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World War I Centennial News


Awareness effort honors 4.7 million Americans who served in WW1 Armed Forces

Doughboys reenactors & volunteers to distribute poppy seed packets on Inauguration Day

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

There will be non-stop swirling activity in the Nation's Capital for the upcoming Presidential Inauguration on 20 January. In the midst of it all, will be teams of World War One Doughboy Reenactors & Volunteers with the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission. They will be handing out free poppy seed-packets, telling people about the Centennial Commission's education programs, commemorative events, and memorial preservation projects.They will also be posing for selfie photos.

Poppy flowers are a traditional symbol of veteran remembrance. The custom began 100 years ago, during World War One, with the worldwide popularity of the poem "In Flanders Fields" by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. The seeds are suitable for planting.Poppy Seeds 300

Americans played a major role in World War One, and in shaping the peace afterward. 4.7 million American men and women served in the U.S. military during World War One. 2 million of those people were deployed overseas to fight. 116,516 of those men and women never made it home. More Americans were lost in World War One than in the Vietnam War and the Korean War, combined.

The Centennial Commission was created by Congress in 2013 to mark the anniversary America's involvement in the war. The Commission was also authorized to create the new National World War One Memorial, in DC's Pershing Park -- which is on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, right on the Presidential Inauguration Parade Route.

The Centennial Commission operates entirely through private donation. Their founding sponsor is the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago, the largest private military research facility in the world. The Centennial Commission is also closely aligned with the National World War I Museum and Memorial, in Kansas City.



Pennsylvania students honor WW1 sacrifices

St Katharine of Siena 1Saint Katharine of Siena students wear white gloves while unveiling Saving Hallowed Ground’s traveling 20 by 30 foot flag used to commemorate the World War One Centennial at events across the globe.Grade School students at Saint Katharine of Siena School in Wayne, Pa., took part in a unique ceremony on Veterans’ Day last fall. Partnering with the nonprofit organization Saving Hallowed Ground, a program of the Uncommon Individual Foundation, students conducted flag and tree ceremonies to honor the sacrifices made by American troops during World War One.

“Follow the Flag,” is a Saving Hallowed Ground project that sends a 20 by 30 foot American flag around the world, where communities can unveil and fold the flag, noting their participation in a log book and posting photos to social media. The “Memorial Tree Planting Project” models the original program started in 1914 to commemorate the service members who died in the war effort. The trees serve as a reminder to current citizens of the enormous sacrifices made by service members and their families a century ago to maintain freedom and peace at home and abroad.

Read more: Pennsylvania students honor WW1 sacrifices

Four Questions for Memorial sculptor Sabin Howard

"An emotional truth that is shown by one soldier’s journey through the Great War"

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

Our National World War One Memorial project is moving along, and continues to go through the processes of review, design updates, and fundraising. For those who are unfamiliar, this project will be the new National World War One Memorial in Washington DC, which will be sited downtown, at Pershing Park. Some of the noteworthy changes are beautiful new drawings for the design concept, created by the project's sculptor, Sabin Howard. Sabin is the world's leading classicist sculptor working today. His specific role in this project may be his most challenging master-work yet. He is developing the design for a 75 foot-long bronze bas-relief wall, which will figuratively depict the emotional story of American people who were affected by the war - soldiers, family members, children. He stopped to tell us a little about his latest efforts.


Tell us about what you have been working on. Are these updates to the vision for the the design-concept?

Howard sketch detail 1 500Detail from sculptor Sabin Howard's drawing for the bas-relief on the new National World War One Memorial in Washington, DC.After approximately nine months of iterations, the commission put their seal of approval on the design drawing for the National World War One Memorial. It’s a 40-figure composition that will be the initial idea presented to the government agencies. It’s a visual narrative called a Soldier's Journey.

The story carries an emotional truth that is shown by one soldier’s journey through the Great War. He travels from his homeland and family, through the battlefield, to return home to his family. This also represents the voyage that America took through the war.

There are two stories that have evolved through these iterations. One is a smaller, more personal voyage of a soldier; the other is the allegory that his journey represents as America travels through this historical event.

It has been a compelling artistic journey of creation, requiring a commitment of 60 hours per week in the studio. Through it, I have a evolved as an artist as well.

Read more: Four Questions for Memorial sculptor Sabin Howard

WWrite blog explores influence of World War One on contemporary writing

The World War One Centennial Commission is excited to announce the launch of a new blog, WWrite that features military veteran authors and the influence of WW1 on contemporary writing. The blog is being curated by Dr. Jennifer Orth-Veillon (see biography below).WWrite logo

Dr. Orth-Veillon writes about the new blog:

"The purpose of the WWRite Blog is to expand and modernize the dynamic space of WW1’s memory by featuring today’s writers and scholars influenced by the literature, history, and culture that emerged from the war that didn’t end all wars. America’s contemporary war veterans, writers, artists, poets, and specialists in WW1 history and literature make up the blog’s most eminent authors.

"On the eve of the centennial, inspiration for the blog comes from a desire to illuminate WW1’s forgotten yet ineffable mark on the world’s historical and contemporary conscious. It could be said that writing from WW1, for the first time in history, was responsible for highlighting not only the immense courage and sacrifice of large-scale battles, but also for exposing the complexity, variety, and severity of war wounds to the public.

Why WW1? It inevitably had to do with the unprecedented elements this war introduced to an unsuspecting world—the unbreakable nationalistic alliances formed by powerful empires, the misery of inch-by-inch warfare, masses of soldiers suffering from what was known as “shell shock,” new weapon technology, and entire populations wiped out from both war and the Spanish flu epidemic that swept the continents. These elements, “new” in 1914-1918, remain pertinent in today’s wars, politics, and culture. Using the lens of WW1, the blog hopes to examine the present world and its relationship with war.

Read more: WWrite blog explores influence of World War One on contemporary writing

ABMC assumes ownership of Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery

The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) officially assumed ownership and responsibility for the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery (LEMC) on January 9, 2017, making it the 9th commemorative World War One cemetery administered by the agency. Transfer Ceremony ABMC with BlumrosenABMC Deputy Secretary for Overseas Operations John Wessels, ABMC Chairman Merrill A. McPeak, President of the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Foundation Alex Blumrosen, and ABMC Deputy Secretary Rob Dalessandro gathered for the LEMC transfer ceremony. ABMC Chairman Merrill A. McPeak, former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, joined Alex Blumrosen, president of the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Foundation, in a special ceremony in Paris to complete the transfer.

LEMC commemorates the birthplace of American combat aviation, and serves as a symbol of the Franco-American comradeship during World War One.

“The Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery is the final resting place for brave airmen who gave their lives in one of the most pivotal wars of the twentieth century,” McPeak said. “It’s fitting that ABMC, whose mission is to honor the service and sacrifice of U.S. armed forces, assume responsibility for preserving this historic site honoring America’s pioneering combat airmen.”

More than 200 Americans flew with French squadrons during the course of the war. Of this number, only 38 were assigned to the Lafayette Escadrille. (The term escadrille means squadron in French.) The rest served in other French flying units. Collectively, all Americans in the French Air Service, known as the Service Aéronautique, were considered to be part of the Lafayette Flying Corps, an unofficial designation. Many of these aviators transferred to American squadrons once the United States entered the war in April 1917.

Read more: ABMC assumes ownership of Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery

Four Questions for Kathy Akey

"The geopolitical effects of that first war echo to this day"

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

Like many historical/cultural institutions, the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission relies on the generous help of volunteers. These people invariably have one certain trait in common -- they have interesting stories to tell. One such member of the Centennial Commission family is our Social Media Director, Katherine Akey. Katherine came to us right out of graduate school for photography. She has a passionate interest in history & archaeology. She is trained in fine art, and will open her first solo photography exhibition later this year at a gallery in DC. As a new media pro, she is a true superstar, and has built the Centennial Commission's Instagram account from the ground up. We caught up with Katherine recently, and she told us about what brought her to the Centennial Commission.

You have an interesting background. How did you get involved with the WW1CC?

Kathy Akey 300Kathy Akey My interest in the war intensified while I was in graduate school for photography. I had been working on my thesis, a body of work concerning polar exploration at the turn of the century. There’s a lot of overlap between the expeditions in the early 20th century and the First World War, and soon my polar studies slipped into war studies. I started reading all the books on it that I could and I decided I wanted to bring the study of the conflict into my professional life increasingly over time.

Volunteering for the WW1CC seemed like a natural first step! I knew I had photographic and communications skills to offer and I have really enjoyed curating the photographic content on Instagram the last several months.

You are contributing to the Centennial Commission's Facebook presence, and basically create their Instagram account from scratch. Tell us about what you are doing with them - what is your vision, how do you research and create your posts, who do you follow, etc?

It actually doesn’t take too much work to dig up the incredible images and stories I find to share with the public. Since I’m a working artist making projects about the conflict, a lot of my time is spent looking at archival images, reading historical texts and just surrounding myself with as much WW1 information as possible. During my studies, I’ll come across something that I feel like is great to share on the Instagram and Facebook pages and I’ll send it off! I try to mix it up though between images of people, technology and facts. I follow a lot of other WWI accounts personally, most of whom are European.

I especially love those that can give me exposure to points of view that are underrepresented in my day to day, like http://www.empirefaithwar.com whose Instagram account displays images and stories of Sikh WWI soldiers and the Facebook group World War One Native American Warriors which celebrates those Native Americans who volunteered to serve in the conflict. I really hope that people come away with an increased sense of respect for those who served in this war, and maybe even enough interest to come back again!

Read more: Four Questions for Kathy Akey

Connecticut Legion leader appointed to U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

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

A longtime leader in The American Legion has been appointed to serve on the United States World War One Centennial Commission.

Jack Monahan 400Jack Monahan John D. Monahan of Essex, Conn., was recently selected for the appointment by American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt. Monahan will be officially sworn in as a commissioner at the nation’s capital during the Legion’s Washington Conference in late February.

As representative of the nation’s largest organization of wartime veterans, Monahan joins fellow commissioners Col. Robert J. Dalessandro, chairman; Edward L. Fountain, vice chairman; Jerry L. Hester; Col. Thomas Moe; Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick; Dr. Libby O’Connell; Dr. Monique Seefried; Maj. Gen. Alfred A. Valenzuela; Debra Anderson; Terry Hamby; and Dr. Matthew Naylor.

Monahan replaces the late Commissioner and American Legion representative James Whitfield, who passed away in December 2016.

A 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Monahan served in uniform both as an enlisted soldier and as an officer. His military career was wide-ranging, including duties as a rifleman, tank company commander, foreign area expert, staff officer, linguist and arms-control inspector. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s degree in European studies from Cornell University.

Since his retirement from the Army in 1995, Monahan has been active in veterans leadership at the local, state and national levels. He has served as administrator for the Connecticut Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Fund, which provides financial assistance to needy veterans. He is commander of La Place-Champlin American Legion Post 18 in Essex, Conn., which was founded by highly decorated World War One U.S. Army Ambulance Service Pvt. 1st Class Morton C. Tiley.

Monahan has also served as treasurer for The American Legion Department of Connecticut and has been a member of the national American Legion Finance Commission since 2007.

Read more: Monahan appointed to Commission by American Legion

Four Questions for Terry Krautwurst

"To remind present and future generations of the sacrifices made"

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

Terry Krautwurst, from LeRoy, New York, is an extraordinary person. In 2015, just before Memorial Day, he walked into his home county's history department, and delivered to them a six-year project that he had just completed. Terry had personally researched and created a biographical profile for every one of the 65 men, and one woman (a nurse), from Genesee County who had died in service during World War One. The project encompassed eight binders, about 100,000 words of biographical text, and newspaper articles and archival documents pertaining to each person. Terry also delivered over 1,200 military documents (Burial Case Files) photocopied over the course of four visits to the National Archives in St. Louis, and two to the World War I Museum’s archives in Kansas City. In his words, it was Terry's way of bringing those soldiers “home,” or at least of keeping their memories alive. "Too often memorials are merely lists of names; I wanted to put some flesh and blood in those names" he said. The entire project, including all eight binders with complete soldier profiles, the 1,200 military file documents from the National Archives, related source documents and unit histories on disc, are available to anyone for viewing at the Genesee County History Department in Batavia, New York. For more information, contact the Genesee County Historian, at the department. In March, Terry will be launching a website and a related blog that will include all the profiles, as well as chronological posts, about Genesee County during the war. The topics will include both the home front, and the native sons and daughters in service. We will post the website link when it becomes available. Terry spent some time with us, and shared his story.

This is an amazing 6-year research project. Tell us about what you did. What did you envision for it?

Krautwurst 500Terry Krautwurst (left) at the Genesee County (NY) History Department, with his submitted research project. In 2015, just before Memorial Day, I delivered to my home county’s (Genesee County, NY) history department a six-year project I’d just completed about the 65 soldiers and one woman (a nurse) from Genesee County who had died during the war. The project encompassed eight binders, about 100,000 words of biographical text, and newspaper articles and archival documents pertaining to each person. I also delivered over 1,200 military documents (Burial Case Files) photocopied over the course of four visits to the National Archives in St. Louis, and two to the World War I Museum’s archives in Kansas City.

Originally, I was simply trying to learn more about what my grandfather, Stanley Crocker of Le Roy, NY, did during World War I. He seldom talked about it. All I knew was that he’d been in the war, and all I had to start with was an old panoramic photograph of him with the men in his unit, labeled “Battery D, 307th Field Artillery, Camp Dix, NJ” that I’d inherited from him. As kids, we used to point and laugh at some of the men in the photo—there was one with a bulldog face, another that resembled Goofy, and so on. So really, it just started from there.

One thing I learned fairly quickly was that my grandfather, and most of the other 100-plus men in that photo, were all early draftees from my home county and two adjacent counties in western New York—and that within about six months virtually all had been transferred from the 307th Field Artillery, which was in the 78th Division, to other divisions and units. My grandfather ended up serving in France with Company E of the 117th Ammunition Train, 42nd (Rainbow) Division. Others served in nearly a dozen other divisions and engineering units. Soon I found myself researching not only my grandfather’s role in the war, but the parts that all the other men in that photo played, too.

Then I discovered that several of the men who had started out in my Grandfather’s original unit had not survived the war—so I began examining honor roll lists of county casualties that had been published in area newspapers during and just after the war. That’s when the project really grew.

Read more: Four Questions for Terry Krautwurst

World War One — The Quick. The Dead. The Artists.

By Holland Cotter
via The New York Times

PHILADELPHIA — The idea lingers that art can be separated from politics. But it can’t. All art — high, low; illustrative, abstract — is embedded in specific political histories, and direct links, however obscured, are always there. Such links are the unswerving focus of “World War I and American Art” at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, a panoramic show that has the narrative flow of a documentary, and the suspenseful, off-kilter emotional texture of live drama.

World War I lasted roughly four years, from 1914 to 1918, with the United States joining the fray in 1917. The brevity of that engagement has led Americans to play down the war, but we shouldn’t. Although politicians at the time spun the conflict — which the public increasingly understood to be a murderous mistake — as the war that would end all wars, it did the opposite. It set the model for World War II, Vietnam, Iraq. And it departed from previous models of war only in ramping up their barbarities with modern technology.

Gassed from New York Times 600“Gassed” by John Singer Sargent. (Imperial War Museums, London)With World War I, invisibility became a deadly weapon. Submarines turned oceans into minefields. Airplanes, used in regular combat for the first time, killed through stealth and distance. Silent death emerged: poisonous gases enveloped victims, blinding them, eating their flesh, leaving them to drown in their own fluids. Add to these grisly innovations the high-power guns that, dronelike, pulverize bodies outside the range of vision, and you can see how warfare became depersonalized. It felt like a scientific experiment, not a human engagement.

For a long time, the United States watched from afar, as the Allied Powers (France, Britain, Russia) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire) battled each other in Europe. At the same time, America had its own wars of opinion, as citizens, artists among them, lined up on either side of the question of whether their country should stay neutral or gear up for battle.

Read more: World War I — The Quick. The Dead. The Artists.

American Legion & VFW support rescue of ailing World War One memorials

via the Baltimore Post-Examiner

WASHINGTON, DC—The two largest veterans groups in the United States, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), with a combined membership of 3,700,000, have signed on to support a national initiative designed to rescue ailing World War One memorials.Memorial

The program, 100 CITIES/100 MEMORIALS was created by the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago, IL. as a $200,000 matching-grant challenge for groups who undertake the restoration, preservation or conservation of local World War One memorials.

After World War One, thousands of memorials were erected across the country to honor the local veterans who served. 100 years later, many of these memorials are in need of restoration or repair.

“Many of these memorials were originally established by local American Legion and VFW posts in those communities, and so it is fantastic to have these same organizations join in our effort to repair, conserve and restore our WWI American heritage”, explained Dan Dayton, Executive Director of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.

Read more: American Legion & VFW support rescue of ailing World War One memorials

Four Questions for Paul Glenshaw and Mark Wilkins

"They command our respect and remembrance today."

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

Among the World War One community are a rare handful of experts on early aviation. Paul Glenshaw and Mark Wilkins are two such people. Paul is a filmmaker and writer, Mark is a historical consultant and master model builder. They both worked together recently on a pair of remarkable film projects, celebrating the earliest American aviators in the war. These film projects are 'The Millionaires’ Unit' and 'The Lafayette Escadrille'. Paul and Mark took some time to talk to us about their projects, and about their passion for World War One aviation.

You folks have another awesome World War One aviation movie project, Lafayette Escadrille, to go with your first one, The Millionaires' Unit. Tell us about both projects, and what stories you tell with each.

The Millionaires’ Unit was completed in 2015 after seven years’ work by co-directors Darroch Greer and Ron King working with the Humanus Documentary Films Foundation. The Lafayette Escadrille film brings that team together with aviation writer and filmmaker Paul Glenshaw, aviation historian and photographer Dan Patterson, and historical consultant and master model builder Mark Wilkins. Dan and Paul collaborated on an article and a museum exhibit about the Escadrille in 2014 and 2015. After reading Paul and Dan’s article, Darroch reached out to say we need to make the film. Mark brings great expertise in the history of the war, the Escadrille, and how their airplanes actually flew.LEFilmTeam500Members of the Lafayette Escadrille movie team (l to r): Mark Wilkins, Dan Patterson, Paul Glenshaw, Darroch Greer.

These projects together tell the story of the remarkable self-starters who created American combat aviation in the Army and the Navy. Both the Lafayette Escadrille and the Millionaires’ Unit were created by volunteers before the United States entered the war. The characters in each are such extraordinary individuals that as storytellers we know there’s no way we’d be able to make them up.

Both were led by visionaries who foresaw the airplane as a formidable and possibly decisive weapon. Both had members who paid the ultimate sacrifice. And when the United States entered the war, the pilots from each were desperately needed to form the backbone of the U.S. Army Air Service and the Navy’s Flying Service, respectively.

There are differences, of course. The Escadrille came first, was formed in France, and was created to defend France. Its pilots ultimately served in the U.S. Army when the U.S. entered the war. The First Yale Unit (or Millionaires’ Unit) came second, was formed at Yale, and became the first Naval Air Reserve Unit, and was created to defend the U.S. The Escadrille drew from soldiers and ambulance drivers serving across the Western Front, all of them coming together to form a cohesive unit. The Yale Unit began as a cohesive group, and then was split up to serve across the Navy’s theaters in the U.S., England, and France.

Mostly, though, the two films are about the extraordinary characters who had the vision and courage to volunteer to fight in the most difficult circumstances and risk everything for the sake of democracy and freedom. They found themselves thrust together in the middle of a war unprecedented in scale and horror which caught them and indeed the world by surprise.

Read more: Four Questions for Paul Glenshaw and Mark Wilkins

National World War One Museum and Memorial to get $6.4 million upgrade

By Rae Daniel
via kshb.com

Museum upgradeA $6.4 million project is coming to the National World War I Museum and Memorial.

Chief Executive Officer and President of the National World War I Museum and Memorial, Matthew Naylor says 3,500 square feet of space will soon be home to a new gallery.

“We're really excited about the future here at the National WWI Museum and Memorial and this space that we're standing in now is an unfinished area within the envelope of the building that we're going to be creating a new gallery in,” Naylor said.

Naylor says it will have a climate controlled environment.

“In an old building like this, we sometimes get intrusions of water, we want to make sure this space is absolutely secure,” he said. “And that'll provide this high quality, climate control environment for us to bring treasures of other countries right here to Kansas City to exhibit.”

Read more: National World War One Museum and Memorial to get $6.4 million upgrade

Four Questions for Michael Telzrow

"Stories of real individuals who served their country with dedication and honor"

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

On July 14, 2016, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker issued a proclamation establishing July 25, 2016 through November 11, 2018 as the World War One Centennial Commemoration throughout the state of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Centennial Committee was established, and an agenda of activities, exhibits, and events started to take shape.The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is proud to partner with the Wisconsin World War One Centennial Committee, to tell the remarkable story of our World War I veterans during the coming months. We are also thrilled to host the Wisconsin Committee web page on our website.To mark the opening of the new site, we talked to Michael Tezlow., a Wisconsin Centennial Committee member, and the Director of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.

Wow -- The Wisconsin WW1CC website is now live! What does that mean, and where do we find it?

Michael TezlowIt means that we are now able to share the stories of Wisconsin WW1 veterans and the activities of the Wisconsin WW1 Centennial Commission, and partners, as they relate to the centennial observance. Of course, it can be located on the National WW1 Centennial Commission website. It also means that we, at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, will be able to share with web visitors our stories and rich collection of WW1 material, as well as the roster of Wisconsin upcoming events.

You folks have a pretty full slate of activities coming up already -- an exhibit, a symposium, the database, etc. Tell us about them.

The largest collaborative effort will culminate in a scholarly symposium on Oct 27-28, here in Madison. The symposium is a joint sponsorship effort between the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, the Wisconsin WWI Centennial Commission, The War in Society and Culture Program, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Wisconsin Historical Society. There will be a call for papers coming out after January 1, 2017, and we expect a good response. Jennifer Keene, author of Doughboys, The Great War, and the Remaking of America will open the symposium on the evening of October 27, 2017 at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison. Activities include tours of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum and, of course, the presentation of papers on October 28.

Read more: Four Questions for Michael Telzrow

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