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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Q5: Looking back at battle

  • Beverly Lynch, coordinator at the Carroll Mansion Museum, home of the Leavenworth County Historical Society, discusses in this Q5 the museum's latest offering, an in-depth exhibit of Leavenworth County residents who served during World War I.
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  • Beverly Lynch, coordinator at the Carroll Mansion Museum, home of the Leavenworth County Historical Society, discusses in this Q5 the museum's latest offering, an in-depth exhibit of Leavenworth County residents who served during World War I.
    This is the centennial year of The Great War, or The War to End All Wars. The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, is available through Dec. 20.
    1. Beverly, please tell us about Carroll Mansion Museum's World War I exhibit, "Leavenworth County: Our Soldiers in World War I." Who is coordinating the display and why is it important for the Leavenworth County Historical Society to offer these rare photos and memorabilia to the community? What is the significance of the exhibit ending in December?
    "The Leavenworth County Historical Society, as a member of the Leavenworth Cultural Institute, announces the opening of a special war exhibit, 'Leavenworth County: Our Soldiers in World War I,' to run through Dec. 20, 2014, at the Carroll Mansion Museum.
    "Recalling the popular notion in 1914 that the war would be over by Christmas — it didn't end until 1918 — the exhibit at the museum will finish its run Dec. 20. Admission for viewing the exhibit is free, but donations are welcome."
    2. Who were some of the local heroes of the war? And, how did 13-year-old Marea Oeschlager leave a lasting memorial to these war heroes?
    "Leavenworth boys distinguished themselves during the war, such as Byron Mehl,  son of Mehl & Schott Drug Store owners, Henry and Hattie Mehl, who left his studies at KU to join up. Byron was the first soldier from Leavenworth killed in action, July 31, 1918, in France. His portrait and medals have recently been archivally preserved by the museum and are part of the exhibit. Combat boots, cap, helmet and gas mask on display were worn by Ray A. Melvin, a member of the 353rd Kansas Infantry. Melvin sold insurance in Leavenworth prior to the war.  
    The Distinguished Service Cross medal was posthumously presented to Harry R. Kelsey, of Easton, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with Co.E., 139th Infantry Regiment, 35th Div, near Charpentry, France in September 1918.  
    What went through the minds of young girls and boys back in those days? Marea Oeschlager, a daughter of Henry F. and Sophie Oelschlager, was 13 years old when the U.S. entered the war. She assembled three scrapbooks of war clippings, poems and newspaper cartoons, which are included in the exhibit. Alex F. Sughrue, who registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, sent postcards back home to his sister in Leavenworth. These have all been preserved through the years and donated to the museum.
    "General Pershing was named to lead the American Expeditionary Forces and mentored such future leaders as Omar Nelson Bradley, George Catlett Marshall, Jr., George S. Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower, all whom had attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Not all these soldiers served on the Western front. Eisenhower graduated from West Point in 1915, and while at Fort Leavenworth, had uniforms made by Richard Springe, the downtown tailor in the location now occupied by the Corner Pharmacy soda fountain and lunch counter. One of those uniforms can be viewed at the World War I Museum in Kansas City.  By the time Eisenhower received orders to an overseas assignment, the armistice was signed and the war over."
    Page 2 of 3 - 3. What are your virtual exhibits that are dedicated to military men in uniform and what do they depict?
    "The exhibit features selected images of military men in uniform found in the Everhard Glass Plate Negative Collection at the Carroll Mansion Museum.
    "The Military In Uniform: Salute to Men in Uniform collection depicts officers and enlisted men, usually in residence at Fort Leavenworth or the Old Soldiers Home at Wadsworth, Kan., now known as the Eisenhower Veterans Administration Center. The images date from the Civil War through World War II. Go to http://www.leavenworthhistory.org/Exhibit.htm to view the photos."
    4. Can you describe some of the memorabilia and photographs that will be included in the WWI display and how it is a poignant reminder of the bravery and suffering of these military heroes who fought for their country 100 years ago?
    "A full World War I uniform is on display, courtesy of Jason Claire, owner of Overlooked Antiques & Military Surplus in downtown Leavenworth, as well as a few pieces from the John Reichley Collection, which compliment period flags, maps, propaganda posters, portraits, and a book of remembrance of soldiers from Leavenworth County.
    "The  centerpiece however, are four large posters filled with portraits from the noted Everhard Glass Plate Negative Collection, from which were discovered well over 100 images of World War I soldiers. Most of these soldiers are identified by name."
    5. Since this war's beginning is now officially a century ago, and it has been overshadowed by many conflicts since 1914, what do you hope that visitors who view the display will learn and take away from the experience?
    "Although the U.S. did not immediately enter the war in Europe, recognizing the start of the World War gives us pause to remind ourselves not only of how  the war changed the world, but  also to remember the courage, patriotism and sacrifice that would subsequently be exhibited by our fellow Leavenworth Countians. In the early months of the war, a romantic vision of patriotism swept the world. Most felt the war would be over by Christmas, so men were encouraged to serve their country and sign up for the Army before it ended. Still others viewed it as an arena to earn fame and glory. The romanticism of the war’s early years quickly dissolved into reality and by the time the U.S. declared war on Germany, it had not seen battle since the Civil War."
    Bonus question: What will the November presentation , “World War I: Causes, Reflections and Significance,” that is being planned at the museum include? How can residents share their stories with the museum?
    "A November presentation, 'World War I:  Causes, Reflections and Significance,' is also being planned at the museum, which will feature Mike Stephenson, president of the LCHS and former history instructor of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Cliff Nye, of  PAST Performers, will portray Byron Mehl.
    Page 3 of 3 - "The Society is also taking the opportunity at this time to collect photos and stories of Leavenworth citizens involved in the Great War in order to preserve the memories for future generations.  Call the museum (913) 682-7759 or email  leavenworthhistory@ kc.twcbc.com."

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