WWI DISPATCH March 31, 2021

A newsletter from the World War One Centennial Commission.

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March 31, 2021

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With only two weeks to go, we are counting down the days until we raise the Flag of the United States of America for the first time over the newly constructed National WWI Memorial in Washington, DC. We are honored to celebrate this momentous occasion with each of you via live broadcast on April 16. Please click on the video above to hear more from our host, Award-Winning Actor, Gary Sinise.

First Colors Ceremony will Introduce America’s New World War I Memorial

First Colors Logo

The United States World War I Centennial Commission in cooperation with the Doughboy Foundation, the National Park Service and the American Battle Monuments Commission is sponsoring a major event to celebrate the inaugural raising of the American flag over the nation’s soon-to-open World War I Memorial in Washington, DC on Friday, April 16 at 10:00 a.m. EDT / 7:00 a.m. PDT. Click here to read more about this milestone event, and find out how to register to view the live broadcast of the historic ceremony. (The First Colors Ceremony is not an in-person event.)

Senators introduce Gold Medal legislation to honor “Hello Girls”

Hello Girls gold medal snip

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has introduced legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the female military telephone operators who kept American and French GIs connected during World War I. The Hello Girls Congressional Gold Medal Act would award the medal to the women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Also known as the Hello Girls, the bilingual female switchboard operators connected more than 150.000 calls per day during the war, doing so at a rate six times faster than their male counterparts. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., Ranking Member Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., introduced the legislation. Click here to read more about this new effort to recognize the Hello Girls with the Congressional Gold Medal.

How World War I’s Legacy Eclipsed the Deadly 1918 Pandemic

Doughboy pandemic snip

World War I came to an end on November 11, 1918—nine months after the first cases of what was referred to as the “Spanish Flu” were reported in the United States. Against the backdrop of the war, the 1918 influenza pandemic surged at a time when people were already experiencing scarcity in everyday supplies, coping with having loved ones serving overseas, and living in a wartime economy. A second global crisis had started before the first one ended. Click here to read more about how the legacy of World War I overshadowed the pandemic, making the unprecedented loss of life from the flu almost an afterthought.

WWI Helped Women Ditch the Corset

Corset article snip

Massive cultural shifts during and after World War I helped free women from confining roles—and the confining corsets that bound them to the previous age. Writing on the History.com web site, Jessica Pearce Rotondi notes that “The evolution of the bra re-shaped the image of what a woman could be, whether she was serving in the war effort, fighting for the right to vote, or dancing in a flapper-style dress at war’s end.” Click here to read more, and learn how an American socialite patented the “brassiere” on November 3, 1914, the year World War I broke out in Europe. 

Kentucky soldier’s New Testament headed to National WWI Museum

Arthur J. Douthitt

Nearly 100 years have passed since a New Testament carried by Arthur J. Douthitt into battle during World War I made its way back to his widow in Kentucky from France. Now, it will be donated to the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO. Nicole Morton Goeser said she wants to share the story of her great uncle, a native of Stanley, KY with his own community. Click here to read more, and learn about how this Kentucky soldier’s Bible became and will remain a touchstone for memory of his service.

‘Hello Girls’ Kept World War I Communications Humming

Hello Girls 2

As the first American forces began arriving in France that summer, they found the communications network in disarray. In three years of combat, telephone lines were shot, shelled and bombed faster than they could be repaired. Army Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, found this situation intolerable. He had, however, noted the efficiency and competence of Britain’s Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps as they expertly kept England-based phone lines humming. Click here to learn more about how Pershing, having recognized a good idea when he saw one, created the Hello Girls that supported the American Expeditionary Forces so effectively in WWI.

George Dilboy was first Greek-American awarded Medal of Honor in World War I

George Dilboy

Born in the Greek settlement of Alatsata, which is today located in western Turkey, George Dilboy and his family emigrated to America in 1908 when he was 12 years old. After returning to Greece to fight as a volunteer in the Greek Army in the First and Second Balkan Wars, Dilboy came back to Somervill, MA in 1914, where he went to school and worked for a few years before volunteering to fight in the U.S. Army in the Mexican Border War from 1916 – 1917, and then re-joining the U.S. Army as a private first class to fight in the trenches of France during World War I. Click here to read more, and learn about George Dilboy, who General John Pershing listed as one of the 10 greatest heroes of the war. 

The American farmers, gardeners, and victory gardens of World War I

Fruits of Victory poster

During WWI, Europe’s food supply had been seriously depleted. European farmers had been called to serve on the front lines, abandoning their farms and resulting in a mass farming crisis. Farmlands were quickly turned into battlefields, causing significant destruction of once rich soil. Europe’s ability to keep its soldiers and general population fed was becoming more and more difficult. As a result, the United States was called upon to shoulder the demand for mass quantities of food that was desperately needed overseas. Click here to learn more about the development of the National War Garden Commission in response to the food crisis that raged in Europe.

Commemorative Bricks Support Local Maryland WWI Memorial Restoration

Bladensburg memorial snip

A 40-foot-tall monument standing at the intersections of Bladensburg Road, Baltimore Avenue, and Annapolis Road in Bladensburg, Maryland, serves as a reminder of the 49 area residents who died in World War I. This monument, commonly referred to as the Peace Cross, is owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Department of Parks and Recreation in Prince George’s County which has embarked on a mission to restore it. Click here to learn more about the Peace Cross, and the commemorative brick program developed by the department to support fundraising efforts for the Peace Cross’ restoration.

NY National Guardsman Led Fight for Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Hamilton Fish III

The United States has a Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers today because a New York National Guard Major and freshman Congressman thought it was necessary 100 years ago. Hamilton Fish III, a 32-year old lawyer with a Harvard degree who could trace his roots back to the beginnings of New York, led Company K of what became known as the 369th Infantry Regiment, which went down in history as the Harlem Hellfighters. He earned a Silver Star, and the French War Cross. Fish thought that the United States, which had suffered 116,516 deaths – 53,402 in combat and 63,114 to disease– between April 1917 and November 1918, should have a memorial to an American Unknown Soldier. Click here to learn more about how Fish, then a Congressman, introduced the federal resolution to create an Unknown Soldier memorial on November 11, 1921.

The Jihad Legacy of World War I

Wolfgang G. Schwanitz

Writing for the Foreign Policy Research Institute web site, Senior Fellow in the Middle East Program Wolfgang G. Schwanitz notes that “Known as a pious Muslim, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said in 2015 that it is most difficult to change religious rhetoric and how people use their faith. The outcomes will take many years: ‘Radical misconceptions [of Islam] were instilled 100 years ago. Now we can see the results.’ He may been referring to the German-Ottoman jihadization of Islamism in the early 20th century. So, what happened in World War I?” Click here to read the answer to Schwanitz’s question, and learn how yet another key geopolitical aspect of the 21st Century had its origins in the chaos of World War I.

Doughboy MIA for March 2021

Corporal William Michael Barnett

A man is only missing if he is forgotten.

Our Doughboy MIA this month is Corporal William Michael Barnett, USMC ASN271629, 84th Company/3rd Battalion/6th Marine Regiment/4th Brigade/2nd Division A.E.F.

Born in Oswego, New York on June 1st, 1892, Barnett enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on August 3rd, 1917 at Syracuse, New York. He trained at Parris Island, S.C. and upon graduation from basic training was assigned to the 119th Company at Quantico on January 8th, 1918. With them he departed for France on February 25th, 1918, where he received advanced combat training in the Toulon Sector.

In late May, with the Germans threatening Paris direct, the 2nd American Division received hurried orders to shore up crumbling French lines near Château-Thierry. The 6th Marine Regiment (which along with the 5th Marines and 6th Marine Machine Gun Battalion composed the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Division) took up positions southwest of Belleau Wood and was ordered to seize the town of Bouresches, as well as clear the southern half of Belleau Wood itself. The operation began on June 6th and these attacks were the beginning of a month-long struggle that resulted in both Marine Corps glory and heavy casualties.

On June 13th, 1918, Barnett received assignment to the 84th Company, 6th Marine Regiment as a replacement for a combat casualty. By that time, he was a Corporal. After 40 days in the sector, during which time the regiment would incur 2,143 casualties, the 6th Marines were pulled off the line for rest and refitment before again being brought into the maelstrom, this time in the Battle of Soissons.

On July 16th, the regiment was rushed to the Villers-Cotterets Forest where, on the morning of July 19th, 1918 the 6th Marines attacked in force, alone, from the town of Vierzy toward Tigny but were stopped short of their objective by extremely heavy artillery and machine gun fire. It would prove to be the single costliest day the regiment would ever face with many companies seeing upwards of 50% casualties and some as high as 70%.

It was during the attack forward that morning that Corporal Barnett was killed in action by a German sniper. He was later buried in a temporary grave in a field just outside Vierzy. However, following the war Graves Registration Service personnel were never able to locate that grave.

Want to do your part? Stand up and dig in with us by visiting www.ww1cc.org/mia.

Can you spare just ten dollars? Give ‘Ten For Them’ to Doughboy MIA and help us make a full accounting of the 4,423 American service personnel still listed as missing in action from WW1. Make your tax deductible donation now, with our thanks.

Official Doughboy Merchandise Store

First Colors Commemorative Coin 500

“First Colors” Commemorative Coin

Exclusive new design for 2021! Double-sided Bronze alloy medallion design commemorates the Doughboys of WWI, and the first raising of our nation’s flag over the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC on April 16, 2021. Two-Color Soft Enamel, 1.75″ in diameter.

Our mission is to remember those who served in WWI. These commemorative gifts help make that happen.

Memorial Camera

You can keep track of progress at the new National World War I Memorial through construction site time lapse video, or a live video feed from the site. Click here to take a look, and also find out how you can help finish this national tribute to the 4.7 million Americans who served, and the 116,516 who did not come home from WWI.

Virtual Explorer

Click or scan the QR Code below to download the Virtual Explorer App for the National World War I Memorial, and explore what the Memorial will look like when work is completed.

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Free Self-Contained WWI History Web Site on YOUR computer

Sources, lessons, activities, videos, podcasts, images

We have packaged all the content we created for “How WWI Changed America” into a format that is essentially a web site on a drive. Download the content onto any drive (USB, external, or as a folder on your computer), and all the content is accessible in a web site type format even without an internet connection. Click here to learn more, and download this amazing educational resource for home or classroom use.

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Albert Robert Laske

A Story of Service from the Stories of Service section of ww1cc.org

Albert Robert Laske

Submitted by: Jean Burns {granddaughter}

Albert Robert Laske was born around 1894. Albert Laske served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The enlistment was in 1918 and the service was completed in 1918.

Story of Service

Feb. 1918, Albert “Bert” (24 yrs. old) received induction orders to enter the Army, during World War I. He is to serve in the 25th Spruce Squadron, Vancouver Barracks, in Vancouver Washington. This Squadron is to harvest wood that will be used to build the planes they need for the war. In Dec. 1918, Bert is discharged honorable and thanked for his service, but since the war is ending, his service is no longer needed.

About the 25th Spruce Squadron: “The states of Oregon and Washington form the backdrop for one of the most interesting dramas of the First World War. When the U.S. entered the War, it was quickly discovered that the nation had no capacity to build warplanes in quantity. Even though the U.S. had invented the airplane, by 1917 the European powers had already spent years developing it for warfare, and deploying it in deadly combat. Those nations were trying to produce enough machines to keep the skies occupied over the front lines in France.

Read Albert Robert Laske’s entire Story of Service here.

Submit your family’s Story of Service here.

Honor the Stories of Service of ALL Who Served.

Do Your Bit to Help Build the new National World War I Memorial.

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