A salute to Delaware’s ‘Doughboys’

Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf, left, and President Pro Tempore David McBride place a wreath at the World War 1 Memorial after it was unveiled at Leg Hall on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — A monument unveiled at the southwest corner of the grounds at Legislative Hall Saturday was one almost a century in the making.

It was placed there to honor Delawareans who served in World War I and those who supported them on the home front.

The Delaware General Assembly, the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs and the Delaware Heritage Commission joined together to add the new memorial to the collection of monuments that circle Legislative Hall.

The unveiling on Saturday brought out the state’s political dignitaries, representatives of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, the Delaware National Guard, Disabled American Veterans, Gold Star Families and others.

Vietnam Veterans during the dedication of the World War 1 Memorial at Leg Hall on Saturday.

Gov. John Carney noted that although Saturday was not actually Veterans Day – that is next Saturday – it certainly felt like it in Dover as a Veterans Day Parade took place downtown prior to the ceremony.

“As I was walking up to the podium my friend Senator Colin Bonini leaned over to me and he said, ‘This is super cool,’ and it really is,” Gov. Carney said.
“It is cool and great on so many levels. It’s another opportunity to thank the veterans who have served our great nation over the years.

“We do not have any World War I veterans still among us but remember the service they provided to our country and the sacrifice they made with this new memorial. It’s an opportunity as a state to celebrate our history and Delaware’s part in our national history.”

Senator Bruce Ennis and Veterans Commission Chair William Farley, right, stand next to the World War 1 Memorial after it was unveiled at Leg Hall on Saturday.

Gov. Carney also gave a nod to Dick Carter, chairman of the Delaware Heritage Commission, and Lori Christiansen, director of Legislative Council’s Division of Research, for their work on the project.

The memorial is funded by the Delaware Department of State and the Delaware Veterans Commission.

The monument features the artwork of Frank E. Schoonover’s “Doughboys First,” and Ethel Pennewill Brown Leach’s “Delaware Awake!” Their early 20th century paintings were reproduced on a granite block.

The monument’s base reads, “In loving memory of the men and women of the First State who served our nation in World War I. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten.”

The monument, which was assembled by William V. Sipple Jr. & Son Monuments of Milford, was unveiled a week prior to the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day. Dover’s The Brick Doctor performed the necessary brickwork for the monument.

“As time goes by and as generations pass it becomes part of our history,” Gov. Carney said. “(Saturday) we celebrate our history and lift up all those Delawareans who made that history. We think about our own responsibility to make their sacrifice real and to live it out.”

Veteran Paul V. Lardizzone with the Disabled American Veterans salutes during the dedication of the World War 1 Memorial at Leg Hall on Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Kennard Wiggins Jr. (Del. National Guard, Ret.), author of “Delaware in World War I” and vice chair of the Delaware Military Heritage and Education Foundation, served as the keynote speaker at the event.

“It is a special honor for me,” Brig. Gen. Wiggins said. “I have a keen interest in all things Delaware and all things having to do with The Great War.

“This monument fittingly commemorates the brave soldiers, sailors and Marines who fought in The Great War on behalf of Delaware and our nation. It honors their sacrifice and their loving memory.”

Throughout the United States’ engagement in World War I, some 9,000 Delawareans served overseas in the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Of that number, 43 Delawareans were killed in action and 188 were wounded.

Many more succumbed to the great influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, bringing the total number of Delaware service personnel lost during the war to 270.

Many of the dignitaries at the event had personal family connections with those who served – and many who died – in World War I.

Veteran Denis Woltemate holds a framed flag with WW1 veteran Michael DiSalvos photo at the dedication of the World War 1 Memorial at Leg Hall on Saturday.

Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride (D-Wilmington) noted that he had an uncle who was killed in World War I that he never got the chance to meet. Laurence Roberts of Wilmington died as a 22-year-old in aerial combat in France in 1918.

“I’m pleased to welcome all of you to Legislative Hall to pay tribute to the memory of those Delawareans who served our nation a century ago in what became known as the First World War,” Sen. McBride said.

“May this monument always be a reminder to present and future generations of the young sacrifices you and all Delawareans made in that awful war so long ago.”

Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover) said he was in awe of the history of the United States and its people who made the decision to make the ultimate sacrifice.

“It drives me nuts when I see the History Channel or some textbook that says the United States’ participation in the First World War was of minor significance or was nominal,” he said.

“When the Armistice happened in 1918 there were two million Americans in France. There were over a million Doughboys in France. The population of the United States in 1918 was 101 million. Two million of those people were in France.”

Sen. Bonini added, “If you read the diaries of any military or world leader in 1918, all they want to talk about is ‘The Americans are coming,’ and the Germans basically stopped fighting because they knew the United States military would win that war in 1919.

“In a lot of very real world ways, the United States of America won World War I and it drives me crazy that the sacrifices these young men and women made, and the sacrifices this entire country made during that time period, are not acknowledged. Those were extraordinary people.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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