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World War I Centennial News



Benson flu masks Oct 27 1948 111 SC 56013 for webOn October 8, 1918, the “Oregonian” reported on four cases of influenza and “six other of suspicious character” at Benson Polytechnic School in Portland, Oregon. This first outbreak in the city prompted the school to put its 300 Student Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.) students in quarantine. Members of the Benson Polytechnic S.A.T.C third section in this photograph are wearing masks on October 27, 1918.  

From Whence Did it Come and to Where Did it Go?: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Oregon 

By Erin Brasell
via the Oregon Historical Society web site

In a Spring 1963 Oregon Historical Quarterly article, “The 1918 ‘Spanish Influenza’ Pandemic in Oregon,” author Ivan M. Woolley opens with a question: “From whence did it come and to where did it go?” This question about plagues and pandemics, Woolley argues, is one that scientists and historians have pondered for ages. Woolley cites examples of pandemics that are well documented throughout history: an onslaught described by Hippocrates in 412 B.C.E. that destroyed an Athenian army, the Black Death of the fifteenth century, and the 1918 “Spanish” influenza pandemic, which infected twenty to thirty percent of the world’s population and resulted in 50 million deaths worldwide — about 675,000 of them Americans. The Oregon State Board of Health listed 48,146 cases of the virus between October 1, 1918, and September 30, 1920, and 3,675 resulting deaths.

As we all practice physical distancing and wait for stay-at-home orders to ease, public health experts warn that moving too quickly could have serious implications in terms of the disease’s spread — and resulting deaths. Historians are well positioned to echo these warnings, especially when analyzing the 1918 influenza pandemic (which occurred during World War I) and Oregon’s response to COVID-19. Historical context matters, and you’re in luck! Making relevant connections to history is one of the Oregon Historical Society’s specialties, and we’ve even created an illustrated timeline* to assist.

The Summer 2017 issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly features a special section, “World War One Centennial Roundtable,” which is an excellent resource for that historical context. This virtual roundtable includes an introduction by Dr. Kimberly Jensen and Dr. Christopher McKnight Nichols and six essays shedding light on the “many complex questions and changes to Oregon and the nation” during that period. The articles show that the 1918 influenza pandemic and response did not develop in a vacuum; those events were among a series of World War I-era “conversations” about citizenship, suffrage, surveillance, the definition of Americanism (and who could identify as such), and the country’s response to turbulent times. 

Read more: From Whence Did it Come and to Where Did it Go?: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Oregon


Flu Boston Red Cross Volunteers Camp Devens MA 1918 LR EditsBoston Red Cross Volunteers at Camp Devens, MA 1918.

Lives lost and the country at a standstill: A look back back at the 1918-1919 Spanish Influenza and its impact on Phillips and Abbot academies

By Paige Roberts
via the Phillips Academy Andover (MA) web site

The Spanish Influenza has been called America’s forgotten pandemic. In the face of this 20th-century scourge, the orderly life of America began to disintegrate as the sudden, terrifying disease destroyed the country’s social cohesiveness. Despite the waves of illness, there also was profound social pressure to forget the widespread catastrophe of influenza and the war and to press on toward the future.

On January 22, 1919, the student newspaper The Phillipian reported, “George Vose ’21 died of influenza yesterday morning at his home, East Eddington, Maine. He was well liked by all that knew him. He fell ill scarcely a week ago, and was expected to recover in a short time.”

The influenza had likely started in Kansas in the winter of 1918, traveled to Europe with American soldiers headed to World War I, and returned with troops to Boston in late August 1918, launching a deadlier second wave of disease. The third wave of the pandemic hit the United States in the winter of 1919. In total between 50 to 100 million people around the world, including 675,000 Americans, died of influenza between 1918 and 1920. Young adults—people in their twenties and thirties in the prime of life—were most vulnerable. The close quarters and rapid troop movements of World War I quickened the spread of the disease and helped it mutate.

Despite the sad loss of George Vose, influenza had a relatively benign impact on Andover and its student body, certainly less impact than World War I. There were 593 students at Phillips Academy in 1919. Musical concerts, club activities, chapel services, and athletic contests on campus were postponed during the fall of 1918, but the 1919 Pot Pourri yearbook and the Mirror student literary magazine did not mention influenza at all. Advocating for extra vacation days, a February 5, 1919, student letter to the editor in The Phillipian outlines the minimal impact of the disease at PA as compared to the war.

During the entire period of the influenza epidemic, Andover kept up her scholastic work while all the other secondary schools in the country, with very slight exceptions, remained closed over an average period of six weeks in the months of October and November, thus giving us a head start over them of that amount of time…. The “Flu”, as we all know, was a terrible calamity…. It came as came all the other misfortunes of war. The War, itself, set us all back a great deal.

Read more: Lives lost and the country at a standstill: A look back back at the 1918-1919 Spanish Influenza...


Quarantine leads local military expert to story behind chaplain's World War I pandemic efforts 

By Bryan McKenzie
via the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper (VA) web site

CHARLOTTESVILLE — All he wanted was a little COVID-19 distraction, but the century-old photo of a military chaplain took an Albemarle County man on a 102-year time trip to a different state during a different deadly pandemic.

The sepia-toned photo of a man in a World War I-era uniform sits in a swivel frame meant for a tabletop. His round face sports an enigmatic smile, and his round-rimmed glasses peer from beneath the brim of an officer’s cap topped with a U.S. Army insignia badge.

Art BeltroneArt Beltrone of Albemarle County used his stay-at-home time to research a photograph of an Army chaplain who turned out to be a hero of the 1918 influenza pandemic.Across the mat, in expansive and fluid cursive, is the inscription “Florence, May God Bless You.” It is signed “Regis Barrett, OSB, Chaplain, U.S. Army.”

“I’ve had it for several years,” said Art Beltrone, a local military historian, collector and appraiser of military artifacts. “I obtained it from a Northern Virginia collection of military collectibles, and I liked it because it’s a photo of a chaplain and those are difficult to find, especially from the First World War era, because the chaplain corps was small.”

Beltrone said the photo, its dedication and signature caught his eye years ago.

“This one was signed and so it had a connection to an actual person, and that’s always a nice thing. It was in a nice, large frame with a swivel base, so it obviously meant a lot to someone,” he said. “It fascinated me.”

Beltrone is a man driven by fascination. His discovery of canvas bunks festooned with graffiti scrawled by soldiers, sailors and Marines aboard the General Nelson M. Walker, a Vietnam-era troop ship, led to the nationally known Vietnam Graffiti Project, which preserved the hopes, fears and jokes of men going to war.

In the time of COVID-19, with everyone warned to stay home as much as possible, Beltrone found himself with a lot of time and home projects on his hands. He began to see the portrait of the chaplain in a different light.

Read more: Quarantine leads local military expert to story behind chaplain's WWI pandemic efforts


Pershing with mayorGeneral John Pershing greeted by the mayor of Liverpool, taken on the morning on June 8, 1917 during his arrival in England.

Review: “The Conundrum of American Power in the Age of World War I” 

By Justin Quinn Olmstead
via the H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online web site

As one would expect, the First World War centenary has been greeted with a mountain of publishing by many of the world’s military, diplomatic, and cultural historians, as well as a number of political scientists. A number of these works focus on individuals, specific battles, or particular aspects of war. As a result, authors are relying on ‘truths’ to convey the fundamental aspects of each nation's strengths and weaknesses.

An aspect that is all too often left to the side is that of Anglo-American relations. The term ‘special relationship,’ while not coined until the 1940s, has become so synonymous with Britain and the United States (U.S.) that it is often found lurking in the pages of history books dealing with two countries in the late 1800s and early 1900s. More importantly, but fundamentally linked, is the idea that the transfer of hegemonic power from Great Britain to the United States took place at the turn of the last century. In “The Conundrum of American Power in the Age of World War I,” Katherine Epstein does not avoid this problem, she confronts it head-on.

Epstein states that her goal is to “build bridges between the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power scholarly approaches”. In a world where scholars are increasingly shielding themselves within their academic silos, this is a much-needed wake-up call. One problem that arises is that while the author makes many good points about the need to expand methodology and pair cultural history with ‘traditional’ history, the argument seems to be aimed more at those traditionalists who believe that the U.S. took the reins of global power from Britain somewhere between 1898 and 1918. This is not necessarily wrong, but if the idea is to build bridges between scholarly approaches, it would seem that each side would be guilty of staying in its respective lane.

Nevertheless, Epstein’s arguments are good ones. She rightly points out that globalization and industrialization are not the same thing, and that in order to understand the sinews of the United States' rise to global predominance, it is essential to distinguish not just between the two, but between their strengths and weaknesses. This is the article’s strength. Epstein’s analysis of how Britain remained great is sharp and takes into account several facets of empire and economy which demonstrate America's continued reliance on the British Empire's infrastructure in 1918. For instance, the author points out that the U.S. Navy was reliant on British dry docks and coaling stations to support the Great White Fleet’s world tour. Another example of American dependence is the need for British marine insurance and reinsurance for the U.S. Merchant Marine and the lack of a global communications grid.

Read more: Review: “The Conundrum of American Power in the Age of World War I.”


Victory GardensAllison Sturm, urban farm assistant, is seen at the Urban Growers Collective farm in Chicago. The nonprofit teaches young kids and others to grow vegetables at eight urban farms around the city. While their spring educational programs are on hold because of rules on social distancing, co-founder Laurell Sims said they still are focusing on food production and getting produce to families that need it.

A century later, victory gardens connect Americans again 

By Kristin M. Hall, Associated Press
via the myjournalcourier.com newspaper (IL) web site

During World War I, posters proclaiming “Food will win the war” encouraged Americans to grow victory gardens. A century later, home gardeners are returning to that idea in the fight against a global pandemic.

Backyard gardeners are coming together, mostly virtually, to learn and share stories on how to grow vegetables, fruits and flowers as the novel coronavirus raises fears about disruptions in food supplies and the cost of food in a down economy.

Creating a victory garden now can be, as it was during World Wars I and II, a shared experience during hardship and uncertainty.

“World War I, to me, is a pretty stark parallel,” said Rose Hayden-Smith, a historian and author of “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I.” “Not only was there a war, but there was an influenza pandemic.”

Now, gardeners new and old are getting online and on social media to post pictures of freshly tilled backyards, raised garden beds, seeds germinating under grow lights or flocks of chickens. Facebook groups like Victory Garden 2020 or Victory Garden Over COVID-19 are filling up.

Read more: A century later, victory gardens connect Americans again


OaklandThe Oakland Municipal Auditorium serves as a temporary hospital with volunteer nurses from the American Red Cross tending the sick there during the influenza pandemic of 1918, in Oakland, California. 

The 1918 Flu Pandemic Killed Millions. So Why Does Its Cultural Memory Feel So Faint? 

By Rebecca Onion
via the Slate web site

Last year, I wrote an anniversary piece about the “forgotten” 1918–19 flu pandemic, relying on the work of historians who’ve asked why such a huge event had so little effect on culture, policy, and public memory in the decades after that deadly flu strain burned itself out, leaving between 50 million and 100 million people dead. This year, as SARS-CoV-2 has forced the entire world into a terrifying and depressing alternate reality, I find this historical phenomenon even harder to understand. How could such a mind-bending, society-upending experience pass unremarked?

Enter Elizabeth Outka, a literary scholar whose fortuitously timed late-2019 book Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature explains quite a bit. The book looks at the small group of authors who addressed the pandemic head-on in their work but also argues that the work of some of the greats—T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, William Butler Yeats—was deeply affected by the flu in ways that aren’t so immediately obvious. Combining literary analysis with flu history and writing by flu survivors, Outka makes it clear that the pandemic wasn’t “forgotten”—it just went underground.

We spoke recently about the narrative impossibility of viruses, the mental health struggles of flu survivors, and the pervasive presence of something Outka calls “contagion guilt.” Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Rebecca Onion: There’s this idea that the 1918–19 pandemic had no impact—that this big thing that killed so many people was, somehow, a cultural nothing. Your book takes a different approach. Sometimes you’re talking about the clear impact of the pandemic, in the case of authors like William Maxwell or Katherine Anne Porter, and sometimes you’re identifying something that’s a little more nebulous or subterranean—the pandemic’s shadowy influence on the work of famous modernist writers. How did you come upon the idea of approaching flu’s memory this way?

Read more: The 1918 Flu Pandemic Killed Millions. So Why Does Its Cultural Memory Feel So Faint?


SATC on the Hill 1 1024x417Student Army Training Corps on the Hill at the University of Tennessee. (Cindy and Mark Proteau/KHP) 

Knoxville & The Spanish Flu: How 1918 was the same–and very different 

By Jack Neely
via the Knoxville History Project (TN) web site

These are strange days. You don’t need me to tell you that. What we’re going through now may be “unprecedented” in some ways, as dozens of well-meaning pundits have parroted, in recent weeks.

Before we use that word with confidence, of course, we’ll at least have to consider 1918.

In my youth I knew several people who remembered what happened. Maybe you did, too. None of them are around today. It was the year of what became known as the Spanish Flu. What made it similar to the coronavirus pandemic today is as striking as what made it very different, especially in terms of the public perception of it.

That year, the epidemic was indeed considered newsworthy, but it was never what dominated the front pages. There might be several reasons why that was true.

The newspapers brought violent stories, each day dozens of them, about something else that was unprecedented in scale, the big war in Europe. Both papers, the morning Journal and the evening Sentinel, were full of them. Many of them were optimistic, concerning the “Hohenzollern Proposal,” predicting that Germany was just about to capitulate to the Allied onslaught.

Each daily paper had a Roll of Honor–a list of the American dead and seriously wounded. Despite the optimism, the worst was yet to come. For Knoxvillians in uniform, October, 1918, would be the deadliest month since the Civil War.

But every day that October there was news of something even deadlier than bullets and bombs, and much closer to home.

It’s hard to say exactly when the first Spanish Flu microbe came to town, riding on a human host, but even that almost certainly had something to do with the war.

Read more: Knoxville & The Spanish Flu: How 1918 was the same–and very different


This Giving Tuesday We Would Like to Give Back to You 

By Kathy Abbott
Staff Writer

Giving Tuesday Now logoMay 5, 2020 has been widely designated as “Giving Tuesday a Global Generosity Movement” to unleash the power of people and organizations to transform their communities, and the world, as a response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. While you may be “Staying Home,” or one of our “Essential Workers,” or in some cities easing your way back into public life… we want to thank you for your bravery and steadfastness, much like our WWI Doughboys.

Here are a few items that have been meaningful to all of us as we continue our mission to remember all those who served in WWI, and to build the new National WWI Memorial in Washington, DC. . Please enjoy, and we hope you and your families will stay safe!



Genealogy GuideThe WWI Genealogy Research Guide, by Debra Dudek

Unlocking your family heritage is an exciting journey! To connect your ancestry with the events of WWI, sign up for the FREE WWI Genealogy Research Guide and we’ll help you get started.


You may have heard stories about a grandparent, great grandparent, uncle, aunt or even friend who was touched by WWI. Maybe all you have to go on is a picture or two, a diary, some letters, some medals -- WWI record keeping was far from perfect with only manual birth, census, draft, and military records. On July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) took out 80% of the early Army records.

Now you CAN find your family WWI heritage if you know how and where to look — The WWI Genealogy Research Guide will help you with “HOW TO” and “LINKS" to literally hundreds of resources.






Hello Girls single"The Hello Girls" Single

For your listening pleasure the title song “Hello Girls” from the critically-acclaimed score, The Hello Girls. Click here: https://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/commemorate/2015-12-24-23-41-36/hello-girls-single.html

This story of the groundbreaking women who served as the first soldiers in the U.S. Army, during WWI features music and lyrics by composer and lyricist Peter Mills, written by by Mills and Cara Reichel, and a cast of award winning ensemble actor-musicians. Brought to the stage by the Prospect Theater Company, NYC, these intrepid heroines served as bi-lingual telephone operators on the front lines, helping turn the tide of WWI. They then returned home to fight a decades-long battle for equality and recognition, paving the way for future generations.






Read more: This Giving Tuesday We Would Like to Give Back to You


World War I Memorial Artist's rendering of the new National World War I Memorial now under construction in Washington, DC. The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution has announced a $100,000 donation to the Memorial building Fund.

DAR Supports the National World War I Memorial

By Denise Doring VanBuren, President General
via the Daughters of the American Revolution web site

I am immensely proud to share that the NSDAR has become an official sponsor for the construction of the National World War I Memorial with a $100,000 donation. The monument is being built in Washington, D.C., in order to honor the heroism and sacrifice of the 4.7 million American sons and daughters who served during the conflict. Though more than 2 million Americans deployed overseas -- with 375,000 of them killed and 204,000 of them wounded -- World War I has been called “the forgotten war.”

Forgotten, that is, until now. The $40 million memorial is being constructed in Pershing Park at the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, which was created by an Act of Congress in 2013. Members of the 12-member Commission were appointed by the President and Congressional leaders, and represent the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National World War I Museum. All four living former Presidents serve as honorary chairmen. 

Following a design competition, the commission selected "The Weight of Sacrifice," by Joseph Weishaar of Arkansas, as the massive and moving 80-foot long bas relief focal point of the memorial.  Ground was broken on the project in November 2017 and dedication is scheduled for November 2021.

In addition to constructing the memorial, the Commission’s purpose is to plan, develop and execute programs, projects and activities to commemorate World War I. The website contains a video simulation of the memorial and a wealth of information about the war, including informative videos that may be used for chapter programs, learn more here.  Individuals or chapters that would like to support the memorial may make checks payable to The Doughboy Foundation, and mail them to The Doughboy Foundation, Donation Dept., 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW  #123, Washington, DC  20004.

Supporting the Memorial’s construction also honors the memory of the Daughters who served with valor during this time. DAR Members established the War Relief Service Committee 103 years ago, on April 16, 1917, to organize their volunteer efforts, which ranged from knitting garments for soldiers to training for food conservation. Many DAR members were nurses serving in World War I, including Jane A. Delano who organized the Red Cross Nursing Service.

Read more: DAR Supports the National WWI Memorial


ft Harriet Chalmers Adams ReimsHarriett Chalmers Adams, writing for National Geographic, is shown here while on a French army press tour with other correspondents, visiting Reims cathedral, which had been severely damaged by German artillery. She holds a bouquet of flowers given to her by a French soldier. Note the officer on the right wears an artificial hand and arm. Source: Harris & Ewing Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. 

The American Women who reported World War One 

via The American magazine (UK) web site

Historian Chris Dubbs discusses the challenges, the triumphs and the stories of the pioneer American Women who reported the First World War. His book, An Unladylike Profession: American Women War Correspondents in World War I is being published in July 2020, and is available to pre-order now.

Thank you for your time Chris. Our traditional first question - where in the States are you from?

I was born in one corner Pennsylvania, the southeast, in Quakertown, and now live in the opposite corner, the northwest, in Edinboro, just south of Erie.

Your upcoming book, An Unladylike Profession, is about the American women who worked as War Correspondents during the First World War. How did the idea for the book come about?

In 2017, I published a book about the American journalists who covered WW1: American Journalists in the Great War: Rewriting the Rules of Reporting. That book mentioned only a few of the women journalists who reported the war. However, when I later compiled an anthology of war journalism, The AEF in Print (with John-Daniel Kelley), I realized that I had shortchanged the women reporters. There had been far more of them than I realized and their perspective on the conflict had been different than their male counterparts. The challenges they faced, the stories they covered, how they gathered the news — it resonated with a unique voice and outlook on the Great War. I knew then that I had to tell their story.

Today, we're quite used to women on the front line of war correspondence, but what would have been the response to women reporting in the First World War - both in America and Europe?

When veteran reporter for the New York Evening Mail, Rheta Childe Dorr, showed up in Paris to cover the war, an official in the War Office asked her “Why did your newspaper send you over? Why didn’t it send a man?” That was typical of attitudes toward women journalists among civil and military officials. War reporting was men’s work. Those women who persevered found a way to access the war zone and gather the news, but there were usually additional hurdles to overcome. In fact, their determination and ingenuity to cover the war became an interesting element of their reporting.

Read more: The American Women who reported World War One


Nurses WWI(Left) World War I nurses in the Vanderbilt unit. Vanderbilt sent a dozen medical doctors, aided by enlisted men and nurses recruited from around Nashville, to operate Vanderbilt Hospital Unit “S,” based in central France. (Right) African American nurses during the First World War era.  

Answering the Call: Nursing and the Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919 

By Lisa M. Budreau, Ph.D.
via the Tennessee State Museum web site

When the United States entered the First World War in 1917, the US Army Medical Department officials believed they had learned vital lessons about disease from the Spanish-American War. Feeling better prepared for war than ever before, and with stronger preventive measures in place, such as a proven vaccination program against smallpox and typhoid fever, its preparation still fell short of the demands that lay ahead. Neither it, nor any other medical organization in the world, could do much to cope with the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. Modern medicine was powerless against this virulent virus that swept across the globe, killing millions.

With soldiers everywhere packed into close quarters, the Army suffered heavily from the flu and its associated respiratory consequences, especially pneumonia. Deaths from the flu and respiratory disease accounted for 80 percent of the 55,868 deaths from all diseases during the war. Men caught the virus on trains taking them to their embarkation points or in the transports crossing to France. Many died without ever leaving their American camps.

At a time when heroic death on the battlefield was considered an honor, families and some elements of the military were reluctant to acknowledge those who fell victim to pneumonia or the flu. Loved ones at home, such as young Essie Bishop of Tate, Tennessee, were quick to defend men like her husband, Robert, who died of pneumonia in December 1918, before arriving overseas. Essie, widowed six months after marriage, wrote, “He was not in the service long enough to accomplish very much . . . [but] I believe he would have made a brave soldier, anyway. He was my soldier and I want my little boy to feel proud of his ‘Daddy’ even though he saw no active service.” [1]

To help address the medical needs of the military during wartime, the Army’s Medical Department relied heavily on the Army Nurse Corps, created in 1901. Despite the continued growth of the organization, no regular Army hospital units were ready for departure at the outbreak of war in 1917. However, a number of 500-bed Red Cross Army Base Hospital units were trained and ready for service. Six of these units were ordered to France in May to support the appeal for medical assistance from the British who had been at war since 1914. Vanderbilt University’s hospital followed months later by sending a dozen of its medical doctors, aided by enlisted men and nurses recruited from the Nashville area, to operate Vanderbilt Hospital Unit “S,” based in Nevers in central France. 

Read more: Answering the Call: Nursing and the Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919


 anti tank gunAmerican soldiers manning a French '37', a one-pounder anti-tank gun in firing position behind barbed wire in a second line trench at Dieffmatten, in Alsace.

7 things you didn’t know about America’s entry and involvement in the First World War

By Terrence J. Finnegan
via the Europe Centenary web site

American troops arrived on the western front in 1918 full of enthusiasm, and in the spirit of great adventure. Yet most of them were novices who, unlike their German counterparts, had seen practically no action. Determined to teach them this was no game, the Germans proceeded to unleash the war’s most harmful weapons. Here are 7 facts you might not know about America’s entry into the First World War…

Naming their first major raid against American troops – with gallows humour – Einladung (an invitation), the Germans exposed American troops to the weapons of modern warfare: gas, flamethrowers, and high explosives. Their surprise attack in the Woëvre region around the village of Seicheprey, France, on 20 April, spearheaded by elite German storm troopers and supported by aircraft, trench mortars and heavy artillery, was designed as a propaganda coup against the perceived ‘weak’ newcomers (America had formally entered the conflict with an official declaration on 6 April 1917).

In his book, retired US Air Force colonel Terrence J Finnegan uncovers the story of the combatants, the outcome of battle and how the war was portrayed by the media. Relying entirely on primary sources, ‘A Delicate Affair’ on the Western Front offers the only analysis of the United States’ entry into the First World War, and is said to be the most complete account of how the Germans planned an operation ever published (most of the data having been destroyed in the Potsdam raid of 1945). Finnegan reveals seven little-known facts about America’s entry and involvement in the First World War…

1. In 1918 the first American infantry divisions fought at a ‘quiet sector’

Quiet sectors exemplified the concept of ‘live and let live’ – a welcome respite from the ongoing horror of the western front. In 1916, the St Mihiel region became known as a ‘convalescent home’ – a quiet sector for units of both sides recovering from other battlefronts.

Until the St Mihiel offensive of September 1918, the conflict saw regimental-sized units committed against each other. One American soldier recalled: “Guns are booming all the time. This harassing fire gets our goat. And they call this a quiet sector… C’est la guerre!” (This is war!)

A quiet sector seemed the most logical first commitment for independent American forces on the western front, and the Americans arrived at the Woëvre tasked with the responsibility of defending French ground. American operations proved the area to be anything but quiet. Both the 1st ‘Fighting First’ Division and 26th ‘Yankee’ Division showed the Germans that the bow wave of American soldiers was committed to battle.

Read more: 7 things you didn’t know about America’s entry and involvement in the First World War



How the women of Orange County, NC stepped up to respond to WWI and the Spanish Flu 

By Emma Kenfield
via the Daily Tar Heel newspaper (NC) web site

World War I called on the women of America to serve their country as best they could. But expected to be housewives and caretakers to their families, American women had lives that were far from independent.

women give world war i supplies 0Women give World War I supplies (North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources)UNC history professor W. Fitzhugh Brundage said women were excluded from many roles before the war.

“Prior to the war, women weren’t allowed to vote except in certain states. Women moved through public space subject to very strict notions as to where women should and shouldn’t be,” he said. “They were virtually excluded from far more occupations than they were allowed to participate in.”

That is until the men went overseas, and the roles of women changed.

“During WWI, some of women’s organizational capacity was harnessed to the war effort,” Brundage said. “There were increases in employment for women. There were tens of thousands of women who went and worked in Europe and France as nurses.”

While Orange County is a tiny dot on a map of the world, its women worked hard and their efforts in WWI did not go unnoticed. Annie Sutton Cameron, who was born in 1896, wrote "A Record of the War Activities in Orange County, North Carolina" as a Hillsborough resident during the war.

In early February 1917, before the United States' entrance into WWI, K. J. Brown, a graduate nurse, formed a class in First Aid and Surgical Dressings. The class met bi-weekly for two hours for the entire spring, until the U.S. joined the war in April. Brown’s class developed into much more and eventually formed a Red Cross Chapter in June with 71 members.

The chapter shipped 44 cases of Red Cross supplies, including almost 19,000 gauze dressings and 9 cases of Belgian relief clothing. Its membership grew to 687 by October 1918. 

Women also formed various war circles, in which they made hospital gowns, garments for refugees, bed pads and various medical supplies. These circles were the accessible alternative to Red Cross Chapters for rural women of Orange County who lived in more isolated areas.

Orange County was home to at least three women who saw active service with the Red Cross during the war, Cameron said in her book. Marion Williamson, Laura Hutchins and Jean Blue were stationed across the country to give aid to returning soldiers battling pneumonia, influenza or battle wounds.

Read more: How the women of Orange County stepped up to respond to WWI and the Spanish Flu

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