Posted by Roxane Cole

A century ago, The Great War was approaching its climax, with the Western Front battered by German forces seeking to take Paris. Dug in along miles of trenches, the American Expeditionary Force, led by American General John J. Pershing and French Marshall Ferdinand Foch, was determined to repel this advance. The fate of France, and its Allies, hung in the balance.

The month of July, 1918, would prove to be a critical turning point in World War I, albeit costly in terms of lives lost. July 18 marked the beginning of that turning point as A.E.F. Forces went “over the top” early that morning at Soissons and by the time the month was over, the German advance had been successfully blunted. Paris was safe and in three months time, an armistice would be signed and the doughboys could begin coming back from “over there.”

Many, however, did not come back. We, in Rotary, know of one local lad in particular - Harold T. Andrews - whose memory lives on via the memorial square, and flagpole, that bears our imprint. Others fell as well, 67 from Portland whose names are listed on a plaque in front of City Hall. One of the fallen was an Army officer born in Gorham, a 1912 graduate of Portland High and of West Point, Class of 1917, who led his men “over the top” on July 18, and remained behind - never to return to his home, or to his wife of nine months. A small piece of him did return, however, and in a most unusual way - and eventually made an equally unusual journey than the one that brought it home to Portland.

Portland Rotarian Rusty Atwood will identify the officer, offer “the rest of the story,” and, by extension, pay homage to many others whose service and sacrifice during “the war to end all wars” has faded into history. For those among us who travel Baxter Boulevard with any regularity, they are with us still.

(Special thanks to Past Presidents Bowen Depke and Jim Willey, along with other Rotarians whose efforts during our Centennial Celebration prompted Rusty’s interest in bringing this story to a wider audience.)