African American WW1 Soldier May Be Awarded Medal of Honor

A bust of Sergeant Henry Johnson in Albany, New York.

A bust of Sergeant Henry Johnson in Albany, New York.

Sergeant Henry Johnson of the renowned 369th Infantry Regiment – “The Harlem Hell Fighters” – may receive a posthumous Medal of Honor if Federal legislation passes to waive the time limit on his nearly 100-year-old case.  US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has nominated Johnson for the medal and Senate legislation will be introduced in Johnson’s case to do away with a rule that specifies no more than 5 years may pass between and act of valor and the awarding of the medal.

On May 15, 1918, Henry Johnson single-handedly repelled a front line German raiding party using a jammed rifle and a bolo knife for which he received the French Croix de Guerre, and decades later the US Distinguished Service Cross.  Originally from Alexandria, VA, Johnson had moved to Albany, NY, before enlisting in the 15th New York Infantry in 1917, an African-American National Guard Unit which was later re-designated the 369th Infantry.  Arriving in France in January 1918, the 369th distinguished itself in World War 1 fighting under French command.

For more information, see the Times Union story here.

American Support Sought for Cartoonist Bairnsfather Recognition

British officer and WW1 cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather.

British officer and WW1 cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather.

The British World War 1 cartoons of Bruce Bairnsfather, which realistically but humorously portrayed the life of British “tommies” in the trenches, are well known to students of the First World War.  During the war, these cartoons and their characters “Old Bill,” “Bert” and “Alf,” were extremely well-known and enjoyed by British soldiers in France as well as the British public – and their notoriety and appeal spread throughout the world.

This year, British citizens Tony and Valmai Holt are on a quest to see that Bairnsfather’s contribution to the British war effort is finally recognized by the British Government.  They have created a petition calling for a member of the Government to retrospectively recognize the contribution of Bairnsfather  in time for the 100th anniversary of his cartoon “The Better ‘ole” in October 2015.

better-ole

Signers of the petition  need not be citizens of the UK, and the creators have suggested that Americans may include a message of greeting from the USA (to indicate that the signature is that of an American citizen) if they wish to take part.

To visit the petition page, and learn more about the campaign to recognize Bruce Bairnsfather, visit the petition page here.

“Survivor Quest” Organization Lauches WW1 Commemorative Coin Project – Deadline August 29

Challenge Coins

The non-profit organization Survivor Quest has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of two commemorative coins honoring the late Harry Patch, last living British WW1 “Tommy”, and the late Frank Buckles, last American Doughboy of World War 1.

The goal of the campaign, which expires on August 29, 2014,  is to raise $2000 in start-up funds through the advance sales of individual coins.  To learn more about the  project, visit the Kickstarter page here.

Memorial to First American Airman Killed in WW1 Unveiled in Ireland

A US Navy Curtiss Model H Sea Plane of the First World War.

A US Navy Curtiss Model H Sea Plane of the First World War.

Bantry Bay, Cork, Ireland:  A monument to US naval aviator Walford August Anderson, killed in an accident after returning from an anti- U-boat patrol on October 22, 1918, has been unveiled at Whiddy Island where the event took place.  In 1918, an American sea plane base was established there for patrolling the approaches to the British Isles where German U-boats posed a serious threat to Allied shipping.   The aircraft based at Station Widdy Island in 1918 were American-built Curtiss Model H sea planes.

The monument honors not only Anderson, aged 26 at the time of his death, but also the role of US aviators in the conflict.

For more information on the monument’s unveiling, see the story in the Irish Examiner here.

National Trust Designates Endangered Hawaii Natatorium Memorial A “National Treasure”

The interior of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial which was created to serve as a living monument to those from Hawaii who served in WW1.

The interior of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial which was created to serve as a living monument to those from Hawaii who served in WW1.

The memorial to those from Hawaii who served their country during the First World War has been designated a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial is also among the most endangered World War 1 monuments in the United States today.

Dedicated in 1927, the memorial takes the form of an Olympic-sized salt water swimming pool adorned by a dignified entry arch flanked with masonry bleachers.  It was intended to serve as a living memorial to those from the then Territory of Hawaii who served in “The Great War 1914-1918.”  Over the succeeding decades, the Natatorium deteriorated until, in 1979, it was closed to the public.

Recent proposals by land developers have called for the razing of the Natatorium Memorial, and have met with approval by some legislators and officials.

By declaring the one-of-a-kind memorial a “National Treasure”, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has focused attention on the need to respect the Natatorium’s original purpose, and the Trust will be working with government and various civic and preservation organizations to create a plan to stabilize and restore the memorial for the benefit of future generations.

For more details, see the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s announcement here.

 

Coleman, Michigan Unveils Life-Size Native American Doughboy Statue

 

The Coleman, Michigan Veterans Memorial with It's 6 Life-Sized statues.

The Coleman, Michigan Veterans Memorial with It’s 6 Life-Sized statues.

 

As part of Memorial Day 2014 observances, a life-sized bronze statue depicting a Native American Doughboy of World War I was dedicated as part of the Veterans Memorial in Coleman, Michigan.

The Doughboy rendering is the sixth in a series statues depicting Native American veterans from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the Gulf War, Vietnam, Korea, World War II, and now World War I.  Thematically, the monument depicts the Native American soldiers from each of these conflicts moving forward to comfort a fallen comrade.

The city of Coleman, Michigan is located near Native-American tribal lands, particularly those of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

For more information on the dedication of the Native American Doughboy statue, see the story in the Indian Country Today Media Network.

US WW1 Centennial Commission Announces “Centennial Convention and Trade Fair”

Centennial Commission

The United States World War I Centennial Commission has announced that it will sponsor a “Centennial Convention and Trade Fair” in Washington DC on the afternoon of Saturday June 14, 2014.

The goal of the event is to bring together a wide range of World War I related organizations along with scholars, historians,  museum professionals, and interested individuals for the purposes of networking with the Commission and each other, and planning for the American centenary of the First World War.  Additionally, attendees will be treated to a “briefing by the World War I Commission on its strategic plan, and [a] discussion of opportunities to partner with the Commission.”  Various World War I related organizations will also present summaries of centennial plans and projects as part of the formal program.  The convention and trade fair will also feature displays of information, news  and literature on various WW1 events and activities from around the country.

The convention and trade fair will take place at the Washington DC office of the Jones Day law firm, 300 New Jersey Avenue, NW, from 1:30pm to 5:00PM.

To view the announcement flyer for the event, click here: WWI conference flyer

To view the registration form for the event, click here:  WWI conference registration

 

American Legion Seeks to Intervene in Bladensburg Memorial Suit

The American Humanist Association’s recent lawsuit alleges a violation of the First Amendment by the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission concerning the 1925 World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland.  The memorial, which takes the form of a wayside cross, is situated on land administered by the Commission.  The AHA argues that the display of what it sees as a religious symbol on government land violates the separation of church and state, and is petitioning that the monument be dismantled.  No commentary from the group on the status of the wayside cross as a French and Belgian cultural symbol, familiar to every American Doughboy who served France and Flanders, has been published.

On May 1, the Liberty Institute filed a petition in Federal Court to allow The American Legion to intervene in the suit.

For more information, see The Washington Post story here.

Bills to Create National WW1 Memorial in Washington DC Introduced

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.

Bills introduced in both Houses of Congress on April 28, 2014 seek to designate Pershing Park, named for General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, as a national memorial for the First World War.  Introduced by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) in the House of Representatives, and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the bills also designate the National World War I Museum and the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City as the US National World War I Museum and Memorial.

Enhancement of the park’s World War 1 interpretive features would be left to the United States World War One Centennial Commission, and the bill would also amend the Commission’s charter to add additional members.

For more information, see the story in theexaminer.com here.

Plans for Wyoming WW1 Memorial Take Shape

The Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park in Cody, WY.

The Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park in Cody, WY.

A statewide veterans memorial park in Cody, Wyoming, is the site of monuments honoring those from that state who served and died in the US military from World War II to the present.  With a view toward the coming centennial of the First World War, plans to create a memorial to those from Wyoming who served and died in “The War to End All Wars” have recently been announced.

The Commissioners of Park County, Wyoming, have voted to contribute $10,000 toward the estimated $45,000 needed for the monument.  The monument will honor some 60 citizens of the state who died serving in World War I and a dedication is planned for Memorial Day.