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World War I Centennial News


On set(l to r) Sculptor Sabin Howard, WW1CC Chair Terry Hamby, and FOX & FRIENDS host Steve Doocy discuss the scale-model sculptural maquette of the new National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC, before recording the segment about the Memorial for the daily program last week.

'Fox & Friends' show tapes segment about the National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

Last Friday, TV's 'FOX & FRIENDS' morning show taped a studio-segment, featuring our new National World War I Memorial for Washington DC.

The show segment is slated air sometime during the week of February 19th. After airing, the segment will be found here:

Chair Terry Hamby and sculptor Sabin Howard represented the Centennial Commission, and talked about the project's progress with 'FOX & FRIENDS' host Steve Doocy.

They unveiled -- for the first time on national television -- the new scale-model maquette, which depicts the memorial's sculptural design concept.

Read more: 'Fox & Friends' show tapes segment on National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC

CFA 021518 01Sculptor Sabin Howard (left) describes details of the scale-model sculptural maquette for the new National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC, presented to the the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) as part of scheduled regulatory reviews of the memorial's design concept .

New National WWI Memorial design continues to gain ground

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

WASHINGTON, DC — On Thursday, 15 February, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission publicly presented its updated plan for a Memorial to be integrated into Pershing Park in Washington, DC. The presentation included artist Sabin Howard's scale-model sculptural maquette for the new National World War I Memorial. The maquette represents the sculptural element to the memorial being designed by Howard's collaborator, designer Joseph Weishaar. The two have been leading a Design Team, working on the memorial since 2015.

The maquette depicts a symbolic World War I soldier's story through the cycle of his wartime experience and the experience of the nation.

The presentation was for the benefit of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), as part of scheduled regulatory reviews of the memorial's design concept by oversight agencies, which include the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC).

Reaction was generally positive, with suggestions on further development of various aspects of the design concept. CFA Chair Earl Powell said “The presentations were excellent”, and remarked on the project’s design, saying “It has come a long way.” Decisions were made to review certain detail issues of the memorial site, to include location & length of the sculptural elements, and their collaboration with other elements in the park.

Read more: New National WWI Memorial design continues to gain ground

Honoring African American women who served in the Army Nurse Corps in World War I

By Yasmin Chaudhury
Staff Writer

mums312 b165 i038 001Photo of the nine of the African-American U.S. Army nurses at Camp Sherman, 1919. Photo courtesy of the David Graham Du Bois Trust, and the Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst LibrariesDuring Black History Month, we honor eighteen African American women who served in the Army Nurse Corps stateside during World War I.

Little is known today of their full story. However, the story of their courage has lived to this day.

We know that these nurses all came from Freedmen's Hospital, now Howard University Hospital, in Washington DC. and were assigned to Camp Sherman, in Chillicothe, Ohio.

According to the Army Medical Department's Office of Medical History, at the onset of World War I, administrative barriers existed within the Army Nurse Corps and the American Red Cross that prevented African American nurses from joining the war efforts. With political and public pressure building for acceptance of African American nurses for the war cause, plans were made to permit them to apply to the Army Nurse Corps. It was not until the last months of World War I, during the influenza epidemic of 1918, that the Army and the Red Cross began accepting these nurses who were so willing to serve.

Read more: Honoring African American women who served in the Army Nurse Corps in WWI

World War I Nurse Frances Reed Elliott Davis 

By Jessica A. Bandel
via the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources North Carolina in WWI web site

Frances Reed Elliott DavisFrances Reed Elliott DavisWorld War I nurse Frances Elliott grew up knowing very little about her deep roots in Cleveland County, North Carolina. Her great great grandfather, Martin Elliott, was one of the county’s earliest settlers and a Revolutionary War veteran. Her grandfather—Martin’s grandson Edward Donoho Elliott—was a well-respected farmer and Methodist minister in the community who died before she was born. War veterans, church organizers, and community pillars proliferated in her family tree. Such a storied history, and yet, she knew so little of it.

Frances likewise knew little of her mother, Emma P. Elliott, who succumbed to the effects of tuberculosis when she was just five years old. Though there were many extended family members who could have taken in the orphan, one key factor intervened and drastically altered the course of the young girl’s life forever. Frances, you see, was black. The Elliotts were not.

Frances Reed Elliott Davis was born on April 28, 1883, fifteen miles northwest of Shelby, North Carolina, to a white woman, Emma, and Darryl, a half-Cherokee, half-black sharecropper. Darryl’s mother was a former slave of the Elliott family, and it is likely that Emma and Darryl grew up together on the family estate located on Hinton’s Creek just west of present-day Polkville.

It’s unclear when Emma and Darryl’s relationship began, but by 1882, their “tragic love affair,” as a close friend of Emma’s called it, threatened to become a very public matter when Emma became pregnant. State law prevented the two from marrying or even cohabitating, so any thought of settling down as a family must have evaporated as quickly as it materialized. Unspoken social codes were harsher, however, forcing Darryl to flee the state under threat of being lynched.

Emma too left North Carolina, eventually settling in Tennessee, but not before paying a visit to the Cleveland County courthouse where she made out a will bequeathing her forty-nine-acre share of the family estate to her daughter. If anything should happen to her, Emma thought, at least Frances would have that. Emma paid one last visit to her brother-in-law, Confederate veteran L. E. Powers, at Christmas in 1887. It was most likely the last time she was home. Within a few months, Emma would be dead, throwing the fate of her daughter to the wind.

Read more: World War I Nurse Frances Reed Elliott Davis

Marguerite and Norman McCreary - A World War I Love Story

By Caitlin Hamon
Staff Writer

The great William Shakespeare wrote "Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks / But bears it out even to the edge of doom" (Sonnet 116.)

Poem 600Original manuscript of the poem "A Widow’s Wish" by Marguerite McCreary, written in memory of her husband Norman McCreary, who died in battle in 1918. (Click for larger image.)This was especially true for war Widow Marguerite McCreary. She tragically lost her husband to combat, but continued to love and grieve for him long after he had died.

Eric McCreary Nager, her great-nephew of Marguerite, and retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Army Reserve, discovered several poems written by her for her beloved. Upon further research, Eric also found newspaper stories about his Great Uncle's war service. Eric graciously provided us with these precious materials, along with his story:

Q: Tell us about how you learned about your Aunt and discovered her writings.

I was working on the WW1 project last year as a military historian for the Army Reserve, and just retired at the end of last year after 28 years.

In the Great War, my Great Uncle Norman McCreary was called to duty and killed very early on in the action. Norman died about exactly a year after they were married and he shipped out before then, so they only had a few months together. His widow, my Great Aunt Marguerite, wrote those poems as a way to cope with her grief. I am told she was in mourning for the rest of her life. I never met her, but my cousins, William McCreary and Beverly Pennington, shared her story with me.

I had heard of the poems and my cousins each produced a copy at my request. Then Beverly sent me the newspaper clippings. I wanted to obtain a photo of Marguerite, so my cousin steered me to Geneva College where they (my Aunt and Uncle) both graduated. The staff were able to locate an old yearbook in addition to more information on Aunt Marguerite. The photo of her is courtesy of the school.

Read more: Marguerite and Norman McCreary - A World War I Love Story

American Combat Airplanes of The Great War

via the Military Factory web site

Martin MB 1After sitting out much of the early part of World War 1, the United States finally entered the conflict on the side of the Allies and helped to change its course for good.

Tied down by Wright Brothers patent issues and a non-committal government, aviation design, development and production in the United States was stymied leading up to World War 1. As such, American air power during the conflict was stocked with many European types when the nation committed to war in 1917. Some homegrown developments eventually did materialize though American aces were born largely through piloting British- and French-originated fighters.

There are a total of 48 U.S. World War 1 Aircraft (1917-1918) - American Combat Airplanes of The Great War in the Military Factory. Entries are listed below in alphanumeric order (1-to-Z). Flag images indicative of country of origin and not necessarily the primary operator. Immediate pre-war and post-war types are also included in this listing.

Read more: American Combat Airplanes of The Great War

Belgium, U.S. involvement in World War I 

By Stéphanie Borrell-Verdu, USAG Benelux Public Affairs
via the army.mil web site

CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- This year marks the centennial of the end of World War I. On this anniversary, it is important to understand the involvement of Belgium in the Great War as well as the consequences that the conflict had on its population.Battle of MonsIn an undated photo, a woman talks to Soldiers who were wounded in the Battle of Mons which took place on Aug. 23, 1914 in Belgium during World War I. (Photo Credit: U.S. Library of Congress)

German Occupation

Belgium had been a neutral country since the Treaty of London in 1839. So how did the country get involved in World War I? Well, the answer is simple: Germany's Schliefen Plan. Germany declared war on France. To avoid the French fortifications along the French-German border, the troops had to cross Belgium and attack the French Army by the north.

Of course, Belgians refused to let them through, so the Germans decided to enter by force and invaded Belgium on Aug. 4, 1914. By doing so, they violated the Treaty of London, which is why Great Britain, that was bound to guard the neutrality of Belgium, entered the war.

Belgium's small Army could not defeat the invaders, but they did manage to slow them down. Despite their resistance and the British Army's help, the German troops soon invaded the country, which remained in their hands for four years until the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918.

The Battle of Mons

The fiercest battles took place in Flanders, but Wallonia also played a major role in the war and suffered tragic consequences. Mons, for example, was the scene of several major events during World War I. The Walloon city is often referred to as "The First and The Last," because the first and the last British Soldiers that died during the war were actually killed in Mons. It also staged both the first and the last Allied engagements of the war. Moreover, some of the most mysterious events of World War I happened during the Battle of Mons, such as the famous legend of "The Angels of Mons." On the night of Aug. 26, 1914, several British Soldiers claimed that angels carrying bows came down from the sky to help them at a crucial time and saved their lives. However, it seems that this was a fictional story by the Welsh writer Arthur Machen, who published it in the London newspaper Evening News.

Read more: Belgium, U.S. involvement in World War I

Wisconsin filmmaker creates documentary of WWI female telephone operators

By Meg Jones
via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel web site

They were known as the "Hello Girls" — American women fluent in French and English who answered the urgent call for telephone operators needed in France during World War I.

They took oaths to join the U.S. Army Signal Corps, underwent training by AT&T before boarding ships to Europe, heading to war before most of the American Doughboys arrived in France, connected 26 million calls and ultimately proved to be a significant factor in winning the war.

And then they were forgotten.

636539658295530615 MJS operators MEG JONES 013Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I, reviews American female telephone operators who provided a critical job during the war connecting phone calls and translating conversations between American and French troops. When the women who served in the Army Signal Corps returned home after the war and tried to join veterans organizations they were told they were civilian contractors and were not veterans. Efforts to get them veteran recognition took more than six decades. (Photo: National Archives)A documentary filmmaker from Wisconsin has created a one-hour film about the American phone operators who served in the Army Signal Corps during World War I to shine a spotlight on a group of brave, selfless women who were not officially recognized for their work until it was too late for most of them.

The film will be shown at the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on March 1, almost 100 years to the day the first ship carrying women phone operators left the U.S.

"Telephone technology was really what America brought to the war," said Jim Theres, a Racine native who hopes to bring the film to Wisconsin this year. "Women by World War I had dominated the field as telephone operators. Gen. John Pershing (commander of the American Expeditionary Forces) said we have women who do this in America and I need them over here."

The Army's initial request for 100 volunteers was greeted with 7,600 applications. A total of 223 women — including two with Wisconsin connections — eventually traveled to France.

This was two years before women in America were allowed to vote.

"Every command to advance or retreat or hold fire was delivered by telephone and it took an operator to connect that call," said Elizabeth Cobbs, author of "The Hello Girls: America's First Women Soldiers," published last year.

Read more: Wisconsin filmmaker creates documentary of WWI female telephone operators

WWI centennial exhibitions open at Virginia Museum of History & Culture 

By Bill Lohmann
via the Richmond, VA Times-Dispatch web site

You will certainly see genuine military uniforms and well-worn boots in the extensive new World War I exhibition – really, two exhibitions as part of the centennial commemoration of the Great War – at the newly renamed Virginia Museum of History & Culture, but you also will find displays on other goings-on in American society at the time: movies and music, as well as social issues such as the poor treatment at home of African-Americans, women’s struggle for the right to vote and prohibition.

5a83a8ce1d279.imageA Red Cross nurse uniform worn by a nurse in Richmond, VA during World War I, part of the new exhibit at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.“I think the key takeaway about this exhibit is that it’s not another exhibit about war,” said Andrew Talkov, vice president for exhibitions and publications at the museum, known until last week as the Virginia Historical Society. “It’s about how the war changed the country that we live in today.”

“WWI America,” a 6,000-square-foot national traveling exhibition about World War I, opens Saturday at the museum, as did a close-to-home companion exhibition down the hall, “The Commonwealth and the Great War,” with artifacts drawn from the museum’s collection. The exhibitions are part of a yearlong commemoration of the war that will include public events on Memorial Day, July the 4th and Veterans day. A half-dozen public lectures also will have the war as a topic.

“We will dive deep and thoroughly throughout the year to cover the subject that not enough people are talking about 100 years later,” said Jamie O. Bosket, president and CEO of the museum. “It’s amazing how it didn’t get its due before, and it’s forgotten now, but you could argue it has as much consequence on Virginia as almost anything to that point.”

The story told in the exhibitions begins in 1914 – three years before America joined the war – and continues through 1919, the year following the end of the war.

World War I came at a time of remarkable technological advancement, represented in the exhibition by the telephones used in the first transcontinental phone call. Still, communication in those days was much more of a grassroots process, with many Americans getting their news about the war from neighborhood newsstands, public gatherings, fences plastered with government propaganda posters and even “Four Minute Men,” a group of volunteers authorized by the U.S. Committee on Public Information to give talks about the war effort during the four minutes it took projectionists to change the film reels in movie theaters across the country.

This was a war bridging the era between horses and horseless carriages: horses and mules were used by U.S. forces, but so too were Model T Fords. Within the exhibition is a reproduction of a Model T that was modified into a Red Cross ambulance, which serves as an interactive display with the voices of actors telling the stories of those who were wounded in the war.

Read more: WWI centennial exhibitions open at Virginia Museum of History & Culture

Yale exhibit explores struggle over American identity during WWI 

By Mike Cummings
via the yale.edu web site

The black-and-white photograph shows four African American soldiers posed beside a solitary grave in the French countryside at the close of World War I.

Roosevelt graveSoldiers pose at the grave of Quentin Roosevelt — the youngest of Theodore Roosevelt’s four sons to serve in France. An aviator, Roosevelt was killed in aerial combat at age 20. His famous name made his grave a pilgrimage site for American servicemen.An ornamental enclosure surrounds the grave, which is marked by a large decorative cross. It is the burial site of Quentin Roosevelt, a fighter pilot and the son of former President Theodore Roosevelt, one of the fiercest advocates for American involvement in the war. The Germans had buried the younger Roosevelt where his plane had fallen on July 14, 1918. The grave had become a pilgrimage site for American soldiers, who were drawn there by the dead man’s famous name.

The image is featured in “An American and Nothing Else: The Great War and the Battle for National Belonging,” an exhibition that opened on Feb. 12 in the Memorabilia Room at Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library. Curated by Anna Duensing, a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of History and the Department of African American Studies, the show examines the America’s involvement in World War I from the perspective of the country’s most marginalized residents, particularly African Americans and immigrant communities.

The exhibit draws on materials — including photographs, posters, pamphlets, and propaganda pieces — housed at Yale University Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Department and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The Beinecke’s Randolph Linsly Simpson African-American Collection, which depicts African American life from the 1850s to the 1940s, was a particularly important resource, Duensing said.

The patriotic fervor surrounding the nation’s war mobilization occurred against a backdrop of protest, racial violence, and nativism on the home front. About one-third of Americans at the time were immigrants or the children of immigrants. Jim Crow controlled the South and the Great Migration of southern blacks to northern cities was underway. It was a period of upheaval and hypocrisy in which the United States proclaimed itself a beacon of freedom and democracy while subjecting many of its own people to injustice and oppression, Duensing said. 

Read more: Yale exhibit explores struggle over American identity during WWI

Professor: World War I's legacy mixed in Montana

By Kristen Inbody
via the Great Falls Tribune (MT) web site

The most significant result of World War I: The world as it is now, the good and bad.

A less noted consequence was closing hours for the bars in Butte, said Harry Fritz, a popular and award-winning history professor at the University of Montana, at the February 16 "U to You" lecture at Great Falls College-Montana State University.

Harry Fritz lectureHarry Fritz, University of Montana history professor, describes the consequences of World War I at the February 16 U to You lecture in Great Falls. (Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/KRISTEN INBODY)Butte bar owners used to pitch the key to the front door when they opened the bar since the doors would never close in that 24/7 city. That changed, like everything, with the advent of war.

Empires fell. Monarchies ended. Power shifted. Millions died. The lines of another century of conflict were cemented. A flu pandemic.

In Montana, the war has a mixed legacy.

"Montana's economy boomed during the Great War. The homestead era reached its peak. The sex ratio evened out for the first time. Ample rainfall. High commodity prices. Farmers didn't have a better year until the 1970s," Fritz said. "Anaconda couldn't produce copper fast enough ... Butte likes to claim to this day it won the first world war by producing copper."

In Montana, the war doomed the progressive movement that had given the state women's suffrage, workers' compensation, the election of Jeannette Rankin and other reform-minded leaders that held a national profile and Prohibition, "which some people call a reform, but I call it the absolute succession from the civilized world ... though Prohibition had one beneficial aspect in Montana. It resulted in the discovery of Canada." 

Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, represented a state with a huge Irish population, a significant German population and Finns, Fritz said."Rankin was an authentic pacifist, and she represented a sizable anti-war constituency," he said.

She was elected at-large but then the state changed to district elections and she came in second on the Republican primary. The whole move to districts may have been designed to prevent her re-election, Fritz said.

"Many in Montana thought it (entering the war) was a mistake, and there are a number of historians who would second that, but my perspective is Germany was torpedoing American ships and killing Americans so what were we supposed to do?" Fritz said.

Read more: Professor: World War I's legacy mixed in Montana

Watertown, CT students help build the National WWI MemorialPoppy Seeds 300

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

We recently received a wonderful letter from the parents of two students of St. John the Evangelist High School, in Watertown, CT. The students, Taylor Gibbs and Lyvia Bartoli, brought our Centennial Commission's Poppy Seed Fundraising Program to their school, to help raise awareness for our World War I veterans, and to help raise money for the new National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC, and for their own school's charity efforts.

Through their efforts with the Poppy Seed Program, they grew in awareness of the contributions of the men & women who served in World War I, and the two students decided to donate the money they raised directly to our National World War I Memorial. 

We have been truly touched by this generous gesture, so we wanted to share their parents' letter with you all, along with our sincerest expression of thanks to these young people.

Read more: Watertown, CT students support Memorial with poppy seed sales

Corporal Freddie Stowers awarded Medal of Honor for service and sacrifice in WWI

By Nicole Renna
Staff Writer

Corporal Freddie Stowers was an African American war hero born in 1996 in Anderson County, South Carolina.

7430144 1052776144Corporal Freddie Stowers 7430144 121106776433Despite the discrimination he faced there, he made the decision to serve our country on the segregated 371st Infantry Regiment. He was serving as the squad leader in Company C of that regiment, in the 93d Infantry Division, during the attack on Hill 188, in the Champagne Marne Sector of France. He was killed in action that day, but his exceptional bravery and leadership lived on, earning him the Medal of Honor posthumously.

At the attack September 28, 1918 attack on Hill 188, enemy units fired down on Corporal Stowers company only for minutes before holding up their arms in surrender, prompting American forces ceased fire and come out into the open. When Stower’s unshielded men were roughly 100 meters from the trench line, the enemy soldiers jumped back into their trenches and unleashed bands of machine gun fire and mortar fire on them, causing over 50 percent casualties.

Despite these conditions, Stowers heroically crawled forward through the fire, inciting that extraordinary bravery in his quickly-falling men.

They fought fiercely to dismantle the machine gun fire in the first trench, and then Stowers courageously pressed his men forward towards the second trench, getting gravely wounded in the process. He continued onward, urging his men to do the same, until he succumbed to that injury. His courage, strength, and devotion so inspired his squad that they continued to push forward after his death and so, despite their terrible odds, contributed greatly to enemy casualties and the capture of Hill 188.

Read more: Corporal Freddie Stowers

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