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World War I Centennial News


From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Remembering Veterans: Dr. Nancy Gentile Ford on Foreign-Born Soldiers in the American Army   

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In August 4th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 134, host Theo Mayer spoke with Dr. Nancy Gentile Ford. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity:

Amercans All bookTheo Mayer: For Remembering Veterans, a new World War I special subject website is now available at ww1cc.org. It's based on a book titled, Americans All! Foreign Soldiers in World War I. Let me set this up with the opening statement from the site. "Immigrants have served in every American conflict since the Revolutionary War. However, World War I represented the first time military forces were so ethnically diverse and foreign born soldiers served in such large numbers. Between 1880 and 1920, a short 40 years, over 23 million people primarily from Southern and Eastern Europe immigrated to the United States. During The Great War, almost one in five immigrants became a soldier in the United States Army representing some 46 nationalities." Now, if you ever doubted the true immigrant nature of the American melting pot World War I is certainly a testament to it and its strength. With us today is the author of that book, Dr. Nancy Gentile Ford, a professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania where she teaches 20th century American military cultural and political history. Three of her books include, The Great War and America Civil-Military Relations During World War I, and Issues of War and Peace, and our subject today, Americans All! Foreign-born Soldiers in World War I.

Dr. Ford: Hi, Theo.

Theo Mayer: Well, welcome to the show. Let me start with my first question. Before we get into the translation of your book into a website, let me ask you a little bit about the subject of the book. Not only was this the most culturally diverse army in our nation's history, but the darn thing effectively came together in under a year. Can you talk a bit about what happened?

Read more: Podcast Article - Dr. Nancy Gentile Ford interview


31atwar WWIPOSTERS3 image jumboOne of the posters designed after World War I to show America’s service members how they should behave once they came home. (Illustration by Gordon Grant/National WWI Museum and Memorial)

The Army’s Message to Returning World War I Troops? Behave Yourselves 

By David Chrisinger
via the New York Times Magazine web site

The shelling stopped on Nov. 11, 1918, sending millions of American soldiers back to the United States to pick up where they had left off before joining or being drafted into the war effort. For one officer, the return meant facing a perfunctory public welcome and superficial support. “The quick abandonment of interest in our overseas men by Americans in general,” he observed three years after the Armistice, “is an indictment against us as a nation, not soon to be forgotten by the men in uniform from the other side.” The soldier, a former Army officer later identified as Herbert B. Hayden, anonymously published his observations in an essay for The Atlantic Monthly. The severe effects of combat-related injuries, like the ones Hayden described in his essay, drew more public attention during the 1920s, when the figure of the shellshocked veteran became part of larger debates over the government’s responsibility to care for its military forces.

The First World War saw more death than all of the Western world’s wars from 1790 to 1914 combined, and the American troops who arrived in France in 1917 were not insulated from the bloodshed. As one veteran remembered, fighting in the trenches was like “getting slaughtered as fast as sheep could go up a plank.” When the fighting ended the next year, any sense of idealism the American public felt when the United States entered the war was quickly replaced with weariness and a strong desire to move on. There was little consideration for the men who survived the war and what their long-term needs would be.

A series of posters — on display at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., until Sept. 15 — designed by the Army to show America’s discharged soldiers how they should behave once they returned to civilian life, provides evidence of the nation’s blindness to the toll modern war took on those who endured it. The Army didn’t want the flood of veterans returning home to become a disruptive presence or a financial burden on society.

Read more: The Army’s Message to Returning World War I Troops? Behave Yourselves

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

WWI Now: Philanthropist David Rockefeller Jr.   

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In August 5th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 134, host Theo Mayer spoke with David Rockefeller Jr., scion of the legendary American family and a very successful business leader and philanthropist in his own right. Mr. Rockefeller is involved in many prestigious non-profit organizations, including the Council on Foreign Relations and the Museum of Modern Art. In the interview, Mr. Rockefeller discusses the connection between his family's early philanthropic ventures and the First World War, his impression of the National Memorial maquette, and why WWI is important to remember. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity:
David Rockefeler in Versailles 2019Philanthropist David Rockefeller, Jr. receives the the inaugural Versailles Award for American Philanthropy, presented in recognition of the contributions his grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. made to rebuild France after World War I.

Theo Mayer: Now we're going to stay with our theme of American philanthropy as we explore how World War I has been and is being remembered and commemorated in the present. With us today, is businessman and noted philanthropist David Rockefeller Jr., a fourth generation son since John D. Rockefeller established the foundation in 1913. David and his wife Susan recently joined the World War I Centennial Commemoration at a very special event held at the Palace of Versailles on the anniversary of the peace treaty signing that ended World War I with Germany. David Rockefeller Jr. previously served as the chairman of The Rockefeller Foundation itself, including presiding over the organization during its centennial in 2013, but his interests are really diverse, including the arts. David Rockefeller is a life trustee at the Museum of Modern Art, having served there as a trustee for nearly four decades. He is a board member of the Asian Cultural Council, a fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His accolades and accomplishments just go on. David, welcome to the podcast.

David Rockefeller: Thanks, Theo. I'm glad to be with you today.

Theo Mayer: Now for over 130 weeks we've been exploring the many and oftentimes forgotten facets of World War I, but we haven't had a chance to talk about the role and the impact of your family, not on the war, but on humanitarian relief during this cataclysmic global event. David, could you tell us about the genesis of The Rockefeller Foundation and how it got involved in World War I years before America did?

David Rockefeller: Yes. Well, of course I wasn't around at that time, but I did serve on the board of The Rockefeller Foundation for 10 years and half of that time as its chairman, so I became much more familiar with the history of the foundation, which was founded in 1913 before the war began. It really was one of the first two major philanthropic foundations formed in the US along with The Carnegie Foundation. And early on the then-trustees, including my grandfather, John D. Rockefeller Jr., were very moved by the plight of humans in grave situations. And so, it was not surprising that among the early actions of the foundation were to give relief, including with the Belgian refugees in 1914, so there was a very humane purpose for the foundation, really for the welfare of mankind around the world.

Read more: Podcast Article - David Rockefeller Jr. interview


Marcellus Herod flag recovered

Family is reunited with missing flag, an heirloom from their WWI veteran ancestor 

By Brad Bell
via the WJLA ABC7 television station (DC) web site 

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MD (ABC7) — On July 17, a folded flag was found in the middle of the road in Prince George's, inside of a shattered glass display case.

Navy veteran Tom Jarrett picked the flag up, knowing it had to mean something to someone. ABC7 ran his story in an attempt to help find the owner.

And the right person was watching: William Holley's oldest daughter. She immediately called her dad.

79-year-old Holley had inherited the flag after the death of his wife's uncle, WWI veteran Marcellus Herod, in the early 1980s. It was the memorial flag from Herod's casket.

Holley hadn't yet told his daughter that while he was moving, his car piled high with belongings, the flag had fallen off and gotten lost. Another driver stopped him and told him he had lost something, but when he retracted his journey, the flag was gone.

Prince George's police retrieved the flag from Jarrett and were able to present it back to Holley ceremonially.

Read more: Family is reunited with missing flag, an heirloom from their WWI veteran ancestor


Walter JagoeIn this photo taken in 1910, 14-year-old Walter Jagoe (left) and his friend Robert Storrie show off a glider they built at the Jagoe Home at 600 N. Locust St. in Denton. 

Walker Jagoe was one of America’s first fighter pilots 

By Annetta Ramsay
via the Denton Record-Chronicle newspaper (TX) web site

Walker Jagoe’s passion for aviation began in 1910 when he was 14 years old. He and fellow Denton High School student Robert Storrie built a biplane glider in Jagoe’s yard at his home at 600 N. Locust St., presently the site of the Greenhouse Restaurant.

Before graduating from high school in 1915, Jagoe became the 700th person in Denton County to purchase a Ford automobile. He completed his freshman year as a paid geometry coach at Purdue University in Indiana, and met future wife, Elsie Marie Siegler.

Although World War I had begun in 1914, the U.S. wasn’t involved until 1917. Aviation was new. The Naval Balloon Section’s tethered balloons were replaced by airplanes to observe activity behind enemy lines. Operations were developed in the field without prior knowledge, and the Army Air Service drew the most adventurous recruits.

A Sept. 15, 1917, call from the Army aviation corps directed Jagoe to report immediately to an Austin air base. After passing written exams, he received flight training at Fort Worth’s Benbrook Field, allowing Jagoe to visit his family several times by airplane.

After a promotion to second lieutenant, Jagoe received three months’ advanced air training in England. He sent a cable to his mother just before leaving for France. By the end of the war, seven Denton County men were pilots: John Bailey, David Faulkner, Alfred Grant, Jagoe, Sam Rayzor, Olin Shiflett and John Laurence Tompkins.

Jagoe was among America’s first group of pilots in the 135th Aero Squadron, nicknamed the “Liberty Squadron.” He flew alongside celebrated pilots like Eddie Rickenbacker and future generals Carl Spaatz and Benjamin Foulois. Pilots flew over German lines, performing reconnaissance on France’s Western Front, leaning over the edge of planes to photograph enemy activity.

Read more: Walker Jagoe was one of America’s first fighter pilots

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

WWI Now: Commission Executive Director Dan Dayton  

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In July 29th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 133, host Theo Mayer spoke with Executive Director Dan Dayton about the progress of the national memorial, the newly renamed memorial fundraising arm, and how World War I continues to resonate in American society. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity:

Theo Mayer: Dayton at CFAExecutive Director Dan DaytonFor Commission News we have another guest with us today, who has been as deeply immersed in the centennial of World War I as Matt Naylor has. Dan Dayton also has dual roles. First of all, Dan is the executive director of the US World War I Centennial Commission, and Dan is also the president of a 501-C3 nonprofit organization newly renamed The Doughboy Foundation. That's been the fundraising arm for the National World War I Memorial in Washington DC. Dan is also an avid listener to the podcast, having been the guy who asked us to develop it. Dan, thank you for joining us.

Dan Dayton: Theo, great to be with you. I do enjoy this podcast, so it's a special honor for me to be on with you today.

Theo Mayer: My first question to you is, you've spent the last half a decade immersed in nurturing the commemoration of World War I. How did you wind up in that role?

Dan Dayton: A gentleman from North Carolina, Jerry Hester, has been interested in World War I for much of his life. He is now an octogenarian, and one of my favorite people. And Jerry asked me for my help as a volunteer. As he began to discuss the importance of the war, its impact on the United States, its impact on the world, the impact the United States had when it entered the war, I knew I had to help him. He helped me to understand that. And he helped me to understand how important it is to remember those who came before, as well as the lessons that were learned in the war, and how critical they are, even to where we are today, and the effect on events in the world today.

An interesting thing, we had the model of the memorial on display at the 9/11 museum in Lower Manhattan last fall for about six weeks. When we first approached their museum leadership, they understood immediately the direct line connection between the effects of World War I and the attacks on the United States and 9/11. We didn't have to explain that. We didn't have to sell it. They said, "We've got it. We understand it. We want to help." So Jerry was the guy who got me in.

Read more: Podcast Article - Dan Dayton interview


A century ago: The 1919 Iowa State 'Victory Fair'

By Chris Rasmussen
via the Des Moines Register newspaper (IA) web site

In August 1919, Iowans streamed through the State Fair gates in record-breaking numbers to attend the “Victory Fair,” which celebrated World War I’s end.

Iowa State Fair 1919 Chateau ThierryAn ad for the spectacle of Chateau Thierry from the Des Moines Register, Aug. 15, 1919. (Photo: The Register)Still reeling from the war’s carnage, they were hopeful that an era of peace and prosperity was dawning. Crop prices were high, farmers were buying automobiles, and improved roads enabled people to drive to the fair instead of taking a train. Happy to glimpse the return of peace, Iowans were eager to put the war behind them, turn to the future, and go to the fair.

But the war was seemingly everywhere on the fairgrounds. The main exhibit of the Victory Fair’s daytime program was the War Department’s display of weapons and trophies from the Western front. Iowans marveled at a 35-ton tank (a new weapon in WWI), artillery, and machine guns. The exhibit saluted Allied victory and allowed fairgoers to see the technology that had transformed warfare, just as tractors, automobiles and household appliances had remade farm life.

In the evening, the fair’s grandstand show, “The Grand, Scenic Military Spectacle, The Battle of Chateau Thierry,” re-enacted the battle in France that turned the tide of the war against Germany in 1918. Enormously popular with fairgoers, disaster spectacles headlined the fair’s entertainment from the 1890s into the 1930s. Thousands of spectators gaped as a cast of 300 portrayed American, French and German troops and clashed before the grandstand, culminating with a fireworks barrage that leveled the 450-foot wide set. A crew of 50 workers scrambled to rebuild the set in time for the next evening’s performance.

The fair’s advertisements stated that the spectacle was “under the direction of military experts” and presented a realistic view of warfare, but it was principally an eye-popping extravaganza to entertain viewers.

Veterans doubtless found it less than realistic. Register reporter Sue McNamara observed that a billboard for “Chateau Thierry” elicited nothing but “grins and groans” from a trainload of veterans returning home from the war in 1919.

The actual Battle of Chateau Thierry was a bloody fight, and Iowans were in the thick of it. American troops went “over the top,” leaving their trenches to assault the enemy lines and defeat some of Germany’s most battle-hardened troops. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was there, stated that the 167th Alabama and 168th Iowa displayed “gallantry I do not believe has been surpassed in military history” at Chateau Thierry.

Allied victory came at a price: The U.S. suffered 1,900 casualties, and 227 Iowans from the 168th gave their lives at Chateau Thierry and lie buried there. The 168th fought in some of the war’s toughest battles, suffering a total of 677 soldiers killed and 3,100 wounded in the war.

A few veterans of the 168th, along with the regiment’s chaplain, Des Moines pastor Winfred Robb, attended the 1919 fair. The 168th Infantry had trained on the fairgrounds in 1917 and received an emotional sendoff from thousands of well-wishers as their train departed from the fairgrounds and the regiment headed for France in early September. Two years later, the 168th pitched a tent on the grounds, in which Chaplain Robb met with grieving families and shared reminiscences of the young Iowans buried so far from home. As the Register’s Sue McNamara observed, the tent was a hushed, somber shrine, jarringly at odds with the fair’s festivity.

Determined that the heroism of the 168th not be forgotten, Chaplain Robb published a book, “The Price of Our Heritage; in Memory of the Heroic Dead of the 168 Infantry,” in 1919. Filled with photographs and testimonials to the soldiers’ bravery and sacrifice, Robb’s book is as inspiring and heartrending as any war memorial:

Read more: A century ago: The 1919 Iowa State 'Victory Fair'


The Lessons of the Versailles Treaty 

By Victor Davis Hanson
via the PJ Media web site

The Treaty of Versailles was signed in Versailles, France, on June 28, 1919. Neither the winners nor the losers of World War I were happy with the formal conclusion to the bloodbath.

The Big Four at VersaillesCouncil of Four at the WWI Versailles peace conference, May 27, 1919 (L - R) Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Great Britian) Premier Vittorio Orlando (Italy0, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, President Woodrow Wilson. Photo credit Edward N. Jackson (US Army Signal Corps)The traditional criticism of the treaty is that the victorious French and British democracies did not listen to the pleas of leniency from progressive American President Woodrow Wilson. Instead, they added insult to the German injury by blaming Germany for starting the war. The final treaty demanded German reparations for war losses. It also forced Germany to cede territory to its victorious neighbors.

The harsh terms of the treaty purportedly embittered and impoverished the Germans. The indignation over Versailles supposedly explained why Germany eventually voted into power the firebrand Nazi Adolf Hitler, sowing the seeds of World War II.

But a century later, how true is the traditional explanation of the Versailles Treaty?

In comparison to other treaties of the times, the Versailles accord was actually mild -- especially by past German standards.

After the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian war, a newly unified and victorious Germany occupied France, forced the French to pay reparations and annexed the rich Alsace-Lorraine borderlands.

Berlin's harsh 1914 plans for Western Europe at the onset of World War I -- the so-called Septemberprogramm -- called for the annexation of the northern French coast. The Germans planned to absorb all of Belgium and demand payment of billions of marks to pay off the entire German war debt.

In 1918, just months before the end of the war, Germany imposed on a defeated Russia a draconian settlement. The Germans seized 50 times more Russian territory and 10 times greater the population than it would later lose at Versailles.

So, under the terms of the Versailles Treaty, the winning democracies were far more lenient with Germany than Germany itself had been with most of its defeated enemies.

Read more: The Lessons of the Versailles Treaty


Small city, big contribution: Ironton, Ohio, and the Great War 

By Joe Unger
via the Huntington Herald-Dispatch newspaper (WV) web site

Ironton, an Appalachian city of 12,000 in 1910, is nestled on the Ohio River in an iron-rich region. In 1917, the Ohio National Guard had a detachment, Company I, 7th Ohio National Guard, hailing from the city. Mustering into federal service on July 15, 1917, the strength of the company was 60 men, commanded by Capt. M.W. Russell. The training was strenuous in the hikes through the Appalachian Mountain foothills surrounding Ironton. It is stated that:

Brig. Gen. James T. DeanBrig. Gen. James T. Dean"Arrangements were made to use the Lawrence Street Public School Building as a barracks, and immediately intensive training was begun to fit the boys for the strenuous overseas service. Long hikes were taken over many hills surrounding Ironton, and through the benefit of these and the close order work, the company soon began to take on a very military aspect under the able officers mentioned above. While two-thirds of the boys were raw recruits, before many days had passed, they bore the ear-marks of old time veterans. The work on most of the boys was entirely different from any they had ever engaged in, but nevertheless, they plunged right into it, never thinking of their blistered feet and aching muscles, but thinking only of the joyful day when they would take a crack at the heinous Hun. It was only for this reason that they withstood the unaccustomed training so splendidly" (Role of Honor of Lawrence County, OH, Miller, 1919).

In September 1917, 16 boys from Company I were sent to Camp Perry, Ohio, to begin the process of transfer to the famous Rainbow Division. The balance of the company entrained for Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, arriving there on the 16th of October 1917. These men were transferred to Company A, 148th Infantry, 37th Division. In May 1918 the 37th was sent to Camp Lee, Virginia, and received equipment for overseas service. Company A participated in all of the combats of the 148th Infantry, including the front lines of Baccarat and the Pannes, the Meuse-Argonnes offensives, and the Ypres-Lys offensives. It was in this latter campaign that the 148th had its crowning achievement, it was the first Allied unit to cross the Scheldt River in Belgium on Nov. 2, 1918. This dangerous crossing, under murderous machine gun and artillery fire, inspired the regimental motto: "We'll do it!"

After the war, the men of Company I returned home to Ironton, and marched in the Decoration Day Parade in 1919. It was their victory parade. Other WWI soldiers and airmen, all Irontonians, marched through the streets of the city: Brig. Gen. James T. Dean, Brig. Gen. George Richards, Brig. Gen. James Ancil Shipton, many lieutenant colonels, and its most famous son of the Great War: Capt. William C. Lambert of the Royal Flying Corps, the second-highest scoring American ace with 22 1/2 victories (see "Bill Lambert, WWI Flying Ace" by Sam Wilson).

Read more: Small city, big contribution: Ironton, Ohio, and the Great War


Stained Glass window Washington County The large stained-glass window in the Washington County Courthouse in Abingdon, Virginia. (David Crigger/BHC)

100-year-old stained-glass window honors local WWI soldiers 

By Robert Sorrell and Dalena Mathews
via the Bristol Herald Courier newspaper (VA) web site

An antique window that can only truly be appreciated from inside the Washington County Courthouse was installed a century ago in honor of local soldiers who fought in World War I.

The courthouse is 150 years old and has been through several transitional periods that have an important place in the county’s history. The original courthouse burned during the Civil War and was later rebuilt at the same location, and a Confederate statue, installed in 1907, stands in front of the building’s front entrance. After World War I ended, the county decided to add it as a unique tribute to recently returned soldiers.

In March 1919, the Washington County Board of Supervisors approved the manufacture and installation of a one-of-a-kind window to honor the service of local soldiers and their role in World War I. The window replaced a second-floor door, according to documents provided by the Washington County Historical Society.

A newspaper article said the board’s reasoning for the project as “a tribute to our boys who left the country for the recent war and to the ladies who did their bit to make the world safe for democracy.”

The window — made of Tiffany-stained glass — was installed on July 4, 1919, as part of the town’s Independence Day celebration.

Read more: 100-year-old stained-glass window honors local WWI soldiers


Five Questions for Chris Isleib

"I wouldn't trade the incredible time I've had with this team for anything." 

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

Publisher's note: ISLEIB Bio photo 2Chris IsleibAs the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission shifts its mission to focus exclusively on the construction of the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC,  there is also a shift in staffing. Among those who will, sadly, depart the Commission team is long-term Director of Public Affairs Chris Isleib. Isleib has been with the Commission on long-term loan from the U.S. National Archives, and will return to the Archives on the first of August. Chris's trademark contributions to the Commission web site were multi-question interviews via email with a wide assortment of individuals inside, outside, and around the Commission, and across the world. As what may be (but we hope isn't) his final contribution, Chris  has a chance to interview one more important person about his tenure, and his personal experiences as part of the Centennial Commission team—himself!.

Tell us about your work as the Director of Public Affairs for the Centennial Commission. What did you do? What were your responsibilities?

I consider myself the luckiest person in the world -- with the best job in the world. I wouldn't trade the incredible time I've had with this team for anything.

Overall, my job has been to tell the story of America & World War I -- the human accounts of personal experiences, the sweeping history of our nation's role 100 years ago, the amazing commemorations that people have hosted across the country, and the new National Memorial that we are building here in Washington DC.

Read more: Five Questions for Chris Isleib


Album TitleAlbum cover artwork from the new Sabaton album, The Great War

Interview with Pär Sundström, Lead Bassist for the legendary heavy metal band Sabaton 

"I know we make people research and dig deeper."

By Joshua Haynes
Staff Writer

This last week, I conducted an interview with Pär Sundström, the lead bassist for Sabaton. Sabaton is a Swedish power metal band that focuses on writing songs about military history. They have just completed their most recent album, The Great War, which explores various themes and events from World War I. Clearly, this album means a lot to Pär and the rest of Sabaton as well as their fans. The band takes great pride in its ability to combine the value of history with the thrill of heavy metal, developing a strong fan base across the world. As Sabaton continues to gain popularity, interest in the topics they write songs about increases significantly. Most importantly, their songs bring attention to major events and individuals that today’s youth are rarely taught about, all while sounding really, really good in the process. Here is what Pär had to say:

What inspired the band’s focus on military history?

Par SundstromPär SundströmA long time ago, we didn’t really have any clue what to write; we needed to have something to write about. We wanted to write about something new, about the real world. We came across the idea after watching Saving Private Ryan. We said, "this is something interesting to write about.” Military bands have happened in the past, but not on Sabaton's level. Once we started to do it, it just gave us something to do, but then it started to mean something for our fans. In the beginning it was just something interesting, but now it’s a grown interest.

Sabaton's new album, The Great War, is its first to focus exclusively on a single conflict. What made you choose World War I as the most deserving conflict for this landmark in the band's history?

It was the timing, because we always have many different topics, and were discussing many. Because of the timing around armistice day, it felt natural to do this. Anything else can wait, but this cannot wait. We have made a couple songs about World War I in the past, but this is the first time to make a full album for it. As a Swedish person, we have little connection and don't learn much in school. We only learn that there was a 'sequel'. This conflict is quite interesting because a lot of these stories are news to us.

What do you think is the importance of discussing World War I in modern music?

I think pretty much whatever history we discuss in our songs, the more time passes, the more research [our fans] do. I think 20 years ago we didn’t think so much of it, but we do now after doing it for 15 years around the world. For me it has changed the perception of the entire world, why the world looks like it is or why people think what they do about each other. If other people could have this perspective, there may be less wars because there would be less misunderstandings, maybe fewer fights or brawls. The more we can teach people to be thinking or open to the world as we have become, we are doing the world a little bit of a favor. The history thing comes in second place to being a metal band.

Read more: Interview with Pär Sundström, Lead Bassist for legendary heavy metal band, Sabaton


190705 Z IE498 201Lt. Col. (ret.) Jennifer Pritzker, founder of the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago, salutes the color guard as they retire the colors following a rededication of the Victory Monument in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, July 5. The event was held to commemorate the 8th Illinois, an all African-American unit that fought in the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. During World War I the unit’s Soldiers were awarded several medals of valor including 21 Distinguished Service Crosses – the second highest award for act of heroism, and 68 Croix de Guerre, the French award for acts of valor. (Photo by Sgt. Christopher Garibay)

Chicago community, Guardsmen Rededicate WWI Monument 

By Sgt. Christopher Garibay, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
via the Illinois National Guard web site on Army.mil

The Illinois National Guard, the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, the 8th Infantry Association, the Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville, the World War I Centennial Commission, Friends of the Victory Monument Memorial and several dignitaries took part in the rededication of the Victory Monument in Chicago on July 5 honoring the World War I service of the Illinois National Guard’s storied all African-American 8th Infantry Regiment.

The monument was erected in 1927 to honor Soldiers in the Illinois National Guard’s 8th Infantry Regiment. The 8th Infantry was re-designated as the 370th Infantry Regiment during World War I, where they fought under French control because of institutional racism in the U.S. Army at that time. Upon return to Illinois, it became the 8th Infantry once again. The ceremony was a way to raise awareness of the actions of one of the most valiant African-American units to take part in the “Great War.” The monument recently underwent a $62,000 renovation. Renovation funds came from a grant from the World War I Centennial Commission 100 Cities Project and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ budget for conservation and maintenance.

“This is the only monument of its kind in the United States and it is the untold story of World War I black soldiers who fought valiantly under French command and control,” said former ambassador and U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun. “This is the only memorial that represents their work and their sacrifice, and as a descendant of a member of the 370th, it means a lot for me and the community.”

The monument is nestled along Martin Luther King Drive in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. It was in this community more than 100 years ago that young black men heeded the call of their nation to fight in Europe, despite facing segregation and racism back at home. Still, undeterred, a total of 400,000 black troops across the country would fight in the Great War of which 42,000 would see combat. The 8th Illinois, or the “Black Devils” as they would come to be known by the German Army, would see 21 men receive the Distinguished Service Cross – the nation’s second highest award for valor, and 68 Croix de Guerre - France’s award for units and individuals from foreign militaries for actions of valor. During the war, 137 men would die in France, and their names are enshrined on the memorial for all to see.

Read more: Chicago community, Guardsmen Rededicate WWI Monument

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