Arts, Culture & Media

The Gold Star Mother Pilgrimages and Remembering Fallen Soldiers from WWI

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The Gold Star Mothers' Pilgrimages of the 1930s

On this Memorial Day, we're going to revisit a forgotten chapter of US history. In the years following World War I, many widows and mothers of fallen US soldiers had a choice: Have the remains of their loved ones returned for burial in the US, or have them remain where they fell, in Europe.

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Some 30 percent opted for the latter. But for the next decade, groups of widows and mothers began lobbying Washington. They wanted to government to help them visit the final resting places of their family members. Many of the mothers were called Gold Star mothers, because many displayed a gold star as a symbol that they had lost a son in war.

In 1929, the US Congress agreed to invite these women on a "pilgrimage" to the graves of their loved ones. Between 1930 and 1933, nearly 7,000 women took the government up on its offer of an all expenses paid trip to Europe.

John Graham is the author of "The Gold Star Mother Pilgrimages of the 1930s." He tells Marco Werman more about who went on these pilgrimages, and why.

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