Washingtonians in World War I

Washingtonians in World War I

2018 marks the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I, the “War to End All Wars.” Centennial events have taken place for the past several years throughout Europe, and last year the Washington State Library was honored to assist students from the American School in Paris as they embarked on a project to gather information about the Americans laid to rest at Suresnes American Cemetery.

This Paris cemetery contains the remains of 1,541 Americans who died in World War I, and a number of those casualties were from Washington state.

Using information found in Soldiers of the Great War, as well as federal Census records, city directories, old newspapers, and other resources, State Library reference librarians were able to find biographical information for the students about:

  • John Tomlinson of Toppenish, who died of pneumonia on a ship en route to France.
  • Raymond A. Bennett of Camas, whose mother Flora likely took advantage of the Gold Star Mother pilgrimage to visit her son’s burial place in 1931.
  • Manuel Dorre of Seattle, who was possibly a recent immigrant to the US prior to his military service.
  • Richard Morten Wilson of Seattle, possibly the brother of Colonel A. Vincent Wilson, a veteran of World War I and World War II.
  • Benjamin J. Olmstead of Everett, a victim of the torpedoing of the Tuscania.

War dead are more than just names on a plaque or tombstone. The information our librarians were able to uncover about these men sheds light on the bereaved families, and the fact that war casualties are frequently the result of disease, accident, and injury instead of combat.

Over 500 soldiers from Washington State died in the Great War. The Winged Victory statue commemorating the state’s World War I veterans was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1938, on the Capital Campus.

— by Reference Librarian Mary Paynton Schaff of the Washington State Library

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