Tag Archives: military

Leaving the Killingly Homefront – WWI

In 1914 began one of the most significant wars that happened across the world, World War I. President Wilson had campaigned on the slogan, “He kept us out of the war.” So in 1917, when he declared that the United States would enter the war, he needed to convince the homefront to support the war efforts. He created the Commission on Public Information (CPI) to persuade citizens to support the war. 

M Jacques Baseball KHS

Merrill Clinton Jacques

The activities of the CPI were successful in that there was a massive outpouring of support for the men when they left home for the armed services.

Here is the story of one young man from Killingly, Connecticut, Merrill Clinton Jacques, about the time when he left for the war and the support he received from family and friends. The photograph is of Merrill when he was on the East Killingly baseball team.

From his draft registration card, we learn that Mr. Merrill C. Jacques was a Caucasian male who registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 at precinct 3 in Windham County, CT, USA when he was 25 years old. He was born July 4, 1891 in Killingly, CT. He wasn’t married when he filled out the card.

M Jacques Draft Reg

Draft Registration Card

His physical characteristics were short, medium build, brown eyes, and he was bald. Mr. Jacques worked at White Stone Worsted Company, a cotton mill located in Elmville, CT.  An interesting entry on the card is that in response to the question on prior military experience he stated he had for two years and four months been a private in the C.A.C.

When it was time for Merrill to leave for the war, 75 of his family and friends gathered and gave him a party at his father’s house. There even was a dance! He was given a watch, and Mrs. R.P. Gates wrote him a poem, which was read at the party. The poem is about when you go to the war and you feel lonely, look at the watch and think of us, your family and friends.  Our prayers will be with you “until Merrill returns to us at last.” I found this poem in the Fall 2017 issue of the Killingly Historical Journal.

M Jacques Danielson Depot KHS

Danielson, CT Railroad Depot

The Historical Society has a 1917 photograph of crowds of people at the Danielson train station sending their men off to the war, the same station from which Merrill probably departed.  Merrill survived the Great War and at 50 years old was drafted in World War II. He is buried in the South Killingly Cemetery.

From this research, I Iearned that during the World War I period, the U.S. government wanted to convince people to join and support the war. I believe we need to respect and be grateful for the men who went to war.  If they had not done so, my classmates and I may not be able to come to this school and country to study. Thank You.


“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZFK-X3M : 13 March 2018), Merrill Clinton Jacques, 1917-1918; citing Windham County no 16, Connecticut, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,570,495.

“When Leaving for World War I.”  Killingly Historical Journal. Fall 2017. Volume 23. Page 10.

Coolidge, Natalie L., and Robert A. Spencer. Images of America. Killingly. Arcadia, 1999.

Photo Credits:


Picture of Merrill C. Jacques. Photo courtesy of Killingly Historical Society.
Picture of Killingly Railroad Depot. Coolidge, Natalie L., and Robert A. Spencer. Images of America. Killingly. Arcadia, 1999.

Clear or Yellow Lenses?

The American military soldiers in World War I carried upwards of a hundred pounds of gear and ammunition. As a part of their equipment, they were issued a canteen for water, a Browning machine gun, and a gas mask. Their rifles weighed in at about nine pounds, and the weight has not really changed since. It seems that the military created these infantrymen to become pack mules.  Nicandro Mazzarella, from Danielson, CT, was one of these infantrymen in World War I. From his draft registration card, we learn that he was of a medium height with brown hair and black eyes. When we think of the American military, we might assume that everyone is a United States citizen, but Nicandro lists himself as being a citizen of Italy. However, he had declared his intention to become a U.S. citizen. After coming to the States, he became a weaver and a farmer in Windham County in the town of Killingly.  

To find out more about Nicandro Mazzarella, my class traveled to the Killingly Historical Society, which has a small museum. Imagine my surprise to discover a World War I bayonet, gas mask, canteen, and helmet that belonged to my soldier, Nicandro Mazzarella. I wondered how that gas mask could  provide any protection for the soldier.

KHS Gas Mask 20180113_140506

Nicandro Mazzarella’s WWI gas mask at the Killingly Historical Society Museum

In my research about gas masks, I learned from Doran Cart, senior curator at the National World War I Museum in St. Louis, that if the lenses of the gas mask have a yellow or orange tint they have seen combat. I also learned that all soldiers were issued a shaving kit which allowed them to stay clean-shaven, which made it easier for soldiers to fit their gas masks snugly over their faces.

Gas masks were necessary in World War I because of the German’s use of poison gases such as mustard and hydrogen. For decades after WWI, gas masks were rarely used.  However, with the current threats of terrorism around the world, gas masks now are useful, practical, and popular again.


“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.” Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 20 September 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M1509. Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/results?count=20&query=%2Bgivenname%3ANicandro~%20%2Bsurname%3AMazzarella~%20%2Bgender%3AM&collection_id=1968530



Photo Credit:

Author by permission of the Killingly HIstorical Society