November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which ended World War I, a war that engulfed most of Europe since 1914. United States troops tipped the balance toward Allied victory, placing the United States on the world stage in a new way. The war came at a great cost, though. WWI claimed over 17 million lives, with more than 116,000 were killed and 200,000 wounded from the United States. No state would sacrifice more than New York. Over 500,000 New Yorkers served, and of those, 13,956 lost their lives. The Village also lost many to the war, and today in Abingdon Square Park in the West Village, the Abingdon Square Doughboy statue remembers those lost in WWI.
Many Firsts: World War I in New York
The Abingdon Square memorial was made by Village sculptor Philip Martiny, whose studio was located on MacDougal Alley. It shows a foot soldier – nicknamed doughboys – striding into battle, with a gun and a flag. The monument was a gift of the Jefferson Democratic Club, whose headquarters once stood opposite this statue on the site now occupied by the apartment building at 299 West 12th Street.
New York’s 369th Infantry Regiment was the first African American and Puerto Rican regiment to serve in World War I, spending more time in the trenches than any other unit from the States. More than 350,000 African Americans served in the U.S. military, as did Native Americans and members of many minority groups. Another first in WWI was that women joined the ranks of the war efforts. Twenty-five New Yorkers received the nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, for their valor.
Anti-War Movements in the Village
While Villagers went off to war, others joined the anti-war movement. They supported anti-war candidates for office (who often weren’t elected), held protests in Washington Square Park, and wrote articles in the local socialist paper “The Masses.” Bohemian and socialist movements rose up, including the Arch Conspirators, who declared the “Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square,” which was partly in protest of America entering the war. In response, in 1917 the U.S. Congress passed the Espionage Act, aimed at socialists, pacifists and other anti-war activists, many of whom lived, worked, and were targeted right here in our neighborhoods.
Centennial in the Village
To mark the centennial this year – Veterans Day is a newer holiday, which before the end of WWII was called Armistice Day – the Village is holding several events, exhibitions, and more. Here are a few things on our radar:
WWI Centenary Concert: Schola Cantorum on Hudson
Saturday, November 10, 7:00pm at St John’s in the Village
Sunday, November 11th, 11:00am at Washington Square Park
Join us at the Memorial Flagstaff in Washington Square Park to help commemorate the centennial of the World War I armistice. Wreath laying and moment of silence at 11:11am. Featuring music by West Village Chorale and NYU Pipes & Drums. Presented by the Washington Square Park Conservancy and NYC Parks. Co-sponsored by The Village Alliance and The Washington Square Association
Solemn Requiem for the West Village Fallen of WWI (Music: Gabriel Fauré)
Sunday, November 11, 11:00am at St John’s in the Village
with the launch of More Deadly the War by local Village author Kenneth Davis (detailing the effect of both the War and Spanish Flu on NY from 1918)
WWI Film Series: Over There 1914-1918
Saturday, December 1, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm at Webster Library, 1465 York Ave
World War I and the Roosevelts: Franklin and Eleanor, Family and Friends
Original WWI posters by such famous illustrators as James Montgomery Flagg, Joseph Pennell, Frances Lydendecker, and Howard Chandler Christy are accompanied by period photographs of the Roosevelts, including FDR’s visit to France in the summer of 1918, and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Red Cross work.
Open Mondays-Saturdays, 10am-4pm through February 24, 2019, at the Roosevelt House, Hunter College,47-49 E 65th Street, New York, NY