The Department of French and Italian

Remembering World War I

Sun, November 9, 2014

UT alumnus Henri LaCour proudly served as a lieutenant for the French Army during World War I. Now his memory will be celebrated along with thousands of other veterans on November 11 in Houston. The World War I hero’s grandson will present a monument at the event to commemorate his grandfather’s service.

 Lieutenant LaCour was part of the Fifth Artillery of the French Army from 1910-1914. Some of his honors include the Croix de Guerre and La Fourragere, both of which were awarded for outstanding bravery at Verdun in 1916. Shortly after, he began school at UT in November 1918. While at UT, LaCour served as president of the Cercle Francais, an informal conversation practice for French students. The cercle is still active today, meeting in the Texas Union every Friday.

 A larger ceremony will take place at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio on November 14 in which Consul General Sujiro Seam will bestow the French Legion of Honor to 19 World War II American veterans. 

While researching Lieutenant LaCour, we found some other interesting tidbits about UT alumni who served during the The Great War. 1932 was the year Italian artist Pompeo Coppini unveiled Littlefield Fountain, a monument erected in honor of Texas students who died in World War I. Sitting proudly in front of the UT tower, the monument features Army and Navy soldiers on both sides, with goddess Columbia in the center holding the palm of peace and the torch light of freedom. The monument, inscribed in Latin, reads “Short life hath been given by Nature unto man; but the remembrance of a life laid down in a good cause endureth forever.”  Beneath the inscription is a bronze plaque that includes the names of UT alumni who served from 1914 to 1918. Although there is no complete record of UT veterans that served in World War I, we do know that at least 75 of them died in battle. Thousands of UT students and visitors pass by the memorial everyday—a constant reminder of the school’s veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

 November 11, 1918 was an unforgettable day on the UT campus. Coined “Glorious Monday,” it was the day an armistice was signed, officially bringing The Great War to an end. The entire UT community celebrated along with the rest of the city, participating in parades and gathering in Wooldridge Park to hear speeches from local political figures like the governor and the wife of the Secretary of the Navy.

 Spring 1919 saw a curve of luck, however, when the worldwide epidemic of the Spanish flu made its way into the UT campus. The school was closed for weeks at a time, students were quarantined, and public gatherings were postponed. Even churches were banned from holding services in an attempt to contain the influenza, which is most closely related to the Avian influenza (bird flu) of contemporary times. Approximately 20 to 40 percent of the worldwide population fell ill to the virus, and an estimated 50 million people died. After classes officially resumed at UT on November 4, 1919, strict measures were adopted in order to promote the health and safety of people on campus. Each student was required to take his or her temperature every morning before attending class. Classrooms were also aired between classes. After four months of strict abidance to the new protocols, influenza on the UT campus went from rapidly declining to virtually nonexistent.

 

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  • Department of French and Italian

    University of Texas at Austin
    201 W 21st Street STOP B7600
    HRH 2.114A
    Austin, TX 78712-1800
    512-471-5531