WWI documentary wins National History Day First Prize
By Joshua Baker
Every year, thousands of students and teachers gather to share their passion for history in the National History Day Contest, which places students and their research projects into a friendly competition. Hosted by National History Day (NHD), a non-profit educational organization, students compete at the local and state level, where finally the top students then advance to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park.
NHD offers year-long academic programs that aim to connect over half a million students across the world by encouraging them to conduct original research on historical topics of their choosing.
Sebastian PizziniThis year, the US World War I Centennial Commission had the honor of interviewing Sebastian Pizzini from Puerto Rico. His original work, Heroes: African Americans in World War I, placed first in the Senior Division: Individual Documentary category.
Sebastian first took an interest in World War One history in 10th grade from his teacher Mr. Proskauer. Pizzini informed the commission that there wasn’t one specific topic that drew his attention to World War One, but rather the conflict as a whole “just stuck” with him. With Pizzini entering into the National History Day Contest, he knew World War One would fit into the parameters of the contest, but he obviously needed to narrow his focus. From there, he then moved his focus on a lesser known topic in American military history, African Americans in the World War One.
Pizzini described his research as a real “eye-opener” because African American involvement in the war was never covered in much depth during his formal education. He learned that of all the African Americans to serve in uniform, only 20 percent were engaged in combat while 80 percent were used for hard-labor. His project noted that the tasks that these African American soldiers were ordered to do had an unsettling connection to Slavery in America’s past time. Despite these harsh realities, African American service in World War One would help lay the foundation for the Civil Rights movement several decades later.
When asked about his experience with the National History Day Contest, Pizzini spoke highly of the program, but also revealed some of the difficulties associated with conducting original research. Pizzini’s project was presented in a documentary format and this led to some difficulties. For example, he mentioned the difficulties of finding the appropriate imagery for certain pieces of information in his documentary, while remaining historically accurate.
Other difficulties came from being the sole person behind the project. For this reason, he felt overwhelmed at times managing all the moving parts by himself. Despite these difficulties, “I had my classmates to motivate me and also had Mr. Proskauer,” to help guide him through the whole process, said Pizzini.
Once Pizzini entered the competition he confessed that he was nervous since he had never participated in a competition like this one before. Obviously he had nothing to be worried about because he would later be informed that he would be advancing to the National competition. With the great news Pizzini said he was “super excited” but still a bit nervous because he had to make some adjustments and do some final tuning prior to entering the National Contest.
Read more: World War I documentary wins National History Day First Prize
(Left to Right) American Private Paul H. Denton in 1919 during the American Expeditionary Forces occupation of Germany in World War I; Erwin Heibel as a child in the 1920's, and while serving in the German armed forces in World War II.
View the Match: Solving the Mystery of a Doughboy Grandfather and Celebrating a Family Reunion
By David Harstin
Special to the United Stated World War I Centennial Commission web site
Article © 2019 Daniel David Harstin. All Rights Reserved
In April of 2017, I received a message through my genealogical service account from a man I didn’t know named Johannes Heibel. I immediately noted the highlighted link below the message that read “View the match.” Needless to say, I was intrigued to have been contacted by a relative whose name I did not recognize. However, the message I was about to read would lead to a family reunion that I never would have imagined.
Johannes had written to me with the hope that I might help him discover the identity of his American paternal grandfather. He shared with me the following information. His grandfather was a soldier who served in the occupation of Germany following WWI. Assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, he was among those billeted in the village of Bannberscheid, the home of Johannes’ then-teenaged grandmother Frieda Keil (1902-56). Many of these soldiers served as mechanics and cooks.
Johannes’ late father was born Erwin Keil on 8 February 1920. However, at the age of four, he was adopted by his stepfather and given the surname Heibel. Erwin would be a young adult before learning of his adoption and biological father. However, his mother never disclosed to him his American father’s name. For a short time in the 1960s, he tried unsuccessfully to find his father. But after Erwin’s death in 2003, Johannes felt compelled to take up his father’s search.
Knowing that my maternal grandfather, Lester Denton (1892-1939) had served in WWI, I was fascinated by Erwin’s story. So I clicked on “View the match” to learn that the genealogical service rated my DNA match to Johannes as “extremely high.” Without a doubt, I learned, I have a German cousin! Could it be that we share an American grandfather? Excited by the possibility, I enthusiastically agreed to assist him in his search. Immediately, I set out to learn as much as I could about the service records of my grandfather and to search for other ancestors who had served in the war.
Knowing that my paternal grandfather and his only half-brother had never served in the armed forces, it was clear that my match with Johannes was through one of my other family lines. It took a little digging, but I soon determined from census data and family records that the brothers of my maternal and paternal grandmothers would have been too young to have served in WWI. Thus, I was certain that my match with Johannes was through my Denton line, and grew more excited by the possibility that we might share the same grandfather. Despite having learned that our shared DNA values fall high in the second cousin range, that did not rule out the possibility. However, after opening an attachment to an email from Johannes, that hope quickly began to fade.
Read more: View the Match: Solving the Mystery of a Doughboy Grandfather and Celebrating a Family Reunion
Veterans mark WWI milestone in Hiawatha, KS
By Joey May and Marcus Clem
via the News-Pressnow.com newspaper web site
HIAWATHA, KAN. — A week of events honoring the hometown hero of Hiawatha, Kansas, came to a close on August 3 with a procession through downtown Hiawatha led by the Homer White American Legion Post No. 66.
Homer White in 1917Lasting four official days, Homer White week honors the World War I fallen soldier killed in action in Germany and laid to rest on Aug. 3, 1919, following the end of the war in late 1918. The 100th anniversary of his funeral and the recent 100th anniversary of the end of hostilities in the Great War, which raged from July 1914 to November 1918, makes this an especially meaningful time for the Hiawatha legionnaires, who strive to memorialize the conflict in a world where no World War I veterans still live.
Robert Sines, secretary and chaplain of Post No. 66, said White and his fellow soldiers fought the first U.S. war which saw all major combat operations take place away from the Americas — which the country entered into only with great reluctance after years of neutrality — in the confidence that they would make a difference. That, in the words of President Woodrow Wilson, it would be the War to End All Wars and that the sacrifices of the nation’s fighting men would “make the world safe for democracy.”
It was, of course, not to be, as Sines and Post No. 66 commander, Retired Col. Bill Vonderschmidt, who both served in the Vietnam War, can attest.
“I think he’d be highly disappointed that a war came about some time later when he was hoping to solve the problems internationally,” Hines said. “But then we have no control over what other countries do. I think Homer, like many of his fellow soldiers, would’ve said, ‘Darn it, I thought we had this fixed.’ ... But I think that also they’d be happy to see this country and what it has come to, all the countries we have helped and the good things we have done.”
Sines served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1969, attaining the rank of sergeant; Vonderschmidt retired in 2006 after a 41-year career in the Army. Vonderschmidt said that the way to honor heroes like White first and foremost is to not take what has been earned by their sacrifices for granted.
Read more: Veterans mark WWI milestone in Hiawatha, KS
John G. Geers stands inside his meat market at 18th and Vine (later rennamed College) in this 1924 photograph. Shifts in food production enacted during World War I changed how Quincy residents ate. | Photo courtesy of Quincy Public Library
World War I changed how Quincy, IL residents ate
By Joseph Newkirk
via the Quincy Herald-Whig newspaper (IL) web site
Wars profoundly change a nation's relationships with other governments and often its own domestic way of life. Far from the battlefields, the First World War incidentally affected what Americans ate and how they thought about food.
After the United States entered the war in April 1917, a massive national conservation effort began on the home front to save the most substantial and nutritious food for troops fighting in Europe. President Woodrow Wilson and food department "czar" Herbert Hoover created a voluntary program with pledge cards distributed to families. This measure initiated "Meatless Mondays," "Wheatless Wednesdays" and other stringent measures.
Mrs. C.W. Leffingwell, chairman of Quincy's branch of the Women's Committee of the Council of National Defense, circulated these cards in July 1917 to the city's club and society presidents for disbursement to their members. Soon, Quincy Public Schools passed out pledge cards to children in every school.
The war instilled the need for community gardens and locally grown foods. The Quincy Daily Journal furnished seeds for anyone willing to cultivate a vacant lot, and The Quincy Daily Whig ran a regular column titled "For War Gardeners." Officials encouraged children to form pig and sheep clubs for raising these animals for the war effort. Quincy youngsters enthusiastically answered the call. The Quincy Daily Herald of July, 11, 1918, reported: "The girls have quit cuddly dolls and gone to raising pigs for the government. The boys have thrown their baseball mitts into the corner of the barn and are doing the same thing."
Scientists working for the military during the war made discoveries that greatly affected views about food: the "calorie" and the "vital amine" or "vitamin" became household words. Most people at this time, though, saw calories as largely interchangeable units of energy. A Quincy Daily Herald article of Oct. 23, 1917, titled "Paste This Up in Your Kitchen," classified food as price-per-100 calories without regard to nutritional value. Fruits and grapes at $1.49 per 100 calories were the cheapest, and celery at $21.40 the most expensive.
Read more: World War I changed how Quincy, IL residents ate
Flag reaches final resting place, in memory of Maine WWI soldier
By Alison Jones Webb
via the Portland Press Herald newspaper (ME) web site
My husband and I recently went to the movies at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland. As old-movie buffs, we were thrilled to see what Kinonik, a small nonprofit that screens celluloid classic films, had in store. The Kinonik team did not disappoint. They re-created the magic of seeing a silent movie, complete with live piano accompaniment. The movie was “The Big Parade,” a 1925 war drama that was one of the most successful movies of the silent era.
This was the flag that was draped over the casket of World War I veteran Garth Wise and then given to his widow. Eighty-eight years after his death, his great-niece Alison Jones Webb has donated the flag to the Maine Military Museum. (Photo by Alison Jones Webb)The three-hour film is known for its graphic scenes of hand-to-hand combat, poison gas and scores of troops walking into machine-gun fire, and it was the inspiration for more well-known films such as “All Quiet on the Western Front” in 1930. “The Big Parade” has such cultural significance that the Library of Congress selected it to be included in the National Film Registry, an honor reserved for films that are culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.
As I was watching the movie, I found myself thinking about Garth Wise, my maternal grandmother’s half brother, who fought in World War I. Garth was born in 1895, and his mother died when he was 5. He married at the age of 26 and died when he was 36. He had no children.
His legacy in our family was always an add-on to my grandmother’s sister and brother. Growing up, I heard very few details about his life or his service in the war, but I remember hearing that “he came back different.” He jumped when a screen door slammed and liked to be alone as much as possible. Today, we would probably say that he had post-traumatic stress syndrome.
There was one reminder that we had, though, that I kept thinking about during the movie. In our basement, with my mother’s personal effects, was a 48-star flag, folded neatly in a triangle, with a note pinned to it: “Garth Wise. Served in WWI.” This was the flag that was draped over his casket and then given to his widow. Somehow it was passed on to my mother and had remained tightly folded in ceremonial military style for over 80 years.
After seeing the movie, I felt a sense of responsibility to honor his memory as a soldier, to find a home for the flag. It doesn’t belong in my basement any longer.
Read more: Flag reaches final resting place, in memory of Maine WWI soldier
Victory Monument, at 35th & King Drive in Chicago | Sun-Times Media
Centennial anniversary of WWI black veterans group deserves attention
By Mary Mitchell
via the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper web site
My favorite photograph of my father is of him in his navy uniform, posing on the deck of the ship he served on in World War II.
It was a cherished piece of history that disappeared shortly before his death.
The photograph, along with his honorable discharge papers, was a reminder that even when he wasn’t being respected as a citizen, he was a patriot.
But without a griot, black history can easily be lost.
For instance, as many times as I have walked by and driven past the Victory Monument at 35th and King Drive, I was unaware of its ties to one of the few remaining black American Legion posts in the U.S.
Next month, the George L. Giles Post #87 will celebrate its 100-year anniversary with an open house Aug. 17 at the post, at 5745 S. State St., and a gala the next day Aug. 18.
For 93 of those years, the post has kept this important history alive by leading an annual Veterans Day parade to the Victory Monument.
That sculpture was built in 1927 to honor the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard — an African American unit.
“At the time we formed the post in 1919, this was the only place that we were allowed to meet and discuss what had happened in our life,” said Cmdr. Ashley Shine Jr., 73.
“This 100-year anniversary is quite a celebration. To be able to achieve 100 years as a veterans organization, but also 100 years of outreach for the community is quite an achievement.”
Read more: Centennial anniversary of black veterans group deserves attention
Park University leads effort to give Medals of Honor to minority WWI heroes
By Leslie Aguilar
via the KCTV-5 television station (MO) web site D
PARKVILLE, MO (KCTV) -- Two Park University students and a professor are taking on a mission to right the wrongs of the past. They want to make sure African American soldiers from the Great War get the honor they deserve.
More than 375,000 African Americans put on a uniform and went to fight during the first World War.
“I like to refer to them as the forgotten soldiers of a forgotten war,” Josh Weston, Park University history undergraduate sophomore, said.
Not one of those soldiers received the highest honor the United States can bestow for valor when they came home.
“They weren’t even mentioned on the national scale as being active in this war,” Ashlyn Weber, Park University history undergraduate senior, said.
Weber, Weston and their professor, Dr. Tim Westcott, are doing a systematic review of military records. They’re looking for soldiers who were denied a medal of honor based on race or religion.
“There are records and documents from 1925 and previous from the United States Army Command Staff that we would not repeat those words today because they are very racist about African Americans in particular serving in the United States Army,” Westcott said.
Tim Westcott is a veteran himself.
So far, he and his students have identified 70 African American soldiers who were awarded a Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S. but no Medal of Honor.
Some of them were even awarded France’s equivalent of the Medal of Honor, the Croix de Gerre Palm.
It’s Josh Weston’s job to look through military records from the U.S., France and Germany to get a clear storyline of what each soldier did.
“They were severely wounded and still went out and were fighting for both the French and the Americans for the allied side and were given everything they had even though they weren’t, let’s just say, treated the greatest,” Weston said.
Weston is a veteran too.
He just wants credit given where it’s due.
“They fought beyond heroically and we need to honor that,” he said.
Read more: Park University leads effort to give Medals of Honor to minority WWI heroes
Community Celebrates New WWI Memorial in Duluth, MN
By Alejandra Palacios
via the WDIO ABC television station (MN) web site
The City of Duluth hosted a special ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday to celebrate the new World War I memorial at Memorial Park.
The memorial was originally made in 1928 for the 22 West Duluthians who served and died in the war. At the time, there were 23 ash trees planted with small plaques that were engraved with the name of each soldier. They were placed on the foot of each tree. The 23rd marker was for the unknown war veteran who died.
After many years, the memorial had damage. Local leaders and community members said it was time for an upgrade. In May, construction was started to renovate the memorial. The renovations included landscaping, a concrete slab, sidewalk work, and a flag pole.
“It's replacing all the trees and plaques that were in the park to start with. My grandma’s brother had a plaque in a tree. His name was Carl Peterson who died in World War I,” Jerry Liston, an attendee, said.
“We Will Remember Them” was engraved in the new memorial made out of Mesabi black granite. The message was also engraved in the hearts of everyone who witnessed the rebirth of the memorial.
“As long as I have memory, I will remember them all every day,” Dwight Nelson, a Vietnam War veteran, said.
Also engraved on the granite plaque are the names of the 22 soldiers who died in line of duty during the war along with Duluth’s 167 Gold Star men and women.
“Let us never forget that the freedom we have is not free. It is paid for every time one of our brave servicemen or women falls in battle,” Congressman Pete Stauber, said.
Read more: Community Celebrates New WWI Memorial in Duluth, MN
Major General George Owen Squier nominated to Aviation Hall of Fame
By Dennis Skupinski
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site
The Michigan WW1 Centennial Commission has nominated Major General George O. Squier the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Squier made a tremendous impact on early military aviation. He was the pioneer in military aviation, making the U.S. Army leaders in this field until the World War 1. He also established Langley Field which served as a research facility for civilian and military aviation and eventually space travel.
Major General George Owen SquierSquier's invention of multiplexing enabled telecommunications to be scalable and affordable which benefited mankind and the military. This also allowed the internet or world wide web to develop. Without the innovations of George O. Squire, our lives would be vastly different today.
From May 1916 to February 1917, he was Chief of the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps, the first successor of the Aeronautical Division, before being promoted to major general and appointed Chief Signal Officer during World War I. Squier wrote the paper that created the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Aeronautical Division, on August 1, 1907. This becomes the first "Heavier Than Air" unit in the U.S.Military. This will eventually become the U.S. Air Force 40 years later. He was commandant of the Army Signal school at Fort Leavenworth at the time when they were teaching about "Lighter than Air" aircraft.
Squier wrote the first specifications for a military aircraft to be purchased by the U.S. Army which was to be produced by the Wright Brothers in 1908.
He was the first military passenger on an airplane on September 12, 1908 on the Wright Brothers Flyer.
He was responsible for the first purchase of the first military airplane by the U.S. Army in 1909. It is also the first purchase of a military aircraft (Heavier than Air) in the world. The Wright Brothers airplane was used to train military pilots from 1909 until 1911. Then it was housed in the Smithsonian Institute for public display. This airplane is now located in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
He was responsible for the purchase of 1,659 Acres of Virginia farmland that became Langley Field in late 1916. Langley Field was named by then Lt. Col. G.O. Squier after Samuel Langley and became the principal research facility of military and civilian aviation. He founded the Army's aviation research laboratory there.
He patented multi-plexing which is the ability to send multiple signals over the same wire by dividing up the bandwidth. This would allow the telecommunications and the internet, to be scalable. This also resulted in the formation of the company called Muzak which piped music in on telephone lines and eventually became known as "Elevator Music".
Read more: Major General George Owen Squier nominated to Aviation Hall of Fame
Iowa rooster crowed for cash during World War I
By Jeff Morgan
via the Mapleton Press newspaper (IA) web site
Iowans have come up with some pretty bird-brained fundraisers over the years.
When RAGBRAI rolled through Dallas Center a few years ago, folks placed bets on Chicken Poop Bingo and watched the birds leave “surprises” on a numbered grid. In the early 1990s, anyone who donated to WOI public radio got to name a chicken at Living History Farms. (Whenever a donor showed up to visit, a staffer called out the bird’s name and pointed to whichever one happened to look up: “Oh, there it is! It’s that one over there.”)
During World War I, Private C.W. Gill of Exira, carried this postcard of auctioneer D. R. Jones with the rooster Jack Pershing. Gill gave it to Jones after the war and asked that he donate it to the State of Iowa. (State Historical Society of Iowa)But Iowa’s most famous fowl fundraiser was a scrawny little rooster named Jack Pershing, who is on triumphant (taxidermy) display at the Rolling Hills Bank in Casey, straight west of Des Moines. The old bird was part of a temporary exhibit for the town’s sesquicentennial festival, July 12-14.
“Everybody thinks he’s pretty cool,” banker Emily Wedemeyer said.
Jack’s overnight rise to celebrity status began just about a century ago, on Dec. 15, 1917, when local auctioneers Ed Meinkey and D.R. Jones were gathering items to auction off in support of the American Red Cross during World War I.
Mark Dunkerson, a farmer from nearby Fontanelle, wanted to contribute something for the auction that night but could spare only a chicken.
“I don’t have much to offer,” Dunkerson told the auctioneers, according to an account the Audubon County Journal published years later in 1944. “But there are a couple of roosters in that little flock of chickens. You could have one of them, if that would help any.”
Meinkey and Jones searched the barnyard, found an unhappy brown-black rooster in a yeast box and enlisted him for the auction with relatively low expectations. As the Audubon County Journal put it, “A scrub rooster is a scrub rooster – just that – and, as an article of value, is reckoned somewhat lightly.”
But this was for a good cause, after all, so someone made a 50-cent bid.
“Sold,” Jones said. “Here’s your bird. Come and get him.”
The buyer, however, thought the rooster was “too darn cantankerous to take home,” so he told the auctioneer to sell it again, according to a colorful account on an Adair County tourism website.
Read more: Iowa rooster crowed for cash during World War I
The update of the World War I Monument at the Craven County Courthouse in North Carolina coincides with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion.
WWI monument being updated at Craven County, NC Courthouse
By Sydney Basden
via the New Bern, NC News Channel 12 television station web site
NEW BERN, Craven County — The American Legion, The New Bern Historical Society and the Craven County Department of Recreation and Parks have partnered to update the World War I Monument at the Craven County Courthouse.
This project coincides with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion.
The New Bern Historical Society says the goal is to update the WWI monument that has stood on the courthouse grounds since 1944. The update has two parts: to clean the 75-year-old obelisk and to add the names of Craven County residents who were not originally listed.
The society says research has been done by historians Mark Sandvigen and Claudia Houston. They have looked through family records and histories and would like the public to review the list of names at www.NewBernHistorical.org and https://newbernpost539.com/.
The updated monument will be unveiled to the public in September.
Read more: WWI monument being updated at Craven County, NC Courthouse
Descendants of RI Italian WWI veteran span five generations at reunion
By Ethan Hartley
via the Warwick Beacon newspaper (RI) Warwick Online web site
Michael Tudino led an adventurous life that took him from the small Italian town of Sant'Ambrogio sul Garigliano to the jungles of Brazil, the textile factories of Industrial New England, and the front lines of World War 1.
Michael Tudino as seen in his Italian military uniform.On July 13, during a warm summer weekend in Warwick, roots that the man probably never imagined to have planted culminated in a family reunion that spanned five generations and included as many as 70 members of the family that came to be because of Tudino’s marriage to Teresa Bianco.
The story of Tudino’s life is an interesting one that starts on December 30, 1895 in the small aforementioned Italian village. “A strong man with an adventurous spirit,” as a family-written biography chronicling his life (provided by family member Tina Joyce) states, Tudino left with his father as a teenager (just 15 or 16) to Brazil to find work to support their struggling family.
“Oh, they found work alright,” the biography describes. “It was in the steamy, dangerous jungle of Brazil, chopping and clearing trees and underbrush, to make way for the railroad.”
After a while of this, Tudino returned home to Italy before immigrating to the United States, alone, still as just a teenager. He settled in Lawrence, Mass., where he had some cousins in the area, and began working in a textile mill. Lawrence was an industrial power during this era in New England, with cheap labor needed sorely, so it was a likely place for an Italian immigrant to wind up.
But then duty to his country called during World War 1. He returned to fight for his country and served as a machine gunner after braving the hostile waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. He would become wounded in combat and spent time in a military hospital, which earned him his first medal. He then returned to the front where he earned another award for valor after blowing up enemy barbwire.
Read more: Descendants of RI Italian WWI veteran span five generations at reunion
The "WWI America: Stories From a Turbulent Nation" The exhibition is on display through August 11.
Austin museum's WWI exhibition is a look at America's turbulent past
By James Jeffrey
via the CultureMap Austin web site (TX)
ust children die and mothers plead in vain? Buy more Liberty Bonds!” extolls a poster in the "WWI America: Stories From a Turbulent Nation" showing now through August 11 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.
The patriotic advertising, aka propaganda, repeatedly leaps out from among a collection of equally bold and artfully drawn posters for the government bonds that sought to raise public money to help finance the war effort when America finally entered the war in April 1917.
Close to the posters is a mock-up cinema showing the silent comedies of Charlie Chaplain, whose physical antics and bowler hat made him a worldwide icon in early twentieth century cinema. Across from that is a full-size mock-up WWI army ambulance where video recollections of six Americans who participated in the war are projected inside.
“There have been a number of exhibitions that celebrated America's efforts in World War I from a military angle, [but] this exhibition is different,” says Kate Betz, the museum’s deputy director of interpretation. “It takes a deep look at what taking part in WWI did to America as a nation, pulling us away from isolationism and toward the modern nation that we know today. This point is made over and over through the stories and artifacts of relatable people, both famous and average citizens, as well as through interactive experiences to help connect visitors to a pivotal time period in our nation's history.”
Read more: Austin museum's WWI exhibition is a look at America's turbulent past