Journey Log: Centennial – Third Ride
Published: 18 May 2023
By John Sterkendries
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site
John Sterkendries is riding his 2013 Harley-Davidson Police Electra Glide motorcycle across the United States on a multi-year mission (top center) to find to places, monuments, and people with a relation to World War I in America to which to donate memorial clay figurines (top right) to honor American fallen soldiers. The 600,000 figurines were created to represent 600,000 victims from all countries who fell in Belgium during WWI. In this article, John provides a diary of his latest completed trips in 2021 and 2022.
My plan for this third ride was to drive along the Mexican border, making my way from Houston, TX to Tucson, AZ. Once I would’ve made it to Tucson, AZ, I’d make a quick stop in Pittsburgh, PA to pick up my daughter for us to then fly back to Belgium to celebrate the holidays. When I was making the final preparations to leave Houston, TX however, I was messaged by the director of the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin, TX; Mr. Jeff Hunt. Mr. Hunt invited me to a Christmas party at the museum and I made the decision to stay in the Houston, TX area during this third trip and would continue with my original plan another time. With this, my new itinerary became Houston – Galveston – Austin (Texas Military Forces Museum) – Houston.
I’ve also decided that I’ll be riding up to Kansas City, Missouri during my next trip and donate a statue at the WW1 Museum and Memorial. This trip will take me on a 2,794km journey through 11 states. (I also use this trip to visit as many states as possible. When I have fully driven this big trip I want to have visited all the states of the USA.) Once this has been achieved, I will then continue my original itinerary and make my way to Tucson, AZ.
With this housekeeping done, what follows documents my third ride of this fantastic journey. Continuing what I’ve been doing for the past two rides, I went looking for WW1 related monuments, people and their stories and general interesting stops again. I have to admit that you will find some WW2 related things in this story as well however.
The Houston Cemetery.
As I still had some time before I had to head up to Austin, TX; I decided to look online for some WW1 related sites nearby. One of the places that I found was the Houston Cemetery. On their website I found out that there were many soldiers of WW1 laid to rest here. I have listed three resting places that I found on the Houston Cemetery’s website. On my next ride, I will be laying some flowers by these resting places as a token of my sincerest respect. Because it would be impossible for me to perform this gesture for each resting place, I decided on these three at random.
I decided to contact Mr. Henriquez Jose, who is the Administrative Officer of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Henriquez was kind enough to invite me to visit the cemetery. It was only after I drove into this cemetery, that I understood the sheer size and soothing beauty that this resting place holds. Mr. Henriquez was waiting for me at the entrance and told me about the history of this magnificent place. After his explanation, I donated a statue to him (statue kindly donated by Coen Coox).
Henriquez Jose with statue donated by Coen Coox.
They were also renovating the main entrance of the Cemetery.
Mr. Henriquez went on to inform me that the main entrance of the cemetery was being renovated and that the statue would be given a special place of honor at the entrance of the main building with a plaque detailing its story once the renovations are completed.
The National United States Armed Forces Museum.
At the end of my previous trip, I rode to the National United States Armed Forces Museum in Houston, TX. Unfortunately I was out of luck and the museum was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because I had some more time in Houston, TX during this trip, I decided to give it another go. Lucky enough for me, the museum was open and they were kind enough to offer me a comprehensive guided tour for several hours. The man in the picture below was my tour guide and surprised me with many facts and interesting WW1 stories!
The museum also carries various vehicles that are always kept in ready-to-use in case of natural disasters such as hurricane, flooding, etc. This even includes a helicopter with a pilot that’s immediately deployable. The museum currently has several vehicles it’s going to restore.
The WW1 Memorial Monument in the Heritage Society Plaza Houston.
My next Google search brought me to the WW1 Memorial Monument in the Heritage Society Plaza Houston, TX.
The bronze and granite memorial commemorates the local soldiers who died in World War I. It features a bronze plaque depicting an eagle and displaying a list of names, all set within a granite block.
WW1 Memorial Monument in the Heritage Society Plaza Houston, TX
All American pawnshop PASADENA, TX.
A simple pawnshop. This is something I’ve always seen on television in Belgium but something we don’t have in our country. My curiosity got the better of me and I had to stop and visit.
Galveston’s World War I Memorial.
100 meters from the Gulf of Mexico.
The Mexican Telegraph Company – The Zimmermann Telegram.
I had read online that there was a Telegraph Company Post in Galveston, TX where history had been made. After a few hours of searching and asking many passersby, I found the post behind a beautiful historic building. When I finally passed this building and I asked the neighbor who was working outside if he knew what I was looking for, he told me that he had lived there for a while but didn’t know any telegraph post or historical building. I chuckled as I thought “It’s 100 meters from your house!”. This reminded me of the fact that there are multiple interesting monuments, museums, and stories in Belgium that I don’t know yet myself. The stories from far away tend to be more interesting than those in your own environment.
Behind this beautiful house I found the Telegraph Company Post.
The wires that went into this small shed had received a message that has deeply influenced American history.
The Zimmerman Telegram has also been quoted in The Doughboy Foundation’s podcast:
“First Into Germany: Sgt. Roy Holtz – And He Did It On a Harley”
How One Telegram Helped To Lead America Toward War
Published: 25 February 2022
Doughboy Foundation – How one telegram helped to lead America toward war
This telegram, written by German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann, is a coded message sent to Mexico, proposing a military alliance against the United States. The obvious threats to the United States contained in the telegram inflamed American public opinion against Germany and helped convince Congress to declare war against Germany in 1917.
Between 1914 and the spring of 1917, the European nations engaged in a conflict that became known as World War I. While armies battled in Europe, the United States remained neutral. In 1916 Woodrow Wilson was elected President for a second term, largely because of the slogan “He kept us out of war.” Events in early 1917 would change that hope.
In January of 1917, British cryptographers deciphered a telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German Minister to Mexico, von Eckhardt, offering United States territory to Mexico in return for joining the German cause. To protect their intelligence from detection and to capitalize on growing anti-German sentiment in the United States, the British waited to present the telegram to President Wilson. Meanwhile, frustration over the effective British naval blockade caused Germany to break its pledge to limit submarine warfare. In response, the United States severed diplomatic relations with Germany in February.
On February 24 Britain released the Zimmermann telegram to Wilson, and news of the telegram was published widely in the American press on March 1. The telegram had such an impact on American opinion that, according to David Kahn, author of The Codebreakers, “No other single cryptanalysis has had such enormous consequences.” It is his opinion that “never before or since has so much turned upon the solution of a secret message.” On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress formally declared war on Germany and its allies. The Zimmermann telegram clearly had helped draw the United States into the war and thus changed the course of the war, which ended with an armistice, an agreement in which both sides agree to stop fighting, on November 11, 1918.
(Decoded message text of the Zimmermann Telegram)
FROM 2nd from London # 5747.
“We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal or alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President’s attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace.” Signed, ZIMMERMANN.
On my way to Austin.
The Alamo. San Antonio.
The Texas Air Museum Stinson Chapter in San Antonio, TX
On my way to Austin, TX, I visited the Texas Air Museum in San Antonio. Unfortunately for me, an employee informed me that it was closed. After we introduced ourselves to each other, this friendly and helpful man, Mr. Luis John Soria mentioned that he had to work there for a few hours and that I could walk around freely. I was amazed by their collection; the museum had a lot of nice material from WW1.
Herbert M. Mason.
Born in Waco Texas on August 10, 1898.
In late 1915 he joined the Texas National Guard and served along the Tex-Mex border with the 2nd. Texas Infantry Regiment as 1st. Sergeant of M Company.
In the spring of 1918 1st.Sergeant Mason was among the first to enlist in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps.
The U.S. had a few Instructors and fewer training planes and send the initial Fifty American fledgling aviators to England to be trained by the Royal Flying Corps.
Later, another 160 Americans were shipped to England, making 220 in all.
They were sent to various airdromes in England to learn to fly Maurice Farmans, Avros, Sopwith Camels, Spads, SE-5s, DH-9s and heavier airplanes.
Mason ended the war as a pilot with Boom Trenchard’s Independent Air Force flying Handley-Page 0/400 night bombers over Germany.
His crew members were Alfred “Shorty” Gaipa and Dan Waters, men with whom he had trained in England.
They held American commissions but wore the wings of the RFC.
About half of the original 210 Americans who flew with the RFC (later the RAF) were killed in combat or in training accidents.
Mason flew with the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington Field as a captain in the 1920’s.
During World War II he spent 42 months in England with the First Air Division, 8th Air Force.
He served with a B-29 outfit on Okinawa during the Korean War and ended his Air Force career with the Strategic Air Command.
He saw most of it!