By Linda Stamato
Memorials to those who fought in The Great War occupy significant spaces in Morristown.
A stunning Rose Window in the façade of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, which was built in 1917, is dedicated to those who returned from World War I.
In the Morristown and Morris Township Library, an Honor Roll consisting of 23 brass panels, installed side by side, with a dedication proclamation at the center, names the residents of Morristown who served in the war.
The panels, installed in the Library’s 1917 building in 1926, are now in the library’s reference room, prominently placed on the upper railing.
And a War Memorial Cenotaph, placed on the lawn of the Vail Mansion, contains a bronze relief of Winged Victory standing with her leg, hand and wing extended over the heads of marching soldiers. The monument was dedicated in 1928, on the 10th anniversary of the war’s end.
Morristown is frequently the site for events commemorating the war, and this year is no exception especially since it is this year on the very day, 100 years earlier, that the armistice was signed in France, marking a victory for the Allies and a total defeat for Germany.
So, as Nov. 11, 2018, approaches, it’s time to reflect. World War I didn’t do what was anticipated in the aspiration that accompanies references to it.
The War to End All Wars…didn’t. The number of civilian and military killed or wounded in that horrific conflagration is estimated at around 37 million people. And it destroyed vast portions of the globe, on six continents.
Yet still, we have war, many wars. We didn’t learn then, and not in the 100 years since The Great War ended. But we must not stop trying.
Visiting places to learn more about that particular war is important, and one place to learn about it and its enduring impact is the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO, where the collection includes materials from every nation in the war. Its international breadth sets it apart from other museums.
The people of Kansas, having erected a memorial to The Great War immediately after the war’s end, continue to support its place in history “in the heartland, outside the vestiges of power.”
In this place, with its history of civic support, residents and visitors will gather at the museum in November, joining the world, including many in Morristown, to commemorate the anniversary of the war’s end.
Some of the war’s lessons surface in stories and many will be repeated on Nov. 11. For me, it’s stories too, and especially, poems and songs, and one song, in particular, sung by John McCutchceon.
It tells of the Christmas peace, the remarkable tale celebrated in books and movies, sung by an Army private Francis Tolliver, from Liverpool, England.
In his final words, Private Tolliver makes it clear that it is outside “vestiges of power” that decisions to avoid war reside. In the trenches, the fighters on opposite sides have more in common than those who have ordered them to be there:
Each Christmas come since World War One I’ve learned it’s lessons well.
That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame
and on each end of the rifle we’re the same.
GREATER MORRISTOWN EVENTS MARKING VETERANS DAY 2018:
On Saturday, Nov. 10, the Morris County Heritage Commission commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, and the lives of some 200 Morris County residents who died fighting in that conflict, with a series of talks between 10 am and 3:45 pm at the Morris County Library in Whippany. Free. At 30 East Hanover Ave.
The Bickford Theater at the Morris Museum in Morris Township presents Billy Bishop Goes to War, at 8 pm Saturday, Nov. 10, and at 2 pm on Sunday, Nov. 11. The drama recounts the story of Canadian WWI flying act Billy Bishop, whose 72 kills made him top gun of the British Empire. Tickets: $25-$40. At 6 Normandy Heights Road, 973-971-3706.
The 11th annual Armistice Ball starts at 8 pm on Saturday, Nov. 10, in the Great Hall of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown. Presented by the Metropolitan Vintage Dance & Social Club. Tickets: $45; Students, $25. At 121 South Street.
Veterans Day Service, Sunday, Nov. 11, at 11 am on the Morristown Green.
The Fosterfields Living Historical Museum in Morris township presents a Thanksgiving Harvest Home and Armistice Observance on Sunday, Nov. 11, from noon to 4 pm. Tickets: $4-$8. At 73 Kahdena Road, 973.326.7645.
A Salute to Service–Duty, Honor, Country, Sunday, Nov. 11, at 3 pm at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. A patriotic Pops-style concert by the Hanover Wind Symphony will honor those who serve and have contributed to the nation’s defense. Tickets: $25; veterans and current military personnel, free. At 100 South St., 973-539-8008.
A War and Peace and a Concerto, Sunday, Nov. 11, at 3 pm, by the Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, in Dolan Hall, in the Annunciation Center of the College of St. Elizabeth in Morris Township. The concert’s theme is the 100th Anniversary of the War. Among other pieces it will feature Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor. The orchestra also will perform songs identified with both world wars. Tickets: $5-$40. At 2 Convent Road.
Linda Stamato lives in Morristown’s Franklin Corners neighborhood, and is a faculty member at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers.