Almost one year after the end of World War I, in September of 1919, General Pershing led 24,000 “bronzed veterans and victors of battles that saved the world for liberty” through the streets of Washington D.C. in a grand victory parade. Citizens were invited to “make the greatest possible noise so that the fighters shall ever remember their final review as the greatest the nation could give anywhere.”
Imagine the streamers and flags, the men in full combat equipment, often riding combat transportation, the cheering lookers-on, the music playing, even their path, lined by red and white roses. Roses, red and white, to symbolize the blood they shed and the sacrifices they made. The Washington Post urged citizens to “Think, then, when you see them in their pageant of victory, of their 209 officers and 4,690 men who are sleeping in France.”
Some of those fallen soldiers were North Dakotan’s, fresh-faced and fighting in conditions for which they were unprepared. But on this date, a personal interest item linked to this event was printed in the Grand Forks Herald:
“Mrs. Myrtle Lehman, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Tullis of Fargo, has originated one of the beautiful ideas that is to be carried out in conjunction with the big Victory parade.” At the time, Myrtle Lehman was secretary to Commissioner Clover of the Federal Trade Commission. She had made a suggestion “that a single star on a banner of white represent the supreme sacrifice made by the American soldiers, rather than a gold star for each instance.” The flag was officially recognized, and production of it soon began.
Mrs. Lehman was in charge of making the banner, which was estimated to be about twenty feet long, and ten feet wide, sewn together with an estimated 20,000 stitches. It was supported by two poles, and over the single star, “surmounted by golden eagles,” they planned on putting the inscription, ‘The Boys We Left Behind Us.”
This banner was a connection that brought the ceremony even closer to North Dakota, acting as a prelude to the grand finale of this celebration of victory in the country’s capital.
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
Grand Forks Herald, Thursday, February 13, 1919, p6
The Washington Post, Wednesday, September 17, 1919, p1