WWI Doughboy statue, vandalized in the 70s, rededicated

U.S. WWI Centennial Commission Commissioner Dr. Libby O’Connell and the East Coast Doughboys in front of the newly renovated WWI monument.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

A monument honoring the sacrifices of Bronx soldiers serving in World War I was rededicated during the centennial year of the conflict’s end.

The statue, known as the Highbridge Doughboy – depicting a World War I American infantryman dressed in uniform with a rifle – was rededicated amid fanfare after a massive restoration following four decades in storage.

The rededication of the bronze, seven and a half foot artpiece took place on Friday, September 28 at Macombs Dam Park.

It was placed on its original eight-foot tall granite pedestal in a planting bed at Jerome Avenue and West 161st Street, across the street from Yankee Stadium, at the gateway of the Highbridge community.

The statue was originally dedicated in 1923 in honor of service men from Highbridge, then a community of over 10,000 people, who served in what was known as ‘The Great War.’

It was originally located at University and Ogden avenues and was later moved to Bridge Playground, near the Washington Bridge, where in the 1970s it was vandalized by drug addicts who stripped the monument of all sellable metal, such as the doughboy’s bronze gun and even the name plate that was affixed to the pedestal.

Members of the NYC Parks Department, NYS Division of Veteran Affairs, U.S. WWI Centennial Commission, The East Coast Doughboys, veterans and elected officials turned out for the rededication of the Highbridge Doughboy Monument.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

Eventually it was put into storage for safekeeping.

The statue received a $250,000 renovation by NYC Parks Department’s Citywide Monuments Conservation Program with additional support from the United States World War I Centennial Commission and A+E Network’s HISTORY channel.

The rededication of the statue, which honors 21 servicemen who gave their lives from the community, is a source of pride for many in the Highbridge, veteran and borough communities.

“The Highbridge Doughboy represents the bravery of the great servicemen from the Bronx, and it’s wonderful that it once again stands proud at its new permanent site in Macombs Dam Park,” said Senator Jose Serrano.

The senator added that he expressed his gratitude to the Parks Department and its partners in preserving an important historical monument honoring heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom in World War I a century ago.

Joe Mondello, Bronx Veterans Advisory Council chairman said that the centennial of the war brought the statue back into the consciousness of veteran advocates in the borough, and that the borough president’s veterans council was instrumental in making sure the restoration went forward.

The unveiling and rededication of the historic Highbridge Doughboy Monument in Macombs Dam Park.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

“It was really a great honor to be there (at the rededication ceremony) because we sometimes forget the ‘lost’ history of World War I,” said Mondello, adding that while the war was a century ago, it was important to see the sacrifice of the World War I veteran brought to the forefront and recognized.

Mondello said “it is a beautiful thing to see” adding that the doughboy would stand ‘guard’ in the park, metaphorically speaking.

Among those participating in the ceremony were 11th grade students from All Hallows High School, a representative from Borough President Diaz’s office, Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, as well as representatives from HISTORY and the World War I Centennial Commission.

According to a history of the statue, it was first dedicated on Memorial Day 1923 as the Washington Bridge War Memorial and was nicknamed the Highbridge Doughboy.

The Highbridge Regular Democratic Club presented it to the city after a fundraising campaign for the statue, and at the dedication it was noted that 582 men enlisted from the community to fight for their country in World War I.

The monument cost about $7,500 to create at the time, and was made at the J.W. Fiske Iron Works.

(l-r) NYS Division of Veteran Affairs deputy director Michael Bocchini; Bronx Parks Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa; Jonathan Kuhn, NYC Parks Department and NYS Division of Veteran Affairs director of information Shannon MacColl displayed an NYS Executive Chamber Proclamation declaring Friday, September 28 a day to honoring New Yorkers’ sacrifices made during WWI.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com.

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