World War I Centennial News


From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Spotlight on the Media: An Interview with
WWrite Blog Curator Dr. Jennifer Orth-Veillon

CN PodcastLogo Final gray lower

In June 28th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 129, host Theo Mayer interviewed Dr. Jennifer Orth-Veillon. Dr. Orth-Veillon is a writer, researcher, and war literature expert who has curated the Commission's WWrite blog for the past several years. Read on to learn more about how World War I changed writing and literature forever. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity:

Theo Mayer: Jennifer Orth VeillonDr. Jennifer Orth-Veillon is a writer, researcher, and war literature expertSo much has happened during this WWI centennial period and as the U S WWI Centennial Commission was reaching its stride in organizing the centennial of WWI, we started to explore and question the common perceptions of WWI. We realize that common references like the "forgotten war" or the "great war" were anachronistic. These were no longer fit descriptions. After all, people were beginning to remember WWI all over. And the "great war" was a term that was assigned before an even larger global conflict followed. So as the centennial was shedding a new light on the subject, a new reference was suggested to us by one of our wonderful communication advisors, Robert Glens, an ad industry legend. He suggested that we begin to refer to WWI as "the war that changed the world." Now, words are powerful and as we started to live with this new reference, it acted as a catalyst causing a new perspective and reexamination of how WWI changed the world.

All of that leads us to today's interview with Dr. Jennifer Orth-Vellion, who has masterfully curated a very special section of our website since December of 2016 called the WWrite blog. That's w-w-r-i-t-e. The blog is self-described as exploring WWI's influence on contemporary writing and scholarship and has earned a loyal following of over 30,000 avid readers. Dr Orth-Veillon holds a Ph.D. In comparative literature from Emory University, lives in France, and besides her own contribution, has pulled together thoughtful, interesting and provocative articles from a who's who of thinkers and writers to help us understand how the war that changed the world changed the nature of literature, art and film in the 20th and 21st centuries. Jennifer, it's not only a pleasure to have you on the show, but it's also been my pleasure and privilege to work with you over these past two and a half years. Welcome to the podcast.

J. Orth-Veillon: Thank you very much Theo, and it's also been a pleasure to work with you and with the other members of the commission.

Read more: Podcast Article - Spotlight on the media with Dr. Orth-Veillon


wwi exhibit 12 A glass case allows visitors to view the photographs and their handwritten narratives on the reverse side.

WWI Exhibit Showcases 100-Year-Old Portraits Of Cincinnatians At War 

By Tana Weingartner
via the Cincinnati Public Radio (OH) web site

The Cincinnati Museum Center is marking the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I with an exposition featuring images not displayed since 1919.

Until We Meet Again: Cincinnati Portraits from World War I features photographs of servicemen and women, uniforms and flags that were part of a December 1918 Allied Governments War Exposition at Music Hall.

The Expo ran for nine days and drew 164,000 people, says Jim DaMico, curator of audio visual collections at the museum center.

"One of the components of the Exposition was a local call to family members to lend photographs of their loved ones in service, so there were approximately 6,000 photographs on display. You can tell on a lot of the photographs because there's still the pinholes from that time. The last time they were displayed was in 1919," DaMico explains.

Afterward, organizers asked families to donate the images to the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio - which would later become the Cincinnati History Library & Archives - and 2,625 photographs were sent.

Read more: WWI Exhibit Showcases 100-Year-Old Portraits Of Cincinnatians At War


Was the Treaty of Versailles a Victory for Democracy? 

By Ted Widmer
via the New York Times newspaper web site

June 28, 1919, dawned as a beautiful day; fair, with moderate winds, according to The New York Times. It was a perfect day to see a baseball game, and 28,000 did, going to the Polo Grounds to watch the Yankees and Red Sox split a doubleheader. New Yorkers could only envy the Red Sox, who had won the last World Series, and seemed poised to win many more, since they boasted “the mighty Babe Ruth, Boston’s swatting all-around player.”

It was hard to believe on this sunny day, but it had been precisely five years since World War I began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Since then, nearly 20 million had died, and entire empires, including Franz Ferdinand’s, had vanished. But those painful memories were softened by the knowledge that nothing so terrible could ever happen again. Because June 28 was the day that a new history would begin.

Across the Atlantic, outside Paris, another huge crowd thronged the old royal seat of Versailles, where a peace treaty awaited signature. It was the culmination of months of work, led by the American president, Woodrow Wilson, who had promised to make the world safe for democracy.

The immense chateau was an unlikely backdrop for a democratic pageant. But like a versatile actress, it was ready to play this demanding new part. Auspiciously, the treaties that recognized the United States were signed here in 1783, validating the idea that one people, at least, might dare to govern itself. Less auspiciously, democracy had surged out of control during the French Revolution, when the proud buildings were stripped of their furnishings. But these were obscure footnotes on what was sure to be a great day. News cameras were on site, ready to record every detail for a voracious public.

Read more: Was the Treaty of Versailles a Victory for Democracy?


How World War I transformed economic warfare 

By Phillip Dehne
via the Washington Post newspaper web site

Though World War I officially ended 100 years ago today with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, in its overwhelming influence on economic sanctions since 1919, the Allied blockade never really stopped. While it’s the narratives of destruction and change, from the bloodbath of the Somme to the triumph of Vladimir Lenin in Russia, that have captured the public imagination about the war, the way the war transformed economic warfare should also be seen as one of its central legacies, one that continues to shape international relations today.

Blockade cartoonIn particular, the war launched a new style of economic blockade. Practiced most avidly by the United States, economic sanctions now include attempts to curtail North Korean coal exports, freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs and limit the ability of Venezuela to import equipment for its disintegrating oil industry. Economic coercion is now a widely accepted tool of first resort when dealing with foreign foes — though its utility and effectiveness are endangered by the Trump administration’s unwillingness to build support for sanctions among allies.

During World War I, the coalition warfare led by Britain, France and eventually the United States aimed to control access to international trade and finance, and relied largely on nonmilitary methods of enforcement. The “Inter-Allied Blockade” did not entail besieging enemy ports, but rather meant identifying and confiscating German goods on the high seas, denying credit on international bankers’ ledgers and using controls over global shipping assets and supply chains to attempt to permanently disrupt Germany’s commercial connections in overseas markets.

For example, jute importers and wool exporters in neutral Argentina avoided trade with local German merchants who were on Allied blacklists, fearing that otherwise they would be blacklisted themselves and lose access to shipping and international banking. As a nearly global effort against their enemies, the Allied economic campaign helped to undermine German resilience.

The blockade begun by the British in 1914 intensified as they drew their allies into the effort. It developed through official collaboration both at the highest level, in meetings in Paris and London, and also on the local level between Allied diplomats and business executives in Buenos Aires and Shanghai. Everywhere this Allied cooperation occurred, it ratcheted up pressure on German commercial and financial interests.

This strategy suggested warfare could happen without direct military action. For statesmen reeling from the carnage of the battlefields, this was a hopeful prospect. At the Paris Peace Conference that ended the war, wartime blockaders wrote economic war into the founding document of the League of Nations. Looking to enhance the possibility of peace between countries, the League’s “Covenant” envisioned automatic and universal economic sanctions against any peace-breaking nation.

Read more: How World War I transformed economic warfare


North Danville's Ben Clifford

A country poet and World War I soldier 

By Sharon Lakey
via the North Star Monthly magazine (VT) web site

There is a story in North Danville that has held a warm spot in my heart for many years. Ben Clifford, an old country poet, walked the back roads of North Danville and left his handwritten poems in neighbors’ mailboxes.

Ben CliffordBen CliffordShirley Langmaid was a recipient of a number of them, and she passed a folder of them on to the Danville Historical Society. They have been tucked away in a file cabinet until recently, when it was decided that Ben’s poems should see the light of day at the upcoming July 4th celebration in North Danville.

I pulled the file; I actually read the writing. It is handwritten in a beautifully slanted script. One particular piece surprised me. Instead of poetry, it is written in prose. In content it details one day at the end of WWI. It is the only first-hand account of the war that I’ve encountered here in my nine years on the job. It especially intrigued me when I was able to verify his story by following his words to actual events recorded by history.

Ben gives us an inkling of the reality of that war, a stark memory that stayed with him for the rest of his life. He titled the piece “Our Nation’s Progress,” and wrote it under the pen name Daniel Boone.

They say old age lives in the past. If so, there must be another old boy that remembers that cold bleak day of Dec 24, 1918 when the 102nd Machine Battalion, a unit of the old 26th Yankee Division traveled all day with the old Hotchkiss mule-drawn gun carts and caissons to reach a little village near Paris where they were to stay overnight. The men had the privilege of sleeping on the dirt floors of the barns, giving the little cooties a chance to warm up and travel at a tremendous pace over your body. There were two kinds looking for the best location. The mules stayed out in the lot, lying down in the clayey mud for which that country seemed famous.

As luck would have it, Christmas was bright and sunny. The President of the United States was up in the reviewing stand under the magnificent stove pipe hat. It seems he had called for the Fifth Liberty Loan drive back home, the proceeds which we understood were donated to the French government, possibly as a tribute to Lafayette, who helped this country gain its independence.

On Dec. 25, President Wilson reviewed the troops at Hume, France, a location near Paris. He had signed the Armistice in November. He climbs out of a vehicle, jovial, wearing a fur coat and top hat and walks a boardwalk to a reviewing stand where he is to speak. A 35mm film clip of him in action can be accessed on YouTube. A local typewritten Souvenir book in our collection identifies two Liberty Loan amounts given from the Town of Danville. “The subscriptions of the people of Danville to the First Liberty Loan amounted to $53,500. and to the Second Liberty Loan, $90,950. a total of $144,450.” (It doesn’t mention the Liberty Loans beyond that.)

Read more: A country poet and World War I soldier


MN family donates WWI-era artifacts to county museum 

By Troy Krause
via the Redwood Falls Gazette newspaper (MN) web site

McKayKenneth S. McKayThose who serve in war have a tendency to not talk much about that experience.

If they do, it is typically much later in life.

That was the case with Kenneth S. McKay.

McKay, a World War I veteran, was born and raised in Kintire Township, Redwood County and attended Delhi school. He was born Nov. 20, 1894 and served his country as a member of Company L, the Redwood Falls National Guard Unit.

The story of McKay may have never been told if it were not for the fact that some of his things were given to Philip and Janean McKay. They had gotten to know Kenneth McKay and his wife Roberta (Rogers) McKay while they are all living in the Morris area.

Among the things given to Philip and Janean was a collection of items from his time in the service of his country. Janean held on to those items, which included a number of photographs, as well as a diary he kept that told the story of his experience in basic training.

Janean recently talked about the items with her children, and it was agreed the best place for those items was not with the family, and so Janean recently donated them to the Redwood County Historical Society.

“We thought the best place for them was in a museum,” said Janean.

Janean added in the items they received was that diary McKay kept, which included a day by day account of his time preparing for and being involved in the war.

The diary itself was actually given to Kenneth McKay’s children, but Janean took the time to transcribe what was written in it, and as part of the donation she has included a copy of that account.

Read more: MN family donates WWI-era artifacts to county museum


coblenz.panorama The Stars And Stripes Flying Over Ehrenbreitstein Fortress On The Rhine. View Looking East From Coblenz, Germany, April, 1919.

"Stars & Stripes Over the Rhine Exhibition" at University of South Carolina

via the Kroger Center at the University of South Carolina web site

As part of the Wunderbar Together initiative, The Columbia World Affairs Council, the Atlantische Akademie Rheinland-Pfalz e.V. and the Koger Center for the Arts as well as the Instistut Für Geschichtiliche Landeskunde as der Universitat Mainz e.V. are proud to bring the "Stars & Stripes over the Rhine" exhibit all the way from Germany to Columbia, South Carolina!

From October 2018 until late 2019, Germany will celebrate its close friendship to the U.S. through the Year of German-American Friendship, or the Deutschlandjahr. The theme of "Wunderbar Together" highlights the strong relationship between our two countries, which is rooted in deep historical ties and shared culture.

People are at the heart of the U.S.-German relationship, and at the heart of this celebration. Wunderbar Together will bring together more than 200 partners across all 50 states, who will host more than 1,000 events in local communities.

Read more: "Stars & Stripes Over the Rhine Exhibition" at U of South Carolina

Historian's 10-year quest for World War I New York soldier’s grave ends in success

By Scott Desmit
via the Batavia News/The Daily News newspaper (NY) web site

BATAVIA, NY — On May 2, St. Joseph’s Cemetery manager Matt Dispenza gathered the entire office staff and his crews and headed to the cemetery.

Silvie headstone as foundJames Silvie headstone as discovered.They were on a mission: To find the grave of James Silvie, a World War I veteran who died of Spanish flu while at Fort Douglas, Utah.

“We were all walking through the cemetery when I saw a stone that was broken and tipped over,” said Jackie Motz, business manager at Resurrection Parish. “I almost walked right by it but then I though ‘Oh, I’ll try looking at it.’”

The stone was partially buried in the ground, muddy and moss-covered with two or three letters showing, Motz said.

She wiped the moss from the stone and the rest of the letters came into view: James Silvie 1893-1918.

“It’s the oldest section of the cemetery. There’s thousands of stones in that section,” Dispenza said. “It’s incredible she found it.”

Incredible and important, most of all important to Terry Krautwurst.

Krautwurst, formerly of Le Roy and now living in North Carolina, has devoted the last 10 years of his life documenting the men and women of Genesee County who served in World War I.

His Honor Roll project includes eight binders of information, including more than 100,000 words of text and 1,200 military documents related to the 66 men and one woman from Genesee County who died while serving during World War I. He donated the project to Genesee County History Department and has a website, “The County and the Kaiser.”

One part of his project was to photograph every grave of the 67 who died.

Read more: Historian's 10-year quest for World War I soldier’s grave ends in success


MemorialA rendering of the planned National World War I Memorial in Washington's Pershing Park 

More Than A Century Later, The U.S. Still Doesn’t Have A National World War I Memorial In Washington 

By Tom Russo
via the Bisnow web site

As the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles approaches this Friday — a pact that effectively ended “the war to end all wars” — the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission in Washington will watch another centurial commemoration march by.

Five years ago, it was one century since World War I broke out in Europe. Last year, it was the centennial of the creation of Armistice Day. The new target date is Nov. 11, 2021, which will mark 100 years since the interment for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a World War I veteran, at Arlington National Cemetery.

All of those centenaries were targeted by the commission for one purpose: to erect America’s first-ever national monument to all 116,708 Americans who fought and died in Europe’s first total war. But more than a century after the war, construction has not yet begun.

“In the best of all worlds, we would dedicate this in November 2021,” said Edwin Fountain, vice chairman of the Centennial Commission.

The prolonged effort to erect a memorial to the men who died in trenches and on battlefields in places like Somme, Belleau Wood and Gallipoli goes back decades, and has been hampered by politics, complicated legislative efforts, a meandering site-selection process, a cumbersome design review and disagreements on what the memorial’s mission ought to be.

The memorial, called "A Soldier’s Journey," was designed by Joe Weishaar and is being sculpted by Sabin Howard. It will stand nearly 60 feet long on 1.8 acres in Pershing Park, on Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th streets NW. The memorial will sit a block away from the White House with a direct view of the U.S. Capitol building. The estimated total cost is $40M.

“We’ve had targets, and you set targets ambitiously to keep people focused,” Fountain said. “But the project takes as long as the project takes. We have a goal. We have an aspiration.” 

Read more: More Than A Century Later, The U.S. Still Doesn’t Have A National World War I Memorial In Washington


signing2 page.elementFrench President Clemenceau signs the Treaty in 1919.

Events in France, Online Exhibition to Mark the Treaty of Versailles Centennial 

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

WASHINGTON, DC — On June 28th, in honor of the Centennial Anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles, a day of remembrance, commemoration, and education, will take place in Versailles, France.

The first of The Paris Peace Treaties, this treaty officially ended the state of war between the European Allied Nations and Germany.

Presenting Sponsor, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, along with National WWI Museum and Memorial, and the Doughboy Foundation, will support the activities hosted by the legendary Palace of Versailles.

Read more: Events in France, Online Exhibition to Mark the Treaty of Versailles Centennial

s20UbQewView of the sports arena, where the Inter-Allied Games games were played.

June 22-July 6 Marks Centennial of the Inter-Allied Games

National WWI Museum and Memorial offers exclusive video, images of “forgotten” international competition from 1919 featuring world-renowned athletes

By Mike Vietti
Director of Marketing, Communications and Guest Services, National World War I Museum and Memorial

KANSAS CITY, MO – The scheduled Olympics in 1916 were canceled due to World War I. While the Olympics resumed in 1920, a seminal event featuring renowned athletes from across the world took place in 1919 in the aftermath of the first truly global conflict in human history.

The sudden end to the fighting in France on Nov. 11, 1918 took American military officials by surprise. Leadership had given very little thought to the difficulties of demobilizing a mass army in an efficient and equitable manner, particularly for soldiers stationed overseas. Authorities, concerned that peace negotiations might break down and the military would be forced to fight again, imposed a steady diet of daily drills, target practice and tactical exercises. Low morale over the continued training and the slow pace of demobilization reached near crisis proportions just as a third wave of influenza hit the debarkation camps in France. This created tremendous bitterness among troops who watched their comrades fall ill and die while awaiting transport home. Clearly, something voluntary and enjoyable was needed to unite the troops and occupy their time until the War Department could get them all home.

Sports competitions offered the ideal solution. And, thus, the Inter-Allied Games was born.

Held from June 22 – July 6, 1919 outside of Paris near the site of the 1900 Olympics, the Inter-Allied Games featured hundreds of male athletes from nations across the world aligned with the Allies during World War I competing in 13 sports. During the course of the completion, more than 500,000 spectators witnessed some of the globe’s best athletes – past, present and future.

“The passage of time has led to lapse in familiarity with the Inter-Allied Games,” said National WWI Museum and Memorial Senior Curator Doran Cart. “This was a world-class competition featuring some of the best athletes in the world. Perhaps more importantly, the Inter-Allied Games served as a vehicle for healing the wounds from the most catastrophic war to that time in human history.”

Read more: June 22-July 6 Marks Centennial of the Inter-Allied Games


Aiden Coleman memorial 1000Overview of the site where the World War I Memorial (right of flagpole) created by Eagle Scout Aiden Coleman at Gibson Cemetery in Bright, IN.

Eagle Scout Aiden Coleman's WWI Memorial Project

"I truly cared about those who served and wanted to make that known."

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

Aiden Coleman is a Superstar. He is a hardworking Boy Scout, a talented leader, and a conscientious history buff. Aiden was recently promoted to the rare rank of Eagle Scout, and to do so, he decided that his required Eagle Scout Service Project would honor his community's World War I veterans. We were thrilled to hear about this project, and were able to discuss it with him.

Tell us about your Eagle Scout project - What were the Requirements? What did you decide to do? Why? How did your family & troop leaders react?

Aiden Coleman 300Aiden ColemanThe only real requirements for my Eagle Project were to demonstrate my ability to plan, develop, and provide leadership in a new role of completing a project. There aren't any requirements on how big the project had to be, but I wanted to do something more meaningful. I knew that I wanted to do something based around WW1, and originally I was going to do a memorial for the US entrance into the war. But other aspects of life got in the way and I put it off. I wanted to do a project based around WW1 because the war had always been such an interesting period of time to me. And of course it was the 100th year anniversary of the war, so a perfect time to plan a project in commemoration. My parents were totally on board with the project idea and were there to help me the entire way. My troop leaders weren't so enthusiastic, I think they thought it might be "too ambitious." And in some ways they were correct it wasn't and easy thing to do. Not only the amount of information I had to gather but it was a very expensive project, and I had to find a way to raise enough money for the memorial.

How did the research for your project work? Who helped you with this aspect? How did you connect with them? Where did you find information?

The first thing I had to do was find a local location to place my memorial. I was turned down from a few places and finally I got in contact with the Gibson Cemetery in my hometown of Bright, Indiana. They immediately were happy to help and granted me a spot right next to their flag pole for the memorial. The idea was brought to me that I should include the local First World War veterans who served and are buried at Gibson in some way. I had to gather up all of the veterans names by going around the entire cemetery and finding which graves were marked as WW1 veterans. Thankfully the cemetery had a refined list of each veteran buried in the cemetery. I of course had to do research about the war itself so that I had an idea of what I was talking about. I needed to know dates, times, and important people. I did most of the research on my own, but I got help at the cemetery from a few friends. I found Information from family members of the WW1 veterans, the local VFW, American Legion, Gibson Cemetery, and of course the internet.

Read more: Aiden Coleman's Eagle Scout Project


Service marks 100 years since Scapa Flow navy scuttling 

via the BBC (UK) web site

A poignant service has been held to commemorate the centenary of the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow.

 107490736 servicenew976A service was held above the sunken wreck of the warship Dresden More than 50 German ships were sunk in the waters off Orkney to prevent them becoming spoils of war on 21 June 1919.

A service was held above the sunken wreck of the warship Dresden.

During the service a bell recovered from the wreck of the Von der Tann was rung by the grandson of German commander Admiral Ludwig von Reuter.

The mass scuttling was the single greatest loss of warships in history.

The nine German sailors killed that day were the last to die during World War One.

The final peace treaty was signed a week later. 

On Friday, wreaths were laid by the two most senior naval officers present - Rear Admiral Stephen Haisch, from the German Navy, and Captain Chris Smith, Royal Navy Regional Commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Navy divers from Britain and Germany then laid wreaths on the hull of the Dresden.

Read more: Service marks 100 years since Scapa Flow navy scuttling

"Pershing" Donors

$5 Million +

Founding Sponsor
PritzkerMML Logo

Starr Foundation Logo

The Lilly Endowment