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The War to End All Wars

Local veterans to dedicate
bust to Maj. Sam Woodfill

Ceremony planned for Oct. 12
at Indiana Veterans Cemetery

October
2018 Cover

(October 2018) – The “war to end all wars,” was a phrase used to describe World War I. The phrase was based on a 1914 book titled, “The War That Will End War,” by British author H.G. Wells. However, the peace created by the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918, didn’t last. The world found itself engaged in World War II within the lifespan of those who had served in World War I.
Conflicts such as World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the War on Terrorism are still remembered through the stories of friends and family members who have served in those wars. Even though more Americans gave their lives in World War I than in the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined, World War I remains America’s forgotten war. Today, Americans are deluged with daily news feeds, vivid photos and videos that keep current conflicts top of mind. 
World War I is also fading from the collective memory of people in our communities because there are no more living veterans of that war. The last U.S. veteran of World War I was Frank Woodruff Buckles, a native of Bethany, Mo. Buckles enlisted in the Army in 1917 at age 16. He later served during World War II, spending three years as a POW in Japan. He was the oldest of all World War I veterans. After his death at age 110, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on March 15, 2011.

Dedication of Maj.
Sam Woodfill bust


• 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12
• Indiana Veterans Cemetery, 1415 MSH N. Gate Rd., Madison, Ind.
• Free and open to the public
• Presented by: Jefferson County (Ind.) Veterans Council
• Information: (812) 801-7882
• For more resources visit the website: www.worldwar1centennial.org

Over the past 18 months, there has been a national campaign with focused activities to recognize and commemorate the courageous actions of U.S. soldiers in World War I from across the United States. The efforts are the result of the establishment of the “U.S. World War One Centennial Commission” in 2013 by the 112th Congress and signed into law by then-President Barack Obama. The purpose of the commission was to promote the planning, development and execution of programs and projects to commemorate the centennial of World War I.
The commission played host to an initial event on April 6, 2017, at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo. The in-person and online event, “In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace: Centennial Commemoration of the U.S. Entry into World War I,” was an international event that included the reading of historical writings about the U.S. decision to enter the war, the performance of music of that era, and participation by the heads of state from eight nations. The representatives from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and the United Kingdom read passages about the war. The event also featured commemorative flyovers by U.S. aircraft and the precision team of the French Air Force. The 90-minute program was digitally recorded for re-broadcast. 

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

From left are Jefferson County (Ind.) Veterans Council members Robin Henderson and Allen Manning.

On April 5, 2018, the commission announced the grant recipients for the “100 Cities/100 Memorials” program.  “More than 4 million American families sent their sons and daughters to serve in uniform during World War I, 116,516 U.S. soldiers died in the war and another 200,000 were wounded, said Terry Hamby, commissioner of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission.
“100 Cities/100 Memorials is a critically important initiative that will have an impact beyond these grants,” Hamby said. “These memorials represent an important part of remembering our past and preserving our culture.”
Indiana and Kentucky received grants for the following memorials: “Memorial Grove” in Ft Wayne, Ind., “The Doughboy” memorial in New Castle, Ind., “The James Bethel Gresham Arboretum” memorial in Evansville, Ind., and the “Patton and the U.S. Tank Corps” memorial in Ft. Knox, Ky. Each city received a $2,000 matching grant towards the restoration, conservation and maintenance of their local memorials.
The centennial celebrations in Indiana kicked off in Indianapolis with a ceremony on April 6, 2017, by the Indiana World War I Centennial Committee. The ceremony was held inside the Pershing Auditorium at the Indiana War Memorial to commemorate the United States official entry into World War I on Apr. 6, 1917. The free public event was also broadcast live for Hoosiers to watch remotely across the state.

JCHS photo

Maj. Samuel Woodfill is pictured with his wife of almost 25 years, Lorena “Blossom” Wiltshire. The two met in Fort Thomas, Ky.

The Indiana World War I Centennial Committee was established by the state to help identify and promote World War I recognition in Indiana communities. Dr Daniel Murphy, Hanover College professor of history, who serves on the Committee, said, “It’s a great thing to honor soldiers like Maj. Sam Woodfill, who was called the single greatest soldier by Gen. (John) Pershing.”
Murphy also referenced Cpl. James Bethel Gresham, the first American soldier killed on Nov. 3, 1918, in the Great War. Gresham was honored last year in Evansville, Ind., on the centennial of his death. Another project of the Centennial Committee is the development of a central registry of all Indiana monuments from World War I.

Event to honor Woodfill

In southern Indiana, celebrations have focused on further recognition of Woodfill’s heroic actions on Oct. 12, 1918. A formal ceremony is planned for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, this year at the Indiana Memorial Veteran’s Cemetery in Madison, Ind., which will include the dedication of a life-size, bronze bust created by Donna Weaver as a memorial to Woodfill. Weaver is an esteemed sculptor from Vevay who recently moved to Madison. The bust will be a permanent memorial and installed on a pedestal of honor along Memorial Drive at the cemetery.
The program, which is open to the public, was developed by Allen Manning, Veteran’s Council Secretary-Treasurer and a 28-year Air Force veteran who served as a Master Sergeant in medical logistics. The keynote speaker will be will Madison’s own Maj. Ryan Gilles, who has received numerous awards and medals including the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and the Overseas Service Ribbon.
Robert Woodfill, a Woodfill family member, will also speak.
A second event that day will be a ceremony to rename a section of U.S. Hwy. 421 between Madison and the Jefferson County-Ripley County line in honor of Woodfill. Rep. Randy Frye, Chairman of the Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee of the state of Indiana, drafted the legislation, which was passed unanimously by both the House and the Senate. “It was my honor to do this,” Frye said.

JCHS photo

World War I Doughboys march on parade down Madison’s Main Street during the war years.

Local recognition of Woodfill started in 1956, with a memorial placed on the lawn of the Jefferson County (Ind.) Courthouse. This year, Manning with Robin Henderson, the outgoing Veterans Council Vice Chair, and other Veterans Council members took actions to correct the date of birth inscribed on the Woodfill memorial. The correction was accomplished in June with the installation of a new bronze plaque over the incorrect inscription. His birthdate is now correctly posted as Jan. 6, 1883.
Meantime, the Jefferson County Historical Society has assembled a special exhibit of World War I photos and artifacts in addition to its Woodfill exhibit. The photos include a group photo of local soldiers, a military parade on Madison’s Main Street, artillery training along the banks of the Ohio River, and a list of local soldiers who gave their lives during the war. Artifacts include a helmet, guns, World War I posters, a map case, a shaving kit, binoculars, a uniform shirt and information about the Jefferson County Red Cross, which was formed in 1917 to help both the war effort and the families remaining at home. 
Woodfill is currently featured in an exhibit at the historical society. John Nyberg, the center’s executive director, explained that the exhibit is being expanded, and the permanent exhibit is scheduled to open in mid-October. Artifacts on display will include Woodfill’s medals, shooting glasses, red diamond patch of his unit, his canteen and his lunch kit.
Ron Roake, a History Center volunteer, developed a complete interactive computer program for the new Woodfill exhibit. A touchscreen computer monitor displays tabs to hear Woodfill’s words read by nephew Robert Woodfill. Visitors can also read Woodfill’s own description of his actions, scroll through photos of Woodfill and his wife, and read his actual handwritten letters to his wife and mother. There is an option to scroll through local World War I photos and another option that leads to a list of all Jefferson County World War I veterans, with a notation for those killed in action.
The honors and awards presented to Maj. Woodfill in the years after the war did not excite him. He was known as a modest man who found all the attention embarrassing, according to Madison author Ben Newell. Newell said he had heard many stories during his teaching career in Madison from students who were related to Woodfill. After his retirement, Newell thoroughly researched Woodfill’s life, including family letters and documents. His book, “Major Sam Woodfill, the Greatest Soldier of World War I,” was first published in 2008, with a revision published on Amazon in 2018.
As Newell tells it, Woodfill told his commanding officer about his “discomfort with all these awards.” His commanding officer set him straight by telling him, “Now soldier, I appreciate your humbleness, but one thing you have to remember. These awards aren’t just for you. They’re for all the men who served, and especially for the ones who gave their all. Not only are you being honored for them, but you bring honor to this Army that trained you and to the country that you serve. So pull those shoulders back and humbly accept these honors for all of us.” 

Other commemorative events planned

Some of the other recognition events related to the World War I centennial included a ceremony in Osceola, Ind., on Oct 23, 2017, at the Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens. South Bend native Alexander Arch was recognized for being the first American to fire at the enemy with the American expeditionary Force in World War I. He pulled the lanyard on the 75mm artillery piece on Oct. 23, 1917, to fire that first shot.

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

This display case of war items is part of the exhibit dedicated to Maj. Samuel Woodfill at the Jefferson County (Ind.) History Center museum in Madison, Ind.

On May 11, 2017, the National Veteran’s Memorial Shrine located in Ft. Wayne, Ind., played host to a visit from World War I Centennial Committee chair Jim Corridan, who visited the Indiana Merci Train. The Merci train was a gift of 49 French railroad box cars filled with tens of thousands of gifts of gratitude from French citizens. The French responded to show their appreciation for the 700-plus American box cars of relief goods that had been sent to them by Americans in 1948. Each of the 48 American states received a boxcar. The 49th box car was shared by Washington, D.C., and the territory of Hawaii. This story is one of many featured on the Facebook page of the Indiana World War I Centennial Committee.
Louisville, Ky., featured a series of special World War I exhibits at the Filson Historical Society throughout the year. Another event was the re-internment of Kentucky native Sgt. Willie Sandlin, a World War I Medal of Honor recipient, at the new State Veterans Cemetery in Hyden, Ky., where he had raised his family. A third recognition event was held at the 2018 Kentucky State Fair. “Kentucky in World War I,” featured interactive exhibits such as a sandbag-walled model trench with battle sounds and a working periscope to peak over the sandbag wall. Artifacts displayed included a World War I-era truck and bolt-action rifles. World War I re-enactors appeared in uniform and displayed more artifacts. Poppy Tables allowed visitors to make construction-paper poppies to attach to the Poppy Wall with names of veterans. Visitors could also search a by-county list of Kentuckians who died in World War I. 
Bright red poppies were adopted as a remembrance symbol of sacrifice to honor those who served and died for their country in all wars. The symbol originated with World War I soldiers who remembered the battlefields transformed by the blooming red poppies. The new blooms represented the hope that none had died in vain. The tradition was started by one person, Moina Michael, who was moved by the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written by Canadian physician Lt. Col. McCrae.
On an impulse, Michael bought a bouquet of poppies in November 1918 and handed them to businessmen at the New York YMCA, where she worked. She asked the men to wear the poppies as a tribute to fallen soldiers. She later led a campaign to adopt the poppy as the national symbol of sacrifice. The American Legion Auxiliary continued the tradition by selling paper poppies created by veterans to raise funds to meet the needs of veterans.  The National World War I Museum website, www.theworldwar.org, features both a pattern to make a 3-dimensional paper poppy and a red poppy cut-out for a very easy version of a paper poppy. 
Armistice Day commemorates the end of World War I on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour.
This year, all individuals and communities are invited to ring Bells of Peace at 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, to honor the men and women who served 100 years ago in World War I. The bells will toll 21 times in communities across our nation. Each person, church, fire house, bell tower and organization can participate in ringing their local bells for Bells of Peace. In addition, a free participation app is available for both Apple and Android mobile devices. There are seven bell tones available to select. Bells will toll together across all mobile devices. There are also links to the national website to post pictures of any local Bells of Peace event. Once in 100 years there is an opportunity to stop all activity, think about those individuals who have served and sacrificed, and then ring Bells of Peace together.

This year, all individuals and communities are invited to ring Bells of Peace at 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, to honor the men and women who served 100 years ago in World War I. The bells will toll 21 times in communities across our nation. Each person, church, fire house, bell tower and organization can participate in ringing their local bells for Bells of Peace. In addition, a free participation app is available for both Apple and Android mobile devices. There are seven bell tones available to select. Bells will toll together across all mobile devices. There are also links to the national website to post pictures of any local Bells of Peace event. Once in 100 years there is an opportunity to stop all activity, think about those individuals who have served and sacrificed, and then ring Bells of Peace together.

Back to October 2018 Articles.

 

 

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