Joseph P. Veit was just 25 years old in 1917, when he was drafted to fight in World War I. Hailing from the Vailsburg section of Newark, a largely German-American and Jewish community, he was sent to fight on the Western Front as part of the 78th Infantry (“Lightning”) Division, 312th Regiment. His grandson, Richard Veit, chair of Monmouth’s History and Anthropology Department, says his grandfather shared many memories of the war with him.
“One of his stories was about shooting down a German biplane with his machine gun team,” says Richard. “He saved a piece of the cloth covering from the plane after it crashed. He also claimed that the food in the trenches was supplied by the British and consisted largely of mutton, which was, in his estimation, pretty awful.”
Following Joseph’s death, Richard inherited a trunk that had belonged to his grandfather. Inside it he discovered a treasure trove of memorabilia from the war. Some of the items, including a needlepoint and welcome home banner (pictured), had belonged to Joseph. Others were keepsakes given to him by his comrades. Joseph collected the items well into his 80s, as he was one of the last survivors of the regiment.
These artifacts, along with about 150 others, are currently on display in the Monmouth University Library as part of an exhibit marking the centennial of the United States’ entry into WWI. The items were crowdsourced from a dozen people, including many in the Monmouth community, by Specialist Professor of Public History Melissa Ziobro, whose experiential Museum and Archives Management Basics class curated and developed the displays, which include various memorabilia from British, American, and German troops.
The WWI exhibit spans two floors in the Monmouth University library and runs through the end of the year. Admission is free.