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World War I Centennial News


 

 

Byron Field’s life in the Western Front trenches of World War I 

By Bill Castanier
via the lansingcitypulse.com (MI) web site .

When Elizabeth Field Connor discovered her grandfather’s army footlocker from World War I while digging through her father’s musty basement, she had no idea the treasures and mysteries it would unleash. It wasn’t long before the old metal box took Elizabeth and her husband, Hilary Connor, on an adventure.

20201126 045401 BooksCoverByronFieldThe trunk, belonging to Byron Field, was a treasure chest of WWI ephemera. It contained dozens of war letters written from a woman who was unknown to the rest of his family; a yellowed-diary; hundreds of postcards from European cities and hundreds of letters Field had sent from the battlefield to his parents and his college sweetheart.

Elizabeth Field Connor’s grandfather was a saver and a collector. She had never known her grandfather well, and last tried to connect with him in a letter she sent on the last Christmas before his death. She inquired how he was and what he would like for Christmas. She received no answer and he died seven weeks later. The letter was among the items contained in the trunk. She believes the trunk is his “belated answer.”

Hilary Connor, an investigative prosecutor and mystery writer, decided to research the life of his wife’s grandfather and see if a book was a possibility.

The contents of the army-green trunk brought her grandfather’s story to life. In May 1917, the 19-year-old Field took a train from Jackson to Detroit to enlist in the Army as a member of the 168th Ambulance Co. in the 42nd Infantry Division. Known as the Rainbow Division, it saw intense action in the WWI trenches.

Field, at the time of his enlistment, had just finished his freshman year at Albion, where he was studying to be a Methodist missionary. He attended Albion with his girlfriend, Estelle Corzine, whom he would write more than 180 letters to during WWI.

The research resulted in Hilary Connor’s new book, “I Hope This Reaches You.” It provides historical details about what caused the United States’ entrance into the war — including information about the sinking of the RMS Lusitania and the infamous Zimmerman memo. The book also details Field’s boot camp experience at Camp Grayling, and his agonizing and terrifying ocean crossing to France, which took him through the heart of the German submarine hunting grounds.

The book explains that after landing in Saint-Nazaire, the command would be put in a hurry up and wait mode as Field and his company slowly made their way to the Western Front.

The more gruesome details of war are told in Field’s 238-page diary, which recalls German shelling and deadly gas attacks. Hilary Connor said Field’s letters to Corzine and his family avoided details of the danger faced by the ambulance corps.

Read more: Byron Field’s life in the Western Front trenches of World War I

 

interment WWI unknown soldier cropBurial of the Unknown Soldier from World War I in 1921 at the dedication ceremony for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.. 

Preparations Underway for Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial 

via the maritime-executive.com web site

The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS) Centennial Committee has many projects currently under development in the lead up to the 100th anniversary of the burial of an Unknown American Soldier who fought and died in World War I and is buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

On the 11th Hour, of the 11th Day, of the 11th Month in 2021 Americans will pause to recognize those who have sacrificed and those who will sacrifice in the future in the defense of America’s freedom and democracy. SHGTUS hopes to include all Americans and bring communities together through a range of initiatives.

“It is important to remember that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is not just about World War I, but it is about every individual who has ever served - or will ever serve - and America’s promise to them that they will never forget them,” says President Gavin McIlvenna. “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier fosters a unifying national identity that transcends our differences of politics, race or religion, and we have applied our best efforts to plan, develop and initiate a number of activities suitable for this solemn occasion of national importance.”

Those plans will culminate in 2021 with a Centennial Week in Washington DC from November 8-11, 2021.

Among the initiatives underway, SHGTUS has reached out to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America to develop a new merit badge for recognition of the occasion. It has also developed a commemorative coin that will be used as a fundraiser, which is currently for sale on their website.

“We have developed an educational tool kit containing materials that will help Americans reunite with those who have served and sacrificed in times of war or armed conflict,” says McIlvenna. “This tool kit is intended to help children learn more about the Unknown Soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery and all those who have served and sacrificed. The kit informs the groups before they visit or lay a wreath in Arlington, and then upon returning to their schools and communities, to help them share their experiences.”

He says that SHGTUS is also working with the Naval Historical and Heritage Command and midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy to research and preserve the historical documents, photographs, and items surrounding the transportation of the Unknown Soldiers by USN/USCG vessels. SHGTUS has also been working with the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia to highlight the important part the USS Olympia and her crew played in the transportation of the World War I Unknown Soldier in 1921.

Read more: Preparations Underway for Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial

 

USA Today Thanksgiving story header image 

We're celebrating Thanksgiving amid a pandemic. Here's how we did it in 1918 – and what happened next 

By Grace Hauck
via the USA TODAY newspaper web site

More than 200,000 dead since March. Cities in lockdown. Vaccine trials underway.

And a holiday message, of sorts: "See that Thanksgiving celebrations are restricted as much as possible so as to prevent another flare-up."

It isn't the message of Thanksgiving 2020. It's the Thanksgiving Day notice that ran in the Omaha World Herald on Nov. 28, 1918, when Americans found themselves in a similar predicament to the millions now grappling with how to celebrate the holiday season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Every time I hear someone say these are unprecedented times, I say no, no, they're not," said Brittany Hutchinson, assistant curator at the Chicago History Museum. "They did this in 1918."

On Thanksgiving more than a century ago, many Americans, like today, lived under various phases of quarantines and face mask orders. Millions mourned loved ones. And health officials in many cities issued the same holiday warning: Stay home and stay safe.

The first cases were detected in the USA in March of that year, growing exponentially by the fall. In October, the virus burned through the nation. Dozens of cities implemented face mask orders and curfews and locked down for two to three weeks, temporarily closing schools, libraries, theaters, movie houses, dance halls, churches, ice cream parlors and soda shops. The virus killed about 195,000 Americans during October alone.

As Thanksgiving rolled around, some cities celebrated the relaxation of flu-related restrictions – partly due to opposition campaigns by retailers, theater owners, unions, mass transportation companies and other economically stressed stakeholders. Washington, Indianapolis and Oakland, California, had lifted restrictions days before, and San Francisco was on the brink of lifting its mask mandate.

Read more: We're celebrating Thanksgiving amid a pandemic. Here's how we did it in 1918 – and what happened...

 

Thanksgiving WWI Americans experienced five Thanksgivings during wartime before the Treaty of Versailles was signed, meaning that things looked decidedly different at the holiday dinner table. Among the familiar favorites, you'll find some eyebrow-raising items.

What Thanksgiving Looked Like During World War I Rationing 

By Hayley Sugg
via the allrecipes.com web site

In 2020, it's safe to say most of us are experiencing a highly unusual Thanksgiving. Between eschewing gathering with family and friends to making do with different dishes due to food supply issues, it has seemed like one of the weirdest holiday seasons to date. But not so long ago, before the nation was grappling with the novel coronavirus, the United States was battling another foe: the Central Powers of World War I.

As WWI raged on, Americans experienced five Thanksgivings during wartime before the Treaty of Versailles was signed, meaning that things looked decidedly different at the holiday dinner table. We spoke with historians at the National WWI Museum and Memorial to learn more:

What Did Families Eat?

Food shortages during WWI made ingredients like wheat, sugar, dairy, and red meat hard to source. Instead, the U.S. government recommended swapping in similar ingredients, such as poultry, fish, corn, rye, molasses, and honey. They also released Win the War in the Kitchen, a helpful cookbook to encourage citizens on how to eat, including a chapter titled "War Service in the Home."

But despite these challenges, many recipes we know and love today were also enjoyed by families a century ago, according to the National WWI Museum and Memorial. "Classic dishes include turkey, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, oyster stuffing, apple pie, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes and gravy, and more," says the team. Some of the dishes that are less common now, but were a staple back then, are options like mayonnaise salad, carrot pudding, or mince pie.

What Did Soldiers Eat?

The National WWI Museum and Memorial's archives boasts a large collection of Thanksgiving-related information, including menus, letters, and calendars that all help us learn what the United State's military was serving up. In many ways their holiday menus looked similar to ours today, with soldiers dining on options like turkey, oyster dressing, cranberry sauce, vegetable sides, and a variety of pies.

One soldier, Thomas Shook, wrote a letter to his parents about Thanksgiving while stationed at Camp Funston in Kansas, "I have ate so much today that I can hardly travel. We sure had some feed. Had tea for first part of feed and coffee for last. First was turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions fresh, celery, lettuce fresh, cranberries, and bread. Ate this at the tables then the cooks and kitchen police brought us mince pies, apples, oranges and pears." While the menu varied greatly depending on the soldier's location, one consistent thing the Museum's team found was that "Nearly every menu included cigarettes [or] cigars."

Read more: What Thanksgiving Looked Like During WWI Rationing

 

Learning about The Great War – through cards 

How a World War One centennial exhibit evolved into an immersive card game 

By Dana Lombardy
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

In 2018 I was publishing World War One Illustrated magazine for the educational non-profit World War One Historical Association (ww1ha.org). In February of that year my work involving the Great War led to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which in turn led me to create an educational, immersive card game on the subject.

01 SF War Memorial complexThe San Francisco War Memorial building complex

The SFWM and the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

The San Francisco War Memorial building complex houses the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Herbst Theatre, Opera House, and San Francisco Ballet. The complex was dedicated on November 11, 1932, as a memorial to all American veterans who served in The Great War.

In 2018 the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission designated it as a World War One Centennial Memorial eligible for a matching grant as one of the commission’s 100 Cities / 100 Memorials awardees.

In February 2018 I was asked to give a presentation to the SFWM’s trustees regarding why a centennial exhibit about the First World War was important for them. They concurred, and I was then asked to:

  1. Help create a 100th anniversary visual exhibit that explained America’s role in World War One;
  2. Enable that exhibit to be installed by Memorial Day three months later;
  3. Install a second, larger, artifact-intensive exhibit to open by Armistice Day (Veterans Day) on November 11.

In late May of 2018, eight 8-foot square banners were installed in the lobby of the War Memorial Veterans Building (see photo). In 2019 the banners were moved to the second floor in a permanent display free to the public. These banners can be viewed online at http://alwmcsf.org/ww1/ enabling people from around the world to continue to “visit” the exhibit.

Photos 2 3 Dana Lombardy and daughter artifacts display(Left) Dana Lombardy and daughter Erin in the lobby of the War Memorial Veterans Building with the banners; (Right) A few of the artifacts displayed in the Gallery next to the lobby.

The project consumed me. For eleven months in 2018 I lived for The Great War. But my extensive research resulted in another creation, one that might reach an even larger audience: a simple, fast-playing card game about World War One that could educate while it entertained.

MacGowan and Lombardy’s The Great War™ card game

Games have proven to be successful classroom tools. If done well, they improve learning and retention. I knew the game had to be historically accurate, but it also had to be easy to learn, with few rules (two sides of one sheet) and dozens of interesting photos and illustrations to immerse players in the time period.

Read more: Learning about The Great War – through cards

 

Kane County History: Meet Elgin’s Mary Muirhead of The WWI Army Nurse Corp 

By Beth Nawara, Elgin History Museum Curator of Collections
via the Kane County Connects (IL) web site

American nurses have a long and fabled history of selfless service during the most critical times of war.

According to E-ANCA.org, nurses were requested to help the Continental Army in 1776 and during the Civil War.

In 1898, when medical care proved inadequate for the service members struck down by yellow fever, malaria and other tropical diseases during the Spanish American War, 1,500 contract nurses were recruited, and they helped to turn the tide with epidemics.Mary Muirhead WWI dog tagMary Muirhead's World War I dog tag

The nursing professionals’ contributions ultimately became the justification for a permanent female nurse corps, and when the United States entered World War I, there were only 403 Army nurses on active duty. But by November 1918, the number rose to 21,460.

Mary Muirhead, born and raised in Elgin, was one of those nurses.

She graduated from Sherman Hospital in 1908 and received a letter dated Feb. 18, 1918, from the American Red Cross, which had been asked to find nurses for service in the U.S. Army and naval hospitals and with base hospitals.

“You are likely to find the methods of procedure in a military hospital somewhat more formal than in a civil hospital and authority more absolute,” the letter said. “May I urge, however, that you accept conditions without comment or criticism and make every effort to adapt yourself cheerfully and without friction to the new environment.

One of her first stops was at Camp Dodge, IA.

On Nov. 1, 1918, Muirhead arrived in New York City, awaiting her next orders. She arrived by train and promptly wrote her parents a five-page letter on Hotel Breslin paper. The hotel was located at Broadway and 29th Street. It is still there today and is called the Ace Hotel.

In the letter she wrote the following:

“We had a very pretty trip all of the way. Ohio with its pretty old rail fences and rolling country dotted here and there with a bit of woodland surely is very beautiful.”

“New York state I shall say is generously supplied with stones. You see miles of stone fences and lots of pretty old fashioned homes built into the hillsides, and numerous little streams rippling down to the stoney hill side …”

“When we went to the dining room at noon after we left Chicago, the girls all marched single file through the train singing the ‘Yanks are Coming & We’re Going Over.’ I was afraid that some of the passengers would be singing ‘the roughnecks have arrived.’

Read more: Kane County History: Meet Elgin’s Mary Muirhead of The WWI Army Nurse Corp

 

Cover and drawingThe Chugach Arts Council in Arkansas invited artists from all over the country and world to submit art that featured any animal that had been part of the World War I story. In addition an the art show and traveling exhibit, selections from the submissions were published in a full color book titled Fur N Feathers: Animal Heroes of WW1. 

Fur N Feathers: Book honors animals and people who served in WWI 

By Marie Wagner, Chugach Arts Council, Arkansas
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

The Arkansas Department of Heritage chose the theme of WW1 for 2017 Heritage Month events and encouraged programs and activities along those lines. Chugach Arts Council endeavors to encourage and support the arts in rural and remote areas and connect them to the world through creative collaborations. Art is a gift that we love to share to benefit other worthy causes. We strive to be of service and to help others when we can. It isn’t always just about art. Although art inspires us and helps us think creatively. Each project connects us to the next. Each experience leads to new understanding and new horizons.

When we began to ponder the expansive subject of WW1, we tried to narrow it down to a manageable segment. Since we had done previous projects that focused on animal welfare we thought we might go that direction. Our goal with this project, was to use our talents and blessings to honor the animals and people that served in WW1 and to bring awareness and support for animal welfare organizations. Coincidentally, we found that art itself played a crucial role in the war efforts.

Artists from all over the country and world were invited to submit art that featured any animal that had been part of the WW1 story. In addition to original works of art, we showcased historic photographs, vintage art and posters. Submissions came from across the continent and a month-long art show and exhibit was hosted at the Vada Sheid Gallery, Arkansas State University-Mountain Home. The exhibit then moved to the Boone County Library and is now available for loan or sale. Our hope is that it can be shared and not simply sit in storage.

Every animal story is also a human story. Men cared for the animals; feeding, training and veterinary needs. Animals served in a multitude of practical ways. Horses, mules and donkeys pulled wagons for supplies, munitions and ambulance. Many lives were saved through the performance of the animals' duties or assistance. Pigeons carried critical messages, dogs alerted soldiers to gas and searched for wounded. Many others, pets or mascots, brought comfort and humanity during a terrible conflict.

Read more: Fur N Feathers: Book honors animals and people who served in WWI

 

Springfield, IL park renamed for World War I hero Otis Duncan 

By Steven Spearie
via the State Journal-Register newspaper (IL) web site

The Springfield Park District board voted Wednesday to rename a near north side park after Otis B. Duncan, the highest-ranking Black officer to serve in the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I.

Otis DuncanOtis B. DuncanStephen Douglas’ name was removed from the 26-acre park, which marks its centennial this year, by a board vote on Sept. 16.

The 6-1 vote at Erin’s Pavilion at Southwind Park came on the 147th anniversary of Duncan’s birth.

“It gives us an opportunity to honor someone who is truly worthy,” park board president Leslie Sgro said of Duncan, before the vote. “I just love the idea we put forward this individual who has long been overlooked, I believe. His star is starting to shine in our community, as it should have for a century, but better late than never.”

A ceremony for the renaming will be held at a later date, Sgro said.

“We’re very proud and pleased on the consideration of renaming the park after our namesake,” said American Legion Post 809 Commander Richard Rump. “In this day and age, in light of current social movements in the country, I think it’s a very positive move for the city and for the park board.”

The Springfield post was named for Duncan shortly after his death in 1937.

The last park in the district to change names was Colony West Park, in the Colony West subdivision. It was renamed Patrick J. Cadigan Park, for the longtime park board president.

There has been a recent backlash against Douglas, who served as a U.S. Senator from Illinois and was a one-time presidential candidate.

Nicknamed “The Little Giant,” he is perhaps best known for his debates with Abraham Lincoln for the senate seat in 1858.

The park district took suggestions for names on its website.

Read more: Springfield, IL park renamed for World War I hero Otis Duncan

 

Thank-you letters from 1915 point back to unlikely Minnesota hero 

By Curt Brown
via the Star Tribune newspaper (MN) web site

Handwritten by Belgian schoolgirls caught in the middle of an adult clash, the letters from 1915 are frank and brimming with gratitude. Germany had invaded their country, British allies mounted a blockade to starve out the German soldiers and millions of innocent Belgians faced starvation at the outset of World War I.

James Ford BellFlour milling company executive James Ford Bell was instrumental in leading a U.S. hunger relief effort during World War I, resigning his business post and devoting himself to the government’s effort. He was honored by Belgium and France after the war ended.“I do not yet fully understand the meaning of war, poverty, starvation, these words I hear so often at home.” 7-year-old Maria Clerbois wrote. “All I know from what my dear papa has told me is that without the great and generous America, we would be suffering great hardship.”

The Great War raged for three years in Belgium and the muddy trenches of France before the United States joined the fight in 1917. But U.S. humanitarian aid had started pouring in years before — including tons of wheat milled in Minnesota. Nearly a quarter of the first 283,120 sacks of flour shipped to Rotterdam in January 1915 came from Minneapolis millers.

“At the outset of this frightful calamity that is striking us, we could only look ahead with terror … [and] the threat of starvation,” another student wrote in 1915 from Liege, Belgium. “One day, just as all hope of receiving food supplies was vanishing, America the brave and the beautiful came to promise us relief and to give us bread to survive …”

A traveling exhibit of these translated letters — “When Minnesota Fed the Children of Europe” — visited the Mall of America in October. Here is the link to the opening and more resources on the exhibit: https://www.globalminnesota.org/events/past-events/exhibit-opening-of-when-minnesota-fed-the-children-of-europe/“This was the largest humanitarian relief effort in human history and much of this food aid was wheat flour coming from Minnesota,” said Mark Ritchie, the former Secretary of State who’s now president of Global Minnesota. The nonprofit group promotes international education and is bringing the exhibit here for the rest of the month.

The girls’ letters were written generally to their American peers, but two unlikely men with Midwestern ties were pivotal players behind the massive relief effort that helped feed 150 million Europeans a century ago, from 1914 to 1923.

Iowa-born Herbert Hoover is mostly remembered for a woeful presidency that included the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression. But 12 years earlier, President Woodrow Wilson tapped the Stanford-trained mining engineer to feed Belgium as the head of the federal Food Administration.

Hoover, in turn, named Minneapolis milling mogul James Ford Bell to head the Food Administration’s influential Milling Division in 1917. Eleven years before Bell founded General Mills, he had replaced his late father, running the Washburn-Crosby mill in Minneapolis.

Read more: Thank-you letters from 1915 point back to unlikely Minnesota hero

 

CT 11 13 Cordova Chronicles 1 696x522At Mile 34.6 the sign on the last bridge standing on what remains of the Copper River Highway honors Lucian Platt, a Cordovan who gave his life in World War I. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/The Cordova Times

Seven bridge signs honor fallen World War I Alaskans from Cordova

By Dick Shellhorn
via the .thecordovatimes.com (AK) web site

Last week article’s about bridge name signs gave some background into the process that resulted in their installation to honor Cordova veterans who gave their lives defending our country.

This week the focus is on bridges named for servicemen who were lost in World War I. In a way, it seems logical to start in that order, although the bridges are named in the opposite order, with the bridges furthest from town being named for WWI honorees.

In an unfortunate twist, three of the bridges that were to have names are no longer intact or approachable, due to the washout at 36.2 Mile.

One of these bridges, listed as #345, is at Mile 37.9 on the other side of the washout. It was to be named the James Bennett Bridge.

Bennett was the first Cordovan lost in World War I. He was born on April 7, 1892 in Canada, and while assigned to Company C, 18th Engineers Railway Regiment, died on June 29, 1918. His assignment to a railway regiment makes sense, as he was formerly an engineer on the Copper River and Northwestern Railway (CR&NWR) that hauled copper ore from the mines at Kennecott to Cordova.

Bennett left Cordova on March 15, 1918 by the steamer Northwestern to enlist in the Thirty First Engineers at Fort Lawton, Washington. He drowned while swimming in a river near his camp in Samur, France. The Aug. 26, 1918 edition of The Cordova Daily Times stated that “The sad news is conveyed in a copy of ‘The Spiker’, published by the men of his regiment.” Cause of death was believed to be heart failure while in the water. He was buried in the cemetery near Base Hospital No. 6. in France.

Bridge #342, at Mile 37.0, also on the other side of the washout, was to be named the William Morris Jones Bridge. Jones was born on March 1, 1895, in Remsen, New York, and died on July 26, 1918. He served in Company C, Thirty-first Engineers, and was formerly a CR&NWR locomotive fireman. He died of head injuries while performing his duties on a moving train. Jones complained of not feeling well, went to an open window for fresh air, and was struck by a pole. It was stated that clearance on the French railroads was not as wide as it was on American railroad.

The Flag Point West Bridge at Mile 26.7 is named after his brother John W. Jones, who died in action three months later on Nov. 3, 1918 in the battle at Argonne Forest, France. John, the older brother of William Jones, was born on Nov. 22, 1893, also in Remsen, NY. He too, was an employee of the CR&NWR prior to entering the service.

Four months prior to his death, John, a Marine, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre, a medal that recognized acts of bravery, for his actions on July 18, 1918, when under heavy shell fire, he helped carry his severely wounded company commander three kilometers to an ambulance station near Vierzey.

He died eight days before the end of the war.

Read more: Seven bridge signs honor fallen World War I Cordovans

 

grave12 14A bugler from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 606 plays Taps at the dedication of the grave marker for WWI Buffalo Soldier John M. Fields on November 11 in Toledo, OH. 

Grave marker dedicated to Buffalo Soldier who served in World War I

By Tom Henry
via the Toledo Blade newspaper (OH) web site

A Buffalo Soldier from Toledo who served his country during World War I finally got the sendoff to heaven he deserved.

John M. Fields, a black Army private who served in France and was honorably discharged on July 21, 1919, had been buried at Forest Cemetery with no grave marker since dying on Dec. 28, 1960.

That changed on Veterans Day this year.

The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution took up the cause and got Private Fields the grave marker he deserved 60 years later.

Under a sunny sky amid a cool November breeze, the afternoon ceremony arranged by the group’s Michigan chapter lasted about an hour and included remarks from such dignitaries as U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, and state Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D., Toledo).

There also was a color guard assembled by the society, remarks by a chaplain, the Rev. Sam Laswell, wreaths placed at Private Fields’ gravesite, a salute from a volley-firing honor guard assembled by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 606, and a rendition of Taps by a bugler from the post.

Nobody there knew the Fields family directly. Although he married a prominent woman later in life, the couple never had children.

But the nearly three dozen people witnessing the dedication heard why Private Fields represents what’s good about America on Veterans Day, the time in which the country came together to pay its respects to those who served our nation overseas.

“The price of freedom is not free,” Miss Kaptur said. “We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.”

Mayor Kapszukiewicz said Private Fields deserves to be remembered as a hero like other veterans.

“He and his family loved this country, even when this country didn’t love him back,” he said. “It shouldn’t be like that.”

Read more: Grave marker dedicated to Buffalo Soldier who served in World War I

 

A Plainfield, NJ World War I Story Reaches Across the Pond 

By Nancy Piwowar
via the TAPintoPlainfield.net (NJ) web site

PLAINFIELD, NJ — In May 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, TAPinto Plainfield published an article announcing the Drake House Museum's online exhibit entitled “Plainfield During WWI and the Influenza Pandemic.” That article, it turned out, would connect the past to the present.

Leanne Manna, a Trustee at the Drake House, curated the exhibit and posted it online. Rutgers University Intern Stephanie Quartsin and I helped to research and document the veterans. Manna also designed the original exhibit panels that were funded by the Gannett Foundation.

Martin Kane buried Regan headstoneMartin Kane was buried in a Regan family plot in Plainfield, NJ.The exhibit was dedicated to the memory of the 45 soldiers and their Gold Star Families from Plainfield and the surrounding area who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during World War I. Twenty-three of the soldiers succumbed to the ravages of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. May they all rest in peace.

The article included the name of one casualty, Martin J. Kane, and a relative of his, who lives Ireland, found the article about the online exhibit.

Kane’s family had heard stories about their uncle who was a WWI casualty, but the details were sketchy and incomplete. One Irish niece (now in her 80s), who was born after his death, felt bad that no one in the family had ever visited his grave in New Jersey. She recently lost her husband, and has been homebound in Ireland due to the current pandemic, so it couldn't be her.

Her son and daughter-in-law from the Philadelphia area thought, as a way to lift her spirits from afar, they would embark on the journey of locating Kane’s burial site, and keep her updated on the progress. Information was exchanged across the “Pond” (Atlantic) by the family members.

The family’s inquiry was answered, and the pieces of a puzzle over 100 years in the making were fitted together.  The Historical Society made calls to St. Mary’s Church, and both its Pastor, Reverend Manoel Oliveira, and church staff were very helpful.  A tour of the cemetery was taken with Antonio, the caretaker, and the burial site was located, but there is no grave marker for Martin J. Kane, U.S. Coast Guard, WWI Veteran.

Kane’s story is one of an Irish immigrant’s.  He was born in Kilkelly, Ireland, in 1895, and his mother died when he was ten years old.  Later in life, he decided to immigrate to America, and he arrived at Ellis Island on the St. Louis passenger ship in 1915.  His last name was changed from Keane to Kane when he arrived in the U.S., a common occurrence for immigrants.

Kane settled in this area because he had an uncle, Martin Regan, who lived on Spooner Avenue, and he was employed by the Spicer Manufacturing Company in South Plainfield.  Three years after his arrival, at the age of 23, he was among the men drafted for WWI.  He entered the U.S. Coast Guard in May 1918, and served in Company D, Fifteenth Battalion.

Read more: A Plainfield, NJ World War I Story Reaches Across the Pond

 

Michael Neiberg remembers the WWI roots of Veterans Day 

By Michael Neiberg
via the US Army War College web site

The first Veterans Day (then called Armistice Day), on November 11, 1919, was a solemn and serious event commemorated worldwide. The First World War left behind an estimated three million widows and six million orphans, in addition to eight million men killed in combat and unknown millions more who died in the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. Marking the one-year anniversary of the end of the fighting gave people a chance to honor all of the victims, military and civilian alike, of this terrible war.

FlagThe vast majority of Americans who died in Europe were buried overseas, meaning that most families had no local grave over which to mourn. Communal mourning and commemoration helped fill some of the need for bereavement. Armistice Day, 1919, therefore, had little of the triumphant mood that had marked the end of the war a year earlier. It was not to be a day of celebration but a day to bow heads in remembrance.

Accordingly, local newspaper accounts from that day show no sense of joy. President Wilson, General Pershing, and many other dignitaries released somber statements of appreciation for the service of Americans during the war and the need for the country to work toward peace. In most American cities and towns, businesses paused for the symbolic eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day. Trolley cars stopped, schools observed a moment of silence, prominent local veterans gave speeches, and local dignitaries laid wreaths at war monuments either recently completed or just being built.

Although the commemoration was more civic than religious, church bells rang, and houses of worship opened their doors for special services.

In subsequent years, November 11 became more critical to British and French memory of the war than to American memory. The war had affected Europeans much more, of course, than it had affected Americans. Remembrance Day became a holiday in France in 1922. Great Britain began to mark Remembrance Sunday at the same time. The British (and much of their empire, including Canada) began a poppy campaign culminating each year on November 11 to raise money for wounded veterans. The French followed suit, using a blue cornflower as a symbol of remembrance. Americans held parades and made speeches, but the day never had quite the same meaning, not even after President Roosevelt made Armistice Day a federal holiday in 1938.

Read more: Michael Neiberg remembers the WWI roots of Veterans Day

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The Lilly Endowment