Commemorating the First World War Centennial in Kansas

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KU relocates its “Victory Eagle”

Since 1982 Douglas County’s “Victory Eagle” has stood outside the main entrance to Dyche Hall on the KU Campus in Lawrence. Recently it was moved to a new location on Memorial Drive. You can read all about the “Victory Eagles” in Blair’s September 30th, 2016 post here, and you can read about the relocation and dedication here. more

Monuments and Memorials: The Victory Highway Eagles

The Victory Eagle outside the main entrance of Dyche Hall at the University of Kansas

The Victory Eagle outside the main entrance of Dyche Hall at the University of Kansas

The Victory Highway was supposed to be a tribute to the American soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.  It was a transcontinental road, stretching from New York to San Francisco.  Across Kansas it would follow an already established route, the Golden Belt Highway.  An association was formed in 1921 to create and promote the concept of the Victory Highway.

The concept did not last long.  In 1926 a Federal system of numbering highways was created, and the Golden Belt / Victory Highway lost their names.  In Kansas, the road became U.S. Route 40.

In the original idea for the Victory Highway, bronze eagles were to be placed at county lines, with plaques to remember those in the county who gave their lives during the war.  It was a worthy idea, but only six eagles–three in Kansas, and three in California–were ever placed.  All have survived, although most, if not all, have been moved from their original location.

One originally at the Douglas – Leavenworth County line now resides in front of Dyche Hall, the Museum of Natural History on the University of Kansas campus.  At its first location, it had been vandalized and the plaque stolen.  It was rededicated in 1982.

One that was originally placed at the Shawnee – Douglas County line was moved to Topeka’s Gage Park, and now has been moved within the park.

The eagle at the Pottawatomie County line now sits in Wamego’s City Park.  At the very least, none has been completely forgotten.

It’s tempting to ask to restore the Victory Highway name to U.S. 40, either as the road is now or as it was located, isn’t it?

Monuments and Memorials: Victory Junction

You can still find Victory Junction on some Kansas maps.  It was at a point where Wyandotte and Leavenworth Counties met, on what was then called the Victory Highway (see the earlier post, .)  The exact location is where K-7 intersects with the Parallel Parkway.

In its day it was a busy intersection, complete with  all the standard highway businesses–gas stations, restaurants, and bars.  Right in the middle of the intersection was a statue of a doughboy, a copy of the statue created by John Paulding ( ) entitled “Over the Top.”  It was a tribute to those Leavenworth County soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice.  It was dedicated on Armistice Day, November 11, 1929.  In that year the road now known as the Parallel Parkway was part of the Victory Highway, which became U.S. Route 40.

But sometime in the late 1930s the route of U.S. 40 was moved a mile to the south, and Victory Junction’s decline began.  In 1941, the statue was moved to the front of the Leavenworth County Courthouse, where it sits today.  In 1985 it was restored and rededicated to honor those who died in all wars from the county.

The statue today:


100 Cities / 100 Memorials

The United States World War One Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library has announced the first 50 recipients of grants for the restoration of World War One Monuments and Memorials, and to announce a second round of applications.  Full details here:

The lone recipient from Kansas is the KU Endowment Association in Lawrence.  The monument for restoration is the Victory Eagle WWI Monument that sits in front of Dyche Hall on the university of Kansas campus.  Information about this monument was posted earlier:

For more information about the Victory Highway eagles, see:


The Annals of Kansas, #60

The 60th installment seems like a good place to end the annals, as World War I events became fewer and fewer as 1919 wore on.

It also seems like a good idea to release this now, in case it might help anyone who may be interested in the aftermath of the war. We hope you enjoyed these glimpses of Kansas during the war years. more

Memorials to the Missing – St. Mihiel

The St. Mihiel Cemetery of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) is situated at Thiaucourt, France.  Mihiel is a dialectual variant of the masculine name Michel. The name is derived from the 1918 Battle of the St. Mihiel Salient, which was fought over ground that includes the cemetery site, from September 12th through September 16th, 1918 and was a resounding victory for American arms.

The cemetery is the 3rd largest US WW1 cemetery, and undeniably the prettiest setting of all. Designed by the New York architect Thomas Harlan Ellett (1880 – 1951), who had served on the Western Front as an engineer officer in the 77th ‘Statue of Liberty’ Division, the site was dedicated in 1937. There are 4,153 burials here, including 15 females, and 137 of the burials are marked unknown. The Memorial to the Missing is in the chapel where there are black marble panels listing 284 men whose remains had not been identified by 1937. Unlike the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the ABMC doesn’t replace panels when the remains of a listed person are subsequently identified. Instead a marker (in this case a brass dot) is inserted by the name. In the accompanying photograph you can see such an entry.

There are several features that make the St. Mihiel Cemetery and Memorial unique:

First, it is also an interpretive site, as there is a huge map showing the actions of the St. Mihiel Offensive, made from inlaid pieces of colored marble.

Second, on the chapel wall there is a magnificent inlaid tile mosaic of St. Michael the Archangel leading God’s forces against those of evil, although ABMC interpretive materials now identify him as ‘the Angel of Victory’.

Third, in the center of the site there is a large sundial with a stunning Art Deco eagle as the Gnomon. You will likely recognize this eagle as it is frequently reproduced in WW1 literature (plus he may have been the inspiration for the Muppet character ‘Sam the Eagle’). The base of the sundial bears the clever inscription ‘Time will not dim the glory of their deeds’ which, surprisingly, is a quote from Gen. Pershing himself.

Finally, only in this ABMC WW1 cemetery is there a private memorial. It was placed here by Harriet Blaine Beale, whose son 1st Lieut. Walker Blaine Beale, of Co. I, 3rd Bn., 310th Inf., 78th Div., is buried here.

Walker Beale was born in 1896 into two powerful American families. His paternal grandfather was General Edward F. Beale, who went to California during the war with Mexico and came to control 270,000 acres of land known as the Tejon Ranch, about 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Both Edward and Walker’s father Truxtun served as US Ambassadors. Truxtun even served as Ambassador to Greece, Serbia and Romania at the same time. Walker’s maternal grandfather was James G. Blaine (“the Man from Maine”) who was Secretary of State (three times), a US Representative, a U.S. Senator and, as the Republican candidate, narrowly lost the Presidency to Grover Cleveland in 1884.

Walker graduated from St. Paul’s School in 1914 and entered Harvard. In July, 1916 he attended a Plattsburg Officers Training Course. After war was declared, he received additional training at Ft. Myer, VA, was commissioned and assigned to the newly-formed 78th ‘Jersey Lightning’ Division at Camp Dix, NJ. In March, 1918 the 78th went overseas. In August Walker became company commander but his promotion to Captain was still pending at his death. On September 12th, 1918, the first officially designated ‘D-Day’ in U.S. Army history, the 310th Infantry attacked in the direction of Thiaucourt, subsequently driving the Germans out of their positions there. On September 18th, after the battle was over, while reconnoitering the new German line near Xammes (about 3 miles north of the cemetery) Walker and two other officers were hit by shellfire. He was taken to a field hospital and died that night.
Harriet commissioned the noted Philadelphia sculptor Paul Manship (1885 – 1966) to produce a suitable monument to her only child. Manship is especially known for his 1934 Art Deco sculpture at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink in New York which he entitled “Prometheus” but which has been known to generations of New Yorkers as “Safe on Second”.

In 1926, Harriet had the statue hauled to Thiaucourt to be placed on her son’s grave, even though Gen. Pershing, the founding Chairman of the ABMC, had expressly banned private memorials of any kind from ABMC sites, declaring that all graves would be marked by one of the two standard markers (a Cross or a Star of David) bearing only the standard inscription. Imagine his agitation when he learned that the Manship sculpture had been delivered to the site at St. Mihiel. Cables zinged back and forth, and a standoff ensued; even Gen. Pershing didn’t have enough political horsepower to have the statue removed.

A compromise was struck, with Pershing left fuming in his office: the sculpture would stay in the cemetery but would not be placed on Walker Beale’s grave nor would his name appear anywhere on the statue. However, the officer depicted on the memorial as ‘representative of all of the Doughboys’ is a detailed likeness of Walker Beale. On the cross behind the statue there are two inscriptions that were allowed by Pershing: Blessed are they that have the home longing for they shall go home and Il dort, loin des siens, dans la douce terre de France (“he sleeps, far from his own, in the sweet soil of France”).

Harriet lived until 1958 and willed her family mansion in Augusta to the State of Maine. Called ‘Blaine House’, it serves today as the Governor’s Residence. Paul Manship lived until 1966, and after WW2 he was commissioned to produce a sculpture entitled ‘Brothers in Arms’ for the ABMC Sicily-Rome Cemetery (contains WW2 burials) near Anzio in Italy.

About twelve miles southwest of the cemetery, on the top of the Butte de Mont Sec, the ABMC erected a memorial to the American forces that fought in the area. The hill was a very important German observation post for four years, but was encircled and rendered useless in one day on September 12th, 1918 by the US 1st and 26th Divisions.

The Mont Sec Memorial was designed by Egerton Swartwout (1870-1943), a well-known partner in the famous New York firm of McKim, Mead and White. Among Swartwout’s works are the Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City and the Brookwood Memorial and Cemetery for the ABMC.

The structure is in the style of a Doric temple which has in its center, instead of a tomb, an excellent map of the surrounding area with interpretive detail of the St. Mihiel Battleground. The exterior view is strikingly similar to the Jefferson Memorial in Washington.

In 1944 the memorial was damaged by US Army artillery fire, making it the third of the ABMC sites to be damaged in WW2, the others being the chapel at Aisne-Marne Cemetery, hit by a German 37mm shell in 1940 (damage still visible) and the Naval Monument at Brest, which was completely destroyed by the Germans in 1941 to make room for a coastal defense battery. That memorial was completely rebuilt after the war.

Langemark Cemetery and the Kindermord

Langemark is a village in West Flanders, Belgium that was the site of three engagements in the First World War. Towards the end of the First Battle of Ypres, Oct. 21st– November 14th, 1914, the German command sensed a weak spot in the British defenses here and rashly sent inexperienced German reservists of the XXVI Corps in Napoleonic-style waves against Tommy Atkins and the Mad Minute, resulting in heavy casualties.  On April 22nd, 1915, at the start of the Second Battle of Ypres, the Germans used gas for the first time on the Western Front near here, panicking French colonial troops into a retreat that was stopped by the Canadians at Frezenberg Ridge. Finally, during the second phase of the Third Battle of Ypres (August 16th -18th, 1917), also called the Passchendaele Offensive, British units pushed the Germans out of Langemark but lost momentum and the ANZAC’s had to be brought in to get to the top of the ridge.

Today Langemark is principally known for its German cemetery. With 44,530 burials, it is the largest Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (German War Graves Commission) WW1 cemetery on the Western Front.

1940 Visitors

German military cemeteries are quite different from the British or American sites. There is no Cross of Sacrifice, Stone of Remembrance, brooding lion or eagle. The few sculptures in these cemeteries tend to be depictions of mourning families, in fact, the whole theme is mourning rather than patriotism or glorious sacrifice. There are no flowers but lots of trees, and everything is black or gray rather than white, so the sites appear dark and gloomy even on sunny days. The Germans believed in burying several bodies in each grave so that the dead would not lie alone. Often the limbs of the bodies were intertwined to signify comradeship.

Der Studentenfriedhof

There are no memorial tablets listing the names of the missing, although there are mass graves where the names of those known to be buried within are displayed. Langemark has one of these that contains 24,917 burials – two of them are British soldiers.

The cemetery is inextricably entwined with the First Battle of Langemark. Many of those reservists mentioned above were from the quasi-military organizations that were the fraternities of the time at German secondary schools, universities and technical institutes. These student groups had volunteered en masse – one source reports that the total number signing up was 40,761. They were sent into action after less than seven weeks of training and led by elderly reserve officers unfamiliar with modern weaponry.

Freiburger Tagblatt, No. 263, November 12, 1914:
WTB [Wolff Telegraph Service]. Berlin, November 11. Report from General Headquarters. On the Yser section of the front we made good progress yesterday. We stormed Dixmuiden. Approximately 500 prisoners of war and about nine machine guns fell into our hands. Further to the south our troops forced their way over the canal. To the west of Langemarck our young regiments attacked, singing Deutschland, Deutschland über alles while advancing against the enemy lines and taking them.” more

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