The World War I

Memorial Trees National Honor Roll

Memorial Trees to Roads of Remembrance

I think that I shall never see a poem
Lovely as a tree, A tree whose hungry
Mouth is prest against the earth’s sweet
Flowing breast…Trees by Joyce Kilmer
Who gave his life for France

“A hundred years from now the memorial trees you plant Will tell the story of the glory of those for whom the trees were planted.” American Forestry Association - 1919

Plant A Memorial Tree For A Dead Soldier Boy

In Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead, Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw a sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae, May 1915

“Modern war is a conflict between national resources brought into use by the contending armies. The country without these resources, of which wood is one, will be defeated before the battle is won.” The editors of the American Forestry Magazine, 1919, published by the American Forestry Association, understood the importance wood played in the Great War. Walnut was an especially valued wood, used in the production of gunstocks, ships and airplane propellers. Europe’s supplies of walnut trees were quickly depleted. The United States was the primary source for walnut. So valuable was this wood, President Wilson enlisted the Boy Scouts of America to identify and tag every walnut tree in the country. All citizens were asked to donate walnut trees in support of the war production effort. From the wealthy Guggenheim estate, to the farmer, to the urban dweller, Americans shared their walnut trees.

With the decimation of Europe’s forests an idea soon emerged, one, which would memorialize the
Great War dead and ensure a ready supply of wood in the event of another conflict; planting memorial trees.

The idea of planting trees as memorials may have originated in Great Britain in 1918 when the office of the King’s Highway issued a pamphlet titled; “Roads of Remembrance as War Memorials”. The two objectives of this program were to transform suitable existing highways “to the dignity of Roads of Remembrance adorned with trees” and to organize the building of highways “of exceptional dignity and beauty with open spaces at intervals as special memorials to the Great War.” Here in the United States, the idea first appeared in a 1918 Cleveland, Ohio newspaper article.

After the Armistice, three events played a major part in popularizing the idea to plant memorial trees. Theodor Roosevelt died in January 1919, his son Quentin was killed in the war and the bicentennial of George Washington was very near. Roosevelt
was considered a great conservationist and Washington loved walnut trees. Planted trees, especially walnut would honor all three and the soldiers killed in the war.

A Memorial Tree planting program and plaque were available for each planting ceremony and individual tree. The American Forestry Association encouraged individuals and groups planting trees to register them with the Association. Beginning in 1919 and continuing into the early 1920’s, the American Forestry Magazine published in various issues throughout the year, a “National Honor Roll Memorial Tree Register”.

Eventually, the idea of tree – planting projects, which broadened to include whole forests as “living memorials” and tree lined streets as “Roads of Remembrance” spread to other countries involved in the Great War. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and even the rugged coast of Ireland (in particular a section of the coast where submarine chasers had been very active) all recorded the planting of
memorial trees and forests and Roads of Remembrance.

From the Library of Congress, Walter Reed Memorial Hospital, Gold Star Mothers, DAR, Veteran Parks, to school children planting a tree in remembrance of animals killed in the Great War, trees as memorials were soon growing across America.

Many of these trees are still in existence. Unfortunately, along with the Memorial Tree Register they have become another “forgotten” Great War memory. “Lest we forget”, now “Let us remember”, American’s living monuments, Great War Memorial Trees and the men and women in whose memory they are planted.