“Patriot Priest of Picardy” ministered to Doughboys on the front lines
By Patricia Daly-Lipe Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site
I met Msgr. William Hemmick, my mother’s only living relative, in 1961, when I was 19 and had just completed my sophomore year at Vassar College. My mother had died the year before and I wanted to meet her uncle about whom I knew very little except that he was a Canon of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Patricia Daly-LipeThe man I met was a jovial gentleman who was friends with everyone from the Pope, to royalty, to the little boy on the street looking for food. He befriended those he met at Mass and those he knew on the street, those who lived the high-life and those who lived through and survived the ravages of war.
William Hemmick, one of 7 brothers and one sister (my grandmother) was raised in Europe since his father was Consul General to Switzerland. He attended a Jesuit school in Austria and became fluent in five languages.
After completing his studies in Austria, he returned to the United States and attended Catholic University in Washington, DC. Upon completion, he was ordained by Cardinal Gibbons and began a teaching career at the Newman School in New Jersey. Then WWI broke out.
It was years later, when asked to write a book about my great uncle, did I uncover his WWI experiences. Researching the book took me deep into archives and Latin translations of Vatican missives. But it wasn’t until I opened the letters my great uncle William wrote to my grandmother that I began to understand what he had been through.
William felt committed to help the troops when the First World War broke out. That meant joining the bloody, unrelenting trench warfare at the front lines.
With the Cardinal’s blessing, Father Hemmick sailed to France. Through the Red Cross, he found a way to go with the troops to the battle zones. With the American troops under Foch, Father Hemmick, ascertaining that a regiment of infantry was going into a great battle on the Picardy front, and was without a chaplain, immediately attached himself to this front.
In his own words, “I have lived seven days in chalk dugouts opposite the peak of the German thrust. I was also quartered in the same town, on the second line, where Lieut. Col. Griffiths was killed, and whom I buried. Fifteen minutes walk away, through the open country, were the front lines, which I visited whenever necessary. I came out frequently to conduct funerals under terrific fire. Owing to the difficulty in getting coffins forwarded along the heavy shelled roads, many of our boys were buried in their blankets."
In the fall of 1918, Xavier created its own arm of the SATC, or the Student Army Training Corps, which was a War Department program that hastened the training of soldiers on college campuses. Later that year, the Spanish Flu, a strain of the H1N1 virus, began ravaging the barracks.
"This Dread Disease" -- Xavier Remembers the Past to Avoid Complacency in the Present
By Ryan Clark via the Xavier University (OH) web site
The city was afraid.
An epidemic was raging, and it had arrived on Xavier’s campus. Students were given masks and quarantined. Visitors were screened before entering buildings.
Classes were interrupted.
And still, the disease spread. More than 40 students were infected in one residence hall alone.
Sound familiar? It does — but this incident occurred in October 1918, during the outbreak of Spanish Flu.
While it seems as though this could’ve easily been a description of Xavier classes in the spring or fall of 2020, these scenarios have occurred several times over the past two centuries. And Xavier archivists, media, faculty and students were there to describe each instance.
The Cholera Outbreak
In the 19th century it was cholera, an infection of the small intestine, and it ran rampant in Cincinnati in the 1840s, helping to cause a decline in University enrollment.
“The year 1848-1849 had experienced a decided falling off in the attendance, and the steady decrease continued for several years,” The Xavier Athenaeum from February, 1916, reported. “One cause of this was undoubtedly the opening of the Jesuit Boarding College at Bardstown, Kentucky in 1848 and the flourishing condition of other Jesuit colleges at Louisville, Grand Coteau and Spring Hill. Perhaps another contributing cause was the cholera epidemic in Cincinnati at this time. The first appearance of this dread disease in Cincinnati in the year 1849 brought about a remarkable manifestation of devotion to the Queen of Heaven.”
Students met, and they made a vow to the Blessed Virgin.
“If all the students were preserved from death by the cholera during its prevalence in the city they would have two golden crowns made, one for the Blessed Virgin and one for the Infant Jesus, to be placed on their respective images in the chapel,” the article stated.
By Lauren Lipuma via the American Geophysical Union web site
WASHINGTON—Scientists have spotted a once-in-a-century climate anomaly during World War I that likely increased mortality during the war and the influenza pandemic in the years that followed.
Well-documented torrential rains and unusually cold temperatures affected the outcomes of many major battles on the Western Front during the war years of 1914 to 1918. Most notably, the poor conditions played a role in the battles of Verdun and the Somme, during which more than one million soldiers were killed or wounded.
The bad weather may also have exacerbated the Spanish flu pandemic that claimed 50 to 100 million lives between 1917 and 1919, according to the new study. Scientists have long studied the spread of the H1N1 influenza strain that caused the pandemic, but little research has focused on whether environmental conditions played a role.
In a new study in AGU’s journal GeoHealth, scientists analyzed an ice core taken from a glacier in the European Alps to reconstruct climate conditions during the war years. They found an extremely unusual influx of air from the North Atlantic Ocean affected weather on the European continent from 1914 to 1919. The incessant rain and cold caused by this influx of ocean air hung over major battlefields on the Western Front but also affected the migratory patterns of mallard ducks, the main animal host for H1N1 flu virus strains.
Mallard ducks likely stayed put in western Europe in the autumns of 1917 and 1918 because of the bad weather, rather than migrating northeast to Russia as they normally do, according to the new study. This kept them close to military and civilian populations and may have allowed the birds to transfer a particularly virulent strain of H1N1 influenza to humans through bodies of water.
The findings help scientists better understand the factors that contributed to making the war and pandemic so deadly, according to Alexander More, a climate scientist and historian at the Harvard University/Climate Change Institute, associate professor of environmental health at Long Island University and lead author of the new study.
“I’m not saying that this was ‘the’ cause of the pandemic, but it was certainly a potentiator, an added exacerbating factor to an already explosive situation,” More said.
Marcelino Serna, the first Mexican American soldier to receive the Distinguished Service Cross and one of the most decorated Texans of World War I. "Private Marcelino Serna did not receive the Medal of Honor due to him being a Mexican American and an immigrant,” a Latino civil rights group says. (Photo Courtesy Texas Historical Commission)
Racism deprived Latino WWI hero Marcelino Serna of the Medal of Honor. He deserves it, advocates say.
By Suzanne Gamboa via the NBCNews.com television network web site
SAN ANTONIO — In vintage photos, Marcelino Serna wears his World War I Army uniforms that are festooned with several of his battle medals.
But one medal is missing — the Medal of Honor — that should have been draped around his neck about a century ago, Latino advocates, legislators and historians said.
They’ve launched the latest effort to persuade the federal government to posthumously award Serna the medal, the nation’s highest honor for battlefield heroics, arguing it was denied because of racism and xenophobia.
“It clearly appears Private Marcelino Serna did not receive the Medal of Honor due to him being a Mexican American and an immigrant,” Lawrence Romo, national commander of the American GI Forum, a civil rights organization and federally chartered veterans group, wrote to the Army.
Texas' most decorated WWI soldier
Serna has been called the most decorated World War I soldier from Texas. He fought between April 6, 1917, and Nov. 11, 1918, despite being a Mexican immigrant and noncitizen.
There have been earlier petitions for him to be awarded the honor, but now the law mandates review of cases like his.
Last year, Congress ordered the Pentagon to review records of Latino, Black, Asian, Native American and Jewish World War I soldiers to determine if they were denied the Medal of Honor because of their race or religion and should be awarded the medal.
Silk and Steel highlights the surprisingly important role of women’s fashion during WWI, especially in France. During a time of global upheaval, women were taking on new responsibilities and roles, and fashion adapted to the necessities of these new actions, scarcity of materials and ever-present societal needs. Dresses, capes, posters and accessories tell the story. Through the lens of fashion, come see this exciting exhibition that shows how the war impacted domestic life, created new businesses and provided new opportunities for women.
As always, our goal is to make your visit a safe one. We have implemented enhanced cleaning procedures, installed hand sanitizing stations and require guests to wear face masks at the Museum and Memorial, in accordance with city regulations. We take great care to follow the guidelines established by public health officials.
Ayden Biancone of Exeter Township accepts the flag that draped an urn holding the ashes of World War I veteran Lewis Hamilton. Ayden was responsible for getting Hamilton's unclaimed ashes interred at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Lebanon County.
Reading, PA World War I veteran laid to rest 54 years after his death thanks to Exeter woman
By Michelle Lynch via the Reading Eagle newspaper (PA) web site
The hearse carrying Lewis Hamilton’s cremated remains made its way slowly up the winding road.
In the front passenger seat, Ayden Biancone sat, solemnly accompanying Hamilton's urn to its final resting place at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery, Lebanon County.
It was Ayden, 18, of Exeter Township who took Hamilton’s forgotten ashes from a back cupboard shelf to honorable interment in a columbarium at the cemetery.
Their shared journey ended Tuesday when the Reading veteran was laid to rest, 54 years after his death.
In a phone interview after the ceremony, Ayden explained how she took responsibility for Hamilton’s remains.
“My grandmother found a box at the back of a cupboard after moving to a home in Mount Penn about 15 years ago,” she said.
Inside the cardboard box, the family found a paint-can-like cylinder holding human ashes. The label indicated cremation had taken place at the Charles Evans Crematorium in Reading. It listed Hamilton’s name and date of death, April 16, 1966, but nothing else.
The strange find didn’t surprise or disturb her family, said Ayden, a daughter of Vinny M. and Laura Biancone, who graduated this year from 21st Century Cyber Charter School and is now a freshman at Albright College.
The family knew the home's previous owner had been a mortician and figured the remains had gone unclaimed and were forgotten.
They put the can back on the shelf.
It remained there until earlier this year when Ayden’s grandmother put the house on the market. Ayden learned of the can then and decided the ashes deserved a more permanent home.
“I thought, ‘We have to find his family,’ ” she said. “This was someone’s loved one.”
Fiorello La Guardia stands with Italian air force colleagues Major Piero Negrotto, Captain Federico Zapelloni and Sergeant Firmani in front of their Caproni bomber, the “Congressional Limited.” (San Diego Air & Space Museum)
Fiorello La Guardia: From Congressman to WWI Hero in the Air
By Howard Muson via the HistoryNet.com web site
Fiorello La Guardia was a 35-year-old freshman congressman when the United States went to war in 1917. He had already earned a reputation as a shrewd and ambitious politician with a strong sense of social justice, a fighter against corruption, a defender of the poor and the underdog. But the “Little Flower”—at 5 feet 2, a bundle of volcanic energy and acerbic wit—was little known outside of New York. And he still had much to prove before he could attain the stature that would propel him to three terms as New York City mayor in the 1930s and ’40s.
As the sole Italian American in the 65th Congress, La Guardia was determined to show that the sons of Italian immigrants were as patriotic as other citizens. Having supported President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war as well as a controversial draft law, he felt duty-bound to join the military himself. Taking an unpaid leave from Congress, he signed up for the Army’s nascent air service, then part of the Signal Corps.
On the brink of war, the U.S. military had only about 50 obsolete aircraft, few flight instructors and not nearly enough trained pilots. The Italian government offered to build a base where American aviation cadets could be given preliminary flight training, under Italian instructors, for service on the Western Front. They chose Foggia, southeast of Rome, which happened to be the birthplace of Fiorello’s father and generations of his family.
La Guardia was a natural choice to head one of the Foggia training camps. He had taken a few basic flying lessons at an airfield in Mineola, on Long Island, in a plane built by his engineer friend Giuseppe Bellanca. Growing up an Army brat on posts out West, La Guardia was familiar with military discipline and routines. And he spoke Italian, New York–style.
The big business of charity fundraising started during WWI, and fraudsters and grifters were quick to take advantage of patriotic sentiment.
How Fundraising Fraud Became Big Business After World War I
By Nicholas Gilmore via the Saturday Evening Post magazine web site
In January of 1925, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to investigate the finances of a charity called the National Disabled Soldiers’ League. Incorporated in 1920, the league purported to “foster and perpetuate national patriotism” by working to improve the lot of disabled soldiers, sailors, and marines.
The NDSL had raised around $290,000 in the prior three years — mostly through mail campaigns in which they sent envelopes containing pencils to prospective donors to solicit donations. The problem was that they could only prove that about 10 percent of that money had gone to the actual cause. The other 90 percent likely went into the pockets of three men who took over the league less than a year after its founding.
In the hearings, a select committee — chaired by Hamilton Fish, Jr. — observed evidence of the NDSL’s unprincipled dealings. They had held excessive, bacchanalian annual conventions, after which they stiffed local hotels, restaurants, and entertainment workers. They were denounced by prominent men (like Senator William Calder and vaudeville star Edward F. Albee) who had once held positions on their advisory board. They dodged all government investigations into their finances, refusing to show their books. The league even cheated the Donnelly Corporation, the company that made their pencils.
The NDSL was a perfect example of the kind of organization that soft-hearted Americans were warned against in the years after the First World War. A 1922 article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle told of “the suavely professional solicitor of tear-stained checks for shady causes” and advised readers to “ask before you give.”
Whether ineffectual charities were nefarious scams or just mismanaged, they were making a whole lot more money after the armistice. The drives that raised funds for the war effort and foreign relief during the war had inadvertently created an army of consultants ready to offer their services to every church, league, and club in the country.
Raising money for a cause — or, pejoratively, systematic begging — was a new sector in the economy of sentiment, and it was big business.
Retired Marine Maj. Bruce ‘Doc’ Norton sits next to a lamp fashioned by his grandfather using his WWI helmet and artillery. The author has released a compilation of his grandfather’s wartime letters.
'Letters from a Yankee Doughboy': Stafford author shares grandfather's accounts of WWI
By Kristin Davis via the Free Lance-Star newspaper (VA) web site
Bruce “Doc” Norton and his wife, Helen, had dug into the pile of letters once before. At their home in Stafford County, Norton typed and Helen dictated words penned from freezing trenches and decimated villages somewhere in France.
But when the computer on which they’d begun their work disappeared, the project to bring the letters to life stalled.
Months passed, and now it was 2018. The 100th anniversary of the formal end of World War I—the Great War, as the author of those letters had known it then—was coming fast.
Helen was no relation Pfc. Raymond W. Maker of Framington, Mass., a wireman who strung communication lines on the muddy battlefields of France in 1918. Nor had she ever met the man.
Maker was Norton’s grandfather, and he’d died in 1964 after suffering a heart attack.
But Helen wanted to see the letters brought to life. And she knew that Norton—a combat veteran and career Marine infantry officer-turned-author of military history—was just the person to make that happen.
First, though, they needed a hard copy. Something they could touch. Something that would be difficult, if not impossible, to lose.
Helen retrieved the letters stored for decades in a box and organized them in chronological order. Then she began copying by hand the words that would form the bulk of Norton’s newest book: “Letters from a Yankee Doughboy: Private 1st Class Raymond W. Maker in World War I.
Women's ward of American Women's Hospitals #1 in Luzancy, France. Dr. M. Louise Hurrell, Dr. Inez C. Bentley, nurses, and patients. 1918.
They Were There: American Women Physicians and the First World War
By Mollie C Marr, BFA; Iris Dupanovic, MS; Victoria Z Sefcsik, MS; Nitisha Mehta; Eliza Lo Chin, MD, MPH via the The Permanente Journal web site
This past decade marked the centenary of World War I (WWI). For the first time in American history, women participated on a large scale in war efforts through the military and other government agencies. Although much is known about the importance of medicine during WWI, most of the focus has been on male physicians who served abroad. Tens of thousands of women went abroad as nurses, ambulance drivers, and relief workers, but the contributions of women physicians in the war are less well known.
When the US entered the First World War in 1917, women physicians represented less than 5% of the physician workforce.1 Anticipating a surge in the demand for medical services, the Army Surgeon General sent Army Medical Reserve Corps registration forms to all physicians. These forms did not request physician sex because the respondents were assumed to be male.2 Many women physicians completed the forms, volunteering to serve in the Army Medical Reserve Corps. Their applications, however, were rejected on the belief that women could not handle the demands of the battlefield and were not qualified to command men.3,4 Women physicians were also told they could not serve because “it hadn’t been done” before, despite women serving in military nursing corps since 1901.5 Finally, they were told that because they could not vote, the use of the word “citizen” in the legislation that expanded the Army Medical Reserve Corps did not apply to them.6 In 1917, the Medical Women’s National Association (later renamed the American Medical Women’s Association) lobbied the US government to include women in the Army Medical Reserve Corps, asking that “opportunities for medical service be given to medical women equal to the opportunities given to medical men … and that the women so serving be given the same rank, title and pay given to men holding equivalent positions.”7 Ultimately, all petitions and appeals for inclusion in the Army Medical Reserve Corps were denied.3,4
Exclusion from the Army Medical Reserve Corps did not stop women physicians from contributing to the war effort. Dr Esther Pohl Lovejoy8 wrote, “The women of the medical profession were not called to the colors, but they decided to go anyway.” Women physicians held government and civilian leadership roles, created and ran their own hospital units, served in the US and French army as civil contract surgeons and volunteered in various organizations such as the American Red Cross, American Women’s Hospitals (AWH), Women’s Oversea Hospitals, and the American Fund for French Wounded. In fact, registrations conducted by the AWH showed that “almost one-third … of the medical women in the country…, active and retired, signified their willingness to provide medical service as part of the war effort … and compared favorably to the service rates of male colleagues.”4
In this article, we shed light on the underrecognized women leaders of WWI. Through their stories, we explore the barriers they faced and the opportunities they created.
As the United States entered World War I, President Wilson and Congress sought to silence vocal and written opposition to U.S. involvement in the war.
The Sedition and Espionage Acts Were Designed to Quash Dissent During WWI
By Dave Roos via the History.com web site
When the United States finally decided to enter World War I in 1917, there was opposition at home by those who wanted America to remain neutral in the European conflict and groups who actively opposed the draft, the first of its kind in the country. The most vocal dissent came from pacifists, anarchists and socialists, many of whom were Irish, German and Russian immigrants and whose loyalty to America was openly questioned.
Fearing that anti-war speeches and street pamphlets would undermine the war effort, President Woodrow Wilson and Congress passed two laws, the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, that criminalized any “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the U.S. government or military, or any speech intended to “incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty.” (These were different and separate from the Alien and Sedition Acts passed in 1798 that were mostly repealed or expired by 1802.)
The two broadly worded laws of 1917 and 1918 ultimately came to be viewed as some of the most egregious violations of the Constitution’s free speech protections. They were written in an environment of wartime panic, and resulted in the arrest and prosecution of more than 2,000 Americans, some of whom were sentenced to 20 years in prison for sedition.
A handful of those convictions were appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the Espionage and Sedition Acts as constitutional limits on free speech in a time of war. One famous decision penned by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes introduced the “clear and present danger” test, which he compared to shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater.
At War with 'Disloyal' Speech
The Wilson administration knew that many Americans were conflicted about the U.S. entry into World War I, so it launched a sweeping propaganda campaign to instill hatred of both the German enemy abroad and disloyalty at home. Wilson publicly stated that disloyalty to the war effort “must be crushed out” and that disloyal individuals had “sacrificed their right to civil liberties” like free speech and expression.
In this October 1918 photo made available by the Library of Congress, St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps personnel wear masks as they hold stretchers next to ambulances in preparation for victims of the influenza epidemic. A century after one of history?s most catastrophic disease outbreaks, scientists are rethinking how to guard against another super-flu like the 1918 influenza that slaughtered tens of millions as it swept the globe in mere months. (Library of Congress via AP) (AP)
‘The 1918 flu is still with us’: The deadliest pandemic ever is still causing problems today
By Teddy Amenabar via the Washington Post newspaper (DC) web site
In 1918, a novel strand of influenza killed more people than the 14th century’s Black Plague.
At least 50 million people died worldwide because of that H1N1 influenza outbreak. The dead were buried in mass graves. In Philadelphia, one of the hardest-hit cities in the country, priests collected bodies with horse-drawn carriages.
In the middle of today’s novel coronavirus outbreak, some are turning to the conclusion of past pandemics to discern how and when life might “return to normal.” The Washington Post has received a few dozen questions from readers who want historical context for our current epidemic. But how did the deadliest pandemic ever recorded come to an end?
Over time, those who contracted the virus developed an immunity to the novel strand of influenza, and life returned to normal by the early 1920s, according to historians and medical experts. Reports at the time suggest the virus became less lethal as the pandemic carried on in waves.
But the strand of the flu didn’t just disappear. The influenza virus continuously mutated, passing through humans, pigs and other mammals. The pandemic-level virus morphed into just another seasonal flu. Descendants of the 1918 H1N1 virus make up the influenza viruses we’re fighting today.
“The 1918 flu is still with us, in that sense,” said Ann Reid, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education who successfully sequenced the genetic makeup of the 1918 influenza virus in the 1990s. “It never went away.”
The Clarendon War Memorial historic markers in Arlington County, VA were dedicated Nov. 11, 2019.
Historic Preservation Program and Review Board Recognized for Clarendon War Memorial Project
via the Arlington County (VA) web site
Arlington’s Historic Preservation Program staff and Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) was honored with a Commission Excellence Award in the category of Best Practices: Public Outreach/Advocacy from the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC) during its virtual conference on Aug. 7. The award recognizes the work of County staff and the HALRB on the Clarendon War Memorial Interpretive Project.
Clarendon War Memorial Interpretive Project
Dedicated on Nov. 11, 2019, the eleven historic markers that comprise the Clarendon War Memorial Interpretive Project describe the impact of 20th– and 21st-century conflicts on Arlington’s community and landscape. The markers stand in Clarendon Central Park adjacent to the Clarendon War Memorial, which commemorates the Arlingtonians who lost their lives in five conflicts. Research undertaken for the interpretive project revealed the names of five additional Arlington servicemen whose World War I sacrifice had previously gone unrecognized.
Sponsored in part by a grant from the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission's 100 Cities / 100 Memorials program and fundraising efforts spearheaded by the County’s World War I Commemoration Task Force, the interpretive project represents the culmination of more than a year’s collaboration between County staff and the HALRB with the Task Force, Arlington’s veterans, and numerous community stakeholders.
“This project was an unprecedented government and community collaboration that honors our local veterans by sharing their stories and sacrifices with future generations. It also highlights individuals and groups overlooked in the past, such as women, Black Arlingtonians, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Cynthia Liccese-Torres, Historic Preservation Program Supervisor. “We are thrilled to receive recognition from the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions and hope residents and visitors alike learn more about Arlington’s history through this project.”