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Sandwich Responds to World War One


By Joan Russell Osgood

I was born after World War Two - a “boomer”.  As I got older, I got to know many of the men from our town who went off to fight in that war – Justin George, Carlo Pola, Bill Donovan, Charles Parks - to name a few.  In the late 1940’s and into the 50’s as I and my siblings were growing up, the war was still fresh in the minds of the adults in our town. It was common knowledge who served, and I can remember hearing conversations and stories about that war. 

I vividly remember our town’s Memorial Day parades where the veterans marched proudly in their uniforms as the band played John Phillips Souza’s stirring marches.  My father, William “Sonny” Russell, served in the Marines, saw action in the South Pacific and was wounded in the invasion of Peleliu.  Every year as the day approached, he’d take out his uniform from an old trunk filled with mothballs.  And among us all, an unspoken thought would take flight throughout our house. Oh boy, would this be the year his uniform would not fit!

Anyway, I recently came across a picture in the 1917 Boston Globe of Sandwich townsmen – some barely out of high school - who had signed up to serve in World War One.  I stared at the photograph and for a moment I was taken aback.  First, because – wow - it made the Boston Globe! And then the thought came to me that unlike World War II - I knew no stories.

 And any opportunity to talk with these World War 1 veterans about their experiences is long gone.  But I thought I might find some of their wartime stories noted in the old newspapers that the Friends of the Sandwich Town Archives (FOSTA) has digitized and placed on its website. So, I went looking.

As it turns out, this picture showing 11 of our men – was only

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one round to our townsmen signing up to serve.  Bill Daley, Sandwich historian, discovered that a total of 83 men enlisted.

There were two women from our town who enlisted to serve. Mary “Mollie” Macdonald was a nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, and Catherine Carlton was a nurse at Mass General Hospital in Boston before each joined the Red Cross and served in Army hospitals in the front lines of Europe.

What became clear as I read the news articles of this period was that while 83 of our citizens signed up to fight in this war, our whole town was involved in supporting them and our country.  For instance, I found many examples in our newspaper archives detailing the work of the many committees that were formed at a April 2, 1917 town-wide meeting called by the Board of Selectmen.

The Board of Selectmen were Charles E. Brady, George F. Dennis and James M. McArdle.  Chairman Brady presided over the meeting which was initially to be held in the Town Hall.  But the Hall was soon overflowing with townspeople and was moved to the Casino on School Street.  Between 700 and 800 hundred attended to show their support and patriotism. 

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To list a few of the committees and their Chairmen:  Executive – Charles E. Brady; Finance – Fletcher Clark; Emergency – Thomas F. Kelleher; Home Guards – Edward C. Clark; Publicity – John W. Dalton; Recruiting – James H. McCann; Motor Trucks – Jerome R. Holway; Food Production – George L. McCann; Surgical Dressing Committee – Mrs. Jessie Robinson; Motor Boats – Eugene W. Haines.

I found the need for some of these committees strange – but when I thought about it, I realized they were preparing not only to support the war effort. They were also preparing for a possible invasion of our shoreline.  There were many reports, especially as the war progressed, of German U-Boats off our coast. The Committee on Recruiting geared up quickly after this meeting. The next day they placed a large poster all around town encouraging our men to enlist.

Then shortly after this a wartime movie called “The Nation’s Peril” was shown in the upper floor of our Town Hall. “The Nation’s Peril” was a thrilling and powerful movie.  It was aimed at challenging U.S. citizens to be aware of the dangers of complacency and unpreparedness.

It depicted enemy ships anchoring off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island under the cover of night.  And

Poster placed around town after the April 2, 1917, town-wide meeting.

with thousands of their troops, attacked and totally razed a small village in Newport.  They then turned their attention to occupying Newport itself.  It played in theaters across the U.S.

A Sandwich Independent article of April 19, 1917 stated the movie garnered the largest audience in many years.  William Winsor, a Sandwich resident, member of the Motor Trucks Committee, and veteran of the Spanish American War, hosted the movie.  At the close of the movie, he introduced two navy men from the U.S.S. Virginia.  Many in the audience took the opportunity to speak to these

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William Winsor

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Filming of The Nation's Peril

navy men to get an idea about life aboard their ship.

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The Surgical Dressing Committee, which eventually became an auxiliary of the Red Cross, met in our Public Library on Main Street. On January 1, 1917, they reported that 25,818 surgical dressings had been made.  The process was to send their dressings to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston who would pack and ship them to the troops. The supplies our committee used to make the dressings were purchased by voluntary contributions.

I’m sure that every one of our town’s brave men and women who served would have had a wartime story and I wanted to retell a few.  I looked into the newspapers of that time period. There were two soldiers from our town that died of illnesses while still in training – Michael Haddad and Alden Clark.  In fact, our Clark-Haddad Post 188 American Legion is named after them, and Mr. Carl Johansen of Post 188 has written articles in the Sandwich Enterprise and the Cape Cod Times honoring them.

I was able to find only two other news stories of our townspersons who enlisted in World War 1.  So, I decided to focus on them – Willard Boyden and Alfred Hoey. 

I was able to find only two other news stories of our townspersons who enlisted in World War 1.  So, I decided to focus on them – Willard Boyden and Alfred Hoey. 

Read Part 2

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