wwi veterans

Armistice Day

Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November 11 to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning — the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. The date was declared a national holiday in many allied nations, and coincides with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day.

During World War I, over 12,000 American Indians served in the armed forces of the United States. In the army, they served as gunners, snipers, patrol workers, messengers, scouts, medical personnel, radio operators, and code talkers.

American Indians were integrated into numerous divisions of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF).  A few units, however, like Company E of the 36th Division, were all Indian.

This drawing, found by a volunteer, shows the symbolism of the 36th Division’s insignia, adopted in January 1919.  The letter “T” represents Texas and the arrow head represents Oklahoma. Because the Division was made up of officers and men formerly of the National Guards of Texas and Oklahoma, its official name became “The Lone Star Division.”

                                                                          We voted.

WW1 veteran Walter Howard carries disabled WWI veteran Glenn Switzer to vote in Duarte. @latimes

PVT John Elk US Army Signal Corps.  Company D, 139TH Infantry REG, 35TH ID.  WWI veteran.

Sioux warrior and American fighting man.

Nearly five years after the end of World War I, veteran Timothy Percy Patterson wrote to President Calvin Coolidge. “I served eighteen months in the World’s War. On the 11th day of Nov. 1918, on the Battlefield in France I heard much discussion about we being at peace. I beg to inform that I still have no peace.”

Patterson was one of nearly 400,000 African-American men who served in the U.S. military during World War I. Approximately 200,000 of these men were sent to Europe.

These same soldiers came of age in a society that sought to limit their right to vote and to segregate them into separate and unequal public facilities. After fighting the German army in Europe, African-American veterans found themselves confronting the racial violence of lynching and a resurgent Ku Klux Klan.

More than 40 years after Patterson wrote his protest letter, the federal government passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The passage of these laws was hastened by the non-violent demonstrations during the 1950s and early 1960s. Letters like that of Timothy Patterson’s remind us that this struggle has a long history that pre-dates the rise of the “modern” civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

See the letter in our digital catalog: http://1.usa.gov/1WCzQCX

Join the #RightsAndJustice conversation on May 20 at 1:30 pm ET! 

The Republic.

When I was young my Grandfather who was a WWI veteran had an election night tradition.  Around 10:00PM he would take down a special glass and pour a double shot of whiskey. He would then look out of the the living room bay window and raise the glass with the words,”God save the Republic.” Of course he then downed the double shot the way you would expect of one who saw the Hell of trench warfare.  His little ceremony was to reinforce that no matter who won the election it was the republic itself that mattered and not a particular politician. Even if his candidate lost Grandpa was still first and foremost an American. Tonight the fate of our nation will be decided by we the American people and no mater who wins we will still be Americans in the morning. Our country may need us more than ever.

So in the tradition of my Grandfather, a man who knew the true cost of American freedom I say,”God save the Republic!”

Photo via Getty Images

For Veterans’ Day we’re revisiting a story from the NPR archives – poets like Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, John McCrae and Rupert Brooke are well-known today; most everyone who’s taken high school English has run across Owen’s shattering “Dulce et Decorum Est.”

But there’s another writer, Laurence Binyon, whose name is forgotten – even though one verse of one of his works is still read throughout Britain and the Commonwealth countries:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Find out more about Binyon and his poem “For the Fallen” here.

– Petra


WWI humor from the trenches: Fragments from France

By Capt. Bruce Bairnsfather (1917).

From Wikipedia: Captain (Charles) Bruce Bairnsfather (9 July 1887 – 29 September 1959) was a prominent British humorist and cartoonist. His best-known cartoon character is Old Bill. Bill and his pals Bert and Alf featured in Bairnsfather’s weekly “Fragments from France” cartoons published weekly in “The Bystander” magazine during the First World War.

Photoset by oddismycopilot.

Look at this man. This man’s name is Jules Vrévin, and he is a bamf. He’s my grandfather’s grandfather and he fought in WWI. He earned ten medals throughout his military career and fought in the trenches. He ran the machine guns and served from 1914 to 1918. Aside from time spent in the hospital from his wounds, he served in the military for the entire war.

Those are all of his medals lined up in the proper order that he could wear them.

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