The Great War — or the World War, as it was known until World War II—began in 1914 with Germany and Austria-Hungary fighting against the Allied countries that included Great Britain, France and Russia. The United States entered the conflict by declaring war on Germany on April 6, 1917. The war ended with the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918. More than a million American military personnel were deployed in Europe during the struggle, and of these 53,400 died from battle wounds, and more than 63,000 from influenza and other non-combat causes. A bronze plaque in the State House in Concord lists the names of 697 New Hampshire men and women who died in service to their country during World War I.
On Saturday, May 20, 1922, the Manchester Union newspaper reported on an emotional event: “Living memorials to the sacrifices of 47 Manchester men who died in the World War were erected this afternoon at Stark Park, when gold star mothers of the auxiliary to Henry J. Sweeney Post, American Legion, aided by officials of the state, the city and the church, and by ex-service men in uniform, planted trees in honor of the city’s war dead…The first shovels of earth were laid over the roots by mothers of Manchester’s dead heroes.” The tradition of identifying the mothers of children who died in service as “gold star mothers” continues to the present day. In 2011 the New Hampshire Gold Star Mothers organization dedicated a bronze memorial sculpture to all “gold star mothers” in Stanton Park in downtown Manchester.
Men with local ties who perished on the battlefields of France a century ago are remembered in several of Manchester’s public spaces. In 1922 Harriman Park at Hall Street and Lake Avenue was dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant Lynn H. Harriman. In 1931 Sweeney Park and the Sweeney Monument on South Main Street were dedicated to the memory of Henry J. Sweeney, the first soldier from Manchester to be killed in the war. Park Common on the corner of Lake Avenue and Chestnut Street was renamed Kalivas Park in 1940 in memory of Private Christos N. Kalivas, the first Greek-American from Manchester to die in the war. A handsome monument to the young immigrant was dedicated in 1959.
The William H. Jutras American Legion Post No. 43 on Boutwell Street carries the name of a local Army officer who was killed on Sept. 26, 1918, after being wounded while delivering an important message from his platoon to another unit. For his heroic action Lt. Jutras was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. A marker honoring this brave officer is mounted on a granite rock in the center of a small park at the corner of Amory and McGregor streets, the original site of Jutras Post.
Two other fallen soldiers from World War I are honored with bronze markers. These are Pvt. Bernard B. Barry (located at Massabesic Street and Lake Avenue); and Pvt. Herman F. Little (located at South Main and Granite streets).
On Memorial Day 1929 the magnificent World War Memorial created by local sculptor Lucien H. Gosselin was dedicated on Concord Common, which was renamed Victory Park. The monument depicts four bronze figures, including Winged Victory who stands atop a tall granite shaft. An inscription on the monument reads, “In memory of Manchester men who died in the Great War that the world be made safe for democracy.” A large granite block in Veterans Memorial Park, installed in the mid-1980s, also honors local residents who died in World War I.
It stands near the flag pole along with three similar monuments, one each representing the war dead of World War II, the Korean conflict, and Vietnam.
In 1957 Gossler Park and School were dedicated in remembrance of Pvt. Henry Gossler. As told in the booklet “Manchester’s Honored Veterans” published by the Manchester Veterans Council in 1996, in the soldier’s pocket was found “a picture of his sister, an empty wallet, and a prayer which his sister had sent him. The prayer was blood-stained.” A line from the prayer reads, “Dear Father, Thou will guide me on death’s silent stream, until I reach that shore where all is Peace and Love and Joy.”
Next week: A new series begins on the history of music and musicians in New Hampshire.