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Four Questions for Michael Telzrow

"Stories of real individuals who served their country with dedication and honor"

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

On July 14, 2016, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker issued a proclamation establishing July 25, 2016 through November 11, 2018 as the World War One Centennial Commemoration throughout the state of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Centennial Committee was established, and an agenda of activities, exhibits, and events started to take shape.The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is proud to partner with the Wisconsin World War One Centennial Committee, to tell the remarkable story of our World War I veterans during the coming months. We are also thrilled to host the Wisconsin Committee web page on our website.To mark the opening of the new site, we talked to Michael Tezlow., a Wisconsin Centennial Committee member, and the Director of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.

Wow -- The Wisconsin WW1CC website is now live! What does that mean, and where do we find it?

Michael TezlowIt means that we are now able to share the stories of Wisconsin WW1 veterans and the activities of the Wisconsin WW1 Centennial Commission, and partners, as they relate to the centennial observance. Of course, it can be located on the National WW1 Centennial Commission website. It also means that we, at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, will be able to share with web visitors our stories and rich collection of WW1 material, as well as the roster of Wisconsin upcoming events.

You folks have a pretty full slate of activities coming up already -- an exhibit, a symposium, the database, etc. Tell us about them.

The largest collaborative effort will culminate in a scholarly symposium on Oct 27-28, here in Madison. The symposium is a joint sponsorship effort between the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, the Wisconsin WWI Centennial Commission, The War in Society and Culture Program, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Wisconsin Historical Society. There will be a call for papers coming out after January 1, 2017, and we expect a good response. Jennifer Keene, author of Doughboys, The Great War, and the Remaking of America will open the symposium on the evening of October 27, 2017 at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison. Activities include tours of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum and, of course, the presentation of papers on October 28.

 

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum will open its second major WW1 exhibit entitled Beyond the Trenches: Stories from the Front. This exhibit will illuminate the diverse experiences of four (4) Wisconsin WWI veterans; each representing the variety of ways in which members served. The stories are intensely personal and are supported with a variety of supporting objects.

Web siteOn January 26, 2017 – the Wisconsin Veterans Museum will host an evening event entitled Our Boys in France, which features the original glass slides that the CPI circulated in 1918, in support of the war effort. Following this event, the Museum will offer a series of public encounters with curators that will focus on WW1-related material.

In addition to the above public events, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum will launch an online database containing the roster of WW1 Wisconsin soldiers. This valuable research tool will be available in April 2017.

Sounds like a lot of teamwork. Who is World War One in Wisconsin? Who are your Commission members, and your partner organizations?

Members:

  • John Townsend, Capt. USN, Ret.
  • Michael Telzrow, Director, Wisconsin Veterans Museum
  • John Hall, Ambrose-Hesseltine Professor of Military History, UW-Madison
  • Marguerite Helmers, Professor and Director of Advanced Writing, UW-Oshkosh
  • Matthew Blessing, State Archivist and Division Administrator-Archives, Wisconsin Historical Society
  • David Kurtz, Adjutant, American Legion, Department of Wisconsin
  • Mark Van Ells, History Professor, Queensborough Community College, NY

Support staff:

  • Kevin Hampton, Curator of History, Wisconsin Veterans Museum, Madison
  • Steve Oreck, Operations Associate, Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs/Ph.D. Candidate UW-Madison
  • Jenna Madsen – Operations associate, Wisconsin Veterans Museum
Wisconsin played some key roles in World War One. What Wisconsin stories have you learned about, or what stories have surprised you?

There are many stories that come to mind. First, there is the development and origin of the 32nd Division, which saw action in France and earned their distinctive “Red Arrow” division patch based upon their ability to breach the enemy lines. But, perhaps it’s the stories of the individuals that stand out most.

Wisconsin soldiersThere was Clayton Slack, who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor by single-handedly assaulting and capturing a German machine gun positon. In the air, there was Mortimer Lawrence, a recon photographer with the 104th Aero Squadron, who was credited with shooting down the last enemy aircraft just hours before the Armistice – quite a feat for a aerial photographer. Women, too, played a major role as health care workers. Wisconsin’s own Helen Bulovsky served at Base Hospital 22 and Evacuation Hospital 5. She documented her experiences through a series of photographs now in the collection of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.

Native Americans from Wisconsin also contributed to the war effort by joining the ranks, even though they were not citizens at the time. Men like Edward DeNomie of the Ojibwe Nation, and many tribal members served in France. Wounded and gassed during the final offensives, DeNomie surived the war.

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum holds thousands of WW1 objects, as well as archival material. Each is connected to the stories of real individuals who served their country with dedication and honor. We look forward to telling the public more about them and their legacies.


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