A colonel serving as an intelligence office in the American 1st Division on the front line that November morning wrote this of his experience a few years later:
"On the morning of November 11, I sat in my dugout which was our division headquarters, talking to our Chief of Staff, Colonel Greely, and Lieutenant Colonel Peabody. A signal corps officer entered and handed us the following message:
Official Radio from Paris - 6:01 A.M., Nov. 11, 1918. Marshal Foch to the Commander-in-Chief.
1. Hostilities will be stopped on the entire front beginning at 11 o'clock, November 11th.
2. The Allied troops will not go beyond the line reached at that hour on that date until further orders.
MARSHAL Ferdinand FOCH
Supreme Allied Commander
World War I had come to an end. It began four long years earlier in July of 1914.
Differences in foreign policies and restrictive alliances were to blame, although the initial cause was the assassination of Austria’s Archduke. In total, 30 countries were involved in the conflict.
In fact, 100 years ago just last month, the United States Congress declared war on Germany and joined the campaign. Soldiers fought mostly in trenches during the war, and thousands suffered from battle stress, known then as shell-shock. The British and French trenches were often squalid and dirty, whereas the German trenches were almost luxurious in comparison, with bunks and decent cooking facilities. Known as The Great War and The War to End All Wars, World War I sadly lived up to its names. By its end, over 9 million soldiers had been killed, and another 21 million wounded. Over a million soldiers perished in the infamous Battle of the Somme alone, including about 30,000 in just one day. Around 11 percent of the population of France was killed or wounded during the war. Nearly 116,000 Americans died, even though the United States was only in the war for about 7 months.
Dogs were used to carry messages in capsules attached to their body. Dogs also carried and placed telegraph wires in critical areas. Pigeons were used. About 500,000 of them were regularly dropped into enemy lines by parachute and then sent back with messages. The employment of artillery and explosives was often deafening. In 1917, the explosives that were used to destroy a bridge in France could be heard over 130 miles away in London. The Big Bertha was one of the most famous was a 48-ton artillery gun capable of firing a shell over 9 miles. It took 200 men several hours to assemble it. Tanks were introduced, and the use of airpower would change the battlefield like never before.
Our 2017 Hometown Hero served at the center World War I. Mr. Paul Ballinger was born in West Mansfield in November of 1892 his parents were George and Sarah Elizabeth Ballinger. He married Mary Blanche Baxley and had one child Mary Jane Ballinger-Vermillion and three grandchildren. Some of the grandchildren are with us today. His parents moved to East Liberty, and he played baseball for East Liberty High School. He would later use his baseball skills to help pay his way through Otterbein College where he earned his business degree. He had a great love for playing and watching the sport and was even asked to try out for the Chicago White Sox but turned down the offer to return home and help his father run the family-owned meat market. He also served as Post Master for several years in East Liberty. As Post Master, there are stories of how he would pick up packages and pay for the postage of men serving in the military. Ballinger was proud of being a soldier and serving his country. His military service was in the army during World War I and where he was stationed mainly in France. Mr. Ballinger became a Sergeant 1st class and a personal secretary to General John "Black Jack" Pershing, the commander of the American forces. He was later a member of the 258th Aero Squadron, a reconnaissance unit that stayed active as an occupation unit shortly after the war while performing tests on German planes. After the Great War was over, he came back to East Liberty and lived there with his family until his death in February of 1984. A member of the Masonic Lodge in East Liberty, Sergeant Ballinger is buried right over here where the flags are on display. We say today, thank you for serving as an example of who we are here in East Liberty and what we can dream to be. While certainly not the only one, Sergeant Paul Ballinger is this year's hometown hero.
Speech by Tyler Hall