Puerto Rican WWI Navy hero from Merritt Island, FL may get Medal of Honor 52 years after death
By Rick Neale
via the Florida Today web site
Frederick Riefkohl was the first Puerto Rican to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. A World War I hero who led a successful showdown with a German submarine. And a World War II ship commander who retired as a rear admiral — he even has his own Wikipedia page.
But Riefkohl did not receive the Medal of Honor, America's highest award for valor in combat, to commemorate his WWI gallantry.
Why? The former Merritt Island resident may have been unfairly discriminated against by military brass because of his island heritage, a team of Great War researchers says.
Riefkohl is one of 214 WWI minority veterans identified thus far by the Valor Medals Review Project, a Congress-authorized study spearheaded by Park University near Kansas City, Missouri.
Park University officials say this is the first such systematic review of minority veterans of the Great War. Research will continue until 2025, when documentation supporting Medal of Honor nominations will be forwarded to the Department of Defense for possible action, including posthumous awards.
Riefkohl was 'an American patriot'
Riefkohl is the lone Puerto Rican on the list of 214 troops, said Timothy Westcott, director of the private university's George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War.
As a lieutenant and commander of the armed guard of the cruiser USS Philadelphia, Riefkohl was awarded the Navy Cross after an engagement with an enemy submarine.
"On 2 August 1917, a periscope was sighted, and then a torpedo passed under the stern of the ship. A shot was fired, which struck close to the submarine, which then disappeared," Riefkohl's Navy Cross citation said.
Few additional details on the WWI incident have been unearthed from the historical record, said Ashlyn Weber, Robb Centre associate director. The Valor Medals Review Project has identified this as a potential Medal of Honor-worthy action.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Museum Exhibits
By Roderick Gainer, Chief Curator, Arlington National Cemetery
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site
To recognize the 2021 centennial commemoration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) created two new major museum exhibits at the cemetery. The first exhibit, located in the Memorial Amphitheater Display Room, directly behind the Tomb, opened in November 2020, while the second, located in the Welcome Center, opened in early 2021. Together, these two exhibits provide new interpretations of the Tomb’s history and legacy to the thousands of global visitors that come to ANC. Based on extensive research in primary sources and developed in conjunction with the cemetery’s recently implemented Interpretation Plan, these exhibits help expand the Tomb’s story and explain its national, as well as international, significance.
Memorial Amphitheater Display Room Exhibit
To kick-off the centennial, ANC completely refreshed the exhibits in the Memorial Amphitheater Display Room. This new exhibit explores the transitions in the Tomb’s meanings and symbolism. Over the years, the Tomb evolved from honoring a single World War I Unknown to honoring Unknowns from all wars. As the exhibit explains, with the addition of one unknown service member from World War II and one from the Korean War in 1958, followed by one from the Vietnam War in 1984 who was identified and disinterred in 1998, the Tomb has become a central site of American military memory.
The new exhibit’s strong interpretive themes do much to place the Tomb in the proper historical context for those visiting the site, located just steps away. That includes hundreds of dignitaries each year who participate in official ceremonies at the Tomb followed by a visit to the Display Room exhibit. Many of these official visits include the presentation of a gift inside the Display Room to honor America’s unknown service members, a tradition which has been a hallmark of ceremonies beginning with the interment of the World War I Unknown in 1921.
April 6, 105th Anniversary of U.S. Entry into WWI Event Sparks Discussion
Our Washington, DC, April 6, 2022 event, marking the 105th anniversary of the U.S. entry into WWI, was a memorable evening for many.
Hosted by Dan Dayton, Chair, Board of Directors, of the Doughboy Foundation, Denise VanBuren, President General of the DAR, and Hungarian Ambassador Szabolcs Takacs, the program presented Attila Szalay-Berzeviczy’s two-volume book, “In the Centennial Footsteps of the Great War” and an exhibit chronicling the historical events and the horrors of the First World War through photos that were taken 100 years later.
Special guests were introduced, including Jari Villanueva, who leads Daily Taps at the National WWI Memorial in Washington, DC. A lifelong bugler, Jari is considered to be one of the country’s foremost experts on military bugle calls. He is also Director of Taps for Veterans, a national organization providing an opportunity for buglers or trumpet players to sound Taps for military veteran’s funerals and ceremonies.
What followed was a fascinating panel discussion featuring Patrick K. O’Donnell, László Veszprémi and Attila Szalay-Berzeviczy on how "Lessons Learned from World War One" could potentially deter a third world war. Take a look at the panel discussion here via an “On Demand “ video of the event here: https://www.facebook.com/DARPresidentGeneral/videos/483794030096230
Attila Szalay-Berzeviczy’s two-volume book, “In the Centennial Footsteps of the Great War” can be purchased here: : https://www.greatwarbook.com/us/
ANZAC Day observed at National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC
Each year on the 25th of April, Australians and New Zealanders commemorate ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day to recognise the sacrifices that Australian and New Zealand servicemen and servicewomen have made not only in defending their country, but in upholding their nations’ longstanding commitment to peace and security.
To mark this special occasion in 2022, the Embassies of Australia and New Zealand hosted a dawn servoce at The National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC to pay reverence to the martyred soldiers.
ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand military forces during World War One. The first ANZAC commemoration services were held in 1916, in towns and cities across both countries, and overseas in London and at the Australian Army Camp in Egypt. Following this tradition, every year at daybreak on the 25th of April, Australians and New Zealanders gather around the world to commemorate and pay tribute to all of those who have served in the two nations' militaries.
The services remember those who never returned, those who returned injured and impacted from battle, and those who maintained the home front. Those who are currently serving their nation around the world are also acknowledged. Participants in ANZAC Day ceremonies also reflect on the commitment of both countries to peace and security.
World War I postal history, a wide and varied field
By John M. Hotchner
via the Linn's Stamp News web site
In previous columns, I have written about American Expeditionary Force “Christmas Package Coupons” such as the example shown here.
One coupon was distributed to each military member (and some civilians working with the military) in or on their way to France in September 1918. The coupon enabled the person to receive one package from home for Christmas 1918.
The coupon was to be sent home to a family member or another person from whom the service member sought a package. The recipient in the United States was to get a standard box from the American Red Cross.
After the box was filled, the American Red Cross was supposed to inspect the contents and certify that they did not contravene postal regulations, then wrap the package, apply the certification label and the coupon, and then mail the package to Hoboken, N.J., for shipment to France.
It seems that few of these Christmas package coupons were preserved after receipt. The three examples I knew of were illustrated in my column in the Jan. 24, 2022, issue of Linn’s.
Since that column, I have been made aware of another six examples.
Three of them, including the example pictured here, were in an article by Jesse I. Spector, published in the Fourth Quarter 2021 issue of La Posta: The Journal of American Postal History. Two of these bear 1918 U.S. airmail stamps, which makes them all the more attractive
These Classic Actors Served During World War I And Became Huge Hollywood Stars
By Todd Neikirk
via the War History Online web site
While it was still a new phenomenon, studios were cranking out movies in the 1920s and 1930s. As a result, many of the early stars of the Silver Screen had served in the First World War. Below is a list of the most prominent stars of classic cinema who also serve their country during the Great War.
Bill “Bojangles” Robinson – US Army
Bill Robinson was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1878 and was raised by his Grandmother after both his parents were killed in an accident. He joined the Army in 1898 when the Spanish American War broke out. By the time World War I began, he was already a major star on the vaudeville circuit. He volunteered to perform free of charge for the American Expeditionary Forces and received a medal of commendation from the war department.
Robinson became an even bigger star following his time in the service. He starred in a series of movies in the 1930s alongside child star Shirley Temple. In 1943, Robinson starred in Stormy Weather, a film loosely based on the story of his life.
Randolph Scott–US Army
Randolph Scott was born into a wealthy family in 1898. His father was the first licensed CPA in the state of North Carolina and his mother came from a well-to-do family. In 1917, he joined the North Carolina National Guard after the US entered World War I. Scott’s battalion was shipped off to France and saw combat in the Toul and Thiaucourt zones.
Ukraine and World War I
By Michael S. Neiberg
via the National World War I Museum and Memorial web site
It is a surreal and unnerving feeling to be an historian of Europe’s wars and watch a war in Europe unfold before your very eyes. As a profession, historians tend to share two traits at moments like these. First, we get frustrated with the facile or simply inaccurate historical analogies that pundits use to make a political point rather than to illuminate the current problem. Second, we try above all not to make predictions. As the great British historian Sir Michael Howard wrote, “Historians have seen too many confident people fall flat on their faces to lay themselves open to more humiliation than they can help.”
The last few weeks have put me in mind of what the historian R.G. Collingwood said, notably in 1939, about the role of historians in times of crisis. He compared historians to expert woodsmen walking through a forest alongside novice hikers. The historian, he wrote, cannot see through the forest perfectly but, like the woodsman, he or she can spot areas of lurking danger or menace where the hiker only sees trees.
Historians try to look backward for a bit of wisdom and maybe a few echoes of the past that might suggest where we might soon be headed. For years, I have told students that we must not confine the people of 1914 to what I sometimes call “The Idiot Box.” Our instinctive response to see the people of that fateful year as uncommonly stupid or bloodthirsty provides us comfort that we are too smart or too sophisticated ever to make the mistakes they made. But, of course, we are not.
Similarly, I have over the past twenty or so years tried to convince hundreds of high school teachers to abandon the MAIN (Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, and Nationalism) method for teaching the causes of the First World War because it, too, provides false comfort. If we can convince ourselves that those four MAIN factors either no longer exist or are no longer an existential danger to peace, then we can go to sleep at night in the belief that the horrors unleashed in 1914 really do have nothing to teach us.
As I sit here watching the Russian war against Ukraine, however, I am more convinced than ever that 1914 has a great deal to teach us. Indeed, it might provide the best guide we have to where we are now and where we might go in the future.
Bonner’s Community Gardens were a marvel during WWI
By Jim Harmon
via the Missoula Current (MT) web site
It’s gardening time, at least hopefully, now that we’re past our last gasp of wintry weather!
This time of year also brings back memories of the war gardens and victory gardens of the past. During World War I, with commercial farm produce needed for the military, American households were urged to create their own backyard gardens.
“We should plant to garden every back yard in Missoula within the next 30 days!” proclaimed the Missoulian newspaper on Sunday, April 1, 1917. “This nation is entering upon the world-wide war and no man knows the full extent of our immediate needs and food necessities.”
One of the largest “community gardens” was created at Bonner, where the Anaconda Copper Mining Company (ACM) encouraged its lumber mill employees to use a huge tract of land for the purpose.
The company plowed up 25 acres of its land, including a 10-acre grass park, offering plots to “any employee of the company who desires to make a garden … sufficient to raise enough green vegetables for a family’s use during the season and enough potatoes and other tubers for the winter.”
The company also arranged for water to be piped in, and encouraged middle-school children to “have a hand in the gardening.” Charles A. Hart organized the work of 60 Bonner mill families who participated.
The guidelines were straightforward: “Each child will be required to plant and care for a 16-foot row of onions and beets, and as much more ground as they can handle.” The girls, reported the local press, “are quite as enthusiastic as the boys in the scheme.”
The Chamber of Commence joined the effort, offering prizes totaling a thousand dollars for the best gardens in a variety of categories.
World War I: The War of the Inventors
By Robert Colburn
IEEE Spectrum wen site
One hundred years ago, as the international conflict that became known as World War I began, most Europeans were predicting a quick victory. Within a few months, it became clear their optimism was unrealistic. As the fighting spread and grew more deadly, the role of engineering and invention took on new urgency.
Eventually, the Great War became known in certain circles as an “inventor’s war.” To be sure, many of the inventions people now associate with World War I—submarines, torpedoes, fighter and bomber aircraft—had actually been conceived earlier. However, the pressures of war pushed their advancement. Here are four such technologies that still influence our world today.
SONAR: Making the Sea Safe for Democracy
In the years leading up to the war, navies that had submarines used them mainly for coastal defense. Germany changed that by developing its U-boats into long-range offensive weapons. That shift in military strategy compelled the Allies to 1) also begin using submarines offensively and 2) develop countermeasures to protect cross-Atlantic shipping.
The work of Reginald Fessenden proved crucial. After an iceberg sank the RMS Titanic in 1912, the Canadian radio pioneer began conducting underwater acoustic experiments in search of a way to protect ships from submerged obstacles. This led him to invent an electro-mechanical oscillator, a device carried aboard a ship that would transmit sound through the water at a specified frequency and then listen for reflections from any objects in the vicinity. He developed the technology first as a means of communicating with (friendly) submarines and later as a warning device that could be attached to navigation buoys to alert approaching ships of shoals and other hazards. In October 1914, the British Navy purchased Fessenden oscillator sets for underwater signaling, and in November 1915 decided to equip all of its submarines with them.
New display honors Albany WWI hero Henry Johnson
By Shaniece Holmes-Brown
via the Albany Times Union newspaper (NY) web site
ALBANY - For the next 10 weeks, visitors will be able to view artifacts and a special honor associated with a real American hero at an Albany City Hall display.
The man: World War I soldier Sgt. Henry Johnson of Albany.
The artifacts: A bolo knife, helmet and insignia he would have carried.
And it wouldn't be complete without the actual Medal of Honor he was awarded posthumously and only recently.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan unveiled the exhibit Thursday morning at City Hall. Also gathered were federal, state, city and county elected officials and their representatives, military and veteran leaders, advocates and the Albany High School Henry Johnson Battalion Junior ROTC.
“This is going to be an opportunity for everybody to see the symbol of one of our greatest war heroes in Albany, and somebody who has recently been recognized,” said Dennis Gaffney, the mayor's communications coordinator. "But people haven’t been able to see the medal or touch the history. That’s why we brought it here for 10 weeks.”
Johnson came to Albany with his family from North Carolina when he was a teenager, according to a history provided by the city. On June 5, 1917, he enlisted in the U.S. Army but because of racial segregation and the refusal of the Army to allow Black soldiers to participate in combat, members of 369th Infantry Regiment, the "Harlem Hellfighters," fought under French command.
In May 1918, he single-handedly fought off a German attack and saved the life of a fellow soldier using a rifle, a knife and grenades. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre, France’s highest award for valor, the first American to receive the honor.
Louis Cukela received Medal of Honor twice in World War I
By Alex Boucher
via the VAntage Point (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) web site
Not all American service members are born in the U.S.; many emigrate from overseas to start a new life in America. Army and Marine Corps Veteran Louis Cukela, originally from the Austria-Hungarian Empire, fought in the Great War and was one of nineteen men to receive two Medals of Honor.
Cukela was born in the late spring of 1888, in the city of Split. His mother passed away when he was young. Cukela acquired his education from various grade schools in Split, later attending the Merchant Academy for two years, and concluding at the Royal Gymnasium for another two years. He and his brother emigrated to the U.S. in 1913 as tensions grew within the Balkans and Europe. They settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while their father and three sisters remained in Austria-Hungary.
Cukela would begin his extensive military career on Sept. 21, 1914, when he enlisted in the Army. He served with Company H, 13th Infantry Regiment and later honorably discharged with the rank of corporal on June 12, 1916. With the war raging in Europe, Cukela enlisted into the Marine Corps on Jan. 31, 1917, prior to the U.S. joining the war. He served with the 66th Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. When America finally entered the war, Cukela deployed to France where he fought in every engagement that the 5th Regiment undertook. One of these engagements was the Battle of Belleau Wood, a renowned battle in the lore of the Marine Corps.
Cukela received a Medal of Honor twice for the same action during the Battle of Soissons: one from the Navy and the other from the Army. The action happened near Villers-Cotterets, France, on the morning of July 18, 1918. The 66th Company had advanced through the Forest de Retz before they were stopped by a sturdy German force. Ignoring the warnings of his men, then-Gunnery Sergeant Cukela crawled out from the flank before proceeding alone toward the enemy lines. Despite the barrage of heavy fire, Cukela pushed past the strong point and captured a machine gun by bayoneting the crew. He then picked up their hand grenades and demolished the remaining section of the strong point from the cover of the enemy gun pit. By the end, he had taken four prisoners and captured two damaged machine guns.
Due to a lack of any official record at the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, he never received the Purple Heart despite two wounds. He received his first wound on Sept. 16, 1918, in Jaulny, France, and his second during his time in the Champagne sector.
USS New York (BB-34): The Only US Ship to Sink a German U-boat in WWI
By Samantha Franco
via the Military History Online web site
The USS New York (BB-34) was a US Navy battleship and the lead vessel of her two-ship class. Named after the state of New York, she was designed to be the first ship to carry a 14-inch/45-caliber gun. The vessel entered service in 1914 and first actively served during the US occupation of Veracruz.
Following more than three years of operations off the east coast and in the Caribbean, she set sail across the Atlantic to join the British Grand Fleet in December 1917. With the fleet, she acted as the flagship of US battleships in the 6th Battle Squadron for the remainder of World War I.
It was during an escort mission that the USS New York first came into contact with a German U-boat. As she led a fleet of battleships into the Pentland Firth on October 14, 1918, she was badly damaged by an underwater collision. Two blades broke off of one of the vessel’s propellors, significantly reducing her speed, and there was damage to the starboard side.
New York‘s commanders opined that the depth of the channel omitted the notion that she may have collided with a shipwreck, and instead concluded she must have hit a submerged U-boat. Given the damage the vessel had suffered, her commanders also concluded that the collision would have been fatal, marking it the only time a German vessel was sunk by Battleship Division Nine during their service with the Grand Fleet.
Following the war, it was suggested the German craft was either the SM UB-113 or SM UB-123. However, both suggestions were debunked, as the UB-113 was sunk by a French gunboat in the Gulf of Gascony, while the UB-123 sank in the North Sea Mine Barrage five days after the collision.
The USS New York was also present for one of the most dramatic moments of the war, in which the German High Seas Fleet surrendered in the Firth of Forth on November 21, 1918, just days after the Armistice was signed.
World War I Guns Still Being Used Today
By Brady Kirkpatrick, Editor-in-Chief, gunmade.com
Special to the Doughboy Foundation website
World War I saw the introduction of many innovations in military technology, including the development of tanks, submarines, warplanes, and guns. Some of these technologies remain in use today.
The following WWI guns are still used in the military and among law enforcement professionals and civilians. The first World War ended over a century ago, which means the guns in this list are among the most reliable firearms ever built.
Here are six examples of WW1 guns still used today.
Springfield 1903 Bolt-Action Rifle
The Springfield 1903 (M1903) is a five-round bolt-action repeating rifle. The Springfield M1903 was released in 1903 and introduced into combat the same year during the Philippine-American War. The M1903 soon became the standard infantry rifle for the US Army.
The US Army used the M1903 throughout World War I and World War II. The M1 Garand replaced the M1903 as the standard service rifle in 1936. However, a lack of M1 rifles led to the continued use of the Springfield M1903 rifles.
Springfield produced the 1903 bolt-action rifle from 1903 to 1949 and built over 3 million units, many of which are still operable. The US Army Drill Team still uses the M1903 today.