To mark the 100th anniversary of the United States joining World War I, Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed 2017-18 as the World War I Centennial Years.
Cooper issued the proclamation on proclamation on Wednesday.
The document notes the country’s entry into the war on April 6, 1917, adding that the war, “marked the introduction of modern industrial warfare with the first wide use of machine guns, poison gas, airplanes, and armored tanks, making the conflict one of the most brutal, costly, disastrous, and disillusioning in history.”
The proclamation details North Carolina’s involvement in the war, adding that 86,457 soldiers from the state served, with 2,375 dying in combat or from war-related injuries and illness.
“Whereas, the state contributed to the war effort in Europe in countless ways: from service by volunteers, including four aviators who flew for France; to assistance in the field by men and women of the American Field Service and Red Cross; and whereas, at home, patriotic citizens cultivated war gardens, manufactured war material from propellers to ships, and invested $160 million in war bonds; and whereas, North Carolinians enlisted in large numbers in the 30th (“Old Hickory”) Division and the 81st (“Wildcat”) Division; many African Americans enlisted in the 92nd Division; and troops trained at Camp Bragg outside Fayetteville, Camp Greene outside Charlotte, and Camp Polk in West Raleigh.”
Cooper also noted that soldiers from North Carolina “broke the Hindenberg Line and were involved in the heaviest of the fighting in France and Belgium, Château-Thierry, Soissons, Saint-Mihiel, Blanc Mont Ridge, Ypres, Belleau Wood, the Meuse-Argonne, and Bellicourt.”
The proclamation also noted several people from the state who were critical to the war effort, including President Woodrow Wilson, who, while born in Virginia, lived in North Carolina for a time.
Josephine Finch, a nurse from Wadesboro, served during the war, according to a nursing history webpage by Appalachian State University.
The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources has a partial list in its military collection, but Matthew M. Peek, a military collection archivist for the special collections section, warned that its far from being complete.
Limited information from service cards can be found on FamilySearch.org and searched by county. A search for Anson County shows 2,423 results, though again, Peek said records are incomplete.
“We also have induction lists by county, showing the names, ages, races, and hometowns of the men sent by the counties to military camps from the local county draft boards in WWI,” Peek said via email. Those were completed between 1919 and 1920, though lists are incomplete and some may contain duplicate names, Peek said. Records exist in newspapers on microfilm from 1917-1919, but most aren’t digitized.
The department is working to organize and digitize the records it does have for easier access.
“Our WWI digital collection on the North Carolina Digital Collections has a selection (of) materials we are digitizing over the next two years and have already digitized from our WWI collections,” Peek said. “It does not represent everything we have.”
An induction list of hundreds of servicemen from Anson County is available online and includes the men’s information, though some may have duplicates or typos, Peek said. To search the list, visit goo.gl/x0TAeV.
No state World War I casualty lists currently exist, though one is in the works, Peek said.
A memorial on the Anson County Courthouse lawn lists the known casualties from Anson in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War and includes the names of 34 men who died in World War I alone.
The memorial includes a brief message to the living to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“They gave their today for our tomorrow.”
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.