Thank-you letters from 1915 point back to unlikely Minnesota hero
By Curt Brown
via the Star Tribune newspaper (MN) web site
Handwritten by Belgian schoolgirls caught in the middle of an adult clash, the letters from 1915 are frank and brimming with gratitude. Germany had invaded their country, British allies mounted a blockade to starve out the German soldiers and millions of innocent Belgians faced starvation at the outset of World War I.
Flour milling company executive James Ford Bell was instrumental in leading a U.S. hunger relief effort during World War I, resigning his business post and devoting himself to the government’s effort. He was honored by Belgium and France after the war ended.“I do not yet fully understand the meaning of war, poverty, starvation, these words I hear so often at home.” 7-year-old Maria Clerbois wrote. “All I know from what my dear papa has told me is that without the great and generous America, we would be suffering great hardship.”
The Great War raged for three years in Belgium and the muddy trenches of France before the United States joined the fight in 1917. But U.S. humanitarian aid had started pouring in years before — including tons of wheat milled in Minnesota. Nearly a quarter of the first 283,120 sacks of flour shipped to Rotterdam in January 1915 came from Minneapolis millers.
“At the outset of this frightful calamity that is striking us, we could only look ahead with terror … [and] the threat of starvation,” another student wrote in 1915 from Liege, Belgium. “One day, just as all hope of receiving food supplies was vanishing, America the brave and the beautiful came to promise us relief and to give us bread to survive …”
A traveling exhibit of these translated letters — “When Minnesota Fed the Children of Europe” — visited the Mall of America in October. Here is the link to the opening and more resources on the exhibit: https://www.globalminnesota.org/events/past-events/exhibit-opening-of-when-minnesota-fed-the-children-of-europe/“This was the largest humanitarian relief effort in human history and much of this food aid was wheat flour coming from Minnesota,” said Mark Ritchie, the former Secretary of State who’s now president of Global Minnesota. The nonprofit group promotes international education and is bringing the exhibit here for the rest of the month.
The girls’ letters were written generally to their American peers, but two unlikely men with Midwestern ties were pivotal players behind the massive relief effort that helped feed 150 million Europeans a century ago, from 1914 to 1923.
Iowa-born Herbert Hoover is mostly remembered for a woeful presidency that included the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression. But 12 years earlier, President Woodrow Wilson tapped the Stanford-trained mining engineer to feed Belgium as the head of the federal Food Administration.
Hoover, in turn, named Minneapolis milling mogul James Ford Bell to head the Food Administration’s influential Milling Division in 1917. Eleven years before Bell founded General Mills, he had replaced his late father, running the Washburn-Crosby mill in Minneapolis.
Read more: Thank-you letters from 1915 point back to unlikely Minnesota hero
At 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