WI Purple Heart returnedPurple Heart returns to family of WWI soldier (WBAY) 

Purple Hearts Reunited returns medal to Oconto County, WI family of WWI soldier 

By Megan Kernan
via the wbay.com (WI) web site 

LENA, Wis. (WBAY) - The Purple Heart awarded to a World War I soldier, returns to his great nephew in Lena.

78-year-old Jake Neta, Vietnam Veteran, U.S. Army, received his great uncles purple heart at the “return ceremony” on Friday.

PFC John Francis “Dutch” Hansel of Medford Wi., served in the 32nd Infantry Division when he was wounded in World War I.

His Purple Heart Medal and World War I Victory Medal was found in someone else’s home when they were moving out.

“I was kind of surprised because I had no knowledge of my great uncle being in the service,” said Neta.

Hansel’s medals were then given to Purple Hearts Reunited, a non-profit foundation that has returned 850 medals, either lost or stolen, to their rightful families.

“Our organization did the research and found out that family members were in the area here and therefore we came out today to return the medal,” said Michael Brennan, Valor Guard for Purple Hearts Reunited.

Neta said he never met his great uncle and learned about his service for the first time during the return ceremony.

“I didn’t know the man, but I can honor the man,” said Neta.

Brennan said the organization travels throughout the country to reunite medals of valor to family members, who most of the time have never met them, to tell them about their service and sacrifice.

“This specific Purple Heart return is one of the few that we do that is actually from World War I,” said Brennan.

Neta said it has been a special experience learning about his great uncle and his service in World War I, especially knowing that serving in the military runs in their family, “It makes me very proud that, that blood runs in me.” 

 

 Donegal memorialA new roadside memorial which pays homage to those who served at a World War I US Army base in Donegal, reland more than a century ago has been unveiled in Inishowen.

New World War I Memorial Unveiled in Inishowen

via the Donegal Daily newspaper (Ireland) web site 

A new roadside memorial which pays homage to those who served at a World War I US Army base in Donegal more than a century ago has been unveiled in Inishowen.

The Naval and Air Station at Ture, Quigley’s Point was in operation for less than a year but served as a base for a number of attacks against the Germans and housed more than 400 servicemen.

A number of local men also helped with its construction from January, 1918.

The station opened on September 3, 1918, and formally closed on February 22, 1919.

During the operational life of the base a total of 27 patrol flights, 12 training flights and 9 test flights were made.

Ten convoys were escorted, and two U-boats were attacked. Ten pilots, 10 ground officers and 432 enlisted men were attached to the base.

Local farmer, Gordon Rankin, on whose land the base was built, has permitted the erection of three memorial plaques on the entrance to
one of the fields that was used for the facility. To this day, the field contains the last remaining building of the base.

The plaques, on the main R238 road between Moville and Muff, give the details of the former base and operations of the five ‘Large
America’ Curtiss flying boats that operated there.

The erection of the memorial was delayed by covid and has just recently been completed.

The memorial came about as part of the Decade of Centenaries programme. The Inishowen Maritime Museum in Greencastle was grant
aided by Donegal County Council and FLAG North to carry out research on marine activities around Inishowen during World War 1. 

 

TombThe interment ceremonies for the Unknown Servicemen of World War II and the Korean War at Arlington National Cemetery. May 30, 1958. 

Celebrating the Tomb’s centennial 

via the American Legion magazine web site 

The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is leading national efforts to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sacred crypts at Arlington National Cemetery. The society plans events in multiple locations in the United States and France to honor the anniversary of the monument that came into existence in 1921 due to legislation from U.S. Rep. Hamilton Fish Jr. – a founder of The American Legion – with support from the organization.

The Legion has been actively involved in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier since its installation, having participated in multiple ceremonies there, calling for 24/7 guarding of the site and raising funds to pay for its lighting in 1969. American Legion Post 1 in Paris is providing local support for the society at several events in France, and for a “pilgrimage” by leaders of various groups such as American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Commemorative events in October and November, subject to change, are listed below. Times are local. For updates, visit tombguard.org on the web.

October

1-31, Tyler, Texas. Commemorative display, Robert R. Muntz Library, 3900 University Blvd. uttyler.edu/library

5-9, Rome, Ga. “A CALL TO HONOR: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Replica” on display for the public to visit and ask questions. This half-scale traveling replica is maintained by the Exchange Club of Rome, which has united with the society to help educate citizens about the tomb. Coosa Valley Fairgrounds, 69 Church St. SE, daily 5 p.m. - 10 p.m., tomb.romeexchangeclub.com

14-15, Covington, La. “A CALL TO HONOR: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Replica” on display; questions will be answered for visitors. St. Tammany Justice Center Veterans Plaza, 701 N. Columbus St., daily 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.

18-19, Paris. A walking tour of key American monuments and sites in Paris is followed by a wreath ceremony at the American Legion Mausoleum. A Never Forget Garden at the American Cathedral will be dedicated at 5 p.m.; the Memorial Cloister is the first memorial in France to Americans fallen in World War I. See tombguard.org for more information. RSVP required to contact@parispost1.fr.

 

Lucie Oelrichs Jay and the Anti-German Music Movement of WWI 

via the John Jay Homestead web site

On April 6, 1917 the United States joined its allies and officially entered World War I. Patriotism was at an all time high and Americans furiously attacked any traces of German culture in the country. German place names were changed, German books and newspapers were burned in the streets, and sauerkraut was even renamed “Liberty Cabbage.” The growing opposition to German culture came to a head on October 30, when the Boston Symphony Orchestra took the stage in Providence, Rhode Island. The chief executive of the symphony, Henry Lee Higginson denied a request to include The Star-Spangled Banner in the program that evening stating that patriotic tunes had “no place in an art concert.” The refusal to play the national anthem eventually led to the ruin of the orchestra’s German-born conductor, Karl Muck. The opposition to Muck was part of a larger campaign in the United States to eliminate German music and musicians from the country. Several wealthy Americans were involved in this cause, but none of them were as passionate and determined as Lucie Oelrichs Jay.

Lucie Oelrichs JayLucie Oelrichs JayLucie Oelrichs Jay (1854-1931) was the wife of Colonel William Jay (1841-1915), John Jay’s great-grandson. Her father was Henry Oelrichs, a wealthy German immigrant who founded Oelrichs & Co. Steamship Company in Baltimore in the mid-19th century. Her father’s wealth allowed Lucie to study in Europe as a young woman and become friends with the New York elite.

Starting in late 1917, the widowed Mrs. Jay threw herself into the campaign against German music. Mrs. Jay was a subscriber to The Chronicle, a short-lived invitation-only magazine aimed at wealthy New Yorkers. Right after the Providence concert the November issue of The Chronicle was published. That issue included the first-ever published article by Mrs. Jay entitled, German Music and German Opera. Using her position as the only woman on the board of the New York Philharmonic as credential, Mrs. Jay asserted that German instrumental music was acceptable to American audiences but stated: “to give the German operas, particularly those by Wagner, at this time would be a great mistake. Given as they must be in the German language and depicting in many cases scenes of violence and conflict they must inevitably draw our minds back to the spirit of greed and barbarism which has led to so much suffering.”

On November 2nd the New York Times quoted Mrs. Jay’s article and reported that the Metropolitan Opera was discussing her demands. The following day the Met announced that it would suspend performances of German operas and German singers for the duration of the war.

The Chronicle continued to publish articles and opinion pieces about the need to remove German music from performance. In December 1917 it credited Mrs. Jay’s article as the sole reason the Met eliminated the German works from its performance schedule. In January 1918, it claimed that Wagner’s Ring Cycle was an allegory for current events and should not be played. And in February 1918 The Chronicle praised the resignation of both the president and treasurer of the Philharmonic board claiming they were both German pacifists. In truth, The Chronicle was nothing more then a propaganda publication. And since its subscribers were wealthy New Yorkers, many whom were patrons of the arts, it was the perfect vehicle for the attacking of German culture in America, most specifically music.

By March of 1918, Lucie Jay had become the face of the Anti-German music movement. After getting both the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic to cancel German musical performances, she renewed calls for the ousting of Karl Muck in The Chronicle with “Doktor Muck Must Go.” She urged New Yorkers to boycott the upcoming performances of the Boston Symphony scheduled to take place at Carnegie Hall. The performances went on as scheduled but had to be performed under police guard due to protests. 

 

concrete ships 

The US Navy built 12 concrete ships for World War I 

By Blake Stilwell
via the We Are The Mighty web site 

During World War I, steel for building ships was in short supply.

While American President Woodrow Wilson was determined to keep the U.S. out of the war, he didn’t want America’s Merchant Marine to be left unbuilt. So he approved the construction of 24 ships made from concrete to the tune of $50 million ($11.4 billion adjusted for inflation) to help build American shipping capacity.

Concrete, while cheap and readily available, is expensive to build and operate when it comes to ships. They need thick hulls, which means less room for cargo. Only 12 were ever built and by the time they were ready, the Great War was over.

A website dedicated to this “experiment in ship building,” ConcreteShips.org, keeps track of what happened to these 12 innovations.

SS Atlantus

The Atlantus was a steamer that was sold as a ferry landing ship. Before she could ever be used for that, she broke free during a storm and grounded near Cape May, New Jersey, in 1926.

She’s been falling apart ever since but what’s left can still be seen from shore.

 

How a World War I jazz-playing Marine gave us the best weapon name ever 

By Todd South
via the Marine Corps Times newspaper web site 

Arkansas native Bob Burns enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War I and sailed to France in 1918 as part of the 11th Regiment.

BazookaA Sept. 3, 1919 article from the New York Evening Telegram about the jazz instrument the "bazooka." (New York Evening Telegram)The artillery detachment converted quickly to infantry for trench fighting but saw little action, allowing time for Sgt. Burns, the lead in the Marine Corps’ jazz band, to fashion a homemade instrument that would become a part of combat lore for decades to come.

Back in the States the following year, a newspaper article noted that Burns’ deft jazz playing was drawing in young men to a Marine Corps recruiting office in New York City, according to Sept 1919 edition of the New York Evening Telegram.

“We play everything from Berlin (Irving) to Mr. Beethoven and will tackle anything except a funeral march,” said Robbie (Bob) Burns. “The outfit consists of two violins, a banjo, piano, drum, and the bazooka.”

Bazooka. The word traces its origins back to “bazoo,” a slang term for mouth that, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, may have come from the Dutch term for trumpet, “bazuin.”

“According to tales told by the Marines, the Melody Six are the snappiest, zippiest, jazziest aggregation of tune artists in any branch of Uncle Sam’s service,” the newspaper article noted in a section adjacent to Burns’ own instructions to building that very item: “Two pieces of gas pipe, one tin funnel, a little axle grease and a lot of perseverance.”

Around that same time, a little-known project was getting underway to help infantry soldiers and Marines battle the devastating effects of the recently fielded tank.

Dr. Robert Goddard, a scientist developing weapons for the Army, who invented the first liquid-fueled rocket, had set his sights on building a tube-fired weapon capable of being carried by a single soldier. But as the war came to its conclusion, the project was shelved.

Decades later, with the U.S. blazing its trail against German forces in North Africa, military planners were again trying to find a way for foot soldiers to take on the tank, a weapon that had vastly improved in the decades since. Rifle grenade launchers, after all, did little to disable German tracks.

Revisiting Goddard’s plans fell to Army Col. Leslie Skinner, who had sketched out designs for such a weapon in 1940. It wasn’t long before the M10 shaped charge came into the arsenal, stirring the ashes of the abandoned project.

 “I was walking by this scrap pile, and there was a tube that ... happened to be the same size as the grenade that we were turning into a rocket,” read a Time magazine quote from Lt. Edward Uhl, who Skinner tasked to introduce a little innovation to the project. “I said ‘That’s the answer!’ Put the tube on a soldier’s shoulder with the rocket inside, and away it goes.”

By May 1942, testing at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds had commenced. The warhead was matched with the tube, while testers employed a wire coat hanger as improvised sights prior to unleashing it on a moving tank.

One observer of the new weapon noted that the new launcher “looks like Bob Burns’ bazooka.”

Thus, a funky name was married to an even funkier weapon. The M1 “Bazooka” was produced and fielded during the North Africa campaign’s Operation Torch in October 1942. Soldiers loved it. (I still do.)

 

 Pershing Borthday compositeGeneral of the Armies John “Blackjack” Pershing's birthday will be observed at the National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC on September 13. 

Events at the National WWI Memorial will mark Pershing birthday

Special events at the National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC on Monday, September 13 will honor General of the Armies John “Blackjack” Pershing on the date of his 161st birthday.

At 5:00 p.m., Daily Taps will be played as usual by a bugler in World War I “Doughboy” uniform.

At 6:00 p.m. there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the statue of General Pershing in honor of his birth on September 13, 1860 in Laclede, Missouri. After the wreath ceremony, “echoing taps” will be sounded in succession by three buglers in “Doughboy” uniforms.

At 6:30 p.m. at the Memorial (weather permitting), the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” will present a concert created to honor the legacy of General Pershing. The musical selections will focus on influential military music during WWI, as well as music that Pershing may have heard in France that inspired the creation of "Pershing's Own". The program features works by James Reese Europe (Gen. Pershing’s favorite band leader and composer), John Philip Sousa, Astor Piazzolla, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The National World War I Memorial is located on Pennsylvania Ave. and 15th Street in Washington, DC.


 

 

The Doughboy Foundation WWI Memorial Virtual Explorer 082021 

National WWI Memorial, Washington, D.C. and WWI History Come to U.S. Schools this Fall Through New Technology 

via the PR Newwire web site 

The Doughboy Foundation is bringing the new National WWI Memorial from Washington, D.C. to schools and homes all over America with a new release of the award-winning Augmented Reality App called The WWI Memorial "Virtual Explorer".

The "Virtual Explorer" app brings a walk-around-inside-it digital 3D model of the National WWI Memorial to students and educators utilizing iOS or Android tablets, available in many K-12 schools, or the smartphone already in nearly every pocket.

Students, teachers, or anyone who cannot come to Washington, D.C. can take a virtual field trip to the National WWI Memorial. More than that, the WWI Memorial "Virtual Explorer" App is filled with interactive and experiential WWI history, including:

  • The Timeline Tower: An interactive, 2-story tall 3D timeline featuring over 50 key events from WWI with images and short narratives organized up and down the tower in time order.
  • The Sinking of the Lusitania: A video game-style presentation of this crucial event that was instrumental in drawing America into the global WWI conflict.
  • Vehicles from WWI: Featuring interactive 3D models of breakthrough vehicles that came out of WWI including airplanes, tanks, motorized ambulances and even a 1917 Harley Davidson motorcycle.
  • How WWI Changed America: More than 50 micro-documentaries (each under 2 minutes) in 9 categories featuring leading WWI historians. Social topics include the effect of WWI on Women, African Americans, Native Americans, immigrants, citizenship, propaganda, and even the 1918 flu pandemic.
  • The Military History of WWI: A multi-part exploration of how America transformed from a standing army of less than 130,000 to a global military powerhouse with 4.7 million men and women in uniform, and 2 million soldiers deployed overseas in just 18 months – a timeframe comparable to today's Covid experience.
  • Stories of Service: The tools and means to create research-projects about WWI veterans from the local community or families, which can be submitted INTO the App, resulting in an auto-narrated story and images that are shared nationally.

The WWI Memorial "Virtual Explorer" prototype received a 2021 Communicator Award for "Best Use of Augmented Reality" from the Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts. This new release builds and expands on that success.

 

harlem hellfighters 04The 369th Infantry Regiment, a New York National Guard unit known more commonly as the Harlem Hellfighters, will receive the Congressional Gold Medal under the law — more than 100 years after waging brutal trench warfare in Europe for 191 straight days. 

Biden signs off on highest honor for Harlem Hellfighters 

By Michael Gartland
via the New York Daily News newspaper web site 

The tough-as-nails Black infantrymen that gave America’s enemies hell in World War I will be awarded Congress’s highest honor posthumously under a new law President Biden signed off on Wednesday.

The 369th Infantry Regiment, a New York National Guard unit known more commonly as the Harlem Hellfighters, will receive the Congressional Gold Medal under the law — more than 100 years after waging brutal trench warfare in Europe for 191 straight days.

The new law became a reality four months after the Daily News covered efforts to finally honored the warriors who sacrificed so much for the U.S., but who have received relatively little credit over the years.

The Hellfighters served alongside French soldiers when white Americans refused to. And they did so valiantly. The unit suffered more casualties than any other U.S. regiment during the war.

Private Henry Johnson, an Albany porter, earned the nickname “Black Death” after he and Private Needham Roberts, fought 36 Germans by themselves. After a German grenade wounded Roberts, Johnson fought with his rifle butt and a knife, killing four and wounding as many as 30.

The law Biden signed Wednesday originated from a Senate bill backed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and a companion bill in the House from Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan) and Tom Suozzi (D-Queens).

“The Harlem Hellfighters served our nation with distinction, spending 191 days in the front-line trenches, all while displaying the American values of courage, dedication and sacrifice,” Gillibrand said. “The long-overdue Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act pays homage to these brave Black men who risked their lives overseas to defend our freedoms, only to come home to segregation and racism.”

Suozzi began to champion the Hellfighters’ cause after meeting one in person, Leander Willett, who sought his help in getting a posthumous Purple Heart awarded to the regiment’s sergeant, who was stabbed with a bayonet during battle.

 

Convoy 082021Convoy crossing the Atlantic from the United States to Europe in World War I. While World War I submarines could only remain submerged for brief periods, they were highly successful at picking off unescorted merchants ship in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Washington had to do something about that. Enter the convoy system, which proved to be a dramatic success at decreasing ship losses.  

A High Stakes Game of Cat and House: How America Hunted Submarines During WWI 

By Sebastien Roblin
via The National Interest web site 

When Congress voted on April 6, 1917, to declare war on Imperial Germany, the task before the U.S. Navy was clear: it needed to transport and supply over a million men across the Atlantic despite the Imperial German Navy’s ferocious U-Boat campaign, which reached its peak that month, sinking over 874,000 tons of shipping.

Indeed, Germany’s decision to recommence unrestricted submarine warfare in February was one of the decisive factors driving the United States, and later Brazil, into finally joining “the war to end all wars.”

While World War I submarines could only remain submerged for brief periods, they were highly successful at picking off unescorted merchants ship in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Neither active sonar nor radar yet existed with which to track submarines, though the British had begun using hydrophones to listen for the noise of a submarine’s diesel engine.

The most successful anti-submarine ships were agile “torpedo-boat destroyers,” which sank U-Boats using deck guns and even ramming. Starting in 1916, Royal Navy vessels carried depth charges designed to detonate underwater, rupturing a submarine’s hull. These proved effective if the ship captains could guess the sub’s position. Statistically, naval mines proved deadliest, accounting for one-third of U-Boat losses.

For years, the Royal Navy resisted instituting a convoy system to guard merchant ships, preferring not to divert warships from offensive missions and believing the decrease in throughput from adhering to a convoy schedule would prove worse than the losses inflicted by U-Boats.

But that April, U-Boats had sunk one-quarter of all merchant ships bound for the UK, leaving it with just six week’s grain supply. Threatened with economic collapse, the Royal Navy finally instituted the convoy system. But the Brits had a problem: they could divert only forty-three out of the seventy-five destroyers required to escort convoys.

Naval liaison Rear Admiral William Sims convinced the navy to dispatch thirty-five U.S. destroyers to bases at Queenstown (modern-day Cobh), Ireland to fill in the gap. These began escorting convoys on May 24, usually supported by navy cruisers. In 1918, an even larger escort flotilla began operating out of Brest, France.

The U.S. Navy itself began the war with only fifty-one destroyers. It immediately faced a classic military procurement problem: politicians and admirals wanted to build more expensive battleships and battlecruisers, construction of sixteen of which had been authorized by the Naval Act of 1916.

But the Royal Navy already had the German High Seas fleet effectively bottled up in port with its larger force. While five coal-burning and three oil-burning U.S. battleships did join the blockade in 1918, they never saw action. Common sense prevailed, and battleship construction was halted in favor of building 266 destroyers. 

 

03 041The first unit of Signal Corps telephone operators to arrive in France in March 1918. The "Hello Girls" Unit kept HQ in touch with the action at the front during the final battles of World War One. Their efforts to connect American and French forces on the front lines of battle by helping to translate and communicate command orders were an integral component to the eventual victory for the Allied Powers. 

Rep. Cleaver Re-Introduces Bipartisan Bill Awarding Congressional Gold Medal to the “Hello Girls” of World War I 

Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site 

U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) announced the introduction of H.R. 4949, a bipartisan bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal—the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress—to over 220 American women who served as telephone operators with the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I. The “Hello Girls” were the first female soldiers to be deployed to a combat zone and were instrumental in the war effort in France throughout WWI. Their efforts to connect American and French forces on the front lines of battle by helping to translate and communicate command orders were an integral component to the eventual victory for the Allied Powers.

CleaverRepresentative Emanuel Cleaver, II“I am once again proud to introduce this legislation to award the Hello Girls the Congressional Gold Medal—an honor that is long overdue and certainly fitting for these American heroes,” said Congressman Cleaver.

“During a period when the women of our nation weren’t afforded the right to vote, these patriots dropped everything to support our country in its time of need. Not only did they answer the call to service, but they also demonstrated the work ethic, proficiency, and selflessness needed to help the Allied Powers win the Great War. The pivotal role of the “Hello Girls” cannot be overlooked, which is why I am asking Congress to recognize their service with the highest honor awarded by this distinguished body.”

“In World War I, 223 heroic young women answered the call of General Pershing for volunteers. The “Hello Girls” as they were known had to be skilled, professional switchboard operators proficient in both French and English. These patriots dropped everything and shipped out to Europe and the frontlines where they quickly and accurately handled the millions of military communications that helped win the war.

"The “Hello Girls” were the first female soldiers deployed to a combat zone. They risked everything for their country, and many stayed behind to help complete demobilization before returning home where they were often overlooked. Clearly, the Centennial is the time that we remember their patriotism and sacrifice."

"The World War I Centennial Commission, created by Congress to make recommendations to Congress and the President, recommends the award of a Congressional Gold Medal to honor the service of the 'Hello Girls,'" said Terry Hamby, Chairman of the World War I Centennial Commission.

Formally known as the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators, the Hello Girls as they were nicknamed were recruited by General John J. Pershing in 1917 as the first group of women to hold non-medical positions in the U.S. Army. As telecommunication in battle was still relatively new at the time, General Pershing was looking for experienced individuals that could improve communication on the front lines.

With the telephone operator field dominated by women, General Pershing made the decision to form the specialized unit comprised solely of women. It was required that the women be bilingual in both French and English so that they could effectively communicate and coordinate with French and American forces.

By the end of the war, the Hello Girls had connected over 26 million calls in support of the war effort, and even continued to serve in Europe to organize the return of American forces following the armistice.

 

WWI They don't call it the "Great War" for nothing. False lessons of history could beget bad decisions in the here and now. 

World War I Was Much More Than Trenches in France

James Holmes
via The National Interest web site 

November 11, 2018—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month—marked the centennial of the armistice concluding the First World War. Your humble correspondent traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, to offer remarks as part of “1918: Crucible of Conflict,” the centennial symposium at the National World War I Museum and Memorial. After two days of listening to learned commentators hold forth about sundry dimensions of the war, the armistice, and the interregnum between the world wars, it’s clear the Great War still casts a long cultural shadow.

Bottom line: history matters. A partial or garbled understanding of history means any guidance we distill from it is partial or garbled as well.

Faulty guidance is a real prospect. Ask the man on the street what the war was about, and in all likelihood he’ll reply with something about trench warfare. Soldiers huddled in muddy, miserable trenches under constant artillery bombardment represent the dominant image of World War I. And that comprises a major part of the story for sure. But why does our cultural memory obsess over trench warfare in France? The obvious reason for Americans is because that’s where American doughboys fought from 1917–1918. That was our war.

We tend to stress the combined bomber offensive against Nazi Germany, the landings in North Africa, Italy, and Normandy, and other American spheres of endeavor in World War II while scanting the horrific and arguably decisive fighting between German and Soviet armies. In the same vein it’s natural to remember what our soldiers, sailors, and airmen did in the Great War. These were sons and daughters of America.

It also makes sense to concentrate on France because the West is where the guns of August rang out in 1914 and where the Great War ended in November 1918. The German Army’s “Schlieffen Plan“ sent legions careening through Belgium into France before the offensive stagnated under stiffer-than-expected French and British resistance. The static fighting that constitutes the lore of World War I ensued. During the spring of 1918 the German Army launched a series of titanic offensives in hopes of breaking a French Army that verged on mutiny or driving the British Expeditionary Force into the sea before the United States could intervene in force. And France is where the Allies at last amassed enough combat power to puncture German lines at multiple points at the same time—letting them break through and compel Berlin to consent to the armistice we remember today. Beginnings and endings imprint themselves on the popular mind.

And then there’s the cultural dimension. France witnessed feats of heroism that helped forge the U.S. Army and Marine Corps into what they are today. Legendary figures such as General John J. Pershing made their names on the Western Front. Legendary figures from subsequent U.S. history—Harry S. Truman, George S. Patton, Douglas MacArthur—made their debuts as junior officers. At the Battle of Belleau Wood in May-June 1918, American soldiers and marines blunted a German spearhead aimed at Paris—and helped prepare the ground for the Allied counteroffensive and victory. “Retreat, hell! We just got here,” proclaimed one ornery marine when urged to retreat before the German onslaught. Try not pumping your fist at that show of bravado. 

 

The Spot Where WWI EndedA closeup of the plaque (left). American involvement in World War I officially ended in 1921 in New Jersey, three years late and thousands of miles from the battlefield.  

The Spot Where World War I Ended...in New Jersey

via the Atlas Obscura web site

Mere steps away from the Burger King in Bridgewater, NJ, you’ll notice a strangely landscaped, infrequently visited slice of history.

Though the Somerville Circle is traversed by thousands each day, few realize how close they are to the place where World War I officially ended in the United States, on July 2, 1921.

Though the conflict was over in 1918, the U.S. Senate voted against ratifying the Treaty of Versailles and joining the League of Nations in both 1919 and 1920. This meant the country remained enemies with Germany until the Knox-Porter Resolution was offered as an alternative to the treaty. With the president’s signature, the resolution would officially end America’s involvement in the Great War.

But President Warren G. Harding wasn’t in Washington to sign the papers. He was staying with his longtime friend, Senator Joseph Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. The papers were delivered to the Raritan country club, where Harding took a break from his game of golf to sign the resolution and officially end World War I.

Today, a plaque marks the spot where Harding signed the papers. It is framed by two eight-foot-tall stone pillars that are all that remains of the Frelinghuysen mansion. The senator and his family left the house when it became apparent that highway traffic would only increase, and the grand mansion burned to the ground in the ’50s. Accessing the plaque is difficult, as it requires stopping amid the busy traffic on Route 28, so this slice of history mostly gets passed over. 

Read the entire article on the Atlas Obscura web site.

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