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World War I Centennial News


 

 

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

WWI 24May2019 0004American Kennel Club's Museum of the Dog Executive Director Alan Fausel (right) meets Sawyer the Sea Dog, mascot of the U.S. Navy Museum in Washington, D.C., who was brought to the AKC's museum by the U.S WWI Centennial Commission to help educate museum-goers about the heroic service of military working animals during Fleet Week New York 2019, which this year is commemorating WWI, Friday, May 24, 2019, in New York. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)

Fleet Week 2019 Photo Gallery

Sawyer the Sea Dog visits AKC Museum of the Dog

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

The U.S World War I Centennial Commission brought Sawyer the Sea Dog, mascot of the U.S. Navy Museum in Washington, D.C., to the American Kennel Club's Museum of the Dog to help educate museum-goers about the heroic service of military working animals during Fleet Week New York, which this year is commemorating World War I, Friday, May 24, 2019, in New York. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)

IMG E5777Sawyer the Sea Dog poses with members of the United States World War I Centennial Commission team during his visit to the AKC Museum of the Dog during Fleet Week New York 2019.

Read more: Fleet Week 2019 Photo Gallery: Sawyer the Sea Dog visits AKC Museum of the Dog

WWI 23May2019 0471United States World War I Centennial Commission Vice Chair Edwin Fountain (left) sweeps aside the veil to reveal the Memorial Plaque for the USS San Diego in Times Square May 23, during Fleet Week 2019. The unveiling took place in front of the memorial to Father Duffy of New York WWI fame.

Fleet Week 2019 Photo Gallery

USS San Diego Memorial Plaque unveiled in Times Square

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

The U.S World War I Centennial Commission unveiled a new memorial plaque honoring the crew of the U.S. Navy WWI heavy cruiser USS San Diego during Fleet Week New York 2019, which this year is commemorating World War I, Thursday, May 23, 2019, in New York's Times Square. The new memorial, which will be permanently placed in Ocean Beach, N.Y. later this summer, honors the USS San Diego, which was sunk by enemy action off the coast of New York's Fire Island over a hundred years ago, and the six U.S. Navy sailors who were lost in the tragedy. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)

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Read more: USS San Diego Memorial Plaque unveiled in Times Square

Fleet Week 2019 Photo Gallery

AKC Museum of the Dog honors Army's Sgt. Stubby with sculpture

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

World War I Centennial Commission Commissioner Dr. Libby O'Connell (L) stands with descendants of Robert Conroy, original owner of SGT Stubby, the legendary mascot of the 26th "Yankee" Division in WWI, at the unveiling of Stubby's new memorial at the AKC Museum of the Dog in New York..

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Read more: Fleet Week 2019 Photo Gallery AKC Museum of the Dog honors Army's Sgt. Stubby with sculpture

Jane Kratochvil FleetWeekNYCReception2019 jkratochvil DSC 0737Admiral Christopher W. Grady, Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command (left) joins the Memorial team from The United States World War I Centennial Commission at the scale model maquette for the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC. (From second left) Commissioners Dr. Libby O'Connell and Vice Chair Edwin Fountain are leading the Memorial project for the Commission; Memorial Architect Joseph Weishaar and Memorial Sculptor Sabin Howard; and Commission Special Advisor Sandra Pershing, granddaughter-in-law of General John Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I.

Fleet Week 2019 Photo Gallery

Official reception marks beginning of Fleet Week New York 2019

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

The United States World War I Centennial Commission joined Admiral Christopher W. Grady, Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and other Sea Service leaders, and city officials, for a special reception to mark the start of Fleet Week New York.

Among the attendees was Mayor Bill De Blasio, who had a chance to see the scale model maquette for the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC, which the Commission is building.

Entertainment was provided by the cast of "The Hello Girls", an Off-Broadway musical which tells the story of the heroic U.S. Army Female Telephone Operators of World War I. 

Jane Kratochvil FleetWeekNYCReception2019 jkratochvil DSC 0921

Read more: Fleet Week 2019 Photo Gallery: Official reception marks beginning of Fleet Week New York 2019

Fleet Week Photo Gallery

Commission salutes Fleet Week vessels from dazzle ship John J. Harvey

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

With the help of the historic fireboat John J. Harvey, painted in World War I "dazzle" camouflage pattern, the U.S. WWI Centennial Commission welcomed the U.S.S. New York as she led the parade of ships into New York Harbor to kick off Fleet Week New York, which this year is commemorating WWI, on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in New York. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)

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Read more: Fleet Week Photo Gallery: Commission salutes Fleet Week vessels from dazzle ship John J. Harvey

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Commission News: Living History Crew from the USS Olympia at Fleet Week 

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In May 17th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 123, host Theo Mayer interviewed Kevin Smith and Laura Adie of the Cruiser Olympia Living History Crew. Kevin and Laura both attended Fleet Week in NYC to share World War I Naval History with visitors. Read on to learn more about the work of the Living History Crew, the story of the Olympia, and more. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity: 

Theo Mayer: One of the very exciting World War I elements that we're sponsoring at Fleet Week is a group of living historians who are going to be located at various key events. These are men and women who have studied and embraced the era and personas of people from that era, literally bringing the past into the present. A notable group of living historians focused on World War I, and the sea services specifically, are from the Philadelphia Independence Seaport Museum, home of the Cruiser Olympia, the ship that carried home many of our doughboys who sadly died over there including the first unknown. With us today are two of these living historians of the more than 20 that'll be joining us in New York. Laura Adie, the head of the female crew, and Kevin Smith, one of the founders of the crew and one of the curators for the Cruiser Olympia. Laura, Kevin welcome to the podcast.

Laura Adie: Thanks for having us.

Kevin Smith: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Independence Seaport Museum exterior M.Fischetti VP 2200x1237The Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, PA Theo Mayer: Kevin, let me begin with you. Can you give our listeners a quick overview of the museum, the Cruiser Olympia, and what visitors experience when they go for a visit?

Kevin Smith: Yeah, of course. The Cruiser Olympia is part of the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. It's a maritime museum that focuses on the history of maritime trade, industry, and actually the ecosystem of the Delaware River and other waterways throughout the United States. A good part of our mission is actually the history of the US Navy. We have a program called the Sail, Steam, and Stealth Program. That focuses on our three ships, we have two historic ships and one replica. The Diligence, a replica cutter from the Quasi War (editors note: undeclared war between the U.S. and France from 1798 to1800) and the submarine Becuna from World War II, and of course the Cruiser Olympia, which served in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Olympia is actually the flagship of our collection, very literally as it is a flagship and sort of embassy for the United States. She served in the US Navy for 27 years and visitors coming aboard can actually see the ship, walk around through it, and experience the ship as it would have been actually mostly in World War I.

Read more: Podcast Article - Olympia Living History Crew

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Education: Teacher Suzan Turner and her Award-Winning Students 

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In May 3rd's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 121, host Theo Mayer interviewed Suzan Turner and a few of her students from Nashau, Iowa. Suzan's students produced an award-winning documentary for Who They Were, a National History Day program that encourages students to engage with World War I. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity: 

nathistorydaylogoTheo Mayer: Under Education, last year we put together an education consortium consisting of the US World War I Centennial Commission, the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, which is America's leading institution dedicated to the Great War and its enduring impact, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a nonprofit organization devoted to the improvement of history education and our friends at National History Day, another nonprofit educational organization that offers year long academic programs that engage over a half a million middle and high school students annually. One of the initiatives that came out of the consortium is National History Day's Legacy of World War I. This is a teacher participation course that includes Memorializing the Fallen, where you research a fallen soldier from your community. That idea was brought down to the student population through another initiative called Who They Were. Our next guests include a teacher, Suzan Turner, a talented and gifted student teacher as well as National History Day coach at Nashua Plainfield High School in Nashua, Iowa. With her are a group of her very talented and gifted students, who created an award-winning mini documentary video for Who They Were. Let me greet each of you. Suzan, thank you for being the inspiration here.

Suzan Turner: Thank you very much. We're very happy to be a guest on your program.

Theo Mayer: On the student side, we have Drew, Abby, Tyler, Jayne and Lucas. Hey, guys.

Students: Hello. Hi.

Theo Mayer: Before we get going, I had a chance to watch the video this morning and I just wanted to open by telling you that I've been producing media for a very long time and your mini documentary is genuinely really good. Congratulations to all of you. That's really impressive.

Read more: Podcast Article - Suzan Turner and Students interview

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

100 Years Ago This Week: The Curtiss NC-4 and the First Transatlantic Flight  

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In May 10th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 122, host Theo Mayer recounted the story of the first transatlantic flight. American Navy pilots flying a Curtiss NC-4 made several stops on a trip that ultimately took several weeks before landing in Lisbon, Portugal. It was harrowing journey that marked a major achievement for the Navy, the nascent aerospace industry, and the United States as a whole. The following is a transcribed segment from the podcast, edited for clarity: 

 Theo Mayer: A big theme for this month is the role of the Navy in WWI, and in our editorial planning meetings, a '100 years ago' story jumped out that is so compelling and exciting that we thought we'd dedicate the whole segment to it. It's a story we've touched on in the past. The first successful Transatlantic plane crossing, and it happened in a US Navy flying boat known as the NC-4. So with that as a setup, let's jump into our centennial time machine and go back 100 years, as the postwar US Navy takes on the challenge of flying from the North American to the European continent.

Glen CurtissGlen Curtiss, designer of the NC-4, was a pioneer of the American aerospace industryWe've gone back a hundred years to early May, 1919. The newspapers all over the nation, small towns and large cities alike are all tuned into a play-by-play, day-by-day drama happening along the North Eastern seaboard, a Mid-Atlantic island chain, and over to Lisbon in Portugal. The papers are telling the story of three Navy planes that are bound and determined to be the first airplanes to fly across the Atlantic. Unlike the pilots who are competing for the grand prize for the first nonstop transatlantic flight, The Navy is trying to demonstrate that their WWI-developed technology can bridge the Pacific Ocean's chasm. The plane is designed by Glen Curtiss and his team, and manufactured by the Curtis Airplane and Motor Company and is meant to serve as a US Navy submarine hunter.

Now, a crucial strategic capability for the plane's deployment in WWI, is that it needs to be able to fly itself across the Atlantic to the European theater. You see, as America deploys an unprecedented number of troops to Europe, there is simply no cargo space available on ships to transport large planes. To be viable in the conflict, those planes need to be able to get where they need to go on their own. To get across the ocean, the NC-4 sported four of the American engineered and designed 12 cylinder liberty engines. As it happens, the war ends before the plane can be put into service, but their design and capability is considered by the Navy and by Curtis to be groundbreaking. Well, maybe 'groundbreaking' is the wrong phrase because after all, it is a flying boat.

Now, the Navy wants to shed some light on what's been accomplished, and so it decides to show off it's new technology and capability by making the Navy Curtis flying boat the first plane ever to fly across the Atlantic. It's meant to be a huge public relations coup for the US Navy, Curtiss, and the fledgling American aerospace industry. To do this, three planes are designated to make the voyage: the NC-1, the NC-3 and the NC-4. Now, NC stands for Navy Curtiss, but everyone knew them as Nancy's. Okay. So, the Navy's gone all in on commitment and planning, and the multi-leg journey and adventure starts at the Naval air station at Rockaway Beach, New York, on May 8th, 1919. We're going to follow the events day by day, and it's a truly epic story.

Read more: Podcast Article - NC-4 Transatlantic flight

 

IMG 6649 1100x733University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod speaks on Monday, May 20, 2019, during a rededication ceremony of "The Victory Eagle" sculpture, a World War I memorial honoring Douglas County residents who died during the war.  

KU rededicates WWI memorial ‘Victory Eagle’ in new location on campus 

By Dylan Lysen
via the Lawrence Journal-World (KS) newspaper web site

For the third — and likely final — time, the University of Kansas on Monday dedicated “The Victory Eagle” statue in honor of the Douglas County residents who lost their lives fighting in World War I.

“Monuments like this ‘Victory Eagle,’ commissioned to honor those from Douglas County who answered their country’s call, makes this world history our local history,” said Lorie Vanchena, who is a KU associate professor of German Studies. “Eighteen of the 68 individuals whose names appear on the plaque were KU students and alumni. So this monument makes this world history our university history.”

The university rededicated the World War I commemorative statue because it was moved to a new location on the east side of Memorial Drive in April. The statue was previously displayed on Jayhawk Boulevard near the front of Dyche Hall but was moved closer to other war memorials on campus.

The bronze eagle statue, which had been sitting in front of Dyche Hall since 1982, depicts a female bald eagle defending her nest. The sculpture was originally placed on the Douglas and Leavenworth county line in 1929 but was removed in 1980 because of vandalism. The sculpture was rededicated on KU’s campus two years later.

The KU sculpture is one of six eagle statues produced in the 1920s to be placed along “Victory Highway,” a planned roadway from New York to San Francisco that was meant to honor those who died in WWI, but the plan was never fully realized.

Read more: KU rededicates WWI memorial ‘Victory Eagle’ in new location on campus

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