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The Story Behind The World War I Statue Outside East Hartford's Library

Jesse Leavenworth
Contact Reporterjleavenworth@courant.com

He stands guard in front of the public library on Main Street, a reminder of the service and sacrifice of East Hartford soldiers in World War I.

The doughboy, as U.S. soldiers in World War I were called, has been refurbished in preparation for a 100th anniversary commemoration of the war’s end on Saturday.

Here’s some background information on this bronze veteran:

Does he have a name? How did he get here?

Titled “Ready,” the statue was sculpted by John Paulding of Chicago and made in the American Bronze Foundry in Chicago. The same statue serves as a WWI memorial in other cities around the nation, including Denver, Pueblo, Colo., and Van Buren, Mo., East Hartford native and amateur historian Tom Hogan has found.

When was the statue erected?

The East Hartford statue was dedicated on Oct. 5, 1929, the 12th anniversary of the first East Hartford soldiers arriving in France. The ceremony followed a parade with more than 2,000 participants, including hundreds of soldiers, said Richard Donahue, a historian studying Connecticut’s World War I connections. An estimated crowd of 8,000 looked on as three children of East Hartford veterans unveiled the statue.

Did the town and state play a big role in the war?

Eighteen service members from East Hartford died during the war. About 67,000 state residents served, and of those, a total of about 1,100 died, either in battle or from disease, principally the Spanish influenza.

Also, Yanks and Europeans fought with Hartford-made Colt pistols and machine guns, brass bomb shells made in the Naugatuck Valley and trench knives forged at Landers, Frary & Clark in New Britain. Connecticut workers supplied grenades, rifle slings, mess kits, overcoats, underwear, haversacks, gas mask valves and a thousand other items, from horseshoe nails to anti-aircraft guns.

How much did the statue cost?

A war memorial committee worked for two years and raised $7,000 from 4,800 contributors, Donahue found.

“The East Hartford monument is a brilliant example of the local sentiments regarding memorials following the World War,” he said.

Among the state's other prominent memorials to World War I are the 90-foot-tall monument at Walnut Hill Park in New Britain and Bristol's white granite monument on Memorial Boulevard.

What’s happening with the doughboy statue now?

The town restored the statue in preparation for the centennial commemoration, set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday outside the public library. The monument was cleaned, repaired to fill small holes and coated with wax to create a more uniform appearance and preserve it, town officials said.

“The restoration of the monument is instrumental in keeping the memory of those who served alive for another century,” Mayor Marcia Leclerc said. “My hope is that residents will attend the commemoration ceremony to pay tribute to those who fought for our freedom.”

The ceremony is being organized by the library, volunteers from the WW1 Commemoration Committee and representatives of VFW Rochambeau-Elms Post 2083.

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