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World War I Centennial News


2017 eclipse across U.S. recalls WWI eclipse 99 years ago

Maps of Eclipses 1918 2017 KC

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


“There will not be another total eclipse visible ever so large an area of the United States until 2017”

-- The Kansas City Times, Saturday, June 8,1918


100 years later, it’s here! Hidden in between #WW1 reports about U.S. regiments fighting overseas and war bond propaganda was a report about the Total Eclipse casting the moon’s shadow over the country.

In 1918, the path of the eclipse started south of Japan, went across the Pacific Ocean, and then across the United States.

The largest city to see totality was Denver although many could theoretically see it as the size of the shadow was between 70 and 44 miles across as it travelled across America.

The longest duration of totality was in the Pacific at a point south of Alaska. The path of the eclipse finished near Bermuda.

Just as it did on July 8, 1918, a total eclipse will once more sweep across the Midwest on Aug. 21, 2017.

Other newspapers across the nation carried stories of the great celestial event in 1918, some pondering the connection between the darkening sky and the great conflict underway across the world.






Read more: 2017 eclipse across U.S. recalls WWI eclipse 99 years ago

"Part of the story of our families."

Finding the Great War on the way to the Bad Inn

By Christy Leskovar

It all started in 1997. I was living in Las Vegas, working as a project manager for Bechtel. My background is mechanical engineering. Earlier in my career I did engineering design for commercial nuclear power plants. While on a trip to my hometown of Butte, Montana, I heard about a fire on my great-grandparents’ ranch; a dead body was discovered in the ruins, determined to be my great-grandfather; and his wife, my great-grandmother, was arrested for his murder. I was floored. I decided to leave my engineering career, go find out what happened, and write a book about it.

Before I knew it, I was in Flanders.

I was determined to keep the book nonfiction. I wanted you to get to know the people in the story. For that I needed familial and historical context. I started a timeline with three columns: date, events in family history, events in local and world history. The “protagonists” of the story were my maternal grandparents and great-grandparents. I wanted to know how they bumped into history and how history changed their lives.

Christy Leskovar 350Christy LeskovarDoughboy Peter Thompson 1917 or 1918 400When I began, I knew that my Irish grandpa, Peter Thompson, fought in the First World War in the American army, he was an immigrant. He saved a man’s life and was awarded the French Croix de Guerre. I knew that the archduke was shot, the Lusitania was sunk, and we joined the war toward the end. Therein lay the sum of what I knew about the First World War when I began this quest.

I needed context. I found books about the war when visiting my parents, books at the library. History books. My library had only a handful of books about the war. I read the bibliographies of the books I did find and ordered those books. I read General Pershing’s book, soldiers memoirs, soldiers letters. I read voluminously about the war, concentrating for the most part on the American involvement, so I could tell the story of this one particular soldier, not any soldier, this soldier, Peter Thompson, my grandfather. I wanted you to feel like you were right there with him on the battlefield, while keeping the book nonfiction.

I had no idea how difficult this would be. The first books I read gave simplistic reasons for the start of the war which made no sense to me. It can be an advantage not to have any preconceived notions before beginning research, otherwise I might have accepted “nationalism” as the reason. I was starting with a blank sheet. I wanted to know why the war started, why we got in it. I also wanted to know what Peter’s sweetheart, my grandmother, was experiencing at home, a high school girl in Butte, Montana, while he was fighting on the Western Front. I had some of his military records. Grandma made sure that all her children had copies. Those gave me his regiment (362nd), brigade (181st), and division (91st). Someone told me I could get the rest of his military records from St. Louis. I did. One of my Bechtel colleagues, Miguel Monteverde, a retired Army officer, told me about the Center of Military History. He knew the man who ran it. I didn’t know there was such a place. To delve into Peter’s battle experience, I need much more than what I could find in books. I was writing ground-level history. I needed details, details specific to Peter. Until Miguel told me about the Center of Military History, I didn’t know where to turn. I called. Roma answered. She had a memo with a regimental history. She sent it to me. She suggested that I contact the U.S. Army Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I did and quickly realized that I needed to go there. I went. The woman asked for the brigade number. 181st, I said. She brought out a box. The largest folder was from Farley Granger, who was an officer in Grandpa Peter’s regiment. He was the father of the actor of the same name. I’d seen him in Alfred Hitchcock movies. I read field messages, orders, some with code names, who were they? Day after day, I pored through the papers in the box. Then to the library. The librarian said there is a regimental history, the official one. They didn’t have it, but he gave me the name of a man in Springfield, Massachusetts, who had it. I called. He sent it to me.

Read more: Finding the Great War on the Way to the Bad Inn

Four Questions for David O’Neal

"These are the stories that stick with people when you talk to them."

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

David O’Neal acquired his first artifact when he was 16 years old. It was a 37 mm tank round from WWI dated 1917. Some 40 years later, he is still an avid student of the Great War....and still collecting WW1 artifacts. But now he is restoring priceless relics of World War I back into their original condition, so that their stories can be told to new generations. We caught up with David to see what is going on now at his WWI Preservation Collection.

You have a pretty amazing collection of World War I artifacts. What do you have?

ONeal 2David O’NealObviously I can’t list everything in the collection, but there are some very impressive items, along with the mundane utilitarian items that were used by the soldiers every day during WW1. Some of the impressive things are of course the WW1 M1917 Ford ambulance re-creation. I brought this vehicle back from extinction, there are no known surviving examples of this version of the WW1 Ambulance produced at the Ford Plant in Detroit in 1917. Ambulance 300The award-winning M1917 Ford ambulance re-creation. (Photo © 2015 by David O'Neal)The Model of 1917 Machine gun cart is an impressive Machine Gun Company artifact that is restored and complete. I also have the 1915 Vickers water cooled heavy machine gun and the Browning 1917 water cooled heavy that were used in conjunction with the cart.

There are uniforms, helmets and accoutrements from many of the combatants specifically on the Western Front. I have a wide variety of small arms, pistols and rifles from all combatants as well as disabled machine guns and ordnance.

There are items that are very rare and hold special attention in the collection. A captured Imperial German Battle Flag. A steel German sniper loop that would have been carried out and set up in no-man’s land. Melted pieces of aluminum that were recovered from the crash site of Zeppelin L48 that was shot down in England in 1917. I have the U.S. First designed WW1 hand Grenade the Mark I, very rare and very interesting story. Pulled from service immediately after implementation.

There are quite few fascinating things in the WW1 Preservation Collection and I am always looking for more artifacts to bring in to preserve them.

Read more: Four Questions for David O’Neal

Four Questions for Karlen Morris

"Patton’s service in World War I is what made him who he was in WWII."

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

Karlen MorrisKarlen MorrisA group from the US Army Brotherhood of Tankers (USABOT) is creating a new memorial to those service members 100 years ago who created the tank corps during World War I. The memorial will feature General George Patton, who famously led the experimental tank group during World War, and who would go on to achieve combat victory as the foremost tanker in the world during World War II. The memorial is getting some help from an unusual source -- the people of Bourg, France. Bourg is where General Patton's World War I tank headquarters, and school, was located. The town is very proud of the key role that they played to support those tankers 100 years ago. We discuss the memorial project with Karlen Morris, a retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant, and career tanker.

Tell us about your organization. What is it's background, history, etc.

Patton Battalion – USABOT is a local chapter of the US Army Brotherhood of Tankers. Our battalion covers Illinois-Indiana-Kentucky and Tennessee. USABOT formed around 2012 and the Patton Battalion formed in June of 2013. We are a non for profit organization listed in Kentucky. The mission of USABOT is to document, record and tell the story of the US Army Armor Branch. We have stories and some soldiers from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan to tankers serving today and troops in basic training. We are Tankers and Tank Mechanics of all ranks from Major General to Private. We have battalions that cover all of the United States and one that covers Europe.

USABOT logoYou have an interesting program underway for marking the World War I centennial. Tell us about it.

Patton Battalion – USABOT was granted permission, on April 28, 2017, to build a monument at Memorial Park next to the General George Patton Museum at Fort Knox, KY. The dedication is planned for 10 November 2017 to mark the 100th anniversary of when Patton was assigned to the US Tank Corps and build the tank school.

If we cannot raise enough funds to get the monument in place in time the plan is to still celebrate this historic day and get the museum in place.

We are currently collecting donations to help us build the monument which will be a replica of the monument in Bourg, France but slightly different. We want to have on the back of the monument a short timeline of General Patton’s service in WW1, cover the tank battles of the US Tank Corps, and to tell about the World Wars Tank Corps Association which was formed from members of the US Tank Corps in association with the American Legion. We are working with George Patton Waters, Patton’s Grandson, on this project.

Read more: Four Questions for Karlen Morris

Four Questions for Lady Lucy French

"Let the children themselves take ownership of this important period in their history and heritage!"

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

"Never Such Innocence" is a non-profit program dedicated to educating young people about the First World War, its impact and legacy. The program takes its name from a line in Philip Larkin’s poem "MCMXIV", which reflects on the changes caused by the First World War. To mark the centenary of the First World War, Never Such Innocence is running an annual poetry and art competition for young people. This year's 2017 edition of the competition explores the different stages of the First World War, and it aims to provide young people with an objective and insightful account of the events that unfolded between 1914 and 1919. It has been designed so that students can select topics that interest them most, and uses poems and artwork from the war period throughout to help stimulate responses to the competition. We talked to the person who was the vision behind it all, Lady Lucy French.

Tell us about your World War I education project, Never Such Innocence. You have resources to share! You have people that you want to share them with!

Lady Lucy French 300Lady Lucy FrenchNever Such Innocence was set up to help young people aged 9-16 play their part in the centenary of the First World War through poetry, art and song. In 2014 we launched an annual national competition inviting children and young people to submit work inspired by the events of the war – I am delighted to say that the competition is now reaching young people on an international scale!

The competition is free to enter and we produce a resource which provides a child-friendly journey through the First World War. It is available as a free download on our website and we send free hardcopies to schools on request. The resource is updated for each competition to include new stories and perspectives, the fourth edition – to be published September 2017! – will include sections on America’s involvement, also Ireland, and the experience of Belgian refugees. Entrants to the competition are in with the chance to win a monetary prize for themselves and their school, and every child who enters receives a personalised certificate of commendation.

How did this project come about? Who helped you to create it? How did you develop the resource materials?

In late 2012, I decided to find a means of commemorating the Centenary of the First World War. I wanted to ensure that our young people, nationally and internationally, were given the opportunity to play their part, engage, and feel important during this centenary period.

I wanted to help our young people understand the complexities of war and the vital importance of the sacrifices our forces made 100 years ago and today.

Read more: Never Such Innocence: a World War I education program & creative competition

Four Questions for Kevin Fitzpatrick

Governors Island to host Camp Doughboy WWI weekend Sept. 16-17

By Michael Stahler
Staff Writer

This upcoming September 16-17, Fort Jay on Governors Island, New York, will be hosting Camp Doughboy, a weekend of free events and exhibitions dedicated to commemorate the American participation in the Great War. We caught up with the organizer for the event, Kevin Fitzpatrick. Kevin is the program director of the World War One Centennial Committee for New York City. He’s also the author and editor of seven books tied to city history, including his most recent, “World War I New York: A Guide to the City’s Enduring Ties to the Great War” (Globe Pequot Press).

Could you tell us about this event?

Fitzpatrick leftKevin Fitzpatrick (left) in a Doughboy uniformIt will be the largest WWI public exhibition on the East Coast this year. We will bring living historians and experts on the Great War to one spot for the public to meet and learn about the conflict. We expect sixty-five reenactors in uniform to represent the A.E.F. A collection of vintage vehicles is also making the ferry trip to the island: a M1917 Renault tank, Model-T ambulances, a 1918 Dodge truck, plus a 1917 motorcycle.

What I’m looking forward to seeing most on the parade ground: General Pershing on his horse. The incredible living historian David Shuey—who was in the 2016 New York Veterans Day Parade with us portraying the general—is bringing his horse Aura Lee to the island. One of the more poignant statements that came out of the war, by the cavalry, was, “We rode in on horses and rode out on tanks.” Well, we will have both. We also have some of the finest Great War authors who will be speaking and signing books, including Jeffrey Sammons, Mark Van Ells, and Mitch Yockelson.

How did the location of this event, Governors Island, have an effect on World War I? How did this event come to be in the first place?

Fort Jay was a key component for the Army and Navy in WWI. Before the war it was an airfield where some of the early combat aviators trained. Regular Army troops trained civilian volunteers and officer candidates. The first U.S. military action in WWI, when the U.S. seized German-owned steamships in New York Harbor, was carried out from Governors Island. During the war it was a vital supply depot. Last year when we were planning the first one-day WWI event, it just made sense to hold it on Governors Island. It has more WWI history and memorials than any other place in the state.

Read more: Governors Island to host Camp Doughboy WWI weekend Sept. 16-17

Tribal college seeks public's help in verifying names of Native Americans WWI veterans

By Blair Emerson
via the  Bismark Tribune web site

United Tribes Technical CollegeJoann Standing Bear, of Cannon Ball, ND submitted this photo to United Tribes Technical College of her father, Joe Jordan, and other Native American men from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation who served in World War I. Back row, right to left, Martin Yellow Fat, George Sleeps from Home, George Defender, James Yellow Fat, Alfonse Thief, Abel White and Joe Jordan. Front row, right to left, Bill Marshall, Louis Crowskin, Joe Brush Horn, Jacob White Bull and Bill Molally. United Tribes Technical College is seeking the public's help in verifying the names of about 356 Native American men who served in World War I.

These men were enrolled members of North Dakota's five tribes: Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Spirit Lake Tribe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

More than 12,000 Native Americans served in WWI, according to the National Museum of the American Indian. They served in a variety of roles, including as "code talkers," who transmitted messages via telephone in their tribal languages and protected from enemy ears.

To coincide with the observance of the centennial year of the U.S. involvement in WWI, UTTC plans to honor these soldiers during the college's International Powwow on Sept. 10 in Bismarck. UTTC also plans to build a memorial on campus over the next year that will list the names of these Native veterans.

"One hundred years ago, men from our tribes willingly chose to enter the military," said Leander "Russ" McDonald, president of the college. "They didn't have to do that; it was prior to the time when all Native people were granted U.S. citizenship. But they stepped up, and we owe it to them to remember."

The college began assembling a list of the names with the help of local authors Ann and Michael Knudson, who wrote a book documenting the lives of Native American men from North Dakota who served in WWI. UTTC also had help from the state's tribes.

Read more: Tribal college seeks public's help in verifying names of Native Americans WWI veterans

Saluting the ‘Doughboys’ who 100 years ago entered WWI, ending American neutrality

By John J. Metzler
via the World Tribune web site

St. NAZAIRE, France — “Lafayette, we are here,” became the clarion call upon the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force to France in 1917.

The USA had just entered the hostilities, three years into the Great War, and now the battle hardened U.S. General John Pershing was in a sense returning the favor of French military assistance during the American Revolution.

A statue by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney honoring American Doughboys stands in the harbor at St. NazaireA statue by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney honoring the Doughboys of the American Expeditionary Force stands in the harbor at St. Nazaire, France.The Sammies, as they were affectionately called by the French as a play on the words Uncle Sam, were also known as the Doughboys in the USA.

President Woodrow Wilson’s decision to join the Allies after 32 months of neutrality was as controversial as it was militarily complicated. On the one hand, the young American Republic had by choice stayed away from European conflicts and overseas missions.

On the more practical side, when Wilson declared war on Germany in April 1917, the regular U.S. army stood at an understaffed 140,000 troops and with an additional 200,000 in the National Guard.

Mobilization would be nothing short of extraordinary with a combination of mass conscription and an amazing American industrial might to support it.

After all it was U.S. military assistance which decisively tipped the military balance on the Western Front, the site of three years of unmitigated carnage for the French and British forces facing Imperial Germany. The battles of Verdun, the Somme, Passchendaele, and Vimy Ridge were nothing less than a grinding abattoir of killing; all sides were literally bled white and exhausted.

Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare and the Russian Revolution decisively changed the political calculus.

The Allies; the British Empire, France and Russia were slogging it out with the Central Powers; Germany, Austria/Hungary and Turkey. Once the Czar was overthrown, Russia would later withdrew from the war after two million soldiers were killed, the balance of power decisively tipped against France in the West.

As 1917 wore on, American troops flooded into France, first through St. Nazaire which became a logistical hub which saw delivery of 2 million tons of equipment ranging from disassembled steam locomotives from Philadelphia, to cars, trucks and horses. The logistical genius of the U.S military was on display with more than 500 transport ships bringing everything from tons of beef to cigarette rations for the troops. Supply depots and bases dotted the Loire River region.

Read more: Saluting the ‘Doughboys’ who 100 years ago entered WWI, ending American neutrality

U.S. entry into WWI caused cancellation of 1917 Colorado State Fair

By Mike Spence
via the Pueblo Chieftain web site

As years go, 1917 provided the Colorado State Fair with a series of landmark events -- and one huge disappointment.

After bouncing around Colorado in various forms and locations since 1886, the Fair appeared headed toward a new and elevated status in 1917.

Colorado State Fair 1917The admission line for Colorado State Fair in 1917 never formed, as the Fair was cancelled due to the fairgrounds being used as a place to billet and prepare troops for battle by the Army.State Sens. W.O. Peterson and Frank H. Means, along with a number of others, convinced the Colorado State Legislature to create a State Fair Commission.

The legislature went beyond that, though, granting the Fair a tax levy of .01 mills.

Those moves were significant. The unofficial Colorado State Fair had been operating annually in Pueblo since 1901. Now, it was officially Colorado's state fair.

Pueblo civic leaders, no doubt buoyed by the state's actions, deeded an 80-acre tract of land to the state to secure a permanent home for the Fair.

As bright as the Fair's future looked at that point, a cloud -- World War I -- had been hovering on the horizon for nearly three years. In 1917, that cloud finally burst.

One of the war's multitude of casualties was the 1917 Colorado State Fair, which was canceled.

A world at war

The eventual demise of the 1917 fair started far from Pueblo.

World War I had begun in the summer of 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia over the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (the heir to the Hapsburg throne) and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, Serbia.

Read more: U.S. entry into World War I caused cancellation of 1917 Colorado State Fair

The National WW1 Centennial Events Register wants you!

EventsBy Nathalie Nguyen
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

Mark your calendars! There is a special feature on our website that lets you check out World War I events and add your own in just a click of a mouse.

The U.S. National WW1 Centennial Events Register page is an interactive feature that allows users to submit and check out amazing events commemorating World War I and its history across the country and abroad.

In honor of the centennial entry of the United States, new exhibitions and displays as well as other events are opening up all across the country to help people understand the impact and legacy of World War I.

Events like African Americans Doctors of WW1 commemorate the efforts and services of people who have helped advanced the war effort. 104 African American doctors joined in on helping the 92nd and 93rd Divisions, providing care and medical treatment to the 40,000 men who fought on the battlefield.

You can see authors Doug Fisher and Joanne Buckley talk about the contributions these doctors made at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, which are just part of the few events that people can attend.

You can can submit events to the U.S National WWI Centennial Events Register, where it will be published publicly as part of the national archive of World War I Centennial Activities. To submit an event, you will need to provide some details -- a detailed description of the event, what is going on, who is in charge, and what people can expect.

Check out the National WW1 Centennial Events Register and go see some amazing WWI events!


The defining role of the National Guard in WWI

By National Guard Bureau Historical Services
via the Army.mil web site

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Over 100 years ago, on August 5, 1917, the entire National Guard was drafted into U.S. Army service for World War I. This represented the culmination of several steps declared by President Woodrow Wilson that would mobilize the National Guard into the "Great War" and which sent troops into Europe for the first time.

National Guard 3After the National Guard was drafted into the U.S. Army on August 5, 1917, Soldiers mustered at their home stations and mobilized into several training camps across the United States prior to their deployment to Europe. Here, Camp Wadsworth, in Spartanburg, S.C., is packed with tents. (Photo Credit: National Archives)This act stands among a series of laws and military decisions in the early 20th century that resulted in the transformation of the National Guard from a traditionally local military organization into professional military force. A little over a year earlier, the National Defense Act of 1916 introduced the modern integration of National Guard Soldiers as an element of the United States Army. It required that Guard members in federal service would serve in the U.S. Army uniform and train to federal standards, in addition to other measures designed to improve readiness and efficiency.

However, the 1916 Act did not authorize the transportation of federalized National Guard troops to a foreign country. The Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army ruled that the Guard could only be used domestically, owing to the Militia Clause of the U.S. Constitution that only allowed the National Guard in federal status to "execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrection and repel invasions." This phrase alone deemed necessary the draft action.

The mobilization order of June 18, 1916, that ordered the Guard to the Mexican border represented the second milestone among the changes in national defense strategy. It demonstrated the power of the National Guard as the country's principal reserve force for the U.S. Army to be mobilized in a declared national emergency. This gradual evolution of legal precedents allowed the Army ample opportunity to make corrective action and improve the deployment process.

Heightened national security concerns earlier in 1917 allowed the National Guard's mobilization to move forward after the draft order of August 5.

Read more: The defining role of the National Guard in WWI

Homefront exhibit honors 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into WWI

By Rachel Siford
via the Suffolk timesreview.com web site

Alex BradleyAlex Bradley of Mattituck in costume as World War I soldier Carl Vail of Southold. (Credit: Southold Historical Society courtesy photo)Southold Historical Society’s current exhibit, “The Homefront,” commemorates the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I.

The exhibit focuses on Southold Town’s role from 1917 to 1918 and features the story of Carl Vail, a Southold resident who fought in the war, left behind a diary and gave the historical society an oral history before his death in 1998.

“There are great questions and wonderful reactions to the exhibit,” director Karen Lund-Rooney said. “He survived as a soldier and was gassed with mustard gas.”

Mr. Vail died at the age of 102. After the war, he resided on a farm in Southold and established two car dealerships.

Historical society intern Alex Bradley, a recent Mattituck High School grad soon headed to Tufts University in Massachusetts, has been reading from Mr. Vail’s wartime diary and used it to stage a re-enactment, donning a uniform accurate to the period. Mr. Bradley gave several performances as Mr. Vail, the last of them this past weekend.

“Adults and children are just fascinated,” Ms. Lund-Rooney said. “He gets kids in a circle and they get to ask him questions about what it was like to be a soldier.”

Carl Vail was born in 1895 and grew up in Peconic. The Vails are among Long Island’s oldest families and a Vail has fought in nearly every American war or conflict since the French and Indian War, according to the historical society. He enlisted in the United States Army one year after graduating from high school in 1917, leaving his family’s farm.

Mr. Vail fought in the Battle of the Argonne Forest and recalled the first day of the attack, when he rounded up six wounded men and went to find help. He found a Model T ambulance with a driver and a lieutenant and started back to the front line.

Read more: Homefront exhibit honors 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into WWI

Michael Morpurgo 300Michael MorpurgoFour Questions for Michael Morpurgo

"War continues to divide people, to change them forever."

By Michael Stahler
Staff Writer

World War 1, often overshadowed by the consequent World War 2, rarely finds a spotlight in pop culture. One, seemingly unlikely, story that found mass acclaim and multiple incarnations is the story of a horse serving in France and his owner's attempts to bring him back. The popular 1982 English novel War Horse found itself adapted into a play in 2007. The play, adjusted for the stage by Nick Stafford, stays loyal to the book while using advanced puppeteering to depict the horse. It would later tour all over the world, collect 2 Olivier awards and win all 5 Tony awards it was nominated for, including Best Play. It was so popular that Steven Spielberg in 2011 chose to direct an adaptation of this adaptation. The film that he directed wound up a box office and critical success, grossing nearly $180 million and earning 5 BAFTAs, 2 Golden Globe nominations, and 6 Oscar nominations. But before the spread of this story across multiple award-winning mediums, it was a beloved book for younger audiences. We were lucky enough to spend some time with the author of the book, Michael Morpurgo, who has had well over 300 books published with many more on the way. But of these books, the one that has gone the farthest illustrates the world little seen by the public audience, the complicated world of the Great War.

There are only a handful of novels, plays, and movies about the Great War that have been able to reach a wide audience. War Horse is all three. You also have written Private Peaceful, edited Only Remembered, and worked on non-fiction work all about the War. Have you always had an interest in World War 1? How did it begin?

I was a war baby, born in 1943. As I grew up, I soon learned how war had torn my world apart. I lived next to a bombsite, played in it because we weren’t supposed to, and because it was the best adventure playground imaginable. But I soon learned that much more than buildings was destroyed by war. My parents had split up because of it. I knew my handsome young uncle Pieter, killed in 1940, in the RAF, through a photograph, through the stories I heard of him and through the grief my mother lived every day of her life. I missed him and I’d never known him. War continues to divide people, to change them forever.

Read more: Four Questions for Michael Morpurgo

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