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Fidelity Triangle

Fidelity Triangle

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This triangle is a tribute to those brave soldiers who fought and died in World War I. For the 1921 opening of the park, the Knights of Columbus Fidelity Council presented a German cannon from the war to the City of New York, which was displayed in this park. The Board of Alderman (predecessor to the City Council) named the park to honor those who paid the supreme sacrifice for their country, and for the Fidelity Council’s commemorative symbol.

World War I (1914-1918), which President Woodrow T. Wilson (1856-1924) called “the war to end all wars,” cost a total of 8,538,315 lives, with 364,800 from the United States, including 13,956 from New York State and 7,455 from New York City.

World War I erupted in the summer of 1914. The nations of Europe formed two Alliances - the Allied powers, led by France and Great Britain, and the Central Powers, led by Germany and Austria-Hungary. In February 1917, after 30 hard fought months, Germany chose to ignore the neutrality of the seas and declared unconditional submarine warfare on all shipping, angering President Wilson (1856-1924). Within three weeks, the U.S. formally declared war on the Central Powers. Young American men rushed to enlist and join in the European war effort.

World War I proved to be a bloody stalemate. Both sides endured its duration in six to seven foot-deep trenches. Men in the trenches suffered under the constant bombardment of shells and the spray of machine gun fire. With both sides dug in, seldom could either side successfully advance more than 10 yards a day. Early in the war, the German army began using chlorine gas to suffocate their enemy, and by 1917, they had advanced to mustard gas, which caused painful and deadly blisters. Although the German forces were the first to use gas, the Allied forces began to use the technology shortly after.

Although both sides constantly attacked one another, the trenches themselves took nearly half of the lives lost in the war. Heavy periods of rain created mud, which made being clean and dry virtually impossible. The water that accumulated in trenches and artillery craters, where soldiers took cover as they advanced, sometimes drowned men where they lay. The perpetual dampness also resulted in trench foot. The soldiers’ feet would swell, turn gangrenous, and often need to be amputated. Other atrocities of the trench included swarms of lice, dysentery from unsanitary water, a thriving rat population, and the psychological effects of the incessant roar of bullets and shells overhead, known as shellshock.

The American forces were thrown into the heart of entrenched France. Of the total 364,800 American casualties suffered over the course of the war, 117,000 occurred during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which began in September 1918, and lasted six weeks. The war ended on November 11, 1918 and forever changed the way the world thought about warfare.

Fidelity Triangle, bounded by Engert and Meeker Avenues and Monitor Street, is a small traffic triangle with three London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia) and seven World’s Fair benches. The middle is planted with shrubs. Mayor Giuliani provided $28,171 in 2000 for site repairs. The most notable feature of the triangle, a memorial stone, is dedicated by the Knights of Columbus: “In memoriam William Gall P.C.K. For devoted service to Fidelity Council 495 K of C 1870-1950.”

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