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World War I Centennial News



Once World War I enemies, Minneapolis musicians shared bond over French horn left on battlefield 

By Curt Brown
via the StarTribune newspaper (MN) web site

With all its brass curves, a lost French horn wound up in what the 1927 Minneapolis Daily Star called “the center of one of the most amazing coincidents …”

Wilhelm Muelbe and Fred Keller were born nearly seven years and 4,300 miles apart in the late-1800s. They wound up fighting — and playing in military bands — on opposite sides of World War I a century ago.

ows 154248832937740Wilhelm Muelbe and Fred Keller, from a 1927 Minneapolis Daily Star clipping, with the French horn abandoned by Muelbe and recovered by Keller during fighting in World War I near Saint-Mihiel.Muelbe, a German musician born in Rostock in 1888, gave up his chair with the famous Grand Opera orchestra in Cologne to fight with the Germans along the Russian and Western fronts from 1914 to 1918. He survived unscathed, although a bullet once pierced his knapsack.

Keller was born in Minneapolis in 1895, the son of a German immigrant father and Wisconsin mother. Census rolls show Fred as a newspaper circulation manager in 1930, a leather salesman in 1940 and an ammunition maker in New Brighton by 1942.

Back in 1918, Keller was a member of the band connected with the Army’s 151st field artillery battery made up largely of Minneapolis men. They went on the offensive near Saint-Mihiel in northeastern France.

During five hellacious days in mid-September, American forces deployed one of their most audacious combat operations, using war planes for the first time and aggressive tank assaults under the command of young Col. George Patton, who would become famous in the next world war. The victory at Saint-Mihiel came at high cost: 7,000 American casualties, but more than 10,000 Germans taken prisoner.

Read more: Once World War I enemies, Minneapolis musicians shared bond over French horn left on battlefield


Groundbreaking for WWI Memorial starts this Fall in D.C. 

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

Nexstar Media is the second-largest television station owner in the United States (after Sinclair Broadcast Group), owning 171 television stations across the U.S.  The chain broadcast a Memorial Day article on progress of our National WWI Memorial.  The video is shown below as it appeared on NewsChannel 34 in Binghamton, New York last week.

Read more: Groundbreaking for WWI Memorial starts this Fall in D.C.

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Remembering Veterans: Luca Angeli on Italian-born Doughboys  

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In May 17th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 123, host Theo Mayer spoke with Luca Angeli about his project commemorating Italian-born Doughboys who died fighting for the United States. A native of Italy, Mr. Angeli has spent time working in the United States, following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity: 

Theo Mayer: Because we're coming up on Memorial Day, we're focusing this week's segments on a series of stories that remember veterans. Our first segment looks at a group of immigrant soldiers that served in World War I. The New Colossus is a sonnet that American poet Emma Lazarus wrote in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the poem was cast into a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal's lower level. The most famous part of the sonnet reads:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, the tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

America has always been a nation of immigrants, and so it was in 1917 when we entered World War I on the side of the Allies and constituted a draft to grow our military from a small standing army to a major fighting force. A huge number of immigrants were swept into national service. One such group were Italians, many of whom had recently come to America suddenly finding themselves returning to Europe in uniform as part of the US Army. Our next guest, Luca Angeli, has been curating this information including a section on the Commission's website called, "Back Over There: Italian Immigrants Serving in the US Army." Luca, welcome to the podcast.

Luca Angeli: Thank you Theo, thank you for having me here.

Read more: Podcast Article - Luca Angeli Interview

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

100 Years Ago This Week: The League and Treaty as Viewed In America  

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From May 17th's edition of the WWI Centennial News Podcast, Episode 123:  

The story of the Paris Peace Conference not only plays out in the halls of Versailles, in Germany's Weimar, in the United Kingdom's parliament, but also here in America's Washington, DC. This week World War I Centennial News researcher and writer Dave Kramer explores the events on this side of the pond. The negotiations in Paris have been tortuous for Woodrow Wilson and things are no easier for him at home. As Mike Shuster told us, the Germans finally decide to sign the Treaty, even over the objections of their so-called irreconcilables. It's a very different story here in the States. We also have a group in the United States dubbed the irreconcilables. But unlike Germany, they hold the power to either ratify or kill the peace treaty to be completed in June. It seems hard to believe that Woodrow Wilson does not seem to take the Senate opposition to the treaty more seriously. The signs have been there for a long time.

President WilsonPresident Wilson ran into strong political headwinds as he tried to promote the Treaty of Versailles and League of Nations at homeOn November 5, 1918, just days before the jubilation of an armistice to end the Great War, the US midterm elections hand the president a stunning defeat. Wilson Democrats lose control of both the House and the Senate to the Republicans. It is the Senate that gives the thumbs up or thumbs down for international treaties for the United States. By November 21, the Senate Republicans make it clear that they expect to have representation on the US Peace Commission. Citing earlier precedents, and based on the idea that these representatives will be better able to explain the reasoning behind complex or controversial terms of the treaty, The Washington Post believes that Wilson will grant their request. He doesn't and the Senate isn't very appreciative. It's not the terms of the peace treaty gradually being hammered out in Paris that caused the problems. It's the League of Nations. Republican senators believe the League will undermine US sovereignty. An important concession that they seek is to separate the League Charter from the peace treaty. What do these anti-League senators object to? Many feel that the League will force the US to enter into wars in defense of other league members and wars that may not hold any national interest for us. They worry that it will threaten the Monroe Doctrine, which largely keeps European and Asian powers out of the Western Hemisphere. In essence, they fear that the League will limit our own sovereignty and power.

Read more: Podcast Article - U.S. Reception of the League and Treaty

Fleet Week 2019 Photo Gallery

The 369th Experience at Rockefeller Center during Fleet Week New York 2019

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

In foreground wearing civilian clothes, from left: Noble Sissel Jr., Cynthia Sissel, and James Reece Europe III, descendants of members of the original 369th Regimental Jazz Band, join The 369th Experience, a World War I tribute band sponsored by the U.S WWI Centennial Commission, as they perform in Rockefeller Center during Fleet Week New York, which this year is commemorating World War I, Saturday, May 25, 2019, in New York. The band, which is made up of music students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the U.S., play the musical repertoire of New York's legendary 369th Regiment "Harlem Hellfighters" Regimental Jazz Band. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)


Read more: Fleet Week 2019 Photo Gallery: The 369th Experience at Rockefeller Center May 25

Fleet Week Photo Gallery

Fox & Friends gives an update on new National WWI Memorial

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

This year's Fleet Week New York had a World War I theme, so the team from FOX & FRIENDS invited the World War I Centennial Commission to give an update on the new National WWI Memorial in Washington, DC. The segment brought many surprises, and helped to tell our story to audiences across the country.

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Read more: Fleet Week Photo Gallery: Fox & Friends


bal 100 years of gratitude veterans and families remember baltimore world war i soldier on memorial day 20190527During a crucial offensive in France late in World War I, as a unit of the Maryland National Guard was being stalled by enemy machine-gun fire, a young soldier from Baltimore volunteered to go over the top and attack. Pvt. Henry G. Costin, 20, was awarded the first Medal of Honor in the history of the legendary Maryland-based 29th Infantry Division.

100 years of gratitude: Veterans and families remember Baltimore World War I soldier on Memorial Day

By Jonathan M. Pitts
via the Baltimore Sun newspaper (MD) web site

During a crucial offensive in France late in World War I, as a unit of the Maryland National Guard was being stalled by enemy machine-gun fire, a young soldier from Baltimore volunteered to go over the top and attack.

Pvt. Henry G. Costin, 20, led a team of volunteers into the teeth of the barrage, firing his automatic rifle into the German nest and continuing to operate it after being hit multiple times.

Costin died of his wounds, but his act of bravery allowed for the capture of 100 enemy soldiers and the completion of the mission — one reason he was awarded the first Medal of Honor in the history of the legendary Maryland-based 29th Infantry Division and why local soldiers and their families celebrate his memory to this day.

More than 50 people were in attendance Monday to witness the laying of wreaths at Costin’s grave at Loudon Park National Cemetery, marking the 100th straight Memorial Day on which he has been so honored.

The guests also saw a presentation of colors by the Maryland National Guard Honor Guard, heard patriotic speeches and watched the unveiling of a bronze plaque from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs thanking not just fallen veterans, but also their families for their contributions to the cause of freedom.

The department, which operates 136 national cemeteries in 40 states, is dedicating identical plaques at each location this month.

Costin’s niece, Laurel Costin Bodie of Timonium, helped place two wreaths in honor of Costin on a sun-splashed morning.

Read more: 100 years of gratitude: Veterans and families remember Baltimore World War I soldier on Memorial Day


Special Memorial Day Mass in Baltimore for AEF and Polish-American 'Blue Army' WWI vets

By Irving C.J. Porter
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

The Maryland Catholic War Veterans (CWV) and Auxiliary hosted the Maryland “Catholic War Veterans Centennial World War I Memorial Mass” this past Sunday, at Saint Casimir Church, Baltimore, Maryland.

Polish Army in FranceRecruiting poster for the Polish Army in France in WWIThe Services honored the veterans of World War l, as well as the veterans of General Joseph Haller’s 'Blue Army' Volunteers of WWI.

In the ceremony, the American Legion's General Joseph Haller Post 95 was recognized on its 100 Anniversary. The Post was formed in 1919 and incorporated in Maryland on March 20, 1920. The Post’s founders were World War I veterans.

St. Casimir Church was selected because of its size and original center of the Polish Community in the 1917. St. Casimir Church is the largest church in the Baltimore Archdiocesan. It is also the home parish for St. Casimir Catholic War Veterans Post 766/1764 and Auxiliary Post 766.

Each Memorial Day, the Maryland Catholic War Veterans sponsors a Memorial Day Service to “Remember and Honor all Men & Women who have service America in the Armed Forces". In past years the MDCWV honored the POW/MIA, Vietnam War Veterans, Maryland Missing Veterans and decease veterans from all wars. This year, they specifically wanted to honor those forgotten heroes of World War l.

To that end, Commander Gilbert Barker, and Irving C. J. Porter, Judge Advocate met with Fr. Dennis Grumsey, OFM, Pastor of St. Casimir Parish and Chaplain concerning a Memorial Mass for the World War 1 “forgotten veterans”. It was also agreed to include those Polish & Maryland Polish-American volunteers who traveled to Canada for training under French military.

Read more: Special Memorial Day Mass in Baltimore for the AEF and Polish-American 'Blue Army' Veterans of WWI


5cd4f3efd5f72.imageSt. Louis' own 138th Infantry Regiment returns from World War I with a parade through the city on May 9, 1919. The formation is marching south on 12th Street (now Tucker Boulevard) at Olive Street. Just out of view to the left was the Shubert-Jefferson Theater in the Union Electric Co. building, where organizers of the American Legion were holding their first meeting in American on the same day. The city had erected the pillars to make 12th Street a "hall of honor" for veterans returning from the Great War. (Post-Dispatch) 

100 years ago: St. Louis throws a homecoming party for the ages 

By Tim O'Neil
via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper web site

ST. LOUIS — The Doughboys formed ranks in favor of "100 percent Americanism" and against the city of Chicago.

The veterans of World War I who created the American Legion first met on American soil in a theater downtown on May 8, 1919. The killing had ended six months before. They adopted a national constitution, promoted employment for veterans and cheered Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., a war hero and son of the late former president.

The 1,079 delegates gathered in the Shubert-Jefferson Theater of the Union Electric building, Olive and 12th streets. By happy coincidence, St. Louis also was hosting a raucous welcome home for the 138th Infantry Regiment. The unit had formed here and fought in the Argonne Forest in France in the last weeks of the war.

On May 9, the 138th's soldiers marched through cheering mobs and passed in front of the Shubert-Jefferson, which became a convenient reviewing stand for legion delegates who mingled with the crowds.

"What a handsome leader," a woman shouted to Sgt. Ross Koen as he led L Company down 12th (now Tucker Boulevard). Jimmie Dutton broke through the police line and hugged his marching big brother, W.B. Dutton. Choruses of church bells and locomotive whistles added to the racket.

The 138th had paid dearly for the honor — of 3,500 men who signed up, 230 were killed in combat. Accidents and wounds increased the casualty rate to almost 50 percent. The survivors stepped off trains at the Wabash station near Forest Park and marched downtown in formation with rifles, packs and helmets.

Read more: 100 years ago: St. Louis throws a homecoming party for the ages


Through her eyes: Exhibit offers glimpse of WWI through diaries of Hatfield woman

By Luis Fieldman
via the Daily Hampshire Gazette (MA) newspaper web site

HATFIELD — Around a century ago, Marian C. Billings left her family’s tobacco farm on Main Street at the age of 37 to join the Red Cross as a canteen worker during World War I. Of the 103 people from Hatfield who enlisted to serve in “the war to end all wars,” she was the only woman.

6e1fbe312a494c9394620ac68d0beb1bHatfield native Marian Billings, pictured in 1918, served as a Red Cross canteen worker in World War I. An exhibit at the Hatfield Historical Museum gives a glimpse into her service in France through diaries and photographs. A new exhibit curated by the Hatfield Historical Society shares stories of Billings’ time nursing and feeding soldiers from 1918-1919 in France, as well as presents stories pieced together about the town’s WWI soldiers.

“Through Marian’s Eyes: A Red Cross Canteen Worker Recounts World War I” opens on Sunday at the Historical Society Museum at 39 Main St., which is directly across the street from Billings’ old farmhouse, and runs until next spring.

Also on display are wartime photographs and the flapper-style dress Billings wore to a Victory Dance in France. Descendants of Billings donated the collection to the town’s historical society, and now the public can learn from her firsthand account of the Great War.

“She not only tells about what it was like to be a canteen worker — what they ate, what they served and when the guys came through — but she tells lots of stories about the soldiers, ‘the boys,’ as she calls them,” Kathie Gow, curator of the exhibit, said on Saturday.

“You get the war through her eyes. She had some maturity and a thoughtfulness, and her journals are quite moving.”

A stark picture of the war emerges from the selected passages of Billings’ journal that Gow has printed on small cards for the public to read.

“Last night a group of shell shocked patients came in,” Billings wrote in an entry dated September 11, 1918. “It was pitiful to see them, some of them unable to keep from throwing their arms, and heads and legs.” 

A passage from October 12, 1918 reads: “Always here one does the best one can and forget that things were ever different. It’s a great game to play. Granted you haven’t knitting needles — how are you going to mend a boy’s sweater? Wire hairpins did the work splendidly.” 

 One hundred years after the formal end to the Great War, Gow said that curating the exhibit served as an impetus to rediscover the history of those who served in WWI from Hatfield.

Read more: Through her eyes: Exhibit offers glimpse of WWI through diaries of Hatfield woman


Father's memory of WWI hero Alvin C. York is poignant

By Lynn Walker Gendusa
via the Tennessean newspaper web site

It is doubtful anyone loved their country more than the fallen soldier. 

Lynn Walker GendusaLynn Walker GendusaAlvin YorkSergeant Alvin YorkThe warrior who one day walked onto a battlefield with fierce determination to protect and defend his beloved America only to never return to its shores. Not including the Civil War, we have lost almost 700,000 service members on battlegrounds because of such courageous love.

These soldiers were born into families of different religions and different ethnicities. They were Republicans or Democrats or neither. However, where they were, it mattered little because they were all in the same mud, the same trenches, experiencing the same horror and fighting together to save their country. 

They gave their lives for all Americans to be treated equally, all religions to be freely worshipped and for all to have the freedom to speak and vote.  

My daddy always said, “When our country starts losing its way and folks no longer take pride in America is the day war will begin, or a tragedy will occur to wake up the spirits of the fallen soldiers. It is the day we become unified and one. Our backyard debates and political party arguments are silenced. We all realize at that critical time what matters most is saving our land of the free.” 

When my father was around 13, his widowed mother ran a boarding house near Jamestown, Tennessee. He was the youngest of four children who regularly helped his mama with the chores and duties of running the inn. 

"Ray, you need to go to the train depot in the car to pick up Sergeant York and take him to his home," she yelled from the kitchen.

Yes, the same Sgt. Alvin C. York, World War I hero and recipient of the Medal of Honor and numerous other awards. 

Read more: Father's memory of WWI hero Alvin C. York is poignant


5cea14ce5ce0f.image LEFT: Johnnie Pustejovsky holds his father's World War I uniform jacket, helmet, dog tags and the diary he kept during the war. RIGHT: John Pustejovsky in uniform in a family photo. 

Veterans’ Voices: John Pustejovsky

By Mary Drennon
via the Waco Tribune-Herald (TX) newspaper web site

It’s small enough to fit into the palm of a hand or slip into a pocket, yet its contents are invaluable. They contain a tiny record of life in the trenches during World War I for one John Pustejovsky, an Abbott resident born on June 25, 1893, near West.

Pustejovsky grew up working on the family farm. In October 1917, at age 24, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. As a sergeant during WWI, he was a member of Company A, 111th Engineers, caring for the Army mules and bringing supplies and ammunition to troops in the field. He fought in France in the battle of St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the latter of which cost 26,277 American lives, making it the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I. With the end of WWI and the signing of the armistice, Pustejovsky received an honorable discharge on June 18, 1919.

Returning home, he married Annie Bezdek on Nov. 26, 1919. They moved to Abbott, farming and raising cattle for a living. Pustejovsky was a prominent member and leader of the Abbott community, serving on the school board and helping organize the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church and Fatima Cemetery.

Read more: Veterans’ Voices: John Pustejovsky


Soldier describes close calls with death in the trenches of WWI 

By Al Edenloff
via the Park Rapids Enterprise (MN) newspaper web site

Alvin Victor EdenloffAlvin Victor EdenloffIt’s hard to visualize what American soldiers went through while fighting in faraway lands most people will never see.

It’s impossible to imagine the horrors they saw, the sounds they heard as shrapnel fell or the feelings they had when their war buddies standing next to them were shot down by enemy fire.

Many of those in the battlefield didn’t live to tell the tale. Many of those who got through it closed that part of their life up, not sharing it with friends or family – living through it once was enough.

But in the last few months, I’ve been able to relive the experiences of my grandfather, Alvin Victor Edenloff, a private in World War I. While leafing through the delicate, yellowed pages of the Osakis Review from 100 years ago, history columnist Marcia Lips came across several letters my grandpa wrote to his folks back home in Osakis while he was serving in the infantry.

His writings were filled with razor-sharp details, wry observations and honest terror. Reading them — for me, anyway — was like taking a time machine back to the foxholes of France in the Great War. It was like I was right there with him, watching him joke with his fellow soldiers, listening to him talk about how badly he longed to come home when the war ended, and seeing him have more than a few close calls with death.

Grandpa, who died in 1971 when I was 11, didn’t talk much about the war. I remember digging around in his garage one time when I came across some of his military possessions — a gas mask, a bayonet, a medal. I asked about them but he didn’t offer details. He said something like, “That was a long time ago,” before he got back to playing cards with the adults in the family while sipping on his Grain Belt beer.

I never pictured him as a young soldier, laying his life on the line for his country, with just fluke luck or providence determining whether he’d return home in one piece or in a box.

He wrote his last letter two days before the armistice to end the war was signed. His division made a charge across the Meuse River in France. They captured one town that morning and advanced on another in the afternoon. Midway between their starting point and their objective — a copse of woods — was a graveyard.

Here, in my grandpa’s words, is what happened next:

Read more: Soldier describes close calls with death in the trenches of WWI

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