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World War I Centennial News


WW1 Grafitti sheds light on soldiers' experience

Inscriptions reveal soldiers' lives from Canada, Australia, Britain, and the U.S.

World War One Chalk Etching

The Associated Press

A headlamp cuts through the darkness of a rough-hewn passage 100 feet underground to reveal an inscription: "James Cockburn 8th Durham L.I."

It's cut so clean it could have been left yesterday. Only the date next to it — April 1, 1917 — roots it in the horrors of World War I.

The piece of graffiti is just one of nearly 2,000 century-old inscriptions that have recently come to light in Naours, a two-hour drive north of Paris. Many marked a note for posterity in the face of the doom that trench warfare a few dozen miles away would bring to many.

"It shows how soldiers form a sense of place and an understanding of their role in a harsh and hostile environment," said historian Ross Wilson of Chichester University in Britain.

Etchings, even scratched bas-reliefs, were left by many soldiers during the war. But those in Naours "would be one of the highest concentrations of inscriptions on the Western Front" that stretches from Switzerland to the North Sea, said Wilson.

Read more: WW1 Grafitti sheds light on soldiers' experience

Over There and Overlooked

The centennial of the First World War is slipping past unnoticed in the United States, despite its persistent legacy.

World War One Reinforcing Soldiers

By David Frum

In a couple of months, we’ll mark the centennial of the sinking of the Lusitania, a history-bending event that will probably engage Americans not very much more than any of the other commemorations of the First World War over the past seven months. The United States lost some 115,000 soldiers in the First World War, more than in Vietnam, Korea, and all other post-1945 conflicts combined. Yet the war’s impress on the American mind—once seemingly so deep and indelible—has faded. The war men once called “the Great” has receded almost beyond memory in this country that did so much to win it.

It’s not so elsewhere, of course. I was in a business meeting in a Toronto office building on November 11. At 11 a.m., a buzzer sounded and the intercom announced the two-minute silence that still marks the hour of the armistice in the countries of the former British empire. The participants looked uncertainly at each other. Wasn’t it kind of... hokey to stop and stand? And yet, pause and stand they did, until the intercom buzzed again.

Read more: Over There and Overlooked

How World War One lead to the Apple Watch

U.S. World War One Soldiers wearing wrist watch

By Christopher Klein

Yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled his company’s new smartwatch, which will let users make phone calls, read e-mail, surf the web, pay for groceries and even monitor their health right from their wrists. The high-tech Apple Watch, however, may never have come to fruition had World War I not erased the cultural stigma that used to surround wristwatches.

While some credit Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet with designing the first wristwatch in 1810 for Caroline Murat, the younger sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and Queen of Naples, others give the nod to Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Patek Philippe, which developed one for Hungary’s Countess Koscowicz based on an 1868 design. Regardless of the wristwatch’s origins, 19th-century society primarily viewed “bracelet watches” and “wristlets” as dainty, jewel-encrusted baubles to be worn strictly by women for fashion, not practicality.

Into the 1900s, men continued to rely on pocket watches to keep time, although leaders in several countries began to see the wristwatch’s military advantages. In 1880, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm I ordered 2,000 wristwatches from Swiss watchmaker Girard-Perregaux to assist his naval officers in timing bombardments. The timepieces were also given to a number of soldiers fighting in the Boer War and the Spanish-American War, but at the dawn of the 20th century, wristwatches continued to be seen as “girlish” novelties as impractical as ankle watches.

Read more: How World War One led to the Apple Watch

Thomas Edison aided the United States military in World War One

Thomas Edison and USS Sachem Crew

The First World War, then known simply as the Great War, was in Edison's time the deadliest war in human history. The war would be waged between the Allied Powers of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Russia against the Central Powers of Germany, the Austrian-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. However, the four years of conflict would be made even more horrific by the introduction of mechanized warfare, with new advanced technology as a result of the latest industrial age. New innovations in weaponry such as machine guns, tanks, and airplanes all had the potential to cause horrific losses of life on the battlefield.

World War I was significant for Thomas Edison's life and business even before America's entry into the war in April 1917. Unlike contemporaries such as Henry Ford, who advocated a strict pacifist approach, Edison believed in preparedness, in response to potential threats against the United States. This philosophy advocated arming the United States military for war, with the assumption that America would eventually be forced to enter the conflict. Various prominent individuals during this period, including General Leonard Wood, former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt , former secretary of war Henry Stimson, and various other prominent politicians and businessmen also advocated this approach, eventually gaining the support of President Woodrow Wilson. Thus, Edison aided the United States military, particularly the Navy, in preparing to defend American shores from enemy attacks, particularly from submarines.

Edison greatly feared the consequences of warfare with modern industrial weapons. As he said in an interview with the New York Times in October 1915,"Science is going to make war a terrible thing –too terrible to contemplate. Pretty soon we can be mowing down men by the thousands or even millions almost by pressing a button." This motivated Edison to aid the United States military in arming itself for defense against potential enemies. During the spring of 1915, Edison described his preparedness ideas, basing them on the stockpiling of munitions and military vehicles and on recruiting a large army of reservists from the private sector, highlighting the concept that military preparedness needed to be organized along industrial lines.

Read more: Thomas Edison aided the United States military in World War One

Pritzker Museum Donates $5 Million to support U.S. World War I Centennial Commission

By Kate Thayer
Chicago Tribune

A $5 million donation from a Chicago military museum will help a national effort to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War with a new memorial, education campaign and traveling exhibit.

The Pritzker Military Museum & Library, which announced the donation Friday, is the founding sponsor of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission — a group formed last year and charged with developing projects to mark the anniversary of the United States' involvement in the war in 1917.

Kenneth Clarke

Kenneth Clarke, president and CEO of the Pritzker museum and library, said remembering the war and those who served brings to light how applicable the history of World War I still is today.

"We believe the Great War is something everybody needs to know about. There are very real examples in today's geopolitical climate that make World War I very relevant today," he said, pointing to boundary conflicts in the Middle East, among other issues.

"As an institution dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and heritage of the Citizen Soldier, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library is proud to support the Centennial Commission in similarly preserving and sharing the history of World War I, so that we can learn lessons from the past to apply to the future," Jennifer Pritzker, museum and library founder and a retired colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard, said in a statement.

Helping pay for the commission's efforts also ensures Chicago will be in the spotlight in a national campaign, Clarke said.

Read more: Pritzker Museum Donates $5 Million to support U.S. World War I Centennial Commission

Evarts Tracy, pioneer of American military camouflage, was renowned architect

By Nancy Piwowar

Plainfield, NJ -- Evarts Tracy was one of the foremost architects in America in 1915, but as World War One came closer to America, he was one of the first men to offer his services to the government. Such patriotism was a family tradition: Tracy was the great-great grandson of Roger Sherman, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the only one to sign three other historic documents: The Association of 1774, The Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution of the United States.

Tracy was born in New York on May 23, 1868, and moved with his family at the age of six to Plainfield, New Jersey. His parents' house is located on West Eighth Street in the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District, Plainfield, New Jersey. He graduated from Yale in 1890.

Tracy married Caroline Streuli on June 23, 1894. In 1900, Evarts Tracy built his own house in Plainfield, New Jersey and occupied it in 1901. Tracy's residence was built perpendicular to the road, and one could surmise that he watched the construction of Muhlenberg Hospital from his residence on Hillside Avenue, which is on a hill overlooking Muhlenberg. His residence was also built to the points of the compass just like his Muhlenberg buildings. Tracy's residence is now part of the Hillside Avenue Historic District, Plainfield, New Jersey.

battlefield camouflage Earlier in 1896, Tracy designed a Nurses' Home for the "old" Muhlenberg in the west end of Plainfield, and it was completed in 1897 (now demolished).

Tracy was into the latest inventions of his time. He purchased a locomobile, "Best Built Car in America," and it was expensive and elegant. He thought so much of his locomobile that the architectural plans of his Hillside Avenue residence shows that he designed a large locomobile opening and door so that he could drive his locomobile right into the basement of his house. This no longer exists at the residence. He enjoyed giving rides to people around the city in his locomobile.

References are made that Tracy retired from the Tracy and Swartwout architectural firm in 1915, but in actuality he offered his services to the country in the Great World War.

Read more: Evarts Tracy

Documenting the First Modern War 100 Years Ago

Sturtevant Read 1917By Darroch Greer

In 2007, a friend of mine from college called me after seeing a photograph of his grandfather on a cover of a book about World War One aviation. He asked me how to make a documentary. Ron King is the grandson of First Yale Unit member John Vorys (Yale 1918, ten-term congressman from Ohio), and his grandfather was sitting next to six classmates in Palm Beach Florida on the cover of a book called The Millionaires' Unit by Marc Wortman (Public Affairs, 2006). The photo was taken in April 1917, and the Yale students had left school to train as pilots in more hospitable weather ten days before the United States declared war on Germany. The Yale Unit became the founding squadron of the U.S. Navy Air Reserve.

Having done most of my documentary work in 19th century American history, I didn't have a strong frame of reference for the Great War. It wasn't touched on at all in secondary school, and my college degree had been in fine arts. Ron attended a talk by the book's author at the Yale Club in Manhattan, and it seemed there might be some unique photos in private family collections. The story was a good one: young, dynamic personalities tackling a new and dangerous technology, running off to war at a time when it seemed romantic.

Read more: Darroch Greer -- The Millionaires' Unit

U.S. Centennial World War One Commemoration Effort Gears Up

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2014 – It was called The Great War even as it was going on. It engulfed the world, and the world is still feeling its effects.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, and U.S. officials are gearing up to mark the centennial.

In his day job, Robert J. Dalessandro is the deputy secretary for Headquarters Operations at the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). He also is the chair of the World War One Centennial Commission.

The Great War began in July 1914 with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This triggered an interconnecting network of alliances to spark mobilization, bringing in the empires of Europe. England, France and Russia lined up against Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire.

A generation of men died in battle on the fields of France. The Somme, Verdun, Ypres and Meuse-Argonne became killing grounds. On the Eastern Front, millions of Germans, Austrians and Russians battled. Overall, about 16.5 million people were killed in the war.

At first, the United States stayed out of it. In fact, when President Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election in 1916, his campaign slogan was "He kept us out of war."

Read more: U.S. Centennial World War One Commemoration Effort Gears Up

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