2004-05-28 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

From The Rockaway Museum
by Emil Lucev, Curator
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
To The Memory Of Those Who Served In The First World War
***The War To End All Wars***So It Was Said, Back Then***

Historical Views
of the Rockaways
by Emil Lucev, Curator
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
To The Memory Of Those Who Served In The First World War
***The War To End All Wars***So It Was Said, Back Then***

This Week’s Historical Views pays tribute to all Rockaway and Far Rockaway men and boys who served in the First World conflict. This global was given the misnomer of "The War to End All Wars" – and the League of Nations formed after the Great War ended when Japan walked out of the session called to admonish Nippon for it’s dealings in Manchuria and China. It wasn’t long after this meeting that the League of Nations fell apart.

Some veterans of the First War became retreads in the Second World War, and many of those who stayed in the service after the Armistice was on November 11, 1918 – kept the seats warm and helped to develop our fighting forces despite the shortcomings of the tightwads in Washington. It took the sneak attack on Pear Harbor to wake us up – to see how far we did not progress as far as defense of our nation was concerned. The recent of 9/11 woke some of us up, but we are still awake, while others are slumbering once again. But this time – we are ready. And they know it! Sock it to ‘em!

To all veterans of the First World War who are still with us, God Bless! And this Historical View is dedicated especially to you on this Memorial Day, 2004.

1. -Private Nicholas Schettino and Yeoman/Second Class Louis E. Reynolds were the first two casualties of WW I, one killed in action, and the other from an onset of a serious appendicitis. The details of Private Schettino’s death are unkown. At the time of his attack and death, Yeoman Reynolds was on temporary detached duty at Rockaway Naval Air Station (now Riis Park). Does anyone out there in Waveland have any data for us on these two heroes of long ago?

2. -Somewhere in France, a photo of Rockaway’s own batter F, 57th Coast Artillery Company, was taken by an unknown photographer before they went to the Argonne to barrage the Hun with their artillery pieces.

3. -At home here in Rockaway, the Home Defense League was formed to protect our shores. The 281 Precinct is now the 100 Precinct. Fortunately, a list of names of members appeared with this old photo from the brown and fading pages of the 1918 Wave. Some Rockaway pioneers are in this photo.

Other items found concerning the Great War of 1917/1918 are as follows:

• -Two beach boys were with the famous and storied – "Lost Battalions" – the men of Company K, 307 Infantry, who were cut off and trapped behind enemy lines for six days without food and water. When relief came, only a small percentage of the group walked out. Walter Bossard, a Wave employee, and Robert Sickmen both survived the ordeal, but were hospitalized for a time suffering from bad feet, exposure and exhaustion.

• -The commanding officer of the lost battalion, Major Charles Whittelsey, was awarded the medal of honor and reported to be tense and uncomfortable as a war hero, for several years after the end of his ordeal with his men. All events he attended only reminded him of something he wanted to forget. As a result, while sailing on a holiday cruise to Havana, Cuba – Whittelsey said goodnight to his companions, and quietly jumped overboard.

• -Private William Smith of Far Rockaway was gassed in the front line trenches and was blinded for two weeks. He also suffered from mustard gas burns.

• -Private Daniel O’Connell was killed in action on July 29, 1918 at the age of 18. He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre, and the local American Legion Post on Beach 92 Street bears his name.

• -First Lieutenant Earl D. Grimm of Belle Harbor, 54th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, was cited for exceptional courage and determination in making personal reconnaissance under heavy shell and machine gun fire in the battle of the Hinderburg line, France, September 29, 1918.

• -Corporal Leroy F. Clune or Far Rockaway, Battery B, 105th Field Artillery, was cited for great courage and determination in saving the life of a wounded comrade during heavy gas concentration by the enemy. This was near Chattan Court, France on September 27, 1918.

• -Private Charles Gaynier of Rockaway Beach, Company C, 27th Division, 105th Infantry, was awarded the British Military Medal, and the French Croix de Guerre with Gilt Star.

• -Rowland Seaman of Rockaway Beach, was a fighter pilot with the 49th Aero Squadron A.E.F.

• -Robert F. Ringk of Rockaway Beach, was a top sergeant in the medical corps.

• -The local drillfield was in what is known today as West Lawrence, in Rockaway. Local armories were at Beach 9 Street and Cornaga Avenue and on Beach 81 Street in the Hammels section of Rockaway Beach.

• "-Edward J. Devine, of Seaside, was gassed and wounded in Belgium, with Graves Restoration after the war, and prepared the body of the Unknown Soldier for shipment to Arlington, VA, in 1921. He came to Rockaway from the Bronx in 1940 and was a mortician. He might have worked at the Seaside funeral parlor known as Gilbrides.

• -Former President Theodore Roosevelt gave a pep talk to the troops at Camp Upton, Long Island and said, "The nation that won’t fight when its women and children are killed stands on the level with the man who won’t fight when his wife is knocked down or his daughter kidnapped."

• -When Germany refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles, the Allies made preparation for a further advance into Germany from the bridgeheads on the Rhine River. Germany grabbed the pen quickly, and complained of the threat of force used.

• -In 1928, American historian Sidney B. Fay, in his book titled "Origins of the War", concluded that the causes of the ware were the system of secret alliances; militarism; nationalism; economic imperialism; and the newspaper press, which aggravated every little question until it became a crisis. I would say that things have not changed much – a.k.a. the Yellow Press.

• -Upon reading the Treaty of Versailles, French Marshal Foch burst out, "This isn’t peace! This is a truce for twenty years!" The date of the signing was June 28, 1919. Twenty years and sixty seven days later, Foch was proved correct – and not politically correct either!

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