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World War I Centennial News


 

 

60771541df285.imageArtist's rendering of what the new national World War I Memorial in Washington, DC will look like at daytime when completed. 

Decatur architect: New WWI Memorial an ‘incredible' tribute 

By Everett Catts
via the Rome News-Tribune newspaper (GA) web site

Joe Weishaar was a 25-year-old designer seeking to become an architect and working in a Chicago architectural firm when he entered a contest to design the planned World War I Memorial in Washington.

Joe WeishaarJoe WeishaarSix years later, the Decatur resident is the lead architect for the $42 million project, which opens with a private event April 16 and to the public the following day. He won in a pool of 365 entries from 22 countries.

“Before this process, I didn’t know anything about World War I. I had no ties, no connections. For me it’s entirely been a learning experience,” said Weishaar, who has no known relatives who fought in the war. “It’s really incredible, not just for me but it should be pretty incredible for the country as a whole. To build a memorial 101 years after the event that it commemorates, that sort of thing just doesn’t happen.

“You normally build a memorial right after, and in a lot of ways this became a forgotten war. To build something that has a lasting tribute to the men and women who served in that conflict shows it still matters.”

The private opening event will include a first colors ceremony in which a flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capitol and nine WWI battlefield cemeteries in Europe in the last three years. Hosted by award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise, the program is co-sponsored by the United States World War I Centennial Commission, the Doughboy Foundation, the National Park Service and the American Battle Monuments Commission.

It will commemorate America's role in the war and include military fanfare, musical performances and guest appearances by veterans and others from across the country.

The memorial is located inside the 1.8-acre Pershing Park, which sits on Pennsylvania Avenue by the southeast gates to the White House and is close to the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian. It’s the main/passion project of the World War I Centennial Commission, which was created by Congress in 2013 to plan, develop and execute nationwide programs focused on celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the war.

The memorial is paid for through private donations, an effort led by the commission’s fundraising arm, the Doughboy Foundation, which was named after the nickname given to U.S. infantrymen during the war. The commission will shut down once the memorial opens.

After winning the contest, Weishaar was the project’s lead designer until getting his architect’s license in October 2019 and being promoted to lead architect. He’s working with GWWO Architects, the memorial’s firm of record; landscape architect David Rubin and sculptor Sabin Howard. 

The memorial will include a 58-foot, 3-inch-long sculpture of soldiers in action that is the largest freestanding bronze high-relief sculpture in the Western Hemisphere. But it won’t be installed until 2024, so in the mean time, Weishaar said, the memorial will have a temporary screen showing the final sketch of Howard’s sculpture design.

Edwin Fountain, who served as the commission’s vice chair until a year and a half ago but is still involved with the memorial project, said the organization wanted to make the design competition a global one because of all the countries involved in the war.

Read more: Decatur architect: New WWI Memorial an ‘incredible' tribute 

 

Weishaar ARkansas DJSix years after he entered a competition to design a national World War I memorial, Arkansas native Joseph Weishaar is nearing the finish line. The memorial opens to the public Friday. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Frank Lockwood) 

Arkansan-designed memorial to WWI vets opening in D.C. 

By Frank E. Lockwood
via the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper web site 

WASHINGTON -- Nearly six years after Fayetteville native Joseph Weishaar submitted his initial entry, the national World War I memorial he designed is about to open.

Friday morning, dignitaries will gather for a small flag-raising ceremony.

Washington covid-19 rules, updated in March, allowed "outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people," so attendance will be limited.

The event will include a military flyover as well as pre-recorded comments by President Joe Biden.

Afterward, the fencing surrounding the 1.76-acre park on Pennsylvania Avenue will be removed and the public will be allowed in.

Poppy seeds, imported from the original war zone, have been planted. By June, they should be blossoming.

"It's pretty amazing" to nearly be done, Weishaar said during a drizzly tour of the site Wednesday afternoon.

The landscaping is finished, the stonework is complete and the water features are already running.

The $50 million project is nearly paid for; $48.61 million has already been raised.

Roughly 4.7 million Americans served in uniform during World War I.

The United States entered the conflict in April 1917, enabling England, France and their allies to defeat the nations aligned with Germany and Austria-Hungary. Millions of people died in the conflict, including 116,516 Americans.

Until now, there has been no national monument in Washington honoring their sacrifice.

There won't be any veterans of the conflict at Friday's ceremony. The last U.S. World War I military veteran, Frank Buckles, died on Feb. 27, 2011; he was 110 years old.

The new memorial pays homage to the heroes of World War I. But it also sends a message to every man and woman who has ever donned a U.S. military uniform, Weishaar said.

"They will never be forgotten," he said. "Honor and sacrifice will always mean something to the people of this nation."

Congress passed legislation in 2014 authorizing the memorial at Pershing Park, a site that already features a statue honoring the man who commanded the U.S. troops in World War I -- General of the Armies John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing.

The United States World War I Centennial Commission was tasked with picking the design and raising the money.

The selection of Weishaar generated plenty of headlines.

Given the challenges that arose between 2015 and today, there were times when the young Arkansan doubted the project would ever be completed, he said.

"To actually be standing in the park the week it opens is incredible," he said. 

Read more: Arkansan-designed memorial to WWI vets opening in D.C.

 

National WWI Memorial almost readyPersonnel from Grunley Construction putting on the final touches and doing site cleanup as the new National WWI Memorial in Washington, DC gets ready to open to the public on April 17. (Photo by Nick Albright) 

'First Colors' Ceremony with pre-recorded remarks by President Biden to mark opening of National World War I Memorial 

via the yahoo! finance web site 

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The World War I Centennial Commission will host First Colors, a 90-minute virtual commemoration to mark the opening of the National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C. The event will be live streamed on Friday, April 16, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. EDT/ 7:00 a.m. PDT at www.ww1cc.org/firstcolors. The memorial will open on April 17 under the administration of the National Park Service.

President Joe Biden will offer pre-recorded remarks as part of the program, hosted by actor Gary Sinise. The program will also include Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO). Celebrity appearances will include Lee Greenwood performing "God Bless the U.S.A" with acapella group Home Free and members of the United States Air Force Band. 

The ceremony's live elements at the memorial will include a Color Guard raising the inaugural flag, which was previously raised over the U.S. Capitol; nine World War I cemeteries administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission in France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom; and the World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. A flyover will be performed by the 94th Fighter Squadron, formerly the 94th Aero Squadron, the most victorious air warfare unit of World War I. The United States Army Band Pershing's Own will also perform, featuring a bugle owned by Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I.

'First Colors' will feature special tributes to World War I service members, including:

A performance by the 369th Regiment "Hellfighters Band," a tribute to the all-Black band in World War l's segregated Army that helped bring jazz to Europe.

A performance from the musical "Hello Girls, The Musical" that portrays the first women to actively serve in the Army, performing as heroic telephone operators on the front lines.

"As our nation's flag is raised for the first time over this hallowed ground that honors those who served in the Great War, we can take pride in the legacy of service and sacrifice by those who wear the uniform of our great country," said Terry Hamby, Chairman of the World War I Centennial Commission. "We invite Americans across the country to view this momentous occasion and reflect on this significant generation's place in our country's history."

The program will also include insight about the design of the memorial from lead designer Joe Weishaar and sculptor Sabin Howard.

First Colors is presented by the World War l Centennial Commission in cooperation with the Doughboy Foundation, the National Park Service, and the American Battle Monuments Commission. For more information and to watch the commemoration, visit www.ww1cc.org/firstcolors. First Colors is not an in-person event.

Read more: First Colors Ceremony to mark opening of National World War I Memorial 

 

1000w q95Joint service pallbearers carry the Unknown Soldier remains of World War I from the USS Olympia to a horse-drawn caisson to transport the body to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., November 9, 1921. Among the saluting officers is Gen. John Pershing, who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces. New York Army National Guard Maj. Hamilton Fish, who served as commander of Company K, 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters,” an all-black unit of the New York National Guard, introduced the federal resolution in December 1920 as a U.S. Congressman to create an Unknown Soldier memorial on November 11, 1921. Courtesy photo. 

NY National Guardsman Led Fight for Tomb of the Unknown 

By Col. Richard Goldenberg, New York National Guard
via the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

LATHAM, N.Y. – The United States has a Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers today because a New York National Guard Major and freshman Congressman thought it was necessary 100 years ago.

Hamilton FishNew York Army National Guard Maj. Hamilton Fish, in an undated 1919 photo from World War I. Fish served as commander of Company K, 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters,” an all-black unit of the New York National Guard. After the war, Fish was elected to Congress in 1920 from New York and introduced the resolution to create an Unknown Soldier memorial. Courtesy photo.Hamilton Fish III was a 32-year old lawyer with a Harvard degree who could trace his roots back to the last Dutch governor of New Amsterdam, the original settlers of Connecticut, and the first Adjutant General of New York when he ran for Congress in 1920.

He was a progressive Republican member of the New York State Assembly before World War I and signed on to serve as a company commander in the 15th New York Infantry (Colored) of the New York National Guard.

When war came, he led Company K of what became known as the 369th Infantry Regiment, which went down in history as the Harlem Hellfighters.
He earned a Silver Star, and the French War Cross. He took the medals and his famous name and ran for Congress from the Hudson Valley.

The British and French had interred unknown Soldiers with great ceremony on November 11, 1920 to commemorate the 908,000 deaths sustained by the British Empire and the 1.3 million French dead.

Fish thought that the United States, which had suffered 116,516 deaths – 53,402 in combat and 63,114 to disease-- between April 1917 and November 1918, should do the same. He became the lead advocate for a memorial to an American Unknown Soldier.

The purpose, according to Fish, was “to bring home the body of an unknown American warrior who in himself represents no section, creed, or race in the late war and who typifies, moreover, the soul of America and the supreme sacrifice of her heroic dead.”

“There should be no distinction whatever either in the matter of rank, color or wealth,” Fish said. “This man is the unknown American Soldier killed on the battlefields of France.”

Fish introduced Public Resolution 67 of the 66th Congress on December 21, 1920 to do just that.

The resolution called for the return to the United States of the remains of an unknown American Soldier killed in France during World War I. Those remains were to be interred at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery. 

America’s war dead had been buried in France near where they fell in combat. At the close of the war families were given the option of having the remains returned or interred in American cemeteries being built in France.

There was a precedent for these Soldier cemeteries in the 108 national cemeteries built to inter the remains of Civil War Soldiers and veterans since 1862. There was no precedent to honor a single Soldier.

Read more: NY National Guardsman Led Fight for Tomb of the Unknown

 

Marguerite ID 1The identity card of Marguerite Martin, one of the U.S. Army "Hello Girls" telephone operators during World War I.  

Women Answered Call in World War I 

By Kate Kelly
via the americacomesalive.com web site

In World War I telephone operators were needed in Europe. General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, quickly saw that women—American women–would be better at telephone work than the men. The Signal Corps was all male, and they were not only assigned to string lines but to handle all communications and were not doing well at the task.

A call was put out throughout America for women to serve in Europe as operators. The preferred candidates were fluent in French and English.

Background on the U.S. and the War

When the U.S. entered the war in the spring 1917, the U.S. Signal Corps was immediately tasked with stringing new telephone lines. The communication system in war-torn Europe was in shambles. General Pershing even made sure that telephone elements were part of the equipment he brought with him on his arrival in Europe. He knew this was a priority.

As Pershing waited for the system to become operational, he saw that the men were skilled at stringing the lines. However, he noted they were slow and impatient when it came to plugging and unplugging the calls, as operators had to do at that time. The French offered their operators. Pershing tried the French women in the jobs for a time, but the women were not as adept as American operators, and the language difficulties were very frustrating.

Ads Sent Out in U.S.

In November of 1917, Pershing ordered that advertisements be run across America, seeking bilingual women operators—or bilingual women who were willing to be trained. One thousand seven hundred fifty applied; 450 were accepted for training; only 223 qualified to serve.

Marguerite Martin (1894-1959), a resident of San Mateo, California, was among those chosen for training. 

She had an ideal background. Her father was a Frenchman who contracted yellow fever when working to help build the Panama Canal, long before she was born. He was sent north to San Francisco to recover. While there, he met another French immigrant whom he married.

Together the French couple set up a happy household and soon had seven children—one son and six daughters, one of whom was Marguerite. When the only son died from illness, Marguerite’s mother was distraught. She had a mental breakdown and was unable to function. Her father could not raise six girls on his own, so he turned to the church and placed all six daughters in the Catholic orphanage in San Mateo. (During this era, orphanages were frequently used even when there was a living parent. Lee Duncan who served in World War I and found Rin Tin Tin grew up in an orphanage though his mother was alive.)

Read more: Women Answered Call in World War I

 

Des Moines Hosted First-Ever African American Officer Training 

By Roger Riley
via the WHO-13 television station (IA) web site

DES MOINES, Iowa — A page of Des Moines history is also part of Black history. In 1917, a thousand African American college-educated young men came to Des Moines for the Officer Training Program. They were joined by 250 Black non-commissioned officers for training from May through October.

“Des Moines has a really proud legacy of having Fort Des Moines, which is a camp where the first Black officers for the U.S. Army were trained,” said Leo Landis, curator of the State Historical Museum of Iowa.

One of the soldiers who came back after his military days was James B. Morris. He is remembered still at the State Historical Museum of Iowa.

“We do have a number of other items related to James Morris. We have his dog tags from when he served in World War I,” said Landis. “We have other materials connected to his service. His identification badge. We really were grateful to the Morris family for having donated these to the State Historical Museum several years ago.”

The museum also has his uniform jacket he wore in World War I.

“One of the features of the uniform of course is that the patch that these men chose to put on their jacket was the buffalo or bison patch,” said Landis. “That was because in the 1870s and 1880s and 1890s, Black men were serving in the western areas were often referred to as the ‘Buffalo Soldiers.'”

At the Fort Des Moines Museum, there is a large display dedicated to the Fort Des Moines Black Officers Training. There were several reasons the U.S. Army chose Des Moines for this training.

“It was established as a cavalry base, but the cavalry was deployed elsewhere, so this was essentially an empty base,” said Jeff Kluever of the Fort Des Moines Museum. “Another reason was because it was far away from major metropolitan areas and potential distractions for the men who were going to train there. The third reason was because Iowa was willing to welcome them.” 

Read more: Des Moines Hosted First-Ever African American Officer Training

 

How Rockford’s WWI Camp Grant led to an African American community center

By Eric Wilson
via the WQRF-TV (IL) mystateline.com web site 

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford is home to one of the oldest African American community centers in Illinois, a direct descendant of World War I’s Camp Grant.

For more than a year, Joyce Higgins has been the executive director of the African American Resource Center (AARC) at Booker Washington Community Center, 524 Kent St, but she’s been involved at the center for decades.

“The Booker Washington Center would not even exist if it wasn’t for segregation,” she said. “It’s an excitement to tell this history…there’s so much of it.”

Camp Grant was one of 16 cantonments across the United States, used to train soldiers. The camp, like the country, was racially segregated at the time.

“By November of 1917 to October 1918, a maximum of 13,898 Negro enlistees had come to the Rockford area,” Higgins said.

In the 1910 Census, Rockford had fewer than 200 Black residents, and soldiers volunteered for service, despite what many prominent Black leaders across the country were saying.

“Many of them were anti-war,” Higgins said. “They were like, ‘America is not gonna do anything for us.’ But, African Americans still lined up, 400,000 of them.”

Read more: How Rockford’s WWI Camp Grant led to an African American community center

 

Creede CO 1918 Mary Elting Folsom 1017 insetThe silver mining town of Creede, Colorado in 1918; (inset) Creede resident Mary Elting Folsom in 1017 

Creede, Colorado and World War I—A Knitter’s Tale 

By Robert Moll
via the History Colorado web site 

“Grandma, do you know how to knit?”

It was the summer of 2000 and eleven-year-old Lizzie, a beginning knitter, hoped she’d found a mentor—her ninety-four-year-old grandmother, Mary Elting Folsom. Lizzie’s question took Mary back to 1917, several months after the US entered World War I.

"Yes, Lizzie, I do know how to knit. I learned during the summer of 1917, when I was eleven. Surprisingly, my teacher was a British army recruiter who had come to my home town of Creede, Colorado."

Located high in the San Juan mountains of southern Colorado, Creede was a silver mining town when Mary was born in 1906. Silver had been discovered there in 1889, just before the US Congress passed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. This legislation required the US Treasury to make substantial monthly purchases of silver, for which it issued special silver-backed paper currency. The price of the metal quickly shot up, and in a matter of months Creede became one of North America’s wildest mining camps. The silver craze attracted more than ten thousand prospectors, miners, and adventurers, who took up residence in tent cities that ringed the town.

Legendary figures of the Wild West were among the town’s new inhabitants. Bat Masterson turned up, not as a lawman but as a saloon keeper. Bob Ford, killer of Jesse James in Missouri in 1882, also came, only to be gunned down himself in his own saloon in 1892. Swindlers and gunfighters, gambling halls and brothels—that was Creede in its heyday. 

Then, in 1893, an economic panic hit the country and people began exchanging their new silver-backed paper currency for gold coins. Fearing a run on its gold reserves, the US Treasury stopped buying silver altogether. The price of the metal fell dramatically, ending Creede’s three year run as a silver boomtown. Work continued at the largest mines, but the population of the town soon fell to about a thousand. Still, Creede’s early rowdiness remained a part of town life through the time of the First World War.

In the midst of Creede’s roughness, Mary grew up in a respectable middle-class family. Her father was a storekeeper who sold hay and grain for the town’s horses and mules. Her mother was a former schoolteacher who gave Mary a proper upbringing. When Mary asked why the women standing in front of a house down the street were wearing kimonos, her mother answered sharply, “You’re too young to know.” Years later she realized that the establishment had been a brothel. In summer the family retreated from rough-and-tumble Creede to Antler’s Park, a former dude ranch they owned west of town.

Read more: Creede, Colorado and World War I—A Knitter’s Tale 

 

 HUNTON WITH BLACK SOLDIERAfrican American suffragist Addie Waites Hunton (right) pictured with an unidentified Black American Soldier in France during World War I. Hunton served with the YWCA in France during1918 and 1919 in a variety of roles supporting the segregated Black troops stationed there.

African American suffragist supported troops in WWI YWCA 

By Kathy Coker
via the Richmond Public Library (VA) web site 

In preparation for Black History Month, I did a little research and uncovered some fascinating people like Addie Waites Hunton, an African American suffragist, activist, writer, political organizer, and educator.

Early Life

Born in Norfolk on June 11, 1866, Addie D. Waites lost her mother as a child and then moved to Boston to be raised by a maternal aunt. She was the first black woman to graduate from Philadelphia’s Spencerian College of Commerce. Waites then moved to Normal, Alabama, where she taught at the State Normal and Agricultural College (now Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University).

Marriage and Early Civic Work

In July 1893, she married William Alphaeus Hunton, who had come to Norfolk in 1888 to found and become secretary of a Young Men’s Christian Association for Negro youth. During the first years of her marriage, Hunton worked full time and also was her husband’s secretary. She became a member of the National Association of Colored Women, attending the 1895 founding convention in Boston as a delegate from the Woman’s League of Richmond.

After living in Norfolk and Richmond, in 1899 the Huntons moved to Atlanta, Georgia. She had four children, but only two survived infancy. After the 1906 Atlanta race riot, the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where the Huntons continued their activism. In 1907, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) appointed her secretary to work among black Americans. She toured the South and Midwest, attracting prominent black women to the YWCA.

Around August 1902, Hunton addressed The Negro People’s Christian and Educational Congress in Atlanta. Her talk was entitled “A Pure Motherhood: The Basis of Racial Integrity.” She began with:

"This great and unique Congress has rightly discerned the signs of the times inasmuch as it has given due recognition to the women of the race. For, in the discussion of these problems affecting the highest and purest development of our people, the relation of woman to that development cannot be ignored."

Hunton said women had shown their leadership in the church, in social and moral reforms, and in the business world. “To woman is given the sacred and divine trust of developing the germ of life….Upon the Negro woman rests a burden of responsibility peculiar in its demands.” Hunton called upon the “intelligent mothers of the race…to concentrate their efforts… [to] diminish the number of poorly born poorly bred and deformed children…out on the streets….”

From 1906 to 1910, she was a countrywide organizer for the National Association of Colored Women (NACW).

Read more: African American suffragist supported troops in WWI YWCA

 

F134 Nieuport 28 Fighter PlaneThough rejected by the French, the Nieuport 28 Fighter Plane was adopted as a stop-gap measure by the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War I, and saw extensive useful service in support of the Doughboys. 

French-Built and American Flown: Meet the Nieuport 28 Fighter Plane 

By Peter Suciu
via the nationalinterest.org web site 

When the United States military went “over there” to take on the Huns (the Germans) during the First World War, what it lacked in equipment it more than made up for in determination. However, it weapons were needed for the Americans to do the fighting.

This meant that Americans often relied on foreign equipment, and in the case of aircraft the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) used what it could get. After the French rejected the Nieuport 28C.1, which was introduced in mid-1917, in favor of the far sturdier and more advanced Spad XIII, the newly arrived Americans adopted the Nieuport 28 as a stop-gap measure.

Shortages of the Spad meant that the Nieuport 28 was issued to four American squadrons between March and August 1918, and quickly the American pilots made due with what they could. Those first American pilots who took to the skies in the lightly built aircraft soon discovered its reputation for shedding its upper wing fabric in a dive, but the pilots persevered. Soon after receiving the fighter, on April 14, 1918 American pilots Lt. Alan Winslow and Lt. Douglas Campbell of the 94th Aero Squadron each downed an enemy aircraft—the first victories by an AEF unit.

Even as the aircraft was considered practically obsolete by the time it was provided, the Americans who flew it maintained a favorable ratio of victories to losses. Many American World War I flying aces, including twenty-six-victory ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, flew in the Nieuport 28 at one point in their careers, and it was only in the summer of 1918 that the aircraft was rotated out of service.

Many of Rickenbacker’s victories were scored in the aircraft, but his impressive wartime career was almost cut short when the upper wing fabric of his fighter tore apart in a flight, while Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Quentin, and fellow U.S. fighter Ace Raoul Lufbery were each killed whilst piloting a Nieuport 28.

Read more: French-Built and American Flown: Meet the Nieuport 28 Fighter Plane

 

World War I Memorial Bladensburg Maryland 003World War I "Peace Cross " Memorial in Bladensburg Maryland was constructed in 1919 in honor of World War 1 servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Over the years, the monument has fallen into disrepair and is in need of maintenance.  

Black heroes highlighted in call for Peace Cross restoration funding 

By Matthew Delaney
via the WTOP radio (DC) web site 

The Bladensburg World War I Memorial, known as the Peace Cross, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, which includes the names of four Black soldiers who died in World War I, needs money for restoration.

Calls for funding are being made specifically during Black History Month.

“Funds are needed to begin this vital endeavor. To address the need, the Department of Parks and Recreation is fundraising to repair the Peace Cross,” Department Resource Development Officer Tracy Wright said in a news release.

“We encourage the community to join us and help support the restoration of this historical monument which honors our fallen Black heroes.”

Maryland State Sen. Malcolm Augustine called fundraising efforts a “worthy tribute to a worthy cause” in the release.

“As we honor the African Americans memorialized on the Bladensburg WWI Memorial, commonly known as the Peace Cross, during Black History month, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our thanks by contributing to the restoration of the Memorial.”

The African Americans highlighted on the Peace Cross are:

  • Clarence Butler (4/14/1890 – 10/6/1918), a farmer with his father in Nottingham.
  • James Cooper (3/1/1897 – 10/5/1918), a farmer in Aquasco.
  • John Seaburn (10/27/1897 – 10/4/1918), grew up in what is now North Brentwood.
  • Benjamin Thompson (1/11/1894 – 10/13/1918), was born in Waldorf and worked for himself as a farmer.

The Peace Cross memorial was constructed in 1919 to honor the 49 Prince George’s County residents who died fighting in World War I.

Read more: Black heroes highlighted in call for Peace Cross restoration funding

 

Elgin’s Black Soldiers Served Proudly in U.S. Armed Forces during WWI 

By Rebecca Miller
via the kanecountyconnects.com (IL) web site

Throughout our nation’s history, Black soldiers have served proudly in the U.S. armed forces.

Beginning with the Battle of Lexington and continuing to the present day, Black women and men have answered America’s call and served bravely. Their sacrifice often came at a time when the nation as a whole did not recognize the value of the Black community and offered only limited and segregated opportunities for military service.

Assigned to menial jobs and barred from advancement, Black soldiers were subjected to widespread racism while serving to protect American ideals that did not include them.

Elgin History RegimentThe 8th Illinois Regiment was originally formed in 1898 by Gov. John R. Tanner of Illinois. Tanner authorized the formation of a regiment of Black Soldiers recruited from communities in Chicago and Springfield. The regiment made history as it was the only unit to be led by Black officers to fight in the Spanish American War. Shown here in 1917, the regiment would become the 370th U.S. Infantry and go on to see action in France and Belgium. The 370th is one of few African-American regiments that served in combat in World War I and notably was the only regiment commanded entirely by Black officers. Photo provided by Jeff Williams, The Bearded Historian.

 Segregated Regiments

Black soldiers serving prior to 1948 were almost exclusively led by white commanders and lower ranking white officers. Black soldiers or all-Black units were reduced to support functions such as building roads or serving as cooks and porters.

Yet the bravery of these soldiers and the potential leadership among their ranks could not be ignored. In the period leading up to WWI, the 8th Regiment of the Illinois National Guard would make history. This unit would become known as the 370th U.S. Infantry and was made up entirely of Black soldiers, officers and commanders.

The 370th Infantry would see combat in France, becoming the first U.S. regiment in the French region of Alsace-Lorraine. Among its ranks was Elgin’s own Lewis P. Andrews.

Lifelong Elgin Resident

Born in Elgin on Aug. 5, 1879, Lewis Percy Andrews was already a veteran of the Spanish American War (1898) and had been a well-known star on the Elgin High School football team, where he played left defensive end. He was the son of Samuel Newser Andrews, a Civil War veteran who had served in Company B, 42nd Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry.

Lewis P. Andrews mustered into the 370th U.S. Infantry in 1917 as a supply sergeant assigned to the Quartermaster’s Corps. His incoming rank reflected his prior military service.

Read more: Elgin’s Black Soldiers Served Proudly in U.S. Armed Forces during WWI

 

 

A rifle and a shovel — As a wagoner in World War I, early Pablo Beach resident made his mark in history 

By Johnny Woodhouse
via the Beaches Museum (FL) web site

The oldest headstone in Lee Kirkland Cemetery, the historic African-American graveyard in Jacksonville Beach, belongs to Jessie Butler, a native Floridian who performed back-breaking work in a seaside mining camp known as Mineral City before serving his country overseas in World War I.

ButlerTombstone 450x600Wagoner Jessie Butler of Pablo Beach, FL, was one of more than 200,000 African Americans who served with the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front during World War I.The upright marble headstone, issued by the U.S. Government, denotes the little-known unit he served in during the war, and, most importantly, his rank – that of wagoner.

Born in Fort White, Fla., in 1892, Butler moved to Jacksonville with his mother and younger siblings on or before 1910, according to U.S. Census records. Fatherless at the time, Butler, then 17, and his family members lived in a boarding house where both his mother and younger sister earned money washing clothes.

According to census records, Butler worked two jobs in 1910, including as a carpenter for Jacksonville resident Pleasant Niblack. A skilled laborer for most of his short life, Butler listed his employer as Buckman and Pritchard, Inc. on his 1917 WWI draft registration card. 

Henry Buckman and George Pritchard began mining the beach for rare minerals in 1916 after discovering a huge vein south of the St. Johns County line, according to “Turning sand into gold” by late historian Don Mabry. “World War I was raging in Europe and these elements were extremely valuable in weapons of war,” Mabry wrote. “Extracting it from the sand required machinery and men.”

And mules.

According to a 1918 Duval County draft board record, Butler, then 25, listed his occupation as teamster. In those days, a teamster was not a truck driver but a driver of a team of animals.

At the Buckman and Pritchard mining operation, mule teams were used to pull slip pans across the sand in order to unearth raw minerals like ilmenite, the most important ore in titanium. In all likelihood, Butler honed his teamster skills at the Buckman and Pritchard sand plant in Mineral City, which later became Ponte Vedra Beach.

Driving mule teams was a skill that was sought after by Army supply units during WWI.

Read more: A rifle and a shovel — As a wagoner in World War I, early Pablo Beach resident made his mark in...

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