The time has come to reflect and look back on the First World War. We know it happened and we know that many lives were lost but as time has past we have grown further detached to the war. It was not a part of our lives. There are no living survivors of the war still alive in the United States. But because it is the centennial we look back and reflect on the fight, those who served, and those who died fighting to preserve our freedom.
Yet, how do we recollect the war? We place monuments and plaques in the hopes that someone will read them and learn about the war and its affect on a neighborhood or town. New Haven is no different than anywhere else in the United States. New Haven is a small city, it is full of history and Yale happens to makes up most of downtown. Driving through the city monuments and memorials can be seen frequently, which led me to wonder if any were erected in honor of the First World War.
After a lot of research, it was determined that New Haven has five monuments devoted to World War I. There are three monuments but also two small plaques. Each was put into place to honor a lost soul(s). There had been so much death in the first world war. In many cases, especially in France, an entire generation was killed in action or because of war related illness.
The two plaques are located in small communities in New Haven, one is by Morris Cove and the other is located in Triangle Park. Both were placed by their communities to show their anguish over those in their communities who died. The stone in triangular park reeds “Dedicated to Veterans of WWI, 1914-1918 who were from the 32nd Ward.” The one located in Morris Cove area is posted at the entrance of Lighthouse Park, the stone states “For those lost in WWI, 1917-1918 Not in Vain they Served.” Those simple acts by their community allow us to see how those communities had been affected by the war, their pride and their sorrow evident in their thoughtful dedication.
The three monuments were more prominent in the community. They can be visible while driving through the city or by a simple walk. The three monuments are, the Yale World War Memorial, the Timothy Ahearn Memorial, and the World War Memorial Flagpole. All are meaningful and hold an important light into the war’s effect on the city.
The Yale Memorial is large in size but can only be seen while walking through campus. Located by the dinning hall and library the monument sits in a courtyard of the buildings. Made of limestone, it was dedicated on June 19, 1927, Pillars hold up the names of the four major battles that American troops had been involved in:. A cenotaph is in front of the pillars completing the memorial which states “In memory of the men of Yale who, true to Her Traditions, gave Their Lives that freedom might not perish from the Earth, 1914-anno domini-1918.”
The Timothy Ahearn Memorial was a monument commissioned under the New Deal’s Federal Art Project to honor a New Haven hero. Timothy Ahearn stepped up to battle in Verdun, leading his comrades after all of his commanding officers had been killed in action. During that battle he even saved a man who was badly wounded. He had passed away in 1925 due to a war related illness. To honor his heroism the statue was erected in his honor. Located at first in West River Park it was moved and rededicated to the corner of Derby Avenue and The Ella T. Grasso Boulevard in order for more people to see the memorial. Two thousand people had attended the monuments including his close relatives. The monument consists of his figure writing for reinforcements to his commanding officer placed on a stone which states “Timothy Francis Ahearn, Company C. 102 US Infantry 26th Division, He best exemplified the spirit of the Yankee Division”
The last memorial, is the most prominent. Located in the center of the New Haven Green is the World War I Memorial Flagpole. The monument’s intent can go unseen from faraway but from close up you can see the importance that the monument held. The monument had been commissioned ten years after the war had ended and dedicated memorial day March 30, 1929. A parade was held and thousands attend the ceremony. It was a moving day as the relatives of two hundred sixty one men who were killed in action sat as honored guests. The memorial consists of a monument and flagpole atop of the stones. Designed by local architect Douglas Orr, the stone holds the names each of those two hundred sixty one men. The stone was seen as “Simple and effective” by the New Haven Register journalist that recalled the dedication twenty five years later.
These memorials are important to a community, they show the impact of an event on a city or neighborhood, and the citizens. As time passes people grow detached from events or people from history because they made little to know impact on their lives. But it is important to still remember those people or events because they show us who we have become. The past has shaped us as who we are and it is important to remember this instances good or bad. So when passing a memorial stop and look for you may find a name on a stone that holds a similar one to your own.
We remember the past through these memorials to be sure we never forget the heroism and horror that coexist in order to preserve our livelihood today. We must try to remember these memorials and plaques, even though some have already been forgotten because it is how we honor those who bravely stood to fight.