African American Soldiers 1 African American Officers doughboys with mules Riveters pilots in dress uniforms gas masks Mule Rearing The pilots

World War I Centennial News


Why the Christmas Truce endures in historical memory

By Thomas Richardson

Five months of hard fighting during the 1914 ‘Race to the Sea’ quickly transformed into a harsh, no-man’s land where entire divisions became casualties. Christmas 1914 saw something extraordinary though; companies of British, French, German, and Belgian soldiers along the front held unofficial ceasefires in their respective sectors. The short reprieve consisted of soldiers exchanging gifts, burying dead comrades, and hosting an impromptu football match. A handful of firsthand accounts record the truces along the Western Front, capturing the moments of calm, miraculous relief. Captain Edward Hulse of the Scots Guards claimed it was ‘the most extraordinary Christmas…you could possibly imagine.’

Xmas day truce 3534677bBritish and German Soldiers mingle during the Christmas Truce in 1914.News of the truce spread haphazardly in Europe; French and German newspapers heavily censored the ceasefires, but stories were shared by soldiers in letters home. Despite suppression, the historical memory of the Christmas truce lives on and in light of the war’s centennial, examining its role within the larger memory of World War I is paramount. In four years of war, a brief aside from the death provided a symbol of hope.

Read more: Why the Christmas Truce Endures in Historical Memory

Photo 1How WW1's real life Christmas Day Truce is being honoured by the Battlefield 1 community, and why DICE needs to make it official 

By Alex Avard
via the web site

On December 25, 1914 (the first Christmas of World War 1) French, British, and German troops ventured out from their trenches across the Western Front to meet each other in No Man’s Land. They’d spent the previous days, weeks, and months shooting at each other with orders to kill, but today was different.

The men exchanged gifts, buried the dead, took photographs, and even kicked around footballs on the very same land that, only days before, had been the ashen backdrop for nothing more than bullets and bloodshed. There had been organised ceasefires before, but this marked the only time both sides would spend Christmas together, briefly engaging one another with empathy instead of aggression. It was a small pearl of humanity in an ocean of untold conflict and violence, and made for a war story so powerful that, even today, it still almost sounds like a myth.

Battlefield 1 is a game set during World War 1, and its heartfelt campaign goes to great lengths to honour and pay tribute to the men and women involved in the conflict. Ever since its 2016 release, though, that sombre campaign has been at odds with the game’s frenetic multiplayer component; a gamified arena which turns the great war’s historic battles into competitive spectator sport, and an experience designed to entertain and gratify rather than contemplate on the horrors of the real events it’s based upon.

Whether that’s appropriate is another debate in and of itself, but the fact is that Battlefield 1’s two disparate parts take wildly different approaches in their treatment of World War 1, and developer DICE has yet to figure out a way to resolve this awkward imbalance.

A call for peace

Photo 2

Christmas, however, represents an opportunity to use Battlefield 1’s multiplayer to honour World War 1 in a way that the campaign arguably never could, and the online community have indeed been trying to find a way to pay their respects to the historic Christmas Day Truce of 1914 through DICE’s PvP infrastructure.

Read more: WW1's real life Christmas Day Truce is being honoured by the Battlefield 1 community

The Secretary of the Navy who saved Christmas in World War I

By John Hood
via the Burlington, NC Times-News web site

Josephus Daniels 1Josephus DanielsJosephus Daniels, one of the most prominent North Carolinians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, played a key role in a story that often circulates around Christmastime. He’s not exactly its hero, but in the end Daniels makes the right call — and thus helps to save the celebration of Christmas during wartime.

After the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson as president in 1912, Daniels left his post as publisher of the Raleigh News & Observer to become U.S. Secretary of the Navy. When American entered World War I in 1917, Daniels assumed responsibilities beyond naval administration. One of them was service on the Council of National Defense, a federal panel which, among other things, supervised private industry’s contribution to the war effort.

The term “contribution” is a bit of a euphemism. While business leaders were highly patriotic and did many things of their own volition to help America win the war, the Council also compelled industry compliance with government directives on what could be produced and sold in the United States. Arms, ammunition, and other war materiel were to be the priority.

As American troops began arriving in Europe in 1918 and entering combat for the first time, the Council listened to a parade of business executives and trade associations complain about wartime restrictions. Sometimes the Council modified or suspended its regulations. But not often.

During the summer, Council staff drafted a rule to limit the production of gifts for the 1918 Christmas season. Not surprisingly, manufacturers and retailers were outraged. In August, a group of business leaders organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other associations went before Josephus Daniels and the other members of the Council to dissuade them from imposing such a heavy burden.

One of the presenters, A.C. Gilbert, stole the show. This shouldn’t have been at all surprising. Gilbert, an Olympic gold medalist and entrepreneur who had invented the Erector Set a few years earlier, had revolutionized his industry in part by skillful marketing of construction toys directly to children. 

Read more: The Secretary of the Navy who saved Christmas in WWI

In 1917, N.Y. Guard Soldiers celebrated pre-march Christmas

By Eric Durr
via the New York National Guard web site

LATHAM, N.Y. - In December of 1917 the National Guard Soldiers of the 42nd Division were all in France, waiting for training in the trench warfare that marked World War I in Europe.

Rolampont FranceNational Guard Soldiers of the 42nd Division make their way through the snowy French countryside during December 1917 in what became known as the "Valley Forge Hike". The troops marched 100 kilometers in the snow from the Vaucouleurs to Rolampont France. The division's 27,000 troops had started moving from Camp Albert Mills on Long Island to France in October. The last elements of the 26-state division—the 168th Infantry Regiment from Iowa - had reached France at the end of November.

The 42nd Division had been formed by taking National Guard units from 26 states and combining them into a division that stretched across the country "like a rainbow" in the words of the division chief of staff, Col. Douglas MacArthur.

The largest elements were four regiments from Ohio, Iowa, Alabama and New York organized in two brigades of two regiments and supporting units.

The New York National Guard's 69th Infantry, renowned as the "Fighting 69th" had been renamed the 165th Infantry.

By Christmas 1917, the division's elements were located in a number of villages northeast of the city of Chaumont, about 190 miles east of Paris. The men had hiked there from Vaucouleurs where they had originally been deposited by train.

The 165th Infantry celebrated Christmas 1917 in the village of Grand. Father Francis Duffy, the regiment's famous chaplain, celebrated a joint American-French mass on Christmas Eve.

According to Sgt. Joyce Kilmer, a poet, and editor, "the regimental colors were in the chancel, flanked by the tri-color. The 69th was present, and some French soldier-violinists. A choir of French women sang hymns in their own language, the American Soldiers sang a few in English, and French and American joined in the universal Latin of "Venite, Adoremus Dominum."

On Christmas Day the men ate turkey, chicken, carrots, cranberries, mashed potatoes, bread pudding, nuts, figs and coffee. The Army, wrote Cpl. Martin Hogan "was a first rate caterer."

Read more: In 1917, N.Y. Guard Soldiers celebrated pre-march Christmas

Doughboys took Christmas traditions “over there” in 1917

By Doran Cart
via the American Legion web site

Christmas WWI cOnce the United States entered World War I in 1917, names in the newspapers and on the moving picture rolls became part of the American lexicon: the Western Front, Prussia, Alsace-Lorraine and Flanders, among others. Battlefields like the Somme, Verdun and Ypres stirred the imagination and stoked the fears of many. Australians, New Zealanders and Serbs traveled across the country training the rookies.

Doughboys would be transported to Brest, France, reviewed by King George V of England, discover the Meuse River and die as far away as Murmansk, Russia.

The Navy patrolled the East Coast for German submarines, called U-boats, and protected the waters around Gibraltar and Corfu. Atlantic convoy duty shepherded merchant and transport ships across enemy-infested waters. The Navy sank a German submarine, U-58, off what is now Cobb, Ireland. Floating explosive mines were placed in the North Sea.

In 1917, the world map got a lot bigger for Americans. But those who served overseas took their family and cultural traditions with them, including their celebration of Christmas.

Read more: Doughboys took Christmas traditions “over there” in 1917

Captured Tankgewehr 900Allied soldiers examine a captured German Tankgewehr anti-tank rifle in 1918.

Four questions for David O'Neal

"People will get a chance to see this legendary Tankgewehr, and learn about its extraordinary history" 

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

Our friend David O'Neal has an interesting specialty -- he restores artifacts from World War I. His latest project is certainly one of his most unique -- it is the ground-up recreation of one of the most extraordinary weapons from World War I -- a Mauser Tankgewehr anti-tank rifle. This enormous rifle was designed to shoot at allied tanks and armored cars, with a huge bullet that could penetrate even their thickest steel hulls. The full story of his restoration, which is still underway, can be followed at David came across a collection of parts from one such rifle, and accepted the challenge of restoring it to museum-use. We spoke to David to hear about the challenges that he has faced to bring his vision to reality.

Wow - you have quite a unique restoration project underway. Please tell us about it!

David ONeal 300David O'NealThe Tankgewehr (tank-rifle) is the world’s first anti-tank rifle, developed by the Germans in 1918. This weapon was specifically designed to combat the onslaught of allied armor on the Western Front.

I obtained the1918 Tankgewehr rifle from fellow WWI Collector Hayes Otoupalik, who is a Special Military Historical Advisor to the National WWI Centennial Commission. Hayes has been essential in finding the initial parts and has volunteered the wood parts from his personal T-Gewehr for replication to complete this amazing restoration project.

This project T-Gewehr S/N 5043 was badly burned in a fire. All that was left were the blackened and charred metal components of a monster rifle. The task of the WWI Preservation Collection is to restore this rare and unique weapon back to museum quality display status.

When I learned that Hayes had recovered this Tankgewehr, I knew I had to restore it…it’s what I do. “Preserving the past…for the future”

What was the overall role of these Mauser Gewehr weapons, how were they employed, and what was their history of use in the war? Did they succeed?

In November 1917 the British launched the first full scale tank offensive at Cambrai. The attack caught the Germans by surprise and the British managed to push approximately 20 Kilometers through the German lines. The church bells rang in Britain for the first time in two years. The British were stunned by their own success and failed to properly support the attack. The Germans continually counterattacked and won back all the lost ground. This organized tank assault by the British, made the Germans realize that they needed an anti-tank weapon immediately.

Read more: "People will get a chance to see this legendary Tankgewehr, and learn about its extraordinary...

Dunning sworn in as a new member of U.S. World War I Centennial Commission 

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

Last week, Commander Zoe Dunning, USN (Ret.) was sworn in as a new member of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. The ceremony took place prior to the Centennial Commission's quarterly meeting in Washington DC.

Dunning swearing in 600Commander Zoe Dunning, USN (Ret.) (right) is sworn in as Commissioner on the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission by Commission Executive Director Daniel S. Dayton."I am honored to be part of this commission" Dunning said. "As a veteran, I will do everything I can to ensure that the Centennial Commission's activities ring loudly, in the name of all of America's veterans."

Dunning was nominated to the commission by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on November 21st, 2017, and fills a seat recently held by Colonel Robert Dalessandro. The twelve members of the Centennial Commission are nominated by the President, members of the U.S. Senate, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and by the nation's two largest veteran service organizations, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign War.

The swearing-in was officiated by Mr. Daniel Dayton, Executive Director of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission.

"We are pleased to have Commissioner Dunning on board" said Dayton. "She brings to us a wealth of talent in leadership, management, and military acumen".

Commission Chair Terry Hamby agreed "This is a great day for us. Commissioner Dunning comes to the Commission at a particularly important time, with the start of a very busy commemorative period. Her background shows that she knows what we are about, and that she has what it takes to get things done."

Dunning holds degrees from both the U.S. Naval Academy and Stanford University. She has served as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund, playing a pivotal role in the fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’. Currently, she serves as Commissioner for the San Francisco Public Library.


Lest We Forget Exhibit

Pritzker Military Museum & Library exhibit tells personal stories of WWI

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

The Pritzker Military Museum & Library’s new original exhibit, Lest We Forget: Sailors, Sammies and Doughboys Over There in World War I, explores the experiences of those who served in World War I and the role the United States played in ending the first global conflict.

This incredible new exhibit will feature photographs, maps, posters, rare books, artifacts and footage from the era.

An audio tour will provide greater context to the war as well as feature readings from the letters and journal entries from soldiers who served.

The exhibit debuted on Friday, December 15th, and is now open to the public. Components of the exhibit are also available online, with remarkable audio recordings, imagery, and stories. This is an official exhibit of the WWI Centennial Commission.

The Mission of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library is to acquire and maintain an accessible collection of materials and to develop appropriate programs focusing on the citizen soldier in the preservation of democracy. The Pritzker Military Museum & Library is the founding sponsor of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission.

More information on the exhibit is available on the Pritzker Military Museum & Library web site at


New video from Sabin Howard, sculptor of America's World War I Memorial

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

Sculptor Sabin Howard has provided us with a great present for the Holidays -- a video that provides an update on his incredible work on America's World War I Memorial.

This new video shows, in great detail, a small-scale maquette for the memorial's sculptural element, and also provides a great explanation on Sabin's choices for the artistic vision, narrative, and symbolism, of the ultimate piece.

Sabin has been working on the maquette in New Zealand, with the digital effects team at the famous Weta Workshop, a multi-award winning design studio and physical manufacturing facility servicing the world's entertainment and creative industries. The studio is run by five-time Oscar-winning Design/Effects Supervisor Richard Taylor, and has provided special/digital effects for such film projects as THE LORD OF THE RINGS series.

The World War I Memorial's creative team, to include Sabin and designer Joseph Weishaar, look forward to sharing the maquette with the public stateside in early 2018. The memorial's development process continues, as we work closely with the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Park Service, and others, to create the best possible plans for the Congressionally-authorized site at DC's Pershing Park.

Information on America's World War I Memorial can be found at

Four Questions for Tom Christianson

"War & Art: USA in Italy" WWI exhibit goes up in Pentagon 

By Ashleigh Shaw
Staff Writer

The Pentagon, home to the U.S. Department of Defense, is in many ways, a city-like community all unto itself. The Pentagon structure is huge, considered the largest low-rise office building in the world, with some 25,000 people working there ever day. Over the past dozen or so years, there has been a significant effort to build the sense of community among the people in the Pentagon -- by using its endless hallways as exhibit space, in order to tell stories from the Defense Department's remarkable history. The latest Pentagon hallway exhibit has a World War I theme, and centers on the story of America's activities in Italy during the war. The exhibit was curated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and presented through the Embassy of Italy. . We spoke to Defense Department Historian Tom Christianson about the exhibit, and the stories it tells.

Tell us about the "War & Art: USA in Italy" exhibit currently at the Pentagon.

Tom ChristiansonThe subtitle to the exhibit: Destruction and Protection of the Italian Cultural Heritage During World War One is a clear indication of the exhibit’s purpose of protecting art and culture during the war. As early as 1915 work began to protect art due to an early bombing of the northern Italian city of Padova (Padua). The famous ancient Bronze horses were removed from St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.

Cover 400Program cover from the original exhibition, "War & Art: USA in Italy"The government decided to sandbag cultural sites to protect the artistic treasures of Northern Italy. These included the Doge’s Palace in Venice and the Arches of the Scaligeri in Verona, along with many other cultural and artistic monuments. Italian authorities removed paintings of famous artists like Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese and shipped them to Rome for safekeeping until the war ended.

This exhibit is presented through the Embassy of Italy. Tell us about the relationship between Italy and the United States during World War I.

Italy entered World War One on the side of the Allies in 1915 and the US entered the war in 1917. There was a strong connection between the US and Italy as the US had experienced a great wave of Italian immigration in the decades just before the outbreak of war.

Many US soldiers who fought either came from Italy shortly before the war, or were children of parents who had immigrated. Italian was a first or second language to the 332nd Regiment, the US combat unit that served in Italy from July 1918 until the end of the war in November 1918. This unit was specifically sent to Italy to build Italian morale and assure the Italians that the US was on their side.

Read more: "War & Art: USA in Italy" World War I exhibit goes up in Pentagon

World War I unit became known as 'the Fighting Black Devils' 

By Phil Reyburn
via the Quincy, IL Herald-Whig web site

Frank RobinsonLt. Frank Robinson was a member of the 370th Infantry known as the “Black Devils.” He was awarded France's Croix de Guerre for his role in World War I. | Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County When the early Chicago train pulled into Quincy's Burlington depot on Feb. 25, 1919, it was met by both a band and a cheering crowd. The Daily Whig reported that hundreds "of men and women of his own race and all the other citizens of Quincy" had come out to welcome Sgt. Emmett Thompson home from the World War. The Daily Herald recorded that "when Thompson swung down from the coach he was caught up by many willing hands."

For conspicuous bravery in France, Thompson, an African-American, had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. military's second highest medal for valor. The Herald noted that Thompson was "the first Quincy boy to have this honor bestowed on him. . . ."

When war was declared on Germany, several Quincyans joined Thompson and Lt. Frank Robinson in enlisting in Danville's Company L of the Eighth Illinois National Guard Regiment. They had served together on the Mexican border and, until disbanded, in Quincy's all-black National Guard Company. The men were Ben Bryson, John Butler, Lloyd Longress, Dewain Carpenter, William Nichols, Henry Gay and Mason Perkins.

Quincy's Company I existed from June 1902 through April 15, 1915, and was part of the Eighth Illinois National Guard Infantry, "the only regiment of colored militiamen in the United States." A decision to locate two additional companies in Chicago resulted in the company's elimination.

Organized in 1895, the Eighth Illinois was first mustered into federal service for the Spanish-American War. However, from June 30 to Oct. 27, 1916, the regiment was federalized and saw service along the Mexican border. With the United States' entry into World War I in April 1917, the all-black Eighth Illinois was once again called to active duty July 25.

Read more: World War I unit became known as 'the Fighting Black Devils'

A Soldier’s Journey – The Classic Monomyth 

By Sabin Howard

Two years ago, I was faced with the task of: How can I tell a story that everyone will understand clearly? How can I tell a story that has universal meaning?

And in so doing create a WWI Monument honoring the men and women that went through this horrific moment in global history?

Howard 600Sculptor Sabin Howard working the small-scale maquette for the new National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC.Well, now I'm on the other side of that in terms of the storytelling for the nine-inch sculpture maquette. What WWI looked like is told through a visual narrative called A Soldier’s Journey. It is a story of a soldier and father, who departs from home and family, traveling to the distant shores of Europe, experiencing the horrors of war, only to return home again, forever changed.

35 years ago, when I began learning the craft of making art, I was always taught to work from general to specific. And that lesson became my mantra as I proceeded in this incredibly complex design.

It took nine iterations over twelve months, with 12,000 pictures taken of re-enactors in my Bronx studio to create a story of transformation and change that would explain this war to the Memorial visitor. The strangest part of this process is that I was unaware as I assembled the scenes and drew out the final drawing that I was working in the template of what Joseph Campbell calls a ‘monomyth’. It has also been referred to as the hero's journey.

It is only recently that my wife, Traci Slatton, an internationally published author and a gifted storyteller, looked over at me at 6am one morning over breakfast and said, “You know that Soldier’s Journey that you are doing is right out of the template that has existed for ages in many different cultures of myth.”

Joe Weishaar, my designer partner, had said to me back in the fall of 2015, “Create a beginning, a middle, and an end." But I was completely unaware that what I was doing visually fit an age-old way of telling stories.

Traci continued and filled me in. “You ought to read up on this. Joseph Campbell refers to it as ‘mankind's one great story.’ This structure of narrative involves a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory (just to name a few, it is found in Native American culture, Greco-Roman culture, and Judeo-Christian culture.) The protagonist then comes home changed or transformed and wiser by his passage through this perilous task.” My wife has always been very instrumental in helping me find the right track for the story in my art. When you live with somebody that's gone to Yale and Columbia, there is bound to be an intellectual conversation at the breakfast table! Picking up one of Joseph Campbell's books on the dining room table, she filled me in on the road that I had taken. It was a little shocking to realize that somehow I had downloaded a storytelling template that had existed for ages in many different cultures to explain the story of WWI.

Read more: A Soldier’s Journey – The Classic Monomyth

Four Questions for Jo Ellen Hayden

Horse Heroes "served with heart, with obedience, with loyalty" in WWI

By Ashleigh Shaw
Staff Writer

For three years prior to the nation's entry into World War I, the United States shipped approximately one million American horses and mules to Europe, to assist the war effort as they worked for the British and French armies. These animals carried men into battle, and wounded men to safety. They carried food, water, medical supplies, ammunition, gun carriages and other supplies to the front lines across difficult terrain, in brutal weather, often surrounded by dead and dying men and animals. For peace-loving animals, the sights, sounds, and smells were as dreadful as they were for the men.The story of these animals is one of courage, and also of tragedy. Brooke USA is charity dedicated to improving the welfare of horses, donkeys and mules in the developing world. They have a special project to honor and remember the story of these animals. Brooke USA is a Commemorative Partner to the WW1CC, and we are honored to host their new section on our website, which goes live this week. We discussed Horse Heroes, and the efforts by Brooke USA, with Jo Ellen Hayden, Brooke USA's Horse Heroes Special Project Volunteer

Tell us a little bit about the new Horse Heroes section on the Commission’s website.

The Horse Heroes site honors and documents the use of American horses and mules in World War 1. Approximately 1.2 million American horses and mules served Allied forces in Europe during the war. Many were used by the British, French, Italian, and even German armies well before the United States entered the war.

Menu logoJo Ellen Hayden 300Jo Ellen HaydenThe first wave of American horses and mules arrived in France in late 1914 – only a few months after the war began in Europe. Though hard to understand today, horsepower was an essential part of every army during World War I. Most were used as draft animals, pulling everything from ambulances to guns to water carts. Some were pack animals, carrying food, medical supplies, and ammunition. And some horses were used by officers as saddle horses. Just as an officer might be issued a Jeep in later wars, he was issued a horse in World War 1. Horses served on or just behind the front lines, across difficult terrain, in brutal weather, and often surrounded by dead and dying men and animals. They did their part, in spite of being terrified and often while sick and wounded themselves, and they worked until they were annihilated by guns or poison gas, or simply died in their harnesses from exposure, disease, and sheer exhaustion. In total, eight million horses and mules died in WW1 on all sides, including hundreds of thousands of American animals.

Only 200 horses came back to the U.S. after the war. When the war ended there was neither funding or political will to bring the working animals home. Horses were a commodity, and just as armies today routinely abandon motor vehicles, so these armies sold off their horseflesh. Some went to slaughter, if too old, worn out, or injured to be sold as working animals.

The Horse Heroes website delves into where all these animals came from and how they got to Europe. We also set the scene so that our readers will know where the fighting took place and what the conditions were like – including why there was so much mud! We explore, and in our future releases will show hundred-year old film clips, of their training, veterinary care, and life in the field. The site contains hundreds of photographs, many gathered together in one site for the first time.

Read more: Four Questions for Jo Ellen Hayden

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