Special Memorial Day Mass in Baltimore for AEF and Polish-American 'Blue Army' WWI vets
By Irving C.J. Porter
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site
The Maryland Catholic War Veterans (CWV) and Auxiliary hosted the Maryland “Catholic War Veterans Centennial World War I Memorial Mass” this past Sunday, at Saint Casimir Church, Baltimore, Maryland.
The Services honored the veterans of World War l, as well as the veterans of General Joseph Haller’s 'Blue Army' Volunteers of WWI.
In the ceremony, the American Legion's General Joseph Haller Post 95 was recognized on its 100 Anniversary. The Post was formed in 1919 and incorporated in Maryland on March 20, 1920. The Post’s founders were World War I veterans.
St. Casimir Church was selected because of its size and original center of the Polish Community in the 1917. St. Casimir Church is the largest church in the Baltimore Archdiocesan. It is also the home parish for St. Casimir Catholic War Veterans Post 766/1764 and Auxiliary Post 766.
Each Memorial Day, the Maryland Catholic War Veterans sponsors a Memorial Day Service to “Remember and Honor all Men & Women who have service America in the Armed Forces". In past years the MDCWV honored the POW/MIA, Vietnam War Veterans, Maryland Missing Veterans and decease veterans from all wars. This year, they specifically wanted to honor those forgotten heroes of World War l.
To that end, Commander Gilbert Barker, and Irving C. J. Porter, Judge Advocate met with Fr. Dennis Grumsey, OFM, Pastor of St. Casimir Parish and Chaplain concerning a Memorial Mass for the World War 1 “forgotten veterans”. It was also agreed to include those Polish & Maryland Polish-American volunteers who traveled to Canada for training under French military.
This 'Blue Army' - named after the color of the French uniforms they wore - was formed on 4 June 1917, and served alongside allied forces in France during World War I. They were led by General Joseph Haller, an outspoken Polish office, ,who refused to accept the German occupation of Poland during WWI.
The MDCWV joined with other organizations for this special Mass, including the Officers of the local Polish League of American Veterans, (PlVA), Polish American Congress (PAC), Polish Home Association (PHA) Polish National Alliance Councils, Ojczyzna Polish Dancers, Henryk Sienkiewicz Polonia Library, Polish National Alliance (PNA) National Katyn Memorial Foundation, Polish Heritage Association of Maryland (PHAM), and the General Joseph Haller Post 95 of the American Legion
The Blue Army's background is a unique and interesting one. President Woodrow Wilson promised that, after WWI, an independent Polish state should be erected.
In 1914, the Polish community in the United States began to organize in hope of forming a military organization eager to fight on the side of the Allies. But the United States was not yet a participant in World War l. In 1917 the U.S. House of Representative approved Polish American volunteers for service in the Western Fronts in the name of Poland Independence.
Soon after, France sanctioned the formation of a Polish Army on French soil. The volunteers were trained at Niagara–on-the Lake in Canada by French Officers and later at the New Fort Niagara Army base. Approximate 240 recruits came from Maryland. Female volunteers served in the Women Ambulance Drivers Corps.