Left: My Grandfather, George A. Carlson, 89th Division, 353rd Infantry Regiment, Company A from Denver, Colorado. To the right: I am sitting on the church steps in Stenay, France.
My Connection with the French Town of Stenay and the 100th American Anniversary Ceremonies in the Meuse-Argonne
By Jeffrey A. Lowdermilk Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site
Part 1: Introduction, The Story Begins
Stephan Perrin, the Mayor of Stenay, France asked me to write a series of articles about my history with Stenay, including my stories and photographs of the 100th anniversary ceremonies commemorating the end of the First World War. The town of Stenay has been an extremely important part of my life because my Grandfather, George A. Carlson, entered the town on the morning of the Armistice, November 11, 1918. The following aticle was translated into French and was published this past winter as installments in Stenay’s regional magazine. So, I thought readers here at home would also enjoy my stories.
“We stayed up all night and talked, because we knew in the morning we would all be killed,” Granddad said with a somber face. I was a ten-year-old and sat wide-eyed on the sofa as Granddad told me his Armistice Day story for the first time. He went on:
“It was the evening of November 10, and we were camped near the old train station on the west side of the Meuse River. On the other side of the river was the town of Stenay, and our orders were to attack Stenay in the morning. When the Germans retreated, they dynamited the bridge, so huge blocks of concrete were scattered in the river. The only way across was to pick our way from block to block, and we knew there was a German machine gun in every window of the town pointed at the demolished bridge. But, early the next morning a messenger rode through camp and told us that the Armistice had been signed. Later that morning I was the eighth or ninth man across the river and we went into town without a fight. We sure were lucky as most of the Germans had retreated during the night.”
This was the first time I had heard about Stenay, France. The town is so important to me because this is where my Grandfather was on the morning of the Armistice.
Battlefield Map: The blue line represents the path of the 89th Division and my Grandfather. The town of Stenay is just to the southeast of the center of the map.World War I was such a powerful part of my grandfather’s life. I can even remember my grandmother, Dorothy, saying with a smile, “I got your grandfather with a box of Sunshine Biscuits.” She explained that the biscuit company’s slogan during the war was, “A doughboy in every box!” The term “doughboy,” which was the name given to the American World War I soldiers, has its roots in the Punitive Expedition of 1916. This military effort was commanded by General John J. Pershing, in which he attempted to capture the infamous Pancho Villa in northern Mexico. As the infantry marched through the alkaline deserts, they were covered in white dust and looked as though they had been rolled in flour. Thus, were called doughboys.
Granddad was twenty-three years old when he left Denver, Colorado’s Union Station on a “special” train carrying new doughboys to basic training on March 30, 1918. This is where his diary (which he gave the matter-of-fact title, “My Life in the Army”) begins. The train was bound for Camp Funston, which was within the Fort Riley military reservation, in the heart of Kansas.
During basic training, he was assigned to the 353rd Infantry Regiment (Company A) of the 89th Division, of which he was reverently proud. This division was known as the Rolling W, which had a symbol with a capital W inside a circle or wheel. The 89th Division was made up of men from the “Middle West,” specifically the states of Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, and South Dakota. As the symbol is rotated, it changes from M to W (Middle West). The 353rd Infantry Regiment was known as the Kansas Regiment. Their slogan was “We’re from Kansas,” and their emblem was a sunflower.
The AEF Memorial Corps certificate.The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission and the Doughboy Foundation are asking for American Legion posts to become official AEF (American Expeditionary Forces) Memorial Corps posts.
The AEF Memorial Corps is a special recognition program aimed at veteran, military, patriotic, historical, service and community organizations, to encourage and reward them for their donations, fundraising and support activities, and advocacy in helping build the National WWI Memorial In Washington, D.C.
A unique, engraved certificate is given to each post that makes a donation. Additionally, through augmented-reality technology, these posts will have a platform to be recognized by visitors when Pershing Park is completed. Learn more at ww1cc.org/memorial.
Veterans/Military Affairs Director David Hamon staffed an exhibit booth at the Legion’s 101st National Convention in August, where he distributed certificates to representatives of posts and other Legion Family groups that have donated to the memorial in 2019, making them part of the new Memorial Corps. For more information on the program, contact Hamon at (540) 379-8584 or email@example.com.
Troops marching through downtown New Canaan on Sept. 30, 1919, during a special celebration marking the end of World War I and the return of local men who had served.
New Canaan Man Unearths Photographs from Sept. 30, 1919 Parade Welcoming Home WWI Soldiers
By Michael Dinan via the New Cannanite newspaper (CT) web site
Carl Franco’s first thought on unearthing the stash of curled, cracked back-and-white photographs 15 years ago was that they must’ve been taken during a long-ago Memorial Day Parade.
Carl FrancoHe’d been cleaning out his house—which has been in the Franco family since the 1940s—in preparation for a renovation, and came upon the photographs in the attic.
Then he saw that they were dated.
“So I knew it wasn’t May,” Franco said. “It was in September 1919. So I looked it up, wondering what parade would it have been.”
The photos were taken in downtown New Canaan on Sept. 30, 1919—exactly one century ago—and they capture images from a special celebration marking the end of World War I and the return of local men who had served.
Though the armistice that ceased hostilities on the Western Front had been signed the prior November—commemorated thereafter as Veterans Day—New Canaan would wait until that Tuesday in September 1919 to hold what Mary Louise King called “the big celebration” in her local history, “Portrait of New Canaan.”
“Ever since June 1917, when a Solders’ and Sailors’ Fund was started with a benefit in the town hall, New Canaan had been preparing to welcome its returning men,” King writes.
Buildings were decorated with bunting, “horns and confetti proliferated,” and the parade started at 2 p.m., according to King.
“While eight of New Canaan’s wounded veterans rode in cars, some 120 uniformed veterans marched behind Col. Marshall Stearns over flowers children had strewn in the line of march. Among the hundreds of participants were Red Cross ladies in cars and the Women’s Relief Corps. This time the route was short and ended on South Avenue, so that the men could easily reach the ball park where a special game was played.”
At the time of the celebration, the Francos had already been in New Canaan for about 15 or 20 years, and their green grocer, later liquor store, had moved to its present-day Elm Street location from Forest and then Main Street.
Town resident raising funds to support WWI Memorial Project in Washington
By Alan Rizzo via the Ken-Ton Bee newspaper (New York) web site
Town of Tonawanda resident and Navy veteran Derek Sansone, a member of the Milton J. Brounshidle American Legion Post 205, is on a mission to make the National World War I Memorial a reality.
Derek SansoneTo do so, he is holding local fundraisers to support construction of the memorial. Sansone, who does not have a relative who served in the war, said he was motivated to support the cause due to his love of American history and his status as a military veteran.
The post will be taking donations for the Memorial during its annual open house, which will take place from noon to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, in the post at 3354 Delaware Ave., Kenmore.
“I think when you put those two things together you have an appreciation for what previous generations did to help forge this nation, and especially the service of those who served and sacrificed in uniform for this country,” said Sansone, who served as a chief petty officer in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion (Seabees) from 1992 to 2009, and at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from 2009 to 2012.
Another motivation for Sansone is education, and he noted the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission’s work to inform the public about the diversity of the American military at the time of the war, the impact of that diversity on American values in the 20th century, and the significant roles that women and minorities played.
“During that time there was a big influx of immigration into the United States, and World War I was also the first war that American women served in uniform in a capacity outside of nurses,” he said. “They’ve been doing a very good job on highlighting the service of women and minorities in World War I, and trying to make the point that service and sacrifice knows no gender, knows no race. Having a daughter I’ve really taken that to heart, because to try and pass on a love of our history in this country to the next generation, it’s not just about guys that look like me. She and other girls out there need to be able to identify with great things in our history, and that’s a piece of the first world war.”
According to the commission’s website, the memorial will be built at Pershing Park on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. The website notes that the revised concept of the memorial it displays was reviewed and approved by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in July of 2018, though elements of it are still in progress and ultimate design approval will come from the Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the National Park Service. Sansone said the commission plans to begin construction as early as this fall.
U.S. World War I Centennial Commission Vice Chair Edwin Fountain (left) shakes hands with U.S. Commission of Fine Arts Commissioner Justin Shubow, after the CFA gave final approval to the design for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC on September 19.
Commission on Fine Arts gives final approval to National WWI Memorial design
“This is a day that all who have worked hard to bring the National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC from concept to reality are very happy to see,” said Terry Hamby, Chair of the U.S World War I Centennial Commission. “This final approval takes us a giant step toward beginning the construction of this long-overdue tribute in our nation’s capital to the 4.7 million Americans who served in America’s armed forces in World War I.”
The Memorial design now goes for final review by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). With the CFA and NCPC design approvals in hand, the Commission will coordinate with the National Park Service to finalize the construction permit so that work can begin this fall to restore Pershing Park and build the Memorial.
The Memorial is being built under the Commission’s authority by the Doughboy Foundation.
Key Congressional sponsors of the Centennial Commission legislation were pleased with the final design approval. “It’s important that we have a tribute in our nation’s capital to the millions of men and women who served during WWI so that future generations may come to understand the sacrifices made on behalf of liberty,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II of Missouri. “This moment has been a long time coming, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.”
Former Congressman Ted Poe of Texas hailed the approval decision. “All the Doughboys and Sailors of the Great War are gone, but now after 100 years, America will trace their long patriotic journey through this magnificent memorial,” he said. “We shall remember them all, because the worst casualty of war is to be forgotten.”
Biplanes and Brews WWI airshow October 5/6 at Military Aviation Museum
via the Cision PR Web web site
The Military Aviation Museum’s Biplanes and Brews World War One Air Show soars into action October 5-6, in Virginia Beach, Va. Spectators will be transported back to the days of World War One with a weekend of live music, reenactors and aerial performances. Craft beer connoisseurs can pair the day’s entertainment with a brew in hand and food from vendors like Pittsburgh’s Best Food Truck and Red River Smokehouse.
This year’s featured aircraft is the Thomas-Morse Scout (S-4), which was the favorite single seat training airplane produced in the U.S. during WWI.
A selection of libations will be offered from the following breweries: Smartmouth Brewing Co., Parkway Brewing Co., Reason Beer, Stone Brewing, New Realm Brewing, Pleasure House Brewing, Reaver Beach Brewing Co. and Potter's Craft Cider. Visitors may partake in vintage lawn games including: lawn bowling, badminton, cornhole, horseshoes and croquet.
“The Biplanes & Brews Air Show showcases the museum’s magnificent collection of flying WWI era aircraft, allowing guests to get up close and also watch the skies fill with the brilliant colors of battling opponents. We’re excited to welcome so many Virginian breweries to our event,” said Jarod Hoogland, Director of the Military Aviation Museum.
Purple Hearts Reunited announces September family return ceremonies
The Purple Hearts Reunited foundation has announced the return of two awards earned in World War I to the families of the soldier recipients in New York and Maine during September.
On 05 September 2019, Purple Hearts Reunited reunited the lost Lady of Columbia Wound Certificate of WWI hero Corporal (CPL) Frederick W. Beisswanger with his daughter and grandson. The event will took place at the family’s home in Saratoga Springs NY.
Known as a Lady of Columbia Wound Certificate, these lithographs show a toga-wearing woman knighting an infantry soldier on bended knee. They were awarded to wounded or killed World War I military members; prior to the Purple Heart being established in 1932. World War I service members who had already received a lithograph became eligible for a Purple Heart at that time. As time passes, certain circumstances can lead to these medals or wound certificates being misplaced, lost, or even stolen. Below is a short biography of CPL Frederick W. Beisswanger.
CPL Fredrick W. Beisswanger was born 22 June 1895 in Elmira, NY to German immigrants, Martin and Catherine (Fitzer) Beisswanger. CPL Beisswanger was inducted into the US Army at Wellsboro, PA on 18 September 1917 and assigned to Company B, 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division. He served overseas from 8 July 1918 to 11 February 1919 and was present for all engagements at Malancourt, Montfaucon, Nantillois and Argonne. CPL Beisswanger was severely Wounded in Action on 2 Oct 1918, taking large amounts of shrapnel to his right leg. He returned to the US and was honorably discharged on 1 March 1919.
Veterans carrying the World War I Centennial flag passed cheering Sea Cliff residents during the ceremonies in honor of the eight Sea Cliff residents who died in World War I in Europe.
Sea Cliff, NY centennial anniversary honors WWI vets
By Mike Conn via the Long Island Herald newspaper (NY) liherald.com web site
For over a century, Clifton Park has been a hub of outdoor events in Sea Cliff. From games to concerts to picnics, the park has seen it all, as have the eight giant oak trees that stand along its perimeter. Those trees are turning 100 this year: They were planted in 1919, in honor of the eight Sea Cliff residents who died in World War I in Europe.
David W. Hamon, Veterans Service Organizations & Military Director for The United States World War 1 Centennial Commission, speaks at the Sea Cliff ceremonies.While the trees are grand tributes on their own, on Sept. 6, 1919, the village celebrated the return of 169 soldiers with a parade and picnic. The soldiers, and their eight fallen comrades, are memorialized on a plaque on the memorial rock in the park.
Hundreds of people gathered on Sept. 7 to celebrate the anniversary of the soldiers’ homecoming. The event kicked off with a parade from the intersection of Prospect and Sea Cliff avenues to Clifton Park. There community leaders spoke to the crowd about the importance of the day and how it symbolizes Sea Cliff’s dedication to its residents past and present. There was a picnic and a visit from Mr. Softee, and the festivities concluded with a concert by the North Winds Symphonic Band and the Sea Cliff Rock Jam Band.
There was fun throughout the day but the theme was paying tribute to veterans. David Hamon, veterans service organizations and military director of the United States World War One Centennial Commission, told the crowd that occasions like this are a fine example of how heroes, and history, should be remembered.
State Sen. Jim Gaughran, a Democrat from Northport, was one of several elected officials and local dignitaries there. Paying tribute to veterans of the past, he said, is also a way to honor today’s veterans, because it shows that they will never be forgotten.
“You look at the size of the rock we put up” for the World War I soldiers, said Ted Kopczynski, vice commander of the James F. Brengel American Legion and the 100th anniversary parade’s grand marshal. “Those men are not forgotten. The Sea Cliff residents who have no idea who they were 100 years later — we’re still not forgetting. That is just, I think, a real tribute to this community.”
David McKee (right) was reunited with his father's World War I gun, medals, and a check left in a bank safety deposit box. The items were returned to McKee from the Unclaimed Property DIvision of the State of West Virginia by State Treasurer John Perdue.
Huntington, WV man reunited with father's WWI items
By Fred Pace via the Herald-Dispatch newspaper (Huntington, WV) web site
HUNTINGTON, WV — An American World War I soldier's gun and medals left in a safe deposit box were returned to his son on Monday thanks to the West Virginia Treasurer's Unclaimed Property Division.
David McKee, 75, of Huntington, said he was shocked to find out his father, Mason Shelby McKee, had taken the gun, medals and other items to a Huntington bank's safe deposit box department for safekeeping. After Mason McKee died in the early 1970s, the items remained unclaimed and eventually ended up in the custody of the state Treasury.
"Until I was contacted by the West Virginia Treasurer's Office, I had forgot all about dad's gun and medals," David McKee said. "I vaguely remember something about dad taking them to a bank, but I had forgotten all about it over the years."
West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue presented the gun and some medals left behind in the box to McKee in a ceremony at his home on Thomas Avenue in Huntington. Some other box contents already had been auctioned, generating more than $400, which Perdue also presented to David McKee.
The safe deposit box also included Mason McKee's World War I victory medal, chronicling the three battles in which he fought; his sharpshooter medal; and his dog tags, which were in the form of a bracelet then.
From 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!
By Brad Stacy Via The Daily Independent newspaper (Ashland, KY) web site
Scott 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.