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World War I Centennial News



5e90e9030e358.image French-American pilot Lt. Raoul Lufbery, shown in France circa World War I, served first with the legendary volunteer Lafayette Escadrille in the Great War. (PhotoQuest / Getty Images ) 

Meet Wallingford’s forgotten hero pilot of the First World War 

By Erik Ofgang
via the Connecticut Magazine web site

The giant enemy plane, a German reconnaissance craft, appeared early in the morning on May 19, 1918, in the skies above France. Several fighter pilots with the United States’ 94th Aero Squadron took to the air to fight it but proved little match for it.

“The scene, in full view for many miles, looked like a lot of swallows pecking at a giant bird of prey,” The New York Times reported.

After running out of bullets, one of the Americans landed and reported the obvious: they weren’t able to damage the heavily armored plane. Even so, one of the United States’ most experienced pilots decided to join the fight. His name was Raoul Lufbery and he was already a legend.

Officially hailing from Wallingford, though he never stayed in one place for long, Lufbery had served with France’s foreign service since the outbreak of World War I. In 1916 he joined the Lafayette Escadrille, a French command volunteer group of mostly American fighter pilots that was named in honor of the French hero of the American Revolution, Marquis de Lafayette. After the U.S. entered the war in 1917, Lufbery became the commanding officer of the 94th Aero Squadron.

Known as the “knights of the sky,” the fighter pilots of World War I were hailed for their bravery and grace. Lufbery embodied their devil-may-care spirit as much as anyone. He had already garnered 17 confirmed kills, with some modern observers putting his true tally closer to twice that number.

Lufbery steered his aircraft above the German plane and swept headfirst at the enemy craft, riddling it with bullets. Then he swerved off suddenly. Most likely his gun had jammed. In a few minutes, he attacked again. Contemporary accounts say that on this final pass, a thin line of flame shot from his plane. The craft seemed to hang in the air for a moment before darting downward, and as the plane fell, Lufbery jumped from it either to avoid a fiery death or in the desperate hope of landing in a nearby river. Other research suggests he was thrown from his plane when it capsized. Regardless, his body flew into the morning sky and started to fall.

Read more: Meet Wallingford’s forgotten hero pilot of the First World War


War Fare collage"[W]e again have the collective opportunity to reduce usage of scarce items—both for the community at large and particularly for those on the front line of this crisis," says Lora Vogt, curator of education at the National World War I Museum and Memorial.

Cook These Quarantine-Friendly World War I Recipes

By Alex Fox
via the Smithsonian Magazine web site

If you’re running low on flour or getting tired of feeding your sourdough starter, the National World War I Museum and Memorial has some alternative culinary options for your perusal. The Kansas City institution offers a host of online exhibitions, including one dedicated to the critical role that food played during the Great War. Titled “War Fare: From the Homefront to the Frontlines,” the show includes a list of recipes first published in the 1918 Win the War in the Kitchen cookbook, reports Mike Pomranz for Food & Wine.

Win the War in the Kitchen, published by the newly created United States Food Administration (then headed by future president Herbert Hoover), promoted conservation or substitution of ingredients such as meat, wheat, dairy and sugar, all of which were deemed crucial to sustaining soldiers on the front lines. Messages appealing to citizens’ patriotic duty to support the war effort from home accompanied the recipes—a directive one historian says may inspire Americans amid this time of national solidarity.

“While the COVID-19 and World War I/1918 flu pandemic are fundamentally different situations, they have both resulted in shortages of essential supplies, including food,” Lora Vogt, the museum’s curator of education, tells Food & Wine. “The concept was that a person or family’s choice to skip a tablespoon of sugar at the kitchen table meant that sugar—and its calories—could be used to help a soldier go the extra mile during World War I.”

Now, Vogt adds, “[W]e again have the collective opportunity to reduce usage of scarce items—both for the community at large and particularly for those on the frontline of this crisis.” 

Read more: Cook These Quarantine-Friendly World War I Recipes


Soldiers of the 370th Infantery Regiment Luciden EdmondSoldiers of the 370th Infantry Regiment in World War I (Luciden Edmond) 

The bravery of the only all-African-American unit in WWI, the ‘Black Devils’ 

By Dena Holtz
via the wearegreenbay.com (WI) web site

During World War I, they earned a reputation of ferocity, and bravery. So much so that they were known as the “Black Devils” by dispirited Germans.

Dr. Jeff Gusky, a National Geographic photographer, and explorer, recently unearthed the only trace of the Black Devils, which was the only all-African-American unit in WWI. Their story has become part of an exhibit, “We Return Fighting: The African-American exhibit in World War I. 

The Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History & Culture shines light on the bravery of this Company. After the war, they continued to fight at home, “for a democracy they never knew.”

The exhibit is called, “We Return Fighting: The African-American experience in World War I” probing war-time conditions at home and abroad.

During World War I, over 380,000 African-American soldiers served in the armed forces. The Military restricted most black soldiers to labor battalions where they unloaded ships, dug trenches, and built roads.

The 370th Infantry arrived to fight in France on April 22, 1918. By June of the same year, they took position on the front-lines. The 370th, commanded entirely by black officers, faced hard fighting, shelling, and poison gas attacks.

Upon returning to Illinois, a grand celebration took place with a parade, welcoming the brave men home.

Read more: The bravery of the only all-African-American unit in WWI, the ‘Black Devils’


Jeannette Rankin’s history-making moment

via the National Constitution Center's Daily Constitution web site

It was on April 2, 1917 that Jeannette Rankin became the first woman in Congress. But within days, she became the target of national scorn for voting against America’s entry into World War I.

Jeannette Rankin Jeannette Rankin Four years before the 19th Amendment's ratification, which extended the right to vote to all American women, Rankin was elected as the first woman member of Congress. A Republican from Montana, Rankin ran on a platform promising a constitutional amendment for woman’s suffrage and reforms on other social welfare issues such as child labor. Despite the fact that she was elected in 1916, she wasn’t sworn in as a Representative until April 2, 1917, only after Congress had a month-long debate about whether a woman was fit to be a United States Representative.

Born in 1880, Rankin was a trailblazer and activist from a young age. After graduating Montana State University, she worked as a social worker in Washington before joining the woman suffrage movement in that state, which extended to women the right to vote in 1910. By 1914 she was experienced in navigating the suffrage battle and she was a lobbyist for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, where she contributed to the woman suffrage campaign in Montana.

When she announced her candidacy for a House seat in Montana in 1916, some were understandably skeptical about her chances. While her election was a long shot, she benefited from her political experience and reputation as an activist, and from support from her wealthy brother Wellington. During the campaign, she took a staunch pacifist position towards U.S. participation in World War I, and she pledged that she would not vote for any American involvement in the deadly European conflict. After her victory, she acknowledged the gravity of her achievement for women across the country and said that she was “deeply conscious of the responsibility resting upon” her.

On April 2the same day that she officially became the first female member of Congress, President Wilson addressed Congress encouraging it to pass a declaration of war and authorize United States involvement in World War I.

As she voted no on the declaration of war three days later, she told her colleagues “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war”. The resolution ultimately passed 373 to 50, but Rankin established herself as both an active member of Congress and a staunch anti-war representative. 

Read more: Jeannette Rankin’s history-making moment


KCUR 03312020Cpl. Reid Fields, left, frequently wrote letters to his sweetheart, Clara Wrasse, during World War I. The National WWI Museum and Memorial is working to transcribe documents like Wrasse's reply.

Instead of Laying Off Workers, National WWI Museum Redeploys Them to Expand Digital Archive 

By Elle Moxley
via the KCUR 89.3 radio station (MO) web site

Even when the National World War I Museum and Memorial is open, the majority of its vast holdings aren’t on public display but stored for safekeeping.

Now, with a metro-wide stay-at-home order keeping the Kansas City museum closed until at least April 24, museum employees who usually work with guests are helping transcribe about 10,000 digitized pages from letters, diaries and journals.

“One of our team members came up with the brilliant idea to use this time and transition part of our staff toward our goal of fully transcribing these items from the collection,” President and CEO Matthew Naylor said.

“It’s a creative solution to provide continuous work opportunities to our team members who otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have tasks during the period of time when the Museum and Memorial is closed.”

Because the collection was scanned previously, employees can do the transcription work from home. Registrar and Exhibitions Manager Stacie Petersen said transcription makes the archival material more accessible to digital visitors, especially people who are visually impaired and rely on screen readers for text to speech.

“Transcription takes handwriting in cursive and turns it into something basically anyone can read,” Petersen said. “In a typed format, you can pull into Google Translate, which can translate it roughly into other languages.”

That’s important because digital visitors come to the museum’s website from 169 countries. Transcription also ensures that the content of the documents won’t be lost to time.

Read more: Instead Of Laying Off Workers, Kansas City's WWI Museum Redeploys Them To Expand Digital Archive


5e6bff5755d70.image Roanoke’s Red Cross volunteers, shown here campaigning to sell Liberty Bonds for the World War I effort, tended to people stricken with the flu during the 1918 pandemic. (Courtesy of Virginia Room, Roanoke Main Library )

Roanoke fought a war against a flu pandemic in 1918

By Ralph Berrier Jr.
via the Roanoke Times (VA) newspaper

During the afternoon of Sept. 23, 1918, Wiley W. Eastwood left work early, complaining of chills and a fever, and went to his bed in his Highland Avenue home.

Friends visited him the next morning, when news of his grave condition made rounds of the neighborhood. By noon, Eastwood was dead — the first Roanoke resident to die of influenza during the infamous “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918.

Over the next month, more than 4,000 Roanokers were struck with the flu, as sickness swept up citizens from all walks of life: orphans, railroad workers, soldiers, millhands, health care workers, college students and scores more.

Some 85 people died in 31 days, according to Roanoke historian Nelson Harris, who wrote about the 1918 flu pandemic in his book “Hidden History of Roanoke.”

Perhaps 50 million people died worldwide during the flu outbreak in 1918-19, a number that included 675,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 12,000 Virginians died of the flu, 10 times more than died on the battlefields during World War I.

Roanoke had experience fighting disease pandemics in its early boomtown years. The stagnant, unsanitary downtown, where disgusting rivulets of animal and human waste flowed in the open down muddy streets, served as a giant Petri dish for germs and disease. 

Read more: Roanoke fought a war against a flu pandemic in 1918


0304 pitThe 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. 

WWI munitions cleanup in Northwest DC nears completion

By Neal Augenstein
via the WTOP radio station (DC) web site

The peaceful serenity of the neighborhood surrounding the stately home at 4825 Glenbrook Road, in the Spring Valley section of Northwest D.C., was matched by the potential danger and uncertainty of chemical agents buried beneath it.

Almost eight years since heavy machinery knocked down the first bricks of the home that had been built atop a World War I chemical weapons testing and disposal site — known as the American University Experiment Station — the painstaking cleanup of what’s been called the “mother of all toxic dumps” is entering its final stages.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Christopher Gardner told WTOP that only two small areas remain to be excavated on the property, after tons of contaminated soil and broken glassware with traces of potentially dangerous chemicals have been removed.

“At this point, we’re down to saprolite,” Gardner said. “For all intents and purposes, we’re scraping rock.”

The Spring Valley project began in 1993, when a contractor unearthed buried military ordnance on nearby 52nd Court Northwest. Digging and research indicated the likely presence of mustard gas and lewisite — an arsenic-containing blister agent — under the former home.

In March 2012, after testing of the property between 2007 and 2010, the decision was made to remove the home.

Read more: WWI munitions cleanup in Northwest DC nears completion


1995.2.7 1024x789Female yeoman in Navy uniform stands next to a sorting rack in State, War and Navy Building. 

This International Women’s Day, We Celebrate Women’s Roles in World War I 

By Doran Cart
via the Ms. magazine web site

“We had air raids night after night. When we were not operating at night, we spent the time from darkness to dawn in a cellar twenty feet underground,” Navy nurse Mary Elderkins wrote of working close to the lines.

Thousands of American women served in all duties overseas during World War I, except combat—although some were killed by shells and bombs.

They were doctors, hospital administrators, ambulance and truck drivers, telephone operators, nurses, dietitians, physical therapists, reconstruction aides, entertainers, canteen workers, office workers, fundraisers and many other occupations.

For many women, it was a chance to work at tasks unavailable to them in the regular circumstances of society.

The most lasting effect of WWI on American women was the loss of loved ones: of husbands, sons, daughters and siblings. Battlefield deaths and cataclysmic diseases took a terrible toll which the society would struggle to recover from.

For others who put on uniforms in a military capacity or as volunteers, to go back to pre-war life proved a difficult transition. Many who served in defense of the country could not continue to defend it without the voice of the vote, and they became leaders in the passage of the 19th Amendment. Others went back to civilian life, some perhaps welcoming it and others chafed by it.

Read more: This International Women’s Day, We Celebrate Women’s Roles in World War I


At close grips3The physical position of generals in battle has changed to reflect both changing technology and changing attitudes about leadership in war.

Death of a General: Edward Sigerfoos & Leaders in War 

By George Schwartz
via the War Room (U.S. Army War College) web site

Stars, I have seen them fall,
but when they drop and die
No star is lost at all
From all the star-sown sky.

-- A.E. Housman, Untitled, More Poems

Only in command of a brigade for an hour, Edward Sigerfoos was wounded by enemy artillery and died 10 days later, apparently not knowing that he had been promoted to Brigadier General. Slightly more than a month after his death, the armistice would end the fighting and his death would become a footnote in the history of the World War I. In a war in which many general officers were derisively considered to be chateau generals, Sigerfoos was the only American general officer killed as a result of enemy action.

World War I was one of history’s most lethal conflicts: over eight million military deaths, and perhaps ten million more civilians. Sigerfoos was just one casualty among so many millions. Yet such statistics can be overwhelming, obscuring how each one of the dead had a name and a story. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, it is worth considering the story of Edward Sigerfoos’s service and sacrifice.

More significantly, however, the centennial of Sigerfoos’s death also provides an occasion to consider the place of general officers on the modern battlefield, and the consequences of fighting in an environment in which leaders in battle may be no safer than front-line troops. To a Doughboy from the Western Front, the headquarters of the brigade and division commanders today may bear a strong resemblance to the chateaus on a century ago.

Yet war is changing. With pervasive sensors and the proliferation of long-range, precision strike weapons, modern commanders may once again find themselves vulnerable. This raises important questions: Is it necessary for Generals to be on the modern battlefield? Is it worth the risk?

A Soldier-Scholar

An Ohio native, Sigerfoos attended the Ohio State University where he demonstrated exceptional potential in what is now the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Consequently, upon graduation in 1891, he received a rare Regular Army commission and became an Infantry officer. He gained tremendous operational experience over the following decades: operating as a logistician for General Leonard Wood in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, leading counter-guerilla operations in the Philippines, and serving with the Pancho Villa Expedition. When America entered the First World War, he was in China with the 15th Infantry, but was recalled to the U.S. to join the American Expeditionary Force (AEF).

Even though Sigerfoos spent a significant amount of time “in the line,” he was also something of a soldier-scholar. He was an honor graduate of the Infantry and Cavalry School at Fort Leavenworth class of 1895. Ten years later, during his four-year tenure as the commandant of cadets and professor of military science at the University of Minnesota, he would earn two degrees in law. Finally, in 1915, he graduated highest in his class from the U.S. Army War College, and because of his academic prowess, earned an invitation to stay as faculty. His student project paper and two works as an instructor – all three about the Civil War – are in the library in Ridgeway Hall.

Read more: Death of a General: Edward Sigerfoos & Leaders in War


5d9667e2652e2.imageThe Doughboy statue in Martinsburg, WV will be refurbished and moved to another location. 

Citizens petition to place Doughboy statue in town square

By Breanna Francis
via the Journal newspaper (Martinsburg, WV) web site

MARTINSBURG, WV — Citizens of Berkeley County presented the Martinsburg City Council with a roughly 200-signature petition requesting the World War I Doughboy statue be placed in the town square after its refurbishment instead of in War Memorial Park, where it is set to be placed.

Gena Long, city recorder for the City of Martinsburg, confirmed the city received the citizen-generated petition and entered it into the minutes for the emergency meeting held Tuesday evening, requesting the city keep the statue in downtown despite the statue being owned by Berkeley County.

Marvin Orndoff, the contact for the petition, said it was something he believes in but adamantly declined further comment.

In a post to his Facebook page, Delegate Larry Kump, R- Berkeley/Morgan, said he agreed, “that the state should be moved to the Martinsburg town square.”

As previously reported, Councilperson Elaine Mauck brought the issue of the World War I Doughboy statue before the council last year, sharing that the old courthouse, where the statue currently resides, will be going up for sale or auction, and in doing so, the statue could have potentially gone with the property.

Mauck said the Smithsonian did confirm the Berkeley County Council is the owner and administrator of the statue and has the right to move and refurbish the statue.

Read more: Citizens petition to place Doughboy statue in town square


5d98f2bdf2159.imageThe World War I Doughboy monument in Martinsburg, WV is seen in November 2015.

Petition asks for World War I monument to be placed in Martinsburg, WV town square

By Matthew Umstead
Via the Herald-Mail newspaper (WV) web site

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — More than 200 people have signed a petition objecting to a plan to relocate the World War I Doughboy monument to War Memorial Park in Martinsburg, and are instead asking that it be placed in the city's town square.

Six pages listing about 215 signatures were received on March 11 by Martinsburg City Recorder Gena Long's office, according to the city.

Berkeley County plans to move the monument from its current location at 300 W. King St. on the historic Martinsburg post office/federal building property to the park off North Tennessee Avenue.

A U.S. General Services Administration official said March 9 that officials expect to advertise the federal building for public sale in the coming weeks. The agency also indicated that the federal government does not own the monument.

While Army veteran and Martinsburg resident Marvin Orndorff said Tuesday that he helped collect petition signatures since late last year, he added that the monument could possibly remain at the current location if the government would agree to deed the plot of land where the Doughboy sits to the city or county government.

The monument was placed at the current location in the 1920s after city officials refused to allow the statute to be placed at town square, according to historical accounts.

Read more: Petition asks for WWI monument to be placed in Martinsburg, WV square



Why Don't We Celebrate the Doughboys as the 'Greatest Generation'? 

By Michael Peck
via The National Interest web site

March 1, 2020 -- Why does the First World War get no respect in America?

After all, it’s been seventy-five years since World War II, and we still praise the “Greatest Generation.” But over 100 years after America’s declaration of war on Germany on April 6, 1917, our nation’s participation in World War I is seldom remembered except for a few old statues on town squares.

Perhaps this has to do with time. Many Americans alive today have parents or grandparents who fought in World War II, and as of 2016, there were still 620,000 of these veterans among us. The last American veteran of World War I passed away in 2011 at age 110, but most (including my grandfather) had long since departed by then.

Or, maybe it has to with with why the war was fought. In the First World War, Johnny went marching off to fight the “evil” Kaiser Wilhelm, and returned home to parades and adulation. But then the doubts set in. Had Germany really posed a threat to the United States, or had innocent America been manipulated by greedy arms manufacturers and British propaganda? Some fifty-three thousand Americans had been killed in action, but were they heroes or just victims, pawns in yet another intra-European conflict?

And then there was the general revulsion aroused by the First World War itself. World War II is remembered as a war of motion, of glorious thrusts by tanks and aircraft and ships. The symbol World War II is blitzkrieg: the symbol of World War I is trench warfare, of dutiful sheep sacrificed on the altar of the machine gun and the barbed wire fence.

Given enough time, the “Great War” might have gone down in history as the “Greatest War.” But just twenty-one years after the armistice was signed in November 1918, the world was again engulfed by global war. And what a war the sequel was! No cartoony Kaiser Bill with spiked helmet and giant mustache. Now there were real villains—real monsters—to battle: Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo. America wasn’t being duped into intervening in a squabble between rival European empires. Now there were real causes to fight for: democracy versus fascism, good versus evil, barbarism versus civilization. Surely the men and women who fought in such a conflict must have been the Greatest Generation?

Yet far from diminishing those who fought in World War I, it only enhances their courage and commitment.

Read more: Why Don't We Celebrate the Doughboys As the 'Greatest Generation'?


Site camera 03242020Construction work at the site of the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC is continuing, with appropriate accommodations to health and safety during the period of COVID-19 management. The photo above is from the live camera view of the site. Click here to view the live camera feed, or watch a time-lapse video of construction progress to date.

National World War I Memorial construction should give us pride

By Tom Rogan
via the Washington Examiner newspaper (DC) web site

The coronavirus has shut down much of the nation, but construction at the National World War I Memorial rumbles on.

WWI Centennial Commission Executive Director Daniel Dayton told the Washington Examiner that "all is progressing normally. There are no delays of any kind. Our construction company, Grunley, has instituted some additional health/safety procedures, including a facility for hand-washing and additional sanitation procedures. There is currently no COVID-19 impact to the project."

As far as it comports with public health needs, this is good news. It means the memorial should be completed in time for its inauguration on Veterans Day in November.

But the memorial is special for its design as well as its mission.

Located just next to the White House at Pershing Park, the memorial is designed by Joseph Weishaar with support from sculptor Sabin Howard. Its title: The Weight of Sacrifice.

Just 25 years old when he was selected as the design winner in January 2016, Weishaar's passion is clear. Thanks to the World War I Centennial Commission's equally passionate public relations director, Chris Isleib, I was fortunate enough to visit the under-construction memorial and talk with Weishaar. His vision is well-defined. Reflecting his own young age, Weishaar's memorial design matches modern technology to tradition. The hope is that children, the elderly, and everyone in between will find equal value in this history. I came away convinced that he's nailed it.

This matters.

Read more: National World War I Memorial construction should give us pride

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