This Sunday, Veterans Day, marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Over 10,000 people and organizations from around the nation have signed up for the Bells of Peace project, promised to toll bells on November 11, 2018, at 11:00 am to commemorate the Centennial of the Armistice and the service and sacrifice of the nation’s veterans.
At the 11th hour of the 11th Day, of the 11th month, a moment of silence will be followed by bells, which will be tolled 21 times, at 5-second intervals, across the nation and wherever Americans gather to honor their veterans.
The Washington National Cathedral led off the national bell tolling at 11:00 am during an interfaith sacred service there. The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is the Honorary Bell of Peace and stood in silent witness while the Centennial Bell in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall tolled in honor of our veterans.
Bells tolled throughout the nation. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York; the Grace Cathedral in Charleston, South Carolina; the Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock, Arkansas tolled along with bells in churches from coast to coast. Bells installed on trucks tolled in Loveland, Colorado. Bells tolled at overseas cemeteries where American service members are buried.
In Montgomery County, as World War I raged in Europe, the local unit of the Maryland National Guard was called up and formed Company K of the 1st Maryland Infantry in the 29th “Blue and Gray” Division. This division was made up of men from both the southern and northern states, and was, as such, a symbol of reconciliation after the Civil War. The 115th regiment was based on the original Revolutionary War Maryland Unit called the “Maryland 400” which fought with distinction in the Battle of Long Island, holding their line when all the other units retreated, giving to Maryland the nickname, “The Old Line State.”
Company K was led by Lieutenant E. Brooke Lee of Silver Spring. Lee and Frank Hewitt had organized the building of the first armory in Silver Spring in 1914. Other men from the County joined Company K, and they prided themselves on being an all-volunteer unit. They were sent to Camp McClellan near Anniston, Alabama for training. On arrival in Europe, the division was assigned to guard the border between Germany and Switzerland.
In September 1918 it was ordered to the Meuse-Argon offensive. Beginning October 8 the offensive began a steady advance against the German forces which lasted for 21 days with heavy losses. Company K lost 41 men in the War, nearly one-third of its strength. Armistice was declared just over a month later on November 11.
The 115th Regiment returned home in June 1919 after 21 months of mobilization. Two members were awarded the Medal of Honor, and five members of Company K were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
When the “War to end all Wars” was over more than two million American Doughboys stood in the Allied lines when the guns finally fell silent on November 11, 1918, after four years of slaughter that claimed 18 million lives.
Among those who died was John Walters of Germantown. In all 11 Germantown-area residents were called into service in the Great War in Company K, 115th Regiment infantry, 29th Division. They were Vernon Bennett, John W. Best, Paul Burdette, Herman Devine, Clarence Duvall, Norman Duvall, Bernard Jones, Willie Lowe, Cicero Miller, Oliver Norwood, John Pearson, and Dewey Thompson.
There is no monument in Montgomery County to honor the men of Company K in World War I, although this War is included in two other war memorials in the County.
Note: This article includes information from the Germantown Historical Society’s paper entitled “Our Boys on the Front in the Great War” by Susan Soderberg.
Photos courtesy United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars