Paul Vassar looks at the grave of Arthur Matheny, one of six young men from Chandler, OK killed on the same day in World War I. Vassar, a retired district judge, has written a book about what was a tragic loss for his hometown.
A century ago in World War I, six soldiers from Chandler, OK were killed on the same day
By Tim Stanley
via the Tulsa World newspaper (OK) web site
CHANDLER — Only the names on the telegrams were different.
Otherwise, the six were exactly the same: Same date. Same place. Even the same wording.
“It must’ve been gut-wrenching,” said Paul Vassar, who still has a hard time grasping what it was like for his hometown — losing six of its young men on the same day in World War I.
“Chandler was an even smaller community then, where all the families knew each other,” he said.
Although the deaths occurred on Oct. 8, 1918, it was three weeks before the news arrived in Chandler and telegrams were sent to the families.
Making the loss even harder to swallow, just a week later that same telegraph relayed another big news item: An armistice had been signed.
The war was over.
“How terribly bittersweet that must’ve been,” Vassar said.
A retired district judge for Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties, Vassar has written a book about this tragic chapter in his hometown’s history. It’s called “The Boys: The Story of a Town and War.”
The men were part of a Chandler-area National Guard unit sent to France to fight.
“Sadly, the story was lost to time,” Vassar said. “I wasn’t aware of most of it until I started researching.”
Read more: A century ago in World War I, six soldiers from Chandler, OK were killed on the same day
The 223 "Hello Girls" went to Europe in cohorts of about 30 at a time,and took calls from U.S. Army forward observers regarding artillery and regiment movements as well as communications between officers in the field and headquarters, all while being close enough to the war to come under artillery fire.
'Hello Girls' documentary tells story of women on the front lines in WWI
By Mark Walker
via the Fredricksburg.com web site (VA)
An errant Google search and a last-minute, fortuitous find at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., made James Theres’ documentary “The Hello Girls” come together.
James TheresTheres, with three documentaries under his belt now, started searching in 2017 for a project to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in November 1918.
A mistake in a Google search for information on WWI led to Elizabeth Cobbs’ book, also called “The Hello Girls,” which told the story about American women who went to Europe during WWI to run the switchboards and the phones that connected generals to the battlefronts. The moniker derived from the women answering the phones with “Hello.”
Theres had found the subject for his second documentary.
“Truthfully, I had meant to type in WWI men. For some strange reason, I typed in WWI women,” the 55-year-old Alexandria filmmaker said. “I looked at the screen and said, ‘OK, let’s see what’s here,’ and up popped Elizabeth Cobbs’ book of the same name.”
Theres read the book and emailed Cobbs, who helped set him on the path to his documentary version of “The Hello Girls.”
Theres’ research led him to Kansas City; San Francisco; Marine City, Mich.; and Chaumont, France—places where he interviewed the descendants of four of the Hello Girls.
John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front in WWI, brought the Hello Girls to Europe at the suggestion of AT&T executives who were part of his staff, Theres said.
Pershing was not satisfied with the way the American soldiers were doing the job for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. “He knew how important that private communication was on the battlefield and that it would be a game changer,” Theres said.
Read more: 'Hello Girls' documentary tells story of women on the front lines in WWI
Ridgefield High School seniors Aaron Cohen and Mairead Lacey were among a group of 15 students who participated in the "Digging Into History: WWI Trench Restoration” program in Seicheprey, France this summer. The program brought participants to the site of the first German offensive against American troops to restore a section of trench once occupied by Connecticut’s 102nd Infantry Regiment. The group tours Fort Douaumont in the picture above.
Ridgefield, CT students dig into World War I history
via the MySA (San Antonio, TX) web site
Ridgefield students Aaron Cohen and Mairead Lacey have returned from the Connecticut State Library’s “Digging Into History: WWI Trench Restoration” program in Seicheprey, France.
The three-week innovative experiential learning program brought fifteen Connecticut high school students 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.
“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,” said Christine Pittsley, project director of the state library’s “Remembering World War One: Sharing History and Preserving Memories” program.
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.
Read more: Ridgefield, CT students dig into World War I history
How WWI Changed the Meaning of ‘Barbaric’
By Walter Benjamin
via the Literary Hub web site
Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) was a philosopher, cultural critic, and essayist. Associated with the Frankfurt School, Benjamin influenced many of his contemporaries, including Bertolt Brecht, Gershom Scholem, and Theodor Adorno. Benjamin’s best-known essays include “The Task of the Translator,” “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” and “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” In 1940, he killed himself in Portbou, on the French-Spanish border, when his attempt to escape Nazi forces was thwarted. The following essay is from The Storyteller Essays, translated from the German by Tess Lewis.
Our children’s storybooks contained the fable of the old man who, on his deathbed, convinced his sons that a treasure was buried in the vineyard. They simply had to dig for it. They dug and dug but found no sign of the treasure. But when autumn came, the vines yielded a harvest like none other in the land. The sons realized their father had given them the fruit of his experience: true wealth lies not in gold but in hard work. We were presented these lessons drawn from experience as threats or blandishments the whole time we were growing up: “Still wet behind the ears, and he’s got opinions!”
Everyone knew exactly what experience was: older generations had always shared theirs with the young. They did so succinctly, with the authority of age, in proverbs or at length and volubly, in stories, sometimes as stories from distant lands recounted to children and grandchildren by the fire. What happened to that custom? Can we still find people able to tell a proper story? How are the words of the dying passed on from generation to generation like an ancestral ring? Who, today, has a helpful proverb ready to hand? Who attempts to deal with the young by evoking past experience?
No, this much is clear: experience’s stock has fallen and did so for a generation that underwent, from 1914 to 1918, one of the most horrific experiences in world history. Perhaps this is not as surprising as it seems. Was the observation not made at the time that people returned mute from the battlefield? They did not come back richer in experiences they could impart, but poorer. What flowed into the flood of books about the war that appeared ten years later was anything but experience, which streams from lips to ears. No, this was not surprising at all.
For experiences have never been refuted more thoroughly than strategic ones were by trench warfare, economic ones by inflation, physical ones by hunger, ethical ones by the ruling powers. A generation that had gone to school in horse-drawn streetcars found itself under the open sky in a landscape in which only the clouds were unchanged and where, in the midst of it all, in a force field crossed by devastating currents and explosions, stood the tiny, fragile human body.
Read more: How WWI Changed the Meaning of ‘Barbaric’
1918 photo of Quartermaster Supply unit in France. (Courtesy of Library of Congress)
“Letters from Over There” by Lt. Scott of Armstead, Montana
By K.C. Picard, Idaho WW1 Centennial Commissioner
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site
2nd Lt Parke Tolman Scott, was standing outside the Quartermaster’s office when he spotted his corporal returning with dispatches, memorandum and requisition forms. The 25-year-old gas and oil officer for the AEF Quartermaster Depot in France on the Western Front re-entered his office and picked up the outgoing mail which included two letters addressed by Scott’s own hand. One was a letter to his parents, Mr. James Wallace and Laura Tolman Scott of Armstead, Montana. The other letter was addressed to Francis Foote, the current editor of the Dillon Tribune in Beaverhead County, Montana.
He opened the letter to the editor and scanned the contents for the last time. Then with quick motions, Scott tore that letter into small pieces which he dropped into a metal tray. Lighting a match he quickly turned the scraps into ashes. American postal censorship was serious business. It came into being when the United States declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917. In the US Army, letters were scrutinized by three levels of censors: the company, regimental and base censors, before they reached the “acceptable” stage and were released for “overseas delivery.”
There were at least ten different items that could not be included in letters to the home front, including the names of the soldiers or officers who were killed or wounded in action, in hospital or captured by the enemy. Details of planned attacks were strictly prohibited, and no details were allowed about the exact location of troops, tanks or artillery. Enlisted men were to place their unsealed envelopes in the organization mailbox, and officers had to seal their envelopes and sign their names in the lower left hand corner to show their compliance with the censorship regulations.All intercepted communication, both military and civilian were forwarded to Military Intelligence in Washington.
Being an officer himself meant that 2nd Lt. Scott had to censor some of the letters of the soldiers under his command, and in the current situation he destroyed his own letter instead of giving it to the censor. Scott saved the emptied and pre-addressed envelope which he then used to enclose a small note addressed to Editor Foote, along with a notice to be published in the newspaper for his readers at the Dillon Tribune.
Read more: “Letters from Over There” by Lt. Scott of Armstead, Montana
In conjunction with the World War I centennial commemoration, the Museum and Memorial is sponsoring "Living the Great War." The free weekend event features the Living History Volunteer Corps and other World War I living historians sharing their knowledge and inviting the public to inspect their collections in a camp setting on the Museum and Memorial grounds.
August Offerings at National WWI Museum and Memorial
By Mike Vietti
Director of Marketing, Communications and Guest Services, National World War I Museum and Memorial
KANSAS CITY, MO. – A weekend event featuring the Living History Volunteer Corps and living historians presenting real WWI artifacts for visitors to inspect, a panel discussion on challenges faced by returning soldiers from war and a presentation on the race riots of the “Red Summer” of 1919 are among the August offerings at the National WWI Museum and Memorial.
On Saturday, Aug. 24 at 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 25 at 10 a.m. – 3p.m. the Museum and Memorial is sponsoring Living the Great War. This free weekend event features the Living History Volunteer Corps and other World War I living historians sharing their knowledge and inviting the public to inspect their collections in a camp setting on the Museum and Memorial grounds. Living historians also offer education programs each day at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., a children’s obstacle course is available and the Kansas City Dawn Patrol will have replica WWI-era aircraft on display, while a 1918 Ford Model T from the Military Vehicle Preservation Association will also be present (weather permitting).
Many African American soldiers returned from WWI with a newfound sense of pride and determination for equality, but home was still plagued by racial violence, heightened during the “Red Summer” of 1919. On Thursday, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m., Dr. Geoff Ward, Associate Professor of African and African American Studies at Washington University, discusses his research and engagement efforts to address the history of racial violence and its legacies today during a free program. Ward considers the scientific evidence that U.S. communities remain affected by centuries of this violence, while discussing transformative justice projects communities are implementing to confront these enduring impacts, including in Missouri.
Read more: August Offerings at National WWI Museum and Memorial
The Military Vehicle Preservation Association is sponsoring a reenactment of the 1919 military convoy that traveled across the Lincoln Highway, from the East Coast to the West Coast, to celebrate the victory in World War I. The 2019 MVPA Transcontinental Convoy got on the road August 10th in York, PA and end September 14th in San Francisco, CA. If you are wondering where the Convoy is at any moment, click on this link for the Live Convoy Tracker.
Historic military convoy will stop in Galion, OH Aug. 17
By Russell Kent
via the Galion Inquirer newspaper (OH) web site
GALION — Galion-area residents will have a rare opportunity in two weeks to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a special military convoy. In 1919, to celebrate the victory in World War I, a military convoy traveled across the Lincoln Highway, from the East Coast to the West Coast.
Galion, being located on the Lincoln Highway at that time, was one of the convoy’s stops, as it was in 2009 on the 90th anniversary of this special celebration.
The convoy is expected to be in Galion sometime around mid-morning Saturday, Aug. 17.
The Military Vehicle Preservation Association has invited its members and their various historical military vehicles to participate in this grand convoy re-enactment. It leaves Washington D.C. on Aug. 10. The group will bivouac in Wooster. before coming through Galion about mid-morning on Saturday, Aug. 17.
Expected to participate in the coast-to-coast tour — about 3,200 miles — are more than 50 Historic Military Vehicles. Another 20 or so vehicles will participate in different portions of the trip.
The convoy will follow the original Lincoln Highway route as closely as possible. That route crosses all or part of 11 states from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, joining the Lincoln Highway in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The route begins on the lowlands of the eastern seaboard, traverses the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, travels the lush farmlands of the Midwest, crosses the high plains, dips into the Great Salt Lake Basin in Utah, crosses the Nevada Desert, climbs the Sierra Nevada and descends to Lake Tahoe. It will end in California and the San Francisco Bay area.
Read more: Historic military convoy will stop in Galion, OH Aug. 17
Brooke USA salutes America's WWI Horse Heroes
"One can only wonder what would have happened if these US equines had not contributed to the war efforts."
By Chris Isleib
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site
Since 2017, the Brooke USA organization has put the spotlight on the services of American horses and Mules in World War I through their very popular Horse Heroes site here on the United States World War I Centennial Commission web site. As the commemoration period for the centennial of World War I winds down, we wanted to follow up with the Brooke team to review everything the organization has done to put a well-deserved spotlight on the horses and mules that supported the war effort of the United States and its Allies a century ago, and also talk about the Brooke mission to support the 21st Century Horse Heroes that make life better for people in the developing world. Brooke USA Executive Director Emily Dulin, and Brooke USA's Horse Heroes Special Project Volunteer Jo Ellen Hayden, took the time to answer a few questions for us.
You have been busy since we last visited! Tell us about your current projects at Brooke USA.
Emily DulinBecause Brooke USA is such a young organization and our growth has been so rapid, we are always working on new projects and campaigns. We have even made some changes to our mission to better reflect the areas of the world we support; we simply wanted to be more explicit and share with supporters how we ensure that the funds we raise are put to the best use. Our new mission is to significantly improve the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules and the people they serve throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and the Caribbean by raising funds and responsibly directing them to the areas of greatest need. We do this through a holistic approach to funding which includes capacity building, sustainability programming, female empowerment and international advocacy. Brooke USA connects private philanthropists with their passion for helping relieve the suffering of working equines and their owners.
In addition, we have been very disciplined as to what programs we have funded, allowing us to stay more focused and provide more concentrated service in certain geographic areas. During 2019, we are raising funds to support the extraordinary work of Brooke West Africa which serves as an example of programmatic excellence for the African continent. We know that by helping Senegal its goal to improve the welfare of 150,000 working equines, we are making a huge dent in other countries which adopt and emulate these programs.
We continue to support the work of Brooke India as it relates to improving the quality of life of working equines in the brick kilns. We are funding Brooke's work in 3,245 brick kiln sites, offering emergency vet treatment and vaccinations as well as advice on disease prevention. From Brooke USA's standpoint by engaging and training local service providers such as farriers, saddlers and cart makers, we can ensure that access to service is granted to poorest communities.
Read more: Brooke USA salutes America's WWI Horse Heroes
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