Tales of war keep history alive Historical society sponsors summer class


WESTMINSTER -- Relaying the tales as if they had happened yesterday, Paul Englar gladly told the five middle-school boys about his adventures in the military.

But to the students -- raised on Vietnam, Grenada and the Persian Gulf -- the 98-year-old Westminster resident's stories of World War I seemed like ancient history.

"I always say the First World War was like a Boy Scout expedition compared to all the others that followed it," Mr. Englar told the county historical society's "Carroll's Military Involvement" class on Wednesday.

"We had more time on our hands. One of the trenches we used that had been built by the Germans had a piano in it, so you know how long they had lived in those dugouts."

The one-week class, which ended Friday, was one of two offered to elementary and middle-school students by the Historical Society this summer. Students in the other class explored archaeology by helping excavate the property behind the society-owned Shellman house.

Both classes were divided into two age groups; the younger children had their classes two weeks ago.

"Carroll County has a rich military tradition," said society curator Jay Graybeal, who taught the $100-per-student class. "We covered the general history, why we were involved and then looked at the artifacts worn and carried by countians."

Mr. Englar, who spoke to both age groups, recounted traveling in May 1918 with Battery F of the 58th Coastal Artillery to Europe on the Leviathan -- the largest ship afloat at that time. At 23, he was one of the oldest men in his unit.

Then, after receiving training in radio communications, Mr. Englar finally was sent to the front in November 1918.

"The joke we had was that they had been fighting that war for four years and it only took us two weeks to stop it," Mr. Englar said, noting that the Armistice was signed in Paris on Nov. 11, 1918. "But, they had planned to stop before then, there's no doubt about it."

Assigned to clean-up duty, the former Maryland National Guard unit did not return home until May 1919, about a year after they left Carroll County.

"We all thought we were going to get to go home right away," Mr. Englar told the boys. "But we had to help all the other units go home. Later, they claimed that there wasn't enough room on the troop ships to bring all of us home at one time."

Back home, Mr. Englar went to work for a bank in Baltimore, retiring in 1959 at age 65. He then had a second career as an employee of the Orioles for 19 years.

While on the war front, Mr. Englar said, he always felt relatively safe because the Germans hadn't developed short-range guns like the Americans'. So, using recognizance biplanes to judge their accuracy, the American troops came close to a hill and shot the weapons over it, a distance about as far as from the Historical Society building to the old Carroll County courthouse.

The German weapons, which had a longer trajectory, would hit targets behind the United States troops.

"It looked like a forest of telephone poles," said Mr. Englar, describing the landscape behind their camp.

The unit had only one casualty, Mr. Englar said. That was the result of an accident when the soldiers were being deloused in preparation to return home.

To remove the bugs, all the men were crowded into a large room with their equipment and treated with some type of gas. As one of the soldiers started to remove his bayonet from its scabbard, his arm was jostled and he accidentally stabbed the man next to him.

"He was the cook," Mr. Englar said of the fatally wounded man. "They always thought they were safer because they were so far behind the lines."

At the end of the veteran's talk, Mr. Graybeal told the students he wanted them to shake Mr. Englar's hand.

"Fifty years from now, when [the students] say they talked to someone who was in World War I, no one will believe them," Mr. Graybeal said. "It will be considered inconceivable that they knew someone from that time."

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