April 6, 2017 - Third Event
Claremont University Commemoration
Claremont McKenna College Campus, Claremont, California
By Bill Betten, Co-Director of the California WW1 Centennial Task Force
Historians, Authors, and Musical Specialists Commemorate the Centennial as Local Dignitaries Present Proclamations
On the campus of the Claremont University in Claremont, California, on the evening of April 6, 2017 members of the California World War One Centennial Task Force joined efforts with Lieutenant Colonel Evan Wollen, Professor of Military Science of the Claremont McKenna College ROTC Golden Lions Battalion, to host an evening event recalling the U.S. entry into WW1 at the Roberts Pavilion Sports Arena on the Claremont McKenna College campus.
The evening of commemorating and honoring the American sacrifices made in the war effort, while educating those who attended the event, includedguest speakers expert on the topic, re-enactors, exceptional live music performances, recent authors of books on WW1, a dramatic historiographic presentation, presentations of proclamations from local officials, and an impressive display of memorabilia and photos from the war.
Local dignitaries, authors, and historians were present to commemorate the United States entry into World War One. To open the event, Arise Joy Ringers handbell choir processed into positions playing The American March followed by the Band of Brothers Color Guard VFW POST 12034 of La Verne, CA., who presented the colors.
At that, the bell choir played the national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, in salute. The Color Guard posted the colors, and the Master of Ceremonies, California WW1 Centennial Task Force Co-Director, Bill Betten welcomed theaudience, and introduced the special guests and dignitaries. These included the mayors and city council-members of two cities from the region who were there to present proclamations. The City of Montclair, represented by council-member Bill Ruh and Trisha Martinez, as well as Montclair city employee Marcia Richter, presented an impressive proclamation recognizing the California WW1Centennial Task Force and the centennial. Mayor Larry Schroder of Claremont presented a beautifully framed document proclaiming the importance of the centennial and the work of the Centennial Task Force as well.
The MC then introduced Bob Morley who acted as narrator for a dramatic historiographic presentation staged by local talent portraying known characters such as, President Woodrow Wilson, California WW1 pioneering aviators and Lafayette Escadrille pilots Edwin Parsons and Didier Masson, as well the anonymous voices of common Californians of the time, such as journalists, soldiers, sailors, housewives and mothers.
At an appropriate moment during the performance, the Arise Joy Ringers Handbell Choir played a George M. Cohan medley that included the ever popular period pieces You're a Grand Old Flag and Over There.
To recall the spirit in which the nation was responding at the time, and to honor the bravery of many young Americans who answered the call to arms, the Arise Joy Ringers played the hymn that resounded throughout the nation at the time evidencing the people's spirit and support, Mine Eyes have seen the Glory.
Master of Ceremonies, Bill Betten then returned to the podium to introduce the evening's keynote speakers. Bill explained how pleased he was that he could share with those in attendance the authors of the books Redlands in WW1 and Deadly Secret of the Lusitania . Both authors spoke of the impact of the war in this country focusing on the service of Californians in the war, as well as the effect of the devastating loss of the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania by a German submarine.
Nathan Gonzales, co-author of Redlands in WW1 gave an impressive talk on how the lives of local California residents were affected or altered by service in the war. Ivan Light, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at UCLA, and author of Deadly Secret of the Lusitania spoke of the relationships of the liner's tragedy to the war, and the controversy that surrounds it even today.
Bill Betten then conducted an Author’s Panel where prepared questions were asked of the authors and experts, while the audience could also present questions.
The Arise Joy Ringers then closed the commemoration by playing an invigorating rendition of God Bless America,
The imagery of the bellringers was stunning, and the Arise presentation tables presented the vibrant red of the Flanders Fields poppies, the universal symbol of the war.
Throughout the event a sizable display of WW1 artifacts was presented by Co-director Bill Betten. It included posters, uniforms, and all manner of items actually carried by WW1 Doughboys. With the help of the Claremont Heritage at the Garner House of Claremont, CA, rare items were displayed for all to investigate that included the original charter of the first American Legion post in Claremont showing those Claremont men who fought and survived the war to return as its charter members.
A very special treat from the Garner House collection were photos of California recruits in training. These rare photos recently uncovered were allowed to be placed on display for the first time in nearly a century.
Though these recognizable images are iconic for the time, they are a rare and fascinating study of the Californian response to the war effort. Shot on local streets, and at the local college they bring the war right to our front doors as many of the buildings still stand , or match similar structures we can still see today around the area.
Very excited to have the photos for display, the Master of Ceremonies stated, "We were very blessed to have found such important evidence of the state's response to the call to service, but that they are of this college's sights and former students is exceptional."
Additional event photos: