LAWRENCE — Just more than 100 years ago, an estimated 5,500 Lawrence men fought in World War I, called at that time the Great War.
About 200 of them died on the battlefield or in hospitals. Thirty-six of them have bridges, parks, playgrounds and squares named for them.
City Councilor Marc Laplante did extensive research and put together videos about these 36 Lawrence soldiers who never came home. Many of them are buried in France.
One of the Lawrence soldiers who did not return, Pvt. Paul Lorenz, was an immigrant from Germany. He was drafted into the Army and sent overseas to fight his own countrymen.
Lorenz was killed in action Sept. 28, 1918, near Binarville, France. He fought in the massive Meuse-Argonne offensive. His story is narrated by former City Councilor Jay Dowd.
Paul Lorenz Park in the Prospect Hill section of Lawrence is named for this soldier. Lorenz sought exemption from the Army, saying he had "weak eyes," according to the research of Laplante and others. Nevertheless, he was drafted and sent overseas.
The O'Connell South Common is named for Philip O'Connell, another Lawrence soldier who lost his life at an early age. O’Connell was a surgical assistant in the 39th Infantry, 4th Division. He was killed in action Aug. 1, 1918.
O'Connell was born in Lawrence in 1887. He lived at 166 Bailey St. and graduated from Lawrence High School in 1904. He then graduated from Boston College and wrote for The Lawrence Telegram before serving in the Army.
He is buried in France. His story is narrated by Sue Fink, project manager for the rehabilitation of O'Connell South Common.
Laplante recruited dozens of narrators to tell the stories of the soldiers who lost their lives. Gov. Charlie Baker narrated the story of Henry Mann, who served in the 103rd Field Artillery. The small bridge that carries Route 114 over the South Canal is named for him.
Other narrators include Mayor Daniel Rivera, former Mayor Michael Sullivan, City Council President Kendrys Vasquez and City Councilors David Abdoo and Pavel Payano.
Mann was born in Boston in 1898. Both of his parents died when he was young so he was raised by his aunt and uncle, Bertha and Daniel Decourcey. They lived at 170 Parker St., not far from the bridge named in Mann's honor.
Mann worked at the nearby Merrimack Boiler Works. When the United States declared war in April 1917, he enlisted in the Massachusetts National Guard.
He fought in the Meuse-Argonne offensive and was seriously wounded. He was taken to a base hospital, where he died Nov. 16, 1918, a mere five days after the armistice ended the war. He was 20.
Vasquez narrated the story of Samuel Kaplan, for whom Samuel Kaplan Square, at Cedar and Cross streets, is named. Kaplan was born in Russia and immigrated with his family to the United States when he was a young child.
He worked in his father's clothing business, according to Vasquez. He enlisted in the Army and was killed Feb. 26, 1918, in the Chemin des Dames sector in France. He was 20.
Laplante has visited the cemeteries in France where many of Lawrence's sons are buried. He and his family place Lawrence city flags at the graves of the local soldiers.
"I thought it was important to tell the story of these guys we have forgotten," he said.
The entire Lawrence World War I Project can be accessed at www.lawrencefreelibrary.org/Blog.aspx?CID=2. Channel 22 often airs segments of the project, according to Laplante.
The series can also be accessed on Facebook, he said.