World War I Centennial News


U.S. Commission of Fine Arts comments on WW1 Memorial design at Pershing Park

By Michelle Goldchain

Wall from NPSOn February 16, the WWI Commission presented two design concepts to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts for the WWI Memorial, proposed for the memorial plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, known as Pershing Park.

While the Commission did not take any action, they did have a few comments to give. While acknowledging the difficulty to balance a new commemorative design with a nationally significant landscape, they emphasized that there should be less of a focus on modifying the park in order to accommodate a new memorial.

In a letter that Commission Secretary Thomas E. Luebke sent to Regional Director of the National Park Service Robert Vogel, Luebke wrote, “Given the intimate scale of the historic park, [the Commission] urged the reconsideration of the commemorative elements proposed, both in typology and location, recommending that a smaller intervention may be more appropriate: perhaps a single sculpture in the round, or multiple elements distributed within or at the perimeter of the site.”

Read more: U.S. Commission of Fine Arts comments on WW1 Memorial design at Pershing Park

Four Questions for Doug Batson

"America had ascended the world stage and our Doughboys knew that they had 'placed' us there."

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

Meet Doug Batson. You have never seen his mix of world-class talents before. He is a living history performer, a former military geographer, and an expert in the geography of World War I. He brings these passions together when he does performances portraying Dr. Isaiah Bowman, then-Director of the American Geographical Society (AGS). In January 1918, President Wilson tapped Dr. Bowman to lead "The Inquiry," a group of distinguished geographers who served as a precursor to today's National Intelligence Council. With its vast collection of maps and reports, The Inquiry propelled America onto the world stage at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference -- and together, they developed President Wilson's Famous "14 Points".

Few people discuss 'WWI geography', but it is considered to one the most impactful elements of the war. Give us the rundown on this topic, especially for during the war, and during the peace afterwards.

Military innovations of WWI famously included aeroplanes and tanks, but these novelties were seldom deployed in combat. Soldiers in the trenches, however, quickly recognized that the game-changing danger was geographic intelligence used in targeting indirect artillery fire. For the first time in warfare, enemy positions on maps were converted to precise geographic coordinates to unleash hellacious barrages, at times laden with poison gas, that none who survived them would ever forget. Former farmer Captain Harry S. Truman attended a French artillery school in order to instruct U.S. Army gun crews to perform these lethal mathematical calculations.

Doug Batson 300Doug BatsonThe Progressive President Woodrow Wilson firmly believed that American-style liberal democracy was the panacea needed by a world gone mad with war. The Bolshevik Revolution and Russian withdrawal from WWI afforded Wilson his chance. When Britain and France failed to articulate revised war aims, looking ahead to the peace process, Wilson set forth his own---the famous 14 Points.

Wilson envisaged a scientific and rational peace undergirded by geographic knowledge backed up by immense and accurate data sets. The State Department clearly lacked the capacity to give the U.S. delegation any such clout at the ensuing Paris Peace Conference. Wilson, the only U.S. President with an earned Ph.D., requested help from academia, and "the Inquiry," a think tank for reconstructing a shattered world in U.S. interests, was immediately formed.

How? The American Geographical Society (AGS) offered its NYC building at 156th Street and Broadway, as well as staff to include its Director, Dr. Isaiah Bowman, to the Inquiry without charge. Its numbers eventually swelled to 150. "Never before had there been gathered together so large a body of men engaged in public service of an international character."

Dr. Bowman's mastery of historical, political, and economic geography steered the research and production of volumes of ethnic maps and human geography reports that not only informed the American commissioners in Paris, but also favorably impressed foreign delegations once skeptical of naive Americans dabbling in world affairs.

Read more: Four Questions for Doug Batson

Four Questions for Monique Seefried about April 6, 2017

"We live to this day in the shadows of the Great War"

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

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is preparing for a major national event on April 6th, 2017, to mark the 100th anniversary of America's entry into the war. The event will take place at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. Monique Brouillet Seefried, Ph.D., is a Commissioner on the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. Seefried has been a regular lecturer on World War I, its causes and its consequences. She talks with us about the event, the significance of the Centennial of WW1, and why the decision by the U.S. to enter the war is so important to commemorate..

How will the Centennial of America’s entry into the war be commemorated during this event?

monique brouillet 200Monique Brouillet Seefried, Ph.D.The Centennial Commemoration of the United States entry in World War I will be held at the World War I Memorial and Museum in Kansas City. The national debate that took place over 100 years ago, and led to the decision by the United States to enter a war hoped to be the war to end all wars, will be captured in an event including visual montages, music, and readings of contemporary letters, poetry, etc. by prominent actors and public figures.

A reading of the declaration of war on April 6, 1917 will be followed by flyovers by U.S. military aircraft and the Patrouille de France, while military bands, color guards, ceremonial units will be standing by.

The artistic director for the event is Edward Bilous, Director of the Center for Innovation in the Arts at the Juilliard School. It will be streamed to classrooms across the country and available to posts, schools and civic groups for rebroadcast.

Why will the event be held in Kansas City? What is the significance of Kansas City to World War I?

After what was then known as the Great War, leading citizens of Kansas City, a railroad center in the center of the United States where veterans from all over the country could easily gather, decided to erect a memorial to the Americans who served during WWI.

Read more: Four Questions for Monique Seefried about April 6, 2017

Four Questions for Robert Laplander of Finding the Lost Battalion and Doughboy MIA

"No man's or woman's sacrifice in the cause of freedom should ever be forgotten"

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

Historian and author Robert Laplander has been very busy. He just released the third edition of his first book on WWI's "Lost Battalion", he is working on a new book about that unit's Commander, Charles Whittlesey, and he has been involved with the highly-anticipated PBS/American Experience series THE GREAT WAR. In addition to all that, Robert has been doing deep research with his "Doughboy MIA" section of the WW1 Centennial Commission web site, working to account for the World War I casualties who are still listed as 'Missing'. We caught up with Robert recently to get a full update.

We have not heard from you in some time. Tell us about your various projects related to The Lost Battalion, Doughboy MIA, etc.

Doughboy MIA is doing well.Robert LaplanderRobert Laplander We've submitted a report late last year to the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) on a name that looks to have appeared on the list twice, and the wheels are turning on that right now. It also looks like, thanks to a reader who cares, that we've got a Navy fellow who was lost at sea very early in the war who was never placed on the list or commemorated on any of the Walls of the Missing in the cemeteries overseas or here at home. We're making our double checks now on that case before we submit it to the ABMC for consideration. And we're wrapping up the last bits on the case of a 1st Division sergeant whose remains went unlocated following the war that we've been investigating for about a year now. This is for the 1st Division Museum in Illinois. It looks as if there is the possibility that we might be able to locate him using some of today's technology. The initial report will be submitted on that early next week and at the beginning of April I will be consulting with a soil expert on the use of some of these technologies as per this case and possible others.Doughboy MIA logo

So the wheels are turning at Doughboy MIA, though necessarily slowly. We still have not been able to locate the paperwork relating to the Unknowns buried overseas. Readers are encouraged to contact us if they think they may have an idea where that stuff might be, though be advised that we've combed through the 'low hanging fruit' a long while ago, so what we're looking for isn't going to be in obvious places listed online. Remember: a man is only missing if he is forgotten.

As for the Lost Battalion, many readers know that I am the author of Finding the Lost Battalion: Beyond the Rumors, Myths and Legends of America's Famous WW1 Epic. On Saturday, February 18th we released a 3rd edition; an updated version of the book in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of America's entry into the war. This was at Military History Fest in Chicago and it was very well received. As you know, the book is considered 'the bible' of the Lost Battalion and has garnered much success over the last 11 years since it's initial release. The really big news though is that two things tie the book to the Commission - first, we are proud to announce that for every copy of the book sold through the official website (www.findingthelostbattalion.com) or the publisher's website (www.lulu.com) we are donating $2.00 to the fund for building the national WW1 Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC (offer excludes eBooks - sorry!).

Read more: Four Questions for Bob Laplander of Finding the Lost Battalion and Doughboy MIA

Add your centennial commemoration event or activity to the national register

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

Did you know that you can add your own World War I-themed events to our Events Calendar?

Events Page shot 500The WW1CC U.S. National WW1 Centennial Events Register U.S. National WW1 Centennial Events Register is a living document of exhibits, commemorations, and events happening around the entire country. It is designed to help people find local things to see & participate in during the centennial period.

The Register is the primary register for nationwide World War I Centennial observances...you can search by dates, states, and locations to see community events are scheduled for this historical observance. These observances are registered by people just like you.

You can take an active role in our national observance by adding events you organize to this register. You develop a plan of action and event to help our nation remember, and you register it, informing millions of Americans to help you bring our nation together to commemorate the centennial.

If you have only one or just a few events, the easiest way to get them into the Register is to go to the Submit An Event page and fill in the interactive form.  Once approved by the moderator, you events will join the hundreds of others already recorded in the Registry, which will be part of the permanent record of the Commission.

Read more: Add your centennial commemoration event or activity to the national register

African-American heroes are a part of a vanishing World War I legacy

By Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun
via Military Times

It is early fall in 1918. Imagine being an American service member crouched down in the shrouded mists of a northeastern French valley, deep in the Argonne Forest.

carol moseley braun and grandfather wwiCarol Moseley Braun and her grandfather, World War I veteran Thomas Davie.German gunfire erupts as mortar rounds land nearby. You inch forward toward the enemy with soldiers from France and Belgium on either side of you. The brutal fighting would last nearly six weeks, until an Armistice was reached between Allied Forces and Germany on Nov. 11, 1918.

Five million Americans served their country in uniform during World War I, including 2 million deployed overseas. Nearly 117,000 Americans would make the ultimate sacrifice in a battle that would change the political, global, and social order of the U.S. and its allies – reasons why this war shouldn’t become a forgotten one.

More than 350,000 African-Americans served during World War I. Overcoming racial hostilities, these brave men demonstrated through their service, love of country, patriotism and the importance of equality. The paradox for African-Americans fighting on the front lines in France was clear; they defended America’s freedoms abroad while being denied those rights at home.

Although the Civil War ended 50 years before World War I began, racial discrimination was common throughout most of America. Jim Crow laws enforced a culture of segregation. African-Americans faced prejudice from their white counterparts in the service and in civilian communities near stateside military bases.

Read more: African-American heroes are a part of a vanishing World War I legacy

Four Questions for Matthew Naylor

"It’s essential that we understand and educate the public about the Great War"

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

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is preparing for a major national event on April 6th, 2017, to mark the 100th anniversary of America's entry into the war. The event will take place at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. Dr. Matthew Naylor, President and CEO of the Museum, is a Commissioner on the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. He talks with us about the event, the significance of WW1, and why the Museum and Memorial is the right location for this commemorative event.

The National World War I Museum and Memorial will be hosting a major event on April 6th, to mark the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I. What is the overall event?

Matt NaylorCommissioner Dr. Matt NaylorFirst, the National World War I Museum and Memorial is honored to host America’s national ceremony commemorating the centennial of the United States’ entry into the Great War. The ceremony will serve as America’s official event commemorating the day the U.S. entered World War I in 1917 by issuing a declaration of war against Germany. For those who haven’t visited the Museum before, it’s truly one of the world’s great museums featuring the most comprehensive collection of World War I objects and documents in the world as well as one of the largest and most symbolic memorials in the world. Ultimately, we believe it’s quite fitting that we commemorate the entry of the U.S. into the Great War in the very same place where millions of visitors from every continent that participated in the conflict have paid tribute for nearly a century.

In some ways, what happened on April 6th 1917 changed the entire world, and the entire century that followed. Tell us about the context, and significance, of what happened when the U.S. entered World War I.
You could make the argument that the world was at a crossroads. This global conflict was in somewhat of a stalemate after more than two years and in that relatively short amount of time, the destruction, devastation and staggering loss of life was unlike anything humankind had previously seen. Like many aspects of World War I, there may not be consensus on the overall magnitude of the impact of the United States on World War I, but it’s fair to say it was quite significant. In a matter of months, the Allies were supplied with an infusion of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and if we’re to put ourselves in the place of those serving on behalf of the Central Powers, that must have been demoralizing to a degree. For the United States, the foundation for the forthcoming American Century was laid by virtue of entering the war and demonstrating that the country belonged in the conversation as one of the world’s global powers.

Read more: Four Questions for Matthew Naylor about April 6, 2017

Four Questions for Kevin Delaney

"History often seems distant and removed from teenagers’ everyday lives"

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

Kevin Delaney, of Wayland MA, is one of those High School History teachers that you wished you had growing up. He thinks outside the box, he tries to make classwork relevant for his students, and he truly loves the topic of History. One day, the head of the local veterans organization gave Kevin 100+ handwritten letters written by a Doughboy to his folks in 1917-1919. The letters appear to chronicle his entire experience in the Great War. Kevin decided to use this amazing local resource -- and turn it into a memorable class project. As a result, Kevin's students are about to embark on a journey to research and write the story of this Doughboy, using all the letters and much more.  Kevin fills us in on this great project.

You and your students have a very unique project that is getting underway. What are you doing?

Kevin DelaneyKevin DelaneyOver the years I have worked closely with both the Wayland Historical Society and local veterans groups, and several months back, a fellow named John Dyer, a Korean War era vet, handed me a collection of 100+ letters written by a Doughboy to his parents. Long story, but Herman Allen’s letters appear to chronicle his entire war experience from 1917-1919. Based on the samples I’ve read, they tell a vivid story of everyday life of a private in the AEF; and he was a good boy, writing home once or twice a week for almost two years! His mother clearly treasured his words, carefully saving the letters until they fell on my lap 100 years later.

Like we have done on several previous projects since 2001, students will research and write Herman Allen’s life story, using the letter collection, census records from ancestry.com, period newspaper articles, Town Reports, and more. When we conclude, we will have published his biography online, complete with all of the records and letters, for everyone to see.

As of this writing, I have just finished scanning the collection, some 240 jpegs, so that student teams can easily and collaboratively use the sources without damaging the originals. It is important, however, that kids get to touch and read the actual letters too, for as any historian will tell, there is something transportive about physically manipulating remnants of the past, in this case what a soldier so lovingly composed in France a century ago.

Read more: Four Questions for Kevin Delaney, of Wayland High School

World War I: Online Offerings from the Library of Congress

By John Sayers
Public affairs specialist, Library of Congress.

Online offerings 500With the most comprehensive World War I collections in the nation, we are uniquely equipped to tell the story of America’s involvement in the Great War through our website.

Today we launched a comprehensive portal to its extensive holdings on the subject of World War I (1914–1918) as part of our commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. involvement in the war. The portal is a one-stop destination page for digitized versions of many of these assets.

These remarkable collections include recruitment and wartime information posters, photos from the front, manuscripts and papers of prominent figures such as General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, newspapers that provided the first draft of the war’s history, maps of campaigns and battle lines, sound recordings of prominent leaders of the era, war-related sheet music, even early film treasures.

Along with extensive access to these rare materials, the portal will include links to the online version of the Library’s major new exhibition, “Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I,” which opens April 4.

Read more: World War I: Online Offerings from the Library of Congress

Five Questions for Robert Dalessandro about April 6, 2017

"Our world and our generation are yet their legacy"

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

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is preparing for a major national event on April 6th, 2017, to mark the 100th anniversary of America's entry into the war. Commission Chair Robert Dalessandro spoke to us about the significance of the date. A career historian, Chair Dalessandro gave us some perspective on the events that took place 100 years ago to put us on the path to war, and how those events changed the entire world.

This April 6th will be a special day. The US World War I Centennial Commission will host a major event on April 6th, at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, to mark the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I. What happened 100 years ago, on that day?

robert dalessandroU.S. World War I Centennial Commission Chair Robert DalessandroThis is an important day because it marks the centennial of American entry into World War One; but more importantly, it commemorates America’s entry onto the world stage. After April 6, 1917, everything about America changed. American’s now saw themselves as active participants for all that is good in the world. As the slogan went, they wanted to “Make the World Safe for Democracy.”

What series of events happened to lead up to America joining the war? How did Americans react to this, and why?

Although America did not formally enter the war until April 6, 1917, thirty-two months after it commenced, the United States of America was actually a critical player from the beginning of the hostilities.

The United States was one of the principal suppliers of war materiel to the Allies. Great Britain spent half its war budget in the United States. There was a reason German U-Boats hunted the North Atlantic trade routes; that was how you cut the Allied supply lines.

Read more: Five Questions for Robert Dalessandro about April 6, 2017

Five Questions for Chag Lowry

"The story of Native men who participated in the Great War within the U.S. military is unique"

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

Chag Lowry is a Native American graphic novelist who lives in Northern California. He has a particular interest in telling the story of World War I, due to the amazing things that he has learned about the Native American soldiers who served in the U.S. military during that time. He has a new graphic novel about World War I coming out, entitled SOLDIERS UNKNOWN, and he took some time to tell us about it.

Tell us about your unique project. SOLDIERS UNKNOWN is a new graphic novel about some remarkable people who fought in World War I.

Chag Lowry 300Chag Lowry, in Susanville, CA. The tree behind him was planted in the 1920s by the town of Susanville, to honor the memory of Thomas Tucker, a Maidu soldier who died in the Meuse-Argonne. The tree was one of 16 planted, to honor the 16 men from Susanville who served in WW!. Thomas Tucker is thought to be the only one of them to die in combat.My people have served in the United States military for generations. I am a Native American person who is of Yurok, Maidu, and Achumawi ancestry from northern California and this military history is often not known or understood by other people. I had two great-great-uncles who served in World War One; they are of Yurok ancestry and their names are Walt McCovey, Sr. and Thomas Reed. I learned more about them and other Native WW1 soldiers and sailors as I conducted interviews for the books I wrote about World War Two and Korean War Native veterans. These men would show me photos of their fathers or older brothers who were in the Great War.

I wanted to honor the WW1 experiences I learned about using a different artistic format, and this is where I connected with the very talented artist Rahsan Ekedal. I wrote a script based on my research on the 91st Infantry Division's experiences in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. This is the division that many Native men from California were part of, including a Maidu man named Thomas Tucker. I was raised listening to stories about Tucker, and learned how he was the first person from northeastern California to die in combat during the Meuse-Argonne battle. I also learned about dozens of other Native men from tribes throughout northern California who also served in the war.

SOLDIERS UNKNOWN is a work of historical fiction. How much of it is true, and how much is fiction? Are your characters based on actual Yurok soldiers? How did you research, write, and storyboard, this story? Awesome artwork, by the way!

I wrote a script that focuses on three Yurok young men who are drafted and who volunteer for the war. They then take part in the first phase of the Meuse-Argonne battle. I showed this script to Rahsan and he became my partner in this journey to share about not just the war experiences of Yurok soldiers, but also to show how their families and community reacts to the war and its aftermath. I wanted to show how the unique aspects of Yurok culture were impacted by these men leaving their home villages and then returning after a traumatic and life-altering time in war.

Read more: Four Questions for Chag Lowry

World War I: From Red Glare to Debonair

By Jennifer Gavin
Senior public affairs specialist, Library of Congress.

Stars and StripesThe Stars and Stripes, February 7, 1919.With its more than 90-year history, most Americans are aware of the military-based newspaper “The Stars and Stripes.” But many don’t know that it came into existence as a morale-builder after Americans surged into France during World War I – and even fewer probably know of its links to another august publication, “The New Yorker.”

As thousands of Americans braved mud, bullets, shells, mustard gas and the flu in the killing fields of France, a decision was taken to start up a newspaper that could bring news of the war and of home to the men of the Allied Expeditionary Force. By most reports, it was a Second Lt. Guy T. Viskniskki, a longtime newsman, who took the idea to the brass and talked them into it; he was among the first writers and editors of the publication that launched Feb. 8, 1919.

The handful of enlisted men who began cranking it out insisted that it be written with flair and cover the things the average guy in a foxhole would want to know about. As its editors stated in the initial number:

“With this issue, The Stars and Stripes reports for active service with the A.E.F. It is your paper, and has but one axe to grind—the axe which our Uncle Sam is whetting on the grindstone for use upon the august necks of the Hapsburgs and the Hohenzollerns ... we want to hear from that artist in your outfit, that ex-newspaper reporter, that short-story writer, that company ‘funny man,” and that fellow who writes the verses. We want to hear from all of you—for The Stars and Stripes is your paper, first, last, and all the time; for you and for those of your friends and relatives for whom you will care to send it.”

Read more: World War I: From Red Glare to Debonair

Centennial Commemoration on April 6, 2017 of U.S. entry into WWl

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 7, 2017) — The United States World War I Centennial Commission today officially announced the national ceremony commemorating the centennial of the United States entry into World War I, a war that changed the nation and the world forever.

The national ceremony, “In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace: Centennial Commemoration of the U.S. Entry in World War I,” will be held on April 6, 2017 at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo. ProclamationInvited attendees include the President of the United States; Congressional leadership; Cabinet members; State governors; U.S. military leaders; veteran organizations; representatives from U.S. military legacy units that trace their history back to World War I; descendants of significant American WWI figures; and other organizations, dignitaries, and VIPs. International invitees include the Heads of State of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the United Kingdom, and all other nations whose people were involved in the Great War.

On April 6, 1917, after much debate, the United States entered World War I. The ceremony in Kansas City, and complementary events around the nation, will encourage every American to reflect on what that moment meant, how it continues to influence the nation, and how every American family, then and now, is linked to that perilous time.

“The April 6 ceremony in Kansas City is an important element of the national conversation about World War I,” said Dan Dayton, executive director of the World War I Centennial Commission. “Why should we care? Because we are all products of World War I. The entire country was involved— everyone has a story. The Commission’s goal is to inspire you to find your personal story and connection.”

“In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace: Centennial Commemoration of the U.S. Entry in World War I” will consist principally of the reading of passages from significant and representative American writings of a century ago about the U.S. decision to enter the war, including selections from speeches, journalism, literature, poetry, and performance of important music of the time. Invited American readers include the President of the United States, Congressional leadership, and descendants of U.S. World War I veterans. Certain Heads of State from other nations are invited to read passages reflecting the reaction of their respective nations to the U.S. entry into the war in 1917. The ceremony will also include flyovers by U.S. aircraft and Patrouille de France, as well as a military band, color guard, ceremonial units, and video productions. Students across the nation will participate in this historic event, learning how WWI changed the United States and the world.

Read more: U.S. World War I Centennial Commission Announces Centennial Commemoration of U.S. Entry into World...

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