The National Guard Enters World War One, April 6, 1917.
On April 6, 1917, the United States entered the war in Europe that would become known as the War to End All Wars. War was declared on Germany. On that day, the National Guard of the United States deployed and made up 40% of the entire US fighting power in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF.) 17 Divisions supported the effort overseas and the 42d Rainbow Division made up the 18th. From the 42d, William Donovan (to become “Wild Bill” and the founder of the CIA) received a Medal of Honor. One of the most important young men to join the ranks was Harry S. Truman of the Missouri National Guard, 35th ID. The “Harlem Hellfighters” 369th Infantry Regiment from New York paved the way for African American soldiers in the US Army. Henry Johnson of the 369th would receive the Distinguished Service Cross which was reissued as a Medal of Honor in 2015.
Although World War One was to “end all wars”, it did not. What it did do was to usher in the conditions that led to World War II and coin the term “the lost generation.” A devastated Europe would never be the same. Nor would the National Guard of the United States, now having served shoulder-to-shoulder with their active duty counterparts in both support and combat.
We may safely say that the Total Force Policy, germinated in 1903 with the passage of the Dick Act, began its path to today’s modern National Guard with roots firmly planted in the Belgian fields of Flanders poppies.
On Saturday, November 4th, the NGEF Museum team took part in the 44th Annual Conference on D.C. History hosted by the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. The title of this year’s conference is “Echo & Resonance: 1968.” In 2016, George Washington University Master’s Degree (then) candidate, Heather Glady interned here at the National Guard Memorial Museum. She chose to do a student show about the DC response to civil disorder in 1968. Her exhibit tied into an international show done at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. Her exhibit stayed in our lobby at One Massachusetts Ave., NW for many months and now, in a smaller form, is on permanent display in the Library. For the D.C. History Annual Conference, Anne C. Armstrong, our museum director, and Heather presented an informational poster designed to encourage both education and conversation about the National Guard actions taken during the ’68 D.C. Civil Disorder. The exhibit was shown between 12 and 1:15pm local time, in the Sanctuary of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1313 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., 20005. We had a wonderful time!
NB: The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church was attended regularly by President Abraham Lincoln. While there this weekend, we were able to admire the Presidential pew as well as his reading room.
Pew nametag at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.
SFC Sean M. Cooley
Sgt. 1st Class Sean M. Cooley, MSARNG, was killed in action in Iraq in 2005. His service was recently honored at the Legion De Lafayette Ceremony on March 11th.
Artifact of the Week
Spoon, World War One, 1917
This spoon is from a national guardsmen’s mess kit circa 1917. The handle has “US / D 35” stamped near its end. Notice how this spoon does not have a hole in the end of it. Designers added spaces at the ends of the utensils starting in 1926 so the items could be slid onto the handles of distributed meat cans for cleaning.
The Artifact of the Week program was initiated by NGEF in 2015. The artifact and description can be seen here, on Twitter, and on Facebook. All artifacts are on loan or owned by NGEF and are part of the National Guard Memorial Museum collection.