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CAPE MAY – Kate Wyatt, speaking for the Greater Cape May Historical Society, asked Cape May City Council March 7 for support in helping the society celebrate the centennial of America’s entry into World War I.   

It was in 1917, after a Presidential election in which Woodrow Wilson, former New Jersey governor, ran as the candidate who had kept America out of the war, that Wilson responded to continued German attacks on American merchant vessels by taking the country into the stalemated European conflict.

Wyatt said that the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, on a triangular island at the intersection of Columbia Avenue and Gurney Street, is “the only memorial” in Cape May County erected to commemorate the American servicemen lost in that war, as part of its “all wars” theme.  It was dedicated July 4, 1923.

On behalf of the Historical Society, Wyatt requested city help in the efforts to mark this important anniversary.

She requested that the city polish the large base plaques at the memorial making it easier for visitors to read the history they convey.

She also asked that the city plant and maintain a red-white-and-blue garden theme at the base of the monument.

Lastly, she asked that the city helps to ensure the presence of a speaker at the monument on Veterans Day.

The Monument

The obelisk, topped by an eagle with wings outstretched, displays metal plaques that honor veterans from each of the nation's wars starting with the Revolution. All older plaques are, like the World War I plaque brought to council's attention, weathered.

The latest addition, jointly placed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion is the easiest to read. It honors those who served in Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Gulf Wars, and Afghanistan.

The one Wyatt spoke of is at the base of the monument, a red, white and blue wreath of artificial flowers adorns nearby.

The plaque reads:

In honor of the Men and Women of Cape May and Vicinity who served the American Colors in The Great World War for Liberty, Humanity and Democracy, 1917-1918

Dedicated to the end that the valorous conduct of those who answered the nation's call may outlive all tablets of love and memory of our time, and thus inspire to patriotic deeds all future generations.

Other Countywide Tributes

Cape May County has long remembered those who served and died in the war that was to end all wars. Some of their names live on in names of American Legion posts.

In Wildwood, American Legion Post 184 Byron Pennington Crocker is named in memory of Crocker, a Wildwood resident, who died in the Meuse-Argonne battle in 1918.

In Court House, American Legion Post 198 Thurston Elmer Wood, is named in memory of the Court House resident who died while leading a charge against German trenches new Vierzy, France.

Buried in France, his remains were later brought to his hometown with final burial in the Navy Cemetery in Annapolis, Md.

According to Jeffrey M. Dorwart's book on the history of Cape May County, "The Making of an American Resort Community," "Six hundred Cape May residents served in World War I, and at least nine were listed by the 'Soldier's Record' service as dying in the war.

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Douglass of Court House lost two sons, Charles G. and Herbert S. Douglass, from disease contracted on a troopship carrying New Jersey soldiers from Hoboken to France.

Abram N. Morgan of Ocean View died in action in the Argonne forest in 1918.

Disease killed David Hornstein of Woodbine and Lawrence R. Henry and Nicola Impaglizzo of Ocean City.

In Woodbine, American Legion Post 298 is named Hornstein-Switka-Oxley. According to the monument by that borough's firehouse among those who served were four Oxleys: William, James G., Irad S., and Eric.

In the Cape May County Veterans Cemetery in Crest Haven is a monument that honors those who served in all the nation's wars. One of the images on that is a World War I "doughboy" in battle garb. 

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

Al Campbell wrote of the war's history and those who served.

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