307th Infantry Memorial
This stand of oak trees just south of Rumsey Playfield is a monument to the men of the 307th Infantry (77th Army Division) that gave their lives during the First World War.
Members of the 307th were notable for their participation in the battle later dubbed the Lost Battalion. On October 2, 1918, units of New York's 77th "Liberty" Division advanced into the Argonne Forest in France. They were surrounded by German troops and although they were low on ammunition and had very limited food, shelter and access to water, managed to hold on under intense enemy fire until reinforcements arrived six days later on October 8. Only around 200 of the 600 men survived and the heroism of the men resulted in numerous awards and, later, dramatic works.
The oak trees were planted in a series of ceremonies from 1920-1922. 14 bronze plaques that were originally on iron enclosures around the young trees were later transferred to concrete pedestals at the bases of the trees. The NYC Parks Department Website states that the memorial was dedicated in 1925.
A large natural boulder monument was added sometime between 1926 and 1928. It was inscribed, "To the Dead of the 307th Infantry A.E.F., 500 Officers and Men 1917-1918," and had a bronze tablet on the back with the names of the fallen from the war.
An additional stone monument was later added by the Knights of Pythias (a fraternal service organization) to commemorate ten (apparently Jewish) members who were killed in the war (only one of whom was in the 307th).
When I visited in the winter of 2008, the memorial was in considerable disrepair with most of the trees having long-since expired and three of the 14 plaques missing. The site had no historical marker and could easily be passed unnoticed.
The 77th Infantry Division Reserve Officers Association initiated improvements of the memorial grave over time, including a 1998 replacement of the stolen master plaque, and a 2012 restoration of the three stolen company plaques, along with maintenance of the vegetation.
Next: Seventh Regiment Memorial of 1861-1865