The armistice monument on West Haven’s green was dedicated in 1928 to honor local residents who died in World War I. Over the years, the monument and its surroundings have been revamped and rededicated to honor heroes of later conflicts, including the current war in Iraq.
The monument, on the Main Street (north) side of the green, is topped by an 11-foot bronze statue of a doughboy solider, who stands atop a granite base holding a rifle in one hand and a helmet in the other, outstretched, arm. (The origins of the term “doughboy” vary, but it apparently referred to infantry troops during the Civil War. During the first world war, U.S. troops adopted it as a nickname for themselves and its meaning expanded to all branches of the service.)
The West Haven doughboy was sculpted by Anton Schaff, who also created a number of war memorials in New York and New Jersey, as well as several Confederate busts at Vicksburg (MS) National Military Park.
A plaque on the front face of the West Haven’s monument’s base features four military figures (soldiers, an airman and a sailor) gathering with four civilians laborers and a dedication “to the memory of those who gave their lives in the great war 1917-1918.”
Beneath the dedication is the American’s Creed, a pledge, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, that was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1917.
The other three faces of the monument’s base bear bronze plaques listing the names of 29 West Haven residents who died in World War I. Over the years, additional plaques were added to honor the residents who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and smaller plaques reading “for those who gave their lives – World War I” were affixed to the bottom of the original plaques.
Near the base of the monument, a separate granite marker has been dedicated to the memory of Thomas E. Vitagliano, 33, an Army staff sergeant who grew up in West Haven and Orange. Vitagliano and another soldier were killed Jan. 17, 2005 by an improvised vehicle explosive device in Iraq.
West Haven’s firefighters are honored by a bell-topped monument not far from the doughboy statue.