Tag Archive: Fred Apgar

National WWI Museum and Memorial

By Fred M. Apgar

National WW I Museum and Memorial

The Tower

The National WWI Museum and Memorial is located in Kansas City, Missouri, and I recently had the

opportunity to visit this outstanding facility. Just weeks after the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, that officially ended WWI, a patriotic group of Kansas City residents spearheaded a fund raising program, the purpose of which was to construct a memorial to honor the memory of those who lost their lives in the “Great War”. Within two weeks, over $2.5 million dollars were raised. On November 1, 1921, over 200,000 people attended the ground-breaking ceremony, Including Vice President Calvin Coolidge, and General of the Armies, John Pershing, as well as Generals and Admirals from France, Great Britain, Belgium, and Italy. The completed Memorial was dedicated on November 11, 1926.

The Memorial consisted of the Liberty Tower, which sits in the middle of a stone deck. On opposite sides of the tower are two buildings, which housed paintings and murals commemorating WWI. These exhibition buildings were named Memory Hall and Exhibition Hall.

Liberty Tower rises 217 feet above Kansas City, constructed entirely of Kasota stone, quarried from Kasota, Minnesota and Italian Travertine. A grand stairway once led visitors to the observation deck at the top of the tower. Today, an elevator takes visitors to the top.

In 2004, Congress named Liberty Memorial as the nation’s official WWI Museum and construction began on an 80,000 square foot expansion underneath the original memorial. The present day museum is comprised of two sections. The first half of the museum is devoted to European involvement in the war from its beginning. The second half of the museum is devoted to the American experience.

National WW I Museum and Memorial

The Western front Poppy Field

Before entering the main gallery, you have to cross a glass bridge that is suspended over a symbolic Western Front poppy field. As you look below, there are 9000 poppies, each of which represents 1000 deaths. The symbolic poppy field offers a grim reminder of the more than 9,000,000 people who perished as a direct result of WWI hostilities.

National WW I Museum and Memorial

Items of equipment displayed

The museum boasts a remarkable collection of artifacts from the war, including several tanks, and other vehicles and many different guns and mortars. There are rifles and handguns galore as well as an extensive collection of grenades. Uniforms and personal equipment from each country engaged in hostilities are on display as well as an extensive collection of maps, charts, and communication equipment including General Pershing’s Headquarters flag. The museum has an extensive collection of propaganda posters that were used to promote patriotism, recruit volunteers, and generate contributions to the war effort. A replica trench presents a look at trench warfare. Two theaters provide visitors with a narrative of the war. Thousands of photographs take visitors through the war years, providing memorable descriptive images of the war experience.

 

National WW I Museum and Memorial

Items of equipment displayed

I arrived at the museum shortly after it opened at 10:00 AM, stayed until closing at 5:00 PM, and still didn’t see all I had wanted to. The National World War I Museum and Memorial is a must-see.

 

 

Some Thought on the Ending of the Vietnam War

by Fred Apgar 

Some Thought on the Ending of the Vietnam War

While Visiting Vietnam & Laos, Fred made a friend of a former enemy.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Vietnam Peace Accords. The Accords were signed on 27 January 1973, but it would take two more agonizingly long years before the last Americans were evacuated from Saigon as the North Vietnamese were rolling through the streets of Saigon and breaking through the gates of the American embassy. There were, of course, many legacies of the Vietnam War, but the definitive history of the Vietnam War is yet to be written.

More than forty years later, our view of the war is only slightly clearer. We will probably never be able to identify our nation’s self-interest in that conflict, nor will we ever be able to attach meaning to the overwhelming loss of blood and treasure. Unfortunately, those college professors, whose left-wing ideology crafted the anti-war sentiment at home, are using the same rhetoric to write the historical perspective of the Vietnam War. Similarly, politicians and decision-makers, whose ineptitude prolonged hostilities, project themselves as objective observers.

My perspective is that the men and women in the enlisted ranks and the junior officers did everything that was asked of them. We followed the chain of command, adhered to military discipline, and committed ourselves to our assigned missions. We trusted our military and civilian leaders to provide us with a mission that was in our nation’s best interest, for which we, in return, did our jobs and risked our lives.

The real failures were the Colonels and Generals. They permitted unrealistic competition between the military branches and placed daily statistics ahead of meaningful tactical and strategic operations and missions. By failing to challenge the military’s civilian leadership and our country’s political leaders, they let us down. It was their responsibility to protect us by demanding reasonable rules to prosecute the war and tasking assignments that adhered to logical and rational military doctrine. A foreign policy that sought to minimize the risk of antagonizing Russian and Chinese feelings gave us Rules of Engagement that clearly resulted in the unnecessary loss of American lives.

Since we were never truly committed to victory, we should have never risked defeat. That was the immorality of the Vietnam War.

( VFW Post 8870 Past Commander Fred Apgar has moved away, but he stays in touch and shares his thoughts with us from time to time.)

From the Book Shelf

Helmet For My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific By Robert LeckieHelmet For My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific
By Robert Leckie

This is a compelling first-person account of the life of an enlisted Marine participating in the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific during WW II. In intimate detail, the author recounts his experiences in training on Parris Island, as only those who have experienced basic training can appreciate.

After training Lackie was assigned to the Second Battalion, First Regiment, of the First Marine Division as a gunner on a two-man 30 caliber gun crew and on August 7, 1942, his unit landed at Red Beach on Guadalcanal, thus beginning his experience as a combat Marine, taking him on to New Britain, and Peleliu where his war ended after he was wounded by an exploding artillery shell. He spares no detail regarding the horrors of war that he experienced and writes eloquently about his many friends who were killed. The book provides an unvarnished view of the day-to-day life of the Marines who participated in combat operations in the Pacific.

Lackie’s experience in WWII was among those featured in the HBO miniseries Pacific, which is available on Netflix and DVD.

“From the Bookshelf”, a recurring series of book reviews written by Fred Apgar. 

From the Book Shelf

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American LegendThe Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend By Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

 

While Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Geronimo are better-remembered Native Americans who fought the white man’s expansion into the old American West, Red Cloud was a great Sioux war chief and military genius who accomplished far more that his more well-known contemporaries. The title of the book comes from the name of the Sioux’s sacred homeland in the Badlands, Paha Sapa, or “The Heart of Everything That Is”.

Red Cloud was an orphan who took his first scalp at the age of 16. He accompanied his tribe’s war parties on raids of other Indian nations and proved the living embodiment of the maxim that “war is the best teacher of war”. He learned his lessons well and became the Chief of a band of Sioux called the Bad Faces.

The book chronicles the treatment of the plains Indians by the United States government. The inevitability of war between the Indians and whites was sealed when gold was discovered in what is now Montana, and the Bozeman Trail was opened to provide a shorter route to the gold fields. The 535 mile trail cut through the Powder River basin,which had previously been given to the Sioux by treaty.

The authors used contemporary journals and diaries, newspaper articles, eyewitness accounts, and meticulous firsthand sourcing to write a compelling account of life in the old American West, and the treatment of Native Americans in our nation’s pursuit of what was called our Manifest Destiny.

“From the Bookshelf” will be a recurring series of book reviews that will appear in the VFW Post #8870 newsletter from time to time. This review was written by Fred Apgar.

District 1 Awards for 8870

District 1 Awards for 8870District 1 Commander Don Wischman was in attendance at the July Post meeting to present Post 8870 with a number of awards recognizing our accomplishments during the 2015-16 VFW year. In these photos, Immediate Past Commander Jim Blossey is shown at top left, accepting awards from Wischman for, among other things, meeting membership goals.

District 1 Awards for 8870Also shown is (right bottom) is Chaplain and Past Commander Fred Apgar, accepting certificates of recognition of his tireless efforts in coordinating so many of our Post projects, including our Relief Fund, Teacher of the Year, Freedom Scholarship and Youth Essay. In addition to his leadership of our Post, Fred performs many of those same functions at the district level.

Memorial Day Ceremonies

Memorial Day Ceremonies

Our own Col Buck Weaver was the honored guest at this year’s Memorial Day ceremony at the Edmonds Cemetery. This year’s theme was VJ Day. Fred Apgar described the origin and meaning of the White Table, now a fixture in every veterans’ organization banquet and meeting place.

0615_Memorial_Day_Ceremonies1Olivia Olson, winner of our Voice of Democracy Contest, recited in grand style her award winning essay about why our country should honor its veterans. She was outstanding.

Finally, Amos Chapman and Neal Goldstein read the list of names and rang the ship’s bell for those Snohomish County residents who were killed in the Pacific Theatre in WWII. I estimate there were approximately 300 hardy souls at the ceremony who braved a slightly chilly day.

Puget Sound Honor Flight

Brian Sequin was our speaker at last month’s meeting. Brian is a member of VFW Post 1040 and has pretty much single-handedly resurrected the Puget Sound area (called a Hub) of Honor Flight. I should mention, however, that Fred Apgar has also been a team member of Brian’s. Honor Flight, for those who are not familiar with it, is a project to fly WWII veterans back to Washington D.C. to visit the WWII memorial as well as other veterans memorials. It is basically a three day trip, one to get there, one to sight see, and the return trip. We have sent several of our members on Honor Flights and other members have been “guardians”, individuals who assist the veterans in getting around and seeing to their needs. All of us in Post 8870 as well as the other Posts, would like to have every WWII veteran who wishes to go on an Honor Flight to have the opportunity. If you or someone you know wishes more information, you can contact the Post or go their website at http://www.honorflight.org/ for more in-formation.

Commanders Column By Jim Blossey

A few days ago I had the privilege of speaking with a class of 5th graders at Mukilteo Elementary School. These 10-year-olds were some of the sharpest young people I have ever met.. They had been studying the U.S. Constitution and their teachers wanted them to meet some actual people who had put their lives on the line to protect the liberties that are so eloquently enumerated in that magnificent document. Past Commanders Fred Apgar and Jim Traner also spoke that day, at different times and—I presume—to different classes.

“If we didn’t have veterans, we wouldn’t have freedom.”

The next day their teachers seny us a few excerpts from the comments the students had written down. Clearly, they were listening. More importantly their words pointed to the content of our remarks, not to us as speakers. They recognized that service, particularly military service, is about real people and—in most cases—people that live right here among us.

“I learned that even 17- and 18-year-olds can make big sacrifices.”

The students identified with the idea that when we served we weren’t much older than them. They wanted to know how we felt at the time and what motivated us to become part of the military. We told the truth—that very few of us joined because we wanted to be patriots. But we also told how every one of us came to realize the importance of what we were doing and that we were fighting, not so much for the vague ideals of freedom and democracy, but for family and loved ones…and for future generations. In other words, for them.

“It’s really special to know someone who fought for our country.”

I’m glad they wrote those words on paper rather than saying them to me in person, because I’m not sure I could have retained my composure. What is important for all of us to know is that this is how most people feel about us. And what I want you to know is how special it is to be able to touch these young people’s hearts.