Answering the Call: Erie County, Pennsylvania in World War One
By the Erie County, Pennsylvania, World War One Centennial Committee, and Editors Mary Jane Phillips Koenig, Susan Mueller, Ann Silverthorn, and Bill Welch
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site
In 2018 thirteen people, including teachers, veterans, historians, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, all from varying backgrounds, thought that Erie County should be commemorating the American engagement in World War One. Each of us had a distinct connection to war.
Our first action was to raise money to erect a memorial dedicated to those 199 men with links to Erie County who made the ultimate sacrifice in the World War. After a successful county wide campaign, recognized by veterans and other citizens alike, the memorial was erected and dedicated in May 2019. The Bells of Peace initiative was adopted in 2018 and “World War One Wednesdays,” a series of lectures was presented in 2019 to help the public understand Erie’s part in the war, at the front in Europe and the home front.
The idea to write a book about the county’s part in the war emanated from those projects and the committee received a grant for $15,000 for creating the book.
Now this 175-page commemorative book, Answering the Call: Erie County, Pennsylvania in World War One will be available on May 25, 2021, the launch date. The writers and editors who contributed to this book did so without compensation and all proceeds will go to the perpetual maintenance of the World War One Memorial and grounds at Erie County Veterans Memorial Park on State Street in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Few events in history have created such change as the First World War and the effects are still relevant today. Answering the Call, Erie County, Pennsylvania in World War One, examines how the people of Erie County met the challenges of that war, whether in the military or at the home front. From those who did enter the military to the industry surging to support the war effort, Erie County served and there was great heroism and sacrifice on all fronts. This book resonates nationwide, giving us a way to connect to the distant past, to learn from it, and to remember and honor those who “answered the call.”
What else does the book include? There are biographies of the 201 men with Erie County connections who died in the war and chapters about the local infantry regiments of the 28th Division and the local machine gun regiment of the 80th Division. Other parts of the book cover Erie’s Gold Star mothers, the area Red Cross chapter, how Erie County women supported the war, the 1918 flu pandemic in Erie, when a German U-boat visited Erie after the war, a list of over 2300 men and women from Erie County who served in the military during the war, and much more!
Ann Silverthorn, committee member and editor/writer of the book, said, “World War One was the forgotten war for me until I learned the story of my great uncles, who each died fighting for their opposing countries in France. This led me to my involvement with the Erie County World War One committee. After researching, writing about, and becoming emotionally tied to those who served during World War One, I will never take their bravery for granted again.”
Mary Jane Koenig, chair of the committee and another editor/writer of the book, has made several trips to France for research about her great uncle who served in the war. She said, “Researching material for this book evolved from an academic endeavor to an emotional quest as we uncovered amazing stories of the men and women of Erie County who “answered the call,” those who felt it was their patriotic duty to serve their country, whether on the front line or on the home front. The book honors these heroes and creates renewed awareness of their courage and sacrifice.
“While researching those who served in the military, interesting facts emerged when we found draft cards, compensation papers, ships’ transport lists, parents’ names, places of employment, news articles, and other biographical information. There was a sense of loss when information was limited. Those who served were all ages, from 15 years old to those in their 30s and 40s. Even though all had a connection to Erie County, some were from Ohio, West Virginia, Russia, Poland, Italy, Ireland, England, and more. Before the war, they were bakers, chauffeurs, tanners, trolley drivers, furriers, molders, nurses, farmers, railway switchmen, doctors, paper hangers, roofers, clerks, and students. Some were drafted, others enlisted. United States Army, United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, all represented.
“We pictured each of them as they left their families, took up arms, and sailed to an unfamiliar country. They became machine gunners, infantrymen, sailors, scouts, buglers, cooks, wagoners, nurses, or served in one of the new aero squadrons. In time they felt the camaraderie, the everyday jostling and kidding, then the gravity, the sorrow of losing a friend.”
The committee learned much about the area’s involvement in World War I and readers will quickly realize that Erie County, Pennsylvania, was a microcosm of the United States, and its story reverberated across the country.
If you would like more information about the book, please email eriecountyww1.gmail.com.
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