Jerry Looper Hester, 1931–2022 

Jerry Looper Hester, 90, went to be with his Lord and Savior on Friday, August 5, 2022 following a brief illness.

Jerry Looper HesterJerry Looper HesterJerry was born August 13, 1931, in High Point, NC to the late Walter Filmore Hester, Sr and Rebecca Crowder Hester. He grew up in a loving Christian family with four brothers and two sisters, where his interest in American History and appreciation for Military Service was encouraged. He and all his brothers became Eagle Scouts, which, at the time, was a National record for a single family.

Jerry graduated from N.C. State University in 1953 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, then served in the U.S. Air Force as Airborne Electronics Officer with the 429th Fighter Bomber Squadron during the Korean conflict. Jerry worked in the Aerospace Defense Industry for over 15 years, then began his own firm in 1965 with a focus on international military support in Europe, Middle East, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. He married Sharon (Sherry) Lee Gilbert in 1968.

In 1998, Jerry returned to Winston-Salem, NC purchasing and developing the former East Kent property of John Reynolds where they lived for 22 years until moving to SalemTowne Retirement Community in 2020.

Jerry was appointed by Congress in 2013 as a founding board member for the US World War 1 Centennial Commission. He was also the former Chairman of the 70th Anniversary WW1 National Committee. In it’s official statement the Commission said, “He was committed to honoring the 4.7 million Americans that served in the War that Changed the World and to the establishment of a National WW1 Memorial in Washington, DC, which at the time, was the only global conflict of the 20th century not recognized with its own Memorial in our Nation’s Capital.”

On April 16, 2021, Jerry saw his tireless advocacy realized at the First Colors Ceremony, where the WW1 Centennial Commission raised the flag of the United States of America over the new National WW1 Memorial. Included was a flyover by his beloved U.S. Air Force with two F-22 aircraft from the 94th Fighter Squadron, a legacy squadron from WW1.

Jerry was predeceased by his wife of 53 years, Sharon (Sherry) Gilbert Hester; and three brothers, Walter Hester Jr, Robert Hester, and Dr. Joseph Hester.

He is survived by six children, Vicki Vanderburg (Garry), Marshall Hester (Rachel), Dawn Moffitt (Kermit), Richard Hester (Lori), Camilla Rocco (John), and Stuart Hester; the mother of his children, Alice Garrett Hester; two sisters, Becky Wyatt, Margaret Wigglesworth and brother, Scott Hester; as well as,18 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

A Celebration of Jerry’s life was held on Saturday, August 20, 2022 at the Sechrest-Davis Chapel, High Point, NC. Presiding were Dr. Rick Speas and Dr. Robert Steele. Burial followed in Floral Garden Park Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Old Town Baptist Church, 4386 Shattalon Dr., Winston Salem, NC 27106. For more information about the WW1 Centennial Commission, visit www.worldwar1centennial.org

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.sechrestdavisphillipsavenue.com for the Hester family.


 

 

016 Recovering Soldiers WalterReed Needlework c1918 LoCConvalescing soldiers performing needlework as occupational therapy at Walter Reed Army Hospital, Washington, D.C., c.1918.

1921: Veterans Bureau is born - precursor to Department of Veteran Affairs 

By Jeffrey Seiken, Ph.D., Historian, Veterans Benefits Administration
via the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office

President Harding's mission

When he accepted the Republican nomination for president in 1920, Warren G. Harding issued a solemn promise to the more than four million Americans who had served in the U.S. armed forces during what was then simply called the World War: “It is not only a duty, it is a privilege to see that the sacrifices made shall be requitted, and that those still suffering from casualties and disabilities shall be abundantly aided and restored to the highest capabilities of citizenship and enjoyment.” (1)

At the time of the election, dissatisfaction with the benefits programs for World War I Veterans ran rampant throughout the country. Discharged soldiers, influential Veterans groups such as the 800,000- strong American Legion, politicians, and the press alike agreed that the current system was, if not broken, in dire need of reform. The over 200,000 service members who returned from the war with physical or mental ailments were eligible for several different types of benefits, but they had to navigate the bureaucracies of three different federal agencies to receive them: the Bureau of War Risk Insurance (BWRI) for insurance and compensation, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) for medical and hospital care, and the Federal Board for Vocational Education for rehabilitation, education, and job training.

In the eyes of its critics, this system was not only confusing and inefficient, but it also failed to deliver to disabled Veterans the benefits and services that were their due. All insurance and disability claims had to be processed by the BWRI central office in Washington, DC, and the staff struggled to keep up with the 20,000 or more requests that flooded the mail room on average each month. The PHS also came under fire for the quality of the hospital services it provided. The agency relied on a patchwork network of government-owned or leased hospitals supplemented with beds contracted at civilian hospitals, but conditions in these facilities varied widely. Furthermore, the demand for care exceeded the supply. A 1920 report estimated that another 10,000 beds would be needed in the upcoming fiscal year, primarily for Veterans suffering from tuberculosis and psychological illnesses. Finally, the vocational training made available to disabled Veterans at commercial schools, factories, businesses, and other private facilities produced few positive results. Only a small fraction of the over 200,000 beneficiaries eligible for rehabilitation actually completed their assigned program.

Harding won the 1920 election in a landslide and after his inauguration in March 1921, his administration took on the task of fixing the defects in the benefits system.The presidential committee he appointed in April 1921 required just a few days of hearings to identify the root of the problem: “The principal deplorable failure on the part of the government to properly care for the disabled veterans is due in large part to an imperfect organization of government effort.” (2) The solution? The committee recommended consolidating the programs for disabled Veterans of the World War into an independent federal agency led by an executive who reported directly to the president.

Congress took up the committee’s proposal and by summer passed Public Law 67-47, popularly known as the Sweet Act after the name of the legislator who introduced it, establishing the Veterans Bureau. Harding signed the bill into law one hundred years ago this week, on August 8, 1921. The next day, he named Charles R. Forbes, a personal friend and decorated war Veteran who was currently running the BWRI, as the bureau’s first director. 

In its first annual report submitted to Congress in 1922, the new agency hailed its creation as “one of the epochs of veteran relief.” (3) While that was perhaps overstating the case, the founding of the Veterans Bureau did mark an important stage in the evolution of the benefits system. With the stroke of a pen, Harding brought into existence a vast new organization with broad powers, expansive responsibilities, and a budget that was one the largest in the federal government.

 

Recruits line up at a New York army camp shortly after Pres. Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany, April 1917. (AP Photo)Recruits line up at a New York army camp shortly after Pres. Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany, April 1917. (AP Photo) 

History As It Happens: The Espionage Act’s sordid WWI origins 

By Martin Di Caro
via the Washington Times newspaper (DC) web site  

The FBI investigation into possible Espionage Act violations by former President Donald Trump for keeping top-secret documents at his Florida resort, has sparked curiosity in a World War I-era law that has rarely been used to prosecute actual spies.

Although the precise nature of the documents found at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is not clear, the Espionage Act criminalizes keeping or disclosing without authorization information that could harm the national defense or could aid U.S. enemies. Under the Obama administration, federal authorities aggressively went after whistleblowers and document leakers, none more famous than Edward Snowden after he exposed the government’s mass surveillance system.

In the 1950s, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried, convicted and executed under the Espionage Act for allegedly sharing top-secret information about the atomic bomb with the Soviet Union. They were the only American citizens ever executed as spies during peacetime. But, for the most part, the Espionage Act has rarely been used to punish espionage.

In this episode of History As It Happens, historian Christopher Capozzola, an expert on citizenship, war and the military in modern America at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discusses the law’s sordid origins. The Espionage Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Woodrow Wilson in a climate of xenophobia and anti-Red hysteria in 1917, the year the U.S. entered WWI. But because many Americans opposed fighting in what they viewed as a war between European colonial powers, Congress included provisions allowing the federal government to crack down on dissent.

“It’s a crucial turning point in U.S. history and the history of the federal government, and a window into what American society is really like in a moment of tension and crisis. It was a very divisive war and not all Americans agreed we should enter it. Many felt that entering the First World War would be a departure from American traditions by sending troops abroad,” said Mr. Capozzola, the author of “Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen.”

 

The 6 most terrifying weapons of World War I 

The 6 most terrifying weapons of World War I 

By James Elphick
via the We Are The Mighty web site 

When the Great War began in 1914, the armies on both sides brought new technologies to the battlefield the likes of which the world had never seen. The destruction and carnage caused by these new weapons was so extensive that portions of old battlefields are still uninhabitable.

World War I saw the first widespread use of armed aircraft and tanks as well as the machine gun. But some of the weapons devised during the war were truly terrifying.

The Flamethrower

The idea of being able to burn one’s enemies to death has consistently been on the minds of combatants throughout history; however, it was not until 1915 Germany was able to deploy a successful man-portable flamethrower.

The flamethrower was especially useful because even just the idea of being burned alive drove men from the trenches into the open where they could be cut down by rifle and machine gun fire.

The terrible nature of the flamethrower, Flammenwerfer in German, meant that the troops carrying them were marked men. As soon as they were spotted, they became the targets of gunfire. Should one happen to be taken prisoner, they were often subjected to summary execution.

The British went a different way with their flamethrowers and developed the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector. These were stationary weapons deployed in long trenches forward of the lines preceding an attack. The nozzle would spring out of the ground and send a wall of flame 300 feet in the enemy’s direction.

These were used with great effectiveness at the Somme on July 1, 1916 when they burned out a section of the German line before British infantry was able to rush in and capture the burning remnants. 

  

First U.S. Navy ship sunk by the enemy in World War I is finally found, ending 105-year mystery 

By Lauren Beavis
via the StudyFinds web site 

LONDON — The first U.S. Navy ship sunk by the enemy in World War I has finally been found, ending 105-year mystery. A team of experienced deep divers were able to locate the missing USS Jacob Jones on August 11, about 40 miles off the coast of the Isles of Scilly in the United Kingdom.

Diver Dom Robinson lighting up the silt over the wreck of the USS Jacob JonesDiver Dom Robinson lighting up the silt over the wreck of the USS Jacob Jones.The USS Jacob Jones was one of six vessels called “Tucker-class” destroyers, designed by and built for the Navy before the nation entered World War I. The impressive ship was the first of the American destroyers ever to be sunk by enemy action. It was torpedoed off the Isles of Scilly in 1917 by a German submarine.

With 150 onboard, 66 men met their fateful end on December 6, 1917.

Dominic Robinson from the team of UK “Darkstar” divers, notes the importance of the discovery mainly for its historical significance. “This is such an exciting find – Jacob Jones was the first ship of its kind to be lost to enemy action,” the 52-year-old tells South West News Service. “The ship, lost for over 100 years, has been on a lot of people’s wish lists because of its historical weight. It has a particular interest in America given the amount they spent on designing the destroyers.”

Once the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, the USS Jacob Jones was sent overseas. Upon its return to Ireland, the vessel was traveling around 40 miles away from the Isles of Scilly until she was spotted by the German submarine.

Robinson and his team at Darkstar have a long history of deep diving exploration. They have identified wrecks from all over the UK, including the HMS Jason in Scotland and HMS B1 Submarine.

“One of the most interesting things about this vessel was the remarkable stories that came with its sinking. The destroyer’s commander ordered all life rafts and boats launched, but as the ship was sinking the armed depth charges began to explode – which is what killed most of the men who had been unable to escape the ship initially,” adds the diver from Plymouth, Devon in England. “A few of the crew and officers also tried to get men out of the water and into the life rafts. One name in particular was Stanton F. Kalk, who spent his time swimming between the rafts in the freezing Atlantic water. But he ended up dying of cold and exhaustion – he was awarded the Navy’s Distinguished Service Medal for his heroic actions that day.

 

This May 30 1919 issue of the U.S. Armys Stars and Stripes newspaper highlights the important but little recognized role of Choctaws during World War IThis May 30 1919 issue of the U.S. Armys Stars and Stripes newspaper highlights the important but little recognized role of Choctaws during World War I.

Ask Rufus: Choctaw heroes of World War I 

By Rufus Ward
via The Dispatch newspaper (MS) web site

Recently there has been a revival in interest in the 2002 movie Windtalkers, the story of Navajo code talkers during World War II. The Navajo code talkers were true heroes and were honored by congress for their role in the Pacific campaign. Overlooked in the recognition of the Navajo were the code talkers of many other Indian nations including the first code talkers, the Choctaw.

An article in the October 30,1919, Army newspaper Stars and Stripes was headlined “Yank Indian Was Heap Big Help In Winning The War.” It told the story of the first code talkers, who were 19 Choctaw Indians. Though some of the article’s references to Indians were inappropriate stereotypes, the intent of the article was clearly to recognize the heroic and important contributions of Indians, especially the Choctaws, serving in World War I. Beneath that headline was a paragraph headed “Choctaw Code Fooled Boche” (Boche is a disparaging term used for German soldiers during WWI).

The Stars and Stripes article described what it called the “Greatest Mystery of War.” It told of the fighting around St. Etienne during October 1918. There the thickets, swamps and woods were filled with the telegraph and telephone lines of American units. American military communications during WWI were usually telephone wires that were laid in the woods between units. The Germans realized this and sent small patrols into the American lines at night to tap into what was an American communications switchboard.

At first it was a great success for German Army intelligence units. U.S. officers knew their commutations were compromised but were unable to find a code the Germans could not break. Then an American officer heard two Choctaws in his unit speaking in Choctaw. He realized that little known language might be a perfect code.

The Stars and Stripes reported: “But the Americans, after some little delay, continued to use their telephone lines, and the discomfited Boche on the other end of a tapped wire listened in vain, scratched his thick, square poll in amazement, and swore … either the ‘verdammter’ Americans were drunker than fiddlers or else the code they were using was a gift from Herr Gott Himself.”

That strange code was described by the Stars and Stripes: “The code was nothing more than Choctaw — plain, simple, old-fashioned, ordinary, catch-as-catch-can, everyday Choctaw.” The paper went on to tell the story of how the Choctaw Code fooled the Germans:

“There was a Choctaw Indian at the P.C. who listened to the order given him by an American officer, and then repeated it, in Choctaw, to a fellow-tribesman at the other end of the wire, at the front; and this Indian translated it for the American officer who stood beside him. Shades of Prince Bismarck! Everything else had the Kaiser taken into consideration when he sprinted into the late unpleasantness, but he had failed to teach his soldiers or officers Choctaw.”

 

USS Langley The U.S. Navys Covered WagonThe first operational aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy, the USS Langley started her career as the USS Jupiter, a Navy collier in World War I. Later she ferried a naval aviation unit to France in June 1917. Renamed and modified as the Navy's first aircraft carrier in the 1920's, she played an essential role in the development of Naval Aviation. Langley met her end fighting the Japanese in World War II.

USS Langley: The U.S. Navy’s Covered Wagon 

By Frank Johnson
via the War History Network web site

Five years after Great Britain had launched HMS Argus, the world’s first aircraft carrier, in 1917, and following the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty on February 6, 1922, the U.S. Navy Department ordered the conversion of a fleet collier, the 11,050-ton USS Jupiter. Commissioned in 1913, the collier had the Navy’s first turbo-electric powerplant, was the first American naval vessel to transit the Panama Canal in October 1914, and ferried a naval aviation unit to France in June 1917. Now, the Jupiter was designated to become the carrier USS Langley (CV-1), named for Samuel Pierpoint Langley, the famous 19th-century astronomer, physicist, and aviation pioneer.

While the collier was being converted at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia through the spring and summer of 1922, Lt. Cmdr. Godfrey de Courcelles “Chevy” Chevalier led 15 pilots in flight training to operate from the Langley. They made touch-and-go landings on a 100-foot wooden platform laid on a coal barge. At the same time, Navy pilots trained on an 836-foot wooden flight deck at North Island, San Diego, California.

Commissioned on March 20, 1922, the nation’s first carrier was designed to carry up to 34 airplanes—12 single-seater “chasing” planes, a dozen two-seater “spotters,” four “torpedo-dropping” aircraft, and six “80-knot torpedo seaplanes.” The vessel’s first skipper, Commander Kenneth Whiting, was assigned, and the conversion work was completed in September 1922. She left for her shakedown cruise that month.

The Langley resembled HMS Argus—ungainly and with twin funnels that could be swung down during flight operations. Supported by steel box girders, the former collier’s 536-foot wooden flight deck covered her yawning holds, which still contained coal-dust particles when she was sunk two decades later.

Her arresting gear—cables stretched across the flight deck to grab the tailhooks of planes —later became standard equipment on all flattops. She was also fitted with a forward flush-deck catapult for launching aircraft when there was no wind over her deck. Commander Whiting and Captain (later Rear Admiral) Joseph Mason “Bull” Reeves, who commanded all fleet aircraft, developed other pioneering innovations for the Langley and later carriers.

Much naval history was made aboard her, starting on October 17, 1922, while she was anchored in the York River, a Chesapeake Bay estuary. On that day, Lt. Cmdr. Virgil C. Griffin made the first takeoff from her flight deck in a flimsy Vought VE-7SF biplane. Nine days later, on October 26, while the Langley steamed off Cape Henry, Virginia, Lt. Cmdr. Chevalier landed his Aeromarine 39B biplane on the deck. The wooden propeller broke, but he touched down safely. Less than a month later, Chevalier died in a plane crash near Norfolk. Another landmark aboard the Langley came on November 18, 1922, when Commander Whiting made the first catapult launching.

For two crucial years, the first American flattop operated as an experimental ship: testing aircraft and flight deck equipment, developing takeoff and landing techniques, and training pilots. There were a number of accidents, but no fatalities. The Langley was the cradle of U.S. naval aviation, and many of her young fliers went on to flag rank and distinction, such as Lieutenants DeWitt C. Ramsey, John Dale Price, Gerald F. Bogan, Thomas H. Moorer, and Marc A. “Pete” Mitscher, who led the fast carrier task forces in the Pacific theater in 1942-45.

 

 One of two World War I era practice bombs found in Waco during construction of a Little League baseball field. The construction site is located on the original site of the Rich Field Army Air Base, built in 1917 after the United States entered WWIOne of two World War I era practice bombs found in Waco, TX during construction of a Little League baseball field. The construction site is located on the original site of the Rich Field Army Air Base, built in 1917 after the United States entered WWI.

WWI era practice bombs found on Waco construction site 

By Megan Boyd
via the KWTX television station (TX) web site

WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A construction crew in Waco recovered two bombs from the Lake Air Little League fields construction site along Trice Avenue; the McLennan County Sheriff’s Bomb Squad determined the devices were not live but likely practice bombs from former military installations on the same site.

“This is the original site of the Rich Field Army Air Base built in 1917 after the United States got involved in WWI,” Sheriff Parnell McNamara explained.

Rich Field was used for two years, along with neighboring Camp MacArthur, where between the two, 80,000 troops trained from 1917 to 1919.

“This hits pretty close to home for me my great uncle Joe McNamara was a captain here at Camp MacArthur during WWI,” Parnell McNamara explained.

His team was first called out to the construction site on August 9th when the first device was found. They were called out again on the 12th when the same crew found an identical bomb.

“We have machines that Xray them and tell us exactly what’s inside the bomb, what kind of explosive it is and so forth,” McNamara said.

Those machines showed both bombs to be made of steel, and not contain any explosives.

“Its about a foot and a half long got fins on it so we don’t know if it was dropped out those old biplanes because that’s all they had in WWI were the biplanes,” he said.

With two devices already found, he says he’s waiting to hear if there’s more. The construction site where they were found is surrounded by several other construction projects, including the building of Waco ISD’s new high school.

“There’s a lot of construction going on and no telling what we’re going to find next,” McNamara said.

He’s encouraged the crews not to touch anything suspicious.

“If we find some more we’re going to respond and make sure if they are explosive we will take them and destroy them,” he explained.

But the devices found that were not explosive, don’t need to be destroyed, according to McNamara.

“We’re going to keep them as souvenirs because they’re solid steel, practice rounds but they’re really cool looking.”

 

The Perils of Pandemic and War: Spanish Flu Brings D.C. to its Knees 

By Meaghan Kacmarcik
via the Boundary Stones WETA television (DC) blog 

Spanish Flu Brings D.C. to its KneesRed Cross worker wearing a mask during the Spanish Flu Epidemic in Washington, DC. (Source Wikimedia Commons)It was the start of October and the dog days of summer in the nation’s capital had officially come to an end. The crisp autumn air, a relief to most Washingtonians in years past, was an ominous foreshadowing of the days and weeks to come. There would be no more open windows in homes, streetcars, or workplaces for the foreseeable future. While keeping as much heat as possible inside a building is self-explanatory, warmth was not the only invisible entity kept within enclosed places that fateful fall of 1918.

The nation’s attention, of course, was preoccupied with what was happening on the battlefields of Europe. For over a year, the United States had fought beside the beleaguered forces of the Allies in the Great War.[1] From the American entrance into the conflict in April 1917 until September 1918, the population in Washington, DC swelled.[2] Much like it would during World War II, the District became the hub for all aspects of the planning and execution of war activities.[3] The federal government grew exponentially to support the war effort and, as scores of men — including many government workers — were drafted into the military.[4] Thousands of them found themselves stationed in the various military installations in and around the city.[5]

The influx of service men and war workers to the District caused the city’s population to skyrocket. Before the war, Washingtonians numbered around 350,000.[6] By war’s end in November 1918, this number ballooned to 526,000 – a 66% increase. [7]

Washington reeled from the staggering numbers of people pouring into the city to aid in the war effort.[8] Housing quickly became scarce and overcrowded.[9] The cost of food and general living expenses inflated much too fast for wages to keep up.[10] Despite the poor living conditions in the nation’s capital, women from across America saw it their patriotic duty to sacrifice their lives at home and come to Washington to aid in America’s first total war. No good deed goes unpunished, though.

Trouble was brewing for months in the United States. In March of 1918, word began traveling of a flu-like illness slowly spreading throughout the country from its place of origin, Camp Funston, Kansas.[11] The sickness swept through the ranks of the American military, knocking many-a-men down for a few days, but killing very few.[12] This influenza epidemic caused few in DC much concern during that spring. The Evening Star, for example, spent little time discussing the rapid increase of service members hospitalized by the illness.[13]

As spring melted into summer, however, an increasing number of Americans began taking note of the scourge. The epidemic found its way over to the trenches in Europe where it wreaked havoc on both sides of the conflict.[14] Back in the U.S., cases of the Spanish Flu (as it was inaccurately named – it did not originate in Spain) increased again during August and September. As the plague claimed more and more victims across the country, D.C. newspapers relayed reports. However, there seemed to be relatively little attention paid to how to protect the District from the seemingly inevitable spread of the malady to DC.[15] And spread it did.

 

British divers find missing World War One wreck of US Navy destroyer: Remains of USS Jacob Jones is discovered 40 miles off coast of Isles of Scilly after it was sunk by enemy fire in 1917 

By Adam Solomons
via the Daily Mail newspaper (UK) web site  

British divers have found a US shipwreck from the First World War that has been missing deep in the ocean since it was sunk in 1917.

A team of experienced deep divers were able to locate the missing vessel on Thursday 40 miles off the coast of the Isles of Scilly.

USS Jacob JonesUSS Jacob JonesThe USS Jacob Jones was one of six Tucker-class destroyers designed and built for the US Navy before the nation entered World War One.

The impressive vessel was the first American destroyer ever to be sunk by enemy fire.

It was torpedoed off the Isles of Scilly in 1917 by a German submarine.

With 150 onboard, 66 men met their fateful end on 6 December 1917.

One of the divers who took part in the expedition, Dominic Robinson, noted the importance of the discovery mainly for its historical significance.

Dominic, 52, said: 'This is such an exciting find - Jacob Jones was the first ship of its kind to be lost to enemy action.

'The ship, lost for over 100 years, has been on a lot of people's wish lists because of its historical weight.

'It has a particular interest in America given the amount they spent on designing the destroyers.'

Once the US entered World War I in April 1917, the USS Jacob Jones was sent overseas.

 

How machine guns on World War I biplanes never hit the propellerThere was a lot of new technology brought to the battlefield during World War I. Two of those were used in tandem – and somehow managed to perfectly compliment each other. It was the fighter plane and the machine gun, mounted perfectly for the pilot’s use, without shooting up the propeller that kept the bird aloft. 

How machine guns on World War I biplanes never hit the propeller 

By Blake Stilwell
via the We Are The Mighty web site 

Was it the gun that was designed to fire through the propeller or the propeller designed to be used with the machine gun? Yes.

The system worked because of its synchronization gear which kept the gun from firing when the propeller would be hit by the bullet. While airborne the prop would actually be spinning five times as fast as the weapon could fire, so there was little margin of error. The problem was solved by the addition of a gear-like disc on the propeller that would only allow the gun to fire in between the blades’ rotation.

Often called an “interrupter” the disc did not actually interrupt the firing of the weapon, it merely allowed it to fire semiautomatically instead of at an even pace. When the prop spun around to a certain position, it would allow the weapon’s firing mechanism to fully cycle and fire a round. Usually, when the round was supposed to be interrupted, the weapon was actually just in the process of cycling.

So pulling the trigger would essentially connect the weapon to the propeller, and the prop would actually be firing the gun. Letting the trigger go would disconnect the weapon from the propeller.

Later versions, such as the Kauper interrupter used on the Sopwith Camel, allowed for multiple machine guns at different rates of fire. The interrupter was a welcome change from the early days of combat aviation, where props were sometimes metal plated just in case mechanically uncoordinated rounds hit the propeller, so the bullet would ricochet.

 

In Memoriam: World War One Centennial Commissioner Jerry Hester 

By Mike Hanlon, Editor/Publisher
via the Roads to the Great War web site 

Jerry and Sherry Hester Selling the MissionJerry and Sherry Hester Selling the MissionOne of the most inexhaustible and effective soldiers in the effort to honor the Americans who served and sacrificed their nation in the First World War has left us. My friend and fellow Air Force veteran Jerry Hester passed away on 5 August 2022 at age 90. He was one of the most active members of the World War One Centennial Commission, possibly because he had the longest commitment to the cause. Jerry had previously served as Chairman of the 70th Anniversary World War One National Committee and had never lost his enthusiasm for its history. He was ready for the Centennial and embraced the mission.

Of course, as with everyone associated with the commemoration, Commissioner Hester was determined to see that national memorial completed in our nations capital. I know he was delighted to see that come to pass. Jerry, however, also had at least three specialties at which he worked with extreme dedication through the Centennial.

1. Over Here: Jerry was a tireless encourager of commemorations and reflections on the war in his home state of North Carolina. Whether it involved the state's memorial wildflower program or remembering the war's fallen from his alma mater, North Carolina State, he was in the middle of the action. While I don't know of the specifics of his involvement, I don't think it's any accident North Carolinians did one of the best jobs of a state in documenting their wartime experience during the Centennial.

2. Over There: Jerry Hester was one of the two or three most travelingest of the Centennial Commissioners during the commemorative period, representing America in events at such famous places as at Belleau Wood, Versailles, the Somme, Reims, the Argonne Forest, and Flanders. He also lent support for European-initiated projects, such as the restoration of the American Memorial Church at Chateau-Thierry.

3. Honoring U.S. Aviation: Being a former Air Force aviator, Jerry spent the largest part of his time remembering and honoring the air effort of the Yanks. Two of his efforts stand out for me. Less known than Frank Luke or Eddie Rickenbacker, Lieutenants Erwin Bleckley and Harold Goettler also received Medals of Honor, though posthumously, for their support of the Lost Battalion. Jerry regularly made efforts to make sure these men were remembered by their nation, the Air Force, and in France, where they served and died.

By far, however, Jerry Hester's most visible and, I think, personally demanding effort was in serving as chair of the working group that raised the final share of the $14 million cost for the restoration of the magnificent Lafayette Escadrille Memorial and Cemetery at Marnes-la-Coquette outside Paris. Fifteen years ago when I first visited what is today the shining structure shown below, it was greying, leaking, sinking, and fracturing. Jerry's group of boosters and fundraisers and the American Battle Monuments Commission staff who did the heavy managerial lifting are responsible for this wonderful restoration that every American ought to be proud of.

 

 Sergeant StubbyA portrait of Stubby, who made a name for himself on the World War I battlefields of France and then became a regular in D.C.'s social scene.

Mighty Yet Stubby: A Four-Legged War Hero Takes D.C. By Storm 

By Meaghan Kacmarcik
via the Boundary Stones WETA television (DC) blog

Sergeant John J. Curtin found himself dozing while in the trenches during the Battle of Chemin des Dames.[1] Feeling as safe as one could in the break between enemy fire, Sgt. Curtin fell into a deep and bone-tired sleep. His rifle and bayonet were haphazardly strewn across his lap as his back pressed against the cool damp wall of the trench. The duckboard on which he sat just barely kept him protected from the stagnant water that was omnipresent in the dugouts, which scarred the French countryside in 1917 and 1918. The khaki uniform that denoted him as belonging to the 102nd Regiment of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was stained with dirt, sweat, and perhaps even a little blood from the seemingly endless death and destruction which surrounded him.

Despite being scared beyond his wit’s end that he would not be able to react in time to save himself from a deadly German artillery shell, exhaustion hung over him like a weighted blanket. Closing his eyes for a few minutes would not hurt anyone, he decided. With his chin tilted forward resting against his sternum and his helmet falling down to just block out the light, Sgt. Curtin fell into the sort of sleep one experiences while under extreme stress and deprivation.

Seemingly just as soon as he began dreaming of his home in Connecticut, Sgt. Curtin was abruptly awoken by the frantic howling and barking of a dog.[2] As he quickly came to, he realized all too fast what was going on. Stubby, the 102nd’s dog, was warning him of an impending mustard gas attack by the Germans, located just a few hundred yards across “no man’s land.”[3] With great haste, Sgt. Curtin secured his gas mask upon his face, grabbed the mutt, and traversed the maze of trenches in the hopes of evading the noxious chemicals.[4]

Once the man and pooch reached relative safety— only experiencing minor injuries from exposure to the thick yellow fog— the weight of what Curtin just went through hit him like a ton of bricks: he was nearly killed by the German gas. The only reason his body was not lifeless at his duty station was because of the heroics of Stubby.[5] This was neither the first nor the last time Stubby had saved an American Service member. But Stubby was no specially trained dog – he was not even supposed to be in the war at all.[6]

Stubby’s illustrious story begins across the pond in New Haven, Connecticut, with one special man. After being drafted into the Army National Guard at the United States’ entrance into the Great War, Robert J. Conroy was sent from his home in New Britain, Connecticut, to the campus of Yale University where he and his fellow members of the 102nd Infantry Regiment of the 26th Division were preparing for war.[7]  A stray dog with a short tail, made Conroy’s acquaintance (most likely due to the food Conroy gave the pup).[8] Soon enough, the two were inseparable, with Conroy spending his free time teaching the newly named dog, Stubby, a variety of tricks, including how to salute.[9] The brindle Boston bull terrier shortly became as much a part of the 102nd as Conroy, himself.[10]

Although the pair had not known each other long when it was time for the 102nd to ship out to Europe, Conroy decided he couldn’t leave Stubby behind. But getting the canine to France would take some doing as Army rules forbid the possession of personal pets.