Remember When: End of WWI was something to celebrate

Published 1:04 am Saturday, November 10, 2018

A hit song in 1917 written by George M. Cohan “Over There” was popular with the United States military and public during World War I. It was a patriotic song designed to galvanize young American men to enlist in the army. Best remembered for a line in its chorus that became a national slogan, “The Yanks are coming,” it was first sung at a Red Cross benefit in New York City. It became the most popular song during the war with over two million copies of recordings by various artists being sold. The sheet music was heavily reprinted with various covers.

Cohan wrote the song in less than two hours just one day after President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany. In 1936 President Franklin D. Roosevelt awarded Cohan the Congressional Gold Medal for this and other songs. The song reflected Americans’ expectations that the war would be short! “…and we won’t come back till it’s over OVER THERE!”

Almost a century ago in November 1918, Americans celebrated the end of World War I. In recent years it has become called “The Forgotten War.” I don’t believe that there are any WWI veterans still alive. If they were, they would be about 120 years old.

Mr. Nimrod T. Frazer of Montgomery whose father was wounded in WWI has brought much attention to that war. After much research, he has authored a book, “Send the Alabamians,” about the Alabama fighters in the “Rainbow Division.”

The November 1918 editions of The Andalusia Star-News is full of not only “the great influenza epidemic” news but also the concluding days of “the great war to end all wars.” There were apparently a number of young men from Covington County who fought. There are 36 names listed at the Veterans’ Park behind the Andalusia City Hall of those Covington Countians who died in the war. Their names represent families who still live around here – Bradley, Clark, Daughtry, Dixon, Duke, Gillis, Glidewell, Hart, Ingram, Jordan, Lord, Moore, Smith, Wells, and others. Maybe your grandfather or great grandfather fought in WWI and you may not even know it. Check out the names at the memorial obelisk.

The war lasted from July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918. Perusing the fall issues of The Andalusia Star News on microfilm at the Andalusia Public Library, I was able to read portions of articles written by Editor Oscar M. Duggar who wrote on November 5, 1918“This war has cured many a case of selfishness.” Duggar kept his readers informed with his weekly “News in a Nutshell” column.

November 12, 1918 – “The armistice was signed this morning (November 11). Everything for which America fought has been accomplished. It will now be our fortunate duty to assist by example, by sober friendly council, and by material aid in the establishment of just democracy throughout the world…After more than 4 years of struggling, the rights of mankind are served. The greatest day in the history of nations has dawned.”

The old photo that was taken of the crowd lining the Court Square looking eastward down East Three Notch Street has always been believed to be November 11 or Armistice Day, but after reading the following article, I am pretty certain that the photo was taken on Wednesday, November 13, 1918. See what you think as you read this notice in the November 12 issue.

MAKE WEDNESDAY A HOLIDAY AND CELEBRATE THE COMING PEACE – We, the undersigned merchants of Andalusia, hereby pledge ourselves to close our place of business on Wednesday, November 13, and aid in the United War Fund drive as a mark of appreciation of the signing of the armistice and the cessation of the hostilities on the fighting front in France.”

Mr. and Mrs. Stuckey of this city have received notice that their son Grady has been severely wounded on the fighting front in France.”

November 22, 1918 – “The American Army of Occupation entered Germany on Wednesday.”

Headlines such as the following began appearing in the local newspaper – “Post Office Department to Give Yanks Jobs.” Front page stories such as letters home from soldiers were printed regularly such as this one: “Somewhere in France – Dearest Mother, Just a few lines tonight to let you know that I am all OK. I have just returned from a week’s trip to the lines and, believe me, I have been seeing some of the sights of real war…. TYSON”

November 28, 1918 – “MUSTERING OUT – It is highly welcome news that the government will release as rapidly as possible the hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the training camps and elsewhere whose military services it no longer needs.”

“According to Washington’s estimate, the rate of discharge will reach approximately thirty thousand a day by the end of the week. So that there is a fair prospect of more than a million being mustered out between now and the new year.”

“Besides the call of hearth and home to which is due deepest consideration, the nation’s materials interest as will demand that the boys be returned to civil pursuits as promptly as can be. They are needed and needed urgently to diverse fields of production.”

A letter that Mrs. R. H. Woodham had received from her son stationed in France was included in the November 28, 1918 edition of The Star.

“Dear Home Folks, The war is over now, and I expect to come home soon and how glad I will be. I can just think now of the good things I will get to eat. Tell Aunt Mary that I think of those good potato custards I could get if I was only there, but don’t think I don’t get enough to eat. It is not like eating at home.”

“Tell the kiddies to not forget me, and I will soon be back to buy them candy. Bet little Foster is some sight by now. I don’t like this country one bit. It has rained every day since I have been here and mud is our name. This little French town is some lovely place tonight. We all feel so good until we really feel mean.”

“We all are glad that the war is over and how glad we will be when we get back to the good old U. S. A. Now here’s hoping that all are well and enjoying life. I will quit for tonight and will write again soon. Love to all. Yours, CLEM”

Just for the record especially for you military enthusiasts, I find this information in the Encyclopedia of Alabama. “The 3lst ’Dixie’ Division was created as a National Guard division during World War I. The United States officially entered the war in April 1917, but by early August 1917, the federal government called the entire Alabama National Guard to active duty for service in WWI. Of the 5,025 officers and men, 3,677 became part of the newly organized 167th Infantry. This division composed of National Guard units from all over Alabama as well as Georgia and Florida, became known as the “Dixie” Division with the motto, “It shall be done.” The training camp was near Macon, Georgia, Camp Joseph Wheeler.

Part of the 167th Alabama Infantry had been shipped to France in November 1917. The Alabamians’ energy and enthusiasm had been recognized early on. They became part of the 42nd “Rainbow” Division under Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing. Their district commander, Brig. Gen. Edward Plummer, reportedly exclaimed, “In time of war, send me all the Alabamians you can get, but in time of peace, for Lord’s sake, send them to somebody else!” It was a fact that the feisty and tenacious group of soldiers from Alabama never shirked from a challenge.

This was so true at the significant battle of Croix Rouge Farm where the “Rainbow” Division and its 167th Alabama Infantry defeated the massive German offensive. It was remembered by a commander of an Iowan battalion who wrote of “hearing the Rebel yell as Alabama soldiers held their rifles high and raced across the field.”

Douglas McArthur and military authorities who understood the battle’s significance recalled, “The 167th Alabama assisted by the 168th Iowa had stormed and captured the Croix Rouge Farm in a manner which for its gallantry I do not believe has been surpassed in military history.”      

It is no wonder that an American memorial was inaugurated on the site of that battle in November 2011 commemorating the historic “Rainbow” Division, a National Guard Division, which saw more days of combat that any other American Division during the Great War.

Nimrod T. Frazer erected this monument in honor of his father, Sgt. William J. Frazer of Greenville, Alabama, who was a member of the 167th Alabama Infantry. It was commissioned by the Alabama foundation that purchased what remains of the farmhouse and some of the land where the battle took place which grounds have remained unchanged since the days of that treacherous battle.

It is my understanding that the first Andalusia casualties in World War I were two young men, Otis Battle and James Malcomb. The Battle-Malcomb Post 3454 is named in their honor. Seaman 2nd Class, Otis Battle, age 18 years, U. S. Navy was aboard the USS Cyclops that sunk with all hands lost on April 20, 1918. First Lieutenant James Malcomb, age 27 years, Company M, 167th Infantry “Rainbow” Division was killed in action September 13, 1918, in the Argonne Woods.

This Remember When column is dedicated in memory of all of those who sacrificed their lives in World War I so that those of us who are living a century later can enjoy the freedoms we have today. Gone but not forgotten. God bless them all!

The Three Notch Museum will be open on Monday, November 12, immediately following the Veterans Day program at City Hall. Visit the “War/Military” Room on this special holiday commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I.


Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at