weircookphotoCol. H. Weir Cook is believed to be the only World War I ace who went on to fly missions in World War II. 

Decorated American World War I flying ace also served in WWII 

By Jeff Stoffer
via the American Legion web site 

In a normal year, more than 9.5 million travelers fly in and out of the Indianapolis International Airport. Those who enter the passenger-ticketing terminal pass a 7-foot statue and an acrylic wall display honoring the namesake of the structure, Col. H. Weir Cook, a pioneer of early U.S. aviation. Without question, he was that, promoting commercial air travel, developing community airports, encouraging young people to learn to fly and continuously extolling the virtues of his beloved mode of travel.

Cook was also a highly decorated World War I flying ace, American Legion staff director and trainer of World War II combat pilots. He died in the South Pacific Theater at age 50, believed to have been the only World War I ace to have also enlisted for combat service in World War II.

The famed Eddie Rickenbacker, who joined Cook on the American Legion’s Aeronautical Commission in the 1930s after they fought together in the in the 94th Pursuit Squadron during World War I, had visited Cook in the South Pacific just weeks before he crashed a Bell P-39 Airacobra into a weather-shrouded mountainside in the New Caledonia archipelago. “He died as he would want to, still serving the country he loved so well,” Rickenbacker said after learning of his friend’s fate.

To have not volunteered for World War II combat service, Cook reportedly wrote in a letter to a friend “would have left me feeling that I should be hanged as a traitor to my country.”

The Indiana native left college in 1917 to serve as an ambulance driver just prior to U.S. entry in the Great War. He enlisted as a private in the aviation section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps and trained in France. Once trained, he went into action, flying with Capt. Rickenbacker and the so-called “Hat in the Ring” squadron. Cook was known for fearless, aggressive air offensives and shot down seven German planes. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for individually confronting and turning back a swarm of six enemy planes on Aug. 1, 1918, and three more, also by himself, three months later.

He flew missions over Chateau-Thierry, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and the Meusse-Argonne before he was sent into Germany as part of the Army of occupation there. He came home a captain, continued his service in the Indiana National Guard, flew airmail routes when that was an Army function and helped establish the U.S. Air Mail Service. He was extremely active in community organizations and was a member of American Legion Aviation Post 171 in Indianapolis. A vocal advocate for the advancement of commercial air travel at the time, he was also a leader in the American Legion Department of Indiana’s aeronautics program, later leading in that area at the national level. 


Letters From The Western Front: The Correspondence of American Doughboys and American Censorship During The Great War 1917-1918 

By Scott Kent
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site 

Private Clayton MoorePrivate Clayton MooreThe road to my dissertation topic was an interesting one. It began several years ago, at the death of my Great Aunt Velma and the discovery of her older brother Clayton’s army trunk. Growing up I knew very little about this soldier of the Great War, only that my mother’s younger brother had been named in his honor, and that Private Clayton Moore had served and died on the Western Front in 1918.

The trunk contained Clayton’s personal effects, his citations, some newspaper clippings, a few photos, and most importantly, several hand written letters sent home to his family and signed “Cash” at the bottom of each one.

At first I had hoped to use these admittedly limited resources to recreate the footsteps of my great-uncle, compare his experience with that of thousands of other doughboys, thereby adding his voice to the collective memory of the “war to end all wars.”

Helpful HintsIt was at this point that my dissertation morphed into something much larger. Relying solely on my uncle’s letters to tell this story posed a big problem, he did not write all of it down. Researching the writings of the commander of the 27th Division of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.), Major-General John O’Ryan, revealed that Clayton Moore and the 108th Infantry saw a good deal of action on the Western Front. Yet none of this appeared in his letters. Clayton had purposely withheld many details and events of his experiences in France. Why would he have done this? The answer is quite simple, he was told to do so by the American military and he, like most of the doughboys, self-censored his letters in the belief that doing so would help America’s war effort.

Both the American military and the American government viewed censorship as an essential weapon of warfare, and both were determined to prevent any valuable information from falling into German hands. What would follow was an unprecedented level of censorship that had no antecedent in American history.

The censorship of the First World War was thorough and invasive. It began with the military as the doughboys headed to the newly built cantonments for basic training. The newly created Commission on Training Camp Activities set about censoring any information that might hurt the morale of the newly drafted doughboys. Any book, movie, music, song, or magazine that was deemed “pro-German,” “pacifist,” or “anti-American” was quickly banished by the Department of Military Censorship.


German airship bombing WarsawA German airship strikes Warsaw in 1914. Six years earlier, American science fiction author H.G. Wells predicted that the next war would be fought in the clouds.  

American SF Author H.G. Wells one of Five Writers who Predicted WWI with Uncanny Accuracy 

via the Military History Now web site 

Few could have anticipated that the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the subsequent crisis that triggered the First World War. Yet for years leading up to 1914, a number of observers, writers and statesmen warned that Europe was indeed headed for a cataclysm. A rampant arms buildup, strident imperialism and a byzantine alliance system among the world’s ‘great powers’ had produced the powder keg, such seers warned. All that was needed to touch off the conflagration was single spark.

Yet like the mythical Cassandra who could foresee the coming disaster but was cursed with an inability convince those around her, few in Europe heeded the dire forecasts. Ultimately, millions paid with their lives for the failures. Here are five of these grim visionaries and their uncanny predictions about the coming war. 

germanarmyAt least one German intellectual welcomed the prospect of war.

The “World War”

August Wilhelm Otto Niemann coined the phrase Weltkrieg or “world war” a decade before the outbreak of hostilities. In his 1904 book of the same name, the prolific 65-year-old Hannover writer foresaw a coming clash between two powers in particular: Great Britain and Germany. He made his forecast against the backdrop of a decade-long naval arms race between the two estranged nations. Surprisingly, Niemann welcomed the prospect of war. In the opening pages of his book, he identifies England as the German Empire’s mortal enemy and stresses that only by defeating it, along with France and Russia, could his country ever hope to achieve greatness.


The Search for Roman Catholic High School’s Alumni of World War I 

By Chris Gibbons
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site

 It was December of 2019 when I first came upon the letter from 28th Division Captain Ralph C. Crow to Mrs. Ellen Breen of Philadelphia. Like so many of the letters that I’ve discovered during my now 10-year search for the alumni of Roman Catholic High School who gave their lives in World War I, it was heartbreaking. However, this letter was different, and I was astonished as I read it for it revealed a surprising and unexpected connection related to my search.

Captain Ralph C. Crows letter to Mrs. Ellen BreenCaptain Ralph C. Crows letter to Mrs. Ellen BreenEllen Breen’s son, Bernard, was a sergeant in Crow’s Company A - 108th Machine Gun Battalion in the opening days of the great Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the largest and deadliest battle ever fought by American soldiers. The letter read in part: “…I was ordered to send two guns to report to a Battalion (sic) when the fight started, I selected Sergeant Bernard F. Breen, and his gun crew for the reason that I considered him the best man in my Company…On the morning of September 28th, one of the men who had been with Sergeant Breen reported to me that the section had all been shot up, that Sergeant Breen and another man had been killed…”

The letter went on to state that one of the soldiers informed Captain Crow that they searched for, and eventually found, a “Father Wolf (sic)” to perform Breen’s burial service. A subsequent search of World War I records indicates that the only chaplain that could have been was the highly decorated 28th Division Lieutenant Reverend Joseph L. N. Wolfe. Crowe wrote: “I later got a chance to talk to Father Wolf (sic) and he told me himself that he had visited the grave of Sergeant Breen, and had performed the burial service…the men of my Company felt that they had lost a true Comrade when he was killed, as I said in the beginning of this letter it is with sorrow that I write this, as I had learned to love Sergeant Breen for the many brave deeds he (had) done on the field of battle.”

On September 27th, 1918, during the great Battle of the Meuse-Argonne, Joseph Wolfe from Roman Catholic High School’s Class of 1899 performed the burial service of Bernard Breen from Roman’s Class of 1902. I couldn’t help but wonder if they had known each other.

It was another remarkable moment of discovery for me, one of many I’ve had over these last several years. It was also another reminder that what I had initially and naively assumed would be a relatively straightforward search for names had instead become an incredible revelation of stories.

“I resolved to find what remained of Company D for (my grandfather), and for (his fellow soldiers), and for myself, as well, and complete a story begun on a hot July day so long ago, when young men raced across open fields toward machine guns and disappeared into history.” (From “The Remains of Company D – A Story of the Great War” by James Carl Nelson)

As an avid military history buff, I had always been intrigued by World War I. When I was just 12 years old, I worked on Saturdays at a local Gun Club as a ‘trap-boy’ - putting the clay pigeons on the machine that would fling them out of the trap-bunker. There was an old man who also worked there that everyone called “Gunner”. I never knew his real name, but was told that he was a veteran of World War I. I remember that Gunner was missing the tops of a few of his fingers after the first knuckle and often wondered if it was an injury sustained in the war. Whenever he clutched his ever-present lit cigar with those finger-stubs, I wanted to ask him what happened, but never did. I now wish that I had. Additionally, my father, a Korean War veteran, occasionally recounted particularly disturbing memories from his childhood of disabled Great War veterans begging for money on the streets of Philadelphia during the Great Depression.

In the late 1990’s, my then 84-year-old next-door neighbor, Murray, fascinated me with his childhood recollections of attending the May 1919 parade held in Philadelphia for the returning 28th Division soldiers.

Consequently, when my freelance writing career began in 2004 many of my initial published essays focused on war veterans, and several chronicled the exploits of the doughboys of the Great War. However, it was while reading James Carl Nelson’s The Remains of Company D – A Story of the Great War in 2011, particularly the passage above, that I committed myself to finding the names of the alumni of my high school alma mater who gave their lives in World War I.

Philadelphias Roman Catholic High School circa 1900Philadelphias Roman Catholic High School circa 1900Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic High School is the oldest Diocesan high school in the United States, as well as the nation’s first free Catholic high school. The school’s founder, Thomas E. Cahill, amassed a fortune from his coal and ice businesses, and when he died in 1878 he left the bulk of his estate for the establishment of the school as specified in his will. His wife, Sophia, and the initial members of the Board of Trustees, a few of them Civil War veterans, saw to it that Cahill’s dream would come to fruition and, in September of 1890, “Catholic High”, as it was commonly known, first opened the doors of its grand Gothic building at Broad and Vine streets. Students and alumni are known as “Cahillites” and the school has become a veritable institution in Philadelphia that continues to thrive to this day.

WW 2 Memorial Plaque at Roman Catholic High SchoolWW 2 Memorial Plaque at Roman Catholic High SchoolWhile walking the halls of Roman as a student in the late 1970’s, I would often glance up at the memorial plaques hanging on a first-floor wall that listed the names of the 121 Roman alumni who gave their lives in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The largest of those plaques, by far, is the bronze World War II plaque listing 108 names. It was dedicated by the Alumni Association in 1947, and the guest speaker at the dedication ceremony was Federal Judge James P. McGranery, a World War I veteran from Roman’s Class of 1913. McGranery would later serve as a Pennsylvania Congressman and Attorney General under President Harry Truman.

I wondered why there was no commemorative plaque for the Roman alumni who gave their lives in World War I and simply assumed it was because no alumni had died in the Great War. Surely, I reassured myself, that must be the case, otherwise a plaque would have been dedicated by our Alumni Association a long time ago.

In the years following my graduation in 1979, I tried to remain active in Roman’s Alumni Association and often attended the Association’s quarterly meetings held at the school. Prior to these meetings, I would occasionally walk the storied halls of the old building and stop to glance up at the memorial plaques. I once wrote down the names from the Korean War plaque for my father, a Korean War veteran and Roman graduate from the class of 1948. He told me that there were some names missing. “Believe me”, he said, “I know guys who were killed in Korea – Roman guys – and they’re not on there.” He wrote down their names for me and because my Dad’s mind and memory were always razor-sharp, I wasn’t surprised to later confirm that he was right. But this finding also puzzled me: Why were these names not listed on Roman’s Korean War memorial plaque? Was it simply a matter of the school and the alumni not being informed by their next of kin? Could the same thing have happened to the Roman alumni who gave their lives in World War I?

As my interest and knowledge of the Great War deepened over the years, particularly its impact on the Philadelphia region, these visits to the school gradually amplified my suspicions that it was highly unlikely that Roman alumni did not die in the war. Nelson’s book not only inspired me to confirm this but, if true, to also try and determine why the saga of Roman’s alumni of World War I had become lost and forgotten in the fog of time and the torn pages of history.


Politica imageThe author argues that American's perceptions of the First World War are distorted by the U.S. armed forces missing most the first three years of the war and its bloody and dehumanizing trench warfare that the armies of other combatant nations experienced. 

Scars of Europe: U.S. perceptions of the First World War are distorted 

By Jason Miraka
via The Politica at Boston University web site

Beneath the trenches scarring Europe’s fields languish the corpses of young men subjected to the barbarity of a global catastrophe glossed over as the Great War. Despite the visibility of these haunting earthen wounds, U.S. perceptions of the First World War are distorted by the alleged triumph of democracy and freedom – that is, if Americans can even recall the supposedly insubstantial world war. Likely due to the U.S.’ prolonged neutrality and the distance between North America and Europe, many Americans escaped the trauma of trench warfare. By the time American soldiers arrived on the Western Front in 1918, they had evaded years of crawling through serpentine troughs as enemy shells roared overhead. Therefore, when the conflict came to its bloody denouement, bringing promises of freedom to enshroud the terror, many would forget the typhoid fever, dysentery, and cholera. They would forget how these diseases picked at men more rapidly and aggressively than bullets and convulsing mines. More would overlook the lice that gorged on emaciated boys or the rats that gnawed on both the living and the bloated corpses floating along flooded channels.

Nevertheless, through the surviving letters of World War One veterans, one begins to fathom the brutality of trench combat. It is through these letters that one discovers that despite promises of democratic equality, lower-ranking soldiers were subjected to dehumanizing conditions unlike their martial superiors. As a result of their direct exposures to atrocities, many of these expendable soldiers sought to escape their misery through fleeting distractions.

Those lacking an advantageous rank – as encapsulated by the diverging recollections within the military hierarchy – were often sent to fight and waste away on the front lines for the territorial benefit of ambitious nations. In 1916, Private Gilbert Williams divulged the inhumanity many lowly soldiers endured while confined in the trenches. According to the Private, soldiers in his company spent more time in the channels than outside them. Furthermore, he recounted that within the maze of trenches, the fighting was so feral that there often was no time to bury the dead properly; as a result, numerous bodies were stuffed hastily into the sides of trenches. So hurried were their burials that as the trench walls crumpled under persistent bombardment, one could see the jutting bones of human legs, boots, and skulls.  In the warm weather, the pervading stench of rotting corpses prevailed over the miasma of human excrement and poor hygiene. As a private, Williams constituted the lowest member of his infantry unit. While European powers undoubtedly ventured to conserve as many soldiers as possible to display some semblance of victory over their enemies, senior officers typically escaped the constant fighting on the front lines. Most officers spent their time in administrative positions, limiting their direct involvement in combat. Contrarily, privates with the fewest responsibilities were easily expendable. Therefore, if they died, their corpses ought to buttress trench fortifications because what mattered most to warring nations were the inches they gained on the barren fields of No Man’s Land. In a Machiavellian sense, if the state defeated its enemy, its means justified the end – even if victory warranted the degradation of its civilians.


World War I monument in Lynchburg to be moved to new location 

By Rachael Smith
via the Lynchburg News and Advance newspaper (VA) web site 

Lynchburg memorialThe World War I monument currently sits in front of E.C. Glass High School but will soon be moved to Jones Memorial Library.A World War I monument at E.C. Glass High School will be moved this month to a new location at Jones Memorial Library, just a half-mile down Memorial Avenue.

At 2 p.m. Nov. 6 at Jones Memorial Library, the Lynchburg Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will hold a rededication ceremony revealing the monument at its new home, combined with a program to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknowns.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, which was dedicated in 1921.

The monument has provided a final resting place for one of America’s unidentified World War I service members, and Unknowns from later wars were added in 1958 and 1984. The Tomb also has served as a place of mourning and a site for reflection on military service.

Sue Reeves, honorary regent and chair of commemorative events within the Lynchburg chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, said the anniversary was the chapter’s impetus to do a commemoration over Veterans Day weekend and to unveil the monument at the same time.

She said DAR had wanted to move the monument for a while due to its lack of visibility.

“Nobody knows it’s there, lost on the ground to E.C. Glass, and people just drive by and they don’t see it,” she said.

Ted Delaney, director of the Lynchburg Museum System, said the DAR’s WWI monument was initially sited along Memorial Avenue on what would later become E.C. Glass High School grounds.

It was placed near the road in between the “avenue of trees” planted along the road in 1920 to commemorate the WWI dead, he said. 

“The monument honors the 42 local men who died in World War I — or as they called it, ‘the World War,’” Delaney said. “Interestingly, the list of names on the plaque is racially integrated, unlike the listing on Monument Terrace behind the ‘Listening Post’ statue.”


bayonets groupLois Ullrich (left) presents two World War I bayonets to Mike Grobbel Polar Bear Memorial Association for donation to the Michigan Heroes Museum in Frankenmuth, MI. The bayonets were wartime souveniers of Ullrich's grand uncle Arnold F. Ullrich (right) who served as a Private in the 339th Infantry Regiment’s Medical Detachment. The 339th, along with the first battalion of the 310th Engineers, the 337th Field Hospital Company and the 337th Ambulance Company comprised the American North Russia Expeditionary Force (abbreviated ANREF and later known as the “Polar Bears”). 

Polar Bear's bayonets donated to Michigan Heroes Museum 

By Mike Grobbel
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site Director of Public Affairs, 

Lois Ullrich was recently rummaging around in her attic when she spotted it - a bundle wrapped with an old blue towel, which her mother had given her years ago and had been promptly relegated to the attic. Lois remembered her mother telling her that it had belonged to her great uncle, Arnold Ullrich, and that he had brought it back with him when he returned home to Mt. Clemens, Michigan after serving in World War One. Intrigued, she brought the bundle downstairs and opened it for the first time in many years.

Inside were two identical steel blades with wooden handles, one bearing a label in her mother’s handwriting that read, “Arnold Ullrich Bayonets W. War I”. Lois knew nothing about bayonets but she did know that Arnold had been one of the 5,000 US Army “Polar Bear” soldiers – the majority hailing from Michigan - who had fought the Bolshevik Red Army in North Russia during the winter of 1918-1919.

Wanting to find a better home for these unusual artifacts, Lois went on-line and found the US World War One Centennial Commission's web site and left a message on their Contact page. She indicated her desire to donate the bayonets to an appropriate institution and asked for the Commission’s help in finding that “better home”.

Chris Christopher, publisher of the Commission’s web site, responded by connecting Lois with Mike Grobbel, who is the president of the Polar Bear Memorial Association and also a board member of the Michigan Heroes Museum in Frankenmuth, MI. The Association conducts an annual Memorial Day service to honor and remember the 234 American soldiers who died during the North Russia military intervention, while the Museum’s collections include the stories of 50 “Polar Bear” soldiers, including that of Mike’s grandfather.

Mike met with Lois the following week to accept her donation of the two bayonets on behalf of the Michigan Heroes Museum. The bayonets are in very good condition and the museum’s staff have subsequently identified them as being “British Pattern 1903” bayonets. This type of bayonet was designed for use with the British Magazine-fed Lee Enfield rifle and the markings on these two bayonets indicate they were manufactured by the Wilkinson Sword Company in London, England. Since none of the American troops who went to North Russia were ever issued that British rifle, it’s likely that Lois’ great uncle acquired the P-1903 bayonets in a trade with a British Army soldier as a souvenir.


crashed aircraft 

The near-suicidal way American pilots played possum in World War I 

By Logan Nye
via the We Are The Mighty web site 

In World War I, pilots on either side of the line enjoyed sudden lurches ahead in technology advances followed by steady declines into obsolescence. This created a seesaw effect in the air where Allied pilots would be able to blast their way through German lines for a few months, but then had to run scared if the enemy got the jump on them.

So the Allied pilots found a way to fake their deaths in the air with a risky but effective maneuver.

By the time that America was getting pilots to the front in 1917, all of the early combatants from the war had years of hard-won experience in aerial fighting. U.S. pilots would have to catch up. Worse, U.S. pilots were joining the fight while German planes were more capable than Allied ones, especially America’s Nieuport 28s purchased from France.

France had declined to put the Nieuport 28 into service because of a number of shortcomings. Its engine burned castor oil, and the exhaust would spray across the pilots, coating their goggles in a blinding film and making many of them sick. It could also turn tight but had some limitations. Worst of all, pilots couldn’t dive and then suddenly pull up, a common method of evading fire in combat, without risking the weak wings suddenly snapping off.

Yes, in standard combat flying, the plane could be torn apart by its own flight. So new American pilots adopted a strategy of playing dead in the air.

The technique wasn’t too complicated. In normal flying, a pilot who stalled his plane and then entered a spin was typically doomed to slam into the ground. And so, enemy pilots would often break off an attack on a spinning plane, allowing it to finish crashing on its own.

But a British test pilot, Frederick A. Lindemann, figured out how to reliably recover from a spin and stall. He did so twice in either 1916 or 1917. So, pilots who learned how to recover from a stall and spin would, when overwhelmed in combat, slow down and pull up, forcing a stall in the air.

Then as they started to drop, they would push the stick hard to one side, causing one wing to have full lift and the other to have minimal lift, so it would fall in a severe spin. German pilots, thinking they had won, would break off the attack. Then the Allied pilot would attempt to recover.

But spins were considered dangerous for a reason. 

On 11/11 at 11am, the new National WWI Memorial in Washington, D.C. will participate
in the “Bells of Peace” for the first time.


Bells of peace at WWI Memorial 2021

Since the centennial of the WWI Armistice in 2018, The Bells of Peace have been tolled in remembrance at 11am on Veterans Day. The national bell tolling commemorates the World War I Armistice – which happened on November 11, 1918 when the guns fell silent, and bells tolled on the Western Front after four years of brutal combat.

Each Veterans Day since 2018, Bells of Peace participants have taken a few moments at the 11th hour local to remember those who served in WWI with a remembrance of a 21-peal bell tolling. Tens of thousands have participated in this ritual including states, cities, municipalities, ships, military installations, churches, schools, veterans’ organizations, museums, and individuals.

For the first time, this year “Bells of Peace” will remember those who served with a ceremony at the National WWI Memorial in Washington, D.C.


photos 2 

"The Hello Girls of World War I deserve to be recognized for their place in history."

By Claudia Friddell
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site 

As the author of narrative nonfiction books for children, I am most interested in finding and sharing little-known or long-forgotten stories of Americans who have made significant contributions to our country. When I read Elizabeth Cobbs’ inspiring book, The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers, I knew I wanted to share with young readers the remarkable story of the courageous female telephone operators who helped win World War l.

cover 400Thanks to Elizabeth’s impeccable research and her talent as a riveting storyteller, a generation of readers have been introduced to these pioneering women of the Signal Corps who not only blazed the trail for women in the U.S. Army but fought a sixty-year battle to earn their veteran status. Now, even more people have come to know these amazing women from Jim Theres’ excellent documentary and a wonderful off-Broadway musical—both entitled The Hello Girls. Hoping to inspire young readers with their heroic story, I partnered with New York Times best-selling illustrator, Elizabeth Baddeley, to create the picture book, Grace Banker and Her Hello Girls Answer the Call.

Claudia Friddell 300Claudia FriddellOne of the great pleasures of researching historical subjects is meeting their descendants. When I decided to tell the story of the WWl Signal Corps female operators through the eyes of Grace Banker, the chief operator of the first unit of women soldiers, I had no idea how enriched my story and I would become after meeting Grace’s granddaughter, Carolyn Timbie. She is passionate about preserving and sharing her grandmother’s inspiring story of leadership, patriotism, perseverance, and bravery. Carolyn graciously shared a treasure trove of her grandmother’s photos, keepsakes, and documents from the war.

I knew I had struck gold when I read Grace’s diary from her WWl service as the chief operator at General Pershing’s battlefield headquarters. Grace was a wonderful writer, so it was a treat to weave in some of her diary entries into my text so she could help tell her own story.

Getting to know Carolyn has helped me feel more connected to her grandmother. I hope Carolyn’s insights in this interview will bring you one step closer to Grace Banker, the Signal Corps operators, and their World War l experiences.


Horner and ChoctawsWilliam C. Meadows "has written a much-needed addition to the literature of the First World War, the goal of his book is to call attention to the first code talkers, who have been overshadowed by the code talkers of World War II."  

Reviewing The First Code Talkers: Native American Communicators in WWI 

By David Retherford
via the web site 

William C. Meadows is the accomplished author of six distinctive books on Native Americans. Meadows' newest book, The First Code Talkers: Native American Communicators in World War I is an academic text that argues for recognition of the Choctaw Code Talkers during the First World War. Many are familiar with the Navajo Code Talkers from the Second World War, but few know of the Choctaw Nation Code Talkers of the First World War.

Meadows has written a much-needed addition to the literature of the First World War, the goal of his book is to call attention to the first code talkers, who have been overshadowed by the code talkers of World War II. This aim was achieved by asking and then answering the following questions: “First, why were Native Americans chosen as code talkers? Second, what made them successful? Third, were they effective and to what extent did their service contribute to the end of the war? Fourth, what impact did they have on the U.S. Military?”[1] These questions are the main drivers of Meadows' recognition of the critical work of Native American soldiers during the First World War. Meadows’ book focuses on the details of individuals and their influence on the Choctaw Nation, such as their experience at Indian boarding schools prior to entering the military. Meadows states that the boarding school experience for Native Americans was in many ways not that different from military life. The students learned English and were punished when they spoke in their native tongue.

“Native Americans served as secure communicators on the frontiers in two world wars. In that role, they provided protection for tactical voice communication to foil enemy eavesdroppers. Their skillful manipulation of language gave U.S. forces a level of security and a speed of secure communications that otherwise would not have been possible. The actions and innovations of the Native American Code Talkers in combat saved thousands of lives and enabled the success of many operations. The induction of Native American Code Talkers into the NSA/CSS Hall of Honor is intended to remember all code talkers, known and unknown.”[2]

The First Code Talkers is different from other academic books in part because of its singular focus on the Choctaw Nation and the underlying notion of recognition. The activities of this little-known group set the precedent for the use of the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II. Thomas Britten authored American Indians in World War I: At War and at Home in 1999 which covers some of the same subject matter as Meadows’ book, though it does not compare to the level of detail offered in this new volume. Britten and Meadows' books do overlap on the question of whether Native Americans should automatically be citizens. Both authors concurred that the consensus among Americans was that Native Americans were not citizens. Meadows stated that according to the Burke Act of 1906 the United States government was given the discretion to grant citizenship to Indigenous Americans.[3] Britten stated that by 1917 over one third of Native Americans were not citizens.[4] Generally, Britten’s book was an overview of the cultural history of American Indians before, during, and after the First World War. Britten’s book is for the generalist reader, whereas Meadows' book is meant not only to tell a story, but also as a reference for researchers, including four appendices with timelines and detailed biographies for quick reference.


Colonel Clifford Carson and Virginia Tech’s Connection to Tractor Artillery Transport in the First World War 

Captain Clifford C. CarsonFigure 1: Captain Clifford Carson photographed in Spring 1917 during his short tenure as VPI’s Commandant of Cadets. (Source: Virginia Polytechnic 1917 Bugle Yearbook)via the VPI in World War I blog at Virginia Tech University 

In January 1917 Virginia Polytechnic Institute welcomed 41-year-old Captain Clifford C. Carson as Commandant and Professor of Military Science. Captain Carson was born in Ohio in 1876 and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1900. After graduating Carson spent the next 17 years as a field artillery officer; spending time at different Army installations and schools from the Philippines to Fort Monroe, Virginia.

Captain Carson’s tenure as VPI’s Commandant was cut short by America’s entry into the First World War. In need of qualified officers for the United States Army, Carson was pulled back to regular service in June 1917 to become the director of the field artillery training camp at Fort Monroe. His talent at organizing instruction of artillery officers at Fort Monroe was noticed by Army leaders. Carson was promoted to Major and sent to France, where he was tasked to create and direct tractor artillery training centers for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF).

Even before the First World War militaries began to see the advantages of transitioning from horse-drawn artillery to mechanized artillery transport. Among the new technologies used to transport artillery were continuous track caterpillar tractors. Continuous track tractors are propelled by a continuous band of treads or track plates which run around two or more wheels. The treads could be made of different materials, but the most common type of continuous track used during the First World War were tracks of steel plates which were called caterpillar tread – hence the name caterpillar tractors.

These tractors became a commercial success in the first decade of the 1900s and were mainly used for agricultural purposes prior to war. Their ability to transport heavy loads and traverse difficult terrain, otherwise impossible for horses, convinced military leaders to adapt them for war.

The largest manufacturers of these types of tractors were both located in the United States – the Holt Caterpillar Company located in California and Illinois and the C. L. Best Tractor Company also located in California. Both companies later merged in 1925 to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company which still exists today. Prior to 1914 both companies conducted brisk business in Europe and sold thousands of tractors to Allied and Central Powers. After 1914, largely due to Britain’s naval blockade of Germany, nearly all their international manufacturing exports went to the Allied nations – chiefly Britain and France.

Germany was perhaps the first warring nation to widely use caterpillar tractors, many of which were requisitioned from German farmers, to haul their heavy artillery pieces to both fronts. The German Army began the war with a clear advantage in the numbers of heavy large-caliber artillery and it was an advantage that they would maintain through most of the war.

Britain and France began the war with an artillery disadvantage. Most Allied artillery consisted of smaller field pieces with a shorter range, compared to the Germans, which required them to be placed closer to the front and thus more vulnerable to artillery counterfire and infantry fire. Further, smaller Allied artillery did not have the punching power to penetrate reinforced and underground fortifications. While the Allies did use caterpillar tractors from the beginning of the war, they mainly used them to construct, haul, and transport.

By 1916 both Allied and Central Powers were commonly using caterpillar tractors to move heavy guns to and across the front. Some tractors were even modified and fitted with basic armor to protect against bullets and shrapnel– a modification that was an inspiration for the development of the tank.

Tractor-drawn artillery held distinct advantages over horse-drawn artillery. Tractor-drawn artillery was able to move across difficult terrain in a variety of weather conditions and across ground disturbed by artillery shelling, vehicles, horses and mules, and infantry. As one journalist noted, unlike horses, tractors could “push down trees,” “ignore fallen logs,” and could “waddle over the roughest kind of terrain and [go] through what have before been the most discouraging obstacles.” 


Newberry’s Doughboy’s Columbia cousin

By Andrew Wigger
via the The Newberry Observer newspaper (SC) web site 

Newberry SC DoughboyThe Newberry World War I Doughboy sculpted by John Paulding.Columbia SC DoughboyThe Columbia World War I Doughboy sculpted by E.M. Viquesney.SOUTH CAROLINA — In last year’s “Strolling through history” section, this reporter did an article on the World War I monument located in Memorial Park.

In that article, it was mentioned that the monument is one of very few monuments to WWI in the American South: “So much so that in 2018 a segment of the British Royal Airforce stationed in Charleston, S.C. held a memorial service on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day as the Newberry Monument was the closest, they could find!”

However, thanks to one loyal reader of The Newberry Observer, it turns out, that the Newberry Doughboy monument has a “cousin,” of sorts, in Columbia.

While the Doughboy in Newberry statue was sculpted by John Paulding and was unveiled in 1928, the Doughboy in Columbia was sculpted by E.M. Viquesney (based on its appearance) and was erected in 1930 according to The Columbia Doughboy is located at 701 Whaley Street, Columbia.

The Columbia monument is, “dedicated to the memory of our comrades from Pacific Community who gave their lives in the World War.”




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