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  • "Americans Underground: Secret City of World War I"

    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.

  • Bangor Park Rededicated in Honor of World War I Hero

    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."

  • Calvert County Honors Their WWI Fallen

     Calvert County Honors Their WWI Fallen

    The Calvert County WWI Memorial Marker is located at the Calvert County Courthouse in Prince Frederick.  It was sculpted by Edward Berge (1876-1924), is 6.25’ feet high and is mounted on an 8’ base.  The inscription on front reads: The soldiers and sailors from Calvert County who lost their lives in the World War.  “1920” is engraved in the stone base (marking the date the memorial was put in place).  Inscription on back reads:  This memorial is erected by the citizens of Calvert County to perpetuate the memory of their sons and daughters who made the supreme sacrifice and to those who served their country in the great World War: 1917-1918.

    Three hundred and fifteen men from Calvert County enlisted; 18 died during the war and are named on the Memorial.  These soldiers are listed below:

    George Armiger

    USN, declared “officially lost” June 14, 1918. I was a member of the crew of the USS Cyclops, a collier or coal ship, which departed Norfolk Naval Station on a snowy day in January 1918 headed to the South Atlantic to refuel US and allied naval vessels. We arrived safely in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and then departed February 16 northbound with a load of manganese ore. Our skipper decided to make an unscheduled stop in Barbados concerned that we may have been overloaded. We left Barbados on March 4 enroute to Baltimore but we never made it. On June 1, 1918, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that the Cyclops and her crew were officially lost after an extensive search failed to locate the vessel. To this day, the vessel has never been found, presumed to have sunk in the Bermuda Triangle. The German Navy declared that it had not sunk the Cyclops.

  • Camp Meade

    Fort George G. Meade
    Fort Meade became an active Army installation in 1917. Authorized by an Act of Congress in May 1917, it was one of 16 cantonments built for troops drafted for the war with the Central Powers in Europe. The present Maryland site was selected June 23, 1917 because of its close proximity to the railroad, Baltimore port and Washington D.C. The cost for construction was $18 million and the land sold for $37 per acre in 1917. The Post was originally named Camp Meade for Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, whose victory at the Battle of Gettysburg proved a major factor in turning the tide of the Civil War in favor of the North.

    World War I
    During World War I, more than 400,000 Soldiers passed through Fort Meade, a training site for three infantry divisions, three training battalions and one depot brigade. During World War I, the Post remount station collected over 22,000 horses and mules. Major Peter F. Meade, a nephew of General Meade, was the officer in charge of the remount station. The "Hello Girls" were an important part of Fort Meade history. The women served as bilingual telephone-switchboard operators in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. In 1928, the Post was redesignated Fort Leonard Wood, but Pennsylvania congressmen, angry at removing the name of native son George Meade, held up Army appropriations until the Army agreed to name the new permanent installation Fort George G. Meade on March 5, 1929.

    Fort Meade has recently released a book titled Fort George G. Meade: The First 100 Years.  The full book can be found at

  • Maine Screening of World War I Documentary

    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

  • New short story features a Maine Guardsman in WW1

    New short story features a Maine Guardsman in WW1

    A new short story released in the journal "The Strategy Bridge" is from the perspective of a Maine National Guardsman of the 103rd Infantry Regiment in the Aisne-Marne Offensive.


    "Death. He saw it everywhere. It was hard not to see. The fragments of what once had been beautiful groves of trees and verdant wheat fields were scattered everywhere, mixed in with what surely must have once been men.

    But at this point he couldn’t tell.

    The night before, he had dreamt about back home. It was pure, pleasant torture, a dream like that. He was back on his family’s farm, tilling the ground. Cursing at the ever-present rocks that seemed to get gleefully in the way of the blade. Maine grew rocks. And if you could convince it to stop growing rocks, you could grow other things.

    Like wheat."

    Find the rest of this story in its entirety, here.

  • The Great War – Prohibition becomes Patriotism

    The Great War – Prohibition becomes Patriotism

    How could the Elks Lodge members’ traditional 11 o’clock toast to departed members become unpatriotic? 

    This Way Out2After decades of advocacy, prohibitionists found in World War I food conservation programs an unstoppable vehicle to make prohibition of alcohol patriotic. Even before America declared war, programs saving food aimed to feed starving European refugees. Making alcohol used starch (potatoes, grain, corn) that could feed troops or hungry allies. Drinking alcohol was transformed into an unpatriotic act. Elks Lodge 616 would be square in the debate, and eventually labeled unpatriotic.

    Both Hawaii’s branch of the national Anti-Saloon League and Elks Lodge 616 were founded in 1901. By World War I, the Anti-Saloon League was well organized and part of the ‘establishment.’  The press supported prohibition, even if their readers didn’t. Nippu Jiji editor Yatsutaro Soga supported prohibition and nearly lost his job. Advertiser headlines (“Grain much too precious to waste in intoxicants”) reminded readers liquor was now unpatriotic. “Sake not distilled wants exemption” was neutral, but “Liquor Men squealing” showed Advertiser leanings.  

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

    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