By Tara V. Kohlenberg —
Museums tell the stories of our lives over and over again in detail. It becomes challenging to present annual events – like Christmas – in a new and interesting way. Our current special showing is an 18-month long exhibit of War Stories: Memories of New Braunfels in WWI, so Christmas during WWI is an easy pick.
Since that time frame predates us by quite a few years, Keva headed for the archives to find an image to create the scene. Image found. Perfect. The archives, however can provide just as many puzzles as it can solve. The photo is catalogued as “Christmas tree given to the children of Amanty, France, 1917. Unfortunately, it came to us and was catalogued during the early years of the museum, when very little detail was included about the donors or the provenance of the artifact. With a little further research, we learned that Amanty was located in the Meuse department in Lorraine region in northwestern France. Early in 1917, farmer’s fields were appropriated to set up a temporary airfield, or aerodome, about one mile from Amanty by the French escadrille (squadron) C4. Most temporary airfields during WW1 made use of already existing fields for takeoffs and landings. The hangars were fashioned of canvas stretched over metal tubing frames providing cover for aircraft maintenance. Wooden structures were built for barracks, operations offices, and other out buildings. In October 1917, the escadrille C 43 and 1st Aero Squadron made Amanty their home. The airfield was then used by the U.S. 1 Corps Observation Group School and 91st Aero Squadron.
WWI was the first war of the industrial age, bringing with it the use of poison gas, submarines, tanks and aerial warfare. “Aeroplanes” were just coming into military use at the beginning of the war. Initially, they were used mostly for reconnaissance. 1 Corps Observation Group School trained both pilots and observers for the new aerial observation and photography. The 91st Aero Squadron was assigned to general surveillance. The 91st Aero Squadron, originated at Kelly Field, on August 21, 1917. From there they traveled to New York and New Jersey before being shipped overseas. They arrived in France on November 15, and at “Amanty Aerodrome” on December 14, 1917. Could the photo of the Christmas tree have been taken at that time? The photo shows a tree with decorations of looped tinsel, American flags and paper ornaments. Small parcels and cards surround the bottom. Above the tree, it is easy for you to see the ceiling joists of the hanger-like building. American doughboys sharing gifts with the children in war-torn France is such a beautiful expression of the Christmas spirit!
The “Amanty Christmas tree” scene was recreated on the stage of this year’s Weihachtsmarkt in honor of those American doughboys and flyboys. The Sophienburg continues its centennial commemoration of the American involvement in WWI by adding the Amanty Christmas Tree to our “War Stories” exhibit.
You can visit the Sophienburg Museum and Archives Tuesday through Saturday to learn about the history and heritage of New Braunfels and Comal County. We invite you to bring your children out on December 5th to learn about and experience the “Legend of St. Nikolas”. This annual event is only $5 per family and includes a short program, a children’s activity and an opportunity to walk through the exhibit floor. Choose either the 5:00 pm or the 6:30 pm program. by calling 830.629.1572 to make your reservation. Space is limited.
- Sophienburg Museum & Archives
- History of 12th Aero Squadron; History of 91st Sqadron; Amanty Airdrome – Wikipedia