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World War I Centennial News


Chairman Robert J. Dalessandro interviewed by Historynet.com


Dalessandro HISTORYNETRetired U.S. Army Colonel Robert J. Dalessandro has a personal stake in his role as director of the World War I Centennial Commission.Established by Congress in 2013, the World War I Centennial Commission is charged with planning, developing and executing programs to commemorate the centennial of World War I. Chairing the commission is historian, author, battlefield tour leader and retired U.S. Army Colonel Robert J. Dalessandro. Following in the footsteps of his grandfathers, who served in World War I, Dalessandro was commissioned in the U.S. Army after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute. He has since held a range of staff and leadership positions in the military and government. Dalessandro is a former director of the U.S. Army Center of Military History and remains deputy secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

What are the origins of the World War I Centennial Commission?

The commission was created by an act of Congress. It is unusual in that it’s bipartisan and a congressional commission, not a presidential one. There were appointments to the commission by the president, by the majority and minority leaders of both the House and Senate, by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, and by the National World War I Museum in Kansas City.

What is its mission?

Our number one mission to educate the American people about the nation’s participation in World War I. We do that through a variety of “sub missions,” one of which is to coordinate events nationwide. We set up a vigorous series of programs throughout the United States, and we make recommendations to the president and Congress on which events they should attend. Another of our missions is to revitalize Washington, D.C.’s Pershing Park and make it a National World War I Memorial in conjunction with the national memorial in Kansas City.

Read more: Chairman Robert J. Dalessandro interviewed by Historynet.com

A quick guide on researching United States WW1 military genealogy

By Janice Brown
via the Cow New Hampshire Blog

NYPL WW1 TroopsMembers of the 369th Infantry serving in the trenches in France during World War One, 1918Researching the WW1 military involvement of your ancestor in the United States has unique challenges. A 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) destroyed about 16-18 million official military personnel files (OMPF). The official National Archives web site states that 80% of the records showing personnel discharged November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960 were destroyed, and no duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained.

I recently purchased a series of WW1 newspaper pages showing faces of men who had been killed in action, or died of disease, or airplane accidents. I wanted to share these photographs and to add information on their life. Who were they? Who did they leave behind for family? What role did they have in their branch of the service? Where specifically did they die, and in what manner? Where are they buried?

Researching these WWI heroes was not easy, I admit. Persistence is your greatest tool. I will share with you where I looked for their records. Caveat: be aware that some of these records are at paid sites, though the majority are absolutely free. I would be remiss if I did not mention that interviewing your own family, even extended cousins, is of utmost importance as you may find a great deal of information within your personal circle.

Read more: A Quick Guide on Researching United States WWI Military Genealogy

Hobart statue commemorates WW1 soldiers

By Nancy Coltun Webster
via the Chicago Post-Tribune, September 2, 2016

hobartHobart Parks Dept. Superintendent John MitchellHobart Park Superintendent John Mitchell took a step closer to the "Spirit of the American Doughboy" monument and put his finger on the Vietnam plaque near the name of Donald E. Erwin, and said "a cousin on my mom's side."

For as long as most of Hobart residents can remember, the "Doughboy" has kept watch on the city from his pedestal at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue, 7th Street and Main Street. A grim reminder of war, he stands with a rifle in his left hand and a grenade ready to toss with his left. Plaques memorialize those who gave their lives in the two world wars, Korea, Vietnam and the Global War on Terrorism.

The pressed copper statue was originally dedicated at 11 a.m. on the nation's seventh Armistice Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 1925, reported the Nov. 13, 1925, Hobart Gazette provided by Rita McBride of the Hobart Historical Society. According to The Gazette, the dedication was "witnessed by one of the largest crowds ever assembled in our city." Two American Legion Post 54 members on horseback followed by the school band and 1,000 schoolchildren marched to the intersection as the event got underway.

The 1925 Armistice Day was a significant celebration in Lake County. The time of day was important, because that was reported to be the time the last shot of World War I was fired.

Read more: Hobart statue commemorates WWI soldiers

World War I drama coming to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Dawn PatrolDawn Patrol features WW1 reenactors and aircraftCommemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I as one of the nation's premier historical aviation events brings the excitement and adrenaline of early air power to Ohio, Oct. 1-2 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The World War I Dawn Patrol Rendezvous will feature vintage reproduction full-scale and 7/8-scale aircraft, such as the Nieuport, SE-5 and Fokker Dr. I triplane. Pilots will perform precision flying in the skies above the museum and participate in a mock shoot down of an enemy aircraft, with aircraft launching from and landing on the field behind the museum.

The event will also include period reenactors in a war encampment setting; era automobiles on display and participating in a parade, flying exhibitions by WWI radio-controlled aircraft; guest speakers and a collector’s show for WWI items.

Additional popular hands-on activities include Buckeye Gamers in Flight's WWI giant board game, "Wings of Glory," which provides participants with a better understanding of the war in Europe and the number of countries involved, and Aces Over Wright Field’s aircraft computer simulators for those who want the experience of flying a WWI aircraft.

Read more: World War I drama coming to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Five Questions for Keith Colley, proprietor of the Mobile WWI Museum

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

Mobile WW1 Museum logo
Mobile WW1 Museum 5Portions of the Mobile WW1 Museum displays
The Mobile WWI Museum is an amazing program. Can you tell us about what it is?

The Museum is a collection of authentic artifacts (there are two that are exact Replicas and are posted as such) from World War 1. We have a great pictorial representation throughout the 12 booths of history, including multi-media.

How did it get started?

I suppose the story behind the Mobile Museum would be incomplete if I didn’t back up and share where it all started. The journey actually began 10 years ago on Dec 26th 2004 when I was at my parent’s home in Oklahoma for Christmas not knowing what was happening on the other side of the world.

When I got back to Dallas I turned on my TV to see a huge wave of water wiping away a part of the world most of us have never been. I was in shock to see that thousands had died and at this point thousands were still missing because of a Tsunami, again something many of us were not familiar with.

Feeling led to go help, after gathering up supplies mostly medical, with the help of so many Texans and Oklahomans, I ended up in Sri Lanka offering help where needed expecting to help clean up or even maybe help rebuild. Only to get there to find out there was nothing like that to do so I was asked to meet with survivors and do grief support. (Who knew my education would come in to play here?) The death toll in Sri Lanka alone was over 30,000, plus one and a half million people were displaced so grief support couldn’t be any more appropriate!!!

I could tell you so many stories of survival, but all I can say is that it changed my life! My mom asked me if I would journal while there so I did and I’m am so glad I did. (This comes into play in my life later)

Read more: Five Questions for Keith Colley, proprietor of the Mobile WWI Museum

WW1 education and commemoration efforts reach from France to California

By  Marissa Cruz

Vincent Bervas, professor of History and French and president of the Association of History Teachers and Geography for the Aisne territory in France, hosts a teaching program for young people. The focus is on educating students about World War I and includes a variety of unique activities.

Bervas with CommandantVincent Bervas (left) discusses aspects of his students' project at Belleau Wood with General Robert B. Neller, 37th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.Bervas is a resident of Château-Thierry, a city rich with history tied to the Great War. The city was on the front lines of the war and was the scene of significant events. Bervas serves as a member on the Centennial Château-Thierry committee, and is actively engaged in sharing the history of the region with young people.

The students are youth who face certain difficulties and otherwise would not have the opportunity to participate in the unique programming Bervas hosts.

“The centenary of the Great War is a great opportunity for them to better know their region and its history,” explained Bervas. “It is also an opportunity to create beautiful projects with them.”

In 2013, he created a project, depths of field, focused on the photography technique of the same name. The students were able to develop a show in which they read letters, documents and also extracts from the Company K battalion, for example. To prepare for this show, the students visited many historical places. This project also included a plenoptics photography project where students took photos at Belleau Wood and Fort Condé.

Students have also produced a final show that took place in the battlefield at the Caverne du Dragon followed by a presentation at school attended by key representatives from the French Centennial Commission. These hands-on lessons offer an opportunity to actively engage in the history in the young people’s own backyards.

Read more: WW1 Education and Commemoration efforts reach from France to California

World War I: Bad Romance — Gibson’s Chilling Personification of War

By Katherine Blood
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The Weaker Sex by Charles Dana Gibson"The Weaker Sex" by Charles Dana GibsonIllustrator Charles Dana Gibson was already a celebrity when tapped in April 1917 to lead the federal government’s Division of Pictorial Publicity — an arm of Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information. He was enlisted by Committee head George Creel, who believed that visual art could provide a unique service in winning the hearts and minds of the American public. And not just any art — nothing less than the best art by the best artists was sought to bolster recruitment, fundraising, service by women and civilians and troop support in myriad forms including contributions for camp libraries. When Gibson famously urged fellow artists to “Draw ‘till it hurts!” in support of America’s war effort, he was addressing such luminaries as James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Chandler Christy and Edward Penfield, to name just a few of the division’s more than 300 participants.

Among Gibson’s most enduring creations was the iconic Gibson Girl, who began appearing in the 1890s. She embodied the “New Woman” who was active and independent, intelligent and beautiful. But a very different kind of Gibson woman commanded my attention when I had the chance to co-curate the exhibition “World War I: American Artists View the Great War” with my colleague Sara W. Duke. In a vivid satire called “And the Fool, He Called Her His Lady Fair,” Gibson presents war as a woman who is an unsettling hybrid of menace and allure, the seeming antithesis of the fresh, youthful and wholesome Gibson Girl ideal.

Read more: World War I: Bad Romance — Gibson’s Chilling Personification of War

How did American artists respond to the horror of WWI?

By Yaëlle Azagury
via the Washington Post

Grand Illusions cover 300With its use of modern warfare from trenches to submarines, World War I claimed millions of lives and drastically changed the geopolitical structure. But the war also rocked Western culture, from altering the status of women to sparking new artistic movements such as Dada and surrealism. America, which suffered relatively fewer casualties than Europe, was regarded as somewhat impervious to these seismic shifts in the artistic realm. The beginning of a distinctive American art severed from Europe is usually dated to or around World War II, roughly with the rise of Abstraction.

avid M. Lubin, a professor of art history at Wake Forest University and a curator of a forthcoming exhibition on World War I and American art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, seeks to upend this narrative. “Grand Illusions” comes in the wake of a reappraisal of the Great War’s effect on American culture.

Lubin’s book is an ambitious albeit unequal undertaking that investigates the variety of American art — pacifist and bellicose alike — from the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 to the rise of the Third Reich in 1933. An eloquent writer who came of age during the Vietnam conflict, Lubin juggles a formidable array of visual media in this knowledgeable study.

He rescues photographs, posters, paintings, sculptures and films from oblivion to reenergize the debate and offer a new, if revisionist, perspective perhaps more fashionable in cultural studies departments than among museum curators. Delving deeply into popular and highbrow culture, he often draws inspired connections, situating artworks in a crucible of fresh references, and his readings, which may be irritating to the political conservative or the more classic-minded, are intellectually provocative.

Read more: How did American artists respond to the horror of WWI?

WW1 Commission carries commemoration message to American Legion convention

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

By American Legion invitation, the WWICC will be actively participating in the American Legion’s 98th Annual Convention, Aug. 25-Sept. 2, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Pershing at Legion ConventionWWICC is sharing a booth with American Legion staff in the main exhibit hall (Th-Mon).

Representatives from from the Pritzker Military Museum & Library and the WWICC will be staffing the booth during the convention. We will have 100 Cities/100 Memorials information available, along with info on our national World War I Memorials for Washington DC.

On Saturday, August 27th, WW1CC’s Executive Director, Dan Dayton, will be addressing 3 American Legion subcommittees, and on Monday 29 August, our new VSO Liaison Theresa Sims will be presenting 100 Cities/100 Memorials at 2 sessions of American Legion centennial working groups.

WW1CC Commissioner Tom Moe, retired USAF Colonel & former POW in Vietnam, will be at our booth on August 30th-31st, shaking hands, and talking about the Commission.

This will represent the third year in a row that the American Legion has generously hosted the WW1CC at their great convention!

Texas holds statewide Centennial Commemoration Conference

“A truly remarkable attendance & information producing event. I am so proud of my Texas colleagues for all the support.”  -- MG Freddie Valenzuela, USWW1CC Commissioner

By Mike Visconage

The Texas World War I Centennial held a statewide World War I Centennial planning conference was held on August 12. The meeting had over 60 participants in person and more attending via live webinar.

Texas meetingIt was a full house for state-wide Texas World War I Centennial planning conference held on August 12 at the Bullock Texas History Museum in AustinRepresentatives from Texas from museums, county historical commissions, universities, libraries, military bases, and state agencies provided a broad look at plans for Commemoration projects and activities across the Lone Star State over the next few years.

The program included a series of subject matter experts on community organizing, fundraising, and media outreach. More importantly, the format of the conference was designed to facilitate collaboration among the participants and plenty of question and answer sessions.

Lunchtime keynote speakers included Commissioner Tom Hatfield off the Texas Historical Commission and Daniel Dayton, Executive Director of the USWWICC. 

The conference was held at The Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. The planning, presentations, and logistics were the result of the effort of volunteers from the TXWWICC. Members of the Texas Historical Commission staff were also critical to the success of the day. 

The United States World War 1 Centennial Commission supported the conference with the Commission's GoToWebinar capability, taking the event to individuals who could not travel to Austin for the meeting.  The Commission will make this capability available to other states holding similar meetings, to enable remote participation.

Texas has had three previous regional planning conference, but this was our first state-wide event and our focus was to move beyond earlier brainstorming and begin to firm up specific commemorative events for the centennial period. Part of the presentation included a menu of “off-the-shelf” commemoration ideas that could be implemented by any organization or community in the state.

Read more: Texas holds statewide Centennial Commemoration Conference

The Restoration of a Legend: Rebuilding the M1917

By Adam Bieniek
Staff Writer

As the last hooves of mighty warhorses fell silent on the Western Front, the roar of treads quickly replaced them. Landships stormed across the fields of France, striking fear into the hearts of all who opposed them. These behemoths were the terror of the Western Front, and their explosive entrance onto the world stage during World War I would change the nature of warfare for a century. However, these original vanguards of armored warfare have not been treated with the respect that they deserve. Many of them fell into disrepair or were scrapped, making tanks from World War I a rarity. However, thanks to the efforts of three incredible historians, one of these fantastic feats of engineering will run again in all its former glory.Patton With FT17Captain George S. Patton stands in front of an FT-17, the original inspiration for the M1917.

Main Body With Camo 400The tank is being painted to be completely historically accurate, including Patton’s famous Ace of Spades insignia. Judge Jim Osborne, Mr. Randall Becht, and Mr. Brian Bartholome have worked diligently since mid-2015 to reproduce an incredibly rare piece of history: a working, newly minted, 1:1 scale M1917 Light Tank. An American copy of the popular French FT-17, these two-man tanks marked America’s first attempt at mechanized warfare, even if the M1917 was never actually used in combat. While nowhere near as efficient as modern tanks like the M1 Abrams, without the M1917, contemporary American mechanized warfare would not have been possible without the lessons learned from the M1917. Most of these tanks were scrapped after the end of World War I, so this reproduction will be one of the few known functional M1917 Light Tanks in the world.

While World War I tanks as a whole are uncommon today, seeing an M1917 is like seeing a unicorn. Based closely on the French FT-17 light tank, M1917s were planned to be the primary armored units of the American Expeditionary Force. After the entry of the United States into World War I in April of 1917, American industry had to practically build a new kind of army from scratch. Since tanks were such a new invention, American forces turned to their new allies for help. Working off of French designs, American factories planned to complete four thousand four hundred tanks for the American Expeditionary Force. However, racked with coordination issues and logistical challenges, only nine hundred and fifty M1917s were completed by the end of hostilities in November 1918. The first M1917 tanks would not reach France until November 20th, 1918, a full nine days after the guns fell silent along the Western Front. As a result, no M1917 ever saw combat during World War I. The American tanks that did see combat as part of the US Light Tank Brigade were FT-17s obtained from French forces. Most M1917s were either scrapped or placed in storage. Today, only twelve of these machines are in the United States, and two more are currently in Canada.

Read more: The Restoration of a Legend: Rebuilding the M1917

Minnesota Football: Fighting 1916 Gophers and WWI

By Ryan Barland
AKA 'HipsterGopher" on thedailygopher.com

Gophers front pageI have been blogging about sports history for almost 2 years now. As a graduate of the University of Minnesota I tend to focus on my alma mater. The Golden Gophers have a storied past that I usually try to connect to some current events.

I wanted this year's 4th of July post to reflect something related to the centenary of WWI but hadn't yet heard this amazing story of the entire 1916 U of M football team enlisting.

My day job is working in the Collections Department for the Minnesota Historical Society which makes these blog posts both fun and part of my weekly duties. I originally found out about the 1916 Gophers from a contemporary newspaper article.

Along with the teams football success that year they also ended up serving with distinction at the front. 24 individuals from the 1916 University of Minnesota football team went on to participate in World War I.

Read more: Minnesota Football: Fighting 1916 Gophers and WWI

Library of Congress to open major exhibition on World War I in 2017

The Library of Congress—which holds the largest multi-format collection of materials on the American experience in World War I—will present a major exhibition in 2017 to commemorate the centennial of The Great War.

LOC exhibit graphicThe United States’ involvement in the “war to end all wars” began on April 6, 1917, when the U.S. Congress formally declared war on the German Empire, and concluded Nov. 11, 1918, with the armistice agreement. The exhibition will examine the upheaval of world war, as Americans experienced it—domestically and overseas.

In the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, the exhibition will open in early April 2017 and close in January 2019. Initially, it will feature 200 items, but during its 18-month run, numerous other artifacts will be rotated into the display.

World War I, at the time, was the greatest conflict the world had ever known. It created seismic changes in American society and reshaped the global community in profound ways.

In the United States, a national army was conscripted for the first time; more than a million women entered the workforce, contributing to the war effort in countless ways; and African-Americans challenged racial inequality. The first widespread use of airplanes, tanks and poisonous gas revolutionized warfare and technologies; the wristwatch was popularized by the demands of modern battle; and jazz spread around the world with the American soldiers going abroad.

The exhibition will feature correspondence, music, film, recorded sound, diaries, posters, photographs, scrapbooks, medals, maps and various other artifacts from the war.

The collections of the Veterans History Project will be interwoven throughout the exhibition to give voice to the wartime experiences of those who served.

Read more: Library of Congress to open major exhibition on World War I in 2017

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