WWI Museum calls on Black families to donate artifacts from war
By Ryan Whirty
via the Louisiana Weekly newspaper web site
In a 1980 oral history interview, African-American Army veteran Robert L. Sweeney related his experiences during World War I while serving in France as a supply clerk with the 317th Sanitation Train of the 92nd Army Division.
Sweeney recalled that, unlike white American citizens in the United States, the French treated him and his fellow Black soldiers equally, a situation symbolized by the ability of the servicemen’s ability to mix with white women in France.
Sweeney said such equitable, open-minded treatment gave Black soldiers a sense of dignity that was denied them back home.
“When the French people welcomed us with open arms, that is the only time that I ever realized what a real American soldier was,” Sweeney said in the interview. “The French people had no prejudice what[so]ever. Negro soldiers fraternized with the French girls just like the white soldiers did.…we had some trouble with those white boys from the South…But that was the only time we had any trouble with the white soldiers.”
Sweeney’s narrative is one of thousands of interviews, documents, personal diaries and letters, photos, uniform items and other artifacts archived at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, which has launched an ongoing project to diversify its collections by calling on family members or other people related to Black World War I soldiers to donate their loved ones’ treasured items from the war. The armed conflict ran from 1914-1918, the last year or so of which included American troops of all ethnicities serving overseas.
Museum representatives hope that by collecting such materials, the institution can further document, chronicle and tell the stories of soldiers of color on the front lines and behind the scenes, as well as the millions of African Americans stateside who contributed to the war effort through work in industries, fundraising activities and volunteer services.
The museum’s initiative is also soliciting and archiving materials from World War I belonging to Indigenous Americans and women.
“The museum has always been very committed to collecting objects and archival material of African Americans, both in service and on the homefront, from all nations involved in the war,” said Doran Cart, the senior curator for the museum. “It’s one of the areas of interest in making sure we’re always enhancing our collection.”
Cart said the collection initiative began before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when museum board members took the lead and cultivated contacts and sources of materials in the local area and across the country.
Since then, museum representatives have been successful in collecting archival materials of people of color, especially from folks who are stuck at home because of the pandemic and have had the opportunity to uncover artifacts while exploring their attics and storage spaces.
Cart said that about 370,000 Black men were called to service through the draft and volunteering, with about 150,000 of them going overseas for the war effort. In addition, millions of people of color contributed at home, including by filling industry jobs that had been previously unavailable to them because of racist hiring policies.
“African Americans were well represented, both on the battlefield and the homefront,” Cart said.
‘Don’t You Know There’s A War On?” Rationing In WWI
via the SOFREP web site
Wartime is a crisis not only because men and women are being sent into a warzone where untold numbers may be killed, but also because resources diverted to the war effort mean privation and shortages for the folks back home.
Those who were left had to make sacrifices too, in ways they might never have imagined. So with that in mind, here are some of the conservation measures made during wartime that really hurt. While the United States did not have to resort to food rationing during WWI, Americans were encouraged to conserve food as best they could. Americans were told to “Eat more Fish, they feed themselves” and leave nothing on their plates after a meal, waste nothing was the mantra. In the countries of Europe however, the shortages were much more severe and were done for some of the oddest reasons you could imagine.
Alcohol Production and Consumption
I know, right?!
When the US entered the chaotic scene of World War I, Yale economist Irving Fisher pointed out that the barley used in brewing beer could instead be used in baking bread for the American soldiers. He was seconded by others who said that alcohol was not a necessity but rather was a luxury that also hindered the wartime factory workers from performing at their best (You know, no one returns to work on a Monday morning with full-on energy when they partied hard the night before.) The proposition succeeded, so in 1917 until 1918, everything related to alcohol was limited— sale of alcohol, especially around military bases and munitions plants, and the allocation of grain to the beer brewers.
And it wasn’t just the US. Russia might have had the most drastic move in prohibiting alcohol by banning the sale of vodka, as well as its production. The order lasted way long after the war until 1925.
WWI facts: The Real History of The King’s Man
By David Crow
via the Den of Geek web site
Matthew Vaughn’s The King’s Man is on streaming now. That’s a quick turnaround since its Christmastime release last year, but perhaps it’s for the best. With the largely underappreciated (and under-seen) Kingsman prequel making its debut on HBO Max and Hulu, there’s a chance the strange action mash-up may finally find its audience.
Indeed, the film’s pitch always seemed a bit niche, even for this franchise. By eschewing the modern class conflict of the first two Kingsman movies, which created a dynamic of “street” versus posh spy, the World War I-set The King’s Man travels back in time more than a hundred years to tell a story that has more in common with Rudyard Kipling novels than Ian Fleming. The King’s Man is about the last gasps of the Empire, and a global conflict that destroyed the 19th century world order, including British dominance.
In fact, The King’s Man is so steeped in World War I history that the truth behind many of its larger-than-life characters and story beats could surprise casual audiences. So below we’ve gathered some of the basic facts that Vaughn’s action romp touches on in its stuffed, breakneck two-plus hour running time.
Power parity in produce: Women’s History Month
By Leslie Halleck
via the Produce Grower web site
March being Women’s History Month and all, I of course find myself thinking about where women stand today in the world of agriculture, and society.
In case you didn’t know, the official theme for Women’s History Month in 2022 is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” This theme is meant to be a tribute to caregivers and frontline pandemic workers. But if you think about it, this is the sort of thing women are typically called upon to do in times of national or global duress … and while we’re at it, every minute of every day of our lives in our own homes and families.
While we clearly still have a long way to go to achieve the kind of power balance that will benefit everyone, I try to stay encouraged by looking over my shoulder now and then at all the women who worked and struggled so hard to pave us a better path to parity today.
It’s always illuminating to discover new stories of significance, as most never make it into our traditional educational history books.
On that note, have you ever heard of the Women’s Land Army (WLA)? Me neither! Given my immersion in the worlds of horticulture, agriculture and women’s empowerment, I’m shocked at myself that these incredibly important and impactful movements somehow slipped by me.
I’m sure some of you out there either remember or have studied these organizations — especially any of you who studied landscape or garden history — but for those of you not aware, I thought I’d shine a little light on these tough and resilient women of agriculture.
When World War I escalated as America entered the fray, the surge of men leaving the home front left a huge void in the farming and agricultural sectors. Who was going to tend to the fields and the livestock?
In Britain, the government was having a tough time filling the gaps, so it was left to the women at home to pick up traditionally male farming and agricultural roles. The Women’s Land Army was formed as a civil organization and recruited close to 23,000 women to feed the country. There were three divisions within the organization: agriculture, forage and timber cutting. Many worked as field workers and milkers, carters, ploughwomen and gardeners for local markets from 1917 through 1921. The WLA was restarted in World War II, with over 200,000 women employed between 1939 and 1950.
America quickly copied the organization during World War I with its own government-sanctioned Women’s Land Army of America (WLAA), putting 20,000 women to work in similar fields such as sowing and harvesting. Not only were women doing the heavy lifting, but they were also managing the workforce. During WWI, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s daughter, became the WLAA director. Many of the leaders involved with women working in agricultural areas were also suffragists and believed that doing their patriotic duty in the agricultural sectors would also help the suffrage movement.
Spotlight on The National World War I Memorial, Washington, DC
Daniel Sharp: Taps at the National World War I Memorial has been an honor
By Kathy Abbot
Through rain or shine, and this winter heavy snow too, rotating buglers fulfill the Doughboy Foundation mission to sound “DAILY TAPS” at the National World War One Memorial in Washington, DC. This month one of our dedicated buglers, recruited by Taps for Veterans, Daniel Sharp shared his story with us.
I was born in Bryan Texas and grew up in San Antonio. Now I live in Rosemary Hills Maryland with my wife Amy and three kids.
I began playing TAPS, and other calls, at a young age as bugler of my Boy Scout Troop. More recently I recognized a gap in the region in providing live TAPS for military funeral honors. I support several Navy commands responsible for providing funeral honors as a TAPS bugler and occasionally represent the Navy playing TAPS at events commemorating past battles and conflicts.
Formerly, I was a Surface Warfare officer in the U.S. Navy and remain active in the Navy Reserve. My wife and her father also served in the Navy.
There is a tradition of playing Taps at military funerals and other veteran ceremonies, and there is not enough military buglers to support all of these. When played live, Taps is a tune that touches many and can allow people to cry if they need to.
Live Taps at each military funeral and commemoration, I feel, is always appreciated by several in attendance, including other members of the military detail.
Taps has become very meaningful to me, and I continue to practice playing in pursuit of perfection.
Playing Taps at the National World War I Memorial has been an honor. A few times I have shared with people walking by that Taps would be played at 5 PM and the response has been, “We know. That’s why we came.”
World War Wednesday: Bacon Fat Soft Molasses Cookies from WWI
By Sarah Wassberg Johnson
via the Food History Blog web site
I first ran across bacon fat gingersnaps in the Christmas cookie collection the New York Times posted for December, 2021. Although I'm not a NYT Cooking subscriber, I did a google and found an article about the original recipe, which indicated the recipe was likely historic. Even though I'd just finished my Christmas cookies research, the bug bit again and the hunt was on.
I found several historic recipes for bacon fat cookies, some of them gingery, some of them not (scroll to the bottom for the gallery of recipes), but because I am a World War I historian, I decided that the recipe I was most interested in at the moment was the "Soft Molasses Cookies" listed as a "Conservation Recipe" in the February, 1918 issue of American Cookery, formerly the Boston Cooking School Magazine. And it seemed appropriate to be baking them in February, 2022!
The recipe is not written in a way we're used to today, but is fairly straightforward. It reads:
Put in a measuring cup four teaspoons clarified bacon fat (not browned in the least); add three teapsoonfuls boiling water, then fill the cup with N.O. [New Orleans] molasses. Add half a teaspoonful salt, half a teaspoonful ginger or spices to taste and one teaspoonful [baking] soda sifted with one cup of flour; mix and add enough more flour to make a soft dough. Roll rather thick. Cut in rounds. Bake in a moderate oven.
This recipe is sugarless, eggless, and butter-less, and it uses fats that might otherwise go to waste, making it the perfect conservation recipe during a time when Americans were asked to save wheat, sugar, meat, and fats for the war effort. The use of New Orleans molasses was specifically to save space on cargo ships and support American sugar production (molasses is a byproduct of sugar cane processing). By using bacon fat, normally a waste fat, Americans could save on lard and butter.
Pritzker Military Museum & Library On War Military History Symposium March 31 – April 1, 2022
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site
The Pritzker Military Museum & Library present their 2022 On War Military History Symposium featuring Dr. Margaret MacMillan, recipient of the 2021 Pritzker Military Museum & Library’s Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. The symposium will consider the current state of military history under the theme of “What is Military History Today?”. Individual panel sessions will explore and identify today’s challenges in researching, writing, and presenting military history, and how they are impacted by the needs and interests of diverse audiences. Perspectives from the academic community, military professionals, and the general public will be considered.
This year’s Symposium will take on a hybrid format with an option to join in person or virtually online. Sessions include: What is Military History Today?, Museums and Memorialization; Violence, Atrocity, and Restraint in War and Military History of the Post-Cold War. Pricing for member and non-member, in-person and virtual attendance is available on our website.
John T. McCutcheon’s Wartime Valentines
By Justin Clark
via the Indiana History Blog
On Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be a great time to share a different side of Indiana culture during the tumultuous years of World War I, in the form of valentine cartoons. John T. McCutcheon was one of Indiana’s most celebrated cartoonists from the era, and his “wartime valentines” help us understand how the home front viewed this integral time in world history.
John T. McCutcheon was a Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune, where he worked for 43 years. Born in South Raub, Tippecanoe County, Indiana on May 6, 1870, McCutcheon grew up “in the rural areas surrounding Lafayette.” He attended Purdue University where he was “a founding member of the University’s first fraternity, Sigma Chi” and the “co-editor of the University’s first yearbook, the Debris.” After graduating college in 1889, he worked as a cartoonist for the Chicago Morning News and Record-Herald until he moved to the Tribune in 1903.
His artistic style mirrored his experiences growing up the Midwest; he developed a character called “A Boy in Springtime” who would appear in front-page pieces having small-town fun with friends and his dog (the dog first appeared in a William McKinley presidential campaign cartoon, and became much beloved by readers). As R. C. Harvey of the Comics Journal noted, McCutcheon’s cartoons were “the first to throw the slow ball in cartooning, to draw the human interest picture that was not produced to change votes or to amend morals but solely to amuse or to sympathize.”
Paralleling his more personable cartoons, McCutcheon partnered with another Hoosier author, George Ade, to create a series of valentines for charity during World War I. The idea originated from the Indianapolis Branch of the American Fund for French Wounded and its contributors were a who’s who of Indiana arts, including Ade and McCutcheon as well as Meredith Nicholson, Kin Hubbard, and William Herschell. As reported in the South Bend News-Times on January 28, 1918, “Prominent Indiana artists and authors this year have been making comic valentines . . . and are guaranteed by those who have seen them to send grins and cheer to soldiers at home and abroad.” The article also outlined the American Fund for French Wounded, noting that “the proceeds will go for furthering the work in France among wounded soldiers and destitute families, which is the committee looking after the funds is carrying on.” Ads even ran in the Indianapolis News to promote the Valentines, published by Charles Mayer & Company, once they were available.
"There is No Expiration for Valor"
A university in Missouri has taken on the task — with the support of VFW — of correcting the military records of marginalized veterans of World War I
via the Veterans of Foreign Wars web site
For the past few years, a task force at a Missouri university has made it its goal to give many Doughboys of World War I the proper recognition for their acts of valor.
A team from Park University’s George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War — located in Parkville, Missouri, near Kansas City, Missouri, — is working on the project with the World War I Centennial Commission, members of Congress and veterans service organizations, including the VFW.
In November 2019, VFW granted $70,000 to the group of researchers led by Timothy Westcott, director of the Robb Centre and associate professor of history at Park University.
Westcott, a Marine Corps veteran, said that 121 WWI troops have been recognized for their acts of valor, but only four Jewish Americans, two African Americans and one Hispanic American were awarded the Medal of Honor for their feats. Westcott, who served from 1980 to 1988, added that three of those veterans posthumously received the nation’s highest award for valor in the past 30 years.
Westcott said that no Asian American or Native American troops were awarded the Medal of Honor in World War I. He said that there is a “national obligation” to ensure all troops are judged by their character and actions.
“Our fight on behalf of these men stands on the ideal that their strains for fairness — no matter how harsh or painful to recount — deserve examination in the most candid light,” Westcott said. “There is no expiration for valor.”
Erik Kokeritz: Remembering a forgotten American WWI hero a century on
via the BBC News web site
He was a World War One merchant mariner hailed a hero for defying Germany's naval blockade of Europe.
But within a year of a voyage that would bring him international acclaim he was dead and, in the years since, his story all but forgotten.
His final resting place now is marked by a single white cross but for more than a century his grave lay unmarked.
BBC News NI look at how Captain Erik Kokeritz came to be laid to rest in Londonderry's City Cemetery.
Born in Sweden, Kokeritz emigrated to the US in 1894.
By the time World War One broke out, he was sailing as a merchant sea captain.
When in 1917 US commercial ships were needed for the war effort, Kokeritz was one of two captains to volunteer to take supplies across the Atlantic.
It was a mission the captain and crew of the SS Rochester knew was fraught with danger.
What if World War I was just a tragic accident?
By Daniel McEwen
via the History Net web site
People still regard World War I with horrified disbelief. That four-year “ecstasy of fumbling” killed some 10 million soldiers and perhaps as many civilians, numbers that defy comprehension. Shell-shocked governments had little to show for the fields of white crosses popping up on their pockmarked landscapes. Grieving families the world over wanted to know who was to blame for having sent their sons, fathers and husbands to die ghastly and useless deaths in what American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan termed “the great seminal catastrophe,” or Urkatasrophe (“original catastrophe”) to Germans.
Who indeed? And why? Over the decades since the guns of the—apologies to H.G. Wells—“War That Didn’t End War” fell silent, the writers of some 30,000 books, technical reports and scholarly papers have debated the chain of events prompting unprecedented historical, social, economic and technological consequences that left Eurasian politics radioactive through century’s end. New research continually adds to this library, often bringing more controversy than clarity.
That there were knights and knaves in all camps is a given. However, if they appeared to have acted like fools, scoundrels or madmen, judge them “in the context of their times, not ours,” urge historians, which sounds suspiciously like having to accept “it seemed like a good idea at the time” as an explanation.
Whether the war was inevitable or avoidable depends on which books one reads. Many stand by the notion that in the decades leading up to 1914 all Europe was enthusiastic about going to war, that its nations were armed camps, and that by amassing million-man armies it only fed what Australian historian Sir Christopher Clark has called “the illusion of a steadily building causal pressure.” In this version of the story imperial Germany was an emergent dynamo infused with visions of finding its well-deserved “place in the sun” and got into a race for colonies and naval superiority that dangerously upset the balance of power.
In what is known as the “Scramble for Africa,” from the mid-1880s up till the eve of World War I nearly 90 percent of the continent was colonized by Western European powers, primarily Britain and France. Though Germany fired the starting gun, its ambitions went unfulfilled. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had convened the 1884–85 Berlin Conference for the express purpose of partitioning Africa in a manner designed to avoid stumbling into a war. The scramble itself was marked by a number of “international incidents” involving some combination of Germany, Britain or France, but these were resolved peacefully.
The concurrent naval arms race between Britain and Germany is the showpiece of the pro-war argument. By the time Germany effectively conceded that race in 1912, Britain had 61 top-of-the-line warships to Germany’s 31 of middling quality. A single brief sortie at Jutland in 1916—though a tactical victory for the Imperial German Navy—was enough to keep it docked for the duration of the war. An angry Vice Admiral Curt von Maltzahn was heard to fume, “Even if large parts of our battle fleet were lying at the bottom of the sea, it would accomplish more than it does lying well preserved in our ports.”
WWI shell found in Fort Totten was chemical weapon, prequel to massive Spring Valley cleanup
By Neal Augenstein
via the WTOP radio station (DC) web site
A World War I-era unexploded shell discovered in July 2020 by the National Park Service during construction of a trail through Northeast D.C.’s Fort Totten could be a prequel to the decadeslong cleanup of a former World War I chemical weapons site near American University’s campus.
The type of weapon recovered and the history of where it was recovered have suggested a link between the discovery in Ward 5’s Fort Totten and Ward 3’s Spring Valley cleanup at the former American University Experiment Station used by the U.S. government for research and testing of chemical agents, equipment and munitions — once dubbed the “mother of all toxic dumps.”
In response to WTOP’s reporting, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said she will be calling a joint meeting of the park service, the Army Corps of Engineers and Metro to discuss the issue of the chemical weapon and what should be done about it.
“This is about the last thing Ward 5 wanted to hear,” Norton told WTOP. She said she hoped the joint meeting would also include the council members for Ward 3 and Ward 5 as well as the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners.
After 20 years of Spring Valley cleanup, “For them to discover traces of chemical weapons has got to be very concerning, which is why I believe we need a discussion of these issues immediately, with the appropriate agencies,” she said.
The once-buried 75-millimeter shell was exposed after a period of heavy rain in a section of Fort Totten Park, where the National Park Service was constructing a paved, lit path to replace informal trails through parkland used by Michigan Park residents to reach the Metro.
Behind the Epic WWI Memorial Being Sculpted in an Englewood Warehouse
By Leslie Garisto Pfaff
via the New Jersey Monthly magazine web site
Behind the soaped window of a former warehouse in downtown Englewood, an epic journey is taking shape. Under a skylight that catches the day’s waning glow, Sabin Howard is carefully applying small swipes of clay to the figure of a soldier in a World War I doughboy’s uniform. Howard’s gaze moves from the sculpture to actor Mark Puchinsky, a live model who looks every inch the young warrior, down to the authentic olive drabs that Howard purchased from World War I reenactors.
The figure, about 10 percent larger than life, is one of 38 that will eventually comprise an intricate, 60-foot-long bronze relief titled A Soldier’s Journey. It will form the centerpiece of the country’s first national World War I memorial, commemorating the 4 million Americans who served in what was once known as the Great War. Chosen out of a field of 360 entries in an international competition, Howard’s piece will be installed in Pershing Park, just steps from the White House, in the fall of 2023 or the following spring.
The uncertain timing reflects the arduousness of Howard’s process. Each figure requires some 600 hours of work, meaning Howard can complete only nine or 10 figures in a year, even with two assistant sculptors and a team of models. Considered a master of modern classicism, Howard, 57, creates sculpture that is startlingly realistic. He is, says project manager Traci Stratton—the novelist/documentarian who is also Howard’s wife—a perfectionist: “If he had 800 hours to complete a work, he’d want 1,600,” she says. “If he had 1,000, he’d want 2,000.”
In fact, the project would literally have taken a lifetime to complete if Howard had followed his traditional routine: creating a drawing of the proposed sculpture, producing a small-scale 3-D maquette (or preliminary model), building foam-covered steel armatures (or frameworks) of each figure, applying clay to the armatures, and then casting the work in bronze. He was able to skip the labor-intensive third step in favor of a digital process in which the armatures are 3-D printed.
The work is a departure for Howard in another significant way. “I had to change from being a strict classicist”—sculpting idealized, largely static forms—“to being an expressive humanist. You can’t have a visceral impact on the viewer with art that’s purely cerebral.”