MacArthur Memorial Honors US 42nd “Rainbow” Division in WW1 With Exhibition

The I.D. Disc belonging to poet Joyce Kilmer who was killed in action serving with the 42nd "Rainbow Division" in 1918.

The I.D. Disc belonging to poet Joyce Kilmer who was killed in action serving with the 42nd “Rainbow Division” in 1918.

The MacArthur Memorial – museum, archives, and final resting place of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur – in Norfolk, VA, has created one of the first exhibits in the United States commemorating the up-coming centennial of World War I. Under the Rainbow: The 42nd “Rainbow” Division in the Great War tells the story of one of the first National Guard units to arrive on the battlefields of France. But the 42nd Division was a unique unit – unlike other National Guard divisions which hailed from one specific geographic locale, the 42nd was composed of troops from 26 different states and the District of Columbia. This caused the division’s Chief of Staff, Col. Douglas MacArthur, to remark that the 42nd covered the United States “like a rainbow;” a sentiment that gave rise to the division nickname, the “Rainbow Division.” The Rainbow Division would amass one of the finest fighting records of any division – regular, volunteer or National Guard – in the American Expeditionary Forces. From its activation in August 1917 through the Armistice in November 1918 the 42nd was in combat longer than any other American division and suffered more than 50% casualties. It also included in its ranks some very prominent figures of American history: Douglas MacArthur; William “Wild Bill” Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services – forerunner of the CIA – during World War II; Charles Summerall, future Army Chief of Staff; Father Francis Duffy, famed Catholic leader in New York City; and poet Joyce Kilmer.

Under the Rainbow tells the story of the officers and men of the Rainbow Division from its inception at Camp Mills, New York in the summer of 1917, across the battlefields of France, and into occupation service in Germany until the dissolution of the division in the spring of 1919. Many of the items exhibited have never before been on display at the MacArthur Memorial; among the highlights are the uniform and equipment of Lt. Col. Cooper Winn, commander of the 151st Machine Gun Battalion; dog tag of the poet Joyce Kilmer, killed at the Battle of the Marne in July 1918; and an extensive collection of Rainbow Division Veterans Association memorabilia. The exhibit runs through September 2014.

Click here for more details on “Under the Rainbow” and The MacArthur Memorial.

Symposium in World War I History To Be Held in Baltimore, MD

WFA East Coast Symposium in World War I History - Attendees enjoy a presentation in York, PA.

WFA East Coast Symposium in World War I History – Attendees enjoy a presentation in York, PA.

The Western Front Association East Coast Branch (USA) will hold its Spring 2013 Symposium in World War I History on Saturday June 1, 2013 in Baltimore, MD.  The symposium venue  will be the historic Fifth Regiment Armory – site of the 1912 Democratic National Convention in which Woodrow Wilson received his party’s nomination for President of the United States.

WFA East Coast conducts two symposiums in WWI history each year which bring together authors, historians and scholars for a dynamic day-long program of presentations, discussions and displays focusing on the history and impact of the First World War.  Individuals travel from throughout the United States to take part.

Slated for the Spring Symposium are the following presentations:


“Hell’s Observer: The Epic Wartime Journal of Private William J. Graham AEF”Bruce Jarvis and Steven Badgley showcase their exciting new book and recount the amazing backstory behind the the lucky rediscovery of the original 1918 soldier’s journal which inspired it.


“Trench Raiding With the Royal Irish Fusiliers :  Retired British Army Col. Nick Metcalfe examines the uses of this vital component of warfare on the Western Front in three case studies from the 9th BN Royal Irish Fusiliers – based on his new book Blacker’s Boys.


“Beer, Bratwurst and Occupation”: Most Americans recall the occupation of Germany following WWII, however the AEF’s occupation of the Rhineland until 1923 is much less well-known.  LTC Mike Rauer (Ret) recounts this unique chapter in WWI history as soldiers of the US 3rd Army and US Marines took on the duties of an army of occupation before returning home to the America of “The Roaring Twenties.”


“Wilson, The League of Nations and Versailles” : Dr. William T. Walker of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library examines Wilson’s hopes and frustrations at Versailles.  To win Allied support Wilson had to compromise some of his most strongly held principles, resulting in situations that would ultimately destroy the League and his dream of creating a living memorial to the Doughboys’ sacrifices.

Japanese Farmans at Seige ofTsingtao

Air War Over the Imperial Outposts”:  Prolific aviation history author Jon Guttman presents some lesser-known chapters in WWI aero history as he recounts aerial operations over Tsingtao and Africa during The Great War.

Also included in the symposium will be refreshements, door prizes, a Branch-sponsored WW1 book sale, tours of the Maryland Military Museum housed within the armory, and an optional catered lunch.  Attendees will also have the opportunity to obtain copies of the new WW1 books  Blacker’s Boys and Hell’s Observer from the authors.

For more information, see the announcement flyer/registration form here.

US Army Will Publish Commemorative WW1 Series

American Doughboys "Over There" 1918

American Doughboys “Over There” 1918

The U.S. Army Center of Military History will observe the centennial of the First World War by publishing a series of commemorative brochures, announces Glenn F. Williams, senior historian at the US Army Commemorative Office.  These will be illustrated with maps and images, and appear similar in format to those published for the World War II and Korean War 50-year commemorations, and currently being done for the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.  The series will follow the progress of American participation in the war as defined by the campaign streamers on the Army flag.  A summary of each monograph is briefly outlined below:

The Mexican Border Campaign will be the introductory publication and provide background explaining how the Army became a much more professional, modern force in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War and leading up to 1916.  It will describe national mobilization for possible war with Mexico and the efforts to chase Pancho Villa.  The lessons learned served as a rehearsal and prelude to the buildup for entry into World War I the following year.  The narrative also provides context as to why the publication of the Zimmerman telegram helped to overcome American isolationism, and will introduce key personalities such as John J. Pershing.

Campaign Streamer: Mexican Border.

Joining a Global War covers the U.S. military buildup, and details the Army at the start.  It explains how the Army expanded prior to conducting major combat operations, sets the stage for the remainder of the series, and covers the initial participation of Army units in small defensive actions alongside Allied forces and as part of their training.

Campaign Streamers: Cambrai, Somme Defensive, and Lys.

From Defense to Offense covers the first major engagements in which U.S. divisions were committed, detailing the shift from marginal participation in Allied defensive actions to undertaking division-level offensive operations.

Campaign Streamers: Aisne, Montdidier-Noyon,

The Marne narrates the defensive operations to stop another German offensive and U.S. participation in the large-scale Allied counter-offensive that followed to eliminate the Marne Salient.

Campaign Streamers: Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne.

Supporting Allied Offensives covers three major operations in which U.S. divisions served as part of Allied armies engaged in major offensive operations.  This American participation was a smaller subset of much larger campaigns that were all connected as part of the overall Allied strategy.

Campaign Streamers: Somme Offensive, Oise-Aisne, Ypres-Lys.

St. Mihiel describes Pershing’s successful effort to field the first American army-level formation in the war – which also included command over French divisions – and the rapid reduction of a long-held German salient.  Although the battle was of a relatively short-duration, it is presented as a separate monograph to include a discussion of Pershing’s successful maneuver to form an army, and the state of U.S. forces, doctrine, and training, that allowed him to conduct a lightning campaign.

Campaign Streamer: St. Mihiel.

Meuse-Argonne covers the final offensive conducted by U.S. armies along the Western Front; and adds the participation of a single regiment in the Italian theater.  This publication may potentially reflect the biggest topic of the series, including operations through the end of October, as well as the renewed American offensive beginning on 1 November 1918, the operation in Italy, and the end of the war.

Campaign Streamers: Meuse-Argonne, Vittoria Veneto.

Occupation and Demobilization, although involving no combat, this monograph will analyze what had been learned from the global conflict, and which involved the largest employment of American forces since the Civil War.

The brochures will be available to the public in two formats as they are published, starting in 2016.  They may be viewed and downloaded at no charge on the USACMH website.  Print versions will be available for purchase through the U.S. Government Printing Office bookstore starting in 2016, details available here.

Lincoln County Wisconsin WW1 Memorial to be Refurbished

A large 1920s-era bronze memorial plaque listing those from Lincoln County, Wisconsin,  who died in WW1 will see the light of day after many years.  Formerly housed within a VFW building in Merrill, Wisconsin, the 7-foot tall, 380-pound bronze plaque was subsequently acquired by the Merrill Historical Society.  Recent plans call for the monument to be installed as the centerpiece of a small town park where the public will be able to view and appreciate the memorial.  This story reflects a growing awareness on the part of civic groups of the coming centennial of the First World War.  Fore more information, read the Wassau Daily Herald article here.

BORROWED SOLDIERS – The Story of the AEF II Corps Which Fought Under British Command in 1918


Author Mitchell Yockelson speaks at the WFA East Coast Branch Symposium in WW1 History

Author Mitchell Yockelson speaks at the WFA East Coast Branch Symposium in WW1 History

Author Mitchell Yockelson presents highlights from his book BORROWED SOLDIERS: AMERICANS UNDER BRITISH COMMAND, 1918.  This video presentation was recorded at the WFA East Coast Branch (USA) Symposium in World War I History in York, PA, June 2012, and includes questions from the audience.

BORROWED SOLDIERS tells the story of the US 27th and 30th Infantry Divisions “from the training camps in South Carolina to the bloody battlefields of Belgium and France….despite cultural differences, General Pershing’s misgivings, and the contrast between American eagerness and British exhaustion – the untested Yanks benefitted from the experience of battle-toughened Tommies.  Their combined forces contributed much to the Allied victory.”

To watch Yockelson’s video presentation on the Western Front Association’s YouTube Channel, click here.

HELL’S OBSERVER – New AEF WWI Book from Badgley Publishing

The 1918 journal of Private James Graham from Badgley Publishing.

The 1918 journal of Private James Graham from Badgley Publishing.

From Badgley Publishing, an exciting new title in AEF literature has recently been released.  Hell’s Observer is the rediscovered wartime journal of Private James Graham, 28th Infantry Division, AEF.  A Philadelphia policeman in 1917, Graham enlisted in the Army following the declaration of war in April 1917.  He served in a military police company in the 28th Division which was later assigned to the US First Army in France.  A fascinating record of daily events, Graham’s journal describes in detail his observations of the war and those fighting it in 1918.

The interesting backstory behind the journal, its rediscovery, and the research that went into determining its author is a fascinating sidebar to journal itself.  For more information, visit the Hell’s Observer website here.