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World War I Centennial News


Army aviator hero honored with Distinguished Flying Cross 99 years later

By Charlsy Panzino
via the Army Times web site

James MillerJames MillerThe Army this week posthumously awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross to the first U.S. aviation casualty in World War I, according to an Army news release.

Capt. James Miller, one of the first aviators in the U.S. military, took command of the 95th Pursuit Squadron in February 1918 in France. The pilots in this squadron were the first American-trained pilots to fight in World War I.

Miller and a fellow pilot flew into enemy territory a month later and fought off two German aircraft, according to the release. The other pilot experienced trouble with his machine gun and had to leave Miller to fight on his own.

The Distinguished Flying Cross citation said Miller “fearlessly” exposed himself to the enemy “until his own aircraft was severely damaged and downed behind the German lines.”

Read more: Army aviator honored with Distinguished Flying Cross 99 years later

The History of the WWI Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay 

By Cynthia Houston
via the SpinSheet web site

Forty miles south of Washington, DC, off of Maryland’s Charles County shoreline near a little town named Nanjemoy, the weather- and water-beaten remains of more than two hundred ships lie in their final resting places in the shallow waters of the Potomac River’s Mallows Bay. “Mallows Bay is the richest marine heritage site in the United States,” according to Samuel Orlando, Chesapeake Bay Regional Coordinator at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) office of National Maritime Sanctuaries. “In addition to being reflective of America’s emergence as a naval superpower during World War I, the Ghost Fleet provides the structure for a unique marine ecosystem.”

Mallows Bay photo by Don ShometteMallows Bay (NOAA photo by Don Shomette)In November of 2015, the emergent and submerged vessels of this Ghost Fleet, the largest shipwrecked fleet in the Western Hemisphere, were nominated as a candidate to become part of a national “underwater park” system of 13 national marine sanctuaries which encompasses more than 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters. NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System protects unique water habitats and is home to diverse aquatic ecosystems ranging from kelp forests to coral reefs to the playgrounds of humpback whales. Pending the results of current public outreach soliciting input on four alternatives, the Mallows Bay-Potomac River Sanctuary would become the 14th National Marine Sanctuary under NOAA’s care.

If you’re concerned that there was a Battle of Mallows Bay on American soil during WWI that sunk hundreds of ships, and that you’ve somehow gravely overlooked a key event in U.S. history, fret not. The origins of the Ghost Fleet may have its roots in America’s burgeoning war effort, but it was largely the industrial complex and economy that grew out of World War I that led to the fleet’s demise.

Read more: The History of the Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay

Battleship Texas closed after sprouting new leak

By Ray Bogan
via the foxnews.com web site

Crews are working to repair major leaks and stop flooding on board the historic Battleship Texas in Houston. As a result, the site is closed to the public until further notice.

The ship is constantly leaking and a system of pumps are in place to push out the water, according to Bill Erwin, Superintendent for San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.

USS TexasUSS Texas, last remaining US Navy battleship from WWI.But a new six-by-eight-inch hole in the blister tank let in a substantial amount of water that the current pump system could not control. The extra water caused the ship to list six degrees to the starboard or to the right.

Texas Parks and Wildlife hired a contractor who installed additional pumps and put divers in the water to find and patch the hole. As of 9:30 local time Monday morning, the hole was fixed and crews were working to get the pumps operating again.

“We’re going to be working on this with our contractors until we come to a resolution and get the ship righted,” said Erwin. He believes there was another leak in the ship and divers are scheduled to get back in the water and check the hull again.

Ballard praised the students for leading the effort to have the memorial back on public display.

Battleship Texas took part in some of the most significant battles in both World Wars. At the time she was built in 1914, she was the most powerful weapon in the world according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. USS Texas was the first ship to have anti-aircraft guns and was one of the first to have radar installed in 1939. She was decommissioned in 1948 and became a memorial ship.

Read more: Battleship Texas closed after sprouting new leak

How the U.S. decided to send millions of troops into World War I

By Erick Trickey
via the Smithsonian.com web site

U.S. General John J. Pershing, newly arrived in France, visited his counterpart, French general Philippe Pétain, with a sobering message on June 16, 1917. It had been two months since the U.S. entered World War I, but Pershing, newly appointed to command the American Expeditionary Force in France, had hardly any troops to deploy. The United States, Pershing told Pétain, wouldn’t have enough soldiers to make a difference in France until spring 1918.

ap 134334552346 11U.S. Army General John J. Pershing, center, inspects French troops at Boulogne, France on June 13, 1917.“I hope it is not too late,” the general replied.

Tens of thousands of Parisians had thronged the streets to cheer Pershing on his June 13 arrival. Women climbed onto the cars in his motorcade, shouting, “Vive l’Amérique!” The French, after three years of war with Germany, were desperate for the United States to save them.

Now Pétain told Pershing that French army was near collapse. A million French soldiers had been killed in trench warfare. Robert-Georges Nivelle’s failed April offensive against the German line in northern France had caused 120,000 French casualties. After that, 750,000 soldiers mutinied, refusing to go to the front line. Pétain, who replaced Nivelle in May, had kept the army together by granting some of the soldiers’ demands for better food and living conditions and leave to see their families. But the French were in no condition to launch any more offensives. “We must wait for the Americans,” Pétain told Pershing.

But the United States wasn’t ready to fight. It had declared war in April 1917 with only a small standing army. Pershing arrived in France just four weeks after the Selective Service Act authorized a draft of at least 500,000 men. Though President Woodrow Wilson intended to send troops to France, there was no consensus on how many. “The more serious the situation in France,” Pershing wrote in his 1931 memoir, My Experiences in the World War, “the more deplorable the loss of time by our inaction at home appeared.”

Read more: How the U.S. Decided to Send Millions of Troops Into World War I

Why the Wonder Woman movie had to be set in World War I

By Claire McBride
via the SyfyWire web site

Like her fellow star-spangled superhuman Captain America, Wonder Woman has always been closely and explicitly associated with World War II. In her 1941 debut in All Star Comics #8, Diana is specifically sent by her mother Queen Hippolyta into Man's World to help Steve Trevor fight the Nazis.

Wonder WomanStill from the Wonder Woman movie set in World War I.For much of the decade-long run of Sensation Comics, the anthology series Wonder Woman more or less anchored, she fought alongside Steve Trevor (with the occasional help of Etta Candy and her sorority) against Nazi villainesses like Doctor Poison and Baroness Paula von Gunther.

Throughout the years, there have been some attempts to update Wonder Woman for the modern day. Some are more straightforward, like just introducing the concept of pants. Others have been just bizarre, like that time Diana gave up her powers to run a mod boutique and learn kung fu. (Oh yeah.) But despite her immortality, her origin story is so rooted in World War II that there's always a whiff of that time period about her.

So when it was announced that the first Wonder Woman feature film would be set against the backdrop of World War I, I had to double-check to make sure that there wasn't a numeral missing. At the time, I lacked all faith in the DC Extended Universe, having born witness to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so I, quite uncharitably, assumed it was Warner Brothers trying to unsubtly stand out from the competition by using World War I as decorative wallpaper.

I'm very happy to report that I was wrong. Not only is Wonder Woman superior to Batman v Superman in every respect, it also uses its World War I setting thoughtfully and cohesively as an integral part of the story.

Read more: Why Wonder Woman had to be set in World War I

World War I memorial rededicated at Orleans County Courthouse

By Tom Rivers
via the OrleansHub.com web site

Orleans NY plaqueALBION, NY – A Bronze tablet listing the names of 24 soldiers from Orleans County who died in World War I was rededicated Friday, June 9 at the County Courthouse.

Tim Archer, the service learning teacher at Albion, addresses a crowd during the dedication program at the courthouse. The marker was originally installed at the courthouse but was removed, and later was in possession of the American Legion. That veterans group formed when soldiers returned from World War I nearly 100 years ago.

The American Legion in Albion group sold its post building on Main Street to Community Action, and relocated to the former Scottish Pines golf course on Gaines Basin Road.

The Legion wanted to find a proper home for the memorial tablet, and reached out to Archer. His seventh grade students were doing research on local soldiers involved in World War I. The memorial tablet had been in storage.

The 3-by-5-foot plaque lists the names of soldiers from central Orleans – Barre, Albion, Gaines and Carlton – who died in the war. They include: John D. Arnett, Albert Beary, Jesse S. Brooks, John A. Butler, Leo. F. Christopher, Oliver E. Clement, Ronald F. Corey, Robert B. Densmore, Harry H. Dibley, Frederick Green, John Kurzawski, Martin Larwood, Louis Monacelli, Dewey Mott, Benjamin A. Needles, Leonard Osborne, Adolfo Passarelli, Stanley Rutkowski, James A. Sheret, Egbert Sheret, John H. Stevens, Alexander Wilson and Stanley P. Zyglarski.

“These men witnessed what no citizen, man, woman, or child, could ever imagine,” said County Historian Matthew Ballard. “A war that raged in the French countryside thousands of miles from home, exposing men to terrible disease, horrific weapons, chlorine and mustard gas, barbed wire and trenches, the list goes on.”

Seventh-grader Aurora Serafin was among the speakers during the rededication program.  The Albion students had considered having the tablet placed at Mount Albion Cemetery, but decided the best spot for it would be its original location at the courthouse.

Ballard praised the students for leading the effort to have the memorial back on public display.

Read more: World War I memorial rededicated at County Courthouse

A Fighting Chance for Veterans: The Catholic Church, Catholic University, and World War I

By Paul Burgholzer
Staff Writer

World War I took place at a time when there were few of the official channels of support for our military members and veterans that we have today – there was no Department of Veteran Affairs, there was no GI Bill, there were only a handful of organized Veteran Service Organizations (VSO’s) to advocate for veterans. Benefits and treatments afforded to Great War veterans were limited.

National Catholic War CouncilThe hierarchy meeting that founded the National Catholic War Council However, there was enormous emotional support for the troops. As the United States entered World War I, public support for the war and for the military was very high.

Catholic Americans, and major Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus, joined the support effort and displayed spirited patriotism. One leader of that effort was John J. Burke (1875–1936).

Burke was a prominent Paulist priest in the United States, and editor of the widely-read Catholic World newspaper from 1903 to 1922. Burke saw a leadership role for the church, in helping the lives of the military members, as well as the lives of those veterans who were returning home.

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the US followed Father Burke’s vision. They reacted to this American patriotism by creating the National Catholic War Council. This council helped Catholics unite through American nationalism. The Council managed 700 Catholic organizations that contributed to the war effort, supported the creation of student army training camps, and even helped with efforts to get women involved in the war.

Read more: A Fighting Chance for Veterans: The Catholic Church, Catholic University, and World War I

World War I tribute designed by UA grad over another hurdle

By Frank E. Lockwood
via the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette web site

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission -- once it receives the necessary approvals from other agencies -- aims to break ground on a new national memorial on Nov. 11, the 99th anniversary of the armistice that halted the fighting.

SnipView toward the planned commemorative wall of the National World War One Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC.The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, a federal agency that must sign off on memorials in the nation's capital, approved the group's concept proposal at its May meeting.

The National Capital Planning Commission, another agency that oversees planning matters in the capital area, is expected to review the proposal when it meets next month.

Joseph Weishaar, a 2013 graduate of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, won the international design competition in January 2016, beating more than 350 other entries.

Phoebe Lickwar, a professor at the Jones School, is the project's landscape architect. Sabin Howard, a New York City sculptor, will create the bronze wall that will be a focal point of the project.

Thomas Luebke, the Commission of Fine Arts' secretary, said the memorial had cleared a major hurdle, though a lot of work remains.

"Getting the concept approval is a very important milestone in the review process," he said. "They need the final approval in order to actually start construction."

Before that happens, the fine arts agency must sign off on all kinds of details, including the topography, landscaping, lighting of artwork, and signs.

Read more: World War I tribute designed by UA grad over another hurdle

Three Questions for Gary Pettit

"World War I was a major turning point in human history."

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

Around the country, more than half a million middle and high school students have been competing in National History Day (NHD) contests. Students conduct rigorous historical research focused around the 2017 theme, "Taking a Stand in History", and they created projects in one of five categories: documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. After competing at local and regional contests, the top projects in each category next advanced to one of 58 affiliate contests held regionally. Finally, the top two projects in each category were invited to the National History Day Contest held this week, June 11-15, 2017 at the University of Maryland in College Park. This year's National History Day Contest was special for the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, as we were able to sponsor a special prize for student projects on the theme of World War I. We spoke to Gary Pettit, the NHD Director of Communications, about this year's projects, and about the importance of World War I to the students.

National History Day has added a special theme for WWI this year. Tell us about what special steps you have taken.

Gary PettitGary PettitWe are thrilled to add a World War I special prize to our list of awards presented at the National Contest. Special prizes are an excellent way for organizations and individuals to reward exceptional projects that explore specific areas of history.

The World War I prize is awarded to an outstanding entry in both the junior and senior divisions that documents and analyzes a significant aspect of World War I, clearly demonstrating historical relevance to the theme of World War I.

We announced this new prize this year and have promoted it on our website, social media, and in our monthly newsletter to more than 10,000 recipients.

How has the response been among the student historians participating in NHD? What have they brought forward?

More than a dozen students have applied to win the World War I special prize. Their projects cover a range of topics related to World War I from Jeanette Rankin and President Woodrow Wilson to artists and poets including Siegfried Sassoon.

Read more: Three Questions for Gary Pettit


"A significant film achievement to mark an important historical event"

By Jim Patterson
Special to the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission web site

During April, the Embassy of France hosted six special screenings of the 1927 film “Wings” as a centennial commemoration of the United States’ entry in World War I. “Wings,” directed by WWI veteran William Wellman, was the first film honored with an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Wings movie posterFrench Cultural Services hosted screenings in New York, Phoenix, Chicago, Washington DC, St. Louis, and Minneapolis. The Washington screening was a cine-concert with musical accompaniment of a live performance of the musical by France’s Prima Vista Quartet.

“Wings” was an epic war film for its time with stunning aerial photography, the beautiful Clara Bow and 150 minutes of non-stop action set against the backdrop of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel in the Meuse. The battle occurred over 4 days in September 1918. General John Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces and over 100,000 French troops in the liberation of the German fortified French city of Metz, in the Grand Est region.

Allied troops sent nearly 1,500 aircraft into the campaign. An estimated 45 percent of the flight were piloted by Americans. It was the first major air battle waged by the United States.

“Wings” shows young American friends, played by Richard Arlen and Charles “Buddy” Rogers as they leave families and friends to fight in France. Clara Bow is in love with Rogers and joins the fight as an ambulance driver in France. A young Gary Cooper has a memorable scene as a pilot who meets a quick demise when his aircraft is shot down by Germans.

The aerial stuns captured audiences in 1927 and today as they were staged by WWI veterans who had witnessed the air campaign. The melodramatics between the actors remains fresh and has an everlasting appeal of youthful lives complicated by the uncertainty and brutality of war.

“Wings,” or “Les ailes” in French, was director “William Wellman’s epic masterpiece” and “one of the last great films of the silent era,” according to the French Cultural Attache. In the U.S., “Wings” premiered in San Antonio, Texas, in May 1927 and in New York in August. The film was largely shot on location at San Antonio’s Kelly Field.

The Buffalo (New York) Courier Express reported in its Stage and Screen section on February 26, 1928, that “Wings” “is the first notable effort in the Cinema art to depict in a graphic manner, the actual aerial fighting of the World War.” Director William Wellman (1896-1975) enlisted in World War I, joined the French Foreign Legion, became a fighter pilot and received France’s Croix de Guerre. Wellman carried a war injury into the production of “Wings.”

Read more: Review: France screening of 1927 film “Wings”

Support America's national WW I memorial

By Joseph Weishaar
via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review TribLive web site

Weishaar on Blog Talk RadioJoseph Weishaar, lead designer for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DCIf you weren't aware that there isn't a national World War I memorial in Washington, D.C., I can't say I blame you. The war happened nearly two generations before I was born, and all of its veterans have passed.

When I submitted a design for this memorial two years ago, I did so with the idea that it was important to do all we could to honor the men and women who once defended freedom for their towns, states and country.

Building a memorial is a tribute to our humanity and a marker of courageous acts in the most harrowing of circumstances. It sends a signal to our families, children and grandchildren that courage, honor and sacrifice still mean something. It is a message to our current and future veterans that they will not be forgotten.

One hundred years ago, more than 116,000 Americans lost their lives fighting for the ideals that would go on to define our place in the world. This year, I hope you keep the soldiers of World War I in your thoughts. It is time for us to give back for the sacrifices they made.

Read more: Architect Joe Weishaar OpEd in Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Four Questions for Gerald Meyer

"This truly is remembering a forgotten war."

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

Chautauqua was an adult-education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In those days before film & radio, the Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for a whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying that Chautauqua is "the most American thing in America."  A modern version of Chautauqua events are alive and well today -- and there will be a World War I-themed Chautauqua event held in Seward, Nebraska, on June 12th-18th, at the Nebraska National Guard Museum and the city of Seward. There will be speakers, presentations, reenactors, and displays, all talking about the Nebraska Guard, World War I, and present-day. All events are free and open to the public. We caught up with the one of the organizers for the event, Gerald Meyer, to talk to him about what visitors will see there.MeyerGreg Meyer

You have a big event coming up soon. Tell us about the Chautauqua event in Seward. Is the public invited?

Yes! Public is invited to all aspects of the event. The Nebraska National Guard Museum is hosting pre-Chautauqua events on June 12-14 (Mon-Weds) to get people excited about the event.

The Chautauqua will be held during Seward, Seward County, and the Nebraska’s 150th birthday. The Nebraska National Guard Museum is now housed on the land that was known as Chautauqua Park for Seward and is the site where the Chautauquas played when they were in town.

We understand that there will be presentations on World War I topics. What can people see & hear while there?

We have a full schedule that will be posted on the Humanities Nebraska website website. The wide variety of events include talks on literature from World War I, a flyover by vintage aircraft, a General Pershing reenactor presentation by noted living-history expert David Shuey, and many other things to see. 

The Chautauqua has a long history, some of which is related to World War I. Can you tell us about that history & connection?

The park where the current Nebraska National Guard Museum is located is old City Park (or Old Chautauqua Park). The city used to host the Red Path Chautauqua back at the turn of the century into the 1920's.

Read more: WWI focus at Chautauqua Event in Seward NE

The Library of Congress Veterans History Project launches World War I website companion exhibit

By Rachel Telford
Library of Congress, Office of Communications

The Veterans History Project (VHP) has launched a web exhibit that complements the Library of Congress’s major exhibition “Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I.” The three-part web companion, “Experiencing War,” will help tell the larger story of the war from the perspective of those who served in it.

SoldiersAmerican soldiers examining their new rifles after turning in the old ones. From the Library of Congress collection.Part I is now available at loc.gov/vets/. Part II and Part III will be available in July and September 2017.

Drawing from nearly 400 personal narratives from World War I, VHP’s archive is an unparalleled source on the individual experience of the Great War.

The concerns and stories of World War I veterans resonate today. World War I saw the use of poisonous gas, both the advancement and the devastation wrought by battlefield technology and arguments over America’s role in foreign conflicts—themes that occur in today’s world.

Part I, titled “Arguing Over War and Over Here,” focuses on veterans who served both at home and abroad. It reveals insights into public sentiment immediately before and after America’s entry into the war. From an oral history now 40 years old, Leonard Maunder recounts the days leading up to his enlistment in World War I and the feeling of the country as it prepared for war. Though not in the trenches, Maunder experienced deprivation, as did most servicemen and servicewomen in France.

In the audio segment, Maunder recalls meal after meal of canned corned beef and prunes. In another offering, a newly-digitized diary—belonging to Augustus Bennett Warfield—offers an intimate view of “camp life” for the 332nd Field Artillery Regiment during its time at Camp Sherman, Ohio.

Congress created the Veterans History Project in 2000 to collect, preserve and make accessible the first-hand remembrances of America’s war veterans from World War I through the current conflicts, so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. For more information, visit loc.gov/vets/ or call the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848. Follow the Veterans History Project on Facebook at facebook.com/vetshistoryproject.

Read more: The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Launches World War I Website Companion Exhibit

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