Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Monument Park - Edison Park

Location: Edison Park, Illinois

Features: Small neighborhood park with granite monument.

History: Located in the far Northwest Chicago neighborhood of Edison Park, this granite monument was dedicated in 1919.  According to the Chicago Park District, members of the Illinois Volunteer Training Corps offered this monument to honor all citizens of Edison Park who served in the United States Armed Forces during World War I.  It was accepted and maintained by the Edison Park District before being incorporated into the Chicago Parks District in 1934.  The granite column is itself an historical artifact, a remnant of the old Cook County Courthouse which was demolished in 1906.  The monument suffered from vandalism and wear over the years and was recently restored in 2008.

Among the individuals named for their service on the memorial plaque is that of Thomas A. Pope, United States Medal of Honor, British Distinguished Conduct Medal and French Croix de Guerre recipient. Corporal Pope saw his first and only action at the Battle of Hamel, July 4, 1918.  American units, including Pope's 33 Infantry Division were attached to an Australian offensive in France against German defenses.  As Pope's battalion advanced on an enemy machine gun nest, he charged ahead alone into the surprised crew and eliminated them with the bayonet.  Then he picked off nearby German squads with his rifle while the rest of his unit caught up with him in the trench.  The Battle of Hamel was an important moment for the Allies as it showcased the success of their efforts to improve cooperation between the various nations and demonstrated the power of new combined arms tactics that would defeat the stalemate of trench warfare.   For Thomas Pope, however, the war was soon over.  Two days after his heroic moment, he was the victim of a gas attack and shipped back home to Edison Park.  For his actions that day he was the first American to receive the Medal of Honor in France, and the longest American soldier Medal of Honor recipient to survive, passing in 1989 at the age of 94.  He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Traveler's Notes:  As the winter weather closes in upon us once again, this Veterans Day marks the last of this season's venture to discover all the local monuments within walking distance of home.

Resources:  Edison Park History, Chicago Park District - Monument Park, Chicago Park District - World War I Monument, Thomas Pope Wiki, Thomas Pope - Military Times, Thomas Pope - Military.com, Thomas Pope Obituary, Battle of Hamel Wiki

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