TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – THURSDAY MAY 15, 1919
HOMECOMING PARADE FOR THE IRON DIVISION
OVER 2 MILLION PEOPLE CELEBRATE
Under overcast skies, Philadelphia today welcomed home the fighting men of the 28th Division. The welcome was filled with gratitude for their sacrifice, honor for their accomplishments and joy for their return. The Iron Division Pennsylvania’s own, were welcomed home as only this city can, with a spectacular parade. Truly this day will be remembered as one of the finest in the city’s history.
A public holiday was declared by the Governor and all schools and most businesses were closed. However, some small businesses and restaurants remained open providing refreshments and sandwiches to spectators along the parade route. The city was decorated as never before. Thousands of American flags flew from every house and building. Trolley poles, electric poles and telephone poles were painted red, white and blue or with the city’s colors of blue and yellow. Also the Red Keystone, emblem of the 28th, flew from windows and many doorways.
The route for the parade covered 8 miles beginning at Broad & Wharton Streets. The men then marched north on Broad Street to Chestnut then east on Chestnut to Independence Hall where the Liberty Bell, that symbol of American freedom, was moved from inside the Hall and placed on a platform where it was decorated with flowers and the flags of the allied countries. A reviewing stand was also erected there where the Governor of Pennsylvania, William Sproul and Mayor Thomas Smith greeted and formally welcomed home the troops. They were joined by other political, religious and business leaders of the city and state.
From Independence Hall the parade continued to 3rd Street then turned on Market Street back to City Hall. From City Hall the troops proceed to the Parkway then onto 17th Street to Spring Garden Street then east on Spring Garden to Broad and north to Lehigh Avenue. At Lehigh Avenue they marched west to Shibe Park where the parade ended.
The city began filling with guests last night. Thousands of people from every section of Pennsylvania poured into Philadelphia, and thousands more came across the river from Camden and other southern New Jersey towns. Extra trains and trolleys were put in service to move the crowds starting last evening and every ferry boat was operating full time making the trip back and forth across the Delaware. It is reported that every hotel in the city was filled to capacity.
Also last evening Major General Charles Muir, commander of the 28th, was given a banquet in his honor at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. The dinner was attended by 500 persons representing the city’s political, social and business leaders. The doughboys for their part had the run of the city’s entertainment establishments. Every theatre, vaudeville house and motion picture venue was open to them, free of charge.
The Philadelphia Welcome Home Committee made arrangements to provide accommodations to the families of any member of the 28th travelling into the city. The Committee will also give whatever assistance may be needed to family members who are residents of Philadelphia. Information booths were set up all along the parade route and on the Parkway. Box lunches were provided to all the families for 25¢. Babies and very young children of the soldiers’ wives could be taken to the Friends’ Neighborhood House, 4th & Green, for care during the parade while mother goes to cheer on father.
Along with the dignitaries from towns across Pennsylvania there is also a delegation of 125 men and women from Georgia who arrived for the parade. They represent the area around Camp Hancock where part of the 28th underwent training before leaving for France. The Georgia delegation also includes 10 “Georgia Peaches.” These are ladies who met and married men of the 28th while they were stationed at Camp Hancock.
The morning for the troops began early with breakfast being served at the 3 armories, the Commercial Museum, the Scottish Rite Hall, the Hudson Building, the Navy Yard and other quarters along the river front. And a hearty breakfast it was as the men consumed 40,900 eggs, 5,000 loaves of bread, 9,000 quarts of coffee, 4,500 pounds of cake, 500 boxes of oranges, 400 hams, 500 pounds of butter and 20 gallons of mustard. And of course we must not forget the 20,000 donuts that were distributed to the doughboys by the Red Cross.
After breakfast the men began lining up to take their place in the march. The Division filled the streets from Jackson to Fitzwater between 9th and 16th and awaited the command to join the ranks. Promptly at 10:02am bugles were sounded and the paraded began with the units falling into place. General Muir proudly led the march on horseback. The first unit in line was the 110th infantry followed by the 109th infantry. The full column of men stretched 4 miles and would take just under 2 hours to complete the march. As each regiment took its place in the line of march at Broad & Wharton, a victory wreath was presented to decorate the regiments colors by Miss Helen Patterson, 13 year old daughter of Judge Patterson.
The wounded of the 28th were brought from hospitals and convalescent homes and given the honor of being the first to review the Division at Wharton Street, after which they joined their comrades in 200 automobiles and trucks donated by charitable organizations and private individuals at the end of the line.
And when these brave men came into the view of the crowds, the cheering and applauding took on an even louder aspect. These men, some missing arms, legs or with terrible facial injuries, reacted to the crowds with smiles and laughter and heartily waved as they passed. They in turn were showered with candies, cigarettes, flowers and other gifts as people rushed to their vehicles to show their appreciation and affection.
Marching with the wounded were over 200 nurses of the various base hospitals of this city who volunteered for service in the war zone. These valorous women bore gold stripping on their arms signifying service overseas. Some had been “over there” with the Pennsylvania Hospital’s Base Hospital 10 even before General Pershing arrived. The nurses of Jefferson’s Base Hospital 34, the University of Pennsylvania’s Base Hospital 20 and Methodist Episcopal Hospital’s Naval Base Hospital 5 were there as well as nurses from other parts of the Commonwealth and organizations. May their courage, dedication to duty and kindness never be forgotten.
The streets of this city were packed with spectators. Many began arriving in the early morning hours to ensure themselves a good spot. The Superintendent of Police, William Mills, stated that today was the largest gathering of people in the history of the city. He estimated that over 2,750,000 persons lined the parade route. In many locations the crowd was 10 or 12 deep. Every nook and corner was filled as were windows, balconies and rooftops.
The crowds were controlled by 3,740 regular police, 2,300 home defense reserves, marine guards, provost guards and park guards. Emergency stations were located along the route for those in need of medical care. The Red Cross and other charitable organizations established places along Broad Street for any who needed assistance.
Philadelphia was joyous today perhaps even hysterical with happiness. People sang, embraced and greeted each other with smiles and laughter. There were no strangers today in this city. All were friends with one purpose, to welcome home our boys. The pride of the spectators and cheering crowd was evident. It was expressed in different ways. Women cried with joy and men stood with beaming smiles and chests pushed out in manly pride.
As planes flew overhead the 28th marched, 12 abreast in row after row, 18,000 men strong. Here was the fighting manhood of the Keystone State who fought to keep the world free from tyranny. They had pushed back the best the Hun had to offer and helped crush the ancient belief that men are to be ruled by kings and autocrats.
Broad Street and every other street were decorated for the day. The decorations along the route were the most glorious ever seen in this city’s history. Every building and home along the route flew an American flag. Red, white and blue bunting draped the structures and every pole along the streets. Many poles have also been painted blue and yellow, the city’s colors. People waved flags and wore red, white and blue ribbons.
At Broad & Christian Streets the soldiers were greeted with song by 2500 students of South Philadelphia High School, the boys in the school’s colors of red and black and the girls dressed in blue and steel singing Over There and other patriotic songs. A similar scene occurred at 17th and Spring Garden where 2000 young ladies from Girls High School and the Philadelphia Normal School for Girls in dazzling white dresses serenaded the troops with patriotic songs.
All along the route people entertained the soldiers by breaking into song. They sung Over There, America, It’s A Long Way To Tipperary, The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Star Spangled Banner to the delight of the troops. Bands also dotted the parade route announcing the next unit to approach and keeping the crowds entertained when there was a lull in the line.
When the Division reached Chestnut Street it turned east to Independence Hall.
A color guard of honor surrounded the Liberty Bell manned by the Sons of the Revolution from the Pennsylvania Society. This honor guard carried with them the flags and standards of American troops carried in past battles including the Revolutionary War. The flags and standards were dipped in salute as each unit passed. And as each unit marched by the shout could be heard “eyes right” as the men gave their salute to this emblem of freedom.
From Independence Hall the march returned to Market Street and toward City Hall where they were greeted by 350 veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic. These aged veterans of ’61 through ’65 had requested to be included so as to salute the young veterans of today. Those that could stood at attention as the 28th marched by, bringing tears to many an eye as these heroes of old paid tribute to the heroes of today.
The Division next entered the Parkway which was lined by the Stars and Stripes and the flags of the Allies and designated a “Court of Honor.” Grandstands had been erected for the families of the men marching. Here the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and wives were seated so that they would have an unobstructed view of their boy when he strode past. Ten thousand people filled the grandstands and the street. Also in these grandstands, in a section of honor, were seated the mothers and fathers of those men who made the ultimate sacrifice. To them salutes were given as each unit marched by.
The mothers here intently searched the faces of the passing men to find their boy. And when they did they were often overcome with emotion. Tears of joy and relief flowed from the eyes of these brave women. They had given their boys to a terrible task and now they were home. When a son was spotted a cry could be heard from his mother calling out his name. They were men now marching tall and proud but in the loving eyes of these mothers they saw just their little boys.
The last unit in the line of march was the most solemn, for it was dedicated to those not returning. It consisted of a caisson carrying 68 wreaths, one representing the Commonwealth as a whole and the others representing each of Pennsylvania’s counties. The caisson was accompanied by an honor guard of 8 men, 4 on each side and each man a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross. It was pulled by 6 majestic white horses and behind it a flag bearer held aloft a large service flag of blue silk. On it were tiny gold stars in a circle with the number “4025” representing the number of men of the 28th who answered the last roll-call. The wreaths were laid at the base of the Liberty Bell in a ceremony at the conclusion of the parade. Whenever this cortege passed every hat was removed and all heads bowed in respect.
For the mothers in the grandstands, this was the most heart-wrenching of sights. When the caisson passed by most wept, including those whose sons had come home, for these women understood the pain felt by those whose boy would not return to their mother’s loving embrace.
From the Parkway the troops marched to Spring Garden Street and back to Broad Street and then north to Diamond Street where General Muir, “Uncle Charlie” as many of them called him, reviewed each unit and give a formal farewell to his men. Then the doughboys proceeded to Lehigh Avenue and up to Shibe Park. Here the men enjoyed a hearty lunch.
There were pyramids of food awaiting them, a true feast for the eyes and palate after an 8 mile march. The menu included 19 sides of beef, 38,000 potatoes, 10,000 pieces of sponge cake, 1,200 loaves of bread and all the coffee they could drink. The feast was organized by the Red Cross which also supplied 300 volunteers to serve and assist the men. The men thoroughly enjoyed the banquet. Most also took the occasion to remove their boots and enjoy the feel of the cool green grass of the ballfield on their sore feet.
The last march of these “Iron Men” of the Iron Division concluded in just under 2 hours. After lunch some men would visit family and friends while others would begin boarding trains for Camp Dix. Over the course of the remainder of the day 23 trains would leave North Philadelphia Station for Camp Dix where demobilization will take place. They left us as young men, even boys. They left homes, firesides, schools, shops, factories, farms and mills on a great crusade to save the world from tyrants and despots. Now they have returned, boys no longer. They have been forged into men by the fire, smoke and the tumult of battle at Chateau-Thierry, Fismes, the Vesle River and other clashes against the enemies’ best troops. But now they are back and returned to home and loved ones, knowing that they have made the world safe for democracy. May they forever be remembered and honored.
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