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World War I Centennial News


Four Questions for Donald Albrecht

New York artists created works to stir the American public to wartime loyalty, duty, and sacrifice

By Alyssa Carter
Staff Writer

There is a great new World War I exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. It is called "Posters and Patriotism", and it explores the effort that the U.S. government made to communicate the war, and to recruit people to join. When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, hundreds of New York City's artists and illustrators were enlisted in the war effort. Many of them worked for the federal government’s new Division of Pictorial Publicity. Posters and Patriotism: Selling World War I in New York examines the outpouring of posters, flyers, magazine art, sheet music covers, and other mass-produced images created by these New Yorkers to stir the American public to wartime loyalty, duty, and sacrifice. Donald Albrecht is the curator of the exhibition, and he took some time to tell us about it.

Tell us a bit about the “Posters and Patriotism” exhibit and the “Culture Goes to War” panel being held at the Museum.

Donald AlbrechtDonald AlbrechtUnknown 17When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, New York City's artists and illustrators were enlisted in the war effort. Many of them worked for the Federal government’s new Division of Pictorial Publicity. Posters and Patriotism: Selling World War I in New York examines the outpouring of posters, flyers, magazine art, sheet music covers, and other mass-produced images created by these New Yorkers to stir the American public to wartime loyalty, duty, and sacrifice. The show merges design, politics, and social history, which many of MCNY's exhibitions do. The "Culture Goes to War" panel will extend the exhibition's reach into art, music, and literature--three fields it only touches on. In addition to presentations by leading scholars, there will be live performances.

The website for the exhibition says that it centers around images created by artists from New York. Who are some of your favorite artists and why?

The exhibition's posters range from examples that are very graphic with flat planes of bold color that have a real visual punch to others that are more illustrative and revel in the artist's hand. There are well known artists featured such as James Montgomery Flagg, known for his “Uncle Sam Wants You” poster, to Howard Chandler Christy. Visitors will also meet lesser known figures, often from the city's advertising industry, such as Herman Roeg.

Read more: Four Questions for Donald Albrecht

Cubs-Red Sox World Series during World War I is key in U.S. love affair with national anthem

By Don Babwin
Associated Press via the Chicago Tribune

On Tuesday afternoon, the crowd at Wrigley Field will be asked to stand and "gentlemen" reminded to remove their caps for the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner." Fans who can recite the words as easily as the alphabet will sing or listen to the story of a flag that continued to wave throughout one of the most famous battles in American history.

comiskey park 1918Comiskey Park in 1918 (Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)What they may not know is that Francis Scott Key, apparently better at lyrics than melody, put his description of the battle of Fort McHenry to an old English tune that had a lot less to do with patriotism than it did with booze and women. Or that this year marks the 100th season since the song was played for the first time at a World Series game — an event that helped cement it in the national consciousness and become the national anthem that is now simply assumed to be part of game day in American sports, from Little League to the Super Bowl to medal ceremonies at the Olympics.

"Certainly the outpouring of sentiment, enthusiasm, and patriotism at the 1918 World Series went a long way to making the (song) the national anthem," said John Thorn, Major League Baseball's official historian.

On September 5, 1918, newspapers were dominated by news of World War I, including the latest American dead. In Chicago, one of the headlines read, "Chicagoans on the List," and it was a particularly harrowing moment in the city for another reason: Someone, possibly self-proclaimed anarchists and labor activists, had the day before tossed a bomb into a downtown federal building and post office, killing four people and injuring dozens more.

The World Series was in town, with the Cubs hosting Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox. The Chicago games were played at Comiskey Park, the home of the White Sox, instead of their new home at Wrigley Field, what was called Weegham Park at the time, because it held more fans. But in a city jittery over the bombing and weary from the war, Game 1 that day attracted fewer than 20,000 fans, the smallest World Series crowd in years.

When they got there, they didn't make much noise, though that could have had something to do with the 1-0 masterpiece Ruth was pitching — yes, pitching — for the Red Sox.

"There was no cheering during the contest, nor was there anything like the usual umpire baiting," reported one Boston newspaper.

Read more: Cubs-Red Sox World Series in 1918 key in U.S. love affair with national anthem

Queen Mary II passes the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor at the end of "The Bridge" race across the Atlantic from France.Queen Mary II passes the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor at the end of "The Bridge" race across the Atlantic from France.

The Bridge has arrived in New York City! Liner wins transatlantic race with top yachts in memory of U.S. troops arriving in France in WWI

Jean Christophe SpinosiJean Christophe Spinosi performs.By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

The Queen Mary II -- the Cunard Cruise Line’s flagship ocean liner -- made port Saturday morning at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, after taking part in The Bridge 2017 -- a trans-Atlantic trip, themed to commemorate the 100th year of World War I, and 100 years of friendship between France and the United States.

The route taken was a reversal of the route taken 100 years ago by the first American troops to join the war, who left the port of New York, and arrived in St. Nazaire, France. During the trip, there were several World War I historical presentations and exhibits for the passengers.

The voyage was also a friendly race to New York City, between Queen Mary 2 and four multi-hull sailboats, some of the fastest sailboats in the world. The Queen Mary 2 won the race, crossing the finish line under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York at 5am local time, before bathing in a flawless dawn in New York Bay. The five vessels left Saint-Nazaire, where the Cunard liner was built, on Sunday, June 25.

As the ship arrived, the passengers sang a moving rendition of "Amazing Grace" in front of Manhattan, and later that day were able to attend at #thebridge2017 concert, organized as part of the SummerStage NYC festival, in Central Park. The concert featured singer Natalie Dessay-Page, as well as Jean-Christophe Spinosi and his Ensemble Matheus Officiel orchestra. The performing artists paid tribute to the two million American soldiers who came to defend freedom in France, 100 years ago.

Read more: The Bridge has arrived in New York City!

President Trump to attend ceremony in Paris marking 100th anniversary of America’s entry into WWI

By Angelique Chrisafis
via the Guardian (UK) web site

5. 16 IN 4 July 1917 Parade in ParisThe U.S. Army's Sixteenth Infantry Regiment 2nd Battalion colors and band led the regiment on a 5 mile march to Picpus Cemetery in Paris, France on July 4, 1917.Donald Trump will attend France’s Bastille Day celebrations in Paris on 14 July, after accepting an invitation from the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

Macron’s office said on Wednesday that the US president would attend the traditional Paris military parade as part of the commemoration marking the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States into the first world war. US troops will join French soldiers in the annual display of military might on the Champs Elysées.

Trump’s Paris visit will be his first trip to France since he became US president. The two men met for the first time in Brussels last month, with a notorious white-knuckle handshake which the French president later said “wasn’t innocent” and was meant to show he wouldn’t “let anything pass”.

The two men were swiftly at odds over climate change after Trump said he would pull the US out of the 2015 Paris climate accord and Macron hit back with an English-language appeal to “make our planet great again”, a riff on Trump’s own promise to “make America great again”.

But the two presidents have since spoken by phone about offering a common response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria as well as joint work on counter-terrorism.

Last week, in his first interview since becoming president, Macron told the Guardian he wanted to work with Trump on counter-terrorism and hoped to bring the US president back into the Paris climate accords. Macron said France would be “perfectly aligned with the US” on responding to chemical weapons use in Syria.

Read more: US president to attend ceremony marking 100th anniversary of America’s entry into WWI

President Trump to attend Bastille Day Parade in Paris honoring WWI U.S. soldiers who arrived in France 100 years ago

By Gregory Viscusi
via the Bloomberg Politics web site

2.16th IN in Paris 1The regimental color guard of the U.S. Army's Sixteenth Infantry Regiment prepares to march through Paris, 4 July 1917. The French government requested a contingent of US troops to march through Paris on the 4th of July in order to bolster French morale.U.S. President Donald Trump has accepted French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation to attend France’s Bastille day celebrations as the two men put aside differences to pay tribute to the U.S. soldiers who fought in France 100 years ago.

Trump will attend the traditional July 14 military parade where American troops will march alongside French soldiers to commemorate the centenary of the U.S. entry into World War I, the offices of both leaders said.

Aside from the ceremonial aspects of the trip, “the two leaders will further build on the strong counter-terrorism cooperation and economic partnership between the two countries, and they will discuss many other issues of mutual concern,” the White House said in a statement.

While Macron has been spared some of the public criticism Trump has poured on European leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, the two have had some sparring from a distance. Trump went out of his way to say he represented “Pittsburgh, not Paris” when justifying pulling out of the Paris climate accord, even though the mayor of Pittsburgh said he supports the accord to limit carbon emissions.

Macron responded by making a statement in English where he invited U.S. scientists to France to carry out research “to make the planet great again,” hijacking Trump’s campaign slogan.

Read more: President Trump to attend Bastille Day Parade in Paris honoring U.S. soldiers who arrived in...

Four Questions for author Gene Fax

"The episodes of the war speak for themselves in all their tragedy, triumph, irony, and absurdity."

By Paul Burgholzer
Staff Writer

Author Gene Fax spent seventeen years combing archives in Washington, Baltimore, Paris, West Point, and Carlisle, Pennsylvania. to research the story of the U.S. 79th Division in World War I. He specifically wanted to learn about their pivotal role during the Battle for Mountfaucon -- one of the most bloody and fiercely contested battles of the entire war. Part of his drive to learn this story was the fact that Gene Fax's grandfather, Corporal Oscar Lubchansky, served in that division, in that battle, as a member of the division's 313th Infantry Regiment. WW1CC's Paul Burgholzer heard about Gene Fax's remarkable book, and reached out to the author to hear more.

The book focuses around the 79th Division. What about the 79th division intrigued you the most?

Gene Fax 300Gene FaxThe whole project began as an attempt to reconstruct my grandfather’s service history. He fought in the 313th Infantry Regiment, part of the 79th Division. I always remembered the stories he used to tell my brother and me when we were little, and when I was in my 40s I wanted to learn more about him. As you know, the Army Personnel Records Center in St. Louis had a fire in 1973 that destroyed almost all of their World War I files. So as a substitute I started reading about the 313th. I had read military history most of my life and was reasonably conversant with the American role in the war, but I had never heard of the major battle of the 313th, the fight for Montfaucon. When I looked for books on that battle, I found there were none. My wife said, “So you’ll write the book.” And that’s how it started.

As my research unfolded, it became clear that the 79th was of more than personal interest. Every problem that beset the AEF plagued the division, usually in exaggerated form--lack of training, unfamiliar equipment, inexperienced officers, faulty doctrine, miserable roads, poor combat supply, you name it. Their only asset was their incredible determination, and by the end of the war—in less than seven weeks of combat--they had transformed themselves into a competent fighting unit. I figured that was a story to which many people would respond.

General Pershing was an important figure in the war as well as your book. What is your overall opinion of General Pershing?

In the book I spent a lot of time criticizing Pershing’s open warfare doctrine, and I stand by that criticism. But in retrospect I should have given him more credit as a manager, leader, and diplomat. Getting two million men (and several thousand women) off the transports, across France, and into the front lines was a stunning accomplishment. It certainly stunned the Germans. Part of the AEF’s success was due to Pershing’s ability to appoint talented subordinates—Hugh Drum as First Army Chief of Staff, James Harbord as head of the Services of Supply, Charles Dawes as General Purchasing Agent, Dennis Nolan heading Intelligence, George Marshall in Operations, the list goes on and on. But he also knew how to supervise and motivate his subordinates, and his personality and iron will percolated down to the lowest private.

Pershing knew what kind of army he wanted and he stopped at nothing to get it. Others have observed that Pershing had to fight a three-front war: against the enemy, against his allies, and against the War Department. Germany had a continuous military tradition going back to Frederick the Great, while the United States had raised large armies only for immediate crises, and not since the Civil War; Pershing was unimpressed. The French and British wanted their own forces to absorb American battalions as they got off the boat; Pershing insisted on a unified, self-sufficient army of his own and by and large he got it. With the War Department he argued constantly over what training the men should receive, how many divisions to send to France, how to allocate shipping capacity between combat and support units, even what kind of airplane engines to manufacture. In these interchanges he was, as the saying goes, “often wrong but never in doubt.” He could be a pain in the neck, but he was a pain in the neck who got things done. As I did say in the book, it is hard to imagine an American officer of the time who could have been a more effective commander in chief.

Read more: Four Questions for Author Gene Fax

International League baseball games teach sports fans about WWI

By Alyssa Carter
Staff Writer

First PitchWW1CC volunteer reenactor Jeremy Bowles meets with Charlotte Knights pitcher Tyler Danish before the game.Recently, the WW1CC put together a series of “World War I Night at the Park” f baseball games with The International League of Minor League Baseball (MiLB). The series ran for three weeks, and was a big success. The Commission’s head of the baseball program, Roger Fisk, spoke to us about this series of games, and how they helped to tell the World War I story.

The series was focused on commemorating baseball’s part in raising money and awareness for the war effort 100 years ago. Baseball was already popular by the time the war began, and now it provides a way for people to remember the veterans that served in World War I.

The connection between World War I and baseball was displayed most prominently during the events of the 1918 World Series. Officials had thought to cancel the series that year out of respect for the troops serving in France, but when they found out that the soldiers were eager to know the results of the games, they decided to continue. This series is where the Star-Spangled Banner gained its popularity when it was played during the seventh inning stretch and the crowd excitedly joined in.

Mr. Fisk detailed the Commission’s efforts at each game. These included providing each team with packets of poppy seeds to distribute, information about the entwined histories of World War I and baseball, and research on players from their respective state who served in World War I before returning to playing baseball.

The games honored World War I heritage in the cities where they were played with giveaways, special presentations, and other World War I history incorporated into the game.

In Virginia, “Living History” came with their van and were able to do research and teach baseball fans more about World War I. Some of the patrons even had research done on ancestors who served in the war, and these people were able to leave the game with a greater connection to World War I.

Read more: Baseball games teach sports fans about World War I history

U.S. Embassy France hosts “Lafayette, we are here!” 4th of July fest

By Nathalie Nguyen
Staff Writer

DDehKn8WsAAZDIgOn June 29, the U.S Embassy in France hosted an early Fourth of July celebration at the Residence of the U.S Ambassador to France. The day was marked by these famous words: “Lafayette, we are here!”

In celebration of the Franco-American friendship, the event commemorated America’s 241st birthday and its centennial entry into World War I. The celebration events started with a World War I-themed garden party, and also included a period vehicle display at Rue du Eaubourg Saint Honoré, and a ceremony in front of General Marquis de Lafayette’s tomb in Picpus Cemetery, the following day.

As French visitors took pictures in front of the famous Uncle Sam poster at the U.S Official Residence, it was clear that the two nations shared something further: common gratitude and friendship.

A century ago, in June, American troops under General John Pershing arrived in St. Nazaire, to help France. Some saw it as a way to repay Lafayette for French support during the American Revolution. That support directly led to American victory, and the creation of the independent, democratic, United States.

Paying tribute to the French men who sacrificed for America’s liberty, General Pershing, and his aide, Colonel C.E Stanton went to the tomb of General Lafayette, and declared, “Layfayette, we are here!” Uttered on the Fourth of July almost a hundred years ago, it was a moment that boosted the morals of the French and laid the groundwork to turn the U.S-France cooperation into a powerful offensive.

Read more: U.S Embassy France hosts “Lafayette, we are here!” 4th of July fest

Centennial of first U.S. combat troops in France on June 26, 1917

By Paul Brugholzer
Staff Writer

June 26th marks the 100th anniversary of the first unit of American combat troops landing in France.

46ac704b7343b9667a9e36162570c570The first contingent of American combat soldiers assemble on the pier at St. Nazaire, France, before marching to their first camps. These troops were the vanguard of over one million U.S. forces who deployed to Europe in WWI before the Armistice in 1919.The small French port of St. Nazaire welcomed the first wave of American soldiers from the 1st Division with open arms. St. Nazaire was an ancient shipbuilding town. Upon the arrival of the first troop ships, the city was the focus of jubilant celebration. French citizens cheered and shouted, as a new sense of hope flooded their hearts. They had seen four years of horrifying war, and millions of men, women, and children had been killed. A significant part of France was occupied by Germany. The opposing militaries were deadlocked, and the end had been nowhere in sight.

The people of St. Nazaire saw the American Army as a heroic liberator. The fantastical notion of liberation is one that has shaped America’s character and it was sealed in reality when the heroes of the US Army landed in St. Nazaire.

America in 1917 was not regarded a world power. It was a country that, a little over 50 years ago, almost tore itself apart in a brutal civil war. The US had little colonial influence compared to the great European powers. America was still largely agrarian and most of the soldiers landing in France had never been to Europe before. American life was isolated from the problems of the world until the nation entered the war. These troops, who marched through the streets of St. Nazaire were the physical representation of America entering the world stage with the global superpowers.

In some ways, the German leadership was not concerned when America entered the war America lacked a modern army, at the time. Further, the incredible logistical effort to form a modern army, and to deploy troops across the Atlantic Ocean, was seen as far beyond their capability. But somehow, despite the enormous challenges, and through with national focus, under an incredible leadership effort, America was able to create their modern army, and to bring them across the ocean, and to leverage them into effective use to end this awful war.

Read more: Centennial of first American combat troops landing in France June 26

Race begins

The Race of a Century: the Queen Mary II sails across Atlantic with the fastest yachts in the world, in memory of World War I

By Michael Stahler
Staff Writer

At 7 pm on Sunday, June 25, three cannon shots rang out into the night as the last true transatlantic ocean liner, the Queen Mary II, left the same French shore that the first American troops of World War 1 arrived at a century ago.

Also departing from the port of St. Nazaire were four other sailing crews manning the best multi-hull yachts in the world. Queen Mary II, a flagship liner from the British Cunard cruise company, was built solely for luxury yet it is currently in the lead, dominating the powerful trimarans built for speed.

This historic race was organized by the Mission du Centenaire, the French commission for the Great War centennial, and supported by Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Foreign Minister nominated by Emmanuel Macron. A celebration of Franco-American friendship over the century, all of these ships are headed straight for the foot of the Statue of Liberty in New York City, a fitting representation of the two nations’ alliance.

A century ago, however, it was from New York that 14,750 brave Americans in the “Big Red One” division embarked to St. Nazaire. This symbolic reversal will also serve as the first reference time from St. Nazaire to New York, taking a unique route bypassing the many obstacles of the Atlantic, from icebergs to migrating whales.

Other events have also been planned for The Bridge 2017, the non-profit association organizing the Centennial Transatlantic Race. To honor the cultural exchange that occurred during the American arrival, The Bridge is hosting the FIBA 3x3 World Basketball Championship, a sport carried to France with the AEF. Another symbol of America, jazz music, will also be celebrated with a series of jazz concerts.

Read more: The Race of a Century: the Queen Mary II sails with the fastest yachts in the world, in memory of...

Ceremony in Brest marks centennial of U.S. troops arrival France

By Nathalie Nguyen
Staff Writer

Ceremony 1French and U.S. Navy color guards ready for the centennial ceremony in Brest on June 22.On the morning of June 22, members of the French military including the French Navy Band participated in an international military ceremony in Brest, France to commemorate the centennial of the arrival of U.S troops to Brest during World War I. There were also informal remarks offered at the nearby Brest Naval Museum.

Robert Dalessandro, Chair of the United States World War One Centennial Commission, and acting secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, was on hand at both events, to represent those organizations for the special moments.

Honoring the historical ties between France and the U.S, the military event paid tribute to the American troops who fought in France, in front of the American World War I Naval Monument.

In June of 1917, the first American troops arrived to France through major port cities. During the Great War, Brest became a vital port for American forces to enter through France, where more than 700,000 men came through to head to the front lines. It was a landing that played a decisive role in the outcome of the war.

During 1917 and 1918, the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) set up supplies, troops, and equipment to use Brest as a disembarking port. Brest also served as American Naval Headquarters in France, and was the scene of every aspect of the naval war -- convoy planning, anti-submarine strategies, logistic plotting, liaison with allied naval efforts, etc.

Read more: Ceremony in Brest marks centennial of U.S. troops arrival in France

Why does World War I still get second-rate treatment in our capital?

By Marc Ferris
via the Washington Post web site

When Congress and President Trump approved a bill potentially providing space on the Mall for a National Desert Storm War Memorial, they delivered a slap in the face to the brave Americans who fought in World War I.

PershingPeople walk past a statue of Gen. John J. Pershing, who had served as general of the Armies in World War I, in Pershing Park, at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, in Washington in 2015. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)The Great War, so-called before the advent of World War II, is one of the nation’s many forgotten wars, evidenced by the fact that there is no national memorial to the conflict on the Mall. This disgrace helps consign the conflict to the cobwebs of memory.

Indeed, the 100th anniversary of the country’s declaration of war against Germany, on April 6, generated little fanfare. Participants in the war effort are deceased, of course, resulting in a lack of political pressure to find room on the Mall. Identifying a spot would be the right thing to do.

The existing World War I memorial on the Mall, built by D.C. dignitaries in 1931, honors only local service members, and few know of its existence. The modest marble structure is situated in a grove of trees 500 feet southwest of the massive National World War II Memorial (dedicated in 2004, 59 years after that war’s end).

The de facto national World War I monument in the District, Pershing Park , commemorates Gen. John J. Pershing, who vanquished the German foe. Christened in 1981, it sits in a zone designated as Area 1, outside the core section of the Mall, the grassy grounds that stretch from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol and from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial.

The Desert Storm memorial also will be in Area 1, but one approved site, a field at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, is a much more prominent spot for a war memorial than Pershing Park, which is one long city block from the Mall proper.

In 2013, anticipating the 100th anniversary of American entry into World War I, Congress created the United States World War I Centennial Commission, which sponsored a design competition to reimagine the Pershing Park space.

The organization selected the winner in 2016, and the project is slated for completion by November 2018, the centennial of the war’s end. The goal, however, is contingent on the ability to raise $30 million to $35 million in private funds.

Read more: Why does World War I still get second-rate treatment in our capital?

Volunteer 'Doughboy' team works to bring WWI MIAs home

By Katie Lange
via DoD News, Defense Media Activity

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, there are still about 82,540 U.S. service members considered missing in action since World War II began. But that agency doesn't account for the more than 4,400 still missing from World War I.

BrookwoodU.S. service members and the local community honor U.S. service members killed during World War I during a Memorial Day ceremony at Brookwood Military Cemetery in England. Brookwood, the final resting place for 468 service members and 41 unknown service members from World War I, is one of the smallest American cemeteries in the United Kingdom. (Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best)Thanks to the efforts of several volunteers, the records of these missing WWI men are slowly being unearthed, and more men are identified.

Historian Robert Laplander, known for his research and writings on the "Lost Battalion" of the Great War, started to search for World War I Army Pvt. Eugene Michael McGrath after someone found battle remnants in 2005 at the site of the Lost Battalion's last stand.

"Among the stuff was a dog tag. It was to one of the guys in the Lost Battalion who was missing in action," Laplander said, referring to McGrath. "We decided to see if we could figure out what happened to him."

And thus began the Doughboy MIA Project. Laplander recruited several volunteer researchers, archivists and historians to help search for McGrath's files. Over the years, word got out of their efforts, and they began to look for other fallen World War I service members.

"We have technology today that they didn't have back then: deep-penetration metal detectors, ground penetrating radar, spatial imaging -- all that kind of stuff," Laplander said.

In 2015, Laplander was contacted by someone at the WWI Centennial Commission and asked to highlight their efforts on the centennial's website. Their page,, has since grown by leaps and bounds.

Read more: Volunteer 'Doughboy' team works to bring WWI MIAs home

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