On #VeteransDay, Remembering the Doughboy Statue

Viquesney Doughboy Statues in Jamestown, Pikeville, Grayson, and Morehead, Ky.
(Photos: the author, identified circular from the left)

On this Veterans Day, we recall the service of those who served our nation. To those veterans, we say “thank you.” Around the country and around Kentucky, memorials stand to the veteran of the several conflicts. One of the most recognizable memorials is the Viquesney statue of which 140 known copies exist.

When in Meyersdale, Pa. in April of this year while cycling on the Great Allegheny Passage, I immediately recognized the outstretched arm of the Viquesney’s “The Spirit of the American Doughboy.”

First designed and sculpted by E.M. Viquesney in 1920, “The Spirit of the American Doughboy” went through a few design changes over the years. Though most don’t realize it, Viquesney’s doughboy is likely the most witnessed sculpture in the United States other than the Statue of Liberty herself.

In Kentucky, eight Viquesney statues are known to exist in the following towns: Grayson, Harlan, Jamestown, Liberty, Monticello, Morehead, Pikeville and Winchester. The first of these to be installed was the Monticello doughboy in January 1923; the last was in Jamestown 75 years ago today on Armistice Day, 1936.

Beyond being noted as Veterans Day in the U.S., November 11 has a symbolic meaning in our country and around the globe for on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” in the year 1918, hostilities with Germany ended thus concluding “The Great War” (n/k/a World War I). In America, this date was celebrated for years as Armistice Day until after the conclusion of another great war – World War II – that the date became known simply as Veteran’s Day. In other countries, November 11 is referred to as Remembrance Day.

I am particularly fond of the original term Armistice Day because of its historic context. The young Americans in the early part of the twentieth century crossed the ocean to fight the Germans in an era when crossing the ocean wasn’t something you did for reasons other than immigration.

Whatever its name, it is a day to thank the men and women in uniform who have served our country. And though many people only recognize today as being a day when schools, banks and government offices are closed, it is because our soldiers fought that we can enjoy our freedoms today.