History of "In Flanders Fields"

In the spring of 1915, there was a terrible battle on a field in Belgium. Major John McCrae, a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, knew it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams and the blood of the battlefields.

After the first day of the battle there was unbelievable suffering, but there would be even more devastating carnage during the following 17 days.

One day particularly affected Dr. McCraw when a young friend, a former student, had been killed by a shell burst. The soldier was buried later that day with McCrae performing the funeral in the absence of the chaplain.

McCrae registered his anguish by composing a poem. In the cemetery, he could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Belgium. McCrae's poem was an exact description of his vision and feelings. Later the poem wound up being published in a magazine.

Moina Michael, a lady working in the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries' headquarters in New York, noticed the poem "We Shall Not Sleep" in a magazine left on her desk. That was the alternative name sometimes used for McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields." After reading the poem and being thoroughly impressed by it, she made a personal pledge to always wear a red poppy as a sign of remembrance of Flanders Fields.

At this time, also, there were conference meetings of the War Secretaries in process. Some people attending the meeting noticed Moina's poppy and were impressed when she shared the poem with them.

Later that day many people wanted a poppy from Moina, as she had found some during her lunch time. Since they had given her the money with which to buy the poppies, she considered she made the first sale of Flanders Fields Poppies on Nov. 9, 1918. Moina began a tireless effort to promote the poppy on pins, cards and stationery.