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World War I Centennial News


Admiral Mike Mullen joins Commission Board of Special Advisors

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

WASHINGTON, DC – Admiral Mike Mullen has signed on to become a Special Advisor to the United States World War One Centennial Commission. Mullen Mike 200Admiral Mike Mullen, USN (Ret.)Admiral Mullen joins Special Advisors Secretary Leon E. Panetta, the Honorable John W. Warner, General Barry McCaffrey, General Gordon R. Sullivan, Sandra Sinclair Pershing, Helen Ayer Patton, Gary Sinise, Vint Cerf, and Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

The Board of Special Advisors to the Commission provide expert advice in order to help the Commission carry out its goal of honoring and commemorating the 4.7 million Americans who served in World War One.

Admiral Mullen graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1968 and he served in the Navy until his retirement in 2011. Admiral Mullen served as the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He acted as the principal military advisor to the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council, and the President of the United States. Admiral Mullen also served as the 32nd Vice Chief of Naval Operations and as the 28th Chief of Naval Operations during his time with the US Navy.

The Executive Director for the Centennial Commission, Daniel Dayton, welcomed the new advisor. “Admiral Mike Mullen brings decades of world-class military leadership to our organization. We could not be more honored to have his help in reaching out to the American people, and telling the World War One story.”

Governor signs New York State Centennial Commission bill

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

27th DivisionThe great "send-off" parade of New York's 27th Division passing the New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, August 30, 1917. Members of the immediate families of the soldiers occupied the great reviewing stand on the steps of the Library..The New York State World War One Centennial Commission has officially been signed into existence by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

New York State Senator Jack M. Martins announced on November 30 that legislation he sponsored to honor the heroic contributions of New Yorkers to America’s victory in World War One establishes the statewide commission to help honor the role New York State and New Yorkers played in the war had become law. The legislation was introduced into the State Assembly by Assembly Member Michael DenDekker.

“No other state gave more to America’s victory in World War One than New York. Approximately 10 percent of the American fighting force came from New York and over 13,000 New Yorkers made the ultimate sacrifice, more than any other state. As we approach the centennial anniversary of America’s entry into World War One, there is no more fitting way to honor and remember these heroes than teaching the present generations about their actions.

"I thank Governor Cuomo for working with us to pay tribute to the brave New Yorkers who answered the call to serve in the First World War,” said Senator Martins.

Read more: Governor Signs New York State Centennial Commission bill

Four Questions for Rich Bachus

"Bringing the war to life through the details (both great and small) of one soldier"

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

Rich Bachus is a writer, publisher, and teacher whose inheritance of a family collection of artifacts dating to World War One inspired an interest in the Great War that led him to author a book about his grandfather's service. Now Rich has become a Publishing Partner on the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission web site, where his Trench Commander blog chronicles "the Bachus family military adventures and how they influenced me and my last-of-the-baby-boomers generation." In an interview, Rich talks about the origins of this project, what he has learned about the history of his own family and the nation, and why stories like Trench Commander are important to tell during the Centennial Commemoration of World War One.

Your Trench Commander blog is really interesting. Tell us about what it is, and what your vision is for it.

Rich Bachus 200Rich BachusI love digging through the nooks and crannies of history, and I’m especially drawn to a 100-years-ago-today approach. I was pleased to discover that several projects featured on the WW1 Centennial Commission site use this framework. From the The Great War Channel to Mike Hanlon’s worldwar1centennial.org work, there is considerable effort going into exploring week-by-week snapshots of what was happening in the time leading up to and through WW1. Most of the existing projects provide a wide-screen view of the war as seen through the eyes of entire armies, whole countries, or the great men and women who appear in the history books. On the other hand, features like “Stories of Service” highlight the lives of individual soldiers through a much narrower lens. But sadly, these more intimate stories usually don’t come with much more detail than a few faded photos, a couple of old records, and perhaps a story or two passed down from generation to generation.

The Trench Commander blog is all about bringing the war to life through the details (both great and small) of one soldier — my grandfather Capt. Joseph L. Bachus — and his family: wife Lina and daughter Betty. I barely knew these ancestors of mine before Aunt Betty passed on and left the family archive to me. As luck would have it, this incredible collection of personal letters, trench maps, army records, photographs and postcards fell into the right hands. As a former journalist, history major, and sometime teacher, I knew that some day I would write about the Bachus family military adventures and how they influenced me and my last-of-the-baby-boomers generation.

My vision is to unpack this archive before the eyes of WW1 Centennial Commission followers like you and attract new readers to the cause. Each week, I’ll post photos, records, and letters that tell the story of how one family — my family — went to war, handled the immense challenges both at home and in the trenches, and lived to tell about it.

Read more: Four Questions for Rich Bachus

How 1916 set the stage for America to enter WW1

Brian Bethune
via McLeans

OWilson stickern Nov. 7, 1916, 100 years and one day before Republican Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, his Democratic predecessor Woodrow Wilson was re-elected to the job. Wilson’s campaign unfolded in a manner familiar—then and now, win or lose—to Democrats. He racked up the numbers in big population centres, taking 52 per cent of the overall popular vote, but barely squeaked through the Electoral College. If his opponent, Charles Evans Hughes, had picked up 3,800 more votes of the one million cast in California, the Republican would have won. Plus ça change.

But the victory went to Wilson, meaning that, in the midst of the First World War, the presidency remained in the hands of someone who combined high-minded idealism, absolute insistence on the right of Americans to trade freely with all belligerents (even if it was overwhelmingly with Britain and France), and a barely suppressed inclination to the Allied side. That made his re-election one of the year’s signal moments, according to 1916: A Global History, Irish historian Keith Jeffery’s month-by-month account of the Great War’s hinge year, the year that changed everything.

The U.S. greeted the outbreak of war in 1914 with disbelief and a note of sanctimony, and its press frequently trumpeted the superiority of the New World in its aversion to war. (The newspapers could only do this, of course, by adherence to two American traditions: refusing to equate American punitive attacks on Latin American and Caribbean nations with “war,” and by ignoring the entity to the north, a steadily more significant participant in the war.)

Read more: How 1916 set the stage for America to enter WW1

Study: Nearly 1,000 Irish died serving in the U.S. Army in World War One

The number of Irish-born soldiers who died in World War One while serving the United States army is actually three times higher than previous estimates, claimed one genealogist.

soldiersMegan Smolenyak, the genealogist who traced Barack Obama's roots to Moneygall, County Offaly, asserts that previous research "significantly" understated the real losses of Irishmen in the Great War.

"Many more Irish-born were killed serving the American military than previously thought. The true figure may be 900 or 1,000, but it's likely somewhere in this neighborhood," Smolenyak said.

Previously experts have turned to America's army registration data to investigate the losses. However, the bulk of US military personnel records from 1912 to 1960 were destroyed by a fire in 1973.

After Smolenyak came across a New Jersey database focused on WWI soldiers, she discovered that 69 Irish-born individuals from New Jersey had died during the conflict. As 3,427 from NJ had died altogether, Smolenyak used basic arithmetic to conclude that about two percent were Irish nationals. She then applied a similar method to New York focusing on births, deaths and enlistment records, using census records, military abstracts and ancestry websites. She eventually estimated that 976 Irish nationals died fighting for the US.

Read more: Study: Nearly 1,000 Irish died serving in the U.S. Army in World War One

Thanksgiving During the Great War

Thanksgiving 2By Joshua Venuti
Staff Writer

Thanksgiving is a time when many people take the time to gather with family and friends to feast give thanks, celebrate, or maybe cheer for their favorite NFL team from the comfort of their own homes.

During World War One, however, the Thanksgiving holiday was slightly different. On the home front people were encouraged to cut back on food items such as sugar, meat, fats, and wheat so that food could be sent to troops fighting overseas. Many newspapers across the country printed alternative recipe ideas that cut back on food items especially sugar.

American families were inspired to grow their own gardens and use homegrown food in their Thanksgiving meals instead of buying food from the local food market.

 In fact, as part of his annual Thanksgiving Proclamation, President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 reminded Americans of the privations in Europe:


Read more: Thanksgiving During the Great War

Four Questions for Jonathan Kuhn

"To care for these monuments and statuary is an obligation across time"

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

Jonathan Kuhn is the Director of Art & Antiquities for New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. The city of New York has nearly a thousand different memorial sites - and over a hundred of those honor the local veterans of World War One.  He and his team at the NYC Parks Citywide Monuments Conservation Program (John Saunders, Conservator, and Steve Drago and Victor Riddick, Monuments Technicians) are responsible for the care and preservation of those sites. They are commemorative partners to the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, and are also active participants in the WW1CC's 100 CITIES/100 MEMORIALS local preservation program. Veterans Day was a big day for the Citywide Monuments Conservation Program team, and Jonathan Kuhn talked to us a little about how his team prepared for it.

Your teams were working hard in advance of Veterans Day. Tell us about what they were doing. What care do the sites & the artwork pieces need?

Father Duffy 416 Victor Riddick hot waxing 11.2.16 photo 400NYC Parks Monument Technician Victor Riddick hot waxing the Father Duffy Memorial in Times Square.Thankfully, given the gains we've made in recent years, much of the work is preservation rather than restoration work. For a typical World War One memorial sculpture, the team will first clean using appropriate methods, removing all soiling, any incipient surface corrosion, or failing coatings. They will renew protective coatings, typically of wax, and sometimes of lacquer, that protect the bronze from acid rain and other environmental damage. They will buff the surface to literally add luster to the pieces and heighten sculptural modelling and ornamental details.

They assess the monuments needs, monitor from year to year potential issues of concern (failing mortar in masonry joints, loose plaque anchoring bolts etc.) and when these rise to a level requiring intervention take immediate action.

Of course given the size and height of many of the sculptures, we require use of a boom lift truck to gain access. The field crew also uses specially prescribed equipment, for instance often pre-heating the metal with propane torches before applying the protective wax so that it may better adhere.

Read more: World War One Memorials in New York City refreshed for Veterans Day

Four Questions for Mark Samuels

"What happened then transformed our nation and the world."

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

Our friends at PBS American Experience have great news -- they are able to share the trailer for their upcoming documentary series on World War One. The show is entitled THE GREAT WAR, and is set to air in April of 2017. This date is to mark the 100th anniversary of America's entry into the war. The show will be a six-hour series, airing over three nights. Keep an eye out for exact air dates. To talk about the series, we were very fortunate to enjoy a few moments with Mark Samuels. Mark is the executive producer of PBS American Experience, and he conceives, commissions and oversees all AMERICAN EXPERIENCE films.

You have a new series coming about the history of World War One. Tell us a little about it. When will it air?

Mark Samuels mugMark Samuels “The Great War,” a six-hour documentary, premieres over three consecutive nights, Monday, April 10 through Wednesday, April 12, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET on PBS. The series brings to life the well-known figures of the war — President Wilson, General Pershing and many others — but also reveals the human experiences of the war through the voices of nurses, journalists, aviators and of course Doughboys. We’ve included stories representative of the teeming melting pot of America in 1917 — African-American and Latino soldiers, suffragists, Native American “code talkers” and others whose participation in the war has been largely forgotten.

Our history buffs are very excited about this project. What was the research process like for your team? Where did you find the imagery?

A team of three full-time researchers spent more than a year scouring the globe for imagery. The final film includes material from more than 140 repositories from at least eleven countries, not including the United States — much of it never seen before. We received help from around the world, from historical societies and local archives who opened up their collections to our researchers. The French archives housed a treasure trove of footage of American soldiers.

In addition to film footage and still photographs, the team’s research turned up a rich collection of art work created by the Committee on Public Information that tells a powerful story about the propaganda efforts that helped mobilize the nation.

Read more: Four Questions for Mark Samuels

Why a World War One memorial makes sense, a century later

By Leon Panetta
via the Military Times

PanettaFormer Secretary of Defense Leon PanettaThere is an effort underway by the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission to create a national memorial to the American veterans of World War One in Washington, D.C.  I firmly support this effort.

World War One is the only great war of the 20th century that doesn’t have a national memorial in the nation’s capital. That, in itself, makes it important enough for us to do everything possible to make this a reality.

But this memorial is important for a number of other reasons.

First, we have to honor those, and the memory of those, who served our country. World War One involved 5 million men and women who came together in uniform, including 2 million who went overseas and 116,516 who died in the war. We need to take the time to remember their brave sacrifices.

As defense secretary, I had the responsibility to deploy men and women in uniform to our battlefields. I was always reminded of the fact that this country is great because there are those men and women who are willing to put their lives at risk — men and women who will fight, and die, for this country. I’ve always wondered where these brave young people come from, and why they are willing to do this for us. We have to remember them, those men and women, who were willing to sacrifice so much to defend their nation.

Read more: Why a World War One memorial makes sense, a century later

Forgotten Maryland WW1 hero immortalized in art

By Anthony C. Hayes
via the Baltimore Post-Examiner

A century ago, as the horrific “War to end all wars” dragged on, a daring young sportsman from Baltimore, named Francis Warrington Gillet, set his sights on throwing in with the Allied cause. By Armistice Day, the flying ace, who was known to his comrades as “Razors”, was officially credited with downing 20 German aircraft – a number second to only the wildly acclaimed ace: Eddie Rickenbacker.Captain Francis Warrington GilletCaptain Francis Warrington Gillet

On September 17, members of the Western Front Association, East Coast Branch (USA), were joined by descendants of Captain Gillett, diplomatic representatives of Great Britain, Belgium, and France, and other invited guests, in honoring Gillet and his fellow service members with the unveiling of a painting, titled “Maryland Over Flanders”. The dedication ceremony took place at the War Memorial Building on North Gay Street in Baltimore.

Paying tribute to Captain Gillet were Paul Cora, President of the Baltimore Chapter of the Western Front Association; Colonel Robert J. Dalessandro, Chairman of the United States World War One Centennial Commission; David Craig, head of the Maryland World War One Centennial Commission; and Alan Walden, former mayoral candidate and news commentator at WBAL-AM.

Representing the family were Francis Warrington Gillet III and his son, Francis Warrington Gillet IV.

The Western Front Association East Coast Branch (USA) commissioned noted aviation artist Michael O’Neal to create the commemorative painting for permanent display at the War Memorial Building. O’Neal’s stunning work – rendered in oil on Belgian linen – depicts Gillet’s Sopwith Dolphin fighter emerging from the clouds with two German Fokker D.VII’s falling away on either side. The painting – based on an actual event – recalls a harrowing dogfight Gillet won near the end of the war.

Read more: Forgotten Maryland WWI hero immortalized in art

Four Questions for David Shuey

Pershing "the foremost soldier-diplomat since our Founding Fathers"

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

David Wayne Shuey is a historian, teacher, and living history reenactor, from Pennsylvania. For the past two years, he has devoted himself to the study of World War One, and specifically to the development of his portrayal of General John Pershing. He has been an active partner of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, and has represented General Pershing in three parades, six national conventions, and a host of other events. Most recently, he rode his horse Aura Lee at the lead of an entire company of Doughboy reenactors, in the big 2016 New York City Veterans Day Parade.

Look like you had an exciting time at the NYC Veterans Day Parade. Tell us about your & Aura Lee's experience up there for the big parade.

Shuey NYC 2016David Wayne Shuey (AKA "General John Pershing") chats with a fan during the 2016 New York City Veterans Day Parade.I’ve put this wonderful horse through so many ordeals; school presentations with dozens of children crowding in to touch her, countless parades (three of which have occurred in Washington, D.C.) and events where the distractions would frighten most horses and she never ceases to amaze me with her ability to take it all in stride. The approach through Manhattan traffic was harrowing for us in the truck, I can only imagine what she must have been experiencing in the trailer. For logistical purposes, we parked at the parade finish which provided me with every cowboy’s dream – riding my horse alone for 24 blocks on Fifth Avenue among light traffic, past curious onlookers - to take our place at the assembly area. Aura Lea is an athlete and a natural performer. She puts on a show in whatever she does and wherever she goes. I simply mount up and enjoy the best seat. To my delight we merged with the 30+ members of the Long Island Living History Association who portrayed troops and a nurse representing the American Expeditionary Forces of the Great War. They were magnificently authentic with perfect uniforms, arms, gear and splendid military bearing. The crowd obviously appreciated their portrayal of Veterans who were long gone, but on this day, not forgotten.

What is your background? How did you get involved in living history portrayals?
I began doing living history portrayals of figures from the American Civil War during the recent Sesquicentennial. I encountered Pershing, as part of my research, and the more I learned about his many exploits, the more fascinated I became with one of our nations iconic heroes. Most of my career has been spent in business management. Although, I realize now I should have been a teacher or an entertainer. Now I combine both with my portrayal of Pershing, for there are so many valuable lessons we can learn from the man, his challenges and his accomplishments.

Read more: Four Questions for David Shuey

Four Questions for Michael Siembida

"We must never forget the sacrifices these men made."

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

Michael SiembidaPlacing flags at the DC War Memorial on Veterans DayMichael Siembida is a 2016 fall semester intern working at the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission. He is pursuing his bachelors degree from George Mason University, and is a leader in the Delta Phi Kappa service fraternity, which he helped to create. For Veterans Day, Michael produced our WW1CC commemoration ceremony at the Washington DC War Memorial, a site on the National Mall that was created in 1931 to honor the 499 residents of the District who gave their lives in World War One. He talks a little about the ceremony, and how he teamed with his service fraternity members to make the day a success.

Tell us about the Veterans Day event that you produced last week at the DC War Memorial. What was your plan, what did you do?

Veterans Day is a day of remembrance of the men and women that gave their lives for this great country. On veterans day my service fraternity, the alpha chapter of Delta Phi Kappa, in association with the First World war centennial commission planted 499 American flags to honor the 499 fallen dc veterans during the first world war. While the flags were being planted the names of all 499 veterans were read out loud to ensure that these brave men names will never be forgotten.

You were able to solicit a special group of friends. Tell us about them -- who are they, where do they come from, why did they help with this project. You also had coworkers and interns from the WW1CC. Tell us about them.
For this event my service fraternity the alpha chapter of delta phi kappa were able to bring out over 30 brothers in order to honor the men who gave the ultimate sacrifice. We are a local service fraternity located in the city of Fairfax. We are a large group of diverse men ranging from as local as Fairfax to as foreign as Dubai and Ethiopia. We are committed to improving our community in any way we can. It was an honor to come into DC to honor our veterans. Alongside Delta Phi Kappa members of the WW1CC intern and staff came out to support this event. These members were vital to the success of this event from planning to getting the word out there. The staff of the WW1CC doing great and tireless word and I’m proud to be working with them.

Read more: Four Questions for Michael Siembida

Why World War One matters for your Federal agency

By Sarah Herman
via digitalgov.gov

I recently asked some friends—a group of intelligent, successful individuals—what they knew about World War One. The responses I received included, “Ummm.....it was in the 1910s?” or “Started in Europe when the archduke was killed?” Beyond this, it’s mostly blank stares and shoulder shrugs. mobilization parade Mobilization parade in 1917People who consider themselves history geeks might mention President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points, or the creation of the League of Nations, but for many Americans, World War One is a forgotten war. It happened thousands of miles away, unlike the battles of the Civil War, and It was too long ago for most Americans to have known a person that served, unlike veterans of World War Two.

Despite these inherent challenges, the role of World War One as part of our nation’s history needs to be communicated to the public. The decisions and actions carried out nearly a century ago still reverberate today in our country. And April 2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of the United States’ involvement in this global conflict.

At the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), where we manage eight overseas American military cemeteries from World War One, we’re preparing our stories now so we’re ready when the centennial begins. And now is the time for you to start thinking about how you can share your agency’s mission through the lens of this war.

Read more: Why World War One matters for your Federal agency

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