A MOST tremendous appeal to
patriotic fervor, to gratitude, and to sentiment, is now materializing in the
pilgrimages provided by our government for the mothers and widows of our
countrymen who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War, and whose bodies
remain in the soil on which they fell in the great cause. History fails to show
that any nation at any time ever undertook before a pilgrimage of this kind or
magnitude, regardless of the extent of its appreciation for lives laid down and
for the dear ones left behind to mourn.
These gold star mothers and
war widows will, in their journey to and from this American sacred ground in
foreign lands, be truly guests of our grateful nation; for the plans, both in
major items and in the smallest of details, contemplate their complete
convenience and comfort.
ARRANGEMENTS FOR A TYPICAL WAR MOTHER AND WIDOW
Let us, for the purpose of
illustrating the extent of such plans, take a concrete example of a mother who
is eligible for the pilgrimage and who has accepted the invitation extended by
our government. Her name is Mrs. Brown, and she lives next door to us in the
little western town of Smithville. We have known her for many years, and we knew
her boy, too. In fact, we saw him
off that day when the whole town turned out to say "Goodbye" to
"our boys" when they were leaving for the training camps were all so
proud of them, but now, as we look back upon that day, it seems, somehow or
other, that Mrs. Brown, and the mothers or wives of some other hometown boys who
did not return from that mission, were outstanding in their affection for and
pride in their loved ones. We mention this to show what interest we have in Mrs.
Brown's comfort in this, what will be to her, perhaps, a wonderful experience,
permitting her to see what has been done by our government to perpetuate the
memory of her boy, and of all the other heroic dead who lie in consecrated
ground across the sea. Knowing her
as we do, and realizing the many steps that have been taken to make comfortable
her trip to the last mortal resting place of her son, we are looking forward to
hearing her relate all her experiences upon her return to Smithville. We know
that the recollection of the trip will be a source of great comfort and
reflection for our next door neighbor.
But let us anticipate, at
least to some extent, what Mrs. Brown will tell us about, when she gets back
home, by running over a few of the arrangements made by the authorities in
charge and with a view to seeing that she will have never a worry or care.
Mrs. Brown is making her
plans as though some "influential" friend, with "means", had
invited her to take a trip to Europe, which is exactly the case. Her host has,
by letter, made suggestions to her as to a number of things, such as to the
advisability of taking along only clothing that is simple in style and of medium
weight and warmth, and that she should be sure to include a pair of comfortable
walking shoes, and by no means to overlook taking a warm coat and a pair of
overshoes. He has also advised her
to take not more than two pieces of baggage, the total weight of which will not
exceed 100 pounds. All these
helpful hints and suggestions, Mrs. Brown will, of course, follow to the letter
in planning to sail on the United States Lines S. S. "George
Washington," on May 21, 1930. All
the 5,000 or more mothers and widows making the pilgrimage this year will
travel on boats of the fleet owned and operated by the United States Lines, an
American corporation. Mrs. Brown is going on the "George Washington"
because that sailing fits in with the system adopted so that mothers and widows
from the same State could travel together in the same group.
In fact, there is a widow in our town going at the same time as Mrs.
Brown, which will make it pleasant for both of them, more especially as to the
train trip to and from New York.
LEAVES SMITHVILLE AND ARRIVES IN NEW YORK
When Mrs. Brown (and all
that follows applies equally to her companion, the widow) arrives in New York,
she will be met by an officer of the Regular Army, in uniform, who will provide
transportation and escort her to her hotel, where a room, meals, and high class
accommodations for every convenience, have been arranged for her in advance by
her host. It should be stated right here that if Mrs. Brown, or any other of
these pilgrims, should become indisposed or ill at any time on the trip, medical
and nursing attention will be immediately available, this having all been
planned and provided for.
But, to go back to Mrs.
Brown, now comfortably in her hotel where she will have time, during two days,
to rest up from the journey from her home town, we find that she has already met
other mothers, and also some war widows, who form part of her group and whose
common bond has started friendships that will continue throughout the pilgrimage
and, perhaps, throughout her life.
But sailing time draws on
and the War Department representative provides Mrs. Brown and the others with
the necessary transportation and escorts them to the pier and on the boat, where
an officer of the Regular Army at once assumes the pleasure and the duty of
looking after their welfare during the entire voyage.
Mrs. Brown is delighted to find that she has cabin class accommodations
aboard ship, that her baggage is in her room when she arrives, and that her
stateroom companion is also a fellow traveler as a guest of the American nation
bound for the same destination. The seasickness that Mrs. Brown had somewhat
timidly feared did not materialize. While she noticed that a few of the others
were somewhat indisposed for a day or so, she also saw such solicitous care of
them taken by those delegated by the War Department to attend, that she will
probably laughingly remark that she believes she has missed some attention by
not having a touch of seasickness. However, she will undoubtedly enjoy the sea
air, the deck chairs and steamer rugs, the attractiveness of the boat and all
the comforts that will be afforded her during the eight days of the voyage. All
the pilgrimages have been scheduled for the months of May to September, so as to
accommodate the comfort of these travelers to the most pleasant sailing season
of the year.
Some mothers and widows,
Mrs. Brown learns, are going by other boats, to visit the resting place of their
loved ones in the Brookwood Cemetery in England, and they will disembark at
Southampton or Plymouth. Mrs.
Brown's son, however, lies in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France, so
she, with others, will leave the boat at Cherbourg. When they reach that port,
they will be met by a Regular Army officer and will be assembled into smaller
units of about twenty-five each, depending on the respective cemeteries in which
they are especially interested. Mrs.
Brown and the other members of her unit will travel by rail to Paris where they
will find that all arrangements have been made, prior to their arrival, for
their first class hotel accommodations. After a day of rest, they will attend
the placing of a wreath, by them, on the tomb of the French unknown soldier, and
in the afternoon, a reception will be held in honor of these American mothers
and widows, in which the French war mothers and widows, and French government
officials and prominent civilians will participate. After a good night's rest,
each group of mothers and widows, in charge of an officer of the Regular Army,
will proceed, by motor bus, to a small town in the vicinity of the cemetery to
be visited, the establishing of this town as a temporary headquarters making it
possible for the pilgrims to visit the final objective of their trip -with as
little difficulty and fatigue, and as much comfort, as possible, for the period
of time to be spent in the immediate vicinity will be about seven days.
Considerable thought has been given the routes to and from the town
headquarters each day, so that they will vary and thus enable the mothers and
widows to view the points of historical interest and especially some parts of
the battlefields where American troops were engaged.
The program, including, of course. lunches, and hot drinks, at
appropriate times, likewise contemplates rest periods. As before stated, there
will be no time when competent medical and nursing attention will not be
One of the outstanding
events of the trip upon which Mrs. Brown will undoubtedly love to dwell when she
relates her experiences to her friends and neighbors when she gets back home,
will be her surprise and pleasure when she saw the beauty and peacefulness of
the war cemeteries. She has learned
that, with the exception of one, that at Suresnes just outside of Paris where
lie men who died in Paris hospitals, all the cemeteries in France where American
troops are interred, are on ground captured by American troops, so that in the
main our boys "over there" now lie where, or near where, they fought
and fell. Mrs. Brown will be
greatly impressed by the trees, the shrubbery, and the flowers and by the white
marble headstone in the form of a cross, over three feet high, which marks her
son's resting place, and which has inscribed upon it her soldier boy's name, his
rank, his organization, the name of his State, and the date of his death.
While her mother pride and love will naturally be centered on this one,
she will note with general pride that all her boy's comrades who lie there, if
of the Christian faith, have similar markers, while those of the Jewish faith
have a star of David instead of a cross. She
notes, too, that at intervals there is a headstone with no name upon it, which
indicates that it marks the grave of one who is unknown, and she reverently
reads the inscription "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier
known but to God." And as she
looks around to drink in the beauty of the scene as a whole, Mrs. Brown sees the
unfurled Stars and Stripes of Old Glory, floating in the breeze and symbolizing
our Nation's tender and protective care for this bivouac of its soldier dead, an
interest that will continue in its zeal through all the coming years.
Upon the completion of the
program at the cemeteries, Mrs. Brown and the others of her unit will be
conducted back to Paris where, for about five days, they will be afforded
opportunity to visit points of historical interest in and about that city.
Upon conclusion of her stay
of about fourteen days in France, Mrs. Brown will be provided with
transportation, and proper escort from Paris to Cherbourg where she will take
the steamer for New York. On the return trip she will find that the uniform
provision for her welfare and comfort continues down to the smallest detail.
Upon arrival of the ocean liner at New York, the groups will be disbanded
and each mother and widow will be furnished with her railroad ticket to her
home, including, of course, Pullman ticket (lower berth or chair, as the length
of trip warrants), and funds to cover meals and other expenses, to her home, and
each traveler will be personally escorted to the train and every other possible
Back in our home town we
are looking forward to Mrs. Brown's trip with keen pleasure, and how interesting
it will be to hear her tell us all about it when she returns! We know how
enthusiastic she will be in detailing all the many kindnesses that our nation,
as her host, extended to her and the others, how, outside of a few purchases she
made from a purely personal viewpoint, the wonderful trip meant no outlay of
funds by her, for did not her host provide custom fees, tips for bell-boys and
maids at hotels and on the boat, tips for porters, waiters, stewards on the
steamer, baths and laundry, steamer chairs and rugs, drugs and medicines, to say
nothing of interpreters and guides, all the railroad and steamer fares, all the
automobile and bus transportation, and many other incidentals too numerous to
But, above all these essential evidences of a Nation's solicitude for these mothers and widows who will be able to participate in these pilgrimages, there will be the outstanding fact that each one was afforded an opportunity to visit and see the last resting place of one who to her was the greatest hero of them all. What a golden field of memories in reflecting upon the loved one who served and fell in serving!
and Wives of Nebraska to Make First Voyage to France
Gold star mothers of
Nebraska will have the privilege of making the first pilgrimage to France to
visit the graves of their sons who were killed in the World War as a result of a
drawing contest at the White House on Feb. 7 in which Mrs. Hoover, wife of the
President, participated. An announcement on the subject was made by the War
Department Feb. 7 as follows:
The act of Congress which
authorized the pilgrimage of mothers and widows to the cemeteries of Europe
provides that invitations shall be extended to all eligible mothers and widows
in the name of the United States. In
considering how this should be done, the War Department decided that the fairest
way would be to have the names of all of the States, territories and possessions
placed in a container and drawn by lot. As the pilgrimages have aroused such
general interest throughout the country, the Secretary of War thought it most
fitting to ask Mrs. Hoover to determine the priority of States.
Mrs. Hoover graciously consented and the ceremony was held at 11 :30 a.
m., Friday, Feb. 7,1930, in the Red Room of the White House.
The name of each State and
overseas territory was written on a small card and placed in an unsealed envelope
before being deposited in a silver bowl. Mrs
Hoover drew the envelopes one at a time from the container and handed them to
the Honorable Patrick J. Hurley, Secretary of War, who extracted each card from
its envelope and read aloud the name of the State written thereon. The card was
then passed to Maj. Gen. John L. DeWitt, The Quartermaster General, who caused a
record to be made by Col. W. R. Gibson, Q. M. C., showing the order in which the
names were drawn by Mrs. Hoover. This
record thus becomes the official guide of the War Department in arrange the
The following witnessed the
Gen. John J. Pershing,
General of the Armies; Maj. Gen. B. H. Wells, representing Gen. Charles P.
Summerall, Chief of Staff, absent from the city; Maj. Gen. B. F. Cheatham, U. S.
A., Ret.; Ltc. Col. C. B. Hodges, Infantry, military aide to the President.
The States were drawn by Mrs. Hoover in the following order:
Practically every state will have its quota of mothers and widows making this pilgrimage in 1930. All those who signified such a desire to go this year will be sent.
HON. PATRICK HURLEY,
dear Mr. Secretary:
doubt you are receiving many letters, and will receive a great many more, from
the Gold Star Mothers making the Pilgrimage overseas to visit the graves of
their sons dead on the field of honor.
hope, Mr. Secretary, that you will read these letters personally, because in
your position you must have to read many things that cause you great trouble and
annoyance. Indeed. often you must get just plain mad with a world-I had almost
said a country-which seems to be filled with injustice and ingratitude.
Well, then is the time, Mr. Secretary, to turn to one of these letters
about the Pilgrimage and how it is conducted and the sun will shine again for
few of the general public have given a thought to the vastness of the
undertaking assumed by our Government in engaging to transport to France some
5,000 women, nearly all of whom are over sixty years of age. Many of these have
to be brought from points involving a railroad trip as long the journey across
the Atlantic, many more wholly unused to the discomforts of even easy journey,
and every last one of us having something or other the matter with her!
a task to take these aged and broken women on a trip of this character, guarding
them against every discomfort and, in many cases, returning them to their homes
in better physical condition than when they left them!
difficulty of those in charge is increased by the fact that many of the mothers
are afflicted with serious diseases and do not know it, and most of those who
do know it cannot be persuaded that their ailments are serious.
a lovely, silver-haired old lady with an avoirdupois of 200 or so, and a blood
pressure of an even higher figure, has caused doctors and nurses to tremble by
diving headlong into one of those bountiful menus, to be found nowhere on
shipboard, and eating everything from soup to nuts, and as like as not,
finishing off with a generous wedge of mince pie-yes-believe it or not ! Mince
pie in June and then complaining of a roaring feeling in her head, so that she
had to be put to bed! I have seen it happen!
must allow myself a criticism-too much rich food served on shipboard-something
should be done about it!
I'm not going to do anything about it for the officers and crew showed us every
attention, the doctor and nurse on the "America” were faithful and
devoted to the sick and everything on board ship revolved about us.
the sanctum sanctorum of the Captain to the lowest depth of the hull we were
piloted by friendly guides who explained all the mysteries of navigation and we
emerged from these sacred spots as ignorant as when we entered.
sang for us-even encores!
Great musicians played for us, celebrated dancers tripped the light fantastic
for us, a great literary lion came forth from his liar to tell us what his books
were about and so passed the time until we landed in Cherbourg.
our group of eighteen women, ultimately bound for Bony cemetery, was taken over
by Lieutenant Robinson, accompanied by Dr. Maxwell and Miss Steelman, the nurse.
long journey to Paris remains in my memory as just a beautiful spring day,
through a lovely country-a vision of cultivated brown earth, green fields, apple
blossoms and golden laburnum with those three people going back and forth in the
compartments looking after our comfort.
Robinson! I wish I could do him
justice! I wonder if he will always
be as charming as he is now? Then, and always, throughout the Pilgrimage, on
hand to tell when we were approaching something of interest-explaining things
we did not understand-under that boyish exterior and unassuming mien such a
thorough knowledge of French history-such a perfect mastery of the French
language, such infinite patience and courtesy in explaining military tactics, at
times, to a bunch of interested but stupid old women-the older and stupider, the
better he liked them!
touching to see the interest he aroused in our oldest member-an Irish woman 73
years of age-when he appeared at the door of the compartment on the journey to
Paris and said:
watch for the next large town-Lisieux-we are due in about ten minutes.
There is a large shrine built on a hill to some little nun who lived and
died there. I think they call her a
Flower," said Mrs. G., rousing up, "Shure an' a great saint she
is!" And the old lady seated
herself by the window and watched earnestly-her rosary beads slipping quietly
rewarded by an excellent view of the shrine of the little saint.
least France would have rewarded her with two things never to be forgotten-the
visit to the sacred grave at Bony and the view of the shrine containing the body
of a real, honest-to-goodness contemporary saint. While we sat in silent
sympathy with her pleasure, the Lieutenant came back; he was trying to find a
companion for Mrs. G. at the hotel in Paris-her roommate from the ship being
very ill and booked for the hospital on our arrival in Paris.
very sorry, Mrs. G.". said he loudly into her deaf ear, "but I can't
find anyone for a roommate for you at the Paris hotel but a little Italian
woman. Will that be all right?"
coorse it will be all right," said the old lady. "I don't care who you
put in the room so long as you don't put a Frenchman in there!"
an astonished silence of about 5 seconds this normal sentiment met with the
cordial approval of all present.
Ellis and his staff were on hand to meet us at the Paris station and I was
delighted to find two American friends on hand to greet me.
After our bus had left for the hotel the Colonel approached my friends
and told them how pleased he was to see that someone was at the station to greet
any of the mothers. He promptly
invited them to the reception to be held in our honor the next day where he
treated them with every consideration.
four days in Paris, during which the more feeble rested and the active shopped
and went sight-seeing in our luxurious bus, we were joined by our sick
companion from the Paris hospital,
the mother of an unknown soldier buried in Bony, and with the nurse in the seat
beside her and Dr Maxwell in the
seat behind her, we started on our ninetyfive mile trip to Bony.
a delightful way to travel! No
time-tables-no tickets-no worry about baggage-no racing for trains at ungodly
hours-not having to lift a finger! Like the lillies of the field we toiled not
neither did we spin, yet Cleopatra in all her glory, but traveled in a canal
boat compared to us-or grand us-our skilled French chauffeur whose strong arm
was always at the disposal of the feeble when we alighted-our incomparable
courier, Mr. Frazier, who handled our forty suit cases-mended straps when they
broke-repaired truculent locks-scoured rooms for forgotten articles when we
left, nothing escaped his eagle eye. I
tried four times to lose a 5 cent wash cloth but in vain.
Did Cleopatra have a leech for her ills to be mentioned with Dr. Maxwell? Certainly not!
who was Marc Anthony I'd like to know, compared with that slender figure in neat
khaki on the front seat, his boyish face alight with enthusiasm, as he explained
to a group of faded old women the history of the great country which has been a
battleground off and on, for thousands of years and in which now the tragedy of
their own lives is written?
welcome from the city of San Quentin, our headquarters during our four days'
stay, was a warm one. Lieut. Robinson had impressed on us the fact that the
people of San Quentin took the visits of the mothers very seriously, and indeed
they did. The mayor gave an address
of welcome before we started on the twelve-mile trip to Bony, and a committee of
ladies from the French Red Cross gave us each a beautiful spray of flowers for
the grave of our dead. They do this every two weeks during the Pilgrimage as a
fresh group of women come in.
were taken to many places of interest, to Peronne where our boys of the 27th
Division entered into heavy action, and the Mayor gave us the same hearty
welcome as his confrere at San Quentin, he even went a step farther and served
champagne which we all drank standing in a toast to both our countries and
nobody walked out on it either!
our stay many of the women asked to be taken to special places not on the tour.
I asked to be taken to Busigny where my son's body lay in a British
cemetery for two years. I wished to see the old priest who visited his grave
frequently, and my request was granted.
asked similar favors and they were all made possible. When it rained one day on
the way to the cemetery the Lieutenant said : "Don't worry. There will be umbrellas and overshoes with the
caretaker." There were.
Memorial Day in the lovely peaceful cemetery! How glad I am I left my boy there!
How heartening to see the kindly French peasants streaming in from every
side, their arms filled with flowers for the "bans soldats Americans."
The little children dressed in their best, singing songs with patriotic
fervor-the kindly American caretaker and his young French wife preparing cups of
"American coffee" for us-sent by our own Government knowing how much
missed it-the old Mayor of San Quentin delivering a fiery oration about the care
those graves would have as long as San Quentin and Bony should stand the fine
speech by the head of the Paris Post of the American Legion - the equally
eloquent one from the head of the French Veterans of San Quentin-the friendly
and cordial speech by the Mayor of our own New Orleans who came by aeroplane,
and the final benediction by the old cure of Bony, his venerable beard waving in
the warm spring wind-the raising of the Colors which we watched with the
assurance in our hearts, that those two flags floating from the lofty staff in
the middle of the cemetery, were indeed, symbols of a friendship that shall be
as enduring as the freedom for which they stand.
last moments, as each Mother made her way silently to the grave dear to her
heart for a final visit before leaving on the first lap of the long journey
we reached Paris at last and the same watchful care that took us on the funeral
journey attended us on sight-seeing tours and shopping trips, and I hope no one
will ever tell Mr. Woolworth what some of the mothers passed him up to buy in
was a tired group of mothers by this time and the few widows were more tired
than anybody, so that Lieutenant, doctor and nurse had to work hand in hand to
conserve their waning energy, and our courier, Mr. Frazer, had many a surgical
job on valises stuffed with mementoes of the trip.
so westward over the Atlantic, this time a more troubled voyage.
Perhaps the ocean felt it should do something for us, so it staged a real
storm and 90 sick women testified their appreciation-one even contributing a
broken arm and another a lame back. Home again, in the hotel in 57th Street,
saying farewell to many, many friends and promising almost as many letters none
of which have been written, I think.
now, Mr. Secretary, you and Uncle Sam have a problem before you! What is going
to be done with this crowd of haughty, spoiled, and unreasonable old women whom
you have indulged and pampered into believing they are a troup of queens and
then turned them loose on a mass of bewildered young relatives who thought
that a little perfunctory care and attention was all that mothers ever expected
or got. But not now! And so little
conclaves of these young people can be found comparing puzzled notes and saying:
"Mother never was like this before, Why, Jim is out now teaching her to
drive the car and she is learning it, too. She intends taking her friends out in
it and I don't know what we are going to do - the car is hers, you know."
you hear about Aunt Sarah? Takes
her breakfast in bed every morning and does the crossword puzzle before she
gets up - nobody can have the paper until she is finished-the paper is hers, you
old Mrs. Smith has her household by the ears, She is giving what she calls a
'Conondrum Party' for her Unit of the Auxiliary, learned about it on board
don't know, but it's an awful lot of queer cooking and her family has to do it,
and you have to look up a lot of things in the dictionary I believe.
She's asked 48 people and you know what a mess it makes in a house, but
the house is hers, you know."
you see, Mr. Secretary, that Uncle Sam and you have a problem and after you have
it settled you can go back to the German Reparations and the Depression, they-
will look easy to you. And any time
they look too difficult just take up a letter from one of the Mothers and you
will know what rest, appreciation and gratitude are.
sincerely your friend,
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