Armistice Day 2018

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Armistice Day, 2018: Reflecting on the Centenary of the End of World War I

November 11 is known worldwide as Armistice Day, and Veterans Day in America. This year, the world will pause to remember the 100th anniversary, or centenary, of the end of World War I.



One Hundred Years Later
by Tim Curran

What damage can one bullet do?  It was a sunny summer day in 1914 when that question was answered.  The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was touring the city of Sarajevo in the province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He and his wife Sophie were visiting the city to open a new state museum. This day should have been nothing more than the standard state protocol with a speech or two and a state dinner at night. This was not to be, as Franz and his wife were shot by a Serbian nationalist by the name of Gavrilo Princip. Both died within minutes, Franz’s last words pleading for his wife to live for their children.  The bullet that ended Franz’s life started a chain of events that would lead all the major nations of Europe and the United States into a war that would engulf millions.  That bullet also changed my grandfather’s life as well.

I never knew my grandfather.  When he died in 1962, it would be a full ten years before I was born in 1972. Even though I never met him, my mother would tell me stories about him. He was a tough man, as many were of that time period. She worked for him during her high school and college years in a Salem, Massachusetts drugstore that he managed until his retirement. Being the manager’s daughter meant that she was worked harder than the other employees (spoken with a half-smile on my mother’s face, when she tells me about her adventures behind the counter dealing with employees and customers).  She also told me stories me about how every night during WWII that he would sit by the radio and listen to the reporting of the war that was consuming the world at that time. Of course, many people in the United States did that during the war. Except my grandfather was not like many of the other people. He had been to France in 1918 and marched on much of the same ground that American troops were marching on again.

My grandfather had served as an artilleryman in the US Army during World War I. He enlisted when he was 26 while living in Biddeford, Maine.  He trained at Fort Devens with logs at first to simulate artillery, as the Army did not have enough equipment to go around. This is hard for us to imagine now that the US Army could be so ill equipped for war! He shipped out over the Atlantic in a Navy-protected convoy so that the U-boats prowling the Atlantic would not be able to pounce on defenseless ships. Arriving in France, he and his unit finished their training with something deadlier then logs and were transferred to the front in September of 1918. The end of the war that had consumed millions into an abyss of fire and steel was only a month away. Yet, in such a short time from the American declaration of war in 1917 to the end of the war in 1918, over three hundred thousand Americans would be casualties with 58,000 being killed.

The war that he entered had been going on since 1914. Nations primed on nationalism and militarism only needed a flashpoint for a general European war and that was provided by the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist. From this event, the world was catapulted into something close to an apocalypse.  World War I was a conflict unlike any other in world history. Fully industrialized, modern nations stood toe-to-toe for four long years feeding a generation of men into a meat grinder. Modern armaments like machine guns, artillery, barbed wire, flame throwers and poison gas made the battlefields open graveyards. Trenches would stretch almost unbroken from the Atlantic Ocean to the border of Switzerland. These trenches, the iconic image of the war, were the only protection from the hail of bullets and artillery that would sweep away men by the thousands in open land.  But trenches were not the only horror of the war, as Italians and Austro-Hungarians fought in frozen mountain passes while Germans and Russians fought over the vast plains of central Europe. But no matter where you fought, the horror of this war would find you. Over thirty-eight million men became casualties with around nine million being killed. On average, that would be six thousand men killed with about another twenty thousand a day being wounded.

That horror also found my grandfather. My mother only knows the bare bones of this story, as he would almost never speak of his time in the war. He and his unit were shelled and gassed during the Meuse-Argonne campaign of 1918. That is all he would tell her, though the screams of his nightmares would be more descriptive to her then anything he could explain to her. What he experienced, he carried with him to the end of his life. Just like the millions of men that survived this butchery over the course of the war. The collective trauma of this war laid a pall over this generation and affected all the ones coming after in untold ways. Millions of men would be haunted by the images of death and horrific disfiguring wounds and carry it with them forever. They would try and re-enter society and would succeed to varying degrees. The families that lost loved ones would also be affected and carry that trauma as well. No one escaped the reach of this war.

After four long years of slaughter, the world powers that were left agreed to an armistice. There was a certain poetic sense that on the 11th month, the 11th day and the 11th hour, the guns would fall silent and the world, brought to the precipice of total collapse, would be saved. Yet, was it? The conditions that brought this war to an end would only ensure another war. Germany, faced with accepting total responsibility for this war and crushing monetary payments, would nurse this resentment and allow Adolph Hitler to use it for his rise to power. World War II was essentially a continuation of the war that started almost twenty years before. Many would consider that war the one that gave us the modern world, but it was the death throes of World War I that would serve as the birth pangs of the modern world. The Soviet Union came from this conflict. The United States, only a regional power before the war, would emerge as a first-rate world power -- with New York being the financial capital of the world after the previous financial capital of London had been hollowed out paying for years of war. The political world map that solidified after WW I would be something that most people would recognize today. 

However, as we close on the 100th anniversary of the end of this war, we should reflect not on the politics or the borders that changed with this war. We should try and remember the people that fought and sacrificed their youth, minds and lives trying to do what they thought was the best for their respective nations. Look into your family history and you may be surprised that you have a relative that served or was affected by this war.  And as I write this, I am thanking the officer who trained my grandfather on how to wear his gas mask, as his survival was necessary for my existence. This November 11th, think of and praise not only the veterans who served, but of the people who saw the end of World War I, the war that was supposed to end all wars.

Tim Curran has been teaching history in Westford at the Stony Brook Middle School for twelve years and recently did a one year teacher exchange at Westford Academy.  He is currently teaching a World War I class at Nichols College.
    

Recommended Reading:

If you would like to learn more about The Great War, Mr. Curran recommends reading the following books:

The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
The Great War by Peter Hart
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
A World Undone by G. J. Meyer






WWIMemorial
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“When, to curb the unbounded ambition of the Germanic warlords, to save the vestiges of a waning civilization, to restore peace to a war-stricken world and to uphold its own honor, the United States was forced to enter the most stupendous struggle in the annals of history, one hundred and sixty-one young men and women of Westford responded to their country’s summons and in Army, Navy and hospital served honorably and faithfully until victory was won… To Live In Hearts We Leave Behind, Is Not To Die”

~ Westford Common memorial, listing in memoriam the nine Westford men killed in action in World War I: Edward J. Bechard, J. Norbert Brule, Thomas Costello, Adelard Langley, Napoleon J. Lanctot, Antonio Palermo, Charles Smith, Orion V. Wells and Antonio Lozzi.


photos of Westford Common memorial, by Heather Monahan

ArmisticeDay201802FlandersField

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place, and in the sky,

The larks, still bravely singing, fly,

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the dead; short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe!

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high!

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

                                        ~John McCrae, 1872 - 1918

 


World War I Veterans of Westford

Fairview Cemetery

Edward Moseley Abbot *
Walter Orrin Beebe *
Arthur C. Blaisdell
Chester E. Blaisdell *
Frank L. Blaisdell
Walter Lowell Blanchard *
Samuel Luther Blodgett
Walter Arthur Blodgett
Carl S. Brewster
Walter A. Brooks
William Folland Buckingham *
John J. Burns *
Harold H. Butcher
George Butko
Dr. James Dearborn Christie
John Edward Clement
Robert Clement
James D. Colyer
James H. Cone
John Edward Cook
James H. Corey
James Hunter Crocker *
Ora D. Darling *
Claude Day
Robert Choate Dexter *
Dr. Charles Dudley
Charles Franklin Dupee *
Harold Hill Fletcher
Ralph Andrew Fletcher *
Arthur Griffin Fullford
William Carrol Furbush *
Saul J. Gordon
Arthur T. Greenslade *
Ralph G. Haberman, Sr.
Eddie B. Hallberg
Axel F. Hanson *
Arthur Griffin Hildreth *
Clarence Edwin Hildreth *
Leon F. Hildreth
Justin Burton Jenkins
Frank C. Johnson
John Cochrane Leggat
Eva Mae Lord *
Helen Jennie Lord *
Philip David Lord, Sr.
Francis J. McDonough
Charles F. Ellsworth Miller
William Hugh Mills *
Forrest P. Nelson
Harold Edward Nye
Joseph J. Perkins *
George E. Perkins
Clarence O. Phillips
Joseph J. Phillips
Frederick H. Picking *
Frederick W. Potts, Sr.
Charles Versal Eastman Robey *
Edmund Dix Rogers *
Rufus Nelson Rowe *
Marden Homer Seavey *
Edmund D. Smith
John W. Spinner *
John W. Stiles
Frederick M. Stuart *
Howard W. Sweetser
Paul E. Symmes *
John Adams Taylor
Frank Daniel Tucker *
Ephraim Vickers *
Joseph George Walker *
Dr. Orion V. Wells (killed in action) *
Paul E. Wells
Roger D. Wilkins
Harry G. Whitney *
George D. Wilson
Joseph G. Wolkowich
Norman Herbert Young *


St. Catherine of Alexandria Cemetery

Harry J. Carney
Joseph “Victor” Auguste Caron
Homer Oscar Chandonait *
William Bernard Chapin
Henry Francis Charlton
Raymond Vincent Charlton *
Filippo Colasanti *
Harold Frederick “Pete” Connell *
John Lawrence Connell, Sr.
Leo James Connell *
Joseph Francis Costello, Sr. *
Thomas J. Costello, Sr. (killed in action) *
Thomas J. Costello, Jr. *
Adelard Adam Cote
Leo Joseph Cote
Joseph Raymond Courchaine *
Alfred J. Couture
Henry G.E. Couture *
Resimon J. DeGagne
Ernest Leo Downing
Donat Donald Dupuis *
James Matthew Elliott *
Frederick J. Fitzpatrick, Sr. *
Joseph H. Graham *
Alberic Grenier *
Edward T. Hanley *
Joseph E. Holmes
William Joseph Kelly, Sr.
Paul Walter Lahme, Sr. *
Wilfrid Lamy
Adelard J. “Aldat” Langley (killed in action) *
Stanley Joseph Lavigne *
Lorenzo Joseph Lefebre *
James Joseph McKniff *
John Thomas McKniff, Jr.
Owen Andrew McNiff
Emile Joseph Arthur Milot *
Antonio Joseph Napoleon Milot
Joseph Nadolny
Margaret C. O’Hara *
William H. Orange
Robert James Orr, Jr. *
John A. Pietkiewicz
Anthony B. Pivirotto *
Thomas Stephen Rafferty *
Joseph O. Romeo
Frank Patrick Shugrue
Charles Nathan Sleeper *
Edward J. Smith *
Margaret D. Smith
Michael Joseph Sullivan
Mary Agnes Thompson
Alfred Tousignant
Emile Tousignant
William Leo Wall
Margaret Mary Walsh
John Francis Young, Sr.

Westlawn Cemetery

Carl Frederick Haussler
Richard Samuel Manuel

Wright Cemetery

Albert George Forty
Carl Gilman Wright
Ernest Tebbetts Wright, Sr. *



Veterans buried outside Westford or in unknown locations

Harry J. Aaron, Sr.
Howard Akerley *
William G. Atherton *
George L Barry *
Edward J. Bechard (killed in action) *
Henry A. Beyer *
Edgar C. Bibeault *
Leroy E. Bicknell
Ernest W. Bridgford *
Joseph Brule *
Norbert J. Brule (killed in action)
Daniel C. Caless *
Wilfred J. Carpentier *
Frank Charlton *
Wiley Cooper *
D. Cote *
Alexander Couch
D. Courchaine *
Dwight W. Cowles *
P. Crocker *
Walter L. Cutler
Francis DaSilva *
Emerson Andrew DeRoehn
Ralph A. Dodge *
William J. Duke *
Gustaf Eliason *
Matthew Elliott *
Louis J. Gilbert
R. Grant *
John Gray *
Herbert Hanley *
William Harrington *
William T. Hart *
Walter A. Hartmann
J. C. Heald *
E. Healy *
F. C. Healy *

Thomas A. Hughes
Victor Jacques *
James E. Jelley *
H. Johnston *
Francis J. Kearney *
H. Kimball *
Adrian Labissonifre *
Napoleon Joseph Lanctot (killed in action) *
Austin Lawrence *
A. Lemeri *
Antonio Lozzi (killed in action) *
Leon C. Mansfield *
Clarence E. McElman *
Arthur Noel *
Francis Nowers *
Carl Harry Nylander *
J. O’Niel *
Antonio Palermo (killed in action) *
George H. Parson *
Henry N. Patrie
F. Perkins *
Joseph Perkins *
Joseph Perry *
R. Pickering *
Miner W. Pomeroy *
Alfred T. Reed *
Philip P. Ross
Frederick Sanford
A. Shaffer *
Ovila Sicard
Charles Smith (killed in action) *
Samuel Stewart *
Douglas Sullivan
Frank Sullivan *
Clayton T. Taylor
F. Tousignant *
Charles White
Earl A. Woods
Paul Estabrooke Zuver



*Many of our “Honor Roll” veterans resided in Westford at least 30 years. Visit the Westford Military Index and the Honor Roll database on the Town of Westford’s Veterans Services department webpage to learn more.

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 We Shall Keep the Faith

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

 

 Moina Michael was inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields" to write this poem in 1918.



Heather Monahan, Senior Administrative Assistant for the Westford Cemetery and Veterans Services departments, created this tribute page with sincere thanks to Tim Curran for his marvelous essay and the Westford Information Technology department for their technical expertise. To say ‘thank you’ to our World War I veterans and their families seems inadequate, but necessary; our country owes them a debt of gratitude we can never fully repay.