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World War I Centennial News



bonus marchers horizA mass of war veterans gather on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on July 5, 1932. They heard their speakers demand again relief for the former soldiers, and then quietly dispersed. (AP Photo) 

Oregon WWI vet led 20,000-strong Bonus Army in 1932 that marched on nation’s capital 

By Douglas Perry
via the The Oregonian/OregonLive web site

Walter W. Waters called the mass protest “a safety valve for dissatisfaction.”

The Oregon native didn’t want revolution or anarchy. But he and millions of other Americans were desperate.

So Waters, a laconic 34-year-old who had fought in France during World War I, led a couple hundred of his fellow former servicemen on a 3,000-mile trek from Portland to Washington, D.C. It was 1932, the depths of the Great Depression. The veterans wanted the federal government to act, and they believed a good place to start would be the immediate cash payment of their World War I service certificates, or bonuses.

This was the Bonus March, and they were the Bonus Army.

The veterans rode in freight-train boxcars when they could. They walked along the sides of dusty roads. The movement grew and grew, with veterans from all over the country heading for Washington.

Around 20,000 men and their families ultimately arrived in Washington, D.C., that summer. They set up camp around a series of unoccupied buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue as well as along the Anacostia Flats across the river. They met with members of Congress and answered reporters’ questions.

Concerned about running a budget deficit, the U.S. Senate in mid-July voted down a bill that would have allowed the World War I service certificates, which were redeemable in 1945, to be paid out right away. When news of the vote arrived, observers worried that the veterans, massed near the Capitol, would try to overrun Congress. Walter Waters, at the head of the crowd, threw his hands in the air.

“Sing ‘America’!” he called out.

Read more: Oregon WWI vet led 20,000-strong Bonus Army in 1932 that marched on nation’s capital


Ludovicus Maria Matheus Van Iersel: An Immigrant Hero of World War I 

via the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services web site

“This hero stuff is all bunk.”

--Sgt Ludovicus Van Iersel, as quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle in 1923

During the First World War, thousands of foreign-born citizens and immigrants joined the United States military as the nation tried to meet the massive manpower requirements of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). Of these immigrant combatants, 13 received the Medal of Honor for their wartime valor. One of these men, Ludovicus Matheus Van Iersel, volunteered to serve again in the Second World War. This is his story.

Ludovicus M. M. Van Iersel cropLudovicus Maria Matheus Van IerselBorn in Holland, the Netherlands, on Oct. 19, 1893, Van Iersel worked on a merchant ship as a sailor and traveled to the U.S. in February 1917, in the midst of World War I (WWI). During the journey, Van Iersel used a boatswain’s chair—a rope-operated device for lifting items onto a ship—to rescue 27 British sailors whose ship had been hit by a German torpedo. Van Iersel earned a medal from King George V for this gallant action at sea.

After this eventful crossing, Van Iersel arrived in the U.S. and promptly registered for the draft on June 4, 1917, in Bergen County, New Jersey. Eager to serve his new country and hoping to become a U.S. citizen, Van Iersel made two significant decisions. He submitted his “first papers” which declared his intention to become a U.S. citizen and, instead of waiting for his draft number to be called, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Glen Rock, New Jersey, the day after he registered for the draft.

Van Iersel trained at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and initially did four months of “KP”—also known as Kitchen Patrol—since he could not speak English. Meanwhile, a woman with the YMCA taught him English in just four months. Those lessons enabled him to participate in combat training and subsequently receive a promotion to acting corporal. Van Iersel later recalled that during his training, “everyone helped one another to become more efficient.”

Read more: Ludovicus Maria Matheus Van Iersel: An Immigrant Hero of World War I


BlechleyBleckley Airport Memorial Foundation in Kansas has purchased a World War I DH-4 aircraft to to be restored to air worthy status as a flying memorial to to WWI Medal of Honor winner 2nd Lt. Erwin Bleckley (inset), after whom the airport is named. 

Flying tribute planned for Wichita WWI Medal of Honor hero 

By Gwyn Bevel
via the KSN television station (Wichita, KS) web site ksn.com

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Throwing supplies to troops below while traveling 125 miles per hour in an open-air biplane, that was the mission in WWI.

It was the first of its kind in combat history, and a Wichita man was there.

Now, the Bleckley Airport Memorial Foundation is on a mission to ensure a piece of history flies the skies of Wichita all to honor 2nd Lt. Erwin Bleckley.

Retired Lt. Col. Doug Jacobs started looking into Bleckley’s life when he realized how few people knew who he was.

“I started doing all this research, and now, he’s become part of my life,” Bleckley Airport Memorial Foundation Member Doug Jacobs said.

“That’s the youngest picture that I have seen of Erwin,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs has been sharing Bleckley’s story for nearly three decades.

“My effort is to keep Erwin alive,” Jacobs said.

Bleckley, and his best friend Frank T. Priest, were the first to enlist in the F Battery of the Kansas National Guard when it was formed in Wichita.

“His history is part of Wichita’s fabric of history,” Bleckley Airport Memorial Foundation Member Greg Zuercher said.

Jacobs read from Bleckley’s diary, ‘I received a cablegram from home, and comma father.’

Bleckley was documenting in his diary in France where he had already volunteered to fly.

“It has the half wing of the air observer,” Jacobs said.

The aviators job was to direct the pilot where to fly, they were attached to the 50th Aero Squadron.

“Erwin would direct him where to go,” Jacobs said.

Read more: Flying tribute planned for Wichita WWI Medal of Honor hero


American soldiers in trenchWorld War I trench warfare forced soldiers into muddy trenches throughout Europe. The trenches were plagued with rat and lice infestations and were breeding grounds for diseases like Trench Fever. (US Army photo) 

Another WWI throwback: Trench Fever Spread by Lice Found in Denver 

By Markian Hawryluk
via the Kaiser Health News web site

DENVER — Dr. Michelle Barron, medical director of infection prevention and control at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, received an unusual call last month from the microbiology lab: confirmation of the third case this year of trench fever, a rare condition transmitted by body lice that plagued soldiers during World War I.

Barron’s epidemiological training kicked in.

“Two is always an outbreak, and then when we found a third — OK, we clearly have something going on,” Barron recalled thinking.

Barron, who said she’d never before seen a case in her 20 years here, contacted state public health officials, who issued an advisory Thursday and said a fourth person with a suspected case had been identified. They asked physicians to be on the lookout for additional cases.

Trench fever is characterized by relapsing fever, bone pain (particularly in the shins), headache, nausea, vomiting and malaise. Some of those infected can develop skin lesions or a life-threatening infection of their heart valves.

The condition is caused by the bacterium Bartonella quintana, a close relative of the bug that causes cat scratch fever. Colonies of it live in the digestive systems of body lice and are excreted in their feces. The bugs can enter the body through a scratch in the skin or through the eyes or nose. Dried lice feces can be infectious for up to 12 months.

Trench fever is most commonly diagnosed among people experiencing homelessness or living in conditions where good hygiene is difficult. Those with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk.

Read more: Another WWI throwback: Trench Fever Spread by Lice Is Found in Denver


Gavern 1The World War 1 Memorial at Nay Aug Park in Scranton, PA, listing the men and women from Scranton who had died during WWI. Photos courtesy of Janice M. Gavern.

100 Years Ago: Dedication of the WWI Memorial in Scranton, PA

By Janice M. Gavern
via the The Lackawanna Historical Society's History Bytes Publication

It was a year and six months from the end of the Great War. One Memorial Day had already passed, but in the interim a planning committee had gotten the idea for a World War I Memorial to be displayed in Nay Aug Park.

The committee decided to use a large natural boulder of conglomerate rock weighing several tons as the holder for the bronze plate. It was placed in a newly planted oak grove halfway between Lake Lincoln and the Gravity Railroad car.

A list of the men and women from Scranton who had died during WWI was published in the paper. Readers were asked to check the names and add information that would help the committee identify everyone who should be included. They also requested contact information for next of kin so they could be invited to the ceremony.

Rupert W. Thomas, Chairman of the Tablet, went to New York to pick up the bronze tablet during the week of May 22. That would give them time to fasten the tablet to the large boulder.

The bronze tablet or plate was designed with an American eagle in relief at the top. On either side, wreaths enclosed two dates, 1917 on one side, 1919 on the other. The dedication read: “In honor of the men and women of the city of Scranton who gave their lives in the world war for their country and for all mankind. These trees are dedicated as a living memorial.” Below the dedication is the alphabetical list of the 242 men and six women from Scranton who gave their lives.

A platform was built adjacent to the boulder to seat the speakers. The boulder was covered and would be unveiled at the ceremony.

The dedication ceremony was planned for May 30, with the actual Memorial Day ceremonies scheduled for the following day. One newspaper confused the dates, apparently not realizing that there were both a dedication ceremony and a variety of Memorial Day activities scheduled for the same weekend.

Read more: 100 Years Ago Dedication of WWI Memorial Nay Aug Park


Soldiers over the topAmerican troops carrying guns climb over a sandbag revetment in France during World War I. (AP Photo)

Countdown: 100 Days to Bells of Peace 2020

By Kathy Abbott
Staff Writer

Announcing Bells of Peace, A World War I Remembrance, November 11, 2020, when everyone is invited to toll the “Bells of Peace” in honor of all those who served and sacrificed in World War I.

Countdown logo 2020To kickoff “Bells of Peace,” on August 4, 2020, join us for a 100-Day Countdown” to November 11, 2020 on our social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The “100-Day Countdown” features stories commemorating the 100-day offensive on the Western Front leading up to WWI Armistice, November 11, 1918 when the guns fell silent and the bells tolled on the Western Front, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

During the WWI 100-Day Offensive, the U.S. and its Allies fought valiantly on the Western Front to push the Germans into retreat, resulting in an unexpected November 11, 1918 Armistice.

The fascinating details of these unprecedented 100 days, which were transformative in U.S. military history, included: key battles where an inexperienced U.S. Army came into its own and quickly distinguished itself; the Spanish Flu Pandemic traveled to Europe with our troops; chemical warfare decimated its final victims; the war in the sky and tank warfare raged; the Navy convoyed the perilous waters of the Atlantic; and much more.

Meanwhile on the home-front, Americans were contributing to the war effort with expectations of a long conflict ahead. The “100-Day Countdown” explores this through many primary sources including the NY Times and the Official U.S. Bulletin…. read this great detailed coverage to further understand how “The War That Changed the World” changed America forever.

Read more: Countdown: 100 Days to Bells of Peace 2020


Outdoor Screening2Outdoor movie screenings on a 23-foot jumbo screen are among the socially-distant events in August at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO in 2020. 

Outdoor Events Featuring Jazz, World War I Artifacts & Movie Screening, Debut of New Suffrage Exhibition, and Historical Online Presentations Among August Events at National WWI Museum and Memorial

By Mike Vietti
Director of Marketing, Communications and Guest Services, National World War I Museum and Memorial

KANSAS CITY, MO. – Outdoor events allowing for social distancing, the debut of a new exhibition about the women’s suffrage movement and a series of engaging online presentations are among the August offerings from the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

The Summer Movie Series returns on Friday, Aug. 13 with a screening of the ground-breaking film They Shall Not Grow Old from Oscar-winner Peter Jackson. Grab a favorite blanket, snacks and some lawn chairs to watch this seminal documentary featuring restored/colorized WWI footage on a 23-foot jumbo screen. The event is free with RSVP, but a limited number of spaces are available.

Guests can come together on Saturday, Aug. 29 from 5-8:15 p.m. for the socially-distanced Jazz on the Lawn: A Modern Picnic. The event celebrates the spirit of the early 1920s with the hottest jazz band in town, Grand Marquis, as well as former Mayor Sly James and DJ Hartzell Gray. People are invited to bring their own picnic or enjoy a meal from food trucks as they take in panoramic views of Kansas City. Tickets start at just $35 for members and $45 for non-members. Space is limited, so attendees are encouraged to order tickets soon at theworldwar.org/jazzpicnic.

Rounding out the slate of outdoor events is the annual program Living the Great War from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29. This free program features the Living History Volunteer Corps and vehicles from the Military Vehicle Preservation Association. Guests are invited to view a variety of collections that bring them closer to the history of the Great War.

Read more: Outdoor Events in August at National WWI Museum and Memorial


damaged Doughboy statue 1The "Spirit of the American Doughboy" statue, sitting on the Pettis County Courthouse lawn, was vandalized over the July 4 weekend. The saber and gun are bent and the statue’s hand is cracked. Barbed wire circling the monument is also broken. On July 24, the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office took a female suspect into custody.

Arrest made in Pettis Co., MO courthouse Doughboy statue vandalism

By Rob Creighton
via the KSIS Radio (MO) web site

In the morning hours of July 24, 2020, the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office took a female suspect into custody at the conclusion of a voluntary interview regarding the “Doughboy” statue that was damaged on the west lawn of the Pettis County Courthouse. At the time of arrest in a public statement and press release, the Sheriff’s Office advised the public this was not a targeted attack, an attempted removal or an intentional act of vandalism/damage. The suspect interview and the proceeding investigation which were subsequently provided to my office are consistent in that regard and I reach the same conclusion.

The suspect was taken into custody on suspicion of institutional vandalism and property damage in the first degree. Both are crimes that by the Revised Statutes of Missouri, require a person to act knowingly, to vandalize, deface or otherwise damage property. Without regard to the value or type of the property the intention of the act remains the same.

The investigation as received and corroborated through witness statements, photos, videos and suspect interview all pronounce the same findings; on July 4th a small group of individuals gathered on the west lawn of the Pettis County Courthouse. One of the individuals determined they would climb the statue for purposes of having a picture taken on it. After the picture was taken the suspect began to climb down and when doing so placed one foot on the gun side of statue for balance, at which point the damage occurred. There is no indication of intent to damage it, expectation that damage would occur, or that any excess force was used to facilitate the damage that was suffered.

Read more: Arrest made in Pettis Co. Courthouse Doughboy statue damages


WHTM FLAG CEREMONY 6PM LLPKG.00 00 11 38.Still001A 70-year-old flag belonging to World War I veteran Master Sergeant E. Maurice Shively was found recently at the American Legion hall in Newport, PA and was returned to the soldier's grandson at a ceremony in July.  

Family reunited with World War I veteran’s flag 

By Daniel Hamburg
via the WHTM ABC 27 News television (Harrisburg, PA) web site

PALMYRA, Pa. (WHTM) — A 70-year-old flag belonging to a World War I veteran was reunited with family Saturday at a special ceremony in Palmyra, Lebanon County.

The 48-star flag sat for years in storage at the American Legion in Newport, Perry County. It was only recently discovered and with a little research, now back with family.

The flag belongs to Master Sergeant E. Maurice Shively, who was born in Newport.

A big ceremony was held at the American Legion in Palmyra after the historian for Post 72 went searching for answers.

“Within 20 days they found a couple of family members. We found the daughter who is still alive,” said Chuck Yaeger, squadron commander of American Legion Post 72. “She’s in Brick, New Jersey. Unfortunately due to medical reasons, she could not make it today.”

Still, legion riders from New Jersey and across the area showed up to show support.

“It is our honor here today to return to his family a small portion of him, his flag, a symbol which he stood for, for many years in serving his country,” said Christopher Gross, commander of American Legion Post 177.

Shively’s grandson, also Maurice Shively, is now in possession of the flag.

Read more: Family reunited with WWI veteran’s flag


Smedley Butler’s fiery speech to WWI veterans is still relevant today 

By James Clark
via the Task and Purpose web site

Eighty-eight years ago thousands of U.S. military veterans gathered their belongings and began a long march across the country to Washington, D.C. Once there, they pitched their canvas tents in neatly ordered rows and dug in for a long fight.

Smedley ButlerA screenshot pulled from a Fox Movietone recording of retired Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler's July 19, 1932 speech to Bonus Army marchers at the Anacostia flats camp in Washington, D.C. (Fox Movietone News Collection at the University of South Carolina)By the summer of 1932, what began as a small movement in Portland, Oregon had burgeoned into a national demonstration, bringing together a socially, economically and racially diverse coalition under a single banner, with each participant bound by a shared experience: When their country called them to arms, they answered.

Numbering as many as 25,000-strong, with families and children in tow, they called themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force, but colloquially, became known as the Bonus Army. These World War I veterans, like many demonstrators before and since, gathered to demand that the government keep its word. In their case, it was the early payment of a bonus they had been promised following victory in the First World War.

Through the Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924, the funds were set to be doled out in 1945. Originally the bonuses were to be paid immediately, but for budgetary reasons, they were delayed by two decades. Five years after the bill was passed, the Great Depression hit, and by 1932, the financial crisis had reached its peak. Amidst the economic fallout, the promise of deferred payments amounted to a shriveled carrot dangling from the end of a very long stick.

On July 19 of that year, retired Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler took to the stage at the largest Bonus Army camp, located at the Anacostia Flats, a swampy stretch of ground outside of downtown D.C. There he launched into a fiery tirade that remains relevant to military veterans, and Americans at large, even to this day.

The first time I watched the scratchy black and white footage, which was recorded by a local news crew, I couldn’t take my eyes off Butler. Up there in front of that crowd, with his trousers hiked high up on his waist, with his suspenders and tie, and his sleeves — one rolled, the other rebellious cuff slipping down on his arm from all the animated fist-pumping and gesticulating. He was like a righteously furious Marine Corps Mr. Rogers.

But then I listened to what he was saying.

Read more: Smedley Butler’s fiery speech to World War I veterans is still relevant today


serbian day 1918 cover photoOn July 28th in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson gave the order to fly the flag of Serbia over the White House to reflect the solidarity of Americans with the Serbian people during World War I. 

When the Serbian Flag Flew Over the White House during WWI

By U.S. Embassy in Belgrade
via the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia web site

On July 28th in 1918, upon the advice of his good friend Mihajlo Pupin, President Woodrow Wilson gave the order to fly the flag of Serbia over the White House. This was one of a number of acts that reflected the solidarity of Americans with the Serbian people who suffered so tremendously during the First World War.

At the start of the conflict, thousands of young Americans of Serbian descent volunteered to cross the Atlantic and fight shoulder-to-shoulder with their cousins. Malvina Hoffmann’s famous poster urged people to make donations to assist the people of Serbia. Pupin, Mabel Grujić, and others collected not only money, but also thousands of tons of humanitarian aid for the poor and for displaced refugees from Serbia. The Columbia Relief Expedition, organized by Pupin, delivered medicine, food, agricultural tools, and seed to the war zone, as well as dozens of cars to deliver aid and also serve as ambulances.

Dr. Richard Strong, director of the Harvard School of Tropical Medicine and one of the world’s preeminent epidemiologists, headed the medical mission, organized by the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Red Cross, that came to Serbia to halt the deadly spread of typhus.

The philanthropist John Frothingham and his wife Jelena Lozanić donated a fully equipped field hospital sent to Skopje. After the war, the couple set up a home for war orphans in Vranje.

Dr. Rosalie Morton, special commissioner of the Red Cross, not only tended to Serbian soldiers on the battlefields. She also stayed behind after the war ended in order​ to set up the first women’s hospital in Belgrade. 

Read more: When the Serbian Flag Flew Over the White House in WWI


Baseball resumed after World War I on Patriots Day in Boston

By Dixie Tourangeau
via The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) web site

No matter your perspective, the 1919 Patriots Day opening day doubleheader at Braves Field just didn’t feel the same as those previously played in the twentieth century. Many things swirled in the festive atmosphere that April 19, including the lingering sweet aroma of the January 15 molasses tank explosion/flood tragedy in the North End that killed 21 workers and residents. World War I officially ended five months before (the Treaty of Versailles was not signed until June 1919) but more importantly, the devastating Spanish Flu epidemic was finally beginning to wane in the Hub, once Ground Zero for it. Every day ships entered Boston Harbor with returning troops from Europe, bringing joy and relief to awaiting households, but they docked in the midst of continuing pandemic burials.

Boston Globe Sun Apr 20 1919Added to the day’s headline mix was the ongoing New England telephone and telegraph operators strike. That inconvenient chaos was colliding with the traditional Patriots Day (state holiday officially legislated in 1894) celebrations, sandwiched between between solemn Good Friday and Lent-ending Easter.1 Baseball did not take a back-row chair, as there were more than 50 college and high-school games on tap. Dozens of schools vied for attention with various other amateur athletic events including the 22nd Boston Marathon, by then basking in its own national fame.

Baseball normally enjoyed a lofty perch in this carnival of leisure, but in preseason 1919 the moguls were very concerned that fans might still be depressed about the war, the flu carnage, and the shortened 1918 season. They didn’t know how much turnstile enthusiasm to expect. Newly appointed National League President John A. Heydler was there to witness the event at the invitation of George Washington Grant, who had bought the Braves in January.

The NL’s first pitch of 1919 mirrored those tossed in 1897 and 1901, the only opening pitch thrown that day. Baseball’s other combatants, as well as these two teams, would not convene for four more days. Conflicting Boston season openers were in vogue in 1902-03 when the two rival leagues battled over the signing (and stealing) of players. The NL Beaneaters played two games with Brooklyn in 1902 while the upstart American League Bostons hosted Baltimore in a solo tilt. An awkward duel occurred in 1903 when both Boston squads played twin bills with their respective Philadelphia foes. This happened on April 20 because the 19th was a Sunday — no pro ball was allowed.2 A reasonable compromise apparently ended the one-day economic pettiness in 1904 and beyond as the Beaneaters traveled to Brooklyn and the Americans had the city’s cranks all to themselves. After that, the NL Doves/Rustlers/Braves drew the odd years for a lucrative Patriots Day gate and the Americans/Red Sox got the even years.

Read more: Baseball resumed after World War I on Patriots Day in Boston


poster mods Clara AranovichWorld War I posters re-created by filmmaker and writer Clara Aranovich, who altered American propaganda posters from World War I to include calls for people to wear face masks against the Covid-19 pandemic. (United States National War Garden Commission, 1918; Z.P. Nikolaki, Library of Congress, 1918; Clara Aranovich)  

Artist turns WWI posters into calls for Americans to wear face masks, and the images are striking 

By Darcy Schild
via the Insider web site

A series of retro illustrations offer a modern take on American propaganda posters from World War I — showing what the images might have looked like if they were made to promote mask-wearing to try to contain the novel coronavirus.

Clara Aranovich, a writer and filmmaker who has also worked as a period researcher for the TV series "Mad Men," is the brains behind the re-created posters, which have been shared thousands of times on Instagram since early July.

Aranovich told Insider her artwork was meant to inspire a sense of camaraderie in the same way many people united to support America's efforts in World War I, which included actions like rationing supplies to partaking in "meatless" and "wheatless" days.

Aranovich's idea for the art came in June, when the US reached a harrowing statistic. The number of Americans who had died from causes linked to the coronavirus surpassed the number of Americans who were killed in World War I.

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, 116,516 Americans died in World War I, with 53,402 deaths occurring in battle and 63,114 fatalities occurring in other forms of service. At the time of writing, there were 142,350 COVID-19-related deaths in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker.

The posters Aranovich modified were originally distributed around 1917 and 1918, when the US became involved in World War I. She modernized them by overlaying face masks and editing the text to include calls for people to wear face coverings in public.

"I wanted to point to the repetition of history," Aranovich said. "I was inspired to contrast the pandemic with other major events that have united our country."

Read more: An artist turned World War I posters into calls for Americans to wear face masks, and the images...

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