African American Officers doughboys with mules pilots in dress uniforms Riveters African American Soldiers 1 gas masks The pilots Mule Rearing

The unsung equestrian heroes of World War I and the plot to poison them

By Sarah McCammon
Via National Public Radio

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – April 6 marks 100 years since the U.S. Congress voted to declare war on Germany, entering World War I. The war took the lives of 17 million people worldwide. What's not as well-known is the role that animals played at a time when they were still critical to warfare.

Horses U.S. horses were loaded onto transport ships that went from the U.S. to European ports and later to the war front. (Courtesy of U.S. National Archives)Horses, in particular, served alongside troops on both sides, and several million died during the war. The animals were so crucial to the war effort that they also became military targets.

"You need these horses to move, to fight, to exist," says Christopher Kolakowski, director of the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Va. "It would be like maintaining your car today."

Hundreds of thousands of horses and mules were shipped to Europe from Newport News, Va., the largest departure point for horses and mules, during war years. The area around the port on the James River is now full of condos, office buildings, and even today — shipyards.

Standing at the water's edge, Kolakowski says Newport News was ideally situated on the East Coast near rail lines and waterways.

"You can get a sense here of the immensity of the harbor and why this is such a desirable port. ... You're not quite as crowded as New York. So it's a tremendous asset," he says.

Read the whole article on the NPR web site.

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