Putting Names with Faces: World War I and Veteran’s Day

Note: This exhibit is currently on display in the Westborough Center for History and Culture through November, 2018.

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Welcome Home Celebration, WWI

Westborough, May 14, 1919

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Every year, we celebrate Veteran’s Day on November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I. This year’s commemoration is special, because it marks the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War, as it was commonly known back then. World War I started on July 28, 1914, and given the war’s monumental impact on western society, I am surprised how few anniversary observances have taken place over the past several years.

Many historians look to World War I as the moment when western society broke from a naïve Victorianism and moved into Modernity. The advancements in military technology and the tactics used on the battlefields led to a scale of death that was unprecedented, with over 17 million people dying during the war. The horrific reports that came from the trenches created an existential crisis that impacted all levels of society and culture. Politics, international relations, economics, gender dynamics, even artistic and cultural production all went through radical changes as they were forced to reevaluate their relationship to a new world order that could lead to and carry out such destruction. These fears were not unfounded: in many ways, World War II was a continuation of the conflict that emerged in World War I.

The following photographs of Westborough soldiers who served in World War I are from a newly acquired collection of records from the American Legion Stowell-Parker Post 163. They present a unique opportunity to connect a few of the names listed on the monuments dedicated to those who served in the armed services during times of war that sit in front of the Forbes Municipal Building with their faces.

—Anthony Vaver

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Oliver Lloyd Cooper, 16 Myrtle St., Leather Worker

Cooper joined the Medical Reserve Corps on June 30, 1917 at the age of 22 and was stationed at Ft. Ethan Allen, VT. He was discharged by reason of flat feet on October 25, 1917.

Service Record (1)
Service Record (2)
American Legion Membership Card

 

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Curtis Forbush Banks, Lyman St., Mechanic

Banks served in the 102nd Ambulance Company in the American Expeditionary Force of the U.S. Army. He enlisted in Hartford on May 23, 1917 at the age of 19 and was slightly wounded on April 20, 1918. He was cited for bravery for his part in the second battle of the Marne on July 18-25, 1918.

“Westborough Chronotype” – December 6, 1918, p. 2
Service Record
American Legion Membership Card

 

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Harry Hubbard Metcalf, 9 Charles St.

Metcalf was a graduate of Harvard University and enlisted in the Army on April 3, 1917 at the age of 23. At the time was married to Helen Williams Metcalf. He served in the Aviation unit of the Signal Corps and reached the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, R.M.A. (Reserve Military Aviator). He died on October 13, 1918 in Memphis, TN.

“Westborough Chronotype” – June 4, 1915, p. 1
“Westborough Chronotype” – March 24, 1916, p. 1
Service Record

 

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Leon Cantor, Hopkinton Road

Cantor was inducted into the U.S. Service on October 5, 1918 at the age of 18 and died in Westborough on October 14, 1918.

Service Record

 

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Timothy M. Downey, Milk St.

Downey enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 23 on May 12, 1917. He died on October 25, 1918 from wounds he received during action on October 23.

“Westborough Chronotype” – December 10, 1943, p. 2
Service Record

 

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Errol D. Marsh, West Main St.

Marsh joined the U.S. Army on August 29, 1917 at the age of 28 and at the time was married to Jane Marsh. He served as a Second Lieutenant and was killed in action in France on November 2, 1918, nine days before the armistice was signed to end the war.

Service Record

 

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Clarence Leland, Milk St., Publisher

Leland joined the army on June 3, 1918 at the age of 26 and served as a musician by playing clarinet in the 63rd Infantry Band. His father, Dexter Leland, was the Business Manager of the Westborough Chronotype, and the two of them eventually took over ownership of the newspaper.

Service Record

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Click here to learn more about collections relating to the military in the Westborough Archive.

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