After 100 years, soldiers are no longer segregated on Durham’s WWI memorial
By Andrew Carter
via the Stars and Stripes Newspaper web site
DURHAM, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — For 100 years, the World War I memorial in Durham served as a constant reminder of a different and more unequal era in American history. The stone pillar was both a monument to those who lost their lives, and to a time when not even their ultimate sacrifice could make men equal in the eyes of the country they died serving.
When the memorial went up in 1921, the first piece in what became a statue garden in front of the old county courthouse, it listed Durham County men who'd died in the war. The names of the white soldiers were etched into the front of the monument, facing Main Street and easily visible to those who walked past. On the back, out of sight, were the names of the Black soldiers.
In time, the monument began to symbolize a quiet fight for equality. Now, after a year of national reckoning concerning race, and in a time in which Confederate monuments throughout the South have been removed or torn down, Durham's World War I memorial tells a more complete story. In March, the city unveiled a plaque in front of the memorial, complete with historical context and a full list of the men who died in that war.
The names are organized not by race, but in alphabetical order. More than a hundred years after those men could have died together in a trench, they are listed together in a prominent place in their home county, which they once departed never to return.
"It reflected a time period that wasn't our best and brightest," Linzie Atkins said of the memorial's original form, when the names were segregated. Atkins is an officer with the Durham County Department of Veterans Services, and he assisted in the effort to update the monument. Through various records, he helped identify some soldiers whose names were not included on the memorial.
"I welcomed the project," he said, "in terms of trying to come up with some way of addressing that particular era here in Durham, and then trying to do as best we can to kind of put things in order. Because on the battlefield, the bullet doesn't care what color you are."
The updated memorial has been a long time coming, and is the culmination of an effort that dates to at least 2003. That's when the Durham City/County Appearance Commission adopted a resolution to address the segregated names on the memorial. In 2013, Eddie Davis, a former Durham city councilman, submitted that resolution to the board of county commissioners.
It took another eight years for the project to come to fruition.
"Displaying this memorial plaque will serve as a sober reminder that the time to do what is right is always 'now,'" Lois Harvin-Ravin, the county director of veterans services, said in a recent statement. "It's about more than rearranged and added names. This plaque speaks from the heart of Durham and shouts that every life is important, regardless of race."
Lost Generation: Toledo-centric documentary focuses attention on World War I
By Ahmed Elbenni
on the Toledo Blade web site via yahoo.com
"Nobody knows anything about World War I."
Behind his thick-rimmed glasses, Howard Sweet's crystal-blue eyes flit past the camera and back. Pushing against the collar of his navy-blue dress shirt is a tie strewn with American flags. The plainness of his tone belies the intensity of the recollections to come.
"Very few people know anything about the war," Sweet repeats. "It's World War II, the Korean, Vietnam War, and so on and so forth."
The Vietnam War had not been over for a decade when he spoke those words, the graininess of his visage betraying the age of the footage. Compressed in the unassuming frame is a century of time — a man in 1986 sharing the memories of a war he fought in 1918 with an audience in 2021, still speaking long after he, like every one of his brothers in arms, had fallen silent.
"We are the forgotten people."
So begins Glimpses from the Great War, a documentary film more than 30 years in the making by the man sitting across from Sweet, his face hidden behind the camera: Jim Nowak, a part-time filmmaker and full-time serviceman from Toledo. The documentary, released on December 30, 2020, is available for streaming through GlimpsesFromTheGreatWar.us.
The 53-minute film tells the story of World War I through the eyes of Pvts. Howard Sweet and William Claus, both Toledoans who served together in the Ohio National Guard's 37th "Buckeye" Division with the 135th Field Artillery from 1917 to 1919. Their journey took them from Toledo's Camp Walbridge to Alabama's Camp Sheridan, across the Atlantic Ocean and onto the shores of Liverpool, ultimately catapulting them onto the hellish front lines of the Meuse-Argonne Campaign in France — the deadliest battle the United States has ever fought.
The last surviving veteran of the World War I died in 2012, but the last stories of the war didn't die with her. Nowak's film provides a glimpse of why. While Claus passed in 1993 and Sweet in 1994, Nowak interviewed both in 1986.
That foresight came from his experience with his grandmother. He always intended to sit down with her and record for posterity the troves of family folklore stockpiled in her remarkable memory.
"I waited a little too long to get those stories," Nowak recalled. The cancer stole his grandmother's voice first, then her sight. Her memories passed with her, leaving behind a regretful Nowak painfully cognizant of the fragile wispiness of our life stories — "If they're not captured, they just disappear."
Anxiety at the prospect of losing precious oral histories and an enduring fascination with military narratives led Nowak to Sweet and Claus. He shot the interviews for their own sake, just to have them "in the can." Not until 2015, as the centennial of the First World War's conclusion loomed, did he begin working on a documentary centered on them. The scope of project quickly grew beyond his expectations, and by 2016 he was touring French battlefields and cemeteries.
‘Doughboy’ Statue Back Home at Wheeling Park
By Alan Olson
via The Intelligencer newspaper (WV) web site
WHEELING — The first time the “Spirit of the American Doughboy” statue was dedicated in Wheeling, it was an affair to rival the biggest street festivals — crowds thousands strong, music, and celebration less than two decades after the Great War.
The statue still stands 90 years later, and a smaller crowd of hundreds came to the Memorial Day service put on by Wheeling’s American Legion Post 1 at Wheeling Park. The statue was refurbished, cleaned and maintained with care so as to maintain its patina while refreshing nearly a century of wear.
The work was done by Venus Bronze Works in Detroit.
State Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, discussed the horrors of World War I, as 19th century tactics were enacted with 20th century technology, and the brutal, horrifying conditions endured by the soldiers. Weld said that while he was stationed in Germany, he witnessed how many towns have a close connection to their past, through the battles that took place, some literally underfoot. This is a connection to which most Americans can’t directly relate, but he urged those in attendance to read up on accounts of the war.
“Sometimes, what that war meant, what it signified, and the changes brought to the world are lost on Americans,” Weld said. “One of the things that, really, is striking about the war is its sheer brutality. For an entire generation of Britons and Frenchmen, it was described as ‘a reciprocating engine of blood and gore, each side advancing a few yards, then retreating across no-man’s land, laced with barbed wire, pockmarked with artillery shells, and mounds of those who died.'”
Weld went on to say how proud he was of Wheeling for housing the Doughboy statue, which honors the thousands dead in World War I, something of a rarity in comparison to memorials to other wars.
“I’ve been all over the country, and I’ve come across very few WWI memorials. This is a memorial I think the community should be very proud of. It’s a recognition that not everybody takes the time to learn about. If you remember anything from anybody’s remarks today, take some time to get a book on your Kindle, buy a book about World War I. Learn about the homefront. Learn about Americans who went to Europe as part of the American Expiditionary Force.”
Rep. Jacobs Asks Navy to Name Warship After World War I Filipino American Hero
By Chris Jennewein
via the Times of San Diego (CA) web site
Rep. Sara Jacobs has asked the Navy to name a new ship after Telesforo Trinidad, a Filipino American sailor who received the Medal of Honor in 1915.
Trinidad, who saved his crewmembers after boiler explosions aboard the armored cruiser USS San Diego, is the only Filipino American and the only Asian American sailor to receive the Medal of Honor.
A future USS Telesforo Trinidad would be the first warship named after an American of Filipino descent.
“Fireman Second Class Telesforo Trinidad was a hero and a history-maker, and as we celebrate Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I am honored to lead the effort to encourage the Navy to name a ship after him,” said Jacobs, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
She said naming of a warship after Trinidad would be a symbol of the Navy’s commitment to “diversity, equality, and inclusion during this time of national racial tensions and unwarranted violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”
Jacobs was the lead signatory of a May 26 letter to the acting Secretary of the Navy co-signed by 10 other members of Congress, including Mike Levin, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas from the San Diego delegation.
The letter recommend that Trinidad’s name be used for a future Navy surface combatant. While the specific type of warship was not mentioned, it could be one of the new Constellation-class guided-missile frigates due to start construction this summer.
Colorful Characters: John H. Buckley, a WWI war hero
By Deborah Cameron
via the Longmont Leader newpaper (CO) web site
Memorial Day is more than just a long weekend. For many, it is a time when we look back with gratitude at those who served our country’s military. While many of these heroes have come from Longmont, one of the best known is World War I pilot, John H. Buckley.
Buckley was so esteemed that The Longmont American Legion Post was named for him in 1920, while memories of WWI were fresh in the community’s collective memory. A little more than two decades later, Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora also was named for him.
Buckley was born on July 8th, 1895, and was raised in Longmont, He played both basketball and track while in high school, according to a video posted on Facebook by Buckley Air Force Base. Following commencement, he attended the University of Colorado-Boulder and was a part of the track team there. He received recognition for his athleticism in 1915, according to the campus newspaper, the Silver and Gold, which was mentioned in the Longmont the first 150 Years, by the Curator of History at the Longmont Museum, Erik Mason.
Buckley enlisted as a pilot in the Air Force a month before his college graduation. He was one of 79 Longmont residents to serve overseas and 430 to serve both at home and abroad, out of a town population of 5,500, according to the Silver and Gold newspaper. He served in the 28th Aero Squadron in France as a first Lieutenant flying reconnaissance airplanes over Germany. He enlisted with his best friend and fellow Longmont resident Albert ‘Dick’ Smith.
As part of a publicity tour for a centennial WWI commemoration exhibit, held in 2018 at the Longmont Museum, a descendant of Smith’s, talked about Buckley. She recalled during service, the pair of friends shot down eight planes between them, according to Denver7.
Buckley was killed in the air over France on September 18th, 1918. According to the American Legion Post history, “he and a fellow pilot, Kenneth Bell, were forming up in a patrol to cross enemy lines on a combat mission in low clouds … visibility was poor … both planes were seen to dive with one making a turn to avoid the other. This resulted in a collision where the left wings of each plane were torn off,” according to a post from the American Legion. The report indicated that each plane went into a death spiral until they struck ground.
At the time of his death, Buckley was 23 years old. He was buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Military Cemetery in France near the crash site, according to Honorstates.org.
Suozzi and Espaillat fight to have Harlem Hellfighters recognized by Congress for their World War I bravery
By Dean Moses
via the AMNY Newsletter (NYC) web site
More than a century ago, the members of the 369th Infantry, known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” served the country with honor during World War I — but the contributions of these Black servicemen have long been ignored.
Now, Congressmembers Tom Suozzi and Adriano Espaillat are looking to finally give the Hellfighters the recognition they deserve through legislation introduced on May 28, the Congressional Gold Medal Act.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” Congressman Suozzi, who represents northeast Queens and northern Nassau County, told amNewYork Metro.
On Memorial Day, the United States honors the fallen heroes who have served in the nation’s military. Yet one group has not received the recognition that they so duly deserve, but Suozzi and Espaillat are working with the help of the Congressional Black Caucus to make sure their service will forever be revered.
The Harlem Hellfighters were an African American infantry unit in World War I; however, in place of being honored, their heroic service was met racism and discrimination. While the US Army provided the uniforms, it was the 16th Division of the French Army that provided the unit with firearms and helmets.
The Hellfighters also fought alongside the 16th Division of the French Army because, at the time, white American soldiers were not willing to serve beside them.
Even so, the Hellfighters were the most active unit during WWI, fighting on the front lines for 191 days through brutal trench warfare.
Suozzi recalls learning about the Hellfighters’ heroism from friends and neighbors in his hometown, Glen Cove, where close to three dozen descendants of infantry members still live.
“The Harlem Hellfighters must now be properly recognized for their invaluable contribution to our country,” said Suozzi. “My hometown of Glen Cove was home to nearly three dozen Harlem Hellfighter heroes. The bravery, dedication, and sacrifices of the Harlem Hellfighters, who served 191 days under near-constant enemy fire, impacted the outcome of the first World War and in turn, American history. My legislation to award The Harlem Hellfighters a Congressional Gold Medal is a small but important first step in righting this decades-old injustice.”
While France hailed their service with the Croix de Guerre and other prestigious awards, descendants of the Harlem Hellfighters are, up until recently, fighting for their relatives to receive a Purple Heart and other medals of honor.
Their name, Hellfighters, were bestowed upon the soldiers by the Germans in reference to their tenacious combat. They were the first unit to reach the Rhine River, which aided in ending the war.
In 2019, the Willett family visited Suozzi’s office requesting his help in obtaining a Purple Heart for their relative, Harlem Hellfighter Sgt. Leander Willett, after being declined due to a lack of documentation. Willett was stabbed with a bayonet and had been the victim of a mustard gas attack, but never received recognition despite the injuries sustained while serving in WWI.
Doughboy monument rededicated at Summerville's Memorial Day ceremony
By Doug Walker
via the Northwest Georgia News web site
Chattooga County residents turned out in large numbers to mark Memorial Day early May 29.
A special ceremony was held to rededicate the Spirit of the American Doughboy monument as part of the veterans memorial in Dowdy Park in downtown Summerville.
The monument had been located in Trion for decades before it was moved to the Chattooga County Memorial Home near Pennville in 1988. It now graces the county seat.
Georgia’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden was the keynote speaker but the real heroes of the event were several Word War II veterans and a number of the children of World War I soldiers.
William E. Henderson served with the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946. He was with a unit that built submarine nets to trap Japanese submarines.
Harold “Bud” Dempsey served with the U.S. Army in Italy from 1944 to 1946.
“I was drafted,” Dempsey said “I don’t volunteer for too much.”
Dempsey was with an infantry unit attached to the Fifth Army under Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“I got over there just before the war ended,” he said.
Audrey Croft sat in a wheelchair on the front row with a framed picture of her father, J.J. Copeland, one the veterans of WWI whose name is inscribed on the Doughboy monument. Croft proudly answered questions about her father and had pictures made with Carden prior to the program.
WWI Centennial Commission Chair receives Distinguished Public Service Award from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Terry W. Hamby, the Chair of the United States World War I Centennial Commission, received the Distinguished Public Service Award from General Mark A. Milley, USA, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a ceremony May 28, 2021 at the National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC.
The award was presented in recognition of Hamby's "extraordinary contributions as the Chairman of the World War I Centennial Commission." In particular, the award highlighted Hamby's leadership of the Commission "to completion of its mission to build the United States National War Memorial in Washington, DC. "
Hamby was appointed to the Commission by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He was elected Chair on September 13, 2017.
Hamby is a Viet Nam veteran, serving in the Naval Air Wing during the conflict. After discharge he joined the US Army Reserve, retiring with 26 years of service in 1993.
Hamby is part of a family filled with a tradition of military service, with his Great Grandfather serving in the Civil War Union Army, his Grandfather was in the Army during WWI, his father served in the Army Pacific Theater during WWII, his son served in the Navy during the Persian Gulf War, and his grandson is now serving. Hamby's grand uncle was killed serving in the Army in WWI.
As a result, Mr. Hamby has dedicated his life to serving and honoring our U.S. military and is a Life Member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
During his four years of membership and leadership, Hamby led the World War I Centennial Commission through the design approval proceess and fundraising effort that ultimately earned the Commission a construction permit for the National World War I Memorial in 2019.
Construction of the Memorial began in December, 2019, and the Memorial was opened to the public on April 16, 2021 during the First Colors Ceremony.
Virginia Boy Scout Troop lends hands to help honor Americans who served in WWI
A Boy Scout troop in Richmond, Virginia, over a century old itself, lent its hands recently to help acknowledge those whose help enabled the April 16, 2021 opening of the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC honoring the 4.7 million Americans who served their nation in uniform 100 years ago.
As part of the activities after the recent Father & Son Hike, Troop 400 folded flags that were flown over the Memorial so that they could be placed into presentation cases for the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission World War I Memorial Donor and Patron Recognition Program. The flags will be given to those individuals and organizations which played essential roles in the Commission's seven-year campaign to get the memorial approved, designed, funded, and constructed.
"On April 16, 2021, the World War I Centennial Commission celebrated the Inaugural Raising of the Flag of the United States of America over the newly constructed National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC," said Meredith Carr, Deputy Director of the World War I Centennial Commission. "Directly following the ceremony, the WWI Centennial Commission flew 100 flags over the Memorial on its opening day. These flags will be presented to our major donors, Special Advisors, and champions in the Pentagon and Capitol Hill."
But before the flags could be presented, they had to be folded neatly in a prescribed manner for placement in presentation cases. 100 flags take a lot of folding. That's where Troop 400 stepped in to help.
“Troop 400's origins go back to 1913, so we predate WWI", says Scoutmaster William "Billy" H. Parrish IV, who along with his three sons is an Eagle Scout in Troop 400. “To be chosen for folding the flags for the World War I Memorial Donor and Patron Recognition Program is a special and unique honor. The Scout Oath includes doing your duty to your Country and it is fitting that as a Scout Troop we honor those who served.”
John Brancy and Peter Dugan Release The Journey Home: Live from the Kennedy Center
On May 28, 2021 Vocal Arts DC in collaboration with Avie Records released The Journey Home: Live from the Kennedy Center. Inspired by the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, the concert, which sold-out at the time, explores timeless themes of longing, loss, love, and the search for peace in the wake of catastrophe.
Musical selections range from Schubert's Der Wanderer, to Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel, as well as popular tunes and art songs by composers and poets who died in the war. The concert is performed by Grammy Award winning baritone, John Brancy, and pianist (and host of NPR’s From the Top), Peter Dugan in a 2018 live performance from the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater.
The concert was presented by Vocal Arts DC and the General Delegation of Flanders to the United States. Brancy and Dugan will also release a single and music video from their performance of, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” from the album. Upon its release, the album can be found on all major streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play.
Accompanying the album, the duo has released a film of the performance, which includes interviews with historians and military personnel. The film also explores the long overdue process of creating a national memorial to World War I in Washington, DC, including interviews with the United States WWI Centennial Commission and a rendering of what the completed monument will look like. The National World War I Memorial has just opened in Pershing Park in Washington, DC, although the bronze sculpture, which will be the largest in the northern hemisphere, will not be completed for another three years. The film was scheduled to be aired over Memorial Day Weekend on WNET’s All Arts Channel. More information about the streaming options for this performance can be found at www.journeyhomealbum.com.
Piece of World War I history returned to Wichita, honors airman
By Anna Auld
via the kwch.com television station (KS) web site
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A piece of World War I history returned to Wichita Friday, May 28: an airplane that looks exactly like the plane Lt. Erwin Bleckley flew during his last mission during the First World War. The name “Bleckley” may sound familiar as Bleckley Street in Wichita is named for the airman who died on that final mission more than a century ago.
The plan with the plane, once it’s restored, is to have it displayed at Wichita’s Eisenhower National Airport, available for thousands to see and to learn a little about the plane’s history and why it’s important to Wichita.
There was a ceremony Friday to honor Lt. Erwin Bleckley. He died at the age of 23 on Oct. 6, 1918 on a mission to drop supplies from the sky. he later received the Medal of Honor for his bravery.
“This is a very big deal for the city of Wichita to bring this airplane home,” said Col. Phill Heseltine with McConnell Air Force Base.
Lt. Bleckley was born and raised in Wichita. He later joined the 130th Field Artillery. Many say he was the first volunteer for missions. The Bleckley Airport Memorial Foundation spent thousands of hours researching and planning to bring the historic plane back to the exact specifications of the airplane Lt. Bleckley flew on his last mission. It’s on the only DH-4 plane left in the world.
Now it’s real to the people of Wichita,” said Grant Schumaker with the Bleckley Airport Memorial Foundation.
June American Legion Magazine spotlights new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC
via the American Legion web site
The June 2021 American Legion Magazine digital edition looks at the rocky road to citizenship through service, the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C., and more. The clickable digi-mag is available through MyLegion.org.
Non-members can download a PDF file of the Memorial article here.
In “Thank You, & Goodbye,” Ken Olsen talks with foreign-born veterans deported by the United States after it failed to grant them citizenship promised when they enlisted. For more than 100 years, The American Legion has fought for servicemembers and veterans to receive U.S. citizenship through military service.
•Following a live broadcast ceremony April 16, the new National World War I Memorial is open to the public. Read about the memorial’s commemorative elements, and then use the WWI Memorial Virtual Explorer and WWI Memorial Visitor Guide apps to explore the site. Plus, John D. “Jack” Monahan, The American Legion’s representative on the U.S. World War One Commission, previews “A Soldier’s Journey,” the Sabin Howard sculpture to be installed in 2024.
To Find Their Brothers: The Trek of Two Montana Nurses in WWI
By Edward E. (Ed) Saunders LTC, U.S. Army (retired) Billings, MT
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site
Note: May 6, 2021 was National Nurses Day.
In France the guns of war stopped, 11:00 a.m., November 11, 1918. The Great War ended. Its carnage unimaginable. Millions died, including eight million horses. The stench of rotting flesh the only smell. Explosions scarred the earth; rain and tears filled the craters. Birds flew endlessly looking in the emptiness for a tree, any tree, that remained upright with branches. It was as if God himself had collapsed in exhaustion pleading for His creation to stop.
Into this wretched desolation, two weary women from Montana labored through mud and blood-soaked fields to find their brothers. The two were nurses, still in their twenties, but aged beyond measure. Battle weary from tending thousands of men torn by lethal lead and razor-edged shards of steel. Their hands worn from service; their souls scarred from death.
Eula Bernice Butzerin was born in Wisconsin, 1891, and moved to Missoula, Montana, as a girl. Her father, Albert, was a railroad engineer and Montana state senator. Eula, an honor student, graduated from Missoula High School, and Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing, Chicago. She taught at present Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.
In 1918 the Kansas City Red Cross Nurses Association selected Eula as chief nurse. She joined Base Hospital 28 in Kansas City. In 1918 BH28 sailed for war in France, and began operations in Limoges.
Eula’s brother, Leroy “Roy”, a student at the University of Montana in Missoula, enlisted in the Army, May 1917. Roy was a sergeant in the 4th Engineers on the front lines. Lethal war gas killed him, 26 Sep 1918. History does not record when Eula got the news.
After the war and still in France, Eula began nearly a 300-mile trek to find her brother: Roads destroyed, railroads wrecked, destruction everywhere. She hired a French guide and together they labored northeast through battlefield after terrible battlefield.
Eula found a supply sergeant in Roy’s unit. The sergeant apparently told Eula the general location of Roy’s grave. Eula and the guide pressed on, mile after mile; asking directions from anyone in the area. In time they found Roy’s grave, marked with a stick and his dog tags hanging from it.
Eula’s thoughts are not known when she found her brother’s grave. But they were united once more. Eula never gave up on her brother. Roy is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, France. A white cross shows his home state of Montana.
Eula returned to America and received degrees from Columbia University, New York City. She was director of public health at the University of Minnesota, and professor of nursing education at the University of Chicago. Eula was later the national director of American Red Cross nursing projects, and international nursing liaison with the American Red Cross.
She never married or had children. Eula died 27 July 1978 in a retirement home near Seattle, Washington. Eula was cremated; her ashes scattered in the redwood forests of northern California. Apparently Eula does not have a memorial marker or veterans headstone anywhere.