The GI Bill: Legacy of the Doughboys—Part II, Hammering Out the Bill 

By Jennifer D. Keene
via the Roads to the Great War web site 

The Legion had some dramatic moments after ignoring advice that it chop up its GI Bill into more manageable chunks, rather than continue to press for a complete benefits package. In March, at the request of five smaller veterans' organizations, several congressmen introduced an adjusted compensation bill in lieu of the GI Bill of Rights. With this division in veterans' ranks threatening to confuse the nation over which path to pursue, the Legion rallied its members to make their wishes known. Behind-the-scenes negotiations brought the VFW into line behind the Legion bill. The Legion worked diligently to organize a grass-roots campaign and prepared promotional materials for its 12,000 posts to use in rallying local support. Posts received suggested radio interviews, press releases, and letters and telegrams for congressmen, as well as short trailer films for legionnaires to take to the local movie theater.

roads gibill 5President Franklin Roosevelt signs the GI Bill, 22 June 1944, two weeks after D-DayThe earlier decision of the Hearst newspaper chain to support the bill as a way to highlight the shortcomings of the Roosevelt administration's social welfare programs also helped influence public opinion in favor of the proposal. Inside the Legion command center in Washington, members mounted a huge wall chart to portray the results of their daily canvas of Congress and the work of the 149 House members who belonged to the Legion. On 10 May, in a well-publicized ceremony on the steps of the Capitol, Legion officials delivered petitions bearing a million signatures to the House leadership. 

Congressman John Rankin (D-Miss.), a legionnaire, who chaired the House World War Veterans' Legislation Committee, provided the most gripping, nail-biting moments. The Senate passed an omnibus bill on 24 March, but the House version remained mired in Rankin's committee until 3 May. In April, the Mississippi congressman focused his objections on the bill's unemployment provisions. In public hearings, he recalled the "goldbrickers" he had known during World War I who would have relished a chance to loaf at government expense. Privately, Legion officials noted that, in executive sessions, Rankin was "using the line that it will result in too high remuneration without work for Negro veterans in the South." Rankin also wondered aloud whether adjusted compensation better served former farmers from the South and West who had no intention of attending college. Throughout this period, the Legion worked hard writing compromise drafts to appease Rankin. The draft of the bill finally reported out of Rankin's committee on 3 May limited educational and employment benefits and raised the maximum loan amount. The version that passed the House 387-0 on 18 May sharpened these modifications.

In the joint Senate-House Conference Committee created to hammer out differences between the two omnibus bills, compromise came quickly on education and loan benefits. Deadlock soon developed, however, over a relatively minor issue: whether or not the VA should have supervisory or administrative responsibility over the Veterans' Employment Service. With the final conference committee vote set for the morning of 10 June 1944, Rankin refused to cast the proxy vote of an absent member in favor of supervisory responsibility. Legion officials raced to track down Congressman John S. Gibson, a Democrat who had returned to Georgia. Those enlisted in the search included a telephone operator, who rang his house every fifteen minutes, a local radio station, which put out a news alert for Gibson to call home, and the state police, who went on the lookout for his car. Returning home late in the evening after spending the day hunting, Gibson agreed to take an army flight back to Washington from nearby Waycross air base. This plan fell through when the only available plane succumbed to mechanical problems, but the officer in charge provided a car to a commercial air field in Jacksonville, Florida. After boarding a 2:20 A.M. flight to Washington, Gibson arrived in time to cast the key vote. In the final version of the bill, a board chaired by the administrator of Veterans' Affairs was established to monitor veterans' job placement by the U.S. Employment Service.

 

Ward with inset photo La MotteEllen N. La Motte (inset left) wrote The Backwash of War: The Human Wreckage of the Battlefield as Witnessed by an American Hospital Nurse in 1916 about her experiences as a nurse in World War I. The book was censored in 1918, and fell into obscurity. Author Cynthia Wachtell (inset right) was in the process of trying to bring this lost antiwar classic to light in an expanded volume, and discovered a mystery. 

The Missing Page of Ellen N. La Motte’s The Backwash of War 

By Cynthia Wachtell
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site 

It was late in my process of researching Ellen N. La Motte’s extraordinary wartime book,The Backwash of War, that I made a fascinating discovery about its contents. Or, more accurately, I made a fascinating discovery about what is absent from its contents. I realized a key page is missing. And that missing page speaks volumes.

Let me back up a bit. I first came across The Backwash of War: The Human Wreckage of the Battlefield as Witnessed by an American Hospital Nurse when I was working in the mid-1990s on my dissertation, a study of American antiwar literature. Published in September 1916, The Backwash of War is a collection of stories about La Motte’s experience nursing at a French field hospital in Belgium, which was located terrifyingly close to the battlefront. Brilliantly observed and darkly humorous, the stories anticipate, and likely influenced, the works of Ernest Hemingway and other postwar writers.

6 Backwash of War Ad. 1916 A contemporary advertisement for Ellen La Motte’s book Backwash of War on 1916. Two years later, the book was censored and became unavailable.Backwash Original volume photoBackwash Original volume.The first story, ironically titled “Heroes,” bluntly begins, “When he could stand it no longer, he fired a revolver up through the roof of his mouth, but he made a mess of it. The ball tore out his left eye, and then lodged somewhere under his skull, so they bundled him into an ambulance and carried him, cursing and screaming, to the nearest field hospital.” In “Heroes” and a dozen other stories, La Motte deftly defied all norms of decorous wartime writing, exposing war’s unseemly underbelly, its backwash of mangled, miserable men writhing in agony and a hospital staff unable to staunch the mass bleeding of modern war.

When I first read The Backwash of War as a graduate student, I was amazed that such a radical and brilliant wartime book was written by an American woman and published before the United States had even entered the fray. And I was dismayed that it had been all but lost to history. Immediately upon its publication, the book had been banned in England and France. In America, by contrast, it had gone through four printings and been widely praised as a seminal war work. In the words of the Los Angeles Times it revealed the “first realistic glimpse behind the battle lines.”

But then in September 1918 the book was deemed dangerous to wartime morale, and censored. Despite being re-released in 1919 and appearing in a new edition in 1934, it disappeared into literary obscurity.

That fact nagged at me, and it continued to nag at me long after I submitted my dissertation. So, it was that some twenty-five years later I was in the process of trying to bring this lost antiwar classic to light in an expanded volume, which would include La Motte’s published war essays as well as my exhaustively researched biography of La Motte. She was, I had discovered, a boldly non-conformist woman in many regards: a self-proclaimed socialist and anarchist, a path-breaking public health administrator and expert in the field of tuberculosis, a prominent suffragist, a lesbian openly partnered for decades, and America’s most dedicated and prolific anti-opium activist of her day.

It was then, as I painstakingly pored over my original edition of The Backwash of War from 1916, with its olive green cover and gold lettering, that I noticed the missing pages. I realized that two pages had been physically cut out of the volume, one directly preceding the title page and one directly following the title page. All that remained of each was a very narrow stub, with a sheared edge, near the inner hinge.

Nor was it simply my volume that had been altered in this way. Upon further research, I discovered that the copy that belonged to the avant-garde writer Gertrude Stein, now housed in Yale University’s Beinecke Library, is also missing the two pages. So is the copy in the British Library, acquired when the book was finally released in England in 1919. The publisher, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, had physically cut out the two pages from each volume. Why?

 

The GI Bill: Legacy of the Doughboys—Part I, WWI Lessons 

By Jennifer D. Keene
via the Roads to the Great War web site 

Why is World War I important in American history? Quite simply, the Great War generation played a critical role in constructing the modern U.S. Army, turning World War II soldiers into the most privileged veteran generation in American history, and determining what mass military service would mean for millions of American men throughout the 20th century . . .

roads gibill 1Doughboys to Be: Reporting for Duty in World War IThe Servicemen's Readjustment Act (1944), commonly known as the GI Bill, is rightly celebrated for the renewal that unemployment, education, and housing loan benefits gave millions of World War II veterans. The law marked a poignant ending as well. The signing of the GI Bill two weeks after American troops landed on the Normandy beaches of France did not signal the end of their war. Instead, 1944 marked the symbolic exit of World War I veterans from the national political arena after more than 25 years in the public spotlight. The GI Bill is rarely remembered as the final legacy of World War I to the nation. Yet ignoring Great War veterans' authorship of the GI Bill results in an imperfect understanding of why the law took the form it did when it did. Line by line, the most comprehensive piece of social welfare legislation the United States has ever known, it illustrated in vivid detail the struggles World War I veterans had endured to give meaning to their social contract with the state. For the first and perhaps only time, wartime military service became a steppingstone to a better life. The final legacy of World War I created one of the most prosperous, advantaged generations in American history.

Once the United States had entered World War II, ensuring that history did not repeat itself became the primary objective both of the U.S. Army and of Great War veterans. To learn from its past experiences with conscripted civilians, the General Staff ordered a series of studies of the army's previous experience with black soldiers, courts-martial, relations between American and Allied soldiers, collecting soldiers' votes, desertions, and demobilization. Hoping to avoid the psychiatric breakdowns observed among shell-shocked soldiers during the Great War, the army at first tried to weed out (through induction center rejections or discharges) those who seemed predisposed to mental breakdowns. Eventually realizing that this practice created a way, so feared at the beginning of World War I, for malingerers to avoid military service, the army then reverted to the battlefield treatments used effectively 25 years earlier.

Picking up where the Morale Division had left off in 1919, the soldiers' opinion studies undertaken by Samuel Stouffer and his colleagues in the Research Branch of the Information and Education Division of the War Department provide some clues about how much influence civilian soldiers wielded within the new wartime army. The Stouffer studies were vastly more sophisticated than the rudimentary efforts of previous morale investigators, but their intent was the same. Hoping to perfect the collaboration between citizen-soldiers and the army, the Stouffer group provided commanders with detailed reports of soldiers' predilections, including discussions of how some army policies had inadvertently hurt morale. The Research Branch, for example, compiled an impressive amount of evidence that infantrymen felt their branch, which bore the brunt of actual fighting, had the lowest status of any combatant service branch. As a result, the chief of staff initiated a systematic campaign to improve the prestige of the infantry by raising their pay, awarding them distinctive medals, and publicizing the feats of infantrymen throughout the service. . .

Once again, the army hoped to secure veterans' postwar support for expanded defense funding, and this time, it used troop surveys to devise demobilization policies avoid to the mistakes made during World War I. The Research Branch surveyed 20,000 soldiers on the most equitable way to discharge wartime troops and discovered that they wanted the army to award points to each soldier that reflected his days in combat, time overseas, number of children, and length of service. This wartime research made it possible for President Roosevelt to claim that the point system was "based on the wishes of the soldiers themselves." The end of the Pacific war came sooner than expected, however, disrupting these carefully laid plans. The army was in the midst of preparing for a massive invasion of the Japanese islands when the dropping of two atomic bombs caused Japan to surrender. Scrambling to demobilize its wartime force quickly, the army soon abandoned the point system and instead released men when it no longer needed them. As in 1919, overseas soldiers were furious when their return home was delayed, and widespread protests broke out in the Pacific and Europe in 1946.

The smoldering resentment of officers' privileges and court-martial practices presented one final similarity between the two world wars. In 1946, the army and public conceded that the time for permanent reform had arrived. Many of the reforms instituted by the 1946 Doolittle Board echoed proposals made after World War I by Raymond Fosdick, chairman of the Commission on Training Camp Activities. 

 

AANa2HULeft: the Harlem Hellfighters parade down 5th Avenue after their return from World War I service in Europe, circa 1919. Right: local officials posed in April by a Hellfighters monument to celebrate legislation that would honor the Hellfighters. 

Harlem Hellfighters, WWI Heroes, Win Long-Delayed Honor 

By Nick Garber
via the msn.com news web site 

HARLEM, NY — The Harlem Hellfighters, a majority-Black World War I regiment whose soldiers won plaudits for their bravery, have come a step closer to getting long-delayed recognition from the federal government.

The U.S. Senate on Monday passed the Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act, a bill introduced by New York lawmakers that would award the medal to the Hellfighters. Having already passed the House in June, it now only needs President Joe Biden's signature to become official.

Descendants of the soldiers had gathered this spring at Harlems 369th Regiment Armory — constructed in the Hellfighters' honor — as U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi announced he was introducing a bill to honor the group.

"It is never too late to do the right thing," said Suozzi, a Long Island congressman who became interested in the Hellfighters after he was approached by neighbors whose ancestor, Sgt. Leander Willett, had been injured in France while serving with the regiment.

The Hellfighters, a segregated regiment composed mostly of Black and Puerto Rican troops, were deployed to France in 1917. They earned their nickname from their German foes, who were impressed by their enemies' bravery on the battlefield.

In 1918, the Hellfighters were assigned to serve with the French Army, rather than with their white countrymen who refused to serve with Black soldiers — a "decades-old injustice" that the Gold Medal would help correct, Suozzi said in April. 

 

harlem hellfighters 04The Harlem Hellfighters were an all-black New York National Guard unit that fought in World War I.. On Monday, August 9, Congress passed a bill to award a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal to the Harlem Hellfighters, a black New York National Guard unit that fought in World War I. The medal is the highest US civilian award alongside the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has been awarded fewer than 200 times. 

Congressional Gold Medal approved for WWI’s Harlem Hellfighters 

By Steven Nelson
via the New York Post newspaper (NYC) web site

Congress on Monday agreed to award a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal to the Harlem Hellfighters, a black New York National Guard unit that fought in World War I.

The medal is the highest US civilian award alongside the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has been awarded fewer than 200 times — most recently to police forces involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Although the men of the 369th Infantry Regiment are dead, the medal was sought by their descendants and pushed by New Yorkers who said the unit wasn’t sufficiently celebrated at the time.

Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sponsored the bill, which passed the House in June and the Senate on Monday night.

The Hellfighters spent 191 days in the trenches of France before the war ended. About 1,400 of its men were killed or wounded, more than any other regiment, according to the congressional offices.

Although the war often is remembered as a struggle between European imperial powers, Gillibrand said in a statement that the New Yorkers fought to “defend our freedoms.”

“The Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act honors these brave men, who, even as they faced segregation and prejudice, risked their lives to defend our freedoms,” Gillibrand said.

 

Giant clay soldiers charge into battle as D.C. memorial takes shape 

By Michael E. Ruane
via the Washington Post newspaper (DC) web site

ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — The mammoth clay sculpture that included figures #13 and #14 weighed 300 pounds, and because of its weight, sculptor Sabin Howard called it “the monster.”

It depicted two American soldiers, one wounded, charging into battle during World War I. And it was going to require Howard and four other men to lift it off its metal stand, wrestle it about 20 feet to a display wall and fix it in place.

Howard was worried. It would be a disaster if it fell. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s just do it.” He positioned the men, and they loosened the piece from its stand. “Pull!” he said. It came free and they caught the weight. “It’s not bad.” he said, as they shuffled toward the wall. “I’m guiding it.”

It wasn’t elegant, but it was the latest chapter in the monumental project to create a 38-figure, 58.5-foot-long bronze sculpture for the new National World War I Memorial in Washington.

The work, underway in Howard’s studio here, just across the Hudson River from New York City, is a little over half completed. Eleven figures have been finished and cast in a foundry in Britain. Nine are being sculpted in clay now. There are 18 more to go.

The project will require many more months of labor, as well as 15 tons of bronze before it is done.

The sculpture, begun in 2019, is scheduled to be unveiled at the memorial on the site of Pershing Park, four blocks from the White House, on Memorial Day 2024.

 

medals 082021U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Quentin Fenderson, the senior enlisted advisor of the 3rd Infantry Division, presents the Common Allied Service Medal and the Purple Heart Medal to the family of 1st Lt. Thomas R. Beasley on Fort Stewart, Georgia, Aug. 09, 2021. Beasley’s Family received his posthumous awards for his service and sacrifice in WWI. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Michael Udejiofor/50th Public Affairs Detachment) (Photo Credit: Pfc. Michael Udejiofor) 

U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division presents long-awaited awards to WWI Veteran’s Family 

By CLt. Col. Lindsey Elder
via the U.S. Army's army.mil web site

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Charles D. Costanza and Command Sgt. Maj. Quentin Fenderson, the command team of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, presented a long-awaited Purple Heart Medal and World War I Victory Medal to the granddaughter and extended family of one of their own, 103 years after he was killed in action in France.

The special ceremony took place on Aug. 9 at the 3rd Infantry Division Museum on Fort Stewart and was the culmination of the efforts of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, U.S. Army Forces Command, the 3rd Infantry Division, and the Beasley Family to properly recognize the service and sacrifice of 1st Lt. Thomas Reed Beasley, Sr.

A native of Reidsville, Georgia, Beasley was a member of Company D, 4th Infantry, 5th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces, fighting in the frontline trenches when he was killed in action on Oct. 5, 1918, in the Argonne Forrest sector. His remains were interred at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France.

Kay Beasley Toups, Beasley’s granddaughter and his closest living relative, remarked that while it has been a long, team effort to have this level of recognition for their lost loved one, the Family is incredibly grateful for the ceremony and for honoring his memory in this way.

“It’s overwhelming. It’s beyond belief. It’s really a miracle it happened,” said Kay Toups. “The gratitude my Family is feeling right now is truly indescribable. We will always be eternally grateful to the 3rd Infantry Division and to the U.S. Army, who truly never forgets its own.”

Beasley was killed at the age of 22, just shy of his 23rd birthday. At the time, his then-pregnant widow received only a telegram informing the Family of his death.

More than a century later, the emotional ceremony included remarks by the division command team, Beasley’s Family members, and a presentation of the awards with the assistance of a current 3rd Infantry Division Soldier in a WWI period costume. 

 

FranklinStock Doughboy2“The Doughboy,” a WWI memorial in Franklin, is one of 11 war monuments in town that are in need of repair. The Veterans Services Office received a SHRAB grant to spruce them up, but requires matching funds or in-kind services to make it happen. 

Town Seeks to Match Grant Funds for Repair of WWI & Other War Memorials 

via the Franklin Town News (MA) web site

The Franklin Town Common has 11 war memorials, “and most of them need a little bit of work – some need major work,” says Dale Kurtz, Franklin Veterans Services officer. Kurtz worked with Debra Martin, also of the Veterans Services Office, on a grant through Massachusetts SHRAB, the state-level review body for grant proposals submitted to the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). At the end of April, Franklin received a grant of $18,338 the monuments, but that’s under half of what it will need to complete the whole project..

“We’re hoping to get that up and in progress by the fall,” says Dale Kurtz, Franklin Veterans Services Officer, who will retire this month. “I have to match the funds provided to us, either with cash or in-kind work.

A few of the memorials, says Kurtz, including the Revolutionary War memorial, the Persian Gulf memorial, and the Spanish American War Memorial, need some cleaning, and four memorials along Main Street need repairs to the concrete, says Kurtz.

“Every one of them needs a bit of work, but some more significant (repair) than others,” says Kurtz.

The second oldest memorial on the Franklin Common, the Gettysburg Address, built in about 1913 and placed by the Grand Army of the Republic Post #60 (which disbanded in 1939), is in significant disrepair, needing to be restored, with broken pieces that need to be fixed.

Another in disrepair, according to Kurtz, is the Civil War memorial on the end opposite the Veterans Memorial Walkway. “People pass by this, and they probably don’t notice it, but it’s probably third on the list (needing repair),” says Kurtz. This monument was erected in 1903 in a project that was led and presented by Frederick Newell, who served in the 5th Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War.

The WWI memorial, known as “The Doughboy,” in Franklin, has some significant leaking issues, says Kurtz.

“When it was originally erected, in 1929, it faced the center of the Common,” says Kurtz. In 1979, when the memorial plaza was created, that has the WWII, Vietnam and Korean memorials, the Doughboy was turned to face the monument and St. Mary’s church, he says. 

 

rifleThe exact purpose of the Air Service ’03 remains a mystery. Was it actually for flyers or balloon observers? By 1918 most military planes were equipped with machine guns, so why would you want a bolt-action rifle in your plane? 

A Flyboy’s Rifle: The Air Service ’03 

By Bruce N. Canfield
via the American Rifleman web site 

Perhaps the most venerable United States military rifle of all time is the “U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1903,” better known to several generations of Americans as simply the Springfield “Oh-Three.” The ’03 was the premier U.S. service rifle from the time of its standardization in 1903 until the adoption of the M1 Garand rifle in 1936. Even after the M1 came on the scene, large numbers of M1903 rifles remained in front-line use well into World War II.

During the ’03’s long tenure of service, many variants and modifications of the rifle were developed. These ranged from the well known, such as National Match rifles and several types of sniper rifles, to the rare and obscure, such as the version with the semi-automatic Pedersen Device attachment and the Cameron-Yaggi Trench Periscope Rifle. Among the most interesting, rarest, and least-known variants is the Air Service ’03.

air1 

Developed during World War I, the Air Service ’03 was essentially a standard M1903 service rifle with a specially made shortened stock and handguard, simplified rear sight, and a 25-round non-detachable extension magazine. The rifle was not intended for infantry use and was described in a 1918 Ordnance Department Report as “… Stripped for Air Service.”

While the existence of the Air Service ’03 has been well established, the intended use for which the rifle was designed remains the subject of some conjecture and speculation even today. Several theories regarding the intended purpose of these arms have been proposed, including the idea that the Air Service rifles were to be utilized as a form of rudimentary armament for personnel in observation balloons. Such balloons were widely used in World War I for artillery spotting and similar purposes. It has also been suggested that the rifles were to be used as defensive armament for two-man fighter or observation aircraft. Still another theory is that the rifles were intended to be carried in aircraft as personal defense arms in the event a pilot was forced down behind enemy lines and had to defend himself.

After considering all the stated theories, the latter application is clearly the most plausible. The first theory can probably be dismissed when one considers that the usefulness of a bolt-action rifle against an enemy fighter airplane, while in a swaying observation balloon basket, is questionable. The theory about using the rifles as aircraft armament is also rather unlikely. Machine guns for aircraft had proven their effectiveness several years before development of the Air Service ’03, and, in any event, a bolt-action rifle would be a very poor substitute against an enemy plane armed with machine guns. On the other hand, a full-power, service-type rifle with which a downed aviator could defend himself seems to be a much more logical concept. Since a pilot would not be wearing a cartridge belt, the 25-round extension magazine used with the Air Service rifle would have provided an adequate supply of ammunition self- contained in the rifle and ready for immediate use. Even though relatively minor, the weight savings of the shortened stock, and elimination of unnecessary sling swivels and other hardware also support the idea that the rifle was intended for aircraft use where any sort of weight reduction, slight as it may have been, would have been viewed as an asset.

 

 

WWIMEMOffSite The National World War One Memorial opened in Washington, DC on April 17. The sculpture is still being finalized. (Courtesy: the U.S. WWI Centennial Commission) 

Worth the visit: Our time at the World War I Memorial in Washington, DC 

By George Whitehair and Leigh Ferrier
via the Veterans of Foreign Wars Pennsylvania Department web site

The new memorial honoring World War I soldiers is now open in Washington DC, located in Pershing Park at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest for those who were not aware. During a recent visit to our nation’s capital, we had the opportunity to visit the memorial. We were in town for meetings and collaborations to continue our push for national recognition for an American hero and WWI veteran, Dr. Frank Erdman Boston. However, we ended up doing much reflection as well.

Dr Frank E. BostonDr. Frank E. BostonThe memorial is situated in downtown D.C. and acts as a memorial to all Americans who served in World War I. The design is modern and respectful. The park is open to paying respects to those who have fought and sacrificed for this country.

An American flag flies over the memorial, and you can hear taps at 5 pm each day. As a group, we visited the memorial and watched as a bugler, dressed in authentic attire, played taps. On the street and the grounds of the memorial, people stopped and watched as the bugler played. It was a very solemn and moving experience for us, especially since we were in Washington to push awareness of Dr. Frank Boston, a WWI veteran, as we seek a third U.S. Presidential Citation.

Dr. Boston may be one of the first African American Doctors to receive two Presidential Citations from two different U.S. Presidents for his community work. Dr. Frank Boston was honored by President Harry S. Truman (1945 to 1953) when he received a "Red Cross Certificate of Appreciation, signed by President Truman and presented to Dr. Frank E. Boston, director and founder of the Lansdale Volunteer Medical Services Corps. He also received a citation from President Eisenhower (1953 to 1961) for work among the disabled. For Dr. Boston, that was his second Presidential Citation. The doctor is also the recipient of a 25-year Red Cross service certificate.

As for service to his country, Dr. Boston served as a medical officer with the 317th Engineers Regiment of the 92nd "Buffalo” Division. It was June 1918 when the Fort Des Moines officers left for France for combat against Germany. They were the 3rd Battalion, 92nd Division of the American Expeditionary Force. After completing training, Lt. Boston was assigned as a medical officer with the 317th Engineers Regiment of the 92nd Division. He served in France with the rank of Captain and ended his military service as a Major. During his tour of duty, he treated soldiers while under aerial and gas attacks. His division, the 92nd, would fight bravely across France and in the Meuse-Argonne sector.

After the war, Dr. Boston returned to begin work in Philadelphia and later settled in Lansdale’s rural community. It was there that Dr. Boston established the First Aid Emergency Squad in Lansdale, which would eventually become known as the Volunteer Medical Services Corps (VMSC). Dr. Boston also started the first hospital in the area called the Elm Terrace Hospital and subsequently became part of the Abington Jefferson Health Systems. Dr. Boston may be the first African American doctor to start both a Hospital and an Ambulance Corps, which remain viable to this day. 

 

flaunter LI 8 X9cei0 unsplashThe trench coat, a standard fashion for both men and women today, had its origins in World War I. 

How World War I Influenced The Fashion Industry 

By Annika Wells
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site 

There is a significant influence of the Great War on the importance of clothing and fashion. The fashion of that time gradually faded away, making ways for more practical clothing. This gave rise to the need for new types of dresses like lagenlook dresses, etc

At that time, women took up employment in offices, nursing, driving jobs, etc., while their husbands fought. Many of them even became militia members. They need a uniform or pants during their work, so fashion took on a more rigid military aspect. Their long dresses were reduced to skirts to make them more wearable. Her designs, which were often influenced by men's clothing, were simple and comfortable to wear. Men's clothing is tailored to the harsh conditions of combat.

The diversity of World War I uniforms demonstrates how many different countries contributed to the war effort. For example, French forces initially wore blue coats and red, whereas British troops wore khaki-colored trousers and shorter jackets. During WWI, clothing trends drastically changed. The designs became more superficial, and the lines between men's and women's fashion merged.

Before World War I, the style had taken on an entirely new appearance, with soft and bright patterns influenced by Turkey, the Middle East, and Asia. Russian clothes were first seen in hip-length tunics.

World War I and Women

Before the war, Paris was the fashion capital of the world. Due to the hardships of war and the lack of communication between the US and Europe, Innovative York rose to prominence as a fashion pioneer with new designs that blended femininity and functionality. When males went to fight in WWI, women took up roles that men had previously held. Women and girls who had previously worked as domestic servants worked in munitions factories, administration, drivers, nurses, and farms. They enlisted in the military and volunteered for groups like the Red Cross. A new image of independence and self-respect drew women away from traditional genital mutilation. For many of the vocations, uniforms, including pants, were necessary. Military-style tunic jackets, belts, and epaulets also made an appearance in fashion. Individuals embraced a more basic style of life during World War I. The Edwardian period's beautiful clothing was abandoned, and women wore less jewelry.

Fashion Shows between 1911–1918

The fashion show was a new phenomenon in 1911. Designers collaborated with specific clients to create fresh style, cut, and fabric combinations for a more customized look. Fashion shows were held during World War I to help generate cash for the war effort. Edna Woolman Chase, the editor of Vogue, organized a fashion exhibition in 1914 to showcase the work of New York designers.

Fashion in Shoes between 1914–1920

Higher hemlines exposed space between the boot's tip and the hem of a skirt during the Great War is very popular. The style detracted from the overall appearance of an ensemble. Therefore women abandoned their high-button boots in favor of shoes with a slight bend in the heel.

 

318 Field HospitalGroup photo of some 318th Field Hospital Enlisted personnel. Thomas Nelson's grandfather served with the 318th in France, and Nelson has written a book about his grandfather's experiences with the unit. 

"Americans now should always remember, without the backing of our citizens and military strength, we are vulnerable. " 

By Thomas Nelson
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site 

The book History of 318 Field Hospital came to be as a result of my father passing down my grandfather’s belongings to include uniforms, documents, and photographs. My grandfather, Dr. (Major) Hugh Thomas Nelson, Jr., who commanded the 318th Field Hospital during World War I in France. Having never met him, I became introduced through the research writing this book.

CoverI learned about his devotion to his unit, my grandmother, Edith, and the medical profession. His WWI experience from Camp Lee, Virginia, the journey across to ocean to France, the difficult trip going to the battle front, and the emergency trip home starting on Christmas Day 1917.

His dedication to be a part of the WWI effort was that of a family history starting back with his 2nd great-grandfather, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Governor of Virginia, Brigadier General Thomas Nelson, Jr., his father and grandfather, Robert William Nelson and Hugh Thomas Nelson, Sr. who both fought in the Civil War. I the midst of the War, he fought to save lives on both sides of War with his medical leadership and skills.

As the French came to the American colony aide in the American Revolution, I am sure he went to France returning the favor, this time against the Germans. Americans now should always remember, without the backing of our citizens and military strength, we are vulnerable.

The book tells the first hand account of drafting or enlisting would be soldiers from all walks of life. The journey on a German cruise ship on the long voyage to France and what soldier thought of the French mademoiselles upon arrival. The arduous journey by marching, train and convoy to the Front and finally settling is a small village to treat thousands of combat wounded coming off the battlefield to include German prisoners. The horseback ride towards Verdun and being spotted by German artillery. Finally, word from home is wife was seriously ill from the death at birth of his first child, and leaving on Christmas Day to attempt to catch a ship back to America.

The book provides details of all 105 men in the unit as well as songs sung, burial sites, orders, diaries, and numerous photos to include some I shot while visiting 318th sites. 

 

The Aftermath of Wisconsin’s Experience as the “Traitor State” 

By Leslie Bellais
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site 

As I began a new job as a curator, mainly in charge of clothing and textiles, at the Wisconsin Historical Society in the early 1990s, I had no idea that it would lead me to an abiding interest, almost a passion, regarding the history of Wisconsin’s home front during World War I. The first spark was an exhibit I did on the topic for the 75th anniversary of America’s entrance into the war, but a decade later, when the exhibit staff asked me to do a smaller version for the museum’s permanent exhibit, my interest was rekindled and I decided to return to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin and make it the focus of my Ph.D. dissertation.

Bellais and bookLeslie Bellais and the book in which her essay "Lest We Forget’: Remembering World War I in Wisconsin, 1919-1945” appeared. The drama surrounding Wisconsin during World War I probably drew me to the topic. Wisconsin became known as the “Traitor State” in the summer of 1917, an epithet it acquired in part due to its U.S. Senator Robert La Follette’s vociferous fight against American participation in the European war, its outspoken Socialist Party adherents, and its significant German population (about 30 percent of Wisconsinites at the time were German immigrants or their children).

My interest became focused on those who described themselves at the time as “militant patriots,” specifically their reaction to the perception of Wisconsinites as traitorous and their campaign to expunge that perception, at first with educational campaigns, but as their frustration against the disloyal intensified with violence and vigilantism. My dissertation, “’Traitor State’: A Crisis of Loyalty in World War I Wisconsin,” follows their story from the beginning of the war in August 1914 to the early 1920s, by which time their interest in German-American disloyalty had dissipated and La Follette had been vindicated to the point he could run for president in 1924.

My original intent had been to look beyond the 1920s to see the affect the war’s turmoil had had on the state and its residents. As a graduate student, I had taken a course on historical memory and did much of my research on the post-war years for the required paper. What I learned was that there was only a tenuous connection between the way the war was experienced and the way it was remembered. The state’s militant patriots attempted to control its memory by writing books, building monuments and memorials, and organizing Armistice Day celebrations in an effort to expunge any hint of traitorous behavior from the official record. I argue that in the end it was all for naught. Despite the constant repetition at the time of the phrase “Lest We Forget,” the reality of the false promises made during the war, such as making the world safe for democracy, led most Wisconsinites to put the war behind them, essentially to forget it. Although some of this post-war material made it into the dissertation’s epilogue, the paper did not become a separate chapter and I set aside most of this research.

When the history department at Michigan Technological University decided to hold a conference in 2018 about the war’s effect on the American Midwest as part of a centennial commemoration for World War I, this seemed a perfect place to share my unused research with others interested in the topic. A few months later the conference organizers asked me, along with other presenters, to turn their presentations into chapters for their book Home Front in the American Heartland: Local Experiences and Legacies of WWI. I jumped at the chance to improve the text of my original paper and share it with a larger audience.

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