Trench Warfare: World War I trench offers living history experience

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette The World War I & the Copper Country replica firing trench is taking shape rapidly, complete with duck boards. Floor boards of the trenches were called duck board, which were designed to keep the soldiers above of the mud and water in the bottom of the trench. Sandbags are being placed, using old sacks donated from a local barn.

HOUGHTON — The special commemoration World War I & the Copper Country (WW1CC) is creating a replica of a firing trench on US 41 and MacInnes Drive, one of the projects noting the centennial of the World War I armistice.

The trench project, which began on Friday, is still under construction but quickly taking shape.

The armistice ended the fighting of the Great War on Nov. 11, 1918, at 11 a.m. — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The planning for the centenary commemoration began in 2014, 100 years after the war began.

“In 2014, I attended a National Endowment for the Humanities conference.” said Sue Collins, professor of Humanities at Michigan Technological University. “There was a grant to do a symposium, so I applied for that.”

After the symposium, Collins decided she wanted to start a community-wide program commemorating WW I and the Copper Country’s involvement.

Collins said that due to sabbatical scheduling and other issues, she decided to do it at the end of the war, so two years ago she formed a committee.

“We started planning two years ago, and the first thing I said was ‘I want to build a trench.’ I talked to the insurance people, building and grounds, and facilities, and we got the go-ahead,” she said.

The trench was designed by Stan Vitton, civil engineer, and Gregg Richards of Engineering Services. Consulting was provided by Steven Walton, Social Science Department and military historian, and Lt. Col. John O’Kane of the Air Force ROTC at MTU. Construction is being coordinated by Construction and Civil Engineer Kris Mattila, with volunteer work coming from the MTU football team.

The trench will open officially Sept. 24 and will remain open to the public for visiting until Sunday, Nov. 11, when there will be a closing ceremony with musical performance and honor guard, at which time the trench will be filled in.