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World War I Centennial News


 

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

Norwich University Partners with National WWI Centennial Commission to Host Commemoration Events

By Daphne Larkin
Assistant Director of Communications, Norwich University

NORTHFIELD, VTEarl A Parker andNorwich alumni (photo courtesy of Norwich University Archives)Norwich University has partnered with the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission to host events on campus and to act as a statewide clearinghouse for commemorative events occurring throughout Vermont to the national centennial commission.

World War I has a special place in the history of Norwich University, the birthplace of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). Leading up to American involvement in World War I, Norwich issued its entire senior class certificates of graduation in 1917, so that when war was declared the students were able enter the military. The school was in a unique position to serve its country and provide citizen soldiers with the tools and skills to lead and fight when the U.S. entered the conflict.

According to a 1928 report by the state of Vermont, after the war, famed General John J. Pershing wrote to Charles Plumley, Norwich’s then-president, commending the school’s soldiers for their actions: “It gives me a great deal of pleasure to write these few words of appreciation of the services rendered by Norwich University men in the World War. Prepared to fulfill the sacred duty of defending their country’s honor through the highly efficient course of instruction in the military science which Norwich provides, they answered the call in 1917 with a patriotism inspired by the achievements of Norwich men in previous wars. The duties they performed and the manner of their accomplishment added another splendid chapter to the history of their Alma Mater,’” wrote Pershing.

Read more: Norwich University Partners with National WWI Centennial Commission to Host Commemoration Events

"Stories of Service" preserves records of family WW1 history

By John W. Strickland
Staff Writer

Did you have a family member serve in World War One? Nearly 5 million Americans wore the uniform during that war, and each had an experience that is part of our country’s rich historic fabric.

GroupThe United States World War One Centennial Commission is working to ensure the memories of these families and veterans do not fade away. We have established a “Stories of Service” section for those families to share the memory of their ancestors from generations ago. "Stories of Service" is part of the "Family Ties" section of the Commission web site.

Almost five million American families sent their fathers or mothers or sons or daughters to serve in the Armed Forces during World War One. Countless other families had members who supported the war effort in industry, farming, shipping, and many other fields. All those who served then are gone now, but the Commemoration of the Centennial of World War One is the nation's opportunity to make a permanent and comprehensive record of how and where those family members served, and what they did for the country, before the succeeding generations' memories of that service are lost forever.

Stories of Service” allows anyone who grew up hearing about their grandparent or great-grandparent’s service to preserve this precious record of family history in the permanent record of the World War One Centennial Commission.

Read more: "Stories of Service" preserves records of family WW1 history

Four Questions for Brian Faltinson

"Know the heroism and sacrifice of those who served in World War One"

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

Captain Brian Faltinson is a Public Affairs Officer with the Wisconsin National Guard. He is part of an innovative centennial effort to celebrate their World War I history, when they fought in France as the 'Red Arrow' Division. In essence, the Wisconsin Guard has drawn together the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, the Wisconsin National Guard Museum and the Wisconsin Historical Society to find and share the photos, letters, memoirs, artifacts and stories left behind by the Soldiers of the 32nd 'Red Arrow' Division. Captain Faltinson shared some insights with us regarding the project, and why it's important.

Tell us about the National Guard in Wisconsin, and their World War One history.

Faltinson 300Captain Brian Faltinson, USA, Wisconsin National GuardAbout 5,000 members of the Wisconsin National Guard served in Texas during the Mexican Border Crisis and many turned right around and redeployed to Camp MacArthur, Texas, for World War One training. There, 15,000 Wisconsin National Guardsmen from units in 72 Wisconsin cities joined with the Michigan National Guard to form the 32nd Division. The division entered combat in Alsace in May 1918 and would later fight in the Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne and Meuse-Argonne campaigns. It spent only ten days in a rest area once it entered combat. The French awarded a battle citation to the division for its ferocity in combat near Soissons during the Second Battle of the Marne. The division nickname of “Les Terribles” was formalized by the French in that citation – making the 32nd the only American division to earn a nom-de-guerre from a foreign nation. The division pierced every single German line it encountered and, as a result, its shoulder sleeve insignia is that of a red arrow punching through a German battle line. This success in battle was earned at great cost; the division suffered nearly 15,000 casualties of which over 2,600 were killed in action.

Your effort to promote that history, Dawn of the Red Arrow is remarkable. Tell us about what you are doing to find & tell that story, in terms of research, social media posting, etc.

The overarching project theme is to have the division’s Soldiers tell their own story. We are partnered with the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, the Wisconsin National Guard Museum and the Wisconsin Historical Society to find and share the photos, letters, memoirs, artifacts and stories left behind by the Soldiers of the 32nd Division. Additional research will also occur at the National Archives where the division’s operational records and 2.5 hours of U.S. Army Signal Corps film of the division are located. Setting the stage and connecting these stories are a series of interviews with history professors at Marquette University, Ripon College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We will tell these stories as they happened 100 years ago, which means this project will last through June 6, 1919 when the Wisconsin members of the division marched in a welcome home parade in Milwaukee.

Read more: Four Questions for Brian Faltinson

LoC announces broad range of WW1 programs, publications

By Donna Urschel
Visitor Services Office, Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson Building Aerial by Carol M. HighsmithTo commemorate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War One, the Library of Congress is offering an array of exhibitions, lectures, symposia, blogs, publications, digitized collections, Victory Gardens, veterans’ stories, educational tools, film programs and research guides.

The Library is uniquely prepared to tell the story of U.S. participation in World War One, because it holds the largest multi-format collection of materials on the American experience in the Great War. The “war to end all wars” began for this country on April 6, 1917, when the U.S. Congress formally declared war on the German Empire, and concluded Nov. 11, 1918, with the armistice agreement.

Events are free and open to the public. Tickets are required or suggested for certain lectures. The programs will take place at the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., or at its James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., both in Washington, D.C.

Read more: LoC announces broad range of WW1 programs, publications

‘General Pershing’ graces Great Gatsby Inaugural Ball

By Anthony C. Hayes
via The Baltimore Post-Examiner

Though set in the Roaring Twenties, the restless spirit born of World War One reverberates in the characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s epic novel: The Great Gatsby.

Shuey at Great Gatsby Inaugural Ball 374 630x310David Shuey in the persona of General John Pershing.at the Great Gatsby Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC.Narrator Nick Carraway, for example, first recognizes Jay Gatsby as an officer who served in his division during the Great War. And it is revealed by Jordan that Gatsby became obsessed with Daisy Buchanan while she was doing volunteer work with officers who were heading overseas.

Knowing these important connections, Paul Ervin of the Twenties tribute group Dardanella reached out to Chris Isleib of the United States World War One Centennial Commission. The correspondence which followed opened the doors of Dardanella’s Great Gatsby Presidential Inaugural Ball to representatives of the non-profit organization. Much to everyone’s delight, the call was ultimately answered by actor David Shuey who appeared at the ball in the persona of General Pershing.

The Great Gatsby Presidential Inaugural Ball – a non-partisan Roaring Twenties event – was held last Friday night at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The sold-out event featured period-correct costumes, Prohibition-era cocktails, and Jazz Age dancing with music by three different bands which were spelled throughout the night by classic gramophone recordings.

Read more: ‘General Pershing’ graces Great Gatsby Inaugural Ball

Edith Cavell: A reluctant martyr of World War One

By Kate Lyons
Staff Writer

Edith Cavell became one of the greatest martyrs of World War One, and her heroic story was shared throughout the Allied countries as a shining example of patriotism. It even helped influence popular opinion in the United States against Germany, and promoted its eventual entering the war. Yet, her real life contradicts the patriotic legacy that was created after her death.

Cavell postcardA postcard that promoted the martyrdom of Edith Cavell in graphic detail.Before the war broke out, Cavell worked in a nurse training school in Brussels, Belgium. She heard news of the war while visiting relatives in Britain, and came to one of most important conclusions of her life: “At a time like this, I am more needed than ever.” Thus, she returned to Brussels as a nurse.

She was known for nursing any soldier, regardless of nationality. After German forces captured Brussels in August of 1914, Cavell chose to stay behind at her hospital while most of the other nurses fled. She also helped more than 200 Allied soldiers escape into neutral Holland. In addition to soldiers, Cavell also smuggled intelligence back to the British, but this remained a state secret until after her death. She was arrested by the Germans in August 1915 for assisting the enemy, after the Germans discovered letters revealing Cavell’s involvement with sending soldiers and intelligence out of Belgium. German interrogators then tricked her into making a full confession by telling her they already knew everything, and that she could only save her friends who were arrested for the same crimes if she confessed.

During her trial she refused to lie in order to save herself, and confessed again. This resulted in her being sentenced to death. Diplomats from Spain and the United States, both neutral countries at the time, tried to commute her sentence, but to no avail.

Read more: Edith Cavell: A reluctant martyr of World War One

A Philadelphia chaplain’s heroic World War One acts

By Chris Gibbons
via the Philadelphia Inquirer

Lt Joseph WolfeLt Joseph L. N. WolfeIn autumn 1918, during World War One’s great Meuse-Argonne offensive in France, a badly wounded young American soldier lay on his back, clutching the hand of a chaplain, Lt. Joseph Wolfe, as the priest administered last rites.

Although the battle raged around them, an eerie calm enveloped the fallen soldier as he looked up into Wolfe’s eyes — knowing that they were likely the last he’d gaze into upon this Earth. The chaplain held his emotions in check, finished his prayer, and made the sign of the cross above the young soldier’s body.

Wolfe’s grim tasks were just beginning. Dead and wounded soldiers littered the floor of the Argonne Forest. Cries for help pierced the air amid the hissing bullets, rattling machine gun fire, and exploding mortar shells. Wolfe crawled over and knelt next to another wounded American soldier, trying to help him in any way he could.

Other 28th Division soldiers, who had taken cover, were stunned by what they saw. “Calmly and without fear [Wolfe] administered to the boys who were hurt and those who were in danger,” wrote fellow soldier John J. Mangan in a letter to the Philadelphia Public Ledger in November, 1918. “This is but one instance of the work of this noble priest that the boys who were out there were able to see.” A wounded soldier told Mangan that Wolfe “spent three days on the line without a bite to eat ... out there in the thickest of the shelling, not knowing the minute when it would come his turn."

My continuing search for the Roman Catholic High School alumni who gave their lives in World War I led me to the heroic story of Rev. Joseph L.N. Wolfe. I had come across numerous newspaper articles lauding Wolfe’s acts of bravery during the Great War and unexpectedly discovered that he graduated from the historic school in 1899.

Born in Philadelphia in 1881, and raised in the city’s old Logan Square section, Wolfe pursued theological studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary following Roman, and was ordained a priest in 1906. He was serving as assistant pastor at St. Patrick’s Church in Rittenhouse Square when the United States entered World War I in 1917. Wolfe enlisted at the age of 35 and was assigned as a chaplain in the 110th Infantry Regiment in the 55th Infantry Brigade of Pennsylvania’s 28th Division.

Read more: A Philadelphia chaplain’s heroic World War One acts

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