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World War I Centennial News


 

New exhibit at the Woodrow Wilson House: The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay

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

Mallows Bay ariel shotOverhead photo of one of the WWI shipwrecks that fill Mallows Bay in Maryland.Partially submerged in the middle of the Potomac River, in Mallows Bay, lies the largest shipwreck fleet in the Western Hemisphere. This abandoned fleet includes more than 200 shipwrecks, the majority of which date to World War I, and they represent a haunting legacy of the war.

In April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson approved the greatest shipbuilding program in history: an order for 1,000 ships to make up the shortage of transport vessels needed for the war effort. The war ended before any ships were put into service and hundreds were simply scrapped in the Bay.

To celebrate its legacy, the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington DC presents a new museum exhibit that explores the Ghost Fleet’s fascinating—and scandalous—history.

Read more: New exhibit at the Woodrow Wilson House: The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay

Centennial Commission to live-stream ceremonial groundbreaking Nov. 9
for National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC

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

logoThe U.S. World War I Centennial Commission will host a ceremonial groundbreaking for America's World War I Memorial on Thursday, November 9, 2017, 11:00 am Eastern, at DC's Pershing Park.

This event will be will be live-streamed to the web at https://www.facebook.com/ww1centennial/

Guests of honor will include senior military & veteran leaders, as well as Centennial Commission members, members of the historical/cultural community, U.S. and city officials, and major donors.

U.S. Military Academy Cadets, the Pershing Rifles Group, and the US Army Band's "Pershing's Own" Brass Quintet are also expected to attend.

Our shovels will turn earth that came to us from the World War I battlefields of France.

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is a Congressional Commission created in 2013 to provide public outreach, education programs, and commemoration events for the American involvement in the war. The Commission operates through private donation. The founding sponsor of the Commission is the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago, IL.

 

LOC Veterans History Project schedules World War I special programs for Veterans Day 2017

VHP logoBy Benny Seda-Galarza
Library of Congress Veterans History Project

The Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project (VHP) will celebrate Veterans Day, between Nov. 7 to Nov. 11, with live book talks and a variety of performances, guided tours, workshops and other activities.

The series of events, titled “Coming Home: Veterans Day at the Library of Congress,” will take place in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library.

From a letter-writing event for active-duty service personnel to examining objects a World War I soldier needed, these activities intend to honor and recognize veterans and their families and explore the ways military men and women have connected to home and family during and after service from World War I, Vietnam and the current conflicts.

Read more: Veterans History Project special WWI Programs for Veterans Day

Flanders Remembers concert commemorates U.S. entry into WWI

By Nicholas Polet
Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Flanders House, New York

Flanders Remembers Concert 2017On the occasion of Veterans Day 2017, the Annual Flanders Remembers Concert will present Distortion, a Hymn to Liberty on Thursday, November 9th at 7:30 PM (doors open at 7:00 PM).

One hundred years ago, the United States entered World War One. It was the arrival of fresh American troops that enabled the Allies to turn the tide of war and force the Central powers to sue for peace.

Nearly five million American veterans served in that cruel war; 116,000 men and women gave their lives; and 320,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coast guardsmen suffered casualties in service to this nation, during a war that changed the world.

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was more than 41 million: there were over 18 million deaths and 23 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.

Read more: Flanders Remembers concert commemorates U.S. entry into WWI

"Numbers, statistics are not enough"

After almost a century, Carl Willig came home 

By Noretta Willig
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

In the American Cemetery at Thiaucourt, France, stands a Doughboy, larger than life. Dressed in a summer tunic, bloused pants, and leggings, this serious soldier notches his thumbs in his belt that holds his cased pistol and his field helmet. His still gaze looks out over the silent rows of white crosses. Strong, handsome and resolute, he seems so young.

Doughboy Thiaucourt France 300Doughboy sculpture in the American Cemetery at Thiaucourt, France.Above his head, the inscription, in French, translates: HE SLEEPS FAR FROM HIS FAMILY IN THE GENTLE LAND OF FRANCE.

On the pedestal, below, the motto continues in English: BLESSED ARE THEY THAT HAVE THE HOME LONGING FOR THEY SHALL GO HOME.

My uncle, Carl Willig, died on September 16, 1918, at the battle of St. Mihiel.

Fifty-six days before the end of the war and thirty minutes before his replacement arrived, a high impact shell struck and killed Carl. According to an eyewitness, “He suffered no pain, dear friends.”

Carls StoryIn what we now call “the fog of war,” Carl was lost. In the chaos of the shelling, his body was not immediately recovered from the battlefield, and was lost.

To his parents, his brother and all who ever knew him, he was lost forever. The next three generations continued to experience that loss, an unresolved sorrow that reappeared persistently.

But, over many years, Carl became an ancestral shadow, no longer a reality to anyone.

Then, on November 10, 2008, the eve of the 90th Armistice Day, my phone rang and a genealogist from Oregon working for the US Army identified me as Carl’s next of kin. “They have found something,” she said, explaining that she knew nothing more and that the Army would call me with the full story.

From that second, I was compelled -- I would even say driven – to write Carl’s Story.

My research took me first into old family photos. Looking at them, many for the first time, caused me to make connections with members of my family, some of whom I knew quite well and others whom I never heard of. The linkage and the irony that I discovered looking at those pictures brought meaning and understanding to relationships long cast away in memory.

Then, representatives of the Army visited my home and brought with them hundreds of pages of evidence illustrating the scholarship of JPAC – anthropologists, historians, and several forensic and materials specialists. The information they presented led to an indisputable conclusion. By the single most indestructible part of him, Carl had been found.

They also introduced me to a French organization called "Thanks, GIs", whose mission is to recover the lost remains of American soldiers. In World War I and again in World War II, Eastern France was liberated by the same 5th Division of the US Army.

Read more: After almost a century, Carl Willig came home

The World Forgot About a 402-Foot-Long Painting. Here's What Happened When It Was Found

By Lily Rothman
via the TIME.com web site

Shortly after World War I broke out in 1914, two French artists could already predict that the conflict would take place on a scale unlike anything ever seen at that point. A tribute to it would, then, also demand an unprecedented scale.

pantheon section3Artist Daniel MacMorris' team at work on recreating the giant painting (National WWI Museum and Memorial)By the time the project they conceived to honor the Allies was completed, shortly before the armistice in 1918, more than 100 French artists — mostly older men who were not able to fight themselves — had worked on it. Dubbed Panthéon de la Guerre, the painting measured a whopping 402 feet around and 45 feet tall, and depicted approximately 6,000 heroes of the Allied war effort. It was billed as the world's largest painting. (Whether it actually was depends on when and how exactly the comparison is made; one competitor for the title, for example, is the Atlanta Civil War cyclorama, which has been displayed at various sizes since it was completed in the 1880s but now clocks in at 371 feet by 49.)

But the version of the painting that exists today is not only smaller, but also takes a different perspective on the war. A full century after American forces first saw combat in World War I — on Oct. 21, 1917, in France — the modern Panthéon de la Guerre reflects late-breaking but crucial role of those troops.

After the painting was initially displayed in a dedicated structure in Paris, it went on tour. At the Chicago World's Fair in 1933, a special building was constructed to display the massive mural. But, after it toured the United States in the years that followed, with the Great War fading somewhat in the minds of Depression-era Americans and a fresh war on the horizon, it wound up by 1940 sitting in a crate outside a Baltimore warehouse, forgotten. A local restaurateur named William H. Haussner — a German immigrant who in fact had fought for Germany in the Great War — purchased the painting at an auction for $3,400. In 1953, he finally unfurled his enormous purchase to see what it looked like.

Read more: The World Forgot About a 402-Foot-Long Painting. Here's What Happened When It Was Found

Now is the Time to apply for a Round #2 100 Cities / 100 Memorials Matching Grant

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

WASHINGTON DC, October 23, 2017—In observance of the Centennial of World War I, a total of 100 matching grants, of up to $2,000 apiece, are being awarded for the restoration, conservation, or even creation, of 100 World War I Memorials across the United States.

The first 50 “WWI Centennial Memorials” were announced on September 27, 2107 and grant applications for the second 50 awards are being taken now.

Applications can be submitted until January 15, 2018. The program management expects to announce the second group of 50 awardees on April 6, 2018.

Any organization, group, municipal government, or individual may apply. The Memorial or monument must be WWI-related, must be in the 50 States or US territories, and the project must be, or have been completed between January 1, 2014 and November 18, 2018.

To date, both American Legion and Veterans of Foreign wars posts from around the country have participated, as well as many other Veterans Service Organization, community groups, city, state and municipal organizations, local historic preservation societies and even individuals.

Read more: Now is the Time to apply for a Round #2 100 Cities / 100 Memorials Matching Grant

Aberdeen Proving Ground born in WWI

The day that changed everything

By Erika Quesenbery Sturgill
via the cecildaily.com (Maryland) web site

ABERDEEN, MD — It was exactly a century ago that everything changed in Harford County and, to an extent, Cecil County.

It was on Oct. 20, 1917, that the Federal Government took official possession of the land that would forevermore become Aberdeen Proving Ground. Allowing no moss to grow, work began the very same day, before the ink on the deed was dry.

Edgewood laboratory 600Scientists work in a chemistry lab at Aberdeen Proving Ground's Edgewood Arsenal near the end of World War 1. Edgewood became home to the nation’s Chemical Warfare Service where it conducted the U.S.’s defensive and retaliatory chemical weapons program. The U.S. Army’s oldest active proving ground, APG was established just six months after America entered World War I. It was to be a facility to design and test ordnance materiel, with excellent industrial and shipping center access, and a successor to the smaller Sandy Hook Proving Ground in New Jersey. As technology changed, Sandy Hook proved too small for some of the larger weapons that needed testing.

Work progressed so rapidly at APG that by Dec. 31, 1917, a railroad track was in place with several temporary buildings standing in response to the war effort.

Although a great deal of the munitions for WWI, then called The Great War, were to be created by civilian contractors, the U.S. government built federally-owned plants on APG to manufacture toxic gas being used during that war. These poison gas facilities eventually came to be known as the Edgewood Arsenal, where there were also facilities to fill artillery shells with the chemicals produced there. Production began in 1918 and reached 2,756 tons per month, totaling 10,817 tons manufactured there before the Nov. 18 armistice.

APG earned its nickname as the “Home of Ordnance” as a test, evaluation, research, development, engineering and training installation that is one of the Army’s finest in the world. From the days of proof-testing field artillery, ammunition, trench mortars, air defense guns and railway artillery, APG expanded into an ordnance training school and developmental testing of small arms. Now, mechanical maintenance training is conducted on the site.

Read more: Aberdeen Proving Ground born in WWI

War Horses 103 years on: Horse Heroes fund nears $1 million

WWI war horse103 years ago this month, America’s horses and mules began their one-way journey to the battlefields of World War One.via the Horsetalk.co.nz web site

Some 103 years ago this month the first of America’s horses and mules exported to join the World War One war effort in Europe left their homes.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the US entering WW1, and Brooke USA’s Horse Heroes campaign has raised nearly $900,000 of its million-dollar goal to honor the memory of those horses by raising funds to improve the welfare of working equines around the world.

Brooke USA, an official Commemorative Partner of the United States World War I Centennial Commission, is raising one dollar in memory of each of America’s horses and mules who served in World War I.

Once bought for the war effort, the US horses and mules endured a strenuous journey that included traveling to a seaport and shipping in cargo holds across the Atlantic. After several weeks at sea, the animals were admitted to quarantine upon arriving in England. They were shod and kept at remount stations to recover from their trips overseas before they began their formal training as war horses.

Read more: War Horses 103 years on: Horse Heroes fund nears $1 million

Wilmingtonian decodes German World War I Correspondence

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

Charles Jastrow MendelsohnCharles Jastrow MendelsohnNot every North Carolinian who served in the armed forces during the First World War carried a gun on the battlefields of France. Some, like Camelia Rutherford London, were administrators. Others served as nurses, artists, naval officers, and chaplains. In the course of my research, I’ve uncovered at least one person who served as a cryptographer—someone who specializes in encrypting and decrypting sensitive information—during the war period, Wilmington native Charles Jastrow Mendelsohn.

The only child of Rabbi Samuel Mendelsohn and his wife Esther Jastrow, Charles excelled in mathematics and foreign languages, obtaining a Ph.D. in classics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1904. He was employed as a professor of ancient languages at the City College of New York when the United States formally declared war on Germany in April 1917. As a civilian, Mendelsohn supported the war effort as a translator and interpreter of foreign languages for various government offices and as a censor of correspondence and newspapers with the postal service.

His expertise soon caught the attention of Herbert O. Yardley, an influential cryptologist of the time who recruited Charles to join the United States’ first cryptologic agency: Military Intelligence, Section 8, known more commonly by its abbreviated form, MI-8. In July 1918, Mendelsohn entered the army straight from civilian life with the rank of captain. The swearing-in ceremony was deeply moving for him: “[M]y heart is full to the brim of gratitude for the trust that America is placing in me, and the firm determination to serve her to the utmost limit of my slight powers—all to the end that peace may again spread her blessing among men, and that the world of the future may be a world without war and hatred….”

The entirety of his year-long military term was spent stateside at posts in Washington D.C. and New York City where Mendelsohn led at team tasked with decrypting intercepted German diplomatic correspondence. Using ciphers that had already been broken by the British, including one from the Zimmermann Telegram known as 13040, his team broke at least six of Germany’s diplomatic codes. Two of the deciphered messages shed light on Germany’s continued attempts to recruit support from Mexico. Though Mexico declined such offers, Mendelsohn’s work provided a deeper understanding of Germany’s interference with one of our nation’s neighbors.

Read more: Wilmingtonian decodes German World War I Correspondence

National WWI Museum event looks at Great War's resistance and impact

By Tim Huber
via the Mennonite World Review

KANSAS CITY, MO — While many events have honored heroism and sacrifice during World War I, a different kind of conference gathered in an unlikely place to pay tribute to those who opposed the Great War a century ago.

MutedVoices BlackBackground logo“Remembering Muted Voices: Conscience, Dissent, Resistance and Civil Liberties in World War I Through Today” took place Oct. 19-22 at the National World War I Museum and Memorial.

Museum president and CEO Matthew Naylor said the work of interpreting the First World War and its impact isn’t just to glorify heroism and sacrifice but to reveal the catastrophe of spilled blood.

“To tell the story of war’s horror warns us, tells us what humans are capable of and steers us to peace,” Naylor said. “. . . At a time when there is much loose talk of war and the sabers are rattled loudly by men in lofty houses . . . this work of remembering, of learning, of peacemaking is even more important than ever.”

Historic peace churches were well-represented at the conference, which included 70 academic paper presentations and was attended by about 250 participants.

On a panel moderated by conference co-planner and Goshen (Ind.) College history professor John D. Roth, Mennonite historian James Juhnke described how American Anabaptists, many of whom spoke German, were gripped in crisis by the conflict and found a sense of identity in the founding of Mennonite Central Committee shortly after the war.

Quakers in Britain advocacy worker Jane Dawson spoke of varying responses among British Quakers to the war, ultimately emerging into the 1920s with strengthened convictions — no longer a quietist church, but a peace church.

Read more: National WWI Museum event looks at Great War's resistance and impact

First Three 1000

Four Questions for Steven Clay, President of the 16th Infantry Regiment Association

"To honor our Regiment’s fallen and remember the sacrifices of all 16th Infantry soldiers"

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

On November 3rd, the first Friday of next month, there will be a modest memorial ceremony in the little village of Evansville, Illinois. This ceremony will hold enormous resonance to the World War I community, and represents a significant milestone in America's involvement in the war. The hosts for the event will be the 16th Infantry Regiment Association. We spoke to the Association's President, Steven E. Clay, about what is planned.Steven Clay 300Steven Clay

Your organization is hosting a unique and remarkable ceremony on November 3rd. Tell us about it. Who is being honored, and why?

On 3 November 1917, Corporal James Gresham, and Privates Thomas Enright and Merle Hay, were killed in action during a German trench raid near the little village of Bathelémont, France.

These soldiers -- all members of F Company, 16th Infantry -- were the first three American soldiers killed in combat in World War I. The 16th Infantry Regiment Association will honor Gresham with the dedication of a plaque at his mother’s home in Evansville, Indiana, at 10:00 am, on 3 November 2017.

14. Funeral for Gresham Enright HayThe burial of Gresham, Enright, and Hay, in France in 1917. Gresham was subsequently reburied in Evansville, after the war, in 1921.This event is part of our organization’s mission to honor our Regiment’s fallen and remember the sacrifices of all 16th Infantry soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. It is also part of the Regimental Association’s World War I 100th anniversary remembrances as a Commemorative Partner of the United States World War I Centennial Commission.

Tell us about these three soldiers. Who were they? What was their unit, the 16th, doing at the time? How was the news of their fate received, at the time, in the US and in France?

James Gresham was from Evansville, Indiana. He was a pre-war Regular Army soldier who had served with the 16th Infantry in the Punitive Expedition into Mexico.

Like Gresham, Enright was a Regular Army soldier. Originally, from Bloomfield (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Army in 1909 and saw service in China, the Philippines, and, in Mexico during both the Vera Cruz (1914) and Punitive Expeditions (1916).

Read more: Four Questions for Steven Clay, President of the 16th Infantry Regiment Association

The tragic plight of Germans in America during WWI

By Harvey Day
via the Daily Mail Online web site

Interned GermansThe United States declared war on Germany in April 1917 and helped lead the Allies to victory. But before that, many Americans were terrified of the German threat growing on the other side of the world. Pictured, interned Germans forced to build the barracks for their own internment camp.As Europe was ravaged by fighting, German immigrants in the US suffered harassment, internment, lynchings - and even the humiliation of being tarred and feathered.

Although a little-remembered part of history today, America was completely wracked by the fear and paranoia that swept from coast to coast during the Great War.

The United States declared war on Germany in April 1917 and helped lead the Allies to victory. But before that, many Americans were terrified of the German threat growing on the other side of the world.

A fascinating collection of photos have resurfaced showing the hardships faced by German-Americans at the brutal height of the First World War.

As Europe was ravaged by fighting, German immigrants in the US suffered harassment, internment, lynchings - and even the humiliation of being tarred and feathered.

Although a little-remembered part of history today, America was wracked by the fear and paranoia that swept from coast to coast during the Great War.

The United States declared war on Germany in April 1917 and helped lead the Allies to victory. But before that, many Americans were terrified of the German threat growing on the other side of the world.

This collection of pictures reveals the full extent of war hysteria and open hostility towards all things German that erupted across the nation.

Read more: Tragic plight of Germans in America during WWI

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