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World War I Centennial News


 

 

107510653 oAt the very end of the war, American Corporal Lee Duncan picked up two dogs from a litter of German shepherds discovered in the rubble of a kennel near Saint-Mihiel where his unit fought. He named them Nénette and Rin Tin Tin, to evoke the little woolen puppets that the children of Lorraine offered to allied soldiers as a lucky charm. Nénette died during the return crossing to the United States, but Rin Tin Tin, arriving safe and sound on American soil, quickly demonstrated the exceptional abilities which led him straight to the movie sets of Hollywood (right).

Rin Tin Tin: The World War I True Story 

By By Kate Kelly
via the America Comes Alive! web site

Rin Tin Tin likely would have been a German war dog if the World War I battle near Saint-Mihiel had gone differently.

In September of 1918, the Allies broke through the German line in northeastern France. As the Germans evacuated the area, some men were sent out to scour the countryside to see what remained. Among the discoveries were a mother dog and her puppies, left behind in a damaged war dog station.

Lee Duncan, a soldier from Southern California, couldn’t bear to leave the dogs behind. With help from a buddy, he took them back to the base where his unit, the 135th Aero Squadron, was camped.

The rest is Hollywood history.

Lee Duncan’s Childhood

Lee Duncan (1893-1960) was born into a poor family in California. His father soon left them. In 1898, his mother placed Lee and his sister in an orphanage as she was unable to support them. (Orphanages were sometimes used by families for temporary placements at this time.) By 1900, Duncan’s mother moved in with her brother. She was able to take the children back, but Duncan’s family life was never a settled one.

As a young man, Duncan saw the call for the military as an opportunity. He became part of the U.S. Army Air Service, serving with the 135th Aero Squadron during World War I.

Read more: Rin Tin Tin: The World War I True Story

 

image1Paul LaRue, a former history teacher from Washington Court House, and Hopewell Culture National Historical Park rangers accept a preservation award from the Ohio History Connection for a collaborative effort to create a new lesson plan for students."  

Camp Sherman lesson plan wins preservation award 

By Paul LaRue,
Member of the Ohio World War I Centennial Committee

Standing amongst the mounds of the Mound City Earthworks at the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park outside of Chillicothe, Ohio, you gain an appreciation of the important culture of Pre-Contact American Indians. The quiet serenity of the park today is in stark contrast with the bustling World War I cantonment that sat on the same ground from 1917 -1919. More than 120,000 soldiers passed through the 9700-acre cantonment known as Camp Sherman. Some of the camp's 2,000 buildings literally sat atop the sacred mounds.

The Ohio World War I Centennial Committee produced a series of lesson plans on various World War I topics, including Camp Sherman and the Mound City Earthworks.

The State Historic Preservation Office of Ohio recently announced its annual state historic preservation awards. The Camp Sherman and the Mound City Earthworks: A Unique Story of Preservation lesson plan was recipient of the Public Education and Awareness Award. The lesson plan was written by Ohio World War I Centennial Committee member Paul LaRue in collaboration with the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park and the Ohio History Connection.

Camp Sherman was also featured in a second lesson plan developed by the Ohio World War I Centennial Committee, that focused on technology and an elite Black American World War I battalion. Thousands of Black American Soldiers trained at Camp Sherman between 1917 and Armistice. In October and November 1918, nearly 8,000, or 25%, of soldiers at Camp Sherman were Black Americans. In December 1917, the 325 Field Signal Battalion was organized at Camp Sherman. The 325 Field Signal Battalion was the only battalion of Black American soldiers to serve in the Army Field Signal Corps. The 325 Field Signal Battalion was considered to be one of best educated battalions of Black American Soldiers in the Army. This battalion served with in combat with distinction in France.

Read more: Camp Sherman lesson plan wins preservation award

 

New book on the WWI origins of American Propaganda and the Information State

via the Louisiana State University LSU Press

BATON ROUGE — John Maxwell Hamilton's highly acclaimed new book on the history of American propaganda is now available (released Oct. 21, 2020) at LSUPress.org. "Manipulating the Masses: Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of American Propaganda" tells the story of the enduring threat to American democracy that arose out of World War I: the establishment of pervasive, systematic propaganda as an instrument of the state.

manipulating the masses book coverAuthor John Maxwell Hamilton is a member of The Historical Advisory Board for the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.

"An instant classic. This stunning history of the origins of American propaganda and the information state unveils the threat to self-government that’s been with us since World War I,” said Thomas Patterson, Harvard University’s Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press. “If you care about democracy, this book belongs at the top of your reading list."

During the Great War, the federal government exercised unprecedented power to shape the views and attitudes of American citizens. Its agent for this was the Committee on Public Information (CPI) established by President Woodrow Wilson one week after the United States entered the war in April 1917.

Driven by its fiery chief, George Creel, the CPI reached every crevice of the nation, every day, and extended widely abroad. It established the first national newspaper, made prepackaged news a quotidian aspect of governing and pioneered the concept of public diplomacy. It spread the Wilson administration’s messages through articles, cartoons, books and advertisements in newspapers and magazines; through feature films and volunteer Four Minute Men who spoke during intermission; through posters plastered on buildings and along highways; and through pamphlets distributed by the millions. It enlisted the nation’s leading progressive journalists, advertising executives, and artists. It harnessed American universities and their professors to create propaganda and add legitimacy to its mission.

Even as Creel insisted that the CPI was a conduit for reliable, fact-based information, the office regularly sanitized news, distorted facts and played on emotions. Creel extolled transparency but established front organizations. Overseas, the CPI secretly subsidized news organizations and bribed journalists. At home, it challenged the loyalty of those who occasionally questioned its tactics. Working closely with federal intelligence agencies eager to sniff out subversives and stifle dissent, the CPI was an accomplice to the Wilson administration’s trampling of civil liberties.

Read more: New book on the WWI origins of American propaganda and the Information State

 

military working dog 1280The Military Working Dog Tribute in at the Highground Veterans Memorial Park in Neillsville, WI shows a soldier crouched beside his German Shepherd partner. Just as in the 21st Century, dogs played many important roles supporting America's soldiers on the battlefields of World War I.  (Photo via Pixabay.)

Six Incredible Roles Performed by Dogs in World War I 

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

America loves their pets, and according to ownership statistics, dogs are the favorite. More than 60 million American households own a dog, and this shows no signs of slowing down. People love to choose from good dog breeds and find the next member of their family.

However, dog’s aren’t always reserved for being a pet. They can be great guards, investigators and can play many other roles. In fact, back in World War 1, dogs had several roles that were instrumental in the success of various operations. Read on to learn about 6 of the roles that dogs performed in World War 1.

sergeant stubby wwi dogsRenowned WWI American canine hero Sergeant Stubby once saved multiple soldiers when he roused them from their sleep after a German mustard gas attack. (Via History.com.) 

Guard Dogs

While dogs today are often used as guard dogs, the same could be said around 100 years ago in World War 1. These sentry dogs would often sit alongside a soldier who was on guard, and could often alert him when trouble was near. Dogs have great senses in most cases, and these guard dogs were trained to bark or growl when a stranger approached the camp or post.

Read more: Six Incredible Roles Performed by Dogs in World War I

 

How WWI US Propaganda Grew Out of a Society of Illustrators 

By D.B. Dowd
via the hyperallergic.com web site

http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.18343Joseph Pennell, “That liberty shall not perish from the earth — Buy liberty bonds Fourth Liberty Loan” (1918), Pennell uses a simple two-color palette and the rhetorical device of hyperbole to capture what might result from a failure to defeat Germany: New York City enveloped in a firestorm, the Statue of Liberty in danger of collapse beneath aerial bombardment. The personification of Lady Liberty, embodied in Bartholdi’s statue (1886), tethered to Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, packs more punch than “Wake Up, America!”; Jodi and Louis Atkin Family Collection, D.B. Dowd Modern Graphic History Library, Washington University Libraries (photo by the Library of Congress).Until recently, serious thinking about propaganda had seemed like a subject at rest, tidily contained in reflections on the victory over fascism following World War Two. Since 2010, we have witnessed the worldwide resurgence of populism and white nationalism, especially in the United States. Toxic ideologies and rising authoritarianism are now widely understood as serious threats to liberal democracy. If the echoes of fascism have brought the 1930s and ‘40s troublingly to mind, it’s worth recalling that modern propaganda became a global enterprise during the First World War, rather than the second. For the US, that conflict was brief, lasting less than two years. But the ideological output was prodigious.

When the United States Congress declared war on the Imperial German government in April 1917, belatedly entering World War I at Woodrow Wilson’s urging, the nation was flat-footed, unready for conflict. In addition to a lack of military preparedness, a divided citizenry needed rousing to get on a war footing. A propaganda operation would have to be mustered. Soon that job fell to George Creel, a former Rocky Mountain News editor who assumed the chairmanship of the new Committee on Public Information, an independent government agency formed by President Wilson’s executive order on April 13. Over the next two years, the CPI — a de facto department of propaganda — would sprout many “divisions,” or areas of activity, but few would rival what became the poster shop: the Division of Pictorial Publicity.

Creel understood the propaganda role that posters could play, partly because combatant nations had been using them for years, since the outbreak of war in 1914. In the United States, Creel later wrote in How We Advertised America (published in 1920), “The poster must play a great role in the fight for public opinion. The printed word might not be read; people might choose not to attend meetings or to watch motion pictures, but the billboard was something that caught even the most indifferent eye.”

The roots of Great War visual propaganda sprouted in the last decades of the 19th century, specifically in refinements to large format chromolithography and the development of a spot color design aesthetic by fin-de-siècle French poster designers. By “spot color,” I mean the commercial design practice exploited by Jules Chéret and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec of modern color assignations for communicative, rather than illusionist, purposes. An international “poster craze” followed the French example in Europe and America.

Another development contributed to emerging propaganda. During the 1890s, a new generation of American magazine publishers developed an alternative for the dusty old “family house” magazines which published literary and historical subjects. The new breed embraced current topics and sought popular appeal, crucially by lowering prices. Because cheaper issues would have to be underwritten by advertising revenue, magazines like Munsey’s and Cosmopolitan sold rafts of ads to new consumer product manufacturers. Advertisements quickly evolved into a fresh visual medium. In the process, magazine covers and full-page advertisements provided the space and money for illustrators and designers to create a new commercial science of word, image, and letterform. Working with editors, art directors, and ad clients, they honed their skills to stimulate, even implant, consumer desire for new products.

Read more: How WWI US Propaganda Grew Out of a Society of Illustrators

 

General Pershing MCU.max 1600x900"Major General John J. Pershing was chosen to lead the American Expeditionary Force (A. E. F.). He was more admired than liked... As it turned out, Black Jack Pershing’s qualities, skills, and traits made him an outstanding leader of the A.E.F." 

Remembering World War I 

By Ron Montonye - Pierce County Veterans Service Officer
via The Tribune newspaper (Pierce County, ND) web site

Oct 10, 2020 -- As I write this column, I am in the process of reading a book titled “Yanks – The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I.” It was written by John S.D. Eisenhower. As I read this book, it reminded me of many facts that I had either forgotten, or never learned, about World War I. I would like to share a few of these facts, and some thoughts of mine, with you.

World War I was fought from July 28, 1914 to Nov. 11, 1918. The formal state of war between the Allied Forces and Germany officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. Like World War II, the Germans fought the war on two fronts, the Eastern Front against Russia, and the Western Front against mainly Britain, France, and the United States. This global war, also known as the Great War, or “the war to end all wars,” was one of the deadliest conflicts in history. It led to the mobilization of more than 70 million military personnel, with an estimated nine million combatant deaths and 13 million civilian deaths. Of these numbers, the United States mobilized a force of 4,355,000 and suffered 322,000 casualties, including 116,000 killed.

Britain and France fought the Germans on the Western Front for over two years before the United States entered the war. The trench warfare tactics had resulted in very heavy losses and no major victories. They were desperate for the United States to join their efforts to defeat Germany. The use of automatic weapons, machine guns, tanks, early airplanes, and poisonous gases led to horrific casualty rates.

Having led a policy of isolationism during the first two years of the war, the United States military and manufacturing were little prepared for the massive build-up it would take to fight a war of this magnitude. The U.S. officially declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. So, our military involvement in World War I was actually only one-year and seven months.

Once the U.S. declared war, the massive build-up of troops and supplies was almost unbelievable. Major General John J. Pershing was chosen to lead the American Expeditionary Force (A. E. F.). He was more admired than liked. By nature he was strict in manner, attitude, and appearance, and his rigid insistence on military procedures earned him enemies. When he was assigned as a tactical officer at West Point, his obsession with stern discipline made him extremely unpopular with the cadets. Seizing on his previous assignment with the 10th Cavalry, a regiment of African American soldiers, cadets saddled him with the name “Black Jack.” This name stuck with Pershing throughout the rest of his career and long after its origin was forgotten. As it turned out, Black Jack Pershing’s qualities, skills, and traits made him an outstanding leader of the A.E.F.

Read more: Remembering World War I

 

 Military in Guam10172020 768x403Marines on Guam after the Cormoran incident. The men with them are laborers from German New Guinea who’d been working aboard the raider. Later they were returned to their homeland aboard a Japanese ship, Japan having been on the side of the Allies in World War I. (Guampedia photo)

Rock Springs, WY Man Fired First American Shot in World War 1 

via the SweetwaterNOW (WY) web site

SWEETWATER COUNTY — On Sunday morning, June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir apparent to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, setting off the Great War, later called World War I.

On one side were the Central Powers, which included Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire; on the other was the Allies – at that time Great Britain, France, and Russia, among others.

The United States would not enter the war on the side of the Allies for nearly three more years, and when it did, the first shot an American serviceman fired at an enemy in that colossal conflict was not in the trenches in France or on the battlefields of the eastern front, but in the harbor of a Pacific island over 6,000 miles from his birthplace.

The staff of the Sweetwater County Museum reported on Saturday that Corporal Michael Chockie, United States Marine Corps, the man who fired that shot, was a native of Rock Springs, Wyoming, the son of Austrian immigrants.

The German merchant raider Cormoran, armed with eight 4.1-inch guns, put into Apra Harbor, Guam, on December 14, 1914. Guam was American territory and the United States was still neutral. Nearly out of coal, the Cormoran and her crew were interned by American naval authorities and remained in Apra for the next two years.

Read more: Rock Springs Man Fired First American Shot in World War 1

 

The Political Legacy of World War I

By John E. Moser
via the Cato Unbound web site

n July 1918, Columbia University philosophy professor John Dewey offered an explanation for why so many Progressive intellectuals had embraced U.S. involvement in the First World War. True, the “immediate aim” of the war was a mere expression of “the will to conquer,” but to focus exclusively on this was to miss the exciting possibilities that the war offered to society. Throughout the world, the conflict has “made it customary to utilize the collective knowledge and skill of scientific experts in all lines, organizing them for community ends.” “In every warring country,” he continued, “there has been the same demand that in the time of great national stress production for profit be subordinated to production for use. Legal possession and individual property rights have had to give way before social requirements. The old conception of the absoluteness of private property has received the world over a blow from which it will never wholly recover.” Not only would the eventual defeat of German autocracy and militarism make the world “safe for democracy,” as Woodrow Wilson had put it in his April 1917 war address, but it would “initiate a new type of democracy,” in which “the supremacy of the public and social interest” would finally be established “over the private possessive interest.”[1]

unbound 10 20 0World War I was arguably the most important conflict of the twentieth century, bringing down four great empires and redrawing the map of Europe. The effect on the United States was quite different; it did not alter the country’s boundaries, or change its fundamental form of government, and the number of American men who lost their lives (126,000) paled in comparison to the figures from the European belligerents (2 million Germans, 1.4 million Frenchmen, nearly a million Britons). However, the war redefined the role of the federal government. While it did not quite lead to the democratic socialism that Dewey embraced, it redefined the relationship between Washington and its citizens, and set precedents to which subsequent presidents would repeatedly refer.

To say that the United States was unprepared for war in 1917 would be a serious understatement. The U.S. Army had well below 200,000 soldiers (by contrast, the Russian Army had nearly 6 million on the eve of war; the German Army had 4.5 million, while even Bulgaria fielded 280,000 men), and no arms industry capable of producing weapons heavier than rifles and pistols. While the reforms of the Progressive Era had marginally increased the power of the federal government, most authority still resided in the states, and the economy was almost entirely market-driven.

In order to assemble an army large enough to make a difference on the battlefields of Europe, the Wilson administration employed the power of the federal government on an unprecedented level. Even before the war the president had established a nonpartisan advisory committee—the Council for National Defense—made up of business and labor leaders to oversee the process of mobilization. When, in the first weeks of the war, calls for volunteers failed to meet army quotas, Wilson pushed through Congress a Selective Service Act that instituted mass conscription. To make sure that the new army—and the soldiers and civilians of Allied countries—would be properly fed, the president persuaded Congress to pass the Food and Fuel Control Act, which authorized the administration “to requisition foods, feeds, fuels, and other supplies necessary to the support of the Army…or any other public use connected with the common defense.” The bill created a Food Administration—headed by former mining engineer Herbert Hoover—that was empowered to fix prices and even control the amount of food consumed by American civilians; soon “wheatless” and “meatless” days became regular features of American life.

Read more: The Political Legacy of World War I

 

Cantigny churchAt Cantigny, in their first major battles of World War I, American Expeditionary Force troops helped blunt multiple offensives launched by the German Army in the spring of 1918.

 How America Entered WWI with a Bang

By Warfare History Network
via The National Interest web site

s the fateful day drew to a close, the exhausted soldiers of the German 25th and 82nd Reserve Divisions huddled in their trenches. It was May 30, 1918, and for the past two days the Germans had battled elements of the American 1st Division for control of the small village of Cantigny and its environs. Before them the virgin ground had been churned, the town shot up, and its cemetery turned into a ghoulish battlefield of broken headstones and protruding coffins.

While the Americans had given ground, they had not broken, and they had repulsed every assault the experienced Germans mounted. Over the course of the battle, the Americans had whittled the 82nd Reserve Division down to 2,500 effective personnel. The Battle of Cantigny, the first major assault of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) on the Western Front in World War I, proved that Americans “would both fight and stick,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee Bullard, commander of the 1st Division.

The drubbing had been delivered by the 28th Infantry, later reinforced by elements of the 18th Infantry. The Battle of Cantigny began at 4:45 am on May 28. After a 90-minute artillery barrage, the Yanks advanced with three battalions arrayed along a front of 11/2kilometers. Machinegun companies protected each flank. The Americans overran most German forward positions within the first 10 minutes, although the fighting in Cantigny itself came down to flamethrowers, hand grenades, and bayonets. By 8 am the Yanks were digging in, with the 2nd Battalion occupying Cantigny and the 3rd Battalion deployed to the south.

“The success of this phase of the operation was so complete, and the list of casualties so small, that everyone was enthusiastic and delighted,” wrote Colonel George Marshall, who planned the attack. “[However], trouble was coming thick and fast.”

That afternoon, the French withdrew their supporting artillery to deal with a new German offensive. At the same time, German 210mm guns pounded the American positions and tore up the communications wires carefully laid by the 28th Infantry’s engineers. The German counterattack began in the evening and continued into the next morning. The German commander in chief, General Erich Ludendorff, had ordered that the American positions around Cantigny be utterly destroyed for the same reason AEF commander General John J. Pershing ordered that it be held at all costs. “For the 1st Division to lose its first objective was unthinkable and would have had a most depressing effect on the morale of our entire Army, as well as those of our Allies,” wrote Marshall.

Read more: How America Entered WWI with a Bang

 

woodrow wilson 1919 gettyimages 515218452Lingering effects of the 'Spanish flu' may have hindered President Wilson's ability to effectively advocate for his '14 Points' at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. 

Woodrow Wilson Got the Flu in a Pandemic During WWI Peace Talks 

By Dave Roos
via the History.com web site

On the night of April 3, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson began to suffer from a violent cough. His condition quickly worsened to the point that his personal doctor, Cary Grayson, thought the president might have been poisoned. Grayson later described the long night spent at Wilson’s bedside as “one of the worst through which I have ever passed. I was able to control the spasms of coughing but his condition looked very serious.”

The culprit wasn’t poison, but the same potent strain of influenza nicknamed the “Spanish flu” that would eventually kill an estimated 20 million worldwide, including more than 600,000 in the United States. Wilson’s illness was made even worse by its timing—the president was left bedridden in the middle of the most important negotiations of his life, the Paris Peace Conference to end World War I.

Before the Flu, a Deadlock

Wilson came to the Paris negotiations armed with his visionary “14 Points” strategy for achieving world peace. It included calls for open and transparent peace treaties, freedom and self-determination for all European nations, disarmament, and above all the creation of a “general association of nations”—later called the League of Nations—to actively prevent all future wars.

But parts of Wilson’s post-war scheme were adamantly opposed by the other chief powers at the Paris Peace Conference, namely France and Great Britain. The French prime minister, Georges Clemenceau, openly clashed with Wilson over the level of economic punishment to inflict on the Germans. Clemenceau demanded billions in reparations for the monumental loss of French lives and property at German hands, but Wilson wanted to spare Germany such humiliation and focus instead on building up the League of Nations.

By April, the Paris negotiations were deadlocked, and that was precisely the moment when Wilson fell ill. The president was confined to his bed for five days battling a 103-degree fever and racking coughs while his doctor, Grayson, lied to the press that it was nothing more than a bad cold. 

Read more: Woodrow Wilson Got the Flu in a Pandemic During the World War I Peace Talks

 

John CarrollThe World War I memorial at Veterans Memorial Plaza in Delaware, Ohio (left) now contains a brick honoring World War I veteran John List Carroll. Standing next to Carroll's grave (right) Mike Serrott holds the brick engraved in honor of Carroll. In September, the brick was placed in the WWI memorial

Ohio World War I vet honored century later

By Dillon Davis
via the Delaware Gazette (OH) newspaper web site

Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware serves as the final resting place for veterans of every war in which the United States has been involved. When Mike Serrott and his coworkers decided they wanted to honor one of them with a brick at the Veterans Memorial Plaza located at the Ohio Army National Guard Readiness Center on South Houk Road, Serrott knew exactly where to look.

Serrott, who works for the City of Delaware’s Parks and Natural Resources Department, assists at Oak Grove Cemetery, while also tending to the Veterans Memorial Plaza. Looking for a veteran to honor as part of Memorial Day, he had no shortage of options as he went to Oak Grove to complete his search.

Aside from simply representing a veteran at the plaza, however, Serrott sought out a veteran from America’s earlier wars, which didn’t have the same representation at the plaza as wars such as World War II or Vietnam. Specifically, Serrott was hoping to identify a veteran from World War I or earlier to receive the honor. Among all the thousands of gravesites at the cemetery, one, in particular, would stand out, making it an easy decision for Serrott as to who would receive the honor.

Just off of one of Oak Grove’s many winding roads, which Serrott drives nearly every day, sits a gravestone for the Carroll family. Among those buried at the site is John Carroll, a Delaware resident born in 1893 who would go on to attend Ohio Wesleyan University.

Carroll was shipped to Europe following the United States’ involvement in World War I, serving in the 147th Field Hospital. While in Europe, he developed appendicitis and was removed from battle to a hospital in France. While on the mend, Carroll was stricken with influenza, commonly known as the Spanish Flu, and died on Jan. 27, 1919.

Read more: Ohio World War I vet honored century later

 

“Patriot Priest of Picardy” ministered to Doughboys on the front lines 

By Patricia Daly-Lipe
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

I met Msgr. William Hemmick, my mother’s only living relative, in 1961, when I was 19 and had just completed my sophomore year at Vassar College. My mother had died the year before and I wanted to meet her uncle about whom I knew very little except that he was a Canon of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Patricia Daly LipePatricia Daly-LipeThe man I met was a jovial gentleman who was friends with everyone from the Pope, to royalty, to the little boy on the street looking for food. He befriended those he met at Mass and those he knew on the street, those who lived the high-life and those who lived through and survived the ravages of war.

It was not until years later, after his demise, that I came to know about his amazing desire to assist the troops when WWI broke out.

William Hemmick, one of 7 brothers and one sister (my grandmother) was raised in Europe since his father was Consul General to Switzerland. He attended a Jesuit school in Austria and became fluent in five languages.

After completing his studies in Austria, he returned to the United States and attended Catholic University in Washington, DC. Upon completion, he was ordained by Cardinal Gibbons and began a teaching career at the Newman School in New Jersey. Then WWI broke out.

It was years later, when asked to write a book about my great uncle, did I uncover his WWI experiences. Researching the book took me deep into archives and Latin translations of Vatican missives. But it wasn’t until I opened the letters my great uncle William wrote to my grandmother that I began to understand what he had been through.

William felt committed to help the troops when the First World War broke out. That meant joining the bloody, unrelenting trench warfare at the front lines.

With the Cardinal’s blessing, Father Hemmick sailed to France. Through the Red Cross, he found a way to go with the troops to the battle zones. With the American troops under Foch, Father Hemmick, ascertaining that a regiment of infantry was going into a great battle on the Picardy front, and was without a chaplain, immediately attached himself to this front.

In his own words, “I have lived seven days in chalk dugouts opposite the peak of the German thrust. I was also quartered in the same town, on the second line, where Lieut. Col. Griffiths was killed, and whom I buried. Fifteen minutes walk away, through the open country, were the front lines, which I visited whenever necessary. I came out frequently to conduct funerals under terrific fire. Owing to the difficulty in getting coffins forwarded along the heavy shelled roads, many of our boys were buried in their blankets."

Read more: “Patriot Priest of Picardy” ministered to Doughboys on the front lines

 

XavierIn the fall of 1918, Xavier created its own arm of the SATC, or the Student Army Training Corps, which was a War Department program that hastened the training of soldiers on college campuses. Later that year, the Spanish Flu, a strain of the H1N1 virus, began ravaging the barracks. 

"This Dread Disease" -- Xavier Remembers the Past to Avoid Complacency in the Present 

By Ryan Clark
via the Xavier University (OH) web site

The city was afraid.

An epidemic was raging, and it had arrived on Xavier’s campus. Students were given masks and quarantined. Visitors were screened before entering buildings.

Classes were interrupted.

And still, the disease spread. More than 40 students were infected in one residence hall alone.

Sound familiar? It does — but this incident occurred in October 1918, during the outbreak of Spanish Flu.

While it seems as though this could’ve easily been a description of Xavier classes in the spring or fall of 2020, these scenarios have occurred several times over the past two centuries. And Xavier archivists, media, faculty and students were there to describe each instance.

The Cholera Outbreak

In the 19th century it was cholera, an infection of the small intestine, and it ran rampant in Cincinnati in the 1840s, helping to cause a decline in University enrollment.

“The year 1848-1849 had experienced a decided falling off in the attendance, and the steady decrease continued for several years,” The Xavier Athenaeum from February, 1916, reported. “One cause of this was undoubtedly the opening of the Jesuit Boarding College at Bardstown, Kentucky in 1848 and the flourishing condition of other Jesuit colleges at Louisville, Grand Coteau and Spring Hill. Perhaps another contributing cause was the cholera epidemic in Cincinnati at this time. The first appearance of this dread disease in Cincinnati in the year 1849 brought about a remarkable manifestation of devotion to the Queen of Heaven.”

Students met, and they made a vow to the Blessed Virgin.

“If all the students were preserved from death by the cholera during its prevalence in the city they would have two golden crowns made, one for the Blessed Virgin and one for the Infant Jesus, to be placed on their respective images in the chapel,” the article stated.

Read more: "This Dread Disease" -- Xavier Remembers the Past to Avoid Complacency in the Present

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