Category Archives: WW1

Franklin Updike’s Great War

IMG_1108I was in Green-Wood Cemetery on Sunday when I came across the headstone of Franklin P. Updike. These WW1 headstones are much rarer than the ubiquitous Civil War markers one sees so often in old garden cemeteries. For one thing, there were fewer American deaths in the First World War than there were during the Rebellion. what’s more, a significant portion of doughboys were interred overseas where they were killed.

Updike, I later learned, lived in Brooklyn Heights and enlisted in the Army a month after the U.S. entered the Great War.

Updike death  copy

Updike is somewhat unusual in that he died during the war and was brought home. Note that the headstone was ordered in April 1942, just as the U.S. was entering the Second World War.

Updike grave marker copy

The young private was a wagoner, that is he tended horses and carts. This was a dangerous task; the enemy understood the importance of the enemy’s transport and so did everything to neutralize–kill–it. In his Memoirs George Marshall wrote of the wagoners in his division that at certain periods “the most dangerous duty probably fell to the Quartermaster Sergeants and teamsters who went forward each night.”

The people of St. Ann’s Church held a service for Updike at Thanksgiving 1918. The war had been over for two weeks by this time. This announcement and the one below are from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Updike St Ann's announcement copy

This afternoon on my lunch break I went to the Heights and took this photo of St. Ann’s as it is today.

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The people of Brooklyn did not forget Updike. Alas I don’t believe it still exists today but they named the local American Legion Post after him. This was in January 1924, ninety year ago this year.

Updike color presentation copy

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Filed under Memory, WW1

Sarajevo, 1914

Soldiers Capturing Assassin of Archduke Ferdinand

The Great War Centennial begins today with the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. As I have stated several times over the past few weeks I intend to do a fair amount of WW1 Interp and other work on this over the next several years. I am even boning up on my French to better help myself. I know from having attended the Centennial Commission trade who in DC two weeks ago that many museums and other institutions are gearing up for this. The publishers are too. Today I began Thomas Otte’s July Crisis: The World’s Descent into War, Summer 1914. Like the Civil War, the Great War is so fascinating because it is both so close and so far away at the time. In ways we are still fighting both of them.

I am fortunate in that the two Park Service sites at which I volunteer, Governors Island National Monument and the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, offer numerous opportunities for such endeavors. The sites even offer opportunities for the Joseph Hawley and Theodore Roosevelt Senior books, which are proceeding apace. Over the summer I am going to share more here on the blog and Facebook page about my progress, something I have not done so much yet.

(image/the arrest of Gavrilo Prinzip after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, 28 June 1914)

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Filed under Governors Island, Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace (NPS), WW1

Marking the Great War

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I just got home from the Apple store in SOHO where I took an iPhoto workshop to brush up on my picture taking skills. I did this because at the World War I Centennial Commission trade show last weekend I agreed to participate in The World War I Memorial Inventory Project. The goal of project director Mark Levitch is to photograph and document 10,000 monuments to the Great War spread across the United States. Many are hiding in plain site.

As after the Civil War, the process of memorialization began almost immediately. Nations, states, and small towns around the globe built monuments in the 1920 and 1930s. What these all had in common is that every protagonist believed it had justice and righteousness on its side. This should not be surprising given the incredible human, financial, and material sacrifices they made. Who wants to think they sacrificed for nothing?

I intend to start off with the many World War I monuments on Governors Island. As I noted a few weeks ago there are many sprinkled across the island’s 172 acres. My goal is to do fifty, mostly in New York, over the next five years. I am not going to do the ones on New York City parks because the Parks Department has already done extensive documentation on these already. There are many in post offices, botanical gardens, and places like that. Often they are hiding in plain site.

I will not post the same images here on the Strawfoot that I submit to the inventory project, but occasionally I will take photos of the same subjects and share them here. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this.

(image/tablet for Lieutenant James Andes on Governors Island)

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Filed under Governors Island, Monuments and Statuary, WW1

WW1 Centennial Trade Show report

Yesterday I attended the WW1 Centennial Commission Trade Show. I met a lot of people who are doing some interesting things for the commemoration of the Great War. Here are a few pics from the show.

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The trade show brought together museum officials, authors, and others to discuss their projects for the Centennial. Jones Day, theWashington white shoe law firm, hosted the event.

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The acting chairman of the Commission spoke first and discussed the group’s strategic plan. They have obviously put a great deal of thought and energy into the enterprise. He and the other commissioners are all volunteers.

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Before the trade show presentations there was a fifteen minute musical interlude by Benjamin Sears and Bradford Conner. They set a nice tone for the afternoon.

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Sergeant York’s son (black shirt and glasses on right) was there with his own son and granddaughter (seated to his left).

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Here are a few of the exhibits. As with the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the Great War Centennial will incorporate the  changes that have taken place in historiographically in recent decades.

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This is a sampling of some of the literature I gathered. I do not want to give away too much right now but I spoke to various folks about working on some projects over the next 4-5 years. I think the next few years will be fun and productive in a number of ways.

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Filed under Memory, Monuments and Statuary, Museums, WW1

Imperiled Promise

FDR_Museum_and_LibraryThis morning I received the final details of the upcoming WW1 Centennial Commission trade show. About sixty individuals and organizations rsvp’ed. I am looking forward to the presentations and hearing what people have planned for the next 4-5 years. I know I myself intend to do a fair amount with the Great War Centennial between now and the 100th anniversary of the Versailles Conference.

It is hard to believe the New York History conference in Cooperstown was a full year ago. Alas I could not attend the 2014  NYSHA conference at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, as either a speaker or attendee. Tomorrow, however, I will be tuning in to a webinar coming from the nearby Henry A.Wallace Visitor Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park. The panelists will be discussing Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service, the 2011 report from the Organization of American Historians analyzing the state of public history within the NPS. I have read the report and its while it lauds some NPS successes it also highlights where there might be improvement.

Tomorrow’s panel begins at 9:00 am and will focus on history at NPS sites within New York State. This is going to be an informative and lively event.

(image/Alex Israel)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Historiography, Interpretation, National Park Service, New York City, WW1

Gearing up for the WW1 Centennial

0114commissionlogoThis morning via email I received the program for the “Trade Show” that the The United States World War One Centennial Commission is putting on next week in DC. I cannot tell you how exited and energized I am by the Great War Centennial. I have my hands full with my Hawley and Theodore Roosevelt Sr. projects but I intend to do a lot of Interp and writing on the events of 1914-1918. Volunteering at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace and Governors Island offers many possibilities. The story of Roosevelt’s role in the Preparedness Movement, his friendship with Leonard Wood, and the experiences of his four sons and younger daughter in the war are a few things I am going to work into my programming.

There was a great deal of WW1 activity on Governors Island, not least the fact that it was from there that Pershing left for France in 1917. There is so much more. When I am at the Trade Show I intend to take lots of photos and to take copious notes.

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The demotion of General Wood

General Leonard Wood and New York City mayor John Purroy Mitchel inspecting troops in 1915

General Leonard Wood (right) and New York City’s preparationist mayor John Purroy Mitchel (top hat) inspecting troops outside New York City Hall in 1915.

Today marks one of the more dramatic, if lesser-noted, moments in the lead-up to American involvement in the Great War. It was on 25 March 1917 that General Leonard Wood sent acknowledgement of his relief of command of the Department of the East at Governors Island. Though not as well known as Truman’s sacking of MacArthur, Wood’s demotion was equally dramatic. It is probably lesser known because the United States joined the European fray just a month later and the carnage of the Western Front eclipsed the Wood imbroglio. How the war effort would have gone with Wood and not Pershing in command of the AEF is one of the great counterfactuals of World War One.

Wood had been Chief of the General Staff of the Army when President Wilson was inaugurated in March 1913. Some tried to get rid of the outspoken Wood then, but he managed to finish out his term. Afterward, he transferred to New York City where he commanded the powerful Department of the East from Governors Island.

Some of the Wood-Wilson tension came from Wood’s relationship with Theodore Roosevelt. After the Great War began in summer 1914 these two former commanders of the Rough Riders advocated for American preparedness. This ran counter to Wilson’s attempts at neutrality. Wood’s demotion was in part his fault. A former president could criticize the Administration; a current general cannot. Nonetheless, over the next few years Wood’s public statements became more strident and, well, public.

He was also part of the Plattsburg Camp Movement, the semi-official military preparedness experiment in which civilians were trained for military service. Roosevelt’s sons Ted and Archie both attended the 1915 Plattsburg camp. Wood was not easy to get along with. In a letter to his younger brother Archie, Ted Roosevelt later wrote that “Confidentially he give me a pain.”

When Theodore Roosevelt irked Wilson with a rousing Plattsburg speech Wood’s hand in the event was obvious. There were many other incidents over the years but the final straw for Wilson seems to have been a talk that Wood gave at New York City’s DeWitt Clinton High School on 14 March. After consulting with the Secretary of War the following week Wilson decided to make the move. It is revealing to note that his decision to demote Wood came after he decided to ask Congress for a declaration of war, which came in early April.

Wood’s demotion came in the form a division of the Eastern Department into three entities. Wood was given his choice and decided to take the command of the smaller Southeastern Department. Wood put on a brave face stating that “I am a good soldier, and go where I am sent.” The outcry was nonetheless immediate. Roosevelt was outraged, as was New York City mayor John P. Mitchel. Angry letters from Wood allies poured into the New York Times. In a show of support Wood was elected president of the Lincoln Memorial University Endowment Association the day after his demotion.

What would have happened if Leonard Wood had commanded in Europe instead of John Pershing is something we will never know.

(image/Library of Congress)

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Filed under Governors Island, Theodore Roosevelt Jr (President), WW1

The Centennial is coming

Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, June 1914

Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, June 1914

The Centennial of the Great War begins this summer and the United States World War I Centennial Commission is sponsoring a “Centennial Convention and Trade Fair” in Washington DC in mid-June. I may try to go to this. Here are the details. I am happy they are thinking creatively with this. I think the next five years are going to change many of our assumption about the events of 1914-1919.

(image/Imperial War Museum)

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From Gettysburg to Plattsburg

Over the weekend I finished Edward J. Renehan’s The Lion’s Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War. It details the Roosevlt family’s role in the First World War. All four of his sons were in uniform and the youngest, Quentin, was killed. Even daughter Ethel served in France, as a nurse.

A Spanish-American War headstone tilts on a hillside in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery

A Spanish-American War headstone tilts on a hillside in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery

One of my big  things for the upcoming season at Governors Island is to tie the Civil War Generation together with the individuals who came afterward and fought in the Spanish-American and Great Wars. There are all kinds of nationalist, reconciliationist, and other themes to explore. In just one “for instance,” General Joseph Wheeler fought in Cuba with Roosevelt and later served at Governors Island.

Last night I stared The Citizen Soldier: The Plattsburg Camp Movement, 1913-1920. The Plattsburg Camp did not open until 1915, but there were precursors at Gettybsurg and Monterey dating back to 1913. I do not know if the Gettysburg preparationist camp, not to be confused with Camp Colt that came along later, was on the battlefield or not.

In one of those serendipitious moments that is too good to be true, an article came through my in-box this afternoon announcing the publication tomorrow of Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood: Partners in Command. Wood was the original colonel of the Rough Riders, prior to his own promotion and Roosevelt’s ascension to his former position. Wood was on Governors Island during the Taft and Wilson Administrations. Roosevelt and Wood is the posthumous, final book of John S.D. Eisenhower. I am really excited about the possibilities of tying things together.

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Filed under Gettysburg, WW1

Sunday morning coffee

I’m sorry about the lack of posts this week. I have been sifting through the paperwork I gathered at the LOC last week. I have also been getting ready for the spring semester at the college where I work, which begins tomorrow.

D.C. War Memorial

D.C. War Memorial

Last week when I was in DC I spent a few hours on the National Mall. One of my favorite memorials is one that no one ever visits, the D.C. War Memorial. Granted there is not a whole lot to see there, but it would be nice if it got a bit more foot traffic. When the monument was dedicated on Armistice Day 1931 President Hoover gave the speech and John Philip Sousa came out of retirement to conduct the U.S. Marine Band. The first time I saw the memorial was in July 2005 when I was in D.C. with a friend, and it had fallen into a state of disrepair. It was refurbished in 2011 and looks much better. Still, as you can tell, no one stops to take in its subtle details. Why the monument is so seldom visited would be a great Interpretive opportunity. These are the types of stories I hope get told during the Great War Centennial that will begin this summer. I for one will be working it in at Governors Island.

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