On this page we will look back at life in the city during the war years. Here we will provide the visitor with the stories making the news, what was happening in sports and entertainment, city politics, the social scene and the prominent people at the time. So, check back often for new editions. To share your family or neighborhood stories, please email PhillyWWIyears@gmail.com
TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – THURSDAY JULY 5, 1917
The weather in Philadelphia will bring clear, fair skies and pleasant temperatures. The high will be 81° with a low of 66° tonight. Today we bring you the news of yesterday’s celebration in France of America’s Independence.
Yesterday the first contingent of American soldiers to reach France marched through the streets of Paris. The parade started with the playing of the Star Spangled Banner by the mounted troops of the French Republican Guard who also acted as an honor guard along the route. The American troops were led by the 2nd Battalion of the 16th Infantry. At their head, driving in an open automobile, was their commander Major General John J. Pershing. When the troops reached the Cour d”honneur they were met by French President Raymond Poincare, Marshal Joffre, descendants of French officers who had fought in the American Revolution and other dignitaries.
After that ceremony the soldiers continued their march through the streets where they were welcomed with unrestrained joy (shown below). Parisians cheered, sang, waived American flags and wept as the “Sammies” marched by, row after row. The fact that the parade coincided with America’s Independence Day was not lost on the Parisians. The entire city was decorated with red, white and blue banners and American flags.
The parade’s destination and its concluding ceremony was at Picpus Cemetery. Inside these grounds the soldiers paid their respects as they filed past the grave site of both a French and American hero, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, who every American, young and old knows as the Marquis de Lafayette.
Flowers were laid on the grave and an American flag placed next to the stone under which the Marquis rests. Speeches were made by the American Ambassador to France, William Graves Sharp and Brand Whitlock, United States Ambassador to Belgium. General Pershing saluted the Marquis and spoke briefly (shown below). But because he does not speak French he asked one of his aids, Lieutenant Colonel Charles M. Stanton, to deliver the formal remarks.
Lt. Colonel Stanton spoke of the great friendship and history between America and France and said “It is with loving pride we drape the colors in tribute of respect to this citizen of your great republic. And here and now in the presence of the illustrious dead we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue”. At that point Colonel Stanton turned toward the tomb, raised his arm, and exclaimed, “Lafayette, we are here!” To which the entire crowd cheered with ecstatic joy.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Every year on July 4th a ceremony is held at Lafayette’s grave and a new American flag is raised. The ceremony is attended by French and American dignitaries and representatives of French and American friendship societies. Even during the German occupation of Paris in World War II, the American flag was flown continuously.]
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