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World War I Centennial News


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

groupGerald York, grandson of WWI hero SGT Alvin York (front center), holds the U.S. Mint's newly-minted 2018 WWI Centennial Silver Dollar. He is joined by (l to r) Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-Missouri), Daniel Basta, U.S. Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars, Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado), U.S. WWI Centennial Commission Chair Terry Hamby and Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri). The new commemorative coin was authorized by Congress, through bipartisan legislation. The coin, available to the public in January 2018 via, honors America's WWI veterans during the centennial period of the war, and a surcharge will support work of the Foundation.

United States Mint hosts Ceremonial Strike of new 2018 World War I Centennial Silver Dollar 

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

PHILADELPHIA, PA — On November 28, the United States Mint hosted a ceremonial strike of the 2018 World War I Centennial Silver Dollar honoring the 100th anniversary of American participation in World War I.

Designer holdsDesigner of the 2018 WWI Centennial Silver Dollar, Leroy Transfield, holds up coin he just struck at the Philadelphia Mint last week.The World War I Centennial Silver Dollar was authorized by statute in 2014 with bipartisan Congressional support. Three of the sponsors of the legislation, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-Missouri), and U.S. Representative Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) personally attended the strike event. A fourth sponsor of the coin legislation, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), was unable to attend.

An exceptional group of distinguished guests joined the elected officials for the event. They included:

  • - Colonel Gerald York, (U.S. Army-Retired) the grandson of famous World War I hero, Sergeant Alvin York
  • -Mr. Rod Gillis, Education Director at the American Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Spring, CO
  • -Chief Dennis O’Connor, United States Mint Police
  • -Mr. Michael Flynn, Vice President of Interpretation and Visitor Experience, Independence Seaport/Cruiser Olympia Museum. The USS Olympia is a World War I-era warship, and famously brought the remains of World War I's Unknown Soldier back from France, to Washington DC, in 1921.
  • -Leroy Transfield, designer of the new Commemorative Coin.
  • - Terry Hamby, Chair of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, a Congressional Commission created to mark American service and sacrifice in the war.
  • - Donald Everhart, recently retired United States Mint Lead Sculptor.

Read more: United States Mint hosts Ceremonial Strike of new 2018 World War I Centennial Silver Dollar

2018 WWI Centennial Silver Dollars Minted in Ceremonial Event

via the web site

2018 P Proof World War I Centennial Silver Dollar ObverseA newly-minted World War I Centennial Silver Dollar. The coin will be released on Jan 17, 2018. U.S. Mint photo by Sharon McPike.On Thursday, Nov. 28, officials from the United States Mint hosted a ceremonial strike event for the 2018 World War I Centennial Silver Dollar commemorating the 100th anniversary of America’s involvement in the First World War. 

Guests at the ceremony included three sponsors of the legislation authorizing the commemorative coin, the dollar’s designer and sculptor, the chair of the WWI Centennial Commission, and the grandson of a famous World War I hero.

LeRoy Transfield created the silver dollar’s designs and recently retired United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart sculpted them for coins. They were selected by the Treasury Secretary based on winning designs from a juried competition.

Transfield’s obverse or heads side design, titled “Soldier’s Charge,” depicts an almost stone-like soldier gripping a rifle. Barbed wire twines appear in the lower right-hand side.

Inscriptions are LIBERTY, 1918, 2018, and IN GOD WE TRUST. Poppies have been used since 1921 to commemorate soldiers who have died in war.

The barbed wire design continues onto the coin’s reverse, which is titled "Poppies in the Wire." It shows abstract poppies mixed in with the wire. Inscriptions include ONE DOLLAR, E PLURIBUS UNUM, and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.


Read more: 2018 WWI Centennial Silver Dollars Minted in Ceremonial Event

Missourians take part in planning WWI centennial

By Ken Newton
via theNews-Press Now web site

Nearly 11 months from the centennial of the World War I armistice, Missouri and its federal lawmakers remain in the thick of planning for the celebration.

Not only does Kansas City host the congressionally designated museum concerning the war, and not only did the commander of allied forces, Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, come from northern Missouri, state members of the House and Senate have worked on behalf of the 100-year anniversary.

5a1dd4a7136e6.imageThree of them — Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill — had a role Tuesday as the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia held the ceremonial strike of the 2018 World War I Centennial silver dollar.

The lawmakers, along with Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, sponsored the legislation that authorized the collectible coin. McCaskill could not attend the Philadelphia event.

Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, said the coin and the centennial events aim to properly honor the 4.7 million Americans who served in World War I and the 117,000 who died.

“It is critically important for us to understand that without memory, there are no heroes. And if there are no heroes, we forget how we got to where we are now,” he said in Philadelphia.

Blunt, a Republican and a former high school history teacher, told those in attendance at the mint that World War I provides significant lessons about the world situation today.

“The map of Africa, the map of the Middle East, the chaos in both of those regions are largely traced to the end of World War I and the mistakes that were made there,” he said.

“We really come here to the centennial of the war at a time when the war is uniquely important, uniquely instructive. ... Fifty years ago, a study of World War I would not have taught us the lessons, in my view, that it teaches us today.”

Read more: Missourians take part in planning WWI centennial

Has the US forgotten about World War One?

By Jane O'Brien
via the BBC News web site

There are no World War I veterans left alive in the US, but a century after the conflict that reshaped the world, ground has broken on a new monument in Washington, DC, to the 4.5 million Americans who served.

The US entered the war in 1917 - almost three years after European powers had been bludgeoning themselves to near destruction. Some 53,000 US soldiers were killed in combat, according to the defence department, while 64,000 died off the battlefield, including deaths from the influenza epidemic. Another 200,000 were wounded.

 98990557 171003renderposesAn illustration of the WW1 memorial concept, scheduled to be completed by late 2018 At the time, few Americans wanted to join a conflict largely thought to be pointless and irrelevant. Despite its profound impact on what became the "American Century", World War I remains a marginal war for many in the US.

"The Great War" was overtaken in the national consciousness by the Great Depression and World War II, says Edwin Fountain, vice-chairman of the WWI Centennial Commission. The commission has been authorised by Congress to build the new memorial in Washington, DC, as well as increase awareness of the war.

"The Centennial is the last best opportunity to teach Americans that World War I was in fact the most consequential event of the 20th Century," he says. "It had effects that we live and struggle with today, overseas and at home."

"The debate about the role of America in the world, the balance between national security and civil liberties, the place of women, African Americans and immigrants in our society - all those issues were vigorously discussed during WWI.

"You cannot contribute to those discussions today without understanding our historical roots."

Read more: Has the US forgotten about World War One?

How Cubism protected warships in World War I 

By Marty Graham
via the web site

If you’re stuck in traffic along the I-5 near San Diego International Airport, and your attention wanders from the brake lights in front of you, your eyes might land on a low-slung leviathan of a building, a third of a mile long, resembling the upper deck of a buried cruise ship peeking above ground. Keep your gaze there long enough, and you will notice that the geometric black-and-white pattern on the northeast side of the structure keeps changing. 

DazzleDazzle painting on a World War One troop shipWhat you’re seeing is simply a gargantuan rental car center. But as of September, it’s also a massive e-ink display—and even a sort of time-travel portal. The project by artist Nik Hafermaas deploys thousands of e-paper panels to turn the side of the garage into a sort of outsize mutant Kindle screen, cycling through 15 different designs. Its mesmerizing show offers a flashback to a World War I-era camouflage technique known as Dazzle. That’s where your trip back in time begins.

During World War I, artists protected massive warships by hand-painting them with eye-popping monochrome shapes that fooled enemies aboard German U-boat submarines. The distracting patterns made it hard for periscope-peering targeters to be sure which part of the ship they were looking at, or where it was heading.

Hafermaas is not the first artist to be dazzled by Dazzle. Pablo Picasso is said to have claimed that Dazzle artists drew inspirations from his Cubist paintings. More recently, William Gibson’s science fiction novel Zero History drew inspiration from the disruptive patterns. But Hafermaas, who chairs the graphic design department at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, has actually brought Dazzle back to hypnotic life, in the largest display of the camouflage style in many decades. For the San Diego airport project, Hafermaas and his team at the Ueberall International studio commissioned 2,100 e-ink panels—each of which, solar-powered and wirelessly connected, becomes a pixel in a shifting array.

Hafermaas says he found his inspiration when, leafing through a magazine, he chanced upon pictures of a ship, painted in a distorted checkerboard of black and white. “I saw these patterns that are really part of minimalist art, op art,” Hafermaas says. “But here it’s not meant as art but as the functionality to disguise a warship. It looks like art, but it’s actually engineering.”

Read more: How Cubism Protected Warships in World War I

First Mexican American to receive the Distinguished Service Cross

Marcelino Serna, most decorated Texan of World War One

By Stefan A.
via the Vintage News web site

When the U.S. entered World War One in 1917, it is estimated that roughly 500,000 people who joined the United States armed services were immigrants. According to the National Park Service, this amounted to 18 percent of U.S. troops.

mc6sg0urFrom the memoirs of Sergeant Alvin York from Tennessee, one of the most highly decorated Americans who served in the U.S. forces during World War One, we can learn more about life for this diverse collection of people. At first, he writes, he had been shocked by the fact that there were so many foreigners in his units: Italians, Poles, Irish, Greeks, and Mexicans. But, as he recollects, they soon became his buddies and he “learned to love them.”

Many of these non-American soldiers went on to prove that their bravery and dedication to the cause was of the highest order. Among these, one of the most highly decorated was a Mexican-born illegal immigrant named Marcelino Serna, the first Mexican American to collect a Distinguished Service Cross.

He migrated from his home country of Mexico to El Paso, Texas, in 1915, when he was almost 20 years old. After working illegally for two years, Serna was eventually arrested by Federal officials concerning his status as a citizen. While he waited to find out if he was to be deported back to Mexico, Serna decided that he would show his desire to become a U.S. citizen by volunteering for the army.

He received less than a month of training in Kansas, after which he was deployed with his infantry unit to Europe, to fight in the French trenches. He was part of the 89th Infantry Division. Serna did not speak much English and upon his arrival, his superiors immediately noted he was Mexican. They offered to discharge him from service, but Serna politely declined.

On the battle lines, he proved his courage as a soldier several times, his actions speaking for themselves as to why he was worth all the decorations he later collected. In one confrontation with enemy soldiers, his squad was attacked and 12 fellows were killed. Injured himself, Serna nevertheless proceeded with the fight, going after the attackers and capturing eight adversaries.

Read more: Marcelino Serna, most decorated Texan of World War One

Library of America traveling WWI exhibit comes to Frederick, MD library

“I’m not sure how many people even know why we entered the war."

By Nancy Lavin
via the Fredrick News Post web site

Walk through the doors of the C. Burr Artz Public Library in downtown Frederick and you’ll step back in time 100 years.

The exhibit that lines the interior walkway of the library transports viewers to the American experience during World War I. Black and white photographs, telegram messages, propaganda posters and newspaper clippings depict life at home and abroad during a pivotal but oft-forgotten time in history.

MannixMary Mannix, manager of the Maryland Room at the C. Burr Artz Public LibrAry in Downtown Fredrick, Maryland, stands with the Library of America's "World War I and America" project that will be on display through December in the entrance to the library.Highlighting that history and its relevance to conflict and society today is the intent behind Library of America’s “World War I and America” project. The project, tied to the 100th anniversary of the country’s entrance into WWI, includes a traveling exhibition from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History available for local libraries and museums.

Frederick County Public Libraries was one of 120 applicants selected to host the exhibit, with corresponding grant funding for programming intended to foster relationships between modern-day veterans and civilians.

The exhibit will be on display at the downtown Frederick library through the end of the month, though presentations and related programming will continue through at least March 2018, according to Mary Mannix, manager of the Maryland Room.

Mannix, who submitted the grant application on behalf of Frederick County Public Libraries, emphasized the benefits of the project’s dual emphasis on history and modern-day veteran relations.

‘The forgotten war’

The Maryland Room, a historical research collection housed at the downtown Frederick library, has long collected military records as well as other material documenting the lives of soldiers and civilians during war. But the availability of primary-source material from World War I remains scarce, limited to three photo albums donated by a descendant of a Frederick man who fought overseas with the U.S. Army National Guard.

American knowledge of the “Great War” is similarly lacking, often overshadowed by World War II and more modern conflicts, according to Mannix.

Read more: Library of America traveling WWI exhibit comes to Frederick, MD library

WWI veteran USS Texas battles for survival

By Patrick Gregory
via the web site

A naval veteran of two world wars, the USS Texas is a battleship which has survived one or two scrapes in its time. But now, over a century on from its launch and after a long and distinguished second career as a floating museum and some-time film set, the ship is facing a fight for its survival. Its rusting hull is in urgent need of repair and campaigners are trying to persuade the State of Texas to step in to help save it from the scrapyard. Patrick Gregory has been looking at its history.

mwhmeloisrcxnzdhg4x0 thumbUSS Texas in WWI service (Image: Texas Parks & Wildlife Department) A hundred years ago, in early December 1917, the USS Texas found itself in the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn. It had been there for two months following a serious mishap which had seen it run hard aground in Long Island Sound. The Texas' captain Victor Blue and his navigator had apparently been confused by shore lights and by the location of a channel through the minefield laid at the end of the sound.

Blue managed not only to avoid court martial for the incident but also to hold on to his command of the ship. Critics put down to his friendship with Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels. Either way, the damage occasioned was enough to set back the Texas' war service by some months; but eventually, in January 1918, the battleship sailed for British coastal waters to join up with the US force led by Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman.

U-boat threat

Over the next year, operating as part of the 6th Battle Squadron, the battleship played its part in checking the manoeuvres of the German High Seas Fleet and was part of the US-led North Sea mine barrage effort to counter the threat of enemy U-boats.

Following the Armistice, USS Texas was one of the vessels to escort the German navy when it surrendered to the British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands; and before returning to the United States, the Texas was also on hand to welcome Woodrow Wilson’s George Washington at Brest in France, ahead of the President’s visit to the post-war peace conference in Paris.

Read more: WWI veteran USS Texas battles for survival

WWI munitions cleanup on hold at AU president’s home

By Neal Augenstein
via the WTOP radio news site

WASHINGTON — The cleanup of a World War I chemical weapons testing site is on hold for the foreseeable future, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepares to drill holes in the basement of the American University president’s official residence, looking for evidence of discarded munitions.

AU Presidents homeThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will test for World War I munitions under 4835 Glenbrook Rd. NW, which is the official residence of the American University president. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein) More than five years after the house at 4825 Glenbrook Rd. NW, was removed, and as the cleanup of toxic munitions neared completion, the Army Corps will soon bore approximately 15 2-inch holes through the basement foundation, and in the yard and back patio of 4835 Glenbrook Rd.

As previously reported by WTOP, on Aug. 9, workers who were digging by hand experienced eye irritation, diarrhea, and vomiting — symptoms associated with proximity to low levels of chemical agents. The workers were briefly hospitalized, but released the same day.

The discovery was made along the property line between the cleanup site and the home at 4835 Glenbrook Rd., in the Spring Valley neighborhood. Digging was paused after the incident, and has not resumed.

Army Corps. officials have said testing over the years of soil at 4385 found no evidence of carcinogenic or other dangerous substances on the property.

However, in a Sept. meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board, project manager Brenda Barber said recent testing has found low levels of Mustard and Lewisite, which were used in World War I chemical weapons. The colorless and odorless compounds can cause blistering and lung irritation.

Barber said the test bores will be done the week of Dec. 4.

Read more: WWI munitions cleanup on hold at AU president’s home

Four Questions for Brooke Kroeger

"An acknowledgment of the extraordinary sacrifices women were making because of the war"

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

A remarkable new book has appeared on the World War I scene, one that traces the origins of the Women's Suffrage movement in America, and it's relationship to America's war effort 100 years ago. Specifically, The Suffragents is the story of how, and why, a group of prominent and influential men in New York City, and beyond, came together to help women gain the right to vote. Brooke Kroeger is the author. She is a journalist, author of five books, a professor of journalism at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and director of its MA unit, Global and Joint Program Studies, which she founded in 2007. We spoke to he about this book, and what she found in writing it.

Tell us about your new book, The Suffragents. Who is it about? What was their milieu, and the wartime challenges that they faced? What impact did these men have?

Brooke Kroeger 300Brooke KroegerThe Suffragents is about the Men's League for Woman Suffrage and its large circle of powerful, influential New York men—publishers, businessmen, financiers, writers, clergy, scientists, academics, jurists and lawyers, among them—who started an organization of their own to support the women's suffrage campaign.

Over these years, the league sprouted chapters across 35 states and much of the developed world. (Britain and Holland preceded the New York effort, as did Chicago by nine months in 1909.) This was taking place in the suffrage movement's last determinative decade, from about 1909 to 1919, which, of course, in the second half of the period, coincides with the war years.

The book provides chapter and verse on what the men did as allies to the women's movement, often inspired by the sacrificial activism of their wives, sisters, mothers, or lovers and friends.

As to the war connection, I think of George Creel, who shifted positions within days from heading up the Men's League's extremely effective "Publicity Committee" (with its A-list roster of writers, poets, editors and publishers) to leading the Committee on Public Information for President Wilson as soon as the United States entered the war in April of 1917. Of all the Men's Leaguers, Creel was the most prominent in both campaigns. It was Creel who was so impressed with the suffrage campaign work of Vira Boarman Whitehouse on the New York referendum campaign of 1917 that he gave her a wartime appointment in Switzerland.

Read more: Four Questions for Brooke Kroeger

We, The Unknown original choral work

"Pay tribute not only to the Unknown of WWI but all who have served"

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

We, The Unknown (WETU) is a brand-new musical commission conceived by Rob Hill, a retired Army Lt. Col and third-generation soldier whose paternal grandfather, John G. Hill, Sr., served in World War I. The work is slated to premiere in Kansas City, MO on June 9th & 10th. The idea for the musical work came to Rob after hearing a brief history of how America’s Unknown Soldier was selected. Almost immediately, he wondered, “what if the person selected was gay or African-American or someone else we might not otherwise expect?” Initially, he considered almost every other format possible to tell the story—novel, film, play—but when he moved to Kansas City, home to the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and joined the Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), he decided that a choral work for men’s voices was the best medium to pay tribute not only to the Unknown Soldier but all who have served, many in silence. This project is an official Commemorative Partner to the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. No one works alone, so we discussed the WETU project with Rob Hill, with Ms. Pat Daneman, Rob's co-librettist, and with Timothy C. Takach, the project's musical composer

Tell us about your chorus project, "We, The Unknown". What is the project overall, why WWI, where & when will it play?

GroupTimothy Takach, Composer; Pat Daneman, Co-librettist; Rob Hill, Co-librettistWhen completed, We, The Unknown will be an original choral work 30 to 40 minutes in length for men’s voices and soloists, including one woman who is representative of Gold Star Mothers. It will be performed by Kansas City’s Heartland Men’s Chorus, in collaboration with the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, as part of a larger concert titled Indivisible: Songs of Resistance and Remembrance.

The concert will be presented at the Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City, June 9 and 10, 2018, to commemorate the centennial of the U.S.’s involvement in WWI, as well as celebrate the principle that ALL are created equal. For more information about the project and the concert, visit

Read more: We, the Unknown premiere in Kansas City

Dunning named to U.S. World War I Centennial Commission

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

Zoe DunningZoe Dunning“It is my deep privilege to name a distinguished veteran and an outstanding champion for all servicemembers and their families, Commander Zoe Dunning to the World War I Centennial Commission, filling the seat recently held by Colonel Robert Dalessandro,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.“It is with profound gratitude that we thank Colonel Dalessandro for his dedicated service while welcoming Commander Dunning to the Commission.”

The World War I Centennial Commission is dedicated to planning, developing and executing initiatives commemorating the centennial anniversary of the U.S. entry into The Great War. Through educational experiences and programming for all ages, the Commission hopes to raise awareness and give meaning to the momentous events of 100 years ago.

Commander Dunning, USN (Ret.) 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, Commander Dunning serves as Commissioner for the San Francisco Public Library.


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