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Maine in WWI News

Why We Fought: American WWI Posters and the Art of Persuasion

August 28 – December 8
AREA Gallery, Woodbury Campus Center, Portland campus

Thirteen World War I posters provide a diverse historical context for the many ways in which graphic propaganda was used by the U.S. government and various community groups to bolster support for an unpopular war and convince Americans to do their part to ensure an Allied victory. Rotating displays of USM student responses provide a wide range of contemporary perspectives. The posters are a recent gift to USM Special Collections by retired Tufts history professor Howard Solomon. Co-organized by USM Special Collections and USM Art Galleries.

All exhibitions and events hosted by the USM Art Department and Gallery are free and open to the public. To learn more about 2017 exhibitions and programs, visit usm.maine.edu/gallery.

Bangor Park Rededicated in Honor of World War I Hero

By Jonathan Bratten, Maine World War I Centennial Commemoration

Pfc. James W. Williams (Courtesy American Legion Post 12)Pfc. James W. Williams (Courtesy American Legion Post 12)

On the night of July 17, 1918, U.S. Doughboys struggled through the dark eaves of Belleau Wood in a driving rainstorm. Thousands of troops were moving into position to attack at dawn the next morning, in what would begin the Aisne-Marne Offensive. One of these men was James W. Williams of Company G, 103rd Infantry Regiment.

Born and raised in Bangor, Maine, he had enlisted in the Maine National Guard's Company G, 2nd Infantry in June of 1916. He accompanied the regiment to the Mexican Border that year for a four month tour of guard duty. Now he was in France with the 2nd Infantry, except it had now been renamed the 103rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. Williams had already served on two fronts in the Great War: the Chemin des Dames and the Toul Sector. Now he was getting ready to go on his first attack.

As the Americans moved forward, the Germans caught sight of troops moving in the night and pounded Belleau Wood with artillery. Heavy shells shredded the trees into splinters and tossed great showers of earth into the air in ear-splitting explosions. It was probably during this barrage that Private First Class James W. Williams was killed in action. He was the first man in Company G from Bangor to be killed in action - but he would by no means be the last. He was buried on the battlefield and later moved to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, not far from where he died. 

Williams' sacrifice did not go unnoticed by his home town. The first American Legion Post in Bangor was named for him and the city dedicated a playground in his honor in 1939. But since that time, James W. Williams' memory has faded into history as Americans began to forget about the First World War.

Faded, that is, until the current members of the James W. Williams American Legion Post 12 stepped in. Conducting research, they slowly pieced together the life of their post's namesake. In the process, they found that the park that bore his name did not have any kind of marker commemorating the soldier. James W. Williams playground (Courtesy of American Legion Post 12)James W. Williams playground (Courtesy of American Legion Post 12)

Working quickly, the members of the Post commissioned a new marker for the park that would remind all who frequented it of the sacrifice of the young man nearly a century prior.

The marker reads, "James W. Williams Playground, Dedicated July 5, 1939; In Memory of a Brave Soldier. Private First Class James Walter Williams, Co. G, 103rd Infantry, 26th Div. (Yankee Division), KIA 7/17/18. 2d Battle of Marne. Buried Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, Grave 77, Plot A, Row 1, Belleau, France. James grew up as a foster child on Hancock Street and played on this field while attending a Catholic School operated here by the Sisters of Mercy."

Because of the hard work and diligence of the veterans from the American Legion, current generations can now learn about the brave young man who gave his life in France to "make the world safe for democracy."

Brunswick historian’s command of World War I informs PBS series

Richard Rubin has written two books about America's role in the Great War and is featured in a three-part documentary starting Monday


BRUNSWICK — Richard Rubin sat at a table in the Curtis Memorial Library, his favorite writing spot, and opened a plastic bin full of odds and ends that looked at first glance like they were plucked from a garage sale.

But a closer looked revealed a World War I German mortar, shrapnel, five American bullets, a piece of German-made barbed wire and a rusted and bent bayonet.

“Every time I go to France I find things like this, in the fields where various divisions were,” said Rubin, 50, author of two books on America’s involvement in World War I. “I’m told, and I have no reason to doubt, that this stuff will keep turning up for the next 200 to 300 years. Here in America, it’s largely a forgotten war, but in France (America’s involvement) continues to mean so much to them.”

Rubin’s latest book on World War I, “Back Over There: One American Time-Traveler, 100 Years Since the Great War, 500 Miles of Battle-Scarred French Countryside, and Too Many Trenches, Shells, Legends and Ghosts to Count” hit stores last week. Beginning Monday, Rubin will be featured prominently in a three-part documentary called “The Great War” on “American Experience” on PBS.

Read the full article here.

New exhibit to showcase Maine woman’s World War I experiences as a ‘Y’ Girl

Memorabilia from Faith Hinckley's nine months overseas aiding American soldiers will be a featured display at Fairfield's L.C. Bates Museum.


Faith Hinckley held vigil over the wounded soldier who asked only that she hold his hand tightly until the end.

They were in a pup tent within a military camp housing 20,000 soldiers near St. Nazaire, France. It was the summer of 1918.

Hinckley, serving as an international volunteer during World War I, told the soldier she would write a letter home for him. The soldier told her he had no one at home, not a single relative who would remember him.

She told the dying soldier, whom she knew only as Bill, that he could dictate a letter to her own mother, Harriet, back home in Fairfield, Maine, and that Harriet could be his “borrowed mother.” He dictated two pages of his thoughts and wishes for prayers, picturing his own home as he took his final breath.

Read the full story here.

Never-before published photos show the U.S. entry into World War I

By Jonathan Bratten and Thomas Gibbons-Neff for the Washington Post

24. Americas First Expeditionary Force 16th Regiment U.S. regulars marching thru La Place de la Concorde on July 4 1917

Thursday marks the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I. On April 6, 1917, Congress authorized then-President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war on Germany. The sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania in 1915, coupled with attacks on U.S. merchant ships and the Zimmerman Telegram in January, convinced a large swath of the American public that war was in the country’s interest.

Before official military involvement in World War I, Americans had contributed to the Allied war effort with participation in the American Field Service, which consisted of ambulance drivers and medical personnel. With the United States’ official entrance into the war, the American Field Service expanded its efforts, recruiting thousands more to serve overseas.

The first American combat troops arrived in France in June 1917. These soldiers were with the 1st U.S. Infantry Division and were accompanied by service members of the American Field Service. Once in France, the ambulance drivers and medical personnel were divided up into Section Sanitaire États-Unis, or S.S.U. for short. One of these men was an unnamed ambulance driver with S.S.U. 642 who took pictures of his experiences on the Western Front.

After the war, his photo scrapbook made its way to Maine, where it ended up with the papers and collections of Albert Greenlaw, an officer in the Maine National Guard and a World War I veteran himself. The scrapbook found its way into the Maine Military Historical Society’s museum in Augusta, Maine. These never-before seen photos provide a snapshot into the remarkable life of ambulance drivers in World War I.

Read the full article here.

Americans Underground: Secret City of World War I

Click here for video clips and current showtimes.

An amazing discovery has been made beneath a farm field in Northern France: a vast underground city where World War I soldiers, on both sides of the conflict, took refuge a century ago. Even more remarkable, it is one of hundreds of buried havens set up close to a 45-mile stretch of the Western Front. Follow American photographer Jeff Gusky and a team of historians as they document one of these long forgotten shelters, and witness their attempts to connect the names of the American soldiers etched into the limestone walls to their living descendants.

Maine soldiers from the 103rd Infantry Regiment in the 26th "Yankee" Division are featured in this film. It was made with assistance from Maine historian Jonathan Bratten, the Maine Army National Guard, Passamaquoddy historian Donald Soctomah, the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services, and the Maine Military Historical Society.

A century ago, Mainers marched to war to make the world safe for democracy

By Jonathan Bratten and Earle Shettleworth Jr., Special to the BDN

Posted April 02, 2017, at 10:16 a.m.

Troops and band of the 2nd Maine Infantry on parade at Camp Keyes, Augusta, Me., 1917

One hundred years ago this spring, on April 6, 1917, America entered World War I. The European nations had been in conflict since summer 1914, but the United States remained neutral until 1917, when German U-boats began sinking American ships in the North Atlantic and Germany sought a military alliance with Mexico. At that point, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war.

With the same patriotic fervor that Maine had responded to a call for troops in the Civil War, more than 35,000 men and women across the state joined the military in 1917 and 1918 to fight the “war to end all wars” to “make the world safe for democracy.” The entire University of Maine Band joined the 103rd Infantry Regiment, as did a squad of warriors from the Passamaquoddy Nation, including the chief’s own son, who was killed in action on Nov. 10, 1918. Maine civilians supported the war by purchasing $118.4 million in government bonds and $8.4 million in war savings stamps. Private sector relief programs operated by the American Red Cross, YMCA, YWCA and the Salvation Army also received generous contributions from the public. By the end of the war, every man, woman and child in the state had donated an average of $147 to the war effort.

Read the full article here.

Rare photos document first Americans on front lines in World War I (Photos)

By Jack Moore

April 10, 2017 2:20 pm

WASHINGTON — Last week marked 100 years since the U.S. declared war on Germany, officially entering the first world war.

But years before the first American “doughboys” landed on the shores of Europe, hundreds of Americans had aided the Allies by signing up to serve in the American Field Service, the famous ambulance corps that operated at the war’s French western front.

A rare collection of photographs documents the experience of one such American ambulance driver from his arrival in France to the arrival of U.S. troops and the end of the war.

The photo scrapbook first found its way into the hands of Brig. Gen. Albert Greenlaw, who served in France with the Maine National Guard. The collection eventually ended up at the Maine Military Historical Society in Augusta, Maine, First Lt. Jonathan Bratten told WTOP in an email.

View the full story with photos here.

WWI centennial: Portland still mindful of ‘The War to End All Wars’

By David Harry on April 3, 2017

PORTLAND — Nearly 100 years after he died, Harold T. Andrews’ name lives on throughout the city.

The landmarks, plaques and portraits that bear his name are in focus again with the centennial of America’s official entry into World War I on April 6.

Andrews, born on the West End, attended Portland High School and Bowdoin College. He was the first Mainer to die in combat in “The War to End All Wars.”

“How would a kid from Bowdoin College end up in a field with a shovel in his hand?” Joe Rich, a member of American Legion Harold T. Andrews Post No. 17, said March 30.

Assigned to help build a railroad with the 11th New York Engineers near Cambrai, France, on Nov. 30, 1917, Andrews grabbed a gun when the unit was attacked. He ran out of ammunition and killed German soldiers with a shovel before he died.

You can read the full article here.

How Passamaquoddy Carvings Were Made in These Forgotten WWI Quarries in France


Think about the huge stone buildings of France — Notre Dame, or the huge medieval castles. That stone had to come from somewhere, right? In fact, it came from huge underground quarries, some under what would become the battlefields of World War I.

During that war, soldiers on both sides took advantage of those quarries, now abandoned, and in the largest of them they built what can only be called underground cities, with room for thousands of people inside and facilities that you probably wouldn’t associate with the front.

The quarries were an escape from the absolute horror of trench warfare, where a soldier could relax, go to church, maybe even visit a bakery. Many of them carved their names, or symbols or even sports scores, on the walls of the caverns.

In some places, the quarries are more or less intact — and more or less forgotten, except by the locals whose land is above them.

Photographer Jeff Gusky learned of the quarries while in France on another project, and discovered among other things that some of their most prolific decorators were the men of the 26th Yankee Division, many from Maine.

Read the full article here.

Maine Screening of World War I Documentary

The Maine Historical Society will hold a special screening of a new Smithsonian Channel documentary one week prior to the film's airing. This documentary follows photographer Jeff Gusky in his search to unravel mysterious carvings found in underground caverns in France. His journey leads him to New England as he works with military historians to figure out who the men were who made the carvings, and what their legacy was that they left behind.

Promo for "Americans Underground" screening at Maine Historical Society

It Aimed to Make the World 'Safe for Democracy:' World War I and Its Aftermath

February 7, 2017

"The world must be made safe for democracy."  With those words, President Woodrow Wilson committed Maine, and the rest of the country, to fight in World War I.  It was April 2, 1917.   To mark the coming centennial, the Maine Historical Society opens a new exhibit in Portland today. To read the full article from Maine Public's interview with curator Jamie Rice, click here.

Pop-Up WWI Exhibit at the Maine State Museum

November 6, 2016

In anticipation of a larger exhibit on World War I opening in 2017, the Maine State Museum held a one-day pop-up museum to showcase artifacts from the Great War and build public interest. Read more here.

Few remember how the Maine Guard helped secure the Mexican border 100 years ago

By Jonathan Bratten, Special to the BDN

Posted May 27, 2016, at 2:46 p.m.

At the Muster Ground 2One hundred years ago, Mexico was wracked by a civil war, as rival factions vied for power: Venustiano Carranza, backed by the United States, versus Emiliano Zapata, a revolutionary who was supported by renowned fighter Pancho Villa.

In a series of battles, the U.S.-backed forces defeated the revolutionaries, so that by the end of 1915 most of Mexico was controlled by Carranza. In a desperate gamble to try to get the U.S. involved in the war, Villa began raiding border towns in New Mexico.

In response, the U.S. commander of Fort Bliss, Brigadier General John J. Pershing, mounted raids — to which there were counter-raids — into 1916. Tensions between the two countries grew.

To help the border states, President Woodrow Wilson authorized the activation of some 140,000 National Guardsmen from across the nation in what has since been referred to as “ The Great Call-up.”

To read the full article from the Bangor Daily News, click here.

'The birth of the modern National Guard'

One hundred years ago, men from Maine were summoned for duty in response to a guerrilla raid on Columbus, New Mexico.

By Joseph Owen, Copy Desk Chief at the Kennebec Journal.

If my Owen grandparents had planned to celebrate their second wedding anniversary in 1916, what actually happened that day surely isn’t what they had in mind.

Under normal circumstances, they might have left their 7-month-old son, William, with a baby sitter on that June 28 and gone out for a quiet meal at a restaurant in downtown Augusta. Instead, my grandfather, 1st Lt. Frederick H. Owen Jr., was among the many members of the National Guard who were summoned to duty on the Mexican border in response to a guerrilla raid on Columbus, New Mexico, that left 18 Americans dead.

For the full article at the Kennebec Journal, click here.

Maine WWI Centennial Working Group

WWI Maine Draft Registration Pin

The Maine WWI Centennial Working Group is made up of representatives from the Participating Organizations.

 Would you or your organization like to become a participating partner or have your event listed on our calendar? Do you have questions about Maine in World War I? Please contact us at the email below.

 Contact: maine@worldwar1centennial.org



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