Nearly 100 years ago on June 28th, 1919, the Versailles Treaty was signed, marking the end of The Great War.
Last fall, my friend David Sneeden of Wilmington and I were visiting certain World War 1 battlefields in France, looking for places where our relatives had fought. We were amazed that on these critical battlefields, there was no recognition whatsoever of what was accomplished by the 30th Division of the North Carolina National Guard.
The NC National Guard breaking the Hindenburg Line at the St. Quentin Canal on September 29th. 1918 was a critical turning point near the end of the war. Breaking out of the trenches increased maneuverability and the 30th Infantry contributed mightily through the end of the war. New York, Tennessee, France, and Australia all have monuments or memorials to the actions of that day, each claiming they led the effort to break the line. The British even have two memorials that commemorate breaking the line. However, this impregnable defense was actually broken by the National Guard 30th Division from North Carolina, who originally penetrated the line and took the high ground. It is now time to commemorate their sacrifice.
Sometimes we are too humble as a state and as a people. We need to suppress our modesty and claim for our grandchildren what our grandparents and great grandparents accomplished. Besides inordinate bravery, this miraculous feat required some serious luck, a dense fog, divine oversight, and great artillery support.
David and I contacted Jerry Hester, retired Air Force officer and only North Carolina member of the National War World 1 Commission. Jerry was nominated by Senator Mitch McConnell and appointed by President Barack Obama to the post. He has been very helpful in the endeavor and is committed to honoring the 30th and all veterans of World War I.
We are seeking funds to assist the North Carolina National Guard Museum Foundation place this monument in France near the town of Nauroy, the high-water mark of the 30th’s efforts on that fateful day. The Foundation will also place a new monument on State Capitol Grounds to replace the existing small monument. Although few have ever heard of this battlefield, North Carolina lost more soldiers on this one day than any battle in history, with the exception of the 2nd day at Gettysburg.
Since 2014, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources' WWI Centennial Commemoration Committee, under the leadership of LeRae Umfleet, has been compiling, researching, and confirming the names of all-known North Carolinians who died in World War I. From this list, the Committee was able to determine that September 29, 1919, was the deadliest day for service individuals from our state. 241 North Carolinians died on that day, many of these individuals died as part of the push to break the Hindenburg Line during the Battle of St. Quentin Canal. - Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist
Do you have an ancestor who served in WWI? Would you be interested in joining GoFundMe with us, featuring you and your ancestor?
With all of us working together, we can accomplish great things. To contribute to our fundraiser or learn more about our project, send us a message. We will get back to you soon.