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World War I Centennial News


 

African-American heroes are a part of a vanishing World War I legacy

By Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun
via Military Times

It is early fall in 1918. Imagine being an American service member crouched down in the shrouded mists of a northeastern French valley, deep in the Argonne Forest.

carol moseley braun and grandfather wwiCarol Moseley Braun and her grandfather, World War I veteran Thomas Davie.German gunfire erupts as mortar rounds land nearby. You inch forward toward the enemy with soldiers from France and Belgium on either side of you. The brutal fighting would last nearly six weeks, until an Armistice was reached between Allied Forces and Germany on Nov. 11, 1918.

Five million Americans served their country in uniform during World War I, including 2 million deployed overseas. Nearly 117,000 Americans would make the ultimate sacrifice in a battle that would change the political, global, and social order of the U.S. and its allies – reasons why this war shouldn’t become a forgotten one.

More than 350,000 African-Americans served during World War I. Overcoming racial hostilities, these brave men demonstrated through their service, love of country, patriotism and the importance of equality. The paradox for African-Americans fighting on the front lines in France was clear; they defended America’s freedoms abroad while being denied those rights at home.

Although the Civil War ended 50 years before World War I began, racial discrimination was common throughout most of America. Jim Crow laws enforced a culture of segregation. African-Americans faced prejudice from their white counterparts in the service and in civilian communities near stateside military bases.

Read more: African-American heroes are a part of a vanishing World War I legacy

Four Questions for Matthew Naylor

"It’s essential that we understand and educate the public about the Great War"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is preparing for a major national event on April 6th, 2017, to mark the 100th anniversary of America's entry into the war. The event will take place at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. Dr. Matthew Naylor, President and CEO of the Museum, is a Commissioner on the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. He talks with us about the event, the significance of WW1, and why the Museum and Memorial is the right location for this commemorative event.

The National World War I Museum and Memorial will be hosting a major event on April 6th, to mark the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I. What is the overall event?

Matt NaylorCommissioner Dr. Matt NaylorFirst, the National World War I Museum and Memorial is honored to host America’s national ceremony commemorating the centennial of the United States’ entry into the Great War. The ceremony will serve as America’s official event commemorating the day the U.S. entered World War I in 1917 by issuing a declaration of war against Germany. For those who haven’t visited the Museum before, it’s truly one of the world’s great museums featuring the most comprehensive collection of World War I objects and documents in the world as well as one of the largest and most symbolic memorials in the world. Ultimately, we believe it’s quite fitting that we commemorate the entry of the U.S. into the Great War in the very same place where millions of visitors from every continent that participated in the conflict have paid tribute for nearly a century.

In some ways, what happened on April 6th 1917 changed the entire world, and the entire century that followed. Tell us about the context, and significance, of what happened when the U.S. entered World War I.
You could make the argument that the world was at a crossroads. This global conflict was in somewhat of a stalemate after more than two years and in that relatively short amount of time, the destruction, devastation and staggering loss of life was unlike anything humankind had previously seen. Like many aspects of World War I, there may not be consensus on the overall magnitude of the impact of the United States on World War I, but it’s fair to say it was quite significant. In a matter of months, the Allies were supplied with an infusion of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and if we’re to put ourselves in the place of those serving on behalf of the Central Powers, that must have been demoralizing to a degree. For the United States, the foundation for the forthcoming American Century was laid by virtue of entering the war and demonstrating that the country belonged in the conversation as one of the world’s global powers.

Read more: Four Questions for Matthew Naylor

Four Questions for Kevin Delaney

"History often seems distant and removed from teenagers’ everyday lives"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Kevin Delaney, of Wayland MA, is one of those High School History teachers that you wished you had growing up. He thinks outside the box, he tries to make classwork relevant for his students, and he truly loves the topic of History. One day, the head of the local veterans organization gave Kevin 100+ handwritten letters written by a Doughboy to his folks in 1917-1919. The letters appear to chronicle his entire experience in the Great War. Kevin decided to use this amazing local resource -- and turn it into a memorable class project. As a result, Kevin's students are about to embark on a journey to research and write the story of this Doughboy, using all the letters and much more.  Kevin fills us in on this great project.

You and your students have a very unique project that is getting underway. What are you doing?

Kevin DelaneyKevin DelaneyOver the years I have worked closely with both the Wayland Historical Society and local veterans groups, and several months back, a fellow named John Dyer, a Korean War era vet, handed me a collection of 100+ letters written by a Doughboy to his parents. Long story, but Herman Allen’s letters appear to chronicle his entire war experience from 1917-1919. Based on the samples I’ve read, they tell a vivid story of everyday life of a private in the AEF; and he was a good boy, writing home once or twice a week for almost two years! His mother clearly treasured his words, carefully saving the letters until they fell on my lap 100 years later.

Like we have done on several previous projects since 2001, students will research and write Herman Allen’s life story, using the letter collection, census records from ancestry.com, period newspaper articles, Town Reports, and more. When we conclude, we will have published his biography online, complete with all of the records and letters, for everyone to see.

As of this writing, I have just finished scanning the collection, some 240 jpegs, so that student teams can easily and collaboratively use the sources without damaging the originals. It is important, however, that kids get to touch and read the actual letters too, for as any historian will tell, there is something transportive about physically manipulating remnants of the past, in this case what a soldier so lovingly composed in France a century ago.

Read more: Four Questions for Kevin Delaney, of Wayland High School

World War I: Online Offerings from the Library of Congress

By John Sayers
Public affairs specialist, Library of Congress.

Online offerings 500With the most comprehensive World War I collections in the nation, we are uniquely equipped to tell the story of America’s involvement in the Great War through our website.

Today we launched a comprehensive portal to its extensive holdings on the subject of World War I (1914–1918) as part of our commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. involvement in the war. The portal is a one-stop destination page for digitized versions of many of these assets.

These remarkable collections include recruitment and wartime information posters, photos from the front, manuscripts and papers of prominent figures such as General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, newspapers that provided the first draft of the war’s history, maps of campaigns and battle lines, sound recordings of prominent leaders of the era, war-related sheet music, even early film treasures.

Along with extensive access to these rare materials, the portal will include links to the online version of the Library’s major new exhibition, “Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I,” which opens April 4.

Read more: World War I: Online Offerings from the Library of Congress

Five Questions for Robert Dalessandro

"Our world and our generation are yet their legacy"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is preparing for a major national event on April 6th, 2017, to mark the 100th anniversary of America's entry into the war. Commission Chair Robert Dalessandro spoke to us about the significance of the date. A career historian, Chair Dalessandro gave us some perspective on the events that took place 100 years ago to put us on the path to war, and how those events changed the entire world.

This April 6th will be a special day. The US World War I Centennial Commission will host a major event on April 6th, at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, to mark the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I. What happened 100 years ago, on that day?

robert dalessandroU.S. World War I Centennial Commission Chair Robert DalessandroThis is an important day because it marks the centennial of American entry into World War One; but more importantly, it commemorates America’s entry onto the world stage. After April 6, 1917, everything about America changed. American’s now saw themselves as active participants for all that is good in the world. As the slogan went, they wanted to “Make the World Safe for Democracy.”

What series of events happened to lead up to America joining the war? How did Americans react to this, and why?

Although America did not formally enter the war until April 6, 1917, thirty-two months after it commenced, the United States of America was actually a critical player from the beginning of the hostilities.

The United States was one of the principal suppliers of war materiel to the Allies. Great Britain spent half its war budget in the United States. There was a reason German U-Boats hunted the North Atlantic trade routes; that was how you cut the Allied supply lines.

Read more: Five Questions for Robert Dalessandro

Five Questions for Chag Lowry

"The story of Native men who participated in the Great War within the U.S. military is unique"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Chag Lowry is a Native American graphic novelist who lives in Northern California. He has a particular interest in telling the story of World War I, due to the amazing things that he has learned about the Native American soldiers who served in the U.S. military during that time. He has a new graphic novel about World War I coming out, entitled SOLDIERS UNKNOWN, and he took some time to tell us about it.

Tell us about your unique project. SOLDIERS UNKNOWN is a new graphic novel about some remarkable people who fought in World War I.

Chag Lowry 300Chag Lowry, in Susanville, CA. The tree behind him was planted in the 1920s by the town of Susanville, to honor the memory of Thomas Tucker, a Maidu soldier who died in the Meuse-Argonne. The tree was one of 16 planted, to honor the 16 men from Susanville who served in WW!. Thomas Tucker is thought to be the only one of them to die in combat.My people have served in the United States military for generations. I am a Native American person who is of Yurok, Maidu, and Achumawi ancestry from northern California and this military history is often not known or understood by other people. I had two great-great-uncles who served in World War One; they are of Yurok ancestry and their names are Walt McCovey, Sr. and Thomas Reed. I learned more about them and other Native WW1 soldiers and sailors as I conducted interviews for the books I wrote about World War Two and Korean War Native veterans. These men would show me photos of their fathers or older brothers who were in the Great War.

I wanted to honor the WW1 experiences I learned about using a different artistic format, and this is where I connected with the very talented artist Rahsan Ekedal. I wrote a script based on my research on the 91st Infantry Division's experiences in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. This is the division that many Native men from California were part of, including a Maidu man named Thomas Tucker. I was raised listening to stories about Tucker, and learned how he was the first person from northeastern California to die in combat during the Meuse-Argonne battle. I also learned about dozens of other Native men from tribes throughout northern California who also served in the war.

SOLDIERS UNKNOWN is a work of historical fiction. How much of it is true, and how much is fiction? Are your characters based on actual Yurok soldiers? How did you research, write, and storyboard, this story? Awesome artwork, by the way!

I wrote a script that focuses on three Yurok young men who are drafted and who volunteer for the war. They then take part in the first phase of the Meuse-Argonne battle. I showed this script to Rahsan and he became my partner in this journey to share about not just the war experiences of Yurok soldiers, but also to show how their families and community reacts to the war and its aftermath. I wanted to show how the unique aspects of Yurok culture were impacted by these men leaving their home villages and then returning after a traumatic and life-altering time in war.

Read more: Four Questions for Chag Lowry

World War I: From Red Glare to Debonair

By Jennifer Gavin
Senior public affairs specialist, Library of Congress.

Stars and StripesThe Stars and Stripes, February 7, 1919.With its more than 90-year history, most Americans are aware of the military-based newspaper “The Stars and Stripes.” But many don’t know that it came into existence as a morale-builder after Americans surged into France during World War I – and even fewer probably know of its links to another august publication, “The New Yorker.”

As thousands of Americans braved mud, bullets, shells, mustard gas and the flu in the killing fields of France, a decision was taken to start up a newspaper that could bring news of the war and of home to the men of the Allied Expeditionary Force. By most reports, it was a Second Lt. Guy T. Viskniskki, a longtime newsman, who took the idea to the brass and talked them into it; he was among the first writers and editors of the publication that launched Feb. 8, 1919.

The handful of enlisted men who began cranking it out insisted that it be written with flair and cover the things the average guy in a foxhole would want to know about. As its editors stated in the initial number:

“With this issue, The Stars and Stripes reports for active service with the A.E.F. It is your paper, and has but one axe to grind—the axe which our Uncle Sam is whetting on the grindstone for use upon the august necks of the Hapsburgs and the Hohenzollerns ... we want to hear from that artist in your outfit, that ex-newspaper reporter, that short-story writer, that company ‘funny man,” and that fellow who writes the verses. We want to hear from all of you—for The Stars and Stripes is your paper, first, last, and all the time; for you and for those of your friends and relatives for whom you will care to send it.”

Read more: World War I: From Red Glare to Debonair

Centennial Commemoration on April 6, 2017 of U.S. entry into WWl

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 7, 2017) — The United States World War I Centennial Commission today officially announced the national ceremony commemorating the centennial of the United States entry into World War I, a war that changed the nation and the world forever.

The national ceremony, “In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace: Centennial Commemoration of the U.S. Entry in World War I,” will be held on April 6, 2017 at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo. ProclamationInvited attendees include the President of the United States; Congressional leadership; Cabinet members; State governors; U.S. military leaders; veteran organizations; representatives from U.S. military legacy units that trace their history back to World War I; descendants of significant American WWI figures; and other organizations, dignitaries, and VIPs. International invitees include the Heads of State of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the United Kingdom, and all other nations whose people were involved in the Great War.

On April 6, 1917, after much debate, the United States entered World War I. The ceremony in Kansas City, and complementary events around the nation, will encourage every American to reflect on what that moment meant, how it continues to influence the nation, and how every American family, then and now, is linked to that perilous time.

“The April 6 ceremony in Kansas City is an important element of the national conversation about World War I,” said Dan Dayton, executive director of the World War I Centennial Commission. “Why should we care? Because we are all products of World War I. The entire country was involved— everyone has a story. The Commission’s goal is to inspire you to find your personal story and connection.”

“In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace: Centennial Commemoration of the U.S. Entry in World War I” will consist principally of the reading of passages from significant and representative American writings of a century ago about the U.S. decision to enter the war, including selections from speeches, journalism, literature, poetry, and performance of important music of the time. Invited American readers include the President of the United States, Congressional leadership, and descendants of U.S. World War I veterans. Certain Heads of State from other nations are invited to read passages reflecting the reaction of their respective nations to the U.S. entry into the war in 1917. The ceremony will also include flyovers by U.S. aircraft and Patrouille de France, as well as a military band, color guard, ceremonial units, and video productions. Students across the nation will participate in this historic event, learning how WWI changed the United States and the world.

Read more: U.S. World War I Centennial Commission Announces Centennial Commemoration of U.S. Entry into World...

Memorial Hunters Club finding lost WWI monuments

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

To help find World War I Memorials around the country, the World War I Centennial Commission formed the Memorial Hunters Club.

Anyone can join the club. In order to join - one merely has to spot a World War I memorial, photograph it, and submit the photo to the Commission. The memorials, and the people who found them, are featured on the Commission’s website.

full logoThe Memorial Hunters Club has been a success. People from across the nation have contributed hundreds of memorials to the database, keeping them from falling into obscurity. Because of this crowd-sourced effort, the Commission has been able to help identify memorials that need care.

However, the end of this program is drawing near. The deadline for submissions is June 14th, 2017 - the Centennial of General Pershing’s arrival in Europe. We have four remaining months to contribute.

Join the many Americans who have helped remember the veterans of World War I. Help us to hunt down and catalog these fading national treasures.

We already have had huge help from State Centennial teams - those in Alabama, Georgia and New Jersey who have cataloged hundreds of WWI memorials for their states. There is much work that needs to be done. We estimate that there may be as many as 4,000 Memorials across the country.

Read more: Memorial Hunters Club finding lost WWI monuments

Four Questions for LtCol Joe Buccino, U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division

"You can't fully appreciate the world's current conflicts without understanding how the Great War ended."

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

The U.S. Army's 82nd All-American Division is celebrating 100 years by telling their story through an innovative series of videos & podcasts. The 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs Officer, LtCol Joe Buccino, took some time to tell us about their great new project.

Your legendary 82nd Airborne Division is having an important birthday! Tell us about it, and a little about the WWI history of the All-America Division.

BuccinoLtCol Joe BuccinoOur division, the 82nd Airborne Division, is largely known for its WWII airborne assaults in Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, and Nijmegen. However, our history and many of our traditions go back to World War I. Long before it was airborne, the 82nd was formed for entry into WWI in August, 1917 on Camp Gordon, Georgia. We participated in the Western Front's critical moments, held the right flank in the Battle of Saint Mihiel, and fought in the Argonne forest. And, of course, the war's most prominent Soldier, Alvin York, was in the 82nd.

We were a bit unique from the start: the Division was formed from recruits and conscripts from the south: Alabama, Florida, and Georgia in particular. Much like every other division, we were initially a homogenous organization with Soldiers from the same area. Then, in the fall of 1917, the War Department pulled thousands of Soldiers out of the 82nd to fill the new units popping up all over the country. Within the 82nd, these Soldiers were replaced by draftees and volunteers from all over the country. This was new: here was a Division that represented the full breadth of the American culture. Thus, the nickname "All American."

In fact, approximately twenty-percent of the Division's Soldiers were foreigners. If you read the first-hand accounts from the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Soldiers in the Division had difficulty communicating in the forest due to the diversity of accents, American and otherwise.

What are you folks doing to mark the occasion?
2017 is a yearlong celebration of our legacy. The podcast will go all year and that is a big effort for us to tell the stories of our All American Soldiers and Paratroopers. In May, the 22nd through the 25th, we'll spend a week honoring our century of service with All American Week 100. Tens of thousands of our alumni and supporters will congregate at our base here on Fort Bragg. It's going to be an incredible celebration with historic remembrances, displays of our capability, athletic competitions, and an airborne operation. We've got many other ideas we're working on and we'll release them once they are fully developed.

Read more: U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division Centennial

Four Questions for historian Mike Hanlon

"They remember that the Yanks showed up when they were needed"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Historian Mike Hanlon has been a WW1CC volunteer since the Commission's earliest days. He has been a frequent contributor to our weekly Sync Call, and social media postings. He is also a noted Battlefield Tour Guide, and has led dozens of tour groups and official staff rides through the major sites in France, Belgium, and Germany. His latest effort includes a battlefield tour of Italy, to visit World War I battles sites -- including where the U.S. Army's 332nd Regiment fought side-by-side with Italian troops, and where noted writer Ernest Hemingway served as an ambulance driver. The Italy trip will take place in 24 July-3 August 2017. Those who are interested in more information may reach out via email: greatwar@earthlink.net. Mike shared information about the upcoming trip with us.

Mike Hanlon, you have a special battlefield tour coming up. Tell us about it.

Mike HanlonMike HanlonUsually, my battlefield tours focus on the Western Front, but this year to commemorate the centennial of the Battle of Caporetto, the most important action on the Italian Front, I will be taking our group on a comprehensive reconnaissance of that battle, including its prelude and aftermath. We will be traveling to Austria, Slovenia and Italy, and surprisingly for many I think, we will be including an American battlefield in the itinerary.

Not many people are aware of the U.S. role in Italy during World War I. What units were there? What did they do? What was the impact?
After the battle, which was a catastrophe for the Italian Army, the other Allies were asked to send reinforcements and whatever help they could. The story of the American volunteers like Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos, is well-known, but the American military showed up as well. Aviation units and medical units were deployed, but most visible was the 332nd Infantry of General Pershing's 83rd Division (mostly men from Ohio). They were a great boost to Italian morale, showing that America was deeply committed to the Allied cause. They showed the flag in many communities and participated in the final Battle of Vittorio Veneto pursuing Austro-Hungarian forces. Our group will follow their advance and cross the Tagliamento River where they saw the most fighting.

Read more: Four Questions for historian Mike Hanlon

Art made on the front lines of the First World War

By Peggy McGlone
via The Washington Post

At the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, the National Air and Space Museum is offering a rare view of the conflict by artists who became soldiers and soldiers who were amateur artists.

On the Wire Thompson"On the Wire" by Harry Everett Townsend. (Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)“Artist Soldiers: Artistic Expression in the First World War,” opening April 6, will showcase more than 100 pieces of art and artifacts — many never displayed in public — that depict realistic scenes of life on the front and in the civilian life surrounding it.

Central to the exhibition are 54 works from the American Expeditionary Forces, part of a collection of about 500 owned by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Pieces from the collection have been exhibited only once before, almost a century ago.

“These works are significant in that they represent a turning point in so-called war art,” said Peter Jakab, chief curator at the Air and Space Museum. “Prior, you’d see paintings of heroic figures, painted long after the battle.”

But the AEF commissioned eight artists and embedded them in battle. “They were given free rein to paint not only combat scenes,” Jakab said, “but also life at the front, scenes of personal activities. And what this gave us was a sort of capturing the war in the moment, by the firsthand participants.”

Read more: Art made on the front lines of the First World War

Warren, PA couple raises awareness for WWI national memorial in DC

By Josh Cotton
via The Warren, PA Times-Observer

For Mark Nickerson, the Presidential Inauguration was a chance to see history.

NickersonsMark Nickerson and his wife, Sara, at the Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C.But also a chance to be history.

The long-time reenactor, and owner of Nickerson Military & Sporting Collectibles in North Warren, was going to go to the inauguration after procuring a trip from Congressman Glenn Thompson.

But when the opportunity presented itself for Nickerson to work with the US World War I Centennial Commission, a ‘Doughboy’ he became.

As a member of the Great War Association, a World War I re-enacting group, Nickerson said he received an email from the Commission back in November that the Commission was “going to be taking part in the inauguration, handing out poppy seed packets.”

The packets include information about the Commission’s main effort to raise funds for a national World War I memorial.

Nickerson said World War I is the only war that doesn’t have a national memorial in the capital. There is a World War I memorial on the National Mall but it’s tucked away in the woods and is dedicated only to the men from DC who died in World War I.

So inauguration day found Nickerson and his wife, Sara, at Union Station handing out seed packets.

According to a statement from the Commission, poppy flowers “are a traditional symbol of veteran remembrance. The custom began 100 years ago, during World War I, with the worldwide popularity of the poem In Flanders Field.”

Read more: Warren, PA couple raises awareness for WWI national memorial in DC

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