Virginia Soldiers recover World War I German mortar

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Richmond-based Combined Support Maintenance Shop recover a World War I era German mortar that had been lost for more than 40 years July 7, 2016, near Petersburg, Virginia. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Richmond-based Combined Support Maintenance Shop recover a World War I era German mortar that had been lost for more than 40 years July 7, 2016, near Petersburg, Virginia. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Richmond-based Combined Support Maintenance Shop recovered a World War I era German mortar that had been lost for more than 40 years July 7, 2016, near Petersburg, Virginia.

“In gratitude for the United State’s role in World War I, the Republic of France sent some of the captured German equipment to the U.S. Government and the U.S. Army to serve as permanent symbols of the shared victory, and the heavy mortar was one of the cannons presented to the Army and the Virginia National Guard,” said retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Al Barnes, the Virginia National Guard command historian. “The mortar was on display in front of the Petersburg National Guard armory from the 1920s to the early 1960s, but when the armory was partially demolished and the site turned over to a Petersburg business, the mortar was carried away and unaccounted for until it was recently rediscovered. It will now be refurbished and will go on display at the new Virginia National Guard Joint Force Headquarters building scheduled to begin construction later this year, and it will serve as reminder of the sacrifices made by all Virginians during World War I.”

Barnes said the recovery of the mortar is significant because we are now in the middle of the WWI Centennial ceremonies and celebrations.

The Virginia National Guard also recently celebrated the 100th Anniversary of its deployment to the Mexican border as part of the campaign against Pancho Villa and unveiled an exhibit describing that campaign in cooperation with the Virginia War Memorial, Barnes said.

“Somewhat ironically, recently Virginia Guards Soldiers were training at Fort Bliss, Texas, in preparation for another deployment to the Middle East,” he said.

Barnes said that in April 2017 there will celebrations to honor the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States into World War I. In August 2017, there will also be a recognition of the birth and organization of the 29th Division at Camp McClellan.

“The Virginia National Guard served in the 29th Division in WWI and played an important role in the Meuse-Argonne campaign that brought the war to an end,” Barnes said. “More than 5,700 Soldiers of the 29th Division were killed or wounded in the Meuse-Argonne fighting.”