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World War I Centennial News


WWI veteran USS Texas battles for survival

By Patrick Gregory
via the centenarynews.com web site

A naval veteran of two world wars, the USS Texas is a battleship which has survived one or two scrapes in its time. But now, over a century on from its launch and after a long and distinguished second career as a floating museum and some-time film set, the ship is facing a fight for its survival. Its rusting hull is in urgent need of repair and campaigners are trying to persuade the State of Texas to step in to help save it from the scrapyard. Patrick Gregory has been looking at its history.

mwhmeloisrcxnzdhg4x0 thumbUSS Texas in WWI service (Image: Texas Parks & Wildlife Department) A hundred years ago, in early December 1917, the USS Texas found itself in the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn. It had been there for two months following a serious mishap which had seen it run hard aground in Long Island Sound. The Texas' captain Victor Blue and his navigator had apparently been confused by shore lights and by the location of a channel through the minefield laid at the end of the sound.

Blue managed not only to avoid court martial for the incident but also to hold on to his command of the ship. Critics put down to his friendship with Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels. Either way, the damage occasioned was enough to set back the Texas' war service by some months; but eventually, in January 1918, the battleship sailed for British coastal waters to join up with the US force led by Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman.

U-boat threat

Over the next year, operating as part of the 6th Battle Squadron, the battleship played its part in checking the manoeuvres of the German High Seas Fleet and was part of the US-led North Sea mine barrage effort to counter the threat of enemy U-boats.

Following the Armistice, USS Texas was one of the vessels to escort the German navy when it surrendered to the British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands; and before returning to the United States, the Texas was also on hand to welcome Woodrow Wilson’s George Washington at Brest in France, ahead of the President’s visit to the post-war peace conference in Paris.

Read more: WWI veteran USS Texas battles for survival

WWI munitions cleanup on hold at AU president’s home

By Neal Augenstein
via the WTOP radio news site

WASHINGTON — The cleanup of a World War I chemical weapons testing site is on hold for the foreseeable future, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepares to drill holes in the basement of the American University president’s official residence, looking for evidence of discarded munitions.

AU Presidents homeThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will test for World War I munitions under 4835 Glenbrook Rd. NW, which is the official residence of the American University president. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein) More than five years after the house at 4825 Glenbrook Rd. NW, was removed, and as the cleanup of toxic munitions neared completion, the Army Corps will soon bore approximately 15 2-inch holes through the basement foundation, and in the yard and back patio of 4835 Glenbrook Rd.

As previously reported by WTOP, on Aug. 9, workers who were digging by hand experienced eye irritation, diarrhea, and vomiting — symptoms associated with proximity to low levels of chemical agents. The workers were briefly hospitalized, but released the same day.

The discovery was made along the property line between the cleanup site and the home at 4835 Glenbrook Rd., in the Spring Valley neighborhood. Digging was paused after the incident, and has not resumed.

Army Corps. officials have said testing over the years of soil at 4385 found no evidence of carcinogenic or other dangerous substances on the property.

However, in a Sept. meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board, project manager Brenda Barber said recent testing has found low levels of Mustard and Lewisite, which were used in World War I chemical weapons. The colorless and odorless compounds can cause blistering and lung irritation.

Barber said the test bores will be done the week of Dec. 4.

Read more: WWI munitions cleanup on hold at AU president’s home

Four Questions for Brooke Kroeger

"An acknowledgment of the extraordinary sacrifices women were making because of the war"

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

A remarkable new book has appeared on the World War I scene, one that traces the origins of the Women's Suffrage movement in America, and it's relationship to America's war effort 100 years ago. Specifically, The Suffragents is the story of how, and why, a group of prominent and influential men in New York City, and beyond, came together to help women gain the right to vote. Brooke Kroeger is the author. She is a journalist, author of five books, a professor of journalism at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and director of its MA unit, Global and Joint Program Studies, which she founded in 2007. We spoke to he about this book, and what she found in writing it.

Tell us about your new book, The Suffragents. Who is it about? What was their milieu, and the wartime challenges that they faced? What impact did these men have?

Brooke Kroeger 300Brooke KroegerThe Suffragents is about the Men's League for Woman Suffrage and its large circle of powerful, influential New York men—publishers, businessmen, financiers, writers, clergy, scientists, academics, jurists and lawyers, among them—who started an organization of their own to support the women's suffrage campaign.

Over these years, the league sprouted chapters across 35 states and much of the developed world. (Britain and Holland preceded the New York effort, as did Chicago by nine months in 1909.) This was taking place in the suffrage movement's last determinative decade, from about 1909 to 1919, which, of course, in the second half of the period, coincides with the war years.

The book provides chapter and verse on what the men did as allies to the women's movement, often inspired by the sacrificial activism of their wives, sisters, mothers, or lovers and friends.

As to the war connection, I think of George Creel, who shifted positions within days from heading up the Men's League's extremely effective "Publicity Committee" (with its A-list roster of writers, poets, editors and publishers) to leading the Committee on Public Information for President Wilson as soon as the United States entered the war in April of 1917. Of all the Men's Leaguers, Creel was the most prominent in both campaigns. It was Creel who was so impressed with the suffrage campaign work of Vira Boarman Whitehouse on the New York referendum campaign of 1917 that he gave her a wartime appointment in Switzerland.

Read more: Four Questions for Brooke Kroeger

We, The Unknown original choral work

"Pay tribute not only to the Unknown of WWI but all who have served"

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

We, The Unknown (WETU) is a brand-new musical commission conceived by Rob Hill, a retired Army Lt. Col and third-generation soldier whose paternal grandfather, John G. Hill, Sr., served in World War I. The work is slated to premiere in Kansas City, MO on June 9th & 10th. The idea for the musical work came to Rob after hearing a brief history of how America’s Unknown Soldier was selected. Almost immediately, he wondered, “what if the person selected was gay or African-American or someone else we might not otherwise expect?” Initially, he considered almost every other format possible to tell the story—novel, film, play—but when he moved to Kansas City, home to the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and joined the Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), he decided that a choral work for men’s voices was the best medium to pay tribute not only to the Unknown Soldier but all who have served, many in silence. This project is an official Commemorative Partner to the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. No one works alone, so we discussed the WETU project with Rob Hill, with Ms. Pat Daneman, Rob's co-librettist, and with Timothy C. Takach, the project's musical composer

Tell us about your chorus project, "We, The Unknown". What is the project overall, why WWI, where & when will it play?

GroupTimothy Takach, Composer; Pat Daneman, Co-librettist; Rob Hill, Co-librettistWhen completed, We, The Unknown will be an original choral work 30 to 40 minutes in length for men’s voices and soloists, including one woman who is representative of Gold Star Mothers. It will be performed by Kansas City’s Heartland Men’s Chorus, in collaboration with the men of the U.S. Army Soldiers' Chorus, as part of a larger concert titled Indivisible: Songs of Resistance and Remembrance.

The concert will be presented at the Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City, June 9 and 10, 2018, to commemorate the centennial of the U.S.’s involvement in WWI, as well as celebrate the principle that ALL are created equal. For more information about the project and the concert, visit http://wetheunknown.org.

Read more: We, the Unknown premiere in Kansas City

Dunning named to U.S. World War I Centennial Commission

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

Zoe DunningZoe Dunning“It is my deep privilege to name a distinguished veteran and an outstanding champion for all servicemembers and their families, Commander Zoe Dunning to the World War I Centennial Commission, filling the seat recently held by Colonel Robert Dalessandro,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.“It is with profound gratitude that we thank Colonel Dalessandro for his dedicated service while welcoming Commander Dunning to the Commission.”

The World War I Centennial Commission is dedicated to planning, developing and executing initiatives commemorating the centennial anniversary of the U.S. entry into The Great War. Through educational experiences and programming for all ages, the Commission hopes to raise awareness and give meaning to the momentous events of 100 years ago.

Commander Dunning, USN (Ret.) holds degrees from both the U.S. Naval Academy and Stanford University. She has served as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund, playing a pivotal role in the fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’.

Currently, Commander Dunning serves as Commissioner for the San Francisco Public Library.


AmazonSmile logo

Shop on AmazonSmile and Amazon will donate to America's WWI Memorial on your behalf!

The holiday shopping season is upon us. As you shop for friends, family, and loved ones this year, you have the opportunity to both shop and support America’s World War I Memorial at the same time through AmazonSmile.

What is AmazonSmile?

AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to help build America’s World War I Memorial as you shop this holiday season, at no extra cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com and designate the United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars (USFCWW) as your charity, Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase to the Foundation. Your shopping experience will be otherwise unchanged.

How do I support the Memorial while I shop?

First, you need to set the United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars as your charity on AmazonSmile by simply clicking this link or pasting it in your web browser: smile.amazon.com/ch/46-3321814. You’ll receive a confirmation like the one below. Step 1, done!Confirmation Message

Second, when you want to shop on Amazon, go to smile.amazon.com instead of the regular site. Smile.amazon.com provides the exact same shopping experience except that 0.5% of your purchase goes to building America's World War I Memorial.Address

And now you're set! It's as simple as that. Now when you shop on AmazonSmile, you'll help build America's World War I Memorial at the same time. You can support the Memorial while shopping on AmazonSmile this holiday season and all year round.

Thank you for supporting America’s World War I Memorial this holiday season!

You can also check out the latest design concepts for America’s World War I Memorial at ww1cc.org/memorial.


Four Questions for Leroy Transfield

"I so wanted to create a great design!"

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

Last month, the U.S. Mint unveiled their design for the new 2018 World War I Centennial Silver Dollar. The coin is to honor the 4.7 million American men and women who served in the war, and a surcharge from the proceeds have been authorized to go to support the activities of our U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. The designer of the Centennial Silver Dollar is Leroy Transfield, He is an experienced sculptor from New Zealand. His design was picked through an open international competition, hosted by the U.S. Mint, and this is his first coin for them. We talked to him about the coin, the inspiration, and his own personal ties to World War I.

Congratulations! You have designed a coin for the U.S. Mint! What does it feel like? How did they let you know? It was an open design competition. How did you hear about it, and what was that process.

LeRoy TransfieldLeRoy TransfieldI heard about it through the Mint website. They did a good page on it that got me excited. I have always wanted to do a coin and a war theme is something I am familiar with.

Tell us about the coin you designed, and the symbolism in the artwork, the creative decisions you made,

I recently created a personal essay on that topic for the U.S. Mint, which I have included below, in whole.

-You have personal connection to World War I. And you also have an interesting background -- growing up in New Zealand, training as a sculptor. Tell us about yourself.

Yes i have always loved 3-D sculpting. In New Zealand Maoris were prodigious wood carvers going back many centuries. I learnt to sculpt at Brigham YoungUniversity. They had a very good program there with students from the Pacific and US mainland. My teacher was Jan Fisher (1938 to 2016). He was a good example of hard work and inspiration. I actually came to Utah to go and get my graduate degree but was rejected from the program so decided to open my own studio and start taking on commissions and selling pieces in galleries. It was extremely challenging and we went through a lot of hard times but at the same time most rewarding and a great time in my life. On top of that I really improved as an artist which I attribute to going through the refiners fire.

My grandmothers brother Huriwhenua Taiaroa and her cousin Te Oti Taiaroa fought in World War I. They came back and died in the 1930’s. On my grandfather's side, they fought in World War II.

Read more: Four Questions for Leroy Transfield

Blinded Veterans UK & BVA/Project Gemini Exchange Visit to California

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

A remarkable exchange-visit took place in Southern California last month, one with deep roots to World War I.

Golf 800Project Gemini participants at the annual Major Charles R. Soltes Jr. OD Memorial Golf Event where the UK and BVA veterans honored the memory of Dr. Soltes who was killed by IED in Iraq in 2004 the first U.S. Army optometrist to do in line of duty since WW II.Six blinded military veterans from the United Kingdom, with the organization Blind Veterans UK, spent a week meeting with six American veterans, who are members of the U.S.-based Blind Veterans Association (BVA), and who also have suffered war-related vision loss.

The goal of these exchanges, called Project Gemini, is to develop public awareness within the two nations regarding vision loss resulting from trauma, and the recovery process. For the participants, there is also an emphasis on the joint historical significance of the WWI centennial and its impact on the beginnings of war blind rehabilitation programs in America in 1917.

Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 as a charity whose purpose was to train and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. With the help of St. Dustan's, a large charity in the UK, the Blind Veterans UK conducted training for blind UK service members, and later shared that training with American servicemembers when AEF forces required vision rehabilitation. This cooperation 100 years ago led to the development of Evergreen Army General Hospital # 7 in Baltimore, America's first major reeducation center for the blinded.

Read more: Blinded Veterans UK & BVA/Project Gemini Exchange Visit to California

American forces reach the trenches

By John Stephen Futini
via the Napa Valley Register web site

On Nov. 30, 1917, 100 years ago in World War I, a large U.S. non-combat unit was the first such to engage the enemy. The 11th Engineer Regiment, 1,400 strong, composed of volunteer railway workers from Queens, New York, fought German attackers with shovels and picks. (It prior helped assemble British-made tanks used in history’s first mass armor offensive at the Battle of Cambrai.)

TrenchesIn this 1918 photo, American troops carrying guns with fixed bayonets climb over a sandbag revetment in France during WWI.Repairing a rail supply line, the 11th abruptly came under a surprise German counterattack. Under the calm leadership of 1st Lt. Paul McLoud — who procured ammunition for rifles, apparently later handed out — the engineers fell back to a vacant British trench and repelled the attack. Twelve Americans were wounded, one lost in action, 17-year-old Private Dalton Ranlet, who lied about his age to join up. Said Gen. John Pershing, “Wars are not won by fighting with shovels.” (Shovels were used in trench warfare by attacking Germans as thrusting spears.)

Twenty-seven days earlier on Nov. 3, three U.S. soldiers were killed in fierce trench fighting on the Western Front. They were the first American combat fatalities of some 52,000 more to follow in the next 372 days. Cpl. James Gresham, age 24, Pvt. Merle Hay, age 21, and Pvt. Thomas Enright, age 30, died in a night trench raid by the Germans at the front’s “quiet sector” near Artois.

Before the war, Gresham was a furniture maker in Evansville, Indiana. In 1914, when the European war began, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed in El Paso, under “Black-Jack” John J. Pershing, the future commander of the American Expeditionary Forces. Hay, of Glidden, Iowa, was a store clerk repairing farm equipment. With his father’s blessing, he enlisted in the American army on May 3, 1917, a month and a day after President Woodrow Wilson asked the Congress to declare war upon Imperial Germany. Enright, from near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had already served in the U.S. Army from 1909 to 1916. A veteran soldier, he had survived the post-Boxer Rebellion occupation in China, the Moro wars in the southern Philippines, the garrisoning of Vera Cruz, and the punitive expedition under Pershing to quash Pancho Villa in northern Mexico. The three were among “Pershing’s darlings,” the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division in France in the fall of 1917.

Read more: American forces reach the trenches

For the Doughboys: How to preserve World War I memorials in Illinois

By The Editorial Board
via the Chicago Tribune web site

Victory Memorial Chicago 298The Victory Monument, located at East 35th Street and South Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Wednesday, September 27, 2017, in the Bronzeville neighborhood. (Alyssa Pointer / Chicago Tribune)One November day in 1926, locals gathered in Highland Park to dedicate a statue in honor of the 363 residents who served in World War I. A band played patriotic songs and schoolchildren marched. Then life went on. Before long, there would be more wars to commemorate.

If you know where to go in the Chicago area, you’ll discover statues and other tributes in memory of those who fought and died in the Great War. They aren’t hidden away but are easy to overlook. Some in fine condition, some weather-worn, these memorials are part of the landscape, totems in recognition of sacrifices made 100 years ago. Among the many: the Winnetka Cenotaph Memorial, the Victory Monument in Bronzeville and the Doughboy Statue in Morton Grove.

Does anyone even give these historical markers a thought? Yes, thankfully.

With the war’s centennial at hand, there is a worthy project underway to repair and protect these statues and the legacy they represent. The program, called 100 Cities/100 Memorials, provides matching grants of up to $2,000 for the restoration and upkeep of World War I memorials. The project is a partnership of Chicago’s Pritzker Military Museum and Library and the United States World War One Centennial Commission, with support from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The 100 Cities/100 Memorials program is seeking applications from community groups and others for grant money that could be put toward repairs, landscaping or other uses. The organizers awarded 50 grants in September and will award 50 more in April, which means there’s time for more Illinois groups to get involved and work to preserve more local monuments. Illinois Landmarks is doing a separate World War I monument survey and grant program, also funded by the Pritzker Military Foundation, and it’s also accepting applications.

Look around your own town or neighborhood. Do you know of a World War I memorial that could use some attention? There were six Illinois memorials named in the first 100 Cities batch: Winnetka, Bronzeville and Morton Grove, plus the Gold Star Memorial at Guthrie Park in Riverside, the Wheaton World War I Obelisk and a doughboy statue in downstate Glen Carbon.

“We’re hoping these towns will rededicate these memorials in some kind of public fashion and educate their citizens on the repercussions of World War I,” Kenneth Clarke, president and CEO of the Pritzker Military Museum, told us.

Read more: For the doughboys: How to preserve World War I memorials in Illinois

City of Lyon commemorates U.S. participation in World War I

By Staff Sgt. Frank Brown
Army News Service, via the Fort Gordon News web site

LYON, France — On a damp, cold November day in Lyon, France, a French Military Veteran who has seen generations come and go, looks across the field and sees a U.S. Soldier who’s barely seen life beyond basic training. Today they stand on common ground.

Lyon 2France’s Musique de l’Artillerie and U.S. Army Soldiers from 110th Military Police Company and the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus march to the memorial site after the conclusion of a Remembrance Day ceremony at Parc de la Tête d’or, Nov. 11. Staff Sgt. Frank Brown / Army News Service A century ago, U.S. forces marched onto the battlefields of World War I and fought shoulder to shoulder with allied forces for two years. Nov. 11 marks the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day -- the day battle-weary Soldiers laid down their arms and the curtain of conflict came to a close.

The formations of former and current service members along with local citizens and city officials from Lyon commemorated these historic moments during Remembrance Day ceremony, Nov. 11 in Lyon, France.

The U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus played alongside the French Musique de l’Artillerie as the 110th Military Police Company stood proudly holding the colors.

This is the first time the city of Lyon has had a U.S. military contingent participate in the ceremony to honor those in whose footsteps of service they follow and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Read more: City of Lyon commemorates U.S. participation in World War I

Pensacola State College students unveil World War I project at Navy aviation museum

By Melissa Nelson Gabriel
via the Pensacola News Journal web site

Graphic arts student Kelly Bestgen realized what a big deal it was to have her work displayed at the National Naval Aviation Museum when a Canadian woman who had recently visited the museum asked to buy some her art.

PensacolaPensacola State College graphic design students pay tribute to WWI in their senior project - a collaborative museum exhibit on display at the Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum."That was huge," said Bestgen, who is preparing to graduate from Pensacola State College with a degree in graphic design.

To earn her degree, Bestgen had to complete a final project by working with other senior students and museum staff on a special exhibit that paid tribute to the 100th anniversary of the U.S.'s entry into World War I.

The students' work went on display earlier this month and will remain at the museum until early January.

Through their creative designs and exhaustive research, Bestgen and seven other students told the stories of World War I, including early aviators, war rations and the Spanish Flu.

"It really caught my attention. There's a lot of information here," said Kate McCormick, a museum visitor from Smyrna, Tennessee, as she explored the students' exhibit. 

McCormick lingered in front of a series of posters created by student Zachary Blessing, whose work focused on war rationing. 

His graphic posters highlighted the drastic cuts in rations to German soldiers as their country's war fortunes declined.

Read more: Pensacola State College students unveil World War I project at Navy aviation museum

For WWI centennial, aim is commemorative tree planted in all 75 Arkansas counties 

By Jake Sandlin
via the Arkansas Online web site

Trees planted around the world a century ago served as living reminders of soldiers who died during World War I, part of a reforestation effort and a way to create distinct memorials.

Arkansas treesBarry Cobbs (left) and Ethel Goodtein-Murphree plant a willow oak near Old Main and Gearhart Hall on the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus in a Nov. 17 ceremony marking the World War I centennial. Washington County is one of several where the commemorative oaks have already been planted. Photo by David Gottschalk During the centennial observance of "The Great War," memorial tree programs are again underway, with the goal in Arkansas to plant a specific commemorative willow oak in each of the state's 75 counties.

The state's program officially began in September and will continue through next year for the centennial observance of the United States' war involvement from April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918. Organizations in 47 counties, so far, have been approved to receive one of the memorial trees.

The commemorative tree program is a partnership of the Arkansas World War I Centennial Commemoration Committee and the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

The Centennial Committee manages the program and approves applications. The Arkansas Forestry Commission supplies the trees and lends its expertise in their care. More information is available online at wwiarkansas.com/wwi-memorial-trees.

With exactly 75 willow oaks designated for the state's commemorative tree program, it's important that remaining counties have groups to file their applications as soon as possible to the Centennial Committee, said Mark Christ, the Department of Arkansas Heritage's designated committee member and spokesman for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

Read more: For WWI centennial, aim is commemorative tree planted in all 75 Arkansas counties

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