nov. 3, 1918 in the battle at Argonne Forest, France. John, the older brother of William Jones, was born on Nov. 22, 1893, also in Remsen, NY. He too, was an employee of the CR&NWR prior to entering the service.

Four months prior to his death, John, a Marine, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre, a medal that recognized acts of bravery, for his actions on July 18, 1918, when under heavy shell fire, he helped carry his severely wounded company commander three kilometers to an ambulance station near Vierzey.

He died eight days before the end of the war.

Read more: Seven bridge signs honor fallen World War I Cordovans


grave12 14A bugler from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 606 plays Taps at the dedication of the grave marker for WWI Buffalo Soldier John M. Fields on November 11 in Toledo, OH. 

Grave marker dedicated to Buffalo Soldier who served in World War I

By Tom Henry
via the Toledo Blade newspaper (OH) web site

A Buffalo Soldier from Toledo who served his country during World War I finally got the sendoff to heaven he deserved.

John M. Fields, a black Army private who served in France and was honorably discharged on July 21, 1919, had been buried at Forest Cemetery with no grave marker since dying on Dec. 28, 1960.

That changed on Veterans Day this year.

The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution took up the cause and got Private Fields the grave marker he deserved 60 years later.

Under a sunny sky amid a cool November breeze, the afternoon ceremony arranged by the group’s Michigan chapter lasted about an hour and included remarks from such dignitaries as U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, and state Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D., Toledo).

There also was a color guard assembled by the society, remarks by a chaplain, the Rev. Sam Laswell, wreaths placed at Private Fields’ gravesite, a salute from a volley-firing honor guard assembled by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 606, and a rendition of Taps by a bugler from the post.

Nobody there knew the Fields family directly. Although he married a prominent woman later in life, the couple never had children.

But the nearly three dozen people witnessing the dedication heard why Private Fields represents what’s good about America on Veterans Day, the time in which the country came together to pay its respects to those who served our nation overseas.

“The price of freedom is not free,” Miss Kaptur said. “We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.”

Mayor Kapszukiewicz said Private Fields deserves to be remembered as a hero like other veterans.

“He and his family loved this country, even when this country didn’t love him back,” he said. “It shouldn’t be like that.”

Read more: Grave marker dedicated to Buffalo Soldier who served in World War I


A Plainfield, NJ World War I Story Reaches Across the Pond 

By Nancy Piwowar
via the TAPintoPlainfield.net (NJ) web site

PLAINFIELD, NJ — In May 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, TAPinto Plainfield published an article announcing the Drake House Museum's online exhibit entitled “Plainfield During WWI and the Influenza Pandemic.” That article, it turned out, would connect the past to the present.

Leanne Manna, a Trustee at the Drake House, curated the exhibit and posted it online. Rutgers University Intern Stephanie Quartsin and I helped to research and document the veterans. Manna also designed the original exhibit panels that were funded by the Gannett Foundation.

Martin Kane buried Regan headstoneMartin Kane was buried in a Regan family plot in Plainfield, NJ.The exhibit was dedicated to the memory of the 45 soldiers and their Gold Star Families from Plainfield and the surrounding area who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during World War I. Twenty-three of the soldiers succumbed to the ravages of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. May they all rest in peace.

The article included the name of one casualty, Martin J. Kane, and a relative of his, who lives Ireland, found the article about the online exhibit.

Kane’s family had heard stories about their uncle who was a WWI casualty, but the details were sketchy and incomplete. One Irish niece (now in her 80s), who was born after his death, felt bad that no one in the family had ever visited his grave in New Jersey. She recently lost her husband, and has been homebound in Ireland due to the current pandemic, so it couldn't be her.

Her son and daughter-in-law from the Philadelphia area thought, as a way to lift her spirits from afar, they would embark on the journey of locating Kane’s burial site, and keep her updated on the progress. Information was exchanged across the “Pond” (Atlantic) by the family members.

The family’s inquiry was answered, and the pieces of a puzzle over 100 years in the making were fitted together.  The Historical Society made calls to St. Mary’s Church, and both its Pastor, Reverend Manoel Oliveira, and church staff were very helpful.  A tour of the cemetery was taken with Antonio, the caretaker, and the burial site was located, but there is no grave marker for Martin J. Kane, U.S. Coast Guard, WWI Veteran.

Kane’s story is one of an Irish immigrant’s.  He was born in Kilkelly, Ireland, in 1895, and his mother died when he was ten years old.  Later in life, he decided to immigrate to America, and he arrived at Ellis Island on the St. Louis passenger ship in 1915.  His last name was changed from Keane to Kane when he arrived in the U.S., a common occurrence for immigrants.

Kane settled in this area because he had an uncle, Martin Regan, who lived on Spooner Avenue, and he was employed by the Spicer Manufacturing Company in South Plainfield.  Three years after his arrival, at the age of 23, he was among the men drafted for WWI.  He entered the U.S. Coast Guard in May 1918, and served in Company D, Fifteenth Battalion.

Read more: A Plainfield, NJ World War I Story Reaches Across the Pond


Michael Neiberg remembers the WWI roots of Veterans Day 

By Michael Neiberg
via the US Army War College web site

The first Veterans Day (then called Armistice Day), on November 11, 1919, was a solemn and serious event commemorated worldwide. The First World War left behind an estimated three million widows and six million orphans, in addition to eight million men killed in combat and unknown millions more who died in the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. Marking the one-year anniversary of the end of the fighting gave people a chance to honor all of the victims, military and civilian alike, of this terrible war.

FlagThe vast majority of Americans who died in Europe were buried overseas, meaning that most families had no local grave over which to mourn. Communal mourning and commemoration helped fill some of the need for bereavement. Armistice Day, 1919, therefore, had little of the triumphant mood that had marked the end of the war a year earlier. It was not to be a day of celebration but a day to bow heads in remembrance.

Accordingly, local newspaper accounts from that day show no sense of joy. President Wilson, General Pershing, and many other dignitaries released somber statements of appreciation for the service of Americans during the war and the need for the country to work toward peace. In most American cities and towns, businesses paused for the symbolic eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day. Trolley cars stopped, schools observed a moment of silence, prominent local veterans gave speeches, and local dignitaries laid wreaths at war monuments either recently completed or just being built.

Although the commemoration was more civic than religious, church bells rang, and houses of worship opened their doors for special services.

In subsequent years, November 11 became more critical to British and French memory of the war than to American memory. The war had affected Europeans much more, of course, than it had affected Americans. Remembrance Day became a holiday in France in 1922. Great Britain began to mark Remembrance Sunday at the same time. The British (and much of their empire, including Canada) began a poppy campaign culminating each year on November 11 to raise money for wounded veterans. The French followed suit, using a blue cornflower as a symbol of remembrance. Americans held parades and made speeches, but the day never had quite the same meaning, not even after President Roosevelt made Armistice Day a federal holiday in 1938.

Read more: Michael Neiberg remembers the WWI roots of Veterans Day


110420 N DG JIMSLATER S0 Jim Slater holds the handwritten letter penned by his dad, Henry Slater, while he was serving in World War I. To the right is a photo of his parents, Henry and Lena. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe) 

Minnesota family recovers century-old letter from WWI 

By Julie Buntjer
via the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper (MN) web site

WORTHINGTON, Minn. — A century-old letter written by a Nobles County, Minn., World War I veteran is in the hands of his granddaughter, thanks to a casual conversation among distant cousins at a family gathering.

Henry Slater penned a letter home to his Wilmont, Minn., family on June 15, 1918, from somewhere in France.

“Dear Bro & Sis & all — It is some time since I wrote and spose you think I’ve forgotten, but we’ve been pretty busy & things are not near so handy as we use to have them,” Slater began. “Have moved several times since we’re here & whenever we move we just put everything we have in a pack and start off. ... We are stationed in small towns and sleep in billets. Haven’t even any blankets, they were to be hauled here from the other town when we left, but haven’t come. Don’t think we’ll get any. When we want to sleep, just put on our overcoats and throw raincoats over us and flop in the straw.” 

The 25-year-old son of farmers was drafted by the National Army on Feb. 26, 1918, and assigned to serve as a cook in Company C of the 131st Infantry. He spoke of meals eaten while sitting in the street  and “not any too big meals either,” he shared. “Things are not so plentiful as in the U.S. Everything is given out in rations here, even to the people living here. The scarcest thing here is good water.”

Slater said little cans of salmon could be purchased for 80 cents; small bananas for 10 cents.

“Candy or cookies can’t hardly be gotten for any price,” he wrote on paper with the letterhead, Knight of Columbus War Activities, that was provided to soldiers.

The letter was written on Day Four of a march that had soldiers carrying everything they owned to their next destination.

“We had to give away lots of little things we’d like to keep or send home, but nothing doing,” Slater penned. He spoke of daily drills led by Scottish instructors experienced on the front lines, and seeing a lot of English soldiers in the area where he was located.

That the letter is now in the hands of Slater’s son, Jim, and granddaughter, Barb (Slater) Froiland, is a story in itself. 

Read more: Minnesota family recovers century-old letter from WWI


WWI Salute Hayesville Mike Hocker 1024x768July 2017 performance at the Hayesville Opera House (built 1886) in Ohio, on the National Historic Register, taken with in-house hand-painted historic backdrops. Photo by Mike Hocker. 

Reflections on “The Songs of World War One” Program 

By Cecelia Otto
via the americansongline.com web site

In March of 2017, two years after I performed my first Lincoln Highway concert, I debuted my second big concert program titled, “The Songs of World War One”. I knew that people would learn and enjoy the program, but I had no idea how it would be received. It was a wonderful surprise to find out not only that people enjoyed the concerts, but that I performed the music well past the 100th anniversary of the Armistice – all the way to November of 2019.

In those two and a half years of performing those songs, I met and connected with so many people nationwide who had their own stories and songs to share. And those stories made me think of all of the programs in a whole new way, and they changed me. It’s been a year since I last wore my re-created uniform, and I felt impelled to share some of what I saw and learned with you all.

  1. I had people of all backgrounds come to hear me sing and learn about this moment in history. The First World War is often a footnote in American history for your average person in the US. They didn’t learn about it (much) in school, and that’s more often than not because we really weren’t the “heroes” as we were in World War Two. And with the 1918 flu pandemic, Prohibition, The Great Depression and more, the Great War often takes a backseat in some history books and lesson plans. I was a part of a WWI marker dedication in Boise, Idaho in 2018. Because of the aforementioned circumstances, they never had a memorial put up in their Veterans’ Park, and were finally able to commemorate it a century later.

  2. Because of this war being overlooked, the roles that women played in the WWI are often forgotten or unknown here. My uniform as a contract Army surgeon was often a topic of discussion; people either thought I was “playing a non-American woman” onstage (French or Russian), or they assumed that it was not a “real costume”. I deliberately chose to re-create a surgeon’s uniform because of two reasons: 1) To highlight roles beyond what most people know (i.e. a nurse or a “Hello Girl”) and 2) To show modern audiences that some women who had special expertise were hired for their knowledge versus taking on a volunteer role (women were not allowed to enlist at the time).

  3. People often ask me if any contentious things happened at my shows. “Do things get political during your concerts?” they would ask. My answer: Never. People leave their personal beliefs at the door, they come to learn, sing along and have a laugh. I take my responsibility as a performer and historian to hold and create a space where they can come back in time with me without present-day judgements. And that shared experience builds community in the best way possible.

Read more: Reflections on “The Songs of World War One” Program


Harlem Hellfighters 369th Regiment Arrives HomeHarlem Hellfighters 369th Regiment Arrives Home 

The Harlem Hellfighters: African-American New Yorkers were some of WWI’s most decorated soldiers 

By Lucie Levine
via the 6sqft.com (NY) web site

By the end of World War II, the Croix de Guerre, France’s highest military honor, would be awarded to the 369th Infantry Regiment. Better known as the Harlem Hellfighters, the regiment was an all-black American unit serving under French command in World War I, and they spent a stunning 191 days at the Front, more than any other American unit. In that time, they never lost a trench to the enemy or a man to capture. Instead, they earned the respect of both allies and enemies, helped introduce Jazz to France, and returned home to a grateful city where hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers turned out to welcome home 3,000 Hellfighter heroes in a victory parade that stretched from 23rd Street and 5th Avenue to 145th Street and Lenox.

The deluge of celebration and weeping that greeted the returning Hellfighters when the parade made its way to Harlem was particularly impassioned since 70 percent of the regiment called Harlem home. But just as moving was the fact that the parade was the first such event following World Word II, for black or white soldiers, and the whole city was jubilant.

 In a three-page spread covering the parade, the New York Tribune wrote, “Never have white Americans accorded so heartfelt and hearty a reception to a contingent of their black countrymen.” The paper observed, “In every line, proud chests expanded beneath the metals valor had won. The impassioned cheering of the crowds massed along the way drowned the blaring cadence of their former jazz band. The old 15th was on parade, and New York turned out to tender its dark-skinned heroes a New York welcome.”

But that welcome stood in stark contrast to the Hellfighters’ experience in the City’s 1917 Farewell Parade. At the time, the unit was known as the 15th New York (Colored) Regiment of the state’s National Guard. It was part of the US Army’s “Rainbow Division,” a cadre of 27,000 troops from around the nation mustered in when the United States entered the war. Most of the Rainbow Division shipped off to Europe in August 1917. The Hellfighters wouldn’t arrive in France until late December of year. They had not been allowed to march off to war with the rest of the Rainbow Division, or to participate in the city’s farewell parade, because, they were told, “black is not a color of the rainbow.”

Read more: The Harlem Hellfighters: African-American New Yorkers were some of WWI’s most decorated soldiers


U.S. troops of the 107th Regiment Infantry 27th DivisionIn this Sept. 13, 1918 file photo, U.S. troops of the 107th Regiment Infantry, 27th Division, advance on a path through a barbed wire entanglement near Beauqueanes, France.

Armistice Day: WWI was meant to be the war that ended all wars. It wasn't. 

By Orlando Crowcroft
via the euronews.com web site

It was the British author, H.G. Wells, that coined the expression: "The war that will end war" to describe World War One, which had broken out in Europe in September 1914. Wells believed the conflict would create a new world order that would make future conflict impossible.

It would do so, Wells believed, by crushing the militarism of Germany under the Kaiser and its allies, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The Allies - Great Britain, France, and Russia - were, Wells wrote, not only soldiers in a war but “crusaders against war”.

“There shall be no more Kaisers [...]. We are resolved. That foolery shall end! It is the last war.”

Wells’ belief was that the militarisation of Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, and particularly the manufacture of heavy armaments and modern weapons, had been pioneered by Germany and had spread outwards, forcing Europe as a whole down the same path.

He was making the argument at a time when many in Britain did not believe that the country should join France and Russia in fighting Germany and Austria-Hungary in the war, sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb nationalist.
'The opportunity for revenge'

Wells first wrote the phrase in August 1914 and within weeks it had become a mantra. But while in 1914 its sentiment was optimistic - positive, even - by 1918 it was desperate. Europe was in ruins, millions were dead. It had to be the last war because Europe could not have another.

World War One was the end of a number of things: It led to the collapse of no less than four empires. The Weimar Republic replaced the German Kaiser, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires fell, and in 1917 the Bolsheviks overthrew Tsar Nicholas II.

But the Europe that came next was certainly not the new social order that Wells had hoped to see - and it was not the end of war. Just 15 years later, Adolf Hitler became Germany’s chancellor and Europe was again on the path to a brutal and epoch-defining conflict.

Even in 1914, there were those who did not approve of Wells’ prediction. Philosopher Bertrand Russell argued, in an open letter to Wells published in a British journal, that even if Germany was defeated: “Why should Germany not wait [...] for the opportunity of revenge?”

Russell said that the only way to make WW1 the “war to end war” would be a new era of leaders that were quite different from those that had taken Europe into war, and - crucially, as things would turn out - the avoidance of “intolerable humiliation for the vanquished”. 

Read more: Armistice Day: WWI was meant to be the war that ended all wars. It wasn't.


Sculptors from NJ creating the next great monument in DC 

By CeFaan Kim
via the abc7ny.com (WABC-TV NYC) web site

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WABC) -- Sculptors from New Jersey are creating the newest war monument bound for Washington, and when it's finished, it will become one of the iconic masterpieces of our nation alongside the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

The First World War ushered in technology still with us today -- from war planes to tanks to machine guns to poison gas. But the people behind this project say the story they want to tell of WWI is about the Americans -- all Americans -- who were part of this chapter in our history.

Captured is the ferocity of battle and the despair of leaving home. But underneath the atrocities of war, there is also the story of humanity.

"The first figure is the daughter, and the last figure is the daughter as well," sculptor Sabin Howard said. "So the father moves between those two points and in that voyage is transformed. And that's an allegory for what happened to this country."

The World War One Memorial is a soldier's journey.

"The sculpture honestly is a film in bronze that the visitor can walk along and have an experiential story told to them as they proceed from left to right," Howard said.

When it's finished, it'll be an epic 58.4 foot bronze sculpture with 38 figures. The goal is to have it completed by the end of 2023, when it will become the centerpiece of the National WWI Memorial being built in Pershing Park in Washington, just one block from the White House.

"We haven't seen anything of this dimension for at least 200 to 300 years," Howard said.

Read more: Sculptors from NJ creating the next great monument in DC


Collier s 1921 World War American soldiers on the way to Hindenburg Line colliers public domainWorld War I American soldiers on the way to break the Hindenburg Line in 1918. 

Remembrance Sunday: Nearly 1,000 Irish died serving US army in World War I 

via the irishcentral.com web site

The number of Irish-born soldiers who died in World War I while serving the United States army is actually three times higher than previous estimates, claimed one genealogist.

Megan Smolenyak, the genealogist who traced Barack Obama's roots to Moneygall, Co Offaly, wrote in the April - May 2015 issue of IrishCentral's sister publication Irish America magazine that previous research "significantly" understated the real losses of Irishmen in the Great War.

"Many more Irish-born were killed serving the American military than previously thought. The true figure may be 900 or 1,000, but it's likely somewhere in this neighborhood," Smolenyak said. 

Previously, experts have turned to America's army registration data to investigate the losses. However, the bulk of US military personnel records from 1912 to 1960 were destroyed by a fire in 1973.

After Smolenyak came across a New Jersey database focused on WWI soldiers, she discovered that 69 Irish-born individuals from New Jersey had died during the conflict. As 3,427 from NJ had died altogether, Smolenyak used basic arithmetic to conclude that about two percent were Irish nationals. She then applied a similar method to New York focusing on births, deaths, and enlistment records, using census records, military abstracts and ancestry websites. She eventually estimated that 976 Irish nationals died fighting for the US.

"In spite of these measurement complications, I believe that 976 is a fair reckoning for men of Irish birth who gave their lives in service to the USA in the World War," she wrote in Irish America Magazine.

She says the biggest difference between the new numbers and older estimates is that she had the benefit of "hard casualty data.”

Read more: Remembrance Sunday: Nearly 1,000 Irish died serving US army in World War I


One of America’s Finest Hours in Humanitarian Aid is little-known Today 

By Jeffrey B. Miller
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission website

I think of history in fluid terms. To me, capturing one moment in time is like capturing one moment in the bend of a river. What does the bend really look like? It all depends on your perspective. The pebble on the submerged riverbed sees it differently than the reeds on the right bank, the trees on the left, the bird gliding overhead, the fish battling upstream, or the bit of driftwood floating by.

HooverHerbert Hoover Hoover was 40 years old in 1914. Public Domain; Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Archives, West Branch, Iowa. Jeffrey B Miller 300Jeffrey B. MillerWhen I was a teenager, I first heard the story of the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) during World War I in tantalizing bits and pieces from my maternal grandparents, CRB “delegate” Milton M. Brown and Belgian dairy owner Erica Bunge. The interest that they inspired in me led to sporadic research and a long-winded, unpublished novel, Honor Bound. After turning to a journalism career that’s spanned forty years, I’ve spent the past ten years focusing full-time on collecting, cataloging, reading, and assimilating the documents, letters, journals, and photos of close to fifty CRB-related people, including Herbert Hoover, a then successful mining engineer who founded and ran the CRB.

From my work, I’ve written three nonfiction books for general readers that are the first books to focus on the CRB in Belgium in more than 30 years (the last one was George Nash’s excellent book, The Life of Herbert Hoover, The Humanitarian, 1914-1917; Norton, 1988). The topic deserves more coverage and I’m happy to report that I know of four academic historians who are working individually on CRB-related books that should be published in the next few years.

As for the CRB, it is a story that started more than 100 years ago but still reverberates through our twenty-first-century world.

Today, whenever there are civilians anywhere in the world in harm’s way—from a natural disaster to an armed conflict—the nearly universal response has been: “America will help.” That was not the case before World War I (1914–1918). Prior to that horrific conflict—and long before US aid programs such as the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, and the Food for Peace program—America was better known as a nation of shopkeepers more interested in the bottom line than in saving strangers in need.

What helped alter that view was the American-led, nongovernmental CRB. Working with its Belgian counterpart, the Comité National de Secours et d’Alimentation (commonly known as the Comité National, or CN), the CRB helped save from starvation nearly ten million Belgian and northern French civilians trapped behind German lines during the four years of World War I, making it the largest food relief program the world had ever seen. By its selfless efforts, the CRB began the redefinition of how the world saw America, how America perceived its role in the world, and how worldwide humanitarian aid would be administrated in the future.

Read more: One of America’s Finest Hours in Humanitarian Aid is little-known Today


Every veteran has a story — WWI veteran Lt. Norfleet E. Armstrong 

By Larry E. Hume, Chief Master Sergeant, US Air Force, Retired.
via the lightandchampion.com (TX) web site

Early Years:

Norfleet Edward Armstrong was born July 16, 1896 in the far East Texas Town of Center that serves as the County Seat for Shelby County. No doubt the weather was hot when Sarah Jane “Jennie” Lucky and Joseph Emmett Armstrong, both natives of Tennessee welcomed their fourth child.

lt. norfleet e. armstrongThey were married in Shelby County on September 19, 1888 and two of Norfleet’s older siblings, Emmett and Norine passed in infancy. His other sister Jennie was actually a cousin that his parents took in when she was four and raised her as their own. By 1909 the family would be complete with the addition of Mildred, Joseph, Jr. and Brice. Father Joseph, Sr. provided for the family that lived at 212 Tenaha Street as a traveling salesman and by 1910 he was employed in the clothing industry as a dressmaker. Later in life he would become a successful real estate agent.

School Years:

Norfleet and his siblings attended the schools in Center and in 1914 his attributes from the Junior Class Roll were: Vice President, Jr. Class ’13-’14; Manager Student Booster; Class Poet; Track Team; Basketball; Glee Club; Manager Athletics; Assistant Janitor; Carpenter; Electrician; Flunkie. “Fleet” – A natural born fool, good athlete, very popular among the girls and crazy about electrics. When he was a “babe” if he started to cry, all one had to do was give him an old globe or fuse plug.

He graduated from Center High School with the Class of 1915. According to the June 6, 1915 edition of the Houston Post, Commencement exercises were held in the Methodist Church of Center with Dr. Ramsdell of the University of Texas delivering the graduation address. There were fourteen graduates with Jennie Low Bridges and Norris Bridges the honor students.

The World War:

With the United States declaring war on Germany April 6, 1917, nearly three years after the World War began in Europe, a national army through conscription was needed. The Selective Service Act of 1917 called for three registrations, the first being June 5, 1917 for all men between the ages of 21 and 30. Instead of registering, Norfleet joined the Enlisted Reserve Corps at the University of Texas, Austin where he entered the Flying Cadet program taking preflight (ground school) training. Then during the summer of 1917 he completed a six week primary flying training class given by the British Royal Flying Corps in Toronto, Canada. More flying training followed at Kelly Field, Texas with Class 13 on October 6, 1917.

Read more: Every veteran has a story — WWI veteran Lt. Norfleet E. Armstrong

Bells of Peace Participation Update

Bells of Peace iconWhat is Bells of Peace?
In 2018, we launched the Bells of Peace initiative to create a national bell tolling at 11am local on 11/11 as a WWI Armistice Centennial remembrance. It was a major success, prompting The Doughboy Foundation to promote "Bells of Peace" as an annual moment of remembrance on Veterans Day to reflect on "The War that Changed the World" and those who were changed by it.



Bells of Peace in these Pandemic times

In these difficult pandemic times, a number of people have reached out to us wanting to participate but concerned that getting groups together on Nov. 11th is perhaps unadvisable. That got us thinking… like so many other things we have all gotten good at doing in a distanced way, why not adapt Bells of Peace to a Zoom Event? Anyone who would like some support please Contact us

You are invited to join OUR Bells of Peace Zoom Events.
There will be a Bells of Peace ceremony on zoom for each time zone. We have put together a very nice program that is around 30-40 minutes long and will start at 10:45 am local on November 11, 2020. We will start at 10:45 Eastern and repeat every hour for Central, Mountain, Pacific, Alaska and Hawaii.

How can you participate?
We are using the Bells of Peace Participation App to coordinate.
As you may know, we have the new 2020 Bells of Peace Participation App. If you have not downloaded it yet you’ll find links at ww1cc.org/bells under the app tile, or search for “Bells of Peace” in your phone’s app store. Then pledge to participate  (see the register/countdown screen below) this will put you on the mailing list for getting the Zoom Tolling invitation.

Bells of Peace App three key screens: Register, Toll and Share

Sharing your OWN Bells of Peace
About 3,000 people are active on the app now and around 550 groups and individuals have contacted us about tolling. The goal is to create a community of participation. To do this, we encourage you to tag your social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube with #BellsOfPeace. This will bring your posts into our aggregation system. We monitor this and if your post is about Bells of Peace or the 100 day countdown to it, we will add your post to both our web site and right into the share area of the participation app.

In the App, check the share button (see above, it looks like a camera). Even if you don't have a social media account, you can post your participation right from inside the app in this area, adding picture and videos of your event.
We will also repost your participation shares on our website at  ww1cc.org/BOP-share.

Doughboy Foundation LogoThank you for your participation in this program. Bells of Peace is brought to you by The Doughboy Foundation: Keeping Faith with the American Doughboys and all those who served in WWI.


"Pershing" Donors

$5 Million +

Founding Sponsor
PritzkerMML Logo

Starr Foundation Logo

The Lilly Endowment