Remembering World War I, 100 Years Later

At War will be a newsletter about the experiences along with costs of war with stories by Times reporters along with outside voices.

Nov. 11 marks 100 years since the signing of the armistice in which ended World War I. We asked readers to tell us how their families commemorated the centennial. Here are some of their stories.

A United States Army Ceremony in France

Last July, I spent a week in France as a historian for an Army commemoration of World War I. inside little French village of Fismette, several dozen American soldiers tramped across the old stone bridge dividing Fismette by Fismes, its neighboring town, gathering at the edge of the lazy-flowing Vesle River. One hundred years prior, This specific space had been swept by German machine guns along with pounded by artillery as American engineers labored to maintain a bridgehead over the swollen river. At the ceremony, historians described the horrors in which faced the members of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th U.S. Division inside weeks they were engaged here. Among the group of soldiers in attendance were current members of the division. A French boy, tightly holding a picture of an American soldier by World War I, approached one of the soldiers. The soldier spoke no French, nevertheless he pointed to the bridge along with then at the keystone patch on his shoulder. Reconstructed after the war, the bridge had been dedicated to the 28th Division along with bears a large image of its patch. The boy’s gaze went by the bridge along with then back to the tall soldier with the two stars on his chest. The soldier reached into his pocket, drew out a keystone patch along with handed This specific to the boy. “Pour moi?” the boy asked. Holding the symbol of the Army’s intervention in his town, the boy ran back to his friends, tossing back an excited “Merci!” to the soldier. He had picked the right one; in which soldier was the commanding general of the 28th Division. — Jonathan Bratten, Portland, Me.

The Final Moments of a Soldier’s Life on the Battlefield

This specific summer, my family visited France to commemorate the centennial of the death of First Lt. George Baldwin McCoy, my great-grand-uncle. He was killed on July 20, 1918, leading a charge against German machine guns during the Second Battle of the Marne. He was 25. I stood next to my father inside wheat field before dawn while he peered at a laminated map using a flashlight, on the 100th anniversary of when Lieutenant McCoy’s unit launched their attack, down to the minute. After a long moment of silence along with reflection, we loaded back into your vehicle along with drove forward a few hundred yards to the farmhouse where Lieutenant McCoy was mortally wounded. We then retraced his steps to the field hospital, along with then found the graveyard where my ancestor was temporarily buried. Through my father’s research, we had learned in which my great-great-grandfather Judge Walter Irving McCoy campaigned to bring home the bodies of his son along with different fallen Americans. When he finally succeeded, the Army accidentally chopped the feet off Lieutenant McCoy’s corpse having a shovel, creating the family fear in which the corpse was not actually their son. A furious Judge McCoy proceeded to raise hell, prompting congressional hearings along with an investigation by the Army. After they determined in which they had indeed sent the correct body, my great-grand-uncle was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. — Alexander McCoy, brand new York, N.Y.

Tracking the History of an Ancestor’s Death

When I was growing up, my grandfather told me in which Pfc. John A. Olien, my great-uncle, was killed by German machine gunners, nevertheless the family never learned of the circumstances. In 1918, they celebrated the armistice on Nov. 11 not knowing John had been killed. Notification of his death arrived in early December. I eventually found the history of John’s unit inside University of Michigan library. He charged the German lines with his captain along having a handful of different men. They captured three outposts before they realized they were surrounded on three sides. His captain was killed, along with John was critically wounded, lying on the battlefield, tended by a fellow soldier until both were captured by the Germans. John died while German medics were taking him to an aid station. In 1921, my family chose to bring John’s remains home to be interred on the highest hill of a rural cemetery near brand new Richmond, Wis. When I was young, I visited the grave site with my grandfather on Memorial Day, on John’s birthday, on the anniversary of his death along with every Nov. 11. In August 2017, a French guide led me to the spot where John was killed during the Meuse-Argonne offensive in 1918. — David Olien, Madison, Wis.

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Returning to Alsace