WWI Memorial Bozrah CT 2021During World War I, the Salvation Army sent women to France to lift the spirits of the soldiers – and to serve them comfort food. Their food of choice? Hot doughnuts. The women became known as “Doughnut Girls,” and on June 4, in conjunction with National Doughnut Day, a program in Norwich, CT celebrated their work in the Great War, as well as the local World War I Memorial. 

Norwich, CT program honors WWI Doughnut Girls

By Claire Bessette
via The Day newspaper (CT) web site 

Norwich — City Historian Dale Plummer connected the dots meticulously to make a solid connection between National Doughnut Day on June 4 and the effort to resume fundraising to restore the city’s World War I howitzer and create a lasting memorial to local soldiers of that war.

Plummer, chairman of the WWI Memorial Committee, recalled seeing a restored WWI field stove in operation at a reenactment event and thought it might be interesting to bring that to Norwich. He learned that National Doughnut Day is June 4 and that its origins are rooted in the work by organizations to boost morale of U.S. troops fighting in France from 1917-18.

Salvation Army “Doughnut Girls” — young women — worked at or close to the front during the war, cooking and serving millions of doughnuts to troops trying to catch a breather between battles, Plummer said.

“It was pretty much plain or with sugar and cinnamon,” he said. “They weren’t making Boston crème or anything more elaborate. Simple stuff, and coffee. It was a big morale booster, kind of like someone from home serving you something fresh and hot. They got pretty close to the front lines, too, so they had to be pretty brave.”

On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., World War I reenactors set up a field camp on the Norwichtown Green, with Norwich native Allen Crane's restored field stove. Reenactors portraying Salvation Army Doughnut Girls cooked and served doughnuts to the public for a requested donation to the WWI memorial.

The committee also purchased modern Dixie Donuts to supplement the period creations.

From noon to 1 p.m., former Connecticut State Troubadour Tom Callinan performed his program “Over Here & Over There: Songs from and About the First World War.” He presented popular songs of the era and original songs.

The event also will raise awareness of the many nonfighting groups that played a role in the Great War, Plummer said. The Knights of Columbus, American Red Cross, YMCA and other groups would set up stations to send letters home, provide games and recreation and food to troops.

“All these organizations helped anyone who needed help,” Plummer said. “If you were in the service, they were there to support you. Nobody asked, ‘Where are you from or what’s your religion?’ They had a spirit of ‘We’re all in it together.’ The Knights of Columbus had a slogan: ‘Everyone welcome, everything free.’”

Ellen Larson, secretary of the WWI Memorial Committee, said it’s important to honor the service of brave volunteers and service organizations who worked so close to the action to support the troops.

The event, sponsored by the Norwich city historian, the Norwich World War I Memorial Committee and the Sikh Art Gallery, was free and open to the public. Donations were requested for the doughnuts.

Read the entire article on The Day web site here:

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