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World War I Centennial News


In the trenches: Research explores WNC’s role in World War One

By Max Hunt
via the Mountain Xpress

Kiffen RockwellKiffin Rockwell, who lived in Asheville, NC off and on prior to joining the war effort on behalf of France in 1914, is credited with being the first American fighter pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft.While Americans anxiously followed reports of World War One raging across Europe, Asheville’s first Great War casualty was already receiving a hero’s funeral in France.

Kiffin Rockwell, widely acknowledged as the first American to shoot down a German plane while serving in the Escadrille Lafayette fighter pilot squad, was himself shot down in September 1916, more than six months before the U.S. formally entered the conflict.

To this day, “He’s a well-known, very respected American hero over in France,” says Jeff Futch, curator of North Carolina in the Great War, now on display in East Asheville. The exhibit is a project of the Western Office of the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources on Riceville Road. “They have a huge monument to the Lafayette Escadrille over there and still lay flowers at his grave.”

And though those battles were fought half a world away, WW1 had a profound and lasting impact on Western North Carolina, both among those who fought in the European theater and on the home front.

As the state gears up for a big centennial retrospective on North Carolina’s involvement in the Great War, local researchers have worked to bring WNC residents’ stories and experiences to contemporary audiences.

Remembering the Great War

Next April, says Futch, the state agency will open an expansive exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, to mark the centennial of America’s entrance into the war.

As a kind of preview, Futch decided to showcase WNC’s involvement in the conflict with a smaller exhibit in the Western Office’s Heritage Room Gallery. Drawing on museums and repositories from around the region, Futch has assembled a small but eclectic collection of artifacts, memorabilia and stories.

Read more: In the trenches: Research explores WNC’s role in World War One

They Deserve Their Own Memorial video designed to educate & motivate

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

Doughboys videoThe United States World One Centennial Commission has partnered with Loma Media in San Diego to create an outreach campaign designed to educate and motivate the American public to support and fund the creation of a Memorial dedicated to “The Doughboys” who successfully fought to end a devastating war that cost many millions of lives.

The They Deserve Their Own Memorial video series consists of pieces that tell the World War One story in formats of seven-minute, three-minute, 60-second, 30-second, and versions that can be applied to a variety of communication uses, to include classroom settings, fundraiser events, TV public service announcements, etc.

This video series, centerpiece of the initiative, is designed to raise general awareness for World War One, and specific awareness for the Commission's effort to build a new National WW1 Memorial which will be dedicated in Washington DC on November 18, 2018.

The They Deserve Their Own Memorial video series is narrated by Oscar nominee Gary Sinise, an unabashed military supporter, whose own grandfather served as an ambulance driver during World War One. The series was written & directed by award-winning filmmaker John DeBello, who has worked on military film projects for over twenty years.

We invite you to share these videos with your audiences, and to post them to your own website & social media. To do so is to honor those 4.7 million Americans who stepped forward to serve our country 100 years ago.


Four Questions for John DeBello

"We protect our future by remembering our past."

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

The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission has a new set of fundraising videos that are designed to raise awareness for World War One, and for the Commission's effort to build a new National WW1 Memorial in Washington DC. The video series consists of pieces that tell the WW1 story in formats of 7 minute, 3-minute, 60-second, 30-second, and they can be applied to a variety of communication uses, to include classroom settings, fundraiser events, TV public service announcements, etc. The pieces in the series are narrated by noted Hollywood actor -- and unabashed military supporter -- Gary Sinese, whose own grandfather served as an ambulance driver during World War One. Writer/Director/Producer of the series is award-winning filmmaker John DeBello, who took some time to share with us his vision for the video series project.

You have created a new series of videos to help tell the story of the Commission, the Memorial, and of World War One. Tell us about these videos & their different missions.

John DeBelloJohn DeBelloWorld War One is a hazy memory for most Americans. If they think about it at all, it’s as a prelude to World War Two. That’s unfortunate, and unfair to the more than 116,000 U.S. servicemen who gave their lives in defense of freedom. The goal of this video series is to underscore a very important fact--their sacrifice ended a global conflict that had already taken literally millions of lives. In addition, our participation in what was called “The Great War” became a seminal turning point in our history--the beginning of the American Century and the promise of the American Dream to so many more people of all ethnicities.

This film series is quite high quality. The scripts are solid. The imagery is remarkable. There are some amazing visual & audio effects used. Plus, you got a pretty notable actor to be the voice-over talent. Tell us about putting together the elements to create these films.

The idea was to use powerful period footage and images, many of which are relatively unknown to most people. We also used motion graphic techniques to subtly animate some of the photos. However, no matter how much the visuals resonate, the key to any narrative is the storytelling. We strove for an understated approach that would deliver important information succinctly, but with an emotional punch. Gary Sinise is one of the nation’s foremost actors, and we were very fortunate that he was kind enough to donate his talents to this cause. His grandfather was a “Doughboy” who served in France during the War, and actually appears in the video. When you see his photo circa 1918, you’ll see a strong resemblance.

Read more: Four Questions for John DeBello

posterTremendous teamwork on #countdowntoveteransday campaign in 2016

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

YOUR awesome effort made it a success!

On Facebook, there were some 1,840 #CountdownToVeteransDay postings from our partners and friends, creating 4,773,700 Audience Impressions.

On Twitter, our collective efforts yielded some 2,950 Posts by 637 Partner Users, earning a total Audience of 6,471,100 Impressions.

Combined -- the #CountdownToVeteransDay campaign generated a total audience of 11,244,800 people!

We thank you for helping us to make people more aware of our veterans, and our military members!

For more information, and for opportunities to honor America's Veterans, go to the Countdown to Veterans Day page.



Your teamwork has made this effort a remarkable achievement!

General of the Armies John Pershing Honored in Annual Veterans Day Ceremony

By Elizabeth Mathews
Staff Writer

Pershing ceremony Vets Day 2016 cropMembers of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and attendees wait to place wreaths during a memorial service for General of the Armies John J. Pershing in Arlington National Cemetery, Nov. 11, 2016, in Arlington, Va. (U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue/Arlington National Cemetery)At 3’o clock on November 11, veterans carried on an annual Veteran’s Day tradition by gathering at the grave of America’s first General of the Armies, John J. “Black Jack” Pershing for a memorial service in his honor.

This ceremony was open to the public and attended by US servicemen and women as well as those from allied nations such as Canada. Also in attendance were members of the Young Marines.

Remarks were provided by such notable leaders as Kate Kelley, Acting Superintendent Arlington National Cemetery, Maj. Gen. Bradley A. Becker, commanding general, US Army Military District of Washington, and Col. (ret.) Clay Le Grande, Jr., commander in chief, MOWW. After the remarks, wreaths were laid at Pershing’s grave to honor both him and the men he commanded.

Pershing served in several conflicts over his 38 year career, though he is most remembered for his service as the Commander of the American Expeditionary Force in the Great War. Pershing not only led the United States to victory during the Great War, but also revolutionized the practices of the US Army. Under his leadership, the US Army updated its military training techniques, put more emphasis on physical fitness, and created professional schools for officers.

Two organizations founded by Pershing himself were heavily involved in the ceremony. The US Army Band “Pershing’s Own” provided the service with music, including one of Pershing’s personal favorite songs “My Buddy”.

The Military Order of the World Wars was the main organizer of the event, as it has been since the Veterans of World War I became too few to do so. The Military Order of the World Wars, or MOWW, was created at Pershing’s request after he expressed the desire for his officers to continue to serve their country after being released from active duty.

Read more: General Pershing Honored in Annual Veterans Day Ceremony

First-person shooter could spark wider interest in the Great War

Battlefield 1: Can a video game about WW1 be both entertaining and a history lesson?

By Jonathan Ore
via CBC News

How historically accurate should a video game be when depicting something like the First World War?

The conflict is one of the bloodiest in human history, having left 16 million dead and creating geopolitical conflicts that continue to this day.

battlefield 1 trenchesBattlefield 1 immerses players in the grit and unrelenting destruction of the First World War. (DICE/Electronic Arts) Game developers have long used history as their digital playground and tweaked the facts to suit their needs — adding some colourful characters here or a few more explosions there. Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed series, set in periods such as the Italian Renaissance or Revolutionary France, is just one example.

The question is whether the studio DICE would do the same for Battlefield 1 (available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC), a first-person shooter set in what was (prematurely) called The War to End All Wars.

The opening prologue plunges the player into the middle of a major offensive in France in 1918, with the charred remains of buildings and trees strewn about a blasted wasteland of mud and corpses.

As a member of the Harlem Hellfighters, a real-life regiment that consisted largely of African-American soldiers, you have to defend an area from a German onslaught. Artillery rains from above and enemies with flamethrowers flood your position with fire and smoke.

After about two minutes — if you survive that long — you run out of ammo, and find yourself outnumbered. When you're inevitably gunned down, a short card with your soldier's name and lifespan appears on the screen — for example, "Matthew Collings (1884-1918)." Then you're placed in the role of another doomed recruit, in another part of the battlefield.

The point Battlefield 1 clearly wants to make is that the war took young soldiers' lives by the thousands — most of them never had the chance for a moment of glory.

Read more: Can a video game about WW I be both entertaining and a history lesson?

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve comes to the fore

Waterhouse2The U.S. Marines in World War I Part I: The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Comes to the Fore is the first of a new a two-part series on the Marine Corps in the Great War by Colonel Walter G. Ford, USMC (Ret). The article documents the evolution, training, and contribution of the Marine Corps Reserve during the war, form early effort to establish state naval militias to the formation of the Marine Corps Reserve on August 29, 1916.

The timing of their establishment was critical to the exponential expansion of the Marine Corps in WWI. Even with the summer 1916 establishment of the Reserves, when war was declared on April 6, 1917 the Reserve had just 3 commissioned officers and 36 enlisted men to call for active duty. The U.S. Marine Corps had less than 14,000 men on active duty, with 1,091 Reserve and National Naval Volunteers available for mobilization. By mid-November of 1918, the Marine Corps had grown to more than 75,000 men and women on active duty -- 7,256 were members of the Reserve. While the Reserve represented not quite 10 percent of the Marine Corps at the end of the war, its growth in approximately 17 months was phenomenal.

According to Ford, Congressional action proceeding the U.S. entry into the war helped support growing manpower needs of the Navy and Marine Corps, and ultimately gave the president more authority to mobilize the U.S. Naval Militia.

“After members of the state militias and National Naval Volunteers were mustered into federal service, members of the Marine units were ordered to rendezvous sites and then dispatched to various naval stations,” according to Ford. “Upon arriving at these naval stations, the Marine Corps disbanded the units, and men were brought into the Marine Corps and sent to Marine installations to join units based on the needs of the Marine Corps.“  Continue reading the entire article here.

Nonprofit Fundraising for New World War One Memorial in Pershing Park

Howard interview 111016 NBC4 DCNBC4's Tom Sherwood (left) interviews sculptor Sabin Howard.Washington, DC−Washington, D.C.'s Pershing Park, named for the famed World War One general, may finally get a new memorial.

The nonprofit World War One Centennial Commission is currently working to secure $35 million in funding and D.C. officials’ approval to build a new memorial at the park on 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

“There's an element of sacredness that's being brought to the project because it becomes a memorial,” said Sabin Howard, who is part of the design team for the memorial.

Howard, a New York-based sculptor, worked in collaboration with 25-year-old architect Joseph Weishaar, of Chicago, to design the park. Their design, entitled “The Weight of Sacrifice,” was selected out of over 350 entries during a design competition in January.

“How are you going to tell the story of World War One in a way that people are going to get viscerally excited and go home and want to know more about it?” Howard said.

Read more: Nonprofit Fundraising for New World War I Memorial in Pershing Park

Point Park grad modeled nurse for World War One monument to debut in 2018

By Alice Carter
via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

 Andrea WeinzierlAndrea WeinzierlAndrea Weinzierl's latest job has put her on the path to immortality.

Weinzierl, a graduate of Avonworth High School and Point Park University, is an actress who divides her time between Manhattan, where she recently made her off-Broadway debut in the musical revival of “Funny Face,” and Pittsburgh, where she worked as a stand-in for Anna Torv for the upcoming Netflix series “Mindhunter.”

Like many young thespians, Weinzierl pays her bills by working at an eclectic list of jobs — fitness instructor, wedding singer, model.

So when a friend asked her to take over her nanny job temporarily, Weinzierl had no idea it might lead to something much more permanent.

The father of her young charge was Sabin Howard, an internationally recognized sculptor who, along with architect Joe Weishaar, had been chosen as the winning design team for the National World War I Memorial.

Titled “The Weight of Sacrifice,” the 80-foot-long bronze wall planned for Pershing Square Park in Washington, D.C., will feature 35 to 40 bas relief figures that honor the 4.7 million American men and women who served in the armed forces during World War I, as well as the many millions of civilians and military people who served during the conflict at home.

Read more: Point Park grad modeled nurse for World War I monument to debut in 2018


#COUNTDOWNTOVETERANSDAY update for November 7, 2016

Where will YOU be on Veterans Day?

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

Veterans Day is coming -- Friday, November 11th is mere days away.

Veterans Day is a day for our nation to thank veterans for what they have done for us, and to thank military members for what they do for us every day.

As you know, we have been actively counting down to Veterans Day, though telling the stories of veterans issues, veterans contributions, and veterans needs. With our partners, we have been creating awareness of veterans among our collective audiences across the country with the hashtag #COUNTDOWNTOVETERANSDAY..

On Facebook, there have been some 1,540 #CountdownToVeteransDay postings from our partners and friends, creating 4,535,300 Audience Impressions.

On Twitter, our collective efforts have yielded some 2,266 Posts by 450 Partner Users, earning a total Audience of 4,898,500 Impressions.

Combined -- the #CountdownToVeteransDay campaign has, to date, generated an total audience of about 9,433,800 people!

We thank you for helping us to make people more aware of our veterans, and our military members!

Read more: #COUNTDOWNTOVETERANSDAY update 11072016

Four Questions for Rear Admiral James Carey

"Ensure the memories of these brave men do not fade into history"

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

Rear Admiral James Carey has had a long career of public service, and is now in the process of working on memorial preservation projects. He talked to us about the importance of remembering the past, and the meaning of local WW1 memorials in communities around the country.

You are working on a remarkable memorial project involving a stand of memorial trees from World War One. Tell us about the project.

Rear Admiral James J. Carey, USN (Ret.)Rear Admiral James J. Carey, USN (Ret.)Actually I'm working on two projects in Berlin, WI, my old hometown. The 1st is the planting of 2 Memorial Trees on the grounds of the local VFW Post, in memory of my Father and Uncle, both of whom served in the Cavalry in France in WW I. That project is almost complete and has been done in close cooperation with the VFW, the Berlin Area Historical Society [BAHS], and the Saving Hallowed Ground WW1 Commission project providing registry of WW1 Memorial Tree plantings. Both of these trees have already been planted and dedicated and registered with Saving Hallowed Ground, and only await the arrival of the tree identity tags from Saving Hallowed Ground to be completed.

My 2nd project is related to 3 existing WW1 entities in Berlin, WI, one related to an organization formed after the war for WW1 veterans and thus more of a history project, and the other two related to two WW One existing Memorials at Berlin's main cemetery, Oakwood Cemetery, where the cemetery Main Gate was constructed from local quarried granite and dedicated to the memory of the WW1 veterans. I will be sending you a photo of that dedication plaque, which is mounted on the gate, shortly.

The other Berlin WW1 existing memorial is the 30 trees lining the cemetery roadway directly behind the entry gate and leading up to the cemetery chapel. There were 30 original trees planted and dedicated individually to the 30 Berlin, WI area men killed in WW1. Dutch Elm disease wiped out the original trees, which have since been replaced by maple trees, and a part of the WW1 Memorial restoration efforts that I and my foundation, the Admiral Carey Foundation, are involved with relates to the placement of the individual identification stars by each tree honoring the men who died. Those stars are currently on a large display board and are kept in the chapel, where of course they are not seen by very many cemetery visitors, and thus need to be placed by the individual trees.

Read more: Four Questions for Rear Admiral James Carey

Four Questions for Mike Hanlon

"We will always need the Doughboys."

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

Mike Hanlon is a former Former USAF officer and Project Manager for corporations and government agencies. But an interest in history, and then a fascination with World War One put him on a new career track as a publisher, historian, and 25 years as a tour guide of the Great War battlefields in France. Mike talked to us about what World War One has meant to him, and what he has discovered while tracing to footsteps of the Doughboys in France.

What is your specialty within World War One history? How did you come to it?

Mike Hanlon 1Mike Hanlon at the Meuse-Argonne battlefield in FranceMy post-Air Force working career, before I got so committed to military history, involved managing large development projects for corporations, government agencies, and hospitals. My specialty was helping salvage projects in deep trouble. Even though the work was always challenging, I got a little tired of solving everyone else's problems and determined to find something to do with my personal interests. These have always included history, and especially American history. I decided to find a period of our history that was somewhat neglected, learn everything I could about it, and make a documentary film about some aspect of it.

I'll leave out the methodology of my searching, but I eventually settled on the First World War after realizing it was endlessly interesting – it had everything: tales of high adventure and great tragedy, its own pantheon of heroes and villains, scientific and religious dimensions, and its very own literature, art, and music. Also, I saw in a flash that the Great War had a much more substantial impact on America today than most people realized, including all my teachers, with one exception – a great history professor I had at Penn State named Warren Hassler.

Read more: Four Questions for Mike Hanlon

Sculptor Sabin Howard in Service of Something Bigger

By Milene Fernandez
via the Epoch Times

NEW YORK−Sabin Howard is in the throes of a monumental task. The master sculptor has to conceptualize a horrific slice of history and then translate it into sculptural form that is engaging and worthy of honoring incredible sacrifice.

Howard photo Epoch Times articleSculptor Sabin Howard at his studio in the Bronx, New York, on Sept. 13, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)“It’s pretty epic when you lose 10,000 people every hour,” he said.

Nearly a year ago, Howard and the young visionary architect Joe Weishaar won the competition of The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission to create the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park, with views to the White House.

The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission is looking to raise $50 million in private funds for the national memorial and hopes to inaugurate it on the 100th anniversary of the end of the war on Nov. 11, 2018.

Howard envisions a visual narrative of World War I that will help people contemplate our shared humanity, for many generations to come. He called his design in progress a soldier’s journey.

“I’ve redesigned the whole thing at least a dozen times,” he said, looking at a long scroll of photographs on his studio floor in the Bronx in September. It shows models in dynamic poses, wearing World War One uniforms from 100 years ago.

He’s had several sessions with models. He directs them into slow motion action and then takes photographs of the poses, gestures, and expressions he wants to convey. From the photographs he makes sculptural-looking drawings, as reference for a three-dimensional maquete (scaled model), from which the actual monument will be created.

Read more: Epoch Times article on Sabin Howard

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