Fall River event marks 100-year anniversary of America’s entry into WWI

FALL RIVER — Carl Pasternak, in full uniform, and carrying a rifle, stood guard at the corner of Durfee and Cherry streets.

The uniform was from World War I. Pasternak is a re-enactor.

“Soldat,” he said, when asked his rank in French, or “soldier,” indicating that he was impersonating a private in a French regiment of the line, in this case the regiment designated No. 151.

“This is my third uniform,” he said.

Pasternak is also a Civil War and Revolutionary War re-enactor. Sunday, he was at the Lafayette-Durfee House, along with a couple of comrades, some World War I artwork, a collection of model World War I airplanes and militaria from various eras.

The event was to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of America’s entry into World War I. The mementos from other wars were there to celebrate all veterans.

Europe was bled white by 1917, three years into the war. The British had been butchered at the Somme. The French had saved the Marne by inches, rallying a fleet of Paris taxicabs to bring reinforcements to the front. Sullenly, Germans stared at the French and English over a landscape of dead men and horses, mud, shell craters and blasted trees. Whole French villages were shelled out of existence, never to be re-occupied.

The Americans broke the stalemate, and one American officer said as his troops arrived, “Lafayette, nous sommes ici,” or “Lafayette, we are here,” in English, a hearkening back to the Marquis de Lafayette who fought for America in the Revolutionary War.

“The French had to equip and train them,” re-enactor Craig Alarie said of the arriving Americans. “The 151st trained the Yankee Division.”

The Americans knew nothing of trench warfare. The French were experts. They were called “poilus,” in French, “dirty ones,” because trench warfare mitigated against hygiene. Bearded, louseridden and underfed, they had held the line, and some of them had mutinied.

“It was a labor-management situation,” Alarie said, explaining mutinies that looked a lot like strikes.

Alarie used a wooden pointer to show the lines of trenches that snaked through France. On a table in front of him were French Lebel and Berthier rifles, bayonets, a soldiers ration of pipe tobacco, and canteens.

“The canteens held water, coffee or pinard,” he said, “pinard” being the French word for the crude red wine given soldiers as a ration.

In other rooms of the house there were pastel drawings of World War I scenes by local artist Frederick Mayo, World War II entrenching tools packed with silent stories, the rough wool uniforms of past generations, pistols and murderous looking knives.

“We’re doing a lot more,” said David Jennings, a Vietnam veteran who is also president of the board running the Lafayette-Durfee House, which was built in the 1700s.

Jennings said the house will swing away from war in December when it will be decorated for Christmas and open to the public on the first three Sundays of the month, and David Mello, children’s librarian at the Fall River Public Library, will read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” for children and others.

Outside, on the corner, Carl Pasternak stood guard as the thin Sunday traffic went by.

Be Sociable, Share!
This entry was posted in Model Airpanes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*