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AP photoThe sun rises over the nation's official WWI monument, Liberty Memorial, in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, April 6, 2017. Foreign dignitaries from around the world are converging on Kansas City and its towering World War I monument to observe the 100th anniversary of the day the U.S. entered "The Great War." (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Thousands Pause for Global WWI Centennial Observance

By Jim Suhr
Via The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Awed by an eight-plane flyover that left the sky streaked with plumes of red, white and blue contrails, thousands paused Thursday in the shadow of the nation's official World War I monument in remembrance of the day a century ago that the U.S. entered the fight.

Melding equal measures of homage to American sacrifice with patriotism, the commemoration — "In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace" — amounted to a multimedia time warp to April 6, 1917, when America begrudgingly joined the global conflict that President Woodrow Wilson had sought to avoid through neutrality.

With winds fluttering flags amid temperatures in the upper 40s, a few thousand ticketholders and dozens of foreign ambassadors watched a color guard clad as WWI-era "Doughboys" present the colors. Short films — one narrated by Kevin Costner, another by Gary Sinise — displayed on twin screens 25 feet tall offered documentary-style flashbacks. Ragtime music, military pomp and recitations of writings of the period filled voids between speeches, many of them by politicians.

Many who publicly spoke offered a nod to American sacrifice: By the time U.S. troops helped vanquish Germany and the conflict ended in 1918, more than 9 million people were lost to combat, some 116,000 of them Americans killed in what turned out to be a transformational war. A conflict initially fought by horseback and in dank, muddy trenches gave way to carnage by armored vehicles, air combat and German use of mustard gas.

"America entered the war to bring liberty, democracy and peace to the world after almost three years of unprecedented hardship, strife and horror," retired Army Col. Robert Dalessandro, chairman of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission behind the commemoration, told the crowd. "We still live in the long shadow of World War I in every aspect of our lives."

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