North Huntingdon, PA historian seeks volunteers to help digitize WWI burial records
By Patrick Varine
via the Tribune-Review (PA) news organization web site
Andrew Capets’ initial interest in World War I was finding out more about his grandfather’s unit, the 313th Machine Gun Battalion.
That research led the North Huntingdon resident and amateur historian to write “Good War, Great Men,” which focused on his grandfather’s battalion and its exploits, including fighting in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, in which more than 26,000 American soldiers died.
Marine David Colvin of Greensburg was killed in action in Marne, France during World War I.Now, Capets has joined with a Nebraska man on a new WWI project: creating a searchable database of soldiers’ burial cards, some of which will be linked to a digital map showing where those soldiers are buried.
“We were both part of a World War I group on Facebook,” Capets said. “If one of us is looking for some information, we’ll talk with other members.”
Capets connected with Weldon Hoppe of Colon, Neb., who had recently returned from France, where he researched two men from his hometown who died in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
Both men had made frustrating, incomplete discoveries in the National Archives. Capets found a database of burial cards for WWI soldiers, but they were simply scanned, rather than fully digitized.
“You couldn’t search them for, say, a specific name,” Capets said.
Around the same time, Hoppe came across four books showing burial plots for WWI soldiers, “but they weren’t in any specific order, either,” he said. “But they had coordinates on them. I work for an engineering firm that does a lot of mapping, so I transcribed the coordinate information and put it on a GIS map so you can visually see where they all are.”
Hoppe reached out to Capets through the Facebook group, and their undertakings have been mutually beneficial.
“We thought there had to be a better way (to find specific information),” Capets said. “Weldon came across the Zooniverse website and pitched this idea to them.”
One of the deciding factors was the backing of a few organizations such as Fold3, which is owned by Ancestry.com and creates a sort of military family tree that veterans and others can search.
While Capets and a group of volunteers are building a fully searchable database using the burial cards, Hoppe is attaching that information to interactive maps of burial plots.
Read more: North Huntingdon historian seeks volunteers to help digitize WWI burial records
Fayette County's WWI Service Members lost to 1918 Influenza Pandemic
By Paul LaRue
Ohio World War I Centennial Committee
The opportunity to honor the men and women that have served in the armed forces is extremely important to us all. This year, unfortunately, there were no parades, no local high school bands playing patriotic music, no speakers' remarks honoring the service and sacrifice of our communities' Veterans, and no Veteran's organization programs. The playing of taps and the Honor Guards' 21-gun salute did not echo through the air everywhere.
The Fayette County, Ohio World War I Memorial.But, hopefully we all took time to think about and thank our communities' Veterans, whom have given so much for us.
The current pandemic we are living in provides us a window into an earlier time 102 years ago. On Memorial Day of 1918 the United States was in the midst of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic. The United States was also in the second year as a participant in World War I. The largest and deadliest World War I battles for US troops were ahead.
We associate World War I with poison gas, trench warfare, and machine gun fire, yet the deadliest killer of US troops was disease. According to official army records: 50, 280 United States soldiers were killed in combat; 57,460 US soldiers died of disease.
Influenza was the deadliest disease impacting service members. United States Naval records reveal a greater disparity: 2,892 sailors and marines were killed in action, while 4,158 sailors and marines died of Influenza.
Fayette County is less than thirty miles from Camp Sherman, just outside Chillicothe. Camp Sherman was a sprawling World War I military encampment, covering nearly 10,000 acres with 2,000 buildings. More than 123,000 officers and enlisted men transitioned through Camp Sherman in 1917 & 1918, making it the third largest World War I encampment in the US. Camp Sherman also holds the dubious distinction of having the highest influenza death rate at any military installation. 7,618 soldiers were admitted to the Camp Sherman hospitals, leading to 842 total deaths.125 soldiers died on October 8,1918 at Camp Sherman on the single deadliest day.
Read more: Fayette County's World War I Service Members lost to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic