Late in 2018, the family of East Greenwich, RI, native and World War I hero, Pvt. Jesse Whaley, chose the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum to be the caretaker of his uniforms and wartime personal effects (including a helmet and gas mask). A German grenade blinded Whaley at Battle of Saint-Mihiel in France on September 21, 1918.
Since then, the exhibit has become a favorite during museum tours. Whaley’s is a inspiring story of sacrifice and survival in war. We also appreciate that Whaley’s family has visited the Armory to see their donations on exhibit and to see the rest of our historic artifacts.
But the story doesn’t end there!
Miraculously, we were contacted by a very kind person on Long Island, NY, who collects World War I dog tags. This person noticed Whaley’s actual dog tags (the ones he would likely have been wearing at the time of his injury) were up for sale on Ebay. He had been researching Whaley and his story and saw that we had his uniform on display. So, he reached out to see if we were interested before bidding on them himself. What a generous thing to do!
Also, the Ebay seller offered to refund some of the money, knowing that the dog tags would be reunited with Whaley’s other wartime possessions. Also a very kind gesture.
It’s an amazing story of chance and serendipity. And we’re thrilled to have all of these items in the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum.