World War I Centennial News


PatchRemembering the Rainbow Division

By Paul Burgholzer
Staff Writer

August 12, 2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of the activation of the 42nd New York division. This is the New York National Guard division famously nicknamed the Rainbow division.

The 42nd was created from National Guard units that were not already attached to a division. These units came from 26 different states and the District of Columbia. Douglas MacArthur was the 42nd Division’s Chief of Staff and said that this diverse unit would "Stretch over the whole country like a rainbow."

Members of the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division will celebrate the Rainbow division's 100th anniversary during a ceremony at the Rainbow Division World War I Memorial located at 96 James St. Garden City, NY on August 12, 2017.

The division united and trained at Camp Mills near Garden City in summer of 1917 and left for France in November. The key operations the 42nd fought in were Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. The Division suffered over 14,000 casualties during the First World War. The total days of combat the Rainbow Division saw was 264.

Read more: Remembering the Rainbow Division

Honoring World War I's finest: The Rainbow Division

By Rebecca Burylo
via The Montgomery Advertiser

Rod and William Frazer 500Korean War veteran and Silver Star recipient Rod Frazer (left) will officially unveil and dedicate a bronze memorial in Montgomery, AL on August 28, honoring the story of the Rainbow Division and his father, William Frazer (right).Rod Frazer vividly remembers watching soldiers he knew fall lifeless into the mud beside him during the Korean War, much like what he imagines his father experienced during World War I in France.

Their soldiers fell in twisted heaps on a foreign battlefield. It seemed, he said, as if war and death had siphoned what was left of those once strong, robust men.

A Korean War veteran and Silver Star recipient, Frazer can't seem to shake the images of that battlefield, similar to what must have haunted his father, William Johnson Frazer, who fought in the 4th Alabama National Guard. It later became the famous 167th Infantry Regiment after they were federalized, said Graham Neeley, a collections curator at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Known for its rainbow-colored patch during World War I, the 167th or the 42nd Rainbow Division, is a story of death, sacrifice and victory that few still recall.

Frazer, who is also an author and historian, will officially unveil and dedicate a bronze to the city honoring the story of the Rainbow Soldier and his father on August 28. It will mark exactly 100 years since 3,677 guardsmen, including his father, William Frazer, hopped onto one of eight trains from Union Station to fight after the United States entered WWI in April.

Read more: Honoring World War I's finest: The Rainbow Division

Last of a dying breed: Footage from 1917 shows American troops training their cavalry for WW1 battle shortly before horses were replaced by tanks

By Chris Pleasance
via The Daily Mail

Cavalry trainingFascinating footage has emerged showing American cavalry units being trained in 1917, ready for deployment during the First World War..Fascinating footage has surfaced showing American cavalry preparing for service in the First World War.

Video from 1917 shows horses forming up as their riders practice mounting and dismounting in unison, charging the enemy and moving over rough terrain.

Cavalry units were viewed as an essential attacking weapon at the start of the war and used extensively by all forces, though by the time America joined in April 1917 they were fast being replaced by tanks.

One of the last cavalry charges of the war happened at the Battle of Moreuil Wood on March 30, 1918, six months before armistice.

Canadian cavalry charged at German positions, managing to defeat a superior force despite the fact that they were supported by machine guns.

But while the battle was technically a victory, three-quarters of the mounted units involved were killed.

The charge at Moreuil Wood was an execption rather than the rule at this point in the conflict, however.

Because of their vulnerability to modern weapons, and a shortage of replacements, horses were largely put to work away from the battlefield.

Read more: Last of a dying breed: Footage from 1917 shows American troops training their cavalry for WW1 battle

New World War I website from the DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services History Office and Library

By Chris Isleib
Director of Corporate Communications, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Finkelstein Wilske horizontal Allison Finkelstein (left) and Zack Wilske of the USCIS History Office and Library.There is a great new online resource available from the Department of Homeland Security, that focuses on the World War I centennial. Specifically, this site tells the incredible story of the history of immigration and naturalization in the United States during the war. The site was created by Allison Finkelstein and Zack Wilske from the DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services History Office and Library. We caught up with Allison and Zack, and they told us about the site, and their work to create it.

Tell us a little bit about the new web page about your program, and about the centennial of World War I.

Our program address is: www.uscis.gov/historyandgenealogy. Our new WWI page is located at https://www.uscis.gov/history-and-genealogy/our-history/world-war-i.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services History Office and Library recently launched a World War I (WWI) centennial website. This website will be the home of our new material highlighting the history of immigration and naturalization during WWI. While USCIS was only created in 2003, we date our history back more than 100 years to the Bureau of Immigration (1891) and the Bureau of Naturalization (1906), which later combined to form our legacy agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). We plan to use this website to highlight the unique roles these bureaus played during the war.

The website currently features two new articles. The first article tells the fascinating story of the Bureau of Immigration’s role in detaining German crew members on the night the U.S. entered WWI. The second article introduces readers to the involvement of immigrants in the U.S. armed forces during the war, an important topic we will return to in future additions to the website.

Read more: New World War I website from the DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services History Office...

The Wool Brigades of World War I, when knitting was a patriotic duty

By Anika Burgess
via the Atlas Obscura web site

Knitting bee 1917Knitters at the Navy League Central Park knitting bee, 1918.In August 1918, the Comforts Committee of the Navy League of the United States opened a three-day knitting bee in Central Park. It was a massive event, with a sole purpose: to produce warm garments for those fighting in World War I. At the event, there were knitting competitions for speed and agility, and attendees ranged from children to octogenarians. The numbers were so great that one of the chairwomen said, “the click of the needles could be heard all the way to Berlin.” By the end of the “knit-in,” the Comforts Committee had raised $4,000 (roughly $70,000 today) and created 50 sweaters, nearly as many mufflers, 224 pairs of socks, and 40 head-and-neck coverings called “wool helmets.”

During the war, there was an overwhelming effort to assist those fighting abroad. Before America even joined the war, organizations such as the American Red Cross and the American Fund for the French Wounded had issued pleas for warm clothing for soldiers—or, as a Navy League poster put it, to “Knit a Bit.” After April 1917, the Red Cross and the Comforts Committee worked together to mobilize ever larger numbers of knitters, with a request for 1.5 million knitted garments. (There was also another way to use knitting against the enemy—spycraft.)

The need for warm clothes, particularly socks, was desperate. Men at the front were fighting in the atrocious conditions—muddy trenches and frigid winters—with inadequate footwear. “The difficulty is to keep one’s feet warm,” wrote one officer in 1917. “One walks and they get warm, stand for one minute and they are icicles again.” Soldiers also needed to keep their feet warm and dry to avoid frostbite and trench foot, and the best way to do this was to don clean socks regularly.

Knitting was promoted as a patriotic duty. A Red Cross poster showed a woman knitting diligently, with the words, “You Can Help.” Tape measures were sold in red, white, and blue, and the Betsy Ross Yarn Mills advertised their water-repellent, khaki and grey wool with “Uncle Sam Wants You To Knit To Protect His Boys—‘Over There.’”

Read more: The Wool Brigades of World War I, When Knitting Was a Patriotic Duty

USAREUR officer pays bagpipe tribute at grave of fallen WWI ancestor 102 years after his death

By Dan Stoutamire
via the Stars and Stripes

BagpipesLt. Col. Robert Gunther, an operations officer with U.S. Army Europe, plays the bagpipe over the grave of his ancestor, Walter Young Gibson, who fell at Ypres in 1915 as a member of the British army. Gibson was Gunther's maternal great-uncle.WIESBADEN, Germany — With the ongoing centennial observations marking America’s entry into World War I, and in the wake of the British royal family’s visit to Ypres to mark the 100th anniversary of the bloody third battle there, one U.S. Army Europe soldier made the trip to the battle site to visit the grave of his great-uncle, a British army private slain there in 1915.

Lt. Col. Robert Gunther, an operations officer with USAREUR, recently discovered that Pvt. Walter Young Gibson of the 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Regiment, who fell in battle in 1915, was in fact his maternal great-uncle.

“I felt an automatic connection to this person, being related, being half-Scottish and being in the military,” said Gunther, whose mother is from Edinburgh, Scotland. “For me, the whole reason was to understand his story and really get to know about this.”

In May of this year, armed with a bit of knowledge and a subscription to a Scottish genealogy website, Gunther dove in, hoping to confirm that Gibson was in fact related to his mother’s family. Finding birth certificates, census records and other documents confirmed his hunch. Getting in touch with records housed at Edinburgh Castle, Gunther found a photo of Gibson.

“He is a spitting image of my uncle Robert, to a ‘T’. The chin, everything,” Gunther said.

Gibson enlisted in August 1914 at the outset of hostilities in Europe, and was killed in less than a year. He had three young children at the time, and even after his death, it took the British government more than half a year to begin paying his widow his death pension. Hailing from a working-class neighborhood in Edinburgh, Gunther thinks it’s unlikely Gibson’s family was ever able to personally visit his grave.

“They wouldn’t have been able to afford a trip to London, much less across the Channel,” he said. “I am fairly sure that I am the only family member in 102 years that has been able to visit his grave.”

“They wouldn’t have been able to afford a trip to London, much less across the Channel,” he said. “I am fairly sure that I am the only family member in 102 years that has been able to visit his grave.”

While touring the grave site in Belgium on August 2, Gunther said it just felt right to be there.

Read more: USAREUR officer pays bagpipe tribute at grave of fallen WWI ancestor 102 years after his death

Design for WWI Memorial at Pershing Park evolves

By Dana Davidsen
via ASLA's The Dirt web site

Plans for the proposed World War I memorial at Pershing Park, located just two blocks from the White House, continues to evolve. This month, the team designing the capital city’s first national memorial commemorating WWI took comments from the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), which pushed for keeping more of the nearly two-acre park created by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg, FASLA, in 1981.

restored pool 3Restored pool concept / Image courtesy of National World War I Commission, designers UU+Studio, Forge Landscape Architecture, and GWWO, via NCPCSince first presenting their design to the planning commission last year, the team — led by architect Joe Weishaar, landscape architect Phoebe McCormick Lickwar, ASLA, and sculptor Sabin Howard — has continued to adapt their proposal in response to feedback. The original plan, The Weight of Sacrifice, which won a competition last year held by the WWI Centennial Commission, sought to replace the sunken pool basin with a lawn to improve access and visibility and install a bas-relief commemorative wall depicting images of the war.

At this month’s meeting, the planning commission reviewed an iteration of the plan that got rid of the lawn, expanded the existing pool, and combined the site’s signature water feature with a 65-foot-long commemorative wall.

NCPC requested the proposed wall be reduced in size in order to maintain views across the park. And they pushed the design team to consider what the plaza would look like with the water feature turned off.

Considering the many changes to the original proposal, council member Evan Cash questioned whether the entire scope of the project had changed. He noted that people liked the new design because it preserved open space, but with on-going edits “…the project has changed to rehabilitation.”

“What started out as a project to look for a new WWI memorial has actually turned into a preservation project of the existing park, with some additional elements,” he said. “I just think all the problems we’ve been talking about are linked to the fact this has been a design that has been so overworked.”

Despite concerns, the planning commission approved the conceptual design and the team will move forward to refine the proposal and incorporate requested elements. Changes to the design will also need to be approved by the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) and the National Park Service (NPS).

Read more: Design for WWI Memorial at Pershing Park Evolves

"Eight on the 7th" event to reunite Purple Heart medals with families of Fallen Heroes

By Zachariah Fike
Founder, Purple Hearts Reunited

At 5:00 p.m. on 07 August 2017, National Purple Heart Day, the non-profit foundation Purple Hearts Reunited will reunite eight families with their lost Purple Heart Medals, including the family of one soldier from World War I.

Themed as “Eight on the Seventh” (a tie into 8-7-17), this day will honor families who represent our nation’s heroes from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the War on Terror.

PVT Frank L. Dunnell Jr. PicturePVT Frank L. Dunnell, Jr., USAThe event will take place at Federal Hall, located at 26 Wall Street, New York City, New York. This is the same historical location that the founding father of the Purple Heart, President George Washington, swore in as our first President on April 30, 1789.

This ceremony is open to the public.

When servicemen and woman are wounded or sacrifice their life at times of War, our country awards them or their family with a prestigious award in the form of the Purple Heart. As times pass, certain circumstances can lead to these medals being misplaced, lost, or even stolen. Below is a short description of the eight medals being returned in August.

1. WWI, Private Frank Lyman Dunnell, Jr:
Frank was born 21 December 1892 in Buffalo, New York and later enlisted for service in World War I on 27 July 1917. Assigned as an Infantryman with Fox Company, 107th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division, Frank was wounded on 02 October 1918 as his unit encountered fierce resistance and heavy fighting during the Somme Offensive, which was the allied forces attempt to pierce the German’s Hindenburg defensive line. His medal was discovered at the Bank of New York many years ago and will be returned to his Great-Niece, Mrs. Carlson of Burlington, Vermont.

2. WWII, Sergeant George W. Roles:
George was born 10 April 1921 to George G. and Vera A. Meade Roles in Edna, Kansas. He later enlisted for service in the U.S. Army on 08 September 1942 and was assigned to the 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division. On 14 July 1944, his unit received orders to attack the town of St. Lo, France. The Germans showed stubborn resistance and a thorough knowledge of defensive tactics, and repeated enemy counter-attacks throughout the battle. It was during this intense fighting that SGT Roles lost his life the next day on 15 July. George was survived by his wife Pauline Freeman and a 2-month-old son, George Nicholas, whom he had never seen. His medal was recently discovered in a home in California and will be returned to his son, Mr. Nick Geasland of San Diego, CA

Read more: "Eight on the 7th" Event to Reunite Purple Heart Medals with Families of Fallen Heroes

Treasure trove of WWI film coming to video at National Archives

By Sonia Kahn
U.S. National Archives History Office

It is almost eerie to watch the silent black-and-white footage, panning over the rubble remaining from small villages of France and Belgium, seeing cannons fire, and watching a zeppelin drop bombs on London rooftops, all without a sound. These are just some of the haunting images captured on the reels of recently digitized footage of World War I.

battlefilm wall 600Scaling a wall at Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina, 1918. Scenes of U.S. Army troops in training are in films such as Training of the 83rd Division, Camp Sherman, Ohio. (165-WW-151B(8))The National Archives houses the largest repository of World War I documents in the United States, and it encompasses not just paper records but also still pictures, microfilm, and motion pictures related to the conflict.

Many of us undoubtedly associate the harrowing feats of the World War II with footage of the action we’ve seen in 1940s-era films and documentaries, but most people do not associate World War I with moving pictures.

One may be surprised to learn, however, that we hold more than 1,600 reels of documentary film regarding World War I. The film is spread out over a number of record groups, but there are four larger collections.

Two of the record groups, the U.S. Army Signal Corps Historical Collection and the CBS World War I Collection, focused on documenting the activities of the Great War, including soldier training, daily camp life, and combat.

The Ford Film Collection documents similar aspects of the war, as well as some home front activities such as raw materials rationing, Liberty Loan drives to help fund the war, and footage of the eventual Armistice celebrations.

The final record group, the Durborough War Pictures, contains original footage taken by American press photographer Wilbur H. Durborough, who documented what he saw as he traveled Europe in the midst of the fighting.

To take just one example of how so much footage wound up at the National Archives, consider the case of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Historical Collection.

From 1917 until 1939, when the footage would eventually be transferred to the National Archives, the War Department invested heavily in creating and later editing and storing the footage.

The total cost amassed to make and maintain the footage was between $2 million and $3 million (that’s $36.5 million to $54.8 million today!). It was only in 1939, with the world on the brink of yet another international crisis, that the footage produced by the Signal Corps made its way to the National Archives.

Read more: Treasure trove of WWI film coming to video at National Archives

Roses of No Man’s Land online exhibit honors Wisconsin nurses who served in Great War

By Nathalie Nguyen
Staff Writer

World War I meant mobilization.

No one learned that more than the Wisconsin nurses, like Helen Bulvosky and Aimee O’Keefe Kinney, who kept injuries at bay while treating soldiers in France and Belgium. They gave first aid and anti-tetanus shots in cycles, providing medical treatment and keeping the patients warm.

Roses of No Mans Land page 600There’s no homage more telling than an exhibit dedicated to these women whose service was vital to the war effort. The Wisconsin Veterans Museum opened an online exhibit called The Roses of No Man’s Land, honoring and commemorating these nurses that served during the Great War.

Using photos, letters, and personal writing logs, the exhibit features the stories of World War I nurses from Wisconsin, coinciding with the centennial entry of the U.S into the war. In just a click of a mouse, the website takes you through the daily life of nurses in France and Belgium, illnesses and casualties, fraternization and holidays, and the end of the war through the eyes of these Wisconsinites.

“Madison certainly must be a blue place now that they are notified of the mortalities. We all sympathize with them but the Lord knows we are doing all there is. …The most pathetic thing I hurry against is when the boys wake up from ether and find that an arm or leg has been amputated but like soldiers they bear it bravely,” said Helen Bulvosky in a letter to her parents.

Read more: Roses of No Man’s Land online exhibit honors Wisconsin nurses who served in Great War


George Creel's WWI Official Bulletin is posting daily on ww1cc.org web site

By Paul Burgholzer
Staff Writer

Note: This story is part of our series on the remarkable World War I resources and features that can be found on the Centennial Commission website, ww1cc.org

During World War I, Public Relations legend George Creel headed the U.S.’s Committee on Public Information (CPI).

His committee published a daily bulletin to keep the public up-to-date on the war effort.

Today -- The World War I Centennial Commission is republishing these daily bulletins exactly 100 years later.

Daily BulletinThese bulletins were made to keep Americans informed about the war's progress, and to keep the public emotionally engaged in the overall war effort. Creel did not want to make the bulletin a source of propaganda, so he tried to make it as informative as possible.

This is daily news bulletin serves as a tremendous resource for any one doing research on America in the war, or someone who just wants to know what life was like in 1917.

These bulletins let us relive the times of our ancestors, day by day. The articles you will read on the link above are the same articles your ancestors read and discussed, 100 years ago.

For instance -- In the bulletin from July 27th an article titled “RAILROADS INCREASE NATION'S FOOD SUPPLY BY LEASING SURPLUS LANDS WHICH THEY OWN” discusses how the Homefront is mobilizing it production means for the war effort. Other articles discuss actions taken by the Red Cross and American doctors entering medical corps.

Take a look, and experience this amazing resources for yourself!



"It’s telling a story through a visual narrative."

Howard advances memorial sculpture in Weta Workshop sessions

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

With the unanimous design-concept approval by the U.S. Commission of Fine Art and by the National Capital Planning Commission, in recent weeks, our development of the new National World War I Memorial is in high-gear. Our sculptor, Sabin Howard has taken the design artwork to New Zealand, to work with the incredibly talented artists at the high-tech sculpting studio, Weta Workshop. He took some time to talk to us, and to show us what he has created, and how the sculptural development process will work.

You are in New Zealand right now, working on the WWI memorial bas relief. Why New Zealand, and what are you doing?

Howard 1Sculptor Sabin Howard (right) poses a model at the Weta Workshop Studios in New Zealand.We are working at Weta Workshop in Wellington NZ which is normally the go to place for all the top feature movies like Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Planet of the Apes in the creation of sculpture props. The latest technology is available to speed things up so that we can move things through quickly and efficiently. Using technology we get things blocked out and then take over manually or traditionally using the same techniques that sculptors have used to make art for the last 200 years.

We are taking out the grunt work so that the creative process can shine through. This work has to be delivered at a very high level. I like to call it museum quality art. I have till the end of the year to create something that will blow the roof off the art world and create a visceral response from Washington.

New Zealand has great cultural appreciation for their World War I veterans. Have you seen this since you have been there? How has it manifested itself in your team's work?

New Zealand is a relatively young country. You could say that it’s 200 years old. WW1 defines the people of NZ and is similar in importance to our War of Independence.There is tremendous excitement among the crew to participate in the creation of this initial sculptural maquette. I used one of the workers yesterday as a model of the central charging figure. We are doing what film does in sculptural form so everyone at the shop gets it. It’s telling a story through a visual narrative.

Read more: Sabin Howard update on National WWI Memorial sculpture


Stories of Service: The Commission's web page dedicated to commemorating individual serviceStories 1

By Paul Burgholzer
Staff Writer

Note: This story is part of our series on the remarkable World War I resources and features that can be found on the Centennial Commission website, ww1cc.org

Did you have someone in your family tree serve in the Great War? You can share their story with us at our Stories of Service page.

This link will take you to the form where you can add someone’s story. Fill out the service member’s name and dates of service (if known). Then select the service member’s branch or type of service. This could be military branches like the Navy or Marine Corps, or it other service groups like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, shipbuilding efforts, foreign air service, etc. Then write a short summary of their story, and how they contributed to the war effort. The process is simple and quick. It is worth doing to see your family member’s name photo and story on the web page. Add someone to this wall of honor!

A recent story about an Air Corps Observer named Lt. David Ker is truly honorable. He was a charismatic young man who spent his free time dancing, fishing, and spending time with his cousin. Ker loved life but left behind his fiancé, his family, and his fun to serve in the war effort. Being an observer was a dangerous but essential job. His Samson II airplane was shot down in 1918 and Ker was killed. He sacrificed everything for his country and this is why commemorating these individuals is honorable.

On the Stories of Service page you can find stories like Ker’s and many more detailed biographies that make up our great American heritage. Some recently added stories to look out for are Delta Lockhart who left his job as a high school principle in Texas to become an officer in the US Army, LiberAntonio Bonsanto who served with the 127th engineers, and Gilbert W. Zeits who fought in the Argonne Forest and at St. Miheil.

Dive into their stories and more at the WWI Centennial Commission’s Stories of Service page.


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