World War I Centennial News


From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Born in the Month of August   

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WWI Birthday CakeFrom August 26th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 137, our very own Dave Kramer introduced us to several important people who played a role in World War I and were born in the month of August. One was a Hall of Fame pitcher who suffered a terrible malady during his war service. One went on to run an influential newspaper. Another was a woman who may have played both sides during the war. And the last eventually ascended to higher office. Think you have the right guesses? Read on to find out.  

Theo Mayer: It's time for our new monthly segment called Born in the Month of, where you'll meet some of the famous, notorious, and influential people whose lives and careers were affected by World War I. Now, as you hear the facts about them, can you guess who we're talking about? And if you can't, don't worry, we'll tell you. Born in the Month of August will be presented by Dave Kramer. Dave!

Read more: Podcast Article - Born in the Month of August


5d743d0fb496d.imageJames Carucci, an archaeologist and longtime Lompoc Museum Trustee, unveils the revitalized World War I monument Saturday in front of the museum. 

Reborn WWI monument revealed at Lompoc Museum 

By Lorenzo Reyna
via the Lompoc Record newspaper (CA) web site

“The eagle has landed,” Lompoc Museum board of trustees member Don Adams told a crowd in front of the newly resculptured World War I monument Saturday.

After nearly three years of raising money and implementing repairs, the city now has a reborn World War I monument that sits in front of the city’s museum on 200 South H St.

And now the monument has a new feature sitting atop of the revitalized structure: a bronze bald eagle.

“There was a missing piece, and that very important piece now sits at the top,” Adams said over a microphone, drawing applause from the nearly 100 attendees.

“This is a celebration today, but it also continues to be a remembrance and honor to remember those who fell in this war so long ago.” 

Read more: Reborn World War I monument revealed at Lompoc Museum


'That legacy needs to be carried on'

Vets worried as Michigan WWI monument faces demolishing

via the Fox 2 Detroit television station web site

DETROIT—A colonel is hoping for some help as an eight-story tall WWI monument faces demolishing if enough money isn't raised to move it.

The Michigan War Veterans Memorial was erected in 1939. The 40-foot stone monument sits at the southwest corner of the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

"There are stones from cities all over Michigan represented here," said Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Craig Stigleman.

But the monument was slowly destroyed. The copper pipes inside have been stolen, and the stones are crumbling. The eternal flame on the top has since been turned off.

"It was turned off about 20 years ago and the monument allowed going to decay," he said.

And now, the new owners of the property, Magic Plus LLC, want to redevelop the state fairgrounds. The monument, which is owned by the state, has to go.

"We truly have until the end of September to figure out how to get something done and move this someplace in storage so we can re-erect it," Col. Stigleman said.

Read more: Veterans worried as Michigan WWI monument faces demolishing


 WWI saddle gifted to veterans museum

By Brad Stacy
Via The Daily Independent newspaper (Ashland, KY) web site

5d701bf6b9375.imageScott Barker with the Rowan County Veterans Foundation accepts a unique, restored saddle from local craftsman Rick Waltz.The Rowan County Veterans Museum received an unusual and unique donation in June.

Sisters Joy, Cindy and Diane James donated a saddle passed to them from their step grandfather, Charles B. Proctor.

They advised that the saddle had belonged to Ezra Proctor who served in WWI.

As luck would happen for the museum, Rick Waltz was delivering items to the museum on the same day and observed the aging piece of history.

Waltz proceeded to give the curator a history of the saddle. Waltz actually restores historical saddles and described it as a 1904 McClellan Cavalry Saddle.

Waltz agreed to restore the saddle for presentation in the museum.

This past week he delivered the saddle back to the museum in a restored condition for display.

Research by the museum curator found that the saddle owner was William Ezra Proctor, who served in WWI in 1918.

Records reflect that he was a Captain in the 38th Division, 75th Infantry Brigade, 149th Infantry, Company B. Captain Proctor passed in 1966 and is buried in the Caudill Cemetery in Rowan County.

The Rowan County Veterans Museum extends its appreciation to the James family for the donation of the saddle and to Rick Waltz who donated his time and materials for restoration.

Read more: WWI saddle gifted to veterans museum


9222867 SJ.CITpurpleheartP.090519 3Pauline Labbay Blais of Greene accepts her father’s Purple Heart medal from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Gen. Douglas Farnham in Collins’ Lewiston office Wednesday afternoon. Pauline’s father, Arthur Labbay, was a World War I veteran who was severely wounded while fighting in France.  

After 101 years, World War I veteran’s family receives his Purple Heart 

By Steve Sherlock
via the Portland Press Herald newspaper (ME) web site 

LEWISTON, ME — Arthur Labbay was scrambling from foxhole to foxhole reloading machine guns during a fierce fight in France on July 18, 1918.

It was his first day on the front lines in World War I.

During the firefight, an enemy bullet struck the private’s throat. Despite the seriousness of the injury, Labbay stayed on the job reloading machine guns. Before the day ended, Labbay suffered a second wound, this time to his arm.

The injuries were life-threatening. Labbay stayed in a French hospital for several months recovering from his wounds before he could return home.

“He told us a quarter of an inch more, he would have been gone,” his daughter Pauline Blais said of the throat wound.

More than 101 years later, Labbay finally received the Purple Heart he earned that day. Whether through missing paperwork, the fog of war or an administrative mishap, he had never received his medal. 

Read more: After 101 years, World War I veteran’s family receives his Purple Heart

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Remembering Veterans: The Revitalization of American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood, CA   

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In August 26th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 137, host Theo Mayer spoke with Lester Probst and Fernando Rivero from Hollywood, CA's American Legion Post 43. Started by WWI vets, Post 43 has had a distinguished membership, including many famous names from the film industry. Over time, the Post fell into disrepair. However, an effort spearheaded by Mr. Probst, Mr. Rivero, and others to remember WWI in the Los Angeles area and inject new life into Post 43 has been wildly successful; it has grown in numbers and once again become a community focal point. Read on to learn more about this remarkable transformation. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity:

fernando riveroFernando Rivero is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and Post 43's past commander and chairmanlester probstLester Probst is a Korean War veteran and the chairman of Post 43's Americanism CommitteTheo Mayer
: For Remembering Veterans, it's the 100th anniversary of the American Legion. Having been conceived in Paris as the war ended by veterans who served in World War I, the American Legion, its history, its advocacy on behalf of veterans, and its accomplishments are truly amazing. But one of the more interesting aspects of the organization, and one that I've come to appreciate during my years working on the World War I Centennial project, is the American Legion's structure and organization. It seems to me that it's all about the actions and activities of individual Posts that gives the organization its real strength. So with that as a set up, I'd like to invite you to join me in exploring one of those Posts, its history, and its unusual role because of its unique location. It's Post number 43 in Hollywood, California. And joining us to talk about the Post's history and its current projects are Fernando Rivero, the Post's past commander and chairman and founder of the Legion Theater, and Lester Probst, Post chairman of the Americanism Committee, which is one of the four pillars of the American Legion, and co-chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee. Gentlemen, welcome to the podcast!

Fernando Rivero: Hi Theo. Thanks for having us.

Lester Probst: Yes. Thanks very much, Theo.

Read more: Podcast Article - American Legion Post 43

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Spotlight on the Media: Over There With Private Graham   

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In August 19th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 136, Bruce Jarvis and Steve Badgley joined the show to discuss their new book, Over There With Private Graham. Drawing on a Graham's own accounts of his service, which he intended to publishing during his lifetime, Jarvis and Badgley have assembled an impactful, first-person account of the Great War. As the authors discuss, Graham's background, including his age and police career, and Military Police role gave his writing a distinct perspective. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity: 

overthere coverTheo Mayer: For Spotlight on the Media, the story of a new book. An article from military history now opens with quote, "Few if anyone today will remember the name of William J. Graham. The anonymous Doughboy was one of more than two million Americans who fought in the first World War, yet the 39 year old Philadelphia native and Private in the US Army's 28th Infantry Division, kept a series of remarkable detailed diaries of his 16 months overseas. In fact, Graham hoped to one day get them published so that he could share what he'd lived through with future generations. Unfortunately, he died in 1940 before he could make good on his promise. Now, 100 years later, two book publishers are finally realizing Graham's long forgotten dream." With us today are the two publishers who got this compelling personal account out. Steve Badgley is an author and owner of the Badgley Publishing Company, and Bruce Jarvis, a collector and public historian with a special interest in World War I. Together they compiled and published, Over There With Private Graham. Gentlemen, welcome to the podcast.
Bruce Jarvis: Thank you, Theo.

Steve Badgley: Thank you.

Bruce Jarvis: I'm glad to be here.

Theo Mayer: So let me open with a question: how did the two of you come together to create this project, and how did you come to the project in the first place? Bruce?

Bruce Jarvis: Back in 2001, I acquired a manuscript of approximately 600 pages that were anonymous at the time, but many clues contained in it to figure out who had written it. Over years, I put the pieces together to figure out who the writer was. My intent was to use it as part of a larger work involving firsthand accounts, letters, diaries and what have you from different sources to tell the story of a common America soldier in the first World War. Mr. Badgley, I met his acquaintance as an editor as publisher of local authors and historical works. I was intrigued and we talked and hit it off. I think we started work on it in 2009. We made the acquaintance of distant relatives, granddaughters, great-granddaughters of William Graham, who miraculously had other pieces of his writings from after the war, and in one case, someone who had the very end of the story and the very beginning of the story. So basically three different sources all came together. These things survived by a miracle and were able to find each other. We were able to obtain permission to use those and put his entire story together. That's an unusual situation to begin with.

Read more: Podcast Article - Over There With Private Graham


Henry Johnson, the One-Man Army Who Fought Off Dozens of German Soldiers During WWI

By Jake Rossen
via the Mental Floss web site

It was after midnight on May 15, 1918 when William Henry Johnson began to hear the rustling. Johnson was a long way from his home in Albany, New York, guarding a bridge in the Argonne Forest in Champagne, France. Sleeping next to him was Needham Roberts, a fellow soldier. Both men had enlisted in the New York National Guard just a few months earlier and were now part of the French Army, donated by U.S. forces to their understaffed allies in the thick of World War I.

Henry JohnsonHenry JohnsonAs Johnson continued hearing the strange noises late into the night, he urged his partner to get up. A tired Roberts waved him off, believing Johnson was just nervous. Johnson decided to prepare himself just in case, piling up his assortment of grenades and rifle cartridges within arm's reach. If someone was coming, he would be ready.

The rustling continued. At one point, Johnson heard a clipping noise—what he suspected was the sound of the perimeter fence being cut. He again told Roberts to wake up. "Man," he said, "You better wake up pretty soon or you [might] never wake up."

The two began lobbing grenades into the darkness, hoping to discourage whoever might be lurking around the perimeter.

Suddenly, in the middle of the French forest, Johnson saw dozens of German soldiers come charging, bayonets pointed toward him. They began to fire.

What transpired over the next hour would become an act of heroism that prompted former President Theodore Roosevelt to declare Johnson one of the bravest Americans to take up arms in the war. Johnson would even lead a procession back in New York City, with crowds lined up along the street to greet him.

Read more: Henry Johnson, the One-Man Army Who Fought Off Dozens of German Soldiers During World War I


04874c3c1683d42c8e699f25cfe6a80aConvalescing soldiers from the Camp Sherman, Ohio base hospital in front of Chillicothe's Majestic Theatre. 

Camp Sherman look-back: WWI wounded brought to local base hospital 

By Tim Vollet
via the Chillicothe Gazette newspaper (OH) web site

On the morning of Dec. 4, 1918, three weeks after the Armistice was signed that ended World War I, President Woodrow Wilson stood on the bridge of the U.S.S. George Washington and waved his hat to the thousands of flag- waving citizens packing the shoreline to wish him a safe voyage. Wilson was departing for the Peace Conference in Paris, France.

As the ocean liner began to make its way out of New York harbor, by sheer chance it crossed paths with a British transport ship returning from France with 2,000 American soldiers aboard. The Doughboys packed the rails and whooped and hollered as the commander-in-chief slowly steamed past them. Unfortunately, though, missing the historic moment were the wounded men lying below deck, unable to get topside to wish the president well.

More than 200,000 American soldiers were wounded in WWI, many of them disfigured, missing limbs, suffering from devastating gas attacks or shell shock. With the signing of the Armistice, the wounded were crossing back across the Atlantic aboard ships like the British transport, and many of them were destined for the base hospital at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe.

All throughout the winter of 1919, the Scioto Gazette carried headlines announcing the arrival of the war injured: “OVER THREE HUNDRED OVERSEAS WOUNDED ARE DUE TO ARRIVE AT CAMP ON THURSDAY.” “MORE WOUNDED MEN ARRIVE.” “ANOTHER BUNCH OF WOUNDED MEN HERE.” And they kept coming and coming. By early April, 1,700 wounded warriors filled the beds at the base hospital.

The hospital was actually a group of 50 buildings facing Frankfort Pike (Pleasant Valley Road), near where Unioto High School now is. After a tour of the hospital complex, a reporter for the Gazette described it as a “little city in itself.” As for the spirits of the wounded, he insisted, “Everywhere was cheer, bright faces, cheery words, playful interchange of jest and an air of liveliness.” The reporter attributed it to the youth of the wounded that “bubbled up despite their shattered condition.”

Read more: Camp Sherman look-back: WWI wounded brought to local base hospital


PH 826009996Twin brothers, Steven Finch, left, and Brad Finch, hold the Purple Heart medal of their great uncle that was presented to them Monday afternoon. The folded flag was also presented to the brothers by Congressman William Keating. The flag was flown over the US Capitol during the116th Congress.

Brewster, MA family receives Purple Heart in honor of great-uncle lost in WWI 

By Ethan Genter
via the Cape Cod Times newspaper (MA) web site

CHATHAM, MA — Nearly 101 years ago, Norman Wood Finch was out to sea aboard the Coast Guard cutter Tampa, a 190-foot-long vessel that was one of six ships on convoy duty in European waters during World War I.

On Sept. 26, 1918, the Tampa was sailing alone in Welsh waters en route to load a fresh supply of coal at the port of Milford Haven when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat. All 130 men on the Tampa died, with Finch among the 111 Coast Guardsmen aboard.

For about 20 years, the Coast Guard has been working to honor the people aboard the Tampa. On Monday, Finch finally got his due when legislators and Coast Guard officials gathered at the Coast Guard Station Chatham and presented a Purple Heart to his two great-nephews, Bradley and Steven Finch, who live in Brewster.

The pair never met their grandfather’s brother — he died at 23, before their father was born — nor did they know much about his service.

“People didn’t talk about it much,” Bradley said.

Read more: Brewster family receives Purple Heart in honor of great-uncle lost in WWI


55422c3f40a59.imageA circa-1920 photo shows Ryan’s Market on Brown Street in Wickford, RI. The market added pleas and reminders in its advertising during World War I to save peach pits and nut shells for Allied soldiers’ gas masks.

Peach pits, nut shells, and how they helped us win the Great War 

By G. Timothy Cranston
via the Independent Newspapers (RI) web site

A month or so ago, we took a look at something as innocuous and unassuming as the lowly bootscraper and tried to see what it might tell us about history on both a local and larger scale. This week, we tell the tale of the seemingly inconsequential peach pit and its equally unimportant companion – the discarded nut shell – to see what historic part they played in World War I.

“Peach pits and nut shells?” you say. “This Swamptown guy is going to prattle on about peach pits and nut shells. Maybe he’s a few peaches short of a bushel himself.” Scoff if you will, but these common bits of food waste saved many an American Doughboy during the Big War.

You see, the first great global conflict caused certain unexpected problems. One of the most demanding was dealing with shortages of critical raw materials. If your enemy had control of the territories where certain crucial raw materials were found or produced, well, you were soon going to either be in trouble, or get creative and come up with an alternate source of material. The rubber shortage of World War II is a classic example. The Axis powers controlled virtually the entire rubber growing world, and the Allies had to get creative. After a lot of recycling, a short period of head scratching and pondering, and a little American ingenuity…Voila! Plastics are born and the rest is history.

World War I’s problems included dealing with the fairly new and very potent threat of German gas attacks. Gas masks were the answer and the problem was their main component: activated carbon and its limited availability. Again, after some heady pondering and some serious head scratching, American and British scientists and engineers found the solution right under their noses. Fruit stones and nuts shells, burned slowing in a controlled fashion, were the perfect source for activated carbon. Now the problem was getting enough of these common everyday items together to do the job. After all, it took 200 peach pits or 2 pounds of nut shells to produce enough carbon to outfit one gas mask.

This is where smalltown America and Britain came in. All across these two nations, the call went out to save and stockpile these items. The lead was taken by none other than the International Red Cross and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Schools, churches, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts all got involved. Post offices such as the ones in Wickford, Hamilton, Davisville, Lafayette and the like were used as collection points. The big “Do Your Bit – Save the Pit” campaign was off and running.

Read more: Peach pits, nut shells and how they helped us win the Great War


Rodiguez in cemeteryDigging Into History: WWI Trench Restoration in Seicheprey, France has just returned from three weeks in Seicheprey, France. This innovative experiential learning program brought 15 Connecticut high school students entering grades 11 and 12 this fall to the site of the first German offensive against American troops. Above, Torrington student Lucas Rodriguez sits in St. Mihiel American Cemetery.

Torrington, CT student returns from WW I archaeological dig in France 

via the Torrington Register Citizen newspaper (CT) web site 

HARTFORD, CT — The expedition, “Digging Into History: WWI Trench Restoration” recently returned from three weeks in Seicheprey, France. This innovative experiential learning program brought fifteen Connecticut high school students entering grades 11 and 12 this fall to the site of the first German offensive against American troops to restore a section of trench once occupied by Connecticut’s 102d Infantry Regiment.

RodriguezLucas RodriguezAmong the participating students was Lucas Rodriguez of Torrington, who researched a Torrington soldier with the historical society to prepare for the trip. He attends the Connecticut River Academy in East Hartford.

This program, the only one of its kind in the United States, was a spectacular success and resulted in a life changing experience for students and chaperones alike.The group stayed in a nearby village during the dig, and were in France from July 6-27.

The trench restoration work, led by local military historians Phillipe Dourthe and Denis Meyer, resulted in more than 100 meters of trench restored; two wattle walls built and a shelter rebuilt. A number of artifacts were found, including an American boot, a French spoon with a bullet hole and even a Napoleon III coin dating to the 1850s.

Students cataloged the finds and documented their work through photos and video that will become part of the Connecticut State Library’s permanent archives. The Connecticut students lived and work side by side with sixteen French students from villages within the Communauté de Communes Mad et Moselle, the French administrative organization that funded this portion of the journey. Just as the Doughboys formed bonds with the village 100 years ago, the students formed lifelong friendships with their French peers as they worked to clear rubble from the trenches, relaxed at Lake Madine or performed in a talent show at the lodge in Beaumont where the group stayed.

In preparation for the trip to France, Rodriguez researched Torrington soldier John Ryan, who served in WW I, with the help of the Torrington Historical Society. A 1918 newspaper article reported Ryan to be the first Torrington soldier to be killed with the U.S. Army in France.

Rodriguez said his interest in military history stemmed in part by stories he heard about family members who served in the military, including his grandfathers, who served in the army and navy, respectively, and his father, who served in the U.S. Marines Corps.

Read more: Torrington, CT student returns from WW I archaeological dig in France


5d5e9bac32576.image After a 1,000-mile journey, Al McCormick unveils a replica of the iconic WWI Doughboy statue at the Wentworth Military Academy Museum, 1128 Main St., Lexington, Missouri. (Photo by Teresa Shaw| Richmond Daily News)

Doughboy returns to Wentworth Military Academy Museum

By Teresa Shaw
via the Richmond News newspaper (MO) web site
Additional information from the E. M. Viquesney Doughboy Database web site

After the Wentworth Military Academy and College closed in 2017, after a court battle between the bank and the academy, and after academy alumni agree to place the original statue at the Lafayette County Courthouse, a replica of the “Spirit of the American Doughboy” was unveiled on August 20 at the Wentworth Military Academy Museum, 1128 Main St. in Lexington, MO.

“This is a $20,000, state-of-the-art replica of our Doughboy,” museum Chairman George Hittner said. “It is light enough to be on these very historic floors.”

The replica statue was constructed by computer-scanning and scaling up from one of the miniature foot-tall statuettes (which look a little different from the actual outdoor sculptures) and 3D-printed life-size in Styrofoam for a traveling WWI exhibit that began in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society.

After the exhibit ended in August of 2019, the replica needed a new home, or else it, along with the rest of the exhibit, would have ended up being dismantled and destroyed. The publishers of the E. M. Viquesney Doughboy Database suggested the Wentworth Military Academy Museum in Lexington, Missouri as a good candidate to receive the statue. Museum Chairman George Hittner of the Houston, TX, area was helpful in coordinating the fundraising efforts to pay the shipping costs of the statue from its last location in Austin.

Read more: Doughboy returns to Wentworth Military Academy Museum

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