COAL CITY – At 3 a.m. April 6, 1917, the United States declared a state of war with Imperial Germany and her allies, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Turkey.
WWI had been going on since August of 1914, but the U.S., following George Washington’s admonition to “avoid foreign entanglements,” had remained neutral. Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare resulting in the sinking of two U.S. flagged merchant vessels, City of Memphis and Illinois and the “Zimmerman note,” where the German Foreign Minister attempted to lure Mexico into attacking the United States with offers of financial assistance and the understanding that Mexico would regain lost territory comprising Texas, Arizona and New Mexico swept away most of the resistance in the congress to declaring war.
Our local community contributed 241 men and five women to “The War to End All Wars” of which nine men made the ultimate sacrifice, their service is honored on the community Veteran’s Memorial. The Veteran’s Memorial is located on the Coal City Intermediate School grounds at 305 E. Division.
St. Juvin Post 1336, named after a small French village near the Belgian border, the site of a 10-day battle 8-18 October 1917 during the Muse-Argonne Offensive, was founded March 21, 1925, by 26 local WWI and 1 Spanish-American War veterans.
In co-operation with the Coal City Public Library District, St. Juvin Post is commemorating this watershed event in American history with a display in the entrance to the library. The display features a Pattern of 1917 winter service coat and overseas cap worn by Corporal Charles O. Brown. Brown, who lived in Coal City from 1957 to 1963, enlisted in the Army in December 1917 at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis Missouri, arrived in St. Nazaire, France, in May of 1918 and was discharged at Camp Grant, Rockford, Illinois, in June of 1919.
Brown was a member of the 307th Butchery Company, Quartermaster Corps U.S. Army attached to the 3rd Infantry Division, which acquired its nickname, “Rock of the Marne,” during WWI. In 1918, mechanical refrigeration to freeze meat and keep it frozen for long-distance shipment was relatively unknown, so in order to supply troops with meat, cattle, hogs and sheep were transported live and then processed near where they were needed. Butchery Companies were responsible for receiving the live animals, supervising their processing and delivering the meat products to other units for preparation to feed the troops. Most of the actual meat processing was done by French civilians, under Quartermaster Corps supervision, who were employed by the Army.
Brown was the father of St. Juvin Post 1336 Cmdr. Charles R. Brown and also a member of the VFW.
Also featured in the display are reproductions of period recruiting posters by artists James Montgomery Flagg, famous for his “I Want You for the U.S. Army” poster featuring Uncle Sam, and Howard Chandler Christy, best known for his illustrations of young women in an idealistic style that became collectively known as “Christy Girls.”
The members of St. Juvin Post and the library staff invite you to stop by and view a part of our community’s history from 100 years ago and join with the community at the Memorial Day observance at 11 a.m. May 29 at the Intermediate School.