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DOTRA CoverFront Cover of The Dawn of the Red Arrow eBook

The Dawn of the Red Arrow traces history of the Wisconsin National Guard in World War I

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

Those who have been following the WW1CC newsletter and website know that there has been a terrific weekly series of articles appearing in social media, and on our website, entitled THE DAWN OF THE RED ARROW which traces the history of the Wisconsin National Guard in World War I. The series was created by MAJ Brian J. Faltinson, Public Affairs Officer, Wisconsin National Guard, and shows an amazing amount of teamwork, research depth, and insight. Now, the entire series has been edited together into a great comprehensive eBook. The book is available for download from https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/45340. We had a few moments to talk to Major Faltinson about the book, and about his efforts to remember the WWI veterans from Wisconsin.

Tell us about the new book! Tell us about the experiences and history of the Red Arrow Division

This e-book commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division and the World War I service of 15,000 Wisconsin National Guardsmen. It consists of a series of historical vignettes and photographs that follow the 32nd Division’s World War I timeline from formation in July 1917 through entering Germany with the Army of Occupation in December 1918. The 32nd Division was formed at Camp MacArthur, Texas, from 15,000 Wisconsin National Guardsmen and 8,000 more from Michigan. It was the sixth American division to arrive in Europe and fought with distinction in the Alsace, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne and Meuse-Argonne. The division pierced every single German line encountered and shot through the Kriemhilde Stellung “like an arrow” during the Meuse-Argonne campaign. As a result, the division commander days after the Armistice made the Red Arrow its official unit insignia.

The book has some really interesting features and imagery. Tell us about what will people find in there.

Faltinson 400MAJ Brian J. Faltinson, Public Affairs Officer, Wisconsin National GuardRed Arrow Soldiers tell the division’s history through their stories. Vignettes include the experiences of an infantry company commander who led his unit through all four of the division’s campaigns and a regimental chaplain who earned both a Silver Star and Iron Cross for burying the dead on both sides while under fire. The stories of many others either in the division or related to it are also included. My favorite story that I put together was about Georgia O’Keeffe and how her brother’s service in the 32nd Division inspired one of her paintings. Along with these stories are hundreds of photographs showing the division’s Soldiers through the war. They range from wide-eyed recruit mustering at their hometown National Guard armory to an exhausted gaze of battle-hardened Doughboy in the Meuse-Argonne.

Tell us about your effort to put the whole book together. Was this a compilation of your blog posts over the year? What was your research process?

The book is a compilation of materials we published during our Dawn of the Red Arrow commemorative program. The program started in December 2016 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of Wisconsin National Guard units serving during the Mexican Border Crisis and continues through June 2019 when we will mark the 100th anniversary of Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Day parade for returning 32nd Division troops. Since our stories were published digitally on a 100-years-ago timeline, we wanted to bring the stories together into a single publication so people could read the whole thing. Mr. Vaughn Larson, our senior editor, combined the stories and photos into a single package that will be accessible online well after the campaign has concluded.

We obtained our research material through visits to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, as well as reviewing the outstanding 32nd Division holdings at the Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum and Wisconsin National Guard Museum. Additionally, we looked at about a dozen Wisconsin newspapers from the era for local perspective and reprinted letters from the troops in France. The U.S. Army Center of Military History also provided access to their extensive World War I research collection which was invaluable for providing the larger context needed to properly frame these stories.

Why are these stories important to you and to the people of Wisconsin? What do you want your readers to take away from the experience of reading this book?

The 32nd Division’s origin and the World War I service of 15,000 Wisconsin Citizen-Soldiers represent the birth of the modern Wisconsin National Guard as we know it today. The 32nd fought with great distinction in World War I and compiled an equally commendable record in World War II. It responded to the nation’s call for a third time in 1961 for the Berlin Crisis. Today, units of the Wisconsin National Guard continue to respond at home for state emergencies and continue to deploy overseas in support of the U.S. Army and Air Force. Such a proud history and continuing service would not be possible without the support of the families and communities of those first Red Arrow Soldiers, as well as those who serve today. The 32nd Division in World War I is a great story and people should remember it because the 10,000 Soldiers and Airmen of the today’s Wisconsin National Guard continue the legacy forged by those who made the Red Arrow.

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