New Haven, Connecticut– On the Yale Field in New Haven is where the 102nd Infantry Regiment is commemorated with a bronze plaque and a flagpole serving together as a memorial.
The 102nd Regiment Memorial is on 252 Derby Avenue. The memorial can be found across the Cullman Heyman Tennis Center next to Yale University Athletic Fields where the unit camped next to what is now Yale Bowl on the New Haven fields.
In August 1917, the Connecticut National Guard was merged with the 1st Connecticut Regiment and became the 102nd Infantry Regiment which was made a part of the 26th “Yankee” Division. The Army was somewhat split into 3 parts including the Regular Army of guys who enlisted in the US Army made up divisions 1-25; National Guard troops from around the country were divisions 26-75; and the drafted army divisions were 76 and up.
Towards the right side of the middle of the Walter Camp Field is the 102nd Regiment Memorial 80-foot-concrete flagpole. Adjacent to the flagpole is the bronze plaque mounted against a brick wall which is directly across the street from the flagpole.The street of the memorial is busy so one needs to pay attention closely in order to find it.
The bronze 102nd Regiment Memorial is 51 inches wide and 33 inches long. The memorial was constructed Aug. 9, 1942 by the New Haven Chapter Yankee Division Veterans Association. The plaque reads “This regiment which included many sons of Yale rendered distinguished service in 1918 on the battlefields of France.”
The 102nd just celebrated the 100th anniversary on Sept. 9th to commemorate the beginning of the unit, said Ed Kacey, curator of West Haven Veterans Museum & Learning Center.
“The 102nd was primarily from New Haven,” said Kacey. “But men from all over New England fought, so it would be great if more people in the area were educated on the division.”
According to a New Haven Register article from Nov. 5, 1942 the monument was given to the regiment on the behalf of Yale and would be placed at the Yale Field Exercises where the regiment had been mobilized. More than 200 people showed to the unveiling of the 102nd plaque despite the bad weather, including Brig-Gen. John H. “Machine Gun” Parker who was in command of the 102nd.
The plaque had been made by Miss Marie Dillon and Master Henry J. Dube, Jr.. The ceremony was commenced by the drum corps of YD Post led by George R. Tyrell and presided by Frank P. Lee. Bestie Leonard, one of the “doughgirls” of the A.E.F. (American Expeditory Forces) led the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
According to the New Haven Register article from Nov. 5, 1942, Capt. Philip H. English delivered the dedicatory address to the men and officers of the 102nd.
“High Tribute must be paid to veterans of the earlier 102nd,” said English, “who went forth to war with the new regiment.”
English referred to in the New Haven Register article by Churchill’s words toward the living members of the 102nd Infantry,
“Blood, sweat, and tears,” said English. “They stand ready to make further sacrifices for our country.”
In this second regiment is where the New Haven Grays were formed, said Kacey.
“Today the 102nd Memorial, 26th Yankee Division still serves as an active National Guard Reserve unit,” said Kacey. “The plaque is the exciting part because that’s where the 102nd would march. I love to show visitors of the museum pictures of the infantry marching right on Chapel St. because it hits how close to home this all occurred.”
Connecticut Fights: The Story of the 102nd Regiment is the novel that Kacey refers to as the bible of the 102nd Regiment. Captain Daniel Walter Strickland, the author, talks about the days that the unit camped out on the soccer fields right next to 279 Derby Avenue spending weeks in an exhausting drill and camp routine. John J. Pershing explains the autumn of 1917 when the camp arrived is when the unit went through course of instruction until early in 1918 to prepare for the battle against France in the Chemins des Dames sector.
According to NewHavenGrays.org, when the 102nd Infantry returned to Connecticut from battling in France they transformed into National Guard Units on Goffee Street in New Haven. Only seven minutes from where the memorial stands.
Mark Arminio, former New Haven Gray from the 26th division in 1983, said he studied the 102nd memorial himself a few years ago.
“You know I think they really need to replace the plaque onto a boulder,” said Arminio. “It does get confusing with the flagpole being connected Walter Camp Field but as a historian I am unaware of there being any connection. I believe the only connection is Yale.”
“ I’m not surprised about the plaque not receiving that much attention,” said Arminio. “Right now our country is debating over standing up for the National Anthem. I’m seriously looking forward to Veteran’s Day to lift my spirits.”
photo credit: Courtney Luciana