WFA East Coast to Hold Spring 2017 Symposium

The Western Front Association East Coast Branch (USA) will hold its Spring 2017 Symposium in World War I History at the historic Maryland War Memorial Building on Saturday June 17, 2017.

This exciting day-long event will feature speakers presenting on a variety of WW1 history topics including:

  • American journalists and World War I
  • French WWI Battlefields of the Chemin Des Dames
  • American Nurses of Johns Hopkins Base Hospital 18
  • British Commonwealth WW1 War Graves in the US
  • The Belgian Armored Expeditionary Corps on the Eastern Front 1916-18

 

The Symposium will also feature displays of WW1 memorabilia, organizational networking, refreshments, door prizes and a sale of new and used/rare WW1 history books

For full details see the flyer and registration form: Spring 2017 Flyer

WFA East Coast Chairman Highlights Fort George G. Meade Legacy on the Eve of American Centennial

On Veterans’s Day 2016, Western Front Association East Coast Branch Chairman Paul Cora was invited to speak at the US Army’s Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, to honor the heritage of the Post in the context of America’s entry into World War I.  Mr. Cora’s remarks, below, sought to place into context the experience of the State of Maryland and Fort Meade as a microcosm of the American experience in World War I.

Military historian Paul Cora speaks about the role Ft. Meade played in World War I and subsequent wars.

WFA East Coast Chairman Paul Cora speaks about the role Ft. Meade played in World War I.

“One hundred years ago, when this was still farmland, America was neutral and deeply divided on the issue of the European war which in two years had grown into a world war. An agricultural and industrial powerhouse, America was also very much a land of immigrants. For those Americans of German descent – which after decades of steady immigration was the single largest ethnic identity in the country – the issues of American neutrality and the battle for public opinion were especially troubling. This time 100 years ago, however, it was not necessarily unpatriotic to express pride in one’s German heritage, or even to defend the cause of Germany and Austria-Hungary in the European war. Indeed, just up the road in Baltimore, the vibrant German American community there was still basking in the public celebrations of the arrival of the merchant submarine DEUTSCHLAND which docked in Baltimore on its maiden voyage that summer. All this, however, was shortly due to change.

In February 1917, the German High Command elected to roll the dice and risk bringing the neutral United States into the war through resuming the practice of unrestricted submarine warfare on the high seas – that is, the sinking, without warning, of all ships, even those flying the flag of a neutral country, suspected of carrying war materials to Britain and France. By their calculations, the millions of men and millions of tons of war material that America would provide to the Allies wouldn’t matter – Britain would be starved into submission, France would capitulate, and the war would be over before America could even mobilize.

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Once the United States declared War in April 1917, German-Americans were forced to subordinate their feelings of ethnic pride, to a new and emerging sense of patriotic national identity. “Germany was the land of our ancestors”, wrote one Baltimore German-American at the time, “but America is the land of our children.” And so the forging of a unified national identity from many ethnic backgrounds is in many ways a product of World War I, just as America’s emergence as a World Power resulted from our role in “The War to End All Wars” and its aftermath.

The genesis of what would be Camp Meade beginning in the summer of 1917, was part of a massive mobilization unprecedented in American history – within 18 months, some two million American troops of the AEF – the American Expeditionary Forces – had arrived in France – some 400,000 of these passing through Camp Meade in the process.

For Britain and France, the arrival of millions of American Doughboys beginning in 1918 offered boundless opportunities to replenish their decimated ranks – parcel out the Yank battalions among the British and French armies desperately reeling under the weight of the of the latest German offensive, they argued. But this was not to be the case – in a contest of wills, emerging American nationalism won out and an independent American army would be formed in France under General John “Blackjack” Pershing.

General John J. Pershing

General John J. Pershing

For Americans of color, the unprecedented mobilization of World War I provided a catalyst for advancing the cause of equal citizenship. Against the initial plans of the War Department in 1917, African American leaders insisted that conscription should apply to blacks as well as whites, and so as America mobilized in World War I, African American males were drafted into the armed forces.   While serving in segregated units, many of which were relegated to the services of supply – loading and off-loading cargo in seaports and building roads and railroads in France – two African-American infantry divisions were deployed to Europe where they fought with distinction under French command. Elements of one of these – the 93rd Division, trained here at Camp Meade before embarking for France.

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The creation of the American Expeditionary Forces in 1917-18 involved not only a nucleus of regular troops, but the dramatic expansion of the army through the federalization of the National Guard, and the creation of national army divisions made up of conscripted men. Ultimately the AEF’s ranks numbered 8 regular army divisions, 17 National Guard, and 18 National Army divisions.

Maryland can be seen a microcosm of the national experience in World War I. While Camp Meade was busy training new recruits in the use of rifle, bayonet and gas mask, the State’s first combat unit to arrive in France was Maryland’s 117th Trench Mortar Battery. Originally a company of the Coast Artillery, the 117th was the smallest Maryland unit to see action numbering just 185 officers and men. They were assigned to the 42nd “Rainbow” Division made up of National Guard troops from 26 states and the District of Columbia, and they arrived in France in on October 31, 1917, less than 7 months after the American declaration of war. The men of the 117th were outfitted with the French 58mm trench mortar and trained to provide front-line fire support to the Rainbow division’s two infantry Brigades, and it was while carrying out this role Private Edgar Potts was killed by German counter battery fire on March 9, 1918 – the first Maryland soldier to be killed in World War I. Seeing action in Champagne-Marne operation, Aine-Marne sector, the Battle of St. Mihiel, and finally the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the 117th was Maryland’s smallest but longest-serving combat unit with 172 days in the Front Line by the time of the Armistice.

While Edgar Potts’ death with the 117th Trench Mortar Battery marked him as the first Maryland soldier to fall, another Marylander serving with the regular army was destined to be the State’s first officer to be killed in Action. Baltimorean 1st LT George Buchanan Redwood of the 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, “The Big Red One” had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery in leading a patrol into German front lines on March 28, 1918, capturing several valuable prisoners for interrogation. After this feat, Redwood, was promoted to Regimental Intelligence Officer and remained so until his death on May 28 at the battle of Cantigny. There, during the US Army’s first offensive operation of the war, Lt. Redwood moved forward alone under fire to observe and sketch German positions and was mortally wounded before returning with the vital intelligence. He was posthumously awarded a second DSC, and later the City council voted to rename Baltimore’s German Street “Redwood Street” in his honor.

Maryland’s contribution to the 29th Infantry Division, made up of National Guard troops from Maryland and Virginia, should not be overlooked. The Division’s 115th Infantry, created from the Maryland 1st, 4th and 5th militia regiments, saw bloody fighting in the Argonne Forest, where in 23 days of combat, the Division sustained nearly 40% casualties.

Among those troops which passed through Camp Meade, I can think of none more fitting to speak of today than those of the 313th and 314th Infantry regiments which made up the 157th Infantry Bridge, 79th Infantry Division.   The 313th was made up of so many natives of Baltimore, that the regiment would be known as “Baltimore’s Own,”; while it sister regiment 314th Infantry drew men conscripted not only from Maryland, but many more from Eastern Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The wartime experiences of these two regiments brigaded together would be closely shared.

According to one observer, when the men of the 313th and 314th regiments arrived here in September 1917, Camp Meade “resembled perhaps nothing so much as a western mining camp in full blast; workmen here , there and everywhere with the whole world resounding to the buzz of saws and clang of hammers as barracks after barracks sprang into being.” As feverish as the actual completion of the camp seemed, the pace of the soldiers training was no less feverish: learning to drill, learning to shoot, to dig trenches, don gas masks and charge with bayonets.

When the men of the 313th and 314th arrived in France on July 16, 1918, they were among more than 300,000 American Doughboys who set foot in Europe that month alone – the greatest monthly total of the war – “Lafayette, we are here” was a popular saying of the day. For the American Expeditionary Forces, everything was focused on preparing for the coming “Big Push” against the German lines.

That “Big Push” would come in September in what was destined to be known as the battle of the Meuse-Argonne – the largest All-American offensive of the war.

On September 25, 1918, the 79th Division went “over the top” to attack the German front line at the start of the great battle. Among their first objectives was a fortified ridge atop which sat the ruins of an ancient village called Montfaucon – a fortress position which the Germans had occupied and improved for over four years. There from within the remains of the medieval church was a reinforced observation post named after the German Crown Prince Friedreich Wilhelm; from this and from this vantage point observe for miles into the allied lines, calling down deadly artillery fire on every approach route.

After two days of heavy fighting, the 313th Infantry, supported by the 314th on its right, fought its way up the fortified ridge, through barbed wire entanglements , entrenched machine guns and murderous artillery to capture the heights on September 27, 1918.

The ruins of Montfaucon village, France, today.

The ruins of Montfaucon village, France, today.

So astonished was French Premier Clemenceau, when he heard the news that Montfaucon had fallen to the Americans, he immediately set off for the front to view the legendary section of the German line with its hated observation post which after four years was now in Allied hands.

Today, atop the ridge of Montfaucon, stands one of the most impressive American monuments on the Western Front with its 200-foot memorial tower dedicated to the memory of the 79th Division.

Almost within the shadow of Montfaucon, by the nearby village of Romagne, on ground personally selected by General Pershing, is the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, the largest in all Europe and the final resting place for more than 14,000 Doughboys of the AEF including so many men of the 79th Division killed fighting in the Meuse Argonne. This ground has been granted to the United States by France in perpetuity – forever – in recognition of the sacrifice of American troops in the liberation of France in World War I.

For the men of the 313th and 314th Infantry, the fighting at Montfaucon was not the end, but rather the beginning of their Meuse-Argonne experience. Throughout the month of October and into early November , they continued the bloody advance through the Argonne as the German Army stubbornly withdrew.

In a final Maryland chapter of the Great War, on the day that the Armistice took effect – November 11, 1918, Private Henry Gunther of the 313th would be killed while attempting to capture a German machine gun position at 10:59 hours – one minute before the cease fire ending the war took effect. Ironically, Gunther was an American of German ancestry. Today Private Henry Gunther of the 313th Infantry Regiment, 157th Infantry Brigade, 79th Division – Private Henry Gunther of Baltimore, Maryland who trained here at Camp Meade, is recognized as the last soldier to be killed in combat in all of World War I.

Early on in the 1920s, American writers and historians largely stopped writing about the war, to some extent this was a result of disillusionment with the peace treaty of Versailles, and with political battles at home over the ratification of the treaty with its League of Nations clause so dearly championed by President Woodrow Wilson. By contrast, British writers and historians never stopped writing about the First World War, and so the narrative which we as Americans inherited has been largely that of our British allies – a narrative in which the American contribution was nearly an afterthought when the war was drawing to a conclusion already. Historians from all backgrounds today, however, agree that the American contribution in the war’s final Hundred Days Offensive in which Allied armies under French Marshal Ferdinand Foche maintained continuous pressure along the front, was vital in bringing the war to an end when it did.

We today are familiar with the term “The Greatest Generation” which has often and rightfully been applied to our World War II veterans. In his book THE LAST OF THE DOUGHBOYS author Richard Rubin described the American veterans of World War One as the “generation which raised the ‘Greatest Generation’.”   What a POWERFUL statement this is about our World War 1 veterans. Rubin further went on to describe the unique character of the last living American veterans of World War I as “nineteenth century men and women, living in the 21st Century self-reliant, humble and stoic; never complaining, still marveling at the immensity of the war they helped to win.”

The American veterans of World War One are all gone now. In my own lifetime, I was fortunate enough to have met and talked with a handful of them, but now their memory will exist only in the histories and memorials that are left behind.

The men of the 314th Infantry in particular never forgot what they and their comrades in the 79th Division went through in the World War. The log-cabin style Officers Mess, built by the men of the regiment during their time here at Camp Meade, has survived to the present day after being purchased from the government and moved to Valley Forge, PA in 1922. There it became the repository of their World War One mementoes, souvenirs and artifacts and a place where they could come together to remember.   Cherished, handed down from generation to generation among their descendents, the 314th Infantry Cabin and its collection of artifacts represents a unique and otherwise unattainable means of connecting with the now gone Doughboys of World War I.

I am delighted by the idea that this time next year, on the eve of Veterans Day 2017, when we are truly in the midst of America’s WWI centennial, visitors to the 314th Infantry Memorial Cabin, reassembled just over there within the fenced area, will be able to feel and experience a connection with the Doughboys of World War I inside a structure built by their own hands 100 years ago. And they will likewise be able to interpret and understand their experiences by viewing and appreciating the irreplaceable collection of artifacts displayed at the Fort Meade Museum – occupying a vital place in the story of Fort Meade, and our country.”

314th Infantry AEF Memorial Cabin as it appeared at Valley Forge from 1922 until 2012.

314th Infantry AEF Memorial Cabin as it appeared at Valley Forge from 1922 until 2012.

For more information on the 314th Infantry AEF Memorial Cabin, visithttp://www.314th.org/

Grass Roots Remembrance is Key

As was recently estimated by Mark Levitch, creator of the World War 1 Memorial Inventory Project, there may be as many as 10,000 WW1 monuments in various forms throughout the United States. There was not a single national memorial to the war dedicated in their lifetime, yet America’s Doughboy generation did leave their mark on our landscape; the memorials they left behind were often small, local reminders of their service and sacrifice in “The World War” and perhaps that is how they wanted it. As author Richard Rubin described in his book THE LAST OF THE DOUGHBOYS, America’s World War I veterans were “self-reliant, humble and stoic; never complaining, still marveling at the immensity of the war they helped win” and this perspective may be a key to understanding the predominantly local and often low-key character of American monuments to “The War to End All Wars.”

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For the past several years it has been my privilege to be able to attend a long-standing WW1 memorial service in southeast Pennsylvania. Each Memorial Day Weekend, the Descendants and Friends of the 314th Infantry, AEF, gather at Valley Forge’s Washington Memorial Chapel to remember the achievements and sacrifices of this regiment of the 79th Infantry Division in World War I. Essentially a local event (the men of the 314th were predominantly from southeast Pennsylvania and Delaware), the 314th Infantry Memorial Service, like many of our WW1 monuments, is both simple and poignant, and in many ways it retains the spirit of America’s WW1 generation.

The 314th Infantry Memorial Cabin as it stood on the grounds of the Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge.

The 314th Infantry Memorial Cabin as it stood on the grounds of the Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge.

The site of the 314th Memorial Service was not chosen at random – for some 90 years, the Chapel grounds contained the 314th Infantry Cabin, a log structure which had originally been built at Camp Meade, Maryland in 1917 by the men of the regiment. After the war the cabin was purchased by the veterans, dismantled and reassembled at Valley Forge. Over the generations, the cabin served as the repository for the memorabilia, war trophies, and Doughboy memories of the 314th Infantry, the responsibility for which was handed down through the children and grandchildren of the 314th’s WW1 veterans. Today, the historic cabin awaits reassembly at Fort Meade in time for the post’s World War 1 centennial observances, although the descendants and friends of the 314th continue to gather each year in Valley Forge to remember. As Nancy Schaff, President of the 314th Infantry Descendants and Friends, observed in her welcoming remarks at the start of the service, the 2015 gathering was the 93rd annual service in honor of the 314th.

The 2015 service was presided over by the Reverend Roy Almquist, Rector of the Washington Memorial Chapel. Following the presentation of Colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem, Rev. Almquist offered prayers of remembrance for the men of the regiment before calling on 314th Descendants & Friends President Nancy Schaff , who welcomed the nearly 100 attendees and gave a brief update on the status of the cabin, as well as her work with the US World War One Centennial Commission and other partnering organizations such as The Western Front Association East Coast Branch and Saving Hallowed Ground.

COL Douglas Mastriano, PhD, speaks at the 2015 Memorial Service to the 314th Infantry, AEF.

COL Douglas Mastriano, PhD, speaks at the 2015 Memorial Service to the 314th Infantry, AEF.

The principal speaker at the service was COL Douglas Mastriano, PhD, of the US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. COL Mastriano is the author of Alvin York: a New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne and is also responsible for researching and creating a five-kilometer historic trail in France’s Argonne Forest which interprets York’s Medal of Honor exploits. In his remarks, COL Mastriano detailed Alvin York’s humble beginnings and early life struggles prior to World War I, comparing him with the Civil War’s Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who rose from obscurity to be the “Hero of Little Roundtop” on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Citing the modest beginnings of both men, COL Mastriano offered them as examples of what all Americans are capable of. In his remarks, he further described Corporal York’s role in capturing some 132 German prisoners on October 8, 1918, bringing home to the Valley Forge attendees a fresh look at the man within the context of America’s experience of World War I.

Following the conclusion of the service, attendees participated in the folding of a 20’X30’ United States’ Flag sponsored by the “Saving Hallowed Ground” project, before adjourning to the Patriot’s Hall for a light reception.

The flag folding activity outside the Washington Memorial Chapel, following the 314th Memorial Service.

The flag folding activity outside the Washington Memorial Chapel, following the 314th Memorial Service.

The remarkable cross-generational effort encompassing the 314th Infantry Memorial Service, the cabin and the artifact collection may be unique among WW1 memorial efforts in the United States. For nearly 100 years each Memorial Day Weekend, those with a connection to the Regiment have paused from their lives and gathered at Valley Forge to remember. Without a doubt the historic 314th cabin and its artifact collection have been the key to keeping the veterans and their descendants connected over the long span of time. As America’s WW1 centennial years approach, the prospect of the reappearance of the cabin as an historic structure at Fort George G. Meade seems particularly appropriate – in a sense, this structure which was preserved by motivated individuals acting on a local level will become an object of national celebration.

US Mint Announces Design Competition for WW1 Commemorative Coin

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WASHINGTON – The United States Mint is pleased to announce a call for American artists to design both the obverse and reverse of a silver dollar that will commemorate the centennial of America’s involvement in World War I. Authorized by law, the World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin Design Competition invites American artists to design images emblematic of America’s involvement in World War I, with the winning artist to be awarded $10,000 and have his or her initials included on the minted coins.

“The World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin Design Competition provides a unique opportunity for American artists to capture the sentiment and patriotism of the country nearly one hundred years ago while providing a tangible touch-point for future generations to understand and appreciate the impact of what was called ‘the war to end all wars,'” said Rhett Jeppson, Principal Deputy Director of the United States Mint. The public competition is being conducted in two phases. Phase One, which is open today through April 28, 2016, or until 10,000 entries are received, calls for American artists age 18 and older to submit portfolios of their prior work. From these entries, an expert jury will select no more than 20 applicants to participate in Phase Two. During Phase Two, artists will be paid a stipend of $1,000 to submit designs for the obverse and reverse of the coin, as well as plaster models of their designs. The winning artist will receive an additional $10,000 and will have his or her initials included on the coin as an artist mark. The final winner will be announced in January 2017.

An expert jury composed of members of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee will review and score design submissions. Both of these groups provide experienced and impartial expertise in advancing the state of public art and the interests of American citizens and coin collectors. With the winning design selected, the Mint will begin issuing commemorative silver dollar coins in 2018. Surcharges for this program are authorized be paid to the United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars (Foundation) to assist in the funding of the National World War I Memorial in Washington. The Foundation also held a competition to design the Memorial with the winning design concept, entitled “The Weight of Sacrifice.” “This competition affords American artists a rare occasion to design a coin that will preserve an important time in American history and pay tribute to the bravery, actions, and sacrifices that were so critical to the final outcome,” said Jeppson. There have only been a handful of open design competitions in modern history in which the Mint has called upon the public to submit designs for a coin. Most recently, the Mint held a competition in 2013 for the design of the reverse image for the Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Program.

For full details on the competition, including rules of entry, visit the United States Mint website HERE.

WFA East Coast to Hold Spring 2016 WW1 History Symposium in Baltimore

 

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On Saturday June 11, 2016, the Western Front Association East Coast Branch (USA) will gather at the historic Maryland War Memorial Building in Baltimore for an exciting day-long program featuring authors and speakers on First World War history topics, displays of WW1 artifacts, door prizes and networking among WW1 history organizations, museums, historic sites and individuals.  The event is open to the public and new attendees are always welcome.

Among the formal presentations at the symposium will be Dr. Nicole Hudgins of the University of Baltimore who will discuss her recent study “Hold Still, Madame – Wartime Gender and the Photography of Women in France” published by the University of St. Andrews.  Authors Douglas Fisher and JoAnn Buckley will present highlights from their new book AFRICAN-AMERICAN DOCTORS OF WORLD WAR 1THE LIVES OF 104 VOLUNTEERS.  Historian and author William T. Walker will present a new critical re-evaluation of the American Expeditionary Forces attack on Montfaucon in September 1918 based on his new book BETRAYAL AT LITTLE GIBRALTAR.  Dr. Peter Lubrecht will reveal a rarely-seen glimpse of the life of a German infantryman in the West during 1914-15 based on his book LIEBE KÜCK – A GERMAN SOLDIER’S STORY THE GREAT WAR.  Finally WFA East Coast Branch Chairman Paul Cora will recount the July 1916 voyage to Baltimore of the German commercial U-boat DEUTSCHLAND in the context of the public opinion debate it inspired and the challenges experienced by German-Americans both before and after America’s entry into WW1.

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The event will also feature a Branch-sponsored WW1 new, used and out-of-print book sale, as well as refreshments, discussions, displays, and as always, lots of camaraderie.

See the announcement flyer and registration materials here:  WFA East Coast Spring 2016 Flyer

 

PAFA Plans for Major WW1 Art Exhibiton in 2016

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The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) will open a substantial new exhibition in 2016 which examines the effect of World War I on American art.  According to Dr. Robert Cozzolino, lead Curator for the project, “World War I and American Art” will seek to dispel a long-held notion in art history that the First World War had little impact on the work of artists in the United States.

The exhibition will consist of some 115 art objects including sculpture and photographs as well as paintings and drawings by noted artists such as Frederick Childe Hassam, Hugh Henry Breckenridge, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keefe, Horace Pippin, Charles Burchfield, the brothers Ivan and Melvin Albright, and Claggett Wilson.

Hugh Henry Breckenridge "The Pestilence" 1918

Hugh Henry Breckenridge “The Pestilence” 1918

The three major themes of “World War I and American Art” will consist of American reactions to the war prior to 1917, America’s entry and participation, and finally the Armistice and the war’s aftermath.  Reactions to the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, an examination of Hassam and Hartley’s flag paintings, and the concept of outrage as reflected in illustrations from “The Masses” magazine will be featured in the pre-entry portion of the exhibit, while some works by Georgia O’Keefe and Charles Burchfield, as well as American examples of Dadaism will be used to examine private reactions to the war by American artists.  Within the mobilization and participation section, works by official war artists will be featured, as well as portrayals of women in both traditional and non-traditional roles.  The works of soldier-artists Horace Pippin and Claggett Wilson will be exhibited among paintings depicting the American experience in the war, and Ivan Albright’s work drawing wounds and medical procedures at an American hospital near Nantes will be used examine their impact on the artist’s later works.  Posters produced during the war for recruitment and mobilization will also be prominently featured.

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“World War I and American Art” will open at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on November 11, 2016, and run through April 9, 2017 after which it will travel to other venues.  Working with lead Curator Robert Cozzolino, will be independent art curator Anne C. Knutson, and Professor David Lubin of Wake Forest University.

For more information on the exhibition, visit PAFA here.

 

Historic Gallipoli Campaign Warship Restored in UK

The newly restored HMS M 33 displayed at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, England.

The newly restored HMS M 33 displayed at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, England.

The shallow-draft monitor HMS M 33 was opened to the public at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, England, on August 6, 2015.  The vessel, which took part in WW1 operations at Gallipoli, Salonika, and later in north Russia, recently underwent a £2.5M restoration to her 1915 configuration and can now be explored by visitors to the museum who can experience special audio-visual enhancements interpreting the vessel’s role in the campaign.

Equipped with 6-inch deck guns, the monitor M 33 was designed for close-in shore bombardment of enemy positions.  The formal opening ceremony at the Royal Navy Museum took place on the 100th anniversary of the start of the August offensive in Gallipoli, and was attended by descendants of the Gallipoli campaign.

The monitor HMS M 33 seen in the Aegean Sea during WW1.

The monitor HMS M 33 seen in the Aegean Sea during WW1.

HMS M 33 is one of a handful of WW1 historic naval vessels around the world today which include the light cruiser HMS CAROLINE in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the protected cruiser USS OLYMPIA in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the battleship USS TEXAS in Corpus Christi, Texas.

 

Panel Selects Finalists for National WW1 Memorial Design

The statue of Gen. John J. "Blackjack" Pershing which stands in Washington DC's Pershing Park.

The statue of Gen. John J. “Blackjack” Pershing which stands in Washington DC’s Pershing Park.

An independent panel has selected five finalists from among the approximately 350 design proposals received by the US World War 1 Centennial Commission for a new national World War 1 memorial to be created in Washington DC’s Pershing Park.  The winning design will be announced in January 2016.

The location for the new memorial is Pershing Park located along Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets NW, approximately 1 block from The White House.  The park currently contains a statue of General John J. Pershing who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces in World War 1.  A place on the National Mall for the memorial is not possible due to a National Park Service moratorium on new memorials there.

The request for proposals specified designs which could be completed for $20M-$25M.  According to DoD sources, the five finalists are: “Plaza to the Forgotten War,” submitted by Andrew Cesarz, Johnsen Schmaling Architects; “World War One Memorial Concept” by Devin Kimmel; “The Weight of Sacrifice” by Joseph Weishaar; “An American Family Portrait Wall in the Park” by Luis Collado, Jose Luis de la Fuente, Jose Luis Perez-Griffo, Ignacio Espigares, Marta Bueno, Shoko Nakamura, of STL Architects; and “Heroes’ Green” by: Maria Counts.

For more details, see the DoD press release here.

New Account of America’s First WW1 Offensive: FIRST OVER THERE – THE ATTACK ON CANTIGNY

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Former soldier and now author Matthew J. Davenport’s new account of the first sustained American offensive of the First World War – the Battle of Cantigny – provides a fresh look at this May 1918 battle in France.  FIRST OVER THERE – THE ATTACK ON CANTIGNY (MacMillan 2015), makes use of carefully researched primary source materials to weave together an account of how the men of the US 1st Infantry Division went “over the top” to take and hold the frontline village of Cantigny.  From the publisher: “At first light on Tuesday, May 28th, 1918, waves of American riflemen from the U.S. Army’s 1st Division climbed from their trenches, charged across the shell-scarred French dirt of no-man’s-land, and captured the hilltop village of Cantigny from the grip of the German Army. Those who survived the enemy machine-gun fire and hand-to-hand fighting held on for the next two days and nights in shallow foxholes under the sting of mustard gas and crushing steel of artillery fire.”

With the village of Cantigny falling to the Imperial German 18th Army during Ludendorff’s spring 1918 offensive, newly arrived American troops were placed in the sector opposite the village in April 1918.  The following month, the US 1st Infantry Division was tasked with capturing and holding Cantigny in what would be the first American offensive operation of the war.  After weeks of enduring German shelling and poison gas attacks, the Doughboys of “The Big Red One” moved forward from their trenches to take and hold the ruins of the village despite numerous strong counterattacks in the succeeding days.  Though a local operation which cost the AEF some 1,600 casualties, the Battle of Cantigny demonstrated the emerging prowess of Pershing’s Doughboys.

Davenport’s new book introduces the reader to many all-but-forgotten Americans who took part in the battle and deftly sets the stage for the coming centennial of American participation in “The War to End All Wars.”

Matthew Davenport is a US Army veteran who now practices law in North Carolina.  For more details on this exciting new book, visit the author’s website here.

Fall 2015 Symposium in WW1 History To Be Held in York, PA

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The Western Front Association East Coast Branch (USA) will gather in York, PA on Saturday October 24 for the Fall 2015 Symposium in World War 1 History.  Join WFA East Coast at the York County Heritage Trust for an exciting day of WW1 history presentations, displays, discussions, door prizes, book signings and more !

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Presentations at the symposium include:

  • “The Life of General ‘Blackjack’ Pershing –Meet America’s most celebrated personality of WW1   as living history presenter Dane Coffman portrays General John J. Pershing while recounting his life story. From his early days on the American frontier and later the Spanish –American War, learn how Pershing faced trials in his Army career and tragedy in his personal life before taking on the monumental task of forging and leading an American Army in the “War to End All Wars.”
  • First Over There –The Attack on Cantigny”- Facing veteran German troops, the largely untried US 1st Infantry Division carried out the first American offensive action of World War 1 capturing and holding the front-line village of Cantigny. Author Matthew J. Davenport tells the stories of the men of “The Big Red 1” who fought and died in this May 1918 battle – based on his new book from St. Martin’s Press. Copies will be available for sale.
  • The Germans of Hampton Roads –  Beginning in April 1915, two German surface raiders , the Prinz Eitel Friedrich and   the Kronprinz Wilhelm , were interned in Hampton Roads, Virginia. In a unique study of war and society, Gregory Hansard of the Virginia Historical Society explores the internment of more than 500 of their crew from April 1915 to September 1916 and the relationships they formed with the Norfolk community and U.S. officials.
  • A Yank in the RAF – Too young to fly with the US Air Service, Baltimore native Francis Warrington Gillett made his way into Britain’s Royal Air Force (formerly RFC) in 1918 where he flew Sopwith Dolphin fighters with No. 79 Squadron. Credited with 20 victories by the time of the Armistice, Gillett is second on the list of American flying aces of World War I. WFA East Coast’s Paul Cora recounts his story and also outlines plans for the Branch to memorialize this little known aviator.
  • “Alvin York- A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne –  Historian COL Douglas V. Mastriano of the US Army War College presents a fresh look at the unlikely hero who became an American icon of “The War to End All Wars” – based on his book from the University of Kentucky Press. Copies will be available for sale.

 

For full details and event registration information, view the flyer here: WFA East Coast Fall 2015