By Rick Winterson
During this Year of Our Lord 2017, and the next, 2018, World War I (WWI) and all its events will reach the century mark. Constant nation-to-nation controversy in Europe flared into WWI in 1914. The incident that began it was the assassination of the Archduke of Serajavo. Nearly 100 years ago, on Friday, April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for approval to declare war on Germany. It was granted. WWI ended 19 months later on Armistice Day (now Veterans Day in the U.S.), November 11, 1918.
As the century mark approaches for this historic conflict, South Boston is preparing to memorialize the part played in that War by the residents and happenings of, in, and around South Boston during these history-making years. To this end, the South Boston World War I Commemoration Committee has been formed. Charter members of the new Committee – Mary Ryan, Bob Allison, Ed Flynn, John Allison, Kevin Conroy, and Rick Winterson – held the first Committee meeting on last Saturday morning, January 21, at the Thomas J. Fitzgerald VFW Post 561.
Discussions at this first meeting ranged over a wide variety of WWI topics. The first event will be some kind of ceremony that recognizes the killed-in-action deaths of South Boston’s WWI veterans. These number just over 100, and include well-known names such as Michael Perkins and Thomas Fitzgerald. The ceremony will be held sometime in April – details to follow – but the initial plan is to focus this event on the indoor memorial of photographs in South Boston High School. Have you seen it? Did you even know that it exists? Relocating this to a more well-traveled site like the Branch Library is perhaps possible.
Another immediate concern of the Committee is updating and completing South Boston’s “Hero Squares”, starting with those in honor of veterans of WWI who were killed in action. Eventually, the Committee would work on establishing an outdoor memorial to WWI veterans, similar to the many others in South Boston.
Veterans, relatives of anyone alive during WWI, historians, and those interested in helping on the World War I activities over the next 21 months, culminating on Veterans Day, November 11, 2018, are encouraged to contact any member of the South Boston World War I Commemorative Committee. Committee Member Ryan has printed out a 101-name list of known WWI Fallen Heroes.