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World War I Centennial News



55422c3f40a59.imageA circa-1920 photo shows Ryan’s Market on Brown Street in Wickford, RI. The market added pleas and reminders in its advertising during World War I to save peach pits and nut shells for Allied soldiers’ gas masks.

Peach pits, nut shells, and how they helped us win the Great War 

By G. Timothy Cranston
via the Independent Newspapers (RI) web site

A month or so ago, we took a look at something as innocuous and unassuming as the lowly bootscraper and tried to see what it might tell us about history on both a local and larger scale. This week, we tell the tale of the seemingly inconsequential peach pit and its equally unimportant companion – the discarded nut shell – to see what historic part they played in World War I.

“Peach pits and nut shells?” you say. “This Swamptown guy is going to prattle on about peach pits and nut shells. Maybe he’s a few peaches short of a bushel himself.” Scoff if you will, but these common bits of food waste saved many an American Doughboy during the Big War.

You see, the first great global conflict caused certain unexpected problems. One of the most demanding was dealing with shortages of critical raw materials. If your enemy had control of the territories where certain crucial raw materials were found or produced, well, you were soon going to either be in trouble, or get creative and come up with an alternate source of material. The rubber shortage of World War II is a classic example. The Axis powers controlled virtually the entire rubber growing world, and the Allies had to get creative. After a lot of recycling, a short period of head scratching and pondering, and a little American ingenuity…Voila! Plastics are born and the rest is history.

World War I’s problems included dealing with the fairly new and very potent threat of German gas attacks. Gas masks were the answer and the problem was their main component: activated carbon and its limited availability. Again, after some heady pondering and some serious head scratching, American and British scientists and engineers found the solution right under their noses. Fruit stones and nuts shells, burned slowing in a controlled fashion, were the perfect source for activated carbon. Now the problem was getting enough of these common everyday items together to do the job. After all, it took 200 peach pits or 2 pounds of nut shells to produce enough carbon to outfit one gas mask.

This is where smalltown America and Britain came in. All across these two nations, the call went out to save and stockpile these items. The lead was taken by none other than the International Red Cross and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Schools, churches, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts all got involved. Post offices such as the ones in Wickford, Hamilton, Davisville, Lafayette and the like were used as collection points. The big “Do Your Bit – Save the Pit” campaign was off and running.

Read more: Peach pits, nut shells and how they helped us win the Great War


Rodiguez in cemeteryDigging Into History: WWI Trench Restoration in Seicheprey, France has just returned from three weeks in Seicheprey, France. This innovative experiential learning program brought 15 Connecticut high school students entering grades 11 and 12 this fall to the site of the first German offensive against American troops. Above, Torrington student Lucas Rodriguez sits in St. Mihiel American Cemetery.

Torrington, CT student returns from WW I archaeological dig in France 

via the Torrington Register Citizen newspaper (CT) web site 

HARTFORD, CT — The expedition, “Digging Into History: WWI Trench Restoration” recently returned from three weeks in Seicheprey, France. This innovative experiential learning program brought fifteen Connecticut high school students entering grades 11 and 12 this fall to the site of the first German offensive against American troops to restore a section of trench once occupied by Connecticut’s 102d Infantry Regiment.

RodriguezLucas RodriguezAmong the participating students was Lucas Rodriguez of Torrington, who researched a Torrington soldier with the historical society to prepare for the trip. He attends the Connecticut River Academy in East Hartford.

This program, the only one of its kind in the United States, was a spectacular success and resulted in a life changing experience for students and chaperones alike.The group stayed in a nearby village during the dig, and were in France from July 6-27.

The trench restoration work, led by local military historians Phillipe Dourthe and Denis Meyer, resulted in more than 100 meters of trench restored; two wattle walls built and a shelter rebuilt. A number of artifacts were found, including an American boot, a French spoon with a bullet hole and even a Napoleon III coin dating to the 1850s.

Students cataloged the finds and documented their work through photos and video that will become part of the Connecticut State Library’s permanent archives. The Connecticut students lived and work side by side with sixteen French students from villages within the Communauté de Communes Mad et Moselle, the French administrative organization that funded this portion of the journey. Just as the Doughboys formed bonds with the village 100 years ago, the students formed lifelong friendships with their French peers as they worked to clear rubble from the trenches, relaxed at Lake Madine or performed in a talent show at the lodge in Beaumont where the group stayed.

In preparation for the trip to France, Rodriguez researched Torrington soldier John Ryan, who served in WW I, with the help of the Torrington Historical Society. A 1918 newspaper article reported Ryan to be the first Torrington soldier to be killed with the U.S. Army in France.

Rodriguez said his interest in military history stemmed in part by stories he heard about family members who served in the military, including his grandfathers, who served in the army and navy, respectively, and his father, who served in the U.S. Marines Corps.

Read more: Torrington, CT student returns from WW I archaeological dig in France


5d5e9bac32576.image After a 1,000-mile journey, Al McCormick unveils a replica of the iconic WWI Doughboy statue at the Wentworth Military Academy Museum, 1128 Main St., Lexington, Missouri. (Photo by Teresa Shaw| Richmond Daily News)

Doughboy returns to Wentworth Military Academy Museum

By Teresa Shaw
via the Richmond News newspaper (MO) web site
Additional information from the E. M. Viquesney Doughboy Database web site

After the Wentworth Military Academy and College closed in 2017, after a court battle between the bank and the academy, and after academy alumni agree to place the original statue at the Lafayette County Courthouse, a replica of the “Spirit of the American Doughboy” was unveiled on August 20 at the Wentworth Military Academy Museum, 1128 Main St. in Lexington, MO.

“This is a $20,000, state-of-the-art replica of our Doughboy,” museum Chairman George Hittner said. “It is light enough to be on these very historic floors.”

The replica statue was constructed by computer-scanning and scaling up from one of the miniature foot-tall statuettes (which look a little different from the actual outdoor sculptures) and 3D-printed life-size in Styrofoam for a traveling WWI exhibit that began in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society.

After the exhibit ended in August of 2019, the replica needed a new home, or else it, along with the rest of the exhibit, would have ended up being dismantled and destroyed. The publishers of the E. M. Viquesney Doughboy Database suggested the Wentworth Military Academy Museum in Lexington, Missouri as a good candidate to receive the statue. Museum Chairman George Hittner of the Houston, TX, area was helpful in coordinating the fundraising efforts to pay the shipping costs of the statue from its last location in Austin.

Read more: Doughboy returns to Wentworth Military Academy Museum


Hokah Public Library presents "Minnesota in the Great War" August 29 

via The Caledonia Argus (MN) web site

5d5d4c57e4ef4.imagePresenter Arn Kind in authentic Doughboy attire.Presenter Mr. Arn Kind, a teacher of 42 years, will come in the authentic uniform of an American Doughboy on August 29 to teach attendees at the Hokah, MN Public Library about “the war to end all wars.”

2017 was the 100th anniversary of the America’s entry into the Great War, now known as World War I and 2018 was the centennial of the end of that war. To commemorate it, Historical Experiences presents MINNESOTA IN THE GREAT WAR, an exciting living history program that will entertain us while we learn all about the first modern war.

This presentation is a wonderful way to commemorate the contributions and sacrifices made by Minnesotans during World War I. The Great War is often called the forgotten war because people know so little about it as compared to World War 2 and America’s other conflicts.

MINNESOTA IN THE GREAT WAR will enlighten us and cause us to come away from the program realizing what an epic event it was and how it set the stage for many important events that would follow in the 20th and 21st century.

This multimedia presentation will use power-point, video, music, drama, role-playing and living history experiences, to give us an understanding of this turbulent time and make history come alive for us.

Read more: Hokah Public Library presents Minnesota in the Great War August 29


Lectures bring WWI exhibition at Knights of Columbus Museum to close 

By Peter Sonski
via the Knights of Columbus Museum (CT) web site

Two lectures on September 7 at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, CT  will be the final events in the museum’s exhibition World War I: Beyond the Front Lines, which concludes September 8.

At 11:00a.m. on the 7th, War Within War: The 1918 Influenza in America will examine the impact of the so-called "Spanish Flu" on America and the world.  At 2:00 p.m. on the 7th, The Red Baron & Military Aviation Developments in World War I will examine a key figure in the rise and impact of military aviation spawned by the world conflict. Free parking and admission is offered to both events.

Exhibit posterThe early years of the 20th century were a time of growing tension in the United States and abroad. 1914 marked the first time that a single military conflict would have significant impact on a global scale. Though U.S. involvement in the war in 1917 would tip the balance if favor of the Allied Powers and bring fighting to an end, still another watershed event was forming in Western Europe. An influenza outbreak, aided by the effects of war, spread rapidly and extensively to other world regions.

The disease, commonly known as “Spanish Flu,” added to the misery America felt as a result of war casualties, and brought added hardship at a time when people sought to reclaim life as they knew it before international warfare. Simon Perlsweig, an author and historical researcher, will discuss the bearing of the nation that was, at once, celebrating victory “over there” while mourning losses at home.

Perlsweig recently published Front Porches to Front Lines, a historical memoir of World War I and the concurrent influenza epidemic, providing an account of his maternal great-grandparents, who lived in Springfield, Vermont, during the Great War.

Read more: Lectures bring WWI exhibition at Knights of Columbus Museum to close


Spectrum News 1 snipKentucky soldier Clifford Fralick in France during World War I. Fralick's dog tag was recently discovered and returned to his family, 100 years after the war ended.. 

WWI Dog Tag Discovered in France Returned to Soldier's Family in Louisville 

By Jonathon Gregg
via the Spectrum News 1 television station (KY) web site

CRESTWOOD, KY — At first Larry Fralick thought it was a scam call. A man with a French accent on the other end of the line was trying to convince him he found something that belonged to his family.

Turns out he was telling the truth. "He sent us a picture of the metal detector he used to find it, Fralick tells Spectrum News 1. Fralick's grandfather, Clifford, spent his entire life in Louisville apart from his service in World War I. Thankfully, the Army private returned home from the Great War in 1917.

According to his grandson, Larry, the war veteran didn't share too many stories about his time fighting in France.

"Just day after day going from foxhole to foxhole and fighting and how much it rained and how muddy it was." are the details Larry Fralick recalls.

Mr. Olivier Bena, the mysterious caller, convinced Clifford's descendants that the soldier left something behind.

“I wish you good reception and thank you for having responded favorably to this approach which was really close to my heart. Best Regards, Oliver Bena" the man wrote in a letter to the Fralicks along with a now prized possession.

Read more: WWI Dog Tag Discovered in France Returned to Soldier's Family in Louisville


Minnesota Family Reunited with WWI Dog Tag After More than 80 Years 

By Ryan Juntti
via the WDIO television station (MN) web site

Alan Carpenter often looks for buried artifacts in Hibbing's Cobb Cook Park using his metal detector. It's something he does for fun, but he and his partner Jim Kochevar also return lost items.

Last spring, Carpenter made his most important discovery, a World War I dog tag found buried under at least 6 inches of frost.

"At first I didn't know what it was, I thought it was some kind of token or something until I got home and rinsed it off, then I seen the United States Marine Corps on it," said Carpenter.

With Kochevar's help, this past Memorial Day he figured out the dog tag belonged to Anton Bernhardt, a World War I veteran, and former Hibbing police officer.

Then it was time to track down a family member who they could return it to. After a year of looking, they found Joseph Martin, Anton's great nephew.

"To find something like this after being lost for 80 years that's just unbelievable," said Martin.

And on August 19 at Maple Hill Cemetery in Hibbing where Anton is buried, Martin was given an American flag with the dog tag on top.

"It means a lot to be able to return it to a family member that deserves it. Anything found that we find, if a ring has a name in it, or something, we always return it to the owner. It makes you feel good," said Carpenter.

Read more: Family Reunited with WWI Dog Tag After More than 80 Years


SLO early1900sEmersonSchoolMrs. Nicholson’s class at Emerson School in San Luis Obispo. About 35 students pose for a photo in an early 20th century classroom, in a room full of blackboards and folding desks.

World War I pins and their finest overalls:
Back to school circa 1918 in San Luis Obispo was a lot different 

By David Middlecamp
via the San Luis Obispo Tribune newspaper (CA) web site

It is the end of August, and the days are getting longer — if you are a student.

I remember the shock when endless summer was over and bicycling to the pool was replaced with bicycling to school.

Teachers usually find a way to get a room full of random energy all working in the same direction. In the undated photo above, the only information provided on the teacher bringing this room together is Miss or Mrs. Nicholson, Emerson school teacher.

It was picture day, for what appears to be about a fifth-grade class of 35 students. Many of the boys are wearing ties, two in their best clean overalls.

All of the students sit with hands folded. Many of the girls have giant ribbons in their hair. Boys have their hair brushed back out of their eyes.

At least one boy couldn’t hold still for the long exposure, his face blurred.

Several of the children are wearing buttons with a cross on them; perhaps it was a fundraiser for the Red Cross during World War I which makes me guess the photo is circa 1918.

Read more: WWI pins and their finest overalls: Back to school circa 1918 in San Luis Obispo was a lot...

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

WWI Now: Daniel Basta on the "Ghost Fleet" of Mallows Bay    

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In August 19th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 136, host Theo Mayer interviewed Daniel J. Basta, Doughboy Foundation board member and accomplished scientist and diver. Mr. Basta shed light on the Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay, an armada of ships scuttled by the U.S. government in Maryland after the war. Today Mallows Bay is a National Marine Sanctuary, a protected area for wildlife and human recreation- and something that connects contemporary Americans to the Great War. Read on to discover this unique and powerful outdoor destination. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity: 

Daniel BastaDaniel J. Basta is the former director of of NOAA's Office of National Marine SanctuariesTheo Mayer: When America entered the war in 1917, the country was totally unprepared for prosecuting an overseas war at scale. Even before the US joined the war, the Shipping Act of 1916, signed by President Wilson, created a five member United States Shipping Board, the USSB, to create a subsidiary corporation to build ships. In fact, the US effectively nationalized the ship building industry. We needed tonnage fast. So under the Ship Building Board in 1917, they started to mass produce a fleet of cheap, small wooden steamers at about 3000 tons each, rather than larger, state-of-the-art, oil burning steel ships at 8000 tons. Well, that nationalized push to build ships and get our boys material over there did get a lot of ships built fast, but they weren't designed or built for the long term. So having served their purpose, or not even put into service, over 200 of them were scuttled and sunk right after the war.

A lot of this happened in a small bay on the Maryland side of the Potomac River in Charles County, Maryland. With the scuttled ships protruding partially out of the water, the area became known as the Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay. It's considered the largest shipwreck graveyard in the Western Hemisphere, and has recently been designated as one of the most interesting National Marine Sanctuaries in the United States. Now this designation was the result of a large number of people who felt passionately that this heritage site should be a National Marine Sanctuary, including our next guest. Daniel J. Basta is a board member of the Doughboy Foundation and has also enjoyed a colorful and illustrious career, including as the Director of the National Marine Sanctuary System, which is within NOAA, the government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Dan, welcome to the podcast.

Dan Basta: I'm happy to be here, Theo.

Read more: Podcast Article - Ghost Fleet

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

War in the Sky: Mark Wilkins on Pilots and PTSD   

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In August 12th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 135, (originally aired in Episode 66) we heard from writer and historian Mark Wilkins on the high incidence of shell shock, or PTSD, among WWI pilots. Held up as fearless and daring, these men cracked underneath the extraordinary danger of their occupation. In his research Wilkins uncovered many letters written by the pilots themselves that illustrate the toll aerial combat took on their psyches. Read on to learn more about PTSD and the effect it had on WWI pilots, in their own words. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity: wilkins 2

Mark Wilkins (far left)

Theo Mayer: Shell shock is a term that was first heard in World War I and was often treated as cowardice or even treason. It was really the equivalent of what we recognize today as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. We normally think of shell shock as an infliction for those affected by horrendous barrages of artillery fire and machine guns on the battlefields and in the trenches. It turns out that pilots apparently suffered greatly from PTSD. Here is Mark Wilkins, historian, writer, museum professional, and lecturer. Welcome to the podcast, Mark.

Mark Wilkins: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Theo Mayer: Mark, to start with how did you get the trove of letters you used for your research?

Mark Wilkins: Well, research as you know, is a treasure hunt. It's intuitive, and sometimes information is found in the most unlikely places. That being said, there's some recent books that have collections of pilots' letters. University and national archives are another great source as are aviation museums or war museums like the Imperial War Museum in London. Local historical societies, sometimes relatives of the pilots, also online newspaper and periodical archives are another fabulous source for information.

Read more: Podcast Article - Mark Wilkins Interview


military convoy 2Retired Army Sgt. Mark Ounan drives his restored 1918 Army staff car as Military Vehicle Preservation Association’s convoy of historic military vehicles made its way through northwest Ohio. Ounan noted that “Five of these cars went on the original convoy in 1919, and Eisenhower was on that trip with the Army so he probably rode in one just like it.” (Photo via the web site)

MVPA 2019 100th Anniversary Transcontinental Motor Convoy in Iowa this week

By Mary Seely
via the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce (IA) web site 

The Military Vehicle Preservation Association continues its 100th Anniversary Transcontinental Motor Convoy this week, including a stop in Clinton, IA on August 22. The convoy of World War I and II military vehicles will be parked up on the riverfront between the Clinton Riverview Pool and the NelsonCorp Baseball Field from 2p-3:30p. Iowans can check out as many as 70 historic military vehicles as they retrace the route of the original 1919 US Army's Transcontinental Motor Convoy. 

The Military Vehicles are retracing the original 1919 US Army’s Transcontinental Motor Convoy route – along the famed Lincoln Highway. The MVPA Convoy launched from Washington, DC on 11 August, 2019 and will arrive in San Francisco, CA some 37 days later, on 14 September, 2019. The convoy made it's way west from the MVPA 44th Annual International Convention in York, PA on Saturday 10 August.

Over 50 Historic Military Vehiclesare expected to travel the entire 3,200+ mile coast-to-coast route with over 50 more vehicles joining in to drive a portion of the trip.

The Convoy will follow the original Lincoln Highway route as closely as possible. The route crosses all or part of 11 states from Washington, DC to San Francisco, joining the Lincoln Highway at Gettysburg, PA. The route begins on the lowlands of the eastern seaboard, traverses the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, travels the lush farmlands of the Midwest, crosses the high plains, dips into the Great Salt Lake Basin in Utah, crosses the Nevada Desert, climbs the Sierra Nevada and descends to Lake Tahoe, and ends in the splendor of California and the San Francisco Bay area.

This is a Convoy of Historic Military Vehicles – of all eras, from WWI through to current-issue military vehicles. The vehicle roster currently includes cargo trucks, through to Harley Davidson WLA motorcycles, staff cars and jeeps to later model M913 5-ton cargo trucks. The Convoy daily stopping points will be many of the same locations as the 1919 Convoy.

Read more: MVPA 2019 100th Anniversary Transcontinental Motor Convoy in Iowa this week


084 Area S 84The Area S Bungalow Section of Nitro, West Virginia, August 19, 1918. The town was home to a factory that helped supply the U.S. Army with gun powder during World War I.

What’s in a Name: The Definition of a ‘Boom’ Town 

By Eric Douglas
via the West Virginia Public Broadcasting web site

There’s a town in Kanawha County, West Virginia where some locals say living there is a "blast."

As part of our occasional series, "What’s in a Name," we take a look at the history and folklore of the names of Appalachian places. The town in question, Nitro, West Virginia, grew out of the explosives industry and was home to a factory that helped supply the U.S. Army with gun powder during World War I. Ken Thompson volunteers at the World War I museum in the city of Nitro.

According to Thompson, Nitro was established in 1917 by the federal government to manufacture nitrocellulose, a highly flammable compound formed by bringing cellulose from trees or plants into contact with it to nitric acid. It is also known as “guncotton,” because of its explosive characteristics.

“It was to support the war effort for WWI," he explained. "A lot of people were under the impression it was nitroglycerin. It was not. It was nitrocellulose. That was added to the other components to make the gunpowder smokeless."

It took the federal government about 11 months to build the town from 1917 to 1918, and approximately 100,000 people representing 41 nations participated.

Nitro's construction coincided with one of the coldest winters in recorded history, Thompson said.

One of the town's builders would go on to become famous: Clark Gable.

Read more: What’s in a Name: The Definition of a ‘Boom’ Town


John Glass Square dedicationMembers of the Simeon L. Nickerson American Legion Post 64 in Middleboro and a number of other local veterans and town officials gathered at Glass Square in downtown Middleboro last Thursday to dedicate a new sign memorializing the late John F. Glass, Jr,. who was the last service man from Middleboro to be killed in action in World War I. The spot has long been known as Everett Square, but Post 64Commander Bob Lessard and a number of other local veterans led a decade-long push to have the square rededicated in keeping with a 1929 Town Meeting vote which established he spot as Glass Square.  

Middleboro, MA town square renamed for WWI soldier 

By Jon Halglof, Editor, Middleboro Gazette
via the South Coast Today .com (MA) web site

MIDDLEBORO — The somewhat disorienting five-way intersection located at the top of Center Street in downtown Middleboro known locally as Everett Square is due to be redesigned in 2020, but before that, Everett Square had to be renamed, or better yet, reestablished, as John F. Glass, Jr. Square, as it was always supposed to be.

That happened with little or no resistance from those partial to the name “Everett Square,” which in all likelihood was named so for no other reason than its proximity to Everett Street, one of the five intersecting streets converging at the Square — along with Station St., High St., Center Ave and the aforementioned Center St.

So now, John Glass Square is again — and as it has been since it was decided so in 1929 — John Glass Square, and John Glass Square is due to be redesigned in 2020.

Well, that redesign got an early start last Thursday with the unveiling and dedication of a new sign recognizing the square as John F. Glass, Jr. Square, and for Bob Lessard, current Commander of American Legion Post 64 in Middleboro, it’s a small gesture that will go a long way in correcting a bit of local history and acknowledging, for all time, a Middleboro soldier who paid the ultimate price while serving his country.

“He died October 26, and the war ended Nov. 11. So, the poor guy got killed just a couple of weeks before the war ended,” Lessard said, relaying the story of PFC John F. Glass, Jr at the dedication.

PFC Glass was the last serviceman from Middleboro to be killed in action in World War I. At the time of his death, he was serving with the Yankee Division’s 101st Infantry, Company D. His remains did not make it home to Middleboro, and he is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France.

Lessard, who’s been leading the call for the correction for the better part of a decade, says Middleboro American Legion Post 64 membership petitioned to have the square memorialized in the name of John F. Glass, Jr. back in 1929. The spot was dedicated and took the name of John F. Glass, Jr. Square on May 30, 1929, part of that year’s Memorial Day services, and later that spring, on June 18, the request to make it official and put it on the books was approved by Town Meeting voters.

Read more: Middleboro, MA town square renamed for WWI soldier

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