Sync Call for Wednesday May 20 at Noon EST
1. News and Announcements:
Pvt. Henry Johnson and Sgt. William Shemin will receive Medal of Honor
Exciting news! Last week the White House announced that WWI soldiers Sgt. William Shemin and Pvt. Henry Johnson will each receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for their actions in the war.
Sergeant William Shemin will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while serving as a member of the 47th Infantry Regiment, American Expeditionary Forces. While serving as a rifleman from August 7-9, 1918, Sergeant Shemin left the cover of his platoon's trench and crossed open space, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine gun and rifle fire to rescue the wounded. After officers and senior non-commissioned officers had become casualties, Shemin took command of the platoon and displayed great initiative under fire, until he was wounded, August 9.
Private Henry Johnson will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while serving as a member of the 369th Infantry Regiment, American Expeditionary Forces. Private Johnson entered the Army on June 5, 1917. He was assigned to an all-black National Guard unit that would later become the 369th Infantry Regiment. The Regiment was ordered into battle in 1918, and Private Johnson and his unit were brigaded with a French Army colonial unit in front-line combat. While on night sentry duty on May 15, 1918, Private Johnson and a fellow Soldier received a surprise attack by a German raiding party consisting of at least 12 soldiers. While under intense enemy fire and despite receiving significant wounds, Johnson mounted a brave retaliation resulting in several enemy casualties. When his fellow soldier was badly wounded, Private Johnson prevented him from being taken prisoner by German forces. Private Johnson exposed himself to grave danger by advancing from his position to engage an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. Displaying great courage, Private Johnson held back the enemy force until they retreated.
The award ceremony will take place on June 2.
For more information, visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/05/14/president-obama-award-medal-honor
Virginia World War I Centennial Commission Website
We are happy to report that the VA WWI Centennial Commission website is nearing completion. Virginia is the first state to take advantage of the opportunity to house their state website within our national www.worldwar1centennial.org. Their site will go live next week on May 26! You can check them out on the Virginia WWICC Facebook page as well.
GI Film Festival 2015
The GI Film Festival is happening now in Fairfax and Washington DC. It will include three WWI movies including Never Forgotten by the ABMC which premieres on Saturday at 3:30pm as well as The Millionaires' Unit and Soldiers' Stories which show on Sunday at 3 and 3:30 respectively. Check out our calendar for details.
Design Competition Press Announcement
As we announced last week, tomorrow is the our official unveiling of the design competition for the WWI Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC. It will be at the National Press Club at 2pm. This is open to the public and afterward the memorial design competition portion of our website will go live. This is very exciting to us, we can't wait to see submissions and move this along.
A big thank you to our Dir. of Communications, Chris Isleib, for his work on this. There have been several stories on this already:
The AP Wire story is now out on about 50-60 outlets nationally. Here's a small sample:
A new challenge for our listeners: as you know, we are trying to digitize our efforts in commemorating the centennial. You can help us do it! Just Download Google's Camera app to your phone and use the PhotoSphere setting to take 360° pictures of your local WWI monuments and memorials. The app shows you where to point the camera and then stitches the photos together to create the image. Send them in to us and we'll post the best submissions!
Check out this link for a tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UozBwluWW0M
And this link for more information: https://www.google.com/maps/about/contribute/photosphere/
Memorial Day Weekend Events
In Washington, DC:
There will be several ceremonies at the US Navy Memorial in Washington DC:
- On Saturday at 11am: Rolling Thunder Wreath Laying Ceremony
- On Monday:
- 10am EDT: Fleet Reserve Association Wreath Laying Ceremony
- 1pm EDT: USN Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony with USN Band & Ceremonial Guard
- 2pm EDT: Veterans Writing Project presentation
Monday: American Veterans' Center National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC
Chairman Rob Dalessandro will ride in the WWI Packard Truck with our awesome volunteer, Dave Lockard. Parade will commence at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 7th Streets, NW. It will proceed west down Constitution, past the White House, ending at 17th Street. Participants will pass by the nation's monuments, museums, and hundreds of thousands of spectators waving their flags and cheering for our country's heroes – the men and women who wear the uniform of our armed forces.
In Los Angeles:
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will open its gates for veterans as a tribute to their service to our country. The Coliseum was commissioned in 1921 as a memorial to Los Angeles County veterans of The Great War and was rededicated on Nov. 11, 1968, in ceremonies commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the 1918 Armistice, to all who served in the United States Armed Forces during World War 1. The plaque commemorating this occasion is inscribed with the words "Lest We Forget...May the Torch of Freedom Always Burn Bright." Self-Guided Tours will be offered from 10am-4pm while Guided Tours will be offered at10:30am and 1:30pm. Head of Los Angeles Outreach for the United States World War One Centennial Commission, Courtland Jindra, will be speaking at the beginning of the Guided Tours regarding the history of WWI and the Coliseum.
The Richmond Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Facilities will present a program in honor of our nation's veterans on Monday, May 25, at 4:00 p.m. at the World War I Memorial Carillon in Byrd Park. Featured will be a concert on the Carillon bells by longtime city carillonneur Larry Robinson, and a vocal concert by renowned barbershop group The Virginians. Please call (804)646-3680 for more information.
At the National WWI Museum at Liberty Memorial
The National World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO is hosting 10 events this Memorial Day weekend. Check them out on their website! https://theworldwar.org/memorialday2015
2. Volunteer Spotlight:
Dr. Allison Finkelstein, Historian, American Battle Monuments Commission
Dr. Allison Finkelstein first became interested in WWI while working as a teacher's assistant at a school in the english country side. British curriculum had a strong focus on WWI which included taking the students on a trip to the Ypres and Somme Battlefields. World War One British commemorative culture impressed her and sparked her interest in WWI.
After returning to the United States she began to look more into U.S. Commemorative efforts and found that they were lacking and decided to explore the topic in more depth. She then wrote her dissertation on women's commemoration of WWI
While writing her dissertation she had the opportunity to intern at the American Battle Monuments Commission for two summers, where she now works. She was introduced to the WWICC while at a WWI trade show last year and has since begun to volunteer helping the WWICC with research, outreach and coordination.
3. Shout Outs:
We'd like to thank Mark Levitch for help in selecting 20 sites to propose to Google for Google Trek. Thank you!
4. How you can help the WWICC this week:
- A CALL TO ARMS: We need volunteers!
- We need a volunteer in the Washington DC area to guide Dave Lockard and his Packard truck for the Memorial Day parade.
- Memorial Weekend at the US Navy Memorial—Saturday May 23 and Monday May 25. We need people to man a table during several wreath laying ceremonies at the memorial.
- Please email Rebekah Wilson.
- More Volunteers!
- We’re looking for a volunteer who knows how to write grants, and
- Somebody to help with put together a WWICC Newsletter. The content will be provided, for the most part; We need someone to edit and format it.
- Email please Meredith Carr.
- If you are interested in helping with state and regional organization, please let Andrew McGreal know and he will send you information on how to get involved.
- SHOP AT SMILE.AMAZON.COM! Enter the "United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars" as your charitable organization.
5. The Great War Channel
Would you like to see some great videos on YouTube about WWI? Check out The Great War Channel. Posting twice a week, ‘The Great War’ shows you the history of the First World War in the four years from 1914 to 1918. The host, Indy, takes you back week by week and shows you what was going on in the past. Please subscribe to see these great posts. Their last two videos are:
- Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: WHO DID WHAT IN WORLD WAR 1?
May 18, 2015. Mustafa Kemal or simply Atatürk was the founder of the modern, secular Turkish Republic. He earned his stripes as an officer in World War 1 as the defender of Gallipoli against the ANZAC troops. You can find out all about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk during the last years of the Ottoman Empire in our biography.
- Artillery Crisis on the Western Front - The Fall of Windhoek: THE GREAT WAR Week 42
May 14, 2015. The 2nd Battle of Ypres is still going but no side can gain a decisive advantage. The main reason on the British side is a lack of artillery ammunition. Even the delivered shells are not working correctly. But even the German supply lines are stretched thin. At the same time German South-West Africa falls to South African troops under Louis Botha.
6. The Great War 100 Years Ago
Presented by Mr. Mike Hanlon - http://www.worldwar1.com
The Opening of Hostilities on the Western Front
On 23 May 1915 Italy in accordance with the secret Treaty of London signed in April declared war on Austria-Hungary. The following morning Italian Forts opened fire on Austrian forts in the frontier zone between Rovereto and Asiago.
For the next 2 ½ years the fighting would be along the boundaries set by a commission in 1866 that gave Austria-Hungary highly defensible borders. (This would change dramatically after October 1917.)
S-shape defined by Italian Alps: Dolomites, Venetian and Julian, except for the last 20% around the city of Gorizia near the Adriatic. Italy had entered the war to acquire territory: Primarily the Trentino (South Tyrol) and Trieste and territory beyond along the Dalmatian coast. The mountainous areas, however, were not conducive to offensive operations. With two major exceptions, the fighting here, on 80% of the front, was to gain high points for observation and guard the mountain passes.
The only place where Italy could attack with any possibility of achieving their war aims was in the tail end of the front around Gorizia. This area, known by the River name in the area, the Isonzo or today, the Soca, would be the great killing ground of the Italian Front in WWI. 60% of the casualties for both sides on this front would occur in this small area.
The key position in the area is the Carso Plateau south of Gorizia along the Adriatic. Described as a howling limestone wilderness, treeless with thorny shrubbery, and with frying-pan like heat in the summer and howling, freezing winds in the winter. It had to be crossed to take Trieste.
First month: Italian Army would deploy and try to seize advantageous positions in the mountains and along the Isonzo. Austria would deploy defensive troops under the command of an excellent defensive general Svetozar Borievic.
Then, on 23 June, the Italian Commander would launch the First Isonzo Offensive, which would fail with large casualties. Three more failed attempts would be made in 1915 and seven more in 1916-1917. Almost all of the 11 Isonzo Offensives were dismal failures, but the Austrians had been driven near the breaking point by the fall of 1917. Enter the German Army.
Central Powers Offensives
With the main Italian fighting forces – the Second and Third Armies – deployed along the Isonzo. They were vulnerable to an attack from the rear and encirclement. In 1916 the A-H Commander Conrad von Holtzendorff Ordered such an attack (see map), but it was underpowered and sputtered out on the Asiago Plateau. However, in 1917, the German's – fearing an Austrian defeat -- sent reinforcements to the Italian front allowing the mounting of an offense later called the Battle of Caporetto (map). This would prove to be a "game changer" with a huge breakthrough and the annihilation of an entire Italian Army, the Second. The last year of the war on the Italian Front would be substantially different in character with the front radically reshaped.
Book: The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919 by Mark Thompson
Website: La Grande Guerra, http://www.worldwar1.com/itafront/
Next Week: The Diplomatic Response to the Lusitania Sinking
If you have an agenda item or calendar event to include, please email Andrew McGreal before next Wednesday.
For a listing of events and exhibits, please visit the Commission Events Page. (We are in the process of transitioning into this calendar--please bear with us if your event does not appear immediately. Thank you.)