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World War I Centennial News



epidemic 1918 yearAmerican Expeditionary Force victims of the Spanish flu at U.S. Army Camp Hospital no. 45 in Aix-les-Bains, France, in 1918. Uncredited US Army photographer; public domain.

Unusual climate conditions influenced WWI mortality and subsequent Spanish flu pandemic

By Lauren Lipuma
via the American Geophysical Union web site

WASHINGTON—Scientists have spotted a once-in-a-century climate anomaly during World War I that likely increased mortality during the war and the influenza pandemic in the years that followed.

Well-documented torrential rains and unusually cold temperatures affected the outcomes of many major battles on the Western Front during the war years of 1914 to 1918. Most notably, the poor conditions played a role in the battles of Verdun and the Somme, during which more than one million soldiers were killed or wounded.

The bad weather may also have exacerbated the Spanish flu pandemic that claimed 50 to 100 million lives between 1917 and 1919, according to the new study. Scientists have long studied the spread of the H1N1 influenza strain that caused the pandemic, but little research has focused on whether environmental conditions played a role.

In a new study in AGU’s journal GeoHealth, scientists analyzed an ice core taken from a glacier in the European Alps to reconstruct climate conditions during the war years. They found an extremely unusual influx of air from the North Atlantic Ocean affected weather on the European continent from 1914 to 1919. The incessant rain and cold caused by this influx of ocean air hung over major battlefields on the Western Front but also affected the migratory patterns of mallard ducks, the main animal host for H1N1 flu virus strains.

Mallard ducks likely stayed put in western Europe in the autumns of 1917 and 1918 because of the bad weather, rather than migrating northeast to Russia as they normally do, according to the new study. This kept them close to military and civilian populations and may have allowed the birds to transfer a particularly virulent strain of H1N1 influenza to humans through bodies of water.

The findings help scientists better understand the factors that contributed to making the war and pandemic so deadly, according to Alexander More, a climate scientist and historian at the Harvard University/Climate Change Institute, associate professor of environmental health at Long Island University and lead author of the new study.

“I’m not saying that this was ‘the’ cause of the pandemic, but it was certainly a potentiator, an added exacerbating factor to an already explosive situation,” More said.


Read more: Unusual climate conditions influenced WWI mortality and subsequent Spanish flu pandemic


200902 marcelino serna ew 1219p 3b696652fb14b51bb3099e753f8db6d4.fit 2000wMarcelino Serna, the first Mexican American soldier to receive the Distinguished Service Cross and one of the most decorated Texans of World War I. "Private Marcelino Serna did not receive the Medal of Honor due to him being a Mexican American and an immigrant,” a Latino civil rights group says. (Photo Courtesy Texas Historical Commission)

Racism deprived Latino WWI hero Marcelino Serna of the Medal of Honor. He deserves it, advocates say. 

By Suzanne Gamboa
via the NBCNews.com television network web site

SAN ANTONIO — In vintage photos, Marcelino Serna wears his World War I Army uniforms that are festooned with several of his battle medals.

But one medal is missing — the Medal of Honor — that should have been draped around his neck about a century ago, Latino advocates, legislators and historians said.

They’ve launched the latest effort to persuade the federal government to posthumously award Serna the medal, the nation’s highest honor for battlefield heroics, arguing it was denied because of racism and xenophobia.

“It clearly appears Private Marcelino Serna did not receive the Medal of Honor due to him being a Mexican American and an immigrant,” Lawrence Romo, national commander of the American GI Forum, a civil rights organization and federally chartered veterans group, wrote to the Army.

Texas' most decorated WWI soldier

Serna has been called the most decorated World War I soldier from Texas. He fought between April 6, 1917, and Nov. 11, 1918, despite being a Mexican immigrant and noncitizen.

There have been earlier petitions for him to be awarded the honor, but now the law mandates review of cases like his.

Last year, Congress ordered the Pentagon to review records of Latino, Black, Asian, Native American and Jewish World War I soldiers to determine if they were denied the Medal of Honor because of their race or religion and should be awarded the medal.

Read more: Racism deprived Latino WWI hero Marcelino Serna of the Medal of Honor. He deserves it, advocates...


Silk and Steel highlights the surprisingly important role of women’s fashion during WWI 

via the National World War I Museum and Memorial web site

The National WWI Museum and Memorial is pleased to invite you to our newest special exhibition, Silk and Steel: French Fashion, Women and WWI, open to the public as of Sept. 25.

Silk and Steel highlights the surprisingly important role of women’s fashion during WWI, especially in France. During a time of global upheaval, women were taking on new responsibilities and roles, and fashion adapted to the necessities of these new actions, scarcity of materials and ever-present societal needs. Dresses, capes, posters and accessories tell the story. Through the lens of fashion, come see this exciting exhibition that shows how the war impacted domestic life, created new businesses and provided new opportunities for women. 

As always, our goal is to make your visit a safe one. We have implemented enhanced cleaning procedures, installed hand sanitizing stations and require guests to wear face masks at the Museum and Memorial, in accordance with city regulations. We take great care to follow the guidelines established by public health officials.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Museum and Memorial, and to Silk and Steel: French Fashion, Women and WWI soon.



5f63d6dd864b7.imageAyden Biancone of Exeter Township accepts the flag that draped an urn holding the ashes of World War I veteran Lewis Hamilton. Ayden was responsible for getting Hamilton's unclaimed ashes interred at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Lebanon County.

Reading, PA World War I veteran laid to rest 54 years after his death thanks to Exeter woman 

By Michelle Lynch
via the Reading Eagle newspaper (PA) web site

The hearse carrying Lewis Hamilton’s cremated remains made its way slowly up the winding road.

In the front passenger seat, Ayden Biancone sat, solemnly accompanying Hamilton's urn to its final resting place at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery, Lebanon County.

It was Ayden, 18, of Exeter Township who took Hamilton’s forgotten ashes from a back cupboard shelf to honorable interment in a columbarium at the cemetery.

Their shared journey ended Tuesday when the Reading veteran was laid to rest, 54 years after his death.

In a phone interview after the ceremony, Ayden explained how she took responsibility for Hamilton’s remains.

“My grandmother found a box at the back of a cupboard after moving to a home in Mount Penn about 15 years ago,” she said.

Inside the cardboard box, the family found a paint-can-like cylinder holding human ashes. The label indicated cremation had taken place at the Charles Evans Crematorium in Reading. It listed Hamilton’s name and date of death, April 16, 1966, but nothing else.

The strange find didn’t surprise or disturb her family, said Ayden, a daughter of Vinny M. and Laura Biancone, who graduated this year from 21st Century Cyber Charter School and is now a freshman at Albright College.

The family knew the home's previous owner had been a mortician and figured the remains had gone unclaimed and were forgotten.

They put the can back on the shelf.

It remained there until earlier this year when Ayden’s grandmother put the house on the market. Ayden learned of the can then and decided the ashes deserved a more permanent home.

“I thought, ‘We have to find his family,’ ” she said. “This was someone’s loved one.”

Read more: Reading World War I veteran laid to rest 54 years after his death thanks to Exeter woman


Fiorello La Guardia stands with Italian air force colleagues Major Piero Negrotto, Captain Federico Zapelloni and Sergeant Firmani in front of their Caproni bomber, the “Congressional Limited.”  (San Diego Air & Space Museum)Fiorello La Guardia stands with Italian air force colleagues Major Piero Negrotto, Captain Federico Zapelloni and Sergeant Firmani in front of their Caproni bomber, the “Congressional Limited.” (San Diego Air & Space Museum) 

Fiorello La Guardia: From Congressman to WWI Hero in the Air 

By Howard Muson
via the HistoryNet.com web site

Fiorello La Guardia was a 35-year-old freshman congressman when the United States went to war in 1917. He had already earned a reputation as a shrewd and ambitious politician with a strong sense of social justice, a fighter against corruption, a defender of the poor and the underdog. But the “Little Flower”—at 5 feet 2, a bundle of volcanic energy and acerbic wit—was little known outside of New York. And he still had much to prove before he could attain the stature that would propel him to three terms as New York City mayor in the 1930s and ’40s.

As the sole Italian American in the 65th Con­gress, La Guardia was determined to show that the sons of Italian immigrants were as patriotic as other citizens. Having supported President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war as well as a controversial draft law, he felt duty-bound to join the military himself. Taking an unpaid leave from Congress, he signed up for the Army’s nascent air service, then part of the Signal Corps.

On the brink of war, the U.S. military had only about 50 obsolete aircraft, few flight instructors and not nearly enough trained pilots. The Italian government offered to build a base where American aviation cadets could be given preliminary flight training, under Italian instructors, for service on the Western Front. They chose Foggia, southeast of Rome, which happened to be the birthplace of Fiorello’s father and generations of his family.

La Guardia was a natural choice to head one of the Foggia training camps. He had taken a few basic flying lessons at an airfield in Mineola, on Long Island, in a plane built by his engineer friend Giuseppe Bellanca. Growing up an Army brat on posts out West, La Guardia was familiar with military discipline and routines. And he spoke Italian, New York–style.

Read more: Fiorello La Guardia: From Congressman to WWI Hero in the Air


FUNDBANNERThe big business of charity fundraising started during WWI, and fraudsters and grifters were quick to take advantage of patriotic sentiment.  

How Fundraising Fraud Became Big Business After World War I 

By Nicholas Gilmore
via the Saturday Evening Post magazine web site

In January of 1925, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to investigate the finances of a charity called the National Disabled Soldiers’ League. Incorporated in 1920, the league purported to “foster and perpetuate national patriotism” by working to improve the lot of disabled soldiers, sailors, and marines.

The NDSL had raised around $290,000 in the prior three years — mostly through mail campaigns in which they sent envelopes containing pencils to prospective donors to solicit donations. The problem was that they could only prove that about 10 percent of that money had gone to the actual cause. The other 90 percent likely went into the pockets of three men who took over the league less than a year after its founding.

In the hearings, a select committee — chaired by Hamilton Fish, Jr. — observed evidence of the NDSL’s unprincipled dealings. They had held excessive, bacchanalian annual conventions, after which they stiffed local hotels, restaurants, and entertainment workers. They were denounced by prominent men (like Senator William Calder and vaudeville star Edward F. Albee) who had once held positions on their advisory board. They dodged all government investigations into their finances, refusing to show their books. The league even cheated the Donnelly Corporation, the company that made their pencils.

The NDSL was a perfect example of the kind of organization that soft-hearted Americans were warned against in the years after the First World War. A 1922 article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle told of “the suavely professional solicitor of tear-stained checks for shady causes” and advised readers to “ask before you give.”

Whether ineffectual charities were nefarious scams or just mismanaged, they were making a whole lot more money after the armistice. The drives that raised funds for the war effort and foreign relief during the war had inadvertently created an army of consultants ready to offer their services to every church, league, and club in the country.

Raising money for a cause — or, pejoratively, systematic begging — was a new sector in the economy of sentiment, and it was big business.

Read more: How Fundraising Fraud Became Big Business After World War I


5f57ef6bd09fe.imageRetired Marine Maj. Bruce ‘Doc’ Norton sits next to a lamp fashioned by his grandfather using his WWI helmet and artillery. The author has released a compilation of his grandfather’s wartime letters. 

'Letters from a Yankee Doughboy': Stafford author shares grandfather's accounts of WWI 

By Kristin Davis
via the Free Lance-Star newspaper (VA) web site

Bruce “Doc” Norton and his wife, Helen, had dug into the pile of letters once before. At their home in Stafford County, Norton typed and Helen dictated words penned from freezing trenches and decimated villages somewhere in France.

But when the computer on which they’d begun their work disappeared, the project to bring the letters to life stalled.

Months passed, and now it was 2018. The 100th anniversary of the formal end of World War I—the Great War, as the author of those letters had known it then—was coming fast.

Helen was no relation Pfc. Raymond W. Maker of Framington, Mass., a wireman who strung communication lines on the muddy battlefields of France in 1918. Nor had she ever met the man.

Maker was Norton’s grandfather, and he’d died in 1964 after suffering a heart attack.

But Helen wanted to see the letters brought to life. And she knew that Norton—a combat veteran and career Marine infantry officer-turned-author of military history—was just the person to make that happen.

First, though, they needed a hard copy. Something they could touch. Something that would be difficult, if not impossible, to lose.

Helen retrieved the letters stored for decades in a box and organized them in chronological order. Then she began copying by hand the words that would form the bulk of Norton’s newest book: “Letters from a Yankee Doughboy: Private 1st Class Raymond W. Maker in World War I.

Read more: 'Letters from a Yankee Doughboy': Stafford author shares grandfather's accounts of WWI


a144 048Women's ward of American Women's Hospitals #1 in Luzancy, France. Dr. M. Louise Hurrell, Dr. Inez C. Bentley, nurses, and patients. 1918.  

They Were There: American Women Physicians and the First World War 

By Mollie C Marr, BFA; Iris Dupanovic, MS; Victoria Z Sefcsik, MS; Nitisha Mehta; Eliza Lo Chin, MD, MPH
via the The Permanente Journal web site


This past decade marked the centenary of World War I (WWI). For the first time in American history, women participated on a large scale in war efforts through the military and other government agencies. Although much is known about the importance of medicine during WWI, most of the focus has been on male physicians who served abroad. Tens of thousands of women went abroad as nurses, ambulance drivers, and relief workers, but the contributions of women physicians in the war are less well known.

When the US entered the First World War in 1917, women physicians represented less than 5% of the physician workforce.1 Anticipating a surge in the demand for medical services, the Army Surgeon General sent Army Medical Reserve Corps registration forms to all physicians. These forms did not request physician sex because the respondents were assumed to be male.2 Many women physicians completed the forms, volunteering to serve in the Army Medical Reserve Corps. Their applications, however, were rejected on the belief that women could not handle the demands of the battlefield and were not qualified to command men.3,4 Women physicians were also told they could not serve because “it hadn’t been done” before, despite women serving in military nursing corps since 1901.5 Finally, they were told that because they could not vote, the use of the word “citizen” in the legislation that expanded the Army Medical Reserve Corps did not apply to them.6 In 1917, the Medical Women’s National Association (later renamed the American Medical Women’s Association) lobbied the US government to include women in the Army Medical Reserve Corps, asking that “opportunities for medical service be given to medical women equal to the opportunities given to medical men … and that the women so serving be given the same rank, title and pay given to men holding equivalent positions.”7 Ultimately, all petitions and appeals for inclusion in the Army Medical Reserve Corps were denied.3,4

Exclusion from the Army Medical Reserve Corps did not stop women physicians from contributing to the war effort. Dr Esther Pohl Lovejoy8 wrote, “The women of the medical profession were not called to the colors, but they decided to go anyway.” Women physicians held government and civilian leadership roles, created and ran their own hospital units, served in the US and French army as civil contract surgeons and volunteered in various organizations such as the American Red Cross, American Women’s Hospitals (AWH), Women’s Oversea Hospitals, and the American Fund for French Wounded. In fact, registrations conducted by the AWH showed that “almost one-third … of the medical women in the country…, active and retired, signified their willingness to provide medical service as part of the war effort … and compared favorably to the service rates of male colleagues.”4

In this article, we shed light on the underrecognized women leaders of WWI. Through their stories, we explore the barriers they faced and the opportunities they created.

Read more: They Were There: American Women Physicians and the First World War


sedition and espionage acts wwi gettyimages 535783445As the United States entered World War I, President Wilson and Congress sought to silence vocal and written opposition to U.S. involvement in the war. 

The Sedition and Espionage Acts Were Designed to Quash Dissent During WWI 

By Dave Roos
via the History.com web site

When the United States finally decided to enter World War I in 1917, there was opposition at home by those who wanted America to remain neutral in the European conflict and groups who actively opposed the draft, the first of its kind in the country. The most vocal dissent came from pacifists, anarchists and socialists, many of whom were Irish, German and Russian immigrants and whose loyalty to America was openly questioned.

Fearing that anti-war speeches and street pamphlets would undermine the war effort, President Woodrow Wilson and Congress passed two laws, the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, that criminalized any “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the U.S. government or military, or any speech intended to “incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty.” (These were different and separate from the Alien and Sedition Acts passed in 1798 that were mostly repealed or expired by 1802.)

The two broadly worded laws of 1917 and 1918 ultimately came to be viewed as some of the most egregious violations of the Constitution’s free speech protections. They were written in an environment of wartime panic, and resulted in the arrest and prosecution of more than 2,000 Americans, some of whom were sentenced to 20 years in prison for sedition.

A handful of those convictions were appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the Espionage and Sedition Acts as constitutional limits on free speech in a time of war. One famous decision penned by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes introduced the “clear and present danger” test, which he compared to shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater.

At War with 'Disloyal' Speech

The Wilson administration knew that many Americans were conflicted about the U.S. entry into World War I, so it launched a sweeping propaganda campaign to instill hatred of both the German enemy abroad and disloyalty at home. Wilson publicly stated that disloyalty to the war effort “must be crushed out” and that disloyal individuals had “sacrificed their right to civil liberties” like free speech and expression.

Read more: The Sedition and Espionage Acts Were Designed to Quash Dissent During WWI


WP 1918 Legacy Better Flu Shots 69111 301baIn this October 1918 photo made available by the Library of Congress, St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps personnel wear masks as they hold stretchers next to ambulances in preparation for victims of the influenza epidemic. A century after one of history?s most catastrophic disease outbreaks, scientists are rethinking how to guard against another super-flu like the 1918 influenza that slaughtered tens of millions as it swept the globe in mere months. (Library of Congress via AP) (AP) 

‘The 1918 flu is still with us’: The deadliest pandemic ever is still causing problems today 

By Teddy Amenabar
via the Washington Post newspaper (DC) web site

In 1918, a novel strand of influenza killed more people than the 14th century’s Black Plague.

At least 50 million people died worldwide because of that H1N1 influenza outbreak. The dead were buried in mass graves. In Philadelphia, one of the hardest-hit cities in the country, priests collected bodies with horse-drawn carriages.

In the middle of today’s novel coronavirus outbreak, some are turning to the conclusion of past pandemics to discern how and when life might “return to normal.” The Washington Post has received a few dozen questions from readers who want historical context for our current epidemic. But how did the deadliest pandemic ever recorded come to an end?

Over time, those who contracted the virus developed an immunity to the novel strand of influenza, and life returned to normal by the early 1920s, according to historians and medical experts. Reports at the time suggest the virus became less lethal as the pandemic carried on in waves.

But the strand of the flu didn’t just disappear. The influenza virus continuously mutated, passing through humans, pigs and other mammals. The pandemic-level virus morphed into just another seasonal flu. Descendants of the 1918 H1N1 virus make up the influenza viruses we’re fighting today.

“The 1918 flu is still with us, in that sense,” said Ann Reid, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education who successfully sequenced the genetic makeup of the 1918 influenza virus in the 1990s. “It never went away.”

Read more: ‘The 1918 flu is still with us’: The deadliest pandemic ever is still causing problems today


Clarendon panelsThe Clarendon War Memorial historic markers in Arlington County, VA were dedicated Nov. 11, 2019.  

Historic Preservation Program and Review Board Recognized for Clarendon War Memorial Project

via the Arlington County (VA) web site

Arlington’s Historic Preservation Program staff and Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) was honored with a Commission Excellence Award in the category of Best Practices: Public Outreach/Advocacy from the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC) during its virtual conference on Aug. 7. The award recognizes the work of County staff and the HALRB on the Clarendon War Memorial Interpretive Project.

Clarendon War Memorial Interpretive Project

Dedicated on Nov. 11, 2019, the eleven historic markers that comprise the Clarendon War Memorial Interpretive Project describe the impact of 20th– and 21st-century conflicts on Arlington’s community and landscape. The markers stand in Clarendon Central Park adjacent to the Clarendon War Memorial, which commemorates the Arlingtonians who lost their lives in five conflicts. Research undertaken for the interpretive project revealed the names of five additional Arlington servicemen whose World War I sacrifice had previously gone unrecognized.

Sponsored in part by a grant from the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission's 100 Cities / 100 Memorials program and fundraising efforts spearheaded by the County’s World War I Commemoration Task Force, the interpretive project represents the culmination of more than a year’s collaboration between County staff and the HALRB with the Task Force, Arlington’s veterans, and numerous community stakeholders.

“This project was an unprecedented government and community collaboration that honors our local veterans by sharing their stories and sacrifices with future generations. It also highlights individuals and groups overlooked in the past, such as women, Black Arlingtonians, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Cynthia Liccese-Torres, Historic Preservation Program Supervisor. “We are thrilled to receive recognition from the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions and hope residents and visitors alike learn more about Arlington’s history through this project.”

Read more: Historic Preservation Program and Review Board Recognized for Clarendon War Memorial Project



A pandemic, never-maskers, open-air meetings: Welcome to 1918

By Betty Lou Gaen
Via the Edmonds Beacon newspaper (WA) web site 

In October of 1918, the world was still fighting WWI, and although the end of the hostilities was near, censorship of the news still remained. Therefore, it was left to the non-combatant country of Spain to report that civilians in many places were becoming ill and dying at an alarming rate. These circumstances gave rise to the name by which this horrible disease would forever be known—the Spanish flu.

Seattle Green Lake streetcarEven back then: In late 1918, a streetcar conductor on the Green Lake run in Seattle informs a potential rider that he can't board the streetcar without wearing a face mask.In late 1918, a streetcar conductor on the Green Lake run in Seattle, is informing a potential rider that he cannot board the streetcar without wearing a face mask. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

After first showing up earlier in 1918, and then seemingly abating, in the fall, the misnamed Spanish flu returned with a vengeance, and Seattle was enforcing regulations to protect its citizens. It was reported on Oct. 5, 1918, that Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson had ordered that every place of indoor public gatherings in Seattle close its doors. That included schools, theatres, motion picture houses, churches and dance halls. The only public gatherings allowed were those in the open air.

In the United States, the disease, first called a 3-day fever, was identified among military personnel in the spring of 1918. Most people recovered after a few days and only a few deaths were reported. However, in October, with WWI winding down and the American doughboys trickling back home from Europe, the disease resurfaced with a vengeance. Some victims died within hours after the first symptoms; others after a few days.

As the virus spread throughout the populated areas of the United States, and even into remote villages in Alaska, doctors, scientists and health officials seemed helpless. In one small remote native village in Alaska, influenza appeared where there seemed to be little contact from the outside, and in five days, 72 out of 80 residents died.

It was unknown where this strain of influenza first originated, but it was determined that it was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin, and even though it became known as the Spanish flu, it was very doubtful that Spain was the source.

Worldwide, it is estimated that about 500 million people became infected with the virus, and it is thought that at least 50 million, and probably more, died. About 675,000 deaths occurred in the United States. A Census Bureau report showed that 1,513 people died in Seattle.

Even though Washington state had a large military and naval presence, it had a smaller number of victims than other states, except Oregon. The death toll seemed highest in the most heavily populated areas of Washington, but touched nearly every community.

From late September 1918 through the end of the year, the disease had killed over 5,000 of the state's residents. More than half the victims were between the ages of 20 and 40.

Read more: A pandemic, never-maskers, open-air meetings: Welcome to 1918


springvalley 727x485The cleanup of the World War I toxic waste site in the Spring Valley section of Washington, DC. is finally completed. The remains of a World War I chemical weapons testing and disposal site — known as the American University Experiment Station — were discovered in 1993 in the Spring Valley section of Northwest D.C., and the cleanup has been going on since 2012, including the demolishing and removal of the house located on the site.

World War I chemical munitions cleanup ‘is complete’ under former Northwest DC home 

By Neal Augenstein
via the WTOPnews radio station web site

The painstaking cleanup of what was once a World War I chemical weapons testing and disposal site, just southwest of the American University campus, is now complete, according to the project’s manager.

Demolition of the stately home at 4825 Glenbrook Road, in the Spring Valley section of Northwest D.C., began in November 2012, almost two decades after a contractor first unearthed buried military ordnance nearby.

For almost eight years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been looking for and removing remnants of potentially dangerous broken glassware and contaminated soil from the site, known as the American University Experiment Station.

“Excavation of all contaminated material is complete,” project manager Julie Kaiser told WTOP.

The cleanup of what the lawyer for the former homeowner called “the mother of all toxic dumps” began after digging and research indicated the likely presence of mustard gas and lewisite — an arsenic-containing blister agent — under the former home.

“We were happy to find that all of the soil and underlying saprolite, which did get sampled, was less than 20 parts of arsenic,” Kaiser said.

Saprolite is the rock under the soil, and the level of arsenic is comparable with naturally occurring levels found in soil, rock, water, and air.

“That was the deciding factor in the last excavation,” Kaiser said.

Read more: WWI chemical munitions cleanup ‘is complete’ under former Northwest DC home

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