By Barbara Van Reed
Douglas residents might pass by Carter’s Square without knowing who or what it’s meant to honor.
The square, a small island at the junction of Manchaug Road and Gilboa Street, is named for Michael Carter, the only soldier from Douglas to die in World War I.
Michael Carter was a member of the Lost Battalion, one of around 550 men in the 77th Division, 197 of whom were killed in action, 150 were missing or taken prisoner, and 194 were rescued. The battalion was isolated by German forces in early October 1918 after launching an attack into the Argonne Forest in France.
“We don’t have too much information about how he was captured or killed,” says Ron Tetreau, senior vice commander of the Joseph J. Michna VFW Post 7554 in Douglas, “but we think he died November 5, 1918, just days before the Armistice.”
The discussion to refurbish and rededicate Carter Square began several years ago, said Mr. Tetreau. The Post wanted to mark the 100-year ending of World War I in a special way.
The current plaque on the square has the names of the 70 Douglas men who served in World War I. One of them, Michael Carter, has a star by his name, signifying that he died in battle. The memorial was placed there in the 1920s, said Mr. Tetreau, and is simply labeled World War, as there had been only one at that time.
“Though a small town, Douglas has sacrificed a great deal,” said Mr. Tetreau. With a population of less than 2,000, Douglas sent 200 men to fight in the Revolutionary War and 240 in the Civil War, 40 of whom were killed. “That was more than 10 percent of the population, he noted.
The plan to honor Michael Carter was coordinated by veteran John Zifcak, service commander at the Post. He was able to obtain from Northbridge an unused plaque-ready stone. The stone had carried the name of Marine Lance Cpl. Thomas S. Perron, one of 241 servicemen killed in a bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983.
When Northbridge constructed the new bridge over the Mumford River on Douglas Road in 2015, the bridge was dedicated to Lance Cpl. Perron, and the stone was no longer needed. The Town agreed to let Douglas have it, and John Furno, Douglas highway superintendent, moved the stone to its new home by the flagpole in Carter Square.
A plaque for the stone with Michael Carter’s name on it has been ordered but may not be ready by Veterans Day. The formal rededication will take place at a later date.
The St. Denis Women’s Council will be marking the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I, honoring the veterans, at the St. Denis Mass on Sunday morning. “People may not know it,” said Mr. Tetreau, but the St. Denis Women’s Council was established to support World War I families.”
Funding for the new Michael Carter stone and plaque came from the VFW. Refurbishment of Carter Square was accomplished with the help of a $1,100 donation from the Dynamic Douglas Day event held in August.
Other members of the VFW Post 7554in Douglas instrumental in the commemoration effort include Post Commander Justin McCallum and Quartermaster Dennis Zifcak.