WWI 1st Division DSC Recipient RPPC Photo


eBay can be a fun way to research WWI soldiers in a way that wouldn’t have been possible ten years ago. With the emerging databases of WWI soldier roster information and the ever-expanding capacity of Ancestry.com for genealogical data, WWI veterans are becoming easier and easier to research. In this case, I purchased a photo of two US officers posing in a French studio in March of 1919. The signature on the front and the inscription on the back give roughly enough information to make a positive identification. The standing officer is 2nd Lt. William H. Barry of Langley, Washington. He served with F. Co of the 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division during the American involvement in WWI. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his bravery and extraordinary heroism in the breakthrough of the Hindenburg Line. A large percentage of his company became casualties and he assumed command after the CO was wounded. He reorganized the company and completed their objective under the rain of German machine fun fire.

 

To think, this photograph was obtained on an internet auction site for less than the price of a tank of gasoline and had been sitting in a pile of postcards for years before it was posted. I’m glad to provide this information – I hope a family member can find this post and learn a little about their ancestor!

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Lt. William H. Barry (Standing)

 

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Lt. Barry’s March 1919 Signature

 

BARRY, WILLIAM H.
Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army
28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division, A.E.F.
Date of Action: October 5, 1918
Citation:
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to William H. Barry, Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Exermont, France, October 5, 1918. Assuming command of his company after his company commander and a major portion of the company became casualties, Second Lieutenant Barry reorganized his company and personally led it forward in the attack, successfully attaining his objective in the face of intense machine-gun and artillery fire. He constantly exposed himself to enemy fire in order to encourage and insure the protection of his men.
General Orders No. 103, W.D., 1919
Home Town: Langley, WA

 

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Sharpshooters and Snipers in WWI: The Story of a US Marine


The nature of the prolonged war that was WWI and the stalemate and boredom of life in the trenches left a lot of soldiers with time on their hands. Additionally, some soldiers were raised hunting deer, boar and other game in the forests of Europe and North America in the early 1900s. A rifle in the hands of these men could become a weapon that could do immense damage from one concealed trench to another. Today’s post will highlight a United States Marine who was shot through both eyes by a German sniper in October of 1918. But first, please check out this video on snipers during WWI by The Great War, a youtube channel with daily videos about events during WWI.

 

PFC. Andrew H. Knebel, 18th Company/5th Marine Regiment

PFC Andrew H. Knebel, 18th Co./5th Marines – Lost both eyes during WWI

The story behind the above photograph of PFC Andrew H. Knebel of the United States Marine Corps is one that pulls at the heartstrings of the American populace during the war. I was lucky enough to acquire the photo from a fellow collector/friend of mine who I had helped aid in the identification several years previous. A faintly scribbled name on the reverse of the image took several weeks to properly identify, but we were eventually able to track down the story of the blinded Marine in the photo. Taken in a Paris studio in 1918, PFC Knebel is posed with a French nurse who has taken the time to wheel him (note the wet wheelchair marks) into the studio from a nearby hospital.

Details of Knebel’s wartime epic were tracked down in a Detroit Free Press article from 1919:

ANDREW KNEBEL (1897-1968), of the United States Marine Corps, had been fighting the Germans for ten months before a sniper’s bullet, on October 4, 1918, entered bis left eye, passed through the right. The last, thing he saw on earth was light. The last sight he saw on earth was a clump of wet trees glistening in the morning sunshine in the Champagne sector. But it took a better marksman than the German sniper in one or those trees to pond a shaft through Andrew’s heart. Dan Cupid did that job, which has counteracted the calamity to such an extent that the twenty-two-year-old marine is ready to tell anyone that the law of compensation Is the surest thing in the world. Andrew Knebel, on July 11, married bis nurse. Miss Anna D. Kelley who took care of him at the Baltimore Institute for the Blind. “If I hadn’t been blinded I wouldn’t have met Anna” he philosophized. “And I wouldn’t give her up for the sight, of my eyes not on your life. She’s the dearest, gentlest girl in the world. I guess one reason why I always liked her was because the treated me as if I wasn’t blind at all. She never pitied me. She’s a wonderful gal.

“Are you there, mother, old dear?”

He called, peering with empty eye sockets towards the kitchen, from which came a delectable aroma of baking apple pie. “May I have a light, mother?” “Destiny is a funny old bird,” the bride remarked, while Andrew’s rosy-cheeked mother was lighting his cigarette. “I didn’t want to go to the Baltimore institute to nurse blind boys. I did everything I could to avoid going. I was nursing at the Army Hospital at Camp Wadsworth when the chief superintendent asked for volunteers to go to Baltimore. I shied away from that chief superintendent for a week. But it was no use. She sent four or us.

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“The Institute for the Blind at Baltimore is a beautiful place on a 100-acre estate which was. loaned to the government by Mrs. T. Harrison Garrett. When I’d see those boys feeling their way along the paths in that wonderful Elizabethan garden it took all the grit I had to keep from crying all the time and me an army nurse! Everything there is so beautiful that it hurt me to think they couldn’t see their own place.”

Institute for the Blind in Baltimore

“Then I got acquainted with Andy. I had often heard him singing, but hadn’t paid much attention to him. We nurses were pretty busy and we hadn’t much time for anything but work. He has a splendid voice sang second tenor with the battalion quartet, and he just couldn’t quit singing. They call him ‘the songbird of the Marines.”

“We were supposed to be cheerful to the patients, but Andy turned the tables and jollied the nurses. I’m afraid he jollied me a good deal. I got into tho habit of forgetting his handicap. Somehow I never can think of him as being blind. He finds his own collar buttons and adjusts his own neckties, and it’s almost uncanny the way he knows whether his clothes are pressed and bis shoes shiny. When he puts on his dark glasses and goes walking with me I don’t think a stranger would know he is blind. And you just ought to see him dance!”

“I’m being introduced to all sorts of new interests. For example, I never used to read the sporting page In the newspaper. Now, of course, it’s the first page I open, because Andrew is always in a hurry to learn the baseball and boxing news. I’m getting to be quite a fan myself.”

We were sitting in the dining room of the Knebel homestead at Irvington, N. J., where the young couple spent their honeymoon with tho bridegroom’s parents. Whatever life has in store for this youth who lost his eyes in the country’s service, anyone could see that there was a good deal of compensation in his convalescence, while two were engaged in a sympathetic rivalry which could do the most for him.

“Anna understands him so much better than I do,” his mother admitted. “I am so glad to have my boy back that to be doing things for him all the time. I keep reminding him that he’s blind, but his wife seems never to think of that. It’s wonderful to think that she’s going to care for him his whole life.”

Post-Identification

After identifying the photo and posting it to PortraitsofWar, I decided to do a little more digging and was eventually able to link up, via eMail, a few of the family members. I offered the photo to them, but apparently they had an exact copy (in much better condition). Out of gratitude, they sent me a few scans of other photos of Andrew as well as some honey from the apiary at the Monticello!

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Andrew Knebel in the 1930s

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Andrew in the 1950s enjoying a cigarette

WWI Elite French Mountain Regiment Poses for a Group Photograph


eBay is a strange way to acquire antique photographs that have captured significant periods of world history. Here at PortaitofWar.com we strive to provide an interesting set of completely politically-disengaged weekly posts to highlight the importance of the first and second world war to a modern audience.

Two weeks ago I took a leap and purchased a photograph of a WWI foreign unit that  I’ve been unable to identify until tonight:

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eBay Listing Buy-it-Now listing

159 ème REGIMENT D’INFANTERIE ALPINE

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The 159th Alpine Infantry Regiment of the French Army

The photograph above depicts a 23 man group of French Chasseur Alpine soldiers with the 159th Infantry Regiment. See below for close up shots:

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The berets and insignia of the 159th

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159th

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Cuff insignia?

Wounded WWI AEF Chaplain Poses in French Studio – Can We Identify Him?


It is never easy to identify someone from a photograph taken nearly 100 years ago, but it’s even more difficult solely based on obscure details from his/her clothing. In today’s blog post I will focus on a photograph purchased on eBay from a fantastic seller named Colleen ( eBay name: cacdivi) who recently sold me a superb French real photo postcard of an American chaplain posed in a studio during World World I (WWI). Here’s the shot:

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Wounded American Chaplain in WWI

The scene is fairly typical of what was common of the time period: WWI soldiers/sailors/marine/nurses posed in photo studios in far off places in order to document their experiences to send to relatives and friends. In this case, a currently-unidentified US chaplain (see the crucifix on his shoulder and cap?) strikes a chin-up pose for a French photographer. How do we know that the photo was taken in France?

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French Postcard Paper

French postcard paper during WWI almost always contains a central vertical dividing mark with CARTE POSTALE emblazoned across the top. I’ve noted a fair number of varieties likely due to differences in production, but the main bulk of French postcard paper of the period look very similar to the above scan.

 

Dissection of Photographic Context

What are we looking at? I’ve already mentioned that the man posed in the photo is a US chaplain in a French studio during the war. But what details have I been pondering while waiting for the photo to arrive in my mailbox? (Thanks to Colleen – you rock!)

  1. The chaplain has served at least six months in Europe

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    His Left Sleeve (6th Months Overseas Service) Right Sleeve (Wound Chevron)

  2. He was wounded or gassed at least once during his service

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    His Right Sleeve: Wound Chevron

  3. The photo was likely taken during wartime (before the armistice)
  4. He is oddly sporting a mustache and goatee

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    Rarely Seen Facial Hair in WWI

  5. He is wearing an identification bracelet made in France

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    WWI Bracelet Made in France

Why is a photograph of a wounded chaplain posed in a wartime studio worthy of devoting hours of research to? According to a website devoted to military chaplains, the number of wartime chaplains during WWI was incredibly low:

In 1918, Congress passed an act that called for one chaplain for every 1200 officers and enlisted men. Bishop Hayes, in a letter to Cardinal Farley, informs Farley of the current number of chaplains overseas. As of June 1918 there were 301 chaplains in the Army, 30 in the Navy, 7 with the Red Cross, 2 interpreters, and 95 volunteer or Knights of Columbus chaplains.

This photo most likely represents an Army chaplain included in the above June 1918 census: any US chaplain who served at least six months service would’ve been present in France in June of 1918. And to have been wounded or gassed, our unidentified chaplain was likely present during the earlier battles of the US involvement of the war.

Our Chaplain?

Okay, so we know our chaplain was wounded, was photographed at some point in the  spring or summer of 1918 and likely served in an Army division that arrived early (for the Americans). His identity, based on date, is narrowed down to 1 in 301 – a pretty good number when it comes to identifying a photo taken 100 years ago. Also, based on rules, he has to be less than 45 years of age.

But what was required to be a US chaplain in WWI? Before researching this photo I had no idea of the low number of volunteers or the actual requirements for acceptance. My personal photo collection contains a half dozen photos of chaplains, which is a surprisingly high number based on the scarcity of the subject matter. I was lucky to track down a copy of the rules and regs of chaplainhood here: http://archnyarchives.org/2015/11/10/military-chaplains-in-world-war-i/

Official Chaplain Requirements

Requirements for Commissioned Army Chaplaincies

  1. The law provides that no person shall be appointed chaplain in the Army who on the date of appointment is more than forty-five years of age.
  2. Applicants must be a citizen of the United States either by birth or naturalization. Must produce at examination proof of naturalization and must not have been born in enemy alien territory.
  3. Health and eyesight must be in excellent condition; if glasses are worn sight must be at least 12:20 in each eye without glass.
  4. Weight must be proportionate.
  5. Must produce an examination certificate of graduation from an approved College or Seminary which includes collegiate course. If not a graduate candidate must be prepared to stand mental test in general subjects: history, geography, arithmetic. etc.
  6. It is most desirable that each applicant write a letter addressed to the Secretary of War setting forth fully his qualifications such as experience with societies, clubs, dramatic circles, and knowledge of foreign languages. This letter must be be enclosed with application and sent to the Chaplain Bishop.
  7. Formal application must be made on regular blanks made by the War Department. These Blanks should be applied for to the Ordinariate, 142 East 29th Street, New York City.
  8. Must enclose to the Chaplain Bishop a formal letter of permission from his Ordinary.
  9. Must send a small photographic print of himself.
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1918 Chaplain Application Form

 

For now I have a good bit of information to extend my research with. Until then, stay tuned!

 

WWI Portrait Photo – Lt. Carl Wehner, 141st Infantry Regiment, KIA at St. Etienne, France


A recent eBay purchase has lead me down a warren of research avenues that are helping shed light on the American involvement at the bloody fray at St. Etienne during the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge in October of 1918. The photo depicts Lt. Carl Wehner with the following inscription on the verso:

“141st Inf., 36th Div. Lt. Carl Wehner killed Oct. 8, 1918 by a German sniper.”

It was this writing that pushed me to purchase the photo at a reasonable $25.00 in hopes of researching and fleshing out the life of the young Lieutenant and Wisconsin native who was killed in action only days after his 26th birthday.

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Lt. Carl Wehner in France, 1918

This photo was most likely taken a month or so before his death in October, as he is sporting a 6 month overseas service chevron on his left cuff. August or September would roughly be six months after his arrival from stateside officers training. He was selected to be a Lieutenant with Company K of the 141st Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division – a unit comprised mostly of southern boys from Texas and surrounding states. Having been born in Lincoln, Kansas and spending most of his life in Madison, Wisconsin, he originally enlisted with the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division but elected to train to become an officer. At the time of his enlistment, he lived at 925 West Dayton Street in Madison.

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Carl’s WWI Draft Registration Card

And I was able to find a fascinating account of his death while commanding Company K following the death of his Captain (Source – Entry by RavenHawk)

…It was near St. Etienne, as his captain layed dead, Wehner led his unit forward, until he himself was struck in the head, by enemy gunfire, and killed. One account of the battle (perhaps a little exagerated), said: “Lieutenat Wehner died with three machine gun bullets in his forehead and a smile on his lips as he led Company K of the 141st Infantry over the top after his captain was killed by the fire of the enemy.”….In a letter signed by the Marshall Of France, Commander in Chief of the French Armies of the East, Petain, it was written: “Lt. Wehner displayed audacity and disregard of danger during the operations near St. Etienne. At the head of his men, encouraging them with his skill, he largely contributed to the success of the operations which made it possible to capture all objectives. He was killed at his post of combat.” For his bravery, Wehner was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm for bravery….As for Wehner’s family, they didn’t find out until after Christmas, that Wehner had been killed, in battle…Wehner’s body was returned to Madison in 1921, and reburied at Forest Hill on 10/21/1921.

100 Years Later: Vermont’s Entry into the First World War


It has been called THE GREAT WAR and THE WAR TO END ALL WARS.

According to Tweets from WWI, the American intervention in the war can be summarized as:

There is only room for one: ‘s idealism vs. German ‘s imperialism (US caricature).

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Today, we know it as World War One (WWI). It began in 1914 and ended with an armistice at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. The global toll had already reached nearly 40 million casualties, including American losses of 117,465 dead and 204,002 wounded.

100 Years Ago Today

After War was officially declared (House and Senate) on April 6th, 1917 the U.S. began preparations to enter the quagmire of European trench warfare.

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Vermonter John Corcoran (r) in WWI

In June of 1917, U.S. transport ships carrying nearly 15,000 U.S. troops (many from New England) in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) approached the shores of France, these soldiers would join the Allied fight against the Central Powers.  They disembarked at the port of Saint Nazaire; the landing site had been kept secret because of the menace of German submarines, but by the time the Americans had lined up to take their first salute on French soil, an enthusiastic crowd had gathered to welcome them. However, the “Doughboys,” as the British referred to the green American troops, were said to be untrained and ill-equipped, untested for the rigors of fighting along the Western Front.

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PortraitsofWar’s WWI Smithsonian Cover

As U.S. troops landed in France, Americans were mindful of a 125+ year old debt owed that nation. France had been the colonists’ most important ally during the Revolutionary War, having supplied money, material and military brains. The Marquis de Lafayette had fought beside Patriot soldiers, equipping some of them at his own expense. He won the affection of George Washington and became a hero to the young nation. Urged on by Lafayette, France had sent ships, troops, and arms that played a key role in the Patriots’ victory. In early July 1917, the newly arrived American Expeditionary Force troops marched under the Arc de Triomphe, cheered by the people of Paris. In a ceremony at Lafayette’s tomb, where the Frenchman lies buried under dirt from Bunker Hill, an American officer lay down a wreath of pink and white roses. Another officer stepped forward, snapped a salute, and declared: “Lafayette, we are here!”

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Earl F. Lavallee of Winooski, VT in Germany, 1918.

As followers of PortraitsofWar will know, we take a great pride in providing interesting and never-before-seen imagery and narration of wartime photography ranging from the American Civil War to the Korean War. In most cases, I take an authentic photograph from my personal collection and work towards uncovering various details that hopefully elucidate some aspect of the photo.

101st Ammunition Train

In this case, I worked the other way around. My familiarity with the First World War history of the State of Vermont is well known to followers of this blog as well as within my home state. One of my favorite Vermont units to serve in the war was the 101st Ammunition Train of the 26th “Yankee Division”.

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Jeannine Russell (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeology Officer), Myself (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeologist) and David Schütz (Vermont State Curator) inspecting WWI flags

Only a week ago I was lucky enough to be invited into the bowels of the Vermont Historical Society storage area to inspect a series of American Civil War flags with a few colleagues of mine from work. While in the holding area I mentioned that a series of WWI groups had donated regimental flags and/or guidons to the State of Vermont in the years following the war.

Although I can be a bit fuzzy in my recollections, I apparently had my facts straight and we moved a series of shelves to uncover the aforementioned flags. As I fingered through the labels I instantly recognized the attribution: 101st flags. Please see below for a bit of insight into my recollection…

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101st Ammunition Train Guidon Donation Alert, Burlington Free Press, February, 1919

Ok – So my first attempt at searching on the Library of Congress Newspaper website turned up only one reference to the flags, I kept searching (tried COLORS) and came up with this…

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Flags presented

The above snippit from a 1919 Burlington Free Press article reads:

Colors Presented

War Flags and Shields Presented to State

Montpelier, Oct. 23 – The presentation of the colors and shields of the organizations from Vermont participating in the the world war occurred this evening in the State House with some 200 veterans attending and over 400 spectators in the seats of the representative hall and balcony.

The services were fitting and were attended by many of the men who have been prominent in the connection with the war. Col. F.B. Thomas presided over the exercise and the program carried out consisted of the “History of the 57th Pioneer Infantry” Capt. Ernest W. Gibson – Brattleboro

Presentation of colors – First Vermont and 57th Pioneer Infantry, Col. F. B. Thomas… History and presentation of colors of 302nd Field Artillery , Color Sergeant Albert J. Seguin of Newport.

History and presentation of 101st Ammunition Train Col. William J. Keville of Boston Mass.

Presentation of guidon, Company E. 101st Ammunition Train, Capt. Harold M. Howe of Northfield, VT.

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Ca. 1919 Co. E101st Ammunition Train guidon photo (from Brennan C. Gauthier Collection)

Presentation of guidon, Company F 101st Ammunition Train, Captain McMath

Presentation of guidon, Company G, 101st Ammunition Train, Chester Mooney of Newport.

As I stated earlier, I remembered the fact that the 101st and the 302nd had presented the State of Vermont with standards and guidons from prominent units representing Vermont involvement in the war. The following photos show the results of my inquiries:

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Left to Right: Jeannine Russell (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeology Officer), Myself (Vermont Agency of Transportation Archaeologist) an David Schütz (Vermont State Curator)

In the above photo we have just unrolled the 101st Ammunition Train guidons from their muslin cocoons. Present are representative samples of Co. C, G, F and E of the 101st. Each of these matches with the above 1919 article. How amazing is it to read a 98 year old article about a presentation and see the EXACT pieces in living color?

I’m particular excited about the Co. E guidon. I own a ratty panoramic photo taken of the unit when they returned in 1919. Click here to see ever single facial feature of the men in that group.

Ok – so here’s a photo of the guidon taken right before donation in 1919:

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And here’s the guidon today (my big head is at the left edge of the frame):

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WWI guidons of the 101st Ammunition Train

Also, I requested that the regimental flag of the 302nd Field Artillery be brought out for photographing. Special thanks to Jonathan Croft for being the photographer!

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302nd Field Artillery

Has it really been 100 years?

Thanksgiving in the First World War: U.S.Base Hospital #6 Holiday Menu Card


I’ve been lucky in the past few years to pick up some fun WWI shots of US female nurses and auxiliary service members photographed while serving overseas in 1918 and 1919.  US women in France were vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts, and to be able to positively identify a nurse is a fun way to learn about female service roles during the war.  In this case, I was able to purchase a small group of photos and a Thanksgiving menu from a woman in Base Hospital #6 stationed in Bordeaux, France during the war.  The standing studio portrait was identified on the reverse as H.K. Judd of Base Hospital 6.  On a whim I searched for Helen K. Judd (thinking that Helen was a likely candidate for H) and came up with a positive hit on a woman named Helen K. Judd from Southhampton, Mass.  I cross referenced with the digitized passport records from 1917 and 1918 and had a positive match.  Luckily the passport applications come with little snapshots of the applicants.   The amount of material available to identify WWI photos is incredible.

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Base Hospital #6 Thanksgiving Menu

So what was served up on Thanksgiving, 1918? 

Given the recent cessation of hostilities on November 11th, the nurses and ailing soldiers of the AEF had a lot to be thankful for in 1918.  How did they celebrate?

US Dietitian Ellen W. Wells was someone who likely put together the well-rounded meal seen in the above menu.  With appetizers of celery and olives, the nurses, doctors and assorted hospital staff and wounded next moved to a main course of roast stuffed turkey, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, green peas and creamed onions.  For desert they gorged on mince pie and an oddity in Europe, pumpkin pie.  After dinner snacks included fruit, nuts, raisins, bon-bons and coffee.  And to top it all off, the men and women were provided with cigars.  What a meal!

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Helen K. Judd in France, 1918

WWI RPPC Photo – South Dakota Quartermaster Veteran Identified


Balancing work life, house chores, being social, and collecting WWI photos can be a daunting task; too much investment in one area can lead to neglect in another.  As is the case of my life as of June, 2016.  Luckily, I’m making a solstice dedication (is that a thing?) to posting more of my identified material in hopes of reuniting family members with deceased relatives.

In tonight’s post, I’ve purchased and researched a photo in the course of one calendar week with some positive results.  As you may know, veterans with interesting surnames are typically easier to identify, and this post is an example of one of these researching ventures.

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Elmer Liebig (at left)

Elmer Reinhardt Liebig was born on November 1st, 1894 in Spink, South Dakota, the son of two German immigrants.  Having served in a Quartermaster unit during WWI, he went on to own and run a pool hall in his hometown for a number of years until operating as a salesman until the 1940s, where he eventually ended up with the South Dakota Department of Fish and Game, acting as a warden for Brookings an Moody Counties.

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WWII Draft Registration

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Full Photo Scan