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World War I Centennial News


 

 

Soldiers over the topAmerican troops carrying guns climb over a sandbag revetment in France during World War I. (AP Photo)

Countdown: 100 Days to Bells of Peace 2020

By Kathy Abbott
Staff Writer

Announcing Bells of Peace, A World War I Remembrance, November 11, 2020, when everyone is invited to toll the “Bells of Peace” in honor of all those who served and sacrificed in World War I.

Countdown logo 2020To kickoff “Bells of Peace,” on August 4, 2020, join us for a 100-Day Countdown” to November 11, 2020 on our social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The “100-Day Countdown” features stories commemorating the 100-day offensive on the Western Front leading up to WWI Armistice, November 11, 1918 when the guns fell silent and the bells tolled on the Western Front, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

During the WWI 100-Day Offensive, the U.S. and its Allies fought valiantly on the Western Front to push the Germans into retreat, resulting in an unexpected November 11, 1918 Armistice.

The fascinating details of these unprecedented 100 days, which were transformative in U.S. military history, included: key battles where an inexperienced U.S. Army came into its own and quickly distinguished itself; the Spanish Flu Pandemic traveled to Europe with our troops; chemical warfare decimated its final victims; the war in the sky and tank warfare raged; the Navy convoyed the perilous waters of the Atlantic; and much more.

Meanwhile on the home-front, Americans were contributing to the war effort with expectations of a long conflict ahead. The “100-Day Countdown” explores this through many primary sources including the NY Times and the Official U.S. Bulletin…. read this great detailed coverage to further understand how “The War That Changed the World” changed America forever.

Read more: Countdown: 100 Days to Bells of Peace 2020

 

Outdoor Screening2Outdoor movie screenings on a 23-foot jumbo screen are among the socially-distant events in August at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO in 2020. 

Outdoor Events Featuring Jazz, World War I Artifacts & Movie Screening, Debut of New Suffrage Exhibition, and Historical Online Presentations Among August Events at National WWI Museum and Memorial

By Mike Vietti
Director of Marketing, Communications and Guest Services, National World War I Museum and Memorial

KANSAS CITY, MO. – Outdoor events allowing for social distancing, the debut of a new exhibition about the women’s suffrage movement and a series of engaging online presentations are among the August offerings from the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

The Summer Movie Series returns on Friday, Aug. 13 with a screening of the ground-breaking film They Shall Not Grow Old from Oscar-winner Peter Jackson. Grab a favorite blanket, snacks and some lawn chairs to watch this seminal documentary featuring restored/colorized WWI footage on a 23-foot jumbo screen. The event is free with RSVP, but a limited number of spaces are available.

Guests can come together on Saturday, Aug. 29 from 5-8:15 p.m. for the socially-distanced Jazz on the Lawn: A Modern Picnic. The event celebrates the spirit of the early 1920s with the hottest jazz band in town, Grand Marquis, as well as former Mayor Sly James and DJ Hartzell Gray. People are invited to bring their own picnic or enjoy a meal from food trucks as they take in panoramic views of Kansas City. Tickets start at just $35 for members and $45 for non-members. Space is limited, so attendees are encouraged to order tickets soon at theworldwar.org/jazzpicnic.

Rounding out the slate of outdoor events is the annual program Living the Great War from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29. This free program features the Living History Volunteer Corps and vehicles from the Military Vehicle Preservation Association. Guests are invited to view a variety of collections that bring them closer to the history of the Great War.

Read more: Outdoor Events in August at National WWI Museum and Memorial

 

damaged Doughboy statue 1The "Spirit of the American Doughboy" statue, sitting on the Pettis County Courthouse lawn, was vandalized over the July 4 weekend. The saber and gun are bent and the statue’s hand is cracked. Barbed wire circling the monument is also broken. On July 24, the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office took a female suspect into custody.

Arrest made in Pettis Co., MO courthouse Doughboy statue vandalism

By Rob Creighton
via the KSIS Radio (MO) web site

In the morning hours of July 24, 2020, the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office took a female suspect into custody at the conclusion of a voluntary interview regarding the “Doughboy” statue that was damaged on the west lawn of the Pettis County Courthouse. At the time of arrest in a public statement and press release, the Sheriff’s Office advised the public this was not a targeted attack, an attempted removal or an intentional act of vandalism/damage. The suspect interview and the proceeding investigation which were subsequently provided to my office are consistent in that regard and I reach the same conclusion.

The suspect was taken into custody on suspicion of institutional vandalism and property damage in the first degree. Both are crimes that by the Revised Statutes of Missouri, require a person to act knowingly, to vandalize, deface or otherwise damage property. Without regard to the value or type of the property the intention of the act remains the same.

The investigation as received and corroborated through witness statements, photos, videos and suspect interview all pronounce the same findings; on July 4th a small group of individuals gathered on the west lawn of the Pettis County Courthouse. One of the individuals determined they would climb the statue for purposes of having a picture taken on it. After the picture was taken the suspect began to climb down and when doing so placed one foot on the gun side of statue for balance, at which point the damage occurred. There is no indication of intent to damage it, expectation that damage would occur, or that any excess force was used to facilitate the damage that was suffered.

Read more: Arrest made in Pettis Co. Courthouse Doughboy statue damages

 

WHTM FLAG CEREMONY 6PM LLPKG.00 00 11 38.Still001A 70-year-old flag belonging to World War I veteran Master Sergeant E. Maurice Shively was found recently at the American Legion hall in Newport, PA and was returned to the soldier's grandson at a ceremony in July.  

Family reunited with World War I veteran’s flag 

By Daniel Hamburg
via the WHTM ABC 27 News television (Harrisburg, PA) web site

PALMYRA, Pa. (WHTM) — A 70-year-old flag belonging to a World War I veteran was reunited with family Saturday at a special ceremony in Palmyra, Lebanon County.

The 48-star flag sat for years in storage at the American Legion in Newport, Perry County. It was only recently discovered and with a little research, now back with family.

The flag belongs to Master Sergeant E. Maurice Shively, who was born in Newport.

A big ceremony was held at the American Legion in Palmyra after the historian for Post 72 went searching for answers.

“Within 20 days they found a couple of family members. We found the daughter who is still alive,” said Chuck Yaeger, squadron commander of American Legion Post 72. “She’s in Brick, New Jersey. Unfortunately due to medical reasons, she could not make it today.”

Still, legion riders from New Jersey and across the area showed up to show support.

“It is our honor here today to return to his family a small portion of him, his flag, a symbol which he stood for, for many years in serving his country,” said Christopher Gross, commander of American Legion Post 177.

Shively’s grandson, also Maurice Shively, is now in possession of the flag.

Read more: Family reunited with WWI veteran’s flag

 

Smedley Butler’s fiery speech to WWI veterans is still relevant today 

By James Clark
via the Task and Purpose web site

Eighty-eight years ago thousands of U.S. military veterans gathered their belongings and began a long march across the country to Washington, D.C. Once there, they pitched their canvas tents in neatly ordered rows and dug in for a long fight.

Smedley ButlerA screenshot pulled from a Fox Movietone recording of retired Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler's July 19, 1932 speech to Bonus Army marchers at the Anacostia flats camp in Washington, D.C. (Fox Movietone News Collection at the University of South Carolina)By the summer of 1932, what began as a small movement in Portland, Oregon had burgeoned into a national demonstration, bringing together a socially, economically and racially diverse coalition under a single banner, with each participant bound by a shared experience: When their country called them to arms, they answered.

Numbering as many as 25,000-strong, with families and children in tow, they called themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force, but colloquially, became known as the Bonus Army. These World War I veterans, like many demonstrators before and since, gathered to demand that the government keep its word. In their case, it was the early payment of a bonus they had been promised following victory in the First World War.

Through the Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924, the funds were set to be doled out in 1945. Originally the bonuses were to be paid immediately, but for budgetary reasons, they were delayed by two decades. Five years after the bill was passed, the Great Depression hit, and by 1932, the financial crisis had reached its peak. Amidst the economic fallout, the promise of deferred payments amounted to a shriveled carrot dangling from the end of a very long stick.

On July 19 of that year, retired Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler took to the stage at the largest Bonus Army camp, located at the Anacostia Flats, a swampy stretch of ground outside of downtown D.C. There he launched into a fiery tirade that remains relevant to military veterans, and Americans at large, even to this day.

The first time I watched the scratchy black and white footage, which was recorded by a local news crew, I couldn’t take my eyes off Butler. Up there in front of that crowd, with his trousers hiked high up on his waist, with his suspenders and tie, and his sleeves — one rolled, the other rebellious cuff slipping down on his arm from all the animated fist-pumping and gesticulating. He was like a righteously furious Marine Corps Mr. Rogers.

But then I listened to what he was saying.

Read more: Smedley Butler’s fiery speech to World War I veterans is still relevant today

 

serbian day 1918 cover photoOn July 28th in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson gave the order to fly the flag of Serbia over the White House to reflect the solidarity of Americans with the Serbian people during World War I. 

When the Serbian Flag Flew Over the White House during WWI

By U.S. Embassy in Belgrade
via the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia web site

On July 28th in 1918, upon the advice of his good friend Mihajlo Pupin, President Woodrow Wilson gave the order to fly the flag of Serbia over the White House. This was one of a number of acts that reflected the solidarity of Americans with the Serbian people who suffered so tremendously during the First World War.

At the start of the conflict, thousands of young Americans of Serbian descent volunteered to cross the Atlantic and fight shoulder-to-shoulder with their cousins. Malvina Hoffmann’s famous poster urged people to make donations to assist the people of Serbia. Pupin, Mabel Grujić, and others collected not only money, but also thousands of tons of humanitarian aid for the poor and for displaced refugees from Serbia. The Columbia Relief Expedition, organized by Pupin, delivered medicine, food, agricultural tools, and seed to the war zone, as well as dozens of cars to deliver aid and also serve as ambulances.

Dr. Richard Strong, director of the Harvard School of Tropical Medicine and one of the world’s preeminent epidemiologists, headed the medical mission, organized by the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Red Cross, that came to Serbia to halt the deadly spread of typhus.

The philanthropist John Frothingham and his wife Jelena Lozanić donated a fully equipped field hospital sent to Skopje. After the war, the couple set up a home for war orphans in Vranje.

Dr. Rosalie Morton, special commissioner of the Red Cross, not only tended to Serbian soldiers on the battlefields. She also stayed behind after the war ended in order​ to set up the first women’s hospital in Belgrade. 

Read more: When the Serbian Flag Flew Over the White House in WWI

 

Baseball resumed after World War I on Patriots Day in Boston

By Dixie Tourangeau
via The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) web site

No matter your perspective, the 1919 Patriots Day opening day doubleheader at Braves Field just didn’t feel the same as those previously played in the twentieth century. Many things swirled in the festive atmosphere that April 19, including the lingering sweet aroma of the January 15 molasses tank explosion/flood tragedy in the North End that killed 21 workers and residents. World War I officially ended five months before (the Treaty of Versailles was not signed until June 1919) but more importantly, the devastating Spanish Flu epidemic was finally beginning to wane in the Hub, once Ground Zero for it. Every day ships entered Boston Harbor with returning troops from Europe, bringing joy and relief to awaiting households, but they docked in the midst of continuing pandemic burials.

Boston Globe Sun Apr 20 1919Added to the day’s headline mix was the ongoing New England telephone and telegraph operators strike. That inconvenient chaos was colliding with the traditional Patriots Day (state holiday officially legislated in 1894) celebrations, sandwiched between between solemn Good Friday and Lent-ending Easter.1 Baseball did not take a back-row chair, as there were more than 50 college and high-school games on tap. Dozens of schools vied for attention with various other amateur athletic events including the 22nd Boston Marathon, by then basking in its own national fame.

Baseball normally enjoyed a lofty perch in this carnival of leisure, but in preseason 1919 the moguls were very concerned that fans might still be depressed about the war, the flu carnage, and the shortened 1918 season. They didn’t know how much turnstile enthusiasm to expect. Newly appointed National League President John A. Heydler was there to witness the event at the invitation of George Washington Grant, who had bought the Braves in January.

The NL’s first pitch of 1919 mirrored those tossed in 1897 and 1901, the only opening pitch thrown that day. Baseball’s other combatants, as well as these two teams, would not convene for four more days. Conflicting Boston season openers were in vogue in 1902-03 when the two rival leagues battled over the signing (and stealing) of players. The NL Beaneaters played two games with Brooklyn in 1902 while the upstart American League Bostons hosted Baltimore in a solo tilt. An awkward duel occurred in 1903 when both Boston squads played twin bills with their respective Philadelphia foes. This happened on April 20 because the 19th was a Sunday — no pro ball was allowed.2 A reasonable compromise apparently ended the one-day economic pettiness in 1904 and beyond as the Beaneaters traveled to Brooklyn and the Americans had the city’s cranks all to themselves. After that, the NL Doves/Rustlers/Braves drew the odd years for a lucrative Patriots Day gate and the Americans/Red Sox got the even years.

Read more: Baseball resumed after World War I on Patriots Day in Boston

 

poster mods Clara AranovichWorld War I posters re-created by filmmaker and writer Clara Aranovich, who altered American propaganda posters from World War I to include calls for people to wear face masks against the Covid-19 pandemic. (United States National War Garden Commission, 1918; Z.P. Nikolaki, Library of Congress, 1918; Clara Aranovich)  

Artist turns WWI posters into calls for Americans to wear face masks, and the images are striking 

By Darcy Schild
via the Insider web site

A series of retro illustrations offer a modern take on American propaganda posters from World War I — showing what the images might have looked like if they were made to promote mask-wearing to try to contain the novel coronavirus.

Clara Aranovich, a writer and filmmaker who has also worked as a period researcher for the TV series "Mad Men," is the brains behind the re-created posters, which have been shared thousands of times on Instagram since early July.

Aranovich told Insider her artwork was meant to inspire a sense of camaraderie in the same way many people united to support America's efforts in World War I, which included actions like rationing supplies to partaking in "meatless" and "wheatless" days.

Aranovich's idea for the art came in June, when the US reached a harrowing statistic. The number of Americans who had died from causes linked to the coronavirus surpassed the number of Americans who were killed in World War I.

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, 116,516 Americans died in World War I, with 53,402 deaths occurring in battle and 63,114 fatalities occurring in other forms of service. At the time of writing, there were 142,350 COVID-19-related deaths in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker.

The posters Aranovich modified were originally distributed around 1917 and 1918, when the US became involved in World War I. She modernized them by overlaying face masks and editing the text to include calls for people to wear face coverings in public.

"I wanted to point to the repetition of history," Aranovich said. "I was inspired to contrast the pandemic with other major events that have united our country."

Read more: An artist turned World War I posters into calls for Americans to wear face masks, and the images...

 

George Lawson Keene: Most decorated Texan of ‘The Great War’

By Bartee Haile
via The Courier newspaper (Montgomery County, TX) web site

On July 22, 1917, a young soldier from East Texas was recovering from serious wounds, while coping with the effects of a mustard gas attack 72 hours after fighting his second two-day battle in seven weeks.

George Lawson KeeneGeorge Lawson KeeneGeorge Lawson Keene, who always went by his middle name, grew up in his birthplace of Crockett. His roots ran deep in the Piney Woods with both parents direct descendants of early settlers.

Lawson listened for hours on end to vivid accounts of the Civil War, as told by a grandfather. Even more enthralling were second-hand stories about a great-grandfather, who took part in the Mier Expedition of 1842 and survived the infamous Black Bean Lottery that decided who lived and who died during their Mexican captivity.

To hear Keene’s relatives tell it, he served as a page for a spell in the Texas house of representatives before his high school graduation in 1914 at age 16. He intended to follow in his father’s footsteps and attend at Texas A&M, but the war in Europe and what looked like the inevitable involvement of the U.S. changed his plans.

Lawson Keene enlisted in the Army in San Antonio in March 1917. His basic training was cut short by the strengthening of the military presence along the Rio Grande after German “advisors” were spotted with Mexican government troops. That deployment did not last long either following the U.S. declaration of war on April 4.

Two months later, Keene was on the first ship of “Doughboys” that sailed to France. Like any wet-behind-the-ears soldier, he expected to jump into the fight right off the gangplank. But to their disappointment, the Texan and his comrades-in-arms in the Twenty-Eighth Infantry spent the next 11 months far from the front lines learning the “art of war” and impatiently waiting their turn.

The Americans finally got their chance on May 28, 1918 at the strategic French village of Cantigny. The battle raged for two full days with both sides taking heavy casualties including Keene’s unit.

Read more: George Lawson Keene Most decorated Texan of ‘The Great War’

 

 White House Protestors NARA Image copyWhite House Protestors – At the time, a peaceful protest outside the White House in support of women’s suffrage was considered a radical action. When the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect on Aug. 26, 1920, it followed more than a century and a half of activism largely led by women. Its passage was deeply influenced by the significant involvement of women at home and abroad during World War I.

Centennial of 19th Amendment Exhibition Opens at National WWI Museum and Memorial

By Mike Vietti
Director of Marketing, Communications and Guest Services, National World War I Museum and Memorial

KANSAS CITY, MO. – The National WWI Museum and Memorial commemorates the centennial of the 19th Amendment, prohibiting the denial of voting rights on account of gender, with a new exhibition dedicated to telling the story of the women’s suffrage movement.

Votes & Voices explores the history of the fight for women’s right to vote, largely from the perspective of those who fought for enfranchisement more than 100 years ago. Presented by PNC Bank, the exhibition opens Wednesday, July 29 at the Museum and Memorial.

“World War I and the women’s suffrage movement are inextricably tied together,” National WWI Museum and Memorial President and CEO Dr. Matthew Naylor said. “These two events changed not only the role of women in American society, but also set the stage for the next century of activism.”

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution paved the way for more than a century of social change. The passage and ratification of the amendment was deeply influenced by women’s significant involvement in World War I, on battlefronts and homefronts.

From working in munitions factories, to volunteering with the YMCA and American Red Cross, to serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, to working as physicians and nurses, American women of many ethnicities were not only indelible to the success of the Allies, but also are integral to the global story of World War I. I

Following decades of vicious opposition—even among those who agreed on women’s enfranchisement —U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared passage of the 19th Amendment “a vitally necessary war measure” on Sept. 30, 1918, nearly 18 months after the U.S. entered World War I. Wilson recognized the important sacrifice and service of women during the war, and equally understood that in order for the U.S. to “lead the world to democracy” action, not just words, was required.

Read more: New Exhibition Commemorating the Centennial of the 19th Amendment Opens at National WWI Museum and...

 

CampsLocations of Army training camps in the U.S. in 1918. WWI mobilization drew millions of Americans into military institutions and extended the military into all corners of the country.

The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919 

By Carol R. Byerly, Ph.D.
via the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health web site

The American military experience in World War I and the influenza pandemic were closely intertwined. The war fostered influenza in the crowded conditions of military camps in the United States and in the trenches of the Western Front in Europe. The virus traveled with military personnel from camp to camp and across the Atlantic, and at the height of the American military involvement in the war, September through November 1918, influenza and pneumonia sickened 20% to 40% of U.S. Army and Navy personnel. These high morbidity rates interfered with induction and training schedules in the United States and rendered hundreds of thousands of military personnel non-effective. During the American Expeditionary Forces' campaign at Meuse-Argonne, the epidemic diverted urgently needed resources from combat support to transporting and caring for the sick and the dead. Influenza and pneumonia killed more American soldiers and sailors during the war than did enemy weapons.

In the fall of 1918, U.S. Army and Navy medical officers in camps across the country presided over the worst epidemic in American history, but the story was not new. War and disease have been linked throughout history as armies, weapons, and human pathogens have met on the battlefield. The conquistadores brought with them diseases that devastated the New World; typhus plagued Napoleon's armies; and typhoid fever humiliated the American Army during the Spanish-American War. But now U.S. Army and Navy personnel knew how to test and sanitize water supplies, vaccinate troops against typhoid and smallpox, and treat or prevent other infections. Modern bacteriology, it seemed, had tamed many diseases. Navy Surgeon General William C. Braisted proudly stated that “infectious diseases that formerly carried off their thousands, such as yellow fever, typhus, cholera, and typhoid, have all yielded to our modern knowledge of their causes and our consequent logical measures taken for their prevention.”1

Twentieth-century warfare, however, had evolved to an even more deadly scale as industrialized armies of millions battled on the plains of Eastern Europe, the cliffs of Gallipoli, and in the deadly trenches of the 550-mile-long Western Front. When the European arms race exploded into war in 1914, the empires shocked themselves and the world with the killing power of their artillery and machine guns, their U-boats and mines, and their poison gas. These new weapons generated new, horrible injuries that took life and limb in a flash or festered into gangrenous wounds that could further maim and kill. The carnage traumatized some men into shellshock, and poison gases burned and suffocated others so horribly that nurses dreaded caring for them because they could provide little comfort. War diseases—notably the soldiers' nemeses diarrhea, dysentery, and typhus—flourished, and the trenches offered new maladies such as “trench foot,” an infection caused by wearing sodden boots and standing in water and mud for days on end, and “trench fever,” a debilitating fever transmitted by body lice.

Then, in the fourth dreadful year of the war, as the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) assumed fighting strength and prepared their first great offensive against the Germans, the flu struck. By the War Department's most conservative count, influenza sickened 26% of the Army—more than one million men—and killed almost 30,000 before they even got to France.2,3 On both sides of the Atlantic, the Army lost a staggering 8,743,102 days to influenza among enlisted men in 1918.4 (p. 1448) The Navy recorded 5,027 deaths and more than 106,000 hospital admissions for influenza and pneumonia out of 600,000 men, but given the large number of mild cases that were never recorded, Braisted put the sickness rate closer to 40%.5,6 (p. 2458)

Read more: The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919

 

Sahler Presentation Service Record Presentation VFW MagazineFrom left to right, Joseph Felice stands beside Cpl. Sahler's third-cousin once removed Corson Stephens, who holds a framed certificate of service issued by the National Archives. They are joined by VFW Post 287 Commander Tiffany Robinson (middle) and VFW Post 287 Chaplain Claresa Whitfield during the Post's Centennial Celebration on Dec. 7 of last year. 

Local citizen helps VFW post commemorate its WWI namesake

By IsmaeI Rodriguez, Jr.
via the Veterans of Foreign War magazine

When Joseph Felice drove through Main Street in Coatesville, Pa., last summer, he was drawn to one of the many pennant banners dangling above its sidewalks.

He had seen the banners several times since VFW Post 287 lobbied to have them hung for Memorial Day in his hometown of Coatesville, about 44 miles west of
Philadelphia.

But this time was different.

Felice, 35, who holds degrees in local and world history from West Chester University in Chester County, Pa., noticed that only one of the banners had been dedicated to a World War I veteran.

"It grabbed my attention because as far as I could determine, it displayed the only local WWI veteran," Felice said. "All of the other banners had been in honor of men and women who served in Vietnam, Korea and World War 11."

Inscribed on the banner was the name of Army Cpl. Wellington G. Sahler, who had been killed in action during the Battle of Meuse-Argonne in 1918.

The Journey Begins

When Felice returned home that day, he reached out to Post 287 via Facebook and discovered that Sahler was actually the Post's namesake. The other half of the Post's name, Sedan, represented the Eastern-most point that U.S. forces had reached in France before the Armistice was signed.

"I discussed my interest in Sahler with Post Chaplain Claresa Whitfield," Felice said. "We exchanged several emails, but she informed me that little was actually known about his personal history."

Whitfield, however, asked Felice to delve into research and invited him to present his findings in front of VFW members during the Post's 100th anniversary on Dec. 7, 2019.

Accepting the challenge, Felice soon plunged into a six-month journey that navigated the muddy waters of the past.

Read more: Local citizen helps VFW post commemorate its namesake

 

World War I Hero Featured in New AUSA Graphic Novel 

via the Association of the United States Army web site

Sgt. Henry Johnson, a member of the famed “Harlem Hellfighters,” is the subject of the newest graphic novel in the Association of the U.S. Army’s series highlighting Medal of Honor recipients.

Graphic nover cover JohnsonMedal of Honor: Henry Johnson features the story of Johnson, who served on the Western Front of World War I with the 369th Infantry Regiment, an African American unit that later became known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.”

While on sentry duty, Johnson fought off a German raiding party in hand-to-hand combat, despite being seriously wounded. He was the first American to receive a Croix de Guerre with a golden palm, France’s highest award for bravery, and became a national hero back home.

“Henry Johnson was a household name during World War I, but he has been largely forgotten since then,” said Joseph Craig, director of AUSA’s Book Program. “It took almost a century to recognize his remarkable deeds with the Medal of Honor, and we are excited to share them with a new audience.”

AUSA launched its Medal of Honor graphic novel series in October 2018, producing four issues and a paperback collection. Four new issues are planned for this year; the first, on World War II hero 2nd Lt. Daniel Inouye, was released May 28.

On May 15, 1918, Johnson, then a private with Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, was on night sentry duty with fellow soldier Pvt. Neadom Roberts when they were attacked by a German raiding party of at least 12 soldiers, according to his Medal of Honor citation.

Under intense enemy fire and despite “significant wounds,” Johnson fought back and caused several enemy casualties. He also prevented a badly wounded Roberts from being taken prisoner by German troops.

Johnson then exposed himself to “grave danger” by advancing from his position to engage an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat.

“Wielding only a knife and gravely wounded himself, Private Johnson continued fighting and took his Bolo knife and stabbed it through an enemy soldier’s head,” according to the citation. “Displaying great courage, Private Johnson held back the enemy force until they retreated.”

After returning home from the war, Johnson was unable to return to his pre-war job as a redcap porter at Union Station in Albany, New York, because of the severity of his 21 combat wounds. He died in July 1929 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Johnson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1996 and the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002. The award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2015.

Read more: WWI Hero Featured in New AUSA Graphic Novel

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